Monday, July 30, 2012

Mom's Gone Wild 2012

Grannie Pam asks "What are your top three favorite moments from your mom's weekend?"  "I can't come up with just three," I tell her.  "Share one then," She implores.  But I can't... its not one, its not three.  Its all of them.  How do you describe all of them?  

Reality intrudes.  I walk into Roger Maris for blood work early this Monday morning.  The receptionist is new.  She can't get my pager to work.  I wait, my mind not fully present with my reality. 

I've been submerged.  I've been initiated... cleansed... baptized... in the waters of sisterhood.

 I've been revitalized, restored, refreshed.  

We've giggled, cross legged with tears streaming.  

We've danced and sang.  

We've floated and drifted- pulling ourselves back together each time one gets too far away.  Her foot rests on my floatie, my hand secures her on the other side of me.

We stayed up late pouring out our stories to each other.  

We became vessels for the triumphs, the sorrows, the burdens of each other.  

We've come to lay it down. The kids, the husbands, the jobs, the demands, the work.  

Cancer world washes off me like water rolls off the back of a duck.  They take it from me.

It all floats away in the wake left behind by the waves and evaporates in the sun.

We anchor each other.  

We buoy each other.

We write a new chapter.  Each voice rings true.  Each character valued, admired, cherished.  The novel unfolds as the layers peel back.  Its funny and honest.   Raw and real.  Fifty Shades of awesome.  A true page turner nobody wants to end.  

Heidi, Heidi, Nicki, Nichi, Amy, Judy, Shauna, Grannie...


I hear my name being called.  The lab tech has come for me...  She asks if I've fasted and points to the 4 tubes ready for my blood. I slowly shake my head no...  I'm still emerging from the sanctity of the water.  My body longs to dive down to the depths of the clear sandy bottom, while my lungs fight for air.  I break the surface of the water, blinking into the light, steeling myself for my entry back into cancer world. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Learning to celebrate...

Who knew 8 weeks could fly by so quick?  Next Tuesday I go back to see Dr. Panwalkar already.  My "summer" off may be on hiatus for awhile.  I'm trying not to get too vested in what may come.  Cue Doris Day singing in my head "Que Sera, Sera." (What will be, will be.)  

The tissue around my wound has changed somewhat.  It is thickened, almost lumpy.  It will be something or it won't.  We'll see what my tumor markers suggest.   

But that isn't really the stuff I would want to share with Dr. Panwalkar about my time off.

I'd tell him about all of the people I have connected with.  Like my friends above in the picture.  Lisa to my right and her sister Susan sitting below us, were childhood friends of mine- our mothers were good friends.

Lisa lives in Alaska and brought her 3 children home for a visit while her husband Bill, is away on an archeological site in Alaska.  How cool is that?  

We spent the morning reminiscing about youth group.  And about how my mom took sugar out of our diet when we were young.  I'm eating Shirley's home made doughnuts as I type.  Sorry mom- some things I can't resist. I also have her Russian tea recipe and I make her fudge bars all the time.  Shirley made sure I was sweetened in all the right ways! 

I'd have plenty to tell Dr. P.  I've lived lots of moments.  Really good moments.  I'd hang on to more than I'd let go.  

Tomorrow I leave for a girlfriend's trip with my book club gals.  We are going to the lake and I can't wait!  We've been counting down the days and now hours through emails and suddenly its almost here.  Truth be told it feels like packing for summer camp and I just need to sharpie my name on the tags of my clothes!    

In the meantime I've helped cart boys to the golf course this week.  Nolan played in two different golf tournaments.  Monday did not go very well. Tuesday and Wednesday he played in the Jr All City tourney.  Rick estimated Nolan could shoot lower than he usually does and he landed in a flight of older boys.  But it must have inspired him!   He ended up 4th in his flight and even got a trophy for his efforts. 

Tonight, Colton's baseball team plays in the year end championship game.  Win or lose we're celebrating the season after the game with a pizza party.  

 I've learned to celebrate the moments, win or lose.

What are you taking time to celebrate these days? 

(They won in a close game 3-2)

Monday, July 23, 2012

When blogging friends meet...

