Thursday, September 21, 2017

Then There Was One...

Twenty-nine treatments. Twenty-nine zaps. Twenty-nine trips to The Dalles. Twenty-nine times the doctor has attempted to shrink the one thing that has dominated our days. Twenty-nine brave days. Twenty-nine late nights contemplating life. Twenty-nine times we have leaned hard on you. Twenty-nine times we have broken a small paper chain that represents so much to us.

Today is day thirty of radiation (THE LAST DAY!!!!). We are thankful, we are anxious and most importantly we are alive for another day.

I'll leave you with a Michael Franti lyric that seems relevant to our weather the last few days and the mood of the hour. Come on y'all!

"I believe that what you sing to the clouds,
will rain upon you when your sun has gone away.
And I believe that what you dream to the moon,
will manifest before you rest another day.
So stay strong, and sleep long, and when you need to
let the morning take you out onto today, hey hey.
And when you find you're at the end of the road,
Just lift your head up, spread your wings and fly away, come on y'all!"

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Laughter is the best medicine...

Jordan has been feeling better recently. Her platelets have returned to a normal level, her rash has gone away and her speech has improved some. The doctor even complimented her on being able to understand her more clearly last week. She is still off of her Chemo pills and will stay off for a few more weeks. Her energy levels still plummet though if the nap schedule is not adhered to and her hair is slowly falling out. Overall though the mood is still positive in the Hassell home.

Friday night Jordan surprised me for my birthday by taking me to see Jim Gaffigan. He is a comedian that finds the absurd in the everyday. A lighthearted guy that is just flat out likable. Jordan and I have been laughing at his stand-up bits since before we were married. He makes fun of himself in the best way, talks openly about his family and has ongoing material about hot pockets. What is not to love? Do yourself a favor and check him out on Netflix.

As we were settling in and getting ready for a night of laughter Jim Gaffigan opens up his set revealing that his wife recently had brain surgery to remove a large tumor. "Et, tu Gaffigan?" is all I could think. I mean we were here to escape our reality for a bit with some good clean comedy fun and BAM! The opening twenty minutes of the show was about a brain tumor. So for twenty solid minutes, we laughed harder than we have ever laughed about brain surgery, hospitals, tumors and doctors. He managed to take a topic that couldn't be any nearer to our lives and make it hilarious. It was an escape and a smack in the face all at the same time.
Ready for a little tumor comedy.
After the show we got Jordan tucked in on our friend's couch and I got to go to the airport to pick up our friends from GA. They planned an impromptu trip to come out and visit. It was great because we haven't seen these friends in years. We both have had children, changed careers and had all sorts of other life-changing nonsense happen since we last hung out. There is something magical about lifelong friends though. From the moment they stepped off the plane and we exchanged hugs it was like we picked up right where we left off. I sincerely hope that anyone reading this blog has at least one person like this in their lives. Jordan and I enjoyed reminiscing, laughing, catching up and just sharing life with these friends.

First stop in PDX was Voodoo Doughnut.
Don't worry I brought Jordan one back for breakfast.
Teaching our friend some Mucklehead.
If that wasn't awesome enough Jordan's childhood best friend and her mother are also currently here. So it is one big blast from the past this week! They are cooking up awesome meals (we had vegan tacos last night), helping with the kids, cleaning the house, laughing about the past and making up the beds like they do at the Holiday Inn Express. I'm talking no wrinkles, fluffed pillows and the sheet tucked in nice and tight. I'm getting spoiled.

We also continue to get yummy fresh fruit, food and treats from our local family. The other day I made a breakfast at the house entirely from local ingredients down to the fresh juice with a few blended up peaches in it. For the first time in our lives I'm thinking about buying a freezer just to store all the berries we have amassed this summer.

A truly local breakfast!
In other news, it finally rained here. A real rain. A take that wildfire rain/smoke rain. With the rain has come a few really cool days where all of a sudden I am aware of the fact that the sun is not hanging out as long as it normally does. I stepped out of my house this morning and took in a huge deep breath of cool, clean, wet and smoke-free air. It was glorious. A change of seasons is upon us here in Oregon. A new beauty awaits around the corner in the form of fall. I love being in a place where we seem to be so tightly connected to our weather.

Our kids doing the "no school dance" when they found out they had another day off of school because of the smoke.
Crazy smoke from the wildfires.
As fall creeps in so does the end of Jordan's radiation treatments. Thursday is her last appointment! We have been counting down the days here (the chain hanging on our wall is almost nonexistent) and realizing that we are approaching a new season in our own lives. I'm so glad to say goodbye to the season we are in. I'm thankful to be able to say that we survived today over and over again this summer. We have taken this season full of unexpected turns the only we know how. One day at a time.

