You think YOU've got Family Problems?

It's ironic that the time of year that's supposed to be about family togetherness, thankfulness, good cheer is--all too often--an unfortunate reminder of just how flawed most families are. It's certainly nothing new.

Remember Joseph? The son of clan patriarch Jacob (who got the title of "oldest" son by tricking his father and brother), Joseph was clearly daddy's favorite. And he had no trouble reminding all his brothers of that fact.

When they tired of listening to him gloat and feeling "less than," they threw him down a well. They at least had conscience enough not to leave him there to die, so they sold him to a passing Egyptian caravan to be a slave.

He did work his way into a place of favor and
when his family needed his help years later when faced with famine, he forgave them and took them in with the famous line "What you intended for evil, God intended for good."

It can be hard to imagine that some bad family dynamics can be used for good, but at least there's always that glimmer of hope. I know I've got a long list of ways my family was (and is) far from perfect. Some of those experiences taught me things to avoid in my own life; some give me better understanding of others. I've learned to fight fair--not to say things I really don't mean/will really regret, not to pull out the most hurtful remarks just to win a fight.

And maybe most important, I've learned that harboring grudges does nothing for me. Forgiveness isn't about setting my "hurter" free, it's about setting myself free from the bondage of the past.

A few years ago I was reminded that I've done my own share of hurting; Jesus went to the cross because of the wrong I've done. But my forgiveness is complete and He doesn't hold any of it against me. May this Thanksgiving be just such a reminder for you.

Nutted Wild Rice

This is a recipe I created a number of years ago to go as a reminder of the forgiveness Joseph offered his brothers. The combination of the grains and fruits and nuts is symbolic of putting aside differences and coming together.

1 cup mixed long grain and wild rice
2 1/4 cups chicken broth
1/2 teasp. curry powder (this isn't a curry dish, the curry powder just adds a nice depth)
1/3 cup diced, mixed dried fruit (peaches, apricots, apples, raisins, etc)
1/3 cup toasted slivered almonds
1/3 cup toasted pecan or walnut halves
3 tbsp butter (optional)

Bring chicken broth to rolling boil; add mixed rice and curry powder.

Return to boil, then reduce heat to medium, cover and simmer for 30 to 35 minutes or until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender. Remove from heat.

Stir in fruit and nuts, cover and let stand for 5 minutes.

Add butter; fluff with fork before serving.

It's a great side dish with turkey (could be a really nice change of pace to go with the leftovers); throw some chopped turkey in to heat through in the last 5 minutes of cooking and it can be a one-dish meal.
We're heading out for most of the holiday week. Although we're going to a very civilized place, internet reception will be spotty at best (whatever will I do?!).

So if you're looking for something new to read, head over to
5 Minutes for Mom and read a little more about me and why I blog.

I have one post in the works that will help you face any family challenges and use up some of your leftover turkey in a yummy new way, so check back for that.

And if I'm not around to respond to comments or visit your blogs, have a blessed holiday. I look forward to catching up with you soon.


You Can't Cook if There's No Food in the House

Note: If you're here because you googled "no food in the house," take a look at this post for some more ideas.

My mom wasn't much of a stocker-upper. We did our grocery shopping weekly (and I do mean we--all four of us would head to the grocery store every Saturday morning); she'd plan out the week of menus and get mostly just what was needed for that week. It was a good system, if you don't mind shopping every Saturday.

With my aversion to grocery shopping though (and my desire to only buy things on sale which means buying several of certain things when they're cheap), I slowly but surely have created my own loose pantry list.

I think I first got the idea when our college group went to home of our college advisors. I know they weren't perfect, but she was very much a living example of Titus 2 and Proverbs 31 to me. And on her refrigerator hung a pantry list that included marshmellows and chocolate syrup. It never occured to me that I could personalize my "staples" that way.

Having certain ingredients on hand can help you be prepared to fix a meal without the bother of a special shopping trip. Look over the following items for those that suit your household's tastes and your cooking abilities. There are lots of good places online to get sample pantry lists you can modify for your own use.

Make a list with these categories and specify the things you will keep in your pantry or freezer. Make several copies of it and keep one in the kitchen (on the inside of a cupboard door or on the refrigerator). When you've used the last of something, be sure and add the item to your next grocery list. Whenever possible, stock up on these frequently used items when they go on sale--even if you haven't run out yet.

