Thursday, October 27, 2011

Lessons from Louie...

I learned some of the best life lessons at the pool as a young lifeguard.  I mostly learned those lessons from my boss, Louie.    When I started at the pool, I was a junior on my way to be a senior in high school - and well, I was super immature.

I remember my first day of work at the pool I had to leave early to talk to the school board. I knew that the pool was open until 8:45 and the school board meeting started at 8:30.  I told whomever it was I was speaking for that I would be late to the meeting because I had to work.  When the pool closed at 8:45, I told my boss, "Well gotta go to the school board meeting."

"WHAT?"  He was shocked - "We have clean-up to do.  The other guards are counting on you."

He let me go because somehow this meeting was "important," but I learned something that night - my coworkers count on me and not to let them down. 

Louie was also very cautious and made sure to point out to us every chance he got that we should always have our eyes on the pool.  He showed us ways do get down from our stands in the proper form - one guard standing at attention while the other guard got down from their post and then, the other guard standing at attention while the other guard got comfortable on the stand.  He would  watch us from the guard shack making sure we did it just right.

He hated it when we twirled our whistles.  "It looks arrogant.  I don't want that."  He was right.  It does look arrogant.

Also, many mornings Louie had us come to the pool early and practice our techniques and swim laps.  Over and over we drilled - he wanted it to be natural for us.

I was driving my mom and girls home from Rochester when I got the news that he died suddenly.  He was only forty.  He had a massive heart attack.  All week I've been thinking about everything I learned from Louie.   I'm sure I'll write more about my old-time boss and friend.  He was one of a kind and made a big impact on my life.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

On Soul Mates

I like this.  It's mature.  I'm lucky enough to be with Jason for more than half my life - nineteen years and married fifteen...  I believe in soul mates, but I also believe in timing.  It turns out we had perfect timing.  There may be other soul mates in the world that would suit us fine, but we're happy right where we are - so we're not looking.

I think of friends who've had heartache and not spent their lives with their soul mates and were separated either by divorce or maybe even a hard break-up.  I hope their anger doesn't lessen the love they had shared.  It's probably hard to be as mature as Mr. Coehlo in this circumstance, but it's something to strive for anyways.

I like this guy, Mr. Coelho, he has a way of making everything beautiful, even hearbreak.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

On Letting Go

Once in Junior High, I had to break up with a friend.  I loved my friend with my whole heart - she was funny and pretty, and I loved our conversations. 

One day, I realized that I was starting to get angry with her.  It seemed as though I loved her a bit more than she loved me.  She didn't invite me to her parties unless I pouted, and it seemed when I walked up to her in a group of friends there would be a lot of eye rolling and whispers.

It hurt.  I decided to not be her friend.  I decided to spend time with the people who made room for me at their lunch table.  I made room in my life for the girls who smiled when I smiled at them.  There was no eye rolling.

I  never made a scene - I just quietly went my own way.

Another time, a friend decided to let me go - she went quietly too.  One day in class, she stopped speaking to me and would walk away when I approached her. Ouch - that hurt.  I wondered long and hard if I had done something to upset her - was I rude? Did she think I was talking behind her back?  Finally, I gave up and moved on.

Of course, this was junior high and these girls grew up to be mature, fabulous women who do good things in the world.  At the time, I protected my heart and moved on from my friendships to find later that the qualities of these women improved with age as my qualities have improved with age.  (hopefully)

And even now, there are friends I let slip through my hands. I know that my family's health crisis isn't the worst thing that has happened to anyone, but it is the hardest thing that has happened to me.  I've had some friends leave me or not return my calls as I've reached out to them.  It's very lonely and surprising.  Just like junior high, I found many other glorious friends who return my smiles and reach out to support me during my current struggles.

I see my daughters go through the same pain, and I tell them the stories of me letting those friends go.  I know it breaks their hearts to have someone they admire not return the affection, but we must protect our hearts - even if, it's just a little bit.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Wedding

This weekend, our cousin was married.  One of our little baby cousins whose cheeks we pinched.  I was the  lady at the guestbook - Gnat and Al were with their cousins handing out candy and programs. And little baby Sabrina got married.

I'm not a wedding cryer - of course, I say this even though I cry at every wedding I go to...  So in fact, I cried a bit at the thought of my cousin and her big sister and little brother and how I remembered when they were all born and how sweet they are.

