Friday, May 28, 2010

"Proud" Does Not Even Cover It!

WARNING: This is a complete and total "Mama Brag". You are allowed to skip this post. ;)

My kids are doing so well! I'm just so proud of them that I could burst with Joy!

Friday was the Awards Ceremony and the last day of school at the children’s school and I just have to share with y'all how well they did!

Monkey1 was a SUPER STAR at the fifth grade Awards Ceremony / Graduation today. While most kids got 1 or 2 awards [half the kids got no awards at all], she got TEN awards, including some really prestigious ones. Every time she would sit down they would call her name again for another award.

Here are the Awards she got:

1. “Outstanding performance” in the Honor Chorus [this is already an elite group and she got an award for outstanding performance]
2. The award for “Musical Excellence” out of her whole class
3. The award for “Highest Average” in Social Studies in her whole class
4. The award for “Highest Average” in Reading for the whole class
5. The award for “Highest Average” in Language Arts for the whole class
6. The award for “Highest Average” in Science in the whole class
7. She got an award for being the “Junior Fire Chief” for her class and helping the school place number 1 in the county wide fire safety competition – it was a huge deal, half the fire department showed up to give her a medal and a certificate.
8. She was one of 4 kids in the whole 5th grade [97 students] who got “All A’s” for the entire year – not one B – and she got an award for that “High Honor Roll”
9. The one she is most excited about was the President’s Education Award for “Outstanding Academic Excellence”, which is a very prestigious award that came with a pin
10. The one she *should* have been most excited about was her award for Accelerated Reading. To give you an idea, they started giving out awards to the handful of kids out of the class who got 50-59 AR points for the year. Then they had a few that had 60-69 points, a couple had 70-79 and 80-89 and 90-99. Only four students had gotten 100 AR points and they got a special award [and a Tshirt]. Then, the final award that was given out was Monkey1’s. The principal gave it to her and made a speech about how amazing Monkey1 is. She set the all time AR record with 668.8 points in AR this year – breaking a record that stood for 12 years. She got a heavy engraved medal [a “real” medal] that had her award engraved on the back of it. The Principal also said that *Monkey1* had inspired them to start a new program for AR at their school. They had a plaque made with her name and her # of points engraved on it and every year they will add the highest scoring AR kid from each class for each year that follows – her name and her record will stand in the school for as long as the school stands. The Principal said they plan to use her achievement to challenge students for many years to come. This is a monumental achievement.

Monkey2 got two awards - they did not do extensive awards for 2nd grade, and he is the only kid who got two – the other kids in his class all got one. He got an award for “Most Improved Reader” out of the entire second grade and for his class he got the award “Most Improved Boy” [in general I guess LOL!].

Monkey3 and Monkey4 did not get awards because they don’t do awards at that age level.

The kids also did outstanding on their report cards. Monkey1 got all A’s [of course]. Monkey2 got all A’s except for an 89 in Spelling. Monkey3 got all A’s except for Spelling. Apparently they take after me with the spelling… ;) Monkey4 is in pre-K and did not get a report card.

We also got their CRCT results – Monkey1 “exceeded expectations” in every single area and she maxed out reading – got the most points possible. I expected that. However, Monkey2 exceeded expectations in every single area as well – and HE *maxed out reading* as well – from a kid who could not read at all when he started this year to maxing out the test. His teacher broke down in tears – sobbing – when she showed me the results, she was SO proud of him. It is truly incredible. And his math score was through the roof as well [he only missed one question on math]. She said they will be testing him for Kaleidescope [Gifted Program] next year. And Monkey3, whose teacher wanted to *retain* her for first grade again in January [because of poor reading] ALSO Exceeded expectations in every area! There was no more talk of retaining her to repeat the grade - she’s on to second grade! [We are ALL late readers in our family – Monkey3 is doing the same thing Monkey1 and Monkey2 did – and that I did – in reading – we just read late, but once we do catch on, we are excellent at reading! LOL!]

But what is even more important than the academics: I was amazed that every single kid’s teacher and many teachers I did not even know, tracked me down on the last day of school to talk about what amazing kids my children are. How sweet they are, how kind, what good little *people* they are. Every single teacher claimed that my kid was their “favorite” in the class , and they were very sincere. The music teacher, who teaches all 4 of my school aged children, broke down sobbing about how wonderful all four of the kids are, how sweet they are, how well behaved, how much she enjoyed teaching them. That’s pretty incredible.

Almost every teacher also said something to the effect of "I know what you guys have been through this year, and it is just amazing how well your kids have done. You've done a great job with them!" Which was very encouraging to hear!

