Sunday, December 24, 2017

See You in Two Months...

Sorry for the delay in updating everyone. Jordan's family is in town, it is Christmas, I'm lazy and it is snowing here. Pick one of those excuses please.

We rolled back to OHSU on Wednesday for the first time in two months. The place is wildly confusing. Elevators that only go to certain floors and three different "B" elevators are just some of the highlights. "Can't get there from here" is basically the unspoken mantra of the person that designed the hospital. This is probably some great analogy for the whole journey we are on but I'm honestly too drained to try and put that together right now.

As Jordan was getting her MRI on Wednesday I wandered down to the cafeteria. I sat at the same table I sat at in July as Jordan was having brain surgery. In July I sat at the table with friends. We all sat there nervously with no clue as to what to say. Yesterday I sat there by myself. I wasn't by myself because no one offered to be there. Several people had offered. Jordan and I told them all we were ok to be there by ourselves. I realized in that moment why I chose to sit at the same table and why I was oddly ok with being by myself. It was because all this has become familiar. That was super strange and confusing to me. After a few minutes of staring at my burrito, I realized I was angry (they overcooked the eggs). Angry because OHSU shouldn't be familiar. Angry because I didn't and don't have any control. Angry because it won't be my last trip to that table in that cafeteria. Too angry to think or process anything in a rational way. Everyone that works in the OHSU cafeteria knows not to make eye contact with someone blankly staring at their breakfast burrito. They've seen that look before...

After all of Jordan's scans, bloodwork and a quick trip to Portland to get harassed by a crazy person while trying to enjoy lunch we were back at OHSU for the results.

Jordan's tumor hasn't grown or shrank in size. The swelling in her brain has gone down significantly as a result of the risky treatment that she was taking. The MRI revealed some tissue damage around the tumor from the radiation treatments. This is normal and the tissue has the possibility of recovering. Her blood work revealed yesterday that her platelets (keeps you from bleeding to death) are super low (think less than 20% of normal levels). This is something that typically happens when you are taking chemo. Jordan will hold off on her next round of chemo until the platelets return to normal. This could take a few weeks and several transfusions. A friend told me she hoped the platelet donor was a Brit so that Jordan picks up a cool new accent. Not sure that is how that works but fingers crossed. So while Jordan's symptoms haven't improved (they have gotten slightly worse in the last few weeks) it looks like things are going slightly better in her brain. The doctor shared that her weakness, slurred speech and lack of coordination could be a combined result from the treatment, the steroids she has been taking (currently working on taking her off!) and just general apathy.

As we were receiving all of this information on Wednesday and asking awkward clarification questions I finally asked: "Is this good news?". The doctor shared that this is about the best possible news that we could have realistically gotten. He then shared that we will continue treatment as normal and check back in at the end of February.

Jordan has bought us all two more months. We will take it.


Sunday, December 10, 2017

"Sick in the Head"

My memories are a little fuzzy. I don't do so well with remembering the name of my fifth-grade teacher or what I got for my birthday two years ago. I recently told someone that a mutual friend used to sing Opera and that was completely wrong. Details aren't my strong suit. I've got some super strong memories though that are tied to these anchors. The anchors being songs, melodies, lyrics, a beat or the distinct sound of a weathered folk singer. Music has always transported me to another place and some of my most distinct memories are entangled in music.

This is weird because I have the musical talent of a rock. I clap on the wrong beat (drives Jordan mad), I can't match pitch and I absolutely stink at drums, piano and guitar (I know because I've tried). Music has always been a companion though on all my strange journeys in life.

My first cassette tape I remember owning was Tom Petty's (RIP) Full Moon Fever ("Zombie Zoo" is a total sleeper track). I absolutely wore it out. My first CD purchases were Stone Temple Pilot's (RIP Scott Weiland) Plush and Blind Melon's (RIP Shannon Hoon) self-titled debut. I bought them at the mall! Do those even exist anymore? My first vinyl album was Pearl Jam's (Eddie Vedder still going strong baby) Vitalogy and was a gift from my uncle. I could go on for days how tracks from those albums instantly transport me back to a place long gone. Sweet sweet teenage angst and the awkwardness of youth are forever wrapped in the songs from those albums.

