Category Archives: dare

Invincible summers and calculated acts of kindness

“My dear,
In the midst of hate, I found there was, within me, an invincible love.
In the midst of tears, I found there was, within me, an invincible smile.
In the midst of chaos, I found there was, within me, an invincible calm.
I realized, through it all, that…
In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.
And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.

~ Albert Camus


It was late on December 20th, 2014 and I was still recovering from my surgery.   I read an email from my friend Gail in which she asked if the Junior League of Phoenix (JLP) would be interested in hosting a movie screening. Gail works at The Arizona Partnership for Immunization.


It was this movie screening:





I watched the trailer.

I called her to talk on the phone.

I pretty much told her that I didn’t know but I would find a way.  We talked about how I could manage this in my capacity as the member training committee chair and we came up with a plan. The next morning I sent out some emails to my Team Leader in the Junior League and my co-chair. Both were supportive.  Gail and I discussed venues and what options we had. We decided that my cousin, who is Lead pastor at Scottsdale First Church of the Nazarene, would be a good person to approach. So an email went to him. I received immediate replies and all were supportive. 

Here I am 2 months later. The JLP team lead I serve under, has allowed for this to become a bigger deal within the JLP.  More partnerships have developed and are included below.

Our goal is to provide one large movie screening with a panel that is targeting about 200 viewers. 

If you are local – please save the date:

Date:
Thursday, April 9th 2015

Location:
Scottsdale First Church of the Nazarene
2340 N Hayden Rd, Scottsdale, AZ 85257

Time:
 5:30 – 9:00 pm / Movie starts at approx 6:30

Tentative Agenda:
Sign in opens with a meet and greet: 5:30
Movie and topic is introduced and screened 6:30 
(movie is 80 minutes long)
Panel discussion at end of film
closing meet and greet


Community Partners:


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I am back – with some Calculated Acts Of Kindness (COAK)

Yes, I decided to  come back here. I figured out how to un-subcribe people and did so…

I did that because this chronicles my life for the last 10 years.. and a lot has happened.

But those ten yea

thank you deviantart

rs all had my Squink in them. And even when I did not mention him, it happened around him.

But it also feels like a new beginning and how wonderful that it coincides with the first day of Lent.

So, I am following after Kelli at AfricanKelli with a commitment to Calculated Acts of Kindness…

I will post updates on:

Flickr Pool

Instagram

Facebook

and of course HERE (and on my other site)!!!!

What a wonderful way to start

Life is beautiful – 6 & 7

Yesterday was tough, it is a tough spot right now. 

In my attempt to find the beauty, I failed… I mean, I had that poem, but I really found it the day before… and the rest seemed average and even hard.

It all, life, feels sorta like that – hard. 

I feel completely helpless in some ways (some very new ways) because I am just in a state… angry, mad, desolate to name but a few and all of them in one big huge swirling mass of emotional baggage.

I have no patience for this kind of nonsense. I have too much to do.

And, people keep calling me back to earth and reminding me that my behaviour is inappropriate. Which adds to this feeling of mixed mass emotions swirling and boiling and festering. Shame, I suppose. I am better than being an angry person.

I have moments of average, and when I see my son or husband I can claim joy. But that seems so selfish, in a way, to allow my son and husband to be my bringers of joy… what a HUGE burden to place on them. Guilt, I suppose. 

I am trying to remember to breathe, to mediate, to pray… but the words that come to mind when I do this are hard, and angry, and as my family reminds me… inappropriate.

I have and see so much to be grateful for, but these crazy emotions are so difficult to manage. 

How does one throw themselves a gentle pity party?


So let me conclude by stating that I suppose that the beauty I was able to find is that (#6) I am alive and (#7) I have people who love me. There is comfort in that. But, there is a tinge of insincerity in my heart with these right now. impatience, I suppose. 

The kind of beauty I want most is the hard-to-get kind that comes from within – strength, courage, dignity.  ~ Ruby Dee  

find the beautiful 5

I am kicking and screaming

I am angry

I lash out

I don’t know where else this could be coming from

damn cancer

and so, to try to slay this angry beast, I looked round me trying to find something beautiful.

here is what I have…

there is a certain kind of light that I have only ever witnessed here in the desert

it comes at sunset, in winter

it is a light that makes our mountains purple instead of brown

that seems to bear a reflective quality like that of burnished gold.

that was the beautiful I saw today

and here is a terrible picture of it…

“Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.”   

~ Rabindranath Tagore

Find the beautiful

THAT

Find the beautiful

Yes, that…

is my theme for this year.

Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson  


Finding the beautiful… it is very present in the external. 

