Thursday, January 21, 2016

Whip and Nae Nae in the unexpected


Well, my plans changed unexpectedly this afternoon.  After I worked out and was returning something at the grocery store, I got a call from Turner's teacher saying he wasn't feeling well.  She put him on the phone and he sounded reasonably sick.  So here we are on the couch as he is jamming to music on his ipod and currently doing the Whip and Nae Nae.  Sick or not sick, that is the question.  It is probably that poor parenting choice of several nights ago when I took the kids ice skating while the wind chill was seven below.  That is my version of my winter fender bender.

Changing plans due to illness is something I reflect upon this time of year.  Exactly 5 years ago this week, my cancer diagnosis came in.  5 YEARS.  I CAN'T BELIEVE IT.  I remember the day like it was yesterday.  The call came the same night as my Cat scan, "The doctor would like to see you tomorrow morning to go over the results of your scan."  That can only mean one thing... the results are not good.  When a doctor wants to waste no time to go over test results it is terrifying.  I begged the nurse to give me a hint, lucky for her she is not permitted to do so.  But it sure is torture for the patient.  Cruel, really.

Steve rearranged his day to go with me and because there were no other options, we dragged our two 3 year old sons with us to the doctor.  I sometimes think about that morning.  When I think back to that day, it is with much dread.  I try not to go back there too often, but I find that this time of year makes me do it.  As we all 4 sat crammed into the examining room and the doctor walked in, it was obviously not going to be good news.  He wasted no time and did not beat around the bush.  "I hate delivering this kind of news..."  and from there the rest of the conversation was pretty much a blur.  Have you ever been on a really scary roller coaster where in an instant your stomach drops to the floor?  Your mouth goes dry and you wonder, why am I doing this?  Pretty much the same thing without the desire to get back in line and do it all again.

There were phrases like, "I'm not going to use the "c" word yet until you have surgery and find out for sure."  "There are two large masses attached to your ovaries."  "Your blood work indicates a very elevated marker for the "c" work."  "I'm going to set you up with an oncologist- get you an appointment tomorrow."  "In all my years practicing medicine, I've never met anyone with ovarian cancer.  The odds are in your favor."  "I'm so sorry."

We collected our coats and my two small children and the world around me moved in a blur.  We called some friends and met them at a bounce house so the kids could play and we could talk.  We went to McDonald's after.  My friends stood beside us as shocked as we were.  They prayed for me.  They gave me words of comfort.  That was a Tuesday, by Friday I was in surgery... finding stage III Ovarian Cancer.  What followed were months of treatment.  Fear.  Anxiety.  Depression.  Hair loss.  Weight loss.  Sleepless nights.  Tangible acts of service and kindness from friends, family, strangers.  Healing.  Strength.  Hope.  Survival.  Recovery.  Health.  Joy.  Thankfulness.  Restoration.  Travel.  Family.  Ups.  Downs.  Missions.  Fights for Justice.  Compassion for those in hard times, health or otherwise.  Empathy.  Courage.  Weight gain and subsequent efforts in weight loss.  Normal life.

From time to time I live in fear that I will one day re-live that doctor's visit.  January serves as a very fresh reminder.  The weather, the short days, the annual events that occurred that season that will always cast my mind to "that year I was in treatment."  At 5 years they will call me cured.  I will be "official" in June when my treatment was over.  I am rounding up in faith, declaring myself cured.  There were days I wondered if I would make it to see this day.  I hate wishing time away.  I believe I have lived fully the days within those 5 years.  Who knows what tomorrow will hold and perhaps I won't see the 5 year mark.  But to live each day to the fullest is one lesson cancer taught me (among so many others.)  I think there are not many days that go by where I think, "Boy, I really wasted that day."  I squeeze all that I can out of most of them.  Some may think my schedule and my days are insane.  Honestly, I like it like that.  Mostly because I remember months of being incapable of doing anything for myself and others and I am extremely grateful for these days!!!

So today as my plans changed due to illness, it makes me pause in thankfulness.  As I snuggle my son and raise an eyebrow as to how sick he really is (I can live with a faker if it means a snuggle on the couch just the two of us for the afternoon) I couldn't be happier that God held my hand through that time 5 years ago and He holds it today and tomorrow.  While I still can't say that I am thankful for my cancer, I can say that I am thankful for how my cancer taught me to live!  Some moments you're down on the couch and others you are whipping and nae naeing... life is made up of both.  So, kill it!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Winter Rodeo

It's January.  In Ohio.  Although its been a "mild winter" as they say, the days are still short, gray, cold and did I mention gray?

