Archive | October, 2010

Four More Days

28 Oct

October sure is a long month. I’m starting to feel like I’ve had enough of the pink already. So I decided that today I would take a break. Today, I decided, I would wear no pink. I would give no thought to awareness. And I absolutely would not mention the C-word, not even once.

All morning I worked on a story I’m writing for young children about a zebra chase. All morning I’ve been saying words like “ponies” and “clowns” and “bear cubs.” None of these words upsets me.

Then the phone rang. Giving in to the interruption, I sighed, got up, and answered it. I was immediately placed on hold. Who calls you and then puts you on hold? At first I was tempted to hang-up, but then I got curious. So I went to the dryer and folded laundry while I waited to hear who had the nerve to put me on hold till they got around to talking with me.

I didn’t have to wait long. Soon a booming female voice with a strong southern accent greeted me. She called me “ma’am.” I don’t like that. There should be a rule — no one less than 100 years of age should ever be referred to as “ma’am.” Especially after being put on hold.

She went on to inform me, quite dramatically, that she was calling on behalf of a breast cancer organization. They were hoping to raise money. And would I please consider sending money to help the “po’, po’” victims of breast cancer?


I had to laugh – and she scolded me by saying, “Breast cancer is no laughing matter, ma’am.”

Yeah, tell me something I don’t already know.

When I explained to her that I was a breast cancer survivor, she graciously apologized and wished me well. Still, the call left me feeling unsettled. I didn’t like being called a poor, poor victim. And I regretted that she had made me use the C-word.

Note to self: Get an answering machine.

Only four more days till November… I can hardly wait.


A Bothersome Bur

25 Oct

Despite our best intentions, some mornings simply do not go as smoothly as we would like.

Yesterday, I awoke to the sound of rain. Cozy in bed, I snuggled closer to my husband, Dan, and thought of my three good things for the day – (number one on the list was the half-gallon of chocolate & peanut butter ice-cream stashed in the freezer). Looking forward to attending church, I got out of bed and into the shower.

I expected Dan to hop into the shower right after me, but he didn’t. Thinking he must have fallen back asleep, I peeked into our bedroom. No Dan. Maybe he was making coffee or reading the paper. I threw on a robe and went to find out. I could hear our kids upstairs getting ready for church. But the living room, dining room and kitchen were dark and silent. I called Dan’s name. No answer.

As I walked through the dark dining room, I noticed our dog, Ranger. He was outside with his nose pressed up against the glass door. His head was bloody. And he was staring intently at something behind me. Turning around, I saw Dan. He was lying on the floor.

Like I said, some mornings just don’t turn out like we might have expected. Not for me, not for Dan, and certainly not for Ranger. Dan later explained how he had gone out to check on Ranger and found a bothersome bur stuck in the hair near Ranger’s ear. With a scissors, Dan carefully had cut away the hair entangled in the bur. While he did this, Ranger sat very still – for all of 3 seconds. Then he jerked his head, causing the scissors, sorry to say, to slice his ear. Dan rushed inside to get bandages. But feeling woozy from the incident, he felt it best to lie on the floor for awhile. Some mornings are like that.

We got Ranger’s ear washed and bandaged, gave him a few treats, and still got to church only twenty minutes late.

Mornings like this one probably make Ranger wish he had stayed in his doghouse till noon. But for us, mornings like this leave us feeling grateful that things had not turned out worse, and thankful for the times in which things flow a little more smoothly.

Three Good Things

22 Oct

I did not want to get up this morning – more so than usual. Not only did I still feel tired, but it was house-cleaning and laundry day. Yuck. How come it’s never sleep-in-till-noon and then get-a-pedicure day?

There was a time, just a few years ago, when I did sleep in till noon — and often 1:00 or even two o’clock every day. It started right about the time that cancer decided it was finished dumping my life upside-down. I had recuperated from my surgeries, all four of them, and I had survived cancer, for the moment anyway. That was the hard part, right? Now all I had to do was to return to normal life. Sounds easy — except that life does not just return to normal after cancer. I had no idea how to let go of surviving and get back to living.

