day in the life
the everyday life of a couple living well with a slow-growing
cancer, and now a cancer widow living well on her own. There
have been sorrows and losses along the way. But being alive is
good. It is very good.
Thursday, April 23,
Eight strategies for fighting
Lilly, the petite
fourteen-year-old, tested for her mixed martial arts black belt on Sunday.
In front of a panel of stern-looking judges. All wearing black.
Lilly goes in for a take-down
So why would
you want your daughter to learn to fight?
Because you never know when she might face a formidable
opponent. Because you would want her to respond with skill and strength and good
our formidable opponent. And over time, Hubby and I learned how to fight
smarter, stronger and better disciplined using these eight
Recruit a stellar
Dont be afraid to get a second opinion, if need
medical team all
talked to each other, which gave us a sense of being
Incorporate physical activity.
took up hiking and snow-shoeing. First consult with your doctor;
then find something you enjoy doing and add more movement to
Talk with a
registered dietician about what is best for your type and
stage of cancer. Hubby and I added more fruits,
veggies, legumes and whole grains; we eliminated unhealthy fats
and sugars; and we used meat
small amounts for flavoring.
Manage the stress.
A cancer diagnosis brings overwhelming stress. We managed the stress by lacing up hiking boots
and getting outdoors, and practicing
living gratefully in the present.
Cultivate a positive attitude.
Instead of counting setbacks, keep a running thanksgiving list,
which helps keep the focus on the positive things in your
life. Our list was quite long.
Don't go it alone.
Connect with and draw strength from those who can offer support
family, friends, people within the cancer community, from your
Look for purpose.
Finding meaning and purpose can be a powerful thing. It was for us
as we traveled the country sharing what we were doing to live well
with metastatic disease. When youre
feeling better, look for a way to give back.
something tacked on as an afterthought. Our faith was and is the entire undergirding of our lives. Hubby
and I believed that things
didnt happen randomly, that God
could bring good out of the hard. And He did.
This is what
our cancer team looks like. Theres so
much more to say about
each of these disciplines. But for now,
consider your team. Do you need to recruit more players?
would victory look like? For some,
victory could mean
beating cancer. For others, it could represent living longer and
better than expected.
into that second category. He lived much longer with metastatic
disease than originally
predicted. And it was
the best ten years of our married life as we created more adventure
and lived more intentionally.
You may be
in a battle for your life or that of your loved one. How wise
would it be to fight as a disciplined and strong warrior? Be
proactive; recruit a powerful team to help you face down cancer.
Oh, and the petite
fourteen-year-old granddaughter? She was awarded her black
belt in a ceremony last evening.
stop fighting cancer when he was tired. He stopped when he was
Grandpa would be so
proud of you, Lilly.
Saturday, April 17,
What if we had a choice
in how we suffered?
if Grandpa was holding my other hand and you guys could swing me
commented the six-year-old as we walked to the
She remembers the
grandpa who teased the grandkids. The grandpa who interacted
with them; who thought their names were all
George for some reason.
I miss this good
man. Every day. But what if, when you
face hard things, you could come out on the other side wiser,
kinder, stronger? Would it be worth it? Im
thinking yes, not that I go looking for hard things.
A year ago this
metastatic prostate cancer lay quiet for nearly nine years
began making noise. Exhausting all treatment options, Hubby was accepted into a clinical trial
that sounded promising.
Two Wednesdays out of
every three, he hopped on a plane that took a left turn past Mt.
Hood on its way to Seattle.
We made a couple
trips to the ER this month a year ago. Fevers and kidney
infections, which were common with the nephrostomy tubes that bypassed the cancerous mass in his bladder.
Hubby would be dropped from the clinical trial as
cancer continued its ravenous march. But we had learned
some lessons along the way.
When things didnt
go as hoped, we regrouped. We talked; we recruited friends and
family to pray; we drafted thanksgiving lists:
1. This day
one more day together
2. Our love story
3. Kids, grands, extended families
4. A warm and
welcoming place called home
5. Friends who
checked in on us frequently
6. That Hubby could
still make me laugh
The lists were
actually quite long. Even in setbacks, still much to be
Not that we did
this perfectly every time. Because there were certainly some
ugly days of self-pity and hopelessness.
