My life - from the impact of great loss, to a refreshing new take on life and a place where I now share ............... my favorite Plant Strong recipes....

Monday, November 26, 2007

Tis the Season

We had an absolutely wonderful Thanksgiving. This year, the family decided to change things up a bit and we gathered with friends and put together a large dinner at our church, about 7 turkeys & 2 hams worth. The big kitchen was full of giggles which made the hard work seem like play. Keeping busy kept Jeff and me from pondering too much over Chelsea’s absence. Being surrounded with loved ones made the day sweeter than the sweet potatoes that were covered with brown sugar and marshmallows.

But now I see signs of Christmas everywhere. For a while, I was having a really hard time with the upcoming holiday - though my soul is constantly reminded that Christmas isn’t about me. Yes, there are many traditions that we shared with our girl, and it’s going to be different and difficult. I’m not even going to attempt looking at our ornaments - too many have her name on them or were made by her. But I am going to focus on what Christmas is all about: Celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.

With that, I can let go of the emotional fears, the pain. I can celebrate - for because of Jesus, I will be reunited with my daughter someday. This hope brings peace.

And Kati girl brings JOY. Much joy. She is the perfect age to get excited about Christmas, and I find myself getting excited with her. She wants a tree. She’ll love the lights daddy puts up. I look forward to the new memories that we will be making, and I am so thankful for my precious gift of a daughter. Things would be so lonely right now without her.

I love the crisp air and the sounds of Christmas - to drive down the streets and see the lights already. Even something as simple as decorating my MySpace page helped me to realize just how much I love Christmas - no matter what I’m going through.

So I will remember that Christmas wasn’t established to celebrate us and all that we desire, and the hustle and bustle of it all, though that is what it has become in our culture. Rather, it is to celebrate the simple and humble message of Christ, and a thankfulness for all that I have been given because of Him.

Keeping Christmas simple, and appreciating it more than ever.
I am blessed.

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Thursday, November 15, 2007


Last Year's "Normal" Thanksgiving
I am amazed at how fast time seems to be flying by - yet the pain still seems slow and steady. I wouldn’t expect it not to, I wouldn’t want it to fly like Time. But still, it seems strange.

People ask us if things are back to normal. I know what they mean, and I know that they are genuine when asking. Yet from our perspective, things are so not normal. We smile, and talk of our “new normal”… but really, what is normal?

Normal: adjective: Conforming with, adhering to, or constituting a norm, standard, pattern, level, or type; typical:
Functioning or occurring in a natural way; lacking observable abnormalities or deficiencies.

I don’t know. Normal would be carrying on with the same routine that I have for the last 13 years raising my girl. Normal would be home school and McDonald’s and giggles and eye rolling. Normal would be finally sitting down and having a Star Wars marathon. Normal would be wondering how long she would want to be hanging out at Lele’s house before finally agreeing to come home. Normal would be loading her ipod with her latest favorite songs. Normal would be telling her to put her shoes away.

Normal wouldn’t hurt so bad.

Normal wouldn’t bring tears at the thought of sending out Christmas family photos without both my girls in them.

Yet if things were still normal, I would be naïve to so many things that have now invaded my life. Childhood cancer. Chemotherapy. Alternative medicines. Oncologists lingo.
Grasping for any minute ounce of good when my world is shattered.
Smiling at a nurse who is does things for my child that I cannot. Slowing down. Appreciating every breath, every hug, every smile, every tear, every word.

Learning to rely on others. To let others come alongside in so many ways.

The fight for life.
The surrender.
To wish it was my life instead of hers.

Suffering. There is none worse than having to watch your baby suffer.

Drawing closer to God - because He is the only one that can bring peace.

I do have peace. It hurts, but we are okay. This has changed us. Has drawn us closer. Has made us more aware of what’s important… and what’s not. There isn’t much that we take for granted.
We are blessed in so many ways.

