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day in the life

Highlighting the everyday life of a couple living well with a slow-growing cancer. Life isn’t always easy, and there will certainly be sorrows and losses along the way. But being alive is good. It is very good.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

What if

It’s been ten days of keeping appointments, running errands, checking things off to-do lists.

Of welcoming SIL Josh and the grandkidlets into the mix after 3 1/2 weeks apart from their wife and mom.

Of continued love pouring in via meals, cards and gifts, text messages and visits.

In the process of planning Hubby’s Celebration of Life, a song by Laura Story gave pause for reflection:

We pray for blessings, we pray for peace

Comfort for family, protection while we sleep

We pray for healing, for prosperity

We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering.

But what if your blessings come through rain drops

What if Your healing comes through tears

What if a thousand sleepless nights

are what it takes to know You’re near

What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise.


There is a tendencyspeaking for myself hereto define blessings as only the positive. Good health. Nice home. People who love me.

And while those are certainly blessings, what if the hard things are blessings, as well. Designed to bring beauty, compassion, deeper trust.

And so, thank you, Father God, for the blessings of these hard things. 

I’m thinking Thanksgiving season isn’t contained within a certain week on the calendar but rather it’s a year-round sport. And maybe the conditioning is the giving of thanks when there’s much to be sorrowful over. 

Side note: The Porch Fairy came out of retirement and left her mark on our front porch yesterday morning. Short retirement, if you ask me.

Six red cups.

Along with *craft kits* for the grandkidlets to assemble turkeys, complete with turkey glue that looks suspiciously like vanilla frosting.


Turkeys for the turkeys.


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Starbux Fairy

Grandson Titus, before arriving in Oregon, wanted to know if the Starbux Fairy would still be making deliveries.

Actually, her name is Porch Fairy because she’s been quietly leaving gifts on our front porch for quite some time now. Flowers, bouquets of autumn leaves, fun toys for Hubby, breakfast items. And more.

And daily, an Americano for Summer and a Chai for me. Deliveries in the snow and ice – against our recommendation. Daily.

I e-mailed the Porch Fairy to let her know that SIL Josh and the grandkidlets were arriving and that it was time she took a much-deserved retirement.

She e-mailed back to ask if she could make one more delivery, and what would the troops like.

The grandkidlets were up early waiting for this event. Twelve-year-old Titus checked the porch at 7:29. Nothing.

He put on his shoes, unplugged his iPod, and opened the front door a crack at 7:31.

Six red cups.

Stealth is Porch Fairy’s middle name.

You snooze; you lose, bud.


How did she know our names?!

All along, Titus had been skeptical about there really being a Porch Fairy. Now he’s a believer.


Six-year-old Lydia, on the other hand, always believed. But she's more interested in knowing how big the Porch Fairy is, because Lydia knows that all nice fairies are just a few inches tall.


Friday, November 21, 2014


The rule on my first full day as a widow: pajamas all day. Daughter Summer and I weren’t allowed off the couch except for coffee/tea breaks and bathroom breaks.

And food.

And to answer the door. But no one was allowed in unless they were wearing pajamas. Although we did make a few exceptions.

And in between the remembering and laughing and crying, we got quite a bit done from the couch. Drafting lists of things that needed to be done, a draft of Hubby’s Celebration of Life service, lists of family coming with possible housing solutions.

I’m actually a list addict. I write them all the time. I’ve been known to complete something, and then add it to my list so I can check it off. Pathetic, right?

1. Pay bills.

2. More tiny white lights.

3. Find old family videos.

4. Copy of obituary/death certificate for insurance company.

5. Contact Japanese daughters (favorite remembrance of Gary?).

6. Airline tickets to east coast for Christmas.

And then I came across this forgotten list tucked away in a hidden flap of my wallet. Written by Hubby a while back. Apparently I’m not the only list-maker in the family.


I think #4 is my favorite. This was a man with a wry sense of humor who kept me laughing for forty-one years.

And then of course there are the thanksgiving lists running through my head.

1. Peace that surpasses all explanation.

2. Daughter Summer. Here. Son-in-law, son, daughter-in-law, grandkidlets on the way.

3. Incredible people who are helping carry my load in so many loving and practical ways.

4. Dark gray sky as backdrop to frozen snow (who knew gray and white could be so beautiful).

5. Hope following death.

6. The promise from God thatdespite the awful loneliness most assuredly hiding around the corner waiting to spring on me—I will never, ever be alone.

Side note: Speaking of lists, it won’t surprise you to know we have a list of things we want to take to the church with the plan of setting up a memory table in the foyer.

1. Hiking boots.

2. Snowshoes.

3. Denver Broncos cap.

4. Oregon Ducks cap.

And we’ve been experimenting with flowers for the memory table.

We’re not extravagant-funereal-floral-arrangement sort of people. A friend brought by a beautiful bouquet, and with the memory table in mind, we experimented by arranging the flowers in multiple non-matching vases and jars.

See what you think.


We would be honored to have friends and family join us to celebrate a life well lived. Hubby’s.

Saturday, Nov 29 - 11:00am

New Hope Church

20080 Pinebrook Blvd

Bend, OR  97701


Tuesday, November 18, 2014


My beloved friend and husband went home to heaven yesterday. Monday, November 17. At 6:30pm.


Gary Allen Johnson, aka Hubby

One of my fears while at Hospice House was that I would be in the shower, or making a cup of tea when Hubby took his last breath.

As it turned out, he waited until I was in the bathroom. I think it was his final prank. But it didn’t work, because I was at his side when he went forever without taking a breath. And then he took a breath. And then he went forever without taking a breath.  

Daughter Summer and I are home now. Fresh out of tears. Until I began reading some of the posts to Facebook that appeared overnight. I didn’t know the body could manufacture so many tears.

