Reflections from Job’s Wife After the Crash

“It so rarely rains in Colorado. Why can’t we just have normal rainstorms instead of these crazy hail storms?”

Jamie and I were watching the news last week and I commented upon the flood of hail that swept through the Denver metro area.

When it rains, it pours and we’ve had a deluge lately. On Friday morning, we awoke to a police officer’s card in our door informing us Jamie’s car had been involved in a hit and run. Despite neighbor’s attempts to pound on our door to wake us up at 11 p.m., we slept through the crash and aftermath thanks to our noise-blocking attic fan.

We’re waiting to hear back if it’s totaled. The perpetrator pummeled into the back of it, pushing it several feet, and eventually slammed Jamie’s car into a now-defunct street sign. Glass and metal littered the street and the noise of the crash caused several neighbors to race outside to see what happened. A lady walking her dog wrote down what she believed to be the license plate number and our neighbor across the street likely caught it all on their security camera.

Luckily the next morning, the guilty party’s brother and then dad stopped by to exchange insurance information. The 17-year-old doesn’t remember what happened and spent the night in the hospital after slamming his head through the windshield, biting his tongue in half and suffering a concussion.

We were one month from paying off Jamie’s car with plans to upgrade my 10-year-old vehicle next summer. That won’t be happening anytime soon and now we’re a one-car family as we battle it out with both insurance companies (an interim rental car doesn’t look likely).

But this was only the tip of the iceberg after a trying few weeks. Our extended family has been dealing with some major health crises and heartbreaks. Jamie losing his pumpkin this week was a bummer but, in the big picture, not a huge deal. But then he went to the doctor on Thursday for yet another health situation and they scheduled him for surgery in two weeks. It could be only minor but, depending upon what they find, it could be major.

I’ve started calling him Job from the Bible and so what does that make me? Job’s wife. To humor myself, I opened up the Old Testament to see just what it had to say about the woman. I mean, it’s written from a man’s perspective…that all these horrid trials and heartbreaks happened only to him.

But she’s seen her life collapse, too. She’s lost 10 children and seen the family fortune disappear and she stood by him through it all but when he contracts a rather nasty disease and halitosis to boot, “Then said his wife unto him, Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die” (Job 2:9).

“But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10).

I think Job is a rock star. Not because he called her a foolish woman (because sometimes we are!) but because he’d figured out that if we believe that God is smart enough to know when we need a blessing, then we must believe that he is smart enough to know when we need a trial. And that the people who grow most bitter are the ones who ask why does God permit us to suffer when they should be answering how should I respond?

Jamie is a lot like Job. He pretty much lives in chronic pain and has been through more at his age than most but his response has been to remain faithful, wise, loving, unwavering and accepting without complaint.

My friend Lisa posted a powerful video that really hit home for me this week. I think a lot of us mistakenly don’t reach out for answers until something really devastating happens. Some find them but too many don’t. From the video Mountains to Climb:

“If the foundation of faith is not embedded in our hearts, the power to endure will crumble.” -President Henry B. Eyring

I can’t say it will get better because it doesn’t always. But with faith, there is always  hope in something bigger.

Prayers for my Mom

I generally try to keep things light-hearted around here but we’ve been struggling with some serious issues the last couple of weeks. Namely: my mom’s health. MS is an unrelenting beast, a war my mom has waged for a few decades. The week before Christmas, she got an infection so severe she couldn’t keep anything down and was hospitalized. I almost changed our holiday plans and booked flights home but Dad assured me she was getting better.

She stabilized but then she got worse again. Now, she has been hospitalized for the third time in 10 days as they try to figure out if this is it or if this is the new normal.There are so many unanswered questions and I’m so grateful for my dad, family and doctors who are trying to help. It has been tough being so far away and I regret we didn’t go home for the holidays. Thanks to all those friends and family who’ve reached out to me these past weeks. She is beloved by many.

Last night as my own little family read Calvin and Hobbes (Jamie’s new nightly ritual), scriptures, prayed and wrestled, I snapped this shot, which perfectly captured the simple joys of being together.

Family is everything and right now, I’m praying for ours.




The fire and my family’s giving tree

On Saturday, there was a huge fire at my childhood home. My dad was in the garage and had climbed up into the rafters to retrieve their Christmas decorations.

Something you should know about my parents: they’ve lived in that house for 43 years. My mom used to be a successful gift shop/restaurant owner and threw weddings as a side business so our house is literally chocked to the hilt with many of her treasures.

As Dad climbed up in the rafters, he used a halogen light. He made several trips into the house and forgot about the light. It didn’t take long for the decorations to ignite. Our neighbor first saw the fire, called 911 and raced over to my parent’s.

