Saturday, December 31, 2022

Cheers to All the Years

This year...what can I write about 2022? 

Let's focus on gratitude. There's already so much complaining going on.

I am grateful for a chance brush of my thumb on the lump in my breast at the end of June; for the surgeon, oncologists, radiologists, infusion nurses, and radiology technicians who have cut, injected, and irradiated me in the past five months; for my family, especially my husband and sister, who have gone above and beyond; for my friends and all they did, especially the prayers and driving Jack around; and for my stamping friends, who made sure I felt supported and loved through this mess. Check out these hand-made with love beauties:

Some of you may recognize cards you contributed to Karen's Card Shop. People from church bought cards from the Shop and sent them to me. I stole one card from Joan B's contribution to the Shop because it says, "There's not enough Xanax for this sh*t." I felt that in my bones. Plus, the little old ladies at church might have had an attack of the vapors reading that sentiment, even with the asterisk. 

Thanks to each and every one of you who sent me a card, prayed for me, or sent positive vibes my way. 

I bought a LOT of stamping stuff over the past few months (retail therapy!), and in the last week, some of that stuff has been used. Yippee! Today's card was made for our friends who have a formal New Year's Eve party every year. 

Stamps by Papertrey, embossing folder

We're going to the party tonight (tenth or eleventh year), bearing a bottle of red wine and this card, and I'm looking forward to wearing my awesome velvet dress and a wig. I even painted my nails, which I never do. 

Thankfully, the dress covers all my radiation treatment marks and the tape covering them. The fifteen high-dose treatments will be finished Jan. 19, weather permitting. 

And speaking of a wig, my hair is growing back at a great pace. It is, however, still salt-and-pepper colored and still straight as porcupine quills. No chemo curls for me. A minor disappointment, all things considered. 

I wish you all the very best in the coming year and pray health, happiness, and peace for us all. 

Mercy, grace, peace, and love,

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Acts of Kindness

Chemo infusion number three happened on Tuesday. 

Chemo is unpleasant, and one way to cheer yourself up is to do something nice for someone else. So I've made cards to send to some college students who are facing the end-of-semester crunch. The cards will include several gift certificates. 

To make the cards, I used an adorable set from Ellen Hutson called Voices in My Head, designed by the uber-talented Julie Ebersole and given to me by the incredibly generous Joan B. 

Acts of kindness lift us up, don't they? I had a vivid reminder of this three weeks ago while sitting in an ER for a possible small brain bleed. That sounds mighty dramatic, but I am convinced until proven otherwise that the doctors were over-reacting. Follow-up will be at the end of November. I'm not worried. 

While waiting in an uncomfortable ER bed for 22 hours, I texted out the situation to my posse. One friend, Stephanie, immediately texted back, asking what she could do. My first response was to say, "Just pray." But then I remembered how much Stephanie loves flowers...and loves to give them. So I texted her a picture of my ugly ER view and told her that I'd love to have fresh flowers for a better view when I got home. 

Stephanie came through! 

A few days later, my friend Zandra told me how happy Stephanie was that I'd ASKED her do DO something specific, something related to what she loves, something that filled her with joy. Zandra has driven our son Jack to classes a few times now when his regular ride could not. I get a single rose delivered every name, just the words "Keep looking up...He's got you." George's employer has dropped Kroger on us three times, and others have brought sweets, soup, lasagna, cakes, flowers, tea, and other lovely gifts. 

Too often, we put people off. "I'm fine." "No, we're good." But we are not fine, and we are not good, and we need each other's acts of kindness. There are no small acts of kindness. Even the most humble dandelion flower handed to us by a child fills our hearts up and makes us feel better.

Don't hesitate to ask for those small things that might help. Don't steal someone else's blessing by saying, "We don't need anything." 

Ask for those small acts of kindness. You might even get a HUGE rose and hydrangea arrangement!

Mercy, grace, peace, love, and gratitude,


Saturday, October 29, 2022

Thoughts and Feelings

So the first chemo treatment happened at the beginning of October.

