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Okay, everyone. This might be the only time you see a Vikings picture on my blog. And you must forgive me, because the Mall of America outing I’m about to describe wasn’t on our original Summer Bucket List. So I feel like I’ve cheated a bit. But once you hear the story, I think you’ll understand WHY I’m including it in the Summer Bucket List series. Because bucket lists are risky sometimes. Bucket lists are fun and adventurous and full of who knows what might happen. So let’s do it. It’s Friday. Let’s chat about ALL the grand adventures at Mall of America!

The story begins two weeks ago at a Vikings football game. My son, Cooper, went to a game with my dad, my brother and my brother’s girlfriend. Apparently, when they were leaving the game, they each received two or three of these Mall of America “Mystery Gift Cards.” Cooper showed the cards to me immediately when he got home. He was bound and determined that we were going to use them! My husband and I spent the next week and a half trying convince Cooper that they were a scam, a sweepstakes, not a guarantee of anything at all, just a ploy, a way to get people in the mall, worth nothing more than a coupon for $5 off dinner at Rainforest Cafe or $20 off a $100 purchase at Nordstroms. I’m not even kidding you. We were really dissing and disregarding those “mystery gift cards.”

On Monday, when Cooper had been begging for a week and a half to go to the Mall of America so we could use these “mystery gift cards,” I finally told him there was a CHANCE I might give in. After all, we had nothing planned for the day. The one problem was that there was only $14 left in the entertainment budget for the week, so funding for the day’s adventures was bare bones.

I also told the kids that if I gave in to a trip to the Mall of America to use these “mystery gift cards,” that they’d have to be aware that they might be ALL COUPONS, that they might end up with that $5 off dinner at Rainforest Cafe and $20 off $100 at Nordstroms. And if that was the case, our fun for the day would be going to those locations and giving people the coupons to use on their purchases. Random acts of kindness was the worst case scenario. Who could say no to that? My kids didn’t. They were willing to take the chance, even if all they won was a bunch of coupons. So off we went to the Mall of America.

We parked at Nordstroms, as we were supposed to redeem these “mystery gift cards” at Nordstroms Court, whatever that was. We found Nordstroms Court quite easily, actually. The kids took their 8 mystery gift cards and headed straight for the redemption center (Cooper had his + my dad’s and brother’s gift cards they’d given him).

A cute young woman with blonde hair took Cooper’s 8 tickets, smiled and told us we “actually have a chance of winning something good” with this many tickets.

One by one, we won.

1 Mall of America coupon book. (told you so)

1 Mall of America coupon book. (told you so)

1 Free Pepsi at Hard Rock Cafe (pretty much told you so)

1 Free Scavenger Hunt at Nickelodeon Universe

1 Free Scavenger Hunt at Nickelodeon Universe

96 Points at Nickelodeon Universe!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Score! The kids were right on taking this chance! We had several hours of rides ahead of us!)

1 Free Pepsi at Hard Rock Cafe. (pretty much told you so, but it doesn’t matter anymore)

1 Mall of America coupon book. (told you so, but it doesn’t matter anymore)

This was craziness! The kids were elated beyond belief. They were so excited that they won! And I couldn’t believe they actually won anything of substance. Good going, Mall of America! You successfully got and kept us there for a full day!

(Apologies to my son for the pictures…we’d just arrived at the mall and he was carrying his baby sister’s Sophia the First backpack for her. Sweet, right?) 




We made our way to a Guest Services desk to redeem the 3 tickets we had for Mall of America coupon books. We scored 3 coupon books that typically sell for $9.95 each, all valid through December 31, 2015. I was inclined to take just one coupon book, because we only come to the Mall of America once every couple months. But the kids advised me to take all three. So we did. I figured I’d give one to my brother who helped us win all this.

Then we headed down to Nickelodeon Universe to redeem the two Scavenger Hunts and see what that was all about. The kids each got a map, a credit card thingy, a green Mall of America pencil, and directions for where to head first. Okay. So apparently, I was clueless. I kept asking what the goal was, if we were going to get something when we turned in our completed map at the end of the hunt. I quickly discovered that the only point was to hunt. There was no prize other than to solve the “problems” at each station hidden throughout Nickelodeon Universe (the huge open area in the middle of the Mall of America with all the rides) and enjoy the journey.

