Wednesday, August 24, 2016

200 times...

I should have known...

As I have prepared  for our family photoshoot with Ria, I had so many concerns flooding my head.  How will I "tame" my wild hair?  Its become curly with cowlicks popping up, and can I somehow manage to make it look, "photo worthy?"  Can I find a shirt that fits my swollen arm, while covering my port? But please let it look cute!  Can I draw in those eyebrows that are just making a reappearance?  The eyelashes... or where for art thou eyelashes?  Can I?  A million times over, can I?

Even the day of the shoot I wonder...

Will the boys cooperate?  They don't like wearing jeans... and did I match their clothes ok?  Will Rick be able to carve out some time from his deadline? Will we make it in one piece?  

Suddenly, it's photo day.  I peek under the shade early Monday morning and the sun glints through the blue sky... and we're off.  Its a day chock full of preparing for all kinds of things.  But underneath, I still wonder, can I?  

The time draws near for us to leave... but Rick's shirt has creases and he needs to iron.  And Colton's jeans are too loose, and where is that belt?  And my hair?  Oh goodness, it has a mind of its own!  

But suddenly we're pulling up... and it's time!  And as I step out into the golden sunshine highlighting the lush green, the red hues of the rustic barn, the bursts of color from all the wild flowers...  I remember...

"It's not about me..."  

This life I live?  Really, God's glory shone so brightly all around me I knew that even if I can't...  HE can.  His way, not mine.  His will, not mine.  And when I let go?

Look how HE shows up!

He puts my little family, in the uber talented hands of Miss Ria, and then shines a light down across all of his creation and we get to humbly stand in the midst of it. Really?  The abundance overwhelms and my gratitude explodes. 

And then YOU, all show up when Ria posts the photo from above on my Facebook page and says this:

"As soon as I clicked the shutter I knew this would be my favorite shot of the night. One of the things I love most about the gift of photography is the ability to see a "feeling", and I hope you can both see and FEEL love when you look at this."

And that photo gets liked, and loved over 200 times, and I'm deeply humbled by the sweetest of words and encouragement left for me.  It's 200 times 200 times 200... multiplying love to infinity. 

I take a few quick photos before we leave- the sun set is spectacular, just like the last time we were so blessed to shoot pictures with Ria.  God's hand is clearly showing through all of this.  

So this is what I'll take with me tomorrow at 1pm, to the MRI tube, and the sedation nurse.  This little piece of "heaven," and my prayer list.  

Can I add you to my list? How can I pray for you?  Please leave a note in the comments below and as I prepare both tomorrow for the brain MRI and Friday for a PET scan, I'll pray.   

I'll see Dr. Panwalkar next week and come back to share scan results soon.

And more photos to come... 

Thursday, August 4, 2016

because it's the Cup

I awoke last Friday with a prayer of gratitude uttered from my sleepy self,  Thank you, God.   The big day is here!  And you've given us this beautiful, sunny, summer day at it's finest, to celebrate.

I could hardly wait!  We'd been happily consumed for weeks with executing the little details for Rick's role in the Celebration of the Stanley Cup with Matt and Bridget Cullen.  But first, it was time for the arrival of the Cup!  

It's 6:15pm when we arrive at the Barn at Five Lakes Resort.  

I simply brought my cell phone to shoot a few photos, wanting to just soak in the moments with all the friends we knew we would spend our time with.  

We knew we were in for something special... we had NO idea just how special!! 

But it's 6:30 when Rick and I discover we each have a voicemail message from Rick's Dad, Jim.  "Please call as soon as you hear this."  

We step out to the back of the barn, Rick ahead of me on the phone already.

 I have visions of Crosby having a seizure, or something to do with one of the boys.  Nolan, our new driver?  Colton?  My heart thumped wildly.  Jim wouldn't call if it weren't something we needed to know right away.

It's moments later that Rick appears, his eyes glistening.  

It's my cousin, Randy Gerdon.  Randy died unexpectedly at home- sometime during the night.

I'm instantly in shock- I couldn't have possibly heard that right?

What?  What just happened?  Not Randy.  He is young, 45, the father of 4 kids, husband of beautiful Sara.  NO, how can this be?  

We take a few moments to gather ourselves. Heartbroken. Few words to say to one another.  The knowing etched into our faces, with a shroud of shock all around. 

We slowly work our way back to the party, numb.

