Monday, December 31, 2007

Goodbye 2007!

As I look back over 2007, there is much to thank God for. I have been able to accomplish much and He has been revealing Himself to me in a whole new way this past year.

The common question now is “What’s your New Year’s Resolution?” I don’t have one. I’ve made them in the past but here’s my thought on it all. Why do we need the changing of a calendar year to commit to doing things better? Better health. Better body. Better finances. Better relationships. These and many more tend to be the topic of such New Year’s Resolutions.

I do like to look back over the past year and plan for the upcoming one. My goal (not resolution) is to become healthier overall. I want to make better choices when it comes to eating. I’d like to be more active overall -- not just because I've set a goal of completing a marathon as I did in 2007 - but on a daily basis. It doesn't even necessarily have to be "exercise". My family could highly benefit if I just choose to be active with cleaning my house!. There is always room for improvement when it comes to my choices with relationships. And I have yet to conquer the finances, so it shouldn’t take too much to see improvement in this area either.

My biggest desire for better health, however, is my spiritual health. I want to “Be still and know God”. My thoughts run rampant. I find it very difficult to quiet my mind as well as my heart. Still, it must be possible. I’ve experienced it before. God longs to speak to me and I need to take time to listen. With all that goes on in this life, I think investing more time in my relationship with the God of the Universe is likely the best step towards a healthier me.

Here's to a healthy 2008!

Dad Update 12-31-07

I just received an update from Mom. They have found swollen lymph nodes through the CT scan and will execute the same form of treatment he had most recently. The IV drip of chemotherapy should start today and he'll likely be in the hospital for at least seven days. If I recall correctly, the IV drip will happen for four consecutive weeks each Monday.

Doctors did find something on Dad's liver. Please pray that it is simply a cyst or something that is of little or no concern. Mom said she is not going to express too much concern about the liver unless the doctors do.

Dad is quite discouraged that he must undergo the chemotherapy once again. He responded well to this chemotherapy last time and we just pray that side effects are not as extreme as the ones that took him to the emergency room in the past.

How great is our God. He allowed our family to cherish a Christmas celebration together and the doctors are still pressing forward with treating my Dad. There is still much hope. There always is hope with our God.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Dad's back in the Hospital - Great is our God

The splendor of the King, Clothed in majesty
Let all the earth rejoice, Let all the earth rejoice
He wraps himself in light, And darkness tries to hide
And trembles at his voice, And trembles at his voice

How great is our God, sing with me
How great is our God, all will sing
How great, How great is our God

Age to age he stands, And time is in His Hands
Beginning and the End, Beginning and the End
The Godhead, Three in one, Father, Spirit, Son
The Lion and the Lamb, The Lion and the Lamb

How great is our God, sing with me
How great is our God, all will sing
How great, How great is our God

You're the Name above all names, You are Worthy of all praise
My heart will sing how great is our God

How great is our God, Sing with me
How great is our God, all will sing
How great, How great Is our God

How great is our God, Sing with me
How great is our God, and will sing
How great, How great is our God

This is one of the songs that was sung in church this morning. I could not hold back the tears. This song has brought me to tears in the past but this morning I found myself asking why? I think the answer is a question. Do I believe these words we sing?

Dad went back into the hospital this morning. His white blood cell count jumped from 13 to 40. We knew it was on the rise and that wasn't a good sign but we were still hoping and praying. Doctors have told him that he has pnemonia. They have yet to come in and discuss the cancer and what the plan of action is, however.

To say this is discouraging is a bit understated. Dad was so hopeful and confident that he would make it to the stem cell procedure this time around. This is where the questioning comes in. Through all of this can I confidently sing, "How great is our God, sing with me"?

My heart is heavy. This is the first Christmas without my Grandpa Tuttle (Dad's dad). It would have been nice to have Dad at the family Christmas party today. Yesterday, he was able to celebrate with us at Grimaldi Christmas (my mom's side). I find myself asking, "What would one more day have done?" Still, I can't wonder. I can't question. I must be thankful that he was able to celebrate yesterday and not question today.

I was talking with my Dad's sisters and his mom today. My Aunt Val reminded me of a saying. I don't remember it in it's entirety. However, I do remember the important line. "Faith looks up." Without keeping my eyes on God, it's impossible to continue to hope.

