Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Blessed Christmas Season...

29 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year... NOT ENOUGH TIME!  We thought we finally had a year to enjoy the holidays... Chris decided NOT to play basketball this year, meaning NO pre-season holiday tournaments.  So... we made plans... then, mid December, Chris was asked by the coach to reconsider and join the team... and Chris said yes... needless to say, with as much as we enjoy Basketball season, we were DOUBLE scheduled... trying to get Chris to practices and games while we had plans... but we love Chris and our OGHS Patriots, so... here we go again!!!

This short Christmas season seemed a bit odd... we missed our annual Christmas light drive AND we didn't do any baking.  BUT, we did several new things!  We took Anna to see "The Nutcracker" at the Center for the Arts and saw the "Tree Lighting" at the Center (with the Christmas Angel on stilts and SNOW with friend, Julian!) 

We had a blast at the Progressive Dinner with our OGHS friends... it was a PJ party this year... yes, even the guys wore their PJ's!  (For the record... the photo of the boys was at the START of the night... the photo of the gals was at our house... we had the main course... and we had all had a "few" cocktails... too bad we weren't having any fun!)

We enjoyed dinner party after dinner party with friends Lynda and Phil and we TOTALLY LOVED our night with new friends Daniella and Alex and Daniella's parents (Joseph & Goldie from Slovakia) and their homemade Kapustnica (traditional Slovak Christmas soup with sausage, mushrooms, & sauerkraut.... YUM!)... and the Slovak braided cheese and cookies.... OH YEAH!

We went to Disneyland for the first time during Christmas and saw it snow on Main Street and at "It's A Small World!"  

The Christmas parade was so fun and we saw SANTA!  

Oh, and Sleeping Beauty's Castle... spectacular!!!  It was a PERFECT "get away day!"  

Jeff and I also helped with Anna's Kindergarten Christmas Pajama party... YES... they were actually allowed to have a "Christmas" party ... (don't get me started about having to be PC in Kindergarten...!)  It was a fun little party with lots of junk food, sweets, and treats.  I was even able to run a little Christmas Triva game with the class... the kids LOVED it!!! 

Christmas Eve was scheduled to be the same as past years... Jeff got up early to "go to the office" and was out for hours Christmas shopping for me... Mom and Dad arrived around noon... we had lunch... went to Aunt Sarah and Uncle Dave's house for a cocktail before church (COME ON... we are Irish Catholics, after all!)... headed home after church so Mom and I could make food for the next day while everyone else watched the original "Grinch"... write a letter for Santa... put out fresh baked cookies and egg nog for Santa and celery for the reindeer... take some pictures of Anna in front of the tree in her PJ's... read "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" and get the kids in bed.  (Actually, the teens were with their boy/girl friend families and got home around midnight).  Then, as the house quieted down and we all went to bed, Jeff stayed up (to wrap my gifts) and watch "It's A Wonderful Life!"  One of our FAVORITE movies!  Finally, Santa arrived to create the MAGIC of Christmas! 

It was a GREAT holiday with our family and friends.  We are sooooo blessed!  I hope you enjoy these photos and have a wonderful holiday with your family!!!

 Oh... and did I tell you HOW MUCH Dad loves "little" 6-month old Abby!? 
Dad LOVES getting kisses from the dog that "can't hold her licker..." 
My Dad is soooooo darn cute!!! ;-)

Abby was SOOOOO CUTE during her first Christmas! 
She even learned how to open her presents!!!

Thursday, December 17, 2009


YEP!  TODAY IS THE DAY that we have been awaiting for 5 YEARS!!!  The term, "cancer free" has been floating around for years... was he "cancer free" after his surgery when they took it all out?  Was he "cancer free" after chemo?  Was he "cancer free" after his first clear colonoscopy?  We thought the answer was "yes" after each of those milestones, but... TECHNICALLY... OFFICIALLY... FOR REAL THIS TIME... JEFF IS CANCER FREE TODAY!

