Feeling joyful

Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday Jesus!

This year we've broken from our normal routine and enjoyed many fabulous days visiting with family and feeling full of JOY!

I can't believe that my last post was Thanksgiving.  Very unusual for me and it's certainly not been a lack of content or inspiration keeping me away... just a lack of time for many good reasons!

Last weekend we drove to Cleveland to see my dad, Junko, with our very own eyes.  He had to return to the hospital the day after my last post.  The thing about leukemia is it is truly a DAY BY DAY journey.  A wonderful, terrifying lesson in appreciating/ surviving/ overcoming each day.  

Jim Orris (donor), Dick Lehman & my mom celebrate my dad's new birthday as they watch new life pour into his veins.
*if you compare this pic to the Thanksgiving photo 2 weeks previous, you will notice how much healthier and stronger he looks!
In the above picture, my dad is receiving his stem cell transplant.  His brother (black sweater, white collar, looks like what my dad will look like when he's healthy...if he doesn't grow his beard again) JOYFULLY donated his perfectly matched stem cells.  That was a another gift of this experience, getting to spend time with my California-living Uncle.  Jake now refers to him as the family's best kept secret (between that and my mom's nickname of "golden egg" for my Uncle, I fear we sent him home with an inflated ego :)  We hadn't seen each other for probably 20 years, not for a lack of love, just unfortunate timing during his visits "home". 

So far, my dad has been a "textbook" case.  Throughout his journey his only good luck has been overcoming the odds as he gets slammed with turn after turn of worst-case scenarios.  The fact that he was eligible to receive this transplant is living proof in the power of prayer.  I am hesitant to ever feel or share optimism over my dad's prognosis and strive to feel THANKFUL and JOYFUL for every day he's been given since diagnosis in June.  The road ahead of him is long and difficult... yet I now catch myself thinking about future family camping trips and woodworking lessons for the girls.  Hope is a good thing and this season we are full of hope (and JOY).

Last weekend we traveled to Ligonier and Greensburg to spend time with Jake's parents.  The JOY my girls feel with each of their grandparents is truly a heartwarming thing for a mom to see.  

We were excited to take advantage of a free kids art activity offered every Sunday in Greensburg!

Last night, while aching for my biological family, it was wonderful to get to experience Jake's dad's family tradition...Valea!  We traveled with Jake's brother and his girlfriend to Gibsonia to enjoy more time with Pap Pap and Gammy & many cousins.  So many delicious traditional Polish foods, silly family traditions & wonderful people.  Instead of feeling sadness over missing my favorite church service and Orris traditions, I truly was full of JOY and love.

That day started with Hazel seeing deer tracks in the snow and JOYFULLY exclaiming that they were "Reindeer tracks".  Clearly Santa sent his reindeer a night early to double check directions to our home!  Later she helped me prepare Santa's plate, complete with cheese for "Santa Mouse", a cutie for "healthy food" and of course a carrot for the reindeer.  Before we left for dinner, SANTA HIMSELF CALLED FROM ALASKA THE NORTH POLE.  I never knew that her smile really could stretch from ear to ear!

The best shot I could get of my sweater (dress) crew on Christmas Eve :)  Dearest Heidi, for the jokester of the family, why don't you smile for photos?  
We returned home around midnight and Jake and I were giddy with last minute preparations and imagining the girls reactions in a few short hours.  Below you see our HILARIOUS Christmas tree (aka a tree from the driveway that needed to come down.  Notice the top extends at least 3 feet up with no branches);  Hazel starting in on her gifts; a rare photo of me (thanks Jake) helping Heidi work on her gifts; & a mid-present "cool down" to enjoy a new book.

Fortunately, this year Hazel did NOT ask for poop!  Instead she was quite practical and asked for "a sleeping bag and applesauce".  We were thrilled that Santa obliged with good quality sleeping bags that will be used & abused for the next ten years!

And finally, a truthful photo of the post-presents tornado (and super worn-out super-dad).  Though discharged last week, my dad had to return to the hospital on Saturday to deal with some chemo effects which while a bummer, gave my mom the freedom to be home for the Christmas Eve service and some much needed grandchild-therapy (for the next few months, my dad has to be within a 1-hour radius of the Cleveland Clinic.  We live 2.5 hours away, so they will be living with some wonderful friends during this time.)

Whelp, my house is filling with delicious smells as Jake and Josh (his bro) work their magic and spoil us rotten!

Much love and appreciation to all of you who visit my blog (and made it through this whole post)!


  1. So happy to hear about your dad.

    I know he's not out of the woods yet, but that picture just says a thousand words.

  2. Belated Merry Christmas! I love Hazel's new sleeping bag!!


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