Sunday, June 28, 2009

Mundane Musings

I am part of a group of friends that email each other news of the mundane on a regular basis. There is nothing like an old friend who is genuinely interested in the tiny details of  your daily life. If you are looking for a coherent and well-constructed post, move along. Nothing for you here today.

Yesterday, I missed my daily trip to the gym because I had some pressing Garage Sales to attend to. I could do an entire blog series on the Science of Garage Sales. You know, the Type A Sellers who put their worn out things on the driveway and want the original price that they paid for them. The Type B Sellers who just want to get rid of things and will all but deliver them to your home. And the Fellow Buyers! Some are pushy and rude. Some are gracious and unhurried. And some suddenly forget English and offer fifty cents for something clearly marked (and worth) ten dollars. My favorite  legendary G.S. scene played out between this kind of a buyer and a seller who was displaying designer clothes. When seller was offered pennies for a dress that had set her back a weekly paycheck, she dramatically clutched the dress to her chest and declared (loudly), "This dress will become my death shroud before I will sell it to you for that!" That story has become legend in my family.

So, continuing on in  this stream-of-consciousness thinking I seem to possess in the Texas heat, I needed some exercise to make up for the lack of it that morning. Walking outside was not an option because the temperature at the neighborhood Walgreen's marquee declared 117 degrees. I know that some of the temperature was spiked by  asphalt and highway intersections, but still! I needed a cooler place to walk.

Enter my neighborhood IKEA. I could walk mindlessly in the air conditioned maze while admiring all things Swedish. D said he felt comfortable with me being out for about 2 hours. Didn't take quite that long, but egads! IKEA is a big place! I was entertained during my walk by a continual announcement of "E.M. meet your family at the check-out". I know a man by this name and couldn't wait to find out if it was his family tapping their feet at said check-out. I used to charge my son a dollar when I had to have him paged in Target and Walmart oh-those-many-years-ago when his hearing stopped working in the video game departments. I digress. Again.

I returned home to find D watching The Travel Channel. Specifically: Man vs. Food. Have you seen that show? This guy goes to restaurants with extreme (read that large or hot) offerings and attempts to eat them. We watched one episode about Eagle's Restaurant in Boston that offers a burger with five pounds of beef, 20 slices of cheese, 20 slices of bacon and five pounds of fries for $50.  Man challenged a former worker of this restaurant to an eat-off of this Challenge Burger. They had one hour to eat as much of the food as possible. The winner was determined when they weighed what food was left. They both ate over seven pounds of food. (I kept waiting for one of them to do self-CPR on his own chest to keep the blood pumping through a clogged heart.) Man lost by ounces. But, he was able to continue on to a New York Deli in the next episode.

At this deli, we were treated to the sight of Reuben sandwiches that weighed one pound each. Makes you swallow kind of hard, doesn't it? D loves those sandwiches, but is such a careful eater that it has been a long time since he has had one. He looked over at me from his Archie chair and said, "Maybe we should get one of those tomorrow." (Not from New York, but a local deli that claims (and seems) to be authentic.) He continued, "I guess eating one is not going to make any difference at this point." And then we both laughed long and hard at his little self-depreciating humor. 

Several years ago, I taught with a woman who was one of the most healthy eaters I had ever known. She developed brain cancer and declared her new diet the, "Eat whatever the ____ I want diet." (Insert colorful adjective she would have never used in front of her kindergarten students.) Maybe we will semi-adopt that diet philosophy. But without the colorful adjective.

So today, I will be making a run to that deli. I know D will only eat a few bites, but I hope they are mouthfuls of happiness for him.  He deserves it.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

A Room With a View

I have positioned these pictures right in front of the Archie/Edith chairs. They are family photographs taken by a precious photographer found here. I think that Allison's photography work is more a ministry then a profession. She gave us the gift of clearly captured memories to revisit time and time again. I hope that D looks at them throughout the day with a smile remembering the good times.

I must confess that I have OCD tendencies when it comes to photographs. (And did you hear this week that, yes indeed, Kodak took our Kodacrome away? With apologies to Paul Simon, they will no longer manufacture that vivid film since the digital age is upon us.) I am that friend who always has the camera along, snapping shots and sharing copies. I don't think most of my friends even carry their digitals with them on girlfriend outings anymore, because they know my shots will arrive in the mail in the next few  days. None of them have ever questioned my obsession with visual memories printed on paper, but I have. I know exactly where this less-than-an-addiction-more-than-a-casual-interest came from.

