Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Gitz Bits: Week 21

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Monday, May 23, 2011


Riley decided to mix things up a little bit and try hanging out on the back of the chair that sits next to the bed. He lasted all of about 5.3 seconds before he was snuggled up next to me again.

I may have missed him and called him back over, but the point is he was snuggling with me. :)

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011


The weather has been crazy, waxing and waning anywhere between 56* and 85* for our high temperatures. But the one sure sign it's spring?


All this rain has made my flowers happy, even if I don't always love the effects. :)

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Wednesday, May 25, 2011


I spent my Wednesday afternoon at 4pm saying goodbye to Oprah. I thought she had a great last show… I was wondering how she was possibly going to go out after her previous two surprise celebration shows, and I think she did it perfectly.

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Thursday, May 26, 2011


Is this not the prettiest camera strap you've ever seen in your life? I didn't take this picture… my friend Mandy sent it to me after she whipped this puppy up for me.

Seriously lovely.

And she brilliantly added a little monogram pocket where I can stash the lens cap when it's not in use. I think it might be my favorite feature.

Right after the fancy ruffles and gorgeous fabric.

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Friday, May 27, 2011


Isn't Susie cute? She stopped by Friday after work, still in her dress up clothes, and surprised me by wielding a hammer and hanging up a finch feeder for me to see if we could attract some birds.

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Saturday, May 28, 2011


My brother Steve had a similar idea and hung up two more bird feeders for me when they came to visit the next day!

And boy, did he and my family do more than just hang a few feeders. You are not going to want to miss my post tomorrow. I'll give you a small spoiler and tell you that my nephew Cooper said I should call it Extreme Home Makeover: Aunt Sara Edition.


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Sunday, May 29, 2011


I have been warning friends who might stop by that the raccoons are back. This huge animal just leisurely walks around like he owns the place, and then slides down the storm drains, where he apparently lives.

Riley's head has been exploding on a regular basis.

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Thanks for once again sharing my week with me! Click on the button below if you want to go to Jessica’s site and check out the other participants showing off their weekly photos as well:

Monday, May 30, 2011

Hiding Sunshine

My older nieces and nephews were little ones at the time. Thomas, who just graduated high school this month, was maybe seven. His partner-in-crime, Alex, was about eight. And the third amigo? He was in his 50s. And their grandpa.


It was Memorial Day weekend and we were all in St. Benedict at a cemetery next to the small country church my mom attended as a child. All of us were placing flowers next to the headstones of loved ones who had gone to heaven before us, walking around the cemetery trying to remember who was related to whom and how they were related to us.

And off in the back corner huddled Dad with his two oldest grandsons. You could tell by the way Dad was standing and gesturing with his hands that he was telling a big story and those boys were paying close attention.

Before too long, Thomas came running over to his mom and I, declaring, "Mom! You aren't going to believe it! Grandpa used to hide sunshine in these stones!"

We'd all heard the stories before, so it didn't take long to realize Grandpa had been telling inappropriate stories of his own youth to the youth whose ears were too young to be listening.

The intricate tale Dad wove was of long ago, when alcohol was outlawed and people made their own brews in bathtubs and bottled up liquor on the sly. He told of secret stashes and horse riding and whatever else he could throw in his true story to make it just a little more lively.

Dad explained to these impressionable little lads that some of the headstones were hollow inside. And he showed them the panels on the sides that could be unscrewed, and told of the times they would sneak into the graveyards to hide their stashes of tub-brewed liquor inside the headstones of people who had long since left the earth.

He told them of moonshine.

Thomas told us of sunshine.

And none of us corrected him as we all scolded Dad and knew it would do no good.

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I have to admit, thinking of it today, a little part of me wishes there was a panel on the side of Dad's headstone so we could lay down flowers and hide a little moonshine in there just for him.

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And I hope those tales that we hushed him from telling back then get told years down the road when those kids come back to visit him on Memorial Day. When they tell their own grandkids about their Grandpa Mike who weaved them stories of moonshine and filled their spirits with sunshine.

I would lay flowers there today if I could.

But I'll spread his sunshine through stories in their stead.

Friday, May 27, 2011

5 minutes: on forgetting

Today I'm linking up to Lisa-Jo aka gypsy mama, who chooses a topic every Friday and writes for five minutes.

Only five minutes.

And the rule is that whatever she writes about in that five minutes is what she posts. No editing her thoughts.

