Thanksgiving Noodles

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When I think of Thanksgiving, I think of Grandma’s noodles.  There might have been a year or two we didn’t cover the table, night before, with the mess of drying overnight, flipping, flouring, then flouring again our holiday noodles.  The damp would come out of hiding with the drying process, and we’d again add just a bit more flour, finally able to cut the perfectly imperfect wide and hearty slabs.  The process was a lot of work, and wonderful.  But not many years went without the noodle production, that’s for sure.

Grandma would stand, leaning over the table, a bit tall to reach the bowl easily, and carefully with silky hands create the most desirable noodles on the planet.  When I was maybe 8 or 9 she let me start helping.  She explained it was the size of egg that determined the recipe.  Any interesting concoction these days includes at least a dozen ingredients. Grandma’s noodles had three – the eggs, flour and water.  “Salt toughens the noodles”, she would say.  “Salt the broth, not the dough”.   She showed me how to choose the largest egg we had, crack it, set the largest of the shell halves aside for measuring water.  Another egg or two would be added… usually not more than 3 eggs.  The set-aside shell was our measuring devise.  It was filled two times for every egg we used.  Then whip the water and egg together with a vengeance, because this was the last beating the noodles had.

Once flour was added, gentle handling became the main thing.  “Handle it carefully”, she would tell me.  A fork and hands were our tools. We would add the flour carefully and slowly until we could make a sort of ball which also had to be barley touched and yet formed.  “Don’t use your middle three fingers; you’ll work it too hard,”Grandma insisted.  I’d forget most of the time and she would remind me again.  “Use only your thumb and little finger to move the dough or they’ll be tough.”

A little flour in our silver mixing bowl, the dough would sit under the bread cloth in the warmest part of the kitchen for an hour or so.  When the dough ball firmed up a bit, with slow and extra-careful hands, we’d pull it apart for rolling, but barely rolling, not adding any extra strokes, and taking our time.  A lightly floured table was the workbench where noodles were left out to dry.  Flip, re-flour again, continue adding as little flour as possible (too much flour toughened the noodles, too), then finally the cutting.

As the cut noodles dried some more, we busied ourselves pealing and chopping for the broth.  Once dry, the noodles would be added to the rolling boil that consisted mostly of celery, carrots, onion, potatoes, green beans, butter, chicken and seasonings that were never measured, but pinched and dashed for taste.

The kitchen smells produced people we didn’t even know were in the house.  Everybody wanted to help “test” the noodles. ”Mummm, they’re the best yet!” we would mumble through our second or third mouthful of “testing”.  The quality was always judged by lack of toughness.

Grandma has been gone 26 years.  I’ve been making the noodles since, every Thanksgiving and Christmas, and still can’t get the tender quality Grandma managed, I toughen the dough by the hurry and rush tactics that aren’t effective. Or maybe it’s my callused hands that overwork them.

 Its rather peculiar, but Grandmas hands never did toughen up.  Born in 1899, she was raised in a room above a hotel in a busy river town, Brownville, Nebraska, by a single mother of four who cooked for the hotel morning to night, making a living, so she could feed her children.  Grandma had all the reason in the world to have callused hands.  Early on scrubbing splintered wooden floors, young knees on rough skirt, later on linoleum – still heavily trodden, older more painful knees on softer skirt, or polyester pants.  Decades of floors that needed scrubbed.  She’d work the corners, moving toward center, hands in briny water, rinsing, wringing tight, over and over she made half circles, until she’d managed her task.

Grandma washed on the board for others and for her own family, working, with hands and arms and back, extracting impossible dirt out of clothes.  Butchering and plucking chickens, flipping heavy switches for hours at a busy telephone company.  Caring for sometimes large and frightening mentally ill patients middle of night at the State Hospital.  She milked the cow, fed the live stalk, gathered eggs, gardened, shoveled snow. Kitchen work, almost always using nearly scalding water, hauling in coal or wood, depending on the heat used in the place her and her four children lived, there alone, as her husband chose unfaithfulness to the hard task of marriage and fatherhood.  Hands with tissue to face, sobbing deep and painful to the neighbor friend when the husband choose the latest affair over coming home, this time for good. 

