I Wait

As I write this I’m waiting to hear from New Mexico that my father has passed away. He stopped swallowing the other day and was struggling to breathe yesterday. This is the natural progression of advanced dementia and it feels merciless to me.

I am sad. My mom is sad. My sisters are sad. We’re all sad. But at the same time, relief is just a last breath away. We’ve watched him suffer and mourned his loss for the last several years and, while we will always mourn for him, our desire is for him to be Earl again. For his mind to be whole, for his voice to be clear, for his legs to be strong. For him to know nothing but pure delight in the presence of his Jesus. This thought changes sad tears to overwhelming tears of joy.

I will not be there when he takes his final breath and I’m okay with that. Or maybe I’m just convincing myself that I’m okay with that. But my family is nothing if not pragmatic – maybe even to a fault. In my heart I’ve already said goodbye. And I don’t believe my presence will make any difference to him. Don’t get me wrong. If I was closer I would be there with my mom and sister, but logistically, it’s not realistic to think I can be there in time.

So I wait. I wait to make my flight arrangements. I wait to figure out when to make flight arrangements for Todd and Taylor. Katie is in the final weeks of her junior year of college and she cannot afford to miss school. So I wait to see when the service will be and if it will be possible for her to join us.

And when the waiting is over I will rejoice. I will rejoice in being with my family, no matter the situation. I will rejoice that my precious daddy is no longer suffering. And I will especially rejoice because I am confident in his final destination.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!

Philippians 4:4

Papa Collage

Daddy’s Hands

Daddy's Hand

*This is a photo of my father’s hand taken on Sunday, November 9, 2014.

Daddy’s hands were soft and kind when I was cryin´.
Daddy´s hands, were hard as steel when I´d done wrong.
Daddy´s hands, weren´t always gentle
But I´ve come to understand.
There was always love in Daddy´s hands.

This is the song I danced  to with my father over 26 years ago at my wedding. Dad was quite the dancer and we two stepped our little hearts out. Or rather he two stepped while I tried to keep up. I’m pretty sure I bruised a couple of his toes when I stomped as he stepped.

My dad has always had nice hands. It doesn’t take much for me to go back in time and see his clean, neat nails as his fingers wrapped around a pen. Or maybe he’s sitting in his chair next to the stereo, listening to Mozart with his eyes closed while his hand conducts an invisible orchestra, a serene look of pleasure on his face. Sometimes I can picture his finger pointing at me when I was in trouble or when I “got him good”. I remember watching him scrub the grease off his hands with Lava pumas soap after he’d changed the oil or some other dirty work. What used to be strong hands that performed all kinds of tasks are now frail and worn. At 87 years old, they just don’t operate the way they used to. Kind of like his mind.

I hate dementia. It’s a horrible, insidious disease that slowly kidnaps a person without any warning. What at first seems like normal, age related forgetfulness morphs into the heart wrenching realization that the brain is broken. And it’s not something that will ever be better. It’s not a disease with a cure, nor is it a quick death. Instead it’s a gradual and tedious decline into a mental oblivion while the rest of us helplessly watch.

People think it’s a good day when a dementia patient knows their family, but I’ve decided lucid days aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. When my father knows what’s going on he is sad. He gets frustrated because we can’t understand what he’s trying to tell us. He’s sad because he can’t come home with us. He’s sad because he’s 100% dependent on everyone else to feed him, to put him to bed, to do everything. He’s sad because in those lucid moments, he knows he’s broken beyond repair.

And that makes me so very, very sad. What I wouldn’t give to have my daddy be whole and himself again. But that won’t happen so I pray every day that God would just take him home. Home where he will be whole and perfect and even smarter than he was back in the day. Then he can conduct the angels’ choir to his heart’s content for all eternity. Then there will be no sadness or frustration. Then there will be nothing but joy.

My dad is in a nursing home in New Mexico so I don’t have the opportunity to see him very often. Last night I returned from my yearly trip where I had the chance to spend some time with him and hold his hand. I like to think that small gesture meant a little to him and gave some comfort. It was just my way of returning the favor for all those times Daddy’s hands gave me comfort.

Daddy’s hands were soft and kind when I was cryin´.
Daddy´s hands, were hard as steel when I´d done wrong.
Daddy´s hands, weren´t always gentle
But I´ve come to understand.
There was always love in Daddy´s hands.

