Monday, November 30, 2009

Brought to You by the Letter I


There was an interesting suggestion last week that I write today’s post using all “I” statements. I have a feeling writing a story would be easier, but I’ll take the challenge! :)


have almost all of my Christmas shopping done. I started on Saturday and only have 4 gifts left to pick out. Two thumbs up for online shopping! I also have a way for you to do something charitable while shopping, without spending an extra dime! When you shop on, go to their site through this link: and they will donate a small referral fee to my friend Alece’s Thrive Africa mission. It’s like giving two Christmas presents in one! :) She really does amazing work.

know my mom hates it when I say this, but just this one time it’s true:

am an IDIOT. [Hey! That starts with an “I”, too! :)] I’m not an idiot all the time, but I certainly was on Wednesday. I had ordered Chinese food as a treat for Thanksgiving since I read that it is typically safe for whey allergies. I still don’t know if that’s true or not, because I never actually got to the main entree. [Here’s where the idiotic part comes in.] You know how sometimes Chinese restaurants put an eggroll in with the meal? This establishment put in a couple crab rangoon. I LOVE crab rangoon. A lot. And I took a bite. And swallowed. Yeah, well, it contains cream cheese. I knew the moment I swallowed what I had done, and then spent Wednesday night through Saturday on a lot of Benadryl trying to fight off the reaction that ensued.

wasn’t kidding when I told you I was an idiot. Happy Thanksgiving to me.

won’t ever mistakenly eat crab rangoon again. On a happy note:

discovered that double stuffed Oreos don’t contain whey! I realize that is disturbing considering it claims to have a cream-filled center and actually contains no milk, but it’s a win in my favor so I’m not complaining. :)

have found myself starting phrases with “I used to…” a lot lately with new friends. Statements like, “I used to love to dance…” or “I used to be a singer…” and “I used to be really active in my church…”

wonder if I’ll ever get to the point where it doesn’t seem odd to be living a “before and after” life.

am slightly embarrassed to admit that I bought Riley a Snuggie for Dogs.

promise I’ll post a photo of him in it soon. :)

wake up every morning thinking that today’s the day I’m going to get all my emails returned and get caught up on my inbox.

still have an overflowing inbox.

can now definitely say I’ve turned a corner with this whole Cushing’s thing.

still look more like a woman named Big Bertha than I look like myself, but I’ve stopped gaining weight [woo hoo!], some of the swelling has gone down [which means I no longer see the tops of my cheeks when looking at the television… and yes, that was annoying], and every once in a while I have moments of real energy. I have a long way to go, but I am on the road!

am currently trying to figure out a set up that would make it possible for me to paint some canvases again. Because in those moments of energy, I want to make you guys stuff. :)

just realized how long this post is getting, and that I could seriously ramble on like this forever. So, I’m going to leave you with this:

am finally in the Christmas spirit. Wanna know why? It’s not because my trees are up. It’s not because of all the Hallmark Christmas movies I watched this weekend in between football games. It’s not even because I busted out some Christmas music. It’s because my friend Shannon [known to you as the commenter named “chickadeesmama”] sent me a video of her sweet, beautiful, oldest daughter Hannah performing ballet to Come Let Us Adore Him – with a talent that is beyond her years.

might be bursting with pride despite the fact that I’m not actually her mom. :) If your heart needs to be moved into the Christmas spirit, just watch the video below. [Hannah is the one on the far left.]

I did, and…

I loved it. :)


a to z

Ok, peeps… leave me some “J” topic suggestions for next week’s post!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Attitude of Gratitude

I’ve had people asking for the past week or so about my Thanksgiving plans.

Are you having company? How are you celebrating? Will you be lonely? Is anyone bringing you a plate of their Thanksgiving feast to share?

I’m thankful for people caring so much about me that they think about my Thanksgiving, and am so very blessed to be cared for the way that I am by people I’ve never even met. It never ceases to amaze me, although it really shouldn’t considering how invested I am in the lives of all of you as well.

In truth, I don’t have Thanksgiving plans simply because it’s not possible. My family will be at my parents’ house for a “Thanksmas” celebration, mixing two holidays into one. I obviously can’t travel, and it would be impossible for me to be around such a large group anyway because the odds of all 21 people being healthy at the same time are probably not in my favor. When I used to be able to get out of the house but couldn’t take the long car ride, I always had friends’ homes to go to, and am thankful for all the years they included me as family. But now I stay in my air-purified home and am thankful for the opportunity it affords me to breathe easier.

