Monday, October 15, 2018

"I'm All Good"


This evening I was scrolling through Facebook and I saw a post from a fellow breast cancer survivor. Her post said the following:
“…Luckily the cancer hasn’t returned, but the long-term effects take place for years. Seems I have now developed a painful case of endometriosis which research shows can be exacerbated by Tamoxifen-a drug I take to keep the cancer away. So now my doc has decided to, in his words, chemically castrate me. Fun times. This includes a nasty monthly shot of Lupron and an infusion of Zometa. Zometa is similar to a drug I took during chemo that alters bone formation. It caused me lots of pain during chemo. Great. Menopause in one day plus pain. Great combo. This is a good Breast Cancer Awareness month post—know the side effects last for years and that many patients are suffering physically and mentally and you may have no idea. But I am all good. It is what it is.”-Decca Taliaferro Knight


I read that today and my heart went out to Decca. I haven’t experienced that exact thing, but I get the “side effects for years” part.  I get the “I am all good. It is what it is.” 
I run into people all the time and they ask how I’m doing and my answer is and will always be “I’m doing absolutely great!” Because I’m cancer free and I’m not dead and therefore I feel like I need to focus on that. 
Nobody wants to hear that I haven’t read a single book cover to cover in 2 years because of my brain fog or that my body hurts so bad when I get out of bed that it takes an hour of stretching and finesse to get moving. Nobody wants to hear that I could easily sleep 12 hours a night because I still am not back to pre-cancer energy. Friday, I stopped by The Flower Center to help move a dozen or so boxes of wine glasses for a fund raiser. It frustrated me to death that I can’t trust my strength or my balance to carry two boxes at a time. I was never a gym rat or super strong, but three years ago I wouldn’t have thought twice about carrying two of those boxes—in heels no less!

But I am all good.

Sometimes before publicly saying something cancer related, I will actually think to myself, “people are probably sick of hearing about this.” 
And maybe they are. 
The truth of the matter is that I’m probably never going to stop talking about cancer—specifically the type that has touched my life.

Many of us have life defining moments. Marriage is one, children is one—and for me, cancer is one. I have two parts of my life—life before cancer and life after. And this Part B life after will never not be Part A before. I just watched my friend Leecy Fink on the news. If you don’t know Leecy’s story, boy are you missing out on a story of immense inspiration. Tonight, she was talking about the rebuilding of her house. Leecy is a breast cancer sister. Her house was one of the ones in Elon, VA that was flattened by the tornado a few months ago. 
I would guess that Leecy has had many life defining moments. She and her family will be moving into their new house in a few weeks and life will continue. The rest of their lives will continue to be “life after the tornado” though. It can be a wonderful life, but it can never go back to life before tornado. And that’s how cancer is. It can be survived and life can go on, but it can never NOT be a part of you. And there are great opportunities that come with that—opportunities to bless others and advocate and be a light—and there is also a great burden that comes with that.

Now. I told you all of that to tell you this…

I painted my bedroom dresser and chest over the weekend. These pieces were my grandmother’s. They graced her front bedroom for several years. The furniture was a medium tone wood, and while beautiful in her home, the color was too heavy for my taste. For years, I have wanted to paint the dresser and chest, but hadn’t been able to get around to it with three busy kids and then that whole cancer thing. Sunday, I mixed up my paint and I pulled the drawers out of the dresser and moved them to the kitchen table to paint. Behind one of the bottom drawers, I felt something and after feeling around, I discovered that it was a package of tissue paper.
I pulled it out and I looked at it. I knew immediately that it wasn’t mine and therefore had to have been my grandmother’s. And then I smelled it. I know. Weird. But I wanted to know if it smelled like Momaw’s house. And it did. And I smelled it again and again. I put it aside while I finished painting. 
Today I showed Kevin and the kids and I made them smell it. They could smell it also. Then I began to panic that the smell was going to be lost and Kevin told me that it had been in that dresser for five or six years and it wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon. He then recalled taking the bedroom suit out the front door of my grandparents’ house and my Papaw holding the door open. When he described that scene, I remembered it vividly and it hit me right in the gut and my tears started just like that. I miss them so much. I miss the smell of the house when I walked in and I miss talks with Momaw while she washed dishes and I miss Papaw’s laugh. Everything. I miss it all. And I had a total breakdown on an ordinary Monday night.

Just like cancer, death is another life defining moment. My life is also marked in another way—life with grandparents and life after.

For many days and weeks and months I think I’m fine and healed and I’ve dealt with all the grief there is to deal with and then just like that, a package of tissue paper brings me to my knees.

