Thursday, December 31, 2015

Old Lang Syne

I know that sometimes my processing disability interferes with my ability to understand musical lyrics. Often, I've thought a song was saying one thing, only to find out from my dear husband or children that I had it all wrong. This revelation is always accompanied by much laughter & usually embarrassment.
However, always with affection.

I don't have that experience with "Old Lang Syne," but as I was pondering the New Year & the past year, I realized I had NO idea what those 3 words mean. So… I did a little research & realized the song is about friendship & memories. How appropriate. It's reminding us to hang on to both. Friendship & memories are significant parts of who we are.

It seems that we've all been told by our parents at one time or another that "We are as good as the company we keep". I do believe that the people we surround ourselves with have a profound impact on us. However, we should never use these words as an excuse to exclude others or keep us from reaching out to someone in need.

I think sometimes we have expectations for our loved ones & friends, & sometimes those expectations come crashing down before our very eyes. Our broken expectations tend to break our hearts & cause hurt on both sides of the relationship. My HOPE this New Year's is that we learn to just let others "be." We appreciate them for who they are.

I HOPE we realize that our expectations are not fair to them. My brother once told me that expecting someone to see life through my eyes was self-righteous. I was about 18 at the time, & his words really made me think. I needed to stop with the mentality of, "Well, I would never..."

If you don't have a New Year's resolution, & you are looking for one, maybe, just maybe, it could be to forgive someone this year. Forgiveness is sweet. It frees you from the shackles of another person. Restoration may be able to take place, or maybe it's just inner peace. I like my resolutions to be of a Spiritual nature, something of eternal value. Yes… I need to shed some pounds. I need to exercise more. I need to stop some bad habits. That's all well & good, but to forgive is divine.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Eyes Wide Open !

I'll be honest, lately my mind has needed some stimulation. Since I've added a cane to my life & secured a handicap parking tag, my life has slowed down a bit. I'm navigating the "new me" with the addition of yet another health issue. This one (as others) has caught me by surprise. Once again, I am exploring unknown territory. Truth is… that's life.

I really needed something to think about besides my unknown territory. It's quite obvious if you follow me on FB, my husband & my grandchildren are my favorite diversions. BUT… along came my baby daughter (age 23) home for Christmas. She's a Community Art Major going to Grad School. Her world is so different than my world, & it's by choice, her choice.

Her mission in life is to use art to help communities heal. When I evaluate how this happened, I know it is a "God thing." How did my little shy girl become so courageous? I can see how her love for helping communities in need evolved, but from whence her courage comes, I stand in awe. That awe points me only to God. Only He can take a meek person & call him/her to such a mission.

As a youth leader, I felt "called." With that calling comes conviction. With that calling comes affirmation of one's beliefs. Most importantly, with that calling comes empowerment. As I look at my daughter, I see empowerment. God has laid some heavy issues on her heart, & she is that one person who can help change the world for the better. She is that one person who isn't afraid to open the eyes of others to truth, to ignored realities of our world.

When she came home, & I began to see how her mind & heart have evolved since she left last August, my mouth dropped open (but I hoped she didn't notice). I tried to remain in the background & just absorb what I was seeing. I wanted to get a full picture. I kept my mouth shut. For me, that's a new objective. Not easy!

This morning as I sat in the quiet of my home, surrounded by a blanket of snow (a snow which clings to each tree branch), I began to read a few articles posted by 2 of my daughters. My eyes began to open, my unstimulated mind began to put the picture together. Thank you, Kristen.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Sometimes as a parent, you do your best, but...

This morning I awoke with very little expectation of the day. I was looking forward to a low key Saturday, especially this season of the year. As I did my daily morning ritual, I checked my email & then decided to take a quick peek at Facebook. However, on this day, my quick peek turned into one of deep thought & a collision of memories & shock.

The first thing I saw was a thoughtful article posted by my oldest daughter about Santa Claus. I was so touched by what she wrote when she posted the article, I had to ponder her words for more than a few moments. I read the beautiful article, & thus began my trip down memory lane. My Santa years as a little girl, & then my daughters' Santa years as little girls, & now my grandchildren's Santa years begin…

Sometimes as a parent, you do your best, but you know in the heat of the moment, you aren't getting everything right. AND… as you look back on the childhood you gave your children, you know you didn't get everything right. You take comfort in knowing you did the best you could in each unexpected moment, but sometimes, you wish you would have done better.

So when I saw my daughter's post, I realized that at least in her eyes, I got something right. She cherished her Santa years, & now she is blessing her little one in the same way. In this world of terror & so much unresolved baggage, my heart pondered Christmas Past, & I breathed in the warmth. As I scrolled through my notifications, I ran across something so awful, my heart couldn't bear the news.

Yet another friend had lost her son (at Christmastime). New memories began flashing through my brain. And then, my memories began to collide with my thoughts. My walk down Christmas Lane began crashing with heartache for my friend. The realization of how precious each moment of our life is (whether we get it right or wrong) sat like a lump in my throat.

