Helping a sister out

12 Jan

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I’ve never felt like I was living the story of Esther quite like I did this month. I’ve been drawn to that story since learning about it, particularly the idea of how God prepares us – all our lives – to bring glory to his kingdom, in the most perfect timing imaginable.

My sister-in-law is one of a kind: hilariously funny with a huge heart. I felt a special connection with her from the moment I first met her. When she called me in January, I was literally moments away from 25 guests appearing on my doorstep for a baby shower I was hosting at my home. I almost didn’t answer the call but something made me pick up. I was not prepared for her to start the call with words that sent chills down my spine: “I felt a lump.” After urging her to get herself in a doctor’s office – stat – and some reassurance, I hung up, truly thinking she would probably be okay. But none of this came with easy timing. Though her family would continue to be most supportive, they had recently established a new home in the neighboring state, and she had few friends to lean on and absolutely no established medical care yet. Once we found her a solid doctor, things started moving quickly: positive findings, orders for more imaging, requests for genetic testing, big decisions to make. Her house is a 4 hour drive from mine, so I hopped in the car to attend the biggest decision making appointments: meeting the oncologist, evaluating the prognosis, and making chemotherapy decisions.

I didn’t know a thing about cancer before I met Joe. But God knew everything. He knew I would be helpful to Kim when her time came. He stirred my heart and I quickly became an advocate – maybe THE advocate – for women’s reproductive cancers in our region. After forming a nonprofit, I counseled patients and their families, helped them find appropriate social networks and resources. I had never had cancer. No one close to me had ever had cancer. But I had a need to do this in a way I could never explain to anyone else.

When Kim was diagnosed my husband was at the busiest height of his career. I was his stand-in for her, a link to bridge her to his knowledge and expertise. And I could do it with my own authority too. I knew the tough questions to ask and the important decisions that needed to be made. God had prepared me for such a time as this.

When it all came together, we had a plan in place for Kim. Our whole family went for her first chemotherapy. Joe was there to support her at the doctor’s office and I was there to help support her at home. Nothing was more special than this time we all had together with her family. The photo above was the early morning just before her first chemo.

Kim received the strongest chemo available. She had a good prognosis if it worked. She then had several major surgeries. She was BRAC+. Her chances of getting this cancer were almost certain. We wanted to make sure it would never come back, anywhere. Her daughter and sister have had to do major prophylactic surgeries to prepare for their own inevitable fates. Joe, thankfully, was negative.

This picture was taken in January of 2012. It is not May 2016 as I update this. Kim is still cancer free. She has since enjoyed her daughter’s wedding, the birth of her grandson, her son’s graduation from high school and him starting college at Troy. She has moved to the beach. She enjoys every minute of her new lease on life.

For such a time as this – I felt like every moment of my life had led to me helping Kim navigate those scary waters. God was there for her in a mighty way, and it was a privilege to be a small part of it.

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World Peace, or Peace in Your World

2 Jan

Turning the page on the year can bring a mixture of feelings: relief, anxiety, a welcome sense of change, depending on the events of the past year and what events the upcoming year may hold.

Many people look back on the previous year with a sense of regret, resolving to do better in the new year.  Some look forward to turning the page on a year of unfortunate circumstances or bad decisions, welcoming a fresh start to begin anew.  Still others appreciate the year that just ended and are glad to begin another, excited to see what’s in store ahead.  Almost everyone makes a new year’s resolution, a promise to make themselves better, a plan to be more organized, more efficient, more in shape, more dedicated, or to quit a bad habit, such as smoking, nail biting, or drinking.

Self reflection is good for the soul and philosophical thinking helps us define the way we live and make decisions that shape our values.  And none of us are perfect; we can all use a little tweaking here or there to make some changes in our lives.  So a resolution for change is not a particularly bad idea.  The problem is, however, that many, if not most (all?) resolutions are broken, empty promises that we strive to fulfill but are never able to keep.  It’s like trying to achieve world peace when all we really need to achieve is a little peace in our world.

This New Year, I’m skipping the list of resolutions.  I’m not resolving to turn critical thoughts into more positive observations, to keep my house cleaner, stay off Facebook and Twitter to make my life more efficient, all of which would be positive changes in my life, my family would surely agree.  To be honest, I really can’t keep those promises to myself.  I’m critical by nature and, though it’s irritating at best, it also makes me a highly productive and conscientious person.  My house is clean but cluttered. I’ve never been a neat freak and that’s not likely to change.  The computer is where I keep all of my organization and if I drift off onto social networking, well, it’s welcome adult interaction as a small break from keeping my children throughout the day, no different from those at work taking coffee breaks from their desk jobs.  I’m not making excuses, I’m just being realistic here.   Making these changes would be about as easy as achieving world peace.  At least in my world.

