Finding sunshine

We all go through moments in our lives when we take a step back and really start to wonder about where we are and what we’re doing. At least, I hope we do. I don’t think I’m an anomaly. But then again, it wouldn’t be the first time.

I will admit that since last July, things haven’t really been the same. And not that I expected it would be, but it’s amazing how quickly one word can change your outlook on a lot of things. Even if it’s the “good kind.”

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Cancer. Not a word you ever want to hear.

Sometimes I think back on the last almost-40-years of my life, and I wonder how I managed to survive it as intact as I am…and then I wonder if I really am. But the beauty of it all, is that no matter what you’re faced with, the only thing that matters is how you handle it.

And there’s only one person that gets to determine that…and that’s me.

My life growing up wasn’t easy. I learned quickly what it meant to love and lose. Death is nothing new to me. I’ve said goodbye to many people that I’ve loved…classmate, friends, family and more. Some of those goodbyes were difficult to get through, but I knew that it was a temporary goodbye.

I’ve seen medicine at its best. I’ve seen it fail as well. I watched my dad get a new lease on life with breakthrough treatments, my brother as well. I see what advances do for George every day. But I also know its limitations.

I know the miracle of birth, first hand. But I also know the pain associated with it. I was blessed with a “natural” birth for our first child, with an amazing epidural. But remember every second of a c-section that included a failed spinal. Which meant I felt every minute of it, until after our last son was safely born.

I’ve won some battles. And I’ve lost some. I’ve lost loved ones, I’ve gained a few. I lost my voice, it came back…just different.

But as I turn this page (yes, there’s a milestone birthday coming up soon), I realize that I need to focus on more sunshine. I need to find my joy in life and feed it. No one remembers your bad days, but you can influence people with good ones.

As I look to the future, I want my children to remember me as their ray of sunshine. And in order to do so, I have to find my own.

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You can hardly see my scar today. I’m blessed beyond measure.

And so here I am…wondering if the path I’m on will lead to my sunshine. The clouds outside do not deter me. I know what I’m destined for. I just need to outshine the rain clouds.

2017…Under construction

It’s funny how quickly people become experts on self-help, self-improvement and life coaching when a new year rolls around. Everyone has advice: make resolutions, don’t make resolutions, embrace your true self, reinvent yourself, start from scratch, build from your foundation, etc.

Here’s my advice: Do you.

Whatever that is – just own it. Yes, we all need improvements, we all have flaws – I have only read about one perfect soul, but have yet to meet any.So don’t strive for perfection. Strive for satisfaction. Strive for peace.

I have only made one resolution for this year: Be better. Be a better person. Be a better listener. Be a better mother. Be a better advocate. Do I know what that will all entail? Nope. But as I say in the title, it’s under construction. And so am I.

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I feel short in this pic…and I’m not. But Scooter is now officially a teenager. His heart is as big as his feet. And he’s not afraid to be himself. I’m taking lessons.

I can tell you a few things that I am going to try to be done with: settling, procrastinating, complaining. But that comes with my resolution. To just be better.

That doesn’t mean I’m striving for fame or fortune, nor am I out to conquer the world. I’m just working towards a better me. Which will hopefully lead to other improvements that set me up for success.

I’m actually excited about 2017. I won’t lie that the last year was a tough one. But I’m already better because of it. I can survive some pretty challenging moments. And I’m stronger now than what I was a year ago. So I’m grateful for the challenges. And it’s time to implement some changes so that I’m not constantly coming up against the same challenges again and again. I may drop some baggage. Clear the clutter – in my house, my head and my heart.

But that’s just me doing me.

How about you? Are you a resolution-type? Or are you just going to make sure that 2017 is the best year yet!

My list to catch up

It’s been a long few weeks…and so much has happened. So I’ll do my quick 10 to catch you up to speed:

  1. Thyroid is gone. Radiation is over. That was rough. Have you ever had a nurse warn you not to throw up because it would be considered a radioactive spill? Fun times. Still waiting to hear those magical “cancer free” words, but they’ll come soon enough – I have faith. Meds are still a carousel ride. But this too shall pass.
  2. Deer hunting was successful, for both me and my oldest. Couldn’t be more proud.
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    His first deer. On his first shot.

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    My buck…I’m more than happy with it. And it tasted good, too. And yes, I field-dressed it myself.