Pleading for Resolution

I’m feeling very somber this morning. Not just somber, but my heart feels rather heavy. My very dear friend, Gretchen, and her husband have been working towards adopting two of the cutest little girls from Ghana. When I say they’ve been “working”, what I mean is they legally adopted them nearly two years ago. OUR government – the United States of America – is the reason why these precious sisters haven’t come home to THEIR family. And yet America opens the borders to illegal immigrants like it’s nobody’s business. How is that right? How is it right that a person can come into this country without any type of documentation and be welcomed with open arms and entitled to all the benefits, but these children, who have been legally adopted by two United States citizens, are not allowed to COME HOME!?

The newest fear in this story is Ebola. Ghana is not terribly far from the outbreak in Africa and is listed as an area at risk for Ebola emergence. This is obviously cause for concern on two fronts. One – nobody wants their child near an Ebola outbreak – especially in a third world country. Two – if there is an outbreak in Ghana all flights out of the country will be suspended, trapping the girls indefinitely.

All of this makes me sad and it makes me angry. There’s not one reason why these girls shouldn’t be with their mother and their father and their big sister and big brother. Not one.

I realize this is a fairly common story. Maybe not the specifics, but the feeling of helplessness in trying to get an adopted child home, only to have the mercilessness of red tape – their country’s or our country’s – stand in the way of what is right. I’ve watched another close friend go through the heartbreak and it is just so wrong. The time, energy and money spent by these politicians on squashing something that is good and noble and right should be used for something else. Why don’t they direct that manpower to something that’s a little more cause for concern?

The orphanages and the government should be judicious in these adoptions – make no mistake. The worst thing they could do would be to “traffic” these innocent children, who may or may not be orphans, to the wrong people. I get that and I applaud that. But come on. Doug and Gretchen have passed every test, followed every protocol, crossed all their Ts and dotted all their Is. Ghana has done their due diligence and has determined these girls are truly orphans and that they are the legally adopted children of my friends.

Six hundred plus people signed petitions a couple of weeks ago to bring these girls home, but their fight is just one of many. Last night Gretchen was on her local news and I’m praying this clip will make the rounds until someone with some power to do something will do just that. Not just for my friends, but for all the children who are trapped in their birth country and for all the parents who are waiting to bring them home.

You can see her news clip HERE.

Please pray for this family – all six of them. And please pray for the countless other families who are waiting to be united. And please pray for the families who have been forced to relinquish their dreams of adoption.

One last thing I need to tell you. Like my friend, Kati, who has fought more than just one of her own battles, Gretchen is a woman of great faith. I’ve watched them both deal with the hope and the grief and the joy and the heartache while on this rollercoaster. They both showed incredible determination to fight as long and as hard as physically and financially possible. But most inspiring to me is the way they both did so with such grace, relying heavily on God regardless of their situation.

There is no one holy like the Lord;
there is no one besides you;
there is no rock like our God

1 Samuel 2:2 (NIV)

Senseless

Katie’s high school graduation is in a little over two weeks. What an exciting time for the kids. Twelve years of mandated school is finally behind them. Some will go on to get jobs and some will go on for further education. Some may not have any idea at all what they’re going to do. But that’s okay because they still have their whole lives ahead of them. They’re standing on the edge of adulthood and the possibilities are endless. They have dreams and plans and whether or not those machinations come to fruition doesn’t really matter right now. The point is they have so much to look forward to.

This is the last week before finals. Today should have been a good day for the students. Today they should have gone to school after a long weekend and tried to focus on their studies, the last week of regular high school classes ever.

Instead it was a somber environment with so much sadness and surreal disbelief. This past Saturday night a young girl named Julie, one of their own, was stabbed to death by her boyfriend. I think most of us have been in a state of shock since hearing about it on Sunday morning. But for the students and teachers it didn’t just sink in this morning, it was driven in with a sledge hammer.

Parents received a letter from the school administration on Sunday morning about the counseling they would have in place when school resumed this morning. A grief counselor actually followed her schedule so he would be in each of her classes. Katie said it was horrible and everybody in the class she shared with Julie, including the grief counselor, was in tears.