I don't know how the kids have thrived through all of the hell with their dad. Certainly we are much better off without him, and that helps. But they've had a lot of change and loss in this past year [lost their dad 'cause he left them and hardly has any contact now; they lost their neighbors and friends and homeschool group because we moved; and then they lost their Godmother, who was like their second mom.] It is a lot to lose.

I look around at it all and I think "Why aren't my children a bunch of psycho delinquents?" There is only one answer to that:

ONLY GOD could have brought us here, so happy and healthy! And I will Praise Him always! He truly IS so Kind and Merciful!

Also, a HUGE thanks goes out to so many of you that have prayed for us so hard for so long - God does hear and He does answer. Thank you so much. :)

The only sad note of the last day of school was that I emailed their father to let him know how well they did. I used to send him updates weekly, but he ignored them. Then I just sent updates when something really special or really bad happened; but he ignored those too. So, I gave up - he just frankly doesn't care and doesn't want to be bothered - that's plain. But this was SO huge, I thought *surely* he'd at least want to call the kids and say "Great job!" or *something*!

But no.... 2 days later and he never responded at all. How sad is that?

Kids this awesome sure deserve better. [ALL kids deserve better!]

But that's OK - they have lots of other people who love them, including their Father in Heaven who will NEVER get sick of them, will never forsake them, and will never, ever let them down.

Below are pictures of the kids on the Last Day of School:

Monkey1 with her very proud teacher!

Monkey2 with his wonderful teacher.

Monkey3 with her excellent teacher.

Monkey4 with her sweet teacher.

Monkey6 and Monkey5 playing on the school playground after the Awards Ceremony.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi

This is what Jesus is asking me to pray and take to heart these days:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury,pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Chana Masala [Indian Chick Peas]

I'm sharing an *awesome* recipe for Chana Masala below. This recipe is based on a recipe given to me by my sister's friend Jason. [Thanks Jason!!! :) ]

I love Indian food [LOVE IT!] but often find it too difficult to make, requiring more esoteric ingredients and time than I really have.

However, THIS recipe satisfies my craving for Indian food while at the same time being manageable and using only ingredients that you actually CAN find in the average grocery store.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

One word of warning - if you make this "as is", it is VERY spicy. I love that, but if you don't want it very hot and spicy, I suggest only using 2 peppers and possibly leaving out the red pepper flakes entirely. As is, it has a beautiful heat if you love that sort of thing!

Chana Masala

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 Tbsp. Cumin

large onion (diced)

2 Tbsp. grated ginger

3 cloves minced garlic

5 chopped cayenne peppers (or 4 jalapenos)

3-4 tomatoes (diced)

1 tsp. Tumeric

1 tsp. Coriander

1 Tbsp. Garam masala

1 tsp. salt

2 bay leaves

1 tsp. crushed red pepper

3/4 cup of plain yogurt

2 14-oz. cans of Garbanzo beans(chickpeas)

1-2 cups of boiled diced potatoes (optional)

sprigs of fresh cilantro (optional as garnish)

Heat oil in a deep pan, add cumin and toast briefly in the oil.

Add onion and saute until starting to brown.

Then add ginger, garlic, and peppers. Stir and simmer for one minute.

Then add tomatoes and stir until getting a consistent paste.

Add tumeric, coriander, crushed red pepper, garam masala, salt, and bay leaves, and yogurt.

Simmer for a few minutes and then add Garbanzo beans (and potatoes, if using).

Simmer for ten minutes and allow to thicken a few minutes after turning heat off.

Garnish with cilantro and serve with Basamati rice or flat bread.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Lase Med and Antonella Carpenter

[Disclaimer: Before you read this page, you need to know that this is my personal opinion. I am not a doctor or a lawyer. I am not part of the "Medical Conspiracy". I do not profit IN ANY WAY from you reading this page or believing what I say. I speak only as a human being who lost someone very dear to me. I do not want any other person to suffer what my friend Cyndi, and her family, and all of us who loved her have suffered.]

All of my regular readers know that I lost my best friend Cyndi last week.

What people may not know is that her death was caused in great part by a woman who promised her a 100% cure of her cancer.

Cyndi was very interested in alternative cancer treatments, and she found Antonella Carpenter online and became a "patient" of Carpenter's at Lase Med. [I use quotes around patient, because Antonella Carpenter is NOT actually a medical doctor and has no medical training at all].

Dr. Carpenter treated Cyndi with her laser "pseudo science" and then pronounced Cyndi "cancer free" and told her she was completely cured.

It is important to note that BEFORE Cyndi went to Lase Med, her cancer was highly operable and probably completely curable.

