Valerie Bosselman Put up your Umbrella Sun, 24 May 2015 09:51:45 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Died From Not Forwarding That Email Sun, 24 May 2015 09:51:45 +0000 I just read on the internet that opening an umbrella indoors brings bad luck on ALL the people in the building.  What?  That’s not what I was taught.  I was told that misfortune would rain on me. No one mentioned that I would also bring a life of hellish misery upon an entire building full of people.  Sorry, world, if my obsession with umbrella mechanisms ruined your life forever.

My superstitious portfolio knows the drill:  always pick up a penny on the ground, say “God Bless You” when someone sneezes, and bad luck comes in threes.  Friday the 13th is probably the event that still give me a little of the heebie-jeebies, as it’s that fateful day in the third grade when I broke my arm.  My mom, always the realist, had a different spin on the story.  She said I broke my arm because I shoved a boy twice my size and it had nothing to do with the number 13.  Doug had bullied me long enough.  That day I did have my magic shield to protect me, so shoving the giant was not unreasonable.  My ‘magic shield’ was the round melamine plate on which cupcakes were served to the class-by-day and but transformed into a Spartan Warrior shield-by-afternoon.  But as luck would have it, my mom was firmly planted in our front yard watching me come home from school and witnessed her 5′ tall middle child push a 200 lb. 6′ fourth grader.  The sheer power of my Superwoman shove did cause Doug to shift from foot to foot, but then he sent me flying, palms down, into the neighbor’s yard.  Oh, the sound of breaking bones.

By the time I got to the front yard, Mom was livid.    Girls don’t push boys.  And girls don’t push boys twice their size. I’m sure “Act like a lady” spewed into the conversation…well, not really a conversation when Mom is doing all the talking.

Sweet Jesus…not such a lucky day for me.

I’m not the only one that shudders a little at 13.  The blog “Itty Bitty Witty” informs us that Mayo Clinic, In Rochester, Minnesota has no 13th floor.  Blog author Dan writes:

This is not unique to the Mayo Clinic.  Right you are, and therein lies one of the most ridiculous things one could ever imagine.  Because some of us humans are just gullible enough to believe in superstitions, NONE of us gets a 13th floor in the building.

Fast forward to 2004.  My daughter was diagnosed with adrenal cancer, the chances of which are one-in-a-million.  That’s like the “Hunger Games” of cancer where Megan’s number was drawn as Tribute and we all watched her fight for her life on the big screen.  We needed the odds ‘ever in our favor.’

And then the emails would roll in.

If you forward this to 10 people in 6 minutes, your prayers will be answered tomorrow.

In fleeting seconds I would think,

What if this would work?  Do I have 10 friends I can bombard?  I’d try anything to save my girl.  I only get six minutes to respond to receive the blessing?  But I need to go with Megan down to radiology, and I won’t be back for 30 minutes…so I should have read that email 10 minutes sooner.

And then I would stop myself, realizing that these messages played into my deepest fears.  Regarding superstition, Web MD writes:

Wanting more control or certainty is the driving force behind most superstitions. We tend to look for some kind of a rule, or an explanation for why things happen.

When your loved one has cancer, more than anything you want an explanation, a rule, or a law that will automatically fix it.  To date, I don’t believe chain-mail has cured cancer.  My broken wrist was not at the hands of Friday the 13th, nor was Megan’s future in the hands of Yahoo’s email forwarding capabilities.  If you have a friend that is pressed on every side, remember chain-mail eats up valuable caregiver time.  “Let’s grab something to eat” and one-to-one human contact may be the real miracle their day needs.

Key Notes:

  • Megan’s food was provided by the hospital.  Mine was not.  When my friends said, “What can we do to help?” I should have said, “Can we grab lunch in the cafeteria?”  I ate alone too often.
  • Most chain letters put responsibility on the recipient.  “If you send,” “If you forward,” then this will happen.  I didn’t need to be told one more thing to do.
  • By forwarding emails, you risk exposing email IDs of your friends and relatives to third parties.

On A Lighter Note:

  • Your odds of winning the lottery are 1 in 175 million.
  • Leave the superstition to Stevie Wonder.









An umbrella, according to popular superstition, should never be open indoors or you will bring bad luck on all the people residing in the building. It is thought that this superstition originates back when the purpose of the umbrella was to act as a sunshade. If opened indoors the action may be construed as a direct insult to the sun, which was revered in many societies.

Umbrellas also have other superstitions attached to them, most often those that bring bad luck.

  • It is bad luck to give an umbrella as a gift.
  • If you drop an umbrella, do not pick it up. Instead, have someone else do it for you, or you will be the recipient of bad luck.
  • If a single woman drops an umbrella, she will never marry.
  • If an umbrella is opened outside when it is not needed, rain, and other bad weather, will follow.

Another variation on the superstition is that if rain is predicted on a given day, take an umbrella with you and it will not rain.  And if you leave the umbrella behind, it will definitely rain.

On a lighter note

I pick up a penny when I see it.  “See a pin, pick it up/ and all day long you’ll have good luck/ See a pin, let it lay/ and your luck will pass away.”

