The “Me” Book.

Noah Self-portrait

Wednesday I started my day by stopping in on the Pre-school Parent’s coffee hour. The kids had baked some delicious pumpkin raisin bars and were presenting their “Me” Books, a project they’ve been working on over the course of the last few weeks. It’s a lovely project (I still have Caleb’s tucked away) where they interview the kids about family, likes and dislikes, what makes them angry, sad, favorite place, animal, toy, etc. and then put it all together (word for word) in a book that the kids “illustrate”. It also has an amazing self-portait on the front (on the left), which they’ve been working on with Mindy their Art teacher. Since I shared quotes from Caleb the other day, I thought I’d share quotes from Noah today, straight out of his “Me” book.

At the parent coffee hour, we were asked identify mystery quotes, matching them to our child’s book. This is what I was supposed to identify as Noah’s quote:

“My favorite food is cabbages but not tomatoes and potatoes and salad and soup.”

Um????? I have no explanation for that. He loves soup and salad! And potatoes! And I don’t think we’ve ever eaten cabbage…

On the other hand, if they had read this part, I would have guessed it instantly:

“I feel sad when my brother takes something from me. My Mom tells him not to take stuff and he throws it back to me but that’s not the way…you need to hand it and share.”

Love that kid 🙂


Light the Night 2011 – Walk day

Two posts in one week! I’m on a roll. We had a nice team turnout, joined nearly 6,000 supporters (red balloons), survivors (white balloons), and people like us walking in remembrance of a loved one lost to leukemia (gold balloons). There was even dancing in the street, as evidenced by the video of my pastor and his daughter that has already made its way on facebook, but somehow I missed that part 🙂

When I went to the balloon tent to pick up balloons for my family there was a bit wait for gold and red balloons. They run out of those very quickly and were furiously trying to get more ready. There was a great big pile of white balloons all ready to go but they aren’t in as high demand. Leukemia is a deadly disease and there are certainly more people walking in remembrance than there are survivors. I’m so grateful that we were able to meet our fundraising goal. As it stands now, Team Jared Hess 2011 has raised $3,125.00 that will go toward lifesaving research and patient services.

As a team organizer you have to think logically about, well, organizing things: fundraising, meeting up with people, fundraising, making (and bringing) the banner, fundraising some more, etc. There were a few bittersweet moments at the walk though, just taking it all in, and remembering that the reason we’re there at all is because Jared is no longer with us. I was reminded of a quote in a book that I had to go look up just now, “The presence of that absence is everywhere.” -Edna St. Vincent Millay-

And yet tonight, there we were, with thousands of people, unconnected in our day to day lives but linked this one night by a similar circumstance, by friendship and family, by hope, courage and perseverance in the face of a deadly enemy. That presence was also everywhere. It embodies what it’s been like to lose my husband to cancer. Remembering and moving forward, surviving and Living, both hanging in the balance, always.

Here’s a link to the Light the Night Photo album I made on facebook. It’s a public link so you don’t have to have a FB account to view it. Just click on the link and enjoy.

The Commonplace Book

I joined a group of students and teachers at school that are keeping commonplace books. The first step is to find yourself a blank book that you like. Then, you write in it things that you hear or read and want to remember.

Wikipedia describes them as follows: “Commonplace books were a way to compile knowledge, usually by writing information into books. They became significant in Early Modern Europe. Such books were essentially scrapbooks filled with items of every kind: medical recipes, quotes, letters, poems, tables of weights and measures, proverbs, prayers, legal formulas. Commonplaces were used by readers, writers, students, and humanists as an aid for remembering useful concepts or facts they had learned. Each commonplace book was unique to its creator’s particular interests.”

So now I have a commonplace book. It’s purple and has a nice soft cover. But right now, it’s still empty. I also have an iPhone. The “notes” app is not empty. In fact, it has become, quite by accident, a sort of commonplace book. A place for me to keep all the little tidbits that I know I need to write down quickly before I inevitably forget them. The other day, I went through all my stored notes to see what was actually in there. I have saved profound or hilarious things my kids say that I want to remember (will come back to that one later). I have saved titles of radio programs I want to hear, books I want to read, songs I want to buy, phone numbers, addresses, websites, crazy swedish names and aisle numbers of things I want to pick up at IKEA. Even a full page of notes from a choral directors workshop that I attended. Not exactly all commonplace book material. But I did find a few nice quotes that I plan on transferring to the CpB. Here are two:

“The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be ignited.” – Plutarch

“History doesn’t repeat itself, but often it rhymes.” – Mark Twain

What I thought was of particular pertinence to my blog was the things that my kids have said. So many times, they say things and I think, I had better write them down. And I don’t, and I forget them. Special moments lost. But three times in the last year, I have used my phone to record quotable quotes from Caleb. I thought I would share some of them on the blog.

