Monday, December 31, 2012

12 in '12

This has been a pretty awe-inspiring, tear-inducing, laugh-producing, life-altering year for me. I guess that's true every year, but this year is different. I guess every year is different... you know what I mean. This morning, as I thought about what to write today, I decided to try to find 12 things, moments, discoveries, experiences in 2012 that deserved a second consideration today. Of course, I came up with more than 12 things, but I've whittled them down to these.

(You may want to grab a cup of tea or a shot of something strong. This is gonna be a long one...)

1. Reaching out... to me

Far more often than I'd like to admit, I think about discontinuing this blog. As much as I love to write, to share my thoughts, to spill my heart onto the page (or the screen), I confess that I suffer from acute and severe comment deficiency. I want to know that there are people out there reading these ramblings of mine and enjoying them. I know that Blogger doesn't make it easy to leave comments sometimes (I apologize for that), but I still wish that more folks left more comments.

Thankfully, this year several of you have reached out to me. Some of you have posted comments here on the blog and more of you have sent me emails privately. Thank you for doing that. Thank you for letting me know you are out there, reading, nodding, laughing, moaning, and walking along with me on this, my life's journey.

The most surprising thing you've shared in your comments and emails is that you think that when you write to me you are annoying me. To the contrary - every writer, scratch that - every person everywhere yearns to be seen, appreciated, and told that they matter to someone. Everyone. Please don't ever apologize for saying hello or for saying "thank you." I'll show you how it works: "Hello out there. Thank you for reading. Thank you for writing. Thank you for being here." See? That was easy.

2. Haiti


Vaccinations. Multiple forms to fill in. Charlotte. Miami. Port-au-Prince. Bayonnais. Driving through active streams in the mountains of Haiti in a Charlotte-Meckenburg County school bus. Discovering that Spanish was the only common language with some of the people I met there. Those sparking eyes and bright smiles. School uniforms with sharp creases and ruffled socks. Cholera tents. Naked babies. Our dining table loaded with bowls and plates of hot food while those who lived within yards of our building went to bed hungry as the smells of our meals wafted overhead. Getting choked up again right now as I remember the beauty, the poverty, the gladness, the sadness, the colors, the smells, the moonlight, the wild fire, the fresh mango, the bottled water, the hike I didn't take, and the hike I did take. A new perspective on life, on school, on travel, on gratitude, on joy, and on the resilience of people. I cannot wait to go back.

3. The beach



Who doesn't love the beach? The water. The sunshine. The sky. The plants. The vastness of it.

4. Religion and Joy

On Wednesday, October 31st, I began teaching a three-week series of evening classes at the church we attend. Earlier that day, I underwent a mammogram that raised enough concern that I was scheduled for a biopsy two days later. The following Wednesday, on the 2nd night of the class, I talked to them about the things that sometimes take our joy away - and I announced to them that I had been diagnosed with breast kanswer the day before, Election Day. On the 3rd and final night, we talked about how to incorporate practices that rebuild and maintain our joy. They promised to pray for me and for each other. I promised to pray for them. We hugged, kissed, and promised to do all we can to keep joy at the center of our lives.

After I told him about my diagnosis early in that second week of class, the pastor of Christian Education told me that I didn't have to continue teaching the class if I needed or wanted to stop. I responded: "If what we say is true, that joy doesn't have anything to do with circumstances but comes from God, then how can I stop teaching this class now? Besides, if God is who God says God is, then God knew that I was going to volunteer to teach a class on religion and joy at the same time that I would receive this diagnosis. So again, how can I stop teaching this class now? These are the times when religion and joy have to be lived out. Or what is the point?" 

5. Freedom to fail and freedom to drive

My daughter is a licensed driver. Thanks be to God! Unfortunately, the first time she took her driving test, she failed because she drove to slowly. As far as I'm concerned, slow driving should be rewarded, especially when the driver is a teenager. But her DMV test-giver was not amused. The second time, she maintained adequate speed, used her turn signals appropriately, completed her K-turn, and parked the car well enough to double our auto insurance payments.

Of course, all of that got me to thinking. We each and we all have the freedom to fail. To move too slowly. To move too quickly. To forget too soon. To not be able to forget at all. To marry and then to divorce. To get a job and then be let go. To earn a living wage and waste it through unnecessary spending. To try again and again - and not get it right. To ask for change, for compromise, for a new way to be in relationship again and again - and be rebuffed every time. We all fail sometimes. Often.

But if we push, if we give it one more attempt, if we pray and act, if we plan and execute the plan, sometimes we pass. "Success" may not look like what we hoped for. The end result may be different from what we set out to achieve. But we are granted the freedom to drive. To be free. To move on. To leave the past behind and move into a new future.

