Thursday, December 30, 2010

Out with the Old, In with the New

This morning I sat down to transfer all my info from my old 2010 planner into my new 2011 planner. It is actually a desk planner, but I carry it in my purse. I take notes, mark appointments, stash papers, carry addresses. It is pretty much my brain extension.

My old planner is beat up, jammed with papers, full of notes from doctor visits and conversations, frayed around the edges, adorned with "visitor" stickers from Solara. It contains lists like what to pack to send to the funeral home with Dad and who to contact with news. It also carries work schedules, orthodontist appointments, playdates, birthday celebrations and travel plans. Full of dying and death. Full of life and living.

My new planner is thin, tidy and clean. Spotless, really. I've added some orthodontist and dentist appointments. I'll input school functions. I have my work schedule ready to tuck in for next week. I've marked Mom's and Loren's birthdays in January. I've also added the list of people to contact with news of Mom's death. I wrote out all the grandsons' names again so I won't have to think about who the pallbearers are. The blank pages are ready for notes and conversations to be recorded. I know that on one of those pages, I will write the time and date of my mother's passing. Ready for another year of dying. Ready for another year of living.


Meg and I stopped by Mom's today because, while we were in town running errands, we discovered in our truck...Ms. Jan's knit hat! We thought it was funny. Grandma thought it was funny too. She and Jan were already planning an outing together, so Mom can return the missing hat.

While we were there, just having a quick stand-up visit, Mom said:

I asked Nurse Christy if eating a lot of sugar could cause bad diarrhea. She said she would ask the doctor.

Gwen: Oh, are you thinking all the sweets at Poppa's brunch are giving you diarrhea?

Mom: Could be.

Gwen: You know, there were a lot of fatty foods too. That could be it.

Mom: Maybe. Or it could just be my...(points at transverse colon)...problem.

Gwen: You mean your cancer?

Mom: Yes, my cancer.

Really? Even now? If we don't talk about it, it might not be real? If we don't name it, it might go away? This family pattern is so ingrained, so automatic, so unhealthy. Please God, help us say what is real, what is true, even if it is hard, even if it is ugly. Even if it is cancer.

Monday, December 27, 2010

For Narnia!

Mom gave us a movie gift card for Christmas, planning to take us all to see Voyage of the Dawn Treader. This afternoon we picked up Mom, then zipped over and picked up our movie buddy Ms. Jan. The movie was amazing, as expected. We laughed. We cried. Ev and I held hands during intense parts. Mom clapped at various moments. Ms. Jan was generally confused.

On the way home, after dropping Jan off, we had this hilarious conversation:

Mom: I don't think Jan understood much of the movie. She read the book but she forgot. I think she is having a little...memory problem.

Karis: Ya think??? (general snickering)

Mom: It's worse even since the last time we took her to the movies. How long ago was that? I can't even remember what movie we saw. (general laughing, including Mom)

Then Mom had us all in for burgers and cookies. Yum! And then she told us it was time to go. Quintessential Mom.

Karis put into words later something to the effect that, "Grandma observes things about Ms. Jan that are true about herself." Mm-hmm.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Simply Having a Wonderful Christmastime

How did that happen? I feel sort of like the Grinch when he discovers Christmas comes no matter what. Even though I didn't feel joyful and would have skipped the holidays had it been up to me, it came. And it was delightful. Welcome Christmas!

Christmas Eve, Mom had dinner with Perry and Noelle. Perry had come over earlier in the week to invite her and she was excited about having steak. :) While she was at their house, Karis and I filled Grandma's stocking. It squeezed my heart to see only one stocking this year, but it was still fun to play Santa. (Although we would never mention Santa to Mom because she does. not. like. Santa.) Then we went home to a crockpot full of chicken tortilla soup and a houseful of these fine people I get to call my family.

Christmas morning, because we have teenagers and a pre-teen, we had to wake up the aforementioned fine people so we could have our family Christmas at home, then pick Mom up and head to Dave's parents' for the annual brunch. Karis drove Dave's car and picked up Gma. Those two are peas in a pod.

Mom had a great time at Lou and Peggy's. She thoughtfully brought a loaf of Jewish Rye bread as a hostess gift. She gracefully endured the flurry of gift opening and graciously received a number of gifts and another stocking full. And she loved Papa's brunch.

Karis drove Mom back home for her afternoon nap and eventually we headed home to get ready for Christmas dinner at Grandma's. We sort of had Christmas Dinner Deconstructed: Creamy Herbed Turkey Soup with Dressing (ala Sweet Tomatoes) and Cranberry Crisp. Mom set her table with crystal, her Swiss table cloth, silver, and Frankoma. A lovely combination!

We tried roasting chestnuts on the open fire, but that didn't turn out so well. No popping, mostly just singeing. Maybe it's one of those things that always sounds better in the song, but doesn't turn out so well in real life.

All in all, a wonderful Christmastime. Together.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Oh the Brain Function Here is Frightful

Can you name that Christmas song?

I've been buzzing along this month, picking up things for my Mom for Christmas. For years, for all my married life, my family has "drawn names" according to a chart. This year, I thought we had Mom's name, because last year we had my youngest brother and I figured after that we started again at the top with my mom. Well, I figured wrong.

Yesterday, as I was on my way out the door to run Meg to an appointment Houston (close to the Galleria...what was I thinking?), I pulled out my notebook just to double-check. Sure enough, we were supposed to buy for my sister Ruth and her family. Who won't be here for Christmas. Meaning the gifts should be shipped. Three days before Christmas.

My family put our collective heads together and came up with a good, easily shippable idea. After I got back from Houston, I shopped and shipped. Happily, FedEx is open til 7:00. Whew, mission accomplished.

Then today, I was relating my tale of ding dong-iness to my sister-in law Carrie. She said, "I thought we didn't do that anymore." What? I texted my sister Gayle who has a memory like a steel trap, knowing that if anyone knew the deal, Gayle would. Gayle replied, "I think it happened a few years ago, yes."

What? Where have I been? Did I know this once and then forget? Or did I miss it altogether? Does everyone else know this?

Frightful, indeed. But hey, as I said to another sister-in-law yesterday, if there must be confusion, gift confusion is the best kind. Right?

By the way, I pulled the chart out of my notebook and threw it away to avoid gift confusion in the future. Think it will help?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Happy Winter

Our first day of winter was beautiful! I called this morning to invite Mom out for a field trip to Sur La Table and lunch at Sweet Tomatoes. She said yes! Meg, Ev, and I headed over to pick Mom up and drove south. We parked and enjoyed our walk along the shops on our way to SLT. Mom was looking for something to roast her St. Louis chestnuts in over the fire. I was looking for a pastry blender, since mine expired and we have been sadly biscuit-less. A charming girl helped Mom and then just struck up a long conversation with her about culinary school. She invited Mom to her graduation in March! I told Mom she would have to make it to March so she could attend. The store clerk (who obviously didn't know Mom's story) said, "Of course she will make it to March!"