The pain will ease some, I know. Some may consider my scarred heart even more beautiful. I don’t know about beauty, but I do know that it’s not nearly as fearful as it used to be. I know that I am stronger, that there is more to this life that I haven’t experienced. That Chelsea’s story will continue to impact many… for years to come. That God will somehow use me still.

Nights seem to be the most challenging, but in the morning will come joy. Probably as my lil’ Kati Joy crawls into bed with me - and soon afterwards starts telling me that she wants breakfast. She fills my day and keeps me busy - the greatest blessing so far.

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Monday, November 5, 2007

Purple Potatoes!

Purple Potatoes??!!

So I had some Kale in the fridge that I decided I would experiment with for a new soup. I made my weekly trip to Trader Joe’s, and lo and behold, PURPLE POTATOES! How cool is that??
Kati’s favorite color right now is Purple, so these were a must for my soup. Imagine my delight when I cut into them, and realized that the centers have purple streaks…. almost like a star or snowflake design. Throw in some ground turkey (Italian style), sweet onions, kale, garlic and seasonings - and I’m hoping for a delicious and colorful dinner.

Sooooo, we made it through our “First” birthday….
…. The flowers, the cards, the calls, the donations to charities that had impacted Chelsea, the prayers. I am truly blown away at how many of you not only remembered, but also let us know in some way. Thank you, thank you, thank you. It helped. We feel so surrounded and so loved. I know that there are many who know of my tendency to avoid the phone - and had talked to Jackie about what I prefer. You know who you are, and know that just knowing that we were on your minds and in your prayers is just as appreciated.

I think the week leading up to her birthday was actually harder than the day itself. My bright spot was on Thursday when I had the privilege to go up to Doernbecher to see our 9 year old friend Kennedy who is battling Leukemia. It was my first time up there since being there with Chelsea, and it was so much better than I anticipated. Kennedy met me outside, and the brightness of her smile and her genuine delight to see me removed any hint of sadness about being there. We had a great visit, my friends Lisa and Emily gave her a makeover and spoiled me too (I had become quite attached to the Starbucks located in the lobby…).

I was met and welcomed by many familiar faces, and realized that I miss many of the friends that we have made up there. So many who gave it there best to help my girl. Many who were impacted by her and loved by her. It was good, and I hope to go back again soon. I hear that Frank the art guy is still doing his thing, so maybe I’ll start hanging out with him and the kids getting crafty. Arts and crafts were such a blessing to us, and kept Chelsea’s mind and hands occupied for many hours.

We decided to make one last run to LaPine for the season before the snow comes - and I’m so glad we did. Late night chick flicks, remembering Chelsea with sound clips/video clips, wrestling my “adopted” nephews Red and Landon, Kati making cookies with Aunt Dionne, the NFL game of the century (or so they say)… and defiling the “man cave” with candles - and just being together. It doesn’t get any better than that. Thank you Randy and Di for letting us hang. You rock.

And with that, my soup’s about done,
The potatoes: still purple.
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Friday, November 2, 2007

Happy Birthday Baby

A year ago we were celebrating Chelsea Rae becoming a teenager. She was stoked, she could no longer be called a “pre-teen”. At the time, I thought that my biggest battles were going to be those of her being a teen and all that would come as a result.

If only I could trade back for those battles now. What I wouldn’t give for a good back talking, head butting argument with my girl.

It was actually becoming quite fun, her becoming a young lady and all. We would shop together, and tease each other because our taste in clothes were so different. Purses and shoes though, now there’s something we agreed on!

I found myself going back through my journals of last year, trying to remember exactly what we did for her birthday. She had wanted a cell phone - a pink razor. We were still saying no (of course, she did get her pink razor with unlimited texting not long after…).

