Monday, June 29, 2009

The Grass Is Always Greener...

On Sunday the girls, Tim and I went down to Liberty, Kentucky for church. Liberty is a small town 50 miles south of us. It is a relaxed drive down and the people are always so pleasant to see.

Within a few miles of our destination Tim spotted a yard sign that he really wanted that said, "Yard of the Month". We commented on how cool that would be to have our yard be "yard of the month". Abigail piped in with, "We should just jack that sign!" That made us laugh and wonder just WHAT she had learned at 4-H camp and Girl's Camp! :)

It's no secret that the Valenta's are what we call "grass challenged". Well, we used to be up until last summer. For some reason, we have been unable to grow a good crop of grass. We'd like to claim it to be just the Kentucky climate, poor soil conditions, or a batch of old grass seed that was too tired to spout but even in Missouri we were waving the "grass in distress" flag for the whole neighborhood to see. It was humiliating. It was embarrassing. And expensive. At one point we called in the "experts" and paid them more than we care to admit in hopes of having something that would be bring something more than neighbors shaking their heads in pity for our failed attempts. I distinctly remember one day when the "experts" came and I went out to have a talk with them. I politely explained that we had been paying them money for a long time and with a wave of my hand, I gestured to the neighbors on our left. Then I gestured to the neighbor on our right. I pointed out to the "expert" that neither the neighbor on our left or our right did anything to their grass -- nothing, zero, nought, zippo! And yet, their grass looked better than ours when we were paying them! Mr. Expert had no explanation other than to have more of their "experts" to come out to decipher what the problem might be. Why did I think there would be even more money involved? Hummm.....

So Mr. Expert brought more experts to visit us. I am sure we could have done a commercial for the company of before and after....assuming of course we ever got to the "after"! I wasn't feeling hopeful. After their analysis of what our pitiful lawn needed, those experts told us that the only recommendation they had for us was to dig up the whole yard and start over. Are you getting a feel for how bad the grass looked? The "experts" had nothing more than that to offer? I ventured to ask, as I nearly swallowed my tongue, how much this starting over would cost. I had to stifle my BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA laugh when they announced a few thousand dollars was the price tag! Hadn't we already paid them that much for nothing already????

Well, you can guess that we didn't follow the "experts" or we would wind up in bankruptcy court with them as an unpaid creditor. I felt some sort of honor in protecting them from that so I kindly said thanks, but no thanks and the "experts" parted ways with the Valenta's.

I wish I could say that this was the part where the magic wand comes in and all our grass troubles vanished with a wave, much like the wave of my hand pointing out the green, lush grass of our neighbors to our left and to our right who did nothing more than to mow their turf.

It was the following spring that we decided that perhaps the experts were right. Perhaps their was no hope for our scraggly, spindly, threadbare lawn. But surely it could be done more cheaply than what the experts wanted to charge. Desiring to stay solvent and keep us out of bankruptcy, we decided it was time for a do-it-yourself project. And that is what we did, and so it began. We tilled up the yard (only the front so we didn't bite off more than we could chew), and we raked and raked and raked up some more, then spread the grass seed, laid down straw and began to water our latest investment. It was confirmed that the neighbors were watching when a lady, who I've never met before, knew who I was by our front yard. They were watching and the pressure was on! We truly hoped to not fail the neighborhood!

Our grass began to grow and it was a rush! The Valenta's could actually grow grass! Now, would it last? Well, no. The summer heat did bad things to our tender new grass even with lots of watering but even with said bad things, it still was better than it had been. Score one!

The next summer (last summer), on the advice of a friend (thanks Sam!), we spread a little magic on the grass in early spring and it truly did wonders! It was like waving the wand that we often wished we had. The grass was greener than it ever had been and we felt our confidence boosted. The summer heat once again took its toll but it actually looked better longer than the summer before! Yeah!

