Thursday, October 31, 2013

Thankful Thursday

Today I'm thankful for today. For another gorgeous fall day.

* For the opportunity to tell some of my kanswer story to the folks my mother works with. She had been telling them what was going on with me and they were faithful in prayer. So I went to her office and spoke to the staff there for about 15 minutes this morning.

* For the chance to hug several people after that talk and hear some of their stories.
One woman has been diagnosed with lymphoma five times.
One is a two-time breast kanswer survivor.
One young woman told me that her mother is going to have a biopsy of her pancreas next week.
Such strength, courage, vulnerability.
I was honored to be asked to speak and glad to be given more to pray for.

* For time with a woman who has walked this breast kanswer journey with me. She is finishing up the reconstruction process. I love how we are able to talk about this terrible disease and our victory over it. I love that we have made such different choices but still have so much in common. She is growing her hair back and may regrow her locks. She has chosen a rather complex form of reconstruction. I am keeping my hair short and gave up both of my breasts with no reconstruction. We each have great respect for what the other has chosen - and we always find ways to laugh through our decisions and experiences.What a beacon of joy, hope, humor, and strength she has been in my life.

* For my daughter's 20th birthday yesterday. She is all grown up. She is one of my dearest friends. She is brave and strong, determined and hopeful, helpful, funny and generous. She is the best cook in our house. She is downstairs waiting for the trick-or-treaters to ring the doorbell so she can hand out candy.

* I'm grateful for Anne Lamott, Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Rebecca Walker, Rob Bell, and Paulo Coelho
* I'm grateful for apple crisp, pasta, pineapple, and egg sandwiches
* I'm grateful for the changing colors of the leaves and cooler weather
* I'm grateful to have a valid passport, a sturdy backpack, and comfortable shoes

* I'm grateful for peppermint and chamomile tea
* I'm grateful for 3-D movie glasses
* I'm grateful for pocket-sized Moleskine journals
* I'm also grateful for paper clips, staplers, scotch tape, and rubber bands

I'm especially grateful for the camera and the iphone that took these photos on my recent adventure.

On my way to an exhibit of Hermes Leather Goods with Leticia.
A spectacular Saturday morning in Madrid.

I won't deny it - I experienced some serious covetousness when I saw those bags.

Essence of Leather

Leather motorcycle wings.

 The venue where the Hermes exhibit was housed.
Such beautiful light.

The glass pavillion in the Retiro Park, Madrid.
Several years ago, I saw an exhibit of Hermes scarves in this building.
Perhaps an Hermes purchase is somewhere in my future...

Turtle party in the park!!! 

The bar at the Hotel Urban, Madrid.
I think I had peppermint tea there. 
Or was it chamomile? 

 Plaza de Cibeles, Madrid.
That building used to be the main post office for the city.
Back in the fall of 1986, during my semester of study abroad,
I went there often to mail letters and pick up packages.

Do you see the couple sitting at the table in the window that is the third from the bottom?
I snuck this photo from the window of the bedroom where I stayed in Madrid.

The magic of cameras. The wonder of the memories they capture.
I am grateful. So very grateful.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Joy, simple, profound, soul-deep joy

When I am in Spain, that is what I feel, that is what I experience, that is what surrounds me. Joy, simple joy. Not that everything always goes smoothly. Not that the weather is always glorious. Not that the people are always helpful, friendly, or welcoming. I'm not saying that my time in Spain is perfect, but I am saying that spending time in Spain always, always, always gives me many reasons, opportunities, and motives for joy.

One of the more joyful occasions on this recent trip was my visit to San Sebastián, a city on the northern coast of Spain. The time I spent there did go smoothly. The food was fantastic. The people were friendly. The weather was unseasonably warm and dry. My hotel room had a view of the beach. I spent several hours one day sitting on the beach watching the people, staring at the water, and listening to music. I ate gelato from an Italian gelatería. Therefore, I spent almost 48 hours smiling. Filled with joy.

I walked into these restaurants, (gently) elbowed my way to the counter, 

checked out what was available, 

and asked for what I wanted,
or if I didn't know exactly what it was, I would point at what I wanted. 

They would heat it up and I would eat it up.
Not a single dish cost more than $3 or $4. 
That's a lie - one thing I ate cost more than $4, only one - fried calamari.
That city gives "bar-hopping" a whole new meaning.

