Working Out

It was June, I think, or maybe July.  I’m not sure.  I know it was very hot.  And that Daddy was still going for treatments at the Cancer Center.

This particular day Daddy’s physical therapist, Miss Ida, whom I loved and adored from my own visit to the PT office where she worked, had helped get Daddy situated in the passenger seat of Mama’s car.  Mama got in the back, and I drove the two of them down and over to Highway 96 where the Center is located about twenty minutes away from the house.

When we got there, I pulled up under the breezeway to let Daddy out as close to the door as possible.  Mama went in and came back with a wheelchair.  I helped Daddy turn his legs around, and then we wrapped his arms around my neck, and I lifted while he tried to help.

At this point the lymphoma was zapping his strength and his broken hip from a few months before, though healing, was hindering his physical abilities as well.  I lifted, but my efforts did little to get him from the car to the chair.  We tried again, and I got him up a few inches.  And then…..

I almost dropped him.

He almost fell onto the edge of the car and to the pavement below.

I was mortified.  Daddy was fine, but still.  WHAT IF?

A kind soul happened upon us then–no coincidence at all–and she came right over, enveloped my Daddy in her arms, gently placed him in the wheelchair, waved off our thanks, and went on her way cheerfully, wishing us a good day.

BLESS.

It was easier getting him into the car on the way home, and somehow we got him from the car to the house without another incident.

But that moment stuck with me.  My upper body strength was sorely lacking.  If I couldn’t take care of my Daddy, something would have to change.  Immediately.  I was broken over the fact that it had been a stranger who had come to his aid–that after all he’d done for me through all the years, I couldn’t help him–unfathomable.

And so I began working out back then.  Nothing too serious, just trying to build up my strength so that I could help lift him.  And when he was bedridden at the end and would slide down in the bed, I was able to move him back up in the bed.  I am thankful for that now.

A couple of days ago, I woke up thinking about how we work to build up muscles.  How we work and push them beyond their limits to be stronger and to be able to do more with them.  Almost completely recovered from a frozen shoulder, I am ready to start rebuilding my core and my ability to “lift and tote.”  Mostly for groceries, but still–it’s a good thing to work on.

Then I started thinking about our hearts.  And how we love.

That’s a good thing to work on too.

We don’t build up our arm muscles by continuing to do the same thing every day–by only lifting the laundry from the dryer or the groceries from the car.  We have to be consistent, and we have to go outside our comfort zones to be strong and stronger.  We have to lift things we wouldn’t normally lift.

I think it’s the same in building up our hearts–and our capacity to love.  We don’t do it by loving the same people all the time.  We do it by loving folks outside our comfort zones.  And by doing it consistently.  That’s the only way to build up our love muscles.  Loving those we wouldn’t normally love.  Going out of our way for them.  For others.

And that’s the only way to build up the kingdom too.

A kingdom where I’d really like to live.

Wishing you all a day of working out–and building up those muscles.  For the good of all of us.

Love to all.

Die_Frau_als_Hausärztin_(1911)_135_Bruststärker

“Die Frau als Hausärztin (1911) 135 Bruststärker” by Anna Fischer-Dückelmann – Die Frau als HausärztinLicensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons 

pink

Pink_Ribbon

Pink
is a lovely color
gentle, like a baby’s breath

it was my girls’ first favorite color
and various shades of it still
bring a light to their eyes

“blush” and “bashful” best described
the color
in that movie that made me cry
it was her “signature” color, after all

and somehow it has become the color
for breast cancer awareness
and I suppose it suits as much as any other
but when it all comes down to it
pink
does
not
cure
cancer

all the pink socks and pens and yogurt cups
I’ve bought in the past with good intentions
did NOTHING
to raise anybody’s awareness
or change anyone’s life
it was just
pink

tomorrow morning
a friend of my Mama and my Aunt
will undergo surgery
for breast cancer
and she won’t be the only one

a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer
every two minutes in this country

that is too many
one is too many

and pink and awareness
are not changing that

I don’t mean to pink ribbon shame
but isn’t it time we do something more?

Isn’t it time we stop going without undergarments
and claiming it raises awareness?
Isn’t it time we stop taking pictures of silly underwires
on dogs and clotheslines
and claiming it’s for the cause?

