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Monday, October 20, 2014

HAND-made With Lots of Love

It didn't take much to put a smile on Grandma Haak's face…
just a village of grands & greats. 
After the devastating news that cancer is riddled throughout Grandma's abdomen, I found myself angry and yet, not that surprised hearing the "C" word once again. Honestly, I'm just done hearing that word and seeing it cause so much pain in our family. It causes grief, sorrow and brings fear into lives that are simply too young. Nothing tears me up more than seeing our oldest struggling to understand why everyone gets cancer and whether or not she'll too get a diagnoses someday. I found myself angry at God this past week and attempting to hide in a shell. 
So, I did something about it to bring smiles to others and distract little minds (and mine own) onto brighter things. Grandma is always layered up in usually 3-5 layers of undergarments to keep herself warm and put together. I would hate to know what happens when you really got to go and the wait time of pulling down those many layers causes an "oops-in-your-pants!!!" It's a guarantee that Grandma Haak's place is set around 70-80 degrees depending on the season too. She likes to be warm and cozy. But, truth be told, you're not allowed to wear so many layers or have the temperature set so high when recovering in a hospital bed. 
So, with the help from MANY grands and greats, the kids and I set out to JoAnn Fabrics to pick up all the supplies to make a cozy quilt to wrap Grandma in while recovering from her surgery in Seattle. Addi and I chose the best fitted fleece that matched Grandma's living room so she could then use it back at home as well. A case of fabric markers and some muslin and we were ready to get started! I hacked into Mom's Facebook to reach out to as many cousins as possible and within a day had hand prints starting to come together. When there's 42 of us, it's hard to get everyone in one place. I was able to get most hands traced and the others we're represented with a name and little message. 
My mother gave reason to call her once again a saint as she did all the needed sewing to make this happen. I honestly think she was more terrified for the condition of her sewing machine after I would have attempted this on my own than the quilt itself. Thanks Mom for doing what would have taken me a full day and probably a purchase of a new machine compared to your three hours of attention. 
I will always be striving to be like my mom…
I will continue to always rely on her sewing capabilities as well.

I found my anger decreasing as I poured energy into making Grandma's quilt. It helps that My Love knows exactly how to care for me when I'm in a funk and processing. Sometimes it's the just being there I need most. Hearing Dad needs to have more surgery followed by the tumor marker count for Grandma sent me in a "I want to kick cancer's bootie" tail spin. I'll be the first to say that I'm beyond pissed our family has to fight so much cancer. It's been hard to pray and open the Bible this past week due to the funk I was in. Nothing sends tears to my eyes more than not being able to do anything for my mom and watching her pain from a husbands, a daughters and now mothers cancer battles. Thus being the reason she's a saint. My mother does this cancer supporting with grace. I have much to learn from her.
What makes this situation with Grandma so much easier is how at peace she is with it all. As the rest of the family is running mock ten trying to figure out schedules, decide who is boss and where everyone needs to be at what time, grandma sits at ease wrapped in a blanket listening quietly. 
It's going to be alright. 
I just need to tap into Grandma Haak's peace.

{ Grandma Haak receiving the quilt with hand made cards & stories too. }

{ A few tears; not of sadness, but of complete JOY! }

It was in a way therapeutic to tie this quilt together. I feel like I've processed my emotions and have helped the kids (mainly Addi) understand that not everyone will get cancer. In that, the kids together wrote a short story about Grandma Haak as a way to think positively about her rather then think of her being sick. Grandma is best known for her chips and dip and the puzzle table with a close third being all the Tom & Jerry films the kids have watched at Grandma's. The story is quite cute but the kids didn't want me to share it…I will later.
For now, we are confident that Grandma is wrapped in the best HAND-made gift possible. It is a quilt that symbolizes love, prayer, and family, but most importantly faith. Faith that God will see us through this. Faith that God will be with Grandma in and out of surgery. Faith that God will protect our family from fighting three different cancer battles and faith that God is STILL GOOD.  
After awhile of this business you start to know how you process and I'm thankful God shook me up, but now has my attention again. Truth is, our extended family, well, we're not all that close and some just met for the first time. If this does anything, let it bring us back together again because nothing is stronger than family. Blood or not. We're apart of a bigger family of Christ and that's all that matters as we pray fervently for Grandma, Dad and Traci. 
The three cancer fighting family members that need all 
hands on deck in support for them. 
As for my hands…
folded and begging God to protect us from any more diagnoses or diseases.