We don't know how many moments we will have. The word "precious" is highly overused (especially by myself), but each moment, each human being in my life, is precious. I look at my grand babies. They are toddlers now. My eyes don't stop with their beautiful faces or their cute little noses. NO, I ponder each little finger & toe. Their tiny voices are developing, & their little personalities are shining through.

Their antics make me laugh even when I am not with them. Time spent with them is good medicine for all my aches & pain (both physically & emotionally). I remember counting my own little girl's fingers & tows, answering their sweet questions, & wiping their tears. NO, I didn't get everything right, but at least I have moments to hold in my heart. My own mother wiped my tears. My Dad looked under my bed each night. I have those precious moments too.

Monday, November 30, 2015


With Christmas comes memories. Some are happy, & well… some are painful. As we decorate our tree, memories of Christmas Past seem to flow. Christmas is a mark of how life has changed. We watch "It's a Wonderful Life" and "A Christmas Story" &  realize the vast differences in our broken world from then to now.

We measure change by the Christmas we remember as a child, the Christmas we celebrated with our children, & the Christmas we celebrate now. Memories of loved ones lost always come to mind. In some cases we miss them. Sometimes we just remember…Some of us have voids while others have stockings overflowing. It just is what it is (not to sound cliche).

It helps me tremendously to focus on the true meaning of Christmas. I love (as much as anybody) to get caught up in Santa Claus. In fact, I cherish those moments from my childhood, as a parent, & now as Grandma. But… as this world crumbles around us, & we become more terrified with each new day, I need more than sleigh bells. I need to be reassured that we have a God whose will is going to happen in spite of human interference.

Heartache will continue. Terrorism has become a part of life. Loved ones suffer with illness. Relationships fail us. People are losing jobs. Mental illness is running rampant. The homeless continue to be homeless. Immigrants continue to flee their unbearable lives. The unexpected has a way of slapping us in the face & saying, "Ready or not, here I am, now what are you going to do?"

Here is what I am going to do… I am going to cling to my faith in Christ because He is my HOPE. When I'm slapped in the face, I will seek Him to guide me. I am going to hold onto the people that God has put in my life. I want to walk my journey with grace & dignity whatever my circumstances. That is my prayer. Sometimes I fail.

In the short term, I am going to enjoy each Christmas moment that comes my way… the music, the lights, the movies, my beautiful Nativity, friendship, gifts, precious Grandchildren, my Girls, snow, bell ringing,  a few sweets now & then, & my memories, my precious Christmas memories...

Wednesday, November 18, 2015


Sometimes things happen that quite unexpectedly take you back. Last evening, I entered a funeral home to pay respects to a family who lost their young adult son. The line was out the door. As I waited patiently to hug the family & pay my last respects to Daniel, I couldn't help but think back to the years he attended The ROCK.

As I stood in the funeral home, I saw his best friends. I saw how grieved these young men were. They were no longer the boys who attended my youth group. I was no longer a youth leader. No, they were young men now, & their hearts were raw. They were broken. I couldn't help but wonder what had transpired over the last 5 or 6 years in their lives. I'd lost track of many of them.

Last evening, I stood there. It was surreal. Their tears were real. The look of anguish in their eyes was real. Yet, the whole thing seemed surreal. It just wasn't supposed to happen this way. No… a young man wasn't supposed to die. He had a family that loved him, a family that needed him. He had a family that had hopes & expectations for their son. This couldn't be undone. No matter how much we prayed, we could not undo this unbearable situation.

As time passed, I could no longer hold my resolve. I believe it was the sight of a beautiful teenage girl who attended The ROCK with her parents. She was just a little mite back then. I remember her dressed as Cinderella one Halloween. I looked at her. Flashbacks ran through my head. I hugger her. Her hair was so shiny & soft. Her youth so beautiful. She had recently gotten her braces off.

As I hugged her, I was frantic. I wanted to whisper all the things I could think of in her ear to keep her safe. I wanted her to know her worth. I wanted to tell her she was beautiful. I wanted to protect her from the evils in this world. My heart cried. My eyes cried. This world is too painful. Things happen that are undoable. Young people do things without realizing the cost.

As we reached the parents, I wanted them to know that the love they poured into their son was something we all knew. We share their heartache, but only they could know such depth. Their son will always hold a special place in our hearts. He will long be remembered for his loyalty, how he protected his younger sister, his sense of humor, his love for others. He will be missed. Their love was not in vain.

Friday, October 30, 2015


It's Halloween, & I am haunted. Thursday was a very special day. It was a luncheon & a fashion show for breast cancer survivors. It was fun to see my very special survivor friends. They are dear to me. I sat next to a woman who is a longtime cancer survivor. She said the fashion show made her want to cry. It broke her heart to see such young women suffering the grueling treatments of cancer.

I was having the same thoughts. It's such a day of mixed emotions (same as The Race for The Cure). It's  a bond so strong with other women, yet the connection is so bittersweet.  It's a lump in your throat. It's sharing the same pain & fears, yet each story has its own little twist. It's a real live nightmare with the loving arms of others who are having the same dream wrapped around you.

As I was scrolling through Face Book last night, I came across a post that troubled me deeply. I understand that people are sick of hearing about breast cancer. I understand that even other cancer survivors are sick of it. I am sick of it. I didn't ask for it, & if given a choice of which cancer I would choose, I don't really have an answer. They all suck!

