Life Goals – A Review


Life Goals

My list from 2005:

  1. Be as great a parent/grandparent as my own
  2. Write a book
  3. Own a cottage on the water
  4. Be and stay healthy
  5. Retire early enough to do something new
  6. Be able to help my kids financially; be able to give back to community
  7. Visit Norway and Ireland with the kids
  8. Be on Jeopardy
  9. Become a master gardener
  10. Not worry about $$

I found this list in an old .txt file when I updated my phone recently. I remember writing it about 10 years ago and thinking that these were things that I really wanted out of life. Not exactly a bucket list, because there are other activities I might add to it for that, but key things that I felt would add value to my life.

I was pleasantly surprised while reading through it that I had done quite a few of them. For some, I can’t be the final judge (be a good parent), but I can make an educated guess. And some, I really don’t have all the control over (health) but I am an active participant in the outcome. For both of these items, I think I’ve done pretty well. My kids are happy and well (no grandkids yet, which is just fine by me) and my health is hanging in there. I’m dealing with what I’ve got.

It really pleased me to see that I have done #2 and #3 – I finished my novel and am working on another. It was interesting to me that my goal was to write a book – it wisely said nothing about publishing it. I guess my younger self knew that part was going to be a different sort of effort. And as to #3 – we bought our water view property a couple of years ago and are in the planning stages for the home we want to build there. It is going to be lovely.


My youngest son was just accepted at Reed College starting in the fall. I have four more years (sounds like election time!) of tuition payments. Once I’m free of those, however, I can make a career change and start my new full time writing life. I am making headway now in terms of what I want to take on and how I can do it – but retiring from my full time world of technology and moving toward something more literary is exciting. I can’t wait to make it happen.

I’ve already been able to help my kids financially, with two kids through college. I’ve helped my older son in his transition to a new land and getting his business off the ground and helped my daughter buy her first house. Our third child will most likely go on to grad school and we’ll do our best to help him there, too. I’m also actively volunteering for the PanCan organization and will continue to do so until we move to our new home in a new community. Even then, I’ll figure out a way to stay connected.


We visited Norway this summer as a family (only our daughter opted not to go) and we had a marvelous time visiting the homeland. We saw the old Stave Church where my mom’s family name is on one of the pews from sometime in the 1200s. Two of my three kids have made it to Ireland independently – I’d still like to make it a family destination, so I haven’t given up on that one.

The next two are things that were more important to me ten years ago. We used to watch Jeopardy with our kids in the evening and I always thought “I could do that” – however, in the big scheme of things, it really isn’t a top wish for me any longer. I’m willing to let that one go. As for Master Gardener, I looked into the qualifying process for it and realized that it involved a lot of procedural and political stuff – things that for me would suck the fun right out of puttering around in the garden. So I will stay a putterer and be happy with it. I don’t want to feel like I have to put in so many hours or teach so many classes – it just isn’t that important.

Last but not least, the money thing. I have our next four years mapped out for the tuition crunch. After that, I have the retirement transition spreadsheet drafted and I’m pleased to say it is all doable. I feel ready for that next phase of life and while I don’t think I’ll ever not stress about money (because that is my nature), my data shows that all should be well. And that’s a heck of a lot better than impossible.

So – in looking at life on the balance, I feel pretty good about the progress I made against those goals from way back when.

It must be time to set some new ones.

Sad, But Still Kicking Butt

It hit me this morning as I got ready for work that I have something to be proud of.  A year ago, as Jan left us, I felt frustration about the fact that pancreatic cancer continues to kill so many every year.  There needed to be better treatment options and earlier detection available to change this.

On September 19, the House of Representatives passed HR 733 with a unanimous vote.  The name of the bill was changed from the Pancreatic Cancer Research and Education Act to the Recalcitrant Cancer Research Act of 2012.  A rose is a rose if it smells sweet, and this one does.  It is a step forward.

Representative Anna Eshoo from California was eloquent and heartwarming as she spoke about the need for this focus and of all the people we lost in the 6 years that this has been in work.  I had tears in my eyes hearing the unanimous vote in favor.  This is progress that matters for all.  It makes the trip to Washington DC with the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN) last June just that much more meaningful and worthwhile.

The bill is now in the Senate, and we hope Senator Whitehouse has the same success as Representative Eshoo.  I’ll be watching on C-SPAN with the same rapt attention.  This is about the only thing that will get me to tune in to that station.

Dad and Jan would be pleased.  I am relieved and proud and committed to continuing to fight on their behalf.
BREAKING NEWS! The House HAS PASSED #HR733! Senate still needs to pass. Thank your U.S. Rep:

My Sister, My Friend – One Year Hence

I need to mark her passing, but words fail me.   I’ve written a lot about her, what we meant to one another, and how much I miss her.  There isn’t much more to say.

I am still not really able to admit she’s gone.  She’s just been busy, or she’s been away – not really gone for good.  I feel her too much for that to be true.

Her family is well.  Her husband remarried and has remade his life with someone new.  Her son is finding his way, bouncing along with the resilience of youth.  I am happy for them.

I am sad still, unexpectedly so.  She was, to quote my brother, my first best friend.  She was one of the first to hold my hand and help me up.  My earliest memories are centered on her.  She was my benchmark, my ideal.

She left her mark on my heart, always telling me that mine was big enough to hold the world.  Tonight, it hurts knowing there is still a Jan-sized hole in the center.

Always in my heart, my sister, my friend.

