Sunday, February 21, 2016

Lenten Commitments Never Easy!

This made me laugh but isn't this how life goes much of the time!?
As my readers know, I have recently discontinued a very long term treatment called the Marshall Protocol. No, I did not "give it up for Lent"! This treatment did however involve a radical elimination of Vitamin D which was to produce "a revved up immune response" not usually sought after in most treatments! It supposedly was a way to eliminate all sorts of bacteria or parasites and anything else that my body had ceased to "keep in check".  As yet I am not sure of the results, though overall I am feeling much better.  I do know that I was chemically altered and as a result I had made many changes in my life style to make me more comfortable. In short, I had become a social recluse.

Going off of it, I decided to reverse this process and get myself out and into the world more.  Not seeing the value in shopping more, I instead reconnected with others by returning to church on a regular basis.  It seems that being without Vitamin D meant I had become quite "thin skinned" both literally and figuratively.  I stopped my meaningful and active participation in my church.  Mind you, I did this without losing my faith or beliefs, which remained intact.  I did however become super sensitive and could be quite easily offended by those around me (brain irritability being a real side effect!). I know that church collects sinners, not unlike myself, but temporarily I didn't care to hang out with them!
Warning is needed, as the world isn't all "on our side"! LOL!

Going back to church started at Christmas, as no matter what, I minimally showed up for the major holidays.  It was then that I encountered our new priest.

Catholics cycle their priests and reassign them every few years.  The new priest's homily resoundingly struck a chord with me. "We are Christmas people," he exclaimed, "and so it is our privilege to take our faith out into the world and live it!" Clearly he believed as I did, that faith to be truly lived must be taken out of the hallowed walls of beautifully decorated churches! Faith lived means sharing it and most often that is done  in actions not words. Being shut in for so long, there were only a few that came to visit me and lighten my spirits, though no doubt my altered state didn't make me so fun to be around either, but I hoped this too was about to change!

My new priest was clearly in sync with Pope Francis who believes that faith must be taken into the community to meet people where they are and our priest went on to challenge us to explore God's mercy in our lives this Lent. I think he even mentioned skipping giving up chocolate and instead of fasting, feast on God's love. While I don't think he exactly meant stocking up on chocolate, I filled my candy jars and then took to prove I was a Christmas person, shedding my confinement, and committing myself to doing simple acts of kindness. "Contrived but simple", I thought, but it didn't quite turn out to be so easy!!
Being kind might take a gold nugget chocolate reward....but isn't this Lent?!

On one of the first days of lent, I woke, determined to make good on my promise to do my little act of mercy.  That day, it involved seeking information as to how I could get some of my craft wares to the auction that was being held for my friend, Stacie Mincher.  I would lose no time in getting them where they needed to go and see about collecting items from my artsy friends and taking their's as well,  but just as I went to pick up the phone to inquire where they needed to go, my phone rang. It was another friend in need, someone I had not spoken to since before Christmas. Like myself, she is long winded and when she gets going can talk at least as long as me! Frustrated, I was none-the-less glad to hear from her and I sat down and put my feet up.

My first act of kindness clearly needed to involve patience, listening and visiting with my friend, which would take a while. The day was long, or so I thought! It quickly grew shorter and I was a bit relieved when my friend's phone went dead.  I tried calling her back, but to no avail. I realized then that my energy was running low and a bit of a nap was in order after which,  I would then get onto my well-planned "act of mercy".

This is to remind me that God is all-seeing.  He sees me and my chocolate!

Just as I was getting up from my nap, my friend called back, her phone was as revived as my body, and our conversation continued.  It was not a simple call.  My friend was stressed and seeking advice.

Apparently God had sent her to me knowing that I had just renewed my commitment to be supportive of my friends, though she was not the one that I targeted for that day. I chuckled and was reminded once again that God has a sic sense of humor that usually comes out during Lent! Making promises to Him has a way of getting me into trouble every time! He has a way of holding me to them in a rather twisted fashion!!

And this is to remind me that Jesus knows that He who laughs last, laughs best!
Minutes later my husband shoved a note under my nose. It was notifying me that my cousin had called while I was on the phone and left a message on call- waiting, that she too wanted to talk to me! She never calls unless there is something wrong! Now I knew that her call was not merely a coincidence, but rather "a God wink"! God was perhaps enjoying my dilemma and knew that my simple "act of mercy" that was centered in my pride to be "a good person" was doomed! Clearly there was going to be a rush on my good intentions.  My human limits were easily exposed!

