Monday, December 04, 2017

This & That

Life has been marching along at a pretty fast clip around here. One day the calendar says September and now here it is December already!

Andy is considered to be fully recovered from his surgeries at the end of August/first of September. It was a long slow road but by the end of October, we could definitely tell he was almost back to normal function. He was cleared to return to work in November and he has really enjoyed that! He had not worked since the tumor was discovered in late February and with surgeries and chemo, did not have the stamina required to do his job. He was also on lifting restriction for almost that whole time.

Now that he is working again, it is such a blessing to receive an extra paycheck! I was able to continue working the whole time Andy was sick which was a blessing. It was an exhausting time of course, but we made it through! My employers were wonderful in allowing me a flexible schedule so that I was able to go with him to almost every appointment and chemo visit. All of our bills were payed and even some money put in savings during this time. We thank God for His provision!

We saw the thoracic surgeon regarding the nodule that is still on Andy's lungs. His oncologist wants it to come out. But due to it's tiny size and difficult-to-get location, the surgeon is less than confident in his ability to find it at this time. Because this particular spot has really not seen any change in size since the cancer diagnosis, the oncologist has agreed to delay surgery and observe this spot closely for a 6 month time frame. After 6 months, we'll see if surgery is still needed. Of course, if it seems that the spot is growing at any time, a decision for surgery will be made. It is in such a  place that a biopsy is not a good option and the only way to really know if the spot is cancerous is to remove it and then biopsy it. So we proceed with caution. With the exception of the lung nodule, Andy is considered cancer-free at this time.

All of Andy's family was here for Thanksgiving. It was a busy time but went great. I think a good time was had by all! Our dog Willie certainly enjoyed the company of cousins and grandparents!

With Andy mostly recovered, I was able to spend some time on a few home projects that I had planned. First was finishing the massive hallway painting project. How long can it take to paint a hallway? Apparently, several months! With the hallway being completely brown paneling and everything we had going on, this took a while with a lot of starts and stops. SO MANY coats of paint and primer. Oh my word.

But now that it is done...I am LOVING it! This was one area of the house that made me feel a bit depressed. It was so dark and ugly. Now it is light and pretty. (I think so!) This isn't the easiest space to photograph but this end of the hallway going into the kitchen makes me happy. I light the candles in the early morning hours and it is just so cozy!

I also painted the front door a lovely red. And redid one of our flowerbeds with hydrangeas! These "small" projects have improved our home and given me great satisfaction.

Does anyone else feel like they need a break in between Thanksgiving and Christmas just to get themselves together? I do. ;-)During the week after Thanksgiving, I cooked and froze the fall pumpkins from our porch, packed up the fall decor, used up Thanksgiving leftovers and a pile of other tasks. I also started a pantry challenge to go through mid-December. Our freezers and pantry are SO full! A good time to use things up and save some cash!

Hopefully, Christmas decor will go up in the next couple of days. I would love to have some time to sit down and sew too. We'll see. :-)

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Another Update!

It's been over two months since my last update.

Andy had surgery on August 28 to remove a handful of cancerous lymph glands in the abdominal area. It is a pretty invasive surgery so he stayed in the hospital for five days. His parents came to visit for his surgery and were a big help in driving back and forth to the hospital. There are only a handful of surgeons who perform this kind of surgery in the area and you want someone with lots of experience so we went to the big hospital a little further away.

The surgery itself lasted for six and a half hours--very meticulous--but went very well. The surgeon was very pleased.

Andy was discharged that Friday and all was going well until the following Tuesday when we noticed a significant amount of drainage from one spot on the incision.This did not seem normal so we immediately called the doctor. He told us to come right in to get it looked at.

I was going to drive Andy in to the doctor myself but Andy insisted I call a retired friend of ours to help. It was a good idea because Andy was moving extremely slow at this point (big incision!). I figured some extra help getting him in and out of the van would be helpful.

When we finally got in to see the doctor, he took one look at it and declared that something was not closing correctly and Andy would need emergency surgery to reopen the incision and then re-close it properly.

