Saturday, February 23, 2013

It's Academy Award Time! And that means Predictions!

The following is an Oscar blog written by Hillary Manton Lodge

with help from little ole me! If you enjoy the Academy Awards, you'll love this! If not, hey, it could still be interesting for you! Happy Oscar Day - tomorrow!

Oscar Predictions 2013 - with Robbie Iobst!

Hello, dear readers! I've missed you much. Glad to be back, and glad it's Oscar season! While Seth MacFarlane is currently projected to drive me crazy every time he breathes, I can't wait for the rest of the broadcast. This year is going to be a doozy - for the first time in years, I'm going in with a mix of educated guesses, gut instinct, and the knowledge that anything could happen in several categories.

To help me break this down for you,  I'm delighted to welcome back my friend and fellow cinephile Robbie Iobst!

Robbie: Thanks for having me! Ever since I snuck out of my bedroom at age 12 and turned on the TV in the middle of the night to watch "Stella Dallas" with Betty Davis, I've been hooked. I try to have Oscar parties most years, with my largest party having 75 guests, three TVs, a ballot and prizes. This year I'll will be wearing my lovely gown at home, watching in earnest while sipping something decadent and sugar free (oxymoron, yes).

Hillary: I am in awe of your party prowess! I'm throwing a very last-minute get together this year - diamonds optional ;-)

Well - there is a lot to talk about in several of the categories, so let's dive in!

Actor in a Leading Role 

Hillary: Daniel Day-Lewis has had a lock on this category from the word “Four.” I had hoped Hugh Jackman might challenge that position, but it hasn't shaken out that way.

Jackman is a rare man in Hollywood - he can do pretty much anything, from stage to superhero to musical to host. But like I said, the Oscar is DDL’s this year. Here’s hoping it’ll be Jackman’s in the near future.

Will win: Daniel Day Lewis
Dark Horse: Hugh Jackman

Robbie: I agree, Hilary! Daniel Day-Lewis is a shoo-in for best actor. I loved the voice he gave Lincoln and his intense and quiet portrayal carried the film. However, if I were voting, I would vote for Denzel Washington inFlight. Denzel’s portrayal of an alcoholic pilot was mesmerizing and surprising. His character was tremendously arrogant and lost, yet Denzel brought sympathetic moments that had me hoping for the pilot to somehow see his way through. This was great acting to me. But there is no way Denzel will win.

Will win: Daniel Day-Lewis
Should win according to me: Denzel Washington

Hillary: Denzel was very, very good in Flight. Can we take a second to talk about how many strong films released this year? Last year was definitely an off year - some good releases, but nowhere near the lineup we had in 2012. You see it happen that way, directors getting into a particular schedule and end up all on the same schedule. They're basically all cycling together, creatively.

Actress in a Leading Role

Hillary: I've gone back and forth on this A LOT. And after swinging from one side to the other, I really think Emmanuelle Riva may have this.

Robbie: Wow, Hilary. Emmanuelle Riva? Have you moved to France? I bet you most of the voters know very little about her. :) Of course, when I saw Amour she dazzled me with her ability to create a woman dying a little at a time. Outstanding. But I really like Jennifer Lawrence in Sliver Linings Playbook for this. Her portrayal of a grieving crazy widow was wonderful. Her character is weird and at the same time, likeable. Jennifer infused both an intensity and a softness to her character that I feel is Oscar worthy. Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty is amazing but lacked the depth of an Oscar winning performance. Her character was zealous and driven, but proved to me one-sided to me.

Will win: Jennifer Lawrence
Should win: Jennifer Lawrence

Hillary: I tell you, I’m really going back and forth. But Riva did win the BAFTA (that's the British Oscars, for the uninitiated), and there’s a lot of voter crossover. Even before then, though, I had concerns about Jennifer Lawrence. You must believe me when I say I love her - both on and off the screen.

But at its heart, Silver Linings doesn’t have that sort of self-important gravitas that Academy voters prefer, and neither does Lawrence. Actors like to spend a lot of time talking about craft and character and preparation and how challenging their work is, but Lawrence has been very clear in every interview how she doesn’t prepare, and underscored it when she turned down an appearance on Actor’s Studio.