She held a book, a few minutes stolen here and there as her ever thirsty mind took on The Bible, the Classics, The Daily News. 

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She sometimes wrote her own great thoughts.  Thoughts on scraps of paper, some in a tablet.  Some on typing paper.  I have them in my attic, the musty suitcase that moved wherever she went, in her later years, all over the country to stay involved in her children and grandchildren’s lives. 

With pen and pencil, later on, with a typewriter she saw the world through her heart and recorded it.   She worked hard to make some dreams come true.  She managed to get her GED, and in her 70’s, took some classes at the local community college, learned short hand and more about writing.

In all her 87 years of life, it’s hard to understand how her hands never became callused.  Her heart somehow managed to remain young as well.  Don’t misunderstand.  Grandma wasn’t perfect.  But the part of her heart that found the usually taken for granted goodnesses of life still a treasure remained intact despite the disadvantages she was handed.  I guess that is the reason that when I think of Thanksgiving, I think of Grandma’s noodles.  The essence of gratitude.  Taking nothing much at all and from it creating the most savory of the many options that cover our Thanksgiving Table.

Amelia

To Float Away

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My four year old is pretending again.  “She’s my mommy.” she says, referring to our sweet friend enjoying an end of the day swim with us.  “You’re the shark!!” My little chatty butterfly points to me.  I smile and feel the stab.  I love her pretend world.  How can her little innocent play feel real?  With the cancer diagnosis, the mastectomy, being told my genes have a high return for a whole variety of cancers, early and deadly – I’ve had to fight my thoughts.  My hyper-focused husband trying to manage the random task of raising our kids alone.  The impossibility of that.  Another Mommy raising our 10 year old tender powerhouse child,  our 4 year old butterfly, and our two older – independent but still needing a mom at times – kids who have just starting college.  There’s no way around it.  The kids will suffer. I’ve been feeling for a while now that bit by bit I’m floating away.  Far away to another place.

To one who has never seen the whites of the eyes of death, the rational goes something like this: “We all die sometime.  It’s just a matter of when.  It’s a waste of time and energy dwelling on it.”  Those words belong to folks who have not had their invincability yanked away.  When invincible is removed, there is the reality of the thing. What the family will have to deal with – what will be missing.  It’s ugly and raw when it’s real.

It would have been so kind of our foremother and father to never have tasted the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  The way that concept is taught leads one to believe that the first bite delivered a mouthful of sweet goodness that instantly changed to the sour rot of evil.  I’m thinking, however, as days and then years strip away one security blanket after another, ache after heart breaking ache, that the slow stripping away is the gruesome process of fully knowing the difference between the two, no longer able to frame hideous evil as natural, but knowing evil as evil, period.

Butterfly’s innocent pretend words sit heavy on my chest as I float on back across the pool.  I glance upward.  I’m surprised to see high above me the ceiling is mirror.

There I am, floating body, floating away.  Tight throat, tears slipping into the chlorinated blue around.  Letting-go bruises deep.  Bruises that throb.  I float there, thinking how I despise not feeling safe the way I once did.  I hate myself for being stuck in this floundering place of uncertainty. The pain turns my thoughts sideways and twisted.  “The kids will be better off”.  I’m thinking I will never be able to give them what they need, even if I live a long life, I will never feel safe again, impossible managing the day to day in a state of floating away.  I flail, wanting loose from the heaviness, this march toward goodbyes.  I want to run.  Run wild. Run and swim and fly far and strong.  I think of how I love to move.  Think how confining death will be.  Still.  Immovable. Anger burning.  I’ll never be able to talk Adored Man into letting my ashes float upon the water where at least the pieces of me will be moving.  More gut retching.

