Monday, January 28, 2013

Two thirds of the way home!

Four down and two to go. I had an encouraging visit with my oncologist. I go armed with questions and anecdotes. He seems intrigued by the fact that I've always got a little notebook with me and often asks me, "So did we get to all of your questions?"

My blood counts are good. I've been able to maintain my weight. As much as I feel awful some days, he assured me that what I'm dealing with is not severe at all. He suggested that I continue to exercise when I am able so that I will keep my strength and feel better.

As I walked into the oncologist's office, I saw one of the woman I met last week at the Look Good, Feel Better session. She is from the country of Colombia; of course I LOVED being able to speak to her in Spanish. Turns out she sees the same oncologist as I do. How small is the world? It was great to see her. We gave each other big hugs and encouraged one another to use the make up to lift our spirits and have some fun.

Later, I had the chance to encourage one woman who was there for her first healing therapy session. I told her how I renamed it - that I don't call it chemo because it is for our healing. She liked that a lot.

Another woman who is one session behind me was struggling today, so I tried to encourage her as well. I know what it is to have a bad day or a bad few days. I am grateful to and grateful for everyone who supports and lifts me up. I'm glad I was able to return that favor today to two other sisters in this unchosen sorority.

The nurses laughed at my antics, laughed with me, called me "spunky," and complimented me on "looking cute" whenever I'm there. I may have kanswer, ladies, but that doesn't mean I have to look raggedy.

No allergic reactions to any medication today - thanks be to God!

I'm starting to think about the next round of healing - which will involve relinquishing two dearly loved parts of my body through surgery. Great memories of nursing, of lovemaking, of bras, camisoles, and bathing suits to keep ever in the forefront of my mind. Deep ideas to ponder. Deep prayers to pray. This is big stuff. These are decisions I never thought I would have to make. These are lessons I never wanted to learn. But it is all for my healing. It is all for my growth. (And, for the most part, it all sucks!)

I am reminding myself (and being reminded by others) that I am not my body.
I am not my hair. I am not my skin. I am not my appearance.
I am learning to surrender my allegiance to my vanity.
I am learning that true beauty is not measured by cup size, waist size, or hair length.
True beauty glows and flows from beneath my skin, from behind my eyes,
through my smile, and most importantly through my spirit,
my attitude, my faith, and the peace that passes all understanding.

I'm turning for home, folks. Turning for home.
Four healing therapy sessions down and two to go.
For that I am enormously grateful.
Once again, thanks be to God.
And to each of you. Every single one of you.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The beat(down) goes on...

Healing therapy is good for me. I know it is.
But I will not lie - the after effects, the side effects,
the agony of being in the middle of it - this process is absolutely dreadful.

Gratefully, I've read a few interesting takes on it.
Like this: The metallic taste in my mouth is the taste of healing.
The loss of my hair, the darkening of my fingernails - the list of "ughs" is long.
But they are all signs that change is happening in this body of mine.
I am being healed. I am getting better.

The cycle of recovery took longer after the 3rd session was far longer than the earlier two.
From all I've read and heard, these last three sessions may result in even slower recovery.
I'm getting ready. I'm trying to prepare myself for whatever is yet to come.
Be it slow, be it fast, be it difficult, be it relentless - I will endure. I will thrive. I will be strong.
I will cry. I will feel sorry for myself. I will moan and groan.
And then I will choose joy again. I will choose gratitude again.
I will take long and relaxing showers. I will drink tea, water, and kombucha.
I will read and journal, love and laugh. I will be as merry as I can be.

Tomorrow I go in for the 4th of my 6 healing therapy sessions.
Tomorrow I go in for the ongoing work of ridding my body of this invader.
Tomorrow I go in for the next class in building and deepening relationships with a top medical team and other survivors of this kanswer battle.
(In my mind, if someone is alive and fighting the kanswer battle, they are survivors.
The only victims are those whose lives were lost in the battle. I am a survivor! )
Tomorrow I go in for the ongoing work of deepening my connection with God.
Tomorrow I go in for another opportunity to lay my head in the lap of my Sweet Momma Jesus and find comfort there.
Tomorrow I go to that office for the beat(down) to go on.

