Keep it Simple

I’m supposed to be doing other things.  My list is long and very little of it appeals to me right now.  I’m wanting words to finish what is under a deadline and it is slow going.  For now, I’m writing what is on my heart. Quite simply, that is what I prefer.

Yesterday a friend messaged asking for my advice.  That is always humbling to me. She asked for input on responding to a friend whose cancer has returned a third time. Her friend is likely facing her final battle with cancer. My friend wants to be sensitive to her friend.  How I love that she is thinking of her words and actions.  What a wonderful reminder to all of us whether we are interacting with cancer patients or a pedestrian we pass. Think before speaking. Think before acting. Think and respond purposefully.

I replayed meaningful words and gestures before responding to the request.  My friend wants to avoid hurtful things, knowing that can happen even with good intentions.  Those hurtful things were replayed as well, but quickly dismissed.

I began by telling my friend “I am so sorry!” I truly am sorry for what her friend is facing. I’m sorry for all who love her.  I am so sorry. Those were words that I appreciated. They are simple, but were powerful in that they acknowledge the pain, the difficulty, and everything that is wrapped up in such a battle. The words don’t try to remedy what is usually out of the responders hands. Simple, but kind.

keep it simple

I also noted that I do not know her friend’s spirit and cannot respond to what she is experiencing.  My response is based on my experience. I gave her words and hopefully some insight, based on my spirit.

My experience was and is, that simple kindnesses are important.  Finding ways to let a grieving soul, a hurting soul, a battling soul know they are remembered is valuable.  I remember:

  • the notes sent my way
  • the texts that let me know I was in someone’s thoughts
  • the flowers that were potted and left on my steps
  • the offers to take a short walk
  • The simple words and smiles
  • the shared tears offered with silence
  • the laughter coming after my attempts at humor
  • the rallying around my family, knowing others had reached out to them
  • the drivers who took me to multiple appointments
  • those who donned capes as it was necessary for me

My advice is to keep it simple. Simply be their friend and find ways to do some normal things. Share a cup of coffee if that is normal for you.  Grab some ice cream if that is normal for you.  Watch a favorite movie together if that is normal for you. I was not needing lofty words or platitudes.  I was not needing personal stories of other’s experiences. I wasn’t looking for sermons. I was needing to simply be me, while working to get through the moment.

be kind

My final thought is, you don’t need a reason to be kind.  Simply be kind!

Always in Style

Thirty five years ago I made a connection with the traditional garments worn in German-speaking countries.   Living in the Vienna Woods, it was not unusual to see men, women and children wearing beautiful Trachten (the clothing typically associated with Bavaria, Southern Tyrol and Austria) predominantly made with Loden fabric in a beautiful shade of green! I loved the look of these clothes and I still love the timelessness of the style! I was a young girl with a limited income, but I dreamed of owning my own Trachten and saved money as I could.

This weekend, while cleaning out closets, I found the Tracht that I would treasure.  As I was saving my Schillings (and yes, I’m capitalizing the German nouns — it’s what is done!) I knew I would select something special and a little bit different.  I can picture the little shop in Baden, not far from where I lived, where I found my beautiful cape.  I  imagine it would catch a few eyes if I were to wear this gorgeous wool cape today, even though the temperature calls for Loden type outerwear where I am living. It’s not typical, or fashionable in this section of the world. Those things never bothered me though.  In fact, some might say, I like being a bit less than typical. 🙂

IMG_6008

Today I received a phone call asking if I could meet with a nurse at the clinic to sign some papers. I had an early appointment across town,  so it was convenient to stop at the clinic on my way back home.  It was colder than I anticipated, and as I wasn’t wearing my Loden, I was chilled. It would have been a good day to wear my cape. 😉

Meeting the research nurse “out front” meant the waiting would occur inside the lobby. I felt like a fly on the wall observer, not needing to check in at the front desk and trying to stay out of the way. I spoke with a woman who seemingly had finished treatment and was waiting for her ride.  We spoke of the chill in the air and shared smiles. Her smile was understandably tired, but still beautiful.

IMG_5971

As I watched techs and nurses call names, I breathed deeply.  Memories washed over me, as I remembered how it felt to walk into the infusion room. I recognized each tech and nurse who made an appearance in the lobby today and I gave thanks for them. They are an important part of the memories.

My wait at the clinic wasn’t long, but the memories and feelings would take pages to describe.  I sat in the parking lot, and once again breathed deeply.  I called my husband to report on the early appointment and to share some quick thoughts.  I choked on my words as I said, “three years ago today was surgery day.” We briefly talked about the importance of remembering what we have been through and how fortunate we are. We spoke of a friend of Tony’s whose fight with colon cancer ended much differently than mine.  His family said good-bye to him at an age similar to the age I am now.

I shed some tears as Tony and I talked. I shed more tears as I typed these words. 

So many times, I have entered those clinic doors. Those early visits involved introductions, education and decisions, when I didn’t know what to expect.  Treatment number one came and I didn’t know what to expect. However, I knew it was time to put on a cape. I came to know what to expect, at least to some degree. At every treatment, I wore a cape that represented strength beyond my own, and an army of heroes that battled along side of me.  I found those literal capes while cleaning closets this weekend. They remain in the “keep” pile. Those capes are forever a part of me and a part of my story. They are forever worn each time I return to the clinic for lab work and check ups.

