The Truth About Riley Nurses.

I have been asked to be a guest blogger for Riley Children’s Hospital, where our son received much of his chemotherapy and treatment for leukemia. I will periodically be writing entries on this blog that pertain to our “Riley Journey.” The hospital will then pull entries they feel are appropriate and put them on their Riley blog here: http://blog.rileykids.org/ This is one of those entries. I thought it was fitting for National Nurses Week (May 6-12, 2012)
Thanks for reading! 

The doctors at Riley are amazing. Their knowledge, research, and leadership are stellar and effective. I am so very thankful for them.

But, let’s be honest here. Where would we be without the nurses?

I think even the doctors would agree that the care given by the nurses at Riley Hospital is what makes the “wheels go round.” The doctors are the engines, but nurses are the coal that stoke the firebox of care given at Riley. And that makes the Riley Express sail full-steam ahead!

Not to single out any nurses, but I know first-hand that the ones on the hematology/oncology unit at Riley are amazing. I remember walking into that unit for the first time ever with a very ill child. My husband and I were shell-shocked, stunned, in denial and overwhelmed. The nurses knew not only how to handle our little boy, but they knew how to handle us too. We were given “baby steps” and the nurses knew just how much information to give us along our difficult journey.

During some of our son’s painful procedures the nurses were the ones who pulled up a chair for my wobbly body and slid it under me while gently patting my shoulder. They didn’t judge, mock, or express inpatience. They were calm, soothing, smart and even witty.

Our son’s nurse practitioner became like family over his three plus years of chemotherapy. She knew his likes, dislikes, temperament and medical chart. She always had time to listen to him and could amazingly always “find” Thomas the Tank Engine in his ear while looking through the otoscope. She helped put him at ease through countless blood draws and spinal taps, making them become almost effortless instead of dreadful. It takes a special person to do such a thing.

She not only listened to our son, but she listened to us parents. She was knowledgeable and yet not intimidating. She was realistic, but not overwhelming. She was sweet and friendly and gentle. She made the “wheels go round” during our trips to Riley. She’ll always be a part of our family’s history. We send her a Christmas card… it’s the least we can do!

So, as wonderful as the doctors are at Riley, I just wanted to take a minute to thank you nurses. You probably don’t get as much “limelight” or attention. You do a lot of paperwork and busy-work, but please know that to us Riley parents it’s NEVER busy-work when it has to do with our child.

THANK YOU nurses for ALL you do for the children of Riley Hospital! Keep that Riley engine running full-steam ahead. Your passengers sure are grateful!

Parental Brain Delay

Do you remember those commercials several years ago that showed two images and claimed: “This is your brain…” and, “This is your brain on drugs?” Well, I think maybe we could draw a similar comparison in another category called: “This is your brain…” and, “This is your brain now that you have a seriously ill child.” Yes, the two images would appear quite different, I’m sure. I haven’t actually seen my brain since having a child diagnosed with cancer, but I’ve certainly missed some of the activity that used to go on up there.

You know what I mean… trauma affects people. It affects us physically, emotionally, spiritually and intellectually. And since I aim to be brief here, I’m going to focus only on the intellectual component right now. I wouldn’t want to think too hard anyway and stress the brain cells I have left…

You see, five years ago our toddler son was diagnosed with cancer. My world completely changed. My routine, my hopes, my thoughts and my goals were all stuffed into an imaginary blender somewhere and turned on high speed. Everything was whirled around and plopped into my lap and was declared my “new normal.” And I accepted the challenge. When your child is fighting for their life, you don’t even think twice before engaging in the fight with them. I wished I could take the cancer from our son, but I couldn’t, so I did everything I could to help him through his long course of chemotherapy treatments.

But it was during those months of fighting and focusing on our son that my brain seemed to turn into scrambled eggs. And if you have, or have had, a child with a serious illness you can probably relate. I’m going to call it Parental Brain Delay or PBD for short. I was going to call it PFASIWTCATLBF for “Parents Fighting A Serious Illness with Their Child and Therefore Losing Brain Function”… but I thought that might be a bit much to remember, so let’s just go with PBD. Anyway, I use the word “delay” because I really believe the information is still up there… it just takes a little longer to get anywhere.