6. New handrails out front


We've lived in this house more than ten years. For most of those years, we have had wooden bannisters and handrails leading up to our front door. For all of those years, the bannisters and handrails have been splitting, flaking, and decomposing. I began to fear that one of our friends or family members would grab the handrail as they descended the stairs and both the handrail and our guest would descend the stairs in a heap. This year, we finally replaced the rotten wood with wrought iron. Upon completing the installation, one of the workmen said, "Give it two or three hours for the cement to set and then you can do back flips over these new handrails." To my knowledge, no one has attempted any back flips over the new handrails. But nor has anyone taken a tumble - for that I give thanks!

Once again, I got to thinking - which handrails and bannisters in my emotional life are in decline and in need of replacement? Who are the people and what are the practices in my life that have proven untrustworthy and unreliable? Which spiritual practices need to be reinforced so that when times of back flips and belly flips come, I can be reasonably sure that they will hold? Who are the men and women in my life that I trust to help me replace, rework, rewire, and reestablish the foundations, handrails, bannisters, and structure of my life?

7. Eight more days of silence



Not much needs to be said about the power of silence, of solitude, of unplugging from the noise in the world in order to plug into The Silence of Father God, of Sweet Momma Jesus, and of Wise and Ever-Present Sarayu-Spirit. To reconnect with the One who invites me to put my head on Her lap, to rest, to be consoled, comforted, loved. The One who invites me to cast all my care upon Him, to come when I am weary and heavy-laden so that She can give me rest.

Deep sigh. Even deeper gratitude.

8. The allure of that one huge tree



I promised myself that next time I'm at the Jesuit Center, I will sit in that chair and pray.
Staring up at the branches and leaves. Listening to the birds in their nests.
Imagining myself deep in the life-giving womb of My Sweet Momma.


9. "I am not my hair"

A brief and succinct message for kanswer - 
on the day I had my locs cut off

A brief and succinct hat for my new hairdo - or lack thereof

10. "You are a highly powerful woman."

I went to a one-day writing retreat with this amazing writing teacher, and a woman at the retreat said this to me: "I can tell that you are a highly powerful woman." Needless to say, she and I are great friends now. But those words caught me off-guard. No one had ever said that to me. Not so directly. Not upon meeting me for the first time. Turns out she was right. I am powerful. (So are you!) What will I do in 2013 and beyond now that I know that for sure? How now shall I live?

11. Strength.

Partly because of what Mica told me (see #10 in this list) and partly because of what I found out on November 6th of this year (see #4 in this list), I have chosen "strength" as my word of the year for 2013.

Strength to overcome "these light and momentary troubles."
Strength to get back to teaching, studying, travel, culture, language, and art.
Strength to be the woman, the friend, the teacher, the aunt, the cousin, the sister, the daughter, the mother, and the wife I was born to be.

Which reminds me of the final verse of an old song of the church - Great is Thy Faithfulness.
"Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide,
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
blessings all mine with ten thousand beside.
Great is thy faithfulness, great is thy faithfulness
Morning by morning, new mercies I see.
All I have needed thy hand has provided;
great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me."

12. Putting the tree away


Every year, just before I put the Christmas tree back into its two boxes and carefully repack all the Christmas ornaments into their respective cartons, I sit and stare at it and wonder: "What will the new year bring? What will our family be like when we pull these boxes out of the attic again next November? Will we still live in this house? Will we all still be alive and in good health?" Invariably, I get emotional - but I get emotional invariably, so who's surprised by that? Anyway, I get teary whenever I ponder the possibility that we might not all be around the following Christmas.

This year more than ever, I am acutely aware of the fragility of life, the brevity of life, the truth that in the twinkling of an eye, in the probe of a needle, in the test tube of a laboratory, in the spray of a madman's bullets, everything can change. But it is also true that in the delivery room of a hospital, at the altar of a church, in the moment that vows and rings are exchanged, in the meeting of eyes across a crowded bar, everything can change.

Life is short. And every year feels shorter than the last.
So make haste to be kind. To love one another. To forgive as well.
Don't hold back your tears, your hugs, or your laughter.
Life is short. Take not one person, not one conversation, not one moment for granted.
If you mean it, say it, out loud - "Those are the best chocolate chip cookies ever."
"It may suck right now. But this too shall pass."
"I'm here with you. I'm here for you."
"You are one of the best things that has ever happened to me."
"I am grateful that you are in my life." "I love you."


Happy new year.
Happy new everyday. 


* And finally, a prayer for the cave time, for the darkness, a prayer of trust, gratitude, and hope.


