Sunday, February 20, 2011

February 15, 2011

Dearest McKenna and Max,

On February 15, 2011 we lost your Grandpa McGargill. What a difficult week it has been. I am so very saddened by the fact that your time with your Grandpa was cut short. I want to make sure that you know what kind of man he was. It is my hope that you will both carry the most respectable qualities of him.

Grandpa was a kind man. He grew up with struggle but made the most of what he had. He talked often of the days in Shenandoah, Iowa when he would ride his bike to the town pool and spend the day splashing around and jumping off the diving boards. He was most fond of those memories because life was worry-free for him at that time. His father died young and he cared for his sister and his mother as though he was the patriarch of the family. He was a member of the United States Army and just when his unit was activated to go to Vietnam, his father had a stroke. He was granted honorable discharge for hardship and was sent home to care for his family during this difficult time.

He met and married Grandma and they birthed myself and Dana. He had such wonderful memories of he and Grandma making their home in Kansas City and then back in Omaha. Often he talked about the absolute joy of becoming a father to his two baby girls. Grandpa was a hard worker. He worked his way up the ladder at Union Pacific based solely on his commendable work ethic and drive to succeed. A morning person always, he was off to work by 5:30 am and returned home by 5:30 pm. He took his role of provider to the family so very seriously. No financial decision was made lightly as he always thought of his family and our well being.

Grandpa had a gruff exterior. He liked things the way he liked them. The television remote belonged to him and his expectations for me and Dana were very high. But when it came down to it, all he wanted was our happiness and success. As Dana and I grew older, I grew to respect him so very much for his desire to make a better life for his children. We were blessed to have our college education paid for so that we could not only earn college degrees but also indulge in the college experience. I remember Grandpa's smile as I would share stories from my college days. I knew he was not only proud of me for my accomplishments but also proud of himself for affording me the experience.

I will never forget the day that I got engaged to your Daddy. I called home and Grandpa answered and I shared the news. He said, "I know Mimi and I'm so happy for you." Your Daddy had enough respect for the relationship I had with my Dad to ask his permission for my hand in marriage. After an intense conversation Grandpa gave his blessing for our future. From that point on , Grandpa had the utmost respect for your Daddy.

When we moved back from California with precious McKenna, Grandpa was so proud he could have burst. I know he felt added responsibility to help me care for you baby girl, because your Daddy was fighting in a war. He just soaked up every minute he had with you. I would occasionally talk with family and friends who would report back that Grandpa raved about how enamored he was with his perfect grandaughter.

Grandpa had four great years of enjoying his grandchildren. With the birth of Max came a new excitement surrounding the first boy in the family. Grandpa got to be a part of my pregnancy and even was present at the ultrasound when we found out little Max was going to be a boy. During that time he was already struggling with his illness. He was so overjoyed to welcome a baby boy to our family. And when Max Christopher was born I saw a smile on Grandpa's face that I had never seen before. There was an immediate connection between the two of them.

Grandpa's health quickly deteriorated which was hard to watch. I remember bringing you kids over to see him one night and Grandma told me that was the first time she had seen Grandpa smile in two weeks. He loved you so dearly. McKenna, Grandpa was so worried whether or not you understood what was happening. I explained to you that Grandpa was going to be your angel. He will forever be in your heart.

Grandpa was a special person with an amazing heart. Grandma described him as "quietly having friends" which I think is perfect. He was never someone who looked for the approval of others, but rather he helped and supported people purely because he cared. Grandpa was 100% invested in any relationship he was a part of.

My sweet babies, I am so sorry you had to lose your Grandpa so prematurely. I wish with all my heart that you would have had more time with him. My only consolation is that you are both a part of him. The person he was will live on in you. One day we will all be reunited with him. Until then, we will continue to be thankful for every day we had with our Grandpa, Dad, mentor and protector.

Love to you,

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Gift of Giving.....

Hi All!
Well one month later we are finally wrapping up the holiday season! Yet another year of snow ruining our plans to make it to North Platte. Thankfully, Grandma and Grandpa Miller were able to visit us in Omaha last weekend so McKenna and Max could be showered in gifts! They are so very generous!! We had a wonderful holiday season this year. Lots of family and friends and many things to celebrate.

We took part in an American Red Cross blood drive just after Christmas in the interest of blood donation in my Dad's name. What a success. What an amazing experience. I was there all day long watching people stream into the school prepared to donate their blood for really nothing in return. Not only that, but we had so many donors that we were far behind schedule. People were waiting for over an hour to donate. I left Millard North that night on a natural high. It amazes me how thoughtful and giving people can be. I spoke with several people who were there to donate in my Dad's name and also many that were there because that is just what they do. I am inspired by them and intend on being a regular donor from here out.