I truly believe she will go on to win more than one Oscar, and appear in many movies. In many ways, I think Lawrence is Hollywood’s Great White Hope in a time when they desperately need a real-life star who’s under 45. But she’s so young, and I think the aged demographic that comprises the Academy is going to look at her, read her interviews that include fart jokes, and check the box for Emmanuelle Riva.

Riva is a major French star in her own right, as a major actress during the French Wave. Voting for her means voting for a legend, for gravitas, and death, and Issues, and she’s unlikely to be nominated again at her age. I’m so fifty-fifty on this. But my gut says Riva. If Lawrence wins? I’m looking forward to that speech.  

May well win: Emmanuelle Riva
Not particularly dark horse: Jennifer Lawrence

Robbie: Hilary, you’ve made me think. Thank you! And I didn't know she turned down Actor’s Studio. Wow.

Actor in a Supporting Role

Robbie: To me, this is the category that might be the most surprising. Alan Arkin is a sympathetic favorite and was delightful in Argo. Philip Seymour Hoffman is the dark horse, but SO talented. His character was completely weird and off putting to me. I didn’t see Django Unchained so I don’t know about Christoph Waltz. Robert De Niro, was well, ROBERT DE NIRO. Is there anything he can’t do?

But Tommy Lee Jones was commanding in his performance in Lincoln. I loved him. So to me it’s between Alan Arkin and Tommy Lee Jones. I have to go with Tommy Lee Jones in Lincoln.

Will win: Tommy Lee Jones
Who might win instead: Alan Arkin

Hillary: I agree. I love Alan Arkin’s turn, but it was as Alan Arkin-y for me as Robert Deniro was Robert Deniro-y. I wish John Goodman had gotten a nod, and maybe he did in a parallel universe. But in this universe, my money’s on Tommy Lee Jones, the most compelling character in his film. 

Will win: Tommy Lee Jones 
Dark Horse: Alan Arkin 

Actress in a Supporting Role

Robbie: Anne Hathaway has dominated all the award shows in this category. She is well liked and her performance in Les Misérables and that song, well, wow. She really nailed it. Oscar worthy, definitely. However, I really liked Sally Field as Mary Lincoln in Lincoln. Her strength and borderline craziness came across the screen to make her a complicated and interesting character. I feel that her performance throughout Lincoln is better than one song in Les Misérables. I am sticking my neck out on this and say Sally Field.

Will win: Sally Field
Should win because she acted for more than 10 minutes: Sally Field

Hillary: I applaud your neck stickage! Every time I want to vote Field (and you have to know, I really love her), I see a clip of Anne’s singing and my skin goes goosebumpy and I start to get misty. EVERY TIME. Any other year, this would be Sally Field’s award. But miserably, I have to give it to Annie H, her misery, and her two squares of oatmeal paste. 

Will win: Anne Hathaway 
Dark Horse: Sally Field, because we really, really like her.  

Animated Feature Film 

Hillary: Wreck-It Ralph won the Annie award, and most everyone is predicting its win, so that’s where my guess is going. 

Robbie: My boy is 14 now so I am seeing a lot less of these animated wonders. However, we did see Brave and oh my goodness, I loved it! I’m hoping by just saying this "I’ll change the fate of this award."(That was said in a Scottish accent. Pretty bad one, especially since I have to explain that.) I choose Brave, bravely.

Hillary: HOW DID YOUR BOY BECOME 14? Seriously. I liked Brave a lot; I just wish it had pushed the storytelling a bit more a la The Incredibles. That said, I really thought Frankenweenie would have performed better in this category. C'est la vie!

Writing - Original Screenplay 

Hillary: More of the flipping and flopping. I'm switching from Amour to Zero Dark Thirty. It won the WGA. I've heard a lot of last-minute buzz for Django Unchained,which won the BAFTA in this category. I haven't seen it, but Danny did, and he really didn't care for it. I've also read that the script was all over the place; when the film releases to DVD, Tarantino is planning a director's cut that will include the giant swaths of material that was cut. Is that a directing issue or a writing issue? Either way, it's not as strong as Inglourious Basterds.

That said, I tip my hat to Moonrise Kingdom. I see you, Wes Anderson, and I liked your movie very much.

Will win: Zero Dark Thirty, Mark Boal
Dark Horse: Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino
Other Dark Horse: Amour, Michael Haneke

Robbie: I choose Mark Boal for Zero Dark Thirty. It was written well and interesting. It’s the kind of movie I would like to rewatch after I study some history on Al Qaeda.

