"I do not claim that I can tell a story as it ought to be told. I only claim to know how a story ought to be told." -Mark Twain


Natural Creases and a Gorgeous Tan

Freshen up that Pepsi (my drink of choice), pull up your chair and prepare yourself for an amusing story. Remember when I told you the about the time I was struck by lightning? Well this will be another in the saga of "The Freaky Things That Happen to Lori" series.

I was at an event this past weekend with my family and a crowd shot was taken of me and many of my cousins. I know we are all critical of our own pictures, but none more than myself.  I absolutely detest pictures of myself.  Why?  Because they look just like me. So, I upload the crowd shot and I immediately see myself. (another cousin had used my camera to take the picture....believe me, I wasn't doing the arm stretch thing to take pics of myself).
Even in the group shot I could see my ugly neck and my ugly scar and my ugly white-spot-that-won't-tan-neck.
And lucky you, I am going to show you the picture, so you can enjoy the funny (truly it is) story.
A totally un-touched-up picture, except to crop out the innocent people standing next to me.  

See that giant scar on my neck? That is where this story begins (the rest was just pre-intro).
It all started almost four years ago.  It was the September 7th. I was at one of my son's high school football games and out of the blue my throat began to get sore. I dismissed it and chalked it up to my-throat-not-being-in-shape-for-football-season-yelling-yet.  By the end of the game my throat was pretty darn sore.  I went home, took a couple of Tylenol and told my husband I was going to bed because my throat was sore. (Rarely do I go to bed before midnight).

Saturday morning I woke up and it was even more sore.  I rummaged around to look for any kind of antibiotic that we had left over from anything. (Gasp. I know. I know.  But that is the kind of pseudo-doctor that I am.)
I continue to try to self-medicate all weekend but my throat does not get better.  In my husband's defense he tried to get me to go to the ER but I refused. I can be very stubborn.  He knows that. 
By Sunday evening my throat hurt so badly I could not talk (supergasp!), it was very, very hard to swallow, and it became hard to breathe. My husband strongly suggested that he take me to the ER (which was about a block away). I told him to 'sleep lightly and check on me all night to make sure I was still breathing.' He went to sleep but I couldn't. I could not breathe...as in I could not get air into my airway.
So I did wake him up several times and tell him I was still breathing but miserable. I kept asking him if I had a fever too. I also need to interject here that I was not able to talk. I was using pantomime gestures to 'talk' to him. When I was really frustrated I would write it out.
On Monday morning Hubby called into work for me. There was no way I could work. I put on shorts and a T-shirt, zero make-up, maybe brushed my hair and went straight to the doctor. My doctor had a walk-in clinic that opened at 7 a.m. I was there at 6:30 a.m. I had told my husband to go to work and I would call (??!!) him. He knows there is no arguing with me....(or at least arguing and winning!)
The walk-in clinic (I found out) was staffed by the P.A.'s. (Physician Assistant).  I had/have nothing against P.A.'s.

I was the first patient of the morning.  I got in there and I used all the breath I had left to whisper in the smallest of voices that my throat was killing me, I could not talk and I could barely breath. Also, by this time, my neck was actually swollen. (I do realize that would be hard to tell on me.) Well the P.A. kept asking me questions and I could not answer. I couldn't because I could not talk or breathe. He seems oblivious to this little fact.  (I was sitting on the exam table and my (very long) (I am 5'11) legs were stretched out in front of me.

Then the P.A. said, "Lori, you have a gorgeous tan."  I. KID. YOU. NOT!!!  Right in the middle of me trying to show him that I might die from not being able to breathe and he comments on my tan.  (AND don't even forget that it is September and I have been at work for three or four weeks and not in the sun. AND since when do medical personnel (encourage) like tans?)

Well if I couldn't breathe before, I certainly could not then, as I was choking/gasping and about to punch him out. He then told me that he figures I am 'coming down with' strep. I have a fever and I have all the signs. (!!??) Since when did strep make you unable to talk because you could not get the breath to breathe????
He gave me a prescription and told me to call in (for real) if I didn't feel better. Ugh.