  3. New gig – I’m coordinating our state’s CommonGround program. Perfect. Fit.
  4. I have a child with a driver’s permit. How did that happen???
  5. I live in North Dakota. As in the #DAPL protest site. Winter can’t come soon enough. But it’s a great opportunity to teach my children about the process that has been set and why it’s important to be involved. In the beginning.
  6. Harvest. Still not done. Enough about that.
  7. But my Christmas shopping is pretty well done. So #6 better happen before the bills from #7 come in. Just kidding. See #3.
  8. After a few  years on our state’s Farm Bureau board, I stepped down as Promotion and Education State Chair. And promptly replaced it with two more committees with different organizations. I need therapy.
  9. Our high school football team took its first-ever state championship title. I’m so glad I was there to witness it with my boys!!!
  10. It’s now almost December. How the heck did that happen?

That’s it for tonight. I’ll be back at it later this week. 😀

Butterflies that bite

The symbol for thyroid problems is a butterfly…I’m guessing mostly because the thyroid is shaped like a butterfly, and not because it’s a beautiful and mystical creature that transforms from a caterpillar into a flying wonder. But maybe I’m wrong.

Anyway, I digress – I’ll blame my lack of a thyroid.

What was I talking about? Oh yeah, I was going to give a quick update.

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After my vocal chord was injected…a day I’d love to forget. But so grateful for the advances that allows little things like this to be easily “fixed.”

I had my thyroid removed a little over a month ago. The surgery was a success and I found out that I was lucky enough to have cancer on not one, but BOTH sides of my thyroid. Oh, and my vocal chord was paralyzed during the whole ordeal, which led to seven days of sounding like a chipmunk on helium. Did you know that shouting all the time, just to make enough noise to sound like a whisper, is exhausting? It is.

When the pathology report came back, the surgeon was surprised to learn that he did not remove multiple lymph nodes during the surgery. In fact, he managed to only catch one. That one was a clear lymph node, but not exactly a statistical slam-dunk when it comes to declaring lymph nodes cancer-free.

At my one week follow-up, the doctor felt that there was no predicting when my voice may return – if ever – and so he scheduled a surgery the next day to artificially prop up my vocal chord so that I could talk. It was supposed to be an “easy” 15-minute procedure.

But life never goes as expected, does it?

Things went a little haywire. I ended up with a chipped tooth and some sort of air pocket in my healing incision. Which led to me feeling as if I couldn’t breathe – or a condition they call stridor – where I sounded like a woman taking her last breath. It was scary. And it led to an unexpected stay in the hospital.

And now I’m waiting for another procedure. This time, after much discussion and thought, my endocrinologist recommends that we continue treatment with radioactive iodine. I can’t quite claim victory over cancer – but I’m a step closer.

My levels are wonky. My doctor is stumped. My voice comes and goes. My energy is non-existent. I’m crabby. I’m tired, but can’t sleep. My hair is falling out…again. And I’m gaining imaginary weight even though I’m eating less and exercising more.

***DISCLAIMER*** Moment of weakness and absolute honesty coming up: Please, for the love of all that is holy, do not mention to me in the next few days how I lucky I am to have the “easy” cancer.

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The scar looks pretty good for a month out? A blessing for sure.

OK…I’m better now. Back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Not the answer you’re hoping for…

It’s been a bit. I’d give some grand excuse, but the truth is…I’ve been tired. Bone-weary exhausted, to be closer to the truth. And I have a little better reason as to why, which I’ll share in a minute.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to share my thoughts and ideas on a few things, but here’s my one and only request: listen. Take a moment to truly hear what I’m trying to say, and then let me know what you think.

This community has been built up over time, and I’m grateful for each and every one of you that checks in on George, the farm, the boys, me…all of us. George is now stronger than ever. His care is on-point and he’s blossoming. EJ is bound and determined to be the best young farmer he can be – and he takes his responsibilities seriously. He reminds his Dad of all the things that need to get done…hoping to be assigned a chore or two (preferably one that involves him sitting in a tractor). Scooter has sprouted up taller than either of his parents and all of his grandparents. He has one uncle left to surpass in height. And I don’t think that will be long in coming. And Big Bro and his gentle soul will be a freshman this fall – how did that ever happen?

Life – it moves so quickly. And sometimes we forget to take a second and take it all in. We forget to enjoy the moment.

As I said earlier, I haven’t been feeling the best for a while. I joke around a lot that my thyroid isn’t a “team player.” And it’s true. It’s not. It’s been a problem for quite a few years. And now it’s causing a bit of a bigger problem – and it seems to be getting bigger rather quickly.

