Lessons from Nana…Stay positive

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While at the dermatologist today, she said “Block negativity. Don’t let it in!”
Yes ma’am! Let’s run with this on a cold, rainy day. Lean in to the cozy places and spaces. Embrace the clouds that are dust of God’s feet. Rest in His presence. Feel the rain nurture. Put on your favorite music and blast it!! Enjoy this day God has made and the fact you are here to live it.👊🏻💪🏻💝

Lessons from Nana…The decision

Image may contain: 2 people, including Kristi Buttles, people smiling, eyeglasses and closeupAs anyone knows who has traveled a health journey, things can change on a dime.
Nana will not be having surgery nor radiation. She knows she is dying and she is finding peace with it.
Today in the radiation oncologist’s office, the NICEST doctor spoke softly and slowly to her. His amazing nurse stood behind him, quiet and caring. Truly healthcare professionals are real live superheroes.

He listened to Nana talk about having a terminal illness. All three of us hung on her every word.
She said, “The key is to not feel sorry for yourself. That’s it. It’s that simple. I trust God to take care of me. And with the days I have left I’m going to enjoy them.”
The doctor replied, sitting motionless on his stool, captivated by her words, attitude and outlook, “I wish you could talk to other patients. They could really hear this.”
To which she said smiling, “I’d be happy to.”

I swallowed down hard the lump welling in my throat. This wasn’t the time or place for that. Then I counted my blessings that I was there today. Sitting in a small exam room under grey skies and a chill in the wind outside. Sitting among other families who have no joy, no peace. They snap at each other in the waiting room…as we all wait for our names to be called.
An appointment that made me weak in my knees, as it is the last time to finalize a plan with all doctors on board. An appointment I wasn’t sure if I wanted to attend, or had the strength to attend.

But to hear her talk so openly about living and dying, I tried to let every word, every smile of hers seer itself into my memory. This is, in fact, her legacy.
Every time she said with a smirky grin, “I’m a tough old broad, I can take it,” flashed a timeline of 30+ years with her, and I sat in amazement that yes, yes she is a tough old broad.

She’s the last of the matriarchs and patriarchs of the family. She’s buried her husband, parents, brother and SIL – who was her best friend, and her niece. She’s moved and moved again trying to keep up with the undertow of life pulling her into its current.
There’s so much. Just so much water under that bridge that could’ve made her drown.
But she kept swimming and smiling.

Just yesterday, as we left Waffle House, she literally danced her way out the door with her walker as the music played overhead. I laughed and she said laughing back, “Hey! I’m never gonna get old!”

She is so right. Nana, you are so right. You will never get old. God has planned a day when you will push that walker to the side and two-step right into heaven.

And when you’ve finished your Father/Daughter dance with Abba, our Father who is in heaven, there’s going to be a very familiar man, who has waited 15 years to dance with you, asking you to dance again.
You two danced together for more than 40 years. I have no doubt he’ll que up the choir of angels and you guys will dance again.

Thank you, Nana, for showing me how to be strong in spirit when the body is weak. How to laugh instead of cry. How to rise above instead of being pulled under.
You are dancing your race beautifully. We’ll dance with you until it’s time for you to change partners.
In your words, keep being Silly Salli. We’d expect nothing less and want nothing more. 

TwoFer Crustless Quiche & Pasta Salad

I am SO excited to have our son home from college for Christmas break. With a full house, I wanted to have some homemade meals on hand, but didn’t want to spend a ton of time and energy in the kitchen with all of the other to-do’s on the list this time of year.

Inspired by a lack of time, I decided to make two very different dishes that have overlapping ingredients so I could reduce my work and shopping list.

These two recipes have similar ingredients, but different bases. With that, and switching out a few key ingredients, they have different tastes, textures, temperatures and mealtimes. So we’re getting a TwoFer… two recipes for one trip to the grocery store and one amount of time & effort. Yes!