So I stayed in bed. And as I lay there, I wondered if I was depressed or going crazy. Because I didn’t think that it was healthy for a normal person to sleep her life away, especially after fighting so hard to keep it.

Looking back, I suppose it was pretty silly to think I could just bounce back after cancer. I mean, if ever there is a time to sleep in till noon, it has got to be after you’ve been in a fight with cancer.

Earlier this week, I visited with a friend who is much wiser than I am. We talked about life’s challenges and blessings. She shared with me how early in life she had made it a practice, upon waking each morning, to make a mental list of three good things. Something special that had happened the day before, something she was looking forward to that day, something for which she was thankful, something that made her smile… You get the idea — anything good, and she thought of three of them every morning before pushing back the covers.

I love that! It’s like caffeine for awakening a positive outlook on life. And it’s just what I need to get me out of bed on days like today when I’m feeling all groggy and bleary-eyed. In fact, I already know one of the good things that’s going to be on my list tomorrow morning – sleeping in. Not till noon, but maybe till 9:00. After all, the house has already been cleaned.

Gayle’s Gift

19 Oct

Yesterday I received another gift. It wasn’t pink, but it certainly was a lovely surprise.

Years ago, when I held my first baby in my arms, someone advised me of the importance in choosing admirable, faith-filled people to be “spiritual cheerleaders” for my children throughout their growing-up years.

Sounded like a great idea to me. But it was much more than a great idea. Looking back, I can see that the positive influence these people of faith have had on my children is immeasurable and priceless.

Many people have been and still are “spiritual cheerleaders” to my children. But two people stand out like bright shining stars. Throughout the years, they have interacted with my children, celebrated life’s milestones with them, and encouraged them along the way. Perhaps most important of all, they have lifted my children up to God in prayer more times than I’ll ever have the privilege of knowing.

My children learned to pray for them too. My children also colored and drew pictures for them. They wrote notes and told stories. Then as they grew older, the correspondence changed to emails and photos. I had no idea just how many pictures, notes, stories, photos and emails — till yesterday.

Because yesterday, they came to visit. And they brought a gift. A beautiful scrap book of every crayon-scribbled note, every carefully drawn picture, and every story and letter my children and I had ever sent to them. Even copies of the emails were included, as well as many photos. They had treasured these things over the years, and now they had gathered them into a beautiful book of memories for us to treasure.

Growing up is not easy. Things can go really wrong really fast. I am so very grateful for all the spiritual cheerleaders who help us find our way in this life. They will always hold a special place in our hearts.

Something Pink and Lovely

15 Oct

I have a new friend. We have never actually met. And I don’t even know her last name. But in the short time I have known her, I have been touched by her gracious kindness.

I became acquainted with my new friend Jan through her wonderfully creative website, Bobbypin’s Boardwalk — (It’s amazing what you can learn about people by reading their blogs!) If you enjoy home-decorating and clever, crafty ideas, I encourage you to visit Jan’s site and browse through her blog.

Yesterday, I received a gift in the mail from Jan. It’s a breast cancer awareness pin that she designed and makes herself. Curious about what prompted her to create these pretty pins, I asked Jan if she was a breast cancer survivor herself. She told me that she had never had cancer of any kind, but about a month ago, her mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Jan started making these pretty pins for her mother. Jan told me “I just wanted her to have something pink and lovely.”

Of all the things a daughter can do for a mother who has breast cancer, I wonder if Jan realizes that she did one of the most loving and thoughtful things she could possibly have done.

Breast cancer tends to strip women of everything pink and lovely. I remember the first few weeks after I was diagnosed. The doctors kept giving me bad news. They advised me that after my first surgery, I would likely need two aggressive rounds of chemo — 3 months each. And radiation. I figured there would be nothing pink and lovely left of me after going through all of that.

So in those first few weeks after my diagnosis, when I should have been doing something useful like stocking the freezer with frozen dinners, I instead went to one of my favorite stores and purchased something pink and lovely for myself. A robe. There was nothing fluffy or comfy or practical about it whatsoever. Long and silky, it was embellished with dainty lace and tiny pink pearls.

The funny thing is, I never wore it. Not even once. But that robe played a crucial part in my survival. Because I knew that no matter what cancer would do to me, I would still have something pink and lovely to hang onto.