But I know that all shall be well.
All is well right here and right now.
And all shall continue to be well.

I will continue to count on you, my friends, my neighbors, my family,
those who are nearby and those who are far, far away,
to pray, to light candles, to sit, to hold me close in your hearts and minds.
I'll be in the throes of healing tomorrow from 9:30 in the morning until approximately 1 pm.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Friday, January 25, 2013

How do I say thank you?

* How do I thank the dermatologist who treated me five years ago and helped me get over and through my battle with excema? How do I thank the same doctor for seeing my daughter today and giving us a clear pathway from here to clear skin for her as well? How do I thank that same amazing doctor for holding our hands at the end of the appointment and praying, not only for healing for my daughter from her acne, but also healing for me from my kanswer?

* How do I thank the woman who came to my house yesterday, told me her kanswer story, showed me photographs from every stage of her journey, was brave, vulnerable, and strong enough to show me her mastectomy scar, and assured me that I too will emerge from this current health challenge whole and strong?

* How do I thank the woman who drove two and a half hours to spend time with me today, to talk to me, to listen to me, to sit with me while I cried, and told me soul-full stories of her own?

* How do I thank the friend who has accompanied me to more of my healing treatments than anyone else? The one who sat with me through scans, tests, and crying jags?

* How do I thank the friend who reminded me that six months from now I'll be done with all of this, I'll be growing my hair back and recovering from all three cycles of healing treatments?

* How do I thank the husband who is telling me to begin planning my celebratory trip to Spain and Italy when all this is over?

* How do I thank all of you for your persistent, consistent, ongoing, life-affirming love for me, affection, and support?

* How do I thank The One Who Loves Me Most for all the ways in which I am seeing God's divine presence and providence as I make my way through each day? How do I thank my Sweet Momma Jesus for prompting me to look back at my life and see all the ways in which my solo travel, my traveling lightly, my hours of solitude and prayer, my journaling, my willingness to listen to my body, my unshakable belief in amazing grace, and my trust that all shall be well - how all of that led me to this point and will lead me safely home?

I'm not exactly sure how to do this correctly.
So I will keep it simple: Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Decisions, decisions

So there's this awesome support program for women with kanswer. It's called Look Good Feel Better - and they offer free workshops on how to apply make-up, how to use hats, scarves, wigs, and wiglets (yes, that's right, wiglets) to improve our appearance and our spirits during kanswer treatment.

Last night, I attended one of their workshops. The woman who ran it was energetic, funny, insightful, and informative. Did you know that you are supposed to replace your mascara every three months? And during treatment, we should replace it every six weeks. Good thing I don't wear mascara on a regular basis, or it would be yet another expensive habit to add to my already long list of expensive habits.

Because I was the most talkative and energetic when I arrived... or perhaps because I looked the most pathetic when I arrived... actually, I have no idea why, but the leader asked me to be her model for the evening. She cleansed my face and applied make-up. Then I modeled a few of the wigs and hats she brought along.

Can you help me decide on a new look?

A. Black haired pixie wig look.

B. Ring around the head hair piece look. (Yes, that is my bald head peaking through the middle.)

C. Ring around the head hair piece with sparkly hat look.

 D. Asymmetrical straight haired wig look.

E. Bangs with scarf look.

F. Regular me with my own hat look.

Be honest. I can take it. I'm a big girl. I'm a big, bald girl. 
Trust me, if I can handle baldness, I can handle just about anything.
Well, anything except the bright red lipstick I received in my make-up kit.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

"The way forward is with a broken heart"

These days, I've been thinking about the biblical account of Jacob wrestling with the angel.
All night long, they wrestled.
Jacob refused to release the angel until he received a blessing.
From that night of wrestling, Jacob emerged with his blessing.
He also emerged as a stronger man, a fiercer man,
a more courageous man with a new name.
From that night on, Jacob's way forward was with a noticeable limp.