But as I navigated just how ugly it was to go through this cancer thing, how easy it was for people to forget that it is my battle, and I had to find myself repeatedly trying to forgive… I lost my place. And I was so hurt by people that I am close to (who are ashamed of my diagnosis, who couldn’t/can’t talk to me about what was/is happening, who took things from me with out asking, who made things harder for me….) that I forgot to stop and find the beautiful.

So, fuck the folks who take away from this… they can live with their choices.

And I am so lucky, because I have people in my life who can help me do that. So, I have to let them in and help me see what I need to see.

I,  am so excited. Because, you see, this year, 2015, I get to find the beautiful.

Yes, that…

is really my theme for this year. 

holding the darkness at bay

So, after feeling a down due to yesterdays ramblings and self flagellation I find I need to pick myself back up.

The other day someone came to me and asked how I was. I told her that is is a day by day process. That I feel good, that I am grateful for so much.

She went on to ask if I had experienced any dark moments, any depression, and tears. She added that her sister is a doctor and had told her to expect me to get to that point at sometime.

I cried when I got the first message. there is something about being told to call an oncologist that puts a certain indescribable pressure on your heart. To hear it while alone in an office, is hard because it means that you have to call people and share the news – and I will be very, very honest, that I was tempted to not tell anyone. Though I imagined that my husband and mom would have been extremely upset with me had I gone this route – in spite of that though, I can’t tell you how tempted I was.

I even called the oncologist first. I called my physician back and asked for a copy of the pathology report we talked about the long wait until my oncology appointment and then what the report meant in terms of what was happening inside my body. I went and sat by the fax and waited for the report to arrive (he was sending it right after we hung up). I got it and sat in my office, reading (memorizing) and mulling the news, tears in my eyes. I dried them, and decided I had to call my husband and so… I called my husband and told him the news. He was devastated (he had been a young boy when his mother had gone through two cancer diagnoses, I think that what was happening to me brought all those memories back) and I had to be strong and reassuring. After I hung up, I sat in the office some more, tears in my eyes again. Bracing myself for the call to my mom. She was walking into a meeting when she answered. I heard that stop in her voice. It was the same stop when I felt when I had to schedule an appointment with a hematologist oncologist for Squink after he was born.  Granted that was just for some jaundice we did not seem to be able to get rid of, and I knew that it was the hematology part we were seeing rather than the oncology part, but still – it isn’t something you want to deal with as a mom, your babies should never see an oncologist, that should be the rule.

So that was a quick conversation and I sat in my office again, a sense of “why me?” prevailed. My boss who had gone through that cancer route walked by and noticed I was upset, came in and I shared the news with her. After that, the next 24 hours are kind of a blur. I know I called my dad, and he was probably the hardest one to tell… but only because I had no idea how he would react, and he has a tendency to avoid bad things and go on and pretend as if they did not happen so the idea that he would ignore me in this was something I considered highly probable. I only remember that at some point by the end of that night, I was sick of talking to people. Wait, I love talking to people what it was is that I was sick of re-telling the story, the news. I just did not want to have to say that damned word again.

That has been the darkest point so far.

The days following are still a blur. I talked to my siblings, texted with Prima. Made arrangements for all the responsibilities in my life that would be put on hold. Sent out a group email to women who I adore. Friends put me on prayer lists, and I got through the interminable wait until that appointment. Once I saw the oncologist, it felt so much better, because there was a plan. I knew what was happening and it felt good.

I would even say that I was a bit jubilant the day before my surgery, because that mass of mutating cells was getting removed.

I was in the hospital almost a week, determined that this whole thing would not bring me down. I have managed to stay positive through the rest, even that horrid backslide where, through projectile vomiting and other effluvia, fever spikes and chills all intertwined with a general sense of feeling horrid, I lost over 10 pounds, got dark circles around my eyes and began to lose hair. I was still in a good place.

I have these moments that seem to want to step in to those dark shadows; when I noticed that there is an area near my incision is numb (normal, but a strange feeling), talking to someone else who has gone through this process evokes some teariness, after time spent wondering if I am avoiding dealing with something, being told I hurt peoples feelings all brought forth some form of gloom to my mindset.

Thankfully, they are able to be beaten back.  And I think that is my job right now.

So, when it comes to gratitude I may be, unintentionally, a selfish twat*

* in the sense of being a foolish or despicable person, not the other thing.

So we have this:

gratitude     [grat-i-tood, -tyood]
noun
1. the quality or feeling of being grateful or thankful:
“He expressed his gratitude to everyone on the staff.”

