Skip to content

Hustle Kindness Friday 

Two years ago today, we found out that Abraham’s cancer had returned. One year ago, we received these customized shoes in the mail from a small NFP in Farmington, NM that brings hope to children living with critical illness or disabilities by putting compassion into action. 

The kindness and love that found our family moved me, and I’ve tried to promote their mission ever since. Everyone has the power to make a positive change in this world, we just have to find our own unique way. The kindness hustle is real, and I am proud to be a part of the Peach’s Neet Feet tribe. 

It is Hustle Kindness Friday and today’s hustle is for Kaj, a strong little boy who has battled hard to overcome many obstacles, surgeries, and hardships after an accidental car fire. 

How do we grow compassion for kids like Abraham and Kaj? 

From our roots.

Kindness begins at home. All families are different, and respecting those differences is best learned through example. 

Today, be the voice of kindness for kids who can get overlooked during their struggles, but deserve to be seen just like everyone else. Include those who are otherwise left out, and talk to kids about diversity in appearance so they learn to see beyond skin or scars or baldness; and into the body of love.

Peace, love and hope…

Daily Duties and Daily Bread

The best things in life are nearest ones: breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, the path of right just before you. Daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things in life. 

-Robert Louis Stevenson

Today I give thanks for the path of right before me.

Abraham was examined by three doctors and four nurses; poked twice (port access, blood draw, and a shot); tested for three hours on his cognitive, emotional, and general processing skills; scanned; surveyed; high-fived and hugged warmly. 

Our daily duties are done.

We have given thanks. 

Sunlight is shining down on us as we head south on Lake Shore Drive.

And, our breath can expand a little deeper as the well-being of our precious boy, according to his dear army of a medical team, remains stable on all fronts.

Today, we feel richer than kings.

Peace and thanks…

Birthday Magic

“I do believe in an everyday sort of magic — the inexplicable connectedness we sometimes experience with places, people, works of art and the like; the eerie appropriateness of moments of synchronicity; the whispered voice, the hidden presence, when we think we’re alone.”    -Charles de Lint

Last year, the majority of our days – including holidays – were spent at the hospital and the Ronald McDonald House. RMH is a treasured and welcoming home away from home for us. We have stayed at three different homes over the past two years. Each one has a charm of its own. Here on Grand Avenue just blocks from Lake Michigan, we feel loved and protected amid the hustle and noise of the city.

Here we are upon today’s arrival:

Yes, I am wearing a birthday tiara. Today is my birthday! The boys gave it to me six years ago. It used to light up, too. It had been lost until this summer. I’ve kept it at the top of my closet for the past three months waiting for this day 🙂

RMH saved me from myself over two years ago when I was trying to “tough it out” at the hospital so I could contantly be by Abraham’s side. When I was forced to relent and get some sleep (I was kindly escorted by a strong paramedic off the hospital premises due exhaustion), I quickly realized what a blessing Ronald McDonald House Charities would be for our family.

Volunteers and donations keep RMH running. Anyone who uses Amazon Smile can support this oasis for families with critically ill children. Choose a house in your area, or donate to the ones nearest our heart at Ronald McDonald Charities Chicagoland and northwest Indiana.

Oftentimes, there is a care package of sorts in our room here at RMH when we arrive. Sometimes it’s a toothbrush, or maybe even a hat or blanket for Abraham. Today, there was a beanie baby – a very special one. 

When Abram pulled the little brown and black beanie from the bag, I exclaimed, “Congo!” 

Sure enough, I opened his tag, and that’s his name. 

How did I know? 

Over forty years ago, my mom travelled a lot for her job. On the longer trips, she would return with a beanie baby for me. The very first one she ever brought me was a gorilla named Congo. He became the leader of all my stuffed animals. 

With the magic and spirit that is Ronald McDonald House, Congo’s apparent grandson, Congo, greeted me at nearly the exact time I was born 48 years ago. 

Mom’s been gone eight years. She is with me every day in spirit , but today she really upped her game to a physical level. Abraham looked at me with awe and delight as I told him the story about his Nana. He hugged me and Congo tightly and let out an emotional, “Happy birthday, Mom!”

Try and tell me there isn’t more to the world than what we can see!

