Saturday, February 24, 2007

This ain't freaking Italy.

Or even Holland.

If you have a baby born who is anything less than 100% "normal," then you have most assuredly been sent, by some well meaning soul, an essay called "Welcome to Holland" by Emily Perk Kingsley. I won't reprint it all here. If you haven't read it, you can google it. It's all about how you can expect one thing, but you need to appreciate it, even if you get something different. I'm sure that for many, many people, it has great meaning and has had a positive effect on their psyche. The author had a child born with Down's Syndrome.

Blow me away, but last spring, in the Candlelighters newsletter (Candlelighters is an organization helping children with cancer), they reprinted the essay.

Are you freakin' kidding me???

Okay, so here's my retelling of this famous bit:

Welcome To Turkey
by Lizard Eater

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with cancer - to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It's like this......

When you're going to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip - to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It's all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, "Welcome to Turkey."

"Turkey?!?" you say. "What do you mean Turkey?? I signed up for Italy! I'm supposed to be in Italy. All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy."

But there's been a change in the flight plan. They've landed in Turkey and there you must stay.

Ah well, think you. I can deal with this. And Turkey has wonderful things. Culture. Turkish delight. Turkish coffee. Turkish all-cotton supima bathrobes.

So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. While you're in the bookstore, trying to buy guide books and sign up for a Berlitz course, two large men with guns and uniforms will come and grab you. They will accuse you of being a terrorist.

They will put you in jail. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

It's just a different place. It's slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. Twice a day, guards will come in and beat you. Every evening, you will be tortured, as they try to get information out of you. "I don't know, I really don't know!" you will cry. "Did you drink diet soda while pregnant? Did you use commercial floor cleaner? Did you move to a polluted city?"

But after you've been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around.... and you begin to notice that every Tuesday, you get two spoonfuls of gruel, not one....and no one is annoying you by talking too loud on their cell phone. Turkey even has rats, whom you can make into pets.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy... and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say "Yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned."

But... if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things ... about Turkey.


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Love v. Gratitude

After reading Galen Guengerich's contention that "gratitude should be the center of Unitarian Universalist theology" in UU World, I have been mulling over thoughts of love and gratitude.

Now, I am a big fan of gratitude. Before All Of This, I was in the gratitude club. Not only did I worship gratitude, I felt grateful that I felt gratitude. I knew it made my life better, that I was able to view life through Grat's prism. Nightly, my family goes around the table, saying one thing each person is grateful for that day.

But, now, I believe that gratitude is, as UU Momma writes, "a byproduct as well as a means to an end." I think that gratitude is a result; love is a source.

I thought that I would always be able to find gratitude. But then I learned that life can turn so dark, one can become so lost, that there is no gratitude.

But when there was no gratitude, there was still love.

That very night that Little Warrior was admitted to the pediatric oncology floor, I turned to the Husband and said, "WE -- the you and me that are 'We' -- we will get through this."

As soon as we passed on our news, friends were pulling love all around us. They did research, they said prayers, they made casseroles. They brought us bags filled with comfy clothing, food, magazines. They hugged us. They wept with us.

I am grateful for them. I am grateful for the marvelous doctors who never said, "Oh, I couldn't do pediatric oncology/surgery, it would be too devasting." I am grateful for the scientists, the nurses, the Candlelighters who paid for my parking. I am utterly grateful that my baby is here today.

But when I felt no gratitude, I still felt love. Both from within me and from the outside, I felt love.

UU Soul said it so eloquently, "As much as I love gratitude, I have a problem with UUs relinquishing love to Christians."

Another little tradition that my family has is in our goodbyes. We say, "May the Spirit of Love go with you." The other person answers, "And with you."

Recently, I have begun taking this outside my family. I say it to my friends when we part, I say it to fellow congregants. I don't think that 'love' is a word we hear enough.

May the Spirit of Love go with you.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Louisa May Alcott and George Will

George Will's recent column mentioning Unitarianism has me thinking about Louisa May Alcott.

Specifically, Will's description of "the Emersonian faith that we please God by pleasing ourselves."


Well, I can't claim to be an expert on Emerson, but that doesn't ring true to me. And, as I said, it has me thinking about Alcott, a Unitarian of that time.

Her most famous book is, of course, Little Women. But for a taste of Unitarian ethics, I would guide you toward "Eight Cousins." It is a novel written for youth, but it is lovely. It is chock-a-block with lessons about diligence, the glory of hard work, exercise, whole foods, raising strong women and men ... and sacrifice.

A quote from that book, that I will admit to trotting past my own kids:

"It is necessary to do right. It is not necessary to be happy."

Gee, that doesn't sound like pleasing God to please ourselves.

