2016 Run #1 – New Year’s Eve

Ok, so this run really wasn’t in 2016, it was Dec 31, 2015…but I’m still going to count it as my first run of 2016.  A nice little run in Lansing on a beautiful day.  Ok, that isn’t really accurate either.  Truth? The route was a little mismarked so it was more than a 5K in the end.  And, it was a cold, icy day.  In fact, it is the first time I have participated in a road race where there were stretches that I could actually feel my feet slipping from under me as the road was a solid sheet of ice.

Despite all that, it really WAS a nice little run.  Best of all because I got to participate in it with my oldest son Isaac.  In fact, that is who I ran this race in honor of.  Why in honor of him?  Because at not even 15 he has had to have a better understanding of the impacts of cancer on a family than most adults.  At 11 he found out his Papa had pancreatic cancer, and began to learn about treatments and diagnostics and prognosis and all the other crap knowledge that cancer brings.  He also learned how to be gentle, and giving, and just…there for his grandma and Papa.  At 12 he found out his mom had breast cancer.  And he learned even more about the terminology – understanding staging (as Papa was stage 4 while mom was stage 1B), various treatments, and having to grow up even faster than he should.

I’m actually glad at 15 he irritates me like any 15 year old should, with his sometimes smart mouth and his messy room and the way he purposefully needles his younger brothers.  I worried that his youth was put behind him in the days of my treatments.  But it seems not.

IMG_0089

I’m honored he will even participate in runs with me.  He’s got talent, I’ve just got stubborn will.  I don’t know if he has any idea how proud I am of him – both the young man he is now, and the young man he is becoming.  I admire his faith, especially with all he has experienced.  And I absolutely love those moments when I feel like I’m having a discussion with my double – for he certainly thinks more like me than anyone I know, and I have some of the best conversations I’ve ever had with him. I’m frankly in awe of the fact I get to be his parent. He’s one of my three biggest blessings, and will always hold a special spot as the firstborn.

This one was for him.

(I’m doing a fundraising challenge this year where I run at least once a month in memory or honor of someone special in my life.  If you would like to learn more about it, read my blog My 2016 Fundraiser.

My 2016 Fundraiser

I’ve struggled during the first two months of 2016.  Several people have asked me to participate in runs or walks to support a cause.  In looking at all of them, I came to the realization that I WANT to support a group, but on my terms.  So I’m creating my own fundraiser for 2016.

I’m going to run at lest one race a month this year.  For each race I complete, I am going to make a donation to the American Cancer Society in someone’s honor or memory.  It’s going to be my small way of giving back.  And…with it I’m issuing a challenge.  I’m asking people to pledge me – either in the number of races I do (I plan on doing 12-15), or the number of miles I put in this year (my target is 800), or just a flat amount.  At the end of the year I will contact you with your total pledge amount, and the mailing and web address for the American Cancer Society. Your donation will go straight to the American Cancer Society so will be tax deductible as allowed by law.

If you are up for this challenge, feel free to fill out this form and help others celebrate additional birthdays.

100BD_rgb

In the meanwhile, I will try to share each of my races and who I am running in honor of.

The Heart of Giving

Last night on FaceBook I saw a discussion between two people debating giving money to a homeless person.  It ended with one person saying, “You know they will just spend it on alcohol, right?” The discussion caught my eye because I have been there – in two ways.  I’ve been there where I’ve had that thought many times, and I’ve been there where the person has spent money given in ways I at the time deemed “inappropriate.”

It made me think about how it has been interesting growing in my own faith in giving.  You never know which area will be your own stumbling block – and to realize that mine currently was in spontaneous giving was quite eye opening.   Over the last year I’ve had to work through the seeming contradiction of being asked to give to people I wasn’t sure deserved it.  And finally, after much prayer two facts hit me.

The first –

I am not asked to judge, I am asked to serve.

There is no guarantee that the people I am asked to serve “deserve” it.  There is no guarantee that they will be grateful, or even acknowledge the gift.  I am just asked to serve.  This morning’s devotions brought me to Romans 15:13 – “Therefore let us stop passing judgement on one another.  Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.”  One day last year I had the ah-ha moment – my NOT giving could be the stumbling block or obstacle to another person.  What if that $10 was the difference between them getting a cab to rejoin with family?  Or what if my lack of giving kept them from going to a place like Haven House to get ministered to?  I have to constantly remind myself that my views are small and limited, while God can see the big picture.

Beyond that, Ephesians 6:7 says “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people.” I am certainly not seeing wholeheartedly if I am picking and choosing when I want to follow God’s nudges to give.

The second fact that hit me –

I do not give out of a person’s need.  I give out of obedience to God.