These days, I've been living through my own angelic wrestling match.
Perhaps my opponents are multiple - an angel who will eventually bless me
and the demon to whom I have given a new name - kanswer.
Either way, the nights are long. The wrestling match, the battle for my restored health is fierce.
Although I am unlikely to emerge from this with a limp,
I am certainly going to emerge with scars.
Physical scars, emotional scars, relational scars, soul-deep scars as well.

Alice Walker wrote a book called, The Way Forward is with a Broken Heart.
I may adopt that title as my new life motto.
My heart has certainly been broken by kanswer.
As I ponder my eventual emergence from this long dark night of wrestling with kanswer,
I try to imagine what else my way forward will include.

My way forward will be with a broken heart
and a mended spirit,
with less hair on my head
and less meat in my diet,
with less judgment in my thoughts
and more gratitude in my soul,
with more scars on the outside of my body
and more love on the inside.

My way forward will be marked with joy and laughter,
anecdotes and advice,
filled journal pages and empty vitamin bottles,
soaked with alkaline water flavored with lime,
surrounded by friends and family who refuse to let me lose hope.
My way forward will include an epic and celebratory journey to Spain.

Between now and then, many nights of wrestling await me.
Dozens of blessings are yet to come - they had better be.
I refuse to release the angels or the demons until I am thoroughly blessed.
I pray to be blessed with more strength, fierceness, and courage.

Yes, the way forward will be with a broken heart,
few eyelashes, and a persistent metallic taste in my mouth.

But the most important truth is that I will move forward.
I will not stop moving forward.
No turning back,
no turning back.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

This is NOT a detour

Since my kanswer diagnosis, I've had several people say things to me like -
"Don't be discouraged, Gail. This is just a brief detour in your life."
"This kanswer is just a bump in the road, and you'll get back to your regular life soon."
"Don't worry. Everything will get back to normal in just a few months."

I know they mean well. They want me to not lose hope. They want me to press forward to get through this horrific time in my life and get back to my happy, healthy, strong self. I am grateful for their kind words and for their hope for me to fully recover and return to the life I had before all this started.

But here's one thing I know for sure: there is no going back.
There is no way to go back to who I used to be and how I used to live.
I won't ever be able to go to the doctor and say:
"Nope, I've never had surgery."
"Nope, I've never been hospitalized."
"Nope, I've never been diagnosed with a major illness."
And for five years following surgery and radiation, I won't be able to say,
"Nope, I'm not on any medication."

I will never have dreadlocs again.
I will never have breasts again.
I will never be able to look into the mirror and see the body I had three months ago.

But nor will I ever take the taste of food for granted again.
I will never take sleeping through the night for granted again.
I will never take the hair in my nostrils for granted again.
I will never take the ability to walk for more than 20 minutes for granted.
I will never take easy and smooth digestion for granted.
I will never take full sensation in my hand, fingers, and feet for granted again.

I will never look at a woman with a wrap or hat the same way again.
I will recognize that "bald around the edges" look.
I will try to make eye contact and say something kind.

I will endeavor to look at everyone around me with more kindness and tenderness,
because everyone is fighting a fierce battle.
Most battles are invisible - emotional, mental, spiritual and internally physical -
but fierce, unending battles rage all around us and within us.
No one is immune. No one is exempt.
Not even me.

