the scars of cancer.

I was listening to a bit of “All Sides” with Ann Fisher this morning as she talked to the deputy director of the new James Cancer hospital about how amazing this new facility is and what it has to offer patients.

It brought a flood of emotions. The scars that I can never get rid of. This is a dump of some of them.

It brought me back to countless hours spent in the old James, in the room where my mom was receiving some sort of experimental stem cell treatment. It was a very isolated ward, we had to be especially careful to wash our hands before entering and I remember the nurses telling me the smell of canned corn was normal.

It brought me back to the day in our living room, I was very small, that my mom first realized she couldn’t move her arm. The memory is fuzzy but I think that was the first symptom of her bout with cancer, this one of the bone.

It took me back to the days of staying with grandparents, aunts, etc. while my mom was in the hospital.  I remember having a pizza party in the lobby on her floor and someone giving me a book of jokes to practice.

It brought me back to the day we got family photos taken my senior year of high school. We had just found out about her brain tumor and she wanted them taken before she began treatments again.

It took me back to the day the phone rang during dinner. The news from the doctor that she had a brain tumor. She sat back down and kept eating. What else is there to do?

It brought me back to the month(s?) during my last year of high school that my mom spent unresponsive in the James after surgery to remove that brain tumor. Every day after school I would pick my dad up from work and we would drive the hour to Columbus to sit in her room. Her room overlooked Ohio stadium but unfortunately it was spring. We survived on dinners from Wendy’s quietly eaten.

It took me back to the times she said all she wanted was to see me graduate. She died 5 months after I walked across that stage.

I remember caring for my mom once she began to wake up and was eventually transferred back to Zanesville. I administered her medicine through a PICC line. I washed her hair, she always wanted me to scrub so hard. I helped her up out of her chair. I went on a senior trip with my friends during which she had a seizure and my dad had to call an ambulance.

I went to college and she got sicker.

One time I came home to visit she was back in the hospital. I remember the doctor pulling my dad and I in the hall and telling us it was time to transfer her to hospice. Part of my life was enjoying the first few months of college, the other part was a dying mother.

I remember a week or so later, the end of another weekend home. My godmother and another very good friend of my mom’s took me to the pizza place across the street from hospice. They told me I shouldn’t go back yet. Her health was too bad. She died a few days later, the night before her birthday.

I had taken to sleeping on the couch. The phone rang after we had gone to bed, maybe I was still up watching TV.  Of course I knew what it was.  My dad answered.  Came in to tell me.  We spent the night talking about her.

So many of these memories are fuzzy and confusing. My mom had so many different cancers at so many different times of my life I can’t really keep the facts straight.

Sometimes I think, “Did that really happen? Was that really my life?”.

These scars have healed for the most part but they will always be visible, always there. I’ve tried to hide them, forget about them. Pretend I had another life in which my mom didn’t have cancer for most of it and didn’t die.

But that’s not my reality. I have to let my scars be there. I have to let the reality spur me on to something good.



the fulfillment of promise

we are moving.

to zanesville.

to the house my grandparents lived in and raised their eight children.

to the six acres where I spent my childhood exploring and enjoying.

i remember the cherry tree just behind the house and the pies that came from it.

i remember the broken arm from jumping off the swingset and giant zucchini from the garden.

i remember the love that was there, and the kindness I was shown.

i hope for wild summers with my children and cabins built from scraps.

i hope for abundant gardens and sufficiency.

i hope to learn about the enjoyment of the earth and resting in providence.

i am thankful for promise, and for the fulfillment of the hope that has rested in my heart.

i am thankful for beauty and new adventures.

i am thankful for merchab, for this spacious place.

“He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.” Psalm 18:19

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enjoy peace.

The past couple of years at the beginning of the new year I’ve had a word to focus on for that upcoming year. 2013 was contentment and for 2014 I picked peace. When I say I picked it, I really mean it picked me. But that’s another story.

This year we got pregnant for the third time. We enjoyed a super quiet spring and summer in our neighborhood. This is a drastic improvement over years past…no burning houses, no murders or middle of the night screaming matches within a 200 yard radius of our house.

We felt at ease in our neighborhood and happy to be here. We started our community garden and it actually grew a little.

When we started trying to have this third child I felt like the name should mean peace. In my head I thought it would be a girl and we would name her Olive (ya know, olive branch, a peace symbol).

Well we had a boy and it was evident as he was born that he should be Solomon. His name is derived from “Shalom” or simply “peace”.

The months leading up to his birth didn’t feel very peaceful in our household. We felt stressed, overwhelmed and anxious. I remember several times just saying to each other it will all get better once the baby comes.