I have been in a state of dread all day. Well, for the last two days really, but especially today. I remember when my class had a tragedy and how hard it was to even breathe right after it happened. That was an accident, though. This was not. This was a heinous, horrible, senseless murder. It goes beyond tragedy and straight into horror.

Her parents. Oh my gosh, her parents. They had no idea when she left the house Saturday evening that they would never see her alive again. My heart is in tatters for them. The thoughts that must be going through their minds – questions that will probably haunt them for the rest of their lives.

The counselor told the kids not to try to make sense of this because it can’t be done. I watch all the horrible things that happen on the news and I wonder why. Why are people like this? Why do people hurt other people in this way? What is wrong in them to make them do these things? And then when it happens in your own backyard; when you have a connection with the victim, however slight, it heightens the questions. It makes it all so much more real and so much more confusing.

Katie was understandably subdued when she got home from school today. She didn’t want to go to work tonight and I didn’t want her to go. I wanted to keep her here with me. When she did leave I told her I hoped the evening flew by and to drive safe because it’s rainy. My words were not unusual, but I think the urgency with which I said them probably were. I even made myself stop before I said “I love you”. No doubt that sounds really stupid, but I’m not concerned that she might not know that. I say it all the time. But to say it tonight would have been too desperate.  Which probably makes absolutely no sense to anyone but me.

I will be glad when she gets home tonight. Maybe the pit in my stomach will lessen just a little. Julie’s parents can’t say the same thing.

Like everybody else, I want to make this bad thing go away. I want to make it all better. They are foolish wants. The only thing I know to do is pray. So I do.

 

NoThanks – Day Twenty

Today I’m thankful for…

I’m not exactly sure. Oh, there’s plenty I’m extremely grateful for. It’s not like I can’t think of anything. It’s just that I’m so hopping furious right now it’s hard to land on something good.

You see, I have this friend. In fact, I have these two friends. They’re a mother and a daughter and I’m very partial to them both. They are a mother and grandmother of a middle school girl who is not only one of the cutest, but one of the kindest, sweetest, coolest kids I know. And it’s no wonder when you consider her mom and grandmom.

This bright, funny, totally awesome chick is being bullied. Bullied by a couple of girls who can only hope to be half as wonderful as she is. By girls who post sexy, slutty pictures of themselves on Facebook. These are children!

I want to scream and punch something and, if I’m honest, I want to smack these girls hard across the face and shout, “What the hell do you think you’re doing? Do you really think this makes you cool? Do you honestly think it’s funny? Do you have any idea what kind of damage you could be causing?? Do you care that this type of behavior is what causes some kids to kill themselves? Do you understand that that would make you a murderer?”

But I don’t want to stop there. I want to smack the parents, too, and yell, “Do you really have no idea what your girls are doing? I know you’ve seen the pictures they’ve taken and posted on Facebook because you took some of them! Are you truly that stupid? And where did they learn such evil and hatred?”

My heart breaks for my friends and especially for this young girl that I adore. And as enraged as I am, my heart is a little bit sore for these selfish, broken bullies who somehow think this asinine behavior makes them cool. I have to believe their parents don’t know what these girls are doing and I just wonder how they will feel when they find out. And make no mistake, they will find out.

As a mother I would be absolutely devastated to learn that my child was treating another child this way. It would not go well for my offspring and they knew this from a very early age. I’ve always been a fairly laid back mom, but there are some things that are absolutely unacceptable, no exceptions, and I am very confident that my kids never had any doubt about this particular subject.

I guess if I’m going to find something to be thankful for in all of this it’s that our young friend has insinuated herself in so many hearts. She is surrounded by a family who loves her tremendously and a community of people who feel the same way about her, including several high school girls (which is kind of a big deal to middle school girls). And even though that love doesn’t insulate her from this ugliness, my prayer is that it will keep her focused on the truth. That she is NOT what a couple of stupid girls say she is. She is what the majority of us KNOW her to be. And that is a beautiful, smart, talented, funny and sweet girl made absolutely perfect by an absolutely perfect God.

Spoons and Forks Only

I’m struggling a little bit with this phase of my life. For twenty years I’ve been a mom. That’s been my thing. And I’m a pretty good one, too. Not perfect. Not great. But pretty good. I mean, my kids have made it to 17 and 20 with a minimum of mental and/or emotional scarring so that must say something.