Today, the Miami Valley region got "hit" with a mild winter storm.  Mother Nature dropped about 1"-2" right before the morning commute.  That is about an average "winter storm" for around here, although it is not unusual at least once a winter to have a bigger storm with 4-8 inches.  This morning there were big white puffy flakes and to my kids' disappointment, Dayton Public Schools were one of the few districts that didn't close for a snow day.  I drove them to school and I will admit, I had to dial back my speed.  The roads had not been plowed or salted, but with the small amount of snow on the ground, we were able make it with no problem.

Here is what astounds me... after 12 winters in Dayton, it seems as though the news channels, weather people and general public FREAK OUT when we get more than a dusting. Every single time.  I can understand people's fears if they are new to the North.  Perhaps someone has just arrived from Texas, Arizona, Iraq, Africa (in case you think I am mocking, I am not.  We have many families who have arrived just days ago from another country in which they have never seen a light switch, let alone a winter coat or gloves.. to them I give much grace and patience.)

It's the other knuckle headed born and bread Ohioans that I just can't figure out.  Its the speedsters on I-75 who don't take it down a notch and cause a 7 car pile up.  Its the people who take that stop sign at the intersection like its a June day.  Its my ridiculous 8 year old son who goes ice skating when it's -7 degree windchill and wont wear a scarf.  (Hmmm..  perhaps that one is due to bad parenting.  I'm open to that.)  It's the school districts who can't figure out a rhyme or reason to have school or not have school.  On the days it seems they should cancel, they don't, and when it seems perfectly fine to send a child, bundled up into the elements, we close.  Either way, we Daytonians complain- like it's our JOB!

Granted, I take my kids to school.  They don't have to get on a bus in the hands of someone else, they don't have to wait out at a bus stop and wait for a bus that is 45 minutes late or worse yet, never comes.  We have the luxury of living a 5 minute drive from the school.  I am truly sad for the kids and the parents who do not have such a luxury.  My job is flexible, so a snow day is a slight inconvenience for me; while parents of my kids' classmates have to worry about their child's well being.  For these dear ones, I channel my inner winter-hating self and send them deep love and solidarity.  For the others, I say, put on your grown up pants, leave a few minutes early, and don't act so surprised when January hits and we have to choke 'er down a bit on the roads.  Let's all get there safe and sound, m'kay?

I don't know if weather is such a topic where you live.  But seriously, Dayton LOVES her some weather.  I suppose it's like that everywhere.

All I know is, today's snowy non-snow day gave me a chance to do a job that I dread.  I went through the toy box(es).  Ugh.  The boys seem to quickly and systematically acquire and accumulate stuff; more so than Olivia.  I'm not sure why that is.  Perhaps because they share a room, perhaps because they are younger, perhaps because one of my two boys is a borderline hoarder... who knows.  But with all of the Christmas/birthday loot we needed to make room for the new stash.  I strategically have to do it while they are at school and when I have a good block of time to do a thorough job.  Today's blessed weather event gave me that chance.

(I am the opposite of a home body.  I look for every excuse to be out and about, which rarely affords me that nice long chunk of time to get it done.  With the bad roads, I chose to stay put.  Lemons into lemonade...ha.)

I must have bagged up 100 hot wheel cars to donate to our Y's childcare.  I threw out every broken toy, stupid Happy Meal junk piece, random gum wrappers, rubber bands and Lego bits.  I filled an entire tall kitchen bag with that crap alone.  I reorganized by toy category.  A useless endeavor, but it made me feel good even if it only lasts until 7 pm.  A bin for only Pokemon cards... heck yeah!

For a family who moved only 6 months ago and did not move any useless junk with them, we have a lot of useless junk.  Ugh.  It appears as though I didn't waste my time going through the toy boxes before wrapping them in bubble tape back in July.  I just moved all those rubber bands right along with us.  It made for an accomplished feeling on this winter day.

So now that I am clearly proud of myself and feeling a bit self righteous about appropriately viewing winter here in my fair city, I will venture out to collect my children from school.  I will fix them hot chocolate, dodge their outrage over where all of their valuables have gone and put up a strong defense on why I can't take them sledding in only an inch of snow.  And so it goes, another winter in the mid-west.  Mother nature, you will not pull any punches on me!  I am ready for you... this is not my first winter rodeo!  And if I believed in jinks' (which I don't) I've probably just put myself at the front of the list for a fender bender by the end of this one.

