Easter Memories

Hello Everyone!

Easter Egg HuntEaster was this past Sunday, and as most, we had a special sunrise service at our church.  How wonderfully blessed I am to be able to worship and remember the ultimate sacrifice our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, made for all of us.  I hope you and your family attended an Easter Service, too.  I am sure many new Easter frocks were worn and eggs and candy were in abundance. I can hear my grandmother singing the Easter Parade song, “In your Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it…”  Many probably participated in a church breakfast and/or family lunch, as was the plan for our day. Egg hunts (more like eggs just scattered all over the lawn) for the little ones took place as the adults cheered them on to “find” the plastic eggs with treats hidden inside. Lots of photos were taken and games were played, including croquet. However you celebrated Sunday, I hope you enjoyed and remembered the real reason the day is celebrated.

Last Easter (along with most other holidays and celebrations) was odd without my sweet husband. We were married on Easter weekend and always made it a point to celebrate our anniversary with dinner out, a trip to the beach, or a cruise like we took for our honeymoon and a few more milestone years following. The last cruise we took was in celebration of our 35th Anniversary. He was so proud and excited to tell me he had booked it himself…a suite with a balcony!  This year would be our 40th Anniversary.  I am blessed to have spent most of those years together, and that is a great testament to our love for each other. It is hard not to miss your best friend and soul mate.  Much “rain” has fallen along with the April showers. Without a doubt, we would be on a cruise in a suite with a balcony right now.

This year, the timing was off for my class to make and sell our hand-made and decorated peanut butter eggs. Our Spring Break came the week before Easter. The annual sale of 500+ of the confections preceding Easter was just not possible.  Many of our customers were disappointed, however my students were not. One class made a few batches, dipped them in chocolate and decorated them for both classes.  When we first started making the Peanut Butter Eggs years ago, I remember having some of the filling left over and bringing it home to make a few for my sweet husband who LOVED peanut butter eggs.  They were shaped and placed on the island in my kitchen to dry overnight so I could dip them.  He had already left for work early that morning before I came into the kitchen only to discover some were missing!  I called him to ask why he ate them before I finished them.  He replied that he had not eaten any of them. Puzzled, I turned around to see our Jack Russell and realized she had to have jumped up on one of the island chairs and helped herself to the missing eggs!  It was like she was giving me the, “I was just making sure they were fit for human consumption” look.  She was immediately banned to the yard for the day!

I am including the small recipe we have used for years to make the peanut butter eggs, though converted to make very large batches!

May God bless you and your family as He continues to bless ours,

Chef Woods

Peanut Butter Eggs

@ 16 1.4 oz. (@ 3 T.) Eggs before dipping in chocolate

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 c. Softened Butter (3 sticks)Peanut Butter Eggs
  • 3/4 c. Peanut Butter, Smooth or Crunchy
  • 1 T. + 1 1/2 t. Light Corn Syrup *Tip-Spray measuring spoons with pan spray before measuring
  • 1/2 t. Vanilla Extract
  • 2 lbs. Powdered Sugar
  • 1 package @ 20 oz. Candy Coating Chocolate, Ghirardelli Chocolate Melts or Wilton Candy Melts
  • Royal Icing or Fondant Decorations

Procedure

  1. In a mixer bowl combine butter, peanut butter, corn syrup and vanilla.
  2. Gradually add in powdered sugar a couple of cups at a time to form a stiff dough-like filling.
  3. Line a sheet pan with waxed or parchment paper.
  4. Weigh 1.4 oz. or scoop 3 T. together of the filling.
  5. Roll each portion into a ball and then shape into an egg shape.
  6. Loosely cover with a paper towel and allow to air-dry overnight or several days. The more dry they are, the better for dipping.
  7. Melt chocolate per package instructions.
  8. Dip each egg in chocolate and return to waxed or parchment paper to harden.
  9. Carefully trim any excess chocolate from bottom of each egg.
  10. Place each egg in a paper cupcake paper cup.
  11. Decorate as desired.
  12. Store at room temperature.

 

My Baby Boy

by Tina Michelle Cameron

On November 30, 1994, I had a scheduled c-section to deliver my second little boy. Well, there was nothing little about him. His name is Hunter Samuel Stout. He was two weeks early and weighed in at 9 lbs. and 15 oz., 22 inches long and 14 ½ inch head and chest. He had to be rushed to the Special Care Nursery because of a low blood sugar and the umbilical cord being wrapped around his neck. He was by far the largest baby in there! He was beautiful and perfect.

