Friday, November 28, 2014

When Joy chooses...

So much at once happens, it feels like I need to be quick in all that I do.  Wednesday night was spent in the ER with my mom who was in the most pain I've ever experienced her have.   It was not in her back, but shooting through her stomach.  Her blood pressure would drop, and her Oxygen levels would go low as well. With several increasing doses of morphine the edge was taken off, and she began to relax.  It was 3 am when they found a hospital room for her and allowed sleep at home for Rick and I.

So we spent Thanksgiving Day in the hospital with mom.  She dozed and asked goofy questions, which kept us giggling.  She called Rick, "Lee," my brother's name.  She would wonder where she was at, and then her eyes would grow wide when we told her the hospital.  Then she'd laugh, as though she had known all along.  Oh the side effects of pain meds.

But her pain quieted.  And so did she, able to sleep mostly.

So the boys were determined to go home and cook Thanksgiving, while I stayed with mom.

You see, it seems, in preparation for all of this, Joy walked through my door.

It had been just hours before the call from mom, on Wednesday.  My sweet friend Carrie, came for a visit bringing with a hand made art piece she created using the words of our Gitzen Girl- Sara Frankl.   

We had a delightful chat about life, and knowing what matters, and what counts.
Carrie is filled with an insightful wisdom, at a young age, and I truly just listen, as she pours out so much of what its taken me years to learn.                                      

This is her precious art work so carefully chosen and made for me.

But its Thanksgiving Day, and I am still at the hospital with mom, and I help her eat.  She takes a bite, and falls asleep with the fork still curled in her fingers and her mouth open to receive the food.  

I guide her hands and make small talk to awaken her, to help her get the food in.  She has had a scope of her esophagus and she has no bleeding, but its inflamed and sore.

Yet still, she needs nutrition, and something in her stomach to help with her meds.

So we maneuver to keep sustaining her.

In the meantime, the boys are determined to cook Thanksgiving dinner.

Through several phone calls, we manage to get directions across, and the food gets cooked.

This one, managed the pumpkin pie, completely on his own.  He is so sad about his Grandma, but, also determined to step up, and contribute in a way that makes my momma's heart soar.

And his pie?  Was fantastic! 

The last call I received from Rick was that Colton wanted me home to eat with them.  How could I resist?  With mom resting comfortably, Rick came and picked me up.

In all honesty, the table wasn't  beautifully decorated, or fancy by any means.  We've all been stripped bare.  But for one of the first times, the Thanks, was really foremost in our Thanksgiving.  

The pride these boys displayed in making this meal 
happen.  We said Grace and ate heaping spoonfuls of deliciousness.  Afterwards I asked what the best part of the meal was.

Without skipping a beat, Colton says, "my pie, but even before that, faith, family and love, is the most important part."

I believe, he is saying it, because he fully feels it.  

I can't help but look at my table where my framed artwork of Joy resides…

"Joy: the unwavering trust that God knows what He’s doing and has blessed me with the opportunity to be a part of it… not despite what’s happening in my life but because of it. When everything earthly feels heavy He gives me an internal lightness that can’t be touched." Sara Frankl

I remember the day Sara wrote her post about Joy.  I wrote in my comments that I felt as though is you choose joy, it will choose you right back.

It does, friends. Without a doubt, it will choose you right back.

Thursday, November 20, 2014


Its the Monday before infusion, and I am hustling through as many tasks as I can complete.  I manage to strip the sheets off the bed and dig out the winter comforter.  While stacks and piles of odds and ends abound everywhere, if the bed is made, somehow all is right in my world.

Its weird to me, that I can accept how the dust accumulates, and the clutter surrounds, but if I can tackle one thing and make a little order out of it, I barely notice the rest.

So I wake up Tuesday, ready to keep hustling on my way to infusion.

But somehow, everything is off kilter this day and oh boy- its going to be one of those days!  First I check the calendar and realize it's not this infusion day that I see Dr. Panwalkar, but the next one.

Soon, Rick announces he forgot to tell me he needs to leave early for a meeting.  I guess I'll be driving today?  Hadn't planned on that.  And Nolan needs a ride to school from the rink, but its after the time I'll need to leave… my mind starts racing.

As I scurry about, Colton announces he needs help with his STEM homework.  We muddle our way through tackling the invention of the ballpoint pen- and chronicling the invention all the way through the ages.  Half an hour marches by… and Nolan needs… but then the dog barks...

