Category Archives: Devin Jett

10-4, Good Buddy

We were on a mission. A secret mission.     

 My partner and I grabbed the ice bucket and flung open the hotel room door.

I dramatically looked left and right down the hall, and he followed. I put my finger to my lips. 

“Shhhhhhh!” I whispered. “We have to be sneaky and find the missing ice machine!”

I took big, cartoon-style tiptoe steps into the hall on bare feet and he did the same.

We peeked around corners and whispered excitedly to each other.

“Where is the ice for our bucket?” he whispered.

“I don’t know but we have to be verrrrry sneaky to find it!”

And he giggled. And we whispered some more. And giggled some more.
And we went floor to floor (sneakily, of course), looking for an ice machine that evidently only lived in the lobby (making me regret the decision to enter this mission barefoot when I had co-workers and clients staying in the same hotel, but hey, sometimes being on a mission means sacrifice). 

And as he tiptoed next to me and our full ice bucket, back to our headquarters (hotel room), he looked up at me and whispered “I love you so much, Aunt Mandy,” unprompted.

And that’s what I would call a successful mission. 

In which life has changed

Sometimes I have so few interesting things going on that I have nothing to write.

And sometimes I have so many interesting things going on that my brain can’t register them all and I have also nothing to write.

WHY, BLOG, WHY!

Here’s the thing: taking a toddler you like to Disney World is WAY BETTER than not taking a toddler you like to Disney World.

Usually I’m a professional cynic at Disney world. Everything costs so much money! The stupid people are many! LEGGINGS AREN’T PANTS!

But bring the kid with me? And all of the sudden I am Julie Andrews on that mountain, arms splayed and singing loudly because THE HILLS ARE ALIVE WITH THE SOUND OF MICKEY!

My buddy met Mickey Mouse, is what I am saying. And it was magical. Magical, I tell you!

Exhibits A-H:

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If you have made it this far in the nephew gushing, congratulations! You must be quite bored and therefore have earned the next set of news that will likely not really interest you all that much unless you are my mom, in which case you already know this and are therefore wasting your time – get back to work helping the children, Mom!

So anyway, this is the definition of burying the lede, but I quit my job at the radio ministry and started a new job at a web company today. I was at the radio ministry for almost seven years, and I’m really thankful for the time I spent there and the people I worked with. I feel really at-peace with the decision, but I also felt a little homesick today when I was the new kid at the new school.

The new school is incredible, though. It’s a place that will grow me and challenge me and give me a tummy ache for all the right reasons. And they are a family too, one that will accept me (and has already!) with open arms. I believe a lot of good will come from being there. I am overwhelmed, and I haven’t really felt that for a while.* These are really impressive people, and I would very much like to impress them with something I do too.

So I’m going to go read my HTML books. And maybe, day-by-day, I will get smarter and less overwhelmed.

Or maybe I will just bake them cookies.

Everybody likes cookies.

*Not technically true; I was very overwhelmed last week when I spent a night in the hospital with Jack, who was admitted for his bulging discs in his back. HOLY PAIN, Batman. He got a steroid shot in his spine and will eventually need surgery. He is still recovering from that and I am recovering from a stomach flu that took me down all weekend and kept me from attending my first day at New Work. All of that was overwhelming too.

Seriously. I am the worst at announcing lots of news. I should have done bullet points.

Unpathy

When I hear about people who have cancer who I don’t know personally – maybe a friend of a friend – I don’t feel much.

Maybe I should. Maybe I am not doing all that well with my word. Maybe someday I will? Maybe this is a phase, like the bad-sleep thing (and can somebody let me know when THAT phase will be over? IT DOES END, RIGHT?)

But I just… don’t feel much when I hear diagnosis news.

And I don’t think much, except one thought that consistently enters my head.

Either they will die, or they won’t.

Cancer treatments are improving. Tests for catching things earlier are improving. Awareness of the need to check for things are improving. And some people just get damn lucky.*

So I kind of assume people will end up okay. Because most people do these days, it seems.

