Sunday, December 30, 2012

Detour No More

Rock Hound State Park, NM
There comes a time when it's time to stop and ponder where you are in life, and where you are going.  For the past few days, I've been taking a look at where I've been over the last year, where I am now, and where I'd like to be next year when it comes to a close.

With a heavy heart, I've decided it's time for me to give up my illusion my current track is a detour.  I've been following it for the better part of a year.  Somewhere along the way it's changed from a detour into the new road I am to follow for at least the next few years.

It is not a path devoid of beauty, love and joy.  It's just not the one I wanted to be on.  But it does me no good to keep wishing I had been able to finish my trip.  It ain't gonna happen.  The money I had budgeted for the road has gone to keeping me alive and resetting up house.  Yes, I will still be able to take a month each year to continue my camper van travels, but I will need to count the days I spend traveling.  Real life wins.

I have a good spot for my camper to stay, but it sits in the sun.  To protect it, a friend bought me a cover, which arrived last week; Joe helped me to put it on.  It covers the van quite snugly, down to about six inches from the ground, and has a side zipper so you can get into the van without having to take the cover off.  At first I thought it symbolized the shuttering of my dream, putting it under wraps, calling it done, but then I had another thought.  Perhaps, along with the van, the cover also protects the remnants of my dream - keeping it from drying up, cracking and fading completely away in the harsh light of the sun.

A day will come when I am free again.  It will.  And when it does, I will take the cover off my dream, reshape it to fit where I am when the day comes, and drive off once again to see beautiful places.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

We Can't Protect Them

The topic I had planned for today, a meandering description of my frustrations and joys this past week, seems meaningless today in light of the shootings in Connecticut.

The gunman touched on my deepest fear; on the deepest fear of many - we cannot protect them.

We bring our children into this world.  They are beautiful, they are perfect.  They are our most precious treasure.  We want to keep them safe from all harm.

The harsh reality is that we can't do it.  They dart in and put their little hands on hot lawnmower mufflers when we are watching from just a few feet away.  They get hit in the head with baseball bats during schoolyard ballgames.  After they are hurt, we have to patch up their wounds as best we can, and send them back out in the world - where we can't protect them from getting hurt again.  Locking them in the house to keep them safe just isn't one of the options, though I've wished it was, and only regretfully acknowledge that it wouldn't work.  As a wise woman once told me, "Life is risk."

The shootings this week highlight our vulnerability.  Locks and cameras couldn't keep out one deranged young man, determined to hurt our treasures. 

I want to scream to the Universe, "Why?", but know there will be no answer.  With the rest of the country, I cry when I read the list of names, see the innocent faces.  I am angry, without a target for my anger.  The villain got off too easily, shooting himself so he wouldn't have to deal with the consequences of his actions.

If God cares at all, there is justice for him.  To me, that justice would be having to face the full realization of the harm he did as he left this world.

For the innocents, and those who died trying to protect them, I know they are in better hands than ours.  We couldn't keep them safe, but God will.  God will watch over them until their families and the rest of those who love them join them in the only safe place there is.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

My Bed

Omaha Zoo, Oct. 2012
I have to admit, I LOVE my bed.

I know.  It sounds silly.  But it's true.


I love that the mattress is not too hard, nor too soft, but just right.  And, it doesn't have any lumps.  I know I won't wake up with a crick in my back from it being too soft, nor will my hips be talking to me in the morning because it was too hard.

I love that my pillows are not lumpy, nor hard, but rather are soft and fluffy and gently cradle my head as I lie down to rest.

I love that I have all the covers I need, and they don't have any holes in them.  My sheets are soft and clean, the quilt is warm.  If I need it, there is an extra blanket down at the end of the bed; I just need to reach down and pull it up if I am cold in the night.

I love climbing into it at the end of a long day, and snuggling down into my sheets and pulling the covers up to my chin.  There are no prickles, no hard edges, just soft and welcoming warmth.

I love that I don't have to share it with many-legged creatures who like midnight snacks.

On the nights I am really tired, all I have to do is lie down, warm up just a bit, and let sleep overtake me like a wave, carrying me off until morning.  It's a beautiful thing. 

I wallow in the luxury of it all - and am acutely aware that the same is not true for most of the other people in the world.  I remember the lumpy foam we slept on in Honduras - and they gave us the best they had.  In the hotel we stayed at in Guatemala, the mattresses were hard and unyielding.  I once saw a photo that haunts me still - of a young boy in Africa, asleep on the ground, with nothing but a plastic sheet between his little body and the dirt.

There is a group in Kansas City that gives mattresses to families who don't have enough beds.  Last time I replaced my mattress, they took the old one, and gladly.  It was in much better shape than most of the ones the children were currently sleeping on.

God, help me to be aware of my blessings, both big and small.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

30 Reasons Why Failure is Good

The weight of past mistakes has been weighing on me this past week.  Many, many moons ago, I had the notion I had to be perfect before anyone would love me.  In response to this misguided idea, a wise counselor had me write up a list of reasons why failure is good.

As I was brow-beating myself yesterday, the memory of the list came to mind, so I went and dug it up.  Reading it helped me to get past the past, and anchor myself again in today.  I rather like the list, (if I do say so myself), so thought I'd share:

30 Reasons Why Failure is Good

  1. It gives you a reason to inspect the toes of your shoes.
  2. It can teach you one, or several, of life's little lessons.
  3. You know one more way not to do it.  a.k.a. 'experience'
  4. You can be an example for other people's children.  i.e. "If you keep this up, you'll end up just like ____, who did it when she was young."
  5. It shows you your limitations; you can't succeed at everything.
  6. You learn that even big mistakes don't mean the end of the world.
  7. You learn that the world doesn't revolve around you.
  8. It makes other people feel smug, because they have a reason to say "I told you so".
  9. You can rub it in the faces of those who jeered when you later succeed (and be smug yourself).
  10. Sometimes, it proves that people will love you, even if you're wrong.
  11. It stretches the mind; you have to think of new ways to accomplish your goals.
  12. It teaches humility.
  13. Sometimes, it helps you to re-order your life's priorities.
  14. It teaches you to handle frustration and control your anger, if handled correctly.
  15. It teaches you patience.
  16. It gives you a chance to face disappointment without becoming bitter; to become mature.
  17. The way you act when the chips are down will show you what you're made of.
  18. You learn who your friends are.
  19. You learn who your enemies are.
  20. You know that at least you tried.
  21. You learn what your fears are.
  22. It brings you back to earth.
  23. It opens doors you might otherwise have missed.
  24. It changes your perspective; forces you to look at things from another angle.
  25. It satisfies your curiosity; you know what happens if you do it 'this' way.
  26. It can teach you compassion, for you, too, have walked a dead-end path.
  27. You learn you can make it through places you never thought you could.
  28. You learn not to let one mistake color your whole world.  To figure out what went wrong, don't do that again, and go on.
  29. You learn you can't hide from your failures forever.  That eventually, you have to come up for air.
  30. You learn that a failure in one minute doesn't mean you won't succeed in the next.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