The Scavenger Hunt was a bit boring and tedious for me. But honestly, the big kids LOVED it, so I sucked up all the adult in me and enjoyed the adventure.



After the kids finished all 12 stations of the scavenger hunt, it was time for lunch! We perused the coupon book we just received, on the hunt for some BOGO deals. (Remember, we only had $14 left from our entertainment budget and since I’m not earning any money for our family right now, I’m trying to honor that budget as closely as possible.) We found BOGO deals at Auntie Annie’s, you know, the pretzel shop? I hadn’t eaten anything there in YEARS, but we made our way anyway and enjoyed 2 for 1 pretzel hot dog combos. Not the most healthy lunch, but it worked and the kids were pleasantly surprised at how much they liked those pretzel hot dogs. Plus, they allowed me to use TWO coupons, so we paid a total of $13 for all four of us to eat!


After lunch, we went back down to Nickelodeon Universe to begin using our 96 points of rides! We priced it out before we began riding. 96 points had an approximate value of $75.00! SCORE! Without that one “mystery gift card,” we would have never gone on ANY rides that day.

I didn’t keep track, but I’d estimate we were able to go on a total of 10-15 rides with those 96 points. Since Maisie, our baby, was too short to ride many of the rides by herself, I often counted as her chaperone and didn’t have to use points. That made the points extend further. Plus, our first ride was free because the guy’s scanner wasn’t working. The kids thought that was extra cool.

My favorites were Swiper’s Sweeper (pure joy for the kids) and The Ghost Blaster Ride (always fun for everyone). Our carousel ride is one of my favorite summer memories.



By the time we used up all 96 points, the kids were ready to be done.

We made our way to Hard Rock Cafe and handed our two Free Pepsi coupons to people dining outside. Those random acts of kindness came true, at least in part!

We had a dollar left from lunch and a couple extra dollars in my wallet, so we pulled a Buy 3, Get 3 Nestle Tollhouse coupon from the coupon book and bought 6 cookies for a snack. After that, we caught a 10-minute kids game show at which the girls had a blast dancing and winning a gummy crabby patty.


I was exhausted that night, but we had a blast.

Were the “mystery gift cards” worth the trip to Mall of America? Definitely.

Was the adventure Summer Bucket List worthy? Definitely.

Thanks, Mall of America! 

Cost: $17.75

Mom Lesson: Be bold. Live free. Take a chance! That thing your kids are asking you to do might just work out for everyone.

Kid Lesson: Keep using those mystery gift cards!




This post is part of a summer-long series titled Summer Bucket List. This is my first summer home full-time with our three children. My hope for this series is that it will challenge me to adventure out of my mothering comfort zone, will provide opportunities to live and write simply, practically, beautifully and meaningfully, and will stimulate some some fun ideas for your summer as well! To check out the entire series, click here and you’ll be directed to the introductory post where all the posts are listed and linked for easy reading. Enjoy, friends! And have a blessed summer.


It was already 4:00 p.m. when they asked if we could go to the beach. I was hesitant, as it had been a long day already. But we had nothing to fill those witching hours before dinner and dad’s arrival back home, and it was a warm, beautiful day. The kids reminded me “the beach” was on our summer bucket list, so I agreed. Yes, let’s go. To the beach it is.

When we arrived, we made our way straight to the water. A ginormous family gathered to the right. Picnic tables littered the forested area leading to the beach. We chose the table closest to the water’s edge, 20-30 steps from here to there. The two oldest plopped their stuff down and entered the water promptly. Like any “good mom,” I organized all the stuff at the table, then got our youngest geared up in her life jacket before she headed to the sand.