Will win: Zero Dark Thirty - Mark Boal
My second choice: John Gatins for Flight 

Hillary: Ooh, Flight was a good script. (Though after watching it I wondered if we needed Kelly Reilly's character's backstory in the first act. Either way - SO MANY GOOD MOVIES THIS YEAR!)

Writing - Adapted Screenplay

Hillary: Chris Terrio won the WGA for Argo, beating Tony Kushner and David O’ Russell. My hunch is that Argo will take best pic, and because it takes best pic it’ll win here. Much of the strength of the film is how well-structured the script is, creating tension until the very last moments over an event that most of America remembers (not the Bieber fans - the other rest of America). 

Will Win: Argo - Chris Terrio 
Dark Horse: Lincoln - Tony Kushner 

Robbie: In this category, I completely agree with everything you said. I could just cut and paste your remarks, but I won’t do that. I wish I’d written it first. So basically my choice is:

Will Win: What Hillary said
Dark Horse: What Hillary said

Hillary: Ha! Upon reflection, when they win - likelihood that someone will yell a version of “Argo f-yourself”? I say high. 

Robbie: I don’t like profanity, but that would be very funny!

Hillary: I tell you, it will happen, and it shall be bleeped. I imagine they're stretching out the delay for the telecast mainly for that particular catchphrase...

Music - Original Song

Hillary: Ever since “Skyfall” dropped, it’s had the award in the bag. Adele’s single reminded us that sometimes Bond songs can be really, really great.

Robbie: It will be fun to watch Adele at the Academy Awards. I love her. I so hope she wears something that doesn’t look like a tablecloth like she did at the Grammys.

Hillary: Ugh, that was a terrible dress. And so sad, because she was adorable at the Golden Globes.

Robbie: She will win hands down, but I do LOVE “Pi’s Lullaby,” also. A little Robbie trivia here - I’ve never seen a Bond movie. For some reason I’m proud of that.

Will win: “Skyfall”
My other choice: “Pi’s Lullaby"

Hillary: I haven't seen the full canon of Bond films, but I do enjoy Daniel Craig's Bond. But I applaud your film rebellion. 

Foreign Language Film 


Will Win: Amour 

Robbie: The only foreign film nominee that also got a best picture nominee is pretty much going to take it. This is a “Duh” category in my humble, extremely humble opinion.

Hillary: Agreed! 


Robbie: Roger Deakins has been nominated 10 times and never won. So of course, being the cheerer for the underdog I vote for him.

Even though I've never and will never see a Bond movie.

However, the cinematography ofLife of Pi was magical, so if not Roger for Skyfall, then Claudio for Life of Pi.

Will Win: Roger Deakins -Skyfall
If not, I hope: Claudio Miranda - Life of Pi 

Hillary: Roger Deakins won the guild award, but I really think this award is going toLife of PiWhile Deakins’ work elevated the visual style of SkyfallLife of Pi is so visually arresting that I think it’s the one to beat. 

Will Win: Claudio Miranda - Life of Pi 
Could Win: Roger Deakins - Skyfall  

Costume Design

Hillary: This is always such a tricky category to predict! Both Anna Karenina andMirror Mirror won Guild awards (historical and fantasy categories, respectively). Eiko Ishioka could win a posthumous award for Mirror Mirror, and it could always swing toLincoln or Les Misérables - but Jacqueline Durran’s designs for Anna Karenina also won the BAFTA (and remember, there’s a fair amount of voter crossover there). So I’m going with Anna Karenina. THOSE are the dresses I’d want to wear!

Will win: Anna Karenina
Dark Horse: Lincoln

Robbie: I have to go with my personal favorite on this. I LOVED Snow White and the Huntsman. I never really take notice of costumes in a movie unless they are a direct part of the story. But I remember very clearly coming out of the theater saying I would LOVE to have Charlize Theron’s wardrobe.

Will win: Snow White and the Huntsman
Dark Horse: Anna Karenina

Documentary - Feature

Hillary: Again, another tricky category to predict. But I've heard a lot of good things about Searching for Sugar Man, so - sure!

Will win: Searching for Sugar Man
Dark Horse: How to Survive a Plague

Robbie: Searching for Sugar Man has gotten a lot of buzz, so I am going with it.

Will win: Searching for Sugar Man

Documentary - Short

Robbie: I am guessing so I am going with Redemption because I love redemption. Excuse my ignorance of this category. And others.