A huge thank you to everyone that has shared the load of one of those days with us. We have survived this season because of all of the love and support from all of you. Thank you for walking with us as we enter our next season full of hope and free from fear.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Two Jumper Cables Walk Into a Bar...

Jordan has a great sense of humor and has always appreciated a good joke. I love jokes too. A good one liner, knock knock jokes, wordplay, irony. We love em all. Laughter has saved our marriage more times than I can count.

There is only one real problem when it comes to our love of jokes. I have a terrible memory. I've never been able to remember sequencing, setups or even a plot to a good joke. I used to be that guy at the awkward social adult gathering thing that would lead in with "Did you hear the one about...?" immediately launching into the punch line and ruining the joke. I eventually abandoned this laughterless path for pure observational humor and embellishment. Sometimes knowing your weaknesses are just as important as knowing your strengths in life.

There is hope in the Hassell family though. Our son Benton has the memory I've always wanted. He has an ever growing list of jokes tucked away somewhere in that giant brain of his. He is going to be that guy in your family that keeps pulling quarters out of everyone's ears and always has a topical joke. He is going to be a great uncle one day.

Today we had some friends and co-workers come over for the first installment of Jokes With Jordan. A small crowd gathered in the pleasant, shady, breezy and smokeless (for now) backyard. We all took turns sharing jokes. It was simple. It was playful. It was special.

Most of the jokes brought out at least a smile from the crowd. Some even genuinely made Jordan laugh. I already forgot those even though at the time I was trying terribly hard to remember. Fortunately, everyone wrote their jokes on a note card to leave behind with us. Our daughter Parker even helped deliver a joke with her teacher.

The brief time in the backyard was a nice break for us. It feels good to laugh and poke fun at things with those that you care about. Sometimes the scale of life is out of balance and it is amazing what a little humor can do to even things out.

We genuinely appreciate everyone out there (in our literal and figurative backyard) that has taken the time to laugh with us recently. Laughter has always been something that Jordan and I have loved. It has been great to see our relationships with others continuing to be filled with the thing we love so much.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Lord loves a workin' man; don't trust whitey; see a doctor and get rid of it.

The Jerk is one of my all time favorite movies. Steve Martin is an absolute genius and has always been funny to me. He is intelligent and funny with just the right amount of goofball. I remember watching reruns of SNL and seeing Two Wild and Crazy Guys as a young kid. The guy is even a talented musician and can shred on the banjo. His character Navin R. Johnson in The Jerk is hilarious right from the opening scene (the title of this blog is a quote from The Jerk for those confused). I'm smiling right now just thinking about scenes from that movie. 

Earlier this week Jordan made me think about The Jerk. I was getting frustrated with her because I was trying to get her from point A to point B in the house. I was attempting to move quickly because I had something else on my mind that needed to be taken care of. As I was growing more impatient Jordan just seemed to enter super slow mo, taking her sweet time thoughtfully considering every item she might possibly need for her journey from the bed to the living room chair (a staggering twenty three foot journey). I was gathering an eyepatch, a pillow, a brush, a missing phone (a daily theme at our house) and hand sanitizer. These are just the items I can remember off the top of my head. As Jordan listed off the items she kept saying "that's all I need" right before remembering something else. I quickly went from frustrated to chuckling as I remembered this scene. A hopeless Steve Martin at his lowest point clinging to seemingly meaningless things. Grasping for a chair, a paddle game and a remote control as he realizes life has come to a screeching halt. I related in my own silly way realizing that whatever it was I was in a hurry to get to was completely meaningless. Jordan reminding me again that what mattered was right in front of me.

Jordan has had an interesting week health wise. She has been absolutely exhausted. Each Monday after her treatment she has her blood drawn to monitor her blood cell count. We got a call this week from the doctor notifying us that her platelets were low. Nothing super concerning (yet) but something to keep an eye on in the future. Jordan also started shedding more than a Siberian Husky during an Arizona summer. She has begun losing her hair in the spots where the radiation enters her body. The good news is that those spots will shift next week. The doctor is hopeful that she will be able to keep her hair for now. A rash also sprung up this week on her neck. It quickly spread to her back. We covered it in various lotions and I found myself lightly scratching her back lots this week. Two doctors determined that this was probably from the Chemo and not the Radiation. As a result, we are currently halting the Chemo until Monday to give the rash a chance to heal. It has gotten much better in only two days and we are hopeful that it will be gone in a few more days. Our goal this weekend is for Jordan to stay at home as much as possible in order to rest and recover from all these things. We did a pretty good job with that today. Jordan has been nauseous all day though. We are hopeful that she will feel better tomorrow because we had apples, blueberries, raspberries, pears, zucchini bread and blueberry cake all dropped off today by various friends!

