Monday, December 30, 2013

dear 2013

dear 2013,

i am not sure where to start this, as it seems like there is just so much i want to say to you. so maybe i will just dive in and start at the beginning.

you rang in the new year with bad scan results, and a surgery that followed to welcome in february. you scared the hell out of me early on, and as i would learn, those early results were just the start of the fear you would bring. you brought a surgery that resulted in the worst physical pain i have ever had, and some of my darkest hours.

february 20th, the day the stage iv diagnosis came. a day you rocked my entire world. the truth is, i never recovered. another truth is that i know i never will. but i know that you already knew both of those truths since you see all of the hurt and all of the tears, some of which only you and i know about.

that stage iv diagnosis has affected every single day that has followed in one way or another. but there has been a constant undercurrent in all of the days of me being grateful, as time is so very precious.

you helped me to refocus my time. to focus on the people that i want to spend my time with. to focus on showing up for the people that i love in anyway that i can. to focus on making memories, not just for me, but with and for those that i love. to focus on saying my thanks for all of the blessings that i have in my life. to focus on being brave, and realizing that can range from going in for scan results to just getting up and out of bed on the days i want to stay in a little ball and let the tears roll for as long as they need to.

you brought great trips -- suncadia, gearheart, california, disneyland, minnesota, alderbrook, new york, vegas.

you let me see important milestones -- jess graduate from wsu, tyler get married, zach graduate from cwu, malena's 5th birthday, barrett's 35th birthday, all of our family birthdays. you let me quietly celebrate my 38th, and i am so thankful for that personal milestone. i still say my thanks for celebrating any birthday that i get, and getting older is something that i am so, so thankful for every year. you know i cringe when i hear people complain about getting older, as you and i know the important secret, turning a year older means that they got one more year - and that is something to be so very thankful for.

you brought me good scans results three times this year, for that, i can't thank you enough. the best way that i knew of to repay you was to take the best care i could of myself, and to continue to wholeheartedly love those that are important to me. i am forever in your debt for those good results, and there is not a day that goes by that i don't say what feels like a million well-deserved thank you's.

you brought a ton of green smoothies and me drinking carrott juice - which was huge. you and i both know that, i think that you had a big smirk on your face when that one happened. you were right, i liked it. you saw me say goodbye to sugar and dairy and meat, and you stuck with me when sometimes i was a little cranky about it.

you allowed me to take on some firsts of my own - skydiving (thanks for the beautiful weather on that day), getting a tattoo, taking a hot air balloon ride, going to new york city -- just to name a few. you have encouraged me to take the risks and do things that i might not have considered before, because why not, life should be about big adventures and being brave to try new things including the ones that you never expected you would do. thank you for all of the firsts.

along with the firsts, you also gave me a million of the day to day moments. waking malena up. making her breakfast. dropping her off at school. playing with her. hugging her. campout nights with her and barrett. laughing with barrett. time spent with family and friends. the little and the big moments of living each day. i loved every minute and every moment.
you have been a year that has constantly been filled with loss. it seems that cancer and illness were always swirling around, and you were the year for some people that were very loved to say their goodbyes. there were times that i hated you for that, and there were times that i tried to remember that it wasn't probably ideal for you either that those losses occurred within the bounds of your 365 days.

people rallied within with your year to do happy mail campaigns, to send 17 weeks of fun mail to jen, to send 36 weeks of fun mail to chase, ava, and tanner, to send countless weeks of fun mail to me. people sent love, prayers and mojo to jennifer, patty and her family, mike, baby burton, mary, sharon, chase and the others along the way that needed love.

you let me enjoy the holidays and celebrate all of the traditions they bring. you let me see malena's excitement that santa came, moments that i am so incredibly thankful for -- and i know my family is too. we thank you for from the bottom of our hearts for giving us these holidays.

so as your last day winds down, i find that i am grieving for the loss of you. you have been the hardest year for me to let go of, which surprised me when i started to realize it was going to be really hard to move on and turn that calendar to january.

