Monday, February 22, 2016

Pasta e Fagioli

Good morning!  I had a few requests for my recipe for the soup I made last night.  I tend to read several different recipes for something and make up my own as I go.  There won't be very many exact ingredients, but here goes:

Pasta e Fagioli

1 lb. ground meat (I used organic beef, but you probably use ground turkey, turkey sausage, or pork sausage)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Yellow onion, diced
1-2 cloves of garlic (More or less to your taste)
2 large carrots, diced
Splash of red wine
2 cups Beef Stock (you could use vegetable or chicken if that's what you have)
1-2 Tbls. tomato paste
1 can tomato sauce
1 can diced or crushed tomatoes
1 can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh Italian parsley and basil or Dried Italian seasoning
Crushed red pepper
1/2 cup Grated parmesan or romano cheese
1 lemon
Small cut pasta (elbow macaroni)

Brown the meat in EVOO adding salt and pepper, a little Italian seasoning (1-2 Tbs.), and a dash of crushed red pepper.  Once the meat is browned, add the onion and garlic.  Depending on the type of meat used, you may want to drain off some of the extra fat before adding the onion and garlic.  Allow a few minutes for the onion to soften and become translucent.  Add the diced carrots and allow them a few minutes to begin to soften.  Deglaze your pan with a splash of red wine and add the stock.  If you don't have wine, you can just use the stock.  Add the tomato paste, sauce, and diced tomatoes.  Add the rinsed and drained beans.  If you have fresh herbs, go ahead and add them now.  If not, add more Italian seasoning.  Add the cheese - I know this sounds odd, but the cheese gives it a slight sharpness and creaminess while also thickening the soup a little.  Allow the soup to come to a boil and turn the heat to simmer for 20-30 minutes.

Taste your soup and see if you want to add any additional seasoning.  At this point, I usually have water in another pot already boiling and add the pasta.  Some recipes allow for you to cook the pasta in the soup, but I don't like doing that.  I am able to control the amount of pasta in each bowl when they are cooked separately.  Also, the pasta can sometimes over cook or bloat if it is added into the soup.  I store the soup and pasta separately, if there is any left over.

Before serving, squeeze some fresh lemon juice over the soup once it's in the bowl.  If you like a strong lemon flavor, you can also add lemon zest.  You may also sprinkle some cheese over the top.  Enjoy!

Monday, October 5, 2015

A Stirring

Have you ever had the feeling that what you were doing wasn't enough?  That, you should be fulfilled, but still feel like there is more out there somewhere?  Work is going well, you've been successful, but it just wasn't enough?

I have.

The last six months or so, there has been a stirring in my life and my heart.  I felt so confused.  I was working in a job, where I had been wildly successful with people who have supported me during a time of grief and healing.  I couldn't believe what I had accomplished over the last few years, and at the same time, it wasn't enough.  I felt like I was climbing a ladder, but I would never find the top.

It seems to me, that we are in a society that continues to teach us to work harder, achieve more, and make more money.  I believe that for some, that is enough.  I don't think there is anything wrong with that feeling, if it is what you truly want for your life.  I've been living that for most of mine.  Working hard in school to make good grades, get into a good college, get a good job, go back to school to learn more and get an even better job, and on, and on.  When is it enough?  When do we stop and say, "This is where I am supposed to be.  This is enough.  This is what I've worked so hard for."?  And, when do we discover opportunities to create our own destiny?

The more I pondered on this unsettled feeling I had, the more I realized that part of that feeling stemmed from not allowing myself a break.  I never took significant time off after Freddie died.  Will and I both went through counseling, went to group therapy  for grieving families, took a few trips and spent time together, but I never took any time to just "be".

When we started a family, our goal included me taking time during our young child's life to be a homemaker.  Since I was a girl, I had always pictured myself taking time out of my career to raise my children while they were young.  Obviously, life did not go according to plan.  Cancer did what it does and swooped in and muddied every perfect little ideal we had.  It amazes me how to this day, I worry about things that I ultimately have no control over.  If cancer and grief taught me anything, it is that we can plan for what we think will happen, but somehow, someway, when a wrench is thrown in that plan, it is only trust and faith that will carry you through.

I digress.

I continued to fight this stirring in my heart.  I continued working.  This meant, additional anxiety, stress, and conflict, all of which were taking a toll on the mother I want to be for William.  I was ending each day at the end of my rope not leaving any space for quality time with Will or any of the people I love.  I was not a fun person to be around.