During the hardest months of my son’s treatment my brain felt like an empty waiting room. Clarity and discernment had not checked in at the front desk! I tried to remember certain events or moments that had occurred in the weeks before my son’s diagnosis, but they were fuzzy. Instead I’d hear medical terms and the names of cancer drugs echoing in my head “Intrathecal Methotrexate… Intrathecal Methotrexate.” Seriously, I did.

One night I literally begged my husband to play Trivial Pursuit with me just so I could utilize and exercise my brain. I could feel it turning to mush. And yes, we played Trivial Pursuit… and then I felt even dumber. Bad idea.

Another time while at Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis, where we did a lot of the most difficult treatments,  I spoke even though my brain delay was in full-swing. You see there is a monorail train that runs from building to building on the medical campus where Riley is located. This train is officially called the Indiana University Health People Mover. Very nice. However, our son loves the Thomas the Tank Engine train characters and there is one train in particular that is long and sleek and grey- sort of like the People Mover. This train’s name is Spencer.  And so, as you can gather, our family affectionately called the People Mover “Spencer.”

And, to help our son keep a positive perspective on trips to Riley Hospital, we did all we could to make the day special and fun for him instead of solely focused on blood draws, spinal taps and chemo. So, every time we went to Riley (and it was many times!) we rode that People Mover after his appointment. Back and forth, back and forth, just for fun!

Well, back to my brain delay… one day a nurse asked me what we were going to do after our chemo appointment was finished and I told her proudly and with a smile that we were going to ride on Spencer. She smiled back sweetly and then wondered aloud who Spencer was. I felt pretty silly. If my brain would only have caught up to my mouth to remind me that not everyone knew the monorail as Spencer it would have been helpful. I felt almost as silly as the time I told a nurse that we’d help our son lay flat for “two Georges” until his spinal chemotherapy could work it’s way up and down his spine. To me, the fact that we told time at that point by Curious George episodes (which last about 15 minutes each and were much easier to relate as a span of time to our child) slipped my mind. So by telling the nurse that we’d help for “two Georges” instead of a half-hour earned me another sweet smile and blank stare.

And what about the time I was filling out one of the countless “medical forms” while at the hospital. Instead of writing my husband’s first name in the blank where it asked for our son’s father’s name I wrote “Daddy” instead. Yeah… oops. They needed me to be a bit more specific.

I know the nurses get a good laugh out of us parents suffering from PBD. They probably keep a notebook of our silly questions and faux pas in the break room, but they are sweet about it nonetheless.

So to sum up: when you are a parent of a child fighting a serious illness your brain cells are also fighting confusion and delay. But wait! The good news is two-fold!

First, you’re not alone! Come on, don’t even pretend like I’m the only one who has suffered from PBD… that’s right, own up to it, it will make you feel better!

And the second bit of good news is that brain function does seem to return. Now that I’m five years out from my son’s diagnosis I’m starting to feel those IV pumps in my brain pushing fluids again. There’s hope for you too!

Now wait… what was I talking about?

Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop

I stood frozen, unblinking and holding my breath. I felt anxious, unsettled and nervous. I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. …and it did. It was a size 5 boys black dress shoe to be exact and it fell from our second-story landing onto ceramic tile below.

You see, I had heard what I surmised to be the first shoe dropping.

tthhhhhhhhhHHUUMPPPPPP!!

And in that super-speed Mommy brain mode that can think faster than the Road Runner can get away from Wile E. Coyote, I knew what had happened. It was a Sunday morning and our seven-year-old son was getting dressed for church. I knew I had laid out his black dress shoes. I also knew that since recently moving into this home, with an open second-story landing, that our son has a new found interest in gravity. I thought I had made it clear that no “hard objects” were to be dropped below, but apparently with seven-year-old boys you need to be a bit more specific.

So I waited. I waited for the other shoe to drop. And as I said, it did. It thumped as loud as the first and the sound reverberated off the tile floor. Yes, I caught up to my poor son in about as much time as it took for the shoe to fall and we reviewed the “landing rule.” Dropping hard objects is not good for the walls, floor, objects being dropped, or little sisters who happen to be standing below. Lesson learned, and so we moved on with our Sunday morning.

We moved on, but as I was blow-drying my hair I thought about it some more. I had literally just waited for the other shoe to drop. I do it figuratively so often that it was interesting to actually experience it for real!

Yes, I sometimes use that phrase “waiting for the other shoe to drop” when trying to explain to my hubby or a friend how I deal with fear of the unknown. I’ve told them that sometimes I struggle. I struggle with fearing what big, hard trial will happen next in my life.