IMG_6017

Today I could have used the warmth of my Loden cape. Quite frankly, that cape is stunning, in my opinion.  If a few heads turn because a midwestern girl is seen wearing something that is not typical, I could deal with that. If I had thought to check the weather and had donned my lovely Austrian cape, the truth would be that it would just be one layer of capes that I wear.

I make no claim to be a super hero or have super hero strength. The super hero capes that I wore through treatment, continue to be worn everyday. Perhaps I’m not wearing them literally, perhaps I am. 😉 I’m forever shaped by each moment. Wearing those capes was important.  On April 12, 2015, I published a blog post titled It May be Time to Put on a Cape.  I’m thankful I wrote that post and the others that have been shared to chronicle this part of my life. I would never choose to learn what I have through the means of cancer and chemotherapy, but I’m glad to be where I am now. And I’m glad I wrote to remember what was important to share.



In that post about the capes, I wrote:

The very first paper I wrote when starting graduate school was titled “The Preoperational Superman.” It was for an educational psychology course and I was examining developmental stages in children as they related to a specific event in my son’s life. The moment in question was when my son was about four and he was wearing his Superman cape while helping me with chores at home. As he was doing a particular task, I asked him if he needed my help and he replied, “Mom, I’m Superman! You should know better than to ask if Superman needs help!”

cape21

That memory still makes me smile and I am holding on to that thought tightly today. Putting on that cape gave my son the power to conquer any task.  It was just as it should be for a child and as it should be for this adult. I’m not saying I don’t need help, but I am saying there is value in putting on a cape and believing that I can conquer the task at hand. There is value in imagining a brighter day with happy endings. There is value in believing the best outcome will be experienced.

I realize not everyone shares my views in this area and not everyone shares our tastes in where to invest our imagination. I was criticized, I’m sure with good intent, for letting my daughters watch “The Little Mermaid”. However, they did not go through major rebellions against their parents.  I was told to not let our son watch the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (the original cartoon) when he was young. To our relief, he’s an upstanding citizen who is not violent. Thankfully, my daughter who loved Gargoyles is well adjusted and has a tender heart. My Jedi loving, wizard loving daughter…well. she just may be Batman.  🙂

cape18

I say all this not to stir up controversy but to remind myself that imagination paired with  heroes and princesses was a good thing in our home. It still is a good thing that brings laughter, joy, and adventure to our lives. It brings stories that are used to teach life lessons. Today it brings some youthfulness as I think it may be time to put on a cape.

Tomorrow a new normal begins. (As a reminder, this section between the double lines was written in 2015, before treatment began) It is not an adventure I have chosen but I guess it’s a quest cast upon me. The quest is to conquer this cancer and begin living  yet another new normal, living as one that has experienced cancer and has moved on. I may just need a cape for that. I may need the super powers to get through the next step. Treatment begins tomorrow morning. After several long weeks, it’s time to do battle. I won’t lie, I’m nervous, but I also have a sense of relief to be starting. While I’m putting on a cape and going forward, I still am appreciative of the continued prayers and encouragement. This is a team effort, sort of like The Avengers. 🙂

cape15

I know I just referenced The Avengers and that Batman isn’t an Avenger,  but HE’S THE BATMAN! And I know Captain American doesn’t wear a cape, but he’s pretty cool!

I’m issuing a challenge to put on a cape and conquer a fear. Put on a cape and believe in yourself. Put on a cape and return to the confidence of younger days.



I still face challenges and fears. Along with returning to the confidence of my youth, I can return to the more recent past.  I remember that I got through it. Together, my family got through it.  I survived.

For the challenges I face now, which thankfully do not involve the word cancer, I don my cape and take the next step. These challenges are mostly of my choosing. They are challenges that involve goals, dreams, and next steps in taking adventures. My capes will always be in style!

taking pause

pause

A brother is gone

A relationship is broken

Dreams are diminished

A mother’s heart is wounded

Health scares are faced

Souls are weary

Anxieties have surfaced

In past weeks, as the holiday season approached, it seemed as if every effort to embrace the festive spirit was interrupted by unwelcome news. Some news prompted a gasp and I had to catch my breath.  A friend who shared pain that is so deeply layered, caused me to breathe deeply and choose my response carefully.  I wanted to choose my words on purpose and with purpose.

My own Christmas season was interrupted, but not in these painful ways. I was not facing the pains that prompted gasps. Our routine was different than it had been in past years. Schedules were shifted and traditions were adjusted. These minor interruptions prompted many wonderful things. My interruptions offered extended game nights, quieter celebrations, simpler preparations, and shared moments that I will hold close. It also brought a delay in putting away the decorations.  And, now I am writing and extending the delay.

It took a while to accept the changes, as sometimes I wanted to resist the change. In truth, I pouted.  The pouting sessions were short-lived . I just didn’t want to have to rearrange or fix things or figure stuff out.  The funny thing is that it (the routine, schedule, etc) will probably all change again next year.  That is our season of life right now and it is okay.  Like many families, our family and the extended gang have schedules that make it interesting to coordinate. We didn’t have the large gathering this year. It just didn’t work. We didn’t have the big meal, and we all survived.  We sought to remove expectations and take in what we experienced.  It was all good! It was better than good!

