Friday, March 11, 2011

A Slight Hitch in my Giddy-Up......and therefore, my PLANS!

Unless you work in the medical field, or have had experience in may look at this picture and have no idea what it is.  It's actually a cross section picture of the knee, looking down from the femur onto the lower half of the leg.  If you look closely, you'll notice that there are two crescent shaped bands called the medial meniscus and the lateral meniscus.  These bands sit between the upper and lower bones of your leg, and offer sort of a cushion in the joint space.
In 2005, I started having pain in my right knee periodically.  Mostly it happened when I jumped up/down and landed wrong, or when I crouched down and then stood up again.  A brief, shooting pain would occur, and then nothing.  It wasn't frequent enough to cause real concern, and I felt like a hypochondriac seeing the orthopedic about it.  Sure enough, no real swelling in the joint was detected, the knee seemed stable, and I was sent on my way.
Since then, same story.  Occasionally, I'll notice a slight pain in the knee, but no big deal.  Well, this past Monday night, I guess it became more of a big deal.  I was doing a high intense cardio workout at the gym....a workout that I love and that I've been doing for a couple of months.  I pushed off from right to left and catapulted myself over a platform, and I felt one of those shooting pains in my knee.  And then, nothing.  Finished the workout, actually decided to stay and do the next lifting workout too, then went home.
I woke up at 3 a.m. really thirsty.  The double workout probably left me a tad dehydrated.  When I stepped down out of bed, my right knee was not stable, and I yelped!  I could not bear weight on it.  Whaaaaat?  I hopped all the way to the kitchen sink, then made my way back to bed.  I got up again at 6 a.m. and same thing......could not even walk!  At 7, I called and woke up the GU trainer, Steve.  I described my symptoms and told him that I didn't have time for this.  I've got a run this Sunday, and I'm training for a marathon.  He told me to ice it, wrap it, elevate it and try to stay off of it.  Riiighttt!  I've got stuff to do, how do you stay off of it?
Tuesday and Wednesday, I iced as much as possible and tried to convince myself that there was really nothing wrong.  By Thursday, the knee was super tight, super stiff, and intermittently, the pain high enough that bearing weight was impossible.  Steeeeeve!  I called him back.  He's sort of the Godfather around these parts, and within two hours I was getting X-rays at the orthopedic and an evaluation.  It's definitely not what you  know, its WHO you know!
Well, the bad news folks is that I have a lateral meniscus tear.  I was able to finish my workouts Monday because the good news is that there is no ligament damage.  If there had been, my knee would have screamed at me to STOP!  The bad news is that the knee was visibly unstable with swelling in the joint space that had my kneecap "floating" as the doctor described, and I failed the McMurray test, which is a shifting of the knee to see if an audible click can be heard.  Unfortunately, click, click, click it went.  He told me I might as well skip the MRI, because it's torn, and all that would tell me is how severe.
Surgery to repair the meniscus is scheduled two weeks from now.  Between now and then, I'm supposed to get as much fluid and swelling out of the joint space as possible through Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation (R.I.C.E.).  After surgery, up to 3 weeks on crutches, and then rehab.  Really?  I was feeling sorry for myself for about two seconds.  And then I considered some of my fellow teammates and former athletes who experienced far worse knee injuries/repairs and came back to form stronger than ever.
 Here's one of them.  This lady showed up at Santa Clara in the midst of her third ACL tear and repair.  Within one year, she was named the Collegiate Player of the Year, and then went on to work her way back onto the US National Team, sharing the first ever Women's World Cup title within two years.  This is that famous shot that made the cover of Sports Illustrated when the US Women made history in Los Angeles....World Cup 1999.  I watched how hard she worked at that time....there's no room for whiners!
As I said when I started this blog.....I'm not sure of the adventures I'll be taking this year.  I'm not super pleased that this is one of them, but I'm heading off to surgery in a couple of weeks nonetheless!  Not sure of that marathon in July either.  Time to alter my workout plans.....swimming pool, here I come!

We have a Teenager!

Every day now, our oldest gets a little bit taller, a little bit smarter, a little bit funnier, and stops us in our tracks with how old she is!  Yesterday, she turned 13 years old.  If I had a dollar for every parent who dropped their child off for preseason training at Gonzaga and said to me, "hold on to those little girls, they grow up way too fast", I'd be a rich woman by now.  Luckily, we are very aware of how precious time is, and I feel confident that we are doing everything possible to enrich our kids' lives and spend quality family time.  They are all my favorite people!  My oldest shares my sense of humor, which is so much fun.  We both enjoy making funny sounds, pretending we can talk with various accents, and we have a penchant for changing the words to songs and jingles to suit our liking.  Let's just say rides in the car with my 13 year old are so funny.......and even funnier because the rest of our family gets so dang annoyed with us!  Thought I'd share some pictures today of our oldest girl....Happy 13th!
Her First Christmas!

