Friday, October 30, 2009

Hi, Friends,

Just a note to say that I'm able to write again, and hope to post some thoughts by Monday.

In addition to rose-smelling time with James, I forgot my laptop when we went to stay in Pomona last week. (I always forget something!)

I did have some good intercessory prayer time. Having seen it's great efficacy in our own situation, I am trying to be more faithful and consistent in interceding for others. I would particularly like to ask you to join me in praying for the situation mentioned in the first comment on the previous blog. A little 3 1/2 year old boy has been diagnosed with leukemia. How my heart goes out to this family! And my prayers go up for them.

Life is so very fragile. Attending therapy with Katherine at Casa Colina this week, my heart broke for some of the new patients there. I pray that they will be given the gift of HOPE in spite of their seemingly hopeless circumstances. Our own problems seem "light and temporary" in comparison to those.

We are all in the same lifeboat in a stormy sea, as Chesterton says, so let us love one another truly, from the heart.

Find some joy this weekend.

And share it.

Love, Kim

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Cast

In checking out the little counter thing at the bottom, I noticed that there have been more "first-time visitors" than usual. I wonder why that is?

Anyway, it dawned on me that, for someone just stopping by to check things out, it's like starting a novel in the middle of the 20th chapter.

Personally, I hate it when people pepper their conversation with unfamiliar names, assuming that the listener is clairvoyant. "I was talking to Henry the other day, and he said......" (Henry Who? What does Henry have to do with me or this conversation???) I realize that I was guilty of that offense in the "Split Second" post.

Because it is a little pet peeve of mine, I thought it might be a good idea to list the major cast members for any interested new-comers. Literally thousands of people have played a part in this story. Doctors, nurses, pastors, friends, relatives, strangers, and prayer warriors have all had vital roles.

But these are some of the primary players I might (rudely) reference without identification:


(Not necessarily in order of appearance)

Katherine Arnold Wolf--the heroine

Jay(aka Jason)--her husband

James--their adorable son

Brooks (“BigB”)--Katherine’s father

Kim (“Mimi”)--Katherine’s mother

Amie--the “Middle Sister”

Grace--the youngest Arnold sister

Dr. Jay (aka “Big J” and “Poppy”)--Jay III’s dad

Mary Ruth (“Honey”)--Jay III’s mother

Sarah--the oldest Wolf daughter

Jeremiah--her husband

Mary Austin--middle Wolf daughter

Alex--youngest Wolf daughter

Johnny--Jay’s 1st cousin who lives in LA

I do welcome those new to our family's story, and invite you to skim through some of the early posts from 2008 to learn more about how it all started, and how very far we've come since then. It has been an agonizing, but miraculous, journey so far.

And it is very far from over.


"Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, "Thus far has the Lord helped us." (I Samuel 7:12)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Smelling Roses

I have the enfant terrible all by myself in LA for a few days. (Having turned '2' last week, he now officially qualifies as terrible.) Our most precious, adorable little monster refuses to let me spend more than a few minutes on the Mac without getting jealous for my attention.

We are very busy making multiple messes and cleaning them up.

There is little time for anything else. So I've decided not to try.

We're just gonna stop and smell the roses. Walk around Westwood and look for signs of fall.

Just be for a few days. No expectations.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the flowers. I thought it was a good fall mix. (Trader Joe's, of course!)


p.s. Oh yes...I will be praying for all of you who have shared needs with me. So many people are going through such pain, trials, and hardships. Sometimes prayer is absolutely the most active thing you can do.

I'll be busy.

Monday, October 12, 2009

A Split Second

Sunday* was a good day.

Our nuclear family was reunited. We attended a wonderful service at BelAir Presbyterian. The sermon was on the parable of the prodigal son, which is my all-time favorite. The music was spectacular. We floated out on a happiness high.

Afterwards, we tried a new (for us) place in Brentwood for brunch. It was bright, chic, and elegant. The food was fabulous. We were joined by good friends Melissa and Hayley, and by Jay’s cousin, Johnny, who was just back from shooting a movie in Canada. It was a sweet time, full of convivial conversation and loud laughter. We had much to celebrate…Katherine’s recent progress…Grace and Hayley’s pledging of their favorite sorority at Pepperdine that week…Johnny’s upcoming movies and new contracts.