I made myself comfortable at the picnic table, watching the kids swim within the buoys from a distance, watching our baby play in the sand. But something was making me feel uncomfortable, guilty, really. I felt like I was TOO FAR away from my children, like I wasn’t being a “good mom” sitting at that picnic table 20-30 steps from me to my baby, many feet from my children frolicking in the water. It was my perception of a “good mom,” my perception of one “good beach mom” that did me in. There she was, the embodiment of “good mom,” fully pregnant with dad and one older child frolicking in the water, all three of them together loving and enjoying this beautiful day.

Yes, the contrast between my perception of that mom and my perception of myself was stark in my mind. That pregnant mama frolicking in the water with her husband and son? A “good mom.” Me at the picnic table in full-on clothing and several steps and feet from my children? Not a “great mom.” Yes, I’ve read all those viral blog posts telling mom to “just put on that suit and get in the water, your kids are only young once.”

I was feeling guilt and condemnation from the start of this summer bucket list gig. And it was likely largely in my mind.

So I got up from the picnic table, took off my shoes, picked up my camera and moved much closer to my baby.

Fortunately, there was a gigantic rock right next to her. So I sat there, close. It felt better, more responsible, more engaged, more motherly. Although I still had guilt that I was clothed, not “right in there” with the kids.

I chilled out for a while. Relaxed. Dug my feet in the sand. Wiggled my toes. Watched the big kids frolic in the water. Took a few photos of my baby playing in the sand, making her own version of sandcastles – the kind you never flip over into castle form. I watched as she found tiny rocks and one by one, carefully placed them on top of her castle. It was all grace. Pure grace for my “not a good enough mom” heart that day at the beach.





But after a while, I looked up, looked long, looked all around. Why oh why do I do that? Why oh why must I constantly worry I’m not doing life right? Why look right and left when I already had peace? Why question and compare my identity with hers and hers and theirs?

This questioning and worrying and wondering if I’m doing life all wrong must stop. But it didn’t. The subtle lies ruminated in my head as I looked left, right and all around at everyone else.

Look at all the people swimming. 

Look at the moms building sandcastles with their children.

Look at that pregnant mom frolicking in the water with her husband and child, enjoying life, taking advantage of every opportunity to get right in the thick of things.

You’re not swimming.

You’re not even in a swimsuit.

You’re just sitting here on the beach, fully clothed, with a camera, watching your children from “a distance.”

You’re not a “good mom” like them.

You’re not getting life right.


The subtle, but undeniable lies continued ruminating in my mind as I sat on that rock at the water’s edge. But God persisted with grace, unmerited favor upon me.

After a while, the baby was clearly done with the sand.

We got up and made our way back to the picnic table to brush and dry off. I checked my clock for the first time since we arrived. To my surprise, we’d already been there for 1 hour 40 minutes. It was 6:10 p.m. Dinner time. We were 20 minutes from home and I hadn’t even started dinner. “Good mom” came to mind. “Good mom” would have had dinner in the crock pot all day or a cold tuna salad and fruit salad waiting in the fridge or a full-on picnic dinner of chicken and coleslaw for that picnic table. But I had nothing. No dinner. Dad likely on his way home from a long day at work. And then there was us, here at the beach. And me, late and empty handed.

This was truly an amazing, fun-filled summer bucket list adventure for my three kids and a torturous “bad mom” adventure borne out of my wandering mind.

So I called the big kids in. “Come in, guys!” It’s time to go! Time to get some dinner!”

The only thing is….they didn’t respond. They didn’t listen. They didn’t come in from the water. They just kept playing and acted like they didn’t hear me when I know they did.

I was miffed.

So I called my husband and let him know we were at the beach, that I’d called the kids in once, but they hadn’t listened, that I was trying to get them out sooner rather than later so we could get home for dinner together, that I didn’t have anything planned, but maybe he could make some hamburgers and beans and we could have some of that watermelon cut up? (Yes, I intentionally wrote that as a run-on sentence because it best describes my wandering thoughts and worries that afternoon.)

I called the kids in again. “Come on guys, time to go!” They looked and me and kept swimming. Utter disregard for my direction. I was starting to get irritated, but there was nothing I could do. My 10 year old and 12 year old were swimming free, independently, far out by the buoys and having a heck of a good time! Why in the world would they want to come in now except for complete OBEDIENCE? I couldn’t blame them and was waffling between just letting them swim some more and complete anger at their disregard for my direction.