The interruptions caused me to take pause. My minor alterations were so minor that they really aren’t worth much of my focus. But the pauses are more significant.  The pauses brought:

  • clearer focus
  • reminders of what is of value
  • time to take in the scenes playing out before me
  • laughter and tears
  • a reflective heart
  • less stress
  • clearer sense of priorities
  • reminders that others were facing much harder interruptions

I wish that the pauses would remove the pain my friend feels from losing a brother all too soon. I wish the pauses would mend the broken relationship. I wish the pauses would undo all the pain of life’s tough interruptions.  The pauses have reminded me to slow down a bit, remember the important lesson of living moment by moment, and to offer kindness, gentleness and encouragement in thepauses. 

Kindness

I’m not much for resolutions or such, but I think I will focus a bit on taking pause.

gentleness-heart

I will take the pauses as reminders to encourage with kindness and gentleness.

encourage

May 2018 be a year that causes you to take pause as well!

Twenty-One

I’ve never thought about the why, but for some reason, a long time ago…in this very galaxy…I chose 21 to be my favorite number. I was born on the 22nd of the month, so it wasn’t that.  I chose it long before I became a Cubs fan, so it was a coincidence that Sammy wore 21 on his jersey. I will admit, that I’m not sad that Tim Duncan and Roberto Clemente wore 21 as well.  Two fine guys who wore my number.

Anyway, it’s been my favorite number.

TWENTY-ONE

  • a cardinal number, factorization of 3 x 7, divisors of 1, 3, 7, 21
  • its the  21st century
  • the 21st amendment repealed prohibition
  • 21 gun salutes are impressive
  • legal drinking age in the US
  • highest point total in BlackJack
  • XXI
  • einundzwanzig 🙂

I’m not into numerology, so I’m not going that route. It’s a number and for some reason favorite numbers are a thing.

Today, a memory popped up by way of the Timehop app that has me thinking of 21. The photo was from two years ago. (It would have been cool if it was from 21 months ago…oh well.)

IMG_3476

 

Twenty-one days until the end of treatment.  At this time, I felt I could finally start counting down and looking ahead.  Moment by moment living and fighting was still in play, but I chose to step out of that lens to look ahead.

I look at this photo and see tired eyes full of hope. I see a whole bunch of emotions, memories, cape wearing friends, care-givers, and I see hope! I see so much!

Recent days have sent me back to many memories.  Test, scans and consultations have at times caused me to replay moments. These moments are often the hard ones. The moments after treatment four and eight, when I didn’t know if would endure any more. I will spare you the other hard moments. I don’t dwell on them long when they surface, but they are still real.

The tests, scans and consults in recent weeks leave me in a positive place today, at this moment. They are part of my process still, and probably will be for a long time.  It can still be tough gearing up for those tests, scans and consults. Cancer has left and yet never leaves. There are so many contradictions with Cancer.  It’s part of why it stinks!

Today,  I feel the need to document and share what I’m sorting through.

if you remember, writing is one of my go-to’s for sorting through life

So, here is my 21 for today, all related to the picture that popped up as a memory.

21

Twenty-one things all connected to my story, my words, my life, my cancer, my hope:

  1. I’m stronger than I knew
  2. My story has value
  3. Capes still help
  4. While I’m wandering, I’m not lost
  5. The explorer side of me is not a bad thing, just because it is not the norm
  6. I’ve never been a fan of the norm
  7. Faithful friends defy words
  8. Moment by moment living did not and should not end after treatment
  9. There’s much to celebrate in life
  10. Ordinary and Extraordinary are linked
  11. Smiling is a good thing, sometimes a hard thing, but a good thing
  12. My tribe is fierce — I love you all
  13. Humor is powerful
  14. Trivial truly means of little value or importance and so many things are trivial and not worth so much energy
  15. Looking back (quickly) can help propel me forward
  16. Cancer still sucks
  17. I’m appreciative when people acknowledge that cancer sucks
  18. I still have goals and dreams
  19. Goals and dreams are good things
  20. People who ask, listen and care are so important…then and now!
  21. I am a survivor

The crazy thing about writing this list, is that I didn’t want to stop at twenty-one.

…maybe I need a larger favorite number?….

Thankfully, I have been allowed to continue to write my story, so the list does continue beyond twenty-one.

 

Simple Kindness

If you’ve read any of my posts before, first of all, I thank you.  Secondly, I would image you have noticed I work with words and phrases that have resonated with me.

Confession: I tried to find a word to use other than resonate.  It seems like it is overused, but as I write true to the name of my blog, ON PURPOSE, it was the best fit. Choosing words ON PURPOSE is still a goal in my writing.

Certain words, and or phrases, seem to accompany moments in time, at least for me. It is difficult to say if the words come first or if the moments come first.  I think it happens both ways.  I will be struck by something I see and I have to give it words.  There is a connection that is lasting to me when this is done.  The ‘something’ now has a story.  The moment is given a place in my story through the words.

Sometimes, the words come first as I am intent on discovering the intent of their use. I want to understand their meaning and the power they possess.

There are words that have been my focus for periods lasting into multiple years. Perspective is a word that was my aim for two years straight. From seeking to understand perspective, my own and that of others, my journey with words was challenged.  Perhaps the challenge was, and still is, that perspective itself can be so challenging.  I cannot say that perspective, as a word, resonated with me. It was a battle that I knew I needed to fight, a battle to gain perspective.  I return to that battle ground on occasion, thankful I was focused in my endeavor to learn and grow.

Through a heightened lens, filtered with perspective, I have gathered other words and phrases that have been incorporated into my story.  Many of those words and phrases have been the center of my posts.  They have been used ON PURPOSE and have helped to define my purpose.