I see a glimpse of yellow outside, and gasp as I hear the bus coming. I literally shove the little man out the door.  I need to leave, NOW!

But what was that thing I needed to do?  It floods over me as I recall- I haven't put the numbing cream on my port!!  It needs an hour to fully work.  I'm officially running late.  And today?  I've scheduled my blood work to be done through my port.

I grab the keys to the van, and thinking I'll just bypass the newly restored astro start key fob- thing-a-ma-bob,  I merely insert the key to unlock the door and open it… then bam!

I set off the blaring security alarm!  Oh boy… how do I shut this off?  I get in and start clicking buttons, and low and behold, it goes off.  Until I try to start the car.

As time ticks, I hurriedly try to figure out the right combination to shut off the alarm again.

But each time I get it silenced, the very next move I make, turns the blaring right on again.

I am getting so frustrated… my mind whirls with everything that has gone wrong.  Why did Rick schedule a meeting on a chemo day?  Why didn't I know about Nolan's meeting he needed to get to?  How on earth did Colton not do his homework? Why can I not make order out of this day?

It was so easy to blame everything on everybody.  I angrily worked my way through finding the keys for the truck.  It was almost 9 and I had a 15-20 minute drive.

As I turned down the side street, hoping to fly along the back roads with less traffic, I once again realize I never helped Nolan.  I'm near tears now,  feeling like I've let him down.  And yet- he hasn't called me.

So I just start to breathe… in and out, sending a quick prayer up, to help me so I can ignore everything else and focus on driving this big truck…

And as I do…

I slow long enough to listen to those last words… "help me ignore everything else so I can focus…"

Because, who is really in charge?

Not my dear Superman.  Not the kids and their crazy schedules.  Not me…

HE is in control.  HE has this. Oh boy…  how do I get so caught up in what was never under my control anyway?

So I keep breathing in clarity, and breathing out nonsense… and slowly, calm descends.

I apologize for being late, to my infusion nurse, Livia, and she merely smiles.  "Oh, it gave me some time to just sit and chat a bit."  Don't worry, it happens to us all.

Suddenly with a deep peacefulness, I sit earnestly as gratitude tumbles out onto my journal.

Names, blessings, observations of kindness, feelings of joy, physical gifts, today- the gift of yet, one more day.

Livia comes in to ask how I get the results of my tumor markers?

I tell her I haven't for awhile.  And I haven't bothered to ask for them.  Last I heard they were rising.

Later, at home, my phone buzzes with a message from Sanford's MyChart system.

I'm astonished- Livia must have conveyed to Dr. Panwalkar that I didn't know the status of my tumor marker so he ordered the results to be sent to me.

The last I had seen- they were at 41.1 (normal is 31 or less).

Yesterday?  They were at  34.3.

What?  How?  I will still have to wait for more of an explanation… but I'll just savor the idea it went down.

I smile as I think to count one last gift for the day… a lower tumor maker.  Clearly this day, someone else was in control, all along.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Thank you gifts- were you a winner?

The winners of the thank you gifts were drawn and announced this weekend!

You can read about them here.

Or keep reading...

The Winners of our Fundraiser
"Thank you gifts"

Basket 1- Julie Garmon

Basket 2- Diane Schotl

Cottage Pillows- Kathryn Feigal

Western Cabin Pillows- M. Fahey for his mom Nancy

Quilt- J. Porter

Please e-mail  (Peggy Sue) with your address so we can get
your gifts sent to you!

Thank you everyone
for donating and making this
a huge success!

We are thrilled, humbled and feel 
so blessed!!!

Our weekend of hockey turned into one of the most memorable experiences these young 14 year-old- boys will ever experience.  

For all the reasons, as parents, we hope will never happen.

But it all started off filled with possibility.  Craguns Resort hosted all the teams.  While its an older resort, on Gull Lake, in Brainerd, MN, it has a charm and warmth to it that make it very relaxing.

This was the view out our patio screen door.  It was too cold for me to want to open the screen for a clear view. 

Each room was equipped with a real wood- burning fireplace.

And below is the Blue Ox, the trophy on the line for the winner of the tournament.

We were slated to play some of the toughest Bantam AA teams in the state of Minnesota, and see how our team measured up compared to those.