This was right around noon by now and surgery was quickly scheduled for 3pm. We were assigned a hospital room and quickly escorted over to the hospital which was right next door. Andy got settled in his room and they began prepping him for surgery. Thankfully, he had eaten very little that morning and had only drank some water. I stayed with Andy in pre-op until they wheeled him away to surgery. I then met up with our friend who had come with us. I was so glad that we had asked him to come as he sat with me in the surgical waiting area during this unexpected surgery.

Again, the surgery went well. The doctor was so busy that he called me on the waiting room phone instead of coming out for a consultation. He said there was a good amount of fluid built up and had it not been caught right away, it could've gotten very infected and caused much worse problems. They put a wound vac on the incision to dry out the area before closing the incision back up.

Andy was in the hospital until Friday again. Before discharge, the surgeon came up to remove the wound vac and then staple the incision closed again. Call me weird but I enjoyed watching the process! It was fascinating.

While the surgeon closed him up, he said "Oh, by the way, the pathology report came back and there was no sign of cancer in the lymph glands. Just dead scar tissue." This was the best news! We were so thrilled and give God all the glory for this!

Andy has been home for over two weeks now and is doing good. Recovery is slow but coming along. He sees the surgeon on Tuesday to get his staples removed.

He had an appointment with his oncologist on Friday. Everything is looking good. He'll have some more CT scans coming up just to make sure everything is clear. The oncologist still wants a specialist to take a good look at the nodule on Andy's lung and possibly remove it. We are waiting to see what will come of that. Our "lymph gland" surgeon says there is over a 99% chance that it is also dead scar tissue as everything seems to work together in this kind of cancer. Even though it is most likely nothing serious, the oncologist wants to be thorough and we appreciate that!

Thank you for your prayers!

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Post-Chemo Cancer Update

Andy had an appointment with the oncologist yesterday to discuss the results of his most recent CT scans. Basically, these scans were to show us whether or not the chemo had done its job!

We were happy to hear that the cancerous abdominal lymph glands had shrunk considerably in size. As expected, they have not shrunk to normal size so surgery to remove them is still in the near future.

Several other spots that were seen before on the lungs are not there now, which is good news. However, there is one spot that is questionable. It could be something but could also be nothing. The oncologist suggested possibly a PET scan to get a better look and see what is going on there. Because of how these scans are done, sometimes it is difficult to see things accurately.  He was going to discuss it further with the head of oncology and get back to us.

Andy is doing very well. His energy level continues to rise little by little and he is feeling more and more like himself. At this time, we haven't really noticed any lasting side effects from the chemo which we are grateful for. He does still have that dry cough but it doesn't seem to be as bad as it was.

Thank you for your prayers and support!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Frugal Friday

In the midst of decidedly not-frugal chemo, doctor appointments, hospital stays and surgery plans, we still try to be good stewards of what God has given us.  Making good decisions with our money and using what we have to its fullest potential saves us money and also prevents waste.

Here are some ways we've saved money and lived frugally here recently:

  • Accepted loads of garden produce from neighbors and friends. We've eaten fresh green beans, squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, banana peppers and corn on the cob. I have a crockpot full of green beans cooking for dinner tonight using this recipe.  We were given over a dozen ears of corn so I shared half of it with our neighbor as the two of us couldn't eat it all. 
  • Used a store coupon at Petsmart for a FREE small bag of dog food. We also had $5 in rewards to use online so we used it to buy some dog treats and selected to pick up in store instead of paying for shipping. I picked up our online order at the same time I got the dog food. Willie is happy.

  • Went on a date to Olive Garden and used a gift card to pay for most of our meal. Also, we had enough leftovers to take home and eat for lunch the next day. 
  • Used several coupons when grocery shopping.
  • Sam's Club runs specials each month where select items are on special. This month, several items that we buy regularly were on special. So I stocked up even if we didn't need them quite yet--$3 off laundry detergent and $5 off dog food. Both are items that I would be buying next month so I saved $8 by buying them now. I also got $1 off a bag of avocados and $.50 off cheese. 
  • Submitted some medical receipts for reimbursement. 
  • Hung most of our clothing up to dry instead of using the dryer. Still using the dryer for sheets and towels as I don't yet have an outdoor clothesline. 
  • Cut buttons off a couple old sweaters before discarding them. The buttons can be used for other sewing and craft projects. 

