Thursday, June 27, 2013

Thankful Thursday

What am I thankful for today?

* an hour and a quarter visit with Heather and Graeme. She makes me think. He makes me laugh.
They both make me enormously happy.

* Lunch with a friend who is moving away from Charlotte later this summer. I will certainly miss my dear friend, Kirk.

* Laughter, conversation, and plan-making with Gibbs.

* Receiving a text with a photo of my children and Karen's children together, a photo taken about 15 years ago. My, oh my, the years have flown.

* Texting with Lisa and catching up on our lives.

* Email from Paul, Amy, Andrea, Sheila, Bill, Noemi, Mary, Cara, Michelle, Debby, Judy and Katie.

*** Are you sensing a theme here? I have fabulous, supportive, loving, attentive friends.
I am running out of words of gratitude to them and for them. Truly I am.

* I am grateful for Kristiana who cooks so often and makes fresh, green juices for us to drink.

* I am grateful for Daniel, who makes me laugh and cringe and who still manages to talk me into cutting his toenails. Yes, I still cut my son's toenails - and he is 16 years old and taller than me. I find myself saying, "You are lucky you're so cute" very often.

* I'm grateful for Steve, my husband of nearly 22 years (our big day is this coming Saturday), who dotes on me, makes me laugh, and still loves me, even though I am boobless, wombless, and until recently also hairless

* I'm also grateful for:

- ceiling fans
- remembering to take a sweater into heavily air-conditioned spaces
- that Spain won the soccer game today over Italy
- a noticeable reduction in the neuropathy (numbness) in my fingers and toes over the past two weeks
- deep sleep
- the two farmer's markets we recently discovered
- recently picked, local vegetables - delicious!
- knowing that I'm giving my body healthy food
- having the means to buy that healthy food
- being able to do all the exercises and activities my physical therapist has assigned me - and having no pain while doing them.

Speaking of which --> Yesterday the kids and I went to a neighbor's house to swim. Several times, I swam from one end of the pool to the other underwater. I pushed Daniel around on a float. I swam under his float. I chased my daughter and poked at her legs underwater. I had an absolute blast.

Later while standing in front of the mirror putting on lotion after my shower, I looked at the scars on my chest for quite a while. Suddenly I realized that NOT ONCE during the entire hour or so I spent in the pool did I think about kanswer or chemotherapy or surgery or scars. NOT ONCE did I feel any pain or discomfort. There was absolutely NO restriction to my movement, my swimming strokes, or anything I wanted to do. I hadn't thought about it at all on my way to the pool or once I got there. I just jumped in and swam.

Even after the traumatic drug treatments, radical surgery involving the amputation of several parts, this body of mine is healing and restoring itself a little bit at a time every day. The human body is a miraculous machine. I hope you are awed by the wonder that is your body as well. Despite the aches, pains, illnesses and difficulties we all face, even when we eat terribly, don't drink enough water, and make unreasonable demands on them, our bodies carry us forward and do their best to take good care of us. 

I cannot express how grateful I am that my body is recovering as well as it is.
I cannot express how grateful I am to have come this far on this kanswer journey.
I cannot express how grateful I am to be able to use the k-word less and less in my daily life.
On this final Thursday evening in June, I am filled with inexpressible gratitude and joy.
Thanks be to God.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Life and Death

This morning I met a dear friend for tea at Starbucks. A very dear friend. We talked and laughed. We shared stories and dreams. We reminisced and looked forward. It was one of the conversations that reminded me of the profound gift, joy, power, and comfort of good friendships. (I love you, Sheila.)

And then my phone rang. It was another very dear friend, the one who accompanied me to more healing therapy sessions than anyone else.
The news was bad - another friend of mine, Arlene, died yesterday.
My eyes immediately filled with tears and my heart with sadness.


I met Arlene last year on Halloween when she and her husband attended a class I was teaching at church about joy. Between the first and second classes in that series, I received the diagnosis of kanswer. After the class in which I shared the news, Arlene and her husband approached me and she informed me that she had just received her third kanswer diagnosis - this time it was in her liver. Later I found out that it was her third kanswer diagnosis in less than two years.

Over the following months, we spoke on the phone a couple of times and saw each other in church a couple of times. When we saw one other, we hugged each other hard. We laughed about baldness and hot flashes. We asked about each other's treatment regimens and commiserated about the horrors of chemotherapy. And we always giggled when I said, "Kanswer sucks." It really does.