Or they won’t. And they will die.

And for me, either way, I don’t have much to feel about it.

If they end up okay, it’s a wonderful outcome to which I cannot relate.

They don’t need me to get excited about it. They will feel enough of that on their own.

And if they die, I know all too well that there is absolutely nothing I can do to stifle the pain for whoever cared about them.

They don’t need me to be heartbroken over it. They will feel enough of it on their own.

*(Which is really what it comes down to. Luck. Dumb, dumb luck. Despite many ignorant (non-doctor!) people who think they have all the answers about how really to cure cancer. Chemicals this! Oils that! There’s a doctor in Germany that my cousin’s roommate knows who is developing a new chemo! Nutrition all the things! JUST HAVE ENOUGH FAITH AND CUT THE GLUTEN AND DAIRY!

I DO feel things during those conversations; believe me. And I get a little surprised about how often people tell me stuff like this, considering I don’t think anybody can claim that their natural cancer remedy brings people back from the dead. Hey guys? The ship has sailed for my family. Lecture somebody else about your witch doctor cures. Kthanks.)**

**I feel like I should end with something good and not so ALWAYS-DEPRESSING-MANDY, so I will tell you that Jack and I get to take Devin to Disney World this month and I am PEE MY PANTS EXCITED about that.

Let’s all think about that instead of cancer now.

(Well. Let’s think about Disney with Devin. Not me peeing my pants.)

Co-exist

This morning when I got to work, my buddy Cathy was on the phone, so I quietly snuck in behind her and placed the coffee I had picked up for her on the way in on her desk. She turned around and gave me the most adorable look and a big smile, like she was excited that I had finally arrived. I walked away smiling too, knowing she would probably bring that coffee into my office with her after she got off the phone, and we would take a few minutes to catch up and chat, the way we often do when I get to work on slow quiet mornings.

As I walked into my office and logged into my computer for the day, I thought about Cathy and the rest of my friends and family, and how wonderful they are, individually and as a group.

And I thought, “I love my life.”

A split second after that thought began, though, another overlapped it.

“Shane died.”

And instantly I felt guilty. Now, realize, I understand logically that you can both love the life and blessings you have been given without betraying the brother for whom you are still grieving, but logic doesn’t always apply in grief. (Or, ever apply in grief?) It was a betrayal! I don’t love everything about my life! A huge part of it is pretty darn sad right now, and on some days the hole in my heart seems to stretch so big that I can barely feel anything but emptiness.

But even so, both feelings seem to find their way into my heart, the grief and the joy, co-existing and intertwining and awing and confusing me all at once. (And making me feel guilty sometimes too, apparently.)

My brother died, but I am surrounded by friends who love and support me, making me laugh or leaving me alone or wrapping their arms around me, depending in what I need at the moment.

My brother died, but his perfectly-matched wife still seems to want me in her life and I am probably closer to her now than most anyone in the world.

My brother died, but his son is growing and learning and thriving and filling me with love beyond my wildest imagination.

My brother died, but my family still loves and cherishes each other, not fighting over anything. I don’t take that for granted for one second after seeing two different parts of my family fall apart after loved ones died. Despite the years that have passed, many members don’t even speak anymore. That won’t be Shane’s legacy, and for that I am infinitely thankful.

My brother died, but he will be waiting for me in heaven one day, and that thought makes me look forward to it more than I ever thought possible. He made heaven as real for me as a neighboring town that I just haven’t visited yet. He made death 100% not scary. I’m good to go.

I thought maybe this Thanksgiving we might have a hard time finding things to be thankful for after all the hell we jut went through, but it’s just not the case.

Yes, there is grief. And sadness and unfairness and emptiness.

But also so, so much to be thankful for.

Everything will be okay

We feed and bathe the kid, clean up, then watch Project Runway together late into the night. We make snarky comments about the show while drinking wine and we laugh.