Friday, January 8, 2016

The day I opened a can of whoop-sass at Universal Studios


In my previous post I alluded to a story involving my inner beast being released at Universal Studios. This is the rest of the story. In order to fully appreciate this, you need to know a little fact... we spent an embarrassing amount of money to get into the park that day.

Let's just say that the Universal Studios' website is *challenging* to navigate.  Here is my chance to announce to the world that UNIVERSAL STUDIOS has no where near the level of customer service and ease and doesn't hold a candle to DISNEY!  It was like the JV version of a theme park, in my mind, and if it hadn't been for the enthusiasm of my children toward going to the Harry Potter section of the park, we would have gotten our money back and marched right out of there.  But my kids were BONKERS about going to Harry Potter's Diagon Alley.  So we bit the bullet, paid an obscene amount of money and enjoyed our Express Pass (which was the portion of the ticket that proved to be so confusing).

Because Harry Potter was our family's main focus, we rushed directly to that ride.  PS- one of two rides at Universal that does not allow you to use your Express Pass is the Harry Potter ride.  So after you've already sold a kidney and your youngest child in order to have enough means to enter the park with an express pass in hand, you get to stand in line with everyone else.  For ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY MINUTES.

I'll just tell you right now, there are not many things I would waste two hours of my life standing in line for, but this ride was TOTALLY WORTH IT.  It was awesome and fun and spectacular and made me laugh and scream.  With that being said, the waiting wasn't the problem... it was the other patrons of the park who didn't want to wait that were the problem.

I know you've been there if you've ever had kids, been to an amusement park or any other event in life when you are so excited. That moment when you round a corner and realize the cost that must be paid in order to enjoy said event.  So it was as we entered the line for the ride and realized all of those black railings that snaked and coiled for what seemed to be an eternity (only to realize this was just the outside portion of the wait.. there were more coils and rails waiting for us inside.)  And we were all in this together... people with casts, boots, wheelchairs and even chemo kids.  No one got the express pass here!

So we chatted it up with the nice family in front of us for the first 10 minutes of the wait.  All decked out in Baylor gear (they were headed to the bowl game later that night.)  We began the chat when Quinn (after only 10 minutes of being in line) was already *exhausted* and went to lean on Steve but accidentally hugged one of the young adult Baylor fans instead.  (This is a crucial detail that comes into play soon.)  We had a chuckle and on we went, snaking and coiling.

Nearly 40 minutes into the wait, I realized three teenage girls were suddenly in front of us.  They looked to be about 15/16 years old.  Hmmm.... interesting.  I spent a few minutes trying to figure out if they were with Baylor.  But clearly they were not.  I boiled inside giving myself the little, "teenagers are stupid and don't use their head all the time" pep talk.  After another 8 minutes and seeing a few more elderly people waiting ahead of us and watching their one friend (we were now down to two girls in front of us) cut the line once again at a *convenient* spot, I mentioned something to Steve and his mom.  What really upset me most were the couple of cancer kids that I saw her cut in front of.

Here is something you need to know about me... I'm not one for confrontation.  I will just as soon eat a crappy meal out than send it back to make it right.  I just don't really like to make too many waves. But when it comes to injustice or breaking the rules or cheating, I can get feisty.

Steve's mom mentioned something to the two girls and asked where their friend went when it looked like they were about to bolt as well.  More of a way to let them know we were on to them.  I wished I would have said something to them immediately when I first realized they had cut in front of us.  They were really slick.  I may not have even noticed they had cut, but remember when Quinn had hugged Baylor's leg?  Yep.  I was very aware of who had started out in line with us from the beginning.  And Cutie Patootie One Direction Groupies were not them!!!

Now it was about an hour into the wait (1/2 down!!! 1/2 to go) and here comes Cutie Pattoties' mom and dad excusing themselves and moving in front of us.  WHAT THE WHAT??!!  (And here I go.  Unable to control myself....)

Me: "Excuse me, did you just go in front of us?"

the "dad":  "Oh, yes.  We are just joining our kids. They were saving a place for us in line."

ARE YOU KIDDING ME??????????

Me: "OH, well, that's nice except your kids cut in line in front of us about 30 minutes ago."

the "dad" : "Oh, sorry about that."

Me: "No.  Not sorry about that.  You don't get to just come in line and cut an hour into the line when your kids actually cut in front of us. They did not start in line in front of us.  They cut."