It was sweet as I reminisced on the concert that we took her and Lele to - Jeremy Camp, Adie Camp and her favorite (until she met the guys of Kutless) - Hawk Nelson. It was a good birthday, one that she was very excited about. I remember that we had kept the concert a surprise to her… having the tickets months in advance. I remember the silly yellow Hawk Nelson shirt she had to have with the lyrics from their song “Tried to Be” that she would sing all the time. I remember her black shoes with stars on them that she had me write “Hawk Nelson” on the fronts. I don’t think we could have made it any better, even if it we knew then that it would be her last birthday with us. What a relief that is to me… what a relief that we didn’t slack on the birthday with the assumption that we would make up for it next year. We celebrated, and it was great. What a blessing.

As I came to the journal entry from Easter, I was reminded of just how well she handled her cancer battle. It had been a rough day for me. Later that night, she comforted me saying, “Don’t be sad, God doesn’t want you to fix this or you would.” She knew how as parents we felt so hopeless that we couldn‘t make her better, and yet she was the one who’s faith encouraged me. I am thankful for her trust in God even when we didn’t understand, and I am thankful that she knew that we would do whatever we could to take away her pain and suffering if only we were able.

I am so thankful for my baby girl. She taught me so much about unconditional love. There’s something about being a parent, of holding your baby for the very first time - a love that words just can’t describe. In the years when I was discouraged, I always knew that at least my baby loved me. Because of her I am a better person, a better mother, a better friend. God gave me such a precious gift 14 years ago today - a gift that would forever change me, and so many others.

Happy Birthday Baby.

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Monday, October 29, 2007

Good Friends, Good Times, Good Therapy!

So the three of us, and our 2 pups headed over to Central Oregon for some R&R with the Skopp’s, and what a sweet time we had. As we come up this week to Chelsea’s 14th birthday, it’s
been a bit more difficult and emotional. To get away for the weekend was a great distraction, though she is still always on my mind.

The weather was beautiful, the guys got their football fix, the outdoors was refreshing, the food was, um, huge (more on that later) and the activities were fast, fun and addicting! To be out in nature, with the sun shining, zooming down the trails on quads was exactly what the doctor would have ordered… or should order…. or, well, you get my point. Jeff and I were both giddy from the rush, and I have to say, my gal pal D is developing quite the “dirt in your face” skills!

As for that big food - they took us to a great spot that I’ll keep undisclosed for the benefit of future visitors. What a hoot! Great food, too much food, original atmosphere and “Hee-Haw!” is all I can say on that.

We may have been on “puppy overload” at times, but it is great canine country. Our pup might disagree after he fell into the partially frozen fish pond. Bet he won’t do that again!

It was a great time had by all, and really was just what we needed. We have been so blessed even on the most tough of days, and we have so many to be thankful for who have surrounded us with love and encouragement. Thanks for you understanding, your patience and your encouragement.
God is good.

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Friday, October 19, 2007

Changing Seasons

Ok, so I am loving the change in seasons. The crisp air, the colors. Really, I thought I would dread fall - the idea of it seemed dreary to me. I feel like we missed so much of spring and summer with all our time at the hospital. Yet somehow this is nice now, not dreary at all, but peaceful.

More time to rest instead of trying to function and do, do, do. More time to be mellow as a family… more time for home cooked meals and games. There’s something about the rain that makes me love to be in the kitchen, and Kati is loving the games geared towards her age.
More time to snuggle up in a blanket with a good book.

More time for football.

Yep, you read me right. Jeff and I are both enjoying football more this year - both youth and NFL. We’ve been to several games now to see our friends play, and Jeff is looking forward to staying home instead of taking on the seasonal job that he’s done for many years - leaving more opportunities for him to enjoy the Raiders this year. It even seems like they’re doing fairly well this year…. Amazing!
More time for cribbage, and for gathering with friends. A good movie sounds good.
I think the fog is starting to lift. It still gets thick at times, but each day seems a bit better than the last.

Kati’s preschool class had a field trip to visit one of the many farms/pumpkin patches in the area. But when looking over the papers, I found that it is to our favorite pumpkin patch that we’ve gone to many times over the years since Chelsea was her age. The idea of being with a group of people that I don’t really know, bombarded with all the memories we have out there (hay fights, baby pumpkins, pony rides, nut house, hot doughnuts, fresh cider, goats in tree houses….) well, it was a little more than I thought I could handle.

