Thankful for Community and a New Set of Lungs

My first memory of Dan Gerdes is seeing him receive a breathing treatment at my friend Tia’s house when we were in elementary school.  At the time, I didn’t know anything about the machine that rattled his rib cage to clear the mucus from his lungs from Cystic Fibrosis.  I remember wondering why and being impressed with how all of this didn’t seem to bother him.

Fast forward to today, and one of the things that draws my radar more than anything is gratitude, so when I recently saw the thanks pouring out from the now 27-year-old Dan online and the love pouring out from the small-town, Johnson community where I grew up, I wanted to learn more about the source of all this gratitude.

“For me it’s always been this way,” Dan told me in a phone call earlier this week when I recalled my early memory of the treatment machine.  “I’ve never known life without it.  I was diagnosed at three months old, so I’ve always had to have treatments.  My mom would even have to pat my back when I was a baby to help with my lungs.  But for most of my younger life, I was really healthy.  I ran around and played sports.  I didn’t have trouble until the end of high school when I had to quit playing sports.  Then through college my health started to deteriorate really rapidly.  It was hard to breathe.  They put me on oxygen.  One day the doctor recommended me to get evaluated for a lung transplant just in case my health would deteriorate.”

On August 4th Dan was put on the transplant list, and just a few short days later on August 9th he received a 54 second phone call that would change his life.

“I had been selling chickens and ducks for eggs for a farmer’s market.  I was stepping in my car to make an egg delivery when I got a call from the Med Center.  I didn’t think it was anything special, but it was my transplant coordinator, and she was like, ‘Do you want a new pair of lungs?’  And I was like, ‘Yeah I’ll take them.’  I actually delivered those eggs on the way and then went up to Omaha.  I guess I made a promise, and I had to.”

Dan got the call at 11:43 that morning, and after making his promised delivery, he was through preparations and in the operating room by 9 p.m.

Today he is breathing easier as he recovers from his double lung transplant.  While the road following the surgery hasn’t been easy, he is on the way to feeling much better.

“I didn’t realize what I was missing until I had it.  The disease progressed so gradually.  The cliché is to slowly boil a frog in a pot of hot water.  That’s kind of how the disease progressed.  It was hard to realize step by step how I was progressing until I got new lungs.  It was just so much better,” he said. 

Even twenty years ago Dan would not have had this chance as transplant science has developed rapidly.  Danny is thankful for the medicine and people who have brought this opportunity and brightened his outlook.

“This disease is pretty frustrating.  When I was younger, I just wanted to be normal; I wanted to hide it.  As I got older, it was frustrating that I didn’t get to progress.  Kids my age are having families and kids, and they’re progressing in their careers.  And I am just kind of stuck because my health wasn’t good enough to do all that.  But now I guess I’ve learned how to be calm about challenges and push through them.”

When asked what he wants people to know about him and CF, Dan is quick to answer. 

“More than anything I would just really push people to be organ donors.  You can really change somebody’s life.  Even my body, even though it has CF-- I’m still an organ donor.  There are still some of my organs that could save somebody’s life.” 

Dan’s willingness to not only be a recipient, but also a donor of his organs is evidence that he is experiencing a deep sense of gratitude.

“My gratitude list obviously includes my donor, and also my family and community.  The community has been so supportive.  It’s made it really easy to keep fighting to get healthy again,” he said.

In addition to the well wishes he has already received, Dan needs financial help.  It turns out that lung transplants aren't cheap.  Danny’s cousin Tia and her mom Annette are organizing a fundraiser event this weekend.  Dan has teamed with the Children’s Organ Transplant Association (COTA), a 501c3 charity, so 100% of funds raised are used for transplant-related expenses.  Dan’s goal is to raise $50,000  

Tia's experience in organizing the event has filled her with gratitude as well.