Then from behind me another teenage boy says under his breath to the girl he is with, "Geez.  No need to get upset, we are all going to the same place."

So I whipped my head around with what must have been fire in my eyes and said, "True, but its not the same when you jump line like they did.  Not for a line with a 2 hour wait!"

To which he says, "Well, I'm with them too!."

HELL NO!

Me back to the dad: "Seriously, you are going to now tell me 7 people have jumped the line and you are okay with that?  Are you seriously okay with that? "

Steve's mom says to the parents, "It's not us but rather all of the people who are unable of standing in line that is the problem.  There are kids with cancer standing in this line but your girls are cutting in front of them."

The mom's conscience must have got the better of her because she insisted that we go ahead of them. At this point we are now making a big scene as Steve is talking to the dad about getting the authorities involved, Olivia is in tears because she thinks we are in a fight and then Quinn says to me, "Mom, what does B*tch mean??"

WHAT?

Teenage boy had just been saying the "b" word because I had just overheard his saying something to the girlfriend he was with.  That is when I totally lost my mind!!!  (And a part that I'm a touch wishing I could re-do).

I then turn to the dad of this group and say to Quinn :  "Why don't you ask this gentleman what B*tch means.  Apparently his kids are familiar with the word.  Would you like to tell my kid what B*tch means????"  (I'm pretty sure I've never used that word in front of my kids and I had just used it 3 times in 8 seconds at that insane moment.)  Not one of my finer ones.

So the dad says to the teenage boy, "Did you just use the "b" word?"  Teenage boy says, "No, SHE did ----> "  Pointing to Gramma......  what??  I'll tell you one thing I would bet all my money on (which wouldn't be much since we spent it all getting into this asinine park) is that Gramma would NEVER use the "b" word in front of her grandkids.

In which case I was like, "Gramma, did you just use the "b" word in front of Quinn?"  Naturally she answered no.  So now we were dealing with cheaters, potty mouths AND liars.  I couldn't take another minute of it.  I had to just take our rightful place in line and try to calm down.  Baylor finally said something to us and them about the girls cutting and that was that.  For the next 35 minutes we had to stand right in front of them until we got on the ride.  It was terrible and awkward and made my blood boil.

I think the thing that sent me over the top was the parents and how they interacted with us.  Never an admittance of wrong doing.  Never a seek to understand.  Not a word to the girls or their teenage son for cussing in front of an 8 year old.  Saving places was happening all around us, but clearly people were sitting on the ledge or against the wall while their able bodied family/ friends snaked and coiled. What got me was the line hopping and the idea that they didn't want to wait in line... so they didn't.

I will say, I let it rob some of my joy for a bit, but I was able to move on.  It was good to remember that I want to teach my kids what is right and what is not.  Before I cast the first stone, I realize that there will be times that I won't be with them.  They will make bad choices and do bone headed stuff. I will do my best to give them manners and respect for others.  I hope they will live accordingly.  I can teach and guide, but I can't make choices for them for their whole lives.  But I certainly would not support their misbehavior when I know they are in the wrong.

Although the world is obviously filled with WAY more injustices that line jumping at a theme park, it is a slippery slope.  I hope that what my kids will learn and what I will learn to do a better job of is speaking up to those injustices even when it causes discomfort.  Even when there may not be an immediate result.  Even if others think I am making a scene.  I'm hoping that one of those 7 people in that group will walk away considering not doing the selfish act of line jumping (which is most likely a metaphor for how they live the rest of their lives) again.  I also hope that in the future I will speak up immediately when I see something wrong.  I hope I will do it kindly yet firmly.

I also hope it is years before Quinn ever does find out what the "b" word means!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

A Christmas Story



Happy 2016!  I decided to start the new year off right.  By getting some help.  One thing I have really missed has been keeping the blog current.  I've been complaining about this for far too long.  My biggest hang up has been how long it takes me to chase down all of my photos and up load them.  So I put on my big girl pants this morning and marched myself right into the Apple Store as soon as it opened.  

I'll admit it, I'm intimidated by that place.  (I'm afraid that makes me officially old!)  All of the smart, tech savvy workers in their matching shirts... don't get me wrong, they are super friendly.  Perhaps a bit too friendly for my taste.  It's probably my suspicion that they see me walk in the door and they think, "Oh how sweet, this middle aged lady needs some help."  So rather than admit that I'm totally that lady, I breeze in and out with whatever I'm looking to purchase but have never asked for the help that I ACTUALLY need.  But seriously, a store without cash registers is NOT to be trusted!  Just call me Aunt Mildred!

