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.  

Friday, November 16, 2012

Righting the ship

“To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. To live fully is to be always in no-man's-land, to experience each moment as completely new and fresh. To live is to be willing to die over and over again. ” 
― Pema Chödrön,

If you could've taken a picture, you'd see me in near the same position as Crosby the last few days.  Nolan passed along his cold to me and I was down for the count starting Tuesday.

Tuesday would have been Carole's 70th Birthday.  She was mightily on our minds and in our hearts that day as Superman drove me to infusion. 

It was also the first time I've had a laundry list of symptoms to report to the infusion nurse.  From the mundane like cold symptoms to the dizziness plaguing me lately, to the growing lymph node under my arm.  She noted them all and said Dr. Panwalkar would see her note later that day.

I was surprised when minutes later, I looked up from writing in my gratitude journal to see Dr. P standing in the doorway.  "Vicky, you look great- your hair is growing so much!  Lets check out that lymph node."  He examines me and agrees that it has grown.  We watch and wait for now, and I know a change in treatment awaits me in the future.

Tuesday we can't seem to right the ship no matter what. We list off to the side, taking on water and feeling like we can't bail fast enough.

Wednesday is Superman's birthday.  We will address my dizziness through the routine 3 month MRI that has already been scheduled.  Between my cold and sedation for the MRI, there will be little celebrating this day.  Superman holds down the fort while fitfully I sleep.  

Thursday I meet with Dr. Foster.  On a day he isn't scheduled to come into Roger Maris, he agrees to see me, knowing its hard to wait for MRI results.  My doctors and nurses have really come through for me this week. 

I notice the sun shining brightly as I enter the building. 

Whether I am still groggy from sedation the day before, or still trying to bounce back from Tuesday, I am not as anxious as I would normally feel.  I quietly think its all the prayer (from all of you dear readers) I feel moving in and around me.

Dr. Foster is cheerful and gets right to the heart of the matter.

"Your scans show the spot in your head is stable.  And there are no new spots."  "I'm very happy with that, its good." 

And here is where I want to tell you I feel like celebrating.  And while I am certainly happy, its relief that I feel.  It feels like a reprieve.  It feels like more time.  I'm timid and shy with my news.

Stable feels like the giant is sleeping and we've managed to tiptoe around him and keep him at bay a bit longer.   So I am whispering good news instead of shouting.  Offering praise and thanksgiving to Him for answered prayers.  Basking in the fullness of the small moments of today.  

We have no explanation for the dizziness, no accounting for why my wound has opened big again.

The ship still lists to the side- but I realize we aren't bailing alone. We're working on our sea legs- preparing for the next storm. 

Thank you- to all who have called, texted, emailed- sent bread, cards, checks, donations, and prayers.  It takes an army to keep that giant at bay, and I am so grateful to have warriors like you! 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Here we go

Nolan's AA Peewee team played their first games of the season.  The AA division is brand new to us this year and means we will be playing some pretty stiff competition.  Every year there are pre-season jitters leading up to the first game.  How will they look as a team?  How well will they break the puck out?  How well can they move the puck?  How will they handle the increased speed and size?  

Nolan's team played 3 games.  Below are just a sample of some of the hundreds of photos that Rick took. 

We were pleasantly surprised- we won all three of our games.  Each weekend we will face tougher teams as we move into our season and discover the challenges of the this new district.  

But the boys played well together.  Scoring came from every line and everyone passed the puck well.  Nolan's off season work has really improved his strength and speed.  While you can never turn a blind eye to all the areas that will continue to need work, its also good to notice all the areas where improvement has taken place.  

We were so proud of all of our boys!  Congrats Peewee AA team! 

Colton also had a big weekend of hockey.  It was the Squirt jamboree.  They have one inhouse team already, but this weekend they are all vying for 1 of 4 travel teams.  Colton played two games Saturday and two games Sunday.  

Colton has really stepped into playing goalie and he loves it.  He is pretty level headed and even keeled.  He can shake off a goal by the other team fairly well and get his head back into play quickly.  A couple of his friends are in the collage below as well.  

Colton's team tied twice, lost one, and won one.  He truly has embraced his role as goalie and we are excited to see which travel team picks him!

Last Thursday night, the "little" in our boys was abundantly with us.  Embracing the vulnerable, the worried, the sad helped propel us into a weekend of growth, discovery and sheer joy at watching them focus their efforts on what they love to do.  

If we accept whatever moments as they come, there truly is a grace that settles in all around.  

I have infusion tomorrow, and an mri of my brain on Wednesday, with sedation.  I have also realized I will need to refer myself back to wound care as it has abruptly stopped scabbing over and is open and angry looking again.  But my eye is fixed firmly on the grace certainly surrounding my days despite where and what I may be doing.  How about you?  