As we were walking back to the truck, the girls suggested eating at Johnny Rockets instead of Sweet Tomatoes. Mom agreed and in we went. Then out we went. The atmosphere was too noisy for Grandma. So we had a delightful meal al fresco. At least I thought it was a delightful meal. After Mom finished eating, she pulled out her satellite radio and plugged in. I guess she had reached her social limit for the day. What a hoot!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Time, Love and Tenderness

Nate, Ev and I went over to Mom's last night. She wasn't expecting us, but we were delighted to see her little Christmas tree lighted up. Mom welcomed us at the door and invited us in. She said over and over how happy she was to see us! She was super chatty and Ev even observed that "Grandma kept going from one subject to another!" I had warned the kids that if Gma was not up for company, we would go do some shopping. Ha! I had to tell them it was time to go after a couple of hours, when we needed to pick up the rest of our crew from youth group.

Mom also talked about how excited she is about joining us for brunch at Dave's parents' on Christmas morning. She even asked me if we would pick her up.

Who knew? I was texting with Gayle later last night and she observed that Mark's mother became sweet a few months before she died. Interesting. And nice.


My brother Loren is coming to visit Mom in January. Mom and Dad's anniversary is in January. She and Loren both have birthdays in January. It's a good time for him to come, for both of them. Loren is having a hard time with the idea of letting his mama go. Karis and I were watching Forrest Gump recently and this scene captured what I feel from Loren.

The look on Forrest's face is perfect! When the scene began, I thought, "That's Loren!" Not that my brother looks like Forrest Gump; it's the emotion. It's terror and love and confusion and affection and grief and admiration and disbelief and devotion, all rolled into one facial expression. Poor Forrest! Poor Loren.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Cracks in the Armor

*Gayle told me Mom said to her that she could not sleep in the master bedroom without Dad. I hadn't thought anything about Mom sleeping in the sewing room. She has slept there for a long time, even when Dad was alive and well in the master bedroom.

*Mom got teary-eyed the other day when I was at her house. I asked her about it and she said that after being married for 62 years, your husband becomes your life. She didn't want me to think she cried all the time (as if), but told me that the tears just come sometimes.

*Mom said again that she is concerned about how the end will be for her. We talked about it some and I told her I thought with her weakened heart and continuing weight loss, that when the cancer started to take over it wouldn't take long. Are those words of comfort? I think, for Mom, they are.

St. Louis Highlights

Last Saturday morning, we woke up to this:

I was concerned that Mom would be bothered with the snow and cold. But when she came up from her cozy basement bedroom, I could hear her all the way from my upstairs bedroom. "Oh! Oh! I get to see snow again!"

We opted to stay home while Gayle trekked over for her church cantata rehearsal. Mark had two performances with his male chorus. The three girls went out for dinner at Sweet Tomatoes. Mom and I had Creamy Herbed Turkey soup with stuffing. Oh my! We are planning a trip to our ST in our area just so we can have another bowlful. After our delicious dinner (Mom's treat), we bundled up and headed out for Gayle's civic orchestra Christmas concert. It was delightful! The conductor spoke before each piece and did a lovely job introducing the music. Mom was just over the moon and I tried to imagine what music would make me that happy. The closest I could come would be a U2 Christmas concert. :)

Sunday morning, bright and early, Mark drove us over to his church for the Christmas cantata. The choir sang, the instruments played (Gayle playing her beautiful flute again), and Mark preached. Mom loved it all!

Afterwards, we went downstairs in the church for Breakfast in Bethlehem. Here, Mom ate pancakes, met tons of people (a stretch for her), and met her match!

(A really funny text conversation transpired when I sent that photo out to my siblings. My brother Loren, who is not as churchified as the rest of us, texted back to ask, "What is that with Mama?" When I answered and told him it was a camel, he wondered, "Gayle has a camel?" Oh my gosh! I laughed and laughed.)

After church, we zipped over to see Mom's great-grandson, Emrys. What a treat!

Our next event was dinner backstage before Mark's final men's chorus performance. His group is called Ambassador's of Harmony. The first act of the Christmas concert was Grinch-themed, and Mark dressed as a Who. The second act told the story of Jesus' birth and Mark was dressed as a shepherd. It was very, very good and again, Mom loved it!

What a weekend. What a woman.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Meet Me in St. Louis

Friday morning, bright and early, Dave and I picked up Mom and headed to the airport. Once again, Mom's luggage was on the sidewalk. But this time, Mom got into the truck saying, "I don't know why I make these plans. This is the last time. No more. This is it." Not an auspicious start for our weekend together!

We breezed through security. Seriously, it is the easiest time I've had since 2001. I didn't have to take off my belt or jewelry. I even recklessly wore an underwire bra. No full body scan, no strip search, no pat down, no nothing. I don't know if the public outcry has changed things or if the whole security thing was media hype, but I didn't experience any of the well-publicized invasions of privacy. And I am thankful.

Gayle and Mark picked us up at the airport in St. Louis. We had a lovely bowl of Gayle's Italian Chicken Noodle Soup (I meant to get that recipe), then headed out to Trader Joe's. (Be still my heart.) I found the legendary Dark Chocolate Dipped Peppermint Joe Joe's (yes Virginia they do live up to the hype) and Mom picked out some Social Snacker crackers. Which is just funny. Really.

Mark grilled steaks for dinner, then headed off to his Christmas production. We enjoyed Gayle's orchestra rehearsal, then called it a day.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Christmas Plans?

I have it on good authority (both my brothers) that Mom is planning to spend Christmas with my family! That is news to me, but YIPPEE!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Life with the Anti-Social

Today I picked Mom up in the afternoon to go to a bridal shower. Some time ago, when Mom received the invitation, I asked if she would like to go. When she said yes (!), I asked if she would like to ride with me. She said yes! And she asked if I would purchase a gift to be from the two of us. I said yes. :)

So off we went today, on a nice drive in the country. As we drove along, Mom and I chatted about various things. One topic was our upcoming trip to St. Louis. Mom was telling me about talking with Gayle. The more Mom talked about her conversation with Gayle, the more she started to question our trip to St. Louis.

Mom: "The more I hear about Mark's chorus, the more I wonder if we should be going on this trip."

Gwen: "What do you mean?"

Mom: "Well, they are both so busy. It is quite a production."

I reminded Mom that Gayle had invited her and assured her that we could help around the house while we were there. Mom is planning to bake cookies and bread and pack them in her suitcase to take to Gayle. I did point out that we had several occasions to wear clothes and would need to pack some.

At the shower, Mom seemed a little foggy and tired. She had a cup of coffee and some cake. She talked to the lady sitting next to her and watched some gift opening. Then she came across the room to where I was visiting with someone and asked if I thought it was time to go. So of course I did. On the way home, she asked if I had been ready to go. I told her I was ready to go when she was. A little later, after she asked what I had planned for the rest of the day, and I said I needed to do some laundry and write lesson plans, she pronounced that it was good we left early since I had so much to do.