My mom was here all week. She took Jordan to treatment each day and by the end of the week was getting Jordan around like a pro. It was a stressful week with the kids starting school and with me officially starting work. It was great to have her around helping out and to have her share those first few days of school with the kids. She also got to experience the effects of the local wild fire. As the temperature continued to get hotter, the smoke also worsened. We were suffering here at the house with all the windows closed and no AC. Fortunately, a co-worker saved us by giving us a portable AC unit. He had just had central air put into his house the day I was complaining to him about how gross it was in our house. So for the next few nights, my mom slept on the couch with the kids on the floor (on their mattresses) and us in the bedroom. We closed off those two rooms and had the AC at full blast. It was an absolute lifesaver.

My mom got to see first hand the people that have meant so much to us while she was here. At the end of the week, she shared that it was both amazing and a relief to see how so many people have embraced us here. My mom had to leave a day early (on her birthday) because of Hurrican Irma. Her original flight was canceled but she was able to catch a different one just in time to escape the smoke of Oregon and beat the rain/wind of Hurrican Irma to her home in Orlando. Everyone here (including my mom) seemed to take it in stride as we have all learned that each day is going to hold its own unique adventures. We also leaned on our community and immediately found help making the trip to the airport happen even though the interstate was closed due to the fire. My mom left our house super clean/tidy and reminded me of where I get that from. Jordan, the kids and I are thankful that she was able to spend time with us and experience the love of our Oregon family.

Benton and Parker had a great first week of school. They both love Parkdale, their teachers and their friends. I love being in the building with them and getting to see them in that environment. Each time I saw Parker this week she just had this huge grin on her face. Like she was about to explode with excitement. Benton's teacher shared with me at the end of the week that during their morning class meeting Benton opened up to his classmates about Jordan's tumor. He shared that he was worried about his mom. His classmates were very supportive. I'm so thankful that he has a place outside of our home where he feels like he can truly be himself and that he feels safe enough to share how he is feeling. That means the world to me.

First day of school!

Busting at the seams with excitement!

Jordan asked Benton to bring her an eyepatch. He came stumbling into the room saying "How many do you need?"
The literal smoke cleared up late yesterday afternoon and the temperature dropped to an enjoyable seventy-two. We were able to unplug the AC and get those windows back open. It felt good to feel the fresh air in our house again and to enjoy a drink on the back porch. As I woke up this morning I heard lawn mowers, birds (the birds are big and loud in OR) and people enjoying being outside. It almost felt like that first day of warm weather here when you emerge out of your cave and there isn't snow on the ground anymore. I stayed outside as much as possible. There were tons of kids in and out of our house today. At one point there were six kids running in and out of our house this afternoon. It was nice to see all the smiles and listen to the laughter. I'm just avoiding going upstairs to the kid's room because I know it is going to look like a grenade went off up there.

Cheers to tomorrow's adventure!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

I Got 99 Problems...

Twas the night before school... Pretty much all the creatures are stirring here.

Lots going on in the Gorge and at the Hassell house since we last checked in. I can't guarantee that any of the following is in chronological order as it has been a wild final week of summer.

When we landed in Oregon last year our family was immediately embraced by our new school community at Parkdale. I have talked lots about this special group of people this summer. Last week they decided to take things to another level. After a day of pre-planning, twenty of our co-workers crowded into our living room and formed a large circle. They embraced our children, laughed, almost cried a few times and shared lots of encouragement. As the group shared I was having a hard time holding it together. Thankfully Jordan spoke up for us and shared because I don't think I would have been able to. It sure is easier to sit behind a computer and type out your emotions. My MacBook doesn't care if I cry as long as I keep it off the keyboard. So I'll share now what was bubbling up in me while I was standing there.

From day one I have been appreciative of how the Parkdale community accepted my whole family. This summer has only led to an even deeper sense of appreciation. I have gotten to know so many of my co-workers in a different way. A beautiful way. A way that only makes sense when you have shared a life changing moment with someone. A way that reveals itself when you see someone being gentle with your children or thoughtful with what they are doing for your wife. I just kept thinking about the word deep while I was listening to everyone. They have all found a way to go deep with us this summer.
A room full of love and positive vibes from our Parkdale Elementary family.

