April 17, 2012

Shopping for Shelly

I'd like to introduce you to a special person in my life, someone I've known for more than thirty years. Michele is my husband's oldest sister  -- her family affectionately calls her Shelly. We graduated from high school together; I was in her wedding almost 31 years ago.

As both an Air Force brat and an Air Force bride, Michele's life has been lived all around the country (plus two stints in Germany), but she and her family ultimately settled back where she started, in Middle Georgia. Here she has raised her two children, Apryl and Greg, and enjoyed her grandchildren. Michele and her husband, Tim Fetz, have been extremely active in their church. They work behind the scenes, serving quietly, except for times when Michele is able to share her song of worship.

Tim and Michele at NIH
Over the years, Michele has faced various maladies. She was eventually diagnosed with Crohn's disease and Lupus, but with no real help offered. Over the years, her condition has worsened and it became evident that there was more going on here. Referrals to Emory, then the Mayo Clinic, ultimately led to a referral to the National Institute of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, finding that a hereditary blood disorder was the root of the problem. NIH offered Michele the opportunity to participate in a lengthy clinical trial -- an extreme immune system makeover of sorts. After several months, Michele was released to return to Georgia and seemed to be improving. Unfortunately, after about two months home, it became clear that the treatment had not worked. A bone marrow transplant needed to reverse her pre-leukemia condition.

Michele and Jeff (2008)
It took a bit of time, but two potential donors were identified: Michele's brothers, Kevin and Jeff (my husband). The transplant team was amazed to learn that both brothers were 100% matches, increasing the odds of acceptance exponentially. Jeff was ultimately selected simply because it was logistically simpler for him to participate.

Because Michele's condition is considered critical, the transplant team has scheduled the process to begin as quickly as possible. Tim and Michele will report back to NIH at the end of April and are not expected to return home until sometime in September. Jeff will also report at the end of April for his physical exam and the first stage of the donor process. He returns to NIH in mid-May for the actual donation, which will be a non-surgical procedure. He'll receive a series of injections over five days to increase the number of blood-forming cells in his bloodstream. Immediately following the fifth injection, blood will be removed from one arm, cycled through a machine which removes the peripheral blood stem cells, then returned to his other arm.

Tim and Michele
Following this, Michele will begin a series of chemo and radiation treatments over several days. Then she'll receive the bone marrow transplant, a little at a time, over several more days. She'll be on anti-rejection drugs for about three weeks following the transplant. Her parents will travel up from Macon prior to the transplant to help care for her and for Tim in the following weeks. (You can follow Michele's progress on her CaringBridge page.)

Tim and Michele will ultimately be up at NIH for more than four months; Tim will be on unpaid leave for much of this time. His coworkers generously donate leave to cover most of their time away in the fall; Tim does not yet know how much will be covered this time. Thankfully, the Fisher House provides free lodging, but Tim and Michele will be responsible for their personal expenses, including most of their meals and the gas needed to make the 45+ minute commute to NIH.

Because of this, I'd like to help Tim and Michele with a fund raiser, and I hope you'll join me. Simply visit either of my online Willow House stores, Style for Home or Jewelry by Sara Blaine, place an order using Michele Fetz as your host, and I'll donate my entire commission from your order directly to Michele. Style for Home orders over $39.96 are still eligible for a customer special, and even e-outlet orders count! If you need help or prefer to order by phone, let me know.

I'd love for you to share this opportunity with your family and friends, too. If you have several folks who'd like to participate, I'll even set you up as host and let you earn host rewards. Contact me for details.

If you prefer not to shop but would still like to donate, let me know and I'll help you take care of that, too.

Above all, we would appreciate your prayers through this long process. There are scores of people involved in making this happen, from Michele's family to the Fisher House folks to the teams of professionals at NIH. But ultimately, we know that all of this rests in the Lord's hands.

Tim and Michele Fetz

April 16, 2012

How not to bake a cake...

We had a busy weekend. Saturday morning, I got busy and made a couple of casseroles, one for dinner and one for the freezer. Finished up a bit of laundry and picking up around the house, then my daughter took me to October Baby. Stopped by The Friendliest Grocery Store On The Face of the Earth (Publix in Warner Robins, if you must know), then home to pop dinner in the oven and have some family time.

