Wednesday, January 30, 2013


... a hint at where we are going...

and another hint...

Its not a secret... but my hesitation in announcing anything about our planned trip is that its fallen through twice before.

Mastectomy beckoned the first time.  Radiation treatment grabbed me the second time.

But if cancer has taught me anything- its to not sit back on my heels for very long.  

So when Rick's brother Matt, and his wife Julie asked if Grandpa Jim wanted to come to the beach with them- Jim in turn asked if we wanted to drive and stay with him, and all of them.

And we do!

So we are!  

We are going to...


We have a condo reserved already... on the beach!  

We will be gone over Easter Break...

(I know, the ocean may be pretty chilly and the weather a little on the cool side)


And what continues to touch us- to truly amaze us- is how excited ALL OF YOU have been for us... wow!  

You've sent emails, texts, and generous gifts- sheesh- I am flat out of words for how incredibly thoughtful you all are.  

In the meantime... we finally got a bunch of snow.  And we have a ton of hockey left to play.  

And I'm counting gifts like always and my list/heart overflows... 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Stone wall...

We've learned over the years that heading into a hockey tournament you never know what to expect. In a bracket tourney you just hope to get that first win to put you in the winners side of the bracket. Otherwise, if you lose, the best you can finish is 5th or 6th place. Colton's team had their home tournament and because he and another boy trade off being goalie, it was Colton's turn to be in net for the first game. 

We faced a team from Canada and that always has the boys back on their "skates" a bit. The legend of the Canadian hockey teams looms large in their minds. Sometimes, these teams truly are no match for our teams. But on Saturday, the team from Canada skated pretty evenly with us. Our kids skated with passion and determination and we won the game 7-2! 

Colton had some great saves in the game and it was so fun watching them. Their second game was against a tough Brainerd team that we've played and tied once, and lost to once. We were due for a win! We looked a little tired and flat in this game and we ended up losing 6-3. With 1 win and 1 loss we were going to play for 3rd place. We faced a team from Roseau. Those northern Minnesota teams also carry a big reputation for playing some good hockey. We had no idea what to expect. Colton was back in net and pretty excited to play. 

 I find myself holding my breath a bit until Colton is in his groove and starts making some saves. He did not disappoint! Even when a team mate tipped the puck in on him and got a goal for the other team, Colton didn't lose his composure. He shook it off and kept his head in the game. We won the game and earned the 3rd place plaque and medals.

Here is Colton getting his medal- could that grin be any bigger?

Here is the Squirt Orange team celebrating with their plaque!

Colton went forward to receive the plaque for his team...

Congratulations Moorhead Squirt Orange on your 3rd place Championship win! 

In between Colton's games, Nolan played 3 games.  We were literally at the rink all weekend long.  We'd get a 45 minute break once in awhile and go home to let Crosby out, but then we headed right back to the rink.  Nolan's team played some tough competition and won 2 out of 3 of their games.  

We'll be headed to Minneapolis with Colton's team next weekend and Grandpa Jim will be coming here to take Nolan to his games.  

Friday, January 25, 2013

I am, I think, I know... round III

I have done this little meme on two different occasions and love seeing both how I change and how I stay the same... 

I am: living in grey and dreaming of technicolor days when the sun returns and I feel it on my bare skin.
I think: in stutter steps these days.  sluggish with a tinge of clarity every once in awhile.  
I know: how much I still don't know... but thank goodness for google.  
I want: the oddest things suddenly.  grandchildren, graduation and grace-filled days.  not necessarily in that order!
I have: so many places I want to travel.
I dislike: judgement-my own and others.
I miss: seeing the way my Dad's eyes would dance as he called me "you little snicklefritz."  
I fear: time going by too quickly when it comes to my kids growing up
I feel: muted.  sluggish. the deep cold hurts my lungs and I am hibernating these days.
I hear: the hum of office equipment working at full capacity.
I smell: a freshly peeled cutie, clinging to my fingertips
I crave: sugar and eating healthy both at the same time.  
I search: for the questions I should be asking- while trying not to discover the answers I don't really want to know.
I wonder: will I ever wear a pony tail in my hair again?  
I regret: not always realizing the very things I will grow to regret
I love: being part of things bigger than I imagine... and its all bigger than I imagined.
I care: always, deeply, always
I am always: trying to live with intention and honor and grace and strength- and sometimes just trying to live.
I worry: why yes, I do... oh boy, do I...
I remember: things in minute detail sometimes from long ago.
I sing: no, really I don't, you're welcome.
I argue: with my kids about NOT arguing!
I write: to make sense of my world
I lose: track of time when I am writing
I wish: to live my moments full each and every day.
I listen: as much to what is said, as to what isn't said... what isn't said says more at times.
I don't understand: how I now find myself explaining "new math," when all I know is old math.
I can usually be found: somewhere between my bedroom oasis and the hockey rink.
I am scared: when I think about how much my mom now depends on me.
I need: to be mindful that I have everything I need and to be thankful for just that.
I forget: so, so, much, I feel like swiss cheese some days... yikes...
I am happy: period. despite the messy and hard, despite the grey, the worry, the fear.  I'm happy!

