Thursday, March 27, 2014

finding the courage to live it...


(Owen's words in the book are always capitalized to portray his unique sounding voice and the unusual way he projects it.)

He has been so grumpy- my oldest.  Still my baby- forever my baby.  But bigger, stronger- having to fold himself over to reach down and hug me.  So often not wanting to anymore.  But I still try- grabbing whatever piece of him I can- an arm, his hand, the side of his face.  A light squeeze, a hand stroke across his hair, the feel of his whiskers on my cheek as I try to sneak up behind him, beside him.  

He is almost 14.  Its normal that he pushes back.  Ducks. Dodges.  Raises his crabby voice and tells me to leave him alone.  Enough already.  Stop.

But my urgency for him to remember is strong.

The feel of my touch. The softness of my voice.  My heart that beats through my chest,  thrumming with love through every vein in my body.  For him.  

My time is now.  Today.  This moment. 

Owen Meany's words pour straight into my heart.  


He is (they are) my "something."


And they are this too- my way of life that I love.  Finding courage, each day, is what I feel I have been doing.

But so are they… 

My own child isn't just pushing against me, he is railing against the hard.  The grades that have dropped a bit. The pressure to stand out amongst the best in hockey.  The sore muscles, the early mornings, the right foods.  The new team he will skate with this weekend, with kids he mostly doesn't know, but are tauted as being talented.  The hotel we will stay at this weekend, with the pool in which he won't use to swim- the discipline it takes to decide that at 13.  

His way of "life that he loves," is hockey - has always been- and will always be as long as he wants to pursue the dream.

But he has found it won't be easy.  He rails at me, at his Dad.  His soft place to fall, within the walls of our home.  "Can you not see how hard this is for me? How bad I want it?  How hard I work?"  And as he reaches the emotional crescendo… the Grand Daddy of them all… 


And I am broken.  He is broken.  We… are broken.

(Thank you LaVerne) 

Its long hours of talking and soothing and calming with Superman.  And then the boy emerges and hugs me good night without uttering a word.

He sleeps late and misses the bus the next morning.  Rick has an early meeting.

"I can drive," I say.  "I'm driving again, so I can take you."  He nods approval.

We're quiet on the drive over.  I'm treading lightly.  Unsure.  Whispering to God.

I pull up in front of the school and he is out the door before I barely have the van in park.  But he hesitates as he goes to shut the door.  "Thanks Mom."

I nod and shyly smile back.

As I go to shift into drive, I notice he is still hesitating…

Quietly, searching my eyes, he whispers,

"Mom… mom, I love you."

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

tuesday tidbits

Her name is Susan.  She's been living with my mom the past 25 years or so.  Before that, she was mine.  The past 3 three years my mom took great delight in displaying her right outside her apartment door.  The doll stood on a table and all the young grandkids coming to visit their grandparents loved coming to visit at my mom's place.    Mom's friends who sewed loved making outfits for Susie.  I have 3 bags filled with outfits for all the seasons.  If it would just stop snowing outside we could get her into something a little more spring like.

In the meantime, she sits keeping watch, and freaking Crosby out, whenever she slides a bit, or leans over accidentally.  I'm afraid my nieces are too old for Susan to go down a generation.  I'm waiting for the right girl, the right treasure keeper, the right moment to be able to find Susie a new home.  For now we wait… 

 Thank you to all who snail mail warm wishes, gifts,  and messages my way.  I am fairly close to having my thank you's all done!  

Still sorting.  You never know what I may find hidden amongst mom's things.

This last treasure I found is another one made over 40 years ago by my mom.  The wink pretty much says it all.

I'm riding the wave right now of a lull in an otherwise busy schedule.  Our weekends have been hockey free for a bit.  We find ourselves enjoying being anchored at home, with the rare treat of starting and finishing projects.

The hockey gear has all been cleaned.  In fact, so has the washing machine, an dryer. The seals, the dispensers, the doors, the knobs, all de-gunked and any traces of mold bleached into oblivion.  The floors are scrubbed, vacuumed and dog-hair free.  The… well you get the idea.  I marvel at how long I was truly knocked down and out of commission… months.  But I never mentally tried to keep track.  

Instead, I've learned a long time ago to have a "done," list.  And instead of crossing things off the never-ending "to do" list, I happily sit down and make out a "what I got done list" for the day.  I'm happy to say they've grown long!  And I never thought a long list of chores that I've completed would ever bring such fulfillment, but they do.  

Friday, March 21, 2014

five things friday...

Spring?  Well… no.  Today, I watched our garbage can flip on its back in the gusty wind-the wheels finding their groove as the thing flew down the street like it was in a backstroke race- and clearly winning!  So funny- I wish I had video of it.

