Thank you for your visits, comments, encouragement and readership at Illuminate Everyday. This publishing portal has broadened my writing and publishing abilities but also allowed me to develop important connections with individuals like you.
I started Illuminate Everyday in January 2008. Today will be my last post. I will always be a writer, but what and where I write has shifted to become longer and shorter format writing in books and on social media.
Illuminate Everyday started as a place of expression, but over the years that concept became my way of life.
I blogged as a way to understand my world and the world around me. I wrote in a way that illuminated, or brought light to, the circumstances, people and feelings I encountered.
Blogging changed me. Not only did I draw the light out of ordinary life situations, as I wrote, I found light within some of life’s hardest ones.
I hope that you find that light, too. It is real.
Find all of my essays alphabetically in the Index or search by keywords.
My shorter, more personal posts will come through social media, something that was still developing when I began blogging seven years ago. Thank you for the wonderful rapport we’ve enjoyed. Please follow me so we can stay connected:
And now to continue our stories . . .Read More
I never met my great-grandmother Kirsten Marie Sorensen Jensen, but when I was a new mom, I came to know her heart through her writing. Reading her journals and biography were like a connection to a peer. I read how she managed her own daily load and felt encouraged in mine. I admired her honesty and tenacity, her humility and her creativity. I’m amazed at the influence the link she left has had on me, but her influence has been real, so much that my daughter Kirsten is named after her.
Have you noticed a pattern in the Facebook posts this week from women leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Several of them are posting photos of women they admire and sharing stories of encouragement.
Let’s follow their lead! Let’s undo the social and cultural pattern to polarize women from each other and share how we grow and influence each other.
We do need each other!
Which women have influenced your life? Who inspires you? What stories of faithful women inspire and encourage you?
Leave a comment or share your own photo on social media of a woman who’s influenced you.
The Mormon Channel has been doing a fun photo sharing campaign on social media. Share your photos, using the hashtag#WhereIAm, and express where you are physically, emotionally, or spiritually.
I sense lately from people who’ve asked me the typical question, “How are you?” that there is more behind it, more of a question that mirrors the one from the Mormon Channel such as, “How are you really doing physically? emotionally? spiritually?”
Rather than blurt out an awkward “cancer update” or “Here’s where I’m at with my cancer treatment” when people ask this question, I felt it was time to take to the blog and write and express how I’m living with cancer.
One year ago, in the middle of promoting Twelve Stones to Remember Him, I identified that the symptoms I was having were just not normal and needed to either escalate to the point of needing medical attention or they needed to recede and stop bothering me.
After praying for some guidance on this, the symptoms did increase to the point that I knew that I needed to make an appointment with a specialist and follow through on that. You can read about my journey with neuroendocrine cancer here.
Where am I today? Physically?
I visited the oncologist last week, and we both agreed I’m doing pretty well. Although I do not currently have any tumors large enough to register on scans, he does believe small neuroendocrine tumors are in my liver as indicated by what my blood markers show.
Despite what might sound like a discouraging progression of disease, it is really the end of a year of uncovering the extent and stage of disease, more than anything. Most importantly, he is confident that I’m physically stable with the treatment I am now receiving.
What is that treatment? I receive long acting shots of Sandostatin every three weeks. Here’s a bit about what that is:
Octreotide (the generic name for Sandostatin) and Lanreotide are medicines that are called “Somatostatin Analogues”. They are synthetic versions of a natural hormone we all make called somatostatin. It’s like the brake pedal of your body. It slow digestion, hormonal function, and a lot more. Unfortunately, the natural stuff only lasts 2 minutes and is broken down quickly. Octreotide and lanreotide, on the other hand can last for 4-6 hours, and when given in the depot version, last for a month. Both medicines bind to the somatostatin receptor on NETs and help them to both decrease hormone secretion and growth. — Read more from Dr. Eric Liu at the Healing Net Foundation
Those hormone secretions have been the biggest challenge and what I believe alerted me that something was wrong in the first place. With this medication, I don’t have many side effects beyond a small amount of nausea and pain at the injection site. Plus, my blood markers show some response.
Does that mean I’m going in remission? Not really. In the last year, I’ve learned that cancer, especially neuroendocrine cancer, isn’t that black and white.