Two weeks ago, I called to check on her and her husband informed me that she was in hospice care. Kristiana and I visited her twice.

The first time, Arlene and I held hands and chatted briefly. She hugged me three or four times. She rubbed my leg. She nodded off several times, subdued by the strong pain medication she was taking. I prayed with her and her husband and cried with them. I promised to visit her again.

During our second visit, she didn't say anything. Her husband's sister, Kristiana and I talked about homeschooling, food, teaching, college, family, breast kanswer, and a host of other topics. Arlene slept the entire time - or so I thought. She reclined in the hospital bed that faced the lake behind their house and her husband sat with her, whispering words of comfort and peace into her ear while caressing her fragile frame. She said absolutely nothing - until I stood over her bed, kissed her smooth forehead, and said good-bye. At that point, she opened her eyes, looked up at me and said, "Thank you. Good-bye. Thank you." She extended her arms and wrapped me in a hug that was far tighter than I imagined she would able to muster. That was the last time I saw her... at least for now.

Farewell, Arlene.
Thank you.
Thank you.


After I cried briefly, Sheila and I continued with our lively conversation - parenting, marriage, clothes, mutual friends, family reunions, travel, and life itself. We made plans for future time together. We committed ourselves to living fully, living this moment, this encounter, this conversation. Be here now.

This afternoon, Kristiana, Daniel, and I walked up the block to a neighbor's house to swim. She has graciously granted us permission to swim in her pool anytime we want to. (Have I ever mentioned that we have some of the best neighbors in the world on our block?) The three of us swam lengths of the pool, splashed each other, laughed and otherwise had a grand time. More than once, each of us commented on how lovely it was to be there. I was acutely aware of the precious gift of the relationships I share with my children and thanked God over and over and over again for bringing those two amazing people into the world through me and for sparing my life so that I can continue to grow up with them.

As I sit here and think of all the times that I used to take my health for granted,
as I recall all the times I complained about cooking and cleaning,
having to drive the kids from place to place,
wishing for things and people and situations that weren't mine,
as I remember all the ways in which I have made plans for the future
without fully appreciating the present,
I weep for opportunities missed, for blessings overlooked, for my ungratefulness.

I recommit myself to gratitude, contentment, and attentiveness.
I recommit myself to eating and drinking well and being merry.
I recommit myself to prayer, to journaling, to creativity, to reading, and to friendship.
I recommit myself to joy, peace, laughter, and hugs.
I recommit myself to living more fully and loving more deeply.

Life is short. Getting shorter every day.
Death is not far from any of us.
There is no need to be sad about that.
We can rejoice and give thanks for every day above ground.
And we can live.

Friday, June 21, 2013


Juxtaposed: Finding Sanctuary on the Outside is one of the most difficult books I've ever read, but not because it was poorly written. With sharp focus, salty language, and unexpected humor, Daisy Rain Martin tells the painful, harrowing story of her abuse at the hands of her mother and "stepmonster" - her stepfather. How two adults could treat their three children in the ways that she describes is completely unfathomable to me, truly unfathomable.

Raised in Las Vegas, Daisy introduces the readers to her home city, the showgirls who perform there, her glamorous grandmother, her family, and her church before issuing a warning:

You can skip this whole next section if you prefer. It's not like I'm dying to write it anyway. If you're the kind of person who would rather just duly note that I was abused as a child and leave it at that, I invite you to jead straight for the next chapter. I'm not offended in the least, and here's why.

The cutesy song we all sang in Vacation Bible School, Be careful littel eyes what you see, Be careful little ears what you hear, is more than just an admonition for children to refrain from inappropriate conduct. It's damn good advice. I've seen and heard things I wish I hadn't - things that haunt me now and will for as long as memore serves. When I reveal the sordid details of the abuse I suffered, I have the potential to lay the weight of it upon people I care about. And, frankly, it's heavy. There is nothing that obligates you, the reader, to carry the burden of my past pain, and I hope you will not carry an ounce of it.

I don't." (pp. 30-31)

And the way that she tells the story provides significant evidence to the truth of that last statement. The sordid details of her abuse are indeed sordid. The depth of the evil she endured is profound indeed. But the strength and courage Daisy employed in order to escape her abusers and create a full and free life for herself is remarkable. Her story is so powerful because it is so painful.

One of the aspects of this book that I like best is Daisy's willingness to both ask tough questions and speak boldly about her inability to understand where God was in the midst of all that happened to her. Once while working as a waitress at a restaurant, she dealt with a customer who rudely demanded coffee while telling everyone that Jesus loved them.

