Life of Joy

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Friday, December 26, 2008

OK, So What's in a # Anyway?

It's the funniest thing. 17 months ago I could not have even told you what a CA 125 test was. Now, it seems this little number has the power to some months make me feel like I'm walking on air, and other months not-so-much. My latest test at 19 is the highest I've had in over a year. I have to wait four weeks to do another monthly test and at the point a decision will be made as to whether there is an upward trend. I have to keep reminding myself that I just had a clear CT scan, I feel fine, and in the bigger scheme this is not a huge change. Still.... the mind has the ability to take over and become obsessive at times. I have to remind myself that I am not going to let this number take over me or my mind. This past month I've had a skin cancer body scan, a mammogram, and a meeting with my gynocologist/oncologist. Everything was good, so what's with this pesky number. I guess I'll have to wait until next month to find out. In the mean time I plan to devote some time to my art work, scrapbooking, organizing photos etc. ---the most therapeutic activities known to me. Onward.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Doing It All

1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland/world
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial

71. Eaten Caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person

80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee

The following were added by Janet:

Worn two different colored shoes (did this w/socks not shoes)
Worn your shirt inside out
Called someone by the wrong name
Driven the wrong way on a one-way street
Driven on a “buses only” street
Thought about stealing a cat
Actually stolen a cat
Assisted with a hemorrhoidectomy
Got lost going someplace you’ve been before
Eaten frosting straight from the plastic tub
Dropped your driver’s license into the toilet

OK this list was fun to do. The items in bold are things I have done. I re-ceived the list from Cheri. Though scrapbooking is my favorite way to spend my leisure time, I am glad that some of the memories of the above activities are captured in my mind and that there isn't a picture around somewhere to horrify me or my children. Now, the things that I have not done, this gives me pause, and there certainly some things on this list that I would like to do.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

November Musings

This past Saturday was Adoption Saturday at the Polk County Courthouse. 37 children were welded to their permanent families. I sat in on a couple of my worker's adoptions, a fifteen year old boy, a seventeen year old girl. To say that I was moved by the leap of faith displayed by both the families and the children would be a gross understatement. How do you learn to trust when time after time the people who were supposed to be there for you were not? Also, no one from DHS was on the agenda for speaking so I was asked on Friday if I could say a few words. I did, the words came fairly easily because they came from my heart. I am so blessed to work in the midst of the dedicated souls who make up the Adoption Unit and am awed constantly by the amazing children and families I have met during the course of my job duties. Thank you---you truly inspire me.

This is a little, tiny, small thing but I really enjoyed filling up my gas tank on my Sienna Van the other day and getting half a tank for around $16. Can you believe it? I think the price per gallon was $1.72. Amazing, I really do think there is something pretty crazy about a system where a barrel of oil can vacillate from $140 to $60 within 6 months. But I drove away with a smile. Hmmmmm.......the open road beckons.....

Here is a layout I completed recently. My friend, Colleen and several other friends from DHS went to the Obama rally held here in Des Moines just a few days before the election. Simon Estes sang the Star Bangled Banner. Does life get any better?

My heart goes out to my dear friend, Dot, who lost her mother this week. I was so honored to have had the opportunity to meet Mary Virginia, the family matriarch, last Fall. I wish peace to the family as they weep, remember, share, and celebrate the life of their mother.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Lifetime Movies

The Lifetime Channel is showing movies of women with cancer this week end. One of my favorite movies was just on........"Why I Wore Lipstick to My Mastectomy". It's based on a true story and I loved this movie even before I found out I had cancer. Sarah Chalke does an excellent job portraying the roller coaster of emotions that are all part of the diagnosis, coming to terms with the diagnosis, going through surgery, recovery and the post operative treatment. For her wearing red lipstick to surgery was a form of courage, a statement that cancer was not going to vanquish her spirit. I also love the line about "I am the sky, nothing, not even cancer can stick to me". The movie gives me hope, brings a smile to my face, and I am reminded that cancer has given me new opportunities to reflect on what really matters to me. With the help of a friend, I found this movie on Ebay last year---now I can watch it whenever I need to rekindle my hope.

Thursday, October 9, 2008


I guess I've been tagged and I'm not sure I completely understand the process, but I think it requires that I post again after almost a 1 month absence.

