Bumping along with joy

May 04

Life tumbles on.  Sometimes it’s smooth, but more often it’s bumpy and whimsical.  There’s a reason tumbleweeds are so inspirational to artists.  Life here has been good; I started feeling better shortly after my last post.  I’m sorry I didn’t update sooner; every time I saw a window of writing opportunity approach, we hit a bump that blew us in a different direction and the window disappeared.

Last Monday I ran out of gas.  No, literally.  I ran out of gas on the way home from Maren’s volleyball practice.  I’d been five minutes late all day for everything, so I never made time to go put gasoline in the car.  It is a little ironic because I’ve been driving my car (the same one) for thirteen years, so I have a really good sense on how low I can go when it comes to the gas gauge.  I’d meant to go to a pump right near volleyball when we left the gym–I knew I had just enough, but the girls were whining-whining-whining as we pulled out of the parking lot and I  forgot.  Then, four minutes later when the car went quiet, I was like, “Doh!”; I knew right away.  It’s the first time I’ve ever run out of gas–whoopsies.  Thankfully, I called Brad and he was able to come rescue us twenty minutes later.  The man is a saint: all cheerful and chivalrous; not even a sidelong glance of annoyance.  We’re all safe, and it was no big deal.  But still, I probably won’t do it again any time soon.  Moral of the story?  Obviously: no whining.

My internet is down after being away for several days without my computer.  When we left for the road trip, I left my backpack on my desk instead of putting it in the car.  This is so ironic because I packed most of what the girls would need but I didn’t have any of the “Jen Stuff” I enjoy bringing on vacations.  In the bag: book, coloring book and pens, computer, Bible, note cards,.  It’s weird to go even a few days without writing anything (it turns out I’ve been typing so much that hand-writing feels sooo slow).  I use the internet for lots of things so it feels like it has brought a halt to my efficient productivity.  Fortunately Unfortunately for me, the laundry machines, dishwasher and vacuum do not require wi-fi.  This seems like the universe has made a mistake.

Last week I realized that I missed Teacher Appreciation Week.  I started to shrug it off then realized, Wait, this is an opportunity I don’t want to miss.  So, I hurriedly (is there another way that I function other than hurriedly?) wrote a sincere note of thanks to Maren’s teacher and sent them in with her today.  I then had to plug the computer in to the printer to print it because: wi-fi again.  Dang, it’s inconvenient.  Wires and plugs and where is the magic in that?  This is what I wrote and printed in the note:

We missed Teacher Appreciation Week and we are so sorry!  Our family has many strengths, but timeliness is not one of them.  Some years we would say “whoops” and move on, but this year I realized that I missed an opportunity to say how very grateful we are for your presence in our lives.  As my child entered school, I had high expectations for her teacher(s) and it is bewildering to me that year after year, the standard gets higher and my expectations are constantly exceeded.  You are filled with crazy love for students–my student!  

We actually find TAW a teeny bit ridiculous because we appreciate you all year long.  Even through the summer and the years to come, we will remember with fondness the love, affection, truth, and knowledge you impart to our daughter.  You use your precious time and energy daily to build up her wisdom and also her character.  We see her becoming better, broader, smarter, kinder and braver because of your influence, dedication and perspective.  These treasures are priceless and we are in your debt.  

Thank you for choosing teaching as your profession.  It is a service to our child, our family, our community, our world.  You are under-thanked and taken for granted often, but we hope and pray that you personally feel rich in reward for your hard work.  Please remember these words and our daughter’s smile when the hard moments (of which there are many) come.

You rock.  Keep being amazing with our kid(s).  We see you.  We are grateful.  You matter.  You are loved.

With love and gratitude,

Brad, Jen, Maren & Greta

Anyone who wants to copy/borrow/steal any portion of the above text to send to your child’s teachers is welcome to do so.  Also, this very much applies to our former teachers as well: you know who you are!

