Advertisements

Blog Archives

Love stories on a birch tree

Sunrise, sunset

Yeah, it’s a potty in the U.S.A.

My sister’s brain

I told my sister Kathy her brain should have its own Instagram account. It’s been photographed more often than the Kardashians, and it’s far more interesting.

Six times, Kathy has had surgery on it, and six times that beautiful, complicated, challenging organ has survived.

If you look inside my sister’s brain, you’ll see a working shunt system on one side, and a broken catheter stuck in the middle. You’ll see a ventriculostomy, which allows fluid to move from one ventricle to the next. You’ll see a resection scar from a recent tumor removal.

And here’s what else you’ll see:

You’ll see fierce love for friends and family, especially her stepson, the charismatic Traveain. Woe to any facility ill-equipped to handle Traveain’s electric wheel chair. Kathy has fired off many a stern letter, including one to her alma mater, to rectify that situation ASAP.

You’ll see devotion to her students (which nearly gave us all a heart attack).  As promised, Kathy texted us updates when she and her husband Keith made their way to Mayo Clinic for a critical consultation following her most recent brain surgery. “Disaster!” she wrote and we all clutched our phones. “The pizza delivery guy arrived right when the high school was having a fire drill.” The message left us all understandably confused. “I ordered pizza for my Geek Squad students and that delivery guy better find them. His tip depends on it.” I mean, really, who orders pizza for their students while enroute to Mayo Clinic with 34 staples in her head? As I may have mentioned, in 2007 Kathy was named Wisconsin’s Teacher of the Year, not only for her tech program but also for her mentoring of at risk students.

You’ll see peace from a daughter and a sister who has been since birth the family touchstone. She calls herself Switzerland (one of the few countries she and my mother have not been to among their many global travels) because she rarely takes sides in family squabbles. She is the mellowest among us, quick to remember birthdays and anniversaries and faithful in her attendance at important family functions. She has seen every play her goddaughter Katherine has ever been in, and that’s saying something.

You’ll see a little disdain for undereducated Packer fans. I’ve gone to games with Kathy for more than three decades. She knows her stuff. One game, we sat next to a local celebrity who prattled on to his companions. He was loud and he was wrong. Eventually, a squirming Kathy couldn’t take it anymore. She looked at me and said, “Good God,” then leaned across and spoke directly to the gentleman. “That’s not Dorsey Levens. He hasn’t even been on the team since 2001,” she said. Though momentarily stunned, the gentleman recovered admirably and he and Kathy chatted easily for the remainder of the game.

You’ll see strength. You’ll see it oozing from every pore. I was with Kathy in her hospital room not long after she’d learned the tumor they’d just removed was malignant, metastasized breast cancer. We were alone for a little while and I, channeling all of the medical knowledge I’d acquired through years of faithful George Clooney watching, ran her through some tests. “Ok, squeeze my hand.”  She did. “Follow my finger.” Her eyes followed my hand. “Lift your right leg. Good. Good. Now your left.” I was just goofing around a little and testing whether her little sister obedience was still intact (it was). I also had a serious question. “What are you thinking about your diagnosis?” I asked. “It is what it is,” Kathy said, and paused a minute. “And we’re going to fight the hell out of it.”

Of course, we’re grossly offended that any cancer cells at all would have the nerve to invade that beautiful brain, but we also know Kathy and our money’s on her.

Next week, she’ll be back at Mayo for Gamma Knife Radiation after which, she and her husband Keith are looking forward to resuming their regular summer activities. She and my mom plan a July trip to Cuba.

Today, we’re walking with Kathy and her team, Holy Walkamoley, in the Menomonee Falls Relay for Life. She’ll take that remarkable brain of hers around that survivor lap and, once again, we’ll all stand and applaud.

Kathy and I at Dave Robinson

Kathy and I have been loyal Packer fans through all kinds of weather. She’s pretty good natured, until you start talking smack about her Packers, especially if you don’t have your facts straight.

Kathy's wedding! 152

Here is Kathy on her wedding day in 2012, six months before her breast cancer diagnosis.

Kathy and Molly at Molly's orchestra concert

A very loyal aunt, Kathy goes to great lengths to come to just about everything. Here she is at Molly’s most recent orchestra concert.

twinsies

My mom and Kathy went to Door County last week and twinsied themselves. 

Kathy, Molly and Mom

Kathy, Molly and my mom at the Appleton North graduation last night.

Kathy post-op

Would you be smiling just after brain surgery? Kathy did. She winked a little too.

Kathy the survivor

These are some members of Team Kathy at her first Relay for Life two years ago. We’ll all be there tonight too, cheering her on as she takes her survivor lap.

