Monthly Archives: January 2013

Fresh butter, thirsty towels, and Heaven

This past Wednesday marked a year since my Grandma passed away.  It’s been a rough year. A whole year of grieving. We have seen every day, every season, every holiday… without.  It hasn’t been bad.  But it’d be hard to say, whole-heartedly, that it’s been good. It’s been, mostly, bittersweet.  And very different.

I cannot attend a bridal or baby shower, or a wedding, without thinking of my Grandma. She really loved things like this; and, in our family, she was at the center of traditions and fun.  No one will ever fill this void, despite how they try.  I tear as I see other family’s traditions and miss my own.  I was never much for showers, honestly.  Although, I have to say, I think I like them more now. Although they make me a little sad at times, they seem to connect me to this amazing woman I miss so much. I’d like to think that, in my friends, I will be the one who carries tradition.  And, someday, in the family that I will create.

Butter.  My grandma loved butter (and I imagine she still does in Heaven) about as much as Julia Child did.  Maybe more.  And salt.  Whenever I put butter on anything, whether it be bread or pancakes or a little in the brown rice I just made… I think of her.

When Grandma was sick, Mom and I spent three months living in her house, taking care of her and the house.  We brought her to see Deda when he was in the hospital.  Mom bandaged her legs, prepared her meals, helped her arrange the pillows which she needed all around her body so she could sleep comfortably.  I helped get medicines and carry food.  Sometimes, I was just company and someone to talk to.  Often, I helped her get out of bed in the morning and made her tea.  Later, Mom and I would help her take her medicine together; measuring the morphine, double-checking the dose, preparing a spoonful of applesauce or something for after, to cover the terrible taste.  And we would sit with her, comfort her, and watch the Food Network.  And, of course, there were household chores.  My main household responsibility was the laundry.  And Grandma loved when I did laundry. She may have just been glad that I knew HOW to do laundry.  Although Grandma was proud of my academic accomplishments, she was equally happy that I could cook and do things that might fall under a more “domestic” category.  And Grandma loved laundry.  She prided herself on sending Deda to work with the cleanest clothes.  That didn’t stop when he retired shortly after I was born.  I remember many times, coming up the stairs from the basement, carrying a large stack of nightgowns and socks, or towels– big bath towels, fluffy hand towels, thin kitchen towels– the kind my Great-Grandma took from the butcher shop her family had, or that Grandma had gotten in the boxes of Duz detergent.  Grandma loved seeing me carry those stacks of clean, fresh laundry.  She always complemented how neatly they were folded and stacked.  And Grandma simply loved towels.  And sheets.  “Textiles,” she’d call them.  And she loved them all.  Tablecloths.  Cloth napkins. We found many more after she passed away, when we cleaned the attic.  When I had gone away to school, moving into my on-campus apartment for the first time, Grandma had given me brightly-colored bath towels, and some dishtowels and washcloths.  She always had things like that.  Ready. For whoever would need them.  I know I’m not the only one to benefit from her generous spirit– and love of textiles.  When I moved to my apartment last summer, I needed some more towels.  Thanks to Grandma, I still had the ones from my on-campus years. I didn’t need any bath towels.  But I needed more handtowels, and dishtowels.  And a few washcloths.  I bought mostly from Target to save money and to match my bathroom colors.  I treated myself to some on-sale Crate and Barrell kitchen towels that were bright and cheery.  And I bought one pack of thick, white washcloths at Kohls, which I wound up mostly using in the kitchen to clean instead of using them as washcloths.  It was the other night when I was folding these that I thought about Grandma.  She would have loved these towels, I thought.  They are big, for a washcloth.  And thick. And thirsty.  And pure white.  And they look amazing stacked up, the four of them, folded neatly.  No wonder Grandma loved Kohls.  And as I folded, the washcloths, the hand towels, the bath towels from the dorm… I can’t help but think Grandma would love seeing me fold these towels. She always did.