Flour; sugar (granulated, brown and powdered); shortening; cooking oil; margarine or butter; baking powder; baking soda; vinegar; baking mix (like Bisquick, etc.) eggs; milk; canned tuna or chicken; canned beans; peanut butter; canned tomatoes or tomato sauce, tomato paste; frozen veggies; frozen meats, etc.
oregano; sage; pepper; salt; chili powder; garlic powder (or crushed garlic); onion powder (or dehydrated onion); bay leaves; dried soup mixes (onion, garlic and herb, etc); basil; rosemary
soy sauce; Worcestershire sauce; ketchup; molasses; cream soups (cream of mushroom, chicken, celery, etc); prepared mustard; salad dressings; other marinades
potatoes; rice; pastas (linguine or spaghetti, rotinni or corkscrew, other fun shapes/flavors); a few packages of rice or pasta-and-sauce side dishes
Holiday-themed pasta, cake mixes, sprinkles, canned pumpkin, cranberries….

If you keep all of those kinds of things stocked, and you shop as needed for fresh produce and meats you should always be able to put together a basic meal. My "I have no idea what's for dinner tonight" meals include chili (tomato sauce, kidney beans, ground meat, spices) and a variety of dishes using some combination of meat (chicken, canned salmon) pasta, sauce (marinara or alfredo) and a veggie.

Another standard that I can always throw together in a pinch is a simple red sauce. With just slight variations I use it for spaghetti, pizza, lasagna, even chicken parmesan. It tastes better than prepared spaghetti sauce; it's cheaper, and almost as quick. And because it's made with basics from my pantry, I can always prepare a tasty meal at a moment's notice.

Red sauce
10 oz can tomato sauce
6 oz can tomato paste (for spaghetti or lasagna, use 2 cans sauce to 1 can tomato paste.)
1/4 teaspoon crushed garlic (or 1 clove minced fresh garlic)
1/4 cup dehydrated onion (rehydrate in 1/4 cup hot water)
1/4 cup chopped green pepper (buy when on sale, slice or chop, and freeze for future use)
oregano, basil, rosemary; bay leaf; salt and pepper

Combine ingredients in skillet or saucepan. Add seasonings; simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. If desired, brown ground meat (turkey or hamburger), add to sauce and simmer for an additional 10 to 15 minutes. Prepare pasta according to package, add sauce. Serves 4.

For pizza sauce or bread stick dipping sauce, use 1 can tomato sauce to 1 can tomato paste, season to taste, spread on prepared crust and add favorite toppings. Bake according to directions for crust.

There's one other level of satisfaction from having a well stocked pantry that's a little less tangible, but in our current economy it's gaining importance. Sometimes, when something comes up and it's clear there's going to be more month than money before the next paycheck, there's a quiet confidence in knowing that even if I can't swing a shopping trip this week, we will eat and I even have enough to share with a food drive or someone in need. And anything I can do to help eliminate one small bit of worry or stress is well worth the effort.

She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.
When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
Proverbs 31:20-21
Next up--brine yourself before you brine your turkey!

Shopping for savings

Last year when we did our taxes and I took a good look at the itemized summary from the bank, I was surprised and somewhat disheartened to see just how much we'd spent on casual meals over the year. It would be one thing if those meals had been memorable or could count as "entertainment" in and of themselves. But they really didn't. Lack of planning, lack of energy, lack of creativity, (lack of desire to clean up after) all added up to a lack of wisdom in where and how our food money was spent.

If you're like me, the first area to cut back when money gets tight is eating out. And if you're like me, now is definitely one of those times of life when we need to be watching our spending carefully. So that means cooking at home more.

One thing I do know, is that it's hard to cook when there's no food in the house. When I was in college I rented a room from a family with 5 daughters. In addition to teaching me that I'm not cut out for the large family thing (too much noise and commotion for me!), I also found out that I don't want to be in a situation where I have to go to the market every day for dinner fixings. It costs more in time and money to always be doing dinner on the fly.
In case you missed it, I really don't like grocery shopping that much. So, out of self-preservation, I've had to create some strategies that allow me to spend as little time (and money) as possible when shopping for food.