This is what happens every Lent. God easily demonstrates just how small my sacrifices really are!  It will be a struggle to simply do one act of kindness each day this Lent. Commitments of faith aren't easy, no matter how simple!! How many more days are left in this Lenten season? Forty seems like an eternity with or without chocolate!!
Fabric therapy is always good for the soul!

Trying to "take control", I work at creating an early spring and end Lent sooner!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

There But by the Grace of God...

Facebook notice for Stacie's fund.
I am sure that everyone has known someone whose life has undergone such severe circumstances, that you have muttered to yourself, "There but by the grace of God, go I." ....and so it is with my friend and fellow crafts person, Stacie Mincher.  She had told me some time ago that she had a brain tumor that was being carefully watched by doctors, and though her comment was made casually, it didn't escape my professional nurse concern.  It was located near her pituitary gland where the optic nerves and major blood vessels converge.  No matter that it was a benign tumor, its location alone made it extremely dangerous.  Any growth and it would put pressure on the optic nerves and surgical removal would be high risk.  Her problems instantly dwarfed any we had entertained at our house despite some serious brain and neurological issues related to three out of four of us having chronic lyme disease. Stacie had, in my opinion, made a wise choice to avoid surgery as long as she could.

She wrote to us this Christmas that she was going to have surgery in January, and her optimistic attitude made it seem more like she was going to have her wisdom teeth pulled. Her announcement was matter-of-fact and she was so positive that she would soon be home for a quick recovery that we were convinced that her surgeon would have no difficulty.  We were all stunned to hear that her surgery did not go as well as hoped and that a blood vessel was nicked and she suffered a stroke in the middle of her operation.  She was kept in a medically induced coma for many days following her surgery and many wondered if she would survive.

Those that know Stacie well held hope for her, as she is one incredibly strong lady!! She has a way of defying odds and has proved to be so incredibly successful that I often told her that she was my inspiration! Her example of hard work and ingenuity has made it such that not only has she supported herself by selling her "zipper jewelry", she has proved herself to be equally as gifted in her marketing skills. Her work is in almost every well-known art gallery and boutique all over upper New England!

Stacie wasn't just my inspiration but was inspiring to others as well. She has taught many a class on recyclable art and what started with an art degree from Castleton State College has grown into experiential expertise that she gifts to others. Stacie's practical application of creative genius has made her a source of encouragement to many an artist and her winning smile and personality a good friend to all she meets. Her creative energy extends to all areas of her life.  She never lets anything get her down for long and we are all praying that this stroke will not slow her down for long!

Stacie's recovery will realistically take time however! Having had a minor stroke myself, I can tell you that much rest is needed to heal the brain, and her recovery will take some serious rehab as well! Although she has the well wishes and prayers of so many, more are welcome and donations are being collected at WWW.YOUCARING.COM/ZIPPERLADY to help defray her medical expenses. I assure you that no donation is too small. There is also a benefit auction that will be held February 20th at Vermont's very popular Frog Hollow Craft Center on Center Street in Burlington. To view many of the beautiful items being auctioned see frog hollow benefit.

"There but by the grace of God go I".... Such catastrophic events happen and doing for her as we would hope others would do for us, is what is called for here. A little help from those that care will help Stacie get back up and going.

Stacie, we are sending you our well wishes and prayers for your complete recovery and hope that our donations will  be of help during this time!! With much love and support! Jane and friends

Sunday, February 14, 2016

A Love Story for Valentine's Day

My mother, Mary "Martin" Campen.
I have just finished reading Jo Maeder's true story, When I Married My Mother: A Daughters Search for What Really Matters- And How She Found it Caring for Mama Jo. The author makes a compelling case that "until a daughter is able to truly embrace her mother and appreciate her, she is not fit to embrace the rest of the world".  I believe from experience, she is right! I took care of my mom for the last seven years of her life and it became a very defining time for me.  I appreciate that not all have this privilege and for those that have many siblings, care of a parent may not always be divisible between them for geographic or other reasons.

I did find, like this author, caring for an aging parent often means turning your life upside down and rearranging it but is well-worth the effort. The intimacy of care-taking really does test a person's faith and fortitude and causes growth and love that cannot be measured.