Friday, October 10, 2014

@#*$%!@* Is What I have to Say...

Our family can't seem to kick this beast. 
A few weeks ago while cutting my dad's hair, I noticed a black spot on the top of his head that was far from normal. (ATTENTION to all hairstylist's: PLEASE take a look as you cut your clients hair. You are the only one that sees top down.) I told him to immediately make an appointment with Dr. Bowden which he did…
Hearing those words are crushing and devastating. 
I was hoping it was black pen Myriam may have decorated on top of Papa's head. 
It's not.
We never know what the next doctor will tell us and have heard many diagnoses in the past 20 years from colon to prostate to breast cancer, lung, bone and skin cancer. It's no shock to our family any more besides the emotional weight it brings.
BUT, we have had one constant and that is Christ sustaining us throughout the years. No matter what, God has not walked away. I recently read a quote that stated:

  If God brings you to it; He will get you through it.

"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me."   Psalm 23:4

And that is exactly what our family will do once more. Watch God bring us through this. We will stand together in support, encourage one another (I'm the family cheerleader), make the other laugh and help out where help is needed. My mom, well, she will do what she does best and keep on saying "Yes," to everything and everyone as she's my saint and inspiration. The kids, the distractions, will make Papa laugh and assist in getting his mind off the worst case scenario. It's a family affair getting through another small fight, but we have done it before in great fashion.

And if one diagnoses isn't enough for one family, why not test them with two?
Dad had his surgery this morning which went as well as possible. It only took about 45 minutes and didn't require skin graphing or a larger incision to be made. The kids made sure to bring some cheer with posters and cards once Papa was settled back at home.
It was on the way to Bellingham that my Mom let me know Grandma had gone to the ER with a possible hernia. If only it was that simple.
A CT scan revealed a mass of tumors filling the uterus cavity making things extremely uncomfortable for Grandma. Immediate surgery in Seattle will take place soon. We have our faith to direct us, our family to support us and a community of believers to cheer us up when smiles are the last thing on our minds. As Grandma said to me today, "If this is how the good Lord wants to take me, then so be it."

So, we armor up, gear up and get ready to fight cancer's butt…again. Addi is struggling to understand why everyone has cancer and without words, has fear of this hurting more people and herself. Gonna have to find some thick armor for the young ones with fear of this disease and the unknowns of not understanding at a young age why people have to get sick. This means lots of prayer and heavy armor.
I will have to come up with a new hairstyle for Dad in attempts to cover up the bald surgery spot and gather a squad of grandchildren to brighten Grandma's day. Maybe Dad will want Tim's do??? Probably not. 

 { Delivering some cheer to Papa after surgery. }

{ Another scar; Another story. God is STILL good. }

"My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken."   Psalm 62:1-2

{ Addi delivering some cheer to Grandma and making sure she knows she's loved. }

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Elements Hospitality Has Moved!!!

The day FINALLY arrived when the Element's team could pack the boxes and start the move to the new location at the Dutch Village Mall!!! The fork lift served a purpose as it seemed easier then multiple flights of stairs with loaded arms. It took everyone to make this a successful move. Brandon was the key player as he was, and still is, the Windmill fix-it guy. You may have seen him up high on a ladder, hauling loads to and from the hotel gift shop area back to the office where he had the major upper hand of making this entire project happen. Some may ask why it took so long? Well, take an old building, tear it apart and you will find surprises, dry rot, dead rats and many other unpleasant surprises that prove to be major set backs. 
The design team seemed to color coordinate their outfits for the day! (designers ;)
And to make things even brighter was the "Chalk the Walk" kids field trip where elementary grades make chalk pictures throughout town on all the business sidewalks. 
It was amazing to see everything find a new home so quickly. 
The first week in the office and the musical is wrapping up along with the Lynden Music Festival beginning. Already busy, busy! I don't even work here but I love the team that has made this company come alive. I'm SOOOOOOOOOO proud of My Love and the team of busy bees behind the scenes making it all happen. Thank you for letting me crash your moving party and allow me to hang out with such amazing people!
I will do my best from keeping Myriam's fingerprints smudging the desk and doors. If it does happen…it was somebody else's kid!!!