Isn’t it time we pick up a broom and sweep out the mess
and the misperceptions
and we change it from
breast cancer awareness
to
BREAST CANCER ERADICATION?

please join me in keeping Miss C
and all of the men and women fighting this
monster
in your thoughts
and let’s join them in this fight

stepping in with a hand to hold
a shoulder to lean on
with a toilet brush in one hand
and a casserole dish in the other

and then, when the day is done,
let’s write the ones who make the laws
and who decide on the funding
and let’s demand that we stop saving
body parts
and start saving people

love to all

#######################
A woman I admire and respect, who is a breast cancer survivor and a brilliant advocate for those in this fight, recently shared this article and asked that we contact our Senators and ask them to pass the 21st Century Cures Act. It’s something we can do, y’all. And it’s something that someone who is actually in the fight is asking us to do. The article is here. Thanks for reading.

farewell to a friend

lives joined one October day

so many years ago

with friends gathered round,

smiles on the faces of all

but none bigger than their own

 

years spent with laughing

and loving and cheering on their

favorite football team

rolling tide every chance they got

and cheering each other on as well–

if there were ever two greater

dream builders

for each other

I cannot imagine

 

love, laughter, and a whole lot of sass,

teasing and compromising

that’s what I imagine from behind

the closed doors of their life

 

but I do know what I saw–

a man who loved a woman

and she who reflected it and gave all that love

right back to him

 

and now the mirror is draped

in darkness

as are our hearts

for this fine man took his last breath

and was healed

as all our hearts broke

 

so many lives

all the richer

for having known his

gentle, strong spirit

 

the girls he loved will miss him

all the babies and family he adored

the memory of his laughter and smile

with bring both comfort and tears

and all the stories will be told

and told again

to keep him close

 

this Gift, the Gift my sisterfriend was given

as she gave him her heart

she deserved the best

and she had him–

only for way too short a while

 

################################

RIP, BP.  You are loved and missed, and I am better for having known you.  

proof of angels

for days and weeks and then months

so many spoke of “after the war is over”

and finally, when the months turned into years,

those words were spoken less and less

and the haze that hung over the city

and the dark curtains over the windows

were no longer distinguishable from what we remembered

from before

which seemed like a dream

 

there were even those for whom life without war,

without doling out what we had carefully,

had never been

 

and when the thoughts of the fighting,

the eternal fighting and hatred and fear,

were all we had

besides the occasional rumor that came along

to cause hope to flutter in our chests

if ever so briefly

 

and no one talked of it ever being over anymore,

I looked out the window one day, peeking around the curtain

before dawn

and I saw proof of angels–

of kindness

of caring for others

that was so natural for those who did,

it embodied who they were

 

and so it was that each day that began in darkness

the sun rose

and so did those who cared,

those who might no longer speak of peace

but who rose up from dreams of it

and shared what they could

 

the only weapons they carried were love

and a thermos of coffee

 

and both were more powerful than ever thought possible

 

 

A Time to Listen, A Time to Write

Sometimes as a writer you have to realize when it’s more important to listen than to keep writing.

Tonight is one of those times.

I had a hard conversation earlier with someone I love and will always love, but it will be different from now on, I’m afraid.

Still trying to wrap my brain around the pain in that, I received a text from my oldest, Aub, about the video she’d just watched on my college sister’s Facebook page.

Wyanne is a very talented artist.  She tells beautiful stories with her paints and her brushes and all kinds of other materials.  Beautiful.  And that girl has fought a huge Giant over the past year.

Last night I talked about being frustrated with things that are NOT OKAY.

CANCER IS NOT OKAY.

But Wyanne’s still standing.

Not only that, she’s still painting and creating and sharing light and love in the world.

And wisdom.

IMG_5838

She’s made it through the storm and is working on picking up the pieces.  She’s got big beautiful plans.  Plans about creating art and community.

Now that, THAT IS VERY OKAY.

I watched the video, and like Aub, I was moved to tears.

We have so much.  We are so fortunate.

And we don’t even realize it half the time, do we?

Even when having hard conversations, I can hang on to the hope that reconciliation and healing can still come–because we’re still standing.  On the other side of the storm.

Here’s to my Wesleyan sister Wyanne and to all of us who weather the storms and then pick up the pieces when they’re over…..

and rebuild something even more beautiful and filled with love and light.

May you have a good day of listening to stories that remind you to appreciate where you are, and may you find hope in the midst of brokenness.

Love to all.

 

 

 

Thanks to Auburn for lettering Wyanne’s quote for me so quickly.  Love you girl.  And to her sweet bff, the originator of “That is NOT okay.”  It’s her birthday, and she’s pretty amazing too.  Happy Birthday, A!

 

the window

The view from Daddy's window at Blackberry Flats.  Cardinals love those those hedges.

Looking back on the day

that we stood by Daddy’s bedside

and let him go,

I see in my mind’s eye and realize with some

surprise

that the curtains on the window were open.

