Saturday, March 27, 2010

Happy Anniversary To Me!

I am celebrating a very special anniversary today. Ten years ago I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and the doctors were not very optimistic in their prognosis. Yet ten wonderful years later here I am! Healthy! Cancer free! Praise God for His awesome healing power in my life.

Ten years ago my dear husband and I were rejoicing over the birth of our third child, our son Daniel who was only ten weeks old. We had two other beautiful daughters, ages six and four. I didn't feel well after Daniel's birth and was struggling with regaining my figure but thought that perhaps it took longer because I was a little older. I had actually ended up in the ER a couple times due to extreme abdominal pain but even with an abdominal ultrasound the doctors could not pinpoint the problem.

I was home alone when I began experiencing another round of pain that led me to the ER room yet again (drove myself there, very unwise!) My sweet mom came over to watch the children. I remember nursing Daniel before I left so that she would not have a hungry baby on her hands. Little did I know that that would be the last time I ever nursed my baby.

At the ER they asked me if I wanted any meds for the pain and I stoically told them no, I was nursing a baby and didn't want anything to interfere with that. Shortly after I said that I was wracked with such severe pain I was begging for relief! I told them to give me anything to stop the pain, my baby would have to drink from a bottle that night.

Earlier I had told my mother not to bother my dear husband who was working on our cabin two and a half hours away and I had changed my mind about that as well. We did not have a telephone up there so she located Mike's uncle who lived in the area and he drove out to our cabin to tell him he needed to come home immediately. Mike and the other carpenter who'd been helping him raced home. I guess they didn't say a word the entire trip. (Yet another example of the difference between men and women. Can you even imagine two women in a car for two and a half hours in silence? Me neither!)

By the time he got to the hospital I had already had an ultrasound which had revealed a large mass on my ovary and a CT scan had been arranged. Everything took longer because it was a Saturday evening but eventually the tech showed up and I was scanned. It was determined that I would have surgery the next morning because it was so late and that they would remove the ovary with the mass. The doctor wanted another doctor to assist her with the surgery because of the size and complexity of my case. We were warned that things looked suspicious and if cancer was found I would have to have a complete hysterectomy. I remember feeling as if I were in a bad dream when she told us that but in my heart I didn't believe it could be true. I was only 34 years old!

Sunday morning it was announced at our church and many people joined my family in praying for me. We were told that if all went according to plan it would be a relatively short surgery, only 45 to 60 minutes long. Unfortunately, however, the doctors found a cancerous mass on my ovary. Just like in a bad TV movie they called my husband and mother into a small room where the surgeon told them I had cancer, it looked quite advanced and they wanted permission to continue with a radical hysterectomy. It was a devastating moment.

When I came to after the surgery they were wheeling me back into my hospital room and my two pastors and Mike were praying over me. I asked Mike what time it was and based on his answer I knew I had cancer. My response was to say, "I have cancer, don't I?" When he told me, "Yes." I simply said, "I didn't want that." and I turned my head to look out the window.

I spent a week recovering from the hysterectomy in the hospital where I received wonderful care. The nurses were so loving and attentive to me. I'm sure they were touched because they had just cared for me and Daniel after his birth only a few weeks earlier. I received so many flowers and plants that I gave them to the nurses and doctors and other patients because I didn't have space for them in my hospital room.

We were surrounded by a wonderful church family that sprang into action almost immediately. They covered us in prayer, cooked delicious meals, cared for the children and volunteered in countless ways to help us as I recovered from the hysterectomy and endured the rigors of chemotherapy. It was a long, difficult summer but God was faithful through it all.

I prayed for a miraculous healing and God granted me my heart's desire. I could write so much more about how He worked in my life during this time but I don't want to write the world's longest blog post and I'm sure you don't want to read it, either! How thankful I am for these extra years. I am in good health now with minimal lingering effects. I try to celebrate every single day I've been given. Even on days when I am frustrated or facing challenges, I remind myself, this is what I prayed for - extra time on this earth and all the challenges it brings.

Strangely enough, I do not worry much about my health since my initial diagnosis. I had no idea what a blessing this was until my oncologist asked me if I was anxious about visiting her during one of my appointments. I told her no, that I fully expected to get a good report every single time that I saw her. She was shocked! She told me that I was probably her only patient who felt that way. It was only then that I realized that God had not only blessed me by healing my body but also in removing my fear and anxiety as well. I feel as though God gave me an incredible gift and that to worry and fret about the future would be like saying, "Here, take your gift back, I don't want it."

Through it all to God be the praise and the glory. He redeemed my life and gave me a second chance. May I use it to expand His kingdom. Thank you, Lord, I am forever grateful to be celebrating this special anniversary!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Shoppers Dream... Or Nightmare?

