Sadie Steals My Heart

It has been a little over a month since we lost our beloved Bullmastiff, Greta. The first week was honestly hell. As a veterinarian friend remarked, “A dog her size is a real presence in your home.” No truer words could ever have been spoken about Greta. She was indeed a presence. Every time I walked in the house, she was quietly snoozing on the couch. Every time I went to the kitchen, she positioned herself underneath my feet so I would not forget that she was there. Every time I sat on the couch, she laid across my lap. She was always here in all of her beautiful drooling, farting, snoring, loving glory.

My heart had a huge hole in it after she died. Whenever I came home, I expected to see her. I dreaded walking into the living room, knowing that I would not see her or hear her snoring softly as she slept. It was like a punch to the gut to come home and not see her on the couch waiting for me. Whereas Willy is my companion for fun and outdoor shenanigans, Greta had been my lap dog. When I was in Greta’s presence, I always felt loved. She just wanted to be near me. She wanted to be petted and told how beautiful she was. She made it quite clear that she was happy to be my companion and lap dog.

Greta & Tonia

For a long time leading up to Greta’s passing, Steve and I talked about how we wanted to get new carpeting and a new couch. We kept putting it off because Greta was old and we did not want to replace anything until after she was gone. Old dogs make messes and the bigger the dog, the larger the mess. However, what I found after losing Greta is that the carpet and the couches are completely unimportant to me. I suddenly did not care about a couch or a carpet. All I really wanted was a dog to cuddle.

I have always been a big dog kind of person. My first two dogs were Rottweilers.

pagan

Bruno

Then we owned and loved Klondike, the white German Shepherd.

klondike

Of course there was Greta.

greta snow

Last January, I decided I wanted a canine running buddy. We adopted Willy from the Western Australian Shepherd Rescue (http://www.westernaustralianshepherdrescue.com/ ). At 44 pounds, he seemed delightfully tiny in comparison to our previous dogs. I relished the fact that I could pick him up if I needed to, because I had never owned a dog that I could pick up before.

Willy

During the final year of Greta’s life, I really started worrying about my inability to pick her up. She was large and she outweighed me. As her gait became stiffer and her hips lost some functionality, I worried that some day she might not be able to get up and I knew I wouldn’t be able to lift her. Thinking that she might end up in pain and that I would be unable to help her upset me tremendously. It was something that weighed on my mind every day of her final weeks. As much as I love big dogs, I knew that she would be my last large or giant breed.

As my heart ached over the loss of my 120 pound lap dog, I knew that I needed a second dog in my home and in my heart. I love big dogs, but I knew I wanted something small and relatively low-maintenance. I wanted a cuddler that wouldn’t need miles of running each day. Enter Sadie, the Boston Terrier.

We went and visited her a couple of weeks ago at her previous home.

sadie visit

Peyton & Sadie

She had recently been spayed, so we had time to think about whether getting another dog was the best decision. Honestly, my head was not sure that I should bring her home, but my heart wanted her here. After a couple of weeks, we decided to go and get her.

I have fallen madly in love with her. She is a sweet little snuggle-puppy.

sadie selfie

I am positive that my husband never pictured himself with a tiny dog before.

sadie steve

Sadie follows me everywhere. She looks up at me with those gigantic, adoring eyes. She wants to cuddle up next to me no matter whether I am in bed or sitting on the couch. I love how she wants nothing other than just to be with me. On those days when I question my own value or worth as a human being, I just look into the eyes of my dogs.  They remind me that I am both lovable and loved.  No words are possible or necessary; the love from a dog is simply one of the purest loves in the world.

I still have a hole in my heart from missing my Greta. I continue to grieve her loss and she will never be forgotten. But the heart has an infinite capacity for love. We have the ability to care for many creatures, human and otherwise, over the course of a lifetime. I will continue to make peace with the fact that Greta is no longer here while allowing this sweet little girl into my heart. Welcome home, Sadie.

Sadie

Buddies

Saying Goodbye

Today we said good-bye to a member of our family. Our beloved 11.5-year-old Bullmastiff, Greta had to be put to sleep today.