  • Repotted some tiny basil plant "babies" that were in my big planter of basil. I plan to share these extra plants with friends. Also made pesto from some of the basil. 
  • Eaten a lot of odds and ends from the freezer. I noticed we had quite a bit of food in there that should be used. I've been planning my menus from the freezer and pantry then only buying what we still need from the store. I plan to clean out and defrost the freezer in August so eating down the freezer is a good idea! Some of the items are only a serving or two but I group a few things together and no one goes hungry!
  • Painted our hallway. I have had the paint and primer for a while and have not had time to get to this project.(I got the supplies right before Andy's diagnosis.) I had the week of July 4th off from work so made time to work on it then. The walls are paneling so this took a little more time and effort  than just slapping a coat of paint up. But the final result is very much worth it! Why is this frugal? Well, I didn't hire someone to do the painting for me. Plus, painting is much less costly than ripping out paneling and putting in drywall! (Although that is in the "someday" plans.)
  • Requested a book through our library's inter-library loan program. Within a few days, I received notification that the book was ready to pick up. I combined stops while running errands and ran into the library while driving close by there anyways. My library has started something new and now includes on your receipt how much you saved by using the library that day. I saved $24.99 by using the library over buying the book at list price. 

How have you lived frugally this week? Please share with all of us in the comments!

Friday, July 07, 2017

Done With Chemo!

We are done with chemo!

Andy went through three 3 week cycles of chemo. The doctor wanted him to do a full 4th cycle but due to a bad cough that could be caused by one of the drugs, they decided to do only one week of the 4th cycle. Even though all tests for toxicity to one of the chemo drugs came back negative (Praise God!), the oncologist wanted to take precaution and eliminate that particular drug from his regime. 

The first week of each cycle is five straight days of 7 hours of chemo each day. By the end of the week, you can imagine how worn out a chemo patient would be! 

This "heavy week" is what Andy's last week of chemo was and by Friday, he was exhausted and not feeling very well. We were pumped that it was his last day though! 

Unfortunately, he began feeling quite ill in the afternoon and by evening was running a fever and throwing up. Because he couldn't even keep meds down and a fever with chemo often indicates an infection, the doctor put in an order for him to be admitted to the hospital overnight for observation. 

I was so glad we didn't have to sit in the ER waiting to be seen. Within 30 minutes of talking to the doctor on the phone, Andy was being settled in the hospital room! His fever was higher by this time so they gave him meds to reduce fever and got him started on IV fluids to combat dehydration. 

Andy ended up staying at the hospital for 3 nights and was discharged Monday morning. By this time, he was keeping bland foods down and able to get enough fluids. His blood tests looked a lot better too. He was treated for a mild UTI but the doctor was unsure he actually had one. 

So now he's home recuperating and getting better each day. 

He has CT scans scheduled for next week to see the results of the chemo. He has an appointment with the oncologist toward the end of the month to discuss the results of the scan.  We are hoping for a good report! 

Thank you for all your prayers!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Chemo Update: 3rd Cycle Done!

Andy has now finished the 3rd cycle of chemo. He had a much harder time with the 3rd cycle and felt pretty rough for the full three weeks. He caught a bad cough during this cycle and has felt generally very run down.

Due to the cough, Andy wasn't able to finish the last treatment of the 3rd cycle. The chemo drug he would be receiving is known to cause lung issues so the nurse consulted immediately with the doctor as to what they should do. No chemo that day. He was sent to get a chest x-ray and a pulmonary function test. Later that week at a routine appointment with the oncologist, he was ordered to get a CT scan done on his lungs. This was to check for toxicity from the chemo drug. All tests came back clear and show no signs of anything wrong.

They believe the cough is most likely due to a suppressed immune system. He is using cough medicine and it seems to be improving slowly. They gave him this week off from chemo with hopes that his body will recover some.

From what it sounds like, the doctor plans to have him continue with a 4th cycle of chemo. We will find out more details at his appointment on Friday.

