an entire world changed in a day

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September 8, 2008 undoubtedly changed our lives & accordingly our world.  Cancer has a way of doing that, of worming into the holes & filling the cracks with uncertainty, doubt, fear, & sadness.  But since that time, we have seen miraculous things — physical healing, emotional healing, spiritual connection.  We have hope because each year that passes means an additional step towards freedom from chemo, continued remission, & further gain on the path to a cure.

Last night friends gathered with us for Ericpalooza 3.0.  Ericpalooza is essentially Eric’s survival party, as we call it.  While we don’t know the exact date that he went into remission, it is fitting to mark the occasion of survival since his date of diagnosis which is why September 8th is the anniversary date for celebration.  September 4, 2009 marked the maiden voyage of Ericpalooza.  Our house was full to bursting with friends who came to gather, eat, & gab all night while reminiscing on the last year & giving thanks for Eric’s survival.  We repeated the tradition in September 5, 2010 & again last night.

While gathered with friends outside in the coolness of our backyard, under the stars, our conversation skipped from lighthearted to mundane to very personal topics.  We eventually settled in a discussion about the upcoming anniversary today for 9/11 & recalled where we’d been, how we heard the news, our reactions, our thoughts, & our feelings.  It reminded me that there will always be markers in our lives when significant events occur that change the course of our lives in some way forever.

Leukemia may have wedged itself into the lives of Eric, myself, & our families.  But 9/11 wedged itself into the lives of those in the World Trade Center Twin Towers of New York City, those on American Airlines Flight 11 & United Airlines Flight 175 which crashed into Towers 1 & 2 of the World Trade Center, those on United Airlines Flight 93 with a final resting place in Pennsylvania, those in the Pentagon, & those on American Airlines Flight 77 which crashed into the Pentagon.  Then it wedged itself into the lives of friends & family to those involved, to the First Responders on the scenes, to those inhabiting the areas near the crash sites, & into the lives of the Americans.  I do not believe it would be presumptuous to state that it wedged itself into the lives of those around the world solely in changing how flights & airports now manage travel for everyone.  I would guess that it goes beyond that, even, but that would be sole speculation.

Thursday, September 8, 2011 was for reflecting on how our personal world changed in a moment with the utterance of one word.  And today I reflect on the events of 9/11 that changed an entire world in day.  Perhaps this sort of remembrance will remind us to hug our loved ones tighter, laugh a bit longer, & reflect on the mercies & grace that abound in the day.

love on the interwebs, love the one you’re with

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Today when I logged in to read some of my favorite foodie blogs, I noted a trend.  There were multiple references to Bloggers Without Borders – A Fund for Jennie all across the foodie community.  Some of my favorite foodie bloggers gathered together virtually to place items for auction in order to raise money to help raise money for a fellow foodie blogger who recently lost her husband unexpectedly & is now faced with raising their two girls on her own.

The outpouring of love & provision for this grieving family is rather astounding.  The community that was created throughout blog posts, conferences, & eventual real-life meetings in some cases came together to show love & support for this family.  It’s beautiful.

It reminds me that community is really what you make of it, how you interact with it, how you provide for it, & how you accept it.  I have communities that began in childhood, high school, college, church, relocation to a new city, & virtually.  They’ve all had a different flavor & vibe.   They’ve all been better or different from the others in a variety of ways.  But this was touching to me.  This woman is going through a life-changing, life-altering experience without much forethought or planning for such an event happening in the way that it did.  We could all experience that unexpectedly with the loss of a loved one in a moment.

I’ve seen it before in the blogging community where people gathered virtually from all the corners of the Earth to provide love, support, & financial care for one of their own when illness, death, or other unpalatable things struck.  And it reminded me that our family, too, has experienced it.

Almost three years ago to the day, we got the phone call uttering the dreaded L-Word:  Leukemia.  Eric called me at work to tell me the doctor would be calling me as he’d just hung up the phone with her; that he wanted to speak with me first; that I needed to listen to her & her instructions.  The next few moments that phone rang & I recall a few things the doctor mentioned about Leukemia, immediate treatment, & “run don’t walk” to get Eric over to the hospital for immediate admittance for three weeks of intensive chemo treatment.