The side of the pool supports my aching head.  Irritated, I think myself to be ridiculous, breast removal almost 3 months behind me.  No chemo, no radiation, clean margins.  Pathetic drama and stupid.  I hate myself.  Treated water washes the reddened face.  I pull myself together and cross over, back to the other side of the pool.  To our friends and kids in time to hear chatty butterfly say “Mom, you are a very nice shark.”  She senses everything.  I hate myself even more.  “God, I need your help”.  I start to fake laugh and chat through tight throat.

We manage through our evening swim.  I return to the room with kids in tow, get the evening duties rapped up, say our good-nights.  As I wind down on my bed, I open the Bible to the random text of the night.  Psalms 88. Oh Lord, God of my salvation, I have cried out day and night before you.  Let my prayer come before you; incline your ear to my cry.  For my soul is full of troubles, and my life draws near to the grave.  I am counted with those who go down to the pit; I am like a ‘woman’ who has no strength, Adrift among the dead…You have laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the depths.  Your wrath lies heavy upon me, and you have afflicted me with all your waves.

Did that just say waves??  OH MY GOD.  He sees me.  Jaw slides out of palm, a tired profile down onto the cool white sheet.  Still.  A shiver runs through.

I put the verse within range of my site. …“Lord, I have called daily upon you; I have stretched out my hands to you. Will you work wonders for the dead? Shall the dead arise and praise you? Shall your lovingkindness be declared in the grave? Or your faithfulness in the place of destruction? Shall your wonders be known in the dark? And your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?  But to you I have cried out, O Lord, and in the morning my prayer comes before you.  Lord, why do you cast off my soul? Why do you hide your face from me? I have been afflicted and ready to die from my youth; I suffer your terrors; I am distraught.  Your fierce wrath has gone over me; your terrors have cut me off.  They come around me all day long like water; they engulfed me altogether….”

Some would not find this text comforting.  I do.  A man after God’s own heart is in the black place I’m in.  There is no happy ending.  It’s the dark throbbing heart of all of us trapped on this death laden planet.  His journal is not painted rosy to make tolerable.  It’s written exactly how things are.  No tidy rapping it up.  David does not suggest one should look on the bright side, count blessings.  He does not remind himself or us that others have it much worse, to forgive and forget, to deal with it.  The chapter is not missing a thing, because it’s the path of deep and lasting healing.  In the book Pilgrims Progress, Pilgrim takes a path to the Celestial City.  The only path to the City takes him through The Slew of Despond, the sloppy mud hole where sin and the consequences of evil can suck us under if not for help sent by God for each of us who pass through this dark place.  “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Those are words of Jesus Christ.  God himself passed through this blank swamp.

Research backs up what the Bible models.  In order for a person to heal from trauma or loss of any kind there are steps that must be taken.  One of the steps is depression – i.e. hopelessness.  Short cuts create emotional wounds that in time become toxic cesspools.  Wounds that block the healing process for years, permeating multiple layers of a person’s wellbeing.

I close my eyes.  The image of me floating away lingers.  God reached me tonight, by sharing with me a scripture of dispear.  He has painted a different picture, helping  reframe this hopeless struggle.  I’m drifting away, but on a Sea called Grief and Loss.  I’m still here.  Experiencing once again another tearing away of the security blanket called invincible.  Another bite of sour evil.  And feeling it.

“Mom!!, Mommy, Mommy, I’m telling you something.  The Butterfly’s voice gets louder and higher.  “I have to go to the bathrooooom!!”  Slipping out of bed, I smile.  Ya, I’m still her Mommy.

Amelia

100% Cotton

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It’s the middle of the night and I’m thinking about shopping. This is not good. I’ve been shopping for a quilt. The one on our bed is shredding to pieces. Some unknown hand stitched the patterns of our yellow quilt 60 or 70 years ago. It had been a top, unfinished, and rescued from a thrift store by my sister who gave it to me. I’d taken the quilt top, found just the right fabric back, asked the machine quilting lady to work on it. She put cotton between; machine stitched it tight and bound the old and new together at the edge. The bright pieces have provided us happy cover for many years, but age has finally destroyed whole sections.  

