Thursday, December 17, 2009

Four Years

Today was Bethany's fourth birthday. We went to her grave site to leave a little pinwheel. We had to scrape the ice and snow away, but it was nice to remember.

Here's a picture of her grave site without the snow and ice.

That verse is always comforting to me.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Eleven Years and Counting

Here we are. You and me. The same two lovers who pledged our lives to each other with stars in our eyes and big dreams in our hearts.

And while the years have seen some of those dreams come true, these years have also opened our eyes to the reality that marriage takes work, patience, and the kind of love that stays true, no matter what.

Here we are. You and me. Celebrating another year of loving and living and learning. Another year of working to make this life together the best it can be.

And I just want you to know that I believe in us. I believe in our love, and I believe in the strength and the beauty that come from sharing life's joys and weathering its storms...together.

You are my love, and when I pledged my life to you, I said forever...

I still do.

(This was the card I gave Van today for our Anniversary. I couldn't have said it better...I'm so in love with him!)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Nothing Much

Minnesota got a big snowstorm yesterday and today. It took me one hour to drive to school last night (saw 3 cars off the road, two wrecks, and almost got hit twice), only to find out that classes had been canceled (good reason to check my e-mail before I go to school). So, I crashed Van and Allika's date and we had a great time together after a long and stressful day.

I was going to have to work this morning, but don't have to now. We are also canceling small group at our house tonight.

I am still going to my niece's Christmas program this afternoon though. Can't miss that!

Snow is such a gift. It's God's way of slowing my life down just a little.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Confessions of Grumpy Homeschool Mamma

We say a prayer before we start school every morning. Allika thanks God for the day and the nice time that she hasn't had yet, nor is going to have. It's kind of a practice in futility, except I suppose she's learning the discipline of starting her work with prayer.

So, then I pray. I ask God to help me have a good attitude and to help Allika to do her best and work really hard and learn a lot. Another practice in futility. Sigh.

The other day, she told her grandma that she didn't like me teaching her because I always get angry with her every time she makes a mistake. She always makes me look like a saint when it matters most. (There was also the time when she told grandma that I took her money from her, placing her at the poverty level, so could grandma please send her .47 cents.)

Anyway, I could explain here that her idea of anger is my idea of strict enforcement. I could also tell you that she does not have a competitive bone in her body, which is good in some senses, but not when she does not grasp the reason why she should try her hardest at something. Furthermore, I could explain that she gets distracted very easily (huge understatement), which presents a challenge when she is supposed to be writing the word "weed," but, instead, finds the speck of Crystal Lite powder on the table much more fascinating.

Here is an example of a typical conversation during a school session:

Me: Allika, where is the one's place? (This is after Van has extensively gone over this concept with her the previous day.)

Allika: I don't know.

Me: Remember that it is all the way over to the right of a number?

Allika: (Absent-mindedly) Oh.

Me: So where is the one's place?

Allika: All the way over to the right.

Me: (Getting really excited that she finally got it) Good! So which number is in the one's place?

Allika: (Looking at the number 112) The one.

Me: No Allika, which number is all the way over to the right?

Allika: The two.

Me: (Excitedly again) Right! So, which number is in the one's place?

Allika: The one.

Me: (Starting to get somewhat exasperated) No! What is the one's place?

Allika: I forgot.

Me: The number all the way to the right.

Allika: Oh.

Me: So which number is all the way over to the right?

Allika: The two.

Me: So which number is in the one's place?

Allika: The one.

Me: No, Allika. It's the two. (I know my mother would roll over in her grave if she were dead. She is a firm believer in never giving the answer.)

So we go through a similar process with the ten's and hundred's place. Then, I ask her to write the number one-hundred-and-one. She writes it out like this: 1001. I am beyond frustrated at this point.

In the middle of all this, she is spacing out and getting side-tracked by all manner of things that tickle her the light switch.

This leads me to what happened a few days ago. We had said our standard prayer before beginning our school day. Allika had thanked God for the great fun she was having and I had asked for patience and a good attitude.

Things began to rapidly deteriorate as I tried to get her to focus on her work, pay attention, do her best, and have a good attitude. (It's somewhat ironic to me when I yell, "You need to have a good attitude, Allika!!!")

In the middle of this loss of control I was displaying, Allika looked up at me and said, "I guess God didn't answer your prayer, Mom."


"Because you asked him for a good attitude and he didn't give it to you."


"Allika, he did answer my prayer because I don't have a bad attitude. I'm just trying to be strict with you because you need to do your best and pay attention and work hard and have a good attitude."


Well, I've been thinking a lot about that. A lot. A great amount of a lot.

I realized that so many times I have asked God for something and waited for him to make it happen. I forget that sometimes I am the answer to my own prayer. Is God going to sprinkle me with a good attitude just because I ask him? Is God going to send money from heaven to my friend because I prayed that he would help them through these difficult financial times? Is God going to make my marriage better because I've asked him to show my husband the areas he needs to change?


But just as likely, I will have to make choices to control my behavior when I feel like letting all my emotions hang out.

It's possible that I am the one who God will use to bless my friend in a monetary way.

It could be that God wants me to change my faults, fix my attitude, and love my husband unconditionally through all his weaknesses and imperfections in order to enjoy my marriage.

James 2:14-17 says, "What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, 'Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,' but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself if it is not accompanied by action, is dead."

Last night, I asked my daughter what she would change about our family if she could change one thing.

She said it would be me getting grumpy all the time during school.I told her that she was right, and that was going to change immediately.

Today, I let go of all my exasperation and frustration and corrected her kindly. I made a deliberate choice to only respond softly and gently and to walk away for a while if I thought I would lose it.

Her performance went up by 100%.

She said, "This is the specialist day in a long time."

"Why?" I asked.

"Because you're not being so grumpy anymore."

It looks like God answered my prayer after all.

Sunday, November 29, 2009


My sister and I thought it would be fun to make tamales for Thanksgiving this year. We had made them together once before and thought they turned out really yummy, so we decided to do a Mexican Thanksgiving.

Tamales are a difficult thing to make. It's kind of something you get better at the more you do it - like an art. Traditionally, Mexican women learn early how to make tamales for their husbands and families. They are made for special occasions, such as parties and holidays.

You start by making a chicken stock with 3-4 lbs. fresh chicken in 2.5 quarts cold water with 1 large celery rib, 1 green onion, 2 carrots, 1 yellow onion, 1 bunch cilantro stems, 4-5 garlic cloves, .5 tsp. pepper, and 1 tsp. salt. Bring all of this to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for one hour.

You will use the chicken for the chicken filling. We also put a roast in the crock-pot with salt, pepper, onion, and garlic for the beef filling. You can also do pork (which is what the classic tamale is made of), but we didn't.

The next step is to make the Red Chile Sauce. Mix 5 cups of the chicken broth; 1 lb. tomatoes, quartered; 12 oz. white onions, quartered; 6 cloves whole peeled garlic; 6 oz. dried New Mexico chiles, stemmed and seeded; one Tbsp. butter, at room temperature; 1 tsp. salt.

In a stock pot over high heat, bring the stock, tomatoes, onions, and garlic to a boil. Cook for 15 minutes.

Stir the dried chiles into the stock, making sure it covers them. Remove the pan from heat and soak chiles for 15 minutes.

When the mixture is cool, transfer it to a blender until liquefied. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve, pressing on the residue with the back of a ladle to extract all of the chile flavor.