I’m fine until I read kindness. Especially the ones from the siblings-in-law affirming that I will always be a part of their family. And then fresh tears.  

Enough with the kindness already.

Apparently there were Housecleaning Fairies at our little duplex yesterday. A conspiracy instigated by Daughter Summer. And apparently there were a couple of Christmas Tree Decorating Fairies at work.

We’ve never put a tree up before Thanksgiving. In fact, when the kids were home, we always had fresh trees, which wouldn’t have allowed for a tree up before Thanksgiving.


Who assembles a Christmas tree from the top down?


Breaking the Muna Never Does That Rule #12

... and dragging her feet all the way

Apparently one of the Tree Decorating Fairies is breaking her own  Rule: never. ever. decorate for Christmas before Thanksgiving. (For the record, there was no PhotoShopping done in the writing of this blog.)

I have to say, it was so lovely coming home to a clean house, laundry done, hospital bed vanished, kitchen counter devoid of meds and syringes and pads. And a bit of holiday cheer spread throughout. Bless you, Julane, Carrie, Muna.

I’d like to report that Gary had an easy Homegoing. But he wouldn’t rest yesterday. Imagine trying to catch your breath after a race – he breathed that kind of heavy breathing from mid-morning until 6:30 last evening, even though the medical staff tried to medicate him enough to give him rest. The doc, the nurses kept asking, Is there a long-lost relative he didn’t get to see? A relationship that didn’t get attended to? No. No.

There was certainly some unfinished business going on. And when the nurses came to change his position in bed, he cried out.

He suffered through the day. And consequently his wife and daughter suffered with him. Caressing his face. Holding his hand. Praying. Telling him over and over that he didn’t have to work so hard, that he could let go, that we would be fine.

After he took his last breath, we stayed by his side for several long minutes, wife and daughter crying. Face-scrunched-up crying. Looking at this empty shell that once housed the man I love, though, there was the comfort of knowing he was no longer suffering. And after hearing these words from Jesus, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” he would catch up with his dad, family members that had died before him. His mother-in-law. No, wait …

Summer and I did the oddest thing after coming home and notifying family. We put on pajamas, popped some corn and watched HGTV’s “Love It or List It.”


I suppose it was our way of coping in the moment – returning to something normal and comforting, the simple pleasure of fleece pajamas, fireplace lit, salty buttered popcorn.

And now today. My first day as a widow—such an ugly word—and there are lists to be made and things to start checking off those lists.

But until the busyness begins, this quiet, early morning reflection and greeting the lighting of a new day in which I will go on living in honor of Hubby.

Happy Homegoing, my love.

Side note: Summer found this meme: I live in my pajamas unless I am going somewhere or I know someone is about to come over to my house. Even then it’s iffy.”

Our mantra for today.

And maybe even tomorrow.

Puffy eye cream - just what we’re needing, Julane


Monday, November 17, 2014

Heated tile floors

Have to report that it smells a lot nicer in Hospice House as of this morning. Someone finally took a shower.


A nurses aid handed me a small bag with shampoo, conditioner and body wash, and pointed me toward the shower room. No one actually said, Here, go take a shower, but you could tell what they were thinking.

Its amazing what a little hot water and shampoo will do for a girls morale.

As for the shower room, I think Ill go curl up on the heated tile floor and take a nap there later this afternoon.


Sunday, November 16, 2014

Bottom line

It’s wintumn here in central Oregon, wintumn being that time of year when winter snow clings to autumn color.


Daughter Summer and I continue keeping Hubby company on this last phase of his cancer journey – listening to him breathe, massaging his feet with coconut oil, swabbing mouth and lips, reading out loud to him, stroking his forehead, the soothing background sound of football on TV.

There have been moments of stress, but mostly we continue to be swathed in unexplainable peace.

In fact, one not-so-peaceful moment was realizing that for the third weekend in a row, Seattle—and not Denver—is being televised.

What, do they think there are no west coast people who would rather watch a Broncos game?

But I digress.


Photo credit: not me

I was re-reading something Donald Miller wrote about Job – that ancient story of the man who lost his health, his wealth, his children all within a short period of time and his wife tells him he ought to curse God and die.

In his book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, Miller writes...


Photo credit: Siren Magazine

“Job calls out to God, asking why God would let this happen. God does not answer Job’s question. It’s as though God starts off his message to the world by explaining there are painful realities in life we cannot and will never understand.

“Instead, he appears to Job in a whirlwind and asks if Job knows who stops the waves on the shore, or stores the snow in Wichita every winter. He asks Job who manages the constellations that reel through the night sky. 

“And that is essentially all God says to Job. God doesn’t explain pain philosophically or even list its benefits. God says to Job, Job, I know what I’m doing, and this whole thing isn’t about you.

“Job responds, even before his health and wealth are restored, by saying, ’All of this is too wonderful for me.’ Job found contentment and even joy outside the context of comfort, health or stability. He understood the story was not about him, and he cared more about the story than he did about himself.”

This perspective on Job’s story consequently explains everyone’s story. 

Bottom line, it’s not about me. 


Friday, November 14, 2014

Lifes too short

Were back at Hospice House after breaking out for two weeks. While Hubbys health has declined a good deal since our last time here, you can see the improved changes in the local weather during that same period of time.


Top photo October 31; bottom photo, two weeks later

Some things havent changed, though. The compassionate care from the staff. From friends.

Already personally-delivered items coming in the door. Chai teas and Americano coffees (note the plural use), chocolate candy and sweet breads, a devotional book, a Wild Republic Goldfinch wearing ear muffs and singing an authentic bird song.