The thing is, Solomon did bring peace with him. Certainly we all still have our moments but this transition has truly been easier than expected. His brothers adore him, he adores us and we have really been coming into our own as a family. We’re deciding once again how we want to live our lives, this time considering that we are a family of five. It’s been a good time to reevaluate our priorities and make sure how we are currently living matches them.

I started thinking about 2015′s word a couple of weeks ago and just felt like it should be “enjoy”. To enjoy the contentment and peace I’ve learned. To enjoy God’s good earth. To enjoy this wonderful life I’ve been given. To just be “in joy”. I want to be joyful and happy and optimistic and unfortunately that is often not the case with me.

Enjoy comes from the French word “enjoier” which means to give joy. Isn’t that cool, if we enjoy life we actually give joy to others. Everyone wins!

Do anything, but let it produce joy.
- Walt Whitman





Solomon teaches patience.

Two days before my due date.

I took the boys to play trains at Barnes and Noble in an attempt to enjoy a rainy day. I thought I would get a coffee and relax my aching pregnant body while they were entertained for hours.


Of course not.

They began to fight over trains and my sweet Theo’s anger escalated quickly. What began as a lovely trip ended with a kid following me out of the store trying to kick me in the shins yelling “I WANT THOSE BOOKS”. Yep, I was that mom.

It was a rough morning and when we got home I was stressed out and tired. I began making lunch and realized that I felt off. I was nauseous and having some stronger braxton hicks. I didn’t think much of it because I had been having contractions for weeks.

Things quickly seemed to get worse and I just felt terrible. I texted Brad and he came home despite having a meeting scheduled.

I thought that maybe, just maybe this was the real deal. We spent the afternoon relaxing with movies and timing contractions.

The intensity increased ever so slightly and we discussed what our evening might look like. I knew we wouldn’t be going to the hospital super soon but we made a quick call to the grandparents and decided it would be better to leave the kids with them before bedtime than to have exchange them in the middle of the night.

We treated the rest of the evening like a date night/attempt to increase contractions. We went to a meeting Brad already had set, ate dinner at Whole Foods and walked around Target and Half Price books.

I began to feel very anxious because my contractions were still not really increasing in intensity. I felt like we had prematurely given the kids to the grandparents and caused a lot of fuss over nothing.

We went home and eventually I fell asleep at 3 a.m. I woke up two hours later feeling super bummed because I wasn’t in labor. I used the restroom and realized I was bleeding a bit.

My excitement ramped up again, bleeding means labor is imminent! I wasn’t crazy!

I called the midwife and she said to come in to get checked out because I was bleeding.

We got to triage at OSU around 7 a.m. I was only 3 centimeters dilated so we were instructed to walk the hospital for two hours.

Two hours later I was at 3 centimeters. Go home, they said. Come back in if anything changes.

Le sigh.

We picked up things for breakfast and went to get the kids. I missed them and wanted to give my in-laws a break.

My contractions continued throughout the day, the same somewhat uncomfortable but very manageable feeling I had been having for a full 24 hours. I tried to rest.

We took the kids back to my in-laws for the night because we were still pretty sure that labor was happening, albeit very slowly.

We ate dinner with them and put the kids to bed there. Once home we opened a bottle of wine to calm my anxiety over the slowness of this labor. I brought a glass with me to bed, Brad fell asleep and I laid down in slow and quiet prayer. I contemplated how my body was feeling with every contraction.

I decided to time them again for an hour and then reevaluate.

That hour was the first time I had truly relaxed in 36 hours. By the end of it I was moaning through the contractions. This woke Brad and we both realized it was time to return to OSU.

At midnight I was 5 centimeters dilated and quickly moved to a room. My contractions were getting much stronger as they filled up the labor tub. My midwife, Cassandra, offered to break my water just to speed things up even more.

I immersed myself in the warmth of the tub, Brad put on Bon Iver (the same thing I labored to with Ira) and the pain increased quickly.

I entered into the birthing zone. I no longer conversed between contractions but just lay my head down to rest. I wasn’t quite present in my surroundings found myself in another place of both dread and anticipation of each contraction that would draw me nearer to my baby.

OSU no longer allows women to actually birth in the tubs so Cassandra told me that as soon as I felt a desire to push I needed to get out of the water.

I could feel that time getting nearer with every contraction. Nausea was present with every pain and Brad faithfully held the blue barf bag next to me just in case.

The slight urge to push filled me with the next contraction. I told Cassandra and she helped my dripping self out of the tub. They surrounded me with warmed blankets on the bed but I could not stop shaking. The contractions were overwhelming at this point.