Junior Soccer
With her crazy soccer girls....and Dad as Coach!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

In like a Lion, and out like a Lamb

For many reasons, I will never forget Christmas 2005.  That was the year that our family chose to go see The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as our Christmas Day movie.  I sat next to my daughter Emily, and she was absolutely captivated by the scenery, the characters and the story.  She lit up every time Lucy had a speaking part.  That made me smile.  I couldn't help but think that she was identifying with this little girl.  She, and I, also salivated over the Turkish Delight, covered with all of that powdered sugar!  When they got to the part where Aslan, the Lion, dies.....she was moved to tears and in that moment, mad that the story had ended this way.  But then, Aslan comes back to life!  I had never read the story before, and so I did not know what would happen.  But all of a sudden, Emily was smiling again.  And then, at seven years old, she said out loud, "Mom, that is just like Jesus!"  Well, it was pretty much game over for me at that point.  Just when you think you are the one to teach your children things, they go ahead and interpret things like movies for you.  It was an amazing moment.

Jesus can be thought of as a Lion, as the King of Kings.  Or, He can be thought of as the Lamb, who sacrificed it all so that we can be "raised in glory to LIVE ON forever" as it says in 1 Corinthians 15:40-44.  The picture of the Lion, cradling the Lamb, is symbolism used in the Christian faith to represent the peace found in having faith.  I think faith is sometimes like a Lion, raging and strong, easy to summon, providing courage and strength to tackle life.  But other times, it's like a Lamb, feeble and weak, with shaky limbs, and the lamest voice of all, "Baaaa!"  I mean, does anybody truly know that there is a God?  It's not something that you can sort out with your brain.  At least mine is not complex enough to come up with a definitive answer on that.  And so, I've found, it's something you have to follow with your heart.

Around the end of January this year, I began to sense the emotional tension that the month of March would bring for Jennifer and her family.  Their birthdays start on February 25th, and they just keep on coming...March 1, March 9, March 12 and then Olivia's birthday March 19th.  Turning another year older when you are missing a piece of your heart.....that's serious anguish.  My brain, and my heart, are not always working together.  But after talking with Jennifer on Monday night, January 31st, they started thumping together to the same beat.  I found myself completely moved by the strength of this lady, Olivia's Mama, who told me that night that she thought that maybe they were going to take their family to swim with the dolphins for Olivia's 10th Birthday on March 19th.  "In like a Lion, and out like a Lamb!"  

I didn't sleep much that night as I began to dream of how I could make sure that Jennifer's 40th Birthday on March 1st raged in like a Lion!  I contacted everyone in my e-mail and facebook accounts, and I contacted Jennifer and her husband Rick's work colleagues.  I shared with them Jennifer's story about the dolphins, and that they also wanted to take their first trip to Disneyland with their kids.  I opened up an account at the local credit union, and asked everyone if they wanted to rally with me to make sure Jennifer had a vacation fund built out of the love of all her friends and family.  I explained that we would build this fund for a month, and that I needed their names to keep track of the Donor Honor Roll so that Jennifer could see all of the names of the people rallying behind her!

March 1st came this past Tuesday.  Two of Jennifer's best friends, and fellow teachers, organized an entire day of pampering for Jennifer, culminating in a dinner prepared by Jennifer's family.  Before we ate dinner, I shared a letter that I had prepared for her.  I explained to her that our conversation about Olivia's dream of swimming with the dolphins had really touched my heart.  And then I confessed.  I told her that I had been doing a lot of talking behind her back!  And then, in front of her entire family, I presented her with over 100 names on her Donor Honor Roll who had been secretly helping to surprise Jennifer on her 40th birthday with a vacation fund worth $5, 500.00!  I also shared with her several e-mails that came in to me on her behalf.  I wanted to make sure she understood that people were absolutely thrilled to be able to help her take this vacation in honor of Livi's 10th birthday, and most importantly, to help her fulfill Olivia's dream of swimming with the dolphins.

I've had many incredible moments in my life, but this one ranked right up there with the very best!  The names on that donor honor roll included so many of our childhood friends.  Those names were the ones that especially touched Jennifer and her parents.

Emotionally, March raged in like a big old Lion, and brought with it a roaring faith in people, in God, and the image that Jesus really did reach down and cradle Olivia in his loving arms, like a little Lamb.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Man's Search for Meaning

This book was recommended to me about ten years ago.  I picked it up on a road trip and had it finished before I stepped off the plane.  It's a pretty quick read, but what you take from it really depends upon your station in life.  I've read this book three times.  Each time, my understanding was deeper, and I find myself referencing some of these thoughts on a daily basis.  The reason?  It's a book about hope, and the control that each of us has to choose the lenses that we see the world through.  It is one of those books that can be quite profound.  Like, you read a couple of passages and you start to reflect, and then whoa, it hits you deep and you have to think about it and how you can apply it to your own life.
I've been told that I am a thinker.  I've also been told I'm a slow trickle.  I don't know, maybe that is true.  I often reflect deeply on the things in my life that I am passionate about, and I find it difficult to rest until I come up with solutions or ways to make sense of it all.  Viktor Frankl writes about his experience in a concentration camp.  The passage below is one of those profound ones that might leave you thinking too:

... We stumbled on in the darkness, over big stones and through large puddles, along the one road leading from the camp. The accompanying guards kept shouting at us and driving us with the butts of their rifles. Anyone with very sore feet supported himself on his neighbor's arm. Hardly a word was spoken; the icy wind did not encourage talk. Hiding his mouth behind his upturned collar, the man marching next to me whispered suddenly: "If our wives could see us now! I do hope they are better off in their camps and don't know what is happening to us."
That brought thoughts of my own wife to mind. And as we stumbled on for miles, slipping on icy spots, supporting each other time and again, dragging one another up and onward, nothing was said, but we both knew: each of us was thinking of his wife. Occasionally I looked at the sky, where the stars were fading and the pink light of the morning was beginning to spread behind a dark bank of clouds. But my mind clung to my wife's image, imagining it with an uncanny acuteness. I heard her answering me, saw her smile, her frank and encouraging look. Real or not, her look was then more luminous than the sun which was beginning to rise.
A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth -- that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. In a position of utter desolation, when man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way  – an honorable way  – in such a position man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment. For the first time in my life I was able to understand the meaning of the words, "The angels are lost in perpetual contemplation of an infinite glory...."