I left to go and get my 'script filled.  The pharmacy does not open till 9 a.m.  I just hoped I didn't die before then.

Finally I got the meds. The pharmacist called me up to his station. He asked me what I was getting that particular medicine for. (Sorry, I cannot remember the name of it). I told him (whispered) that my throat was very sore and I was having trouble breathing and talking. The pharmacist got a puzzled look on his face and said, "Well I don't know why he prescribed this for you then because it is an enormous pill and it would be hard to swallow if you have a really sore throat. Super ugh.  THEN he proceeded to tell me to drink LOTS with it as I swallowed it, as it had a very rancid (his words) taste, if it got stuck (are you even kidding me?) in your throat.

I remember buying some kind of good-tasting juice and going straight home. I opened the bottle of pills and knew I was in trouble.  The dang pills were about the size of a small thumb. (Well maybe not that big, but they were extremely large. EXTREMELY.)  I began to drink the juice. It would barely go down. I knew if the juice wouldn't go down, then chances of the pill were minimal.  BUT I felt absolutely miserable, so I had to try.  

You guessed it. The pill got stuck.  And the pharmacist was not even kidding.  I hopped around. I screamed. (Well it was a silent scream but my mouth was open and my eyes were watering and I was kicking, hopping, gasping, puking and finally, I dislodged the pill.) But the taste lasted FOREVER.
I was defeated. I called Tim. I tried to tell him the story, but I did not have the energy. I told him I was going to bed to try and sleep (as I had not been able to the night before). 

Short version = really bad day.  (Hubby did call the doctor's office and they said the medicine needed time to 'kick in'. He tried to explain that I had not been able to take it, but they said to give it 24 hours.)  The next morning I got up early, Hubby called my work again, and I went to the clinic again. This time I could not talk. I wrote the nurse a note and said I refused to see the same P.A., but I HAD to see someone.  She looked at me (had enormous pity on how I looked as I was still in the same thing from the morning before) and put me right in with a female P.A., even though they 'officially' were not open for business. 

The female P.A. took one look at me and I could see her expression change. I pantomimed my dilemma to her. By this time my whole upper chest was visibly swollen too and my fever was high as well. I EVEN 'told on' her colleague and what he didn't do for me!!  She poked and prodded and asked questions. She gave me a note-pad to write down answers. She put me straight into the hospital.  Immediately.  She would not even let me go home to get other clothes.

They hooked me up to Super Steroids.  I had two different kinds going into me.  This was mainly to get the swelling down so I could breathe. She also began me on some kind of antibiotic through an IV.  THANK goodness I did not have to swallow anything else!!  (or try to).

That afternoon I was given a CAT scan and an MRI.  Then the female PA came and told me that I had just what she had suspected. I had a tumor in my throat.  It had literally started growing that Friday night during the game and just got bigger and bigger. It was right by my voice box, which made me lose my ability to speak as it pushed on it. Also, the fact that I could not get my breathe did not help with the talking part.  She said that the entire practice had only treated a tumor like this once before and that they were very rare. She told me they occurred in about 2 out of every 500,000 people.  I was disappointed. I wanted to be ONE in a MILLION.  I told her that. She was glad I had my sense of humor back.
My 'tumor' was called a Thyroglossal Duct Cyst. Symptoms: Hard to swallow, breath, talk; Fever (if infected); Noticeable swelling of neck and area of tumor. I had it all.