This is a chronic cancer, and this medication is keeping the tumors in check. With the right monitoring, care and treatment, it is very manageable.
I may have other treatments in the future and like other chronic diseases, it will be in the background of my life, but right now I’m happy to be standing on stable ground, even though it is cold Minnesota ground at that.
Where I am emotionally? Spiritually?
Again, I’ve often reacted in terms of black and white with my emotions–negative experiences meant sad, positive ones meant happy.
Believe me, I don’t like the pain or the unidentified causes of some of my symptoms. The little things are the biggest irritants. It’s always been that way in my life. Progressing through this trial, though, has shown me that I can magnify those negatives or deal with them the best I can and focus my energy somewhere positive (like Friday’s release of Flowers of Grace).
I feel more joy and happiness. I feel a greater senses of calm about the future even though I have a more obscure picture of what it looks like. I count active everyday, every hour faith and gratitude as the reason for this change. Both consciously turn me to God so that I can see He is my helper in this, not my enemy.
So, here’s where I am: Just as I stand on stable ground in a Minnesota winter, this season with cancer isn’t one I’d choose. But the light of the gospel still shines and I know where I’m pointed and how I’m going to get there—by enduring well.
What about you? How would you express where you are emotionally? physically? spiritually? Share in the comments. Send me an email. Or share your photo on social media.
I’m preparing to release my debut novel Flowers of Grace in two weeks.
My sister Camille, who was also one of my editors, told me she just read it again for what was probably the sixth time. Do you want to know what she said when she finished?
She said that every women could relate to this book, that every woman could find something in this book.
Flowers of Grace is about friendship among women. Immersing myself in this novel through the writing and publishing process has increased my love for my women friends, my sisters (including SILs), my daughters, my mother, and mother in law.
My friend Rozane said this about Flowers of Grace,
It’s touching. It’s clever. It’s uplifting and exciting!
Flowers of Grace is a delightful novel written by a woman, for women. To me this book is a tribute to love and friendship. It celebrates our many differences of personality, age, background and challenges in life. This novel, truly brings to light how women need women, how we are uniquely invested in overcoming problems, how we grow stronger as an individual when we embrace our differences by communicating, sharing a simple laughter, or extending sympathy in times of sorrows.
Flowers of Grace is a testament to me that together as women we can be so much more! I personally can’t imagine where I would be today without a handful of good woman, who have given me advise, time and joy.
Post a photo of you and a friend, sister, daughter or mother on Facebook or Instagram. Write what this friendship means in 2-6 words. Tag your friend and ask her to do it too!
Do you want to take it to the next level of sharing? I’m creating a video after Valentine’s Day with some of my favorite photos and descriptions. Use these hashtags if you want to be included: #FlowersOfGrace #Friendship
Paul asked for a torte for his birthday, and because I haven’t baked in a long while, I set out to plan, bake, decorate and present him with a decadent hazelnut chocolate torte.
Now, this isn’t a foodie or baking blog. Mostly it’s a blog about how I cope with all the things that go wrong in normal everyday life and then figure out what I learned from them. So you can expect that I had some challenges creating this beautiful torte along the way, right?
The biggest challenge was not the torte itself but all the other projects I crammed into his birthday weekend. They all required 100% of my time.
A romantic night out. This worked out beautifully because it was the first event of the weekend, on Friday night, and we went out to eat, leaving the mess to someone else.
Final formatting of my new book. Things got a little sticky here. We uploaded the ebook to Amazon, but then the PDF proofs for the print version were fussy and it took two of us—okay, really Paul with me looking over his shoulder—to sort it out.
Creating a handout and video for a class. (Yes, a class I was teaching on his birthday.) Of course, I didn’t start this until 8 p.m. the night before. And, when he suggested that my old MacBook wouldn’t finish until 3 a.m., he took this onto his plate as well.
Normal things of life. Let me now insert multiple rides for our teenage daughter, an early dinner to accommodate our son’s work schedule, website updates for my author website, and my keyboard shooting out random characters.
And the birthday dinner. This all happened before I started making the beef stew and the famed chocolate torte, which all needed to be complete the night before so we could eat it in the short hour we had before he left for another meeting.
Are you tired, yet?
Through each step of these other projects, I walked back and forth past the cream cheese and butter that was softening on the counter for frosting, reminding me of the baking project ahead of me.