Once chemo is finished and he is strong enough to have surgery, he will have some cancerous lymph glands removed. We are hopeful life will return to "normal" by the end of the summer!

We are grateful for the strength the Lord has given us so far as we have traveled this journey and continue to rely on Him. Thank you all for your prayers!

Friday, June 09, 2017

Chemo Update: Cycle 2 and Cycle 3 Almost Done

We survived the 2nd cycle of chemo!

There weren't really any surprises this round. Thankfully... Andy handled the treatments very well again. He did get nauseous and threw up a bit once after the first week. This was the day he also ran a low-grade temp which kept crawling up to right below the "call the doctor" threshold. I was grateful when suddenly his temp was back to normal. Praise the Lord!

His white blood cell count was down in the last week of the 1st cycle. It was back to excellent numbers on the first day of the 2nd cycle which was an answer to prayer. This is a very normal part of chemo and seems to happen for Andy on the 3rd week of each cycle so far.

The big reason we did not want the beginning of the 2nd cycle to be delayed was because of an event that was scheduled. Andy has prayed and desired to start a Southern Gospel quartet for many years. In the past year, it has begun to come together. The quartet had their first performance scheduled for last Saturday. (Scheduled before diagnosis.) Had the beginning of the 2nd cycle been delayed a week, he would not have been able to perform. But, he was able and it went very well!

Time flies and now we're almost at the end of cycle 3 as well! He had a rougher time with nausea during the first week of the 3rd cycle. We actually used the at-home nausea meds for the first time.

The first day of cycle 3 landed on Memorial Day so the chemo center was closed. Because the regime Andy is on requires 5 straight days of chemo the first week of the cycle, they sent him to the local hospital for treatment that day. He was in a room in the oncology unit and received the infusions as usual. We were there for 10 1/2 hours instead of the typical 7 hours at the chemo center. We knew going in that it could take a good bit longer  just because of the difference in processes and they might need to keep him overnight if infusions went past a certain time. Thankfully, they didn't and he could come on home that evening! We're grateful that is behind us and hope treatment doesn't fall on another holiday!

He does seem to have caught some kind of chest congestion with lots of coughing. With his immune system being down, this is quite normal but we need to be careful to watch that it doesn't get worse. Our weather could also contribute to this although Andy doesn't usually suffer from seasonal allergies. I know he would appreciate your prayers that this will clear up.

When we first got the diagnosis, the oncologist said there would be three 3-week cycles of chemo. We then switched to another doctor within the same network in order to do chemo treatments close to home. The new doctor says that four 3-week cycles of chemo are protocol for the type and stage of the cancer Andy is dealing with. So the two doctors are discussing whether a 4th cycle is needed. We appreciate the doctors being thorough. The new doctor said he could see why the first doctor only prescribed three cycles but because four cycles is protocol, he wants to be sure and make the best decision. We are praying that they will have great wisdom as they make this decision!

So that, in a nutshell, is how the past few weeks have gone!

And just for fun, I leave you with a picture of our cute little Willie!

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Chemo Update: Cycle 1

Cycle 1 of Andy's chemo is complete!

Each cycle is 3 weeks long. The first week is the most grueling with 5 straight days that are 7 hours each. The second and third week have only one short treatment each week.

Andy did surprisingly well during the first cycle. He has not experienced much sickness. The first week left him completely wiped out with little to no energy and a desire to lie in a dark room with minimal lights and sound for a couple days. He has felt much better during the last 2 weeks of the cycle. He's had an increase in energy and has been able to get out and about some.

His appetite tanked during the first week of treatment. He managed to stay hydrated and eat small meals and snacks but didn't want to eat much. His appetite has increased significantly in the past week and a half though and has been able to eat a very healthy balanced diet.

Andy had an appointment with his oncologist yesterday. So far everything seems to be right on track. He had lost a good amount of weight and at yesterday's appointment his weight was up a little again which is good. They don't want too much weight loss too quickly.

