December 1st. Time sure flies by doesn't it? We are almost at the end of another year. I am astounded at how quickly life passes us by. I have never been one to "officially" make New  Year's resolutions, but don't we all think about our year and what we wish we had done differently? I supposed some don't because they have the carefree attitude and belief that nothing has to be changed and no mistakes are to be regretted. That's a philosphy I have never held myself. I always think of situations that could have been handled differently, more professionally, more gracefully, more lovingly.  So while I don't "officially" make New Year resolutions, I do always promise myself I will learn from my mistakes and strive to be a better person, a better wife, a better mother, a better daughter, a better grammie, and a better Christian.  I think the last one is the biggest of all- a better Christian.

What does it mean to be a better Christian?  Recently I had the unfortunate knowledge of something happening that I wish I didn't know. I really wish I didn't know, but I do. Something happened that made me cringe because of the disrespect of something important to me and the immorality of the decision that was made. I discussed it with a couple family members who basically told me to "get with the times and get over it." I can't do that. I can't just "accept" this behavior because we live in a "new generation" and times have changed. The Bible hasn't changed, has it? Are we to pick and choose what is right and wrong? What is moral and immoral? Who gave we humans that authority to choose? God sure didn't. God is the one who makes the decision of what is moral and immoral. We Christians are supposed to uphold his word. I watched Joyce Meyer this morning and she said the same thing I have been saying, "We must stand up for what we KNOW is right. What we KNOW is moral and not bow down or cater to the world's view." But how do we do that without offending someone? In this case, I can't think of a single way to do it without causing a huge chasm between me and the person engaged in this behavior. I can state my opinion all I want, but it's not going to be received in a positive manner. All I can do is remember what happened and never allow it to affect me again. Boundaries will be set. I can't "go with the flow" and agree with the people who say I should. I stand on my Godly principles. I have been greatly offended, but I can let it go without causing a huge scene. I am very disappointed all the way around. But I am thankful this life is temporary and someday I don't have to hear or see immoral things anymore.

No, I don't normally make the usual resolutions, but this upcoming year I believe I will write them down. I will read my Bible more, be more engaged in learning, and keep my mouth shut more, and let my behavior and actions speak louder than my words.  God knows my heart even if non-believers choose to make fun of me or blatantly disrespect me and my beliefs.  We were told we would be challenged and this life wasn't going to be easy. I certainly see how that is true.

"The cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters, and all liars- their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur.  This is the second death." Revelation 21:8

"I am the Lord and I do not change." Malachi 3:6

A friend recently told me I have changed since my diagnosis. She said I have changed for the better because I am more bold in my faith. However, she said that boldness can be "off-putting" to those who don't believe or those who may believe, but want to "change with the times." She is right. I no longer hesitate to share the love of Christ with others. Unfortunately, I have lost friends and the respect of family members because they don't believe as I do- that God is the one we need to please, not ourselves. I won't lie and say it doesn't hurt. But as long as I stay focused on God and do my best to be a good friend to everyone, I am okay with who I am and what I believe in. I think it wasn't so difficult for people when I was really sick to accept my boldness, but now that I am getting better, I have been told the medical staff provided all the healing and not God. I don't get it and I wont pretend I do. I am thankful I do have some Christians in my life who lean on not their own understanding, but on God's.

12/2/16

This is my granny's 89th birthday! How wonderful it is to still have my Granny around me to enjoy and share good times with. Granny is such an important person in my life and I treasure all the times I have shared with her. Today Mom and Holly will meet me at her house for lunch. I know Meghan wishes she could be there too. We will have to Face Time them when we sing happy birthday to Granny.

Yesterday I walked over four miles just by cleaning my house! i mopped every single room in this house and did at least six loads of laundry. I was exhausted last night, but still had trouble sleeping. I have been up since 0300. It's going to be a long day as I plan on helping paint at Kelsey and Casey's new house affer the birthday party.

12/3/16

We had a wonderful celebration with Granny yesterday. She looked beautiful and so happy. I was thrilled the phone kept ringing with people anxious to celebrate her special day with her.  She was on top of the world.  She is working on ten baby blankets for future great-great grandchildren. She cracks me up because every time she sews, she swears it's the last project she is taking on.

After lunch, Mom and I went out to paint at Casey and Kelsey's new house. Mom, Merikaye, Kelsey and I whipped out most of the job in just a few hours. We have some touch-ups left that we will take care of today, but we were pleased that the majority was completed. They are hoping to lay the flooring today. I bet it will be ready for their move-in by Christmas. How exciting that will be for them. I remember when we bought this house and how happy we were.

I hope to have my book done in a month. I will have it edited and then submit it for print. I am hopeful that people enjoy it and want to buy it. I just want my story to bless other people. This morning as I was writing it, I kept crying because of remembering all the difficult moments I have had since my Killing Leuk journey began. Throughout it all, God has remained faithful and steadfast, but my emotions have fluctuated so greatly.

12/5/16

Yesterday I spent my entire day cleaning and putting up all my Christmas decorations. It looks so beautiful. I sure wish the girls were here to enjoy it.  Patrick spent his day helping Casey with the flooring again. Evidently our paint job didn't stand up to the inspection of Kelsey's dad, so he repainted it. I wish I had known, I would have gone back out to do a second coat. Many areas we did do many touch-ups, but I guess it wasn't enough. I feel bad. I have to think of another way to help them.

