Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Having Said All That...

I'm gonna let some pictures do the talking.
What a year this has been!

 I cut off the dreads before the chemo had a chance to do so.

 Then I shaved off the short hair when the chemo began its dastardly work.

 I was blessed to be a witness at the baptism of this beautiful baby boy.

 I tried on a few wigs and hair pieces. Thanks, but no thanks. I'll just be bald!


 I did it - I made it through chemo!

 I had to say farewell to one of my favorite pastors ever.
No, he's not dead. He just moved to Connecticut.

I had a blast in Florida with my brother, his wife, and their wonderful family.

I spent some quality time with this fine young man before he bid us all farewell.
I miss you, Wrangler, but not nearly as much as Gibbs does.

 Out over the ocean with my Spain journal, my iPad, my pen case, and high hopes for an awesome trip.

 Leather wings on the Hermes motorcycle in Madrid.
I'm glad they weren't selling bags at that exhibit;
I might have bought one.

 I would follow that man just about anyplace.

 Sangria in Spain

 The beach in San Sebastian, Spain

Heading for my gate at Barajas Airport on October 23rd, I was reminded yet again:
"Don't go alone."

If there is anything I have learned this year, it is this: I am not alone. 
I have never been alone. I never will be alone. 
I wasn't alone in chemo, ever. 
I wasn't alone as I waited to go in for surgery. 
I wasn't alone as I flew across the ocean and landed in my beloved Spain. 
Even when I walked the beach on San Sebastian on my own, I wasn't alone. 
I wasn't alone when I finished my herceptin treatments. 
I wasn't alone when the port was put in or when it was removed. 
I am not alone now as I celebrate the victories and challenges of 2013. 
I will not be alone as I welcome in 2014.

In 2013, my word for the year was "strength."

Strength to rebound from surgery.
Strength to regain my mobility and range of motion.
Strength to embrace and love my newly-reshaped body.
Strength to endure all and emerge victorious from the battle with kanswer.
Strength to remain joyful and grateful.
Strength to find reasons to laugh in the darkest moments.
Strength to encourage others who were dealing with their own difficult times.
Strength to finish 2013 well and enter 2014 with hope.

I am reminded of the verse from that old hymn of the church, Great is thy faithfulness...
Great is thy faithfulness, O God my father.
There is no shadow of turning with thee.
Thou changest not, thy compassions they fail not.
Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.

Summer and winter, springtime and harvest,
sun, moon, and stars in their courses above
join with all nature in manifold witness
to thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide.
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow, 
blessings all mine with ten thousand beside.

Great is thy faithfulness, great is thy faithfulness.
Morning by morning, new mercies I see.
All I have needed thy hand has provided.
Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.

(Here's another song about the faithfulness of God. I'm really not "a music person," but I've been enjoying youtube videos of Gospel music lately. Who knows? I may become a music person yet.)

Having said all that, having posted all these photos, 
having posted links to great music, I will end with this:
I wish you a happy, blessed, healthy, joy-filled new year, my friends.
I pray that 2014 be your best year ever. I'm certainly planning to make it a great one.
Thank you for walking through this year with me.
I'll meet you on the other side of midnight.

Monday, December 30, 2013

I'm all confused about the days...

I missed Thankful Thursday last week. By the time I realized it, it was already the weekend. And now this week is all mixed up as well. One thing I am not confused about is that this year is almost over. This crazy, challenging, fearful, joyful, wonder-filled, terrible, horrible, beautiful, bountiful year is almost behind me.

I have spent many hours in the past couple of weeks looking back at this year,
looking forward to next year,
looking inward at my heart and soul,
looking outward at my family, friends, church, and world,
looking down at my much-altered body,
and looking up at my chopped hair.
There is a lot to look at, look over, and look through as the year ticks down to its end.
2013 has been the best and the worst year of my life.

