Friday, December 30, 2011

Remembering our little cupcake

When we went to Florida for Anna's Make A Wish trip in late Nov. / early Dec. of 2009, Anna was in treatment, but she got a break so we could make her wish to go to Disneyworld and meet Cinderella come true.  One day at The Magic Kingdom, she spotted a cupcake with LOTS of pink frosting that she just had to have!  At the time her appetite was spotty at best, so we doubted she would eat much of the cupcake.  But, it was her Wish trip, so her desire to get this ($3.95!) cupcake was granted!

She spent some time licking the frosting, but wasn't able to eat most of the cupcake. 

Part of our time away a couple of weeks ago was spent in Orlando.  While it probably would have been too hard to visit the Magic Kingdom again, we did spend a little time at Downtown Disney.  We happened to stumble upon a shop that had these lovely, frosting-full (still $3.95!) cupcakes.  We decided to get one for each of us in memory of Anna.  They were her birthday cake for this year!!  I don't think any of us was quite able to finish our cupcake either.  (They aren't as delicious as their price might suggest!)


Monday, December 5, 2011

A Year Ago...

Whether it's good for me or not, I am living in the past, specifically one  year ago. Reliving the last week or so of Anna's life.  There are good memories of that week, and for that I am very thankful.  And there are memories that are painful.  Vivid memories.  Heartbreaking memories. 

Some of those memories were captured on film, and looking back I am again amazed at the changes that took place in little more than a week's time.  Here are a few of the images that come to mind.

December 4, 2010 - Riding the ponies at Sanborn's Hometown Christmas.  It was so cold!

And visiting Santa. 

December 5, 2010, at a baby shower where Anna was thrilled to help carry the gifts over to the mom-to-be to open.

December 6, 2010 - silliness!

And Anna's amazing dance performance! 

December 7, 2010 - Tiring Easily

December 8, 2010 - Mom and Anna Manicure / Pedicure Day

December 9, 2010 - Excited for her birthday

December 10, 2010 - so very tired.

December 11, 2010

And a last family photo

December 12 should be a day each year to celebrate.  We should be having a cake and Anna should be blowing out her candles.  And while we will ALWAYS celebrate that Anna was born to us and thank God for blessing us with her for the time she was with us, December 12 is sure to always be a difficult day for us. 

I can't say how we will spend each December 12, but this year we have decided to be away by ourselves, just the four of us, no phones, no computers, etc.  We will be doing something enjoyable, while remembering Anna. 

We welcome your prayers as we journey through the next days and weeks.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Of Monuments and Monumental Experiences

If I would update more often, I could devote my posts to a single topic. But such is not the case, so this post includes at least two unrelated events.

Anna's stone was placed at the cemetery last week.  We had been anticipating its arrival for some time.  There wouldn't be any real surprises as to what it would look like, because we had worked and reworked a design we would be "happy" with.  But the knowing it was coming and the knowing what it would look like doesn't mean that I was prepared for its arrival.  It is a mixture of feelings - what isn't? - as I am glad that there is now a permanent marker for where Anna's body rests.  And yet I hate that there needs to be a permanent marker for where Anna's body rests.

This is the front:

 ...and the back:

We know the saying, "It's not as though it's carved in stone," meaning that something can always be changed.  Maybe that's what is difficult about the arrival of this monument.  Anna's death is now carved in stone.  It's real. 

But we did want to be sure that the carved-in-stone record of her death also conveyed the truth that she has life eternal in the arms of Jesus.  She loved to sing the song "I am Jesus' Little Lamb," so it seemed a fitting verse. 

We smile through our tears remembering her singing that she was Jesus' "Wittle Wamb." 

I also want to share another remembrance for Anna.  My brother, Chris, has used his wonderful talent to once again put together a video / slide show of Anna's life.  A portion of that video is on Youtube for anyone who would like to view it.  It is a reminder of God's grace and goodness even during difficult times, and a reminder that though the outcome wasn't exactly what we prayed for, God's promises still hold true.  Here is the video. 

And, on a COMPLETELY different topic, I guess I should give a report of last weekend's half marathon!  Since it was my first (and likely only) half marathon, I wasn't sure what to expect, and I wasn't sure what goals to set.  My main goal was to finish.  If I could finish without walking at all, I'd be very pleased.  And then any time under 2:30 would be fine by me! 