And then this text: Please let me know if you need any errands or driving done today. I am a rockstar snow driver, says the girl from Alaska. Our Snow Fairy.

I texted back. If we pay for lunch, could you pick it up, deliver it and eat with us? She did us one better. She brought homemade chicken and root veggies roasted with rosemary and thyme. Three kinds of salad. She asked about dessert. We said not needed. She brought pudding. Its not dessert, she says. Its pudding.

Oh, OK ... now I see the difference.

Dinner this evening was another fabulous home-cooked, hand-delivered meal. Shepherds Pie with two kinds of mashed potatoes on top.

Hubby hasn’t opened his eyes since last evening, and although he’s not yet in a coma, he is transitioning in that direction. I move back and forth between couch and perching on the side of his bed. Holding his hand. Kissing him on the forehead. Telling him that Ill be OK, that he can go home and be with Jesus whenever he wants.

And then—as it takes an interminably long time for him to take his next breath—I find myself saying, Oh, but not just yet.

Selfish me.

These groovy socks arrive here at Hospice House in a gift bag filled with other goodies. The accompanying tag reads, Lifes too short to wear matching socks.



Actually lifes too short for a lot of things. Too short to live it fearfully. To not take risks now and then.

Its too short to waste energy holding grudges; too short to not be counting blessings; too short to pursue things that dont really matter.

I plan to wear these sockslong after they sprout holesas a colorful reminder that life is too short to waste.

And especially too short to be wearing matching socks.


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Something to teach us

Disclaimer: Another rambling blog. My excuse is this: its hard to find time to write a blog all in one sitting these days. So, in between caregiving, I capture several thoughts. And then they have to somehow come together and make sense. Youve been warned.

Hospice nurse Melinda says Hubby has tenacity. (I think thats a nice way of saying hes stubborn.)

Hes broken all the rules, she said. Maybe theres still something he wants to teach us, she said.

Hubby has defied the odds since time of diagnosis. Ten years ago, prostate cancer with mets to the lymph nodes. Now in the bladder. Bones. Liver. He shouldnt have lived this long.

After the only working nephrostomy tube fell out Tuesday, we were told to expect renal failure. 

But yesterday morning, Hubby perked up. Perhaps because Son Jeremy and DIL Denise were scheduled to join Daughter Summer here in sunny Bend.



Good medicine, these children of ours (missing you, Josh). Poring over old photos, yearbooks, long-forgotten childrens artwork. Admiring chubby-cheeked children, Hubbys facial hair ...



... styles straight out of the 80s.


Jeremy set up a game of Cribbage on the seat of Hubbys snazzy red walker. Hubby, not remembering how to play, makes up the rules as he goes along. Jeremy graciously lets his dad cheat.



Hubby is worried about me. I reassure him, yet again, that Im going to be fine, but he can’t seem to process that.

It’s because he was created with an extravagant sense of caring for his family. He has always placed me and the kids first. (Well, except for that one time when I wanted to homestead in Alaska back in the 70s and he voted no.)

This morning, I open the shades before dawn to the unnatural light from a wintry blanket spread in the night.


Fireplace lit, Hubby and I sit and watch first snowfall together. He had hoped for snow to fall before he leaves us.

As morning unfolds, he becomes disoriented. Changes in breathing. Paranoia and anxiety – what is referred to as Terminal Agitation.

Melinda stops by again. Yes, she said, this is what you would expect of renal failure.

There is a bed open in Hospice House, which we gratefully accept because Hubby seems to be overly-concerned about having round-the-clock nursing care. (Although I am pleased to report that I have not hurt the patient intentionally or unintentionally in quite some time. Well, except for forgetting to hook him back up to oxygen. Once. Maybe twice.)

Maybe what Hubby wanted to teach us was this sitting still and acknowledging all that is precious around us. This slowing down. This drinking in peace. And as we watch and wait together, counting blessings. These grown children and children-in-law. The meal that will be delivered later this evening by caring people. Snow falling. 

Melinda said there’s no way of knowing how much longer Hubby has. “But hes broken all the rules so far, she says again.

I love that I’m married to a rule breaker.

Side note: Speaking of wintry white landscapes, I graciously loaned Hubby’s snow shovel to Jeremy, whereupon he shoveled our driveway. And the neighbor’s.

(Either he was feeling magnanimous, or he didn’t realize we share a driveway with the duplex next door. And I wasn’t about to tell him.)


Fresh in from LA where there are no driveways to shovel


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Everything most important

I’ve been sitting in this favorite-yellow-garage-sale-find a good part of the day. To be near him. To catch every word he says.


Hes let his filters down these past few days. He is childlike at times, in an endearing way. He scolds me, rolls his eyes, stalls when he doesn’t want to take his meds. 

We, in turn, run to get everything he asks for. Because it is what wehis wife, his daughterwant to do.

Twenty-four to forty-eight hours left, the hospice nurse said this morning. Renal failure, she said.   

Did we do everything?” he asks.

Yeah, we did,” I reassure him. We made memories and took adventures, we lived well, we loved each other, we loved our kids, our grandkids, our family. We did everything thats most important.

Hes asleep now. His breathing will slow down, and eventually hell stop breathing, according to the hospice nurse. Its a painless way to pass, she said.

And we did everything most important.


Thursday, November 6, 2014


In addition to Chai and assorted goodies, the Porch Fairy leaves flowers. This bouquet. At least a week old. And still blooming.


In return, Ive left a couple items for the Porch Fairy.



With all the dressings and pads, the mouth swabs and saline flushes, our garbage can lid just wont close these days.

Pathetically, it has come to this. The Porch Fairy leaves lovely, thoughtful, delicious, beautiful, heartfelt gifts.

And in return, I leave her our garbage.

One of us is getting the better end of this deal. And it isnt the Porch Fairy.


