World Cancer Day

Today, I’m thinking about my mother-in-law, just as I have every day for months.

But, I’m not just thinking about my mother-in-law as she is struggling through the last, grueling phase of cancer.  I’m also thinking about my very best friend in all the world, keeping her sights set on her children’s futures as she fights leukemia.  I’m also thinking about my colleague, much younger than I, as she wages a head-to-head battle with osteosarcoma.  And, I’m thinking about friends, coworkers, family members from all parts of my life who have swallowed this terrifying diagnosis, “winning” and “losing” their private wars.

I’m also thinking about my father-in-law, whose life for months now has been devoted to the unimaginable task of caring for his wife, partner, best friend around the clock as she slowly slips away.  I’m thinking about my husband and his siblings, who are silently saying good-bye to the woman who kissed their boo-boos and pulled them in close beside her when they had bad dreams in the night.  I’m thinking about my own daughters, whose ears lean in to listen more carefully for clues as they overhear whispered conversations about their grandmother.

I’m thinking about my friends who have watched their own loved ones endure painful sores, unbearable nausea, and grueling treatments.  My friends who have themselves struggled with the unmatched mental and physical fatigue of juggling medications and dosages, building wheelchair ramps, and coordinating countless doctor appointments, CTs & PET scans.  I’m thinking about my friends who have relied on the kindness of Hospice workers to patiently and lovingly guide them through a “natural” part of life that we will forever struggle to understand.

Then, I think about myself.  My husband.  My parents.  My brothers and sisters-in-law.  My daughters.  My nieces and nephews.  And I think, this cannot continue.

We must make changes.

In my eyes, the only solution lies in prevention, and it starts small.  We cannot be caught by surprise.  Readers, for World Cancer Day, what are you doing to prevent cancer in your own inner circle?  What small step can you take today to reduce your own risks?  How can we protect our children from their own cancer stories?

Let’s start today.

last nights

The last night of summer is always bittersweet. 

I’m filled with a mess of emotions, so much so that my chest seems swollen.  The sadness of losing the freedom & ease of summer days with my two favorite girls.  The excitement of seeing friends & work family each day again.  The eagerness for the comfort of the familiar rhythm of “real” life routines.  The thrill of the return of daily challenges & creativity.  Apprehension at the memory of the stressful, fatiguing weekly workload.  And the amazing, heartwarming joy I feel every year as I fall in love with a new batch of 40+ babies. 

Summer’s return will come sooner than we think.  On that last night, we’ll look back over the year & see how time has flown. Our babies will be taller, smarter, and a just a little bit less our “babies” than before.  For a while, I will wish I could rewind and go back, praying for just a little more time.  Knowing that’s not possible, I’ll remind myself to love the moment I’m in.  

And so tonight, on this last night, I remind myself to be grateful for this night.  Love this feeling.  Celebrate this mess of teary-eyed smiles, nostalgic laughter, and school girl anticipation.  

This — these nights, these feelings — is the stuff life is made of, and it’s beautiful.

 

Crainte

Fear. 

On my refrigerator, a magnet hangs.  It’s been there ever since my grandmother sent it to me, in a package amidst any number of other little surprises, more years ago than I can remember.  It says,

“Do one thing every day that scares you.” 

On most days, I forget it’s there.  But on those chance days that I glance at it, or picture it in my mind, or hear the words whispered between my thoughts, I let it simmer deeply.  I stir it.  Slowly.  Thoughtfully. 

What does this mean to me today?

Over the years, this magnet has pushed me to action again and again.   In the early days, it might have meant lacing up my sneakers and heading to the gym to try out that new class or workout.  It’s led me to ignore my butterflies and pick up the phone to make the phone call I’d been avoiding.  It pushed me to ask questions, tell the truth, try something new.  Put myself “out there”. 

Be vulnerable.

I would say that this magnet has given me courage, but it hasn’t.  Truly, the courage was there all along, buried beneath the fear.  Ma crainte. 

“Do one thing every day that scares you.” 

Forgive someone.

Reach out to someone.

Dare yourself to start an adventure.

Get out in the world and do what you’ve dreamed of doing.

Plant your garden, tear out the carpet, learn to cook.

Go back to school, go camping, go to Africa.

Sample the hot sauce, buy a guitar, start a blog.

Go to the doctor.  Quit your job.  Sell your house.  Buy a house.

Walk up to that person that you’ve been avoiding and say, “Hello.  Beautiful day, isn’t it?”

Tell someone you’re sorry, or tell them you love them.

Set a goal and invest in yourself.

Do something – anything – that scares you today.

 

Then, be grateful for your courage.  Be grateful for the strength you possessed all along.  Be grateful when you succeed and even if you fail, because either way – you did it. 

And then, do it again tomorrow.

les histoires

Perhaps it’s the writer in me, or maybe it’s just a romantic inclination, but I have a vision of myself, gray and aged, telling the stories of my life. The stories come alive in the air around me, and those listening to them lean towards the words, like a bed of tulips leaning towards the sun. Their hearts smile, their eyes tear, and their sides ache from laughter. 

Some people’s stories are amazing. Saturday_Evening_Post_The_Saturday_Evening_Post_-_July_22_1939_Joe_McCarthy_NY_Yankee

A friend told me a story recently about a beautiful woman who, lifetimes ago, appeared on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post. But that wasn’t all. She lived a life filled with accomplishments, family, romance, and legacy. Her stories have lingered in my mind for weeks.  Her once-in-a-lifetime experiences, contributions to her community, brushes with espionage, serendipitous rediscovery of love, and years of commitment to her family are stamped upon my consciousness.  Her stories are worth telling.

