Last Christmas…

I can’t help but reminisce on last Christmas. Dad was still here.

The anniversary of his lung cancer diagnosis is only a month away now. I’ve been just dreading it. I don’t know why.

We didn’t even know he was sick. In all of these pictures there’s a 4 inch tumor sitting in his right lung just festering. On bad days it hurts to look at old pictures before he was diagnosed with lung cancer. If only I could scream at myself through time and tell him to get to the doctor maybe he would still be here.

Christmas day was usually pretty low key for the Kramer family.

It was always just me and Karl and mom and dad until Craig came along and now Gannon and Carver. Most of the older kids had Christmas with their other side of the family so us four/five made our own traditions.

Dad would always go do chores until he came home around 9 or 10. I was such a selfish child looking back – when I was little I would beg Dad to get up super early so he could be done with chores earlier so he could come in and we could open gifts. How selfish begging him to go out EARLIER THAN 5:30 AM on a holiday just so I could have the gifts he worked so hard to buy. Ugh.

Anyway, we always play board games on Christmas. Usually Karl challenges mom and dad and Craig in chess followed by drinking Mogen David and playing The Farming Game. We graze on ham all day and pickled herring.

Last Christmas Dad was here. Ruby was here. My cousin Jody was unknowingly spending her last Christmas with her family. Our world has been turned upside down since last Christmas.

Look around the room at Christmas. Please don’t take the people who are there for granted. They might not be there next Christmas.

Man, what a downer of a blog post. Sorry. I can’t help but feel his absence. I’m so thankful for pictures. He hated pictures but I’m so thankful I took them anyway. Here are a few from last Christmas:

Look at the way Carver looks at my Dad.
Looks like Carver doesn’t approve of that chess move.
We couldn’t tell who was more excited about putting the combine together.
One happy (spoiled) farmer!
Jesus’s Birthday Cake

I hope you all are enjoying your Christmas with your family. I’ll let you know how ours goes in next week’s recap. Be sure to check back tomorrow for a new blog post!

Drive Safe.

August 24th, 2019

Our family is not super affectionate. In fact, I can count on probably all of my fingers and toes all of the times I’ve heard my dad tell me “I love you.”

Of course I KNOW my dad loved me. There is no doubt in my mind. He showed it by coming to every talent show, musical, concert, and watching my cheer in high school. He showed his love with whisker rubs and tickle fights and by how hard he worked to put food on the table and make sure my mom could stay at home with us kids.

The standard “I love you” was replaced with “Drive safe” whenever us kids were heading out – sometimes when we weren’t even driving anywhere more than across town.

Here’s an excerpt from my mom’s blog:

“So…one day we were driving home from a trip to Lacrosse. I was on the phone talking to Kayla telling her the latest news about his upcoming plan. Kramer was driving. Kayla said, “Tell Dad I love him…but if that’s awkward, just tell him ‘Drive Safe’ “. So I hung up with her and I said to Kramer, “Kayla says I’m suppose to tell you that she loves you…but if that makes you feel awkward, she says, ‘Drive Safe’.”

Kramer and I both bust out laughing. It was the ice breaker to the conversation of being more affectionate that we all needed. To be honest, it seemed like saying something as simple as “I love you”, was an elephant in the room.”

You can read the full blog post here:https://www.joscountryjunction.com/drive-safe/

Anyway, after my Dad died I wanted something to remember him by. Not only that but the fact that those 129 days were the hardest of my entire life.

Dad HATES tattoos and us kids always joke now that he’s gone we can all get one. It isn’t completely off of the table but I know he would roll over in his grave if we all got tattoos to remind us of him.

So I settled on jewelry. Huge shout out to Mark’s Jewelry for helping me find the PERFECT piece for me. I picked it up this morning and I absolutely adore it.

I felt it was fitting to stop by the cemetery on my way home. I dusted the grass off of his grave and someone was kind enough to bring flowers to dad and leave them on his gravestone as well. It was a beautiful day. Dad’s final resting place is just perfect – surrounded by farmland just outside of town. When we buried him the corn was barely knee high. Now as you can see it is almost ready for harvesting.

It will be almost 3 months without you Dad. I miss you every single day. Anddd……I didn’t get that tattoo 😉

A Gift for Mom

Every year around this time my did usually enlists me to help him shop for a gift for mom. While Dad let me take the reigns, I always kept him updated and asked for his input along the way. It was always one of my favorite Christmas traditions.

Well, as you know, my Dad passed away last June. This year will be the first Christmas without him. I’m missing out on our annual Christmas gift planning.

I still have this want/need to shop for a gift for mom from dad but obviously it isn’t the same.