I grew up in a home where my mother hid family photographs in The Box. We were never allowed to look at them because she felt like that would be "dragging up the past". Disturbing, I know.  The only photographic evidence that I  existed (before I could snap my own pictures) are from shots that were retrieved from my grandmother's house. I would see The Box from time to time over the years, but I've never had the opportunity to really look carefully at its contents. My loyal  sister has on occasion offered to put on camouflage, and under cover of night launch a reconnaissance mission for The Box. And The Memories. 

This would explain why I have at least 20 albums of pictures of my children. The oldest child is 24. Doing the math? Almost one complete album a year. It's excessive, I admit that. But, oh!, the memories I've been enjoying during  our in-home vacation this summer. Things I had forgotten are brought to light while flipping through the pages and years of memories.

My favorite pictures right now (besides the ones leaning above) are of the on-going remodeling of our house. We bought it in 1999 from the original owners of 20 years. And they had not changed a thing from the perfection (in their minds) that was the 1979 color scheme. Gold linoleum, orange countertops and plaid wall paper greeted me with the morning coffee when we first moved in. Back then, my husband said he'd stand in the kitchen and try to imagine someone 20 years ago saying, "WOW! Is this gorgeous or what?"

Over the years, my husband and I (and truth be told: mostly my husband) have remodeled, repainted, retiled and retooled every square inch of the inside. He is an amazing craftsman when it comes to woodworking and building.

I was thinking yesterday, as I enjoyed those before-and-after home shots again, that the phrase "amazing craftsman" also applied to his work on our family over the years. Blending a family of four children is hard work requiring constant maintenance. (And have I mentioned a time or twenty that all four were teenagers at once?) And the work continued during the past seven years as he has battled a serious illness. Yet, there is photographic evidence of continuing birthday parties, holidays, four high school graduations, college graduations and even one daughter's wedding during that time.

Because of his perseverance, the family has continued to thrive through out some pretty challenging health situations.  I absolutely believe because of the determination to keep pressing through, we have not missed one blessing that was meant for us during this time.

I have decided that the real prize is The Box that each one of us carries in our hearts and minds. Those precious mental pictures and memories of a life well lived and well spent. The Box  is the legacy we lovingly build and pass down to our families.

And I close with words to a song by Nicole Nordeman that may or may not be familiar to you. But the words? They are our heart.

I want to leave a legacy 
How will they remember me? 
Did I choose to love?
 Did I point to You enough 
To make a mark on things? 
I want to leave an offering 
A child of mercy and grace   
who blessed Your name unapologetically 
And leave that kind of legacy

Friday, June 26, 2009

Shouts of Joy in the Morning

We welcomed Hospice into our quiet little world yesterday. Again, I want to emphasize that this does not mean we're throwing in the towel. It means that we will have better pain management, all the equipment we could possibly need at home, and staff dedicated to my husband's (and my, as it turns out) needs.

 This is a good thing. 

A very good thing.

We are so very grateful.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Magic of Ordinary Days

Yesterday was a very good day. D stayed awake most of the time and we talked and had a lot of laughs. He requested a Turkey Reuben from Jason's Deli for dinner (and ate it all!) He called our church maintenance men to install some mini-blinds to help keep out this crazy 105 degree heat we are enduring. (I ask myself at this time every year, "Why do I live in Texas in the summer?")
We were able to get a flight for D's daughter E and her boyfriend M to come see us in a few weeks. D's other daughter, H will come that weekend as well. Praying for a sweet time for all.

My friend, J, stopped by with healthy food from fellow teachers last night and whisked me off for Mexican food for about an hour. Would I eat a little queso? she asked. Well: YES. (And I've already thanked her that the queso has left the body along with everything else in my intestines. Just in time for the Curves weigh in. Taking it for the team, J.)

Sweet emails and calls from family and friends. All in all, a very good day. A peaceful island retreat from the cares of the world.

Today, D is very tired. Our pastor has stopped by with sweet words and prayer. Words from Romans 8 that nothing will ever separate us from the love of God. Words from Matthew that even Jesus in the garden asked God to "take this cup away from me", but asked His will to be done. As we do.

And this afternoon, Hospice is coming to our home. This is a good thing. We will have continual access to pain control and fulfillment of practical needs. This does not mean we are throwing in the towel: we are just reaching out to hold a helping hand.