So I let them swim some more, because there was nothing I could do other than get in the water with my clothes on and drag them out. And that didn’t seem sensible nor necessary.

Did I mentioned God persisted with grace through this whole adventure?

It was as if He was saying…breathe…rest my child. It’s okay. I am here and you are a good mom despite their disobedience right now.

I watched as my baby filled a bubble bottle cap with with water and stirred with an old glow stick she found on the ground. I watched as she did this dirty, hard, small work with care. I watched as she walked up the steps, down the steps, then jumped off to the bottom without a care in the world. She walked and jumped again and again and again some more.



Time passed in grace. Enough so that I felt it was justified to give another try at calling the kids in so we could leave, so we could get home, so we could get dinner with dad.

I called. “Come on in guys, it’s time to go. We need to get home for dinner. Dad’s home now.”

They didn’t respond. Kept playing. Kept swimming. Kept laughing and swimming farther out, farther away from me.

I was getting ticked now. Angry.

The baby was ready to go. I’d packed up our stuff and was clearly ready to go. I started waving the kids in, gesturing “come” as quietly and nonchalantly as I could without making a scene. Every time the kids paid attention to me, I gestured angrily and abruptly, attempting to let them know I was mad and needed obedience ASAP.

No response.

No obedience.

I was so mad.

To make things worse, this was all happening in the immediate presence of the “good mom” who was still pregnant, still frolicking in the water with her husband and one older son. I was truly embarrassed that my children were not obeying my direction to get out of the water. I was truly embarrassed that I had to keep calling with no response. I was truly embarrassed that I came in clothes and was stranded on the beach with no way of getting them out of the deep other than to make my way in, fully clothed. I am truly embarrassed to say it was 7:05 p.m. before they finally got out of the water.

I let them know that I was SO mad, that I had been calling them in for 55 minutes, that they had been so disobedient and I was not happy at all.

I gathered our stuff.

And we took one last walk along the beach.

Grace for us all.



As we drove out, we passed a beautiful pond surrounded by grasses and wildflowers. It reminded me of the beautiful pond my sponsored child’s tutor stopped to photograph in Haiti, the one I made into a 8×10 and sent her in the mail because I knew it meant something special to her.

More grace.

I stopped the car. Got out. Told the kids I was taking a moment for myself. Walked around and snapped a few photos at my leisure.





My husband had dinner ready when we got home. Hamburgers, beans and watermelon cut up. I told him about the kids’ direct disobedience, how the outing was great fun for the kids and not so great for me.

After dinner, my husband took the kids. And I took some time away, by myself, in our bedroom. After a good long while, they came in and sincerely apologized. I’m sure at the direction of their father, but still. The apology was felt.

I wasn’t the world’s greatest mom, but I was a better mom.

Swimming & Sandcastles

Total Cost: $0

Mom Lesson: Moms need heaping doses of grace. Everywhere. All the time.

Kid Lesson: Kids have fun and make fun anywhere, even when they’re in trouble.



This post is part of a summer-long series titled Summer Bucket List. This is my first summer home full-time with our three children. My hope for this series is that it will challenge me to adventure out of my mothering comfort zone, will provide opportunities to live and write simply, practically, beautifully and meaningfully, and will stimulate some some fun ideas for your summer as well! To check out the entire series, click here and you’ll be directed to the introductory post where all the posts are listed and linked for easy reading. Enjoy, friends! And have a blessed summer.

This is a guest post written by my younger sister, Tiffany, who has a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type. Once a month, Tiffany documents a single day in her life. The purpose of these posts is to raise awareness of what it’s like to live with mental illness. I’m also hoping the posts will help readers recognize that we all have hopes, dreams, challenges and mountains to climb regardless of our mental health status. If you’d like to read the posts I’ve written about Tiffany’s journey and all the guest posts she’s shared on this blog, check out the mental health page. Without further ado, here’s Tiffany.