As I struggle in my heart and ask God, "Why?", I need to remember that He is still in control. Eternity is still what matters and He can still heal Dad. He has healed the lame, the lepers, the blind and even raised the dead. Certainly, he can heal Dad from cancer. And confidently, I know He will heal my Dad. Whether Dad lives or dies, he will be healed. I will choose to look up and keep my eyes on Christ. He is the only way to get through this.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Dad Update 12-26-07

Dad will go to the hospital tomorrow for a scheduled CT scan and blood tests. The hope is that he will be able to have a stem cell transplant in the new year.

There is concern that his white blood count is quickly increasing. He has been having night sweats and a fever as well as some shortness of breath. Our prayer is that he is just battling some type of infection although the fear is that the cancer may be attacking again.

Dad and Mom went to "the farm" today. They took my Dad's mom with. It was good for my Dad because "the farm" does his heart good. He even bundled up and walked around a bit. I desire so much to be able to spend time again this spring, summer and fall with him and the rest of my family at "the farm". He even gave each of us a lantern and air matress for camping there.

All we can do is continue to pray and wait on the Lord.

A Common Christmas

Christmas and the days surrounding it can often be a blur. My prayer was to intentionally cherish the time shared with our loved ones this year. Rather than think ahead to the what ifs of the future, I wanted to embrace the moment.

Heading over to my parents for breakfast Christmas Eve morning, my emotions were unsettled. I didn't know what to expect as we walked in the front door. Concern attempted to consume me as Mom had just informed me that Dad has been having night sweats and running a fever once again. Praying for an infection rather than the feared alternative, I wanted to be prepared for anything.

It was just a common Christmas celebration. To be honest, it seemed a little strange. Shouldn't our celebration this year have been different? Maybe we could have sat around listening to stories and sharing memories of past years. Possibly home videos would have made this year special. With all that has happened in the past year, I had expectations of a sentimental Christmas.

Other than the interruption from Dad's home nurse, we had a rather ordinary celebration on Christmas Eve Day. The breakfast feast was overabundant as always. The kids still begged to open presents. Dad donned the big red suit filled with stuffing and passed out candy canes. Mrs. Claus was by his side once again and helped to calm the uncertainties of the little ones. There were board games and card games. Christmas music and movies. The kids played with no care in the world.

Before we knew it, we were out the door for the annual Christmas Eve celebration with Dad Carlson's cousins and their families. The atmosphere was festive as always. This is one moment we thank God for our minivan as the kids walk away with mountains of gifts. This family is more than generous! (Jaycie had a breakdown the next day demanding more presents -- she kind of got into the spirit of greed.)

The girls woke up to find presents from "Santa" under the tree on Christmas morning. We were off to Rod's parents' house in time for lunch where the girls found plenty more gifts to be unwrapped. Good conversation was ample and the girls were well behaved at all the parties. We ate numerous meals with cookies and pies. There was even time for Scrabble and Spoons.

And it was over. Just like that. No big revelations. No extraordinary memories. Just an ordinary Christmas. Common celebrations like every other year. I cherish them because next year holds no promises. We must cherish every moment we are blessed to have together. I'm grateful for the blessing this year to have a common Christmas to cherish.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Dad Update 12-22-07

I haven't given an update on Dad recently because not much as changed since my last post on December 12th. We do hold to the saying that "no news is good news" with this situation. Still, I thought I would post an update for those of you who are curious as to his condition with Christmas a few days away.

Dad's blood has been holding. The numbers are not rising but they are not dropping either, which is good. Today, his Christmas gift from the home nurses is an extra bag of blood and platelets. He doesn't necessarily need blood right now but they think it would be nice for him to have an extra boost going into Christmas. So, once again, thank you to those of you who donate the gift of blood. It truly is a Christmas gift for my dad this year.