We are all living through our many different life-defining moments. Maybe it’s the loss of a loved one, the ending of a relationship, the after effects of an illness, or it could be a hundred other different things. 
When we say “I’m all good” that may be the filtered answer. That may be our strong, best foot forward answer. But it might not be our 100% honest answer.
When you run into someone and you ask them how they're doing and they say "I'm all good" hug them for just a little while longer.
~lightningbug

Saturday, September 1, 2018

And then life happened...


Two weeks have now passed since Aimee arrived. Life has been busy and chaotic and crazy and I am completely behind with my updates so today’s update will be a cram session so I get myself caught up! Kevin and I both worked a lot this week and Natalie hasn’t been feeling well so we are trying to deal with that on top of our normal day to day craziness.

Aimee has logged 10 days in American school and she loves it.

This was her first day…

The first week of school was spirit week! Aimee and Natalie dressed up in many cute ensembles!
Nemo and Dory

She and Natalie are active members of the school student section and they go to as many games as possible! 





I am learning that Aimee loves ice cream just as much as I do and I am learning that her similarities and her family’s similarities far outweigh our differences. Katharina sent me this picture of last Sunday! Coffee in bed!
Ah! My German Sister!
I am reminded to look through these lenses when viewing everyday life. We most often see what we are looking for. If we are looking for the differences, they easily pop out. If we are looking for the similarities, those are what we see first.  

If we are looking for someone’s worst qualities, we see those, but if we look for someone’s brightest qualities, we will see those. 



We had a great time celebrating life and we took our first shopping trip to Roanoke!




Aimee had her first experience at a Japanese Steakhouse and she loved it!







And we all piled up in mama bear’s bed and ate froyo and watched Netflix movies and napped.


Today we are going to try to do some normal boring things like laundry and sweeping the floors and then we will make her put her WVU shirt on and teach her a few cheers.


Tomorrow we make schnitzel!

~lightningbug


SSS-School, Sox, and the State Fair




On Friday morning, everyone got up and began getting ready for school. I went into work for a couple of hours at the church. I left Aimee at home to rest after a quick tour of the house. I let her know that I would be back at 11am to get her to pick her up for our appointment with the guidance counselor. Today she would be registering for school and picking out classes. Aimee was waiting on me when I got back to the house. She was very nervous. We got loaded up in the car and we traveled to Alleghany High School. 


 We parked and Aimee took pictures of the outside of the school. She was still very nervous and the size of the school was intimidating to her. I let her know that a big chunk of the school was the auditorium and the gymnasium and the cafeteria and if you took those things out, it wouldn't be all that big! 

We arrived at the office and I rang the bell and stated my name and Aimee's name and our purpose for visiting. Then I was asked who else was with us. I said "No one" because there was nobody else with us. I turned around and another student was behind us! She announced her name and the door was opened for us. Once we arrived in the office, I had to surrender my driver's license. I signed into the school computer and carefully filled in my detailed information of where I would be going. 

 This is completely different than what it would be like for Aimee's mother Katharina in Germany. If she was going into Aimee's school, she would just walk right in or walk in with Aimee. I'm sure this is because of the strict gun control in Germany. I'm not about to open that can of worms, but merely, share the differences. The German system of gun control is among the most stringent in Europe. It restricts the acquisition, possession, and carrying of firearms to those with a creditable need for a weapon. It bans fully automatic weapons and severely restricts the acquisition of other types of weapons. Since 2009, there have been 288 school shootings in America, compared to only one in Germany. 

 After I was all signed in, we walked to the guidance office. Aimee and I were warmly welcomed by Ms. Howell and the staff in guidance. I can’t say enough good things about Ms. Howell. She really listened to Aimee and got to know her and didn’t rush in getting her enrolled and signed up for classes. She was friendly and warm and it was a great experience!

 For those unfamiliar with YFU exchange student program, this year in an American school will count for zip, zero, zilch, nada in Germany. She studies and attends classes and receives grades, but it doesn’t count for anything in Germany. When she returns next fall, she will be a junior in her German school. Because this year doesn’t count for squat in the opinion of the school systems, Ms. Howell let Aimee decide what grade level she wanted to do! Ms. Howell pointed out that many of the exchange students in the past were enrolled as seniors which offered them a few fun perks such as leaving five minutes early for lunch and getting to leave five minutes early on Fridays at the end of the day and getting to participate in the senior picnic and the graduation (even though she would just have an attendance certificate in hers!) Well that was a no-brainer for Aimee. You should have seen her eyes light up when she learned she would be a senior! Aimee signed up for US History, English, Spanish, PE and Leadership this semester.

