Monday, December 29, 2008

Invest in Leather

I think I'm going to be in the market for a good pair of leather chaps or one of those vests that has the leathers stringey things that hang down in the back.

The worlds most talented fiction editor, was giving me some fair warning advice about the beauty of my daughters this morning.

She says: "You’re going to be in for a few rough years when those girls hit their teens. I foresee fighting off the boys with baseball bats. I recommend you keep the bald look and maybe grow a super long goatee so you look mean. Get a few tats. Invest in a leather vest."

I'm an XL if anyone wants to know.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Red Rider

We cleared the dining room table yesterday to take some family photos. I just had to capture the look on Von's face after getting a Christmas gift.

"Ages 10+" it says on the packaging.

I figured that since he's been such a brave kid with all of the other dangerous things we have been doing to his body to shoot the cancer dead that, a little BB gun with parental supervision isn't going to hurt anyone.

So far, so good.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Stop the ride for a moment. I'm feeling sick!

Pause with me for a moment and reminisce. We're all feeling a little weary of this daily fight with this invisible enemy called cancer. (I think it's supposed to be a capital 'C' but I'm not giving it any more attention than it has already getting from our family.)

This is a photo of our children back before we learned we had cancer. It was taken in Mexico and the whole family went with me to a photo shoot for a furniture product line. My very good friend Luiz makes this stuff and we borrowed Mexico's largeest TV mogul's vacation home and yard for the staging. Just as we were wrapping up, it started to rain and the kids just had a blast. We quickly threw everything back on the truck and ran back to normal life.

Yesterday we started a new set of treatments for Von that are more intense than his first two months and already he is having side effects from the drugs. (What is ironic is that society won't give a 3 year old a plastic bag for fear of harm, but passively accepts shooting them up with drugs that make sores in their mouths, causes their intestines to bleed and sprinkle in surprise vomit episodes.)

We attended a Christmas concert as a family last night. During the intermission, a lady approached us who found Von's bald head familiar. She introduced herself and in the process we learned she had a son with Leukemia just like Von. As she spoke, I realized she was speaking past tense. Not wanting to ask the obvious, but wanting to express concern for her son, I asked, "How old is he now?".

She said she didn't want to answer that so as not to discourage us. After pressing her a bit, she shared her son passed away suddenly at month 5 of treatment after everything was seemingly going well. (What did we expect, we did press her for it).

So we left the concert early, and drove home feeling very sober and serious about cancer and realizing it is something that has no certain outcome. Lisa was crying a bit and Von kept offering her kleenex and asking her why she was crying. Sweet little kid. Takes after me, actually. :-)

Back to Mexico. I looked at that photo this morning and realized how each day is so precious...even if you don't have cancer. How can I learn that lesson for good and enjoy today and the moment without quickly moving on to the next project. Am I the only one that wrestles with that?

At the time I took that photo, I was rushing off to the next project, the next obligation, the next opportunity. If I could go back, I would have set the camera in a dry place, and then sprawled out on the lounge chair and let the rain pour down and spread my arms out like the guy did in the movie Shawshank Redemption at the end.

My challenge to you today, cancer or not, is go do something small, special, memorable, or sweet for someone in your life and take a mental picture. I promise no matter how silly, dumb or trivial it feels, you will never look back with a feeling of regret.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Blue Eyes

My father-in-law Rolf shaved his head a few years ago when his good friend was going bald from cancer treatments.

At the time, bald wasn't yet cool, and it was a fashion risk, but in order to love and support his friend, Rolf did it! And like most kinds of sacrificial giving, he found something personally beneficial in the process. Not only did he get to support his friend, he also found a new and good look for him and it stuck.

So when Von had to lose his hair, and was left with some awkward stubble from the hair clippers, Rolf knew just what to do.

A little shave cream and a few sibling's concerned looks later and Viola!

