Saturday, April 30, 2011

To Transcend

 Transcend:  a : to rise above or go beyond the limits of
b : to triumph over the negative or restrictive aspects of :

I was asked on Wednesday to come for milk break in Colton's second grade class.  A surprise was in the making and I didn't want to miss out.  Riley's mom, Karla, had purchased enough bracelets for Colton's entire class to wear one!  Colton beamed and my heart was beating with extra beats of pure joy.  

I've been more and more convinced that I am part of something bigger than myself.  I see proof of that every day.  Its in the emails I get from strangers, sharing their hearts with me.  The checks that fill my mailbox, generous ones, that leave me with my jaw dropping.  

When sweet "A" from Colton's class, who is mostly nonverbal, and has his own para, but loves Colton with all his heart, watches Colton throw his arms around me, and quickly rushes to the other side and wraps his arms around me smiling and looking up at me- I know he feels it too.  He could never articulate to us what was going on, just that even he, knew love when he felt it.  Mrs. Larson grabbed the camera and captured the moment and its one shared between her and I that we'll never forget.  She has already requested that "A" and Colton be in the same class again next year, for the third year in a row.  

Thank you Karla and the entire Swenson family!  We were so touched by your generosity!

Behind the scenes, making the meat Friday, for the spaghetti dinner on Sunday.  These are all the details I am largely being kept out of.  But thank you Curt for giving me a sneak peak.  I know everyone in this picture has been doing little else than "benefit work and planning" for the last month or so.  I can only imagine, the hours upon hours, and the sleepless nights spent planning and preparing.

Poor Curt, someone always gets stuck with the dishes, now don't they?  Thanks Kim, Sara, Curt, Amy and Jeff!

This photo came early today entitled "Five strong women; we are here for you!"  

And that they are.  Thank you Stacy, Katie, Suzanne, Tami, and Mary!

See what I mean?  This is way bigger than me.  

The very first book club book we read was The Middle Place, by Kelly Corrigan.  She was diagnosed with breast cancer and after just a few treatments was told her father had prostate and bladder cancer.  She weaves a poignant, funny, gripping tale of what it is like to both be battling cancer as you watch a parent fight their own battle with cancer.  

I promise, this video of a speech she has done, will inspire you, its worth the full 5 minutes.  

With all of you, all of this behind me, so much bigger than me, how can I not transcend?  

Thursday, April 28, 2011

In gratitude...

I'm not often wordless, but I stumbled across something this morning that has left me without a way to say anything, ever, maybe ever again. Or not.  I mean, you know me.  Its part of my morning routine, and she said she was going to, but then when I clicked today and saw myself?

Well I searched and searched, and no. No words, just a bundle of huge emotions oozing out everywhere. I'm overflowing with joy and gratitude and humility and more tears... just go see for yourself where you can find me in a BIG way today... rialee photography.  Its more than words can say...

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The bottle on the window sill

This little cutie got off the school bus the other day with the best news.

Mom, he yelled across the street where I am sitting with Darla in our lawn chairs, guess what

What honey?  

They are having a banquet for you on Sunday!  For you mom!  

I'm chuckling to myself, as I say Colton, I think its called a "benefit."  

Yeah, thats it, he says, and Grace's mom is in charge of the whole thing!

Yes, Grace's mom, Sara,  has done so much Colton, and so have lots and lots of other people.

Mom, do you think we can go?  Grace will be there too!

I'm laughing now as I tell him, yes Colton, I think we should go!  

Yeah, he says, turning a tad pink.  I think its well established Grace and Colton have a thing for each other- its only a second grade "thing," but its still a pretty cute "thing." 

Hey Mom, think they'll have food there?

Thats my boy, I think, always worried about what he will eat!  Yes, I tell, him, there will be spaghetti to eat.

If possible, his voice now goes an octave higher, Spaghetti!!  Mom, thats my favorite thing!! Mom, I'm so excited to go! 

He races off into the house as Darla and I burst out laughing.  Just wait till he sees all that they have planned for us.  

Oh the innocence of second grade.  

I wish I could bottle it in a jar and keep it on my window sill and sprinkle it on myself every now and then for good measure.  

So this is Teri, and with her is Mark.  Since Mark doesn't have a fb account, he agreed to this picture with Teri and she sent it to me.  He was one of the ones I noticed at church wearing his bracelet.

This pretty card was so exquisitely made, and the cd is filled with music and singers I love, I was extremely touched to receive this from Kelly, a new blog friend.  Thank you friend!  So thoughtful, and it will get a ton of use! 

So these mysteriously showed up at my door when I was out for a walk.  Just a note from a "soon to be survivor," to another "soon to be survivor."  I wonder if I'll ever know who it was?  But they're the perfect thing for a girl who loves sparkle! 

Monday, April 25, 2011

I can, I will, I am...

I hope everyone had a Blessed Easter! Just a few snippets from our weekend...

The sun shone so brightly Easter morning, we couldn't help but squint for the pic and it will always help me remember how warm the sun felt.  In fact, I think it was partially because of the sunny and springy day, that church had more people than I've ever seen.  It was quite literally, standing room only, and I was so, so happy to feel the real celebration in the triumph of the resurrection.