 After this was complete, I walked Aimee down to the cafeteria. Everyone was staring at her! I guess it’s not everyday that a beautiful 16 year old German exchange student walks into the cafeteria at Alleghany High School! I said to Aimee, “Everybody is staring at you.” She said, “I know.” And we laughed. I walked over to where my daughter Natalie was sitting and Natalie introduced her to a few friends. I then walked over to where Principal Ross was seated and introduced him to Aimee. He gave her a friendly welcome to America and to AHS!

 We then walked back to the office and I had to enter my code from my nametag into the computer to let them know I was leaving the building. I was then given back my driver’s license and we exited the building.

 Next I drove Aimee to Clifton Forge and did a quick tour of the main drag. We laughed about some of the different ways we say things. I mentioned the “grocery store” and she didn’t understand. I now call Kroger the supermarket! Ha!

 We headed back to Covington and we stopped at Cucci’s. We had ham & cheese sandwiches and talked about many things. Aimee began to open up a little more as she got more comfortable with me. After Cucci’s we went to Walmart to check out cell phones. Aimee had her phone from Germany and she could use it on wifi, but in order to have something for her to stay in contact with us and her friends, she would have to have a local phone. Aimee couldn’t believe how cheap the iPhones were!

 We left Walmart and went back to the house and waited for everyone to return. We had big plans for the evening! We were going to the Pink in the Park Salem Red Sox game! Amy had never seen a baseball game…or a baseball match as she first called it! We got to Roanoke and got in. Papi tried to explain the rules to her, but she didn’t really understand and she found baseball boring. She did, however, enjoy DIPPING DOTS!

After the ballgame, we headed back home and got a good night’s sleep. The next day we relaxed and helped Aimee unpack and get settled and that evening, it was off to the West Virginia State Fair! That’s right! We initiated her into America with that unforgettable combination of smells—cow dung, deep fried everything, and cinnamon rolls! Aimee had her first corndog at the State Fair. She LOVED it. We tried to get a picture but she ate it too fast! Aimee had a wonderful time at the state fair and she is fitting in our home and hearts seamlessly.


 ~lightningbug



Wednesday, August 29, 2018

At last, we meet! Willkommen in Amerika!

We hurried to to airport after having a delicious dinner of wings and fries at B Dubs. I wonder if Aimee has ever hear of B Dubs?

Normally we are super early when going to the airport, but tonight, we don't have a lot of time to spare. We argue over who has to carry the balloons in. They were a great touch, but a bit bulky to drag in. Papi concedes to be the designated balloon carrier. Natalie carries the sign. We make it up the stairs in the very barren airport. There is one couple sitting and waiting. Closer to 9, a few more gather. People look at us with tilted heads as they try to figure out what our jubilant welcome is all about. The plane lands. We can hardly contain our excitement. I say to Natalie, "Do you think you will recognize her when you see her?" She looks at me as if I have three heads and says, "Uh yeah." One by one, passengers exit by us. Many try to read our poster and piece together what our purpose is with a sign and American flag balloons at the end of the airport gate. One woman stopped because she thought we were awaiting a military family member. She shared that her son was in the service. We asked her to pass on our gratitude to her son for his service.

Our excitement and anticipation could hardly be contained and then I hear Natalie say, "There she is."

I step closer to the gate and she walks closer. The poor child looks terrified. I smile and scoop her hug in an embrace. Next Natalie grabs her and hugs her and then Kevin and Papi. She is tired and cold. We walk downstairs to get her luggage. We keep staring at her because she is finally here! We get her luggage and make our way outside to the car.

She asks me how to pronounce the name of this city. I tell her "Ro-a-noke."She repeats it.

We get loaded up in the car and drive out of the airport parking lot.

Our first stop?

Welllll....the light was on! We had to stop!
Nothing says Welcome to America--and welcome to the south--
like Krispy Kreme doughnuts!
It was love at first bite.


Aimee was so excited to get back and get settled in and get a good night's rest!


Tomorrow I will be taking Aimee to the high school to meet with her guidance counselor to get registered for school and pick out her classes!
It will be a BIG DAY!

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

A Broad's Guide to Study Abroad: The Background Story


On July 23, I received a random text message from an unknown number.

The message read “You provided a reference for a Youth For Understanding (YFU) host family a few years ago. Would you be interested in hosting a YFU exchange student?”

I laughed to myself and thought "Oh heck no!" and didn’t think too much more about it.

Until I started thinking about it again.

And again.

And then I shared the text with my daughter and she loved the idea.

And then I shared the text with my husband and he said "Absolutely not!"

My daughter and I became increasingly curious and excited about the possibility of welcoming a new family member and my husband conceded with “Do what you want.”