Today, her topic choice is "On forgetting…"

So I'm going to set the timer, write some thoughts, and then I'm going to stop.

Ready? Set. Go.


My friend Susie and I joke all the time that she has me as a friend so I can help her remember her life.

She has a horrible memory. I have a memory that is ridiculous. I seem to remember the dumbest, most insignificant things in vivid detail. There are times I can tell you not only that we had the conversation, but exactly where I was when she told me the story and what we were both wearing when she said it.

So I have appointed myself her memory keeper. I remind her of things about her kids, stories of us in college, anything that maybe has slipped her mind. And it's fun relaying the stories back to her because she gets tickled about the events all over again, like it's happening again for the first time.

I love that about us.

And even though my memory is good, the more tired I get and the more medication I am on, the more I worry that I'll forget the little things. The important things. Stories about how we grew up, stories about my friends, little details about my nieces and nephews… the things that matter. That's one of the reasons I love to blog, because this is the place I've written down the parts that matter.

It's where I've written my heart so no matter what happens to me and my life from here on out, I am on these pages. Anyone who has ever wanted to really know me can simply come here and see my heart. They'll know how I love, how much I love, who I love and in Who I believe.

I like to imagine that someday, if their memories are as bad as their mom's, Susie's boys will tell their kids about me and pull out these pages and share my story.

It's nice how that turned out. In my attempt to make sure I never forget, I've also ensured that I won't be forgotten.

It's like a labor of love come full circle.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


My friend Len recently gave me a book called, Where is God When it Hurts? by Philip Yancey. I read it right after I had read Ann's book One Thousand Gifts and I found them to be a great combination.

Yancey's book was interesting because it actually talked about pain from a medical standpoint, and then went on to talk about ways of dealing with it, looking at it and helping others through it when you are the one who is well. There weren't really huge revelations in it for me, but there were a lot of head-nodding moments.

Moments where he put into words things I believe.

One of my favorite quotes from him is this:

We are not put on earth merely to satisfy our desires, to pursue life, liberty, and happiness. We are here to be changed, to be made more like God in order to prepare us for a lifetime with him.

Whether we like it or not, sometimes being changed means living through painful circumstances.

It goes against everything we're taught in this society, doesn't it? When we think of the American Dream we aren't sitting around thinking about how we can better ourselves, we're thinking of bettering our circumstances. Our paychecks. Our house. Our car. Our status. Our appearance. And we think those things will bring happiness because we assume that the neighbor down the street who has all of these things, and appears to be happy, really is.

What we can't see is behind their closed doors. And we certainly can't see into their hearts.

No, we need to be looking beyond the surface of our own lives and see how we can be shaped and formed and changed into images of Him.

One surface example that I struggled with for years was the way I looked. I went through treatment for anorexia when I was 16, and while I ebbed and flowed in that recovery over the years, the one thing that never changed was my internal dialog. I was so sure that if I could just control how I looked, and got to a place where I felt I should be, that I would be happy. It was a façade of control that I was sure was the answer to every bad feeling I ever had.

Slowly over the years, as I got sicker and my body failed me, that false control slipped further and further from my grip. I was on and off steroids, the weight I so carefully controlled spiraled in any direction based on medications and hospital stays, and as it all went haywire I still believed in my mind that I would always get control of it again.

Once I got off the steroids my weight would stabilize.

Once they controlled my pain I would work out again.

Once I got control of the circumstances in my life, I could arrange my future the way I envisioned it.

It's amazing how much credit I gave myself.

I believed that somehow, even though it was medically impossible, I would be stronger than this degenerative disease.

Notice the "I" statements in there? It was all going to be in my control and my power to appear on the outside the way I didn't feel on the inside. God played no part in this area of controlling my weight… because I knew once I let Him in, I would be changed.

And even though I had no control, the illusion of it kept me powerful in my own mind.

In reality, it just kept me weak.

Then Cushing's happened. I went from my well-controlled small frame to just shy of 200 pounds in a matter of four months. And I had to find a way to live in a body I didn't recognize. I had to find a way to be joyful in a state that was my worst nightmare. I decided I was just going to have to learn to live in this body that I couldn't stand.

But in the next breath my lungs were infected and my body was getting sicker. In the next breath my Dad suddenly died and the shock mixed with illness sent my body in a spiral that in mere months had me losing all of the weight steroids and Cushing's had put on my frame.