The oncologist said that most patients react similarly to each cycle of chemo so we are hopeful for another fairly smooth cycle. Andy had extreme pain during the first night of chemo which they call "tumor flare". This is when the chemo drugs find those areas that are or were affected by the cancer. The cancerous cells get very "angry" causing extreme pain. Fortunately, this pain completely disappeared within 24 hours and hasn't been back. The chemo nurses said that it could come and go but the oncologist believes it is unlikely to return this time around. We do have a plan in place to deal with the pain should it happen again but it was very scary and quite horrible to see him in such intense pain.

Our concern right now is that his white blood cell count will continue to rise so as not to delay chemo. On Tuesday, the white blood cell count was lower than they like--not dangerously low--but low enough to delay some of the chemo treatment is it continues to drop. They drew blood again yesterday and his white cell count had increased some. Not quite enough but definitely headed in the right direction! The doctor feels that between Friday and starting treatment on Monday, there is enough time for it to get to normal levels. We pray for this to happen! In the meantime, we are following the precautions that the chemo nurse gave us. I also did some quick research for some foods that can help provide needed nutrients to help elevate white blood cell counts. We've added some of these foods in to every meal since Tuesday. Lower white blood cell count in cancer patients is quite common and can be caused by chemotherapy.

Meanwhile, we continue to pray in hope. We are so thankful for the peace of God that has been present in our hearts since the beginning of this ordeal. We have felt the prayers of God's people around the world and I know they have helped!

We've received a lot of cards and packages which has been so much fun! The picture above was sent by a friend. So appropriate for the season! A few days after we received this picture, my aunt sent me a letter which included this same verse (Isaiah 41:10). She went on to say that this verse was what helped my grandmother (Dad's mother) through many difficult times. I have really loved this verse but now it holds even more special significance to me. Isn't it wonderful how God's Word brings truth and comfort down through the generations and is always relevant to our lives?

Monday, April 10, 2017

Weekend and Monday Happenings

Thanks to all who left comments on my last post. I certainly appreciate the encouragement and prayers!

Andy was scheduled to start his first week of chemo today but because the cancer center will be closed on Good Friday, his first week was postponed to next week (17th) instead. The first week of each cycle is five full days so a four day week would not do. So we have one more week before chemo starts!

Andy's parents came last Wednesday for a visit and stayed through the weekend. We had a good time together. 

Andy's dad ended up at the ER on Friday morning with chest pains/pressure. He was tested and observed all day but nothing showed up as being wrong. He has scheduled a doctor appointment with a cardiologist back home for follow-up and a stress test. We are glad he seems to be ok! 

Our toaster oven gave it up this weekend so I toasted bread on the griddle this morning. It worked great! We don't make toast that often and the toaster oven doesn't see a whole lot of use on a regular basis so I think I'll wait and see how it goes without a toaster for a little while rather than rushing out to buy a new one. 

I had a trunk of donations to take to our favorite thrift store on Saturday so my  mother-in-law and I went on a little thrifting trip! According to my husband,  it is the "circle of life" to drop things off at the thrift store then go in and buy more. LOL! 

Sometimes I find nothing but on this trip I found this nice pair of Sketcher's shoes for $4, a cookbook and a craft book for 50 cents and two cute glass storage bowls with lids for $3. 

The yellow bowl already has food in it! (My food. Not the thrift store's. Hahaha)

I really like Mollie Katzen's cookbooks-- they are pretty and fun to read. The craft book has patchwork projects that use scraps. I thought these would be fun to peruse!

Today, I made new foods out of some leftovers from the weekend. The leftover sausage and roasted veggies from this sheet pan dinner was made into a rice salad. Leftover roast beef, potatoes, carrots and gravy was made into a pot pie. I used this recipe for an almond flour crust which turned out really good. 

Jeremiah 29:11 has been a favorite verse of late. I found this burlap canvas board for 50 cents at a yard sale recently. Using white paint and a black Sharpie marker I already had, I copied an idea I found via Pinterest to make this sign. It's quite imperfect but I love it! 

I hope you have a great week! 

Friday, March 31, 2017

The Unexpected

As I posted here, Andy had surgery on March 3rd to remove a tumor.

We have since found out that the tumor was malignant, as the doctor expected. A CT scan was ordered and when the results came back, we were told that unfortunately the cancer had spread some beyond the initial area. Because of this, chemo is necessary.