Our community of family & friends spring to action.  My boss made immediate arrangements for me to leave the office for a few days until we figured out which way was up; My coworkers assured me that they would flawlessly step into my steed to take over any of my pending projects & for me to go be with my husband; My parents made immediate arrangements to drive down that day; Eric’s parents made immediate arrangements to fly down the next day; Our church community group offered phone calls, hugs, visits, meals, lawn care, & support; My oldest & dearest friend drove down a week later (after some of the dust cleared) with her 4-month old son, just to stay with me.

And amongst all of this, the online community where Eric & I had posted for years prior to ever dating, ever being engaged & married, offered prayers, words of encouragement, & organized sending a stack of cards all handwritten from these people that we sometimes knew only for their online avatar & propensity for using certain terms when typing.  All from people we knew virtually for the most part, some of which we did know in real life from friendships in person or from meeting them once or twice in person.

Community is sometimes where we make it, sometimes where we find it, & usually where we left it. Those interwebs sometimes will surprise you in a wonderful way.  So, hug your loved one(s) a little tighter today & love your real life & virtual communities for the support they offer.

accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative

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just six words, but sometimes they seem easier to do than others, no?

we’ve had a wild ride with twists & turns since we married in october 2007. 11 months into our marriage, we were still trying to get our house situated, much less decorated. we thought we had all the time in the world to settle in.  but then cancer entered our lives & so painting, hanging pictures, & general organization took a back seat to other more important endeavors like getting through three weeks of intensive chemo treatment in the hospital; six-plus weeks of in & out treatments for lumbar punctures (yes, spinal taps) & other unpleasant treatments, & two years of daily oral chemo treatments plus monthly chemo injections. then there were the fun times like eric’s monthly five-day treatments of steroids which turned my normally sweet husband into the incredible hulk who wanted to eat everything in sight, couldn’t sleep, & who beat me in the category for fastest mood swings.

but you know what?  we made it.  we made it!  we have much to celebrate regarding my valiant husbeau’s  last stand with vinchristine, the end of prednisone, & the final (we hope forever) bone marrow biopsy.

these past few months i’ve spent a lot of time buried in feeling sorry for myself, feeling as if the world has passed me by in lots of ways while i flailed about hoping for some steady good.  really, that steady good was there when i view eric’s diagnosis (so, so early that it was amazingly treatable), stroll through chemo (i say stroll because he fought well throughout it & was greatly blessed to be a case-study in weathering the horrors of chemo well), & almost three year victory over the diagnosis.  when i consider coming out on the other side, it is actually quite amazing.

these last couple of weeks i’ve been hit particularly hard with fears of the unknown & feeling a true lack of direction because there was nothing steady to grasp.  our life exists with questioning surrounding it.  sometimes i feel like i’m the tightrope act or the trapeze artist of the circus, holding my breath that i don’t have to touch the net which means i’ve missed the jump or the timing.  but what i’ve had to realize is that there is positive that i could see were i to decide to get over my ostrich act of burying my head in the sand.

i have my husband, we have some assurance for now that remission remains.  we have reassurance that he has a grant to pay him to finish his dissertation, to allow health insurance coverage, & to give him the tools he needs to learn even more on research & writing, as well as give him time to finish publications that can boost his curriculum vitae for the upcoming job searches.

as a planner, i’ve had to learn for almost three years to muddle through without knowing some hard facts.  it’s been a nerve-wracking experience & one that often makes me feel inadequate because i can’t understand our family’s direction, whether some options will be viable for us at all, & i’ve frankly watched others that are ten years younger than me somehow attain this life i thought i wanted.  i’ve had to suck it up because the fact is that we are on this detour whether we wanted it or not.  really, the best way out of the detour is to continue through it & navigate from the detour rather than from where you originally began.

yeah, i hear you.  DUH.  it’s really impossible to do the latter, but i’m hard-headed so somehow i continue to try to navigate from it.  mainly because it’s a constant i knew rather than acknowledging the constant in front of me.

nobody said i was particularly smart.  but i suppose you can teach an old dog new tricks sometimes.  now if you’ll excuse me, i need a treat.

that’s me … ridiculous

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one of the many things that eric finds tolerable amusing about me is this:  i’m (usually) not afraid to be ridiculous.  although, he is somewhat saddened by my lack of scatalogical references to be ridiculous.  nevertheless, he knows that i’m not afraid to exaggerate at times to make my point known.