This post was speaking of another disease which I will not mention. I will just say I have a loved one effected by it, & I do not take its impact lightly. However, the post stated that the said disease isn't sexy. It isn't pink. It doesn't involve boobs, football players, or cute shirts. I read the post, & I did a double take. My heart sank. I sat on my couch stunned.

Please tell me that nobody on this earth thinks that breast cancer is sexy. It takes all the strength & courage a woman can muster to have her so called "boobs" amputated. The repercussions are great. I will never be the same, nor will my relationships. There is nothing sexy about it. I am appalled that a human being could be so heartless as to think, promote, or state such thoughtless words.

I am haunted by my disease. I actually have a number of diseases, & they all haunt me. It takes my all to live life to the full in spite of my circumstances. It's a choice & a daily discipline. It's not easy, but it's the only way to live, alive, vibrant, & full. I don't want a pity party. One disease is not more glamourous than another. They all potentially rob you of your dignity, your femininity or masculinity, your life, & your grit.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

"At least you're alive."

So… it's Breast Cancer Awareness Month, & some people are rightly so in being sick of hearing about Breast Cancer. Even I am sick of hearing about it, tired of thinking about it, & heartbroken for my dear friend who is battling with all her might & suffering unimaginably from the side effects. It isn't just breast cancer. It's colon cancer, it's cancer caused by Agent Orange, it's every kind of rotten caner known to man & animal.

If you have not been diagnosed with cancer & somehow have avoided thus far loving someone who has, you may wonder what toll it takes on a family. I was at a meeting a few months ago where a newly diagnosed young woman said she wanted the world to know… "It's about the patient." I felt ill at ease, but I had to speak my peace. NO… it's not just about the patient.

Being the patient is awful, but being the family in despair is just as awful (only in a different way). I can honestly say that cancer has changed almost all if not every fiber of my being. It has effected my life on every level imaginable. It has done the same to those closest to me. It has caused depression. It has robbed my family of joy.

Sometimes I get angry at cancer. Sometimes it makes me cry. Other times, I thank God for it because it has forced me to have experiences I would otherwise never have known. I believe life on this earth is all about being refined for the next life. It has certainly refined all of our hearts. The effects are so deep, yet sometimes, we are not even aware of them. It has connected me to some of the best friends I have, & then it has taken them away from me.

We need research, because research changes treatments. Research brings life. Research recognizes specific DNA's of cancer genes, & allows for specific treatment that works. We need research into how to help the patient & the family deal with the devastation. Yes… we have support groups, but too often the answer from the doctor is, "At least you're alive." This statement is true, but it is not comforting.

The cancer patient & the family members often feel very alone even when they are not alone. It's a disease that can cause you to recoil. It can build a wedge in your relationships. It causes grief, & people grieve differently. Sometimes, it steals your dignity. Sometimes it scares the you know what out of you. It's a mixed bag of tricks. No 2 cases are alike, yet connective threads always exist.

AS I close this blog, I ask you to be aware. Do the right thing. Don't put off tests that are recommended. They really do save lives. If this journey becomes your's, let people into your life. Let them share your journey. Let them help you. It's healing for both the patient & the loved one. Be your own advocate. Ask questions. Never feel stupid. Whatever part you have in this journey, acknowledge the truth, & seek  help for your needs.

Saturday, June 20, 2015


Today,  just an ordinary day (the day before Father's Day), I look through old photos & reminisce about my childhood. In particular, I've been looking at photos with my DadderBoy. That was my special name for him. He was tall, dark, & handsome. Although, as a child, I never thought about that.

He was a character in so many ways. I think he lived everyday of his life to the full, whether it was tying up his beef steak tomatoes or caring for an elderly person in his life. He spent most of his summer mornings fishing on the pier. Some mornings, he'd bring home 70 perch. He'd sit & clean every one of them. A fish fry always followed, hushpuppies & all.

He was a Godly man (in his own way). A servant heart to be sure & a love for people. He delighted in supporting his friends on the school board. He could silk screen signs faster than a payed professional. He loved his job almost every day. He picked up his brief case, kissed my mom good bye, & headed out the door to school. He taught high school math for 30 years. He defended the needy. Most every night & early morning were spent grading papers.

He grew up on a farm, & the farm never left him. He planted a garden every year. He watered it diligently, & we enjoyed the yield. He took his 3 young children to buy a family dog. He took us to our doctor & dentist appointments. He took me to buy new shoes. He told me a I was cute, & I knew it didn't matter to him if I couldn't sing a note in tune.

He didn't much like helping me with math because he felt it wasn't fair to the other students. Every summer, we loaded up the station wagon & took a trip. We always went by car. Because he was a teacher, we didn't have time constraints so we saw the beauty along the way. He'd stop at a rest stop while my mom pulled out the 3 day old ham & cheese. He's eat it like it was the best thing he'd ever tasted.

