Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Homesick

Have you ever been homesick for a place you have never visited, or if you have visited it was only for a short amount of time?

Last week Jenna, Tempest, and I had lunch with Lora Mitchell Bonham. Let me digress -25'ish years ago, I visited Washington DC for my first time. My first husband had served an LDS mission there, and we went back to visit. I fell in love with the area. I remember the moment I felt that love. We were driving down a dirt road, with a creek running beside it, nestled in the trees. We stopped, and I had this moment of deja-vu/time-travel/epiphany. There I was, standing, on the road, waiting for me. The me standing, reached out my hand to the me in the car, and gave me a gift - the gift was the rest of my heart. I placed my hand over my chest, the piece fit perfectly, and I felt whole. I didn't know until then I wasn't whole, but filling that emptiness was rich and deep and beautiful.

When time came to fly home, I cried and cried, knowing I was leaving me there, but glad I was, because it would give me a reason to return. We bought a picture (probably a dollar store picture), hung it on our bedroom wall, and decided that living in the southeast would be a goal. We visited a few times, and then an opportunity came to move south - to Alabama (not DC or VA, but close enough), and we did.

For 2 1/2 years we lived in bliss in a 90 year old home (similar to ours) we restored, in a historic sub-division in Sheffield, Alabama, shaped like the Liberty Bell (go to maps), where all the streets were named after dams on the Tennessee River, and we were a block from the River. We bought a black lab pup, and we immersed ourselves into the culture. Lora and her family were one of the families in our area we called ours. They took us into their arms and let us experience Southern hospitality at its finest.

Then, exit. When we left Alabama I felt like our little blue mini-van was a covered wagon, and we were being driven out of our home, away from what we'd built, what we loved, the people we cared for, and heading to the world we really didn't want to live in - Utah. Coming to Utah was hard, hard, hard, but we have made it home for the past 20+ years. And I must say, I've lived here temporarily for most of this time. While I left a part of me standing on the Tennessee River, I've survived.

Last week, during one of my times of "being," I wandered through my home, looking at the memories that are on the walls, in the furniture, in the spirit of my home. I love my tiny home: 12x12 bedroom, my bathroom where I can wash my feet, pee, and brush my teeth at the same time, my dining room that seats a tight 6 on a happy day, and my summer-time backyard and deck. I have great neighbors, I have an awesome job, my friends are amazing, an incredible marriage, stunning children. I checked inside me to see if any part of my soul was missing.

On Sunday night Scott and I were hanging curtain rods in my craft room, and I had this peaceful, deja vu feeling. We've built a home, my whole me is here. There is no piece of me left behind. My heart is filled. My homesickness is gone, and cancer has helped me say good-bye and hello.




Monday, April 29, 2013

Goodness - A Nod to Betty

My friend, Betty, has been at my side through many of my life changes. I've been at Betty's side through just as many.

We met one Sunday, she was sitting in the back row of our women's group, alone, holding a beautiful baby boy. I was new, didn't want to sit alone, so sat next to her. She spoke little English, I spoke little Spanish, and we became best of friends. That was almost 20 years ago. We share nearly everything with each other. If her husband wants to tease her, he tells her she's too American, and I've taught her too many American ways. But I've learned from her - she's taught me the ways of her culture. Betty and family are the model family for how folks can integrate into a culture different than theirs - adapt, adopt, move forward, acknowledging heritage along the way.

Betty's red and white roses throughout my chemo were a perfect way to count-down and acknowledge this journey. She has held my arm many times as we've walked this past winter - we hold each other up during our storms.

Betty is one of the most compassionate women I know - she knows how to reach out, how to serve quietly, and how to make someone feel special. She is tender, generous, and honest.

A couple of weeks ago Betty told me that her sister-in-law had breast cancer. Her SIL's husband (Betty's brother) is having a difficult time accepting his wife's choice of receiving chemo and radiation. This brother and his wife lost a son 10 years ago to brain cancer. There is real fear in their lives. I told Betty to count me in, I would help Betty help her SIL.

SIL's scalp was aching, hair was falling out, so Betty called me. Crap - I am sure I will have plenty of flashbacks over the years, but this was my first, and I bawled. We went with SIL as she tried on wigs, decided on one, gathered hats and scarves. Then we sat SIL down, and as I talked with SIL about the in's and out's of breast cancer, Betty cut her hair. I chattered away, remembering the day my hair left my head, trying to keep the sorrow out of my voice.