It isn't just music to me. There have always been raw and real emotions tied to it. It means something. I think it is a big reason why I like talking/sharing music so much. I love seeing someones face light up when they enjoy a song that is already tucked away in the back of my head. I love it when I'm sharing an experience with someone and a great song comes on. I know that moment will forever be saved for me and cued up the next time I hear that song. A new anchor. Some of my favorite anchors are ones that tie me to others that I care about.

I've had two big, rusty, salty and barnacle covered anchors dropped into my memory in the last year or so that I will share.

I first heard the song "Sleep on the Floor" by the Lumineers in April of 2016. I was in my kitchen making dinner after a long day at work. I was completely disillusioned with myself at the time. I had lost my zeal for teaching. Something that I was certain I wanted to do and knew that I loved deep down. I hated getting out of bed in the morning. My family suffered from my misery. I had already resigned from my position in Georgia with no job lined up and this hair-brained idea that I was going to move my family to Oregon. I had no real plans but knew something had to change for my own sanity and for my family. I heard "Sleep on the Floor", shared it with Jordan and it immediately became our theme song. We sang it a hundred times over the next couple of months. The very first time we ever drove into the Gorge we blasted that song and I instantly knew we were home. Something that has been confirmed over and over again.

The song came on Pandora recently. I was in the shower and getting ready for work. I wept uncontrollably. After the song finished I turned off the music and just sat in the hot shower. I couldn't even stand as I thought about what that song has meant to Jordan and I and all that has happened since we landed in our new home. That was a fun day at work!

Pearl Jam's "Better Man" has been swimming around in my head since I was a teenager. It is on the B side of that vinyl album my uncle bought me. I remember singing along with two college buddies after we snuck down to the nice seats at their concert in Atlanta. When you sing along with Pearl Jam there is usually some mumbling because Eddie Vedder doesn't even always know what he is saying. The song has popped up in all sorts of places in my life and is tied to all sorts of anchors.

Those Pearl Jam anchors were smashed by another really large bully anchor in June. Jordan, I and the kids were camping in the backyard of our new home in Parkdale. We had abandoned our real camping trip that we were on because of mosquitos and were making it up to the kids in the backyard. We also didn't own any furniture at the time so camping in the backyard seemed pretty logical. It was a beautiful crisp and clear night. We had a fire going and were roasting marshmallows for the kiddos. As the evening wound down Jordan had decided that she wanted to tell the kids about her tumor. We had just found out a few days before and had been debating on how to tell them. Jordan had to be the one because I was a complete coward and wouldn't have been able to. I sat there under this perfect sky as Jordan and my kids began to process what would be our new reality. I floated in and out of this conversation because it felt like a dream. I viciously fought back tears (which seems completely ridiculous now) and all I could manage was to let a kid sit in my lap and bitterly stare at the sky. As we sat there "Better Man" played faintly in the background.

If I'm being honest I forgot about this moment. It had been pushed out of my head by all the other craziness of the last six months. That is until I heard "Better Man" last week in my car. I was instantly in the backyard again. I could smell the campfire and taste my salty tears. I had to pull over. I just sat there like an idiot on the side of the road. The song finished, I deleted it off of my iPod and continued my drive home from work with misty eyes and complete silence from the car stereo.

On December 20th, Jordan and I return to OHSU for her next MRI scan and results. We will spend the day sitting, waiting, hoping and wishing. We will have an awkward lunch in between appointments. The day will be clunky. We will make small talk and I'll make stupid jokes in an attempt to make myself feel better. Neither one of us will know what to truly say or think. There will be lots of heavy sighs. I'll bring a book and not open it. We will have to ask the Dr. to repeat himself at least once. We will get news. We will struggle in our heads to process it as good, bad or just news.

There is one other thing I know for certain about December 20th though. I'm going to turn the music off in the car before we get to OHSU. I don't need another anchor right now.