I’ve had some whoppers of a shoe drop in my past and I’ve faced some difficult situations. I’m thankful that my God has been so faithful and now things are looking up and moving forward. But when that’s the case, when things are going well, I sometimes find myself standing there…frozen, unblinking and holding my breath. I feel anxious, unsettled and nervous. I’m waiting for that figurative other shoe to drop. Oh, I wish I wouldn’t!

So here’s what I’ve tried to do about it. I’ve had to remind myself of two things.

1. The other shoe IS going to drop.

I know, it’s a bummer, but we all know it’s true. This life is full of disappointment, hardships and trial. No one is exempt. Wow, aren’t I Susie Sunshine! 🙂

But, the second point helps:

2. I believe in and serve an Almighty God who never allows a “shoe to drop” without it passing through his Sovereign, Merciful hands.

Wheh! When I remember point number two and when I look back at God’s faithfulness, provision, unconditional love, mercy, grace and hope during my difficult times I can start to move and blink again. I can even take a deep breath knowing that no matter what shoe drops, HE is in control.

Fact is, I don’t know what or when the next shoe will be. I hope it’s a flip-flop or something light if one has to drop at all, but I don’t get to make that choice. I do, however, get to choose how I’ll live in the meantime.

Am I going to waste my time worrying about the future and being frozen with fear… or am I going to live joyfully and fully while trusting in my Sovereign Lord?

Who knew a boy’s dress shoe could have a profound impact on my thinking? …Come to think of it, I hope that’s the only place it makes impact in the future!

The Popcorn Bowl.

What do I think of when I think of true love, commitment, and romance? You’ll probably never guess. Ok, maybe if you read the title of this post you’ve got a good idea. Otherwise, would you believe our popcorn bowl is what triggers reminders for me of how much I love my husband?

Yeah, it sounds crazy. But I’m going to let you in on an intimate detail of our marriage. Here goes. My husband loves to eat popcorn in the evenings. When he’s done with his snack, he leaves the popcorn bowl, full of kernels, on the counter. This irks me. …Yep, that’s the intimate detail.

This has been going on for years now. Can he not just throw the kernels away and wash the crazy bowl by himself. Yes, he very well could. But he doesn’t.

Now, we have a pretty traditional marriage where I do almost all of the cooking and cleaning. I’m good with this and enjoy it, for the most part. But the difference has been that I don’t usually actually use the popcorn bowl myself as opposed to when I make dinner and use the dishes for all of our family. So for some reason, the popcorn bowl feels different. Like it’s sitting there…just one more thing I’m expected to do before I head to bed.

This has gotten me a little steamed inside… and eventually my inner kernel popped! I finally voiced my displeasure one night asking why he expects this bowl to magically become clean and appear in the cupboard for his next salty rendezvous.

His response? He hadn’t even thought about it. He wasn’t intentionally leaving more work for me to do. To him it wasn’t any different from any other dish we used in our home.

Really?! Did he not realize I didn’t use the bowl and I instead felt used myself because he just expected me to put it away. This was news to him…

So how does this story end? Has something changed? Does Kraig now wash the bowl every time and return it to its rightful place in the cupboard? Yes, something has changed… but it’s not anything Kraig does. What’s changed? My perspective. When I realized he wasn’t intentionally trying to get my proverbial goat, I decided to change how I viewed the popcorn bowl. Now I see it as a round, shiny, salty, and silly little labor of love. I know, it’s weird. But, it’s a regular reminder to me now of how much I love this man.

I know he could easily wash it himself, and he’s even offered. But now for me it’s a tangible way to remind ME of how much I love him. And I’ve realized this doesn’t work if I do it with a bad attitude. But if I think of washing that bowl as a way to express how much I love Kraig, I even sometimes smile while scrubbing that thing clean.

We’ve got wedding rings and three kids to remind us of our commitment and history together. They are great reminders too. But on a regular basis, I’ve got a popcorn bowl to help me with this kernel of wisdom: I love the man who eats the popcorn. And when I think of all he does for me and for our children, I can season the menial tasks of my day with a proper perspective. And, that has made the popcorn bowl a savory symbol of romance in my eyes.

Now, if I could only do the same with the clothes hamper.