It is easily the best and most fulfilling thing I’ve ever done. But now, all of a sudden it seems, my services are no longer as necessary. Sure, I’ll always be their mom. That will never change. And sure, they’ll always need me to some extent. But they have their own lives now. Taylor just started his third year of college yesterday. And while he still technically lives at home, he was only here for a very short time this past summer because he was off being a young adult in another city. And I may be jumping the gun where Katie is concerned, but she gets so busy with school, work, church, singing, friends, etc., that she’s hardly ever home either. And in another year there’s no telling where she’ll be.

I’m glad for them. I’m proud of them. I want this for them. This independence. This making their own way in the big world. This cutting of the apron strings…

Okay. So the apron strings aren’t completely cut yet. But they are being sawed on with a table knife. Slowly but surely, each thread of the string is being severed and I’m helpless to stop it. And I don’t necessarily want to stop it. Except I really, really want to stop it. Just for a little while longer. I’d like to take away the knife and hand it back when I’m ready.

And nobody ever told me that the apron strings keep a mother’s heart afloat. With each thread that snaps I feel my heart sink just the teensiest bit. I suppose, though, that it’s the selfless love of a mother that keeps the heart from plummeting completely. The love that motivates my desire for my children to become the adults that God wants them to be. Even if that means that someday they will not just go to college far from home, but may actually live far from me.

I recently told them both that I demand they always live within three hours of me and have at least two, three would be better, but four would be preferable, children once they are married and settled. They both said okay, but I get the feeling they thought I was joshing. Maybe because I don’t have a great track record as a daughter where those demands are concerned. (FYI – my mother never placed that demand on me.)

A friend of mine had a very premature baby a couple of months ago and he was finally able to come home for the first time about a week or so ago. It was very questionable for a while as to whether or not he would even survive. Thankfully he did survive and is doing quite well now. This is her first child and she made a comment to me that I’ve heard several other women make about a child that they could have lost in infancy. She said (paraphrased greatly), “I think I love him even more than most new moms because I almost lost him.” Not to belittle the horror and then profound relief of her or any other mother’s similar situation, but I disagree. Didn’t we all feel like nobody could have ever loved their child as much as we love ours? A mother’s love is a fierce and unimpenetrable force. There is nothing to be done against it.

So why am I so surprised at how hard all this is on me? Between this and everything going with my dad I feel like there’s always a little bit of sadness just under the surface. I don’t like it. I don’t do sad well.

And here’s the funny thing. I didn’t even start out writing this post! I was going to talk about how I don’t have my kids to play with anymore so now I’m going to play with my friends this afternoon and go kayaking, but this is what came out. Which is why I’ve been so bad about blogging. It’s always a little maudlin so I delete it. I guess I’ll just leave it be – apparently I needed to get it out.

Hopefully I’ll have a much more Jensteresque post after my kayaking adventure with Tina this afternoon!

This Week in Review

No, I have not received my new computer yet. No, I am not typing this on my phone. I’ve hijacked Katie’s computer until I get my new one next week. Shhh.

I have a full plate today, but thought I might throw a few words up on the page while I have a minute or two. Taylor came home for spring break last Saturday. It’s been an enjoyable visit. I even took Wednesday off just so I could hang out with him for a bit. It was a glorious day and he and I went on a walkabout on one of our local trails. It was a beautiful walk and we just chatted and chatted and before we realized it, we’d been walking nearly an hour. One way. Which meant we had to walk back that same distance. All said and done we were on the trail about an hour and a half and our round trip mileage was somewhere between 8 and 9 miles. THAT translated into 7 Weight Watchers activities points so I had pie that night! All around great day.

Yesterday he drove about 2 hours to Carlilse where he met up with his girlfriend, Shelby, and her grandmother. She lives in Pittsburg and is spending the rest of the break with us. Shelby. Not her grandmother. Todd and I spent an enjoyable morning with them, getting to know Shelby a little better and drinking coffee. Not in that order.

Today they’ve gone into Philadelphia and tomorrow they’ll head back down to Lynchburg. And then Sunday I’ll be wishing it was closer to Easter so we could go down there and see him again.

Speaking of Weight Watchers activities points and all that, I am continuing to go down. Slowly, but surely, and that will work for me. I even pulled a pair of pants out of the back of the closet this morning just to see if they might almost fit. Guess what! They fit!! Perfectly!! Except they’re too short. But I’m okay with that. With spring trying to spring I now have a new/old pair of crop jeans!