The day or two before the race, I was suddenly feeling very stressed and unprepared.  Though I had never given a whole lot of extra thought to nutrition while I was training, suddenly I panicked  because I felt like I needed to eat the "right" foods in preparation for the race. I hadn't ever run more than 10 miles, how was I going to do 13?  The night before, I felt incapable of deciding what to wear -- shorts or pants?  Long sleeves or short? 

Ready or not, the day of the race arrived, and we were off!  I decided to try to follow the 2:15 pacer, figuring I would fall back after a while.  But before too long I felt like I wanted to go faster than the pacer, and despite being warned NOT TO PASS YOUR PACER, I passed the pacer.  I was advised that it would be very disappointing to pass your pacer only to have them pass you a little later on, so once I passed I was determined to stay ahead of the pacer.  (And by determined, I mean really really hoping, because if the pacer caught me and went on by I was pretty sure there wouldn't be much I'd be able to do about it!) 

A couple of hills provided some extra challenge, but it was a good course to run on a beautiful fall day.  I was pleased to be feeling good at mile 6.  Even miles 7,8 and 9 were going well.  At mile 10 I (thankfully) felt like I had it in me to keep going.  I told myself I "only" had a 5K left to run, and a 5K is a piece of cake!  Of course, a 5K after a ten mile run makes for a bit more of a challenge.  My legs were starting to feel it, and a couple of (very) mild upward elevation changes in the last couple of miles were tough.  But adreneline kicked in as I came down the final stretch and I was able to add a little more speed before crossing the finish line. 

I finished the race!  Goal met!!
I didn't walk!!!!  Goal met!! 
Final time:  2:14:07     Goal surpassed!!!!

It is a great feeling to have accomplished this.  It is proof that with God all things are possible, and I know I couldn't have done it without Him!  And I am thankful for my supportive family members who came to cheer me on, including my guys!

I have said that this would be my only race of that distance.  I think I would like to keep running enough to participate in 10Ks, but I don't know that I would want to devote the time again to training for a long race.  But, almost a week later, as the soreness is wearing off, the thought is already entering my mind that I could maybe do that again...... maybe....... someday...... maybe.......

Like other "big" events, it seems like a bigger deal before you do it.  But, hey, if I could run a half-marathon it can't be that dififcult!  If I can do it, anyone can!  But I don't blame anyone for not wanting to!

Now onto my next big goal......

Monday, October 17, 2011

Another month, continuing sadness, happy remembering, added busy-ness, another death, not enough training, and always hope in Christ!

I’ve been away for too long, so there is much to catch up on! 

October 12 marked another month that we have lived without Anna’s physical presence.  That makes 10 months now.  The weird thing (one of the weird things) about grief and missing is that it doesn’t follow any logic or set pattern.  You might imagine that the process could be pictured as following a straight line, and even if you realize that no person progresses from one point to the next at the same rate, it would make sense that you still go continually forward from one point to the next.  In actuality, though, the process follows a zigzag line, or loops forwards and backwards, or makes heart-stopping twists, turns and drops.

You would think that a person could get used to living without their daughter eventually, and that each day would be just a bit easier than the one before it.  Sometimes that seems to be the case, and then suddenly there are days when it truly seems like I should be picking out clothes for Anna along with those I set out for Luke and Isaiah each morning. One day it seems like I’m only just discovering that her bed hasn’t been slept in.  I have to stop myself when I think I heard her call for me...Her presence at times seems so real, so recent, even more than it did a couple of months ago.  I walk into the room where the boys are playing and expect her to be there, too.  I am sometimes caught so off-guard, because even I thought I had gone on to the next point on the line, only to discover that I’ve been thrown for a loop and have regressed in some ways.  There just isn’t any logic or predictability, and that is hard to deal with. 

We have been talking about life exactly one year ago.  It was this week in 2010 that we had “run away” from doctors and real life to spend time as a family in Florida.  We look at pictures like these, taken that week, and have such a hard time believing that one year ago Anna was with us and happy and we were so hopeful – and still whole. 

How thankful we are to have these photos, these memories, which I think will always be the most vivid, happy final memories we have of our Anna and our family of five. 

