Wednesday, December 31, 2014


“…People are rivers, always ready to move from one state of being into another. It is not fair, to treat people as if they are finished beings. Everyone is always becoming and unbecoming.” 
― Kathleen WinterAnnabel


I've wondered how I would end 2014 with my word, become?  I've searched for an answer of what I've become over the course of the last year.

But maybe it doesn't just boil down to one word.  

It wasn't until I saw this grainy, out-of-focus pic I took of my mom, that part of what I've both become, and un-become, is more clear to me.

I feel as though I've traveled light years over the past few weeks.

Last Tuesday night, I had just finished meeting with our Stage IV group, Fourward, and was ready to head home, exhausted from a full day of appointments. 

When I realized I had missed 5 calls, I knew something was up.  

After a good check up the day before, my mom was suddenly feeling very sick.

Rick went and picked her up, while I waited near the ER.

We got her quickly registered, but then as we rounded the corner to the waiting room, the scene stopped me short.  

Hardly an empty chair to be found.  Everywhere we looked were people, covered with masks.  Lots of people held emesis bags, some were bundled in blankets.  Everywhere we looked, were so many sick people, and it was still late afternoon.

I found an empty space and rolled my mom in next to me on the aisle.  

And waited.

For hours.

Nobody moved.

People coughed, babies cried, and people looked miserable.  

But the line was long.  We were in for a long night.

My stomach growled, hungry for dinner.  My back ached trying to find comfort in the stiff chair.  I finally leaned my head forward and rested it in my lap.

It was then that my mother offered her opinion of my hair.

"When I see your hair in this light, boy it sure looks in rough shape."  The ends are split.  And that color?  Did you do that color?  Looks streaky.  What is going on with your hair?"

I'm rubbing my eyes with fatigue, as a million smart replies flash through my head.

Really?  Why can't this ever be easy?  I feel like I am 14 again.


But I am not, 14.  

And throughout the course of the night, as she relies on me to navigate through all parts of the ER experience, I slowly begin to realize, I've become more than her daughter.

I am her caretaker.  Her medical interpreter.  Her soft place to fall, when she hands me her pants and whispers "could you please take these home and wash them? I didn't quite make it to the restroom."  

I can't be angry.  I can't hold onto the past of who she was.  Who I was.  

I've had to become, as I've watched her un-become… and yet.

Throughout the course of her 9 day hospital stay- I've watched her go through procedure after procedure.  I've seen her pale, gaunt and weak, fighting just to keep food down.  Yet her humor remains intact, as well as her compassion for others.  Her spirit is strong, despite the guarded words of her doctor yesterday.  Day after day, as we celebrate Christmas round her bed, her spirit is undaunted.  As she is told day after day, she can't leave, she remains unphased, steady, in her demeanor.

In spite of everything, she is becoming once again.  Grace filled.  Brave.  With a side of sass and humor.  My mom.  Always my mom.  

As I step into 2015, I am only left to ponder, how many more times we'll become, and un-become, as we move forward into the future of all our tomorrows. 

Happy New Year!   

My new word… revealed soon.  

Saturday, December 27, 2014


Merry Christmas 2014!  

While Mom continues to rest in the hospital, gradually improving, the rest of us are spending time with her, with each other, and living our moments full.  We hope you are too!  More coming… soon.  

Wednesday, December 24, 2014


“Christmas is not a time nor a season but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy is to have the real spirit of Christmas.” -- Calvin Coolidge

As the Christmas surprises keep arriving and touching us so, we're co-mingling with normal life as well.  The call comes at 3 yesterday afternoon.  Mom has filled with fluid in her abdomen, just 1 day after I've taken her to see her liver specialist.  She is in pain, running a fever and needs to get checked.

But music from a group of performers I've grown up listening to, has already helped me capture the Christmas Spirit.

Its also the day that the cross found its way to my mailbox.  Believe… I take in a big dose of that.  The angel card is made by a child at MD Anderson through their children's cancer art center.  I love how they strike through the word cancer on the back of their card- and love the inspirational messages I am given on the inside! 