The best part of him was that I always knew he loved me. I knew he liked me too. I never doubted either of those 2 facts a day in my life. He'd paint my bedroom the color I wanted it. He even paneled it as I grew older. He was my chauffeur. He made home made ice cream. It was my job to sit on the top of the barrel while he did the churning. He built beautiful campfires. Yes… he was my DadderBoy.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Life ain't no fairytale!

It's marriage time. It seems everybody is getting married. I cannot help but think about the video I posted on Facebook a few weeks ago. It showed a couple just about to join hands in Holy Matrimony, but as if with a crystal ball. A make up artist aged them over the next 60 years or so. At different intervals,  the video showed them looking into each others eyes as they went through each stage of life.

The strange thing was… there was no adjustment period. This sweet couple didn't have time to gradually age together. The shock was apparent, & so was the love. For me… the video signified so much  more than just our physical changes that take place as we age. Yes… that's a huge part of the picture, yet somehow, there is so much more.

I don't really know what our expectations are as we enter into marriage. Many of them may have to do with our backgrounds, what we witnessed growing up, & then our determination to repeat or to break those cycles. I am sure our temperaments, our self esteem, our chemistry, our differences & our likenesses all play significant roles not only in our expectations but in how we live out our realities.

It makes me cringe to say it, but life is no fairytale. When you add daily stress, raising children, health issues, job issues, relationship troubles, & all the things of life that come our way, we don't always gel & work through our circumstances in a fairytale sort of way. We are human. Our endings are not always happy. Sometimes they are hard, long, & never resolved this side of Heaven.

Heartache is one of the many things we cannot account for when we stand before an officiant & take our vows. If we had a crystal ball, we would see things we couldn't bare. Some of these things would be a slow process that would evolve over time, & some of them would be total shock. Some of them would be mountaintop highs, while others would be bottom of the barrel lows. Either way, the fairytale is only a fairytale. What matters is our reality & how we accept it & live it out.

After almost 31 years of marriage, when I attend a wedding, I don't hear what others hear. In sickness & in health is replaced with specific words such as "cancer & anxiety." For better, for worse is replaced with words like "in a tornado." For richer, for poorer depends on the timeframe of our marriage. When we went through marriage counseling some 31 years ago, we were starry eyed. We had hopes & dreams, but as the bride, I know I didn't have a strong dose of reality. It would have broken my young heart.

My joys have been overwhelming. From raising 3 beautiful daughters to now being Grandma. The friends I've met along the way have poured so much into me. Words cannot express the special place they hold in my heart. Some of the curves that God has allowed if not caused in my life have been truly unbearable. If I'd have had a crystal ball on that day of Holy Matrimony, I would have told my husband to run.

Even though my fairy tale hasn't been a fairy tale, it has been so much more. It has given me depth of faith I never could foresee or even know was within reach. It has stripped me of every false security I clung to, & given me the ability to relate to others with heartaches of even greater magnitudes than my own. It has taught me to appreciate today whether it's a good day or a bad day. It has developed my core being & taught me to sort out what really matters. The life lessons I've received have been painful but greater than any fairytale.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

What if my place is...

Today I returned from a womens conference in Michigan at Miracle Camp. It was a first for me on many levels. I drove us there & back. I spoke. And… it was my first trip to Miracle Camp. We were blessed with gorgeous weather, a respite to my soul.

I think my favorite part of the weekend was getting to know other women from my church. Why does it take a 4 hour trip to bond with people I worship with on a weekly basis? I guess it's the busyness of life. I was deeply touched by the kindness shown by many of the women who attended this conference.

I didn't speak until 4 in the afternoon. I was fine until the five minute countdown. My heart began to race. It's an uncontrollable thing that happens to me. It's enough to take my breath away. Somehow, I managed to hold myself together & share my story. It was my story over the last 4 years of life. My audience consisted of 40 women.

I will never know quite what sharing my story did for others that day. I couldn't read the faces in my audience as I spoke. Yes… at the end, some of them touched my heart with words of encouragement. I was relieved, but at the same time drained. I felt like I had been crying for days (only I had not). Strange. I'm thinking it had to do with an adrenaline rush & let down.

My story was entitled Ashes to Beauty. It's a story of loss, a story of struggle,  a story most of all of hope & restoration. It's a story of thankfulness for my journey. The theme of the keynote speaker this weekend was "Take your place." The speaker, Teasi Cannon was remarkable. So funny yet full of depth. Her humor kept my attention. Her lessons have made an impression on my heart. It remains to be seen what their impact will do in my life.

It seems to me Teasi was saying that our purpose is to glorify God. Whatever our profession, our circumstances, our place, take it, & glorify God. The realization came to me that my place is unlike anybody else's place. The people in my group all seemed to be healthy. That was a big topic of the weekend. What if my place is to be the Survivor who glorifies God?

Monday, April 27, 2015

Noodles & Co

Today my friend & I had a date. We sat in my car at my favorite ice-cream place eating soft pretzels with cheese, drinking cokes on crushed ice, & of course, we had some dessert. We laughed, & we laughed. We had that mentality…"What's said in this car, stays in this car!" I swear, it was the best medicine ever. The sun was shining. Life was good for those moments.