Life feels very different now, one year later.  Yes, life continues to move forward, and always at such a rapid rate!  This has been a busy month, to say the least.  For one thing, my Kindergarten aide position developed into an every day job.  Though I had doubts about working this many hours, I am glad that I can be of use in the classroom and I do enjoy what I do, plus I have the availability to be doing it right now. 

The CureSearch Walk, a bereaved mother’s retreat, and a cousin's wedding have kept us busy for the past several weekends, and of course we have been busy with harvest, so it’s been a rather crazy time of year.  Gorgeous fall weather has made the busy-ness more enjoyable though! 

We did have some more sadness recently, as our dog, Rex, was hit on the road and killed.   He had only been with us since April, but how quickly we develop attachments to our pets!  We know that he was “just a dog,” and yet for our boys was another difficult loss to deal with, especially for Luke.  There has been mention of getting another dog, but time will tell if we are ready for that. 

I guess we can be thankful for the reminders that this life is temporary, that this is not our true home, and that we have so much to look forward to!  A song I rediscovered that says so much...  ..... so much about the reason for the hope that we have, the sure hope that one day we will be home at last!

The month of September, which is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, has passed.  Even though September has passed, Childhood Cancer remains very much in the present.  Every day in October, and November, and December, and…… 46 children, on average, will be diagnosed with cancer, and each day 7 will die.  Year-round efforts are needed.  As I mentioned, we participated in the CureSearch Walk in Minneapolis at the end of September, and our team, Anna’s Army, raised over $3,800 to contribute to an event total of over $88,000.  Thank you to everyone who contributed!! I hope we will see the discovery of a cure, the sooner the better! 

In the middle of all this busy-ness, I continue with my half-marathon training, though not as often as I should.  I am now five days away from the big day, and though I wish I were a little more prepared, I think I can get it done!  I am ready for the day to come and be done with, as I don’t believe that this training has turned me into a “real” runner.  I think this will be my one and only big race.

There are a few things I plan to update about very soon, so hopefully I will be able to find the time to do that! 

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Be Aware!

September has arrived once again.  What I never knew about September until a few years ago is that it is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.  I became "aware" of the devastation of childhood cancer  in a horrible way, with the diagnosis of my beautiful little girl.  I pray that those of you reading this do not have such an intimate acquaintance with the world of childhood cancer, (though I know that too many of you do!)but I do hope that all of you have become more aware, that you know a little of the horrors that these kids and their families endure, and that you are moved enough to join the cause to make a difference.  There are so many ways to do SOMETHING and you wouldn't have to look very hard to find a good way to help.  And I am always available to give you suggestions for ways to help! 

We are planning to participate in the CureSearch walk in Minneapolis on September 25, and I would invite you to help out by supporting us in this walk!

The CureSearch Walk celebrates and honors children whose lives have been affected by children’s cancer, while raising funds for the lifesaving research of the Children’s Oncology Group. This group of medical professionals treats more than 90% of children with cancer at over 175 hospitals in the United States. These experts provide world-class care in communities across the country.

Every day, 35 children are diagnosed with pediatric cancer–7 of those children will not survive. Cancer is the #1 cause of death by disease in children.

We would love to have more people join our "Anna's Army" team!  If you are available for a Sunday afternoon walk for a good cause, please sign up!  You can do so here!

If you would like to donate, please follow these links.  Though we are getting a late start, we hope that we can make a difference. 

Monday, August 22, 2011

First Day

Hard to believe my boys are now officially first and third graders! 

They were excited to head off to school, even though it seems as though summer vacation just started. 

For the first time in about nine years the first day of school was also mine to experience.  Yes, my eight year “maternity leave” has come to an end.  I am not back to teaching (yet?) but will be a Kindergarten aide four days a week.  I worry about how I must relearn better time management to keep up with everything at home, (not to mention half-marathon training!) but I really am looking forward to being a regular part of the school.  Sorry, no first day photo of myself to post!

A new school year is exciting, and I know my boys are happy to be back at it.  They are looking forward to their new classrooms and new teachers.

Yes, a new school year is exciting, but it is never as easy as just being excited.  I remember taking this picture a year ago.