In a large saucepan, reheat the sauce and stir in the butter until it is melted. Stir in the salt.

Now you are ready to add the shredded chicken to half the Mexico Red Chile sauce, .5 tsp. ground cumin, and .25 tsp. cayenne pepper. Do the same with the shredded beef.

Start soaking your corn husks, as they will need to soak in water for 20 minutes before you can use them.

You can either buy prepared masa or make it yourself by using a bag of Masa flour and a 3 lb. tub of Crisco. Mix it all together, then divide into two equal parts. To one part add 1 cup of the beef broth, and to the other half add one cup of the chicken stock. We thought the masa turned out a little too dry, so I would recommend adding more stock. The way to test the masa is to wet your fist in water and press it into the dough; the dough should leave no residue on your hands.

Here are the chicken meat mixture and the beef mixture with the masa mixture.

Next, take a corn husk and place the rough side down, away from you, so that the smoother side is facing you. Place about a quarter cup of the dough on the corn husk. Spread it out over the husk, leaving 1/2-inch borders along the sides. Spoon 1/4 cup of filling down the center of the masa.

This next part we didn't do so well. Lift the sides of the corn husk up to meet each other in the center, and gently press to seal the masa together, making a tube shape that encases the filling. The corn husk should wrap around the roll, but not be embedded in the masa or touching the filling. (We didn't do it exactly like that, but it didn't hurt anything in the outcome.) Fold the top edge of the husk over the end of the roll.

Cover the tamales with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.

We put them in this roaster with a couple inches of water in the bottom and covered them with tin foil. Bake at 350 for about 1 hour.

Here is the end result with queso, refried beans, guacamole, and chips. We also served stuffed peppers, enchiladas, salsa, sour cream, and rice...

...and pies.

And the girls had to relax with their parents' laptops after a yummy meal.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Proud Moment

Here are Allika and her cousin, Tea, at their ballet recital.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A List of Adventures

There are times when I think I would really like to live out in the country on a large plot of land and just enjoy life from that perspective. The last few weeks have shown me that there are some great advantages to living in a big city, though. There are so many things to do and a lot of them are free. It's been so fun spending time together doing some of those things over the past several weeks.

I am thankful to be a part of a really great home-school coop. One of the things we've done recently is go on a field trip with the rest of the group to the Science Museum. They're having an exhibit on the Titanic right now. We got to see the exhibit and the Imax film on the Titanic, and Allika loved it. She also got to experience the rest of the museum which is hands-on science. I should be honest with you here and let you know that she is not the most focused person. She takes after her mother who does not like to spend a lot of time absorbing one thing when there's so much else to see and do. Poor Van has no hope. He likes to stay at one little, tiny display until he has processed all the information there is to process and then some. Ahh! It just drives me crazy. We are not the cute, little couple walking through the museum, holding hands and discussing what we are seeing. We are the guy who gets very annoyed at the girl for being so impatient and the girl who gets very frustrated at the guy for always being about 25 exhibits behind when there are still 1,000 more things to see. It's very romantic.

Sorry my pictures are blurry. This is the science guy doing his thing. Very cool.

Allika and her friend in front of an iceberg display.

(Wow! Really blurry pictures. Apparently, I don't like standing still in front of a display long enough to take a picture either.)

Another thing we did recently was attend a free college symphony concert that was performing "Peter and the Wolf." They really tried to make it for the children, so they had an instrument "petting zoo" before hand, where the kids could play all the symphony instruments. They also had a little craft and snacks for everyone. It was very nice, and Allika really enjoyed it. The conductor was so cool with the kids. He told them he needed them to help him conduct the symphony for one song, showed them what it involved, and then stepped back and had all the kids in the audience "conduct" for him. It was so cute to see Allika get jiggy with it when the music got really loud and exciting. Van and I were laughing. She kept looking over at us and telling us to stop laughing. It was really hard.

For their performance of "Peter and the Wolf," they had their Opera professor come out and read the story while they showed pictures of it up on the screen. It really made the music come alive for Allika and helped her to appreciate all the instruments and what message they were trying to convey. I was very impressed with everything they did that night.

We also got to go to the free Christian Community Fair last week. It was fun to see all the different Christian ministries in the Twin Cities and learn about the various ways we could get involved. Of course, I wanted to volunteer for everything from mentoring victims of domestic violence to building houses for Habitat for Humanity. Van kind of has to keep me in check because I'm a little unrealistic when it comes to how many more things I can fit into my schedule. What I was really looking for was something we could all do together as a family. I did find some things, so I will be looking into them and keeping you posted.

They had a lot of fun things for the kids, so Allika got to ride a pony for the first time, catch a fish for the first time, jump on the inflatables and do the inflatable obstacle courses, enjoy the petting zoo, see a real bald eagle up close, go on a treasure hunt that she never finished, and a few other things.

Our adoption agency also put on a "Circus of the Heart" for people who are waiting to adopt or who have already adopted. It's just pretty much a big carnival. I thought it would be something that provided more information and opportunities for networking with case-workers. It was fun, though, so I'm not complaining. I always like to do fun things with the family, especially when they're free.

The last recent event I will tell you about was really neat because Allika and Van got to do it together as their date on Tuesday night while I was at school. We are really trying to help her be more outward focused during the holidays instead of just thinking about herself and all her wants. There are several things we are tying to do to accomplish that, and maybe I'll write about them sometime, but one of the things we're doing is looking for service projects we can do for those who don't have all the advantages we have during the holidays. That is why, on Tuesday night, Van and Allika were found making Christmas cards to send to the orphans who don't get any cards during Christmas. It was another event our adoption agency sponsored, and both Allika and Van really thought it was a lot of fun. Allika did find that she is more creative than Van when it comes to making cards.

Anyway, those are some of the things we've been enjoying together lately. I still wouldn't mind living out in the country someday, but until then, I can enjoy whatever I'm doing, wherever I'm doing it as long as I can spend time with my wonderful family...even going to the museum.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


I Thessalonians 5:18 says, "Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."

I know this is the time of year we start thinking more about being thankful, and I think it's a really good idea to have an official time to focus more on all the blessings we have. It's not just a silly platitude when people say that making a list of all you have to be thankful for really changes your whole perspective on life.

One year, I made a little "Thanksgiving Tree." I just got a branch, decorated it, and tied some yarn all over it. Then, I got little pieces of paper and punched holes in them. Everyone was supposed to write down something they were thankful for and tie it to the tree. There was a catch, though. Instead of writing good things they were thankful for, they had to write about things that seemed negative at the time but turned out good in the long run. I thought it turned out really neat to read all about the hard things we had all gone through, knowing we could recognize the good in them.

That's what the verse in I Thessalonians says. It doesn't just say to give thanks; it says to give thanks in all circumstances. That is what can be really hard sometimes. It is easy to thank God for the good things, but do we thank him for the hard times also? It is in the hard times that we are strengthened and caused to grow (James 1:2-4).

In light of these things, I thought I would make a list of what I am thankful for this year, but instead of all the nice things (and there have been boat-loads of those), I thought I would write why I'm thankful for all the tough things we have been through.

1.) I am thankful for...a decrease in income due to Van's losing a part-time position...because it has freed up our schedule a little more and allowed us to be more creative in how we spend our money.