Dad has been eating. He weighed himself the other day and he is up to almost 170 lbs. He was hoping to be at 165 by the time he heads into the stem cell transplant so now he has set his goal higher. He doesn't have to be concerned at all about what he eats this holiday season! (He'll likely lose it all again with the stem cell transplant.) As I left their house yesterday a line quoted by Mrs. Claus in Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer seemed appropriate -- "Eat, Papa, Eat! Nobody likes a skinny Santa. Eat! Eat!" Dad's hope is to play the part of this jolly old soul for the grandkids again if he's feeling up to it.

Mom was able to enjoy some time taking Traci's kids shopping as she has done in years past. She was also able to attend Nikelle's school Christmas program. And yesterday, she was able to spend a little time with Laney during Maty's school Christmas party. In my opinion, she has been in desperate need of a little normality during this time. Her grandkids are her the best way to bring joy into her life!

It is such a comfort to my heart to anticipate celebrating Christmas as a complete family. This is the best gift this year. Thank you for praying for my parents -- and my entire family. My heart swells as I count all the numerous people out there lifting up requests to God on our behalf. Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Be Still and Know

I'm feeling as if life is making it impossible to focus on the true meaning of Christmas. The "to do" list never seems to fade and there is always some sort of responsibility getting in the way of quieting my heart and remembering what this season is all about.

Last night on the radio Mary Did You Know was playing. This song does something to my heart that no other song can really do. If you need a reminder of the reason for this season, take a look at this video. I hope it can quiet your heart a bit as it did mine.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Stay away from the egg nog!

Every year we have a Christmas tradition that just kind of happened. Jaycie reminded me of it the other night while we were running errands.

“Grandma got run over by a reindeer…” was playing in the car as we drove to the grocery store. Jaycie knew it was a familiar tune from watching home videos. “Gaga. Papa,” was all she said to identify the song. Sweet, I thought. Not because she thinks of my mom when she hears the lyrics to this song. Rather, because every year when “Santa” comes to see the grandkids, we sing and dance to this tune that has become so very familiar in our family.

We have footage of my dad dancing with the kids. (It happened to be a year he opted out of playing the part of Kris Kringle.) We didn’t dance much growing up but we make up for it on Christmas Eve Day!

Funny, I never thought a song that speaks of "[Grandpa] drinking beer and playing cards with cousin Mel" could bring me such a mixture of emotions! So, what unusual traditions does your family practice?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A little Education

Nikelle's new dream for her future is to be a teacher. She told me she wants to attend school every day because she loves it so much. Her favorite person to "teach" is her little sister, Jaycie. The other morning as I was giving the girls a bath, Nikelle was in this mode of playing the educator.

It's routine to lather them up with lotion after bath time due to dry skin conditions. This particular morning, Jaycie was mesmerized by a mole that Nikelle has directly above her sternum. I was busy with the lotion and almost missed the life lesson Nikelle was giving her little sister.

"You'll get one of these when you turn 5-years-old, Jay Jay." I didn't want to burst her bubble as she was so proudly instructing her little sister. Still, I felt that I should to clarify. "Not everybody gets a mole in the middle of their chest when they turn 5-years-old, Nik."

I couldn't help but crack a smile. Nikelle just assumed that because there are certain changes that happen to our bodies as we get older, that this was one of them. I can only hope that's the only type of education she'll give her sister on the facts of life!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Christmas Time is Here

Last week I was quite excited as I got ready for church. I was able to fit comfortably into a pair of jeans I hadn't worn in quite some time! This gave me some good self-esteem as I headed into the week.

This Sunday, let's just say those jeans weren't quite as encouraging! That's what happens when I choose not to deny myself anything! I have eaten mindlessly and intentionally -- eating just because I wanted to. The results: I've been rewarded with an unhealthy, unhappy weight-gain this week (and I'm not talking just a 0.2 pound gain either).

My goal is to be mindful about what I put into my mouth this week. I need to intentionally deny myself different foods and be choosey about the calories I allow myself. I know better but Christmastime is one time I like to celebrate! (This is the mindset that gets me into trouble.)

Too bad I can't celebrate daily with others as well as daily by myself and still fit into my clothes!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Best Christmas Gift

The other night at the cookie exchange, I was reminded of how I really don’t appreciate my husband like I should. I’d like to blame it on 11 years of marriage – too much time passing by. However, the reminder came from Janet Swank whose married years have well surpassed my own.