I would not accept that, and let him know that it was everyone on board or we wouldn’t do it. We knew it would be a complete "rocking the boat" kind of thing and not something that should be taken lightly.

We began looking on the YFU website at the students who were awaiting placement with host families in America. There are no pictures, no sound clips—just a name and home country and a few paragraphs that describe the student. Natalie and I read through many bios on the website and when we read "Aimee from Germany" we knew she was the one. It wasn’t her activities or her accomplishments—it was the way she described her family. She said her family was "mad—but in a positive way." We thought "Wow! That's the German version of us!"
Now Natalie and I became even more intent on welcoming a student into our home. We continued to ask dear ole dad if he was on board and finally…we convinced him.

It wasn’t long after we made that decision, that the wheels began rolling. We had oodles of paperwork to fill out so the screening process could begin. We had to provide references and they had to be checked out. We had to have a home visit and our family members and pets had to be verified. The high school had to be called to make sure they would enroll her. Natalie’s queen bed was dismantled and two twin beds were assembled in its place. New bedding was purchased and drawers and closets were cleaned out to make room for another family member.


Once all the i’s were dotted and t’s were crossed, we received an email that Aimee would be spending the school year with us! We were then given one another’s names and contact information and we began reaching out to one another and getting to “know” one another.

Aimee is the oldest child of Katharina and Birger and she has a brother, Marlon. They live in northern Germany in a place called Neubrandenburg, which has a population of about 60,000.

She has completed 10th grade in Germany.

Travel arrangements were placed in our online account and we found out that Aimee would be arriving on Thursday night, August 16th at 9pm in Roanoke.

We continued to message one another each day up until her arrival, although it was tricky because Germany is six hours ahead of us. By the time we get up each morning, the Krabbes have already completed most of their work day. By the time we have dinner, the Krabbes are in dreamland. 

In the days before Aimee’s arrival, we made signs for her—one for the airport and one for the house.
We picked up a balloon bouquet full of red, white, and blue balloons.
We loaded up in the car and off to Roanoke!
We are so excited to meet her!
~lightningbug

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Dear Crusher Boys...


I'm not 12 and I don't play baseball. 
I’m 41 and I’m a mom.

You boys all know what I went through two years ago because you were right there with me. You may have been confused and scared just like me.

When I waited to find out whether I had cancer, it was the worse time of my life. I was so scared. Terrified. Riley was about to be a senior in high school and Natalie was 13 and Papi was just 11. When you’re a mom, your biggest worry is taking care of your kids. I knew they needed me. Can you imagine how hard life would be without your mom? I kept putting myself in their place and it was a terrible place for my mind to go. The constant thoughts of leaving them behind to go through life without their mom were sometimes more than I could handle.

The voices in my head during those times were playing out the worst possible scenarios. I spent a lot of time hiding and crying because I was so scared but I didn’t want everybody to know I was scared.

Life was tough during that time. That was the toughest opponent I’ve ever been up against. And I let it intimidate me in the beginning—maybe a little like you all did when you saw what appeared to be half-grown men step in the diamond in Cooperstown? Sometimes it’s easy to let the doubt and the fear take over. 

What if this guy jacks one over the fence while I’m pitching? 
What if my cancer has spread?
What if this guy hits a line drive so hard that it knocks my glove off?
What if my cancer comes back?

I don’t know if you all have those things that run through your heads, but I sure did.
And I still do sometimes. 

I wanted to tell you about the day that everything changed for me. And who knows? Maybe it can help you also. 

Back when I had found out about the big C, I spent a week or two engulfed in fear and uncertainty about the future. I felt like I wasn’t in control of my own thoughts.

So you know what I did?

I sat down with a marker and a stack of paper and I started writing down things that would strengthen and empower me and I posted them all over my house. For me, they were statements that would quiet my fears. It was scripture and it was positive affirmations. 

Do you know what an affirmation is? If any of you are Methodists or Presbyterians, you may pull out your hymnals and recite an “Affirmation of Faith.” That’s just a few lines that remind us what we believe in.

An affirmation is simply a statement. 
A positive affirmation is a positive statement. 

If my fears were telling me that I wasn’t going to be around to see my kids grow up, my affirmation would say things like “I am beating cancer because I have important things to do on earth!”
See how saying that or reading it silences the other negative things?

If your fears are telling you that you are going to strike out, maybe you can try out a positive affirmation when you’re on deck. Maybe you can say to yourself “I’m strong and I’m in shape and I’ve trained for this.” Maybe you can say “I will see the ball, swing through and drive it.”

You know what else this works on?
School!
Tests. SOLs. Exams.