Then I fell apart.
A hazelnut chocolate cake does not express love under these conditions. Baking in this state draws out anxiety and rests it right on the shoulders of the object of my affection.
But I wasn’t going to let it. I’ve done that before. This torte needed a happy ending.
So, I set it aside that night. I didn’t make it compete. The butter and cream cheese went back in the refrigerator.
His perfect dinner wasn’t topped off with a perfect torte. But it wasn’t great that he had to leave right away either. So I used that time to my advantage and pulled that cream cheese and butter out as soon as he left. He did finish a very nice birthday with a super good torte.
It’s all about levels, like the layers on this torte. We can give our all—to the highest level—but not to all things, and certainly not simultaneously.
Truthfully, our highest level does not equal love. Chocolate hazelnut torte–on any level–is not love.
Love is what my husband gave me when he rescued my PDF proofs or the uninterrupted quiet time I encouraged him to take beside the fire before he headed out for five more hours of meetings or putting the butter back in the fridge when there just isn’t time or energy to do all you want to do.
So, by all means, take this recipe and bake a chocolate hazelnut torte for your sweetheart for Valentine’s Day. But please, please don’t forget to add the love.
Without it, something will always be missing.
Chocolate Hazelnut Torte
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup ground filberts (hazelnuts)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Chocolate Glaze (see below)
Whipped Chocolate Frosting (see below)
Fresh Berries for garnish
1st – Cream butter and sugar. Add egg and vanilla. Combine dry ingredients and gradually mix into the creamed sugar mixture. (This will look more like cookie dough than a cake.)
2nd – Divide into eight separate pieces, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.
3rd – Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a large baking sheet with sides by greasing the bottom, laying wax paper over that and then greasing the wax paper.
4th – One at a time, remove layers from refrigerator. Unwrap from plastic wrap, roll in sugar, and press between waxed paper. (Some of mine were too sticky so I also patted them in flour first.) Roll into an approximately a 6 x 4 inch rectangular.
5th – Lay out on the baking sheet in a four long by two high row. They will be touching, and if they aren’t you can pat them out to fill the whole tray.
6th – Bake at 350 degrees for 7-9 minutes, depending on your oven. You do not want them to be brown or crisp, so they are cake-like cookies. Remove from the oven and set the whole pan on a cooling rack for 10 minutes.
7th – Gently loosen the cookies from the edge of the tray and cut marks to evenly divide the pieces. Then lift the waxed paper out of the baking tray and onto a two cooling sheets put together or a very wide one. Gently trim any ridges from the edges of the pieces. Allow to cool completely.
8th – Make the glaze:
1 1/2 – 2 cups semisweet or dark chocolate chips (I love Special Dark chips)
2 tablespoons butter
2 – 3 tablespoons milk
Warm milk in a heavy pan on the stove set on low. Add butter, stir until melted. Add chocolate chips and stir until not solid pieces remain. Do not add too much milk. We don’t want this to be a pourable glaze, just a spreadable one.
9th – Now assemble the cookie/cake layers.
10th – Stack layers, one by one, spreading chocolate glaze over each. If a layer seems to be a little too long, go ahead and carefully trim the edges so that they are as even as you can get. Don’t stress about those that don’t create a perfect box shape. The frosting will cover it later.
11th – After all the layers have glaze between them, spread glaze around the full exterior of the torte.
12th – Refrigerate the cake for a couple of hours and make the whipped chocolate frosting.
Whipped Chocolate Frosting
1 cup heavy whipping cream
3 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder
Whip cream and set aside. Beat cream cheese until soft. Mix powdered sugar and cocoa powder. Add to cream cheese mixture and blend, gently at first. Spoon some of the whipped cream into the bowl if the frosting is too dry. Then fold most of the remaining whipped cream into the cream cheese and chocolate mixture. I saved some to decorate the top. You can chill the frosting for a bit to make it more firm for piping.
13th – Decorate the rest of the cake. I’m not a cake decorator so many of you can make a much lovelier one, I’m sure. But I piped the whipped chocolate frosting around the bottom and piped plain (sweetened) whipped cream on the top. Then, garnish with berries of your choice. I think raspberries or blackberries go best with this flavor combination.