Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Thoughts on Grieving...Carpe Diem...No Regrets...

A longtime friend of ours lost his father this morning. 
After a hospitalization here they moved him in recent months to live in the city they live in about 3 1/2 hours from here. It appears as if he slowly declined over these months and finally his body gave out.

BAM!!!! I felt blind-sided by the cacophony and tide-pull of yucky feelings that I experienced one and a half years ago when my mom passed away after a seven month decline and hospice care. 

I was surprised by how strongly this triggered some painful memories and awful feelings from the last year of my mom's life.
Some similarities are there for sure, but there are pointed differences as well.
So I am processing and I guess inviting any of you who read this along for the journey.

Both my mother and our friend's father were extremely strong-willed, independent people. 
They met once when I took my mom out for breakfast at a local restaurant and our friend was there with his mom and dad. The minute my mom, Fae and his dad, Lou started talking it was evident that they both had sized each other up and weren't about to let the other one out-opine or out-maneuver the other in the opinion and strong will department. We laughed about it later, but at the time I remember feeling like a little kid and being very uncomfortable in the presence of this undercurrent of equally strong personalities.
They would not have been buddies that enjoyed hanging out with one another.

Lou left the security of his family and struck out on his own because nobody was going to tell him what to do or how to live his life. He did quite well in life as far as making a living and being self-sufficient.
My mom also left the security of the family farm and became a city girl at a very young age for basically the same reasons. She didn't want to fit in someone else's mold for her. She also did quite well for herself.

Both of my mom and Lou were hard people to get close to and to feel you ever really would be let in or know very deeply. They seemed to keep most people at "arm's length".

Even in their declining years they had discomforting similarities.
Neither one wanted others to help him or her and made it difficult to do so even when there were times and situations they could NOT possibly manage on their own. By the time you got around to convincing him or her to accept your help it was not the sweet affair it could have been. Very frustrating!

My mom and I struggled on and off over our lifetime together with our relationship. Lou and his son struggled in the years after his mom's death for a number of years. God granted me the last 7-8 months of my mom's life to change my heart and attitude towards her which amazingly drew her heart out towards me in new and sweetly beautiful ways.
Our friend had just these past few months where that happened, but as his wife said, "It's bittersweet to watch the transformation in the way Lou is relating to him and him to Lou!"

And here is where I've experienced the painful triggers and emotional minefield these past two days.
I have to constantly remember that God GAVE me SEVEN MONTHS of loving and caring for my mom and letting her respond in kind. It was weird and wonderful and too short. Often I felt that critical voice in my head screaming, "Too little, Too late Marsha!!!" Not to mention the hurdles that jump in front of me on a bad day that says, "You put your mother in a nursing home?!?!?!" Even though she refused to come to our home and seeing to her caregiving needs in either our home and definitely in her apartment was quickly disappearing as an option.
When this voice nags at me or screams at me, I have to remind myself of the amazing times together and the redemption within our relationship that was wrought over those 7 months! I need to be forever grateful for what I HAD and not focus on the "if only" and "what if I had_____sooner" fruitless thoughts. 

Now to my point:
Part of the grieving process, if anyone is totally honest, IS the "If only" and "What if". It may or may not be an untruth, a lie the enemy parks in an unguarded part of my mind, but I think that there are legitimate regrets that come with living life as an imperfect human in an imperfect world.
The challenge or the question is, "How do I acknowledge these regrets without dwelling on them or obsessing over them?" More importantly, "How can I grow and learn from this very human dilemma I've experienced?"

I spent time this morning with a friend having tea and talking about my sadness and then praying together for our friend and my own responses triggered by the events of the past 36 hours.
Let me preface this next part by saying that this sweet friend lost a child when he was still a baby and knows the many faces and pitfalls of the lifelong grieving process only too well.
She said that in her opinion part of the grieving process is when someone you care about loses someone in their life and is in the yucky place, for lack of a better description, you relate only too well and sometimes it triggers all those feelings you thought you were done with. You relate because you care for them and you know only too well what they are going through, maybe not exactly as everyone mourns and grieves differently, but in the big picture and even some of the more intimate ways...YOU KNOW...and this makes you sad for them.
The beauty of this is you can offer the gift of empathy and the Bible talks about that in II Corinthians 1:3-5. The NIV version says it best. This is indeed a gift and not to be taken lightly.

