Soup’s on... or is it???

During the winter months, we like to make at least one big pot of chicken noodle soup. Call it comfort food while we wait for the blustery winter winds to morph into warm summer breezes.
Soup takes time and plenty of patience to put together. Let’s face it, time hasn’t exactly been my companion since The Outdoors Guy’s diagnosis of pancreatic cancer in May of 2015, plus the stroke he suffered on Sept. 2 last year. Consequently, making soup has not been on my radar.
A quote from Laurie Colwin expresses a universal feeling about soup: “To feel safe and warm on a cold wet night, all you really need is soup.”
And, in Mr. Outdoors’ case, a barrel of crackers!!!
So, last week I was finally ready to pull out my 11-quart stock pot, roll up my sleeves and get busy putting together a mid-winter treat.
The day before, I put the chicken breasts in water, simmering them for one hour while skimming off any foam rising to the top. Then, I removed the chicken from the broth. After it had cooled enough to handle, I pulled away the skin and bones and popped the chicken in the fridge until the next day. I also chilled the broth overnight, skimming off the fat the next morning.
So far, so good. Right? Check!
The next day, Bob sliced carrots and chopped celery. I began to heat the broth, cut up the chicken, stir in the seasonings and add a frozen bag of chopped onions left over from when we made chili earlier this winter.
We were simmering along when The Outdoors Guy took a break to check his website.
Meanwhile, I measured the noodles and set them aside, ready to go when the water in the 5-quart Corning dish reached the boiling point.
As I turned to check the stock and vegies, my elbow slammed into the bowl of noodles. The bowl went flying from the counter, tumbling over as the 4 cups of noodles left the bowl and also took flight, not only across the kitchen floor, but also into the dining room. I couldn’t believe my eyes! Noodles here...noodles there…noodles, noodles...EVERYWHERE!!!
Bob heard my cry of despair as I turned down the heat on the almost-boiling water. He came racing in from the study.
“What happened?”
“I accidentally hit the bowl with my elbow when I turned around.”
“It looks like you hit a few hundred home runs in one swing,” he joked. “I’ll get the broom and dust pan.”
“Thank goodness they were dry and not cooked,” I commented.
“Yup, there’s always a silver lining,” he added.
A quick check in the pantry provided another silver lining because we had just enough noodles to replace what had spilled. Whew! Problem solved.
The new batch of noodles was cooked, rinsed and drained. The empty Corning dish was in one side of the sink. Immediately after I lifted the strainer containing the noodles from the other side of the sink to add to the soup…KA BANG!!!
Jumping about a foot, I peered into the sink to see the Corning dish had burst apart and looked quite pathetic as it was now in three pieces instead of one.
The Outdoors Guy was just a few feet away. “What the heck was that,” he hollered as he looked into the sink.
I wondered how many times in how many years I used that dish to cook noodles and make numerous other recipes. And, like always, putting hot water in it to soak. We decided it must have been it’s time.
“Another silver lining,” I added. “The dish didn’t explode on the range!!!”
With that, we looked at each other wide-eyed!!! I told him, “I don’t even want to think about what a mess that would have been!!!”
Cleanup wasn’t exactly a breeze, either. I cut my finger on an edge of the broken dish as I put it in the trash!!! AARRGGHHH!!!
I told Bob, “Now remind me of why we haven’t made soup for almost three years!!!”
“Good soup is one of the prime ingredients of good living. For soup can do more to lift the spirits and stimulate the appetite than any other one dish.” Louis P. De Gouy, ‘The Soup Book’
Ha! My spirits were never lifted so high as when I was finally able to declare, “SOUP'S ON!!!”