I took a really hard math class a while back. I’m talking REALLY hard. It’s called Statistics and it’s awful. I used to drive to college in my grocery-getting mom wagon and I used to cry in the parking lot before I even went in that class. Then I usually cried in the parking lot after I came out. You see, I needed to pass this class to get my degree and it was so hard for me! I would practice and do my homework, but then when it was time for a quiz or a test, I’d get so nervous! After getting super nervous and failing a couple of tests, I decided that instead of crying or working myself up, I would get out my notebook before the test and I would write a few sentences. And so I did. And those sentences would remind me that I am smart and capable and prepared for this test, but no matter whether I pass or fail, it was still going to be ok! It was not going to be the end of the world.

Baseball is teaching you life lessons with each practice swing, each at bat, each first inning, each last inning, and each relationship made with teammates, opponents, coaches and umpires.

The cool thing about the mental game is what it brings to you after you’ve overcome it. It brings confidence. Cancer sucked, but I am so much more confident than I used to be.  And you will be too.

Baseball is serious. Life is serious.

But baseball and life are also so much fun! Don’t ever lose sight of the reason you’re on the field and the reason you’re on planet earth. 

Have fun, play ball and enjoy this life!

Love,
Papi’s mom


Friday, June 15, 2018

Cooperstown 2018


2018 Cooperstown
Dreams Park Tournament 

Reflections from a mom who knows next to nothing about baseball...

Today is Thursday morning. Instead of scrambling to get out the door of our cozy Garrattsville, NY campground cabin to get to the ballpark for our 8:30 game, I am sitting at the picnic table reflecting on the week.

What a week!

What is it about baseball that is so darn special? It just brings people together.  To see a group of kids, who almost all came out of the same county, who have relied a lot more on hard work than natural born talent, perform on this size of a stage…it’s just almost too much to take in.

The Alleghany Crushers.

They were born out of love of baseball.

We have seen these kids rise and we have seen them fall. We have been through the most incredible wins and the most gut-wrenching losses—on and off the field—together.

As I sit back this morning, I am reminded of something that happened two years ago, long before any thoughts of Cooperstown ever existed.

Our family had been through a pretty tough time and these kids and their families had our back every inch of the way. This particular week were playing in Myrtle Beach, SC. It was the hottest week on record and there we were.  Playing baseball.

My #34, Big Papi.

Why do we call him that?  A lot of these kids have been together since they were in Minor A.  First day of practice, Coach Nolan realized he had two kids named Wyatt. He knew that wasn’t going to work, so he asked if my Wyatt had a nickname or something else he’d like to be called, and without skipping a beat, he said, “You can just call me Big Papi.” And Papi was born that day—a far cry in size from what his almost 13 year old self is today. 
My Papi was up to bat with the bases loaded in that game in Myrtle Beach. You see, he was a 10 year-old boy who had spent the spring not only working on his hitting and fielding, but also watching his mom battle cancer.

Big Papi hit his first every dinger that day—a grand slam. The ball sailed over the fence and he rounded the bases behind his three teammates. They congratulated him and he went in the dugout and he sat down and he cried. He was excited but moreover, he was humbled that day and that’s the magic of baseball. That’s what brings people together.

Each of these boys have grown so much over the last four years, and this week they grew astronomically. Each kid is special is his own way and offers the team something special and unique that the other can’t.

Wyatt “Big Man” Campbell is one of our youngest kids, but don’t think for a second that his size holds him back. He is a beast on the pitcher’s mound and a vacuum on second base. He hit a dinger in Lynchburg last year, and I feel sure he’s going to hit another this year.

Peyton “Big Jim” Meadows aka Smiley, is a force to be reckoned with. He is a team player and will play any position that is asked of him. He’s gotten pretty fierce out in right field and we have seen him throw several kids out at first in this tournament. Big Jim also pitches, plays first and he is so close to knocking one over the fence it’s not even funny.

Kole Caldwell. Lord have mercy. I thought I was laid back. This kid makes me look like an amateur. He doesn’t sweat the small stuff at all. You will find him mostly in left field, but he also pitches occasionally and catches as well. He hit a dinger in Cooperstown!

Chris “Hoser” Harden. This kid is our wild card. If anybody was betting, they would certainly think this one belonged to my husband, because they are very much alike. Hoser will keep you on your toes and he will always have you laughing. He is a mighty center fielder, backup catcher and look out if he’s on base because he’s one of our best baserunners. He hit two dingers in Cooperstown.

Tanner “T-bird, Sweet T” Evans. Tanner came on board last year. He lives in Christiansburg and we got to know him and his family when we played against his team. Tanner is also one of our young kids, but you’d never know it by his performance on the field. He plays shortstop and pitches and he’s our leadoff hitter and he jacked one out in Cooperstown too!