Then, the BEST thing that happened in October was the wedding of Elle and Craig. Elle is our niece, and Craig is the love of her life who also has excellent comedic timing.

The above is my favorite picture from the wedding festivities, simply because the bride, Elle, worked the camera like a boss, and the groom, Craig, timed his break in photo protocol perfectly and proved that he belongs in our family. George responded that he would never wash that spot again. 

The bride was beautiful. So was the groom. And so was the groom's sister, who was his best person.

My favorite moment of the ceremony. Craig just
kept saying, "I love you," over and over.

Elle's mother was beautiful and walked her down the aisle. The groom's parents, Cindy and Kirk, were beautiful. 

And since it was Elle, there had to be a costume change before the reception/dinner. Certainly, dancing in her gown would have been impossible. Check out Craig's green velvet smoking jacket and Elle's red shoes. Oh, my. 

My own little family looked beautiful, too. 

George also captured my new profile pic for social media.
Don't get used to the hair, though. It didn't last long.

The whole wedding experience was delightful from beginning to end. We could not be happier for Elle and Craig, who are as made for each other as two humans can be. 

A wedding sure lifts the spirits. 

Almost as soon as we got back, my hair started letting go. So now hats are my jam.

I texted some friends to meet me at the mall to look for a hat just before the shearing. Three women showed up, and they made it more than was fun. 

The hair shaving bothered me more than I thought it would. My husband was a peach about it (see what I did there?), and he even took all the shorn hair out to the woods by our house so the animals can use it...and so I wouldn't have to look at it. But I've much as a person can under the circumstances. 

And people have sent me some amazing hats and scarves, so it's fine. 

It's amazing how often those words cross my lips. 

It's fine. 

Because there's precious little choice in the matter. And I'm surrounded by not just one but several communities of support. My little family, with George as a rock and warm place to land. My church and book club friends. My extended family in multiple states. The stamping community, which has come through with so many lovely cards and well wishes on social media. The support I and my family has received has been truly heaven sent.

An abundance of blessings. 

Mercy, grace, peace, love, and gratitude,

Sunday, October 2, 2022

People Are Awesome

So we had our Stephen Ministry meeting last Tuesday, and this happened.

Back: Sally, Anna, Stephanie, Vicki, Tina Y., Lois, and Linda
Front: Zandra, Mariel, me, Patti
Missing: Tina S. and Dorothy

These awesome ladies conspired for over a month to put this beautiful quilt together. Each square is unique, with contributions from each of them as well as from the awesome pastor and his awesome wife Kim R., who had breast cancer last year. The back of the quilt is comfy flannel, and the front includes a butterfly in memory of the Karen of Karen's Card Shop, who was a Stephen Minister. What awesome and precious friends I have, and I thank my God on every remembrance of them. 

And yes, I wear socks with my Birkenstocks in fall, winter, and spring. Best. Shoes. Ever. For my feet, at least.

The Cancer Care Center at Wright Patterson Air Force Base Medical Center has awesome people. Brenda, Cindy, Emily, Dee, and Jennifer are awesome, as are Dr. Bentley (surgery), Dr. Bukhari (chemo), and Dr. Hristov (radiation). I thank my God on every remembrance of them.

After I signed the consent to chemo, my awesome SIL Angela and BIL Mike sent me these. I thank my God on every remembrance of them.

Another awesome friend named Kim P. is designing t-shirts for our pink-out at church at the end of the month. She let me pick the design. I thank my God on every remembrance of her.

Chemo starts Tuesday, Oct. 4. I'm still wrapping my head around that. And speaking of wrapping my head, my awesome mom and sister are mailing me a box of silk scarves, and another awesome Tina, Tina S., is getting me comfy hats from an awesome friend of hers who went through this mess a year ago. I thank my God on every remembrance of them.

And the awesome cards. They are still coming, and I love each and every one. Thank you, awesome readers. I thank my God on every remembrance of you.

Surely I've missed acknowledging someone, but please know that I appreciate every prayer, every good thought, every email, and every kindness coming my way. 

People are awesome. 