But what if
gratitude helped us see the good while struggling with the hard?
What if we had a choice in how we suffered? What if
this hard thing could make us more compassionate, and therefore
more beautiful? (It does. We do. It can.)
Would we embrace the hard instead of kicking against it?
Yes. Yes, we would.
Sunday, April 12,
We are family
The Jersey family
is getting ready to expand. Daughter Summer and SIL Josh have just been
granted legal guardianship of three young brothers from Africa.
In preparation, an
amazing group of people from their church descended upon their
home with sturdy pre-owned furniture, fresh paint on bedroom
walls and a re-do of the basement to create more livable space.
This extended family
seems just as excited as we are to welcome three little boys
into the community.
Josh and Summer
return to Africa in a couple weeks to bring the boys home, but
still a good deal that needs to be done.
And so today, a
clean coat of paint on dressers and shelves. Assembling
double-wide bunk beds. Re-hanging things
on freshly painted walls. Even the fourteen-
and twelve-year-old pitched in.
And my part? Keeping the
We spread a blanket
on the sloping lawn of a local park. Apples and
crackers and granola bars were neatly arranged before being
devoured. And we
took a crazy amount of selfies.
Hard work, our contribution.
Family. Some are
ours by blood. Some we marry into. And some we choose.
Three young boys who
came from a hard place but have managed to stick together will
be able to remain together with their forever family. A house; a
bedroom of their own; siblings
and extended family who eagerly await their arrival; and access to a good education, good
nutrition and healthcare.
This box sign
description of Josh and Summers
our home, we do second chances. We say grace. We do Im
sorrys. We play hard. We do loud really well. We give hugs. We
do love. We are family.
park today the six-year-old made this observation: Were
making memories, arent
Why, yes. Yes, we are.
And soon, three
from Africa will have an opportunity to make new memories
in a community where they are already loved. We are family.
Tuesday, April 7,
Back country roads
You know New Jersey
is referred to as the Garden State, right? The Jersey Kids live
in the land of u-pick strawberry farms, pumpkin patches, and
fields and orchards.
Today we visited
Terhune Orchards in Princeton. For a quarter, you can buy goat
food and make a local friend.
Or pet the farm cat
Purchase a steaming
cup of homegrown cider, or stock up on fresh winter veggies and
early spring color.
Or buy a *square*
of wood off the back of an ancient farm truck.
Hubby was diagnosed
with cancer before SIL Josh moved our daughter and grandkidlets
a continent away (does that still sound bitter? because we
actually forgave Josh a long time ago).
Cancer motivated us
to travel more and create as many experiences as jobs and finances would allow.
been to Jersey. And Philly. New York. Boston. And other large places in the
east. And weve
learned that its
plain-not-smart to prejudge a place.
along back country roads past split rail fences and beautiful
old stone buildings and ancient trees presiding over red barns,
I saw the land through fresh eyes.
Monday, April 6,
How to wear out the
This grandma has
been on Eastern Standard Time for more than a week, which means
she now has her east coast sea legs under her.
learned some things in the process. Like, the littlest munchkin
does not get the iPad at bedtime on a school night.
And going through all four jug
handles (or four-leaf clovers if youre
from the west) at the Quaker Bridge Rd interchange isnt
necessarily the quickest route to MMA training.
I also learned
very little hot chocolate in a cup of hot chocolate where The
Boy and I had breakfast one morning.
Most importantly, Ive
learned how to stay fresh and alert while wearing out the grandkids.
Well, at least two out of the three grands. The littlest munchkin
still seems to be going strong.
Friday, April 3,
The Parents are
coming home today.
Quick, clean the
house. Fold the laundry. Get the dogs off the couch. Hide any
Parents, if youre somehow reading this on your flight
twenty-two hours in Paris after four days in Africa, the
munchkins are eagerly awaiting your return.
Oh, and the little ballerina?
Shes eagerly awaiting something from Paris.
Saturday, March 28,
Day One and loving it
Managed to pick
Lydia up from school ... drop Lilly by the orthodontist ... get
Lilly to MMA practice ...
not twins and their mother doesnt
dress them alike
... fix dinner ... take Titus to youth group ... pick Lilly up
from MMA and drop her off at youth group ... make a pharmacy run
... tea party with Lydia ...
