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.


New posting day

September 19, 2012 1 comment

Between Sarah’s new school schedule and my yoga classes, I have found it much easier to post on Thursdays.  Sorry it will be so late in the week, but I think it’s better to be late than so irregular.  Thanks for your patience during the past several weeks.

Categories: Beckie

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.

Escape to the mountains

August 31, 2012 Leave a comment

We’ve been out of town.  This infernal heat had been making me daydream about Taos for a while now.  Then, I saw an opening in Sarah’s schedule.  So, I decided to grab her and run for the Rockies.  Unbelievably, I managed to time it perfectly with Jim’s parents, aunt and uncle.  They were going to be in Taos at the same time, so they were kind enough to invite me to tag along with them.  Sarah and I had a really fun time.  In fact, Sarah kept trying to lose me in favor of going off with one of them.  😉  Then, when they went back to Texas, Sarah and I drove up to my aunt and uncle in Bailey, Colorado.  Not only did they take us on some amazing drives with great views, and to some good restaurants, but we got to sleep with the windows open.  I’m probably not going to take medicine to prevent altitude sickness next time I go to the mountains though.  My eyes dilated and then didn’t return to normal for two days after removing the patch.  It’s a good thing I know what my car’s dashboard is suppose to look like, and it made reading a map… well, interesting.  Then, on returning to Taos, there was a two-month-old bear cub loose at the Kachina Lodge where we were staying.  The crazy people in charge were waiting for “mom” to come get her cub.  Seriously?  I have “bait” with me!  Fortunately for us, a few hours later, the cub decided to visit the motel across the street.  Sarah’s favorites were the giant playground at the toy store, and she loved watching the Native Americans from the Taos Pueblo (Tiwa tribe) dance in the circle at the Lodge.

Sarah is in the middle of the bridge. She just kept waiting for older kids to help her do things too big for her. Of course, they also helped her stay inside so I couldn’t get her out…

Fortunately, Sarah is a great traveler.  I never had to break out the dvd player.  She slept, played with her dolls or talked to me.  She loved trains and a few times we got the big trucks to honk at us.  We both enjoyed all those curves in the mountains.  (I would overly slow down, so I could speed up in the curve.  Wheeee!)  I thoroughly soaked in and enjoyed this time with Sarah.  Hopefully, since we don’t have the everyday fun that the three of us were able to create, Sarah and I can occasionally get away like this, and really enjoy each other.  I tried not to miss Jim.  It was hard though because I had always planned on going back to Taos with him.  I’d see a shirt that would look good on him, or want to turn to him and comment on something Sarah was doing.  I know how much he would have liked the drive, Taos, Bailey and traveling with Sarah.  It was a great trip, but there was still a hole where Jim should have been.

Categories: Beckie, Bragging on Sarah

Smile at strangers. They need it.

August 8, 2012 6 comments

“I have witnessed the softening of the hardest of hearts by a simple smile.” – Goldie Hawn

 I finally got the mattress Jim and I were supposed to have picked out last summer.  But, between headaches and appointments, we ran out of time before his surgery.  I decided to explain to Holly, the wonderful salesperson at Mattress Firm, why it was difficult to finally get a new mattress.  If The Last Lecture, by Randy Pausch, had not been sitting next to my elbow while we were working out the details of the purchase, I might not have said anything.  She was sweet enough to ask me a few questions, and they were the right questions, so I knew she knew too much.  Then, she told me how cancer had affected her family.  That’s when I said, “See?  That’s why you smile at everyone.  You have no idea what they are going through at that very moment.”  Holly agreed.

I don’t know why, but the grocery store is full of… interesting people.  This is the best place to practice smiling.  Plus, the best way to get a smile is to give one first.  It doesn’t need to be much.  Believe me, ever since Jim’s diagnosis, most of my smiles are small and tired, but I mean it.  I have new eyes for people when I’m out.  If I see a tired mom, I’ll compliment her child’s clothes.  If I see a tired dad, I’ll compliment his kid’s personality.  When I see a young lady, I’ll say something nice about her clothes or hair, especially if it’s at the end of the day.  I tend to make agreeable comments about food to people my grandparents’ age in the produce and cereal areas.  And Sarah is and incredible magnet for people their age and my parents’ age.  She’s a natural and wonderful icebreaker for smiles. 