Mercy, grace, peace, and love, 


Sunday, September 25, 2022

Well, Expletive

My friend the amazing Joan B. sent me a batch of fabulous cards for Karen's Card Shop, and this one caught my attention. It was PERFECT for me but not so perfect for a church card shop, so I kept it for myself. I'm sure Joan won't mind.

Fabulous Card by Joan B.

Last Thursday, I had a bad day. 

I was supposed to teach the second half of Module 2 of the Stephen Minister (SM) Training Course through our Greater Dayton SM Network. My show time at Fairhaven Church was 9:00. 

I forgot all about it. At 9:15, I was in the English Department at my college in downtown Dayton trying to see my department chair about next semester so she'd know I was going to be healthy, fully recovered from radiation, and able to teach in January. 

Fortunately, my co-leader in SM, Zandra, sent me a text: "Where are you?"

The lightbulb came on. 


And yes, I recognize the irony of expletives spoken before going to teach Stephen Ministers. 

I rushed to Fairhaven, berating myself the whole time. How could I forget about my commitment to teach "Feelings: Yours, Mine, and Ours"? How could I leave my dear friend Zandra in a panic? Letting people down is a Myers-Briggs ENFJ's worst nightmare.

A part of that training module covers the importance of identifying feelings correctly. In the car, I identified my feelings: shame and embarrassment. Not good teacher ethos. 

I arrived about five minutes before Zandra finished the first half of the module. 

Y'all. One of the Fairhaven SM Leaders, Diana, who was running the slides for the class, opened her arms and gave me the biggest, longest, lovingest, most grace-filled hug. 

We had the scheduled break, and I began teaching the lesson. I LOVE teaching Stephen Ministry Training classes. The students want to be there, want to learn, are called by God to soak it up. It's teacher heaven! Afterwards, Zandra said I nailed it. So yay for being an experienced public speaker and having taught the material six times before. 

But three times during teaching, my Apple Watch buzzed with phone calls. No way was I going to let these students down by interrupting the lesson to look at my watch, especially when we were on a roll. When they were in small groups doing an activity, I checked my watch. The Cancer Care Center. Why three calls? What's going on? Never mind, Susan. You can call them back after 11:30. Focus on what you need to do right now. 

When the students left, I called the Cancer Care Center. Emily the infusion nurse said that Dr. B, the hematology oncologist, wanted to schedule an appointment with me as soon as possible.  

No no no no no no no....

Dr. B and I already had an appointment in late October to talk about the medication I will take after radiation treatment. Why would he need to see me now? Could it have to do with the OncoTest on the tumor?


Emily checked with Dr. B, and he was available to talk. I've never felt sorrier for a doctor. You see, based on the biopsy and size of the tumor, no one really thought chemo would be part of my treatment. But the OncoTest proved otherwise. The score was high enough that Dr. B feels chemo would be helpful.


I will meet with him on Wednesday for details. One thing I know is this: if I were to have a recurrence of cancer in the future, and I hadn't done everything I could now to kill this crap, I would hate myself. I have a friend who's in the misery of a recurrence of stage 4 colon cancer right now. It's horrible and I hate every bit of what she's going through. 

So now, instead of being fit as a fiddle in January, 2023, it'll be April. So now, I have to tell my department chair that I can't teach next semester, and I'm gutted and scared. So now, instead of this being The Great Inconvenience of 2022, it's...something else I don't have words for yet. 

No words except expletives.

I'm not going to start any treatment until after our niece's wedding on October 14. My friend Kim, who had breast cancer last fall, had lunch with me after the SM class. She's good for my soul as well as my good luck charm for shopping, so she and I went to Macy's and found my dress for the wedding. Red velvet and fits like a glove.

So Thursday wasn't a total loss.

I need to put on my big girl panties, stop feeling sorry for myself, and deal with this stuff one day at a time. I'm getting there. 

Prayers and good wishes appreciated for me and for my friend Mary, and all of our family and friends who are dealing with our cancer. Because when one person has cancer, it affects everyone who loves them, too.  