The context of this quote is that the bachelor uncle, quietly, has ceased smoking, because he feels it's a bad influence on his teenage nephews. It leads to the heroine, his orphaned niece and ward, giving up her heart's desire of pierced ears in exchange for her cousins stopping smoking.

It's simple, sure. The best morality stories are.

To have this marvelous, moral religion reduced to, "If it feels good, do it," exposes the writer of the article as one whose theology most assuredly includes a belief that the only way we can keep from being monsters is to believe in a punishing God.

How dreadfully unnecessary.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

They say there are no atheists in foxholes ...

... but I find that the farther away I get from my "foxhole," the easier it is to believe in something besides this temporal world. The farther away I get, the farther away from my fear, it becomes possible to believe that there is a unifying spirit. That coincidences are not mere coincidences and that there is a rhythm in the universe.

What draws me up cold, however, is when a child dies from disease, specifically cancer. It offends my sense of right. If you die from disease, it should be after you've actually lived long enough for the world to have its effect on your body. For cancer to kill a child ... it just doesn't make any sense to me. It doesn't fit in with the rhythm. It is a jarring note, an error in the symphony.

If you do pray, and today is one of those days where I'm not sure it does anything, but if you do pray, please send up a prayer for the family of Mark. He was 9. He fought this disease for six years. 2/3 of his life. He had "the cancer to have if you have to have cancer."

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Conquer Childhood Cancer

Little Warrior was "lucky." She was diagnosed at an early stage, with a type of childhood cancer that has very good survival rates.

She was also not so lucky ... she was technically at a Stage 5, because she had tumors on both of her kidneys. And then the tumors didn't shrink with the chemo. And because the margins of healthy kidney contained something called nephrogenic rests, which basically means, "um, you may not be done with this."

But mostly she was lucky because of the research that had been done on Wilms' tumors. She benefited. There was an established protocol.

From the below mentioned article:

"The list of studies the group plans to eliminate is not final, but Reaman said the cuts will cover several diseases, such as relapsed acute lymphoblastic leukemia, relapsed solid tumors, a brain tumor called good risk medulloblastoma and chronic myeloid leukemia."

Right there in the middle ... "relapsed solid tumors" ... that's what's on the chopping block to cut the research funding for.

If Little Warrior suffers a relapse ... things become very, very serious. Due to a lack of funding, there is NO established protocol for relapsed Wilms'. At that point, it becomes trial and error. It becomes, "I heard so-and-so-doctor did this ..."

PLEASE, follow this link to send a message to your congressperson to support funding for childhood cancer research.

We need more than just luck.

Watch ABC World News Tonight with Charles Gibson

"In response to the federal budget cuts for childhood cancer research,Dr. Gregory Reaman, Chairman of the Children's Oncology Group, was approached and will be featured on ABC World News Tonight with Charles Gibson, airing tonight between 6:30 PM - 7:00 EST. Please check your local listings. The interview was conducted by Brian Hartman, ABC News. The segment is entitled: "Why would anyone want to take a step backwards in the fight against cancer?"

For more information, please visit"

Related story:
Budget Cuts Could Hurt Children with Cancer

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


Well, the surprise that The Husband had planned was not only dinner at our favorite restaurant, but dinner at the "Chef's Table" in the kitchen. You get to see all the flying around, and the chef decides everything you'll eat, bringing out all kinds of goodies. Not a single miss.

So, on with the food-gasm:

Soup Course:

H: Turtle Soup
a bowl of the signature soup served with a dash of Osborne sherry

LE: Sweet potato
Delicious not-sweet soup, bisque-like, with black truffle oil

Salad Course:

J: Shrimp Remoulade
boiled shrimp coated with Louisiana style remoulade sauce on a cucumber and radish salad

T: Greens with a strawberry vinaigrette, candied pecans, fresh sliced strawberries and warm goat cheese toast

Appetizer Course:

J,T: Chacuterie platter. Homemade smoked tasso ham with a peach jelly, venison sausage, boar terrine with brown mustard and bread and butter pickles, served with brioche toast round

Seafood Course:

J: Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes in a pool of sweet corn cream with a pea shoot salad
T: Wild Maryland Rockfish and Crab, atop a sauté of house-made pancetta, caramelized shallot and wilted chard.

Meat Course:

J: Veal Tournedo – Cocoa nib crusted and pan seared veal paired with a Great Hill Blue Cheese Lyonnaise potatoes

T: Lamb chops with cornbread custard and Jack Daniels Demi-Glace

Cheese Course:

J,T: All artisanal Texas cheeses; a firm goat cheese, a brie-like cheese with green peppercorns and a ewe’s milk-blue. Served with toast points and local honeycomb

Dessert Course:

OHMYFREAKINGGOD. 5 DESSERTS!!! We could only manage a bite or two of each.

