Wednesday, June 22, 2011

For My Dad

This post is a bit late and I'm sorry but I hope timing doesn't matter as long as I get the message get out there. As everyone knows this past weekend was Father's Day. And, it was wonderful and exhausting and sad for me all at the same time. 

It was wonderful because it is wonderful -- a day solely focused on celebrating Dads, our own Dads, and the one we're married to. :-) Unlike Moms, I think that Dads may not get the attention that we do, although I know times have changed there are as many dads working in the home as out of the home and the same with moms so that's not why. I guess it sometimes is the relationship with kids that may factor in that tips the scale in a mom's favor sometimes... But anyhow, I think we all agree that dad's are just as important and deserve the attention, celebration, love, and affection just as much as mom's do. It was exhausting because we seemed to be everywhere doing everything all weekend all wonderful but it was non-stop, and it was sad to not be with my family and my Dad on Father's Day.

For me growing up, my Dad worked outside the home for a time, inside the home for a time, went to school for a time, and then back to work outside the home for a time and still is. :-). He had then and still does today an hour commute each way, four days a week. (Wow, that sounds so familiar!! I can totally relate, Pops!) What I remember most about my father and what I am deeply grateful for is two fold; his commitment to my mother and our family, and his strong work-ethic. The odds were against them both when they married so young and the environment he was familiar with growing up wasn't as stable as it could have been but his love for her, me and my siblings, and his commitment to our family and our life was what gave us a wonderful home and family in which to grow up.

I am also grateful for all I learned from him on how he approached school and work, and the idea of success throughout his life. He has worked so hard for all he has in life, and instilled the very same work ethic in all of his children. We are all doing well because of his example and the lessons he taught us. Again, when the odds were against him, he rose to the challenge, went to school learning all he could in a field he loved and pursued his dream. Throughout the years in his professional life when there were challenges, he again rose to the challenge and persevered. This is an amazing attribute that he has, and I am not sure that he recognizes this in himself but he has it and our family knows and loves him for it. He just never gives up, he just doesn't.

My father is a courageous man. As you may know from my previous post, my Dad is fighting stage 4 cancer and has been for the last 3.5 years.  But, this isn't the reason he is courageous, he is courageous for all the reasons above, for all the times in his life where he had to make a choice as to whether or not he was going to let something or someone define him, he didn't let it or let them. He took his own path and made his own success, his own life by his choice and his rules. 

Me and my Dad, one of my favorite photos of us.
 Thank you Dad, for all your lessons and love and for just being who you are. I wouldn't be where I am today, married to who I am married to with two beautiful children and the life I have without you. I love you.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The "C Word"

Cancer has not been something I have thought a lot about until the last few years. Although we have had family members who have had cancer, they have fought the disease and have been in remission for a few years now, and although I know it must have been painful and difficult for them, I did not see or hear of their experience first hand. So, for me it didn't seem so scary or personal until my father was diagnosed with Stage 4 Colon cancer in the fall of 2008.

I remember hearing the news; I was at work in our "small conference room" where back then you'd typically go to take a personal call to get a little privacy. The first call I received was from my brother who told me that Dad had had some tests done and a colonoscopy and the results were not good. I remember my mom mentioning that he was going in for one a few weeks prior. He was just over the age of 50 and was just doing "the right thing" and what all the docs recommend by going in and having the routine procedure done.

I immediately hung up the phone with Matt and called my mom. When she answered I knew something was terribly wrong but didn't realize how bad the news would be. She said he had a cancerous tumor in his colon that was fairly large that had to be surgically removed. At that point we didn't know for sure if it had spread but it was likely because of the size of the tumor and location. I could tell by her voice that the news was not good but we did have hope. After further tests, we learned that the cancer cells had spread to his liver and he was officially diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer. The good news, if there could possibly be any, was that it had not spread anywhere else -- and most importantly it had not spread to his lungs. 