I also spent time today with a loved one who is being accepted into a clinical trial. 3 friends arrived at her house at the same time (not intentionally). Together we cried. We held hands. We prayed. It was beautiful in such a sad way. We hugged. We said our good-byes. The good news came much later in the day. She was accepted.

This evening, I dined with 2 new friends from a ministry called "Hello Gorgeous." As we sat eating our Noodles & Co, we all 3 had a feeling that our meeting up was a God sort of thing. This non profit reaches out to cancer patients. I feel my heart is being lead in a similar fashion. I'm not exactly sure how that fleshes out, but none the less, I bear a burden for cancer patients. I have a desire to be a comfort.

This weekend, I will be speaking at a women's' retreat. There may only be 15 people in my little room, but it's a BIG step for little me. I'm sharing my story. It's a story called "from Ashes to Beauty." It's a story about laying your heart aches at the feet of Jesus & asking Him to turn your ashes into beauty. It never ceases to amaze me how God takes the ugly & somehow makes beauty come from it. In the midst of the suffering, it's hard to find beauty.

I believe that's where trust comes in. Sometimes our heartaches are so big, we can't see past the moment. That's when I pray… "God, I don't know what to do. Please somehow, take my ashes, & make them beautiful." It doesn't always happen overnight. No, not even occasionally. It's like paying your dues. You have to learn the life lesson sometimes before you get a glimpse of anything beautiful. Sometimes, it may not even be your lesson to learn; you are just a part of the story (a chess piece if you will).

So when my eyes are clouded with tears for a loved one, a dear friend, or even myself, that's when I say this little prayer. I save it for when I've tried everything I know to do. It's my last resort, but maybe it should be my first. Its my giving up in a way, or maybe put in a better way, my letting go. It's my realization that on my own I am powerless. On my own, I can do little to make a difference in this big world & even my own little life.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Happy Birthday to me!

It's not like me to publicly wish myself a happy birthday. But…let's be honest. Once you have cancer, a birthday is never the same. Instead of regretting getting older, you are thankful that you are getting older. I never see my grandchildren (both born since my diagnosis) that I don't feel this twinge of thankfulness that I get to see them, to hold them, smell them, admire their cuteness, hear of their antics, & watch my daughters mother them.

When a friend has a heart ache, I am thankful that I am still here to comfort them, to pray for them, & to walk this journey called life with them. Having lost a dear friend recently to cancer & having 3 friends walking this journey at a much more advanced stage than my own diagnosis, I thank God that I can pray for their comfort. I thank God that I can raise support for our cause. I wonder, why God why me? Why am I the one who gets to be alive & bubbling over with life?

Life is so full of meaning, & I thank cancer for that. Yes… cancer has robbed me of much (especially my brains), but it has given me much that is immeasurable. I cannot measure the depth of my faith. I cannot measure the sheer joy I feel just because I am here to witness some very special moments in the lives of my loved ones. I cannot measure the changes that have evolved in me since my diagnosis.

Each change in itself is not positive. Some are rather negative. But… when you add up the sum total of the whole impact, I hope it's for the better. No, it's not easy. As each cancer patient is unique, I am a unique case too. I suffer things others don't & vice versa. I am fearfully & wonderfully made. Just ask my Creator.

This year my birthday feels a bit out of place to me. I don't exactly know why, but I miss my friend, Elizabeth, who now resides in Heaven. She shared my birthday. I often think of her. I picture her happy & healed. I wonder what she is doing. I miss her. Life just doesn't seem quite right without her. This evening I attended a gathering in her honor. It was bittersweet.

I associate my birthday with The Race for The Cure. It's Springtime. It's my birthday. It's Race for The Cure. It's Mother's Day, and I am here to breathe them all in. I am here to participate in life, to live it to the full. I am here to be an advocate for my cause. I am here to soak up sunshine, pet my fur babies, snuggle my grandchildren. Yes…I am here.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015


Long ago, as a young adult mother, I remember one of my favorite preachers saying something that has stuck with me for a life time. Honestly, his words scared me. I had grown up with a mentality that if you do right, everything will be alright. It's true that great peace comes in doing the right thing, but doing right does not make everything alright.

If it did, some of the situations we as humans find ourselves in, would never happen. For instance, you can be driving along the highway following all of the Rules of The Road, only to be sideswiped, & ultimately end up in the median (air bags imploded). You can live your life with kindness, but it does not mean others will be kind to you. You can raise your children with certain hopes, but in the end, it's really up to them.

You can live your life with faith, a faith that is real, a faith that stands up to the hardships of life, but it doesn't make you immune to tragedy. Today, I write about a dear friend. She has the deepest faith of anyone I know. In all of her suffering, she gives the glory to God, & still, she trusts in Him. She, too, is a Breast Cancer Survivor. In fact, she was originally diagnosed a year before me, & she reached out to me with comfort.

Her journey with this dreadful disease is somewhere between its 4th & 5th year. She's asked for prayer that her insurance company will cover a new chemo recently FDA approved in February. It is thought to be the drug of choice for her battle.  She admirably rests in His plan for her life & will keep praying for His protection & provision. "He knows best" (her words). In the meantime, she suffers from lymphedema, nausea, an infection, a high fever, & the lengthy list goes on…

In her view is an upcoming wedding for her beloved daughter. I am sure she has other hopes & dreams as well. Another college graduation, potentially more weddings, & maybe some grandchildren. I can only imagine the things she hopes to be here to see as her young adult children transform into full fledged adults.

