It’s been an emotional week. About 10 months ago we got news from a friend that his wife, Tina, was diagnosed with stomach cancer. Her story was particularly heartbreaking because she had just given birth to an incredibly special baby boy and was immediately hospitalized. When we heard the news, my family started praying for her every single night. Now, before you paint some Norman Rockwell type image in your mind of a family on their knees, I should be more specific. Every night we pile into bed together and “say” prayers. Some may say, myself included, that our prayers seem a little less than holy. Often times said with eyes half open and occasionally not even finished with an amen. My youngest, Ellie, often says, “Dear God, what I usually say, and especially what I said last night, Amen.” A good 4 out of 7 days may go that direction for her. None-the-less, we do the same routine every night. There are a handful of people we usually pray for and whenever I have updates about the friends we pray for I share them before we pray.
Last week, we learned that Tina would be entering into hospice care. So, as usual, I shared about her progress before we prayed. For many reasons, I suppose, I cried when I shared the news. I tried so hard to be stoic, but as always; failed miserably. As the tears streamed down; and I fought for the right words, my daughter stopped me and asked, “Why are you crying for someone you don’t even know?” I was caught a little off guard, but she was right, I didn’t know her, but after all this time I sure felt like I did. Valid question. I answered, “I’m sad for her, for her kids, for her husband, for her family, and it really makes me think of how hard this would be if it were us”. Both girls nodded solemnly. We talked a little more and prayed for Tina and her family again. After a longer-than-usual hugs and kisses time, Nathan and I walked out of their room and sat down with a sigh, we had our own thoughts and emotions to collect. After a few minutes had passed I could hear my youngest crying. I walked back to her room and climbed in bed next to her. I rubbed her back and asked her what was wrong. Her little eyes were so red and she looked at me with such sincerity while she tried to choke back tears and take a breath. “I don’t want Tina to die”. I nodded in agreement and we held each other and cried.
What shocked me was that she didn’t say she was scared of losing me someday. She was really sincerely heart broken that Tina might die.
For 10 months we prayed for a miracle. We tried to put ourselves in her shoes, we tried to imagine the pain and worry her family felt. For 10 months, the miracle didn’t happen. For ten months, however, we all found a deep love and compassion for someone we’d never met. Ellie may have felt her prayers weren’t answered and, well, that was true, but I, for the first time, saw something different in prayer. This strong women, in her fight for cancer taught us all to love someone we’d never met. Taught us compassion and care for another family. Taught us that life was worth fighting for. Helped us to see blessings and have gratitude for even the small things. This women, who didn’t get her miracle, had miraculously affected hundreds if not thousands of lives.
I don’t mean to make this a religious thing. I think it’s simply a love thing. If we all spent a little more time, even if it’s not the story-book kind of time, thinking about others, hoping for them and trying to understand their struggle, we’d stir up some serious love. And now, more than ever, we need love. Love, in the end, does conquer all.
It was 5:30am. My alarm allowed for an extra hour of sleep – it was going to be a great day. I got up and started packing – my family was leaving for Lake of the Woods for an extended family vacation. We do it every year – meet up with my parents and siblings and their kids and fish, swim, and play. Something I always looked forward to. In order to start the day out right I wanted to get going early – we had a 6 hour drive ahead of us.
Since we are living on a boat for the summer, everything is a bit tricksier than normal. For instance to pack up, we need to first grab a rolling trailer to haul all our stuff down the dock, which land to boat is 1/10 mile. So I started piling the suit cases and coolers and boxes by the front hull and Nathan loaded up, grabbed the kids, the trailer, and dog while I did my last minute packing.
I arrived at the truck just minutes later, with my suitcase and announced, hope it fits! Then I ran for one more quick bathroom break before we headed off. Nathan pulled the truck and boat forward towards the bathroom and off we went. We were just 30 minutes in, and stopped at Trader Joe’s for one last grocery run. I was feeling so proud – a whole hour ahead of schedule. While approaching check out I get a call from my hubby who was in the parking lot with the dog. Apparently I left my suitcase at the top of the dock! I guess my “hope it fits” announcement, was just that, an announcement. Well, at least we were an hour ahead and this, because of my superb planning, would be no big deal. So, we headed back to Stillwater.
I texted my breeder, who would be watching our pooch, that we were on our way. We needed to meet her before a specific time, and so far, I am still way ahead of schedule for that! Yay me. Until…an hour into the drive we hear a bad noise. A quick glance at my husband and his side-eye frown confirmed a tire had just went flat. We pull over to a side road, and our boat trailer has a flat. Bad news, but at least we are still in a big town and can certainly buy a new one. We quickly unload the entire truck onto the blvd, to get at the tools, cleverly stashed under everything, to remove the tire. It’s just 90 degrees out, no big deal. The bolts are rusted tightly on, so, well, it’s not as quick as we hoped, but I still have plenty of time. I call Walmart, of all places, and they have tires for trailers , just what we need. Except, when we remove the tire, we see the spring is broken. Now, we need a flat bed tow and a repair shop. More calls, more waiting…no more boat for us. So, my hubby painstakingly puts the tire back on for the tow and I re-load the entire truck again so we can get back on the road. Both of us, at this point, have sweat through our clothes. It was a hot one, and because of the extra issues, I’ve missed the timeline for the pup. No worries though, he’s a good boy and we decide to take him along. No. Big. Deal.