She came to us many years ago. I had two young kids and I wanted a low maintenance dog who would be good with children. Greta was all of that but she was so much more. She was a tiny puppy who became a larger-than-life companion.

Riley was 6 and Peyton was 1 when we brought Greta home.. Peyton has no memories of life without Greta and Riley has few. We got her from Goldbars Kennel in Holyoke, CO.

Greta's litter. Her mama, Maddie, from Goldbars kennel

Greta’s litter. Her mama, Maddie, from Goldbars kennel

Maddie

Maddie

Greta's daddy Alden

Greta’s daddy Alden

Greta as a tiny puppy

Greta as a tiny puppy

Peyton & Riley with Greta the day we brought her home

Peyton & Riley with Greta the day we brought her home

Riley holding Greta

Riley holding Greta

Peyton loving her new puppy

Peyton loving her new puppy

Riley content to snuggle

Riley content to snuggle

One member of our family was less than thrilled with the addition of a new puppy.

One member of our family was less than thrilled with the addition of a new puppy.

Peyton and Greta really grew up together. Greta quickly demonstrated that she had the patience of a saint. She also LOVED children. She loved everyone, but she had a special place in her heart for kids. We could not walk by a playground without her tail practically wagging off of her body. She would give kisses that would completely drench a child’s face. This was either met with amusement or horror.

Peyton & Greta

Peyton & Greta

Peyton & Greta spent many lazy weekend mornings together.

Peyton & Greta spent many lazy weekend mornings together.

She had a lot of personality

She had a lot of personality

She always wanted to be with us.

She always wanted to be with us.

Greta sometimes (Ok, often) got into mischief. Her appetite was legendary. At the age of 8 months, she ate the side of our love seat. As she got older, she ate tennis balls, packages of balloons, Peyton’s tooth that was packaged for the tooth fairy, children’s vitamins that contained iron (she had to get her stomach pumped), a tampon, Peyton’s birthday cake, an easter basket full of candy, multiple barbie dolls, an avocado seed, plastic bags, silly band bracelets (rainbow poop as evidence), entire loaves of bread, my friend’s tooth-brush, headphones, and part of the kitchen floor among other things. When she first started eating random objects, I used to panic and call the emergency vet. After hearing several times, “Due to her size, she should pass that OK”, I learned to relax a bit. She was honestly very lucky to survive her culinary adventures.

Her love of Barbies was legendary

Her love of Barbies was legendary

greta barbie help

the living room often looked like a crime scene.

the living room often looked like a crime scene.

Friends even brought Barbies to Greta as peace offerings.

Friends even brought Barbies to Greta as peace offerings.

She was a natural beauty

She was a natural beauty

But when I think of Greta, I think of that stuff with a wistful smile. I remember her for being a gentle giant who was always full of love. Despite her large size, she had a sweet and loving disposition. She was welcoming of everyone who came to our home. She loved my children. She adored their friends.

And a lap dog.

And a lap dog.

And a lounge lizard.

And a lounge lizard.

No one could relax like she could.

No one could relax like she could.

There was that day last winter when she decided to dismantle the Christmas Tree.

There was that day last winter when she decided to dismantle the Christmas Tree.

In 2014

In 2014

greta bone

She has helped me raise my kids over these last 11.5 years. She helped me when I mourned the loss of our German Shepherd, Klondike, and my cat, Tribble. When I was diagnosed with cancer, she was a source of constant love, comfort and companionship. She was always up for snuggling on the couch or my bed. During my treatments, she started showing real signs of age and wear and tear. I prayed to God that she would survive until I at least finished treatments. She did. She was sometimes naughty, but she was truly an amazingly good and special girl.

And when I went through chemotherapy, she was always by my side.

And when I went through chemotherapy, she was always by my side.

These last couple of weeks, she starting showing significant distress. We tried a few treatments, but the reality is that she was a big girl who had outlived her projected life span. Most Bullmastiffs do not make it to over 11. She could no longer get out to go to the bathroom, among other issues, and we knew it was time. We said goodbye to her this morning. We surrounded her and told her we loved her. The girls cradled her giant head in their laps and we eased her way across to the Rainbow Bridge. As sad as this is for all of us, I am grateful that we could ease her very obvious suffering. I know that during her last night in our home, she was so ill that Steve and I would have done anything to take away her pain.