So, some friends and us got an early start last weekend and had a great time at a different pumpkin patch before the crowds arrived. Coffee, fog, warm doughnuts, pony rides, pig slop, hay rides and of course, lots and lots of pumpkins.
Hope you enjoy the pics!
(Thanks to Lindsey and Jen for taking them!)

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Friday, October 12, 2007

Worth Repeating

Lillian Harris ended her battle with cancer and joined Jesus in Heaven in April

The following is from my friend Lori's blog (Lillian's mommy) - "The Next Chapter". I couldn't have said it better myself, so I won't even attempt. Here's what she had to say:

"As one cancer mom said, "you see so much suffering. I always knew it was out there but now I see it firsthand." I may have the privilege of knowing firsthand a dozen or so kids battling cancer. God has uniquely equipped me to stand alongside them during their fight and for that I am grateful.

But there are thousands more suffering in the name of hope. Over 40,000 kids are battling cancer right now. And the incidence of childhood cancer is growing with no explanation. It is the number one killer of children by disease, more than asthma, cystic fibrosis and pediatric AIDS combined. Yet the funding for childhood cancer research is nominal and has been cut! I gotta tell ya, I'm not okay with that. So I joined an online advocacy network on They notify me of any cancer related bills so I can send a pre-written e-mail to my elected officials. Couldn't be easier.

Right now there is an effort for $150 million federal investment to find a cure for childhood cancer called The Conquer Childhood Cancer Act. Visit curesearch to send a letter to your congressman encouraging them to support this vital piece of legislation.

The bright spot in my day yesterday was watching one of the kids in my cancer community, Boey, get a brand new house courtesy of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. What a blessing to see another deserving cancer kid receive such a generous gift on this memorial day! Maddie, Alley, Lexie and Maddy also had cameo appearances. Check out this video of Boey talking about The Childhood Cancer Act."

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

More Than a Memory

It’s already starting to happen. I’m meeting people, new friendships are developing. “Great!” you might say. Don’t get me wrong, I love all the connections that God has blessed me with.

So where does my hesitation come from?

Simple. These new friends never met Chelsea. They don’t know that giggle… those flaring nostrils.

So I’ve come to the conclusion that I am going to hang tight to those friendships with those who are part of our lives now who knew her. For those of you who not only knew her, but loved her as well - you will always hold a very special place in my heart. You are a blessing to me, because you loved my baby. To you, she is not just a name. As her mommy, I will hang tight with every ounce I have (trust me, that’s a LOT of ounces!) to her memory.

It’s the strangest thing to talk of my baby in past tense. “This WAS her favorite movie… She LOVED that…. That’s how she USED TO wear her hair….. She WOULD HAVE loved that shirt….”. It goes on and on.

And if I’m telling someone of my girl, and they’ve never met her… well, it’s only words. People look at me with that look - they want to help, to say something - but really, we all know how difficult that is. It’s just hard, because Chelsea was so much more than just words, no matter how descriptive they are.

She is so much more than a memory, if that makes any sense to you. I could use every word imaginable, and still not find the right ones to describe this.

So, on a more upbeat note, Kati had a GREAT birthday! We are a blessed family and I am so thankful for my hubby and daughter. Celebrating her birthday, celebrating her life, had a whole new meaning and depth to it this year, and how great it was to share that. Her party was a blast and the only downer was that it didn’t last long enough. We had it at a gym, and Kati and her friends were entertained and entertaining at the same time.

So I’m finding that as I hang onto those precious memories of Chelsea, it’s time to make new memories as well. Birthday parties, game nights…. finding a new pumpkin patch that even compares to the one we’ve gone to for years… these things all can be fun and exciting as we allow God’s healing hand in our lives.