A Fairy Tale Life

I got nervous at dinner the other night. My three-year-old, who had just watched the movie, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, began sharing her opinion about what each of us around the table should be named if we were, in fact, one of the Seven Dwarfs.

Now if you recall, the Dwarfs are fat little old men with huge noses and fitting names like Sneezy, Grumpy, Bashful and Dopey. I’d much rather be compared to Snow White myself, but Karly thinks the Dwarfs are funny and cute and apparently she’s picking up on their character qualities matching their names. And what’s more scary is that she’s noticing her own family members have some habitual character qualities of their own.

So I held my breath and listened. She stated the baby of our family would be Grumpy, her big brother, Happy, and herself, Fun. So far, so good. Mommy, she declared, would be Tired and Happy …and Daddy would be the Milkshake Maker.

Now, I’m not going to lie and say I wouldn’t rather be called Gorgeous or Brilliant as opposed to Tired and Happy, but I was rather pleased. I can handle Tired and Happy. In fact, that’s pretty spot on.

And, my Prince Charming does make a mean milk shake. I’d personally much rather have him come bearing a chocolate shake than on a white horse. What?! I would!

So, I don’t know about Happily Ever After… but Once Upon A Time I’m loving this Fairy Tale life of mine. Now… I need to go take a nap!

34.

23 years ago today my Mom, Mary Miller, died suddenly of a heart arrhythmia. She was 34 years old.

This Friday is my birthday. I will be turning 34.

I’m going to be very honest here and admit that I’m struggling with turning 34.  It has nothing to do with aging and I’m not one bit superstitious so the number itself doesn’t bother me. I guess what bothers me is the realization of how young my Mom was when she passed away. This realization sits with me differently at age 34 than it did at age 10.

I always knew she died young. I heard that comment from grown-ups over and over in the months after her death. I also knew it was such a sad thing that she left my Dad with two little children, ages 10 (6 days shy of 11) and 6. I was sad because I’d lost my Mom. My Dad, brother, and I grieved her loss and I could perceive, even as a young girl, that many people were brokenhearted for us. But now that I’m turning 34 I see her death through a different lens. The glass was never rosy, but it was somewhat tinted with the eyes of a child looking through it. Now I’m not a child….I have children of my own. I see the loss of my Mom through my own Mommy eyes. And it has changed my perception.

My Mommy eyes see things around my house now, like rubber darts stuck to light switches and Barbies in the refrigerator, and I realize that my own Mom missed seeing a lot of things. She missed my middle-school years, my AAU basketball games, shopping for my prom dress and planning my wedding. She didn’t get to see my Dad walk me down the aisle toward the most wonderful man. Boy, she would have loved my husband! And it’s so sad that her grandchildren will never meet her this side of Heaven. It makes these Mommy eyes cry at times…

But, as I’ve become one of those grown-ups who realizes how young 34 really is, I’ve wiped my eyes and often recalled a story my Dad told me once about my Mom. He told me that his beloved church secretary, who was like a mother to him, had passed away while my Mom was still living. I was aware, but oblivious at the time. My Dad, however, had been sad to lose this mentor and he had gone to visit her grave, depressed and grieving. He was having trouble moving past the grief. But he told me that my Mom looked at him and asked, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” She was quoting Scripture. Luke 24:5 to be exact. It’s the passage where after Christ’s death and burial the women go to Jesus’ tomb and when they arrive angels greet them and remind them that Christ said he would rise again! It reads:

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. 5 In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6 He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 7 ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” 8 Then they remembered his words.

I like how it says in the last verse that then they remembered his words. Before that they had been so caught up in their grief that they didn’t remember Jesus’ promises. The angels helped give them perspective and helped them look for a living God.

I know my Mom is no longer living on this earth and she never will again. However, when I allow Christ to change my perspective I can remember that she is living in Heaven. She is happy and whole. She didn’t want my Dad to be overcome with grief and lose perspective on life when he lost his secretary. And I know that she most certainly wouldn’t want me to sit and mope often for her.

Yes, I do sometimes mope and there is no way to get around the fact that it’s heartbreaking. She missed so much. Yet I try to focus on what she did see and more importantly… WHO she is seeing now.

It makes my Mommy eyes sparkle along with the tears. It makes me want to embrace every day with my children and direct their eyes toward our loving and living Heavenly Father. I try to live by the motto: “Wherever you are, be all there.” I don’t know what my own future holds or what will come in my life but I want to enjoy this moment. Now. Today.

