About me...

Pop the lid on my Mason Jar and meet my family. Jim {Jimma} and I have four kids, Creston (Ashley), Jami (Matt), Brandon and Chance. Our grandkids, Cade, Kirby, Eisley, Beck and Reed bring us more joy than any Mason Jar could ever hold. I am counting my blessings over and over and thanking God for His amazing love and grace.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

My Father

My dad was such a strong encourager and support for me during my battle with breast cancer. He found a simple way to help me look at four rounds of agressive chemotherapy in a more positive way. After my first treatment, he told me to think of it as running bases, and three more would put me on home base. After each treatment he would remind me how close I was to stepping on home base. I was so excited when I reached third base knowing the next treatment put me on home base. There was something comforting to me about the words "home base." Those two little words spoke of safety to me. And believe me I could NOT wait to reach home base. On August 31, my dad will be 84 years old. I found this letter I wrote him for his birthday in 1998. I wanted to express my appreciation to him for being such an incredible dad. Reading back over it is a reminder of the great childhood I had growing up and his inspiration in my adult life. The following is part of the letter I sent him.

Thanks for being such a great Dad when we were growing up. Thanks ~
for coaching all of us in ball,
for holding my hand and skipping with me while singing songs,
for writing me letters when I was a little girl in the hospital,
for picking up puppies and kittens that people had dumped and bringing them home for us to take care of,
for buying me purses when I didn’t need them
for building me a playhouse that gave me so much fun and joy,
for taking me to work with you when I was little (what a special memory),
for always making Valentine’s Day special by giving me a box of candy,
for your patience during the teenage years,
for working hard in the in the garden so we could have fresh vegetables and fruit,
for taking us to church every Sunday,
for taking us on great picnics and fishing trips,
for putting up with four kids on those long vacation trips to Florida and Texas,
for making the best milkshakes in the world,
for teaching us morals and values that are so important today,
for setting an example for us to follow in raising our families,
for all the precious memories I have of growing up in a secure and loving family.

Thanks for being such a great Dad now that we’re grown up. Thanks ~
for your patience with me and Mom as we moved furniture back and forth,
for being the best Grandpa in the whole wide world,
for still working hard in the garden so we can have fresh vegetables and fruit,
for your patience with my endless projects,
for fixing things and making them look brand new,
for making me flower beds that people come by just to look at,
for your patience with me and Mom as you made the flower beds and we supervised,
for the water slide, swings and neat stuff you fixed for the grandkids to have fun with,
for your strong faith in God,
for your concern, care and prayers during the past two and a half years,
for never letting me see the fear you had during this difficult time of my life,
for being positive and encouraging me to hang in there when I didn’t feel I could,
for instilling in me the strength I needed to win the battle against cancer,
And for always being there with a strong shoulder to lean on.

The other day I found a card I made on June 27, 2004, that I mailed to family and friends that know my father. I thought I’d share it as well. Here’s some of what I wrote:

“Knowing Dad as you do, I know you’ll smile at his words of wisdom he gave me on Father’s Day. I wanted to get some Moss Rose from where Granny Essie’s trailer used to be and Dad offered to go with me. The weather was kind of “iffy” before we ventured out and by the time we got to her old homestead it was thundering and lightning all over the place. I told Dad we really should go back home. He ignored my warnings and just kept right on talking and showing me flowers. About the third time I told him my concerns about the lightning, he looked at me with exasperation and said, “If it hits you, it won’t matter ‘cause you won’t know it anyway.”

When we got back to the house, I told Mom that I was scared stiff out there with him. Dad just smiled and said, “It’s appointed unto man once to die and if it ain’t your time, you’ don’t have to worry about it.”

I took the picture of Cade and “Pa” going to the watermelon patch June 15, 2004 to check out the watermelons. It has to be one of my favorite pictures I've ever taken. I have such special memories of holding Dad’s hand and walking beside him as a little girl. I felt truly blessed watching Cade walk beside him, hand in hand. God has been so good to me and these blessings I am so truly thankful for.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Life Well Lived

If one could enjoy a celebration of someone’s life, then I would have to say I enjoyed the celebration of John Schweer’s life. Rather than have a funeral, Liz chose a celebration for John’s service. And what a celebration it turned out to be!