“Dan has overcome so much in his young life, much more than the typical person.  Living with a disease like Cystic Fibrosis—the respiratory therapy, the digestive enzymes, special diet, etc.—would be enough to overwhelm anyone.  Let alone living with a disease that has no cure. . . I had no idea the outreach of love, prayers, and support we (as a family) have received.  SO many have shown their concern for Dan and want to help him in so many different ways,” she said. 

The shredded pork and silent auction fundraiser is from 5-7 p.m. this Saturday, October 8 at the Johnson-Brock school cafeteria on 310 Main Street in Johnson, Nebraska.  After the silent auction ends at 6:30, an auction for a gun and quilt will be held.  The nearly 50 items for raffle can be viewed on the event’s Facebook page, Fundraiser for Dan Gerdes.  If you are unable to attend and would like to contribute, you can mail a donation or access the online donation page at www.COTAforTeamDanG.com. 

THANK YOU for reading.  If you could use some more gratitude and grace in your life, join other gratitude gals (and guys) in receiving 3-4 posts per month using the box below.  Thanks! - Evi


Why Your Gratitude List isn't Working

“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought;
and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”  -G.K. Chesterton

I gathered the shirt arm holes up like a panty-hose leg one at a time, left arm then right.  My two-year-old's blonde tuft of hair popped through the shirt's red circular neck hole.  He looked down at his chest and then up at me, his face gleaming.  The Spider Man on his new hand-me-down pajamas had him buzzing, electric.

Like a dart, he spun away from me and shot fake spider webs, "Pew, pew, pew, pew," he said with each wrist thrust.

My four-year-old daughter and I couldn't quit grinning; this was cute stuff.

"Mama," she said elbowing me, "I want Supergirl pajamas."

Turning away from our little spider web shooter, we went to the one place guaranteed to help us hold onto this joy and give us lasting peace and happiness, Amazon.com.

We scrolled through pink and red, white and blue options, each one cuter than the next, but we were stumped again and again with sizes too small for my growing girl.

"How about this," I said placing the phone down on the colorful bed quilt, "I'll check tomorrow at Target and see if they have your size."

"Okay," she said looking disappointed but hopeful.

The next day I found myself in the Target girl's section, turning hangers like pages of a book.

My Little Pony. . . No.  Dora the Explorer. . . No.  After the pajama rack came up empty, my eye caught the corner of a shiny-silver "S" in the shirt section.  Its soft gray arms were covered with stars, the perfect Supergirl shirt for C, just right.

As I checked out, the cashier in red said, "Find everything?"

"Yes," I said, with growing excitement for the trip home.

After parking my car in our garage at home, I removed the tags and curled-up the shirt into an off-white roll-up, thinking unfurling would only add to the surprise.

I found C on my bed, playing a game.  After quietly setting the surprise beside her, she looked up at me with can't-wait eyes, and set her game aside.  Holding her gift up, her shoulders instantly slumped down, her bottom lip darted out, and her soft whimper snowballed into an all-out hyena cry with aching moans between.

"I WANTED PAJAMAS!" she roared after gasping breaths and angry stares, "WHERE ARE THE PANTS?"

I sat there.  Split in two as my thoughts scolded me, "What were you thinking?" and then scolded her, "How can she be so ungrateful?"

But sometimes our thoughts are dual and wrong from both ends, and the third way is the only way as the only thing left to do is do nothing.  So I rubbed her back, kissed her head, and headed out of the room to wait out the storm.

My husband's eyes raised as I walked into the living room, our daughter's cries blaring in the background.  He headed in to talk to her.  

Minutes later, she trudged out of the room ahead of him and begrudgingly spit out the words with her eyes glued to the floor, "Thank you, mama."

And in that moment I am and am not grateful.  Sometimes we bring our offering, our best efforts to the world, and the results aren't results as much as they are a mess.  I heard a speaker say recently that if we lean hard into our deep-seated beliefs, they often give way.  And while that has been true for many things, others don't shift no matter how hard I lean and kick and punch into them.

