Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Bucket List #13.1

Several years ago I had an 'Ah, ha' moment.  It was at the end of the first episode of one of The Biggest Loser's early seasons.  The new group of recruits had shown up at the ranch--overweight, out of shape, and in pain.  They had to walk a 5K that first day, and were told that there would be an eventual marathon in their futures--if they lasted long enough.  After watching their first week condensed into a couple of hours, and seeing their struggles and triumphs, I decided that I was going to walk a half marathon.  If they could do it, then so could I.  No excuses.  I had just received a flyer from a local cancer charity about an info session they were sponsoring later that week that involved training for a marathon in conjunction with their fundraising efforts, and I was going to do it.  I even went walking around my apartment complex as soon as that episode was over, to get a jump start on my training, which was saying a lot for me, since it was at 9:00 PM on a very cold January night.  I hate being out in the cold.

I went to that info meeting, registered as a walker, and was all set to walk in a marathon that next April.  I went to the weekly training walks, and was about a month away from the marathon when I stepped wrong at the end of one of my 12 mile walks.  I didn't fall, but I did end up with a swollen knee for a couple of weeks, which wasn't anything major, but it was enough to keep me out of that particular race.  It was a little discouraging, but another marathon would come along.

Marathon training - version 1.0

Fast forward several months later--

Once again I began training to walk another half marathon--this one in my hometown.  No excuses.  I was back on track with my Saturday walks.  One particular Saturday in November, I had walked 6 miles as part of my training schedule, and later that afternoon I was on the way to pick up some items for our Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes, just a couple of miles from our apartment, when I was involved in a car accident that broke both of my knees and tore all of the surrounding tendons and ligaments.  I was stuck in the car for quite a while before emergency personnel could figure out how to open the crushed driver's side door and get me into the ambulance, which gave my husband enough time to get the call from the other side of town that he needed to head back my way.  The first thing I said to him when he finally arrived was, "I don't think I'm going to be able to walk that marathon in January". (The next thing was, "Call my mom and tell her that I am going to need her a lot for a while").  The emergency personnel kind of exchanged "is she kidding, she's not walking ANYWHERE" looks with other--not really getting my different sense of humor.

And I didn't walk for a while.  My rehab was a very long ordeal, and it eventually became clear that my knee function was going to be permanently impaired.  Four years later, I still can't get up and down off of the floor because my knees do not bend all the way, and there is always pain involved with flexion and extension.  Walking that half marathon became something missed but no longer attainable.  Plenty of legitimate excuses.

Or so I thought.

This past summer, I saw a knee specialist because of increasing knee pain.  One of the many things that I had learned in researching Harrison's diagnosis is that osteosarcoma is much more likely to show up after a bone fracture, and I did not want to be stupid and just assume that the pain was 'normal' for someone with injuries like mine.  This doctor assured me that while knee replacements are almost certainly guaranteed in my future, walking at slow speeds would not increase the rate of breakdown, and that walking that half marathon was not out of the question, as long as I worked up to it.  So, guess what?

 I started walking one mile at a local nature trail.  After several weeks, I added another mile, as well as a walking partner.  At this point I had serious doubts if I would be able to walk a 5K, but she encouraged me and we did a 5K together.  We were absolute last, but we finished.  When she suggested walking a half-marathon (it was on her bucket list, too), I agreed to give it a shot, figuring I would quit when it became too much.

But my doctor was right.  The constant knee pain did make training more of a challenge, but knowing that I wasn't doing further damage kept me going.  That, and knowing that if I did happen to fall on one of my training walks, I would have a partner to help pull me up off the ground!  I didn't tell anyone I was training, other than a couple of family members.  Whereas before I had posted regular updates on my progress, this one was all for me.

And in October, we did it.  We walked a half marathon.  We were the last two to cross the finish line--seconds away from having the clock shut off at the 4 hour deadline for walkers.  But we did it.  We walked a half marathon--2 middle aged ladies with crazy schedules, kids at home, health issues, pain and busted knees.

I LOVE this shot--everyone has gone home, except for our own personal cheering section of folks that matter the most.