The question was “What is the best Christmas gift you have ever received?” I’ve been asked this question a lot lately in different e-mail surveys and such. Still, I couldn’t really come up with that “special” gift. That is, until Janet mentioned hers. “Well, I was engaged on Christmas Day,” Janet started. My hand went to my head. How could I possibly forget what a special gift Rod gave me on that Christmas night in 1995? As Janet spoke, I was recounting my own memory and beating myself up for not being more of a romantic.

As I was talking to Rod about it, he assured me that all was well. As a matter of fact, he confessed to not really thinking about that moment anymore either. The justification I’m now giving is that the gift wasn’t actually under the tree or at a party. As a matter of fact, because it wasn’t given to me at a special moment like that, I had decided I wasn’t receiving a ring that day. (Despite the fact that I had accidentally come across the ring in the glove compartment of Rod’s car while looking for a tissue – oops! And despite the fact that we had already received premature congratulations from one of his relatives earlier in the day.)

We were on our way home from all of our Christmas celebrations and I had given up. I allowed myself to go to sleep. (It’s one of my favorite reasons to be a passenger rather than the driver.) When Rod woke me up, we were outside of The Plush Horse Ice Cream Parlor in Palos Park, Illinois. At this point, I knew what was going on because this is where Rod decided our relationship could become more than just friends.

We got out of the car, walked over to the bench where Rod had previously asked me to date him and he got down on one knee. I took the glove off my left hand, but he was adamantly attempting to take my right hand. He told me he had thought of all kinds of wonderful words to say to me at that moment but couldn’t come up with them right then. Would I marry him?

Has it seriously been 12 years since that moment? Why is it life can suck the memories from us? Why is it that after two kids, romance is not all it was cracked up to be in the earlier years? Where did my appreciation for my husband go over time? Honestly, Rod did give me the very best Christmas present that Christmas years ago. I realize with every passing year just how very blessed I am to share my life with Rod.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Hot Chocolate

It’s refreshing to the soul to get together with others who share the same purpose in life. Maria Beck hosted a MOPS cookie exchange last night. On one hand, I was hesitant to attend, as it would mean another night filled on my calendar. Still, Maria Beck is a woman of God whom I admire and an event hosted by her can be counted on to be worthwhile.

Last night, Maria lived up to my expectations and some. She really planned the night well. There was a purpose and she even sent us each home with a reminder of the purpose – a mug with hot chocolate. The reminder is to keep our eyes open for little reminders that God loves us. Maria did that last night simply by opening her home.

As I looked around at the room, I realized that almost every woman there was someone whom I have an extended relationship with outside of MOPS during some season of life. It was a good feeling to be reminded that so many care. Our seasons of life as well as the friends that go with them may change, but God’s love for us is constant. Friends are a reminder of His love for us.

Is your life too full to appreciate the gift of others God places in our lives? Is your schedule too jam-packed to stop and notice others in need of a reminder that God loves them? Are you running around crazy busy unable to stop and appreciate another human being God has placed in your life?

My perspective has changed this year. I’m learning to appreciate every moment I’m given with those I love. None of us are guaranteed tomorrow. Thanks, Maria, for the great reminder that if we just open our eyes we can experience God’s love… even in something as small as a cup of hot chocolate!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Breathe (Another Dad Update)

I was just reading in the Book of Amos this morning how God altered what was intended to happen in the future because of his pleading. So, why is it that we pray and pray and pray yet when something good happens that is really in direction correlation to our prayer, we hold our breath? At least that seems to be the situation with me here today.

Dad met with his doctor today. To the touch, there are no lumps to be found on his body! Dad is more hopeful than he has ever been since the start of this war with cancer. The word is that they will perform a bone marrow test at the end of the month. If there are no signs of the cancer, he will begin the stem cell procedure in the beginning of January. I don't know whether to cheer or cry or breathe. We've prayed and hoped and continue to thank God. All seems to be going exactly as hoped for.

We will get to celebrate Christmas like we do every year -- on Christmas Eve with my both my parents, siblings, nieces and nephews. I will no longer have to tell Nikelle that we don't know what will happen every time she talks about celebrating Christmas at Grams' and Papa's. We'll be together for Christmas!