One of these is gratitude.

But the problem is that sometimes it doesn't "work" right away.  It's a slow burn, one that rewards "a long obedience in the same direction" (in the words of Eugene Person).  The reason why our gratitude doesn't always work is that sometimes it is working upstream.  It is taking its time working on us, training us to see things that weren't there before.  Sometimes we're too busy seeing how what we've got today isn't pajamas, so we're blinded to the shirt that's actually pretty cool right in front of us.

On the evening of the Supergirl shirt crying-pocalypse, I announced the time for teeth brushing to my two kiddos, and my daughter asked with clear eyes, "Can I wear that new shirt tonight?"

I gathered the arms holes up like a leg of pantyhose, pushing her arms through one at a time, left than right.  Her blonde tuft of hair emerged through the gray circular collar, and she looked up at me together in love, electric.

After a quick glimpse in the mirror, fingering the plastic-y silver "S" corner, she brushed past me, threw her left arm into the air with her right elbow bent and raised.  She flew into the living room, exclaiming the whole way, "Dun da da DA. . . Super girl!"

It doesn't make sense how our pains can turn inside out, if we're patient.  If we try gratitude and then try again, it comes around reminding us that we aren't in control, in the best way.  It reminds us that all things contain everything somehow.  An entire tree lives inside a little, plain, brown seed.  What if instead of crying at it's small, sure lack of potential, we watered it, waiting in thanks, hoping to see what might grow?  We might find ourselves sitting in the shade, soaring like a superhero waiting with anticipation to unfurl what's next.

Today's Thanks:
Fall chill in the air, a turn to something new
Morning coffee on the deck with friends
New brightly-colored Sticky notes
Pork chops grilled to salty perfection by my amazing bearded hubby
Carol Dwek's empowering growth-mindset word, "yet"
Parenthood on Netflix, #allthefeels
Your turn. . . 

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Use the box below to join the growing group of gratitude gals (and guys) in receiving 3-4 posts per month to help us all gain purpose and perspective through gratitude and grace.


Walking Courageous

My mom remembers sitting in the bathtub, her big pregnant belly encircled by the warm water.  She felt me kicking and kicking and then not.  She knew something was wrong with me, her baby.  She prayed, “Lord, don’t let it be her brain.

So, when I was born, my appearance was actually a relief.  My little left baby leg was curled up over my right shoulder, the kneecap on the back of my leg with my little left foot pointing in the wrong direction.

The small-town Nebraska doctor whisked me away, leaving my mother alone.  I didn’t realize until after having my own two kids, how awful this must have been for her. 

But in that space she prayed, “Thank you God it wasn’t her brain.”

After receiving phone directions from a big city Omaha physician, my doctor grabbed my small and loose-jointed baby leg at the hip and ankle and twisted.  My little baby kneecap danced around and things shifted into place, so my leg now looked like a normal-foot-is-on-the-front-of-the-leg thing.

The new problem was that it wouldn’t bend. 

The doctors planned to splint my leg throughout my first months of life.  At each early child visit, they would bend my little knee a bit more and re-splint, and re-splint to the tune of my cries and (I can only imagine) my mother’s wincing. 

This splinting must have been awful and painful, and if I could have talked, I would have told them to stop.  But now I can walk. 

Sometimes I wonder if metaphorical splinting has been going on in cycles throughout my life.  Peace and joy come again and again, but always after a bout of the tough stuff opening up a space.

Recently, I read a post on social media from a friend:
Today I was overwhelmed by the stress of money, lack of time, and post Labor Day blues. For some reason, I had a sudden burst of energy after work and was able to meet up with the Pastors from our sister churches (who are visiting from Honduras and Tanzania this week). As I was quickly venting to Pastor Robson Mmanga about my current stressors, he pulled me aside and said, "Oh dear one...if you let those small things stand in your way and get to your heart, you will miss out on why you are here in this life." There, in the parking lot of Runza, I was reminded that we can't let these small issues overpower us. So... if you have something holding you back this week, I pass on this advice. Let's spend more time looking for 'these' moments and less time worrying about things that are out of our control.