And, I cried again at the wedding dance during all the sappy dances - -  and laughed at the Chicken Dance and the Hokey Pokey... and I smiled when I saw the light-hearted dancing of my daughters and nieces as the littlest one chased a boy around the dance floor.  I remembered those days when it was Missi and I at our aunt and uncle's wedding and we were the ones in matching dresses ripping holes in our tights - dancing the night away.

Monday, October 10, 2011

This Spot is Taken

 Remember the scene in Forrest Gump when Forrest gets on the bus the first time?  I could only find it in French.

Funny how bullying translates accross langugages - a translation is not necessary.

I wonder what gets it into kids' head that they can only sit by "cool" people or sit by their friends.  And then, I remember "Ohhh  that's right....  Adults do that, too!"

Have you ever went to a staff meeting and see ladies put purses on chairs next to them so their "besties" at work can sit next to them?  Or notice that there's one person sitting at one table and six at another table? 

Or how about ever you ever been asked to slide over so one person can sit next to another?  Seriously? 

I've been working on this - personally.   I've been pushing myself to move beyond my cliques at work and church.   I've been pointing out to kids when they're rude to each other in this respect.  I wonder if I will ever get the nerve to call out an adult with this behavior.

Friday, October 7, 2011


I love Homecoming at our school.  The seniors planned out the entire week and most of the decisions are left up to them.  These seniors have taken intuitive to make their homecoming memorable.

Yesterday, our day was shortened to half a day and the other half, we reported to the gym and played some fun games.  

The staff put together a collection of volleyball players and presented a challenge to the students.  Of course, the staff one fair and square (cough cough).  Of course, I was the cheerleader.  It's always good for a laugh to see the staff act silly, even just for an hour.  We got booed - but it was in good fun - it sort of reminded me of professional wrestling - we each had a role to play and the day ended in smiles.

After the first hour, the kids played games class against class.  It was fun to see them totally get involved in the games.  I don't think I saw one kid be excluded.  It was just nice to be together and smile at being us - at being the Mustangs and being the Rebels and being in the moment.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

In the Meantime... People just don't talk about colons....

Mom  had been seen at Mayo and had a colonoscopy years ago.  She was told to have a colonoscopy every ten years.  What she didn't remember at the time was that her dad, who died of Aplastic Anemia when she was 13 had also had colon problems.  Because, evidentally, people just don't talk about colon problems. Was it cancer?  We have no idea.  Mom's mom had died nine years ago and wasn't here to remind or tell mom about grandpa's medical conditions.

If the doctor's had known this, I  think they would have taken my mom's complaints to heart, but it's hard to put together a puzzle when the pieces are misplaced.

My point is, of course, write down your family medical history - your children may need it one day.

Mom has had a difficult time adjusting to the bag.  Mom and dad had many mishaps with her "bag" along the way to Rochester or in Grand Forks.  She had to learn to help gas leak out of her bag before it would explode.  Did I say that?  Do I just confess one of my mom's most vulnerable,  horrible memories to an unknown amount of people?  Yes because she asked me to.

Mom and I drove down to Rochester in July.  On the way, mom looked down and saw she had a leak so we pulled over into the next gas station.  When she stood up, she saw that her bag had had a terrible leak - and she needed to change clothes.  I told her to rush in while I got the supplies.  We found our way into the handicapped stall and locked ourselves in.

Thank God there is such a thing as colostomy bags.  Truly Thank God - but at this moment I knew that I needed to be sure to take control of my own health.   I became more determined with my Food Revolution....  

As soon as mom was diagnosed with colon cancer, I started experiencing symptoms of colon cancer - and of course, a lot of the symptoms of colon cancer are symptoms of stress.  Nonetheless, we had a colonoscopy scheduled, and I was given the order to quit my Diet Coke Habit, lose some weight, exercise, and eat fiber as tolerated. 

After quitting Diet Coke, my symptoms went away, but I still had the colonoscopy.  I did have a polyp - but it's gone now - because I had the colonoscopy it isn't developing into cancer.  I will have another colonoscopy in five years.

I just pray that my readers will see this and know what my mom is going through and think about the fear of a colonoscopy and know that a colonoscopy is nothing - especially if they are experience some of the symptoms of colon cancer - the evening in the bathroom of your own home prepping is NO BIG DEAL compared to the afternoon in the bathroom that mom had on her way to Rochester.

Mom has reconstructive surgery scheduled on December 12th.  We pray that everything goes according to plan, and mom's ordeal will be in the past.

