Oh dear God………

March 15, 2013

The idea might come as a whisper when God speaks, or when the Universe moves me in the right direction.  Once I decide to follow this whispering, suddenly all I hear is whimpering that grows fainter each day.

I don’t believe in God in the same way most religious people do, I am sure.  Still, I would pray with the children every night before I’d climb in with them.  Snuggling each to sleep.  Pillow talk time.  It was the only time each day that they would get my undivided attention.  And, I had theirs.  One on one.  In the dark.  Heads soft in the pillows.  This is when secrets were shared, ideas explored, and stories were told.

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Cassie was only four when she knelt by her bed exhausted from a day of arguing and fighting with her brother.  She was particularly jealous of his ‘older brother abilities’ that she had yet to discover for herself.  Before we pray, I tell her how God has a plan for each one of us.  And, with this plan, we are given our own special gift.  It is our job to discover, nurture and then use our gift for the greater good of all.  I was sure she understood.

Cassie prays, “Dear God, I know you want me to get along with my brother, Christopher.  And I know you want me to find my own gift.  I just wish you would speak up louder, cause I can not hear you!”

This is how I feel today.

I stopped writing about my journey with cancer, here in this blog, so that I can write for publication.  My whispering angels gave me the idea.  I am to write not only my journal, but, to incorporate true-life stories with my journal.  And, I am to find one-hundred of these stories.  One hundred.

It’s part of the title.

So far, I have found two.  I am already thinking that the title will be changed to Two (—undisclosed title)…not One-Hundred (—-).

Listening to the Universe is easy.  Following the path can get hazy.  I am groping in a thick fog unable to see all of the pieces scattered along the path.  Before, this was simple.  I already had a journal written.  A full year and a half of life with a husband, life with five children, life with cancer.  I just wrote each chapter into the blog and hit publish.

But, now, there is this blog, which is still a journal, but, it is now a current journal.  No transcribing from a pre-written journal.  And, now, instead of cancer, it is only about writing. Writing about writing.  Nothing about cancer, because the cancer stuff is in the book. There is also, the rest of the original journal, the cancer journal.  The rest of that year after diagnosis.  What do I do with that?  This makes me feel like I am trying to keep three separate journals; a current about writing, a current with research involved, about cancer, and somehow adding pieces from the past journal left off from the original blog.

I am driving myself crazy.  And my dear sweet angels seem to have hushed.

So.  Today, I make a plan.  First, I write a little blog post here.  Check in.  Update.  Think out loud.  Second, I take a chapter from the cancer journal, the one already written, and find a way to weave this into the current book writing.

The one with the One Hundred (–)   Two (–).

Oh this is so much work.  I miss the flow of just letting words flow onto the paper.  Well, they no longer flow from the pen, they are more or less punched onto a screen that looks like white paper.   Still, it was so much easier before.

Maybe I will just ask Cassie to pray for me.  She’s done well.  If anyone can get God to speak up louder, it is Cassie.

Pressing on the pause button……

Today I will pause.

Though there is nearly a full year’s worth of journal entries not yet posted, I feel a need to pause here.  Just as I felt compelled to sit down and to start blogging my journal entries a few months back, today, I feel this same inspiration to stop.  For now.

The last chapter installment of “I am Genki”, feels full circle.  How fitting that Cassie and I would both get (as she says, “our diagnosis”) on the same day—her positive pregnancy test and my positive cancer test, and this is where the story begins.  It seems only right to, then, end with the birthing story and with my feeling the cancer has now been zapped, sizzled and burned away.  And, my lab reports to be in the normal ranges at this same time.

Even though my journey with cancer continues and there have been many ups and downs since “I am Genki”, another idea has been brewing within me.  Another ‘book’.  A continued journey of the journal.  Yet, I yearn to use the journal entries with something that may be more important than just my own story.  An idea that slants in a direction that might make a bigger difference in this world.

I do not want to just live.

I want to live to make a meaningful difference.  Not to just ‘leave my mark’, but, to in some small way, inspire a change for the good of all.  I know.  That is a tall order and can even feel egotistical to think that one small person like me can make one big difference.  But, maybe if we each look deep into our personal passion and our natural born gift (and I do believe each and everyone of us is born with these), we are supposed to use them for the good of all. And, I believe that passion and our natural born gift are one in the same.  Passion points us to the gift within.  I, also, believe that it is not egotistical to think that this is possible, rather;

This is our duty.

Whatever that gift might be.  Discovering what our gift is can feel awkward.  Clumsy.  It is there.  Whispering through passion.  Listen.

And leap in that direction.photo (6)

And, maybe if I find that I am wrong about what I feel whispering within, the next picture I will draw is a major crash landing after this leap.  Maybe I am not good enough to be a published writer.  But I have to listen to my heart and take the leap.  Listen and leap.

I suppose, I published the first book of my journals in a blog with a secret hope that it might be good enough to seek publishing one day.  Real publishing.  Not just blog posting.  And, then, I later learned that publishers and literary agents look upon blogs as ‘previously published’ and therefore, will not consider these for their lists.  So, with book two of my journal, I will not post here and instead, take this year to finish it and to submit it for publishing.