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Wearing gloves

The hospice care team thoughtfully keeps us stocked with all the necessities. Which means our interior decor is looking more and more like Early Pharmacy.


Heres my favorite item.


Theres nothing like a pair of blue gloves to give a girl a sense of power.

And were not talking just any ol blue gloves. Were talking powder-free Nitrile Exam Gloves.

Hubby better not mess with this nurse.


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Leaving nothing unsaid

Hubby is on oxygen. Packing a pump. Wicked thrush on his tongue. Only one neph tube draining. Leg weeping from edema, soaking everything. Clothing changes, and dressing changes, and flushing of tubes. Around the clock.

Being hooked up to oxygen involves a bulky machine with miles of tubing. But it also puts out a soothing background noise like a stream, water burbling over rocks. We now have a water feature in our living room.


Unattractive water feature, but still ...

Milk, he says weakly. Talking is an effort. I’m learning to decipher one- and two-word sentences.

The milk isn’t cold enough. Ice, he says.

He wants his neph bag drained even though I drained it twenty minutes ago.

Devices plugged in.

The walker where he can reach it.

Adjust pillows. The angle of the bed.

I sink onto the sofa after he’s finally tucked in. It’s like putting a two-year-old to bed. This from the man who was never demanding, who always got up and quietly did what needed to be done without bothering anyone.

As in a long-ago Sunday morning. Weekend guests were carrying luggage to their vehicle. I was getting kids ready for church. Hubby pulled out the vacuum cleaner. His brother scolded him: “Gary, you could at least wait until we leave so my wife doesn’t see you vacuuming.”

We’re settling into our at-home-again routine. And oh—as lovely as Hospice House is—it’s so good to be home. I’m worn out, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Personal Chef Summer steamed a chicken and made cream of chicken soup from scratch. She doesnt approve of paparazzi hovering while shes cooking (note raised-eyebrow look).


Hubby’s weeping leg soaks pads and sheets and PJs. Frequently. After multiple laundry washings of pajama bottoms, Personal Chef (aka Personal Pajama Shopper) was sent on a mission.

Send a Duck girl shopping, and this is what you get.


Im kissing him frequently. Rubbing his back. Petting his hair that grew in puppy-soft after chemo. Smiling directly into his eyes. Telling him that I love him. Thanking him for all the good years and memories he’s given me. Leaving nothing unsaid.

Because I’ll never pass this way with him again.

Side note: Daughter Summer has become a huge fan of the Porch Fairy. It may be because there’s been an Americano setting on our front porch—next to my Chai tea—the past couple of mornings. Wearing red.



Sunday, November 2, 2014

Breaking out

Hubby’s playful spirit is still in evidence through the shutting down of his body. He ordered French toast for breakfast. Drenched in syrup, he said.

The attendant leaned in to confirm that she had heard him correctly. Drenched?

How about just drizzled in syrup, said his wife.

We’ll see when it gets here, countered the patient.

You can see who won that battle.


French toast bites and scrambled eggs - both drenched in syrup,

not that he ate more than five bites of this concoction

It appears Hubby may be breaking out of Hospice House this afternoon. And this after hes trained all the night nurses. Tencount them—ten pillows on Hubby’s bed when I woke up this morning.

He makes requests; the nurses run and fetch. (Not sure this will continue once we get the patient home.)


Meanwhile, I’ve gotten to be the wife here with Hubby. Almost a full night’s sleep on the sofa. Ducks beating Stanford. These lovely living spaces. This autumn beauty. This peace. 


Thursday, October 30, 2014


Warning: This blog may or may not jump all over the place. Well start with breakfast.

A lovely young woman delivered local-made pumpkin bagels with vanilla cream cheese. You can see how well that went.



(Sorry, Julane. It was either this photo ... or one with the last bite being stuffed into my mouth, which wasnt a pretty sight.)

And there was this rather suspicious text message: The marketing porch fairies have landed.

I know about the Porch Fairy. And the Knitting Fairy. But Marketing Porch Fairies? Sounds a little ... um, pushy? persuasive? salesman-ish?

I text Daughter Summer who is out running errands. Warning. Something on the porch. Not sure what.

She sends photos: Two grande Chai tea lattes, a pumpkin pie and candle holders ... with candles, of course.



Love the pumpkin theme. Thank you, Julie. Mindy. Brenda. Lisa. Kayley. Kendra. Lindsay. Kasey. You are a rockin marketing team.

Meanwhile, back at Hospice House, Hubby is continuing with the spa treatment. A shave from a CNA. Natalie. (Why is it theyre always beautiful?)


These lovelies honored us with their presence. Peggy. Marian. Lizzi. Alycia. Co-workers. Office roomies. Bearing Chai tea lattes for Summer and me.



(Again, it begs the question, Why does it seem Hubby is always surrounded by beautiful women?)

Other visitors today. Anne. Bob. Char. Jill. Sandy and Fran.

Daughter Summer texts from our place: I just got home and somebody beat me to it. Were you here? Or did you send somebody over? She had been sent to put the garbage can on   the curb.

I have no idea who beat her to it, but apparently there is now a Garbage Can Fairy.

And then a visit from the lovely Sarah, who has walked where Im walking.  Who has put in her time at Hospice House with her husband. Who brought by a gift bag of all the snacks one could possibly want for any length of stay here.


I guess the point—not that any of these blogs have a point other than the ones that poke fun of Hubby—is that all the thoughtful messages and gifts and drive-bys and stop-ins represent people.

And when it comes down to it, isnt that the most valuable asset one can have?

So grateful for the amazing people who have brought joy along this journey.


