Thursday, April 28, 2011

American Idol In Review

So, we're getting down to the home stretch on American Idol.  I'm sitting in my favorite chair in the living room with my laptop on my lap (where else?) watching this week's show and blogging at the same time.  American Idol and I go way back.

But not all the way back.  We didn't watch it the first year, and there's kind of a funny reason why.  I'd heard all the buzz about this new show called American Idol....I had no idea what it was about, but because it had the word "Idol" in the title, I just assumed it was bad.  Certainly not something any self-respecting Christian would watch.  Idols?  Not for me, thank you.

By the time the second season came around, Hannah was wanting to watch it.  I told her my concerns, and she just looked at me like I was crazy.  "Mom...It's a singing competition!"  So, I sat down to watch an episode with her, and I was hooked.  And while I was hooked, she had swallowed the hook, line, and sinker.  From that day on, she never missed an episode...Thank goodness for VCRs, and eventually DVRs! 

Finally, it came down to Ruben and Clay.  Hannah was a Ruben fan, surprisingly, and was thrilled when he won that year.  The next year, it was Fantasia Barrino and Diana DeGarmo.  Hannah was CRAZY about Diana, and voted for two solid hours every Tuesday night after the show.  Diana didn't win, but the American Idol tour came to Little Rock that year, and we were on the 11th row.  At one point, Fantasia threw her "sweat rag" into the crowd, and the guy next to us caught it.  What a thrill, huh?  Hannah wrote a really sweet fan letter to Diana, and we were able to hand deliver it to Diana's mom that night.  Precious memories.

Season Four brought us Carrie Underwood and Bo Bice.  Hannah loved Carrie and I'm sure her votes helped put her over the top.  She always loved her music, and often listened to her CD's while she was getting her radiation treatments.  There were lots of favorites in Season Five, but Elliott Yamin won Hannah's heart.  He came in third that year, leaving Taylor Hicks and Katharine McPhee to battle it out.  Once Elliott was gone, Hannah's votes went to Taylor, and sure enough, he won.  That year, we went to the American Idol concert in St. Louis.  Hannah and Bethany were thrilled to get to meet Ace Young and Chris Daughtry.  Ace was very kind and spent lots of time with them...Chris, not so much.

Season Six brought 17-year-old Jordin Sparks and beat-boxing Blake Lewis.  A Civil War was brewing in our house...we had a Jordin fan (Hannah) and a Blake fan (Bethany).  We talked about those two people so much in our house, that we took to calling them "Blordin."  I'm not kidding.  I guess Hannah was a more dedicated voter than Bethany, because Jordin won that year.  The tour came to Little Rock again, and we were there.  We didn't get to meet Jordin, but we met Blake, Chris Richardson, Phil Stacey, LaKisha Jones and Gina Glocksen.  (If you're still reading this, and you know who these people are a true AI fan!)  Phil Stacey has actually put out a good contemporary Christian album.  As I said, we did not meet Jordin that day, but less than two years later we spoke to her on the phone, when she called the hospice center to talk to and encourage Hannah.  Hannah was no longer able to talk to her at that point, but Jordin was incredibly poised and gracious...She even sang one of her songs for Hannah over the phone.

About midway through Season Seven, Hannah was diagnosed with brain cancer.  She had surgery on a Tuesday, and that was probably the only episode she ever missed.  She watched Wednesday's episode with her hospital bed turned at a funny angle so she could see it.  The surgery left her without the ability to raise her eyes to see the TV mounted on the wall.  I doubt that she remembered much of that episode.  David Cook was the winner that year, and if you're a fan, you probably remember that his brother was battling brain cancer.  So, of course, we were David Cook fans...although I thought David Archuleta was great, too.

As the build-up to Season Eight began, Hannah was excitedly looking forward to it, as always.  But by the time it started in January of 2009, the cumulative effects of cancer, chemotherapy, and radiation had taken their toll.  She watched each episode, but couldn't remember from week to week who the contestants were.  And she just couldn't seem to fully grasp that there was an Arkansan in the competition.  Hannah went to Heaven before the season was complete, but I think she would have been thrilled to see Kris Allen win. 

