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A Year of Firsts ….. Times Two

“Year of Firsts”

That first year after a loved one passes away.

The first time going through any holiday without them — through an anniversary without them — through any birthday without them, especially their birthday.

Simply trying to go through any significant yearly life event without them, that first year, is tough on anyone.

This year, we have had to endure these “Firsts” once again. We had to first endure them when Mom passed away, nearly thirteen years ago.

Many times when a family goes through what I have often heard called their “Year of Firsts” they don’t have to consider a multiplier of two. This past year our family lost my Dad, to a tragic car accident and my brother, Stuart, to that vile and nasty monster, cancer.

Thankfully, I have some photos of some happy times in our lives…. a look at the other FIRSTS in our lives, back when I did not know the pain of having to be without these two wonderful men. Me, after my FIRST birthday, with my Daddy. And, my brother Stuart, at or near his FIRST birthday with me and our grandparent’s parakeet, Beadie.

A happier way to for me to look at a “Year of Firsts ….. Times Two”

 

Me and my Daddy, after my first birthday

Me and my Daddy, after my first birthday.

Stuart and Me, 1963, with Beadie our grandparent's parakeet

“Breakfast with Beadie”
January, 1963.
Stuart and me sharing breakfast with our grandparent’s parakeet, Beadie.

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Persistence

Through grueling hours, days of persistence in pursuit of a highly skilled surgeon to even review his case, my brother and his endocrinologist feel they won the lottery.

It was not easy.

Working with an insurance company.
Sometimes they seemed like a heartless lot without an inkling of a soul.

Sifting through online documents trying to find just the right, highly skilled surgeon who in turn would be approved by the insurance company, and who worked at an approved facility. Not an easy task.

Calls were made. Return calls were anticipated.

Finally. A call they had been waiting for. A highly skilled surgeon told them to send him all the documents regarding the case so he could review them. All the local documents, test results and all of the same from the Mayo Clinic.

We could now all breathe a bit easier, especially my brother and his doctor.

Couple this search with the fact that both my brother and his doctor are working a full schedule. Both have a life away from work. Both want the best possible outcome for my brother. I feel like he won the lottery when he was assigned to this doctor. She’s the best and I could never thank her enough for all she’s done for my brother. For what she’s done for my family.

The highly anticipated call came. After reviewing the case, the highly skilled surgeon, at a Seattle hospital said he would do the surgery. AND… both the surgeon and the hospital were approved by the insurance company.

Mixed emotions. While my brother was so impressed with the Mayo Clinic and knew he’d be in good hands there, he is comfortable with the man who will perform the life-saving surgery closer to home.

Again… a lottery win.

Persistence paid off.

Mom taught us that.

Great timing.

One of my favorite sayings is, “Timing is Everything.” Something I live by, yet, something you can’t force.

Today was one of those “great timing” days. And, it certainly happened at a great time.

Today my brother and sister-in-law flew from a small regional airport in southeastern Washington on a direct flight to Minneapolis, MN. Then, caught a shuttle to Rochester, MN.

This morning, before boarding the plane in WA, my brother told me he was a little nervous about the flight and getting connected. I said,  “Direct flight, Right?” , “Connection with the shuttle, Right?”, “Everything will work out fine.” And… just as I assured him, their trip turned out fine. Direct flight and connection with the shuttle was made. Timing was great. They arrived at their hotel, ready for the rest of their adventure.

They decided to head out for some lunch.

Meanwhile I had called the hotel they told me  they were going to stay at just to confirm that I had the correct one. I did.

Then, I googled florists in Rochester, MN. Google delivered. And what a great one. I always read the reviews and usually take them with  a grain of salt. I read about the top florist, it was near the hotel and so I decided to call to talk about what I wanted to do.

My plan was to order a bright, colorful bouquet of flowers to send to my brother and sister-in-law since they will be gone away from family on their 32 wedding anniversary. I wanted this to be a total surprise – I told no one, but the florist, until after I placed the order. The florist customer service rep was so helpful and offered to expedite the order so my brother and sister-in-law could enjoy their flowers longer. All with no extra charge. She told me they would do their best to deliver the flowers still today. Keep in mind that where I was calling from is the Pacific time zone, two hours behind Rochester, MN.

Later, when my brother and sister-in-law returned to their hotel, the flowers had been delivered. Tears where shed. Flowers were brightening up their room and their adventure.

You see, the flowers I ordered were not only to celebrate their 32 wedding anniversary, since we can’t be there with them – that surprise bouquet of beautiful flowers were there so show love and support for a couple we care about greatly.

My brother has been battling thyroid cancer for nearly a year. He was diagnosed with Stage 4 Papillary Thyroid Cancer. Early last October he had his thyroid and some lymph nodes removed. In December he went through a pill-form radiation treatment. Monitoring and more testing showed that not all the cancer was gone. It was hiding and smoldering. More monitoring. More scans. More blood tests. Recent scans and blood tests showed the smoldering cancer becoming aggressive.