IMG_20181129_222114There are certain days that stand out when I think of him. One is the day I picked him and his older brother Corey up from daycare, and he started crying in the backseat. He was 4 or 5-years-old and was sitting in his car seat behind me, and I asked him what was wrong. He cried, “I don’t want to leave you when I go off to college.” How sweet was he?

Growing up he played soccer, and I was his assistant coach for several seasons. He looks just like me, however, he towers over me at about 6’3”. He loves to rest his elbow on top of my head when I stand next to him (I am 5’5 1/2”).

Hunter is smart and funny and loves music, movies and football. He is a diehard Tennessee Vols fan (I am from Knoxville). He is now 24 years old and has his undergrad degree from Winthrop University where he majored in history. He is also an alumnus of the Pike Fraternity. He is completing his first year of grad school at The Citadel in Charleston. He is getting his Master of Art in Teaching. His goal is to be a high school social studies teacher and eventually earn his Ph.D. to teach at the university level. He also has a part-time job at Groucho’s Deli as a server.

I love this kid more than he will ever know, and even though we may not always get along because we are both stubborn and just alike, I am so proud of the young man he has become and so proud that he wants to make a difference in a kid’s life. I cannot wait to see what his future holds for him.Screenshot_20190403-050746_Facebook

Sunsets

By Lisa Baker

Hi everyone.

If you read my last blog post, you know that my Mom passed away within a few days after I wrote it.  She has been gone over a week now. We miss her so much, but we know she is now whole and without pain.  Most importantly, she now has no dementia.

Funerals are not cheap.  I’m sure most of you probably already know this or have had experience with this.  We knew this.

Keep in mind that you most likely will be making these arrangements at a time when you are already very emotional.  I suggest that you don’t go alone.  Take a few trusted family members or close friends with you because they will think of things to ask about that you won’t.

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With every item, ask about the cost and if there is possibly a less costly alternative. The funeral home staff won’t mind you asking lots of questions.  That is what they are there for.

We could have gone cheaper on Mom’s arrangements, but we also could have gone a much more costly route too.  I think we are all very happy with what we picked out for her, and we feel that we went about middle of the road cost-wise.  Her insurance will cover over half of the cost leaving a couple thousand dollars for us to pay.  I would encourage people to check into making your arrangements ahead of time.

Yes, I’m changing the subject a bit, but last night Dad got very aggressive and angry.  He was turning over furniture and yelling.  Staff sent him to the ER after talking with his doctor.  They were checking for a possible UTI or other infection.  I haven’t gotten a report yet.

We decided not to tell Dad about Mom.  I know……I know, many of you will think that is just wrong.  He is far enough along in his dementia that we feel it will only confuse him to tell him.  We also asked staff at his facility what they thought about us not telling him, and they also felt that it was the best decision.  It’s sad.

I’ve got to tell you that for several weeks, Dad has not so much as asked about Mom, but Tuesday after she has passed, he told a staff member that Mom was sitting in the recliner in his room.  Some staff feel that maybe she came to tell him goodbye.  Some think that she may be visiting him and may possibly lead him home with her soon.  I guess only time will tell.

Mom loved “Japanese Cherry Blossom” scented items from Bath and Body Works.  She wore the scent often.  I am living in Mom and Dad’s house now, and there isn’t anything with that scent left in the house.  However, I have smelled that very scent in the house the day after Mom’s service and have smelled it a few times over the last several days.  You may call me crazy if you wish and may even not believe me.  That’s OK, but I know what I smell.  It’s as if she is passing through for a visit or maybe just checking on me. I think it’s a comforting thought and feeling.

I’m cutting my post a little short this time.  I’m still busy writing thank you notes to family and friends that have sent flowers and food during this time.  I’ll be back soon on a regular basis.

Until then, make memories, hug your loved ones, and tell them how you feel.  Have no regrets.  None of us are promised tomorrow.