I have spent the past few hours on the phone with the insurance company and paying bills. There are discrepancies with my medical insurance payments and I am not going to give up until all are resolved appropriately.  I think a lot of people just give up and pay extra, but my mind cant accept that philosophy and I don't want to pay any more than I am supposed to. It's very frustrating.

I continue to have insomnia issues and am up between 3-4 each morning and haven't been napping. I'm fighting to stay awake from 6 p.m. on.  I have a busy week coming up with volunteer work and meetings. I will be trained on Friday as a volunteer for the Wasilla Public Library. I have always loved libraries!  Several years ago, I was on the Board of the Friends of the Wasilla Public Library as well as the Borough Library Board. Now I will be sorting books or whatever else they have in mind.  I will commit to 1.5 each week and plan to commit to 2 hours at the new Thrifters Rock Thrift Store each week as well.  This week I have the Opioid Task Force meeting and a United Way Board Meeting. Somewhere in there I have to figure out the meal plan for this week!

I am tired. I am so tired. Being woken up all hours the night and then getting out of bed between 0300-0400 is wearing on me. Not taking a nap every day is wearing on me. The frustrating hours I spent on the phone with the insurance company is wearing on me..... I'm so tired.

I wasn't going to go anywhere today, but I ended up driving to Palmer so I could get books from the library. I couldn't get either TV to turn on and Patrick will be helping Casey all evening, so I needed something to do.

My heart is heavy thinking about the 16 year old boy, David, from our community. He went missing and a couple weeks later, they found his body. He had been beaten and shot to death by other teenagers. What goes wrong with people? I understand people make poor choices such as drinking and drugs, but to actually KILL someone? Especially a young boy taking the life of another young boy; it blows my mind. I don't understand the evilness of it at all. Something just isn't right in someone's head to be able to commit such a heinous act. The whole community is grieving with his family.

12/7/16

Last night I attended the Opioid Task Force meeting. I had missed the previous two meetings, so I was especially glad to be there. It's fantastic to have a group of leaders come together to form solutions for the heroin epidemic that has overtaken our Valley.  If you don't think heroin affects you, look down at the ground while at the playground with your children or grandchildren, nieces, or nephews.  Look at the dirty needles lying in the dirt. (or snow) Go into a public restroom and see the needles lying carelessly in the stall or thrown in a trashcan.  None of us are immune from the effects of heroin. Just before the meeting, a friend told me about the daughter of a mutual friend we have. Her daughter is currently in treatment for heroin addiction. It's her first go-around with treatment.  I didn't want to tell my friend that many addicts go through treatment several times before it finally "clicks". I sat behind Kirby and Karl, two young men who are recovering addicts. They started a support for addicts called, "Fiends to Clean". Yesterday was Karl's 30th birthday and I sat there and prayed that God would continue to bless his life. Here he is clean and sober after years of drug abuse. He has now dedicated his life to help others who are wanting to get clean and sober.  I bet his family didn't think he would live to see 30. God is so good.

This morning as I did my morning walk on the treadmill, I listened to my praise music. One song really stuck with me because it was about how God should be the center of everything. How true that is! If God is at the center, then everything willbe okay.  We need to live with enthusiasm and expect good things.  We need to proclaim healing and answers to prayers. We need to thank God for things we haven't yet received.  If we believe he will provide these things and trust him for them, he will give us the desires of our hearts.  We need to keep our eyes on Jesus and trust him to provide for all of our needs and direct our paths.  God has a plan for each of us and he wants us to walk in the path that he has designed for us. We are not to walk in a spirit of fear.  Fear robs us and paralyzes us. We are not able to move forward in life if we give into fear. We must walk boldly despite the fear we may have. We must learn to trust. Let go and let God, right? Sure that sounds easier than it is, but it can be done.

What God has been laying on my heart is this, "Stop mourning for what is gone. It is done. It is finished.  Get over it and live in today." Sure I have fear about the future- I am human.  Sometimes I wonder if Leuk will come back. I wonder if I will be able to work in the field I love again. I wonder if the person coughing behind me is going to get me sick and I will have to go back to the hospital. I wonder if living on one income is going to be too stressful for my husband. I wonder if the people I care about who have addictions will be free from the strongholds.  But then I tell myself again, "God has this. Let HIM take control." I am working on enjoying each moment of my day and enjoying being home.  I still suffer from guilt for not working. I feel I don't do enough to help other people. I feel I have become boring and lame. I wonder what my purpose is in life. And then I pray and sing to God and he makes it better. I won't give up on myself or the ones I love. I am so thankful for my personal relationship with Jesus. It makes things so much easier.  And I give praise for how far he has brought me. After three weeks of nausea and stomach cramps, I am free from discomfort. Hallelujah! My joints are getting better and I can now get up and down without assistance.  Things are going well.