As I made the signs for the boys to hold for this year’s photos, I was so wishing I was making one for Anna as well.  She would have been in preschool for another year, and I can just imagine how excited she would have been to go back.  What beautiful outfit would she have demanded requested to wear for her first day of school?  What stories would she have come home with?  What friends would she have played with?

I think it is inevitable that every happy moment, every exciting experience, every new adventure will have that shadow of sadness.  Though a part of me wishes I could ignore the sad part and instead simply and fully enjoy each moment, that just isn’t possible.  And in a way it makes the joy of each moment even more potent.  First days of school and other milestones are not as easy to take for granted anymore, and I tend to appreciate the blessings of today and treasure all that I have even more. 

I pray that all who are sending their children off to school once again will treasure all those special moments, even the difficult homework days and the battles over what to wear or when to go to bed or get up, etc., etc. 

And I pray for all the moms and dads whose hearts ache just a little bit more than usual as they watch all those kids go off to school, wishing their own child was among them. 

Sunday, August 21, 2011


"No Excuses!"  " I MUST run!"  Remember those words?  They were only written a few days ago.  I should have known.....

I think it was last Tuesday that I wrote those words.  On Thursday, only TWO days later, my schedule called for a 5 mile run.  Not that far.  But --of course there's a "but"-- Wednesday ended up being a late night.  I optimistically set my alarm, though it's annoying ringing found me very unprepared to get out of bed.  Running a little later wasn't an option, as I had a previous obligation to be ready for.  I tried to convince myself to ignore the exhaustion - "NO EXCUSES!"  but -- of course, another "but"-- I also had a killer headache.  So, I missed my Thursday run. 

I more or less made up for it, I think.  Friday was supposed to be a rest day, but I ran 6 miles in 60:30 - a VERY good time for me!  Saturday I ran my scheduled 3 miles in record (for me!) time (27:30) and today, Sunday, I ran 5.5 miles, though I was scheduled for 6.  But I had done 6 instead of 5 on Friday, so ended up with more than was scheduled anyway. 

Hopefully those "buts" will not get the best of me as I continue my training!!  ("But" you know school is starting tomorrow.....)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

It's official - I need to be committed!

It’s official.  And officially frightening!  I received an email that my registration for the Mankato half marathon has been confirmed.  I now have 66 days to convince this body that it can run a long distance. 

I had hoped to run the Mankato Marathon (Half!) last October, but procrastinated in registering.  That actually turned out to be a good thing, because after Anna’s relapse I was committed to a different kind of marathon. 

But now I must follow an official type training schedule.  My previous training was pretty much a “run when I feel for as long as I feel like running” kind of training.  If I was too tired, I’d sleep in and skip my run.  If it was a busy week, I’d take the week off.

But now discipline is the name of the game!  I have my training calendar posted and there can be no excuses!!   Heat, rain, exhaustion – doesn’t matter, I MUST run!  Two and a half weeks into my official training, all is going well.  I’m actually adding ½ to1 mile to most of the scheduled runs, only because I don’t want it to be too much of a shock when I have to do those longer runs I have never done before.

Can’t wait for 67 days from now!!

Thanks to my running sister, Jen, for this shirt!!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

My Middle Child

I also started this over a month ago, with the intention of posting it on July 6, Isaiah’s birthday!  Better late than never. 

Happy Birthday, dear one!  Today you are six years old – your golden birthday!  My sweet, silly, sensitive, perplexing middle child, who tends to keep people laughing or wondering. 

I have always wondered if your place in the family, the middle child, has caused any problems for you.  You didn’t get to be the “baby” of the family for long, as Anna was born when you were 17 months old.  I often felt guilty for not giving you all the attention I wished I could have.  And then when you were only three years old Anna got sick and I was gone for so much of the next year.  But when you were younger, you had your ways of making sure you got some extra attention.  Unfortunately, it often involved a trip to the Emergency Room!  Ear infections, a mishap with a cart, febrile seizures, falling into a well pit - it seemed like if something could happen it happened to you! 

But somehow you have just always gone with the flow.  Somehow you seem to have grown and developed and learned enough that you amaze people with what you know and do.  You learned to read, basically on your own, while you were still in preschool, and you continue to take it upon yourself to discover as much about the world around you as you possibly can.  Even when you were a baby, you seemed to just look around and watch and try to take in as much as you could.  Your mind always seemed to be working as you tried to figure things out.  You still notice more than most anyone else, and your curiosity and the questions you ask and the things you can figure out just amaze me. 