The garage was completely charred in a matter of minutes.

Three fire trucks, police and EMTs were on the scene. My niece lives on the other side of town and could see the plume of smoke from several miles away, with flames two stories high (that likely flared when the gas blew).

As many of you know, my mom is in poor health and the EMTs ushered my parents off to a neighbor’s. Nothing was salvageable: their cars, skis, bikes, skates, lawn mower, generator, extensive collection of tools and many, many irreplaceable decorations that have been in our family for years.

Though devastated and understandably rattled, my parents were unharmed and the house was untouched. They will likely spend the next several months recovering from this disaster. But there was also a miracle and it can be attributed to a tree.

In the backyard, there was a large, dead 30-feet tall pine tree adjacent to the garage. Two weeks ago, hurricane-strength 149 km/h winds pummeled Calgary, knocking the tree down. Last week, my brother Pat and my dad cut up the tree to use as firewood.

If that tree had not been removed, its dead pine needles would have instantly ignited and the rest of my parent’s yard, and then their house would have gone up in flames. It is very likely my dad would not have been able to get my mom out in time.

This time of year, I can’t help but think of the meaning behind the Christmas tree. It is a symbol of hope, of life and of light beyond what our mortal vision can grasp.

And somehow in these charred remains of what could have been a tragedy, the symbol of the evergreen’s everlasting life has never resonated more.

Food Bank of the Rockies’ Celebrity Council (who me?)

I think everyone should have a “cause” close to their heart and combating child hunger is mine. I was first really exposed to it during my mission in Switzerland and France where I was privileged to provide service in the local food banks. As I worked with those wonderful people–so humble and grateful–something inside me was ignited.

Years later, I’ve been fortunate to work with the Food Bank of the Rockies on some local campaigns and have felt that same spark. So when I was asked to be a part of their new Celebrity Council (that includes famous professional athletes, media personalities and actors), I was honored.

And then I laughed. A lot.

I certainly don’t consider myself a celebrity but feel privileged to contribute to an organization that services 1,100 hunger-relief programs throughout Northern Colorado and Wyoming.

Last week, I attended a soiree to kick-off the council and was blown away to see my smiling face on the celebrity wall (top right-hand corner).

Note to self: Get a real head shot.

Of course, this isn’t my first brush with celebrity.

There was the time at the 2010 Vancouver Games at the USA House when I insulted a living legend.

Also, when I lived in Salt Lake City, I was the Travel Editor for Sports Guide Magazine for a number of years. I must have had a pretty good following because every year, Sports Guide published a “Best Of” list based on reader’s nominations and votes.

I won the “Best All-around Female” award, along with Picabo Street (who was a really big deal at the time after winning a gold medal in super G at the 1998 Winter Olympics.)

When Jamie and I were dating, he Googled my name and found that article.

I’m sure it was the clincher for him. :-)

I’d love your support! For every Facebook “like” the Food Bank of the Rockies receives through October, Vitamin Cottage is donating $1. And here’s the amazing thing: A $1 donation provides 4 meals for kids in need so please take a moment to click!

The Clicker and the Importance of Getting Unplugged

Sometimes you just need to get unplugged.

This is opposed to unhinged, which is what I have felt the last several weeks.

I hit my limit after a compendium of stress, work and more stress a couple of weeks ago. I woke up feeling…not depressed…but burned out and in dire need of a reboot after my family’s onslaught of medical and financial trials this year.

I attended Time Out For Women a couple of weekends ago and it was a much-needed spiritual boost. One of my favorite speakers (and inspiring musical artist) Hilary Weeks spoke about a statistic she had heard: that the average person has 300 negative thoughts a day. Thinking this was a staggering number, she decided to put it to the test. She bought herself a clicker and every time she had a negative thought, she counted it.

The final number wasn’t important but what resonated with me was how she felt after almost a week of doing it. For no reason at all, she woke up feeling depressed and absolutely hopeless about her life.

Recognizing the source, she turned the experiment around and documented every positive thought she had. The number of clicks skyrocketed as it became a practice in gratitude–from her family to God’s creations to the many little miracles that surrounded her. (Read her blog posts about it here).

Lesson learned: When you focus on the negatives, all your energy and psyche will give way to that energy. Conversely, thinking positive thoughts makes you happy.

I’ve never been a negative person but when you’re drowning in negative influences and aren’t filling it with as much positivity as possible, something’s gotta give and that’s exactly how I felt. So last week, I refused to let the uncertainty and stress take hold of me. I stepped away from my computer and filled my life with positive energy. I recommitted myself spiritually and spent every spare second in the outdoors marveling at the fall colors.