As some of you know, I have a diagnosis of Schizoaffective Disorder, bipolar type, and ADHD. My mood can change from extreme highs to extreme lows within hours. When attempting to write, I realize how extreme my mood can be. I tend to write best when I am in a neutral mood. After thinking and rethinking throughout a day, I was stoked that I had a blog post idea. I was experiencing mania. When I started to reach a low, I began questioning myself, my ideas and my life. I was ready to give up.

I was introduced to the movie “Rudy” years ago. This movie is about staying motivated even when you feel like giving up. The loud voices in my head tell me I am not good enough. I cannot reach my goals. I am not listening to them today. Today I am writing my unedited thoughts on how important fashion is to me.

During back-to-school shopping for my daughter who is entering kindergarten this year, I started to think more about fashion. Fashion can create a picture of who we are and how we feel about ourselves. Fashion is the image we want to portray about ourselves. My personal fashion ideas vary depending on how I feel and how I want to express myself on any given day.

I tend to dress my children more traditionally. I have found that consistency with their clothing choices works best. I do not always know what is appropriate for them to wear on a daily basis. I tend to mix pieces of my style into their wardrobe. Sometimes family and friends help me pick out my kids’ clothing. For my daughter this year, I allowed my mom to pick out a few outfits that I approved of. I also picked out a few items on my own. My daughter is young, but gradually creating a style of her own.


I attended the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising when I was in my 20s. I had fashion ideas that I wanted to implement. I wanted to open a store called OuiSei. My plan was to complete my degree in Apparel Manufacturing Management. I had everything planned, including a runway show. For the runway show, I wanted animals to walk down the runway with models. I even had music picked out. I wanted the store to include all-natural fibered clothing, mostly hemp.

Guess what happened? I quit. My voices were telling me that I could not succeed. I was also experiencing something that I experience to this day. People promised to make my dreams come true if I’ll only give in to their desires. I do not agree with that way of thinking, and I would rather deal with genuine people who have no motives in mind. Despite my voices, I feel that the world is set up for us to succeed. We just have to be careful who we let into our world.



After quitting fashion school in Los Angeles, I decided to try working in commercials on TV and in movies. I was able to truly be myself during this stage of my life. While working in that business, I loved changing clothing so I could portray different characters. I continue being that person today. I would not say that I have a set fashion style.

I had a very tough time coming up with this post and getting organized. When I am in a certain state of mind, I can’t get organized and I feel like giving up. My dad helped me outline this post. We talked about my ideas over coffee. He asked me at the end if I was going to ever pursue my dream of opening a clothing store? I told him that I don’t know what the future holds. I wouldn’t mind having a store that people could come chill at and look for comfy clothes and accessories. For now, I am going to keep trying, as Rudy did, even if forging ahead seems to be impossible.




I’ll never forget that car ride to Wisconsin Dells one year ago. The day the word beauty caused a quiet, but felt disagreement between me and my husband.

You see, I’d invited him into a conversation about the development of my new blog vision, mission and core values. I wanted to talk with someone about those core values, a set of 7-8 words that define my blog, the tone and qualities a reader can expect when they visit and read any given post on this blog of mine.

The exercise was important to me.

I’d surveyed readers, did my own brainstorm and thoughtful analysis, and had a list of words narrowed to 20-some final contenders. So that day, I guess I decided it was a good time to share those words with my husband who’s obviously close to me and familiar with my blog and writing.

I shared all the final contenders with him. My intention that first go-around was that I didn’t want to reveal my personal opinions and preferences about each word. But when we got to the word beauty, my husband wasn’t so sure it fit as a core value for my blog. He wasn’t sure it was the best word to describe my blog.

Perhaps he was thinking beauty as in hair, makeup, clothing, fitness – physical beauty? If so, he was totally right. My blog would not fit within that definition of beauty. I was thinking beauty as in recognizing beauty all around, finding beauty in the hard and crazy stuff of life, creating something beautiful every time I sit down to write in this space, discovering the beautiful divine in the daily.