It's funny, I never realized how beautiful his eyes were until the hair got out of the way. Maybe people should, instead of trying those fake eye contacts to enhance their eye color, try shaving their heads first. Or maybe...not.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


I found this photo in my photo library today. I can't explain it.

It was evidently taken while I was away this weekend moving things out of our house in Ohio and getting it ready to transfer to the new owner.

Any suggestions for explaining what Sofie and Von are doing?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Clean Shave

We passed a landmark tonight. Instead of being in denial that Von is losing his hair, we decided to embrace it and say goodbye to it together as a family. Most of the times, the hard things in life are easy when you have family around to see you through.

It's funny, it doesn't bother Von in the least. Mom was fighting a few tears, but off the sparse little fuzz came. There were about 20 other extended family members there to cheer him on.

And the best part was watching him look into the mirror and seeing him discover a new texture on his little head. He is a good little trooper and we are pretty proud of him.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Is it just me, or do I have the coolest friends in the world?

I received a very nice gift in the mail from Rae, my friend out on the East coast. I was one of her winners on the 'pay it forward' experiment. (You can see her blog here.)

She sent:

Magnets-Beautiful but practical.

Eucalyptus Hand soap: If you are a man and you use hand soap, this is the only fragrance you can use and still feel manly.

Reflection Stones: Handy because they double as weapons if needed, but beautiful reminders of great traits. I use them as place settings for our four children. Each one has a word that I associate with each child. I place them at the setting. Dream. Reflect. Grace. Strenght. What great reminders for us all!

Cool huh?

Here are the official "rules": The exchange focuses on doing an act of kindness without expecting anything in return other than that the recipient will, in their turn, pass the kindness along and pay it forward.This is how it works... I am going to agree to send something fun, cute, & nice to the first 3 blog owners who post a comment on this entry. In turn, those three will post this information and pick 3 people they want to send something to and so on.

Unfortunately, due to postage costs, I can only pay it forward within the United States.

If you are interested in participating, be one of the first 3 blog owners to leave a comment! The little something you send can be something you made, bought, were given or found. Just a gift that will make the person smile. There are no cost restraints, but don't go crazy! If you'd like to join in, be one of the first 3 people to leave a comment. You have to promise that you will then post about this on your blog, link to me, and then send something to the first three people who sign up to play along through your blog. I hope people like this idea. It's a small way to bring a smile to someone's face!

I know I won't be able to top the cool factor of Rae, but I will do my very best and will at least promise not to send you a fruitcake.

Thanks Rae!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Underage Bird-feeding Habit

Don't tell anyone. I know I'm not old enough to have one yet, and I'm not really proud of it, but...yes...I have a.....bird feeder.

I've seen these at my grandmother's house and in the old man's garden across the street. And if, at the next Monday night football you bring it up, I will deny it.

But last week I was inspired after hearing from an old friend. She was telling me about how her family has been slowing down and enjoying the simple things in life. She cited the Cardinal outside of her window, sampling the delicacies offered in the feeder, as a case in point. It reminded her of how God cares for us, just like her bird friends were being cared for.

After getting some good news this week in the 'what do I owe the doctor?' department, I found the unstopabble urge to celebrate God's care of our family and bought a bird feeder. (They didn't even ask for ID to see if I was old enough.)

I'm looking forward to seeing the first bird come and eat and remind me that God is taking care of me.

At least that is how I am explaining the bird feeder in the yard. I'm still working on a good explanation for the plywood cutout of the bent over grandma in bloomers in the front yard. I'm open to any suggestions.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Some people....

Once in a while you hear about these people. You know them, they are the ones they make movies about.

I blogged yesterday about finally getting around to something I had been putting off. Today I bumped into a friends blog entry and it knocked my socks off! She did something last week that, through no choice of her own, she had put off for years.

I'm so proud of her that I'm going to send her a gift. But, shhhh...don't tell her when you leave a comment on her blog.

You can read about her amazing achievement here.

Some people...