]]> 4
An Open Letter to Dr. Gary D. Hammer Wed, 20 May 2015 13:19:53 +0000 Three years after my daughter’s death, I had the great privilege of speaking with world-renowned Dr. Gary Hammer on dying with adrenal cancer.  Dr. Hammer referred to Megan’s last days as ‘death present,’ which can be the scariest of places until you find peace with your own mortality.  For close to 90 minutes, the physician and research scientist who is on the cutting edge of treatment for adrenal cancer, pulled up a metaphorical chair to help this grieving mom re-evaluate the balance of reality and hope and begin to understand hope as more than a cure;  “Hope is the bolster to fight and the permission to surrender.”  Full of hope, Megan found peace in the surrender.

Widow Tanja Santiago’s open letter to Dr. Hammer strikes a deep chord in my heart, and she has asked me to post it.  May its simple truth echo around the world.


Dear Dr. Hammer,

Here is something I meant to share with you (and maybe a couple other oncologists)… every year my kids and I attend the ACC (Adrenal Cortical Cancer) CURE walk, I have flash backs to when my husband Ken and I first met you in your clinic. I remember the emotions and the wish to have a fighting chance to battle this cancer. And I remember the harder we fought, the less likely his chances of survival were. Looking back, chemo was not worth the time we put into it, but he got his fighting chance.

When we arrived at UPenn, every time we sat with Dr. Keefe, he ended the conversation with suggesting Hospice Care as an alternative. Not a week went by that he did not offer it;  even when Ken was on chemo TORISEL, fighting for his life. And every week we declined because it was absurd to consider dying. Then came a point about a month before he died, where I thought that Ken continuing to live in pain and agony would be the cruelest thing that could happen to him.

However, I continued to support his wish for treatments, and he received it until a week before he died. Then finally, three days before he passed, he requested Hospice Care. I had heard of patients fighting to live until they passed away. Thankfully, he finally realized that certain things were inevitable, and that death was not the worst thing that could happen to him. We had time to make peace…it was only for a couple of days, but the fighting that cancer brought into our lives made ‘peace’ impossible….and parting in peace was the most valuable lesson I have learned so far.

Certain areas in my life do not have peace but the peace and the grace I felt then is unlike any other. Even today, when I visit patients on Hospice Care, it is the overwhelming amount of peace and grace that are almost always present. I know no one wants to hear that sometimes death is here for us….and the challenge to have peace within those last x amount of days/ months or years is enormous….but if that can be achieved, the time after ‘losing’ someone will not be as difficult as most people perceive it to be.

Anyway, I know this is a chunk here, and I don’t know how you feel about loosing 99% of your patients to adrenal cancer, but I wanted you to know that even though it was a horrible and challenging time, it was the best of our ten years together. It was not a waste. It brought us closer together and we had peace in the end. I will have this until the day I die. Therefore, I must say thank you to Adrenal Cancer, as odd as that might sound. And thank you, Dr. Hammer, for all you do for your patients and what you did for us.

Tanja Santiago

Key Notes:

  • Tanja Santiago is the widow of Ken Santiago, who lost his courageous battle to Adrenal Cancer on May 16, 2012.  He was diagnosed on June 19, 2011, his 40th birthday, and fought with great valor for 11 months.  She is the mother of Tea and Max, and devotes her life as a volunteer with Hospice Care.
  • Gary D. Hammer, M.D., Ph.D. serves as the director of the Endocrine Oncology Program in the Comprehensive Cancer Center. The program is uniquely recognized as an international center of excellence for the treatment of adrenal cancer. Research conducted in Dr. Hammer’s laboratory has led to the development of new national and international therapeutic trials with biological-based therapies for adrenal cancer that target the molecular defects in cancer stem cells while sparing normal tissue.


]]> 0
Seven Years of Grief Mon, 23 Mar 2015 04:28:09 +0000 Dear Megan,

You waited for me.

In the last days of your life, I told you I wanted to be with you when you died…the Hospice workers explained how you would have some control over that. They told me amazing stories of individuals that held on against all odds as they waited for a family member to arrive from half way around the world.  On the flip side, there was the story of that matriarchal grandmother.  Her room was packed to capacity as the family watched and waited for her imminent death.  Three days and nights into the vigil the family said, “She’s not going anywhere.  We should all go eat in the cafeteria together.”  As soon as the room completely cleared out, Grandma took her last breath and died.

Sweet Jesus…that is exactly what women in our family would do.

With today being the seven-year anniversary of your death, this whole dialogue still sounds surreal to me.  In the manuscript of life, no mom should ever have to say to their child, “I want to be with you when you die.”  But I did.  I was crazed;  not wanting to sleep a wink for fear that would be the moment that you crossed over and in some loony way I didn’t want to miss being there to care for you, to protect you.

You knew your Momoushka.  I didn’t let you cross the street without me.  You know that first day you walked home from second grade on your own?  Yeah, it really wasn’t Independence Day.  Your mom developed a keen espionage plan and every step of the way I was hiding on the back streets that lined Spring Street.  It even included crouching in the bushes.  You had such a big smile on your face like you were such hot stuff walking home alone.  Yeah, no.  I was there, ensuring your safe passage.

I was there for your life, but wasn’t showing up for mine once you passed away.