Friday, November 9, 2012

Just Write... "here"

Trying something new today:  Just Write, an exercise in free writing your ordinary and extraordinary moments... 


writing a bit vulnerable today... proceed with care... and understanding we are okay.  


Here. Its been a week of new. Of firsts.  Its been an elevator ride of up and down, with a precarious sense of what floor the elevator doors might suddenly fly open and propel you towards.  

Biggest boy started 630 am hockey practices x3 days this week.  Containers of protein powder and breakfast foods mingle with shampoo and towels in an already crammed bag of stinky hockey gear.  

He is juggling homework and practices and new team mates and coaches, and an alarm that jolts us all out of deep slumber at 5:30 am.  And who will take and who will bring and do you have your shoes?  Your skates?  Your Middle School Life?  And hormones and tired and hungry add up to one grumpy boy by the end of a week of new.

Here. We've sort of been white-knuckling some of the new.  We've gripped the steering wheel tight trying to hang on and drive straight into the middle of we are doing this just fine.  And emotions have been steam rolled flat with too little time.  But emotions won't lie down for long. 

Tempers finally flare and the pressure of so much new on top of too little sleep melts one biggest boy into a puddle of little.  Whose dad rescues and coddles and comforts and calms.  Here.

And its then that littlest big boy bursts into sadness rolling down his cheeks in big round puddles of hurt.  He throws himself onto my bed and melds his skinny limbs and lengthy torso to mine and weeps. His breathing in gasps, and fits as he tries to tell.  

Who?  He asks... who? He sobs out his worry... when biggest boy needs Superman, who will littlest big boy go to if mom isn't...  who?

And I can't hear anymore as sobs strangle my own throat.  And I hold even tighter and kiss his splotchy face and try to squeeze out all the sadness he has carried.  I'm here.  Right here.  I whisper to him, I will always be where you can find me.  Here, when you need me, here.

His breathing slows and steadies.  His tears dry. His grasp does not loosen.  We are here... and it feels like forever... and maybe we can hold on in just this way till its firmly etched in every fiber of his breath and memory and being... this is what here feels like.  Here...

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

In case you need a chuckle today...

Colton and I attended a first communion retreat on Saturday.  We talked about the meaning of communion and the ritual of it.  We read bible passages and Pastor Mary put them in context for our kiddos- and me too perhaps.  So often I think a new perspective on an old story helps me to see with fresh eyes. 

As part of our retreat we made communion flatbread, made special cups out of clay to use the next day, and gathered in the pews for a chat of how the service would go.

And Pastor Mary asked the kids what was on their minds?

The biggest concern?

"Do we really drink the wine?"

She earnestly tells the 4th graders- yes!  

"What does it taste like?"

Well- its strong- and you might make a funny face.  

And so on...  

Nobody asked how the flat bread would taste.  Wine was on the mind.

Sunday we arrived at church and were surprised to find Grandma waiting for us.  

We sat and worshipped together.

It was soon time for communion.

Colton would come with our family and we would take part together.

My mom was new to our communion practices as well.

My mother is gluten intolerant and needed one of the special wafers and Rick and I were trying to help her while still focusing on Colton. 

First mom went.

Then Colton.

Normally we practice intinction- dipping our wafer in the chalice of wine- getting a few drops each.

But on Sunday, each of us were given our own separate plastic glasses, and it was a mouthful of wine instead of a sip.  

It was over in the blink of an eye.  

Afterwards we asked Colton...

So how was the wine?

"Good, he replied.  I liked it!" he says with a big cheesy grin.

My sensitive and somewhat picky eater surprised me.

I wasn't sure I liked the idea he liked the taste of wine.  

Later in the evening as we sat while Colton did homework we talked again.

"So what did you think about communion for the first time today Colton?"

"Good.  It was good.  And I like wine." 

"But mom?  What kind of grapes do they use to make it WHITE?" 

I'm confused for a moment- the wine had clearly been red.  

Colton, which glass did you choose?  

"The one off to the side you know, just like the one Grandma took!"

Suddenly its all clear.  He took JUICE.  Grape juice.  No wonder he liked it!

I told him he hadn't actually tasted the wine.  

He looked a little crestfallen.

But in the moment, on the spot, I tried to speak to his 10-year-old heart.

It didn't really matter if it was RED or WHITE.


I told him it mattered that he was eager.  

That he desired to participate.  

That he had a heart for Jesus.  

That he was learning...

He smiled and nodded.  

"And, I'm learning, don't follow Grandma!"  

Monday, November 5, 2012


180.  The number of times my Edith Sanford Breast Cancer Foundation video has been shared by the little green share button near my video.  850.  The number of new people who have viewed my video in just a couple of weeks time.  Edith Sanford hasn't begun their new ad campaign to drive people to their site just yet.  So any views, any shares?  Its mostly coming from all of you dear readers.  Thank you!