Not only the lessons I'm learning about having a body that is out of balance,
the pain I feel as my bones produce white blood cells,
the lack of energy to be the mother and wife I have been until now,
the hunger that results when eating is painful to my mouth,
the phsyical isolation to avoid getting sick,
the loneliness, the frequent bouts of despair,
the tears I shed on a daily basis,

(I haven't said it in a while, but kanswer sucks!)

but also the bags of bbq potato chips,
the matzo ball soup,
the cookies and carrot cake,
the grilled chesse and tortilla soup,
the lasagna and salad,
los platanos, el arroz, la sopa de verduras, el pozole, la ensalada,
the scarf purchased for me in Egypt,
the meditation cds,
the multiple hats,
the books on healing and self-care,
(all of which have been sent or brought by family and friends)
the encouragement to be real, honest, and radically kind to myself,
the support, the prayers, the cards that remind me that I'm being thought of daily,
the moments of victory,
the laughter through the tears,
the silent accompaniment of the God I love,
the very present help in this time of trouble,
none of this is a detour.
All of this is my life's journey.

(I love the fact that the list of the good stuff is still a lot longer than the list of the bad stuff!)

No turning back,
no turning back.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Perfect Timing

I woke up in a great mood this morning. Took a soapy, warm shower.
Got dressed in a rather cute outfit - just cuz I've got kanswer doesn't mean I can't look good.
Got ready for this morning's treatment.

Somewhere between here and the oncologist's office, I hit an emotional speed bump and burst into tears in the car. I called a friend who reminded me that I have to leave room for these ups and downs, to allow myself to be fully human, and also suggested that I take Advil for my sore tongue. (Thanks, Karen.) Sent a few texts to another friend who promised to light candles, send ehugs, and reminded me to breathe deeply and pray for peace. (Thanks, Lisa.)

I arrived at the oncologist's office, donned my sunglasses, and went inside, hoping to hold it together long enough to sign in and get called to the back. 

I listened in as a new patient signed all the paperwork and watched as she sat two chairs away from me. All I could think was: "Oh, boy. Another woman who will lose her hair and have to fight this kanswer battle. At least she's gonna see my doctor - and he's great." 

She looked over at me and complimented me on my hat. I thanked her for her kind words. 
She asked me if I am in treatment now; I said, "Yes." 
I asked her if she is about to begin treatment. 


Oh my God in heaven! Oh my Sweet Momma Jesus! Oh my Holy Spirit of Wisdom!

I SOOOOOOOOOOO needed to hear that woman's words at just that moment. 
If that beautiful, strong, energetic, kind woman is three years out from brain cancer, 
then I can do this. I can do this. I mean, I knew I could do this.
But some days are so doggone hard that I forget that there will be an end to all of this.
Plus, I like my doctor. I think he's awesome. 
This morning, I needed the perfect timing of her confirmation that I'm not the only one who thinks he is a great doctor. 

Soon after she was called to see the doctor, Dorothy arrived. She is another African-American woman on this kanswer journey who also undergoes her treatments on Mondays. She said last week was a tough week for her also. She said her tongue is misbehaving also. But she laughed when I said I couldn't eat. She said she hasn't had any problems with eating; in fact, she said she wishes she couldn't eat as much as she is eating. 


Between wiping my eyes and blowing my tender nose, I was writing all this down in my journal. 
I sooooooooooo needed all this confirmation this morning. 
Thanks be to God! 

After waiting thirty minutes in the waiting room - I've never had to wait for an appointment before, but this morning, I needed every one of those extra minutes - one of the magnificent nurses came to get me and bring me back for treatment. 

She apologized for the wait and asked how I was feeling. 
I told the truth - not great.
She asked why and I told her - sore tongue, lost appetite.
Suggestions, advice, a new mouthwash, hugs, tenderness and kindness flowed in my direction.
Eat popsicles. Eat applesauce and rice and other bland stuff. Drink smoothies.
Stop eating my favorite things because of the tongue problems.
I may not go back to eating them later because of the bad associations with healing therapy.
They reminded me that I'm not used to feeling this way, so it's okay to let these days happen.
They said I need to take it easy on myself because I'm doing great.

I said, "You ladies sure know what you're talking about."
Two of them laughed and said, "Every now and then, we have a thought."
The best nurses in the world work at my oncologist's office.