We picked crab apples and made applesauce.

We climbed trees.
I hiked.

And hiked some more.
And biked almost daily.
There is something so special about fall–life in all its summer pastels becomes golden. And somehow through imersing myself in it, each day I grew stronger, more at peace and connected. While our future may be uncertain, for these past weeks we’ve been living in the brevity of the moment and it has been magic.

One of my favorite passages of scripture in Mosiah 24: 13-15 has resonated with me. Alma and his people are doing what’s right and are living their lives when they are faced with a huge trial: wicked Amulon is sent to rule over them and places horrible burdens on their back. They even try to pray and risk the treat of being put to death.

Human instinct is to pray all the bad things away. I know I have and continue to do so. But the answer they received is so much more inspired.

13 And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord came to them in their afflictions, saying: Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, for I know of the covenant which ye have made unto me; and I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage.

14 And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.

15 And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord.

Another lesson learned: Don’t pray for a lighter burden, pray for a stronger back.

Our situation has not changed but my capacity to handle it has. And for that, I am grateful.

The good and bad news of our hospital stint (pun intended)

If I ever write a book, the title will be, “You can’t make this stuff up.”

Jamie was once again in the hospital for chest pain this week. On Tuesday night, he had meetings at the church and I asked him to drop off something.

“I probably can’t.”
“Why not?”
“I think I need to go to the ER,” he casually informed me.

He then revealed he’s been having chest pain since FRIDAY but never said anything because he knew I’d freak and make him go to the hospital and he would have missed his pumpkin party and weigh-off.

Death vs. a pumpkin party? Priorities.

And so they admitted him Tuesday night. We knew they wouldn’t be able to do anything until the next morning and that he’d need an angiogram. The nurse told him it was OK to eat breakfast so imagine how pleased he was to have the cardiologist come in a few minutes later to inform him he couldn’t eat before the procedure, that he now had to wait six hours, and that they were so backed up they probably wouldn’t be able to get him in until the next day.

This news did not go over well with me, in large part due to the already-overwhelming medical bills we’re paying off. There was NO WAY I was paying for an extra day in the hospital due to THEIR screw-up.

I was still at home at that point so I made some calls. They were not pleasant but apparently my loving threats hit home because 20 minutes later, Jamie called me.

“You contacted the hospital, didn’t you?!”
“How did you know?”
“They just informed me they found an opening for 3 p.m. today.”

Sometimes it pays off to be me.

The findings? When Jamie had surgery back in February, there were three arteries that were almost completely blocked as a result of his chemo radiation treatments he had in his late-20s. For two of the main arteries, they were able to put stints. The third artery is a smaller branch off the main and due to its position and size, they were unable to do anything with it. The only possible solution to open it up is bypass surgery and at this point, they don’t want to go there.

Believe me, neither do I.

And so they think it’s that darned third artery that is causing the chest pain. Because it’s not a main artery, they’re not overly concerned about it but if the pain continues they’ll reevaluate. They hope by switching up his meds, they can help him manage the pain.

So, I guess it’s a bit of good news (the stints in the main arteries are fine) and bad news (there’s nothing we can do about the blocked third artery). We hope Jamie will return home today.

I’ve got to say once again how grateful I am for our awesome friends and family and their outpouring of support. Whether it’s watching the kids, bringing us dinners or just offering to help in anyway they can, I am so humbled by everyone’s support. And I’m hoping that someday soon we can return the favor.

Read: Cease from being charity cases.

The kids and I spent most of Wednesday afternoon and evening in the hospital, with a quick trip to the nearby pumpkin farm while Jamie was doped up in recovery. I’ve become disarmingly comfortable in a hospital setting this year but what I was not prepared for: Jamie’s celebrity status.

As two nurses were wheeling Jamie into surgery, he managed to worked it into the conversation that he grows giant pumpkins. Both of the women scrutinized him, turned to me, recognized The Hair and exclaimed, “You were on The Marriage Ref!” Jamie then delighted his captive audience.

It didn’t stop there. Following his surgery, his new nurse not only remembered him from six months ago (horrors to be considered a “regular” in the cardiac unit) but also from TV.

It was my worst nightmare on many levels.:)

But here’s for hoping we’ll be able to once again pick up where we left off and start running again today.

The resurrection of the kindergarten debate

I know, I know. I am overdue on posting about our pumpkin festivities last weekend. And that will happen just as soon as I wade through my onslaught of deadlines, laundry, meetings and hikes. Yes, people. I am going on my very first hike today following my knee surgery.

It should set me back about a week.

