Friday, October 11, 2013

(my blogger formating is going crazy, so I had to put all the pics at the bottom.)
Eli had a shoebox project due for school that featured a holiday, any holiday, of any nature from anywhere. As usual, my mind immediately starts churning, thinking, “ok, how can I use this to raise awareness about childhood cancer?” We just wrapped up Childhood Cancer month in September, and St. Jude had a Survivor’s Day, so surely we could spin this to do something unique, practical and meaningful that would give a spotlight to such a worthy and personal cause. It is always on my mind, looking for chances and opportunities to use the bullhorn. He was so excited to have a project due. I could hardly understand him as he was telling me about it because his grin was so wide that he could not even form his little third-grader lisp to speak. He chattered on and on about how we would need a shoebox, and craft stuff, and that it was for extra credit, and that we could choose any holiday, anything in the world. That is when, for a moment, my mind took its own thought path that I mentioned, but I came back to center, remembering that he might have his own ideas about his own project, so I asked, “hmm, fun. So, what are you thinking?” He took a big breath, and his eyes got really wide, and he smiled and said, “Christmas.” He held his hands up in front of him to frame the word like a priceless portrait and nodded his head. My heart sighed a little and I guess I looked confused. “You know, like with Santa. It’s the best holiday ever, and my birthday is then, and everybody likes it. It’s just the best and it’s my favorite.” I almost cried. Not from disappointment that he did not choose a valiant cause to showcase, but because I continue to let myself be consumed and victimized by cancer. I was completely willing to hijack a child’s school project to feed my habit. If you were in my head, you would see that there is not a moment’s peace from childhood cancer. Even when I’m busy with some benign chore or if I’m in a benign conversation, I’m either thinking about ways to combat the evil; thinking about the children fighting it; or thinking about the blessings God has given us through it. It is always on some layer of consciousness in some form. I can’t even write a blog post without it either as the subject or supporting motivation for a subject. Yet, before “the c-word” I could easily yammer on to write 3,000-plus words about nothing or at least something mildly amusing or clever. Childhood cancer has choked my former muse to death and left in its place this shallow beast with one-dimensional teasing. From the very first day of Eli’s diagnosis, a great need grew inside me to see good come out of the experience even if I had to strong-arm it, force it. The only way I know how to do most things. So, now like a bad habit, it is never satisfied. But, not with Eli, he is over it. He wants what all 8-year-old’s want and that is to think about Christmas. In God’s unfathomable wisdom, He holds children up as examples for adults in many ways, and just as he has done over the last two years, Eli has proved a great example for me. “There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven;” Ecclesiastes 3:1. Eli’s school project is not the time, so, we left cancer out of his shoebox. You will notice that the picture shows his shoebox featuring Veteran’s Day. Yes, well, I was too lazy to dig out Christmas stuff, too cheap to buy shoebox size Christmas d├ęcor, so we put our heads together and came up with something else that he liked and that was to use his vehicles. So, he had the Army car and helicopter and he really liked the idea of using the soldiers. He was just so excited to have a project and was proud of the finished product. Like many of your households, we can’t do one without doing two. Caleb and I did a Transportation shoebox project to display in his room as well. I fight stubborn hardheadedness to accept that there are little or maybe even no exceptions to holding the moderate line, maintaining balance. It was just this last week that a friend told me “Kristie, you got to let some good things go by.” She is a nurse practitioner whom I had asked some advice about a persistent post-operation bother. I participated in a charity blood-drive, and then I had surgery less than two weeks later. I seemed to struggle recuperating, and couldn’t figure out why. Of course, my brain and everyday life is fragmented and disjointed, so the surgery which was two weeks in the future never crossed my mind when I was giving blood. Although she said that to me laughing at my clueless screw-up, it stuck in my head and is really an important lesson for me. Since then, though, I believe it might be the meteformin medicine that I take for insulin control that was playing havoc with my body chemistries as I was recovering. I feel much better, not 100 percent, but better. I have not been able to exercise in two weeks, so I’m a little uneasy about that with the impending half-marathon December 7.  But, tennis starts next week, so – Yay!