Monday, December 24, 2012

How Can This Be?

I've listened to and watched some fantastic sermons about Christmas over the past few days.
The angels. The shepherds. The singing. Mary. Joseph. Elizabeth. Zechariah.
Listening to angels. Speaking to angels. Following angels' instructions.
Being aware of and forever transformed by the good news of great joy which is for all people.

The story is that a baby, a magnificently lowly child,
the newborn king, the prince of peace,
Emmanuel, God-with-us,
was to be born on this Holy Night.
How can this be?

It doesn't make sense that God would become a baby and be born.
Born of a teenaged girl claiming to still be a virgin.
Born into an occupied nation at tax time.
Born into poverty.
Born in a stable.
How can this be?

If Jesus really is God-with-us, then that affects everything, doesn't it?

God-with-us in the beginning.
God-with-us in cancer. Again.
God-with-us in job loss. Again.
God-with-us in the loss of a child.
God-with-us in the loss of a parent.
God-with-us in long-term illness.
God-with-us in the hospital.
God-with-us in the loneliness.
God-with-us in the messiness of marriage.
God-with-us in the decision to divorce.
God-with-us in the middle.
God-with-us when injustice rolls down like a mighty river.
God-with-us when the children are ill.
God-with-us when we are ill.
God-with-us when the money runs out.
God-with-us when the spouse runs out.
God-with-us in the darkness.
God-with-us in the deafening noise of life.
God-with-us when silence falls.
God-with-us when the tears won't stop flowing.
God-with-us when there are no words.
God-with-us at the end.


If Jesus really is God-with-us, then there is reason to rejoice.
That precious baby boy was
born to heal us,
born to transform us,
born to ask us questions and listen to our answers,
born to walk with us through every valley,
born to break bread with us at table,
born to invite himself to our houses for dinner,
born to release us from our fears and sins,
born to hold our hand when the healing potions drip in,
born to smile with us at the sound of children's laughter,
born to stand beside us when we bake the lasagna and the cookies,
born to applaud when we graduate,
born to sing the hymns, the anthems, and the ballads with us,
born to smile at us from across crowded rooms,
born to touch us when others deem us untouchable,
born to wait with us for the late bus after school,
born to be with us through every trial, tribulation,
born to dance with us at every victory and sing with us every song of praise,
and born to deliver us from death's grasp.



How can this be?
I have no idea.

But if Jesus really is God-with-us, then that changes absolutely everything.
Then there really ought to be joy in the world.
Then this is truly a holy night.
And Christmas ought to be merry, indeed.
Merry Christmas, my friends.
And a happy new every day.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Dear God, I'm just wondering....

I'm sitting here on this brisk Saturday afternoon wrestling with a lot of questions, God.

* why is there so much cold weather?
* why so much hot weather?
* why so many bad storms?
* why the frequent drought?

* why do we reach for guns and knives so often?
* why so much violence?
* why do we yell, scream, and insult one another so frequently?

* why can't we all just get along?
* why is it so hard to let things go?
* why is it so hard to let people go and forgive them?
* why does life have to hurt so much?

* why is there kanswer?
* why is there so much kanswer?
* why can't people just have kanswer once and be done with it?
* why haven't we figured out more ways to prevent, avoid, and cure disease?

* when will I learn to trust you completely?
* to trust that all truly shall be well?
* to trust that there really is a plan?
* to trust that I don't have to know the plan in order to trust you?

* what if none of this ever makes sense?
* what if I never get a glimpse of the plan behind the mystery?
* what if I decide to trust you anyway, even though most of the time you feel like you are a million miles away?
* when will I learn to cherish those moments when you are closer than my breath,
when I feel your hand in mine, your breath against my wet cheeks,
and your arms carrying me through the darkest, most shadow-filled nights?

* why do I so easily discount my feelings of trust and faith as nonsensical?
* why do I look for ways to downplay the deep peace I feel, even in this most difficult time?
* why do I allow other people's skepticism and cynicism to infringe on my blessed assurance that all is well and all shall be well?

* would you please help me to be willing to hold onto 
the good and the bad at the same time?
the doubt and the faith?
the joy and the anguish?
the hope and the despair?
the strength and the weakness?
the prayers and the cursing?
the salad and the cookies?
the patience and the itchiness?
the contentment and the rage?
to not reject one or the other but to accept every feeling, every tear, every wail, every experience as part of the life journey you have put me on?

* what if all of this pain, this sickness, this homebound living, what if all of this hair loss, healing therapy, upcoming surgery and radiation therapy truly are meant to strip me of everything that is superfluous, meaningless, overrated, and overvalued, so that I will emerge as a completely new woman? Ready to live, love, speak, teach, and move in the world as a new creation, one for whom all things have been made new? 