2.) I am thankful for...having ten people choose to place their fellowship with a different church after years of working together and building relationships...because it has caused us to be really introspective about who we are and why we are in the ministry; it has challenged us to be faithful; it has shown us ways that we need to improve; and it has caused us to see the potential in people we were overlooking because we were so focused on the ones we thought would stay and be the pillars.

3.) I am thankful for...being diagnosed with cancer...because it made me think about death and the legacy I wanted to leave behind; it showed me the sweetness and support of my family, church, and friends; it gave me a new perspective on what it's like to have cancer and not know what the outcome will be; and it made me appreciate what I've got even if it's not always what I want.

4.) I am thankful for...having to make some tough decisions about our daughter's emotional health...because it has helped us not to be so judgmental of other parents because we may not know everything that's going on behind the scenes; it has opened the doors to discuss some very deep truths with our daughter that most parents will not get to discuss with their children until they're much older; it has made us have to confront some of the unhealthy and untrue things that we were telling ourselves while we thought we were being perfectly rational.

5.) I am thankful for...the difficult navigation of the adoption process and that we are still waiting for that match...because there is a special child out there somewhere waiting for the love our family can give, and all the time it is taking to bring us together is just preparing our hearts for the perfect moment when the child we've been praying for becomes a part of our family.

So, whether you write a list of all the good things you're thankful for or all the not-so-good things you're thankful for, take the time to notice what God is doing in you're life. He is accomplishing great things in you, even when you may not feel so great about it.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Fall Festival

Every Halloween our church hosts a Fall Festival to reach out to the community and let them know we're here and we want to serve them. We have a little trunk-or-treat, where we decorate our trunks and the kids can go around and get candy out of them. We also serve food and drinks, set up one of those inflatable jumper thingys, have a drawing, and this year we had a petting zoo. I think the petting zoo was a huge hit. You know, it really got people's attention when they saw a camel in our church parking lot.

The organization and planning of it is a lot of work, so I have been busy for the last few weeks with that and everything else going on. That's my excuse for neglecting you anyway. Sorry.

Here are some pictures for you to enjoy.

Allika holding the guinea pig

Allika and the "scary" gorilla (a.k.a Van)

Allika and her cousin sat in the trunk and handed out candy with their puppets. So cute!

Allika and the llama or camel (not sure which)

The kangaroo

Some of the kids holding some of the animals

The camel

The trunk that won the prize for "Best Trunk."

My sister and neice

Van the man

Our little lion

The costume that won "Best costume."

We did a Noah's Ark theme, so that was fun. We tried to dress up as animals and decorate our trunks with that in mind.

It was fun while it lasted, but glad it's over.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Savior, Please

I like to think of this song as my life's theme song. It has even more meaning if you listen to it before or after reading Philippians 3:7-14, which I also like to think of as my life's verse.

Monday, October 26, 2009

His Love Through Me

We recently had a run-in with someone. It is someone who we feel we have done a lot for. Maybe they don't see it that way, but we do. We feel like we have put up with so much from this person and circumstances surrounding this person. They have brought us to tears at times, but we kept giving because we really do love this person.

We have confronted them when we felt they crossed the line, and several times Van has had to go head-to-head with them. There have been times when they have seen the affect they've had on us and have apologized. Other times, they just don't get it. All they see is their perspective, and it can really hurt.

Our most recent issue occurred yesterday. Accusations were made against us that were true, but there was so much more to the story than what this person could see. Childish threats were made to us regarding their involvement in other aspects of our relationship. It made me angry. It made me want to lash out and tell them they were throwing a juvenile temper tantrum because they did not get their way, and when they were done throwing their little childish fit, they could come join us again. Kind of like I tell my six-year-old daughter sometimes.

This person proposed the way that they thought it should be. Their way infringes on our way. Their way is not bad, but there is so much to their way that makes no sense. Their way seems to be an attempt to sabotage our way. Something about that makes me want to dig my heels in and refuse to go along. It doesn't help that this person has annoyed me one too many times. It would be so much easier to go along with them if we didn't already have somewhat of a stand-off going on between us.

This morning I read Philippians 2:1-11. I already knew what it said, but I read it again because I needed to.

"If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross!! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

I do have encouragement, comfort, fellowship, tenderness, and compassion in my relationship with my Father. He is my strength and the one I can run to when other people let me down. He is my rock and has wiped many a tear from these eyes of mine.

Therefore, all my rights as a human being are met in him. Actually, he has gone beyond my rights and given me more than I deserve. I can trust him to take complete care of me, body, mind, and spirit. I do not need another person's approval or permission to be whole and complete in Him. No amount of unfairness from another person can cause God to abandon me for that person's agenda. I will rest in his unfailing love.

Because of these truths, I can give in to someone else who may not deserve my compliance. I can allow another person to be right and do things their way instead of mine. These things cannot shake who I am in Christ and what secret whisperings we share between us. He says, "You know they aren't happy. Give them a reason to smile."

I giggle and say, "They're kind of cute in their own little frustrating way, aren't they?"

Then he says something that takes my breath away. "What they've done to you, you have done to me so many times in our relationship. I have loved you and loved you and served you and served you and bent over backwards for you time and time again. Yet, you still get grouchy with me sometimes and ignore me and deny me and throw fits. You refuse to do things my way so many times because you think your way is better. You have made accusations against me that I cannot refute because they are true, but there is so much more to what I am doing that you cannot see.
Even though you have done and still do all these things to me, though, I will still choose to love you. I will still choose to serve you. I will still move heaven and earth to help you be a better person. It is not because you deserve it. It's because that's who I AM."

I answer back in a humbled whisper, "You are so right."

I will give in to them. I will do it their way. I will consider them better than myself. I will look to their interests. I will smile at them and help them to feel the unconditional love I have felt so many times before. It is not because they deserve it. It's because that's who I am.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

In Loving Memory of Susan Kennedy Brande

Here is the eulogy that my mother wrote and read at my grandmother's funeral. I am so amazed by this wonderful lady and the legacy she left behind.

Mom, Mimi, Aunt Suzi, Suzi, Mrs. Brande: A woman who would not have wanted a eulogy, but we have come to celebrate her live & celebrate I shall.

She lived well & loved well to the max.Even at the end of her life, her mind was full of the things she had lived for - her husband, her children, her home and her garden& her travels. Her memories were sweet because she was a kind, sweet woman.
Mom never had a harsh word for, or about, anyone - even one of us. She was such a
positive, upbeat lady. From a teenager's perspective, I thought she allowed herself to be used as a doormat. She always shrugged her shoulders & said she preferred it that way. I just couldn't understand that. But she did it for the love of peace & contentment.

And I think of the 3 meals per day that she cooked for 8-10 hungry mouths (never did she send out for pizza or Chinese); all the whole wheat bread she made (6 loaves a week); all the homemade yogurt (4-8 quarts per week); homemade power drink every morning for breakfast with brewer's yeast, fresh milk, vanilla, honey , or molasses - that we kids had to eat because Dad said so. Do any of the rest of you consider these all as “comfort foods” now, as I do?

The things she did for Dad - (incomplete) besides cooking all those natural foods - attending monthly VNFFA meetings, attending weekly Small Holders' breakfasts, milking, haying, moving cattle, running farm errands.

