Madge and Brent Get Married

One of the sweetest notes I ever received came from my cousin, Buddy, shortly after my Brent and I were married in 2000.  About this time in 2010 he and his wife were beginning a battle with breast cancer.  It was not supposed to be too aggressive, but, sadly, she died in late January 2011. He’s a bit older than I am so we didn’t pal around much as kids, but his wedding was the first I vividly remember.  I remember how happy they were on that bright and sunny day! They began deeply in love and as she parted they were even more deeply in love along with a legacy of amazing grace.  Today, I’m thankful for cousin Buddy and his inspiring partnership with the love of his life….I appreciate the love of my life more because of him.  In honor of cousins Buddy and Mary, I present, ‘Madge and Brent Get Married’  written by cousin Buddy on our wedding day 12 years ago.

It’s a September Saturday morning, and we are on our way to attend the 11:00 AM wedding of Cousin Madge to her fiance, Brent.  Well OK, technically she is my second cousin.  You see her dad and my dad, were first cousins given that their mamas, Vera and Anita were sisters. Got it?  It’s getting to the point that you can’t tell a cousin relationship without a diagram!

We dropped by to pickup Mom and Dad because there was no way they were going to miss this special event in the life of a very special lady!  Now Dad could say that with conviction since the UGA-USC kickoff wasn’t until 3:30 PM that afternoon.  After all,  weddings are special, but this one was just a little bit special-er!

If you know Madge you know that adversity has been a more frequent visitor than any of us would ever like to see.   At the age of five, her mother died from complications of surgery.  While in college, she was involved in a car accident that left her a quadriplegic.  And in recent years she lost her dad to a heart attack and her step mom to cancer.   Yet I have never seen Madge without a smile or without that contagious positive outlook on life. (OK, so she didn’t see me that often!) So today is her wedding day!  Yep, it’s gonna be a special day.

The church building didn’t really look like a church, but it wasn’t long before you realized that God was present in that place.  As we walked in we saw Madge’s four older brothers and listened as a trio of singers set the mood with a series of contemporary gospel worship songs that once again told you, today was a special day.

The procession began with the Twila Paris song “He is Exalted” and as the minister and the groom waited, Madge came down the aisle in her wheelchair followed closely by her four brothers who ‘gave her away’. By the time she and her brothers got to the altar, there was not a dry eye in the church.  And yes, I will admit a tear as well, OK, OK, the plural form would be more accurate.  I never do have a Kleenex when I really need one.Four older brothers gave their little sister away…

During the ceremony, the couple requested we all stand and sing the Darlene Zschech song, “Shout to the Lord”.   By then I was ready for the Second Coming!   Yet the most touching moment came as the pastor related his personal comments before the vows were exchanged.  It seems he has known Madge for 23 years and Brent for over 6 years.   He shared how Madge had come to faith in Christ and how following her accident had overwhelmed them all with her never-look-back, only-look-forward attitude.  He praised her family as one who rallied around her like none he has ever seen.   Finally, he praised God for her Christ like spirit as reflected in her manner and service to the church.   Brent, he shared, was a true gentleman possessing a spirit of tenderness.  However, Brent had built up over the years such a wall in his heart that he refused to allow relationships to get very close.   That is, until he met Madge.   And brick by brick, Madge was able to tear down the wall and today they were ready to commit to a life together.

Following the exchange of vows the couple left to the tune of “Great is the Lord”.   We joined them at a nearby country club for the reception.  It was good to see the family.  Her brothers live New York, New Jersey, Virginia and Ohio.   Madge and Brent will be setting up residence at her current home.  I recall that Madge works for a software company and Brent teaches at a University nearby.

These days, gatherings of our extended family seem to center on weddings and funerals.   The former preferred over the latter.  Weddings have always seemed to be such a sacred moment for the wedding couple with the presence of family being a sign of love and support.  But today, I came away as the one who was blessed; it was a sacred time for all present.  Thanks Madge and Brent. Your wedding was a reminder that God is sovereign.  The verse on the wedding program said it all, “Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails”.  1 Corinthians 13:7-8

The Wonder and Wisdom of Cayenne Pepper

Many articles have been written about cayenne pepper and its benefits yet i’m compelled to write another one. Wow! I would’ve gone through less testing and chronic discomfort if I had known about this miracle powder three or four years ago.

My symptoms included all kinds of digestive problems which often triggered cold sweats. Yuk…let’s not talk about them (but if you should want a more detailed discussion – email me). I tried yogurt, probiotics, enzymes, elimination diets where I only ate bananas, rice, and applesauce and a bit of chicken for what seemed like weeks. Multiple trips to the doctors and many tests by the GI specialist revealed nothing but low salt/electrolytes and a lack of protein which was understandable with my symptoms.