I remain overwhelmed with gratitude for all that has been, even the bad stuff. When I think about how bad it could have been, how much worse, I am grateful for the journey I've been on, as terrible as it has been.

I am grateful for the friends who sat with me during chemo and herceptin treatments.
I am grateful for the friends who drove me back and forth to appointments.
I am grateful for the meals that were provided for us.
I am grateful for the cards and letters, the calls and texts.
I am grateful for the friends who flew here to visit me, who drove many hours to come visit.
I am grateful for the doctors and nurses, therapists and technicians who worked tirelessly to get me through this illness.
I am grateful for the poetry and blog posts and sketches that were composed and created on my behalf.
I am grateful for the friends who have laughed with me and cried with me.
I am grateful for those who have prayed for me and lit candles for me.
I am grateful for the neighbors who checked in with me regularly, brought me banana bread and cookies, and homegrown tomatoes and the biggest carrot cake I've ever seen.
I am grateful for the church family that welcomed me back with open arms when I was able to return after my treatments were finished.
I am grateful for the ways in which that same church family has supported my family through this year.
I am grateful that I haven't dealt with the worst side effects of chemo, herceptin, or tamoxifen.
I am grateful that I don't have an odd-shaped head, so my short hair doesn't look ridiculous.
I am grateful that I never had large breasts, so my flat chest doesn't look ridiculous either.
I am grateful for how great I feel these days, for the strength to exercise fully, for the desire to live fully, and for the expectation that this full life will continue for many years to come.
I am grateful for the love that continues to flow in my direction even now.
I am grateful for the many lessons I have learned through this terrible ordeal.
I am grateful that after only a few months, when I look back, the worst memories are already fading.
I am grateful that I kept a journal and a calendar this year.
I am grateful that one of the first things I realized at the beginning of this terrible year is that this experience was not just for me. This story was not for me alone.
I am grateful for every opportunity I have had and will have to talk about it, to share my experiences, to answer people's questions, to be able to encourage others who are walking through valleys and shadows of their own.

I am grateful too for what was lost.
I lost a few body parts.
I lost my hair.
I lost a few friends who didn't want to walk this journey with me.
I lost most of my vanity.
I lost my fear of death.
I lost most of my worries.
I lost my desire to please everybody else.
I lost my willingness to suffer in silence.
I lost a lot of my fear of speaking the truth about how I feel.
I lost my desire to live like other people live.
I lost much of my tendency to stand in judgment of others.
I lost a whole lot of doubt about the goodness of God.
I lost my desire to try to prove anything to anybody else - especially with regards to my faith.

I am grateful for what has been found too.
I found my way back and forth to Spain, to Wilmington, NC, to St Petersburg, Florida.
I found my way through chemo and surgery.
I found a new way to eat, drink, and take care of my health.
I found a church that welcomes the voices of women and men in equal measure.
I found a community of senior adults that welcomes me openly and wants me to visit them regularly.
I found a new level of awareness and alertness in my life.
I found a new appreciation for life and health.
I found out how much I am loved.
I found new ways to save money.
I found new ways to spend money.
I found new pens that I love.
I found new recipes that we all enjoy.
I found a vegan cooking service that delivers food locally.
I found out how strong I am.
I found out how weak I am.
I found out that it is possible to find a reason to be grateful in almost every situation.
I found out how good God is and also that God has a pretty amazing sense of timing and humor.

I am still confused about the days this week. Hence, even though today isn't Thursday, it is a day of gratitude, a day to give thanks, a day to look back, look forward, look in, look out, look down, and most of all, today is a day to look up and say, "Thanks be to God."

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

What would be left...?

One of my favorite writers, José María Olaizola, posted this on the webpage he oversees. For those of you who don't speak Spanish, I will translate it into English. For those of you who do speak Spanish, please forgive me for any mistakes I make in the translation...


