Archive | February, 2011

Breaking the Rules

22 Feb

When it comes to cooking, I’m pitiful. Really, I am. Over the years, I’ve managed to master a few simple dishes, and somewhere along the way I learned how to cook a turkey, but other than that, the food that comes out of my kitchen tends to be pretty scary.

On the bright side, I do know how to bake. I especially like baking cakes. And everyone in my family likes eating my cakes because there’s never anything scary about them.

So a few days ago, we were all just sitting around and I suddenly decided I wanted to bake a cake. No one paid much attention as I mixed the ingredients together, but as soon as the smell of warm chocolate cake started drifting out of the kitchen and throughout the house, all of a sudden, everyone was interested. And confused.

You see, my kids know that if there’s a special occasion, I bake a cake. It’s like one of the most important rules in our house. Something noteworthy happens, such as a birthday for example, (even the dog’s birthday) and we all get cake. That’s how it works here.

But to eat a cake when there was no special reason for eating cake? My kids were not at all sure if that was allowable, or even possible. They tried to get me to come up with something. Perhaps the goldfish was celebrating a birthday?

Anticipation grew as they waited for the cake to cool on the counter. After awhile, they watched as I spread creamy chocolate frosting on each layer and stacked them up on the cake plate. When I finally took out the long knife and started slicing the cake, they got very quiet. I knew what they were thinking. Nobody wanted to risk getting in trouble mere seconds before the cake was served.

And so we all ate a layered chocolate cake that afternoon for no special reason at all.

That’s the mom I want my kids to remember — the mom who made a layered chocolate cake for no reason at all.


Happily Ever After

18 Feb

It has been a good week – a candlelit dinner with friends, my first hockey game, a beautiful sunrise, gently falling snow, lunch with my oldest son at our favorite Mexican restaurant, an abundant stash of Valentine chocolate… The list goes on.

So much to be thankful for. So much worth living for. Life is good, isn’t it?

But every once in a while, I still wake up in the middle of the night. In the darkness, I can feel the cold shadow of cancer looming over me. It haunts me with thoughts of recurrence. It tells me that I will never live long enough to see my children grow up. It threatens to take away my joy.

I don’t let it haunt me for long. I know exactly what I need to do to make those thoughts go away. You see, I have a list. I know it by heart. And when I wake up in the middle of the night, I start reciting that list in my mind.

Deloris. Janet. Edee …

I started this list soon after I was diagnosed. It was much shorter then. Now, the names of nearly thirty women, who I know personally, are on my list. All of these wonderful women have survived breast cancer.

It’s like a magnificent parade of survivors that I call up in my mind. As I say the names of each of these women, I am reminded of their stories, their courage, their faith. For some of these women, it has been 30 or 40 years since their diagnosis. I love thinking about them! All of these women give me comfort and hope. They remind me that I have a future, and that even with cancer, it is possible to live happily ever after.

This past week, when I awoke in the middle of the night, I decided the time had come to add another name to the list.


Living the Game

13 Feb

Yesterday I watched my daughter and her church team play basketball. It was a tough game. The girls played hard. When the final buzzer sounded, the other team had more points. A lot more.

But it was all good, because one of my daughter’s teammates had brought cupcakes with red sparkly frosting to share with the team, and as the girls enjoyed the treats together, the score was soon forgotten.

My husband Dan is the coach. It’s not easy to teach basketball skills to 9, 10, and 11-year-old girls who are, at times, much more interested in things like glittery shoe laces and lucky socks. And of course, giggling. Lots of giggling. Which I have to agree can be just as much fun as playing basketball.

As I watched the girls play, I realized the important life skills we learn when we play games such as basketball.

Over and over again the girls shot the ball, missed, rebounded the ball, and missed again. Discouraging? Yes, but definitely an effective way to develop perseverance, because there are going to be times in life when giving up will not be an option.

Halfway through the game, I could see that some of the girls were getting winded. Cheeks turned red and fatigue set in. But still they continued to play their best, without complaint. They were developing endurance. Life is not always going to be easy. Sometimes in order to survive, we need to endure.

Every so often a pass would slip through the girls’ hands, the other team would steal the ball, or the referee would make a bad call. Yet the girls encouraged each other throughout the game. We all need encouragement from time to time, don’t we? Because life is not fair. Things happen that we never planned or expected. We make mistakes. We get knocked down. That’s when we need the support of those around us, even if it’s just a kind word from a stranger.

After all, it’s not about winning, I remind my husband. It’s about how you play the game. And, more importantly, it’s about who’s bringing the cupcakes.

