Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

I have suffered from anxiety and depression most of my life.  It has been an ongoing battle!  On the surface I may look like I am doing pretty well.  After-all, I created a cake blog with the subtitle "CELEBRATING cake and life..."  And I do try.  I try to have a grateful heart.  I try to smile most days.  I try to encourage others.  I try to push myself to learn new things.  I put on a good game face most days.  I would say I am a fighter!  But I still get sucked into anxiety and depression from time to time...

So when a friend, a counselor, and a fellow church member recommended a book, The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle, as a cure to depression and anxiety, I jumped to read the book.  

I can honestly say it is one of the most profound books I have ever read.  It is about learning to really listen to the incessant chatter of our minds; to also become more conscious of the emotions felt in our bodies; to observe them non-judgmentally; so that we can redirect ourselves to live/be in the present moment.  Okay, not a great one but that's my best attempt at summarizing. Bottom line:  It was a really good read and spoke to me.   I recommend it.  

(And then HERE is an alternative review!  Because hindsight IS 20/20.  I still give it a huge thumb's up.  Worth reading, for sure.)

Dietrich Bonhoeffer Cake

Well, this was a first for me...replicating a face in chocolate (actually, melted and piped Wilton Candy Melts using the chocolate transfer method.)  It was copied from an ink drawing image I found on the internet...cannot take credit for the original drawing!  I'm thinking my attempt is not perfect; but not bad!  I can live with a little imperfection...

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German Lutheran pastor, theologian, and anti-Nazi dissident with a remarkable story.  He was executed during World War II by hanging a month before the Nazi regime collapsed.  You can read more about him: Here

His book The Cost of Discipleship is a modern classic.

I just downloaded on Kindle this book:

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy  You can find it Here. 

I also would like to watch a documentary on his life.  Must put on my to-do list.

So many great Bonhoeffer quotes I found surfing the net; was hard to decide which one to use.

(Cake done for a college professor who is teaching six classes this semester on Bonhoeffer.  Fun cake to do!)

Monday, February 8, 2016

Monday Meditation

I have a friend I want to tell you about.  Kevin.  I met him by accident.  I say by accident, but not really, because I've always believed that God puts people in my life, as I've needed them, even when I don't know that I need them.  Kevin is one of those people.

Kevin and I met through Words with Friends, an online gaming app very similar to Scrabble.  He challenged me to a WWF game over a year ago, at a time when I was not coping well with life.  I was deeply depressed after losing my father to cancer, caring for my mother-in-law who is struggling with dementia, watching a dear friend battle lymphoma, and dealing with other personal crisis I shall not go into.  Suffice it to say, I was in a "dark funk," holing myself up in my room as much as possible and doing as little as I could get away with!  

When Kevin sent me that first WWF game request, I was playing Word with Friends mostly with my mother.  I started playing WWF shortly after my father's death, and my playing WWF with my mother was my way of being "near" her as she grieved, even if I wasn't physically with her.  It gave me comfort.

Anyway, somewhere along the way I learned Kevin sent me that first Words with Friends game request by mistake. I don't exactly recall, but I think it wasn't until a few games in that we chatted and he realized I was not the Lisa E. he thought I was!  Graciously, he continued to play me anyway. (Or maybe not so I think he liked beating me!)  Our initial chatting was light-hearted and mostly what I call "STAT-CHAT."  Kevin is a statistics nerd and so he kept me abreast of our scores/statistics.  For some reason, these serious stat-chat updates made me laugh.  And so the friendship began.

We became Facebook friends as well, and it is from Facebook that I learned Kevin had been diagnosed with ALS...Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis...or Lou Gehrig's disease.   While I was somewhat familiar with ALS because of the Ice Bucket Challenge videos on Facebook, I had never personally been affected by the disease.

I am a naturally curious soul.  I researched.  I googled.  I read a book (which I recommend):

I also watched a film.

I wept.

My heart ached for Kevin and for his family.  Why God?  Why do you allow people to suffer?  I would imagine most of us with any smidgen of compassion have asked this question, if we believe in a loving God, but when suffering hits home, when it hits the people WE know and care about, it is a heart-wrenching question.

I still don't have the answer.  I know lots of people have their opinions on the whys of suffering, but for now I accept it as one of those mysteries of life I will not fully understand until I have crossed over.

