Sunday, April 6, 2014

My sister-in-law Malena: An update

The sands of time keep softly falling and we are now several months out from when we first found out about my sister-in-law Malena. For those not following her story, she is married to my husband's brother Chucho. They live in Mexico and she has six children, and numerous grandchildren. She was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor, a very large one. She is only 48 years old. We found out about her condition, or details of it, right at Christmas. The condition she was in was not made known to us the way we would've liked it. I wanted the nitty, gritty details and I wanted them now. It was slow in coming, as is the very measured way in which Latinos give information (if they do at all), and when we finally found out how bad it really was we were simply floored. It took my breath away. 

They sent us pictures of a Malena that I didn't recognize. I like to say that I'm a robust, zaftig woman as was Malena. The pictures I received from her girls of her appearance now was a very slim woman - one that did not look at all like the Malena I had known for twenty-five years. Protruding from her stomach was the tumor, and I had to look away. It turns out she had not felt well for a year or more, brushing it aside because in Mexico if you don't have money, you don't get care. 

My eldest daughter said, "Mom, we need to help them. We need to do something." She needed surgery, to explore and to find out exactly what needed to be done. The day after Christmas she set up a crowd-funding page for Malena and off it went. By the end of the set time of 2-3 weeks, we had raised nearly $4000 given online and in person. My husband and I wept with the generosity that had been shown. People didn't know her, yet they gave. 

We sent the money to them, every penny, nearly a week later. Within two weeks or so, she was heading to her surgery that had been postponed nearly three times. We waited to hear, texted with the girls, and prayed. After a long day of waiting, and nearly several more of getting the exact details, we found out what we had hoped wasn't true. The tumor was too large to remove as she had been bleeding out on the table. The cancer had spread and was wrapped around nearly every vital organ in the stomach and mid-region of her body. They closed her up and sent her home to recover. We questioned them about chemotherapy and had found out that the doctors had already talked to her about it. Too costly to afford, and for Malena, something she didn't want. 

She is now at home, having healed from the surgery. She goes about her days, content in the knowledge that they did what they could. She says she is ready and wants nothing like chemo to take the joy out of the final stages of her life. I text her when I can, telling her how much I love her. Her kids are ever close to her side, as is Chucho - with whom she's been with for over thirty years now. My husband mourns for him and the loss he will suffer in losing his best friend. I am thoughtful and pensive thinking about how Malena befriended me when I was a naive American girl in a foreign country. No language but Spanish to learn, and how kind she was in her ways and with the foods she always prepared for us. I want to sit in her kitchen one more time and eat homemade quesadillas gently stuffed with mushrooms and herbs, topped off with queso de Oaxaca. I want to taste the burn of the salsa rojo that melds with the flavors of the quesadilla and satisfies my hunger not just for genuine Mexican food, but for the friendship it brings. 

I want to see her one more time, and if God and favor provide this may happen yet. I want to travel those bumpy, pothole-filled side streets to her house and gather her in my arms. We will see. For now I am content in knowing this past week they were able to travel the several hours it takes to go to the coast of Veracruz. She was able to spend a few sun-filled days basking and enjoying life one minute at a time with her husband and youngest daughter, who is 12, at her side. 

It is about each minute, isn't it? 

** A hearty thank you to each and every soul who donated money to Malena's cause. She had no idea we were doing it and was floored that anyone who didn't know her would care enough to give. With your help she was able to get the surgery, find answers, and rest easy in the days God is giving her. Thank you, my friends. Your generosity will not be forgotten.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

God destroys the world on page 7 of my NIV Bible: My review of Noah

**There may be a few spoilers - nothing that would actually ruin the movie**

When you say "Noah and the ark" what comes into your head? Noah and his family waiting by the door of a neatly built ark as animals, two by two, walk through the door. You envision a big flood, ending with the ark resting gently on a hillside and a rainbow in the sky. 

That is what I remember.

This morning I opened up my Bible and I pored over the Genesis text about Noah. I wanted to re-read it and freshen it in my memory before I went to the hotly debated cinematic release of "Noah" starring Russell Crowe. Did you realize that it only takes seven pages for God to be so annoyed with humanity and it's evil ways that he tells Noah he is going to wipe out the world? 

Also, does anyone remember the Nephilim? You know, the sons of God?

From Genesis 6:4 it reads:  The Nephilim were on the earth in those days--and also afterward--when the sons of God went to the daughters of humans and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.

From Cathleen Falsani's review of Noah in Soujourners: 

"The Book of Enoch is a non-canonical book (although Ethiopian and Eritrean Orthodox churches consider it to be part of the biblical canon) traditionally attributed to Noah’s great-grandfather Enoch. It includes “The Book of the Watchers,” which chronicles the fall of the angels responsible for siring the Nephilim — offspring of the "sons of God" and the "daughters of men" mentioned in Genesis 6:4.