AFTER she went to Lase Med, Cyndi lived for several months believing herself to be cancer free [based on Carpenter's word and absolute assurances]. Cyndi avoided any treatment or consultations with Oncologists or any other qualified medical personnel because she was following Carpenter's extremely explicit and vehement instructions not to have any contact with them at all.

When Cyndi's tumors began to grow alarmingly and spread [in one case breaking through the skin], she called Carpenter and asked her what to do. Carpenter first told her this was completely "normal", that it was the "dead" tumor trying to leave her body, and that it would be fine as long as she stayed away from regular doctors [who Carpenter told her would want to cut her up and radiate her and subject her to chemo just so they could profit].

When Cyndi kept getting worse, Carpenter got tired of her calls and became rude with her, finally hanging up on her in their last conversation.

It was at that point that Cyndi realized that Carpenter was NOT what she advertises herself to be. Cyndi then sought a consultation with a "real" Oncologist, who imaged her body and gave her very bad news - her highly curable, highly operable cancer had metastasized and spread throughout her body in the months since she'd been "treated" by Ms. Carpenter. The breast cancer tumors had grown into her chest wall and into her lungs. It was this cancer specifically that killed her - she lost lung function as the cancer continued to grow in her lungs and she finally died a very slow, painful death, drowning in her own fluids.

At the time Antonella Carpenter treated Cyndi originally, Carpenter claimed that she had a 100% cure rate for cancer - that ALL of her patients were cancer free after treatment. Later, when Cyndi asked her if what she [Cyndi] was going through following her treatment was normal, Carpenter admitted that most of her other patients had sought out "real" medical care by that stage so she did not know of any patients who had gotten to that point in their "recovery" [which is what Carpenter still maintained was happening].

This was in direct contradiction to what she had told my friend Cyndi when she originally treated her and pronounced her "cured" - it seems that most of her patients did, indeed, have to seek additional medical care because she was NOT curing them.

Regardless, Carpenter can NOT claim a 100% cure rate any more because I personally know Cyndi died and was NOT cured.

Some of you reading this will think my friend got what she deserved for trusting this scam artist. But that would be a cruel and unfair thing to believe - when someone is diagnosed with cancer, they WANT to believe someone can give them a 100% cure. Especially when that someone has 6 young children counting on them to survive. Carpenter is an excellent saleswoman - she knows enough science to make her scam seem believable. She knows just how to play on a cancer patient's worse fears. She knows EXACTLY how to profit from their terror.

I don't share the same opinion that many other people have - that being that Antonella Carpenter is intentionally profiting from the deaths of her patients. While that IS, in fact, what she is doing - I believe the problem is actually deeper than that.

I believe Antonella Carpenter truly *believes* what she tells her patients. I believe that she wants SO MUCH to actually BE the person who found The Cure for cancer, that she believes, in her own mind, that this is true. What I see and hear and read from Antonella Carpenter makes me believe that she is truly deluded - that she honestly does NOT understand that she is killing people instead of saving them.

This makes her more dangerous - because if she *believes* she is telling the truth, it is so much easier for her to convince others of it. She has such passion, such fire, and such charisma that it is easy to BELIEVE what she says - especially for a desperate cancer patient who WANTS it to be true more than anything.

If you read Antonella Carpenter's Lase Med Inc website, you will see some of what I'm talking about. She seems to exhibit classic paranoia - she says that there is a "medical conspiracy" out there that is killing cancer patients on purpose, but only after they "drain their insurance benefits dry" by putting the patients through months of horrible and painful chemo, radiation, and surgery. She also maintains that SHE, and she alone, has the "real cure" for cancer, but for some unknown reason "They" [being the medical conspiracy I guess?] are keeping her down.

I have worked in hospitals for 20 years. I can promise you, PROMISE YOU, that if this woman had a real cure for cancer the "medical establishment" would have bought her out and made her a very rich woman long ago - every pharmaceutical company, hospital, and health equipment manufacturing company in the world would be vying to get a contract with her. Nobody in their right mind would be "suppressing" a real cure because [ironically] there is HUGE money to be made there.

Medicine can certainly be used as a for profit venture [though most often it is the insurance companies that profit], but the bottom line is this: DEAD patients are NOT good for the bottom line. Dead people don't generate recurring income for doctors, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, or anyone else out there in the "medical conspiracy".

So, what Antonella Carpenter is telling her patients is just not rational. But I do believe that SHE believes it is true. Which, again, makes her so much more believable and thus so much more dangerous.

If you are reading this blog entry because you are a cancer patient or because you have a loved one who is, please think things over very carefully. There are multiple lawsuits against Antonella Carpenter - for good reason.