In recent days, SIMPLE KINDNESS has been where my thoughts have converged.  The words keep coming back to me.  They echo in my mind and in my heart. I find myself looking for and noticing moments of simple kindness. Sadly, I also notice glaring moments that lack simple kindness.

simple kindness1

As I have tried to be purposeful in this focus, I am struck by how often others are surprised by kindness.  It’s as if kindness is out of vogue and when it does appear, there is disbelief on the part of the recipient. This not only saddens me, but it increases my resolve to sow kindness.

Kindness can be expressed so simply.

A few weeks back I was checking out of a store and the clerk helping me was frustrated by a computer that had frozen.  I reassured her I was fine in waiting, but it was evident she was anxious and the seconds seemed to be mounting more quickly for her than they were for me.  I turned to look to see if a line was forming behind me. It was not.  I expressed once again that it was all okay.  She looked up at me and asked, “you aren’t going to complain about the wait?” I smiled and reassured her, everything was fine.  I don’t know her story. Perhaps there were multiple factors entering into her anxiety, but I sensed surprise on her part, that I was willing to wait and to even be pleasant in doing so. Waiting patiently does not make me great.  But I hope the simple kindness of doing so, made that young ladies day better.  She seemed relieved and grateful for the response she received.

simple kindness3

Kindness can be expressed so simply.

I find myself playing a little game when I’m at the grocery store.  It seems to be an arena that can bring stress to people.  I like my local store.  I have shopped there for years and know certain people by name.  I look for the butcher that has helped me choose meat on numerous occasions.  I spent fifteen minutes last week talking with Dave in produce about his upcoming trip to visit his daughter.  I’m happy when Allen and or Alan are sacking groceries.  They are sweet gentlemen that are simply kind.

But, back to the game — maybe it’s more of a mission than a game.

I have made it my aim to sow kindness by offering smiles to everyone I encounter in the aisles.  In truth, I begin the game the moment I get into the parking lot! This can be quite challenging as many people are not willing to make eye contact.  That’s okay.  I’m not going to stare them down or stalk them all through the dairy section. However, the offering of a smile does wonders for me and I get the feeling it has been beneficial to some of the recipients.  I get that feeling when I see their expressions change.  I get that feeling when someone thanks me (yep, a “thank you” for smiling at someone, go figure.) I get that feeling when I meet up again with someone later in another aisle and they are quick to offer a smile to me.

simple kindness

I realize I am in danger of setting myself up. There are times I don’t feel like smiling, but that’s usually when I should smile all the more.  I know by sharing this game, the game where I try to get people to smile in return, I will probably run into someone I know at the store and I’ll be focused on my list and not smiling.  Well, hopefully they will join the game and invoke a smile and I’ll be the recipient. 🙂

Kindness can be expressed so simply by offering a smile, offering a gentle response (or perhaps offering no response), by waiting with a patient demeanor, allowing someone else to go before you, expressing a word of thanks. In truth, none of these should be difficult.

Two days ago I needed a quick fix of iced tea and in addition, ordered a taco. As I picked up my bag at the drive through and turned to exit the lot, I noticed the bag was heavier than one taco should be.  I parked and looked to find multiple items I had not ordered. Phooey.  I certainly didn’t need the extra food and figured I had someone else’s order. I kind of wanted to act on my frustration and be quite forthright in my comments. SIMPLE KINDNESS came to mind. Get over yourself also came to mind. I took the bag in and explained that I thought there was a mix up.  The response I received was nothing like the clerk with the frozen computer.  She seemed to appreciate the simple kindness. The person behind the counter at the taco joint was not so pleased. In my opinion, she was in fact, a bit put out. Undeterred, I kindly thanked her and left smiling. My simple kindness is not dependent on the response.

As I walked through the door to my car parked close to the entrance, I caught a whiff of the most fragrant lilacs.  I couldn’t see any lilac bushes, but I inhaled the scent.  In that moment, I received a simple kindness. 

I share to make these moments a part of my story in a more permanent way.  I share to give validity to the words that are echoing in my life.  I share because  I want these words to be evident in my life.  I share, hoping that others will live ON PURPOSE, sowing SIMPLE KINDNESS.

simple kindness2

 

The Work of Waiting

In a world where information is at our fingertips, where the delay of dial up internet seems tortuous, where reactions are quickly put out for the world to see…I’m wondering what has been lost from the lack of waiting. There are many things that have been gained from instant information,  but with each gain, there may be some loss. The work of waiting is a work that develops with time and character is developed in the wait.

Image result for wait

I’m not a sociologist (although I’m related to one) but I find shifts in society interesting. I wonder how instantaneous living has impacted our thoughts, culture, lifestyle…society.   I’m not a theologian (although I’m related to one whose life & educational pursuits qualify him to be one) but I’m wondering about the spiritual impact of our instant access to information. I’m not someone typically given to road rage (but am related to some who might be have this characteristic) but am seeing an increase in impatience on the road. We aren’t happy with waiting. Complaints are expelled generously and fiercely, if one even thinks they have waited a moment longer than “necessary.” The world in my immediate view is filled with instant information, instant payments, instant access to so much and yet,my introverted, contemplating mind wonders what we are missing as a result.

Even with the instant nature of life, much of life is spent waiting. A MIT professor estimated that two years of our life is spent waiting in line. For amusement park junkies, I would imagine that number goes up! Waiting is still  a part of life.