Saturday, November 29, 2008

My Masterpiece

Let me show you what I've been working on for the past three weeks. It took a long time, but it is finished and I'm so proud of it.

No. Sorry, not the painting but hanging the painting on the wall, that was in the works for three weeks.

We got a 15 thousand dollar medical bill in the mail yesterday, which is a great way to see if what you said around the Thanksgiving table about being thankful was really true or not.

So this morning, instead of thinking about bills, I looked around for something that I could do to help me feel like I was doing something productive. And there it was...the painting done by my wife's great-grandfather Arne Berger. Arne came to the US in the early 1890s from Norway. My guess is that he must have been paying tribute to his newly adopted country by painting George Washington's Mt. Vernon.

Three weeks ago, my wife asked, 'Can you hang that painting?'. I've been putting it off all this time. And it took me all of 130 seconds to do. And now I'm wondering why I put it off for so long and why it felt like such a daunting task?

I could have felt this great three weeks ago.

What 130 second job have you been putting off? I'd love to hear about it!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Once Upon a Time...

I'm thankful for Sophie, Luke, and Phoebe Johnsen.

Don't know them? You should! This little story is for them. Sophie, Luke, and Phoebe are not only real people, but they represent the many people who have loved us and helped Von these past few weeks. Thanks to all the Sophie, Luke, and Phoebes out there!

Once upon a time, there was a little boy who went to the doctor. The doctor looked at the boy and tried real hard to smile as he gave the boy some bad news.

"You are a very sick little boy and you are going to have to get better."

The doctor said there were two things he would have to do to get better.

"One, you will have to take some really yucky medicine, and two, work your best at being brave. If you do these two things, you might just get better." The doctor said this in the best smile he could to help the boy feel better about the bad news.

The little boy squinted at the doctor and asked, "How yucky is the medicine? Yuckier than raisin ice-cream?"

The smile left the doctors face as he had tasted raisin ice-cream before and was sure the medicine was far worse.

But the boy did his best and took his medicine with only a little bit of crying. He pretended the medicine was gummy worm pizza and he took it all.

The first part was done and he was happy that he could do this by himself, but the second part, the part about being brave, was something he couldn't do by himself. And he was feeling not happy about that.

The little boy asked God to help him be brave but for some reason, God didn't make him brave. The boy was really sad now because he knew he could not be brave by himself. But God had a better idea.

God whispered into Sophie, Luke, and Phoebe's heart and told them about the little boy who needed some help in being brave for the second part of his getting better.

They thought about what could help the little boy feel brave. They thought about giving him a chocolate factory, a used car, and a truckload of monkeys. But in the end, they knew the little boy's parents were afraid of monkeys and would probably say no, and besides, used cars are hard to find these days.

So they gathered up a whole box of fantastic and delightful toys, games, balls, books and activities to send off. But Sophie said something was missing. She held up some zebra colored wrapping paper and they all set to work wrapping all the gifts and quickly sent them off to the little boy.

The little boy was not feeling brave that day when the box arrived. He had been standing in front of the mirror trying to get his hair to go spiky to feel brave. But most of his hair was gone now and there was no spikyness to it. He asked God again to help him be brave so he could finish getting well.

The boy dropped his comb and ran upstairs when he heard his parents announce a package had arrived.

He read the cards from Luke and admired his handwriting. He smiled at the photo of Sophie and Phoebe. And then he ripped into the zebra colored gifts. Slowly but surely, he started feeling loved and warm inside. As he opened each gift, he started laughing and feeling stronger and stronger.

That night, he snuggled into bed and thought about Sophie and Luke and Phoebe and thanked God for them. He was now brave and could finish getting better. He asked God to do something nice for them...maybe some spikey hair and a truckload of monkeys.

The end.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Neighborly Gestures

We have visitors! Opa and Oma flew in from Mexico to be with us this week. One of our first stops was A&W for floats. You can see root beer float sized anticipation on everyone's face. (They don't have A&W in Mexico.)