Another component of this is that although I may feel feelings from that "yucky place" and it's tentacles threaten to pull me under, I can stand in the Present and remember that I am no longer there and this other person's pain and sorrow is THEIR pain and sorrow, not mine. I do not have to, nor should I, stay there, camp out there! No, indeed I need to remember where I've come from and where I've come to in my own journey and in that I can offer others the real reassurance that this total immersion into the surreal, murky, netherworld of fresh, raw loss and grief is only for a time, only for a season! 

The other takeaway ,at least for me, has been to fully BE in the present moment, not cheat myself, others or God by not fully engaging in my time with others. 
Not put off those ideas or thoughts that present themselves to me at times. You know what I'm talking about. "Hmmm, I really ought to call...or wouldn't it be neat to...or I wish that (this person) and I would spend more time together." 
It's made me painfully aware of how easy technology has made it to rob ourselves and others of UNDIVIDED ATTENTION. So, the cell is getting turned off and/or ignored more and more when I am with others or having a quiet time with the Lord.

As I write this post, my husband has come home and is waiting for me to finish up so we can have the yummy dinner I made and watch a movie together and catch up with each other about our day.

So, I hope this wasn't more glum than I meant for it to be, nor preachy.
I would very much like to hear from anyone who happens across this post as far as their thoughts on all of this.

But, now, I need to seize this moment in time and be fully present with my husband!

Monday, January 23, 2012

2 Sausage Recipes

Here are two sausage recipes that several of you requested.

The first one is a family recipe from my mom's family:

Sausage Rice Casserole

1 lb. pork sausage
1 large onion
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1/2 bunch celery, chopped
1 c. raw rice (not instant!) I used brown rice
1 1/2 pkg. Lipton chicken noodle soup
1/4 lb. slivered almonds
4 1/2 c. water (more if needed during baking time)

Brown onion, celery, and sausage.
Add next 4 ingredients.
Bake at 350-375 for 1 1/2 hours in 9x13 baking pan or casserole dish.
Stir 2-3 times adding water if necessary.

This next one is from Schnucks. Erin and I tried a sample of it that they were prepping in the store.
This can easily be converted to vegetarian substituting tofu salsiccia and vegetable broth for the chicken broth.
I adapted it to our tastes as well.

Italian Sausage and Spinach Soup

1 lb. fresh Italian sausage (salsiccia) I used ground if you use links you may want to remove casings
1 container (20 oz.) refrigerated fresh precut soup starter mix veggies (onions, celery, and carrots)
1 pkg. white mushrooms sliced (I used baby bellas)
1 Tblspn refrigerated Gourmet Garden chunky garlic blend (It's in the produce dept.)
1 carton (32 oz.) less-sodium chicken broth (or use your own!)
1 can 15 oz.) traditional tomato sauce 
1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes with basil, garlic, and oregano
1 c. dry campanella pasta (I used short whole wheat egg noodles)
2 c. packed fresh spinach, coarsely chopped (Next time I will pack it more or just use more!)
8 oz. package provolone cheese, diced ( I used the sharp type)
1/4 c. shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/4 c. thinly sliced fresh basil leaves

1. In 5-6 qt sauce pot, cook sausage over med-high heat 6-7 minutes or until browned, breaking up with spoon. Add soup starter veggies and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in mushrooms and garlic and cook 3 minutes longer or until veggies are tender.

2. Add broth, tomato sauce, and diced tomatoes with their juice; heat to boiling. Stir in dry pasta; reduce heat and simmer until pasta is al dente, about 10 minutes.
Add Spinach and stir until wilted. Makes about 8 cups.

3. Divide provolone between each of 4 bowls; ladle soup over provolone. Sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano and basil to serve.

Hint: I completed all the prep through letting pasta get al dente in step 2 the day before.
         When we were ready to eat it all I had to do was add the spinach and wilt it and then garnish.
          You can play with this recipe, even trying chorizo sausage and use mexican seasoned diced 
          tomatoes and maybe an asiago or mexican cheese.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Sick of being SICK!!!!

Hallelujah!! I am back!!!
Man! I had the sinus bug that has evidently been going around and ever since the Thursday before New Year's Day I have been pretty much out of it.
Last week the doc started me on antibiotics, the 3-day one, and finally today for the first time I almost feel "normal" whatever that is.
I lived for three weeks on the couch in front of the television, reading soooo many books on my Kindle, on Facebook, playing Words With Friends (and getting very aggravated that the rest of you wouldn't play immediately after my turn :), and letting my amazing hunk of a husband prepare all our meals. He rocks!!!
Now, his meals were so delicious, I'm sure, but the sad part was that until today I had hardly any ability to taste anything and very little appetite.