God is so good! He deserves and needs the credit here. Thank you for praying with me and please continue to pray that no obstacles will come as we wait. Pray that Dad can remain out of the hospital, infection free, and that the bone marrow test will be clear. There is still such a long and hard fight ahead of him. But today, I'm extremely grateful that this Christmas is one we can celebrate together!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Comfortable in my own skin

If you’ve never been to a Weight Watchers meeting, let me tell you, the first experience can be a little unsettling. You sit in a meeting room filled with people who celebrate a 0.2-pound weight loss. That’s right. If a person loses any kind of weight, even if it isn’t a full pound, we clap (and tell each other we’re burning calories at the same time). There are times I feel a little bit like standing up and saying, “Hi. My name is Tristi. I’m a food addict.” Even still, I’ve been attending meetings since 2003 and Weight Watchers has been highly effective in helping me maintain my weight loss.

The leader at last week’s meeting spoke about something that has stuck with me this week. She asked how many of us liked to eat when we were bored. So, I raised my hand. I like to eat for any reason possible. If boredom is an excuse, so be it. Then she followed up her question with another question. How many of you are the same people who say you don’t have enough time in the day to get things done? I could tell she was going somewhere with this and wasn’t so certain I wanted to hear what she had to say.

On numerous occasions this week, instead of eating, I chose to accomplish something. My Christmas cards are in the mail. Tomorrow morning, the plan is that Nikelle and I will begin baking cookies. I have a much cleaner, organized home than I have had in months. In general, I feel much better about myself as I go to weigh in this week.

I may not be at that magic number yet. (I’ve been yo-yoing for 2 years now.) That doesn’t matter. What matters is that I make healthy choices. What matters is that I am comfortable in my own skin.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Dad Update 12-10-07 and The Reindeer Run

When I called my parents' house this morning, Dad answered the phone. He was able to tell me he was feeling decent this morning and spoke with hope about the future. That was good for my heart to hear.

He went to the hospital today for another IV push of chemotherapy as well as lab work. They decided he needed another platelet transfusion but all else seems to be as it should. He will meet with his doctor on Wednesday and we look forward to hearing what the next step will be.

Dad's appetite is still strong. He is a skinny man these days so it's always encouraging to hear that he is eating. He has also been working to fight dehydration on a daily basis as well.

I completed the Reindeer Run on Sunday with appropriate weather for the month of December. Dad's words were in my head the entire run as though he were running right beside me. Reality is that Dad physically running a race is too far into the future to ponder. However, the race he is running every day is inspiration for my life.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Dad Update 12-8-07

Dad was released to go home last night. I talked with my mom this morning and she said he fed the fires during the night (they heat their home with wood burning stoves) when he'd get up to use the bathroom. She said that he requested steak and potatoes for breakfast so he's definitely working on getting better. It always feels good to share a positive report.

Dad will go in Monday for another IV push of chemotherapy as well as some lab work. On Wednesday he will meet with his doctor and have more labs done. Looks like we are headed in the right direction once again.

As far as the internal bleeding is concerned, the two tests they performed revealed no signs. They could do one more for the upper intestines but seem to have decided that the blood and platelet transfusions corrected the situation.

Thank you for your continued prayers!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Change of Plans

I had an appointment scheduled to give blood last night but had to cancel. I started to feel a scratchy throat and the start of a cold. As soon as I get rid of this bug, I will call and go in to donate. It's a promise I'm making to myself.

Here is Eva's final post on blood donation:

Blood Donation: The Why

Thursday, December 6, 2007

The Gift of Blood

My friend, Eva, has been a guest blogger on our Pastor's blog this week. She is encouraging us to consider donating blood.

I have had every intention of donating since completing the marathon. Thanks to Eva's prompting, I now have an appointment scheduled to donate blood.

I am overwhelmed with the realization that Dad is alive today partly because others have donated in the past. If you donate blood, here's a big thank you from me. You may very possibly have been directly responsible for my dad receiving the gift of blood and consequently, life.