As was evidenced just this past Easter… I’ve never lacked in the food department on the holidays I’ve spent here alone. I often found it funny because no less than three friends, sometimes as many as five, would drop off a plate of food for me so I wasn’t missing out on the traditions… which means I probably had enough food in my house to last a week of celebrating! But this year, with the new food allergy issues, I can’t take the risk of eating foods without knowing what’s in them and how they’re prepared, so I’ll be sticking to the items in my own fridge for my Thanksgiving feast.

So, with one road block after another stopping me from the traditions of holidays past… you’d think I’d be really sad about missing out on everything. I sat down to write this after hanging up with a friend who said she was so bummed for me that I would be here alone on the holiday… because I realized that it’s really not bothering me very much at all.

And I couldn’t figure out why.

I mean, of course I’d love to be with all of my family again. Sure, I’d prefer to get out of the house and socialize with my friends. And YES, diving into mashed potatoes would have been delightful. It’s not that I prefer this.

It’s that I’ve learned to appreciate this.

I’ve learned to appreciate the simplicity in my moments. I’ve learned that being thankful in everything is more important than being thankful for something. I want to be grateful for everything in my life, not just the special moments.

I’m thankful for the years of traditions, and I’m thankful that now I get to reflect on them, remember them, cherish them. I’m thankful to know that my family will be together and my nieces and nephews look forward to seeing each other again. I appreciate hearing my friends’ stories about their family get-togethers and the insanity that always ensues. And, while I’m not in the middle of all of the festivities, I am still immersed in the blessings of my everyday life.

  • I am thankful for the system that purifies the air in my condo so I can breathe.
  • I am thankful for the opportunity to live in the comfort of this condo that is so perfectly suited to me and my needs.
  • I’m thankful for the program that allows me to hire someone to do my shopping for me and clean my home, so I can live independently.
  • I’m thankful for my home nurses who keep tabs on my health so I don’t feel overwhelmed by the responsibility.
  • I’m thankful for this online community that has adopted me into their families, offering more love and support than I knew possible.
  • I’m thankful for my faith and the peace with which God graces me.
  • I’m thankful for family and friends who love me, visit me, call me.
  • I’m thankful for the abilities I’ve been able to hold onto, and I’m thankful I had the chance to experience the abilities that are no longer mine.

I’m not in the least bit bothered to be here alone on the holiday of gratitude, because it’s the same as any other day. I am simply grateful. I appreciate my life because it’s the one He has given to me, and I don’t want to waste a moment of it wishing for anything else.

Besides, I have this ornery pup for company:

IMG_1652 fixed

What more could I possibly need? :)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Brought to You by the Letter H


Aww, man… I was so excited when someone mentioned horses as an “H” word for this week’s post, because I know we have a bunch of photos of us with our horses growing up. I know, because I can picture them in my mind. Ones of our swayback horse Candy Candoo in the driveway, ones of Jake and Molly – yellow and red little foals – right after they were born. We have pictures at 4-H events and one of me standing on a barrel in the backyard helping my brother Jerry practice for the barrel races.

We had horses. We have pictures. But apparently, I don’t have the pictures.


Someday I’m going to have to confiscate my siblings' albums that obviously contain the pictures I can see in my mind… but I have a feeling they aren’t going to hand them over if they know said photos will wind up on the blog. :)

Most kids growing up ride their bikes with friends around neighborhoods, but we had more horses than bikes and more siblings then neighboring friends, so we rode our horses into the little nearby village of Irvington to get candy at the general store. I realize that sounds like I’m telling a far-fetched story about walking to school in the snow, barefoot, uphill both ways… but we really did have horses. And a village. And a general store.

Gotta love country life…

My brother Jerry had a stallion named Kid that was the worst horse ever. He was spirited and mean and only let people on his back so he could try to buck them off. Needless to say, I never tried to ride that horse. My brother Jim got a quarter horse named Bogie for Christmas one year… poor kid thought he got seriously screwed in the Christmas present department until Dad mentioned, after the rest of us had ripped into our gifts, that there may be something left out in the barn.

Isn’t that that the coolest thing? To walk out into the barn and find your very own horse for Christmas?

