Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Risky Business

After reaching the summit of Mt. Everest on May 19th, Samantha Larson became the youngest person to scale the highest peaks on each of the seven continents. She is 18 years old.

The radio station I listen to was debating whether an 18 year old should undertake such a risky endeavor. (200 out of 2000 climbers have died while scaling Mt. Everest.) The argument against was that at 18, she has a long life ahead and it is an unnecessary risk. On the flip side, they argued that she has an adventurous spirit and was well trained for the climb.

My first response was in favor of Samantha's accomplishment. After all, the point of life is to LIVE. If climbing mountains is Samantha's passion then by all means, she should pursue it with a vengeance. And we never know what the future is going to hold so we've got to live so there are no regrets.

But then I started thinking about her parents. Her Dad has trained her since middle school for these climbs and accompanied her to the summit. So in essence, he has been encouraging this risky hobby. Should the worst have happened, the guilt he would live with would be unbearable. Is encouraging a dream worth the risk of enduring a lifetime of grief over the loss of your child?

It's a tough call for me. But what do you think? Would you have encouraged this pursuit if you were Samantha's parents?

Friday, May 25, 2007

Dancing Queen

One of the best distractions I've had lately is working with the drama ministry at my church again. When we selected Village as our home church, I was looking for ways to connect with people. So I came up with the crazy idea of auditioning for the Christmas play. Acting was something I guess I always wanted to try so I just went for it. Eight years later, I am a "utility player" for Village Performing Arts. A jack of all trades, master of none. Through this ministry, I have re-discovered my love of writing. I act occasionally in sketches and plays. And now, I am choreographing our Summer production of "You're A Good Man Charlie Brown."

You heard me right, I'm choreographing. I took ballet as a child and jazz as a young adult. I was on dance team in high school. (Stop laughing! I know I'm a klutz but I've got rhythm. Hey, I do!) But admittedly, I've never danced or choreographed for musical theater. It's a different animal than I'm familiar with so I reached out for help...from You Tube. You've never heard of You Tube? Wow, you need to hang out with some teenagers and get hip to this jive. It's a depository of all sorts of videos ranging from adorable to borderline indecent. In the musical theater genre, it seems that every stage mother on the planet has video taped their progeny and posted it for the world to see. It's particularly entertaining when they maintain a close up of their little star and ignore the rest of the cast.

Anyway, you know how they say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery? Well I am flattering the heck out of some other YAGMCB productions thanks to You Tube. It's great! I just watch a few other productions, pick my favorite parts and tweak what I don't like from any of them. This is choreographing at its finest! But hey, I guarantee it will be of better quality than I could have come up with on my own.

This isn't any small time production despite my blatant admission of thievery. We have an extremely talented cast from Village and the community. Our experienced production team is crafting what is shaping up to be a memorable show. So come one, come all! The performance dates are:
  • Saturday, June 23rd at 2pm
  • Sunday, June 24th at 2pm
  • Friday, June 29th at 7:30pm
  • Saturday, June 30th at 2pm and 7:30pm
  • Sunday, July 1st at 2pm
Order tickets online at And don't be surprised when the program reads "choreography by You Tube."

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Cry Baby

There is a wonderful leader at my company who, through a genuine outpouring of emotion, sheds a heartfelt tear or two in many of his speeches. I've often joked that if I were to do the same, I would be seen as weak. (You know...a woman who cries a lot? At WORK? Unstable come to mind?) But the reason his tears are viewed as endearing is that they are not for manipulative purposes. He is authentic. He truly cares about his team and the business.

Now I'm not a big fan of crying in public. Particularly not at work. I certainly don't hold public displays of sadness (P.D.S.) against anyone else but it's just not my cup of tea...or spilled milk. Before returning to work last month, I could have counted on one hand (or more specifically on one finger) the number of times I have cried at work. But not anymore. My boss has seen me weep uncontrollably. The President of Global Operations got a choked up voicemail. Our CFO who stopped by to offer words of encouragement was met with streaming tears. My poor co-worker caught me mid-breakdown a couple of weeks ago. These are truly caring men so they responded with nothing but compassion. Still, as previously mentioned, I am not a cryer so I find this lack of control frustrating.

I know, I know, don't worry about it. Tears are to be expected. They are signs genuine pain. And to be clear, I'm not apologizing for feeling sad. I still miss my baby girl deeply everyday. I just want to issue a warning that right now, I am like a box of chocolates; you never know what you're gonna get.
But don't worry. Overall I'm doing fine. I'm not having some sort of breakdown. I didn't return to work too soon. I am taking care of myself. There are simply moments when I am overwhelmed by the intensity of her absence. When I miss her voice or her hugs or her laugh so desperately that I can't contain it. So if you catch me leaking, my advice is to flash me that sympathetic look I've grown to expect and continue with business as usual. Unless of course you are great at telling jokes. Speaking of which, have you heard the one about the crazy blogger lady?