On a sad note, my mother’s brother, better known to me and my sisters as Uncle Del, passed away earlier this week. He lived in Fresno with my Aunt Thea and I remember how excited I would get when they would come visit us in Southern California or when we would go visit them. They have two sons so Uncle Del was a bit protective of me and my sisters. The first time he met Todd he told him he couldn’t date me until I was 30 and asked if he had a problem with that. Todd probably said, “No, Sir” (with no intention of not dating me – smart man) and then we spent the evening playing Hearts with Del, Thea and my parents. Much laughter ensued. Of course, Uncle Del kept up the no dating thing throughout.

Here’s a picture that his grandson, Brian, scanned and posted on my Facebook Wall. It was taken in 2004 on a family get together in Durango, Colorado, which was the last time I saw Uncle Del. It’s now one of my favorite pictures. The man with the beard is my dad and the other man is Uncle Del. Brothers-in-law for nearly 59 years and two of my most favorite men. Don’t they both just say “huggable”?

As sad as it is to lose someone you love, I’m thankful he is at peace and breathing easy now. I also know I’ll catch up with him some day. Maybe we’ll play a rousing game of Hearts for old time’s sake. I would take this a step further and say maybe Jesus would play, too, but I think he probably has an unfair advantage. You know, being the Christ and all.

I’ve Got Something To Say

I hate rocking the boat. I just want everybody to get along. There are some people who thrive on arguing but I’m definitely not one of them. I like serene, not confrontational. But sometimes I just can’t keep my mouth shut. I try. Oh boy do I try. I slap both hands over my mouth and tightly squeeze my eyes shut and try to avert the bomb that’s getting ready to disengage.

This whole Susan G. Komen/Planned Parenthood debacle is one of those times. I’ve stayed quiet (mostly) but the myriad of comments I have read these last few days have distressed me to the point that I cannot remain silent any longer.

There has been so much vitriol spewed by both sides of the fight that the important stuff has gotten lost. If you are pro-choice you can’t begin to understand someone who is pro-life. If you are pro-life you can’t fathom why someone thinks that abortion is okay. And this has clouded everything.

These fiery feelings have lead to false statements and ridiculous accusations and a lot of hate. It all makes me tired and frustrated and sad that people who were at one time part of a common goal (breast cancer issues) are now divided and hurling hurtful and caustic abuse at each other.

Below are just some of the comments I’ve read from both sides of the debate that make me want to scream. I have countered with what I believe to be rational, factual responses with maybe a little bit of opinion thrown in here or there for good measure.

Let me make this clear. I AM NOT PROMOTING SUSAN G. KOMEN OR PLANNED PARENTHOOD.

This is despicable, and I’m going to silently curse every time I see one of those stupid pink ribbons. Whatever they may have meant in the past, they now stand for “Let ‘Em Die.”

Why? That’s one of the most ignorant statements I’ve heard. Pink ribbons do NOT represent Susan G. Komen. Pink ribbons represent breast cancer. Orange ribbons represent leukemia. Teal ribbons represent ovarian cancer. You get the idea.

I find this statement hurtful and terribly offensive. While it’s true that I have become weary of all the pink hype, the ribbon still means something to me and to my family. It serves as a reminder to women that they need to be aware and proactive; it serves to inspire hope in those newly diagnosed; it serves as a badge of honor for those who have fought the fight; it stands as a memorial for those we’ve lost – and we’ve lost too many. And to me personally it represents thankfulness that research has come as far as it has and gratitude to all the people who have made that possible with their financial support and the organizations who have advocated for that research.

If SGK will no longer give grants to PP then I will give my donations directly to PP.