The journey that we started 5 years ago changed our lives... there were really, really bad and dark times... but there were also very uplifting, loving, and hysterically funny times.  There were moments that we didn't think it could get any worse, followed almost immediatly by a wink, or a gentle hand squeeze, or the look that Jeff and I give each other when nobody else exists in the world... it is just us... together... in perfect love... knowing that things would be alright. 

Several years ago I wrote about the first few hours after diagnosis... some of you have read it and some have not.  On this very special day, I thought this would be a perfect time to remember... and to reflect on how blessed we are!!!

Dedicated to the unlikely star of the story,
my love, my Sweetheart, my best friend,
my hero, my husband, Jeff.

Snickerdoodles, peanut butter, sugar cookies and spritz cookies…that should finish off our holiday baking. Go on a city drive of Christmas lights. Buy a pair of jeans to match the pink sweater for Jessica. Spend an afternoon in Julian and get hot apple cider. Finish wrapping gifts.

It was December 17th, 2004 and a week before Christmas. I was sitting in the waiting area of the Gastroenterology Department of Scripps Green Hospital writing my list of last minute Christmas ‘To Dos.’ Anna Grace, then six months old, was waiting with me for Daddy to be done with his colonoscopy. Jeff hadn’t been feeling well and hadn’t been eating very much. As he was preparing for the colonoscopy, he told me he was craving a Double-Double from In-N-Out. I promised I would take him there as soon as his procedure was over.

“Mrs. Locher?” Dr. Nodurft was standing in front of me. “May I have a word with you?”

He guided me through a door that led to the examination rooms. I walked down the hallway, pushing Anna’s stroller in front of me. All morning, the nurses that walked by Anna had stopped and made some comment about how cute she was or how happy. There were two nurses standing in the doorway of an exam room, waiting for Anna’s stroller to pass by in the little hallway. This time the nurses didn’t look at Anna. They looked me in the eye. They didn’t smile. They looked down at the floor. For a split second, things started moving in slow motion. Could there be a problem with Jeff? As the cold fingers of dread started twisting in my stomach, I calmly reminded myself that Jeff was 44 years old, in great health, and in good shape. I knew I was being led to the transition room where my slightly drugged up husband would be waiting for me, right? Everything would be fine! Everything would be fine!

I wasn’t led to the transition room, but a small exam room. There wasn’t room for the stroller, so I left it outside and carried Anna in. Dr. Nodurft entered the room with us and another doctor followed behind us. The room seemed to be filled by the exam table and I remember how white the paper liner looked on the table. Did I say the room was small? That feeling of slow motion was starting again and I had a bad feeling. There couldn’t possibly be anything wrong with Jeff. Don’t doctors give you bad news in their private office, or in a family waiting room…or in a private, small exam room…

NO! I was cuddling our beautiful baby girl…Jeff waited so long to become a Daddy…nothing could stop him from watching his children grow up…from walking his daughters down the aisle…to watching his son become a father and passing the family name to the next generation…why were they just standing there? But, I knew the answer, didn’t I!?

“As you know, your husband was here today for a colonoscopy. He has been bleeding internally and we needed to find the source of the blood. We found a tumor…” I tried to concentrate on the next words coming from Jeff’s doctor, but I seem to have gone deaf.

“I guess I won’t be taking Jeff to In-N-Out.” I told the doctor about my earlier promise. I smiled and was silent. He seemed to know that I needed a moment to process reality.

I was standing there, holding Anna. I was dizzy and darkness was creeping in from the sides of my eyes. Shouldn’t the doctor take Anna from me so I don’t drop her? I sat down in the only chair in the room.

I knew what my next question was going to be, but how would I ask it? I started my question several times, but only uttered a few disconnected words… “Is…will…it’s not…he can’t be…Jeff is not terminal…” came out more as a shaky statement than a question.

