5 for Angi

I was starting to write a post about how Thanksgiving is a weird holiday for me.  I was prepared to lament a little bit about how the ghost of Thanksgiving past sometimes interferes with my ability to fully enjoy Thanksgiving present.

Then, this link showed up on my Facebook feed through a friend of mine.


It took my breath away for a moment.  As I poked around and found the Facebook page, I saw something that Angi had posted:

I really don’t know what to say about this; thank you from the bottom of my heart to Kristi Haivala and Matt Wilczynski for creating this fundraiser. I am humbled, grateful, speechless, blessed.
Kristi and Matt couldn’t have known the timing of this; One year ago today I received a phone call from the pulmonary oncologist’s office confirmin
g that the suspicious mass biopsied in my lung was not lung cancer but instead metastatic melanoma. Some cells escaped from the skin melanoma I had surgery for the year before and nested in my lung. Just like with 9-11-01, I can remember exactly where I was when she called – Joe was midturn pulling the van into Memorial Sloan’s parking garage for us to meet with her and Dr. Adusumilli. She called me out of courtesy to give me time to mentally prepare for our meeting. That evening I found out that my furnace room was the most noise proofed room in our house, no one was able to hear me break down in there. It took Joe a little bit to find me, i can even remember the anguish in his face as he pulled me off the ground. It’s been a rough year. I learned a lot about myself – my strengths, my pain threshold, my faith, my weaknesses, but most importantly, just how blessed I am. – and I realized how much I actually liked my unruly red hair, it takes having something taken away to fully appreciate it! :)I would like to humbly ask my friends if you could share this link on your Facebook page. I can’t work right now, I wanted to go back to work so I could take care of this upcoming copay, math tutoring at least, but my health is too unpredictable thanks to the side effects of my medicine. As you guys have read in my posts, I’ll get one glorious evening of feeling ‘normal’ and then get a week of payback in bed.I thank you in advance, thank my friends that have already shared this before I even woke up today, and especially thank Matt and Kristi for creating this. Kristi I love you, I’m sorry the stupid cancer cancelled my trip to see you and Gina, I pray we’ll see each other soon. Thank you everyone, and thank you for everyone who has prayed for me this past year, sent me notes and touching gifts (Jaime the orchid is still alive, sort of!), and who has offered me encouraging words to continue fighting even on the days I just wanted to crawl in a hole and cry. I’ve never fought something like this, its surreal, and pray none of my family and friends ever have to. Love, me


I don’t know Angi.  But, from the little bit I have gleaned about her from reading her story, I know I would like her.  And, come on…who wouldn’t want to be friends with this girl:

But, I know what it’s like to spend Thanksgiving in a hospital, unsure of what the year ahead will hold.  I know what it’s like to watch your best friend battle cancer at a young age.  I know what it’s like to be a mother and how fiercely you love your children.  I can’t for even one second pretend to know what it’s like to be a mother facing this kind of illness.  I can’t imagine having to make a decision like deployment during war time in order to pay for medication.  It’s not right.  Joe needs to be home with his family.

This Thanksgiving, as you prepare to feast around a table with family and friends and give thanks for all of the things that you have to be thankful for, I hope you’ll remember Angi and her family in your prayers.  And, before you go out shopping on Black Friday, or better yet, Small Business Saturday, I hope you’ll consider sending $5 to help Angi and her family.

For most of us, $5 is so little that we spend it without thinking.  For her, it could mean a life-saving treatment with her husband by her side.

Donate today!

Thanks for making a difference.

Meet Angi

Happy Thanksgiving.

Eternally Grateful

I did it again.  I quit.  Didn’t follow through on my attitude of gratitude series.  I’ve thought about it every day and have indeed given thanks.  But, posting it here started to feel rote.  Trite.  Strained.  Not authentic (What is the opposite of authentic?  Oh yeah…fake).  I felt pressure to come up with something really profound (albeit the pressure was self-inflicted).  The truth is that there are days when I don’t really feel very grateful for anything in particular.  And, yet, I am grateful for all that I have — and I don’t ever want that to come across as fake.  I’m grateful for the people in my life.  The roof over my head.  Our jobs.  The big and seemingly small ways that God provides for our family (although, they are never really small are they?).  The list goes on and on. 