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Someone Else’s Burnt Toast

By Rachel Sircy

So does anyone else remember the version of the Pollyanna movie with Hayley Mills in it? That was one of my favorite movies as a kid. They played it all the time on the Disney Channel, and I watched it almost every time it was on. Of course, the part that everyone remembers is when Pollyanna is explaining the “Glad Game” to her aunt. The Glad Game is one that Pollyanna’s poor, missionary father taught her to play when all of her dreams of getting a single doll — something other than the rocks and sticks that are her only playthings — is cruelly dashed by an idiotic person with a cushy, workaday warehouse job. The idiot in the warehouse mistakenly sends a pair of crutches (how does this even happen??) instead of a doll. There is apparently no return policy with whatever company it was that sent the crutches and since Pollyanna’s poor, missionary father spent all their money just trying to get this kid one measly toy, there is nothing for her to do but be glad that she doesn’t have to use the crutches. You play the Glad Game by choosing to find a reason to be glad about all of the horrible mistakes that make your life just a little bit worse.

bread-breakfast-eat-33309.jpgWell, I failed at this game on Saturday. I loved Pollyanna, but I didn’t seem to absorb a single lesson from it. You see, HRH (her royal highness), my four-year-old daughter, woke me up on Saturday much earlier than I’d intended to wake up. Half-asleep, I went to the kitchen to make her some peanut butter toast for breakfast. I grab a toaster – we have two: one that is gluten-free and one that isn’t – and I stick two pieces of whole wheat bread in the slots and press down the lever. Each piece of toast comes out slightly burnt on one side. I think to myself, “that toaster doesn’t usually burn toast.” It wasn’t until I pulled the second piece of toast out of the toaster and began to smear peanut butter across it that I realized my mistake. I had used MY toaster, the gluten-free one. This may not seem like a big deal, but celiacs cannot share toasters with people who eat gluten. I had completely ruined my toaster just by putting two pieces of wheat bread into it. I let out some bear-like growl which must have frightened HRH because she yelled out from the kitchen table, “Mommy, what is wrong with you?!” To which I replied, “Oh, nothing, sugar. Mommy is just in the kitchen destroying her appliances.” It was all a bit melodramatic.

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What was the point of telling you this story? Well, just this: life is hard, and even though I think that blind optimists should be pelted with lemons, it really does make a difference to look on the bright side. I’ve pretty much been a sour troll of a woman for most of my life, but I am slowly learning a lesson that my pastor touched on in his sermon last Sunday: those with chronic illnesses cannot afford a single, negative thought. Really, none of us can. Life is hard for everyone. It’s harder in different ways for different people, but it can be especially difficult for those who have chronic health conditions. So after my little pity party over the ruined toaster, I decided to play the Glad Game. I’m really glad that I didn’t have to eat that burnt toast.

Nailed it.

 

 

 

 

Hospice

By Lisa Baker

I know…I know…you hear “hospice” and think the end.  Mom has been on hospice before FB_IMG_1551055644572just 3 or 4 months ago.  Then she seemed to get better and graduated from hospice.  Now we are looking at hospice again.

Hospice does more than just help as a loved one gets close to passing away.  They can help with medication, supplies for incontinence, and care of skin while using these supplies including adult pull ups, diapers, skin care lotion, and creams to help with skin break down.

They also can help with bathing and dressing your loved one as well as walkers or wheelchairs.  Their care doesn’t stop with the patient: they also help family members.  They provide pastoral care and many resources for the family because you are all going through this together.

It takes very special people to be involved with hospice care including nurses, nursing assistants, and even doctors.  Hospice does not always mean the end.

During this challenging time, I also lost a very dear friend to cancer.  I have worked with her for 16 years.  We used to get to work very early and have breakfast together and talk about our families.  We celebrated our joys and comforted each other during especially trying times.  I can’t even begin to express the importance of our friendship.  I also find it hard to express how much she will be missed.

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I know you must be thinking, “what does she have to do with dementia?” You are right; she has nothing to do with dementia.  Honestly, she and I both started having issues in our lives almost at the same time.  For her it was cancer, and for me it was my parents’ dementia. It was very hard for us to physically be there for each other, but we stayed in touch.  We would text and send cards to each other. We both knew that if it weren’t for our hardships, we would indeed be there for each other. I’ll miss her so very much here on Earth, but I have faith that we will one day see each other again.

We are thankful for each day we get with our loved ones and pray that we will have more time for more memories. Tell your family and friends you love them.  Give as many hugs as you can.  Forgive easily. For no one is promised tomorrow.