There is a side of you that is very organized and exact.  You know the way things should be and really want them to be that way!  You are always counting and figuring and lining things up just so.  When you went to basketball camp earlier this summer, as the kids were practicing their dribbling and shooting, you were the one making sure the cones were lined up just right.  You like things to be in order. 

But that doesn’t mean you are all business!  Your goofy side is always making people laugh.  You have a fun sense of humor and just love to be silly!  You have an easy personality, for the most part.  You are sensitive to others, and have little trouble getting along with anyone.  (Except for maybe your big brother!)

You do look up to your big brother, though.  Very often you become interested in whatever he is interested in, and want to play whatever he is playing.  That works pretty well most of the time, but I know you have your own different interests as well, and I hope you feel free to let them be known. 

The death of your sister has had a great effect on you, understandably so.  Although you are always quick to point out the happy side, that Anna is in heaven, you also very often express your sadness that she is not here.  Sometimes you will walk into her room and say, “I love you Anna!”  Or you will look at her picture and say that you really miss her. Very often when you are making a project or drawing anything, even your work at school, you will write Anna’s name, and often a purple butterfly along with it.  It is obvious that she continues to be a part of you, as I believe she always will!  The two of you got along so well.  She looked up to you and was always so happy when the two of you could be playing together.  You were a great big brother to her and gave her many moments of happiness!!

God has blessed you with many gifts and abilities, and I am excited to see how they continue to be put to use as you grow!  I love you more each day, and consider myself very blessed that I get to be you mom!

Happy Birthday!!!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

My Firstborn

This is a little late.  Though I started to write this for Luke’s July 2 birthday, July got very busy.  20 days in July we had various overnight guests in our house, which is a great kind of busy, but it meant that some goals did not get met.  So this entry is one month late, but still true! 

Happy Birthday to my firstborn child!  You are still my little baby boy, but somehow we are celebrating your eighth birthday.  How can that be?
Eight years (and one month) ago you came rather unwillingly into this world.  You were past your due date, so labor was induced early in the morning.  Later in the day, no amount of pushing could get you to budge, and so a c-section was performed so that we could finally meet you face to face!  I had loved you so completely for months already, but what an incredible moment to hold you, my first child, and look with wonder and amazement into your beautiful eyes, to hold you close, to nurse you, and to realize that my life would never ever be anything like it was before that moment.  You were born, and I became a mother, a job I am so very blessed to have been given! 

Every day of the eight years of your life, my love for you has grown.  I have not always (or ever!) been the perfect mother, and we have learned much together.  Sometimes I think that you are the victim of the majority of my parenting mistakes, since everything you do is new to us and I learn as I go along.  You get to do it all first!  But I am always reminded of so many reasons to be proud of you, so many ways that you have accomplished so much.

I love the way you so often have a single focus.  You become interested in something, and that’s all that you talk about and spend time learning about, at least until the next “something” comes along.  Very often your focus revolves around a movie, like Shrek, Toy Story, and most recently Cars 2.  Or it might be WebKinz, or Beanie Babies, or Magic Tree House, or Batman– whatever you are currently focused on you share with everyone around you!  You study up on it on the computer, you read all the books about it you can get your hands on, you give quizzes to everyone else about what you learn, and you center your birthday / Christmas list around the latest fad. 

I’m proud of the way you try new things, even when you are not really interested in them.  Sports don’t rank high on your list of interests, but you participate (with encouragement!) in several different sports.  You have learned a lot, and it is fun to see how much you have improved.  God has blessed you with many talents, and I pray that you will use them to serve Him, whatever you are led to do!

You have really started to enjoy writing stories, and they are such fun to read!  Yes, the topic is usually your latest fad, but you have a gift of imagination and have written some very entertaining stories!  It is fun to see your sense of humor come out in your writing.  I would not be surprised if someday your occupation involves writing. 