Tonight, we will take care of a few things and settle in early. Tomorrow and Wednesday Abraham will be outpatient at Lurie tending to his three-month brain and spine MRI with contrast, various tests, port maintenance, and doctor visits. 

Over our months of stay, the warm meals, soft bed, and caring staff have repeatedly brought comfort to my fatigued body and soul. Today, I am not as weary, but the light of love and synchronicity brought to my heart is without measure. 

With such an encouraging start to our week, we feel mightily prepared.

Peace, hope, love and thanks…

Go September Gold

As September comes to a close, I’m sure many are feeling a sense of relief due to the harsh content childhood cancer awareness month represents. I’m actually relieved a bit, too because I’ve tried to share on a variety of platforms and very, very few have liked, shared, or followed.

I get it. I remember in my twenties quickly changing the channel on emaciated children because it was much too depressing. But in my forties, my child was diagnosed with cancer, and I couldn’t switch away anymore.

I believe there are positive avenues that could form when awareness initiates prescription drug reform and research funding. But that can’t happen if people are curious at best when it comes to others in need.

I am all about focusing on the good in this world, but I was given imagination and peripheral vision so I could stay aware of sad or scary surroundings even when I’m focused on finding my own peace.


The Rising Waters of Anxiety

Today’s rain brings a melancholy that mirrors my shallow rhythm of anxiety as we anticipate Abraham’s MRI, labs, and cognitive testing next week.

This morning, with the lull of the raindrops patting the roof of my car, Abraham fell asleep on the way to school. He brings his all each day, but sometimes the “all” he needs is rest.

He and Tommy are both at school now.

I can’t fully describe how the anticipation builds within me before an MRI. All I can say is scanxiety does not allow a feeling of confidence, but there is more to it than just fear. It carries with it a strained and weary reluctance to return to the moment where cancer struck, and our world shook until pieces of us fell away and we were left, wounded, to fight a rare and deadly disease.

But we were never alone. Together we battled, and together we will watch.

Now that the fighting has stilled, we engage instead in a reconnaissance mission to assess and maintain Abraham’s safety. Tommy will stay with Grandma; Chris, Abraham and I will return to the scene on Monday, and again every three months thereafter for scans.

Hope is the rope we hold fast as the waters of anxiety rise. We are grateful for so much and so many, and because of that bounty, we hold on – rain or shine.

Peace, love and hope…

At Bat

I’ve heard there are troubles of more than one kind; some come from ahead, and some come from behind. But I’ve brought a big bat. I’m all ready, you see; now my troubles are going to have troubles with me!

-Dr. Seuss

How do you protect yourself? What do you bring in defense?

Anger? Denial? Projection? Indifference?

I usually bring intense energy, a knotted stomach, and resourcefulness. I may not always solve a problem right away, but I keep swinging at ideas in all directions until something connects.

That’s how I protect myself and those I love.

That sense of defense and preservation goes beyond having children. All ages and walks of life do what they must to protect what they love. It’s an instinctive and pure reaction.

Taft school called at 11:00 this morning to tell me Abram was in the office again. Recovering after radiation and chemotherapy has its own set of cautions. Plus, his compromised immune system creates an easy target for germs.

The secretary said his stomach aches and his throat “feels funny” not sore, but not funny “ha, ha” either. When I talked to him on the phone, he sounded shaky. I immediately sprang to action and got him home.

He’s in his cozy recliner but looks unwell: dark eyes, pale skin, and that listless slump we get when we’re tired. He has no fever, but says it doesn’t feel like a normal stomach ache. On a pain scale he gives it a five.

Those details leave me without answers to what is really wrong with him, but I can work with that.

After I got him comfortable, I gently rubbed his neck and abdomen with essential oils: ginger, marjoram, and fennel to alleviate the pain and soothe his throat and stomach. Now he is resting.

For the past 27 months our two duffel bags have been packed in case we need to respond to a medical emergency and head to Chicago. I don’t think I will ever fully unpack; I need to always feel prepared.

Today, I finally realized on a deeper level, that I made the right decision staying home to take care of my family. I had doubts. I miss my classroom and friends, and I’ve found over the past two weeks that the view of the stay-at-home mom is to some, an old joke.