 We hear the whispers of the Cup arriving soon.  And we decide we have to stay in this moment.  We have to push the loss of our cousin off to the side tonight, for now.  Because if you knew Randy?  He'd completely agree.  Often the "life of the party," kind of guy that he was, he'd tell us to celebrate. 

Rick and I, having lived with the unknowing, uncertainty of the day to day with surviving cancer, we have learned to compartmentalize.  We've learned to shelve things, labeling the book, and only pulling it out when we need to. How else would we get through it all? 

So, somehow, we slowly stepped back into the warmth around us, the beauty of the landscape, the laughter of friends, and a once in a lifetime kind of weekend just beginning to unfold.  

Just moments before, I was giddy when I saw Ria, who would be shooting photos for the night.  My excitement mounted as I fully know the talent and vision of Ria will capture the purely "magical," feel that enveloped me as I approached the event.  For a true taste of the stunning shots that Ria took of the event, you would not be disappointed by a visit to her Facebook page here: rialeephotography. 

And who is the second person I run into?  Bridget Cullen.  We try to move out of the sun for a quick photo, because Matt and the Stanley Cup are arriving soon and she is on her way up the hill.  And yet, she doesn't hesitate to embrace me first, and linger for a quick photo.  

The crowd gathers.

Bridget, with Matt's mom, Nancy, who will go and greet Matt and the Cup when it arrives...

Matt and the Cup have arrived! 

After a few photos outside with the cup,  Bridget and Matt spent a few minutes shooting photos upstairs, and then the rest of us find our way up to see where the cup will reside the rest of the night.

My first time photo with the cup.  Matt won it with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006, and with the Pittsburgh Penguins 10 years later in 2016.  It just doesn't get any better than this.

Moments later Matt embraces me and I tell him I'm choking back tears- because if I start, I may never stop.  So Bridget joins us and we're honored and humbled to be amongst such generous and giving people.  I'm sensing the ripple effects already beginning to flow out from all the blessings that abound.

Rick and I then move back outside as dinner is ready.  But first I grab our friend Julie for a photo.  The bracelet on my arm says, "I am blessed."  And the bracelet on Julie's arm?  Is the pink one made from skate laces by our friend Pam in my honor, over 5 years ago- and Julie has never strayed from wearing it.  She is the epitome of generous, thoughtful, and beautiful.  I'm not just wearing "blessed," I'm feeling it.

We then gather outside and feast on the smoked pork, and salads, and tasty food.

I can't even say the last time I have seen Jen, so its a treat to catch up with her- we pick up right where we left off.  

Everywhere you turn is a beautiful area to see and explore.

My sweet friend Nikki - it isn't often we both have a free night- but I'm grateful every time we do.  

I couldn't get enough of the golden sunshine,  mingled with laughter and celebration around every corner.

The sun went down and we gathered inside.  The champaign bottles were open and the Cup was filled.    And we watched as family members drank, and Cully's Kids Foundation members drank.  It's truly the dream of anyone who knows the reverance and prestige associated with Lord Stanley's Cup - to simply be close to it.  

But the Cup will leave at midnight for that night, and its close to that.  I've held back from drinking, but Matt smiles and gestures to me once more, and this time I will.  The Cup weighs 35 lbs., and so Matt and his brother Joe, along with his brother Mark looking on,  help tip the cup as I lower myself to drink.  Oh the sweet taste of victory.  

Walt, the keeper of the cup, has come along for this trip.  He shares with me that so many of the NHL players choose to celebrate the cup with a few family members and friends.  But Matt and Bridget's generous spirits humble me so, they desire to share the cup with as many as they can.  

Rick and I leave shortly after the Cup does, we have an hour drive back home and yet another big day ahead of us.

But look what is waiting in my messages when I arrive home?  A beautiful photo from Ria- a shot of the barn in all its glory, with a Superman standing next to me.  I'm overflowing with gratitude as my head hits the pillow this night.

The next day, was the day the Cup got to come to Moorhead, to the Youth Rink and every Moorhead hockey player was invited to come and have a photo taken with Matt and the Cup.  But first, Rick took one group photo of all the kids with Matt and his 3 boys in the center!  

I had forgotten my own phone and camera that day.  So Rick set up a chair for me and I sat and watched as Matt smiled and posed, for just over 1200 photos in 4 and 1/2 hours.   Our boys were the very last ones to go.  Matt's smile was every bit as genuine and sincere as it had been for the very first shot. 

(This will be the look of the photo that each Moorhead hockey player will receive. ) 

One of my favorites. Matt has a genuine gift of meeting you, right where you are.

