Stuff vs Soul

Aug 27

I woke up this morning with a head cold: sore throat, stuffed up nose, watery eyes, and aches.  My first thought was: seriously?  I need a cold like I need a hole in my head.  Today was slated to be my catch up day.  The chemo funk has mostly lifted, Maren’s going to school, Greta’s off to Phenom’s house for the day and I’ve got ten days months worth of tasks, lists, minutiae, and miscellaneous to focus on.  Brad rarely travels, but he happens to be gone this week so I am the last (wo)man standing in our house.

After resisting the urge to just go back to bed (mostly because I could hear minions making noise), I did a self-assessment and decided “push through the pain” to continue on with my day as planned was just not realistic.  Grace; I am getting lots of practice at dumping buckets of grace out on myself and accepting buckets of grace from those around me (thank you).  I took a deep breath and began to prioritize.  I structured a day that only included the essentials, allowed time for a rest, and was life-giving.  Basically, I focused on restoring strength to my soul and de-prioritized restoring order to my stuff.

Today I handled the essentials, did some reading, and then I had lunch with a soul-filling friend, took a nap, and picked up the girls.  The day flew by and I accomplished 5% of what I had thought I would get done today.  I canceled the Jen Girls Night Out portion of my evening plans, knowing that once I’d mommed my girls in the twilight hours I would have an even more empty tank.  Letting my tank get empty is a bigger deal these days because I don’t recover as quickly: over-exerting is something I pay for over the next several days/week, so my mind is always analyzing how much is too much.  It’s tricky and I’m still adjusting to “lost time” as I’ve come to know it as a result of this particular treatment’s cycle.

The evening transition zoomed by also: Maren off the bus, dressed for volleyball, picking up Greta, and driving to volleyball practice.  I shirked my coaching duties and closed my eyes in the car while Greta watched a movie.  When Greta got wiggly, I took her to the playground behind the school until Maren finished practice.

On the way home-again-home-again-jiggity-jog, the girls piped up, “What’s for dinner?”

I started to answer, and then cut myself off because I realized the “one-step” meal I’d planned: the pull-out-of-freezer-and-put-in-oven meal was still in the freezer, lost to the hazy head cold brain.  Doh.  Sometimes I just can’t win.  As I drove along I thought of how to best remedy: stop for takeout, cook when I got home, attempt a rapid defrost/cook of the planned meal, etc.

“Well, girls,” I said, “I just realized I forgot to put dinner in the oven, so we have nothing for dinner at home.”

“Oh man!” came cries from the backseat.

“I think there is only one thing to do in this situation,” I told them very seriously.

“What Mom?” they said, knowing from my tone something was up.  “What?”

“I think we should have ICE CREAM FOR DINNER!” I shouted.  (This is totally an idea I stole from my awesome sister-in-law who did this with my niece and nephews this summer.)

Both girls are looking at me with wide eyes as I glance at them in the rearview mirror.  “Seriously Mom?” says Greta.

“Are you joking?” says Maren.  Neither of them can quite believe it.  It’s too good to be true.

“I think that’s what we need to do; do you guys think it is a good idea?”

“Yes Mom!  Best idea ever!”  “Squeeeeee!”  “Ice cream!”  They were bouncing with joy in their boosters.  I knew this would be a hit, but they were even more delighted than I anticipated.

We show up to the local ice cream place and it is packed; some kind of back-to-school event is going on there, so the line is a half-hour long.  We go in anyway; they play with friends, they run in the grass.  I wait in line and talk to friends; I congratulate myself that this is so.much.more.pleasant than cobbling together a meal at home.  I don’t let my cold stop me from enjoying our hour there.  We see old friends and new friends and we bask in the perfect-end-of-summer evening.  On the way home I suggest that they tell me how much they like “ice cream for dinner” surprises by dazzling me with cooperative behavior as we get ready for bed tonight.  We’re home just in time to skip baths and wash feet-only in the tub, and do the nighttime routines.  It was  a perfect ice-cream-for-dinner-night.  Our nutrition wasn’t strong tonight, but our souls are bubbling over.  I’m pretty content with how the day went given we had so many variables that could have gone the other way.

We ended on a positive… well… almost: Greta’s last words to me tonight were “Mom, I have a tummy ache.”  Haha!  Whoops, sorry G.  And also, I ate green beans at 10pm because ice cream for dinner is not all it’s cracked up to be for me either.

It is the soul — mine and theirs — that matters; that is what I need to take care of first and always.  Do today well.

**Our family will be at/near Komen’s Race for the Cure main stage by 6pm tomorrow night near Smale Park.  We’re planning on walking the race (5k) with our friends and family who are meeting us there.  Thanks to those who have supported us in this effort.  Today during our ice cream dinner I talked to the girls about why we’re walking: to raise money for doctors who work in laboratories to make new cancer treatments, to celebrate women (like me) living with cancer, and to remember our friends whom we’ve lost and the families who are thriving without them.  It’s bittersweet that both my girls, at ages 4 and 8, have a pretty solid grasp of all three of those reasons, and are proud to be part of it.


  1. Lisa Smith /

    Well done Jen. Love you.

  2. Diana G /

    After a couple of hours of ByLaws and password protected stuff and ensuring have enough AGM nominations for committee and everyone else has gone and feeling eerk and frustrated, up pops Do Today Well and i am gobsmacked that i think life is tough. Jen, whatever you are feeling, you are an inspiration and wake up call every time!! Prayers for power and more grace and abundant love to you all

  3. ShannonK /

    Love it!

  4. Kelli /

    God bless you, your family, and your honesty. You are such a treasure!

  5. Kim Rourke /

    Make it banana splits and you have added the riot group to your dairy!!

  6. Bonnie BJ /

    Yummy, we had an Ice-Cream-for-dinner night as well :-): after a day of Dr. appointments, work etc. Summer is sweet and today we can make that up with some Greens,!! Walk strong Jen ! Our hearts and feet are with you as we walk in TN..

    • admin /

      Thanks Bonnie! Have fun in TN–it is one of my happy places!

  7. Aunt Annie /

    Bummer about your cold. Yeah for ice cream and soul celebrating! We’ll be thinking of you tonite giving your “living with cancer” speech and “walking for the cause!” Lots of Love.

  8. Lindsay l /

    Thinking of you guys tonight!

  9. Love it! My mom once did homemade elephant ears for dinner and it’s something my siblings and I still talk about from time to time. This is something your girls will remember always.