In Noah, the Nephilim are called “Watchers,” and are massive, rock-encrusted creatures who prey on and are preyed upon by the humans they once loved and abandoned heaven as angels to come to Earth to help. They are beings of light trapped inside hard slag exoskeleton — a punishment from God for their disobedience. They are estranged from the God they love and crave a relationship with, seeking divine mercy but finding none."   
I should have prefaced this review by saying that I'm an absolute movie-GOER. We love movies, any and all, in a non-discriminatory way. I'm also not a big "Christian movie" fan. Namely, because I refuse to put my God in a "Christian movie" box. We ever so gently (or sometimes loudly) put layer upon layer of "Christianity" and apply it to ourselves like glue. We will only see "Christian" movies, only watch so-called "Christian" news networks a la Fox News, and only listen to non-secular music because we wouldn't want to be viewed any other way. I didn't know that this was what God required of me to believe in him. 
I have taken my belief in God out of a box and I've seen it in the beautiful imagery and scenery of the post-creation world that Noah lived in. The movie moved us through an ethereal world that showed the value of protecting the earth, and the belief in a creator that loves us. It is also gritty and dark, full of evil people and evil ways. In the movie, God showed Noah through a dream what his plan was. Noah took this plan to task. I love that it showed Noah as the human being he was, struggling to know what was right yet forging ahead with what he knew his God had asked of him to do. 
Yes, there are creative licenses taken in this film. Some will question the Nephilim, or the Watchers (as they are called in the film). Methusaleh, Tubal-Cain, and even the ways that they lived in closeness to spirituality, healing, seeing. Because we don't understand does it mean it didn't happen? 
I draw a direct correlation to people who dislike talking about the existence of evil and demons to the people that will have a hard time liking and believing this film. No one wants to talk about the existence of demons, yet the Bible is FILLED with them and the people they inhabit. The legions of them that are cast out. We've become a society that only wants the "happy" thing, the good thing that makes us feel all cozy inside. We've sanitized the Bible to our liking so that we only talk about the things that don't make us uncomfortable. 
In the movie when the flood comes and the ark rises up all you can hear are the tormented screams of the wicked. The screams of people drowning for all their evil ways. Noah closes the door and and sits in a jumble in the floor....listening to the screaming. If we can just not watch this and only see movies about little boys who've seen Heaven - precious that he is. Must stay away from movies like this that might make us actually think about what may have happened. Millions of deaths, tortured and real, because God knew the human race to be innately evil. We must only see "real" Christian movies that make us feel wonderful inside.
What IS a real Christian movie? 
I can tell you what it's not. It's not a heart-warming movie that fits neatly in our Christian box. We need to be able to find our God in things that are from this world, things beyond our realm of understanding. We can't find them in the safe and sanitized places. We must seek out the dirty, the gritty, and the scary places to find God. A safe cocoon isn't where He resides, because a deeper plane is where He wants us to find Him. 
We need to ask ourselves if we can find God in these tiny, breathless spaces. Those spaces filled with people who don't profess to believe, the depths of this world where it seems the Godless reside. Do we avoid these places and stay safe? Or do we dive in and find Him where we thought we never could? Or are the places we can no longer find Him the places we think are "safe"? Is it our churches, our classrooms, and our friends? Have we become so set in place that only a "certain way" is the absolute way to find Him according to us? 
I highly recommend it this movie. I found it to be enthralling, full of a deeply spiritual Biblical truth, plus lots creative license thrown in for good measure. God's promise, as ever, is made plain in the end. He is here to redeem us because he cares for us. Go and see it with your mind open, not with a closed one ready to negate any truth you might find. It is a well-made movie with great acting. 
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
             and my thoughts than your thoughts."  
                                                                  Isaiah 55:8-9


Monday, March 24, 2014

Love is found in the tiny details of life

Check out my article on The Holmes Bargain Hunter

It is about the small things, you know, in case no one ever told you. This life we live, unfolding and weaving unsteadily, at times rolling us along with it in its sometimes forceful way. We focus on the things in front of our faces – money, bills, home improvements, cars that work then sometimes die – and we focus on these things until we can’t see anything else around us. 

I’ve used the word “minutiae” before and I want to use it again: Minutiae; the small, precise, or trivial details of something. Trivial means this: of little value or importance. Before I turn this into a vocabulary lesson, I must say that this, dear friends, is what we overlook in our lives. It is the small, trivial things that go unnoticed. The things that are part of the mundane ordinary that don’t create an echo into space yet make up the thousands of minutes of our lives. These are what we need to capture. To keep. To hold tightly so the big things don’t crowd them out.