So, now I'm back to where I started. Below the weight I was at when Cushing's hit. And what did all of that craziness do for me?

It changed me.

Through the hardest times in my life, I stayed open enough to learn my greatest lesson: Control is an illusion. Life will do with me what it pleases, my circumstances will change, my pain will fluctuate, my finances will come and go, my health will alter at will and alter my weight right along with it, and the only thing I can do is stay open to letting God change me in those circumstances.

He used the circumstance of my life to help me grow. He used me in the circumstances life put me in to change my heart.

We are here to be changed, to be made more like God in order to prepare us for a lifetime with him.

And more often than not, being changed hurts.

I've come to understand that the only thing I can control is whether or not I open my heart. Open it to embrace my circumstances. Open it to be who He needs me to be in the here and now rather than assume happiness can come from the "if only…" and "when I get…". Open it enough to let Him in and change me here so I can be with Him there.

Do you find yourself getting lost in the "if only" or "when I get" mentality? What do you need to let go of to open yourself to change?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Gitz Bits: Week 20

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Monday, May 16, 2011


My friend Jenny came on Monday to meet this big old truck that carried my new bed. :) She was such a huge help – I had to stay back in my bedroom with the door closed to reduce the risk of any sort of reactions and she handled everything for me.

The two men who brought in the bed and set it up were incredibly conscientious and took every precaution we asked them to and then some. When I came out to sign the papers they both said they hoped the bed was a blessing to me, and said, "May God bless you," before they left.

It's amazing how much that helped set the tone for me on an already happy day. 

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Don't you just want to eat her up? Dawn was here cleaning on Tuesday and her daughter stopped by so I could see Dawn's granddaughter, Jade, through the window. She is the sweetest, happiest little baby. Every time Dawn waved at her through the window she got the biggest smile on her face.

Made my whole day. :)

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011


This dish came last week from the lovely Lisa Leonard, and I love it. It was a fun surprise and the perfect place to keep my favorite necklace by her that has "by grace alone" stamped on it. I think that phrase sums up my life pretty perfectly. Because His grace definitely keeps me moving forward.

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Thursday, May 19, 2011


This is his "Aren't I good?" face. And he's actually been earning it as he's been marking a lot less since we moved out here to the blue room.

It's no coincidence that the move coincided with the vet changing his dose of antidepressants. I'm just thrilled that it seems to be working!

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Friday, May 20, 2011


I am always amazed at what a few rainy days can do for plants this time of year. The hosta have shot up like crazy, and that planter of flowers that was anonymously left for me on my birthday is turning out to have gorgeous colored flowers.

And lucky me, I actually get to see them now!

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Saturday, May 21, 2011


As if the bed wasn't gift enough, another friend gave me a blu-ray player for my birthday. Which means I promptly put in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I really can't get over the difference the new player makes with this television.

It's almost like magic. :)

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Sunday, May 22, 2011


I was laying in bed early Sunday morning, watching a cool looking lightening storm light up the sky and wishing I could take a photo of it to show you. Rather than get up [just call me lazy] I took a screenshot of my iPad app instead since it showed a little cloud of lightening in the center of it.

I use this app called Nightstand because it has great ocean sounds that I can put on a timer to help me fall asleep. And I love the background photo… I like to daydream about what it would be like to take a long walk, happen upon this scene and see what might be in that old shed, abandoned on a dirt road.

It's amazing the stories it lends me when I can't fall asleep.

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Thanks for once again sharing my week with me! Click on the button below if you want to go to Jessica’s site and check out the other participants showing off their weekly photos as well:

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Blue Room

It's official… I'm [mostly] moved! And because I'm not sure if I should call this the living room or the bedroom or the room of bed living, I'm just going to call it my blue room.

Because I love the soft and happy blue. :)

But while I'm thrilled to be in a bigger room with lovely blue walls and newly white woodwork, not to mention a substantially better view, what I am most blessed by is a new bed.


Yep. I got extremely spoiled on my birthday.

The bed I had been in was a blessing when it came. It was a hand-me-down years ago, at a time when I was first unable to lay in a flat position. But as my disease progressed and my pain worsened, the 40-year-old mattress was adding to my pain. And the bed stopped easily adjusting, which meant I was mostly laying on pillows and using them to adjust my position.