My horse, Sparky, was the smartest, oldest and orneriest horse. He was a smaller, black and white horse that Dad actually had when he was younger… once you got a saddle and reigns on him, he was a perfect animal. I could literally say “right” or “left” and he’d know what I was talking about. The only complaint is that he preferred to trot more than run, which can leave a tush pretty sore after awhile.

But believe me, that horse knew how to run. We know this because Sparky was an instigator when my siblings would try and catch their horses. He would see people walking up to the fence and take off in a dead run across the field… and every other horse followed right after him. I’m thinking when mom suggested for us to go for a ride, she was probably thinking she had a couple hours of peace and quiet… not just because of the riding, but because of the time wasted trying to catch the darn animals.

Now, I know you all have read the story about my brothers going for rides on their horses and propping me up by the kitchen sink to talk to them through the sprayer. And you probably think that’s as gullible as I could get. You should know better by now. In truth, it’s trumped by the times when I was very little and they couldn’t catch Sparky. Instead they drug out a plastic, spring-hinged riding horse and told me to ride on that in the yard while they rode around on real, live, actual horses.

And being the ridiculous, youngest sibling that I was, I did it.

I’m still waiting for the old “what goes around comes around” adage to kick in, but so far they seem to have gotten away with it.

While the six of us kids may have grown up with horses, the deepest love for the animal resides in my beautiful niece, Rebecca. When she was little she wanted nothing more than to be a horse herself, and would trot around the house on her hands and knees for hours on end. [You must click here to see pictures of her bucking…]

Becca’s obsession with horses has only grown, and she spent most of her time this summer caring for her horse, Brandy.

horse becca

As it happens, the only old photo I could find was one of her mom with her horse Jenny when she was around Becca’s age. [She’s either going to think it’s fun to see both of these photos together, or she’s coming after me for posting it…]

horse laura

Like mother, like daughter. :)


Ok, peeps… leave your “I” topic suggestions for next week’s A 2 Z post in the comment section!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Flashback Friday: Your Hair Is Pretty

Ok, so it’s been one of those weeks. Sometimes when I’m tired beyond words I get a little ornery and sarcastic… as some of you noticed in my last post. Bless Candy’s heart for thinking it was all the Benadryl, but nope… it’s all me. :) Tonight I can’t even seem to come up with something punchy to entertain you, but because I made a goal of writing three times a week I just can’t let myself skip writing a Friday post. Because that would be less than three and I refuse to take a step backward.

SO… because it’s Flashback Friday, I’m going to flashback to one of the first posts I wrote on the blog. I chose this one for two reasons:

1. It’s so old I’m assuming the majority of you have never read it.

2. It’s an ornery post about my niece that makes me laugh, so I figured it still fits the mood I’m in. :)

Here you go… and thanks for indulging me while I tell you, yet again, how freakishly adorable my nieces and nephews are. It’s not bragging when it’s the truth.


You know how sometimes you're just annoyed to death with someone but you bite the inside of your cheek for fear of saying something that will make everything worse? Or you're in the middle of a conversation and you need a great comeback but none come to mind? [For the record, not having a comeback is the story of my life.] If so, I may have an easy solution for you.

When my niece Anna was little she was the most articulate little thing you could imagine. Somewhere around the age of three or so, a large number of us were gathered at her parents' home on the weekend of an Iowa vs. Iowa State football game. Anyone from Iowa knows this is a sacred sport weekend for the rival schools, and being in the hometown of the Iowa State Cyclones meant the game was being taken more seriously than you can imagine. While a large number were gathered in the living room watching the game, a few of us stragglers were still finishing up dishes in the adjoining kitchen.

Enter Anna.

She walked into the kitchen wide-eyed with a hand on her hip, declaring the need for a family meeting. She informed her mother that she had heard "inappropriate language" (I kid you not) and there needed to be a discussion about it. Her mom, while all about open communication, knew better than to interrupt this particular game and convinced Anna to wait until the game was over. Thankfully, Iowa State won or this next part might not have been so funny or well tolerated.

When the game was finished the TV was turned off and somewhere around a dozen adults sat on couches with all focus directed at the three-year-old conducting the meeting. She made sure all eyes were on her and began...
"I was hearing inappropriate language when you were watching the game. I heard words like shit, damn and ell [meaning hell... cutest mispronunciation you've ever heard]. And in THIS family, we use loving words like good job, I love you, your hair is pretty."