Fast forward to August.  For some reason, my birthday struck a chord in me.  It isn't a significant, milestone year, but I began thinking about how I want to spend my life and I began wondering how Freddie would have lived his life differently, had he known cancer was knocking at our doorstep.  He had so many dreams and ideas for his/our life.  I began wondering what he would have poured his time and heart into, had he known that his life was going to be cut so short.

At the same time, kids were going back to school. I woke up on August 10th and it hit me:  I only had one more year until my own son would be off to "big kid school" and start Kindergarten.  I pictured dropping him off for his first day of Kindergarten, and feeling like I had not taken any significant time with him.

I am in a unique situation.  Not everyone has the opportunity to take time away from their career, or even wants to.  I know a lot of people probably think I am crazy, but that's their issue.  I would rather look back and know that I made the decision my heart and my gut were telling me to make, than to regret that I didn't take the time while I had it.

I also know that often times opportunity may be knocking, but we are so busy trying to "live" our lives, that we don't even hear the knock.  We are so distracted by the day-to-day, that we don't take time to stop and listen to our hearts and allow God to speak to us.  I am SO guilty of this.

Throughout the summer, I began thinking about taking time off.  I sought the advice and counsel of trusted friends and I was praying for direction.  Leaving behind the job that I had worked so hard for and the stability that comes from having that job was scary.  I was entering a time of unknown.  But in my heart, I kept thinking about all the unknown I had faced before.  God began showing me how he had carried me and my family through times of unknown - sickness, scary finances, big decisions - He was there.  I knew that this stirring was not random.  These thoughts had a purpose and God was presenting a new plan.  My job was to trust and follow.

At the end of August, I had finally made my decision.  It was time to resign and take time off to spend with my son and discover what the next phase of my life will include.

So, here I am, in a place of many unknowns.  What I DO know is that I made the right decision.  I already see such a difference in my relationship with my son.  It has affected our time together, created more opportunities for quality interaction, and transformed his behavior.  I see a difference in the way he trusts me and communicates with me.  It's incredible, and if that is the only result from his whole experience, I will be a grateful mother and woman.

I don't know what my next steps will be.  Right now, I am enjoying life with less stress and anxiety.  I am enjoying spending time with people that I love, and I am learning how my outlook on life affects everyone around me.  I look forward to what the future holds, and I know that when the next step presents itself, God will carry me through and I will have peace in knowing that I followed him and did what I believe is right for my family.

For now, I will leave you with a quote from a book I am reading by Jen Hatmaker (oh my, if you haven't read any of her work, you are surely missing out).  I read this today and it summed up what I am experiencing so well.

Perhaps this applies to you, too, good reader.  God may be leading you away without a clear final destination yet.  As maddening as that is, could it be that He needs you to release what was before you can appropriately grasp what will be?  Could it be that you might accidentally squash the lovely vision if you obtain it too soon?  There is a horrid beauty in following God slightly blind.  The victory later is sweeter, the prize more valuable than breath.  Obviously, we are Americans; we like a plan, we like assurances.  But the ways of faith exist so far outside of our tidy boundaries, it is a wonder we can ever receive its mysteries at all.

Jen Hatmaker, "Interrupted"

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

One Year Later...

Once again, I find myself driven to put my thoughts down.

This month, November 6th, marks one year since we lost Freddie.  It feels very surreal.  In some ways, I feel like I've lived a lifetime, but in other ways, I feel like it just happened.

I'm beginning to see healing for William and me.  Both of us moving forward, progressing, and accepting this new life.

We have been very blessed this last year with opportunities to travel, learn, and grow.

We have been especially blessed with our time at The WARM Place, a non-profit grief support center for children and their families.  Our time there has allowed us to meet other families living through grief and learn and grow from them.  I see Will beginning to express himself in better ways.  I have gained perspective and healing in meeting other families, hearing their stories, and sharing their feelings and pain.

Today was our last day, for now, at The WARM Place.  We were asked to share our hope in our grief.  I cried as I heard everyone share their hopes.  I realized how similar our hopes are and once again, realized I am not alone.  There are other families experiencing loss, looking for direction, living on hope and grace, and trying to find their way to a place of healing.

I find myself in an interesting stage.  A stage where I miss Freddie and his laughter, his jokes, his caring of Will and me, and our closeness and intimacy.  I miss having that bond and knowing what he was thinking before he said it.  I miss my best friend and life partner.  And I think most of these things I will forever feel about him.  Nobody will ever replace him, our love, and what he was in my life and in Will's life.