Obedience to God means that in giving we are allowing Him to use that gift for His glory.  I may never know how God used that gift in the other person’s life, or why God wanted me to give to that particular person. But I have to trust that He knows and that is why I felt called to give.  Besides, we are to consider ourselves stewards of all we are given.  That means none of it is ours, we are in fact overseers of God’s gifts.  As a steward, we certainly shouldn’t disobey when asked to do something with the things – including money – entrusted to us.  There is the parable of the sowing of the seeds in Matthew 13 that makes me think that perhaps in our giving to many, we sow to a few.  And isn’t that what we are asked to do over and over?

So now, I give and think about how what I am giving, I am giving for and to God.  I pray over that gift that God will use it for His glory, both while giving it and after the gift has passed on. No longer do I have the battle of my conscious because there is no determining on my part the right time to give or the right person to give to.

Another Round of Appointments…

I’ve spent the last several weeks making all my rounds for follow-up appointments.  January has seemed to be my big month for doctor appointments as I’ve seen my oncologist, radiologist, family doctor, surgeon and even my dentist!  Overall it’s been better news than I could have hoped for.

At radiology I experienced a “new” kind of mammogram – it takes a 3D picture.  All I can say – you have to hold in that uncomfortable position even longer for the machine to rotate around you.  Not so joyous.  But it is done for another year 🙂 I found it interesting that I didn’t have a choice in which type of mammogram to have since my insurance does not cover this new type.  Their explanation “THIS SERVICE IS A PROGRAM EXCLUSION AND NOT ELIGIBLE FOR PAYMENT.” (Yes, they shout this at you with all caps…) And…before you get all upset about my being charged for it, the hospital must be building a base of patients to have this because they wrote it off after running it through insurance.  Believe me, I would have had something to say otherwise 😉

My oncology appointment was with Kelly, the NP.  I ended up waiting in the room for a long time after the aide/tech left – I never complain about time spent in the room as it means that another patient is running over…and I will never, ever begrudge a cancer patient getting extra time with a doctor to get more information or even emotional support they need to make good decisions about their course of treatment.  I remember all too well my early appointments and coming in with three pages of questions to ask my team.  The appointment with her was pretty standard, and we ended up chatting about my running and her pursuits.

Towards the end, she commenting about scheduling my next appointment.  I asked her about the timing of appointments – how I know for 2 years I should have them every 3 months (though the doctor has already moved me to 4 months) and then they go to 6 months, etc. She tells me that it is from starting the Tamoxifen.  I am sure I got a gleam in my eye as I said “Oh good!  That means I’m there in March!” Kelly looked startled for a second, then remembered that I was on Tamoxifen in the period from my first appointment with them to when we found out I needed chemo.  She laughed and said in my case it was after chemo.  I just will use it as another example of how I am exceptions to so many of their “rules.”

I jokingly moaned about how May is a tough month with kids in schools & athletics – the next 4 month period.  She looked at me and says, “You know what?  You are doing so well, I think we can push it out to 5 months.”  I’m thinking this is pretty awesome.  We chat some more, then I mention how I’m supposed to have my next mammogram scheduled as well.  She contemplates this and mentions how 5 months doesn’t really work with that schedule.

I then get a short discourse on how the appointment schedule is a protocol that needs to be looked at as people have different needs, etc, etc.  She looks me in the eye and says “I know you. You’re the type of person that will call if you have concerns or issues.”  I’m laughing in my head because heck yeah I am!  She made a decision on the spot to move me to 6 months appointments now, with the approval of the doctor at a meeting the next day.  I think I had a short celebration in my head which may have showed on my face.  Fewer appointments means fewer drives to Ann Arbor 😀  Oh, and did I say I think Kelly rocks?  Because anyone that cuts down on doctor appointments & road time rocks…

Family doctor appointment is quite standard.  I do still have to remember to get my bloodwork done – we need to make sure that the cinnamon is still keeping my triglycerides under control, and that my thyroid is functioning normally.  I’ll be glad when I get to go off the Tamoxifen to help eliminate some of these side effects!

Last I met with the surgeon.  It’s hard to believe it’s been a year this weekend that I had my big surgery.  I laughed about this appointment – I drove about 90 minutes to it for it to last MAYBE 10 minutes from when I walked into the waiting room to when I was walking out.  Note – that was the WAITING room, not even the examination room.  He said how everything was healing fine, then wanted to talk about a follow-up to touch things up.  I said maybe eventually , but not a shot while my nerves are still re-knitting in my hand from the Pronator Syndrome.  He asked about where it was healing wise, and when I told him where the feeling has returned in my wrist and entire palm, and how the nerves in my fingers are “triggering” on a regular basis he was surprised it has come back  as far as it has this soon.  We are still holding out for a full recovery, and if I’d work to build strength back up in especially my thumb I may have no remnants or residual effects of this long term.

