Evolving my days

Jan 20

Today’s snow day was perfectly timed.  Snow days are such  good reminder for me of unexpected blessings, willfully set-aside to do lists, and spontaneous creative fun.

We did appropriate snow day things today.  The kids decided what we should do.  I elected to serve the brownies before the lunch (and I never do that).  She played in the snow.  We had marshmallows and hot chocolate.  They had mutually agreeable loving sisterly playtime; when I see this I feel I have spotted a unicorn.  After a failed commute (he’s fine, it’s the traffic that was miserable), Brad stayed home and I enjoyed his presence as he worked from home.  We played board games.  We squeezed our day of freedom for everything we could, and I think we all feel refreshed tonight.  Brad and I even went on a mini project-ing date this evening, so we really rounded out the day with fullness and fun.  Yay!

Those to do lists, right?  Sometimes they are TO DO LISTS, and they’re like mocking me as they sit undone.  Like item number seventeen: empty Christmas laundry basket.  Said laundry basket contains almost every thing I got for Christmas because I haven’t taken the time to actually put it away.  (Oddly, I use items from it: wear the shirt, color in the book, use the lotion, etc., and then I put it back in the basket as if this is a permanent solution.  (Note to self: Jen this is not a good strategy.)  Also a factor is that as I haven’t written a thank you note yet, having it in the basket is a to do list in and of itself.  And also, I enjoy writing thank you notes, so it’s not a burdensome task.  And obviously since it is a month after Christmas, I am trusting that the givers in my life are really *really* good at giving me grace in all areas, not just thank-you-card-writing.)  Oy vey, tell me I’m not the only one with a Christmas laundry basket.


Good grief I feel like I am babbling, which is kind of awkward, but it also kind of accurately reflects how I’m feeling so I’m going to go with it and not delete everything I just wrote.

One day keeps tumbling into the next, and I’m doing what needs to get done that day.  I’m literally looking ahead a few hours at a time instead of planning out a week or more.  Why I am I operating this way?  Partially because of the timing of the holidays and travel and treatment and guests and projects.  Somewhat because Santa got Maren a toy for her room that didn’t fit in her room, necessitating we change things around.  And when-you-give-a-mouse-a-cookie happened there.  I’m also making absurd choices like watching Greta model all of the scarves in my closet this morning and helping Maren fold imaginary origami on her Kindle in the middle of the afternoon when there are about six hundred other things I should do.

And nothing more important that I should do.  Right?  That is the gift of my situation: I know to spend my time in scarves and origami.  I am present.

First I have to give myself the grace to accept the fallout from this choice–this most important, most right, most holy, most glorifying choice.  That’s hard.  And then I have to ask for grace (and service) from everyone around me.  That’s harder yet.  I do think it is the most right thing, and as I navigate it I am being humbled at a new level.  And — wouldn’t you know — more gratitude pours in.  Lord, the cycle!

The village thing is happening.  Folks are delivering meals, doing laundry, offering to grocery, and taking burdens faster than I can throw them out there.  Out-of-towners and stranger friends are helping (and asking to help) in their ways; local people are being hands and feet.  It’s pretty awesome to be seeing this from my view.  Brutiful, right?  Cancer’s dealt me a brutal hand, but God’s blessing and my people keep the beautiful coming so it is a mirage for me to ogle at.  Actually, it feels more like cancer is the mirage and my feet are on the solid ground.  Yes.  I know where I stand.

Damn, I’m a lucky girl in the way I am loved.  For real.

People keep asking how I’m feeling; I had the first “new chemo” last Monday, and the second one a few days ago.  I think I probably sound a bit loony toons when I answer because I’m honestly not giving my brain’s energy/capacity over to  have deep thoughts on how my body is adjusting to the latest in a long line of drugs.  I’m kind of like, “Well, this is my new normal, so let’s decide to be awesome.  If I’m pressed to start analyzing whether I do indeed feel nauseous or tired or weak or whatever, it just doesn’t help me feel normal.  Or awesome.”

Here’s how I’m operating: “Instead of thinking about how I’m physically feeling, I’m going to think about what I’m grateful for and what I’m going to spend my energy doing today.”

That’s how I’m rolling day-to-day, hour-to-hour.  There are hiccups.  I literally forgot to pick up Greta from school last week.  My phone rang, and I answer, and I’m like “Oh, Hi Greta’s Teacher, it’s nice to talk to you.  How are you? — Wait!  OMG!  It’s 3:40!  You’re calling me because no one is there to pick up Greta!  Crap!  I’m on my way!  I have no excuse!  I’ll be right there!  K?  K!  Bye!”  And some version of that scene is happening with Maren’s homework, and my inbox, and on my overflowing kitchen counter, and returning texts and messages and notes.

I think we will find our new rhythm and settle in to a routine that works soon enough.  In the meantime, I’m a bit seriously disorganized, tardy with nearly every thing you can think of, and pumping furiously to make the most right choice in the moments as they evolve.