Also on the way home, I asked Mom if any of my siblings had mentioned coming for Christmas.

Mom: "No. You know, I think Christmas is such an intimate family time. I don't expect anyone to come. I think St. Louis will be my Christmas."

Now, Christmas was never "an intimate family time" at our house. Was it? Am I just not remembering those moments? Surely I would remember something like that, right? I really think this is just Mom laying the groundwork for her "I vant to be alone" speech, which will come when we invite her to join us for Christmas, or ask to come by, or suggest spending Christmas together in any way. She seems to be gearing up for her traditional holiday isolation. I don't really know what to do about it, since she finds it acceptable to reject my overtures.

To top off her anti-social afternoon, Mom as usual tried to open the car door before we came to a complete stop in her driveway. Then when I put it in park and the doors unlocked, her door didn't unlock because she was lifting the handle. And as usual she asked:

Mom: "Why can't I get my door open?"

As usual I replied:

Gwen: "Because you tried to get out before the car came to a complete stop."

And she laughed, got out, and went into her house.

Thanksgiving Happy

My sister Ruth and her family came to Texas to spend Thanksgiving with Mom. They had a really nice visit and Mom enjoyed spending time with them all.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Christmas Comfort

So I've been asking God for a little bit of that comfort and joy this Christmas. Today Dave was preaching on Zechariah from Luke 1. God gave me this from Zechariah's song of praise.

Through the heartfelt mercies of our God,
God's Sunrise will break in upon us,
Shining on those in the darkness,
those sitting in the shadow of death,
Then showing us the way, one foot at a time,
down the path of peace.

Luke 1:78,79
The Message

I'll have to edit this on our newer computer so I can underline the parts that jumped out at me as I read and listened.

I love that God has heartfelt mercies toward me.

I love that He calls Jesus "God's Sunrise".

I love that He shines on those sitting in the shadow of death. That's me. I'm sitting in the shadow of death.

I love that He will show me the way down the path of peace, one foot at a time. The path of peace sounds really good. And I definitely need step-by-step directions.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

True Confessions

Thanksgiving has come and gone and I didn't feel thankful. I know, I know, I have much to be thankful for. I've made lists and I've given thanks and I've said thank you to appropriate people.

I just don't feel thankful.

I feel:

Sad, as I remember last Thanksgiving.

Dread, as I think about Mom's future.

Lonely, as I miss my big brother who came to visit Mom before Thanksgiving.

Less than, as I can't set the example of a cheerful, hopeful, thankful mom/wife/daughter/friend. (I thought about faking it, but decided against.)

Grinchy, as I look ahead to Christmas and don't feel joyful.

Oh my. There you have it, the bad and the ugly. My only comfort is that I know of three people (not related to me) who felt the same way this Thanksgiving. They probably probably have the sense not to blog about it though.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Interpret This

This morning after church, I was visiting with Mom. I asked her if we could come over this week to help her with preparations. She asked, "Separation?" I leaned in and said, "Preparations. For your company." And she walked away. Um, should I take that as a "No" then?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Driving Miss Jan

I just talked with Mom on the phone and she filled me in on the rest of her week. She is happily getting ready for a visit next week from Loren and family. She is cooking and cleaning. And, she took her friend Jan to her hair appointment yesterday. When I asked why, Mom explained that Jan's car had broken down. Her children voted to not fix it, thinking it was time for Jan to quit driving. Mom said it worked out nicely for her, because Jan took her out to lunch at the Garden Cafe in the bargain. I laughed and asked if she thought Miss Jan told her kids she was having her 89yo friend drive her around!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Honoring Pops

Happy Veteran's Day!

It occurred to me to try our local charity resale shop on my hunt for all things (really, just something) patriotic. Stop Number Five. Ding ding ding! We have a winner. They had some arrangements already made up, but they looked sort of coffee-table-ish. They also had plenty of loose flowers, baskets, and even a little flag.

After I got things all arranged, I told Karis I might have a new career as a plastic flower arranger. She said probably not.

I called Mom to let her know we were going out to Dad's grave and asked if she wanted to come along. She said yes! We pulled Ev out of school at 1:00 and Karis gets out at noon on Thursdays anyway. Dave met us out at the cemetery. Ev wrote a note to Grandpa, Dave read scripture, and we all were grateful for our Pops. It was Mom's first visit to Dad's grave since his burial.

Thanks for your service to our country, Dad. You are our hero.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Veteran's Day Rant

I've been telling the kids for a couple of weeks now that we will put something on Grandpa's grave in honor of his service to our country on Veteran's Day. I thought we would pop into a craft store and pick up a little wreath or arrangement that would be appropriate. Shows you what I know.

Last night I had some extra time in town in between responsibilities, so I made my first stop: Hobby Lobby. Bastion of God and Country. Um, no. I could have some Halloween stuff for clearance, Thanksgiving stuff for half off, or aisles and aisles of Christmas stuff. But nothing, not even a little flag on a wooden stick, for Veteran's Day.

Time for Stop Number Two: Michaels. Having learned my lesson at HL, I asked for help the minute I walked in the door. The clerk said they didn't have anything made up for Veteran's Day, but pointed to a patriotic wreath on the wall. It had some painted cutesy country character in the center. "Uh, it's to lay on my Dad's grave." Cricket, cricket. Seriously, the lady didn't say another word to me! I started picking out flowers to make my own wreath, but then reminded myself of what a craft dork I am and put them all back.

So I thought of my local Kroger store, which usually has seasonal floral arrangements. Surely they will have some little patriotic-looking thing? Stop Number Three and ... no.

A friend had suggested Walmart. I had initially rejected that suggestion because it would mean, well, going to Walmart. But I was getting desperate and Walmart is supposed to be very God and Country, so I gave it a try. Stop Number Four. And no. Nothing.

What is the dang deal? Are we just skipping Veteran's Day this year? Is honoring our soldiers not profitable enough anymore? If I was crafty at all, I would be making wreaths with red poppies by the dozens and giving them out free in front of Hobby Lobby, Michaels, Kroger and Walmart. It makes me want to buy an armload of red poppies and pin them on any and all servicemen and women I can find. Shame on those stores for skipping such an important day! Shame on us for letting them do it.

And endless thanks to the brave men and women who serve our country. They are our heroes.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Surprising Part

We spent the night with Bill and Cathy after the reception. Saturday morning, Gayle talked to Mom about flying up for her orchestra Christmas concert and Mark's men's chorus Christmas concert. Mom agreed to come! She also agreed to have me travel with her! I made reservations for us when we got home, along with flight insurance in case Mom's health declines.

We flew home on Saturday. Dave picked us up just in time to catch Nate's last football game. I invited Mom to come with us and after some consideration, she said yes! The weather was perfect. Mom cheered for Nate as he caught passes and said things like "Nail him!" when Nate was on defense. She said it was the first football game she's ever enjoyed.