DCC Junior Pom Poms
My Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders Junior Pom Poms. “Buffy” Sign By Artist Linda Hatfield

I was like a Zombie Grief Apocalypse, as I paced the floor in those dark night hours, unable to focus on anything but you.  My friends saw this glassy-eyed shell of a woman, wondering what happened to the ‘old Val.’  Surely, God hated me, and my only spiritual dialogue was wondering how many more days until I saw you again.   But somewhere the fragments of my life started to pull together.  Hope glimmered,  if only for a second.  You told me to get a job at Sur La Table.  I did.  I met my Lit Coach.  I blogged.  Enter the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders…cheering for your mom to live her life.  The pom poms hung center stage in my dressing room on Bloomfield reminding me that I had made the cheerleading squad as your mom and caregiver.  When I later downsized from our 7200 sq. ft. home to 1100 sq. ft., my thought process included, “I’m keepin’ your ashes, your two little dogs and back away, movers, I’m takin’ the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders Junior pom poms with me!”

Five years rolled on.  As a symbol for America’s Sweethearts hung in my basement apartment, I realized I had to dig deep and begin cheering for myself.  I asked myself what I wanted to do with the rest of my one and only crazy life, and at first the answer was a pathetic, “I don’t know.”  I knew everything that was on your Bucket List, but did anyone know mine?  There was a ‘me’ that got lost in the middle of adrenal cancer and I stopped being “Valerie” and changed into “Megan’s Mom”.  I was so proud to be your mom, but when you died I was lost without you.  But hope glimmered again.  I thought about ‘what is it that I want to do with my life?” and I hired a Photoshop tutor so I could immerse myself in the craft of stationery design that I have loved my entire life.

Here we are at seven years.  I’ve honed my skills to the point that your mom just finished developing a line of cards for cancer centers that say something other than “Get well soon.”  With clarity of mind, I’m on real life schedule to finish the book by July.  And so, my beautiful girl, on this March 23, 2015 I need to tell you….I have a best-selling book to finish.  I have greeting cards to sell.  I have new Photoshop tricks to learn.  I’ve never seen the Taj Mahal.  I need to visit your brother in London and shop for new umbrellas.  Before I die, I think I should renew my Spanish fluency.  I want to own a Boston Terrier and name him Pugsley.  I have coffee to drink, diets to cheat on and exotic world cuisine to consume.

So maybe I could ask you, wherever you are in the vastness of eternity, can you wait for me just a little bit longer, as I discover this one extraordinary life I’ve been given?



Key Notes:

  • According to Carol Bradly Bursack, “Rough statistics show that 30% of caregivers die before those they are caring for. “
    • After four years of adrenal cancer appointments (and countless appointments for a dad with CLL and mom with breast cancer then lung cancer), I found myself completely exhausted by doctor appointments, in addition to thinking if they did find cancer I would not go through chemo.  Only recently did my mind change.  I have a son in England that I must live to torture.  I broke my 10 year absence from mammograms…and the results are I’m free and clear to see the Taj Mahal, and get my nose pierced in the process.
  • Offering Care to the Caregiver, by New York Times author Pauline W. Chen, M.D. is also informative.  I might add, Megan’s physicians were very faithful to ask about me.  Since having a 23-year-old daughter with adrenal cancer came without a manual, I do look back and see things I should have done differently.
  • Do you have a friend that has lost a child?  I may joke about the Zombie Grief Apocalypse, but it’s serious business.  You can literally die from a broken heart.  Please read this article, “Mother’s Grief Over Child’s Death Can Be Lethal.”
  • Megan’s primary oncologist insisted I see their team of mental health care professionals.  They were my guiding light.  And yes, let me say it out loud.  Prozac was my best friend as I found my way back to my real life long friends.
  • My pastor says, “The next seven are the best seven.”  I miss my girl, but a whole life awaits me.  I can’t wait to tell her about it.

On a Lighter Note:

  • There was that one time that I totally forget to pick my son up from sixth grade.  Oops.  I guess you’re more relaxed by the second child.
  • Did I actually think as the heavens opened up to receive my girl into eternity, that I could somehow throw myself against the gates of hell to protect her?  Maybe!  I am Mom, hear me roar.
]]> 7
The Finish Line Sat, 14 Feb 2015 18:53:18 +0000 JScottCaubleCall me the North American Food Traveler.  From the bistros of Canada, to the oyster bars of New Orleans, to the secluded barrios of Mexico City, I’ve gobbled up (at least once) everything life has plated up for me.  My dad had zero tolerance for picky eaters, an attribute that served me well the day boiled chicken feet were my dinner line-up in Mexico City.  I pride myself in being a professional eater, but somewhere I missed the memo on how to get a clump of food to my mouth on two cheap sticks.

Fear of chopsticks was looming in my mind when I agreed to met Jeff Cauble for Sushi at Omaha’s trendy Baby Blue (Sunday, March 31, 2010) in memory of my daughter’s death two years prior from adrenal cortical carcinoma.  I was so very grateful for those that reached down into my sad little world and pulled me up into new experiences.  But I was nervous.  Nervous about my ineptness in handling chopsticks.  Nervous because I had become socially isolated in the time surrounding Megan’s death and going to Baby Blue was thrusting me into the bustling heart of hipster Omaha.

But there was Jeff Cauble; a man who knew my life had been shredded.  He said all the right things as he navigated me through Chopsticks 101. “These should be easy for you, Val, since you have had a lifetime of handling art pens”, and “You can do it, Val!”   There was no Olympic crowd roaring in the background, but I felt so proud of myself when food went from the plate to my mouth with minimal rice spilling down my shirt.

Sweet Jesus…a handsome guy can get a girl to do anything.