While I knew I would probably benefit from a different bed, I also discovered it wasn't covered by my ill and handicap waiver. And I had no intention of asking for outside help with it. But my brother asked me about it one day a few months ago – what put it in his mind to wonder about the bed, I have no idea. After hemming and hawing and trying to justify mine not being that bad, but not being able to lie to him and say it was good, he set on a mission.


Thanks to a group of family and friends, I have been humbled and laid low with gratitude. Because this new Tempurpedic adjustable bed has changed my day-to-day existence.

For the past few years, I have never slept more than 45 minutes to an hour at a time, and I take a lot of medication at night to get my body to the point where it will relax enough for that. The first night in the new bed? Two and a half hours straight. When I woke up and realized it, I almost called everyone I knew to throw a party.

But it was the middle of the night and I didn't think they'd be as thrilled in that moment as I was. :)

The biggest difference is that my bed is no longer adding to my pain. The pain in my body is constant – I feel every bone and joint all the time. But to no longer feel added pressure on each bone and joint where it hits the bed is nothing short of a miracle for me. I can lay in one position for extended lengths of time, where on the old bed I was shifting every five minutes. And to be able to adjust the bed instead of moving my whole body and pillows when I get uncomfortable? It makes a staggering difference.

I'm learning to relax. It's amazing.

The other greatest benefit, other than the chunk of sleep time, is that I went four days in a row this past week without getting sick to my stomach. That had been close to a daily occurrence for the past year, and I can't imagine that is a coincidence. This gift is changing my life.

I am so grateful.


Along with the new comfort is a lovely view! This is what I see now when laying in bed… green grass and hosta, and even a few cardinals now and then on those bushes in the distance.


And this is now my permanent view of Riley. He props up on the end of the bed that is elevated for my legs and keeps an eye on all things out the window.

We are currently learning not to bark at every human, bird, raccoon and leaf that goes by at any random moment.

He's a very happy dog.


You'll notice nothing is actually decorated yet, but this is my view off to my right…


next to that is a couch for visitors to sit on and a clear view back into the red room [which is currently housing all of the decorations that will eventually fill these walls]…


and to the right is the view of my kitchen, sans table and chairs at the moment. Mom has a pub table that will go in that space sometime in the coming weeks.

Obviously the bed has been the biggest factor in changing my world, but I have to tell you that moving from such a small room to all of this space has been great for my spirit. Being in an area that is so much less confining – it makes me feel like I can breathe. And being able to see outside and enjoy the sunshine and birds and plants… it gives me something to look forward to every day.

I am so thrilled and blessed. And couldn't wait to share with all of you. :)

Friday, May 20, 2011

5 minutes: when seasons change

Today I'm linking up to Lisa-Jo aka gypsy mama, who chooses a topic every Friday and writes for five minutes.

Only five minutes.

And the rule is that whatever she writes about in that five minutes is what she posts. No editing her thoughts.

Today, her topic choice is "When seasons change…"

So I'm going to set the timer, write some thoughts, and then I'm going to stop.

Ready? Set. Go.


I was just talking to a friend of mine this week about how the season change has been weird here in Iowa this year. None of us feel like summer is almost upon us… it's as if spring is just beginning to peek her head out from under the snow. My friends' kids aren't even counting down the last days of school – which is completely unheard of. But when the weather still feels like the end of March, it's hard to remember where we're at on the rotating calendar and that summer is fast approaching.

I think we rely on the familiar to gauge where we are in life. We rely on the same 2+2=4 mentality, and it throws us off when things don't add up like we're used to.

The weather not being the same, our schedules not following a normal pattern, health changing, losing loved ones, having kids, watching them graduate… these are all things that I have been through or watched loved ones go through this year.

And all of them have thrown us off. All of them have felt like moments not adding up. All of them have thrust us into seasons we may not have been ready for.

But the truth is, these moments have simply thrust us into another new normal to add to the constant new normals in our lives. And we have to be thrust into them because we so often long for sameness, and change would not always be our first option.

But weather changes and we learn to appreciate the blossoms and the warmth. Schedules alter and we learn to adapt and see beauty where we may have missed it if we hadn't altered course. Health declines and we adapt and find blessings in the most unexpected circumstances. Loved ones die and we find that mourning aches us to our core, but we learn to trust in God in a way we never knew possible. Babies are born and we learn to celebrate more than we fear, and as kids graduate we learn to let go and trust more than we worry.