Then she took us all out to MacKenzie's to celebrate! The woman just continues to amaze me.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Sad, Sweet, Surprising Weekend

Dave and I drove over Friday morning to pick Mom up for the airport. True to form, her bags were out on the porch, in the dark. Such a different feel from our last trip to the airport though. Even Mom commented, "This is not like going on a cruise." No.

She was happy, though, to find we had arrived early enough for our traditional airport Starbucks (soy, of course, no whip). I was struck by how pretty she looked as we sat there and sipped our small toffee mochas, and asked if I could take her picture. Isn't she beautiful?

Mom let me know as we sat and relaxed together, that she thinks the doctor's prediction of her time remaining is correct. She does not think she will make it past eight months. That means January. I know that many older people make pessimistic predictions about their life expectancy. Dave's grandma used to say every year, "This will be my last Christmas (birthday, Thanksgiving, etc.)." Grandma T lived to be 99. Mom however has called it on every single thing she's said this past year. I'm not taking her statement lightly. In fact, I'm taking it as gospel truth.

We loaded onto our tin can of an airplane, the kind with two seats on one side and one seat on the other side. As we took off, rattling and shaking, Mom exclaimed, "I like this small airplane. You can really tell you are flying. It's more fun!" Every time we would bank sharply and look at the ground, or buffet in the turbulence, she would reiterate how she liked the small plane. What a woman!

As we flew over Kansas and neared the airport, Mom got teary as she looked out the window at her home land. "I love Kansas. Do you love Texas?" Yes, yes I do. Bill, Cathy, Gayle and Lydia were waiting for us in Bill's four door truck. We piled in and hit the road for the Flint Hills. Lydia suggested a scenic byway she had taken from Topeka. It was a lovely drive. We arrived shortly before 3:00, when the service for Aunt Helen was set to begin.

Welcome Cemetery is a sweet little spot in the Flint Hills of Kansas. I was amazed to see about 50 people gathered. All of my brothers and sisters were there. (Mom made a point of telling Dave later that all her kids were there. I think it meant a lot to her.) The service was short, but tender. My sister Ruth played the violin, a local pastor read scripture and prayed, and one of Aunt Helen's grandsons told of his memories of baking Swiss bread with his grandma. (The flowers looked lovely, btw.) Aunt Helen's ashes were buried next to her husband Ed and just across the way from her grandma. Bill and Cathy planted the peonies for Mom.

After all good-byes were said, we gathered at the McDowell Creek Community Center for a barbecue dinner. I met relatives I had never met before and visited with my siblings. Barbie and Marsha had brought photo albums that spanned from Aunt Helen's childhood to her 90th birthday party. Amazing history.

My goodness, this has gotten long. I think I'll put the surprising part in a separate post.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Nurse Christy Report

I called hospice today to get a report from Nurse Christy. She said the only signs Mom shows of the cancer progressing are the increased diarrhea and the one occasion of blood in her stool. And maybe a little slowdown in the energy level. She said she was actually a little glad for a couple of symptoms, otherwise they couldn't keep her on hospice! Christy did say she is asking Mom very specific questions, hoping to get information that might otherwise go unsaid.

Mom will have to discontinue hospice for the weekend and then re-up when she returns, due to the out-of-state travel. Same thing applies if she flies to Gayle's for Christmas concerts. I guess that is one way to keep her hospice status...keep signing off and back on.

I am very thankful for the good, compassionate care Mom is receiving. Hospice is a wonderful thing.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Know What Today Is?

Dad's Birthday (He would have been 89, the same age as Mom for a few months.)

Election Day (The perfect complement to Dad's birthday. Did you vote? I'm sure he's checking.)

My First Blogiversary (Not so happy though.)

I got teary a couple of times last night and today thinking about Dad.

Karis and Meg went by the house early this afternoon and Meg, Ev and I went by after school. Mom seems okay.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Is There a Brain Doctor in the House?

My brain hurts!

You know how you can be going along, thinking you are doing fine, and then something happens like, say, your hair starts to fall out? And you realize maybe you are not doing as fine as you thought?

I woke up this morning, thought about what I needed to do before we left for school, got ready, packed one lunch, grabbed a couple of water bottles, was ready before the girls, drove to school, exchanged small talk with my boss, walked out the door to get my first student...

And realized I left my son at home. Sound asleep in his warm bed. Monday is one of his regular educational therapy days, so he comes to school with us in the morning. Last week our diagnostician asked me if I felt ADD. Um, yeah, I guess so.

So, I employed a strategy that my boss teaches in her student organization class and did a Brain Dump. I just started writing down everything on my mind that I need to do. I wrote and wrote and wrote. Then I starred the things I needed to do immediately, today. Once the immediate things were taken care of, I assigned the others to different days this week. A couple of things even had to get bounced to next week.

I also asked Nate to take on the responsibility of setting his own alarm and reminding me when he needs to come with me. I need all the help I can get.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Addition to Last Week

Saturday -- Perry and Noelle invited Mom over to have dinner with some visiting missionaries from Italy. And she said yes! She had a lovely time and when she was ready to go home, she wanted to walk. So Perry walked my mom home. Very sweet.

Halloween Compromise

When I was a kid, my parents let us go trick or treating. I remember traipsing around the neighborhood collecting candy. The year that stands out in my mind, Loren had a skeleton costume and I was a princess.

Now that I'm grown and have my own kids, my parents turn out all their lights and hide in the back bedroom on Halloween. I don't know when they started this "tradition", I just can't remember a time in recent history that they ever turned on the porch light and handed out candy to neighborhood kids.

In contrast to my upbringing, we have never let our kids go out trick or treating. We just didn't feel comfortable with it for our family. We've always turned on our porch light, and passed out candy and little gospel tracts. We figured it was a good time to talk to our neighbors and spread a little light in the darkness.

I really didn't like the idea of my mom hiding at her home this year, alone in the dark on Halloween. So, we invited her and her friend Jan to go to the movies with us. They said yes! Mom wanted to drive, but we cajoled her into letting us pick her and Jan up instead. We saw Secretariat and it was great. Then we dropped the girls back off at their homes, safe and sound. A good Halloween compromise.

If you have the chance to take some octogenarians to the movies, I highly recommend it. They are a hoot!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Week in Review

Monday -- Meg and Grandma did not get to watch their movie. :( Turns out the movie times change on Fridays and we didn't check back. Disappointing.

Tuesday -- Karis took Grandma out for lunch. I suspected they would go to Panera. Karis said Mom got in the truck with a Chipotle coupon in hand. But then as they set out, Mom told Karis she wanted to go to Sonic instead. She said things like, "Sonic is close; let's go there. I've never been there. I want to try their onion rings." I don't know if she was scared of Karis' driving or if she really wanted to go to Sonic. They both had Chili Cheese Wraps and Mom got her onion rings. :)

Thursday -- I invited Mom to come to Ev's Christian Heritage Program on Friday, and she said yes! And, "I hope I don't oversleep." I offered to give her a wake up call.

Friday -- Karis called Mom on our way to school on my cell phone.