For now, there are many tears and the emotional toll is hell, but ultimately it is all worth it in the end. That’s part of the bargain when you love a dog: You know that you will have to say good-bye much too soon. It seems so strange that all of the creatures that inhabited our home, our hearts and our lives early on in our marriage are now all gone. It feels like the end of an era in many ways. The little six-year-old girl who carried Greta in her arms all of those years ago will be 18 in days. The other little girl is on the cusp of being a teenager. In many ways, it feels like a lifetime ago that we brought her home.

We loved Greta so deeply but, more than anything, we were so lucky to be loved by our Greta.  Our hearts, our arms and our laps are currently empty but I know that, with time, our memories will become more of a source of comfort and less of a source of tears.

Greta dog jail

Leaps of Faith

We make decisions every day. Some are major decisions that can affect our lives forever, while others are rather insignificant. When we make the potentially life-altering decision, we can never really predict with certainty if we are making the correct decision or not. At some point, we have to let go of the intellectual side of our brains and take a chance. We must make a leap of faith.

How we get to that leap of faith is different for everyone. Some people turn to God and trust that He is guiding them. Some people rely on their gut instincts. Some people defer to fate or some other outside force. We intellectualize and weigh options for as long as we can. Contemplating options is good, but over-thinking can leave us paralyzed and unable to act.

Sometimes these seemingly smaller leaps cause a significant amount of angst. So it was this past week, when I started contemplating when it would be safe to allow Willy to be off-leash. He has caused us significant consternation in the 12 weeks we have had him. The transition has not been easy. He was a stray, after all, and was not used to being with a family. He seemed to like us well enough, but the couple of times he got away from us, he sprinted off. Those moments of him fleeing at a gazelle-like pace felt like an eternity, and I was incredibly lucky that I was able to get him to come back to me. I wondered if he would ever settle in and want to be with us, or if there would always be a part of him that wanted to be a stray.

We had been making so much progress that I was beginning to think he would be off-leash at some point in the near future.  But I was still incredibly terrified of losing Willy. When I adopted him, I was making a promise to protect and care for him to the best of my ability for the rest of his life. As we ran and hiked along a trail on Tuesday, I thought about how much nicer it would be for him to be able to go at his own pace. He could roll in the snow and smell the marvelous odors of the forest. But, I wondered, was this truly the right time? Had we had enough time to really develop enough of a bond or would I possibly never see him again?

After contemplating all of the things that could go wrong over the course of several miles, I dropped his leash. He stayed with me. He flopped and rolled in the snow. I kept walking. I looked back and he watched me quizzically before following me down the trails.

First day off leash!

First day off leash!

Eventually, I took his leash off altogether. He still stayed with me. It was truly an amazing sight to behold. This wild-eyed feral creature WANTED to be with me now. Every single day since then, he has gotten some off-leash time. I am over joyed with how well Willy is doing. Our bond has deepened over this past week, as we have been able to learn to trust one another and fully enjoy our time outside together.

offleash2

Every major decision in life eventually involves taking a leap. At some point, we must throw some caution to the wind and hope that our decision leads us on the best path. With any major decision, we cannot know with 100% certainty how things will work out. I thought about all of the times in my life which involved letting go of a sense of control and hoping for the best: Deciding on a college. Selecting a major. Every job I have taken. Getting married. Moving across the country from my family, twice. Getting divorced. Getting remarried.Sometimes I have made great decisions and sometimes I have not, but I would not be the person I am today if I had not made each and every one of those choices along the way.

Raising children requires constant leaps of faith.From the time they are learning to walk, through the time they are learning to drive, to every time they walk out the door, we have to hope that they will be ok as we learn to let go, to trust, to drop that proverbial parenting leash.

Falling in love may be one of the ultimate examples of taking a leap of faith. Loving someone demands that we place our hearts in another human being’s hands with the hope that they do not abuse or destroy the gift of our emotions. It is human nature to want to protect ourselves from pain, but to truly love someone, we have to learn to let go of our defense mechanisms and completely and implicitly trust another human being.