But my relationship to Jeff Cauble was that he was Megan Bosselman’s personal trainer.  My girl hired him, trusted him, depended on him.  And he delivered.

In 2000, Megan had become increasingly concerned about her weight, and a host of physicians had told her to just ‘work harder.’  My girl had tried a long line of diet regimes, to no avail, and she proposed the idea of hiring a personal trainer.  I had her interview several professionals, and she narrowed it down to Jeff.  He was a star athlete and it didn’t hurt that he was (and is) wicked handsome.

Towering somewhere over 6’3″, Jeff embodies everything stunning in a Norwegian blonde.  Mix that in with part American-Indian and a mom who is an All-American Beauty (Miss Nebraska 1968).   With his million dollar smile and suavecito demeanor, my girl never imagined that he would actually make her sweat.  Jeff Cauble was born running, and it came as no surprise that running was going to be the biggest part of Megan’s weight loss protocol.

Megan said “I won’t.”  Jeff said, “You will be.”

model09(1)Raw good looks can be so deceiving.  It wasn’t long before Megan came home from the gym hating him.  Nevertheless, somehow he got her moving, and run she did.  Jeff’s influence yielded instant results and confidence in Megan.  She began to hold her head higher, walk more confidently, and see life more optimistically.

Little did any of us know that by 2004 Megan would be running for her life in the battle against adrenal cancer.  Because of Jeff’s influence, she ran with elegant grace up until the removal of the tumor and her adrenal gland.  When doctors were saying ‘she may never leave the hospital’ my girl was laying in ICU asking, “So when can I run again?”  She ran again, against all odds, into 10 months of glorious remission, where she felt the most alive and beautiful of her entire life.  The last time she laced up her running shoes was just hours before the removal of her left kidney in 2006;  my girl knew her running days were over.

Who could have known that learning to run at age 19 would be the very thing that helped sustain Megan’s life?  She needed that strong heart to endure months of chemo and radiation…quantities of both that were far beyond normal to the human experience.  Never underestimate how one solitary life can change your world.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Jeff Cauble.  My girl’s heart ran strong to the finish line because of you.

Key Notes:

  • James F. Fixx, who spurred the jogging craze with his best-selling books about running and preached the gospel that active people live longer, died of a heart attack while on a solitary jog in Vermont. He was 52 years old. Many people use this as a reason to not stay in shape.  “Hey, the author of the jogging book died of a heart attack…what good did it do him?”  Megan did not support that philosophy.   I’m so grateful my girl sowed good health…an attribute that gave her far more life than predicted.
  • When Megan had her left kidney removed, the radiologist told me that the ‘X” factor that physician looked at was Megan’s extraordinary level of physical fitness.  In her survival prognosis, it did matter that she didn’t drink or smoke, refrained from sugar, and ran five miles a day.
  • Jeff is a world-class athlete that jumped to a State Record of 23′ 11″ in 1989.  He remained in the Nebraska top ten for that event for 20 years.  If you want to excel in any area of life, look for a professional that has already achieved your goal.
  • You, the reader, are an expert in some area of life.  Make a point to share that gift in this calendar year.  It will give life to another human being…and who knows…it could save their life down the road.
  • Adrenal Cancer is rare and elusive.  Most doctors don’t see it in the lifetime of their practice.  If you think something is medically wrong with you, do seek professionals until you figure it out.

On A Lighter Note:

  • I’ve made no progress in my Chopstick skills.
  • I laugh every time I think of Megan telling Jeff “I’m not running” and Jeff saying “You will be…” like Yoda in Star Wars.
  • I can find J. Scott Cauble whenever I want.  You can find him today on Facebook.
  • When my friends ask me where we should go out to eat, my response is always, “I don’t care.  Does this look like the body of a picky eater?”

Blog Sign-Up:

  • I completely changed blog format.  I’m grateful to Chris Bevins for helping me in my vision.  If you were previously signed up for notifications, it did not transfer to this new site.  Please sign up again on my new platform!

All photography by Brandi Lynn Images.

]]> 0
Firefighters on the Move Mon, 25 Aug 2014 00:30:42 +0000 FirefightersOnTheMove
Yes, those are my huge chairs!

According to a July 10, 2014 report in The Rotten Hop, beer has been named official currency for friends reluctantly helping you move.

With brewskies as the bargaining chip, I had to shrewdly assess all my options as I approached my August 15 move from a basement apartment to a fourth floor high-rise.  I didn’t want to doubt the validity of The Rotten Hop, the world’s most trusted beer news source….after all, if it says it on the internet it must be true.   However, I’ve often questioned this American tradition:  a bunch of friends give up their lazy Scooby-Doo watching Saturday to spend 10 hours hauling my huge chairs up four flights of stairs in 100 degree August Nebraska heat for a Pabst Blue Ribbon?

Sweet Jesus…Not my friends.

My friends are diverse in their food and beverage preferences. I’ve got my Zen-loving Vegan pals who would be vying for some green leaf VitaMix concoction…or my sommelier friend who would be looking for a fine glass of Kim Crawford Chardonnay, unoaked.  I also have AA friends, who I would never disrespect their commitment to abstinence from alcohol by offering beer as a thank you…and lastly the Irish. Oh yeah…my Irish friends always think beer is a good idea but if I amortize one beer over a ten-hour move, I’m putting a buck value on the time of my priceless friends.  No thanks…

Call me the last of the big spenders, but I paid real money for professional movers.