Then there is the beautiful embroidered hand towel and dishcloth- just like what my mother-in-law would have made some time ago.  I smile in reminiscent thoughts of how Christmas used to be.  The Grandma's German Cookbook is a treasure to me in that way as well!  I am sure there is some kuchen in there and a few other faves.  Thank you everyone!  

Mom had a good weekend and was able to go to my cousin's house, for our annual party.  Here she is with her two sisters, Marlene and Carol in the middle then mom.  She had a great night-as did we all.

Here are some of the cousins- there are 19 of us all together.  8 of us could make it this year.  

But the growing group is the "second" cousins.  Our kids, now bond and have fun together, like we used to as cousins.  

And Eddy, takes us all in stride as we invade his house.  

After a long night last night in the ER, mom was admitted to the hospital once again.  She has an infection they will treat, and the CT scan showed an inflamed colon as well.  They will also try to remove some of the fluid surrounding her abdomen.

But we're determined to give her the best Christmas possible.  My brother will arrive later today with his wife and two girls.  We'll be together, in good cheer, despite being at the hospital.

We covet your prayers as we head into preparing for the Christmas miracle of the birth of baby Jesus.  

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Hurry always empties...

"Hurry always empties a soul…"  Ann Voskamp

I'm counting gifts… always counting… and gratitude grows exponentially as I am granted more days, and more ways,  to see that all is gift.  

I asked Rick this summer, "Why don't we ever say, Ahh those December skies?"  So I've been paying attention, to see why for myself.  First I've noticed all the cloudy, gray skies.   Then I realized how I get up in the dark (Nolan's 6 am practice has us scrambling at 4:45 am) and by dinner time its dark, again.  Many days, there isn't much light at all.

Then one day, the sky turned all pink and pretty.  As I sat making our Christmas cards - yes- me and Pic monkey- a printer downstairs, a plastic craft cutting tool, and some photo paper.  Totally cost-efficient and I didn't stress over when the photo would get done, or when the cards would get printed, or how long they would take to arrive, etc. - I totally took in the gift of sunshine all day.  See how all the gifts string together? I am reminded that "Thanks-giving turns into thanks-LIVING."  

Even Crosby reveled in the glowy sunlight.  And now I can say… Ahhhh those December skies!

In the meantime, my days are filled with a welcome walk back and forth to the mailbox and look what keeps overflowing our box?  I've always been a collector.  A keeper of things.  

And I am in awe of how the cards, the gifts, the blessings, just come together as though they belonged in the same space, right from the start.  

But what it says to me, is that they all come from the same place- they come from love, and if that is the case, than of course, they all belong together.  

Doesn't this card say it all?

My heart has been so touched... 

By the beautiful card, with a gift,  that a young college student and his family sent to me.  

By the box of General Mills brand groceries and treats that arrived from a friend in Wisconsin. The boys are curled up on the couch snacking away while watching the Bison play, as I type.

By the beautiful basket, above, all the way from Washington.  Filled with coffee treats, and beautiful plates, and napkins, etc., and Colton's favorite- sparkling cider.    

By the beautiful words, the generous gifts, and letters from so many…

My days are filled with moments lived full.

If hurry empties a soul- then slow, fills it, friends.  I'm finding that slowing, and savoring, fills the soul.  

Monday, December 15, 2014


"Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time." ~Laura Ingalls Wilder

Christmas has been barging right through our front door in steady fashion!  Christmas goodies, beautiful cards, packages, and presents.  

The best gift?  Is the one we received after my mom's MRI last week.  Her back is NOT fractured.  All of the muscles around her spine are tight and sore, compensating for the weakness around her spine- but the vertebroplasties are holding her spine intact.  So pain meds, and physical therapy and massage are the plan for now.  We're so thankful! 

So we got busy!

Colton and I have savored finding and re-telling the story of each Christmas ornament and decoration, we carefully unpack.  My mother-in-law started gifting me with snowbabies, long before Rick and I were married.  I have a beautiful collection, thanks to Carole, and we feel her spirit with us when we look at the display we've crafted with them.

We unpack a few things,  and then suddenly its time to go.  A hockey game awaits, and Christmas plans are on hold till we return.  And so our days go…

But then we return, and the mailbox is filled...