Daisy reflects on that encounter this way: I can't fault her one bit. I essentially did the same thing. I could talk about the love of God with the best of them. And I wasn't even aware that I wasn't aware of how God really feels about me. I would proclaim while being completely clueless: "Jesus died for my sins! Oh, how He must love me!" 

I never delved into the depths of myself where my thoughts melded togethe with my feelings - where my mind met my soul - to admit what was really true for me: Jesus stood by and did nothing while I was being ravaged by a monster. (p. 59)

During the many years of her abuse, Daisy prayed without ceasing for rescue, for an end to the abuse, and for her parents to understand the horrors of what they were doing. After repeatedly pleading with God for help, she received an answer: "No, I will not rescue you. You have to rescue yourself." The rest of the book is the story of how she did just that.

Daisy Rain Martin's story, as difficult as it is to read, is also encouraging because if she can survive her horrendous childhood and enter into adulthood with the hope that she exudes then there is hope for all of us. Her astounding bravery, her vivacious spirit, her sharp tongue, her unrepentant anger at her mother, alongside her fear of her stepmonster combined to make this book one that is both enthralling and appalling. At the same time. On every page.

I read it slowly with tissues close at hand. I suggest you do the same. And give a copy of it to anyone you know who has ever suffered sexual and physical abuse at the hands of a family member, a spiritual leader... or anyone else.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Thankful Thursday

Tonight, I'm looking back and giving thanks.

On the day before we graduated back in 1987, one of our classmates sang a song he had penned. Actually, he simply wrote new words to the John Denver "Take me home, country road" tune.
Rob Weiman crooned: "Williams College, place of knowledge,
Sixty Thou(sand) to live with cows."
It cost $60,000 for all four years back then. It costs nearly that for one year nowadays.
And yes, there are many cows in the farm land surrounding the campus.
I loved the gentle pace of Williamstown.
I am enormously grateful for the time I spent there.

For more nearly 15 years, I have known and been known by three of the most generous, kind, thoughtful, well-read, and well-traveled women on the eastern seaboard. 
We met at a memoir writing class at Norwalk Community College in Connecticut 
in the late 1990s and have not let each other go.
This photo is in the home of one of those special women.
I miss Judy, Pamela, and Susie more than they can imagine.
And I am enormously grateful that they are still intimately involved in my life. 

I am grateful that I did NOT buy that hamburger shaped and decorated cake at Harris Teeter. 
What the what???

 Look at that child's face. 
What else do I need to say?
She is my daughter, yes, but also one of my best friends.
Grateful, grateful, grateful, grateful.

 Again, look at that child. 
How is it possible that I brought two people into the world?
Two people with hearts, minds, and souls of their own.
Two young people who still tell me what they dream about,
what they are afraid of, and how much they love me -
even though they are deep in their teenage years.
What can I say but "thank you, thank you, thank you"???

 She's the tiniest critter living in this house,
but she has the biggest personality -
and is certain that she runs the show.
Our sweet Maya - even though she drives me batty sometimes -
is a fantastic little dog and makes us all laugh every day.

My dear husband, Steve. 
Still the one after nearly 22 years of matrimony,  sometimes more holy than others...
(Our anniversary is the 29th of this month)
He IS the most generous person I have ever known.
I am enormously grateful for how much he loves all of us - especially Maya.
Nope, that's not a mistake - 
he loves that dog more than any man has ever loved a dog.

No comment. 
Silent awe.
And gratitude.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

"Momma said there'd be days like this..."

Last Friday, I found myself singing that line quite a few times. I looked it up on youtube and discovered that it was originally song by The Shirelles. Their version has something to do with meeting a boy and how things go from there. My version is quite different.

Here's what happened to me last Friday.

I went out with my sweet little doggie for her morning walk. As she did her "poopy dance," an older gentleman who lives around the corner from us walked down his driveway and put a letter in his mailbox. Then he came across the street and struck up a conversation with me. He asked me why I cut my hair. I said, "Because I had kanswer." He clapped his two wrinkled hands to his cheeks, dropped his bottom jaw, and exclaimed, "Noooo. I'm so sorry to hear that." He asked a few more questions and expressed clear joy that I'm on the mend.

Then he proceded to tell me that he had had open heart surgery back in February. Five arteries were almost completely clogged. He spent two and a half weeks in the hospital and is now on the mend. I told him I was glad to hear that.