Beginning on April 10th, Andy will undergo three 3-week cycles of chemotherapy. Nine consecutive weeks in total. After chemo is complete, he will have surgery to remove some cancerous lymph glands.

The good news is that the cancer is very treatable and a full recovery is expected. There is an 85% or higher cure rate for this specific type of cancer. 

The bad news is that chemo is rough! The side effects of chemo are not fun. But the advantages of chemo definitely outweigh the cancer being left to itself to grow and spread. We are praying that the side effects will be minimal.

I continue to meditate on Jeremiah 29:11.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future." 

In looking at 2017, I wouldn't have ever imagined that cancer would be a part of our year. But it doesn't surprise God. He already knew and has every thing we need in place.

Please pray for our family as we walk this journey. Thank you!

I will update as I can.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Snow Day in March

After a super mild and spring-like winter, we woke this morning to a snowfall!

On "time change" Sunday when we "spring forward" of all days--you gotta love South Carolina!

Of course, the high temp today is around 50 degrees so the snow didn't stay long but it was so pretty while it was here. 

The roads were clear so we drove to church with snow falling--so lovely! So nice Andy was feeling well enough to join me for church today. I know he was happy to get out of the house.

Then we came home to pot roast with veggies in the crock pot for lunch. I mixed up a pan of brownies from a mix for a quick dessert and made gravy while they baked. I heated some cooked brown rice that was in the fridge. A nice cozy Sunday dinner! 

Snow is a novelty here in the South. I've learned to just enjoy it while it's here as it rarely sticks around for more than a day or two.

Happy "time change" Sunday!  

Friday, March 10, 2017

When Life Happens...

Life has been moving right along. I must say that there has been a lot going on here the last little bit.

I don't share all these things to complain but rather to inform. God is and has been so very good to us!

2016 ended with me hitting a deer on the drive back from spending the holidays with family in KY. The damage was minimal, thankfully, but an out-of-pocket repair was necessary. (Small enough that we didn't want to claim on insurance and have our premiums go up! Been there, done that...)

Mid-January found us at the Urgent Care with Andy having a UTI infection and other symptoms. He took a round of antibiotics and began feeling better. But the other symptoms did not clear up...

Our heating unit started having issues--blowing only cold air. Again, thankfully not as bad as it could've been. We got it repaired rather quickly.

Meanwhile, we added a new dog to our family! Meet Willie...a 3 year old bassett hound mix adopted from a local shelter. He's adorable...and quite the little character! Don't let those short legs fool you. He is quite nimble and can get anywhere he pleases. He also does great in the house---completely house trained!

I had the opportunity to work full-time for a couple of weeks, filling in for an assistant teacher. Perfect timing as all of our life experiences were costing a good deal of money. So a little extra came in handy.

Andy continued feeling poorly and some symptoms began getting worse.  He made an appointment with the doctor but before he could see the doctor, he experienced severe pain which sent us back to Urgent Care who sent us right to the ER for an ultrasound. A great way to spend a Friday night/Saturday morning! We left our house at 1am and didn't get back home until 9am.  The ultrasound showed something suspicious that needed to be checked out by a specialist. Andy miraculously got an appointment with the specialist the following Tuesday, 2/28 where the doctor confirmed that there was a tumor that needed to come out as soon as possible. Instead of doing a biopsy first as the ER doctor suggested, the specialist said, "Let's get it out then test it!" We were in agreement with that! Again, miraculously, Andy was able to get in for surgery that same week on Friday, March 3rd!  Talk about a whirlwind week!

The surgery went well. Andy is recovering well. The doctor said everything went as expected. We have a follow-up appointment in 2 weeks for a check-up and get the test results. The doctor is pretty optimistic that it will be a good report, however we won't know for sure until the appointment. For the time being, Andy is on restriction for lifting and activity so is not able to return to work until the doctor sees him at his follow-up.

So it has been a somewhat difficult season. But we have a peace concerning all of this because we serve the God of heaven and earth and He is in total control! 