As I walked the beach, I said to myself: "This is midday prayer.
This moment. This walk. This beach. This sky. This sand between my toes.
This breath. This peace. This gratitude. This joy. 
This is prayer."

A father and his three sons.  

Contemplating the sea before surfing.

 Soon after my surgery, a friend sent me $3 and told me to use it to treat myself to ice cream.
Pamela, I finally did it - in Spain. 
Delicious! Thank you!

Tea party for one in the hotel bar. 

El paseo, the evening meander.

I was happy, grateful, filled with joy.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Taking a chance...

I was walking in Trader Joe's this morning when I saw her.
The woman with a kerchief on her head.
I see them everywhere.
Women with kerchiefs covering bald heads and wrapped around puffy faces.

I saw one when I was at a store in Spain a couple of weeks ago.
It was a busy evening at a busy clothing store.
There she was - a kerchief on her head.
Sitting on a clothing display while the crowd jostled and pushed its way around her.
She looked tired. Exhausted. Like she would have been far more comfortable in bed.

I remembered my own exhaustion during chemo.
Wanting to get out of bed and do something.
Wanting to be out and about in the real world.
Going out. And then feeling wiped out. Always looking for a place to sit down.

When I was in that store in Spain, I wanted to go over to her and say something.
To give her a hug. To wish her well. To ask her name and tell her I would pray for her.
I didn't say anything to her, but I did pray for her. I continue to pray for her.
And I promised myself that I would not be so bashful going forward.
Life is too short and kanswer is too terrible for so many people to think they are in the battle alone.

When I saw the woman at Trader Joe's today, at first, I said nothing.
I walked past her and went on to gather goodies for my daughter's 20th birthday -
which is tomorrow... but that's a-whole-nother story for a-whole-nother day.

After throwing a few things into my cart, I circled back and approached her.
"I know it's none of my business, but are you going through kanswer?"
She said "yes." Her breast kanswer has metastasized to her brain and bones.
I told her that I have only recently come through my own kanswer battle and
I wanted to encourage her and wish her well on her journey.
Being the natural born weeper that I am, I cried while we spoke.
When I apologized for my tears, she said, "Don't worry about it."
We spoke for a few moments and then hugged each other.
I wished her well. She wished me well, as did her husband.
She thanked me for speaking to her.
I'm glad I took a chance and reached out to her.

One of my dear friends, when I told her about my Trader Joe's encounter, said, "God knew you were going to be there this morning, that you were going to see that woman, and that you would speak to her. You have no idea what effect your words will have on her. Your words could be part of her healing." I said I was a little nervous about approaching her because if I was wrong, she might feel bad that I thought she had kanswer. My friend said, "I don't think the Holy Spirit would have prompted you to speak to her if she didn't have kanswer." That's all I want - for this story of mine to matter in someone else's life.

This past weekend, my sister-in-law did the 60-mile breast kanswer walk down in Florida. She said she would have done it anyway, but when I was diagnosed, she was even more motivated to do the walk, to raise the money, and to increase breast kanswer awareness in her area. I wish I could have been down there to cheer her on as she walked. I'm grateful she took a chance, did all the training, and walked all those miles on behalf of kanswer survivors.

In honor of my sister-in-law's efforts, in gratitude for her efforts, I will do what I can here in Charlotte, here on the blog, on facebook, and everywhere I go to encourage others who are on this terrible, demanding, painful, life-altering journey. I'm grateful for every opportunity to use my story to make a difference in the lives of others. 

Kanswer sucks. But if I can ease the suckiness of it through a donation to Noemi's walk-a-thon, through the purchase of a few pink ribbons, through a few words of encouragement, a hug, and the shedding of tears in front of the greeting card display at Trader Joe's, then I'm going to take a lot more chances and reach out to many more women with kerchiefs.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Thankful Thursday

When I was a college student, my most challenging class was Introduction to Physics. I tried hard, really hard, to understand the concepts of physics. I went to see the professor regularly for extra help. He was extremely patient with me. He explained as slowly as he could with as many examples as he could. But I just didn't get it.

One day in class, he went through a long explanation of some concept - and I GOT IT! I listened and took copious notes, and I thought, "Holy moly! Maybe there is hope for me after all." I was ridiculously proud of myself and hopeful for my future as a student in that class.