Colton was delighted to discover the Easter Bunny had brought him tomato plant kits.  These were in the dollar bin at Target and I think the Easter Bunny was pretty happy to see the grin spread from ear to ear on that child's face.  We arrived at church with blue dye on our fingers, and dirt under out nails, but I've never been so happy for the reminders of the messiness of life.


Quite simply, we restored "Hope" to its rightful position- top of the heap.


A short story to share.  A knock on the door Saturday night as we prepared to dye the eggs.  I answer to find a complete stranger standing there and she asks for "the person diagnosed," as she has seen the ribbons on my tree.  I acknowledge its me, and she grabs me in a bear hug, and tells me, "I think I was sent here to tell you, you will be okay."  And she repeats this as she hugs me.  "You will be okay."  I invite her in, she hesitates, then accepts.  She walks in and pulls off her hat to reveal hair slowly growing in combined with 10 wisps of hair on either side that are long and flowing.  She is healthy, radiant, and a survivor.  She has seen it all.  She has had a double masectomy, radiation and chemo.  She is 9 months into treatment and was here in town for the weekend.  We talk for 20 minutes nonstop.  We show each other our "ports."  We talk side effects, and the outpouring of love we both experience.  She leaves me with her name and phone number... and another glimpse of my future.   She entered my home as a stranger, and left as a sister.  An angel, really, is what she was, and it had God's handprint all over it.

 I can do this. I will do this.  I am doing this.  

This is Nan, from Cedar Rapids.  Thank you friend, I truly love seeing where my bracelets go!

These 4 cuties I know very well, and I can only imagine how hard it was to get all 4 of them in the same place at one time!  Thanks Bonnie, you know I love all the photos of your kids.  

This is a rare treat.  This is from my friend Elizabeth, who gave the bracelet to her friend.  And this is the email Elizabeth shared "This is my friend Tanya from Cape Town. She's going to school in Duluth now and she'll wear the bracelet when she goes home to South Africa next month too."  

How cool is that?  So far I have heard of bracelets going to Australia and Canada, and now South Africa?   I am so touched by that... thanks for the cool idea Elizabeth! 

Teri used to live by me and I hardly knew her, and that is changing.  But, I have always been huge fans of her two boys Jordan, and Jesse,  who are both hockey players, and football players and baseball players that my own two boys admire so much.  

I spent my morning walking outside in the sunshine with Darla, and then I talked with my forever and best friend, Kristi.  When I got off the phone, look what showed up in my email!  A picture from two best friends, Jennifer, and Melody from Texas.  Thank you girls for taking the time to brighten my day!

Thank you to all of you who continue to find the most unique and heartfelt ways to show support for me.   I count each one of you as a blessing and my cup continues to overflow. 

Saturday, April 23, 2011

To fly

"That to fly requires chaotic, sometimes even violent passages--becomes a metaphor for all of life's most meaningful endeavors. "
Kelly Corrigan

Thanks everyone, for flying the violent passages right along with me!  It promises to be a bumpy ride, and I am so glad I have you all strapped in along side of me. 

Look what sunshine came bursting onto the scene last week?

My nieces, Madi and Alex, ages 11 and 9, sporting their neckLaces and bracelets, all the way from Hershey, PA.  More bracelet photos coming soon!!

 Madi-o, always smiling, funny sense of humor, avid reader and writer, and beautiful girl.

The 4 cousins who are famous for getting along really well and always being excited to spend time together.  

Clever girl Alex who wore her neckLace as a ponytail holder!  Smart girl!  Alex is funny, sensitive, shy for a second or two, and very cute! 

The clownsters together.

My sis-in-law, well, sister really, Kelly.  

My little brother, Lee.   And not to be forgotten, ever, the only one missing is of course, Dad, and Grandpa to the our kids.  Miss you Dad! 

                                                                My funny boy Colton.

And just like that, snap, and the Hershey Helds were flying off back to their home again and our hearts will never be as full as when we are all together. 

My mailbox is well fed these days, more than any girl has a right to receive.  But each and every card, note, gift, phonecall, is such a lift to my spirit and buoys me all day.  

This is a beautiful, soft, warm, prayer shawl, crocheted for me by a blog friend Jen, and sent by her and one other blog friend, Lisa.  Thanks Ladies!  Jen, I so often admire your work and its such an honor to have it around my shoulders.  Its so warm, and soft and the prettiest shade of blue... I simply adore it.  Thank you both for thinking of me! 

This little bottle of Hope came from my neighbor Dawn who works for Sanford, the medical center where I received treatment.  Its given to each cancer patient as gesture of faith and friendship.  A volunteer made it, and it comes with a card filled with hope for recovery and survivorship.  Thanks Dawn! 

How pretty is this?  And the message is perfection.  Its true, I hardly know Shannon, but she took the time, not only to send me a gorgeous canvas, but she wrote very humbling and heartfelt words, and they're tucked away in my heart.  Thank you Shannon, I am so honored. 