* what if I don't live to see any of that?



Dear God, I'm just wondering...
I've got a lot of questions.
I'm pretty sure you can handle them.
Thanks for listening.

PS. I love you more now than ever before.
Thanks for (gulp...) everything, I think...

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Blown Away Yet Again

Yesterday, I had my second of six healing therapy sessions.
It went well... for the most part.

In case you don't remember, at the first session, I pretended to have an allergic reaction to one of the healing infusions, taxotere. At yesterday's session, I had a real allergic reaction to it. At first, I felt nauseous. Then I felt flush and warm. Then stars began to swim in front of my eyes. Then I started to have difficulty breathing - all within about 20 seconds. I signaled to my trusty sidekick, Gibbs, to go get the nurse. I couldn't even speak. She sprinted across the room. She and the nurse returned post haste and I was given a very fast and direct shot of Benadryl into my port. Within 90 seconds or so, I felt fine. But those were a very long 90 seconds. Gibbs said that even though my eyes were open the whole time, I was clearly not there. Yikes.

Twenty minutes later, they resumed that same medication and followed it with the rest of the day's regimen. By the time Gibbs and I walked out of the office, I felt fine, sleepy but fine.

I wrote about the experience briefly in a facebook status and the love and support flowed freely in my direction.

I am repeatedly being humbled by this kanswer-thing. This dis-ease is no joke. It is no respecter of persons. It touches us all in one way or another. It mercilessly reduces us all to our simplest, most essential selves. But I am determined to show this kanswer that it is not the answer. It is not going to defeat me. It will not break my spirit or my will. It will not deprive me of love, laughter, friendship, or Christmas cookies. Kanswer might change what I look like. It might cause me to change how I eat and move in the world. But kanswer will not change the woman that I have become. It will not rob me of my joy or my smile, my faith in God or my unbridled passion for life and love. No way.

One of the ways that I plan to win this battle is by holding on to who you are, the friends I love and who show me daily how much you love me. The friends who write to me, text me, and call me regularly. Those who pray for me and hold silent space not only for my healing, but also, and more importantly sometimes, my deep grief. Those who encourage me to curse the darkness and step into the light. Those who just encourage me to curse (sometimes only a four-letter word will do!). The one who practices reiki with me. The one who sends me stories and reminds me of great passion gone by. Those who write to me in English y los que me escriben en el idioma del cielo. Those who drop gifts off at my front door and text or call me after the fact. I am overcome with gratitude for the steady presence of friends and loved ones in my life these days, the offers of meals, the visits, the hats, the cards, and the list goes on and on. I am incapable of fully expressing what it all means to me - other than to keep saying thank you.

You all blow me away, again and again, day after day, hour by hour.

*************

This evening, I have been rendered speechless yet again.
Love surrounds me and fills me on a deeper level.
I am overwhelmed, grateful, filled with unspeakable joy.
Tears flow.

Maya Stein has done it again.
I love this woman.
More than she can possibly imagine.
And today's poem is only one reason why I love her so.

Here it is -


two down, four to go
for Gail

Surely, she is made of something beyond the body, horizon line
unwavering past a sea of misbehaving cells.
I do not know her strength, exactly, only that at the same time
the first chemical feed tube went in she was already coming up with ways
to tell the story differently, shaving her dreadlocks to lay herself bare
for her unwelcome guest. “Kanswer,” she calls it, meeting its unwieldy, fibrous
question with a steady nod, even when it’s vitriol she wants to spew or call out “Liar!”
But no. “Two down, four to go,” she writes instead from a chair at the doctor’s office;
these words uncurl an ammunition and the gnawing fear briefly sours.
She is a thousand times alone, but her courage makes the battle ours.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

In quietness and trust

Isaiah 30:15 says -

This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says:
"In repentance and rest is your salvation,
in quietness and trust is your strength,
but you would have none of it."

This afternoon, as I watch my beloved Peyton Manning play Denver Broncos football
while wearing the Peyton Manning jersey I received for my birthday, (Go, Peyton!!!)
as I eat the last half of the mini key lime tart my husband gave me on my birthday,
as I read today's reading in Behold: Cultivating Attentiveness in the Season of Advent,
as I ponder the many blessings and greetings that have arrived in my mailbox, my inbox,
and delivered in person - including the aforementioned Advent book,

in quietness and trust, I give thanks for the many blessings in my life, for my family, friends, our home, for tea, for fruit dipped in chocolate, for tear-soaked times of prayer, for poetry, for photography.

in quietness and trust, I mourn with those who mourn life's tragedies - death, disease, divorce, depression, deceit, job loss, manic episodes, loneliness, separation, bankruptcy.

in quietness and trust, I rejoice with those whose lives are joy-filled and grace-filled - those with new babies, impending nuptials, new job opportunities, straight As in school, and children who have returned home safely from college and study abroad.

in quietness and trust, I prepare myself for tomorrow, my second healing therapy session.
by this time tomorrow, in the mid-afternoon hours, I will be back at home, recovering.
in quietness and strength, I will do all within my power to make tomorrow a good day.
in quietness and trust, I will find the strength to bear all that is yet to come.

the last part of that verse, the part that says, "but you would have none of it,"
that part does not and will not apply to me.