... and then fetch Lilly and
Titus from youth group. All without losing a single child.
(Although the gas gauge on the
mini-van may have gotten awfully close to the
mention this to The Parents.)
just the Friday evening schedule.
Fell into bed
exhausted last night.
This text at 5:58
(2:58am for those of us still on west coast time):
Amsterdam getting ready to board flight to Africa. Everything
going smoothly so far. Give the kids hugs and kisses from us!
The Parents are a
world away. And yet, not.
Hugs and kisses
will be going out to the grandkidlets as soon as they wake
As for the Grandma
wide awake. See for yourself.
Thursday, March 26,
message from Daughter Summer yesterday morning:
got off phone with adoption agency. They want to see us in
court on Monday.
in a place to drop everything and fly here ... by tomorrow
Of course. Im
retired. I have airline miles.
Love the sound of that. Let me say it again. Of course. Im
retired. I have airline miles.
That was yesterday.
Today = ordered
an Uber car to the airport, got through security at LAX and am
seated with a Chai tea. An hour and 22
minutes before my flight to Jersey is scheduled to depart.
This is not my
fault. Remember who I was married to all those years.
In an effort to be efficient, I thought Id order the
Uber ride to the airport a day in advance. Uber doesnt
work that way. Uber arrives soon after the ride request. Like,
very soon after.
Text from driver
seven minutes later:
I am here.
Oops. It obviously
pay to be efficient.
Monday, March 23,
You remember the *mom date* last Friday night? Drews
mom, Mary, is visiting from Minnesota (where, by the way, it was
snowing today in honor of her birthday).
Since we couldnt
replicate the snow to make her feel right at home, we did the
next best thing and celebrated over lunch at Paradise Cove Beach
Cafι in Malibu.
Wear your flip-flops, because if you prefer outdoor diningand
we always dobare
feet in the sand is an added bonus.
Jeremy ordered fish
tacos, which arrived on a plate the size of a tray. Luckily my
clam chowder in a bread bowl wasnt
the size of a watermelon. (Although we did see beverages served
in round watermelons
tops cut off
displaying self-confident straws.)
A couple days ago I blogged about eating authentic Mexican food in Little Mexico.
If Mexican food can get any authentic-er, then thats
what we had for dinner last evening at Denises
Homemade beans simmering on the stove. Fideo, which is a
sort of Mexican spaghetti with
tomatoes and spices. Tortillas warmed on a hot skillet. Fresh
cilantro. Avocados. Slices of Mexican cheese.
Come fill your plate and find a comfortable spot in the family
room where the story-telling and laughter pick back up.
raised her during her formative years. It was good to catch up
with these lovely people who have made me feel like family.
Whether a birthday
or an impromptu mini-family reunionor
any other reason for commemorating an important milestonewhoever came up with the idea of including food in celebrations
... this was absolutely brilliant.
Saturday, March 21,
been eating our way through LA, todays
600-ft-elevation-gain hike through Runyan Canyon provided some much-needed
(for me) sweat therapy.
And then the crazy kids decided they wanted to run back.
an easy jog,
they said. Which confirmed that I am not nownor
will I ever bea
jogger. Give me hiking boots on a mountain trail; snowshoes in
deep powder; but dont
make me run. Wah.
So after all this sweat therapy, we rewarded ourselves with food
at M Cafι. Of course. Where I had the best salad Ive
eaten in a long time
hearts of romaine and mesclun greens, avocado, cucumber, spicy
black beans, roasted corn, tomato, crispy tortilla strips and
Which means were
still eating our way through Los Angeles.
Sometimes a thing
never enters your mind until someone tells you not to do it.
This sign at the
end of the Runyan Canyon trail where it hits Mulholland Drive:
Not Use This Gate As An Exercise Apparatus.
begs people to use the gate as an exercise apparatus. In this
case, a chin-up bar.
learned since relocating temporarily to southern California:
1. Sometimes your
adult children never really grow up.
2. If J&D stayed
here year-round and we ate out three meals a day
never finish eating our way through the all the great food in the Los
3. Even though Im
a born-and-bred California girl, my preconceived ideas of
southern California were pretty much off-base.
someplace you never thought youd
Friday, March 20,
Eating our way through
Son Jeremy and DIL Denise are home for five days. And all weve
been doing is eating. At some fabulous places.