Mom: Gwen!

Karis: Hi Grandma. It's Karis.

Mom: I'm up!

Karis: Well, stay up!

And she came! Mom listened to Ev's choir sing and then she listened to Ev give her talk about Betty Greene.

While Mom was at school, one of her friends asked her if she was coming to the church fellowship night. Mom agreed to come, but refused a ride. I asked her how she was going to get there, and she pantomimed driving. At night? Yup.

And she did! I was at the church to pick Meg up (she painted the youth room), and saw Mom having dinner with her friends. I love it.

All Things Together For Good

Subtitle: A Really Ding-y Girl and A Really Great God

This week when we heard the details for Aunt Helen's service, I hopped on the internet to make plane reservations for Mom and me. Mom wanted to fly in Friday morning and back home Saturday, so I was pleased to find a flight that left town at a reasonable hour, but got us into KC before noon. I clicked, I booked, I printed. The tickets were about $500 each, but what can you do? Sometimes you just pay what you have to pay and go on.

I showed Dave our itinerary when he got home. He said, "Uh, Babe. You've got a problem." Those Friday morning times were actually Friday evening times. Ack!

So that's the Ding-y Girl part.

I immediately got back on the internet to see what I could do to correct my incredibly stupid mistake. I tried to call Expedia, but got a message that they were too busy and to call back another time. I sent a desperate e-mail. I called again the next morning, and got the same message. I called again around noon, got the same message, and decided to try to get through.

Here comes the Really Great God part.

Within seconds, I was speaking to a representative. She most helpfully cancelled my reservations, then booked us on a flight that actually arrived before the graveside service.

With no penalty fees.

At half the cost of the original flight.


Monday, October 25, 2010


What do you think? Which one looks the most "Aunt Helen"?

Okay, I've decided to order #2 to be from Gayle, Ruth and Bill and their families. I'll order #4 from me and my family. Loren and his family are doing their own thing. And Mom is going to plant peonies for her dear sister.

Here We Go

Cousin Marsha let me know this afternoon. Aunt Helen's graveside service, at the graveyard of her childhood church, is scheduled for 3:00, Friday, November 5. There will be a reception following in the community center of the little nearby town. It is a town I remember from my childhood, where my grandpa had an old victorian house with creaky floors, steep stairs and a working hand water pump out back.

Mom and I will fly to Kansas City Friday morning. Bill and Cathy will pick us up at the airport and drive us out to the cemetery, a couple of hours away. We'll spend the night at their place, then fly back home Saturday. Mom did not want to have an extended stay. And we do what mama wants.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


Sister Ruth called this afternoon to tell me that her husband Rich had spoken with Cousin Marsha. She said Marsha was talking about having Aunt Helen's graveside and reception on November 5th or 6th. I asked if that weekend was definite and Ruth said...


Wull, okay.

At least I'm pretty sure we can have Ev's birthday party this weekend.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


We haven't heard yet when Aunt Helen's service will be. We know it will be a graveside at their childhood church cemetary in Kansas, but cannot make flight plans until we know the date.

Mom, however, is making plans of her own. She and a friend are going to see Secretariet on Monday afternoon. The friend is very similar in age to Mom. In fact, I asked her:

Gwen: Who drives when you and Jan go out together?

Mom: I always offer before she gets the chance. Her driving scares me!

Another clever part to this plan is, Mom has asked Meg to come with them. Her friend Jan thought having a younger person along might help them navigate the theatre a little better. I think it is a brilliant idea. Meg asked if she could also bring a friend. (I said yes.) Mom asked if she should pay for the girls' tickets. (I said yes.)

So, Monday afternoon, Meg and Maryanne are meeting Mom and Jan at the movies. Fun!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Another Goodbye

Mom called late this morning to say that when she returned home from Ladies' Bible Study, she had a message from my cousin Marsha. Mom's dear sister, my Aunt Helen, passed away peacefully this morning around 7:45. She was at home with both of her daughters. Mom said Aunt Helen opened her eyes, looked at her girls, then was gone.

I know it is good for Aunt Helen. She is whole, no longer confused or infirm, and reunited with her husband Ed. I'll bet she is sitting on the front porch, visiting with Mama.

But again, I'm surprised by sorrow. Even when it is welcome, even overdue, death is so sad.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


My cousin Jim came to visit Mom a couple of weekends ago. He is Dad's sister's son, and the impression I get is that Jim looks to my Mom and Dad as sort of parental figures in his life. I was corresponding with him about some family history he was interested in, and he let fly with this tidbit:

I enjoyed seeing your Mom and told her if somehow this drags on for a long time I'll come back to see her. I also discussed driving with her. She said you won't let her take your kids in the car with her any more and we talked about when she should stop driving. I told her that the legacy of injuring someone (or worse) would be a bad way to leave this world and perhaps she should consider giving her car to the kids and just having a cab pick her up for her errands and trips to the store. She thought that would work and said she'd talk to you about it.

It should come as no surprise that Mom has not breathed a word of this to me. If we don't talk about it, it isn't real, right?

I'm not quite sure what to do with this information. I really wasn't planning to tackle this issue. Mom hasn't driven my kids since she was diagnosed with TIAs some years ago. I just never thought periodic mini-strokes made for safe driving. Giving up driving would definitely cramp Mom's style. She relishes her freedom to run errands, grocery shop, attend two Bible studies and church, etc. She even drove herself out to our house for my birthday dinner.

Am I up for this fight? Is it necessary? Is it worth it? I dunno.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Handshake Deal

On Monday, Mom and I had lunch together at Panera's. I invited her, but she treated me to a bowl of delicious soup and a nice time of conversation. We caught up, Mom had some questions about mail, we talked about her steady stream of weekend visitors.

Last Tuesday when I had her captive on the way to the banquet, I had broached the subject of my family moving in with her when she needs 24 hour care. I knew she would need time to reject it outright, then mull it over, and maybe reconsider. She actually brought it up herself in the course of our conversation Monday.

Mom: Now, about the idea of your family moving in with me. Only when I am bedfast!

Gwen: Oh, that is the only way. We would only move in when you need constant care, Mom. Not a minute before. We want you to be independent until you just can't anymore.

Mom: (General agreement.)

Then, Mom actually stuck her hand out across the table so we could shake on it! What a hoot.

Parting Cruise Shot

(Sister Gayle on our balcony, embracing the wild.)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Aunt Helen Update

I heard from Cousin Marsha today. She said that Mom's sister Helen is at home in a hospital bed, eating and drinking very little. Aunt Helen still recognizes Marsha and her sister Barbie, but they think her time is very close. It is hard to see a generation go. As Loren said, it's the end of an era.

In my mind, I see Dad keeping his bachelor pad together, getting ready for Mom's arrival soon. And next door is a sweet little cottage with Uncle Ed, waiting for Aunt Helen. It will be a great reunion all around.