And for a moment, or several moments even, it feels like he’s still just in Brazil and this is just another visit. Like nothing horrible went wrong. Like everything will be okay.

And I guess as long as she’s around, it will be.

Thank God for her.

Blur

I don’t know if you know this, but most of Texas is boring.

I can tell you this with certainty, because I am spending all day driving through it on my way home.

Well, I’m riding. Jack is driving and I’m writing this. Otherwise this would be an extremely dangerous post.

If I look to my right, it’s a blur of fence and grass and road. And flatness. Because, Texas.

It’s reminding me of the last few weeks.

I have been home 6 days out of the last 35.

It’s been Colorado to visit, then to worry about wildfires, then to see what was going on with my brother, then because my brother ended up with cancer, then oh yeah, Little Rock for Worlds where Jack won World Champion in two categories, then back to Colorado because my brother developed a life-threatening infection.

Blur.

I’m starting to get a little car sick from all of it.

But just like all the clouds and open spaces and hills and trees, there are beautiful things about this blur too, and most of those beautiful things have to do with my family.

Sitting with my sister-in-law in the evenings, quietly reading or working on the computer or cooking.

My nephew, with his disgusting open-mouth kisses and his stealing my water cup always and his giggling when I make his name into a song and his saying my name. I mean, he points at me and says something with two syllables, so I’m counting it.

Shane, in his ICU room, turning Jack’s World Champ medals over in his hands, carefully examining them, covered in tubes and gauze and IVs and pain, but smiling because he’s really proud of his brother-in-law.

And a few days later, watching a huge smile spread across his face again when the best nurse ever brought his ice chips.

Leaving this blur is hard, especially with Shane still in the hospital, but it was time. For them and us both, it was time.

So now we’re almost home and we have much to be thankful for. Shane was just moved out of ICU into a regular room. The oncologist said the chemo is actually working, and as soon as he heals enough from his surgery he’ll be back at it. He made fun of me for my inability to properly open a Popsicle wrapper and told me to stay until New Year’s Eve. My brother is still my brother.

Like I said, much to be thankful for.

Even if it’s blurry right now.

The post nobody wants to write

My brother went to Brazil a few weeks ago, a work trip that had been planned for a while. While he was gone, I planned to visit my sister-in-law, Cassandra, and my nephew (you know? That one I like?) for a week.

A few days before I was supposed to leave, the Black Forest fires broke out just a few miles from my sister-in-law’s home, and we nervously watched as neighborhoods burned closer and closer to hers, and the weight of being solely responsible for this house, these dogs, this sweet baby, was pressing down on her. I could feel it all the way from Texas. And so I was glad to be going to support her, to be a second adult and help her sleep better at night.

And I thought “God puts us where we need to be, doesn’t he?”

A few days in to my trip, they had contained the fires enough that we were sleeping better and weren’t smelling smoke anymore. Cassandra and I were in a fun little rhythm that included morning work breaks to the gas station to get a coffee and a Dr. Pepper (mine was the coffee), early evening walks with the kid and the dogs, getting splashed by the kid at bathtime, and then cooking dinner together after he went to bed. After a long several weeks planning then running a four-state taekwondo tournament, it was exactly what I needed.

God puts us where we need to be.

On Tuesday, my brother went to the doctor in Brazil – he had been feeling sicker and sicker since he got there. He had been diagnosed with Pleurisy before he left which is one of those “this is going to suck but you’ll have to wait it out” kinds of things. The Brazilian doctor thought it was best that he go to the hospital right away, and they rushed him there, where they performed a CT scan.

A few hours later, Shane was on a plane home, words like “tumors,” “possible colon disease,” “possible liver disease,” “possible cancer” sprawled across the paperwork they sent home with him, along with the scans.

I changed my flight and chose to believe that they were wrong, that they would run tests here and find something different, or if it was something like that, they would be able to fix it. I went into support mode and worked on laundry, cleaning, cooking, and taking care of the kid. Shane arrived home and was admitted to the hospital, and Cassandra was able to focus on him without worrying about Devin because I happened to still be there.