At that point I had a pillow shoved so far down my throat to keep from laughing I thought I might die right then and there. And it would have been so worth it. She was the cutest little swearer I'd ever seen in my life.

And here's where I get to my point of this post. The next time someone is driving you to the brink, use LOVING words. Go ahead. Tell them their hair is pretty. I swear to God I'll never let it slip what you're really trying to say.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

When All Else Fails, Sing Ave Maria

Ok, so this whole suddenly-having-a-new-allergic-reaction-to-a-random-food-ingredient-thing is a bit more tedious than I originally expected it to be. Ridiculous amounts of Benadryl later, I feel like I have nothing to write about but food allergies. Because let me tell you, whey is in a lot of food. Including milk, butter and cheese. And do you know how many products contain whey, milk or butter?

Don’t bother looking… I’ll just tell you. It’s a lot of them. Which is why I’m a bit obsessed with food labels at the moment. But that doesn’t mean you should be obsessed with food labels, so I’m choosing not to write about them. Well, starting now.

Instead, I thought I would go to my old standby when all else fails. The song Ave Maria.

Yeah, I know that’s probably not where you thought I was going with this. But that song has saved my neck many times when things have gone wrong. For example, my friend Chris’ wedding. Back when I was a wedding singing traveling fool, I showed up early for his out of town wedding rehearsal to meet with the accompanist. She was sitting at the piano waiting for me, so it was just the two of us in the chapel. And when she started to play the first song I knew we were in trouble. Because it didn’t sound like music.

Now, I’m not saying she was just a mediocre piano player. I’m saying she put her hands on the keys and hit random notes, much like I would do because I don’t read music or have a clue how to play. But this woman was apparently a regular accompanist at the church… and that just wasn’t adding up to me. After about 20 minutes of stopping and starting and realizing that her blank stare and lack of emotional affect were a bigger problem than I could deal with, the priest showed up.

I went out to the lobby to explain the situation and he said, “Oh, I was afraid that was going to happen. She’s been caring for her ill mother who just passed away and some have been concerned about her having a breakdown.”

Really? Then maybe you shouldn’t have recommended her to play at a wedding. Where there would be added pressure on her. But at that point it wouldn’t have done much good to point that out to him, so I just stepped aside when he said he’d handle it.

The priest came in and ushered the woman out, and I had the pleasure of telling an old friend that there was no one to play for his wedding the next day. Thankfully, he’s a mortician so he had some contacts and was able to find a woman to come play the processional and recessional and a couple of the songs. The rest of the music she didn’t know, however? Me. a cappella.

Which is how the Ave Maria saved me that day. And on a few other occasions when a song needed to fill in for empty space during random church services. And today it’s sparing you from having to hear more about whey, milk, butter, cheese and food labels.

You’re welcome.

09 Ave Maria  by  gitzengirl

Monday, November 16, 2009

Life's a Roller Coaster Ride

I was never a big fan of roller coasters. When I was a little girl and we all went to the Kossuth County Fair, I watched my older siblings ride those big, crazy rides and was certain I wanted to give it a try. Mom said it was a bad idea and Dad pulled the, “Oh, she’ll be fine…”

There’s a reason why they say Mom is always right.

Oh, I was so dizzy. And sick. And shouldn’t have eaten cotton candy before the big test run.

The anticipation of the chink, chink, chink while climbing higher up the coaster started the knot in my stomach… but it was the dead drop that did me in. I knew it was coming, but nothing could have prepared me for it. I never had a desire to go on a roller coaster again, until I was in high school and we had a choir trip to World’s of Fun in Kansas City. My friend Sue Ann convinced me to go on a coaster there and it changed my mind about what I had decided long ago was a death trap… because of the upside down loops.

I still hated the anticipation, the dead drops still made my stomach jump and my head spin, but the loops… one right after another… were like flying to me. It was the part of the ride right after the dead drop that woke me back up. I was hooked.

That’s about the only way I can explain to you how I’m feeling these days. The last six months have been filled completely with the steep incline of anticipation and the dead drops that followed, with no breaks in between. But this past week I’ve started experiencing a few loops here and there. After all these months, I’ve had real moments of feeling like I’m finally waking up. Colors are a little brighter, my vision a little sharper, something in me feels a little stronger. I just might be able to call myself human again! :)

Saturday I posted on Facebook that I was hoping I wasn’t going to jinx myself by saying out loud I was feeling better, and then Sunday I had a horrible day. Yep. I totally set myself up for that one. Apparently I’ve now developed an allergy to a food I’ve been eating every day for over a year, and it took all day on Sunday to get my breathing and symptoms under control. Just when I think I know what this crazy body is doing, it takes me on a dead drop.