What are some of your anchors?

Christmas Season is rolling along here. Parker's teacher hosted a Carols and Cocoa night at her house. We had a blast!
The students at Parkdale are always so kind to Jordan when she visits in the afternoon to pick up the kiddos.
Decorating the tree for the kid's room after a great dinner with a friend.
We had some awesome Parkdale Elves (co-workers from the school one of which is of elf stature) come and decorate the outside and inside of the house. Benton, Parker and Jordan absolutely loved it. It was fun to follow the kids around the house as they found little surprises left behind by the elves.

Benton and Parker reading their notes that the Elves of Parkdale left.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Let That Be Enough

I recently read an article about a person's struggle with their cancer diagnosis and treatment decisions. What stuck with me was that with cancer in their lives it felt as if they "were just giving up one damn thing after another". The author explained that treatment comes at a cost and deciding against treatment comes at a cost too. Reading it almost made me feel like there are no right decisions.

I've learned that there is a delicate balance the doctors are taking in treating Jordan's tumor. By delicate balance I mean let's see how much poison they can pump into her body without killing her. They are constantly checking her blood looking for some sign that the chaos inside her body is too much for her to handle. The reports keep coming back good so that means more infusions and more pills. It is crazy what you can talk a desperate couple into thinking is ok when it comes to modern medicine! All for the possibility of some progress.

Last week Jordan completed her last infusion (she can't take more because it causes internal bleeding) that was supposed to alleviate some of her symptoms. Jordan still takes a steroid she has had every day since her surgery in July. It is dangerous to just stop taking it. She is also continuing a clinical trial that she receives by infusion every ten to twelve days which is completely paid for by the company that manufactures the drug (I assure you their hearts are in the right place). What they didn't mention was that getting that drug into Jordan's body cost $185 each time (what was I saying about their cold black hearts?). Yesterday she finished her second real round of chemo. A five-day cycle of just getting her butt handed to her by these four little pills. A pill that robs her of all strength. This week she has struggled to make the three steps from the wheelchair to the bed without her knees buckling. A pill that robs her of all energy. A pill that also robs her of the ability to properly rest. A pill that causes pain in her arms and legs.  A pill that makes it impossible for her to sit up without support. A pill that takes her already battered speech and makes it faint and unrecognizable.

I saw a video this week of Jordan and Benton from five years ago. Jordan was manning the camera and having a conversation with a chubby Benton. I heard a voice that I haven't heard in so long (and it wasn't Benton's voice because the kid never stops talking). It was the voice of a caring and loving mother. One that had little inflections of pride and joy as she interacted with her son. In full honesty, I questioned who it was. Then I was immediately hit with a flood of emotions as I heard the voice that I fell in love with. Playful laughter and this soft soothing tone. Then I turned it off because I couldn't watch it again and possibly hold it together.

Giving up one DAMN thing after another. What's next?

Jordan and I have been crying lots lately at night. One of the times was because we realized we didn't have any more episodes of Stranger Things to watch. The rest of the times were because we just didn't know what else to do. There aren't many words right now that capture what we feel.

As we were crying it out the other night I managed an "I love you" followed by "I don't know what else to say". Jordan responded, "That's enough". Since she kept holding my hand and didn't make me take my crying to the couch I think she meant that was all she needed to hear in that moment. As I thought about that interaction a few days later a chorus from a song I haven't heard in fifteen years popped into my head:

Let me know that you hear me
Let me know your touch
Let me know that you love me
Let that be enough

Hunting for a Christmas tree with Nana and Parker's teacher.
Decorating cookies at the local town hall.
Benton was thrilled to be wearing a shirt with buttons.
Parker asked Santa for a puzzle and Benton asked for a bb gun.
Decorating the tree!
Locally sourced, organic, vegan, cage-free and gluten-free!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Box Full of Letters

I used to write letters. Letters to friends. Letters to Jordan. Letters to the editor (seriously I've got those old copies of the campus newspaper somewhere). Jordan has a box full of letters I wrote her in college. Love letters, silly letters, serious letters and letters of intent.