But this I do know:  When a friend is hurting, I try to put myself in his shoes.  I realize it is not entirely possible to do so, but I do *try* to imagine what he might feel.  How does someone feel when he has been told he has a "terminal" illness?  How does he feel when he has had to quit his job?  Give up driving?  How does he feel when he needs a machine to help him breathe?  When he needs a feeding tube because he has trouble swallowing?  How does he feel when he thinks he may lose his ability to walk, to talk, to function independently; to do all the things most of us take for granted?  How does he cope?  

"It is what it is."  That is what Kevin has told me, on more than one occasion.  I think that is his way of saying he has come to a place of acceptance with this ALS thing; that he has learned to take one day at a time; one problem at a time; one moment at a time.  And in all that he has even learned to squeeze as much joy out of life as he possibly can.  Isn't that all any of us can do with our lives?

Knowing Kevin has shaken my world, to tell you the truth.  His friendship has made me ask important questions of myself.  "What do I *really* value in life? What *should* I value in life? What makes someone's life have worth?  What makes MY life have worth? What if I could no longer be 'productive'?  What if I had to rely on others for my every need?  Do I still have worth?"

And so, out of those questions were born these truths for me:

1. I am so much more than what I do.  I am more than my accomplishments/failures.  I am more than my talents/weaknesses.   I am more than my material possessions.  I am more than my productivity.  I am a soul inside my flesh and bones and as such, I am loved unconditionally.

2. My priority and goal in life is simply to love unconditionally.  This includes loving MYSELF unconditionally.  It is important that I treat myself as tenderly as I treat anyone else.

3. I don't have to solve the world's problems.  In fact, I don't have to solve anyone's problems except my own.  Everyone has his/her own path to take; everyone has to learn his/her own lessons and everyone has to find his/her own meanings in life.  This includes my children.  They will be okay.  They are okay.  My job is to encourage them, provide direction if I can, but mostly, my job is to love them unconditionally.

4. I can choose what I put into my head, or at least what I continuously feed my mind.  I can choose fear OR I can choose peace.  I can choose to live in the present or obsess about the past/future.  It is up to me. I do have a choice.

5. I may forget these truths from time to time, and that is okay too!   (See number 2..."It is important that I treat myself as tenderly as I treat anyone else."  That means forgiving myself when I have a bad day, when I don't feel good, when I feel/act less than loving.)

So thank you, Kevin, for making me think.  Thank you for helping me learn to love myself unconditionally.  It has been a lifelong struggle but I feel I am getting there!  Thank you for being a friend, by giving me your presence in some very dark days.

You once asked me if I was aware if I had ever been used by God.  Well, what I believe is that we are *all* used by God, anytime we do, say, think, or pray anything out of love.


Sunday, February 7, 2016

Sunday Funday: My Cup Runneth Over!

There are some things in life that make me especially happy, and one of those things is to see people helping others who are not able to help themselves.

I watched this weekend. 

Joann, my mother-in-law with dementia, has a new sitter, Barbara, and she is an answered prayer.  I honestly don't think we could have hand-picked a better sitter.  I knew ten minutes after talking to her that first time that she "got it" and if anyone can handle Joann, she can.  She is smart, witty, intuitive and respectful.  She calls herself Joann's "companion" and also jokingly refers to herself as Joann's "shadow."  She was singing "Me and My Shadow" walking down the hallway with Joann the other day.  It made me smile.

I learned the other day that Barbara has been having to rely on her sister-in-law to get her to and from work.  She has a car, but it has been inoperable since October.  She has been waiting on her income tax money to be able to afford to get it fixed.

Hmmm...I have a husband and two sons who are pretty darned good at fixing cars. I told her about their experience/accomplishments.  I told them about her predicament.

Brad and Daniel spent the weekend repairing her car.  (Fuel pump)

She just sent me a text telling me that I have no idea how much that meant to her and that she did not know how this repair was going to happen.  

"My cup runneth over."

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Happy Birthday, Logan!

Well, I was pretty pleased with this cake, but I must say, it makes me nervous to do tractor cakes. (laughing)  I hope the customer will be satisfied.  I sent her a photo.  She said she loved it.

The first time I ever decorated a tractor cake for profit, it was a total fail.

It was done during one of my very busy cake decorating seasons, and when the customer called me up to order it, a week prior to due date, I already had 7 cake orders on the books for that weekend.

My gut was to say "no," but it was a time in my life when "no" was very hard for me to say.  So I found myself uttering the words "Sure, I will do it."  And kicking myself.