I am the second born child in my family out of four kids, though my younger brother died at age thirty-three. Being a middle child, I had to surrender my role of baby two times to my brother and sister. Not only were they younger, but both had medical needs that required more of my parent's care being portioned out to them. Both were born enough years later that our family seemed to be naturally divided into two different families, each with its own culture as my parents were better able to afford raising the last two children and yet my older brother and I had younger and more active parents. I think in the end, we got the better portion of their lives, though I experienced much jealousy, as suffice it to say, the younger ones were more endulged.

While my younger years were what I considered to be ideal, my teen years weren't so much. Despite my parents high level of involvement during my high school years, there was an on-going back and forth struggle to become independent. I don't think this is unusual, though not all parents were "shorted" in their own upbringings, nor had the challenges that my parents did with their younger children. My mother was the fifth of eight kids and always said she was too old or too young to get the benefits awarded to the older or younger children and my father was orphaned at an early age and raised in an orphanage. They were excellent parents to young children but our teen issues left them perplexed and conflicted between being eager for us to emancipate and not wanting to let go. The 1960's and 70's had many revolutions taking place as well that marked us as a generation very different from that of our parents. I found myself emancipated early and yet unprepared for the challenges of adulthood.

I was naive and dependent on my parents for helping me make decisions though they weren't always "in step" with my generation. As I tossed about on the winds of change,  I was fortunate to land in the office of the college psychiatrist who finished what my parents could not and left them scratching their heads as to where they went wrong! They thought I had many "screws loose" to need such support. Relating to my parents adult-to-adult was further challenged when my younger brother suffered a severe physical decline with an atypical case of Multiple Sclerosis and my younger sister was dealing with serious drug addiction problems. My parents had little time to relate to their older children or be grandparents to our children.

Life had ceased to go as my parents had planned and they had their hands full taking care of my younger brother and sister as well as their children and later they even took on the final raising of my oldest brother's son. Not only had the lives of my younger siblings unraveled but so had the lives of my parents! Parents grow with the needs of their children, but my parents were challenged with extreme needs they never imagined, ones that were beyond their planning or control!

After my dad died and my aging mother needed support, I knew what needed to be done and did it, though like Jo Maeder, the family I had emancipated from had grown very complex such that embracing the care of my mother in her senior years was no simple task. Mom had hoped to remain in her own home but got little support from my sister and was aging and often left alone with the responsibility of caring for what had become my sister's unruly teenage daughter. I was a wife and mother of two teenage girls and suffering with a chronic illness whose symptoms meant fatigue and exhaustion and was struggling to work a part time nursing job as well as tying fishing leaders at home to help support my family. Still, I didn't see any choice but to offer Mom the support she needed, never mind any inconvenience to us.

I was reminded as I read, When I Married My Mother, how  I had flown home to Denver to bring Mom to Vermont, before thinking through every step. Suddenly I was helping her dissolve her home and relocate though neither of us had a clear plan. I quite literally prayed my way through each day and still marvel, as it seemed that everything miraculously fell into place.

After bringing mom to our home, she and I busied ourselves purchasing a beautiful little show home next door to ours, as my husband's sister and her husband were hired to repair, sell and pack her home. Moving her right next door to us, we would be able to provide assistance to her on an ongoing basis while she could maintain some independence and we could still have some privacy for our family as well.

As I moved into the role of becoming mom's caretaker, I had to work at re-establishing her trust in us and the process was not always straight forward. I sought private counseling which was invaluable.  I learned to better understand that any unresolved issues I had, now needed to be resolved on my own and to accept her "as is" and go forward. Truth is "old dogs do have difficulty learning new tricks"! I had much to learn about taking on the care of my mother and she had much to learn about surrendering herself to being watched over and eventually "cared for" versus " her being "the care giver" she had always been.

Caring for my mother made me realize The Superwoman within me!
Limits were set before permanently moving Mom to Vermont.  I could "take on" Mom's care but not the care of my sister and her child in the middle of it all.  They were both very unstable and boundaries needed to be established.  These boundaries were tested, as mom struggled to "let go" of helping my younger sister. Mom would call our small town banker to send large amounts of money to my sister to fix problems that couldn't be fixed with money alone, while I struggled to physically and mentally juggle my mother's needs along with working, and caring for my own family.