What Cancer Cannot Do

Nelson-Atkins Sculpture Garden

What Cancer Cannot Do Author: Unknown

Cancer is so limited...
It cannot cripple love.
It cannot shatter hope.
It cannot corrode faith.
It cannot eat away peace.
It cannot destroy confidence.
It cannot kill friendship.
It cannot shut out memories.
It cannot silence courage.
It cannot reduce eternal life.
It cannot quench the Spirit.

For whatever reason, my experiences with cancer this past year have kept coming to the front of my mind these four days off.  It irritates me - I think I should just be kicking back and enjoying my break from work.

But I am aware, as I have not been for some time, of the band of nothing across my front that used to be my chest.  The muscles are tight, and it feels as if I were cold, though I am not.

As I clipped my shattered nails short again this morning - one of the side effects of Tamoxifen is that it can make your nails brittle - I found it a lot ironic.  I bit my nails for most of my life; quit for good only a couple of years ago.  And now, I have to keep them almost as short as they were back when I was biting them.

Tamoxifen can also cause fatigue, which makes me wonder how much of the tiredness I battle is still recovery from the surgery (which now seems to have been AGES ago), and how much is the drug.  My sense is that the drug isn't awful, but it's still a slow drain on my energy.  One I still need to come to terms with.

I'm trying to swing my awareness around; I don't like dwelling on the things that bring me down.  (One of my favorite quotes, author also unknown; at least to me:  Avoid those who have bought into negativity.  They have an uncanny ability to also sell it.)  The aftermath of my cancer leaves a mess to clean up, but I can do it, if I just keep at it.  I've gotten past harder troubles in my life, I will make it past this.  Especially if I remember the words of wisdom above.  My thanks to the unknown author.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Dinner 2007
In the spirit of the season, I am thankful:

That the nasty cancer that so disrupted my fun has had its existence even more nastily disrupted.  There are no remaining traces of it in my system.  I am on Tamoxifen for another four years and four months (who's counting?), but it could have been so much worse.  I'm counting this one done.  and good riddance.

For the outpouring of support that helped me through the hard parts.  I got cards and calls and visits and meals and prayers - so many let me know they love me.  I still get a bit misty eyed when I think about it.  especially since there were a number of years where I was convinced I was unlovable.

For people who spend a lot of time and effort on landscaping and decorating their houses for the holidays.  I do so getting to enjoy the benefits of all their hard work.

For my children - always and always.  They are among the brightest lights in my life.  And for that new baby, now 16 months old - it makes my heart go pitty-pat, just to think of her.

For people who reach out in kindness to others, just because.

As Robert Frost said:  "Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in."

For home and for family.  For the nieces and nephews who still haven't quite forgiven me for selling my house out from under them, but love me anyways.  For sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins, in- and out- and almost-in-laws, all willing, when I call (sometimes on short notice), to welcome me and take me in. 

For lights that brighten the darkness, and furnaces that keep the cold at bay.

For friends.  I couldn't make it without them.


For all the good things, and some of the trials (for they have taught me much, even though I don't often appreciate the teachings at the time), for laughter and tears both.

For leaves of gold and red and orange that glow with an inner light on the grayest of fall days - a visible sign of the Beauty that Is, if we but take the time to notice it.

Amen?
Amen.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Operation Creep Out: Success.


McMurdo Station, Antarctica

Late this summer, our Wifi vendor got a bit busy and called in a friend of his to help resolve some problems we were having with our new internet setup.

Justin was in and out of the office for several weeks (it took him a bit, but he did find and fix our main network issue), and one day happened to wear in a shirt with an Antarctica EMT crew logo on it.  Since Kate was going down in November, I asked him about it, and it turns out, in one of his other lives, he's part of the EMT crew down at McMurdo Station there.  He's gone down each of the last several years for the winter (summer, there), and was planning to go down again this year.

Immediately, my mind began to hatch a plot.  How funny would it be, if, while Kate was wandering around the station in Antarctica, one of the far corners of the world, some complete stranger met up with her and asked her how her mother was doing at Cristo Rey?  It would totally mess with her mind.

I asked Justin if he was in on the scheme, and he was with me in a moment.  (Did I mention he's a bright young man?)  He left to go down there at the beginning of October.  Kate arrived earlier this week.  It's not a real big place, so it only took a couple of days for him to run into her.

His report:  Operation Creep Your Daughter Out was a resounding success!

Have I ever mentioned that one of my favorite parts of being a parent is that you get to mess with them just a little?  I'm still laughing. 


Sunday, November 4, 2012

I Wanna be a Bear

Black Bear, Omaha Zoo
If you're a bear, you get to hibernate. You do nothing but sleep for six months.  I could deal with that.

Before you hibernate, you're supposed to eat yourself stupid.  I could deal with that, too.


If you're a mama bear, everyone knows you mean business. You get to swat anyone who bothers your cubs. If your cubs get out of line, you swat them too.  I could WAY deal with that.

If you're a bear, your mate EXPECTS you to wake up grumpy.  He EXPECTS that you will have hairy legs and excess body fat.


Yup.  I wanna be a bear.
-- Author Unknown

I think it's the time of year.  Hibernating always sounds pretty good to me come the start of November.  There is less light each day, and I've never cared for getting up before sunrise.  Even less so this year.  I get up, but I REALLY don't wanna.

On the plus side, I had enough energy this weekend to complete a couple of my fifteen minute tasks.  You know the ones I'm talking about.  There's this little something that needs doing.  Every time you look at it, you think, I should take a few minutes and get that done.  But then, you procrastinate, and don't do it again today, and the next thing you know, it's been sitting undone for 4-6 months.  Finally, it bugs you enough that you do it, and you find it took about fifteen minutes to finish, and you think, "why didn't I just take time and DO IT six months ago?"  Those tasks.  (I finished two of them.  I'm quite proud of myself.)