Three years ago — not to the exact date, but it was the Tuesday before Thanksgiving — I got a call that changed everything.  Literally, in an instant, my whole world changed.  Forever.  It was the day that Madelyne came into our lives.  Born to drug addicted parents, she needed a home.  We didn’t know if it would be for a little while or forever.  Turns out, it was for a little while, but she changed us forever.  I don’t know if I can adequately put it into words.  The six months that she was with us were hard.  Anyone who’s had a baby knows that it’s hard, even under the most ideal circumstances.  Sleep deprivation makes you loopy.  Add to it the emotional roller coaster of dealing with social services and homestudies and bi-weekly visitations and it was a very stressful time in our lives.  But, it was also a very sweet time in our lives.  We were able to love this little girl — and our friends and family loved her as well.  And, at that time, it’s really all she needed.  She needed to feel loved and comforted and safe.  Deep in my heart, I know that it shaped who she is and will become.  I am eternally grateful for that, despite the crushing heartbreak I sometimes still feel that she is no longer with us.

It was easy to love Madelyne.  But, I was challenged – stretched – to love people that I didn’t want to love.  To feel compassion for people that I didn’t want to feel compassion for.  To be gracious, when I did not want to be gracious.  To forgive when I did not want to forgive.  And, in the midst of it all, to be a good example to my son, who was watching and learning. 

Today, my emotions are mixed.  I miss her.  I miss her a lot.  But, I am eternally grateful that I got to be her mom — even if only for a little while.


Attitude of Gratitude – Day 15

A few days ago, on Veteran’s Day, I pulled out a picture of my grandfather.  It was taken when he was just 18 or 19 years old.  I’ve always loved it.  He was always so special to me.  He’s been gone 19 years and I still miss him every day.

Over the years, people have always said how much Jake looks like Lloyd.  And, he certainly does.  But, there are traits that I’ve often wondered where they came from.  His lips and mouth, for one.  And his eyelids are not like either one of ours either.  Then, the other day, when I was looking at the picture of my grandfather, it hit me..Jake looks like him in many ways
William “Franklin” Wallace
William “Jacob” Brown
Not the best picture of Jake, but I was trying to get one where he’s not smiling huge, like he usually does.  And you can’t see how blue Jake’s eyes are in this picture. I don’t look anything like my grandfather.  Maybe it’s cheesy, but I’m thankful that Jake has Wallace traits.  

Attitude of Gratitude – Days 9-13

I have missed a few days of posting, but not from being grateful.  I made special note each day of what I wanted to make sure I expressed gratitude for:

Day 9:  The plans I originally had for Wednesday night fell through and Lloyd was out of town.  So, I took the opportunity to invite a friend over for dinner.  Her son is a friend of Jake’s.  She and I met a few months ago during the 5th grade field trip and instantly connected.  We had a nice evening just chatting and enjoying one another’s company.  I’m grateful for the opportunity to be spontaneous and make new friends. 

Day 10 – I spent a lot of time (years, really) being anxious about middle school.  I don’t know what I was worried about because Jake is absolutely thriving.  Conferences were on Thursday and while I am very grateful for his report card and that he got on the honor roll.  He’s obviously not perfect though and he has some areas that definitely need work.  But boiled down to one sentence, the feedback I received was that:  He’s a confident, self-advocate who is hard-working, respectful and enthusiastic.  I couldn’t really ask for more.  Many will say that it’s a reflection of good parenting.  But, the truth is that we couldn’t do it alone.  We really believe it takes a village and we are grateful for the friends, family, teachers and other influential adults that have taken an interest in Jake over the years.  I think you know who you are, so thank you for making a difference in his life.  And ours.

Day 11 – Friday was a near perfect day.  Lloyd has traveled a lot this year.  In fact, I figured it out and he’s been gone about 20% of the time this year.  He came back from his last scheduled business trip of the year on Thursday night and Friday was a holiday.  We were able to have a restful day, with no real obligations. The icing on the cake was having his cousins over for dinner, one of whom he hadn’t seen in 30 years.  We are so grateful to have been able to connect with long lost family members over the last couple of years.  They have added richness to our lives.