At the same time, I am picking myself up, moving on, and growing.  Looking for new experiences, meeting new friends, and building new relationships.  I am learning that I can be happy.  That I can miss Freddie, but find peace and hope, and that my heart is growing.

I am learning that so many of the things I believed before are not necessarily changing, but maybe my perspective is.  My faith, my belief system, my feelings about other people and the world around me.  I am learning to give other people grace.  I am learning to set boundaries.  I am learning where I want to spend my time and with whom.

As Will and I enter this next phase, please continue to pray for us, knowing that each prayer is felt, heard, and hoped for.  Please pray for wisdom as I parent my son and lead our home.  And please know that each prayer is so appreciated.

I continue to try to live my promise to Freddie, Will, and myself - to travel, experience life, and grow.  To provide every opportunity I can for our son.  To keep Freddie's memory, laughter, and spirit alive in our lives and in our home.

These next few weeks/months will be difficult.  The holidays were hard last year, but we were still so numb.  I find myself wanting to break tradition.  Wanting to have new experiences and memories.  And I hope, in so doing, that I can be in the moment with William, enjoying our new memories, remembering Freddie, but not dwelling on the pain of his loss.

I'll leave here for now...with a few beautiful images Arden Prucha Jenkins took of the Carams a few weeks ago.  She did our family pictures 3 years ago and I love the way she can capture sweet moments of love and beauty.

Happy holidays and may you find peace, love, grace, and hope as you celebrate and begin a new year.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Breakdown in Grieving

This week has been a tough one.  I have missed Freddie's presence in our home since he died.  His laughter, his jokes, his comfort, his smell, his voice, his calming ways, most especially, his fathering of Will.  The last 8 or more months, I feel like I have been on autopilot.  Waking up, putting my feet on the ground, and going.

I will not deny that Will and I have had some pretty amazing experiences this year.  My promise to myself, after Freddie died, was that I would live my life in the fullest way I knew how.  That I would take advantage of every opportunity to travel {that's what Freddie would want}.  That I would do what I could to give Will real-life experiences.  In some ways, I am beyond blessed and need to put more of my focus on that.

However, I am beginning to grieve the life I thought I would have.  Not the material things, the house, the white picket fence, etc., but the life and experiences I thought I would have with my husband and my son.  That life you dream of when you are walking down the isle, hand-in-hand, just announced "husband and wife".  You know that one day, one of you will die, you just never imagine it being so soon.

Now I grieve every moment that I imagined having.  Watching Freddie and Will play soccer or baseball.  Taking trips together, seeing our favorite bands at concerts, sharing life, dreaming, praying together, believing together.

I mostly grieve for Will.  The opportunities I feel that have been taken from him.  He had the best daddy ever.  Freddie was so in love, so passionate, so committed to his son.  He wanted every moment he could have with our little boy.

People say "he's there, he can see you," but it is just not the same.  Imagine a person you love more than anything being gone.  Life is just never the same.  Yes, he may see us from heaven.  He may be cheering us on.  But that is not the same as him being here with us, fathering our son, sharing our partnership and life together.

This breakdown has been tough.  Anxiety-ridden, overwhelming, and all-consuming.  I am thankful to the family and friends that continue to be there for us.  Everyone's emotions are high, and anyone that believes it is my or my son's job to be their support or their anchor in their grief will have to face that we are barely holding on ourselves most days.  I think Freddie was that anchor for so many people.  And now he is gone.  And I cannot be expected to carry on every.single.thing he did.  I'm not always good at phone calls {especially the way Freddie was}.  I'm not always good at reaching out when I am in pain.  I don't want to be a burden to anyone and I don't want my suffering to affect those around me and bring them down.

For those friends and loved-ones that have supported us, been there, loved and prayed for us, I am so thankful for you.  I do not know how I would live this life and I do not know any other way to live it, than to just keep going.  And for now, that is what I will do.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Not Alone

After a very emotional day yesterday, I was comforted this morning when I heard these words sung by Phil Wickham "Safe":

To the one whose dreams have fallen all apart
And all you're left with is a tired and broken heart
I can tell by your eyes you think you're on your own
But you're not alone

Have you heard of the One who can calm the raging seas
Give sight to the blind, pull the lame up to their feet
With a love so strong it never lets you go
No you're not alone

You will be safe in His arms. You will be safe in His arms
The hands that hold the world are holding your heart
This is the promise He made, He will be with you always
When everything is falling apart, you will be safe in His arms

We faced a very difficult day yesterday as we remembered Freddie on his birthday.  It was a day of ups and downs, but my friend comforted me when she said, "Just think, it's Anna Sophia's first birthday in heaven with her Daddy."  Tears, sweet tears.