At the end of the appointment, Dr. Wilkins was ready to sign me off for good, then decided to have me come back in a year.  He said he wants to know that my hand is completely back to normal.  I told him that maybe then I’d think of his “smorgasbord” (his word) of touch-ups he wants to fix and contemplate if there were any that I really felt needed to be done.  I chuckle slightly because I really don’t have a belief that my 40 year old body that has born three children should sport “perfect” breasts.  Just not something that is high on my importance list.  We will see the next appointment where I fall on it…

Great news in all of this is that I don’t have another appointment until JULY and that will be my only other one this calendar year!  I’m celebrating by finally taking that girls vacation to Las Vegas with my sisters & mom – the one we were supposed to take when I instead had my mastectomy two years ago.  I’m so looking forward to spending time with them, hiking the Grand Canyon, and seeing a couple shows…Going to be a great weekend to celebrate.

Helping Out Flint – What Can We Do Now?

This is my FaceBook post – I don’t want to leave out my friends that are not FaceBook users so I thought I would share here.  (This weekend I’m sure I will have another post about this…explaining while this is drawing my passion right now.)

Friends – I’m tapping into your awesome brainstorming abilities to help me solve a problem. This has to do with the Flint water issue, specifically with schools in Flint where teachers are ensuring students have clean water.

Here’s the scope – I have many teacher friends inside and outside of Michigan. Several of them (or their classrooms) have indicated an interest in helping the students attending schools in Flint with fundraisers and drives for water.

I have a teacher friend in Flint. He and I talked Tuesday, and the bottled water donations are creating a NEW problem in Flint – what to do with all the empty bottles (if you don’t know from the low gas prices, Iran is dumping on the market, so all petroleum based products are cheap right now….meaning it is cheaper to make plastic than recycle it…meaning recyclying plants are dumping plastics in landfills right now). Another problem is that many filters that have been donated do not pull lead out of the water.

I’ve been brainstorming with several people – what if instead of bottled water, we did some fundraising and found a water service provider (such as Culligan) that would do daily fills to water stations in the schools? Another person asked, what if farmers had some of those large plastic tanks to put in place at the schools to store larger quantities of water so the school can use it in their kitchens as well? What other possibilities are there?

Other thoughts & ideas?

I see the biggest need being a reputable organization to act through (so money isn’t flowing through personal accounts – just safer for everyone). I’ve been told that concerning the plastic tanks – “National Guard has all of this! He said they can pull up and do this in under 2 hours. I said why are they not doing it? Politics… Waiting for someone to let them go to work.”

How can we (the people) move beyond the ridiculous “blame game” that is politically happening and actually HELP our fellow students, educators, humans?

Share away and let’s get some mass creative problem solving flowing….

Convicted of Complacency

This January I’ve been working to take my devotions to a different level.  I’m feeling bad for the devotional group I belong to as I think I have posted something only 3 or 4 times (out of 15 days).  Why the change?  Because of several pieces I have read that have made me pause and realize that my daily devotions were becoming route.  I was beginning to make a habit of reading, thinking & sometimes posting on them, then setting them aside for the day.

So I’ve paused.  Because reflection is REALLY important for creating change.  And as a Christian we are asked to constantly change – to constantly work to be more Christlike, constantly strive for communion with God, and constantly let Him shine through us.  And in reflecting on these things, I realize that I am convicted of complacency.

It’s time to grow again…I don’t know what this will be or where it will take me, but He will certainly make it a grand adventure worth experiencing.

Snow Day Chores

My kids had their first snow day of the winter today.  As I was getting ready for work, I realized I was going to have to carve a few minutes to give them chores.  Past experience has taught me that leaving them nothing to do results in a lot of bickering, while leaving a bit of structure for their day greatly reduces that.

A little background before I go on – in our household over the last year, we have gotten to a point where I write down everything that needs to be done on a “regular” clean the house day and they take turns “signing up” for what they will do.  This has worked well, and reduced (not eliminated…just reduced!) the amount of effort I have to put into motivating them to get chores completed.

While in the shower I decided that I’d use that concept today – list the chores and have them sign up for them.  Then I had a flash of insight – I didn’t want them to spend the rest of the day staring at electronics.  What about reading?  Or playing with their Legos? Or a board game? Or with the baseball & basketball stuff we have set up in our basement for them?

So, I created a graduated “Activity” list today:

Chores

At the top were the standard chore type activities.  Items like empty the dishwasher, vacuum the family room, pick up the playroom, etc. They had to pick a minimum number of them.  Some days I think I would create a different list for each of them, but today I only needed one list.

In the middle were active or thinking activities – those items that are so important to their development but often seem to be an afterthought.  Items like reading, playing a game, using their imagination, playing outside, etc. They had to pick a minimum number from this list also.

At the bottom was the bonus list.  This was where all the electronics were – watching TV, playing video games, etc.  The last list they had a MAXIMUM instead of a minimum.

Checking in at noon – it was a great method to use!  In fact, in the morning they were negotiating how many more chores they had to do in the top categories to maybe get more time with electronics…but at my check in there still had been no electronics turned on!  You can bet we’ll be using this method more often in the future 🙂