As I left the office and made my way to Smoothie King for a tongue cooling, calorie-rich Island Impact smoothie, I recognized that my tears and sadness this morning were perfectly timed. In allowing myself to be fully human and unashamedly needy, I was given the help, support, and encouragement I so desperately needed. 

Just before I started writing this post, I spent some time going through my email inbox. Read, discard. Read, respond. Read, discard. Somewhere between discarding emails and sipping my smoothie,  a disturbing thought crossed my mind: I've got to think of something for dinner. Being that the last thing I want to do today is think about cooking, I was thrilled to come across an email reminder informing me that I had ordered food to be delivered for dinner tonight from a fabulous website called NourishCharlotte. It will arrive sometime this afternoon. 

Hallelujah!!! Glory be to the newborn king!!!
I'm basking in so many examples of perfect timing, divine timing today. 
Thanks be to God!

Kanswer sucks, 
but the community of love and support, 
the convenience of making phone calls and sending out texts at desperate moments,
the knowledge that friends and family members are thinking of me, praying for me, 
checking in with me and remembering me every step of the way,
the comfort and relief gained by pouring my heart out into my journal and here on the blog,
they all help make this horrendous journey a bit easier to take.

ADDENDUM: I was wrong about the food delivery. It will arrive tomorrow.
Tonight, my husband made a fantastic omelette with spinach, tomato, and parmesan cheese.
I wish I tasted more of its wonderful flavors, but I tasted enough to know it was a good one.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

You know it's been a rough few days...

when you get excited about:

* watching "Say Yes to The Dress" with your daughter on a Friday night and discussing the merits of various wedding dress styles

* buying therapeutic nail polish (to keep your fingernails from peeling and cracking) and painting your nails with clear polish

* taking the dog on a walk out on the front lawn

* making yourself toast and coffee for breakfast

* tasting the toast and coffee

* carrying a laundry basket down to the laundry room and not feeling like that was a full workout

* dancing to a few songs from your favorite workout class in your pajamas

* taking a long, hot shower and washing your head (no hair left, just my head...)

* cutting images out of travel magazines and pasting them into a new journal

* writing in your journal about anything and everything but kanswer

* walking through Trader Joe's, sampling, and then buying superfruits dipped in dark chocolate (even though you don't like dark chocolate but at least you can taste it)

* buying a song on iTunes after a friend posted a video link to it on your facebook timeline
(Muchas gracias, Manolo. Me encanta.)

Smile / God Has Smiled On Me

* being able to come up with a list of simple things that are making you smile after a rather rough few days

* knowing that this list will get longer over the days to come

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Can I complain for a minute?

Kanswer sucks.
Kanswer sucks.
Kanswer sucks.

This week I reached the midway point in my healing therapy treatments.
Healing therapy - to eliminate the kanswer - on Monday morning.
Neulasta injection - to rebuild my blood cell counts - on Tuesday morning.

Wednesday and Thursday bring with them the terrible side effects.

Bone shuddering chills and pajama-soaking hot flashes.
My bones and joints ache.
Hugs hurt, folks. Hugs hurt.
My nasal passages are clogged - even though there aren't any nasal hairs left.
No nasal hairs means everything smells stronger than usual, I get regular nosebleeds, and touching my nostrils hurts.
Numbness in my fingertips and on the soles of my feet.
Hunger and upset stomach.
Constipation and its opposite.
I need to drink at least half a gallon of water every day -
which means I have to get up multiple times during the night to pee.

Neighbors, friends, and church members bring meals to our home.
My husband and children bring trays of beautiful food to my bedroom.
Delicious healthy food - it smells great. It looks amazing.
Either I cannot taste any of it,
or it tastes like mud and metal and dirt.

Did I mention that I've lost nearly all the hair on my body - except for the hair on my legs?
Yes, that's right - I'm 98% bald from the top of my head to my kneecaps.
Below my kneecaps? I am quite hairy.