We wait for:

  • stop lights to turn green
  • our number to be called at the DMV (among many places)
  • messages to be returned
  • air traffic control to say our plane can take off or land
  • trains/buses to arrive or depart
  • appointments
  • due dates

The list is long. It is much longer than I shared, but I think the idea has been presented.

Sometimes we must:

  • wait things out
  • wait our turn
  • wait a sec
  • be on a waiting list

 

Image result for wait

Having a wait and see attitude is a challenge. The challenge is greater for some, more than for others.

Instant passes at the amusement parks, same-day delivery, call ahead ordering, …are these so bad?  I cannot say if they are or not, but I think they are a byproduct of our instantaneous society. They certainly come with a literal expense.  People are willing to spend more money for these services…to make life easier, to make better use of our time, to avoid waiting.

In weighing the cost/reward do we, do I, consider what is gained in the work of waiting? Again, I have no educational background to support these thoughts and theories.  I have nearly 54 years of life and countless hours spent pondering and waiting.

I know I am not alone in noticing that decreased interaction is a result of instantaneous living.  I notice, in many situations, people turn to their phones to get answers rather than take the opportunity to see if those in their immediate range might have something to offer on the subject.  I’m guilty as well.  Do you know the name of that song?  Look it up. Who was in that movie?  Look it up. How do you get to xyz?  Look it up. Don’t wait, don’t interact, don’t ask, don’t listen.  Look it up.  Don’t get me wrong, my thoughts are not cut and dried. I use map apps and more.  I like the access to information at my fingertips, but I’m measuring what I’m losing because I’m in such a hurry.  I’m measuring what is to be gained by waiting.

I think back to some of the first words I heard after receiving a tough diagnosis. I was encouraged to “stick with what I know.” The speaker of these wise words was urging me to not jump ahead and worry, not jump ahead to unknowns, not jump ahead to things that required a wait.  Along with the diagnosis came periods of waiting.  Numerous health care professionals had told me that the waiting would be hard, and they were right.  But in trusting that the wait was necessary, I could settle in and trust that what I was to do, was what I could do.  Wait.

In the work of waiting, for that period, I reflected, I prayed, I cried & I laughed.  I connected and reconnected with people and I rested.  I did not rush for instant answers. I listened.

Again, I know that this scenario does not grant a direct correlation to every “wait it out” or “wait for the other shoe to drop” experience.

Waiting does not need to be passive. Sometimes waiting is a means to prepare. I have found that I may not know what I am preparing for by waiting.  Maybe, I’ll never know the purpose of certain times of waiting.  Does not knowing negate the result or the purpose?  I don’t think so. I don’t think everything revolves around me, my “purpose” or how waiting impacts my life. Maybe the brief moments of waiting have saved me from something else. Maybe they will open conversations that are meant for someone else’s benefit more than my own. Maybe they are just moments of waiting.

The work of waiting. Perhaps it includes forfeiting my schedule. Perhaps it includes forfeiting my agenda (which is not the same as my schedule.)  Perhaps it includes rest. Perhaps its includes trust.  Perhaps it includes listening (you know, the kind that doesn’t require response.) Perhaps it includes restoration.

I first began writing this post weeks ago, maybe even months ago. (And more than ever, I wonder if this is what anyone else should read or just for me.) I’m no where close to where I want to be in these thoughts and in my words.  I think more waiting is involved.  As I wait for clarity, (or for more questions) there will be activity that involves rest, listening, meditation and …more. I will wait to see what else is involved.

Image result for wait

 

My Heart Caught Up

I’ve mentioned before that I am mercy driven. I’m one who feels deeply.  To many this may sound trite or insignificant. It’s a continuing process to accept that response, but as someone who fits most of the characteristics that describe an empath, this does not surprise me.

I feel joy at a high level and I feel pain at a deep, deep level.  I am not looking for sympathy or analysis from those comments.  I’m just processing and setting the stage.

For some time now, weary would be one of the adjectives that would describe my spirit. There is still a joy that exists and I hope still emanates, but in truth, I’m weary.  I have been going through the paces for the events of the holidays.  I won’t say I’m just going through the motions, because there is a desire to be present and to participate.  There is a desire to maintain the traditions and to participate in the joy of giving. Thankfully there is not a desire to sit this one out or withdraw.  (My heart hurts for those who find themselves there.)

My heart is still functioning, feeling at full level — that mercy thing doesn’t shut off. It’s not a Grinch issue of needing my heart to grow a size or two.  I don’t know how one would measure the weariness.  Life continues and as it does, it’s hard at times. grinch-heart

Participating in holiday gatherings and laughing with friends continues to lighten my heart. I continue to be glad I did the next thing. I fall asleep counting my blessings (and yes, the White Christmas reference is intentional!)

Years ago I was taught that sometimes you do things because you know in your head it’s the right thing to do, even if your heart isn’t in it. Sometimes your head and your heart are not in sync.

Sometimes the heart needs a little more time to catch up.

I have BIG issues with the whole “passion” movement — you know, find your passion and you’ll be happy — but that’s a whole other topic, probably a book. 

Sometimes, you do the next thing because it’s what there is to do.