Jeremiah 29:11 has been a comfort to me in the past two weeks: "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future." 

Life comes at you fast, yes. But we are trusting Him through it all! 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Slow-er Week

We both started feeling ill over the weekend--unrelated ailments-- so the week has been slower in nature. Funny how not feeling well forces your body to slow down!

Andy required a trip to Urgent Care late Sunday night for some antibiotics. I already had Monday off for Martin Luther King Day so that was a relief after not getting much rest and battling a cold/flu symptoms. We rested and I made a pot of turkey and rice soup in the Instant Pot. Later in the day, I finished folding and putting laundry away then made a whole chicken in the Instant Pot. While the chicken was cooking, I washed salad greens and cut veggies. All this activity may have done me in as I started feeling worse at that point but it's a great feeling to have those foods ready to eat this week!

I woke up Tuesday morning still feeling sick but since I had already committed to substitute for one of the teachers all day, I was determined to make an effort to make it to work. God's strength and Alka-Seltzer cold meds helped and I ended up not feeling too bad throughout the day. I was exhausted once I got home though and we ate a light supper of foods I'd already prepared and I crashed in bed!

Today, Andy was feeling well enough to go to work. Yay! I don't feel too awful and I have my regular afternoon work schedule today. So I've taken it easy this morning in hopes of saving up my energy for this afternoon. I started some yogurt in the Instant Pot. It'll be ready when I get home tonight.

I'll need to write a post about the Instant Pot. I received one for Christmas and have really enjoyed learning how to use it!

Late last week, I made a trip to the library to pick up some books I had requested. Breaking Busy by Alli Worthington and Living Well Spending Less: 12 Secrets of the Good Life by Ruth Soukup.

I've already finished reading Breaking Busy and it was excellent. Her message goes right along with what I feel the Holy Spirit speaking to my heart for 2017. One (of many) quotes that stood out to me in this book is: "The world says we must do it all, but God says we must do only what He gives us to do." 

My plans for this week are not big and grand. Just to rest and get well and do what absolutely needs to be done. That's all!

Wishing you a great week!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

In Loving Memory Of Rock

Family Picture-2015
Our dog Rock became ill very suddenly in November and within 24 hours, we had to make the heart-wrenching decision to let him go. He was diagnosed with acute liver failure and was already showing signs of other organs shutting down. We don't know what caused this--whether he got into something we didn't know about or his body simply got sick. An ultrasound showed nothing wrong while blood tests concluded acute liver failure.

This was a difficult decision to say the least. We absolutely adored our "Little Rock" as we called him. At 70ish pounds, he was anything but little but since he was smaller than us, "Little Rock" he was!
First picture of Rock right after we brought him home. Approximately 4 months old.
We had Rock for almost 9 years. When we first brought him home, I was scared of dogs. But he was cute, we had talked about eventually getting a dog and at the time we lived in a sketchy neighborhood (cheaper rent!) so a large dog was a good thing.

At the time, Andy was going to work at oh-dark-thirty so the dog became my responsibility. I walked him, fed him, rescued him from ridiculous puppy plights, constantly washed my clothing of muddy puppy paws, tried to keep the household together with a large puppy and two toddler boys (I was caring for at the time) who simply could not coexist with one another. If in the house, Rock would chase them, stalk their loveys and eat the toys. Outside, Rock would get himself tangled up in the most amusing and complicated configurations requiring serious intervention.
Silly little puppy.
In the early days, I had many moments of tears and overwhelm. "We have to get rid of this dog!" I told Andy more than once.