My friend Greg told me to look into Firefighters on the Move, and without googling a bunch of Yelp references, I called Matt and hired the team.  Call me crazy for not thoroughly investigating the matter, but my dad taught me so many things default to character;  Omaha firefighters are the cream of the character crop, and I knew I could trust men who rush in to save a life when the world rushes out.

Obviously I didn’t need their life-saving skills…but I needed their life-moving skills.  In the last six years I downsized my girl’s personal possessions, my own life of 25 years and a 7200 square foot home, and finally possessions surrounding the estate of both my Mom and my Dad.  Two years ago when my property landed at Jason and Sondra’s, I was to begin sorting through the last remnants, but my best laid plans diverted me to time with Dad as he navigated through hospice.  Dusty boxes waited. Quote

I needed Firefighters On the Move to come in, grab my life, and move me to the next place.  At ‘the next place’ I will sort through the last remnants of Megan’s life, organize those hundreds of photos from the Wonder Years of Megan and Ryan and assess how I wanted to streamline furniture in my new apartment where writing is the top priority.  I clearly outlined the parameters of the move to Matt, and Firefighters on the Move delivered.

I also must say that I desperately needed to return to the privacy of my life.  Face it…we are people of curiosity.  I’m included.  If my friends would spill open the contents of my underwear drawer, I didn’t need a symphony of conversation that included, “You wear Batman underwear?” or “Why are you keeping Megan’s kindergarten dress?” or “This is cute, where did you get it?”  I have nothing to hide, but there are hidden recesses of everyone’s heart that shouldn’t be open game for commentary at the price of a cheap brewski.

The cherry on the cake is that Firefighters on the Move are everything you imagined in handsome public servants.  They come as a team with names ranging from Eric to Scott to Hunter to Zane.  They represent every ethnicity from handsome Scott to tall drink of chocolate, Eddie.  They are all very different, but maintain the same strength of character and calmness found in every firefighter.

Firefighters on the Move…forged in the fire of AWESOME!  Thank you for getting me to the next place.  Let my writing begin…

Key Notes:

  • Don’t believe me?  Here are seven reasons to hire a professional mover.
  • Ten traits all great firefighters have:

On a Lighter Note:

  • Are you a caregiver that needs that magic feeling of caregiver powers. Target has you covered in their batman department:  Batman underwear
  • This is just too flipping good to be true!  Grab that old pasta to feed your movers!  Give your movers the leftover pasta!
  • The blog, states that Movers are for people who don’t have friends.  Err…maybe?  I guess I just want to keep the few remaining friends I have.
]]> 3
Dear Easter Girl, Mon, 21 Apr 2014 02:10:12 +0000 Costume - EasterMy dear Easter Girl,

Clyde the Cat ate the Easter Bunny.  I hate to inform you that it happened in the eight o’clock hour last night.  The back door opened to let your King Charles Spaniel out, and there was Peter Cottontail laying on the patio deck like road kill.  The death of the Easter Bunny was confirmed tonight when I saw shopping carts full of multi-colored peeps in the Hyvee clearance aisle;  undelivered edibles, all hoping for tomorrow’s 75%-off Bunny Rescue program.

I miss you, Easter girl.  It was on my heart to send you a note on January 27, your 33rd Birthday.  My intent was to purchase six icy pink balloons and release them up toward heaven, but the day was met with 55 mile-an-hour winds and Wizard of Oz debris flying everywhere. When I told Sondra my sentimental plan she said, “Those balloons would end up in Mexico!”  I told her I was just hoping for heaven.

As I cross the six-year anniversary since your Easter Sunday passing, I must say that I have absolutely no idea as to your whereabouts, other than heaven; I tell myself in my mind that it’s like you are on an extended trip to Europe, only farther and better.  I would say that you are worry free, but my guess is your horror echoed across the cosmos the day your old Mom bought that peace symbol belt buckle.  I’m sure by now some heavenly informant has told you I’ve been eyeing a pair of retro clogs…exactly like the ones I wore in eighth grade…and if those grommet belts with the Tandy Leather fringe come back in style,

Sweet Jesus…I’m in!

I think I’ve now exhausted every possible memorial option.  That first year I did have that little table full of photos of you.  Jose was so very kind to send me flowers the 23rd of every month for 12 solid months.  I faithfully arranged them like a little shrine, candles included.  My guess is if I still had my little statue of Michelangelo’s Pieta from my junior high visit to the famous masterpiece, I would have artfully arranged that with your photos, too.  I was grateful for Jose’s generous gift, but equally thankful that the seasons of grief changed.

It was onward and upward to body piercing.  You know all about your momoushka getting your single diamond stud pierced into the cartilage of my top left ear;  enormous pomp and circumstance included.  The seasons changed again and last fall in the quiet of a lunch break alone, I went back to Jon at Drunken Sailor to have a second double pierce put in my left ear lobe to match the double pierce from the old rebellious Tulane days.  My theory was that I could then wear two pairs of your earrings at the same time, in loving memory of you.  I told Jon that I’d been contemplating a nose pierce for several years running (in your memory, of course…).  He told me when I was ready he would do it free of charge since your mom is a frequent flyer at his humble establishment.  I did have a moment of clarity this month when I realized that with double piercings in two ear lobes, and one cartilage pierce, I have five holes in my head.  And you know your Barbara Bush mom…I just wouldn’t want to look trashy!