Don't abandon hope, but don't put your hope in this woman. She will not cure you.

Below I am including more information on this from several sources:

A Youtube video by one of Cyndi's dearest friends, explaining in detail what Cyndi went through:

Here is another Youtube video by a man who lost one of his friends the same way we lost Cyndi at Carpenter's hands:

Here is a news report about Antonella Carpenter and Lase Med [from the "mainstream media"]:

Here is a website from another man who lost his wife after she was treated by Carpenter:

I also invite you to read Carpenter's own entry titled "Under Siege" on her own "official" Lase Med Inc web page. You can draw your own conclusions about why I might think she is paranoid and delusional.

I can assure you that I am not "persecuting" Antonella Carpenter "because she is a woman, she uses a comb, her hair is not white, and she dares to have long nails, not to mention that she dares to not dress like a slob." [-Taken from her own words on her website. .... Ahem.]

I don't care what her nails look like, I just don't want anyone else to die because of her.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

I Wish

I am sure that every person who has lost someone they loved has regrets - those moments when they think "I wish I had done....".

I'm having lots of those moments this week.

In a way I was fortunate that we knew ahead of time that Cyndi would probably die [though I would not wish death by cancer on ANYONE, certainly not my dear friend].

But, because we had "warning", I was able to say the things to her that I wanted to say to her - I was able to let her know how much I loved her and how much she meant to me. I was able to articulate things that I never would have said if she had been taken suddenly in a car wreck or something.

But at the same time, I truly did not believe in my heart that she would actually die until 4 days ago - when I spent Mother's Day with her. It was not until then, when she had deteriorated so badly so quickly, that I realized she was not going to beat the cancer.

I mean, logically I *knew* that the odds were very poor. I knew that evidence pointed to the fact that God was not going to send her a Miraculous Healing. But when you talked with Cyndi - she never conceded. She never believed she was going to die, right up to almost the very end. She fought like Hell and she never believed the cancer would beat her. And when I was with her, it was so easy to believe that she was right about that.

And, thus, even with "fair warning", there are so many things I wish I'd done....

1. I wish I had asked her if there were things she wanted me to do for her children through the years. Were there special things she would have wanted me to do for their Confirmations, their weddings, the births of her Grandchildren.... I wish I had asked. I plan to be tenaciously involved in her children's lives anyway [I love them like my own], but I wish I had thought to ask her what she would have wanted me to do for them.

2. I wish I had gotten to spend more time with her the last two years. We were so sick all the time for the last two years that we had to stay away a lot. [I lived in fear that we would expose her to some germ or other while she was immune compromised and that we'd cause her to die before it was really her time]. Because we were so sick and contagious all the time, I did not see her as much as I wish I had. [I did see her every time we were healthy enough and she was healthy enough....]

3. I wish I had left my lost cause of a rotten ex husband two years earlier than he abandoned us. Dealing with him and his problems consumed my life so completely [for 15 years actually....but even more so at the end], and he was just not worth it. I wish I had spent that time with my friend instead. Of course, I made vows promising to love him and care for him, and I fulfilled those vows *completely* and always to the absolute best of my ability. But I still feel it was wasted time, and it was time lost that I could have spent with my friend before she died, and I will never get it back. [Harboring some resentment towards my Ex for this now.... one more thing I have to find a way to overcome].

4. I wish I had taken more pictures of Cyndi. We were best friends for 11 years. When I went back to look at my photos, I found that I had literally many hundreds [probably *thousands*] of pictures of her children, but only about 2 dozen of her. And I have only 3 of she and I together. This is normal I guess - she and I were always the ones behind the cameras, taking the photos. But still - I wish I had more pictures of her.

5. I wish I had planned a "Lord of the Rings" movie marathon with her before she died. Those were our favorite movies, and I wish we'd gotten to watch them together before she was gone.

6. I wish she had lived to see "The Hobbit" released in film.

7. I wish I had learned to sew from her. She offered over and over and I never had time. [because of #3 above]. I always hoped there would be time later for her to teach me, and now that time has run out.

8. I wish I had asked her for that oatmeal muffin recipe she made that our kids loved so much. I always meant to and never did.

9. I wish I had told her how much I loved her and how much she meant to me sooner than I did. It was just a few months before her death that I shared with her how much she meant to me. She was more like my Sister than a friend, and it wasn't till close to the end that I expressed that to her.

10. I wish I had told her more frequently through the years how much I admired her and how much her example meant to me and how much her Godly advice helped me.

These are my top 10 today. Tomorrow there will be more I'm sure. I imagine I will be saying "I wish" about Cyndi for the rest of my life.