How stupid (and vain) is that?  So 2016, I swallowed my pride, took the bull by the horns and got myself some help.  I took Todd exactly 8 minutes to show me what to do.  And here I am, back in the blog saddle.  Geez, looks like I should have swallowed that humble pie about 2 years ago.  Lesson learned.

Well, now that problem is solved, I can get on with the good stuff.  Christmas 2015.  I have a bold declaration for you:

Christmas 2015 was my favorite Christmas in all of my 43 years.  Actually, I would say it was tied for first place.  I have a favorite childhood Christmas from when I was about 6 or 7 that was purely magical as our whole family gathered at my Granny and Grandpa's and Santa made a mystical appearance and is forever engrained in my memory as "the best."  However, this Christmas (as an adult and parent) is right up there with it.

I am a traditionalist and do not like to stray from the norm too much.  I love holding onto things that have always been a certain way.  So when we started talking about packing up and heading to Florida on the 22nd of December, I just didn't know how I felt about it.  I can tell you the Florida in December part was totally up my alley, just not the waking up in a different place and not being at our own church for Christmas Eve part.  That was a big pill to swallow.


However, when a friend of ours offered us to stay in their empty condo in Naples, how could we say no?  

We traded in our traditional Christmas tree and hauled all the gifts down south.  We drove 19 hours...


for this bit of lovely.  It was a white Christmas after all.  This is the kind of December white I can get behind.  The weather was unseasonably warm with every day being 86-88 degrees.  We spent Christmas Eve at the beach and all day Christmas day.  It was wall to wall people.  Shoulder to shoulder.  And it was a blast.  Everyone was in a festive party mood.  Singing carols on the beach, wearing Santa hats and setting up tents with buffet dinners for their families.  We boogie boarded, we built sand castles, collected shells, and read books.  It was restful, playful and utterly delightful.

We visited a local church for a candle light Christmas Eve service, came back to the condo and had finger foods and opened a few gifts.  Santa came and brought a type writer, boxing gloves and Pokemon cards.  We went back to the beach for a second glorious day and headed into Naples for a lovely seafood dinner.


Although this picture makes us all look like lobsters, I assure you we were just the right shade of pink!


On December 23rd, Steve and I celebrated the 13th anniversary of our engagement.  As Steve told the kids about "this girl that he fell in love with 13 years ago" and how he asked her to marry him, Turner's response was: "So, why are you married to mom then?"  

Our final day in Naples we took a three hour dolphin tour.  It was beautiful.  It was a magnificent way to wrap up that portion of our vacation.  We had just the right amount of relaxation and adventure and celebration and focus on Jesus and family.  


On the 27th we loaded up the van and drove three hours north to Orlando where Gramma and Papa are snowbirding.  It was so nice to transition to some family and some fun in Orlando.  

We had a great day at the water park at the time share.  It was a ton of fun and the kids made some friends which allowed Steve and I to read, relax and visit with Gramma and Papa.  I love the beach and its a real treat.  Its also a lot of work.  All of the sand, the packing and unpacking of stuff.  I rather prefer a day at the pool.  We headed into Celebration, FL for dinner and to watch it "snow" that night. 

 It was perfect.


The next day we headed to Universal Studios to check out the Harry Potter world.


Let me strongly suggest you NEVER go there the week of Christmas/New Year's.  It was downright miserable.  Except for the fact that the kids loved every second of it.


Well, maybe not every second of it.  We might have run ourselves a little ragged.  And then there was a *little* incident with some people who cut in front of us in a 2 hour line for the Harry Potter ride. It takes a lot to get me in a confrontational mode.  My justice button got pushed and let's just say, my inner beast was unleashed.  That's a story for another day!  



We spent the next day at the pool until 3 pm (milking every last glorious 88 degree moment).  Sadly and with tears (mine) we hugged Gramma and Papa and every Palm tree I could get my arms around and headed onward to Atlanta for the night.

It really was one of my favorite Christmas' EVER!  I am so thankful for every second of that trip.  I hope this is one of those magical childhood Christmas memories for our whole family!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Paul Blart, the White House and my naked soul



Once again, time has gotten the better of me.  Fall has quickly turned nearly into winter (we woke up to a faint dusting of snow on the ground...NOOOOOO!)  As I took down my fall decor and replaced it with my Christmas stuff, I realized I needed to update things around here so that I would be able to look back at Halloween in years to come and smile at the creativity of my kids.