“How many slams in an old screen door?
 Depends how loud you shut it. 
How many slices in a bread?
 Depends how thin you cut it. 
How much good inside a day? 
Depends how good you live 'em. 
How much love inside a friend? 
Depends how much you give 'em.” 

We've logged hundreds of posts together.  We both started blogging about the same time 4 years ago. Our hearts were drawn to the same blogs.  Our comments mingled side by side, till one day we visited each other.  Then we spent hundreds of hours of reading, learning, and knowing each other. We've sent emails, texts, cards, gifts and notes.  We've celebrated the birth of her grand babies, the weddings of her daughters. We've mourned and grieved- the passing of my father, then Sara's father, then our precious Sara.  

We've talked about laying eyes on each other.  

We had planned to visit Sara.

Sara left us all too soon.

And life kept happening.

My breast cancer diagnosis.

Her Celiac Disease.

Hockey- all things boys -hockey.

So this time when she offered to fly with her daughter to a conference in Minneapolis.  I simply said "yes."  I longed- too long- for it to be yes.

I dared hardly tell anyone.  I was holding my breath, crossing my fingers that this was our time.

We had the best day! 

Moments after meeting.  We fell right into step.  We talked and remembered.  We chatted and laughed. We hugged and grew teary eyed.  Time was fleeting.  I had no desire to check my phone.  No need to monitor my family.  All was right with my world.

Whenever we need a hotel downtown Minneapolis, we've discovered Hotwire is the way to go for us.  We know that at least a 3.5 star hotel will be clean, comfortable and close to all that we want to do. Plus, the rooms are deeply discounted. We were surprised when this time the name of the hotel was revealed as The W at the Foshay Tower.  The Foshay Tower is a landmark building modeled after the Washington monument, and it used to be the tallest building in Minneapolis.  The IDS building (below) now towers over the landscape.

The sun was just setting as we walked over to Pizza Luce.

And this is what the W hotel looks like on the inside.  In keeping with the Art deco theme of the original building- the wow factor was big.  

Our day came to a close all to quickly...

Robin is everything I knew her to be and more.  She is soft spoken grace.  I'm used to the love that permeates her words.  In real life, she simply radiates that warmth and light that makes you feel loved- and that is her special gift.

She is all things heart.  She is all things home.  She is Robin and I am the lucky one who calls her friend.

Today is her birthday.  Happy Birthday sweet friend!  Love you to the moon... 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Cully's Kids- Picnic- part III- living a legacy

I'd be hard pressed to tell you which day of the three day Cully's Kids events is my favorite. Each day brings its own unique energy and experience. True to form, the day of the picnic was a scorcher and many of us were longing for a turn in the dunk tank.

What makes the picnic so gratifying is that you see all of Cully's Kids having so much fun.  Whether they are in treatment for cancer or wheel chair bound, or using crutches, whatever the disability may be, all of those things take a back seat to fun.  And that fun?  Raises a lot of money for Cully's Kids.

Andrew had such a serious look on his face it made Rick and I laugh.  But that snow cone was firmly grasped in his hands.  Snow cones- genius idea!

Wyatt was thrilled at the idea of dunking his Dad, Matt. 

Wendy came to volunteer with Hilary who also works at Sanford.  

You have to love a woman who willingly gets in the dunk tank for the sake of the kids.  Bridget took turn with her boys, letting them each get dunked with her.

Smiles... everywhere... two hours straight... smiles.  

Rosy cheeks and blazing sun and heat couldn't negate the smiles...

I would guess in the 4 years we have been doing this, this is the largest turn out we have seen.  Just look at the huge number of sponsors who help with the picnic every year.

Since we are at Newman Field- home of the Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks, Hawkeye is a favorite amongst the kids.  Brooks attached himself to Nolan and the two of them were dunked many, many times. 

Who do you suppose is having the most fun?  (I think the mom watching in the background may have a slight edge) 

On our way out we stopped to say goodbye to Matt.  He takes the time to ask how I am.  He searches my face earnestly.  He couldn't be any more genuine in caring.  I may be a mom, an adult with cancer- but our entire family feels fully embraced by the Cullen family along our cancer journey.  I may be the "biggest" Cullly's Kid out there. 