And when thinking about the future I want to be like the woman described in Proverbs 31:25 who is clothed with strength and dignity;” and  “can laugh at the days to come.” I say I want to because I certainly haven’t mastered it yet. You’d think that after having such a hands-on education about God’s provision and love in a worst-case scenario that I’d have graduated from this lesson already. But unfortunately I have to go over the notes again and again. God is living, active and unchanging. He has proven faithful in the worst and He’ll be faithful no matter what is to come. I study these thoughts often and feebly try to teach my own children these truths.

I miss my Mom. I wish I could talk to her now. Mom to Mom. Woman to Woman. But I don’t have the luxury. Instead I hear her echo the angels words in my mind. “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” Live life today, Christy. Yes, do remember the sorrow-because God uses all things for the good of His people and in sorrow we grow so much in our faith… but don’t stop there. Look to the Living God today… and live.

I am trying to look all around with those Mommy eyes. I see pigtails and peanut butter stained fingers. I see toys and shoes and crumbs on the floor. I see smiles and innocent sweet little eyes on my children’s faces. I see grace and blessings heaped upon the sorrow. I see now. And now I’m turning 34.

Starter House.

It was just another moving Monday. That was our move day. Now it’s all done day. Just another moving Monday…

We have successfully changed our home address. And yes, we moved on a Monday, just over two weeks ago.

We had a three month whirlwind that picked us up and plopped us down a few neighborhoods over. We did control this whirlwind, although at times it felt like it was controlling us! But, we were the ones who decided it was time to move out of our house of 9 years and enjoy more closet space and a lot more room for playing. We weren’t looking to move, necessarily, but friends of ours announced in December that they were moving out of town and their home was the type we could potentially see our family really enjoying. So we bought their home after selling ours.

Our house was on the market for only 36 days and we had 14 showings. It was crazy trying to keep the house “show ready” and trying to help the kids understand why their Christmas presents got packed back into boxes just a few days after they opened them. But, everyone handled it pretty well and the excitement of moving into our new home kept us motivated. It’s crazy how much the promise of a pink bedroom excited Karly! She still smiles about it all the time! And now we have a basement and wonderful closet space. Who knew storage could be so thrilling! :)

Yes, it was a hectic three months. I’m glad to be here and settled and enjoying actually hanging things on the walls instead of doing that in my mind only. My mind has been a little foggy anyway so it’s not been a great place to do interior design work. I’ve been thinking a lot about our homes and our lives. I’ve been thinking about the term we kept hearing to describe the little ranch we just moved from; “Starter House.” Many people would tell us what a great starter house we had. And it was. It was a great little house for us. We started there… and we proceeded! We had three kids, two miscarriages, a child go through cancer and chemo, a four month “evacuation” when mold was found in our attic air ducts, nine wonderful Christmases and a lot of joyful moments in that house. I was, of course, a little nostalgic to leave that starter house.

But, I’m looking forward to making memories in this new house. We’re starting to find things and starting to feel like we’re really at home here. Although, never completely at home anywhere because I know all of this life is just an imperfect, cramped little “starter house” preparing us all for eternity. I look forward to truly being home someday–and while I wait I’m doing better at embracing the new stages of life instead of lamenting the ones that have passed. I’m starting to get it!

And no matter what my address here on earth, God’s faithfulness is the same. And in His presence…. well, that’s my favorite place to dwell!

5 Years Ago…

I’m such a processor. I think and reflect often about my life. And, when an anniversary or significant reminder rolls around, I am especially pensive. Today is one of those days. Today marks the 5th anniversary of our son, Karson, being diagnosed with cancer.

For me, writing is therapeutic. I started a blog just a few days after Karson was diagnosed and have written thousands of words on his leukemia blog throughout the past five years. Writing is not a new thing for me. In fact, just this week after having a conversation with my parents about a tough time in our past, I went and dug out my old journal to read the scribbled entries I had written about my life at the ripe old age of eleven. Actually first, I had to remember the combination to the lock on the journal, but once I got it open I laughed as I read the preteen version of my therapeutic pastime. My husband teased me that not much has changed. Thankfully my grammar and spelling have seemed to improve since 5th grade!