¿Te imaginas una Navidad sin nieve, sin regalos, sin lotería, sin turrón, sin viajes, sin comidas familiares, sin vacaciones, sin musgo, sin árbol de navidad, sin luces en las calles, sin música de villancicos en altavoces y comercios, sin programación especial en la televisión, sin “amigo invisible”, sin gorros de Papa Noel –o ya puestos, sin Papa Noel, así en general, ni nada que nos lo recuerde–, sin recetas especiales, sin carreras de San Silvestre, sin cabalgata, sin discurso del rey, sin mazapán, sin anuncio de las burbujas, sin entrañables películas familiares, sin cotillón en nochevieja, sin publicidad de colonias, de juguetes y de muñecas, sin uvas, sin confeti, sin espumillón…?
Yo sí, me lo imagino. Y todo eso no es que me estorbe o me ayude. Algunas de esas cosas me gustan, otras me dan igual, y otras me estomagan. Es, tan solo, que la Navidad es otra cosa. Y a veces apena que se pierda eso otro, el misterio del Dios-con-nosotros, sepultado por un torbellino de imposiciones de temporada. Supongo que al final nos toca, a cada uno, pelear por defender la Navidad de todo lo que, sin serlo, viene con ella, para que no se nos pierda el niño en el laberinto de lo accesorio.


Can you imagine Christmas without snow, without gifts, without the lottery (The Christmas Lottery is a big deal in Spain), without turron (a special Spanish candy at this time of year), without trips, without family meals, without vacations, without moss, without a Christmas tree, without lights up in the streets, without Christmas carols on loudspeakers and commercials, without tv specials, without "Secret Santa," without Santa hats - or even Santa Claus in general or anything that reminds us of him - without special recipes, without the races of San Silvestre, without parades, without the King's speech (literally - the King of Spain giving a speech), without marzipan, without the champagne commercials, without intimate family videos, without New Year's Eve parties, without perfume, toy, and doll commercials, without the grapes, without the confetti, without tinsel...?

Me? I can imagine it. It's not that all that stuff either bothers or helps me. I like some of those things, some of them don't matter to me, and some of them make me angry. The thing is - Christmas is something else entirely. And sometimes the thing that Christmas is can get lost - the mystery of God-with-us gets buried by a whirlwind of seasonal impositions. I suppose that in the end, each of us has to fight to defend Christmas from everything that, without being Christmas, comes along with it so that The Baby is not lost in the labyrinth of the incidentals.


Today I baked two different kinds of cookies, made Go Go Mango Chicken, mashed potatoes, salad, and coconut-mango rice for dessert for tonight's dinner, and I also started making the food we will eat tomorrow. I dusted, vacuumed, cleaned two bathrooms, ironed clothes, cleaned off the dining room table, put down placemats for tomorrow, and wrapped Christmas presents. It was a whirlwind of activities in way too short a period of time. 

All the while, I managed to keep my mind on the real reason why I'm doing all this: The One who came to live among us and to die for us. The One who came to feed us, heal us and forgive us. To walk with us, talk to us, pray with us, and listen to us. 

Just to be sure that we remember what this night is all about, we will head off to church in a couple of hours and attend the 11 pm candlelight Christmas Eve service. We will sing and listen to songs, we will pray and listen to prayers. We will take communion and remember the one whose birth and death gave us reason for hope and joy. We will welcome Christmas Day in the company of others who believe that The Holy Child of Bethlehem did indeed descend to us all those years ago. 

What would be left if I didn't do all those things, make all those things, eat all those things, buy all those things, wrap all those things, and worry about all those things? For one thing, I would be a lot less tired than I am right now. Also, a lot more money would be left in our bank account. But more importantly, I would be more able to focus more intently and exclusively on The Baby born in the stable, born a child and yet a king. What would be left? Adoration, plain and simple. Peace and quietness. Rejoicing and gratitude. And the wonder of the newborn Savior wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in the manger. 

Oh come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord.