TwoFer Crustless Quiche & Pasta Salad

Crustless Quiche

10                           eggs

1 1/2c                     milk

2c                           Taco Bell Ranch Monterey Jack shredded cheese

12oz                       sweet or white onion; chopped (I use frozen) OR fresh leeks; whites                                            sliced thin; do not use the green stems (freeze them for soup stock)

3-4                         slicing tomatoes; sliced thin (Roma, small beefsteak, etc)

Cooking spray

Pasta Salad

16 oz                     Fusilli (corkscrew), penne OR farfalle (bowtie) pasta

1/2c                      pine nuts

1 bunch                 green onions; chopped

2 pints                   grape OR cherry tomatoes; whole

1T                         grapeseed or vegetable oil

1lb                        fresh mozzarella; cubed

(Vinaigrette)

5T                         lemon juice

5T                         white Balsamic vinegar

4T                         olive oil

2T                         sugar or agave

1/2t                      salt

Both Dishes

3 cloves               garlic

2t                        dried or fresh basil

Salt & cracked pepper to taste

1                        orange pepper; diced

2t                       grapeseed or vegetable

1 bag                 fresh baby spinach; chopped

1 1/2c                bacon; cooked & crumbled (I buy mine from Costco)

16oz                  ham; sliced, butcher cut or “off the block” cut

Directions:

Use two bowls, one for each recipe.

Quiche Bowl:

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Mix eggs, milk, cheese, 2t garlic, basil and salt & pepper.
  3. Saute onion in 1t oil and slowly add to bowl to temper the egg mixture.
  4. Saute orange pepper in 1t oil and add half of it to quiche.
  5. Add half of the spinach, bacon and ham and blend well.
  6. Pour into greased 10×10” casserole dish.
  7. Slice tomatoes thin and place on top. Slightly press tomatoes into the quiche so the tomatoes stay soft.
  8. Bake for 25-30 min until cooked through.

Pasta Bowl:

  1. Cook pasta al dente (9-11min) in salted and oiled water (about 1T of vegetable oil).
  2. While pasta is cooking, make the vinaigrette by combining all ingredients in a container with lid and shake well.
  3. Drain pasta and pour into bowl and add vinaigrette while pasta is hot; mix well. Vinaigrette will absorb into the pasta as it cools.
  4. Add 1t garlic, basil, salt & pepper. Mix well.
  5. Add half of the orange pepper, spinach, bacon and ham.
  6. Add pine nuts and green onions.
  7. Saute grape tomatoes in oil until they blister and begin to pop. This greatly increases their flavor. Do not overcook. They should keep their shape as in the photo below.
  8. IMG_E6709[1]
  9. Add tomatoes to pasta bowl and gently toss.
  10. Add mozzarella and gently toss.
  11. Cover and refrigerate until chilled.
  12. Stir before serving.

** You can switch out ingredients based on preference, food allergies and what you have on hand.

Quiche freezes well.

 

 

 

Lessons from Nana…the elevator

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Lessons from Nana…
Nana had a doctor’s appointment today. That’s not unusual, except for the fact of where it was located – on the second floor of a building with only elevator access. Seriously, only personnel are allowed to use the stairs. It makes no sense to me and isn’t a big deal to most people. But, it’s a BIG deal to me.

You see, I have an irrational fear of elevators. I’ve struggled with this since I was 4 years old.
While some people can’t remember back that far, I remember “the incident” that left me traumatized like it was yesterday.

My 4 yr old preschool class was being escorted by a teenage volunteer from one floor of the building to the next. Okay, fine. But it’s what he did once we were on the elevator that has scarred me for life.

He wildly began to push ALL of the buttons! The elevator jumped and jolted. The lights went out. The alarm rang. The doors opened between floors. All of this was happening to a group of preschoolers who can’t even tie their shoes.

We were crying. We were petrified. He laughed at us.

Eventually, he said to us as the doors opened on the correct floor, “Do you want to get off?” We all quivered and cried our response, “Yes!” He said, “No!” And did it all over again. I was never the same after that.

What this guy didn’t know (or care given his reckless behavior) were two things:
1. I wrestle with high anxiety and have my entire life. It’s a genetic thing going back generations.
2. At that time, I lived in a home with a stepfather who terrified me so my anxiety was fever-pitch level!! He was a scary man who utterly robbed me of my childhood. He married my mom (who she thought was her hero, but turned out to be her villian) when I was 4 yrs old. Life went downhill after that. I’ll spare you the details, but suffice it to say I had an unhealthy fear of authority figures, as well as major daddy issues, for a very long time and a LOT of forgiveness to work out.

I’ve avoided elevators over the decades to a ridiculous extent. I’ve seen the back hallways of plenty of buildings and been escorted by security and staff hundreds of times over my life taking stairs not meant for the public.
I’ve been embarrassed to ask staff ride WITH me on elevators when stairs were impossible for security reasons.
But oh how many stairs I’ve climbed.

Once I climbed 32 flights of stairs for an entire weekend to avoid an elevator ride to the 16th floor hotel room.