I talked to a friend of mine in New Jersey yesterday.  He said it looks like a disaster zone out there.  He was waiting in line for gas.  The good news is that he was the sixth car in line.  The bad news was that the tanker wasn't due for another three hours, and he'd already been waiting an hour.  Yowza!  It's the little stories which bring home to me the scope of the devastation of the storm.  Four hours for gas?  In New Jersey?  Where no one goes anywhere without climbing in their car?  Now, that's bad.  My prayers reach to all those who suffered serious damage in the storm; who are without homes and cars.  Especially for those who don't have insurance...

It makes me scared.  What damage have we wrought to the world around us that these once-in-a-lifetime storms are happening once every five years?  I just hope it's not too late to change course, and that we will have the courage to make the hard choices necessary to make the change.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Hard Goodbyes, Continued

Catholic Cemetery, St. Augustine, FL
I'm not surprised I ended my week with the crud.  It's more than a cold, not as bad as the flu.  Just enough to have me hunkering down with a kleenex box, some warm soup and a good book all weekend.

For me, there's a definite link between stress and illness.  It's not always true, but it's amazing how often I come down with something during or just after a stressful week.  And, for me, last week definitely qualified as stressful.

Charlie's funeral on Monday was a wonderful sendoff for a sweet man.  As his fourteen year-old son stood at the front and read, with clear eyes and voice, a poem his dad had written for him, I was blubbering in the back of the room.  As they stated so well in his obit, 'his leaving has left a Charlie-sized hole in the universe that will be hard to fill'.  I will miss him.  But, I think, I hope, I pray that his parting won't leave a void as big in the lives of his children as Mom's did in mine.  Young Mack will not need to take on the sort of responsibilities that I did - his mother will be able to support him, he will be able to finish living his teenage years as a teen.  A teen keenly missing his Dad's strong and steady guide light, but a teen all the same.  

Walter's mother's funeral later in the week was a different kind of sad.  Here was a woman who had lived long and loved well.  While the sting of parting was still there - it's always hard to say goodbye to those we love - there was more of a sense of a job well done; a life well-completed before she moved on to those distant shores.

So many goodbyes, so many tears.  So much laughter and smiling through the tears because of the joy of having known these good people.  I've always been told death is not the end; that we will meet those we love again.  I can only hope so.  Because I already have a TON of stories saved up that I'd love to share...


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Goodbyes Are Hard


Lake of the Ozarks, 2009

I found two quotes worth adding to my list of 'quotes I'd like to try to remember' relating to death this week.  Apropos, since its chill touch has touched my life and the lives of those I love twice more this past week:

The late F.W.H. Myers used to tell how he asked a man at a dinner table what he thought would happen to him when he died. The man tried to ignore the question, but on being pressed, replied: "Oh well, I suppose I shall inherit eternal bliss, but I wish you wouldn't talk about such unpleasant subjects."
-Bertrand Russell, philosopher, mathematician, author, Nobel laureate (1872-1970)

We sometimes congratulate ourselves at the moment of waking from a troubled dream; it may be so the moment after death. 
-Nathaniel Hawthorne, writer (1804-1864)

Charlie, the friend I wrote about last week, died this past Wednesday.  His lungs finally quit.  His daughter, who had gone back to college that morning, got the call right after her classes let out.  She raced the three hours back to Kansas City, and got here about an hour before he died.

Walter's mother was 80-something.  She was tired, and quit eating just a couple of days before she, too, left this world for the next.

Talking to both families as I delivered cookies (when in doubt, bring food!), I was struck how we never think today will be the day.  We think there will be time to bring over those favorite stuffed green peppers next week.  And when we aren't granted that time, we are shocked and angry and feel robbed and full of regret for things left unsaid and undone; gestures unnecessary now that it's too late.

I remember the feeling when Mom was so sick.  Yes, she was sick, and was going to die soon - but not today.  So, when the news came, though it was sorta expected, I was still in shock.  I still wanted to <fill in the blank> with her.  I wanted to say I love you one more time.  I wanted to hold her hand, tell her I was sorry for all the times I hadn't been a good enough daughter, thank her for all she'd taught me while she was able.  I was relieved she was now free from the pain that had dogged her every breath, but selfishly, I wished she had waited just a few more days, so we would have been able to say good-bye.  (Her condition had turned suddenly earlier in the week, and they'd come and rushed her off in an ambulance while we, her children, looked on from a distance, scared and uncertain.  They told us we could see her soon to say what we wanted to say - but soon never came.)

Since my surgeries earlier this year, I have been more aware of the fragility of my own life - the beautiful moments are all the more precious because on another road, they might not have ever been.  Yet, already, I find myself caught in the frustrations of daily living, dwelling on the negative, forgetting to look for the Beauty that is everywhere God Is, and thus is everywhere.

God, help me to dwell not on life's frustrations, for they will always be around and screeching for my attention, but to dwell instead on life's beauty, even on those days it is not apparent.  Because I don't know when my days will be done.  And I sure would kick myself if, on that day, I'd noticed only the gray of the sky, and forgotten to note how vibrant the yellow fall leaves appeared against their drab backdrop.

Amen.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Mixed News Week

Jellyfish - Omaha Zoo
This has been a week of ups and downs.

Up - because my daughter and her fiance brought THAT BABY down to see me this past weekend.  She's so CUTE.  I'm pretty sure she misses me, if only because I gave her chocolate to bribe her into liking me.  (Hey, whatever works...)  She's walking, and learning a new word a day.  She loves to go out and to see people and places.  And, she traveled well, which bodes well for my chances of her mom bringing her down to see me again when she gets a chance.  Hectic, tiring - but I loved every minute of their visit.

Down -  I've written here before about how alcohol has affected my family.  I grieve to say it's won this latest round.  Unable to see a way past the dark cloud it brought to his life, my cousin's husband took his life this last week.  I didn't know him well - but the few times I'd met him, I'd liked him.  He leaves my cousin and two college-age boys behind to pick up the pieces and figure out how to move on without his light in their lives.  Damned drink!

And Down and Up - Today, I went to a hospital birthday celebration for a good friend whose lungs are shutting down.  I don't know exactly what's wrong with him, I didn't ask.  Whatever it is, it's not good.  In spite of that, in spite of the oxygen tubes, when I walked in, he was alight with joy as he looked at his daughter and her friends singing bluegrass music - they'd come down from Nebraska for a  birthday surprise.  What a wonderful gift, what beautiful love.