And God continues to keep us at peace. 

Now if He would just do something about this Texas heat.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Choosing the Good Part

Advice that is given to me over and over is, "Try to get out of the house some. The caregiver needs to take care of the caregiver." 

Which would be great advice if there was something I really felt like doing. On this tilting planet we seem to have inhabited, it is hard to work up the desire to wander through a store. I don't care about the 80% off sale at Hobby Lobby in housewares. Very few things outside our home seem to matter.

You probably know the Martha/Mary tug-of-war in the book of Luke. Martha thought she should work, work, work. And she thought everyone else should be work, work, working with her. But Mary chose to sit at the feet of Jesus. One translation is that Mary "listened until she understood".  And Jesus said Mary "had chosen the good part: the part that will not be taken away."

In the craziness of this loud world, let's chose the good part today. But remember that God's voice is often a whisper and we have to listen carefully to hear it. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Several years ago, my husband was laid off during a semi-conductor downturn. I was teaching kindergarten, and one of my student's dads offered me a summer job at his company. I took it to help us through a temporary hard spot. At the end of the summer, they made me an offer to stay that I could not refuse. 

For the first time in my adult life, I did not start the school year before a classroom of children. Instead, I began it in an office full of men. 

Welcome to Mars. 

At Thanksgiving, the manager grilled a turkey in the warehouse and asked everyone who could to bring sides. There were six crockpots of queso, one untouched veggie tray, and  a multitude of very happy men. 

At Christmas, they ordered 100 hot wings from Hooters. With no sides. I did not bring a veggie tray that time.

Needless to say, we did not sit around in a teacher's lounge and chat. Working lunches often involved stops in stores that sold trailer hitches and ammunition.  The populations in the office was very thin on opening days of dove and deer seasons.  I hung a sign over my trash can, "Do not spit  in here" after I grew tired of retrieving paperwork that was less than Copenhagen free.

But you know what? I really enjoyed my job. It was wonderful to learn a difficult new skill and do it very well. I handled a multi-million dollar account that had to balance to the penny each month. And it did. 

And the pay? Well, let's just say it was more then I would ever make as a teacher even if I hit the top of the scale as a career teacher with several degrees and extra stipends. My commission alone was often twice my teacher salary. While I certainly appreciated that, there were many times that it made me sad that selling computer parts was valued more then teaching children. Much more.

After two years, I began to feel the tug back to the classroom. I liked the job, I liked the men who were my coworkers in Mars and I liked that no one spit in my trash can anymore. But I missed the children and the teaching.

As I was wrestling with the decision to stay or to go, my grandmother became very ill. My co-workers were  precious about covering for me so I could come in late or leave early to visit her in the hospital. After a few weeks, my beloved grandmother passed away. My co-workers in Mars all came to the funeral in suits. Even the warehouse crew. 

But my path suddenly became clear: life is short. Go with your giftings and passion. Returning to the classroom a few months later was like the very best gift I could possibly give myself. And there was so much healing for me in that decision.

In many ways I feel that I am back at that crossroads again. Knowing that there are going to be some big changes on the horizon that are totally out of my control.

But this I know for sure: God has  plans for good; plans that give a future and hope. We never arrive at a change without preparation, because the plan has been in play since the beginning of time. This is not catching God by surprise. He's in charge.

Even in situations that seem as foreign as Mars.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Counting Blessings

One of the blogs that I enjoy reading is found here. It is written by a single woman my age who lives in New York City.  I'm fascinated by how different her life is from mine. I live in a suburb of Austin where one of our claims to fame is a new IKEA. I try to imagine the day to day of living in such a big city. One thing that draws me back again and again is that she strives to write about what is good in her life. Her blog's tagline is "Buttercup counts her blessings: sometimes you get the frozen key lime pie on a stick and sometimes you just get the stick. Trying to stay cheerful in  tough times."