Anthony “Squirrel” Webb. Anthony is one of our strongest pitchers. When he is on, lookout world, because we’re probably going to get a W. When he’s not on the mound, you will find him over on third base.

Eli “Big E, Deez, Big Easy” Weese goes between center field and second base. Eli is one of our little dudes, but he is mighty is so many ways. He hit his first dinger in Cooperstown this week. Eli is an all around great baseball player from his defense, to his hitting to his base running.

Hunter “Buzz” Depriest. Hunter is a key player on our team. He is one of our leaders. He is one of our best pitchers and also plays a great third base. He jacked a couple of dingers over the fence at Cooperstown also.

Jakari “Pedro, J” Nicely. Ah. This kid. What would our team be without this kid? He brings leadership and power hitting (7 homers in Cooperstown) and he’s an incredible catcher. He plays with a lot of heart and he’s just a great all-around kid.

Chase “Chaser” Depriest. Chase is another young one. He’s two years behind everybody but there was no evidence of that this week! Chase came in and pitched for us and pitched really well. You will also find him in right field. Chase is killing the ball also and he will be jacking homers next year.

And my own Wyatt “Papi” Griffith. He plays first base and he jacked four over the fence this week. He wears his heart on his sleeve and has an old soul, and I truly think that when the Crushers’ time was up yesterday, that his tears were not only a reflection of the highs and lows out on the field, but also everything else that went into making this trip to Dreams Park a reality.

I’m an outsider.
Only Coach Nolan, Coach Davey and Coach Kevin know the stories from inside the bunkhouse this week and I’m sure they are doozies! How could living among 11 tween boys be anything less?!

I think back to my days of going to camp and learning and growing. It’s life changing. It’s so much more than baseball.

One of the lessons I got out of this week is that it truly is sometimes just as incredible to lose when you know you gave it every ounce of your heart. That trumps a lackadaisical win any ole day. And we saw it up close and personal in the game on Tuesday night against FCA. Kelly Caldwell went live with it that night, so many of you reading this will know exactly what I’m talking about. A couple of years ago, we beat all odds and came back in a tournament in Richmond and walked away with a win. That was great and exciting, but even still, I have never been as emotionally involved in a game more than Tuesday night. Our boys were there to play with every fiber of their being and the fans were united and cheering and Chaser was in the dugout rattling the cage and we saw the magic of baseball. Even when we came up one run short.  

Cooperstown 2018.
Thanks for the awesome memories.
Crushers for Life.









Monday, February 19, 2018

Plan Crasher


February 19.

Today marked the two year anniversary of the day I got the “Unfortunately it is cancer” call.

A month ago, I told my husband that we were going to celebrate and make this day full of happy memories!

We were planning on getting all dressed up and having a fancy dinner. I had the perfect little black dress and heels picked out.

I didn't bother making a reservation because it's Monday and who the heck eats a fancy dinner on Monday night? At 4pm we realized the reason that nobody eats a fancy dinner on Monday is because all of the fancy restaurants around are closed on Mondays. My plans were getting all twisted and I didn’t like feeling out of control. It was oddly reminiscent of the way I was feeling two years ago.  

I came home from work and I wasn’t having the best day. I was feeling defeated. The gala planning had me stressed, work had me stressed and now my plans that I had been so looking forward to were all crapped out. I put my pjs on at 4:30 and I crawled in my bed and I curled up in the fetal position and I cried.

February 19—the two year anniversary of the day I got the news that I had cancer. And I am still here surviving and thriving! And I am in my bed in my pjs at 4:30pm crying because I felt so overwhelmed.

My husband came in and was excited and he said we were going to Drapers at the Greenbrier! I told him no. He knew I wanted to go there for my 40th birthday and get a banana split, but we didn’t make it. I could’ve made up for that tonight, but I was too busy wallowing. He left me alone for a while and then he returned. He sat down and said, “You’re not having the best day are you?” I shook my head no. He asked what was wrong. I replied that I sucked at life. He reminded me that I did not suck at life and in fact, I was pretty good at it. I cried some more.

About an hour later, he asked me if I wanted to go eat.

I said let’s go to The Rail and get a burger.

And so we did.

It wasn’t fancy and it wasn’t what I had planned, but it worked out.

February 19, 2016 was also a plan crasher.
But it worked out, too.

Here we are after a long evening but a great burger and a beer!
~lightningbug

Monday, November 27, 2017

The Christmas Card File

Yesterday I picked up my Christmas cards. All 100 of them. I love Christmas cards. I used to be so much better with cards than I am now. My grandma used to send out cards for every holiday and then just weekly “thinking of you” cards. I guess we are living in different times now because when I’m thinking of you, I’ll just send you a text and tell you, but I still try to do Christmas cards because I love that tradition.