take this past saturday, for instance.  my parents were in town visiting for the weekend.  earlier in the weekend we’d had gorgeous 70 & 80 degree days.  the sun was warm, the airs were breezy, & the pollen was somewhat under wraps.  cue thursday & then friday when the world decided that we needed to audition to be the postal service in order to deliver through snow & sleet & rain.  in light of the impending weather, i tried to come up with amusing activities to actively engage everybody’s interests.  the result was that we would (& did) do the following things (y’all know i like a plan):

friday evening entailed an early dinner at bonefish grill in order to indulge eric’s glory-hallelujah-celebration of a small break in his vegan-no-oil-no-wine-but-on-weekends lenten fast.  this past friday was the feast of the annunciation which meant celebration through the consumption of fish & oil.  & there was much rejoicing in our household.  (sidenote – eric has partaken of the orthodox lenten fast for the last two years in an effort at understanding more about discipline in his life.  while i do not partake with him, i support his choice to do so.)  i came home friday from work to the smell of cornmeal-encrusted tilapia smell since he’d had a mini-celebration (you know, the pre-party) earlier in the day.  my parents, eric, & i tooled over to bonefish grill in order to enjoy some fishy delights (for the ‘rents & eric) + beef & ginger potstickers for the non-fish-lover (moi).  while my ridiculousness was on the downlow at dinner, my father’s was on the up & up given his cranky old man routine of telling us before, during, & after about his lack of love for the bonefish grill.  apparently i was the ridiculous one when we went to a self-serve frozen yogurt bar when i was trying all the frozen delights while simultaneously complaining about how the teeny-tiny taster cups didn’t work properly with the machines at all.

saturday morning found us trooping out into the cold & drizzle in order to check out a picnic shelter at a state park.  why, you might ask?  because we will eventually be celebrating the doctoral graduation of a certain household member who likes nature, the outdoors, & ecosystems.  if you guessed me, you were right wrong!  said picnic shelter got the stamp of approval from that certain someone.  but during our trip there, we had to scope out the lay of the land to ensure that the ecosystems, rivers, blades of grass, & animal life would be approved by this certain household member as appropriate for the celebration of their achievement.

investigating these particular items included a few of the following things:

  • me & my parents sticking to tried & true paths down the side of the hill to the river; said household member diving straight down the hillside to traverse rocky terrain by the waterside.
  • meeting up at the footbridge to cross the grand canyon river.  all three of my traitorous family members had traversed the rickety bridge.  i was making my way across while deftly ignoring the convulsing bridge until my husband of 3 years, 5 months, 10 days decided to “meet” me halfway.  this set off a minor freak-out as my life passed before my eyes & i muttered screamed obscenities.
  • walking a bit down a rocky path full of twisted pitfalls tree roots to a wilderness cabin.  while my mom & i verified that the cabin was indeed a wilderness cabin, my husband’s partner-in-crime father & eric investigated the dental habits of beavers.  i have no idea.  i do know that my mother & i were freezing & no longer enamored with anything wilderness-related.  we were ready to retreat.  after a bit, they joined us to return to the car.
  • the return trip on the treacherous footbridge involved a lot of hyperventilating deep breaths on my part.  my sweet husband did hold my hand to lead me across.  i think because he was mostly afraid i would rather stay on the wrong side than cross that chasm of emptiness river on the rickety bridge.  we got about 3/4 of the way across the bridge before three buffoons unobservent college-age brat-kids with ginormous packs stepped up to the bridge which barely allows two people to walk side-by-side, let alone with packs of death camping pack provisions strapped on.  i had to stop, hold onto the cold coiled wire & sing you are my sunshine to myself in order to let them pass.
  • after the return trip on the footbridge, we arrived at the bottom of the path leading back up mt. everest the bank toward the escape vehicle car.  my father & husband quickly took off, scaling the mountain like pros.  my mother (bless her super-aerobic self) ran up the hillside like a woman half her age.  which would be me.  i, on the other hand, was the geriatric among us.  i wheezed, huffed, & puffed up the mountain hillside.  i stopped at the halfway point to check for a bloody nose rest.  i scowled at the happy-go-lucky hikers bounding down the hill with their hyena laughs chortles of glee.  i then realized that i was about to pass out (thanks, anemia!) which meant that i dizzily sat down for a moment several minutes, causing my sweet mother to ask if i was okay from her perch on high.  i continued with my deathwalk hike & had to step aside for a group of approximately fifteen high school brats kids out for a sunday jaunt.  after they passed, i sank to the ground to die lie down in the bed of wet & dirty soft leaves & insects.  my mother, bless her soul, became really concerned when she realized i was lying on the mountainside hillside with my legs propped up on a park sign.  she came back to stay by her wheezing child’s deathbed momentary resting place & to give encouragement to return to the car.  my husband & his partner-in-crime (the aforementioned cranky old man)?  they were jaunting about in the parking lot & restroom wondering where the heck we were.  thankfully i survived lived.