So, amid  the health concerns in my home, here is what is good about our lives:

  • A friend brought over fresh, homegrown tomatoes. (Reminds me that real tomatoes, not the imitation mush found in the grocery store or on restaurant salads, have an enormous amount of sweet taste.)
  • Friends from another state had Jason's Deli deliver a delicious meal to our home the other night. 
  • The lady at Curves gave me a nice blue water bottle Friday.
  • A friend brought over a bag full of magazines. (Short articles match my presently short attention span.)
  • Cards and letters keep filling our mailbox with sweet words and prayers.
  • Sunday School members who deliver soup and salads.
  • Our pastor who drops by regularly and brought communion last week.
  • Gifts left on the front porch with no name.
  • People who offer to come do yard work or clean.
And the list could go on and on. But I know this much is true:

"A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity." (Proverbs 17:17)
"Friends love through all kinds of weather, and families stick together in all kinds of trouble." (The Message)

Amen and amen.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day

Happy Father's Day to my husband, D. 

You came into our lives when my two children were small. We were abandoned, destitute and basically homeless. The journey hasn't been an easy one, has it? But we've raised our combined clan to see all four children attend college (one in grad school now), and grow into really neat newly minted adults.

I appreciate that you were fair and wise during the teenaged days. (FOUR TEENAGERS AT ONE TIME!) And you were encouraging of the independence when they graduated high school and entered into college with their future plans. We have an artist, a writer, a chaplain and one interested in international business. Quite a mixed lot. And so much of it due to your encouragement of their individual talents.

There aren't enough words to say how much we all love you and pray for your healing.

Thanks, D. Hope this Father's Day is especially dear to you.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Changing of the Guard

My daughter K has been here for a week and a half helping out around our home: cooking, cleaning, assisting with doctor visits, and generally cheering us all up with her sweetness. Today she flies home to her husband and dog, who I am sure are both waiting with open arms. Or paws.

There is something so incredibly precious about adult children returning home. (Because they WANT to!)  I just got an email from a friend in Oklahoma who was surprised with a visit by her daughter for Father's Day weekend. N has just graduated from college and taken her first job in a neighboring state. I'm sure they will have lots to share during this unexpected but special visit. My friend J calls this a "serendipity": a blessing that falls into your life. Like children.

So, K goes home today, but D's daughter H came in last night and will spend Father's Day weekend with him. It's kind of like the kids are playing tag team. We plan to fly D's daughter E down from her college in Washington State after we get the newest update from the oncologist on Tuesday. And Young Son in Costa Rica completing Study Abroad is staying current of the situation.

I read a lot of young mommy blogs, and I remember the blessings and frustrations of constant demands from little ones. But this side of childhood is the payoff.  I love "The Message" version of a very familiar proverb:

"Point your kids in the right direction-
When they're old they won't be lost."
Proverbs 22:6

May they always know the way home.

Friday, June 19, 2009

A Step Up

I've tried to avoid blogging about the day-to-day reality of our journey with lung cancer. But I knew we hit a new level yesterday when (1) my husband let me drive him to the hospital for the x-rays required for the lung surgeon, (2) he let me push him in a wheelchair from the tech's office to the doctor and (3) he let me call the oncologist to have the pain meds upped to three times the amount he was taking a week ago. The only time D thinks I'm a good driver is when he is medicated and/or sleeping. 

We went into the lung surgeon waiting to hear that the surgery to keep the lungs from being continually surrounded by the pressure of extra fluid had failed. We expected to be admitted to the hospital for yet another draining. What we heard was that the surgery went fine: the pain and pressure D is now feeling is being caused by a new tumor. That is visible to the eye. So sorry, said lung surgeon, you belong to the oncologist now. I felt kicked to the curb. Even though my rational mind said , "This is a kind and compassionate man who has done all he can do", my fight-for-my-husband's-life mind said, "There HAS to be something you can do! We just spent two hours in your waiting room looking at 5 year old magazines. You owe us!"

My theory, on this journey, is that under every doctor's office is a magnetic field that totally strips you of any energy in the event bad news is delivered. My husband, daughter and I went home to take long naps. Upon waking and checking home phones and cell phones, we realized there must have been a veritable symphony of phone ringing that we slept through. I guess stress will do that to you.

Our next stop is the oncologist on Tuesday for our Regularly Scheduled Visit. He has already suggested hospice and I think we will take him up on it. There is one thing I want to say about this: My daughter told me she saw people's reactions when I used the "h" word at church on Sunday.  Listen friends: Hospice does not have to mean end times and throwing in the towel. Hospice can mean better pain management. And that is what we are after.

That and some funny videos, an end to the soaring heat in Texas and some healthy food that tastes good. And magazines with brief articles that match my brief attention span these days.