How many times has your husband cleaned off your car with the cold and snowy winter we’ve had? Have you seen him come in the door and brush himself off as you go about the busyness of your moment? Do you acknowledge this or is it another part of the daily trivial tapestry of your life? Do you thank him? Every time I walk out to my car I see the path my husband and son created for me to walk through. This, so I don’t have to walk in deep snow and get my shoes wet. In this I see love. 

I see love in the way my husband sits beside me on the couch every evening. He could bury himself in a paper and fall asleep, but with coffee in hand we sit and chat about our day. Trivial details, the minutiae of life can be boring at best, but when shared with someone else it becomes important. It is part of a shared life. That couch, over the course of an evening, may pile up with magazines, books, remote controls, and phones, but he is only as far away as my hand can reach. I see love in this. I see small things like a rubbing of tired feet or a tiny smile that can light up a day. This is the minutiae of life. This is what life is made of. 

Valentine’s Day will be over when you read this. This is why I am writing now, when the roses are just starting to wilt and the chocolates are nestled in your belly. When the time has passed for the mandatory public display of love and just like that the cards full of hearts are now on the clearance rack on sale for pennies. The jewelry commercials and their anxiety-ridden themes have disappeared with haste. It’s time to move the next holiday in.

Love, among the trivial details of life, must remain. Don’t wait on one force fed holiday to show your love to one another. Instead of waiting on that day to cook a spectacular meal, fix small treats throughout the year that you know he or she will like. Don’t wait until that day to go to a fancy restaurant with all the bells and whistles – take the time once or twice a month to seek out tiny bistros that feature specials, or holes in the wall that serve the best greasy food around. Better yet, sit in a darkened theater as a matinee comes up on screen and hold hands as you pass the buttery popcorn bowl to share. These tiny thrilling moments are what make up a life filled with love. We wait so often for the big things to happen that the obscure minutiae get overlooked. And that, my friends, is where the love awaits. Look for it, search for it, and hold on to it before it gets lost in the bigger things of life.

Friday, March 14, 2014


Remind yourself daily of this. Happy Friday all.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Detoxing from rapid internet mode

Check out my recent column on The Bargain Hunter

Social Media - Weapons of Mass Distraction (by Hunter Langston)

I used to be a voracious reader. In all my thrift store gleanings I have compiled books known and obscure, stacked in a neat pile ready to be devoured. My nightstand groans with my “to-read” pile, and I have added an extra stand, slender with shelves, so I can pile more. That’s right, I have two nightstands with book stacks – doesn’t everyone? 

As of late, though, I’ve stumbled across a troubling thing. Something that if really is true will be the end of me because I won’t know the cure. The problem? I’m having a terrible time staying focused on my books. I used to be able to sit down in the evenings and read several chapters. If the book was really intense, I could read for hours during the day. Now I have problems finishing a chapter and books are becoming harder and harder to finish. I think I know what the issue is and don’t want to admit it. I believe I’ve succumbed to the social media/technology disorder. You know the one? Where you can’t go five minutes without checking your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram feed? I might settle in with my book, get comfy and cozy, read a few paragraphs, and then my palms start itching. I start thinking about what might be new or have been said and bam – my book is facedown and I’m scrolling. This, my friends, is what we used to yell at our kids for.

Technology has become part and parcel of our world. On our hand-held smart phones the world is at our fingertips. We can’t go anywhere without it or we feel disconnected and apart, and I can’t believe I’ve succumbed to it. I’m not really sure that there is a cure. When I think back, it’s only been 10 years since we got our first computer. The first time I got online it was like magic, even though it was dial-up and took years to get on. Cell phones, big and clunky, were purchased and through the years became more streamlined and full of more options. Now, my laptop is my portal to the writing world where I gather ideas, and also where I type up the thoughts that come to my head. It was only last August that I caved to the iPhone and finally decided I needed one. That was the last straw. I’m now connected wherever I go, even in the Walmart bathroom if need be. It’s a constant at-the-ready deal and one that, I believe, has taken away my ability to focus on something (like reading) for an extended period of time. 

