life is a long and difficult journey…be sure to stop now and then for a little snack

Reflections From My “Vacation” in Room 321

June 3 started like most any morning around here…lot’s to do.  I was quite irritated that I was woken early with tummy rumblings.  So I popped an antacid and tried to get on my day.  Well, that didn’t work.  So I took another.  And when that didn’t work and my symptoms quickly got worse, my son, Richard, took one look at me and quite promptly, my very smart 18 year old dragged my “in denial” self to the emergency room at Upper Chesapeake Medical Center.  When we arrived (about 40 minutes later), I was thankful that he insisted we go there immediately because by this time, I was barely coherent and in intense pain (which is saying a lot since I live every day in a “7” level or higher of pain).  You know, when the nurse asks you “On a pain scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the worst ever, where is your pain?” and your answer is 12…yup…that was me…the second and third time she asked me, as well.  Apparently she didn’t hear me screaming it, but I am sure the folks in the next county heard me and would have been happy to share the information with her just to get me to shut up.

Unfortunately, these symptoms and pain were all too familiar; this being the third, and worse, bowel obstruction I have had in as many

Photo:  Upper Chesapeake Medical Center

Photo: Upper Chesapeake Medical Center

years.  I will spare you the wonderfully graphic details of how they got rid of it (those who are squeamish can thank me later) but suffice it to say, I did not take the easy way out, surgery, which would have caused more scar tissue, which was the cause in the first place.  I have had so many surgeries, my abdomen gives Mapquest a run for it’s money.  Instead, I decided for a less-invasive procedure that uses an NG tube down your nose into your gut – and well, that’s all I’ll tell ya.  It took 8 “glorious” days for about 14,000 mg of crud to be escorted out (and 1 extra day for observation), so I had lots of time on my hands.  Granted, the first 4 days or so, I was still pretty incoherent, so I will not be held responsible for anything I may or may not have said or done during that time.  However, after that, things were on a slow but upward scale.  I had nothing but time on my hands; which for me, could always prove to be dangerous.  (Without a computer, I was going nuts and was willing to take everyone with me!) So there from my little doorway to the outside world of the very busy west wing I learned…

*  When asked how you are doing, do not answer “well at least I haven’t died yet” – as apparently most doctors do not share my quirky sense of humor.

*  The staff was great for so many reasons – but especially because of a guy I will call “Butch” and the fact that they were kind and loving to Butch.  He would walk past my door hundreds of times a day and gave me the creeps until I saw a staff member not too far away from him trying to “coral” him back to where he belonged, apparently in the psych wing.  But wait…wasn’t his room right down the hall from mine?

*  It took me about 3 days to realize that when my favorite doctor came to “wake” me every morning at 7:00 a.m. (after approximately 1 combined hour of sleep all night) addressing me as “hey there prisoner”…he was just kidding.  Apparently, I had no sense of humor the first few days of my visit **sheepish**…sorry doc

*  In preparation for my next visit, I am going to have my own special hospital gowns imprinted with my name and date of birth in BIG letters on the front, so I won’t have to say it a bazillion times a day whenever someone treated me – especially when they won’t let me have any water and my lips are stuck together.  Fun times.  You would think by now they knew who I was…or were the drugs that powerful that they were making sure that I remembered who I was?

*  Those drugs should come with a disclaimer against use by a parent in the presence of their children.  Apparently, I no longer have college-days secrets from my boys.

*  I missed my furbaby, Cody, so much while I was gone.  I was so thankful they had therapy dogs come to visit me; I waited for their



visits with anticipation and nearly lept out of the bed when they arrived!  My husband was insulted that I wasn’t nearly as excited to see him come through the door.

*  No matter how much you beg, plead, give “puppy eyes” or otherwise bribe, the nursing staff is strong and unaffected and will not give you food, not even water, unless your doc says it’s ok.  Trust me, I tried.

*  Of course, it didn’t dawn on me to actually shut my door but I felt like I was an animal at the zoo…everyone that walked by my door felt the need to peer in, especially Butch, as if I was on display.  I guess it’s not every day that you see someone with a big old tube down their snout sucking out their guts?  Geeze folks, get a life.

*  Don’t engage in a “walker race” with the 95 year old woman in the bed next to you; sadly, you will lose…repeatedly.

*  The most expensive vacation I have ever taken – and they didn’t even feed me until the last day!  But when they did, I would gladly put their food quality right up there with any restaurant in town; I was incredibly surprised!  (and no, it was not just because I hadn’t eaten in over a week)  However…their gelatin has got to be the worst stuff on the planet!  Think about it folks, you are talking to a woman who loves food that had not eaten in 7 days, it was the only food given to me and I threw it out.  Just sayin’…

*  I gotta tell ya, I had a grand time; I was treated like the “Queen of Everything” – I rang the bell and they came running to help; sometimes they came just when I was thinking about ringing the bell.   I’m thinking I really need to introduce my guys to this concept at home too.

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Never be Ashamed…

I can’t tell you how much I love this saying!  Not only because some of our invisible “inner scars”…but our very visible, outer scars, disabilities, etc.