Like Jo Maeder, taking care of my mother was not done for financial gain and there were many a day that we wondered if it would bring our financial collapse. I struggled to maintain my work, marriage and raising our kids while "taking on" spending any time I had left, with my mother. My husband and I were shouldering many extra stresses in caring for my mother. What kept us going was the strong resolve that my mom needed help and that we were the ones that needed to do it. Making it all happen was a daily journey for our whole family. Adjustments weren't always easy and indeed, I often questioned my sanity, as did others around me.
My sanity was questioned? How odd as my family was always a bit insane!!

Like the author of this book, I have not regretted taking care of my mother. It was more than the right thing to do, it was a privilege despite the sacrifices.  It was an honor to get to know and love my mother in this way. It was a journey of love and faith and a blessing that I will never forget, and the growth wasn't all mine. Our entire family grew during this undertaking as everyone's help was needed.

Caring for mom  (light jacket), meant getting to know her well: child & adult.
Do read When I Married My Mother by Jo Maeder.  It is a heartwarming and very funny book. She learned just as I did, that dementia has many different sides and must be broached with humor, and love. You will laugh and cry with her, and get a first-hand look at what it means to take on the care of an aging loved one.

I recently wrote to a friend who is concerned about becoming a burden to his children, to tell him that he needs to consider the growth of his children. "Not allowing them to have the experience of caring for him in his old age would deprive them of one of the greatest lesson's of their life," I wrote. It was a unique opportunity to become more loving and mature as I faced my mother's mortality along with our own.

Caring is done in different ways and we learned that not all care is necessarily done in your own home, but caring is being there to share in our loved one's journey to death and advocate for them as they once did for us. Although a piece of us dies when they die, it also releases us to love in ways that we never imagined!

Care-taking is doing what we would like someone to do for us when we reach that stage of life. None of us wants to be a burden to our children, but rest assured whatever our needs, burden is not the word that I would use.  Life from beginning to end is sacred and learning to love the end phase of life is just as important as learning to become parents to our infant children! Don't miss reading this book to see what such a journey entails.

The gift of supporting aging parents and/or friends is there for the giving, and how sad that we often fear this choice so much that we avoid it instead of embracing it. Learning to love is at the heart of it all and no subject is more fitting for Valentine's Day. Loyalty, dedication, and sacrifice is at the root of real love!  I am not receiving any financial kick-back by recommending this book--it is just a beautiful love story that I believe should be "required reading" for what should likely be a "mandated" course in learning to love!

Happy Valentine's Day to all my readers!!

Friday, February 5, 2016

High Tea

One of the dining rooms at the Inn Victoria in Chester Vermont.
Last week my family and I were at last able to use a gift certificate that we were given a year ago last Christmas!  Dear friends from England had carefully researched on the internet where we could go to have a British tea experience right here in Vermont and gifted our family a certificate for "High Tea" at the Inn Victoria in Chester, Vermont, about an hour's drive from our home. They didn't know that Chester is also home to our favorite quilt store, Country Treasures and so we were just waiting until we could coordinate four busy schedules for this perfect day's outing. Last week, though sadly missing our youngest daughter, we worked to schedule this special occasion. We called and made reservations for "High Tea" and we were not disappointed!

Pulled from an old scrap book. Formal Job's Daughter's Teas in the 1960's!
Me as "Honored Queen" in Job's Daughters, with invitation honoring me!
I hadn't been to "a tea" in many a year, not since I was in high school.  I was in a Masonic affiliated young women's organization called Job's Daughters.  Every six months the elected "queen" would be honored with a formal tea.  Punch was served from a glass punch bowl, along with tea or coffee, little finger sandwiches, and fancy cookies, nuts and home-made mints, which was all very elegant but not officially British.  Our galas required dressing up and wearing high heels and gloves and those giving the tea and the "honored queen" wore formals.  Such events, I think, are unheard of in rural Vermont where boots and warm woolen mittens is "proper wear" to any occasion in the winter months and spring and summer events are equally informal!
Tradition was to get a picture of our heels at the end of our tea parties.

We didn't really know what to expect, but after a couple of hours of shopping at our favorite quilt shop, we were more than ready to sit down and be served.  The Inn Victoria was only doors away from the quilt shop and like all buildings in the little Vermont town of Chester, the inn was an old and charming building.  Its windows were covered with lace curtains and Victorian style drapes. Its decor was well matched.  Old Victorian style lamps, sofas and chairs created a warm and welcoming setting.  Formal sorts of old pictures, and china cupboards lined the walls of its dining rooms where large antique tables covered with linen tablecloths awaited us.
Antique style paintings and tea pots, decor at the Inn Victoria.