It's all brought just a bit of much-needed perspective to my musings.  The cycle of life, brightened by family and love, darkened by despair and loss.  "It is what it is", as my oxygen-tethered friend told me.  No guarantees, except that death will one day visit us all.  There's joy between here and there.  Sometimes it's hard to find, and sometimes it arrives smiling and playing a fiddle like there's not a cloud in the world.

Dale - May you now see clearly.  May you rest safely in the arms of God.  May your time be filled with Light and the presence of God's Peace.

Charlie - Thank you for reminding me once again to look for and savor Joy - whenever it happens to stop in for the day.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

People Everywhere!

Flamingos - Omaha Zoo - Oct 2012
It is slowly dawning on me that part of my problem with fatigue may very well stem from the fact my office got moved this summer.

I used to have a private office; now I'm tucked into the back corner of the tech room.

I don't mind the change - it actually works a bit better with my workflow, but it does mean I no longer have any modicum of privacy or alone time during the work day.

From the time I get there until I leave, there are people about.  My student worker for the day is generally waiting at the door when I come in.  My partner in tech, who shares the office, comes in around nine the three days a week she works.  There are students studying in the front part of the room for much of the day.  Staff members, teachers and students stop by with questions or just to say hi.

I spent the previous fifteen years of my work life working independently - for much of that time, from home.  Then, I got into the camper van, and spent another five months alone on the road.

And I wonder why I'm tired now that I'm spending all day, every day, with people?  I know there are those who thrive on the presence of others, but for me, people take energy, even when I'm not pre-tired, which is rare these days.  (It's not all draining - one of the students perks up when he sees me, gets a huge smile on his face and gives me a big hug - I always get a lift from those interactions.)

I saw my oncologist last week.  He says I'm looking great and that all my blood numbers look good.  (Yay!)  There's no obvious reason for me to be so tired.  While it annoys me that there's not some magical pill he can give me to fix it, in some ways I find it comforting.  It means that the fatigue I still fight daily is most likely just a result of overdoing it after surgery; nothing nasty is underlying the exhaustion.  Which means, if I continue my campaign to get to bed early, I should begin to have more energy soon. Especially if I can figure out a way to snag a few minutes of alone time during the workday.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

I Want to Run Away!

All this week, I've been wanting to run away.

Monday night, I found myself plotting and scheming.  If I work until my contract ends on July 1, and I raid the fund I reserved for the down payment on my next house, I could climb back into the camper van for the six months still OWED to me by the Universe, and ...

My inner two year-old is pouting big time, but I've had to veto this scheme of hers.

You see, there's a big difference between leaving and running away.

When I left in the camper van last fall, I was taking a break.  I'd thought through what I really wanted to do with my time for the next year - and that was to 'do' nothing.  I wanted to be; I wanted to rest.

I did all of that for too short a spell - and had a glorious time.

If I left again this next summer, I'd be running from I'm not sure what.  From my cancer.  From car payments and bills.  From responsibility.  From getting up to the beep of the alarm each day.

It sounds good on the surface.  Really good.  Unfortunately, life has shown me that running away doesn't work so well in the long run.  My troubles have an uncanny knack for following me if I run; sneaking around from behind and then laying themselves across the path in front of me, so I stumble across them just when I think I've left them in the dust.  I have yet to come to peace with an issue by not facing it; by running from whatever lesson life is trying to teach me.  For me to resolve my problems and move on, I have to face them.

I hate that part.

I don't want to be grown up and responsible.  I want to believe in greener grass and that life on the other side of the mountain is better than life here could ever be.  But, I don't.  I guess it's part of that elusive gift of wisdom that theoretically comes with growing older.  Or, maybe, it's nothing so venerable as wisdom.  Maybe, I've just made enough mistakes to know when I'm about to get burned, and have learned to avoid the flames.

Either way, I don't think I'll be throwing all the cards up in the air again -- at least, I won't be doing it next year.  Another few years down the road, and I may well be singing a new song...

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Now, That's Better!

Today, I finally had both the time and the energy to finally exercise again, after ten weeks on the wagon.

My shoulders haven't been so happy in over a month - and tonight, for the first time in ages, my muscles won't be complaining as I go to bed.

It'll take me a while to regain my exercise addiction, but today's fix felt great!  Instant antidepressant.

It's been a good weekend.

I got to sleep in both days.  (That almost qualifies it as a good weekend right there.)
I got my house cleaned, and aired out (thanks to the cool breeze coming through).
I got my laundry and grocery shopping done.  (Aren't I just the best little do-bee?)
I saw friends, went for walks, and thoroughly enjoyed this first day of autumn.
I read a good murder mystery (an excellent way to take one's mind of one's problems, if I do say so myself).

I can even contemplate going into work tomorrow without wanting to crawl under the bed and stay there.

I've spent some time just thinking.  Same old stuff.  Who am I and where am I going?  Do I know?  Am I going where I want to go?  The scare of the cancer's subsided for now - what do I want to do with these next few years of my life?

My cancer has given me a new awareness that continued healthy living is not a given.  As much as I don't like to think about it, cancer comes back, and no one (yet) know why.  Given all that, am I spending my life in a manner such that, if I found it had come back tomorrow, I would be content with how I had spent the last healthy days I had?

As awful as it sounds, and as much as I hate to admit it, part of me just wishes it would come back, and I could deal with the reality instead of my fears.  Reality, I can face head on and fight.  Fears, whispers and rumors are hard.  If my hip aches, is it bone cancer, or just that I stretched it too far?  If I cough, is it lung cancer, or just a side-effect of my allergies?  I do tend to dwell on the sane and easy answers, but the fear still lurks in the background.

I have a good friend who's just celebrated her one-year anniversary after diagnosis.  Unlike my cancer, hers has stolen the greater part of her life.  They've treated it aggressively with chemo, but while the tumors shrink each time - and when they don't, they switch up chemo regimes - she has yet to be declared even temporarily cancer-free.  The side-effects of the chemo have cost her much - she is yet unable to return to work, and some of the damage from the side effects will never go away.

Why her and not me?

I know - some things are not for us to know.  But it still doesn't make sense, dammit!  It's just not fair!

Be still,
and know,
that I am God.

stop.  breathe.  relax.

anyways.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Boundaries

I'm working on this concept of reestablishing my boundaries at work, and for the most part it's working.