though you brought me to my knees, i also know what you gave me.

you gave me 365 days of living. i had a full year with you. i got one round of really bad scan results, one surgery, but good news after that. i got to take great trips, spend countless hours with family and friends, check some things off of my bucket list - and do some things that i never even knew i should have had on my bucket list. i got to spend time with my husband, we got to watch our daughter grow together. i got to give hugs, laugh, cry, celebrate, cheer, support, encourage, and love.

i will really miss you 2013 for all of the good that you brought to me. i am sorry to see you go, and i wish that i could actually hold on to you for a little bit longer. i am not ready to say goodbye because i am not ready for your friend 2014 who is an unknown, and i don't know what he will bring. i will write him his own letter, but between us, he scares the shit out of me and i am petrified to my core about what he has up his sleeve. so if you could, put in a good word for me, tell him to take it easy on me and that i deserve a year that only brings good.

so as others will be ringing you out in grand style with horns/food/drinks/music and celebrating your departure, i am going to quietly watch the minutes tick down and cherish the time that i have left with you.

thank you for all of the good, and for all of the things that you taught me about myself and life that came from all of the bad. i am stronger and braver because of you, and i think that i will make you proud as 2014 comes around the corner and you fade into the background.

i will never forget you, that much i know for sure.

you are one to remember, i hope that you feel the same.

much love, me

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

prayers for patty

we need to kick the prayers, love, and mojo into full force for patty and her family.

patty is in the hospital now as her tumor has continued to grow. she has bleeding in her brain and hemorrhaging occurring on her brain stem.

the new treatment that they had started is not going to be continued.

as patty and her family enter this final phase, let's send a ton of love their way.

as kerry (patty's daughter) said when she sent it to me, the above picture taken this summer says f*ck cancer like no other picture of patty could.

so on this christmas night when there is so much to be thankful for, one of the many things that i am thankful for is all of the love that will continue to surround patty and their entire family.

thank you for the love and prayers that i know that you will send their way.

i hope you all had a merry christmas, and i hope that you have some new memories to hold tight.

i know i do. xo

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

merry and bright

i hope that your christmas (or your regular wednesday) finds you happy and warm.

i have had a couple of quiet moments this morning to take it all in. new york (pictures and stories to come soon). snow flake lane. reindeer festival. seeing the movie "frozen" (love, love, loved it). seeing the huge gingerbread houses in downtown seattle. making our own gingerbread house. riding on the carousel at westlake center. riding on the carousel at redmond town center. malena and i getting to go inside a huge real life snow globe. the twinkle of all of the lights. being around family. super thankful for all of my friends. putting up the christmas tree and getting to look at everyday (kind of don't want to take it down this year). pulling in to our neighborhood and seeing all of the lights. seeing the glow of our outside lights through the front windows of the house. leaving the annual surprise packages for the garbage workers and mail carrier so that they too know they are appreciated and thought of this time of year. eating some of my christmas favorite foods (yep, some have sugar and yep, i am ok with that). hanging up the stockings. watching malena's reaction as she sees what our elf buddy has been up to each night while she sleeps. seeing the pink glow from malena's room when her own little tree is lit up in the dark of the night. watching polar express while tucked in under our favorite blanket. wrapping gifts (which will be happening late tonight per our usual tradition -- and i will likely be drinking a hard cider while i do it). opening my mailbox and seeing all of the christmas cards, for a girl like me that loves happy mail, this is the best time of year - happy mail overload and i love it. the first snow of the year, watching malena's excitement to go out and play in it. starbucks dates on friday morning with malena drinking our tea and chocolate milk out of the red holiday cups. listening to some of my favorite christmas songs (hello "last christmas"). making some of our own christmas presents. hugs. a ton of laughter. the smile that comes when someone opens a gift that they are so excited about. the anticipation of santa coming. making the cookies for him to eat when he gets to our house. putting out the carrotts for the reindeer.