But within weeks, the dog had become "my dog". Within months, we had begun to settle into a routine. Within a year, he mostly lived in the house.
Rock and Amelia-2010
Within two years, Rock had calmed down to where he didn't need constant supervision anymore. When I began caring for a young baby, we trained him to be calm around her and not touch the toys. Those few days of training reaped huge benefits as from that day forward, Rock was great with young children and would walk around the toys, never once grabbing things that weren't his or putting the little ones in danger.
Rock and Gabriel-2013
As the years moved on, I couldn't imagine our life without Rock. Somehow I had become a "dog person." I walked him nearly every day which was by far his favorite activity. He understood the words: 'walk', 'stroll', 'go', 'outside', 'treat', 'cookie', 'clean up' and probably some others too.
Rock with his beloved chenille blanket-2015
If we dropped food on the floor, we would call, "Clean up, Rock!" and he would come, head bent down looking at the floor. Even out of a dead sleep, he would come. He had an uncanny sense of cheese being removed from the refrigerator and would come at a high rate of speed and park under me at the counter hoping for a morsel. The smell of bacon cooking also lured him into the kitchen.
He kept us laughing-- the way he lurked around when we were eating meals together at the he would put himself in "time out" and lay with his head in a corner...when he'd roll in the grass or leaves and be covered with debris and stand at the door like he expected us to let him in like that. How he inspected every.single.item that came into the house and how alert he would become if I walked into the laundry room as that's where his leash was stored. Even a plastic bag would grab his attention as I would use those to pick up his waste on our walks.
Walk + Snow= Best Day Ever!
Rock as the subject of Mommy's humor when drying him off.
Being silly trying to rub his "Gentle Leader" off; even though we used it for walks from the time he was a young puppy, he still tried to get it off every.time. We called this activity the "Guided Missile".
Rock was big and looked rather gruff but other than occasional barks at strangers and a few moments where he seemed to get protective of us or the kids, we were certain that he was convinced that we were here to protect HIM, not the other way around! However, his size kept many strangers at bay which wasn't a bad thing. Andy jokes that he protected us from tortilla chips since if one fell on the floor, Rock would leap over our feet to get to it as if his very life depended on that crunchy little chip.
Go Cubs! Last picture taken of Rock in a Cubs bandana I sewed for him. Rock passed away the morning after the Cubs won the World Series. A bittersweet day for Andy as a lifelong Cubs fan.
 It is ironic to note that on his first car ride with us as a puppy, I refused to sit in the backseat with him. But on what turned out to be his last car ride, I sat on the floor of the van beside him as we rushed him to the Emergency Animal Hospital in the middle of the night after he experienced a massive seizure and was completely unresponsive.
Rock loved snow! Also staring at his people...
Time and experience changes us. Rock added an extra something to our lives that we would have never thought a dog could give.  He bumbled his way into our home and then into our hearts. He wasn't a person but he was definitely a member of our family.

We miss you, Rachmaninov P., and are certain you will never be forgotten!

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

First Week of 2017

Happy New Year to all of you!

While we do have a few goals we wish to accomplish in 2017, I don't feel the urge to make lots of big plans. Yesterday at church the sentence, "Don't make 2017 harder than it needs to be" was stated. This resonated deeply in my spirit on both spiritual and practical life levels and reflects some of the same things the Holy Spirit has been speaking to my heart lately.

I said, "No" to many things in 2016 and I sense that I will be doing more of that this year. My personality tends to over complicate EVERYTHING and I want to live uncomplicated this year. As a family, we want to streamline and simplify our schedules a bit more.

I'm once again participating in the Good Cheap Eats Pantry Challenge this month. Will I last for a whole month? I don't goal is two weeks and then we'll see where we stand. The pantry and freezer are nice and full so I will shop there first before heading to the store. My goal is to spend only $150 this month which is half of our regular monthly grocery budget. I'll still buy milk, eggs, cheese, fresh produce and any other necessities we need.

January is a lower income month for us because of my workplace closing for two weeks over the holidays. This means that I only worked 2 weeks in December and therefore, my December paycheck (which comes in January) will be much smaller than a normal month. This isn't usually a big deal--we just look ahead and plan accordingly by tightening our spending a bit to make it through without having to dip into savings to cover regular bills. I really do like the time off over Christmas--it gives us time and freedom to travel and spend the holidays with family.

I purposely kept this week's "To Do" list much shorter than it had been and hope to make shorter lists a more permanent habit throughout this year. In addition to cooking meals, keeping the house in shape, running errands and working my part-time job, my big home projects this week are putting the Christmas decorations away and hemming a stack of pants.  I'm trying to keep it simple to create more time to just be, which sounds so nice!

Wishing you and yours His grace and peace in the coming year!