Archive for the ‘Inspirational’ Category

Sarah is now in the Johnson City Library’s mural

December 22, 2012 4 comments


I was lucky enough to spend the last hour with the artist, Lee Casbeer of LMC Murals, while he finished painting Sarah. Let me tell you, my jaw fell open when I walked in the front door of the Johnson City Library and saw her. My eyes were drawn straight to hers. Then, I started taking in the rest of her. Having been lucky enough to have visited Italy on a Baylor summer study with Jim, I can easily see the Italian influence on Lee’s painting style. The level of detail is stunning. He actually made Sarah look more like “Sarah” than the photo he was using. I guess Lee saw and noted her unhindered curiosity with his beautiful and sweet cats while we did the photo-shoot in his studio. He absolutely nailed it in her eyes and smile.

Almost Done

“The countenance is the portrait of the soul, and the eyes mark its intentions.” – Marcus Tullius Cicero

While doing the painting, Lee had in mind that Sarah was looking back at someone who was telling her not to get too close to the fence.  Personally, I could see Sarah’s thoughts in my mind.  “Is Mom looking because pretty dress from Mimi or not, I’m about to throw my leg over this fencepost and go play with the longhorns…”

Thank you, again, to everyone who made a donation to the Johnson City Library. You made it possible for the Library’s board to be kind enough to offer to honor Jim by painting his daughter into the mural. Honestly, Sarah looks so much like Jim that it’s almost like having him up there too, especially those eyes…

With the real Sarah


We made it through the first year

September 27, 2012 2 comments

No more “year of first’s.”  I made it through the first part of this week pretty much on autopilot.  Trying not to think of what it was like a year ago, or what it should be like today.  I’m starting to think a little better today.

Last night, on the way to bed, I asked Sarah about the night Jim passed away.  (I have only asked once before because I don’t like the idea of bringing up bad memories on purpose.  That response is on an earlier post.)  First, I asked if she remembered her daddy leaving the house with a lot of people.  She frowned, and after a moment said, “No.”  Ok, good, I was hoping she wouldn’t remember that.  Next, I asked if she remembered waking up (exactly when Jim was passing) when my parents were with her.  She said, “Yes.”  I asked what woke her up.  She just looked at me.  Then, without really thinking about it, I asked who woke her up.  She smiled and said, “You.”  Hmmm.    I told her I heard she was really mad (more like instant, long-lasting, foot-stomping, crying pissed-off) when she woke up, and I asked if she remembered why.  She said, “I didn’t want to lose you too.”  After my jaw dropped and the tears hit my eyes, I hugged her and said, “Well, you didn’t, did you?”  And she smiled at me again. 

I’m not huge on the super-natural stuff, so what she said can be explained two ways.  First, I know she knew Jim was changing that last week, she actually did remember Jim leaving the house and was applying all that, or part, to me too.   Second, and here’s the teeny-tiny super-naturalish part, Sarah may have had enough of a bond with me or Jim or both that she felt what was happening in Fredericksburg.  It’s not completely unheard of, and I have always felt the moment Sarah falls asleep, so I know we have a strong bond.  No matter what, I probably won’t ever really know.  I wish I could though.

(Sorry this is late.   I just had to write an emergency recommendation letter for a friend of mine who the government is trying to deport.  The second friend of mine the government has done this to, and they are both amazing men.  Both caught in a net not meant for them.)

It has been almost a year

September 20, 2012 2 comments

September must be the month Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterflies move through the Johnson City area.  I began seeing this butterfly everywhere starting at the beginning of the month.  As soon as I saw the first one, I started watering all our lantana and turk’s cap – butterfly favorites.  While watering one morning, one of these beautiful giants landed about a foot in front of my nose.  I told it “thank you.”  I love these butterflies because they remind me of the freedom I believe Jim achieved.  These are “Jim’s butterflies” to me now.  Not only because one was there for us during his graveside service, but because it seems to show up at the beginning of hunting season.