So, to make the long story longer, Female PA sent me to the nearest city to have a specialist look at it.  He gave me a very thorough exam.  He was very, very serious. He told me they would have to make in incision straight across my neck to be able to get the cyst out. He said that there are an extremely high amount of blood veins in the neck and he would be very careful about that and my voice box, etc.  Then he said, "The incision is fairly large, so I will try my best to put the incision on one of your natural creases."  I laughed.  I actually found laughed out loud.  I (whispered) "One of my natural creases?"  He was very serious.  "Well one of your natural folds."  I laughed more.  He still didn't. I (whispered) "You mean my wrinkles and my fat?" He still didn't smile.  I (whispered more), "Well that is fine, but as long as you're working in the area, would you mind a nip and a tuck on that neck of mine?"  Still no laughter on his part. In fact not even a smile.  Geez. I decided I had better get on the surgeon's good side, since I was about to let him cut my neck wide open. I noticed by the diploma on his wall that he and I had gone to the same college (The University of Oklahoma), even though we were both in NE Kansas. I tried to conjure up the Boomer Sooner spirit, but he was still just so/so friendly.  
But as Hubby pointed out, it was okay to have someone that took what they did very seriously, when they were working on the area around the jugular!
Long story longer: He got the entire cyst out. It was benign, as most Thyroglossal Duct Cysts are.  The unique quality of the cysts though is they sometimes can grow back. 
For those 2 in 500,000 of us that get this thing, this type of cyst is literally there from conception.  As the doctors told me, at some point some kind of germ, or bacteria, travels down the throat and lands on the mini-microscopic cyst and it begins to blow up and grow. 
It always requires surgery to remove.  In rare cases people have not gotten the surgery in time and it has burst through their skin. (I hope you weren't eating right then.)

So, the whole point of this long narrative, (besides to tell you freakish things that happen to me) is to make sure you don't get some kind of weirdo male physicians assistant. KIDDING.
It was to always ask for female medical personnel.

It was to tell you all about my natural folds and natural creases that now also host one ginormous scar.
And, don't forget about that gorgeous tan.

Hey, P.S. Just so you know, ever since that surgery, I
get my neck to tan.
(Notice the white blob.)
p.s.s. I am not proofreading for errors or tense shifts. Deal with it.


Dog Days of Summer..................

Although originally, the 'dog days of summer' had to do with stars and constellations, we Americans have adapted it (as we love to make everything our own) to mean the oppression of the summer heat.  

 Originally 'dog days' was all about Sirius the 'dog star' and how it rises and sets with the sun.  The 'dog days' dates were between July 3 and August 11.  It was a 20 day period that happened to coincide with intense heat.

 Because Sirius was the brightest star, ancient Romans believed that the sun heated the 'dog star' Sirius up during the day, therefore causing it to shine so brightly during the night, and the 'dog star' attributed to the intense heat of the period of July and August.

Obviously now, while we use the expression 'the dog days of summer' we attribute it to intense heat, sultry weather and periods of being lazy and inactive (which we blame on the intense heat and sultry weather!)

 Obviously now we use the phrase to encompass many days past August 11th. We are still counting lazy, hazy summer days clear into September.

As an English teacher, I love the richness, variety, and complexity of our language.  I worry that we skip right past the old adages, cliche's and idioms without every taking the time to know from where they are derived.

My students are usually clueless to what the old phrases really mean.  My American born students will tell me that they remember their 'old grandmas and grandpas' saying things like that, and my foreign born students have no idea at all what the phrases could mean.

I put together little powerpoints (similar to what I have just done) and show them on the Smartboard (a big interactive screen).  That makes the students seem to be more in-tune and actually 'get it'.  Then I feel better that they have at least been exposed to our rich language heritage.

Maybe tomorrow I should explain the origination of "cat naps' here on the blog!!


Simple Words To Live By.....................

"Youth has no age."  .....Pablo Picasso

Happy Birthday Lisa.  The oldest (as in KNOWN the longest) friend I have. A 49 year friendship..and still counting!  I appreciate our friendship more every year. We were lucky girls to grow up together on that idyllic "D" Street. Love you...forever.

Linking (the quote part!) to Tracey's weekly quotes-to-get-you-through-the-week. 


She's The Emblem of the Land I Love.......

There is a chance I will not be home on the Fourth of July. I don't mean as in 'going to a parade' or 'going to a picnic', not home, but as in being on the beach in Seaside, Florida, not home!  (There is the small problem of a ginormous oil spill and possible hurricane that are keeping me from being fully committed to Seaside on the Fourth.)

With those two things in mind, I decided yesterday to try and attempt a flag cake....I wanted this cake to be a 'practice' cake.  JUST IN CASE I am still living it up in Oklahoma on the Fourth.  IF I am, then I want to be prepared to take a great patriotic-holiday- appropriate- dessert-to-wherever-I-go-by-second-choice.  So the following is my practice attempt. 
Who would ever guess that this little unassuming white cake with sprinkles would hold this inside?