our next stop was a hole-in-the-wall place called tokyo express for some hibachi chicken & veggies.  we were only slightly suspicious of the location near a pet shop.

our rejuvenating meal was followed by a trip out to a historical plantation to see one of the largest plantations in our state.  it was interesting, no doubt.  but really, there’s nothing ridiculous to say about a plantation & so in that endeavor i am safe.

instead, i spend my evening making lasagna for dinner & reminding my family of my near-death experiences on the deathtrap footbridge across the grand canyon & the quick climb of mt. everest.

’twas a good day.

it’s true, y’all … i’d have far better hair & clothes if i were the center of the universe

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There has obviously been some radio silence on this blog.  Occasionally I’ve drafted a post only to come to the conclusion that i simply cannot post it because I will offend someone, somewhere, with something.  So then I consider why I actually post to a blog.  Is it to remember myself years from now?  To be witty for others?  To share in a roundabout way my joys, triumphs, & low points?

There are some blogs that I frequent because I love the raw and witty take on everyday life.  Somehow there’s the reminder that they are like me, that they go to work and have families and have good days, bad days, and everything in between.  There are some blogs that i frequent because I learn from them in the realm of crafting, sewing, cooking, or generalities of life.

And then there are the blogs where it’s obvious that the author wants someone, somewhere to get the message they are conveying “anonymously” about them.  I may read the post and think to myself that they need to get off their high horse and perhaps consider a less passive-aggressive way to tell their spouse / family member / great-aunt-that-smells of how said person should mend or change a certain habit.  I sometimes chuckle to myself on their gauchness.  I might also sniff a bit, hold my head higher, and think, “Oh, I’d never do something passive-aggressive like that.  I have manners!”

And then I look at my drafted-yet-unpublished posts and think to myself how wrong I may be.  There are some languishing posts where I am wanting someone, somewhere to see how the actions they take, knowingly or unknowingly, are affecting me.  And then I consider how hypocritical I am in doing so because I’m then doing the exact.same.thing. for which I am complaining.

“But, but, but,”  I may stutter to myself, but then realize it’s not helpful to write a post about feeling lonely, cut off from friends, jealous, envious, or resentful.  Those things are my actions, reactions, and my choices.  My family’s and friends’ actions are their choices but I choose how to react.  Some days I take that high road but other days I take that low road and somehow assume that every single one of those choices was somehow done in a way to affect me.  Right, because I am the center of the universe.  Hello, I’d have far better hair and clothes if I were in fact the center of the universe.  Sadly, my split ends and fraying jeans will show you otherwise, as will the dust bunnies living in my kitchen under the bookshelf and the faint soap ring in our master bath.

2010 was a year of learning hard lessons on patience and waiting.   We all know how well I’ve always done with patience.  Waiting and holding patterns I can somehow endure, but patience?  That’s the dreaded p-word for which I never pray.  Because believe you me, God is more than happy to grant the p-word to teach us when we pray.  And frankly, I’m not always in the mood to accept patience since it typically involves a long and drawn-out affair where I learn patience.  Sure, it’s rainbows and puppies at the end, but in the between part it’s briars, brambles, and poison ivy coming out the yin-yang.