december has been full of a lot of joy, and that is what i will be focusing on as we celebrate christmas and finish out this year. i am saying my thanks for a great month filled with family and friends. i am so blessed and so lucky to be surrounded by so much love.

i wish you and yours a very merry holiday season, may it bring you joy and happiness and moments you will forever cherish and never forget.

much love. xoxo

Sunday, December 15, 2013

in both hands

been a little quiet in this space the last week or two. part of that is because i have been busy with holiday festivities and planning. part of that is because sometimes this space makes me think of melanoma and i am trying to stay away from those thoughts as much as i can throughout the holidays.

but that is hard. especially as i read about another melanoma warrior, madeleine, who was told this week that there were no other options left but to bring in hospice care. i will tell you that reading that made the hand that carries the shit feel like it is dragging on the ground. it feels like it has been all week. i have been debating all week about shutting off from the melanoma world, and i think that i might for a while. it is sometimes just too much for me to handle, and as my counselor and i talked about, it is ok to take in the stories when i am able to. that is hard for me though because i am such a believer that stories are important, should be shared, and warriors should be joined in their fight. so it is a constant internal struggle and has been filling a lot of my thoughts for the last couple of weeks. maybe because at this time of year, i feel a bit like melanoma is lurking behind every ornament and every light. please send your love and mojo to madeleine and her family during this time when they need it the most.

in the other hand, there has definitely been joy. meeting little baby boy bentley, he is adorable and such a little snuggler. reindeer festival, feeding rudolph apples and getting to tell santa what she wanted for christmas. i kind of wanted to whisper into his ear what i wanted as well, i bet you can guess. let's keep it our secret. christmas shopping and finding the perfect gifts. buddy our elf showing up each morning and making malena laugh with whatever he has been up to during the night. painting christmas ornaments. wrapping gifts. riding carousels. all good things. they fill up the hand that is carrying the joy.

i also want to ask for you to send your love, mojo, and prayers to patty on tuesday. she is beginning a new electric treatment for her brain tumor on tuesday. so keep sending all of your good mojo to patty and her family as she begins this new part of her journey. here is a picture of her and bentley from this weekend, those two make a cute pair;)

i am going to overflow the joy hand this week. i am taking a trip to new york city for the first time and am super excited about it. i am going to kick it with my sister and niece who are already there to celebrate jess's graduation from wsu. i am really looking forward to checking out the big apple, ice skating in rockefeller center, seeing the statue of liberty, walking around times square, strolling through central park...i can't wait. 

so i will talk to you in a week or so, with some good pictures to share i am sure.

in the meantime, send your love to madeleine and patty and make it a good week, there will be good in it somehow, i promise. there always, always is. you just have to look for it. xo

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

acts of kindness


december 14th.

it will mark the one year anniversary when lives were changed in newtown forever.

i think back to all of those kind random acts of kindness that we did last year in memories of the beautiful lives lost.

on this year, i will do a random act of kindness on saturday to quietly send some love into the world and hope that it rides on the winds safely to newtown.

if you would like to do the same, let me know what you do and i will share the acts on the blog to spread the love.

take the time to read alissa parker's words and look at the beautiful pictures of her daughter emilie. watch the video and be reminded that evil did not win.

it never does.

give your hugs. say more i love you's. xo

Monday, December 9, 2013

the moments + chase

the holiday moments.

the traditions.

the joy. palm open.

we have had some of my favorite holiday moments over the last week, and i am doing my best to soak them all in and enjoy every minute. so, so thankful. a million times over. i am equally excited for all of the moments still to come.

on saturday, i got to watch my niece graduate. it was awesome (go cougs!). i am such a proud aunt and i could not have been more proud of her as i heard her name announced in the coliseum and i watched them hand her that well deserved diploma. amazing. another one of the key moments that i so wanted to have on this three month span.