Last year about this time, Dad and I were going to get her jewelry. I had gone to our local jeweler but nothing seemed right. Mom isn’t very blingy and she doesn’t get dressed up for work. I wanted something meaningful but something she would also wear.

Mom has a necklace from Julie at Me and My Stitches. You can follow her here. https://www.facebook.com/Me-My-Stitches-121655861247257/

I messaged Julie and told her my plan. She was ON IT! She was so so fun to work with and was so excited to help! Each grandchild has a charm – Scotty has a flag from the 4th of July, Carver has a pumpkin quilt charm for his September birthday, Lucy has a Christmas tree charm for her December birthday, Gannon has a snowflake charm (not shown) because he was born right after a blizzard, and Georgia has a clover for her March birthday.

Last year at this time when we gave her the bracelet, there were only three grandkids. I bought her two more in the Spring and now after our new arrivals come in the Spring again I’ll buy her two more.

Julie is so fun to work with. If you are looking for something unique for a quilter in your life I highly recommend finding her on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Me-My-Stitches-121655861247257/ or her website http://www.meandmystitches.com/

I still get really sad when I think about how mom won’t get a gift from dad. Do you have any suggestions? Mom HATES the gaggy memorial angels and statues and quotes about heaven. I have plenty ideas to get her as a daughter to mom but I just still really feel a responsibility to help dad get mom a Christmas gift.

Here’s a link to mom’s blog about Christmas 2018: https://www.joscountryjunction.com/my-christmas/

Shine a Light

When my dad passed away, my Mom and I ventured up to Lacrosse for a “final” appointment with his doctors.

Dad went from a strong, hardworking, “nothing slows me down” kind of guy, to withering away and unable to even swallow water to his eventual passing on June 2nd, 2019 in a matter of 129 days.

When we scheduled the “final appointment,” neither of us really knew what questions we had or what the goal of this appointment was. We just knew that we felt like we needed closure.

We met with several members of Dad’s care team. We asked a lot of questions. There were tears. I guess our biggest question we needed answers to was WHAT. JUST. HAPPENED.

You can read more on our visit on mom’s blog here: https://www.joscountryjunction.com/the-last-doctor-trip-for-kramer/

I feel like those 129 days were awful. Everything progressed so quickly. We asked lots of questions to see if we may have missed something. Were the steroids that made him feel good actually bad for him? Did his surgery shake his tumor and spread the cancer everywhere? How long had the tumor been there? Have you ever seen cancer spread to the C2 like that? On and on, after about 45 minutes of tears and laughter, we got the closure we needed. By the end of the conversation, they asked us to be a part of Gundersen’s “Shine a Light” program.

Of course we agreed. We wanted to help spread awareness about lung cancer and screening for lung cancer.

Dad’s lung cancer was found on a “routine” CT scan to screen for lung cancer. Dad had been “slowing down” for a few months but we all just figured it was worsening COPD. By Christmas time, Mom had talked to him and was really concerned about his breathing and wanted him to ask his doctor for a CT scan of his chest.

He finally got up the nerve and asked his doctor for the CT scan. Dad qualified for the scan because he was over 55 years of age and had an 80 pack year history of smoking. Here is the criteria for screening for lung cancer from GO2 Foundation for Lung Cancer: https://go2foundation.org/

He got the CT scan where they found stage 3b lung cancer in his right lower lobe. It was a big tumor. In hindsight, this screening should have been offered to him when he turned 55. All patients who meet the criteria should be screened for lung cancer. It should be as normal as getting a mammogram or a colonoscopy. More specifically, we need to be focusing on patients who are high risk for lung cancer.

Existing High-Risk Criteria

  • You are between the ages of 55 – 80
  • You have a 30 pack-year smoking history
  • You are a current smoker or quit within the last 15 years

Across the country, Shine a Light events are being held in November for Lung Cancer awareness month to increase awareness, celebrate those who have passed, those who are being treated for lung cancer, and screening for those not yet diagnosed. Dad’s cancer team will also be attending the event.

And you guys I am so jazzed, they asked me to speak at the ceremony! They also said mom and I could give a speech together but Mom is letting me take the reigns.

I’ve got about a 5 minute time frame to come up with a speech about Dad, cancer, screening, lung cancer, WHATEVER I want to talk about!

If you’re in the area and want to attend, here are the details:

Gundersen Health System

November 14, 2019 5:30 p – 7:30 p (CT)

Gundersen Health System

ICE House – 4th Floor

1827 Sims Place La Crosse, WI 54601

To RSVP please call (608)775-6600 (Cheri Hill)

If you’d like to attend a Shine a Light ceremony in your area, here is a link to find one near you! https://go2foundation.org/shine-a-light-events/

So I’m off to write my speech! I’ve been told the ceremony will be recorded so I will be sharing that with you all as well!