I'm always jealous when you read about a great historical figure and there is this wealth of handwritten correspondence. It is such a beautiful thing to read. Let me get on my digital soapbox here and hypocritically say that I think we have lost touch with the power of a handwritten letter. Don't get me wrong I love instant communication and I'm the first to appreciate a good GIF as a response to a text message. The sad part though is that if someone wrote your (or my) biography based off of today's correspondence it would be a bunch of facebook pokes, boring work emails, bad pictures of food/babies and Reddit comments. Meh.

There is just something about a letter. It is real and tangible. The ink, the weight of the paper and the smell. They all say something. When was the last time you put your hands on an awesome piece of stationery? You have to be able to spell and punctuate all by yourself to write a letter. Handwriting is a beautiful thing (well mine isn't) too. It can reveal the emotion and so many other layers to what is being written. Handwritten letters seem permanent. It takes time and patience to craft one. You actually have to think about what you are wanting to say. There is no delete key. No one wants a love letter covered in white out (what a great way to confuse someone though.) Then when you finish writing one you have to physically deliver it or God forbid find a stamp and mail it.

I've lost touch with the practice though. Blogging has awakened the desire a bit and is slowly turning the ship back to personal communication through writing. Capturing my feelings and moments preserved through something personal. Who doesn't want that waiting for them in their mailbox? Trust me if you want to make someone's week mail them a letter for no reason and tell them how you feel about them. So many of you have taken the time to do so with Jordan and I. It is something we are so grateful for.

I'm talking about correspondence today because Jordan and I had another gut-wrenching conversation this weekend. I asked Jordan to write some letters to our children (immediately followed by both of us crying.) Jordan can't physically write a letter right now. Her typing is bad too. So composing a letter is going to be physically demanding. It will probably require some help from another person to get it transcribed. Not only will it be physically demanding but also a herculean emotional undertaking as well. I want these letters to be a glimpse into who Jordan is and what our children mean to her. Because if it isn't said now it could be lost forever.

So what do you say as a parent writing to their child in this situation? Something they can physically hold in their hands as a testament to what you want them to know for the rest of their finite existence. I'm not talking mushy I love yous and hugs/kisses. I'm talking character and reminding your children of who they are to you. As a dad, I've started that letter in my head to Benton fifty times since this weekend. I haven't gotten past the comma that comes after Benton. I don't even know where to start. So it is a tough thing to ask someone else to do it. I think it is crucial though for our children to hear from Jordan. To be reminded.

I just hope like hell that Jordan gets to hand deliver those letters to our children one day.

What would you say to your husband/wife/spouse/partner? What about to your children? To your family? Your best friend? Whatever it is you should write it down. Today.

Our box full of letters from you.


Thursday, November 23, 2017

Turkey and Sweet Potato Pie, Sammy Davis Jr. Only Had One Eye...

I initially resisted a Thanksgiving post. I hate the ooeey gooey holiday stereotypical stuff. You know the Hallmark card, Lifetime Movie Network and generic children's holiday art project thankfulness crap.

For all the ups and downs that this journey has brought our family, there are little moments each and every day where we can't help but smile. So we as a family are thankful. Like soul-stirring, teary-eyed thankfulness. We experience thankfulness every single day. Sometimes these little moments are what give my family the grace and strength to face life. Thank you for being a part of that.

So from our family to yours (whatever that might look like), we hope that you are able to rest in the peace, love and goodness of life today!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

"Life Support"

"Life Support" refers to any medical means for maintaining life, including procedures, devices, and medications. If you refuse life support, you will still get routine measures to keep you clean and comfortable...

As I was reading this to Jordan this morning I started breaking down a little. Two pages later I lost it. We both did. Section 3 Part A is a real tear-jerker. If you are looking for a little light reading to open up your Thanksgiving break I wouldn't recommend your spouse's Advance Directive. Or Power of Attorney forms. Sixteen pages of a legal mumbo jumbo snooze fest. Maybe just stick to the lighter stuff. You know something like those God-awful "Chicken Soup for the ____ Soul" books that your grandmother always has on her coffee table. Those would be a joy compared to the legal documents I've hopelessly sifted through this week.

