Prayers on Thursdays…

Prayers on Thursdays…

I wasn’t quite sure what I could do from Wisconsin while my sister was getting Chemotherapy in Saint Paul, Minnesota. This all came on very fast, I prefer a little more time to process information. Cancer doesn’t care about that though! I came out of the gate strong with flowers, meals, etc. But– now, we’re about four weeks into a pandemic that has separated our family.

I got a text on a Thursday morning from a friend of a friend that simply said: “We are praying for your family.” I sobbed. Sometimes I am completely blown away by the kindness people show us. This is hard. We are social distancing. There is space between us but the love remains. I try to call, text and forward cheerful information to my sister to lift her spirits. I’m not great with words, I often stutter out the “important” things like an awkward sprinkler but roll out fast quips and jokes. So- to try and bridge the gap in my communication skills I can lift my sister in prayer every day, and especially on Thursdays. I made a website because it is something I can do during times like these. I hope it is something that brings her joy and will help her on the difficult road she’s on.

With love,

Jenn

A Mother Shares

A Mother Shares

Annette is my oldest daughter and her sister Jenn arrived six years later. They are both precious to me.  On January 22, I was driving to visit Jenn who lives in Eau Claire where I also live when Annette telephoned to tell me the final diagnosis of Stage 4 breast cancer.  I pulled over because a cancer diagnosis of Stage 4 is not the sort of thing you casually chat about while driving. My reaction was to go numb. I have no idea what I said to her.  Later on that evening, the realization of what the diagnosis meant hit me squarely in my heart. I didn’t want to lose her; she shines a light into my life. I love her dearly and fiercely.  A few days later, I drove to St. Paul to spend time with her and accompany her on medical visits. The first thing I did was wrap my arms around her and hold her tightly in my embrace for a very long time.  

Gradually over these months of post-diagnosis life, I’ve become hope filled.  She is receiving very powerful chemicals designed to kill the cancer cells. As the weeks pass and the doctors and nurses adjust the drug dosage to lessen their painful side effects, she has begun to start living her life under the “new-normal”.  That’s the thing about human beings: we adjust to whatever our current circumstances are. That’s called resilience, and we humans are a resilient bunch, including my daughter. The doctor when he gave the diagnosis didn’t mince words, but didn’t cast gloom and doom either.  “There is no cure,” he said to us, “but there is maintenance. Don’t think of your life in terms of weeks or months, but in terms of years. You can certainly live a long and fulfilling life.” I believe that. And I believe that life bought back through medical care can be as happy as any of our lives are, and perhaps even more so.

In February of 2020, Annette and her husband Fred joined me, and my travel companions, my sister Nancy and her husband Mike, on a vacation to Tucson.  I had been planning this vacation for a year and rented a cozy duplex in a residential neighborhood for the time there. Annette and Fred planned to fly down and spend a week with me at the duplex. Mike and Nancy planned to move to a hotel during their stay.  We were on pins and needles for weeks; would they still be able to come? The fact that Anne must receive chemo once a week for two years made it clear that the time they spent in Tucson would have to be shortened, but I still hoped she could come. I knew it would be good for her and good for me to do something fun, something not connected to cancer, and I thought a little sunshine and warmth would help too.  I was never so happy as the day Annette and Fred flew in and drove to the duplex. It wouldn’t be a week, but it would be five days.  

The first day Annette and I visited a salon and had our nail done.  She found a salon nearby that carried vegan and non-toxic manicure supplies.  This was only my second manicure and Annette’s third so it was special for both of us and we were doing it together.  The next day we set out to see sights and also explore the wide range of food available in a city the size of Tucson. We ate Sonoran hot dogs, Mexican, Italian and Ethiopian food, and much acclaimed cooking “like Mom’s” at Bobo’s which really was!  One of our most enjoyable activities was touring the Botanical Garden in Tucson where we spent a lot of time in the butterfly room where hundreds of species of butterflies from around the world flew. Annette and Fred went off alone on their last full day in Tucson to hike a canyon.

I held back tears when I had to say goodbye.  But I was grateful that we’d had this time together.  Anne reported to me that on the flight home, she enjoyed looking out the airplane window and watching the sun set.  It reminded her that she was still able to experience the beauty around her. 

 For all of us, time is short.  None of us know how much time we have left.  We need to make the best of our time here on earth, cancer diagnosis or not.