And if we can do it, so can you.  No excuses.

I finally have my very own sticker--sweet!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Rocks (AKA--Rock Bottom)

Next week Harrison goes back in for his follow up scans.  He is currently NED (no evidence of disease) after two bouts with cancer, but we never know when or if that will change.  He is now 17 and trying to enjoy his Senior year of high school.

Last week we were on vacation at the beach, and his dad and I took a little time to sit with him by the seashore and share some of our thoughts with him.  With Harrison's permission, we thought we would share them with everyone else here.  My words are in black, and Darren's are in blue.


I'm sitting here on the balcony of the condo, watching John play big at the edge of the ocean.  Your dad isn't too far from the edge of the shore, sitting in one of those little chairs that are impossible for me to get out of anymore.  It makes me smile to see them, and I can't help but think of 'our' beach times.  YOU are the one to wave jump with me on red flag days.  YOU get my own excitement about being able to navigate ocean waters after having leg/balance issues.

You are painting with Grandma and Travis.  I can't wait to see your tree.  It will be cool and creative, and unique--just like you.  Will you incorporate Grandpa in there somewhere?  I wouldn't be surprised if you did.  You are just kind of neat that way.

Before we leave this amazing gift of a vacation, your dad and I wanted to do something just for you and with you.  Cancer has already stolen two of your years, and with scans coming up soon, we don't know if it will take even more.  Regardless of the results, there are a few things we want you to know--things we want to say before the reality of life outside of these amazing condo walls comes back to us tomorrow.

I totally agree with all your mom has said.  She is so gifted with writing and I am hard pressed to add much more.  Yet I do have some things to add.

Why rocks?  Because they are solid; permanent--here before us and here after us.  The words on these rocks are like that.  You didn't invent them and you will not have to last ideas about them.  But you are a part of the meaning of each of these for us all.


This one is easy--I hope you never have cancer again.  I hope you grow to be old and healthy and happy.  I need you around to help take care of me when I'm old, because I'm not so sure that John will, and Travis has already told me he will help some but not all the time.

I hope you get married and have babies (in that order!).  I hope you make it to the Prom and that you have a blast.  I don't know if your body is going to allow those things to happen, but I hope and pray that they do.

You bring hope to so many people.  The way you fight this stuff instills hope in all that know you.


Peace in the midst of cancer seems impossible, and it is easy for me to throw out phrases like 'the Lord provides peace' when it is not my body fighting against itself.  I'm sorry that your is.  But I do have peace knowing that God cares.  He may or may not intervene the way I pray for, but I do know that He cares.

I wish that peace for you.

You amaze me at the way you have shown so much peace in all of this.  Of course, I knew you would, because you have always live life bigger than just you.


Oh, this one is easy.  I cherish every single moment with you.  Seriously, even before your diagnosis I knew time was not a given and life can change on a dime.  Because you have always been so good, and funny, and easy going, you make it easy to cherish your Harrison-ness.

I hope cancer hasn't or doesn't take away your ability to cherish each moment you are given, even the ones spend doing menial or boring things.  Even if you live for 80 more years, I hope you never take for granted the gift of each moment.

I love being your dad--always have.  You have amazed me and shown me so much.  I cherish all the time we spend together and I cherish all that we will.


So many people think putting their heads in the sand and saying 'I believe I'm healed or will never get cancer again' will make it so.  I believe God can heal like that, but I KNOW reality doesn't always work out that way.  So, what do I believe?  I believe that:

     --God is love.
     --Cancer stinks like mayonnaise.
     --Life with you here is better than life without you here.
     --There is a place better than this one, and if you get there before I do, I'll count the days until I meet you there at that heavenly lake house--the one with no snakes or gnats, but with unlimited wi-fi and black-eyed pea dip.

What we believe matters.  Your mom and I spent many hours talking about that when we were dating.  We just don't get people who don't know what they believe or just don't care.  Pursue right beliefs.  Here's what I believe--that God has you here for something so much bigger than just you.  You will change the world.  I believe that fully.