I would make us another one, but am quite slow at the task.  We’d have nothing but a sheet to keep us warm if I were to wait on me, so store bought it must be.  It doesn’t seem like such a daunting task to find a red cotton quilt, sturdy and well made, with a bit of gold and blue (like the one from PB I’m in Love with), and one that we can afford.  I am baffled that even some of the high end stores have nearly cut the weight of the cotton in half.  The batting feels nothing but the weight of tissue paper.  There are a few exceptions, these tend to be solid colors.  

I’m thinking cotton must be very valuable these days.  Sleeping under polyester makes me sweat.  Maybe everyone else has figured this out, and the stores, instead of wanting to sell one good cotton quilt, want to sell 3 or 4 light weight ones per bed.  The layered look.

In any case, I pull the yellow up round my shoulders and role over.  RIP…  I’m wondering if, though made out of pretty good stuff, I myself am stretched too thin and disintegrate easily when tugged by life.  I’m thinking I’d like to be made out the good stuff, layers of heavy 100% cotton, warming the world with my colors. I’m thinking I need some patching up as have been a bit fragile lately.  I want to be present, functional, a healthy wife and mom more than anything.  I doze off into mostly lavender with a bit of green and yellow.  

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Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Matthew 5:6

Amelia

How To Develop Begging In Children

 

I have never read a book on how to develop begging in children. Dependent and insistent.  I don’t know anyone who appreciates that.  We are all about fostering independence, competence, self reliance.  Givers, not takers.  My kids ask for something twice and I get cross with them and emphatically inform the child I’ve heard them already, and will let them know when I’ve changed my mind.

God is quite upside down in this way.  He requests that his children ask him, and keep asking.  There are places in the Bible where God answered someone’s prayer as they sobbed and ripped their clothes in sheer panicked grief. We are encouraged to pray constantly, fervently, sometimes through the night in a sloppy mess of tears, but to never stop.

I prefer easy.  Not the difficult task of staying the course, hearing my children out as they continue, through broken hearts, to repeat the same story, the same request, the same anger.

God invites the tirade.  He prefers to hear his children ask him for help all day long, no matter the tone.

For 20 some years now, a few girlfriends and I have had phone prayers. One of us will call the other.  Sometimes we pray when nothing much is the matter.  There have been prayers interrupted by screaming kids.  Prayers during dinner prep.  Prayers from an airport, from a Dr’s office.  Some have been texted, emailed, or left on voice mail.  Sometimes we burst out laughing in the middle of a prayer, thinking of what we’ve just asked God for.  

The thing about prayer is that it calls us each to honesty with not only God but each other, no matter the disaster or shame of the thing, regardless of our wish to be the put-together one this time. How often have we said to each other “I wonder if we would still be here if it weren’t for the prayers we’ve prayed”.

We’ve prayed when our anger has caused pain to the other.  Prayers about bills, dinner plans we can’t think what in the world to make.  Asking God to give us a desire to make dinner at all, as the depression has gotten so bad.  Weight that can’t be lost, quilt still undone, a marriage hanging by a thread, prayers for keys lost, prayers that rip our hearts in half as we know what we prayed for so long, on knees, faces streaked with tears, that will never come to be due to the choice of someone else.  That’s the hardest part.  When my prayer is answered and her answer is “no”.  So we pray on, bothering God incessantly, because that’s what He wants, and because it keeps us sane while the roller-coaster of life continues.

I find God to be an amazing parent.  He asks for the good, the bad, the ugly.  He requests we bug him non-ending; he listens, and makes all things right, one way or another. I’m thinking I need to foster this begging dependence in my kids – towards God.  I want to show them through my attentiveness and patience that they can come to me every-time they need to.  I want to learn to listen well.. if I could just focus in on what they have been saying for the last half hour, now at a pitch that is hurting my head!!  I prefer God’s upside down ways to my typical rigid indifference.  A better fit to the upside down life that is ours.