When Hubs and I were first married, my trips to the supermarket depended upon when the checking account could finance a basket full of groceries. Eventually I discovered that with a little planning, it's possible to have a well-stocked pantry and money left in the bank. You don't have to do all of these things; incorporating just one or two new strategies can make an impact on your bank account.

I've learned to plan my menu around what is in season and inexpensive; to buy basic foods that can be used a variety of ways and to keep certain items on hand all the time so there is always a quick, inexpensive meal option. I read the newspaper ads for the best deals on groceries and I stock up on pantry items when they're on sale.

Some shopping pros suggest using a small spiral-bound notebook with one page each for items you commonly purchase. Track the prices, both sale and regular, at the stores you typically shop, and then buy the items (including meat and produce) only when they're available at the lowest price. (Here's a great source for a printable grocery-tracking booklet.)

I know that I never need to pay more than $1.99 a pound for any of the kinds of meat I typically use; whole chickens are often available for as little as .59 per pound, and nearly everything is on sale at some time. I buy fresh fruits and vegetables at their prime season, always trying to stay below .99/lb.

I became a coupon clipper. With some planning, I spend less than three hours a month in the grocery store. My grocery shopping preparation goes like this:

  • Check my master pantry list for items we are out of or low on.
  • Pull the coupons from the Sunday paper.
  • Quickly scan the coupons, keeping only those for items I know we'll use, discard the others. (If you get really serious about couponing, you can ask friends and family to keep their coupon inserts for you.)
  • Check store ads to see what items are on sale (I actually cut out the little picture from the paper so I am sure I remember the brand, size, quantity limits, etc. I use the pictures as my "list").
  • Organize coupons, etc according to the layout of the store--dairy items together, frozen items, produce, meat, etc. (This helps ensure that I don't forget anything and I'm not traipsing back and forth searching for things.)
  • Put list/photos, coupons and ad information together for when I'm ready to shop (often in an otherwise to-be-discarded junk mail envelope.

Shopping this way helps eliminate impulse buys. My policy is to only buy things that are on sale and pretty much only things we use on a regular basis. My pantry isn't full of odd items that were "a really good deal" that we'll never eat.

Because I shop so seldom and only buy items at or near their lowest price, I stock up. I'll typically buy 3 or 4 each of the non-perishables on my list. That way I'm sure to always have what I need for our most typical menus and won't have to run to the store for something to complete a recipe. When I get down to the last one or two, I start watching for it to be on sale again.

There are a lot of great sites that can help you become one of those shoppers where the stores almost pay you to take things home. The Grocery is helpful because it lets you know what the lowest expected price is over a several week span as well as when there are coupons to use on those items, so you really can buy things at the best possible price. I think it's helpful to have the 'pros' do all the legwork for you until you catch on to the system.

It takes a little more effort to be intentional about shopping and saving money, but once I got the hang of it, I've been surprised to find that shopping carefully and cooking at home can save both money and time, leaving more of each for more interesting and meaningful pursuits!

Go to the ant...Observe her ways and be wise, (she) prepares her food in the summer and gathers her provision in the harvest. Proverbs 6:6-8

Up next--planning your pantry

Cookin' up something

The Holidays are coming. Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and about a dozen events in between today and New Years day. The one thing most of them have in common is the tradition of lots of homemade food.

Whether you are a day-in, day-out cook or not, there's something about The Holidays that draws out our inner Martha Stewart (or at least Rachel Ray or Sandra Lee) and pulls us into the kitchen.

True confession time....

I don't really like to cook.

Actually, I do like to make fancy desserts and special occasion dishes; it's just those daily breakfast, lunch and dinner meals that I can't get all excited about.

In the years before I was married my pantry contained thirty varieties of tea, a huge assortment of spices, flour and sugar (I had a set of canisters--I knew what to put in them), various types of pasta, and several boxes of Jell-o.

During that time, as near as I can recall, I lived primarily on yogurt, stuffing mix, ramen noodles, and macaroni and cheese.

And I ate out.

A lot.

It wasn't that I didn't know how to cook. My mom started teaching my sister and me kitchen basics before I reached junior high school. She worked full time and would often leave instructions for minor dinner preparations. We started with simple things like peeling potatoes and putting them on to boil, mixing up cornbread or baking powder biscuits, and graduated to preparing a baked chicken or simple spaghetti sauce from scratch.