The awesome basket of encouragement left behind.
The kind gestures keep pouring in from far away too! We are continually receiving packages, notes and letters filled with all kinds of encouragement and goodies.

Our friends from HI sent us an Instant Pot!
Some sweet new shades from some friends. Corey Hart would be proud.
We spent a some of our last summer weekend in Portland partying it up with friends from all over. Friends came in from Seattle and Bend and we got to spend some quality time laughing and catching up with everyone. We went out for lunch and basically took up a city block with all our children (and a dog).

The party spilled out into the street.
One hell of a kid's table!
Always appreciative when the company is as good as the food.
So happy that our kids got to spend time with friends from Seattle (formerly GA).
The house we stayed at has some treacherous steps if you are in a wheelchair or have had too much to drink at the dive bar up the street (walking distance). So our awesome friend built a ramp. I was giving him a hard time about it not being up to ADA standards and he shared that this ramp was built "for fun" not for standards.

The fun ramp in action.
On Saturday evening after hanging out in Portland we picked up my Mom from the airport. On our way back through the Gorge, something wasn't right. The night sky was hazy and we could see a small red glow over the ridgeline. When we returned home we learned that a fire had started on Saturday afternoon in the Gorge. Our home that is about forty-five minutes away smelled like a campfire. For the first time since moving in, we had to close all of our windows and doors. We spent a hot and stuffy evening in the house. The next day we decided to drive about an hour, grab a hotel with AC (and an indoor pool) to get some relief. On our way, we stopped by the elementary school in Cascade Locks that I teach at (I'm so awesome I teach at two locations). The fire was within a half mile of the town. The next day we stopped in again on our way back home. The town was filled with fire trucks from all over the state and smoke seemed to be blanketing everything. The sun was blood red and it felt like you were staring through a bad Instagram filter. Another twist and turn in this summer that seems to be just out of reach of my own will and control.

The view from Cascade Locks Elementary on Sunday and Monday.
We returned home to a warm house that no longer smelled like a fire. Closing up the windows and doors felt so odd in our home that has been so open to the summer weather and friends since moving in. By the end of the day, we had caved and opened up some windows even though it was a bit smokey outside.

As I write this I am sitting in the cool dark air on my back porch. It is the day before school starts and this summer has been one crazy adventure. I don't know how to neatly sum up this season or that I even need to. I have a heavy heart not only for my own family but also for the families in Cascade Locks that are worried about their homes, their safety and their children (my students). There doesn't seem to be a neat bow to put on this season.

Parker has been marching around the last several days and just declaring randomly that she is SO EXCITED TO BE STARTING SCHOOL. I choose to be excited too. I share in that excitement because I know this is exactly where I am supposed to be. I'm excited for all the beautiful moments that I will get to share with my students/co-workers and for all the things I will learn this year.

I'll leave you with a quote I came across this summer from Rumi. He was a mystic poet from another world and another time. Don't worry I wasn't reading thirteenth-century poetry in my spare time. It was in another book I was reading.

"Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground"

My favorite picture from this summer! Cherry juice, raw energy and a beautiful backyard (with a little dead grass).

Monday, August 28, 2017

Eazy Empathy

We met with Jordan's doctor on Friday and got some more clarification on what the end of her radiation treatment cycle looks like. On Wednesday, September 20th after her last Radiation treatment and her last day of Chemo she will get some well deserved time off. The time off will allow for her body to rest and also to prevent any false readings when they perform the next MRI scan. We weren't given an exact date on when the MRI would occur. After the MRI, she will begin several more rounds of Chemo. Each round will be brief (5-7 days) and will increase in strength with each round. She will not start Radiation again (news to us) because they are currently giving her the maximum dosage possible. I just imagine the doctor behind the scenes doing his best Scotty impersonation during treatment "I'm givin' her all she's got, captain!". So we are continuing to count down the days of Radiation (16 days!) as we are also preparing for school to start back.

Jordan and I have been together almost every moment this summer. Our brief times away from each other have come in the form of our friends giving Jordan a ride to treatment. I start back work early tomorrow morning. I have this small sense of worry in me for the first time ever that the universe is going to come unglued at my house while I'm gone. Is this what my mom always felt when she was struggling to decide if it was ok to leave me at home by myself? I never burned my house down cooking a frozen pizza or got kidnapped as a teenager so I think Jordan and the kids should be ok until the Calvary (in the form of family) starts arriving this weekend.

Possibly one of the most Oregonian things I have experienced recently was a flight of donuts from the farmers market. The best of the bunch was the earl tea glazed one of course.