Instead I think I will focus on just that: achieving peace in my world.  I’m going to evaluate my decisions a little more carefully.  I want to make my decisions based on Love–with a capital L–the kind derived from the Joy leftover from Christmas that resonates through all the way to Easter and carries me throughout the year.  I want to surround myself with people that matter and events that are important and effect change in my community.  More than anything I want to focus on relationships.  I want to nurture relationships within my nuclear family, with my husband and each of my children, and I want to strengthen relationships with some of the precious friends I have been blessed with. I’m going to look for ways to relax my commitments to things that don’t really matter so much and be a “yes” girl to things that do.  If there’s a way to volunteer I want to do it, especially if there’s not a way to be recognized for it.  If there’s a way to serve, I want to sign up, especially if I don’t have to attend a meeting or be in charge of the project.  I want to be the Indian and not the Chief, all year long.

Maybe I won’t be recognized for achieving world peace in 2012.  But maybe I’ll achieve a little peace in my world.

What about you?  Add your resolutions below!

It really was the perfect Christmas

25 Dec

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Glory to God in the highest.

And to earth, peace, goodwill toward men.

 

Where is Elfie? (Or Buddy? Or Al?): Random thoughts on that Elf on the Shelf

16 Dec

My friends are so creative, as are many Mrs. Clauses all over the Internets sharing their Elf escapades.

You know, like the one where the kids thought Buddy, the family Elf, had been making s’mores with candles the night before.

Or the one where Elfie was up all night playing cards with friends!

Elf with a pick up line!


Elf with a marker — whaaat?!

There are lists upon lists to inspire moms of all ranges of creativity.

Well, all of that is really cute and all, but I am just not getting the whole Elf thing.

I spend my entire day picking up after my family of five.  Why in the world would I make an even bigger mess in the name of Elfdom?

And why is that crazy Elf so mischievous, anyway?  I thought the elves were helpful to Santa.  When I grew up, the story went that you had to be good because Santa and his elves were watching…so they could spend all their non-watching time making toys for the good boys an girls.  Elves were helpers.  Not rabble-rousers!

And why, oh why, does the Elf have such mystery and magic surrounding him?  We spend the first three years of life logically explaining that there ARE no monsters, boogie men are not real and the dark is nothing to be afraid of because the things we imagine are just that: imaginary.  And then we expect them to believe in a tooth fairy, an Easter bunny, and a Santa Claus, all of which are home invaders in the middle of the night, benevolent as they may be.  And we want to ADD to that another layer of confusion with the whole elf thing?  I’ve got plenty on my hands with explaining the whole Santa-sleigh-and-reindeer-covering-the-surface-of-the-world-in-an-evening theory.

Besides, my kids are pretty realistic.  They are not going to believe even for a minute in that plastic face (wearing makeup!) with the permanent grin that he comes alive at night and sleeps during the day.  Besides I obviously got to bed after they do each night, they would spot on know that I am designated Elf-mover, without a doubt.  Whose kids are really falling for this, anyway?  And are these parents the ones that are *so shocked and sad* when their very own children don’t believe in Santa anymore?  I mean, they’ve been trying that theory on something obviously not real.  Trying to press it on something maybe not real but I am not sure is pretty much going to dial it down into the I’m pretty sure none of this is real category in a further, faster fashion.

And then there is the whole business about Christmas time. And what it really means.  Before I get all preachy, let me just point out that December is decidedly and unequivocally the busiest month of the year.  I checked my let twice early this year and I am still baking, wrapping, shopping, and scurrying; I am not sure how people do it who wait till the last minute.  I have absolutely enjoyed every moment of this Advent season this year.  But I can assure you it has NOT been because I have added that “one more thing” to my already long to-do list.  When I’m ready for bed, I’m getting in bed.  I am not rolling the kitchen with toilet paper and framing Paulie the Elf for my crime.  (Only to have to pick all that trash up in the morning…as I am in the school rush of packing lunches and backpacks and finding sweaters, gloves and coats…)

And let me point out that if the ulterior motive for the Elf is to make children behave in the “Elferella is watching!” fashion, then let me also suggest that perhaps these parents have a bit more work ahead of them in the behavior management category.  I need no Elf to raise my children.  And I need no Elf management to justify my Santa spending.  My children probably get more that what they deserve for Christmas, but I’m not so ashamed of it that I have to make them submissive to feel like it’s justified.  I’m not being self- righteous, just elf-righteous.  I’m certainly not perfect but I don’t need his help.