By high school, my sister and I were each responsible for dinner one night a week. We chose the menu and prepared the meal, learning lessons about how to plan a balanced menu and get all the food to the table hot at the same time.

After I moved out on my own though, I found that the fresh foods I was used to eating spoiled before I could use them up. I also learned that I would rather go to the dentist than to the grocery store. It's hard to prepare a real meal if there's no food in the house, so I just never got into the habit of cooking.

But a funny thing happened after I got married. I still didn't like to cook (or shop for food), but suddenly, I felt responsible for making sure my husband had nutritious, good food to eat. Before the wedding, I didn't mind if we ate fast food several times a week. After, it bothered me that he would be content eating cold cereal two out of three meals a day. Add toast and PB&J or grilled cheese and you've got the boys' default menu too.

I'm still not fond of grocery shopping, and I don't like spending a lot of time in the kitchen either. But I do find an unexpected sense of satisfaction when I prepare a tasty, healthy meal for a fraction of the price of eating out. And now that we've added kids to the table, it's even more important than when it was just the two of us (and frankly, eating out with kids isn't the relaxing experience it used to be).

God is the ultimate example of providing for those in His care. We demonstrate our care for those we love, and thus reflect God's love as we make efforts to provide healthy, appealing foods for the people we care for. While this is a factor all the time, I'm trying to remember it especially as I begin holiday preparations. I want the meals and goodies and celebrations to be more service than stress and ultimately one more gift to offer my loved ones.
"My God shall supply all your needs according to his riches in Christ Jesus."
Philippians 4:19

"She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family..."
Proverbs 31:15a

Up to simplify shopping--and save money while you're at it!


Since we haven't been much of anyplace in a loooong time, we decided to take a last-minute mini-trip to Grandma's in honor of having a couple of days off this week.
Got a room at a nearby motel that we've stayed at before (and had internet). But this time we got a second-floor room (farther from the front desk and the only wireless signal). When I called to see why I couldn't connect, the night-guy didn't tell me that the rooms aren't wireless and he didn't tell me that they had dsl modems to use.
So, all my grand plans to type to my hearts' content after all my guys were sleeping didn't materialize. Maybe I needed sleep more than I needed to be on the computer!

The mind of man plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.
Proverbs 16:9

All that to say, check back tomorrow-ish. With all the shopping/cooking/feasting on the horizon I'm working on a couple things about finding purpose in the process.

A Woman of Strength

I stopped by Lysa TerKeurst's site Monday and she was telling how her usual 4 mile run turned into a half marathon by accident. I can't imagine!

I've kind of always hated strenuous physical activity. I used my asthma to be virtually excused from most running-related PE classes. When I got to high school and we got to choose which sports we'd do for our PE classes, I chose things like played doubles tennis (you only had to cover half the court), badminton and bowling (I can still keep score without using the computerized scoring system.)

Eventually I all but gave up the "E" word (exercise). I don't know who first said it, but I heartily agreed with the sentiment, "Whenever I get the urge to exercise, I lie down until the feeling passes."

Once my school days were past, I figured I was home free—no one would pressure me to participate in sports or to "exercise." I fell well within the normal/healthy weight range for my age. I could walk the half-mile or so down the street to get an ice cream cone or a muffin without any trouble, and how strong did I need to be to work at a computer, anyway?

Apparently, I needed to be stronger than I was! When I began to have chronic neck and shoulder pain both on the job and off, I was sent to see a specialist. He confirmed that I had tendonitis and was on the verge of carpal tunnel syndrome. I hoped (and expected) his first recommendation to be to change the configuration of my workspace, which I suspected was the source of my trouble. But the first thing he said when he saw my poor grip-strength was that I needed to be stronger.

"Exercise." he said.

"Work with weights." he said.

"WHAT?!" I thought, "I work at a computer!"
I left that job a few months later, and most of my pain went with it, so I kind of forgot about needing to be stronger.

Until I had my first child, that is.

It doesn't take too much strength to carry around an eight or ten pound baby, but they don't stay that small. As Bug grew, I noticed how weak my lower back was. I was a little concerned about being one of those women who threw my back out lifting my son and initiating a lifetime of back troubles.