I’m not sure how to cure this because we all know that technology isn’t going anywhere. It’s only becoming faster and better every second of every day. We don’t have to bow to it, this I know. It’s become the norm, though, to be available at all times. I have to say that I do miss when I was out and about and could disappear from the world in the grocery store and let my answering machine at home pick up the calls. Alas, our answering machine went out the door years ago along with the landline phones. I say good riddance, in all sincerity. Has anyone else experienced this phenomena? The inability to concentrate on the simplest things like browsing a magazine or reading a lengthy book? The fast paced world where pages fly by and tabs are opened and closed with alarming speed. I would love to know that I’m not alone. I would love to know how everyone else deals with this. I love social media/technology and know that I must learn to embrace it yet manage it. I’ve simply got to learn how to switch my Internet-fast mind off and learn to switch off the phone and computer as well. Our brains are computers that can be trained as well, because after all, I have stacks of books waiting for me. But unlike technology, they will never change – they will remain static, full of their words, and wait for me to come back to them

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Losing my passion for cooking

My newest column on The Bargain Hunter:  

I’ve reached the end of my cooking skills, folks. I humbly submit to you my resignation from the kitchen. I’ve got loads of recipes pinned to within an inch of their lives on Pinterest, my favorite cookbooks claim a space on my kitchen shelf, and my brain – oh my brain – used to think up great things to eat. 

No more. I think my food switch has turned off and I don’t know how to turn it on again. This is not good news for those that live in my home. 

When the kids were small and I was a stay-at-home mom (in my heart I still am) my refrigerator was stocked with easy to make foods. Casseroles, hearty and rich, found their way to my dinner table several times a week. Soups like potato and ham, broccoli, and even chili (which is not a family fave) with cornbread were served. I tried new recipes and honed the ones that everyone liked and the ones that were not so likable. I had a great little repertoire going on that had new ones inserted every now and then for good measure and to mix it up. Marinated meats were put in juicy containers and pulled out to grill in the evening and along with a baked potato the meal was complete. 

Somewhere along the way the kids grew up, and along with their many outside the home activities, the supper table became a once a week type deal. It was a place to crash when we realized, “Hey, we’re all home tonight. Let’s sit at the table!” Glasses would clink merrily, mundane everyday details would be talked about, and the food would be plentiful and down the hatch. 

Things change over time, like kids moving away, going to college, and getting jobs. I’m down to one child in his last year of school and I should be cooking everything he likes plus more. Instead, I’m drowning in my own cooking foibles, unable to even muster the strength to pull out a tried and true recipe and give it a whirl. My son just laughs and says, “Mom, you’re trying to starve me!” My husband laughs as well and says, “Just fry me an egg with potatoes and I’m good.” This is not me, though, this is not who I am. Aside from cooking the occasional Mexican meal (which I can do in my sleep) I’m in a rut and can’t see my way out of it. 

I’m thinking that I’m mourning the loss of being important in the kitchen. I work part time and when I come home I can’t think past making coffee and sitting down in a cushy chair. When I’m home on my days off I try to make something good to make up for the other days that I didn’t do such a good job. It’s a constant struggle and to you working moms that have little kids I commend you for being able to get supper on the table. 

As for me, I need to break out of this funk and get back to myself. Maybe I need a change of scenery in my kitchen. Trying some new ingredients or a fancy recipe I never would have tried before is the key. I should re-arrange and clean out my spice cabinet, and I should finally try cooking with asparagus or some other green vegetable the kids would never touch. When the last child is gone in six months or so, I will be left with a yawning space that was once filled with laughter. 

I do look forward to filling this space with what my husband and I have always wanted to try in the food world. I should break open a bottle of wine to sip while I cook, turn up the music, and pull some shrimp and scallops from the fridge to sear in butter and garlic. Along with a nice pasta or rice plus greens, a new way of cooking will be born. Transitioning from a big family to cooking for two - I think that is what’s troubling me. I am going from, “Mom, mom I’m hungry!” to a more richly slow, yet yummy way of cooking. No more huge casseroles filled with mac and cheese or the filling hamburger potato casserole with carrots my kids loved so much. No more Kool-Aid in the fridge and gummi snacks in the pantry – these will be replaced with things that we love. I will no longer have to hide the fancy cookies I like to dip in my coffee, and my husband’s favorite things will take precedence in the pantry as well. I will have lots of years of that – having my pantry just so. I’m in a funk now, but it’s time to pull myself out of it and cook for my son what he loves before he’s gone. Because when he’s gone I will wish I could hear his voice in the kitchen yelling, “What’s for supper, mom!” And those are moments, even though you move forward and enjoy the new ones, that you can never have back.so true : sometimes i really don't feel like cooking...kids can be so ungreatful

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Social Media Bandwagon

We watch R-rated movies with nary a thought. 

       Violence, guns, people being murdered as we munch popcorn.

               Sex scenes don't faze us. They are part of the movie. 

        But let singers sing a song on an award show, wild and crazy, and suddenly we have become a people that can't watch.

        It's simply not "Christian"

    We applaud a Christian singer for walking out of the show, 

      because after all, that's what we do when we see something of the world.

        We leave. Right?

We jump on the "Christian" bandwagon

             Are we blind?

Or do we share trending social media articles so we look more righteous? 

            You can't have both. 
                    You are either one way or you're not.