Monday, October 31, 2016


The leaves are still hanging on around here - several weeks past the time they'd normally be gone. A welcome side effect of the unseasonably warm autumn we've had.

I'm grateful they hung around. I get to stay home for three whole weeks in a row - I didn't make my reservations on time and the plane tickets got real expensive and it's the end of the year with travel budget, and so my trip for this week was canceled. Darn the luck.

That meant I got a whole weekend at home where I wasn't trying to adjust to the two hour time difference. It was lovely.

And it means I get an extra week to enjoy the changing colors. The trees are obviously a bit confused about the season - the leaves on a single tree range in color from deep green to brilliant orange. The colors glow against the gray autumn sky; warm, rich, a brilliant display to end the season.

Libby's first chemo went as well as these things go. She didn't get real nauseous though her stomach has definitive opinions about food; she had one day of flu-like symptoms, but those faded. The most annoying part thus far seems to have been the dude who kept stuffing metallic flavored cotton balls in her mouth. Her hair was still hanging in there, last I heard - she was delaying cutting it off until the last minute. Rather than the major chemo truck that knocked Kate flat, she seems to be on the street with the one that just keeps bumping her off balance. It's too soon to know how she'll respond in the long run, but every day that she's feeling OK is one less day she'll feel awful, and for this all who love her are grateful.

It still seems like a bad dream; the part of me that's into denial keeps hoping she'll call me up and let me know it was all a deranged and elaborate plot for attention. The part of me that's rejected denial just sits with it, fingers crossed and candles lit, hoping and praying the chemo will work to shrink the tumor, the surgery will cut it cleanly out, her lymph nodes will be clear and that ten years from now, we'll be sitting around sharing cancer stories.

Hope. It glows brilliant yellow and orange against the gray of the cancer sky. Its afterglow lasts in the mind long after the leaves have faded, leaving memories of beauty to help bolster the soul through the hard days ahead.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016


This past weekend, I took a break from my everyday life, and went up to visit a friend who lives near a lake about an hour out of town. Gayla and I left after work on Friday, and drove on up to spend a day relaxing out of reach of our usual weekend chores.

The weather was picture perfect. We slept in, went for a walk, relaxed some on the porch. After dinner, I stepped outside for a moment to catch a breath of air. As I stepped outside, I was captured by the beauty of the stars. It had been too long since I'd seen them. There's too much light pollution at home and in Seattle to see more than a scattering in the sky, and I haven't been out at night to see them since last year.

I stepped off the porch, gazing in wonder and awe at the night sky. It's fairly dark around Bob's house, but there was light from the windows spoiling my view, so I started wandering off into the night, in search of a good dark spot, eyes still glued to the heavens.

Suddenly, there was air and not ground beneath my feet.
I had time to think several thoughts:
"Oh, sh*t. He's got a cutout for his walkout basement on this side of the house."
"How high is the wall?  About 4-5 feet."
"This could be ugly."

I brought my feet together, and crouched just a bit, anticipating the landing. I hit the ground very shortly afterwards and was able to take the force of the landing in my crouch; falling forward just a bit, fingertips brushing the ground as I caught my balance.

I stood up carefully, checking for damage. Knees? working. Ankles? check. Hips?  A-OK! Really? I'd just walked off a five foot wall in the dark and managed to land without injury? Praise karate training, and the powers that be!

Limping just a little from a strain in my left leg, I resumed my search for the perfect spot. Up the yard, here...  behind those trees? Yes! I laid down in the grass, which still held a bit of warmth from the sun, and gave myself over to the wonder of the night. Bob and Gayla shortly joined me (minus the walk off the wall) and we lay there in awe just looking at the brightly shining stars.

I found the Milky Way, the North Star, the Big and Little Dippers, Orion's Belt (known better to my childhood self as the three sisters - I always thought those stars were there for Julia, Colleen and me - all in a row, all together). I found a star overhead, and sent it love and peace and tried (and failed) once again to fathom just how long its light had been traveling for me to see it that night.

I saw the second shooting star of my life.

I laid there until the growing chill in the air started to chase the enjoyment from the moment. We retreated to the candlelit porch for another thirty minutes or so, then called it a day.