**This post was written on March 21. On March 24, my mother passed away and is free from dementia.

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My DNA Story

By Janet Prince

DNAI know you have all seen the ads on TV for the Ancestry.com and 23&Me DNA kits, especially over the holidays.  In 2017, I had some family members receive an Ancestry.com kit for Christmas. They took the test and sent off the vials in January 2018 hoping to learn more about their ancestry, where they came from, and when. When they received the results, they were surprised!  A first cousin we had no idea about was a very strong match above all others throughout our family.

This is where my DNA story began, but before I go in to what we found, I want to share how I feel about DNA testing and why I feel that way.  Keep in mind that everyone has their own opinion, and that must be respected.

As most of you know, I am a 16-year breast cancer survivor, and I lost my mother to ovarian cancer.  Both of us were diagnosed in 2003 just five months apart.  We met with a genetics counselor at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine in November 2003 and began building a genetic tree of our family members that had any type of cancer.  We were able to determine that the cancer line came from my grandmother’s family where we found breast, brain, lung, cervical, and ovarian cancer.  Taking this test was very important to both of us because of my two daughters.  I have always been a believer in knowing your health history, and I especially wanted my girls to know theirs as they became young women.  Since we did our testing, many new breast cancer genes have been identified, so I will be having an updated DNA test this spring.

 

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My belief in DNA testing is very strong.  By taking this DNA test, I was able to rest at ease knowing that neither my mother nor I carried the breast cancer genes BRCA1 or BRCA2.  In addition, the results were something that my family members could use.  They learned the history of aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, cousins, and children that had all been diagnosed with a type of cancer.  Everyone accepted the results of this test and never questioned if they were true.

Now knowing how I feel about DNA testing, I want to share the story of finding our new first cousin.  When my family members received their results, someone was at the top of the list (meaning they are your strongest match) who they didn’t know and had never heard of.  This person reached out to my family to see how they were related, and at first, my family members seemed thrilled to have a new cousin. When they called me with the news, they were excited to learn more and to hopefully meet her because as luck would have it, she has a step-sister who lives in the Upstate of South Carolina, and she was planning a trip there later in the spring. Since my mother died, I have been the keeper of the trunks that belonged to my uncle as well as one that belonged to my grandparents. Both trunks were filled with letters, postcards, and my uncle’s US Marine uniforms with all his medals.  My family asked if they could go through the trunks to verify the connection between my uncle and her mother.  I was more than happy to do this because I was curious to know the connection myself.

Last spring, our new cousin, Linda, traveled to South Carolina from Nevada, and I was so excited to meet her.  Linda came and spent an afternoon with me, and we went through the trunks.  We were elated when we found a note with her mother’s name and telephone number on it!  It was the confirmation she had been looking for all her life trying to find out where she came from.  She had found “home.”  I knew when I opened the front door that Linda was a part of my family.  We have the same cheeks, her mannerisms are much like my mother’s, and when I hugged her, it was like hugging my mother again.  She is definitely a member of my family.  After looking through the trunks, I took Linda to visit her father’s grave and was honored to share this moment with her.

While she was here, Gary and I had a cookout for my other family members to come and meet Linda and her “sister” Kathy (Linda has four step or half-sisters, but they only call themselves sisters not anything else).  We had a wonderful time and even FaceTimed with another sister of hers who lives in Texas and loves genealogy.  She started asking about other names on Linda’s tree that they didn’t know, and when she started calling out names of my great-aunts and second and third cousins in Alabama, it sealed in my heart that Linda was a member of my family.  We hugged, cried, and laughed with joy.  I look at Linda as a gift and another connection to my mother.

Unfortunately, only one of my cousins came to meet Linda that night, which broke my heart for her.  Their once excitement had turned into not believing in the validity of the testing, and therefore not accepting Linda as part of the family.

UncleLinda, who is my first cousin, was the daughter of an uncle I had who was killed in the Korean War in 1950 at the age of 21. Linda was born five months after his death.  Because my family members chose not to believe the results, I took the Ancestry.com test in June.  When my results came in, my family member who had originally taken the test were first, and Linda came up next followed by both of her children who are my second cousins.  I was so excited to verify that Linda is a part of us.

Linda and I have hours-long phone conversations sharing what our lives have been like.  Like me, Linda is a cancer survivor having been diagnosed with multiple-myeloma in November 2013.  Linda’s mother was killed in a car accident when she was only 9 years old, and I have told her that I believe with all my heart that if my mother and father had known about her, they would have brought her here and raised her as their own.