The next time the class met, he began with a somber and contrite apology. The concept he had explained in the previous class, THE ONLY CONCEPT I UNDERSTOOD ALL SEMESTER TO THAT POINT, had been explained incorrectly. He had been wrong in how he presented it to us. And he was sorry. WHAT!!!???

The only thing I sort of figured out was the physics of how planes take off - something about velocity and mass and angles. Clearly, I cannot recall the exact details now, but I do remember being fascinated by the possibility of understanding the miracle of flight. I mean, you step into an enormous steel tube filled with people and stuff and get lifted up into the air and go across land masses or oceans. Flying. It's crazy. It's amazing.

Today I am thankful for the miracle of flight.
I'm gonna share a few of the more than 2,300 photos I took on this recent trip -
all of the ones I am sharing today are related to the flights I took back and forth to Spain.

Between Charlotte and Miami

The next three photos are on the flight between Miami and Madrid 

On the ground in Madrid

These two are just off the coast of Florida, taken from the flight back from Madrid.

Cloud formations. Oceans. Islands. Shorelines. The vast sky.
Airplanes. Airports. Passengers. Crew.
It was great to go. It is great to be home.
Grateful, grateful, grateful, grateful.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Thankful Saturday

Today I am grateful for

- safety during this trip thus far
- excellent food every day
- wonder and awe-filled time with my dear friends
- long car rides with lively, life-reaffirming conversations
- a widening and deeping of my faith and my love of life
- hearing the right songs at just the right time - you're gonna hear me roar! what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. tu recuerdo sigue aquí. An excellent sound track for the journey in stores and restaurants.
- Spain's efficient train system
- a hotel room that has a view of the beach here in San Sebastián
- figuring out how to put accents above letters on my phone and ipad
- having enough courage to walk into random bars and eat fabulous pintxos (tapas)
- communicating what I wanted and needed even though I have lost my voice
- losing my voice has afforded me a day of (mostly) silence and some croaking out words and questions
- what i expect will be more silence tomorrow (who knew that i would have a silent retreat in Spain?)
- the museum where i learned about Basque culture and history
- watching guests arrive at a church for a wedding - such elegance and such high heeled shoes!
- getting away from the guy selling tickets to enter the cathedral after he kept touching my arm... Creepy, really creepy!
- recognizing that even though i brought only a carry on backpack, i have more than enough clothing for the trip (not that i'm planning to get rid of all the clothes i have at home...)
- Rick Steves travel books
- having a friend here with great connections all over Spain in nearly every part of the country and the willingness to make phone calls on my behalf
- seeing Spanish fútbol (soccer) on television in Spain
- figuring out how things work in supermarkets here (in some ways, things are very different here)
- being able to talk to my husband and daughter via facetime. My son didn't answer his phone...
- wi-fi
- comfortable shoes
- unseasonably warm and dry weather
- four more nights
- hope and a future
- love, joy, laughter, hugs, and walking arm in arm

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Just so you know...

I am alive and well. Ridiculously happy. In fact, it is hard not to smile all day. I will nevr be able to explain why i love Spain so much, but I do. It is a soul-deep love, a life-affirming love. I feel my shoulders dropping more and more with each passing day and my breaths getting deeper.

I am learning.
I am laughing.
I am reading.
I am praying.
I am walking.
I am journaling.
I am crying too.
I am falling back in love with my life too.
I am eating well.
I am drinking tea, coffee, water, wine, sangria - and enjoying every drop.
Truly, i am relearning what it is to enjoy every drop of my life,
every moment, every hour,
even the ones that include missing a desired train because i didn't have my bank card and i couldn't use my regular credit card in the machines. (I don't have a PIN for my visa card so i couldn't complete the transaction and i had left the bank card at my friend's house. After all, i knew i wouldn't need cash... ah, the best laid plans...) I had to wait for nearly 100 people to have their numbers called. And that is no exaggeration - my number was 729 and when i got that number, they were at 640. No need to panic or be angry, Gail, just sit down and take some deep breaths. I watched people. I watched the numbers. I watched people some more. Some people clearly had less patience than i had because many of the numbers called between 700 and 729 went unanswered. And eventually i got on a train and ended up where i needed to be. Life happens. And i'm in Spain - that alone is reason to be contented and grateful.