Last week, I left on time two out of three days, and the third was one of those days that just happens in IT where something breaks near the end of the day, and you need to stay and fix it.

Especially if you plan, as I did, on leaving town the next morning.

I went to Minnesota last weekend.  Even though the drive was long, it was worth it to get my baby fix in.

She's SO CUTE!  She's started walking, hands held out, ready to catch herself when she falls, which she does with some frequency.  Thresholds are a challenge, cornering will come next, but neither daunts her.  She just picks herself up and moves on.

Oh, I also saw much of the rest of my family at a gathering for my stepmother, who made one of her rare but welcome appearances in town.  I talked fast, ate a lot, was glad to see and be seen, and felt like I didn't get to spend enough time with anyone - typical for me at our family gatherings.  I leave wishing I could have spent just a few more minutes with this person and that, hearing just a bit more about what's going on in their lives.  Did I mention that baby was also there?  She was SO CUTE!

Dang, but it was hard to drive away Sunday afternoon, knowing it'll be 2-3 months before I see her again, and I'll have to start all over again to earn her trust.  Fortunately for me, her mother rarely lets her have chocolate, which means she's easily bribed.

For whatever reason, until I returned home, I'd blocked my annual remembrance of Mom's death.  She died 35 years ago on 9/7.  I think it struck just a little too close to home this year.  I want my cancer story to have a different ending - but the beginnings are awfully similar.  Cancer that looks very treatable, removed and apparently gone.  There are a number of key differences - Tamoxifen is a big one.  The drug helps keep the cancer from establishing itself anywhere else, and wasn't yet available when she got sick.  But it still scares me - her bone cancer seemed to come out of nowhere, just about the time she was out of the woods.  I don't think I'll truly breathe easily until I've passed that magic five-year mark - a mark she didn't come close to reaching.

So here's to being healthy enough to make the drive to MN, so I could celebrate family and life and chances to see babies just learning to walk.  Now, if I can keep me leaving work on time for the next few weeks, I may even begin to regain some of my energy.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

So Tired!

OK.  I think I pushed it just a bit too far.

In the five weeks I worked between returning to school after my surgery and Labor Day weekend, I put in a little over 80 hours of overtime.

I was driven - I wanted to get those iPads ready to go.  And I did it.

But I'm not so sure my doctors would approve.  I know my body doesn't.

During the week of 12-hour days when we were distributing the iPads, I  hit the proverbial wall, and I hit it hard.  Even though I spent the entire Labor Day weekend just lying about, I'm still beat.  Since I can't feel any pain in my chest, it's easy to forget that it's still trying to heal from some pretty major surgery.  I've followed the letter of the 5lb rule, but not the law.

So, it's time to sit back and reestablish some boundaries.  I started today, by leaving work on time.  I need to realize the work isn't going to go anywhere and there are no prizes for killing myself trying to get it done.  In fact, most people won't even notice.  The only thing I'm going to get if I push it too hard is an exhausted and rebellious body.

Other than that, how am I healing?

For the most part, pretty well.  The latest indignity is that the healing tissues have begun to itch, and while I am certainly aware of the itch, I can't feel the scratch, because there are no nerve endings in my skin!  The nerve! (so to speak)  I just about took my skin off the other night, trying to get at it.  Fortunately for my tender skin, I figured out that if I rub hard on the itch, it does ease it.

The restriction on stretching has my upper body all out of whack.  And while I don't miss the actual process of exercising, I do miss being done - exercise is my favorite antidepressant.

I hope to see the doctor next week and get cleared to begin moving again.

In the meantime, I need to remember:
Stop.
Breathe.
Relax.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

I'm Dreaming iPads!

Last week came the moment the students at Cristo Rey have been anxiously awaiting - we handed out their iPads.

The logistics of the rollout were my responsibility, and I am relieved to say it went well.  There were a few bumps in the road - most notably a major run-in with the Apple fraud servers.  My account team forgot to tell me I needed to have the school's IP address whitelisted with Apple, and after the first ten or so IDs we'd create each day, the Apple fraud servers would start rejecting them.  Seems that if you create 80+ IDs in three hours from a single location, they think there's something fishy going on, and shut you down.  Go figure.

That frustration and the resulting cleanup aside, it was great.  I got to give a speech - 16 times; once each night at the class parent meetings, three times each of the following days to the split groups of students in each class.  I got pretty good at it, if I do say so myself.

My biggest kick has been watching the students as they work and play with their new devices.  The students of Cristo Rey are drawn from the inner city.  Over 95% of the student body is eligible for free and reduced lunches.  This means they usually just watch from the sidelines as something new and exciting hits the market.  Not this time - we are the first high school in Kansas City to deploy the devices to the entire student body.

One of the local TV stations covered the story (there goes 2 seconds of my fifteen minutes of fame):

http://www.kctv5.com/story/19335130/cristo-rey-students-teachers-start-school-year-with-new-ipads

Those who didn't get their iPads last week, have been trickling into my office all of this.  With big eyes and missing paperwork clutched in their hands, they tentatively stick their heads into the room.  "Can I get my iPad now?"  Their faces fall as I explain they may not miss any core classes to go through the setup process; I will hand them out only during study time and right after school.  But later, they come back and the magic moment comes.  I hand them their new iPad and 30 minutes later, they leave - faces beaming; iPad carefully held in hand.  (We did have one student learn the hard way that the devices don't do well negotiating the stairs on their own.   It still functioned, but the screen was crazed with cracks.  Good thing we have insurance for breakage on them.)

Me?  I'm exhausted, with a newly renewed respect for teachers.  Last week took a LOT of energy!



Sunday, August 12, 2012

Exhausted...

I knew it wasn't a great idea, as far as completing my summer work was concerned, to take two weeks off for surgery in mid-July.

The school has completely turned its telecom infrastructure on its head this summer.  We got in a new telephone service provider, a new internet pipe, new wireless within the school, new internet and e-mail filters, new outsourced servers, new cell phones, and swapped out all of the teacher and staff computers for newer models.  And did I mention we're implementing a 1 to 1 initiative, and handing out iPads to all the staff and students?  All this had to happen after July 1, when the new budget year began, and I'm in charge of coordinating the whole shebang.

So, it's been no real surprise to me that since I've returned to work, I've worked long days every workday, and on 4 of the 6 weekend days.   I'm thinkin' this is NOT what the surgeon had in mind when he cleared me to return to work.  I'm about ready to drop.