Grief is so hard.  And dealing with the expectations of others and working through what I need to do for William often leaves me forgetting to take care of myself.  I feel alone.  I feel forgotten.  My heart is broken.  But, I need to remember to look for peace and comfort in Him and allow Him to hold and heal my heart.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Psalm 139

Today, as I am sitting, overwhelmed, crying at my computer, urged to write, moved to share, I am reminded of this Psalm that seems to find its way into my life at the hardest of times.  He reminds me that I am never far from His spirit.  I need only seek and ask for it.  I am not hidden from Him.  The darkness cannot hide Him from me.  He knows my anxious thoughts, He knows my heart...
I sometimes hesitate to share.  I don't want to seem like I over-share, or put my grief on blast.  But, today, maybe my pain will help someone else through their day.  

When you think of me and Will, please say a small prayer.  We continue to put one foot in front of the other, in the hopes that we will find healing.  That we will have peace.  Nobody knows our sweet tears, shed in the quiet moments at home.  Nobody sees this sweet boy yearn for his precious daddy, falling asleep each night looking at pictures of him.  This pain can be lonely.  It can be isolating.  

So, in this painful moment, I remember this Psalm and pray for peace.  For my son, for me, and for Freddie eternally.

For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand
    when I awake, I am still with you.
19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
    Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
20 They speak of you with evil intent;
    your adversaries misuse your name.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord,
    and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
22 I have nothing but hatred for them;
    I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Finding Grace in the Grief

Wow.  I just looked at my last post dated March 2nd.  I can't believe it has been almost a year since I have written.

And now, there is so much to write...

What a crazy ride life has been for me...

I'm definitely learning to find grace in the grieving.

When I lost Anna Sophia almost 5 years ago, I went through such a dark, sorrowful time.  I didn't understand why it happened.  I didn't understand how to deal with it.  And I didn't understand that it would take me going through it and dealing with it to get to the other side and find healing.

I definitely had no idea, at that time, that 5 years later, I would lose the love of my life.

November 6th, 2013, Freddie lost his battle with cancer.

It is so difficult for me to put into words the emotions and thoughts I have each day.  I've now buried two of the three most important people in my less than 5 years...

When Freddie was first diagnosed with cancer in May of 2011, of course my brain automatically went to "What if?"  When you hear that word, when anyone hears that word, they wonder...Will I make it?  Am I strong enough?  Why me?

At that time, I couldn't imagine my life without Freddie.  Will was only 5 months old.  I was a stay-at-home mom believing that we were coming out of a dark time grieving our daughter and finally able to celebrate the new life God had brought into our family.

So many events, procedures, prescriptions, treatments, journeys, relationships, hardships were experienced during that time.  I still don't even know if I know what true, honest faith is.  I worried most steps of the way, but continued to believe that no matter what, God would get me through it.  And now, I feel like I've learned so much more about faith.

I remember so many people praying for Freddie to be healed.  Believing that there would be a miracle for him.  And I remember thinking, "But what if there isn't?"  How would that be a testament to God's ability to take care of His people?  How would people learn that faith isn't always about getting the answers we want.  Faith is believing, that no matter what, God will be there.

Do I feel that every day at every minute during every stressful, exhausting moment?  No...but that is grace.

I remember it so clearly and vividly hitting me after Freddie's funeral while I was talking to a dear friend at the reception at Fort Worth Club.  You see, expecting a miracle wasn't the only way that God could work through Freddie.  I truly believe that Freddie's LIFE was a testament.  His joy, his charisma, his generosity, his relationships, his loyalty, his laugh, his jokes...can't we all look at the way he lived and believe that God worked through him?

It sounds crazy to say that his death was sudden and shocking.  He had cancer.  But he had put on such a brave face to most around him that nobody expected him to go so unexpectedly and so suddenly.