I talked with Matt's Dad, Terry for awhile.  I told him it dawned on me that day... Matt and Bridget aren't just leaving a legacy- they are fully living it.  And Terry added, "and they are including all of us along with them."  Terry said he had just taken a call from a Dad with a son who plays hockey and was injured and in the hospital.  Would Matt come for a visit?  Terry said, "I'll tell Matt after the picnic, I know he will want to go as soon as possible. That is the part nobody sees.  Matt and Bridget visit, talk, call, these families often.  The event is once a year, but the caring is year round."  

Jen with Katelyn.  

Everywhere I turned was a familiar face.  And these two faces literally made my day.  These are E and L, the two sweet adorable girls I did daycare for two years ago.  They are as cute and as sweet as ever and filled my heart all the way up.  

On Monday, for my birthday, Rick wanted to know what he should get me...  my heart was so full, he could not have bought a single thing that would have made me any happier.  

But, I've been left pondering some more... what is the legacy I want to leave?  Am I living it right now?

How about you?  Are you living the legacy you want to leave some day?    

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Cully's Kids Part II: the big announcement

Friday morning day two of Cully's Kids officially kicked off with a golf tournament out at Oxbow Country Club.  It was a hot day- perfect for the outdoor activities.

The first indication that something special was going to take place, was the seating below.  Matt had already told the announcement to those of us in attendance at Usher's the night before, but the anticipation of it was still pretty intense.

Brooks Cullen, Matt and Bridget's oldest, hasn't forgotten playing knee hockey with Nolan at the state hockey tournament.  Just like all the young men that Nolan looks up to and who have taken the time to mentor him, he now feels responsible to be an example for Brooks and younger kids like him. 

Brooks with his younger brother Wyatt.

Some of "Cully's Kids," getting ready for the big announcement.

My tiny camera doesn't have a lot of capability.  But it still gets the essence of the moment.  I love this photo- not because of the composition... but what it says to me.  I see the youngest Cullen boy, Joe, with his Grandpa Terry, talking with Julie, being photographed by Rick who clearly loves the shot, and Bridget is in the background watching.  Bridget is in the middle of being interviewed by one of the 10 different media sources in attendance, but clearly, her heart is with her son.  

And now the big anticipated announcement.  Below is Sanford Medical Center president Dennis Millirons.  Matt and Bridget have just announced that their foundation, the Cullen Children’s Foundation, will donate $1 million to the Sanford Health Foundation to build a therapeutic children’s play area for the new Sanford Children’s Hospital proposed in south Fargo.

The money will go toward building a 3,000-square-foot Cully’s Kids Area.The room will be on the seventh floor, and will be hockey-themed, with a therapeutic and educational environment staffed by professionals. It will also feature play areas, an area for arts and crafts, culinary projects, a library, a learning area, a stadium theater and an interactive area.

By the time Dennis had enumerated all of this, I found myself holding back tears.  Normal- that is what Bridget and Matt want kids fighting cancer to have- a space where they can escape the strain of disease- the needle sticks, the tests, the chemo- and be normal for even a little while.  

Here is my friend Wendy again, who will work closely with the Cullen Foundation bringing in her expertise from all of her years of experience of being a Child Life Specialist.

Brian Lee getting interviewed. Brian just recently signed with The Tampa Lightning to play for two more years in the NHL.  We're so proud of all of our Moorhead hockey pros.

Former Spuds head coach Dave Morinville with former Spud players Jeff Foss and Chris Vande Velde. 

Another young Westra boy helping his Grandpa shoot golf photos.

Taking a break after carrying golf bags for the golf participants.

The Oxbow Country Club has a special place in our heart.  We had our wedding reception there 15 years ago- almost to the day. 

Chris Vande Velde, former Spud and Sioux player, whom Nolan has looked up to for a long time.  Chris is still in contract negotiations with The Edmonton Oilers for next year's season.  

We left that night exhausted and filled, with one day left to celebrate... part III...  

When you get lucky

When you get lucky

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