 { Element's Design Team }

 {Thank you Brandon for all your hard work! }

 { CEO, My Love & COO, Shane Bajema }

 { With the kids in Portland, I made myself busy helping. 
At least made it look like I was helping! }

{ Project Managers new office space upstairs. }

{ Breaking in the office with a beer and snacks. Well worth the celebration! }

 { Tim already busy at work in his new office. I LOVE the doors!!! }

 { My favorite: The wood wall! There's two more upstairs in the conference call rooms. }

{ First day on the job and a little welcome meeting to get the day going. }

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

An Empty Tank with Tired Legs & .03 Away

{ Grace, Christie, Melissa, me, Holli & Julie }

A couple of weekends ago, I ran in my second half marathon! Running has become a way of life for me; mainly therapeutic. The problem is this…I get very competitive at any race and end up going out guns a-blazing in attempts to reach my mind-set goal. Last year I ran this same race in 2:09.10.
This year I had a goal of coming in under two hours and was a step away from making that goal:
Now, I realize I need to be happy with that time, and I am, BUT, being that close from making a goal has been eating away at me. 

Hebrews 12:1 says, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance that race marked out for us."

I could not have asked to have better friends surrounding me on, and during, the race day. The three of us set out early to catch Jackie as she had just begun her 26.2 in the thick fog and on dewy roads. Thankfully, the sun broke free and brighten the morning up, warming us up too! Christie and I were both on the same page of meeting the under two hour marker. Without having "coach" by my side, I would have given in more to the mental game of running miles earlier. Together we kept an average pace around nine minute miles and a few even under 8.5! It wasn't until mile nine that my mind got in the way and really tanked at mile 11.5. Christie was so inspirational, sometimes too upbeat, but overall the exact person I needed to push me, coach me, encourage me and ultimately get me to the fitness shape I'm in today. Credit goes to Christie but the feet belong to me! The 13.1 miles went by quite fast as we pushed and challenged each other the entire way.

Reflecting on the scripture verse and my race time had me thinking:
We have one main goal as believers.
To stand confident at the pearly gates as Jesus welcomes us into Heaven.
Am I giving my all into my faith walk in order to achieve the goal? Am I living, training and executing my decisions in a way that will help me obtain everything God wants me to do in my life?
This is one goal that I (we) will never know what my (our) best time will be when viewed by day, month, and year splits. Terrifying really. But should it be?
I'm confident that I gave every ounce I possibly could on the last 12th street hill. I'm confident in my training and fitness capabilities and how they propelled me to shave nine entire minutes from my last years time.
I should be just as confident in my faith that I, without doubt, know where I am going after life on earth.

"I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."  Philippians 3:14

Whether your race is physical or spiritual, pick up the pace. 
"Trot, trot, trot!"
If you need a coach, just open the Bible or ask a friend to walk with you because it's much easier to race together than on your own. I pray that I was just as encouraging to Christie running besides me as she was and has been to me.
I think of my sister (Dad & Lorna too) as she fights against harsh conditions, but has the ultimate goal of overcoming cancer. That's a fight one can't fight alone. Raising our little family is ours to do alone, but a village behind us is due credit for the support and encouragement given to us as parents and then to the kids. No race is meant to be done alone! Jesus blesses us with friends and family for that exact purpose; life is a team effort!

I'm blessed with my crazy running friends and so proud of all of us and our extend E2 family that kicked butt on race day! We have our health to be thankful for and a finishers medal to prove that we did indeed run all steps towards 13.1 miles. (for the crazier one all 26.2 miles!)
Now to the next race…we really are crazy!!!