 Things I will do differently when I make The Real Thing (as opposed to the practice round).  I intentionally did not use enough red food coloring.  I did not want to run out of my red and then not be able to find anymore right before the 4th.  Plus, I am just stingy like that and I said this was just practice, not dress rehearsal.  Also, I probably could find some navy food coloring, as opposed to trying to create my own with the blue food coloring I had and a dab of black. By the way, only gel food coloring will give you the true colors you want. (And Old Glory deserves true colors because her colors don't run!) Next thing I would do differently would be this:  I baked regular layers as in layered-cake layers.
 (This is the 'purety' meeting 'the bloodshed' while they were baking.
( Stars talking to stripes as they got things cooking.)

  Then I got a big 'ole butcher knife and sliced them horizontally into two.  (Clearly, I need to have my eyes checked before school starts again.) BUT next time I will either just leave the cake as regular layers, OR invest in one of those cake-thingymajigg-slicers. With this one, I just pretended it was a flag waving in the wind, therefore the non-straight stripes.
(Feel free to borrow that excuse as well if you make this cake.  Also, keep in mind, when the picture above was taken, the cake was over 36 hours old,had let gravity 'settle' things (like me) and only this little smidge was left. I insisted they leave a little piece for the hubby who had not gotten to see it yet. And the cake had traveled over 100 miles.....
(OK, I believe I am excused out at this point.)  One last thing I would/will do differently is to make the blue layer all one layer.)

I started with these.  Anytime I make a cake over three layers I always use these.  Then I just pop them into the dishwasher and save them to use again for my next adventure. (Giant eye-roll here from my children I am sure, as they think it is 'so dorky' to save them.)
 I just used boxed white cake mix and added food coloring gel.  I made them just as I would a normal three layer cake. Then (as I said above) I sliced each of the layers (after they were cool) horizontally to make more layers. 
 (White layers on the left, red on the right, made exactly the same way with the same cake mix. Notice the difference in size?  I attribute that to the World's-Cheapest-Oven that is in the house we rent. This is not an excuse, just a fact.)

So I stack red and white, red and white, using homemade Buttercream icing between layers.  
Then I go to find Luke so he can take pictures of the next step and this is what I find.


I bribe him to come and take pictures and threaten him with his life if he gets me in any of the pictures.
 I take one of the blue layers and put a small bowl on top.  I then use that as a pattern for the middle of the cake I want to cut out. (Notice that butcher knife I use? !!) (Oh, and the white  edible confetti, was my attempt at stars in this layer. They were just so-so). 
Take the blue center and put it aside. (The white on my delicate hands is powdered sugar from the homemade Buttercream.)  I saved the middle to use later for cakeballs.
So, I put just the outside ring of blue on top of my red/white/red/white layers....(with buttercream between each layer.)

Now this is where it gets a little tricky.  I told Luke to take pics of this process while I was using my faux-engineering degree to try and figure this out.  I assumed he had listened to my earlier threats, but when I went to write this post, (below) is the next picture I found.

We have several pictures of Boomer in various stages of boredom, but none of the most important steps.  So I will try to explain.

OK, notice at the top of the pic where I have a red and a white layer stacked on top of each other... Well, I used the same bowl and cut out the center of those layers. I got rid of the outside circles of those two and saved them for later cakeballs.  I then took the red round middle and put it in the blue ring that was on top of the red/white/red/white layers. ALSO, before I did this, I did put Buttercream icing on the inside circle of blue.  Then I slathered Buttercream on top of the blue/red layer and started the process again. This time I did a blue ring and put the white circle in the middle.  

That is it. You are 3/4 of the way through. I then took even more Buttercream and "caked it on" (get it? caked....) the entire cake. 

And then because I was not sure if the sixty-eight layers of cake and Buttercream would be enough sugar, I covered the top with red/white/and blue confetti.

Plus I wanted people to be staring at the top of the cake instead of looking at the inside while I was cutting it, as I was still a little unsure if my faux-engineering degree would come through for me with a flag-like cake in the middle.
(My nephew Landon took the rest of the pics, as Luke had been fired at this point, for 'distraction on the job".)