And with that reminder, I can write my thanks.  Today I can catch myself seeing what is always here.  Tomorrow, well, we'll see.  For me, the walk of life is as Augustine said, a series of consolations and desolations.  An ebb and flow of swimming in the goodness, looking around and finding thanks everywhere, and then scrapping to see it in a gray world echoing like a tin can.

Some days gratitude isn't simple, it's courageous white-knuckling your hope.  

If that's you today.  Don’t be in charge of it all.  Somehow get under or over or around it, give yourself a get out of jail free card and say, "I don't really have to think about that today," take the next little tiny step that you are capable of.  

The fact that you are here is enough.  We're here together, and that's enough.  It’s always been enough.  Because you are more than enough.  Tomorrow or the next day the gratitude list will write itself again, if only for a moment.  Dare to be courageous when the splinting comes, and in between the wincing, when you want to yell at it all to just stop--Be splinted.  Breathe it all in.  And say thanks if nothing else, for the breathing.

I'll recognize you, fellow daring one by your eyes, tired and wiser, still mining thanks in your own beautiful rebellion.  Walking in the middle of your own splinting, daring even to run.

Today's Thanks:
A comedian with friends, giggling together
Chicken Tikka Marsala, yummy
A silly coffee mug each morning this week, Precious Moments then Spongebob
Teaching the meaning of "woke" to a friend
Book club real-ness with my girls
Another fresh start
Your turn. . . 


Be You

A middle school girl shouts to me in the busy, white-tiled hallway, "Hey, who are you?"

"Well," I say, stopping to turn on my left foot while the stream of students flows by us.  "I'm Evi Wusk--you say Evi like Chevy--Er, I'm Doctor Wusk.  Who are you?"

After telling me her own name, she gets to the point, "Why do you walk like that?"

"Well," I say, pretending not to be a little thrown.  "It's actually a cool story.  When I was born, my left knee was sort of on backward, so it bent funny."

"Like this?" she says, bending her arm in a contorted Z, scrunching up her face.

"Yes," I laugh. "The doctors said I wouldn't be able to walk.  So it's cool that I can walk like this, I guess."

"Cool," she says. "High five!" she says, offering up her hand.  "I didn't mean to be mean."

"You're fine," I say, as she skips away, back into the flowing sea of students.

I turn and grin, knowing that the younger me would burn on the inside after these conversations, which happened a lot more often.  Today I'm fine with it, glad to have had a real interaction, glad to have met this spark-plug person.

I've been at my new job since August 18th.  It's time for writing again.  The transition has been needed, as I've wanted to do this one differently.  I did a count for a book proposal I'm writing and realized that I've had six jobs in the ten years I've been working--just five more than my life-long farmer father.

A part of me finds this embarrassing, wishing I had more longevity on my resume, but the realer part knows it's been a journey of trying to listen to call, trying to be what's me.  In retrospect it seems that a few of these call stories have been more of a wrong number type of situation. . . but even as I write that, I know that each of those turns, each of those spaces, has led me here.

And I'm glad we're here.

I'm thankful for my darling family, my two and four-year-old who are exhausting and awesome.  Last night I lay on the couch with my little O and felt the warmness of his head, his blonde hair growing long in a way that's rebellious and cute, and I just squished him there for a minute knowing we won't be this us for long.

Whether we're shifting professions or not, we're always changing, always learning something and waking up a different person than we were yesterday, and yet we're the same.  The last year, more than any in my life, has been one where my edges have roughed off.  The unbecoming has left me more me.

