Thursday, December 27, 2012

A peek...

I was midway through infusion Monday morning when the nausea started to creep in.  But I stuck to my agenda of doing some last minute shopping.  I came home in time to finish wrapping and then I got a short nap in before it was time for church.  

I love the candle light Christmas Eve service and singing all the traditional Christmas songs.  I savored every last moment.  

But I was running out of steam by the time we returned home to open presents.  I put some soup on the stove and let everyone fend for themselves.  We opened some gifts and Rick obliged me by taking a few photos.

The boys played their new games and I was off to bed early.

I've always said you could get him a pack of gum and he'd jump up and down with delight.  He did not disappoint in his joyful jumping at every single gift.

This one was a bit more understated.  He broke his hockey stick a few days earlier and had some tough choices to make.  If he needed our help to purchase a new stick, it meant less for presents.  It helped however, when he received gift cards- one specifically for his favorite hockey store and was able to order a new stick the next day.  

Christmas Day was cold and clear.  It was well below zero when we left for the lake.  I was tired and queasy but the distraction of the drive was welcome.  We headed to the lake to spend the day with Rick's Dad and his sister and her family.

I usually only get a brief glimpse of this church from the road.  But Rick obliged me a close up and I loved it even more.  

We ate a delicious dinner with Rick's sister and her family- all cooked by Jim!  From the turkey to the stuffing to the pies, he cooked and baked it all.  It was so tasty and we could only imagine the long hours he had put into that meal.  

After dinner we took the dog outside to release his pent up energy.  The light was beautiful and it felt good to be out in the cold and crisp air.  

My lungs even allowed me to go all the way down to the lake.  I made a quick snow angel- um because I could.  Because I hope my kids always know you are never too old to be a kid again.

The feathery crystals of frost on the frozen lake were a treat to see.

20 minutes in the frigid cold did me in.  I rested in the van on the way home and crawled in bed early.  My heart was merry and light and full.  Thank you to everyone who sent Christmas cheer our way! 

We are in the midst of more projects- and yet I can never stay away for too long.  

I'm pondering my one word for the new year- anyone have one an idea to share?  

Monday, December 24, 2012

Love came down... Christmas Eve...

If I'm being honest, going to infusion Christmas Eve morning hasn't left me feeling very Christmas-y. And even though I am surrendered to it- it is what it is-I haven't quite figured out how to honor the spirit of Christmas with chemo, infusion, or cancer.  

I've also alluded to some of the changes coming our way.  We've carefully considered and weighed all of our options.  In order to continue to keep up with the high cost of treatment and our ongoing obligations, we have decided to move Rick's office to our home.  It was a difficult decision to make, but we are stepping forward in faith that eventually this will simplify our lives and reduce expenses.  We've also listed our van on Craigslist.  And Rick has sold some of his cameras and other photo gear.  

None of this is because we aren't able to manage just fine right now.  But we need to be realistic about the uncertain nature of the future and be as fiscally responsible as we can right now.  

Making these decisions has honestly been the toughest part- its been far easier to execute and move forward with the decisions behind us.  

But with all of these serious decisions chasing us down- how do we capture the joy and wonder of the Christmas season?  Especially when I start off the day at infusion?

I think the answer trudged right through my front door in a series of blessings. While I was caught up in the frenzied loads of office equipment arriving daily and the stacks of clutter and mess shoved to the corners of our living room, the answers were there for me when I was ready to see.

I ordered this tealight holder online through a special offer from Dayspring.  Taking full advantage of the offer, I bought several, and delighted in giving some to friends.  Its sturdy, solid and heavy- a substantial piece, with an even more substantial message.   

The birth story of baby Jesus in Luke 2 1-20. 

I absent- mindedly forgot to order a Christmas wreath for us this year, but this was a welcome fill-in.  The fragrant branches and beautiful colors filled our house with Christmas cheer.  Thank you Stavenger family!  

It was superman who found this lying in the snow in our driveway.  It had been duct taped to something and the wind must have lifted it off.  Not only was it a beautiful card- but it had Christmas money and an anonymous note from a friend of our youngest sons.  Thank you- neighborhood angel- your gift gave me more than you could possibly know! 