We need each other. No man is an island. We are so dependent on each other - and that is not bad. SIL left Friday evening with a clean and non-aching scalp - oh she has beautiful features - she looks like an Aztec princess, something not evident with hair on her head. She put the wig on, put on a huge smile, we hugged, and she left.

Betty and I took deep breaths, acknowledged what had just happened, reminded each other that we are indeed sisters, and moved forward. Moved forward - moving on to help the next brother or sister in need - that's what we do, that is most definitely what Betty does. She is goodness. 
 When Betty turned 40, she gave birth to child #5, Natalie.


Friday, April 26, 2013

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Faith


"Faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things." (Book of Mormon, Alma 32)

As I mentioned on Monday, I prayed, received an answer, and was humbled. This week I've worked hard on being (oxymoron?). With the help of lavender oil tablets, and peace, I am doing well. My recovery shouldn't be any more difficult than my treatment. I'm determined to remember this and develop some faith in myself and the healing process. 
I have this meditation and prayer shelf in my "office." 
It is filled with items that bring me peace, most are little things 
I've accumulated through the years that I find joy in looking at and touching
and gifts from friends.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Shit Kicking -

Brady Udall, author of Miracle Life of Edgar Mint and The Lonely Polygamist, in an interview said (I'm paraphrasing):

"Love your characters, but let them get the shit kicked out of them. You know more about people when they get the shit kicked out of them than at any other time. . . . Do everything you can to find out who they are at their core. . . . That's how you find out who that person is."

Someone is writing my book! I think I'm still getting the shit kicked out of me -

 This is me, post-portum. Taken last night by the lovely Nick Stone.





Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Tired


Exhausted
Weary
Fatigued
Bushed
Pooped
Too pooped to party
Emotionally exhausted
Beat
Physically beat
Ready to drop dead
Dog-tired
Bone-tired
Worn right out



Monday, April 22, 2013

Light


This morning my prayer was - "Dear God, help me know what to DO. Help me know where to GO. Help me MAKE the right decisions for my future." Although I've stewed over this for weeks, this morning my angst seemed insurmountable. My answer came immediately, before my "Amen." "Ronda, hold on here now. No Do, no Go, no Make. Be. Remember my message to you in August - you need another year to take care of your body. Be. Remember."

Out of darkness comes light - I BElieve this. If I let the light in - I have a choice to remain in the darkness or BE in the light.

If you have a moment, watch this inspirational video (Blogger won't let me embed it):
http://vimeo.com/11560198

Friday, April 19, 2013

Deportation -

Underneath my skin, right above my right breast is a purple Power Port. The 3 points can be seen, it hurts to sleep on my belly, it's a sign of cancer treatment (meaning removal is a sign of victory), it hurts when bumped.

This port has been indispensable these past 7 months. It was accessed at least 3 times a week during chemo, and once a week during radiation. Not only has it delivered deadly chemicals during chemotherapy, it has delivered the staff of life, hydration, many many times, including this past Tuesday and Thursday, and I have had multiple blood-draws through this port. My oncologist said some folks keep their ports in for years, just-in-case, but for me, there is no just-in-case, I have veins in my arms if my bloodstream ever needs to be accessed.

This should be the very last step in my breast cancer treatment. Radiation is over, port removed, onward!

I was thinking about celebrating the extradition of my port (deportation) today, but I'm too tired to put a party together. So here's to a virtual party - drink-up!

I'm Being Deported!
 
Come enjoy one last meal with me before my deportation. 
We will be serving: 
  • Idaho Potatoes (my ethnicity)
  • Italian Sodas
  • Polish Sausages
  • French Fries
  • German Pancakes
  • Thai Noodles
  • Greek Yogurt
  • Mexican Wedding Cookies
  • Norwegian Licorice
Enjoy the theme and thought, and keep me in your prayers - I want to go shopping at Ikea and World Market on Saturday (to finish out this theme).


Not for the queasy, but if you're interested, this is how the deportation works: 





Thursday, April 18, 2013

End of The Trail?