As our chat wound down, he took my hand in his and said, "I'm going to pray for you." I told him that I would pray for him and that we'd be praying for each other.

I walked home from that encounter thanking God for those tender moments shared with that very kind gentleman. I have prayed for him often since Friday. I don't even know his name, nor does he know mine. But over the past few years, we have seen each other often as we are out on our morning walks and have spoken several times. Now I have yet another reason to look forward to seeing him in the future.

I came home, showered, and got dressed to go meet two friends for lunch. Two women that I met at a local senior living community where I have taught several Bible studies in the past four or five years invited me to join them for lunch. Ever since they found out that I had kanswer, they have faithfully sent emails and asked how I was doing. They told me they had spread the word with the folks there and that many people were praying for my healing.

When I arrived for lunch, they informed me that they had invited another woman to join us - which was fine, of course. We got our food and sat down at the table to eat. After we gave God thanks for the meal, the woman who coordinated the lunch told me that there was something she wanted to read to me.

First she told this story: A few years ago, she began to use the Jesus Calling devotional book - it consists of daily readings and Scripture passages. At the start of 2012, she began the Jesus Calling journal, a book that was given to her as a gift. As she worked her way through the devotional for a second time, she wrote a response to the readings and tied them to the events of her day. Now in 2013, she is rereading the devotional and the journal to review the lessons she learned in 2012.

How amazing is it that when she read her entry for June 14th, which was last Friday, she discovered that on that same day in 2012, I had been at their morning Bible study talking about forgiveness? So on the morning of our lunch date in 2013, she read about my presence there exactly one year earlier and about what she was learning about that difficult topic.

Those are the moments when I get goose bumps. When I think about all the things that had to happen to make that moment possible, I shudder: she had to read the book in 2011 and 2012, write faithfully in the journal, reread the journal this year, and read it last Friday morning. I was diagnosed kanswer. I went through months of grueling treatments. I took my time with healing and recovery before making the date with them for lunch. And have it all come together on that day. That specific day. What a day!

Which brings me back to that first line in that song: "Momma said there'd be days like this."
My Sweet Momma Jesus said, "I am with you. I see you. I need you to know that I love you and that I'm making things happen in your life that you cannot explain. Life will not always be easy. It's not always going to be fun. But sometimes it will be easy and fun. Sometimes there will be days like this, days of tenderness, caring, coincidences, and beauty. Some days I will show up in the face of an old man who noticed that you cut your hair. Some days I will show up in the journal entry of a woman who cares for you more than you realized. Pay attention. You'll see; there will be many more days like this."

I am grateful for days like that.
And days like this.
Speak, Momma. Your daughter is listening.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Thankful Thursday

* Last Saturday, I spent seven hours with a group of like-minded writers. Listening to poetry and writing responses. Creating poetry and short stories. Telling stories and shedding tears. Making new friends and reconnecting with old friends. Eating delicious food and drinking ice water.

* On Monday morning, a dear friend, Miakoda Taylor, came and visited for three days. When we met in 1989, she was a junior at my high school alma mater and I was a Spanish teacher there. Even as a high school student, she was more of a teacher to me than a student. We became friends that year and have maintained contact ever since. She is one of the wisest and most compassionate person I have ever known. We hadn't seen each other since Kristiana was two years old. But we picked up our face-to-face conversations as though we see each other every few months.

* Miakoda is a fantastic cook who turns simple and nutritious foods - like curried lentils over brown rice and kale salad - into a feast. She brought stories, questions, joy, laughter, and warmth into our home. We must not wait so long before our next visit.

* We have had a tremendous amount of rain lately, some would say it has been too much rain. But we have been in drought conditions for nearly a year, so I am grateful that we are getting a good soaking these days. I pray that rain will also soak the great state of Colorado to douse those flames. I pray that tornadoes will stop hitting the ravaged midwest. I pray for an end to violence, abuse, disease, and war. And I pray that all people everywhere will know peace. No small or easy prayers for me, no sirree!!!

* Every day I feel more at home in this body of mine. The scars on my chest are getting smoother every day. My hair is getting longer and curlier. And I spend more and more time each day feeling "normal." I spent time with another woman on the kanswer journey this past Monday morning and she reminded me that from this time on, we are living in "a new normal." Indeed.