It’s frustrating when you feel like you have no where to go for a chronic medical problem that you just know has an answer. The diagnosis was IBS (in my mind it was I‘ve Been Sentenced). Basically, ‘We are sorry we can’t help you.’

Last October, my hero husband told me about some cayenne pepper pills he had bought to help him, and he thought I should give them a try (you know from my prior post he had undiagnosed Celiac disease). Wow, we sound like we were a mess, but we functioned quite well even with our undiagnosed maladies!

The cayenne didn’t change the way he felt, but it was nothing short of a miracle for me! Within a day or two I was 90% better!! No going back now! Who knew hot cayenne in my stomach would make me feel better and not worse? I guess many people already had figured this out, but I had either never come across this research or was unwilling to accept that it could possibly help. Admittedly, when Brent suggested it, I was merely appeasing him and really didn’t think cayenne would help.

I’m not promising results for others, because I think it’s one of those things you have to try, but a friend of mind that had ongoing headaches has also had great results with cayenne.

The Solaray Cool Cayenne 40,000 HU capsules at Whole Foods is what we buy, but you can use the loose powder or buy a liquid form as well.

Cayenne has been used as an alternative medicine for years to fight infection, improve circulation, prevent heart problems and help digestion. Apparently, the capsaicin in the powder increases blood flow and research is widely available on the Internet. It’s a wonder that reading many forums never brought me to information touting cayenne!

My personal experience fervently attests to cayenne’s benefits. I feel so much better. ..and an added side effect is that it has reduced my cold natured tendency. Incidentally, when my Rehab Specialist heard how cayenne helped me, he was VERY interested and took notes on the information to share with his fellow MDs at the Shepherd Center! You have to love a doctor who is willing to incorporate alternative approaches.

My truly unbelievable experience with cayenne will hopefully help others! My habit is to take one capsule in the morning and sometimes a second capsule in the afternoon. Occasionally the capsule’s contents are sprinkled on my food for a little spiciness! Reportedly, it is good to taste the heat because it alerts the stomach that something hot is on the way, but I haven’t noticed any improved results from using it as a seasoning.

Give it a try! Geez! I’m thankful to God (and Brent) that I did!

‘If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God who gives generously to all’ ~James 1:5

‘No soup for you!’ …going gluten free

Welcome, my cereal loving husband, Brent, to the gluten free world! A few weeks ago he had his final test and Celiac diagnosis. He’s not a stranger to Celiac because his sister has had it for years. She is a pro at navigating the diet and there are many others that have a gluten intolerance. We are not alone.

Hopefully a new diet will quickly eliminate his symptoms, which by the way, were not some of the typical symptoms you often hear about with Celiac. He was unaware of the digestive problems within his system. He had chronic fatigue as well as low iron and other deficiencies in his blood work.

Because it’s just the two of us, and Brent is the one who eats most of our food, we decided to keep our house as gluten-free as possible, at least while we learn more about his new eating style and he establishes new habits, We both will be strict about not eating gluten. Okay, I have to admit that I might cheat occasionally whenever we go out to eat, but I’m committed to initially walk this road with him. Who knows, maybe gluten-free will help both of us and it will ensure my food doesn’t cross contaminate his when we are eating out, and he will not be tempted at the house with snacks that are off-limits (he LOVES his snacks). It doesn’t seem like a sacrifice for me so far, but there’s no denying that when you can’t have something you might crave it!  I just bought some Udi’s gluten free bread to satisfy my craving for bread with butter!

Brent is such a sport! My helper, Diane, and I cleared the pantry of all the gluten-laden foods a few weeks ago.  I couldn’t part with a brownie mix we can use to take to friends and a couple other mixes as well as some canned soups…’just in case’..but they are isolated on one pantry shelf.

Brent watched and said goodbye to his Shredded Wheat forever.  You see the big cleaning we did to eliminate the gluten in our pantry and our refrigerator. Some of the freezer foods have not gone yet but we have a shelf set aside to give away as we can.

I’m sure there will be times when Brent is frustrated with a severe craving for something that he can’t eat, and I feel for him, but I’m glad that he’s on the road to recovery…and he can always buy some gluten-free DONUTS!

We try to consider new normals as opportunities. This diagnosis just might be a place where we can support others as well as a springboard for improved health. We are looking forward to making cyber friends that share the challenges involved with eating gluten-free. And for me, the most frustrating thing is that I’m constantly having to put on glasses to read the tiny labels for ingredients!