If you have not given blood in the past, I am encouraging you to read Eva's posts and take the time to consider giving blood now. You can click on the following links to see her posts:

Blood Donation: Another Idea for Service

Blood Donation: Where to Give

Blood Donation: What to Expect

Blood Donation: Obstacles

Dad Update 12-6-07

When the doctors did the upper GI tract scope yesterday, they found no signs of internal bleeding. They still may consider doing a lower GI tract scope in the future. Currently, he is holding his blood. The numbers are not rising but they are no longer dropping which is good. It is possible that all the blood and platelet donations he has received are helping to fix whatever problem he was experiencing that caused the bleeding.

This morning the doctors performed the test for infection on the bronchial tubes. We do not know the results of this test yet. Dad was hoping to talk the doctors out of doing the test. They must feel it is important because he consented after discussing it with them further this morning.

Dad is feeling better. This is good news. My brother, Uncle, and Grandma were all able to talk directly to him on the phone. Any bit of positive news is something we hold on to.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Dad Update 12-5-07

The test for infection through the bronchial tubes is on hold. Doctors need to do a scope to check the digestive system for internal bleeding as Dad is not keeping the blood like he should. They should be going through the throat into the upper GI to check the digestive system this morning.

Please pray for infection to stay away and for wisdom for the doctors to determine what is going on so the problem can be fixed.

Dad ate a doughnut Sunday morning and didn't eat again until yesterday morning when he had a sausage and egg mcmuffin. He has not eaten since then as it made him feel terrible. Please pray that he will be able to start eating again, too. He cannot afford to be losing anymore weight. Understandably so, Dad is quite discouraged and feeling pretty lousy. My parents could really use all the prayer they can get right now.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Dad Update 12-4-07

Dad received three bags of blood during the day yesterday and two more last night along with a bag of platelets and a bag of something to help the platelets stick together. After the fourth bag of blood, he had enough energy to get up and walk to the bathroom.

His breathing is better. The cardio ecogram that was done came back leaving no concerns about his heart. That was good news.

The CT scan revealed spots on his lungs that bring concern about an infection. It could be nothing but doctors plan to go in to the bronchial tubes without scraping to test for an infection later today or tomorrow. (Not really certain how they are going to do this but they need to be prepared to fight an infection should one be attacking.)

It is believed that there is bleeding in his gastrointestinal tract. Rather than do anything invasive that could introduce infection, doctors have come up with a less intrusive plan of action. Dad will receive platelets around the clock until his platelet count is up to 75. (The highest my mom has heard of it with dad is something like 29.) The hope is that this will allow the bleeding to stop. (Platelets assist in the clotting of blood.)

Dad missed the scheduled IV push of chemotherapy yesterday. The team of doctors decided that he will go ahead and receive that today. Their #1 concern is fighting off the lymphoma/leukemia. They do not believe that this chemo will have a negative effect on anything currently going on with dad. The doctor said that they will go ahead with the chemotherpy schedule and just continue to "sweep aside the side effects as the come".

It seems inevitable that dad will be in the hospital for a while. Although this is not his desire, it is important he be under the watch of the doctors right now.

Thank God for the wisdom He gives to doctors. It's encouraging to hear that they are still fighting this cancer.

Goodbye "Precious"

My sister had to put their dog to sleep yesterday. "Precious" had turned 13-years-old the day before the attack. Three weeks later, she seemed to be doing well. Just this Sunday, Traci had told me they were going to quit spoiling her quite so much because of how well she was doing and the amount of time that had passed. Yesterday morning, Traci woke up to find Precious vomiting and having uncontrollable diarrhea. The veterinarian said all her organs were failing.

There is a lot of sadness in their home. The kids are trying to cope with the loss of their pet. At the same time, they're trying to keep perspective. They were able to give Precious a lot of extra love and attention that they may not have given her prior to the attack.

Precious was an older dog and was having health problems before they took her back from Mom and Dad. For a year, they were able to love her and experience the gift God gives us in animals.

Traci and Sabrina gave Precious a grave in my parents' back yard. Mom was able to direct them over the phone right next to the graves for our three dogs from childhood. Cassandra made a cross to place on the grave. You could say it's the end of an era. Precious was a pup of our childhood dogs and now they all have a spot in the backyard they enjoyed running around in so much.