This was the tourist trap across the street.
Note the extensive eye-catching neon signage!

Leah, my delightful model posing with the
artfully arranged plastic oranges.

Note the sign my beautiful model Leah is holding:
"WOW!! GATOR HEADS $12.99!"

Here they are, take your pick of the $12.99 gator heads!

Whoa! Check out the shell collections!
Note the tall ships crafted out of shells on the top shelf.

If you don't want a real alligator head,
rubber alligators line the floor.


There they are... Those alligator claw back scratchers
you've been looking for!

Excuse me miss, don't look now but there's an
alligator claw approaching...

The girls just can't bear the thought of
leaving without their alligator claw back scratcher!

We had to stop for fuel on our way up to St. Augustine yesterday and we ended up at a tourist trap. It was so dreadfully tacky that I amused myself by documenting everything with too many photos. They carried a, um, unique selection of merchandise that you just won't find most places.

It's not too late! If you just can't live without an alligator head or an alligator claw back scratcher let me know and I'll pick one up when we drive by on our way home next week.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sunrise Breakfast on the Beach

The family watching the sunrise.

Enjoying our gourmet breakfast - mmmmmm!

Another beautiful sunrise!

Hurrah for the sunrise beach breakfast tradition!

It's become a tradition while we are in Florida to have breakfast at sunrise on the beach at least once.

I go walking at sunrise on the beach fairly regularly but getting everyone else out there is a real victory. It doesn't hurt that I bribe them with juice drinks and sweet rolls to get them to roll out of bed while it's still dark.

We had a pretty sunrise and it was a warm morning so today was the day! After we ate our nutritionally bankrupt "breakfast" the girls went back in to the condo but the rest of us walked along the shore looking for shells, watching the ships and birds.

This year has been really poor for finding shells. When we came down here in 2008 we found tons of shells. We had no idea that it was an exceptional shelling year until last year when we came back and didn't find nearly as many shells. Even so, we still found plenty of pretty shells last year, just not as many or as large. This year we haven't been out as much and the only find has been Daniel's whole sand dollar. We've always found parts of sand dollars but a whole sand dollar is pretty rare on the Atlantic side of Florida, the seas are too rough.

We've got so many shells at home that my dear husband won't mind if we bring fewer back with us this year. We've got a week to go and I'm beginning to think about packing everything up and the long drive home. It's about 1750 miles and the girls and I hope to cover that in two days. Two L-O-N-G days on the road.

In the meantime, we've got seven more days of fun and sun in Florida and my sister comes home from the care center on Tuesday! Hurrah! I'm so thankful we will be here to throw her a little "Welcome Home" party. She really enjoys having us here and I love this time together too. If there's one thing I've learned to value it is time with family. Praise be to You, Lord, for each new day.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. That sure sounds better than "Copycat!"

I have found that reading all your wonderful blogs out there in Cyberland has been a springboard for ideas for me.

Take yesterday for example: I saw on Auntie Cake's blog that she had thrown a fun St. Patrick's Day party for her young children. Was I that ambitious? Afraid not. I did however note her Rice Krispie Bars decorated with green sugar sprinkles. Guess what I made for my family for dessert last night? Yep, you guessed it: Rice Krispie Bars with green sugar sprinkles. For the record, the entire pan was devoured in about 45 minutes. We don't mess around with chewy Rice Krispie Bars!

Then there was a wonderfully thought provoking post on the Songs of a Freebird blog about Ebenezers. She pulled this information from an informative site at which is written by Dr. Greg Neal, a Methodist Reverand. He states: "Literally speaking, an Ebenezer is a "Stone of Help", or a reminder of God's Real, Holy Presence and Divine Aid. Spiritually and theologically speaking an Ebenezer can be nearly anything that reminds us of God's presence and help: The Bible, the Sacremental Elements, a cross, a picture, a fellow believer, a hymn - those things which serve as reminders of God's love, God's Real Presence and God's assistance are Ebenezers."

I went to his site because she so thoughtfully included a link to it and read more. Then I had a great discussion with my family about it.

Thanks to my blog friends, my life is richer and I hope my fellow bloggers don't mind that I'm using their ideas. I'm just sharing two examples here but to be honest I'm frequently touched and challenged by the posts of the great blogs I follow. If imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery then you all can feel very flattered indeed.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

It's the Little Things...

The beautiful sunrise I was blessed with this morning.

Sometimes it's the little things that God orchestrates that reveal His unending love and care for me.