I didn’t want to change me or the way I lived.  But, after we lost Jim, there was no way to stop it from happening.  I knew Sarah was going to have to change too.  But, how do we change, live through it and come out in one piece?   I still don’t know.  But, the moving forward isn’t as raw and painful – most days.  Now that Sarah is able to speak so much better, she tells me things she remembers about Jim.  She is surprised when I am surprised at what she remembers.  Most recently it was how much higher Jim could swing her into the tub.  I feel an almost overwhelming sense of relief when she recalls memories of her daddy.  She has not forgotten him, at least for now.  She just literally couldn’t talk about him before.  The incidents that occurred during the week of Vacation Bible School really opened the door for her.

Quite incidentally, about a month ago I moved Jim’s cologne and my perfume to Sarah’s level.  She was curious, so I let her smell them.  The sweet and peaceful look on her face when she smelled Jim’s cologne stunned me.  When she refocused on me she softly smiled and said, “Daddy.”  Now she asks to smell it all the time.  Therefore, I smell it all the time too.  It was really hard at first, because I’m one of those that strongly link memories to smells.  Now I’m beginning to relax when I smell it too.  I still miss Jim daily and get mad at life when Sarah and I start having a lot of fun because he should be enjoying her too.  However, I have the sneaking suspicion they would have ganged up on me.  Her humor is so much like his.

I have made it through this year.  I tried to make it as easy on Sarah as I could.  And night time is still hard for both of us.  But, we’ll keep growing and moving forward.  I’m finding the best way forward is through.

A personal case for building strength

September 13, 2012 2 comments

This was originally written for my yoga blog.

Last weekend, I trained to become a volunteer for Children’s Disaster Services, so that if there was ever a local disaster I might be of some use.  The training lasted 27 hours and involved sleeping on cots in our church.  Before I arrived, I was a little worried about re-stuffing my sleeping bag into its stuff sack.  I remember my futile struggle with it the last time Jim and I went camping, and Jim had to finish the stuffing for me.  But, before the sleeping bag could be a problem, we had to set up the cots.  The gentleman I was helping and I were surprised that I was able to put the cots together so quickly.  Then, the next morning when I did finally attempt to put my sleeping bag away; I did it. 

I have become so much stronger than I was a year ago.  I lost my wonderful husband a year ago, on the 25th of this month.  My mental strength may still be “iffy” at times, but my physical strength has definitely increased.  The only reason for this is that I don’t have a hubby to pick up this or that heavy thing, or to hand a jar with a stuck lid, or to open a too tight valve, or to cut a really thick limb or to constantly pick up a toddler/little girl.  And, no, I’m not going to ask every other guy I know to do things for me.  Frankly, I’m too impatient.  Plus, if you don’t want to play the role of victim, you would react the same way in my situation.

So, here is my advice and admittedly it is for women.  Work on your strength before you need it, and especially after you know you will need it.  To do this, take more opportunities to do the hard things yourself.  You will need to increase your hand strength.  Remember your hands and think of how you may strengthen them in every yoga asana you practice.  Also, find some thera-putty used in hand/wrist/forearm physical therapy.  (Click HERE for a great article on thera-putty hand exercises.)  Next, you will want to protect your back.  Asanas that strengthen your core are actually more important than ones that will strengthen your back because a strong core protects your back.  Once you do over-use your back, and you will, be sure to stretch your back afterwards or the quite annoying twitching and cramping will occur.  Twists and chest-openers (ie. gentle back-bends) would be good for both strengthening and stretching.  Then, because you will be doing more lifting than you can anticipate, work on strengthening your arms.  Your legs will naturally become stronger, but you must be sure your balance increases first because you will be climbing and carrying more than before.  A very focused practice of both mountain and tree pose would be good to remember.

I wrote this for women of all ages, from newly-weds to those lucky enough to surpass 50th anniversaries.  I don’t want you to ever need this advice, but statistically you may.