With you, my firstborn, I notice and marvel most of all at how you grow and change and develop.  Somehow you have become more responsible than you used to be.  Somehow, the way you carry on a conversation suddenly seems so much more grown-up.  Somehow, though I haven’t always noticed the process, things that were once challenging for you now come with ease.  When did it happen that I could no longer carry you easily?  When did it happen that my lap was no longer your preferred place to sit?  I learn to hold onto each hug just a little longer, to treasure each cuddle and kiss as they come, and pray that you will not ever grow out of such special moments!

You have had difficult times that I wish you had not had to endure, and you have had to learn things that I wish young boys never had to know.  I know it has affected you greatly to have to watch as your sister suffered from cancer and cancer treatments, and then died.  You are not one to talk openly or often about this and how you are feeling.  I wonder if you are afraid that sharing your pain and sorrow will cause more pain and sorrow for your dad and me.  I know that you do not like to see us unhappy or crying, so maybe you try to protect us from that by keeping your feelings to yourself.  We will continue to encourage you to talk as much as you need to, and I pray that we will be able to help you process all of this in the best way.  You were such a good brother to Anna, and showered her with love and kindness.  She loved you very much! 

My prayer for you is that the difficulties in life will make you stronger, will bring you closer to God, and will motivate you to make a difference with your own life.  You have many talents, and with God’s help and blessing you will accomplish much! 

My love for you continues to grow, and every day I thank God with all of my heart for blessing me with you, my firstborn. 

Happy Birthday!

Sunday, July 31, 2011


I Can Only Imagine……

I can only imagine
What it will be like
When I walk by your side.
I can only imagine
What my eyes will see
When your face is before me.
I can only imagine.

Surrounded by your glory,
What will my heart feel?
Will I dance for you Jesus,
Or in awe of you be still?
Will I stand in your presence,
Or to my knees will I fall?
Will I sing Hallelujah?
Will I be able to speak at all?
I can only imagine!

I can only imagine,
When that day comes,
And I find myself
Standing in the sun.
I can only imagine
When all I will do
Is forever, forever worship you.
I can only imagine.

One of the hard parts about losing a child is the fact that you have to send them somewhere you’ve never been before.  Usually we parents like to know what we are getting our kids into, and if we are not there with them, we want to be able to visualize at least a little what they are doing.  But my little girl is in heaven.  I know it is an unimaginably wonderful place, but I’ve never been there.  I can’t know what it’s like; I can’t know what she is doing there.  I can trust completely that there is no need to worry about her.  When your child is at school or daycare or camp, it is in the child’s best interest for the parents to be aware of what is happening there – the more you are aware the better.  I know that’s not the case here.  It does not benefit Anna for me to know what heaven is like for her.  But I ache to know more details about heaven.  God has apparently given me all the details that I need but I sometimes want more information!!

So I imagine.  I can only imagine.

I love the Mercy Me song, “I Can Only Imagine.”  It’s been a favorite since before Anna got sick, but as with so many things it has taken on new meaning.  I used to think, as I listened to this song, mostly about what I would do when I got to heaven – would I be able to speak or just be overcome with awe?  Would I stand before Jesus or fall to my knees?  But now my imaginings focus on Anna.  What is it like for her to be in heaven in the presence of God?

I can only imagine.

Surrounded by your glory,
What will my heart feel?
Will I dance for you Jesus,
Or in awe of you be still?
Will I stand in your presence,
Or to my knees will I fall?
Will I sing Hallelujah?
Will I be able to speak at all?
I can only imagine!

Does she dance for Jesus?  It’s not hard to picture her dancing!  She loved to dance!!

Is she so in awe that she is still?  She was often shy; it always took her a while to warm up to people.  It’s so much on a smaller scale, but when she finally had her wish to meet Cinderella come true, Anna could only look at her in wonder.  Imagine what it is like to meet God face to face!

Does she sing “Hallelujah?”  She loved to sing, and she loved the word “Hallelujah.”  She always sang it with her tongue sticking out a little further than most people – I think to try to get the “L” sound out. 

Or is she silently observing and just soaking it all in?  I can imagine her being silent, just watching and taking it all in, at least at first.

I can only imagine. 

Someday I’ll see.  Someday it will be my turn to stand in the presence of God, and I can only imagine how full of gratitude I will be to God for making it possible for me to be reunited with my precious daughter.  I can only imagine how I could possibly show my thanks to God for taking away sin’s curse and making heaven and heavenly reunions ours to cherish. 