Ummmm.....this just leaves me so humbled.  The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 13:13 that, " these three remain, faith, hope and love.  And the greatest of these is love."  One of my theology professors at Santa Clara introduced us to the Greek word for love, agape.  Agape love is God's perfect love...."for God so loved the world......"  Agape love is a tradition shared by eight of the world's religions.  Frankl was correct when stating that love is "proclaimed as the final wisdom of so many thinkers." 

Love is powerful.  Love transcends all things.   Even in the face of loss, love is the one thing, in my humble opinion, that does not change.  Our hearts are forever changed by love.  I guess most of us probably experienced this most profoundly at the birth of our children.  Quite possibly one of the biggest miracles I've ever witnessed, and undoubtedly, the most unconditional kind of love around.
This image of my three girls is one that I will carry for my entire life.  My favorite!
This might be the dumbest revelation ever, but I've come to realize that I am not in complete control of my own life.  There has to be a greater power at work.
These are the thoughts that have swirled in my head for quite some time.  "The image we carry of our beloved"....well, it's not just an image, it's the feelings of love and the laughter of moments that we've shared together that help us hope for what is yet to come.  At Christmas time this year, I was able to have a painting made for my friend Jennifer.  When Olivia passed, her heart was donated to a little boy in Hawaii.  The story behind this is incredibly moving.....a higher power was certainly at work.  I wanted to capture an image of Olivia that represented hope, that captured Olivia's spirit, and that might allow my friend to find fulfillment in the contemplation of an infinite glory.  My artist friend Jessica literally rocked my world with what she created.  

I for sure do not have all the answers.  Remember when you were a kid and you could lie on the grass and stare up at the clouds, designing all sorts of shapes?  Inevitably, these are the moments that make you realize how small you really are when compared to the universe.  I would highly recommend taking a peek at this book!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Partners in Pain

OK, so I'm new to this blogging thing, and I will admit, there's a certain kind of undue pressure that I'm putting on myself to keep ideas flowing on this blog.  It's been a while since I posted something.  It's not for a lack of things to say, it's for a lack of the pictures to go with it.  You know, words only say so much, it's really the pictures that people want to see. 
Additionally, the year's posts to date have sort of started out with some tear jerkers.  I know this because people are telling me that they always know to read my posts when no one else is around!  Oh my.  I promise it's not intentional, it's just the way that life has been lately.
Today we ran a race.  It was called Partners in Pain.  I suppose it's name might make some expect to hear another tear jerker of a story.  Partners in Pain is all about running 5K with a partner.  At the end, your combined score can earn you prizes....except that I've run this race many times and I've come to know for sure that me and my partner will NEVER win any running prizes.  Our prize is signing up for the race, actually showing up to run it, and checking it off the list of goals for 2011.  And, damn that feels good!
This is my partner.   He is a much faster runner than I am, but I still like him.  He still shows up to these race events with his Garmin on, sets the race pace he's looking for, has a strategy, and compares the stats from previous years so that he knows where he's been and where he could be.  In other words, he's such a GUY.
As for me, I used to follow this same mentality.  I mean, there was a time in my life where I was ultracompetitive and I really had a drive to train seriously and then get after it.  But these days, it's more about the event than the actual race.  Here's what I'm talking about:
Here's the whole group of us ladies who showed up to run Partners in Pain together.  Actually, I only knew that four of us were running.  I didn't realize we would have such a crowd.  But it sure was fun!
Here's Mel and Jen.  The Guerrero girls made this sign for them and came to cheer them on.  Jen's wearing Team Liv On, in honor of her daughter Olivia.  The run today was a chance for all of us to set a goal and then go out there and accomplish it, each at our own pace, and for our own purpose.  I cannot speak for anyone else, but my main goal today was to encourage my friend Jen to nourish her own soul through running some races this year.  Running and being outside just have a way of making you feel so alive.  The energy of a group of people who come together to conquer a road race is contagious.  Seeing the "real runners" with their singlets and super small running shorts as they start heading to the finish is inspiring.  Watching the group of ladies that I was part of conquer the course, each at their own pace, was equally inspiring to me.  We did it!  And for Jennifer, well, I saw her smile today and she meant it.  I also heard her say, "I've got to train for this next one."  This made me smile even bigger. 
The reality is, life is hard, and tragedies in our lives make it harder.  But, when you have a friend who, within hours of losing her daughter, was able to coin the term, "LIVE ON!"....well, it just sort of makes you want to work harder.  That is a special kind of person, and someone that I want to stick close to!  
I'll sign out with this final picture.  This is Jen and I, at age 14, at the Bloomsday finish.  My dad took this photo of us.  I'm trying to make sure the finish camera catches my wave, and Jen and I are holding hands pulling each other to the finish.  I find this picture just a tad symbolic of what life is like.  Thank God for friends who share a passion for life, and who are unafraid to reach out and pull each other along.  And sometimes, when the pain is really bad, that God gives us the strength to reach up and give a wave.  Jen, we are LIVING ON!  Thank you to all the ladies who showed up to run today.  See you in March at St. Paddy's Day Five!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Power of Giving