I am proud of my Walker and Jensen pioneer heritage. I have learned to not quit, to keep going, to never say never, and to never ever give up. I have learned that life is meant to be joyous, but that joy cannot come without pain, without the opposition.

I am one tough woman, I am an "I do it myself" woman. I know how to cook, sew, clean, garden, build bunk beds, use a screwdriver, hammer, Allen wrench, and miter saw. I can lay tile, write an essay, give or receive a hug, cry, laugh, dance, sing, and sometimes curse (farmer cursing, learned from my grandfathers).

I'm almost finished with my journey. Today is radiation graduation. I never thought this day would come. Last fall, when I had sweet Kristee plant tulips in the front, south-facing flower beds, I had no idea whether or not I would see them blossom. They're in full-bloom today, and I recognize the miracle it is that I can enjoy their beauty.

I have finished the most difficult part of my journey - that of trekking through the unknown, putting my faith in those who have gone before me, those who I accept as leaders/knowledge-holders, and my God. I am here, I am alive. The journey has been horrible and beautiful. I pray that I will never have to pass this way again, and I pray that I am learning what I need to learn.

However - just like my ancestors upon arriving in Utah, the first leg of the journey is over, but there is still so much more uncharted territory to explore, so much more to learn, so much work to do. Strength to regain, stamina to build, pounds to lose, brain cells to regenerate, and rest to be had. At one point, in my innocence, I thought the last day of radiation would be the last day of my cancer journey. I am wrong. The journey continues - a different type, hopefully not as many twists and turns, not as many storms leaving muddy roads, not as many flat tires and broken headlights.

This trail ends - let the building begin! 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Mormon Pioneers Part 2

The people I mentioned yesterday left their known worlds for the unknown, because of their beliefs. With the knowledge they had, they also believed in their ecclesiastical leaders, who encouraged them to come to the United States, and as time went on, to move to the West, where they could practice their religion.

These folks suffered, physically and emotionally, throughout their sojourn. They lost jobs, loved ones, and portions of themselves, and then trudged through dust, mud, rain, snow, sleet, scorching sun. They didn't know where they would end up, but based on the stories of others who had gone before them, and their desire to follow God's promptings, they marched on, with faith.

They took with them only what they could carry, which wasn't much. They walked, and walked, and walked, and walked. They sang and danced, cried and prayed, praised God, and I'm sure at times, cursed themselves for making the decision to leave the known for the unknown.

They all reached "the end," not really knowing what that meant. They all were dreaming of Utah, that paradise, but reality was much different. At some point their long journey was over, yet those who made it to Utah found that the work had just started. They lost loved ones, limbs, and their own lives. There was no rest, they marched into Utah and still had to till the ground, plant seedlings and trees, build houses, dress themselves, and bare children. Even upon arriving there was no rest.

Salt Lake City as seen from the area where Brigham Young was to 
have looked over the valley and said, "This is the place."

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Mormon Pioneers - The Trail to New Beginnings Part 1

I come from Mormon pioneer heritage. My people include:



Mary Taylor Upton Simmons Robinson is my surviving ancestor; she was with the Martin Handcart Company. Her parents and her husband died on the journey; her mother and her husband died at Devil's Gate, now known as Martin's Cove. Her father died at Fort Laramie, one month earlier. Their names are listed on the wall at Martin's Cove's visitors center. Mary is listed as Mary Upton, and her husband was William Upton. Joseph and Harriet Sidwell Taylor are her parents. Mary was born at Cotton, in, the Elms, England. Her family converted to the LDS religion there in August, 1845. She married William Upton in 1855 and along with her parents they immigrated to America. They joined the Martin Handcart Co., and headed west. Her father, Joseph, became sick and died October 8, 1856 of malnourishment and fatigue. With her feet wrapped in gunny sacks, she, William, and her mother traveled to Martin's Cove. Their clothes froze to their bodies, and Mary's mother died. That same day her husband also died. A shallow grave was dug in the frozen earth, and mother and husband were buried together. 

A group of men were sent by  Brigham Young to rescue the pioneers at Martin's Cove. William Burt Simmons was 58 years old when he left Bountiful, Utah to help. When he rescued Mary, her feet were black and frozen. He took her and a group of pioneers to his home where they were nursed back to health. Mary married William Burt in polygamy in March 1857. They had five children. When Burt died in 1866 her youngest child was one year old. In 1867 she married Joseph Robinson who had four wives. They had four children. 