Which of you if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?  … If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in Heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

Matthew 7:9 and 11.

Amelia

The Dung Gate

Sitting in church, I’m pretty sure I got a point that wasn’t meant to be the main one.  The sermon was an overview of the book of Nehemiah, and the dung gate was mentioned.  Names were listed of people who’d helped rebuild the wall, and the guy who worked on the dung gate was noted.  I had an ADHD moment (well, hour or so) and the bit of random information sent me on a long exhaustive examination on the topic.

Today I thought about extreme fumes, and what it all means.  The kind that burns eyes and makes them run.  Like the time I had an hour long interview with a patient who literally lives in bed most of his life, such depression he had not bathed in over a year.  Flat and colorless, except for a hint of blue eyes, skin breakdown, soul breakdown.  Sweating profusely, his agoraphobia made the interview terrifying for him.  Much of the time he saw no one for months but the familiar mother he lives with. His story is slow in coming, as he fight his nerves.  His depression has nearly defeated him.  So many attempts at shock treatment, medication, more medication, hospitalizations, attempted suicides, of course a long history of loss and abuse early on, and a lifetime of trying to survive inside the catacomb of depression.  I remember the challenge staying in the room and completing the interview.  My eyes ran, the tissue I had stepped out to get when fumes hit, now soaked as I tried to prevent him from seeing that I was reacting to the powerful odor coming from his terribly sick body.  As soon as the interview was over, I tried not to rush from the room in escape, but know I was feeling that way.

I’m thinking of the frail old lady brought in by Aid Car, at request of police, found in house, laying on floor, herself and carpet covered in human feces, broken wine bottles, rotting food and cat messes throughout.  The broken down skin, malnutritioned, demented.  The concerned Officer tells me of the squalor she lives in.  Begging me in so many words to find a way to get this lady placed where she will be cared for, as so many loopholes could make it easy for us to send her back and just make the referral call required to make, and leave it at that.

The drunks that come in, covered in sickness from too much alcohol intake.  The suicidal patients matted hair and hung over, that have had to use the charcoal, dried around mouth, down chin, it blackens the teeth, ashamed and trying to tell me how they got to this place.

This sounds crazy, I know, but stench is holy.  It is the place from which most clearly the dignity and value of a person is seen.  A place from which God is magnified.  The same with darkness.  I like to use black to matte my color pictures.  Darkness intensifies color and beauty when it surrounds it.  The polished, bathed, made over; they took the time and effort to clean themselves up.  They deserve the clout they receive.  When absolutely nothing can cover the shame and disgust of an individual, and still, the dignity and value of that person is there, that is Jesus in the room, and I am talking to his child.

I have never been in a third world country, but have heard the smells can overwhelm those of us sheltered and fancy.  I wonder how many of us say “no thanks” to Gods Call to missions and ministry and people care because of our inability to tolerate filth.

As a mom, I have always hoped for my kids to grow up and one day become a teacher or doctor, engineer or lawyer.  Never have I encouraged them to become a garbage man, run a septic company, or manage waste of any kind.  Our son is working as a nurse’s aid in a memory care unit.  Yes, it involves cleaning up filth, even the bodies of patients he’d become fond of and cared so carefully for, before they passed.  These are hideous jobs, and yet, they are holy tasks.  He is studying to be an engineer, and yes, I know that is a calling as well, but I will never be as proud of him as I am now, doing the hardest task of his life, caring and loving for confused, difficult, fragile and needy patients.  Cleaning up messes no one even wants to think of.

God bless the man who rebuilt the Dung Gate.  And now the service is over.  I’m on my way to a day of fun and friends and living large.  And I ask myself, am I up to the task of holiness today?  I hope so.  