I think the message in this "Clinging Cross," could not have been more timely.  Thank you to our angel  - Jennifer- my friend from far away.  

There have been platters of goodies, oodles of cards and a steady stream of abundance.  Thank you to everyone who took the time to deliver some Christmas cheer to our door! 

But it's remained true- I've been caught in the midst of chasing down the "perfect" Christmas.  With all of the tradition, the decorating, the baking, the magic-making I could muster- amongst the chaos of our life. 

And chemo was messing up my idea of perfect.  

But I kept being drawn back to my Star and its message- Love came down.

 I finally sat down and read Luke 2 1-20.  

I sat looking at the handmade card with 
Baby Jesus...

And I was reminded of the humble beginnings of the tiny babe.  Mary and Joseph would have perhaps preferred a room at the Inn, with a bed and a midwife.  

Plus, a cradle, rather than a cattle trough or manger for their newborn.  

I wonder how anxious they might have been.  Worried, frightened, alone perhaps.  

And yet...

They got a drummer boy, and 3 wise men.  They got a stable, and swaddling cloths for warmth and hay for softness maybe.

Some would say they were blessed.

And I wonder, how many of us forget about the blessings in the hay, when we find ourselves in the stable instead of the inn?  

Perfect does not exist in CHRISTmas.  

Christmas is about God's perfect love for us given through the birth of baby Jesus.

Wishing you Christmas Blessings!  

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

When you disappear...

I didn't mean to disappear from blog land- not at first. How exactly did a whole week go by since I last posted?  It could have a little to do with this lovable twerp.  His team got asked to fill in for another  team at our home squirt hockey tournament.  So late Thursday night we were scrambling for a dress shirt and tie to wear to school the next day.  He was so pumped to be playing.  While it meant we played in town all weekend, we ended up with 7 travel games to attend.  Plus...

my blogging disappearance could have something to do with the other major Friday event.   We dismantled my computer desk, and moved out the table and chairs... and through the hard work of two busy installers... we went from this...

to THIS!  

Do you know this is my very first new floor?  How lucky are we to have relatives who own a flooring store named Fargo Linoleum.  Between two boys and two different dogs, and lots of knee hockey, our floors have taken a beating.  And Rob, my cousin, helped us out in a way that is hard to repay.  And when he says "this is just how its going to be and don't try to argue with me..." Umm, well we are humbled and grateful and again reminded of the abundance that flows every day.  

We needed durable, cost effective, floors that could withstand a lot of traffic, but required little in the way of maintenance.  

So it looks like wood, doesn't it?  Or laminate maybe?  But no- its vinyl planks from a company named Karndean that literally were glued down over our existing floors.  I can't even begin to tell you how the flooring transformed our kitchen!  Seriously worth considering if you need a durable and budget friendly flooring.  I know just where to send you to find it too!

Merry Christmas to me (grins)...

Bigger projects are in the works which we will reveal at a later date and all of this will make sense considering some big changes coming our way.  

So how did Colton do in his tournament?  He played goalie in the first game and they won 5-3.  Colton watched as they lost the second game (to the eventual winners) and then played a really close third game.  Colton was in net and managed to make two big saves at the end and they won 7-6.  They played for third place the next day and lost at the end of the game 3-2.  

We were so proud of our boys. 

It was no wonder it was well into Friday evening before we heard about the tragic shooting in Connecticut.

By Monday my computer was back up and running... I had thoughts of blogging... but... just what do you say?  

Words just seemed to take a back seat to sadness and mourning over the loss of innocence, and just the senseless nature of the tragedy.   

Thank you to everyone who came in search of me wondering if I was okay- I am feeling well and taking advantage of the energy to accomplish some Christmas-y things.  

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

magic and miracles

I've said it before, Kristina Braverman, from the show Parenthood is living my life.  Last night's episode about split me wide open.  Kristina, who is battling breast cancer,  is about 10 days past her last infusion and she starts to have a cough.  But she so desperately wants the kids to have the "best Christmas ever," she valiantly pushes on- dismissing her husband's inquiry if she is okay.

What's not said, what can only be inferred, is that she wonders if this could be her last Christmas?

It's the middle of the night, Christmas Eve day, when she awakens with a raging fever.  Her immune system has no ability to fight off the infection and she has gone septic in a matter of hours.  I was literally squirming the entire time I watched.