Dr. Nodurft explained we wouldn’t know anything without more tests and until the pathology was completed on the specimen that would be collected during surgery. We talked a bit more and I was told that Jeff was still out and wouldn’t be ready for me for awhile. The good doctor suggested a nice, quiet spot outside by the reflection pond where I could make some phone calls. He assured me he would come get me when Jeff was awake and ready for a visit.

I sat down by the pond. Nobody was around but the coffee cart barista. I don’t know what the temperature was, but I was cold and shivering. Anna was so quiet…almost as if she knew what was happening. She just looked at me as tears flowed down my face.

I remember thinking of a line from one of my favorite TV shows, Lost. Jack, the young doctor character, explained that in order to deal with the emotional situations related to his work, he would allow himself to give into his fear/pain/grief for a count of ten. Then he would take a deep breath and concentrate on what had to be done to rectify the situation. I slowly counted to 10, took that all important deep breath and called my Mom.


“Mom?” I could barely get the word out.

“What’s going on?” Her voice was shaking by the end of her question. She knew where I was.

“They found cancer…” came out in one gush of breath, as if I had been punched in the stomach.

Mom was sobbing by the time she finished her “Oh my God!”

I gave her the limited information that I had. “They don’t know how bad…Jeff is being admitted…surgery tomorrow…Jeff doesn’t know yet…”

I guess Mom knew the “10-second Fear Rule” because she was quickly down to business.

“I will call your Dad and get him home…”

“You don’t have to pull him out of work,” I inserted because I knew Dad had used all his vacation time for the year.

“I can tell you that he will not be able to work after he hears this news. I will pack while he gets home and we will be there as soon as possible.” She already had a plan for getting Anna from me at the hospital, picking up Jessica and Christian from school, and staying at our house with the kids as long as we needed. Isn’t that what Moms do best? They take care of business when their kids need them!

The next call was to our church. I knew Jeff would want Father Jim to pray with us before the surgery. I requested Jeff be added to the parish prayer chain. Both requests were granted.

Next, Jeff’s Dad. The receptionist was telling me Jeff’s Dad was out of the office just as Jeff’s doctor walked up. “Jeff is awake and ready to see you.” I would track down Jeff’s Dad after I had a chance to see Jeff.

Anna and I were led to the transition room. I knew my eyes were swollen from crying, but my “10-seconds of Fear” were over (actually, by that time, I was up to about 40 seconds) and I was going to be strong for my incredible husband.

I could hear the beeping of the medical machines from all the patients hiding behind their privacy curtains. I could hear the nurses’ shoes squeaking on the floor. I could smell that unmistakable scent of “hospital.” Our eyes met. I was strong. He looked like he was still out of it. Everything else faded away. My grasp tightened on Anna’s stroller. There was a long pause, smiles from both of us, and almost simultaneously we both said, “I guess we’re not going to In-N-Out.” He had been told. He reached for my hand. Our grasp was strong. Neither of us let go. So many questions. Not many answers. No guarantees. Yet, we both felt a slight feeling of calm, serenity, peace. The feeling was buried by the fear and sadness and questions and that “spiraling out of control” feeling, but it was there. You can call it what you want…denial, hope, naiveté…I call it faith. No matter how small that pinprick of a feeling was, we knew everything was going to be okay. Looking back, I can pinpoint that moment, that first look and coming together of husband and wife during a life-altering situation, as the moment that God stopped walking with us, but gathered us in His protective arms and carried us. Together.

Ironically, as I finish writing this story, I am sitting in a waiting room. Anna is asleep in her stroller. It is one year later and Jeff is having his first colonoscopy since going through surgery to remove the tumor, which came with a foot of large intestine, some small intestine, his appendix and 29 lymph nodes. He was diagnosed with Stage 3 colon cancer, has endured six months of chemotherapy, and two additional surgeries. He is still dealing with side effects from the chemo, but we know those will fade one day soon.