The things she did for us kids - her biggest thing for us was making sure we all got to our activities that she wanted us involved in & riding lessons, piano lessons, 4-H, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, violin & cello lessons, ballet lessons, after-school activities, theater activities, soccer, hockey, & she joined us for rousing games of football, baseball, soccer, & ice hockey in our backyard. She was an
incredible athlete! And remember the woolen ski socks, hats & mittens she would knit for us? And they were not “have to” items. She could have bought them, but she wanted to knit. Where did she find the time for this? And she even took a quick nap in the afternoon. She'd sit on the couch & doze off in the midst of us kids & our eternal chaos. But, of course! She had been to bed late, risen with a troubled child or 2 in the night & then gotten up early. Good thing she could fall asleep at anytime and any place!

And the incredible, un -trumpeted things she did for this community:
1. Girl Scouts
2. Smith Sales
3. The Middlebury Food Coop
4. Making & delivering soup to shut-ins
5. Court diversion for 1sst-time offenders
6. Assisting refugees at assimilating into community
7. Crop Walk assistant
8. ACCAG - Add. Cty. Community Action Grp.
9. Sheldon Museum docent
10. Cornwall school Board
11. School bus driving - “Mom, you've raised all these
kids, & now you choose to drive school bus!”

Mom gave so much of herself to us (her family) & to her community. We have so much to celebrate. I praise God for this mother & friend of ours.

I have some big shoes to fill, following in the footsteps of such hard-working, sacrificial, and life-embracing women.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Poor Girl

I have this problem with people thinking I have taken their stuff when I haven't.

One time, this lady I know came up to me and asked me for her old black-and-white family heirloom picture back. She said she had loaned it to me for a project I was doing on period costume. I was stunned. I did not have her picture nor was I doing a project on period costume. When I informed her of these facts, she was insistent that I indeed had borrowed her picture and she needed it back because it was very important to her. What was I to do? I couldn't produce her precious picture, and she was not happy with me about it. It wasn't until later that she remembered it was someone else she had loaned it to.

Another time, I got a call from a friend of mine who wanted to use the Halloween costume she had loaned me for my daughter. I was at a loss because she had not loaned me a Halloween costume. She was so sure she had that I began to doubt myself and started digging through all of Allika's clothes looking for a bumblebee costume. I was relieved when I got the call that my friend remembered it was her sister-in-law she had loaned it to - not me.

Still another time, I returned a bowl and lid in which someone had given me some food. A few weeks later she asked me if I still had the lid to her bowl because it was one of her favorites and she would really like to have it back. I was horrified because I knew for a fact I did not have it, but there was no way to prove that. Fortunately, she did find her lid tucked away somewhere a few days later.

And do you all remember the incidence with the academic adviser, who believed me to have the schedule that I never received from her and proceeded to make it very difficult for me to get another one? I guess that's kind of a different category, but I'm still a little sore about it.

I actually have a few more stories along these same lines, but I'm sure you are getting the picture.

I don't know if this phenomenon happens to anyone else, and if it does, whether it bothers you, but I can attest to the fact that it causes me great stress and discomfort. I do not like people thinking that I am deliberately or irresponsibly keeping something of theirs that I never had in the first place.

I have thought about a policy of never being in possession of anyone's property. That way when someone accuses me of having kept their valued possessions, I can simply say, "That couldn't possibly be me. I have a "anti-other people's property policy." The only problem with that solution is that it doesn't work. You cannot exist on this earth and never borrow anything, have a loan thrust upon you by some well-meaning friend, or somehow come in contact with another person's stuff.

I guess, technically, you could if you wanted to be really mean and grouchy to everyone, but I don't. Thus, I came to the conclusion that I shall valiantly suffer this burden of being falsely accused of keeping one's heirlooms and the like. I will smile, try to reason with them, and endure their anger with me.

This was until yesterday, that is.

My daughter and I made the twelve-hour trip to Oklahoma this weekend to attend a friend's wedding in which my daughter was a flower girl. It was a lot of fun to see old friends and visit a little bit. I just wish we could have gotten to spend more time with people. That's just not possible when there is so much going on during wedding preparations and all. I enjoyed the little bit of time I got, though.

What does this have to do with the pocketing of people's possessions policy (PPPP)? I am about to tell you.

My daughter was an absolute angel for the whole trip. I couldn't have asked for a better traveling buddy. She was nigh unto perfect. I say "nigh" because there were no issues the whole way down and all the way back until we got a little way from home. It was then that we had our first incident, and would you like to know what it was about?

She had been listening to her Ramona books on tape (which I secretly enjoy, as well). Instead of putting them back in the tape case, however, she was tossing them around the car and getting the next tape out to listen to(not in order, mind you, much to my chagrin). Finally, I insisted that she give me all her tapes strewn around the back seat, and I put them back in their cases. I distinctly remember that their was one tape slot which remained empty because I had not been given the appropriate tape for that slot. This is a very important piece of information.

A short time later, Allika said, "Mom, why did you lose my Romona the Brave tape?"

"I didn't."

"Yes, you did. I gave it to you, and you lost it."

Then, something happened that I cannot explain. It was like all the emotions and feelings came tumbling out which had been bottled up inside of me for all those years of being accused of keeping something I had never had. It was both an extremely traumatic and healing moment for me.

"I did not, Allika, and don't accuse me of losing a tape that you lost because you didn't put it away."

"No, I gave it to you. I know I gave it to you."

This is about the time that I snapped and became overly emotional about the whole situation. "How on earth do you think you can know that you gave me that tape? Did you read every single one of those tapes before you gave them to me? I'm the one who knows what tapes you gave me, and you did not give me that tape. Now, you better sit there and be quiet and don't talk about it again or I'm going to take every single one of your tapes away, and you won't get to listen to anything!!!"

Silence ensued.

So, I figure it was a great trip other than that one little psychotic display by this very delusional mother.

My poor daughter is stuck with me for a long time. Bless her heart.

Friday, October 9, 2009

A Cultural and Spiritual Experience

Remember a while back when I mentioned my Liberian friends coming over and singing and praying over me? Well, they did it again. The day I found out I was cancer free, one of them called to hear what the report was. When my husband told her, she informed us that they were all coming over. At first, I didn't know quite what to think because it was 10:00 at night and my daughter was in bed trying to go to sleep. Once again, I was a little less than thrilled about their timing.

There was a pretty good-sized group that came over and sat in my living room waiting for me to get out of the shower. I could hear them in there singing and couldn't help but smile. When I came out of the bathroom, my daughter had gotten out of bed to see what the commotion was all about, and she was sitting on a chair in the living room, along with my husband, taking the whole scene in.

The group of them surrounded me with hugs and tears and were so happy that I had been healed. It was quite a demonstrative and dramatic response - very different from any of the reactions I had received from my American friends.

I did get some of the singing recorded, but I didn't want to seem too disrespectful by recording while they were praying. They took it very seriously and were not trying to entertain, so I didn't want them to think I thought it was all a big show. Here is some of what I recorded.

Just like before, I was blessed beyond anything a quiet night at home would have accomplished.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Blessings and Cursings

The sexy computer technician fixed my computer. It's nice to have such a sexy computer technician to live with. Now, I just need to make him some stuffed jalapenos.