On a few occasions, I found myself accounting for how I fill my time now that all I do is “stay home.” That’s been a sensitive subject for me. I’ve worked hard at every job I’ve tried since I started babysitting at eleven years old. Now I’m trying to reclaim my home and my life after being blindsided by pediatric cancer and the onslaught of grief that goes with it.

I don’t know what I expected these back-to-school weeks to feel like, but defensive wasn’t something I’d figured on.  Their comments made me feel a bit selfish. After all, why should I get more time to my family and myself? Do I/we really deserve it?

Today, I can firmly say, “yes.”

Being sick is easier with a mom around. I miss my mom every day, and when I’m feeling low, it’s twice as painful. Abraham, although improving, will remain medically fragile for some time. Since I have been fortunate and blessed with this special child, I will treat the honor with the dedication and patience it deserves.

Tommy needs me, too. He got by without his mom’s help for much of his fifth and sixth grade experience. I’m here for him now to support and guide him through the challenges of junior high. I can clearly recall my friend, Jane, telling me as a school administrator how she firmly believed that although it’s obvious how younger children need a solid home to offer nurturing and guidance, during her years in education she has seen time and again how vital it is to be there for tweens and teens as they transition into adulthood.

After helping Abraham today, I know where I am needed most. Chris and I have always put our children first, and I am proud of that.  Yet, “Only by pride cometh contention,” so it’s a thin line to defend. The hard part is keeping hostility at bay as we raise our precautionary bats in defense of our love and commitments.

I like to cooperate, and I prefer defense to offense; however, when the health and harmony of my loved ones is compromised, I’m going to stick with my basic instincts and come out swinging.


Trauma and Transition

The trauma said, ‘Don’t write these poems. Nobody wants to hear you cry about the grief inside your bones.’

Andrea Gibson, The Madness Vase

When a deeply distressing or disturbing experience occurs, it takes time to heal. For some, the healing takes a very long time; for others, recovery is never realized at all.

For most, sharing the experience is difficult. Perhaps, it is because we can never fully understand another person’s grief. Maybe, we are afraid to relive the nightmare.

For me, I share to put distance between myself and my circumstance. I hold on to the memories like the string on a kite, but I allow the winds of change to carry it far above me.

During Abraham’s cancer treatment, it became my job to go from appointment to appointment, managing medications, side effects and emergencies.

Now, he is no longer under the constant supervision of a team of exceptional medical professionals, and the psychological and emotional processing of all we’ve been through has begun.

When cancer treatment ends, patients and caregivers must find a “new normal” during the adjustment period. The appointments, medications and emergencies are fewer, but not ended. Only now, we are on our own to determine which aches and pains might be “normal” sick, and which ones require further evaluation for “The Big Sick.”

Just as this transition hits, friends might begin to figure the dangers have passed and we should be celebrating. We are indeed celebrating, but it is a cautious enthusiasm. The security of the hospital is hours away, and the active fighting is over. The scary part becomes the realization that our weapons are down and we are hoping the enemy- the tumor- stays away. But there is never a way to know for sure, and a lifetime of vigilant defense against a silent killer has actually just begun.

So what of it then? Do we sulk and cower? Do we live in fear of the unknown?

No, we adjust. We accept the change and grow in faith that what lies ahead is ours, and what is ours is to be lived most fully.


Sunflower Shadows

Writing about wellness and kindness does not mean I can’t be ill-tempered or ill-humored, or even just-plain-sick. Oh, I be illin’ sometimes;)

But I prefer to feel good.

So, I choose to assess my situation, and make a mental list of the reasons I’m lucky to be alive. I start with what I love most and end with the basics like clean water (denied to many) and shelter.

Finding sunshine in the shadows begins with a desire to seek it, and being honest about our preference can take a lot of the pressure off. Sometimes the stillness and solitude of the dark is where we want to be.

After all, the real world can’t promise endless happy days. Sadness comes. What life can promise us is that when we are ready to feel the sun again, we can always find it by looking to the bright side. It’s as basic and cliché as that.

Helen Keller beautifully brought it back to nature.

“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadows. It’s what the sunflowers do.”

I realize being a grateful human is trickier than being a healthy flower. But if we think like a sunflower, our choice is easy; we go sunshine.

Peace and light…