I have spent my entire adult life compiling and tweaking my Christmas card list. I have an old address book where it started some decades ago. I still have the address book, although the cover is gone and the pages are worn. I don’t like to turn through it much these days because so many of the people inside those pages no longer have earthly addresses. Tis the season to be jolly fa, la, la, la, la…but also the season for reflection and remembrance and nostalgia and heartache. I had a moment with all of those today.

When I left my job at the church, I made sure I got my personal files off of the computer and stored on a thumb drive to take back home with me. I was there nine years, so I had some personal files on the computer. One of those items was my Christmas Card list. After 20 years, I had this Christmas card list pretty much down to an art. I had tweaked it from year to year—removing when I lost people and adding when my circle of friends increased. This morning after I stuffed my cards in the envelopes, I began looking for my thumb drive. I was at a loss. I couldn’t for the life of me remember where I had stored it. I was working two jobs at the time and I was trying to juggle old stuff and new stuff. I’m sure my brain was all over the place. And my chemo memory is iffy at best.

I looked all day in random places. No thumb drive. Maybe it was just time to begin a new list--start fresh. Maybe this was a sign that I needed to do something different.

I had to pick Natalie up from basketball practice tonight. I sent a text to a friend. This is a friend I met about 15 years ago when we moved back to Covington—a friend that I have shared a lot of things with over the last 15 years—smiles, laughs, tears, prayers, experiences. She probably thought I had lost my bloody mind when she read my Monday night words. I was a bit frantic and desperate sounding. I was all in my feelings and I was thinking back to when the kids were small and we were doing Christmas plays. I was thinking of all the great memories we had raising our kids in the church and it just hit me like a ton of bricks how truly special those times have been and how blessed I am to have experienced that. Then the tears started flowing and they wouldn’t stop. The thing I seem to cry about most these days is that “nothing stays the same" and "I’ll never get that back.”

You’ll never get it back either.
Whatever completely normal thing that you are experiencing right now…it might even seem like a nuisance or a pain right at this second…but one day in the not so distant future you will look back on it with tears in your eyes and wish you could have a do-over. And it won’t be because your life isn’t great now. I love my life today. I just miss portions of the past and people of the past.
I miss being a little girl and going and seeing Lacy’s Lights with my grandparents—the smells, the sounds, the anticipation. My grandparents are gone. And now that season has also passed for my own children. We don’t track Santa on his flight anymore. They don’t write letters to the big jolly man. There is a lot that now lives in my memory and they are GREAT memories but they can also bring me to my knees because they are also laced with grief. Grief is a rat bastard. You will start remembering something or someone and then BOOM! Knocks the wind out of you. Just like that. And nobody can tell you how to do it. We all do it differently and there is no right or wrong way. 

Natalie got in the car from basketball practice tonight and I was crying. She asked what in the world was wrong. I told her I wanted to go Christmas Caroling. I used to have a Cookie Exchange and Caroling party.  Some of my best Christmas memories are of these parties. It has fallen through the cracks over the last few years and in its place has been travel ball and school ball and obligations and busyness—just not enough days in the week or hours in the days it seems. Natalie told me not to cry and that just the two of us would go caroling. I told her that was hogwash due to the fact that neither of us could carry a tune in a bucket. She then began to tell me all the people we could ask and she said we would do it and make it beautiful.
How lucky am I to have someone who loves me so much to offer to wrangle up a bunch of people to go caroling, just to make Christmas special for me?!

I went on to tell her how I was all in my feelings because of thinking back to the way things used to be. I told her about the stupid thumb drive and I told her how quickly the child rearing years pass us by. I was crying and she was looking for a tissue. She opened up the storage compartment in the dash. No tissues. When she closed it, the stupid thing wouldn’t close. I told her there was too much stuffed in it and I began pulling things out of there so she could shut it. She said it still wouldn’t close. I told her the spring must have popped out and she began digging around for the spring. When she began digging, guess what she found in there?

My thumb drive.
Attached to my church keys.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

There Goes My Life...


Monday, August 7, 2017—the day that I drove away and left my kid at college.

Let me clarify. I am not a wuss. I do not baby my kids. None of them. Never have. I have loved each fiercely, but I don’t sugar coat. I’m not the overprotective type. I love my kids and I love spending time with them (unless they are being jerks)—summers and weekends and evenings, but I am one of those moms who does cartwheels when school is back in session.

I never dreamed my kid going to college would shake me to the core. Yes, I’ve heard the Kenny Chesney song. And the Brad Paisley song. And all the other songs that talk about your kid driving away or the last time you do this or that, and they do make me a little teary-eyed, but honestly, I did not think my kid moving out would do that to me.