So, here I am again today. Taking a quiet hour or so while my little girls nap to write about my thoughts and memories. Ironically, now I don’t lock them up in a teddy bear journal, but publish them online for others to read. Vulnerability is scary sometimes, but it has also helped me to have others walk with me through this journey. Having the love and support of friends and family has been such a comfort. It’s been five years now that I’ve needed that comfort as I’ve tried to comfort my own child while he walked down a long road of hardships. Today however, my little boy is the one helping me!

Five years ago Kraig and I were walking down the unfamiliar hallways of a hospital where we’d never before set foot.  We were shell-shocked, stunned, and scared. I was in denial and waiting for someone to tell me that they’d made a mistake. Our child, our little blonde headed two-year-old, could not have cancer. He was fine. He surely just had a virus or something causing his limp and fever. The nurses kept using terms like “hem/onc” and “LP” that sounded like a foreign language I did not have any interest in learning. We watched in horror as our son was held down on a table and a biopsy of his bone marrow was done. I walked with weak knees down a hallway toward a sign that read “Children’s Cancer Center” thinking that I must have been having an out of body experience because this couldn’t be my life.

Well, it was my life. Now, five years later it’s such a part of me. It’s hard to think back before I was–what they call– a “cancer mom.” I certainly would not have chosen this path, but I most definitely don’t want to waste it. Karson himself has helped teach me that. He’s not a prodigy or some child-Einstein (although I will say I’m getting nervous that his math skills are already close to surpassing my own!) but he’s a kid. His perspective is child-like and simple. This life he’s lived the past 7 years is all he knows. He knows that he had cancer, that he could have died, but that God has healed him and he’s doing great. He knows that sometimes he still has to go get blood drawn or tests done that aren’t very fun, yet he doesn’t complain. He looks for the good in things-which for him usually comes in the form of what food he can order while at these appointments. He tells people that he had cancer when he was two in much the same manner that you’d tell someone you had a pet fish. It is what it is… and that’s pretty refreshing.

For Karson’s diagnosis anniversary we gave him a gift bag. Inside was five candy bars and to each treat we taped a word. I had heard of a family giving each other encouraging words one year for Christmas and I thought it would be neat to give Karson 5 words on his 5 year anniversary. I wanted his words to be attributes given to him through having cancer, not things that were taken away. They are attributes that we see in him and that we are proud of as his Mom and Dad. The words were: Brave, Adaptable, Loving, Tough and Compassionate. He took them in stride and thanked us… mostly for the candy! But hopefully he’ll remember these words and continue to allow them and his circumstances to make him into the man God wants him to be. We also gave the girls their own candy with the words “Sweet Supportive Sister!”

Five years ago we walked down the hospital hallways. Yesterday, after taking Karson for his oncology check-up, I was able to walk down the halls of his elementary school. I dropped him off and although he was tardy, he was healthy, happy and excited to get to class. He kissed me before walking into his 1st grade classroom and I tell you what, I will never take that boy for granted. I prayed and thanked God over and over as I walked back out to the car. I didn’t know if I’d see this day. I didn’t know five years ago if Karson would live, let alone be able to learn in a social, school setting. The dark hardships of life bring to light all of the blessings.

I see blessings all around now. I saw them on the walls of the school where Karson’s name was above his locker. I see them in two precious little girls God has graciously added to our family. I see them in germy play-lands that we once could not go into because of having an immuno-suppressed child. I see them in the faith of others who have prayed for us along the way and who are now lifting their eyes to God in praise for what He’s done. I see them in the opportunities we’ve been given as a family because of Karson’s cancer. Opportunities to honor God-through trial and blessing.

Yes, I think about all these things. I’m nostalgic and sentimental… and a bit of a dork. But it helps me keep perspective in life. I’ve had hardships and blessings in my life and I don’t want to forget either. I want to have the simple faith of a child to say that whatever God brings my way I’ll trust Him. He’s proven faithful in the past and I know He’ll prove faithful forever. I know it’s not going to be a life without more pain, but if there is anything I’ve learned through my trials, it’s that God is good. And life isn’t about me, it’s about Him in the first place.

I am so thankful that today instead of watching Karson go through painful tests and procedures I watched him play with a marble track this morning and blow kisses to me from the bus window. I don’t want to ever take life for granted. It’s therapeutic to write about it and process all God has done… and in case you were wondering, no…you can’t have the combination to my journal!

