Wednesday, June 5, 2013

We leave tonight for London!  We're looking forward to our travel adventure and I will be blogging about it when we return home, four weeks from today.

Here's a few photos from Bath and the Cotswolds in 2011.  We are looking forward to spending a few days here next week!

Bon voyage!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Memorial Weekend at the Lake

Every year it's a tradition to head north for Memorial weekend.  This year the weather was cool but we managed to find plenty of things to do and had a great time.

Nature hike.  The only wildlife I see is the fearsome Lacey at Cody's and Emily's feet!
The girls are overseeing the men as they assemble our new patio set.
 Occasionally we head into town for a challenging game of mini-golf. 
Usually I dominate but this year Cody was the champion. 
Daniel was looking tough on a stump, midway through our game.
Love on the putting green.  Ha ha!
Hanging out on the dock, watching Daniel on the paddle board and fishing.
The water was freezing, so Daniel had quite the incentive to stay upright.
Leah showing us how it's done on a blustery day.
The guys out on the tube.  Seriously, the water was freezing. 
I have no idea why they wanted to tube.  Ah, the craziness of youth!

Mike doing what he loves: fishing!  Unfortunately, not much was biting this weekend.
Canoeing at sunset.  Even when it's chilly, there's always plenty to do at the lake!
I hope your Memorial weekend was fun and memorable.  These photos are just a small part of the story.  We squeezed in a few dinners out, a roaring campfire, Sunday morning worship at Spider Lake Church, a few badminton matches, hanging out on the hammock and a little cleaning as well.  All in all, another great weekend up north!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Pinch me, I must be dreaming!

Guess where we're going?  I can't believe it...

 But we're going here...

And here...

And back here...

And here, too! 

I can't believe we're actually going back to England and France again this year.  I feel very blessed, indeed, to be able to "cross the pond" again.

We've got family living in England so while they're still there, we've decided to make another trip over.  They will be putting their home on the market to sell and when it's sold, they'll be moving back to the states so it's almost as though we have to go see them while we've got the chance, right?  At least that was how I put it to my husband as I was telling him all the great reasons I had to go back and bring Leah and Daniel with me.

Outside of going to Mexico, Daniel has never left the country so this is a big deal for a 13 year old boy.  Leah's and my passports are current but Daniel's had expired so on Tuesday afternoon we made a quick trip to our local courthouse to get a new passport for him.  My husband had to be there, too, because both parents have to be present to get a passport for a minor.  We all had to raise our right hands and solemnly swear that everything on the application was truthful.  No problem!

The tickets have been booked and this year we're going for four weeks instead of three.  Four weeks sounds like such a long time but we've gone for 23 days the past two times and it has flown by so quickly that I thought we might want a few more days to explore. 

In the meantime, I'm frantically scrambling to find us an apartment for a week in Paris.  Once I've got that and our Eurostar tickets taken care of, I'll be able to relax a bit, but not much.  We leave on June 5th which is not that far away.

I always panic a bit after plunking down the money for the airline tickets.  It's that awkward stage of imagining myself crazy for investing so much in my quest to see more of the world before I'm actually excited about the trip.  Don't get me wrong.  I am excited.  I'll just be a little more excited when a few more details have been wrapped up.

Cheerio!  Or should I say Au revior?

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Lessons from a Breast Cancer Journey

Errin and I at her breast cancer benefit last December.
Last September my sister rocked my world when she told me she had breast cancer.  BOOM.  Stake through the heart.  I hugged her close and told her we had a battle to fight and that I would be with her every step of the way.  I'm a woman of action so I dried my tears, told her to boot up her computer and got on the phone ASAP to make an appointment with the first available surgeon at the Piper Breast Center at Abbott Northwestern in Minneapolis.

As I was dialing the phone, I had no idea who to ask for and told the woman on the line I wanted the very best doctor they had.  Of course she responded by telling me that ALL their doctors were good.  I had begun praying even before I made the call that God would direct us to the surgeon that would best be able to help my sister.  We made the appointment and a few days later were sitting in the examining room with Dr. D. 

He did a good job of masking his alarm when he examined my sister but I saw it.  BOOM.  Another stake through the heart.  Then he excused himself and returned with a breast cancer oncologist who "just happened" to be out in the hall so that she could examine Errin.  Very unconventional and spoke to the seriousness of the situation.  BOOM.  They looked at Errin's labwork and spoke of their hope that she would be estrogen positive so that she could take powerful preventative drugs to protect her against recurrences.  BOOM.  BOOM.  BOOM.  She was negative on all three counts.  They have a term for patients like that:  Triple Negative.  BOOM.