To be honest, I am not sure that I can let go of blogging.  Already it has only been two weeks since writing Genki and I am having blogging withdrawals. I can not tell you how grateful I am for your support and encouragement.  With each day that I would hit the “publish” button on this blog, I would anxiously look for you.  Wondering if you enjoyed the post.

So, excuse the pause please, as I continue to follow those little whispering angels of mine.  I am so excited to explore the idea I have for incorporating my journal with another storyline/slant.

I welcome your comments and suggestions.  Did I leave you with any concerns?  Questions unanswered?  Ideas that you have for me to improve the writing or the way the journal is presented?

I look forward to hearing from you.

And, I am forever grateful for your presence here.  I wish you love.

 

psssstt…….maybe I will just keep posting here anyway?  Maybe take you along with me on the journey of writing.  Writing about writing?

Goodbye to Precious Moment…………..

February 16, 2012
I drive so that she can just pop in and out of the car, gathering last minute items to stuff into her travel bags. Without warning, we’re hit. Right there in the parking lot. Broad-sided on my side of the car. I swear. My usual reaction to a surprise catastrophe.

Like a drunken sailor. I swear. I don’t mean too. It just happens. I do this on wild roller coaster rides, too. With little six year old boys staring at me as we swoop, swirl and jerk around. These rides my kids push me onto, because they think this is funny. I have to apologize every time a ride ends, and tell the kids that it’s not nice to use such bad words. They shouldn’t do this.

This time, it’s pretty tame. No F-bombs. Just an, “Oh, shit. What the heck was that?”

I didn’t see it coming. The girl just crashes into us backing out of her parking spot. Getting out of our cars, she has swear words of her own. Loudly. And, she does drop a few F-bombs on us. It is her fault, and she is the one pissed off. Royally.

Michelley and I get out and examine the damage. In her usual manner, Michelle tries to calm the young woman. The crazy woman. We exchange looks. Raise eyebrows. Take a few steps backwards. Yup. We decide. She’s crazy. Clearly, this is not that bad. Michelle’s car has a little dent. A few scrapes. The crazy lady’s car has…..nothing. We look again, both of us, and can’t find anything wrong with her car. She’s on her phone already, freaking out with a body shop about getting a paint job appointment and how much it’s going to cost her. Between her phone calls, another, to a boyfriend, we manage to get her information. Michelley tries to calm her the whole time, telling her that even though it is her fault, it’s not that bad. She’s not upset about her car. Not to worry.

That’s Michelley. As a little girl, her little rose-bud lips and super huge eyes would remind me of the Precious Moments figurines. 13369_1197845040385_1998013_nShe became my own Precious Moment. My nick-name for her. The other nick-name, the one everyone who knows Michelley so freely used for many years, was given to her by her daddy. The Bomb. Things exploded anytime she walked into a room. Broke. Crumpled. Disintegrated. Just with her presence. So, she became a precious moment with a powerful presence. Bomb.

A globe I bought Michelle when she was very young.  It looked just like her at the time.

A globe I bought Michelle when she was very young. It looked just like her at the time.

Over the years, she not only continued to look like a Precious Moment drawing, Michelley became a precious moment. Like this one. Here we are, the clock ticking, counting down the minutes to a plane ride to Japan. A deadline we can not change. A departure that will last a little more than a year. She is not ready. Not packed yet. We are under pressure and stressed. But, in this moment, this car crash, all she can do is comfort a stranger.

We make a quick get away. We are going to sleep-over at Cassie and Justin’s. She has to work and can’t come to the airport with us. Which is just as well. I think Cassie would make the biggest, sappiest goodbye scene at the airport anyway. Her carrying on would draw attention, raise concerns. We’d probably all get arrested and detained. Instead, we will have a sleepover. We can have one last game night and they can say goodbye at the house.

But first, we have to pack.

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But, every time I come in to check on her progress, this is how I find her! She is determined to group and print out every single photo she has ever taken of her friends and family, so she can make a photo album to take along.

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This is serious. Over-whelming. Impossible to let go.

Like in a fashion my two older sisters taught me when times got desperate and there is a deadline to meet. Set a timer.

My parents would leave us home alone with a long list of chores to accomplish before they returned. Of course, I was in a panic the entire time. My sisters would play. Go outside, do tricks in the yard, take naps on the living room couches, the ones we never sit on unless company came over. I do not break rules well. Even now, I am short of breath at just the thought of this behavior. I couldn’t do all of the chores by myself. So, I would wait and moan and pace. And then, just thirty minutes before the parents arrival time, Pam would go to the stove top timer. She’d roll the dial back, look over her shoulder at Chari and me. We’d hear that first click on the timer and Pam would yell, “Goooooooooooo!!!!”

We could clean and finish the chores that should take three of us two hours, all within that thirty minutes.

I tell Michelley, “That’s it! I am setting the timer and I will help you pack. I will print all of your pictures after you are gone and mail them to you.” And, just as my sister Pam had done so many years ago, I scream gooooooo! Michelley just looks at me, hugging her yellow ducky and her dog, Reese.028

I pack. She cries.