When Bug was just over a year old and I could no longer put off trying to get rid of the rest of my "baby fat," we purchased a coupon book that had lots of local services. Mixed in with the free oil changes and haircuts was a month's free membership to a women's-only gym that I'd heard good things about.

When I told Hubs I wanted to go, I know he held his breath for fear I'd snap back to my senses and put the notion out of my mind. (As gracious as he always is, I knew it bothered my athlete husband that I never shared his passion for working up a good sweat.)

My first day, I got to the "pull-up machine"—a simple bar that you grasp with hands together and pull up to shoulder height, then push down as hard as possible to maximize the resistance. I couldn't believe when that same old weak shoulder resurfaced! I hadn't worked at the injury-inducing job for almost eight years, and didn't do anything else I could think of to hurt it. But it was clear with each pull and push that my dominant right arm was struggling to carry its share of the weight!

I faithfully worked out four times that week though, and the second week my right shoulder didn't bother me a bit! (I guess the good doctor knew what he was talking about after all.)

After just a couple weeks I dropped one size and reduced my body fat percentage. But I was especially happy to see the increased flexibility and general strength, which was important for being able to sit cross-legged on the floor for assorted toddler activities. I have to admit that since Boo came along, I haven't managed to make fitness a priority; I need to change that.

It's easy for me to feel that it's more important to focus on inner strength rather than outer strength. And it probably is. But if I see my body as God's dwelling place and an important aspect of being ready to serve, then I need to put my external well being on par with other qualities I focus on.

"She girds herself with strength,
And makes her arms strong."
Proverbs 31:17

How do you keep yourself strong? Is it a challenge or a priority to you?

On voting. (No politics allowed)

"Hey Hun, I'm heading over to Roger's* garage to vote."

"Where's Roger's Garage? I've never heard of a mechanic's shop as a polling place."

"No, not Roger's Garage, Roger's garage...the garage at Roger's house. That's where our polling place is."

Ok, so that fictitious conversation didn't really take place after breakfast this morning, but it could have. The only places I've ever cast a ballot has been a school or a church.

Have you ever walked down the block to vote in your neighbor's garage? Maybe it's commonplace, but when I flipped over my sample ballot to see which school to report to, I was really surprised to see the location read "Garage, 123 Main St."
You'd think that maybe we live in a one horse, one-school, no-church town or something that we have to resort to having voters report to their neighbor's garage, but nope. Nearly 90,000 people, most in single family homes (so it's not like we're so densely urban there's no choice!). I live less than 1/2 mile from at least 5 schools, and probably as many churches.
But, even though it's not the posh accomodations of the school library, after I drop Boo at preschool, I'll be heading over to 'Roger's garage' to cast my ballot.

What about you? Have you voted?

I remember turning 18 just days before the deadline to register for that year's presidential election. I'd had political opinions since the campaign to elect Snoopy for President when I was in first or second grade. I was really excited to finally be able to contribute my little opinion to the fray.

Eight years ago, a newly-minted American-citizen friend of mine got to cast his first vote for an American president. I was touched by the sobriety of the experience for him. To have come from a nation where elections are more sham than sure, it meant the world to him to join the democratic process of his chosen home. Sadly, the import of it all was lost on most of our peers.
Now that Civics education is not a priority in schools**, I'm afraid the generation or two behind me is losing the significance of being able to voice our opinions at the polls. We're far enough away from changing the constitution to allow ALL American citizens the vote, regardless of gender, ancestry, etc. that I think we've lost some of the sense of absolute privilege that we share.

I know there's some sentiment that "one vote doesn't count," especially in the shadow of 'hanging chad's' and such, but ask the citizens of Washington if a handful of votes really makes a difference.

I lived in Washington in 2004 when the gubernatorial race was decided by 129 votes after counting, recounting and recounting the recount. I didn't feel like showing up to the polls that night. Hubs had to work late, I was sick and had a squirrely one year old to bring with me. But I kept hearing "if you don't vote you have no right to complain" in my head. I dragged myself and Bug down the road (in the rain of course, it was Washington after all) to cast my ballot.

As the days dragged into nearly 6 weeks before the election was called, I was glad that I had done my one little part. If just the equivalent of the people from my church stayed home (or showed up) that night, the outcome could have been totally different.