Not so funny when the 3 recycling bins decided to make a break for it as well- they flew end over end as I sat watching out the windows, cringing,  just waiting for them to smash into a parked car.   I took off after them- trying to run in slippers through snow and water, and failing badly.  Okay- sorta funny to see me flailing down the street in hot pursuit, of those 3 plastic bins, that so had it in for me. 

This boy, ducks out of most photo ops. these days.  But I managed to snag him this one day, after he'd scored the game-winning goal in a hotly contested triple overtime hockey game!  We had just come off an overtime loss from the night before.  Who could have predicted the very next game?  Would also go to triple overtime and we would win once again.  3 overtime games in a row- that is a lot of hockey!  Sadly, our bid for the state tournament came to an abrupt end the next game, against the eventual State Champions, Grand Rapids.  But, it will always be a memorable weekend of hockey.

I have felt better and better each day this week.  I never seem to remember to mention my hairstylist, Amanda, who literally blesses me more than I can ever express.  She charges me a fraction of the normal cost of doing my hair and pampers me which makes me feel well, and boosts my spirits so.  In case I don't say it often enough- thank you Amanda!  

I started a new folder for sunrise and sunset photos- and added this as my first one, from late February.  I can't wait to create a whole collection.   

This is what I am currently reading.  Wow, what a story!  Its a powerhouse of humor, tinged with sadness, with themes of religion, politics and the plight of a young boy named Owen Meany, as told by his friend Johnny.  Its quirky, and mired in detail, yet it engaged me from the first page.  

And you?  What are you reading?  What should I put on my list next?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

3 years…"embracing life's moments"

As I sit sifting through mom's things- box, after bag, after bin of all of her years of collecting- I'm struck by the raw talent she possessed and at some point stopped using. 

Mom made the owl below in 1967, the same year I was born.  I found a few more pieces with dates from the early 70's, and then no more ceramics were to be found.  They're beautifully done and I've hung on to a few of them.

But then I found all of her beaded Christmas ornaments.  The bells that took hours for her to string together.  The candy canes, stars, snowmen, etc.  All crafted together using beads and wires.

I found needlepoint.  I found sets of dishcloths that she had embroidered. There were knitting needles, and sewing kits.  I still remember the dress and cape she sewed for me for Easter Sunday one year.  A cut out flower shape from the cape had landed on the navy blue dress, so she made it into a pocket- I still remember the church women exclaiming over it.

The most pervasive pieces of art, were her watercolor and acrylic paintings.  Landscapes that were truly well done.  Some more contemporary pieces that I know she enjoyed making, but weren't so much my favorites.  But I do remember the paint classes she took and how encouraged and well-supported she was in her work.

And yet, at some point, when we as kids were still young,  she stopped.  All of it.  I'll never know why, as she's never given the same answer twice.  

Instead, what I began finding around her apartment, were my attempts to rekindle the spark.  The scrapbook kits, supplies, templates, hundreds of grandchildren photos.  

The paint brushes, the paints, the latest artist books with the techniques.  The special paper.  The charcoals.  Oh goodness, she talked a good game.  She had the best of intentions… she just didn't ever start.

I still wish I could help her find a hobby of some sort.  She will admit to how long the days get, and yet, she no longer ventures out very far from her room.  

Tucked into a box that held the contents of her "junk drawer," was our old family picture.  I was maybe 3?  And the photo was used for our church directory.  The baby, is my brother, Lee.

Slowly I am making my way through "my childhood."  With more questions than answers it seems.  I often think this is the book I am meant to write- with a few chapters on breast cancer- and a whole pathway of events that brought me to that day.

"That day," the day of diagnosis.  The day of the blindside.  Three years ago, March 16th, 2011.  
Or as some would call it- my Cancerversary.  

Its a mixed bag.  When I asked the boys if they'd like to go to dinner and "celebrate," with me.  Colton very honestly and so sarcastically said  "Celebrate that you got cancer? No, I don't think I want to do that at all."

My friends, Robin and Jenn, probably put it into the best words, "March 16 marks three years of choosing to embrace life's moments.  We are crazy about you, and thankful for the day to celebrate life with you. Spring is coming!" 

Those words, these beautiful springy flowers.  Pure gift and grace.  

Now I just need to find a card for Dr. Panwalkar.  To thank him for his help in getting me to 3, and letting him know, I am now proving him wrong by stepping out into the "past 3" stage, and not looking back.  I'm hungry for more.  Greedy.  Needy.  I want 4, and more.  I want decades, not just years. I think of my boys and I want girlfriends, graduations and grandchildren.  I want weddings and wives.  I want just two more weeks plus, 3 more years, plus forever with my Superman.  