We gather into Cassie’s small living room. Each with our own blankets and pillows. A real slumber party. Even though we try to play a game and we do share a few laughs, the atmosphere is tainted. The reality of a dreaded departure now all too real. 048395676_3125162102107_1732762182_n075

We manage the night. Wall to wall bodies sleeping across the living room. Holding hands every where. Why did we think this job in Japan was a good idea? I just want to hold her close and never let go. Maybe I will pull out the Cancer Card right now. Use it to hold on to my baby girl. My precious moment.

But, even I know this would be wrong.

This is it. She says her goodbyes to Cassie and Justin at the house. The two sisters hold each other for a long time. Silent. There are no words for this moment. Justin takes over and holds Cassie. Cassie holds her belly likes she is cradling their baby. We watch them standing in their doorway as we all drive away.

We make it to the airport pleased that we are on time. Proud that we actually got everything packed in the allotted two cases. Everything she will need for a year.418824_3125165662196_1570415712_n (1)

All of us wait together with her at every step. We huddle over the ticket counter. We gather in a long line for the first security check in. This is where we begin our goodbyes. Michelley starts with each individual. We watch as she hugs, whispers, pats cheeks and holds on. Tanner, her boyfriend, is trying to hold it together. Not successfully. Michelley kisses him. It doesn’t even matter that we are all standing there. Watching.

Aubree is crying. Quietly. Even though she is Trevor’s girlfriend now, she was first Michelley’s friend and co-worker. They love each other. Michelley wipes away Aubree’s tear and cries as they hug.

She goes to her baby brother and wraps her arms around his neck. He is so much taller than her now. These two best friends since the day he was born. He strokes the back of her hair and tells her she will be okay. She presses her face into Christopher’s chest and wraps her arms around his waist. This brother that she so recently reunited with. A brother she couldn’t wait to see after each gymnastic meet, running through the doors, jumping on him to tell him every last detail. Even, though, he would always feign disinterest. He whispers in her ear. There is a tear in his eye. I am okay. I am not falling apart, even when she jumps up into Trevor’s arms like she used to as a four year old, arms around his neck, legs around his waist. He holds her this way for a long time.

She looks at me. How can I say goodbye to her? I wait for Greg to lighten the burden. To make a joke. He doesn’t. This is hard for him, too.423692_3125162422115_5271528_n (1)He whispers, “Goodbye, Bomb.”

Everyone snaps up. We look around like a bunch of thieves hiding the loot. Praying no one outside our circle heard him. We had warned Daddy and Michael all night about inappropriate airport jokes. But, we forgot about warning him against calling his baby girl by her nickname.

The burden was lifted. There is laughter again. We can do this. She blows kisses. We smile. And, that’s it. She walks through to customs. Our group left standing alone, a bit bewildered. Not ready to move yet. So, we just stand there.

Suddenly, we hear her. She is yelling. “Wait, wait, wait!!!” We see her. Running back to us. We want to stop her. If she comes out, she will have to go through the whole process again. And, possibly miss her flight. Everyone puts their hands up, like a stop sign. I am particularly good at this, seeing how I was a third grade cross-guard. But, she doesn’t stop. She comes right back out of the customs clearance. Right back to the fold.

“I forgot Ducky!”

Well, we were there in time. Now, we fear, she will miss her flight. Ducky is in the car. Ducky, the Christmas gift from Cassie for the sole purpose of bringing comfort to her whenever she might feel lonely in Japan. There is no way Michelley is getting on the plane without him.

Michael and Tanner start to sprint out the door. We wait. This is awkward. We’ve already gone through a rather dramatic goodbye scene. What do we talk about now? We all turn to face the window. The window overlooking the parking lot. There is a brick wall, but, we can see Michael and Tanner’s heads bobbing up and down just above the wall. Like a cartoon, or a bit from the Three Stooges, we see their two heads turn around and bob back in the other direction. Every now and then, we see Ducky, too, as Tanner pumps his arms in the full-speed run back to the terminal.

Ducky under her arm, she is ready. This time, the goodbyes are quick and sweet. No tears. We are running out of boarding time. She turns to enter through the custom gates again.

They are closed.

We are directed to another gate. This requires a full-speed run of all of us. This is a scary looking group. Ducky leads the way. We arrive to this gate in another long line. Panic has entered the room. A policeman comes to tell us that only the passenger can wait in this line.

We back up, toes on the yellow line we are to wait behind. We all just watch her inch forward. Finally, she makes it through a gate and we are behind a glass wall. Faces pressed against it.

We can’t hear the security guards with her, but, we can see she has already made friends. They smile and wave to us. They ask her questions and point in our direction. She nods and points at each one of us, too. We are blowing kisses, dancing, making peace signs and holding each other. And, then, she has to move on. We wave as she disappears behind a wall, only to appear again on the other side of this.

We cheer and then, frantically wave some more as she disappears for good down the airplane ramp. The security guards wave back at us. As they wave, I see Michelley, my precious moment, her daddy’s Bomb, she peeks her face back around that wall. Her and her Ducky.