I went to a Ladies' Retreat this last weekend. It was just what I needed. It was actually something I helped to organize so I was a little stressed out going into it (and even secretly wanted to play hooky from it), but I am so glad I went. The theme was on being a blessing, and I was very convicted of how much I need to bless others. The definition of blessing is to bestow favor on someone. Our goal should be to help each person with whom we come in contact to realize the favor that God has for them. Whether it is a smile, a touch, a gift, an extension of grace, a kind word, a soft re-direction, etc., we should try to remind others of how important they are to God no matter who they are. One thing that really made an impact on me was hearing that criticizing others is the equivalent of cursing them. I had never heard that before, but the Bible verse makes more sense now when it says,  "How can blessings and cursings come from the same mouth?"

It really made me stop and think that I pride myself in the fact that I don't cuss people out, but I am a very critical person. In light of the new meaning of cursing, I have a tendency to bless people one minute and curse them the next, or to bless them to their face and curse them behind their back. This makes me a very fickle and unstable person. So, I am really going to try to be less critical of others and of circumstances.

I also learned that favor is not dependent on a person's behavior, and bestowing favor can actually transform undesirable actions into desirable ones. The Israelites blessed their children every week on the Sabbath from the time they were born until they grew up. They compared them to their ancestors and reminded them of their heritage. Can you imagine the difference this positive affirmation had on these Jewish children? I realized that I need to bless my daughter more instead of constantly correcting her. Not that correction isn't warranted, but when it is not mixed with blessing, it becomes criticism and is detrimental.

When I got home from the wonderful time at the Ladies' Retreat, my husband had surprised me with tickets to the Michael W. Smith concert (but I had already figured it out because I'm sneaky like that). It was so nice of him, and I had an amazing time. M.W.S. is one of the best facilitators of worship I have ever seen. I think I was getting caught up in analyzing the dynamics of the event instead of just participating in the event, but that is sometimes more fun for me. I like figuring out why things work the way they do in people's brains.

It has been a very busy month and will continue to be, but I promise I will do better at posting. So check back over the next couple of days to see a video of my Liberian friends singing and praying over me after hearing the news that I was cancer free and to read my grandmother's eulogy, written by my mother.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Famous Quotes

Not only has my life been crazy, but my computer went ka-pooey. Since my husband's computer is attached at the hip, it is very difficult to get any time to post a blog. At this moment, I have procured said husband's computer and am attempting to write a quick post before he awakens from his wife-induced coma and comes after me.

Well, I'm sure you don't need a play by play of the craziness that is called my life. Therefore, I will keep it simple by just saying that we have been keeping all the doctors and vets in business here in Minnesota, what with my daughter's breaking of the arm and my doggy's siezuring of the body.

The main thing I thought I would share with you, in list form (because lists are my friends), are some of the things my daughter has been sharing with us. Some of them have made me bust a gut and some have made me cringe, but here is a sample of what we experience every hour of every day.

Allika: Can I please have cheese instead of grapes for a snack?

Daddy: No, Allika. If you want a snack, you can have grapes.

Allika: But, Daddy, I'm not hungry for grapes. I'm hungry for cheese.

Daddy: Allika. The answer is no. You may have grapes, and that's all.

Allika: Well, what would Jesus say if he were my daddy?


Nurse: Do you say your name "A-lec-uh" or "A-leek-uh"?

Allika: It's up to you what you want to call me. Either one is fine. Or

you can call me "A-kill-i-kuh" too if you want to.


Doctor: Hi. So you broke your arm, huh?

Allika: (Reading nametag) Is your name, Joe?

Doctor: (Chuckling) Yes, it is.

Allika: Well, my name is Allika and I'm smart.


Allika: Sometimes, people don't believe me when I tell them things.

Receptionist: Really? They don't?

Allika: Yeah. Like when I tell them I ate sand, they don't believe me.

But I have ate sand before. It tasted like candy, too.


Allika: This is the same hospital my sister was born in.

Nurse: Really?

Allika: Yeah, but she died.

Nurse: Oh dear. Where is she now?

Allika: She's in heaven.

Nurse: That's right. She's in a better place.

Allika: Yeah. And she's also buried at the cemetery.

Nurse: Do you get to go see her at the cemetery a lot.

Allika: Well, it's not close to our house. But when I grow up and I have

a daughter and she dies, I'm going to bury her close to my house.

Nurse: Oh. That's nice.


What can I say? Life is always exciting with a six-year-old.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


Just a quick post to let you all know I haven't forgotten about you. I'm just trying to figure out how to transition from being about cancer to being about other things.

I contemplated quitting my blog since I don't have cancer anymore, but, as my profile states, this is a blog about my spiritual journey which is more than just having cancer. Believe it or not, it is kind of difficult switching gears. I guess this is my attempt at going about it.

So, for those of you who were just following for cancer updates, I am moving on from those to post about other things I am learning in this exciting adventure I am on. I have appreciated your being along on this journey up until now. You have been so invaluable to me in dealing with everything. Writing was so good for me in processing all my thoughts and emotions. Having someone there to read what I wrote made me feel like there might be some significance to this whole thing after all.

I would love to have each of you continue to join me and leave all your lovely comments. If you do not wish to do so, I have enjoyed having you along thus far.

Here's to a cancer-free blog.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Breathing is Good

It's over, and this fat lady is singing ever so loudly.

The doctor called today with the test results. After a summer full of biopsies (2), surgeries (2), recovery, low-iodine diet, radiation, lab work, medications, body scans, and more, the cancer has not spread, and I am officially cancer-free.

I almost feel like I made it up that the doctor said the cancer had most likely spread, and I would probably have to have more procedures done. That all sounds so impossible and silly now. But I did not make it up. I know for a fact that is what I heard.

God is so good to me.

I had already decided that he is good no matter what. Even if the results weren't what I wanted (which I was prepared for) it would not have changed his goodness.

I know there were so many praying. People I didn't even know would write me and tell me they were praying for me. Whole churches and camps were praying for me. You can never imagine what all of you have meant to me. Thanks for the cards, calls, comments, and prayers. People would ask me what they could do for me. All I ever wanted was prayer. I could never have done this on my own. A thousand times never.

Getting the news kind of felt a little anti-climactic, like it was just another day. It's not just another day though; It is the first day of the rest of my life. I told Van I felt like we needed to shoot off fireworks or something. We laughed, knowing that we would have to find a way to celebrate without fireworks.

We went for a long, brisk walk after dark. It felt so good. When we got home, we all went to go get ice cream and a movie.

As we were driving home, we happened to look over, and much to our surprise, there was a fireworks show. Right down the street!! We knew they were for us. I guess we got our fireworks after all.

My Aunt Mary kept telling me not to forget to breathe. Now I know what she meant. I have been holding my breath for three months without realizing it. I suppose I went into autopilot mode and did what I had to do to keep my head above the water. I never read up on what things meant. If I had read what it really could mean, I would have been a basket case. I didn't even ask the doctors too many questions. I just took what they said and tried to believe the best about it. I didn't want to think too deeply about the possibilities. I know there are some who want to know all the ins and outs and ups and downs of their diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis, but not me. Call it denial. Call it laziness. Call it survival.

Whatever you call it, it's over now. I can breathe again.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Saint Van

Today was my first day out of isolation. This morning Allika said, "Momma gets to act normal today."

So many things I could say about that.

I wish I had taken a picture of my little radioactive corner. Once I touched something, it became radioactive and couldn't leave the area I was in, so I was rapidly being taken over by dishes, laundry, trash, etc. It was good to get it all out of here today.

Allika came home Sunday night. We still had 3 days of "limited contact." She did really well, considering, but didn't like it one bit.