She has weathered the storm (again & again). She is a Tornado Survivor too. In fact, at the time of the storm, she was borrowing my wig, affectionately named "Wiggie." She ("Wiggie") was found after the storm & returned to my dear friend. However, her condition was so bad, my friend couldn't bear to return her to me. No worries, I never planned on wearing "Wiggie" again.

So… I say all this to say what my pastor said long ago. No one is immune to tragedy. It doesn't matter if you are kind. If you have all your ducks in a row, if you've written your will, or if you have a deep faith. Yes…those things matter, but they do not protect you from cancer. Even the nicest, most faithful person suffers the journey.

I ask you, please pray for her. She is Brenda Vannette. She is faithful (oh so faithful). Yet… she suffers. Please give generously to this year's Race for The Cure. It's her 30th anniversary. That's right, The Race for The Cure is 30 years old this year. You don't have to give to my team; it all goes to the same cause. The reason I beg? Because research saves lives, & no one is immune.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Not gonna happen!

This weekend has been a very reflective weekend for me. I am saddened by the number of dear souls I know who are on this journey called "cancer." I went to see the movie last night, "Just Alice." It too caused me to reflect on the toll any disease takes on a person & its family. I am  not immune to Alzheimer's as my mother suffered deeply from that illness in her later years.

I experience memory loss due to chemo brain. My life is not at all comparable to Alice's life (the character in the movie with early onset Alzheimer's); however, I can empathize with her. But… what struck me the most was how her family hurt for her. Sometimes, they became annoyed by her issues (which was frequently followed by guilt). I found myself sobbing throughout the movie.

When I got home from the movie, I checked in with Facebook, only to find out that a dear friend's cancer has turned in to a bigger deal than how it first presented. I checked in on another friend, only to find that his cancer keeps popping up in new areas. Right now, I have a dear friend (so faithful) who is hoping to begin experimental treatment.

All of my friends who suffer are good people. One is a missionary. One is a fire fighter. One is a homemaker who is in the midst of planning a wedding for her daughter. (Yeah… I've been there). 2 others are  Homemakers. One is a poster girl for fighting colon cancer. So courageous! They ALL have deep faith. They all have given their lives to helping others & sharing the love of Christ. All except 1 is under 50. I cannot forget the child I pray for with brain cancer. He is 6.

I look at myself, & I see how cancer has attempted to ravage my life in every facet. It has attacked some of my dearest relationships. It has caused neuropathy to progress at a rapid pace. Some days I struggle to keep up with its. It has attempted to rob me of my joy. Not gonna happen! It has scared everything I cling to out of me except Christ. It has caused me to wear a sleeve I detest. It has stolen many of my memories. It has made me gain weight. It's caused me to seek counseling & physical therapy.

Cancer has hurt the ones I love the most. This aspect is rarely talked about or written about (as far as I know). Material for the Survivor is sometimes plentiful, but what about the family? This is why I sobbed through Just Alice. I could so relate to those looks of hurt & frustration in the eyes of her family. I could see how they cared for her, & what it cost them. Then, of course, there's always the fear of genetics.

So… forgive me if I write my fingertips away over the next few months as I try my hardest to raise money for my cause. I don't want to wear anybody out or become a thorn in their side. No… I just feel as though I need to be an advocate for both the Survivor & the family. Horrible things happen in life (even to the best of people). No one is immune. Please give. It could be your loved one or you sitting in this boat.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

a lump in my throat

Today I registered Team Sweet Potatas for its 4th year of participation in the 30th Race for The Cure. Wow! The Race is 30 years old. My team is 4 years old. Where does time go? I walked this Race for years before I became a Survivor. I always walked it with a lump in my throat. Honestly, the whole thing unnerved me. I couldn't imagine what it would be like to be a Survivor.

Suddenly, after many years of wondering what it would be like to be a Survivor, I got my answer. I became  One. That first year (as a Survivor), I didn't really know what to expect. As always, I was filled with emotion. I was surrounded by friends & family who participated just for me. They wore my  name on their back (Wife, Mom, friend…).  These were the people who not only walked with me on that special day. These were the people who walked with me figuratively, held my hand, wiped my tears, cried for me.

The love & kindness shown me by my loved ones (family & friends) has always overwhelmed me. It was months before I could say 3 little words (even to myself), "I have cancer." What began as Stage 2 ended up Stage 3. What began as chemo & a lumpectomy with radiation turned into chemo, a double mastectomy, & radiation. What immediately changed my life in the blink of an eye, has continued to effect every thread of my being.

I can say, "I had cancer." I can say I am the better for it. Yes… it still causes me anxiety. I have an upcoming appointment with my oncologist in less than 2 weeks. My chemo has caused a neurological condition I already had to progress. My relationships have changed. I have lost dear friends to this dreadful disease. I suffer with my friends who suffer. I never take a moment for granted (not even a bad one). When I hear of a young mother being diagnosed, I cry inside.