Day 12 – We are grateful for the new friends we’ve made here in DC.  We had some friends over for dinner on Saturday night.  It’s amazing to think that we didn’t even know these people a year ago and yet now, we cannot imagine them not being part of our lives.

Day 13 – We all woke up feeling under the weather on Sunday.  Even though I spent a good part of the day sleeping — and I was not able to do the things I wanted to do, I am grateful that overall, we are all healthy.  There was a time when I wasn’t sure if that would ever be our reality — but it is and I couldn’t be more thankful.

Attitude of Gratitude – Day 7

We have always tried to make a point of eating dinner together as a family as much as possible.  Our schedules are busy and Lloyd has traveled a lot — particularly this year.  The other night, Lloyd was gone and Jake and I sat down to eat.  Jake asked me how my day was and wondered if there were any stories that I wanted to tell about work.  It made me realize that this family time together really does make a difference and he has learned to approach meal time with the attitude that it is a fellowship time, rather than just a time to eat.

Tonight, he had a lot to say.  Anyone who knows Jake isn’t surprised by this — he always has a lot to say.  But, he was sharing things about his day that were important.  We got to talk about life lessons that he was learning through some things that were going on at school.  And, he isn’t completely self focused.  He always asks how our days were and wants to know what we did.  He even seems interested in our answers — at least for now.

Someday soon — a lot sooner than I like to think about — it will only be Lloyd and I at the dinner table.  I cherish our family meal time and am very grateful for it.

Attitude of Gratitude – Day 4


He makes me laugh every day with his incredible sense of humor.  He once told me that he wants to be Jim Carrey when he grows up.  He loves slapstick, physical humor but he can also be wickedly ironic and his sense of comedic timing is amazing. 

He also has the biggest heart of anyone I know.  He cares about people and their feelings.  He can’t imagine why anyone would choose not to be nice.  He chooses to see the good in everyone, as best he can. 

He marches to the beat of his own drum.  Best of all, he’s okay with that.  I will never forget the day he told me that he WANTS to be different — that he’s THAT kind of person.  

There are so many things that I am grateful for.  But, most of all, I’m grateful that he’s happy…and that he isn’t afraid to dance and sing and jump for joy.

Attitude of Gratitude

I am generally what you would call a “glass half empty” kind of person.  Recently, a friend quipped that it’s not half empty — it’s just the wrong size glass.  And after some reflection, I think that actually nails it.  I think my glass is probably too big.  I expect too much from people.  Well…that’s isn’t exactly it either.  I WANT to expect more from people — all the while knowing that the bar is too high (and yes, I realize it raises the bar for myself exponentially).  And so, it sets up a cycle of expectations and disappointments until I finally just start bracing myself to be disappointed in hopes that I will be surprised.  And, for the record, I often am.

These past couple of days, I have been noticing a lot of “I’m grateful for…” posts on my facebook feed.  And, as much as it pains me to say…I think it’s a great idea.  You see, I’m not one to follow the crowd.  In fact, I tend to do the exact opposite of what the trend is.  While it would be easy (and perhaps entertaining) for me to post my pet peeve(s) of the day, I will spare you. 

My goal for this little project is to end the month with a clear picture that my glass is not half-empty.  And, it’s not the wrong size.  It’s actually a very large glass that overflows.

Since it’s November 3rd, I’ll start out with three

  • I’m grateful for my niece Madison, who celebrated her 11th birthday yesterday.  She is a beautiful young lady, whom I have loved watching grow up.  I miss her and her family a lot.
  • I’m grateful for my friend Darcy (for many reasons).  Today, it’s because she gave birth to her son Cameron on this day, 11 years ago.  He has been a loyal friend to Jake and I love they have the kind of friendship that transcends the miles between them.  I miss him and his family a lot as well.
  • Had I started this project on Nov 1st, this would have been my first post:  I’m grateful for my husband and that he loves me despite my short-comings.  I never dreamed I could have the kind of love we share.  In fact, I didn’t even know it existed.

Keep posting those grateful-isms.  I love seeing the simple ways in which our glasses are filled.