Monday, May 21, 2007

Gift of Life

Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your marrow.

Several of the kids in my cancer community have required bone marrow transplants as part of their treatment. In their honor, I have registered to become a donor. You wouldn't believe how easy it is! For a limited time, as part of a "Thanks Mom" campaign, the registration is free. That's right, I said free. BUT JUST THROUGH TODAY!!!!!! Just go to and click on the "learn more" button to register online. They'll send you a tissue typing kit. (Don't panic, the tissue typing just involves swabbing the inside of your cheek.)

Even if you don't have a chance to register for free today, you can register anytime online or at a donor drive for a $52 fee. That seems like a nice chunk of change to spend on a registration but it's not like you're signing up for the latte of the month club. This is to save a life.

Okay, now you're probably wondering what is involved in the actual bone marrow transplant. I won't do it justice so read the details on the website. But it isn't as invasive as you might think. You are sedated while they extract the marrow from the back of your pelvic bone through a hollow surgical needle. (Yep, needles are involved, no getting around that.) The whole thing only lasts about an hour and afterward you're sore for a couple of days. All medical costs are covered by the patient. The only cost to you is the registration fee and time off of work.

Let me tell you, I've met these kids and a bone marrow donation is a small price to pay. They go through so much more on the road to a long, healthy life. For them, needles are a daily experience. If they can do it, we can too.

Enough guilt, just register already.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Camera Shy

Hey ladies, I want to chat with you for a minute. I know that nobody likes unsolicited advice but I just have to get this out. Why aren't there more pictures of us? Seriously, think about it. Sure, there's the formal family portraits at the studio and the wedding pictures and the occasional Christmas pic. But I'm talking about pictures reflecting the candid joy of daily living.

I was looking for a picture of Lillian & me for the Mother's Day post and I was shocked...shocked I tell find there were only a handful. You wanna know why? Are you really, really sure? Cause it ain't pretty, I can tell you that. Well, here goes. There are two primary reasons.

1) I am often the photographer and therefore behind instead of in front of the camera.

2) When Jeff did try to take our picture, I stopped him because I did have any make up on or I was wearing grubby sweatpants or I had bed head or _________ (fill in blank with silly excuse).

Ladies, join with me to set aside our vanity. Hand the camera to a friend and get out there, bed head and all. Let this be a reminder to take a pic with your friends and family TODAY. Still camera shy? To get you started, here are some pictures of me that I just took. No makeup. Bed head. Grubby sweatpants. You know, the works!

Holy cow...did I just publish crazy pictures of myself onto the World Wide Web where everyone can see them?! What was I THINKING?! They'll probably end up on the news or something. "Crazy Blogger Publishes Horrid Pictures. Suprisingly No Drugs Were Involved. News at 6." And because I don't watch the news, I won't know. Everyone else will know because they are responsible adults who actually watch the news. So they'll just point and say "there goes the crazy blogger lady". And I'll look behind me because I didn't watch the news and don't know they're talking about me...

I need to go lie down.

Friday, May 18, 2007

In Case You Were Wondering...

...what Jeff has been doing

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Unconditional Faith

Monday morning I turned on the news. Now to be clear, I don't like the news, I avoid it if I can. But I try to flip through the channels skipping past the news stories until I find the weather. What can I say? The news is depressing. Who wants to know about all of the crime and craziness in this world? Seriously, they graphically report things that I could never dream were possible. We put ratings on movies but the news is often more gruesome than the scariest horror flick. Where was I? Oh right...on Monday, something made me stop on a news story. I saw a teenage boy in a boat saying with a smile "This cancer thing? It's nothing. It's only temporary."

He began building the boat in his woodworking class but had to stop when he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. His friends worked round the clock to finish the boat for him. A touching story? Undoubtedly. But what was truly amazing was Ivan's attitude and the honest coverage from KATU. I can honestly say I have never before seen God lifted up on a local news station. This brave teen smiles at the camera with unfailing faith and says "Even if God's will is for me to go, God is the best. He knows what's best for us. But I'm pretty sure that God's gonna do a miracle."

I don't know what God has in store for Ivan but I do know that He has already worked a miracle. He is using Ivan to spread hope. Hope that only comes from Christ.

My new friend Chelsea Rae is another of God's vehicles. She is 13 and her bone cancer has metastasized to several areas. Along with her parents, she has decided to stop treatment. Despite such a monumental decision, her mom says Chelsea's faith is growing everyday. This amazing girl is just looking forward to seeing Jesus.