With the boat towed away for repair, we are all a little bummed, but are hopeful to be moving again. As we near northern territory, my smile feels a little bigger and heart warmer, but the weather looks daunting. We hear thunder and it begins to downpour. I give my hubby “the look” and he gives me a knowing grin like of course…a storm, fitting. Minutes later we hear another suspicious noise. I am now in disbelief. It’s another tire noise. No. Way. Our truck with our fancy new tires has a flat. Now, I kinda want to cry, but laugh. You see these tires were a special gift from my husband to my husband on his birthday – they aren’t even a year old! I will never understand men and their rims/tires. They all look the same to me, but he assures me these rims are stellar and really make the truck look bad-ass. So, who am I to disagree. This, I’m mulling over in my head while we sit in some strangers muddy driveway. It’s raining so hard we can only see a blur of a house. I climb into the back of the truck and pull out our beach blanket and hand it to my husband to lay on instead of the mud to inspect the damage. He spends a minute outside confirming it’s a flat and he’s soaked. He then asks me where I put the tools. I look at him wide-eyed and say, “I didn’t do anything with the tools”. He looks at me – it seems like a short eternity while we both realize the tools to change the tire are in the boat. Now, we need to go knock on the door. In moments like this you briefly consider your safety, but hope the iron range delivers on a reputation of being friendly. (can’t say I wasn’t thinking of the netflix series – Making a Murderer) I notice that Nathan digs in the center console before heading in – I wondered if he was looking for a self-defense weapon, he finds Kleenex and a loom bracelet, alas he walks over, unarmed:) The nicest older couple answers the door and offers to help once the rain settles a bit. So, the four of us + pup snuggle into the car to wait for the rain to lighten. Unbelievable. The natives start to get restless.
After some convincing, the girls and I wait inside the house while the guys try to figure out what to do. Because these tires are fancy, and because our special tools are on the boat we are in quite a pickle. The gentleman who’s helping us, Ralph (a perfectly suited name), offers to bring Nate to town to look for a tire. At this point we just have to do it. It’s been over an hour and time is ticking. So, they head off. I am busy making calls from the real yellow pages book, but no phone is working, I even try their land line (who knew? a land line!). Odd I thought. Turns out the storm knocked out all the power in the whole town. For real. You can’t make this stuff up. So, everything is closed. Literally closed. I have now been at Karen’s house (who is officially not a stranger since we’ve swapped life stories plus animal pictures) for the last two hours. It’s past dinner time and she kindly offers to make us sloppy joe’s – bless her heart. I still can’t believe it. Nathan and I call back and forth for the next two hours working on every possible solution. Nathan rents a car, I breath a sigh of relief. Turns out it was in Grand Rapids MI, and Ralph’s drive to the local airport in Grand Rapids, MN in search of baggage claim ends with more laughs. I’m pretty sure he said “city slickers” more than once:) He called me to break the bad news about the rental, now the tears were feeling more real. In the end, my uncle Doug drives 30 minutes to save the day with a special tool and, just four short hours later, we FINALLY get on our way. It’s too late to go all the way to Lake of the Woods and so, we reluctantly book a nearby hotel. Back in the day, said hotel, was a nice one, considered a fancy place. I guess a lot changes in time:)
I send Nathan away to swim with the kids while I ordered a pizza. Not just any pizza, but Sammy’s pizza. A hometown favorite – certain to brighten our evening. I appreciated the quiet time to reflect a bit and think of how funny we must have looked checking into this hotel and hauling in four suitcases, two coolers, and bags and boxes of food for a one night stay. I wonder what they were thinking. PLUS there was no elevator, and just for giggles we were on the second floor. Ideal. An hour later our pizza arrived – things were looking up. It’s funny how a swimming pool and pizza can help your kids forget about everything!
We got up early, with plans for a quick breakfast and tire shop spare-tire-inspection. We were all packed up and just waiting for our breakfast to arrive. It was nice to just sit and sip on a cup of coffee and joke about the previous day with my family. The food finally arrived and we were all eager to dig in. I had a bite of my veggie omelet, and then looked curiously at my husband who was picking at his eggs with his fork. I said, “what in the world?” He said, “I think there’s a bug in my eggs.” I looked in disbelief and prayed to the dear lord that it was just a nut, but alas, a nut doesn’t have legs. Sure enough. We all lost it. Full on giggles, there would be no breakfast for any of us – one sight of that bug and we lost our appetite. We showed the waitress who was also hopeful it was a nut, but upon further inspection saw the bug and yelled (i’m not exaggerating), “Ewe, gross, Oh My God!” and ran away with his plate. This was the last straw, we all laughed so hard we were crying, literally red faced doubled over laughter. The tears, at least from me may have spilled for multiple reasons, but it was so funny – a little restaurant scene to round things out.
Well, after the first flat and tow, second flat, power outage, surprise stay, and buggy breakfast, we finally made it up north. When we did it was too rainy to boat and too windy to be outdoors, so we settled in to tell our story. Sometimes it’s not the vacation that makes the memories, but the trips along the way.