I barely even remember Season Nine.  I really planned not to watch it...I just thought it would be too hard.  But when that time of year came around...I couldn't help but tune in.  It sounds strange, I know...but I felt like I just had to watch it on Hannah's behalf.  And the whole season is a blur.  I didn't even remember who won until he came back to perform on this season's Idol...Lee DeWyze.

So that brings us to the current incarnation of American Idol.  Two new judges, and a whole new slate of contestants.  I've enjoyed watching it this year.  It seems to be more positive...none of those scathing criticisms by Simon that used to make me cringe.  I find myself wondering what Hannah would have thought of Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler.  And I wonder who she would have been voting for this year.  Would it be Scotty, like all the other teenage girls?  Or maybe Lauren?  Or Haley?  And then I remember that she would be 19 1/2 now.  What would her musical tastes be now?  Would she even be interested in American Idol anymore?  Or would she have grown out of it?  She certainly would not be the same little girl who wrote a fan letter to Diana DeGarmo. 

Well, the show has long since been over for the evening, and I'm still in the same chair with my laptop on my lap.  The dryer has stopped, and I've got clothes to fold.  Casey has been sent packing, and the judges couldn't save him this time.  Bethany's favorite, Haley, is still in it.  In a few more weeks, AI will crown its tenth winner, and life will go on.  And most of these contestants will return to relative obscurity.  In the broad scheme of things, American Idol is so incredibly insignificant...not even worth mentioning.  But I'd just like to say...American Idol -- Thanks for the memories.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Small Steps...Part 2

Last month, I wrote a post called "Small Steps".  In that post, I shared a couple of small steps that I felt were a part of my journey to healing, including the ability to sit through a Relay for Life team captain's meeting without losing it, and finally summoning the emotional stamina to gather up some of Hannah's t-shirts to get a quilt made.  Well, this week, there was a continuation of those same steps.

Yesterday was a very full day.  It began at 6:45 a.m., when we walked into the radio station in Hot Springs.  There are actually several radio stations that broadcast out of this building, and it was interesting walking down the hallway and seeing all the different booths.  We reached our booth and had a few minutes to visit with Dick Antoine, who hosts "Talk of the Town" on weekday mornings from 7:00-9:00 a.m.  He did a great job of setting us at ease and making us comfortable.  As soon as the news was over at the top of the hour, we put on our headphones, situated our microphones, and we were on air.  Over the next hour, we had the opportunity to share Hannah's story, talk about the Anchor of Hope Cancer Ministry, and discuss the While We're Waiting Weekends.  I really wasn't nervous until it was we walked out, I realized I was shaking!

The day ended with our monthly Relay for Life team captain's meeting.  I was on the agenda to share "Why I Relay".  Last year, I listened to other people as they shared their stories of "why they relay", and thought to myself, "There is no way I'll ever be able to do that."  I've had the opportunity to share my testimony in a variety settings, and have gotten fairly comfortable doing that.  But Relay for Life meetings are different...more emotional somehow.  When I agreed to share, I really wasn't sure if I was going to be able to do it.  Once again, though...I had nothing to worry about...God stepped in and calmed my nerves, quieted my emotions, and enabled me to share what He had put on my heart.  When will I learn not to doubt Him?

The highlight of my week, though, has been receiving my t-shirt quilt.  I knew it would be good when I saw the quiltmaker's other quilts, but I was completely unprepared for how amazing it really is!  I do have to admit that there is something a little jarring about seeing your daughter's favorite shirts in quilt form, rather than on her where they should be.  Once I got past that (and it was just momentary), I absolutely fell in love with this quilt!  I'm just going to let the pictures speak for themselves....

A precious lady (and fellow OBU alum...just a few years before my time!) from Sparkman made this quilt.  I love the color combinations and polka dot material she used.  Polka dots were Hannah's favorite.