God puts us where we need to be.

The doctors did more scans and a biopsy and were convinced it was an infection – Thank God, just an infection – that was still scary but at least it was treatable. A few more days in the hospital with antibiotics, and this would be over.

And then Sunday happened. Sunday, the worst day of all of our lives so far. Sunday, the day with the words “colon cancer” and “spread to the liver” and “so many tumors,” and “it’s in the bloodstream” and “we count these sorts of things in months, not years.”

Dear God. My 30-year-old brother has cancer.

And now we are all reeling the way you reel when you get news like this. There is disbelief and numbness and sickness and one-word prayers (“PLEASE”). I waver between a “God is God and I am not” attitude and a toddler-style tantrum attitude.

My friend Cathy was talking about how God uses these things to help us grow. To which I replied “I was already growing! He didn’t have to be so DRAMATIC about it!”

(Did I mention the toddler-style tantrum?)

And so, we begin this journey together, and I wish so much that it was me instead of him. That there was zero possibility of Shane’s kid growing up without him.

Shane has already started the chemo, with surgery in the to-be-scheduled future. He’ll fight, that’s for sure, because he has so much to fight for. And in the meantime, I am here, choosing to believe the words I kept thinking over and over last week.

God puts us where we need to be.

The Truth Is

People ask me about it all the time. That question that begins incessantly the moment you walk back down the aisle, a brand new “Mrs.”

When are you guys going to have a bayyyybeeeee?

I guess it’s a logical question, sort of. I have noticed a strong push toward the next thing, and the next next thing, and my goodness, when are you getting to the next next next thing!?

(I find this incredibly ironic considering that apparently average Americans don’t have the ability (!?) to be responsible enough plan for the next next next next thing, according to this news story, which left me livid, but that’s another story.)

I used to think that way too. I was obsessed with calendars in college. I had a dry erase one I updated religiously each week, erasing the whole thing and moving it all up, just so I could add that new week. And my planner – I LOVED my planner. I would get a new one at the beginning of each school year from the MSC Bookstore and fill in as much as I could, including countdowns to the next holiday or break or something, ANYTHING.

It’s not that I wasn’t happy, at least I thought. I just looked forward to things.

Then I married Jack.

I still keep a (now digital) calendar, but it’s only to keep up with a busy life. I don’t religiously count down to anything anymore. I still have plenty to look forward to, but it doesn’t hold the same appeal for me now. I am so incredibly content with my present role. I know it sounds boring, but I was born to be a wife. I adore my husband and I enjoy my work. I love cooking for him and watching TV with him and going out for cake with him and being boring together.

And that’s why the obsession with calendars suddenly ended after college. That’s when I married Jack. That was my next thing. The rest is just gravy.

So, I don’t ask people that question myself. Or usually any question having to do with their “next thing.” Not only because I feel like it’s an incredibly personal question that, if I were close enough to them to ask, I would already know the answer, but also because, when I am asked a question like that, it puts a strange sort of pressure on me to leave my contented state to either consider or communicate a theoretical state about my (very personal) next thing.

But of course, there’s no kind and tactful way to respond “none of your business.” That is truly the only response that applies, but seeing as how the question isn’t malicious, I don’t think a malicious response is appropriate either.

So, I tell them the parts of the truth that I am most comfortable sharing with not-close-enough-to-already-know-my-plans friends, usually in the form of a cliche.

“We’re waiting until we’re ready.”
“We’re waiting on God’s timing.”
“We’re waiting for the business to normalize – we only bought it a year two years ago!”
“We already have 350 kids at our karate school; isn’t that enough?”

But these days, I get the question most often when they see a photo or a sappy status update about how VERY VERY MUCH I adore my nephew.

And that’s the only time I really lie.

I tell them I like to visit this one, love on him, and give him back. NO RESPONSIBILITY AND ALL OF THE FUN!

But the truth is? This one, I’d keep.