But here’s why I’m loving this roller coaster life again: I now finally know that an upside down loop will be coming to wake me up again. Even when the pain is too high or I hit a wall of exhaustion out of nowhere, I seem to be a little stronger than I was just a week ago. And on the days when my pain is more under control and my energy is as normal as it can be for me, I’m going to savor the moments of feeling awake and flying around those loops.

Life’s a roller coaster, but at least it’s one that gives us a good rush once in awhile. :)


Because last week’s A 2 Z post was all about Stellan, who [in case you missed the updates] is doing well after his miracle surgery, I didn’t ask for suggestions for the next “H” post. So leave some H-words in the comments that you’d like me to write about next Monday, and I’ll see what kind of a tale I can weave for you! :)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Grading On A Curve

blog peeps logo

Would you trade your medical struggles for normal health if you also wouldn’t have the lessons you learned throughout it?

I know this is going to sound crazy to a lot of people. In all honesty, it sounds insane to me as I sit here physically feeling the way I do, but I can say without hesitation that I wouldn’t trade what I’ve learned for good health.

And I really, really would like to be in good health. I’d love to walk outside, sing to my heart’s content, dance, go to a friend’s house, travel home for the holidays. I’d love to not have to think through every single movement I make and I’d love to be blissfully ignorant of the word debilitating.

But more than all of that… I love feeling at peace, believing, trusting, accepting and being open to life as it is. And when it comes down to it, I don’t want to trade fulfilling who God needs me to be for my own comfort. People used to tell me they prayed for my healing so I could be whole, but the only thing that would make me less than whole is if I chose what I needed over what He needed from me.

At the beginning of the book Crazy Love, Francis Chan talked about how we should be in awe of how God used such diversity and creativity in creation. He talked about how we compare ourselves to each other… thinking that if we’re not as sinful as the person next to us, then we’re on the right path. But the truth is that God created each of us uniquely for a unique purpose, which means God isn’t grading on a curve. There won’t be someone standing next to us to point at and compare ourselves to when we tell Him about our lives.

When I read that, about not being graded on a curve, I sat and thought about how we all continuously try to be like everyone else. To be normal… to fit in… to say the right thing and look the right way, to have the right job, the right house, the right clothes. We all say we’d never go back to junior high and relive those years of trying to fit in, but in truth I don’t think we ever move completely past it. And it’s the exact opposite of what God created us for. He made us diverse for a reason. He doesn’t grade us on a curve because it would be like comparing apples and jackhammers… two unique things created for different purposes.

Of course there are moments when I long for a more normal life. I’d love to have a husband and a family, a career and a social life. I want to be a part of things… a real, tangible, active part of the outside world. But the truth is, I have no idea who I would be right now had all that happened. I have no idea what my priorities would be, where I would have lived, who the friends would be surrounding me. God set me on this path and lined it with blessings. I can’t presume my dreams would have turned out better than His plans just because they seem easier in my mind.

There is a sentence under one of Chan’s videos on his website that talks about how all of us are striving for a normal life, but have we ever stopped to think that maybe the goal in life shouldn’t be normalcy? That one sentence made my circumstances make sense to me. If I judge my life against others… or even against the life I used to have… if I’m grading myself on a curve of normalcy, then of course I look short-changed. But that’s not the goal. The goal is to live the best life I can with what I am given.

Obviously my life is intensely abnormal compared to others, and these past few months have been the hardest of my life. But I still wouldn’t trade it for the normal one I always thought I would have, because this is the one He meant for me to live. It’s a relief to know we’re not graded on a curve, but instead loved for exactly who we are designed to be.

And I wouldn’t want to be anyone else.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Living Prayer

I’ve never really given much thought to the type of things I want people to say at my funeral. I tend to focus more on how I’m living right now and hope that how I’m remembered falls in line because of it. That changed a bit this August when Eunice Kennedy Shriver passed away.

In a statement by the family, they described her as "a living prayer, a living advocate, a living center of power. She set out to change the world and to change us, and she did that and more."