With two second graders and a fourth grader, I realize my days are numbered with fun childhood traditions that I (I mean they) hold so dear.  The kids had thought long and hard about their costumes this year and I have given up years ago trying to control what they would be.

This year, Turner wanted to be Paul Blart, Mall Cop.  (He would also like you to know he is Paul Blart, Mall Cop 2, which OBVIOUSLY  was way funnier than the first one!)  So, that was what he was.  However, I had to fight him to keep the pillow under his shirt for the picture before he ditched it for the night of trick or treating.  (PS- the pillow totally makes the costume, without it you are just a skinny cop on a scooter.)  Not to mention by the second house, the mustache had fallen off. Whatever.

Olivia and her friend, Lila, were going to be ice cream store managers.  The idea then morphed into a soda jerk.  This costume was particularly hard to come by without the help of Steak N Shake.  So she spent the better part of the night correcting people as they called her a Steak N Shake employee.  Oh well.

Quinn was a brave knight.  He crafted his own battle scar next to his eye, which led to several people insisting he was  Genghis Khan.  When he finally looked up who that was on the Internet, he was a little irritated! Which makes him act a touch like Genghis. (Sorry Mrs. Leonhardt.)


The three amigos.  Our favorite Halloween tradition is having Cousin Nick (and now the future cousin Kaleigh) come and join us for mummy dogs and trick or treating.  Followed by the annual loot patrol at the end of the night which results in Kaleigh and I confiscating all of the dark chocolate and Nick and Steve eating whatever things they can con the kids out of.
But I can already tell I'm losing my babies, because instead of heading home with the rest of us to binge on candy, Olivia opted to spend the night at Lila's.  Waaaaaah!

About two weeks ago, Steve and I headed to Virginia and D.C. for a work trip.  We managed to add in a few hours of play time before we headed back to the kids.  We had a lot of fun shopping and eating in Georgetown.  My favorite part was face-timing the kids from the White house.  They thought it was the coolest thing ever.



And last weekend we headed to Gramma and Papa's for Thanksmas (our combo Thanksgiving/Christmas celebration on the years we don't get together for Christmas.)  It was a great time of food, family and our newest cousin, Josephine.  She is four weeks old and I think the kids were a bit disappointed to find out that she isn't exactly "play worthy" yet.  They did have fun taking turns holding her and even got to give her a bottle and help her get a bath.  The girls are particularly thrilled that the gender numbers are now even.  It's been a rough spell having the boys out-number the girls!  Ha.

So, life has been good and full around here.

The day before Thanksgiving was a little rough.  It would have been my mom's 75th birthday.  While she would have just hated turning 75, I sure wish she had!  5 years post her death and I still am surprised every time grief rears it's ugly head.  While I love packing up and heading to a holiday with kids running around, hustle and bustle of a full house, there are just days that I wish I was packing the car to head to Toledo.  A quiet house where there would be fights about where to order take out from, the tv turned on just way too loud because my dad couldn't hear a darn thing and people bumping into each other because my parents' apartment would have been way too small for all of us.  It would have been crowded, loud and tense.  But it would be home.  It would be that sense of walking into the house, knowing that your mom and dad were pacing the floor waiting for you and your kids to walk through the door.  It would be knowing that your dad ran to the store 4 times that day to make sure there were enough doughnuts for the kids, pop for everyone and candies in the candy dish.  It would be knowing that there would be fresh flowers in my mom's vase, because the only time my dad bought them for her was when we were coming.

It would be knowing that my mom would want to know every detail about every stupid thing the kids did and said.  She would want them to show off all the tricks they know.  She would be amazed what Olivia can do in gymnastics.  My dad would have yelled at her to be careful and to not do the tricks in the house and my mom would have yelled at him for yelling at her.

My kids would have taken rides on her wheel chair and on her scooter.  However, they may have outgrown that this year.  Perhaps, there would have been a visit in the hospital, maybe someone would have been in the nursing home by now.  There is no telling.  Sometimes memories and vain imaginations are better than reality.  I know that is true.  Oh, but what I wouldn't give for one more walk through their door.