And if those are my only requests in life? Life must be pretty good. We are at peace.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Evolution of Food

Many years ago, before Whole Foods was king, I had a parent in my kindergarten class who ate only healthy and organic food. She was viewed as something of a curiosity. When class parties provided sweets, she sent nutritious substitutions for her son. When the moms took me out for my birthday to a chain restaurant that provided many fried things to dip in Ranch dressing, she brought her own filtered water and enjoyed the conversation. But not the food. When the class had an end of the year party that involved hot dogs, she sent soy dogs (which did not brown well on the grill). Her son gobbled them up like the "real" thing.

Fast forward about 10 years and I found myself at Whole Foods with my husband taking a "Raw Food" cooking class. Now there's an oxymoron: "cooking" raw foods. The instructor guided us through preparation of fruits and vegetables without using stoves or microwaves that zapped/boiled the nutrition right out of food. My husband was convinced that a diet using food as a medicinal treatment would cure one of his cancers. Sure enough, the PSAs for prostate cancer returned to normal. And I wrote that Granola Mom a note apologizing for being a doubter. She said recently that she still has it taped to her refrigerator, glad to have a convert.

My husband was organic before organic was cool. As long as I've known him, he has always been a runner, a long-distance cyclist and a student of  the most nutritious foods available. Through this almost seven year battle with a sarcoma has taken his ability to run and ride, I believe that his attention to food as a cure has prolonged his life by many years. 

I, on the other hand, find that I have eaten my way through these years with cancer. You know, those late nights when chocolate and a box of Kleenex may or may not been good friends of mine.  But during this most recent battle with my husband's lung cancer, I've decided It Is Time to get serious about nutrition and exercise.

Enter, my old friend Curves. I spent three years at a location that was no longer convenient when the new toll road cut off easy access. That was a few years ago, but I've found a closer location to re-up. And during this "break", I've found that Curves has entered the computer age: you are given a computer chip to record your performance on each machine. You download your information on the club's computer and it details all manner of graphs, diagrams and pie charts on your progress. As my bloggy friend BooMama would say: FANCY.

I was a bit suspicious of some of the initial results. The pie chart showed my abs as my strongest muscle group. This from a girl who failed the President's Physical Fitness Program in sit-ups in elementary school. (Google that little phrase and you can just about pinpoint the decade of my birth.) I'm thinking if my abs are the strongest, then my other muscle groups must be made of marshmallow fluff.

 But, I'm continuing to see progress and that is a good thing. This is not your Mother's Curves gym. Oh, wait. Yes, it is. Everyone there is about my age and wearing the long t-shirts to prove it. (It also doesn't help that a boy I taught in third grade is now a grown man who maintains Curves machines across America. Age, you can be so cruel in your little pokes and prods.)

So, we are diligent and vigilant about nutrition and exercise at our house right now. The Church Ladies have asked if they can bring food during this season of life. WE LOVE YOU CHURCH LADIES, but we know that people bearing comfort foods  are usually long on desserts, breads, fried foods and cheese. And short on extreme nutrition. So, we've asked for soups and salads to be on the rotation of foods they'll be dropping off at our house each day. 

We know that the loving preparation will be part of our healing. Body, soul and spirit.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


As our children leave the nest, there are more and more little details we miss out on in their lives. I've always thought there should be a World Wide Mommy-Cam ( to be able to check on the little ones.  Yes, I know that sounds like 1984 and Big Mother is watching you. But I often think I'd love to see the special moments that are far from my eyes now.

Enter: friends with cameras. This candid shot was taken at a friend's daughter's wedding that I was unable to attend. In the background there is a shot of my daughter waiting for her turn at the buffet table. (Click picture to enlarge the starry eyes.) And looking adoringly at her husband standing next to her. *Sigh.* Does this mother's heart good.

Every time I talk to my daughter on the phone (long distance to Missouri which is two states too far away), I always ask her, "Are you still madly in love with J?" "Yes, Mom," she always says sweetly. (Except the one time I forgot to ask and I received a text minutes later: "And I'm still madly in love with J.")

I welcome your pictures of my children. Unless they involve  shots of Young Son in Costa Rica being bit by those pesky monkeys. And I quote from his comment left on this post : 
mom - the monkeys cannot break the skin. thank god. otherwise i would have been in big trouble when i was showing him to a tour about an hour ago and he went for my neck. "tarzan" has a strange way of showing affection... at least he hasn't wet on me yet.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Welcome Home

Do you know what these piles on the floor of our new guestroom/formerly daughter's room mean? THEY MEAN THAT THE DAUGHTER AND HER HUSBAND ARE HOME FOR A VISIT. (Please back away from the 'caps lock' button or someone will guess the level of excitement in this post.)