Delivering Hope

As wonderful as it was to be a part of the assembly process of the 7,000 Super Baskets of Hope on Monday, it’s been just as special to help deliver a few of them. Although most of the 7,000 baskets were shipped across the nation to the 32 NFL cities, Indiana got to keep a share of them for some of the hospitals here in our own state. In Fort Wayne, deliveries are being made this week at Lutheran and Parkview hospitals. We’ve personally had the privilege of accompanying some local celebrities as baskets and tote bags were delivered to children admitted to Lutheran Hospital.

We certainly aren’t celebrities or even anybody important, but I do have a nice camera and I’m not afraid to use it and so we tagged along to take pictures of the deliveries. We also took our children on Tuesday evening so that they could be a small part of the process and see what it means to love other people.

Tuesday night the celebrities were Jason Fabini (who played in the NFL, mostly for the NY Jets) and Tory Jackson, who is a current guard on the Mad Ant’s basketball team. We also had the Mad Ant Mascot himself… who has now traumatized our one-year-old for life by standing right next to us in the crowded hospital elevator and daring to give her a high-five. Thankfully after she finally took a breath after her lung piercing scream, Grandma was able to whisk her away to safety! Also thankfully, the other children on the pediatric unit of the hospital reacted in a much more positive manner to Mr. Mad Ant!

Mr. Fabini, Mr. Jackson and our team were able to deliver about 17 baskets and totes on Tuesday evening. It struck me that night that the smiles I saw on the children’s faces were reflected in the faces of the macho athletes. They seemed to be enjoying giving hope just as much as the children enjoyed receiving it. We also noticed the eyes of several fathers light up as they saw athletes they recognized and who gave them a few minutes reprieve from thinking about their suffering child. And as an added bonus, the Moms seemed pleased about receiving a Vera Bradley tote bag and U Designs Hope necklace. Smiles all around.

Thursday evening I charged my camera battery and met the next group for deliveries. This time it was current Pittsburg Steeler, Trai Essex, as well as some women’s basketball players from IPFW. Although we live in “Colt’s Country,” Mr. Essex was still quite the popular guest! First of all, he’s an offensive lineman and he’s sort of hard to miss! Secondly, his smile is as big as his jersey-size and he’s an all around nice guy. The kids, and especially some parents, really enjoyed meeting this guy. I have a feeling if a few Terrible Towels would have been laying around we would have seen some parents waving them enthusiastically… with the giddy nurses right behind them!

It was wonderful seeing those baskets and totes go from huge piles on the assembly floor at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse on Monday to the actual hands of children and parents this week. For me personally, as the Mom of a cancer survivor, I loved seeing those tote bags full of books and a Bible go into the parent’s hands. Although our visit in each room was brief, we were leaving ultimate Hope in the form of God’s Word. To me… that’s the best part of this whole thing!

That, and getting to watch the reactions of joy and hope… and hear the hilarious requests asked of these athletes. Like the Mom Thursday night who chased Mr. Essex down in the hall so that she could get a picture of him for “Uncle Chunky!” I’m still chuckling to myself about that one. It was fun to be a part of bringing a smile and some pictures for boasting to the Uncle Chunkies of this world!

What a week it has been! The full circle has been completed and hope is being delivered. I’m so thankful that I’ve had a front row seat. I’m also thankful that you’ve all been a part of the process by following me on Facebook and reading this blog. Thank you for the comments, prayers and encouragement. This has not been about us. It’s not even been about Tony Dungy, Kurt Warner or a giant Mad Ant. It’s been about bringing hope to families who are hurting. And most of all, it’s been about bringing glory and honor to the God of all Hope! …and Uncle Chunky is even going to get a picture!

NOTE: A 90 second special about Super Baskets of Hope will air as a part of the Super Bowl pre game show this Sunday, February 5th at 1:20 EST. Don’t miss it!

Super Baskets – Super Success!

It is a day that we’ll always remember. It was unique, adrenaline filled, fun, at times chaotic, emotional and most likely…once in a lifetime! It was Super Baskets of Hope Day!

As I wrote about in my previous post (A Full Circle…Woven in a Basket of Hope) our worlds collided yesterday, January 30th, 2012. Over 900 volunteers gathered in Super Bowl host city, Indianapolis, to assemble 7,000 baskets to be delivered to critically ill children across the nation. All 32 NFL cities will be receiving a share of baskets this week before the Giants and Patriots kick off on Sunday night. These baskets, and accompanying Hope Tote Bags for parents, will be delivered by each city’s local athletes and celebrities to kids in their own children’s hospital.