Note: Some of you may not know I write two blogs: Living with Cancer and a Toddler and Johnson City Does Yoga.  Please visit LWCAAT should you wish more information on young families during and after cancer, and JCDY for information on my yoga class or just general yoga info.  I have never posted the same blog for both sites, but this one had too much information for women reading either blog to miss.

Sarah:  Now get ready to laugh out loud.

While my original intent was to have Sarah spend the night with me at the Children’s Disaster Services training, I quickly figured out that wasn’t going to be a good idea because there would be a few hours of training that night.  So, I called my friend Kris Axtell to tell her what time I could drop off Sarah the next morning, and told her I needed to quick find one of my neighbors to babysit that night.  Her response, “Really Beckie, I think she should just spend the night here.”  To which I think I probably laughingly snorted into the phone.  So, Sarah had her first sleep-over with Kris, Paul and their four boys.  The only reason why Kris had to finally move Sarah onto a mattress in their room was because Sarah was still talking to the boys at 11:00 pm, meanwhile, the boys had fallen asleep.  The next day, one of the boys even asked if Sarah could spend the night again, and of course Sarah wanted to go back once she got home.

Also, it appears Kris solved the last of my potty training problems.  Apparently, that night Sarah did something in her pull-ups.  Well, as Kris put it, “Welcome to Boot Camp!”  Sarah had to do the clean-up work, and when she got herself dirty the screams were heard by all.  The boys thought it was pretty funny as Kris was retelling the story when I picked up Sarah.  I think it’s pretty funny that now Sarah runs past me saying, “Gotta go potty,” and doesn’t even wait for me to go with her.

Enough is enough

July 31, 2012 1 comment

I have declared war on my home.

It will be pile by pile, and room by room, but I will conquer my house.  It has been at least five years (and in a few areas 10) since it’s been cleaned out.  Some people may be surprised that this may be an issue because I am a rather organized person.  Yeah.  It’s organized into p-i-l-e-s. 

Here’s what I have to overcome.  I tend to collect things.  Anyone who has seen my Tupperware “collection” might be thinking I need an intervention.  Unfortunately, I have a real love and appreciation for all things old.  Heck, my house was built in 1914.  I’m a slight perfectionist.  (Yes, I know which one of my friends just snorted her coffee.)  So, if it’s overwhelming I tend to freeze because it will take time to make it perfect.  And now I have some deep sentimental attachments to certain things.  I’ve decided if the sentimental item doesn’t stay with me, then it goes into storage.  And I’m not talking about any of Jim’s things.  His stuff doesn’t leave the property.

Here’s what I have going for me.  During our cancer journey, Jim and I truly came to understand that it’s all just stuff.  And stuff isn’t important – good memories are.  When you have that frame of mind, it’s much easier to donate things you might like, but never actually use.  Plus, really, how much of this stuff do we need daily, weekly, monthly or even annually?   

Wouldn’t it be great if I could model quality not quantity (selective materialism), less is more and delayed gratification for Sarah?  I think that instead of saying “enough is enough” in an uptight voice, I’ll think of it in a satisfied, fulfilled voice.  Wouldn’t that be nice to know and feel that you really have enough? 

As I clean house, most of what will be leaving will go to the thrift store or Sarah’s consignment store or my friends or the recycle bin.  Not much will actually land in the trashcan.  My environmental leanings won’t allow that to happen.  😉

Cross your fingers for me.  This is going to take a while.  Less is more, less is more…

“Splish, Splash I was take’n a bath…”

Sarah:  I was so impressed with how well she did at her dance recital on Friday!  Not that it was perfect.  I’m not one of those mothers.  However, I’ll admit 1) she looked gorgeous (Her lashes are even longer with mascara.  I know that’s what it’s suppose to do, but gee-whiz.); 2) she never stopped dancing; and 3) she was actually comfortable on the stage.  Wow, so great for a three-year-old.  She also let three other moms fix her hair.  (Now I know mousse is a staple item.)  I should have gotten a picture of that.  The stunned look on her face was so funny!  She also held real still for me after I yelped from sticking myself with one of her seven safety-pins.  She needed that many to make her outfit tighter and shorter, and so she couldn’t pull her tutu up under her arms.  (She preferred the tutu to be as high as possible.)  Unfortunately, I set up the video camera on the wrong side of the stage, so she’s in view about half the time.  Whoops.

