"I got to thinking one day about all those women on the Titanic who passed up dessert at dinner that fateful night in an effort to 'cut back.' From then on, I've tried to be a little more flexible."
(Erma Bombeck)

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Today is my birthday

Today is my birthday. Fifty-six years ago, I was born in what is now the city library in Anacortes, Washington. I always joked that I was born in the fiction section. And that my family moved a lot when I was a kid . . . but, somehow, I always managed to find 'em. Ba-da-bing.

I don't care who knows how old I am. That's one of the perks of getting to be this age. In my head and heart, I don't feel this old. It's only my body telling me that I'm past my prime. But, that's another story.

Anyhoo, I may as well warn you: this is going to be a stream-of-consciousness blog entry. In case you haven't noticed, I haven't written on my blog for over three months—the longest I've gone without writing since its inception.

In no particular order, here are some of the reasons:

My daughter graduated college with her bachelor's degree in English last August. And she got married exactly one week later. I could hardly wrap my head around it. She lived at home the entire time she attended college, right up to the day she got married. Yes, we know that's unusual in this day and age. I think someone referred to her as a “throwback.” And you know what? She really is.

But, that's okay. We're good with that. We don't own a TV, although we love watching movies on our big-screen projector on the basement wall. With a computer and an internet connection, I'm not sure TV is even necessary anymore.

Our daughter took summer college courses so that she could graduate earlier—and she did. She ended up graduating college one full year ahead of her high school friends. Debt-free. She sacrificed a lot to do these things. To save money on gas, she rode a bus to a neighboring city to attend university classes. Sometimes, the bus was so full that she stood the entire time.

There were times she wanted to be out on her own (we didn't stop her, by the way; it was her choice). The last couple of years, she was chomping at the bit to get out of the house. I understand all that.

I didn't have time to contemplate the usual things surrounding a college graduation. A week later, our daughter married the young man she's dated for nearly three years (a wonderful young man, by the way). So, most of my time over the last three months was spent putting the wedding together. There's too much to say about it, so I won't.

I'll just say this <deep breath>: it was an exhausting, rewarding, beautiful time. I don't remember what all my mom did when I got married. I know she did a lot. And I think I remember her paying people to do a bunch of work.

Well, since I'm a photographer and graphic designer, I got to be a little more involved in my own daughter's wedding. Here are the things I produced for her wedding: engagement photos, save-the-date cards, reception book, reception slideshow, wedding invitations, sandwich-board signs, wedding program, signs for the church, tags for the favors, shower invitations, maps . . . my mind is a blur. And that's not to mention all of the researching vendors and vendor contacts. And, you know, I wouldn't have missed it for the world. What an honor and a privilege to do these things for my daughter.

God blessed me by allowing me to swing a deal with my employer to take two months off for the wedding preparations. How in the world that happened, I don't know. But I will be forever grateful.

There were times when I thought my daughter and I were at the end of our ropes, hanging over a cliff, together. Prior to the wedding, she worked full-time and finished her college courses. Naturally, I wanted to help take some of the pressure off of her. As moms often do, I overstepped my bounds on more than one occasion.

Nevertheless, we made it through to the wedding day, which was August 25th. It was a beautiful, sunny day and I was ready to give up any control over the proceedings and just go with it. I wanted to relax and enjoy the day—and maybe knock back a glass of champagne as a reward for all of our efforts.

The wedding ceremony was beautiful. Many, many people remarked how beautiful it was. You can't beat the Orthodox wedding ceremony for beauty. It's really what a wedding ceremony should be.

I don't know if you've been to any weddings lately, but they are becoming less and less traditional and more and more secular. Reminds me of a joke: I went to a fight the other night and a hockey game broke out. Only in this case: I went to a debauched party the other night and a wedding broke out. Something along those lines.

The reception far exceeded my expectations as well. Friends and family members attended from across the country—actually, the world. My nephew and his family came all the way from Milan, Italy. It was wonderful. Really, really wonderful. Several of our church friends showed up the day before the wedding to help decorate the reception hall (at another church). So many people gave unselfishly of their time and talents, it was unbelievable. I don't know if they'll ever know how much they blessed our family by their efforts.