Enjoying some homemade blueberry sorbet.

Before the back to school hair cuts.

And after! A friend had to clean up my neck line as Jordan's hand isn't steady enough for clippers currently.

Dinner at a friend's house the other day included a bowl of live snakes as the centerpiece for the boy's table. Don't forget the fancy glassware!

Benton was doing really well until he drove Jordan into a light pole. Don't worry the wheelchair is only a rental.
The summer Jordan and I met I took one of those stupid assessments that tells you all about who you are and what your gifts are. I'm not a fan of surveys, assessments or questionnaires. Don't tell me which Harry Potter character I am based on what I had for breakfast (why am I always Hermione?). If you ask me those things are designed by some sadistic Type A personalities anyway.

So I took that gifts and strengths assessment (probably because someone twisted my arm into doing it). I don't remember much about the results except for one small detail. I was comically low in the empathy department. Like off the charts low. The results were probably filed away in a drawer somewhere as exhibit A just in case I commit some heinous crime in the future. Besides the occasional joke that summer I never thought much about those results.

A few years later I had a mentor tell me that I had Olympic sized expectations for myself and others. He told me that could make it tough for myself and anyone around me to feel like they were ever being successful. That statement rang true for me the day after I woke up from finishing an extremely long running race that I had spent years training for with the simple thought of "Whats next Brack?".

I've always been a relentless forward progress and pull up your bootstraps kind of guy. So what in the hell do you do when you wake up in the morning and you can't sit up without help, much less pull up some metaphorical boot straps?

Jordan is struggling mightily right now with her mobility. We've got a home full of ramps and medical contraptions to make things easier for her. Even with all these things and me being there 24/7 it has still been hard. I don't own a shirt without a food stain on it but she is quickly catching up because eating has become a challenge. Fine and gross motor skills come and go. There are times when she walks well with my help to the bathroom only on the return trip to struggle just to pick up her left foot with each step. Her speech also bears a slur now that gets worse as she gets tired. This I know is maddening to her as she feels like it is a burden on others to carry on a conversation with her.

We still manage to laugh when she innocently bumps into something or steps on my foot while we are walking. Sometimes we pretend we are dancing or that she stood up just to give me a kiss or a hug. She even occasionally laughs when I make a fart noise every single time I help her stand in the presence of others.

I'm not always the kind hearted super husband though. Yesterday it seemed to take an hour to complete a five-minute task in the kitchen because I was looking for a dropped phone again or adjusting a pillow. I don't need the memory of a survey to remind me of my criminally low empathy in those moments.

There have been so many high and low moments this summer. Usually several of each in the span of a single afternoon. One of the things that I have learned though is that I don't understand what Jordan is dealing with each day. I sure do try though. I listen, I anticipate, I pull strings behind the scenes, I ask questions, I coordinate, I give the kids the eye and do whatever else that I can. Deep down though I can't fully understand.

As per usual though I have learned by being around our village. I have been witness to so many kinds of empathetic gestures. Some people have slid into our lives with the comfort, grace and gentleness of Mr. Rogers. Others come bumbling in the front door with the awkwardness of an episode of The Office. The beauty of it all is that everyone in our lives is trying their best. That seems to be what Jordan and I are doing each day as well.


Thursday, August 24, 2017

I Wanna Be a Coward When I Grow Up

19 more radiation treatments to go! Jordan is doing well overall. She has kept her appetite and hasn't been getting sick. Her attitude hasn't slipped a bit and she doesn't seem to mind letting me know what she thinks. Her mobility has gotten worse though. We have brought the wheelchair into the house and walking around is a chore even with my help. The forty-two steps from the bed to the bathroom seem to get longer each trip. Her speech is also beginning to slur a little more. It is probably comical for someone on the outside. I always thought we would be much older before I started yelling "huh!?!" and squinting my eyes when trying to figure out what she was saying. Jordan has been sleeping like a champ. After breakfast, after a trip to the bathroom, after treatment, after an episode of The Bachelor in Paradise, before dinner, after dinner and anywhere else in between. I'm thankful that she has been able to rest and my hope is that her body is in full on recovery mode when she is asleep. However, I know though that she would rather be up and in the middle of everything that is going on.

We watched the eclipse on Monday with some close friends. The kiddos were impressed for about four minutes before they switched their attention to snacks and nerf guns. I thoroughly enjoyed it though. It was great to sit and just be a part of this slow celestial crawl. The sun, moon and earth were doing their own thing (just as any other day). It wasn't about us. Not sure what it was but I liked that.