Hillary: The shorts are almost always super tricky! I'm going to flip-flip again and go with Inocente for the win. The combination of topics smells like Oscar Bait to me.

Will win: Inocente
Dark Horse: Mondays at Racine

Film Editing

Hillary: Both Argo and Silver Linings Playbook won A.C.E. Eddie Awards, but I think the award will go to Argo. Again with the terrific pacing of Argo, and a lot of that is due to the editing. As well as being a piece of good film making  let’s be honest - Argo is a Hollywood vanity trip. It’s about how a movie, even a fake one, can save lives. I’ll go for Argo.

Robbie: I hope Argo wins. Wonderful suspense is often a product of excellent editing and this movie creates wonderful suspense. But I have this sneaky feeling it won’t win. Why? Could be my breakfast or the fact that it didn’t get any best director love. I don’t know.

Will win: Argo
If it doesn’t: Silver Linings Playbook

Hillary: Am now very curious about your your oatmeal anti-Argo? (I feel like there's a cornstarch joke in there somewhere...)

Makeup And Hairstyling

Hillary: It is a truth universally acknowledged that Hollywood does not often vote for Hobbits. So I’m giving this one to Les Misérables. WE SHALL SEE.

Robbie: Hilary I raise you and call you. I bet they will. WE SHALL SEE!

Will win: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Music - Original Score

Hillary: I’m thinking Mychael Danna for “Life of Pi.” Voters like to go with the cool scores (see: Social Network) or the iconic ones (see: The Artist). And three of the last four winners have been nomination newbies, so I'm going with Danna. Also - I loved his score for Mira Nair'sMonsoon Wedding.

Will win: Life of Pi
Dark Horse: Lincoln (and yes, I’m saying Williams is a dark horse - dude hasn’t won since Schindler’s List. Is this score as iconic? I don’t think so. But it is pretty.)

Robbie: I absolutely loved the score from “Life of Pi.” Second place would go to “Lincoln” in my opinion. Very sweeping.

Will win: “Life of Pi”
Maybe: “Lincoln”

Production Design

Robbie: I would give this to Les Misérables. The genius of translating this stage production to a movie lay in the wonderful design of each set. I absolutely loved how they made prison, the priest’s home and the blockade “come to life.”

Will Win: Les Misérables
Dark Horse: Lincoln

Hillary: Hmmmmmm.....Anna Karenina won the Art Director’s Guild Award, and its concept is basically predicated around the production design. But my gut saysLincoln, so...

Will Win: Lincoln
Palomino Horse: Anna Karenina
Chestnut Horse: Les Misérables

Short Film - Animated

Robbie: Can I just admit I have no idea? I don’t have a five sided coin or I’d toss it for this and the next category. So I guess I will give it to “Maggie Simpson in ‘The Longest Daycare.” I’ve heard about that one and she is well, a Simpson.

Hillary: It’s tricky! Adam and Dog won the Annie award for short film last year, and Paperman won this year. I saw and *loved* Paperman (and made Danny sit down and watch it with me), so that’s where I’m voting. But Adam and Dog could also win because, you know, dogs. They’re tops.

Will win: Paperman
Palomino Horse: Adam and Dog

Short Film - Live Action

Robbie: This is like choosing food in a foreign buffet. What looks good? My uncle’s name is Henry, so based upon that scientific and well researched knowledge, my vote goes for Henry.

Hillary: I can respect that! I've heard a lot of good buzz for Curfew, so that’s where I’m going. Also: I think I had one once. So there’s a connection.

Robbie: HA! Excellent reasoning.

Sound Editing

Robbie: I looked up the difference between Sound Editing and Sound Mixing. One captures the correct sound effects and makes sure they sound correct and the other makes sure the sounds mix well with the final track so that each comes across well individually or together. I feel a tiny bit more educated. Sound Editing is the gathering of the correct sound effects and making sure they sound like what they should sound like. Based on this, I choose Zero Dark Thirty because of the sounds when they entered Bin Laden’s home were spot on. That’s the best I can do for this category.

Hillary: Thanks for checking on that! I think I’m leaning toward Life of Pi. For now.