Mercy, grace, peace, and love,


Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Ink, Bling, Paper, and Dogs

Today's card highlights a fun brushstroke set from My Favorite Things called Abstract Art and a sentiment from Simon Says set called Sending Happy Thoughts. No die cuts, no fancy tools, just ink, stamps, paper, and bling.

Designs like this are fun for playing with colors, so I pulled three different inks from my Archival Ink collection. Isn't the combo swell?

And here are some fun dog pictures. 

Cooper trying to escape his trip to the vet.

Lily being sassy.

Lily being sad.

Both being mooches. You can really tell the size
difference between the two of them here.

Recovery is going well. Radiation will start on October 18. The Great Inconvenience of 2022 is moving forward!

Mercy, grace, peace, and love,


Friday, September 16, 2022

Julie Ebersole Is a Genius! And Thanks, Charlotte!

I've engaged in quite a lot of retail therapy in the past two months, and one one such jaunt led me to purchase Nature Walk Stamp and Die Combo from Essentials by Ellen. Julie Ebersole designed the set, and it was SO easy to work with! The sentiment, however, may be my favorite part of this 3D postcard as it so fully captures my 2022. 

This card doesn't have a fold, just three layers of cardstock separated with dimensional tape. It's too thick to mail, but my intention was to keep it for myself on an easel. It is so stinkin' cute, as Julie would say, and it makes me smile every time I look at it!

Also, mondo thanks to Charlotte A. for sending in beautiful cards for Karen's Card Shop. They are lovely and will go into stock next week! Thank you, Charlotte!

Recovery continues, thanks be to God. 

Mercy, grace, peace, and love,


Saturday, September 10, 2022

A Correction and a Card and an Update

 Whew. The last eleven days have been interesting! I managed to turn a corner in recovery Wednesday and am feeling much better now. I think the Percocet was talking on my last post, LOL!

And speaking of my last post, reader Glynnis thinks that the inspiration card was not made by the Mary Ann I attributed it to. She commented:

"I am fairly sure this is one made by Shayne Eddie, who does beautiful simple styles."

Let's give proper credit. Thanks, Shayne, for the inspiration! And thank you, Glynnis, for the information.

And now for today's card, which made me inordinately happy because of its crisp simplicity but turned out to be very hard to photograph. I think we got there in the end.

The dies are Hero Arts infinity hearts, and the sentiment is from Simon Says Stamp's Tiny Words. The card size is 4.25" square.

For those following my breast cancer journey, this week yielded some excellent news. The genetic testing came back negative, so no more worries about BRCA or other cancer genes that might increase chance of recurrence and necessitate further surgeries. Yay!!! 

Also, the biopsy on the lump and lymph node came back. While the pathologist upgraded the tumor from Grade 1 to Grade 2 (cells were growing faster than they were when I had the biopsy seven weeks before and were less differentiated), the margins were clear, the stage stayed steady at T1b, and the lymph node was completely free of cancer. YAY!!!!!

So it seems we will proceed with the original plan, which will be to start radiation in mid-October, once I'm fully healed from the surgery. Two weeks after radiation is complete, I'll start endocrine therapy (a pill I'll take daily for 5+ years). 

Thank you so much to those of you who've sent cards my way! I truly appreciate the cards, emails, and prayers. You are an amazing community! 

Mercy, grace, peace, and love,


Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Post-Op Report

Yesterday was quite the adventure. The cancer is out of me (yay!) and only one lymph node needed to be removed (yay!). I'm feeling okay today, just sore and tired. 

The highlight of my day yesterday was having two radiologists argue over who would inject the tracer into my boob. Both wanted to do it. The one who did my biopsy won, and then apologized for having to stick more needles in me. But he was fast, efficient, and got it done!

Everything about this journey is weird, including the blue pee that results from the tracer clearing my system. Someone really ought to warn patients about that one.

Now, the focus is on recovery from the surgery so we can start radiation. Spectacular. 

So today's card is in honor of all the many, many people who have supported me thus far...friends, family, doctors, nurses, technicians, pastors, counselors, and so forth. My card was inspired by THIS Beautiful PIN. Mary Ann's card is gorgeous, so I did some minor tweaks to make it all about a butterfly. Also, square cards in the US require extra postage, so I went with standard A2 size. 