And then Adam her husband, while watching her try to fight in the ICU, decides to watch "the video" she has left for her kids... you know, the one she has made, "in case something happens to her." My heart shatters as she voices the words that have played out in my head.  I could have written those words myself.  My own version, written a short time ago, here.

In case you missed it... but please know its pretty emotionally charged.

How do you gain perspective when cancer and Christmas intersect?  I've been wondering myself, as I prepare for infusion, on Christmas Eve.  It seems, nothing is sacred when it comes to cancer and treatment.

But its Kristina's father-in-law, Zeke, played by Craig Nelson who hammers home the message of hope.  He is trying to explain to his skeptical grand kids why he still believes in Santa Claus.  He tells a story of "running into him, and seeing with his own eyes."  "I still believe," he says, "Santa is real and Christmas is magic.  Christmas brings miracles. If you keep looking, keep watching, you will see."

With the strength of conviction in his voice and his abiding faith in the seen and unseen, I breathed a little easier.  Kristina would recover.  Christmas would be joy filled.

And me?

I will keep looking, keep watching and I know that I will see, too.

Monday, December 10, 2012

A glimpse...

Its the simple things that undo me at times.  Even with Rick gone all week, I had no intentions of being "Superwoman."  I simply wanted to keep up with the day to day.  Other than needing a nap after infusion on Tuesday I rebounded well.  

Instead of weighing Rick down with another project, I created our Christmas Cards this year.  It took me a long time to figure out how to edit one of Rick's big raw files into something I could use.  In between times, I also carpooled with others to and from hockey a lot- I even managed the 5:15 am wake up and 5:45 am run to the rink with Nolan.  

Chauffeur, chef, boy wrangler- I was so on top of it. I managed my own role as well as fulfilling some of the things Rick would do.  My last duty was to sew the 4 sponsor tags on the back of the hockey jerseys for Nolan's tournament this past weekend.  But my joints were swollen and stiff after infusion and the tags were cumbersome for my hurting hands. With time slipping away I called my mom.  Knowing my mother does not sew, I figured she would know of someone to ask.  She sure did.  So I pinned each tag where it needed to go- two for Nolan, two for Colton- and dropped them off at her friend's apartment.  

It was 5:00 pm when the jersey's were done and ready for me to pick up.  I'd been up since 5 am and I was dragging. I needed them by noon the next day for the start of Nolan's tournament so I was relieved to have them out of the way.  Or so I thought.  I brought them home and set them on the railing.  It was Nolan who discovered the mistake later on.

"MOM- Colton's tag is on MY jersey!  My tag is on his!" I tried prying them apart.  I tried to slide a kitchen knife underneath the stitches.  I tried to find a small scissors. 

I finally did the one things I always do in an "emergency," I ran to my neighbor Darla's house.  We may not have found a seam ripper, but a steak knife eventually did the trick.  

It was late that night when with blurry eyes and unsteady hands, I sat down to tackle that sponsor tag. Steeling my resolve I performed the ugliest, most crooked stitch imaginable and tacked that tag to the jersey.  I knew we were in for a long weekend and my energy stores were depleting rapidly.

Friday was the first day of Nolan's Peewee AA tournament.  Our first game we played a team from Grand Forks and we knew they would be competitive.  I signed up for a three hour shift working credentials.  But the rat-race-pace of the week had taken its toll on my energy.  My lungs had begun to burn with each trip up the stairs, or outside to the car.  The cold air in the rinks made it especially hard to take deep breaths.  I was just grateful to play a small role, with help from others.  It isn't easy to compare sometimes what I used to be able to do, to what I can do now sometimes. 

I can't say our boys played their best game against Grand Forks, but we ended in a tie.  Because it was pool play- points were assigned and they would determine who ended up earning a chance to play in the championship game. Our next game we played Thief River Falls and we looked more like the team we all know.  The passes were smooth and sharp, and scoring came from all our lines.  It was a lopsided 18-2 win.  But because of those two goals against us?  Our next game we had to not only win, but get a shut out as well, to earn our way to the championship game.

It simply wasn't meant to be.  We held off Waconia for the longest time, but eventually they scored 1 lone goal on us, and our dreams of the championship were over. We still beat them 9-1.