The scans were inconclusive but it looked as though the extremely aggressive tumor which they defined as "huge" had already penetrated the chest wall.  BOOM.  They also told us that the scans showed lymph node involvement.  BOOM. 

Meanwhile, I'm praying, over and over again:  "Please don't let it be inflammatory breast cancer, please don't let it be inflammatory breast cancer..."  as I had lost a friend to IBC a few years ago and knew how dire that prognosis was.  So, when our very kind and concerned surgeon looked at us and told us that, indeed, it was inflammatory breast cancer, my stoicism crumbled and tears began leaking from the corners of my eyes.  BOOM.  Final stake through my poor heart that just couldn't take any more grim diagnoses.  My sister, bless her heart, turned to look at me and said in a surprised tone, "You're crying."  Yes.  Yes, I was.  I tried all the tricks:  blinking rapidly, looking up at the ceiling, trying to focus.  None of it worked.  She, on the other hand, was calm and collected.  Huh. 

That was a very dark day and the boatload of testing that followed only served to support all the negative news that the doctors had shared with us.  As they wheeled her in for her MRI that same day, I ran from the room looking for a lifeline.  Praise God, I found it in Pastor Larry from our church.  I hardly remember our conversation (besides my literally gasping for air) but what stands out was his pronouncement that God was faithful and sufficient.  NO MATTER WHAT.  No matter what the future held, I had to trust God, even with my beloved sister. 

The days ahead held more painful doctor appointments with yet more negative assessments but as our church and friends and family and Errin's customers and business associates began to pray, a strange thing began to happen.  The fear that gripped my heart began to loosen.  I began to truly hope and believe in Errin's healing.  I began sleeping and eating again.  In the midst of the many doctor appointments, chemo treatments and more, life returned to a sort of normalcy.

Fast forward four months to Errin's double mastectomy on Monday.  Dr. D. was there, the man of the hour and after many hours spent in the waiting room he met with us after the surgery to tell us that it had gone well and, contrary to their earlier belief, the chest wall was not involved.  The lymph nodes on the left side that had been biopsied earlier in the day were clear and cancer-free as well.  Praise God!  The good news was finally rolling in and left us in a somewhat euphoric daze.  Hours later when we were finally able to see and talk with Errin she shared what the radiologist that morning had shared with her:  He'd worked at a number of hospitals for many years and if he or a loved one needed the kind of surgery Errin had, he told her he would choose Dr. D. over all the other doctors he knew.  That man, that doctor, in his opinion, was the best.  The very best.  Why was I not surprised?  God hadn't deserted us during our hour of need.  On the contrary, He had been guiding our every move.

Today my sister comes home from the hospital and she was given wonderful news before leaving:  The lymph nodes on the right side, the ones that were enlarged and that the doctors believed to be cancerous were benign!  No cancer!  So here I am, thanking God again for the gift of His healing in my sister's life.  When we look at a situation through our own eyes, it is easy to despair and lose faith.  God asks us to trust Him, even when the prognosis is dire.  Especially when the prognosis is dire.  As life kept hammering her, Errin never gave up hope.  She wasn't interested in statistics then and still isn't today.  What an inspiration she is to me and so many others. 

BOOM.  The hammer and stake have been laid to rest and the tears I weep today are tears of joy.  Perhaps the tools that I despised were not objects meant to harm me but instruments used to chisel away doubt, indifference and self-reliance.  It appears the lessons I fear the most have the greatest potential to teach me what I need to learn.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Let It Snow!

I saw the cardinal hiding in the spruce tree in the front of our house today.

Winter may not be officially here on the calendar yet, but the weather is very winter-like today.  It's been snowing since last night and we've got about 15" of snow on the ground and it's still snowing!  I wish Mike were home, safe and sound, but he's up north with plans to drive home tomorrow.  Let's hope he can get in the driveway, it's pretty deep.  Thank goodness I got the plow stakes in a few weeks ago!

I guess we're going to make up for last year, our "winterless" winter.  A lot of people liked the warm weather and brown landscape, but I didn't.  Not really.