12/9/16

I gathered my "stuff", my pillow, eye drops, phone, and book and marched downstairs last night. Patrick looked at me and said, "You are acting like you are going to a luxurious hotel for the night." I happily grinned at him and said, " I feel like I'm going on a retreat! I have a night downstairs in bed, all by myself!"  I "checked myself into the bedroom downstairs" and eagerly awaited a good night's sleep without being woken up by dogs.  I managed to read two pages before I put the book down. The many nights without sleeping was too much- I couldn't hardly stay awake past 6 p.m. each evening.  I immediately fell asleep.  Then it began.....Every hour or two I was awake. There were no dogs bothering me, there was no snoring husband bothering me, but here I was again, continuously woken up.  At 0200, I was sure I was up for the day. Thankfully I kept falling back asleep and didn't actually get out of bed until 0500. My first thought was, "Nothing is going to help me sleep again!" I was convinced if I had a night alone I could peacefully sleep. Imagine my disappointment when I discovered there is nothing that can make me sleep. I have had this problem since I was diagnosed with leukemia. Before that, I slept like a rock. I don't know how I would function if I had to work all day. I guess my body really is still recovering as my doctors say.  But somedays I wonder if it's my body or my mind. Has Leuk played such a number on me that he robbed me of my peace and ability to shut off my mind? Why am I woken from a deep sleep each night?

Today I am meeting a friend for coffee, then will be volunteering at the new Thrifter's Rock and then off to training at the Wasilla Public Library. It's going to be a very busy day and I hope I have the stamina to perform my duties well.  This morning I listened to Amazing Grace and I thanked God for the grace he shows to all of us. I thank him that he is able and willing to cover our sins, our despairs, our demolished dreams with his grace. I am thankful that no matter what we do, he forgives us and welcomes us back to his kingdom. I want everyone to know that no matter what they have done in life, no matter what mistakes or poor choices they have made, that Jesus will forgive them and show them such amazing grace. How sweet the freedom is.

12/10/16

My volunteer work at Thrifter's Rock and Wasilla Public Library, both went well. I cleaned kitchen items and sorted through linens at the thrift store, and shelved children's book at the library. Next time I go to the library, I will be wearing my mask. There are so many sick people that go in there and I just can't take the chance. I was supposed to go over to take care of Ingrid last night, but her brother and SIL showed up and offered to stay with her. I hope she asks me again as I really do want to spend time with her and help her. She's so sick and is hurting so bad. Bone cancer is a terrible cancer to have.

Tonight I am helping at the dinner and silent auction for my friend John. John was diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus back in September. I hope a lot of money will be raised for him tonight.

Patrick and I will be flying to Fairbanks in the morning. We have a Christmas party to attend up there. It's a business function otherwise we wouldn't be flying to Fairbanks the middle of December..... I'm looking forward to visiting with everyone there and enjoying a nice dinner and stay in a hotel. Maybe I will sleep! Last night I did pretty well as I took two of my Ativan's. I don't like taking medication, but sometimes I am desperate for sleep.

Later this evening.......

All the attendees jumped to their feet and gave John a standing ovation when he and his wife Dawn walked in the room tonight. The fundraiser was a great success. Many from DOC were there to support John in his battle with cancer. John's a fun guy; always cracking a joke or blessing others with a smile.  He and I used to visit quite a bit when we both worked at Palmer Correctional Center. John would call me, "Calamari" because if you say Kelly Marre quickly, it does sound like calamari. So basically he called me a squid. He always thought he was so clever and funny. Okay, so I was amused by him too. John's an upstanding guy who is honest and hard working. When I met him he was a sergeant. Now he is superintendent of the largest prison in Alaska. He earned that position by being ethical, honest, and a hard working man.  His wife is a very sweet lady and she left me a message to call her back in September. She wanted me to know about John's diagnosis and didn't want me to hear it from someone else. I appreciated that so much. I felt sucker punched when I heard the news.  I think it was easier to hear about my own diagnosis than it is to hear about people I care about being sick. I never want anyone to go through what Logan and I have gone through. (not to mention my what my mother went through, my aunts, my uncle, and other friends) Cancer SUCKS! But I am thankful so many people were there to celebrate John tonight and support him. I love how our community bands together and supports each other. It's nice to live in the Mat-Su Borough! I had a great time catching up with friends I used to work with. My heart still belongs with DOC. Someday......

 

12/11/16

Twenty below in Fairbanks and I want to wear a dress to the Christmas party. I must be insane. Since I got sick, the opportunity to dress up and look nice, has been few and far between. But seems no one really dresses up much in Alaska. I don't want to be the only one. I marvel at my indecision of something that literally is of no importance. A year ago, my decision would have been to risk going to the grocery store or not. It's a silly decision I am pondering when so many friends are fighting for their lives.

A mentally challenged man came up to us at the airport as we were sitting with Travis and Amy. He said, "Ladies! Sirs, mom's and dad's, brothers and sisters." He went on to tell us about helping his grandpa who had fallen and broken his arm. He blew me a kiss. I was in love. He was a grown man and so full of innocence and happiness. We can all learn something from his carefree attitude. I bet HE doesn't worry about what to wear to a Christmas party!

 Speaking of decisions, I had to choose a nap over going woth the rest of my group to Terry and Betsy's house. I have wanted to see their home for years, yet I knew I must have a nap in order to stay awake for the Christmas party tonight. I slept for a few hours which was fantastic. Last night was another night of sporadic sleep. I wasn't doing too bad until I had a nightmare. I hadn't a terrible dream that three people I love dearly were killed in a car accident. I agonized over whether one of them was saved. I kept asking myself if I had told her enough about Jesus and wasn't sure if she had accepted him. I wanted to see her again in Heaven and I was left not knowing if I would. It was a horrible nightmare. Sharing the love of God should be more important than looking good for a Christmas party!