And I like this me.  She seems realer and talks slower.  I think her hair is going to be less blonde, her shoes more comfy, and her clothes a little softer.  She's more okay with being her intense self--really sad and really happy--and not often in the middle like she's spent so much time wishing she'd be.  I actually think that's a cool part about her.

Maybe I'm made like that on purpose.  Maybe it's a gift.  My new job is the part-time coordinator of high ability learning at a school where I've worked before.  It's a good school where people are organized and passionate and just kind.  I say just--but it's the rubber band that's brought me back.  I was nervous for this roundabout route; not the me anymore who was here before.  But neither is anyone.  We're all growing, all finding new things to learn, all somehow walking a different path than we had planned.

The sun comes up again and again and yet the seasons change.

I haven't posted anything here for awhile, and yet I've been writing.  This new job opens up a space for words in a way I've been ravenous for.  So I've been feasting on words, like some caged animal, just freed into the wild, and feeling more awake even though I'm getting less sleep.

Isn't this what we all want, to do something that's truly us--not the us we always show everyone, but the deep us that's a bit quieter, a bit more of everything than the middle we wish we'd be.

A beautiful writer and human from Lincoln, Deidra, tells a story of her husband as a young boy; his mother was a shopper.  She would take him along to the large department stores, lower her gaze to his level and say, "If you get lost, just stay put and wait for me.  I'll come find you."

I love this story, and love the parallel between us and God.  In Gifts of the Dark Wood, by Dr. Eric Elnes, a minister from Omaha, I read a beautiful message about call.  I've been so white-knuckling this thing all along, asking if I'm a pastor or a full time mom or a teacher--all the while terrified that I'm gonna get it wrong.  Eric, like me, wants to listen and notice, to hone in on the "gentle intuitions that arise within human consciousness," these tugs that come at my belly and my heart, the physical sensations of joy, peace, aliveness, the pattern that asks us to not jump dangerously at call, but to move with intention, incrementally, a little more here, a little daring there.  But he writes something that I hadn't heard in all my reading and searching about call.  He writes that if we misinterpret, they'll keep coming.  If we miss it, they will repeat.

Ah, the grace in that.  The warm-butter grace that slows me down and reminds me that I'm enough without beating myself on the back, without moving faster, without trying to organize myself better.  I'm addicted to this grace, surprised by it again and again.  I love that grace and pray that I might communicate and be that grace, that we all might feel less alone.  Only touch that grace, like a finger making ripples on a smooth pool, and everything changes.

I'm feeling realer, like this middle school girl I met this week.  In some ways she's a little rude, but she's just being her on the surface, and I prefer the rudeness to the pretending.  And maybe I'm gonna be a little ruder, post more before I'm ready.  Dare to open the gift of me.  I'm unwrapping the bow and worrying less about who's looking, at who gawks at the way I walk.  I say that like it's easy, but it's hard to unlearn a life of wondering what others will think.  Maybe the truth is that others aren't thinking about us all that much anyway.

To live my own junior high years with a scoliosis backtrace equipped me--gave me empathy, helped me realize the hurt so many swim in Monday, then Tuesday, and then Wednesday.  But it also left me wanting to hide, to be anyone but me.  Me, after all, wasn't a good thing to be.  Me was broken.  Me was a sinner, sinner, sinner.  Me wasn't enough.

I know now this was wrong.

And not that I am perfect, but what if our perfection is just that imperfection that we've been railing against?  What if, like Nadia Bolz Weber, an ELCA pastor recently said in a piece on her beautiful church on PBS, "the jagged edges of our humanity are what actually connect us to God and to one another"?  She's a polarizing figure, but one who makes me proud I'm a part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, a piece of the larger Lutheran Church that will celebrate the 500th anniversary of the reformation coming up in 2017.