I'm ready to strap on my skis and get out skiing  Or go snowshoeing.  Or hit the trails up north with the snowmobiles.  So many options for so much fun!  Daniel is hoping for a snowday tomorrow and I'm thinking he'll get his wish.  Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

When Life Hurts

Me, Errin & Mike at Errin's breast cancer fundraiser last Saturday night.

There are times when life hits you over the head with a sledgehammer.  That's been my life lately.  Head, meet sledgehammer.  Sledgehammer, meet head.  Ouch.

In September, my sister, who happens to be my walking partner, therapist, neighbor, boss and best friend, sat my mother and I down to tell us she was sick with breast cancer.  Turns out it's not just any old breast cancer but a triple negative Inflammatory Breast Cancer, staged 3C.  You'd have to be a breast cancer expert or a doctor to fully appreciate that diagnosis but to simplify things I'll just say it's a pretty bad diagnosis.  IBC is extremely aggressive and, thankfully, pretty rare at only 1-2% of all breast cancers.

Since then, I have been integral in my sister's care, making and accompanying her to appointments all over the Twin Cities area.  For anyone reading this that lives in the area I'd like to give a shout out for the Piper Breast Center.  If you're diagnosed with breast cancer I wouldn't consider going anywhere else. Period.  They are a top notch facility with exceptional doctors, nurses and staff.  I'm grateful for the amazing care my sister has received there.  Her extreme diagnosis had them altering schedules and making it possible for her to begin chemo in record time.  While it's scary to see doctors do that sort of thing, I'm thankful they take her care so seriously.

In the meantime, as if that weren't enough, my dear husband had an accident up at our cabin while removing our son's tree fort from a rotten tree.  It all came down unexpectedly when he was working on it and hit him square in the face.  He didn't let a "small" injury like that stop him and both he and our son, Daniel, went out deer hunting the next morning even though he was in a considerable amount of pain.

We don't have a telephone up there and cell service is spotty so I didn't hear about it until he was on his way home two days later.  It was a shock to see him because he was barely recognizable as the swelling and bruising were quite severe.  Our oldest daughter burst into tears at the sight of him!  Mike is not fond of doctors but I managed to drag him in to see one the next day. 

Turns out he had multiple fractures all over his face and a potentially more serious opening in the cranium allowing air into the brain cavity along with a concussion which included bleeding and swelling of his brain.  We ended up spending the night in the trauma unit at Regions Hospital in St. Paul.  After working with three separate teams: Trauma, Neurosurgery and Plastic Surgery, he was discharged the next evening.  We've been back to see all sorts of specialists since then and to make a long story short, while we have a few more doctor appointments to keep an eye on him, my husband should be fine.  It's a miracle that he was not more severly injured and that he doesn't need surgery.  I'm feeling very grateful for the outcome at this point and pray that his healing will continue.

So, what do you do when loved ones are injured or become ill?  How do you walk through the valley, supporting them, without losing your mind?  Trusting God gives me strength and keeps me sane.  I don't know what I'd do if I didn't have His comforting presence through it all.  Slowly, painfully, I release my dreams of growing old with my husband and my sister at my side to God, learning to trust Him with my most cherished possession of all:  my family.  It's a process and some days are better than others but I'm grateful for His faithfulness as we walk through this valley, together.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Fall Hay Ride Party!

Every year, without fail, Mike's sister, Brenda and her husband, Tony, host an annual Fall Hay Ride Party the last Saturday of September.  It is great fun and we look forward to a day filled with fun, food, friends, family, food, games, hayrides, dancing and did I mention lots of delicious food? 

Daniel is giving the gunny sack race his best effort!
The egg toss is always a fun event.  Look carefully and you can see the eggs flying in the background!
Oops!  Throw it a little too hard and this is what you get!
We always have a tug of war, girls against the boys.  The girls ALWAYS win!
My great nephews are adorable as they wrestle for the weapon...
He's not giving up!
But older brother prevails, for now!
My girls at the garden shed.
My "adopted" daughter, Jessie!
A portion of Tony's sizeable tractor collection for young and old alike.
The girls and I with our happy faces...
The contempt photo.  It's turned into a family joke.  Don't ask why but it makes me laugh!
There's even live music and dancing!
The girls having fun taking a spin on the dance floor.
Mike and I on a hay ride.
I love going to this party every year because I always get to see so many family members and friends at one time.  Brenda and Tony really go all out to put on a stellar event that the whole neighborhood looks forward to.

Good times, good times.  Thanks Brenda and Tony for a day full of fun family memories!