12/12/16

The party was so fun!  it was such an exciting thing for me to be around people, feeling good and staying awake after 6 pm!  I was normal for the evening and it was fantastic! It's 20 below in Fairbanks. We fly back to  a balmy 10 degrees above today!

12/13/16

This morning I was planning my day in my head while walking on the treadmill. Of course I was also listening to my praise music which always makes me think about how important it is to thank God for everything. But this morning the thought about "living intentionally" came to mind.  I was listening to the song about being alive because of Jesus. I thought, "Wow, do I live my life intentionally? I AM alive because of Jesus. I was healed by his Blood and granted a reprieve at the eleventh hour." I could have died at any point during my treatment or when I got pneumonia earlier this year. But I didn't. Why I wonder? What am I doing with this reprieve he graciously granted to me? Living intenionally.... what does that mean? To me it means living with purpose. Every decision I make must have a purpose to it. Every thought that comes to mind and every word that comes out of my mouth must have a purpose. Jeremiah 29:11 says, "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord.  Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.: Verse 12 says, "Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me and I will listen to you.  (13) You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. (14) I will be found by you, declared the Lord and I will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you, declares the Lord. And I wil bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile."

I have expressed more than once the feeling of "banishment" I have because of the limits placed upon me. I am not supposed to be around sick people, crowds, put myself in situations where I could be injured, etc. I have felt banished, yet here God tells me that he will bring me back to the place I was before being exiled. How exciting that is for me! I long for the day when I am FREE to live my life without fear of being exposed to some communicable illness that could take my life. I feel like a captive, yet God promises to free me. Still in the back of my head is the terrible voice saying, "Are you sure you are healed? It could come back and  you could lose your life after all." I despise that voice and those negative thoughts. I don't ever want to go through treatment again. I want Leuk to be dead forever. I look at my many friends who are fighting for their lives right now and know it could be me. I don't doubt God's ability to heal me completely. I still wonder though what he has in store for me. I wonder if I am really living my life intentionally. Am I really making a difference in anyone's life? Am I helping others enough? Am I sharing my gratitude and thankfulness with others? Does Christ shine through me? What more can I do to give back? I wasn't healed to smugly sit back and brag about how "I" beat Leuk with my own strength. (or that of Wonder Woman)

This morning there was a news story about "Santa Claus" who visited with a five year old dying boy. The boy wanted to see Santa and have Christmas before he died. He told Santa he was dying and he died in Santa's arms after Santa told him he was his number one Elf and he could tell that to those who greeted him at the Pearly Gates. Oh my heart hurt for this child and his family. I know that Jesus himself was there to welcome this precious little boy and I hope that Logan has had a chance to meet him. I miss Logan so much. I can't wait to see him again. I can't wait for the day when there is no more sorrow, no more pain, no more grief, no more hurt feelings, and no more sickness. But while I am still here, I am going to live my life intentionally and make every single moment count and appreciate what I have. I appreciate my husband assuring me we can manage on one income and I am grateful he encourages me to enjoy my days and take naps. He is a keeper and I love him.

12/14/16

Happy 19th month post-transplant to me and my French baby cells. I didn't even realize the date until this evening. It was a good day and I felt really well all day. My day started off meeting a friend for coffee, grocery shopping, and then attending a meeting to help plan Homeless Connect. Homeless Connect will be in January and it's an event to help all the transient population in the Valley. Direct services will be provided and there will be food and clothing available to those who need it. I'm excited about helping out this year, but I am a little nervous about being exposed to colds, viruses, etc. I hope there will be something I can do that doesn't involve much personal exposure. Perhaps I can be the "behind the scenes lady."

Casey asked if we could come help them on their house tonight and of course we said yes. Kelsey and I painted trim and doors. Her dad and Patrick devised a plan to stabilize the doors so we could paint the frames. Unfortunately, their plan failed and I ended up spilling a whole tray of white paint on my head and body. I was covered from my head to my feet. This was a moment when I "almost" wished I was bald....l I washed my hair twice tonight and I still have paint in it. What could I do but laugh? At least I felt good enough to help!

12/16/16

Yesterday Debbie and I had the opportunity to bag many loaves of bread to sell at a fundraiser. The money raised went to a local family. Lucas is 12 years old and he is battling Lymphoma for the 2nd time. He actually was in  remission for 7 years, then relapsed. He had a brother who passed away from Leukemia at the age of 32 months I believe. This family has been hit hard and I can only imagine how difficult it is. We were happy to be there and help. We also purchased some bread and I can't  wait to try it. I love this fundraiser and think it's a novel idea.

We are now at our special place; the cabin. It's so good to be here. There is lots of snow on the ground and it looks so pretty. I took a nap this afternoon so I could stay awake for the Christmas party we went to in Soldotna. It was another business party and yes, I wore a pretty dress again. I got to spend some time visiting with Cindy tonight. Cindy and Ed were so supportive when I was sick. I think Cindy was one of my best cheerleaders. She frequently sent cards and emails and faithfully read this blog. She's just an amazing person. Her husband Ed is going through many medical issues right now and she is still just as positive as ever. What a sweet lady. It was another reminder for me to take the time to send cards and make phone calls to those who are sick. Cindy was such a great support and I learned a lot from her about "showing up" for someone. Now I need to make sure I implement that and not just talk about it. Many of us have good intentions, but how often do we follow through? There may not be another chance to share your love with someone else.