I devoted my September blog to recognizing and thanking those people whose support and love were definitely a healing agent for me in the past year. The problem is I have many more people that I would like to acknowledge so I guess I will devote November's blog to this same purpose. In the meantime I'll try to comply with the rules of the "tag".

1. My first job after I graduated from Iowa State University was being the "Key Lady" for the entire University. Literally, I handed out and had in my possession at work and key for every lock on campus.

2. I have run a marathon-the Drake Marathon. It was a goal I set for myself while going through a divorce. I thought it would keep me from drinking heavily. It did. I was too danged tired after all the training runs. After completing the run, I did immediately think, "This is good, I finished, now I never have to do this again." I actually did quite well finishing in 3 hours 54 minutes, I was the 13th woman out of 26 women. The top 10 women received medals, so I didn't quite get that but still achieved my goal.

3. John and I started on our journey as parents later in our lives than most people, but I am so glad that this is a part of our journey. Even though I now never have money, John and I don't take exotic vacations anymore, I still wouldn't trade this for much, much more money.

4. I love soccer. I never played it or watched it before my kids started playing it. Both played on Menace Select teams for several years and I LOVED every minute of it. The traveling to tournaments, the hanging out with the other parents, the smell of the grass on a nice spring day, the athleticism required to play the game. I really enjoy watching the game of soccer, whether it's my kids or a game on TV, and was overjoyed when the women won a gold medal at the recent Olympics. I hope to catch some MLS games live in my retirement years.

5. I have worked for the Iowa Department of Human Services for 25 years. How did this happen? I was a somewhat young person when I started. Now, look at me!! Although DHS is often under attack for things we either did or didn't do, I am proud to work for this agency. I would not have been able to stay, were it for the exceptional people that I work with. At this point I supervise the Adoption Unit for the Des Moines Service Area and am passionate about achieving better outcomes for our youth.

6. I LOVE Colleen Reinhardt and miss her so much. She had the nerve to be born before me, meaning that she was able to retire this past June and no longer sits next door to me. Colleen has that rare infectious laugh, that sometimes evolves into a snort, but nevertheless brings a smile to everyone around her hearing the melody of her laughter. We were always able to find humor in almost everything which is a good thing if you work at DHS. I'm not meaning to make light of the mission of DHS, but I am saying that working at such a job does require that you NOT lose your sense of humor or your ability to carry on will be diminished.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

My Bros

To Mark and Norin, my favorite and most dear brothers.

Mark---Thank God, I figured out years ago that I was never going to come out on top if I was in a competition with you. That gave me permission to quit trying and to find other things I could do well. I still remember the only time I ever won the Ransom County Spelling Championship when we lived in Lisbon, was after you had moved on to Junior High and couldn't compete against me! Since Erik left Drake I miss your Fall visits to IA. I know that it has to consume a lot of your time and energy keeping up with all the young adults you and Jana have between the two of you. We have had many fun family times together over the years. I hope that we can keep finding ways to get together at least once a year and include as many kids in that gathering as possible. I have really enjoyed getting to know your kids as young adults----they are interesting, intelligent, socially conscious people who are a pleasure to be around.

Norin----First of all, I'm glad that you and Robin and the dogs survived Ike. It was very reassuring to talk to you this morning and to hear it from you that you really are OK. Norin, you were the first little kid that I ever really liked and enjoyed. I would get as excited when you learned to do something new as Mom did. I loved teaching you the words to identify flora and fauna when I took you to the park to swing. I'm sure you were a quick learner, but I was pretty positive I was a good teacher back then, too! So the next time you identify and tree or weed in the wild, think of me! Thank you for checking up on me this past year, all of the family support was really vital when trying to stay positive and hopeful. You have been a great little bro and it's hard to believe my little bro is now 50 like the rest of us. I enjoyed our time together in ND this summer, even though it was sad about Uncle Don's passing.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