Wow.  The biggest rock, and my biggest wish for you.

I hope you live--for a very, very long time.  Methuselah old.

In the meantime, between now and whenever, I hope you live to the best of your abilities, and not let the threat or reality of cancer suck your energy for living, even if you have to fight this monster many more times.

This one is easy.  It has been my most prayed prayer since you were diagnosed with cancer--

That we would live in such a way that we glorify God.

So live to the full for His kingdom.  Be ready at all times to give God the glory.  In the ups and the downs.


Live big.
Laugh long and loud (but not after I go to bed at night).
Love true.
Trust your heart.

Be dangerous.

We love you and are so proud of you.

Oh, and you--without a doubt--most certainly ROCK!


And because both my husband and my son are boys, they couldn't resist changing the rocks to look like this...

Yes, yes they do look like little booty rocks.

Cancer can take away all kinds of things, but for now the silliness remains.

Now go.  Live big.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

"Buying a Mature Woman's Bathing Suit"

This is an article my dad showed me a couple of years ago.  I laughed at it then, and am still laughing about it now.  It was published in the September 2011 issue of Gulf coast MotorSports Magazine,  and I am posting it here with permission from the editor.  No author is listed.  If you ever find out who it is, thank them for me (and I will totally give them the credit they deserve).

When I was a child in the 1950s, the bathing suit for the mature figure was boned, trussed and reinforced, not so much sewn as engineered.  They were built to hold back and uplift, and they did a good job.

Today's stretch fabrics are designed for the prepubescent girl with a figure carved from a potato chip.

The mature woman has a choice.  She can either go up front to the maternity department and try on a floral suit with a skirt, coming away looking like a hippopotamus that escaped from Disney's Fantasia, or she can wander around every run-of-the-mill department store trying to make a sensible choice from what amounts to a designer range of fluorescent rubber bands.

What choice did I have?  I wandered around, made my sensible choice and entered the chamber of horrors known as the fitting room.  The first thing I noticed was the extraordinary tensile strength of the stretch material.  The Lycra used in bathing costumes was developed, I believe, by NASA to launch small rockets from a slingshot, which gives the added bonus that if you manage to actually lever yourself into one, you would be protected from shark attacks.  Any shark taking a swipe at your passing midriff would immediately suffer whiplash.

I fought my way into the bathing suit, but as I twanged the shoulder strap in place I gasped in horror.  My chest* had disappeared!  Eventually, I found one side cowering under my left armpit.  It took a while to find the other.  At last I located it flattened beside my seventh rib.  The problem is that modern bathing suits have no bra cups.  The mature woman is meant to wear her chest spread across her front like a speed bump.  I realigned my speed bump and lurched toward the mirror to take a full view assessment.

The bathing suit fitted all right, but unfortunately it only fitted those bits of me willing to stay inside it.  The rest of me oozed out rebelliously from top, bottom and sides.  I looked like a lump of  Playdoh wearing undersized cling wrap.

As I tried to work out where all those extra bits had come from the prepubescent sales girl popped her head through the curtain, "Oh, there you are," she said, admiring the bathing suit.

I replied that I wasn't so sure and asked what else she had to show me.  I tried on a cream crinkled one that made me look like a lump of masking tape, and a floral two-piece that gave the appearance of an oversized napkin in a serving ring.  I struggled into a pair of leopard-skin bathers with ragged frills and came out looking like Tarzan's Jane, pregnant with triplets and having a rough day.  I tried on a black number with a midriff and looked like a jellyfish in mourning.  I tried on a bright pink pair with such a high cut leg I thought I would have to wax my eyebrows to wear them.

Finally, I found a suit that fit.  It was a two-piece affair with a shorts-style bottom and a loose blouse-type top.  It was cheap, comfortable, and bulge-friendly, so I bought it.  My ridiculous search had a successful outcome, I figured.  When I got it home, I found a label that read, "Material might become transparent in water".

So, if you happen to be on the beach or near any other body of water this year and I'm there, too, I'll be the one in cut-off jeans and a T-shirt!