This one’s for you, girls

No, I’m not blogging about #me, too. Although, I’d venture to guess most of us have a story or two to tell!
I’d rather write about our closets… or at least what’s in ‘em that shouldn’t be.
If yours looks anything like mine, it’s as jam-packed with clothes as the mall is with people on the weekend before Christmas.
I’ve never considered myself to be a hoarder. But, I do know I have a problem with keeping too many clothes.
So, my curiosity got the best of me. I decided to check out a few websites. One site, Hoarders Help, quoted Jack Samuels, Ph.D., an assistant professor with a joint appointment in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the Dept. of Mental Health at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins. He suggested, “Hoarding belongs to a syndrome which also includes: Indecisiveness, perfectionism, procrastination, avoidance behaviors and difficulty organizing tasks.”
BOOM!! I didn’t have to think twice! Right off the bat I was convicted on the first two counts!
1) Indecisiveness. My family, including my parents, brothers and sisters and I were teased for years by the in-laws because we were all so indecisive! If there was a decision to be made when members of the Poling clan got together, we’d go round and round before someone FINALLY made it… and then it was usually one of the in-laws!
2) Perfectionism. Yes, it’s another trait I struggle with. So much so that sometimes I even drive myself crazy!!! LOL
Obviously, fessing up to the first two categories didn’t start off on a positive note in my quest for a not-guilty-of-hoarding verdict. Yet, I don’t believe I’m a full-blown hoarder. My main problem is clinging to too many clothes.
Hmm…let’s see…there’s the mini velvet skirt with a matching vest almost as long as the skirt. I bought it 40+ years ago!!! I use the excuse it’s vintage and a keepsake. But, it’s more like…for Pete’s sake, what am I thinking?!!
Do you remember Fantles on 5th Ave. in La Crosse? My closet boasts a black bolero jacket and a few other pieces I purchased there. Has Fantle’s really been closed since 1995? Yikes! That’s 23 years ago!! But, I see bolero jackets are still popular. Maybe this one can stay in my closet!
I still have the sweater our son, Jon, gave me during his St. Olaf College days back in the early 90’s!! I like it. But, once when I wore it when Jon and daughter-in-law, Sara, visited, they looked at me cross-eyed and laughed. Even so, I’m having a hard time saying good-bye.
Normally, I don’t have a problem with shoes. But, it took me a number of years to finally get rid of the red heels I loved so much… the ones that didn’t love me back. Not only did the toes pinch, the shoes slipped when I walked. No amount of shoe inserts helped. Believe me, I tried! Finally, I acknowledged that if the “big reds” didn’t go to Good Will, I’d slip or trip, fall, and be wearing a red face to match!
These are just a few examples. Yet, enough for you to get the picture. I probably wouldn’t be too far off the mark, though, suggesting you may have several illustrations of your own.
Another reason…er…excuse my over-populated closet began to swell to an out-of-proportion size was the opening of TJ Maxx in our area just over 13 years ago. My closet has never been the same. My reasoning for shopping at TJ Maxx more than department stores is, if I pay less for an article of clothing, then it won’t bother me to give it up. There’s one teensy-weensy problem with this concept. Even when the article of clothing doesn’t work for me anymore, I still don’t want to send it out the door.
My dad was a pack rat when it came to his garage. He kept pieces of wire, wood, string, old worn-out tools…you name it, he had it in spades. When he passed away, cleaning out his garage wasn’t for the faint of heart. Thankfully, my brothers sorted through the bulk of it. Several loads of his long-saved “treasures” made their final trip… to the dump. Dad would not have been happy, but we sure were! To that end, I don't want to put our kids through such a major task, whenever that day should come.
So, what to do? A while back I read about a challenge for clothes hoarders, suggesting switching clothing to face the opposite way everything normally does. As an article of clothing is worn and laundered, turn it the normal way again. After one year, whatever remains that has not been worn, and therefore has not been turned to face the usual way, donate those items.
With the start of a new year, and this added incentive in mind, I’m willing to accept the “one-year-plan challenge.” As of today, Sunday, Jan. 28, 2018, I switched all of my tops and jackets/blazers to hang in the closet facing the opposite direction. Thank goodness I don’t have a problem with slacks, jeans or dresses. Just turning the tops about-face was a project. This Lamb is sheepish to admit I stopped counting at 100!!!
After one year, it will be sayonara to the tops and jackets/blazers that have not been worn, and therefore have not been turned to face the usual way. Today’s date has been recorded. I will report the results in one year.
I wonder if, after one year, I still won’t be able to let go. Parish the thought!!!
If you decide to take the challenge, let me know. And, good luck!!
Hmm… I’m checking out Mr. Outdoors side of the closet. He seriously needs to consider doing an about-face with his shirts, too!!! Should I suggest it, or keep the peace and not say a word? AARRGGHHH!!! I can’t decide!!!

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Our Greatest Heritage!!!

When learning about our American history and the heroes who helped form our country, do you believe those heroes lived? And, when you think about your own heritage, do you trust your ancestors existed? Of course you do!!!
From the moment we are born, we all have a lineage on this earth. Whether  we are happy or not with what ours represents, whether we claim it or reject it, this pedigree is ours. Our heritage is all about those who lived before us and died. And we believe it.
When you look across the room at a loved one, are you sure he or she exists? When you hold a precious, crying newborn, are you certain the baby is alive? Of course you are! The proof is right before your very eyes!
Like seeing that loved one or newborn, we can also see the proof right before our very eyes that our holy heritage exists.
Sadly, many reject it when all they need do is open and read the historical accounts in The Holy Bible. Within those pages, we read how, when, and why the world and mankind came into existence. We learn about man’s downfall into sin. We discover that God so loved mankind that He provided salvation for us through His son, Jesus Christ.
How did He do that? Jesus reigned in heaven, but came to earth as a babe (Christmas) and lived a perfect life in our place. Then, He suffered and died on a cross and descended into hell to pay for the sins of the whole world (Good Friday). After three days He rose from the dead (Easter), assuring us that if we believe in Him, when we die, we will be with Him in heaven forever. “For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16.
Jesus tells us in the book of John, chapter 14, verse 6, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
The reason is because Jesus is our mediator, the One who paid for our sins.  No amount of good deeds can pay the price. How many good deeds are ever enough? Not only that, good deeds mean we are depending upon ourselves for our salvation rather than the sacrifice Jesus made for us to fulfill His Father’s demands. Something we cannot do.
Many believe the stories about their ancestors. Yet, they doubt the recorded existence of God, the original ancestor, and His greatest gift of all, that of His son, and the brother we have in Jesus Christ. His love for us knows no boundaries!!!  
We are not worthy of that love or the sacrifice Jesus made in our place. But, through the account of The Holy Bible, we can be certain that His words, and His life, death and resurrection are true. Armed with that faith, we are brought into the family of believers. God’s Word is our greatest heritage!!!
Heaven is not a fairy tale. Believe it and you, too, will know the true meaning of Christmas!!!