One more, "Hey, babe, you look good" from my daddy.  One more tear filled, "I thought you would have been  here a half hour ago" from my mom, knowing it was just because she couldn't wait to get her hands on those babies and a kiss on my cheek and a laugh from Steve.  No one could make her laugh like Steve could.  They adored him.  And me.  And my babies.  They would never believe that Turner came up with the Paul Blart costume all on his own.  They would be convinced that Quinn will go to Harvard, or Yale or some other Ivy League, and Olivia would be the apple, beauty and Olympian of their eye.

So, these are the things I imagine and dream of as grief rolls over me like an ocean wave.  The dream of what would be.  But really wouldn't have been, given the story God has written.  It is well with my soul.

But do be mindful of those you love and care about who dream of what would have been this holiday season.  It does not mean we are fragile or ungrateful or unappreciative of all the amazing people who are still with them.  We couldn't be happier and more thankful to have them- YOU- in our life.  It just means there are holes that won't be filled.  Give us a moment (or two) to imagine what would have been, what was or what we wish we had back, even for a moment.  Give us a hug.  Remind us you love us and that it will be ok.  Because it will.  And so will we.  And so will I!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Family: It's good to be an out-law

Today is a beautiful October day.  If the weather would just manage to clone itself day after day to be just like today, I would be one happy camper.

Life around the castle has been full.  But then again, when isn't it?



Over the weekend we headed to Ashtabula.  Steve's sister, Kerry, and her husband, Todd, are due with their first baby in about three weeks.  It will be the first new cousin since Carter was born 7 years ago.  To say the kids are bonkers over a new cousin is an understatement.  I think there is already arguing over who gets to hold the baby the most over our November "Thanksmas".

Since Aunt Kerry and Uncle Todd have decided to wait until the birth to know the gender of the baby, we have all been calling it SHIM.  (I find it may be hard to transition over to an actual name now that we have all gotten over the giggles of saying SHIM.)


Gramma and Papa threw a baby hurricane.  (To call it a shower would not be doing justice to the blow out party they threw for SHIM).  It was held at a beautiful restaurant on the shore of Lake Erie, just outside of Cleveland.  If it had been a sunny day (and not the 45 degree rainy mess that it was) we would have had an amazing view of downtown Cleveland.

Steve and his brother, Scott, took the boys to a Science Museum while Olivia and her cousin, Natalie, helped pass the presents at the party.



The weekend wasn't even 48 hours of togetherness (Scott and his family drove 8 hours from northern Michigan to celebrate the baby.)  Because of our 4.5 hour drive and their driving time doubled, we rarely get together outside of the holidays.  I realized as we were packing the car on Friday morning and anticipating an early dismissal of the kids from school that afternoon in order to hit the road for a dinner time arrival, that I wish we all lived a little closer and could do the occasional weekend family thing.


I had a butterflies, this is going to be fun, feeling in my belly Friday morning.  It felt like a fun event and excitement to be with family.  As we drove and passed other families headed somewhere on a late Friday afternoon, I tried to imagine where everyone was headed.  Football games? College kids going home for a weekend?  Parents off to see their kids play a collegiate/high school game?

It occurred to me that most Friday nights I anticipate hitting the couch with comfy pants on, ready to go nowhere.  I like it like that.  But I also realized that I really miss that feeling of "going home."  Even as a 43 year old adult, there is an excited feeling you get to be with family you love and don't see often.  With my parents both being gone 4 and 5 years each, there is no more "home" for me in Toledo.  But it is so awesome when you realize that your husbands' family is truly your family.  In some ways, maybe even better.  In Steve's family, those of us who have "married in" call ourselves the out-laws (rather than the in-laws.)  We have our own identities.  We like each other.  We laugh.  We laugh at each other. (Or maybe they're just laughing at me?? Hmmm...)  We can appreciate each persons unique contribution to the family.



I love that my kids go bananas when they see their cousins.  There is running, yelling, playing, giggling and an occasional fight followed by a time-out.  No one is immune.  There are magical memories being created each time we pull in and out of Gramma and Papa's driveway.  Similar to the magical memories I have of my cousins and my trips to my Granny and Grandpa's house.



Perhaps it is the distance and the rarity of these times that add to the magic.  I realize that these are days to be savored.  A new dynamic will come with a new baby.  It is a welcome change.  The cousins become the "older cousins."  Families evolve and change.  For now, this out-law is just glad to be counted one of them.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Life after cancer: It does exist


I don't know if you know this, but September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.  Although culture has not seen fit to dye every doggone object teal like they will pink next month, this cause is a big one for me.  As a survivor nearly 4 years out of my diagnosis of STAGE III Ovarian Cancer, I want to dedicate this post in THANKFULLNESS of my health status.  Cancer-free.