This morning, I found the following view out my office window downstairs.

It's a lake in the process of freezing over. Von and I, strangers to lakes you can walk on, went down to poke around and investigate.

After morning coffee and a few well-placed pieces on the traditional Thanksgiving holiday puzzle, I overheard this conversation between my 5 year old daughter, Vienna, and Lisa.

V: Mom, it snowed outside. Can we shovel the driveway?
Lisa: Yes, please!
V: When we are done, can we do the neighbors?
Lisa: That would be nice.
V: Can we do all of the neighbors everywhere?
Lisa: I think you're going to make lots of friends today.

So shovel the drives they did.

They did about 4 driveways when the realized it was an ambitious plan and came in for hot chocolate.

One lady left her driveway and said, "Good shoveling". Vienna quipped, "for free" as she drove off. Vienna returned to the house mad that nobody offered to pay them. It was a great teachable moment for all of us to remember to serve without expecting anything in return. Then if you do get something, it's a bonus.

Now that we are in Minnesota, I'm sure we will get a few more opportunities to shovel some driveways and perfect the serve without expectations principle.

Monday, November 17, 2008

So the Rabbi says to the guy...

There is this old joke about a guy complaining to the Rabbi about his house being too crowded and small and how he needs a bigger one. Do you remember this one? (If you can read in a NY accent, you should finish the joke this way to make it better.)

The Rabbi prescribes that the guy brings in a goat, his mother-in-law, some pigs, and some neighbor's lawn furniture from storage, and says to live that way for a few weeks.

The man does what the Rabbi says and comes back after a few weeks and wonders how this has helped his situation any.
(You sure you're not remembering this one?).

The Rabbi says to kick out all the extra people and animals and furniture and come back the next week. The guy comes back the next week and kisses the Rabbi. His house suddenly feels so much bigger, less crowded and he has all the room in the world.

How does this apply to us lately?

Von has been on some high dose steroids that have affected his mood. He has been quite a grump at times and throwing fits and making demands that would make the most confident of parent's cower in shame. I actually cried last week when he threw a fit in a public setting. The flood of emotions came over me as I wanted to explain to people that this wasn't really my kid acting this way, but it is the drugs talking.

But this week he is off of the steroids after a month and I have to tell you what a little gentleman and comedian my wife and I have raised. And the best part is that his incessant giggle is back. He laughs at everything and erupts in a highly contagious, squeaking giggle that makes the grumpiest of old men snort a laugh or two.

It is still the same kid we had a month ago, but perspective is everything.

Has this change of perspective ever happened to you?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Things Girls Do Better Than Boys

Girls can do the splits and lift their legs high in the air. Boys can't.

Girls look good in tights. Boys don't.

Girls can go to shows and dress up in the confetti that drops from the ceiling. Boys wouldn't.

Grandma Mary took the girls out for a special girls outing and saw the Rockettes and enjoyed what girls enjoy most. What a treat.

Meanwhile, back at the hacienda, Von and I got to hang out and spent no time worrying about how we look in tights or trying to do the splits.

Life is good!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Husky but Happy

Want to see something weird?

The boy on the left is actually the same kid on the right. He did okay for a guy who wasn't even trying. He won the cheek category in the local bodybuilding contest.

He is on steroids and a plethora (finally got to use that word) of other medications. This causes him to retain water and gives him a swollen head. When I came home from being gone for 6 days, I really couldn't believe how big his head had gotten. Only 4 more days of these particular steroids and his face will start going back to normal.

The highlight of today was Papa Rolf taking Von and me to the movies. Von had to wear his face mask and with his swollen head and pale skin, we got a variety of reactions. There were some strange looks, a few awkward avoidances, and one verbal 'awwwwww'. I thought the girl saw a puppy in Barnes and Noble but when she walked past and elbowed her boyfriend to look back, I figured she was talking about Von.