I've already told you how much fun we had at Jeni and Edward's wedding on Saturday. Honestly, it probably is the best wedding I've ever attended. If Jeni ever gets tired of being a dental hygienist and wants to change careers, she should become a wedding planner or event coordinator.

But I digress. I had only one regret about the wedding and that was in the busy-ness of the evening, I did not have a chance to meet Edward's lovely mother. She baked most of the cookies for the cookie buffet and I felt bad that I had not had a chance to tell her how much we enjoyed eating her cookies and how we appreciated all her hard work. I'm sure countless hours went into baking, storing, transporting and then beautifully displaying the huge variety of cookies we tasted.

I was a little aggravated but consoled myself that I would write her a note when I could get her address (after the newlyweds returned from their honeymoon) but then God intervened.

We decided to take in the area zoo yesterday and originally planned to go first thing in the morning. We ended up delaying our outing for a couple hours so another family member could join us and it gave us a chance to go to the library on our way there. Guess who we ran into at the zoo? Edward's mother, of course! She was there with many of her family members who were also visiting the area for the wedding and her sister who had hosted the rehearsal dinner recognized me and greeted us.

Even though it's a small thing, God gave me the opportunity I was so sure I had missed. I was able to meet her and express my appreciation for all her hard work. It was but a short visit yet so sweet and rich. It reminded me that God can restore lost opportunities. I had not asked Him for this chance meeting but He knew the desires of my heart.

"Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart." Psalm 37:4

Once again I thank God for His providence in even the smallest details of my life. His goodness and faithfulness know no boundaries!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A Very Special Day

My great-nephew Adam walking Elaine to her seat

My nephew Tom giving his little girl away

Jeni and Edward, a beautiful couple

Elaine and I at the reception

A small portion of the glorious cookie buffet
(Notice the tooth shaped cookies? Jeni is a dental hygienist!)

Jeni, Mike and I at the reception

Yesterday was a very special day. My great-niece, Jeni, and her betrothed, Edward, were married. We had the best seats in the church (it pays to tip your usher - kidding!) and I couldn't help but choke up as I gazed from Jeni and Edward, saying their vows, to my sister and her husband who have celebrated 61 wedding anniversaries. What an incredible testimony to God's plan for man, woman and families.

After two solid days of rain, it was a glorious day, sunny and warm. Elaine was able to be released from the care center and watching her being wheeled down the aisle of the church was just one of many moments that brought tears to my eyes. She looked radiant and was smiling so happily throughout the ceremony. Jeni was a beautiful bride and Edward her groom was quite handsome.

After the wedding ceremony we went to the gorgeous hall which looked like a fairyland inside. It was decorated so beautifully! There were waiters serving scrumptious hors dourves which had a Florida flair: Conch fritters, anyone? They were delicious! Aside from all the wonderful appetizers, Jeni had come up with a great idea that my family will be talking about years from now: A cookie buffet. She had told me about it but I wasn't really sure what she meant until I saw it. Her mother-in-law and mother baked thousands of gourmet cookies which were then put out in serving dishes and on platters for us to eat our fill from. Not only that, each guest was given a large chinese take out box (decorated sweetly, of course) to fill with cookies to take home. Since then I have eaten more cookies than you would believe.

To work off all the delicious cookies, we got up and danced until our feet ached. It was so much fun, even if we did embarrass our dear children just a little. (What?! "Old people" dancing? Who knew?!)

The other hit of the reception was the photo booth. They had a photo booth set up that your could sit in with as many people as you could cram in there and a photographer would snap four photos. Oh my goodness, it was so much fun! The photos are priceless! I think Daniel managed to worm his way into more photo sessions than any other guest there. What a hoot!

In the end, the wedding was a lovely and elegant yet supremely fun affair that was enjoyed by all who attended. We were grateful to be part of such a special day and I promise we will never forget it!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Family and Fun in the Sun

My niece, Jeni, is getting married this weekend and more and more family is flying in for the wedding. Some are relatives that I grew up with I haven't seen for many years so we're having a great time reconnecting.

Yesterday, after this gorgeous sunrise, everyone came over for lunch and we spent a couple hours on the beach and Port Canaveral pier. It was a great afternoon! Later I made my good friend Dawne's "Spicy Pepper Penne" for dinner and we had a great time fellowshipping and reminiscing around the table.

Today the skies are gray and a lot of rain is predicted which is okay, actually. Florida has been experiencing a devastating drought for the past few years and I'm happy for them to get the rain they need.

What I'm most concerned about is my sister's care facility is under quarantine! There have been a few cases of Swine Flu and no one can visit any of the residents. We are hoping that she will be released to go to the wedding on Saturday. She is also showing signs of developing a cold so if you could join me in praying for Elaine I'd be so grateful.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

It's All Good...

