Almost three years ago I wrote a posting titled Musings- Life And Lemons. About a month ago, life served me a big lemon. I should be used to lemons by now, you’d think. I mean life is a big mixture of lemons and strawberries – or bananas, or mangos, or whatever other fruit is your current sweet-flavored favorite. But somehow, I guess, there’s a subconscious part of me that thinks I should be exempt from lemons, despite the fact that they keep appearing on my plate, and so they tend to side-swipe me when they happen.
So what’s the latest and greatest in the lemon orchard you’re wondering. It may or may not help to understand why I think this latest event on the road that is my life is a lemon, a big lemon. I’m sixty-eight years old. So, OK, technically I was only sixty-seven when this lemon appeared on my radar. But that’s another reason it was a big lemon – it messed up my birthday!!
On Friday 27 April, I headed down to Winter Park to participate in the last-but-one class of the second year of my Audire course. Ruth, my friend who has just completed her third and final year of Audire, drove us down in her truck/van/SUV (not sure which label fits her vehicle; suffice to say it’s big enough and strong enough to haul a good sized trailer). We always go down on the Friday night before class so we can get a good night’s sleep and avoid having to get on the road at o’dark thirty to be at San Pedro retreat center by 8.30am on Saturday morning.
As always, I met up with my dear friend Bickley to enjoy a superb dinner. The dinners with Bickley are always wonderful because we choose a different ethnic restaurant each month so that we can delight our palates. She and I are food aficionados and most of her other local friends are “plain-American-fare” eaters, so she doesn’t get to indulge her more exotic taste buds very often. We had a great Cuban meal that Friday evening and enjoyed even more wonderful friendship time as we caught up with each other since the previous month – which had actually been two months because of the strange class schedule we had this year.
After dinner, Bickley dropped me back to San Pedro and I settled in for the night. Before getting ready for bed, I called my husband, Richard, to tell him about my enjoyable evening with Bickley and to say goodnight. Everything normal so far; not even the hint of a lemon. I prepared myself for the night and got into bed and, out of nowhere, I started experiencing some serious abdominal pains. My immediate thought was “oh no, food poisoning!”. I got out of bed and made a mint tea (good for digestion) and made sure I had a large container of water beside the bed. The pains continued and I resigned myself to “waiting it out”, flushing my system with the tea and lots of water.
By midnight I was worried. The pain hadn’t eased up so I called Ruth who was in the room next to mine. I could tell that she had been deep in sleep. What I couldn’t know was this was the first night she had been able to get to sleep fairly early after two very stress-filled weeks and lots of disturbed nights. I explained what was going on and asked her if she thought I should “call someone”. Ruth sleepily agreed that it sounded like food poisoning and said that there wouldn’t be anything anyone could do and that I would just have to wait for it to “go through my system”. She did however suggest that I lie down quietly and gently massage my tummy and think happy thoughts.
At 3am I was a little mentally hysterical. It occurred to me that the pain hadn’t diminished and it had not even begun to “move through my system”. It was a steady low-burning pain in both my upper and lower abdomen and there wasn’t a single sign of a rumble, a gurgle, a grumble anywhere in my intestines. It was at this point that I made a decision to call 911 and get help. I called Ruth and let her know and she said to open my door so she and the paramedics could get in.
At this point I will make a long story short. A shot of morphine, a 4-mile ambulance drive, a three-hour ER stay, and one cat scan later, the ER doctor informed me that I had an acutely inflamed appendix. Now I ask you, isn’t appendicitis a “kid thing”? Or at very least, a “teen thing”? When was the last time you heard of a sixty-seven year old having acute appendicitis? So what was I to do? “That can’t be”, I firmly told the ER doctor. (Fortunately my husband hadn’t quite arrived at the hospital by then so was spared the embarrassment of that moment.) Hopefully the ER doctor made allowances for the fact that I was under the influence of morphine.
So at about 2pm on Saturday 28 April 2012, I was surgically separated from my appendix. As I waited for surgery, I remember feeling irritated that I was missing class, especially as it was a class that I had been particularly looking forward to. I also remember being frustrated because our next class was in just two weeks and I had to prepare an end-of-year integration paper as well as other homework and I wasn’t going to be in the best of shape for the next few weeks. I found myself thinking that it was my birthday in a few days and how was I supposed to celebrate if my head was still full of anesthetic and narcotic pain-killers, and my body was still weak from the whole surgery thing. This was a very bitter lemon indeed.