I considered what I wanted to write about in light of the above. I could post pics of me bald.  I could reminisce.  I could re-tell my story.  I could give you warning signs and medical facts.  All of which would be fine.  Perhaps even better than what I will give to you.  But I've settled on something else.

Instead, I want to give you a snapshot of what HEALTH.  LIFE.   And HEROES look like to me- just a  Mom. Wife.  Cancer Survivor.  Regular Joe. (or should it be Jane.)  With a life lived fully and gratefully (for the most part. ) Hey, nobody's perfect.

Life around my castle has been full.  I gave myself a few weeks "off" when the kids went back to school.  During my weeks, I like to keep busy by volunteering at their school.  With all of the travel and moving and settling, I decided to wait and go back to "work" until after Labor Day (as the good lord intended!) I used those couple of weeks to settle the house, get things just so and do errands without my entourage.  But just about the time Labor Day rolled around, I was starting to get a little bored and was ready to get back into the swing of things.

The teachers at my kids' school are true HEROES.  Each person that I know personally who works at River's Edge Montessori goes above and beyond their pay grade to love and serve the kids of Dayton, OH. Many of these students are starting life off in ways that would make the average American's head spin.  Each day, these teachers do the best they can to teach kids who don't speak English, don't know where their next meal will come from, don't have stable home lives or don't have a home. Period.

Not to be misleading, there are plenty of students who come from homes that would rival any suburban situation.  We have many a gifted/talented student.  Our families who have found Dayton to be their home on immigrant or refugee status are some of the hardest working and most loving families I have met.  Their whole existence revolves around their children having a bright future. This city is beautiful because of it's diversity.  It is the same thing that, in my opinion, would make being a teacher here so challenging.

But these teachers give of themselves.  They go the extra mile.  They purchase snacks for their class because they know their kids are hungry.  One teacher I know goes weekly to Panera to collect the day old bread and sweets to pass out to students and teachers.  The only treat some of these kids will get all week.  This same teacher often stays HOURS after school to work for her students.  Teacher after teacher loves their kids with their whole being.  I want to be like them when I grow up.

The least I can do each week is serve these saints for just a few minutes.  Some days I sharpen pencils (it's my forte!)  Some days I grade papers or check home work (one hour less they have to do over their weekend).  I break copiers... I mean, I make copies.  I help kids read.  I give hugs.  I've even been known to sit in the school office (NOT my forte) and have only accidentally hit the panic button twice.  And NO, the cops didn't show up.  The school nurse bailed me out before that happened.  I listen.  I even fight at the district level when needed.  (It does nothing, but it makes ME feel better.)

My part is small.  My expertise, non-existent.  My heart is big.  My admiration for teachers, indescribable.  My thanks to GOD for granting me these bonus years... NEVER. EVER. ENDING.

The rest of my time I spend as a juggler.  A schedule magician.  A taxi driver.  A referee.  A ring master.  An illusionist.

Gymnastics practice three nights a week, soccer practice just as many, two after school tutoring sessions (for the kids, not me), violin lessons twice a week an hour before school starts (at the school at a whopping total of $30 for the entire year.  Yes, we will and thankyouverymuch!) modern dance on the one weekday that doesn't include all of the other activities, missions club once a month, church, pta, daily aerobic classes, keeping up with the house work so that the castle is a happy place to live, date nights, play dates, and the wrap up of another summer of Big Brother (my guilty pleasure).  Those are a few of the OTHER things that have been keeping me busy.

Just for fun this week I'm throwing in some dentist appointments, a mammogram, a cat scans blood work, bi-annual cancer check up, baby shower, birthday parties, backyard bbq's, a monthly meeting with the Sheriff to discuss race relations in Dayton, work with Athletes in Action and planning an event for our school to help foster relationships between families at the school.

This schedule is not a complaint.  It is not a boast or a brag.  It isn't even overwhelming.  It is a praise offering to the Healer God.  Ovarian cancer had a plan for me.  God has a bigger one.

While I do not know my future, I am thankful for today.  I am thankful for my health.  I am thankful for life, a gift to be used and shared.  Not to be taken for granted.  Today, a woman sits in a chemo chair that I once sat in.  I don't know her story.  I don't know her outcome.

Awareness. Thankfulness. Life.

I will not take what I have for granted!