Today, after attending a joy filled gathering with friends, I went to run a quick holiday errand. As I made my way to the car, fighting the fierce wind, I found myself running the mental list of what was left to accomplish.  I was glad my parking place was close.  As a van paused in the parking lot, I assumed the driver was waiting for me to leave so she could have this prime spot.  I remember thinking, she’ll have to wait a sec while I put the cart away and as I walked back from the cart stall I noticed the driver opening her door. She got out and helped a little one out of the car seat, while the car remained in the middle of the parking lot.  As a sweet little girl, dressed snugly in her pink coat, approached me, I wondered what was going on. At this moment I heard the mom say, “this is the lady you wanted to give it to, she just put her cart away.”

This sweet little girl handed me a precious gift.  She gave me a small container filled with candy bars and wished me a “Merry Christmas!”

millie

This is where I think I can understand a little of what the Grinch felt physically (maybe it’s just the empath in me) when his heart did grow.

I asked this sweet child her name and if, with her mom’s permission, I could give her a hug.  Her name is Millie and I’m pretty sure that’s an angel’s name.  I said, “you’ve made my heart so happy!” I thanked her and told her I would share with my friends.  Her mom smiled and said that is exactly what Millie said when she picked me out from their car.  She told her mom, “she can share them with her friends.”

Tears flowed freely the whole way home and I thought, my heart just caught up.

The Friend I Never Met

Like so many people, I love fall.  The changing of the leaves and the crisp air seem to signify celebration. If I could still do cartwheels, I would say this is a cartwheel season.  It just seems like there’s a lightness that comes with the reprieve from heat and humidity.  There is a renewal of spirit as the colors present themselves just a little bit differently each day.

fall2016-13I left home this morning, a beautiful crisp morning, for my quick trip to the clinic. It was time to access the port to make sure it stays open. It is a simple routine at this point.

  • Port number three is still a part of me.
  • Scans are scheduled to be done in a couple of weeks.
  • Maybe I will hear that the port can be removed.

These are thoughts running through my mind as I drive the familiar route.  I am reminded of many visits when I had superheroes accompanying me. Memories return with each trip. Memories return of tough days and tough cycles that involved difficult countdowns and moment by moment living.

There are new faces each time I go to the clinic. My heart is directed to those in the waiting room and I wonder about their stories. As I walk through the infusion room I breathe slowly and try to note each person. I try to carry a light smile but do not want to make light of their battle.  I try to note each person in my heart, as we share an unusual connection. Along with patients, their support givers and the care-providers who are new to me, there are familiar faces. I see smiles, eyes and  hearts that took part in my treatment and my healing. They are so important to me. Perhaps it is the relational, mercy driven side of me. that makes them so important.  Perhaps it is all of that combined with tough days, tough cycles, difficult countdowns and the moment by moment living that falls under the umbrella of a life changed by cancer.

Today my port was easily accessed.  The necessary details of the upcoming scans were discussed.  These things didn’t take long as they are strangely routine. Upon exiting through the infusion room, I saw a precious friend. We had connected last year via the awful beast called cancer.  About mid- way through my treatment last year, sweet “G” drew my blood and in the course of our conversation during that visit, she shared the wrenching news that her father-in-law was starting his fight against colon cancer.

I’m not sure the direction of my writing today — this is the sorting process — my heart was hit today —so many mixed emotions.

As I walked out of the clinic today I knew it was time to do some sorting.  Sorting often involves writing for me.  However, first I needed a walk.  You see, as “G” asked how I was doing and noted that it was great that I would be entering the holiday season feeling much better this year, I asked how she was and asked about her father-in-law. This man had become my friend. Our homes separated by many miles, in fact many states, did not diminish the connection I felt due to our similar experiences.  “G” was always someone I would stop and visit with if our paths crossed at the clinic. She has an infectious and gentle way about her.  She always remembers my name and inquires about my life.  She has a perspective on my fight that comes from beyond a clinical view. Her father-in-law fought the battle as well.

While I still feel like I’m in the fight, my friend’s fight is over.  He passed away recently.

fall2016

I share that I’m still in the fight, not because there is cancer present in my body. I am still considered cancer free (!!!) but there is still an awareness that I’m living day to day, working toward that five year survivor mark, taking the moments as they come. 

I shared my sadness in hearing about the passing of “G’s” father-in-law, my friend I never met. She shared a few changes that have occurred in the lives of her family since his passing. We hugged and she told me “it’s okay.”

I wanted to stay and share with her much longer.  I wanted to say that it’s not okay.  I wanted to fix what cannot be fixed for that family.  I told her I was sorry and that I would continue to pray for them.

fall2016-10

Emotions, combined with questions, washed over me and I knew I needed to go for a walk. I have a feeling the questions won’t go away quickly, if ever. I shared some of my questions with my husband a few hours after my walk.  I would imagine some of the questions may never be uttered aloud…I cannot say for sure.

There is so much about my story, my life, I don’t understand. Like most people, this can be tough at times.  Most of the time, I don’t dwell on the questions. I don’t typically ask”why me” or “why him?” I can truly be content in not knowing those answers.

I’m sure there are many who would reply in kindness and say “God’s not done with you yet” or something along that line.  I would ask that you refrain from such comments to this piece of writing as I’m sorting through things. You see, I’m not looking for a celebration of my life, or the survivor-ship status I hold at this moment. I don’t really know what I’m looking for, if anything at all.  I’m sorting through the reality that I’m missing a friend I never met.  My body feels a loss that strikes me in a distinct way. It reminds me of what I have been through.  It reminds me of what my  husband and kids have been through.