“You can come in now.” The nurse is standing at the recovery room door. I had been pretty calm until this moment. I thank the nurse and start pushing Anna toward the door. The nurse is smiling at me and commenting on how cute Anna is. Although I smile back, I think I have stopped breathing.

I hear machines beeping, nurses’ shoes squeaking on the floor, and recognize that antiseptic smell. There are five nurses walking around the room. They all smile at me and make cute comments about Anna. Jeff’s nurse leads me to his bedside. He appears to be asleep.

Jeff’s nurse hands me the report from Dr. Nodurft. The first thing I see is a happy face. The report reads, “Well done, Mr. Locher! Your colon is perfectly normal! Great news. Next colonoscopy is recommended in three years. Let me know when you get back to cycling and we should go sometime!”

A single tear is rolling down my face. “Thank God! Jeff is going to be fine!,” I enthusiastically say to the nurse. I look over at Jeff…he hasn’t moved…his eyes are closed… and he is smiling.

I love you, Sweetheart! Make it an INCREDIBLE day, Everyone!

Monday, December 14, 2009


WOW!!!  What a CRAZY weekend!  3 parties... 2 appetizers... decorating the tree (finally) and keeping 6 month old puppy Abby away from the ornaments... shopping... fixing the dishwasher (thank you, Sweetheart!)... making 2 handmade gifts... searching for (AND FINDING) the last part of the Zhu Zhu maze that we needed (WOOOO HOOOO!)... basketball tournament... AND the Rusty Pickle Blog Hop!!!  No wonder I woke up this morning in a fog... ;-)

I promised to post some pictures of my house decorations and here are a few of my favorites... I have fallen IN LOVE with fishing line and have used it to suspend ornaments from the ceiling above my front entry and from a branch that hangs over our dinning room table.  The entry is full of silver, dusty chocolate and warm gray, doves, glitter and snow.  Our dinning room is decorated with a tree branch (from our back yard), that is suspended above our table... the "curtain" of diamonds hanging from the branch is a perfect accent for Christmas as it picks up and glitters with the cool glow of candlelight and quick twinkle of little Christmas lights.  

I know I also promised to post our family Christmas card... well, it's designed in my head (and it looks GREAT!)... but it is not done yet, so you will have to check back!  I think you will like it... it is a "CARDLESS CHRISTMAS CARD!!!"  Wonder how I did it... come back and check it out!

THANK YOU so much for coming by for a visit and checking out my blog!  You have all given me such a BLESSED gift with your wonderful comments, that it is about time that I give something back!  Here is a picture of the RAKs for the random winners.  One of my new friends will get the "Snowflakes and Mittens" package with 12 sheets of paper, tag set, 2 albums, rubons and a package of buttons!!!  And one of my old friends will get the "White Christmas" package with 14 sheets of paper, 2 albums, rubons, buttons AND... because it pays to come back and visit... a set of my FAVORITE chipboard letters... the Random Alpha Set!  (Note for you new friends... you will be "old friends" for my next give-a-way, so be sure to keep checking back!!!)  AND THE WINNERS ARE... 

"OLD FOLLOWER"... Silvia who said... "I am one of your 65 followers :) stopping by to say fabulous LO and awesome ornaments!! Comgrats on your "Barbie" LO!!  December 11, 2009 2:29 PM

"NEW FOLLOWER"... Sandie who said... "I'm a new follower. Happily so. Love this inspiration! Thanks. Great looking art." December 13, 2009 9:16 AM

Congrats Silvia and Sandie!!!  Please email your mailing address to me at traceylocher@cox.net.  I hope you have fun with your new Christmas goodies!!! 

I hope you each have a FANTASTIC week and a very happy and SAFE holiday season!!!  Make it a WOOOOO HOOOOO kinda day!!! :-)

Friday, December 11, 2009

Rusty Christmas Blog Hop!

WELCOME and Merry Christmas!  If you are following along with the Rusty Pickle Blog Hop, you just saw the DARLING Christmas House by Chef, Cathleen.  I have been busy scrapping and decorating with the Rusty Pickle line, "White Christmas" this year!! 