However, I couldn’t delay on posting about an article I read regarding the scientific findings of kindergarten. Yes, kindergarten is a science. Or rather, the delay of starting it can be. If you will recall, last year I had some angst regarding whether I should start Bode on time or delay him like so many parents in Colorado are prone to do. I obviously went with my gut and enrolled him on time and I couldn’t be happier that I did.

Especially after these findings that are sure to ruffle a few feathers. So, come weigh-in and let me know what you think!

The year that kicked our butts

I’ll admit it: I came into 2011 with a sense of pending doom. I’m not a negative gal so I’d like to think it was a premonition that this year would basically suck. I mean, it wasn’t all bad. We went on a Disney Cruise, took loads of fun ski trips and spent July in Canada.

See? That’s what an optimist does–tries to put on a positive spin.

But there’s no “spinning” the onslaught of medical bills we have from Jamie’s heart surgery, his chronic rheumatism problems, my chest pains and knee surgery. Not to mention the BBQ and refrigerator we had to replace, the car problems and the second set of phones that are on the fritz. Oh, and last week? The Internet was down for two days and Jamie’s computer was on the brink of death.

He is a web developer who works from home. One might say his computer is kind of important.

So, our big expense last week was a new computer.

Good-bye, Christmas presents. It was nice (not) knowing you.

Even with this humdinger of a year, I still recognize we’ve been blessed. We’ve been fortunate that Jamie’s business is going well (hence the 12-hour days) and that my parents made a generous charitable donation to help offset the cost of my knee surgery.

Because make no mistake: we are charity cases these days.

Last week, we attended the preview of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science’s new T.Rex Encounter exhibit. The kids had a blast but it wasn’t until we posed for a picture with a super-imposed dinosaur on a blue screen that I got the symbolism:

T.Rex = 2011.

Better luck in 2012.

Are today’s grade-school “graduations” celebrating mediocrity?

I had no idea my innocent (and brief) Facebook post yesterday would result in a deluge of valued comments from my friends and motivate me to write a blog post.

But that is exactly what happened.

I’m all about celebrating milestones. Births, deaths, birthdays, holidays–I’m your gal. However, there is a trend in our schools that disturbs me: the graduation ceremony.Link

Twelfth grade, college and even 8th grade Continuations should be lauded affairs, a recognition of many years of hard work. I have fond memories of my senior year revelries as my dear friends and I celebrated our journey together and toasted our future.

Now, can someone please tell me where preschool, kindergarten, grade-school et al. “graduations” fit into this formula?

Rites of passage are important and I don’t want to diminish recognizing that a child is moving from one grade to another. But it was when a friend sent a picture of his (albeit darling) kindergartner in her cap and gown that I couldn’t help but think, “REALLY?”

And I remembered this exchange from The Incredibles that has always resonated with me:

Helen: I can’t believe you don’t want to go to your own son’s graduation.
Bob: It’s not a graduation. He is moving from the 4th grade to the 5th grade.
Helen: It’s a ceremony!
Bob: It’s psychotic! They keep creating new ways to celebrate mediocrity, but if someone is genuinely exceptional…

I don’t want to be Debbie Downer here. I’m all about throwing a party and having an academic ceremony to recognize the children’s achievements. When I was younger, I was a smart and athletic kid who cleaned up on the awards every year. My children are still young and have shown different aptitudes but they likely won’t be class valedictorians.

And that’s OK.

As a parent, I’m trying not to dilute the achievements of the overachievers by making everyone a winner. I’ve seen this a lot in my children’s sporting leagues. Yes, young children should have positive reinforcements but continuing with this pattern so as not to hurt their feelings is not teaching life lessons. There are winners and losers and the most important thing is how you are taught to play the game.

I truly mourn for children who do not have support at home but am in awe of engaged teachers and mentors. I hope I’m instilling in my children a strong work ethic and a life-long love of learning with the resolve to stay in school.

But if they need a ceremony with a cap and a gown to stay motivated, maybe we’re doing something wrong.

(Originally published at MileHighMamas).

A (Pink) Bone to Pick with the Susan G. Komen Foundation

I was taken aback when I read that the Susan G. Komen for the Cure had was canceling their three-day walk for breast cancer in Colorado because, according to their PR agency, “it just didn’t meet financial goals.”

Nevermind the thousands of dollars Denverites have raised in what has became one of our city’s most highly-attended and beloved charity events.

Well, the fundraising giant’s public relations staff will be working overtime over their latest controversy: They are threatening legal actions around any other event and charities that use any variation of “for the cure” in their name.

Isn’t it just swell to think of donor’s funds going to such a “worthwhile” cause?