Yesterday, we drove down to Colquitt, Georgia, for a family reunion. Left at 9:00 a.m., got back at 8:00 p.m., with some interesting pit stops along the way. (I hope to post some pictures later, including one of the five foot tall pink pig we encountered on a potty break.)

Today we're having another reunion of sorts, as most of Jeff's family will be over to visit with his two West Coast aunts. Meats will be grilled and stories will be told.

I thought it would be nice to have some semi-homemade desserts, so I decided to whip up a couple of cakes. Wouldn't you know it, only enough eggs for one cake. Okay, so maybe I'll make it to the store to get more eggs later, maybe not. But I can at least make my family's all-time favorite chocolate cake

This is the cake that my family requests for every special event, my ace-in-the-hole to take to church potlucks. My recipe is packed up in a 10x20 storage unit with most of our earthly possessions, but recipes are for wimps. I've made this so many times, it should be a, well, a piece of cake. Or so I thought.

I already had the eggs out, so I pulled out some of the other ingredients while my English muffins were toasting. Then I ran around and did a bunch of other things that needed doing. I came back, mixed the cake batter, and put the cake in the oven.

About a minute later, I looked over and saw the eggs still sitting on the counter. Sigh.

I took the cake out of the oven, dumped the batter back into the mixing bowl (at least I hadn't even had a chance to run water in it yet), and mixed in the eggs. The batter was a bit thinner than usual, but maybe that was due to being in the oven for a minute. I dumped the batter back into the bundt pan and popped the cake back into the oven.

About ten minutes later, I realized that I had forgotten another key ingredient: pudding mix. Sigh.

My daughter suggested that I just go to the store and get what I needed to start over. Unfortunately, The Friendliest Grocery Store On The Face of the Earth is about 30 minutes from my house. Yes, there are closer stores, but at this point I was in no mood to deal with them.

So I pulled the cake BACK out of the oven and just sprinkled the pudding mix around the top, mixing it in with a little spatula as I went. My children are very concerned by this point; my daughter is certain that this is not going to turn out well, and my son is worried that we might all get salmonella (confession: science is not a strong point in our homeschooling experience).

I put the cake into the oven again, thankful that my oven does not have a snarky little voice asking me if I'd like to just install a revolving door.

My daughter peeked in about 20 minutes later and informed me that, "The cake looks interesting. I'm just sayin'." Her spiritual gift is encouragement. At least she didn't bring up the chicken pot pie incident.

After adding a few extra minutes of cook time to account for the cake's ingredient interventions, I removed it from the oven. It looked... remarkably normal. When I popped it out of the bundt pan -- well, all of the extracurricular activity kept it from actually popping out of the bundt pan, but you know what I mean -- it was still looking good. And powdered sugar covers a multitude of sins.

My daughter also encouraged me to serve the cake sliced (so that we could check it out before the rest of the family ate it). But I'm a risk taker, and this is family.

Besides, it's triple chocolate. How bad can it be?

{I must give credit to Lisa Pennington for reminding me via blogpost today to be willing to laugh at myself. I hope I'll one day be as good at this as my mother was. I sure have many opportunities for practice!}

April 14, 2012

Must See Movie: October Baby

My daughter did something sweet for me today. She took me to see October Baby.

Without giving anything away, October Baby is the story of a young woman who discovers that she is not only adopted, but is the survivor of a botched abortion. The story is based on the true story of Gianna Jessen, a young woman who is a third trimester abortion survivor.

I don't really keep up with what's coming to our local theatre (with the exception of The Hunger Games, because my children gave me an up-to-date daily countdown), so I didn't really know about October Baby until someone, possibly Al Mohler, talked about it -- or at least talked about a New York Times review  by Jeannette Catsoulis. In Ms. Catsoulis' opinion, the movie has an "essential ugliness at its core" and "communicates in the language of guilt and fear." During an integral scene of the movie, when an eyewitness explained to the abortion survivor exactly what had happened, Ms. Catsoulis decried the testimony, stating that it "conjures a vision of medical hackery that is clearly intended to terrify young women — and fits right in with proposed state laws that increasingly turn the screws on a woman’s dominion over her reproductive system."