As far as tattoos, your dad and brother seemed to have cornered that market…and I have refrained from the memorial tattoo.  It was a momentary consideration when I saw a tattoo on the back of someone’s neck that looked like a keyhole.  I don’t remember whether it was Joe or Cherie, but one of them said, “you don’t need another hole in your head!”  As I type this my vote is Cherie said that, who has been my daughter-in-waiting in your absence….though Joe would not be far behind her in holding your mom back from insanity.

Tattoos rarely cross my mind, since as a calligrapher I know the property of ink and its propensity to feather into a hot mess when skin and water are involved.  But just a few weeks ago I read

In French you don’t really say “I miss you, you say, “Tu me masques” which means “You are missing from me.”

I love that…you are missing from me and for a brief second I imagined it inked on my wrist in stunning calligraphy.  But that momentary glee was dispelled by the knowledge of a chorus of friends chanting, “What the heck were you thinking?”  So no tattoos, today. 

Somewhere in the last year, my Baboushka, I realized that the best memorial to you is a life well lived.  I don’t know when and where I official got myself up from the deep fog of grief, but gradually, ever so slowly, I did.  For eight months running I’ve been studying night and day, doing all that I can to renew a 57-year-old life.  In that four a.m. hour, when your mom used to wake up with the terror and loneliness of night closing in, I now flip open my dad’s iPad and cruise on over to for yet another Adobe Suite tutorial.  The end goal is not to win Photoshop Jeopardy, but to rebuild my life and career, and possess the computer skills that can take an idea in your mom’s head (which does not have too many holes in it) and translate it to stationery.

My Easter Girl

In those countless hours we had before your death, I did take notes on what you wanted;  cards that said something other than “Get Well Soon.”  You told me you wanted people to tell you that you were fierce, and Fierce girl is at the foundation of my stationery line that will launch within hours of this posting.  She is a whole story in herself.

But it is now the 9 p.m. hour on Easter Sunday, Earth time.  You are missing from me. I lack the energy to write a brilliant blog, and I am at a loss to say anything else tonight other than, “A life resurrected from grief and pain is our Easter story.”

My life no longer stands still, but races toward you.  Oh, may I make you proud.


P.S.  I ate some peeps in your memory.




]]> 3
No Soliciting at the Mausoleum Mon, 16 Sep 2013 01:33:09 +0000 NoSolicitingIt was on my list to drive to the cemetery sometime this month to view the final engraved stones for Mom and Dad and pay my private respects.  Last week I felt I could delay it no longer, and put it on my ‘to do’ list for the week.

It should come as no surprise that my dad, the architect, chose to be buried in a mausoleum.  The designer in him wanted a magnificent architectural structure.   As far as Mom was concerned, well…she never much cared for the heat and the idea of luxurious eternal air conditioning was quite appealing.

I bravely ventured out last Sunday, and was surprised that there was not a human in site as my car crept around the winding and hilly roads.  I arrived at the swanky half-moon driveway and covered entrance with an unsettled feeling.  It’s not that I buy into the possibility of a Zombie Apocalypse, but there was something eerie about being the only live person right smack in the center of the huge burial grounds.   I was just way to alone for the outing and did not exit the car.  Instead, I quickly glanced at the door and told myself that the facility was closed, but not without noticing the “No Soliciting” sign.

“No Soliciting?”  I thought as I quickly exited the cemetery.  “Is there like an office in there where people come in and try to sell all kinds of paraphernalia for the grieving?  That is just wrong on every level.”

Somehow I couldn’t shake that sign through the week, and my internal dialogue continued.  “Well, if they are there for old Dad, it’s going to be a tough sell unless its Big Lots or Costco.”

“No Soliciting?  Well, you’d have to be a really good salesman to sell to that crowd.”

Finally, I stopped my stand-up comedy routine, and decided I’d just ask the grounds keeper upon my return.

Friday I ventured over again, calling ahead to confirm their hours.

When I made my entrance to the mausoleum I discovered that the sign that I had quickly glanced at and then obsessed over for a week actually said, “Please, no pets or smoking in the facility.”

Where oh where did I get the “No Soliciting” idea?  My dear friend Joe told me it was because on my first pass through I just didn’t want to go.

Sweet Jesus…grief blinds us.

The depth of my being must have known the gravity of the moment before me.  To see Mom and Dad’s names and dates chiseled in marble until the end of ages made me sit down in the luxurious air-conditioned chapel and sob.

A wise friend told me months ago that when you lose your parents you feel like an orphan, regardless of age.  Having helped coordinate three funerals in the last five-year, I thought I would be immune to the emotions that flooded me on Friday.

Just when I think I have it all wrapped up in the world of caregiving, life catches me off guard.  If you are planning to make the trek to graveside of a loved one for the first time, post funeral, take a friend with you.

And that, dear reader, is my unsolicited advice.

Key Notes:

  • This little vignette story is why Mom thought reading was an important life skill, and tried to get me to pay better attention.  Growing up I was banned from all Zombie Apocalypse television viewing.  However, I consider “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” to be really scary stuff, and I’m still pretty afraid of the flying monkeys in Wizard of Oz.
  • In spite of my emotional outburst, I had a wonderful and productive week at work.  Also, Put Up Your Umbrella (which is chapter after chapter of unsolicited advice) is moving right along.