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Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Endorphins, the BEST Medicine!

One Day at a Time…
…. One moment at a time….
…. One second at a time…..

What a weird couple of weeks this has been. I have totally been feeling out of sorts to say the least. I had had a couple of weeks of migraine relief which was so nice. Then last week, it hit hard and fast and had me down for several days. Those days were really tough, probably the toughest yet in all this.

So I keep looking for those little things that make me smile. God promises to always meet us, to never give us more than we can bear. He is faithful. I have to admit though, on those days that I’m in a “funk”, I don’t really see the little things through all my tears. But guess what? He counts those too. When I think I get so far from Him, I realize how close He really is. It’s in those times that I have to trust, to walk in faith.

Little things make me smile. A kind word of encouragement, a kiss on the cheek from a friend, the sound of my fountain and wind chimes, Kati’s giggles. My puppy makes me smile… lots! He’s so soft and cuddly and all he wants is to be close to me. Watching my dogs play, growling like bears (appropriate since the pup looks almost like a mini polar bear at times). Okay, with that one, I’m not just smiling… I’m full out laughing, sometimes on the floor even! Helping with the men’s breakfast at church, or preparing to dig into the Angel Tree project. Hearing positive updates from other kids with cancer. Brand new babies and lunches with friends. Really good coffee made by really sweet ladies (snicker doodle with a dash of cinnamon is my most recent flavor fave - add an extra shot, would ya?)

Kati’s preschool paintings. Now there’s something that really makes me smile. This lil’ girl loves to paint and recently came home with the most beautiful picture of the ocean - fish and all! Or her excitement for her birthday party coming up. If you really want to grin, you should hear her and our neighbor’s sweet lil’ ones giggling and singing together. Stinkin’ cute I tell ya! And when I reflect on how our neighborhood used to be just a few years ago compared to now, I smile. Before Kati, there weren’t small children, now we are surrounded with lil’ playmates for her. And what great neighbors we have all around… good friendships have been developing these last few years, and for that I am thankful.

If I get the focus off myself and my pain, then there is much joy in the simple things. I have to remember that Chelsea doesn’t have pain anymore and she would want me to smile (why that brings guilt, I’ll never know…).

So then, I have to wonder… does anyone relate?
When you’re having a rough go of things, as we all do - what types of things make you smile?

Please leave a comment - it will make me smile!
(but know that it does take a while to post - I have a filter set, so it takes a lil’ longer… but don’t let that stop ya : )

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Friday, September 21, 2007

Love for Lexie... and Colby

Another precious baby girl went home to be with Jesus last night. Beautiful, sweet Lexie Thornton is snuggling in Jesus’ arms as I type this.

I don’t have many words. I had hoped to share more in memory of such a sweetie. Maybe it’s that I can’t put such emotions into words.

my favorite pic of Lexie and her mommy

As I was typing this, I learned of another sweet baby who went home the same day. Colby McEntire - a case similar to Chelsea's, and I am so thankful that he is not hurting anymore. I never met him personally, but had been in contact with his mom. Please remember these families in your prayers. The heartache they are experiencing is indescribable - yet I hold on to the truth that God is good. He knows.

Colby's Green Gator

So with that, I will end with a song I wrote several years ago when some dear friends experienced a miscarriage. Over the years, it has been passed on several times. I remember when I wrote it, just imagining how horrible that it must be to lose a child. Little did I know that the Lord was giving me the song for my own comfort as well. I know you can’t “hear” it, but when sung, it sounds like what I’d picture a Jewish Lullaby sounding like.


There isn’t anything that anyone can say,
Even less that anyone can do
Except lift you up in our thoughts and prayers
And remind you just how much we love you

As our Father brings home your sweet baby child
We pray you find comfort in His arms
He will love you, protect you
And keep you near His heart
Even when you think you can’t go on

There is so much that we don’t understand
But He never gives us more than we can bear
This too, He will use to build and strengthen you
But for now, just reach out grab His hand

He loves you, hurts with you and wipes your every tear
From the pain you think you can’t endure
But His is the plan we must rely on
For soon you’ll be home

You will feel no more pain and suffering
And Baby will be in your arms

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Blessed in the Mist...