Liz had put the word out, and even included it in the obituary that there was a dress code for this event - lively colors. It would be safe to say that I have never seen so many bright colors as there was at John’s service. The setting for the service was beyond beautiful. The service was held outdoors on a pavilion behind the church, overlooking the gulf coast. It had just rained a couple of hours before. The weather was perfect and the skies were beautiful blue. Huge black oscillating fans circulated the breeze blowing in from the ocean. The music was incredibly uplifting and the pastor’s message was phenomenal. Not only did he talk about John’s personal life, he touched on John’s spiritual life as well. Matt’s sister read the poem “Success” by Ralph Waldo Emerson and Matt read a very touching letter that he wrote Eisley and Beck about their Opa.

If you weren’t well acquainted with John before the service, you were able to get a glimpse into his life and know what a special person he was by the time you left. The reception hall was decorated to reflect his life. The family made a display of memorabilia representing who John was, along with writings telling about him. From his hobbies, to his collections, to his volunteer work, one was able to gain insight into the wonderful life we were celebrating. Liz wrote a beautiful letter to John that was posted for all to read. I loved finding out that years ago she and John planted 500 Christmas tree saplings in the shape of an “S” in the middle of a Nebraska cornfield.

Mary arranged branches from the fruit trees and flowers that John had planted in vases and in Mason Jars to decorate the table where the food was placed. Knowing John loved to put up pickles, the Mason Jars were the perfect containers for some of the arrangements. Matt created a beautiful slide show with music that Liz picked out. At one point during the reception I glanced up and saw Liz standing alone watching the slide show, while people were milling around her. She had the most beautiful smile on her face, a smile that reflected contentment over a life well lived. What a testament to their love and her belief that one day they will be reunited in Heaven. John would have been so proud of her.

I couldn’t help but think how great it would have been if we could have had the service before John’s death. He would have enjoyed every minute of it. I’m sure if he were able to look down from Heaven, he gave a big nod of approval. The service could not have been any more meaningful and appropriate as a way to celebrate his life. My thoughts are that with his passing, Heaven just got a little bit sweeter. I look forward to seeing John again one day and spending eternity with him in Heaven.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Grocery Cart Madness

All that’s left for our trip is packing the suitcase. Today was spent baking, running errands and getting everything together that I don’t want to forget. I made a pound cake batter, baked it in some sweet flower muffin pans that Jami gave me, tied them up in cellophane with ribbons, attached Bible verses and put them in a basket to take to the Schweers. Cookies were baked and some are on their way to Chance, some given to friends and the rest are packed to take to Port St. Joe.

Time to rest, relax and smile.

Thought it would be a good time to blog a little about Chance's Scrapbook. I seem to have kept more of Chance’s school papers than the other kids. Maybe I had more space to pack school keepsakes by the time he was in school than I did with the other kids? Most of his papers had the date on them making it even more fun, when putting a scrapbook together for his high school graduation. I’m sure I enjoyed making the scrapbook way more than he enjoyed getting it. Lots of sweet memories are in that book. The following is one of the entries.

October 3, 1995, Chance wrote: “ I was really embarrassed when I was in Winn Dixie. I was driving the grocery cart and I was not paying attention. Then I ran into an aisle of pickle relish. That was the most embarrassing thing in my life.”

On May 23, 3004, I wrote: “You were embarrassed??? Can you begin to imagine how I felt? The story goes that your Dad and I were grocery shopping with you and Brandon. You were on your stomach on the bottom of the grocery cart, with your arms outstretched, paddling them as you would a boat, making the cart careen down the isle. I yelled, “Stop Chance” at least three times before you CRASHED the cart into a six-foot high display of jars of pickle relish. The entire tower crashed. Thankfully you weren’t hurt. Since you were on the bottom of the car, you were protected. The jars broke and rolled all over the place, even as far as the meat department. Your dad snatched you and Brandon up and ran out the door leaving me standing there by myself. There I stood all alone as people from all over the store ran to see what the commotion was about.”

At a later date, I’ll post about the fire extinguisher incident. It was just as bad, if not worse.


Jim and I are planning to go to Port St Joe tomorrow to be with Jami and Matt and to attend a celebration of John’s life on Thursday. This visit will be bittersweet to say the least. As much as I look forward to seeing Jami and her family, as well as the Schweers, I wish it were for a different reason that we were going.

There are some things we need to take care of before we leave, which puts me in a waiting mode, something I’m not very good at doing. I tend to get nervous and anxious and pace a lot, making lists so that I don’t forget anything and starting tasks that I never can find time for. The problem is I find it harder to concentrate as my mind is filled with endless thoughts.

It’s during times like these that I search for stuff to do that makes me smile and lifts my spirits. Yesterday I sorted through a bunch of pictures and put them in a photo album. Lots of fun memories there. When putting the photo album away, I pulled out a scrapbook I made for Chance when he graduated from high school. I couldn’t help but smile reading through the pages. Most of his writing in elementary school revolved around surfing and soccer. Some of the pages are way too funny and will be posted at a later date.