Our first game we were matched against a long-time rival- Bloomington Jefferson.  Early predictions had them as the team that would go on to the championship.  

We were all nervous about how our team would fare against them.

We had faith in our boys and the level of competitiveness they contain.  

The Moorhead Junior Spuds team did not disappoint!

After a slower first period they got the scoring going through teamwork and were first on the board with a goal by Nolan.  Our team continued on for two more goals, before Jefferson finally answered back with one.

But when Jefferson decided to pull their goalie nearing the end of the third- we scored one more time and ended the game 4-1.

We beat Bloomington Jefferson- one of the teams predicted to go to the championship.

We quickly saw that the next team we would play, was a team we felt we stood a chance against, early the next morning.

The boys were off to an amazing start in the tourney.

We went back to our hotel for the tournament pasta feed and banquet.

As Rick and I headed down the hall to go to the feed, we ran into a heavy discussion going on in the hallway.  We were quietly pulled into the conversation.

A young 14 year old player, had collapsed on the ice.  The early reports were saying that despite extensive attempts to revive the young man, he had indeed died.

We went numb with shock and disbelief.  

The rest of the night, bits and pieces of information kept coming in.  It wasn't long, before the kids all new.  Soon, the story was being picked up by the news and local media.  Word continued to spread.

There were so many big questions our boys were asking.  And as parents, we had some really hard answers to give them.  

We were devastated, sad, and subdued.  "At a loss for words," seemed to be the first response by everyone.  

The tournament was cancelled, out of respect for the young player, later reported to be Patrick Schoonover, who played for Eastview.  

The following is part of some of the most recent news...

"... cause of death to Eastview Bantam AA Defenseman, Patrick Schoonover, was a defective heart. In an email to the team Saturday, Patrick's parents confirmed via the Brainerd Medical Examiner that Patrick's heart failed while playing. The fourteen year old young man collapsed on Friday in a game between his team and Wayzata in the Battle for the Blue Ox, in Brainerd, Minnesota. 

In a statement posted Sunday on the Eastview Hockey website, the Schoonover's reiterated that Patrick's death was due to a heart defect and not related to what happened during the game Friday, "...Patrick's death was due to a heart defect. More information will be forthcoming, but they wanted to clarify that this was not a hockey related injury."
Patrick is survived by his parents, Michael and Gayle, and three siblings, Abby, 18; Anna, 17, and Matthew, 11. His family lives in Eagan. "

Nolan has been subdued and sad.  At some level he understands the tragic nature of what happened, while still not completely understanding the sheer magnitude of it all.

I was impressed, with how well our hockey community came together.  We may be opponents on the ice, but off the ice we come together as friends and family.  There was nothing but compassion and sorrow and support, heaped with prayers, by so many.  

So each day, we talk a little more.  Assure and reassure our son's uncertainty.  And hug him with arms that reach all the way around in sheer gratitude that we were one of the families that got to bring their young hockey player, home, with them.  

Because one family, didn't.  

And we will be forever changed as we take the ice each time from here forward, remembering to #playforpatrick.  

Its infusion Tuesday tomorrow, Dr. P,  and tumor marker testing.  

Back soon with updates.  

Friday, November 14, 2014

Our BIG surprise!

Holy- canoli! 

What a great surprise the boys brought home to me Wednesday after school.  So generous! I could hardly wait to hear their interview this morning on BIG 98.7 radio, with Jesse and Amanda, and Pike.

We actually listen to them every morning.  

Mrs. Laudenbach, (Front row, yellow coat) is Colton's Language Arts teacher, and she also had Nolan when he was in 6th grade.  She is the one who nominated our family for the The Christmas Wish and wrote about us to the station.  

So early this morning, while Rick was shooting hockey photos and Nolan had hockey practice, Colton came to my room to listen to the story.

 Hearing the boys voices ring out loud and clear was a moment I never thought I'd have with either of those boys.  That alone was pure gift.

To hear them speak from their heart, so candidly, was a beautiful thing.  

Shortly after the story aired, I received fb messages from both Amanda, and then Jesse.  How neat is that?  Amanda's mom is in the midst of fighting ovarian cancer, and knows all too well what a heavy burden this is for us all.  

If you'd like to hear the story- a podcast is available on BIG 98.7's website HERE.