Both sets of New Son-in-law's grandparent's live a stone's throw from our house. (Which is a LOT closer then the Young Couple's home two states from here.) They have come to see NS-i-L's grandfather who is battling cancer, and to see D for the first time since his most recent diagnosis. But even with not great news from both sides of the family, we are having a sweet visit. Eating bar-b-que and laughing. Talking and reminiscing. Sharing hugs and smiles and tears. Because that is what families do best.

Please continue to pray for Dave and Charlie. And for more precious visits.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Digital Memories

I may have mentioned on this blog a time or twenty that I have four precious friends who have walked this road of life with me since high school. We went to different colleges for the most part, but we stayed close through careers, marriages, and babies. (And we did it the old fashioned way, before the invention of new-fangled cell phones and email. Walking barefoot through the snow uphill... Oops...sorry, that's another story. I mean blog.)

In the past year and a half, we begun attending some pretty special occasions as our now-adult children are getting married. We always try to get a shot of the five of us at these weddings as evidenced here and here. Three of our combined 17 children married off in just two weddings!

In May, we intended to attend P's oldest daughter's wedding. Plane tickets were purchased, dresses were decided on, and we looked forward to celebrating together once more. Until an emergency arose that left one husband hospitalized and the trip was cancelled.

Plans were made to be sure the picture of all five friends was still shot at the reception. Even if only two friends actually attended. A minor detail, apparently.

Thanks to my oldest daughter for helping make sure the tradition continued. Over the years, our kids have made a lot of fun about the noise their moms make when we are all together. And for our love for all things Barry Manilow. (Oh, sorry. That was just me.)

And thanks to all our children for the happy times we know are ahead through the remaining 13-weddings-to-be.

Who's next? Anybody? Bueller? Anybody?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Of Rainforests, Monkeys and Dreams

I thought I had this "Adult Children Leaving the Nest" thing down. One by one by four, they tripped off to their separate cities and states and a good time was had by all.

Until Young Son left for Costa Rica for his Study Abroad program. You may have noticed, that is a separate country.

I try not to be that hovering parent. He is a senior in college (and loving it so much, apparently, this is his fifth year) and will turn 22 whilst on this journey. The only advice I gave was, "Don't leave things until the last minute. Don't blame others if you didn't do the research to find out the rules and things don't turn out the way you think they should."

Because, my son has been a lawyer in training since he could talk. He always has a perfectly sensible (to him) explanation why things should go the way he thinks they should. Regardless of the rules. (My favorite case was at age seven when we were taking a break from Halloween. "All I want to do is dress up like Fred Flintstone, carry a big club and get free candy! What is not Jesus-y about that?" Well. Can't argue with that reasoning. This was a case he won hands down. Without using that big club.)

But then there are the arguments against established rules like cost of vaccinations to foreign countries, no airplane carry-ons containing large amounts of name brand health and beauty aids not sold in Costa Rica, and having to pay for the privilege to be a volunteer at a rainforest sanctuary. Not saying if those are real examples or not, but let's all agree those are non-negotiable, and will not evoke mom's sympathy if you are feeling mistreated by The Man. Or in this case, El Mano. (High school Spanish, you are so good to me.)

So, Young Son and his Young Girlfriend left for Study Abroad on June 1. They are to spend June helping out at this rainforest sanctuary: in Montezuma (as in the "Revenge" that we are all aware of. DON'T DRINK THE WATER, Young Son!) Then they will spend July in classes in San Jose to fulfill that pesky college foreign language requirement.

Thankfully, pre-trip research filled him in on the cost of international cell phone calls. And of the proximity of Internet Cafes. We get regular emails informing us of the beauty of Costa Rica. The cheapness of the delicious food. The monkeys that bite. Now, there's one factoid that could have been edited for Mom's consumption. Because I'm fairly sure that no foreign vaccination, regardless of cost, inoculates against germs found in monkey spit. (My relatively ancient mind remembers the words "Ebola virus", for example. But I digress.)

So, the cautious Mom in me is praying like I have never prayed before for Young Son and Young Girlfriend. Teenage shenanigans? Nothing compared to international travel. But the proud Mom in me? So in awe of the brave and adventurous spirit within these young hearts.