Pool play points can be a tough commodity.  So even with 2 wins and 1 tie and no losses,  we were going to play for 3rd place.

The "Steve Dorsey" Invitational is named after a high school classmate of mine.  He went head first into the boards at a high school hockey game back in the mid 80's and broke his neck, causing him to be paralyzed.  I took a few minutes to think of Steve and hoped our Peewee's could at least capture the 3rd place plaque in his honor.

We got off to a rough start.  We've played Fergus Falls two times and beat them both times.  Its hard to beat the same team 3 times.  We were down by two goals before long and we began to wonder if our boys would be able to rally this time.

But they did.  

They were a bit subdued in their celebration- knowing in their hearts they had held high hopes of being in the Championship game. 

But they had 3 wins on the weekend and 1 tie.  They maybe weren't first place champions this weekend, but they are on a mission to be champions one day.  I have no doubt they will be. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

It's beginning to look a lot like...


Normally we would have garland or Christmas stockings and lights strung along the railing by now.  We do manage our fair share of "family time," its just that we spend it at the rink!  Getting all 4 of us in the same place and near the same time is crazy hard for us these days.  So we have delayed our Christmas decorating a bit.  


One day in the future those jerseys will be replaced with decorations.  It'll be picture perfect- with blinking lights, adorned tables and walls, and Christmas hanging from the rafters.  And I'll be wistful and nostalgic for the days when the boys used my staircase railings to hang their freshly laundered jerseys to dry.  

I'm taking time today, an ordinary Wednesday, to notice the bounty all around- especially clean hockey jerseys hanging from my railings.  

Monday, December 3, 2012

Breakfast of Champions

The letter came in a formal looking envelope addressed to "The parent's of Mr. Nolan Westra."  Oh-oh- my heart sank just a bit.  But eager to find out what the ominous looking piece of mail could actually be, I ripped it open and began to read.

It seems that Nolan had been nominated by several of his teachers in Pod B for being a good kid!  We were asked to attend a breakfast last Friday to honor the students and then watch them receive their certificates.

Ms. Lockhart, the principal of the school, read what the teachers had to say about each student and then handed the certificate and a bag of goodies to each one.  Ms. Lockhart said each pod has about 145 students, so to be picked as 1of 3 that were recognized was an honor. 

Nolan's teachers said he was a leader in class, a hard worker, and a joy to have around.   

I don't know who beamed more, the students?  Or the parents!  The school plans to hold the breakfast 3 mores times this year so that more students can be recognized.  There were so many other kids we knew surrounding us as well. We were so happy for all of them.  

What a great way to introduce some positive reinforcement.  

We have a busy week in store for us.  Rick is leaving today for Idaho for a week.  I have infusion tomorrow.  The boys have hockey every. single. day. this week.  

We also have a choir concert and Friday starts Nolan's Home Peewee AA/A hockey tournament... whew- it'll be a frenzied week.  

I'll be doing my best to live those moments full- how about you?  

Friday, November 30, 2012

on the minds of moms and what I found...

Its not about me... my friend Gitz, when she was buried, wore a shirt emblazoned with the phrase, "Its not about me..."  I was never fully able to grasp the concept until I began dealing with my own diagnosis and treatment.  The lessons have been hurtling at me ever since.  Today, I can more fully appreciate the wisdom of my Sara. Truly, its not about me... 

The irony is not lost on me.  I had to go to wound care yesterday.  When the door to the exam room swung open I recognized Nancy.  I hadn't seen her around in months.  I greeted her warmly and asked how she was?  She is different somehow, and I know that something has changed.  Well, she hesitates, then says, I've been gone and you of all people will completely understand... I have breast cancer.  I had lumpectomy, chemo, and just began radiation.  Dr. Panwalkar is my doctor.  Don't you just love him? She beams at me.  

I do, I smile back and we have just transcended nurse-patient relationship.  She has her story to tell, and I need to listen and let her tell it. Its not about me...

So while she treated my wound, we chatted about chemo and about when your hair grows back and the fatigue of radiation.  It was somewhat of a role-reversal as I answered more questions than I asked.  I hugged her when I left, sad she joined the club, happy she is doing so well.