Yesterday Von got excited when we told him he got mail. He got two very nice handmade cards in the mail from some very sincere and amazing friends at DaySpring Cards. Jon Huckeby, an illustrator, designer, and super funny guy headed that up and as you can tell by Von's face, not only is he looking husky, he is happy.

Thanks Jon! Here's to you, shark week, and using your superpower talent for good. You guys truly know how to share God's heart and a plethora fresh new ways!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

83.5 hours

Here is where I spent the last 84 hours of my life.

I left Mexico on Sunday 6:30 PM with our stuff and our dog and drove to the border. And I drove. And drove. And there was still more driving to do.

This morning, at 6:00 AM, I arrived safe into Minneapolis. (Thanks God!)

That is about 2,000 miles, two all-nighters, a few cups of coffee, five motorcycle tie-down checks, two new U-joints, 7 radio talk show hours, 4 new tires, 32 toll booths, 3 hours of US Customs inspections, and one teenage boy dog with more pelvic trusting moves than a dancing John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever.

The highlight was having my dad along for the Mexico leg of the trip.

I'll have to post a few photos and thoughts on the event. For now, I'm going to rest and enjoy a little family snuggle time.

(Since the photo is low resolution, I should explain the wet marks on the pavement are from the dog's water dish.)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Introductions are in Order!

Let me introduce you to a future cancer survivor.

We got some really great news today. It's 'normal progress' news, but it IS progress and we are thanking God for it.

When Von first arrived in Minnesota two weeks ago, his cancer levels were at 30%. Last week, they were at 7%. Today, they were at 0.8%. If you ask me, any cancer-describing number that starts with a zero is reason to have a bust-out-the-windows celebration.

My smart wife explained to me how Leukemia works and that this is just the beginning of a Lord of the Rings type battle.

It goes like this:
1) Cancer cells show up in the blood and bone marrow. They not only demand equal treatment but say they are the new guys in charge and they're going to multiply and even the local authorities won't stop them.
2) You beat back these cancer cells as fast as possible before they know what hit them and before they mutate or get more sympathizers to join them.
3) You defeat the rogue cells in the blood and while it looks like they are defeated, they are really moving to a safe spot in the spinal fluid to regroup.
4) You do some delayed intensification treatment to chase them out of the spine. you lose hair in the process and have some other painful side effects, but it's worth it. You flushed them out of their hiding place and killed them all...but they have one last stand planned.
5) Since you thought you killed them in the bone marrow, and the spinal fluid, the cells think the best place to make a last stand is back in the bone marrow and blood, so they regroup.
6) You once again do battle and finish every last one of them off in the blood and bone marrow.
7) You look at the carnage on the battle field and wait to see if there are any fakers laying 'dead'.
8) And you wait.
9) And wait.
10) And after 6 years from your first battle with the cancer cells, you are officially pronounced the victor. You get a burger king crown and go on to rule your kingdom in peace and harmony. And if you were gracious in the battle, you might just get to marry the sweetheart that was looking on during the ordeal.

Ok, I know that isn't the most medically accurate way to describe it, but since Von likes fighting the bad guys so much, I think it works and that is how I am describing it to him.

If you're near a root beer float, a record player with your favorite opera singer, or close to someone that looks huggable, celebrate with us today. God is good and we had the gift of today to enjoy it!

(And a special thanks to Hans for the most excellent encouragement card. I have some friends in the biz that might be interested in talking to you!)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Just a Spoon Full of Sugar...

Let me tell you, Mary Poppins is a liar! The sugar thing doesn't work.

In about three years, when this is all through, Von will be a master negotiator. He is learning the art now and practicing twice a day every time we engage him on taking his medicine.

We both have something that we want.

Me? I want him to take two squirts of his medicine. One that tastes awful and one that tastes really awful.

Him? Anything BUT the medicine.