Care to join me?  Copy and paste if you'd like and let me know- I'd love to come read yours! 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Baby, its cold outside!

Its -16 degrees today and when you factor in the wind?  The wind chill factor makes it feel like its -29.  Really, when you start going below zero, its just cold!  Your skin can freeze in minutes if it isn't covered.  

Do you know what warms me?  

~ The incredibly thoughtful and beautifully uplifting things you have delivered to my mail box!  Cards, generous gifts, and a picturesque hockey calendar that has the boys wide eyed.  Thank you friends and family!  

~ A Monday night out at Spitfire with my book club girls.  Amy entered us into a contest and look what we won!  A hard cover book of Kristin Hannah's Home Front, which Amy has read and said its really good.  As a book club we are going to read it and then share our thoughts on her blog! 

~ Dare I even mention the last thing that has warmed my heart?  Two years in a row we have attempted to make this happen.  We  have clung to a little stash of money which sits in an envelope hidden away behind lock and key.  It won't come close to what we will need, and yet, we are stepping forward in faith that we will make it work. We've been far too wistful, yearning for it to be our time... we're ready to make it be our time!  The cover in the book above is just a sneak peak of what we hope to do! 

Come Easter break we are headed out on a little excursion... details to come soon!  

No news from Dr. Panwalkar yet about a plan for treatment, but I will place a call soon if I don't hear anything...  

Thank you all for your kind and generous comments on the post about my mom.  I have been flooded with email and have had many in person conversations with so many who have similar experiences...  I hope to continue to share more and try to keep it real and authentic... thank you for making me feel like I can.

Friday, January 18, 2013


Her voice is whisper thin on the phone and its with great effort that any sound comes out at all.  The changes in my mom have come rapidly and have changed her ability to function at her usual capacity.  But her stubborn streak glimmers when her doctor tells her maybe she should start trying a cane.

Who me?  I'm not old enough for a cane.  No, I don't need that.  No, no.  Not that.  I'm fine.

I shrink back a little in my chair at the shrill and razor sharp quality appearing in her voice.  

She doesn't want to acknowledge that her gait is unsteady, and she has fallen a couple of times already.  Her diseased liver has grown maybe triple its size and grossly distends her stomach.  Ascites continue to build around her middle and its clear that walking is a major feat.

She has never been a drinker and yet Cirrhosis has staked a claim on her liver.

Ammonia built up in her system recently and induced confused thinking and lots of drowsiness.  At very high levels, ammonia can induce a coma.  We quickly got her to the liver doctor. She started a new medication that has fortunately brought her ammonia levels back down, but its a delicate balance calculating just the right amount of medication to keep it at a normal level.  I check in with her twice daily. 

I am finding its an odd thing when you are walking through your own illness, at the same time your mother is walking through one as well.  

Who takes care of who?  

She called yesterday.  Could I pick up her gluten free bread at the health market?  I'm relieved she has listened to her doctor and left her car in the garage for the winter months.  

I pick up her bread and she insists I come inside her apartment.  The heat blasts my face as I enter and I quickly take off my heavy winter coat.  Its stifling to me.  But her body can no longer regulate her temperature well and she is constantly cold.  

It's the perfect metaphor for our relationship.  She can't fathom anyone would think it was too hot.  As sweat beads on my forehead, she tells me she is thinking she'll need to turn the heat up soon.  I swear there is a glint in her eye as she says this.  The word facetious comes to mind...

My past rises up to meet me.  I am 12 again.  Her traditional and strict rules rub up against my soft heart time and again.  She closes off the heat registers in my bedroom telling me it isn't necessary to heat the whole house.  I layer myself in long underwear, then sweat pants and quilt after quilt - its a classic Minnesota winter and its -15 outside.  My nose is still red and cold when I wake in the morning and race down to the wood burning stove to start a fire.  

The 12-year-old in me wants to remind her of her own advice a "little cold" never hurt anyone... and... yet, I'm not 12 anymore.  And this too, is part of the reason I chose the word embrace- because I used distance to cope in the past, and sometimes I still just want to run.