After I got all of my scars through my many surgeries in 2010 (my torso gives Mapquest a run for it’s money), I was very self-conscious of them because they start from my neck down and are very noticeable, as is the lymphedema, a side effect of the tumors/surgeries that without God’s healing, I will have the rest of my life.

My insecurities all started after my first shopping trip and I saw the cashier staring at my chest (and she even asked me what happened to me).  At first, I thought I should take the advice of many who suggested creams and lotions that would help “diminish” their appearance…and of course, no more open-neck shirts for me, no more shorts, or Heaven forbid, bathing suits.  It’s one thing to be able to hide my inner scars, but now, these are right out there for everyone to see.   I always wished I could wear a shirt that said “Yea, I am the only person ever that gained 100+ pounds having a body riddled with tumors and now I am left with lymphedema, so that is why I have the scars and body shape issues”.  How many of us want to wear a shirt that would “explain” ourselves so that we would not have to address the ugly looks, snickers, stares and comments of strangers, even though we know that it their problem, not ours, it doesn’t always make it easy to deal with.

Heart Scar

Where my visible scar starts…

After a month or so, it finally dawned on me that the visible scars on my body from the surgeries should not be something of embarrassment, but an opportunity to (literally) “show off” and tell folks about how God saved my life by sharing the testimony of my tumors!  I was able to share God with people in a way that I have never been able to do before and it was awesome – my own, unique witnessing tool!  I truly praise God all the time for what He’s done for me, my family and others through those tumors!  I no longer wanted to wear “cover up” clothing or miracle creams, etc. because I WANTED people to see them ask me about them!  Actually, I am sad that many of my scars have faded, even with my light Irish skin tone, but the one that is most visible to everyone has remained the darkest, the one in this picture.  I am so happy that God has allowed that scar to be so pinky/purple because I don’t want to lose my opportunity to share with others and SHOW them what He has done for me and give them hope….what tried to kill me only made me stronger and brought many blessings with it.  Go figure.  My hubby, Jon, said that one of the reasons that God allowed my tumor removal/healing to come through the surgeries (and not just merely a snap of His fingers or something) was because He knows what a chatty little chick I am and that I would share what He did for me to help encourage others; I have such a wise hubby.

But no worries, folks…I will still spare everyone the vision of me in a bathing suit 🙂


If they only knew…

I love this for 2 reasons…one, is because I love fruit – de-lish!  The other, on a more serious note, is it reminds me that don’t we all think about ourselves this way, not realizing just how wonderful God made us – inside and out… ♥


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‘Nuff Said…

'Nuff Said...

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Don’t be…

Don’t be…

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What Tried to Kill Me Made Me Stronger…

Three years ago today, my life was forever changed.  Many people get to have a life-changing day and each is unique.  As usual, since I can’t seem to do anything under the radar, mine was “right up there”.

Three years ago today, God saved my life; physically (spiritually, He did that back on March 21, 1989.)  The (very) short version of this day was that I went into the hospital with a major bowel obstruction and came out with open heart surgery, removing a very rare tumor that was inside of my heart.

Yup.  I felt like a celebrity; I was “the one with the tumor” that everyone in the hospital talked about.  Apparently no one, not even my renowned thoracic surgeon, Dr. Bartley Griffith, had ever seen someone still living with this type of tumor; he’d only seen it in a few folks in his 30+ years of practice and they were all in autopsy because the tumor killed them before it could be found.  There are no real symptoms to this kind of tumor; it was “accidentally” found when the MRI tech took a picture of my entire torso and not just my lower half, when trying to find out what was obstructing my bowels.  We all know that it was no accident  🙂  (side note – The bowel obstruction was caused by 2 very large tumors in my abdomen, which resulted in a surgery 4 months later, including a hysterectomy.)

So…now I am famous…in the medical journals at University of Maryland hospital and doctors and other medical personnel learn from the operation that Dr. Griffith did to my heart.  That is awesome and I am glad that others can learn from my experience. But, wow…I was the one fixin’ to learn the biggest lesson of my life…

God completely changed my life; inside and out.  Even with all of this trauma over a year of 5 hospitalizations, major surgeries, etc., I still felt a lot of inner peace like never before.   Jon had peace and I felt it from him; he is such a rock for me and the boys.  You can’t imagine how thankful I am for him.  God gave me exactly what I needed, who I needed and when I needed it/them.  No surprise since that’s what His Word says He will do; but for me, it was as if He was laying there right next to me that year – taking all the pain – physical and emotional – and that was not something I had ever experienced before.

Pain that I should have felt, I did not.  Extended medical issues I should have experienced, I did not.  Many, many signs of God literally taking my burdens from me.  Jon and Richard never left my side (and even though Tim was away at school, he didn’t miss a beat.)  Even my faithful Golden Retriever, Cody, laid right next to my recliner with me 24/7 and wouldn’t let anyone near me; my furry protector.  My friends stopping by (no small feat since I live in the boonies) bringing good wishes and meals to give my mother-in-law one less thing to tend to.  My amazing parents-in-law dropped everything and flew up from Florida to take care of me and tend to Richard, etc. so that Jon could go back to work.  My dear mother-in-law is a saint, that’s all I can tell you.  And my father-in-law, an absolute gem.  I don’t know what we would have done if they didn’t come for that first month to go through the worst of it with us; they are my angels and I love them immensely.