We blow kisses. Then, I see her mouth the words, “I love you.” And she is gone.

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Rocking down the isle……

February 3, 2012

Here I am again.  Reclining.  Sinking, a not very sick body, into the rich brown leather of my doctor’s chair.  It’s the first break I have had in two months.  Though, it is forced upon me via Herceptin dripping into my veins as I write this.

Still, it is a welcome break.

Today is the first time I will get Herceptin only.  Goodbye Caroplatin and Taxotere.  No more of your harsh behavior.  Your wreaking havoc.

Already, I see a problem with dropping these two drugs from my chemo treatment plan. With the mixture of receiving all three drugs I could easily spend the six hours it took to drip.  Now, with just Herceptin, I am lucky to get just an hour in this chair.

I will miss the big bag of ‘to-do’s’ that usually accompany me.  Moreso, I will miss my chair-side companion.  Now that the worst is over in chemo-land, it doesn’t make sense to force someone to come along for such a short time in the chairs.  Maybe this is good.  Maybe it is time I use my chair experience to reflect.  Alone.

So much has happened in this past month.  I couldn’t even keep up with keeping a journal. So very much like the day Christopher Alan Rubino was born.  That same afternoon, still in the hospital with a sleeping baby in my arms, I opened my newly purchased journal.  The one I bought just for this purpose, wanting to capture and record the remarkable experience of birthing and parenting.  I wrote,  “I want to write.”  That’s it.  That is all that was ever written in that most important journal.

I want to write.

Instead, I believe I fell asleep.  And, then, I started living as a mommy.  Full swing.  For twenty-some years that journal stayed empty.  Except for that one sentence of course.

This past month feels the same.  My list has finally bowled me over.  I am already asking Nurse Pam if I can just stay past the last drip from my IV bag. My bag is already half empty and this recliner feels way too good.  So does writing again.  Writing.

As necessary as the drugs.

Mom and Dad had arrived for a second visit from Florida with my sisters, Chari and Pam. They came for the wedding and to help.  We painted the glass jars that held candles throughout the wedding garden and clubhouse, with little hearts and love quotes. I think I use every event and holiday as an excuse to do crafts.  I also made the cake topper—in honor of Justin’s favorite super hero…417871_10150643320993417_80423341_n

Cassie and Justin Wedding 012

Cassie and Justin Wedding 013

I am happiest when doing crafty things with our hands, while sitting around my dining table.  Conversations seem more free and natural this way.  I am loving this time with them.

Chari

Chari, like Mom, works seriously and diligently.

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Mom concentrates.

of course, Pam always thinks Dad is funny!

of course, Pam always thinks Dad is funny!


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We finally took away the jars from Dad. He was doing his own thing on them, not entirely wedding appropriate.

Also, during this past month among all of the other normal wedding preparations, we had a bridal shower, Michael’s call-backs for Hook and I’ve had my first consultation for radiation. I love Dr. K. We talked about our families, children, and the importance of a good coffee mug.  A mug with just the right weight and the right color or design.  This lady is smart.

We talked about Trevor’s break up with Shannon and of Dr. K’s daughter, nearly the same age as Trevor, of how, like Trevor, all she really wants is to have a real and loving relationship.  We talked about Cassie and how the wedding is just five days away.  We talked about Michael and how theatre is saving him.

January has been a good month.  Michael got Hook.

And, Cassie got hitched.  The wedding happened.

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Cassie and Justin rocked it.

Literally.

This was no ordinary walk down the isle.  Well, this is no ordinary couple.  I guess it’s safe to say that this is not an ordinary family, either.  “Besides,” Cassie said as she rubbed her belly and kissed my cheek, “there is so much to celebrate”.

She decides that we will be rocking  down the isle.

No, typical did not fit into Cassie’s desires for this wedding day.  Although, she did draw the line and refused to let Justin enter the way he really wanted to; dropping Ninja style from out of the tree over-hanging the altar.

The three brothers kicked it off with a choreographed dance number.

The Rubino Brothers

The Rubino Brothers

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Yup.  The mother of the bride!

Yup. The mother of the bride!

Then, the wedding party danced in.

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Michelle in the Maid of Honor’s dress that she begged Cassie to allow her to get…..more fitting to her personal style!
Cassie made sure that everybody was happy at this wedding!!!



Here Comes the Bride!

Here Comes the Bride!

Her brothers danced back in order to “walk” Cassie down the isle.  As the Reverend Dr. Greg Rubino Daddy was Officiating the ceremony, so she didn’t have daddy walk her.  He and Groom Justin waited at the other end.

I would love to have seen the two of them rock down the isle.

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Justin's nephews, Honey and Cooper bring the rings on teddy bears.

Justin’s nephews, Honey and Cooper bring the rings on puppy dogs….with the agreement that if they bring rings, they get to keep the puppies afterwards.

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The Halliwells

The Halliwells

Nurse Pam unhooks my IV from the port in my chest.  She sees my computer open on my lap.  My tea is still steaming from the cup beside me.  Pam looks around the chemo room, it’s nearly empty, “Go ahead,” she smiles at me, “stay as long as you’d like.”