In between legally binding documents I've also had the distinct pleasure of speaking with Jordan's medical providers then our insurance company then Jordan's medical providers then our insurance company again until they wear me down and I just give up.

The only movie not named Star Wars that I have seen more than twice is "A Christmas Story". There is a quote that I thought of this week: "in the heat of battle, my father wove a tapestry of obscenities that as far as we know is still hanging in space over Lake Michigan." I've launched a few tapestries into the space above Mt. Hood this week. Hopefully, I don't crash into any of them skiing this winter.

One more completely ridiculous thing and I'll move on. Don't you just love it when you call a company you pay actual dollars to do business with and they have that damn Artificial Intelligence Siri Alexa rip off thing trying to interact with you? My father in law couldn't help but chuckle as I yelled REPRESENTATIVE over and over again into the phone.

Maybe just one more ridiculous thing... During one of my extremely long phone calls with the insurance company this week I was about to get somewhere. I was ready to ask the one question that was going to get the ball rolling. It was on the tip of my tongue (almost thirty minutes into the call) when the REPRESENTATIVE said: "Is Jordan there with you?". She then shut down the conversation immediately because she isn't allowed to go any further without getting consent from Jordan. I almost mic dropped the phone and wandered off into the wilderness to build a fort from sticks spending the rest of my days never speaking to another REPRESENTATIVE again. Instead, I gathered myself and walked home. I then got Jordan on the phone with the insurance company. First REPRESENTATIVE says: "Mam, mam, I can't understand you" (then the call magically got disconnected). Second REPRESENTATIVE says: "Mam I'm sorry but I'm having a really hard time understanding you. Can you speak more clearly?". I magically disconnected that call (I didn't like her tone). Third REPRESENTATIVE was the charm! She read Jordan a few sentences, Jordan mumbled "yes" and we were good to go. If good to go means they still weren't helpful. At least they can tell me that they aren't helpful moving forward without having to talk to Jordan first.

Scouting out locations for the stick fort with no cell phone reception.
Alright already... Onto more important, brighter, cuter and lovable things. Jordan and I have two wonderfully beautiful children. You already know this. This blog is basically just a way for people to look at them and think "Well they obviously didn't get their looks, brains or demeanor from Brack".

This week our children had Parent/Teacher Conferences. Both Benton and Parker's teachers took the time to visit our home to make the conferences easier for Jordan. What a small, but super thoughtful way to show that they care and are paying attention. Both teachers are just absolute world-class people. A sappy blog post couldn't even begin to capture how Jordan and I feel about them and how they have fully embraced our children. Benton and Parker's classrooms have been a rock for them. Something they can hold onto in this crazy storm. A place that is safe, fun and full of love. I get to spy on it all the time and it gets me teary-eyed on a regular basis. Then some kid usually says "Coach Hassell why do your eyes look like that?" and I typically think "Shouldn't you be in class? Keep it moving short stack!".

Watching my children grow into little people has been one of the greatest joys of my life.

Benton is one of the smartest kids I've ever been around. He has read more this year than I have in the last ten years. Most people know that though. What lots of people don't know or see on a regular basis is how gentle he is. He cares so much for others. He gives his jacket to his friend on the playground if they are cold. He stops to help his classmate pack up their bag at the end of the school day. He walks his sister down the stairs at night if she is scared. He gives himself. He loves hard. Benton has the gift of a big heart and what makes me so proud is he does it because that is who he is. Oh, and he is flat out just a funny person.

Seeing the curiosity that Parker has growing in her is so exciting. She is one of the most observant people I have ever met. She doesn't miss anything and has an incredible memory. We recently took a walk through our neighborhood by ourselves. She proceeded to point out fifteen things or so that I've never noticed. She also stopped and spoke to some strange cat that usually hisses at me. Then the cat let her pet it and she just kept right on talking and telling me all about this cat. I was blown away. She just casually floated through details like she had lived in our new neighborhood for years. Parker also likes to look at pictures. I'll catch her with some of our photo books under a blanket looking at our past family adventures. She asks questions. Crazy questions. She says whats on her mind and wonders aloud when you aren't on the same page as her. 