Where is Daddy?

June 25, 2012 10 comments

Warning: This post may be difficult for some readers, and it’s long.  The audience I’m writing for are widow mothers of preschool (~3 yr. old) children.  The subject is how to tell them their daddy is gone forever because the information on how to do this is incredibly scarce.  How do you not scar a little person with a vivid imagination and just learning real communication?  The Livestrong organization verified that I accidentally told her the right thing the right way.

Who knew vacation bible school could be so difficult?  The preschoolers I was with were great kids, so no problem there.  Although I’d swear one of them mainlined sugar.  The problem was leaving vbs everyday with Sarah.

Last Monday, she went nuts when we went to leave the nursery.  I assumed she had such a good time that she didn’t want to leave.  I couldn’t even strap her into her carseat, so I let her back out of the car.  Poor Paul Axtell got all the way on the ground to make her smile and help him up.  She’s such a helper, he knew it would work and it did.

Tuesday, they brought the nursery kids into the auditorium to sing and dance with the big kids at the end of the program.  Sarah, my singer/dancer, had a blast.  But, when the crowd thinned, she saw the door behind the props and made a beeline for it.  I was watching her to see what she was up to, but someone else didn’t know that and stopped her before she got to the door.  I quickly ran over to her and let her explore the stage right there and they brought out the puppet so she could say goodnight to it.  But, she was still crying and trying not to walk as we left the building.  Then, wow, the girl took it to a whole new level and would not let me get to the sidewalk past her.  Sarah never fights me physically, but she was angrily pushing my legs and grabbing my shirt to put me back by the building.  I was stunned.  Everyone watching was wide-eyed because Sarah is always so sweet, but she was inconsolable and no one could touch her.  Then, it dawned on me and I was crushed.  She thought I was leaving Jim behind.  I got on my knees and said, “Are you looking for Daddy?”  That’s when she finally looked at me.  I told her to hold my hand and take me where she needed to go.  I asked them to keep the building open just a few more minutes for Sarah.  She took me back to the door on the stage.  So, we went in, I turned on the lights and opened the door to the hallway so she could see Daddy was not back there.  She looked confused, but was somewhat satisfied.  You see, Jim’s memorial was in the auditorium and his pictures were shown on the same screen and many of the same people were there.  She became upset again when we got outside.  A sweet little boy gave her his baseball, and that’s how I finally got her calm and in the car.

Wednesday, I grabbed her from the nursery early and practically ran to the car with her.  No problem that day.

Thursday, there was not too much of a problem getting to the car.  But, when I started the car, Sarah said, “Missing Dad.”  I snapped my head around and said,”What?”  She repeated herself, and I repeated her, and she smiled really big.  I said, “You think Daddy is still in the church?”  She nodded “yes.”  I said, “No, honey.  He’s not here.” She stopped smiling.  “If Daddy was at the church I would have brought him home a long time ago.  I would never leave your Daddy alone this long.”  So I sighed, and told her I was going to take her to Daddy.  Then, as we drove over to the cemetery I asked, “Who do you think Daddy is with?”  She said, “New doctor.”  I explained, again, how Daddy was really sick and the doctors could not fix him.  His body stopped working and his soul went to heaven to be with the God and Jesus we were just singing about.  As we got to the cemetery, she didn’t want out of the car.  So, I told her to watch me and what I put my hands on.  I touched the headstone and the dirt, and came back to the car.  When I sat down next to her in the backseat, I told her, “A body is just what you can touch from your head to your toes.  We had to bury your Daddy’s body in a pretty box under the brown dirt I patted.  My soul is what loves you.  Your soul is what loves me and still loves your Daddy.  Daddy’s soul will always love us.”  Then, she said, “Get flowers?” and pointed outside.  So, I got her out of the car.  She picked a yellow daisy, and pointed at the one for me to pick.  We walked over and put them under a small rock by the headstone.  She patted the headstone.  As she started to kick at the dirt, I explained that Daddy’s body is buried very deep and that he can’t come back.  She stopped kicking at the dirt, looked at me and questioned, “Can’t come back?”  I said, “That’s right he can’t come back or else he would have by now.”  I had tears rolling down my cheeks throughout all of this.  Then I asked, “Do you want to say “night, night Daddy”?”  She said, “Night, night Daddy.”  Then, she said, “Storm is coming!” which is her way of getting you to hurry.  So, hand in hand, she and I ran to the car.