I ask you to pray that I can first give myself the grace to accept everything about this, and then that I would have the capacity to reflect the love I’m shown each day.

We have a calendar set up for meals; it will evolve to include other needs as I/we can think of them.  Email our help coordinators if you want that info or if you want to do something and need advice.  Several have asked for more ways you can help — I’m humbled by the question, I’m grateful, and I’m working on the answer(s).  For now, rest with me in the knowledge that I have everything I need in this moment.  We are approaching this with a marathon-not-a-sprint attitude.  We’re finding a new pace for our new season.

Many nights I find myself tiptoeing in to my sleeping family in their rooms to give an extra kiss or brush of the forehead; I pause to re-live and reflect on my favorite moment with them that day.  Often, I have several moments of wonder to choose from.  I am a blessed woman indeed.


  1. I think you are making very good choices. For example, attending a scarf fashion show on a snowy day sounds like a perfect way to spend an afternoon. Also have had the experience akin to buying a new throw pillow and then suddenly redecorating a whole room around it. The small things are everything. They are a form of prayer.

  2. Rebecca /

    Brutiful, indeed. You give me the gift of inspiration every time you write. I am giving you, stranger friend, love and prayers.

  3. Lindsay /

    Loved how you spent your day—so much better than doing all those to-dos. I always love how things like snow days can just make you pause and enjoy the blessing of the day, just you mentioned.
    Ps- I’ve still got Christmas thank yous to get out as well! 😉

  4. Karin Eppert /

    Cancer IS brutiful. And we also thoroughly enjoyed our snow day yesterday “doing the day well”. Love you girl.

  5. Kim Rourke /

    Your village would be furious if they were put before your time with family! You show your gratitude for the gifting (Christmas or otherwise) with each word you write to us here. AND… You have made Greta’s day as surely she has, and will continue to share the tale of the day Mommy was late picking her up from school. Sounds like dessert before lunch may be in order again.??

  6. and we are blessed for having you in our lives. I think your strategy is PERFECT! Love you!

  7. well I went back to leave a comment on a previous entry after I thought about it and I guess I can’t leave my comment there. It’s the Words on Her Wall entry. I have always been a lover of quotes and sayings and have saved them for years. Problem is I can’t remember them. I spent new year’s with a convent friend and she said we will celebrate all that is good. So I came up with a new mantra for myself.See the Good…Be the Good! It is short and simple so I can remember it! Also one of your note cards is on my desk and I look at it every day. The saying on the front is another favorite. Love is always before you…love it.

  8. KristyM /

    As a quiet reader of your journey, I’m grateful for your shared stories and wonderful reminders to be *present*. You are doing the very best thing for yourself and your family… continue to listen to your heart!

  9. Honestly, Jen, you are AMAZING! One of the most common side effects of “brutiful cancer” is Chemo brain (which of course you certainly know all about). However, every time I read your beautifully written blog, I marvel at how articulate you are. I’m not only reading the words, I’m visualizing the scenes you are painting. That’s a true gift. You have helped me be a better Gigi to my “little bits” because I’m NEVER too busy to read another story, color another picture, play another game of Battleship…you get the idea. Your mantra of “Do Today Well” has traveled the world. How many of us can boast that? Now it’s my turn to give you some advice…forget about the Christmas laundry basket and writing thank you notes. Use the 5 year rule…who the heck will even remember any of that 5 years from now? You’re too busy making memories for your loved ones to last a life time. What could possibly be more important than that? ♥p

  10. Mommaj /

    Child time always trumps “things to do” time in my mind ! A rhythm will enter your days and the Lord will direct your path to those things and moments that are the Best for you. It’s funny how when we focus on Gratefulness our needs are met abundantly. HE Knows full well.

  11. Lisa Marker-Robbins /

    Love you and your attitude, Jen. That is all for today. XO

  12. Hi Jen! I am a new “stranger friend,” who just discovered your blog this year. You had mentioned in your blog that you are choosing to be “awesome.” I thought you should know that your mission has been accomplished…you are AWESOME!!! You seem to have it all figured out…being present in the moment, and enjoying your family. After all, that IS what life is all about…not the to-do lists, but I do understand the struggle. You are an inspiration, and I hope to be like you when I grow up…I suppose I should get a wiggle on, as I am 45 years old ;).

  13. Oh,Jen — don’t let those “things to do” bully you or your family. Your girls will remember and treasure the fun, while the messy desk or laundry basket will be forgotten. You are indeed doing each day well.
    While my boys are much older, I get a new chance to follow your advice with my grandchildren. Your words inspire me to be the best Oma possible.

  14. Jen Roesch /

    Oh Jen – So good to hear that someone else has a “Christmas laundry basket” too! It’s all a season, right?! Christmas laundry baskets can wait. Memories cannot. Someday there will be a season of organizing. And it will be glorious. 🙂