When times are good, it's easy to be faithful. But true faith is remaining steadfast when times are bad. It's not quite as easy to praise God when your world is turned upside down and the "why's" come streaming out. I heard a great song the other day that describes unconditional faith perfectly:

"Bring the Rain" from MercyMe

I can count a million times
People asking me how I
Can praise You with all that I've gone through
The question just amazes me
Can circumstances possibly
Change who I forever am in You
Maybe since my life was changed
Long before these rainy days
It's never really ever crossed my mind
To turn my back on you, oh Lord
My only shelter from the storm
But instead I draw closer through these times
So I pray

Bring me joy, bring me peace
Bring the chance to be free
Bring me anything that brings You glory
And I know there'll be days
When this life brings me pain
But if that's what it takes to praise You
Jesus, bring the rain

I am Yours regardless of
The clouds that may loom above
Because You are much greater than my pain
You who made a way for me
By suffering Your destiny
So tell me what's a little rain
So I pray
Holy, holy, holy

Please pray for Ivan, Chelsea and their families.

Monday, May 14, 2007


These images are not for the faint of heart.

This is our latest bill encompassing Lillian's 32 days of treatment in the PICU. In case you can't quite make it out, the total is $386,462.47.
Please note that the amount due from us is $0.
Thank God for good insurance!

This is our pile of bills from the hospital over the last 8 months and they are still rolling in. (The phone book is just to show the relative size.)
There are many families who have to face these bills without insurance. The added stress that would bring is unfathomable to me.
Please join me in praying for them!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mother's Day

I know there are lots of people worrying about me today and I am so appreciative of your prayers. I have been dreading this day but as usual, God has chosen to give me a new perspective rather than allowing me to wallow in self-pity.

Though the typical human gestation period is 40 weeks, it took us around 208 weeks to birth Lillian. During that long wait, God reaffirmed our desire to be parents. And after that long wait, we were blessed with the perfect child for us. Without Lillian, I wouldn't have anything to celebrate on this Mother's Day. I am grateful for the gift of being her Mom.

Lance Armstrong has often said that cancer was the best thing that ever happened to him. I'm not sure I can agree. Perhaps I would feel differently if Lillian had survived. But I do know that God has expanded my view of the world through this battle with cancer. God gives the parent's of kids with cancer unique insight. He teaches us the depths of love and the value of an instant. I am thankful for the gift of wisdom that cancer has taught me.

Through broken hearts, God is once again reaffirming our desire to be parents. Should we be blessed again with another child, I know that I will be a better Mom for having loved Lillian and for having journeyed with her through cancer. So I look to the future with hope. I miss Lillian desperately everyday and know the ache will never go away. But today I am nothing but thankful for the gift of being her mom, the gift of wisdom that cancer taught me and the hope of someday being blessed with another perfect child to love. I guess it is a happy Mother's Day afterall. I love you Lily-bean!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Helpful Hints

At Lillian's service our Chaplain, Cody, prayed that people would know what to say to us. That their words would be soothing and not cause any additional grief. God has been faithful in answering that prayer. But I can see from sympathetic looks and awkward pauses that many people just don't know what to say to a grieving person. I wouldn't. Undoubtedly I would be the one to say something stupid. (I'm better in writing than in person.) So I thought I might use my experience being on the receiving end to help other conversationally-challenged folks know how to handle the most extreme of know...when know...goes to that place in the clouds...angels, harps, that kind of know...dies. Whew, now that we've got that out in the open, here's my advice:

What to avoid:

  • "How are you doing?" Okay, this one is tough. It's really a pretty benign question filled with the best of polite intentions but somehow, in these circumstances, the answer is complicated. If you use the standard response of "good", it doesn't seem accurate and inevitably evokes a look of confusion. How could you possibly be good?! If you say "bad", the conversation swirls into a pity pool from which there is no graceful recovery.
  • "It's better this way." Death is hardest on the living. Though it may be better for the deceased to not have to endure pain any longer, the suffering for those who survive is just beginning. It's never better to be without someone you love. Never.
  • "I don't know how you live through something like this." Frankly, I didn't know that was an option! We watched the movie "Eragon" (a poor man's "Lord of the Rings" if you ask me but worth the rental). The movie is about dragons and their riders. The bond between a rider and his dragon is so strong that when the rider dies, the dragon cannot survive. Perhaps that is how it should be with humans but alas, that's not God's plan.

What to say:

  • "I'm sorry." It can't truly sum up the depth of sympathy but what else can you say? It's short, it's simple and it's honest.
  • "I'm praying for you." Okay, there's a trick to this one. I love to learn that people are praying for me. What greater gift than to lift someone else up to the Creator of EVERYTHING? But the trick is, you can't just say you're praying. You've got to actually pray. Sorry, I don't make the rules, I just communicate them.
  • "Want to grab a cup of coffee?" This one is a bit tricky too. Timing is critical. For example, I wouldn't make this offer at the funeral. Wait a couple weeks and check in. Also, a cup of coffee may be substituted with breakfast, lunch, dinner, drinks or pretty much anything else involving an food-related activity. Though it's technically not critical, I like the food activity for two reasons - 1) everyone has to eat sometime and 2) it gives you something to do in between crying and laughing. Oh yes, there will be crying and laughing. Likely more of the former than the latter. Hey, I didn't say this one was easy. If crying makes you squeamish, stick with "I'm sorry" and get out FAST. You never know what may provoke a gusher.