Here’s to hoping that 2011, a year of many changes yet to come, will be the year that I learn and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am not the center of the universe and accept it with grace while simultaneously taking respite in that.

dear twenty-something me :: it happens & you’ll have to figure out how to deal with it

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dear twenty-something me:

while you have not birthed a child or even been pregnant, you are becoming more sensitized to the triumphs and hazards of pregnancy.

many friends are in the early stages of preparation and planning to begin their families.  they are fluffing and preening their nests in preparation for some small creature that will one day inhabit their home.  they are the nesters.

some friends are in the early stages of attempts to conceive.  they refer to most of their plotting activities in acronyms and track their ovulation cycles with glee while summoning their husbands to perform his manly duty in contributing to conception.  they are the plotters.

several friends are experiencing their first, second, or third pregnancy, all with varying degrees of comfort and discomfort.  they actively run the gamut of emotions from wonder to joy to impatience to mild hysteria, sometimes in the same day.  they are the incubators.

and a handful of friends have experienced the loss and bewilderment that can come from a child’s illness, a miscarriage, or a stillbirth.  they agonize over the things they could have done differently in their pregnancies or the ways they can or could best care for their ailing child.  they are the mourners.

it is this last group which bewilders most because it can sometimes feel that there is no idea for how to properly comfort, what to say, or how to act.  with the nesters, plotters, and incubators, it is a given that they are overjoyed to discuss or vent about their present situation.  a mourner is often still processing the events and painfully mourning the loss of a promise or glimpse of life.  however, these mourners also give the opportunity to gain a fuller picture of pregnancy, childbirth, and the cycle of life.

it won’t be easy but it will be common.  there is a statistical average (in today’s terms; i have no idea of when you are a twenty-something) of about 10-25% of pregnancies ending in miscarriage.  that’s 1 in 10 to 1 in 4 pregnancies ending in a devastating (or unfortunately welcome in some cases) loss of pregnancy.  there is a high chance that if & when you get the opportunity to attempt conception that you, too, will experience this loss.

& really, there’s no etiquette book that can provide the context for the right & wrong way to deal with this for your friend.  or even an acquaintance.  it’s a painful & real reminder that many women experience on a regular basis when they are unable to conceive or carry a pregnancy or when they lose a child to unexplained illness, no matter the cause.  the causes can run the gamut from a hormonal disorder to them / their partner undergoing chemo to aging to an unstable uterine wall to an ingested medication to a strange virus mom /  the baby in utero to unexplained infertility.  the number of women affected by these & other factors is staggering & she may have to dig deep to learn to be happy for a friend going through a(nother) healthy pregnancy or seeing a women with a cherubic toddler on her arm or hear a young, starry-eyed couple naively plan for their 2.4 kids that they assume will arrive with no trouble & with perfect faces & personalities.

seek the counsel of those that are older & wiser in how to best navigate this territory in loving & supporting those who experience these painful experiences (sometimes multiple times).  it happens & you’ll have to figure out how to deal with it.   while you’re at it, send me a memo.

* this letter is an installment series for my blog mostly to remind myself, but also as an exercise in returning to writing.  it was inspired by cassie boorn’s 20-something self letters, many of which are amusing, sad, witty, & amazing.  indulge yourself in reading & remembering along with those authors.  join in if you are so inclined.

you can read more of my “dear twenty-something me” entries here.

oh adulthood, how you foil me

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i’m old, y’all.  i see it when i look at pictures of myself from ten years ago, when i realize what year i graduated high school, when i meet someone who is born in the 1990s.  i was hangin’ tough, jammin’ to some new kids on the block when some people i meet now were born.  that is old, y’all, from the O to the L to the big ol’ D.

some of my dear twenty-something me entries have been amusing to write, for the sole reason that they allow me to reminisce on the younger me.  the one who was (more) awkward, (more) silly, & (more) influenced.  they also remind me of the situations i’ve navigated, the people i’ve met, the lessons i’ve learned, & the laughs i’ve accumulated over the years.

those are all well & good.  they are the reference point to which i return when i begin to feel sorry for myself in life not quite being what i thought it would be as an adult.  somehow i pictured adulthood as having it all together, living a comfortable lifestyle with a manageable household with your spouse, raising 2.6 kids & a pet together, while maintaining a semblance of order.  adulthood seemed to come with this automatic set of built-in friendships where your friends are never too busy or too distracted to care.  adulthood seemed to imply this order to the chaos, where it is an effortless dance in going throughout your day.

but really, i’m realizing that my adulthood will never be that because that’s a lifestyle that makes no sense when i carry it out to the end of the line.  children & pets will never be controlled, dirty dishes will always be generated in making a meal, friendships will simply require more effort to maintain as we age & as our priorities change.  gray hairs will sprout forth, lines will appear on our faces, & sometimes our spouses will love us fiercely & other times they may think we should consider mental evaluation over our strange quirks.

adulthood means navigating this & staying true to ourselves.  now to work on that one.