Sunday, December 14, 2014

There is a building downtown, sitting alongside the railroad track, with a rusty tin roof, flaking brick walls, and a boarded up dock. Stacked up outside the side facing the railroad are old tires with “Used Tires For Sale” spray-painted on dusty single-pane windows for advertisement. The front of the building, what faces the main street that crosses over the track, is the store front for a garage or radiator repair shop, something of that nature. The building has seen several additions through the years, as it seems to be pieced together and now narrowly runs the length of the block, but it’s hard to tell if the business uses the entire facility, or if it just happens to still be standing. A crumbling brick chimney pokes through the tin roof and beside it grows a little pine tree. Yes, a tree is growing on the roof.

Eli is seemingly doing well, I guess he’s in neutral, which is a good place to be. He begins cycle 13 on Friday (reminder, a cycle is 4 weeks) and his chemistries have been good since they cut the
Eli in front of the Wall of Heroes.
irinotecan in half for cycle 12. It will be interesting to see what his numbers are on Friday and if they will cut it again, or if they will attempt the original protocol. Just as all of you, we have been incredibly busy with “all good things, all good things,” as Olaf says in the movie Frozen and I often quote. My calendar looks like my sister used it for target practice at the range and just peppered it with holes. I will get back to the little tree, but I have several important things to share that we have been doing.

This time of year, just in general for the average bear family, is special, but I can’t say enough times (or maybe I can) how unexpected it is that we celebrated Eli’s 10th birthday and we will be having a normal Christmas, albeit with an new
Beside his picture for the wall.
perspective (assuming all things go along as they are right now). Friday we were a part of something so surreal, to me at least because I remember when I was being told about it and how I felt. When Eli began treatments at our local St. Jude affiliate in January - it was maybe the third week, not long - the child life lady came hurriedly to me with an envelope. She said that it was for me to have Eli’s picture made to be hung on the “Wall of Heroes” in the waiting area. She said that each year they unveil the new pictures at a Christmas party hosted by the Dr. Frank Crim Compassion Fund (the same people that hosted Farm Day). I assume they asked me to have the photo done so quickly after we started coming because they knew time was short. And, I remember thinking, well, I can do whatever, but it’s only January and I don't think he’ll be around then. At two different appointments early on, I remember Dr. Russo asking me if I wanted to talk to hospice yet, so I wasn’t the only one thinking that we would not see Christmas. I took him for the picture pretty quickly after that so his hair would be thick, and because it was a good opportunity to have his picture made. As weeks of appointments passed, and we walked passed the Wall of Heroes going into the clinic,
Most of the staff at the affiliate.
looking at the kids, one with whom we attend church, and reading what they wanted to be when they grow up - it’s a quote at the bottom of the picture - I began to have a little hope that he might actually have his picture up there, at least for a little while, as I think it is for survivors (technically, I’m not sure that he should be on the wall yet, but I’m sure they were hurrying him in because his prognosis is unstable. They are very special there to do things like that). So, my heart was full with joy and thankfulness to be a part of the little presentation and party at the clinic on Thursday as Eli himself unveiled his picture on the Wall of Heroes. We appreciate so much the effort our local clinic and the Dr. Frank Crim Compassion Fund organization puts forth to support the local St. Jude families. I, at least, was thrilled to have Eli counted among the Heroes there, and we also got to see Makenzey added to the wall. Most all of you will know Makenzey who is from our hometown. We met her and her mom while we were at Memphis the first time, but have gotten to
Santa and his elf were at the party.
 know and come to love her. I have never seen her without a smile, and as a teen, she is a wonderful role model and example to all ages, and her mom Kelly is an example of compassion and grace under fire. Congratulations to Makenzey and her family.

So, working backward along my calendar: The kids enjoy the Lowe’s Build and Grow program, and this weekend was the Holiday Train. Eli did not want to participate, but wanted to watch. Caleb, Abbey and cousin Seth loved going. It’s fun and free. Earlier in the week, we wrapped up our fourth and final Kindergarten All About Me Day. That’s a pretty big deal, because other than birthdays, one kid rarely gets single attention because that is just not very efficient use of time or resources around here. So, I set my sites on Caleb for this day (just as I did for the others’ days in Kindergarten) which he has been uber excited about

Their Christmas trains from Lowe's build and grow day.
because we chose the focus as Legos. We showed a little youtube movie about the history of Legos, then we made Lego snowmen, and we showed a little slideshow only about Caleb. Let me put this in writing - He will be a “Master Builder” one day, I truly believe he will work for Lego.