Fortunately for what little remains of my stamina, school starts at the end of next week.  I lose the first three days next week to back-to-school staff/teacher welcome meetings, but because of the weekend work I've done, and invaluable help from my partners in crime in the tech department at school, I think we'll actually be ready to hand out the iPads to the students the week of 8/20.  (Those four days, full with handing out iPads during the day, and parent meetings in the evening, SHOULD mark the end of the excessive overtime for a while.  I hope.)

I work with computers and new equipment so often, the fun of getting a new gadget is lost on me.  Probably because I don't get to use the stuff; I just set it up and hand it off.  I've been reminded of the joy as I run into the kids in the hallway.  They're full of excitement and questions, anxious to make sure they've not missed anything in their summer packets that would keep them from getting their iPads on schedule.

The teachers are also excited.  They have been playing and learning; working on how to integrate the devices into their classrooms.

It's organized chaos, but it's finally looking like it just might come together.  **whew**

Monday, August 6, 2012

Happy Moments

Colorado Sunset
I've been working too hard for too many days in a row since going back to work after my surgery, and tonight a good friend lured me away from work on time to go out to dinner.  We went to a local vegetarian restaurant, Cafe Gratitude, where the food is great.  They also have a question of the day.  Today's question was:  What was the happiest moment in your life?

The question brought me out of work-exhaustion mode, and I started to cast my mind back through the years.  It didn't take too long for a moment to come to mind, though I seldom think of the incident these years.  I don't know it was THE happiest moment, but it certainly ranks up there.

I was seventeen, starting my senior year of high school, convinced that no one was EVER going to want to go out with me or find me attractive.  I'd joined the diving team that year, and had a huge crush on the diving coach, who was just a year older than I.  He paid me no more or less attention than any other girl on the team, but I thought he was the cutest guy EVER.

The team had gone up to northern Minnesota for an overnight swim meet, and the event was followed by a cookout at the home of one of the girls on the other team, whose family owned a place on one of the local lakes.  It was shortly after the first anniversary of Mom's death, and I felt disconnected and alone in the group laughing around the campfire.  So I left, and made my way down to the dock to sit by myself for a bit.

It was a cool night, with a new moon.  The sky was clear and you could see a gazillion stars.  As I sat there, feeling the chill of fall in the air, drinking in the beauty before me, starting to feel a little better, I heard someone else coming down the hill.  At first I was annoyed to find my solitude interrupted, but then I realized it was Bob, the diving coach.  He said hullo, and sat down on the dock near me.  Just a few minutes later, as we were talking, he moved closer.  He sat right behind me, so I could lean back against him, and he began to point out the constellations.  We sat this way for perhaps thirty minutes before someone else came down to the dock and he moved away.

For those thirty minutes, I was the happiest teenager in the whole. wide. world.

Never mind the next day when he went back to his cool, professional self, and I was crushed.  The hurt faded after a short time.  The joy, however, has stayed with me through the years.  That night I learned that sometimes, even if it's just for a short while, dreams can come true.

Even for gawky, too tall, socially inept, shy teenaged girls, who are unaware of how beautiful they really are.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Encouraging Words

Peeps!
Ask, and ye shall receive.  In one of my posts a week and a bit ago, I asked for some encouraging words.

A couple of days later, I received a case of Peeps from one of my friends from AT&T.  (Not just a box or two - a case - as in 24 boxes.  I could be high on sugar for the next year...)  As his accompanying note said, "What thought could be more up?"  I must admit, I smiled all that day - and have a box of them sitting on my desk at work.  Just looking at them renews the smile.

I also heard from a couple of friends who offered to help me clean my house when next it needs it, since I still won't be able to push a mop or vacuum cleaner.  (I was wrong about being limited to 15 pounds of lifting - the new limit is actually 5 pounds.  AND, the ban on lifting extends to Labor Day.  At least I'm still allowed to exercise by walking!  **grumble, grumble**)  Another friend treated me to lunch.

Yet another AT&T friend told me my name still pops up in meetings a year after my retirement - 'the Janice logic' - apparently a few of the programs I left behind are complex enough that no one wants to touch them.  That made me laugh.  (and here I thought they wouldn't miss me at all after I'd left...)

The visit from my daughter and grand-baby helped.  It's hard to stay too down when there's a baby in the house.  Especially when someone else is doing the get-up-early-with-the-baby part.  She had a great time emptying all the drawers she could reach and pushing the furniture around.  (The baby, not Kate.)  Then, as a touch of great adventure, we let her play with the metal mixing bowls.  That was a BIG hit; who needs toys?  (OK, we did.  The pushing the furniture around part was a little hard on the floors, so I asked a friend of mine, whose kids are just a bit older than Lexi, if we could borrow a push toy for a week.  She was happy to loan us a small cart - and it was well-used the week it was here.)

All of this helped.  (At least, it helped until I went back to work last Thursday, and found myself so behind that I had to work through the weekend just to begin to get my feet beneath me.  I didn't want to do it, but figured asking them to push the start date of the school year back a few days so I could get my work done wouldn't fly too well...  Now, I'm exhausted - not dangerously so, yet, but I'll be glad once school starts, and I can cut back to normal working hours.)

How do people ever get through something like this alone?  They have my prayers and my sympathy, because I know, without you all, I'd be a melting mess.  Thank you.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Garumph!

Sculpture Garden
Nelson Atkins Museum of Art


I had my one week post-op visit with the surgeon today.

I am healing well, and he is still pleased with his handiwork.  But.  There always seems to be a 'but' associated with these doctor visits.

Apparently he had to add quite a bit of tissue and do some quilting in layers of stitches on the added tissue to make a correctly-sized pocket for the implant.  This tissue and his sewing will be delicate for a while, so, contrary to what I was first told, that my activities would be restricted for just a week or two, I am to put no stress on my chest muscles for the next six weeks.

Too much stress will break the pocket, which means I'd need to go back in for further surgery.  It's quite some incentive to behave.  But, still!

This means:
  • no lifting anything over 15-20 pounds
  • no putting my arms up over my head to stretch or stretching them back
  • no sit-ups or weight lifting or katas or .....
  • no housecleaning (Kate will help me clean before she leaves next week - I guess I can just ignore the dirt for the month after that...)
Pretty much all I can do for exercise is to walk - and somehow, when the temps are hovering around 100 degrees every day - with the lows around 80, and that before 6AM, walking doesn't have the appeal it sometimes does.

Harumph!