I know I’m not alone here.  I’m not the only one mystified by the Elf-loving mommies who seemingly spend hours upon hours creatively brewing up mischief and mayhem for Mortimer the Elf to make for the next morning.

We are not the perfect family and we don’t want to take the humbug out of Christmas fun.  We are, however, celebrating our saviour’s birth this month, and that is the reason for our season.  It isn’t about elves or mischief or naught/nice lists or even santa.  While we do not correct our children’s “beliefs” in these departments we do not celebrate Advent for this reason.  Santa does make a visit on Christmas Eve, and thankfully, he does it without any help from Elfie.  Or Buddy, Max, Sophie or Sammy.

He just stops here because the spirit of Christ-mas has filled him with such joy that he wishes to share it.  And for that, we are glad recipients.

 

 

 

Four

12 Dec

She planned every detail of her perfect day.  And by planning, I mean we had it all worked out that she would have her party at one place, and then after the invitations were printed, she decided she wanted a party “just like last year’s party.”  As in, at a different place than planned.  And she invited all her friends to the same place as last year. So I had to have the invitations re-printed.

Oh yes, this really happened.

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She also “designed” her cake.

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She LOVED it. Which is all that really matters.

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To her, it was the PERFECT party.

And just like that: she was FOUR!

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Celebration!

9 Dec

Photo from 2010 December AC Bday party!

Exactly a year ago we celebrated her third birthday.  Tomorrow she celebrates turning four.

The Bird of Time has but a little way to flutter and

The Bird is on the Wing.

                                                                                                                                –Omar Khayyam

Waiting, waiting, waiting…

8 Dec

Advent season is a time of waiting. We are preparing our hearts for Jesus’ birthday by pondering the many precious details of the first Christmas.  My children’s favorite question during this season is “Can we do our Advent calendars??”

As with a lot of prized possessions in our house, we have three Advent calendars (how else would I negotiate the passing-down of things later?!).  And then this year, we added a disposable fourth.  

My (former) favorite is our oldest calendar.  Below Joseph, circa 2006, demonstrates our use of this calendar and the story that goes along with it.

(Incidentally, here he is reciting the story several years later, in 2010. One of my proudest moments!)

Lest you think we are busy polishing our halos whilst you read our blog, however, I shall introduce you to the children’s favorite Advent calendar:

Photos from Dec 7, 2011

The LEGO STAR WARS Advent Calendar! I mean if it isn’t cool enough that it is made by LEGO, it achieves ultimate awesomeness with its STAR WARS theme.  Each day a new flap is opened to reveal 15-20 teeninsy pieces that they put together (instructions inside flap) to create a Lego creation.  Rumor has it that Santa Yoda will appear on Day 24.  We’ll see!  Totally sacrilegious  secular but still fun.  Although this is not a “keeper” calendar, we do get a LEGO calendar yearly.  LEGO has many styles of these calendars available each year, in City versions and, this year, Star Wars, as shown.

Our other Advent calendar was a gift to our family this year.  It has become my favorite!  This calendar by Kurt Adler is a magnetic style calendar which can be hung on the wall or can sit alone.  Each door reveals a wooden magnet that can be attached to the board.  It is beautiful!  And now, my favorite.
Photos from Dec 7, 2011

For gifts to share with friends this year we gave Usborne’s Advent Calendar to Color.  Sturdy hardback board books, they were a great price point at only $7.99 each and they are perfect for littler children too.  Each day my children take turns opening the flaps and then coloring the area around the flap they opened.  We will have a lovely masterpiece when we are finished!

Photos from Dec 7, 2011

Photos from Dec 7, 2011

Advent truly is a season of expectation.  When my children start annoying me each morning by asking WHEN they can do this tradition that we do each night before they go to bed, I remind myself that the most important part of the season is teaching them how to expect hope.  When we know in our hearts the assurance that Jesus is, indeed, coming, we can surely prepare room for him there, all day long, all season long.  And if the season is special enough, maybe it will even last throughout the coming year.

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