With the guy who I choose to trust every single day of my life.

With the guy who I choose to trust every single day of my life.

Even going on with  my life after having had pancreatic cancer has required a huge leap of faith. I live with the uncertainty of knowing that my cancer could return with a vengeance at any moment. Yet, I would never move on and attempt new things if I did not actively work to convince myself that I will be fine. I have seen the statistics. I know fully well what could happen, but I have to live my life with assumption that I will be healthy for many years to come.

What is life without risk, without trust, without taking those leaps of faith? Each time I have taken a leap, there has been so much that could potentially be lost. The thing I always try to remember is that there is so much more that could potentially be gained. I appreciate how the newest member of our family has taught me patience all over again, and has reminded me to have faith, even when I feel overwhelmed by my circumstances. I am grateful for the opportunity to reflect on how many instances in my life have required letting go and trusting that things will work out.

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Update on Willy the Rescue Dog

Just over two months ago, we adopted Willy the Australian Shepherd. I first wrote about how happy I was to have him as a new member of our family. Then all hell broke loose and he decided that he wanted to chase everything under the sun, including runners, cyclists, trains, loud trucks, and so on. My knee started to hurt from him jerking me as he took off after things. In the house, he was the dream pet, but outside, he became my little nightmare.

I admit that I had moments where I thought we had made a mistake by bringing Willy into our home. As my knee and back throbbed in pain from getting literally yanked around by my dog, I said the words aloud to my husband that I never would dare utter to anyone else, “I just don’t know if I can do it.” I hate thinking of myself as a quitter, and I did not want to give up on Willy. I looked at him with such love and wondered about his life prior to us. He was a stray when he was found. How long had he been on the streets? I knew he had lived with a foster home for about 10 weeks. How many other homes had he lived in? Had others given up on him? How many others?

I looked at Willy as I had these doubts creeping into my head and felt truly guilty. I did not want to be one in a string of new homes he got shuffled back and forth, in and out of. But, he was hurting me and, after breaking leashes twice so he could run after trains, I felt he was putting his and my life in danger. He loved to run and I so desperately wanted him to be my running partner. I had seen glimpses of real potential that first week, but now wondered if we would ever really be able to enjoy running as a team.

As we approached our two month anniversary together, I wondered if my husband resented having Willy in the house. An extra dog was creating more work and more expense. I had wanted the dog, after all, not him. I felt guilty every time I asked Steve to do something with or for Willy. I was the one who wanted the dog. I should be dealing with him. Then, one day, Steve sat on the love seat, scratching Willy’s ears and he said, “I really love this guy!” At that moment, my heart just melted. I knew I was carrying the burden of most of Willy’s ill behavior. But I knew that Willy was now really, truly, officially part of our family. I could not give up on him.

A Boy & his Dog

A Boy & his Dog

We have made so much progress in such a short period of time. He now rarely lunges at a runner or cyclist. He still gets excited for trains, but not in the same frenzy he once had. He is actually fun to run with now. There is no better feeling that coming home to his unbridled enthusiasm and excitement. No one has ever been so genuinely happy to see me every single time I walk in the door as Willy has been. The lady from the dog rescue had talked about different phases that you go through with a rescue dog, and the trainer talked about “3 days, 3 weeks and 3 months.” The first three days are the adjustment to a new home. The next three weeks are the honeymoon period and the three month mark is when you really see what your dog is like. I felt like we had skipped right over the “honeymoon period”. However, as we are working towards the three-month mark, we are seeing what a truly awesome dog Willy is and we are so glad we have him in our home and in our family.

Willy smiling on Section 16

Willy smiling on Section 16

Willy has acquired several nicknames along the way. There is Boxcar Willy (because he chased trains), Shotgun Willy (Because he always wants to ride shotgun in the car), his mobster name Tiny Ears Willy (because Peyton thinks he has tiny ears), and when his hair gets crazy, I call him Willy Idol (you have to be a child of the 80s to understand that one). We suspect he lived in a McDonald’s dumpster previously because he refuses fruits and veggies but loves to eat ice cream and french fries. He has a sense of humor and likes to steal gloves and socks. He loves to be chased.