So here is how it goes:

Me: Time for your medicine.
Von: (Mumbling through a hand covered mouth with panicked eyes) I don't want medicine.
Me: You have to. It's not open for discussion.

And then the discussion starts, him stalling for time, me looking for leverage to get him to take his medicine.

At the hospital it was easy. We had fake dog poo and the leverage I had was promising he could roam the halls placing the thing on the floor to trick the nurses. It worked beautifully, every time, on the same nurses. But at home, sisters aren't as impressed leverage.

Sometimes, because of his salt cravings, he negotiates a pizza or chips or he negotiates a sit in the hot tub.

Once he negotiated for me to get a 'poke' with a syringe because he had to get one.

But tonight I made a tactical error in the negotiating process and the photo shows he knows he had the upper hand. He masterfully suggested a trip to Home Depot (complete with protective face mask and in his new 'pajamies'). But when I agreed to this too quickly, he knew he had me and asked for more.

"Home Depot AND a bag of Cheetos."

We shared the Cheetos after we got home. Win. Win.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Big Mac

I haven't had a Big Mac in years. But last night I had one that I will remember for the rest of my life.

This morning, I found three photos on my phone that tell the story.

1) Von shivers, acts funny, and after waiting a day for him to improve, we take him to the hospital where they admit him. He gets the Iron Man port put back into his heart and he is overcome with sadness (and some salt cravings) as he realizes he has to spend a few nights back at the hospital.

2) Uncle Kent and Aunt Betty hear that Von is in the hospital, and Betty being a cancer survivor, and having a grandchild who survived cancer, dropped in to encourage us. Knowing we were famished and that Von was craving fries, they brought McDonalds. Von, deeply touched by their kindness (or just happy to eat) goes into goofy-face mode.

3) After Kent and Betty leave and the McDonalds bag is tossed into the trash for a three pointer, Von feels a deep sense of satisfaction and offers to give me a head rub. (He gets this from his mom). I receive his kind offer and feel the happiest I have in a few weeks.

I can't quote it exactly, but there is this scripture in the bible that says if you give a cup of cold water to someone, God is so blessed by that that it's almost like you are giving him the cup of water and he promises you won't lose your reward. I had to think of Uncle Kent and Aunt Betty and their bringing a Big Mac to the emergency room last night.

I'd like to think that if my interpretation of that scripture is close to right, at about 10pm last night, God had a Big Mac, thanks to Uncle Kent and Aunt Betty.

Thanks Kent and Betty!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Mr. Genius

We had a visitor yesterday.

Bret dropped into town to do a worship concert gig. He is a fascinating guy. His specialty is making people sound good, especially when the pressure is on and they have thousands of fans in the stadium that expect their favorite musician to sound just as good live as they did on their CD. I could go on all day about how cool Bret is and the master artist he is with a soundboard and effects. He is pure genius!

I work with his wife, Barbara, who is also a genius. She writes, edits, and helps me figure out important stuff like if I put too many commas, in this sentence. (And she does it without being a smarty pants, which is why she is so loveable.)

Barbara sent a whole heap of goodies for Von with Bret and because they have two boys, the things they sent were perfect for our little guy.

(Sorry B, you can't tell from the photo but he really was happy with the gifts, especially the necklace that lights up like Iron Man's heart).

The drugs Von is on affects his mood and all he wants to do is eat salty things. He keeps asking for pizza and specifies 'with salts on it'. He also gets a little grumpy at times but the upside, he also gets really goofy.

Yesterday's lab tests were given to us over the phone. Von's cancer levels are slightly reduced and his progress is normal.


As a parent, I can't tell you how disappointing 'normal' is. It wasn't bad news, but it wasn't glowing either. I wanted, "We've never seen a little boy fight cancer with such success!" I know, it's only week one.

I was reminded today of Psalm 118:8: "It is better to trust in the Lord than to trust in people (or doctors or lab reports).