The owner greeted us and gave us directions to choose a cup and saucer from one of her many china cabinets. Nothing, to me, is as personal as having a fancy cup from which to drink your tea.  I immediately felt this woman to be a kindred soul and noted the fine china teapots covering the tops of her tea cabinets as we were seated at the end of an old table. We were given tea menus to select our individual choice of tea.
Some of the many tea pots displayed on top of this  tea cabinet!

Out came a three tiered tray filled with fancy treats and placed before us.  Tea sandwiches, all traditional to "High Teas" were on the larger bottom plate along with tiny individual quiches. The next tier held three large English scones with fresh strawberries, and the top tier held sweet treats all beautifully served with fresh blueberries and strawberries.

After we ordering from  a menu of many pages or exotic teas, we were each served a whole pot of tea, each pot as unique as our cups.  It should be mentioned that in selecting our teas, the owner took time to let us smell our selections and when our pots arrived, we were quick to re-smell our brews and sample each other's choice. Helping ourselves to our delectable treats as we sipped. Being the glutton that I am, I inquired as to whether or not the treats were to be shared with anyone but ourselves, and was delighted to hear that they were all for us!!

Our tea cups were all different and we each had a glass tea-light pot warmer.

All the delicious treats just for us!!
Cucumber and special cream cheese with seasonings were the first sandwiches, each made without crusts.  These were followed by bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches on a crispy crusted bread--all no bigger than a couple of bits!! Then the tiny cheese and red pepper quiches. Soon we were cutting our maple walnut scones served with "clotted cream", a new experience for me!

Our "sweet treats" were tiny cheesecakes served in a candy wrapper paper like those papers found in boxes of chocolates. Our last treat was a pecan chocolate chip bar cookie, ever so rich and satisfying! The fresh strawberries and blueberries were more than garnish, each delights to our taste buds! Our tea was kept hot, perched on little candle-warming glass stands. We couldn't have relaxed more if our pots had been filled with liquor instead of tea! Sipping hot tea and nibbling as we chatted was ever so fun!! By the time we finished, we were ready to call it a day and make our way back home.

The very next day, my daughter emailed me an invitation to participate in adding to her new Pinterest site called, "Afternoon Tea".  She had pasted two recipes for tea treats, and it wasn't but an hour later, that I had posted at least a hundred pictures of elegant tea pots, cups and saucers, tea information and tea treats!! We were onto dreaming of hosting our own tea parties in the future!

Some of our own special bits of fine china used for our tea parties at home.
It wasn't until the next day that I realized that we had come full circle.  I remembered tea parties with our girls when they were so little. Small tablecloths would be spread on the living room rug along with candlesticks and a tray of goodies with a small pot of tea, juice or hot chocolate with matching tiny china cups. My mother has given me this special hot chocolate set along with special tea cups, reminisce of the special cup that was used to serve her hot tea whenever she or her sisters were ill.
My mother's special cup that she was served tea in when sick as a child.

A little hot chocolate cup with individual tea pot/cup on the right.
My mother's little antique sugar and creamer with tray.
An elegant tea cup gifted to me by my mother!
My special china collection has grown to include special fancy china tea cups, creamers and sugar sugar bowls, as well as other interesting tea pots. I had forgotten about using them and taking time for little celebrations. Future tea parties are now being actively planned again.
An individual tea pot, a gift from my daughter.
My favorite tea pot, my dad's demitasse cup and my mother's special cup.

My oldest daughter went home and told her new "step boys" about our "High Tea" and they are ready for the experience, and proudly added that they will use their best newly acquired manners, in case we doubted their readiness for the experience!!

I emailed my friend in England to let her know how life-altering our experience had been and she emailed me back with a picture of her youngest granddaughter whose face was covered in chocolate from her chocolate covered tea biscuit from their "afternoon tea". How nice to experience the British in us all! What an elevating experience, capturing special moments and "be in communion" with loved ones! No more cup of joe "on the run" if I can help it!!

 Fat quarters of fabric from Country Treasures quilt store to add to my stash!

Country Treasures had a Civil War quilt with stripes of this stunning material!
(In case any of you are interested in  such a lovely "day-out" for yourselves, please look on line for Inn Victoria in Chester, Vermont as well as Country Treasures (quilt store) at It truly made for a perfect little vacation!! But perhaps making it a weekend and staying at the inn would be even more fun?!