From the cover of one of my really fun books called Women of Substance, by Revilo

*I substituted the word 'chest' for another word in the original article.  That word started with a 'b', but I didn't want my post to get blocked by certain software programs.  That, and I really hate that 'b' word.  

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


I just love music.

Did you know that when a person is in the process of losing their memories, that the music memories are almost always the last to go?  People may not remember their own names, but many can still belt out songs they learned as children.  Even people with head injuries who cannot speak a word will sometimes be able to sing songs they knew before the injury occurred. 

Music is powerful.

Have you ever heard a portion of a song from 20+ years ago, and immediately go back to a specific place and time, complete with smells and memories?

Music is universal.

Just about every culture through time has had a means of expressing themselves through music.  It is an essential means of communication.

Music is healing.

I have a wide range of taste in music.  I lean toward 40’s-80’s rock, 70’s-80’s country, some classical/jazz, some hymns/praise music.  Most of the time I can find SOMETHING to cheer me up or get me going if I feel a funk coming on. 

Lately, though, I have been in a much more contemplative mood.  I suppose cancer relapse can do that, but it just seems to be a season of loss and sadness for so many people that I know.  Friends dealing with loss-disappointment-depression-futility.  Questions abound, yet answers are few.  ‘YMCA’ and ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy’ just don’t make the musical cut some days.

It is right in the middle of this place that I have discovered a new (to me) artist named JJ Heller.  I don’t know how long she has been around, but her new CD, LOVED, is beautiful.  Achingly beautiful.  Kind of like Sarah McLaughlin on the abused dog commercial, but in a good (not depressing) way.

All 10 of the songs on LOVED are soulful in their sound and just plain soul-quenching in their message.  Way too many days I am drained and not responsive to ‘peppy’ or frivolous music.  LOVED, however, meets me where I am—tired, yet hopeful.

Just of a few of the lyrics I keep going back to—

Everyone has a dream
Everyone has a song to sing
Everyone’s soul is broken in two
I know that mine was made for you  (from ‘For You’)

Do you dream of a home you never had
An innocence that you cannot get back
The pain is real
You can’t erase it
Sooner or later you have to face it down
You have to face it down    (from ‘Loved’)

When you can’t feel a thing
After too many stings
When you forget about grace
The world is a lonely place   (from ‘Stay’)

And hands down, the one song I keep coming back to—

It was after midnight
When he answered the phone
The doctor said his daughter
Was never coming home
Sometimes life doesn’t make any sense
Full of war and pain and accidents

He’s praying, “I don’t know
I don’t know what you’re doing
But I know who you are”

You have a father’s heart
And a love that’s wild
And you know what it’s like to lose
Yeah, you know what it’s like..
What it’s like to lose a child. (from "Who You Are')

This one has the sweetest video—that meal at the end where they all come together—I want a ‘place’ like that.

Music is beautiful…powerful…healing.  This CD in particular has been all of those for me.

I even have an extra copy of LOVED to give away.  Just comment here or on For What It’s Worth Facebook page, and tell me what your ‘happy’ music has been lately.  The winner will be chosen by Tuesday, April 24.

You can find out more about JJ Heller at her website and on Facebook.  Enjoy.

"Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Harrison's List

Early tomorrow morning, Harrison will be going in for surgery to remove two cancerous spots from his lungs.  It will be an extensive operation, and we are already so very tired.

However, we have not just been sitting around for the past couple of weeks since we found out that the cancer had returned feeling too distressed or overwhelmed.  Those pain free hours have just been too precious for all of us, and we have been trying to get some fun in along the way. 

Getting a family picture made with Harrison's #inthefight shirts.  You know, like we are fighting cancer.

 Today a group of high schoolers came over to watch the newest Veggie Tales DVD, which isn't available in stores until next week (but I have an advance review copy--review and giveaway next week).  I wish you could have heard the laughter coming out of that room, as about 15 of his friends watched memories of their childhoods, and I was so pleased to have them here, lifting his spirits.