At this point I imagine every woman feels they cannot continue. That their body will simply give up from the pain it is enduring.

The many times I said I couldn’t do it, Cassandra simply told me that I could.

Thankfully I knew that I could. I knew that I did this with Ira’s birth and that I would do it again.

I felt much more confident and less overwhelmed by the entire process this time. I knew how to breathe with the contractions, I knew how bad it was going to feel before and during pushing. I knew I would probably throw up (I did, right before starting to push). Knowledge is power and I knew it would soon be over. That soon my baby’s tiny little body would exit my womb and immediately I would be flooded with relief and great joy.

I began to push and scream. I could feel my baby’s body moving down. Cassandra told me to focus and moved me into a better position to push. She told me the baby would be out soon if I could focus all of my strength into one push.

She was right. His perfect little body slid out of mine at 3:10 a.m. on his due date and I heard Brad gasp from the beauty and rawness of it all. Cassandra quickly unwrapped the cord from his neck and the nurses brought him to my chest as I declared that it was a boy.

As I sat shaking from the adrenaline while I was being attended to, I looked back and forth between Brad and our third son. Perfect excitement and joy filled my soul as I surveyed his tiny body.

I looked at Brad and asked him the name. Solomon Daniel, he said, I feel like that’s right. Me too, I said with a smile.

We rested like that for many minutes until the nurses came back in to measure and clean him.

being the brave photographer i want to be.

I told myself at the beginning of summer that I was going to be braver when it came to taking photos of our neighborhood.  I was going to ask people for their photo when I saw fit and try to really capture the beauty that I see here everyday.

It’s August and I’ve taken one photo that counts toward that goal.


Tonight I announced that we would be going for a walk after dinner.  Partly because we have snotty kids who needed time out of the house but mostly because I needed to force myself to use my camera in our neighborhood.  Photography comes naturally, but only if I first set out to do it.

These are not amazing photographs but they are photographs.  I hope that I can use the rest of the warm weather to work toward my goal, to be brave and confident so I can show others how beautiful this place is.



epic mess 6.30.14

It’s 1:30 pm. I’m still in my pajamas and my kids in underwear and diaper. There are raisins ground into the living room rug and dishes covering all the countertops.

The laundry in the dryer is making the house 10 degrees hotter. My temper is flaring, combined with anxiety and sadness. An epic mess of emotion.

I should read my Bible, and I do. I don’t feel that comforted but at least I did it. I should clean the kitchen but instead I lay on the couch. My oldest is supposed to be resting in his room but instead I hear him piling crap on top of more crap. I’m sure there will be plenty of screaming and whining when its time to pick up.

I screamed over a broken light bulb. Sighed over many little things.

Tomorrow. Tomorrow could be better, it could be worse. I will live for today. To make it a little better than it has been.

Over and over and over again.

the email.

My aunt was shredding documents at her courthouse job when she came across emails my mom had sent over 11 years ago.

It said nothing interesting but for some reason it was just such a nice reminder to see this.  To remember that she was alive and had a real life and that at one time I got to share it with her here on earth.

After nearly 11 years of her being gone it’s easy to forget what everyday life was like and to remember only the sickness or the important moments.  But these everyday moments, emails at work, are something to treasure.


giving thanks.

The smell of sweet honeysuckle drifts through the air.


I study the plant that will eventually creep up the wire to shade our porch and smile.


I look at the flowers that line our porch, the food growing in our yard.


My heart could almost burst from gratefulness.


A house once broken, now redeemed.


How long before it would have been condemned?


But now it sits on it’s corner, shining bright for all to see.


To remember what it used to be and see what it is.


And to know, hopefully, Light is there.

Let there be light

We live in a good neighborhood.

In fairness, if you’re driving in from the suburbs, you might be terrified.  It’s not your fault, the neighborhood is intentionally mischaracterized.

A few thousand people live in these blocks that we call home. Most of them are good people. All other things being equal, most of our neighbors will choose an honest living and treat other people with decency and respect. There are some people who go out of their way to do good for others, and some people who go out of their way to take advantage of others if the opportunity presents itself. It’s like any neighborhood in the world in that respect.

But there are a few, less than 50 people by my estimation, that traffic in intimidation, aggression and fear. These people are agents of darkness. They openly sell drugs in the streets, they carry and use guns (sometimes in the direction of other people and sometimes seemingly for no reason at all), they steal or destroy anything that is available to them and habitually and openly use drugs and alcohol.  They actively encourage kids to pursue crime and addiction.