But the thing about being grateful, gratitude, is that it is contingent on several factors:

Feeling it (this is the super easy part)
acknowledging the feeling (this is manageable)

but the hard part comes in the next steps…

communicating the gratitude to the person/place/thing for which you are grateful.
communicating it effectively.

When my grandmother died, I wrote her eulogy.

I was devastated by her passing away, I was extremely sad and trying to be strong because of my mother and aunt, after all they were allowed to indulge in a deeper sorrow than I could.

So, I wrote these words of gratitude into the eulogy and while I think it was a wonderful and powerful tribute, I know, I KNOW, that I inadvertently left people out of it and who should have been included. Which means I know I hurt peoples feelings.

Having your efforts acknowledged is important. I know this from both personal experience and from the lack of a personal experience.

As I navigate my recovery from surgery and everything and have posted my gratitude here I have managed to hurt people I love, both in omission and in not enough. I feel sick about these. The thing is, this is a journal and because it is public I have to tread lightly. But I treat it as a means of processing, of navigating things that can be public. But that is not easy in the aether – It has been requested of me, in the past, that I remove things, that I not include things, that I redact things… and I have honored those. but it has created a careful ground to tread upon.

I am not allowed to talk about or post photos of my [relationship intentionally held back].
I have been requested to limit discussions about others I love and about some personal experiences.
Squink and I revisit what I can post about him here on a regular basis.

So, I suppose that this is not truly my journal… it comes out as an allowable letter to the world based on my life and its experiences as long as I don’t violate some things. I am OK with this.

But, lets get back to gratitude.

Felling grateful is a humbling experience. Because to get to that feeling you have to go through some kind of vulnerability and being vulnerable is not easy in the sense that is a state of being that we seek.  I mean I don’t really know many people who seek to be vulnerable… I tend to think of us humans as trying to avoid being vulnerable.

So here is where I am a twat – inherent in gratitude is sharing it. I have written almost 40 thank you notes (and there are more to be written) to people that helped me along this path… that supported me, that checked in on me and that overall, made me feel like I had a wonderful group of folks supporting me… so what I lack, is that ability to let these people know I am grateful in a manner that conveys just how grateful I am. Because gratitude felt is only part of the experience, gratitude is a social thing (even if you are grateful for a gorgeous sunset or other in-animate thing). So the art in gratitude is that you share it effectively. I suck at that part. I feel gratitude intensely, I tear up and get that pain in your chest that is a good pain, but I have found that is the easy part.

The hard part is going to the next step of acknowledging your gratitude and announcing it.

It is easy for things like my deep gratitude for how the desert smells after a rain – for example – I can post the word “Creosote” on “The Facebook” and people who have spent time in a desert rain get it.

But, saying “I am grateful for what you did to me, thank you” is hard. It is hard because a “thank you” doesn’t cover it. And often, especially in more complex relationships, there is a back story that might be just as important… and in terms of this block of a small thank you notes, how do you put that all out there and say “thank you for the totality of what you did for me” without sounding like a freaking Hallmark card (not that hallmark is bad, they make wonderful cards and I buy them when I buy cards)?

So perhaps, this is my big lesson for the rest of my life… to try and get better at this. Because, while I am very comfortable with feeling at it, when it comes to professing it – I really do suck at it.

