Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year!

Actually, as I get older, the new year seems a bit anti-climatic.  It marks a turning of the calendar, but for my heart the year turned a couple of weeks ago at the winter solstice.

I learned some things about myself in the camper van.  Among the things I learned was that it isn't the cold that troubles me this time of year as much as it is the darkness.  I was trying to run away from it all that winter, but it all followed me.  (It all has a way of doing that, I've noticed.)

I tried - went as far south as I could go and still remain in the U.S.  It was warm enough, but when the sun went down at five and I had several dark hours before bedtime, some of the evenings were cold despite the temperature.

Since then, I've tried to be more aware of the light.  It's light in the morning when I drive into work and I stop for a moment before getting out of the car to appreciate it.  Some mornings it's easier than others - we had a long stretch of cold gray days to start this winter; cloud cover heavy enough that the sun was barely visible as a brighter spot in the sky.

I've always loved the cool-washed tones of a winter sunset.  But it's already dark most days by the time I leave work.

So I take heart in the turning of the days.  The year is turned; the light will not continue to disappear.  It will not leave us alone in the cold dark.  Tomorrow the light will last a bit longer.  It returns.

I'm trying to hold this thought close to my heart as I contemplate the trials the next few months will bring as I do what I can to help my daughter through this bout with cancer.  (She's waiting on some test results to decide on a treatment plan; we should know more in a week or so.  The good news in the bad news is still that she found it early and it's treatable.)  I need to remember the cycle of life; that this, too, shall pass.  Trials come and trials go, but God always Is, and the beauty is always there if I but remember to look for it.  

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Cancer and God Moments

This year, my daughter decided to get a live Christmas tree.  It wasn't until she got to the front of the line at the store that she realized she'd kill the tree if she kept it inside for the three weeks until Christmas.  But, it was a long line, and she liked her little tree, so she brought it home anyhow.  She and Alexandra decorated it, and then put it out on the small front porch of their apartment.  We talked about the risks - someone might come by and take it, but decided if that happened, it was OK - only someone who REALLY needs one would steal a Christmas tree.

 A couple of weeks ago, Kate had found a suspicious lump in her breast.  She made an appointment and went in to see her OB/Gyn.  She agreed it didn't look good, and sent Kate to get a sonogram / mammogram.  Still didn't look good, so they scheduled a biopsy.

Kate called me as she was walking home that day.  Her biopsy had been a little more involved than mine, and it hurt.  She was scared.  As we talked about the experience, she arrived home.  As she went up to the door, she looked at her little tree; her sign of hope.  No, it wasn't gone.

Someone had added an organic, fair-trade, sea salt and almond dark chocolate to the decorations.

Yesterday, she got the results of the biopsy.  It is cancer.  But if it must be cancer, at least it's a caught-early, very treatable kind.  (DCIS - ductal carcinoma in situ)  It's not time to despair.  There is much hope.  Still.  It sucks.

So, now she starts on the road I took three years ago; the road I would take again, for her, if I could; to keep her from having to travel it. Tests, surgeons, oncologists, more tests.  Lots of waiting and fear.

This morning, she got up, and looked at her little tree.  The angel (presumably the same one) had struck again, adding more treats.

Hope.  Kindness.  Stronger than darkness.  Stronger than fear.

Love Is.
God Is.

Thursday, December 11, 2014


It's been a little over two weeks, and my knees are just now beginning to speak kindly to me again. They didn't like the before-Thanksgiving push to get the tile floors down in the bathroom and the kitchen.

I had motivation.  I was having a three year-old guest in, and didn't want her to have to trek down two floors to our beautiful rustic subterranean stonewalled bathing facility should she have to go pee in the middle of the night.  (It's a daunting enough trip at my age!)

Someone (not to mention point any fingers) just had to have one of those modern twists on the traditional 20's bathroom floor - the old-style tile, but with a border around the edge.  It looked really great in the tile shop showroom. So what if I had to dry-fit the entire floor before I could begin?   (I'll admit - it's a good thing I didn't have to pay the tile guy by the hour.  It would've blown what little remains of the budget out of the water.)  It's one of those projects that even as I was cussing me out while doing all the tile cuts I knew I'd love it once it was finished.  And I do.

My brother kindly came by to set the toilet and sink the day before she got here.  I'm not sure she appreciated the extra effort, but I do - that I no longer need to trek to the basement in the middle of the night myself is one of those beautiful side-benefits that we occasionally get in life.

And, because I thought I could fit it in, I also got the kitchen floor laid, not without a bit of drama.  You see, the black tile came in boxes of 21; the white in boxes of 15.  The Tile Shop computers thought both colors came in boxes of 21, so when we got about 80% done with the floor the Saturday before Thanksgiving we ran out of white tiles.  (I'd had the tile delivered; that'll teach me to actually unwrap a skid to check its contents on delivery.) So, we spent four hours on Sunday running around to the different locations in town picking up what they had in stock so I could finish the floor that afternoon, so the grouting could happen on Monday and be partially cured for company on Thursday.

With all that running around, I was pretty tired by the time I got around to grouting the tile after work on Monday.  So, when one of the tiles in the middle of the floor popped up, instead of doing the sensible thing and mixing up a bit of mastic to re-lay it, I just got out my trusty caulk gun and used it to glue the baby down.  Subsequent research on the web tells me that may not have been the smartest thing I've ever done - caulk doesn't hold up under traffic load.  But, what's done is done and the tile is firmly attached for now.  I've decided to think of it as a science experiment - how long will a tile stay attached to the floor if you use caulk to glue it down?  We shall see!

Monday, December 1, 2014


Joe and I went for a slow amble around the park this last Saturday, just before the weather turned cold again.  I was recovering from a bout with a stomach virus, and since it was a beautiful day, decided a walk just might help my joints recover a bit.  (It did.)

As we were walking, Joe bent over to pick up a small piece of red paper lying near the sidewalk.  He unfolded it, and we read:

I just want to get along with my brother.  I don't want to stop loving him.  I truly love him but sometimes when we fight I am feeling I am loving him less.  God / Jesus I just want to have a normal childhood life with him.                                Sincerely, Alyson

I am sharing the note with you all so you can add your prayers to mine.

From the handwriting, I'm guessing Alyson is just entering her teens.  Lots of growing; lots of change, inside and out.  I'm sending a prayer her way - that she and her brother find a way to common ground so she can get back to her normal childhood life.

There are times I have had trouble loving my family.  I'm sure there have been times my family has found it hard to love me.  And I know I shared her yearning for a normal childhood life. (whatever that may look like...)

Alyson, May the newborn God's Peace find its way to your home this Christmas season.

Here's to family, with all its warmth and warts and wrinkles....