Not Alone

8 Feb

Many of you may have heard of Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Or perhaps you’ve heard of the Komen Race for the Cure which takes place in cities all over the U.S. each year. At the very least, you have probably come across some of the pink Komen merchandise (water bottles, watches, kitchen utensils, etc.) displaying their running pink ribbon logo. Seems like it’s on display everywhere.

Komen is big. But I wonder how many of you know the story behind the Komen name. Or the sisters…

Susan G. Komen fought breast cancer with her heart, body and soul. Throughout her diagnosis, treatments, and endless days in the hospital, she spent her time thinking of ways to make life better for other women battling breast cancer instead of worrying about her own situation. Moved by Susan’s compassion for others and commitment to making a difference, Nancy G. Brinker promised her sister that she would do everything in her power to end breast cancer.

Though Susan lost her battle with the disease, her legacy lives on through the work of Susan G. Komen for the Cure®, the organization Nancy started in her honor. Komen for the Cure is the global leader of the breast cancer movement, having invested more than $1 billion since its inception in 1982. Komen’s promise is to save lives and end breast cancer forever by empowering people, ensuring quality care for all and energizing science to find the cures. (

For the past few years, my family and I have participated in the Komen Race for the Cure in Boise. This incredible annual event:

  • raises significant funds and awareness for the fight against breast cancer
  • celebrates breast cancer survivorship and honors those who have lost their battle with the disease
  • promotes awareness, education, and early detection of breast cancer

The first Komen Boise Race for the Cure was held in 1999. Over 6,500 people participated — the largest participation level ever for a Komen first year race. Last year, over 16,000 people participated in the race, making it the largest in the Boise’s race history. This year, it is anticipated that even more people will participate. My family and I plan to race with them on Saturday, May 7, 2011.

Komen’s Boise affiliate asked me to write an article for their newsletter. It was published in their February issue. I’d like to share it with you.

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Not Alone

When I turned 40, I went in for my very first mammogram. It was just routine. I had no lump, no pain, no symptoms whatsoever — but I soon found out that I did have breast cancer. It was invasive and we had not caught it early. That was pretty much my worst birthday ever, but if I hadn’t gotten that mammogram, it probably would have been my last.

I remember feeling scared and lost and alone. My husband, Dan, had heard about the Komen Race for the Cure. He insisted we go and began gathering donations. I wanted no part of it. Dan practically had to drag me to Boise the morning of the race. While he ran, I stood on the sidelines and watched. Tears filled my eyes as countless survivors, both young and old, passed in front of me. These amazing women, surrounded by family and friends, did not look the tiniest bit scared or lost or alone. I wondered if I could ever have the courage to be like them.

Today I am a four-year survivor. Each year Dan, our three children, and I participate in the Race along with thousands of other people. The Race allows us to encourage and support each other. It helps us cope and heal. It gives us hope that perhaps our daughters will not have to go through what we have experienced. And, most of all, it reminds us that we are not alone in the fight against breast cancer.

Here Kitty, Kitty…

4 Feb

A few mornings ago, while it was still too dark to actually be considered anything other than night, I awoke to a non-stop ruckus of woofing. Something was going on in the far corner of the backyard, and our dog Ranger was doing his best to let the whole neighborhood know about it.

The rising sun revealed an unfamiliar black and white cat trembling in our aspen tree. Several hours later, I was surprised to see the cat still huddling on the same branch, just out of Ranger’s reach. This puzzled me. While there’s no doubt that Ranger has a frightful bark, it seemed to me that the cat could easily have escaped if it had wanted to.

Curious, I went outside to see if I could perhaps offer my assistance to this unfortunate feline. I talked softly to it, using a soothing voice. However, the terrified cat didn’t even notice me. It was so focused on the big scary dog. I reached for the cat (cautiously, because I didn’t want 20 claws in my face). But as soon as my fingertips touched its fur, the cat skittered up to the top of the tree.

I felt awful. Now the cat was in an even worse predicament — all because it didn’t recognize my voice. When the sun went down that evening, the poor cat was still way up there, clinging to a thin branch and swaying in the wind.

Although I’ve never been stuck in a tree, I certainly know what it’s like to feel trapped in an unpleasant situation. Don’t we all? How thankful I am that I know the Good Shepherd’s voice. He calls me by name. He reaches out His hand to me and helps me see beyond the barking dogs in my life. As I focus my attention on Him, I can let go of my fear, trusting that I will forever be safe in His arms.

“My sheep recognize my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them real and eternal life. They are protected from the Destroyer for good. No one can steal them from out of my hand.”

John 10:27-28   The Message