I would like to thank all of you that participated. Whether you helped out behind the scenes, donated at the drive, or donated in your own home town. We had such an amazing holiday season but looking back it is the generosity of the community that sticks out over the material things we received. Giving blood is a gift that means more than you know. If it allows one more hug, one more conversation or one more day....the recipient and his/her family will be forever grateful. Our family wishes yours the best. Here is to a new year!!


Sunday, November 28, 2010

In Honor of Christopher Louis McGargill

My Dad is a hero to me. Like most people, life has handed him lemons and he has always done his best to make lemonade. When it comes down to it he is a stronger person than he knows. This past year has been particularly full of lemons. My Dad has been diagnosed with Myelofibrosis, which is a disease of the bone marrow. Essentially, due to scarring of the bone marrow his body is no longer producing the red blood cells that it needs to support his vital organs. He noticed a lack of energy and general feeling of illness. After a battery of tests, to include more than one bone marrow biopsy, it was determined that this is his diagnosis. Unfortunately, there is no cure for Myelofibrosis. The treatment is experimental at best and is designed to treat the symptoms, not the disease. Lemon.

It has been determined that my Dad was diagnosed at a later stage of this disease. He and my Mom endured multiple trips to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota in hopes of finding something that would enhance his quality of life, but to no avail. As the disease has progressed, his platelet count has steadily declined which opens the door to a whole new host of potential health risks. Lemon.
Due to the decline in his platelet count my Dad no longer qualified for the clinical trials at the Mayo Clinic. While he has a fantastic doctor here in Omaha, there have been very few options for treatment. Lemon.

In order to support his declining red blood cells my Dad has grown dependent on receiving blood transfusions. This process started as a transfusion every three weeks or so and is now down to every 6-7 days. He has had a port installed to assist with these transfusions as his veins have had a hard time keeping up with the volume of blood being transfused into his body. Every time he receives blood he also receives a whole new set of antibodies. In order to match his blood for the next transfusion they must evaluate the antibodies and attempt to match those as well. Lemon.

Everyday my Dad has to muster up the energy to get out of bed knowing that a productive day might include mowing ¼ of the yard and running some errands for his Mom. My Dad has always been the King of productivity; up at sunrise and going non-stop until his work is done. This has been a major adjustment for him.

Here is where we get to the lemonade. Despite his utter exhaustion, my Dad lights up and smiles from ear to ear when he is able to coo at his new grandson. He talks about my sister and her nursing career as though her accomplishments are his own. He continues to care and worry about those that he loves as though he doesn’t have worries of his own. And while he struggles with the fact that he is dealing with a disease that has no cure, he goes on with his days as best as he can.

Once a week my Dad heads up to the hospital to first get his blood typed. The next day he sits for a good 6 hours while receiving someone else’s blood. This blood supply is what keeps him alive and available to us. This blood is what has allowed him to bond with my daughter and to be around for the birth of my son. This blood is what has allowed him to continue to be an active part of this family. He may be only putting on a brave face for our benefit but it’s a brave face that I will gladly greet. Lemonade.

I am asking all of you that know my Dad to please donate a bit of time and a bit of blood in his honor. There is no cure for his disease but we have blood donors to thank for the time that we have been blessed with up to this point. The blood drive is Wednesday, December 29th from 6:30 am – 6:30 pm at Millard North High School. The entire process—from registration through snacks—only takes an hour of your time. You can register by clicking here* and scheduling an appointment for the holiday community blood drive. (You can also call 1-800-RED-CROSS if that is easier for you.) When you register, be sure to write “donating in honor of Chris McGargill” in the comment box so we can track accordingly. If you register by December 3, you will be entered into a drawing to win a cool, custom Husker shirt, designed by Sabrina Ahern. We’ll also have a special table of snacks at the blood drive dedicated to those donating in my dad’s honor, and child care will be provided by Red Cross volunteers!

If you have any questions on eligibility or blood donations, please click here.

Thank you for donating blood and saving a life—including my dad’s. Lemonade!

*If the above registration link does not work, please copy and paste the following into your browser:

Monday, October 11, 2010

Back to Work I Go!