I will have all of it:
repentance for all the wrong I have done - and there has been much wrong.
rest before, during, and after tomorrow's healing treatment.
quietness within and without.
trust that all shall be well. deep trust.
trust that will remain steady before, during, and after the many tears that will surely flow.

in repentance and rest will be my salvation.
in quietness and trust will be my strength.

may God have mercy on us all, on Newtown in particular, and also on me.

******************

Yesterday, my daughter and I had a photo shoot with one of her friends,
a gifted young man named Graham Morrison.
Here are a few of the photos he took.




Friday, December 14, 2012

It's My Party

Today is my 47th birthday. I have take time this day to celebrate, to give thanks, to look back and look ahead.

I took the kids to Starbucks for a drink this morning.
We talked and laughed - my children make me laugh hard, even in public.
Then a quick trip to CVS.
Then a stroll through Trader Joe's.
(Don't panic, folks. Supermarket shopping is one my greatest pleasures. So I had a blast.)

One friend came over for a visit - bearing gifts and wrapping me in her loving arms.
(Love you, Gibbs.)
Two other friends came over - bearing dinner, cupcakes, and their joyful presence.
(Love you too, Ruth Ellen and Thold. Dinner was delicious!!!)

I opened a few thoughtful gifts before we ate a delicious meal of ravioli, salad, and warm bread.
I am happy. I am grateful. I am filled with joy for these first 47 years of life I have had.
I am indeed a happy birthday girl.


I am also a very sad birthday girl because 20 children and 6 adults were gunned down in an elementary school in the hometown of my dearest friend. It appears that the gunman also killed his mother.

What the hell is wrong with us?
How does this type of tragedy keep happening in our country?
I am speechless.
Dazed and confused.
Horrified.
Angry.
Incredulous.

Baffled as to why anybody needs to own automatic or semi-automatic assault weapons. Nothing and no one can convince me that our "right to bear arms" should include those weapons of mass destruction. No one would ever use such a weapon to kill deer or wild turkeys. No one. Period. Those weapons are purchased and used exclusively to kill people. Which is exactly what happened yet again - in an elementary school.

Indefensible.
Indescribable.
Inconceivable.

Unfathomable.
Unconscionable. 
Unimaginable.
Unspeakable.



Why? 
Why?
Why?

It's my party, so I am gonna celebrate my life tonight.
I will journal. I will look at photos. I will spend time with my husband and children.
There will be cupcakes, cheesecake and key lime pie consumed before I go to bed.
I may even have a glass of something alcoholic...
(I'm definitely off the kanswer-fighting diet tonight!)

It's my party and I can cry if I want to.
I will certainly mourn the lives of those precious children
and the adults who were taking care of them 
at the time of their tragic deaths. 

May God have mercy on the families of those whose lives were lost.
May we keep those broken-hearted families in our thoughts and prayers in the days and weeks to come.
May we be ever mindful of the horrors of this day as we make the difficult decisions that must be made to reduce the chances of this kind of tragedy being repeated in the future.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

12/12/12

Twelve things I wish would go away for good...


1. war
2. guns
3. sarcasm
4. violence of every kind
5. kanswer
6. illness of every kind
7. fear
8. prejudice
9. diet soda
10. dental cavities
11. toe shoes
12. starvation


Twelve things I'm grateful for...


1. sunshine
2. rain
3. laughter
4. books
5. a home I love
6. my friends
7. my collection of cross necklaces
8. sweet potato french fries
9. the lemon drop martinis, veggie burger, wild rice salad, french fries, and key lime pie at 131 Main
10. that baby smell
11. warm homemade chocolate chip cookies
12. airplane travel

Twelve questions...