 The quiltmaker was so sweet...after she showed me the t-shirt quilt, she said, "I just couldn't bear to throw the scraps I made a rag quilt out of them."  It is beautiful, and so soft and cozy...Bethany immediately claimed it when she saw it.  I love that she will have a quilt of her own to treasure.  She's been sleeping with it ever since she got it.

 Odyssey of the Mind was a huge part of Hannah's life from third through fifth grade.  Here's an assortment of some of her OM t-shirts, along with her Science Club t-shirt.  I love how she put these together into one block, and then made the cross pieces out of another of Hannah's shirts.

 This is the back of one of her t-shirts with all of her classmate's signatures on it.  If you look carefully, you can see her name near the middle of the pawprint.

 Of course, we had to include a t-shirt from Arkansas Children's Hospital.  Whenever you're an inpatient there, you receive one of these when you check out.  I think every member of our family has one.  We love ACH!

 This t-shirt was from the Disciple Now event in 2007 where Hannah prayed for a storm.  The Greek letters mean "No Other Name."  This shirt is very special to us.

 Hannah loved going to the Ozark Conference Center for church camp during the years we lived in El Dorado.  She absolutely loved that place!  She tie-dyed this shirt during one of her stays there.

 This was Hannah's favorite Odyssey of the Mind t-shirt...It was designed by her best friend, Brittany.

 Hannah often wore this shirt to her treatments at ACH and CARTI.  One of my favorites.

 We had this shirt airbrushed at a tourist trap in Gulf Shores, Alabama, on a family vacation when the girls were little. 

 A couple more of Hannah's favorite shirts...Hot Springs Baptist Church Fall Retreat '07, and the Magnet Cove Fellowship of Christian Athletes. 

 One of Hannah's favorite shirts...She wore it a lot, so of course, it had to be in the quilt.

 These little squares which were between all the blocks also came from one of Hannah's favorite shirts.

Hannah's Grandma Nina got this shirt for her.  I love how the cross looks like it's made out of Band-Aids. 
And I love knowing that, even though Hannah's healing did not take the form that we would have chosen, she is now fully healed, and in the presence of Jesus.  And for that, I am grateful.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

While We're Waiting Weekend Website

Announcing a new website dedicated just to the While We're Waiting Weekend retreats for bereaved parents!  Take a look at and please pass the web address along to anyone you know who might be interested in attending a weekend like this.  Check back from time to time, too...because we are in the process of working out some "mini" While We're Waiting Weekend retreats! These will be one day "pampering" retreats just for women, and there may even be a one-day retreat for men in the works.  Please pray for these events as we are in the process of developing them, and watch this blog or the While We're Waiting Weekend website for details once they are finalized.

Something else we are looking forward to....I got a phone call the other day from Dick Antoine, who hosts a morning radio show on KZNG 1340 AM in Hot Springs.  He asked if he could interview Brad and me about Hannah's experience with cancer.  So, next Tuesday, April 19th, we will be sharing our story on the radio from 7:00 to 8:00 a.m.  We are looking forward to the opportunity to share about Hannah, as well as the Anchor of Hope Cancer Ministry and the While We're Waiting Weekends.  Please pray that God will give us the words He wants us to say, and that He will be glorified in all that transpires.

I've also been asked to share "Why I Relay" at the next Garland County Relay for Life team captain's meeting next Tuesday evening.  Again, I ask for your prayers as I seek God's leadership in what He would have me to say.

I haven't updated my "1,000 Items that Bring Me Joy" list in awhile, but that doesn't mean I haven't been working on it.  I'll close this post with my latest additions....