Friday morning, a week after we had boarded, we had our last lovely breakfast together onboard and said goodbye to our beautiful boat. We caught a crazy taxi ride (nothing like wrong way up a one way street to get your blood pumping) to our rental car agency, then Cathy drove us out of Seattle, headed for Yakima. (Once again, Cathy was the travel agent extraordinaire.) It was a scenic drive through a part of the US I've never seen. For that matter, once our plane left Houston a week before, it was all part of the US I'd never seen. Anyway, we arrived in Yakima and spent a little time with my nephew Joel and his family.

Joel is one of our American heroes. We are so thankful for his service. He has a beautiful wife and two sweet kiddoes. I didn't check with them about putting names and details on the world wide web, so I'll just leave it at that. It was a treat to visit with them.

After we visited with Joel and family for a bit, Loren and Carrie arrived to take Mom and me on the next leg of our journey. We hit the road and headed for Loren's new place. Here's the sweetest part: Loren had Carrie drive and me ride shotgun, so that he could sit in the back with his mama. He was ever the attentive son for the whole visit. Unfortunately, there were no cameras associated with this part of our trip, so you will just have to take my word for it that we were there, and it was beautiful. Actually, we all have to take Loren's word for it because most of the sights were masked in cloud cover or mist for most of our visit. I guess that's life in the temperate rainforest, right?

While at Loren's place, we visited Zane at his job and sampled a huckleberry shake, drove through the wildlife refuge up a mountain, and saw geese, turkey, a fox, a badger (and a great closeup of the mountain while Loren looked at the badger while driving), and deer. No moose. No bear. Sorry Mom! We saw the lake we only knew from pictures and lots of pretty countryside.

And we got to visit Mary Jane Butter's Farmgirl Store! It was very inspirational and a little covet-inducing. Carrie, Leah, and I, and even Mom really enjoyed looking at each little thing. I do have to say though that the Farmgirls might be a little over the top in MJB worship. When I pointed out the cute buttons in mason jars around a high shelf, the shop girl oozed, "Those are Mary Jane's own buttons!" Uh, okay. Being at Carrie's very nicely decorated farm house and then at the farmgirl store made me want to come home and, well, punch things up a notch.

And as if a visit to Farmgirl Mecca wasn't enough, I then got to see my brother order at the Pita Pit. Sort of like Subway, but it is pitas, with options like hummus and baba ganoush and guacamole. So we all went through the line, pointing and saying exactly what we wanted on our pitas. Loren came last and ordered a tuna on wheat. "What would you like on that, sir?" "Everything." Mom always did say he was a happy eater. I'm laughing just thinking about it.

All weekend, Carrie stuffed us full of good food, Zane and Leah shared a room to accomodate us, Loren burned into his store of winter wood to keep our southern bones warm, and I guess everybody pretty much catered to our every whim. Mom loved spending time with her youngest boy and seeing his place. She said over and over, "It is so good that we came. It's the perfect end to our trip."

Finally, Monday morning we boarded our plane for the long trip home. The travel went well and some dear friends picked us up at the airport in Houston. It was good to be home. Our minds and hearts are full of shared, once-in-a-lifetime memories.


I got sick. As a dog. On my husband's birthday weekend.

I just hate it when physical weakness keeps me from doing what I want to do! On the plus side for Mom, my brother-in-law Rich and nephew Luke are in town this weekend. At least if Mom had an emergency, she had someone available to help.

Ev ran a fever yesterday, so she and I are recuping at home together this morning. You know a mom is feeling better when...she starts a load of laundry. Hopefully I can put two thoughts together later and wrap up the cruise stories.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Guessing Game

Tonight we attended a fundraiser banquet for Dave's dad's ministry. We hosted a table and asked Mom to come as our guest. Dave did the inviting to up the "yes" factor for Mom. Earlier I popped in to visit Mom and look at some mail she had asked about. While I was looking at some books she wanted to show me, we had an interesting conversation.

Mom: I've decided not to go tonight.

Gwen: Really? Why?

Mom: Well, it is at night.

Gwen: Yes, it is. I was planning to pick you up.

Mom: But you are so busy.

Gwen: I'm bringing Karis to work at 5:00. I thought I would just pick you up around 5:15.

Mom: But then you would have to bring me back home.

Gwen: Yes, that's true. I'll be picking Karis up from work at 10:00 anyway. Even if I wasn't, I'd have to come through town to get home. The only way to get straight from the banquet to my house is by boat. [Different sides of the lake.]

Mom: Well, okay. If you would be coming this way anyway.

This obsession with not being a bother is really getting old! It forces me into a guessing game. Does she really not want to come? Or is she just trying to protect me? And from what? Time with her? Argh!

I took advantage of the captive audience time while Mom and I drove out to the banquet. I told Mom that yes, I'm busy. Who isn't??? But the day I get too busy for my kids or my husband or my MOM, something is really wrong! I sure hope I got through.

Mom did say on the drive home that she enjoyed the banquet and was glad she had gone. I guessed right. :)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Last Day at Sea

We slept in again til almost ten. Mom sat up in bed and announced, "I woke up with a mohawk!"

We had a late breakfast at the buffet, then wandered back to our room. Mom wanted to catch the naturalist lecture at 1:45. As the hour grew closer, we asked Mom if she wanted to eat before the lecture. She said happily, "Lunch??!!" Very Pooh Bear.

The ship docked at Victoria, but the weather was rainy and the only place Mom wanted to visit was closed at night. So we had a last lovely dinner in the formal dining room and then listened to the string quartet (the girls) until midnight. A most satisfying day.

Here we are ready for bed.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

You Say It's Your Birthday

It's my birthday too yeah.

Lest I grow too maudlin about my parents, let me tell you about my birthday. In fact, let me start with last year's birthday.

Dad was in the hospital because his blood pressure kept plummeting. He had not slept well since his first stint in the hospital last August and kept waking throughout the night. He was not quite in his right mind and when he woke up he felt like he needed to go to the bathroom. The trouble was, he still had a catheter. When he felt he needed to pee, he tried to pull out the catheter. So, there I was, standing over my dad in the middle of the night, trying to pull his hands away from his privates, when Dad looked over my shoulder at the clock and saw that it was after midnight. He said, "Oh, happy birthday, honey!" Oh my. That's a birthday wish to remember.

This year, Mom told Gayle that she wanted to be included in our birthday celebrations. Gayle told me and I told Dave and so Mom came over today after church to have lunch with us. Can I just say that direct meaningful conversation is not my family of origin's forte? My kids prepared and served a wonderful meal. Mom and I sat and visited while the preparations were being made.

I took the opportunity to tell her again who is planning to be available when she needs care. (Mom has been forgetting things and she has seemed confused about this, even asking about hiring someone.) Mom took the opportunity to tell me that this set of hand-me-down couches is the nicest we have ever had. "I mean at least they all match", she amended. Then we moved over to the table and she said, "I'm glad to see you've found some dining chairs that hold together." Yikes! Backhanded compliments, anyone?