The "Barbie Twins" layout was requested by Miss Mireia Camp Vila, Editor of a Spanish Magazine called, "Scrapate" and it will be published my Mireia later this month!  WOOOOO HOOOO!!!  I used little star embellishments and suspended them on fishing line so they would swing back and forth.  I also cut part of the swirls and holly accents out with my exacto knife and tucked the photo into those areas.

The second project I wanted to share with you are these handmade ornaments decorated with some of my favorite things... Rusty Pickle, flowers, buttons, ribbon and crystals!.  The first was filled with curled strips of paper, decorated with cream ribbons hanging on fishing line, swirled with some flowers and bling and finished with a few crystals.  The second ornament is filled with Rusty Pickle buttons and snow AND CRYSTALS... suspended INSIDE THE ORNAMENT on fishing line!!!  Add a few flowers, bling and more crystals and you have a quick and beautiful ornament!  Lastly, I took out my 3-hole punch and used the punches to fill the ornament.  I added snow and some fine glitter, ribbon and flowers and another quick and easy ornament. 

Now, for the fun stuff!!!  I have prizes for 2 of you!!!  Here's the deal to get a bit of Rusty Pickle Christmas Yumminess... RAK #1 is for those of you that are already my friends... if you are one of the original 65 followers of my blog and are back to check me out again, post a comment letting me know, and you will be entered into the drawing for RAK #1.  (And, did you notice some changes to my blog...?)

RAK #2 is open to all of you NEW FOLLOWERS to my blog!  Just sign up over to the right, and post a comment here on this post that you are a new follower and you will have a chance to win RAK #2. 

Winners will be chosen randomly on Monday, December 14th at 10AM, PST.  And, this time around, you do need to live here in the US to win...  And, YES... I will be posting pics of the RAKs for you to drool over... but you will have to come back for a peek!  I will also have pictures of some of my favorite holiday displays and my handmade family Christmas card to give you a bit more holiday inspiration!

THANK YOU for stopping by!  Next, you are off to see Chef, Kristi, and her fun Christmas project!  Let me know if you have any questions about the projects listed above!  I would be happy to share all the little details!  And, of course, I hope you have a wonderful, safe, and blessed Christmas Season!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Scrapping for Ever After (my LSS!)

I have been BUSY with the season, holiday plans, and scrapping!  Earlier this week, I was comissioned to create a custom piece for a funeral... I will have pics of that in a few days.  I am also working on my Design Team assignments for Ever After, my local scrapbook store.  As a designer, I am sometimes asked to use paper and/or products that I wouldn't chose for myself, but I still have to find a way to make them my own.  These layouts are two examples of that.  These lines by Creative Imagination and Teresa Collins are not exactly my style, but once I started playing with them, the final layouts were very much ME!  (And can you believe it... not a SINGLE flower!!!) :-)

The "Cheer Mates" layout is the Teresa Collins line... lots of fun papers and quotes.  I love the clock transparency and I used lots of layers (with chipboard and pop dots) to elevate some of the embellishments... helping the layout have movement and not just look "busy." 

The "OGHS Football" layout was created with the "Extreme Sports" line by Creative Imagainations.  I used part of the swirls from the "Football" paper to cut out stars for the left of the layout.  I backed all the stars with chipboard for extra stability.  The red stars were crumpled and then sprayed with Glimmer Mist.  The stars were then layered using pop dots and 3-D foam squares.  The epoxy is part of the CI line and the "OGHS" letters are new "Letterman Thickers."

Thanks for looking and have a GREAT weekend!!!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

For REAL this time... Christmas Card Photos...

I decided I didn't like the last picture that I took of the kids for our Christmas card... SO...  I took them down to the beach yesterday at sunset to take some more pics.  Here are some of my favorites, so now I just have to design the card and decide which picture(s) is/are going in.

I'm open to suggestions...