January at our house is birthday month.  To be honest, I wouldn't have picked January to give birth, except that when you are coaching a Division I soccer team, January fits right between fall and spring season, and is the best time to have a baby and still be back on the field in April to coach!  When my middle daughter started talking about what she wanted to do for her 11th birthday, I was pleased that her dad had suggested an indoor soccer birthday party, and even more pleased that she thought this was a great idea!  When our friends the Lee's heard this idea, they said, wouldn't it be fun to run a joint 11th birthday party?  The guest list would include the Spokane Shadow soccer team that both Payton and her friend Maddie play for, so why not join forces and make it a two for one?
Here's their Shadow team.  Maddie is on the far left, and Payton is fourth from the left.

The girls got busy planning out the party, and the moms started planning out the food, the drinks, and the invitations.  As we began to think about it, all of us came to the same conclusion.....wouldn't it be nice if instead of asking our guests to bring gifts, what if they brought a donation instead for a very special U10 Spokane Shadow soccer player who was tragically killed last June in a car accident?
This little girl, Olivia Chaffin, was a vibrant, athletic, energetic kid with a huge heart.  Her life has made such an impact on the Mead community that the Mead School District put together an education fund in her name, The Olivia Chaffin Memorial Fund, which will serve Mead students for years to come.
This is Olivia.
 Olivia's parents, Rick and Jennifer, are both Mead teachers.  Jennifer and I have been friends since we were eight years old.  To give words to what a tragedy this has been for this family is difficult to do.  That's why sometimes actions speak louder than words.  The Mead community, the Mead School District, and family and friends have tried to do whatever they can to lift this family up.  When it was decided that Payton and Maddie would collect donations at their party instead of gifts, my heart skipped a beat.  We know that none of this will bring Olivia back, but the power of giving and understanding the impact of that gift is one of the greatest lessons in life. 
The party went off great....perfect venue for a bunch of athletic little girls who love to run around and play soccer.  But the real prize came when it was time to open the donation envelope to see how much money Payton and Maddie would be donating to the fund.  The generosity of their friends, and their friends' parents was just incredible.
Last night, Payton and Maddie were invited to the Mead School District Board Meeting.  At the meeting, they presented a check for $400 to the Olivia Chaffin Memorial Fund.  The Board President told the crowd that there are a lot of bad things that go on in this world, but it is gestures like this one that renew our faith in people.  Another board member said, "Amen!"
As parents, we could not have been more proud of our girls for making this happen for Olivia and her family.  We are so thankful for the parents of Payton and Maddie's teammates who helped us put together a check for $400 to start out this fund.  This is a birthday that Payton and Maddie will remember for the rest of their lives.  I am one proud Mama!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Ba-bone, bone, bone, bone!

Whenever my husband answered his cell phone with, "Ba-bone, bone, bone, bone!", I smiled and knew exactly who it was on the other end.  Craig Hampton, nickname "Hambone", evolved down to, "Bone", and then eventually, extra syllables were added for effect.  The above photo was taken at my parents house at Christmas '92.  Craig used to come up to Spokane from Simi Valley every Christmas.  He would drive his blue Toyota pickup truck up through Utah to visit relatives, and then to Spokane to hang out and to ski Schweitzer.  Craig was a lovable guy....he had visited my parents home each time he came to visit, and my parents thought so much of him that they made these t-shirts for their dogs.  "Bone" and then "G-pa"....because, that year, Chris was the elder statesman on the Bronco's soccer team and the guys called him Grandpa and because Craig was "Bone".
Ahhh, here they are.  Stiles, Cochran, Hampton and Madsen who shared a house on College Ave with a pool table in the garage, cheap beer stocked in the fridge, and lots of late nights playing poker, street hockey, whiffle ball or whatever games they could dream up.  These were some great times.
Here's Craig and Chris on a hiking and camping trip to Yosemite.  We packed up there in August, and spent a freezing sleepless night, then awakened to a badger scraping at the sides of our tent....but the views were incredible, the jokes non-stop, and my sides hurt from laughing so much at the antics of these two.  Lucky me, I got to tag along with these two on many adventures.  Craig was a loyal friend and so much fun to be around.
Fast forward from the '90's to 2005.  I remember this timing distinctly because Lisa's health was deteriorating, and so was Craig's first marriage.  He called upon Chris in the middle of the night on several occasions, and it was at this time when he was really starting to have noticeable side effects from benign tumors in his back that had plagued him with back pain for quite some time.  Initially, we all wrote it off to the endless hours of driving that Craig put in as a salesman for a company based in Seattle.  But eventually, when his left leg started to go numb, well, it started to seem a little more serious.  In April of 2006, Craig joined us for Team Lisa.  He had a distinct limp by this time, and was definitely experiencing more issues with his back.
Within the next couple of years, so much happened for Craig.  He got remarried, moved to Seattle for a year, and then moved back in summer of 2009.  By that July, Craig could no longer walk on his own, and had to be in a wheelchair.  The tumors in his spine were no longer benign.  He had been diagnosed with peripheral nerve sheath sarcoma, a devastating cancer that had taken his legs away, and was beginning to take away feeling in his hands/arms too.
This is Madsen, Hampton, Broughton and Stiles at Craig's house in the fall of 2009.  The cancer had progressed and left Craig's face a bit paralyzed, and he was dealing with double vision.  The amazing part of the whole deal was that Craig never had self pity.  He was just dealing with things day to day, and could not wait for his friends to visit and take him gambling.  The guys in this picture......well, these are some of the greatest people on Earth.  Danny Madsen, on the left.....he and Craig are lifelong friends (more like brothers), and when Craig was sick, Dan flew up from the Bay Area on so many weekends that I lost count, just to be with his pal and help him pass the time.  And Bruce Broughton, well, how can you explain a guy who came with his kids and wife Colleen at least nine weekends in a row from Redmond, WA as things got really tough, so that they could be with Craig.  And that other guy on the right?  I have so much respect for his loyalty, his heart, and his ability to make people laugh.  Despite very tough conditions, Chris still knew how to care for Craig, and to make him laugh.
As all of us did what we could to help out Craig and his family, I wrestled with what I felt was unspoken for a time.  No one was saying that Craig was getting worse, fast.  Unfortunately, when you've seen this kind of thing before, the picture is a little clearer.  And so, without asking anyone's permission, I went through the list of Bronco soccer alum who played with Craig, and I sent out an e-mail explaining how sick I felt Craig was, and that I thought it would be great if everyone could gather in Spokane to rally around him.  Here's what happened next:
Yes, that's former national team and SCU coach, Steve Sampson, along with Broughton, Madsen, Hampton, M. Rast, C. Rast, Rueda, Gallo, Yamamoto and Robertson....the first of about 20 guys who flew in from all over the country to be with Craig.

