Life (gifted)

Jun 20

I am back in the chemo chair.  I had a week off, as we were on vacation last week.  I hugged Brad before bed last night and said, “I’ll miss you tomorrow,” as we have been together nonstop during these past days; his presence is home for me. A stark realization for me is that this is our fourth summer of taking big “memory-making” vacations.  My medical status is a thorn in my (our) side that I can’t get away from.  At the same time, it is not at all lost on me that we are blessed to be thriving in our endurance.  In the four years that I’ve been sitting in the chemo lounge, I’ve watched new patients enter the oncology office.  They are treated.  They sit by me, we talk, we plan, we hope.  The treatment doesn’t work for them.  They die.  That bluntness is not something I get used to; grief is an inadequate word. And I’m still in the chair.  Still being treated.  New patients continue to come in.  I’m here, we talk, we plan, we hope.  I’m not special; I’m blessed.  Breast cancer tragedies aren’t the only ones I’ve witnessed.  Several children I’ve known have died: a wrenching tragedy, each.  Divorce and debt, diagnosis and death, depression and disaster strike.  And so then, grief–inadequate again.  We all Do Today Well and rise above our own adversity.  The kindness, gifts, and love with which I’m showered makes my burden lighter.  It’s just better when we share life together, and I’m joyfully obligated to look for ways to reciprocate and ripple. I was reminded this week how blessed I am to be patient zero: I decide how I am coping with my life, and I set the tone for how everyone who loves me fares.  It’s hard, but I like that I have control over that element: my joy. My favorite part of vacation is that now, when I close my eyes and reflect back, I have new memories with each of the eight people I traveled with.  Teaching little kids to wave-jump.  Counting how many water-somersaults in a row.  Swimming to the bar that is in the pool.  A beach walk.  Counting freckles.  Sunset dinner on the...

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Putting others first

Jun 08

There’s nothing that gets me more than someone doing the right thing for someone else, especially at a cost to themselves.  I’ve been on the blessed receiving end of this many, many times, and it touches me deeply every time.  I’ve been having talks with my kids about this perspective as we are going through the summer.  Be the last one to choose your seat in the van.  Eat whatever popsicle flavor is left after everyone gets theirs.  Agree to play the game she chooses.  Hang up your sister’s towel for her when you hang up your own.  It’s service.  Service is good for the soul.  Making someone else’s day with a kind act is usually much more rewarding than whatever “thing” is self-serving in the situation. (Needless to say, these conversations are coming about because of hollering arguments over wet towels, rolled eyes at chores, van-entering injuries, and popsicle freak-outs.  Keeping it real, folks.  Always real.)  Perfect, we are not. One day when I was eating lunch at Maren’s school with her this spring, I saw a teacher eating at the big lunch table of one of the classes with a group of boys.  The teacher came up to say hello to me as lunch ended and I asked him why he was eating with the kiddos — they weren’t kids from his homeroom class.  He said that one of the boys in the group was “Star of the Week” for his class, and that usually on Thursdays when you are Star of the Week, you invite someone (parent, grandparent, etc.) to come to school to have lunch with you.  When this teacher saw that this little dude didn’t have a VIP guest come in for lunch, he filled in the role.  He gave up his personal lunch time to give this kid what was probably the highlight of his Star of the Week week, if not his month.  That’s the kind of role model I want my kid(s) looking up to: doing something kind for someone else, even at a cost to yourself.  When I complimented him for doing such a nice thing, he shrugged it off.  “It was the right thing to do, and it was fun.  We talked video...

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Joy and Courage

Jun 04

Today my kids are at a place called Camp Joy attending an event called Camp Courage.  It’s a day of empowerment, sharing, and community-building for kids who have been impacted by cancer in their immediate families.  Maren’s brilliant counselor is running it, and Maren was bubbly with excitement this morning.  She has enjoyed making connections with other kids who “just get it” this paste year as we have started exploring this organization.  For Greta, having just turned five, this is her first experience with the program.  She’s nervous and relying on big sister to literally and figuratively hold her hand.  When I left them this morning, Maren was literally carrying Greta as they walked over to the game the other kids were playing.  We are blessed to have the people and the programs to support us as a family–I am so grateful.  At the same time, when friends ask what we’re doing this weekend, it’s jarring to tell them, “The girls are going to ‘cancer camp’ all day Saturday.”  It still gives me pause that the best thing my kids can do today is grapple with our challenge at a camp.  The program has it right though… if they can navigate this journey, their lives, with joy and courage they will indeed be doing it well. Our summer is off to a great start.  I love having both girls home all day.  We’re doing swim team, and after a half-dozen practices Maren can officially dive off the block, which has been a long time coming.  I’m so proud of her for conquering her fear.  Befuddling to me, butterfly continues to be her favorite stroke; it is the one I despised.  Greta, again at five, is one of the wee ones; after her first practice she stalked out of the water and over to me.  “Mom!  That was too much swimming!  It was hard!  I almost sinkded!  And!  I almost got seasick!” And then, when she saw I was giggling at her indignation, “Mom!  I am serious!  Why are you laughing!  Don’t you care that I almost sinkded?!” While Maren practices, I hang out with Greta, and vice versa.  On the first day — even with Grandma and Grandpa there from Wisconsin...

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