Merry Christmas, my friends.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

"Are you ready for Christmas?"

While Kristiana and I were at the cash register at Trader Joe's last night, the cashier asked that familiar question. Someone else asked me that same question at church. And also at Target. Even my neighbors, while out walking their dogs, ask me, "Are you ready for the holiday?" "Are you ready for Christmas?"

I always have the same answer - "Yes, I am ready for Christmas."

Have I bought all the gifts we are planning to give to the children? Nope.
Have I bought all the groceries for Christmas brunch? Nope.
Do I even know what gifts I want to buy or what foods I want to make? Nope.

But I am ready to welcome the Christ Child once again into the world and into my life. I am ready to think about Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and the wise men and imagine their wonder at the arrival of that miraculous baby boy. I am ready to sit in silence during the next few days and ponder the wonder of the Christmas story. I am ready and Waiting for Love again to be born.

As Rob Mathes wrote so beautifully: To us is born every December anew a love that's unbelieveable, given to me, given to you. This is the season; this is the time. I see the face of a child and that face, it is mine. I'm looking for starlight; I'm listening for angels. Now the house is asleep on this Chrismas morn, but I'm awake. Yes, I'm waiting here for love again to be born.

FYI - If you live in the Fairfield County area of Connecticut, Rob is having his annual Christmas concerts this weekend down at SUNY Purchase, not far from the Merritt Parkway in Purchase, NY. If you have the time and you need to be blessed by a concert of original Christmas music, GO!!! Steve and I went two or three times back when we lived in CT - and every time, it turned out to be one of the highlights of our Christmas season. Rob's Christmas music is skillfully written and soulfully rendered. This song, Waiting for Love to be Born is my second favorite Christmas song. Coming in at number one is Oh Come, All Ye Faithful.

The gifts, the cookies, the gatherings with friends and family, the red and green earrings, the decorations, the Christmas tree, and the themed clothing are all exhilirating, exciting, and enjoyable, but they have nothing to do with "the glorious day (that) will come from this holy night."

On this Thursday, the last Thursday before Christmas, my gratitude extends back to that manger in the stable in the little village of Bethlehem. The tiny baby whose huge life will change history. Certainly it has changed the course of my life, been the source of new life for me, and is the foundation of my life.

Am I ready for Christmas? Oh, yes. I'm ready.

Come, Lord Jesus, Come. There is room in my heart, in my soul, in my home, and in my life for you.

PS. If you want to listen to a few more of my favorite Christmas songs, check this out.  I especially like "Do Not Be Afraid," "Monarchs from the East," and "Fear Not." These songs are from a Christmas program called "Fear Not." Several years ago, Steve and I served as two of the narrators when this program was presented at the church we attended at the time. I like the way the program is summarized:

The wise men offered their precious gifts and they worshipped. And so it has been for two thousand years. People of wisdom still seek Him, still experience that exceeding great joy, still bring Him their offerings. The celebration of the birth of Christ has taken on many traditions since that evening in Bethlehem. Ritual has once again threatened to overshadow reality. The excitement as Christmas approaches is sometimes equal to the letdown as the season passes. Christmas is not about all of the things we bring to the celebration. Christmas is about what He brings. Christmas is about a God in Heaven who loved us enough to send His Son to die for us. Christmas is about deliverance from fear. Christmas is about returning to the heart of worship--Christmas is about offering my heart--Christmas is about Jesus. Fear not: for behold, we bring you good tidings of great joy.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

On this dark night...

The sanctuary was dimly lit.
The music was reverently offered.
The service was sparsely attended.

I sat next to Arlene's recently widowed husband. I sat in front of a woman who (I believe) has cerebral palsy who suffered a bad fall on Sunday. Across the aisle was Lisa, whose father died just a few days ago. At the end of the row sat my dear friend, who has attended too many funerals in the past six months.