Craig's 38th Birthday was December 17, 2009.  I'm not sure what the nurses on 7 South at Sacred Heart were thinking when 20 men, all of whom considered Craig their friend, showed up to see him.  Craig's spirits were so lifted by the outpouring of love, support, and friendshp.  It was very tough on all of us.  Entering Craig's room, you had to be able to put on a smile when he knew just who everyone was and brought up a special memory or time spent with each of these guys.  Upon exiting the room, the tears just flowed.  Here was a former national team level soccer player, a destroyer on the soccer field, who was weakened by a disease that was taking feeling from his body and causing visible pain and suffering.  I've never felt so proud to be part of a group of friends, a group of men, who clearly understand the power of friendship.  The love displayed here was incredible to witness.
Here are two people that I just have the most respect for.  The unconditional love and devotion they showed to their son Craig was amazing, and heart wrenching, to witness.  Sandy Hampton was at her son's side almost 24 hours a day.  She tended to his bed sores, massaged his hands, and arms, and legs.  She made sure he had lotion on his hands and face.  She made milkshakes for him daily, and she tirelessly cared for her son in a way that I'm not sure most people could endure.
Craig's journey ended a year ago today, on January 29, 2010.  Chris and I had been with him at Hospice House around 10 p.m. the evening before.  Craig allowed the two of us to stand on each side of him.  We each held one of his hands, and pressed in close, holding him and telling him how proud we were to be his friend.  We kissed him on the forehead and told him it was time for us to go.   Craig had told his Dad that evening that it was "time to go".  Four hours later, Craig passed away.
This is the group of men who shared a National Championship in 1989.  This is also the group of men who came to be with Craig when he needed them most.  I have so much love and respect for them all.
These are the Madsen's, Franny, Ryan and Dan.  The eulogy that Dan gave at Craig's funeral was, well, it was what you would come to expect knowing the friendship that Craig and Dan shared.  Not a dry eye left in the room.  It turns out love, loyalty and friendship are very special things.
And these are the Broughton's, Shane, Bruce, Colleen, Jill and Ben, who shared our home with us on at least 20 weekends from October 2009 through January 2010.  Selflessly, they drove for hours from Redmond to be here to help support Craig and his family, as well as us.  Colleen took most of these pictures, she loaded up on snacks and red wine from Trader Joe's when she came, and she negotiated relationships better than any of us could.  Love, love, love these people for teaching us what people should do when a friend is dying.  Incredible people.
This last picture I add not to be sensational, or to add in some kind of shock factor.  We've learned in the last couple of years that life also brings death.  You cannot live afraid to face it, and it takes courage to embrace it and still come out of it with your head held high.  Craig was not afraid.  He soaked up the blessings of his life, and all of those blessings were there for him at the end.  His sisters read to him from the Bible, his sweet parents cared for him tirelessly, his wife Kristina was his love, he told his daughters, Maddy and Sam how proud he was of them, and he made sure that they would be taken care of after he was gone.  And, his Bronco family was there for him through it all.
On the year anniversary of his passing, I am praying for those closest to him.  His parents, his wife Kristina, and his girls.  Craig Dean Hampton, aka, "Ba-bone, bone, bone, bone!", may you rest in peace.  We all loved you dearly.

Monday, January 24, 2011

We really miss her.....

