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.


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The County Fair, Radiation and a Pebble

Generic warning about Brack posting...

The other night we went to the fair. I am formally and morally opposed to any and everything county fair due to a super embarrassing experience that happened to me during those formative teenage years. However, Jordan loves the fair. So off we went! We met up with some coworkers and cruised around for a bit.

We rode the Ferris Wheel with one of our students from Parkdale and shared a beautiful view of both Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood. We saw some cool livestock, ate some disgusting/delicious fair food and went until Jordan got tired.

We then realized how far away we had parked and were mulling around about how to get back to the van. Just then a wonderful man in a golf cart pulled up and offered us a ride. We might still be walking back to the car if he hadn't picked us up.

We've also been continuing to enjoy the fruit of the Gorge this last week.

10 pounds of fresh Apricots!

Parkdale backyards are the best backyards.

Always love hanging out at Mike's Ice Cream in Hood River.
Today we had an appointment with Celilo Treatment Center in The Dalles which is located 40 miles from our home. This is where Jordan will be receiving her Monday-Friday radiation treatments. The staff there were courteous, quick and friendly. The doctor explained in depth what the process would look like. On Friday Jordan will return there for a simulation appointment. They will fit her with a custom mask that will be used for treatment and give her a CAT scan. The doctor will take all of the information gathered about Jordan's brain up to this point and put together the exact coordinates that the radiation will enter her body and where it will meet up to zap (is that a medical term?) this tumor. The actual process will be very quick (just a few minutes) and she won't be in any pain during treatment. To my disappointment, after receiving treatment she won't be able to turn on the TV with her mind. So I guess the hunt for the remote continues... As we were finishing up with the secretary today we met the in house massage therapist. He spent ten minutes giving Jordan a shoulder massage and just making small talk. What a perk!

After we left Celilo we went to the DMV and got a Disabled Parking Permit. I'm so happy that this is available to us. It will make life much easier for us as we continue to carry on like normal. That being said we are currently accepting flair for Jordan's walker (bike bells, horns, bumper stickers, etc...).

I am writing this update from a nice hotel room just a few miles from the airport in Portland (while Jordan watches The Bachelorette). We are soaking up the air conditioning as the temperatures top 100 degrees in the Gorge and just enjoying each others company.

Perhaps the most important part of this update though is that tomorrow morning we set off for the airport to pick up our children Benton and Parker and Jordan's mom Kim.  Benton and Parker flew out with my mom Cindi and sister Sunshine on July 1st for a wonderful adventure on the East Coast with both sides of the family. They have been staying up late, eating all kinds of junk and basically been given everything they have asked for. Pretty much exactly what is supposed to happen when you are with your grandparents.

Before Benton and Parker left we were spending some time at Waterfront Park in Hood River. As our kids played on the beach Parker followed what is becoming a habit by giving us some small gifts. These are always things she finds on the ground (rocks, flowers, trash or whatever else sticks out to her) and I usually put them back when she isn't looking. If she is suspicious of me getting rid of the item I usually find it in her pockets later on. That day I decided to break with my Leave No Trace tradition and keep the small rock she gave me. I put it in my pocket and it has stayed there all month.

It wasn't intentional at the time but quickly became something I would find myself holding onto all month. I would forget about it and find it when I was getting out my keys or digging for some change for the parking meter. I held onto it lots while we were at OHSU. That small rock was something that gave me a little connection with my kids even though they were 3,000 miles away. I revisited that small beautiful moment on the banks of the Columbia River 100 times this month. I think Jordan and I both realized this month the strength we get from being around our kids. Their laughter recharges us, their energy is contagious and their kindness inspires/awes us every single day.

While this was not the month Jordan and I had in mind when we planned this getaway for our children it has been a good one. We have been able to find our bearings, talk frankly about our future and focus on Jordan's health.

With that said we have missed our children terribly. We are so excited to get to see their big toothless and silly smiles tomorrow.