Well, I knew right then that I wanted to see the movie. I'm so glad I did.

When I was pregnant with my third child, I was thirty five years old. My medical insurance chose my doctor for me and, to be honest, I don't even remember his name. I do remember that he was from Taiwan. Throughout the pregnancy, my doctor requested all sorts of tests -- mostly because of my advanced age. With each request, I would ask him what they would do if the test came back positive, and each time he said they would do nothing except let me know. I declined each test. When it came time for a 20 week ultrasound, the doctor seemed surprised that I happily accepted the opportunity. He gravely told me that once I had seen the baby on the ultrasound, this would be my last opportunity to terminate the pregnancy. "Here, we are not allowed to end the pregnancy past 20 weeks, but where I come from, we can terminate anytime during the pregnancy. But after 20 weeks, it is much harder; the baby fights, it wants to live." My husband and I sat there, aghast, jaws dropped at this admission.

During this time, we were a low-income family, truly struggling to get by. My husband was working three jobs and working on a graduate degree; I was keeping the home fires burning while homeschooling and working a part-time job. Mine was a high risk pregnancy, both because of my age and medullary sponge kidney issues that always escalated during pregnancy. During my second pregnancy, kidney stones caused a level of anemia that almost required a late-term transfusion, and I was passing stones at an alarming rate during this last pregnancy.We would never have dreamed, however, of aborting the fetus or terminating the pregnancy, both euphemisms for killing the child that God had given us. He was born a few weeks early, my November baby.

Euphemisms are interesting things. One euphemism that is frequently tossed around is reproductive freedom. Reproductive freedom has nothing to do with a woman's freedom to reproduce. It has everything to do with a woman wanting the freedom to deproduce. But behavior has consequences, whatever your choice. (I wrote a very personal story about consequences resulting from another woman's decision here.)

I appreciated how this movie dealt fairly and accurately with the consequences of abortion, even a botched abortion in which the baby survives. And I loved how it dealt with guilt, despair, forgiveness, and love in the lives of all those affected by this one abortion. (By the way, if you do watch the movie, be sure to stay through the credits. Another amazing story is told there.)

My daughter did something sweet for me today. She took me to see October Baby. I hope you and your daughter will see it together, too.

April 8, 2012


I had kind of forgotten about this lovely song until we sang it at Faith Bible Church last week. I hope it will help you realize the reality of Christ's sacrifice on behalf of our own guilt.
I saw one hanging on a tree
In agony and blood
Who fixed His loving eyes on me
As near His cross I stood
And never till my dying breath
Will I forget that look
It seemed to charge me with His death
Though not a word He spoke
 My conscience felt and owned the guilt
And plunged me in despair
I saw my sins His blood had spilt
And helped to nail Him there
But with a second look He said
“I freely all forgive
This blood is for your ransom paid
I died that you might live"
Forever etched upon my mind
Is the look of Him who died
The Lamb I crucified
And now my life will sing the praise
Of pure atoning grace
That looked on me and gladly took my place  
Thus while His death my sin displays
For all the world to view
Such is the mystery of grace
It seals my pardon too
With pleasing grief and mournful joy
My spirit now is filled
That I should such a life destroy
Yet live by Him I killed
Forever etched upon my mind
Is the look of Him who died
The Lamb I crucified
And now my life will sing the praise
Of pure atoning grace
That looked on me and gladly took my place  
And the rest of the good news: He rose again so that we can live. He is risen; He is risen indeed!
Listen to the song here.


from Songs for the Cross Centered Life, released 01 May 2004
Words by John Newton (1725–1807), music and new and alternate lyrics, Bob Kauflin
© 2001 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI)

April 7, 2012

Just Us Girlz

I'm guest blogging today over on one of my favorite blogs -- Just Us Girlz -- which happens to belong to my daughter! Hop on over to read about one of my favorite Easter memories. (Get it -- hop... Easter... grin!)

And be sure to share AnnaKate's blog with the teen girl in your life!