these milestones moments always have those seconds that my heart is pulled in different directions. i embrace that second i am living while that other little string pulls on the what if's of the future. the hopes that i have for malena, the hope that i have for being there to watch her walk across the stage at a college graduation. at a high school graduation. at a middle school graduation. at a kindergarten graduation. at a pre-school graduation. so i give those what if's their space, i take a deep breath and i refocus on the second i am living. and some times, those what if's still catch me when i don't expect them. like at dinner tonight with a dear friend when we are catching up and the tears well up before i even know they are coming. but those tears need to find their way out, they always eventually do, and so i let them fall and i pause to catch my breath. in and out. in and out. then, like always, i carry on. 

chase is also moving on and i wanted to share some of the latest updates of how he is doing:

"Baby Steps. :)


Lisa sent me this video of Chaser in therapy today and it completely made my day! It is so exciting to see him in a vertical position other than in the stander. I have wanted to see this since the day he started therapy. I realize that it isn't him doing the motions yet, but it is a foreshadow of whats to come! This video made it pretty easy for mom and I to make up our mind what Chaser is getting for Christmas- Looks

like our next treadmill won't be used for folding laundry! God is Good!!

i posted the video on Chases Facebook page
  • School is Cool! :)

    Written Dec 7, 2013 5:18pm

    While its 10 below outside the sun room windows, Ava is warming Chaser up with her own version of home therapy. They started the morning off by looking for Christmas presents on her computer and spelling his name. What out Gillette - you may have a new recruit in the making
    Chaser had a great week at school and therapy. His teacher says that he is adjusting very well, and kids are taking to having him there equally as good. He is making new friends, and while he is there learning along with the other kids, it seems like he is teaching them as well, as their curious little minds have a lot of questions about his condition. This is definately the start of a great new chapter, for him and us! It is nice to have a fresh set of new eyes to see what Chase is capible of. The nurse noticed Chase seems to have controlled eye movements in the form of blinking when asked questions, as did the therapists at Gillette's. It may be a sign, or a start of some form of communication! .....time will tell.
    With his new busy schedual of therapy and school, Chaser has been a tired little boy this week. He has been sleeping well through then night, and is taking frequent catnaps here and there. Thank you all for your support, prayers, and the fun mail that keeps pouring in. We all look forward to opening them up once a week. Enjoy your weekend- stay warm!

    God is Good!
  • Circle of Friends :)

    Written Dec 2, 2013 6:07pm
    I pulled into the Circle of Friends preschool parking lot about 10 mins early. I was meeting Lisa and Chaser there at noon- While I backed my truck up to wait for them, even though it was full day light out, there it was, and it stuck out more that Clark Griswold's house once he got the lights to work....the leafless maple tree... The same tree that all three of our kids had leaned against on their first day of school- the same tree that Chaser had beamed next to over a year ago, with his Batman backpack covering half his little body draped over his back, screaming cheeeeze!!!!... when I took his picture for his first day of preschool. Just when I started to get completely lost in this vivid memory, I saw the van pull up. I walked over to the van, opened the back and lowered Chases wheelchair with his backpack strapped across the handles, to the ground and wheeled it over to his door. As Lisa lifted him out and folded his body into his wheelchair, it dawned on me....This is Chase's first day of school! This is an event to celebrate, a moment 8 months ago that seemed like a distant fantacy. We gave each other the look we always do when we are going to enter the unknown together, followed by a smile- and pushed Chaser towards the front door. When we got to the door, there were a couple of familiar faces that were excited to see Chase. We entered the school and there were 4 huge smiles waiting for Chase. It was awesome! They brought us down the hallway to the Special Ed room to give us a quick orientation, and introduce us to the rest of the staff and some of the Children in his class. The staff were all smiles as we shared info about Chase with them. After a couple mins in there, Chase went over to Mrs. Becki's class to join the other children in story time. He did great, and so did the other Children with him! Chaser will be attending Special Ed Tuesdays and Thursdays, and the regular classroom on Mondays and Wednesdays for the remainder of the school year! We want to send out a huge thank you to everyone involved that made this possible. I know that nothing but positive will come from this for everyone involved, especially Chaser! We are truly lucky to live in the community of Prior Lake! Thank you all for your support.
    Wow- Chase is going to school!!!! - Go IS Good! :)
  • Video from Katie :)
  • Written Nov 26, 2013 11:16pm
    Chads's fiancee Katie sent this video to us to remind us how far Chaser has progressed. This Nov 28th is definitely a day to be thankful in our household! Have a great Thanksgiving, and thank you all for your support!