No retinal damage for this crew.
All glasses worn approved by NASA and Neil Degrasse Tyson.
Just another beautiful day in Oregon.

After the eclipse, the kids and I took Jordan to her radiation appointment. While waiting in the lobby I thought I would escape reality for ten minutes and read a little TIME magazine. I wasn't halfway finished flipping through the pictures when I came across an article titled: It's Okay to Be a Coward About Cancer. Come on TIME! Where is the unbiased reporting on Russia or the story on the new fad that millennials are using to destroy the world as we know it? I can't even read a magazine at the doctor's office for crying out loud. So I had to read the article. My favorite line was "Cancer doesn't give a damn how tough you are. Cancer doesn't care if you stared down the North Koreans, or won the Tour De France." Now that is some good writing!

The article didn't teach me much. It did stir me up though and force me to think (so maybe it did teach me a few things). I started thinking about my approach to this whole situation. So of course pretty much every interaction I've had since Monday afternoon has forced me to come to terms with things this article stirred up. Pandora's Wilco playlist seemed a bit more self-reflective, the book I'm reading seemed to be speaking right to me, emails/conversations all seemed to be in on the bit. It just took me a few days to start to make some sense of it all.

I've been tossing around the idea since Monday that now more than ever it is okay to be not okay. It is perfectly acceptable to think "this sucks". As in "this sucks" with a period on the end of it. Like there is no explanation or tid-bit of wisdom or life lesson or anything else right now.

So what I'm saying is that it is okay to be a bit of a coward. A word that almost makes me shudder. I'd rather be called almost anything else. If you stacked up my life I'd hope one of the last things that came to mind after "he sure was handsome" was "he was such a coward". However, I think there is a place for some cowardice in all of our lives. Some admitting that things are not always under our complete control. That is just flat out scary to me.

The weird thing is that in that self-transparency I've immediately experienced grace. It feels good to just come out and say it. To put a name to how I feel some days. So I'm committed to acknowledging my own ineffectiveness and foolishness. I think we all need to give ourselves some grace to be able to say "this sucks (period)".

A friend (in direct response to my Village People research) sent me some lines from a Townes Van Zandt tune. I don't think his studio albums ever did him justice because the dude could tell a story. Like listening to your grandad the first time he told you that war story or about brewing beer in his closet growing up. You just hang onto those words. They seem to mean a little more. So I'll just leave a little Townes Van Zandt wisdom with you.

Days up and down they come
Like rain on a conga drum
Forget most, remember some
But don't turn none away
Everything is not enough
Nothin' is too much to bear
Where you been is good and gone
All you keep is the gettin' there
To live is to fly
Low and high

Saturday, August 19, 2017

It Takes A Village (People)

A friend included #takesavillage in a text conversation this week as we were discussing the logistics of the mundane. This led to a brief exchange that ended with a GIF (pronounced JIF grandma) of Jimmy Fallon doing the Y-M-C-A.

Of course, this got me thinking about The Village People. Did you know they had three albums that went Platinum? Platinum is a million records sold people! That is a ton of dough (even if it is split between six people in funny costumes). Back from a Wikipedia "research" binge, I started to think about my own village for a bit. It doesn't include anyone in a construction worker or sailor costume but it is still pretty awesome. Here are some of the cool things we have gotten to share with our village in the last few days:

Beautiful flowers and a wonderful painting.
Lots of lunch dates for Jordan!
Mobility is tough but she can still use chopsticks for her sushi!

Parker attended her first treatment session with Jordan. Parker turned down a massage from Stan. She has lots to learn.
Target shopping trip sponsored by friends. Don't worry we bought all the leggings and snacks (despite my best protesting).

A friend delivered a treatment chain for Jordan. It is hanging on a wall in our living room. It is currently touching the floor. Each day after Jordan gets back from her radiation treatment we get to remove a chain. Parker is especially excited about this because she immediately turns the chain links into an unconventional art project.

We also got a couple of packages from Georgia this week. They were from my former co-workers at Ethel Kight Elementary. A place that I was thankful to call home the first six years that I taught. A place that allowed me to grow, make mistakes and learn that educating young people is something that I want to pursue as my career and passion. There were lots of sweet notes and some awesome gifts (for Jordan, myself and the kiddos). It served as an emotional reminder for me of how formative that time was for me and in turn my family. A village that I'm no longer a part of but will always be a part of me.