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Hospice House

Understandably, Hubby gets a little nervous when I approach him with anything sharp. Last night I played night nurse. All night. Dispensing meds through Hubbys port. And I did a pretty darn good job of not poking the patient where he shouldnt have been poked.

We checked into Hospice House this morningno room in the inn last nightwhich means the medical care for my favorite patient is now off my shoulders and squarely on the shoulders of those who know what theyre doing.

Im sitting at the window seat in Hubbys room – one of six rooms here. Six patients at a time. Lots of nurses and only six patients.

Spacious. Private bath. In-room refrigerator. Comfy, over-stuffed lounge chair. Theres even a couch that has my name on it for tonight’s sleepover.

The dining space is stocked with plates and cups. And cookies and hot beverages. A private seating area overlooks a small pond littered with goldfish.


Someones playing the grand piano in the living room even as we speak. Claire de Lune.


As for outdoor spaces, heres my view from this padded window seat.


Hospice House probably isnt a place you want to check into anytime soon. But if a terminal patient wants to be safe and comfortable in a place filled with compassionate people, then what better resort is there?

Side note: Reinforcements have arrived. This girl. Fresh off a flight that began in Jersey.


Daughter Summer noted that her dad seems to be worse on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Her theory: There are no football games on those days.

Which means starting tomorrow, Hubby should be making a remarkable improvement. And Summer has graciously offered to assist with the pigskin therapy. (Youve heard of art therapy and music therapy and dog therapy, right?  Why wouldn’t there be such a thing as pigskin therapy?)

Thursday. Friday. Saturday. Sunday and Monday. All football, all the time. Theres nothing this girl wouldnt sacrifice for her dad.


Sunday, October 26, 2014

The cake and the frosting

You know that old saying, Too many cooks spoil the broth? It simply isnt true.

Meet my personal chefs for the weekend. Sis-In-Law Cheryl and Niece Angie.





Mushroom Soup with garlic, onions and thyme. Crusty artisan bread.

French Dip after slow roasting the sirloin tip overnight. Utilizing leftovers, a Roast Beef Mushroom Soup with parsley.

Which doesnt even count the homemade salted dark chocolate chip cookies or the banana pudding.

Thanks for feeding us this weekend, Cheryl and Angie.

Oh, and thanks for bringing us into the 21st century with that Blu dealy-ma-bob.


Side note: If Cheryl and Angies visit was the cake this weekend, then these cousins were the frosting on the cake.

Thanks, Pon and Laura for driving over the mountains to introduce two-month-old Sarunya, and for some grandma-rocking-chair time. Im in love.



Thursday, October 23, 2014

Reflections on a rainy day

It’s a Winnie-the-Pooh sort of day. Blustery. Raindrops clinging to windows. Leaves lying damp on the sidewalk.


This is my absolute favorite time of the year. Golden colors turning into chilly autumn, turning into falling snowflakes and white-covered Cascade peaks. And in the middle of all this outdoor beauty there is Thanksgiving, Christmas, a New Year.

It has also been the season of saying a long, slow, sweet good-by to Hubby. Wednesday was hard. He slept the entire day, ate very little, was confused during the brief times of wakefulness. The sleeping, the not-eating I can handle; the confusion is frightening.

But yesterday and today, Hubby has been awake more, is eating, and most importantly, no confusion. Ah, hope. Sweet gift.

Meanwhile, our front porch is seeing quite a bit of activity. A beautifully-crafted *guardian angel* from June Bug; another Porch Fairy drive-by; and something from the Knitting Fairy.

I didn’t even know there was a Knitting Fairy, but I love that she left rich autumn colors on our front porch.

The card was signed: Much love from the Knitting Fairy.

The beginnings of fingerless gloves

And then look what showed up on our front porch yesterday. These girls. Sis-In-Law Cheryl and Niece Angie.


And have they got plans for Hubby. For starters, homemade cream of mushroom soup for lunch. Fleece sheets. Fleece pajama bottoms. Fresh fruit. Chocolate-covered candies.

Hubby doesn’t stand a chance.

Side note: SIL Cheryl was the one who invited me to her family reunion where I met her big brother. And you know the rest of that story.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Slow leaks

The Porch Fairy struck again. At 8:00am. Chai tea. Pumpkin bread. And a Lady Bug. A wind-up Lady Bug is now boogying across Hubby’s bedside table.


And then again at noon, another Porch Fairy hit. Fried rice, Egg Drop Soup, pumpkin scones and more tea.

Meanwhile, the call went out this morning on Facebook: We have a tire with a slow leak. Wondering if anyone had some spare time to take it in for repair. (Daughter Summer surely is proud of me for asking for help.)

By 2:30 this afternoon, our vehicle had been picked up and safely returned with a repaired tire.

And a rather handsome young man behind the wheel.


A slow leak of kindness has been seeping through our lives, and I can’t seem to keep up with the thank-you notes.

Our hearts are full of gratitude for all the goodness that has come of this devastating disease. This cancer.

Jonathan and Muna, you rocked the tire repair today.

And Porch Fairy, your note about the wind-up Lady Bug being a Duck because it’s noisy and has wings? You rock the creative porch drop-offs, but not so much the entomology.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Counting blessings. Still.

A thanksgiving list rolls through my head. Often. Like when I make a prescription pick-up. Thankful that the car starts. Every time.

Thankful for the freedom to move about town, the hospice team, the availability of meds, the pharmacy that fills the scripts ... you get the idea.

Despite hard things, there’s still so much to be grateful for (for which to be grateful?).

1. Friends who re-planted our birdfeeder so Hubby could see the activity from his hospital bed.

2. The Porch Fairy’s drive-by this morning.


3. Dark chocolate—a.k.a. Vitamin C—and coasters in a beautiful purple gift bag reminding us that yes, life is a special occasion.

