Sunday, November 30, 2014

Thanksgiving and ThanksTaking

It is always a bit of both.  Give a little, take a little.  Leave a little. 

So we cooked.  People came. People ate. Food mounded on the table.  Our tiny turkey of only 21 pounds went on to feed the world. It took three days to do the dishes but what the heck.  Better to spend time together with Friends and Family then to have a clean house.   

For some reason I find I am doing lots of breath holding. But tests are coming and I am always afraid of what they will find.  I just keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. The one that will stick to the floor and not return. I know it is nuts to trust the Universe and also Nuts to not trust the Universe. Childhood Cancer is such a monster. A hideous multi-headed Medusa. Enough. So many kids did not make it to this Thanksgiving and more will be missing next year.  Losses just make it more important to keep going and gathering those we love close and closer. 

 Looking forward and not backward. Pretending there is a long future but know it is not the case for everyone.  So as the knives slip into their designated places, I plan for Christmas Eve.  Crab Bisque, Beecher Cheese and Tomato Soup.  Come one, Come all. Come for the adoration of the Soup Tureen. (We even found the soup bowls)  

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Life Changing Moments

I spent some time in the Central Valley.  A place we all know of, but few visit.  It is where our food comes from. Lots of our food.  Every square inch of the valley is producing lots and lots of food.  Who knew grapes were left on the vine to dry and become raisins?  They cut the canes and let them sit for a while and shrivel.  Love seeing "3 avocados for $1.25".  Oranges on the trees, yards with fruit trees, all orange and yummy this time of year.  Need some lemons, walk around the block and help a tree be unburdened a bit.

The Valley is flat and stretches for miles.  It is dusty and windy but a bit of rain fell.  When the wind shifts there is the odor of cows being raised too close together.  It is a lot like much of rural/agricultural America.  Lots of little towns, some, like Visalia have a real down town.  Walmart is there but kept on the edges.  It is California in some ways: In-n-Out Burger, Orange Trees, crazy drivers.  It is also sort of Southern Idaho: Big Pick-ups, large fields needing to be harvested, great Mexican Restaurants, the babble of Spanish.  

Look west and the Coastal Range is in view. Then, 50 miles East, the beginning of the Sierra Mountains.  They spring up from the Valley floor.  A bit of foothill action but when you start to climb, you climb fast.  Up, Up, 1000 feet, 2000, 3000, 5ooo.....Weird trees cover the sides of  the mountains. Some deciduous trees, mostly big pines and scrub of some sort. 

 Then there are the rocks, big rocks.  The kind that could down a Seattle ferry if it dropped on it.  Big.  Did I mention big.  Huge, massive

 rocks..... get my drift.  So You climb, you drive along and then you enter the valley through a very long, dug by hand tunnel.  This is what you see
It is simply magical. I don't know what to even say.  I have seen the pictures.  I simply was not prepared.  I got out of the car and I just sat there with a dropped jaw.  I was sort of like the first time I saw the Grand Canyon, the Leaning Tower, Devil's Tower, the Pacific Ocean, a whale, a hummingbird in the snow.  

We all talk about God and Creation and the Big Bang and the Universe. We are amazed how fast an e-mail can travel or simply the wonder of electricity.  But this. This place is a reminder that good and beautiful things take a long time.  They can not be rushed or pushed or even nudged along. 
This special place was made with the gift of time. First the mountains pushed way way up, the water brought them down and a valley was born.  The world turned cold, the glaciers filled the valley and then moved the rocks with them.  Left them as the glacier moved and worked and pushed into the central valley.    
I have no words, just a reminder that important things take time. A lesson I need to learn as we approach year three of the transplant. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Digging Deep and Moving On

Trying to move on is sometimes problematic.  Something we learn very early on that no matter what, the world does not stop.  It keeps moving forward and we keep spinning. It is hard sometimes to step back onto the fast track if you have been hanging out in another dimension.  You know when you are part of the world but not really.  A bit out of step.  A time of exploration and eventual re-entry.  I am working hard on the re-entry part right now. 

No matter what, there is to be daily activity moving life forward. Another class, a long walk, a trip to the grocery store, a book to read, a bit of laundry. Job Applications,  The usual.  

All of Seattle has been in a deep freeze.  I am not sure how cold, I can only observe what the hummingbirds signal.  Each night the feeder freezes.  Each morning I put the warm feeder out at a bout 7 a.m.  I am greeted with a bitty bitty bird scolding me for not waking up earlier.  I try to explain to him that I am shocked he is already up.  I know when he tucks himself into a snuggly part of the pine tree, he goes into a kind of hibernation.  I suggested to him this morning, he might wait a few more minutes.  I have found that earlier delivery of the feeder causes freezing in the bitter cold. 

I guess he and I have a lot in common.  We don't like to wait.

Oh well.  Waiting is highly over-rated.  My daughter complains all the time that I should be patient.  I don't see why that is a virtue.  Okay, maybe it is but there is a huge difference between waiting and being passive.  I am just a little more Pro-active in my dotage. 

I will keep moving forward.  Trusting in the motion and the actions of what needs to be done.  I submit to the demands of those that hound me for sustenance
 and rejoice in the fact I can actually deliver a bit each day. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

So.... Now What?

I have never worked at being Debbie Downer.  I strive to make bad things good, find some sort of lining, even if it is not silver.  I take each moment and forward endless good energy into the universe.  I really try.  

But there are times and days it is so so hard.  Childhood Cancer death just seeps through the cracks.  Like the nano size dust during the Dust Bowl Days. 