This spring we once again added the magic mixture to the grass at the magic time in early (Thanks again Sam!) and again the grass greened up beautifully and our weeds disappeared. For the first time WE, the Valenta's, have a great looking turf! In fact, our grass is so green that there is a definite line between where our grass ends and the neighbor's starts! Tim on occasion will remind me how much he loves that line between the yards! He's not really being boastful, he's just proud to finally have arrived in the neighborhood's green grass club! YAY for us! :)

So I am thinking that Abigail might have had a good idea after all.... Maybe we should just jack that lawn of the month sign! :) The hottest part of summer is not far off so we can't guarantee how good the grass will look NEXT month.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Sweet Return...

Yesterday we saw another milestone...Tim's hospital bed was scheduled to be picked up after spending 3 1/2 months planted in our bedroom!

Those three and a half months ago our bedroom was quickly rearranged (thanks to my sister!) to accommodate the bed being brought in after Tim had been hospitalized just 2 days after completing his last radiation treatment. The day of the bed delivery we had 5 Lincare trucks in front of the house all at once to bring the bed, suction machine, feeding pump, and the new liquid food and supplies the doctor had changed Tim to. It was a lot of stuff all at once and a lot of people to take care of it all! I am sure the neighbors were wondering just what was going on at our house that day!

Some time ago the suction pump went back to Lincare but we remained with all the other paraphernalia still at our home. We have been operating in tight quarters in our bedroom with our bed squished into the corner and Tim's hospital bed lined up right beside it with a narrow walk way between the two. Once Tim was able to get out of bed more frequently we moved a recliner/rocking chair into the room so he could go from bed to chair even though it greatly limited what space we had. The important thing was that Tim had a functional and comfortable place to be during his recovery, not the decor of the room or the placement of furniture. And crowded though it was, it was Tim's space to heal in body and spirit; it was his place to return.
This time only one truck came but what a thrill to see it and know it was coming to retrieve something that symbolized Tim's journey into darkness and back again. It signaled one more step taken on our journey through cancer...our return to what was once so normal. While we have had many new normals, some things are gradually making a return and what a sweet return it is.

Luke 8: 39
"Return to thine own house, and shew how great things God hath done unto thee..."
Yes, Tim has returned and little by little our life is returning.

Some things will always remained changed by cancer from now on but not every thing. With the passage of time comes the return of many familiar things. Among the sweetest returns have been the return of Tim's voice ~ he barely could speak at all for quite some time and even when he began to talk again he couldn't for very long because of the pain. I never anticipated him losing the ability to speak during his treatment. I know now that there were many things that I did not anticipate as we ventured into cancer. There were many nights I cried over missing the sound of his voice, over missing our talks, missing hearing him pray, missing hearing him say "I love you" (although I did get to recognize the throaty noise he would make in the rhythm of "I love you") :) Many nights I cried over missing something as simple as his arms wrapped around me or him just laying by my side. I felt so lonely for him during those days and my loneliness was compounded by exhaustion. But he is back and his return is sweet.

I have often heard it said how we can personalize scriptures more when we insert our name when we read a verse. I came across this scripture and smiled when I put Tim's name in it....
Luke 39:40
"And it came to pass, that, when ~Tim~ was returned, the people gladly received him: for they were all waiting for him.

Yes, I was waiting and he has returned.

Monday, June 22, 2009

It's A Girl!

Abigail and Annah returned from 4-H to the news that Mia, our friend Sandy's Maltese, had her puppies!

Mia and the girls have become good friends since the start of summer with their evening walks. The girls expected the puppies to be born on Friday, the day they returned from camp, but Mia couldn't wait any longer and had them two days before the girls got back.

The girls could hardly contain their excitement when they read the news......the sign that was on the front door when they returned from camp!

Their eagerness to be able to get a sneak peek at what will soon become the newest member of the family could not be contained!
Yes, we are getting a puppy! Mia had two puppies, both girls, so we at least know we will have a girl! Abigail and Annah have been thinking up names and they think they have almost decided what the name will be. :)

The girls have wanted a puppy for a very long time. In fact, back in November I did a blog post that featured pictures of all the signs that Abigail put up all over the kitchen begging for a puppy.

So yes, the day has finally come that we are getting a puppy. Well, we don't have it yet because it is not old enough to leave its mom but when it is, we will be so happy to bring her home!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Anniversary of Gratitude...