You may need to help me remember this again in a day or two.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

First Checkup

Thanks to all our friends and family for the overwhelming amount of prayer and love we are feeling.

Von goes in for his first weekly IV chemo and a follow-up bone marrow biopsy to see how the treatments are working on the cancer.

You can pray for that to go amazingly well. As you can imagine, Von is anxious about having to return to the hospital.
(Although he is hoping to see, and someday marry, the nurse with a purse, Carrie).

It was cute today. Von overheard Lisa talking to a friend on the phone and heard the concern in her voice over his well-being.

He said in the cutest little man voice, "Don't worry about me, Mom. I'm going to get better."

We are agreeing with Von.

Thanks for your prayers!

(Now that I look at this photo, I'm realizing he wears this shirt a whole lot as most of his other blog photos have this shirt in it. He has more than one shirt, I promise!)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Today was a really good day. I enjoyed the gift of today, the people around me, the food before me, and the sunshine outside. It's amazing how the good things of today become when you are unsure of the things of tomorrow.

It's funny how our finite human minds want assurances for tomorrow.

Relating to the issue most on our minds these days, Von's life expectancy is one of those areas where we want an assurance. The doctors are squeamish about throwing out numbers, which I respect. They don't want to play God in the patient's life (and probably don't want to get sued either).

If you press them, they won't tell you Von has an 85% chance of living or a 15% chance of dying, they will tell you that the incidents of his type of cancer see an 85% cure rate.

Cure rate/chance of it what you want, the temptation for me this week has been to look to a percentage and cling to it for some sense of comfort and put my heart at ease. And in that number, I have found no hope or sense of comfort.

I've asked myself if a 90% would make me feel lots better or a little better. What about 95%? I even raised it to 100% chance of living in my mind, and even that felt empty.

Through this, I was reminded that God is the only thing I can look to or find comfort in. He knows the number of my days. He knows the number of Von's days. (Yeah, he knows yours too!) I have given Von's future over to him and in that, I find a sense of peace that God has a plan and it will all work out in the right way and time.

Yep, today was a good day.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Punch to the face

I am daddy-happy to report Von was released from the hospital today and will continue his treatments as an outpatient. It was difficult. Can any parent hold their kid down so they can get chemo shots in the thigh and do it without crying a little and wishing it was them instead? But he was a brave boy and settled down after a promised visit to Papa Rolf's hot-tub. It is good to be a family together in a home again.

I remember a time when I was a kid on the school playground on a nice fall day, enjoying recess when I was stunned by a blow to the face. The first 5 seconds of that incident were like the first 5 days of this week since we learned Von has cancer.

On the playground, there was this feeling of confusion, before the pain arrived. Something had hit me. Or was it someone? The class bully? My head turned and searched for answers in those few seconds before the pain arrived.

Then as the pain started warming up my face I quit looking for the school bully or asking questions about why, and started examining the damage to see if there was blood and to feel if there was still an ear attached to my head.

After feeling an ear, I became aware of the silence in my peers as they looked on at my pain and wondered what my reaction would be. My focus shifted from the damage to my face to figuring out what I was going to say so that I didn't look like a complete fool for it.

After those brief 5 seconds, I found that a stray kickball had hit me in the face, knocked me silly, and I would recover.

I thought of this today as I looked for a way to describe this past week. I've wanted to communicate and express our gratitude to friends and family for an outpouring of love and prayers. But I guess I'm still like that kid on the playground that is a bit dazed and silent trying to figure out exactly what hit him, why and the next steps to take.

Tonight, we sleep in a normal bed, Von by our sides, and rest in the fact that God knows what he is doing even when the occasional stray kickball meets an unsuspecting obstacle.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Iron man

I got to meet Iron Man today.

I flew to Minneapolis today with our three girls and caught up with the little Iron Man, Von, and his amazingly hot mom in the children's hospital. They told me Von had been grumpy and fussing quite a bit. But when he saw his sisters come through the door, he quickly started showing off.