As a matter of a fact, on Saturday night, Mom and Dad took us to the new Whole Foods Market by their house.  After dinner, Mom and I shopped for a few things, while Dad entertained Sarah.  Every time Sarah saw us, she would scream her 3 year-old scream and run the other direction dragging Dad.  We noticed we had at least a few people laughing.  The fish section was the best though.  One guy showed her how crab claws work.  And while a whole dead fish was a little freaky, the fish head on display was apparently really freaky.  So the fish section had lots of smiles that night.

Note: Why this wasn’t posted yesterday.


I pretty much went nuts.  The new bed was delivered, and that went well.  As always, I bodily protected our 100 yr.-old etched glass front door and I think that distracted me.  I had to give the delivery guy a wrench to take the headboard off the old bed frame.  I didn’t realize it was missing until about 30 minutes after they left.  Mega-panic set in.  Jim and I used this wrench for everything.  I called Mattress Firm, who called the warehouse, who called the delivery contractors, who then called the delivery guys.  When I found out there were that many people to go through, more panic set in.  I had to get this wrench back.  Jim used it.  I was praying it was in the delivery guy’s pocket, not wrapped up in the wad of plastic they tore off the bedding and would throw out.  I got Dad involved and he even called the store.  About two hours, and much crying later, I got a phone call from the delivery guy – he had it.  Whew.  He was so apologetic and offered to mail it back to me.  I asked him where he was.  Basically, Dad was closest, so he went and got it from the delivery guy for me.

I could care less if I lost or destroyed anything of mine, but if it has to do with Jim – I can’t handle losing it too.  Items of his are now finite, and irreplaceable.  I knew this but, didn’t fully realize I felt this way until it happened.

Categories: Jim

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.

Pink Rock Stars

July 24, 2012 1 comment

“You a pink rock star!  Me a pink rock star!” Sarah yelled at me, even though I wasn’t wearing pink. 

It was after dinner last Thursday, and I was stalling on washing dishes.  I pulled my phone out and started playing songs.  First, the Beach Boys and Kokomo, but we didn’t finish that one.  Then, I played Falco’s Rock me Amadeus.  That’s when she started playing the air guitar.  I told her that her Daddy really liked that song too.  Next, I tried Sting’s Russians, at which Sarah says, “No Mom.  Rock song.”  Ok, kid.  I can do that.  How about Iron Maiden’s Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner?   Holy cow, she loved it!  Sarah started running all over the kitchen.  She placed my hands up so I could do the air guitar with her.  The song is about 13 minutes long, and she wanted more.  I’m so impressed.  (Nerd Alert – Not only do I like Iron Maiden’s talent, but I really appreciate their references to literature and history.)

Anything shiny makes a good mirror for watching yourself play air guitar.

I was stalling again last night, so I decided to play my “fun” playlist.  Songs like The Chicken Dance (real & German), A Tooty Ta, Following the Leader (I follow her), Splish Splash (to attempt practicing for her 1st dance recital on Friday), Good Morning Starshine (you always need a good hippie song) and so on.  We were definitely having a fun time again.  However, I make have scarred Sarah with the This is Halloween song from A Nightmare Before Christmas.  The first time it played, I followed her around the house stomping and singing the song while she was running away squealing, giggling and yelling, “No, Halloween!”  She really should have her daddy’s legs to hide behind.  The next time it played, I had just gotten her in bed and had started getting ready myself.  She started yelling, “No, Halloween!” again, and I heard her feet hit the floor and come running to me.  I don’t think Sarah was actually scared because she was giggling again.  She probably just wanted to know where I was.  But, just in case, I made sure we both stomped our way back to bed.

Categories: Jim