Twenty Four years ago today Tim and I were married in the Washington DC Temple. This is picture is from our wedding announcement. Oh my we looked young! :)

This anniversary is an anniversary of gratitude for us. It is with deep love and gratitude we begin another year together...thankfully together. Things have been hard over the past 6 months but having come out on the other side of cancer has given us both so much more faith, so much more joy in the seemingly "little things" and so much more gratitude for each of our days together.

To celebrate our anniversary we went to see The Mormon Tabernacle Choir performing at Riverbend in Cincinnati, Ohio, on Thursday, June 18th.

But before it was time to go to Riverbend for the concert, Tim took me to the Ikea store in Cincinnati. I have wanted to go to that store since it opened and now finally I have! He was such a good sport wandering around this huge store with me and even posing for a picture! ;)
We kept an eye on the clock and when it was time, we left to head to Riverbend. What a wonderful opportunity it was for us to be able to go hear The Mormon Tabernacle Choir!
We are so grateful to have angels in the outfield (and the infield!) who sent us tickets to attend. We had terrific seats and we loved hearing "America's Choir" as Ronald Regan once described them. The choir closed with their signature song, Battle Hymn of the about getting goose bumps! What a wonderful performance!
After the concert was over we drove back to Florence,KY and stayed the night there. This may not seem like a big deal but that night was first time that Tim and I have slept side by side since about mid-February! At home he has a hospital bed that he has slept in because of his need to be in an upright position. While he still cannot lay down, he was able to prop himself up with a lot of pillows to be able to be away from home for the night! What a milestone that was for us! :)

And as if the evening could have been any better..... we had a lovely view out our hotel window! BWHAHAHAHAHA!

How I love Tim! He is the best thing that ever happened to me. He has brought more joy and love to my life than I have ever known possible. He has stood by me through things that would make most turn and run. I am so thankful for him and all he has brought to my life.
It is his courage, his devotion, his strength, his love and his dedication that make me so thankful that he chose me to marry 24 years ago today.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Between June and August....

Tim has an appointment with his oncologist at the end of the month...well, he had an appointment.

They called to say they needed to "reschedule".

"Okay, we're flexible," I thought.

I'm thinking that it will be the following week or two.


The secretary cheerfully says, "We want to reschedule his appointment for August 10th."

I don't know what she thought happened to me on the other end of the phone but I couldn't respond immediately.

I stammer, "August??? That's 6 weeks past the appointment he had!"

She assured me she knew and that it was okay.


My thoughts are running wild....

"Okay?? Lady, let your husband get cancer and see if YOU think it's "okay" to wait 6 weeks beyond his appointment!"

I tell her he has aspiration pneumonia...will that matter to her? What if the x-ray next week isn't showing his lungs have cleared? What are we supposed to do then?

She tells me that we can call if there is problem. I finally agree to the appointment change but ask her again for the office telephone number so I can write it on the calendar on August 10th so if there is a problem there is no hunting for the number. I am not happy about the change.

I call Tim to tell him about the change. He always takes things way better than I do and while he's surprised, he's not stressed about it. I can feel that I am going to cry when I'm talking to him, and I do. I tell him that I just want things to matter to people like it was THEM that had cancer.
I know, another one of those unrealistic expectations. I seem to have a lot of those these days.
I will have to work on that while we wait.....between June and August.
Lamentations 3:25
"The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him."

Monday, June 15, 2009

My Camptown Ladies....

Abigail and Annah left this morning for 4-H camp. This is Abigail's second year and Annah's first. They were both really excited to go -- maybe a little too excited for my liking! This is the first time they have both been away at the same time -- and for so long!

The house is strangely quiet without the laughter and antics of my two girls. But, I know they will have fun at camp, giggle about "girl stuff" with the new friends they make, cry mid-week when all the girls in the cabin begin to realize they really DO miss their mom after all, and most of all they will be happy to come back home and tell me all about their camp adventures. I'm waiting ladies...... :)

Friday, June 12, 2009

Angels in the Outfield...

There are angels all around....I wish I knew who they were to properly say thank you.

In today's mail we received two tickets to attend the performance of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir on June 18th in Cincinnati, Ohio!