After a lovely lunch of lasagne, garlic bread and salad, we moved over to the matching couches to open cards and presents. Very fun! But conspicuosly missing a card from my mom.

You know, as I type this out, it sounds really petty. I know Mom is occupied with the hard work of dying. I know life is not all about me. I'm not sure why her comments and lack of card bother me so much. Maybe I'm just being the baby. I guess I'll never stop looking for my parents' approval and longing for their unconditional love.

Meanwhile, Back on the Cruise

After our day at Skagway, we had another sea day. We slept in until 10 in the morning. Mom commented, "It's sad because we're leaving Alaska. It's almost over."

We went for a wonderful brunch buffet in the formal dining room. The serving tables were decorated with ice sculptures, cheese sculptures and fruit sculptures. Mom found her long-desired crab legs. We had shrimp, salad nicoise, little quiches, fresh fruit, sushi, salmon, smoked herring, crepes suzette, our favorite breadsticks, and really, really good hot coffee. We each filled two plates and then shared a plate of dessert fondue.

We stayed until the buffet closed down at 1:00, then Mom and I had a nap. I took claritin and advil and meclazine to deal with allergies and headache and a little seasickiness. Mom took only her regular meds. Everyday she would slip some rolls and bananas into her ever-present tote to have with her afternoon meds.

Before dinner, we went to hear On Tap's (the boys) last concert. They sang a lovely version of Billy Joel's Lullaby. The day before, I read this John Muir quote in a book in Skagway: Death is a kind nurse saying, "Come, children, to bed and get up in the morning", a gracious mother calling her children home. Listening to this beautiful, tender song brought me to tears as I thought about Mom's approaching night. Incredibly, that was the only time during our cruise that I felt the shadow of death.

Mom and I went to bed right after dinner. Gayle and Cathy went bar hopping. :)

Note: The boys are a little off key in the youtube clip. (It's from 2008.) They were spot on in concert. You can youtube the Billy Joel version if you can't get past the pitchiness.

Goodnight my angel, time to close your eyes,
And save these questions for another day.
I think I know what you've been asking me,
I think you know what I've been trying to say.
I promised I would never leave you,
And you should always know
Wherever you may go, no matter where you are
I never will be far away.

Goodnight my angel, now it's time to sleep,
And still so many things I want to say.
Remember all the songs you sang for me,
When we went sailing on an emerald bay.
And like a boat out on the ocean,
I'm rocking you to sleep
The water's dark and deep, inside this ancient heart
You'll always be a part of me.

Goodnight my angel, now it's time to dream,
And dream how wonderful your life will be.
Someday your child may cry, and if you sing this lullaby,
Then in your heart there will always be a part of me.
Someday we'll all be gone
But lullabys go on and on
They never die
That's how you and I will be.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Reality Check

Mom passed blood in her stool this week. She is having so much diarrhea that her skin is raw and her hospice nurse brought by a prescription cream. She told her hospice nurse and she told me. I am proud of her for telling and thankful she is willing to share information. I'm so sorry for her symptoms to be intensifying. The immediate future is a scary place right now.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


My dear sister in law Cathy was not only the researcher, planner, and facilitator of our Alaskan cruise; she was also our photographer. She and my dear brother Bill sent a cd of pictures from the trip. I'm going back to put some in previous posts and will put up more. Thank you Cathy!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

"It's a Gift"

Did I mention the weather?

All the way to Alaska and back, the weather looked like this.

Our entire time in Alaska, the weather looked like this.

(Isn't our ship pretty?)

The locals kept exclaiming about the weather. One guy said, "I don't know why it is like this. It's usually raining sideways this time of year." We would just smile and say, "It's a gift from God for our mother."

Monday, October 4, 2010


Tuesday morning dawned sunny and warm on us in Skagway. We all went up the mountain on the White Pass narrow gauge train. We learned about the crazy history of the area and took in a lot of gorgeous scenery. After the train ride, Mom and Gayle went back to the ship for lunch and a nap. Cathy and I shopped in the quaint town. We asked at the chamber of commerce for locally-owned shops with locally-made merchandise and found some we really liked.

Cathy and I headed back to the ship for lunch and returned to town with Gayle and Mom in tow. We stopped by a little museum and the ranger station. At the ranger station, we enjoyed an unintentionally hilarious video about dealing with bear encounters. And then, Mom shopped! Voluntarily. Happily. Strange days, indeed. She enjoyed the train depot shop. She suffered through some jewelry shops and then went off to find a bathroom. She didn't find the bathroom, but she found the Sarah Palin store.

When we were finally through shopping, I began looking around for the shuttle to take us back to the boat. When Mom realized what I was doing, she asked indignantly, "Are you waiting for the shuttle because of me???" Then off she marched toward the pier, with the three of us scrambling to keep up. Quintessential Mom.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Sunday night, Gayle left dinner early and by the time we returned to our little room, she was in bed asleep. At some point in the night, I heard Gayle and Mom discussing who would go in the bathroom first. At some later point in the night, I realized Gayle was throwing up. She woefully admitted to being sick and repeatedly apologized for exposing us all. I think she envisioned being Patient Zero in the cruise ship plague.

We called guest relations, got the ship clinic opened up (which I'm pretty sure involved waking a nurse and a doctor), and asked for a wheelchair to come pick up my sister. By this time, Gayle was shaking uncontrollably and in a lot of pain. It finally dawned on me when she described the pain as being around her back and through her diaphragm, and then she said, "I keep throwing up but I don't feel better." Oh! I know that feeling. Gallbladder.

The ship's doctor ran a battery of tests to rule out other things, then mercifully gave Gayle an i.v. with fluids, anti-nausea meds, and morphine. She was able to sleep and I went back to our room. The good news: not a contagion. The bad news: possible emergency surgery in Juneau.

Monday morning was full of wonder as our ship approached Tracy Arm Fjord. The glacial water was a beautiful icy blue. I slept in as Mom and Cathy watched the scenery off our balcony. When the glacier was dead ahead, they woke me and went up to the top deck. It was an amazing sight! Cathy was our official photographer, so I'll post pics when she sends copies.

We visited Gayle in the ship hospital (1st floor, if you're wondering), and planned our day. If Gayle had to disembark in Juneau for surgery, Cathy would stay behind with her. I would continue on with Mom. In light of that possibility, we packed up Gayle and Cathy's bags. Since Cathy's cruise might be ending sooner than expected, Cathy went on the whale watching excursion with Mom in Juneau. They also went to the Mendenhall Glacier. They had a great time and arrived back at the ship just in time for our 8:30 dinner seating. Again, pictures on the way.

Gayle and I had a whole different kind of excursion. First, Gayle was wheeled down the ramp in her nightgown and cruise ship robe. Then, she was moved onto a gurney and wheeled to a waiting ambulance. For the full effect, you have to picture thousands of cruise ship tourists milling around to find their various excursion transportation. With Gayle rolling through. Sort of like a parade. (We found out later that our dinner tablemates saw her and pointed her out to their fellow travelers. "Look! We know her!") So we got all loaded up into the ambulance, the guy turned the key, and click. Click click click click. Have you ever seen an ambulance get a jump? I have.