I'm not going to get into the issues or the candidates or anything like that. I'm just going to voice my point of view that however flawed our system may be with the popular vote not necessarily declaring the outcome if the electorate goes differently, or because we vote in garages instead of hallowed halls, I am grateful for the opportunity and I hope you'll join me at the polls.
1 Peter 2:13-17
Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.

I'd love to hear about your voting experiences, but please don't post any comments with political points of view or candidate preferences. That's not really the point here.

* Not his real name.

**I have no idea what's on the rest of this site and don't endorse or dispute any of the content; I just thought this particular article addressed the topic well.

Not so happy anniversary

One year ago today was the single most stressful day I've ever had.

The day after Boo's birthday, my uncle went in for an out-patient gallstone removal. By Wednesday he was in ICU with pancreatitis. By Friday he'd gone into cardiac arrest and didn't regain consciousness.

When the call came to meet the rest of the clan at the hospital on Saturday “to decide what to do about Al,” I knew the expected outcome from the very nature of the invitation. After all, no one has to ‘decide what to do’ about a loved one who can decide what to do for themselves, right?

The burden of deciding life and death for someone weighs heavier than anything I’d ever experienced. It would take much more than a single blog entry to explain the full spectrum of emotions and experiences of that day. So many things at play--doctors detached information, family dynamics, age and life experience vs. relative youth and (naive?) optimism...

For me though, the whole day hinged on the moment that afternoon that Al unexpectedly regained consciousness. I didn't understand why the "elders" of the group didn't go to see him when we received word. Finally my sister and I went upstairs, in essence to say our goodbyes.

She and I stood on different sides of the bed and he looked back and forth to us as we each talked. He responded to our conversation by raising his eyebrows and making facial gestures. It was clear he wanted to speak, but with the tubes in his mouth, it was basically taped shut. I placed my hand on his right shoulder; the only spot that seemed to be free of tubes and monitors. I don’t know if he felt it too, but I had an overwhelming need to be tangibly connected to him at that moment. I hoped my touch would be comforting.

My sister did a better job with the conversation than I did. “Are you in pain?” she asked. He replied with closed eyes and a slight shake of his head. “Has the doctor been in to tell you what’s happening?” A look of bewilderment mingled with a tinge of panic accompanied another shake of his head. A lot of the conversation isn’t clear in my memory—it was hazy even at that moment as I tried to process how to look my dear uncle in the eyes knowing he was about to be disconnected from us in the most permanent possible way and no one had explained it to him.

Even so, several moments of our time with him are etched into my mind with laser-clarity. Almost as an afterthought I remembered to tell him, “Thank you for sending the gift card for Boo's birthday. It was really thoughtful of you.” If I had any doubt that he was fully conscious and fully comprehending what we were saying, it was completely erased when he raised his hand from laying on the bed and moved it to his heart as if to say “I love Boo.” I nearly lost all composure. “We love you too.” I choked out, stroking his shoulder.

To make an intensely long story more blog-appropriate, I'll skip the details to say that we were finally able to convince my dad (as next of kin) to talk to my uncle himself. My dad explained what the doctor said about the pending need for dialysis as his kidneys were failing and the probable need for a long convalescence should he recover enough to leave the hospital at all.

At the end of all those details, my dad asked "Are you ready to go?" Al shook his head "no." "Do you want to continue to fight this?" He nodded his head yes. Despite the conversations they'd had in the past, when faced with the actual decision to choose between life and death--even with the uncertainty that life going forward could be like the life behind--my uncle chose life.

I experienced a palpable relief as I learned that the decision was made by the only one who really mattered in the equation. We got to spend some unburdened moments with him before we left the hospital that evening with a promise to return in the morning.

I was preparing to head to the hospital when I got the call that he passed that morning. While I was (and am) so sad that we never had that next visit, I was (and am) glad that he left this world on his terms, not anyone else's. When a person knows the Lord these goodbyes are sad but not without hope. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case with my uncle; I think that's why the events of the day were so weighty.

I learned some things from that terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day that have changed me forever. I learned that the will to live is far stronger than we recognize. I learned that decisions we make when we are healthy may not be how we feel when we are not healthy. And maybe most significantly, I learned that "quality of life" means something entirely different when it's your own life that's in question.

Thinking of you, Uncle Al. You are missed.

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