Angels must have been listening in as just last night Tim and I were talking about what we might do to celebrate our 24th wedding anniversary on June 20th.

You see, typically we would go to dinner at a nice restaurant and we usually go somewhere over night -- a bed and breakfast or a hotel. Things this year are different. There is no eating out with Tim having a feeding tube and the only overnighter's Tim has had are at the hospital where they are equipped with his feeding supplies and a bed to keep him in a sitting up position. So, ideas for how to celebrate year 24 of our married life were waning.

Enter the angels in the outfield....sending us tickets to go and be uplifted by an angelic choir. I can't think of a nicer way to spend our anniversary!

Whoever these angels are that have been waiting in the outfield, thank you. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your kindness and caring to do something like this for us. I would be willing to bet that you didn't even know it was timed perfectly for us to celebrate our anniversary! We are overwhelmed with gratitude to be given this gift. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Tim's Home Recipe

The folks at work were gathering bits of advice for a young lady's bridal shower tonight. Loretta asked me to share my contribution, so here it is:

Tim’s Home Recipe
  • Hold hands often
  • Remember, yelling won't win an argument or inspire a child
  • Leave a hand written note where your spouse will find it
  • Always refer to things as OUR money, OUR home, OUR kids
  • Watch John and Kate plus 8, then don't act like Kate... or John
  • Men are not mind readers, if we don't know what you're thinking, it does not mean we don't love you
  • Get down in the dirt with your kids
  • Never ridicule your spouse
  • Don't discuss intimate things with friends or family
  • Don't accept bad behavior as 'normal', we all need to be corrected occasionally
  • Pray together every night, have a ‘Family Night’ every week
  • There will be obstacles in your path, love each other enough to overcome them together, always.
  • Make God a central part of your family, worship together.

Please add some of your own, I would love to see some of your own recipes! ~Tim~

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Meet The Fabulous Dr. O...

Several weeks ago, at the suggestion of my sister, Cretta, I complied a selection of blog posts from my blog, printed them out and had them bound creating a soft covered book to give to the fabulous Dr. O. At first I was nervous to do it but the more I thought about it the more I decided that I did want the fabulous Dr. O to know that he had been a very bright spot in an other wise very dark place for us 6 months ago. I wanted to share with him our journey and the gratefulness that we felt toward him for the care he has given to Tim. Tim and I both believe that the fabulous Dr. O and his recommended treatment was an answer to prayer and has prolonged Tim's life.

So, I delivered the book to Dr. O's office with a letter explaining what I was giving him and why. I told him that he wasn't obligated to read it or even look through the book but if he was inclined to do so, I wanted him to know that he had been a great blessing to us as we journey through cancer and that is why I wanted to share it with him. I told him that I didn't know how often doctor’s get to see the other side of the lives of their patients….the side of them that goes home with a diagnosis and then they begin to have to cope with what is, but that I thought that if I were a doctor it might be a nice thing to see my patient’s life beyond the office and beyond the diagnosis. I ended my letter by saying, "So this is for you, the fabulous Dr. O."

Today we had an appointment with said fabulous Dr. O. He entered the room with his usual cheerful disposition, greeting us and telling us how nice it was to see us as he shook our hands. He then thanked me for the book I had given him saying, "You are quite a writer!" and then asked me if I had always written. I had to confess that I hadn't and that I just did a blog for kicks and it was now my therapy. He thanked me again for sharing that with him. During the time he examined Tim he commented on Tim's facial hair growing back -- the last blog entry I put in the book was Tim's guest post titled "Of Woolly Worms and Fu Mancho"....I knew he had read to the end of the book by his comment and his smile! It was certainly my pleasure to be able to share a glimpse of our life with the one and only, fabulous Dr. O!