Will Win: Life of Pi
Various Sundry Horses: Skyfall, Zero Dark Thirty, Les Misérables

Sound Mixing

Robbie: Based on my recent world wide web education, I feel that “Life of Pi” had extremely good sound mixing, with all of the animal sounds with the ocean and the lovely score.

Hillary: I agree that Pi is a strong contender. But one of the biggest selling points of Les Misérables was all of that live singing. I’m veering to Les Misérables for this one.

(Note: How many different pronunciations of Les Misérables will there be during the telecast? For some people, this could turn into a drinking game.)

Visual Effects

Robbie: My vote would go for Life of Pi. I was dazzled by the dichotomy of a dream like world at sea which looked realistic on the screen. The shipwreck scene was marvelous and tragic, the flying fish and the jumping whale were terrific and the scene with the jellyfish lighting up the dark ocean felt like visual poetry. If Life of Pigets the Oscar, it will be well worth it.

Hillary: Agreed! It was the most visually stunning film of the year - I loved the jellyfish. When you saw Pi, did you see it in 2D or 3D?

Robbie: 3D. It was definitely the way to go.

Hillary: We did too. I thought it was the best 3D I’ve seen.

Robbie: Absolutely. I remember seeing Avatar in 3D and just getting a headache. This actually added to the story.

Hillary: YES, on both counts. It was the first 3D film to not make my eyes crazy. Well, scratch that. I think Kung Fu Panda II was okay on that front. But Pi is still the superior film ;-)

Best Director 

Hillary: Another tough call! Steven Spielberg seems like the default choice because no one gets to vote for Ben here, but is it really the best call? In contrast, Ang Lee took a book everyone thought to be unfilmable and made a breathtaking film out of it. And out of left field, there’s Michael Haneke, and if the Oscar night turns into an Amour love-fest, a win for Haneke could certainly happen. 

Will win: I’m going with Ang Lee for now. WE SHALL SEE 
Beige Horse: The ‘Berg 
Dark Horse: Michael Haneke 

Robbie: Great points, Hilary. I have to go see “Amour” so I can contribute to the conversation about that film. But for now, I am thinking Steven Spielberg will run away with this. It was a sweeping film, very Spielberg-esque, and he helped DDL create that incredible performance of Lincoln. So I am going to go with him.

I loved what Ang Lee did with “Life of Pi” but I believe it was mostly due to the joy and miracle of computer effects. One more note, the up and comer Benh Zeitlin did a masterful job with “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” His name is going to come up in the future.

Will win: Steven Spielberg
Future winner: Benh Zeitlin
Evidence the Academy doesn’t always get it right: Ben Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow

Best Picture 

Robbie:  I saw all the movies except Django Unchained. I went to see Argo in October with my sister-in-law in Albuquerque. I knew the story and I knew how it would end. But here is why I believe this movie should win the Academy Award: my sis-in-law and I were on the edge of our seats the entire time! That is a great movie well done when you can give the audience a suspenseful experience even they know the ending. It was truly a ensemble piece with Ben Affleck leading the pack but subtly. I especially enjoyed Bryan Cranston but I love him in everything he does.

Will win: Argo
Should win: Argo!

Hillary: When I saw the first trailer for Argo, I thought - That’s it. That’s the Best Picture. And I felt the same way after seeing it in October. When it began losing Oscar momentum I was concerned, but things turned around when Ben Affleck didn't receive a Director nod and everyone cried foul. After that, Argo starting to win, you know, everything. And while some people think it’s still because of Affleck milking the Director snub, I disagree. The fact of the matter is it’s an extremely strong film, which everyone happened to remember once they started to watch the screener DVDs. Conversely, everyone had the opportunity to fall asleep on their own couch during the Lincoln screeners.

 And let’s take a sec to chat about Lincoln. It looks like an Epic film, smells like an Epic film but HEAVENS is it self-satisfied and ponderous. Would that the film were framed from the perspective of Thaddeus Stevens, the most complicated man in the film. Even better, I wish the Coen Brothers had made a movie about the lobbyists, who were doing good things with squirrely motives. Anything but a film about a good, not very complicated man doing a good thing for good (though never very defined) reasons.

And while Lincoln was certainly one of our greatest presidents, and I truly believe his death stunted the regrowth of the South to this day, I wasn't convinced that he made a compelling enough protagonist for the film.