Question Answered

We know what real love is because Jesus gave up His life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. – 1 John 3:16

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. – John 15:13

I previously shared that I was asked the question, “When you say the words ‘I love you’, what do you mean?” After pondering this question for some time, I gave my definition of to the inquirer.

Love is sacrifice. “I love you,” says you mean more to me than myself. God is love. Therefore, when I say, “I love you,” I am telling you that God’s love flows through me for you. I want what is best for you. When you hurt, I hurt. I want to experience life with you.

I think the key to this conversation with my inquirer is found in 1 John 3:18.

Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.

We must back up our words with our actions. If not, our words become cheap. It is so easy to throw around the words “I love you”. The important thing is that there be sincerity in our words (Romans 12:9).

I have learned to say these three little words more often to the people I cherish. I trust that my actions support my words.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Dad Update 12-3-07

Dad is still in the same condition: weak and unable to catch his breath. However, he is able to rest. The doctors are growing cultures to see if there is any infection. Those will take a couple of days to get results. Today, dad's hemoglobin counts are low. There is concern that he may have internal bleeding. Tests will be done to determine if there is anything internal they cannot see. He had a platelett transfusion yesterday and will receive blood today. His vitals are all normal and the prayer is that doctors will be able to determine what is wrong so they can get him fighting through this again. Mom told me to read Psalm 4 last night before going to bed. Instead, I'm reading it this morning.

Answer me when I call to you, O my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; be merciful to me and hear my prayer. How long, O men, will you turn my glory into shame? How long will you love delusions and seek false gods? Know that the Lord has set apart the godly for Himself; the Lord will hear when I call to Him. In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent. Offer right sacrifices and trust in the Lord. Many are asking, "Who can show us any good?" Let the light of your face shine upon us, O Lord. You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound. I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety. -- Psalm 4

Sunday, December 2, 2007


Dad called last week and asked if there was a time that all of my siblings could get together with him to talk. We scheduled that time for this morning. A couple of days ago Mom called and informed me that Dad was really hoping for some specific doughnuts that he’s only been able to find here in Joliet. This morning, I picked them up to take along for our time together. Mom had put a turkey in the oven at Dad’s previous request as he never was able to enjoy a Thanksgiving dinner.

Dad has been having a difficult time catching his breath lately. He also has been having some issues with his stomach and/or intestines, which has been creating some problems. Despite all of this, he was still wanting his family to come over today for some conversation.

I walked in the door with Nikelle. (Jaycie needed to spend the day at Rod’s parents because she came down with a bad cough and I didn’t want to risk exposing Dad to those germs. Rod received a call from work as we were walking out of our door this morning and had to take care of some technical problems before he could join us.) Dad was sitting on the couch trying to catch his breath from walking up a flight of stairs. My brother, sister-in-law and nephew were upstairs already. Shortly after I pulled in the driveway, my other brother, my sister and their families arrived as well.

Dad decided to challenge himself to conquer another flight of stairs to sit in the dining room rather than remain in the family room. He did it but could not catch his breath after that point. He informed us that he could hear what we were saying although he wasn’t able to respond much. We did have a little bit of conversation where he could answer me here and there. He also managed to eat a doughnut or two before the commotion began.

Knowing he needed to use the bathroom before the home nurse arrived, he was accompanied by my mom and oldest brother down the stairs. When he reached the bathroom (after two flights of stairs), he practically passed out. This is where he succumbed to the fact that he couldn’t get himself feeling better today. My brothers brought down a dining room chair so they could carry him back up to the sofa.

Dad was cold and clammy. He was sweating profusely and was really looking like a cancer patient at that moment. The sight of my Dad wrapped up in blankets on the sofa; skinny and frail was not an easy picture to accept. My sister-in-law, Fiona, took his pulse. It was strong. Mom took his temperature, which was quite a bit below normal. After a telephone conversation with the home nurse, mom prepared the suitcase for the hospital.

The nurse walked in and immediately called the doctor. They recommended calling 911 and getting Dad to the nearest emergency room. There was so much frenzy as we tried to convince the nurse that Dad needed to go to Loyola and we would drive him. We all did what we thought needed to be done in order to help. Dad just couldn’t do it. We conceded and the ambulance was on its way.