 And he never stopped.  He did not take a break, ask for anything, or say no to anyone.  He brings professionalism to a whole new level.  Because I'm not kidding.  He took a half hour break to eat, and then went outside and brought the Cup to another huge crowd.  

Just look at all the people- the line was all the way around the building!  And Matt gave even more of himself as he took photos until 8:30 that night, for a Sanford sponsored event.  

A few of us, went off to a local restaurant to gather for dinner, and await Matt and the Cup.

Nolan was excited to see Ben, Matt's cousin.  Ben and Nolan are high school rivals on the ice, but friends the second they get off.   We're so excited to have the chance to watch them continue to play in the years ahead. 

This guy was all about the Cup.  He threw his arm around it and admits he kissed it. He posed for all kinds of photos with the Cup.  That grin is coming from the sweetest spot within that boy.

And this guy too.  No shortage of smiles this day. He is so 16 and I was not going to know all that he was thinking, but that smile spread across his face all day long too.  

Colton shows me where Matt's name is from 2006.  Soon, his name will be added for another time.

In so many ways, even though Walt was officially keeping tabs on the Cup, it felt like Matt was the keeper of the Cup in a way that weekend.  He lifted it, he tipped it, he offered it, thousands of times, to whoever stepped forward to partake. Matt has a way of staying present, and entering the moment with who ever is in front of him.  That ripple effect, of Matt and Bridget, giving so selflessly from such an authentic place, just keeps rippling away.  They're more than leaving their legacy, they are living their legacy, moment by moment, showing us all how we can too. 

It's Thursday now... 

Rest in peace, Randy Gerdon.  It was standing room only both, for your prayer service, and in the church yesterday at your memorial service.  We wore our Husker Red for you, and read all the scriptures you had highlighted in the bible, and laughed as much as we cried.  Clearly, you were living your moments full, too!  I have no doubt your joy-filled legacy and that hearty laugh will go on in all of us always.  GBR! 

Monday, July 18, 2016

Turning 49

My mom always told the story of how her and my Dad had decided to name me, their first born child.  If you were a boy, I was going to name you.  If you were a girl, your Dad would name you.  

I've never asked which day I was due to arrive.  I just know my mom was in labor with me for 36 hours, and I never lived that one down!

But Dad had already proclaimed, if I were a girl, I was Vicky Marie.  I often wonder why he chose Vicky?  But I knew why he chose Marie.  He had a very special cousin, Marie, and I would have been named after her... BUT...

July 16th, 1967 at 3:17 pm, I was born.  It just happened to be the same birthday as the young girl my mom used to babysit, named Nancy.  Nancy Kay.

Nancy and all of her brothers and sisters were so special to my mom, how could she not give me Nancy's middle name?  Plus she reasoned with my Dad, I could be called Vicky, but my full name should be Victoria.   

Hence my name- Victoria Kay.  

From the start,  Nancy brought me a gift every year for my birthday. I don't recall if we got something for her every year.  I just know, long into my teen years, Nancy would surprise me with a small, beautiful gift. 

Throughout the years we went to the same church as Nancy and had contact with her on various occasion.   

But then I moved, married, and had kids.  My mom would keep in touch with Nancy and give me updates every once in awhile.

After we moved back here, one year I finally found an address for Nancy, and sent her a card for her birthday.  I told her how much her presents in the past had meant to me and I wanted to thank her.  She called me, weeping over the phone, thankful for being remembered.  Lesson learned on my part.

More years passed.

It was just last week I was scanning the newspaper headlines, and saw on the obituary page that our Nancy had died a few days prior.

I had no idea Nancy was sick,  It would have been my mom in the past who would have known somehow and told me.  My mom's friend filled me in.

It seems Nancy had been sick and needed surgery on her heart.  She seemed to be recovering well, but then suffered a set back and despite the work of her medical team, she was 
simply called home to be with Jesus.

I have no doubt, Mary Ann (my mom) was there to usher our Nancy to her heavenly home.  

It was a bittersweet day, yesterday.  I was celebrating turning 49, while mourning the loss of a friend who would have turned 63. 

I'm reflective lately.  Having just attended the funeral of a young woman taken far too soon by colon cancer, time and again my own mortality stares me in the face.

I treasure seeing those pictures (above) of me from long ago.  Me- playing in the lake with a rusty pail and half a shovel.  Me on a pontoon at the lake,  sitting on my Daddy's lap- always the Daddy's girl.  Me- in my little pedal car off on an adventure- wind blowing in my hair.