Day by day, with moments of small all added up, is all I can really count on- but a lifetime of day by day will more than suffice for a grace-filled life.  

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

tender spirit

"Real strength is not just a condition of one's muscle, but a tenderness in one's spirit."
McCallister Dodds

It was hard to capture on camera.  But Crosby has this innate sense of compassion.  How he expresses it, is something very unique to him.  He wraps his big paws firmly around your arm and crosses his paws over at the ends, as if to say, "you're mine."  Or maybe, "I'm yours."  

Its hard to see it but if you look closely you'll see my hand petting him and his arms laying on top of mine.  He is also gazing right into my eyes.  

He is medicine for the spirit and soul.

"Courage is only the accumulation of small steps."  
George Conrad

Dr. Panwalkar wanted me to go ahead with infusion yesterday.  I had no fever or chills, and while my cough is unchanged, I am feeling somewhat better.  

I did get to read a report about my lungs, from the chest X-ray done last week.  There is a "mass" growing on the left side, but what can't be determined at this time, is just what that mass is?  In all likelihood, one would expect it to be cancer.  But it could be fibroids, or the result of an infection or some other disease of some sort.  

We simply have to watch and wait, and hope that the mass doesn't get bigger, or responds to Arimidex and starts to shrink.  

As I entered my infusion room, I was so surprised to be greeted by Cathy, the receptionist.  She brought me the gift of a lovely book. Its a book of poems and photo collages and I just know I will be using them in blog posts to come.  Thank you sweet friend!

It was very quiet in my infusion room yesterday.  I journaled my gratitude, completing page after page. 

Until a new voice entered on the other side of the curtain.

She was new to Roger Maris.  And her nurse was asking about her surgery and her newly inserted Pic line.

"Oh, its nothing at all. Don't even notice its there. In the grand scheme of things, that just doesn't register."

Her and her nurse went on to discuss her new chemo.  

How many blood transfusions had she required?  Had her white blood count dropped to zero?  Did she want to see the next month and how they had "mapped out" all that they were going to be doing?

Then the nurse asked "How many days were you in the hospital with your last dose?"

The woman was very matter of fact.

"Well there were a few glitches, so it ended up being 33 days. Then I went home for a week and then back for a week.  Then next week I'll be going in again with my second round."

The nurse says very compassionately, "Ohhhh, that is a lot to have been through."  

The patient responds and I discern her resolve, steady and firm, "yes, but really, its all I have.  Whatever it takes, I just have to do, so I am."

And she is, clearly she is. 

My perspective subtly shifts.  She is grace, God given, and I am grateful to receive the gift of her presence, the sheer magnitude of her story,  this day.  

Saturday, March 8, 2014

sufficient grace

This past week has swirled in and around me.  Sheer fogginess consumed my brain more often than not.  My body racked with fits of coughing, fever, chills- both physically and emotionally I am spent.

I've heard there comes a time in this metastatic cancer journey, when the difficult days start to outnumber the good days.   When we start saying, no, more than we say yes.  I can only wonder.  

Rick arrived home and then left as promised with the boys for the State Hockey Tournament, and I had to say no, for the first time, I couldn't go.

The quiet has been both peaceful and stifling at times.  

And yet my prayers remain fervent.  My heart poured out.  

"Oh Lord, my heart is open to you, come sit in my heart."

And in the sheer foggy times?

"Oh Lord, I'm open."

"Your way, not mine."

"Your will, not mine." 

Every time I think I am surrendered, I discover you can surrender even more deeply.

Slowly, my cough has changed, loosening so it doesn't pain me as much.

The fever and chills diminished.

My goal for today was simply to get out of bed for a bit. 

And as I looked around?  All the moments of grace you sent my way were strung out before me.  Everywhere I looked- day brighteners of flowers, cards, offers of help, texts and food.  All these little bits of hope that glue themselves together and help build a bridge for me to climb right up out of the depths of where I have been.  

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.

2 Corinthians 12:9

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

trying to catch my breath

"I took a deep breath and listened to the old bray of my heart: I am, I am, I am." 

Sylvia Plath

And I would add… sick.  I am… sick.

Maybe it was all the hockey cheering?  The cold ice rink that I faithfully sat at for 3 days?  The stress of moving mom?  The germ fest you expose yourself to any time you go out in public.  Single parenting while Superman left for Idaho? All of the above?

Thanks to all who have been my "angels in waiting."

Thanks to my father-in-law for stepping in when he needed to- kindly and graciously as always.

Be well friends.  I will return soon.  

You can find me somewhere between the bed and the… bed. 

When you get lucky

When you get lucky

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