Amelia 

What Breast Cancer Can Not Destroy

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I’ve taken a trip to hide.  My husband has business here intermittently, and having just had my breast removed because of cancer, he was not inclined to have us separated.  Me either, for that matter. There is a period of time after surgery where no fake part can be used to get out and about, because the wound is just too raw, and reconstruction immediately is not an option for me due to other health conditions.  I’d be looking like a freak, all bound in an ace, one still with me, and the other giant nothingness where something use to be.

Days have passed… weeks.  I’ve decided that though my breast is gone, some things have not changed. I’m not hiding anymore.  When I can ware the fake pad, I will.  When it’s too painful, I won’t.  When it slides to the middle of my chest and you stare at me…. , than stare on.  Some things one cannot prevent unless one changes ones life to sitting idly by, making sure ones faulsie does not shift from it’s designated location.  To live, in my skin, is to move.  Therefore there will be awkward moments of things not in their place.  So be it.

I still have my family, the same as they’ve always been…. crazy, fun, loud and eccentric as all get out.

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I still have God.  Praise, anger, gratitude, rage… when I sob so deep in my gut I break blood vessels in my face, He is still and close and listens.  I can feel his smile on me sometimes, even when I blather on and on.  He loves me as is. I let that soak into me.  I need it right now.

I can still sing… I wasn’t sure how much would change as the breast sits over-top my lung, and thought maybe it would hallow out the sound, or weaken it.  No, all’s intact there.

My husband still finds me beautiful.  When you love someone this long, there is so much more to beauty than dimensions and contour.  His love and attraction gives me confidence to get about and live life, even now in a state where I can’t use some pretend thing to make myself look “normal”.  Sometimes hard things rip a couple apart.  Sometimes trauma heals broken places.  We promised each other before surgery we would not waste this horror, but would make sure the pain became fertilizer for growth and love.  God has helped us keep our promise to each other.  We are still a couple with ups and downs… but feel safer with each other, less defensive.  The love is real and blows about our hearts as we silently wonder how long we have each other.

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Jazz is still as amazing as ever, a good standard still fills up the pours in my soul.

This is still My Father’s World. The beauty on the hills around me the past 3 weeks has, at times, overwhelmed me.  Last weekend we got to 10,000 feet, it took a lot of huffing and puffing, but we did it.  Up there I can almost touch God, there where the clouds hover beside, pink our cheeks and frizzle hair with dew.

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Jury is still out on swimming.  I can’t yet, as the wound has not healed.  It has not stopped me from getting in the pool waist-high, and doing a kind of 46-year-old version of a ballet warm up, hanging on to the side with one hand, toe front, than swooping under and behind all the way back, out of the water, then front again… trying to keep myself from turning into mush.  I still feel the excitement stepping into the pool room, smelling the water.

I remember, a number of years back, the first time I discovered my connection to God and water.  I was trying for the 100th time to make my way through the Bible, found myself waylaid at Genesis 1:2 “The Earth was without Form; and void.  And darkness was on the face of the deep.  And the Spirit of God hovered over the water.”  I realized at that moment that so much of what hurts us now…. giant voids all around and so much darkness, that Gods Spirit still hovers over, wanting to immerse us, heal us, and fill in the void that aches us.  Since then, I have discovered that swimming heals anxiety, have experienced the tonic of running in the rain, fresh grated ginger tea, a hot shower, ice on a twisted ankle, and standing on the bank of frigged mountain river, I watch as one child, another year, another child, and then again, our oldest three choose death to self and life to Christ in Baptism.  I still experience God near the water, and can’t wait to return to all the healing opportunities of my ugly blue swim cap, goggles and the crawl that has coaxed me out of bed and to the pool 5 a.m. BBC (Before Breast Cancer).

I can still RUN!!!!!  Found myself some Brooks.. my old ones were hanging by a thread.  The ones I just bought are mostly PINK.  What’s with PINK AND PURPLE RUNNERS THIS SEASON??… Oh well…. I ran, ace baggage and all, in red rock along a dirt road not far from Arches National Park. OK, just a walk/run under 2 miles, but it made me smile to know I can do this!