I don’t know why God brought Linda into my life at this stage in my life, but I am just so Familythankful that He did.  I was so happy to have Linda and Kathy attend Ashlan’s wedding, and seating them with the family was a great joy.  This was the first big “family” event Linda had been able to be a part of, and I wanted her to know how special she was to me and my family.  Knowing she was there brought much comfort to me, and I look forward to spending more time with her and getting to know all her sisters.

DNA matches can either bring big surprises or things you already knew about but with the deeper story.  I encourage everyone to take the DNA test of their choice if nothing more than to know their family health history.  Remember, this is information that can be passed down through the generations. Be prepared for secrets the test may uncover, and remember the person on the paper who you didn’t know about has feelings and deserves to be acknowledged.  Whether you want to build a personal relationship with that person is up to you, but be mindful of your actions because they can hurt someone.

Double Whammy, I Survived.

By Kate Morrow

Friends and family often comment on this past year saying, “I don’t know how you did it. You and Cam have been through more in a year than most go through in a lifetime.” 

 

I remember being eight-years-old and going to the beach with my family. Growing up in Savannah, our Sunday tradition was always the beach. My mom would pack a cooler full of treats, sandwiches, sodas, boiled peanuts, and we would spend the day there. Swimming, collecting shells, capturing sand dollars with our toes. If you grew up at the beach, you probably swam in the ocean frequently like I did and experienced the terrifying moment when a wave took you down. Tumbling beneath the ocean, sand in your mouth, saltwater up your nose, and holding your breath, you would hope to make it back to the top. As soon as you did and took a deep breath, another wild wave took you down. 

 

That’s what this past year has felt like as I experience two of the most traumatic experiences of my life back to back.

 

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This past year I was thrown into a micro-preemie twin mommy life, spending 76 days in the NICU and another 200 in medical isolation, being forced to resign from my career, and then losing my father suddenly as soon as I was healing. I moved forward from this past year in a blur. I somehow told myself that if I got to a year, I would be okay. I felt so strongly there was healing at a year. There would be peace at a year. Life would presume normally at a year. 

 

As March 13, the anniversary of my dad’s death approaches, I realize I am so wrong. So, so wrong. The pain catches me nearly every day. I jetted out of a Target at 10:00 p.m. on December 23 and ugly cried in my car after it hit me that I wouldn’t be buying stocking-stuffers for him. I full on lost it at my best friend’s wedding in January and wept as privately as possible as she danced beautifully with her father. Dancing with my father at my wedding was one of the best moments of my life. Songs on the radio, memories— hit me out of the blue. Ironically, I was fine on the major holidays. It’s the little moments I have not prepared myself for that hurt the most and come out of the dark unexpectedly.

 

Having to experience amazing firsts with my one-year old twins while simultaneously havingIMG_0489.JPG to experience my sad firsts without him is cruel. It’s indescribable. 

 

But somehow, wildly, I am stronger. Not stronger in a “I don’t get sad anymore kind of way,” but stronger in a “I am wiser beyond my years kind of way.” I feel so different than many of my close friends. I have experiences many of my best friends have never experienced yet, and I hope they never experience, but that is what makes it so tough and such a lonely grief journey. 

 

I’ve experienced what it is like to watch your child suffer and the many scary thoughts that run through your brain while your child is in the NICU. What if I have to say goodbye? What if they make it but are mentally or physically impaired, and I have to come up with the strength to become a parent to a child with disabilities? What if I can’t keep them safe once we leave the NICU? 

 

I’ve also experienced watching an ill parent. I spent so much time letting my dad know he was loved and hugging him extra tight because I knew his health wasn’t the best. Then I lost him when I didn’t expect it at all. I was prepared and unprepared all at the same time. I was the very first and only of my close friends to lose a parent. 

 

I surrounded myself with NICU mommies who got it and my parents’ middle-aged friends who knew what it was like to lose their beloved mother or father. 

 

As I started healing, I started realizing we all have our own journeys: some the same as others, some having lonelier journeys like me.

 

I am learning to adapt. I am learning not to resent others just because their life has gone differently than mine. I have learned not to be angry or jealous about the hand I was dealt. I have learned others have it rougher. I have learned some have it better.

 

I am not perfect every day, but I am trying. I am finding strength. I am finding peace. I am finding my inner fight. 

 

It has been a year since my life forever changed, and boy, has it been a year since my life forever changed. 

 

While I am not quite where I thought I would be at a year, I think to myself, “Double whammy. I may not be healed, but I survived.”