As we stood on the assembly floor at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse we were not only surrounded by mounds of toys, books and goodies to be stuffed into baskets, but by friends from several spheres of our life who were working amidst the rows of tables. It really had come full circle and seeing it with my own eyes felt surreal, and wonderful!

It was a blessing to have about 180 high school students, coaches and parents join us through the ministry in which Kraig serves, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. These kids had to get up early and come from all around the state of Indiana (about 15 schools were represented) to volunteer. They arrived smiling and they kept up that positive energy throughout our entire shift. These FCA groups and their leaders had to work hard even before the event with getting school permission to be absent one day as well as permission slips, buses, sponsors, etc. What an honor and a blessing it was to have FCA staff and volunteers join us for Super Baskets of Hope. Thanks FCA!

We also saw friends who serve on the Riley Foundation Team and who have done an incredible amount of work over the last year to make yesterday a reality. Most of them had arrived at Banker’s Life before 3 am and they were still going strong at 3 pm! They are a dedicated group of people who truly care for children. I can attest that the Riley staff are always thinking of ways to care for and love children. For example, the Riley Family Suite where Karson and I spent a lot of time yesterday was filled with crafts for the children to do, toys for them to take home and at lunch they offered peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (with the crusts cut off!) as well as macaroni and hot dogs. There were even Rice Krispy treats in the shape of a Riley wagon. The kids come first! It seems Riley staff thought of everything and they didn’t just think of it, they made it happen. We are blessed to know these Riley Foundation Staff members and look forward to continuing our service on the NE Indiana Foundation Team. Thank you Riley Foundation for the amazing vision and all of the “elbow grease” that made yesterday come true.

Kraig, Karson and I were given the opportunity to stand on the platform at 10am and to share our Basket of Hope story. Hundreds of people listened as our seven-year-old cancer survivor took a turn at the microphone. Karson did a great job and we are so proud of him for being brave enough to share in such a venue.

Karson took all of the attention in stride and has a childlike innocence to understanding how special the day really was. I had to stifle laughter later in the day at how cute it was when Karson was interviewed on camera for our local television news. He did an excellent job, but it was just minutes after we’d personally met Coach Tony Dungy and had a fairly private audience with him that others would envy. However, when Karson was asked what exciting things he’d been doing he mentioned only the crafts he’d done in the Riley Suite as well as the great snacks! Ha! The reporter had to prompt him several times to help him remember, that oh yeah… we spoke on stage and met famous people too! 🙂 So sweet to hear a child’s perspective.

There was much media attention. Our local news picked up the event as well as the Indianapolis Star (click here to read the article) and even some national news outlets. And, according to Basket of Hope, Coach Dungy has secured a slot on the Super Bowl pre-game show this Sunday, February 5th! Be watching NBC at 1:24 EST to see a 90-second special on Super Baskets of Hope.

Our morning shift which started at 8:00 and ended at noon assembled 4,112 baskets. The afternoon shift finished off the other 2,888. In between shifts they provided boxed lunches and held an inspiration program. Speakers included Pacer President and Riley Board Chairman, Jim Morris, the mayor of Indianapolis, Mr. Greg Ballard, the first lady of Indiana Mrs. Daniels, and more. My personal favorite moment came when Colt’s lineman Gary Brackett was introduced and then spoke. A high school football player who is also a leukemia survivor, Evan Meade, introduced Brackett. Evan shared how when he was hospitalized for months with cancer that Brackett stopped by one day and spent a long time visiting with him and talking life and football. Evan said that Brackett would never know how much he had impacted his life and introduced him as one of the most wonderful men he’d ever met. Brackett then shared a bit and closed by surprising Evan with Super Bowl tickets. The crowd stood and cheered and many of us got choked up. How neat. I don’t think Evan will ever forget yesterday either! The program concluded with some remarks by Coach Dungy. It was very impressive.

All in all, it was a Super Success! 7,000 baskets are now on their way to bring hope to families who are hurting. To us personally, we are so grateful that 7,000 tote bags including a Bible are being offered to the parents. We believe the Bible offers ultimate hope and we are thrilled that Isaiah 55:11 says,

so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”

Super Baskets of Hope day was a Super Success. We are grateful to have been a part of bringing hope to sick children and their families. The full circle is complete… and we’ll never forget it!