Pam, you are the best sister I could ask for. We certainly have a long history together, but I'm looking forward to creating many more memories. Here is another digital LO I did for my Jessica Sprague class. The picture on the left is you when we did the Hiawatha bike trail and I was celebrating the one year anniversary of my surgery. I was so grateful for your visit a year ago. It really helped me keep my mind from dwelling on worst case scenarios. I really enjoyed your company. I know it might not have seemed that way to you since I could not make it through a movie without falling asleep, but something about having you here gave me a lot of courage, courage to face the installation of my port, courage to face my first chemo, and courage to face my future. Somehow having you nearby reassured me that everything was going to be OK. So thank you for that gift of you. You will never know how much it meant to me. Now this summer was a far cry from last summer. Visiting the Bison Range, Riding the Hiawatha Trail, Rafting the Bitterroot, shooting pictures wherever we went, it was wonderful sister time and I enjoyed it immensely. I am looking for many more adventures and don't forget our Norwegian cruise. You are going to have your money saved before me, I fear!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Men in My Life

Karrah and John

John and Derek are the #1 men in my life. I'll start with John who is my husband, my partner, my co-conspirator in home projects (YIKES), my co-parent. Life is so different now from our dating days when we basically were always on the look out for the next concert to attend, camping on the Caribbean beaches south of Cancun, spending lazy Sunday mornings reading the paper in the park. I'm guessing that Married With Children had something to do with that.

You have been such a support during the past year, my dear John. Especially last summer and early fall when I was off work following surgery. You were my chef, my butler, my chauffer---anything I wanted or thought I wanted you found a way of trying to make it happen. Pam felt so sorry for you after the first chemo when you fixed everything that I thought I wanted to eat, but I was sick from the smells and had to go lay down. I'm sure I didn't say thank you enough for all of your effort. Then there were all the trips to see the Doctor this past year, every 3 weeks, the trips to the Infusion Room, taking me back to the hospital for my Neulasta shot after chemo. I really appreciate all that you did and that you are still doing.

We certainly had a good time attending some really great concerts prior to having children and are now enjoying attending concerts with our children. I enjoyed the Green Day concert so much even though my companions were 5 twelve year old boys! You and Karrah experienced Bob Dylan together in the past year. Our family saw The Who together in 2006. We had intentions of having a family trip to Chicago to see Eric Clapton and his group of guitar heroes at Slowhand, but my cancer and surgery interfered with my attendance.

I really love your playful, fun loving side. When you are in the mood, you can be quite the life of the party. I hope you can find that side of yourself just as often in our AARP years, as you did in our relative youth 25 years ago. I'm looking forward to many more adventures with you as we launch the kids somewhere in the next few years. I think we're too old to sleep on beaches and the party has to be over by 10 (bedtime) but other than that I think we can kick up our heels! Love you honey.


Derek, you are an amazing young man. I cannot believe how you tower over me all of a sudden. We haven't measured you lately, but I think you are probably about 6' 3" and I'm not sure you have attained your full stature.

Derek, you have a great disposition most of the time. You can be so considerate and helpful.
You are a very capable student, but I know that you would rather be motivated by money than grades. ; ) It is hard to believe that you will be taking driver's ed before this year is out. And, by next spring you'll be driving on your own.

Follow your conscience, listen to your heart, and always be willing to help when someone needs an extra hand. Believe in yourself, your ablity to do a good job and your ability to achieve your goals. I know that sounds a little like blah blah blah to a fifteen year old, but I sincerely mean it . I love you. Oh, and don't forget to wash behind your ears. (Mom's are always supposed to say that)

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Mom and Dad

Next I will pay tribute to my Mom and Dad. I know you may have not always understood me while I was growing up and I certainly did not always understand you, but now being on the other side of the equation, so to speak, I have a lot of sympathy for what I put you through. I count myself as being so lucky to first of all, have you two for my parents. But secondly, that I have got to spend all this time with you. Your good health has been a blessing for me because I can't imagine a life without you. I also appreciate that you have always been there for me, and never questioned my judgement, at least not as an adult! I see so many kids in my job that have never known or felt that kind of love and support. It is not hard to understand the devastating impact that they carry with them for their entire lives. I have learned that you never quit needing your parents. They are the rock that never gives way, they are the force that holds you up when you are too tired to hold yourself up, they are the people who always, always, always believe in your goodness and will do anything in their power to help you. I try to be that kind of Mom because that's what I grew up experiencing. God bless both of you and I hope that we have many more wonderful years together. Here is a scrapbook layout I just completed from our family time together over the 4th of July.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