Have not tried to bike yet.  Should be OK, am just having to be OK with looking strange as nothing stays in place when truly active.  I saw a to-die-for baby aqua blue road bike I coveted at REI the other day.  It’s important to openly talk about ones temptations:)  And as I’m writing this, I’m thinking if I have a most strikingly beautiful bike, maybe the sideways station of my presentation will not be noticed.  OK, I’m justifying.  I’ll be fine with the ole stand-by:)

Cancer has slowed me down some.  “In our intact bodies we Live, and Move and Have Our Being” – NOT!  I hang on tight to Him in whom I live and move and have my being…no matter what is going on with my body.

In some ways breast cancer has changed me.  The feeling that life will be long.  Confidence that I will get to raise my children.  With the breast cancer diagnosis came information about a couple mutated genes that given the predictions could put me into a fetal position permanently.  I won’t pretend I haven’t soaked my pillow over and over, the future looming and heavy, but I regularly have to release to God my desire to raise our kids to adulthood, and be involved in our future grandchildrens lives.  These things are up to God.  He will decide.

Cancer is nasty.  Some people refer to reconstruction as “A Boob Job” and “A Tummy Tuck”.  I’ve been told loosing a breast is no worse than loosing a tooth, that I should be thankful for…and a long list of horrors are presented that are “much worse than loosing a breast.  What good are they, anyway?” I’ve heard things from people about loosing my sexual power by loosing a breast, and how sorry they are for me.  Some women may feel that way, but I don’t have the foggiest idea what that would be about.  No hard feelings.  These words come from people I love, and who love me.  They just don’t know what they are talking about.  Of course there are the words and actions, kind and wonderful.  Hundreds of them, thousands maybe.  In moments of black, however, they stand at a distance, hard to recall, and too far from me.

My breasts took a lot of getting use to as I was one of those freak girls who had to ware a bra in 2nd grade, was shy, and didn’t want attention for physical reasons in any way.  Missing a breast is just as embarrassing, people notice me for physical reasons.  Awkward.

The reality of loosing a breast is complicated…takes some getting use to.  Try imagining that every day when you dress, you put on your left sock first… and suddenly your left foot is gone.  The routine you once had is not possible, don’t quite know how to start your day. 

A week after surgery, I gathered all the strength in me and had a look, first time, at the wound.  The shock was horrific.  Looked as if a rabid animal had ripped breast from chest wall.  Revoltion, hot tears, the punishment I deserved for having been fondled at 8 by Land Lord of Apartments.  The words ringing in my ears, round and round in my head they condemned me “It’s interesting that you were the one molested when the others weren’t.”  The implication obvious… I had done something to cause the molestation that time, and the time when Youth Pastor molested me at 12, in car, along side road, on the way to babysit children so he and wife could go out for date, removing his pants and asking me if I’d ever seen man turned on before.  I deserved the cancer, the tearing shred, heavy chunk of black flesh atop scab.  Bones projecting from up to collarbone and down to nothingness.  I deserve shame.  That’s what I get. 

The words of people I’d tell secret to, in prayers preaching to forgive and forget.  Even since the cancer, in prayers, and to my face, telling me with hearty laugh “You know you did this to yourself, don’t you.  You have no one to blame but you.” The laugh resumes and walks away and burns hot. 

Things not thought of in so long become vivid color, words and actions with the viewing of the hideous chest, the hole.

I have observed nothing so violent before, although experienced birth four times, six miscarriages, a burst appendix. Nothing, including cancer, however, is nasty enough to rip away the “me” made in Gods Image.  That dignity, no ravage can touch.  I’m still the same me I’ve always been.  I’m done hiding.  If the void in me makes you uncomfortable, I suggest you find yourself some water.  I know I’m going to.

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Amelia Ponder