Driving home the other day, I saw the sky the most gorgeous purple I’ve ever seen it.  It was a perfect shade and it looked exactly like what I might imagine Heaven will look like.  I imagine Heaven as full of vibrant, beautiful colors.  This sky reminded me of why, as a child, I hated sunglasses.  I understood that it was bright and I needed to protect my eyes and I was light-sensitive so sunglasses would make it hurt less.  But I hated how it distorted all the colors. I wanted to see the world the way it was– not dimly lit and shaded grey and dull.  Today I read a quote by C.S. Lewis and a discussion about how people who think about Heaven, and the life that will come after this one, live differently from those who think only about this earth and their life here.  And for half a second, it made sense.  While I’ve always acknowledged eternal life, and its importance.  I don’t think much about it, really.  Losing my grandparents makes me think about Heaven, everyday.  It is not just comforting to know they are there.  But comforting that I will see them again.  Heaven makes me think of Grandma, too.  Along with big life events, and butter, and freshly laundered towels.  And thinking of Heaven– is amazing.  For the past year, I have been baffled by death.  I could not wrap my mind around it.  I still can’t.  It’s too big.  But maybe part of it is this:  When we lose people we love, we remember our own short stays on this planet.  And maybe that makes us live a little different.  And maybe, it makes us think of Heaven.  And maybe that makes us live a lot different.  And so God is still using my grandparents to enrich my life, to make me better, to teach me and guide me– just like they did when they were right here on this earth.  

1 Comment

Filed under Life

Mel

I have been fired twice in my life. The first time, I was hired for what I thought was a cashier job in the mall, only to spend my first day doing hard sales.  Before I even had a handle of what the store sold, which was mostly novelty and gift items.  I planned to quit when the shift was up. It was a leave-at-lunch kind of job… but I had been sent out to get lunch for my boss, which made that impossible.  Plus, I at least wanted my pay for the day.  I got called over about 3 hours before closing to be fired.  I couldn’t have been happier.

The second time, I was working at a doctor’s office where my mom worked. I had been there for almost a year and a half.  I wasn’t treated particularly well (I had no job description, really… and when my direct manager got a promotion I found myself doing less of my work and more of hers), but I did my work and they seemed flexible with my changing schedule from semester to semester.  Well, seemed.  Not quite two months into this particular semester, a heavy one where I’d had to cut my schedule way back, I received a phone call that I was being let go because I wasn’t completing enough work.  I was upset.  More than that, I was angry.  I had record of the work I had done, and sent a letter to the doctors at the practice explaining to them what I had done. I didn’t care so much that I was fired– but I cared a great deal that my work ethic and character might be on the line.  Out of a decent-sized office, only two people reached out to me at that time.  My favorite doctor, and Mel.  I have kept in some touch with the other workers, and still am a patient at the practice. I began a new job, on campus, a few months later. Which wound up to be my favorite job ever. All things work for the best. But Mel’s card was a great encouragement to me… and it meant the world. She knew I had been fired unfairly, probably one of the few to realize this, and she wrote a beautiful note saying what great things were ahead of me and how that job was just a very, very small part of the life I would have.  She was right and I was far happier without working there– and even happier to know that someone saw who I was. 

Mel passed away last week.  Two days ago, Mom and I attended her memorial service.  She had battled cancer since before I knew her. And when I say battled, I mean battled. Mel gave cancer a run for its money.  After having tumors removed from her brain, she was still planning her return to work in a couple weeks.  It was after this that things took a turn for the worse. Mel was tough stuff with a great sense of humor. She was a protector. Sitting at the service, seeing her family… I still cannot grasp the concept of death.  Even after all the practice I’ve had.

Wednesday marks a year since my grandmother passed away.  I still cannot grasp it.  I still forget at times.  Still feel as though it’s not real.  Still can go back in my head to that day, and the weekend before.  It doesn’t happen as often… but it’s hard to shake when it does.  

Yesterday, we had a baby shower in my family.  My cousin’s wife.  Expecting a girl, their first child, this Spring. It is a reminder of a new season for us. Death is back in 2012 for my family– Life is in 2013, with two babies due in the next two months. A reminder that the bad is passed.  A reminder that even though death is hard to grasp– so is life.  This creation– how impossible that a baby grows and is born.  How miraculous.  As said in RENT, “the opposite of death isn’t life– it’s creation.”  I am still working on this.  Working on letting the emotions seep down to water the seeds that are growing deep down.  I’m waiting to see what will come.  I know that it will be good.  

Leave a comment

Filed under Life

Living Creatively with Food Allergies

I’ve spoken on here a lot about my food allergies, and the creative living that the food-allergic community must partake in.  One of those creative (read: out-of-the-norm) strategies is calling companies.  Often.

This week’s challenge for me is finding safe vitamins.  I’m taking January to try to get healthy and take control of my life.  I’m somewhat of a realist, so “eat better,” “go to the gym,” and “lose weight” really aren’t on my resolution list.  Instead, I’m trying to listen to my body and do more yoga this year.  I also want to choose foods more intentionally based on problems I’m having, to try to work with my body naturally.  So, January has me hitting up all my doctors for the proper check-ups.  (At 26, I have more than the norm of the “regular doctors”… for me this includes an eye doctor I see several times a year and a rheumatologist).  I’m also looking for vitamins.  I have a pretty healthy diet, but this goes back to trying to be intentional about solving some minor issues naturally.