I will climb 12-14 flights no problem if it means I can take the typically forgotten, smelly, dingy stairs.

So when my MIL moved down here to live out her years, one thought I had was, “As her health declines, I’m going to have to take elevators so as to accompany her to appointments.”

And here we are. Her oncologist is on the 7th floor. Her surgery was on the 2nd floor. Her primary doctor is on the 2nd floor. Her orthopedist is on the 2nd floor. Her other oncologist is on the 3rd floor. Her endocrinologist is on the 2nd floor. Her neurologist is on the 2nd floor. I know this because those elevators are etched in my mind as often stairs aren’t available.

When I must use an elevator, if it even remotely feels off, doors slow to close, etc. I’m out. My wonderful husband is used to this. He’s trucked many stairs with me and doesn’t say a word when staff tries to point us to back stairwells with odd looks on their faces like “WHY???”

When visiting a friend in the hospital recently, I traversed 5 different sets of staircases, several flights each – all with a dead end. I had to ask the front desk staff to escort me to a stairwell that was blocked off, only to find it led me to the wrong part of the building. Ug.

Today, her appointment was in a building with no stair access. Let me rephrase that…no public stair access. The last time we were here, a maintenance man happened to be in the lobby and I asked him about stairs. He was a retired firefighter and with both of his credentials I asked him to ride up with me, stopping short of wanting to hide behind him. The amazing man actually waited for our appointment and got permission to walk me down the staff-only stairs. However, today I was on my own.

I woke up with palms sweating and heart racing – over the thought of ONE lousy flight on an elevator. I HATE this about myself.

But here’s where Nana’s lesson enters. She’s relying on me. She can’t go to these appointments by herself.
In addition to the evil angiosarcoma eating her body alive at an alarming rate, her Alzheimer’s is getting worse. Though she can easily carry on on a conversation, she cannot tell the check-in receptionist any personal data past her birthday.

With each question, she looks at me in total fear. I HAVE to be there to be her voice; to advocate for her; to ask the questions; discuss options; to receive take-home instructions; and be a calming presence for her in these difficult conversations.

Why is this important to me? Because I love her. We are family. I call her Naomi and myself Ruth.

Love is a choice. My husband says often that every day he chooses love. We all choose love.

The hard part is when loving pushes us past what we can endure. It forces us beyond our limits. It makes us face our fears. It takes the control away from us and we don’t like that.

For me, I feel more brave observing, with my own eyes, the devastating effects of her cancer than to step one foot on the elevator with Nana and her walker.

However, something happens when she and I are waiting for the steel doors to open. I’m no superwoman. I don’t become less afraid and do pray HARD the entire 15 second ride that feels like 15 hours. But choosing LOVE overrides the fear. Focusing on being there for HER makes me focus less on this irrational, trauma-driven fear.

This Christmas, what is LOVE asking you to do? See people you’d rather not? Go places you don’t want to be? Spend time doing things you’d rather not do?

I encourage you to LEAN into the discomfort, the awkward, and even the ridiculousness of what’s happening (as long as it doesn’t hurt yourself or others) and let love’s voice be louder.

Let LOVE be louder than who’s right…or wrong. Let LOVE be stronger than our own agendas, preferences and personalities. Let LOVE be our speech, our thoughts, and our actions. Let LOVE be how we make people feel.

LOVE keeps everything in perspective. It is the voice of reason. It is the WHY behind what we do. Afterall, as believers we live for God and God is love, 1 John 4:8.

And when LOVE comes first, the fears in our lives become less. And that’s a win for everyone. “Perfect love drives out fear,” 1 John 4:18.

And when you can’t…LOVE can. “It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres,” 1 Corinthians 13:7.

You never know what can happen in a life driven by selfless love. It drove Jesus to a cross.

John 15:13 says, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
Jesus says in Matthew 5:43-45, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven…” These two Scriptures cover everyone. So yeah, we should love everyone.

LOVE takes us on a journey we don’t always feel prepared for. It requires more of us than we want to give. It asks too much of us. But LOVE is so worth it, as are the people with whom we share it.

The crazy thing about LOVE is, the more we give into it, the more we get out of it. I pray you get the MOST out of this Christmas. And, enjoy the ride. 

College Survival Kit

It’s that time of year! You know it’s college season when every twin XL memory foam topper in the city & on Amazon is sold out, lol.