So the plan for this this small-town Nebraska Lutheran gal--for today--is to stay put and wait for what is coming to find me.  I've spent enough time Googling jobs and chasing achievement and trying to find this magical something that will make me feel like I'm enough.  I am.  We are.  Loved and forgiven.  The end.  And also the beginning--not just enough, but we're each unique and important, here for something, here for each other, here to take in the crazy beauty and experience the terrifying and awe-inspiring polarities of life.  I'm a writer and a mother and a girl who is at her core thankful for all of this--the beautiful and the awful.  All of it together--including us--is a gift.  And for that today, as I sit with new smelly candle from Target and my cup of green jasmine tea, warming my hands and my insides, I'm filled with thanks.

Gratitude melts me like grace.  A different flavor of butter, but melty nonetheless.

This week I read a book like a love affair.  I gobbled it up, and snuck glances in the corners of my life.  I don't remember the last time I've read a book so fast.  I'm not in the habit of saying that we should do stuff--There's enough should-ing on ourselves without me adding to the din--but you should read this book.  I'm gonna read it again.

This book matters.  Her voice is real, and her story dares us all to embrace the gift that is us.  I don't know her, but I love her.  She's like me.  She's probably a little like you.  Her views on things are--like Nadia's--a little polarizing, but they're honest, maybe a little rude, but her on the surface.  I got tingly so often while reading this book.  I'm learning to trust those tingles, to listen to them.  I think they're a part of what makes me me--a good part, not one to ignore.  I'm a bookworm in the real sense of the word.  Worms take soil and churn it in a good way.  Maybe that's part of what I want to do with this me.

So if you can, read Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton.  It is intimate and searing, and it's made me think and feel below the thinking about God and identity in a way that melts like that grace butter.

So cheers to being all buttery at a new job in a new school year as the brown dry leaves fall on the green wet grass in my back yard.  Things are changing, like they do.  And I am thankful for so many things today, Gratitude Gal again, at home in my own skin.
"I hope you will go out and let stories happen to you, and that you will work them, water then with your blood and tears and your laughter till they bloom, till you yourself burst into bloom." - C.P. Estes
Today's Thanks:
 The doctors who took care of P this week
P feeling better at home
A new coworker who stopped in to say hi and chat about Boxer dogs
Tacos outside with the family last night
Chilly air and canned yellow-orange peaches on a maroon plaid cloth napkin
A giggly text string among friends, working to spend time together
Seeing someone I love feed ice to another I love, so caring, so alive and worthy of respect
Your turn. . .


We Will Find Her

The more I start to feel like I understand the Holy Spirit, the more the Holy Spirit is beyond my understanding. And yet, we are promised that if we seek the Holy Spirit, we will find Her.  Ask. Seek. Knock--and things get opened up.

Sitting alongside other little kids at short tables surrounded by cinder block walls and paper posters of Jesus, I learned many things in Sunday School.  There and in Confirmation I learned that the Holy Spirit is the third person of God: God's spirit dwelling in us, counseling us, being with us, but how has this head understanding put its feet on the ground in my life?  

I can look back and feel in certain instances that the Holy Spirit was working through me, but can I say any of them were for sure?  The Holy Spirit is the part of my faith that I feel most certain about and least certain about all at the same time.   

For me the Holy Spirit is this sense that your actions and thoughts are aligning with something deeper.  One of the times in my life when this became tangible was when I was a camp counselor.  After the whirlwind weeks, we would load campers and sleeping bags into vans and cars and trucks, and find ourselves in an open field of freedom knowing that we were once again college-aged young adults who no longer had children under our charge.  Woohoo!

Shortly after this unchaining (if you'll forgive the comparison), we would gather for prayer.  With sun-tanned ankles hiding sock-lines beneath and friend-o (friendship bracelets) circling our arms, we would stand in a circle hand in hand.  

During this time we shared prayer concerns, and one by one random people would pipe in saying, "I've got that one," or "I'll pray for that one."  This tired circle of different experiences, backgrounds, races, and college majors, would then pray for each other.  Something about it felt strong in a way I haven't experienced in regular life, like there was a deep and Holy Spirit dwelling in it.  

