30 June 2015

Managing stress and finding purpose – are they connected?

Getting outdoors was one of our favorite ways to manage the stress of Hubby’s cancer. In central Oregon, we laced up hiking boots and strapped on snowshoes. Here in southern California, it’s bike riding. Niece Heidi is visiting for the weekend, and one of the first things we did was hop on our bikes (not that Heidi is causing me any stress).


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24 June 2015

The Great Recycler

I once read a quote that referred to God as the great Recycler. Joan Wester Anderson writes this about the main character, Agnes, in the book Dear James:

Soon she will understand … that God is the great Recycler, that none of our experiences are ever wasted, and that he will make the wholeness of a new life out of broken pieces of the old—as long as we are willing to offer those pieces to him.

Perhaps this resonated with me because I love taking old junk and turning it into cool new stuff. Like this new table top. Made from 1×6’s that my new friend Debbie and I glued to an almost-eight-foot door we found at ReStore, and set atop the old dining table.


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18 June 2015

Does it really take a village?

For the past six weeks, I’ve been chauffeur, cook, homework whip-cracker, ballet grandma, baseball cheerleader and mixed martial arts manager (if manager means getting Black Belt Girl to and from practices and competitions).


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And while I held down the fort with the three American grandchildren, Daughter Summer and SIL Josh were in Uganda dealing with the process of bringing home three brothers.

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14 June 2015

How to make this day count

A year ago this month Hubby began radiation. Cancer was spreading. To bones. To bladder. To liver.


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One of the things I think I did well for Hubby in his declining months was to set aside projects—which isn’t natural for this project-oriented girl—and simply be present for him. Reading companionably together. Playing Words with Friends. Trying new recipes to entice him to eat. Coaxing him outdoors.

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31 May 2015

Effectively using the widow (or cancer) card

One warm sunny day, I was trying to hose off the back deck and sweep it. At the same time. Not easy with just two hands.

Me: “Hon, can you hold the hose while I sweep?”

Hubby: “I can’t. I have cancer.”

This is the perfect example of how not to use your card. In case you’re wondering, the cancer card officially expired in our home that day.

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26 May 2015

Making memories. Because life is short

One of the things cancer taught us was the importance of living now while there is a now. And so we took up hiking and snow-shoeing. And we established a non-profit and wrote for grant funding. And everywhere we traveled to speak, we planned side trips.

Presenting to audiences in Vermont, Connecticut and Maine sent us venturing the back country roads of New England. In Florida, we explored around Palm Beach and across Alligator Alley to Tampa Bay. Speaking in Denver took us up to Estes Park and hiking in the Rockies.


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Hubby says this is why he makes me hike in front

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21 May 2015

How to bless the bereaved

It was the news of yet another cancer death this week that made me think of the incredibly kind people who reached out to us when Hubby was dying. So, what to do for the bereaved or for those who are keeping vigilance as a loved one is dying?


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Here are some ideas from all the thoughtful, helping-us-fight-cancer, creative, would-do-anything-for-us people in our lives:

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18 May 2015

What’s the big deal about gratitude?

I’m exhausted. Head-achy exhausted. And it’s not just because I’m up at 5:30am to get The Boy to school for an all-day field trip; it’s not because of the thought of his 8-10pm baseball game tonight; it’s because we’re into Week Four of single parenting. These three precious grandchildren. I want to be their grandma and not their parent.

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15 May 2015

Conversations every couple should have

A year ago this month, we met with Dr. Maunder, a palliative care physician. One of his jobs was to help Hubby complete a POLST form (Practitioner Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment). In the course of the conversation, Dr. Maunder asked him this: “What most concerns you?”

Hubby pointed at me and said, “Leaving her.”

And so that next Saturday, Hubby announced that he was going to spend the day teaching me how to survive. I learned how to do our banking online, including how to deposit a check using my phone camera. Hubby taught me how to use my phone’s GPS system.


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And he pulled out a large pipe wrench for lessons on unclogging the bathroom sink. I gave him my best raised-eyebrow look, whereupon he put the pipe wrench away.

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12 May 2015

What are your gifts and why should you use them?

One of our cancer team members was *finding meaning.* And one of the ways we established meaning and purpose was by sharing our story with various audiences across the country.

But here’s the irony: Hubby would have paid to not have to get up in front of people and speak. Jon Acuff, in his book Quitter: Closing the Gap Between Your Day Job and Your Dream Job, wrote:

If you admit that there is a chance that you are good, perhaps even great at something, you should feel a little uncomfortable. Because if your gift is not nothing, that means it is something. And a gift that is something is always a little terrifying.

Doing nothing—putting your feet up on the coffee table and watching other people lead extraordinary lives—is so much more comfortable than using your gifts.

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About Me

Hello, my name is Marlys Johnson. I’m an author, speaker, blogger. Cancer widow. Outdoor lover. Would rather lace up hiking boots than go shopping. I have a passion for repurposing old junk into cool new stuff. And an even greater passion for showing people how to navigate through the challenging things of life.

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