I know that some vitamin manufacturers use facilities where peanuts and tree nuts are present.  And that this is complicated by the fact that the FDA considers coconut to be a tree nut (whereas FAAN and Canadian food authorities consider it to be a fruit).  I’ve found several threads online with discussions of nut-free kids’ vitamins.  But what about adults?

After an initial phone call to CVS, I found out that their vitamins are made in a facility without peanuts, but some may be processed with tree nuts.  I now have an inquiry in with them regarding 5 specific vitamin products, which they will be calling back about to see if these specific vitamins are produced in a facility with tree nuts, and if this means coconut or a “real” tree nut.

In part to find vitamins, in part out of frustration, outrage and curiosity– I made a list at night of Vitamin brand phone numbers and called them all the next day.  For whatever it’s worth, here’s what I found out.

1.  Walgreens- [Spoke to a very helpful woman who herself has severe peanut and tree nut allergies.]  Received email back that specific items are needed to get an answer.

2.  CVS- Facilities are peanut-free; not all facilities are tree nut free.  Awaiting call back regarding 5 specific products I inquired about.

3. Nature’s Bounty: Would not speak to me about general questions; requires specific product info.

4.  Nature Made: No peanut/tree nut derivatives.  No food products made in facility (vitamins only).  No eating/food allowed near product assembly lines.  [She was very confident, but something about her tone made me feel uneasy about this answer… perhaps she was just less-than-empathetic to my concerns.]

*A note about Nature Made: A quick Google search found a thread from 2001 where outraged customers found that Nature Made vitamins (including prenatals) contained peanut oil!  It seems one person was told that the company did understand the implications of this, and was changing their formula.  A 2011 thread confirmed that Nature Made products are all “nut free” based on a consumer’s call to the company.  I’m not sure if that includes facility as the comment did not specify if this was a “nut free facility” or just “nut free products.”

5.  Harmon- Still waiting for response.

6.  Windmill- Called me back.  Peanut and Tree Nut Free Facility.

7.  Twinlab- No peanut/tree nut in facility

8.  Sundown- Some products produced with tree nuts.  Differentiated by lot number, must call back with specific products.  (I believe they said no peanuts, but don’t fully remember).

9.  Target brand (Up & Up)- Target rep gave me phone number of vitamin manufacturer.  May have nuts in facility.  Customer rep was very nice.  I asked if I might get further info if I was calling about a specific product and she said that, honestly, I would probably get the same response.

10.  Freeda- Emailed them as an afterthought.  Received a quick reply that, “We manufacture our supplements in our own facility and there are no peanuts or tree nuts in our supplements.”

1 Comment

Filed under Life

God, love, and anger.

I’ve recently started reading “A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of ‘A Course in Miracles’” by Marianne Williamson.  I have always loved the quote from this book,

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us, it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

I have, in fact, built my life around that last part.  You have probably read me say things in this spirit before, like last week when I talked about being Shameless.

I decided to read the whole book and was gifted a Kindle edition.  So I’ve started.  (I’ve also been reading Francis Chan’s Crazy Love at the same time– both, incredible.  And very balancing, in an odd way.)  Maybe there is a theme here.  Maybe when I am done with both, I will write a post, or book, on both.  And I can call it “Returning to Crazy Love.” 🙂

But, I digress… back to Williamson.

There is something very right about her thinking.  I have never read “A Course in Miracles,” so I must only go by her reflections and scattered quotes.  I have just started chapter 2.  Chapter 1 focuses a lot on our fear.  Everyone’s fear.  The culture of fear we live in and all the many ways we reflect it.  It resonates with me, greatly.  Now, Chapter 2 is on God.  I am curious about Williamson’s God.  She makes it clear from the start that she is not supporting Christianity, although the principles do apply.  It sounds a lot like Christianity, though.  Enough to be useful to a Christian, or non-Christian, but confusing to someone who’s in between.  And then I hit a sentence which made certain that, although similar in many ways, Williamson’s God is not my God.

I highlighted this:

“Rather than accepting that we are the loving beings that He created, we have arrogantly thought that we could create ourselves, and then create God.  Because we are angry and judgmental, we have projected those characteristics onto Him.  We have made up a God in our image.  But God remains who He is…”

Good so far, right?

I think this is many people’s perception of God.  Whether or not they mean it to be.

