Thursday, June 28, 2018

Present Blessings

“Reflect upon your present blessings - of which every man has many - not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.” - Charles Dickens
This quote is hanging on the wall of hospital just down from Ed's room. I might add not to fear future misfortunes as well.

Sometimes I'm afraid that if I share the ways we have been blessed, I'll appear a Pollyanna that is absent from reality. 

But we have had many blessings. If I share bad news with you all, maybe I should also share the blessings, too.

Ed's biopsy surgery yesterday went well. It took longer than expected because the surgeon had to take numerous samples in several areas before pathology was satisfied. We are waiting for the full pathology report.

Compared to a craniotomy and resection, the biopsy incision is small, but they still opened his skull and stirred around in his white matter. But Ed took a long nap after surgery and felt great. We spent the evening roaming the halls and visiting the patient library. We've learned in the last year to enjoy every moment together, even when stuck in a hospital. 

I don't wish to be back in the hospital for any reason, but this visit has been far less stressful than in March. We've made so many trips to the city that some of the anxiety has worn off. I recognize most of the nurses in Ed's hall, and Ed had the same excellent surgeon as in March. I don't get lost going to the cafeteria any more, and when I took a wrong turn yesterday, I could quickly correct myself. I can tackle the labyrinth of halls and know the shortest distance to the lab, surgery waiting room, and the nearest restroom.

With Ed's surgery scheduled last minute, I was surprised to find an opening for me in the Family Lodge next door. It is hard to sleep well when curled up on a chair in a hospital room. While I hate to be separated from Ed overnight, lying down in a real bed in a quiet room for a few hours makes me a better functioning person.

The surgeon has discharged Ed so we plan to head for home soon.

Thanks so much for praying for all of us.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Hope in Midst of Questions

"How's Ed?"

It is the question that begins most conversations these past months. 

I don't mind the question. Ed's health is on the forefront of my mind, and I don't mind talking about it.

But I'm not always sure how to answer the question. 

I usually say that Ed is feeling well. And it is true. He is working full time. He hasn't had any seizures since the one in mid-May. He doesn't have headaches. He passes his neurological exams with flying colors. He has no weakness on either side which would be common after brain tumor resections like his. He didn't feel well on the days he took his medication, but that was only four days a month and his blood-work has been great.

He has been more tired, but by now we are used to his lack of energy. He can still enjoy most activities such as picnics, short walks, and games with the children as long as they are not too physically taxing. 

Some days, when I think of the last year, it feels like a miracle to have him present and enjoying life with us. I don't take a day for granted.

"How's Ed?"

Often Ed's doctors will pull me aside and ask "How's Ed" and I know they are asking about his emotional health. And I'm glad to say, "He's doing well."

All through the past year, Ed has been my rock. If he were angry or depressed - it would have been far harder for me. For all of us. We have our moments of frustration and misunderstandings, but we have had so many good days.

Peace - I call that a miracle.

But when I am asked how Ed was doing, there was always the looming question, What was going on that we couldn't see? What was happening inside his skull? Would we gain a reprieve of a few months? Or was those cancer cells busily multiplying? 

With Ed feeling well, I didn't even want to know.

Last week Ed had an MRI which told us what we didn't want to know. In the last two months, the cancer has actively regrown.

Because of the location that some of the tumor was found, his doctors are concerned that his tumor is morphing into a different variant of glioblastoma.

So on this Wednesday, June 27, Ed plans to go back to the hospital for a biopsy of this new spot to help determine his next treatment plan. He will have a needle biopsy, which should be far less intrusive than his past brain surgeries. If all goes as expected, Ed will return home the next day, but I still hate for him to be wheeled into the operating room yet again.

Please pray that Ed's surgery will go well. Pray that we'll have peace for the next step in this journey. Pray that we can continue to hold onto hope - both in this world and the next.
According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. - Philippians 1:20

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

My Unfinished Story

Our family in May, 2018

Last winter, I was asked to write an article titled, "My Unfinished Story" for the spring issue of Daughters of Promise magazine. When I reread this article now, I see how the ensuing months have brought more chapters of hard things (cancer recurrence, a second surgery, seizures). But our story has many pages of laughter, grace, and answered prayer in the midst of the pain.

For those of you who have followed our story in the last year, none of this will be news, but I thought I'd share it here on the blog. 

My Unfinished Story

May 10, 2017 began the worse chapter of my life. On that day, my husband Ed had several tests to find the cause of his intense headaches and mental confusion. That night the doctor called, apologizing that the emergency forced him to give the MRI results by phone. I jotted down "Brain tumor. Probably cancer.”