I will spend the next few days with one of my very dearest, wisest, funniest, smartest, oldest (not in age, but in length of our friendship), most godly and most beloved friends in the world. I am grateful for the gift that he is in my life. Deeply grateful.

Anyway, it is bedtime for me.
Buenas noches a todos vosotros.
But i just wanted you to know that all is well.
All is well.
All manner of thing is so very well.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Grab your tissues, folks

One of my dear and faithful readers, Karmen, sent me this link.
Oh me, oh my - I wasn't 25 seconds into it before I started crying.
Then again, it doesn't take much to get me going, does it?

Click here.

Thank you, Karmen. Thank you so much.

You're an overcomer.
I'm an overcomer.
And if you're still on the journey, as we all are, WE SHALL OVERCOME.


Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Day 10 - Are there words for what I feel other than "thankful" and "grateful"?

Probably not. Certainly there aren't any other words I can think of at the moment. It is getting harder to make the list of what I'm grateful for, not because I'm running out of things I am thankful for, but rather because I'm afraid to come off as obsessed with gratitude.

That's weird to say, I know, but it's how I feel. Sure, I want to believe that I don't care what people think of me or my gratitude practice. Sure, I want to believe that I write just because I love to write and because I feel that if one person benefits from this, then it is worth it. If one person feels like they matter, like their opinion matters, their presence in the world matters, if one person feel validated, supported, heard, and loved because of me, then all of this is worth it. All of that is true.

But still. Still I don't want anyone to think I'm overthinking or overdoing the gratitude thing. Is it even possible to "overdo gratitude"? Even if it is possible, that's a pretty good thing to be criticized for, isn't it???


Tonight I'm grateful that tomorrow I'm going to Spain!!!
Yes, I'm heading back to the country where my heart feels most at home.
I was scheduled to go in December, but kanswer treatment took priority over travel.

Tomorrow soul treatment takes priority over everything else.
I plan to treat my soul, mind, body, and spirit to as much tenderness,
love, kindness, patience, joy, adventure, and trust I can manage.
I plan to wander, meander, sit, ponder, journal, read, think,
take photos, eat well - and also set aside time with no plans at all.
I will visit friends and visit myself.
I will visit museums and sit in churches.
I will weep and I will laugh.
I will celebrate the past and I will think about the future.
I will think about the past and celebrate the future.

I have a homemade,  handmade journal - and stickers, rubber stamps, markers, pens, staples, a glue stick, packing tape, stencils, and other goodies to put in it. I baked cookies to take along (don't tell my chiropractor about the sugar, okay? At least they are vegan cookies...), and I have sugar snap peas, grapes, and apples lined up to take as well. I'm planning to pick up a salad at Trader Joe's on my way out of town. I'm not expecting any stellar food on the flight, so I'm gonna take my own goodies.

"Don't go alone."

I'm not sure there are any other words to express how I feel tonight -
thankful, grateful, filled with awe, excited, nervous,
and more than a little blown away by the fact that 24 hours from now,
I will be somewhere out over the north Atlantic Ocean making my way home...

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Day 9 - Closer to the Finish Line

Today at 3:30 pm, I underwent another herceptin treatment. Into the port in my chest. Watching other people undergo their treatments. Remembering other kanswer patients who have been undergoing treatment in the same office during this past year. Sitting with Gibbs, my fearless co-traveler on this kanswer journey. (Thank you, girl, for being so faithful, so thoughtful, and so doggone fun to hang out with.)

Remember the wig tryouts?

I have only two more herceptin treatments left.
Then the port will be removed.
Then I will celebrate the conclusion of the longest year of my life.
The most challenging, the most beautiful, the most painful, the most transformative year.

My first healing therapy treatment. 

Yes, it has been almost a year since I was diagnosed with kanswer.
The mammogram was on Halloween of last year.
The biopsy was two days later, on November 2nd.
I received the diagnosis four days after that, on November 6th.

India Arie sang: "Breast kanswer, chemotherapy, took away her crowning glory.
She promised God if she were to survive, she would enjoy every day of her life..."

I am grateful to have come this far.
I am grateful to be drawing closer to the finish line every day.
Thanks be to God.