My dear husband and I at the Archie Carr NWR

You know, you can take a vacation but when a family of five travels together, I've found that we come with all our baggage and by that I don't mean our suitcases. I love my family. Really, I do. I wouldn't trade a single one of them but at times family life is challenging.

Today we drove down the coast and stopped in at two different wildlife refuges. To be fair, those sort of activities are right up my alley. In fact, they're probably more my favorite thing to do than just about anything else. My husband likes wildlife, but would probably rather be aiming a gun at it (you know, hunting)! My children, well, they tolerate their very uncool mother who drags a bird book and binoculars on practically every outing we take down here. Hey! You never know when you'll need either one! None of them would choose to visit a wildlife refuge if they had any other option, I'm sure.

So there was a bit of whining and weariness as we traveled merrily (or, not so merrily) along. That's just the way it goes, isn't it? We love each other but continue to sanctify each other daily. Jesus has promised us that this life would not be easy but He has promised to walk with us each day. As we walk with him, we will continue to sand each other's rough spots until, hopefully, we're polished and gleaming.

Shine, people, shine!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Brrr - It's Been Chilly in Florida

Hey! I didn't bring a lot of warm clothes and it's been chilly in Florida so far. Actually, today was pretty nice. Not much wind and 65 and sunny. For those of us who live in the arctic (well, Wisconsin, actually) 65 and sunny feels great!

We picked up Mike and Daniel at the airport at about midnight last night. The girls and I decided to kill time at Orlando Premier Outlets. Heh, heh, heh... Kind of dangerous, right? Well, not so much, really. It's an upscale outdoor outlet mall and in Florida you wouldn't think shopping at an outdoor mall would be a problem but we were COLD while we were shopping! We could even see our breath! We hit Starbucks just to have a hot drink to hold to keep our hands warm. It's the first time in history that the girls asked me (more than once) how much longer we HAD to shop. No, really, I'm not kidding, they actually said that.

Okay, now that you've picked yourself up from your faint, I will say that we had been there since 3:30pm and we had to wait for dear husband and son's flight to come in at 11:41pm. It really did end up being a long day.

Anyway, we're all together now and all is well with the world. The pizza is in the oven and so are Emily's homemade chocolate chip cookies. What more could a person ask for? Okay, since you asked, I'd really be happy to get rid of this cold that a certain someone who shall remain nameless managed to contaminate me with. Let's hope I can manage to shake it soon.

Have a great weekend folks!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

We Have Arrived!

Yay! We're finally in Florida!

The living room in our condo

Palm trees, green grass and the beautiful ocean

We can see the ships sail from the port in the distance.

Yes, we've arrived - arrived in Florida, that is.

We actually got here Monday evening and boy did it feel good to finally stop driving and park the car. After we stopped by the Coldwell Banker office and paid for our rental we drove up to the Shorewood complex to begin unloading the car and check out our condo.

We've stayed in Cape Canaveral the past two years so the area is familiar to us but we've never stayed at Shorewood before. I am a details person so renting a condo sight unseen is a big stretch for me but after days of searching and making numerous telephone calls, this was our only option. In fact, I really believe that God orchestrated this whole thing because I hadn't even called the woman who called me to offer us this place. Somehow my name and number had been passed on to her and she had this unit available because the NASA engineers who had been here for the February shuttle launch didn't need it anymore.

Once we found our building and entered the unit we were thrilled. It's amazing. I'm so thankful for how God provided us with this gorgeous place to stay for the month. It is quite spacious, beautifully furnished and we look directly out on the ocean. We are not too far from the port and so we have enjoyed watching the ships coming and going on the ocean. We even saw a large cruise ship departing our first night here. I'm glad I brought my spotting scope and tripod because it makes bird watching and ship spotting all the more fun.

We've been settling in to the condo, unpacking and doing a little rearranging. Have I told you I have OCD about my living space? It's a sickness! I like things just so and think I finally have things just the way I want, much to my girls' relief... We've also been visiting relatives and were able to see my sister last night. She is doing well and remembered all of us, thankfully.

Today we're going to the local library to renew our library card. Down here they give nonresidents a library card for free if you have a valid lease. How nice is that?! They have unbelievable libraries, too, which we really appreciate. The first year we were here my son read 250 books in about three weeks to earn a large Lego Batmobile set from the library for free. He loves to read and was a boy on a mission! Last year they didn't have a prize that motivated him but we'll have to take a look and see if they are still running the Library Bucks program this year.
The weather is cool by Florida standards but we're happy to be here and look forward to Mike and Daniel arriving tomorrow night.