November 5th, Freddie worked all day.  He came home late afternoon and sat in my office as I worked and talked to me.  Looking back, I realize there was something on his mind, but he wasn't ready to talk about it and I was wrapped up in the busyness of my job.  He and I talked for a little bit about those daily mundane things married couples rarely get to talk about because there are never many minutes you have to devote to each other when you have kids.  He left to see one last client and I left a few minutes later to pick up Will at school.  I came home, made dinner, ate with Will, and Freddie came home not long after that.  I remember apologizing that I made spaghetti.  Freddie had a lot of stomach problems and sometimes the acidity of tomato sauce would bother his stomach.  He said that it looked great and he was hungry.  He went into the other room with Will and started eating.  I was watching a TV show and cleaning up the kitchen.  He suddenly came running through the room, getting sick to his stomach.  I, of course, was worried the food had made him ill, but he insisted it wasn't that.  He said he was scared.  He had a lot on his mind.  He finally broke down, in tears, and told me the doctor had called and said they found the cancer in his skull.

Freddie's biggest fear, during his entire cancer battle, was that the cancer would end up in his head.

I was in shock and looking back probably didn't say the perfect thing or most positive, supportive thing.  But as we were talking, he began acting funny.  His speech was garbled, and one side of his face started falling.  I so distinctly remember saying, "I think you are having a stroke." and googling the symptoms and calling a friend.  Her first response, of course, was, "Have you called 911?"

I didn't believe all of this was really happening.  I called 911 and 10 minutes later had 15 or so people in my living room between fire fighters, EMTs, and neighbors.  I remember the EMT saying, "Ma'am (you know it's serious when they say "ma'am".), I'm not trying to scare you, but I really do think he's had a stroke."  They took him downtown and I followed shortly.

As I was backing out the car in the driveway, a good friend called and asked what was going on.  I couldn't believe she even knew anything, but God has His mysterious ways.  Our new neighbors' son is good friends with my god-daughter.  He had text her when the emergency vehicles showed up and she told her parents...thank God.

I arrived at the hospital and Freddie was still getting an MRI of his brain.  He came back not long after I had been there.  He was semi-conscious and our good friend David soon arrived.  We waited and waited and finally the doctor came in (mind you, we still are not in a real room, we are in the ER triage with a curtain around us), and again "ma'am, tell me what you know."  I told the whole story of the cancer battle up to Freddie telling me they found it in his skull.  The doctor nodded his head and said, "We've counted at least 17 tumors in his brain."




To say that I wasn't grateful that I wasn't in that ER alone is an understatement.  I truly believe God put David there so that I would have support.  I remember sobbing with him and both of us not feeling like this was real.  I calmed down and walked up to Freddie's bedside.  I told him the doctor just came in and asked if he wanted to know what he said.

His response, "No.  I heard him.  I love you.  I love William."  And he began praying the Lord's Prayer.

"NO!" I screamed.  "You're not leaving me!  Don't do that!  Don't talk like that!"  But I truly believe, from that point, he began to let go.  He was tired.  He was suffering.  And the last thing Freddie ever wanted was for Will and me to watch him suffer.

Friends started hearing the news.  People arrived to visit.  I went home for a few hours to shower, get a little sleep (visitors were not allowed at night in the ICU), and bring Will the next morning.  When we arrived, I spoke with the doctor and the news was grave.  He didn't know how much longer we had, but expected it to be a few weeks.  Not half an hour later, the social worker was in the room asking us to make the decision to move Freddie to hospice.  Freddie's family and two close friends and I made the decision.  We wanted him to be comfortable and in peace.  He arrived at hospice just before noon and less than 4 hours later, was at eternal peace.  It was shocking.  I remember walking into his hospice room wondering when I'd get home to get more clothes because I just knew we would be there for days/weeks.  We weren't even there a day.

I share this story now because I truly believe I was only able to get through that day (it was less than 24 hours) because of my faith and the family and friends Will and I had surrounding us.

So, going back to faith...and wondering what it truly is...I believe it is believing that no matter what, somehow, God is going to give you the grace to keep going...even when you don't know how you will.

To say that the last three months have been exhausting, shocking, difficult, and unbelievable would be an understatement.  Going from hearing your baby cry for his daddy to not really asking about him at all is heart-wrenching.  Waking up each day and putting one foot in front of the other is a choice.  It isn't always easy.  It is very rarely enjoyable.  But, I have a sweet, sweet little boy to keep me going.  A boy who already sounds, laughs, acts, and jokes like his daddy.  And that, my friends, is a legacy.  That is finding grace.