Here I'd been working so hard to get the exercise habit back; the one I'd broken for the first time in years after my initial surgery in February.  Just in the past few weeks, I'd found the energy to start to get my stomach muscles back into some sort of shape, and had begun to work in a little weight-lifting and some katas.  I'll start again in a few months, but in the meantime, I'm clearly going to have to find an outlet besides exercise to help me deal with the frustrations and challenges of daily life.

Someone sent me a story earlier this week, purportedly about St. Teresa of Avila:  While fording a river, swollen with spring rains, Teresa was dumped from her horse and soaked through thoroughly. Shaking her fist at the sky, she said, 'THIS is how you treat your friends?  No wonder you have so few of them!'

I can relate.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Trust Thing Again

Geneseo Methodist Church
Buckingham, Iowa
I'm not good at the trust thing.
I'm not.

And I think that's a good part of the problem with my bout with the blues this past week.  I haven't even been trying to trust that I'm on the right path; that I am where God wants or needs me to be.

Instead, I've just been grousing and grumping along for several days.  Even I am sick of my company.  I don't like surgery and its groggy aftermath.  I don't like having my activities restricted. I'm tired of drugs.  I don't like much of anything except Haagen Dazs Almond Ice Cream Bars.

It's time to change all that.  (Except for the part about the ice cream bars.) 

I can't see why I've been set to travel this path at this time.

I'm not on the path I'd be traveling on, if I had my druthers.
This path I am on has some ugly bumps on the way, and it doesn't make sense to me.

All this is true - and it's also true that it's time to trust I'm on this path for a reason.

So, God.  Help me to trust.  Let me see you haven't dumped me in the gutter; kicked me to the curb; left me out in the cold (so to speak).  Show me You are still there, guiding my footsteps, leading me to the places I need to be. 

I claim to have joined the Church of Random Kindness and Senseless Beauty some time back.  Help me to get to church one day soon - to look outside myself; to see where my hands can help Yours to make a difference in this world.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Recovering Quickly.

Sculpture Garden -
Nelson Atkins Museum of Art
The surgeon was right - I'm recovering much more quickly from this surgery than I did the last.  Surgery was Thursday morning - and by this morning, I already didn't need my pain medication.  (Although I did finally give in and take some muscle relaxants - I was pretty convinced my chest was going to pop if I brushed it against something, and that visual is either pretty awful or pretty funny, depending on my mood of the moment...).

And, he was also right about this set of Barbie boobs being much more comfortable than the last.  I can already feel the difference, and things are still pretty swollen.  On the plus side, I have more cleavage than I ever have before - bring on the cougar tops!  or not.

I saw him again yesterday morning - he was pleased with his work.  I think that's a very good thing.  All is going to plan - I'm healing well, but...

Emotionally, I've had a hard time stabilizing.  I've been on the edge of tears since yesterday morning.  I don't know why.  (A delayed reaction to all that's happened?  possible...  Now that I'm safe, it's safe to begin to feel?) I just want to crawl back into bed and pull the covers over my head and not get up.  I won't actually do it, mostly because I've tried it before and it doesn't work.  Eventually the air gets stuffy and I have to go to the bathroom.

I've spent a lot of time today just piddling about the apartment.  Following the post-op instructions - I don't want to mess things up.  But, that means no exercise, no sweating - my favorite antidotes to the blues.  And no driving, since I'm still on drugs.  Don't mind that last part at all - if I went places, I'd have to be nice to people, and I'm just not sure I can do that at the moment.  The best I can do is to say as little as possible to anyone.  Hard to get them upset with me that way.

Send a few uplifting thoughts my way these next few days, if you would.  I'm sure those will help.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Nesting...

Poudre River, CO
I've discovered that upcoming surgery brings out the nesting instinct in me.

This past week was a blur of I-GOTTA-get-this-dones.  Trying to get all my loose ends tucked in both at home and at work.

The house has to be cleaned.  (I can't expect me to sit around a dirty house and not be able to clean it for two weeks, now can I?)

Everything at work needs to be lined up and ready to keep moving while I'm out.  Thursday was the worst day.  Every time I got started on something I got interrupted, and I didn't have any time to follow up on the glitches I kept running into trying to move the teachers from old laptops to new(er) ones.  By the time I did get a few minutes, it was after five, and I had run out of my learning quota for the day.  I was looking things up, but the pages on the screen were making no sense.  I finally gave up around 7:30 and went home.  Friday was better; I came in early to get a jump on the day.  It helped - within the first hour, I'd figured out solutions to all the previous day's insolvable problems.  Amazing what a good night's sleep will do for ya.

Kate's visit got postponed - instead of coming in before my surgery, she'll be coming in the week after.  Either way works for me - I get to see her and the world's cutest baby.  It'll be a great distraction if I'm still not feeling well when they get here.  And if I am feeling well - it'll still be a great distraction.  I get to feed that baby chocolate - way fun!  (She never gets any at home, and I don't see her often enough for her to actually remember me, so it's my way of bribing myself onto her good side.  So far, it works!)

I had a great time on the 4th, back in my old neighborhood, catching up with friends.  I find I hate it when I run into people who don't know I've been sick.  I'm tired of the story; just want it to be in the past.  Their looks of shock and words of sympathy are appreciated, but I don't like being the bearer of scary tidings.  They are scared for me - which makes it hard for me to ignore the fact I'm scared for myself.  (It's getting better, as a few months have passed, and the beast hasn't come roaring back to bite me, but I have to admit I'll still be looking over my shoulder for the next few years.  The odds are way in my favor, but it's still scary.)

Three more days - I won't make it to the bottom of my to-do list - but it won't be for lack of trying!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Time to Get Off the Road

State Forest State Park, CO
The year referred to in the heading of my blog is about over.  If things had gone according to plan, I'd be getting off the road along about now.  I'd be looking for a place to live, a place to work, and I'd be getting ready to sell the camper van, because I would have gotten the travel bug out of my system.  (OK, maybe I'm dreaming about that last one.  Probably not.)

In some ways, I feel the date marks the beginning of the path of what-might-have-been merging back with the path of what-is.  I am not unhappy with my life as it is.  I like my job and my apartment, and my car is way fun to drive.  (zip, zip!)  These past six months have not been all fun and games, but neither have they been hell.