I think I’ll just close the laptop and close my eyes, too.

Just for a little while.

Of the stories we weave…….

December 30, 2011

She was mean.  Supposedly.  I don’t know, I wasn’t even born yet.  But, the stories of my grandmother always frightened me a little.  I have heard them over and over again throughout my life, yet, I probably still have all of the details screwed up and wrong.

Probably, I don’t remember the stories quite right because I did not want to hear them.

I was the most sensitive child ever planted on this Earth.  I am sure I listened to these stories in the way I watch scary movies.  Shielding myself behind a blanket.  One that I can still see through, of course.

I was so sensitive that I became the neighborhood side-show.  My sister Pam used to love to show me off.  All she would ever have to say to her friends was, “do you want to see my sister, Lori, cry?”  And, I would.  I could without a cause.  Right on cue.

I suppose it was kind of funny.

The stories of my grandmother weren’t.  I didn’t want to hear that my dad didn’t feel cared for by her.  Nor, maybe, even more so, I did not want to hear that her children did not care much for her either.  There is a story of how Grandma didn’t want to be a mom.  She was frustrated.  One day she announced that she was going to just go and drown herself in the lake.  Evidently, the children clapped as she departed from the dinner table.

I particularly did not like the story of when she took a broom handle to my uncle’s back. That was the day that he and my dad both walked out.  Moved away from home.  On their own.  My dad was just sixteen.

Whenever Grandma did come over, I just knew the stories must be true.  Where Grandpa had arms to hug and didn’t care how long I needed to cling ( I was very clingy once someone let me latch on), Grandma only had a pat for me.  A pat on top of my head. Then, she’d make her way to the couch.  Sit briefly and tell Grandpa it was time to go.  She had a dog to feed and crossword puzzles to finish.

He never wanted to go.

I secretly wanted a pudgy little grandma with soft arms and loving eyes.  I imagined her stealing me away for the day, just the two of us, off to her house where she would teach me to bake cookies and how to sew big warm quilts.   By hand.  We would eat the cookies still steaming fresh out of the oven and then she would listen to me talk on and on while we stitched away at our quilt making.  I wanted a grandma that made me feel special.  Wanted.  Important.

Years later, after having children of my own, I did learn how to quilt.  Though, Reita was not a grandmother, and was quite a bit younger than me, she was soft, pudgy and had loving eyes.  She taught me to hand-make quilts.  And, as I would stitch late into the night, those quiet nights when children were finally safely asleep in their little beds, I would think about my grandmother.  The only one I ever knew.  My mom’s mother had died when my mom was still a teenager.

Like me, that grandmother had breast cancer.

Now, both grandmothers are gone.  I had begun to think about those stories I had heard of my dad’s mother.  Stories that were woven into my life as if they were memories of my own.  As my own babies slept, I would create patterns in the quilts I was sewing and begin to realize that we weave stories into our lives that create patterns as well.  I began to remember that there were other stories about Grandma, too.  Although, barely a mere thread in the horror stories, there were stories that were glimmering.  Gold threads of achievements.

For my Grandmother, Fern Miles.

For my Grandmother, Fern Miles.

Stories that made me proud of this woman.  This woman who’s name was Fern.

Grandma was a writer.  A sports writer.  A female sports writer.  In the 1930’s.  Women didn’t work outside the home then.   Much less work in a man’s field.  She was not allowed in the press box with the other writers.  The male sports writers.  Grandma would have to stand outside the box and get information through the window.

Grandma knew Gerald Ford.  The man who was vice president of the United States and tripped his way into presidency.  She wrote for his campaigns when he started his political career in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Our home.   And, somewhere in this family, there is a personal note hand written to her by Carl Sandburg.  I guess she knew him as well.

It made me think.  Maybe this woman, trying to make ends meet during the great depression, loved her children.  Deeply.  What mother doesn’t?  Maybe, she felt tremendous frustration for holding great talent in writing that she could never fully bring to fruition because she also happened to have bared five children.  Maybe, being a mother back then meant only that mother’s were to make sure the children were fed, and that they learn to be seen and not heard.   Maybe being a woman in those times meant birthing and cleaning with no hope of personal expression in any other way.  Particularly not in the man’s world of sports writing.

And, just maybe, my dad was a sensitive little child like I was.  Maybe he secretively wished for a mother that baked cookies, listened to him talk on and on, made him feel special and important. Wanted.

Maybe, the horror stories only seem worse when felt and seen through the sensitive child. It makes me want to heal that little child within my dad.  He must have been such a cute little boy, filled with emotion that little boys were never allowed to express in the 1930’s.

not my dad and uncle...but, what I imagine, as children of the 1930's.

not my dad and uncle…but, what I imagine, as children of the 1930’s.

I hold onto this thread of gold.  The good things that I know my grandmother must have held.  And, I continue to weave this into my memories quilt.

Greg and the kids had a quilt made for me this Christmas.  A most beautiful gift.

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It is baby blue and white with hearts at the center of each square.  The most beautiful part is how each square also contains a quote, hand-written by each of our five kids, by Justin and by Greg.