Now at Stage 4C, the absolute worst,  his local DR recommended treatment at a better equipped facility, more specialized care. The Mayo Clinic was the choice. She holds the Clinic in high regard, trained and worked there. My brother listened to her, listened to his options and made the easy choice to travel to Rochester. Easy because of treatment options, not so easy because of his family being based in Washington and Oregon. He and his wife are the only ones to travel back to the Mayo Clinic. Not another family member with them to be with there for whatever news or treatment options (such as surgery) that the specialists determine beneficial. We are all at the other end of our phones waiting for news. Praying for good news.

A bright, colorful bouquet of flowers seemed like a great reminder of the love and support our family has for my brother and his wife. Was the one thing that I could think of that we could do that would make some difference and let them know WE are with them.

Tomorrow is his first appointment at the Mayo Clinic. Tomorrow more prayers, love and support.

Today, timing could not have been better.

These Dreams

WOW!!!! Another vivid dream.

This one was in the category of “fantastic, yet coulda happened,” you know the kind.

This dream seemed so real that when I woke up I was going to ask my husband, Jeff, if he had gotten a program at the wedding we had attended. I was so hoping that he had brought one home with us. I remembered that I unfortunately left mine in the beautiful red folder that we were handed. I’ve never seen such an elegant folder at a wedding. It was a hardback cover holding the wedding program and a detailed map of how to get to the reception, etc.

The important thing was the wedding party, the list of attendants and honored guests. Of course, first on the list were the two terrific people we came to see get married. Next up, well to me anyway, were the names of the performers at the wedding reception. None other than Ann and Nancy Wilson and, their friend, Sue Ennis. Keep in mind, I did say this was a “fantastic, yet coulda happened” dream.

Earlier in the day, we had stopped at a gas station. Jeff got out to fill up the car. I sat quietly. I heard some singing, yet this was not ordinary singing. I heard voices I knew…. ones I knew from recordings and concerts…. yet, these voices were live. In person. Not too far away. Could my ears be wrong? Could my mind be wandering so much as to be playing a trick on me. No…. these voices were from the car ahead of me. Acapella. Clear. Strong. Musical. Harmonious. Wonderful. Yes, I knew these voices. Ann, Nancy and Sue. And they were in the car just ahead of us. Suddenly, Ann got out of the passenger seat and went inside. I was so stunned all I could do was to scream, “WOOOOOOOOOO!!!!” My cover was blown. Then, I saw Nancy and Sue turn around and heard Nancy say, “OH, sounds like we have another fan!”

I could not believe my own eyes. A sighting. A real, up close sighting. I so wanted to hop out and meet them, yet, I don’t know why I did not. I seemed to have been frozen to the car seat. May be that I had figured that screaming had accosted them enough. Besides, at this point I’d be lucky to say anything intelligent. I would have told them that they were my idols and I was one of their biggest fans…. someone who had followed their musical career since 1974. Someone who had listened to and lived their music for all this time. Someone who even fashioned a coat for herself that was similar to one that Ann wore onstage. Someone who had found Mushroom Records while on a vacation to Vancouver, B.C., just because Heart had been there.

Then, to my amazement, these women with the magical voices and beautiful music were going to perform at the wedding reception.

Upon awakening, I don’t really remember much of the wedding, except that it was beautiful with love all around. Nor do I remember the wedding reception and seeing and hearing the much-anticipated performance of Ann, Nancy and Sue. You’d think my dream would have allowed that. After all, I did SEE and HEAR them at the gas station!!!!

Dreams like this appear to me every so often. This one reminds me of how much I’ve enjoyed their music over the years and how much Mom knew I enjoyed their music. She knew of all the performers I enjoyed. She was such a good mom that she’d tape concerts and appearances from the television and give them to me to watch as often as I wanted. She’d listened to their music with me. These dreams keep Mom close to me. Her influence in my life is so vivid much like the dreams she appears in and the ones she conjures up for me.

These dreams…………

Helen Blessings…

WOW……………. I totally got a “Helen” Blessing the other day.

I’d had another crappy day and another headache. Yes, I was at work… at a job where we’re short-handed and unfortunately at one of the two busiest times of the year… fiscal year end. I left for lunch to get away from the office and run an errand at Home Depot…along the way I saw a Swallowtail Butterfly…. aka Mom…. At Home Depot, I got the paint I wanted (NEEDED) and saw my friend’s husband Carl… Carl told me that Sue was in the Garden Center… so I went to surprise her and soak up some laughter and healing vibes…

AHHHHHHHHH, turned around my day…………….
all I have to say is..
“Thanks Mom!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Just had to share … I was so in need and I received.

You see, my Mom, Helen, loved butterflies, dearly loved them. So much so that they are a fond reminder of her gentle spirit. I think that she may have had them as a guardian… now, I do. My husband Jeff also sees them as a guardian spirit and counts them as “Helen blessings” too.