Restricting a diet to exclude gluten is easier than ever with awareness growing and an ever increasing array of specialty ‘gf’ items available. We only wish gluten free prices would come down! We both concede that our diet will be healthier without as much junk food, thus we are taking this opportunity to clean up our diet. I don’t think we will buy a lot of specialty gluten-free junk food, but we will report back in a few months, maybe we are kidding ourselves!  There ARE Fritos and potato chips in our pantry!

We will share our favorite restaurants and gluten free ‘finds’ as we progress on this journey.  We have already experienced eating at quite of few restaurants while we were recently out of town. As of now, Longhorn’s wins the prize for ease of choice because of their extensive GF menu.  Too bad Brent’s not a big Chipotle fan because just about everything they have is gluten free besides the tortillas.  Thankfully, we have a Whole Foods within a mile of our house and are grateful for their vast, well marked, although expensive, selection.

Oh, please let us know about your favorite gluten free foods and restaurant ‘finds’!

Pardon Us While We PACK

Travel is my friend and we enjoy a new place and new people! But I have to admit that I’m not a fan of packing! Somehow it seems to be a time when my disability frustrates me.. It’s comical as we pack almost as much when we travel for a weekend as we do for two weeks! It’s not the clothes (but we do take too much clothes) that make our packing a bit overwhelming, but the disability related paraphernalia and issues. Ok, I confess, choosing clothes to take can challenge me and that’s frustrating because it seems to signal that I have too much in my closet. But back to gathering necessary wheeling related luggage…

There is the shower chair, the tools to put the shower chair together – as well as any additional emergency items that we take – just in case. On top of that, we can’t forget the charger so that my power wheelchair continues to run. And if we are going somewhere that might not be fully accessible, we take a six foot ramp that folds neatly in the back of the van (for a drive) and we often check it as baggage when we fly. Let’s not forget Tahoe and his leash, identification, food, treats, toys, brush, bowls and baggies, etc.

I have a spreadsheet to track all the things we don’t want to forget! When we pack we check things off the list to make sure that we are not an hour away and say ‘Oh my, we forgot the —–‘, and it isn’t like it’s easy to buy ‘—-‘ on the road!

Every year we take a trip to Florida in the January-February time frame to attend a conference where Brent is a featured speaker. It is the perfect time for a break from the cold weather, but warmth is hit or miss. Sometimes we experience the coldest snap of the year or decade! In fact, for the last several years we have experienced weather that has kept us inside the hotel(s) for most of our visit. We seem to arrive when it’s either raining incessantly or the temperatures are dropping into the low 30s with winds. Last year we had a day or two where we actually spent ‘time’ outside and we found a dog park where Tahoe could run and enjoy the outdoors in the afternoons or evenings once Brent was finished with his sessions. This year looks promising!

Speaking of Brent, remember he is a techie genius. He presents and teaches workshops on geeky topics when we are on the road…this packs an additional punch into our already heavy load! Thankfully, a trip to Florida is drivable! For those times when we fly for business, we usually send Tahoe’s food as well as Brent’s teaching materials ahead of time. Did I mention Brent is a ‘snacking maniac’? He loves his morning, afternoon and bedtime snacks that keep his tall (and handsome) body on the go. We pack snacks and also buy snacks on the road. Yes, the popcorn is packed!

People with small children no doubt face a similar dilemma, but it’s all worth it when you are finally on the road or in the air and it always seems easier to UNpack! Hopefully your babies are as cooperative as Tahoe on your journeys. He curls up in the van and on the plane for a trip. You have to laugh at his ‘Please don’t pet me, I’m working’ patch! He looks to be working hard in seat 10B!

This year I prepared for the packing process with an added punch of prayer and my kind helpers put everything but the kitchen sink in our bag(s)! Really, just kidding about the sink, it is in there somewhere. And why not throw in the chargeable toothbrush this time? I love clean teeth!

  • I’m thankful we don’t have to travel with oxygen tanks.
  • I’m thankful Brent can lift me and we don’t travel with a big lift like one of my friends who has an injury like mine. Although, we do pack a lifting belt like the Home Depot employees wear!
  • I’m thankful Brent enjoys having me and Tahoe even though we represent a good bit of work for him.
  • I’m thankful for the cyber world that helps us continue our communication and activities and work remotely.
  • I’m thankful that processing through my perceived packing pains sparked prayers for our next trips! The time with family in the spring is destined for packing perfection.

I’m sure there are others with pack-aphobic tendencies. Please share your tips, struggles and stories with me. Today I need you!