This year I will race vicariously through my fellow Survivors. My boy, Eddie (he is like a son to me) will be graduating from college on the morning of The Race; I need to witness his special day. I am so proud of him! So… I am raising the bar. I hope to raise $10,000. I live because of the research of Susan G. Komen. Team Sweet Potatas races for future Survivors, for young mamas recently diagnosed, for dear friends lost in the battle, & for those who continue to "Fight like a Girl". Please support Team Sweet Potatas as I will be present in Spirit.

If you register for Team Sweet Potatas, you will receive a t shirt, & your registration fee will go toward my cause which is truly what is important. If you just make a donation to Team Sweet Potatas, it will go toward helping me reach my lofty goal. Either way, I would be honored to have you as a part of my team. Either way, the research will continue, & who knows whose life you will impact? Only God.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

from ashes to beauty...

So just a lil catch up on life… It's been happening, but I haven't been able to process it into words. I'm afraid my thoughts are jumbled in my head like spaghetti. I have been asked to speak at a conference in the Spring, so I've been giving my message much thought as I try to navigate through the last month of life.

As many of you know, I was blessed with a trip to cruise the Hawaiian Islands with a close friend of mine from college. While I was on The Road to Hana, I received word that my dear friend back home passed into the Heavenly realm (that's how I like to put it). My eyes welled up with tears as we rounded each of the 1200 curves on this beautiful journey. I was overcome by the compassion expressed toward me from the tour guide, fellow travelers, & my beautiful friend.

As she pointed out, God was caring deeply for me. I was literally in such a beautiful place, I could only picture Elizabeth in Heaven, fully healed, no more suffering, no more pain. Why my God cares enough to orchestrate such details in my life is more than I can fathom. I said good-bye to Elizabeth in my heart the Friday before I left. I told her I would see her when I returned, but somehow I knew  I'd had my special moment with her. Thank you, God.

Our first stop after I received word from my husband was a botanical garden. It was there that I took a picture to honor Elizabeth with the brightest most beautiful pink flowers I have ever seen. As we continued on The Road to Hana, I became keenly aware of our God's creativity. The black sand beaches with white foam & blue waters took my breath away.

So here's where I try to connect my thoughts… I recently ran across this quote while doing my Bible Study, "What if earth; Be but the shadow of Heaven, and things therein; Each to the other like, more than on earth is thought?"

Monday, January 26, 2015

cold truth

When you are a cancer survivor, your world changes in so many facets. I have had people tell me not to let cancer define me. It doesn't, but I cannot deny how it has changed every fiber of my being. I really don't mind if it defines me as long as that definition gives me the opportunity to help others. One of the few goods that can possibly come from cancer is giving it back to God. To me… that means letting Him use my sorrows to comfort others.

I have a multitude of friends who are my fellow survivors. Some of them are battling the vicious relentless disease even as I write this blog. I am overwhelmed with grief on their behalf. I went to lunch with 2 beautiful new friends today (both survivors). When I left, I felt like I didn't have a problem in the world. My dear friend had surgery today. She suffers, & she suffers. I cry for her. It makes me hate cancer.

I can embrace cancer on my own behalf. The changes it has wreaked on my life have not been easy, but they have made me a stronger person, a better person, & a deeper person. Never the less, when I see my friends suffer, I am angry. When I worry about it attacking my loved ones, I hate it. When I consider the fact that it could come back to haunt me, I simply give my own fears to God. But… the fear I have for others is harder to give to God. Why? I don't know.

Today has been a hard day (emotionally).  So many of my friends suffer. Some with cancer. Some with other unspeakable hardships. I am helpless to help them. I can only cover them with prayer. My sweet survivor friend gave me a very special gift last week. It was a canvas with a painting of a candle on it. When you turn on the switch, the candle flickers. I hung the canvas in my bedroom. I light the candle each night.

When I wake through the night, I see the flicker. It burns for my friends. I look at it, & I pray for each one of them throughout the night. I love my canvas. I adore the friend who gave it to me. I was with her when she bought it. She gave it to me. I will treasure it all of my days as I treasure her. I do understand suffering. I have suffered. I understand dying. I am not afraid. It just breaks my heart for the one who suffers & for those who bear it with her.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015


Sunday morning, our under the weather pastor delivered one of his best messages. Even tho' he wasn't feeling well, he got the job done. His message was about having space in your life. Space to have intimacy in relationships, space to have a little financial cushion for emergencies, & lastly, space in managing time.

When our space decreases, out stress increases. Our intimacy in relationships decreases. He said that the underlying reason that people over schedule their lives, overspend their money… is due to one 4 letter word, FEAR. Wow! I wasn't expecting that. When he counsels people, & he asks them why they have so much going on in their lives, they alway begin their answer with…"I'm afraid..."

What are we afraid of? Missing out on something in life. That's why we spend money we don't have & over schedule our calendars. As I look back on life, I have no regret for spending time at home with my children. I found that when their lives got too busy, it was reflected in a frantic frenzy. They just liked being home.