I'm off to the grocery store trying to sneak in some shopping before my wound starts to throb.  I am thinking about last year at this time when I went grocery shopping after wound care....

I push the filled cart through the doors and see the magazine racks are fully stocked...  Could it be?  Is it here early?  I thought it would we weeks before I saw this...

I grab a coulpe of copies and turn to the inside... yep- that's me!  

Almost a year to the day I had the experience at the grocery store- on the minds of mms publishes the story.  If you live locally you can find the magazine at Sunmart, Hornbachers, and Hugos in Grand Forks.

Or you can read my submission here at on the minds of moms...

I'm so honored...  Thank you Dani!  

Thank you to everyone who has wished me well and prayed for the return of my health.  I am feeling so much better!  My energy has returned and the dizziness has subsided.  I'm so grateful...  

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Duluth East vs. Moorhead Peewee AA's and the big comeback!

My nerves were off the grid just thinking about this game.  Nolan's Peewee AA team was scheduled to play a top ranked Duluth East Peewee AA team last Saturday night.  At the high school level Duluth East is a perennial powerhouse team that is always in the run for a State Title.

It was out first time playing them and the hype about them was filled with accolades at how well they played.  Our own kids had this hype firmly in mind.

The first period clearly showed we could hang with them.  The score was 1-0 in their favor at the end of the first period.  They would score another goal and go up 2-0.  Our chances were slipping through our fingers.  But our boys battled on.  They fought for loose pucks and battled along the boards.  They passed to each other and took advantage of many scoring chances.

Karson (#15) gets the scoring started for Moorhead, capitalizing on a rebound from their goalie, and the score becomes 2-1.

But they answered us with two quick goals of their own.

With 7 minutes left in the 3 period, we were down by a score of 4-1.  Its an awfully large deficit to come back from, especially with just 1 period to go.

And yet- our boys did not back down.  If anything they pressured more, and increased their intensity.

Suddenly, Nolan ( #22) rifles off a quick slapshot and the score goes to 4-2.  Suddenly, the energy inflates and we are fully back in the game.

With a beautiful goal from Justin ( # 14) and then a drop pass from Ethan (#18) to Clay (#19) who scores again... suddenly with just a few minutes left in the game- we are tied!! 4-4.

Now can we just hang on to get to overtime?  Or... well you'll just have to see...

Watch the video to see a compilation of all the goals and the big finish!!  You will not be disappointed!!

The screaming on the video- may or may not have been- me.  I was one proud hockey mom!  Proud of all those boys and truly felt blessed by being able to watch her #22 doing what he loves to do!

Way to go Moorhead Peewee AA team and coaches!  Thank you to the Duluth East Hounds who lived up to their billing of being an outstanding team, and agreed to travel a long ways to come and play us.  We went on to split with them, losing an early morning Sunday game.  But we learned a lot that weekend.  Never count yourself down and out... you just never know when you will persevere and come out victorious.

Monday, November 26, 2012


"Thanksgiving only becomes thanksliving when the thanks for His vertical, coming-down grace — is expressed as a horizontal, reaching-out grace."  Ann Voskamp

"Coming down Grace" reached us this Thanksgiving- vertical, sideways, backwards and twirly topped. The Levaquin I've been taking has helped me fight the sinus infection, but rendered me even more dizzy and fatigued than normal. 

And I steady my head to number my gifts and count them.  My gratitude journal filling and spilling into the corners of all my days. The daily practice of Thanksgiving = Thankful living.  

I am rescued, as my head swirls, and my cousin Jennifer, offers to send us dinner that we only have to heat up Thanksgiving Day. Then her sister Pam and husband Scott deliver the meal Thursday morning.  Their daughter Amanda even bakes us a pumpkin pie.  It is delicious- so tasty I couldn't have made it any better myself.  Thanks and giving.  

The boys pick out the tablecloth and their favorite dishes and help set the table.  I cringe a little at their choices- and yet, it speaks to my mama heart that her boys want to please her and to take part and they beam all the way through when they are finished. 

The beautiful flowers surprise me at the door Wednesday and become the perfect centerpiece for our table.  Thank you Moilanen Family! Then Anne comes, bearing fruit and dip and love and warmth. And grace flows and my heart grows.  