Today is definitely the toughest day in each cycle -
the Thursday after healing therapy is the day I want to cry my way through.
In fact, I'm crying as I type this.
And today I'm gonna let myself cry and complain and lay in bed watching dumb stuff on television.

Because kanswer sucks.
Kanswer sucks.
Kanswer sucks.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Keeping it short, simple, and oh so sweet tonight!

I'm halfway done with my healing sessions. Halfway there!
No adverse or allergic reactions today - glory be to the newborn king.

I had a great time with my friend, Kim Hooker, who flew down from Connecticut to sit with me.
She was here less than 24 hours and we talked for 12 of those hours, I'm sure - how cool is that!!!

Here we are together just after my healing session ended.

And here I am - who knew I was a hat person? I certainly didn't.
A woman in the room said she will bring me one that she bought for herself
but didn't like how it looks on her. She said, "It makes me look shorter and dumpier."
We all laughed about that.

Thanks be to God! All is going so well. So very well.

From Jesus Calling this morning: When adversity strikes and you thank me anyway, 
your trust in my sovereignty is a showpiece in invisible realms.
Fill up the spare moments of your life with praise and thanksgiving.
This joyous discipline will help you live in the intimacy of my presence.

Oh, yes, Jesus - I long to live in the deepest realms of intimacy in your presence.
I certainly wish I didn't have to go thru this adversity in order to get there
and I wish no one had to deal with this pain, this treatment, this sorrow,
but if it allows me to draw closer to you, to fall more deeply in love with you,
to know you better and to understand better the suffering of others
so that I can love them and serve them (and you) better,
then there may be a gem or two gleaned from this after all.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

The Story of Today

Today has been a great day.
A very long day.
A very busy day.
But a great day.

We took my amazing daughter to her Weight Watchers group. (She is the bravest person I know.)
She elbowed her way thru all the New Years' Resolutioners and took her place among the regulars.
One day she's gonna be a leader there and inspire countless others to be courageous and take their own lives by storm. Have I mentioned her bravery?

While she got inspired to stay motivated, Steve and I went to Einstein Bagels for breakfast and a great conversation. We set a few goals for this year for our family and for ourselves.
This man I am married to is a nut. He drives me crazy sometimes. (I'm sure I do the same to him.)
But this generous, kind, sports-loving man makes me laugh - not quite as much as my son does, but he's a close second. And he makes me want to be a better person.

Before collecting Kristiana, we went to Earthfare where I loaded up on kombucha. Other than water, this is the thing I drink most these days. Tasty and healthy. And, thanks be to God and store management, it was on sale today. After picking Kristiana up, we dropped off a load of clothing at Good Will. Then we went to Harris Teeter for groceries.

We came home, unpacked the groceries, and I did two loads of laundry.
Kristiana and I did some decluttering in our bathrooms and then I did some in the kitchen.

An hour or so later, Kristiana and I walked to Trader Joe's for more groceries. (Heading into healing therapy week, I've gotta make sure we are well stocked. Plus I love, love, love going to the supermarket.) When we were approaching the checkout, I called Steve - who then drove to the store with our cloth bags and brought us and the food home. On the way home, we stopped at the library - where I picked up a book on simplifying my life. Haha - funny joke. But a girl can dream, right?

Finally, I began to settle in for a slow afternoon and evening. I read several weeks' worth of entries in this amazing woman's blog about her kanswer journey... Steve went outside with Daniel to replace a few exterior light bulbs. When Steve put the ladder back into the crawl space under our house, he smelled (natural) gas. He called me on my cell phone (cuz we are a 21st century couple) and asked me to go outside to see if I smelled it. I did.

Oh no!

I came back inside and called the gas company. Once the operator took my home address and cell phone number, she recited of a long list of warnings.

"Don't turn on or off any appliances.
Don't turn on or off any telephones, cell phones or land lines.
(I wondered about the safety of hanging up after listening to her dire warnings.)
Don't cook anything.
Don't smoke.
Don't let anyone start or turn off a car engine.
And evacuate the premises."