Friday morning, I asked if she wanted to say “hi” to Daddy as we drove past to feed the dog and do some things in the house.  At first she said “no,” but then she suddenly wanted to go to the “quiet park.”  There, she patted his memorial, looked at me and verified, “Not come back?”  I said, “That’s right.  He can’t come back.”  And I gave her a kiss.  She then, saw some flowers that had turned over at other graves and wanted to fix them.  As we did that, she stopped and looked up the slope.  She raised her little hands palms up and said, “Awww.  All people not come back?”  I nodded my head and said, “That’s right.  They can’t come back either.”  We then gave Jim two more wildflowers.

At our house, I grabbed the book of pictures I had made for Sarah, of she and Jim together.  She had not wanted to look at this book in the past, but I thought maybe she’d want it now.  I was right.  She lit up and poured over the pictures this time.  I think she may have been mad at Jim for not coming back home.  I was able to distract her the last day of vbs by telling her we were going to Austin that night, and got her really revved up about that. 

What an incredibly exhausting week.  Sarah seems relieved to know where Jim is, but she seems to be really questioning his coming back.  Overall though, I think Sarah feels gentler and happier.

In my mind’s eye

May 29, 2012 2 comments

“The paradox of reality is that no image is as compelling as the one which exists only in the mind’s eye.”  – Shana Alexander

4:00 pm – Sunlight in the house shows it is that time of day again.  I could hear three heavy boot steps on the front porch, then the jangle of keys.  Before I could shake off the daydream, I remember asking my happily-frozen Sarah if she knew who was at the front door, and her yelling, “Daddy!” as her feet slapped our wooden floor while running to greet Jim.

It’s odd.  Suddenly I can “hear” Jim at the times of day I should hear him.  When I wake up, it’s the shower curtain or hairdryer.  When I’m in the kitchen, at dinner-time, it’s his wedding ring spinning and hitting the floor behind me in the dining room or the sound of glasses clinking.  His solid, heavy boot steps on our wood floors must be what I long for the most, because it’s what I “hear” the most.  I’m guessing something is opening up in me that I had slammed shut and sealed off. 

I do know I’m not going nuts.  From what I’ve researched, this “echo” is just me trying to keep Jim around a little longer.  It’s a rather nice feeling, healthy reaction.  I’m simply going with it until it stops.  No pushing, no pulling.  The Behavioural Neurotherapy Clinic wrote, Grief and the grieving process, and mentions this particular cognitive response.  If you need it, I recommend reading this very good and thorough discussion on grief.

Sarah is really patient.

Sarah:  Sarah’s preschool, Stonewall Head Start, had an end-of-the-year carnival last week.  I got to be the balloon clown’s assistant.  (I can now make swords, ladybugs, flowers and airplanes.  Plus, I accidentally created a dragonfly that the clown was quite happy about.)  When Sarah walked up to the balloon clown, she didn’t even see me standing there!  Her eyes were huge and full of curiosity.  However, I think she liked the “go-fish” station the best.  Yup, she is her father’s daughter…

Don’t you love how she is trying to keep me from tickling her?