James entertained himself (and us) by putting bread, goldfish, Thomas the Train, and his juice box into glasses of water and on the floor. The wait staff was amused, not irritated. We lingered as long as we could, reluctant to go our separate ways.

We lingered even longer in the parking lot. Johnny made James laugh maniacally by turning him upside down and whooshing him around. Amie was cracking one-liners. Plans were being discussed, goodbyes and phone numbers being exchanged.

Everyone and no one was in charge of James.

I looked up to see him running across the parking lot to Jay’s car, where Brooks was helping him get Katherine settled in. At the same moment, I saw the rear lights of a van go on, in preparation for backing out.

A sharp panic rose up in my chest and burst out into a loud, hoarse scream. “Wait!” I yelled, to the car, to James, to God, to the moment. “WAAAAAIIIIITTTT!!!!” Then I started screaming my husband’s name.

As I screamed, I started running. In my little church dress and shoes, I burst forward like a horse out of the gate at the Kentucky Derby. Later, my family told me that they didn’t know it was physically possible for me to run that fast. I don’t really remember it. It was one of those slo-mo 15 seconds.

All I saw was a little boy toddling toward danger. The light of our lives oblivious to the risk to his.

And all I know is that I was going to get behind that van before he did, whether I had to fly or crawl.

I can barely write about it without feeling as if I’m going to throw up.

I guess the people in the van either saw or heard the lunatic charging up behind them. After scooping James up into my arms, I ran to Katherine and Jay's car like it was our team's goalpost with 3 seconds left in the game. I cried a little as they buckled him into his car seat. I couldn't breathe.

For the rest of the day, I was so shaken that I felt sick. I took some Advil and lay down with a pillow on my face when we got back to the apartment. When the 'happiness high' bubble burst, it left behind a dispersion of gray fog.

I think it was because I know something now, more than I've ever known it before:

It just as easily could have happened as not.

I think of the horror of what the Steven Curtis Chapman family has endured.* I’m sure that day probably started out as an ordinary day.

Those kinds of days usually do.

And then, in a split second, everything changes forever.

Cherish every little average moment...before it splits.


p.s. To ease Katherine's anxiety on the way home from the parking lot scene, Jay sang an old favorite from their childhoods: Amy Grant's "Angels Watching Over Me." It serves as a good reminder for all of us.

They do.



Thursday, October 8, 2009


This summer, I “celebrated” a fairly major birthday. I received a card from a local department store inviting me to enjoy my Senior discount. The checkout guy at Earthfare gave me one without my even asking for it.

Gee, thanks, for that insulting 10% savings on the tofu.

In some ways, it seems like a big joke. The surface may have changed, but there’s still a 17-year-old girl inside, on her way to a Led Zeppelin concert in a GTO. A skinny child-bride playing house. A young mother with Eighties Big Hair and a string of darling little daughters in matching outfits trailing behind her.

In other ways, I feel about 105.

Strange how life creeps and flies at the same time.


My husband surprised me with the gift of sessions with a personal trainer in LA. I’m supposed to be continuing with a physical therapy/exercise program on my own, but, unfortunately, I face significant challenges in the self-discipline department. He thought I could use a little push in the right direction.

My trainer is a beautiful young woman from the Ukraine named Anastasia. I’ve always loved the name. It means “Resurrection” in Russian. She is trying to help me resurrect this tired, achy old body of mine. Sometimes I call her “Anastasia Grozhnaya,” “Anastasia the Terrible,” because she forces me out of my comfort zone. (i.e. “no pain or sweating.”)

It seems not so very long ago that I could plop myself down on the floor, throw my legs out at 180 degree angles, and press my chest to the floor. As long as I did that every once in a blue moon, it remained easy to do. Now it feels like being torn apart on The Rack.