I have to tell you, that phrase has stuck with me… to be described as a living prayer. Growing up Catholic, where tradition and posture are a part of worship, my mind went to imagining the actual appearance of a living prayer. I tried to imagine what that might look like in a tangible application, but I couldn’t. I’ve decided that kind of a life can’t be seen in a look or a stature.

What I’ve decided instead is that it would be found more in the reflection of others when they are touched by you. It would be seen in the joy that others would find contagious, in the compassion that others would feel in your words and deeds. It would be found in the empathetic nature of a stranger and in the fortitude seen in those who are determined to make a difference. The kind word for no reason, the intentional way of listening, the hand outstretched to give and to receive… the voice of encouragement, the touch of comfort, the openness to share in word and deed… all of these things must be what a living prayer looks like to others.

All we can really do in life is be open to what God needs from us, to be aware and present in our circumstances so we are available to step up when called. It’s a daily choice to make this a way of life… but I have to say that now, choosing how I want to be remembered is helping me choose my daily actions.

I want to be a living prayer.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Brought to You by the Letter G


This word takes on so many different meanings for me today, mostly because I’m thinking about little Stellan.


We’ve watched and waited to see if he would be healthy at birth, seen him go in and out of SVT [a rapid heart rate originating in the atria], get through his first ablation surgery and many hospital stays. Too many for such a little guy. But thankfully, he is growing.

The reason that’s a good thing is because his SVT is getting worse. His medications are no longer keeping it under control, so they are in Boston for another ablation procedure… trying to burn off the extra electrical pathway in his heart. The one that is dangerously close to his AV node. That’s why his growth is so important… the bigger he is, the further away the electrical pathway and AV node are from each other. They were hoping to wait until he was 4 years old, but are going ahead now – after he just celebrated his 1st birthday in the hospital.

His mom listed off a lot of possibilities on her blog. There’s a 20% chance the surgery will be successful. The other options are things like a permanent pacemaker, stroke and even death… something no parent should have to think about for their child. But even in their fear, they have found their own growth as well.

There is a growth in faith, in putting their trust in a God they love. There has been growth in their marriage, in their friendships, in their circumstances. Jennifer has had to put up with a lot of cruel criticisms directed at her and her husband, and she has grown beautifully during those challenges and shown what only perseverance and love can demonstrate.

And we all have grown with them. We’ve grown as a network of support, we have grown in our own faith and beliefs, the number of prayers being sent up for this boy grows by the day… and we have grown in the knowledge that miracles come in many forms.

They started weaning Stellan from his meds on Saturday so his body would be free of medications for surgery on Tuesday. As I’m writing this on Sunday night, Jennifer’s latest twitter update stated that Stellan has gotten bad quickly, is in ICU and intubated. There is no way he’ll hang on for a surgery Tuesday, so they will be doing the ablation soon.

I’ll do my best to check in with you here and let you know if I see any updates, or you can follow her blog here: MckMama. In the meantime, take a moment to say a prayer for their family.

I’d like to keep the number of prayers growing.

***** Update 1 ***** 11:41 *****

After a really long night and morning, Stellan was just taken for his ablation. He has had blood transfusions, been packed in ice due to fevers, his blood pressure has been dangerously low and at one point they had to bring him back with a crash cart. I can't imagine how scary this has been for them. I'll update again when she has any news on the surgery.

***** Update 2 ***** 1:25 *****

I'm going to paste a link here so you can go to Jennifer's site, she wrote a post and just did the first update from surgery... the ablation hasn't started yet because they are having some difficulty with access points.


Are you people sitting down?!?!? You know that small, 20% chance they could do the ablation successfully? Stellan was in the 20%. He's out of surgery and SVT free!!! :) You have to read it in Jen's own words... but this, my friends, is what miracles are made of:

Friday, November 6, 2009

Flashback Friday: The Post That Has Me Singing "Sunrise, Sunset"

People, I’m getting old.

No, it’s not my birthday and I’m not saying that because I walk slower than most 93-year-old women.

[As an aside, I used to live in an apartment building that had a pool, and my roommate Kristin often had to stop me from using my cane to trip the old women passing us on the sidewalk on their way to swim. Shortly thereafter I got my belly button pierced just to prove I was still young. :)]

So, what has gotten me feeling so old? Well, since you asked…

My oldest nephew, Alex, turned 18 this week.