4. A fleecy, Ducky pillow case fur Hubby (being an OSU grad, the gift-giver insisted these were Beavers, but she’s delusional).


Go, Ducks!

5. Chai tea. Because one can never be too thankful for Chai tea.

6. Fall colors brought indoors.


7. A generous package in yesterday’s mail that included the smell of Yuletide Cinnamon candles—it’s never too early to light a Christmas candle—and the reminder that, indeed, all is well with our souls.


8. The anticipation of Denver beating San Francisco later today.

9. The incredibly thoughtful, creative, helping-us-fight-cancer, kind, mischievous, would-do-anything-for-us people in our lives.

10. One more day with Hubby; one more day in which he is able to propel himself out of bed on his own steam.

Counting blessings. Still. Always.


Thursday, October 16, 2014


A diffuser showed up. With essential oils. Our home currently smells citrus-spicy. Yum. Thank you, Sandy.


And this on our front porch early this morning. Susan, your name is all over this Chai tea.


And then a book showed up. A hand-crafted gift filled with memories of adventures with our cancer-kicking community in these incredible Cascade Mountains.


Thank you, Kathy & Mike. An incredibly creative and thoughtful gift.

Hubby and I are surrounded by some of the most amazing people on the planet.

Side note: Speaking of Hubby and me, a hospital bed selfie.


If he looks a bit distracted, it’s because I’m competing with baseball play-offs. And the Patriots vs. the Jets. All at the same time.

Thanks, Gary and Carolyn ... I think.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Feeding us

I’ve been working full-time from home these past two days. And I’ve loved every drive-by.

Jessica and Alycia with mango smoothies.


Lizzi with a banana shake for Hubby (dark chocolate candy for me, which Hubby tried to steal as soon as Lizzi left).



This e-mail from Susan: May I drop off a Chai tea at a specific time by your front door and not knock to disturb Gary if I get there right on time so that you could just retrieve it?

No, you may not drop and run. I want a hug. Besides, isn’t that a run-on sentence?

This text from Michelle: Hiya – can I drop off a little something sweet to yous this early afternoon?


Ida’s Cupcakes (only the best in town)

No shortage of lovely visitors. Including Nurse Melinda who was here once yesterday and twice today.

Oh, and the guy from Norco who disassembled Hubby’s hospital bed and reassembled it in the living room. And then came back today and brought a bedside table.

Just don’t tell my boss how many visitors we’ve had. She’ll think I’m not working.

And then there’s this question: Why is everyone trying to feed us?


Monday, October 13, 2014

Still looking for the perfect beverage

Speaking of grocery store runs—five in two days, but who’s counting—I won’t bore you with another top-shelf-of-the-fridge photo.


Taste testing - peach, cherry, pear

But suffice it to say that Looza Peach Juice Drink, 365 Black Cherry Juice and Knudsen Organic Pear Juice are now crowded in with all the other unfinished beverages.


Saturday, October 11, 2014

Thirsty, anyone?

Hubby hasnt had much of an appetite this past week. And when he does make an attempt to eata couple bites here and therefood doesnt taste good.  

Same with thirst. Hes just sipping at stuff. You know what might be good, he says. And off to the grocery store I run.

The beverage aisle and I have become intimately acquainted.


Grape juice and orange juice. Two flavors of sparkling cider. Four different kinds of fruit-infused waters. Dr. Pepper and 7-Up. Chocolate milk. Crystal Geyser Juice Squeeze.

Half-hearted sips. But nothing that excites his taste buds.

And then just now Hubby says, You know what sounds good? A Chai tea.

Seriously? Youre not messing with me? Ill be right back.


You can see why were soul mates. This is a man still winning my heart. Daily.


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Feeling loved

We got home from SunRiver to find a moose on our front porch.

Perhaps I should explain. A friend recently visited her old stomping grounds. She posted: Trying to figure out how to bring some Alaska to you and hubby. Any requests?

Hubby asked for Baked Alaska, and I requested a live baby moose. A moosling. Were both easy to please.

Apparently something got lost in the translation. Because we found this hand-crafted, moose-shaped, metal garden ornament planted in a rather large and beautiful fall bouquet. On our front porch. (If I cant have a live moose, this is definitely the next best thing.)


That same day in the mail, an unexpected check from friends in California, which will be put toward more memory-making. While theres still time.

This afternoon, a text message: You up for a cup of Chai tea? When have I ever not been up for Chai?

And so, a visit from local friends bearing gifts.


And then this evening, another Chai tea visit with friends passing through on their way from Southern Oregon to Boise.


Someone named Rabindranath Tagore said, I slept and dreamt life was joy; I awoke and saw life was service; I acted and, behold, service was joy.

Why does it seem that we are being served more than we are serving? I suppose my focus of service at the moment is caregiving for Hubby. And of course my day job at the cancer center.

Im guessing God is producing humility in me by allowing us to be in a place that involves more receiving and not so much serving. Which isnt necessarily a comfortable place to be.

The card that came with the check from California reads like this: Always always always always remember you are loved.

Feeling loved as we step out into this unknown next stretch of the cancer journey.

Thank you, Kattaryna and Sam. Mike and Carol. Tom and Fran. Harry and Lori. Because you are the most recent in a long line of family and friends who have reminded us that were not traveling this way alone, that we are loved.


Sunday, October 5, 2014

A wild life

We persuaded Hubby to come with us for a drive into the Cascades. And even though he didnt feel like walking to the lake viewpoints from the parking areas, still, he was out and about, enjoying mountain sunshine and fresh air.

First stop: Sparks Lake where the chipmunks got equal photo  coverage (actually, probably a little more photo coverage)...


... than the humans.


And then a stop at Todd Lake to introduce our kids to more of the locals.