#72  Seeing mallard ducks out of my Sunday School class window
#73  Spent Bradford pear blossoms looking like snow blowing in the spring breeze
#74  Sweet tea (and I mean sweeeet!)
#75  Fuzzy black and yellow bumblebees
#76  Purple and gold pansies
#77  The flowering crabapple tree in my front yard
#78  The sun glistening on water
#79  Chocolate covered strawberries
#80  Flowering dogwood trees, especially the pink ones
#81  Monarch butterflies
#82  The little yellow finches on the feeder outside Hannah's window
#83  When Bethany sits in my lap (all 5'11" of her)
#84  How the trees are all different shades of green this time of year
#85  Seeing how much the trees we planted in our yard 5 years ago have grown
#86  Seeing grieving parents find new joy
#87  Seeing God do something through WWWW that we could never have done ourselves
#88  Watching the people who came to WWWW become Facebook friends and comment on each other's statuses, encourage each other, etc.
#89  Puppies
#90  Kittens
#91  The anticipation of summer break
#92  Seeing Bethany's joy over her new car
#93  Sticky notes
#94  Freshly sharpened pencils (Yes, I know, I'm a total nerd)
#95  White geese on a pond
#96  Little girls with big hair bows
#97  The smell of a baby after a bath
#98  The color "robin's egg blue"
#99  A good massage
#100  Texting with Bethany
#101  Playing Mexican train dominoes (aka "chicken foot")
#102  Watching American Idol
#103  Watching from my classroom window as a dear family friend and retired Hall of Fame track coach mentors my daughter
#104  Anything by Mary Engelbreit
#105  New sunglasses (have to look cool to ride in Bethany's car)
#106  Afternoon naps
#107  Raw cookie dough
#108  Raw carrots (to cancel out the cookie dough)
#109  Getting a 30% off coupon for Kohl's in the mail
#110  A hot shower with good water pressure
#111  Anyting related to the Wizard of Oz
#112  Sunflowers
#113  Chocolate covered raisins
#114  Facebook (actually this is a love/hate relationship)
#115  Bananas on my cereal
#116  Cinnamon rolls
#117  Black & white pictures
#118  Making sand castles
#119  Floating on an air mattress, soaking up the sun
#120  Wearing a t-shirt and shorts
#121  My While We're Waiting Weekend t-shirt
#122  My "Fight Like a Glory Girl" t-shirt  ("Like" Fight Like a Glory Girl on Facebook to read Glory's story)
#123  Homemade strawberry jelly on a hot English muffin
#124  Nutella
#125  Having my mom's china in my china cabinet (which also used to be my mom's)
#126  The rock jewelry my rock-hound Grandpa Kapteyn made for me
#127  The lamp in our guest bedroom that used to belong to my Grandma Persenaire (it still works!)
#128  My pillow
#129  Spudnuts from the Spudnut Shoppe in El Dorado
#130  Hot doughnuts from Krispy Kreme
#131  Actually, doughnuts from anywhere
#132  Rolling chairs
#133  Chipmunks
#134  Rocks that are big enough to sit on
#135  Hannah's purity always on my right hand ring finger
#136  '80's music
#137  Homemade strawberry pie
#138  Andes mints (especially if they're cold)
#139  Reading a book while I eat lunch
#140  American flags on a windy day
#141  The little "HS" sticker on the back window of my car
#142  Pretty file folders
#143  Having all the laundry done (this is a very short-lived experience)
#144  K-LOVE and AirOne radio

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Ten on the Tenth

A few weeks ago, there was a post going around on Facebook titled "Things Bereaved Parents Wish You Knew".  There were eighteen items on the list, and, of course, I could totally relate to all of them.  But since this is Ten on the Tenth and not Eighteen on the Eighteenth, I decided to pare the list down to the ten things that meant the most to me personally. 

So here goes..."Ten Things Bereaved Parents Wish You Knew".

1.  Please don't be afraid to talk to me about my child.  My child lived and was very important to me, and it is a comfort to me to know that he or she was important to you, too.  My child is pretty much always on my mind're not going to "remind" me that he or she is gone.

2.  If I cry when you speak of my child, it isn't because you have hurt me.  My child's death is the cause of my tears. You have talked about my child and allowed me to share my grief and I thank you for both.