She snaps me back to the present asking me which ones do I want to keep?

My eyes adjust to the soft lighting and I see she has been sorting through her Christmas ornaments.  She has divided them into piles.  Some for me.  The rest will go to my brother.  Christmases past spill out before me in a jumbled heap of beaded bells, glass ornaments, and delicate wire angels.  We've hand crafted  most of them, her and I, and they are a concrete reminder that we are deeply woven together, despite our differences. The sturdiness of the beads (her) entwined with the bending of the wire (me)-forming a brilliant and delicate white angel.

I still long for her to desire more.  More Christmases, more travel, more time spent with her grandchildren.  Its her grandchildren who have carved out a soft place in her heart.  

But she makes no pretenses that she might have had her "last Christmas."  There is no trace of sadness, merely a hint of resignation to what is.  She is merely taking care of what needs to be done. 

She comes around the corner as I heave the tote filled with ornaments into my arms.  She is carrying her new coat- have I seen it yet?  

I pause, with my heart lodged in my throat.  

A few seconds pass, and it suddenly dawns on her...

Ohhh, YOU were the one who took me to buy the coat!  

It was just last week and I had spent an entire day getting her groceries, picking up her pills, paying her bills, sending off her mail and helping her buy a new coat.  Sigh... how will it ever feel like enough?

She awkwardly embraces me as I stand holding the tote.  

Clearly, there is love between us.

Bundle up- its cold out there! She admonishes me.  

I'm rushing now to get home in time for when Colton gets home from practice.  

How will I continue to do this?  To care for her when I am so easily transported to the past.  I've been wrestling with this for so long.  

I'm entrenched in thought when suddenly the wheels on the van lock as I grip the steering wheel, sliding on the ice as I approach the turn to my house.  The ornaments shift precariously on the seat. With my heart beating rapidly, a singular, quick thought appears running through my brain.

Care for her as you will one day want your children to care for you.

You will never untangle the circumstances that brought you to this moment.  Maybe I don't need to. Maybe those circumstances made me who I am, like them or not. 

As I scoot down the hallway to my bedroom, I pause for a moment at the thermostat.  I smile as I turn the heat down a few degrees.  It turns out I like it a little more cool when I sleep at night.  I realize the very things that used to make me want to run, are some of the very things I turn to these days.  

And I'm learning... just keep embracing.  

Monday, January 14, 2013

as my arms open wide...

School let out an hour early on Friday which hasn't happened in eons it seems. We snuggled in- this little one secure in the arms of his Dad as they watched Gold Rush.  Someone is due to "hit the motherlode," this season and we can't wait to find out who that will be?  

But our big storm?  Turned out to be kind of a big bust... so it was hockey as usual this weekend.  Big brother even came to watch little brother play goalie for his team.

After a very late evening game in which Nolan's team beat a good Fargo team 4-3 in overtime, we were up early for the start of another week of 6:30 am practice.  

As soon as Rick came home this morning he took me up to do my blood work before I saw Dr. P later in the afternoon.  I was blocks from Roger Maris when Dr. P's nurse called.  Could I come in earlier to see Dr. Panwalkar?  

It actually worked out great.  I went and let them stab me three times in the arm before they found a vein that would work.  I had hydrated myself and made sure I was warm before they called me back.  The chemo has just taken its toll on my veins.  

We ran just a couple of errands for Rick's work and then we saw Dr. Panwalkar.  My heart was almost beating out of my chest I was so anxious.  But he was his calm, happy and gentle self.  The first thing we went over were my lab results.  

I blinked, then blinked again.  

My tumor markers were exactly the same as before.  They have not moved in 3 months time.  I'm still stable! 

My platelets are still low.

But all of my other numbers were where we needed them to be.  

So next we tackled my lymph node.  He was inclined to take a wait and see approach.  But he didn't doubt the symptoms I have as I flinched when he pressed down hard. 

So he sat and thought a bit.  And then said "Well maybe we should just go ahead and get rid of it.  Its likely the last little bit of cancer you have in you- so we'll just take it out."  

Holy. Canoli.  I did not expect him to say that.  

Take out all of my cancer?  I've grown so used to having cancer... the idea of embracing a period of time without cancer just never crossed my mind.  Hello embrace... my arms are opening wide... 

So Dr. P  presented two options.  Shrink the node/nodes with radiation, or talk to Dr. Bouton about removing them surgically.  

He also took a peek at my wound and then after we thought about it a bit more decided maybe making another incision with the potential of it not healing was not the best plan!  

So Dr. Panwalkar left in search of Dr. Foster and I will wait to hear what they decide.