12/18/16

We are back from the cabin and ready for the week ahead. (I guess) I have a lot on my mind today. This morning we had breakfast with friends who are mourning the loss of their adult son who was killed in an alcohol related crash a couple of months ago. Then I got a text message from a friend whose cousin just died in his sleep. He was a recovering addict and possibly had a drug related death.  Then I checked my email and there was a prayer request for the grandson of a lady. He walked away from a treatment facility and he is a heroin addict. I just wonder why so many find it necessary to alter their brains. Why can't people just be high on life?

I made the mistake of starting to watch some movie on TV about a lady who has two young children and she told them she was dying of cancer. I lasted about five minutes before I turned that off! I don't need to watch dying women on TV.  Goodness I need some happiness around me!

My taste buds are off again. A few weeks ago I started noticing that things don't taste quite right. It could be the antibiotic I am on- it was just switched in November, or it could be a Zinc defficiency. All I know is I'm hungry and not much tastes good, not even my bananas or hot chocolate! Dang it!

12/20/16

This afternoon, our dog, Chester, died. I put he and Ringo in the garage before I left for all my volunteer duties today. I was gone for about six hours. I was feeling guilty for being gone so long. They are used to me being home more. I was on the phone with a friend while I was driving home. She was sharing with me that her husband had some blood work done and he's being referred to an oncologist to rule out leukemia. I was empathizing with her and didn't see Patrick calling in. I pulled into the garage and Patrick looked dazed. I asked him what was wrong. He replied, "He's dead.". A million things ran through my mind and I had no idea who was dead, but I was scared. I asked him who and he replied, "Chester." I stood there speechless and in shock. Chester hadn't been feeling well and I had him at the Vet's office a couple of weeks ago. They ran blood tests, gave him IV fluids, and two weeks of antibiotics. He lost interest in eating unless it was mixed with a treat. Today I didn't give him a treat with his food. I was in a hurry. I was busy running around taking care of things before I left. I put them in the garage, told them I loved them, and gave them some dog biscuits. I went about my day.  The Vet office called while I was in a meeting so I let the call go to voice mail. I came home and found out that he died without his humans around him. Patrick said he did CPR for about ten minutes. Chester's body was still warm, so he must have just taken his last breath. The last breath I wasn't there for. I unknowingly abandoned our dog. I should have been there. Last night I shut my bedroom door and Chester didn't get to sleep with me. How I wish he had slept with me one last time.

Regret.. there is always regret when we lose someone we love. It doesn't matter if it's an animal or a person. We always wish we had been a little kinder, a little more patient, a little more loving. We wish we had given more time to the person or animal. In this case with my dog, I wish I would have  hugged him more and gave him more kisses than I did. I wish that he had been a better behaved dog so I could have taken him on walks around the neighborhood. I always felt guilty for leaving him behind, but I couldn't handle the pulling. Whether it's an animal or a human, let's remember to always be kind and treat each moment like it is the last time we will see them. I was mad at Patrick this morning and didn't say good-bye to him. What if he had been killed? The regret for our last moment together would be on my mind. Make every moment intentional. Be forgiving, loving, and kind. Don't ever have regrets. The last two weeks of Logan's life I told myself I made up for all the bad parenting I had ever done and there would be no regrets. There were plenty. My mind always wanders on all those bad parenting moments and I regret the lack of patience and understanding. Regret is not from God and I rebuke the feeling when it comes to mind, but it always creeps up. All I can do is learn from my mistakes and try harder to love others, especially those I hold dear to my heart.

12/21/16

He was the cutest ball of fur I had ever seen. "Happy Mother's Day, Mom", Casey said as he handled me this wiggly creature several days AFTER Mother's Day. Someone was handing puppies out in a parking lot of Steve's Food Store in Big Lake. Casey was always bringing home a lost puppy or cat. Sometimes they weren't even lost; he would see them on the street and "assume" they needed a new home. Casey was always great at saying he would do all the work and take care of them, but that didn't last more than a day or two. But I also have a tender heart and couldn't resist this beautiful dog.  Casey named him Winchester, but we always called him Chester for short. He used to sit on my shoulder and lie on my neck. I socialized him with other dogs and treated him like a baby.  As he grew, his character seemed a little flawed. He would attack dogs that owners were walking past our house. We have had more than a few neighbors become very angry with us. He used to have this thing against people on bikes. He would bark incessantly and it annoyed the heck out of us. One time he even bit the ankle of a guy peddling by. We almost gave him away once, but couldn't do it at the last moment. We told Casey and Kelsey that we were going to give him to them when they moved into their new home. We felt he would be better off in a smaller neighborhood. Kelsey understandably did not want the headache of Chester. He often would urinate in the hallway and bathroom downstairs; just because he wanted to, not because he had a medical issue. It was behavioral. We didn't give him away and we didn't even punish him. We modified OUR behavior. We didn't leave him downstairs unsupervised unless we had put a baricade up at the beginning of the hallway. When we left for more than an hour or two, we would put both dogs in the garage. I never wanted Chester to feel punished or isolated. We kept a close eye on him when we let him out so he wouldn't attack another dog. We loved him so much.