Last night we left our kids with some of the village and went to a rock show. Or maybe a power pop show depending on who you speak with. We saw Jimmy Eat World and Incubus. Jimmy Eat World had a wildly successful album (Bleed American) that was basically the anthem of the summer Jordan and I met. It went Platinum and the band is still together (eat your heart out Village People). It was a fun and reflective album that was perfect to sing along to with friends while you cruised around on warm summer nights in suburban Georgia with the windows rolled down. Those songs will always be anchored to memories of that summer for me and will never fail to bring a smile to my face. They brought a smile to my face last night as I watched Jordan sing along. If you ever want to hear more about why Bleed American is a great album or why a concert t-shirt costs $35 (and I bought one) I'm perfectly happy to regale you with stories from 2001. All it will cost you is a beer.

Looking a little older than when we first sang along with Jimmy Eat World.

Finally I will leave you with a quote that was in a letter I received from my principal this week. It resonated with me and all that we have been going through. Hopefully it will sit a while with you as well.

"We must take care of our families wherever we find them."

Thanks for being a part of our village!


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Summer is Fleeing!

Jordan is out today with a friend having lunch and then going to treatment. She is only a few days into Radiation/Chemo but things are going well. She hasn't seen any significant side effects and her blood work reports look good. Possibly the only side effect is that she is a little wonky when we get up at night to go to the bathroom (TMI?). She says some pretty funny stuff that I make sure to remind her of each morning.

The school year is drawing closer with each day and summer is slowly starting to wrap up. The temperature has finally cooled some here and it is finally a relief to be outside again. The sun is going down before 9:15 at night which all of a sudden seems strange.

We have started prepping the kids for school. They are both excited to be at Parkdale this year and we are thankful for such a warm and welcoming school community that we all get to be a part of. It will also be a bonus that we live about 30 seconds from the front door of the school.

We have breaking news and blog exclusive... A video! Benton got a bike last week and within 20 minutes he was riding. He is already terrorizing the neighborhood and I have trouble finding him for dinner. He is going to participate in his first triathlon next month which I think is a logical progression.


We continue to have our minds blown by the fruit here. I'm sorry to inform all Georgia peach eaters/loyalists that you haven't lived until you have had a doughnut peach (not a peach doughnut). These tiny little peaches are incredible. Someone also hesitantly brought us a peach pie the other day that lived up to the expectations of a couple of southerners. We even shared it with a Texan and he approved whole heartedly. 

A friend had us over to make some ice cream and top it with fresh fruit from her garden. Yum!

We frequently end up at pFriem when we have friends visit. We all love this place!

Farmer's market face paint.
We are excited for the Eclipse next week and squeezing every bit of life from these last few weeks of summer!


Sunday, August 13, 2017

30 First Dates

While we were at OHSU for Jordan's brain surgery a month ago we watched this awful Adam Sandler movie called Just Go With It. I tolerated it because it had Jennifer Anniston in it (Is she ever going to age?) and the drugs from the hospital helped Jordan tolerate it.

Growing up I was always a Happy Gilmore and Billy Madison guy. Adolescent humor wrapped in an easy to follow plot with one-liners that have stood the test of time. Whats not to like? Unfortunately, The Adam Sandler franchise has been in a steady decline since Waterboy. However, this blog has neither the time or space for a proper debate on Adam Sandler's acting career.

I do want to touch on 50 First Dates (right in the middle of that steady decline) with Sandler and Drew Barrymore though. Barrymore's character wakes up every morning with short term memory loss. She is sort of stuck in time and all of her friends/family help keep her there by playing into it. Sandler comes along, falls in love, figures out how to overcome her amnesia, yadda yadda, happy ending...

Recently Jordan and I added 30 of her Radiation appointments to our calendar. It was intimidating to look at a calendar that suddenly had a daily reminder of what we are being faced with. This sat with me for a bit. Thinking about it more allowed all the little stresses that have been building to team up and be overwhelming. So I had a bad day.

I woke up the next morning thinking about the calendar and 50 First Dates. Fortunately, I wasn't suffering from short term memory loss like Barrymore. I realized that instead of hoping to forget my bad days I could do something far more powerful. I could acknowledge that I had a bad day, embrace the day I had in front of me and treat it as a "first date". A chance to buy into this process, learn from my bad days, embrace the special things that happen and acknowledge that waking up each day is a gift.


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Day One.

Day one of Radiation and Chemo are in the books. Jordan has felt good today and is in good spirits as we officially get started fighting this tumor!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Can a Salad Change Your Life?

Brack here again...

A few days ago we had someone drop off a meal at our house. This is not the least bit unusual because a friend set up a meal train for us recently. We have had some incredible meals and shared some even better company when people stop by to show that they care with food (my new favorite way to receive love is through baked goods).