Jan Marie Viele

1954 – 2011

Purple Crane Project

When Jan died on September 27, I had some ideas about what I wanted to say in her obituary. I wanted to include one of her poems in it and had one in mind she’d written about Japan called Three Days. It reflected the feelings of loss that I was experiencing.

That next morning, as George, Graham, Shawn and I were having breakfast, George said he needed one of us to write the obituary. I’d written mom and dad’s, with help and input from others, and as a regular reader of obituaries in the paper (something very few people know about me…) I felt I had a good angle on how to write them well. Shawn volunteered before I could speak up, and suddenly I was faced with the prospect of having to override her offer. I didn’t want to be a petty person. I did, however, really want to do it. The grown up me took a deep breath and said, ‘how about you write it and I’ll do the review and edit it?’ That seemed to be a good compromise.

Shawn went to work on it later that morning and mentioned she wanted to include one of Jan’s poems. Great minds were thinking alike. She got out “In Flight”, Jan’s book of poetry, to find one she liked. I didn’t want to sway her thinking with my choice, so I waited to see what she selected. She ultimately chose One Thousand Cranes and with that, launched a movement that has been building momentum with each passing day.

After reading Jan’s obituary, Matt Hanson, a fellow volunteer at the PanCAN affiliate here asked me if he could use the poem and Jan’s story to launch an outreach program he called The Purple Crane Project. His idea was brilliantly simple – use the act of folding origami cranes out of purple paper as a means of educating students at the elementary school level and using the cranes they folded as symbols of hope for patients struggling with pancreatic cancer. Elegant, profound, and appropriate – all are words I’ve used to describe the project. Jan’s reaction would be amazement and giddiness that something she wrote could be the inspiration for such a wonderful outreach effort.

Matt planned on giving the first crane to me the day of the PurpleStride Walk on November 6. During one of his outreach visits to Virginia Mason, however, he met a woman named Debbie who was in the midst of her chemo treatments. Matt sensed her need and gave the first crane to her. It was something tangible, something unexpected, and the message on the wings hit her heart. She took the crane home and put it where she could see it every day. We all realized that this had some powerful potential and would be a meaningful activity to share.

To date, over 1,000 purple cranes have been carefully folded and thoughtfully given away. The message has gone out around the world and people are working to create similar programs in other regions. The reach of these beautiful birds has been more than amazing. It has been magical.

In Japan, the tradition Senbazuru, the act of folding 1,000 cranes is done when someone has a wish, be it for peace, health, or luck. Folding the cranes is a true labor of love, as reflected in Jan’s poem. At her memorial service, several thousand cranes in all sizes and colors were delivered by her coworkers at Delta Airlines in tribute to her. As one of her friends said to me, “Our service scores may be down a little for the month of October, but it was worth it – we all spent time on flights in the galley folding our fingers silly.” Each crease, each detail, was crafted with their love and dedication.

The Purple Crane Project puts into action everything I could hope for as a tribute to Jan’s memory. Simply put, it gives hope wings and sends them up with a prayer. Shawn’s selection of poetry that morning was the key. It is a reminder for all of us that magic still exists and wonderful things can come from letting go of control, even when we think we really need it.

One Thousand Cranes

honor commitment
with gifts of origami precision,
contemplate the recipient one thousand times.
Sacred creases sealed with oil of human hands, the seams of careful nail
until fingerprints and wishes
flutter to take flight,

-Jan Veile


Purple Heart….er…..Star

The other day a padded envelope arrived in the mail with my name on it. I still get a thrill when I get something like that – probably a holdover from the days of saving box tops to send in for prizes back when it took 6 to 8 weeks for delivery. The prize would arrive in a box or envelope out of the blue and the excitement of getting mail as a kid was a big deal.

This envelope made me have that same thrill, even just for a moment. I opened it and saw that it was the pin I was awarded at this year’s PanCAN PurpleStride walk for my fundraising efforts. It designated me as a PurpleStar Fundraiser. I misread it at first – I thought it said Purple Heart and I though “How appropriate. I feel like I should be getting a Purple Heart medal.”

For those of you who don’t know, the US Military awards the Purple Heart medal to people who are wounded on the battlefield. To receive a Purple Heart means you were fighting for your country and have the scars to prove it. Sometimes, it is awarded posthumously.

My battle has been not with an enemy at war but with a silent killer – one that is hard to eradicate because it refuses to fight fair by hiding until it’s too late. My only course of action is to keep working in support of research and finding a better way to treat it. That can be done by raising money.

My Purple Heart (or PurpleStar) is a medal for fighting it even while taking the body blows and personal losses. My dad and sister are the real casualties. My wounds are survivable. The medal is a small tribute in the larger cause. I both love it and hate at the same time. I wish I’d never heard of pancreatic cancer, but I have and so I will fight it however I can, wearing my PurpleStar as a badge of honor.

Purple Power

This is the third year the I will walk in support of the PanCAN Purplestride walk and the third year that it has been done.  Following that first walk in 2009, I got involved with the group as a part of the committee.  In addition to the walk, I have attended the Celebration of Hope Gala that is held in the spring.  These events connect me to people who have also had their lives touched by pancreatic cancer.  The community is a huge source of comfort and solace as well as good information.  I don’t think I would have been able to make without them.  I plan to be with them in June 2012 in Washington DC for Advocacy Days.  It is a powerful feeling to know everyone there is working for the same goal – finding a cure.