We knew his character flaws and we were willing to work with him. We had unconditional love for Chester. Sure we would grumble and complain and joke about his deficits, but we cared for him. I compare our love for Chester to the love God has for us. Do you think that sounds silly? Think about this. How often do WE do things that are offensive to others, engage in blatantly defiant acts, and push buttons so others are irritated? Unfortunately, probably much more than we care to admit. But no matter what we do, God loves us and doesn't try to "get rid of us". He loves us just as we are, character flaws and all. He tries to teach us how he wants us to act, but we don't spend the time in his Word to understand what is required of us to be good stewards. We have desensitized ourselves and we allow certain behaviors and attitudes because "today is a new world." What we wouldn't stand for before has now become our new platform. Everyone can pick and choose what they want for their lives. There are no limits and boundaries have been lifted. It's a feel good nation now. Do whatever feels good. 

God doesn't like this behavior, but he still loves us as individuals. He is willing to forgive and forget without question. All we have to do is cry out to him and confess our sins and declare that he is Lord. When things get tough, we tend to yell and scream at God for allowing bad things to happen to us. Sometimes we make choices that are really bad for us. God doesn't always rescue us right away. There are times when he lets us feel the pain and sorrow our choices have caused us. Perhaps we had been going down a bad path and God used our circumstances to bring us back into his fold. I think about the men I worked with in prison. Many of them came from Christian homes and they had the potential to have a pretty good life. But a poor choice was made (often because of drugs and alcohol) and they ended up in prison. There hearts were hardened, but I saw the love of God inside them and listened as they professed their love for Christ despite their circumstances. People always joke that people find God in prison and it's not real. I believe it's real. When one is in prison, they are desperate to know there is something better for them. Unfortunately when they get back in the world they don't always remember that intimacy they had with Jesus and they continue trying to do things their own way, which we know doesn't work. 

Let's look at Jonah. God told Jonah to go to Nineveh. Nineveh was a city filled with people who had turned from God and were engaging in wickedness. Jonah decided he knew better, so he was on his way to Tarshish, which is the opposite direction of Nineveh. You know the story; Jonah was on a ship and the winds picked up and the billows rolled. The sailors were frightened and they quickly figured out that Jonah was running from God and God caused the roaring of the sea. Jonah told them their only option to save themselves was to throw him overboard. When they finally did so, the seas were calmed. Jonah was swallowed by a big fish and was in the belly of the fish for three long days.  I bet at first he was a bit angry with God and blaming God for the mess he was in. But then he started feeling a bit desperate and cried out to God apologizing for his behavior and promising to serve God if he would just get him out of this mess. The Bible reads, "And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land." Gross! How many times have we felt that we have been vomited up after a very messy and uncomfortable situation we have been in ? I think that's how prisoners feel once their away from the world and isolated in the prison. Johah was relieved and he promised do do what God commanded him to do- to tell the people of Nineveh that God was angry with them and was going to destroy their city. Jonah followed through with his orders and shared the news with the people of Nineveh. The people took the threat seriously and asked God for forgiveness. They repented of their sin and God had mercy on them and left the city intact. Jonah should have been happy, right? But he wasn't. He argued with God and told him that was why he didn't go to Nineveh in the first place; he knew God would relent and have compassion for the people of Nineveh. Then Jonah tried to run awy from God again. Wow! Three days in the belly of a fish wasn't enough of a lesson?

We often find God when we are in desperate times. We cry out to him and beg him to help us. Then things are going right with our world again and we start patting ourselves on the back and giving ourselves the credit. But when things are bad, we blame God. How can we be so hypocritical? God gives us the bad and we give ourselves the good? I think not! We get complacant and feel self-sufficient. We lean on our own understanding rather than studying the Word of God to see what his plan for us is. There is a purpose and a plan for everything. I think our biggest mistake is thinking we can do it alone, without God, or assistance from anyone. I think that's why addicts fail so many times. They truly don't work the program and they don't make God the center of their lives.

You might wonder how I went from Chester to Jonah and then worked in some prisoners in my writing this morning. It all started with character flaws. Chester was a beautiful dog on the outside. He truly was a good looking dog. He had some character flaws though; he was a bit psycho, he attacked other dogs, ran me over all the time and left bruises on my feet, and he peed in the house just because he wanted to. But we loved him just as he was and tried to teach him how to be a better dog. We forgave him for his deficits. We loved Chester, but how much more does God love we humans? We are made in his image. We are more valuable to him than an animal is, although God does love animals. We tolerated Chester's mistakes and God tolerates ours. But how much nicer it would have been for us, and Chester, if he got along with all the other dogs? Imagine how much fun he would have had if I could have taken him to a dog park to play or walk him in the neighborhood without worry something would happen? I tried to explain all that to Chester, but he's a dog and didn't understand my words. If we humans tried acting better and being nicer to people and more loving towards one another, how much better our lives would be! I have often heard the saying, "If you are having a conflict with several people, you might want to look at yourself." Maybe you are the common denominator. Are you being aggressive? Misbehaving? Doing what you want and not what others around you want? Are you being kind and respectful? Do you look pretty on the outside, but not the inside? Examine yourself and figure out what changes you can make. Don't be a Jonah and run from God. God is here in the good times and the bad times. Sometimes he does allow us to go through painful things, but he never leaves us. 

Chester, despite your sometimes naughty behavior and your irritating habits, we loved you so much. Our house is not the same. Logan never met you, but I bet you are by his side now and telling him all about what we have been up to. Run free and play nice!