Brennan’s Peanut Butter Cup: creamy peanut butter mousse in a dark chocolate shell glazed with a rich chocolate ganache paired with homemade peanut butter ice cream

Creole Bread Pudding Souffle: creole bread pudding whipped into a light fluffy soufflé with rye whiskey sauce

Chocolate Espresso Cheesecake: layers of chocolate and mocha cream cheese filling on a chocolate graham cracker crust.

Medley of Sorbet: a trio of housemade seasonal sorbets topped with fresh berries and served in an almond tulip shell

Creole Cream Cheesecake
made with housemade Creole cream cheese, drizzled with caramel sauce

Monday, February 12, 2007

Laundry List

First on the list today ... let y'all know to look out for a charge from essentials gold on your Citibank or At&t Universal cards. $149.95! It's some kind of a club that supposedly saves you money on purchases ... here's the thing. You can get charged for this without even signing up. I googled it and it came up on Rip-Off I contacted my card and filed a fraud claim and contacted essentials gold and told them to cancel it and give me a full refund; I never authorized it.

Here's the deal -- this is done in alliance with the credit card company. I certainly didn't give my credit card number to this business. And I'm not dumb -- I'm not the sort to cash any of those little "checks" that come from your cc company and in small writing say something about how cashing the check means that you've signed up with so-and-so company and will relinquish your first-born child upon demand.

So, I'm a little pissy. You shred your mail, you watch for online theft, you never do business with telemarketers ... and your own cc company sells you out. (And yes, after I get this all cleared up, I'm canceling my AT&T card.)

Okay, on to something fun ... Lizard Eater is going to share a good surprise. (No, I'm not pregnant! Pah! 4 kids, I think I've done my fair share of growing UUism in-house.) Actually, I can't share the surprise, because I don't know what it is. The Husband has some big surprise cooked up. Thus far, I know that I'm going out to dinner,* and that the big part isn't today. Hmmm. *I asked The Husband how I should dress, and he said that he's seen people there in suits, he's also seen them there in casual dress.

I know. He's taking me to McDonalds.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

The Perfect Margarita

We take a break from our regularly scheduled programming (because really, when Elie Wiesel is being attacked on an elevator and Zsa Zsa Gabor's husband is claiming that he is her baby daddy, the world has simply gone too crazy for words and you must take a break from reality) for The Perfect Margarita.

I had heard about making margs with agave nectar, so I decided to start with American Princess's recipe. Start and stop. It's perfect. (Those of you who are not granola-heads, you can get agave nectar at your local health food store. Get the light, not the dark or amber.)

6 parts good tequila, 4 parts lime juice, and 1.5 parts (a mod to the original recipe) of agave nectar. Salt on the rim.

Warning: this drink is much smoother than the amount of tequila would indicate. POW.

Friday, February 09, 2007

What does it mean, "To Be Human"?

Nancy of Heart of a Family, is a funny, smart, great writer, and also happens to be the mama of an adorable son who was diagnosed with Williams syndrome.

She has a terrific post today about humankind's instinct to dehumanize those not like us. Of course, unless you're looking in a mirror, everyone is not like you. Different color skin, different gender, different abilities, different health.

Before reading her post today, I had three main things floating around in my head. I've been putting together a home-movie DVD and it has some clips from last spring on there.

Holey shamoley.

Because I was in it, because I was there every day, Little Warrior never looked like a cancer kid. Skinny, yeah. Dark circles under her eyes sometimes, sure.

But looking at the video ... there it is, the look of a cancer kid that we are all familiar with, thanks to tv: almost hairless, big eyes, pale, gaunt.

Alien cancer child.

The other thing in my head ... hurts, even though I don't personally know her. My best friend's aunt is dying of breast cancer. Literally, today, dying. Well, she would be dying, except ...

The doctor is busy.

The doctor is so busy that he can't get over to her hospital room to sign the necessary papers so that they can disconnect all the wires that are keeping her body ... not alive, but breathing.

What's another hour or two? (Or five or six ...) After all, she has the rest of eternity to be dead.

(Quick note: Little Warrior would probably have been born about 45 minutes earlier than she was, except the doctor was across the hall with another laboring mother. The nurses had me doing all manners of panting to keep from delivering. So, there you have it. Gotta wait on the doctor to be born and gotta wait on the doctor to die.)

And third thing ... I've got two cancer-parent friends who are waiting on scan results. The results are in, mind you, but they have to wait til next week for their appointments.

And as they wait ... they cry. And worry. And imagine the worst.

A patient is a patient, not a human. A patient's parents are cancer-parents, not humans.

Because surely, we are more compassionate to humans.

"We were just generous when it was convenient or easy."

I could have written this, but it was another "cancer-parent" friend who just posted this on a list we're on.

"People are so amazing. I use to THINK we were generous people before A's was diagnosed. My definition of generous has changed over the past year. We were just generous when it was convenient or easy."