One-Eight. He’s an *gulp* adult.

alexander bw

Somehow, that kid still looks like this to me:

alex tada bw

Oh, that little turkey was my boy. We spent hours singing “Chin Up” from Charlotte’s Web and “Blue Suede Shoes” in his best Elvis impersonation. He couldn’t get enough of the book If You Give A Mouse A Cookie and, for whatever reason, if he was ever sad about something singing the theme song to Saved By The Bell made him giggle like crazy. The most heart-wrenching moment I ever had was having to leave him and head back to college… he was hugging me around the neck and crying, “But I love YOU! I want to go to college with YOU!” I almost stowed him in my suitcase and smuggled him into the dorm. :)

Being the aunt who wanted to see all his wishes come true, I put my thinking cap on when he wanted a black rabbit for Christmas more than he wanted to breathe. Santa wasn’t going to be able to deliver said rabbit, which prompted me to start writing a children’s book called The Adventures of Tada the Black Rabbit. I had my Aunt Sherry do the illustrations and just last year actually had them put into book form for my nieces and nephews. But back then, I’d just tell him the story and he’d join in at the appropriate places.

Then it happened. They agreed to let me get him a black rabbit one Easter… oh, was he a happy boy! As it turned out, their dalmatian, Patty, wasn’t nearly as happy… so Tada the Black Rabbit had to go live on a farm where they could visit.

I’m sure Tada was as relieved as Patty. :)

It still blows my mind that little boy is a senior in high school. He used to ask me how much I loved him and I’d say, “Around the world and back, buddy.” No matter how old he gets, no matter how much his pictures change, that’s one thing that never will.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Your Riley Questions…


Let’s just start this by saying I couldn’t have bought him a more appropriate shirt for Christmas last year. He is the most perfect dog for me, but DUDE, he’s got issues. :)

How is the little mascot handling you being really sick?


Honestly, he is really affected by how I’m doing. Just lately he’s started getting a little playful with me again, but since June he has been extremely subdued, which is not his personality at all.

When I was immobile and my legs were so intensely painful, I had to train him to go around my legs or lay up by my head because he always wants to rest his chin on whatever area is hurting the most. It’s so strange how he knows, sometimes before I do, where trouble is. A few years ago I had a picc line in my arm that started hurting quite a bit. He would not leave my arm alone, whining while resting his head on it. The next time the nurse came they had to pull the line because it was infected, and he never went near that arm again.

Since June until now, I couldn’t get him to play no matter what I did. I was feeling so guilty that I couldn’t get up and he was so melancholy, but if I tossed a toy he’d just stare at me like, “You should be resting, woman.” But the moment someone else, someone healthy, walked in the door… he became a completely different animal. He’d jump and run and bring them toys… it was like he knew they were healthy and could play.

This pup never ceases to blow my mind.

My one major complaint: the more stressed out he is, the more he marks. And I’ve really been stressing him out. I wish he could have the intuition that tells him spot cleaning the carpet is quite a chore for me… but apparently he didn’t get that gene. There have been moments where I’m tempted to tear up all the carpet and live with concrete floors for convenience, but I haven’t gone quite that crazy yet. As annoying as it is, everything else about him makes up for it. :)

Can Riley tell when you’re feeling extra bad?


The above comments pretty much answered this question, too, but I’ll give you an example of his extreme empathy since it’s so fresh in my mind.

The past two mornings I woke up with migraines. Often I’ll wake up with a bad headache that will turn into a migraine, but Monday and Tuesday my vision was already blurry when I opened my eyes. Needless to say, we spent most of our time laying on the couch, medicated, in the dark. As often happens if I have a migraine that lasts more than a day or so, Riley started getting nervous.

By yesterday afternoon, he started getting sick to his stomach and threw up three times before we finally went to bed. Usually he is sound asleep all night unless I move and he adjusts his position … because he must be touching me at all times. But last night, he was antsy all night, periodically getting up and standing by my head, smelling by my mouth or ears. He almost had me paranoid, wondering if something bigger was wrong with me!

This morning, however, when I got up with my normal headache and the migraines gone… he’s back to normal. No sign he was antsy or sick like last night, and instead has been playful and a bit ornery.

I guess he’s making up for lost time.