When we were growing up together as a married couple, Hubbys job programming large IBM computers required he work in cities and larger towns. We intentionally chose to live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, and Hubby chose to commute a little so we could bring up our kids in smaller towns and semi-rural areas.

From time to time weve wondered out loud what we did wrong because our children love big cities and crazy traffic and a faster pace of life. A friend, upon hearing wed raised them in small towns, said, Well, thats what you did wrong.

Ill say this about having city kids, though. Its easy to keep them amused when they come to visit. We simply introduce them to the local wildlife.

Side note: Son Jeremy is the breakfast-maker in the family. Plates of eggs topped with avocado; red onion; peperoncini; red, orange and yellow peppers; green olives; garbanzo beans. Oh, and dont forget the hot sauce.


Or oatmeal with fresh-ground peanut butter, walnuts, raisins, dried cherries, coconut, dates, bananas and a bit of honey.


Much like when our daughter was visiting, weve been eating like royalty.


Friday, October 3, 2014

SunRiver all over again

You can never get too much of SunRiver. Were back at one of our favorite places, a short distance from home in a wooded mountain resort village. This time, celebrating a visit from Son Jeremy and DIL Denise.

Deer in the yard. As with all our SunRiver stay-cations.


A puzzle, courtesy of Jeremy and Denise, spread out before a welcoming fire.


J&D cooking dinner. Well, Denise cooking. Jeremy supervising. Yum homemade chili and cornbread.


Enjoying the unlighting of the dayor better known as dusk.


Dusk, Denise's favorite time of the day

(Dusk and dawnthe changing of the lighthappen to be my two favorite times. Denise said she saw the dawn once and it was overrated.)

Our new best friend, Nurse Melinda, was here yesterday to test Hubbys blood. She ordered lymphedema massageHubbys legs and feet sort of resemble tree trunksand now, in the comfort of our own home, Hubby will receive regular leg massage. Imagine that.

This little vacation cabin comes with bikes, but Hubby probably wont be climbing up on a bike this weekend. Hes slowed down these past couple weeks. This could be because the stent/neph tube issue still isnt resolved. My theory is that as soon as he can get the stents removed, hell bounce back. Hubby isnt buying this theory.

Either way, whether this is a fixable issue, or the ongoing march of cancer, there is today. There is family time in a cabin in the woods. A fire burning. A puzzle waiting to be put together. Denise has offered to cook dinner again this evening. Andwith one win for Team G&M and one for Team J&Dthere is a championship game of Hand and Foot to be played tonight.

All is peaceful and well in our world. 


Thursday, October 2, 2014

Photo shoot

Look who showed up at our house this week. Hubbys nephew Stan, his wife Kris and two of our great-nieces (grandnieces?). Lauren and Lexie. Both blonde. In the truest sense of the word, if you catch my drift.

The entertainment - Kris, Lexie, Lauren, Stan

Turns out, they were not only here for a family visit. And not just for a photo shoot (Kris had contacted us earlier, offering to do our photos). But also served as our entertainment.

Ive always wanted a photo of Hubby and me. Something a little nicer than the selfies weve taken from the tops of mountains, dressed in layers and hiking boots.

We originally planned to shoot at Shevlin Park. Fall colors. Tall evergreens. Covered bridge. Aspen grove near a tumbling creek. 

But Hubby was feeling pretty punk. And so Kris quietly borrowed some pieces scattered throughout our home and ingeniously set up outdoors.

All Hubby had to do was take a seat, and in ten minutes we were finished. And you wouldnt know she was shooting on a sidewalk. On a busy side street.

Sis-in-law Cheryl wrote: You guys even make living on the street look like fun.


Hubby rarely smiles big. Its usually just a cute grin.

But Lexieyou remember the blonde great-niecewas dancing beyond the photographers back. Twirling like a ballerina, her long hair flying. Shes the reason we were laughing.

Priceless gifts, this visit from family, these photos, a days worth of entertainment. Thanks, Stan, Kris, Lauren and Lexie Lou.


October 2014


Hospice House

The cake and the frosting

Reflections on a rainy day

Slow leaks

Counting blessings. Still.


Feeding us

Looking for the perfect beverage

Thirsty, anyone?

Feeling loved

A wild life

SunRiver all over again

Photo shoot

September 2014

Ready for some football

Kid in a candy store

Actual birthday

German Chocolate Cake

Celebrating milestones

New recipes

More pep

One of my mothers

Thoughts from a hospital

August 2014

Down a lazy river


Siblings retreat

Creamed tuna on toast? Really?

Creating the life you want

Johnson women unite

Every sandwich

Cancer camp

Frequent flyer


July 2014

Short, but sweet

Walking Hubby

This cancer community

Return to the real world

Rah-rahs in town

Counting gifts


June 2014

Japanese daughter

Whos counting

Overwhelming evidence

Guest blogger: Lilly

True loves kiss

Father’s Day fun

Stuffed shells

About town

Dinner guests

Minutes ticking away

Move over, Walter Mitty

Heaven Can Wait for sure

May 2014

Survival classes

Slinging ink

Theory on hospital stays

Baseball and BBQ

This is my job

Thoughts on this date night

Cranberry peonies

This Mothers Day

We will remember

Unwanted news

Celebrating Matt

Me without you

April 2014

One sick puppy


Invisible well wishes

Easter color

Walking 4 Wellness - part 6

For the birds

Wilderness therapy

And we believed her

Clinical trial round three

The home crowd

Beautiful tree

Best Bran Muffin recipe

Best April Fools joke

March 2014

 Thats just swell

Welcome back celebration

Succinct conversational skills

Walking for Wellness

First clinical trial treatment

Popcorn Lovers Day

Pacific Ocean ambience

Clinical trial prep

In the eyes of the beholder

February 2014

Green scrubs

Hometown tourists

Not exactly as planned

Lost and found

Get outdoors

Early Valentines Day gift

Popcorn stitch

January 2014

Three-part date

Weekend forecast

Winters art

Spa Chemo day

Seeing beauty

Pilot Butte challenge

Award rescinded

Ambition restored

Annual award

Meet the team

Must be present to win

December 2013

New Year's Eve news

Thoughts on gift receiving

Secret cure-all

Guest blog by Hubby

Non-compliant patient

Caught. Red-handed.