Maybe we should all take a moment to think about the people who mean so much to us and maybe we should make sure we take the time to let them know - really, truly let them know. Because most of us probably do exactly what I did and lose so many precious opportunities with the people we love.

If you knew that someone you love was going to die tomorrow, are there things you would regret not saying or doing? Why not say or do those things today?

God bless you.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Good Bye My Dearest Friend

After fighting cancer for almost 3 years, my best friend in the world, Cyndi, has gone home to Jesus.

Many of you have been praying for her and her family for a couple of years now, and I thank you so much for that. I know what your prayers meant to her - it gave her such comfort and strength to realize that so many people all over the world were praying for her.

I was going through my pictures today and gathering all the ones I had of Cyndi. I just had this need to see them and remember all of the great times we had [and the sad ones too that she helped me through so reliably]. I'm going to share some of my favorites of her here.

This is my favorite picture of Cyndi. She is holding her youngest child, my God daughter, and I love the way she looks in this photo:

This is Cyndi with her wonderful husband and her 6 amazing children [and I'm not just saying that - they really were as happy as they look in this picture]:

Cyndi was an amazing mother. She loved her children so much, and she sacrificed anything and everything for them - gladly and with good cheer.

Here is Cyndi with her 5th child [my God daughter]. Whenever I think of Cyndi, it is always in terms of her holding a child or helping a child:

Here is Cyndi on one of our many home school field trips. We went to a french bakery and got a tour [a very delicious tour]:

Here is Cyndi swimming with my Isabella [when she was a baby] and her Cynthia [also a baby!].
Here is Cyndi reading to some of her children and mine:

This is Cyndi helping me throw an awesome birthday party for my children:

Cyndi with Cynthia [my God daughter]:

Cyndi getting hugs from one of her sons:

Cyndi nursing one of her babies at the Renaissance Festival. She always gave her children the very best that she could give them:

Chilling at my house with her girls:

Cyndi with our kids at the Renaissance Festival [this was an annual tradition of ours, we went together every year]:

Cyndi laughing. One of the things I loved best about Cyndi was her sense of humor. She could always make people laugh and she never took life too seriously:

Cyndi and I being silly [that's powdered sugar from funnel cakes on our faces]:

Another thing I always loved about Cyndi was how amazingly talented and artistic she was. She often made cakes for people [along with sewing amazing things and doing many other creative things]. Below are two Star Wars cakes she made for a birthday party for my kids:

This one was amazingly detailed [It even had Darth Vader inside that Death Star]:

Cyndi with my daughter Samantha at a birthday party we had for Sam at Cyndi's house:

Cyndi was the Godmother of most of my children. She took her role very seriously and gave much thought and effort in to molding them into fine Catholic Children. She hand made Samantha's First Holy Communion Dress [it was beautiful]. She was amazing, and a Gift from God to my children and I.

Here is Cyndi with Angelica at Angelica's baptism:

Here are Cyndi and Bob with Samantha at Samantha's "re-baptism" [long story, but her first baptism as an infant wasn't valid because the Deacon did not touch her head with the water]:

Both of our families together with our Priest during happier days:

Cyndi praying for Gemma at Gemma's baptism:

Cyndi and Gemma at Gemma's Baptism:

Cyndi was always the one who was willing to go on the rides with the little kids when they were scared to go by themselves:

These two pictures are from Cyndi's pilgrimage to Lourdes [taken by my friend Vicki]:

God did not give Cyndi the Miracle healing that we all prayed for. I Trust His Wisdom, but I know that the whole world is diminished by the passing of this woman.

I will miss her more than I can express. She was always the one I called when I needed the "right" answer - she always answered with good Godly advice, even if that wasn't what I wanted to hear. She has been, in so many ways, my "Rock" through all of the hard [very hard!] times I have been through these last few years.

In 11 years of friendship, I never once heard Cyndi gossip about anyone. She was charitable and loving and without resentment or jealousy. She was extraordinary and she truly strove every day to live her faith in a heroic way. She was not perfect, but if ever a fault was sincerely pointed out to her, she earnestly sought to improve her character and overcome any weakness.

Cyndi was the kind of woman who would have taken you into her home when you were homeless, who would have split her last sandwich with you if you were hungry, who would have given you her own coat if you needed it.

Today the world is a sadder place. Today we have lost a woman who was Kind, Good, Creative, Loving, and Generous beyond measure. Someone who was full of Laughter and Love and Compassion. Someone who was genuinely devoted to God.

I cannot imagine the world without this woman.

I take great comfort in the knowledge that she is now in the Arms of Christ. I feel certain that He met her tonight with those amazing words "Well Done, Good And Faithful Servant".

That she was, indeed.