 Mary was 69 years old when she died. She didn't like to talk about her experiences traveling to Utah. She had thinning grey hair and wore it in a bun. It is said that she had a serene and pleasant personality.  

Amanda Chipman Simmons was William Burt Simmons' first wife. She and Burt had six children. She was 46 years old when Burt married Mary Taylor Upton, whom they had nursed back to health from the Martin Handcart Company. Amanda received personal revelation that Burt should marry Mary in polygamy. She said, "Unless you have been touched by the spirit, one will never understand a polygamist marriage." She was a seamstress and made clothing and household fancies. 

Ann Shelton Howard was born in England in 1816. Her family of eleven children converted to the LDS faith, and her husband, Joseph, became a branch president for the church. When an opportunity  came to travel to America, the Shelton's oldest two sons were sent over to work and earn money to bring the rest of the over. It is said that Ann was a loving mother, affectionate, and generous. She weighed about 200 pounds and had auburn hair, which she wore in ringlets. The family arrived in America and left Nebraska headed west in August 1864. On the journey, her daughter, Matilda (6 yrs. old) died in August, and another, Tamar (3 yrs. old) died in September. Broken-hearted and weak, Ann died in October 1864, 300 miles east of Salt Lake City, at Little Bitter Creek. She was buried there. She never did see her two sons. In a letter to her sons Ann wrote, "You are never forgotten. Do not be afraid, be good boys and do your duty, and God will watch over you."
One of my favorites

What does this have to do with my cancer journey? More tomorrow. 



Monday, April 15, 2013

Humanity -


Less Anger, More Compassion
Less Fear, More Anticipation
Less Defense, More Intimacy
Less Me, More You
Less Pointing Fingers, More Open Hands


Friday, April 12, 2013

My List

I've lived these past 8 months moment by moment. I'm a planner, and as much as I appreciate mapping things out, Scott and cancer have taught me the beauty of spontaneity. That doesn't mean every moment has been pleasurable, but there is beauty in the lessons I've learned.

The past few weeks I've been able to begin thinking about tomorrow. Some days tomorrow is overwhelming, and I go back to the hour by hour. Some days thinking about tomorrow brings me hope - and for that I'm grateful.


Ten years ago my goals were:
Graduate from college with my MA
Do research in a small community - fall in love with that community
Leave that life

I checked those off, then decided I needed to let life guide me. It has done well - and I am so grateful for the adventures, experiences I have received these past 10 years. I would have never dreamed I could be a college professor, a chaplain, involved in the arts, married the man of my dreams, become an "other" mother to 4 beautiful children, serve as a chaplain, as a business executive, travel to Alaska, be a grandmother, and have cancer.

I have some tangible goals, although they're all over the map in size, duration, plausibility. As I begin, again, I must remember my affirmation for this year, "There is an abundance of time."

As I think about tomorrow, the future, I'm thinking about who I want to be - what I want to do, what are my dreams. This scares me - as much as I like to plan, thinking about a bigger picture does frighten me. I'm ready to face that fear - and I'm ready to put my dreams out to the energy around me, while also recognizing they can change based on the discovery of "just around the corner" - whatever the mind expects tends to be realized.

New Life Goals include:

Continue to look within for answers
Sit in the sun 1/2 hour a day
Exercise daily (dump those 20 cancer pounds), + walk 30-60 minutes a day
Enjoy the summer
Play with my grandchildren
Put my craft-room back together and begin, again, creating

Get another degree
Chaplain more
Buy a motor home and travel
Write, perhaps publish





Thursday, April 11, 2013

I Know What It's Like

A few weeks ago Scott was watching a spaghetti western on AMC while I was getting ready to go out on our weekly date. It was the typical Mexican robbers versus American good guys. Probably filmed in Southern Utah. Oh, there was also an Indian maiden, who was spying on both groups of men.

In one scene a good American cowboy said to a bad Mexican hombre, "Do you think I don't know what it's like to come home and find your wife and family dead?"