Katherine preached a poignant sermon on how Joseph's best laid plans for marriage to Mary went awry after she told him about her impregnating visit by the Holy Spirit. Joseph could have publicly humiliated her. He could have done far worse. But instead, he stepped out in faith and trusted that the God whose son his betrothed was soon to bring into the world would walk with him through all that was yet to come. The messiness, the pain, the suffering, the humiliation, the fear - Joseph trusted that out of all of that would come hope, a future, and the promised Messiah.

Loneliness, longing, loss, pain, emptiness, anger, fear, regret, anxiety, and uncertainty.
Instead of the song that begins, "I'm every woman; it's all in me,"
I sing, "Like every woman, it's all in me."
All of those emotions, feelings, experiences - it's all in me.

With little or no warning, Katherine said, life can change.
In the middle of the night, in the heat of the day, it happens - whatever "it" is -
and life is never the same.
A job loss. The death of a loved one. A serious diagnosis. A betrayal.

When the tears flow, the fear mounts, and the world takes on an eerily different hue,
we can choose, you can choose, I can choose,
I have chosen to trust the one whose name we call Emmanuel, God-is-with-us.
The one who loves me with a fierce and determined love.
The one who said that darkness cannot and will not ever overcome the light.
The one who promised to never leave me nor forsake me.
The one who promised to catch my tears in a bottle - mine had better be a mighty big bottle.

Towards the end of the Service of Wholeness and Healing, we were invited to walk to the front of the sanctuary, light a small candle and place it on the communion table as a way to honor those we have lost, those who are struggling, and as a symbol of hope and light in the dark valleys we are traveling. Families walked together. Couples held on to each other. The recently bereaved wept. I held back and hugged the woman whose father recently passed away. As I returned to my seat, Gibbs and I hugged as our love for one another and our emotions cascaded down our cheeks.

Each little light on its own didn't cast much light over the table, but together they glowed brightly. Together we glow brightly. Together we will make our way through this night and into the new day on the other side of the darkness. As Ram Dass said, we are all just walking one another home. Together we will walk this lonely, beautiful, demanding, joyful, painful, hopeful life journey all the way home.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

It's my party - I can cry if I want to...

Today is my 48th birthday. I'm not afraid or ashamed to tell my age because I'm downright thrilled to be alive and well enough to celebrate this awesome day. Some people went to sleep last night and didn't wake up this morning. I'm glad I'm not one of those people.

Photos from 12-14-12 - including two from our table in Starbucks
(I still struggle taking "selfies"), 
some of last year's birthday loot,
and an awesome mini-cheesecake that I devoured soon after this image was captured.

Last year on this day, I went to Starbucks with my children to have a birthday drink. While we were there sipping our drinks, my phone rang. It was my dearly beloved friend, Karen, and she told me that there had been a shooting at an elementary school in her town. Yes, she lives in Sandy Hook, Connecticut.

Shock. Terror. Horror. Tragedy. Sorrow upon sorrow - 20 times over, and then some. How have we arrived at this place in our world where things like that keep on happening? And why? There are no words, no answers, nothing to say that can relieve the agony of the loss of all those lives, children, adults, and even the shooter. What a tragic day in the lives of so many people...

Yesterday, I gave myself an early birthday present - a day of silence at a serene retreat center an hour from my home. I spent all day in "the red room" - reading, journaling, praying, taking photos, reviewing this past year of my life and laying out a few goals and hopes for the coming year. I ate an awesome salad and vegan sushi from Trader Joe's, drank tea and water and ate homemade vegan chocolate chip cookies. I don't always eat a vegan diet, but I knew I would NOT be eating terribly clean today, so I figured I'd give my body a healthy start to the weekend. The money I paid for that Quiet Day was the best $20 I've spent in a very long time. Happy early birthday to me!!!

Photos from 12-14-13 - including a gift from Gibbs,
a collage-style birthday card from my daughter,
and the spice cake my husband made and decorated - all by himself!