The first actual “Helen blessing” I remember experiencing was when I had taken one of my nieces over to the Oregon Coast. This was in summer, after Mom passed away in January 2003. We had stopped at a lighthouse to take a tour. While taking photos, out front, a butterfly – a swallowtail butterfly – followed us around. She even landed on the seed head of some tall grass, pausing just long enough for me to take a good photo. Then she floated away, yet never far from us. I had a calm feeling as if Mom was right there enjoying our day with us. I still get these feelings ….  a great calm …. such a peaceful feeling that all will be okay, things will get better. Mom is nearby not about to let anything bad happen. And thankfully, more often she’s just floating by to say “Hi” and enjoy some time with me.

Regardless of why, I am always happy to receive a “Helen blessing.”

This particular day, what felt like a lousy day, ended to be a good day… thanks to the “Helen blessing” and the opportunity for me to see my long-time friend Sue.

Mom always knew exactly what I needed and she still does. I know I was directed to Home Depot on that day and so was Sue…. seeing the “Helen blessing” on the way is proof enough.

Following a path….

Imagine….. walking in another’s footsteps.

Not just a few days ago or a few months ago.

But years ago. And then, centuries ago.

In mid-March, while on vacation with my husband, I felt the clock turn back to when Mom took my brothers and me on a summer vacation on the Northern Oregon Coast.

Mom took us to Fort Clatsop to see the place where Lewis & Clark and the Corps of Discovery stayed on their historic expedition far into the Louisiana Purchase to the Pacific Ocean. She talked to us about the history, about the people, about the conditions.

After going through the fort buildings at Fort Clatsop, we walked along a path that lead to a narrow space that the Corps of Discovery used as a landing and launch area for their canoes. To think that just maybe we walked along the same path they traveled between their canoes and the fort they built for their stay.

All the while Jeff and I were at Fort Clatsop, I was remembering when Mom took my brothers and me there. Jeff and I were following a path that my brothers and I had taken with Mom and all of us were following a path made by Lewis & Clark and the Corp of Discovery.

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The Payoff

Through example, Mom instilled in me a faith that “things will get better.”  She taught me that not all will be gloomy or be bad, even though it may seem as if.

Mom helped me to see the good side of things. To look on the bright side.

When Jeff and I left for our ‘second honeymoon’ in mid-March celebrating our six-month wedding anniversary the skies seemed gloomy and the Blue Mountains donned a new blanket of snow. The mountains were absolutely beautiful, yet the day before had been a sunny, glorious day. We headed south to catch the freeway. To the east was snow….. to the west… SUN. Luckily, we were ready to head west. Off to the Oregon Coast.

Pulled Pork Sandwich and a Session Black at Full Sail Brew Pub

Amidst sunshine, clouds and rain and after three hours of driving we arrived in Hood River for lunch. A much anticipated lunch at Full Sail Brewery. The three hours plus of a few days of anticipation I endured for their pulled pork sandwich and a Session Black had paid off. Ahhh Bliss. Well worth the anticipation.

We traveled on and arrived in Portland, got checked in to our hotel and made arrangements to meet cousins from my side of the family for dinner. We had a great time. Lots of catching up and laughing. After driving in more late winter inclement weather we were having some wonderful family time.

The next day we made a trek to a local mall so I could make another anticipated stop… this time at Teavana, to accommodate one of my favorite habits, tea drinking. Again, it was raining, but now after a quick and early lunch in the car we were headed to the coast.

More rain. Well, this is Oregon. 🙂

Snow in the Coast Range on March 12Driving out Highway 26 we experienced a variety of weather. Clouds, overcast skies and rain, then more rain. Yet it was a pleasant drive with scenery I don’t remember seeing before. Maybe, I had not been on this highway.

Then, while driving over the Coast Range the rain got thick. Then thicker. Then turned to snow. SNOW in the Coast Range on March 12th. No worries, both Jeff and I had driven through plenty of snow before.

Be careful. Be aware. Drive on.

I had not personally seen snow in the Coast Range for several years when my brother and I had driven to the coast early one May. I knew it snowed in the Coast Range, I’d seen it on the news from Portland.

Through all the variations of weather, mostly winter-like, we made it to our destination … Cannon Beach.

Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach, Oregon... from inside Mo's Restaurant

We sat inside Mo’s Restaurant anticipating our first seafood of our Oregon Coast trip, watching the stormy, almost angry surf. As you already know, the rain was falling. There were also lots of clouds and some wind. The tide was high and the ocean seemed as if it wanted to come inside to get out of the weather too. As we waited for our food we watched as some travelers were getting soaked in the rain. Some were even on the beach taunting the waves. I was nearly certain that someone would be overtaken by the crashing waves. The waves did not really seem to want to play.

Ahhhhh…. our food had arrived. Another payoff for enduring something less than delightful. I had anticipated CRAB — in the form of a crab melt. Jeff was rewarded with a bread bowl filled with chowder. We were about to eat while watching the storm from inside, not being out in it. Now, after driving through all that rain and snow and slush, our payoff had arrived.

A greatly anticipated lunch at Mo's, Cannon Beach, Oregon