April Fools

The night of mom's surgery, Missi and I went to see her in the hospital.  Missi and I walked from the parking lot to mom's room.  I remember looking at Missi and thinking she looked odd.  I remember thinking how strange it was that Missi was huffing and puffing with the short walk we had just taken.  I wondered why she seemed so bloated and had a yellow tint to her skin.  I thought she looked like she had cancer.  We walked into mom's room, and I was shocked that mom seemed to have the same tint to her skin.  I half-wondered to myself if both these ladies had cancer and pooh poohed myself with the thought that I was imagining things.

Mom and dad learned how to change mom's bag and practiced it over and over.  Eventually, mom was moved into a private room and was shocked on April Fool's morning when her doctor came in and told her biopsy had shown cancer in what they had removed and two lymph nodes close to the intestine.

When mom had told us, we were in shock. It seemed like a horrible April Fool's joke.  Mom was diagnosed with Stage 2.5 Colon Cancer and told that she would have 12 treatments over the course of 6 months.  She would have to wait six weeks after chemo to have her reconstructive surgery.  Mom wouldn't have her surger until December.

Mom was in the hospital that day that Missi found out she had cancer.  Missi had a blood smear test and found that she had "blasts" in her blood.  (Blasts are white blood cells that develop immaturely and cause platelet and red blood cells to drop)  Missi's husband and she waited for dad, and they all told her together that Missi would be fighting the fight of her life, too.

We Really Want You to Know This

After a good month of painkillers, mom demanded  a CT Scan.  She knew something was horribly wrong.  Finally, she started packing to head down to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester and told her doctors she wanted all of her paperwork to be sent to Rochester. 

At that time, the hospital in Grand Forks admitted her.  After her CT Scan, they found an infection in her colon and treated it with anti-bacterial IV drip.  Mom's pain wouldn't go away.  After a week, they gave her another CT scan and told her that she would need surgery to have part of her colon removed.

She was so scared and wanted to go to Mayo.  She thought they'd be able to cure her without the surgery.  The surgeon gave her the option of transferring but made it clear that she would be having surgery.

My mom had her surgery on a Monday.

When she woke up, she had a colostomy bag.  They told her they would re-attach her colon in a month's time.

It  turns out one's intestine could burst like appendix do. 

Mom was horrified.  She looked down to find a belt wrapped around her abdomen with a bag to collect her waste. 

We were just glad she wouldn't be in pain any more.

What We Want You to Know...

The past few weeks, I've been avoiding writing what I really wanted to write about.  I asked my mom if I could write everything I knew about her colon cancer, and she told me she wanted everyone she cared about to take care of themselves.  She couldn't bear the thought of anyone she loves or cares about going through what she is going through.

I've been avoiding writing about it because it's very personal to my mom and family, and let's face it, it's not very classy talking about intestinal function.  

Since Christmas time, my mom hadn't been feeling well.  A few years ago, she had lap-band surgery to try and lose weight.  She had lost weight but since had had some digestive issues.  Frequently over the past SEVERAL years, she had an upset stomach and over the years had been treated for Irritable Bowel Syndrome.   She had colonoscopies and nothing abnormal had been found.

The upset stomach intensified over the weeks after Christmas and between dad, Missi and me, there were several visits to the emergency room because of pain.  One Sunday morning, my mom called and begged me to bring her in to the emergency room.   I found a sub for my Sunday School class and headed out the door.  We spent the entire morning in the hospital.  At some point, the doctor asked us the doctor asked if we felt she needed a CT scan.  WE SHOULD HAVE SAID YES. I think I even said out loud;

"It's not like she has Colon Cancer or something."

He sent her home with pain medication.

I look back at this missed opportunity and cringe every time.

Sunday, October 2, 2011


These last few months HAVE been difficult, but truthfully, it's pathetic that I don't have more sympathy for my mom and sister.  I've mostly been thinking about myself and how I feel sorry for myself.  What a num nutz.

  I hadn't put much thought into how much my sister must miss her husband and kids.  It should have been an obvious concern - but I'm pretty self-aborbed.

Also, I hadn't thought about how much pain she really is in.  I think about the swimmer's itch we had when I was eight and she was ten, and I can barely imagine what she's going through.  This evening, she told me she cried all day because she was in so much pain.

When I told her that the doctor  had she a set-back, she argued with me that that didn't mean she'd have to be there the full 100 days.  She wants to go home in sixty days.  I told her "Well, if the doctor says you can come home on November 1st, that's when you'll come home.  We won't argue with him."  She started crying again I'm not sure if it's because she was relieved or just because she missed her kids so much.