We're truly blessed and will be seeking out all the ways we can be good stewards of these generous gifts to us.  

Thank you Mrs. Laudenbach!  Thank you BIG 98.7! 

We have a big weekend of hockey with both boys and I am attending as much as possible.  

Go Junior Spuds! 

Happy Birthday, Superman!  As usual you will be our driver, our arena- finder, our care-taker and the last thing you will focus on is you.  We love you!  

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


I hoped it was just because of the gusts of wind.  Maybe I was imagining seeing my scalp in places I'd usually see thick with hair.  But as I carefully combed through and moved clumps of hair to one side or the other, all over the front of my scalp I can see my hair has thinned in patches- bald patches.  

After trying to grow it one length, I acquiesced  and chopped 3 inches off the sides and back. Then the stylist carefully scissored out some pieces to help it lay smoothly.  It feels thinner, and yet healthy for the first time in a long time. 

It otherwise looks remarkably the same- just inches shorter.  Apparently, there are a few people who do experience thinning of hair with Arimidex, and I am one of them. 

Arimidex, might also be explaining the pain I feel in my right thumb.  Its stiff, sore and throbs and aches at times.  That, as well as my left shoulder.  You can feel the tightness in the muscle all the way down my shoulder blade.  

I just haven't felt well.  I'm more fatigued than I've been in a long time. 

This last Saturday, I finally caved in, and took pain meds to alleviate the ache.  I slept restfully, for hours and felt so thankful for the relief.  

Then I picked this up and read.  

Oh my- its a page turner!  Plus it had such a satisfying ending, I had no idea it would leave me with such a life lesson in the end.  This was a great read!  I'm excited to pick up her next novel.

I also got the sweetest call, wanting to know if our family would like a fresh out of the oven apple pie?  Oh my… we would… we did! 

And then before I could take any more pictures, an apple crisp, and some brownie cupcakes may have also walked through our door and were instantly opened and cut into.  More deliciousness, and not a single bite left anywhere.  Comfort food took on a whole new meaning! 

We're so touched whenever someone goes out of their way to think of us.

Our fundraiser officially wrapped up and I am speechless.  Every offering, every note, every anonymous donation, it all adds together to weave a tapestry of hope and love for our family. I can't wait to announce the winners after they've been drawn!  

Mom is being discharged today from Bethany on 42nd over to Bethany Towers on University.  My cousin, Pam, has graciously offered to transfer mom.  I'm conceding I need just a bit of help these days, and grateful for all the help with rides, and help with mom,  and so many other blessings coming our way.

Rick worked all weekend in putting insulation in our garage.  He and my father-in-law took out the sheet rock, placed the insulation inside, wrapped it in a barrier, then put up the sheet rock again.  We were very humbled by the help of Cullen Insulation in making this project doable for us through their generosity.  

The boys have a big surprise for tomorrow.  They just arrived back at school after going to a radio station with their teacher.

They met, Pike, Jesse, and Amanda and will be broadcast on the air - BIG 98.7 tomorrow at 7:15 am!!  

I was also told the story with pictures will be on  BIG's Facebook page.  

 The boys texted and said they had a "surprise" to bring home to me today.  

I am giddy with anticipation and extremely honored and humbled.  

Monday, November 10, 2014

One more day...

Winter is on it's way, I feel it in the crisp frozen morning's, in the hour change and darkness coming so much earlier now.  I see it on the bare trees and a yard full of leaves. I hear it, as the heater comes on. I know it because I am wearing sweaters and boots.

It's that cozy time of year... when all you want to do is snuggle with the ones you love. The holidays are approaching, Thanksgiving and Christmas. It's that joyful, peaceful, time of year, when there is more love, more giving. I may be 50, but I see this time of year always through the lens of my children and grandchildren. It's seems to me everything is a little brighter through the Holidays. And there seems to be more 'Hope' in everything we do.

Like many of you, I literally stumbled across Vicky's blog. It was late January, I was in a 5th wheel trailer by the ocean in Sitka, Alaska.  I remember the first post I read. I had tears streaming down my cheeks...but I also had such a peaceful feeling...filled with hope and tranquility. I found myself checking back and reading... Vicky held nothing back. She writes for herself, never dreaming how many of us would 'tune' in. As she battles, and does everything she can, to keep this cancer at bay...trying to stop it dead in it's tracks. She shares her fears, her hopes, her dreams...But more so she shares, how she gets through... In all she shares, we can then relate it to things in our own lives. Vicky became my 'warm cup of hot chocolate with a dapple of sweet whipping cream.' 