12/23/16

I was seven weeks late for my blood tests and doctor visit, but my blood counts are mostly perfect. My lungs felt like they were on fire today and I have some wheezing, but Dr. Spencer said my lungs sound clear. I have body aches, but I told her I often get those when I don't need sleep well. I was awake between 0200-0600 this morning. Went back to sleep for an hour and then did three miles on the treadmill. I contributed it to that, but now my temperature is 99. I consistently have a temperature between 96-97, so something is going on. I do not want pneumonia again. I have heard it's going around again. I will of course monitor my temperature and symptoms over the next few hours.

Patrick has helped on Casey and Kelsey's house every day this week. He said they are now moving things in. I wish I could have helped more. If I am feeling better in the morning, I would love to help them before its time to go to Granny's.

I visited with Ingrid the other day. She looks really good, but I know she hurts and is so weak. I am  going to sit with her Tuesday, as long as I am not sick. I look forward to time with her. John hasn't been feeling well and neither has Renee. So many sick friends to pray for. I'm thankful all of them are Christians.

Mom and I had lunch with my niece Michelle today. I love that girl! We celebrated her 26th birthday. 

12/25/16

Another lonely Christmas for us. We can't go anywhere due to me being sick. Last night my temperature was 100.9. This morning it's down to 99.2, but my lungs burn like fire. I feel just like I did in March and expect I am probably going to end up in the hospital again which greatly depresses me. 

Meghan Face Timed us last night so we got to see Ollie for a bit. Ailynn was already in bed. Hopefully we can see both girls today, we miss them so much. Casey stopped by yesterday to get his stuff out of the garage, but never came in to see me. We haven't heard from either one of them, so assume we won't see them either. Maybe we should have just gone to the cabin. We wouldn't feel so alone if we were the ones away, I am feeling sorry for myself. At least I have Patrick here to hang out with.

12/27/16

I finally broke down and had Mom take me to the ER. I called Mayo and Charlton 9A was closed. I called Station 94 and the nurse insisted I go to the ER. She said to have the doctor call them and they would tell them what tests to run. I called Dr. Spencer's office and they were closed. I asked to speak to the doctor on-call. The operator wouldn't put me through and I asked for a call back. They never called back. It is similar to what happened when I hadn't pneumonia- they just don't get  how serious it can be when I get sick.

We sat in the waiting room at AK Regional, feeling like we were in the ghetto. There were a couple mentally ill people in there cursing and talking to themselves. Many exhibited strange behaviors and I was seriously creeped out. I didn't want to be there and I didn't know what these people were going to do. We sat there for just under an hour when I got called back. They called Lynn Mary. I correctly assumed they meant me. Lynn is my middle name. We were there for a total of three hours. They did the usual chest X-ray, shoved a swab up my nose, and took blood cultures and a CBC. My counts are fantastic and my body fights off the frequent illnesses pretty well. They could tell I had an infection, but was negative for pneumonia which is great. I was released. 15 minutes later, the doctor called. "I have great news! You have Influenza A!". I drily replied, "And that's great news?" He replied, "Yes! Now we know what's wrong with you. There's no treatment for it and you will feel worse before you feel better and it may turn into pneumonia, but we know what's wrong!". Yeah, thanks....... 

I have orders to rest so I now have an excuse for my laziness. I have to cancel an appointment I scheduled for today and I had to let Ingrid know I can't take care of her today. I just want to be normal. I want to not get sick every month. I know I should just be grateful to be alive, but I get so lonely being home alone so much. At least I can text people I guess! I feel like a leper.

It is now midnight and I am wide awake. I fell asleep before 8:00 pm. I rested minimally today. I decided I had to take all my Christmas decorations down. That's three trees and tons of things displayed over my house. I even went outside in my pajamas and slippers and took down the lights on Logan's Fat Albert Pine and took down the lighted reindeer. Those reindeers are the ugliest reindeer I have ever seen. Good thing they were 70% off last year. At least they bring some light to the darkness even if they are strange shaped globs. I rested for about an hour and watched a movie on my I-Pad. I got bored lying in bed, so I took the I-Pad into the kitchen and watched a movie while unloading the dishwasher. I made dinner, folded laundry, put another load in the washer, and started putting decorations back under the stairs. 

Carrie from Mayo called me to see how I was feeling. She was not pleased the ER doctor didn't start me on Tamiflu. She said it might prevent me from getting pneumonia. I called Dr. Spencer's office and got an appointment for Friday. I let them know I wasn't pleased that I never got a call back from the on-call doctor or that they never bothered to call me to see how I was feeling. The ER doctor sent them the report and one would think their office would be in touch. I don't think Alaska doctor's have an inkling of what to do with a transplant patient. Dr. Spencer is very thorough when I see her, but I don't think messages always get to her in a timely manner.

Meghan called to check in me and I got to chat with Miss Ollie before she went to play on the trampoline with her friend Selah. I could tell she was anxious to play when she said, "Is it okay if I push the red button?" No sooner than I said yes, click, the line was dead. I pictured her bouncing around and it brought happiness to my heart.