On a Lighter Note:

  • I would thoroughly enjoy my readers scripting this portion of my blog.  Your hilarious comments are most welcome!
]]> 7
Still Standing Fri, 06 Sep 2013 20:45:38 +0000 June 21, 2013 - C. Phelphs Photography
June 21, 2013 – C. Phelphs Photography

My new writer/blog cards are ready for press.  I came up with the new tag line wit in writing,  and I thought I was such a clever girl for concocting it.  Two ‘w’s’ in three words!  Give that woman a Rhodes Scholarship!

But there is no witty way to write the news.  On June 14, 2013, my dad, Charles A. Wilscam, Jr., died at the full age of 85 after a 20 year courageous (and victorious) battle with Chronic Lymphomatic Leukemia.

In March of this year I placed writing and so many other things on hold to help care for Dad.  He was the third immediate family member to enter Hospice in five years.

But here I am with my handsome son…still standing.

Thank you for standing with us.

Valerie Bosselman

]]> 7
The Sound and Smell of Starbucks Sun, 24 Mar 2013 04:54:54 +0000 gift cardMarch 23, 2013 started with the sound of Sondra’s footsteps clacking across the upstairs bamboo floor.  Though she is just five feet tall, she moves through life as a force to contend with from early morning until midnight.  Seven days a week, the rhythm of her footsteps wakes me up and echoes to my soul that there are things to do and a life to be lived.

The rat-a-tat-tat of her gait also signals that she is moving toward the coffee machine to push the start button on our morning elixir.

Sweet Jesus…I can smell it now!

I knew today was rolling when the coffee was brewing.  Within minutes a smile came over my face as I pressed my favorite mug in to release ten full ounces of heaven.  There is just nothing quite like the sound of liquid adrenaline rushing into your cup.  And what compares to the smell of fresh brewed coffee?  As I filled the cup with Starbucks Medium House Blend, my mental list of activities began to form.

Transfer Starbucks birthday gift cards to one card and buy two pounds of coffee in order to earn two $5.00 additional Starbucks gift cards…Offer expires March 24…

Immediately following the caffeine jump-start, I hopped onto the internet highway and zoomed to to register my cards.

It’s convenient that I live with two seasoned addicts.  My extensive coffee training from my former part-time job at Sur La Table has certainly paid off.  From burr grinding the beans to loading the water and filter system, I am now the official caffeine Sommelier in this household.  I’m also in charge of carefully monitoring the half and half inventory, ensuring that the half-gallon container never dips below the pint level.  That’s a lot of pressure in Nebraska, especially since I have to carefully calculate, “What if there is a snow storm and the four-wheel drive vehicle can’t make an emergency run to the grocery store?”  And God forbid that we would run out of Starbucks Medium House Blend beans and be forced to drink Folgers.  That would be Armageddon.

What is with my new addiction?  Before arrival at the Gerber household, I had divorced myself from coffee and diet soda.  It was an amicable split, prompted by a certain health consciousness that avoids artificial sweeteners;  I also maintained the notion that caffeine contributed to my sleeplessness.  It was puzzling to think why I had been lured back to the dark side of roasted beans.

Today as I sorted through the minutia of my mind (that’s what writer’s do), it dawned on me that I had unconsciously associated coffee with many of my worst memories surrounding cancer care.  In retrospect, I was personally escorted by a big styrofoam cup of Joe to way to many five a.m. hospital rounds.  The beverage become an ulcer in a cup, not a life experience at a trendy location with smart people and their laptops.  Coffee was a necessary commodity to keep my eyes peeled open.  What was I thinking in those night hours when I poured a tank full of leftover sludge?  I can still see my pitiful self swishing those grinds in the bottom of a burnt pot, hoping they would mix into something more appealing.

I maintained my coffee moratorium those first days in my new apartment.  But then as the smell wafted down the stairs along with the echo of laughter at their kitchen table I was lured up into the temptation.  The Starbucks experience also overflows to the Saturday trips to Target, with a quick hello to the favorite Barista and Sondra’s Venti-Triple Shot-Three Pump-Vanilla Latte-Extra Hot Starbucks tagging along as we cruise up and down the aisles.

March 23 marked five years (half a decade) since my girl died.  My life is just so very different than I imagined.  The book “Transcending Loss” writes

…once you accept that you are forever changed and that life is forever different, you have to ask, “What are you going to do about that fact?”

My answer?  Make mine a Venti Carmel Macchiato.

Key Notes:

  • The reality is that Starbucks is just serving me coffee.  Sondra & Company are serving friendship and relationship.
  • Memories can shift.  I no longer smell coffee and think, “Count me out.”  Instead the aroma makes me think, “Don’t leave me out.”

On A Lighter Note:

  • Think Starbucks is too expensive?  We are home brewers.  The average 1 lb. bag yields 30-40 cups of coffee.  With my $5.00 gift card today on a 1 lb. bag, cost per bag is $7.00.  On the low end, $7.00 divided by 30 is .233333 cents per cup.  A soda at your average fast food restaurant is $1.25.
  • When your whole bean bag of Starbucks coffee is empty, you can return it to Starbucks for one free coffee.