The news was devastating to our family but honestly it just didn't seem real. He didn't seem sick, he wasn't really... You just don't think when  you go in for a routine procedure that it will turn out to be the worst possible news you could possibly hear... especially about someone you love so much. This was what we were going through as so many families do when a cancer diagnosis is made. The denial, the shock, the sadness, the fear...

"1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women will get cancer in their lifetimes"

Cancer is devastating. It is evil, it does not care if you just had a baby, or if you are a baby. It doesn't care if you just got a promotion or bought your first home, or if you're white or black, Asian or Italian. It doesn't care if you just got married, just gradated from college, or just retired and are planning a trip around the world. It doesn't care if you just lost your job, are a single mom and have two small children to take care of, or if you're about to become a grandpa for the first time.

That was my Dad; he was just about to be a Grandpa. I was four months pregnant with Chase, his first grandchild, when we learned this sad news. And, unfortunately I live so far away from my parents, I couldn't be there to see him, hug him, tell him it would be okay like he has told my whole life when I've had a challenge. I couldn't be there to cry with my mom and hold her and tell her we would be strong for him and get through it.

Since his diagnosis my Dad has had painful surgery and undergone the strongest level of cancer treatment his body can tolerate. He has battled his cancer with dignity, strength and a sense of humor. I admire him more than he will ever know. His courage to fight and his commitment to maintaining a normal life and not letting cancer define him is truly inspiring!

He's my inspiration, he has taught me how precious and valuable every moment is and that life is too short to get caught up in the little things that don't matter... Although I sometimes have to re-center myself and remind myself of this when I get too focused on something and stressed about various things that I know don't matter... I know it's true those things really don't matter and I'm so grateful for this life lesson. He has taught me so much more throughout me life not only through his battle with cancer but so many other life lessons but that is a subject for another time...

I know that he will get through this. I know that miracles happen. And, I know that life isn't worth living if you do not have hope and believe in the things that you cannot necessarily touch or feel. These things are what will get you through, and the support of family, friends, and laughter -- A LOT of it!

For my dad and for so many others with cancer, I am participating in the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life this year (last year I was about 8 months prego and definitely not able to do the walking, my how time flies!) Scott and I will be walking together with Team IslandWood tomorrow from 5-7 p.m. If you're reading this and feel moved to make a contribution, I'm so close to my goal of $250 right now but would LOVE to pass it! Please click on the link below to get to my page to make a contribution.

Remember that at some point if we don't stand up to cancer and do something we will all be touched by it either personally or someone we love. I heard the statistic I mentioned above and it literally gave me chills... It numbed me and I felt as if I couldn't move, I couldn't do anything... but I can, and you can! 

We've got to do something, even if it may seem little and not make an impact. As with anything, a lot of "little" things add up and when people gather and stand together amazing things can happen! Please join me and this effort... if you can't make a donation, please say a prayer or maybe do both...?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

A Beautiful Day

I feel as if I have been a little disconnected lately from facebook, my blog, etc..which is actually really nice. I'm not sure if it's because of my new phone and I'm focused on learning all the bells and whistles or wanting to be in the moment more when I'm with my family (even though I am playing A LOT of Words With Friends these days, and am embarrassed to admit that I have 11 games going right now!) but it's time to get back to it... I've been wanting all week to write about our incredible day last Saturday. Not only was it an amazing day weather-wise, it was sunny and hot (yes, I'm not exaggerating--we actually wore shorts and short sleeves without layers all day!) but we had a fun day with the boys in the morning at the Gig Maritime Festival parade and an AMAZING time at the U2360 concert! It was truly a Beautiful Day!

The parade was Colby and Chase's first official parade where we were seated on the side of the road in our fold up camping chairs watching a variety of decorated floats, bands, old cars, fire trucks, police, high school kids, and various non-profits and business as well as one senator promoting their services.... Chase started out a little shy (as always) but perked up after receiving a ton of candy, beads, balls, and most importantly after seeing all the pirates! We were even given an eye patch and a fake mustache that we each took turns wearing for a bit, even Colby :-) What made the parade even more special was that Uncle Mike was in it! He was drumming with the Seattle Seahawks drum core, the Blue Thunder. It was fun to see him in action and although I didn't get any photos of him playing, I did get video! So cool! (I must apologize for the loud screaming of Mike's name throughout the video but we were trying to get his attention!) 