To be apart of the E2 Fitness Family check out:

Friday, September 26, 2014

Pleasant Interruptions

Fifteen years ago, Tim and I drove to Portland, OR to pick up furniture and move him back home. At this point we had established a great friendship and had reached that awkward moment of falling for your best friend but not sure how to say it! You know what I'm talking about! 
It was the night before we left for home that I shared my feelings for Tim and got NOTHING back in response…yes, very awkward moment. And that moment continued all 5 hours back home! That was terribly hard for me.
When we finally reached my apartment in Shoreline, I had one request as Tim needed to go upstairs and ask my 3 roommates a question. "When you go upstairs, can you please grab a tampon? Haha. We had obviously reached a level of comfort in our friendship. It was with the roommates approval, my verbal vomit of stating my feelings the night before and Tim's desires that he drove me to Everett beach, near the train tracks, and asked me to be his girlfriend. Shortly after I said yes to his request, we had a train-wreck of a first kiss that we today still laugh about!
Fast-track ahead. This afternoon, I texted My Love to remind him of that moment. I then headed to get a massage in attempts to work the knots, aches and pains out of my back before the 1/2 marathon this weekend. It was half way through the massage that Jessica and I heard a phone ring, some guy talking, then a KNOCK on the door where a very important massage was talking place! When Jessica opened the door, we both saw Tim standing there with a coffee in hand ready to bless me with a latte. It might not have been the perfect timing, but the effort to track me down and make sure it truly was me behind the closed door was perfect! Tim's favorite part of the gift was catching a glimpse of my bare back…bahaha! We got the spark.
Marriage has it's pleasant surprises and we've experienced many of them. The best part of saying, "YES!" 15 years ago, is that we've been able to perfect that kiss everyday after!

Monday, September 22, 2014

"Let Me See!!!"

Tonight around the dinner table Myriam decided to show us her new "trick" which is HILARIOUS! This child has brought so much laughter into our home and I don't see it stopping anytime soon. This was too funny not to share! 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Apples & Pencils: It's School Time!

We are now in full swing with routine and busy schedules. Tim and I decided to get the kids enrolled with campus classes this year through the Meridian Parent Partnership Program as we have been involved with Mp3 now for 4 years. It has provided us with great accountability and access to fantastic resources. I've been extremely pleased and I'm excited to see how the kids respond to both science and writing classes. 
A few weeks ago we went to a Mp3 orientation where we met the kids' teachers and spoke to Teacher Jeff, our SLPC (student lesson plan coordinator). Jeff has been our SLPC for 3 years going on 4 and has watched Addison come out of her shell as we started with email weekly contacts and now have phone conversations without fear. Every year we re-evaluate and decided which is best for the kids, but so far have come back to home school being the best for our family. 
I'm excited this year as I have a few text books I can teach from for both kids. 'The Story of the World', geography and social studies along with Math-U-See are all the same just adjusted to the grade level. This makes it organized and easy to track for me. With a toddler running around being more than interested in school, I've had to get creative with activities for Myriam during our morning routines. I feel like I have a pre-school going on at the same time! Thank goodness for Pinterest with more than enough ideas and printables for me to provide the little busy one to be entertained and stay out of our way! 
There are so many different options for home schooling families these days.  You can keep your 24 hour day full if you did them all, but for us less is more. The kids have everything they need for their school grades so no worries that we just do math and call it good. Each kid learns and excels at different rates which can be frustrating, but also allows the other to shine where the opposite struggles. Nothing is sweeter than watching Addi see Charlie struggle and having her come alongside and help him with letters and sounds. They can fight like the best of siblings, 
but also understand they need each other as well. 
So, for now we attempt to keep schedules and routines along with other obligations. The kids have campus classes on Monday and Wednesday, as well as the paper route in the morning too. Thursday's are creative art classes with Brenda Calvert which Addison has done before and Charlie now in his first year. Brenda has had a huge impact on Addison's art ability and giving her a passion to draw and create. I'm excited to see Charlie's artistic skills blossom this year!
Besides the laundry piles and refills of coffee in the morning, 
this is our life for the next year. 
Being at home is a sacrifice as I don't have all the time in the world to keep my floors sparkling clean and junk piles properly put away. (Disclaimer: I'm don't live in a pig sty. The kids are clean and I swear by Clorox wipes.) Our little life doesn't work for most, but it seems to work for us. 
Here's to 2014 and all the up's and down's of playing the Teacher Hat and Mommy Hat all at the same time.