Quote of the Day:


]]> 9
The Business of Bathrooms Sat, 23 Feb 2013 22:18:02 +0000 Barbie BirthdayI’m just not a big fan of public restrooms. Roadside gas station latrines are at the top of my *eew* list.  I still don’t understand the ceremony of going t0 a surly cashier to ask permission for an obscenely giant-sized key that unlocks the outside door-around-the-corner.  Why d0 they lock up a room where the toilets are never flushed and surfaces never mopped?  And who knows what goulash things transpire beneath a bed of haphazardly strewn toilet paper?  Every time I see the Mobil Oil Gas Station winged red horse, Pegasus, I gag a little.

I do come by my germa-phobe mindset honestly.  During my preschool years, Mom would preface my journey into a public restroom by briefing me on unknown filth. Upon arrival, she would take me into a stall with clear instructions on how to put toilet paper over each side of the seat if pull-out paper toilet covers were not available.  The fear of God Almighty loomed as to my fate should the T.P. fall into the stool and my skin make contact with the shiny porcelain.  As Mom helped me shut and lock the monster-size swinging door, she would tell me to resist the temptation to poke my head under the stall to meet my neighbors.  Left alone to my own devices, I’d lower my head just enough to check out the shoes on either side of me.  With great care, I’d pull my prissy dress and ruffled slip away from waters’ edge, as I attempted to perfectly lower my bum down on the precariously protected surface.  That’s a lot of pressure when your five, especially if you have to stand on tip-toe just to get up on the throne.  Public peeing was a pain in the watuski.

After our extreme toilet paper routine, hand-washing was a given.  I soaped up because mom said so.  When I became a mom, it was a natural for me to encourage Megan and Ryan to scrub-a-dub-dub.

By the time my daughter entered second grade hand hygiene was taught in public schools, and Megan’s delightful teacher encouraged students to sing the Happy Birthday song as they washed away.  While this concept is endorsed by the U.S. government website, I had never heard of the ritual; but Megan jumped on that band wagon, and hummed the Happy song into her adult life.

Hand-washing became all out war when Megan began chemotherapy.  As white blood counts hovered just above zero, clean living was part of the healthcare protocol that helped ensure my girl would see another day…another birthday. Think I’m exaggerating that detail?

Imagine a woman who is just getting over the stomach flu.  E-coli and other bacteria lives in the gut, and when doing her ‘business’ it is expelled from her bowels.  If she wipes and fails to wash her hands, she puts herself in harm’s way to ingest it again.  But never mind her personal choice.  And never mind that you saw her $900 Christian Louboutin heels when you peeked under the stall….When she flits by the faucets, her hands carry disease and everything she touches puts the next woman in that territory at risk for the same infection.

If you are in chemotherapy, among the elderly, or have a compromised immune system, the flu can take your life.  Mayo Clinic website clearly states:

A low white blood cell count (leukopenia) leaves your body more open to infection.  And if an infection does develop, your body may be unable to fight it off.

Wednesday, February 27th is my birthday.  Rest assured, I’ll be washing my hands to help ensure another year.  And should I need to use a public restroom at the mall, I’ll sing a few choruses of Happy Birthday for my girl, and for ever woman, young and old, that follows behind me.

Sweet Jesus…I’ll be 56.

Valerie Bosselman

Right-Wing Handwashing Advocate

Key Notes:
  • As a mom, and a caregiver, I’ve cleaned up my share of bodily fluids.  Given the choice, I prefer a private restroom to public facilities.
  • It’s not ‘mind your own business’ when you are doing your business.  Your decisions behind the locked door and at the faucet affect everyone around you.
  • The number one way to prevent disease and infection is to wash your hands.  It’s not a shot.  It’s not an antibiotic.  It’s not a vitamin.  It’s not chemotherapy.  It’s the simple truth that hand washing with soap prevents a host of diseases.
  • Dr. Caitlin Foxley wraps it up in a few words.  “Wash wash wash!  But…. Don’t use antibacterial soap because that breeds antibiotic resistance. Just use soap.  Not washing your hands, especially after using the restroom, leads to the spread of disease.  It can spread nasty things like Hepatitis A and Norwalk virus.”
  • Tired of Happy Birthday To You?  Yankee Doodle Dandy is a suitable replacement.  The goal is for 20 full seconds of soapy friction.

On a Lighter Note:

  • I’m pictured above wringing (not washing) my hands at age 2.  If we’re really honest, a head erupting from a perfectly normal cake is a bit disturbing.
  • When traveling, I always default to McDonalds for their consistently clean bathrooms across the country.
  • To some of my friends SOAP is a four letter word.  Because of my handwashing tirade, they now either:
    • 1.  Wash their hands.
    • 2.  Pretend to wash their hands, in fear of someone like me confronting them.
  • My dear Aunt Mags, who worked in Infection Control at Wilford Hall US Air Force Medical Center (1992-1996) and Coordinated study of community prevalence of VRE (Vancomycin Resistant Enterococcus) for the Dept. of Infectious Diseases at Air Force VA and University of Texas Health Science Center, does stop women who do not wash their hands in public restrooms.  As she is washing her hands she will say,  “Hold the door open please!  I just washed my hands and you did not.  It’s your decision not to wash, but its my decision to not want to touch the door after you.
  • I asked Dr. Foxley if she uses toilet paper seat covers?  Her candid response was “Depends on how skanky the restroom is.

On a Final Note:

Where was this modern invention when I was five?

]]> 11