I sat on the bed and tried to tell Ed the doctor's report. His head was buried in the pillow, and he didn't verbally respond, leaving me alone to tell our six children that their dad has a brain tumor. I struggled to answer my eight-year-old when she asked, “Is cancer something that makes you sick or makes you die?” I put my one-year-old to bed, knowing she might never remember her dad. I didn't know the script, but neither did I have time to figure out how to do it right. Within days Ed was recovering from brain surgery; and by the next week, we had the pathology report that confirmed the doctor's fears. Ed had glioblastoma (GBM), an aggressive brain cancer with a median life expectancy of fifteen months.

If life was a book, then our first fifteen years of marriage had been a quiet romance. We had a few challenging pages—fussy babies, a miscarriage, and Ed's minister ordination. But on May 10 our idyllic story turned dark and brooding. If this diagnosis had been a book, I would have hurled it across the room. How dare the author pull such a mean trick? I like when a writer weaves a tale that makes me fall in love with the characters. I don't mind a surprise twist if it is right for the story, but I refuse to read the dark, hopeless tales where the author kills off my favorite character.

With this sudden twist of plot, could I trust the Author of my story? God crafted a saga set in a perfect garden, but sin ravished the earth and creation groaned. (Romans 8:22) Pain, grief, and cancer splashed across the page. Jesus stepped out of heaven to write a new chapter of hope and restoration, but he didn't ban the effects of sin on earth. Weeds sprout in my garden, my children succumb to the stomach bug, and microscopic cancer cells multiply to a tennis-ball sized tumor in my husband's head.

I had expected to grow old with Ed, imagining he would follow his grandfather's legacy of pruning grapes when he was ninety. Dreams vanished of taking our children on a canoe trip or watching our daughters walk down the aisle on their wedding day. But if our time together was short, I didn't want to waste a minute in bitterness or worry. But every time I thought of a chapter titled “Widowhood,” I shuddered. I couldn't imagine mothering six children alone—not when I barely kept my sanity each afternoon until Ed came home from work.

Ed began a rigorous treatment program of chemo, radiation, and a strict diet. He lost his hair, his forehead sported a radiation burn, and he daily swallowed anti-nausea medicine. But hundreds of people were praying for us, some even fasted, and God answered. Ed regained strength and was able to return to work. After an anointing service, I learned there were miracles besides healing. I felt peace as tangible as warm socks; instead of seeing every hour on the clock, I enjoyed restful sleep.

For weeks after Ed's surgery and diagnosis, I couldn't concentrate on reading the Bible. Tears lurked on the surface, and my brain (though I couldn't blame it on surgery trauma) plodded through simple tasks. I was grateful for friends who shared Scripture verses and hymns, along with casseroles and cookies. 

A few words trickled in, and I began to recall stories from Scripture. Joseph. Job. Mary Magdalene. John the Baptist—these men and women of faith had faced deep suffering. They too felt fear, confusion, and doubt. But in the middle of their unfinished story they journeyed in faith and raised their hands in worship. Joseph rejected bitterness while serving in prison. Mary Magdalene visited the tomb to show honor to her Lord even after His disciples had fled. Job refused to curse God and proclaimed that his “Redeemer liveth” despite no evidence of God's presence. John the Baptist took his doubting questions to Jesus, the only one who could give reassurance.

In November our family vacationed in the Virginia mountains. On a cold, windy afternoon, I hiked alone to the top of the mountain. I worried that Ed's next MRI would find his tumor growing, a monster on the march. Gazing out over the mountain ranges, I reviewed what I knew of God—that He is good, He is big, He is wise. I knew I had a choice—either grasp and fight for Ed's healing and my happiness, or relinquish the pen to God. On that mountain I held out my empty hands like Abraham, yielding Ed and my future to God. I would confront the mountain of surrender again, but for now, peace had returned.

Sometimes, in the middle of a novel, I begin to doubt if the book is worth reading. I'm tempted to flip to the end of the book and read the last chapter to decide if the book is worth the time investment. Reading the end of a novel might ruin the plot, but our Author invites us to discover the end of His story. In Revelation, we find white-robed saints, who have experienced the worst of earth's misery, worshiping their Savior. We read of an eternal home, an incorruptible inheritance, a place with glory that cannot be compared to any of earth's suffering. (1 Peter 1:4, Romans 8:18)

I write this in January 2018, eight months after Ed's diagnosis. His hair has grown back to cover the long surgery scar; I wish I could as easily forget that GBM lurks in his brain. His December MRI showed a stable tumor. Though Ed is currently feeling well, we are reminded of GBM's aggressiveness when we attended the funeral of a friend, only 25 years old, who had the same disease. I ache for her family—and my own—while trying to grasp the truth that for the redeemed, “to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)

Our next chapter may contain a worse day than May 10, but I can't focus on future fears. Grace can and will carry us through the unfamiliar pages. I have hope that these hard chapters will showcase the fingerprint of the Author and foreshadow a glorious climax. 