The customer and I exchanged a few ideas.  Decided on a cake size.  I heard the words "John Deere tractor."  I obsessed about decorating an accurately portrayed John Deere tractor!  I researched and found the best photo I could replicate.

That cake was the last cake I decorated that weekend.  It was also the cake that made me go into semi-retirement for awhile.  By the time I got to that cake that weekend, I was tired but I got 'er done.  I wish I had a photo of that cake. I am my own worst critic and I will tell you that it wasn't half-bad.  It was neat.  It was accurate. The customer picked it up, looked at it, thanked me and went on her merry way (or not so merry way...)

By the time the customer had gotten home, she had worked herself up into a tizzy, when she called me to let me know it was NOT the cake of her dreams that she had envisioned for her precious one year old's birthday bash.  She told me she was going to make the THIRTY MILE TREK BACK to my house to return it to me and get a refund, whereby she would get a much more competent cake decorator to give her what she wanted.  (The night before the party!!!)

Okay, so the customer is always right and I didn't "deliver." (get it right)  I scratched my head (and said a few choice words to myself)...and learned some good lessons:

1)  Trust my gut and say "no" when I want to say "no."

2)  Don't assume someone will be grateful when I think I am doing them a favor.  (Okay, that sounds bitter, doesn't it?  Oh my...I will work on that.)  I can't please everyone??? Laughing. Moving on...

3)  Communicate, communicate, communicate.  Make sure I am speaking the same language as the person I am communicating with...not my strong suite!  Must work on that.  (In the cake biz, a picture is worth a thousand words!)

4)  Don't sweat the small stuff.  Most of it is small stuff.

I told her to please not bring the cake back.  I told her to eat it and enjoy it (along with the more fabulous cake she was going to get someone to make the night before).  I told her I would just tear her check up and I did.  I went on MY merry way.

It's funny now.   It wasn't so funny at the time.  I have to admit I still forget these lessons from time to time!  Writing them down is a good reminder.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Ole Miss Rebel Cake

Today I decorated a cake for my friend, Allen.

I have written about Allen before: Here.

Allen is the biggest Ole Miss fan on the face of the earth.  As such, this makes about year 10 I've made him an Ole Miss cake.  He looks forward to that cake.  He EXPECTS that cake.  He calls me up to remind me of that cake.  Every. Single. Year.  Since. That. First. Surprise. Cake.

And I love it.

He is sooooo easy to please.  

The truth is, I am sure I get more out of doing this cake for him than he gets out of receiving it.  

I don't know...he gets pretty excited...could be Even Stevens.

Allen, you are my friend.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Sunday Funday: It's David's Birthday!

I woke up at 3:30 this morning.  I seem to be doing this regularly; waking up way before the crack of dawn.  By 4:00 a.m. I have had enough of laying, wide-awake, so I pull myself out of bed.  At first these involuntary wakings aggravated me but I am learning to embrace them by designating them my "quiet time."  I get up, fix myself a pot of coffee, sit, read, think or pray in beautiful solitude.  

Everything is so quiet and still this time of day.  Have you ever been outside before twilight?  Before the birds have begun singing? Peered into the sky when the stars and moon are shining so brightly?  Sat in a rocking chair and listened?  Really listened?  It is a magical time of day.

Anyway, today is David's birthday (son number two), so HE was one of my first thoughts when I rose this morning.  What am I going to do today for David???  How can I celebrate him?  He is TWENTY FOUR.  He actually isn't here right now.  He is camping with friends but I am sure he will make an appearance and *will* be expecting a gift or gesture of some kind that says "We are glad you were born and are a part of our lives!"  And we are!

David makes me smile.  I try not to venture into his room too often, as it can be a bit scary for me (untidy) but I did go in there the other day looking for something.  And that is when I noticed this, hanging in the window above his desk:

I am assuming these are men he is fascinated with at the moment.  Do you recognize them?  Jesus, of course.  That was easy.  But the others...I had to look closely.  Nikola Tesla, Benjamin Franklin, Napoleon Bonaparte.  

David just started back to college after returning from military deployment.  He had considered moving to Texas but thankfully decided to hang around us for a bit longer.  It was a well-thought out decision.  Good for him!

He is taking a full load of classes which includes Calculus, Chemistry, Entrepreneurship, and Old Testament.  Quite a diverse combination; don't you think?...just like the four men pictured above his bedroom desk.

God, I love this kid.  Have I said that?  Now to figure out what to do for him today.  Thinking...thinking...