A year ago, we were driving home from school, and Caleb said, “When I’m a Daddy and you die, I will take care of Noah.” I just wanted to stop the car and give him a great big hug. It came out of nowhere, at least for me, and was a reminder that he is always processing what happened to Jared and to our family. We have always been very open about talking about Jared dying and I’ve been happy to see that over the years, Caleb, even as young as 2 or 3 has been verbally expressing his thoughts and questions about the subject. It’s good because I know that he has feelings and frustrations sometimes that he doesn’t understand or can’t express. At least, some of it is coming out.

Here’s another more lighthearted one:

This summer I decided to try driving us to Cincinnati to visit my in-laws. I broke it into two parts and we slept in a Spring Hill Suites in Washington, PA…with a pool. That was on purpose. We were in the pool from 8pm (when we arrived) until 9:30pm!! We had a room with a king size bed and we all piled in for a good night’s sleep. When we woke up in the morning, I asked them if they had a good night sleep in our big giant bed? Caleb responded: “Yes. I TOTALLY did.” That was followed by “I love this bed! Can we live here?”

I realize that I have no quotes from Noah right now, at least in my phone 🙂 Stay tuned.

Also, if you haven’t had a chance to donate to the Light the Night team, the walk is TOMORROW! We are at 76% of our fundraising goal and could use a little support (thanks to those who have already) to push us over the top! Read my previous post for all the details and a link to join and/or donate.

Thanks for reading!

Light the Night 2011 – coming soon

In loving memory of Jared Hess (Jan 27 1978- Jan 25 2008): husband, father, son, brother, cousin, nephew, uncle, colleague, teammate, friend to so very many. It’s been nearly 4 years and I still have a hard time believing that it all happened the way it did. We move forward and we still remember.

The Light the Night walk is a way to do that: Remember. Move forward. Offer hope.

Please join a group of family and friends on October22nd, 2011 at Eakin’s Oval at the Philadelphia Art Musuem as we walk to remember and honor Jared’s life, his role in all of our lives and his bravery and grace throughout his struggle with leukemia. We walk in solidarity with all those whose lives have been touched by blood cancers. We raise funds so that many more people will have hope and a chance at survival. This year I, Anne, am mobilizing the Philly team and have set a goal for raising 3,000 for LLS. I genuinely hope that you will be able to walk with us and help me in meeting, even exceeding this fundraising goal. (As an aside, teams who raise $10,000 qualify for a personal team table and chairs!)

Light The Night Walk is The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s annual fundraising walk to pay tribute and bring hope to people battling cancer. Hundreds of thousands of participants raise funds for lifesaving research and patient services.
Please visit the Team Jared Hess webpage and sign up to walk or donate to the team or both!


Futbol en Guatemala

I wish I could upload pictures of today. But my computer is in VA and my phone doesn´t work in Guatemala…so photos will be forthcoming next week.
We are in Guatemala for 10 days, just me and the boys, and it´s going very well. I am thankful for the awesome hospitality of friends and also for my “pretty-flexible-for-3-and-5″ world traveler children.
It has been neat to see them processing a world so different from our normal context. Much to my delight, they are embracing it. Today both of them have started to greet people in Spanish, especially Noah!

My friend Magda took us twice to the free kids ´soccer league in her town. It´s awesome. Noah played with the 3-5 year olds on Tuesday. Threw himself right into the mix and ran around with the best of them. Caleb sat that one out. He took it all in though and was ready to play today with the 6-8 year old team this evening. It was out of his comfort zone for sure, but he ended up having a blast! He made a few friends and even scored a goal with his head during drills. Afterward, when we were walking home, he was raving about how much fun it was. So I said, maybe we can find you a team to play on in Philadelphia. Would you like that? And he responded, ¨”But Mommy, I already have a team here!” That would be quite a commute for soccer. When I pointed that out, he consented to finding a team at home, but I was really surprised by his ability to connect deeply and quickly with new and different people and places. The Guatemalan kids were really sweet with him. If we stayed longer I´m sure he would have some new friends (and learn Spanish) very quickly.