I completed another digital layout this morning, so thought I would tie it in with my message to my daughter. You can never know the joy that you brought into my life one cold December day almost 18 years ago. Your imagination and creativity, your way with words, your sense of humor has always amazed me. I know that my picture taking is very vexing at times, but I certainly appreciate your humoring me from time to time. You are so beautiful right now with your bloom barely unfurled. May you always trust yourself, you have great inner instinct. May you always believe in yourself even when the barriers seem incredible. And, may you always know what joy and laughter you bring to those around, how loveable you are, and how grateful your parents are that you are you.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Where Has the Summer Gone?

It seems like I ask this question around this time every year. How is it that it "suddenly" becomes September? The kids are back in school, fall is almost here, meaning certainly that summer is almost gone. I'm not really sure why I'm always surprised by September, summer is not shorter than any of the other seasons, yet it never seems quite long enough for all the projects, trips, gardening, photographing that I want to do.

In September I plan to devote my blog to paying homage to those special people in my life who give my life meaning, who gave me the strength to fight my cancer, who inspire me to keep looking forward to each new day.

I'm taking a digital scrapbook class from Jessica Sprague. I completed the first assignment this morning. I used a picture of Linda Beal Tyler from Pelican Lake this past summer. At first I tried to use a group shot but I couldn't get it cropped to the 4x4 format I needed for the layout, so I ended up using this one. We (friends from high school) have been getting together each summer since our 30th Reunion in 1999. We had planned to gather in Ames this summer, but we made some changes when Linda was enduring some work distress. We did the same last year when I had my operation for OvCa a few days before our planned August get together. Our reunions are times of great joy for me. I feel so blessed to have such wonderful women in my life. This picture of Behi on one of our "magical" pontoon rides with Chuck at the helm more or less says it all. Not a worry in the world. Peace, camaraderie, caught up in the beauty of the moment----it was all ours. I will relive that moment everytime I look at this LO. Thank you Jane and Chuck for sharing this special part of your world with us. Thank you Patrick and Linda for making the drive. Thank you, Dot, for being there and being my roommate, if not my bed mate!!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Reflecting on the Past Year and Now

First off, as I re-read my second post on my blog about getting "the call" I realize how upset I sounded with the Dr.'s office who would not respond to my many phone calls as to what my first tests actually showed. When I finally had my appointment with Dr. Kahn on that following Tuesday, she shared with me that a mass had indeed been seen and it could be ovarian cancer. Given my age and being postmenopausal, it was planned that my ovaries would be removed regardless of the cancer staging so the next order of business was to find a Dr. get a surgery date. Dr. Kahn apologized for my unreturned phone calls and basically gave me some instructions for how to get through directly to her, especially as I go through these next few weeks. She also stated that she never gives this kind of news to her patients over the phone. As hard as it was for me to wait through the week end, I respect her policy and have laid to rest my upset feelings over trying to get someone to talk to me.

Secondly, I am now 1 year, 2 days past the anniversary of my operation which removed my ovaries, fallopian tubes, omemtum, lynphnodes, cervix, and maybe a few other things I don't remember (what else is there?). My cancer marker blood tests have stayed very low for about 9 months and 6 months since chemo ended. I thought I was so looking forward to putting this cancer chapter behind me and allowing my life to get back to normal. Although I very much enjoy any experience that feels "normal" to me, I am starting to come to terms with "normal" having a little different slant since my diagnosis last summer. I believe firmly that I need to embrace all the good days that I have, that I need to count my blessings, friends, family, ability to work and contribute to a better world. At the same time, to say that I do not worry about a recurrence ever, would not be honest. Thankfully, I did some reading in "Coping with Cancer" last evening and it really did help me be more honest about accepting my feelings and at times, my fears, while still trying to be focused in a positive way. I found a quote that I will use for my mantra "Optimism is a form of courage." I choose to be optimistic about my future, but I am not blind to the possibilities. When anxiety gets the better of me, I hope to use yoga and meditation to get myself more centered.