Willy is, without a doubt, a full-fledged member of our family. I am so glad I did not give up in those really difficult weeks. Any adopted animal is going to have some issues. Our commitment to training and loving him seems to be really doing the trick. Willy is in his forever home, where he will be loved now and always.

Greta & Willy playing

Greta & Willy playing

Road Blocks

I have been uncharacteristically quiet on my blog for the past couple of weeks. As soon as I made my big announcement that I was running three races for charity this year, I hit several road blocks. I keep trying to remind myself that nothing is worth working for comes easily, and that hitting road blocks and dealing with them is just part of the process.  But, I admit that I have had some difficulty keeping my spirits up over the past couple of weeks.

We recently got a new dog. We have now had Willy for just over a month. The first few days he lived with us, he was a dream dog. In many ways, he still is. He is sweet, smart and loving while simultaneously being low maintenance in the house. Unfortunately, my new running companion has an off-the-charts prey drive. He wants to chase everything. By everything, I mean rabbits, squirrels, birds, other runners, cyclist, cars, trucks and trains. Our runs have been frustrating for both of us. They are frustrating for me because I spend much of my time trying to gain his attention and redirect him. They are frustrating for Willy, because, as a stray, he probably spent a lot of time chasing things and now, suddenly, he cannot do that. He thrashes, bites the leash, barks, lunges and does pretty much anything he can so that he can attempt to pursue whatever it is that has his attention. We are working with a trainer, but I am a bit disheartened by the fact that we seem to be making zero progress so far.

Willy loves to run and I had visions of him being my inseparable running companion. That does not seem to be happening. The worst part of this is that his pulling and lunging has actually hurt me. I have long scoffed whenever someone asked me if running hurt my knees. “My knees are great! They never hurt!” Now suddenly, after having been yanked around so much, my left knee has been hurting on every run. I went to the physical therapist and we have been trying some different techniques, including dry needling and taping, to see if we can ease the pain. Unfortunately, I only have about eight weeks left until my first marathon of the year, and 13 weeks until the Bryce 100. I should be heavily into training right now, and instead my training is being hampered by this frustrating pain. I have not told very many people that I have been experiencing knee pain for the past couple of weeks. It is almost magical thinking that if I do not speak the words out loud, the pain is not real. However, my amazing PT, Kevin at Synergy (http://www.synergympt.com/ ) has all kinds of tricks up his sleeve. He had me taped up into a magnificent configuration and my first day of running with it seemed to go pretty well.

The weather has also not been facilitating the training process. Like much of the rest of the country, Colorado has been experiencing a great deal of snowfall and the temperatures have been frigid. While I never let the weather deter me from training, day after day of snow and cold makes training less fun. Furthermore, the slipping and sliding on the snow and ice is probably not helping my knee to improve.

In any event, I am continuing to do what I can. I am trying to get some elevation and climbing into my training program. This past weekend, Riley and I went part way up Barr Trail on Pikes Peak. There was a lot of snow but it was spectacularly beautiful, so I enjoyed every minute of being out on the mountain.

Barr Trail

Barr Trail

Colorado has the bluest of skies!

Colorado has the bluest of skies!

Riley on Barr Trail

Riley on Barr Trail

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The next day, Stephen and I ran 25 fairly flat miles. My knee did remarkably well on Barr Trail. I was very worried that the downhill would be excruciatingly painful. Maybe because we were running down on snow, it was quite manageable.The flat 25 proved to be a bit more problematic. My legs were tired from Barr already and I think the pavement exacerbated the pain. But, we got it done.

Smiling because we finished 25 miles!

Smiling because we finished 25 miles!

On Tuesday, Riley had a late start for school, so she and I went to the hills and got some additional climbing in. This time, my knee hurt a bit more on the downhill, but it was still manageable.

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Riley running down High Drive with Willy in hot pursuit.

Riley running down High Drive with Willy in hot pursuit.

There are few things I enjoy more in life than being out on the trails. I am so incredibly lucky that my lovely teenage daughter enjoys going with me.