No matter how often I stretch, it seems as if I have to start all over from Ground Zero the next time. I’m stiffer than I’ve ever been. Anastasia has to help me. When we finish the workout, she ‘stretches me out.’ Sometimes she’ll put her knee into my back and pull my arms backwards until I think they’re coming out of the sockets. Or hold my hip up at an uncomfortable angle until it trembles. I tease her that it’s KGB torture.

But it helps me. When we’re finished, my pain level is diminished. I feel energized and flexible. Less brittle and fragile.

More alive.

I realize that if I am not stretched out, these old myalgic muscles will become increasingly rigid.

(I’m on the downhill slope toward rigor mortis now.)


In the years just prior to the cataclysm of April, 2008, I had become increasingly set in my ways...inflexible, unable to accept change or go with the flow. As health problems mounted, I clung to established coping mechanisms. My world was becoming increasingly smaller and smaller; more and more limited.

I absorbed negative predictions into my psyche and spirit and acted out of them. For instance, I was told by three different health–care professionals that I would probably never have another pain-free day, but that “we would learn to cope with it.”

My “I can’t…” list grew longer and longer. I grieved over the many things I thought I’d never be able to do again.

I’m doing most of those things now.

I’m also doing many things I’ve never done before. (Not to mention many things I hoped never to have to do.)

Everything about life is a stretch right now. An impossibly big stretch.


At a time of life when many of my contemporaries are entering into the blissful part of empty-nesting (developing new hobbies, traveling, socializing, taking care of themselves more), I have entered into quite a different world.

I don’t get to do what I think I want to do as often as I’m used to doing so.

I spend much more time doing things I’m not good at, and don’t particularly enjoy doing. Things such as cooking, cleaning, laundry…..even (gasp) ironing on occasion. Pushing, pulling, bending, reaching, running after a toddler…..sometimes, almost literally back-breaking work for me. Relativity again…it might be bare exertion for you.

But it’s a big deal for me. Sorry to sound like a spoiled brat, but it is what it is. I grew up in a home with household help. The first thing I did with my very first paycheck was to hire help. I (sacrificially) went without a single new item of clothing for well over a year, but at least we had clean toilets. I considered this to be good stewardship. I hired someone to help me do the things I don’t do well, so that I could invest more time doing those few things that I can do well.

For more than 20 years, our family has been blessed by a 6th member named Diane. She is the only one who knows whose socks go in which drawer. She is the brains of the household. Diane knows how to do things I don’t know how to do. She knows all of our dirty laundry, inside and out. She is an angel.

She is also my friend. But Diane doesn’t come to California with me.

It’s a stretch.

A few years ago, I developed significant sIeep/breathing issues. Because of that, I had to go through elaborate sleep rituals every night. Conditions had to be perfect in order to achieve Phase 4. Now I feel kind of like that ‘free-spirit’ college friend who always carried a toothbrush in her purse because she never knew where she might wake up. Like her, I’m all over the place these days. Occasionally, I wake up in our rickety old canopy bed in Athens, surrounded by pillows that need replacing and impossibly soft, but threadbare, sheets. Sometimes I wake up way too early in my apartment in LA, roused by the hellish howling of my neighbors’ dogs. Other mornings, I might awaken to discover a little boy draped over my head, soggy diaper in my face. There are some days when I wake up to an apartment (that looks like a frat house the morning after a party) full of people, and tiptoe around trying to make coffee without waking up whoever’s on the couch. I might be sleeping on a college dorm-style mattress in Pomona with a cute college-aged roommate, trying not to scare her with my nightly apnea gasps...or I could be in the spare bed in James’ room, trying to lie still as a mouse. Sometimes I even wake up on the couch. Occasionally, it feels a bit like being at camp or on a mission trip.

It’s a stretch.

Life is unpredictable now. Katherine has always been a big planner. We get the calendars out and try to make schedules, in an effort to force some order out of chaos. But our plans are constantly changing. Often, we are the mercy of other people’s plans and schedules. The unexpected is the norm. Frequently, I think of things I’d like to do, but half the time it doesn’t happen. Interruptions and ‘surprises’ intervene. I don’t get my own way.

An only child for the first 6 years of my life, I have always been someone who frequently needs ‘alone time’ to stay within the bounds of sanity. Now, there are times when that is an impossibility. Frequently, both space and peace remain elusive.