Thank God I got out of that kind of thinking pretty quickly! I cannot remember if I got there myself or if it was Richard who spoke it into reality, but I do remember at some point being grateful that the acute appendectomy was happening now and not closer to our trip to Italy at the end of June; even more grateful that it didn’t happen during that trip! I remember suddenly being grateful that I was being taken care of and receiving good medical attention (the staff at Memorial Hospital, Winter Park, FL were all wonderful!). And I remember also feeling grateful that I had decent medical insurance that covered this care. I got to making lemonade fairly quickly, especially once I got my pain meds!
I went home just a little over twenty four hours after being taken to OR, thanks to the wonders of laparoscopic surgery, and I experienced gratitude on a whole other level. I was truly grateful that Richard is retired now and is always at home (didn’t think I would be saying that so very sincerely!), and for the very intimate and personal care that he gave me as I made my recovery from this whole event. I was grateful for all the prayers and cards that friends sent my way and the telephone calls that showed how much they cared.
Another lesson in gratitude learned. Another lesson in being flexible and to expect the unexpected. I got my integration paper done in time despite having a befuddled brain for a few weeks (anesthetic can really mess you up mentally as well as take your knees out from under you physically), and I was well enough to attend my class two weeks later. My birthday celebration was low-key and a little delayed but it was still a celebration. In fact it was more of a celebration (internally at least) because I was still around to celebrate. So, even though I’m a slow learner, I am still teachable and I am learning to make lemonade out of life’s lemons.
(My Life-Long Love Affair With Food)
I don’t normally put sub-titles to my postings, but I felt this one deserved one. There is no way I can share my “adventure” at going raw without giving some background as to my relationship with food. And it is a love affair.
I have had an intimate relationship with food ever since I can remember. Some of my earliest memories of food are:
– sitting under the dining room table in the middle of the night eating rice paper (don’t even ask!!)
– sitting for what seemed like hours on the garden gate or at the front room window waiting for Aunty Polly to arrive with ice cream and candy
– going to Aunty Peggy’s to have wonderful four course dinners that included incredible appetizers, cheese and crackers, dessert with coffee (like in a “grown
– going down to the kid’s secret den to eat as many candies as I had been able to take from the pantry without it looking as though someone had taken them
(I’m sure my mother realized!)
– finger-swiping the frosting off a freshly baked “chocolate horror” cake (bliss!)
– sneaking teaspoonful’s of Fry’s chocolate spread (pure paradise!!)
– biting into the crusty heel of a fresh loaf of country bread slathered in real butter
– English cheddar cheese and crunchy pickled onions
So as you can see I was pretty much addicted to food from an early age. I could describe in detail, and still can, the sensations of different foods hitting the different taste buds in the various areas of my mouth just the way someone can describe the details in a picture. I think God proved that He really, really loved us when he gave us taste buds.
I discovered “ethnic” restaurants in my mid to upper teens and a whole new world of tastes and flavors opened up to me. English food is usually so bland and much of it, particularly vegetables, is simply boiled into oblivion and mush. Indian curry and crisp Chinese vegetables were like heaven, and the awesome blend of herbs in authentic, freshly cooked, Italian cuisine can still send me into a swoon today. I think you get the picture.
Moving to Sardinia, Italy in 1979 was a dream come true for this foodaholic. The Sardinian cuisine is unique and is as beautiful as the island itself. Home-made pasta was the norm in a Sardinian home in those days and if you have never eaten fresh home-made pasta you need to before you die. Roast lamb, kid, and pig are nothing like anything over here. I have eaten some of the best bar-b-q pork since coming to the States but nothing touches a succulent roast-in-the-ground pig in Sardinia.
From Sardinia I returned to London in 1978. It was mainly a “big mistake” but forms part of my life journey so it was important. During the five years I remained in the UK back then the only time that I ate well was when I cooked Italian pasta or I ate ethnic. I missed Italy badly, not just the food but the whole culture. So it was with a happy heart that I returned in 1983 to live in Naples, Italy.
Naples, rather like Sicily, gets a bad rap in some tourist books, but I fell in love with Naples very quickly. There’s an Italian saying that goes, “see Naples and die”. There’s a Neapolitan saying that goes, “Napoli ti prende per la gola” – Naples grabs you by the throat. The people are warm-hearted and friendly and the food, well I’m not sure anything I could say about Neapolitan food would do it justice. There are amazing pasta dishes with incredible sauces and fresh seafood cooked in the simplest but most divinely-tasting ways. “Dolce” (cakes) are out of this world and the pizza, oh the pizza!!!!! You have not eaten real pizza until you eat pizza prepared and baked in Naples. Not even the pizza in other parts of Italy is as sublime as Neapolitan pizza.