What made this meal drop off different though is that it was a complete stranger. She had signed up and learned about our story through a mutual friend. She dropped off a salad. A salad. Let me just preface this by saying that I grew up in the south and it wasn't a meal unless it had cornbread and meat. So despite fostering several healthy eating habits over the years, a salad has always remained a way for me to sneak in more bacon, croutons and cheese into my diet.

I introduced myself and we chatted for a few minutes about her own story and what led her to want to bring us a meal (surprisingly it wasn't my awesome blogging skills). After she left I put the meal away for later and my family went about its day like normal.

When it was meal time I started unpacking and preparing the salad. There was a small note saying that the salad was prepared with love and that each ingredient had been hand picked from the Farmer's Market in Hood River. The ingredients were:

-Soft, delicate lettuce that had this perfect crunch to it.
-Juicy tomatoes full of flavor.
-Stinky stinky and delicious blue cheese.
-Steak from a cow that probably happily lived out a life here in the Gorge.
-Perfectly grilled onions.
-Beets. B-E-E-T-S. Something I've never even pretended to enjoy eating. These were so good though that I'm rethinking my whole beet stance.
-Bread from a local bakery.
-A great bottle of red wine.

I listed out all of the ingredients because just as the note said this thing was prepared with some sweet sweet love. This complete stranger took the time to carefully shop and prepare this wonderful meal for my family. It had all the details taken care of. I would have taken this thoughtful approach and care to prepare a meal for someone that I loved, cared for and had known for years. She did it for someone she didn't even know.

A friend of ours stopped eating the salad and declared "I'm pretty sure this is the best salad I've ever had". We all soon concurred and began giving this salad some well-deserved shout outs before we went back in for another huge bite. I hope deep down our kind stranger saved a little bit of this salad for herself!

This salad is sticking with me because it was awesome but also because it made me realize a few things (one of which being that beets aren't so bad). All the kind gestures that friends, family, co-workers and not so random strangers are doing for us are having a huge impact on my family. We are blown away several times each day by all sorts of ways that people are reaching out to us.

The little things mean so much right now. They are allowing us to live with joy, smile, laugh and eat like royalty. I sincerely hope that my kids are able to soak up this kindness and that they are as inspired as Jordan and I are.

Now to some nuts and bolts of what is happening right now...

Jordan starts Radiation and Chemo treatments tomorrow in the Dalles. She will have a Radiation appointment there each weekday until September 20th. Her Chemo will be taken orally each day until September 20th as well. Treatment will continue after this date but this will be our first benchmark of how things are going and a revaluation will occur around this time.

Jordan's mobility has continued to worsen. We have gotten a wheelchair for her to use when we leave the house. This allows her to save her energy and also safely get around to all the places I drag her to. We are concerned about this but have continued to plug along and haven't held back from anything because of this.

Yesterday Jordan and I sat down with our principal at Parkdale and officially started the process for her to take a leave of absence from work. We are hopeful that this is short and that Jordan can return to work. She has become a big part of Parkdale in the short time that we have been there. Also since both Benton and Parker will be there this year I need an extra set of eyes in the building to be nosey. So we are hoping for a quick return!

We drop Jordan's mom off at the airport on Thursday and have just a few weeks of summer left with the kids before things get truly crazy around here.


Monday, August 7, 2017

Conclusion of the East Coast Tour!

Benton and Parker are back! Kim (Jordan's mom) brought the kids back to Oregon last week. We are absolutely thrilled to have the other half of our family back with us. These kids hit the ground running and we have all been going to bed every night absolutely worn out. We are excited to have another month of summer left with these kiddos!

Joy at the airport!
Popsicles with friends on a hot afternoon.
Parker got a long overdue haircut to match Jordan.

Some awesome gifts from our friends in Bend!
Jordan's mom brought back cheese dip from Georgia. Biggest smile I've seen on Jordan's face in a while.
Always a good day when Jordan gets her hands on a baby.
How we have ended every day. Passed out!
Beating the heat in Parkdale with some time in the pool.
We picked over 14 pounds of blueberries at a friend's farm.
Our family sent us some Ginger Tea from South Korea for Jordan to drink to help with nausea.
Sharing a meal with out of town friends in Parkdale.

Good to have a house filled with laughter and noise again.
We found a snake in our front yard. Parker is always curious when it comes to animals.
Benton Learned a new card game in GA and has been teaching us.
Hello from Oregon!
Jordan starts treatment on Wednesday. We have lots to share over the next few days. So stay tuned.