Friday, May 30, 2014

Change....



You must be the change you want to see in the world.”   Mahatma Gandhi

We went to the library today….  As we walked back to our car, there were two men doing yard work. One was mowing and the other was using a weed whip to edge the grass.  As we walked closer, both men turned off their machines to let us pass by.  As I walked past the man with the weed whip, I smiled at him and said “thank you.”  He nodded and returned my smile.

No big deal.  Not earth-shattering.  And certainly not worthy of a blog, right?  Wrong.  This small, insignificant incident is the epitome of my understanding of Gandhi’s words.  Both men were working and both had a schedule to follow, I’m sure.  Yet, they took the time to be considerate of others.

How many of us take that time?  How many of us spend as much time doing good things as we spend complaining about the sad state of our world?  Seriously….how many?

I have read so many of Dr. Maya Angelou’s quotes in the days since her death…. I wonder how many people have been touched by her words.  How many have thought about something differently, or reacted differently, or taken a different path because of the words she shared with all of us?

I doubt that my words will ever have the impact that hers have, in the general population of the world.  But in MY world, I have the power to influence friends and family with my words.  How often do we take the time to tell someone how much we appreciate them?  Do we uplift those around us, or tear them down? 
 
Each one of us has the opportunity (read: responsibility) to treat others as we want to be treated.  Imagine what this world would be like if we did that….

Yesterday, I had a very long wait at the lab.  Several other people who were waiting were less than kind to the lab techs who were doing their best in the situation.  One woman, sitting across from me, proudly told her companion how she had “told off” the tech.  Oh my…

When it was my turn, I went to the draw station with a smile on my face.  When the tech apologized for the wait, I told her that I understood and it couldn’t be helped.  When she was finished drawing my blood, I thanked her and left…

Perhaps nearly forty years’ of service as an RN influenced me: so many patients treat nurses like waitresses, and scream at them for things that are out of the RN’s control.  I know I have taken a lot of verbal abuse in my career…

Or perhaps I just wanted to be the kind of patient that she wished all the others would be…

Maybe I just wanted to be the change that she needed in her day…


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Living With Cancer...



On a scale of 1 to 10, our life is somewhere around an 8.  It would be a 10, truly, if it weren’t for his cancer battle.  Life together has always been fun: he completes me and I complete him.  We find the joy in every day and find happiness in a simple existence.

People used to comment that we seemed to always be going and doing…. We went to the mountains frequently, since they are almost literally in our backyard. Picnics, hikes, photos, and a view that visitors come from all over the world to see…. Couldn’t ask for much more. 
 
We went out to eat several times a month.   One of our favorite trips is to Fresno, an hour away.  We have a couple of favorite restaurants up there and shops we like to visit.  Podunk no longer has a bookstore, so Barnes&Noble  in Fresno is always a fun destination.

We have travelled, too: Yosemite, Yellowstone, Chicago, Milwaukee, Disneyland, Las Vegas, LA, Monterey, and my favorite: Morro Bay.  Yet we don’t have to leave town to have an adventure. Even going to the grocery store (Tuesday mornings, mostly) is fun just because we are together.

All that changed on January 4, 2014, at ten-thirty at night: the surgeon walked into the ER exam room and told us: he has colon cancer.  We spent the next two hours, alone together, in that darkened room, thinking.  And praying. Each time I started to cry softly, he would squeeze my hand and say “I love you.”

It has now been almost five months since that fateful day.  To us, it seems like a lifetime.  In the beginning, there was numbness, with resolution.  “We will fight this” we would say.  He said he would do whatever was necessary to help himself get well.  I said that, if love could cure his cancer, he would be cured.

The early months were a maze of doctor visits, tests, labs, and trips to the pharmacy.  I started a binder to keep all of the pertinent information together and to record his journey.  At nearly five months, the binder is two inches thick…
As he began chemotherapy, we were hopeful: he had chemo for three days every two weeks.  By the end of chemo week, he was beginning to bounce back.  By the beginning of the week off from chemo, he was nearly himself again…

But chemo is cumulative: each time he has chemo, he bounces back a little less.  Each time he has chemo, his chances of having all the nasty side effects increase.  Now that he has completed nine chemo sessions, bouncing back is minimal…

Now we plan our outings more carefully.  We have to optimize his chances of enjoying what we are planning to do.  And now, we mostly just go to the grocery store on Tuesdays…

It’s all doable, we both agree.  I tell him that we will look back on this time and realize how hard it was, and rejoice that we made it through and he is getting better and stronger.  His lab numbers seem to verify that he IS doing better, so maybe all the suffering now will have a big payoff later.  I hope so.

It doesn’t bother me that his hair is falling out.  Or that he tires easily and has to nap frequently.  I look at him, nearly forty pounds lighter than a year ago, and I have grown used to it… His gaunt face is a reminder, to me, of the battle he is waging.

But sometimes I hate what has happened to him.  Sure, the massive chemo drugs he is being given have improved “his numbers” but they have taken such a toll on him physically.  And when I see that, it is like a fist to my gut….

Last night, as I walked into the kitchen, he was getting some plastic wrap out of the drawer.  My “what are you doing” was met with his explanation: “I fixed myself something to eat but I can’t eat it…..”  Sitting there on the kitchen counter was a lovely salad: lettuce, tomatoes, and sliced chicken, untouched.

I was so angry!  The irony of it all: here is a man who, more than ever, needs nutrition to help his body fight the cancer AND the chemo and he can’t even eat.  Why?  Mouth sores.  Mouth sores that are unabated by “magic mouthwash” and Orajel.  “What can I do to help him?” I asked myself…

The truth is, there is nothing I can do except support him, love him, find some more liquid nutrition for him…..and pray.

And I pray mightily.  Day and night….



