I met with my surgeon yesterday; the final pre-op meeting before I get my permanent implants on July 12th.  Both he and his nurse were happy for me, thought I would be happy, too.  I felt badly for not being more enthusiastic about the surgery.  I'd like to be, I know I'll be more comfortable.  But...  my numb chest has been bothering me this week - not physically, it's numb - but the knowledge this formerly sensitive erogenous zone has been turned into a permanent dead zone has kept coming back to dampen my spirits.

On the other hand, I am thankful, daily, because as far as we know, the cancer was caught before it spread.  That's worth having a numb chest - the alternative REALLY sucks.

And, my daughter and grandbaby will be coming back down for the surgery.  This time, they'll be here for a few days before the surgery date, which means I'll actually be lucid and able to enjoy more of their company.

Here's to silver linings.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Alcoholism

My sister is an alcoholic.  She will lose her home to foreclosure in the next month or two - and, lost in her illness, she has made no plans to move.  When I talked to her last week, she had no idea where she is going to go.  She had pancreatitis last fall; if she doesn't quit drinking, she will not live another five years.  And because she chooses not to help herself, there is nothing anyone else can do to help her.  I sit here tonight in tears.  I don't want to lose my beautiful little sister.

These words are incredibly difficult for me to write.  My family has a code of silence around alcohol - its use and abuse and how it has affected our lives.  We notice, we sometimes whisper about this person or another, but we don't talk about it.  We don't confront the person who is drinking too much; we ignore their alcoholic behavior.

Several years ago, this same sister got in an accident on her way to a family reunion.  She was driving another sister's truck, pulling a trailer; her three kids and the oldest girl's boyfriend were in the car.  She went off the side of the pavement, over-corrected, and ended up rolling the truck in the ditch.  Fortunately, everyone was buckled in and no one was seriously hurt, but the truck and trailer were destroyed.  Her blood alcohol level was .20.  At two o'clock in the afternoon.

Because alcohol was involved, we didn't talk about it at the reunion the next day.  I purposely brought it up to several of my cousins; they had no idea it had happened - and we didn't talk of it for long.  Just the facts, 'how awful', then on to other topics.

My sister sat across the way, not talking to anyone, drowning her sorrows in her cup of cheap wine.  To this day, I'm sorry I didn't have the courage my sister-in-law had; the courage to walk over there, take the cup from her hands, smell the alcohol in it, and dump it out.

My alcoholic friends - the ones on the wagon - tell me that no, there is absolutely nothing I can do to help her.  I can't MAKE her stop drinking.  I can't make her see the damage her drinking is doing to her life and to the lives of her children.  I can't throw money her direction and have it make any difference.  (these things have been tried, by others in my family.)  I have no illusions that breaking the code and writing this blog entry will change anything, either in her life or in my family's approach to alcohol.

But I'm breaking the silence anyways.

I can't help, but I can pray; I believe prayer has power. If you will, please join your prayers to mine.  Pray for Maria.  Ask God to find a way to get her onto another path, for the one she is on can lead only to destruction.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Forgiveness...

State Forest State Park, CO
Awareness of my own anger is not one of my strong suits.  I've worked to recognize it over the past few years, and have gotten much better, but I still have a lot to learn.

As I was walking down from Lake Agnes in Colorado last week, I stopped for a bit by a cheerful little stream, to rest my legs.  In contrast to the water, which bounced and burbled down the hillside, I became still, both within and without.

As I sat and watched in stillness, I became aware of the tears spilling from my eyes.  I hurt, and something in the movement of water was drawing the hurt out, to be eased and smoothed.  I probed back within to find the source of the tears, and wasn't completely surprised to find me angry with my body for getting cancer.

It was quite a betrayal.  I've done my best over the years to do all I could to minimize the odds.  I exercise, I eat right, I don't smoke... I've done all I could do to stay healthy.  But my body, my genetics... I ended up with cancer anyhow.  And it sucks.  On so many levels.

As the tears fell, I let the anger go, or at least tried to.  I sent it into the water, there to be broken to pieces on the rocks, no longer strong enough to add to my burden of coping with the remaining effects of my illness.

Then, the next level of awareness.  Christians are told to forgive not just ourselves, but our enemies.  Could I forgive, not just myself, but the cancer, for leading me on to this unwelcome detour?  Still fight it with all I have, but fight with cold determination and not let the anger leech part of the energy I need for the battle?  This one's been a little harder; I'm still working on it.

I stayed there for quite some time, until I felt a measure of Peace.  The tears slowly dried, I became aware of the sun on my back, the rock poking me in the leg (there always has to be one of those when one sits on a rocky bank).  I stood, still thoughtful, and continued on my way.

Forgive the cancer?  Really??????


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Plains

Boyd Lake State Park, Colorado
As I was leaving the mountains of Colorado last week, I was reflecting on the beauty of the plains vs. the beauty of the mountains.

The mountains show Nature's indifference to humanity by going up and blocking the sky and easy passage across with their bulwarks of rock.  The plains show it by giving too easy a passage; a glimpse of the vastness of the sky, the breadth of the earth.

They say, "You, humanity, can try to tame us.  You can build your roads across with high speed limits to try to minimize the distance, you can dam the rivers to create lakes where none were, cut tunnels through the living rock to get across the mountains.  But know your efforts will not last.  The forces of wind, water and time will prevail to bring the landscape back to where I, Nature, want it to be."

It's a living example of the old Ash Wednesday prayer:  Remember, you are dust, and unto dust you shall return.  As a child, the refrain scared me - it expressed an impending loss my mind couldn't embrace.  Like many people, I liked my world as it was.  We, people, like our mountains, rivers and seacoasts to be immutable.  When earthquakes, hurricanes and floods impose a new order, we cry, and do our best to restore things to how they were when we first found them.

In the last decade or so, I've begun to appreciate the beauty of the prayer.  Rather than cold death and loss, the refrain now speaks to me of the cycle of life.  As the mountains were once seabeds, and time inexorably washes their rocks again to the sea, so we are meant to grow tall and strong, then return to the One who created us.

"This, too, shall pass."  All are encompassed in the cycle; from the tiny fish who swim in clear mountain lakes to the sun that brings life to the water.

Life is beautiful, precious, ephemeral.  It cannot be grasped; held on to past its time.  Each day I open my eyes, and I have a choice.  As when driving across the plains, I can look for and find the beauty of the sky and the landscape, stretching to the horizons, or I can wallow in frustration, focusing only on the odometer and the hours yet to be spent behind the wheel; worried more about my destination than the glory surrounding me during the drive.

God, help me to seek the beauty.
Amen.