My sister-in-law, Noemi, wore this sign on her back 
this past weekend while doing a breast kanswer awareness walk.
I was honored to be remembered this way.
Thank you very much, Noemi.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Day 8 - Simple Things

Today my gratitude is for the simple things, the regular things, the things, places, people, opportunities, circumstances I usually take for granted.

* Electricity - it keeps the fridge cold and the oven hot, two things I definitely take for granted.

* Gas stations - a few years ago, there was a gas shortage here in Charlotte. No one knew why it was only in this area, but it was a sobering thing to drive past station after station that didn't have gas. Abandoned cars everywhere.

* Trucks - how else would the food get to Trader Joe's?

* Local farmers

* Garbage collectors and recycling pick up

* Vacuum cleaner bags

* Clean sheets and towels

* Toothpaste on a new toothbrush

* Olive oil

* Eyeglasses

* The internet - how else would I reach you beautiful people?

* Having a white board and dry erase markers in the homeschool room

* The perpetual book sale at the library

* Old washcloths converted into dusting cloths

* Being able to bathe our tiny dog in the bathroom sink

* A well-executed haircut

* The ability to walk - for exercise, for pleasure, or to go get a glass of water

* The deep sleep derived from half an ambien pill

* Combs and brushes

* Dog food

* Suitcases and backpacks

* Breakfast

* The ability to speak, read, and teach Spanish

* Elephants

* Photographs

* Monday Night Football

* Pineapple

* The way doctors can send prescriptions directly to the pharmacy via email

* Umbrellas

* Windshield wipers

* Elevators that ascend and descend 50 floors in seconds

* Parking lots

* Automatic sliding doors

* Hugs

* Spider webs

* Lightbulbs

* Drive up drop off boxes at the library

* Bedtime tea

I must confess that as I composed this list, I realized that none of this stuff is simple. Every single thing on this list - and on every gratitude list I've made of late - is complex, multi-layered, and miraculous. Just think about it - "a well-executed haircut" involves a barber (with a complex life story that landed him in the barbershop), scissors and clippers and hairspray and a cape and mirrors (made by many people a long way from the barbershop), a barber chair (ditto), the barbershop itself (built by carpenters and bricklayers way back when), plus the car that got me to the barbershop and so on. See? Miraculous. And yet how often do we take getting a haircut or filling our gas tanks, or shopping at the supermarket for granted??? And don't get me started on the wild, inexplicable, undeniable wonder of elephants!!!

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Day 7 - The Sounds of Sunday

Today I am grateful for sound.

* The sound of my alarm when I'm already awake, lying in bed, thinking, praying, looking forward to the day.

* The quietness on the streets of uptown Charlotte this morning while walking to breakfast.

* The sound of the congregation saying The Lord's Prayer together.

* The sweet harmonies of hymn singing.

* The rev and rumble of the engine when my car starts.

* The click of a camera.

* The beep of the washing machine as it begins to clean another load of our clothing.

* The whir of the ceiling fan in my bedroom, moving and cooling the air during the night.

* The scrape of the spoon in the bottom of a simmering pot of soup.

* The release of tension and realignment of bones during a chiropractic adjustment.

* Laughter, especially my children's laughter.

* Children playing in the playground in front of the church.

* The singing of "Happy Birthday" - at a party, in a restaurant, anywhere.

* Voice mails.

* The new sounds of my new phone.

* The scratching sound of my dog's claws as she runs on both the carpet and the hardwood floor.

* Stories of challenges, of victories, of mysteries, and love - told with vulnerability and honesty.

* The crunch of toast slathered with fresh almond butter.

* The initial sips of hot tea.

* The groan my children utter when I say, "Let's have a family meeting." (Which is later followed by their laughter at each other, their father, and me during the course of our meetings.)

* The cheer of the crowd when touchdowns, homeruns, or goals are scored.

* The sound of water, at the beach, near a river, even in the shower. Water sounds heavenly to me.

* The click of ice in a glass.

* The sound of my name when spoken gently and with love.

* The sound of well-chosen words grouped together articulately and eloquently.
* My four favorite words, "Oh Lord my God."
* My three favorite words, "Sweet Momma Jesus."
* My two favorite words, "Thank you."
* My single favorite word, "Peace."

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Day 6 - Celebration Saturday

Today I'm grateful for the gift, the glory of another day. A day to celebrate life and love, friendship and family, sunshine and .