I cover myself daily with this quilt.  During the naps I still must take.  The chemo driven naps.  I cover myself with this quilt as I sleep at night.  Covering myself with the loving words of my loves.  I have used this quilt so much already since Christmas, I fear that the writing will fade and I will lose these loving words.  So, I will write them here in my journal.

“I love you because you make me laugh, and laugh, and laugh”…..~ Greg

“I love you because you’re my best friend through everything.”…~Greg

“I love you because you are joy, you are happiness, you are love.”…~Chris

“I love you because your smile brings light, your laugh breathes life, your embrace gives strength.”…~Chris

“I love you because you are my heart, you take life with a smile.  I hope to be half the mom that you are.  You’re my hero.  You always beat the odds.” ~<3Cassie

“I love you because you have always been there and I know that you always will be.”…~Trevor

“I love you because you have taught me to be positive in every step that I take.”…~Trevor

“I love you because you inspire me to be better in all aspects of life.”…~Michelle

“I love you because you love the ones who need it.  You accept the ones who don’t show it.  Your love knows no limits.”…~Michelle

“I love you because you have always been the best mother anyone could ever ask for.”…~Michael

“I love you because….when I am sad you know what to say and when I’m lost you know the way.”….~Michael

“I love you because you always see the best in people whether they deserve it or not…. You keep cooking….even after everyone has asked you to stop…You made Trevor!!!.”…~Justin

I wish Grandma had been given a quilt like this.  To know she was loved by her children.  Because, in the deepest part of my soul, I know that they did.

What child doesn’t truly love his mother?  No matter what.

As I cover myself tonight, I pull on the little gold thread that is the goodness of my grandmother.  Maybe she wasn’t the kind of grandmother I had wished her to be.  Nor the mother that my dad might have secretly wished for, either.  But, I will make sure the gold thread gets woven into the quilted memories for my children, her great grandchildren.  I will cover them with the healing of understanding that we are all just people trying only our best in raising the children we are given.

And, then, I cover myself with my own little healing quilt with it’s blue and white hearts.

Sticks and Stones–Words and Wolves………….

Laura Roslin   -Battlestar Galatica- Season 3 Episode 19-Crossroad

November 27, 2011

We recently started watching Battlestar Galatica, our next series to obsess over.

I am thinking that this series choice is a mistake.  The main star just got diagnosed with breast cancer. Great. This is just great.  Watching makes it increasingly more difficult for me to not feed energy and fear to my own breast cancer.

I believe the words we use in our self talk make all of the difference in the world between good and bad, health and well, death.  I think words create the world we choose to live in.

We get our dinner plates with our mounds of salad and park ourselves in front of the computer screen and our friend, Netflix.  It hasn’t taken us long to get to Season 3.  I am really considering feigning dislike for the series and convincing Greg to choose something else.  I don’t want to see Madam President, Laura Roslin, lose her hair (of which, I am quite astounded over. This show takes place one hundred fifty thousand years in the future—really? No one figures out a way to cure cancer and do without chemo and hair loss in a hundred fifty thousand years??)

That’s a little disappointing.

We are up to episode 19.  And, this is WHY we are watching this show at this particular time. My angels have a message for me.

Karen: Madam President, how long do you have to live?
President Roslin: How long do you have to live, Karen?

Who really knows how long they have to live?  Just because there is a cancer diagnosis does not mean that I will not live longer than a healthy person who steps off the curb and gets accidentally hit by a bus. Sorry. But, this does happen. Every day. Somewhere.

I decide to relax. We go when we are supposed to go.

So. I will live while I am living. Really live.

Thank you Laura Roslin. Even though you are just a character in a tv episode. I needed to hear these words of yours.  My angel’s words. Important words.

“Stick and stones will break your bones, but words can never hurt you.”

Oh, I said this one a lot growing up in my neighborhood that was over-run by neighbor kids and no supervisors. Except for the occasional bug-eyed mom peeking out from behind a curtained window.

Only peeking out the window when one of us kids was screaming sticks and stones at the top of our lungs.

My lungs.

Now, I beg to differ with these words. Words can hurt. Words can kill. I am careful with my words now.  I believe we help to create, manifest, the worlds we live in with our thoughts. With the words we choose to allow into our heads.  Repeating.  Digging deep grooves.

However, as a kid, I used the sticks and stones phrase everyday. There was a lot of name calling in my childhood. In those days, kids were all kicked out of the house early in the day. Sent out to play, it did not matter what, we did not take toys out with us, except for a box of old dance recital costumes, we had to figure out how to play with our “imaginations”. That left a lot of room for name calling.

Especially when I was adamant about being the president of the club, or the manager of the show.

And, this went on until the street lamps turned on. Our cue that it was time to go in. Unless, we heard a whistle before street lamps. That meant your dad was home, dinner was on the table and you better high tail it home before he has to whistle twice.

Each dad had his own unique whistle call. My dad’s was one long beginning, that first went up in octaves and swooped down to come back up with a short ending. I later turned this into a vocal “boooooo-whoop” as a family call. An idea I stole from a girl’s camp Greg and I worked for one summer in the mountains.