Today, Kristiana and I returned to the same Starbucks for a celebratory drink. I have come a long way since being there last year. I have hair now. I don't have kanswer or a chemo port anymore. I am no longer concerned about my immune system every time I hear someone cough or sneeze. My life is no longer measured by doctor's appointments or chemo treatments. I am strong, happy, at peace, and looking forward to all that is yet to come in this life of mine.

Two fun and smile-inducing coincidences today - I overheard two people behind the counter at Starbucks say that one of their co-workers wasn't working today because it is her birthday as well. Happy birthday to her and to me!!! Also one of the presents I received today was a Target gift card, so after lunch with my mom, Kristiana and I went to Target so I could use the card. I am one of those people who gets a gift card and keeps it for at least a year because "you never know when you might really need something, so don't spend it now." I still have Itunes and Amazon money from last year's birthday... Today I was determined to spend it on the day I received it. I didn't spend it all, but I spent more than half. Anyway... while walking through the store, we overheard a woman ordering pizza on her cell phone. "Do you need a name? The name is Henderson," she said. I smiled. I love those serendipitous moments; they always make me smile and say, "God, you have a great sense of timing and humor."


This morning, Karen's sister gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. I can't think of a much better way to honor those whose lives were taken than to celebrate his new life recently begun, to celebrate my ongoing life, and to promise myself that I will continue to celebrate love, laughter, peace and joy - not only today, but also every other day that I am fortunate enough to awaken into and enjoy.

It's my party and even though I am celebrating myself today, I am also deeply sorrowful for the families for whom this date will always be a reminder of the loss of someone near and dear. I'm sure many tears are being shed in Sandy Hook today on the occasion of this awful anniversary. Nonetheless, it is also a day to remember how important it is to live every moment and every day to the fullest. I hope and pray that no one else will ever have an encounter with a crazed gun-toting lunatic again, however there is no denying that we will all face the end of our lives someday. Between now and then, may we be determined to live every day as a celebration of life.

Now please pardon me while I go eat the banana creme pie I brought home from 131 Main, my favorite restaurant.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Thankful Thursday

Today my gratitude is leaning forward and not looking back.

* I am grateful that I will leave my house in an hour or so, head to Trader Joe's, perhaps stop at The Fresh Market, and then go enjoy a sleepover at my dear friend's lovely home on the lake. It has been far too long since I've hunkered down in front of her fireplace nursing a glass of wine or a mug of tea.

* I am grateful for these days of Advent, waiting, anticipating, pondering the coming of the Christ Child. I am grateful for the remaining days and weeks of singing Christmas carols, of hearing the story of that miraculous birth, and for the new lessons I am learning about Advent. This book, given to me by the same woman whose house I will sleep in tonight, has been guiding me towards Christmas morning in quiet and poignant ways. (Thank you, my dear and generous friend.)

* I am grateful for this passage from today's reading -  In traditional religious circles, we are rarely taught the value of quiet contemplation. We are a "doing culture" by habit and conditioning. Even when we go on church retreats, we expect an agenda of speakers, workshops, and activities. Most of us would consider a silent retreat an unreasonable way to spend our time when our to-do lists seem unending. But carving out space for contemplation and solitude can invite God to speak into our lives and offer us an opportunity for us to steep in the depth of what God is already doing and saying. (Silence and other surprising invitations of Advent, by Enuma Okoro, page 53)

* Speaking of solitude, silence, and contemplation, I am grateful that I will get to spend tomorrow in silence up at Starrette Farm in Statesville. Eight hours of prayer, journaling, reading, eating, drinking, pondering Advent, and planning for next year. What will my word of the year be for 2014? What will be my verse for the new year? What are my spiritual, physical, emotional, marital, parental, personal goals?

* I am grateful that Saturday is my birthday. I know that it is also the anniversary of the tragedy in Sandy Hook, and I will pray for the families of all those people whose lives ended far too soon and too violently. But I am also gonna celebrate my life. I am going to look back at my first 48 years and ponder the next 48.