I have a lump in my throat as I open this package from Mimi in Germany!  She knit that "Tiffany" blue hat for me (my favorite color,) and sent chocolate and the Faith, Love, and Hope heart I put right on my tree!  Precious friend- how you delighted me! 

This beautiful card and necklace came from my friend Shelley.  It says "Hope is an anchor for my soul."  Could there be anything more perfectly said?  I am so touched how these messages go out and come right back in, thanks to all of you.  Thank you, Shelley!

But we're flying out the door again.  Boxes of lights, and ornaments, and decorations are scattered amongst the hockey gear, drying on the staircase.  Its a royal mess!  But I can only smile as the joy of Christmas unfolds before my eyes.

Colton is over the moon.  We are awaiting the arrival of 15 people!  Its been years since we've had such a gathering of people, and we're all so excited.

Then, another package, arrives.

When I held a drawing for a Barnes and Noble gift card, my friend Ricka won.  Who would have thought she'd share that gift right back with me?  I was very touched to discover a new Jesus Calling in a package that came over the weekend.

I wish I could show you the goodies that came with this beautiful, handmade, card!  But they're devoured- gone-just like that!  Thank you Nichole!  I'm so sorry I missed your visit! 

A few other things have come that I hope to come back and share, too.  Each one, touches me, and honors me in such big way.  I want to share all about it...

But, you see, something within has shifted a bit.

I find myself hyper-aware this Christmas.  Watching each tiny moment unfold.  Not wanting to miss a single one.  

So each time I think I am about to find the camera and take some photos of all the lovely blessings you've sent to us, and post about them… I stop.  I find myself using the time, instead, to savor the verse on the card.  To talk to the boys about a memory I have of the people in the card.  To share a story.  To snuggle in with the dog.  

To live my moments and feel them.  

Its almost like Christmas in reverse.  Because on the day of Jesus' Birth?  I'd love to just focus on Him.      And family.  Having all the preparation done.  No last minute scrambling.  

So we're practicing the savoring, and preparing- for the arrival of our Savior, the best gift of all.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

where we meet is in the silence...

“We're fascinated by the words--but where we meet is in the silence behind them.” 
― Ram Dass

He smiled when he walked into the room, and shook my hand, warmly.  He asks how I am and I say, "Pretty good," with a little shrug in my shoulders because I know we'll be digging into this more as the doctor's appointment goes on.  Then I ask Dr. Panwalkar, "And how are YOU?"  And he hesitates a bit, and says, Oh, I'm alright."  I nod. Quietly.   I often wonder what appointment he has just come from, and who he might be going to next.  Is he losing a patient?  Did he just newly diagnose someone?  Both?  

I like that he is real, and lets me into that space of the "hard," without being able to, nor perhaps, wanting to, share in any detail.  But there is no front of "everything is great", when sometimes, its just not.

So, we're quiet a few moments, as he goes to sit down, and I begin rehearsing the questions I have for him, as I begin answering the ones he has for me.

And yet, because he is so willing to be in the moment with me, it isn't long and my stories cause his hearty laugh to permeate the air.  

He checks me over thoroughly and notices the tightness under my right arm.  He also mentions how he can see the difference in size between my larger right arm versus my normal- sized left arm.

I remember to ask about my tumor markers, and he says they have risen again, just a bit.  Then he shows me the history of them, and I can clearly see they slowly seem to go up, and then come down and then climb yet again.  He shrugs, saying so many things can affect the numbers, its the pattern we'll continue to watch.

Based on my lack of any unusual symptoms, other than a dry cough, he feels confident in continuing on with 2 more months of Arimidex, and Herceptin infusions every 3 weeks.

He sits back in his chair a bit, and says, he is anxiously waiting for some new vaccine trials to come to Sanford.  And that there is a new Melanoma drug, that shows good promise, and he hopes there may be something similar to that for Breast Cancer in the works.

He concludes with a story of hope.  A patient of his, very similar to me with Brain Mets, who is doing remarkably well.  

What I really hear him saying, is hang on to hope, as my brain scan looms in January.

I think of the Ram Dass quote,

“We're fascinated by the words--but where we meet is in the silence behind them.” 

