CELEBRATION SPOTLIGHT – The Resch Family
In 2019, Noel Resch purchased a calendar that listed National Days. She gave the calendar to her daughter Morgan Hansel for Christmas. Noel’s husband, Philip, had been diagnosed with stage IV prostate cancer the previous year, and the calendar seemed to be a way of lifting their spirits. Morgan even suggested they do as the calendar suggested: Celebrate Every Day. So, along with her sister Madelyn Hansel, the entire Resch family committed to Celebrating Every Day for a year.
Throughout our conversation, one of the common threads was how they did things they had never done before, met people they would have never met, and reconnected with friends. While their personal experience is unique, it is also starting to happen across the country. They aimed to celebrate for 1 year and achieved 500 days! What they found out after they stopped was that they missed it. So, in 2022, the family started again. This is their story:
Michele: How did all this start?
Noel: On January 1, Morgan got her calendar out. I remember her coming to me and saying, “You know what would be really fun is if we actually did this if we actually celebrated every day.” There was just one day listed for each on this calendar. Whatever it was, we were going to have to celebrate it. We made little rules for ourselves. We had to do it on that day. For accountability reasons, we put it on Facebook and shared it with family and friends so they could keep us accountable.
Initially, Philip’s prognosis was pretty dire. 2019 was a pretty dark year for our family, going into 2020. One of the hardest lessons we learned as a family during those dark times when you can’t always control your external circumstances; you can have power and control over what goes on inside you and how you respond and react. Who could have predicted the worldwide pandemic and the lockdown for two months?
Michele: All this is going on. You have an illness that’s sidetracking your life. You have a pandemic that’s sidetracking everyone’s lives. Daughters who can’t attend school in person. What made it something you wanted to keep doing?
“…it gave us something to do and spend more time as a family, made us think outside the box and get really creative.” Madylen Hansel
Madelyn: What made it worth continuing was we couldn’t leave our house, and it gave us something to do and spend more time as a family, made us think outside the box, and get really creative. I’m a really creative person, so this was really fun to work on. One of the highlights for me was Penguin Awareness Day. My mom did a really good job of setting it up. We went to the new zoo and got to meet a live penguin. That was a really fun experience. National Dolphin Day was another highlight of mine. I drew a big dolphin on a piece of paper. We found some water-like wallpaper and put it on one of our windows, and we put the dolphin inside the window. It was like we were at an actual aquarium. It was really cool to do that.
The School Bus
Noel: We had to improvise a lot. During that time, there was also School Bus Driver Appreciation Day. (In the background, Madelyn laughs.) I was like, “What do we do with that? There’s no school.” But we made the agreement we’d celebrate regardless.
So I spent the entire day—my husband would argue if it was time well-spent or not— but I spent literally the entire day building a bus. I used wooden 2x4s, a table, some bright yellow paper, and I constructed what looked like the front of a school bus with little reflectors and everything.
For creative people like Maddie and me, the project starts out small but grows bigger and bigger. It literally took us until 9 o’clock that night. And I was like, “We have to get this posted!!” But what was funny was that we used it for that day and it was such a hit with everybody. I don’t think people knew what to expect— How were we going to pull that one off? What were we going to do? There were different holidays throughout the year that we ended up bringing it back and incorporating.
“…it was such a hit with everybody.”~ Noel
Madelyn: I feel like a lot of them involved a lot of projects. Bring Your Pet to Work Day, Ride Your Bike to Work Day. We did that inside our house. It was cool. Because we would bring things back to the school bus like UFO Day, and it was cool to see everybody’s reactions. People were like, “That’s so cool you brought that back. I remember that day!”
Phil: I enjoyed a lot of the interactive days. Maddie mentioned the Ride Your Bike to Work Day. We have a long-range house. It started out with Noel playing “Ride Like the Wind” on her phone and filming me coming out of the bedroom with my backpack on, riding down the hallway, turning the corner into my office. Getting on my bike going to work. (More laughter from Noel and Madelyn.) It took us about 10 takes. (Big laughs all around.) It turned out to be one of the most liked ones by a lot of people.
The family also told me the bus was used during Ride Your Bike to Work Day. Morgan sat in the bus and honked at Phil as he rode is bike to work. They decorated it for New Year’s, too, getting lots of use out of a large project.