Here are a few photos from our day at the parade...

Colby with Daddy ready for the parade to begin...

Chase's big grin as the "big, huge" trucks go by...

Colby enjoying the parade with his beads...

Chase in the pirate mustache, he wasn't too sure about it but burst out laughing right after I took this picture...

Daddy's turn! Hmmm, he doesn't look that different really! He's a natural pirate!

Yep, it was my turn next.... I don't think it's as flattering on me as the boys....

Colby with the 'stache -- too funny!

ARRGGGH! Chase is a pirate!!!
Now on to our truly amazing night at the U2 concert. Scott, Mike and I made the trek (it's actually only about 35-40 mins.) to Seattle for the concert. Scott surprised me with tickets on Thursday and arranged daycare, too -- thanks so much Miss Rhonda!

I grew up, as most of us have, listening to U2. I'm always amazed at how they can stay relevant and modern having been in the business for more than 20 years but they most certainly have... I would say that I am a U2 fan probably more so than I am a DMB fan which is pretty big for me, I love my DMB! :-) So needless to say, I was really excited to see them not only because of all the media buzz around the 360 stage, the claw, and of course because I would know every single song that they played, but because well, they're U2!!!! It was incredible, seriously. It was way more than a concert but an experience. You know one of those concerts that impacts you, maybe doesn't change your life but it effects you in a big way... I guess I just don't have the right words to explain... 

The Claw
Upon entering the stadium we made our way to field or stage area to check out "the claw,"  it was massive...then, we were approached by ONE staff asking us to sign petitions (on iPads!) for various human rights causes.... It was not a nuisance as you might think but rather inspiring. The fact that Bono had "his people" out advocating, educating, and garnering support throughout the concert for issues such as 3rd world country vaccinations, pre-natal care for moms-to-be in developing countries, and human rights issues for amnesty international again made this more than just a rock concert. I'm not sure how others felt who attended but I felt a part of something bigger... I was not just there to hear fabulous music, to dance and have a great time but I was inspired by this effort to make a difference, take a stand and join together to help/support/fight for those who cannot...

We had fun hanging out with Mike and enjoying the amazing weather... we actually never made it to our seats as we had the $30 seats at the top of the stadium so we found a really great standing spot or rather "dancing" spot with the beautiful Seattle skyline right behind us....
Mike and Scott, sorry didn't have my flash on for this photo -- OOPs!

Scott and me and my favorite city behind us!
After coming on stage, Bono talked about "starting again," and that he was inspired "to start over" by being in Seattle, the amazing weather and our Beautiful Day, and he told the crowd, his fans to do the same... That we can do it, we can be inspired and change. I may be sounding a little cooky but it was really inspiring... And, I was even more inspired when I woke up the next morning, even though I was a little groggy because the kids were up so early and because Scott and I didn't get to bed until 2:30 a.m., because I had a thank you message from Bono and ONE. Too cool.

All the music was fabulous as one would expect but I must highlight the song Beautiful Day (of course). Not only because it is one of my U2 favs but because of their performance on this night... They patched in Gabby Giffords' husband, Astronaut Commander Mark Kelly, from space to introduce the song and to say a special message to her.... It was amazing. Here it is:

Here are some of the photos that I posted on facebook throughout the night but I had to add to this blog... What an amazing, inspirational, awesome show! I'm still glowing from the experience and am inspired. 

360 video screen before the show displaying statistics around the world
Seattle skyline behind us
Here they come...

Bono close-up, I think this was during One

Another Bono close up shot on the video screen
Cool stage shot with video screen

Love this shot of the claw in green