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” William Arthur Ward

More thoughts and a tale from my misspent youth

Reflection
Something I do a lot of right now.
As I watch, feel, and notice my body heal from a pretty brutal surgery… I reflect back on my life.
What is so amazing to me is that I have such a wonderful group of people here in my life now. 
A husband who waited on me through the surgery, held my hand, brought me food, made me eat when I did not want to, bought me more thermometers than he should have had to purchase for me as I lay in bed vomiting with fever and chills and consistently losing them to the depths of my mattress and covers, who rinsed the vomit bowl so I could have a clean bowl for the next round, massaged my neck that was sore from throwing up, is waiting patiently for my body to heal, fed me, clothed me, monitored me while I showered in case I passed out… crap, the list of things he did [is doing] for me is too long to even recall… I just know that I could not have gotten through the last few months without him. 
Then there are the folks that helped arrange food deliveries, delivered food, send cards, visited, called, sent a text… I am humbled by all of these things. 
An aunt who fought against her ingrained instincts and took care of me as best she knew how when my husband couldn’t stay with me.
My mom, who took time off and flew to be with me and watched her first baby sick and vomiting and trying to recover; held her hand, rubbed her brow, made me smile and provided those moments that induced healing that only a mom who loves to mother and nurture can give.
Friends who made sure I felt loved and fed, acquaintances who sent notes and some who even made sure I was fed… they came out like a force field and I was unprepared for the support.
I did not expect any of that, support that is… from anyone outside my immediate family. 
I am not sure why. I tend to keep to myself… I have been deeply burned by some people I thought were friends, so I tend to keep to myself and not talk to many folks. So, when I got the “NEWS” I had to let go, I needed help, I need a group of people to have my back (and not throw me under a bus without a chance to tell my story) and they came out of the woodwork, and I was touched, and am still touched, humbled.. tears are in my eyes now, as I write.
Even friends who I exchanged superficial texts with stepped out and were present to me. Near strangers offering so much more than good wishes.
The world is truly a magical place filled with so much good. I can’t wait until I am free to frolic (without pain) and pass on that kind of goodness… for now, I heal, and am blanketed in gratitude that I have a tribe whose large size I didn’t know.
~ ~ ~
I was driving and reflecting on what good things have happened to me in my life over the years and  in a brief flash of mental inner dialog that occurs in seconds I noticed that I drove by a building that once housed a flower shop in the 80’s when I was in high school and which was made famous by a stop by then president Reagan who went to buy flowers for his mother-in-law who lived up in some super fancy “estates” near my house.
I remember that visit, he was new to office and it was a stop that made the local news. The other funny thing is that night some friends and I went to visit a friend that lived in those “estates” and was a neighbor of Nancy’s mom… how do I know,, because of the plethora of secret service who hung out in the neighborhood. I remember a group of us running to the car from my friends house and the agents getting a little “jumpy” – but those were different days. Now we would probably be shot, then we just got stopped on the way past and told to behave by men in dark suits that wore sunglasses at night. 
I smiled at this memory as I drove away from that building that once housed the famous flower shop; I loved high school. I had friends whose company I enjoyed. I had good times… I was a little bit of a rebel, but I had a heart of gold, and the naivete of a child.

update – the last 4 weeks have been interesting

So, what an experience these last few weeks have been.

The surgery went abut as expected.  A scratched cornea in the hospital.
The final diagnosis was the best to be expected. No chemo and no radiation.
Big blessings.
I took a nose dive after I got home… lost over ten pounds in about 24 hours.  
Family took care of me. Friends feed me. I felt/feel deeply loved. 
I have been torn down in a way that has built me back up.
I am exhausted, tired and eager to get on with life.
I even drove once!

Day thirteen – 40 Days of Writing – Obsession

I loved the way Obsession for Men smelled (when I was a teenager).

Yesterday, I obsessively read my pathology report. And by obsessively I mean that I read it repeatedly for a 5 or 6 hour stretch of time. I read this two page report and felt so much that it was as if my life depended on it. I would focus on one part of it, set it down, ponder it, and then come back to it and re-read that section. I would then set it down. Then pick it up and read the whole thing again. Focus on another section and repeat this process all while watching the utterly mindless and unbelievably mind-numbing Vampire Diaries on Netflix as background noise. 

Thankfully, I am done. I think. I don’t really want to read it any more. My medical school stint reared its virtual head and I gained that understanding that I was looking for, picturing in my head the sizes of the different samples, trying to picture them as I read the descriptions. These three dimensional images rotating in my brain and looking at them from all directions. My brain would form these hologram like images as I studied each section of the report and the three samples in question and I could twist them to try to better understand the height and width and depth in hi-fidelity color based on the descriptions of the stains they used. My brain hadn’t thought this way for a while, it was both exhilarating and exhausting…. and all while not focusing on the screaming absence of the words “clear and present margins” and breathing deeply and heavily at the places that stated that the “extend … to the margin”. Wondering then, how much further they could have gone in order for me to be able to read those words I kept hoping to find.


That those two black and white pages that my GYN faxed to me contain the key information about what is going to happen to my life for the next few months (years, too) is a bit mind blowing. It is like the home pregnancy test I took when I was pregnant with Squink, something so small serves as such a huge symbol of GIGANTIC changes that are about to come.

It just seems, in a weird way, that these symbols of huge life changing moments should be different somehow. Maybe. It is also just amazing how simple things reveal so much. I wonder what the pathology report would look like if I painted it, applied rhinestones… or gave it a tiara?

As I woke up today and wondered what inspiration might come my way in terms of what to write for this round of 40 Days Of Writing… all while pondering how I spent my day yesterday – and hoping that I wouldn’t be so stuck on the diagnosis and the “C” word…  when, I thought that part of this process of managing a diagnosis like this is that there is an element (or time period) of obsessing about it. Trying to get into its skin, wearing it and figuring it out… especially in those times of waiting (which frankly sucks the most of anything so far).

It all makes perfect sense, in a way. Today is another day.