My reality is that cancer still impacts me every day.

I do not dwell on it (the cancer) and for that I’m thankful, but I did not expect that it would come to mind at different times, in different ways, virtually every day.  Of course, I did not expect any of it.

Perhaps I need to write more. My life seems to be an endless effort to sort through thoughts, emotions and experiences.  It is not easy for me to turn off the thoughts, and yet I’m thankful for them. It is not easy, yet there is peace…and thankfulness.

As I work through my grief for my friend I never met, I want to remind myself to be purposeful in kindness. I want to listen to other’s stories and recognize their value. I want to work through the painful times with grace and celebrate life. Today I was reminded again of the importance of living moment by moment.

fall2016-7

 

 

 

Drat — it’s pronounced /ɡrās/

I sent a couple of emails last night. When I woke this morning, I read through those emails as the situation at hand was once again on my mind.
I wrinkled my nose a bit as I read a couple of typos. Drat!


I don’t like it when that happens. A quick impulse was to write and apologize for the typos. Instinct told me to let them know I had sent the emails on my phone, it was late, I was in a hurry, and so on.   However, I quickly thought — not necessary. The focus was not on me and a couple of typos.

Like many things in life–it’s not about me.

My mistakes are just that.  A quick slip of my thumb that really need not be the focus. However, It made me think of the importance of one’s words and the importance of being gracious. Surely the recipients will be gracious and be able to receive  the intended information.  Beyond that, I hope they receive the intent of the message.  In this particular case, I’m not worried about judgement.

In the case of this blog, those particular emails are not the focus.

To my grammar loving friends, please don’t give up on me. Please don’t think I’m abandoning my English major and speaking nonsense. 😉 Bear with me. 

As someone who is intrigued by words, I often notice written mistakes. Truth be told, I commit many mistakes. Sometimes those “mistakes” or break in the rules of grammar  aid in the presentation of the message. Or at least I think they will. Incomplete sentences for example. (See what I did there?) We don’t always speak in complete sentences and sometimes I employ them in writing as it fits the conversational tone. Perhaps this sets some people off and quite frankly, that’s not my mode. It’s not my intent to set people off — at least not often. It’s also not my intent to focus on the errors of others. I’m more concerned about message, yet I know mode is valuable.

I’ve often said, perhaps I’m more a linguist than a grammarian.

What I’m pondering goes way beyond words. Words…form and rules that are designed to influence words are merely the vehicle that made my mind probe to the heart of the emails — the hearts of people.

I’ve started many drafts in the past few months even though I haven’t published any blog entries lately. I wonder what to do with my words and my thoughts. Even now I’m wondering the direction of these thoughts and whether they will be published.The mind still rambles and words are a means of processing.  

This post isn’t meant to stir up debate or opinion on the value of the Oxford comma or the irritations that may be felt when their, they’re, or there are miss used (that one was on purpose.) I am aware of the value of Standard American English, but that is not where my heart is at this morning.

My heart is pondering a specific situation, yes,…but it is just one of many times when I’ve thought, what does grace look like. Grace may not resolve every situation. It may not bring immediate relief. But grace in my response can be a source of strength, comfort, maybe even a lifeline.

A few weeks ago I was at a hospital in support of someone important to me. The day grew in length as we didn’t know which procedure would be employed and waiting is hard. I was walking in the hallways, trying to get my steps in and trying to keep my mind in focus. I made eye contact with a woman who was obviously waiting and we exchanged smiles. She then offered a kind word about something that may seem trivial to some. I was struck by her kindness, the graciousness of her comment. I thanked her and took a few more steps. As I turned to continue my laps, I rerouted to the chair next to her and asked, “can I ask where you are from? Your accent is beautiful!”  She shared another gorgeous smile and made a humorous comment about noticing her accent. In the course of our conversation (which was picked up more than once that day) this precious soul made reference to “mistakes” made in word choice. English is not her first language  I never dwelt on those choices as I loved her sound, I loved the look in her eyes, I quickly fell in love with her story.

Again, word mistakes or grammatical errors are not the point of this post. They are merely a vehicle for my thought process. 

Graciousness led me to a new friend. Grace from a stranger lightened me that day. 

Grace led me to Olga, my sweet friend from the Ukraine. We shared a piece of life’s struggles that day. A message from her on my voicemail this morning offers encouragement that we may share more of life together. Her grace extended opened a door. Grace keeps the door open.

My heart is reminded to not dwell on my mistakes. It is easy to return my thoughts to them and wonder what others think. STOP. Yes, learn from them. Yes, move on. Yes, offer grace to others and receive grace in return.

It’s a crazy time to be alive. I would imagine someone has said this in every time. I cannot solve too many crises that are occurring on the world stage. My sphere of influence is rather small. Political turmoil has many spinning in circles and many spewing unkindnesses beyond their norm. People are hurting.  People are wounded. People are scared. People are people.

We joke about the many nicknames of my youngest. We chose her name for more than one reason. We chose “Meg” as that is what we wanted her to be called. Her name is not Megan or Margaret, both fine names. It is simply, Meg. She has many nicknames and some are funny and clever, in my opinion. However, what amuses us the most is when someone reads her name and asks how it is pronounced. She, being quite witty, has some fun responses.