And Jamie thought of me when she was dying eggs with her triplets, yes, two girls and a boy.  Her nephew Luke brought it to me... It says Vicky in glitter on it and its solid pink.  So sweet!  Thanks Jamie and kiddos. 

This is the Easter message, that awakening is possible, to the goodness of God, the sacredness of human life, the sisterhood and brotherhood of all.

Anne Lamott

Have a Blessed Easter everyone!

Friday, April 22, 2011

If I'm being honest, it really sucked... and learning how to trust.

If I 'm being honest, I'd have to tell you what a dark day I had yesterday.  Half of it anyway.  It really sucked, and I don't even like that word, but thats how yucky it was.

But before I start, let me say this, "I am fine.  Really.  I'm doing well.  But its not all sunshine and smiles.  So please read with the understanding, I am only being real and giving you the Dr. Phil "tell it like it is" account of the occasional bad day I have."  

The first half of my day was actually really good.  I went to Target and gathered ideas to inform the Easter Bunny on what he should bring to our house.  And I had lunch with my neighbor Darla, which we never get to do.

But then I went to get the mail and couldn't help ripping into the pretty envelope from the Mayo Clinic.  And there it was in black and white.  My report.  First from the nurse practitioner, Nurse Ratched, oops, did I really just call her that?  Next, from Dr. P.

Let me start off by saying, there was absolutely nothing new in that report.  I've heard it all, and read most of it before.  So I am not sharing anything new.  But, the cyclone of emotion that settled over me was astonishing even so.  Maybe it was the rainy day, on top of more gloomy days already.  Maybe I was just in a mood.  It wasn't like me, but I have to say it WAS me yesterday.

In reality, I completely get what "they" (the medical personnel) have to do.  When you go for a second opinion, they tell you what they think from A to Z.  And I am only at letter B or even C, with my own Doctor. We aren't skipping ahead to Q, R, or S.  But at the Mayo Clinic, they needed to remind me of the whole alphabet, A to stinkin'  Z.  Cause Z?  Really stinks.

So my eyes  skimmed right over the "Patient is a pleasant woman, and seems to be coping well...," and lasered in on the more ominous language.

"Palliative care."  Bam, it cuts through me like a nail on the cross.

"Comfort measures."  Bam.  I recoil with the sensation of pierced skin.

"Incurable."  Bam...  sears me to the core.

For the second time, I want to shout at them, "But I am alive, and I want to live.  Can you not obviously see my two boys alive in my eyes, whom I breathe for?  My husband, my Superman who is every and all things to me?  I am not cancer.  I am alive in spite of the cancer.  Please see ME."

I am a sobbing, weeping, mess, leveled on the floor.

I can't help but think of Easter.  Its Good Friday today.  Why has the word "good" never seemed ironic before to me?  I think I have always pushed past the sadness of Christ on the Cross, to the joy and celebration of the Resurrection.  I've never invited in, the pain of the cross.

How did Jesus feel, washing the feet of Judas who would betray him?  My thoughts circle and swirl around the events of Good Friday.

I sat with it all day yesterday.  My very best "virtual couch" friends were by my side.

"Please God, give me the shift in perspective I need to go back to Hope."

Robin encourages me to read chapter 8 of One Thousand Gifts, and as I do, my faith restores piece by fragile piece.

Ann's words again, a balm to my weary soul... she reminds me "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me."  (John 14:1)  Bible verse after verse she reminds me.

Her words, now pierce me, "I've got to get this thing, what it means to trust... because I can't fill with joy until I learn how to trust."

The last nail hits especially hard and truthful... Bam.  


To show you I am okay, look what my friend Roxane  brought me this morning "hope" in the pewter cross on the book above.  Roxane blogs at Peace Garden Writer, and Peace Garden Mama, and its worth a visit to her blogs.  Thanks for a wonderful morning, Roxane!

As I go to snap the photo of the cross, I realize the renewed feeling I have, hope- restored.

Have a Blessed Easter everyone!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Love in action

Dear God,

I have turned into a not-so-quick-to-cry-lately kind of gal. But you oughta warn a girl when you are about to unleash a tidal wave of blessings in her direction! When I opened this CD chock full of images from the decorate a pink purse for the Vicky Westra Benefit night?  Instant tears! How could I not? Look at ALL the people? Older kids mixed in with small ones. Moms and even some Dads. Just about every boy from Nolan's Squirt A hockey team was there.  And tons of kids from many of the other levels of hockey were well represented.

And they're making pink purses!  For me!

This wave of support God, is like when the tide comes in from the ocean.  You run further and further back, letting the water lap at your feet, till suddenly a big wave catches you off guard, and soaks you good!  And you can only jump back and shriek both because you didn't see it coming, and because you couldn't know it would make you feel so good!    Amen

*sigh*  Sending love to you all- you sure know how to make a girl's heart feel full.

* This is just a small sample of the purses they made and of the photos I was sent.  I tried to include as many kids and purses as I could.  

When you get lucky

When you get lucky

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