1. If certain foods give you heartburn, why not stop eating those foods? Why choose medication to supress the symptoms instead of prevention?
2. Why does my oncologist's office have Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite and Ensure in the fridge for patients, but no herbal tea, mineral water, or fresh juices?
3. Why do people park their pick-up trucks in compact parking spaces?
4. Why won't I stop buying journals even though I have at least 20 brand new ones already in my closet?
5. Ditto with pens - except I probably have 150 pens in my house and car...
6. When will I accept that there are people who love me and who actually do want to help me, especially at this time in my life?
7. Why don't my family members just put their empty bottles into the recycling bin? Why do they leave them on the kitchen counter?
8. Did people really eat Twinkies on a regular basis?
9. Why does that same bird peck on my front door every spring?
10. How do whales, butterflies, penguins, and birds know where to go when it's migration season?
11. What on earth motivated that first person to deep fry a Snickers bar?
12. Why do I wonder about these things when there are far more important things to wonder about?

Sunday, December 09, 2012

What it says and What I hear...

Habakkuk 3:17-19 says: 

Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to go on the heights. 

What I hear:

Though the diagnosis wasn't what I had hoped for
and there are several rounds of healing therapy to be endured,
though my locs are gone and the rest of my hair will soon fall out,
though the strength slowly seeps from my body with each round,
though surgery will be followed by radiation,
though everything I thought I knew about my body,
about my health, about good nutrition and exercise
proved to be inadequate in keeping kanswer from invading my body,
I will YET praise God.
I will praise God still.

Though I feel profoundly alone and anxious at times,
though I sometimes scream out, "why me?"
though no clear or reasonable answers come my way,
though well-meaning friends try to come up with explanations
and end up insulting, belittling, and criticizing me and my faith,
though some of the people I thought I could rely on most withdraw
while offering weak excuses for their lack of involvement and support,
I will yet crawl into my Sweet Momma Jesus' lap
and be loved, caressed, and held closely by The One who Loves Me Most.

Though my tastebuds no longer function as they used to,
though deep and restorative sleep evades me most nights,
though dizziness and light-headedness deprive me of good balance,
though short walks feel like marathons,
though Christmas decoration and shopping, baking and cooking aren't getting done -
wait, I'm glad I don't have to do that stuff -
though much of what this time of year usually demands of me will be left undone,
I will yet praise him, The Long-Expected Jesus.
I will yet welcome the newborn king into the manger of my heart.
I don't have much else to offer this year,
but perhaps that should have been the goal all along.

The Lover of My Soul walks with me
to and through every treatment,
sits with me and holds my hand during every injection,
lies beside me, sings me lullibies, and embraces me every night,
gazes deeply into my tear-filled eyes,
never turns away from my pleas for mercy, rest, and strength,
and every time I am feel like I'm about to stumble and fall
he upholds me with his righteous right hand.


Together, Lord, we will travel this long journey,
this camino, this long and winding road,
together we will slowly make our way thru the valley,
through the woods, through the desert,
through the fire, the water, and the floods.
We will get to "the other side of through."
We will not remain in this dark and difficult place because,
as my uncle said back when Kristiana was in her own dark valley,
"This trial did not come to stay. This trial came to pass."

No matter what, no matter where, no matter how tough this way may be,
I will yet praise you,
My Rock, My Redeemer,
My Father, My Mother,
My Healer, My Deliverer,
My Constant Companion,
My Savior and My Friend.
I will praise you still.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

A little bit of this, a little bit of that...

Life has always been a mixed bag. Nowadays, it's more mixed than ever.
Here's what I mean -

I am supremely confident that all is well and all shall be well.
At the same time, I wonder how I would handle bad news at the end of all this.

I feel better and better with each passing day. In some ways, this week is reminding me of how easy and simply my life was pre-kanswer.
At the same time, I dread starting the cycle again on the 17th.

I feel deeper peace and joy tonight than I have since receiving the diagnosis.
At the same time, I'm pinching myself, wondering if I'm denying some deep-seated fear I don't want to admit to.

I am grateful for how strong I feel tonight. 
At the same time, I'm terrified that this strength will not be evident during the week following my next treatment. And what will I do then? 

Kanswer is the worst thing that has ever happened to me.
At the same time, I've learned more about my body, nutrition, supplements, and new ways to eat and live more healthfully than I would have if this had never happened to me.

I'm one of the most independent people I know.
At the same time, I'm learning that there is a beauty and sweetness to depending on the generosity and kindness of others that I've never experienced before.

I'm supposed to rest, to take exquisite care of myself, to be on "sa-battle-cal," as a friend recently reminded me.
At the same time, it is ridiculously difficult to sit on the sidelines, to not have a busy Christmas schedule, to not be grocery shopping, baking cookies, making big pots of soup, cleaning and doing laundry everyday. I feel like a slug, like a bump on a log.
(At the same time, it feels GREAT to relax, to lay in bed, to read, to watch television, to not be cooking and cleaning, and to not feel (too) guilty about it.)