 * I am grateful for the wondrous bounty at the farmer's market.

* I am grateful for the woman who patiently explained how to care for the fresh ginger.

* Today we celebrated the first year of life of a precious little boy who not only laughs at me, but also makes me laugh.

 Aaaaaaah - choooooo!!!!!

 * I'm grateful that I was present when he discovered the joy of cake and frosting.
He ate more than half of that cake all by himself.

 * I'm enormously grateful to be a part of his life and the life of his entire family.

* I am grateful to live in a city that still blesses the animals. I wish I had known about this ahead of time; I probably would have taken our little doggie for a dash of holy water.

* I am grateful for this view of the sunset over the city.

* Even the wasps know how to be still and appreciate the spectacle that is the setting sun.

* I am grateful for the opportunity to spend the afternoon, evening, and night with one of the most generous, kind, funny, thoughtful, attentive, organized, loving people I have ever known. In the words of one of the most famous prostitutes in movie history, the one who was rescued by the handsome Richard Gere in "Pretty Woman," I say to you (and you know who you are, dear one): "If I forget to tell you later, I had a wonderful evening."

Grateful, grateful, grateful, grateful.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Day 5 - Grateful for Prayer

Today I am grateful for the wonder, the mystery, the comfort, the simplicity, the depth, the power of prayer. I'm one of those people who believes it is possible to "pray without ceasing." I'm one of those people for whom my inner thoughts are an ongoing conversation with God. Believe me, I don't say that with pride or in any way bragging, but rather I share this and, more importantly, I share all my thoughts with God in prayer because I am so desperate to be heard, understood, loved, and accompanied. I have so much to say and few who are willing to listen to what I have to say. In fact, I know that no one on earth can handle all my thoughts, wishes, desires, babblings, complaints, fear, ramblings, and murmuring. So I pour out my deepest, darkest, dirtiest, brightest, happiest, most joyful ponderings to God alone, my Sweet Momma Jesus, my ever-present Sarayu Spirit. Who is always present, attentive, listening. Walking with me. Hovering over me. Living within me. Speaking back to me in sweet silence, in the roll of thunder, in the words of my beloved ones, and The Word Itself.

Here are a few short prayers that have resonated with me lately. They all appear in In the Sanctuary of Women: A Companion for Reflection and Prayer, by Jan Richardson.

May you sink

the roots of your soul

deep and deeper still

into the love of God,

who encompasses and encircles you

without beginning, without end.

In the midst of your life:

the daily of it,

the ordinary of it,

the noontime and night of it,

let there be moments

that open to you

the hallowed and holy of it.

May you know yourself

beloved and blessed

by the God who

seeks you,

desires you,

calls you by name.

May your journey through this day

offer a thin, thin place

where heaven and earth meet

And time falls away.

When the path is simple, peace.

When the way is complicated, peace.

May Christ not only show you the way

but also be the way you travel:

way of blessing, way of peace.

Between the words,

beneath the words,

beyond the words,

may God meet you

in the places

where words cannot go.

Amen and amen!
Beautiful prayers, right???
And the book is filled with other gems just like these.

Thank you, Jan Richardson, for the gift of these prayers.
Thanks be to Sweet Momma Jesus who inspired you to pen these petitions.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Day 4 - Thankful Thursday

Today I am thankful for -

* pineapples on sale, buy one, get one free
* our favorite whole grain bread, same deal
* toothbrushes on clearance: $1 each
* Kiss My Face floride-free toothpaste on clearance: half-price
* the privilege of shopping carefully and efficiently for my family

* the enormous support a couple at our church received after their son committed suicide
* the ways in which my children share their burdens and their joys with me
* how often we laugh when we are together
* how willing they are to listen to my lectures, rants, and diatribes
* the forgiveness and restoration that are possible when I apologize to them and make amends
* my husband's hugs and assurances - "Everything is gonna work out fine, Gail. You just have to breathe. You haven't taken a deep breath in eight months. It's okay to breathe now." He's so right.