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
John 8:32

A New Year… a new lease on life

I can think of no better way to start out the New Year than with good… no, fantastic news!!
One week ago, The Outdoors Guy had labs and a CT scan for his three-month check in his pancreatic cancer battle.
During his appointment with oncologist Dr. Paula Gill in October, she commented, “Bob has been a miracle man since the first day he walked into my office!”
The miracle continued when he met with Dr. Gill this week. Bob’s scan proved to be consistent with his previous one… "No significant interval change from the prior exams without evidence of progressed tumor.”
Could “The Miracle Man” and our family be given more splendid news? Actually… YES!!! Because furthermore, his three liver tests revealed his liver count is now within normal range. This is a “first” since his diagnosis 32 months ago, May 8, 2015!!!
Finally, The Outdoors Guy’s tumor marker dropped to nine. He is well within the 35 range, the highest number accepted as normal for cancer patients.
Because Bob has exceeded all expectations, he and Dr. Gill discussed a time frame for his next battery of tests. Both feel comfortable with another 3-month check. Then, pending another excellent report, Dr. Gill will extend testing to six months.
She told Bob, "You are amazing!!!"
Additionally, we are elated because The Outdoors Guy has fully recovered from the stroke he suffered Labor Day Weekend at our son’s and daughter-in-law’s cabin near Hayward, WI.
There is nothing good about a stroke. Well… almost nothing! For me, one fun consequence has come to the surface… Bob laughs a lot more at my lame jokes!!!
I cannot end this blog without giving credit where credit is due.
Matthew 17:20 says: “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you."
Yet, the mountain isn’t a physical one figuratively speaking. It is embracing the faith that trusts God will work things out for our good. The mountain that is moved is the one within us!!!
Bob and I set our minds on this simple, yet unfathomable truth after the first weekend of his diagnosis. It was when we took his illness out of our hands and put it into God’s hands.
This life-changing experience taught us to never underestimate what the power of faith in God will accomplish.
Our family is ecstatic and feel beyond blessed with our news!!! What a spectacular way to start the New Year!!
May you and yours also be abundantly blessed in 2018!!!

A time for celebration

Today, Nov. 8, is yet another milestone in the life of The Outdoors Guy… and our family.
The operative words here are “in the life of.” Yes, it is the 2½-year anniversary of LIFE since Bob was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and with what we were sure was a death sentence.
Not only is he a survivor, he is also just over two months into an excellent recovery since a stroke on Sept. 2, caused by atrial fibrillation.
On both counts, Bob has been a fighter, like a soldier unwilling to give an inch in either battle!!
When The Outdoors Guy’s pancreatic cancer was diagnosed May 8, 2015, and his fight began, we hoped and prayed he would be able to defeat it. Yet, there was self-doubt. It was more than lurking in the corners of our minds. It was attacking like a swarm of angry bees. We wondered if he could survive six months, let alone 2½ years? It wasn’t even on our radar!!!!
It didn’t take long, though, before the crippling doubts that consumed us drifted away like the days of our youth.
Why the change to a positive attitude from those self-limiting thoughts? It wasn’t why we changed as much as Who changed us. “I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.” Psalm 34:4.
Faith in God and Jesus our Savior have always been a part of who we are. But, Bob and I had never had a life or death situation grab hold of us with so much force it felt like the breath was literally being sucked out of us.
If you followed Kathy’s Korner blogs during Bob’s battle, you may remember I always ended the blog with a Bible verse that gave us great comfort during a particular phase in his/our journey. We hold tight to those promises as much today as when chemo was punishing The Outdoors Guy’s body and draining his energy.
I cannot neglect to thank you for your part in the heavy lifting through your prayers for Bob and our family. We are forever grateful!!!
There were days when it felt like an uphill climb. Yet, there were times when Bob would receive exhilarating news that his latest CT scan showed the tumor was shrinking. Or, his tumor marker was no worse. We read 1 Peter 5:7, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” And, Jeremiah 32:27, “I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?”
Are you or a loved one struggling with health issues or other concerns? Read Job 5:8-9, “But if I were you, I would appeal to God; I would lay my cause before him. He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted.”
A friend suggested to me that, “God can do anything He wants.” It was a straightforward statement stating a simple truth. So, whether good news or bad, Bob and I have learned to trust His master plan for our lives. Yes, the plan includes our days on this earth, but it also speaks to the days when it will end for each one of us. And, it WILL end because life on earth is short.
Then, through faith, we will be with Him forever in eternity where: "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him." 1 Corinthians 2:9.
Seriously! What more could we wish for ourselves and our loved ones? To be together forever in eternal bliss? Now, that’s what I call absolutely, positively heavenly!!!