While I was living in my recliner for the year, God did some incredible work in me (I was finally sitting still long enough!)  In this time,  I went through psychological and spiritual steps toward healing, some quite painful, both inside and out.  Part of that healing included finding the rest of my family.

After finding out that my tumor was hereditary, and knowing how deadly it was, I just could not live with myself if I didn’t at least make an effort to find them and warn them – and yeah – would be incredible to “meet” them too.  Oh, I forgot to tell you…I am adopted!  Knowing what little I knew about my first family (born to young teen parents in 1964) in the past, I didn’t want to disrupt their lives, cause problems, etc.  Besides, I was not really anxious to open myself up to get rejected, again, from people that my adoptive mom told me didn’t want me.  But somehow, now I felt like it was time to open that door of my life, regardless of the outcome.  So with my husband and boys blessing, as well as love and support from 2 of my closest friends (who have always encouraged me to do this years ago), I started my journey…to find my former self.

My world was blown out of the water and will never be the same, in so many ways.  In a circumstance that I can only describe as God’s hand literally opening this door for me, I found them in about 15 minutes!  After the shock wore off and I stopped shaking, the subsequent months – and now years – have been full of love – and change – and acceptance – and rejection…nothing short of a Hallmark movie!  A great story for another day.


Although I usually wear the silver heart that Jon gave to me every day, this was taken on St. Patrick’s Day, and well, I was wearin’ my green 🙂

For me, today is a deep reflection of the chain of miracles that God did for me; beginning with the tumors, which satan meant to destroy every part of me.  Apparently no one told the evil man that I am 1/2 Irish and 1/2 Sicilian = very stubborn.  In more ways than one, God dug deep inside my heart filling a hole that only He can fill.  Now, I am stronger than ever, not physically (as I was left with some disability because of the tumors and surgeries) but more importantly, emotionally and spiritually.  To tell God “Thank You” is nowhere near sufficient…so I choose to thank Him by striving to make my life count for His Purpose even more each of these “borrowed days” that He has graciously given to me – to enjoy and love my husband, sons and extended family – and to love and serve others as I have always done but now with a new stride.  And I wear my “badge of honor” scar with pride.  I like to show it off because it gives me an opportunity to tell people what God has done for me…and I love to brag on my Heavenly Father ❤

(The words to this song bring on a whole new meaning for me know…I LOVE it…enjoy!  .  )

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Nutritional Balancing

Eating REAL FOOD will give you the body you might be craving. QUIT the DIET and CHANGE your LIFESTYLE.  Lay down those commercial diet plans and shakes…get some REAL FOOD and make your shake/smoothie/drink with it…get some REAL FOOD and make your meals, not processed food with ingredients you can’t pronounce.  You will be AMAZED at the results…not just in the way you will look…but in the way that you feel and I bet some of the health challenges you currently face will start to disappear.   It’s happening to me…bet it will for you too…You can thank me later 🙂

nutritional rebalancing

BTW…Once you understand a little bit more about how processed foods affect your mind, body, and even your soul, it becomes easier to make healthier food choices that enrich your life, rather than sap it.       (Thanks to for the link)


Here is some important news on my other blog, Kipper’s Kitchen…

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Naturally Preparing for Mosquitoes

A Simple & Natural Mosquito Trap    Image

(Prevention of Dengue & other mosquito-borne diseases)

 If you are having mosquito issues – give this a try…

1. Cut a plastic 2 liter bottle in half, keep both parts.

2. Take the lower portion of the bottle. Dissolve some brown sugar in hot water; cool down to room temp.

3. Add some yeast. (Carbon dioxide will form and attract the mosquitoes.)

4. Insert in the top portion upside down like a funnel, then connect the bottle with black Duct tape, making sure to secure the 2 parts of the bottle together.

5.  Place it in a corner of your house away from pets and kids.  In no time at all, you will be surprised with the results.  (I haven’t tried it outside yet, but I bet if you put it away from you and your guests, it might just work the trick too.)

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Can’t wait to make these today! Thanks, Julie!

Although traditionally made from standard potatoes, chips made from sweet potatoes are much healthier and are actually of great nutritional value. Just 7 ounces of this vegetable contains approximately 65% of your recommended daily allowance of Vitamin C! They are also rich in calcium, potassium and beta-carotene. As a rule, use one sweet potato per person you are feeding, I used six to feed all six of us! To make this simple recipe all you will need is the following ingredients:

Sweet potatoes (1 per person)
Olive oil
Herbamare (pure sea-salt infused with organic, garden-fresh herbs and vegetables)
A dash of turmeric or cumin

So to start, heat your oven to 180C then wash and peel your potatoes. Once they are peeled, slice each potato to 1cm thickness and then again to 1cm longways. Once they are all sliced into shape, coat them all generously in corn flour.

bakedsweetpotatochips grassrootsandgrains1

You must…

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