 

 

 

 

 

Last dance with Mary Jane

Three times in one weekend I was THAT mom

On Sunday, I noticed my son had not been participating in a lively group text among his siblings and me. Naturally, I assumed he was incapacitated in some way.

It’s not that the family group chats are mandatory, it’s just that they’re fun and who wouldn’t want to chime in? Am I right?

So I skimmed his social media accounts, noting the last time he’d either posted or responded.

It was a little too long for my comfort, so I sent him a short email and, when he failed to respond in the maternally acceptable time frame I thought we’d established long ago, I assumed he had died. Obviously.

And there I was, watching the Badgers play Xavier and mentally reviewing my schedule for the upcoming week, should an emergency trip to New York become necessary, when Bronson Koenig hit the shot that apparently really was heard around the world and my son texted our little group, “This March truly is madness.”

“He’s alive!” I said to no one in particular, because they were jumping around the family room screaming like normal people who’d just seen one of the most miraculous basketball shots in NCAA history.

And that was just one instance this weekend when I became “That Mom.” You know, the crazy one you swore you’d never be?

On Saturday night, I took a picture of the high school theatre director who’d been central to our family for the past 16 years. He stood alongside three of my kids in a room full of posters marking his incredibly rich history with the school. At least one member of my family (and sometimes several) had been involved with most of those productions.

I tried to thank him, but I choked up.  I had to leave the room. Then, every time I tried to laugh about my over-the-top reaction, I welled up again. I’m not going to lie, things are getting a little blurry for me even as I type this line. What is this salty secretion? And when’s it going to stop?

Argh! I am that mom! And there was more! Earlier that Sunday, I hauled out my camera and followed Molly through her last show as student director of her last high school musical, snapping random pictures like a rookie mom on the first day of school.

I’m currently avoiding mirrors because I’m not sure I’d recognize myself.

I’m writing this post as fair warning. You may want to give me wide berth. I’m sensing the sunset of my last days as an active mother, and I think I might be losing my mind.

Charlie sipping tea in New York

He’s a grown man living a sweet life in the Big Apple, but, when my son Charlie doesn’t return my text messages, I assume the worst. This is a recent picture of him sipping Turkish tea, for Pete’s sake, at a sidewalk cafe. I need to get a grip. But, no…

Molly giving notes

To get this picture of Molly giving notes to the cast, I had to sneak into the choir room and crouch down in a corner, just behind that fan. I may need help…

Molly doing hair

She doesn’t even know I’m in the green room with her, snapping this picture…

Cooling room

But, then, I followed her to this room and the gig was up. Apparently, the infamous lemon ceremony, a good luck tradition for the crew, is off limits to the paparazzi.

Mr. Parker, Vinnie, Molly and Katherine

This picture of all that history on those walls and within those people makes me cry. Yikes. It’s only March.

 

 

Beware the I’ds of March

Spring popped in for a visit Monday and we all twitched our noses like chipmunks and felt a little hitch in our step.

I’d like to take a walk when we get home,” I said to my husband when we met at the very last parent teacher conferences in a 26-year year span. But, we lingered longer at the high school than we’d anticipated, and then I remembered I needed to bake 38 fruit crumbles and, before we knew it, Monday ended and neither one of us had a chance to breath in its fresh goodness.

I’d better get the car washed,” I told Molly, because the poor thing (the Bug, not the girl) was looking sticky and unkempt. But, Molly needed to borrow the car and she reasoned that it was supposed to rain tomorrow anyway, so I looked away from those sad, salty headlights and forced her (the Bug, not the girl) to fight through another day week who knows when I’ll get the urge to wash that sweet, loyal thing again?

I’d rather be running,” I said to myself, just now, as I sat at my dining room table sipping tea and contemplating my day. But I also wanted to figure out my to-do list, finish this post, and, honestly, enjoy a quiet moment before all the hustle begins. So I lingered.

On Monday, my friend Shannon posted a Maya Angelou quote that struck a nerve. “This is a wonderful day. I’ve never seen this one before.”

It seems like days roll faster as they get longer and we hurtle on toward summer. I have no solution for the phenomenon, only the observation that the older we get, the faster time marches.

Beware the I’ds of March, they’ll leave you with unnecessary regrets and who needs those cluttering up their lives?

So, today, I’m going to settle on a movie date with my friends, call my mother in-law, send a couple of overdue thank you notes and right now, this very second, I’m going for my first outdoor run in a very long time.

Woo hoo!

It’s been incredibly busy around here and I haven’t had time to play with my camera. Fortunately, my talented friend Deb Cook has taken some beautiful I’ds of March photos (which may or may not have been shot in February), and she generously agreed to share them with you.

Enjoy!

The oldest alumnae on the court

What is real? Honoring the profound, abiding beauty of the soul

A gathering of friends