I also fit in the 'answering of the questions' that I mentioned a few days ago.  The other two will get their list on here soon, but here are Harrison's answers--

My favorite music - Rock, Dubstep, Anything except country
 and books - Bible, Harry Potter, various fan fiction
 movies - Avengers, Dark Knight, Braveheart (with eyes covered during 'that' scene)
 days - Saturday and Sunday
 places - His room, The Venue (church), Dogwood, Kansas City
 sayings - Stupid is as stupid does.  If at first you don't succeed, then skydiving is not for you.
 verses - Phillipians 4:13, Ezekiel 23:20
 teams - KU Jayhawks, Team Jacob (lol), Wonderbots (?)
 colors - orange, black and red
 animals - dinosaurs, playtpus, thestrals, magic ponies

And then there were two pages called "The Future 'Me' I want to Be", with categories like:

Books I want to read - The big book from Time Warp Trio, more Harry Potter books
Places I want to go - Austrialia, Europe, the moon, Hollywood, cruises
Topics I want to investigate - how venus flytraps work, conspiracy theories
Things I want to do - go skydiving, skiing/tubing, be an actor, make people happy, fly (Hmm, all 3 boys separately said that one)
Talents I want to develop - bagpipes, animations, do impersonations, getting rid of chemo brain
People I want to meet - Froggy Fresh (formerly the rapper known as Krispy Kreme), Weird Al, Psych actors
Random acts of kindness I want to bestow - draw pictures for kid's at the hosptial, cheer people up when they are down
Adventures I want to have - go to a different dimension, or visit Middle Earth with none of the bad guys there, catch all 151 original Pokemon (?)
Things I want to learn - all the knowledge needed to win a big game show, why some people are just hateful all of the time and are never happy, how to understand women (HA!--good luck with that, son)

We'll be working on getting some of that second list worked in after he recuperates some.  Well, except with the understanding women part.  And the whole Middle Earth thing.

This is a video he made for his YouTube subscribers.  He would love it if you would watch, and then give him a like, or thumbs up, or whatever they do there.  It ups his street cred, or something like that.

Click here for video

And if you are a pray-er, we sure would appreciate any and all you might think to send up for us.  I'll update soonish.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

I Know, I Know. It was just a TV show.

Today I received the neatest books in the mail--3 different planners that I will be reviewing soon.  One was for me, and there were two different versions for the boys.  I am not a planner, or an organizer, so I was a little curious to see what all was included before I jump in with both feet (or at least one, anyway).

There are the standard pages for school work and chores, but the versions that the boys have had two pages called "All About Me", and there was space devoted to answering the following questions:

My best friends
My favorite music 
 and books

And then there were two pages called "The Future 'Me' I want to Be", with categories like:

Books I want to read
Places I want to go
Topics I want to investigate
Things I want to do
Talents I want to develop
People I want to meet
Random acts of kindness I want to bestow
Adventures I want to have
Things I want to learn

I LOVE this, and hope to get all three boys to tell me their answers to these questions soon.  However, I noticed that the planner for me did not have pages like this.  I guess the writers figured moms would be too busy or tired to think about these things, or maybe get depressed over the reality that most days/weeks/years seem to be an endless cycle of cleaning, cooking, teaching and basic survival.

I'm going to think about it, and just might come up with some answers of my own.

We shall see.

Right now, though, I am off to get the clothes out of the dryer before they get too wrinkled, and the dirty dishes cleaned so the roaches won't sneak in during the night to carry them away.  That whole 'talents I want to develop' question?  Being able to twitch my nose like Samantha on Bewitched and have everything just fall into place.  How her husband could not appreciate that is beyond me.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Walking a Mile in Her (High Heel) Shoes

Last week I happened to be looking through my husband's Facebook feed.  He has about a gazillion friends from all over the place, and it is interesting to scroll through his list every now and then.  Well, I was just scrolling along and saw a series of photos and posts that one of his friends had made about his daughter's high school beauty pageant.  There were lots of comments and likes, saying that she would do wonderful and how beautiful she looked.  And my simple, hypocritical mind went into overdrive.