In that circle I realized many of the people I'd been working closely with were dealing with complicated life behind their smiles as they hiked and sang and cleaned breakfast dishes.  How had I not known?

One of my supervisors joked that being a camp counselor equips and ruins you for the rest of life.  The experience of living and working in community reminds me that the Holy Spirit works through us, through our words, through our hands helping the needs we see and praying for those we can't.  The more we try to understand the Holy Spirit, the closer we come, and yet the more we throw up our hands and just try to love the mystery.  

“Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.”  Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  (John 20:21-22, NLT)​

Today's Thanks:
Baking my Dad's Birthday Cake
Unpacking bags from the best trip
Morning cuddles with little ones 
Snow boots splashing in puddles (we don't have rain boots around here)
Your turn . . . 


Thankful for Mountains. . . and It’s not about the Bike (Guest Post by Cindi McNair)

Photo from http://www.movingmountainsformultiplemyeloma.com

I open one eye and blink towards the blue illuminated numbers showing 5:50 AM.  With a stretch, I roll over and slip one foot on the floor, gently sliding out of bed.  I dress in the dark, tip-toe past my husband, and quietly close the bedroom door behind me.  Next, I creep past the dog in his kennel, (who doesn’t miss a thing), giving me a quiet whimper-yawn as I sneak out the front door to my bike locked up on the front porch.  It feels like it must be nearly 80 degrees and the humidity seems 90% as I swing my leg over my bike and roll down the driveway to begin my ride.  Still sleepy, and with a yawn, I whisper “Thank you God” as I get myself ready to bike some hills, pump my legs and get my heart racing for 6-7 miles of bike trails.

They say it takes the benefits of regular exercise 6-8 weeks to appear, and the investment in your health will be invaluable.  I do feel stronger, and my husband even says I move like I’m stronger, as I’ve been doing this now for over 6 weeks now. Thank you God.  A lot of people would be looking at this as terrific progress in creating a healthy habit of morning exercise, but to be honest, I am counting the days until I can quit!  Walking and yoga are much more my style for sure.  

But I am in training, getting ready for my personal “Super Bowl” if you will, because in less than a month I will be hiking the Inca Trail up Machu Picchu in Peru with a team of 20 people, most of whom I’ve never met.  So I’m doing my best to get this bod in shape, as the better shape I’m in, the more I will enjoy the trek up 11,000 feet in the Andes Mts. to one of the most incredible places on earth.  The hike is quite a reach for me.  I’m not a hiker (haven’t hiked in 30 years since high school!) and I’m really not a biker.  (Not since college when I peddled around 40 hours a week as a Bike Cop…ok, Bike Patrol is the right language, for two summers.)

But this is like a victory lap I am excited to be working toward.  See I am a survivor, and this year I am celebrating a big victory.  And as I pondered a way to celebrate, or give back, and be thankful, I became aware of an opportunity to raise funds and awareness for Multiple Myeloma (a blood cancer) through a program called Moving Mountains for Myelmona (MM4MM), through Takeda Oncology. As I learned about the opportunity, it seemed surreal that I could hike one of the most celebrated places on earth to benefit others with cancer!  The team consists of multiple myeloma patients, caregivers, doctors, nurses and researchers who have come together to raise funds and awareness for research.  

Ten years ago this October I had a stem cell transplant for multiple myeloma, a blood cancer, with the life expectancy at the time of 5-7 years. I remember making the decision to take on this hike (and certainly jump out of my box) in January, being able to raise funds and awareness as I trained for the journey.  It wasn’t really about the hike or about the mountain or even about this beautiful place, but rather a way to celebrate these 10 amazing and remarkable years of LIVING.  Thank you God! Since then I’ve been climbing my own “mountain”, every day, one step after another, just keeping on, keeping on.  Working through remission, and relapse, and chemo drugs, pushing through the physical burdens to take another breath and appreciate the gift of every day's “view”.  