"I love you, but I'm mad Benton got a toy" was a letter Parker hand delivered to Nana after she got a purse as a present.
These are just small little glimpses into who my kids are. They are so much more. They will be so much more.

I took Benton and Parker to their family therapy appointment earlier this week. I sat in the lobby by myself for an hour (with no wifi and bad magazines) and just thought about my kids. I revisited the same thing that I can't stop thinking about. The same thing that choked me up while I was reading the Advance Directive to Jordan this morning. What is my family going to look like in a year?

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

It's a happy enchilada and you think you're going to drown

Sorry for my long absence and lack of updates. More on that later...

First some deeply important mustache rambling. I firmly believe that the man makes the mustache and not the other way around. When Steve Prefontaine toed the line of a race with a finely groomed mouth brow it struck fear in his opponents. Teddy Roosevelt ran the country with a hairy lip. So the man can carry his lip foilage onto greatness. Or the man can make it creepy like my high school math teacher that always called the same girls up to the whiteboard in class (what are the chances he is reading this?).

John Prine has one of my favorite lip rugs of all time. It has stood the test of time and had the privilege of hearing some of the sweetest folky tunes from one of the best storytellers in music. I've been spending lots of time with John Prine, Jeff Tweedy, Neil Young, Elliott Smith and other fine songwriters (not all mustached) the last month or so. I've carved out this little corner in our living room for this time. I put an incredibly fashionable vintage green chair there, a turntable, some books, a painting from a local artist and I even made a hipster lamp out of an old globe. It is a sweet set up and a nice place to drink a beer at night and contemplate life after the family has passed out. I've put in lots of time in that chair the last month or so.

Treatment kicked Jordan's ass last week. There is no other way to put it. A five-day dose of chemo (twice the strength of her first dose) and two IV treatments in two days that took several hours each. She was worn out and beaten up. Her speech was comically bad and she lost lots of her strength that she had regained over the last month or so. She wasn't sleeping well. It was a rough week. Yet by the weekend she was rallying for a night out with our co-workers, having friends (and kids and kids and kids) in town for the weekend and going to a musical with friends. Jordan is resilient as ever even in the face of all this.

I've noticed that we have all changed though. Jordan, I and the kids are different. How could we not be? I've spent some nights trying to remember what life was like this time last year. I simply can't wrap my head around it. It feels like a foggy memory. Coming home from work together, having dinner, playing with the kids and getting everyone ready for bed. It was ordinary. It was beautiful. It is gone. That reality doesn't exist anymore.

One of the things that I have been struggling with the last month or so is trying to put words to how I'm feeling about this. I've found more and more that I just don't know what to feel, what to say or even what the questions are. I've been sitting in my green chair (did I mention that I got it for $5 at a yard sale?) and just losing it lately. The emotions are there. They are real. They are raw. I just don't know where they came from, where they are going or what they are called. There is an awesome Wilco song called Box Full of Letters that is just a gem. There are some lines there that just got me the other day:

Wish I had a lotta answers,
'Cause that's the way it should be
For all these questions,
Being directed at me

I just can't find the time
To write my mind
The way I want it to read

I can totally relate because not only have I not wanted to blog, I haven't wanted to think. I've gotten caught up in this fog/funk in which I stopped naming what lurked in my mind. In that, I lost the ability to hold on for dear life in all this craziness. Even though it feels good to name that uncertainty right now it also feels like that knot in my gut isn't going away anytime soon.

A big fear of mine is what will we all become from this? Who will Jordan and I be in a week, a month, a year from now? What kind of father will I be for my children? How will this shape my son and daughter? Where is this taking us as a family? Did the Astros really win the Series? Living in the right now is hard with all of these questions looming big. I'm ok with not knowing the answers but the emotional ride in my fancy green chair (did I mention that it spins all the way around?) is a bumpy one.