You can give to whatever charity you want. That’s your business. But here are a few of my thoughts:

1. Donations to SGK are specifically related to breast cancer. The funds are then divided into six separate categories: administration, fundraising, research, education, treatment, and screening. When you give money to SGK you have no idea what your money specifically is going to, but you do know that it has something to do with breast cancer. By the same token, if you redirect your donations from SGK to PP you have no idea if it will be used for breast cancer screenings. My point here is, if you have been donating specifically for breast cancer something and you’re disenchanted with SGK then donate to a different breast cancer organization or a local facility.
2. PP is not the only organization who gives free breast cancer screenings. In fact there are probably better options simply for the fact that PP offers only breast exams and not further diagnostics such as mammogram and ultrasound. Which means if a woman has a breast exam at PP and something is found, she’s going to have to go somewhere else from there anyway. There are any number of programs for uninsured and underinsured women who offer both screening and diagnostic testing.
3. Just like it’s your right to give your money to whichever charity you want to, it’s an organizations right to give their grant money to whichever research or community health agency they want to.

I will not donate to SGK anymore because they now pay for abortions.
They don’t pay for abortions. They provide funding so a woman with no insurance and no money can get a possibly life saving breast exam. Unless there has been a misappropriation of funds (and I know all about the investigations), grant money is never used for abortions. There is nothing to actually suggest this has ever happened at PP.

That said, if you’re uncomfortable donating to SGK because there’s a chance your donation will help fund abortions, then by all means, donate somewhere else. But please don’t accuse SGK of funding abortions.

I thought SGK was in the business of saving women’s lives, yet they’re partnering with PP and abortions cause breast cancer.
Forget pink. This one makes me see red. There is no scientific evidence to support that claim. Here’s a link to the American Cancer Society which, unless you’re a conspiracy theorist, is in the business of cancer facts. FACTS. http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/BreastCancer/MoreInformation/is-abortion-linked-to-breast-cancer. It’s true there are studies out there which claim to show a link, but their stats are unreliable due to a whole host of reasons which are explained in the ACS link.

This is a real hot topic button for me because when my mother shared that I had been diagnosed with breast cancer with a long time family friend, the first thing she asked was if I had had an abortion. Understandably this floored my mom. When I learned about it I was enraged. First – because it’s the height of rude tackiness. Second – because abortion does NOT cause breast cancer.

If we could find a cure for polio, we can find a cure for cancer.
That is the hope, but to compare polio and cancer is like comparing apples and orangutans. Polio is one virus. One as in singular. Cancer is a mutation of cells and the reasons, causes, triggers, etc. are different for each type and subtype. Not to minimize polio, but it was one cure. Cancer is not that cut and dried.

There’s a cure for cancer. It’s just being kept secret by the pharmaceutical companies, government and organizations like SGK because cancer is such a big money maker.
Really?

SGK’s administrators take too much in compensation. All they care about is making money.
Well… It kind of seems that way to me, too. A friend of mine pointed this out to me, however:

Just an FYI – most directors of big charities get paid big bucks. When charities reach the size like Komen, they are incredibly difficult to administer, not to mention the compliance required to maintain its non-profit status. When you think about all the different tax jurisdictions where Komen has a presence, just making sure all the ‘i’s’ are dotted and ‘t’s crossed to prevent having the 501(c)(3) designation from being pulled is a huge job. The person in charge really needs to be a non-profit expert in compliance. This is highly specialized and demands high pay. Another thing to consider is that certain people get paid highly because they are able to use their connections to bring in many more dollars than otherwise would have been received by the charity.

I think what it comes down to is this – to the average person their salaries are over the top. However, that is an opinion and is relative to each person. Eddie pointed out further:

You will hard-pressed to find CEO’s at companies the size of Komen making less than a million dollars. And, not-for-profits have all the issues that for-profits have PLUS all the non-profit compliance issues.

Only 40%/28%/12% of the donations go to actual charity. The rest goes for administrative costs.
I’m not sure where people were coming up with these numbers, but they’re very inconsistent and way off. According to Charity Navigating (an objective third party who rates charities), 80.5% of what they bring in goes to research, education, screening or treatment. That might not sound like a lot, but when you look at other charities of a similar size that’s pretty much on par.

Planned Parenthood’s PRIMARY mission is to provide low cost/no cost abortions. 75% of its funding goes to this exact purpose.
Not true. Regardless of your position on abortion, Planned Parenthood does provide other services – good services – and abortion is only a small portion of what they do. If you are opposed to Planned Parenthood that’s your business. But don’t skew the statistics.

There were other statements that I took issue with, but writing this post has exhausted me, taken all day, and I’m just done. As I said above, I am not endorsing or promoting either Planned Parenthood or Susan G. Komen and have actually kept my personal opinions regarding the two to myself.