The time has come for me to head back into reality and get back to work. Not too excited about that. I have recently spent a lot of time reflecting on the past four years. When McKenna was a newborn and I was home with her I had a difficult time. We had a lot going on in a short amount of time; moving back to Nebraska, Matt getting deployed, a job search for me, and adjustment to life as a single parent with the added stress of not knowing whether my husband would return home alive. Looking back, I feel like I didn't get to enjoy that time with McKenna to the full potential. At that time, I prayed for a distraction because every day that went by without hearing from Matt was a day that I looked at sweet McKenna and wondered if she would ever actually know her daddy. By nature I am an anxious worry-wart. I worried that this time around I would suffer from the same anxieties even though the circumstances are completely different. I prepared myself for the worst and ended up with the best.
These past eight weeks have been heaven and it really has nothing to do with not working. I love my job and the opportunity that I have everyday to help children and families. But to have the opportunity to bring precious Max into the world and watch McKenna embrace every aspect of becoming a big sister has been priceless. McKenna adores her little brother and wants to help in any way possible. She told me that she wants to help me so that she can be a good mommy when she grows up. Does anything compare to that? We have been so very blessed.

Max is growing and changing all the time. Just today he gave me his first giggle along with a big ol' smile. It's amazing to me how those smiles and giggles can warm my heart. I recently was discussing this with my parents because those first few weeks you spend so much time cuddling and caring for your child as they stare at you with a blank expression. When you experience those first smiles it is a feeling of success. You know that all you have been doing has made your baby happy.

Matt is doing such an amazing job as a father of two. I think McKenna expects that my attention might be on the baby so she has been quite demanding of Daddy recently. He has been so tolerant of her need for attention even though her most desired activities revolve around role playing. He plays an excellent restaurant waiter as well as grocery store cashier! ;) As we have moved into football season, Max should be well versed on the game. Matt spends a lot of time explaining the game to him.....clearly excited to have another boy around!

And my sweet McKenna.....she is the ultimate big sister. Some day her love for Max will likely drive him crazy. Right now it is just plain cute. She loves to lay on the floor and talk to Max, which typically makes him grin from ear to ear. We have definitely seen some changes in McKenna as she is no longer the one and only. But honestly, I can not complain. She is adjusting very well and clearly loves her little brother!

As I head back to work, along with praying for the winning lottery ticket I am also counting my blessings. The challenging times with McKenna when she was a baby made me a stronger person and the bond between McKenna and I rock-solid. This time at home with Max and McKenna has been the best way to comfortably transition from a family of three to a complete family of four. We have had so much support from family and friends that love our children as their own. On that note, I should mention that I am terrible at thank you notes. Please know that we appreciate your love and support more than anything! Again, we are so very blessed.

Sidebar: In no way am I trying to suggest that we have this perfect life. Bringing a new child into the world brings some stress and a lot of sleepless nights. But as I sit and type this post I don't think about all that and I think that is very telling. Family is everything and I feel so lucky to have a happy one. Wishing the best for all of you!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Welcome Baby Max!!

Hello! What a life altering couple of weeks we have had! Max Christopher Miller was welcomed into our family on August 18, 2010 at 8:40 am. He weighed 6 pounds 12 ounces and measured 20 inches long. Max has already been such a blessing to our lives! The surgery went smoothly and we are all happy and healthy. McKenna has really embraced her new role as big sister and is taking it very seriously. Already she has been so nurturing and protective of her baby brother. She was such a big girl even in our absence while Max and I were in the hospital. We were so lucky to have my parents and Matt's parents here to help and support us as we welcomed Max into our lives. And of course we have such amazing friends that have been bringing meals, calling to check in, but most importantly loving our little ones like their own!

We are adjusting to life with a new baby and I am absolutely enjoying my time at home with the kids. I watch McKenna coo at Max and talk to him with such a loving tone of voice and my heart melts. Not sure how I got so lucky to have two of the best kids in the world! And of course Matt is so proud of his baby boy. He is such an amazing, hands-on father. I couldn't ask for a better man to raise a family with. I am healing well from the surgery but Matt has been more than helpful in picking up tasks that need to be done and his willingness to tend to spit-up and poopy diapers helps too!

Maybe it's the hormone changes I am experiencing or maybe it is the miracle of life that I have just been blessed with, but I have been thinking a lot about how lucky I am to have a loving family. We all know that life is short and time is precious but the birth of a second child and the completion of my family has really made me think about what is important in life. My heart is full and it is full because of the people that surround me. I am so thankful to all of you for your love and support. I am so thankful for all the blessings my family has been afforded!