So as I train and climb my mountain, I have so much to be thankful for, EVERY DAY.  Having cancer allows me to live my life with intention, to not let the little things in life de-rail me (most days!) from what’s important.  My gratitude builds as I train for my climb.  And I’m counting the days to getting back to walking and yoga!  Thank you God!

(What wisdom, awesome Cindi.  Thank you.  You can contribute and/or check out my friend's story here, and find Moving Mountains for Multiple Myeloma on Facebook. #MovingMtns4MM)


Summer Notes: Coneflowers and Cattails

I opened the FaceTime Ap on my phone to see my sister, now a mother for the first time.  Her face was aglow, her shirt a soft cotton, plaid, her elbow curled around her little person.  A girl.  She turned the camera over to linger on little fingers.

Thank you, little Ellie, for joining us.   For being a light.  We've been waiting for you, loving you.  Your parents are two strong people with so much love ready.  Their farm will be a fantastic world to explore.  I don't know how to be an aunt, but I don't know how to do most of the things I do, so we'll be okay.  I'm so glad you're here.


I clicked on a video link anxious about what I might see.  I watched a man die at age 32, the age I am, and it didn't feel numb or far away.  I looked up his name, wanting to remember it.  Philando Castille.  I don't know what to do with this hurt.  But I see it.  Reading Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates with my book club has had me thinking, and this video leaves this white girl from Nebraska unsure of what to say.  My gratitude is to Diamond Reynolds, Philando's girlfriend, for helping me see at least in part, so that I might have more courage with my words.


I stood in a line of bridesmaids and turned my neck to see his face, my best guy friend.  I saw the anxiousness, the anticipation, his shoulders just a little bit higher, held up with the love that was waiting after this day filled with expectations.  As she moved through that wooden archway, so alive in her white lace, smiling that smile that looks just as gorgeous in her workout gear, sparkling all the way to the grass, his face softened, shoulders set down in a thankfulness so deep we were all in it.

You've always been top notch husband material--although a little short and well-shaven for my taste--the most obvious not-yet-father-father in the world.  That time helped you realize her when you met her.  To see you so thankful makes me thankful.  Cool how that works.

This year on New Year's eve, my husband was outside the bar with the task of lighting off fireworks when we were counting down the seconds to 2016 with knee-tapping tunes played by my favorite music choosers the world.  Instead of lamenting the fact that Ralph was outside, I stood back and saw you and your bride-to-be, living slow as the room danced around you with party blowers and silly glasses.  It sounds odd (and maybe a little creepy) to say that to watch you two kiss that night was one of my favorite moments this year, but it was and is.  As the year turned, I saw both of you shining, knowing that 2016 would hold such joy.  To be around a love like that is to be filled up.  So glad to see you two as one.  Thanks for letting me be a part of it.


We emerged from the movie, my two little ones and me.  The popcorn bucket had been too big, but we ate it all.  We headed to potty before our ride home, and the bathroom was quiet, empty after this summer matinee.  Charli asked that I notice how she could reach the sink now, how she could see her own eyes in the mirror.  

"Remember when I was three momma, and how I couldn't see, and see how I can see now."

I do. 

And she turned around grinning and grabbed my hands and started laughing for no real reason, and started jumping up and down.  And I forgot myself and jumped too, and we laughed so loud and so long, and for once I didn't stop when I started to wonder what someone else might think if they came in and saw us.  I was too busy swimming in this gift of momma love--her last summer before preschool--so thankful for time together after a year that so often felt apart.

“And now we welcome the new year,
full of things that have never been.” - Rilke

Today's Thanks:
Coneflowers and Cattails and Electric Purple Wild Flax
Huge Walnuts
Quarts of New Pickles on a Purple Dishtowel
Her first Pencil Box - Pink Princesses of Course
Cheers to 8 Years of Marriage and 33 Years of life!