I wanted to put together a send-off gift that would be both functional and fun so I scoured the Internet for ideas. Some were very clever but not functional. Others were incredibly functional but not personal. So I started from scratch. Here’s the end result! Borrowing the packing bubble idea from Pinterest, the rest of the ideas came from endlessly wandering around WalMart anticipating what would make the transition to college a little easier. 🙂 It was a lot of fun to make the labels with a personal software program.

The black gift bag symbolizes a chalkboard and I used a white chalk marker for the verbiage. The gift bag’s name tag and ribbons tying the tag to the bag are in the school’s colors for a personal touch.

The school inception gift – bags within the bag! 😉

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On the go or studying inside – a high protein snack kit with chicken salad & crackers and a water bottle

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Get well soon – A can of chicken noodle soup; a bottle of hand sanitizer; a pack of tissues and an Echinacea tea bag

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Celebrate the good stuff! – A single-serving cake mix packet; microwavable mug; spoon, party blower and confetti

Celebrate the good stuff! – I photocopied the box of cake mix

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Running late – A packet of instant Starbucks iced coffee & a pack of breath mints.

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Stressed Out – packing bubbles to pop

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Just because 😉 – a bag of mixed candy

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Stay Safe! – An Uber gift card to jet if needed

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Mistakes are okay – An eraser with a personalized rice crispy treat

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Have fun!!!! – A frisbee and a deck of cards

 

Dragonfly Jars

8.5 x 11 miscellaneous VERTICAL - Page 149It’s Christmas in July! Last December, I found these beautiful, inexpensive acrylic dragonfly ornaments at WalMart. From the moment I saw them, I knew they were perfect for our back porch…in the summer. So I bought and stashed them for months.

Then I found these gorgeous blue glass canning jars in the canning section of our local grocery store. Again, a super economical find!

These dragonfly jars fare SO easy to assemble…

Items Needed:

  • Glass canning jars (a.k.a. Mason jars)
  • Acrylic ornaments
  • Scissors
  • Glue dots
  • Super Glue
  • Votive holder, candles, flowers, pebbles, etc. to fill the jars

Directions:

  1. Cut the strings off the ornaments.
  2. Play with how you want the ornament to sit on the glass jar.
  3. Once you have an idea of how to affix the ornament, place two glue dots on it; one on the top half and one on the tail. Make sure both glue dots will rest directly on the glass jar.
  4. Press the ornament on the glass and hold it for a few seconds while the glue dots adhere.
  5. Using Super Glue, use a drop or two between the rim of the glass and the ornament so it runs down between the two fora secure seal.
  6. Fill the jars with whatever you’d like!

(Serving board is from Home Goods.)

Culinary Quest #11 Fresh Corn & Basil Salad

Welcome to one of my very favorite salads! It’s refreshing, filling and healthy – the trifecta for side dishes or as an entree.  Before reaching for the typical potato salad, cole slaw, etc. which are high in fat and, well, boring, give this taste of summer a try!

It all started with extra corn I had on hand and needed a side dish for dinner (I way over-estimated the number of ears I bought). So I gathered other items we had on hand and experimented to see what cooked up.

This salad was love at first bite!! The combination of sweet corn, savory basil, buttery avocado, and bitey pickled red onion – this is quintessential summer flavor with beautiful colors and textures.

Ingredients:

5 ears of fresh corn; steamed or roasted, cooled and cut off the cobs (NOT canned corn)

1 cup pickled red onion; chopped (This is my favorite pickled red onion recipe, but should be made at least one day before for full flavor, thanks Brenda for such a delicious recipe!) *NOTE  If you don’t have time to pickle the red onion, use fresh red onion finely diced.

3 medium-sized fresh tomatoes; diced

2 cups fresh basil; measured before chopping

1 cucumber; diced

1 avocado; diced

1 cup mozzarella; diced (optional)

Dressing Ingredients:

4T white balsamic vinegar

2T olive oil

1/2t-3/4t salt to taste

1/2t black pepper

1/2t granular sugar (I use raw sugar)

2 cloves fresh garlic; minced

Directions:

Add all prepared ingredients into a large mixing bowl.

Add all dressing ingredients into a seperate bowl. Whisk together and immediately pour over the rest of the ingredients in the bowl.

Gently mix everything together. Store covered in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Stir again before serving.

* This recipe can be served immediately and does not need to set up for full flavor. It will keep for 1 day in the fridge, but it’s best served the day of. If you need to make it ahead of time, swap regular tomatoes for grape/cherry tomatoes to keep the tomato juice from producing too much liquid, and hold off adding the avocado until ready to serve. Enjoy!