12/29/16

Yesterday I continued to feel poorly and my cough increased. I used my Pulse Ox and found my SAT was 90-93.  This morning I forced myself out and about and am feeling slightly better and my SAT is 95. Dr. Spencer called me this afternoon and said she's been speaking with Mayo and an infectious disease doctor and they think I need to be admitted. My first thought was, "Are you flipping kidding me!" This decision should have been made a few days ago. I don't think the hospital can do anything for me right now. She called in a prescription for Tamiflu. It seems everyone is disappointed the ER doctor did not prescribe it. There is a great concern that I wll contract pneumonia since I have Influenza A. I will get another chest x-ray tomorrow and then see Zach the PA. Hopefully my lungs will be clear despite the coughing and shortness of breath. Spending New Year's Eve in the hospital? No thank you!

12/30/16

This morning I hitched a ride with Patrick because I didn't want to drive to Anchorage after the fresh snowfall. I got to the hospital at 0630 and tried to check in for my chest X-ray. Unfortunately, my doctor's office never called in the order. I waited until 0705 before calling the on-call doctor. After ten minutes on the phone with him, it got ordered. Now I am waiting for my doctor's office to open so I can see the PA for my appointment. I have a book with me so I won't be be bored. I am hoping that I get good news today.

Good news for sure! Lungs still look good on the X-ray. I saw both the PA and Dr. Spencer today. They agreed I don't have to be admitted unless my symptoms get worse. I am  pretty  impressed with my body's ability to fight things off. Even though I get sick a lot, I eventually bounce back even if it takes a while. I think it won't be too much longer before I'm normal again. Maybe there is hope for a normal life and a job again.

It just dawned on me that I have been a very selfish person and a bad friend to many. I didn't even know that tomorrow, the son of a close friend is having his third surgery of the weeK. I didn't even know he was in the hospital. The father of close family friends is dying, and it's been several days since I have reached out to them. I forgot to ask how the doctor appointment went for the husband of a friend being tested for leukemia. I have become entirely focused on myself and I don't like it. I don't care if I have been sick, it's no excuse for ignoring the people I care about. Here's my New Year's resolution: less of me, more of everyone else.

12/31/16

As we say goodbye to 2016, I think about this year and what it has brought us and taken away from us.

January started off great as I was released to full-time work. I had the attitude that everything was going to be just fine in my world again.

February brought a good check-up at Mayo Clinic and it soldified my thoughts that 2016 was going to be fantastic. Wonder Woman kicked Leuk's butt and all was good.

March certainly roared in like a lion. I turned 49 on the day I was admitted to the hospital for RSV, Corona Virus, and pneumonia. I was in the hospital for two weeks and several of those days in the ICU. I was depressed and disheartened, but tried hard to have a good attitude.

April brought lots of rest and hopefullness that I would get released for work the following month. It was also the first anniversary of my second remission.

May was good because Mom and I visited Indiana and old friends before my Mayo appointments. I celebrated ONE YEAR post-transplant and got a certificate to prove it. Unfortunately, I was not released for work because of many issues going on in my body. I also lost one of my dear cousins to alcoholism. His mother had to say goodbye to him on Mother's Day which was so hard.

June was the month I "officially" separated my employment from the State of Alaska. It was done. Over. Just like that. A common cold turned amost deadly for me and I was no longer able to work. But June also brought happiness as we celebrated Patrick's 50th birthday, our 30th anniversdary, and remembered Logan on his 29th birthday. We focused on the good times of our family and tried to make sense of this "new normal." It was also another visit to Mayo Clinic.

July was filled with cabin visits and friends from out of state. We rejoiced that I was there this year to enjoy it all.

August was sad as Meghan and the girls joined Kirk in California. They will be gone for several more months and we miss them. We also got to travel to WA state for a Mariner's game for Patrick's work. We had a wonderful time and got to see Ken Griffery Jr. retirement celebration with our friends Terry & Betsy.

September- The end of September we got to go back to Seattle for another business trip and Mariner's game. We went with our friends Richard and Gretchen and had a great time. We started driving to CA from Tacoma to deliver Meghan's truck to her.

October- we spent about ten days in California with the McNiven's and entertained the girls best we could. We drove to Lake Tahoe for the night and I got to visit with my friends Pam and Ron.

November was busy! I had another trip to Mayo Clinic. I extended it a week and visited with friends from NE and IA plus MN friends. I stayed at Ponca State Park for a night with friends and that was fun. Mom & I also took advantage of a great mileage fare and spent four nights in ID visiting with friends we met while I was sick. We finished up the month in South Carolina at Patrick's parents house for Thanksgiving. He got to see cousins he hadn't seen in 40 years.

December was peaceful and we got a couple Christmas parties in with friends- one in Fairbanks and one in Soldotna. We also got to stay at the cabin again. We said goodbye to our dog Chester as he unexpectedly passed away at home. Life just isn't always fair.

2016 was spent trying to figure out who I am and what God has planned for me. I have had a lot of disappointments and sometimes a really bad attitude. I try to remember each day to be grateful and appreciative for what I have. I am still trying to figure it out. I have grieved the loss of relationships with a few people who no longer want to be part of my life. I try not to let it bother me and instead focus on my growing relationship with Christ.

My plan for 2017 is to continue volunteering, attending meetings about the opioid crisis in Alaska and be part of the solution for it! I want to see more of our daughter and grandbabies, and be more involved with my family. I want less of me and more of him. I want to serve our community, my family, and my friends. I want to laugh more than I cry and I want to give more than I take. Thanks for being on this journey with me.