Dr. P stands to usher us out of the office.  We're quiet as we walk, in unison, to the infusion center.  I'm feeling my step lighten, my shoulders rise, my back straighten with each step.  I'm lighter somehow, through the silence behind the words.  He wishes me a good holiday season and heads off into the infusion center maze.  


So many have inquired about both my mom and I.

My mom has not fared so well.

While in the hospital over Thanksgiving,  being transferred from her bed to a cart to a procedure table, her back was banged in the process and she felt a shooting pain.

Steadily, the pain has increased.

Dr. Teigen's staff was extremely accommodating.  

Mom will have an MRI of her back tomorrow at 715 am and see Dr. Teigen for the results at 8 am.

Vertibroplasty #4 may be in the works.  

And this is where I am for all that ask … somewhere between the hockey rink, the hospital and hope, always hope, that~

~All shall be well~ 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

When words come to life...

It's true what I said.  When the drawing was held for the online fundraiser, I prayed whoever received the beautiful quilt, would cherish it, as much as it deserved.  I wanted all of the pillows and baskets to be treasured.  But I didn't recognize the initials of the person who won the quilt.  So I asked Peggy.  She said she'd tell me, soon.  I just had to wait a bit.

You see where this is going, right?

It seems that the winner of the quilt, requested the quilt be given to someone else.  Still, when a big box arrived, I couldn't fathom what it contained. I was rushing through the house, back and forth, to the hospital, focused on making sure my mom wasn't alone for long.  I'd have to wait till later to open it. 

Later, my mom's sister came and gave me a reprieve and sat with my mom.  I scurried to get Nolan to his hockey game, then Nolan and I returned home.  There sat that box.  

Nolan helped me carefully cut through the tape on the box.  Oh. My.

Nolan just grinned, knowing, the tears that were falling, were sheer surprise and joy.  

It was me- the person who was the recipient of the quilt from the winner- was me!  

It's more beautiful, soft, and comforting, more than I can express.  

Growing up, I had a bedspread, made out of the same kind of fabrics so artfully worked into this quilt.  I'm filled with comfort every time I lay eyes on it.

I told Peggy I felt like Christmas came early!  

This morning, I got to read about the experience of Julie Garmon, who won one of the baskets- you can read her beautifully written words here: Life-changing love.

I was also gifted this book, that came with coffee and conversation with my friend, Roxane.  I'm excited to have something to look forward to reading, when things settle a bit.  I am smitten with the title right away- "The Grace of Yes."

A part of this one is a secret.  But, the part I'm sharing?  Is the part I get to fill in.  I think its a wonderful keepsake type of gift and I am craving to get started on it.  Thank you, Krystal! 

When my mother moved from observation to inpatient, this was the view out the window from the family room.  She got a really old room, with an old telephone with a cord.  It felt so familiar to me, I wonder if it was once the pediatric floor when I had my appendix out?  Even though it was a double, they moved out the other bed, and mom got the room all  to herself.  We were quite cozy in it.

As mom slept, I'd walk the halls, that are somewhat muted and dark at times, but loved when the sun shone brightly through the big old windows, casting light through the dark when it was needed the most.

I thought of these words from "Love Does."

“Grace works that way. It's a kind word from a gentle person with an impossible prayer. It's a force sometimes transmitted best hand to hand in a dark place.”   Bob Goff

Tuesday, Mom was discharged from the hospital.  Her doctors cautioned that with her spontaneous bacterial infection in the ascites throughout her stomach, that she could become infected at any time in the future again, and it could become difficult to treat.  

I appreciated his candor, he was optimistic, but also realistic.  

It was heartwarming to see the big send off she was given.  Lots of hugs, and lots of people expressing how much they would miss her "humor" and ability to laugh at things.  

Mom received lots of medicines, iv's, doctor's orders, stomach examinations and procedures.

But I think it was the compassion underneath it all that boosted her the most.

In turn, she was a magnet, with groups of aids and nurses stopping by in a steady stream of jokes, laughs, and conversations.

We all just want to feel like we matter.  As much as mom received good care, she gave good care right back.

When you get lucky

When you get lucky

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