There were times when I had to put blinders on my eyes to prevent myself from seeing what was going on in the lives of their peers. If I took too much note, I got nervous. I felt pressured to pack more into their little lives. I spent my evenings chauffeuring them around instead of creating a peaceful family life at home. If I had a do over, we'd do less, have a daily evening meal together, & I would put greater emphasis on just being a family.

It takes everything to raise a child. It takes focus. It takes money. It takes time (both quality & quantity). I believe that many children are hurting in this world because their parents are not focused on them. Busyness, technology, work, keeping up with our culture, not missing out on anything, working out & staying fit, & the list goes on...

STOP & FOCUS. Enjoy what you have. If you always want something else, you are not enjoying what you have. Stop the treadmill & just spend time with your kids. I mean focused time. Play games, listen to music, dance, watch movies together & talk about them. Do crafts, eat together, make the moments count. They are fleeting. You cannot get them back. Nurture your children. It leads to  healthy minded adults.

Sunday, January 4, 2015


What does friendship mean? A sweet young friend of mine recently asked me how to comfort another person when you've not experienced his/her tragedy. As I looked into her concerned eyes, I searched my heart & my mind for the right answer… The best I could come up with at that moment was, "Just be there."

I have been the comforter & the comforted. Truth is, there is no right or wrong. There is no "pat" answer. As a Breast Cancer Survivor & a Tornado Survivor, I realize that how the Survivor handles the situation varies greatly from person to person. Some of us are just thankful to be alive. We try to minimize our disaster. Others are angry. Some are in denial. Some are just heart broken. All of us are in post traumatic shock.

So how do you comfort another person? How do you reach out to someone when there is such an array of different responses to tragedy? Sometimes you send a card. Other times you hold a hand. You might cry real tears with your friend. You may need to give them distance. You may need to just be there. You can send flowers. You can accompany them to an appointment. You can fix a meal. You can say, "I am so sorry." You can just listen. You can pray.

Sometimes you can say or do the wrong thing. You can tell someone you fear that she won't make it. You can minimize her pain. You can ignore the elephant in the room. You can do nothing. You can deny her feelings. You can be jealous of the attention she is getting. You can fix a meal to make yourself look good. You can forget about her pain. You can make insensitive comments. You can tell her about your friend or relative that died from the same illness. You can ask too many questions. You can stay too long.

As I said, I've been on both sides. I haven't always said or done the right thing. I haven't always had words of comfort said to me. In fact, sometimes things were said that were quite disturbing. They sent my mind into overload, & it took hours or even days to get the hurt out of my head. These words sound harsh, but someone I deeply respect said them to me. "Your friend's burden doesn't need to become your burden".

I pondered her words for a long time, & then I felt released. As a Survivor, I don't want to over burden my friends. I need them desperately, but I don't want to become their burden. I don't want their lives to stop for me. No… I just need to know they care. If I have something they can help me with, I ask them. I covet their prayers.

As a friend to many Survivors, I cannot function if my friends' burdens become my own. No… I need to love them, to care for them. I need to walk with them, to hold their hand, to pray for them. I don't need to become so burdened that I cannot function. When a crisis occurs, an adjustment period takes place. Life does come to a screeching halt. But.. as the aftermath of the tragedy continues, we need to provide comfort. We need to care. But… we also need to be their for our own family.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

taking it all down...

What a mixture of emotions hit people throughout the Christmas season. For some, there is much anticipation followed by disappointment. For others, little expectation & little celebration. Then there are those who are coerced into celebrating even tho' they'd rather keep it low key. There are those who suffered through terrible tragedy during the "happiest time of year." Some were grieving the loss of a loved one. A few are just thankful the season is over. And… some are sad because it is over.

Whatever your situation, just remember there is really no wrong or right. "It is what it is." It's time (for most) to take the decorations down & prepare for the cold winter (if you live in my area). I have to admit, as I took my "Christmas" down yesterday, I felt a sense of relief. My house seemed a little bigger (a little cleaner too). Knowing that rain & possible ice & snow are in the near future gave me a good feeling to get the outdoor decor inside.

My emotions are a mixture. Overall, I anticipate good. Deep in my soul, I know I really don't know what will befall my family & loved ones in 2015. I am thankful I do not have a crystal ball & no psychic powers. I am thankful it is my job to "take one day at a time." Thinking too far ahead & imagining the worst, is too much to bear. Knowing "it is what it is" & "we will deal with whatever comes our way" gives me a small bit of comfort.

I like the thoughts of moving forward, leaving behind the baggage of 2014 & years past. If you only knew, there's some heavy duty stuff. I have learned to cherish my joyful moments. I define them as the moments where sheer joy bubbles up through my soul. They are the moments that I cannot contain my smile. They are the moments where I feel so happy, & I just don't really know why. Here's the truth. They don't last.

No… something else comes along to steel my joy. It could be personal or could be the struggle of a loved one. It could be anticipated, or it could be a huge "slap in the face." I've endured a few "slaps in the face" in 2014, & I've felt unspeakable joy. So… whatever you are feeling at this moment, know that it, too, will pass. If it's sadness, please know it doesn't have to last. If it's joy, please savor it.