Linda and I chose to do this Fundraiser for Vicky, not just because there is a need. Because we grew to respect and love this beautiful woman, who is Grace under fire. She has given so much back to us, with her words. Always reaching beyond circumstances to a higher place. Knowing she is cradled in the arms of a divine being that loves her beyond measure.

I know Vicky herself had no clue the beauty this cancer journey would bring.  But she knows it, sees it, feels it and knows there has been much beauty, and grace, and giving, and love poured all around her. I know she has no words for how this truly touches her heart and soul and touches her whole family....  This is something cancer could not beat or win over. This is God's love, and Grace in adversity...shinning through all that know and love her.

We have truly been humbled by all who have donated to this fundraiser. I had no clue how this would turn out. Yes, we aimed high. You will notice if you go to the fundraiser page. That I only contributed $10.  My budget is such, that $10 was the best I could do. But each of you who contributed 'The best you could do' is the priceless gift that blesses us and humbles us beyond any words. 

In my life, the scripture below has always worked. I have given the last in my pocket to someone whose need is more so then mine. For I know when I do, it comes back to me ten-fold. it has never failed and is the most beautiful concept and gift in my life. 

Mark 12:41-44

The Widow's Offering

41 And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny.[a] 43 And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. 44 For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”  

The fundraiser is coming to a close in a few days. Won't you share the link below and give this one final big push? Share through e-mail, FB,  Twitter or post about Vicky on your own blog.  In doing so you allow other's the opportunity and blessing's that come from giving. And in my life those blessing's have been greater then anything I can truly put into words. To be honest in the end it is  'a gift to myself'.

Many who have donated have not taken part in our 'Thank you' gifts. Know that these gifts were created for only one purpose. To truly allow you to know how very thankful we truly are!

May your Holidays be blessed and I hope to meet you all back here on Vicky's blog. She is truly my 'Hot chocolate with a dapple of sweet whipping cream.'

"Not all of us can do great thing's but we can do small things with great love"

~Mother Teresa~

Please go here to vickyfightingbreastcancer.blogspot for all the details.

Thanks to all who have contributed to so far!


Monday, November 3, 2014

"where I'm from…"

"I am from…"

In English, my name means famous
I'm from Rick and Vicky
From pasta and steak
On holidays.
I am from hockey and golf
I'm from fishing and tubing
and watching hockey
I am from the Lake,
the Golf Course, my get away
From "Stop picking on your brother!"
and "Never give up!"
I'm from That's My Kind of Night
and Tiger Woods: How I Play Golf
I'm from the Lutheran Church, God blessed me.
From a family that watches hockey
and will someday have mom cancer free!
In English, my name means famous
It means Hockey
I'm athletic and active
Nolan of the 
Hockey family, Westra family

(For the original poem and some ideas of how it can be used, check out the link below!)

Where I'm From, by George Ella Lyon

The above poem, with a map drawing next to it, was on the wall outside of Nolan's pod of classrooms at the middle school.

He would never have shared with me that he completed a project like this, or that he wrote about me.  Instead, I got to happen across it, while at conferences at school a few weeks back.  

Last night, we went to see Grandma at her Transitional Care Unit.

After a weeks of tryouts and a long weekend of scrimmages, while waiting to find out which hockey team he would make, Nolan chose to go with us to visit Grandma Mary Ann.

Colton, went to his service project with his confirmation class, at the Dorothy Day House, and helped cook dinner and then eat with the residents.

But Nolan?  Somehow seemed to know Grandma Mary Ann could use a lift.  

He's right.

She has been put through it.

She is quieter than I've ever seen her.  Flat in her affect.  No desire to get out of her chair and go very far.  Her suffering, real, tangible and hard to bear.

But somehow, she perseveres.  

And I try to use words for her to grab onto, and steady herself.

"Temporary." "Recovery." "Short-term." "Strength." 

And Nolan saves the best for last.

As the announcement for his team placement appears on his phone, he beams.

But without saying a word, he readies to leave.

As he goes to hug my mother good bye, without hesitation, he says, "Love you, Grandma."

Love wins in the end.  

When you get lucky

When you get lucky

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