But then this:

“God remains who He is…the thought of unconditional love.  He cannot think with anger or judgment; He is mercy and compassion and total acceptance.”

Hmm… Well… kind of?  It cannot be accurate that God cannot be angry or judge.  He is THE judge.  And He hates sin.  Cue the tape of Jesus overturning the tables in the temple.  Oh, He gets angry.  And there is acceptance, but not TOTAL acceptance.  Sin cannot be accepted.  God has standards.  What kind of a walk-all-over-me doormat God would He be if He COULD not be angry.  If He accepted everything?  He’d be an abused, co-dependent God.  He would not be a God worthy of praise and awe.

That said, there’s something to this.   What about for the Christian?  What about post-judgment?  I imagine this is exactly what our forever-reining, Satan-defeated God would be like.  With no cause for anger, judgment… or even mercy.  Overwhelming, total acceptance.  Dripping with love and compassion (while being powerful and awe-inspiring).

Jesus got angry.  It’s a quality talked about in the last book I read, Beautiful Outlaw.  The personality of Jesus.  God has emotions.  There are times when God is angry.  There are times when we should be angry.  But He is not angry all the time. And neither should we be.  God doesn’t have a problem with rage.  But when you look at His response to sin… rage certainly describes it.  Jesus has harsh words for the Pharisees… but with little exception, he does not speak this way with “sinners.”  He does not speak this way to His disciples.  There are times when I sin and I wonder– is God angry at me? Or disappointed? Perhaps I will understand a bit better when I have children of my own.  Or maybe God will have to just explain it to me one day.

Leave a comment

Filed under Life

Empty Little Attic

“I consider that a man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose.” –Sherlock Holmes (character written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)

Leave a comment

January 9, 2013 · 2:26 pm

Paradise regained.

Last week, as I talked to my boyfriend, we found ourselves talking about God and Heaven.  And he said that should he go to Heaven, he’d want God to allow him to explore space.  I thought it was possible, but I’m sure my voice sounded hesitant, improbable even.

Since the death of my grandparents, I think of Heaven as the people who are there.  I want to see them again.  I know I will be reunited with them because we had a common faith in Jesus.  I want to see Jessica.  I want to talk to Ruth and Esther.  And Mary and Paul.  And I want to see Jesus and talk to Him.  And hear Him laugh.  I want the place where every tear is wiped away from every eye and there is pure joy.  But the truth is, in my adult life, I have stopped thinking of Heaven as a place.  We talk about the church, on earth, as “the people– the body of Christ” not “just a building.”  I have adopted this as my view of Heaven.

But maybe there’s something to the fact that it’s a place.

As I finish Beautiful Outlaw, Eldredge quotes Matthew 19:28-29, the words of Jesus:
“In the re-creation of the world, when the Son of Man will rule gloriously, you who have followed me will also rule…”

Eldredge puts it this way, “The religious fog would have us believe that when we die we go to church forever, there to sing hymns for millennia.  A horrible distortion, and not the future as Jesus understood it.  He called the next chapter ‘the re-creation of the world’… A renewed heavens, a renewed earth.  My friends, I hope you understand that we get the entire glorious kingdom back.  Sunlight on water; songbirds in a forest; desert sands under moonlight; vineyards just before harvest– Jesus fully intends to restore the glorious world he gave us.  Paradise lost; paradise regained.”

And just like that, it hit me.  I want to hike through forests and up mountains in Heaven.  With Jesus.
And in the re-creation of the heavens and earth– why can’t my boyfriend explore space?

I serve a big God.  Maybe it’s time I start asking Him for the desires of my heart and stop putting Him in a box.  Maybe it’s time to think differently about Jesus– the way Jesus actually is, not how I think He is.

1 Comment

Filed under Life

Beautiful Outlaw

I’ve been reading the book Beautiful Outlaw for a long time.  It has been a thought-provoking and perhaps life-changing book for me. I believe I’m finishing it today. I wish I had shared more of its wealth here.  If you consider yourself of a believer, you should read it. If you don’t, you should still read it.  It’s a heck of a book and gives a side of Jesus few sermons are written about. 

So I’m just going to share three thoughts today:

“As we love him, experience him, allow his life to fill ours, the personality of Jesus transforms our personalities.  The timid become bold and the bold become patient and the patient become fierce and the uptight become free and the religious become scandalously good.”

“What enormous good would it do in the world if churches were known as playful, witty, fierce, humble, generous, honest, cunning, beautiful, and true?”

“Suffering will try to separate you from Jesus.  You must not let it.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Life