I smiled, and then I thought about the phrase, wrote it down, and I've thought a lot about this preposterous question! Take the negative out of the question and the statement becomes, "I know what it's like to come home and find my wife and family dead." Or to the Mexican - "You and I aren't so different from each other, but we've both lost loved ones while we've been away from home."

No, I don't know exactly what you may be feeling, but I have had experiences that may help me sympathize, perhaps even empathize with your situation. I don't know what it is like to lose a child to death, but I've lost an other-child to misunderstandings. I don't know what it's like to leave home and return home to no-one. Yet I've left home one person and came back another - and found my home a stranger, different than what I'd left. I don't know what it's like to lose a spouse, however I know what it's like to leave a spouse.

Sometimes I question the statement, "I know exactly how you feel." Goodness, perhaps it's semantics, but "know" and "exact" are quite precise concrete words, and can those of us who use this statement exactly know? How about rephrasing with, "Tell me more?" "I don't know, could you help me understand?" Perhaps, "Damn, what can I do?" Or even, "I have no idea what you're going through, but I'd like to learn."

The old saying, "Don't judge me until you've walked a mile in my shoes," may be the best way of looking at the situation - cause for pause.

During my journey I haven't expected anyone I know to "know exactly" how I've felt, yet I'm pleased when someone asks for a walk around the block, or a day's ride, to bring about better understanding. It's been a surprise when someone comes along and says, with wife and family as the cancer metaphor: "Do you think I don't know what it's like to come home and find your wife and family dead?" And they really do -




Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Pain

Radiation treatment #29 today! Six left! I hurt - like having a new nursing baby, a breast infection, and virgin cracked bleeding nipples, on top of, and under, a terrible sunburn. Probably too much information, but this 10" x 6" rectangular area encompassing my left breast and surrounding tissue is bright red, blistering, peeling, and throbbing.

My doctor took one look at it today and said, "Oh my word, that has got to hurt." I'm thinking, "Have you ever had your boob feel like . . . " But I didn't. Instead I told him I wanted to quit radiation, right then, never come back, never ever ever experience pain such as this. He gave me more pain pills, another topical cream (although nothing is working right now), and raised his right arm to the square promising me I would begin to feel better in 72 hours, "except for the one area we're now treating."

One of my favorite storytellers, Kevin Kling, said, "You cannot judge another man's pain." I've mentioned this quote before, but I'm doing it again.

My beautiful niece, Sabrina, had a baby girl on Saturday - Cesarean. Emeri was bottom-down breach, with no room to turn. All is well.

My friend, Taylor, had a meniscus tear and had surgery a few weeks ago. He's walking just fine, in fact went to Vegas two days after surgery.

A lady in my church congregation had a portion of her breast removed late last spring. She received radiation. She has just begun regaining her energy. 

These three stories have something in common - happy endings. That's what we like, correct? Or is it?

Women who tell pregnancy and birthing stories often have this way of discounting another's story, if the woman hasn't had morning sickness, varicose veins, headaches, and a hard long labor and delivery. It's almost as if she hasn't "earned" her right to tell her pregnancy story. We want to - "well, that's nothing, I had . . . "

Surgery stories are the same. "Oh, you're lucky you had same day, why my surgery was extra long, I had to spend 2 days in the hospital, and 6 weeks on crutches." Again, we're telling folks such as Taylor that he can't whine, because he hasn't really had pain.

I've noticed a tendency similar to these with breast cancer. And, I'll admit, here, that when I learned my friend was still tired from simple radiation, 9 months later, I wanted to slap her, tell her she had no idea what tired was, pain was, until she'd had chemotherapy, hydration 3 times a week, and no hair!

But shouldn't I celebrate with, rather than slap, those whose road has been a little easier, a little less bumpy? Shouldn't we congratulate those we come into contact with for their smooth recovery, for dodging the puke-in-the-toilet-all-day, fire-hose-diarrhea bullet?

My hair is growing back, I'm not chemo sick; in fact, I look pretty normal, yet the pain is brutal. Pain I am choosing not to show (just don't hug me, brush up against me, ask me to wear any undergarments - I can barely put on a baggy shirt right now). Yet on a scale of 1-10, I'm claiming 8 today.
 
Who am I to judge another's pain? I can barely, on a scale of 1-10, judge my own. 







Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Coincidence

Scott and I were blessed with the opportunity to spend a few days south of Palm Springs, CA, in La Quinta, CA, this past week. The warmth and change of scenery were just what the doctor ordered.

Interestingly, I had an encounter that I just can't brush off. Call it coincidence, chance, but for me, it was a moment of divine coordination.

Scott and I seldom shop on Sundays, but this day we decided to return to two stores (we had purchased items initially, but wanted one last walk-through, just in case we missed anything).

We walked through one store, purchased "just what we were looking for," and a soda. We sat down outside, drank our soda, and decided to walk to the other store. As we came out onto the public sidewalk, walking toward me was a woman.

Let me digress -
My hair is beautiful! It is the one thing about my body that makes me smile right now. It is thick, has some curl, and is a beautiful silver-gray-black. I like it. It is certainly not what I expected, so I am pleased. My doctors and their staff, as well as family, friends, and other cancer patients have commented about my hair - using terms like I mentioned. I also get some jealousy from other cancer survivors - my hair is so thin, my hair is an ugly mousy color, my hair is growing so slow, what are you using?

So here I am, holding Scott's hand, walking, and here comes this beautiful woman. Her hair is my hair! Our eyes connect, we both smile, laugh, and engage in a very quick 3 minute conversation. We went deep, waaaaay deep in those 3 minutes - talking about hair, haircuts (she had just gotten her first), type of cancer, chemotherapy, radiation, energy, the need for mentors, how our husbands are tired of us talking about cancer, and bright colors. We hugged as if we were sisters, yet we did not share our names. It was beautiful.

I know we could have had a 3 hour conversation on the patio sipping iced tea, I know we could have become best friends, I know there was more at work here than just us slipping into each others' path. I floated high the rest of the day because of this short interchange.

Little things mean a lot, small gestures are just as important as monumental movement. A kind hand, a smile, a quick kind word, a hug at the right moment. Being in tune and ready to act is so important to me, particularly right now. I want to bring this tiny souvenir home with me from this cancer journey. There are no coincidences, luck, there are opportunities to share, all around us. We just need to be in tune.




Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Answers

Ever felt that sometimes you have more questions than answers? I certainly have, particularly on this journey. Although not all of my questions have specific answers, this 9 year-old boy gives me faith in being able to say, "I don't know, I could be wrong, but let me try this answer on for size." 

I'm going to take a few days off, I need some time to recuperate, ask some questions, get some answers. My love - thanks for your support. 

Socrates (In The Form Of A 9-Year-Old) Shows Up In A Suburban Backyard In Washington

When he rang the doorbell, Zia hadn't planned to step inside. He was there to pick up his fiancee who was babysitting, but she couldn't leave (the parents were running late) so Zia agreed to hang out for a bit. His fiancee said, "Let me introduce you to the kids" — the 2-year-old girl, the 7-year-old boy and, most important, squatting, with no shoes on, surrounded by ants on the back patio, the oldest — the 9-year-old — the one he would make world-famous on YouTube.
This is the boy he now calls "The Philosopher."

 
Nine is what fourth-graders are. You don't expect them to be wise; they're still boys. When the two started talking, there was no hint of what was about to happen, except for the slightly odd introduction. His girlfriend said he "is interested in cosmology." "Really?" Zia thought, "cosmology?" So he leaned in and asked — just to be a badass — "What do you think about dark matter? Any ideas?"

Wait! I Need To Film This
The boy looked up, started to answer, and almost immediately Zia thought, "Wait!" Zia Hassan is a Washington, D.C.-based musician, blogger, teacher-in-training and video cameraman and he's learned to act on instinct, and his instincts were telling him, "I need to film this." He said to the boy, "Uh, can I film this? Is that all right with you?"
The boy didn't mind. And here, a million-and-a-half views later, is what the boy told him about the universe. I don't know the right words to describe what I feel watching this. Quiet surprise? Joy? Mystery? You should just look for yourself ...

We all know smart kids, who are curious, who collect information. "I knew more things in the first 10 years of my life than I believe I have known at any time since," says the writer Bill Bryson. But what Bill knew growing up in Iowa was local: "I knew what was written on the undersides of tables and what the view was like from the tops of bookcases and wardrobes. I knew what was to be found at the back of every closet, which beds had the most dust balls beneath them." Boys gather information by climbing, crawling, inspecting, gossiping.