Sunday, May 25, 2014

Celebrating Life...



Well, it’s my birthday.  I have had a lot of birthdays in my time.  A few parties, gifts, and their memories linger for many of them. 

 I remember turning eighteen: I had been up all night finishing a paper for my Contemporary History class.  I slept in, and then went to school in the afternoon. When I got home, there were eighteen pink roses waiting for me, a gift from my boyfriend.

Most of my birthday celebrations were family affairs.  As a child, I was allowed to choose what I wanted for supper on my birthday: I always chose barbequed spare ribs.  And mostly got them…

As a mother with small children, my birthday became less of an occasion as my children’s birthdays took center stage.  My youngest was born on May 27th, so I stopped having my own birthday cake.  It was just too much to have two birthday cakes in two days.

I remember my fortieth birthday.  I spent the day alone, moping.  When it was finally over, I was ready to carry on with my life.  Just that day bothered me….

That’s sort of where I am right now, without the moping.  I celebrate the day with family and then just carry on…. I have reached the age where many of my friends and acquaintances have died.  Any thoughts of immortality or invulnerability are gone…

Each day is like a birthday: waking up and being grateful for the day I have been given.  By making every day special, a birthday is less of a celebration and more of a normal occurrence. I like it that way: celebrating the everyday and appreciating what each day brings. 

And yes, celebrating birthdays is still fun.  My kids will be here later today for a BBQ, not spare ribs but hamburgers.  And the cake is left over from John’s birthday in March.  It’s a little munched after being in the freezer but, I’m sure, it will still be delicious.

Happy Today!  This is my present….


Saturday, May 17, 2014

Finding What You're Looking For...



Sometimes, as I read posts on social networking sites, I just want to scream.  People ranting about everything that is wrong in this world.  People who know what they want to know and nothing else.  Yes, I could scream, but that’s not what I do….I stop reading them instead.  I read things I totally disagree with, yet I am not willing to comment.  Why?  That’s where those people are looking, and they don’t want to change..

We find what we are looking for….

In the past, I was somewhat of a Negative Nellie.  I would have a performance evaluation at work and, typically, I would forget the 99 good things and focus on the 1 thing that needed “improvement.”  I didn’t need a manager to tell me what was wrong with me, I already knew.  And so, I was nearly crushed under the weight of the negative comment.

Not such a great way to live, believe me.  It’s okay to be sensitive and caring, but having such thin skin was quite detrimental to my everyday existence.  I was constantly criticizing myself for my mistakes, or my failures, or my inadequacies.  And I usually found some way to improve the source of the negative comment.

And then something happened…

To say “I got older” is too simplistic.  As I grew older, I began to be kinder to myself and more lenient with my mistakes.  Why?  Perhaps because I was starting to realize that, good or bad, I am who I am.  As the positivity started infecting me, I began to be more forgiving and more tolerant of myself.

I changed what I was looking for…

Taking five minutes each day to look around and find the positives started changing my life….and me.  The glass started being half instead of half empty.  The sky was bluer.  The birds now sing louder.  My prayers are full of gratitude instead of supplications.  I woke up and realized that I am in a really good place now.

I can’t take full credit for my change of philosophy.  I owe a huge debt to the wonderful man who came into my life.  No, he didn’t make me happier, I did.  I firmly believe that we are each responsible for our own happiness…

All he did was love me.  Just the way I am flaws and all.  And I started to like myself better, too.  Yes, I do love him, but I also love me when I am around him.  He helped me see myself as he sees me, instead of in the negative light that I was used to…

I know that there is a war raging in many parts of the world.  I know that children go to bed hungry.  Innocent people are murdered.  Or robbed.  Or enslaved.  Famine, drought, hunger, poverty, political machinations, slavery, dishonesty….it’s all around us.
 
And so are miracles.  And random acts of kindness.  And people who are willing to go out of their way to help others.  People making a difference.  Just as I try to make a difference in some small, meaningful way. 

That’s what I find when I go looking…


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

In the Still of the Night...


Photo from Pinterest

After more than two hours, I now realize that sleep isn’t going to come easily.  I was yawning and sleepy as I walked into the bedroom but, as soon as my head hit the pillow, my mind went into overdrive.

Thoughts about my family.  Detailed plans for remodeling homes I used to live in.  Even more detailed plans for decorating/improving our current home.  Thinking about going to sleep and wondering how long until I succumbed to slumber….

For naught.  It is now two in the morning.  The still of the night.  The noise from the freeway some six blocks away has subsided.  The quiet hasn’t been pierced by sirens yet tonight.  Or the helicopter which flies over our house on its way to the heliport at the hospital.  Or dogs barking. 
Even the birds seem to have gone to sleep for the night.  But not me….

There was a time when I would have been stressed by the inability to fall asleep.  And that stress kept me awake, too.  I had small children, or I had to be at work at the crack of dawn.  There was always a reason why sleep was mandatory during the night hours.  Or the day hours, when I worked night shift.

Life has gotten so much better in that regard.  We have plans for early tomorrow morning: put some things in the attic and get down all the portable fans.  We want to do it before the heat builds up in the attic, and it is supposed to be 100+ degrees Fahrenheit tomorrow.

No problem.  I can always take a nap.  Or two naps, if I choose.  There is little urgency in my life now, and I like that.  I worked in a very stressful profession and spent my time being where others expected me to be, with very little time for myself.

Of course, I am not unique.  We all have stressors.  And nights when we cannot sleep.  What is different for me now is that 1) the stressors are mostly self-imposed; and 2) sleeping at night is not mandatory.  I like that, too. 

Right now, I’m thinking about going outside and looking at the stars.  Or doing a Sudoku puzzle.  Or working on my scrapbooking.  Or reading….

Whatever I decide to do will not negatively impact my day today.

And I really like that…