Hope you are having the time of your life, Young Son. But avoid having bananas on your person. Those monkeys needed to be avoided at all cost so you can continue on to more wonderful adventures.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Archie and Edith Chairs

While my husband was in the hospital last week, I asked my sister and brother-in-law to rearrange our family room. I didn't care where the rest of the furniture went, but I wanted D's lift chair and the recliner side by side so we can talk, be close and hold hands whenever we want to. The rest of the furniture is pushed here and there in spaces it is not meant to occupy.

And smack dab in the middle of the room are our two chairs. They don't match each other or the rest of the room, but they make a perfect island of retreat. Visitors will have to pull in chairs from other rooms.

Feels like an oasis of calm and peace in our world that seems to be tilting these days.

Saturday, June 6, 2009


One of my favorite things in life is hearing from former students.

Today I got a card from Syd (and his loyal sidekick/younger brother Ben and parents.)

This is what he wrote (in perfect cursive):

"I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on the earth you will have so many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world." John 16:33

Wow. There is a verse to hang onto during our initiation period to my husband's newest prognosis.

Thanks, Syd, for words of life. No longer my second grader, but now in Middle School. You continue to be The Man.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Turn out the lights, the party's over...

Yesterday was the last day of school. (And a good time was had by all!) Today was the day teachers boxed up their rooms for summer. I remember last August it took me about 2 weeks to set up my room. Here is the classroom that greeted my students for the 2008-2009 school year.

And then, it takes just a few hours to break it down, box it up and lock the door. Here are the after pictures...but they'll be the before pictures in just a few months! Have a great summer, O'Brien's Bumblebees. I know you will be more than ready for second grade when August 24 rolls around.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Good News and...

I went to Hobby Lobby last week, in the waning days of May because I wanted some things for my garden. The good news? All the outdoor and summer items were already 50% off. Score!
Because, you know, they have to get all that Christmas merchandise out in time for the summer rush.
My sister has asked me to edit this to add when Hobby Lobby arrests me for continuing to take pictures in their stores, she will not post my bail. She is certain that security has my picture on file since my after-Christmas blog here.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Weekend Update

I keep thinking, "I should post about this, I should post about this."

And then I think, "But what would I say? What would I say?"

If you know me, talking is never one of my shortcomings.

I think it is just that I want to say it right. Express my feelings and thoughts carefully so that no one gets sad. Like I could control the feelings of the world. I can't, so maybe I'll just plunge right in like tearing the bandaid off quickly.

We had what seemed like our millionth visit to the oncologist last week. We've been seeing the man through good times and bad for almost seven years. This was a regulary scheduled six month check up that brought news that was not regulary scheduled: D's cancer has returned and is in his lungs. And immediately after telling us this, the doctor's cell phone rang. He left the room to take the call and D and I locked eyes and hands. I can't say this was totally unexpected because we'd had two trips to the hospital in the last two weeks for some complications with the lungs. We took a breath and talked about the questions we had. The doctor answered them when he returned. Time? Six months would be good; twelve months would be better...but no one knows for sure. There is no treatment for the rare sarcoma D has. And hospice is a great option for pain control.

Well. There you have it in black and white. Now what? Tell the kids, tell the family, tell the church. Go see Barry Manilow.

Sounds like a plan to me. Except we are already back in the hospital for a lung surgery that is supposed to allieviate some of the pain. We've been there for 4 days and we are ready to go home.

( And telling on myself: I woke up on my couch/bed in D's hospital room yesterday and peered at the clock on the wall. I accidentally left my contacts in and they felt like they were glued to my eyeballs. I thought the clock said 5:05 a.m., which is about the time I wake up at home to get ready to go teach. I'll just run home and do some laundry I think. I drove home and wondered about the traffic on the road on a Sunday morning. It seemed kind of heavy. When I got home and looked at the clock, I realized it was 1:25 a.m. Darn. Those hands are about the same length on Seton Hospital clocks. And that traffic? Probably everyone heading home for the night from a Saturday night spent at the bars! I guess our world seems upside down in more ways then one.)

So. My hope is to be able to attend the last day of school on Wednesday to say good-bye to my first graders who will be newly-minted second graders. To get my husband home so we can make plans to see the man who "writes the songs that makes the whole world sing". And to rest: body, soul and spirit.

We are at peace. We are at peace.