Well, I said that this blog was going to be about the small things in life that give me pleasure, and this entry does not sound like I am going in that direction. There were some thoughts that I felt needed articulating and now I have done that. Cancer does not define me, but living with its aftermath, is my life and there is no denying that. That said, Life is Good, and I look forward to many more years of adventures!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


I had to take some pictures of some of the prettiest lilies I have ever grown. It probably does not sound very humble of me to say that I think they are extraordinary. Then again, I've had an extra ordinary year so maybe it really all fits. All I know is that the colors in my flowers seem brighter, I'm actually enjoying the dirge of watering for 45 minutes each day; I'm reminded that it is a tremendous blessing that I am healthy and able to do this. As I approach the one year anniversary of my operation, this becomes even more poignant to me. Can't you almost smell that lily "perfume"? Love that scent.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Going Forward

Wow! What a year. Last year on July 9 I learned that I had a mass on my ovaries that could well be cancer. Shortly thereafter I had surgery and the diagnosis of OvCa was confirmed. My life became consumed with treating my cancer. Now, as I gain some distance on my last chemo, my life feels what I remember about my life before cancer. I do have to say, that there were quite a number of positives that I gained from my ordeal. I truly learned how blessed I am. I never would have imagined all the support, prayers, well wishes that would have been bestowed on my by many, many people in my world. I really did feel like I was wrapped in a cocoon of love and I will be forever grateful for every gift that came my way during this time. Going through chemo also made me really appreciate the good days, when everything was OK and the food tasted great. I will forever be grateful to all of the love and support that my friends, family, co-workers etc. gave me during this time.

From the start I decided that I was not going to waste any of the time when I'm feeling good by feeling bad about what might happen or being overcome with worry. Fortunately I have a very demanding job and there is little time to think of me while I'm working and I think that is a good thing and definitely helped me get through the chemo with very few days off.

I'm now returning to focus on the little things in my life that give me pleasure. As I type this I envision my beautiful, gorgeous lilies some of which have blooms 8 inches across. I'll be sharing these blooms with the world on my blog in the near future.

I leave for Montana this Saturday and won't be returning for a week. I'm combining some work with a visit with my sister. We are going to take a bike ride on the Hiawatha Trail. I am trying to document 58 things that I want to complete before my 58th birthday. This bike ride will have to be on the list. On a recent trip to my dear friend Jane's MN lake cabin, I tried tubing and jet skiing. I don't think I would be the poster child for NO FEAR but I did these things nevertheless.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Where Have I Been?

Actually, my inspiration for this post came from a very kind soul "Splat" who responded to my post about getting "The Call". I have now reviewed her entire Blog, "What Me, Worry" and just feel that this person must be my soul sister. So much of our experience has been so similar, our attitudes toward fighting the demon that has invaded us, even the "What Me, Worry" blog title. How could she know how Alfred E. Neuman and the great satirists and writers of MAD magazine, SNL, the Daily Show have profoundly affected my life in a more positive way than perhaps some of the best writers of ages. They made me laugh, laugh at me, at life and the ironies that are there everytime you turn around.

First off, Nat, I offer you the most heartfelt prayer that your current treatment (YAY no side effects!!) will shrink your mass and have you dancing in the streets this Spring/Summer. Although Des Moines Break the Silence walk does not happen until May 9th, I will be thinking of you this week end as you go on yours. Please think of me and my team---Team "Get her done!!!" on the 9th.

I especially love SPRING this year, like no other year. I have always loved spring since I have a May birthday and it meant presents and parties when I was a small fry, but this year everything seemed to be in technicolor----unbelieveably beautiful. I think it was partially due to the HORRIDLY long winter that Iowa endured this year, but also due to the gloom that recurrent chemotherapy sprinkled throughout my life. Last week when I was driving by the Waveland Golf Course, I was overwhelmed with a feeling of PROFOUND JOY that I was alive and could experience this day----the golf course was a color of green that we don't usually find in nature's palette. Like in the Wizard of Oz when the movie goes from Black and White to Technicolor, I thought I was there, in the World of Oz, magically lucky to be alive.

I have Oriental Poppies to plant, glasses of wine to be drunk, gastronomic feasts to be savored, photographs to be taken, soccer games to watch and Life to be Enjoyed. God Bless All, and may each day be a special day for all of you.