That ache in my left leg started speaking strongly to me in the middle of the night. I tossed for a bit, then decided to get up and do the series of stretches I do on a regular basis to keep my joints moving. It hurt as I gingerly put my leg through the motions, but it helped, and I went back to sleep about an hour later. I woke in the morning, all joints still in working order, the strain in my leg much better.

Sometimes, I don't get what I deserve. (I'm not quite sure what I think I do deserve to get for walking off a wall in the pitch dark because I'm looking at the stars instead of my feet, but it's not to walk away without serious injury...)

I'm going to try to remember that next time I'm feeling like the fates are conspiring against me.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016


Quercas Palustris
My head has been spinning this past week.

There's a lot of pressure at work. We have a big deadline coming up this Friday, and the pressure is on. For the past few weeks, especially when I was out in Seattle, I was working all the hours I could work.  I'd start at 8, and go until my contacts cried "Uncle!", usually around 7-ish. We're close, and the team I'm managing is going to deliver - but it's still a lot of hours, and I'm reaching the end of my reserves.

The debate Sunday night got me going. It's almost as if Donald Trump had a remote viewer into my past. With his glowering, his interruptions, his stalking Hillary as she spoke, and the revelations of the weekend's leaked film, he was the perfect embodiment of the men in my past who groped me, dismissed me, tried to intimidate me. I swear - I thought I was past all that, but it took me a good while to banish their ghosts from my head once the debate finished. He resurrected them, and I do not thank him for that!

And, last but not least, Libby. I've been trying to send her love and support and keep all my worrying to myself, thank you very much. But, even though I've been through it, cancer is scary stuff. Scarier in someone you love than in yourself. Her 1st chemo session is tomorrow; I talked to her today. She's resigned, ready to get this show on the road. Good, bad, and ugly, at least the waiting will be over.

Breathe, I kept telling myself. breathe, dammit!

In the park where I walk is a lovely old tree.  Majestic - Quercus Palustris (sounds so much grander, than Pin Oak, no?) has reigned in her spot for many years. She is deeply rooted, a beautiful survivor. Yesterday, I stopped for a bit, and leaned against her trunk. I borrowed some strength from her roots, some calm from her canopy. Just a few of my pent-up tears fought free and trickled down my cheeks. She didn't care. She loaned me her strength; let me lean without comment.

Life is not easy; it leaves scars and it always ends. But it is all I know, and I fiercely embrace it.

Libby Lizard Elizabeth Elephant Leonard the Last, in line, licking lollipops late at night (don't ask. what you don't know won't hurt you.) - my thoughts and prayers are with you...  Peace...

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Family Cancer

Somehow, when I found I had cancer, I thought of it as taking one for the team - that because I had it, my sisters (and daughter!) would be OK. Obviously, I hadn't thought this through. We share genes; the cancer HAS to have a genetic link. I hate it when my delusions get shattered; this one has taken a real beating. First Kate, now my youngest sister, Libby.

Libby's is different than mine and Kate's. Kate and I had genetically similar tumors; Libby's is what they call triple negative - it doesn't respond to hormones. This means her treatment will follow a different path - what was effective for us will not be so for her.

The good news part:  they caught it early, they can treat it.

She will begin with chemo, week after next.  The drug regimen should shrink the tumor - hers is near the chest wall; if it's smaller, it'll be easier to get clear margins when they go in to do the mastectomy.

Cancer sucks.

It cares not a whit for the plans she had for this next year, which are now all on hold. She's spent this last week pulling pieces together - getting an extra bed in for those who will be there to help her through the bad days. Looking at wigs, scarves and hats. fighting down fear with action. cleaning. (It's one of the family rules - when in crisis, clean. We're big on nesting when trouble looms.)

It's funny - one of the thoughts that's helping her deal with this is the same one that helped me.

No one gets out of life alive.

This isn't God's, or Nature's way of picking on her; of marking her for target practice. Life happens, so does death. So does illness.

It's an odd balance - simultaneously surrendering control while fighting to keep all the control you can.

this sucks.