I can only imagine life for Anna in heaven.  I can only imagine my reaction when I get to heaven.  But I can hardly wait! 

Friday, June 24, 2011

Wannabe Runner

“Don’t try to be something you’re not!”  Good advice, right?  Well I am not a runner, but I am ignoring the wise advice and trying to be one anyway.  I know I won’t ever be an “official” runner (although I don’t know what the qualifications would be for me to be official) but I do have a goal of running a half marathon before 2011 is over, so for now I am pretending to be a runner, though it doesn’t take much to see through this charade.

My sister, Jen, is a runner.  She hasn’t always run consistently, but when she wants to be a runner it seems far easier for her to step into the role .    Right now she is training for a marathon, her second, this time to honor Anna and raise money for cancer research.  We are touched that she is running for Anna and to make a difference, and I admire her determination and hard work more than I can say!  (Keep that in mind if I say anything that sounds critical of her in the sentences to come!) 

Jen has a blog with her training progress – check it out and support her!  She offered to let me be a guest writer on her blog, if I would like, but there are major differences between her training and mine which I wasn’t sure I should put up for such close comparison.  As sisters, there is a lot we have in common, but we are quite different in many ways!  She subscribes to Runner's World; I subscribe to TV Guide.  Side by side, our blog post for a week would look something like this:

Jen:  “My goal was to run 12 miles today, but I was really tired from a busy weekend and I only made it 11.5.  I know I can do better next time!”
Me:  “My goal was to get out of bed and run today, but I was really tired from a busy weekend, so that didn’t happen.  I’m quite proud of myself for even thinking about running!”

Jen:  “It’s amazing how good I’ve felt running lately!  Even on my sluggish days, I’m making personal bests for time and distance!”
Me:  “It’s amazing that I ever thought I should try to be a runner!  Why did I tell everyone I wanted to run a half-marathon?  Now I have to keep training for it or I’ll look like a loser!”

Jen:  “Today was a scheduled short run (5 miles) so I decided to see how fast I could run it.  I thought I’d be able to sustain a 9 minute mile, but, WOW, my Garmin showed that I maintained an 8 minute mile pace!”
Me:  “What’s a Garmin?”

Jen:  “Today was a scheduled off day, but I felt so good I got up at 4 a.m. anyhow and went for a quick 6 mile run!”
Me:  “I was hoping to run 3 miles today, but it started sprinkling after a half mile so I turned around and went back.  WooHoo!  1 mile done!!!  Half marathon, Here I Come!”

Jen:  “Today I ran 12 miles.  It was easier than I expected!  I maintained just under a 10 minute mile pace.”
Me:  “Great run today!  I had a steady 10 minute mile pace – for the first half mile!”

Jen:  “Wow!  I thought I could run forever today!  Feeling great even after an intense week of training!”
Me:  “Wow!  Great week!  I ran three days, so today I took a well-deserved break from running!” 

You get the idea.  My goal is not to mock my sister (really!!!), but only to point out some of these differences between us when it comes to running!

But I have asked myself WHY she is so much better at this than I am.  (I’m sure it has nothing to do with our choice of magazine subscriptions!)  And I have concluded that I have some very legitimate excuses reasons why I don’t do as well as she does. 

1:  I think I’ve got a good 25-30 pounds on her.  It has to be easier to run when you don’t have as much weight to carry around! 
2:  Bugs.  She runs in Nevada, where she doesn’t need to swat flies and mosquitoes throughout her entire run.
3:  Humidity.  Again, much harder here in the Midwest when the air is so wet you can barely breathe.
4:  Animals.  Yeah, I know, there are animals in Nevada, but only things like rattlesnakes, coyotes, and mountain lions.  They are more scared of her than she is of them!  I’ve got to be on the lookout for the definitely-not-more-scared-of-me-than-I-am-of-them vicious and overprotective farm dogs.  Plus the raccoons, and the skunks, which even when I don’t see them I often smell them, and it’s not easy to run while holding my breath!

So I think that Jen needs to try this.  She should first put on a sauna suit, like this one,

then strap three ten pound weights to her body, and run while holding her breath and continuously and vigorously waving her hands around her face and head.  We’ll see what pace/distance she can do then!!! 