You know, I started my chemo on Valentine’s Day one month before lockdown started. And we came back in the spring to some days that were interactive. One of them was Kickball Day. Our daughter plays softball and has bases. So we set up bases, and we played kickball out and about in 30-degree weather. One of them was Tennis Day. It was probably one of the more humorous days because we were out in about 20 something temperatures playing tennis in the street.
Madelyn: Even National Fly Your Kite Day. It was in January, and it was freezing. We just tried to make it work. It was fun to get creative with it.
Noel: The cool thing about National Kickball Day was that we live near Green Bay, Wisconsin, and we drive to Minnesota to receive treatments. It’s a good 4-4 1/2 hour drive each way. So we got up that morning, and we weren’t able to stay in hotels yet. So we got up at three in the morning to drive to treatment. He went through his five-hour regimen of chemo. We got home and “National Kickball Day??? Oh, my god.”
And we looked at each other and “Well, let’s just do it.” And he’s right. We set up the bases in the driveway, and I think we all kind of said, “This is going to be really short.” But you know, we started, and it was so ridiculous to be out in the middle of winter— knowing that he just received chemo— and we laughed so hard. I bet you we were out there 30-45 minutes and just had a blast. We laughed so hard. Took video. It’s moments like that where I was like, you know this is a really special thing.
“But you know, we started and it was so ridiculous to be out in the middle of winter – knowing that he just received chemo – and we laughed so hard.” ~ Noel
Michele: You might not have remembered that day otherwise. It would have been another day of treatment. And you’ve highlighted it with something positive instead. And that’s what National Day Calendar is all about. When Marlo started it back in 2013, that was his mission growing the calendar and keeping it positive.
Noel: That’s kind of where we started saying some of these days that we look forward to the least knowing what was going on in our lives… but we pushed ourselves and mainly because, as we said, we held ourselves accountable by putting it on Facebook and making this promise. When we pushed ourselves and started doing it. Those actually became, looking back, some of our most special and favorite ones.
Michele: Sometimes, it’s as simple as learning something new. On National Shelfie Day, I always have a lot of fun seeing everybody’s arrangements. There are so many different approaches, and you’ve chosen one path, and I’ve seen so many others out there that are unique and interesting.
“One of the hardest lessons we learned as a family during those dark times when you can’t always control your external circumstances you can how power and control over what goes on inside you and how you respond and react.” ~ Noel Resch
Noel: We had a lot of time on our hands! Instead of being depressed and angry about what was going on…we kind of had a blast. I told Phil, for many people, it was a really dark time, and as I go and reminisce, I remember it as being a really special time for our family. Because when do you get a chunk of time like that when we’re all together, and you’re not working, there is no school, everything is shut down, there’re no obligations, nothing to keep you busy, and all you have really is each other and your house. We really made the best of it, and we have such great memories. Those are the few, if you went back on our timeline…those were the most extravagant ones.
Phil: Obviously, there were the food ones. National Hamburger Day. We actually went out to—and everyone was doing takeout at the time—and we ordered takeout from everywhere around our community and cut them up into quarters and did sample tests. The interaction with people over Facebook and we ranked our burger.
On potato day, we got different things from French fries to baked potatoes to tater tot from all our favorite restaurants. One of my favorites was Pie Day. We went and bought 4 or 5 different pies, and we all got to eat our favorite pies. They weren’t just easy days. You spend sometimes 3 hours driving around town to a lot of restaurants that were appreciative of the business at the time. They were work, but they were a lot of fun as well.
“You spend sometimes 3 hours driving around town to a lot of restaurants that were appreciative of the business at the time. They were work but they were a lot of fun as well.” ~Philip Resch
Madelyn: I think no matter what the day was, we kind of made it our goal to think about it and make the best of every single holiday there was. Like Phil said, it was a really great distraction. For me, especially finding out about Phil’s cancer. I was home that day, and I had a lot of anxiety about it, and I was worried about it, kind of just focused on the moment being in the now, spending time with family. That’s all you really had during the pandemic. So it was a great way to get together and bond in a way we didn’t think possible. I mean, with this calendar, we’re all closer together.
Michele: If you were speaking to someone who was going to start celebrating every day, what would you recommend?