  • It’s pronounced ME –  the “g” is silent
  • It’s pronounced Kim (one of my favorite responses)
  • It’s pronounced Meguh – with a strong “g”
  • My given name is Megatron

What would it look like to pronounce “drat” a bit differently? What would the words sound like if a change were made. If the focus was less on the error and the grievance and more on the person, maybe “drat” (or let’s face it — we are much harder on ourselves AND on others and classify the error more strongly than that) could sound a bit more gracious.

The choice is there to make. I’m working to change a few rules. I’m not sure Webster will comply, but I’m thinking a few of us could impact many by responding with a little more ɡrās


And now to publish, wondering how many typos I will find after I push the button. 🙂

 

 

 

 

When Foreign Becomes Familiar

Weeks ago when I scheduled the appointment for today, I remember thinking it was an appropriate day to go have my port accessed.  It was appropriate as it was within the monthly time period needed to flush the port and also because it was my birthday.  It made sense to celebrate the day, in a brief way, with a reminder of how much had happened in the previous year and to remember to be thankful for life.

When I got to the the clinic I was greeted by a familiar face as I checked in and when asked to confirm my birthday I responded, “Fifty-three years ago today!” 🙂 After a short wait, I made my way back through the infusion clinic accompanied by another familiar face. I knew the drill. This should be (and was) a quick procedure.  The nurses were familiar. Their familiar smiles and greetings were welcome and glimpses of moments and memories ran through my mind.  While I did not know any of those who were receiving treatment, nor those who were there in support, it was familiar.

As I walked out, consciously smiling and seeking to make eye contact with as many as I could, I was aware that the scene had once been so foreign to me. A year ago, I knew it was coming, but I didn’t know what it would be like. I did not know what it would feel like, physically, mentally or emotionally.  What had been foreign was now familiar.


 

Having studied a second, and briefly a third language I have an awareness of learning to communicate using what were once unfamiliar sounds and words. The study of a foreign language began as an academic exercise. It was what was done to complete enrollment requirements. Through no fault of my instructor (although I would not have admitted that as a high school student)  the pursuit of achieving fluid communication skills in another language was not high on my list. I wanted good grades, as that motivated me, but I did not appreciate the value of the foreign becoming familiar…at that point.

In what would be a short time frame, after pausing my language studies, the appreciation grew. Appreciation for the foreign becoming familiar became a part of me. Having the opportunity to experience new places, new sounds, new tastes and new people opened my heart and mind to feelings that I hope never become so familiar that I do not seek them out. I hope I will always want to seek out the thoughts of others who are not a part of my routine, my familiar places.

 

I enjoy exploring new places. I enjoy discovering new bookstores, bakeries, small towns, parks, countries.  They are familiar to someone, but new to me. They are foreign in that I don’t know my way around. I don’t know the specialties and have yet to establish favorites. I don’t have likes or dislikes. I don’t know the routine, what is common or uncommon.  The patterns aren’t evident yet.

IMG_5751

A recent trip to England reminded me of some of  the reasons I like exploring. There is a sense of accomplishment when conquering the challenges of negotiating a previously unknown transportation system. There is an appreciation for new sights, sounds and smells.  I consciously seek out glimpses of a typical day, the everyday of those who inhabit the new territory.  I enjoy the many languages and gestures that accompany the sounds. The new environment is a reminder that life is going on all over the place.

IMG_5719 (1)

People are people. That statement is not meant to be profound. It is simply a reminder to me that in every foreign and familiar location, people are people. Mothers are seeking to care for their children…aromas entice appetites…children are curious…those who are in love walk closely together…puppies bring laughter…emotions are expressed…and so on.

PICT0018

In exploring the foreign, I like the moments that become familiar. I like the feeling of finding the spots that become personal to my experience; the streets that become familiar as they are walked repetitively.  I like finding bookstores, bakeries, towns, parks and countries that become a part of my story and are now somewhat familiar.  I love feeling like I’ve made strides in communicating in a meaningful and clear manner with those who are living in their familiar places.

munich

I’m fortunate to have many places that have become familiar.  I also have sought out to make more foreign places (and people) become familiar.  They aren’t all geographically far away, but some are. There is a gap that becomes smaller and less formidable. Sometimes the gap is tightened by means of a smile, a common cause, a shared experience, laughter or tears, a meal…there are many possible scenarios. The experiences in the foreign, the unfamiliar, are human experiences.

PICT0005

Please, please NOTE that foreign is not limited to other lands!


 

As these many thoughts are coursing through my heart and mind since mid morning, I am taken to events that occurred on foreign soil today. This time I am referring to a land far from here. As I think of the tragic events impacting Belgium at this moment, my heart thinks on many horrific events that have occurred in our world lately. Tragic events have taken place in so many communities where people are people. My heart is sad and burdened. My heart is thinking of those who lost people they love and those who are seeking answers and shelter.  I am grieved.  I’m grieved for the loss of life and for the changes that will take place in the lives of the many who lived near the impacted regions. It seems these tragedies are becoming all too familiar. That grieves me.  In the grief, I am thinking of how I don’t want fear to become what is familiar.  I do not want hatred to become familiar. I do not want to politicize the lives that were lost and the lives that continue in this devastation.  I want love, compassion, grace, along with shared grief to be familiar. I want these things to be familiar in our response to something that I wish was foreign to our thought and experience.

There are times I am thankful for the foreign that becomes familiar. Familiar can be comfortable and can bring a sense of achievement. However, in this hurting world, it is my hope that hatred and fear would be seen as the unusual, the foreign, and  love mixed with grace would become familiar.