* I am grateful that my daughter is making lists and checking them twice, filling in forms and choosing classes because early in January she will begin her sleepaway college life. She has worked hard and earned her associate's degree, so it's time to spread her wings and fly out of the cuckoo's nest. It's time for her to establish her own nest on her own terms. I am thrilled for her.

* I am grateful for the upcoming gathering of some girlfriends here at my house. I haven't seen them in far too long. We have stories to share, food to eat, and children to meet. Apparently, one of these beautiful ladies has gotten married and had twins since we last got together. I cannot wait to hear that story and hug her little ones.

* I am grateful for the ways in which all that I have lived, seen, tasted, experienced, and endured in the past have brought me to this moment on this Thursday when I can look forward to all that is yet to come with excitement and joy.

* I am grateful that even the parts that will be challenging and demanding will teach me much and transform me more into the image of God with each passing day.

* I am grateful for the hope of growth and change.

* I am grateful for this day, this hour, this moment.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Extraordinarily Ordinary

So what is a girl to do when kanswer is no longer her main squeeze? What does a girl do with her time when there isn't another doctor's appointments for four months? What does a girl write about when kanswer is no longer the main theme of her life? When the port is gone? When the scars are healed? When the tears flow less frequently and life flows more smoothly? What will keep a girl from feeling like life is a bit too ordinary? And what is it gonna take for me to stop referring to myself as a girl?!?

Life is feeling pretty ordinary these days.
Cooking, dusting, doing laundry.
Vacuuming, mopping, sweeping.
Replacing light fixtures and light bulbs.
Ironing, organizing and decluttering.
Making beds, laying out towels, and welcoming friends for overnight visits.

Driving with Daniel to tennis and the gym.
Driving with Kristiana to the bookstore and the supermarket.
Reading, writing, journaling.
Preparing to teach Sunday School.
Lifting weights, jumping on my rebounder, and doing yoga.

Talking on the phone, telling stories, listening to adventurous tales.
Surfing the internet, doing my daily writing practice, dreaming about the future.
Raking leaves, ducking raindrops, going on long walks.
Sleeping, waking, exercising, showering.
Then doing it all over again. Day after day.
Extraordinarily ordinary.

Last week, Daniel and I took a field trip to the Columbia (SC) zoo. He drove the last 45 minutes or so - he has his learner's permit, so it was an excellent opportunity for him to practice his highway driving. Ninety minutes in the car each way - we talked and laughed and listened to music together. I'm enormously grateful that he doesn't isolate himself under a dome of headphones and ignore me when we are in the car.

Even though most of the enclosures are too small for them and they deserve to run free, the animals fascinated both of us. We laughed and groaned and held our noses and asked questions and took photos and oohed and aahed with intense delight at the wonder of creation. I love animals - as long as they are behind plexiglass, well-controlled, or weigh less than 25 pounds.

I told Daniel that God must have a pretty wild imagination to come up with all the designs and models for animals and plants. Elephants? Giraffes? Galapagos Island turtles? Meerkats? Penguins? Ostrich? Birds that swim underwater? Birds that are too heavy to fly? Alligators and crocodiles? Why both? Wouldn't one or the other have been enough? Howler monkeys? Why put the red butts on those other monkeys? How is it that koalas can spend so much time sleeping in the trees and never fall? And who needs all the species of snakes? Seriously, why so many snakes, Lord?

We didn't get bitten by anything or chased by anything - and for me that counts as a good day at the zoo. Not that I've ever been bitten by anything at the zoo before, but several years ago at the main zoo here in North Carolina, I was standing near the plexiglass of the gorilla enclosure when one of the gorillas ran towards the glass and slammed into it with great force. If there had been no glass or if the glass had been breakable, that beast would have killed me with the impact of the collision. I am glad I was too young to have a heart attack, but the sound of that massive animal hitting that impossibly thin piece of plastic nearly caused my heart to explode.