Our family has been so blessed with the above-and-beyond scope that our teachers bring to the table, and I didn’t want to miss saying thanks.  You can imagine my reaction later this afternoon when Maren came home and announced, “Mom!  We didn’t miss Teacher Appreciation Week!  It started today.  I gave them their cards early!”  I nodded and promptly face palmed.  We focus on the big picture here: the teachers felt appreciated, and my misguided “tardiness” gave them comic relief about my human-ness and made the like me even more.  Right?  Tumbleweed-ing through life and good intentions still marks a win.

I have a boatload of coffees/chats/lunches/catch-ups I want to have.  I also want to be very present and under-scheduled with my family.  This is tricky.  If anyone has any solutions or thoughts on this, I would very much like to know your kind of magic.  After you’ve imparted that wisdom to me, you can carry on and have a talk with my wifi, calendar, and gas gauge.  (Real life people: if I’m delinquent in getting back to you, know that I LOVE YOU, and I’m just tumbling along the best I can.  Try tossing me a date/time that works for you; for some reason that helps me get traction.)  Quality conversation is good for my Jen soul, and I’m a better wife/mama/friend afterwards, so an assist from you is probably just what I need.

Today I went to the oncology office for my treatment.  Dr. Wonderful spent extra time with me even though it was a packed day and Nurse Practitioner Rockstar took the day off (I think she ran some portion of the Flying Pig last weekend–Go Rockstar!)  The “extra time” my brilliant doc spent with me?  We discussed art and travel–two of our favorite subjects.  After our decisively non-medical conversation, I went back to find a recliner in the chemo room.  I got the prescribed mix of Benadryl, steroids, Pepcid, and fluids in addition to the biological + chemotherapy drug mix.  I fell victim to The Benadryl Zonk which is a crash-and-burn style nap in the chemo chair where drool is probable.  Classy Jen, classy.  Mom was due for her bi-annual appointment with Dr. Wonderful — she’s just there for routine maintenance and lab work.  As per her norm, she brought in treats for the room and brightened the vibe for everyone.  Over the next few days I’ll be in watch-and-wait mode to see if I will have a couple of “down days” like I did last time, or whether that was a fluke and I’ll cruise through these treatments.

Either way, I’m good.  Joy in whatever comes my way.  I know my peace and strength come from the Lord, and I. Am. Grateful.



  1. Lisa Smith /

    This had me laughing out loud several times. Thanks Jen. Wish we were scheduling a catch-up coffee date but will have to settle for sending love from CA. xoxo (ps. I left my computer battery charger on vacation and can totally relate to tumblweed-ing through last week as well.)

  2. Lori6NV /

    Glad to hear you are well. Praying for you and your family always. Yes, today is the first day of TAW – I panicked when I started reading your post! We sent sunflowers. 🙂 Teachers “brighten up” our day!

  3. Kim Rourke /

    Again you uplift my morning start! Happy tumbling along today! We other “tumblers” will be with you in spirit.

  4. Shari /

    Thanks, Jen. Your posts always put everything into perspective. Even on the busy, crazy, days, we need to be grateful. Joy to you and your family!

  5. Bonnie BJ /

    Heading home from THE LAKE and reading your Blog 😉 touches me, encourages me to persevere in prayer and give you, my dear, a virtual hug around the neck !! You are so very loved !!!

  6. Rebecca /

    Thank God for you, Jen. You insistence on the normal and the grateful and the joyful in abnormal medical circumstances is such a relief to those of use going through similar challenges. Love, love, love.

  7. Dave /

    Praying with you and for you always.

  8. Aunt Annie /

    Jen, I can relate to running out of gas. It happened during my drivers ed. test when I was 16! I can’t give the excuse of whining children distracting me! The instructor got out of the car, looked under the hood, came back, checked the gas gauge and said “Honey, you can’t run a car without gas!” and promptly failed me!

  9. Christin /

    Beautiful letter to Maren’s teacher! I got teary-eyed reading it. Maybe from reading it as a mother…. but most likely from reading it as a teacher :). It touched my heart!!! YOU touch my heart!

  10. Your letter to Maren’s teacher inspired me to write a letter to my own 4th grade teacher from 39 years ago. (Thank you for permission to use your words; some of them were PERFECT for this dear woman.) I found her address by searching on Google.
    Choosing JOY and praying it brings joy to an 80-year-old woman.