Barr Trail Selfie

Barr Trail Selfie

Finally, something that has been a matter of concern for me is that I have been experiencing some issues with my blood sugar recently. My body does not respond to food and fuel the way it used to. Several times while out on the trail, I have felt shaky and weak. I only have half a pancreas, so it makes perfect sense that my body processes fuel differently. I am trying to figure out how to handle this and unfortunately, my doctors do not seem to know what to do with me. I have been told several times that they never see patients like me and that they will probably never have another patient like me in their careers. While I could function just fine for shorter distance races, I am likely looking at around a 30 hour finish for the Bryce 100. If I do not get this figured out quickly, this could present some real problems for me while out on the trail. I was extremely frustrated this week when I was told once again that no one knows how to help me. I had run 15 miles with a friend prior to my appointment. When I left, I was so frustrated that I went out and ran ten more. I am normally a happy runner, but in this instance I am allowing my anger and frustration to fuel and drive me. I will figure this out on my own. I am more committed than ever to reaching my goals. I will not allow this road block to stop me. 

So, these past two weeks have been stressful, painful and a bit disheartening. Road blocks are a part of life. I will figure out a way around, over or through them. These are all minor things. I made it through pancreatic cancer, and I keep reminding myself of that fact. I will find a way to work with my new body and do everything I can to succeed and reach my goals.

The Significance of a Dog

We added a new member to our family this week. Meet Willy, the Australian Shepherd rescue.

At his foster mom's house

At his foster mom’s house

I recently have thought about how I spend a lot of time alone on the trails. I never used to think twice about going out on the trails solo, but as of late, have been hesitant to do it. I wondered why I suddenly got spooked while out alone on the trails. Was I just getting wimpy? What has made the difference? I thought back to when I first started running a lot of the more remote single track trails in our area and realized that I used to run with my big white German Shepherd, Klondike. He was my companion on my solo adventures and I never felt frightened or alone when we were together.

Klondike

Klondike

Klondike was my best friend who went everywhere with me. I still miss him, even though he died years ago. While I know I cannot rely on a dog for protection, I just feel safer and more secure with a canine by my side.

So I began the process of looking for a running companion. The dog would ideally be between 1-2 years of age, and of a breed that is built for the long haul. This brought me to the Western Australian Shepherd rescue organization.

http://www.westernaustralianshepherdrescue.com/

I filled out an application and we were matched with Willy (originally known as Riku, but he did not answer to that name). Willy was a stray that was found wandering the streets of Houston. He was brought north to Denver and lived with a foster family for 2.5 months. They kept getting lots applications for him because he is beautiful, but most of the people who applied had no understanding of the amount of exercise that this type of dog requires on a regular basis. Then we came along. I sent in an application that said I was looking for an intelligent and energetic companion. Soon, a match was made.

Willy & Riley

Willy & Riley

Willy came home with us Sunday afternoon and has settled in well so far.

Willy & Peyton

Willy & Peyton

He and I have developed a running routine already, which thrills me. He loves to run perhaps as much as I do.I  know over time he will become the best running partner.

It occurred to me after we got Willy and brought him home that there is something significant to my adopting a dog at this point in time. It means I am not putting my life on hold to see if I will be well long-term. It means that I am confident about my health and my future. It means that I have let down my guard enough to stop wondering about the “what ifs” everyday. In fact, I now rarely ever think about my cancer coming back. I would not have adopted a dog if I thought I might be too sick to care for it properly. I thought for a brief moment, “What if I have a recurrence?” But, I immediately put that thought out of my mind. It is not going to happen. We will be OK. Adopting Willy means that I just know that I am going to be fine.

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My heart feels happy and whole. Welcome home, Willy.

Confessions of Christmas 2014

I have enjoyed Christmas week. I am grateful that I got to celebrate the holiday with my immediate family, though this week has not been without pain. I barely remember anything from Christmas last year. It is amazing how trauma can rob you of your memories. My husband does not remember much from last Christmas, either, and he was not the one who had surgery. That time was a blur for all of us, so celebrating Christmas this year was all the more important to me.