I would write a whole essay about that ... but she summed it all up. Just generous when it was convenient or easy.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

ASK for the sale

That's a basic rule of sales, if not THE basic rule. You can do your whole presentation perfectly, but if you don't then ask for their business, chances are good that you won't get it.

Eclectic Cleric has me thinking about this and other business rules and how they relate to doing church. EC has a post today asking why can't we be as good at greeting visitors as a bookstore?

My situation that I'm thinking about concerns pledges and our "already" members. As I've mentioned before, we've got Money Trouble, right here in a River City, with a capital T that rhymes with P and that stands for Pledge.

Just a few years ago, we were all focused on the same plan, and we had the highest average pledge in the entire district. Now, we have one of the lowest.

So, we had a meeting this past weekend to talk about what we need to do. Now, all of it can't come from pledges, and we're working on that. But we have a culture now where supporting your church financially isn't seen as necessary. None of us have too much money, but face it, most of us (including yours truly) could give more.

So, the presentation was made. Motivation was raised. Spirits were high. And then ...

They didn't ask for the sale.

I know it's hard. How nice it would be to say, "So if you want to give more, the forms are here ..." and have everyone rush the table. It didn't happen.

Any successful salesperson will tell you ... you can have the greatest presentation in the world, but if you don't ask for the sale, you're not doing sales.


Saturday, February 03, 2007

Went to a party alone last night

It was a grownup party (a 'my divorce is final' one) for a friend of mine, so I left the 4 katzenjammer kids with The Husband and made an appearance.

Most of the people I didn't know, which is fine. I'm the kind of person who can join in talking with total strangers, no problem.

Feeling kinda single, feeling kinda cool (merely because there were no children hanging off me) ... and then:

"Dave, this is my friend Lizard Eater. Her daughter had cancer last year."

Okay, it wasn't quite as non sequitor as that. But it kept happening. I kept having to tell complete strangers the story.

Oddly, when Little Warrior is with me, I don't mind it. In fact, there's something in me that wants to let people know she's a cancer survivor. (Knockwoodpleasegodsofar). She's fat and a bundle of energy. I want people to know that babies can get cancer and can beat it. (Knockwoodpleasegodsofar).

But in this situation ... didn't like it. Didn't want to be The Parent of a Baby Who Had Cancer.

Just wanted to be me. Plain ole Lizard Eater.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Okay, I Fell For It

Ben turned me on to Wolf Warning, an article about a website that pastors can use to note troublemakers who go from church to church. Intriguing idea, but not so much with the "let's heal this person."

I admit, I read the article and fell for it.

Then I noticed some of the other articles on the site -- Bible code predicts Tenn. woman's hangnail, Southern Baptists launch pre-emptive strikes against Assemblies of God, etc.

Okay, so it's like a religious version of The Onion. Pretty funny stuff, though. Like this:

Kirk Cameron cut from Growing Pains commentary

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Time for "Much, Much"

(And can it be used in our congregations ...)

Kids go through phases. Now that we are parents of 4, when one of ours is going through a particularly naughty phase, we just look at each other and give the call: "Time for 'Much, Much.'"

This is our slang for "Much discipline, much love." It has been our experience that when you've got a kid acting out, the best way of handling it is two-pronged.

The first "Much" -- man, we are on that kid like white on rice. If they so much as roll their eyes, we're getting them back in line. We become little commandants. We want it to be real clear that their behavior tain't appropriate and it's not going to fly. Our normal flexibility takes a backseat. (This is all non-physical. Although, I have been told that I can give a look that physically causes a cold sweat to appear on the back of the neck.)

The second "Much" is just as important. Much love. Lots of listening when the kid wants to talk, lots of hugs and kisses, one-on-one time, etc.

So far, it works.

This is kind of an interesting idea when you think of applying it to church members who are "acting out." I'm not talking about honest disagreement, but rather the members who are behaving in an inappropriate fashion, via triangulating, being antagonistic, etc.

There are some members who come to our church and either they are hurt, or they genuinely don't know the appropriate way to relate to others.

They need our help in healing. But they also need to know that certain behaviors are not acceptable.

I know that I've seen my own church go both ways -- either tolerating behavior that shouldn't be tolerated, or coming down hard on a member with no balance the other way.

What if we gave them Much Much ... very clear direction as to what is unacceptable, but at the same time, a clear show that they are welcome and valued. Following up a "talking to" with an invitation to come to your covenant group. Or, "hey, you're coming to Potluck or Saturday, right?" And then the next time you meet, extending more attention. "How did your dentist appointment go?"

With kids, the big thing is to let them know that whereas their behavior might be unacceptable, they are very much acceptable. They are valued. They are loved.

I'm not a kid, but I know that's what I want, too.