I imagine on a day long ago, a day not unlike today, those stories humbly took their root in her life. For every destined chain of events, there had to be a seemingly uneventful morning. Before each unforgettable moment, there must have been an hour long forgotten. 

In these days of my life, when days seem quietly busy, nights seem hours too short, and hours seem easily forgettable, I will look hard for the stories of my own life. I will listen with bated breath for my own promises of adventures, opportunities, and great love. I will listen for the music of my memories and capture the colors of my dreams. 

And one day long from now, as I close my eyes and conjure up the moving pictures in my mind, even into the years when they begin to slip slowly out of my reach, people will breathe tightly and listen closely. 

My stories.  My stories will be amazing. 

 

à la prochaine

Are blogs on their way out?

As yet another symptom of my silent revolution, I’ve noticed myself pulling away from the blogosphere.  (Rather ironic to announce in a blog post, I know.)  As with most changes I observe within myself, I tend to sit back and watch it happen for a while before starting investigating and delving deeper (a strategy I do not recommend with weight related changes).

Why do I seem to be so disinterested in something that previously had me so enamored?  It seems to be going nowhere.

Perhaps I need to take a look at what I’m reading.

I approached my Google Reader with a machete in place of pruning sheers and began hacking away at my ridiculously overstuffed pile of posts.  As I shredded my feed of over a thousand unread posts down to zero, I started to notice a few things:

1.  Blogs written by (and focused on the lives of) stay-at-home mothers were the first to go.  It’s not that I don’t appreciate or respect these ladies – or their choice in life – but I just don’t seem to relate very well.  And, I really don’t need to read all about their kids’ lunchboxes….I have my own kids’ lunchboxes to fuss over, right?

2.  If a blog’s primary purpose was to entertain (a.k.a. I can’t take anything from your writing to help me cook meals, create something, decorate my home, find a book to read, or improve my teaching or photography skills) and it includes whining in any form, I nixed it.  I’m over whiners.  And yes, that means me, too.

3.  Blogs I was most likely to keep around a little longer were  people I know personally, include pictures that could appear in a magazine on my coffee table in every post, or pertains to my profession/hobbies AND offers ideas and solutions for my real world today.

Additionally, I found it really interesting that I’m (seemingly) not the only one drifting farther and farther away from the digital drain on day-to-day duties.  I didn’t count, but suffice it to say that a few handfuls of blogs to which I previously subscribed have dissolved in my absence.  Some bid formal farewell to their readers and web-friends, while others just simply…..stopped…..(The latter is more in line with my personal style.)

So, I’m wondering.  Is it just me?  Does anyone else out there feel as though the herd is thinning?  And, if so, where are all the bloggers going?  Are they retreating back to their “real worlds”, or just morphing their digital presence into a terser version of their online persona — tweets, status updates, and Facebook fan pages.  Or, am I completely out of the loop and there’s some new-fangled dimension out there in cyberspace where all the cool kids are hanging out?

As more and more of us are connecting online via increasingly mobile devices, will the majority of us still be sitting down to write or read lengthy posts for much longer?  Are blogs on their way out?  If so, what’s next?  Where do we go from here?

Buzzing

It’s a mess in there.

But, it’s a necessary part of life.

I wake up (or rather, lie awake) with a hypnotizing buzz in my mind.  I race from petal to petal, gather tiny golden specks, send messages to other workers, and always return home.

At times, I wonder how long this pace can be maintained.  I realize the answer: as long as I want. Which leads me to a grand admission: I like it.

It is my right to choose this life.  It is my obligation to choose to be me.

While I toil away, I smile at the steady hum of my life.

I am needed.

I am valued.

I am useful.

I am challenged.

At this thought, the weight of my burden lightens under my wings.  I am no longer the worker, but the queen.

Pretty ladies, all in a row.

As I meandered from sporting goods to baked goods, my therapy quietly continued.  I counseled, questioned, probed and lingered in my uncertainty, more acutely aware of my private conversations with myself than the merchandise staring back at me.

I absently placed an eyebrow brush in my cart at the very moment a compelling desire to look myself in straight in my eyes overcame me.

Look at me when I’m talking to you.

With an unexplained urgency and my feet planted firmly on the commercial tile, I searched out a mirror.

The mirror aisle.  Between picture frames and lamps.

I don’t know what I expected to find there.  Direction?  Truth?  A visual connection to the person with whom I’d been confronting?  Answers?

What I found was my feet, slender and feminine in my tall wedges.  My red toenails and narrow heels.  My small ankles and bare calves, slowly stepping toward the edge of the mirror and disappearing into the shelf behind it.

I recognized my chest, peeking out of my soft v-neck knit, brandishing it’s spring tan.  Those were my shoulders, broad like my mother’s.  The shoulders that, together with my neck, shares burdens with my heart.

A skirt, smooth over my thighs, made an appearance next.  It flowed with my movements, casually and comfortably hiding secrets underneath.  That was me beneath the brown cotton before me.  Me.

And then I recognized my face.  My own disheveled bangs, immediately drawing my fingers toward them, resting on my brow.  My eyebrows, black and defined, framing my own lonely eyes.  My pale, naked lips.  My nose.   My chin perched atop my neck.

How is it that each piece of the puzzle can be so familiar and pleasant, yet the parts as a whole are so confusing and strange?  Those ladies’ feet, legs, shoulders, and faces were graceful and feminine.  Their posture confident.  Their face calm and peaceful.  Yet, I am doubtful, hesitant, and tormented…with a lowercase t.

These pretty ladies, all in a row…perhaps one day I will be more like them.