3.  If I seem absent-minded and forgetful, that's because I am!  "Grief Brain" is a common malady in bereaved parents.  I'm really not losing my mind, but sometimes I may feel like I am.

4.  Please don't expect my grieving to be over in six months, or even in a year. The early months may be the most traumatic for me, but please understood that my grief will never fully end until the day I am reunited with my child in Heaven.  And though it may sound strange, I don't really want my pain to completely go helps keep me connected with my child.

5.  When you ask me how I'm doing, that's a really hard question for me to answer.  I will probably tell you I'm fine or I'm doing okay, but neither one of us has enough time for me to fully and accurately answer that question.

6.  Please excuse me if I seem rude at times.  Sometimes I just don't have the emotional stamina to participate in the small talk and keep the smile on my face.  I may just have to "check out" for awhile.

7.  Please don't tell me that you understand or that you know how I feel.  Unless you have lost a child, you cannot understand how it feels.  I pray that you will never know how I feel.

8.  Being a bereaved parent is not contagious, so please don't shy away from me.  I need your support now more than ever before.

9.  You may see me struggling emotionally sometimes, especially when I'm at church.  This does not mean I have lost my faith.  For a variety of reasons, church is just a very emotional place to be. 

10.  Please understand that the loss of a child changes a person. When my child died, a large part of me died with him or her. I am not the same person that I was before my child died and I will never be that person again.

So, there it is.  Ten Things Bereaved Parents Wish You Knew.  In the course of making this list, I actually changed it up quite a bit from the original Facebook version.  Now, I would never claim to be a spokesman for all bereaved parents.  But over the course of many conversations with parents who have lost children, I've found these things to be common to many of us. 

As Item #10 says, Hannah's death has changed me forever.  I am not the same person I was prior to February 26, 2009.  Through God's grace alone, I am a better person.  And in spite of the grief I live with every day, I will seek to honor Hannah's life through my healing.  Because of His goodness and faithfulness, I can honestly say that I believe the best days of my life on earth are yet ahead of me.  And that's a huge encouragement while I'm waiting.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

While We're Waiting Weekend Wrap-Up

"Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen." Ephesians 3:20 NKJV

When I think about this past weekend, that is the verse that comes to mind.  In my last post, I asked you to pray that God would take our lack, and make much of it.  And He did that...exceedingly abundantly above and beyond anything we could have asked or imagined.  I don't even have the words to adequately explain how amazing the weekend, instead, I'll use pictures with just a little bit of narration.

First...A few photos of Family Farm, our beautiful home-away-from-home for the weekend:

 I like this picture because you can see the morning mist on the pond!

All ready for our guests to arrive!

Next, our time spent meeting together....

 Pictures of our precious children...

 Praise & worship time on Sunday morning

 The Mays sharing about the loss of their son, Zane, at "Salvation Station" 

  The lovely ladies who served our delicious dinner Saturday evening!  Aren't they cute?

Time for some fun!  Here we are enjoying the "farm" part of Family Farm...

I could tell you about the "pig riding" episode...but, hey...what happens at WWWW, stays at WWWW!

Of course, we had to try out all of the camp activities, such as "Islands"....


 Land Skis...

 The guys won...but I'm pretty sure they cheated!

The Balance Log...

The Zip Line...

And, of course, fishing!

Nice one, huh?

By the end of the weekend, this group of strangers had become a family.  We left there changed people...inspired by the stories of our children's lives, reassured of our normalcy as grieving parents, reminded of our Savior's love for us, and most of all, re-energized to serve our Lord while we're waiting to be reunited with our kids in Heaven. 

I'll close this post with a link to the song "While I'm Waiting" by John Waller...I believe it sums up the weekend better than I ever could.  Thank you so much to all of you who prayed for this first "While We're Waiting" Weekend.  We will be having another one in the fall...probably the first weekend in November.  Send me an email if you would like a registration form!  And keep watching the blog for some other "While We're Waiting" projects we're working on!