Our little doggy couldn't understand what was going on, either. We had to keep her in Allika's room because she would come straight to me if she was allowed out. It made it worse for her the nights that Allika was gone. She is happily stretched out beside me right now as I type.

Poor Van. Bless his heart. He had to do everything. It was hard for me to watch him running around like a chicken with its head cut off while I was perfectly capable of helping but couldn't. He got so stressed out. He had to take care of his normal duties plus cook, clean, take care of Allika and the dog, run errands, etc. I remember one time when he made breakfast, served me, fed Allika and got her ready for the day, started her schoolwork while he did dishes and cleaned up, worked with her until she was done, immediately started cooking lunch, fed me and her, didn't even have time to eat because he had to make some time-sensitive calls, cleaned up after lunch, and had to take care of other responsibilities with his job while trying to keep Allika occupied and away from me. The whole time, I'm just sitting in my corner reading a book.

Someday I will make a confession about the awful way I added to his stress by insisting he butter my toast as soon as it comes out of the toaster instead of waiting until it got cold.

I know. Ridiculous. It was not one of my proudest moments.

I did get rather cross sometimes sitting there, doing nothing. No excuses. Just keepin' it real here.

I got quite a bit of my booklist read. Do you know what that means? Lots of material floating around in my brain that has to go somewhere. And what better place than here with all of you, my lovely friends?

Van laughs when I read a book. It's probably a good thing I don't read more than I do. I have to share every profound thing I read with him. When I finish a book, I exclaim profusely over its goodness and insist that he read it, as well. This is because the book is making inroads into my thought processes and I want us to discuss these things and be on the same page together. It's relational. I do the same thing with my food.

"You've got to try this!!"

"I don't want to."

"Please just take a bite?"

"Tani, I'm fine with what I ordered."

"But you don't know what you're missing. It would mean so much to me if you would just try it."

He usually relents. Then, much to his chagrin, I like to try his, too.

Life is all about sharing and experiencing things together.

Raise your hand if you think Van's a saint.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Seize the Day

Time to share another song with you, My Dearies. I process so many of my experiences through music, writing, and reading; naturally, therefore, they will go hand in hand on my blog.

This song has been one of my favorites since I was a teenager. It makes me smile every time I hear it. I like to imagine that I am so living out this song, but realistically, I have a long way to go.

Isn't she just the cutest thing with her chipmunk cheeks and twinkly eyes? I love the part where she plays air guitar.

Does anyone mind if I try to get a little philosophical here? Keeping in mind that sometimes I really don't know what I'm talking about when I think that I do.

Okay. Thank you.

*Clearing throat*

Haven't we all heard some variation of the cliche, "Seize the day"?

"Carpe diem." (That's for those who can't just say "seize the day" in their own native tongue but think saying it in Latin, or maybe it's French, makes them sound cooler.)

"Pursue your dreams."

"Reach for the stars."

"Become all you were meant to be."

"Don't sell yourself short."

Yada, yada, yada. (Interestingly, this phrase can mean many different things, "seize the day" being only one of them.)

Anyhow, we hear the mandate from so many different sources. It's volume is as if a stadium is full of spectators, shouting in unison as we play the game of life, "Seize the day! Seize the day! Seize the day! Seize the day!"

And we get all inspired.

And we sit there, responding cheerfully, "Okay...umm...okay...ummm...sure."

But we really aren't sure...of how to do it or where to begin.

It's as if the day never quite wanted to be seized in the first place.

Before we know it, we've lived a good portion of our life without a legacy to show for it, and we wonder what happened to our inspiration and determination.

When did we deviate from the path of noble pursuits and life-changing actions to one of frantically trying to get as much as possible for ourselves so we can...what? Be comfortable? How boring. Run from our mission? How purposeless. Fit in? How shallow. Leave something for our kids? How crippling.

My advice? Make a difference, not a fortune.

If your fortune is your difference, it certainly can't be that way by keeping it all to yourself. Furthermore, how can it be your legacy if you sold your soul (or your identity) in the process of obtaining it?

So, my point is, everyone needs to send me all of their money.

All kidding aside...(okay, some)I thought since I have everything figured out, I would share with you some practical steps to the seizing of the day.

Step One (1): Ask your creator and designer what it was you were created and designed for. I know it would have been nice if he would have just told you from the beginning and then, we wouldn't have had to make any of these mistakes and such. However, since he did try to tell us from the beginning and we went ahead and made the mistakes and such anyway, let's go back to square one and ask him to go over that part again with us. Here is a good question you could ask: "What do you want to do with me? How do you want to use me? Would you please show me? And if you have to knock me upside the head, would you please do that?" Okay, that was four questions, but work with me here.

I promise. I PROMISE! I SO VERY MUCH IN EVERY WAY PROMISE! that he will answer that question. If he never does another thing in your life, he WILL answer that question.

Step Two (2): Start sensing the burden(s) on your heart. The answer will come in the form of a very real burden. It will not just be a "swoosh" through your sub-conscious. It will be something very tangible that you feel inside yourself for someone or something. It could be something very small, like cleaning the flea-infested toilet at your neighbor's house (although I would classify that as huge). It could be something big, like building an orphanage for all the war orphans in post-war Liberia. Or maybe you just feel a real burden to scratch you nose. Chances are, you will start small, and once you've proven yourself faithful in the small things, he will give you bigger missions.

Step Three (3): Go do it. Don't let lack of results, others' criticism, your own insecurities, etc. stand in your way. Just do it for no other reason than it was a burden you sensed on your heart after you asked him to show you.

If you don't do it, he will keep getting louder and louder and putting more and more indications out there that this is what you should do.

Now, sometimes there are processes involved. Take said orphanage, for example. You can feel the burden and know it is something for you to do, but you may not be able to just hop on the next plane. There may be finances to raise, skills to learn, current missions to complete, etc. In spite of these, however, you begin to take steps to reach your goal, all along seeking his guidance because...

Lo and behold! Sometimes he changes the mission on you. He leads you down one path because that path will lead to this turn, and that turn will lead to a bend in the road, and before you know it, you're going in a completely different direction.

It's just one of the many surprises and mysteries along the way. It can get a little iffy at times, but, more than anything, it's rather exciting and adventurous.

Now, I won't reveal any more of the secrets. You'll just have to venture out on your own to learn them yourself.

One note of caution: If you have to sell your children into prostitution to realize God's plan for your life, it was probably your own plan for your life. I know that's a bit of a hyperbolic example, but I'm just sayin'. Work within the system, People. Work. Within. The. System. (WWTS)

There. I am done waxing philosophical. Hope you enjoyed my little exhortation.

Please stand as we sing our closing song.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


I should have brought my camera. But I'm not a camera-type person, and so, I didn't remember to. It really was a very unique experience, though, that no one can visualize without seeing it.

When you walk into the room, you feel like you are going into a danger zone or something: blue pads taped to the whole floor; saran wrap on the toilet seat, faucets, phone, remote, bed, chair, etc.; lead shields to keep radiation from entering the adjoining rooms; a sign that reads, "no visitors beyond this point"; red bins with orange "radioactive" signs; warning signs on the door and elsewhere.

So much fanfare for a gray horse-pill that they brought to me in this vault-like container. They had to open a compartment to open another compartment to open yet another compartment to get to the pill.