This is a picture of Chris and his sister Lisa, in the parking lot of her apartment, "The Safeways", at Santa Clara University in 1989.  When I met Chris, I met Lisa too.  The two of them shared such an amazing bond.  She was his biggest cheerleader, and he was her biggest fan.  I always admired the way they took care of each other.  In fact, our first official date on Valentine's Day, 1990, was dinner prepared by Lisa in her tiny little apartment.  She fixed chicken parmigiana, and I still remember the tablecloth and the vase of flowers she had put together.  Chris would have never thought of those things, (and she knew it!), so she slyly took care of all the details....and was delighted to do it.
When Lisa was a senior at Santa Clara, I was a sophomore.  That year, she had to take a science class called, "Water, water, water.".  Lisa was super smart, but she insisted that I be her tutor, which meant that we met weekly at various locations around campus to "study".  Really, it turned into just a great chance to talk and hang out together.
 After college, we all eventually migrated back to Spokane.  Lisa was the first on either side of the family to have kids....and she and Joe patiently relented to our unannounced visits to their house during the first two years of Tyler's life.  Chris and I had a habit of showing up just after Lisa had put Tyler to bed, and she would always go get him up so that we could play!  After we became parents, we realized just how kind Lisa really was!  The above picture is at the beach at Priest Lake, around 2002.  Lisa is at the head of the table, hanging out at one of her most favorite places on Earth!  Seeing this picture, I realize this was just before Lisa was diagnosed with breast cancer.  In May of 2003, she was diagnosed with Stage IIb cancer.  I'll never forget the night before the final staging diagnosis....Lisa was a nervous wreck, and their dog Chloe was delivering her puppies!  Lisa tackled the initial diagnosis with incredible strength.  She rolled up her sleeves and went about her radiation, chemotherapy, and finally, mastectomy and reconstructive surgery with hardly a complaint.  In fact, to celebrate a year and a half of treatments, surgeries and recoveries, Lisa asked Chris and I if we would like to join her in running a marathon!  This was an opportunity that we could not turn down.  When someone you love has just conquered cancer and wants you to run a marathon with them, the only answer is YES!
After training from January through May with Lisa and her friend Debby, we finished the Capital City Marathon in May 2005.  Here we are at the finish line with Lisa.  The amount of respect I had for Lisa on this day......I'm not sure that I have known a tougher human being.  To endure the last year and a half that she had just had, and to kick cancer in the face by running a marathon just two years after her initial diagnosis...I mean, she was SUPERWOMAN!!!  The finish line meant so much to all of us that day!
And then, later that summer, Lisa and I were running up at Priest Lake.  She asked me whether I thought that the pain she was feeling in her abdomen could be due to a hernia, you know, based on having had major reconstructive surgery after her mastectomy.  It sounded logical to me, and she agreed that she was going to go to the doctor to have it checked out.  What happened within the next month just completely changed our lives forever.
On September 6, 2005, Lisa's doctor called to let her know that the breast cancer had become metastatic, and that it had traveled to her liver.  Her doctor informed her that she was terminal.  She might live through Christmas, but after that, they could not guarantee T-I-M-E.  For anyone and everyone that knew and loved Lisa, time stopped that day.  The days and weeks and months that followed were filled with agony and so much sadness.  Lisa was a warrior through it all.  Heartbreakingly, she remained so selfless during this time.....thinking of everyone else instead of herself.  But, that was just who she was.  Lisa celebrated another Christmas.  She got to ride in a limo with friends and family to see all of Spokane's Christmas lights.  But, shortly after the new year in 2006, things started to rapidly decline.  Chris and I spent the last week of her life with family and close friends visiting and taking care of her at her house, with Hospice guiding the way.  In the early morning hours of January 22nd, 2006, Lisa took her last breath.  She was only 36 years old.
In the days following Lisa's death, I think we were all just in a fog.  My husband's desire to keep Lisa's memory alive (especially for her three boys), led him to the Race for the Cure and the formation of TEAM LISA.  That April, 2006, over 800 people donned bright yellow t-shirts and helped us raise money for the fight against breast cancer......all running for TEAM LISA!
Record breaking first year in 2006!
More Team Lisa 2009
This past April 2010, the desire to keep Lisa's legacy alive resulted in the opening of the Lisa Stiles-Gyllenhammer Boys and Girls Club in Mead, WA.  Lisa's husband Joe has an incredible lifelong friend, Aaron Reilly, who spearheaded the committee for the creation of this Boys and Girls Club.  There have been many amazing moments in our lives, but the day that the lettering for the club went up on that brick building.......well, it was incredible.  For my nephews to grow up knowing what an impact their mom made on this world is incredibly powerful, and this place just makes that all the more possible.

At the grand opening ceremony, my husband was the last one to get up to speak.  I remember he told me that he had "dummied down the speech" so that it wouldn't get too emotional.  Well, problem was, when you love your sister the way Chris loved Lisa (and vice versa), emotional is the only way this thing was going to go.  The reality was, he couldn't even start the speech.  So, I did what any wife would do....I rallied the crowd with some clapping and yelled out, "YOU CAN DO IT!"  And so, Chris told the crowd a little bit about his sister, and the impact that he hoped the Boys and Girls club would have on our community.  And each time he had to pause to collect himself, we clapped!
Lisa was an amazing person.  We remember her every day, and miss her so much.  Her life was too short here on Earth.  And her death has taught us to remember that tomorrow is not a guarantee, so we must live today to its fullest.  Missoula Marathon, 2011, here I come....and Lisa will be with me, every step of the way!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Not trying to reinvent the wheel

Every night, I hate trying to think of different things to cook.  I'm always looking for great recipes.  So, I wanted to share this link to a blog I discovered.  The gals who write this blog swam in my master's swim class at Whitworth.  I think they've got a pretty cool thing going and I just had to share:

You are gonna love it!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

We're Turning 40 This Year!