God's past faithfulness gives me courage to live my unfinished story.

Slightly edited from an article published in Daughters of Promise magazine in spring, 2018.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Kaiser Rolls

It has been over a year since I've shared a recipe. Today I'm breaking that record.

When I make these kaiser rolls, I think of May 2017 when Ed was so sick with terrible headaches and we didn't know why. I baked these rolls, one of the first times ever, to serve with Ed's favorite pork barbecue, but he hardly touched the meal.

But despite that memory, we do enjoy these kaiser rolls. They are chewy and perfect for sandwiches. I have made a lot less bread this past year since Ed can't eat it, but I've made these rolls numerous times.

The original recipe came from my sister who got it from one of Peter Reinhart's cookbooks. The original recipe called for making a pre-ferment one day and then finishing the dough the next day. That is too fussy for me. I adapted the recipe to mix all the ingredients at one time and either bake it immediately, or refrigerate the dough and bake in a day or two. Sometimes I bake half the dough into rolls the first day and save the remaining dough for the next day so we can have freshly baked rolls again with minimal effort.

I make these rolls with a mix of white and whole wheat flours, but they can be made with all white or all whole wheat flour. If you use bread flour, the higher gluten level will make these rolls even chewer. I usually add a bit of vital gluten to aid the gluten development and make them chewy but it is not necessary.

You can shape these rolls into simple round rolls. But I like to roll the dough balls long and skinny and "tie" them into knots. If you google "shaping kaiser roll knots" you'll find lots of tutorials.

I'm attempting to rewrite this recipe for sourdough, but I'm not completely satisfied yet. Hopefully with a little more work I'll have that recipe perfected enough to share.

Kaiser  Rolls

3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
3 cups white flour
2 T vital gluten (optional)
1 T salt
1 T yeast
1 T honey
2 eggs
3 T olive oil
2 1/2 cups water
Egg and seeds for garnish (optional)

Stir all ingredients together except garnishes. Knead 6 minutes with a kneading hook at medium speed. (Or knead by hand - though you may need to add more flour.) The dough should still be tacky and hard to handle, though not sticky.

Cover dough and allow to rise 2 hours or until double. Divide dough into 16 pieces. Rest 10 minutes. Shape into balls or roll and twist into knots. Place on greased baking sheet.

Allow rolls to rise one hour. Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds and poppy seeds. Bake at 425 for 13 minutes. Cool and serve with your favorite pork barbecue or other favorite sandwich toppings.

Variation: After mixing, allow to rise for 30 minutes at room temperature. Then cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and place in fridge. One to three days later, remove dough from fridge, divide into rolls, and proceed with the recipe. The rolls may need more time to warm and rise before baking.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Giveaway - Rival 5 Game

During the summer, I always think that I'm going to keep reviewing school work. I don't want my children to forget their hard-earned skills. How hard would it be to review multiplication flash cards each morning after breakfast?

Apparently, very hard. Somehow when we end our school schedule, all my consistency falls apart. I think we've done flashcards only three times in the last month.

But on warm afternoons, my children like to sit in the cool house and play games. I like to think that game are a great way to practice math skills. Logic, strategy, adding up scores = painless math practice.

Rival5 Board Game
Last winter we bought a Rival 5 game. This game was invented by a teacher at a prison who was looking for a fun way to practice math facts for her adult students. The game can be played by all ages, as long as they know basic math facts. A child that knows how to add and subtract will be able to join adults with higher math skills.

Rival 5 is easy to learn and was absorbing enough that I wasn't bored with the game when playing with the children. In some games my children are so competitive they can be mean to each other, but I observed that with this game, my children were working together to find solutions.

I love to help spread the word about new products invented by someone who saw a need and is filling it. I was offered a free copy to give to one of you. Go over to the Rival 5 website and then come back here and let a comment sharing one of you favorite games. I'll draw one random winner to receive a free copy of Rival 5 courtesy of the inventor.

Please give an email address in your comment where I can contact you. The giveaway is open to US mailing addresses. Giveaway is open for one week. Don't forget to visit the Rival 5 website before leaving a comment.

Disclaimer: I purchased my own copy of Rival 5 several months ago. A free copy was offered to me to give to one Home Joys reader. All opinions expressed here are my own.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Bookmarks - WW2 Chapter Books

I shared picture books about World War 2 a few weeks ago. Here is a new list that includes chapter books on the same time period. 