The car may be gone, and the pontoon, as well as my beloved Dad- and Mom, now Nancy too.   But that girl is still here.  Somehow, for some reason, the gift of life is the very present I open every day- and I am one lucky girl.  

Thank you to all of you who show up, encourage me, hold me up, and fill me with so much love.  

Colton was helping me with the candles for the cake.  We had a Ziplock bag full of all kinds of candles.  But when we searched for the numbered candles?  We could only find two.  They are blending in on the cake.  Two numbers.  A 4.  And a 9.  Someone was clearly helping me celebrate... turning 49.    


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

19 years...

Dear Superman,

Happy 19th wedding anniversary! 

I'm sitting here, stumbling with finding my calculator on my phone, trying to plug in the numbers.  Then I remember, you are celebrating your 30 year high school reunion this year.  So its been 30 years ago since our first date,  although it seems our hearts married right from the start. That one summer night, you had 400 hundred and some odd dollars on the dash of your Mustang, and we had a wide open night to do with as we pleased. I remember little of where we went, or even what we did.  But we spent not a dime, and talked under a bright moon in the front seat of your car, till the birds started to sing at dawn. And we learned that even in the quietness, speaking not a word, our heartbeats had started to commingle. 

But in the thirty years of knowing you I can't put my finger on when it began.  Was it a word?  A date?  A present?  When was it, that I knew?  The times we were together those first couple of years, it was so very real for both of us.  Yet, the times we chose to be apart, I'm convinced, tied us together in even more binding ways.  Maybe I knew when you called and talked to me for over an hour when I was in Paris, and we weren't technically dating at the time. The bill had to have been massive, but at no point did you want to cut it short.  Or it might be how 
you'd just show up to drive me to my college classes, on the really cold days- like -42, knowing I'd have to walk in the cold if you didn't.  We weren't dating, and yet, your desire to take care of me never waned. I still have the Snoopy Christmas ornament your grandmother made for me that year.  You wouldn't tell her we weren't dating... you see...  

I think we already knew.  We weren't entirely ready.  But we knew.

It might have even started back in high school, when we went on the church trip to New York City. We stood at the top of the World Trade Center taking night photos of the cars down below. Even then, neither one of us talked and yet we were completely comfortable not filling up the space with needless words. Were the seeds planted then?

Perhaps, I know, because of all the treats you bring me now, just because you know I had a REALLY LONG DAY. Or its how much I love the way you say, we'll find a way, don't worry. 

Like the day the letter from Blue Cross shows up last week, telling us yet again, they're canceling our health insurance policy at the end of this year. I can't fathom what the new costs might be to us.  But you reassure me, as always, we'll get by.   

It could certainly be because of all the spontaneity. Like when you say, Really, Toronto, Canada is not too far to drive all 4 of us in our little Toyota Prius.   And I discover its not really too far, and we end up with the adventure of a life-time. Or the time when you first got your job in Idaho and were getting ready to move.  But you said "Stay in graduate school.  We can weather a 9 month separation."  Yeah, we did that too.  

It certainly could be the day you said Idaho isn't working for us anymore, after nearly 10 years of calling it home.  Lets quit our jobs, buy a small blue house and move back to Minnesota to be closer to our family.  Maybe I'll try photography and see if I can make a go of that.  Um hm.  That's what we did.  It could have been that day.

Or it could be that one really hard day.  The day I called, sobbing, saying this time its not cysts in my breast.  I was wrong.  Its the worst imaginable and I don't know how I am going to do breast cancer.  I'm sorry.  And you say, I'll be right there.  We'll just do it, together, and everything will be okay.  Five years later, you're still here, and we still manage together.

I guess that's the thing, really.  Its not any one of these, but its all of them.  Its how we've woven this tapestry of us.  Through the times we are at our best, and the many more times when we are broken, tired, or weak.  It hasn't mattered. Apart, was just never really meant for us for very long.  I can't think of a time in my life, when it ever really will be either.  

So at some point its just been together.  This story of us.  Its about the 19 years of marriage, the 30 years of knowing each other, the 16 years of Nolan, plus the 14 years of Colton.  Its the forever I hope to know you, to love you, be with you, and weave together the rest of the story of our life.  All of these years later I know our commingled hearts will always be just enough to sustain us through the foreverness of you and I.

When you get lucky

When you get lucky

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