To make a very long story somewhat shorter, Gayle received wonderful care in Juneau. Among the usual hospital questions, she was asked, "What time does your ship leave?" An ultrasound revealed she did indeed have gallstones, many and large, but did not need to have emergency surgery. She was released to get back on the ship, armed with a prescription and some diet recommendations. She may be the only person I know who has lost weight on a cruise. What an adventure!

Monday, September 27, 2010


On Sunday, Sept. 12, we awoke in Ketchikan, Alaska. Mom had been up a lot in the night with aching legs, but woke us at 6:30 a.m. with a loud stage whisper, "Let's go find a church!" There were plenty of churches in Ketchikan, but none that we could get to and be back in time for our excursion. So we contended ourselves with the Church of the Breakfast Buffet and loaded ourselves onto a bus at the appointed time for our land and sea tour.

We learned about the totems of the city and how they each tell a story. (Gayle and I at separate times commented that it would be fun to make a family story totem. Chainsaw art, anyone?) Our tour guide was a delightful retired school teacher, whose own mother was a feisty octogenarian. Next we took a short walk through the temperate rainforest (deep woods with moss and ferns on the floor), over a salmon stream, to an abandoned salmon cannery. (If you ever need to kick the canned salmon habit, this is the tour for you. Ick. I'm trusting modern canning methods are much improved.} We learned the 5 kinds of salmon and had a little snack of salmon spread and hot chocolate. I think Mom had two.

The "sea" portion of our tour was a narrated nature boat tour of the bay. It was beautiful and fun and we saw a few eagles. Mom continued in her adventure mode by going up top in the open air and standing for most of the tour, only going back down when strawberry strudel was offered. We walked the short distance back to our ship, but found the ramp to be very steep. The tide had risen while we were out, so the ever-accomodating staff came down to haul Mom in.

Another discovery of the day was the comedian, Fred Klett. His comedy was completely clean and very, very funny. I laughed and laughed. Mom said she would go again just to hear me laugh.

Gayle did not laugh much though. She was feeling a little off and thought she might be seasick. More about that later.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sea Day

Saturday, Sept. 11, was a full sea day for our cruise. Back at home, my family was split between Nate's first football game and the Celebrate America festival at church. On the boat, we were busy following Mom around as she got to know the breakfast and lunch buffets, toured the galley, discovered her favorite musicians, and just generally soaked it all up. At breakfast, Mom looked out the window and saw a whale blowing mist. Later in the day, we saw a beautiful double rainbow off our balcony. Mom was delighted with the wonder God had planned for her.

Mom had two favorite musical groups on the cruise. One was a string quartet called Grande Volta. The girls were sweet and pretty and had just graduated from a conservatory in Russia. The other favorite was an a cappella group, On Tap. Mom called them "the boys" and I think they loved her too. Throughout the cruise, we tried to catch these two groups every time they performed.

Mom wanted to attend a lecture on ship navigation. We went along and listened to a nearly incomprehensible greek man for about an hour. When all was said and done, Mom said, "When you have time, would you tell me what he said?" She hadn't understood a word!

Yes, this is a picture of my mother drinking champagne. And loving it.

Saturday, September 25, 2010


That's the best term I can come up with for it. Mom was transformed for/by/with this cruise. She was like a little kid! Eager, full of energy, ready for adventure. On Friday morning, Sept. 10, I had arranged to pick Mom up between 6:00 and 6:15 a.m. Dave and I were on our way to her house when she called at 6:07 to see where we were.

Me: We're on our way. We'll be there in about 5 or 10 minutes.

Mom: I'm going out the back door so I can leave the front locked.

Me: Okay. Hey, Mom, we can get your bags for you when we get to your house.

Mom: Oh, they are already out on the sidewalk.

And so was she when we arrived. On the sidewalk. In the early morning dark. With her bags. She had been so excited about the trip that she couldn't sleep. Mom was ready to go on her Alaskan cruise!

Dave got us to the airport in good time, we checked in at a kiosk, and breezed through security. We had time to sit for a cup of coffee before early boarding. We weren't able to sit together on the plane, but I went back midway through the flight and Mom was doing great. She thought the flight seemed short. :)

We quickly found my sister Gayle and sister-in-law Cathy in the Seattle baggage claim, then just as seamlessly found our ride. I'm telling you, Cathy did all the work on the ground, but God planned this trip, no doubt about it. And let me tell you, He is a great travel agent! We zipped over to the pier, checked our bags onto the ship, and began to wind our way through the check-in process. Everything was in order, our birth certificates were sufficient for i.d., and we boarded our beautiful big boat.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


"This is better than I ever dreamed!" That was Mom's assessment only one day into our Alaskan cruise. And we hadn't even made it to Alaska yet! It was a wonderful cruise, full of God's special gifts to Mom. She dove right into the cruising life, as you can see from this photo taken on our balcony moments after boarding the ship.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Little Help

My sister Gayle and her daughter Lydia (and Lydia's dog) are visiting Mom this week. They are working on some organization and recording, but mostly on getting Mom ready for her cruise. I know Mom is enjoying her time with them and I am so glad to know they are getting her ready to go. Gayle is actually planning to come down every few weeks to help mom. Sweet sister.

Gayle and Lydia will also be helping me get ready to go, as they will be stopping by OK to pick up a copy of my birth certificate! I don't know how a person loses their birth certificate, but I have managed somehow. I found out this morning that I cannot get my passport renewed without my birth certificate AND that the company that handles mail requests for birth certificates cannot guarantee delivery by Thursday. I also found out that crying over the phone to strangers does not help. I didn't cry in the passport office, but I bet that wouldn't have helped either. Thank goodness for Gayle!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Another Place I Never Thought I'd Go


But on Friday my mom and I will fly to Seattle, where we will meet one of my sisters and one of my sisters-in-law, and get on a really big boat together. And we will sail to Alaska!

As my brother Bill helped Mom get her finances in order after Dad's passing, he asked her if there was anything she wanted to do with her money. She replied, "Well, I've always wanted to go on an Alaskan cruise." And so, thanks to a ton of research and work from my sister-in-law, we leave Friday. It's crazy!

I'm really happy for Mom to get to do something she has always wanted to do. I'm excited to be able to enjoy it with her. But I'm also sad. I wonder if this is how Make a Wish families feel. Happy, excited, and sad. How do you take a fun trip that you know is your very last?

What's Not to Like?

I just love these people.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Family Lunch

Following Dad's Celebration of Life service, we had a family lunch in the church great room. Mom provided a delicious barbecue meal from a wonderful local place (Karis' new employer). Once again, kind friends set up, served, and cleaned up. It was a great time to enjoy each other before everyone headed back across the country.

All of the pictures I've been posting from last Tuesday were taken by our worship pastor. Many thanks to Ben for recording the day for us. And my sincere apologies to anyone with dial up.