And then there’s REAL mozzarella cheese freshly dripping in its own liquid. This is an absolute delicacy that is only made in Naples, Italy. There is only one place over here that I know of where you can find real, fresh Mozzarella cheese and that is at the Fratelli La Buffala restaurant in the beaches area of Miami. They have it flown in fresh from Naples two or three times per week.
So, with all this love of marvelously prepared and served food, how do I get to going raw? With great difficulty let me tell you! I guess with age comes some sort of wisdom, and my brain began to tell my body that two hundred pounds on a five foot four inch frame was not so healthy. And, as usually happens with the fat accumulation, my blood pressure had risen and my cholesterol was fast following it.
Thankfully, when the student is ready, the teacher appears. Back in 2005, about eighteen months after getting to Jacksonville, Florida, my church hosted a series of classes on the vegetarian diet. I was interested not only because I thought it would help me lose weight, combat the BP and cholesterol issue, and improve my overall wellness, but also because the classes were offered by the Cancer Society as a way to help people prevent cancer or live cancer free once they were in remission. Because there is a history of cancer in my family I decided it was time to take the bull by the horns.
I’ll leave the “vegetarian experiment” for my next posting in this series.
For six years I have attended Night of Joy at one of the Disney Theme Parks. For those of you who do not know what Night of Joy is, let me inform you. There are actually two nights that are spanned by this event and it usually takes place on the second Friday and Saturday in September.
The event itself is a series of concerts that are played simultaneously across the Park. The musicians and singers are all Christian music performers. On these concert nights the Park is closed earlier than usual to regular patrons and only Night of Joy ticket holders are allowed into the Park for the evening’s entertainment.
I participated in my first Night of Joy in 2004 and it was held in Magic Kingdom. Last year and this year the event was held in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Although the backdrop of Cinderella’s castle was always very magical, after two year’s experience at Hollywood Studios I think my preference lies with the latter. There just seems to be easier access to and more space for the performers and the patrons.
I will never forget my first Night of Joy. I had no idea what to expect. I was not yet “into” Christian music. I had heard some on the radio (check out 88.1 The Promise in the Jacksonville, FL area), and I liked most of it. Some of the “heavy/hard rock” groups didn’t attract me, but that’s an age thing:-).
As I listened to the first concert get into full swing I noticed an immediate surge of energy all around me. Don’t misunderstand me. I have been to other “pop” concerts over the years and there is always energy with the music. There is always energy with music, period. It’s an expression of energy by the musicians and the audience responds in like manner.
But there was something different; a totally different kind of “buzz”. I checked out all around me and realized that I was surrounded by young people, by old people, by couples, by families, by singles, by groups. There was a cross ethnic, cross generational theme everywhere I looked. But there was a focus, an excitement, an intenseness spritzing off of everyone, and it was very contagious.
Almost everyone, no matter what age group they belonged to, knew the words to the songs. Almost everyone was singing out joyously. There were people with one hand lifted to the sky. Yet others had both hands raised. I suddenly realized by about the third song that I was in the middle of one huge glorious worship service.
Who knows what different church denominations were represented there in that moment. I know I saw some groups wearing T-shirts that identified themselves as belonging to a particular church or Christian youth group. They were many and varied. Yet the one unifying desire was to be there to worship and glorify God, Creator, Spirit. A yearning, if you will, to recognize and acknowledge the One, the Supreme Being who gives us life. It was electrifying.
I am not a “holy roller” (whatever that may be). Although there are a few Bible verses that I can quote and reference and there are others that I can paraphrase, I am not someone who can spout from the Bible at any and every occasion. I do not wear “sack cloth and ashes” and I really hope I don’t portray a “holier than thou” attitude.
When I’m not dealing with that pesky de-pression stuff, I consider myself to be a fun-loving, joy-filled, and joyful person in my day-to-day dealings with life. But that evening I experienced joy on a level that I had never experienced before. It was the kind of joy that filled me up, raised me up, and had me overflowing with happiness and gratitude. The kind of joy that had me laughing, smiling, singing (when I knew the words!), and crying all at one time.
My husband did not come with me that first year. It had been a “girl’s night” treat with a couple of my girl friends. But when the following year rolled around, based on my experience the previous year, he wanted to participate and we went as a family with our daughter. He and I have not missed a year since, although because of last minute work travel in 2008 he had to surrender his ticket to one of my friends.
Each year has been different and yet each year has been the same. The bands and the individual singers may change and rotate, but the energy and enthusiasm of the people who come to listen, sing, and worship remains the same. And they come from all over. Most of the States are represented and I have even met people from Canada, UK, and South America. If you want to experience an uplifting, interdenominational worshipping of God, I highly recommend that you plan a Night of Joy at Disney.