Before we left the office I asked Dr. O if I could take his picture with Tim so I could put it on my blog and he said yes! I also asked him if he was offended that I said one of my posts that he looked like Bilbo Baggins from Lord of the Rings -- he said he wasn't. :)

P.S. The other day I did a blog post titled "Alligator Wrestling". In it I said:

It is a given that we all wear many hats on any given day but a few of my favorites are: ant killer, knife wielding watermelon slicer, watcher of the sunflower house, master hair brusher fixer upper, garden watering goddess, chief flower sniffer, soon to be a poolside sun worshipper and of course my new hat...alligator wrestler! :)

Well, today Dr. O gave me another "hat" -- he called me "keeper of the records" as he handed me Tim's PET scan CD's and papers for scheduling another x-ray to look into his chest in a few weeks to see if his case of aspiration pneumonia is improving. I like the title of "keeper of the records". I am in many ways the "keeper of the records". Through my blog I am a keeper of the record that tells of our walk through life. So, I will proudly add it to the many other titles I have in my life. :)

Monday, June 8, 2009

I'm Not THAT Hungry...

Some may know that we went to see a movie for Jordan's birthday on May 30th and something went haywire in the theater and the sound went out for all the movies. Because that happened the theater gave us free passes to see a movie at an another time. We never did see the ending to "Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian" but with Jacob at Scout Camp for the week and only the girls home tonight we decided to use our free movie tickets to go see Up. What a fun movie that was! It was very well done and what a kick to see it in 3-D! The best thing about the 3-D was that the glasses weren't those cheapy glasses with one blue lens and one red lens that give me a pounding headache by movie's end. The movie and the 3-D were both really enjoyable!

As we were coming out of the theater Tim mentioned that he was getting hungry. That usually translates to me driving so he can get hooked up to do his tube feeding in the car. This was our conversation....

Tim: I'm feeling hungry. I'm going to have to eat soon.
Me: Do you want me to drive so you can eat?
Tim: I'm not THAT hungry!!!!

Nice Tim....really nice! (I still love you!)

Friday, June 5, 2009

Looking Up and Smiling...

Things are good....the close your eyes, slowly inhale, exhale and smile kind of good.

Tim went for his PET scan today. The time couldn't pass fast enough till the time I had to meet Tim for the results. I cried before I left the house; cried on my way to meet him and cried again when I left Tim to drive home. The stress has been building. I have felt it and so has Tim.

With the test done we were able to have a look at the results. The news was good although I will say that it has taken me most of the day to realize that the news is better than I was letting myself believe it was at first!

According to the scans the radiation did the job it was meant to do. :) YAY, YAY and YAY some more!

They did find a few spots in Tim's lungs that are indicative of pneumonia. Interestingly enough for the past few days Tim has been running a low grade fever so it seems that we have found the cause of that fever. Tim's hemotology oncologist was contacted and she called in some meds for him. They think that the pneumonia is being caused by aspiration....that when he swallows his little flapper that keeps things from going into his lungs, isn't working quite right. We go to see the fabulous Dr. O on Tuesday so he will be able to further address the issue, maybe by sending Tim for a barium swallow test to see what is happening.

So after 12 long weeks since the end of radiation the news is good and for that we are thankful. We are looking up and smiling. :)

Proverbs 25:25
"As cold waters to a thirsty soul, so is good news....."

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Alligator Wrestling...

Ahhh, summer vacation begins for the kids and I....what a sweet day! Well, the kids have a half day left but I am done since I will be off tomorrow because of Tim's PET scan. (Okay, I do have to go in for 4 hours on Saturday but I don't count that since there will be no kids in the school so it will be more like time out with friends instead of work.) :)

This week I've thought that maybe I should have a different job title. Instead of being a teacher's assistant I think alligator wrestler is more fitting in honor of needing to restrain a second grader during lunch time. It was much like wrestling an alligator -- something I am not eager to do again anytime soon!

It is a given that we all wear many hats on any given day but a few of my favorites are: ant killer, knife wielding watermelon slicer, watcher of the sunflower house, master hair brusher fixer upper, garden watering goddess, chief flower sniffer, soon to be a poolside sun worshipper and of course my new hat...alligator wrestler! :)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Busy May Days for Abigail...

Abigail has been working hard over the past few months rehearsing for the middle school production of Aladdin Jr. She was one of the townspeople and looked beautiful in her costume and makeup!

Two days before her play opened she had a band concert. She plays the flute....

And a happy flute player she is!!!!

Busy May days..... :)