So, yes… he can definitely tell when I’m feeling worse, and does his best to take good care of me. My friend Susie says all we need to do now is teach him to dial 911 and he’d be perfect. :)

When Riley is glued to you and you tell him to move, does he do it or does he do what mine do – pretend they don’t hear so they don’t have to move?


Does this look like a dog that would move for no reason?!?

He’s actually really good about where he walks and I never have to worry about tripping over him, but let’s be clear:

This is Riley’s house. He just lets me live here.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Brought to You by the Letter F


How fitting that on the Monday after Halloween the majority of you chose Fear as the F word you’d most like to hear about.

Wow, writing the F word seemed so inappropriate. :)

Anyway…  there were so many directions I could have gone with fear. Like the fact that if a mouse showed up in my condo there would be a huge problem… because I wouldn’t be staying here and I can’t actually leave. I’m telling you, I could be in the worst sort of medical condition and I wouldn’t call my friends in the middle of the night, but I can guarantee you I would be waking them up and insisting on companionship if a mouse was involved.

Growing up in the country, I had plenty of opportunities to have mouse confrontations. My dad always tried to tell me that mice were more afraid of me than I was of them… but he could never explain to me why, if that was true, they tend to RUN RIGHT AT A PERSON.

Yeah. Logic kind of trumped him on that one.

If we’re talking about fear I could also tell you that the last horror movie I watched was Children of the Corn at my birthday slumber party in 7th grade. We all started out spread out on the floor, and by the time the movie was over, my friends and I were all crowded on the couch with my sister Laura, who was just as scared but [bless her heart] trying to be comforting.

It was especially chilling because one of the characters kept saying, “Malachi…” in a really creepy, ominous voice. I swear to God, in our religion class junior year Sr. Janet started talking about Malachi from the Bible and my friend Katie and I both looked at each other like someone might attack us out of the cornfield that night. Yes. Four years after we watched the movie.

We also might have gotten in trouble that day for talking all through religion class because we were so freaked out, but explaining it to Sr. Janet really did no good considering we talked through class almost every day anyway.

Yep. I could ramble on about lots of different fears, but I don’t think those are the kinds of things you actually meant for me to talk about. So I’m reposting something I wrote back in December on the topic, because I don’t think I can say it any better now than I did then. Back then I chose to not be afraid of what would happen in the coming year. And now that everything has happened, I’m not going to be afraid of next year either. There’s just too much life to be lived between now and then to waste it.


Off The Table
[December 11, 2008]

This seems to be the time of year when there's a lot of reflection on the past 12 months... the ups and downs, the changes, the celebrations and the sadness. It seems hard for me to believe that three seasons have come and gone and winter is upon us again. It felt like a "blink and you'll miss it" kind of year for me.

Awhile back I was reading Alece's blog Grit and Glory, and she posed this question: What’s the most significant thing God did in you this year?

My first thought was, why doesn't anyone ever ask easy questions?!?! But this was my second thought:

He took fear off the table. I’m not even sure how it happened… but I think the extreme uncertainty of my life finally made it very clear. Fear isn’t an option. It’s like He drew a line and said fear or ME. And I didn’t choose fear. And it was one of those fundamental changes where I know it’s just not an option. Everything can be taken away, and I trust Him. Period.

I don't think I stopped to realize it until that exact question was posed, but it's the absolute truth. And I think it was something that was graced for me because it wasn't a specific thing I was consciously trying to do, although it definitely fits with the intention of how I'm trying to live. Something shifted in me and I know that I unequivocally trust Him.

That doesn't mean life is suddenly carefree and easy... it means that in the midst of hard stuff, I'm not scared. If I look back on the past year there is no doubt I'm doing worse now than last year. But I'm not afraid of what next year will bring. He took that option off the table. And I intend to work as hard as I need to in order to keep it that way.

I've found, though, that it's much easier to not choose fear when it comes to my life, but when it comes to those I love I have to work on it more. I want to fix things for them, I want to take away their hard times, their illnesses, their uncertainties. I have to watch my words when I pray for them so it doesn't come from fear, but rather faith.

I was recently having a conversation with my sister when we both agreed that He is the same God today as He was yesterday, we just wonder what in the world He's thinking sometimes.

But that's the point: faith is believing without seeing. I can't see it... I can't know what happens tomorrow. But I know He's got it under control. And that fear is off the table.

a to z

Ok, peeps… let’s see what you can come up with for a “G” topic…