*This new normal is more joyous, more fulfilling, more honest, more wholehearted, and also more aware of the great suffering in the world. I cry nearly everytime I read about someone being diagnosed with kanswer, car accidents, open heart surgery, and job loss. There is so much pain and I feel it more now than ever.

* Physical therapy is going well. My range of motion (in my shoulders, back, chest, and torso) is increasing daily. I am doing strength training now with an elastic band and several stretches that will help me get back into some of my regular activities. My physical therapist says I can try to carry the laundry basket and groceries as long as nothing is too heavy. She said I shouldn't pick up more than ten pounds... but I picked up my favorite baby boy today even though he weighs more than ten pounds. That little boy is the source of so much joy and laughter in my life that I couldn't resist, Heather. I just couldn't resist. I had to hold him in my arms again. I will do some extra stretching tonight to make up for my rule-breaking.

* Before picking Miakoda up at the airport, Kristiana and I discovered the airport overlook area. There is a parking lot and picnic area where we can watch airplanes take off and land. One hundred yards of grass separated us from the runway. We watched several departures and arrivals on Monday evening before she arrived, and today I watched several more after dropping her off. Standing there, I was as happy as I've been in a very long time. I had to restrain myself from throwing my arms up in the air and cheering each time an airplane went past. I suspect I will spend many hours there in the coming weeks and months. I may lose a degree of hearing. I may breathe in many cubic meters of exhaust. But I will be one very happy airport overlooker. And a very cheap date for my husband - I am easily entertained.

What else am I thankful for on this rainy Thursday evening?
* fresh, local peaches
* heirloom tomatoes
* spending time playing with my sweet little dog
* offroad vehicles that look like they have been off road

* maxi dresses
* flip-flops
* homemade salad dressing
* time sitting poolside with Gibbs, sipping coffee, scratching Wrangler, staring out at the lake
* a handwritten letter with butterflies on the card and envelope
* tank tops
* not having to wear a bra
* needing a brush again
* seeing my earrings hanging down and not "losing" them in my locs

self-portraits while watching airplanes

* embracing the joy-filled vanity of staring at my hair in the mirror and taking weekly hair portraits
* espadrilles
* sprouted raw almonds
* ceiling fans on hot nights
* Pinterest - especially all the "pins" related to travel wardrobes
* dental floss
* talking about parenting, nursing, beach vacations, and food budgets with Heather
* saying "no" to radiation 
* a spontaneous lesson on drought, irrigation, the Hoover Dam, and the importance of eating locally grown produce at one of the local farmer's markets
* eating a mostly-raw, completely vegan dinner (with dessert!) at Luna's Living Kitchen last night
* watching a movie with Kristiana and Miakoda
* solitude and silence

I have been led back to these verses often lately, so I am making them mine tonight.
Psalm 91:1 and 2 - She (that's me) who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, "She (that's my Sweet Momma Jesus) is my refuge and fortress,
my God in whom I trust."

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Simple Pleasures

Here are a few of my favorite things and activities:

* the laptop I'm clicking away on right now

* making jewelry with Lisa

* talking on the phone with Karen

* fuji apple salad with Gibbs

* hanging out with Heather and snuggling with Graeme

* my daughter, not only when we are shopping together, but also when we are just hanging out here at home

* the way my husband still makes me laugh

* camisoles with skirts and loose-fitting cardigans

* the sound of my children talking, laughing, and listening to music together

* playing with my dog

* the gentle hands of my physical therapist as she loosens the skin around and under my surgery scars

* photobombing my son at Target

* not having to wear bras anymore

* family trips to Target and Trader Joe's

* decaf green kombucha tea

* a summer dress worn with espadrilles

* time spent on Pinterest looking at "travel wardrobe capsules" - who knew you could make over 100 outfits with only 10 or 12 garments???

* a good night's sleep

* clean laundry

* housesitting and dogsitting at a spectacular house on Lake Norman

* Wrangler, the Portuguese water dog in the picture, who head-butted me just as I took the photo (hence the closed right eye)

* lying in bed in the middle of the afternoon

* having dinner brought to me in bed at the end of the afternoon

* maxi dresses

* homemade cole slaw

* the television show, "Modern Family"

* hair!!!! I love how short it is and how easy it is to take care of

* never having to use rollers again

* texting late at night

* enjoying church again

* the e-class I'm taking at the moment: The Story of You

* the movie "Hope Springs"

* laughter

* having a life with so many simple and wonderfully light-hearted pleasures

******** I am grateful, so very grateful*********