I have been a mess this week. A MESS! My husband finally told me today that I had to get it together. And I hope that he got through to me, because I DO have to get it together. I hate feeling like this. So much of me wants to be so proud and happy for my kid and I AM those things, but he’s gone y’all! And yes, he is only a couple of hours away and he is still my son and blah blah…all that crap that people say to make you feel better, but I know what happened when I went away to school. I never came back. I left in 1995 and I didn’t come back until 2003. Sure, I visited, but life as we knew it was never the same.

I carried this baby for nine months and I gave birth to that 9 lb. 4.5 oz half-grown kid and I still have the stretch marks and extra 30 lbs. to prove it. I held him and fed him and got peed and pooped and puked on by him on the daily. I pushed him out of my unmentionables and then I pushed him for hours upon hours in the swing. For years.

 I finger-painted with him. I pulled him in a wagon. I rode him on the back of my bicycle. I took him to Kindermusik. I took him to church. Soccer. Basketball. Cross Country. Track. I watched him get baptized. I watched him receive countless awards and accolades. I watched him become a big brother. Twice. I watched him grow into the handsome young man that he is. I watched him be a good son, a good brother, and a good friend. I watched him walk across that graduation stage as an honor grad. I even had to watch him watch his mom go through a cancer battle right before his senior year of high school when all he should’ve been worrying about was girls and who is going to win the football game and how many cheeseburgers can he get for $10. I have laughed with him until I have cried and I have cried with him until I laughed.

I remember my fear when he was still nonverbal at almost 3 years old. I went through 18 months of speech therapy with him, twice a week until finally he was speaking. I got a call when he was in Kindergarten for a meeting because his fine motor skills were not up to par. They tested his cutting with scissors and he actually held the scissors backwards and cut with the blades facing him. He got the job done, but they were at a loss because he hadn’t held the scissors the proper way. I left crying because I just wanted him to be like all of the rest of the kids. What I realize 14 years later is that I was underestimating him and not being brave enough to look outside the box. Sometimes the way one of us gets from point A to point B might not be the same as the way someone else does. And that doesn’t mean either way is wrong—in spite of what the PALS testing regulations say. After that battle, it turned out by 5th grade, they felt he should go into the gifted program and so he did. He enjoyed those challenges and the students and teachers during those years.

I was struggling one time with him and I remember calling my dad and crying, “But I don’t want to break his spirit!” That has always been a fear of mine as a mother. I want my children to be kind, loving, civic-minded, productive members of society, but I never want them to lose an ounce of their individuality or quirkiness or uniqueness. That is their special gift to the world! My dad’s advice at that time was, “Don’t break…mold.” And those three words have stuck with me. Molding takes patience and time and practice. You can’t just wave a wand and mold something. You have to work with it until it’s pliable and then you have to keep working with it until it can be shaped and you have to continue to shape until it takes form.

So many things I have to look back on in the last 18 years…so many fun times and laughs and memories. I treasure each of them. I think back to that scared 21-year-old in the hospital who didn’t have a clue what to do with a baby. Riley and I grew up together. We screwed up some and we rocked it out some. Kevin always loves to tell the story of when Riley was an infant and I knocked his head into the door jam. Twice. It wasn’t as horrible as he likes to describe it and you turned out smart, so clearly, I didn’t mess your brain up too much.

So I think everyone is beginning to understand my heart-hurt. Those who have let go understand this. This was my first time. You know when they do the water release up at Gathright Dam? That’s kind of how it is right now. I’ve done a release and the levels are rising now—it’s a flood of memories. It’s everything over the last 18 years that made Riley’s time under our roof so special and wonderful. No longer will Natalie and Wyatt have their brother living at home. Everything is different now. That doesn’t mean that great times aren’t ahead! I do know they are! And oh my gosh I’m so proud. I’m SO PROUD! And I’m so happy that he is going out and doing what we’ve been preparing for over the last 18 years!

But a super selfish mommy part is really sad that things can’t remain all the same forever because I’ve really enjoyed the ways things have been.

But what if my parents would’ve clipped my wings? I wouldn’t have been able to experience all of this awesome life! So, I know in my heart of hearts that I have to do the same for him. And then Natalie. And then Papi. And it’s going to hurt so much with each of them that I might wonder if my heart will be able to take it. But I will do it because I love them. And because it’s what is required.

But mostly because it is frowned upon to keep your children in the basement against their will for the rest of their life.

If you are in this chapter, I wish you the best. And if you ever need to talk or cry or drink a fifth of liquor, just call me.

~lightningbug