Jen might try to respond and come up with a few things that make running where she lives more difficult.  All I would say to that is “Excuses, excuses!!!!”

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Who do you connect with?  I connect with different people for different reasons, which is true for everyone I am sure.  Last week I had the opportunity to connect with people in a really neat way.

Truth be told, though, I wish I would never have met them, and I’m sure they wish they had never met me!  For what brought us together was the common bond that each of us had outlived one (or more) of our children. 

Our family spent some time last week at Faith’s Lodge, in the NW woods of Wisconsin.  Faith’s parents created this amazing place in her memory.  In some ways a visit there is similar to other vacations, with opportunities to hike, canoe, sit around a campfire, see wildlife, sleep in, read, relax, etc. 

But what made this time more special for us were the opportunities to remember Anna.  We were able to paint a memorial rock for her, and place it among the other tribute rocks.  As a family, we painted a birdhouse and included her name and the dates she lived.  I decorated a journal that I can use as I think of her. 

Even more than the projects and the relaxation and the fun, it was those connections that were made that made the time most memorable.  Early on, the parents shared the stories of the lives their children lived.  It makes a difference to be able to introduce yourself to people who understand that in order to know you, they have to know the story of your child, because it is a HUGE part of who we are.  It is awful to have to share such a story, and wonderful to know that those hearing it “get it.” 

There is immense relief in being asked questions that many people feel they shouldn’t ask.  There is similar relief in feeling comfortable being the asker, because even though the questions are difficult to answer, additional healing comes with each opportunity to talk about each child and the circumstances that led us to a bereavement retreat. 

I do not want to minimize the support we have received from those who have not experienced the death of a child.  Far from it.  I am forever grateful for the many ways that people have reached out and showed they care in abundant ways.

There is just something – an amazing connection – that comes with this huge shared experience.  Not a surprise that there is, really, but still I am thankful for those I met and talked with at Faith’s Lodge, for understanding and being understood.

It’s not often that farewells are so difficult after so short a time, but it was far from easy to say goodbye to those we met.  It makes me wish that more people would really “get it,” but then again, I’m very thankful that they don’t.  I wish that no one would have need of such a bereavement retreat.

We do feel blessed and grateful for the connections we made!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A Picture speaks a thousand words…and lack of a photo leaves the story seemingly incomplete.

After Anna was diagnosed with cancer, I started taking a lot more pictures than was my norm.  Especially of Anna.  Deep inside, but always unspoken, lay the reason for doing this, the “just in case” photos are all I’d have someday, but covered with the rationalization that I could use these pictures to show Anna, when she was older and exceptionally healthy, all she had been through as a toddler.

So I’d snap away, and order my prints online, realizing when they’d arrive at our home that the number of photos of Anna was far greater than the number of photos of anyone or anything else.  It seemed like we had so many pictures of her!

At least it seemed that way until lately. 

I look at our photos of Anna regularly, though usually with a specific purpose, and only occasionally do I allow myself to deeply feel (i.e. fall apart) while studying these frozen moments of the past.  I’ve recently concluded that there are not enough pictures of Anna! 
Though many of her expressions were captured, though much of her attitude is obvious in many of these photographs, much is missing.  I have more in my memory than was ever captured on film, yet I long for the concrete evidence to be certain that those memories will never fade.  I mourn that the limited bits that have been captured will likely be all that her brother’s memories include.  I’m frustrated that anyone who has never met Anna but would like to know about her can never know her completely. 

I search the photos I have for just the right one for this project or that, and too often the one I am looking for doesn’t exist.  I know that sometimes this is because we were too busy enjoying her and treasuring every moment to be bothered with cameras, especially in her last months. 

So I treasure each photo we have.  I continually thank God for those who took photos of Anna and shared them with us.  What a treasured gift!!

Thought I'd share a sampling of those treasured Anna photos:

Finally, a quote I recently saw on the blog of a mom who recently lost a little boy.  The author is unknown.

The mention of my child’s name
May bring tears to my eyes,
But it never fails to bring
Music to my ears.
If you are really my friend,
Let me hear the beautiful music of his name.
It soothes my broken heart
And sings to my soul.