Either way, that word beauty caused a bit of friction, a minor tiff between the two of us. I asked for his opinion on the words. He expressed his opinion about beauty. And I became defensive. (We are both first borns, mind you. We want our way and we both have the best ideas, you know.)



My husband and I needed to end that conversation promptly, so we did. It was getting us nowhere. And really, there was no point hashing and rehashing those core values. There was no point hashing and rehashing whether my husband thought beauty was a good word to describe my blog. I was seeking confirmation, for sure. In an ideal world, I wanted our perspectives and visions to be perfectly aligned. But perhaps I was picking a fight when I asked him to weigh in on beauty.

Here’s why.

Beauty wasn’t up for grabs.

Beauty wasn’t in question.

Beauty was the one word I was 100% sure about.

I knew I was going to pick that word before we even began our conversation.

Discovering beauty in the horrible, crazy, sickly, unusual, everyday, ugly mundane? Finding beauty in the ashes? I can do that. Creating beauty where there is none? Totally my gig. Finding unseen people, places and things and calling them beautiful? Love that so much. Making beauty out of the teeniest, tiniest thing? Need to do that for my own good.

Beauty was a core value on this blog from day one, and always will be. So it wasn’t fair for me to ask my husband’s opinion. It was already decided.

(Sorry, babes, for putting you in that position.)



I’ve pursued beauty hard these past 12 months. Both good and bad, it’s been a heck of a year. Beauty has been easy. And beauty has been hard. Beauty’s been in unexpected places. And beauty’s been elusive. Beautiful projects have been birthed with detail only to stall suddenly. Beauty’s been imagined, but not yet fully realized. Beauty’s been in the future. And beauty’s been here and now. Beauty’s beaten down. But beauty’s getting back up again.

Beauty was.

Beauty is.

Beauty will be.

For “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11.

Beauty is a promise.

Beauty is the vision.

Beauty is non-negotiable.

We’re fallen, imperfect creatures. But we we’re also crafted and made to know, desire and experience all the beautiful things of this life, straight into eternity.

He has made everything beautiful in its time.


Easy and hard. Slow and fast. Smooth and bumpy. Failure and success. Finished and unfinished. Clear and unclear. Paved and unpaved. All beauty.

No more second guessing beautiful.




I felt the weight of the day rush over me as we drove into the Damon parking lot for our 5th trip to Mayo Clinic in eight months. It’s surprisingly easy to become accustomed to illness, to disease, to the crazy and hard things of life, but then there are moments that wake you to the reality at hand.

This is not ordinary. Not. Ordinary.

We drove past our “normal” parking spot in Damon. Full today. All the way up to 9th floor for one open spot. We exited the vehicle quickly and made our way to the closest elevator.

As we turned the corner to wait for the elevator, I noticed a young amputee waiting with crutches. He was shaking a bit and holding some sort of therapeutic device I didn’t recognize. All I could keep thinking was how handsome he was, and why in the world do bad things happen to good people? When we stepped in the elevator, I noticed the amputee’s wedding ring. Thank God. He’s been blessed. He moved to the side, gesturing kindly and graciously to others who entered. Hardship humbles a soul.


An older woman entered in front of me, then adjusted to my side. She breathed deeply, loudly, audibly, wore a cardiac necklace and leaned into her walker. “Ay ay,” she whispered in-between audible breaths out loud. She breathed that way all the way down nine floors. I wanted to put my hand on her shoulder, ask her if she was okay and if she needed help from this place to the next. I should have. But I didn’t. We were running late for my husband’s 3-month check for eye cancer. Our day was pre-filled with five appointments, and I didn’t want to start our day later than we already were.

We made our way down the hall, past the metal sculpture I admired and the information desk I needed our first days here eight months ago, past the insightful, delightful piano player accompanied by two singers and a full house of patients and caregivers. I wanted to stop so desperately, to hear and see this holy glory, but we were late. So we pressed onward to the elevators.

All the rushing for nothing.

