Chutes and Ladders

Feb 24

Chutes and Ladders

IMG_9450I snapped this picture of Maren this same week last year, in February 2012.  Greta was probably napping, and I was having some one-on-one time with my favorite four-year-old.  She must have chosen the game because I never choose Chutes and Ladders.  C’mon, can any other parents relate?  It is the game that can go on for hours.  All that sliding…

This average stay-at-home-and-play day was three or four weeks before I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Sometimes I try to remember: what was I like before breast cancer?  Was I always so “carpe diem”?  No.  Did I treasure the little moments with my children?  Yes.  To be clear, I wasn’t perfect then, and I’m certainly not now.

This photo is evidence for me.  It is evidence that I did not need cancer to recognize the beauty of my children and the privilege of my life that is right in front of me.  On this day last February, I saw Maren in her favorite pink dress, with her hair sweeping across her face, intently concentrating our game and so full of innocence that she does not even know the word cheat.  I was not recording a first, or a last, or a graduation, or a performance.  I was recording a peaceful Mommy-daughter moment so that when she asks me to tell her what she was like as a four-year-old, I will remember this game, and her serious, rule-following demeanor; I remember for both of us.  Soon, she will have her own memories that will keep, and I won’t have to do all the remembering.  A bittersweet milestone, for sure.

Cancer helped me to focus, to be intentional, to write it down, to love them completely.  But before cancer, I was working pretty hard at those things too.  This photo reminds me that there is not a stark line of Before Cancer and After Cancer.  Cancer has sharpened the person I already was.

I’m still me, but, honestly, I’m probably a better person after cancer: I’m kinder, I appreciate strangers, I am more bold.  So far, the rewards of these character improvements are so very sweet.  The more I step outside of myself, the more I am blessed.

Life itself is a series of chutes and ladders.  The good and the bad are all mixed together; whether you are climbing or sliding, you have no idea what is next to come.

I hope to continue to be a Remember, one who enjoys the thrill of the slide and one who appreciates the view after a long climb.

My life is so very blessed.  Thank you God for my many blessings.


  1. Patty Wheeler /

    You have taught us, your students, what greatness is. You learned that lesson from your wonderful mom.

  2. Cameron /

    LOVE that picture. And I am not a huge fan of Chutes and Ladders either, but with 3 children I have played it many times!

  3. Corinne /

    I have been reading your blog for a while now- both because I am pulling for you so hard (and like to keep updated) and also because your perspective and way with words is so very inspiring. This post, especially, hit a chord with me. I have been through some trials in the past eight months…and have found that because of these trials- I am more myself…less afraid to be myself. And that is someone who very much treasures the little moments, with my children, with friends, with family. And sometimes it feels almost trivial, for me, to enjoy these little moments with my kids as much as I do…because, really, don’t I have bigger things to worry about? But the little things are who I am, what keeps me going, and that’s okay. I fear I’m rambling now, I apologize, but just wanted to say thank you for writing- and sharing your beautiful perspecitve with all of us. (and for putting it in words that are not rambling like mine. Ahem.)

  4. Deanna Eppley /

    We play chutes and ladders just about every day, one game after another! Thank for sharing your journey. It blesses me!

  5. Marsha Vonderwish /

    Beautifully said Jen. Yes, cancer does change us and we have to chose if that change will be to make us ‘better’ or ‘bitter’. You have chosen WELL! Having a relationship with our Lord makes that choice SO much easier. May your day be filled with shunshine and Blessings!

  6. Like you, I never want(ed) to play the game Chutes and Ladders! But your analogy makes me want to pull it out and play it again teaching my now 8 year old about how it mimics life. Thanks for that!