Robbie: We agree completely on Argo and disagree completely on Lincoln. As I watched the story of the last fight of Lincoln’s career I was anything but bored. This was a man who has defined leadership in the American presidency. I believe that Spielberg and Daniel Day Lewis brought his style of leadership to life on the screen, surrounded by a complicated mess of political debates. Sure it’s a movie and can’t truly be a history lesson. I mean it’s Hollywood, for crying out loud. But the story made me and two of my friends go to the library and the internet and read about Mary Todd Lincoln’s housekeeper and the senators who fought on both sides. This kind of movie making transcends a simple story. It gives credence to thought about what was and what might be. I liked it. A lot!

Hillary: That’s cool that it inspired further research! What did you think about Silver Linings Playbook

Robbie: I was confused by it at first because I didn't really like Bradley Cooper’s character or Jennifer Lawrence’s character. But as the movie went along, the humor and familial conflicts made them sympathetic. When that happened, I started to relax and enjoy the story. And by the time of the dance scene, I was converted.

Hillary: I loved the dance scene! I thought the third act of SSL was very strong. But I also had a hard time with the suspension of disbelief in the first act, particularly in the way they treated mental illness.

Robbie: I totally agree with your third act point. I don’t understand what you mean about how they treated mental illness. If you are talking about that doctor playing the song to “get to” Bradley Cooper’s character, then yes, that was ridiculous.

Hillary: I actually really liked the doctor, but my issue was that some of the portrayals of both Bradley Cooper’s character Pat and Jennifer Lawrence’s character Tiffany made them seem less intelligent, particularly Pat. That seemed to change by the third act, but it was hard to believe for a long time that Pat would have ever been high-functioning enough to be a married history teacher.

Robbie: I see your point. It’s a good one. But who wouldn't marry Bradley Cooper? :)

Hillary: Well, he's not my type, but you do make a good point ;-) There was a lot to like about the film, and I thought was one of the strongest motifs was how everyone has their mental quirks, even if they haven’t been stuck with the “mentally ill” label. A strong film, but best? That one goes to Argo. 

Will win: Argo 
Dark Horse: Lincoln 

Hillary: Whew! So - now that we're at the end, we've come to the most important part. Robbie - what would YOU wear to the Oscars?

Robbie: Hilary, I will be wearing a dress extremely similar to the one Mrs. Ben Affleck (aka Jennifer Garner) wore to the Golden Globes. I love this color and of course I will be decked out in Harry Winston diamonds.

Hillary: I love that dress! 

Well, this is my pick - it's from the Oscar de la Renta Pre-Fall 2013 collection,'s pick. And it's got pockets. I bet it twirls.

(Note: Katy Perry wore the yellow dress in this shot to the inaugural ball, and said she felt like Belle, which I thought was pretty great.)

In other news, I'm thinking there will also be a Red Carpet Fashion Gown-a-pol-ooza again, so do check back. I'll also be tweeting through the festivities, so be sure to check in here.

Thanks again for joining me, Robbie! And happy Oscar viewing everyone! 

Friday, February 22, 2013

My Sister and A Purple Blanket (a conversation after her first chemotherapy treatment)

Cancer is an evil word. It’s impossible to say it without the enemy running right behind the sound of the word carrying a flaming arrow of fear pointed straight at the heart.

I hate cancer.

But here’s the deal that boggles my mind. I mean really plays games with my paradigm of thought. GOD 

What? The truth of this goes way back to when Joseph told his abusing brothers, “What you meant for evil, God used for good.” The actual verse is in Genesis 50:20.

I am in turmoil right now. I don’t doubt that God loves me and my sister with a passion I cannot fathom. I believe that. But why did my Abba Daddy, the One who has carried me through so much in my life allow evil into our family right now? Why did He allow my big sister to get cancer? I will probably never know the answer to this. God knows things He just doesn’t tell us. I get this. It’s about faith and exercising my belief in a God who I cannot see, but who I believe is real and loving and kind and all knowing. I go to the gym 5-6 days a week. But I feel that I’m exercising my faith muscle more than any other these days.

Really, Lord? You can use this evil disease for good?

So show me. I said this like a two year old stamping her feet and pouting.

Today, He began to show me.

This morning my sister had her first chemotherapy treatment. Last night I prayed for her, knowing she, like me, would be nervous and instead of sugar plums, visions of what ifs would be dancing through her mind. This morning I called and left a message. I asked folks on Facebook to pray for her.

At 9:30 my time she called.