On July 5, I found out from a specialist that my biopsy had come back positive for thyroid cancer. Not the answer I was hoping for – but an answer, nonetheless.

After the initial shock, I met with the doctor the next day and we developed a plan – one that I’m more than excited to implement. You see, I realize that as far as cancers go, I’m pretty darn lucky. Thyroid cancer is an “easy” one. We’ll remove my thyroid, and as long as my surrounding lymph nodes come back clear and the pathology doesn’t show anything alarming, I’m pretty much home free. A few years of scans and appointments, but no further treatment needed at this point.

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I’ll be part of a thyroid-cancer research study. I’m excited for doctor’s to learn more about cases like mine…and maybe, just maybe, there’ll be more answers that we hope for in the future.

It could have been so much worse.

But it’s still the c-word. Cancer. Me. What???

I don’t have time for an illness, no matter how small. I’m busy. We had the county fair. I have things I need to do. I have games I want to watch. I have pool-dates to make up.

I have a chance to realize just how quickly it all can change.

And it’s all because it wasn’t the answer I was hoping for…but it was an answer that I could live with…and that’s the most important answer of all.

Finding Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving was never a holiday that my family celebrated all that much. The timing was usually off, coming at the end of deer season, and we would have other things to do – like cutting up deer, butchering pigs, mixing, stuffing and smoking sausage – whatever was needed to be done in preparation for winter. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not that we didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving, we would always stop for a meal – it just wasn’t necessarily a holiday that brought together all of the family from the four corners of the Earth. Just those of us lucky enough to still be home.

So I have to admit that I’m a little distracted by the hubbub that’s being caused by the Thanksgiving holiday and Black Friday hours. Now, don’t get me wrong…I understand the importance of time with family. And I know how important it can be to have a reason to get together. But let’s take a little closer look at it.

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Thanksgiving isn’t just for one day…it’s for every day.

I’m now going to read to you every scripture that talks about God’s commandment for Thanksgiving:

 

 

That’s right…not once in the Bible does God say anything specifically about Thanksgiving, and yet our society is up in arms about the unfairness of businesses being open on that day in particular.

And yet…Exodus 20:8-11. 8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

Oh, and then there’s Deuteronomy 5:12-14. 12 “Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you. 13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 14 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your male and female servants may rest, as you do.”

So why is it that we are so willing to stand up for a holiday that celebrates an event that should be done every single day – and yet we are so willing to go against what God has specifically commanded us to do?

Now, don’t get me wrong – as a farmer’s daughter, a farmer’s wife, and a mother of four, I completely understand that life throws you curve balls on occasion. Animals need to be fed, people need to eat, crops need to be brought in, and sometimes the only day in which the weather cooperates is Sunday. Truthfully, the only reason I mention it at all is because we need to be aware of the convictions that we have and the reasons that we have them.

Perhaps, instead of criticizing those that make decisions that are different then our own, we should focus on what Thursday is supposed to be all about. Let THAT be our message to share with the world – instead of commercializing the holiday even more.

First of all, why is it that we need one day out of the year to get our families together and give thanks for the gifts we’ve been blessed with? Is this not something we should be doing at a minimum of at least once a day? If not almost every minute of the day? I don’t believe that there is a single person in this church that doesn’t tell God how grateful we are on a regular basis.

We see these gifts every where we look – we just have to be willing to open our eyes. Like we read in Hebrews 12:28, “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe…”

I haven’t always been a thankful person. I didn’t grow up in the most prestigious manner. I didn’t have a church family that I felt I belonged to, and my upbringing was unconventional at best. Some may call it the school of hard knocks, I just call it a lesson in reality. You win some, you lose some – and most importantly, only you can decide what your future may bring.

But my outlook and heart had a pretty drastic change following the events that began in the spring of 2009. For those that may not know me that well, that was the year in which our youngest son, Eli, was born.

None of my pregnancies were easy – and I will openly admit that Eli was no different. I had problems with my kidney, as well as undergoing emergency surgery in my fourth month of pregnancy to have my gallbladder removed. I was grateful that there was a planned end in sight, with a c-section scheduled the day after my own birthday. Eli came into the world at 9 pounds, 10 ounces.

As with all of my boys, it was love at first sight. And even though I never once questioned my love for him – I did question his health. For weeks, and then months, I kept having a nagging suspicion that something wasn’t quite right. He developed jaundice late, and it hung on for weeks. He wasn’t gaining weight. I always joked that he looked like the saggy-baggy elephant.