After more pacing and more things checked off my “to do list” I picked up a devotional journal that I finished a couple of days ago and flipped through the pages. I am in awe of all the answered prayers, many of which I had forgotten about. The answered prayers strengthen my faith for the yet unanswered ones and give me an awareness of the immeasurable value that comes from writing out and dating our prayers. The pages reflect how God is taking care of every detail of my life, both the big details and the little ones. October 27, 2008 I wrote, “Thank you God for a new day, a fresh start. Thank you for Your mercy and unfailing love. Thank you for sending Your people to minister to me just when I needed them.” That weekend four different people from our church had called me on the phone to let me know they were praying for me about something we were going through. I went on to write, “I have come to accept that Your ways are not my ways and You are working all this out for my good and Your glory.” There’s an entry I need to be constantly reminded of.

There are a lot of verses from Psalms in my journal. One of my favorite passages is Psalm 19: 1-6: “The Heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens He has pitched a tent for the sun, which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. It rises at one end of the heavens and makes it circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat.”

Between errands, cooking, packing and doing other things necessary to leave, the pacing continues. More things will get accomplished than in a usual day. I’m sure I’ll be back on here at some point with some extra time on my hands, using up the minutes before we leave for our trip.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Our hearts are full of sadness...

Even as early as high school, my daughter Jami has been an inspiration to me in her walk with God. On numerous occasions I have called her in tears and she has been the one to comfort me, assuring me that God is taking care of my hurts, fears, concerns, and problems and that He has it all under control. More than once, she has said, “Mom, you have to let go of this and trust God.” I have watched her with a sense of pride at her ability to remain calm and steadfast in her faith, in the midst of a storm.

So, when the phone rang yesterday afternoon and I heard the shakiness in her voice as she said, “Mom” I sensed that something horrible had happened. I asked if something was wrong and waited in fear for her answer. I could barely understand what she said, for the tears in her voice. “Yes,” she said, “ Matt’s daddy died.” Hoping I had not heard her right, I asked if she had just said Matt’s daddy had died. “Yes” was her heart wrenching answer. She had just found out that her father-in-law, John had died of a heart attack. Matt was at school preparing for the start of the school year and she was alone with the two kids when the call came. I felt so helpless in that I am over a thousand miles away from her and could not rush to be by her side. The only solace I could offer was my love and prayers.

Jim and I met Matt’s parents, Liz and John shortly after Jami and Matt started dating and we liked them right away. Liz and John had a very unique and special relationship. Their love for each other was evident and written all over their lives. They enjoyed riding on a tandem bike and in a convertible with the top down. They went to church, the beach, swam together, volunteered, picnicked, gardened, canned vegetables, cooked together, wrote the best Christmas letters ever and even dressed alike. Liz and John had the unique ability to make the simplest of things fun, and the big celebrations in life simple so they would be more fun.

We considered Liz and John as part of our family and invited them for holidays and other events. We loved having them with us and always had more fun when they came. I told Matt this summer that I envied his parents. He asked, “How’s that?” I told him that I have never seen two people who enjoy life as much as his Mom and Dad. They soak up every moment, squeezing it for all it’s worth. Talking with Matt that afternoon made me realize I wanted to be more like his parents, never letting a moment of fun pass me by.

I’ve often told Liz and John how much I love Matt, but realized today that I never thanked them for doing such an incredible job of parenting. Among many other things, they set an example of love and faith for their children. I can honestly say that the lives of our family have been enriched by knowing Liz and John and we are all saddened by his loss. As I told Jami yesterday, they had a relationship like no other. With any unexpected loss, you become more aware of how fragile life is and how in an instant lives are forever changed. My heart aches for Liz as she has lost her soul mate. I ache for Jami, Matt and the rest of the family who knew what a special person John was and loved him so dearly. My sorrow is for my grandchildren as well. They are too young to remember their Opa and will never know what a remarkable, kind, faith living, loving and fun person he was. My prayers, sympathy and love go out to this family. Thank you John for giving us our incredible son-in-law that has so many of your attributes. There’s not a guy out there that I’d rather have married to my daughter and be the father of her children than Matthew.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Veggie Burgers Anyone?

Who would have thought veggie burgers could cause so much stress? I am not a meat eater and only eat fish, seafood and chicken on rare occasions. Other than that, I don’t even like to look at meat or be around when it’s being cooked. Therefore, I am always trying to find ways to get more protein in my diet. One day last June I was in a wholesale warehouse and they were passing out samples of veggie burgers. I tried one and really liked it, checked the label and was thrilled to see they are loaded with PROTEIN. Sign me up people, I have found something that I like, that is quick and easy to cook and has PROTEIN! I walked out of the store with two bags in hand.