“Hello.” I said.

“I’m done!”

Her voice was chipper and reminded me of a third grader bragging to everyone cause she finished the quiz first. I smiled, listening.

“How was it?”

Karen told me details and shared her experience. She felt a little nauseous but wasn’t sure if that wasn’t just cause of all the nerves.

“And there were a couple of bright spots.”

“Tell me.”

“When I went in, I heard someone call out, ‘Karen!’ ”

A woman she’d worked with twenty years earlier, now worked there.

“It was old home week, sharing stories and laughing. Made me feel so good because I know someone there.” The smile in her voice caused me to giggle.

“Divine appointment, for sure.”

“Yes, thank you, Lord! And then Jennifer showed up at the door as I was leaving to support me, too.”

I laughed again.“Wow. So cool.”

“Completely. Two spots of joy before and after they poisoned me.”

She made me giggle again. This conversation was not going anything like I thought it would.

“Oh and they provided a blanket for me, but I brought one, also, and put it on top of the one they gave me. It’s one that Linda (her best friend and old college roommate) gave me for my birthday or Christmas. It’s beautiful and a gorgeous purple.”

I thought of Linda, one of the most faithfully loyal women I’ve ever met. How wonderful that she added to 
Karen’s warmth today.

“And, Rob, as I sat there with that stuff going into me, I looked down and I was completely covered in purple. It occurred to me that this was so symbolic. I was totally covered by my King.”

My giggles turned to tears. Here I was, fortifying myself to try to be strong for her, and she was ministering to me.

“That’s wonderful, Karen.” I blubbered.

“Rob, He has me.”

This morning is just one scene from a long battle. My sister is a warrior who has and will face difficult moments but who will prevail. Over and over. See, my sister Karen believes what Joseph said to his brothers. Karen believes that one day at a time, the Spirit of the Living God will walk through this journey with her.

He has her. And He is using this horrible time for good.

Cancer is an evil word. I still hate it. But after spending a little while on the phone with Karen, my faith is strengthened and I believe a little bit more. Jesus said he would overcome the world in John 16:33.

Today, He is doing that in my heart through my sister, an evil disease and a purple blanket.

He has us. Each of us.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

My Tummy Pain Mystery Solved!

This is me and Scooby after gall bladder surgery. 

Some background facts on my mystery:

·        * I had gall bladder surgery three years ago.

·         *The next year I had some abdomen pain, had a colonoscopy and discovered I had a minor
case of diverticulosis. (Diverticu-LITIS is when it is infected)

·         *Last year I found myself with unbelieveable abdomen pain and went to the hospital. The CT scan showed what they thought was internal bleeding. Spent three days in the ICU for possible surgery. They discovered that my small intestine had become so infected that it was leaking edema from the infection.

·         *This past year I have had several, several bouts with stomach pain. My doctor who was near retirement continued to tell me (as they had told me in the hospital) that it had nothing to do with food but was an intestinal infection rearing its head again. He did order tests and I discovered I did not have Celiac or Chrohn’s disease.  

In December my doctor retired and in order to get my regular medications, I was forced to make an appointment with a new doctor. She is a P.A. and is 12 years old. Okay, maybe she is older but she looks young. Her name is Kelsey. I know, right? 12.

Anyway, when I went into see Kelsey I just happened to be having a day of intense stomach pain. I told Kelsey it was probably the diverticulosis. Upon examining me and reading my records, Kelsey said it couldn’t be diverticulosis, since that was in my left lower abdomen and my pain was always in the top of my abdomen just above my belly button.

Okay, diverticulosis out.

Next I explained about the time in the ICU with an infection. She explained that it could possibly be a reoccurring infection, in which a trip to a gasteroentologist was the suitable next step, but had I considered food allergies?

If I had a nickel for every time someone had told me I was probably allergic to gluten, I’d be a millionaire. I told her I really didn’t think it was gluten, because bread made me feel better. I had taken a week here and there throughout the year and eliminated certain foods and I couldn’t find an answer.

Kelsey suggested I get a food allergy test, done through a blood test through US Bio Tech. My insurance wouldn’t cover it, but it might be worth the price to find out answers or at least eliminate food as the culprit.

I had the blood test and waited.

Two weeks ago, I went in to see Kelsey and discuss the results. I found the answer to my mysterious belly pain of the last year.