We checked in and proceeded to wait a half hour for the appointment for which we were late. Waiting gave us time to breathe again, to reflect on the day ahead. Seth sent a text to his parents. I kept thinking about the piano and how I needed to get down there with the healing and the holy. Then I half-woke to reality of a husband with eye cancer and broke out Amber Haines’ Wild in the Hollow, the book I’ve been trying to finish for two weeks. “Will you pray for me before I go in?” asked my husband unexpectedly. “Sure,” I said, continuing to sit and stare forward, blankly like an idiot. “Right now?” he asked. “Sure,” I said, “right here in the waiting room?” as if BEFORE the appointment was some other time than NOW. So I prayed out loud right there in the waiting room. That we’d receive news that the tumor was shrinking this time.

Finally, he was called in for his first appointment. It was brief, 10 or 15 minutes tops.

We were directed to another waiting room where we waited some more.

Part way through the waiting, a couple in their late 40s was escorted into the waiting room. I was trying to figure out which one was the patient, and nearly commented to Seth how handsome the couple was when her phone rang. “I don’t feel like talking right now,” she said. I intentionally stopped listening in on her conversation, but couldn’t stop observing her body language. She was clearly distraught. Distressed. Very upset. And so was her husband. When she got off the phone, a Mayo employee came and told them they’d have to wait longer for their next appointment, that they needed to get some lunch, that they should check back in at a certain time. He sighed, head down. She was about to lose it. I nearly cried for the two of them across the room. Seth told me he’d heard more of the conversation. This was their first appointment. She’d just received the same diagnosis as Seth, choroidal melanoma. They were clearly still in shock.

By the time Seth got into his second appointment, we were 55 minutes behind schedule. But we made up for any time lost with another quick appointment.

When Seth got out, he was worried. The photographs he saw of the medium-sized tumor in his eye didn’t look different than any other visit. The tumor didn’t look smaller. I reminded him he wasn’t a technician. I reminded him he wasn’t a doctor. I reminded him there’s no need to worry. The prognosis is good. I reminded him that I’m hopeful and there’s no reason to believe anything but good.


It was time for lunch. Two hours until his next appointment. So we made our way back to the atrium, back to the piano, my favorite, most holy place in all of Mayo. Jane and the singers had just finished performing. There they were, chatting and hugging, readying for parting. Seth ran up to 9th floor to grab his prescription sunglasses out of the vehicle; his eyes were dilated and uncomfortable. I stayed with hopes Jane would sit for one more tune at that piano. But no such luck. I waited for Seth’s return.


We ate at a pizza place, the first quick serve restaurant we happened upon. Two pieces each. And a soda. We talked about our son who’s about to get braces, who he was and who he’s becoming. We talked about plans and dreams, things that may or may not happen in upcoming months. Life’s a constant surrendering and releasing of what was, what is, and what’s to come.

He wanted Dairy Queen for dessert. I wanted piano. So we stopped at Dairy Queen on the way back to the atrium.

We had another hour to wait. Funny, we were worried about not having enough time in-between appointments for lunch. Now we had more than enough.

The piano was still empty. So we walked through the glass door to open air seating. The temperature was perfect. The garden was gorgeous. I took a seat and a few pictures of Seth to mark the moment. He seemed worried. Sad. Or maybe he was tired. He kept mentioning how he wished he could nap.

We rested. We read, although I more, as Seth’s eyes were still fully dilated making reading uncomfortable. And we recounted the remainder of the day’s schedule.




It was 2:00. Time to head up for back-to-back ultrasound appointments. Seth checked in. I broke out Wild in the Hollow and read a couple paragraphs. Seth was called in for his appointment, so I immersed myself deeper in reading, then writing. Before I knew it, Seth was back in the waiting room. It was time for our long-awaited appointment with Dr. G, the world-renowned doctor who’s been leading Seth’s case since the beginning.

We were called into the examination room at 2:50 p.m. Hallelujah! 10 minutes early.

One of Dr. G’s fellows arrived promptly at 3:00. He clicked open all the records from the day. Clicked open all the records from our last appointment in May. Looked at a bunch of images. Scratched the back of his head. And made a few notes in the records.

“So it looks like it’s shrinking,” he uttered calmly and confidently.