We were at the beach for half of last week. We arrived Wednesday in South Walton Beach, Florida, as guests of the Lighthouse Family Retreats, an organization that “treats” childhood cancer families to a vacation. The experience is a little more structured and “social” than my personality prefers (and that the kids prefer), but the volunteers are absolutely wonderful, just outstanding. They are dripping with such rich, genuine niceness and eagerness to serve that I don’t even need to eat cake to get that sweet taste in my mouth after dinner. (Seriously, there was cake after dinner. My kids had candy, cookies and cake all within a span of two hours when we arrived. Now, that’s a vacation.) The volunteers’ attention to detail about – not just for their “assigned family” as a whole (where we are from, etc.) - the individuals of their assigned family is remarkable, and their energy to serve is unmatched in my experience with any group. But, I was a little lost at not being needed for a task, being busy with something that I can hide behind, so I was a little uncomfortable with the attention. (Yes, I know, insert joke about me and attention, but this kind of attention usually brings out the sarcastic introvert in me. It’s a defense mechanism that allows me to camouflage or avoid uncomfortable situations). The contrast between them and me with my back-of-the-classroom, unparticipatory, too-cool-for-school attitude is hard to hide… especially with the sunshiny singing - just can’t get myself there. But the little chocolate on my pillow helps and the offer to do our laundry was almost enough to make me break out in one of their songs. So, who knows, if they had come to clip the kids’ nails Saturday night, I may have lay down a jig. Our trip was cut a day short by the anticipated arrival of Hurricane Karen, so we left Saturday. I played hooky from the parent “sit and share” meeting that was two or more hours each morning so that I could spend time with the kids enjoying what we came for – the beach! (I just had a hard time traveling to the beach and sitting in a house while a volunteer played with my kids at the pool or the beach. With our vacation – the only one we will get – getting cut short, I couldn’t resist). But, of the whole trip, the best part – even if they had of clipped my kids’ nails for me - was that my Abbey-girl decided to be baptized into Christ. Vic baptized her in the condo pool. She had been questioning us for a few months, knowing in her heart what she should do, but her brain was a little slower understanding repentance, so when the two finally synced up she had her ah-ha moment and they went straight-away.  Acts 8:36-38, “As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, ‘Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?’ And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him.” My heart is full as our prayers are answered for our children.
The Eli shirts are in! I will pick them up next week and get them out ASAP. We are headed out of town again this weekend to a family retreat with our church family. I was going to write “we are entering the busy season…”, but in reality, for us and I’m sure all of you, when is it not the busy season. All good stuff – school, holidays, vacations, birthdays, but I am mindful of so many fighting and hurting as I enjoy our “new normal” that we feared so desperately a couple of years ago. But, for us, I have some things coming up that I want to share, and will write in detail about that next time. Our next “drive” for Eli’s last 3-month check at St. Jude will kick-off soon, so I will let everyone know about that, plus some other bloggy things.
When budgeting for charity in October and November, please consider giving to St. Jude through our running team. We are going to be a bit shy of our goal. The link is on this homepage in the top left. Please keep all these children in your prayers. It seems like I learn of new diagnoses that someone I know personally knows once or twice a month. Please, add Rhett and Nathan to your prayer list. I think there were a couple of other new ones, but those come two mind.

Eli's Veteran's Day float.
Caleb as the karate sheriff guarding me as I recover from surgery.
Caleb's shoebox float.
Eli's first beach sighting!

We enjoyed a dolphin watching cruise donated by some local philanthropists.

Caleb "riding" the waves.
We took the kids to walmart to get sand toys, the boys bought transformers - not beach toys. So, then of course, they had nothing when we went to the beach. We borrowed a spatula and a measuring cup from the condos kitchen.
Everybody beach busy!
My Abbey-girl after her baptism.
My GG-girl doing the big kid beach thang
Eli telling how big the waves were that he and Daddy were jumping.
Vic and the girls making their way out to a sandbar to jump waves.
Caleb and me playing up on the beach.
Group shot!

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