Hg was also in a Christmas choral program, for which she has enjoyed preparing and participating. Abbey has been camping with her girl scout troop, and will be caroling with it this week. Eli and Hg started Yoga with me and a friend that is an instructor. So, far no complaints and they seem to try, so I count it as success. Ei has started seeing Physical Therapy some at the clinic because they now have someone that comes there. Dr. Russo, the director at the clinic is very
Caleb's All About Me Day.
 proactive in bringing things like that to the patients. Feedback from parents indicated that if it was yet another appointment that they had to make after being at clinic all day, or even to have to make and come to, they are less likely to do it. So, she arranged to bring the PT to the clinic once a week so that it can be done while patients are already there. Overall at St. Jude, which I am surprised to see it reach to the affiliates, it is my observation that they try to fix and make the things better that they can make better. She saw a need, and a hardship on the parents, so she fixed it. That makes me think of Caleb this week. He has a household chore that is his, which is to put a clean garbage bag in the kitchen can when we take out the garbage. I usually always have to tell the girls and Eli many times to do things that need to be done, and if you want to put money on
Checked in by the skin of my chiny-chin-chin at 2050 hour
Friday. (My phone is cracked bad, so selfies are not great.)
something, put it on me having to tell them to come back and do it again. So, one morning, I took the garbage out, and when I came back in Caleb was putting a clean bag in the can. I said, “Thank you Caleb for doing that.” He said…. (and read this very closely because it’s big and has far-reaching implications) “I saw it needed one.” Wow! I told the others, “Look at this, guys, Caleb used his brain and his eyes, and saw that something needed to be done and he DID it. He knows that’s his job, he didn’t wait for me to tell him. He didn’t just put his trash on the counter until someone else put a bag in. He saw a need, and took care of it. Wow!” I didn’t know kids could do that, and some adults don’t even know how to see a need and just fix it. The girls are killing me these days with their attitudes for normal household chores, so this was refreshing and made my whole day and has given me fodder for weeks to come.
My view from corral 12 (even though I was suppose to be 13)

Last weekend was a little bit Kristie-centric. I know, hard to believe that every weekend is not that way, I think it’s weird too, and maybe even wrong, but in reality, it is just too much work to do stuff that only benefits me. Too much rearranging, re-assigning, too much imposing on Vic’s time and others’ times, and too much money that hasn’t gone toward bills. It’s just too much work for me to do for me, so I am good with choosing to shop at Publix instead of Wal-mart, which is for my shopping pleasure, and exchanging sleep hours for writing this blog since me missing sleep does not affect anyone… usually. But, early in the spring, I asked Vic if I could make plans to be in the St. Jude Half-marathon this year since I missed it last year after having worked so hard to survive it, it has haunted me all year. He agreed (because like I said, if I was going to train - which I intended to - that was going to
Each mile was marked with a letter from the alphabet and
something from a kid representing that letter. This was the last
letter before the finish line (too bad misspelled our cancer)
mean that I would have to impose on him for me to go workout sometimes, and it also meant that the weekend of the race I would have to spend money on a hotel room, food and would be gone almost the entire weekend. Eli had chemo when I needed to leave on that Friday, Abbey had an overnight, Hg had a party, and Caleb had to tag-along, so it can be a logistics nightmare for me to be gone even one night. This is not unique to me, but most moms that have multiple younger kids. All hands are needed on deck all times). So, I made reservations and put it on the calendar. I was ill-prepared physically. Not only did I not train, but I didn’t pack until I needed to leave, I didn’t have time to put any thought into what I wore or brought with me for the race. I did none of the usual prep, and just wanted to get through it. I was, however, emotionally ready to lift my chin in the air at Satan for taking that moment from me last year. So, December 6, exactly one year
Sandi and I grabbed a selfie with
Elvis along the route.
from our first day living with relapse, I checked-off “St. Jude Half-Marathon” from my to-do list. It took me four hours, BUT it was a great four hours. I fully expected to be in the last 50 of the thousands of participants, and had a real fear of being lost in Memphis on foot
Was able to inscribe it there.
because I would be so slow that they would be picking up the cones, but that was not the case. Not the case because the race really is for the cause, not the race. A friend also went (she drove down earlier, but we shared a room) and thankfully, she was not worried about her time, just the experience and we had a blast the whole four hours. If you can walk five miles, at a pace of 20 minutes per mile, you should do this race. There were three kinds of participants: Runners for the race; Runners for the cause; and Walkers for the cause. I was not in the minority having not prepared. I had some issues along the way, like the mother of all blisters, and some knee and hip pain, but I even drove the four hours home afterward (dropped on the couch and didn’t move until the next morning for church, nevertheless I survived the trip home). So, the days after were wobbly, but all of that heals. It is a great experience with music and cheering the entire 13 miles, so consider putting it on your bucket list.