Kale chips and a delicious veggie-and-fruit power shake concocted
from almond milk made on location at the little juice cafι, Kreation, in Venice.
food on a walking street in Little Mexico. As soon as
turn the corner onto Olvera Street ...
in a different country. Large, leafy trees. Sun-dappled brick buildings.
We ate at La Golondrina
where they serve up deliciously authentic Mexican food,
including the best
And for dessert, beautiful
romantic Spanish music.
And then two sushi
dinner dates. Yes, two dinners the same day as the Mexican
The first with
these friends of J&DsClint
happen to be my three-blocks-away MDR neighbors.
I am now a sushi fan. Seriously delicious offerings. No,
seriously delicious offerings.
even begin to tell you what I atesome
cooked, some not so cookedbecause
I let the experts order.
But I think I heard
the word eel at least once last evening. I know what youre
This first sushi
dinner followed by a
second one with more of J&Ds friendsDrew,
Milton, and Barbaraand
mother, Mary. (What was referred to as the *mom date* because Mary
and I are both visiting our sons from out of state. And we two moms hit
what I think: If youve
never eaten raw fish, try it. Step outside your comfort zone.
Hop on your bike with the pink rims. Visit historic places. Meet
new people. Make new friends. And try the sushi.
Tuesday, March 17,
Surviving in the city
eating breakfast for lunch at The Griddle Cafι on Sunset Blvd ...
... and then on to the observatory in Griffith Park high in the
... across from the Hollywood sign ...
... with Los Angeles spread out below.
I had originally planned to hike the trail to the Hollywood
sign, but instead, took my time wandering through the observatory,
catching a show in the planetarium and weighing in on the moon
Einstein and I shared an intellectual moment together.
I was relieved to learn that the earth is still rotatingat
least for todayas
confirmed by this pendulum ...
... hanging from
And then my phone battery let me know it was losing juice. Fast.
think it was trying too hard to find itself.)
First panicky thought: How am I supposed to get
home without GPS? I can imagine my son getting the call from
you missing a mother? We found her wandering on the 405,
be pleased to knowafter
a hastily-whispered prayerthat
I got a good visual of a map on my phone before it died, wrote on a
scrap of paper:
to the 10 west to the 405 south to the 90 west.
And made it home safely. Which is a huge accomplishment for this
And so, a couple of travel tips:
1) Venture off the couch. Often.
2) Travel with eyes and heart wide open
we live in a damaged world, but there is amazing beauty
here, and there are some pretty incredible people along the way.
3) Discover. Learn.
4) Look at your gas gauge once in a while.
5) Take your phone power cord.
Sunday, March 15,
Stadium to Sea
Once upon a time, Son Jeremy, DIL Denise, and Hubby
and I were frighteningly close to the Boston marathon bombs when
they went off. Jeremy had just finished the race, and we were threading our way through the
crowd and snapping a few last photos, having given up on
finding a place to eat.
I love that Americas
response to these types of horrific events is to rebuild. Commemorate the dead
and honor the heroes, but continue hosting
Today the 30th annual LA Marathon, dubbed
to Sea, began at Dodger
Stadium and ended in Santa Monica.
More than 25,000 participants. Thousands of volunteers. Hundreds
of thousands of spectators.
My pink-rimmed bike and I added to the number of spectators near the Santa Monica
pier. But today wasnt
just another ride-my-bike-to-the-beach day. I had a vested
interest in this particular event.
My adopted church, Dream Center, put together a team of 183
runners that included Pastor Matthew Barnett. Each participated in
one of four distances today
5K, 10K, half marathon and marathon.
Total funds raised by these incredible people for Dream Centers
PROJECT HOPE = $211,445. Wow, huh?
Apparently there are 31 locations in Los Angeles that take in
stray animals. But only one emergency shelter for trafficked
women. At the Dream Center. And PROJECT HOPE will go far in
providing funds for shelter and food, and restoring these women
with life skills.
Kudos to Pastor Matthew Barnett and the
other 182 participants
not only for running in todays
heat, but for the hours of fundraising and training that led up
to this day.
As for the miles Im
hoping she wont
look at the odometer when she and Jeremy return from the east
coast this week.