    God Is Good !!!

    Here is a like for those of you that do not use facebook.....

    Thank you all for your support!"
    happy tuesday peeps, make it a great one. enjoy the moments, big and small. xo

    Thursday, December 5, 2013

    joy (the baby kind, the best kind)

    i am so happy to announce that bentley patrick pihlstrom entered this world at 5:40pm tonight. him and his mom are doing great. he weighs in at 8.5 pounds and is 21 inches long. as you can see for yourself, he is super adorable and a total cutie. i am sure the girl babies have their eyes on him already;) so today is a day filled with joy, the very best kind of day. welcome to the world little man, you are a lucky little boy to have so many people rooting for you and loving you already. i can't wait to meet you and to watch you grow.

    thank you again for all of the love and prayers that all would go well and he would be happy and healthy.

    have a good weekend peeps, may it bring you a lot of joy. xo

    Wednesday, December 4, 2013

    for kerry and patty, part ii

    i wanted to give an update on the status of things for patty and kerry and their family today, and to say thanks for all of the love and mojo that you are sending their way. kerry was very appreciative of knowing that a ton of love was coming their way today, and your good thoughts are so appreciated.

    unfortunately, patty's scans showed that the tumor is growing. i won't go into the specifics of what that means. but what i will go into is that we need to continue to send patty and the entire family a ton of love and mojo as they move forward with this news.

    kerry went into the hospital as planned today and i expect that we will have some baby news tomorrow. so keep the love and good mojo going for kerry that she has an easy delivery and baby p has a smooth entry into this world.

    love, prayers, and mojo.

    love, prayers, and mojo.

    they need it. we can send it.

    more joy. xo

    Tuesday, December 3, 2013

    what you hold in both hands (for kerry and patty)

    i think it was at the retreat earlier this year when i first heard the phrase that goes something like you hold shit in one hand while you hold joy in the other. so, so true. i have felt that way for a quite a while now, a constant balancing act of holding both at the same time. some days the scales are tipped in one hand more than the other, and i just have to keep breathing and waiting for them to balance out again.

    i thought about the joy and the shit when i was meeting with my counselor the other day and we were talking about the holidays. the absolute joy that the holidays bring. the reasons why these holidays have been a rough patch for me. but we have a plan, and you know that i am a girl who loves a good plan. so i keep holding both hands open, palm up, ready to take whatever comes.

    i am asking you to send lots of love tomorrow for my friend kerry and her mom patty and their entire family. they will hold both in their hands tomorrow. patty's brain tumor in one hand, the birth of kerry's little baby boy in the other.

    at the same time that patty is going in for scans tomorrow to determine tumor growth, kerry is going to be getting ready to be induced for the birth of her baby boy (who is taking his own sweet time and blew right past his delivery date). 

    so let's send them a ton and love and good thoughts -- please send your love to seattle at noon as patty goes into scans and throughout the afternoon as they get the results. then carry them through for kerry at five until baby p is safely in her arms.

    kerry and her family very much appreciate all of the mojo and love they have felt from all of you, so i thank you.

    let's send them so much love and joy that all of their hands are filled with only good when baby p enters the world. xo

    Sunday, December 1, 2013

    goodbye november, hello december

    dear november,

    you gave me so many different moments to be thankful for, and i loved you for that. i can't thank you enough for the long, long list of great memories from your month. you rocked.

    hello december,

    you are looking really good, and i love you for that. i am so excited and looking forward to the long, long list of great memories that i know your month will hold. we are one day in and i heart you already.