The seasons will always change, sometimes at a different pace than we are expecting. But the joy and blessings are always within reach if we just put out our hands to receive them.

So remember to give thanks.

Even when the seasons change.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

What a Happy Birthday Looks Like…

A Happy Birthday looks exactly like the one I had on Friday. The one I'm going to show you today. It's one filled with love and lovely people – I am never really counting on mine being filled with people for obvious reasons, but my friends all made sure I saw their faces in one way or another.

I am such a blessed girl.

Of course there is the joy of a birthday on Facebook when all sorts of people send you good wishes. And then I had my post at (in)courage where people absolutely showered me with love in the comment section. All I wanted for my birthday was enough stamina to respond to those comments and really connect with people. I was so overwhelmed that everyone took the time to connect with me and I wanted to make sure they knew how grateful I was.

I had calls and skype moments all day from siblings and Mom, and the next day my Aunt Janella, Grandma and Uncle Ron called and sang me Happy Birthday complete with harmonies as is my favorite tradition. Not to be outdone, however, my friend Nicole called and had her little girls sing to my answering machine, full of gusto. That's a message that won't be soon deleted.

I got to see a real actual person when my friend Candy brought me my favorite treat over her lunch hour:


And then I saw three of my heart's favorite faces on skype as I got my very first Happy Birthday of the day sung to me. I soaked them up and stole a little more time with them as, I'm sure, I made them late for dance rehearsal. And they indulged me because they love me just that much.


Then I got my "window visitors." I don't have a photo of this because I was so busy enjoying them that I forgot to take one. My friends Meg and Susie, and their kids [Taylor, Ben, Jonboy and Tyler] all showed up outside my sliding glass door to spend some time with me.

They couldn't come in because of various colds and sniffles, but they stood out in the misty weather, talking on cell phones so we could hear each other despite our glass partition, and spent part of my afternoon with me. The boys all danced and circled their sweatshirts over their heads in celebration for me and made me laugh until it hurt.

Poor Taylor mouthed the words "help me!" as she's the only girl in the bunch and was so far outnumbered by the craziness. :)

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Taylor made the book in the above collage filled with drawings from the boys… it means so much to this Aunt's heart to see all the markers and drawings and love put on paper. They spoiled me rotten.

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And then my friend Deb came in and I got a real live hug as she brought me a huge banner with a lovely bouquet designed on it from her 1st and 2nd grade class that adopted me. They knew I couldn't have real flowers, so they made me a spiritual bouquet… each child designed a flower and wrote down how many prayers they were going to say for me on Friday as their gift.

I am convinced that is why I had such a good day… with that many prayers from the mouths of children, no other outcome was possible.

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Oh, we're not done yet. This is my sweet friend, Jenny, who – along with her three kids – were all germ free! So we had some time sitting on my bed and being goofy and eating supper together.

Seriously. I got to see that many in-the-flesh people that day… talk about a gift! I didn't quite have the energy to be up and put on makeup, as you can see, but hopefully the happiness of being with my friend is enough to make my face photo presentable. :)

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And how cute are my kids? From the left is my goddaughter Bailey, little Miss Ava and the rock star himself, Jonah. They have all called me Frankie since they were little, but Jonah is a big kid now so he shortens it to Frank. And I have to try not to laugh every time is comes out of his mouth because it cracks me up.


This was my funniest moment of the day. I was laying in bed, all propped up with pillows behind my back and a huge wedge under my legs. When suddenly Baily found a mini wedge, propped it under her legs and declared herself "Mini Frankie" – she warms her godmother's heart. I think I'll keep her.

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The major moment of the day came in the evening, though. My nephew, Thomas, graduated from high school on Friday and my sister Laura managed to live stream it for me so I could be there in real time.

There are no words to tell you what a gift this was to me. He was co-valedictorian and gave an amazing speech about leadership and making Godly decisions, and I was so proud my eyes couldn't keep from leaking. And then my brother-in-law Jeff, who is a member of the school board, got up to make his speech. And my heart flipped as he read from my previous (in)courage blog where I talked about God having intentions for us… to tell the kids that God has intentions for each and every one of their lives.

I was so honored and humbled, proud and grateful.


And just so you don't think I forgot, this happy guy wished me a happy birthday, too. As a present, he tried not to pee on the floor.