We also rode horses today (well, mules actually, large ones) through a coffee finca. Apparently it´s the coffee that Starbucks buys for their Guatemala Antigua coffee (, at least, that´s what our guide told me 🙂 Noah saw the mules and screamed “Choupinette!” That was his donkey´s name last summer when we rode in France. Funny the things kids remember. Caleb was pretty pleased to get his own mule and could be heard saying “Giddyup” a lot. Although, since Spanish horses don´t speak the language of “Giddyup!”, he switched to “Vamonos!”

Tomorrow we are off to Lake Atitlan with friends for the weekend. Kind of excited for a few nights in a hotel with a pool (that will surely keep the boys in high spirits!). Oh and also excited for some of the most breathtaking scenery in the world. Like I said, pictures forthcoming.

reflecting back

Tuesday morning I followed a link from a friend’s facebook page to a blog about a little 6 year old girl who just died from an inoperable brain tumor. It doesn’t take long to follow a trails of links and find that there are so many young people and children who are losing battles with cancer…it’s both heartbreaking and strangely familiar to read people’s thoughts, feelings and experiences. It’s a good reminder that my situation is not unique. It is to my family, but not in the grand scheme of things. Being a widowed, single parent to two small children is a lonely endeavor, but I’m certainly not the only one in the world doing it.

When your world is turned upside down by tragedy it’s harder to know anything for sure. “God is in control” was so much easier to say/hear when things were generally going my way, or when the outcome wasn’t a matter or life or death. When I hear people say it now, I immediately think, “In control of what? Who lives and who dies?” I don’t know about that. I feel comfortable living with questions. I do miss certitude, though, and I wonder if it will ever return.

As I read over someone else’s thoughts about the death of their loved one, I wanted to re-read my own thoughts about when Jared died. I didn’t even have a chance to make it back that far though. I found this and was glad to be reminded. I think I’m going to need to incorporate this song text into the ritual of remembering. We sang it when we planted the tree for Jared at camp Friedenswald the summer after his death. Here is the text for you along with part of my reflection at the time.

Give thanks for life, the measure of our days;
mortal, we pass though beauty that decays,
yet sing to God our hope, our love our praise:

Give thanks for those who made their life a light
caught from the Christ flame, bursting through the night
who touched the truth, who burned for what is right:

And for our own, our living and our dead,
thanks for the love by which our life is fed,
a love not changed by time or death or dread:

Give thanks for hope, that like the wheat, the grain
lying in darkness does its life retain
in resurrection to grow green again:

I have often thought of the scripture about the grain of wheat in reference to Jared’s life and death. It’s John 12:24 – “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” It was spoken during Passover and very immediately it was in reference to Jesus’ death and resurrection. But I think it also speaks into our lives in many ways today. If there is any comfort to be had (beyond the questions about life and death and earthly suffering that we will never fully understand in the present life) it’s that I know that Jared is at peace now, that his suffering is over, and that his life is continuing to bear fruit even after his death. His “kernel” is certainly producing many seeds now. I continue to be so thankful for those of you who are connected to me by this blog. I continue to be amazed at how far our story has reached. (7/21/2008)

Caleb and I worked together with clay on Tuesday (snow day). We made this tree and I thought it was fitting for this post. Caleb went back and forth about whether to put leaves on it or not. They were on and off and then back on again. I think we’re both ready for it to be spring again.

Light the Night Philly 10/23/2010

Here are a few pictures neat pictures from this Saturday’s Light the Night walk. Sorry that there are no shots of people. It’s quite a task to do a walk with a bunch of little kids, not much time to stop and pose for photos 🙂 Maybe I’ll try to get some pics from other people who had more free hands…
We had a small but mighty team this year. Thanks so very much to all the family and friends who came out. We raised over 2,200 dollars for blood cancer research and remembered Jared in a sea of red, white and gold lighted balloons.

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