I want this whole kanswer thing to end well. Once these nine months are behind me, I hope and pray to be kanswer free for the rest of my life.
At the same time, I know that there are no guarantees. I know too many people dealing with this disease for the second and third time to ignore the possibility that it could happen again.

I am grateful to be working with one of the best surgeons in Charlotte. I adore my oncologist and am grateful that he is so patient with my questions and complaints. The nurses in the oncologist's office are generous, gentle, funny, and attentive. They explain things better than any other nurses I've ever encountered.
At the same time, I wish I had never met any of these people.

I have some of the most loving, loyal, generous, kind, supportive friends in the world.
At the same time, I'm quite nervous that I will overplay "the kanswer card" and they will get sick of having to check in with me and look after me.

I love telling the stories of all that I'm experiencing and learning through this process - and I'm learning so much. I love sharing that I'm feeling better and getting stronger as this week progresses.
At the same time, I worry that on days when I'm feeling low, I will be letting people down by telling that part of the story as well.

I know that no one will be disappointed with me when things get tough. Kanswer sucks. There is nothing easy about going through the healing therapy. I know that my true tribe will stick close and see me through this entire process.
At the same time, I want to "do this right," "be strong," and "be a good role model."

What I am learning is that in the midst of all this double-think and double-speak,
all truly is well, life is truly a gift to be savored, and there is beauty within and around me all the time.
Everything is exactly what it needs to be right now.
This life story of mine (and yours) is being written every day, every hour, live, unedited.
There is no "right way" to do this. There are no expectations to be met.
There is just this one life I get to live, fully, attentively, breathing deeply.
At the same time, I am deeply, profoundly, unendingly grateful.

My faith has found a resting place. My soul is at peace.
My body is fed, clothed, warm, and downright amazing, especially considering the shocking changes it has been forced to undergo in the past three weeks.
I know that I am loved, cared for, prayed for, thought of, and that many good wishes are being sent my way every day.
At the same time, I am deeply, profoundly, unendingly grateful.


For those of you who aren't on facebook
or haven't seen my new short-haired look in person,
here I am during this past Monday's drug infusion.
I may be completely bowling-ball-bald
by this time next week. 
I'll post a photo of that as well.
I hope I'm still smiling, even then...

Monday, December 03, 2012

The stuff that doesn't show up in facebook feeds...

It's not that I lie on Facebook. I don't. It's just that a facebook status box isn't big enough to tell the whole story. Here, I can go into more detail. (A writer I love wrote a little bit about the difference between real life and facebook here. She's truly a writing heroine of mine.)

So what are a few of the things I haven't I said there?

1. I've gotta buy storage space on Google before I can post more photos here. Apparently, there's a limit to the number of photos I can post here on blogger. Apparently, I've reached that limit. So give me a few days to get that taken care of. Or check out my haircut photos on facebook - I'm at Gail NHB if you wanna find me there.

2. Even though I've gotten several compliments on the shape of my head and my new short hairdo, I would love to be able to rewind the clock, delete the kanswer from my left breast and lymph node, and still be swinging my dreadlocs in my children's faces and over my shoulders. Having said that, it is a whole lot easier to wash, dry, and "style" my hair now that there's so little of it. I expect that I will keep my hair short and sweet once it grows back next summer.

3. Healing therapy week, last week, was THE TOUGHEST WEEK OF MY ENTIRE LIFE. I hurt in places that aren't supposed to hurt. I felt like I'd been flattened by a freight train which was followed closely by a commuter express train. I alternately had the chills and then hot flashes (apparently healing therapy sometimes puts women into instant menopause), sometimes within minutes of each other. I started waking up in the middle of the night to pee (I'm supposed to drink at least 64 ounces of water a day. I have been closer to a gallon most days) and then found it nearly impossible to fall back to sleep. After tossing and turning for far too long, I'd drift back to sleep. Then I'd wake up a few hours later feeling dehydrated, with my tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth, and start the crazy cycle all over again.

4. By Saturday morning, I felt sooooooo much better. Well enough to bake my son his favorite butterscotch squares. He and his two best friends sat on the couch in the family room, ate them quietly, and expressed thanks not easily or normally expressed by 16, 17, and 18 year olds, all while we watched college football together. Plus they each complimented me on my haircut. Nice boys. They can come back anytime.

5. This morning, I felt completely human again, except for the burning sensation I have gotten used to in my tongue. Ever drink a gallon of boiling water? Me, neither. But that's what it feels like. This afternoon the oncologist told me that I can make a baking soda-salt water rinse and that should help. It should go away on its own within the next day or two, he said, but is likely to return in two weeks when I have my next session. Great! He also dangled a tantalizing temptation: "magic mouthwash," he called it. A prescription rinse that would numb my tongue, but then I'd have to be careful not to bite my tongue. Anybody who knows me well knows that I have had many dental challenges in my lifetime, so biting my tongue isn't something I will embrace lightly.