Remember these sweet photo booths with the curtain in the background?  This is a picture of my friend Jennifer and I from junior high.  I guess it would have probably been 1983 or 1984.  The two of us had similar childhoods: two working parents, two sets of living grandparents, Sunday dinners at Grandma's house, and the comforts of knowing that you were loved unconditionally.  The similarities didn't end there though....we both loved to be outside!  We ran, we played soccer at recess, and we rode our bikes along the dirt trails between our two houses, usually one of us on the handle bars and the other one pedaling.  Footloose was our favorite movie that year, and the two of us memorized every song on the vinyl album.  I can still remember using Jennifer's crutches as our microphones while we sang our hearts out up in her room.  In fact, Jennifer's mom Paula gave our volleyball team access to a huge meeting room in the basement of the local credit union where she worked.  Our team, and our coaches, had a huge sleepover in the basement of the bank (go figure!) and the coaches taught us the line dance to Footloose.  I bet if you asked any of the girls we grew up with what "Tap, tap, over tap, over tap, Step Back" means, they would give you the biggest smile ever.  We stayed up all night learning those steps.  As we all move closer to turning 40, it's amazing to me how I can remember all of these moments.  And how they still make me smile. 

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Birthdays, Blackouts and a Great Time!

This weekend we had the chance to stay at a ski condo at Schweitzer.  Some friends of ours have a guest condo right on one of the runs.....I mean, literally, you gear up and ski out the front door onto the slopes.  Turns out it just doesn't get any better than that! 
The first night started off a little rough.  We had some angry, howling winds throughout the night that kept me awake.  For some reason, my thoughts turned to that book by Jan Krakauer, "Into Thin Air", and how torturous it would be to be into mountaineering and be stuck in these types of conditions out in the elements....and then those thoughts led me to..."what if we have an avalanche or something?"...I was making escape plans for myself and my family as the winds kept howling.  Eventually, I did drift back to sleep, but my dreams were crazy!
In the morning, we awoke to no power!  The high winds had knocked a tree over and the power went out with it.  Schweitzer was only running a couple of lifts on auxiliary power.  It was tough to be disappointed though, because it we also awoke to our youngest daughter's 7th birthday on Saturday!  Since it was going to be tough to toast up Eggo waffles without power, we decided to eat cupcakes and open presents at 8 a.m.!  Here's the birthday girl and a few of her gifts:

After a quick trip down to Sandpoint for some hot breakfast, we heard power had been restored so we headed back up the mountain for some skiing.  The winds and the temperature kept things pretty chilly both days, but it was still a great time.  Thanks to our friends for use of their amazing condo!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Gettin' Bloggie With It....

OK Girls, time to rally.  I'm slowly getting the hang of this blog thing.  A good friend of mine suggested that I post a gameplan for one of my biggest goals this year.  Missoula Marathon, July 10th!  Time to rally the troops and get the word out.  Someone asked.....can I invite other friends too?  Absolutely.  We've got quite a crew committed to at least running the half marathon, and some ready for the full.
So, here's the gameplan.  Get in at least one road race per month starting next month with Partners in Pain.  One friend laughed out loud at the name of this one.....clearly, she said, a run perfect for her!  In March, St. Paddy's Five; in April, Race for the Cure (of course!); in May, Bloomsday, then Windermere Half Marathon, then Priest Lake Fun Run over Memorial Day; in June.....longer training runs planned out together....and then in July, we road trip to Missoula.  Not a runner?  That's OK, we aren't either!  Ha!  The point is, we're making some goals, putting them on the calendar, and we're going to go after them and do them.  Maybe we'll see you at Partners in Pain.....not ready to run?  Then find a partner and walk it.  Cool long sleeve t-shirts every year and it's freezing...but it's fun.  Go to for the running calendar put out by Bloomsday, or pick just google these events and start planning.  And, when the weather gets nicer, we'll do some runs together on Sundays. 
Here we come Missoula!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Mom, please tell me that's not Squid butt......

I started off today thinking it would be a great idea if I could serve something healthy on this first weeknight of the new year.  You know, get the family off to a great start by keeping some fiber in their diet.....which means, lots of veggies.  Like most of the great ideas I come up with, I procrastinated.  Truth is, I'm not passionate about cooking.  But, as I thumbed through the latest Sports Illustrated this morning, I saw a quote that got me to thinking.  It said, "The person who really wants to do something finds a way; the other finds an excuse."  Well, isn't that the truth.  Stop with the excuses, make up your mind, and get it done.  Problem is, I don't really have the culinary aptitude to just go in the kitchen, find some ingredients, and whip up something that tastes good.  I envy the people who have that ability, but it's certainly not mine.  I started off by searching for recipes online, but that got to be overwhelming....too many possibilities.  And then it dawned on me, I have a million cookbooks, just open it up, find what you want, and pick out a couple of choices.  Luckily, I remembered that my good friend had given me a great cookbook last year as a thank you present.  Really, it was one of the most thoughtful gifts a person could give, because inside, she had earmarked all the recipes that her family really loved.  Here is the cookbook:
Sorry, blogworld, I forgot to rotate in the pic editor before I inserted!
The recipe I chose was for Lettuce Wraps.  As I looked down the list of ingredients, I groaned......what the heck is Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce and Asian Plum Sauce.....and where am I going to find these?  Aw, quick making excuses!  So, I added these items to my list, and went off to find them.  Truth be told, I did have to go to two different grocery stores because the first one was out of Plum Sauce.  Do people actually have this stuff stocked in their refrigerators?  The other ingredient that I wasn't too excited about was the ground turkey.  I know it cooks up white, but the pink, ooziness of the ground meat really makes my stomach turn.  The unfortunate part about being the cook in this house is that I have to actually deal with the stuff when it looks like this:
Oh Jenny, why do you have to look like this?