If ever we’d lose sight of a group of campers while hiking, the camp had a vocal whistle call, since not every counselor nor kid could produce the loud whistle our fathers could do back in 1963. Counselors would call out a whooping ‘whistle’, and the wandering campers would do the return whoop. Voices echoing through the trees. We would know they were near. All was good.

Once Greg and I started hiking with our own children, I transformed my dad’s whistle into our own vocal family call. Much needed because we had a five year old who loved to run ahead, go off the beaten path, find the highest cliff, and yell hello down there as we passed by.

My kids hate when I Booo-whoop for them now. Especially when they are in a show and I want them to know I am there among the applause and standing ovations. They prefer I just wait to meet them back stage and use my words to express how much I loved their show.

Those would be good words. There are bad words that I am careful to avoid now.

Dangerous words, like, I am; sick, ill, dying, cancer.

Words give cancer a place in the world. Fear of cancer breathes energy into the confused monster that it is.

We give a name to an ailment, put energy into thinking about it, fearing it. Name a stage of this disease and, suddenly it owns us. I know there is research out there to prove mind over matter. Even the bible talks about the power of words.

“In the beginning there was the Word. The Word was with God, and the Word was God”. The fact that the King James bible capitalizes the word Word, makes me pay attention.  Words matter.

I am not a religious girl. Even though I was dunked in the full body size baptizing pools of nearly every church within a ten mile radius in Statesville, NC during my seventeen years of raising the kids in this small Southern town.

I was on a spiritual quest.

This means, probably without exaggerating, I visited and raised my hand, because “Yes, I am here to learn more about Jesus”, thank you for asking, in at the very least a dozen different denominations. Mostly, different versions of the Baptist church. One of which, asked me to leave for nursing in the front row pew during a sermon. I didn’t realize that none of the ladies of the church heard any part of the sermon that morning. They were too distracted. Appalled. Praying for me. Upset with a baby doing “something that should be saved for the bedroom.”

“Really?” I ask.

“I am not having sex with my baby. And, I am pretty sure God didn’t invent bottles until about a hundred years ago, so nursing a baby is probably a whole lot more in tune with God’s original intention than bringing a bottle into church on Sundays.”

Maybe my words were too harsh? They didn’t invite me to fellowship that morning.

I don’t go to church anymore.

Not because of these women. I just later realized that I was visiting God on a daily basis. Doing yoga. Looking at my children. Walking in nature. I felt a part of the universe. I sensed things. I found God in every thing and everyone. Somehow, it just never felt that way inside the four walls of a church building. I find God when I write in my journals. Or, better yet, I listen to God when I write in a journal.  And, I don’t think God is a man sitting on a cloud waiting to tell me what to do.  But, I do believe there is an energy, a source, a spirit, within every living thing.

Someone recently asked me why I would want to write about my journey with cancer in a journal. She asked, “Why hold onto this negative nightmare part of your life?” She’s heard me talk about how I believe there is power in our words and thoughts, that we help to manifest that which we envision and think. Power in the words we repeat over and over again in our heads.

I tell her that writing a journal makes me pay attention. It forces me to focus on details and possible lessons that might otherwise be missed.

“Besides,” I tell her, “you have to know which wolf you are feeding.”

Confused, this gets her to raise eyebrows like they are doing their own sports-fan-like ripple. I have a well read husband. I might only half listen to his ‘sermons’, I do end up learning things like this that I would never otherwise know.

“The story of the two wolves,” I tell her like I am all that!  “The Cherokee Legend of Two Wolves?”   I tell her to look up the story.

When the grandson asks his grandfather which of the two wolves that live within him, the evil and the good, will win, the grandfather simply replies, “The one you feed.”

I write about cancer not to feed cancer. I am not using words like; fighting cancer, surviving cancer; disease, illness, poor me. Pity me. Do not pity me. Pity is a greater disease.

A word with the power of a pack of wolves.

 

I do not feed energy to this wolf.

Write Like No One is Reading…..

December 2, 2011

I wrote on my facebook status today–“Off to chemo #4!”

I never get excited about the chemicals, but is it bad that I look forward to being stuck in a chair all day with a bag full of fun to-do goodies and one of my lovey ones next to me???? 🙂

Today, it is Chris again. Though we each packed a substantial amount of to-do-goodies, we do little of these.  Instead, we talk on a favorite topic we both love; writing.

Chris asks how Willy-a Girl is coming. A middle-grade reader manuscript I have worked on since 2003.   So much of this has improved because of the advice and suggestions he has already given me these past couple of months.  I’m on chapter six of the third re-write and I am as in love with Willy as I was in the first draft.

I woke one freezing cold winter morning in Banner Elk, NC to ice lacing the tree branches outside our bedroom window. The roads were icy too.  We cancelled classes for the day.

I was relishing in the unexpected leisure with fuzzy jammies, and woolly socks in front of a morning fire crackling in the big stone fireplace .  Hot coffee beside the expensive cabin rocker.  One of the many splurges, along with this round house, it’s three floors and five bedrooms sitting on top of Sugar Mountain Ski Resort.

Splurges we allowed ourselves after selling our main gym.