I've come so far.  Before bc, I would have been terrified to think of having surgery or radiation.  But today I was excited to think we could treat my arm with either of those options potentially, and I was so happy just to have those options available.

Nr. Ned (no evidence of disease) you have been a terrible flirt.  But I am so on to you!  You had better save a dance on your card for me!  

I sat this morning reading all the emails, texts and comments left by all of you.  You give me more than you could possibly know.  Each note, each word, each hug- buoys me and supports me and I am so deeply grateful to all of you for that.  

Jesus Calling, January 14:

Let me bless you with My grace and peace.

Open your heart and your mind to receive all that I have for you...

... remember that your relationship with Me is saturated in grace.   

Friday, January 11, 2013

book club... and update

“For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.” Anne Lamott

What is on your list of books to read?  

A peek at mine...

The End of Your Life Book Club
by Will Schwalbe

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar
by Cheryl Strayed

Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers
by Anne Lamott

A Prayer For Owen Meany: A Novel
by John Irving

... so many more...

 I actually finished The End of Your Life Book Club, and it was far more uplifting than I could have imagined. It's Anne Lamott who said something to the effect that "to watch someone dying is learn how to truly live."  Will Schwalbe in telling the story of the unofficial book club he has with his mother during the last two years of her life, brings this message to life.  Schwalbe also includes the list of books he and his mother read and some of the wisdom garnered from the pages.

I was worried that I would be saddened and less hopeful somehow at the end of the book.  But to the contrary, while sad, it left me feeling more affirmed in my own endeavor to truly live with cancer.  

Currently I am reading Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Veghese.  The lyrical, magical prose of the story drew me in instantly and the depth and richness of his characters make the entire story rich and moving.   I'm savoring it slowly.

Yesterday I awoke to extreme sinus pressure in my head and a migraine throbbing behind my eyes.  We are due for a major winter storm and the change in pressure and the arrival of the shifting weather announced itself in my head.  I am happy to say its been a very long time since I've had a headache like that.

Thankfully, I had just the right meds to keep it somewhat masked and was able to call in a sick day.  It was while reading all of the lovely comments left on my post on Wednesday that I realized there is nothing like a migraine to take a girl's focus off her aching arm!  

Plus, by late afternoon I was well enough to read and picked up The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle.  I'm only a few chapters in as I found it very thought provoking, but am finding more depth to his teachings than ever before.  

With a blizzard warning breathing down our backs- we are nestled in- waiting for the "imposter" January rains to turn into authentic January snow, ice and below freezing temps.  

And what is on your list of books to read?  Will you share? 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Just Write...

Joining Heather today for the 67th installment of Just Write:

Fear embraces...

I lift my arms to enfold my youngest in a hug and pain ensues as the back of my arm tightens and pulls.

The tingling in my arm begins in earnest when I lay down at night to go to sleep.  Its when I go to change the bandage over my wound that I notice the swelling under my arm. I slide my fingers across the rippled remnants of my mastectomy scar and I feel the hard ridge of the now walnut sized lymph node growing in the valley of my armpit.  Its hard not to let the panic swell within.  You'd think I'd be used to this.  You'd think I could tell my mind to hush and not create a saga of worry and fear.  But even when my mind stills, my heart thumps loudly and I grow shaky all over- my body betrays my mind time and again.

It must shine through my eyes at times.  When my anti-anxiety meds are running low, I go to the pharmacy for a refill.  Its been months since I've needed them other than for sleep at night.

With the convenience of Rick's office having been so close to the pharmacy, I have only picked up a refill on occasion.  But the pharmacist recognizes me instantly.  You're Vicky, she says.  Yes, I say.  How does she know me?  Should I know her?  The holes in my memory are like swiss cheese some days.  A combination of chemo brain and radiation to the head with - oh yeah- shutting down my estrogen and I marvel that I know very much anymore at all.

The pharmacist quickly looks up my meds and states that I am out of refills on this prescription and she'll have to call the clinic.  But somewhere my frayed nerves must show as she scans my eyes.  Quickly and quietly she says- but I can give you a week's worth to get you by until the script can be filled.  Calm embraces as I grip both the bottle and the key to my sanity locked away in the tiniest white pills.

I will see Dr. Panwalkar next Monday.  I have a medium-sized appointment for a super sized list of questions for him.  What if?  How will?  When?  What will we do?  As my panic rises, its grace that wraps me in an embrace again.  He is on hospital service that week and the scheduler had to finagle a gap in his afternoon for me to be able to see him- but I will get to see him. I know, he will know the answers.

Fear embraces... and I don't have to embrace back.  I lean in, with my arm taught and tingling, damaged and broken, and its Grace that I embrace.  And I feel the full weight of Grace embracing me back.  