Thank you all so much for keeping track of us. We've appreciated your sympathy. We've felt your prayers. And we've loved chatting with you over food of any kind.

Grief is such a selfish process that it is only recently that I've been able to realize how many people are also grieving over the loss of Lillian. So to all of you I say "I'm sorry. I'm praying for you. Want to grab a cup of coffee?"

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Tough Day

There's just no sugar coating it, yesterday was tough. I didn't help the cause when I started my day by calling Social Security to inform them of Lillian's death. It's one of those things I'd been procrastinating but I finally decided to just do it. After 10 minutes with the automated system during which I managed to give them Lillian's social security number but my name and birth date, I was finally connected to a human. After that it just took a minute to complete the call but the question "date of death" reminded me that it was exactly one month ago that we were holding her for the last time. That pretty much put a dark cloud over the day. So I put on my "cancer sucks" t-shirt and headed to work.

Fortunately or unfortunately, work was very busy. It was one of those crazy days where there is no time for even food or bathroom breaks. (I'm convinced that iv's and Foley catheter's are not far off from being marketed as convenient products for workaholics.) As I'm knee deep in a project, my phone rang with an internal number. I answered it only to have an awkward conversation with someone from benefits. She was reminding me of Lillian's life insurance policy. Ugh. Try to re-focus on work after that conversation!

After shutting down my computer at 7:30pm still feeling like the project was not where it needed to be, I arrived home to find her death certificate on the counter. Aaaaahhhhhh!

Just when I think I'm doing good, I eject the cd in the car and find one of Lillian's cd's. Those are the unexpected things that are...well...expected. But death certificates and life insurance and social security, those are just painful paperwork reminders. Unfortunately death is not just an emotional experience, it is accompanied by countless decisions and logistics.

On top of all of this, I really feel like I've lost my edge at work. In order to make room for all of the medical information, I think my brain shoved the work-related information to the back. And now that I need it, my brain is having trouble moving the work stuff back to the front. So everything is taking longer which is NOT helpful when you're under the gun on a project. I can only hope that eventually my brain gets things sorted out and I feel somewhat competent again.

Well, I warned you that you would be playing my therapist as I stumble through this. So here I am, warts and all. Yesterday was tough. Those days will happen. But today, I am choosing my attitude. I'm grateful for the pain because it's a reflection of my love for my daughter. I'm grateful for being given a daughter to love. I'm grateful for a job that challenges me and provides for my family. I'm grateful for my husband who wades through this with me and truly understands how I feel. I'm grateful for friends and family who encourage me through bad days and good. Tonight I will head to church with a raw heart filled simultaneously with pain and gratitude. And I will praise God for all of these blessings and the perspective that they bring to my life.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007


Last Saturday I had the privilege of visiting Lexie in the hospital as she recovered from her resection surgery. And I was blessed to meet a wonderful new family with a beautiful 13 year old named Chelsea Rae who is battling bone cancer. Despite all they are experiencing, these families are so strong in their faith. In fact, as my own cancer community grows, I am struck by how many faithful Christians are suffering. Some with physical pain and all with the emotional turmoil that cancer brings. And yet, they handle it with grace that can only come from God.

But why are these wonderful people made to suffer? That's not how this is supposed to go. The fairytale Christian life should go something like this: life unfolds like a stroll down a beautiful country lane both gentle and peaceful. After a long, leisurely walk filled with ample time to smell the flowers, you transition peacefully into the arms of your heavenly Father.

Here is the harsh reality. God never promised us long, happy lives. (Wouldn't evangelism be easy if the fairytale was true!!) I think God needs His faithful followers to struggle with the same trials as non-believers. If only to show that He is faithful in the most difficult of times (Isaiah 41:10) and through that deepen our faith (James 1:2-4). Though I would have preferred that God use Lillian to show His miraculous healing powers, He needed us to show faith even in death.

Some kind people have recently told me that I'm an inspiration. I'm humbled by such a daunting adjective and can only respond with thanks to God for using me for His glory. But the truth is, I don't feel very inspirational. And to be even more honest, I would trade it all to have Lillian back. (Not so inspirational anymore now that you see the deep rooted selfishness, huh?!) But it is a tremendous comfort to know that God is working even through our pain.

Through my cancer community (which includes the doctors, nurses, and staff in addition to the patients and their families), I am receiving more inspiration than I could ever hope to give. I pray that it brings them the same comfort to know that God is using them too.

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