The docent who hosted the "gorilla encounter" told us that the gorilla in these two photos 
is 29 years old, weighs nearly 400 pounds, and has the strength of five or six adult men. 

Carmelized onion pizza and salad for dinner tonight.
Watching Monday Night Football.
Sending and receiving text messages.
Cutting images and words out of a magazine and gluing them into my journal.
Paying a medical bill that insurance didn't cover.
Walking the 8 pound dog that rules our roost.

Extraordinarily ordinary.
Ordinary and extraordinary.

Remembering and honoring the fact that a year ago, I couldn't do most of those things.
I certainly couldn't do them without feeling exhausted.
Right about now, ordinary feels pretty darned extraordinary.
Thanks be to God.

Monday, December 02, 2013

To God be the Glory - Part 3

It's out. That ding dang port is out of my body. To God be the Glory, indeed!

Dr. Turk was chatty and funny, informative and inquisitive while he put on his gloves, prepared his instruments, and then injected the anesthesia into my upper chest. He asked what I do for a living, where I went to college, did I like small town life in Williamstown (this is gonna hurt a little and then it will burn), what was my major (scalpel, incision, snip, snip), where I live here in Charlotte, do my children also speak Spanish (pressure, pull, stitch), and he told me about how some people don't get through surgery well (more stitches) and about how fortunate I am to have been eligible to receive herceptin treatments (this is like crazy glue to keep the incision covered. It will peel off in a week or two) because it has been an effective drug for people who used to not have a great prognosis.

I thought - "Okay, wait a minute, doc. You're not the first medical professional to tell me that about herceptin. I mean, I'm glad that it works well with the kind of kanswer I had, but what you all are saying is that I had a bad kind of kanswer, the kind that used to kill people. Yikes."

Then I thought - To God be the glory. If I had to have kanswer, then I want it to be the kind that is treatable. I want it to be the kind that responds well to this new protocol. And I want to be treated by two of the best doctors in Charlotte. I mean, if I have a choice, I will pick the best this town has to offer by way of doctors, surgeons, nurses, and medications.

A friend asked me if I hugged him after the port was removed like I hugged my oncologist two weeks ago. Unfortunately, I didn't get to hug the gentle and soft-spoken surgeon. The "crazy glue" closure was still wet and sticky on my chest and I was still on the treatment table when he scooted out of the room.

I remember his first words when I met him a little over a year ago - "I'm sorry you're here." I said, "That makes two of us." Later that evening, my son said, "Two of you? That makes about 7,000 of us. (Have I mentioned lately how much I adore my children and their wide open, loving hearts?) The surgeon's last words to me today were - "I'm glad this is behind you. See you in a year for a check-up."

I am soooooooooo happy to have the port gone.
There will be scars on my chest for a long time, I suspect,
but I consider these scars to be
evidence of a miracle,
evidence of healing,
evidence of strength,
evidence of survival,
evidence of victory,
evidence of hope and a future.
Thanks be to God that this chapter of my story is complete.

Here's another unexpected realization I came to this past weekend: Even though I am now boobless, wombless, and mostly hairless, except for the duration of the two pregnancies that produced my dearly beloved children, I have never loved my body more than I do now. Flat chest, empty pelvis, stretch marks, scars and all. This body has been a tremendous gift to me for the past 47 years and 50 weeks, strong and resilient, reliable and dependable. It has carried me every step of my life's journey and endured the worst that I could subject it to. It didn't reject the port, cause me undue discomfort, or fail me at any point during my times of greatest pain, suffering, and sorrow. I hate the fact that it took a grueling year of kanswer treatment before I came to this place of loving my body so much, but I'm glad for this outcome. Better late than never, right?

To God be the glory!!!

PS. Kanswer sucks. It always has and it always will.