The butterfly and leafy stem dies are from Tim Holtz, the crimper is from Fiskars, and the stamp is from Simon Says. The butterfly was cut from a piece of watercolor paper with a wash of Twinkling H2Os. You can see a bit of the shimmer in the close-up photo. 

I colored the clear rhinestones with a Copic marker to match. 

What a great layout from Mary Ann! I'm going to play with it again.

Many thanks are also due to the fabulously talented Eddie, who sent a box of cards to Karen's Card Shop last week! They are already packaged and at the church, ready to sell. 

In anticipation of recovery, I placed a largish order with Ellen Hutson last week. When the shipment arrives, I should be finished with the "good" drugs and therefore safe to wield an Exacto knife again. 


Mercy, grace, peace, and love,

Sunday, August 28, 2022


Texture, bubbles, and cheers! My husband's birthday card, which I believe I forgot to post many months ago:

The man loves beer. And I love easy-to-use layered stamps.

Five circles zig-zag down the strip of textured cardstock, and a wide vellum strip conveys the sentiment. The card design plays around with circles and straight lines, wavy and smooth and textured cardstock, and foregrounds the beer because that was the most important part of the card.

At least as far as my husband was concerned. 

Tuesday, August 30, is the big day. The tumor will go bye-bye, along with a few lymph nodes. In a few weeks, we will have the final pathology report. Assuming clear margins and no lymph node involvement, I'll begin radiation in mid-October. So yay!

Many thanks for all the good wishes, prayers, cards, and such. I've no idea how I'll feel this week, but I'll update you as soon as I can. Please show grace if I blather-post under the influence of excellent painkillers. 

Mercy, grace, peace, love, and the joy of modern medicine,


Friday, August 26, 2022

Happy Accident

So back in July, in the depths of worry about what that lump was in my breast, I did a little prescribed retail therapy and bought a jar of White Pearl Hero Paste from Simon Says Stamp, along with a few other goodies. 

Why I bought the paste remains a mystery. I've tried mixed media stuff before and decided it wasn't for me. But all those pretty cards on Pinterest using stencils (I have a drawer full of those) and paste called to me. I thought maybe I could make a subtle background that would enhance my cards, well, subtly. 

I'm all about adding interest subtly.

So my first experiment involved a Tim Holtz stencil that I'd used before with a blue distress ink and not cleaned...this is important. 

Guess what happens when you use White Pearl Hero Paste on a stencil you forgot to clean? 

There's nothing exactly subtle about this background. You can see how the blue ink settled unevenly in the bubbles. That's interesting! The effect made me think of aquarium bubbles, which made me think of the Newport Aquarium, which reminded me that my son's birthday was coming up and for the 18th year in a row, I'm taking him to what he used to call "the Blue Fish Museum." 

And through this happy accident and associative thought process, a card was born. 

Because of my distracted state of mind, it took about a week to put this together, and the results lack my usual white space, but I doubt Jack cares about that. He's going to the Blue Fish Museum, which is what he does for his birthday. And the card will remind him of that. 

Mercy, grace, peace, love, and happy accidents,


Thursday, August 25, 2022

Pretty Paper, the Joy of Receiving, and Karen's Card Shop

I rarely use patterned paper, but several years ago, my Aunt Sylvia gave me some beautiful papers from her trip to Japan. This piece is just so pretty I let it carry the card!

The happy banner was die-cut from another one of the Japanese papers, which I included on the inside of the card. Isn't the gold in both papers just lovely?

I sent this card to my Aunt Sylvia for her birthday. She loved it! And that, my friends, is why we do this crazy, obsessive, colorful make people happy. 

The cards are pouring in for me, and I'm so very appreciative for each and every one of them. I display them on the wet bar so when I'm sitting at my desk or walking past it a million times a day, I get to look on their loveliness! 

The printed one that says "We're really sorry..." came from my pastor's wife and daughter, along with a gift of button-up-the-front pajamas. Inside, it says, "...that your boobs are trying to kill you." I couldn't stop laughing because it's so true! Sheesh. I've taken such good care of the girls, and now they betray me like this. Ungrateful wretches!