Opening the new, smaller gym in Banner Elk, an even bigger splurge.  All of which we would one day lose.

The living room chairs look like they belong in a Berenstein Bears book.  I like to write in this rocker chair.  I had been working on an idea for a play and thought I’d leaf through notes in one of my many pads of paper stacked on the end table.  This particular morning was different.   I pulled out one I had forgotten about.  And there was Willy-a Girl.

Scribbled out in messy handwriting. I completely forgot I had written this first chapter.  The words so vaguely familiar.  I was reading it as if I had never seen this before.  And, I liked it.  I immediately began working on it, taking advantage of a snowed-in day in January 2003.

I sent off the first draft to a publisher.  I know, who does that?  Shouldn’t there be a few drafts done first?  I liked it.  So I sent it off and after a couple of months of no response, I forgot about it, again.

Six months later I received the best rejection letter I had ever received.

A hand written apology for taking so long to respond.  They said that Willy had been making the rounds of the editors.

It didn’t make their list that year. But they did say that it is a ‘really good story idea’.

That was as good as getting published for me.  Willy got noticed.  I put her away for the next eight years.  Although, this time, I never really forgot about her.  Recently, she resurfaced again.  Surprisingly still around after many moves across the country.  That’s Willy.  Resilient.  I decided to rewrite her with the actual Southern dialect written out.

A second re-write.  I don’t like it as well. I have Chris read it for me.

On to re-write number three.

I think the writing is better this time, with Chris’ suggestions not to write in a Southern dialect.  Among other writing advice.  He’s a great teacher.  A natural.

Then, he asks how this journal writing is coming. I explained how I was pleased I had finished it. He looks at me.  Then, he looks at the IV strung straight into the port in my chest.  He slowly pans around the chemo room.  He knows I am journal writing about my cancer diagnosis.

“Finished?” he asks, rather confused.

Yes, I say.  It just happened.  .A perfect ending moment.   Four of the five kids join together with their individual talents and desires to form a production company.  They plan to bring the fifth sibling in to handle casting, since she is already working as a casting producer in television.

Chris just gives me an “are you sure about ending there?” look.

I think it’s a perfect place to stop.  There’s a cancer diagnosis.  It shakes us all up, we find ways to cope and then, we move on.

And live.  And produce documentaries or something.

We’re over this cancer thing.

I am ready just to live.  I don’t like thinking about cancer. I’ve got too much to do; art projects, learn more about photography as art. And, books to write.  I have dozens of picture book ideas.

Last night Trevor came in just as I put the period on the last sentence in my journal. Finished. He asked how many words. I quickly hit tools and word count.

Fourteen thousand! Wow, I didn’t know.

He asks a real question, “well, what is it then?”

“What do you mean what is it?”

“Well, a novel is fifty thousand words.” I know he wasn’t discouraging by any means. It was just a question. He wanted to categorize it.

But, I put it all away. It’s nothing. It just is what it is. It doesn’t need to be a novel. It’s just for myself.  I am writing this for me.

I tell this to Chris.  He disagrees with me.

He says, “No, it is not just for yourself. It needs to be done for sharing.  Whether it’s a novel or not, you need to share it.”

“You can do this.”  I love his encouragement.

He talks of the human interest element, that it’s not a cancer book, nor tips on cancer like the book I just devoured and loved, Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips by Kriss Carr.

“You don’t need to beat anyone over the head with how to handle cancer.”

I answer, “No, it’s not a cancer book, not really. It’s a story of a family.”

Chris then gives me another class in writing. His knowledge runs deep. Albeit, self taught. I think maybe there was an English Literature class at Mitchell College he took when he was sixteen as a dual enrolled homescooler.

Chris’s teachings require a good student with a note pad. I quickly find one in my to-do-goodie bag, happy to put at least one item I brought to good use. He talks and I write for the last hour of my chemo time.

They unplug me. It is time to go. I am never ready for this. I always want more of this time strapped to a chair sharing precious time with one of my loved ones.

So, we go to the hospital cafeteria, he with his tupperware of white rice and lemon in his “goodie bag”. He’s on a cleansing diet.  I choose a bowl of soup and salad. We continue our conversations of writing.

Only this time we talk of his own writing.

He is gifted. He is a writer. I think he is starting to believe this. Finally.

I show him a book from my goodie bag, Louise Hays, You Can Heal Your Life and point to a paragraph I had read the night before. A paragraph that made me think of him.

It lists ten ways that we do not love ourselves. Some of the many ways that we repeat negative self talk.

“Go ahead, answer these. How many of these fit you.”

He answers yes to each one of them.

We talk a bit about the last one; ‘I attract lovers and mates that belittle me’.  I am happy Chris realizes that this is a big one for him. He says he is just not interested in trying a relationship again until he has a better relationship with himself. Smart man.

He wants to talk about a short story that he just finished.  But within seconds he catches himself immediately falling into the negative self talk again.

“We’re going to need to make positive affirmations for me.”

He gets it. He finally is on the right path to self love and writing free from judgement.

I am learning this too.  Maybe he is home with us once again because we both have this to learn.

Writing like no one is reading.