Finally, I took him in to see the on-call doctor – and the events that unfolded from that moment on became a roller coaster for the next 18 months. I shudder to think what may have happened if my family hadn’t pushed for answers. If Eli would have been the oldest instead of the youngest. Would I have been so willing to keep pushing? Would I have listened to my instincts?

But the fact is, none of that matters. And after Eli was diagnosed with his condition, and I saw him finally starting to grow, and develop, and become the child you see before you, I realized that the path we took to get here may not have been the easiest, but I’m grateful for the experience.

You see, we can’t always change the events that happen around us. The diagnoses we receive. The actions of others. The hours that a business sets. But we can change our response to it. We can change our attitude. And with that, we can change the world.

Thursday is Thanksgiving. But true thanksgiving doesn’t happen every year at the end of November. It’s not marred by a business trying to improve their bottom line. It’s not determined by whether or not a family is sitting down for a meal together.

Thanksgiving happens in our hearts – every day. It’s in the gratefulness we feel towards doctors and the advances we’ve been blessed with in science. It’s in the wonder we feel when we watch our families gather. It’s in the strength of a person who faces adversity with tenacity and determination. It’s in the eyes of a 6-year-old who defies the odds that science has set.

Thanksgiving doesn’t happen once a year. And it doesn’t take place at Walmart at 6 p.m. on November 26.

And for that – I am thankful.

What keeps me away?

Yikes…a little more than two months. I’ve missed you all. Really and truly. And I know you have a ton of questions, so ask away, and I promise I’ll answer them…all of them.

But before you start rambling them off, let me give you a quick run down of what’s been going on, so you can get a brief picture of what’s been happening, and what’s been keeping me busy…here’s my top 10 list:

  1. I finished my paralegal education. Finished. Done. Complete. That’s right, 18 months of education, finished with honors. My advice? Do it when younger. Yes, I was more focused, but my energy levels were lacking. And staying up until 3 finishing projects is not for someone on this side of 35.
  2. I was bit by a spider…or some sort of bug…at the end of November, which led to an infection and a whole mess of doctor’s appointments. And medicines. And not feeling so hot. Yep, I was a hot mess.
    The "tattooed" marker line showed the doctor if my infection spread at all. They should have used Z-tag marker.

    The “tattooed” marker line showed the doctor if my infection spread at all. They should have used Z-tag marker.

    The doc sliced an "X" in the wound to get it to drain...and although I have a scar still, I'm grateful for how well it healed now.

    The doc sliced an “X” in the wound to get it to drain…and although I have a scar still, I’m grateful for how well it healed now.

  3. My oldest son tackled his first set of semester tests as a seventh-grade student. And neither one of us required therapy. I’m making no comments about the number of glasses of wine I may have consumed.
  4. We all own a calendar and realize there were approximately three holidays in there, right?
  5. Since I was already seeing the doctor so often, I decided to do something drastic about this extra weight I’ve been carrying. It’s a work in progress, but it’s been a pretty successful one so far. I consider that a win. (And see #4 for the difficulty factor in this.)
  6. Science fair finished last night. I don’t think I need to explain any more.

    Big brother tested the staining effects of different non-dairy "milk" on egg shells. Lesson learned? Brush your teeth.

    Big brother tested the staining effects of different non-dairy “milk” on egg shells. Lesson learned? Brush your teeth.

  7. We lost a very close neighbor and had a close friend have two children involved in a tragic bus/train accident. One child did not survive. It’s hard enough understanding these events as an adult – trying to work through them with a pre-teen takes skills that I did not possess as a mother. But I have some amazing friends that can pull some amazing resources from out of thin air. And provide support for me as well. I owe them more than I could ever repay.
  8. Meetings. Winter is meeting season. And it’s not slowing down through February. But I’m going to do a better job of writing and scheduling.
  9. I took a time-out to spend some needed time with my kiddos. We spent Christmas break doing a whole lot of nothing – and it was the best schedule ever.
  10. Leaning in. I’ve been working on leaning in. Leaning in to my church. Leaning in to my boys’ schedules. Leaning in to my health. Leaning in to my hobbies. Everything has its season and time. And the last few weeks have been my time to reconnect – to real life.

But I must admit, I miss blogging. And I have no intentions of staying away. It’s a great tool, and one that I use as much for my benefit as anyone else’s.

So here’s to a great 2015. One more engaged.