No matter what we do, it is coming and there is often no stopping it. That is how cancer feels to families.  It just keeps coming.  Between deaths of children, young, and in their teens. Relapses and complications and fevers and endless endless diagnosis, it sometimes feels so frustrating.  

The Santa's are out for photo opportunities.  Families are planning Thanksgiving and Christmas events and New Year get aways.  In the shadows are those that are mourning the loss of it all.  Many for their child. Many for the loss of wonder and simple joy of childhood.  I know kids that have been sick as long as they remember.  It is all they remember.  It just makes me so so upset.

  I am tempted sometimes to just slam that door and try and forget that even though we are in a good spot for now.  We have no long term warranty.  Not that anyone does, we are just so much more aware of the lack of safety net.  

So tonight I go to the home of a great friend and we work out a way to make the Wishing Rock Project a real viable thing.  We keep delivering small bags of necessary items to those devastated by childhood cancer.  It think it comes under "it's the thought".  So many things impossible to solve. Sometimes it is enough to try and take care of just a tiny bit at a time. 

Below is a link to Jai Anderson's blog.  They are in the fight of their child's life.  ALL is awful.  AML is the worst.  

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Leaf Shuffling

I can't help but shuffle through the leaves when they are on the ground in the fall.  I have watched certifiable grown-ups deliberately take their feet and move them on the ground.... shshhhh, shshhhush the sound flies
 into the air.  A simple sound. A sound of fall. A sound that requires only a bit of extra energy and a few leaves.  Not much. 

Ballard, our neighborhood is not very shuffler friendly.  Trees with leaves are not usually welcome.  I have been told by many a person that if you have trees, the leaves fall. They must be raked, they must composted, they must be contained. 

But there is something about those moments when containment seems wrong.  I saw a mom show her toddler how to shuffle.  They went back and forth and back and forth.  I am not good at containing my leaves in a timely fashion.  Sometimes it is just a good thing to let them sit there, dry a bit, become crisp and noisy.  

Something about shuffling leaves and raking leaves and, in my day, burning leave... something organic and invigorating. Taking something simple, something to be discarded and making it a good thing.  

The leaves come, the leaves drop, the leaves are ferreted away.  What is reassuring is the tree, the searching roots, the reaching branches and the promise there will be new leaves in the spring. 

Right now things are going quiet.  We are going to head into real cold and darkness.  It is a time to recharge. To use the quiet to reflect on what has happened and to be introspective.  Quiet moments, quiet times.  

It is important to trust this time as a good time.  I am working on doing just that.... 

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Wishing Rock Project

So, How do I explain Wishing Rock to the group at Gonzaga that is going to put together a fabulous web site for us?

This project was born out of knowledge and experiences from ten years in what I call Cancer World.   I was not the primary ticket holder but the companion fare.  My daughter was diagnosed twice with Leukemia before her 20th birthday. As the Mom, I scrambled to manage all the the cancer stuff and regular life.  Sometimes it was easier than other times.

Because it is all about survival and we are survivors at heart and pretty good campers, we figured out some pretty important things.  Some from the first stint and lots from the second trip down the rabbit hole.  One thing we always had was our "hospital bags".  They contained our survival kits.  Certain cloths, a bag of toothpaste, good hair stuff, the usual.  But we also soon had a special small part of the bag devoted to Magic and Prayers. Sort of a charm pouch.

Special pictures, a bendy skeleton from a special roommate, a hospital approved candle, a Zuni fetish. A magic blanket, the right pillow.  Things to focus good energy.  I of course had a very good china cup that traveled with me.  I could not drink endless morning coffee in paper.  It was something we perfected over the many many moons of treatment and hospitalizations.  So we survived and we escaped but one if never truly free of Cancer World.  It live around the edges of our lives. 

So about a year ago I heard about three families with new diagnosis on Christmas Eve.  Hello, Merry Christmas, Your life is now changed forever.....  

It pulled at my heart in a way I had never experienced. I was compelled to do something for the families.  So I put together a bag.  

It has changed over the year but it has some things that are helpful and some that are "just because".  So the bags contain the following

A bag... a nice bag for hauling stuff, laundry, food, stuff.  Reusable.
A china mug for good coffee drinking
A Starbucks card because they have one at the hospital
A couple of tea bags because the nurses have instant hot water.
A magazine because no one can read anything more comprehensive
A small wind chimes.  We found they make the multiple pumps that beep all the time, much happier.
A nice bead from the Mom's.  There is a Beads of Courage program for the kids but the moms often need them too.
A Wishing Rock. (Wishing rocks represent a sudden and complete interruption in a life  But show that after the interruption, life can continue.  A blip of sorts. 
Mint gum.
Thank-you notes with stamps.
Some Mint Water if we can find it.

A little bag of magic.

I also include a letter with some practical advice like, Get someone to take out your garbage, do your laundry. Sweep up your front stoop.... I put the list in because people in crisis don't know what they need and at the beginning of the process everyone wants to help.  I have found that giving people meaningful jobs helps keep them around.   People want to help. They don't want to intrude but they have open giving hearts and need some positive direction. Someone who has had a child in Cancer World really understands.  It also has to be okay for people to ask for help.  That is so so hard.  We are generally good at giving but not very good at accepting or asking.  

so... We have a Facebook Page.  Wishing Rock Project.  We have some great initial contributors.  We have figured out the "how to get the stuff to the right people"  problem solved. 

Hey Gonzaga Class, thanks for helping us set up a web site.  I have the domain name in the bag.  We are a legitimate Washington State Non-Profit Corporation.  We have not yet filed for the Feds yet.  They want 400 dollars and a year or two of time to see if we are real. At some point we will make that leap.  Right now we are just chugging along. One bag of magic at a time. 

 Clearly it is needed.