Comments? Great! All I ask is that they be respectful.

Heart Like a Balloon

Last night as I sat down to see what was new with my Facebook friends I whooped it up when I saw my friend, Shelley, hit her five year no cancer goal. I’ve known Shelley for what feels like forever. She’s the little sister of my junior high, high school, matron of honor, etc. partner in crime friend, Cathy. Two memories of Shelley from back in the day: 1. She could recite pretty much all of 16 Candles; and 2. She could do the entire “Thriller” dance.

I know exactly how she felt yesterday. You get breast cancer, you have surgery and go through treatment, you slowly get better and each time you have an oncology appointment you come away happy to know you’re not showing any evidence of disease. And then you hit that five year mark and your chances of recurrence or metastasis dramatically drop. You can see many more wedding anniversaries and children’s milestones far into your future. And, even though you hadn’t really been worried about it, you’re relieved and excited and happy and feel like celebrating. I’m pretty sure champagne was involved on the West Coast last night.

My heart soared.

As I continued to peruse the statuses I came upon one from a Mothers with Cancer associate. That’s when I found out another one of our writers, Judy, had been admitted to hospice. Judy was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer in December of 2007 and determined in remission the following year. Nearly two years later, November of 2010, she was found to have a recurrence and she fought it with everything in her. And there was a lot in her! A lot of faith, a lot of courage, a lot of strength and she wrote about her experience with so much raw vulnerability and authenticity that you couldn’t help but know, admire and love her. She also wrote about the fear and the pain and the sadness and her desire to be a mom to her young son and a wife to her loving husband.

My soaring heart plummeted.

This morning I found out that she passed away last night. I never met this woman in person and yet I feel such a strong connection to the women of Mothers with Cancer. Every time we lose one it’s like losing a part of myself and I daresay it’s the same with the other contributors. She leaves behind a devoted husband and a 10-year-old son – probably the biggest fear of a Mother with Cancer.

My heart now feels deflated.

Guilty Pleasure

My heart was still very heavy this morning. How could it not be?

Not only because of my last post, but also because some good friends of ours are going through a horrible time. I want so much to wave my magic wand and make everything all better RIGHT NOW. This problem, though, is kind of unimaginable and is going to take a whole lot more than just a wave of that wand.

And then yesterday we all woke to news of a horrible earthquake and deadly tsunami in Japan, more than 1,000 known dead at this time, possible radiation leaks from a nuclear reactor… it all sounds like another one of those epic apocalyptic movies that have been so popular in the last few years. It’s hard to wrap my mind around so much devastation on such a grand scale.

But I had plans yesterday. A part of me felt almost like I should cancel my plans because it wouldn’t be right to enjoy myself when so much heartache is going on around us. That guilt didn’t win, however, and I’m so glad. Instead, I had one of the best days I ever remember having. Taylor and I went to Lancaster for the day – just the two of us. We went to the cannery and to Kitchen Kettle Village and ate whoopie pies and drank coffee and tasted jams and peanut butters and dips and just talked. He even went into a craft store with me and I dare say he enjoyed it!

Sometimes I miss my babies to the point of hurting. How I long for those days when I was their everything and they would sit on my lap and snuggle with me and want to be with me all the time. Don’t get me wrong. I remember thinking “Please just leave me alone for 10 minutes. That’s all I ask.” But now he’s off at college doing exactly what he’s supposed to be doing and Katie’s busy being a 16-year-old and doing exactly what she’s supposed to be doing. And that brings me an inordinate amount of joy. What a blessing to see what they’re becoming. And they’re becoming these incredible people that I’m so proud of.

But yesterday was just me and my boy. I wish I could express in words just how wonderful it was. “Delightful”? “Pleasant”? “Enjoyable”? I don’t think any of those words do it justice. My heart and my soul were near to bursting yesterday with the joy of just hanging out with my boy. And though I miss those days when they were young and their worlds revolved around me, I wouldn’t trade yesterday’s excursion for anything.

Tomorrow he goes back to school and I’ll miss him. But I’m also glad for him. He loves school and he loves the kids he’s gotten to become friends with. Our lives will get back to normal and things will go on as usual. But yesterday – and today – I had to put off mourning the external things that make me sad so I could just focus on something that makes me overjoyed.