The fellow continued with an exam of Seth’s right eye, the eye with the cancerous tumor. “Look left. Look right. Up and left.” Etcetera. He double checked the left eye too, the eye that required laser eye surgery in late June. “The laser looks good,” he said. “There are no other breaks or tears in the retina.” After making a few additional notes in the records, he bid us farewell and let us know Dr. G would be in shortly.

15 minutes later, Dr. G whisked in and out with med student, Ine, from Belgium. They were going to look through the eye photography and would be back soon.

I overheard Dr. G explain from a room down the long hallway. “This is the top.” His voice was muffled, so I stopped listening. But later in his explanation to the med student, his tone was as jovial as a world-renowned doctor could be.

As he walked down the hallway towards our room, he gestured “shrinking” with his hands. Perfect timing for his arrival in the examination room when he announced “It’s shrinking! You’re just a slow shrinking kind of guy. It’s shrinking. It’s just shrinking slowly.”

In January 2015, the tumor was 4.6 mm.

In May 2015, the tumor was 4.6 mm.

Today, the tumor is 4.03 mm.

A 12% reduction in the height of the tumor. “We’re going in the right direction,” said Dr. G!


Dr. G examined Seth’s eye closer, just like he’s done every other visit. “Yep, you can see it’s falling backwards, which is the direction we want.” Then, in an unexpected turn of events, Dr. G called the fellow back into the room. Dr. G pulled up one photograph of Seth’s eye from May, noted some things for the fellow, asked him to take a second look at Seth’s eye, and wanted him to answer the question – “How has this part of the eye changed since May?” Dr. G pointed out this blood vessel. Then that vessel. And another one or two. Dr. G reminded the fellow not to be deceived or distracted by that vessel there, to focus in on this one, right HERE. How were they angled? How were they positioned? The fellow examined Seth’s eye even closer and responded, “Yes, I see.”

“One sees what one knows,” said Dr. G to the fellow.

It was brilliant.

I loved it.

So much wisdom in that little room.

So much wisdom for now.

And the future.

One sees what one knows.

Yes, Dr. G.



Seth shook Dr. G’s hand. Or maybe it was a high five.

I shook Dr. G’s hand firmly. “Thank you very much.” And the med student’s hand, too. “It was a pleasure to meet you.”

The nurse who’s been in attendance at the end of every appointment we’ve ever had with Dr. G bid me farewell, “Have a great weekend, sweetie.” I’ve noticed she’s noticed me and appreciated the caregiver gesture.

The day was done.

Before we left the floor, we stopped to make our next set of appointments for mid-late December, but they weren’t booking that far out yet.

Seth made a work call he’d needed to make all day. And I took a moment to release, to breathe, to photograph what was below and above.

Downstairs, we walked freer towards our car, freer past that piano where a young woman played softly. Waiting on shrinking. Healing was beginning.



  1. Peggy Lynn Groenwold says:

    This is the best news… Thanking the Lord for his guidance through the physician’s eyes. Continued prayers for your families! Praises…

  2. Denise Korman says:

    I will continue sending you positive thoughts and many prayers.

  3. Denise Korman says:

    Amy,,I can hardly express how happy I am that Seth’s tumor has shrunk. I’ve always learned that God tests us throughout life why I can’t answer . I have been tested many times. But I guess we go on with prayer . And keeping positive thoughts. What you’ve gone through as a mother .wife and daughter it’s beyond my comprehension .but it’s your strength and faith in God I believe keep you going. I love meeting you and children and will hope to do that again sometime. I admire you for who you are and for what you do for so many. Denise

  4. Linda says:

    That’s news worth taking! God sees what He knows & we need to speak what we know too! Of Him, others, and what is to come! Praising the Lord & continuing to pray for you all & Seth’s continued healing!

  5. Tom Baunsgard says:

    This is awesome wonderful news and many prayers answered. Take a deep breath and enjoy the good news and the rest of your day! Blessings Abound!

  6. Sandi Bishop says:

    God is good! Prayers for continued shrinking of the tumor.

  7. Raquel says:

    I teared up when I got to the shrinking number part! God is so good!!!

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