Everything seems a little crazy, upside-down, discombobulated. I’m getting mail from the AARP while trying to remember how to swing on the jungle gym…watching “Thomas the Train” instead of the evening news.

The constant traveling adds to a sense of disorder and confusion. It has gotten no easier with experience. Things are continually getting lost in transit. The time changes are wearing. By the time I get used to a new zone, it’s time to switch back. I’m getting tired. I’m not as young as I used to be.

It’s a stretch.

But I’ve learned a lot about stretching lately:

The less you do it, the harder it becomes.

As we ‘mature’ in the physical sense, it’s easy to develop rigidity in other areas as well. Our minds and hearts can become as rigid as our stiffening muscles and as unbending as our stiffening spines. When this happens, we become used to doing things a certain way…MY way. We resist change of any kind. We close our minds to new ideas, harden our hearts to fresh loves. Habits become idols. We become inflexible and unyielding.

Rigidity of thought, attitude, and action may lead to becoming what the Old Testament refers to as “stiff-necked people.”

They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, 'These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.' "I have seen these people," the LORD said to Moses, "and they are a stiff-necked people. (Exodus 32:8-9)

Centuries later, the apostle Peter used the term again: "You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit!” (Acts 7:51)

God forbid that my neck become any stiffer than it already is!

I think the key to the prevention of that is in the verse from Acts. I have to stop resisting. I need to learn to stop fighting against the inevitable or cursing the unpreventable.

Although things often lose their meaning when they become rote, sometimes it’s good to take a look at the old Serenity Prayer with a fresh eye. The ability “…to accept the things I cannot change…” is a great gift.

I hope and pray that, with old age, will come wisdom. I want to be a wise old woman (who still likes to dance.) I want to become more mature in my faith as I “mature” in every other way.

I’ve come up with a new definition of what that means:

MATURITY: Being okay with not getting your own way.

Lord, please save me from 50-something-year-olds who haven’t learned this yet. (Including myself.)

Part of the maturation process involves laying down my rights and my own selfish desires. Many of the eastern religions define happiness as “the absence of desire.” There is truth in that. We are unhappy because of thwarted “wants,” whether they be things, relationships, or occurrences. I have been happiest in life at those times when I’ve felt that there was absolutely nothing more to want…such as after the birth of my first child. That feeling of complete fullness is rare on earth. The Christian translation of the eastern philosophy might be, “Let my desires become the same as Yours.”

If I want to mature, I have to allow God to stretch me spiritually, just as I allow Anastasia to stretch me physically. Both processes are sometimes painful. But the alternatives are worse. I made up a little litany to remind myself whenever I start to resist: “Stretch or ache; bend or break.” I know the stretching process will involve doing things I just really don’t want to do…but it is necessary if I truly want to become more pliant and supple, more open and free.

Recently, I took a yoga class in LA. As we were doing the last deep relaxation exercises, the instructor softly spoke these words:

"Men are born soft and supple; dead, they are stiff and hard. Plants are born tender and pliant; dead, they are brittle and dry. Thus whoever is stiff and inflexible is a disciple of death. Whoever is soft and yielding is a disciple of life. The hard ...and stiff will be broken. The soft and supple will prevail." ~ (Lao-tzu)

I am a disciple of life….of Life Himself.

The next time He asks me to stretch, I’m going to try to remember some things I’ve learned through the occasional yoga class. I know the most important thing is to breathe.

I will remind myself to breathe much more slowly and deeply.

This will be my mantra:

Breathe out fear, breathe in faith; breathe out anxiety, breathe in peace; breathe out sadness, breathe in joy; breathe out exhaustion, breathe in vitality; breathe out sin, breathe in forgiveness; breathe out self, breathe in God.

Breathe in LIFE.

I wish I’d known these things when I was younger.


p.s. Thank you to those who prayed for my 'flexibility' with the Mac. In some ways, it’s been a stretch. But I think we’re learning to like each other. (I was kidding when I said "You can't teach an old dog new tricks." That's what it's all about. God can even make an old leopard spotless!)