November 2013

A little trim

Giving thanks

A few of my favorite things

First in a series


The years are short


Cabin in the woods

October 2013

Leaving on a jet plane


Knitting season

Pumpkin season

Things that matter

Fallin' and flying'

September 2013

Return to civilization

Another day in paradise

Happy birthday and anniversary

Love of barns

Leaving Wyoming

The Tour Guide

This nice big thing

Celebrating a lot of stuff

Fishing expedition

August 2013

Worst fears multiplied

This Friday night date

Mountains to climb

Hiking & oncology news

Out on the range

Cancer camp


July 2013

The boy who asks questions

Ten-year-old in tow


A happy birthday

Music by the river

Mondays off

June 2013

Splash for Pink

Kids at Disney World

Male designed

Happy Father's Day

Pacific Coast thoughts

On track

May 2013

Aware. Appreciative.

MS Office 2010

Family get-togethers

It's just a number

Last trek, part two

Hardy gardeners

Mother's Day

Crunchy, sweet and savory

That time of year

April 2013

Swimming lessons

Getting off the ground

Chunk of asphalt

Stress-free zone

Two Portlands - part 2

This Boston Marathon

Earlier than the TSA

Shopping woes

March 2013

Half birthday ... again

Last trek

With each passing year

Keep the old

Tech nerd

Not the hardest thing

How hard can it be?

Just what the doc ordered

Two Portlands

Mini family reunion

February 2013

Shout out


There is today

Doing it up right

Happy Valentine's Day

Speaking of beans

Snow angel

Simple winter fare

Moving west

January 2013

Flat Stanley on snow-shoes

Water colors

Happy chatter

Flat Stanley visits again

Extended hope

Take that, cancer


The commonplace

Bringing in the New Year

December 2012

Making investments

Winter wonderland

Random acts of kindness

Gift giving

The good, the bad and the ugly

Peace on earth

Cancer Club

Mission accomplished


Fantasy football

November 2012

Those darn numbers

Dreaming of a white Christmas

Back to reality

Favorite things, part IV

Complaint department

Even more favorite things

More favorite things

Favorite things

October 2012

Happy Halloween

Baking weather

Graduation day

First snow

Swans in pairs

A great fall

Date night(s)


Country girl

Tis the season

September 2012

Back in the groove

Last hurrah

Teton hiking

Wow, Yellowstone

Reconnaissance in Jackson

Barn sightings

The power of tenacity

Winnie the Pooh wisdom

Long-time survivor

Perfect marriage

August 2012

Five dollar bill

Out in public

Guest blogger, Steffany

Think outside

Survivor camp

Camp this weekend

Living in a wonderland

Sacred space

High country

July 2012

High country

Simple cooking

Locks of Love


Average, ordinary weekend

Close of birthday week

Day before

Get outdoors

Human beans

Mission: Accomplished

Night sky display

Journey with a mission

June 2012

Aint no sunshine

Favorite thing

In our possession

Over the hills

Camp Sherman on Father’s Day

In search of wildflowers

Building a cancer center

Southwestern surprises

Irrational fears

Reason to celebrate


The Space Noodle

May 2012


Hiking posse

Powered by optimism

Mothers Day weekend

Heart tug moment

Vermont hospitality

Happiest place on earth


Unlikely source

Baby geese season

April 2012

Not found out west

The rules

Guess what state were in

New Englanders

Jersey weekend


Easter blessings


Bean soup day

March 2012

Fashion statement

Sharing the experience

Second day of spring

Half-broke horses

Simple pleasures are the best

Best to live your own life

Words With Friends

February 2012

Got your back

The entire snow-shoe team

Grand Canyon

Perfect day

Arizona in February


Super Bowl Sunday

Favorite audience

January 2012

Something in common

Some system

In such a community

Coming home

Headed for OHSU

Checklist for the coast

Welcoming Twenty-Twelve

December 2011

Snow in town

Filling Christmas weekend


Coolest date night ever

Dressed in pink

Butternut squash day

Making connections

Painted hills

November 2011

Beauty from junk

Taking nothing for granted

Grateful for - part 4

Grateful for - part 3

The child in all of us

Shepherd's House

Grateful for - part 2

Marathon epidemic


Grateful for - part 1

October 2011

My orthidontical twin

Last wilderness hike?

The view from 7,800 feet

Colonoscopies and fall colors

Welcome back

To make a life count

On our way to the Poconos

The Parents

Autumn day in the city

A few numbers

September 2011

Country girl signing off

Off the grid

What are sisters for?!

Try something new

For a limited time only

On the NCI web site

August 2011

I dont make this stuff up



A lifetime

Club membership


Date night can’t get much better

July 2010

Beauty in the high desert

Another shot at life

Happy Hour

Almost perfect

Enjoying the journey

Birthday week kick-off

Ive become my mother

Bobby McFerrin + OBF

50 things to do Part II

June 2010

Like what you do

Colorado wildlife

Life is good wisdom

Sad day

Rocky Mountain high

Cowboy sing-along

My kind of town

Please dont feed the bears

Naming buildings

Low expectations

Heaven Can Wait

Because nice matters

May 2010

April 2010

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