I was really worried that after everything was over, I would fall apart. My husband took the week after the wedding off so that we could go away for a few days. That never happened. We just didn't have the funds. I thought I would be depressed and feel sorry for myself, but I really didn't. I was a little sad because I felt like my husband and I really needed to get away from everything. Maybe one day, we will. Or not.

After our daughter returned from her honeymoon, she sent me an email and innocently asked, “So, what's it like around the house now that I'm gone?”

I started to reply to her message several times and each time, my reply got longer and longer. I thought of more things I wanted to say. After a couple of days of writing, I finally decided to send my reply.

Afterward, I realized that my response to her question served as a sort of period at the end of a chapter I needed to write.

I told her that I wasn't as emotional as I thought I'd be. Then I qualified it with admitting to waves of emotion rolling over me when I least expected it. I mentioned many of the memories I had of her growing up, and of the mother-daughter bonding times I would miss: watching “Monk” and “Carol Burnett” episodes together, giving her a hug and a kiss before bedtime, and hearing about her day.

I reminisced about the many memories I would always cherish: lying on the bed together, reading about Lance the Lion and Peter Rabbit, singing “Splish Splash” at bath time, Saturday morning soccer games, and listening with pride while she played at her piano recitals and band concerts.

I told her that it has been a wonderful ride and that I feel so very, very blessed to be a mom and a wife. I remembered the week I was diagnosed with breast cancer, how I was lying in bed, filled with fear, and wondering if I would ever experience happiness again. “But I did and I do,” I said. “I thank God that He raised me up out of the hospital bed—after not just one, but two cancer surgeries—and allowed me to witness you and James falling in love and becoming husband and wife. I know that, if it hadn't been for God's mercy, it could have gone an entirely different way.”

I hope I get to witness many more firsts, by the grace of God.

I asked her to forgive me for the times I had failed her, ending with this:

“If your dad and I hadn't stuck together through the hard times, we would have missed so much beauty and love and what came next. Who knows, what is next may be the very best part. Your dad and I started this journey together as two young people in love, like you and James. By the grace of God, we are still here. We may be bruised and beaten up a bit, but we are clasping hands and facing forward, with love still in our hearts.”

Of course, my husband had to trump everything when he bluntly answered her same question with: “We run around the house naked now.”

Life is getting back to the new normal. The other day, I opened the mailbox and caught a glimpse of an envelope that said, “Breast Care Center” in the return address, a reminder to schedule my next mammogram appointment. I immediately started to feel depressed.

The last few months, I've been engaged with life and it's helped me forget the “Big C.” I always feel that it's just behind me, tapping me on the shoulder, lest I forget it. I can't, nor should I. It has helped fashion me. Because of cancer, I am less afraid, more myself, and have a better understanding of how one moment can change everything.

Sometimes I miss the days when I could go blindly through life without thinking of my mortality. But, thanks to cancer, I know that I have been granted a reprieve from death once, but it's only a reprieve. Each moment, day, week, or year that I live, I am grateful—and never grateful enough.

As summer turns to fall, the trees become golden and red, and the leaves begin to fall. After 56 autumns, it's still my favorite season. No matter that winter is just around the corner. This is the season that promises new beginnings.

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Reader Comments (8)

Glad you are back posting. You have a beautiful life!

October 11, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterbecky

Dear Dana,

This is lovely and I am blessed to have been able to read it. We have been friends for a long, long time and I truly wish we were able to get together more often. I remember that summer where we took turns driving each other to the potatoe fields to pick up potatoes. And I can remember thinking you were crazy for spending all that hard earned money on your high school boyfriend instead of spending it on yourself.

I remember you and Gary meeting over Rachel's crib in my parent's bedroom. It's funny how God brings two people together isn't it?

I have always admired you and Gary for staying together. I look at you two and also Steve and Cheryl and know that the fact that you have always put God first is the secret of your success. Both of you couples have raised good God fearing children.

I can see where I made mistakes by not trusting Him enough to give him the control in my life. It's not that I don't believe because I do but turning over the controls has been hard for me. What I have learned in the last two years is that even when I thought I was in control, I truly wasn't.

As you learned, I too learned that life can change in a blink of an eye and never be the same again. After two major reconstructive surgeries on my right leg and spending a total of 6 months in a rehab center after them, I feel blessed that I am able to walk again. Not easily and not far but better than being in a wheelchair!