That pretty robe still hangs in the back of my closet. Pink and lovely, it reminds me of God’s gracious kindness in my life — the same gracious kindness He still blesses me with through people like Jan.

The Ultimate Father

12 Oct

My brother and his wife came to visit on Sunday. (One of the best gifts my brother has ever given me is my beautiful sister-in-law!) Together we ate Sunday dinner, and then spent the afternoon sorting through some dusty boxes of our dad’s old memories – faded treasures of a life well-lived.

Among the bits and pieces, we found our dad’s grade-school report cards, the registration from his first car (a Ford DeSoto), and college tuition receipts from his days as a student at the University of South Dakota. We also found a few letters he had written to our grandparents when my brother and I were young children.

Interesting, those letters…  Apparently, I had been a “pill” when it came to potty-training — and all these years I had no idea! Funny to read about experiences that my brother and I had been too young to remember — family bike rides, a broken washing machine, a get-together with cousins, an afternoon at the park.

Last month I wrote a post in memory my dad. A few of you shared that, when it comes to fathers, you had not been so blessed.

Whether you’ve lost a wonderful father or if your father has been less than a blessing in your life, I would like to remind you, if I may, that you do indeed have a loving heavenly Father.

You are and always will be His precious child. And I believe it breaks His heart when you are hurting – whether from breast cancer or something else that has taken place in your life. He sees your tears. Every one of them. He feels your heartache and pain.

If the child in you is still longing for someone who is not there, consider your heavenly Father. I believe He longs to heal you and love you and bless you in ways far beyond what you can imagine. It’s true — He’s the ultimate Father. Open up your arms. Nothing can compare to His tender embrace.

A Squirrely Situation

8 Oct

We had an unexpected and uninvited guest at our house this week — a brown bushy-tailed squirrel. Remember when I told you that my son taught our dog how to climb trees this summer? Well, of all the trees in our backyard that this squirrel could have made himself at home in, he chose the one tree that our dog Ranger is best at climbing. How’s that for an unfortunate decision?

Ranger was outraged that a squirrel would have the nerve to invade his territory. He barked ferociously and climbed up into the tree. Being a much smaller animal and possessing the God-given ability to climb trees, the squirrel was able to climb higher in the tree than Ranger could. He hopped from twig to twig, shaking his tail at Ranger and chittering incessantly.

This went on for three days.

On the fourth day, the squirrel apparently decided to make a desperate run for it. He waited till three o’clock in the morning when Ranger was sound asleep in his doghouse as all dogs should be at 3:00 a.m. Then he crept down the trunk of the tree, scampered across the yard, and almost made it to a small cluster of aspen trees in the far corner before Ranger figured out what was taking place.

3:00 a.m. just happens to be one of my family’s most favorite times to sleep. But at that point, no one anywhere in our neighborhood was enjoying sleep. Because Ranger was barking and yelping, scratching at the aspen tree trunks and howling in frustration. You see, about a month earlier, my husband Dan and I had trimmed the aspen trees by cutting off the low branches. And although Ranger could jump up and reach the lowest of the remaining branches, they were still too high for him to pull himself up into those trees. If dogs were able to say bad words, I’m sure Ranger would have needed his mouth washed out with soap.

All this ruckus over an itty-bitty squirrel reminded me of how, like Ranger, we sometimes let the annoying little things in life get the best of us. A few years ago, I had an unexpected, uninvited and most unwelcome visitor – breast cancer. I’m not saying that breast cancer is a little thing. It’s not. I am thankful that I survived. But survival has a price.

Cancer left behind lots of little things that can really get to me if I let them. And when I let them, it often leads to resentment which festers inside me until I start feeling like my crazy dog did when the squirrel visited. That’s when I need to remind myself to let go of the little things, and instead, focus on the good things in life.

One of my favorite Bible verses is in Paul’s letter to the Philippians – “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)

Notice that Paul doesn’t mention squirrels at all. Nor does he mention breast cancer and the little things it leaves behind. So I’m not going to think too much about those little things. I’m going to think about the good things.

Now, if only I could teach that Bible verse to Ranger…