“I was worried about it, kinda just focused on the moment being in the now, spending time with family.” Madelyn
Noel: Here’s the thing…you can kind of become perfectionistic. When we were locked down, we did such big, bold things, and that was awesome. Is that truly sustainable every single day? We do have jobs to get back to, we do have things…. It became kind of an inner struggle for me almost. “I don’t know if we’re celebrating enough now.” But I think the point isn’t that you have to blow each day out. I think the message is that you have to take time each day, whatever amount of time you have. Some days you might have several hours, and you can just do something great, and some days it might just be 10 minutes.
And you just…National Coffee Day…you run through Starbucks and get your cup of coffee and toast coffee day. I think it’s that, allowing it to be whatever it can be that day. But just taking some time each day, no matter how much or how little time you have.
World Cancer Day
Michele: Phil, are you still in treatment?
Phil: The last scans in November show my PSA is gone undetectable, and the scans look clear, so the number still looks good. I have my scans in Mid-February on a quarterly basis. Hopefully, they remain as much. It’s been a 3 1/2 year process to get here. When you start the process, and you’re stage IV right out the gate, that’s a scary take.
Noel: Originally, they told us he could possibly make it to 5 years, and there was no guarantee. As we said, 2019 was a dark year for us. He went through some radiation, and after some treatment, his cancer kind of adapted an aggressive variant to it. That’s why we left locally and sought out treatment at a major cancer center. And I remember the day, and he (the doctor) said, “You’re starting to get in big trouble here.” And I had done a lot of research, and I knew we’d be lucky if he makes two years.
I did a lot of research. We pushed for things, and we found this amazing doctor who is very aggressive and cares very much about stage IV patients, and isn’t willing to write them off. We went through a lot of treatments, a lot of rough treatments. But we found out on November 5 of 2021 that he is in complete remission.
“There were things we had never tried before and all the sudden we’re like…huh. We never had bird feeders. It forced us to get creative.” ~Noel
It’s truly amazing; it’s just short of a miracle. I never thought we’d see that day because every treatment he went through, he responded decently, but then within a few months, you have a scan, and something would pop up in a different spot, and so the cancer had spread here. It was almost like we were starting to play Whack-A-Mole. Ok. It’s here; let’s get that. Now it’s here; let’s get that. Wow. How long can we continue this, and at what point is it worth it? Because with each treatment, Phil suffers a little bit. It becomes a very complex thing where you have to look at… there’s just so many issues tied up into it. But, yes, he’s in a phenomenal place.
“When you start the process and you’re stage IV right out the gate, that’s a scary thing.” ~ Philip
Noel: A really cool thing happened. A friend of ours I bought a camera lens from, and we became Facebook friends because I was hoping she could give me lessons on sports photography. She became one of our greatest supporters. Every single day she liked what we did. At the end of 2020, she said, “I want to work with you.” My social book…? She said, “I want to take everything you did and put it into book form.” Here are all our pictures. Over 300 pages. It’s EVERYTHING that we did.
Madelyn: Yeah, it’s really cool. She took every picture, and then she had the QR codes for videos.
Noel: On Facebook, we also posted about Phil’s treatments, and she said she felt the need to leave that in there. So you can remember during the time you were celebrating all that was going on as well. That was really cool.
National Apple Strudel Day
Noel: This one is one of my favorites. It’s National Apple Strudel Day. Philip needed to have five days of radiation up in Maplewood. I remember when we were packing, I said, “Grab everything because we’re going to be in a hotel. There are days we need to celebrate. If you think we need things from the house, grab it.”
Well, one of the days was National Apple Strudel Day. So we’re sitting in our hotel room 5-6 miles outside of Minneapolis, so I just started calling random bakeries. I said, “Do you have apple strudel?” And a lot of them said no. So I finally find Ruhland’s Strudel. I called the number, got a recording, and I just left a message. “Tomorrow’s National Strudel Day. Do you happen to have apple strudel?” About 20 minutes later—this was 9 o’clock at night—his gentleman calls back. “I’m from Ruhland’s Strudel.” And he asks, “What exactly are you looking for?” I said, “We’d really like to have an apple strudel. We’re staying at a Residence Inn, so we have an oven, we can prepare it, whatever…” And he said, “Well, I don’t have a storefront. I’m not a store.”