Did I mention the fact that on the weekend after Thanksgiving, just days before my first healing therapy, I flossed a filling out of one of my molars??????? How hard must I have been flossing to work a filling loose? So now I have to have that tooth refilled next week. Is this sister falling apart or WHAT???

6. Incredibly, gratefully, mercifully, my spirits are high. I've been loved and supported by friends and family in tangible and intangible ways. Meals, cards, flowers, books, music, sermons on tape, journals, treats of all kinds, breakfast jars, soup in jars. bread, cookies, curries, packs of printer paper, booklets, visits, hugs, baby snuggles, recipes, phone calls, text messages, hand-drawn hearts, artwork, hats, scarves, a nightgown, lotion, socks, foot scrubs, candles, a wish tree kit, a gorgeous Edible Arrangement, and more have all been gratefully, tearfully received by yours truly.

But beyond that, I have been reminded over and over that this current trial, this most unexpected challenge will serve a greater purpose in my life and in the lives of others. Some women have been motivated to get their mammograms taken care of. Some friends have rethought other health decisions they need to make. Take care of yourselves, my friends. There are no guarantees that you will escape all harm and danger, but it's far better to enter a serious health-related battle fit and healthy than out of shape and chronically ill.

7. At the end of a video I have mentioned before, Crazy Sexy Cancer, the narrator said, "Cancer isn't a gift because I wouldn't give it to you. But cancer can be a catalyst, a teacher." I am beginning to learn many lessons from this kanswer I've been visited by. I am learning to listen to myself and to my body.  I am learning to speak up for myself. I am learning how to ask for and accept help. That's very, very hard. I'm learning that my children and my husband can do a helluva lot more than I gave them space, time, and credit for. I'm learning that it's okay to not do everything I have always done. I'm learning who is truly on my team, in my tribe, and who isn't up to the task. I'm learning to love those people, forgive them, and release them.  I'm learning who is willing to step out of the shadows and silence to offer me support, love, advice, suggestions, challenges, encouragement, a shoulder to lean on, a hand to hold - even across many miles, oceans, and continents. I am learning to lean on them, to rely on them in new ways, and to thank them. And this is only the beginning of week 5 of my ordeal - I began to count on the week I had the mammogram. The Associate's Degree Program in Kanswer Science has only just begun.

8. There were moments last week when I wasn't sure I'd be able to survive 18 weeks of this, if they were all going to feel like last week felt. I spent nearly many hours sitting in bed or sitting on the couch downstairs hoping, wishing, praying for relief, for something, for anything to make me feel even marginally better. Fortunately, a few people "felt" my pain, felt my darkness, and reached out to me at just the right times. Encouraging me to hang on to hope, to believe that it would get better, to remind me that they themselves had walked a very similar road and had emerged safely on the other end of the tunnel. I called a couple of people and just wept on the phone. They held me up. They were truly the wind beneath my very achy, very tired wings. Like Moses' right hand men in the book of Exodus, they held up my arms so that I could continue to fight the good fight. Finally, on Friday and again yesterday, I began to feel surges of strength, of courage, and of life again. I was able to laugh again. I was able to raise my head and my heart above the water line, and I was able to stand again. In body, mind, and soul.

Now I have a better idea of what to expect on the first week of each cycle. I have tips on how to prepare myself and how to take better care of myself on those painful days. And if any of you have good chicken noodle or miso style soup recipes that you would like to share, please inbox me. Better yet, if you live close enough to make those soups and don't mind bringing them our way during the week of December 17th, then by all means, feel free to do so! You can check out our meal calendar at Carecalendar.org. Calendar ID Code: 131973. Login code - 7292. 

9. There are a couple of Bible verses that I have been sent via text or email several times each over the past week by people who don't know each other. I have received each of these verses in English and Spanish. Plus, I was watching an episode of Glee with my daughter the other night. I don't like Glee and don't usually watch it, but she asked me to watch a bit of it with her. In one scene, the verse from Isaiah was quoted - on Glee!!!

With each repeated reading, I have been struck by the depth and beauty of these verses.
Here they are -

Isaiah 41:10 - So do not fear, for I am with you; 
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Psalm 130:5 and 6 - I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I put my hope. 
My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning,
morn that watchmen wait for the morning. 

Here's to strength and to fearless, un-dismayed, peaceful waiting.

See? This would have been way too long for a facebook status.