I'd like to think that I learned something over this recuperation period.

So let's see:
1. I complain about how I feel way too much!
2. Fred doesn't let that behavior get to him...I would however!
3. One of the good things about technology is that while I was on "vocal rest" as per doctor's orders, I could still stay in touch with everyone via text, email, and Facebook.
4. I have a long way to go in my learning process of how to just rest and lean into these times instead of resisting it and probably drawing out the healing process a lot longer!
5. Being still is still a struggle for me, but I did get some sweet times with God during all those days, as well as days of wrestling with Him.
6. When I feel bad I am not a very graceful person, but THIS TIME, I didn't snap at Fred. Instead I was so very grateful to him and God for his sweet, servant's heart towards me that his deposits in my heart bank are overflowing and I responded appropriately instead of like a b_ _ ch!
7. My voice is a gift and to trash it by singing when so sick (church New Year's Day) is not good stewardship. I learned that it takes much longer to get it back after staining it like that and that permanent damage is possible. (Adele- vocal chord hemorrhage)
8. I don't take my good health for granted ever, but I also don't always care for it as I should.
9. I have one of the best doctors around!!! Love him!
10. God has slowed me down YET AGAIN to be still and know Him!!!  This alone is worth the illness!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Was it a good year or a bad year or just a year?

I'm back! Hopefully a little more regularly than I have been for a bit, but that remains to be seen.
2011 is put away and 2012 is now in style.
I wanted to list the highlights of the past annum with pictures following below.


1. Erin and Matt got pregnant, baby due in early May 2012!!
2. FW Lang Contracting has stayed in business despite the economy and the downturn in the building trades.
3. The Cardinals won the World Series after having been written off!
4. Fred and I were able to go to Hawaii (Maui) to whale watch last February.
5. Jessi graduated from the one year BSN program at Regis in May AND got the job she wanted WHERE she wanted it!!! I am so proud of her!
6. The entire family went on a one week vacation to Grand Lake, Colorado this summer and stayed in a beautiful, large home in the mountains...and all got along and loved it!! :)
7. July marked the one year anniversary of my mom's home going to be with the Lord.
8. We got to go to Colorado twice in the year to see Jessi and Kurt and they came here twice and Jessi three times!
9. Fred and I also got to use a "leftover" week in Florida at our favorite condo on Blue Mountain Beach in September and the weather was spectacular!! Very reasonable trip!!
10. We got to stop on the way home from Florida for a couple of days to spend time with our sweet friends, the Clowers, who moved to Chattanooga, TN in June:( (Highlight/Lowlight:)
11. Thanksgiving we had the entire clan here as Jessi and Kurt got to make it in for one of the two big holidays! It was chaotic and fun!
12. We have finally "landed" in a church home, U City Family Church. We meet at The Tivoli Theater. Fred and I have just started leading worship the first Sunday of the month. It's a sweet group of people and very reflective of Fred's and my vision for the local church. Love them!
13. My first year of mourning my mom (and officially being an orphan) is over!
14. I finished my writing of Fred's and my Lang Family Journey with the Lord thus far. Now looking for photos to put with it and how I want to "publish" it for the kids and their families.
15. Oh, in June we had a little celebration lunch for Fred's parents' 60th wedding anniversary at their home with most of the immediate family present.
16. Christmas, although different this year, was actually one of the sweetest times I remember for a long time. 
17. I am learning two "new languages"...iPhone and MacBook :):) and not doing too bad I must say!
18.  Erin and I started gentle yoga classes and I will continue doing this, hopefully for the rest of my life. I LOVE it!! It's been fun going together with my pregnant daughter! (Thanks Living Social:)
19. Fred and I have been enjoying doing some recording and even have an mp3 of 4 1/2 year old Sonya doing a session with us. She has a gorgeous voice! (And Teddy has great rhythm!)
20. I took 8 bass lessons to motivate me to start practicing more regularly, challenging yet, a much needed kick in the butt. (Thank you again "Living Social"!)
21. Josh, left the company he had worked with for several years, worked briefly for another company and returned to his old job being offered just what he requested! Proud of him too!
22. Erin started a new job in August at an Aveda salon (Fleur de Lis on Chippewa , by Ted Drew's) and is flourishing as a stylist there. I love going there! So proud of her!
23. This year has been a year of God's redemption and healing being poured out on our family in ways too countless to enumerate and in ways that I am not at liberty to fully share, but suffice it to say that God "restored the years (2009-2010 to start with) the locusts have eaten away"!