Dad kept saying over and over again, “I’m going to die.” We all surrounded him and assured him we loved him. He told us, “You need to let me go.” We assured him that he was free to go if that was what God allowed. Dad could not calm himself down. He just kept crying and saying, “I’m sorry.” Mom looked at us and said, “And can it be.” My sister and I joined her in singing the old hymn. At the chorus, the paramedics came in.

I recognized one of the paramedics as the husband of Nikelle’s Cubbies leader from AWANA last year. I went outside to talk to him and informed him of the comfort I found in seeing him there.

The younger kids all went into Grams and Papa’s room to watch the ambulance through the window. I went upstairs to hug my older nieces as my heart broke to see them watching this. The paramedics placed Dad on the stretcher, gave him some oxygen and began transporting him to the nearest hospital. My brother, Will, followed in his vehicle as mom rode along with Dad. The rest of us felt the need to continue on with the day and take care of things we thought needed to be done.

A few hours later, Rod and I went to pick up Jaycie from his parents’ house. Thankfully, my mother-in-law offered to keep the girls overnight. I accepted the offer with relief.

Rod and I stopped at Silver Cross Hospital to visit Dad in the emergency room on our way home. He looks like a cancer patient. I believe we still face what we’ve faced these past 9+ months. We’re back to one of the more difficult moments on this roller coaster ride.

He’s being transported to Loyola now. That brings comfort because they know him there and they are experts in treating cancer. Hopefully, they will be able to give him something to make him comfortable and find out what is causing all these problems. He was going to have to visit as an outpatient tomorrow anyway. My prayer is that God will allow him to go home again soon.

Dad told me at the hospital that he just wants to live or die. He hates this in between junk. I think it’s the fighting that’s so difficult. Whether it’s through living or dying, I know God is our source of peace and rest. It’s in moments like these that we have to remember that.

“Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him.” – Psalm 62:5

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Christmas Tradition

One special tradition my dad put into practice took place every Saturday between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Growing up, we didn’t go out to eat much. We weren’t a small family by any means and Dad worked two jobs and came home late every night. However, our birthdays and this time of year were an exception.

As a family, we looked forward to Saturdays during the holidays. Dad set these moments aside as a special treat for his kids. He would take us out to dinner and we would walk around different area malls to look at Christmas decorations.

Dad wasn’t sure if I remembered this tradition when I talked with him the other night. I assured him that it was a memory I was already planning to share on my blog.

I remember specifically that we would eat at the green McDonald’s when we would visit Lincoln Mall. Dad would let us order whatever we wanted off the menu. He probably knew there was only so much our stomachs could hold. Still, we would each order at least two sandwiches! My poor mom would walk to the counter with her “list” in hand while we sat at the table until she called us to help carry the food. It always took her a while to get back with the order, as she had to continually tell the workers that they had forgotten something. I’m pretty certain the McDonald’s staff were always thrilled to see our family leave.

I remember eating at Chi Chi’s when we would head to Fox Valley Mall. There was one instance while we were enjoying the decorations at the mall that I recall vividly. In general, we didn’t purchase anything at the mall. We were simply there to take pleasure in the lights and trees and such. This particular Christmas, however, mom decided to purchase porcelain dolls for my sister and I while dad kept us entertained elsewhere. If you know me well, it’s very difficult to surprise me due to the fact that I pride myself in such discoveries. Despite her efforts to have the gifts double bagged, I could still see what she purchased and announced, “You got me the doll I wanted!” Boy did that announcement change the mood for the evening. You’d think I would learn from experiences like these to just keep my big mouth shut!

Dad reminded me that we would eat at Shakey’s Buffet when we would enjoy the decorations at Orland Square Mall. I do remember this being one of our favorite restaurants although I wasn’t 100% certain that it was part of the Christmas tradition.

Duff’s was the restaurant to visit at Jefferson Square Mall. This was a unique buffet where you would stand in an area and the food would move before you in a circle. You had to grab it fast! If my memory serves me correctly, dad also took us to see a movie one Christmas season at this mall as well.

I assured Dad that he did Christmas right in my eyes. He informed me that it’s because his dad kept Christmas special for him. I certainly intend to keep Christmas memorable for my children as well.