We are slowly, ever so slowly making progress with the non-profit. My prayers were answered when a friend responded to my request for IT development help, and it is going to be better than I could have imagined. So, though the progress is slow getting off the ground, it is going to be worth it, I know it.

So, amongst all of that, we have had school and church activities, holiday parties, Bible Bowl competitions, the Christmas Parade, and we continue to move our things little by little from mom’s place back to the house and trying to settle in, and as usual laundry continues… oh, and Christmas! I love this time of year, and am just so thankful to be
 enjoying it after being so afraid for it to be sad. So, know that I count my blessings. In preparation for Christmas with the kids, I just can’t keep it organized and even bought one thing twice because it was on sale. I just do so much online because of time and availability of what has been put on Santa’s list, so it is usually late at night which I’m usually falling asleep. I’ve been working on this blog for days and can’t stay awake to finish it in even two evenings.
This was the next evening after having been on it all day.

To add to our Christmas $cheer$, Big Sam and Mini Pearl (Vic’s car) have new Tatts! Yes, Vic was driving Big Sam, backing out of the driveway, and hit his car. It was both our faults, and I can’t tell you how many times we are the reason that we can’t keep a clean title. We are like football in the SEC, we beat ourselves up. We don’t park in the garage yet, because we are still moving in and it has stuff scattered in it, but our driveway pad is large, plenty large. So, we usually pull Vic’s car right up behind the truck, then Big Sam up next to the house, but parallel to Pearl. The night before, I was coming home from Publix and there was a car driving slowly down our street and kind of stopped in front of our neighbor’s house, then moved to ours, then slowly to the next. I pulled up in our driveway, not

The day after the race, when my foot was killing me
and filling my shoe with ooze, Vic locked my keys in the car,
then left to go out of town for the day. The FD tried, but no
completely in Pearl’s normal spot, so that I could watch them and when they came back (it is a dead end), I was going to pull out and follow them. I was afraid they were trying to see if anyone lived in our house, since the for sale sign is still up. Anyway, I decided, after watching them, that they were just looking at house numbers and had turned down the wrong direction on the street. So, I was so tired, I just turned off the car, leaving it where it was, out of its normal position, in the drive. Vic got in Big Sam the next morning to go to the Lowe’s thing with the kids and did not look. But, Big Sam wears his experiences well, and we will not do anything to fix him. It just adds to his rugged charm and
Athens Christmas parade.
endures him to us even more. But, Pearl, we will fix, she’s too young… well, what is young to us. So, yay for us, and right at Christmas. We’ve got yet more “doctor’s" appointments now to add to our already painful calendar, getting Pearl checked with insurance and with the body shop. And I’m sure several days, maybe weeks without a useful second car, so that leaves the truck (without full headlights, questionable brakes, and a hole in the floor, and a hefty appetite for fuel) to drive in it’s place. Well, it makes sense, the universe will right itself. We are residents of the Chaotic State.

Before I get back to my little tree, thank you all for the cards and gifts Eli has received for his birthday, and is getting for Christmas. We are still pushing the petition to get Ford to create a color for a Mustang and call it “Eli Blue.” I don’t want to approach Ford about it until we get thousands of
Yep, Big Sam got a new lick, but keeps on ticking.
signatures so I can show them that we really want it! Please, remember Baylee in Utah as she is fighting her third relapse. And, we were happy to see that Hannah got another clear MRI behind her. She is the little girl whose Dad sent me a message about the treatment plan she was on for relapse, which is what we have Eli on. So, special prayers for this family who live in the Cayman Islands (I think it was), that they stay on the road to complete healing, and include thanks for what they have done for us.