“I told him our story. I think he found it really weird that I needed this apple strudel. I told him about the calendar. And then I told him about Philip.” ~ Noel
It turns out he has a kind of a mini-factory. He does farmer’s markets and shows like that. So, we’re in a pandemic. All farmer’s markets are canceled. I told him our story. I think he found it really weird that I needed this apple strudel. So, I told him about the calendar. And then I told him about Philip. We’re at a hotel. We have to celebrate this day. And he goes, “You know what? I’ll meet you tomorrow. Meet me at this address, and I’m going help you out.” So we drove into St. Paul, and we met him, and he brings us in, and he shows us. They have all these strudels. He’s got savory and sweet. So he said, “Here’s what I have. Feel free to purchase what you want.”
He was going through a hard time because a lot of his business was canceled. All he could really do was a post on the internet and offer to deliver to people. Or meet people at places to have them pick up. But with all the farmer’s markets, festivals and fairs he would be at canceled, it was a tough year for him. So we talked with him. He gave us a free apple strudel; we bought several. We tried them, and they were amazing, and we were able to pull off Apple Strudel Day.
The Ripple Effect
They come frozen, and then you just bake them in the oven, give them an egg wash, and they’re amazing. So, we ended up staying in touch with him, and because he showed us so much kindness, and since we’re up there quarterly, we decided to bring a bunch of coolers, we posted to our friends. We had all our friends who wanted to try them. I think the first time, we might have had 40 or 50. But the next time we went back, we had over 100. We had this huge order. He helped us out. We helped him out. And it’s all because of this calendar.
We would have never…all because it was National Apple Strudel Day, we were looking for a strudel…staying in a hotel, and the guy could have not called us back. And he could have also said, “I’m not a store. I’m sorry.” But he didn’t. And that’s how this relationship started. We’re friends with him today; we keep in touch, we’ve been to his house.
Phil: He gave us a Christmas gift which is a beautiful cutting board.
Noel: It says “Love on a Plate,” and that’s his slogan.
Phil: Other people do get involved. At the end of every post, Noel would say what the next day is and when we made our post, people would tag back and say, “Well, this is how I celebrated Coffee Day.” Or “This is how I celebrated Doughnut Day.” All of a sudden, you’d have 6-8 pictures in response. So they did get involved.
National Mole Day
Madelyn: I think through the whole experience, we even had a couple of times where people reached out and said, “Hey, we’d like to do this with you.”
Noel: October 23 is National Mole Day. We thought it was mole, the animal, but it’s not. It’s scientific. We have a friend who’s a chemistry professor. So we ended up having multiple phone conversations with him to try to figure out how we could celebrate that day. So he ended up kind of helping us out. We calculated out exactly how many moles. I would call him and “Neil, what do we do?” And we got our dog involved, too. Phil had a mole of water. Morgan did a mole of baking soda. I did a mole of Sailor Jerry. We all had it measured out, and then we had to call him to make sure we had it right. We actually learned a lot.
National Clean Up Day – So we volunteered downtown. We found this group called Green Team in downtown Green Bay. We signed up, and the kids and I went downtown, and that’s how we celebrated. And then we ended up thinking it was kind of fun and continued volunteering throughout the summer. Well, the girls were getting frustrated because we couldn’t really let them get a job because Phil’s numbers… he’d just gone through two rounds of chemo and then radiation on top of it. He had no immune system.
“I think through the whole experience we even had a couple of times where people reached out and said, ‘Hey, we’d like to do this with you.'” ~Madelyn
Even though our school district did go back, the girls stayed home. But the point was it was difficult watching others still going about their lives while we were pretty much still isolated. So they couldn’t get a job, but through this volunteering which is because of this calendar – I’m telling you this calendar has been so amazing. They actually hired my two daughters—paid them—to go downtown and clean up. So over a year, they were part of the Clean Team as paid employees.
Michele: It makes connections, starts conversations, you meet people you wouldn’t normally meet.
Noel: That’s it! What you just said. Yes! If you can summarize it, you just did it beautifully.
Madelyn: You get to hear their stories. That’s one of the other really cool experiences is just getting to meet other people, open doors, and just kind of network through this calendar. You never know what kind of opportunity will arise for you, and then you can do new things.
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