Laughter is the best medicine. 

You'll also see some handmade cards that were purchased at Karen's Card Shop and sent to me from friends at church!

I'm also ever so grateful to those who've sent cards to Karen's Card Shop. The very kind and generous Joan B sent a HUGE stash of gorgeous cards, as well as a box of soup, rolls, and cookies from We will enjoy that meal tonight, and some of her cards are already in the card shop! She sent so many, I had to order more cello bags, which arrive today. Love them and Joan!

If you are interested in sending cards to the card shop, here's what we need most, in order from most urgent to least: 

  • Encouragement
  • Faith
  • Get Well
  • Hello
  • Sympathy
  • Thank You
  • Birthday
Please remember that the insides of cards should be blank (no sentiments or sayings) since people can't open them before buying. And I provide A2 envelopes, so you don't need to send those. A2 size is great, but I also have the smaller notecard size (4 7/8" x 3 3/8") bags as well but not the envelopes. If you have any questions or want my mailing address, please email me at susanraihala at roadrunner dot com.

Once again, I am deep in my bones appreciative for this wonderful, creative, and kind community!

Mercy, grace, peace, and love,


Sunday, August 21, 2022

Giant Faux Postage

I'm loving the Hero Arts Infinity Dies. The postage stamp dies are particularly fun, and when combined with a large Hero block stamp inked with markers, spritzed with water, and stamped, the results are fresh and fun!

And here are a few recent Lily pictures.

Little Miss Happ, or Mishap
depending on the moment

Lily's unconventional begging position.
Cooper takes a more traditional approach.
Neither is successful.
So sad.

Mercy, grace, peace, and love,


Thursday, August 18, 2022

Twinkling Flowers

Today's card features a product that's been in my craft room for years and hasn't been out for a while: Twinkling H2Os. These shimmery watercolors are lovely and add an extra touch of interest.

First, I painted a wash of pink on a piece of Tim Holtz Watercolor paper, and then painted a green wash on another piece. Once they were dry, I used punches to cut the flowers and leaves. Epoxy circles accent the centers of the flowers and magnify the shimmer of the paint. 

You might see the effect better in the close-up, but even then, the real beauty of the shimmer doesn't show. Bad photographer, Susan!

Anyway, playing with the Twinkling H2Os made me want to play with them even more! 

Cancer update: I've met with the oncologist who will manage the endocrine therapy, and tomorrow morning (Friday) I will meet with the radiation oncologist. Should be fun. Anesthesiology, primary care, and genetics happen next week. Woohoo!

So. Many. Appointments. Who knew I'd need to meet with my allergist to discuss this? Not I. That was today. 

My friends locally have been amazing, and several of you have reached out as well. Thank you all so very much. The twinkling flowers are for you.

Mercy, grace, peace, and love,


Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Using SSS Inks in Graduated Colors

So in my last post, I used two colors (Iris and Violet) Simon Says Stamp Pawsitively Saturated Ink with a spritzing technique. Today, let's see what happens when we use all three shades (Heather is the lightest) to create depth in a card.

The results are gorgeous. To achieve this look, I stamped the dark image (Iris) first, positioning it in the one-third spot on the panel. Then I added the light images (Heather) and filled in with the medium images (Violet). The Iris image is the focal point, and the Violet and Heather images fill in the background. I love how solid and clean the inked images are and will likely buy a few more sets of colors that will work well for this sort of layering. 

It's getting to the point where I may have to go to a support group for ink addicts. Do I have a problem? Probably.

The image is from Hero Arts Floral Silhouettes set, and the sentiment is from Simon Says Stamp Tiny Words. The bling was colored with Copic markers, and the background was embossed with a folder from StampinUp. 

Lily chased a deer off our property yesterday. She was very proud of herself. I was proud that she didn't break through the invisible fence boundary. Good girl! The deer will learn her limits and eventually taunt her, I'm sure. 

Today's appointment is with the chemo oncologist. 

Mercy, grace, peace, and love,