* plans for three excellent events this weekend:
1 - a jazz concert tomorrow night with a dear friend
2 - a birthday party on Saturday for the son of another dear friend
3 - a sleepover in yet another great friend's new penthouse apartment on Saturday night
* an abundance of kind, compassionate, generous, and attentive friends

* a clean bill of health from the dentist: no cavities and no evidence of the typical post-chemo dental problems
* only three more herceptin treatments and then I can get rid of this port in my chest

Sometimes I still cry when I think about this stupid kanswer thing, especially when I ponder my future. I suspect it will always bring up emotions in me. After all, this freaking thing tried to kill me, to take me down and out. Yesterday while she was cleaning my teeth, the dental hygienist asked if I am kanswer-free now. I had to wait until she pulled that really sharp tooth-scraper-thingy out of my mouth before I could answer: "The doctors say that there is no definitive test that I can take that can prove there are no kanswer cells in my body. Hence, the herceptin treatments and tamoxifen tablets." Oh how I wish I could say, "I'm in remission." Or "I'm kanswer-free" and know it to be a fact. I simply don't know.

One thing I do know for sure is this: I'm still here. I'm still here!
I'm surrounded by people who love me.
I live in a house I love with a family I love.
I go to a church I'm growing to love. (The senior pastor called two churches in Asheville, North Carolina and informed the senior pastors there that my daughter is planning to attend UNC Asheville starting in January. He called them to let them know she may visit their churches. When I thanked him for doing that, he said, "That's the best part of my job." And he said that after treating my daughter and me to lunch last Friday. How COOL is that???)
I've got travel plans. I've got teaching plans.
I've got plans to get a job of some kind when my son heads off to college.
And I've got three and a half seasons of "Breaking Bad" to catch up on.
I'm making plans for a long and happy future.

I am thankful to be on this side of kanswer and on this side of the rest of my life.
Grateful, grateful, grateful, grateful.
Thanks be to God.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Day 3 - Gratitude for this body of mine...

I have so much respect for this woman, Kristin Noelle. She is one of my favorite bloggers, one of the many folks I have met online that I long to meet in person. She is a fantastic writer and skilled artist. On the day after I was diagnosed with kanswer, she created this sketch for me.

Rcently, she asked me to do an interview as part of a new series on her blog called, 
How could I say "no"? Here it is... Right here.
I was honored to be asked to contribute to her work, to her blog.

Thank you, Kristin, for giving me the opportunity to tell more of my kanswer story,
to consider the challenges I have faced over the past year,
and to give honor to and thanks for this body of mine.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Day 2 - Giving Thanks with a Grateful Heart

Today is yet another spectacularly clear and bright day in Charlotte. The street outside my study room window is quiet, calm, verdant. My son is busy working through a book of 100 Math Tips for the SAT. He takes the test for the first time this coming Saturday. If you pray, please pray that he will remember all the tips and tricks we have gone over in these past few weeks. Please pray that he will remember than none of those tips and tricks and nothing about the results of this test will affect how much he is loved and how wonder-filled, frustrating, beautiful, scary, and outstanding his life will be before, during, and after college. Life will be beautiful. Life will be brutal. As Glennon over at Momastery says, "Life is brutiful." Don't I know that full well??? Don't we all???!!!???

I am grateful for snack mix, ice cream cake, grilled fish, and edamame.
I am grateful for the oatmeal with blueberries, cranberries, and almonds that I ate after this morning's walk.
I am grateful for kombucha, the last bottle of which I drank this morning. I had a sizeable stash - and now it's all gone.

I am grateful for water, the fish that swim in it, and the plants that grow in it.
I am grateful for trees, shrubs, vines, spider webs, and stone pathways.
I am grateful for science centers, public gardens, libraries, and courthouses.

I am grateful for wedding receptions, wedding cake, dancing, and champagne toasts.
I am grateful for the love, courage, and hope that propel people into marriage and partnership.
I am grateful for connection, friendship, laughter, and family.

I am grateful for wedding dresses, flowers, and decorations.
I am grateful for ziploc bags.
I am grateful for organic spinach.
I am grateful for strong legs, a healthy mind, and a still-beating heart.

I am grateful for Perrier water with lemon.
I am grateful for green tea with rice milk.
I am grateful that I have been sleeping better lately.
I am grateful for washi tape, rubber stamps, and paper cutters.
I am grateful for the miracle of safety despite all the places I go, all the rides I take in my car, and all the possible things that could go so dreadfully wrong over the course of every day.

I am grateful to be alive and well.
Thanks be to God.