She didn't seem all that beautiful to me, not the beauty pageant kind, anyway.  I mean, her dress was pretty enough, but she was very puffy and pale, and her hair was just blah.  Even in the pictures she looked like she was hating every minute of it.  I started to wonder if her parents were making her do this pageant.  Couldn't they tell that she was miserable and would probably be laughed at or joked about later?  I mean, I don't even know her parents, but surely someone could have used a little more wisdom in this situation, right?  I have lots of parenting books that I could recommend.  Of course, I wasn't being critical or anything, just concerned for that poor girl's feelings.  Ri-i-i-i-ght....

So, out of curiosity, I clicked on the girl's name, and was able to scroll through some old posts and pictures. Long story short, she was a tiny little thing with gorgeous hair and a great smile about 3 or 4 years ago.  I could tell that from her cheerleading and class favorite pictures.  Then there were various hospital pictures, because after a while and through much pain, she received her diagnosis.  No, it wasn't cancer, but it is a very painful degenerative condition that is treated with steroids.  You know, those drugs that cause weight gain and hair loss and are tolerated as a last resort of trying to keep the pain away.

So much for my self righteous goodness masquerading as parental/societal concern.

I went back through those pageant pictures again, with a different set of eyes (and heart).  I saw a young lady that is a fighter, and who isn't going to let her pain and limitations dictate her choices and the things she enjoys.  She was her school's homecoming queen last year, and class favorite every year, so obviously her peers think she is special.  I saw parents who are unbelievably proud of their daughter's perseverance and spirit, and who are probably just happy she is still with them and functioning.  I saw the grandparents whose hearts probably break every time they think of what life has handed their granddaughter, but they put on their own cloaks of courage whenever they are face to face with her..

Their unbelievable beautiful granddaughter.

I don't know how she did in her pageant.  But she did it, and I think that is the point of it all.  And as a parent  of a boy whose life has taken him in a very different direction than any of us would have wanted or imagined, and one who will be judged by some because of his scars, or his limp, or his diagnosis, I should know better.  I really should.  I could come up with all manner of quotes or Bible verses about not judging, but my mind keeps coming back to a song I used to sing in Children's Choir, so very long ago:

He's still working on me,
To make me what I ought to be.
It took Him just a week to make the moon and the stars,
The sun and the Earth and Jupiter and Mars.
How loving and patient He must be.
He's still working on me.

Thank goodness.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Cancer--Part Deux

Hello, my sweet bloggy readers.  Just a quick note to let you know that Harrison's latest scans show 3 small spots on his lungs.  This isn't a big surprise, but it stinks all the same.

We will know a little more about what comes next after the doctors meet and confer next week.  There will definitely be surgery and chemo involved.

I am already exhausted just thinking about it.

Hope everyone has a great weekend.  Spend some time hugging on the people you love, OK?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

"What's a Grit?"

Today is co-op day with my homeschool group, which means I get to drive up to a church, drop off my kids for someone else to teach for a couple of hours, and I get to drive away.  I have already gone to library and to buy some groceries, put some beans on for supper, and get to type and read emails uninterrupted for a little while.

Even before I loaded them all up after lunch, I knew that there was a possibility that it was going to be an extra good couple of hours, thanks to actually fixing the boys lunch today instead of letting them fend for themselves.  They each agreed on grits and peaches (in separate bowls, not mixed together).  There was a mini moment of panic until I located a box of grits on the top shelf that my husband had stashed them in when he had a couple of weeks off and was 'helping' me get organized.

Yay!  Found them!

I reached up to get them from the top shelf, and was greeted by the most amazing of sights---

Healthy, organic-ish 'M&Ms'!

Now, I couldn't tell if it was an empty bag or not, but I wasn't about to bring it down for the boys to find and devour.  So, I waited until after drop off, got the bag down, and found this---

YES!  Not too, too many, but enough to satisfy a chocolate craving.  And they are mine.  All mine.  Or, rather, they WERE mine, and they were mighty yummy.  And the best thing is that there is no wheat in them, unless carnauba wax contains wheat, and I am not about to google it to find out.  I guess my thumb will tell me soon enough.