I hope we are able to get together soon. I do miss seeing you! I have learned to take advantage of the bus system, so I could meet you sometime in Mt. Vernon or Burlington. Let me know!

Love you,


October 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCheryl Jamison Ruggles

Becky and Cheryl,

Thank you so much for your encouraging words.

I'm glad to be back to my blog, too, Becky! It's nice to know that someone is out there reading it. :-)

Cheryl, thank you for your honest and sincere words. I was really touched by them. We do go back a very long way and have so many shared memories. I remember those days of working in the bulb fields and, now that I look back, it WAS stupid of me to spend all of my money on someone who really didn't appreciate it! Live and learn!

We have learned some lessons along the way, that's for sure. Seems like God uses suffering and heartbreak to get our attention back to where it should be. I often pray that God helps me to learn the lesson the first time so I don't have to go back and re-learn it. Then I have to pray it again because I forgot what the lesson was. Hehe. We humans are stubborn creatures! :-)

I'm so glad to hear that you are able to walk and are recovering from your injury.

Love you, dear friend.


October 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDana

Dear Dana,

I just stumbled upon your blog today while I was searching for Orthodox Christian Blogs. I felt that I must write you and tell you what a beautiful blog you have created. Your words speak from heart and soul.

I kept a blog for years and have stopped writing, however, your blog has reminded me how much I used to love to sit and write. Your blog hits home to me in so many ways. My husband is in remission with prostate cancer and I was diagnosed with LCIS Stage #0 in 2007.

I am just starting to learn about the Orthodox faith. I find it truly beautiful. I love how the iconography is used to help individuals imitate, not venerate the lives of Saints.

Thank you for creating such a lovely place to visit. It's a respite in one's day.


October 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa


Thank you so much for your very kind words. I'll be honest: they made me cry. I am just amazed how God uses our meager efforts toward His purposes.

I have been meaning to write a blog entry about our journey to Orthodoxy. Actually, I did, but it was early on and I never posted it. I think my entry would be different now. Converting to Orthodoxy has completely changed our lives in every way, and only for the best. I'm still in awe over it.

Maybe you'll find something interesting to read on my Links page about Orthodoxy, if you haven't already visited the sites before.

Thank you, Melissa, for taking the time to send your remarks. They truly touched me.


October 24, 2012 | Registered CommenterDana

Dear Dana,

I wanted to let you know that I took a few minutes and looked at your links on the Orthodox Church. Thank you for posting those sites.

I bookmarked one that had a bunch of sermons. It looks like a great place to go and learn. I also just purchased the Orthodox Church by Timothy Ware, a.k.a. Bishop Kallistos. I cannot wait to start reading this book. Have you read it?

My town has three Orthodox churches. We have Greek, Russian and Antioch. I have never been to any of them, except for the Greek church for their annual Greek Food Festival. Yum!

I think what I am finding so attractive about the Orthodox church is the beauty of the icons and how old a church it is. I grew up Jewish, so Christianity is really new to me.

My husband is an Episcopalian, and I converted to Christianity around ten years ago, but still feel like I have no foundation of the teachings of Christianity.

Anyhoo! Thank you again for your posted links. I do not know anyone who belongs to the Orthodox Church. If I ever have a question about it, would it be possible to write you and ask?



November 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa

Test Post

November 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTest


So glad that you found something of interest on my links page. You are very fortunate to live somewhere with such a selection of Orthodox churches! When we decided to visit one for the first time, we looked in the yellow pages and found the closest one in a town about 20 miles away (not bad!).

You really need to experience a Divine Liturgy for yourself. We happen to attend an Antiochian Orthodox church and love it. In addition, we first began to learn about the Church by attending "inquirer's classes" on Wednesday nights where we learned about church history and the theology of the Church. My husband and I spent many an evening discussing, questioning, crying, and praying about this thing that brought so much cognitive dissonance into our lives. Finally, we were sure that the Orthodox church was the Church handed down to us by the apostles ("the Ark of Salvation"), and we made the decision to become catechumens. We were baptized with our daughter (then, age 16) into the Church in 2007.

My husband is especially knowledgeable about the history and theology of the Orthodox Church, so feel free to ask any questions you want. If I can't answer you, I will find someone who can.

Thanks again for writing, Melissa. You are in my prayers!

November 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDana

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