So, driving through downtown, I pass over the tracks at the point where this building stands many times, and even many times in one day some days, but the little tree growing out of brick and tin is finally big enough that it caught my eye one day recently. My daughter was with me, and I
Victim number two.
 pointed it out, and said “Now that’s what I call ‘Bloom where you are planted’.” The quote is often thought to be a biblical quote, but it is not, although the idea of “Bloom where you are planted” is certainly a biblical principle. Catholics claim the quote as being said by a bishop from the 17th century, I think I read, but the actual quote, word for word, is attributed to Mary Engelbreit, a modern artist and poet, who is most famous for her greeting card work.

Though it is not word for word in the Bible, I believe we are providentially placed in God’s creation and along the timeline of existence so that His “good and perfect will” to reunite all things under Him is done. And, with or without our acceptance of our role in that, it will be done.
We were excited that Christmas Fonzie brought us his ornament.

Esther, the reluctant Jewish queen of a Persian King, certainly was uncomfortable with the position she found herself in - both as a queen and heroine. An orphaned Jew raised by her cousin Mordecai, Esther was chosen by the king because of her beauty to be his queen, but she kept her heritage a secret. When the king’s official, Haman, spitefully plotted to kill all Jews in the land because of Mordecai’s insurrection toward his authority, Mordecai got word to Esther that she was in a position to stop the genocide. To approach the king, she would risk death, so, understandably, she was terrified. In chapter 4 of the book of Esther, Mordecai - no doubt with the eventual coming of the Messiah on his mind - tells Esther that the Jewish lineage would survive whether she helps at this point in the Israel’s history or not - in other words, all things will work according to God’s will. If she didn’t help and the
The skylanders were trying to cheat, but Christmas Fonz always
keeps his cool and always wins.
genocide began, she would not escape it because her own heritage would be discovered. If she did help, and the king was not pleased, she would also die. But, if she helped and he listened, then not only would she live, but she would right an injustice, save God’s people, and play a part in the prophecy of the Redeemer. What did she have to lose. Then, I love what he says to her at the end of verse 14: “And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” He is telling her to “bloom where she is planted.” He says, maybe this is the thing that is your thing. It’s providential placement and guidance, so don’t miss the opportunity that God has put in front of you. I really like Mordecai. “Who knows” but that Mordecai was placed in the position to raise Esther so that he would be her example growing up. When the “such a time” came,
Oh, yeah, this stuff still goes on.
he would be the one to influence her, be the one that encourages her to push past her timidity, and believes in her when she can not believe in herself. He was not the player that scored the goal, but he was the coach on the sideline that made the player who could score the goal.

“Bloom where you are planted” is a common and popular quote and it is often times shared for encouragement with a photo of a pretty and unique flower growing by itself out of the crack of a rock, or maybe up from a crack in a busy sidewalk “blooming” beautifully as it reaches to the warm sunshine. There are several things interesting to me about this tree on the roof. First, it is not pretty. There are no blooms, no color that brings out the artistic nature of God’s handiwork, so it does not stand in beautiful contrast to the
Live long, little tree, and do good.
 dilapidated building from which grows. Secondly, it’s not a flower, it’s a tree, so it would be expected that it grow big and tall. It’s not, it’s small, and unimpressive. And, I’m assuming that it can’t have deep strong roots or even expect to ever have deep strong roots growing on top of a tin roof. It will not grow to be big and strong to provide protection, or to provide a home for wildlife, or to provide a landscape canopy, or even grow big enough to be cut down and provide lumber. Thirdly, because it’s young roots have no depth of dirt to grow deep into and grasp onto since it is on a roof, it will easily be overtaken one day in a storm, probably. It’s life will be short. Fourthly, it’s on the roof of an old building! What good is it up there. We can’t even get to it to dig it up and replant it, to save it, and hopefully get some long use out of it. So, what good is a weak, small, plain tree growing on the roof of an old building that will only be around for a little while? “Who knows,” to steal from Mordecai. Somehow a seed found something fertile on antique brick and tin, and it began to grow with only God as it’s gardner. So, God saw some worth in growing it and growing it there. Maybe bugs are on it, and birds come to eat the bugs, thus fulfilling the circle of life. Maybe it will produce a seed that will blow to the ground in the perfect spot to grow big, and strong, and be the provider of all the things that the first little tree could not. “Who knows” but that this weak, plain tree is there “for such a time as this” that I notice it and am reminded of the ripple affects of encouragement. “Who knows” but that this tree is there for me to tell you that I believe you can do the thing you believe you can’t do. This small, weak, plain tree that will only be there for a little while, is doing some amazing things on top of a tin roof where it was planted.

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