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I was married before. While I consider the end of my first marriage to be one of my biggest personal failures, I am glad that Riley’s dad and I continue to have a very amicable relationship. Riley spends every other Christmas with her father, and on the years that she is technically with me, I still encourage her to spend a good chunk of the vacation with her dad. I think dads are hugely underrated in our society. I think their presence and guidance is critical to the emotional growth and development of healthy boys and girls. It is very important that Riley spend time with her father and his family, and I do not ever want to stand in the way of those relationships.

Last year, it just worked out that Riley was with us on Christmas Day. I was thrilled, of course, because I really was unsure as to how many Christmases I might have left. But since I really do not remember much from last Christmas, it was harder to let her go this year. I cried after her dad picked her up. It really is OK. She is having fun and enjoying time with her relatives. I just cannot help look at Riley and wonder how many holidays she will be spending at my home, with our family. She has one-and-a-half years of high school left and then she will be off to college. How long will it be before she forms her own family and then they start their own holiday traditions?

Between my cancer experience and watching my daughter grow so close to adulthood, I want to slow down time to make every experience last longer. It seems that I keep wondering…how much longer? How much longer do I have on the planet? How much longer do my husband and I have together? How much longer will my kids be coming home for the holidays? How much longer will I have Riley around to enjoy our deep and meaningful daily conversations? She has grown into so much more than “just” my daughter. How much longer will Peyton still be my little girl who loves dolls and Lego’s? How much longer will Peyton still want to hold my hand and have me tuck her in at night? I know none of these things are permanent. I have to savor these moments when they occur.

So, we spent the week making memories that I hope can sustain me when the time has passed.

On Sunday I ran 16 miles in Cheyenne Canyon with my husband. This is my favorite place to run in Colorado Springs. The temperature in the city got up to about 50 degrees. It grew colder as we climbed past the 9000′ elevation mark, but was still pleasant. The few inches of snow on the trail made the climbing slow but the run down playful and fun. This is my favorite kind of adventure.

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On Monday, I did a six-mile loop with Riley on the Section 16 trail in Colorado Springs. I wanted to do something special with just the two of us. More snow had fallen over night, which made the trail absolutely beautiful. I am so incredibly happy that my 17-year-old daughter really enjoys being out in the woods. To get to share the trails I love with Riley is such an amazing gift. We hiked up the steep side of the trail and then ran down the long downhill, while marveling at the beauty of the fresh snow on the trails and in the trees. This will be one of my favorite memories from our Christmas break.

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The girls and I made approximately 10,000 gingerbread cookies on Monday. We celebrated Christmas with Riley on Tuesday. Riley had asked me a while back what I wanted for Christmas and I jokingly said, “A new pancreas.” So, she embroidered one for me. Yes, she is an amazing young woman.

My New Pancreas

My New Pancreas

On Wednesday, after my teary good-bye to Riley, Peyton and I did our last-minute preparations. We played a bunch of board games and then we took Greta to Petco to get her a Christmas present. Greta had a blast and Peyton and I enjoyed seeing her so happy.

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On Christmas Day, Stephen, Peyton and I opened up our gifts. We ate our Christmas meal and spent hours playing games together. It was a simple and yet wonderful day.

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On Friday, I took Peyton to “City Rock” so she could try out rock climbing. It was right up her alley.

Peyton rock climbing.

Peyton rock climbing.

Yesterday, Steve and I ran 18 miles. It was still cold, but the sun was shining and I felt good until the final mile. Maybe I am making progress!

Smiling because our run is complete!

Smiling because our run is complete!

While I have been a little sad that Riley is not with us this year, I am thankful that we have been able to create some memories with the time that we have had. I have gotten to spend individual time with each member of the family this week. While I had hoped for a little more quantity, I got what I hope is plenty of quality. Last year’s celebration felt hampered by fear and uncertainty. This year feels happier and more promising for all of us. Last year, I wondered if I would be here for this Christmas. Now, I am wondering about what future Christmases will hold for our family. While some things make me a little sad, getting to see my daughters grow up and move forward with their lives is a gift and a blessing. I remember my good fortune every single day.