Grandpa Jim arrives to help carve the turkey and Uncle Dale (Carole's brother) stops by too.  Grandma Mary Ann has an unfortunate run in with a flu shot Wednesday that leaves her too sick to join us.  She rallies quickly.  Grace rains down.  

We eat, we talk, we rest, we savor.  

And thanksgiving only becomes thanksliving when joy in the blessings given from above — overflows into the blessings given all around.  Ann Voskamp

Overflowing blessings- given all around- and counting gifts teaches so that Thanksgiving becomes Thanks-living.  

And I steady my head and and bend my knees and give thanks for the living and the bounty and blessings.   

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

"Custom will render it easy"

I'm still sick.  I've been laying low, curled up with books and dogs and boys, trying to rid myself of what is looking like a sinus infection, cough, and  hoarse voice.  I feel okay, I just can't round the corner and rally completely.  Dr. Panwalkar prescribed some heavy duty antibiotics and said if I don't feel significantly better in three days, I will have to go in and be checked out.

In the meantime, I stumbled across a few more photos from our trip in October.  I realized I left out a pretty profound couple of moments on our last day of travel.  But here- let me just show you.

Theres an old saying: Choose always the way that seems the best, however rough it may be. Custom will soon render it easy... Pythagoras

We arrived in Bozeman, MT on a warm afternoon.  We had thought we'd keep driving, but something about the sun and the mountains and the beauty, made us look for a room early.  

We took a drive at sunset soaking in the amber hues and golden warmth.  

A pheasant scurried alongside us... distracting us as...

two deer leapt across the road in front of us.  I was not quick enough to fully capture their fleeting escape through the tall grass.  Bozeman has always appealed to me, and I relished the few free hours of driving around taking it all in. 

We awoke to grey skies and drizzly rain.  The temps had dropped and we faced 12 hours of gloomy driving.  The clouds were supposed to break up at some point, and I continually scanned the horizon waiting for the haze and fog to lift.  

It was out of the corner of my eye, that first I turned, then Rick, as we noticed several cars had pulled off the highway.  We assumed they spotted a herd of wild something or other.  But then we both caught a glimpse.  One break in the clouds had created a slit of light that happened to be hovering just over the top of a mountain.  That mountain, in the haze, was not visible to our naked eyes.  But with the light?  We were in awe that the majesty was hidden in plain sight.  The top of the snow capped mountain was outlined by the sunshine beaming through the cloud.  How much is really "out there" unseen, just waiting for a little light to shine down on it for us to see it was with us all along?

It was such a metaphorically beautiful statement come to life~ just another way I've noticed my word "light" show up in my life.

The clouds soon closed in again and the rain steadily fell. We were just outside of Billings when we saw the sign.  We've seen the signs for Pompey's Pillar a kajillion times.  But a twelve hour drive doesn't leave a lot of time to stray off course.

We decided this time to stray.  

But the road leading in was not open.  We were allowed to walk in, but the buildings were all closed for the season.  It would be a long trek!  It was cold and rainy.  A part of me wanted to stay in the car, warm and comfortable.  Besides, would my deconditioned lungs be able to keep up?  I grabbed my phone and started the pedometer app on it.  It was time to find out. 

Below is the "pillar."  We were already over a mile into our walk and we had a lot of stairs to climb.

It was raining steadily by now.  But I was discovering something really valuable...

Suddenly we arrived near the top to spy with our own little eyes- the signature of William Clark- of the Lewis and Clark expedition- July 25th, 1806- as clear as could be.  History, brought to life.

And way down there, back by the flag, was our car.  My pedometer was reading over 1.5 miles.

The view from the top was spectacular.  

While we were technically in Montana, if you ever wanted to know what North Dakota looks like?  This would be it.  

Choose always the way that seems the best, however rough it may be. Custom will soon render it easy...

  The big revelation I had?  We hiked over 3 miles that day.  It was manageable for me.  My breathing was not labored or hard.  Our pace was not fast, but not slow either.  It had taken 7 days of physically pushing myself, further and further on our trip. We walked and climbed and hiked everywhere.  And instead of feeling depleted, I had a new found energy.  An internal lightness, shining bright, even through the drizzle.

Another piece of me, returned to me.  

When you get lucky

When you get lucky

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