I think we would all be a little better off if I left you with a little John Prine:

I was sittin' in the bathtub just countin' my toes
When the radiator broke, water all froze
I was stuck in the ice without my clothes
Naked as the eyes of a clown
I was cryin' ice cubes, hoping I'd croak
When the sun came through the window, the ice all broke
I stood up and laughed, I thought it was a joke
That's the way that the world goes 'round

That's the way the world goes 'round
You're up one day, the next you're down
It's a half an inch of water and you think you're gonna drown
That's the way the world goes 'round

Fall is beautiful here!
Always great to get out into the woods for a bit.
Pretty cute Trick or Treaters!
Showing off some Chick-fil-A swag we got in the mail.

One joyful little girl.
Click on this picture and check out the view that is just a few miles from my house!
Peanut Butter and Jelly running with Parker during Parkdale Pumpkin Run.
Sorry, Parker is the cutest one in the family by leaps and bounds right now.

Jordan is always up for an adventure.
Beautiful night for a campfire and some smores.
Packing out a whole row at Fiddler on the Roof.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Round Two

Surprise, it's Jordan! I know, you were expecting Brack. Me too. It feels like his blog now  So many people have commented that he is such a great writer, and I agree. Good job, babe! Don't worry; he'll be back. Anyway, I wanted to update everyone on our doctor's visit yesterday and keep you posted about where we are now.

Yesterday at OHSU, we didn't really get good news. After one round of radiation and chemo the tumor did not shrink. But we didn't really get bad news either. From what they can tell, what looks like tumor growth is actually just inflammation from the radiation.

For round two, I will take chemo pills five days of each month and go in once a month for IV drugs to help alleviate symptoms. I will also have an MRI every two months from here on out to check progress.

Meanwhile, we've had awesome visits from family who have taken great care of me and spoiled our kids. My mother-in-law was here for the second time, my mom came again and now my dad is here. Thanks, family!

Happy hour with co-workers at Solera (and live music!)
My sweet mom
MIL, Cindi, and the crew
My penguins try their hands at show business
The best dad

Sunday, October 1, 2017


Jordan and I rolled into the gorge for the first time in June 2016. We drove around trying to imagine that we weren't completely lost and attempting to wrap our heads around the fact that we were about to move 3,000 miles away from everything we had ever known. We met with the principal at one of the schools I would be teaching at and stuck around for a staff meeting so that he could introduce us. During that introduction, he mentioned that I had interviewed via Skype and had accepted the position without ever visiting the gorge. As he was saying this a teacher shouted out "You just hit the jackpot" and several people in the room seemed to wholeheartedly agree. At the time we didn't think too much of it. We wrapped up our trip, went home, picked up our kids, sold all our earthly possessions, packed up our van and hit the road.

Not long after moving here I was out exploring with my family and that phrase "You just hit the jackpot" came back to me. That phrase quickly became my personal mantra as I found myself thinking it on a regular basis.

The awesome thing is that I haven't stopped thinking "Jackpot" with everything that is going on. I find myself thinking it even more. Today we cashed out a little of our jackpot.

Two incredible friends of ours organized a brunch, bubbles, band, beer, treasure hunt (I ran out of b's) to celebrate Jordan completing her radiation treatment. Over the course of a few hours today the rain and clouds broke, we got sunshine (and a rainbow) and we got to soak up all the good things this community has poured out to us. It was a special day for us and we are so thankful that we got to share it with so many of our friends and family. JACKPOT!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Stay Gold Ponyboy!

Seeing Mt. Hood from our town is stunning. Words and crappy cell phone pictures can never do it justice. I regularly say things like "Holy crap I live here", "Look at that thing" and probably most often "Huh" (as I can't even muster up something that matches what is stirring around in me). If you haven't had that "huh life is stinking beautiful" moment in a while I feel sorry for you. Put down the phone, leave your keys on the counter and take a walk. You might not have Mt. Hood in your backyard but there are all kinds of amazing out there.