But this 9-year-old — what he knows is different. It's not local; it can't be found looking under a couch. It's mind stuff, found mostly in books or college classrooms, or by letting your mind run free.

I Could Be Wrong ... I Could Be Wrong ...
Where, I wondered, did he learn about multi universes, free will, the odds of intelligent life in the universe? How does he manage to be so aware of what he doesn't know? "Of course, I could be wrong," he says over and over, offering his opinions in the most unassuming, gentle way. And his brother, talking about how baseball satisfies our need for drama ("We do not have that kind of suspense in our lives."), he's doing it too — thinking, connecting, reflecting — and he's 7!
What's going on in this house? Are these kids outrageously smart? Zia says they're "certainly bright," but not scarily so. Is it something the parents are doing?
"I've gotten lots of questions about how they've raised [their kids]," Zia wrote me. "I don't think they have a particular method or anything like that. They're both excellent human beings and they treat their kids as if they're intelligent young people, and not children who couldn't possibly understand how the world (or universe) works."
This, he thinks, may be the key. These kids are encouraged to think out loud, to say what they think, even if they might be wrong. Each is appreciated. The parents, he says, "are also in awe of their children." And that frees them.
"I think there are a lot of kids who think about interesting things," Zia says. "It's my guess no one really asks them about it."
Maybe that's what this family does: They turn to their kids, and they ask.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Knee Deep

Kathy Mattea sings a song with this line, "Standing knee deep in a river and dying of thirst." This imagery has always spoken to me - I seem to be in that situation more often than I'd like, failing to recognize the water. During my cancer journey I've tried to receive help when it's offered, ask for help when I need it, and never find myself thirsting. However, I often find it difficult to reach out, via prayer. I'm pretty good at thanking God, listening to spiritual promptings, but asking for help - very tough.

Yesterday was a tough day. I think the hard reality of cancer and treatment hits me every 3 weeks, and the weekend and Monday was that time. On my way home from the gym I tried to think of whom I could speak with regarding my hurting. My thought process went like this, "Hmm, it's 8am, too early to call Sheri, Maria is in Great Falls, so I can't call her or Vicki. I don't want to burden Mom or Jenna, and Scott's carried me for so long; I need to give him a break. Dang, I guess I'll buck up, put my big girl panties on and push through this."

My drive to and from the gym every morning is spent quietly thanking God for my blessings and asking for help for friends and family who are in need. Seldom do I ask for assistance for myself. However, I heard, "Oh Ronda, you silly girl, pray - and ask for help." So I did. I prayed, "Father, I hurt. I may be a boob, but I am worn out, physically and emotionally, and I can't finish this journey alone. Please be with me, please buoy me up, please."

An interesting prompting came - "You have friends who have been with you this entire journey, reach out to them. I don't expect you to carry this pain alone, any more. Reach out."

So I did, via Facebook (public venue for a private concern, but then I'm learning how to "Dare Greatly" and be vulnerable). More than 30 of my family and friends reached out, offering to meet me in the river with life jackets and words and prayers of hope. I was held up - I made it through the days knowing I had support - I felt it, I felt those prayers, I felt the positive energy. I felt - literally, loved.

I made it to the chemotherapy lab at 3:45 yesterday for a blood draw. As I sat down, the oncology nurse said, "You don't look well. Do you want IV fluids as well?" She saw that I was knee deep in the river and dying of thirst. She fed me as well.

I have been hydrated - and I know I don't have to finish this alone - I need to remember this.


Monday, April 1, 2013

Too Pooped to Party

I think I've hit rock bottom - "think" because I don't know what tomorrow or the next day will bring. "Rock bottom" because I am exhausted - emotionally and physically. I cannot handle the trauma cancer has taken on my body and soul. I woke up this morning feeling exactly as I did my very last chemo treatment. I know I'm about finished with radiation, but honestly - this is one hell of a way to live.

If you have any energy to spare, please send it in the way of prayers and positive thoughts. Please.

The sun has to shine, someday, but when?

 

“The light at the end of the tunnel is not an illusion. The tunnel is.” ~Unknown