 (Landon took a very good picture of the right side of the cake. The left side shows the flag going the right direction.)

 (No comment needed except yes, I did cut my hair very short.)

And the rest, as they say, is a 'piece of cake' (get it?)!

 We were eating this at my parent's house and they had some stars and stripes paper plates sitting there.  I picked one up to use, because I thought it would be cute with the flag-cake, but my mom told me they were saving those for the 4th.  Then when she saw what the inside of the cake looked like, she wanted to know why I didn't use the stars and stripes plates!!

 So I apologize for the tacky-white-non-biodegradable-styrofoam plates.  It was my mom's fault.

 So if you have read this far, you must really, really want to make the Not-Your-Typical-Fruit-On-Top-Flag-Cake.  I say 'go for it'.  Be the hit of your mom's kitchen as I was for an hour. Send your mom into a sugar high as I did (and she didn't quit talking at 100 mph for two more hours). Enjoy.

 If I am in Oklahoma for the 4th I plan to make it again.  The Real Deal. More layers.  Sparklers on top (lit) before we cut into it.  If I am NOT in Oklahoma on the 4th I will be sitting on the beach in Seaside, Florida, thinking about the 13 layer flag cake with sprinklers (not fruit) on top that I would have made!
(This takes the cake, doesn't it?) (Get it???!!) 


Spoonfuls of Love

Does anyone else have one of these?

I don't mean that exact cookbook,
(although I know a few of you could say yes to that!)
I mean a time-tested,
well-worn and well-loved
Its pages are filled with
recipes you love,
that your family loves you to make,
and brings back memories of meals
full of love?
The pages of the cookbook
I love
are torn and tattered.
Some are stained.
I can probably make the recipes
I love most
without using the cookbook.
But that particular cookbook
is much more than a book
full or recipes.
To me, it is a book full of love.
This cookbook,
going on 30 (gulp) years old
is full of recipes
from the ladies of the church
where I grew up.
I have favorite recipes I use 
from this book.
But, each time I open the book
I am reminded of much more than food.
I see names of women that shaped my life.
I remember eating their food at church potlucks,
eating at their kitchen tables for lunch,
or breakfast,
or backyard cookouts.
I remember the love they had
for their families
as they cooked these very recipes.

It is not just the food that 
fills my stomach,
but the memories that 
flood my heart.
Wonderful women 
mouth-watering recipes.
So many of these women
have already 
made their journey to heaven,
but through their food
I remember them clearly.

Some of the recipes I love:
Doris's Strawberry Pie
Kezia's Cocunut Pie
Mary Sue's Mexican Casserole
(the first Mexican casserole I ever made)
Mrs. O'Kief's Poppyseed Bread
(one of the stained and torn pages in my book)
Esther Ruth's Chicken Croquettes
(which I change to salmon)
My Grandmother's Cornbread Dressing
(which I make every Thanksgiving and a few other times per year)
Ruby's Pineapple Chiffon Pie
(which I make every Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's and Easter..and
I always make two.  One is never enough!)
Ruby C.'s Pumpkin Rolls
(every year in Kansas I made 2 dozen of these cakes for my friends)
My Mom's Pecan Pie
(the only Pecan Pie I know of that does not use syrup...therefore scrumptious!)
Zeke's Monstrous Green Salad

There are so many others where the recipe 
or the lady behind the recipe
make me smile:
Elva, Della, Debbie, Katie, Ann and Mary.
The list 
goes on and on.

As my own children have gotten older
and began to
leave the nest,
they have asked me frequently
for recipes our family loves.
I began to put together a cookbook
for them about two years ago,
but never got it finished.
This summer, I am determined
to finish it.
You can bet the recipes
I mentioned above
will be included as well.

I hope when my children use
the cookbook I make,
it will bring back memories, 
not only of great food
but of happy times 
gathered around the table, 
the pool,
the firepit,
or the
backyard table.
I hope that 
after years of cooking,
my cookbook for them
will look just like
the spoonfuls of love
I gather from this...



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