Mt. Hood was hiding for a while but it has been showing its face again. We had all the wildfire smoke, then we had some rain and now we have that glorious bit of fall weather starting up. It is fun when an 11,000-foot chunk of rock surprises you with its presence. The tease of fall has brought fresh snow on the mountain and incredible lighting (not lightning). The lines on the mountain and in the gorge are clean, crisp and full of contrast. The clouds are puffy and magical. The hills seem to come alive with this special glow in the late afternoon here. Everywhere I look outside is basically a Bob Ross painting.

On Monday morning I was rushing out of the house to get to a work meeting. I hopped in my car (a rarity here!!) and took off. As I rounded the corner the mountain was orange/red/yellow. You know that crazy color when the sun is just blasting something early in the morning before it really climbs above the horizon. It caught me off guard enough that I wanted to take a picture (I didn't care if it was going to make me late). I drove less than two minutes, pulled off the road and got out all excited only to look up to a perfectly normal mountain minus the glorious glow of the sun. I should have just stopped in the middle of the road when I had the chance! I drove off a little bummed that I wouldn't be able to show Jordan a crappy picture on my iPod that afternoon. Instead, I just stumbled through trying to explain how awesome it was.

I'm thankful to be in a place where the seasons actually change. It is the transition that gets me. A stark reminder that there aren't many things in life that are constant. Robert Frost wrote a short poem called Nothing Gold Can Stay. I love it because it is brief (who has the time to read a sonnet these days?), playful and powerful. It is his reflection on the necessary change that is constantly happening in nature.

I try to use the changing of the seasons as a way to prevent becoming stagnant. For several years I've recognized seasons in my own life and in those that have taken the time to share their lives with me. It is always comforting when you are in a season of joy or comfort to think that those things have grown and blossomed in your life. It is also comforting when you are hunkered down in a season of darkness and storms knowing that change is just around the corner. I'm not going to lie though. There is an uneasiness that comes with the changing of the seasons. I keep coming back to the word fleeting.

Our big season seems to be just stretching out and making itself comfortable on the couch of our lives. It seems to go on forever. Occasionally I wake up at night to help Jordan to the bathroom and I'm reminded that we are still in this season. For those few groggy seconds before my feet hit the floor at 3:00AM I've managed to forget only to be reminded again and again.

Within this long season, there have been these unseasonally weird weather days though. You know that warm day in February where you stink up your winter gear from sweat and forgot for a second what bone-chilling cold feels like. We have had lots of those days. Funny days, happy days, content days and carefree days. Sometimes it isn't even a day but a brief moment. It seems like these moments come into existence and dissolve right before my eyes. A continuous change of conditions. Exactly like the wind in the gorge (you have no idea until you have stood on the shore of the Columbia River).

Our next season begins on October 19th (no farmer's almanac needed). We have an appointment with the oncology department at OHSU to discuss the results of the MRI scan Jordan will receive on October 12th.

If you are traveling with us into this next season bring a good coat, an umbrella, some comfortable shoes and hell maybe even some sunscreen. The weather is crazy here...

September 19th was talk like a pirate day. We celebrated with a pirate themed joke day.
The support keeps pouring in from all over. Jordan loves getting her mail call every afternoon.
Two of our favorite cards from the last few weeks.
The mask Jordan wore for her treatments. She got to keep it as a memento. The kids have had fun with it!
When you finish 30 radiation treatments you get all the ice cream you want.
Hustlin' for the Hassells! Our school community organized a fundraiser during our back to school night. It was a family-friendly fitness boot camp. There was a great turnout and they raised over $1700 for our family!
Just another special day with our Parkdale Family. Feeling the love.
A friend helped our kids harvest all of our mutant squash in the backyard. The kiddos made signs for the neighborhood and made $20. Mostly off their cuteness and not the quality of our squash.
Not sure if Benton is going to be an entrepreneur or a hobo one day.
Crisp and beautiful day in the valley.
We are still picking fresh blueberries. Some of them are the size of a nickel and so stinking juicy.
I accidentally held a baby the other day. We were both surprised.
Always good times and brews at Solera!
Love that our kids are growing up with such close friends!