The Ball and the Box

My dad died on June 2nd, 2019 from lung cancer. He was 57 years old.

He fought lung cancer from January 24th 2019 (the date he was diagnosed) for 129 days until he passed away on June 2nd.

I’ve never really lost anyone close to me before. My grandparents had all passed away by the time I was 16 and lived farther away. I’ve been very fortunate to have avoided grieving and losing a close friend or family member for 23 years.

A few weeks after he had passed away, a friend of mine sent me this article about the ball and the box. It goes something like this:

This is a ball in a box. There is a red button. When the red button gets pushed, it hurts. It makes you sad, it brings back all of the grief and sorrow, it brings pain and tears.


When you first lose someone or something, the ball is BIG. It is HEAVY. The ball sits on the button and brings unrelenting pain. It feels like the ball will always be this big and this heavy. The button is pushed over and over.


As time goes on, the ball gets smaller. The button is pushed often but it does let up sometimes. The ball isn’t as big or as heavy but still hurts just as bad when the button is pushed but you can move the box without pushing the button.


Once the ball becomes smaller, you can go about your day without fear and function day to day until the button gets pushed out of nowhere. It hurts just as bad as when it first got pushed and can bring you to your knees. But now, you have more time to recover in between hits because the ball is smaller and might not hit again for awhile.


The ball never fully goes away. It fluctuates in size and weight. Sometimes it is smaller, sometimes it is larger. It might be larger around holidays, birthdays or anniversaries.

My family sometimes uses this when we don’t want to talk about it. When they ask me “What’s wrong? Why are you crying in the middle of a perfectly normal afternoon?” I can tell them without further explanation: “My ball is really big this week.” or “My button just got pushed.” Or it can be a great conversation starter. I’ve found that if my ball is big and heavy that my family might also have a big ball this week.

This explanation really helped me when I was trying to explain my grief to others and I know it helped my family be able to describe their grief as well.

Please feel free to share this with someone who might also be struggling with grief or loss.

Thank you for sharing this with me Karinne <3

Happy 58th Birthday, Dad

Today was kind of sad. I’ve had this written in my calendar for weeks:

I didn’t know what that meant or what we would do but I know I wouldn’t let the day pass without recognizing it.

We’ve had a mysterious fever floating around the Kramer house. Craig, Kelli, and Karl have all had a headache with a fever this week – Craig still had a 102 temp when he woke up this morning.

I worked overnight Thursday night. About 2 am I could feel it sneaking in. I thought to myself “my head hurts…my neck hurts…ugh my back hurts…my legs just ache…maybe this is body aches?

By 5 am I was considering calling someone in early – I was ready to be done! I finished my shift anyway.

I slept all morning until 2 pm when I had to pick up the boys and take them to their well child check.

And we got our flu shots! Have you gotten yours? Influenza is getting an early start this year! I’m suspicious that maybe be the fevers going around…

Carver was so good we got to stop at the farm and see daddy on the way home and meet his favorite steer Old Red.

Craig is so funny – I asked him to clarify his relationship with Old Red – he is NOT Craig’s favorite steer but his friend from pen 5. Craig reminded me,”I have friends in every pen dear.” ? he is so funny

Anyway, when we got home I was still not feeling well. Gannon and I napped on the couch and I woke up to a steak supper and Craig made a cake.

I’ll be honest – it wasn’t intentionally for dad’s birthday but KUDOS because it turned out great .

Carver and I made mom’s best frosting – cream cheese butter vanilla and powdered sugar.

We picked out candles – obviously not 58 candles but 5 candles and 8 candles ??

And we sang happy birthday. And I cried. And Carver asked me why I was sad when we were all done. I told him I wished papa Moo was here to eat his birthday cake. Carver gave me a hug like Carver does and told me he missed him too.

(Some technical difficulties getting the video to load – check back soon!)

After supper I sat on my couch to write this post. I rewatched the birthday video. My jaw hit the floor. Tears immediately started flowing. I want you to watch closely. Do you see what I see? Orbs.

I used to be hesitant to share this but I believe in orbs. I don’t know how they happen or where they come from but they always appear when I need to feel dad’s presence the most.

Sometimes no matter how hard I try when I visit him at the cemetery I can’t get a single picture without an orb.

Most of these examples were taken on separate days of visiting at the cemetery.

And then tonight, this happened between 8 seconds and 11 seconds:

You can see them throughout the video. Wowza. Tears are flowing over here. No doubt dad was right there with us tonight.

As Carver says “Papa Moo is always with us in our hearts.” Granted I’ve coached him to say that but I love hearing it come from him right when I need to hear it most.

So happy 58th birthday dad. Thanks for the visit.