Note from Fred

Note from Fred

It is so supercritical during times like these to have family.  What to offer?  Well, Annette is my wife of five and a half years.  We met under the most unusual circumstances and I thought I would share that story.
Back in 2012 I was working on a project for 3M and needed to visit a local Office Max store to confirm some design details with Nic, one of my staff.  Nic was leading the project and I thought it would be a great opportunity to grab lunch with him and give some focused time as his supervisor and design-collaborator.  I knew of a pizza joint right next to the Office Max, that I’d never been to so I offered lunch to Nic and we planned for it.  It was a particularly cold and snowy day in January and Nic and I got busy that morning so that our departure to lunch was later than a normal lunch hour.  Because it was so late we decided to hit the pizza joint first.  
Mancino’s was pretty busy when we walked in. Sitting at a table just inside the doorway was this beautiful gal with wonderful flowing red curls of hair and she looked directly at me a beamed the most wonderful smile anyone has ever seen.  I was immediately taken!  Nic and I proceeded to the counter to order our food then settled into a booth on the far side of the restaurant.  I strategically positioned myself on the side of our table so that I could get a view of that beautiful gal from across the restaurant.  By this time she had met someone who joined her and they were sitting in a booth where she was facing my direction as well. (Now it is important in this story to note that to this day we both disagree as to whether Annie was sitting at a table in a chair, and not that booth, where she then moved to the booth, verses her opinion that she was in that booth when I walked in.  I do know the memory of her shiny wonderful smile and curly red locks was off to my right as I passed her but she insists she was in that booth on the left the whole time!) 
So over lunch with Nic, I had all to do to concentrate on Nic.  I knew we only had the time it would take to consume our lunch for me to ask him how his family was, how is work was going and other general, good to chat over lunch sort of banter.  
But my attention was consumed!  I was drawn like a moth to a flame of red-haired desire and curious youthful attraction to this gal.  I found myself constantly looking over at her while trying to concentrate on Nic as he shared answers to my questions.  Frankly, I didn’t hear much of what he was saying.  (I’ve told this story to Nic and certainly apologized often). 
As time went on across our half-hour of lunch, the gal of my future had gotten up and sashayed across the restaurant to the ladies’ room.  She told me afterward that she was putting on her best swagger, knowing I was checking her out.  So what do do?  How was I going to meet this woman?
Interestingly enough, at a recent evening out with another bachelor friend of mine who happened to be a VP of Sales, he was whining on about not being able to meet a great gal and I coached him by saying “Dude! You are in sales!  All you have to do is ask!  If they say no, then move on!” So recalling this conversation I had with my friend, I decided I needed to approach this red-headed wonderful looking owner of such a smile – but how?  What was my plan?  It was then that I spied the trash cans just near their table.  
When Nic was barely done with the last bite of his pizza, I grabbed his tray and said: “I’ll take that for you.” And off to the trash cans near their table, I went. After disposing of the trays quickly, I sauntered up to their table and said “Excuse me ladies, but if you don’t mind my interruption, I wanted to say that as a single guy, it is so difficult to meet people these days, my name is Fred and I was taken by your smile when I walked in. I’m wondering if you would be interested in going out with me on a date?”
You the reader need to picture the point of view I held at that moment – speaking directly to this fantastic woman Annette, as she was seated to my right, as I stood at their table.  Off to my left, I heard a voice from Annette’s guest who asked: “And what do you do for a living?”  I turned to square up to the voice that was coming from Annette’s mother, Candace.
So I did what anyone would do. _I lowered my voice an octave and said with strong confidence as I whipped out my business card, “I’m the Creative Director at a local packaging company here in the area.”  With that, I handed Annette my card and asked if she would allow me to call her for a date.  She dug out her card as she beamed that beautiful smile up at me, handed it to me and said she would gladly consider a date.  I departed with pleasant good-byes and called her later that evening.  She was busy that night but was free the next night.  We went to dinner, lunch the next day, then dinner that evening, then brunch and some live music on the following day and I think there was another date in there somewhere that first weekend also.
It turns out, the day we met at Mancino’s was her birthday. She and her mom were meeting for lunch to celebrate her birthday and my visit and request for a date was, as I’m told the source of lots of giggling by the two of them for most of the rest of that day.  A few months and many dates later Annette moved in with me.  She was supposed to move in November but came a month early.  We joke often that she still owes me that month! 
After a few more months I knew this Annie person was my person.  She is warm, sweet, loving and caring.  I ask myself almost every day since I met her “what did I do to deserve this wonderful woman in my life? How can it be that I am worthy of such a person?  How is it that the universe brought us together?”
In no time at all, we both decided it was the right thing to do by getting married.  So off to Kauai Hawaii we went and onto Shipwreck Beach where we were married along a beach of Pacific waters, a stunning rocky cliff and palm trees.  Three witnesses included a photographer, a Ukulele player and a justice of the peace. I’ve never met anyone in this universe more in love with me, nor have I ever been more in love with anyone else. Annie is my person.  I am her person.  We are our people.  From the day I met her I knew there was something wonderful I could be for her.
 
You see we have a grand piano at our home studio and I would play improvisations every evening.  Annie loves my playing and she often asked me to play “that George Winston stuff.”
She is my muse.  She is so supportive of my creativity and my music.  No man could ever want more from a spouse as she sees happiness through our creative endeavors.  I often feel guilty when I play a gig because I am on stage and not with Annie.  But she is there in the audience with a super smile and all attention on me.  I might not have had the accolades I have wanted in my performances but when I look out from behind my saxophone and I see Annie there, smiling up at me, I know I am loved!  And I love her back so much!
So as my muse, while I spent evenings doodling on the piano I came up with the idea to write a song for my Annie.  My improvisations moved to a place absolutely influenced by Annie.  Annie’s soul, love, and heart was washing through me as I composed my love letter of a song for Annie.
It wasn’t difficult because it flowed so from within.  Song For Annie, it turns out is one of my best hits off the 1st and only album I produced with my jazz group.
Song for Annie is always in my head as Annie is always in my heart.
Here is the song if you would like to take a listen.
-Freddy