As I read through the instructions and discovered I would have to chop/dice the red pepper, celery, carrots, water chestnuts and garlic into tiny pieces, I wondered I have one of those Cuisinart mini prep machines?  I mean, obviously the thing doesn't get much use because I wasn't even sure if I had one.  Score!  I found it.  And, what would have been a miserable 20 minutes of dicing veggies turned into like 5 minutes of wicked delight......just pile it in there, hit chop and voila:
Cuisinart mini-prepped carrots, red pepper, celery, water chestnuts and garlic!
The reality is, if you are a busy person but you have time to plan ahead (isn't that the problem though...if we're busy, how do we find time to plan ahead?).....well, you could chop the veggies the night before, throw them in a Ziplock, and this would make for one quick, easy and healthy meal.  Anyway, after the veggies were prepared, they cooked five minutes in a skillet, then the ground turkey went in to be browned (whitened), then went in hot chili sauce, plum sauce, soy sauce, rice vinegar, salt and pepper....and lastly, chopped up cashews....which I again threw into the mini prep....and dinner was served!  The recipe called for Boston or Bibb lettuce leaves, but I could only find Butter lettuce and it worked perfectly.  Here's how it turned out:
Turkey Lettuce Wraps with mandarin orange slices
The verdict?  Well, my kids tend to keep things real around here.  My oldest two came into the kitchen first.  The middle one said, "Mom, if you're going to try new recipes with new things in them, please just don't tell me what's in there, OK?"  I asked, "What do you mean?"  And then my oldest said, "Well, you know, if you tried to sneak Squid butt in there or something, we might throw up on the plate mid-bite."  Seriously, that was the conversation we had right before they consumed two lettuce wraps a piece, then quickly got up to help themselves to some more.  It is a fabulous recipe, great taste, and my kids loved it! 
On a side note....yes, I did take these pictures so that I could blog it.  And yes, my camera battery did die just before I took the first picture, so I had to borrow my daughters' camera.  And, I did mini prep the heck out of the red pepper, to the point that it wasn't exactly a chopped consistency, more noodle like than chopped red pepper......but, in the end, it all worked out, and I going to try to make less excuses!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Love, Friendship and just a few F-Bombs!

These are the signs that greeted us to town on our VERY FIRST ADVENTURE OF 2011!  So, we did what any other self respecting trio of women would do: we parked the car in the middle of the two lane highway, hopped out, and took ourselves a picture!  Having never been to Omak before, I wasn't exactly geared up to head to a small little town in the middle of the state in the middle of a very cold winter.  But, the destination wasn't important.  What spurred on this little adventure was the passing of a friend's father, two short days after Christmas.....and, well, it's important to show one's support during difficult times.
After a teensy weensy issue with showing up at the Elks Lodge instead of the Eagles Lodge for the memorial service, we managed to find the right place and, I might add, to park just a tad illegally in the very last smidgen of space left to park out in front of the Omak Eagles Lodge.  Upon entering the lodge, it was, as you might imagine, just exactly what a social hall in a small town might be.....wood paneling, snowflakes and tinsel left over from New Year's Eve dangling from the ceiling, and crowded wall to wall with people. 
Our dear friend who's father had passed said a few words about her dad, and then the slideshow began.  What is it with country music?  I mean, one minute we're watching the slideshow of these great old photos of her dad as a boy, and the next minute Brad Paisley and Dolly Parton opened the flood gates with that song..."when I get where I'm going, there'll be only happy tears".  You could hear the sniffling and see the wiping of the eyes all around that little lodge.  And then, at the end of it, the story telling began.  Remember the title of this post?  Well, that's when the f-bombs started too.  We heard stories about hunting, fishing, trapshooting and pranks that were full of some of the most colorful language available to mankind.  And you know what?  It was probably one of the most honest displays of love and friendship that I've ever witnessed.  There was no pomp and circumstance.  It was old guys in Wrangler's, cowboy hats and hunting jackets with their Ford pickups parked out front, coming in to honor a guy who devoted his life to loving up on his friends and his family.  And so, when he passed, they came in droves, with hilarious stories to share.  One man stood and shared the story of two particularly loyal friends who, for months on end, showed up to the house at 7:30 in the morning, gave two knocks, then came in to brew the coffee and share a cup and a conversation with their buddy who had this awful cancer.  It was a simple act of love, friendship and kindness that drew a standing ovation. 
This first adventure of 2011 was a lesson for the three of us who made the journey together.  A full life is a life that's full of love, that's filled with friendship, and where an occasional f-bomb is just the adjective required to tell a story about a very special man.