When I like something I can eat it over and over and never get tired of it. I started eating the veggie burgers every day, sometimes twice a day for about five weeks. I even packed them in an ice chest and took them on a trip to the Keys. That’s the extent I liked them. After we came back from the Keys, Jami was at my house getting ready to fly back to Dallas. I fixed a veggie burger and let Eisley taste it. She liked them and Jami asked what was in them. All I knew is they had to be healthy since they were made from vegetables and started reading off the list of ingredients. I was horrified when I read the word “soy” in the list. What have I done?

Twelve years prior to this I was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer that was hormone positive. The doctors told me to stay away from any form of soy, because it could adversely affect my hormone levels and increase my chances of reoccurrence. Ever since my initial diagnosis I have been extremely careful to avoid all soy products in any form. You can imagine my thoughts when I realized that I had been loading my body with soy for five straight weeks.

I called the doctor Monday morning and explained my situation to the nurse. She spoke with the doctor and said he wanted to see me the next day for a consultation and lab work. That’s the point when I realized the seriousness of the situation and became unbelievably upset. I cannot recall a time when I’ve ever been so mad at me. To say I was infuriated, would be an understatement. I simply could not get pass the fact that I made such a huge mistake, one that could potentially cause me some serious problems. I ranted and raved and threw a tantrum. I am the type of person who likes to be prepared, who is constantly making lists to be sure everything is taken care of, who likes to cover the bases in their life. Realizing something of this magnitude had slipped by me, was sending me over the edge. I ended up calling a wonderful Christian counselor who helped me see the situation from a different perspective. As much as anything else, the perfectionist in me was not coping with the fact I made a big mistake. Knowing the reason behind my anger helped. Then she pointed out how God takes such good care of us. Had I not given Eisley the veggie burger and Jami asked what was in them, I would have continued eating them and who knows what the final outcome would have been. Yes, I made a mistake, but God protected me from continuing in that mistake.

The next day Dr. Marks went over everything with me and told me his strategy. He was going to monitor my estrogen levels closely. I would have to come back in a month, then every six months for a year. Depending on the lab results at that point would determine the next course of action. The once a year check ups that I dreaded would now become way too frequent.

Which brings me back to today. Today was my six months follow up appointment from the last appointment. I never go to the oncologist that I don’t cry at some point. It’s either before I leave, on the way, in the parking lot, in the waiting room, in the exam room or when I leave. At some point it a given, I’m going to cry. My doctor has assured me I’m not the only patient who cries and it’s completely normal, which helps me feel a little less stressed about my crying

Today the crying started a few miles from the Cancer Center. I was thinking about how much I hate going to the oncologist. I hate every aspect of the appointment. I hate driving to downtown Jacksonville, the traffic, the drive and merging in the different lanes on the interstate to get to the Cancer Center. I hate waiting in the lab waiting area for my turn. I absolutely hate the needle stick. This is something that started with chemo and has never stopped. I hate going into the waiting room and seeing the people with drawn faces who are desperately fighting for their lives. I hate waiting for the doctor to come in and watching him as he reads through my chart. I hate when he walks out to get the lab results, while I sit and wonder what he’s going to say when he comes back into the room.

While driving and crying and thinking how much I hate every aspect of my oncology appointment, I wondered how I could find peace for the moment. The answer came way too quickly - an attitude of gratitude. I thought how God must sit and wonder what was going on with all the complaining and no thankfulness. I started thanking him for every thing I could think of about my appointment. Thank you God that I’m going for a cancer check up and not a cancer treatment. Thank you God for a sunny pretty day, so I don’t have to do all this driving and merging in the rain.

The list continued as I walked into the Cancer Center. As I got off the elevator two elderly ladies were coming from the lab. One of them gave me the biggest smile. Thank you God for the beautiful lady that smiled at me putting a smile on my face. Thank you God that I’m not sitting in the “Wolfson Children’s Hospital Surgery Family Waiting Room” that’s right down the hall from the waiting area for the lab. Thank you God they were able to get my lab work with one needle stick. Thank you God that it’s me having a check up and not one of my kids, grandkids, or anybody that I love so much in my life. Thank you God that I am alive and can go for a check up 13 years and 8 months after my diagnosis. When I started thinking of all my blessings, my heart became lighter and I started to feel better right away. It's amazing what a difference it makes when you focus on your blessings and not the situation. Being thankful truly is food for the soul.