After swallowing it, they had to take measurements of me and the area all around my room to test the levels of radiation. I didn't feel at all different. I was just sitting there, so benign and innocent, yet so dangerous and infectious.

They said I might experience nausea, dry mouth, and pain at the cancer site, but I didn't experience any of it. I really felt very good. The most traumatic part of the whole thing was being isolated. It was so hard to just have to lay there and read a book and have people cook for me and wait on me and fuss over me. Very traumatic.

I think the hospital staff was a little confused. Everyone kept telling me something different.

"Don't use anything you don't want to leave here."

"You can use it, just wear gloves."

"You don't have to wear gloves as long as no one else will be touching it after you."

Some nurses would use a separate stethoscope from their own, while others would use their own. Some nurses would completely suit up, while others would just wear gloves. Some would come in, announcing that they couldn't get close and hurriedly do what they had to do and leave. Others would come in and stand by me for five minutes. One nurse kept checking my input and output. The rest didn't care how many times I went to the bathroom or ate. One nurse didn't even wear gloves and said he only had to if he was handling bodily fluids.

I don't know what to make of all that. Just relating the facts. No one seemed to know what the protocol was.

I was only in the hospital for 24 hours. My numbers were better than the acceptable level the next day. The guy measuring my levels said, "Your surgeon did a really good job removing all the thyroid. It's a very precise surgery and difficult to get everything without hitting nerves, vocal chords, or parathyroids."

"I know. I had a wonderful surgeon," I said.

This is a theme I keep hearing from the different doctors I see: "Your surgeon did a wonderful job."

So, I am home now. I still have to stay 6 feet away from everyone. Children are most susceptible to the radiation. Allika went to stay with her cousin for a few days. She was having a little trouble remembering to keep her distance. She was very upset that she couldn't hug me. That was hard for me because she was crying and saying that it made her feel bad not to be able to hug me. So, she went and got me a rose. It was her own idea, and she picked it out all by herself, announcing to everyone that her mother had cancer and she couldn't be close to her. She is such a sweetie-pie.

The next thing we will have to do is a body scan on Thursday to see if the iodine only went to the neck or if it went anywhere else. If it went anywhere else, that's where the cancer spread.

I get to have a new experience on Wednesday that I've never had before (hence, the newness of it). I get to take a laxative in preparation for my body scan.

I love new experiences.

Friday, September 11, 2009


I don't really feel like posting a long update, but I will say that all is well. In fact, things are better than expected. Sometimes, I get tired of talking about me and my health, though.

I promise I will update you soon, but in the meantime, I hope you will allow me to simply share this excerpt from my reading today.

Jesus hath many lovers of His heavenly kingdom, but few bearers of His Cross. He hath many seekers of comfort, but few of tribulation. He findeth many companions of His table, but few of His fasting. All desire to rejoice with Him, few are willing to undergo anything for His sake. Many follow Jesus that they may eat of His loaves, but few that they may drink of the cup of His passion.

Many are astonished at His Miracles, few follow after the shame of His Cross. Many love Jesus so long as no adversities happen to them. Many praise Him and bless Him, so long as they receive any comforts from Him. But if Jesus hide Himself and withdraw from them a little while, they fall either into complaining or into too great dejection of mind.

But they who love Jesus for Jesus' sake, and not for any consolation of their own, bless Him in all tribulation and anguish of heart as in the highest consolation. And if He should never give them consolation, nevertheless they would always praise Him and always give Him thanks.
Thomas A Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

This reminds me of something my husband has said: "Do we love the gift more than we love the giver of the gift?"

My happiness comes from the gifts; my joy comes from knowing and loving the giver of those gifts.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Book List

I love to read. Lately, however, I haven't had time to read anything. Well, except for textbooks.
So, my plan is to read several books while I am quarantined from the rest of humanity.

My book list is as follows:

Henri Nouwen: His Life and Vision by Michael O'Laughlin (It has pictures, too)

When Invisible Children Sing by Dr. Chi Huang

Broken Children, Grown-Up Pain by Paul Hegstrom, Ph.D.

Surrender: The Heart God Controls by Nancy Leigh DeMoss

A Mother's Grief Observed by Rebecca Faber

The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne

The Sacred Romance: Drawing Closer to the Heart of God by Brent Curtis and John Eldredge

Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust by Immaculee Ilibagiza

My husband is also planning on downloading some of my favorite tunes (I feel so cool using that word instead of "songs" or "music") for my listening pleasure. Plus I have rented a few movies to watch, so we should be all set for this here shin dig.

I don't know if I will be able to post while I'm in the hospital because they say radiation comes out of my fingers onto the keys of my computer and will render it unusable for a week. I'm the bionic woman.

Anyway, we will see. It could be a day or a week until I visit with you again, my dear friends. I understand those words will put some of you into major depression and withdrawals, and I apologize for that.

Until next time, squeezes and smooches.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

God is in Control

What a great day! Besides running out of gas on the way home from the doctor's office, it has been so good. Even that was a blessing in disguise, but I'll expound more on that later.

Everything is a go. My iodine levels are better than perfect. The doctor was looking for 100 or less, and they are 44. Woo hoo!

The next thing I'm about to tell you is medical terminology that I really don't understand very well, so I am probably over-simplifying it, mis-spelling it, and otherwise, getting it wrong. C'mon people, my degree is in philosophy, not medicine.

Thyroglobin or globulin or goblins are typically, under normal circumstances, supposed to be at 40. We, however, want that number to be really low for the radioactive iodine because we don't want very much thyroid tissue (thyroid tissue equals cancer) to have to absorb the radiation. The less tissue the more absorption of radiation by the tissue, leading to the more killing of the cancer cells.

Well, my number is at 1.4!!! That is such good news. It means that my wonderful, amazing, awesome, God-sent surgeon did a marvelous job of removing most of the cancerous thyroid tissue. I'm telling you people, I couldn't have picked a better doctor to do my surgeries if I had been in control of the situation myself. I even contemplated switching doctors because the one I had was fresh out of training and didn't have as much experience. I believe he had done 13 of these surgeries apart from his internships and college training, which would add several more to that number.

I chose not to switch because I realized that my trust was not in doctors but in the God who worked through the doctors. I could have the most highly trained surgeon on the planet, and, if God so chose, my surgery could be botched. On the other hand, I could have the surgeon with the worst skills, and if it was within God's will and timing, all would go smoothly.

I know this is a hard concept for some to grasp (it was for me once, too), but I believe it with all my heart.

I do believe my doctor will go far in his career and be a great name in his field someday. He has all the makings of a top-notch doctor. I can't believe how humble he is about the spectacular work he did. He said it was just something he liked to do. Not a big deal.

Well, it's a big deal to me. Thanks, Doc!

I love my doctors, and I love my God, who brought them into my life.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Control is an Illusion

Well, tomorrow I go to get my first THS shot. I am not really even sure what it does, but it takes the place of going off my thyroid medication for 3 weeks. I do have to go off my medication for a little while but nothing compared to what it would have been without the shots.

There was a big fiasco over the testing of my iodine levels, and I won't know whether they are low enough or not until tomorrow morning when I go in for the shot. The doctor said that if they weren't low enough, he can increase the THS dosage to make up for it. It makes me kind of nervous wondering whether everything is going to be okay, but I am learning not to fret so much about things.