Two nights before my third session of healing therapy, do I need to be worried about my house sitting on an active gas leak? Absolutely NOT!!!

So I called my neighbor, Robin. She is truly a fabulous neighbor and one of the most hospitable people I know. She said, "Come on over." So the four of us and our dog went next door. She and her husband insisted that we stay for dinner - which we did.

A technician from Piedmont Natural Gas came, wandered through our house with his detection instruments, and found no leak. Thanks be to God!

(Note to self: remember that gas leaks evoke dinner invitations from generous neighbors.)

We are back at home now. Kristiana and I made a batch of vegan chocolate chip cookies. I will fold the last load of clothes now that it has finished its sojourn in the dryer. We will get the guest room set up for my dear friend, Kim, who is flying down from Connecticut to take me to my healing therapy on Monday (Yes, I have amazing friends!), and then I will eat two warm cookies.

That is the story of today.
Can you hear the sound of my deep sigh as this day winds down?
I'm going to sleep very well tonight. Very well.
I hope you do as well.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Thankful Tuesday...

Tonight, I am thankful -

* my husband and daughter's hard work last night in making a magnificent New Year's Eve feast for me
* they cleaned the kitchen when they were done
* all I had to do was sit and eat
* sparkling apple cider at midnight
* dancing to Pitbull just after midnight

* rain
* a cozy, safe, warm house
* warm showers on chilly days
* taking down our Christmas tree and decorations
* leaving our candle lights in the window

* college bowl games
* laughing at the silly names attached to those games by their corporate sponsors
* doing yoga while watching football
* my niece's university's football team won the Rose Bowl today - Go Stanford Cardinal! (I love you, Liz!)

* being challenged to change the way I think about and use money
* acknowledging that I worry about money a lot
* admitting to myself that my fears are unwarranted but persistent nonetheless
* being reminded that I can do something, many things to break the grip of my fear
* remembering that perfect love casts out fear

* looking forward to facing and overcoming several challenges this year
* knowing that I am not alone in facing these challenges
* being assured that I am never alone, never have been, and never will be
* the buckets of tears and hours of prayer that were part of the journey that got me to this place

* sitting on the couch with my head on my daughter's shoulder
* sitting in my son's bed, talking, laughing, watching television with him
* listening to my two children talking to each other, enjoying each other's company
* how rapidly and how slowly these past 19+ years of motherhood have flowed through, over, and around me

* raw, organic kombucha
* sea salt and olive oil on fresh salad
* clementines from Spain and sweet potatoes from North Carolina
* filtered, alkaline water
* raw almonds
* trader joe's vanilla joe-joe cookies

* being almost half way through my healing therapy (next Monday is my 3rd of 6 sessions!)
* no longer missing my dreadlocs
* fascination rather than fear as I watch my hair fall out
* embracing the beauty and ease of baldness
* learning lessons about my body, health, nutrition, hydration, exercise, and more on a daily basis

* deciding to not let kanswer be the tipping factor in every decision I make in 2013
* deciding to let love, joy, peace, wisdom, compassion, faith, and courage motivate me instead
* doing what Jen Gray told me: focus on exquisite self-care
* doing what so many of you told me: keep writing, keep blogging, keep telling my story
* making plans to eat, drink, laugh, dance, be grateful, move my body, use moisturizer on my chapped hands, wear only things I love, stop saving my best journals, stickers, pens, and jewelry for some unknown future time - and be merry every day

* filling journal pages with my own writing and print outs of the writings of people who inspire me
* rereading my journals and scrolling through photographs from last year
* being reminded of what a blessed, painful, confusing, beautiful, frightening, and full year 2012 was
* a new calendar, a new year
* being confident of hope and a future

* coming to a place of peace, deep peace
* basking in the love of God even when I don't understand what God is doing and not doing
* thinking, speaking, writing, knowing, and believing: All shall be well.