Monday, January 7, 2013

taking it for a spin...

I thought we'd take my word "embrace" for a spin Friday night.  We had no hockey- nodda- zip-zilch- we practically didn't know what to do with ourselves.

But with one remaining gift card leftover from Christmas, we decided to embrace the moment and go out for dinner.  We purposefully chose a restaurant the boys have never been to- Doolittles.  I knew it was the right choice the instant they seated us in the cozy back addition.  It was warm and candle-lit and had such an ambient glow everywhere I looked.  

We indulged.  We had walleye strips for appetizers.  Nolan polished off most of them.  His appetite is unquenchable most days.  Even when the bread came encrusted with herbs all the way around the crust, he didn't blink.  He took a few bites, and deemed it awesome.  

Ever mindful of the word "embrace" hovering over, I savored every moment.  The boys were engaged and enthusiastic about dinner.  We happily talked about some of the other places we've eaten and where we'd like to go in the future.  

You see... we've stopped going out to eat very often at all.  It was always so convenient and we enjoyed the food.  But when we truly looked at the amount we spent on eating out, it was staggering.  It was such a natural way for us to cut back and save money.

I'll be the first to admit I was reluctant.  It sure puts more pressure on me to meal plan and keep the pantry and fridge stocked.  But I realized we were always trying to convince the kids they were "lucky" to be going out to eat- when really we hadn't taught them at all what its like NOT to go out to eat.  

Friday night, I noticed there was an appreciation on all of our parts.  The boys were eager to try new tastes and flavors.  We were all mindful of the experience of eating dinner together.  Nolan was even talkative and shared with us the idea his team has for a restaurant called "Frischy's."  Nolan was stoked the team thought he'd make a great waiter... and we all laughed at the humor employed in the rest of the roles assigned to his team mates.

The spell cast on us by the great food and cozy atmosphere was broken when we walked through the door of our house.  Nolan and Colton started bickering, the dog wanted attention, and the disarray of the house rose up to meet us.

But as I went to "embrace" Nolan and say good night, he melted into me for just a minute.  "Thank you for dinner mom, it was really good."  

This, I realize, is part of the reason I felt inclined to choose "embrace."  I naturally hesitate sometimes when "new" and "different" approach- but I am convinced its leaning into those very times, going into the center of them, that produces the unexpected joy and the unforeseen gifts.  

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year 2013... and my word...

Happy New Year 2013 everyone!

For the first time we officially rang in the New Year last night all 4 of us along with Crosby.  We let the boys stay up with us.  We snacked and watched tv and were a very content group.  

Do you notice our drinks of choice?  One of these things is not like the others... hmmm.  

Well the boys naturally drank the sparkling cider.

And Superman and Stella are joined at the hip on the rare occasion he sits down to relax.

So that leaves the Vitamin Water.  Who in their sane mind would ring in the New Year with Vitamin Water?  

Ah, yeah.  That would be me.  I technically set it aside for the official New Year's toast.  

But it seems I am either coming down with another cold or perhaps fending one off.  Colton has been plagued by a gunky status since the beginning of Christmas.  I think the germs have never vacated the premises, despite my warfare against them.  And I completely acknowledge that Vitamin water is really just sugar, water and engineered vitamins- but to me its hydration with a little flavor so I can tolerate it.  

We're still in the midst of moving the office home.  We've displaced a lot of our personal "storage" for the office desks, computers, printers and equipment trekking home.  So we're sorting and throwing and donating and sighing at our hoarder-like tendencies of years worth of "stuff."

I've sort of backed into my word this year.  I've actually been resisting it a bit and perhaps just being way too choosy altogether.  What I've noticed lately, is my inclination to hesitate.  To sigh, to make a face, or shudder, at some of the things we've faced.  Its almost second nature.  

I eventually surrender, or adopt a positive outlook.  

But what if I just decided to lean in?  What if I just put my arms out and opened them wide.  Because the journey will unfold despite how resistant I am, or hesitant, or down right scared.  

So what if I could just wrap my arms all the way around the experience?  What might I find?

I'm ready to find out.

I'm choosing the word...  


a : to clasp in the arms : hug
b : cherishlove
a : to take up especially readily or gladly <embrace a cause>
b : to avail oneself of : welcome <embraced the opportunity to study further>

Because the truth is... sometimes its more of Vitamin Water New Year's Eve, then a "Stella" celebration.  Why not just embrace the journey that is? 

I wish everyone health, peace, love and joy in 2013!  All my love and blessings to each of you in the New Year! 

When you get lucky

When you get lucky

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