I had to remind myself of that perspective on Friday at 4:00 PM when I started stressing out about whether I would be able to have my treatment this week or not. I was not the most pleasant patient while trying to get everything straightened out with the receptionist. Bless her heart. I felt really bad after hanging up, but I had taken the time off of work and juggled my schedule all around to prepare for this week, so life just has to go the way I want it to.

Reality check. It doesn't.

Perspective check. It's okay.

Bottom line. If things aren't a go for this week, there is a reason. Life will go on. Whatever happens will happen. If I lose my job for taking too much time off, I was supposed to lose my job for some reason. God is in control.

Why do I get so worked up about things beyond my control? It is a good lesson to learn. I am learning it the hard way.

Incidentally, the lady I was talking to at the doctor's office was so nice. She was so patient and understanding with me. When she called back with some new info, I was apologetic and mentioned that I was just getting a little bit nervous. She understood. I was impressed.

*Sigh* It's nice to have someone get it.

Friday, September 4, 2009


This is something I have on my desk (along with papers and books piled three feet high). Although I don't believe it's an exhaustive list, I like what it says and want to share it with you.

To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

If I Could Smack Cancer in the Face...

They say that an iodine deficiency affects your intellectual capabilities, so I am taking that one and running with it. I have already attempted three different posts and can't seem to get the words I write to say what I am thinking. I start out just fine, but once I get going, I start making no sense. At least I have an excuse now.

They also say that thyroid cancer patients report feelings of exhaustion 50% (I think but I could just be making that up due to my iodine deficiency) more than other cancer patients. I can believe that, but maybe I'm just feeling worn out for other reasons.

Like the swollen lymph node on the left side of my neck that hurts every time I laugh. Is it something from the surgery? Is it all the infection that would have otherwise gone to the now non-existent lymph nodes on the right side of my neck? Or is it more cancer? These are some of the pleasant thoughts I think.

I had to do a 24-hour urine collection yesterday at the same time that I was potty-training two-year-old twins. I will spare you some of the more unpleasant details, but it involves a little hat you have to put on the toilet and a little jug you have to put in the refrigerator. The fact that I had to do it during a 10-hour work day was all due to a mis-communication between the lab tech and my nurse. Today, it is nice to be able to go to the bathroom in the simple manner to which I am accustomed. It is interesting to learn all the things we take for granted. So, go enjoy your bathroom today (and hug your kids, too).

I have lost 30 lbs. and still counting. That doesn't get me close to where I need to be, but it gives me a start.

Now that I have unloaded all the negative news on you poor, innocent, unsuspecting readers, I have some good news to share.

I took my friend to the doctor the other day. She had a third of her lung removed one-and-a-half weeks ago due to cancer. They said she would be out of commission for a good 6 weeks, and in the nursing home for at least 3-4 weeks after surgery.

Well, she was in the hospital for one week and the nursing home for four days. The doctor sent her home the day I took her in to see him.

It was such a privilege to be with her when she received the news that she was going home and to watch her float about 6 feet off the ground. She was crying and so excited that she made me start crying, as well.

God is so good. She believes it to be a miracle that she is doing so well so soon. We've certainly all been praying for her.

It's been kind of an interesting set of circumstances surrounding me and her. We attend church together, and she found out she had lung cancer only a short time after I found out that I had cancer. We have kind of been in this thing together. She gives me permission to be real and helps me realize how much worse things could be.

I am so thankful for the blessing she is to me, and just wanted to share the good news about her recovery.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

My Little Sister

My sister has a beautiful heart that is often misunderstood. She loves to help others and does it in very quiet ways without a lot of bells and whistles. She likes to work behind the scenes, doing things that others don't always recognize as needing to be done or aren't able to do.

Recently, she has been volunteering her time, singing with a group of people who go to hospitals, nursing homes, and people's residences and minister with music to those who are terminally ill.

This week, I was surprised by a package that arrived in the mail from my sister which contained this:

It is a collection of some of the music they sing to those who are dying.

I immediately put it in my CD player and listened to the whole thing. It was wonderful and I picked my favorites out right away.

Of course my absolute favorite is the one featuring her as the soloist. It helps that it is a song I grew up singing and reminds me of the times I sang it at the top of my lungs in church. It also makes me think a little bit about what heaven will be like when we all get to sing our hearts out...together...forever.

Proceeds from the sale of this CD go to benefit the hospice organization in Rutland. I used to volunteer for hospice and my grandmother, who recently passed away, was taken care of by some pretty special hospice workers right up until her death. Needless to say, I think a great deal of them and what they do for people with terminal illness.

I strongly encourage everyone to purchase a copy of this CD, whether you like the music or not. Your money is going to a good organization, and you never know when you might be the one on the receiving end of their services.

Here is my favorite song on the CD: "I'll Fly Away," featuring My Little Sister.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy, you can call Rutland Area Visiting Nurse Association and Hospice at 802-770-1537.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Does Anyone Mind if I Scream?

My summer has not gone as planned.

I know. Huge news flash, right?

It has been filled with surgeries and doctor's appointments and recoveries and schedule-jugglings and stuff.

I wanted it to be this totally great and fun summer for my daughter. I had planned all sorts of activities that we were going to do together, but they never happened.

We have squeezed a few things in here and there, but I feel really badly about what I have not done. I am sad that summer is almost over.

Today, I went through all of Allika's curriculum and planned out her daily schedule for the next four weeks. We have decided to home-school her, and I couldn't be more excited. Yes, there are a lot of "what-ifs" and "what-on-earth-are-you-thinking-I-can't-believe-you-would-do-such-a-thing-at-this-point-in-you-lifes," but I welcome those challenges and love to discuss the differing viewpoints on the issue. Maybe I will write a post about that...someday.

I am also in the process of getting my school schedule figured out without a lot of cooperation from my academic adviser. I feel like I am entering the twilight zone when I walk into that office. Just recently she refused to give me a schedule I needed because she insisted that I already had it. Do you know how completely hair-wrenching that can be? When someone can control your destiny by telling you what you do and don't have without any real ability to know what you do and don't have? I think I can read the papers you gave me, and no, that schedule is not amongst them. She concludes that I must have just lost it in the ten minutes it took me to drive from her office to my house. Okay, we will go with that. Can you just send me another one? No, because I already gave it to you.

Ooooh. Power trip.


*Rip hair out*

Do I have a sign on my face that says, "Please just be completely inefficient and incompetent in your dealings with me because I'd like nothing more than to have to report you to your supervisor because it really adds a lot of time to my already hectic and crazy life."

Seriously. There was that time at Wub-Say, when they were going to make me take the meatballs off my own sandwich with my fingers because they couldn't put marinara sauce and pepperoni on the same sandwich, but they could put meatballs with marinara sauce and pepperoni on the same sandwich. No, I am not making these things up.

It's seriously the sign on my face.

Then, there was the time at our friendly mega huge super store that rhymes with Shmall-shmart. They wouldn't give me the money back for a brand new sewing machine that had a manufacturer's defect. Their reason? It was not their machine to guarantee; it was the manufacturer's. I would have to call the manufacturer to get my money back.

They really think I'm stupid, and I can't figure out why. I was tossing around possible reasons with my husband, who wisely agreed that he couldn't figure out why they thought I was stupid either. I came up with the theory that I must look like trailer trash and everyone thinks they can pull one over on me.

It's a theory anyway. Any other ideas?

Sorry for the very angry post. Thanks for letting me rant.