When I was first asked to share my story with ESBCF, I had no idea I would have a message.  But the longer the interview, the more we talked, the more I could articulate an idea that was percolating in my brain for some time.

The message in the video: we're all aware of breast cancer.  Its time to shift from awareness to putting our money behind researchers looking for the cure.  Here is my idea... 

I think we need to untie the pink ribbon.  We need to loosen the strings and unwrap the pink ribbon bow from awareness and re-tie those pink ribbons around research.  We need to shift not just our thinking, but our actions.  

Have you noticed you can find "pink ribbon products," nearly everywhere these days?  But did you know that the dollars spent on pink ribbon products, largely do not go to research?  I'm on the hunt for the most recent breakdowns of dollars, but its a tiny amount of dollars, compared to the enormity of research needed to find a cure... for all cancers really... the ribbon should also be blue, and purple, and yellow, and brown, etc.  Its time to end all cancers equally, decisively.  

Last week I was honored to receive a letter from the Embrace Program at Sanford Health.  The first annual Edith Sanford Breast Cancer Symposium will be held in July of 2013.  They've asked me and many other women in the community to be involved in the planning of the event.  I'm excited.  

I feel the ribbon loosening...

Would you do me the extreme honor of continuing to share my Edith Sanford Video?  

Help me shift the awareness into finding the cure...  

Okay- off my soap box for the day- its about as political as I get.  Today I am counting the gift of freedom of speech along with the right to vote amongst the things I am thankful for.  What do you pick to give thanks for today?  

Saturday, November 3, 2012


The minty smell of icy-hot permeates the air around me.  For two days my back has been forecasting the snow falling to the ground as I type.  The muscle in my shoulder throbs, a knot shooting tension and burning up my neck.  Its no wonder.  I feel like I am caught in a vortex of hard, hard things lately, happening to good, good people and I don't have words enough for all the "storms" being weathered.

The stories coming from the East Coast and Hurricane Sandy have such an emotional pull to them and leave me wanting to spring into action somehow.  My friend Karen @ This Old House II has pictures and stories that give a glimpse into what is taking place- here is her post and pics: Aftermath.

The list of people who I am praying for has sprouted these past couple of weeks and I don't know what to do to stem the flow.  So I pray earnestly... for the friend with a niece who had brain surgery yesterday on a cancerous tumor... for the friend with a sister-in-law who had a double mastectomy on Halloween... for the friend whose father is making his way towards his new heavenly home... for so many weathering storms and carrying burdens... for the mess of it all.

And yet, there is a fullness in the abundance still present when we put on our glasses of grace and count our gifts.  Have you picked up the one thing I am grateful for challenge- for the next 30 days?  I didn't think I would be dedicated to it.  But I've noticed I am somehow keeping track anyways.  

I use my phone when its the handiest to grab.  And just look what has headed my way this week.

1~ October sunrises with cotton candy pink clouds against a dramatic dark sky... 

2~ A beautiful card with thoughtful and encouraging words- with a gift card inside (blue card below)  And its "anonymous..." and I love the mystery of it and the cleverness... and someone who must know I love Target :)  Thank you "admirer,"it made my whole day.  

3~ Catching a friend in the act of trying to anonymously drop off made from scratch- strawberry margarita cupcakes and a "fabulous" card.  So glad I could give Jenny a hug and thank her- they have delighted us so... and yes, everyone who has asked... message me if you'd like to order cupcakes from Jenny or have a cake made for a special occasion- Jenny is quickly becoming both a talented decorator and an amazing baker.  

4~ Thursday both Rick and I were given t-shirts from Joel, Nolan's trainer. They're pink with a ribbon that wraps all the way around my heart.  

5~ I don't have a picture for the soft and fuzzy warm slippers that slipped there way into my mailbox.  Thank you Karla- you were spot on- Crosby did try to sneak one last night, but I am so onto him.  

While 4 out of my 5 on my list were actual "gifts," what I see is the intention of giving behind them.  And the gifts of care and concern and compassion.  Those are really the things in abundance on my list.  This is what anchors me in the midst of the storms threatening the dailiness of our lives- his faithfulness in all things.  The messy, the hard, the joy-filled and the abundant.  

“To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything He has given us - and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him. 

― Thomas Merton

“Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer. And let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good.” 
― Maya Angelou

I am grateful for the reminder to look for the grace in the mess.  It may not always arrive on your doorstep or slip into your mailbox, but don't be surprised when it blazes a trail across the sky.  It may be  a fleeting moment, but a full moment just the same.  

When you get lucky

When you get lucky

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