I am allergic, highly, to bananas, pineapples, milk, mozzarella cheese, whey, yogurt and eggs. I have some minor allergies to other things including broccoli and carrots. Kelsey asked me to try to eliminate these foods for three weeks and take note of any changes. I explained that right then I didn’t have stomach pain, but she said food allergies often affect bowel movements, skin and energy, also.

My energy has waned a great deal this last year and since I have started exercising regularly I still don’t have a lot of extra energy. It seems everything I have is going into getting to the gym. I have noticed that I get these red splotches on my neck consistently. I used to get them only when really nervous but I have noticed them more and more at random times. And my bowel movements? I don’t want to get personal, but Dr. Oz would not be pleased.

So I’ve eliminated these foods for a week and a half. I miss milk DEARLY. I have almond milk in my coffee. Not bad and I’m getting used to it.

And I started thinking about my life these past couple years and something occurred to me. The only consistent pattern in my life has been the classic yoyo of weight loss and weight gain. I have tried to lose weight many times and often it has ended in a bad patch of tummy pain. To comfort myself I’ve started eating badly, ergo, gaining weight but ending the tummy pain.


Then it occurred to me that the foods I usually incorporate in my usual weight loss regime include bananas, pineapples, string cheese, yogurt and boiled eggs with a lot of broccoli and carrots.


In fact, I can’t swear to it, but I bet the day that I ended up in the ER I started the day with a whey protein shake with bananas, pineapple and yogurt in it. I probably had a snack of string cheese or a boiled egg. And for sure I incorporated carrots and maybe some broccoli into my diet.

I asked Kelsey about this and she said if I had one of the foods on my allergy list, it would affect me, but if I combined several of them on one day, it would definitely result in pain.


It is too early for certain results but I know I have more energy after only 1 ½ weeks. I don’t see the red thing on my neck as much and my bowel movements? Well, Dr. Oz would do a Woo Hoo! (Actually I don’t know if he woo-hoos or not.)

I have hope now that my weight loss will continue and be fortified through my mystery solving process. I can still eat wonderful food and exclude the foods on my allergy list. Again, it’s early in this process but hope is a good thing. A joy-inducing emotion!

Many of you have prayed for me, given me wise counsel and just felt for me during the last couple of years. THANK YOU! And I hope that in sharing my mystery solved moment I will help someone else who is in the midst of a tummy pain mystery. 

Thursday, February 07, 2013

What is TODAY'S Math Problem?

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34

Yesterday my Bible study leader, Sherie, said the funniest thing. “When I was in school, I liked. Math and on the first day of a new class I’d go straight to the back of the book and freak out. I can’t do this! I won’t ever be able to do this!”

Then she made the point. Day by day I learned and by the time I got to the end of the book, I could do every problem.

The analogy was perfect. So many times we look ahead and the enemy whispers fear that we won’t be able to conquer what might be heading our way. But God enables and equips.

Being present is an intentional purpose I try to practice each day. But my mind wanders so easily and my imagination, and fear right along with it, goes wild. When I see someone at the gym running on the treadmill, my first thought is I won’t be able to do that. There I go, looking at the back of the book again. Today I can’t run on the treadmill, but today I don’t need to. I just need to do the things I am learning right now. In the present.

Sometimes I look ahead at the possible pain or tragedies that could occur. I can easily drive myself crazy just thinking about how horrible something could be. Yesterday, I happened to be in this mode during our Bible Study discussion and a dear woman, Beth, reminded me of a story Corrie Ten Boom spoke and wrote:

"When I was a little girl, "I went to my father and said, 
"Daddy, I am afraid that I will never be strong enough to be a martyr for Jesus Christ." 
"Tell me," said Father, "When you take a train trip to Amsterdam, 
when do I give you the money for the ticket? Three weeks before?"

"No, Daddy, you give me the money for the ticket just before we get on the train."
"That is right," my father said, "and so it is with God's strength. 
Our Father in Heaven knows when you will need the strength to be a martyr for Jesus Christ. He will supply all you need – just in time…"

I wasn’t thinking about being a martyr, just about pain and tragedies. The same lesson applies. God will supply me the strength when I need it. He’s not going to give me that supernatural intervention while I am just fretting about the future.

So today join me and keep your eyes off the back of the book. Today’s problem is enough and God provides what we need TODAY.

(On another note, if you happen to look at the back of the Bible, God wins!)