… Or should I say fog?
We had a wonderful time camping at the beach this last week. Yes, there was fog - but just enough to enjoy it without it getting too cold and dreary. The weather was great (warm & sunny) up until the last day, and even the storm I enjoyed since we stayed dry and cozy.
The sand, surf and sunshine are always good for my soul. It was a little difficult the first day, because it was the same spot that we camped at with Chelsea back in June. We had reserved these dates 9 months ago before we even knew of her diagnosis. Sometimes I’m still shocked at how quickly our lives have so changed.

Yet it was really good. We had sweet memories of our Chels there. I did have an episode where I got pretty upset with a man who was determined to burn the log where Chelsea had spent much time digging in the sand. Funny that I let a log get so precious to me, and embarrassing at the same time. Okay, so it wasn’t just a log, it had part of the root system that stuck up causing it to stand out a bit, and it was just feet away directly in front of our site on the beach. I asked (okay, pleaded) with the guy not to burn it, but his immediate and determined response was that he had to because he had a 30 person party coming that night and they needed a “wind barrier”. I couldn’t believe it - the log survived all these weeks since we had been there last - and then bam! On my first day someone wants to burn it! He didn’t have an ounce of compassion towards me, but thankfully, his wife did, who had walked up and heard my request. I later saw her grab the shovel from him as he was digging a pit under it, and they were still able to have a great fire there without touching Chelsea’s log.

Chelsea's log back in June when she had written

really big in the sand next to it,

" I (heart) U MOM ! "

It took about an hour for the emotional flood to pass, and once I was able to get the focus off of me and my loss, I really started feeling sorry for that guy. He seemed so calloused. I really felt bad for him. I had to wonder what would cause a person to respond the way he did. I mean, I totally understand the lure of a great fire - it’s Jeff’s most favorite part of camping and he would LOVE to torch such a hunk of wood. Yet if Jeff (or pretty much anyone I know) had been approached with such a plea during the preparations, he wouldn’t have thought twice about halting his efforts and coming up with another plan. Now when I remember the incident, I simply hope and pray that that man will find peace and joy someday…. And I realize how blessed I am to have the husband, friends and family that I do - a support of people who without even thinking put the needs of others before their own.

We had Jackie and her kids with us, and Kati was constantly entertained and looked after. Shovels, buckets, kites, dogs, boards, shops, farmer’s market, chowder, sunsets , campfires and books filled our time. Jeff’s parents surprised and blessed us with not only a visit, but an overnight stay! We hope to have them join us more in the future, and I’m pretty confident that they’re up for such expectations. All in all, it was a wonderful week. Now if I could just get my mounds of laundry done and calls/emails answered!

Plenty of time to monkey around!

On a more sobering note, a very special uncle of mine passed away recently. Uncle Greg will always be remembered for his constant teasing when I was little. When I was around him, I always had a smile on my face. I am blessed as I remember that Chelsea Rae got a taste of his humor and jesting when we camped with the family at Yosemite when she was almost 7. Yet again, another big blow and loss for my family - and my heart and prayers go out to the Dutra’s. I love you guys and am so sorry for the pain that you once again have to endure.

Though we are hurting here, we are doing really well considering. I know that we are being carried and changed. I am not as traumatized by those final days, and I find myself smiling more as I remember my baby. I’m not expecting a quick fix and know that I have many difficult days ahead - but I do rest in knowing that each day it’s going to get a bit easier as we transition. That phrase, “life is hard” that was so prominent in the 80’s comes to mind. I agree now more than ever. It is, but God is good. He never promised that it would be easy - and I look forward, now more than ever, to entering those Heavenly gates and forever being in His presence.

I guess you could say that I am “Holding onto Heaven”.

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