The nurse came in to check my vitals and said she remembers me as the lady who ate the veggie burgers. Dr. Marks came in and asked how I was doing. When I told him wonderful, he smiled and said that was the first time he had heard that all day. Hmm, that attitude of gratitude was paying off, both the doctor and I were smiling. When he looked over my chart he made a comment about me and the veggie burgers. Guess I’ll always be known as the veggie burger patient. Dr. Marks said that the results of my lab work should be back next week. If the estrogen level is low enough, I can start back with once a year visits. Regardless, I think I’ll do much better on my next visit and maybe even bypass the crying.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Dad's Diagnosis

My dad has Alzheimers. I found out Friday night when Mom called to give me the test results of his MRI. This came as no big surprise to me, but it’s still unsettling to say the least. It’s one thing to suspect something, but once it’s confirmed, you lose all hope that your suspicions were wrong and then you have to face the reality of the situation. My initial thought was “one thing at a time Lord. This is bad timing on your part. I have enough going on in my life right now. I don’t want to go down this path you're taking me.” I am more aware than ever that of such options, we have no choices.

Dad will be celebrating his 84th birthday the end of this month. Physically he is in great shape. Dad is a very high energy person for someone his age. He might take a nap during the day, but the rest of his time is spent doing busy work. Rare is the time you go to their house that he is not outside working in the yard, pulling weeds or mowing. And if he’s not outside, more than likely he’s in his workshop, painting pictures or making picture frames. If you’re a first time guest at my parent’s house, you can bet you won’t leave without one of dad’s pictures that he’s so very proud of.

Mom just celebrated her 83rd birthday last month. She is also in excellent physical health for her age. Where Dad stays busy all the time, mom does what little housework and cooking there is for two people then spends the remainder of her time sitting in a chair reading or watching TV. Rare is the time I have gone to visit and not found her sitting in "her" chair. When we're there for family gatherings, Mom will supervise what is going on in the kitchen from her chair, calling out to us, asking if we need help and telling us where the pots and pans are, etc. There's one thing you can always bet on, Mom is keeping a close eye on Dad. She checks on him constantly, worrying and fretting over him.

Physically I have not noticed any changes in Mom or Dad, but have gradually seen changes in their state of mind. Where Mom has become very forgetful, Dad seems to imagine things that just aren’t happening. The Saturday before Mother’s Day I called Mom that morning to tell her I wanted to come spend the afternoon with her and bring her dinner. I wanted to make sure she would be home and not planning to cook. I asked if she needed me to bring anything. She needed her prescription picked up in Palatka, but said she had plenty to last a few days and would pick it up Monday when doing errands.

When I arrived at Mom’s the truck was gone and the house was locked. I was a little concerned, knowing she was expecting me. I called Creston to see if he knew where Mom and Dad were, but he had no clue. I was fixing to go to my brother’s house to see if he knew where they might be when they drove up. They had gone to Palatka to pick up her medicine. She didn’t remember me telling her that I was coming to her house or that I had offered to pick up her prescription. Dad asked me how the little boy was doing that came with me. I was by myself.

I have suspected Dad has Dementia for a while now, but was hoping that Dementia would be all there was to his confusion. The results are in and the questions play out in my mind. When Mom told me about Dad’s diagnosis, she seemed amazingly calm, especially since she’s such a worrier. I have to wonder, "Does she have any comprehension of what this means?" I ache for her. I know how much she loves him and even more how much she needs him in her life. Does Mom realize that as things progress she won’t have him? It will get to the point he won’t know her or his surroundings. She will have him in her life, yet not have him. She will lose this person that she so desperately needs in her life.

How long do we have before Dad is entombed in a state of confusion? Does this vary from person to person. Will the medicine they gave him make a difference, or could this escalate rapidly? Jami and Matt are coming home for Thanksgiving. Knowing the uncertainty of the situation, she’s thankful they made plans to come home. Surely we have a few months? Dad cries every time he sees a picture of Chance in his uniform or there is something said about him being in the war. Will he know Chance in January when he comes home? Even more, will Mom’s state of mind be where she can continue to keep a watch over Dad?

Where is this journey taking me? My mind goes in all different directions and is filled with endless questions. Then I remind myself that the uncertainty of a future is not for me to worry about. I have to put the questions to rest. As with everything else in my life, I’m to let go and trust God, knowing His ways are not my ways., but His ways are always right. He sees the big picture and everything will unfold according to His master plan and what will bring Him glory. It is through adversity that I will become dependent on God and that’s right where He wants me.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the Heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts higher than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8