But this group of people is an extreme minority. They represent literally a handful of people among thousands.

If you drove into the neighborhood for the first time, you would likely believe that you were surrounded by these agents of darkness. They have a distinct advantage–they are visible. And they cast the neighborhood in darkness.

They will walk in the middle of the street. They will talk (yell) at ten times the necessary volume. They will park their car in the middle of the road. They will play their music at a level that can’t be comfortable for anyone involved. They will sit on your front steps and smoke a blunt if they want to.

They know something. They know that their power is based on their visibility. They know that their power is only valid for as long as they demonstrate their capacity to put themselves ahead of everyone else in the neighborhood. They are constantly sending an effective message, “We are more important than you,” and they’re yelling it as loudly as they can.  And for the most part, we all believe them.

But there’s a secret. There are more agents of light in this neighborhood than there are agents of darkness. The problem is that we’re hidden, partially out of humility, but more so out of fear. It is time for the agents of light to become visible.

We have a distinct advantage, light trumps darkness. A light can exist amidst darkness, but darkness cannot exist in the light.

Our disadvantage is that it is harder to openly demonstrate light than it is to demonstrate darkness. The mechanism is completely different.

That’s why our community garden is so important. The garden says, “There are people here who care.” When it looks and sounds like darkness surrounds us, the community garden says There is light here too. We are quiet, but we are powerful. We are humble, but we are unstoppable.

But we have to find ways to demonstrate light.  Simply not being darkness isn’t enough.

How many gangsters of darkness does a community garden cancel out? I’m not sure. But I know that the darkness cannot exist in the light. Soon we will see how brightly our community can make this light shine.

We must work together.  We must agree to rise up against the illusion of their power.  We must not allow the agents of darkness to manipulate us into believing that they are the majority.  They’re not.

Be the light. The darker the night, the brighter the stars shine.

You are the light of the world.

what’s in a name?

We’re having a third child, which means a third round of months debating the same names over and over again.  I mean we have some new ones in there but for 5 years Brad has been trying to throw Robin in the mix.  I just can’t do it.

I feel like some couples have the easiest time naming their kids.  They know right away what it will be if it’s a girl or if it’s a boy.  This has never been us and I’m envious of the quick namers.

To me naming seems like such a huge deal.  I probably make it out to be a bigger deal than it needs to be.  I remember nearly driving myself crazy when it came to finding a name for our second.  Then, just before he was born I suggested Ira again for the first time in months while at the park.  Honestly I had forgotten it as a candidate because Brad disliked it, but this time he said “Yea, maybe.”  So we talked about and by the time we left Nelson Park it was settled.

Even though I felt complete peace using the name Ira we chose not to tell people until he was born.  I am always open to the idea that I will see this baby and feel they’re someone completely different.

With our first we had a girl name we were certain we would use (we didn’t know the gender) (it was Eleanor if you’re curious) but had several boy names and couldn’t pin one down.

One night in bed, just a few days before he was born I remember Brad saying, “What about Theodore?”.  Huh, I thought.  That’s good.  And Theodore he became.

With Theo I didn’t consider the name meaning too much before deciding to use it.  I do remember looking it up either right before or right after he was born and feeling struck with how perfect it is for him.

In Greek, Theodore means “A gift from God” and he truly was my gift. You see, Brad and I had not agreed on whether or not we were going to have children.  He really didn’t and I kind of did, so I remember many nights silently praying that things would change and I would be a mother someday.

Lo and behold I am a mother and I am grateful for my gift.

Once we found out our second was a boy our name search became difficult once again.  We always seem to come up with a girl name no problem, that time it was Lula which was the name of my great-grandmother.

Once his gender was discovered, I felt very led to choose a Hebrew name.  So I searched.  And searched.  And literally scoured those internet baby name sites texting Brad suggestions and finding a few we liked but nothing that was “perfect”.  Until that night in the park.

Ira means “watchful” and he surely is.  He has always been taking in the world around him, an active participant in life.

So with this baby I feel led to a certain type of name as well, with a certain meaning. I hesitate to talk about it once again, because welp, you just never know.  I pray about it and have ideas about what we could use but I’m certain the the decision will not come until right before this one arrives as well.  I need the time to get to know this boy or girl in my uterus (it’s going to be a surprise!) and to take the time to listen to what God wants him or her to be called.

For the one thing I know is that this child is a gift to me on loan from the Kingdom.  I believe their names matter and that God has a whole bundle of awesome things in store for their lives.

I just have to listen.


Theodore Albert : “a gift from God”; “noble and bright”

Ira Stephen : “watchful”; “crown”