He showed us how to recline the hospital bed at the touch of a button.

We learned how the blood pressure cuff is really called the 'hugger' that hugs your arm.

He also showed me the coolest trick. You can press this one button and a nurse comes busting through the door in panic to see if you are ok.

"See dad?", he said, proud of himself for figuring it out and pleading for me to try it.

Von saw the movie Iron Man (well, parts of it) recently and really has found something to connect to in it. In the movie, the hero was operated on after being wounded in a battle. A doctor put an aparatus in his chest to keep him well that looks like a saucer. So when Von got a saucer shaped port that delivers chemo directly to his heart, he thinks he has graduated to 'iron man' status.

"See Sofie? Iron man!" he beamed while lifting up his shirt.

It was great to be a family and together again and see little Iron man at work fighting the bad guys in his body. Iron Mans, even the almost 4 year old versions, need a family to fight the good fight.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Jr. High Swimming Pool Locker room

Today was not the worst day of my life.

Today doctors told my wife and I that we need to start a 3 year regiment of Chemo treatments for my 3 year old son because he has Leukemia. (Kudos to the doctors for being masters at delivering bad news. I bet my mechanic must have skipped that class.)

My spell checker tells me that this disease is foreign to me. And while I've heard of it, I don't really know what it means.

As a younger man, I once imagined what it would be like to get some really bad news like this.

It feels so weird now that it is I’m supposed to be more dazed than I am. I always thought something bad like Leukemia would be the worst day of my life. Actually, the worst day of my life was when I had to change in front of my peers for Jr. high swim lessons in my pre-pubescent existence. I'm still whirling from that one.

I cried some today. I did fine at the grocery store and at the service station that fixed my flat. I was strong for my daughters in explaining the more naive version of Von's sickness to them. In my sadness for what Von and Lisa will be going through, I came to realize that God is ok with us crying.

As my friend Rick Suarez told me today, King David, the man after God's own heart, did two things in the Psalms. He praised God and he cried out to God. That makes me feel good. Big warrior David not only did the right thing and praised God, but he also did the human thing and cried out to Him.

In the next few days, I'm going to cry a little, praise a little, and be sure to laugh a little. Von and Lisa wouldn't want it any other way.

Monday, October 13, 2008

International Travel

I have to brag on my friend John Lasater. (Not the guy with cool cowboy shades)

He isn't one of those guys who has trotted all over the globe. But you wouldn't know it by the way he eats tacos or rubs shoulders with the locals here.

First, his's amazing and he was gracious to spend a week with us, teaching us to paint and exposing us to a different way to view light and colors. Amazing!!!

This is my very favorite piece he has ever done. (Can't collect this one, already sold!)

It's amazes me how universal art is. Each time John would paint in public, people gathered. And even the most hardened and practical person walking by couldn't help adjusting their course to get a peek at what was behind the easel.

He's also fast and focused. The rainclouds were building and the light was fading, but John whipped out what I think was his best piece in just moments. It was a dizzying whirl to watch, but the end result was amazing. (My wife also got in on the action and got to paint as well).

Not only is he talented, he is humble. He did this painting in 45 minutes during a church service and then gave it away to the 'bird lady' after the service. (The bird lady deserves her own blog entry and explanation some time)

And we would dump him off at these places to paint, and leave him there for hours and he acted like it was no big deal.
And everyone loved him. He made friends, got offers for bottles of whiskey in exchange for his art, and coaxed the town hermit out of his house for a peek at his art. He is a real pro at this international travel thing.

Thanks John! Let's do it again real soon!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


Do any of my blogger friends recognize this guy?

Here he is painting a pond on the golf course. He is here all this week and this afternoon we head out to an old Hacienda.

Will post some of his work later this week.

I'm also posting a photo of what I was supposed to be painting yesterday. I'll refrain from posting my interpretation until the Master Artist can give me a few pointers.