Many of these stories have tense moments of danger so preread to make sure your children are emotionally mature enough to enjoy the book. For younger readers, I have read these books aloud so that I can edit as needed and to help them through the horrors of topics like the Holocaust. 

I listed these roughly in order from short to longer books.

This post contains affiliate links which means if you make a purchase on Amazon through these links, you help support this site with no extra cost to yourself.

Twenty and Ten by Claire Huchet Bishop
Twenty French children are asked to share their mountain refuge with ten Jewish children. When the Nazis arrive, can they be trusted to protect their friends? A short story that is the perfect introduction to World War 2.

Forging Freedom by Hudson Talbott
Jaap Penrat doesn't understand his Polish neighbors hatred of the Jews and looks for ways to save his friends' lives. Smuggling young men right through the Nazi lines, Jaap manages to save hundreds of men from certain death. A true story of danger and courage with great illustrations.

Danny had just moved to Hawaii where his mother served as a nurse. He longs to return to his home in New York until the day that the Japanese attack the island. This short chapter book is part of a series of excellent “I Survived” books.

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
When the Nazis invade Denmark, Annemarie's friend Ellen is in danger. Learn how the people of Denmark banded together to evacuate thousands of Jews. One of my favorites.

Snow Treasure by Marie McSwigan
Peter wanted to become a hero, but in a snow-covered village in Norway, he thought he had no chance. But when Peter's uncle asks the children to smuggle gold past the Nazis in their sleds, Peter will have too much adventure. More fiction than history, so it isn't my favorite, but children enjoy it.

When the Sirens Wailed by Noel Streatfeild
Three children are sent out of London along with thousands of other children to escape the bombing. They face uncertainties with pluck and creativity as they try to reunite their family. Realistic details stem from the author's own memories as a volunteer worker in war-time London. Out of print but worth searching for.

Anna chose to ignore Hitler's photo on the posters through-out Berlin, but one day her father was gone and Anna had to sneak out of Germany. Through Switzerland, France, and, finally, England, the family strives to stay together. Based on the author's childhood. A similar story is Journey to America by Sonia Levitin.

Paper Wishes by Lois Sepahban
Manami loves walking on the shores of Bainbridge Island with her grandfather and her dog, Yujiin. But when their family, along with other Japanese Americans, is forced into a prison camp in the desert, Manami must leave her dog behind. Beautifully told in the voice of a grieving ten-year-old.

When My Name Was Keoko by Linda Sue Park
Sun-hee never remembers when Korea had not belonged to Japan, but now they are given Japanese names and World War 2 comes to their community. My children said this book looked boring, but they were hooked by the first chapter. Learn about the Korean occupation and the training of the kamikaze pilots from a talented writer.

The Winged Watchman by Hilda Van Stockum
Joris can hardly remember life before the Nazis occupied Norway. Life was hard in the family living in a working windmill, especially as food gets scarce. Many of the villagers band together to resist the Nazis, saving downed pilot and sending secret messages by windmill. An excellent story, warm, sometimes tense, and always hopeful.

Hana's Suitcase by Karen Levine
Two true stories are brought together by an old child's suitcase - one from a small Czech town during World War 2 where Hana lives with her older brother – and another sixty years later in Japan where a teacher searches for clues on a Holocaust artifact.

Black Radishes by Susan Lynn Meyer
Gustave is dismayed when his parents decide to leave their home in Paris. He thinks the French army can protect them from the Nazis. Gustave uses a rare vegetable to help his family escape. Inspired by true stories. The sequel Skating with the Statue of Liberty tells of Gustave's new home in America and the shadow of civil rights.

Escape From Warsaw by Ian Serraillier (formerly The Silver Sword)
Dad's in prison, Mom's arrested, and Edek and his sisters are being pursued by Nazi soldiers. Running through the Polish city and countryside, the children never lose hope that their family will be reunited.

Someone Named Eva by Joan M. Wolf
Milada and a few other village children were chosen for Germanization. With a new name, a new family, and a new language, will she ever see her real family again? Based on the history of Lidice, Czechoslovakia and the Lebensborn centers.

Elephant Run by Roland Smith
Nick is sent from London to Burma to escape the Nazi bombing only to be dumped into the Japanese invasion. Introduces young readers to the Pacific battlefield in an absorbing story of courage and danger. My boys loved it though I considered the plot rather unbelievable.

Captured by the Russians and sent from Poland to Siberia, Esther and her family weed potato fields and struggle to survive. The story of the author's childhood.

For adults or older youth, don't miss these three excellent true stories from World War 2. All three are told by a dedicated Christian woman who is imprisoned during World War 2. I consider all these books to be personally life-changing.

The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom
If I Perish by Esther Ahn Kim
Evidence Not Seen by Darlene Deibler Rose


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