Daddy spent many hours

sitting in his chair

by that window

watching the cardinals

living in the arbor vitae,

the flying back and forth and building homes

amongst the branches, their red wings

in beautiful contrast with the somber news to come–

all before the chair was moved

to make way for the

hospital bed

and the story changed

forever.

Before

he would sit there

in his chair next to the window

listening and telling stories and

doling out what wisdoms he had to share.

He watched his favorite shows, old movies, and sports

but his favorite view

was looking out

that window.

So it is only fitting that the curtains

were open and

he left

in the light,

not tucked away in the dark

behind a closed curtain

like a secret

we were afraid to tell.

He left in the light,

surrounded by love,

taking our hearts with him.

And after he left,

at the same time he left work

to head Home all those years,

the sun began to set,

shrouding us in darkness

for the day,

preparing us for the shadowed journey

without him

in the years to come.

 

#whyteal…..the one where we need to get LOUD

I first met her twenty-eight years ago last month.  We were all just getting to know each other, and I remember thinking how lovely and graceful and grace-filled this dear lady was.

She was my roommate’s mother.  I met her at the beginning of our freshman year.  She was beautiful inside and out.

And she fought a battle no one should have to fight.

Ovarian cancer.

Last night my dear friend shared this information on her Facebook page.  This month is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.

pic of ovarian cancer info

After I posted this on my own page, another friend shared that her Mama had also battled this giant.  She too fought a valiant fight, only it wasn’t enough.

It wasn’t detected early enough in either case.

My friend, in describing her mother’s experience, called ovarian cancer, “the silent cancer.”

Really?

How many women, do you think, go in for their annual physicals right on schedule, put their feet in the stirrups, do what we do, get the call a few days later that all is clear, and think “Well, everything’s all right then”?

(It’s okay.  Stick around, fellas.  You need to know this too.  Whether it’s your Mama, your sister, your best friend, your girlfriend, your wife, your daughter–you need to know too.)

Note to self.  Pap smears test for cervical cancer.  Not ovarian.  Not uterine.  Cervical–that’s it.  It is my understanding that there’s not really a test to detect ovarian cancer.  According to the American Cancer Society, “The 2 tests used most often to screen for ovarian cancer are transvaginal ultrasound (TVUS) and the CA-125 blood test,” but no medical professionals recommend routine use of these tests for screening.  They are not definitive enough apparently.

Really?

Do we have people working on this?  Please tell me yes.

As I thought about this today, I remembered a book I read years ago.  “Cancer Schmancer” by Fran Drescher.  I loved her in “The Nanny” and thought she was a comic genius–her timing and facial expressions and that accent.  Love her.  I read the book because of her, not because it was about her battle with uterine cancer.  But it struck such a chord in me that it is still in my library.  Without pulling it down to quote her, I can tell you the one thing that has stuck with me all these years–

Take care of you.

Be a good advocate.

You know your body.  Don’t take “no” for an answer.  Or “it will be okay.”  Or “you’re just…..”

You know when something’s off.  Push until someone hears you.

She so believes in empowering women to educate themselves and be good advocates for their health that she started the Cancer Schmancer Movement, whose mission is to “…..shift the nation’s focus from just searching for a cure to prevention and early detection of cancer in order to save lives.”  You can read her story here.  It took two years and eight doctors before she was finally diagnosed.  She is thankful to be a survivor and wants there to be more.

Shortly after our Princess was born almost ten years ago, I could tell something was wrong.  I wasn’t sure what, but I just knew.  I went to the doctor where we were stationed at the time.  I remember going in, worried, anxious, hoping he could tell me something–anything–that would let me know it was going to be okay.

Which he did. Tell me something, that is.  This doctor and his wife had six children.  (It was a small community–you knew things.)  I had just given birth to my second child a few months earlier.  He listened, looked at my chart, and turned to me and said, “Oh now, you’re just new Mama tired.  It will pass.  You’ll see.”

Patronize me, will you?

I pity his wife, I’ll just tell you that right now.

This was not new Mama tired, and my body kept telling me that.  I pushed through and we moved and shortly after we got settled, I scheduled another appointment.  Again, I told my story. A new doctor.  A young one.  I don’t know how many children he had, if any, but he didn’t say I was new mama tired.  (Smart man, I’d had enough by this time.)  After running different tests-he was more persistent, thank goodness–he discovered I had a thyroid issue.  He prescribed some medication, and I was on my way to feeling better.  That part was almost immediate–I had been heard and I wasn’t crazy.  There was something wrong.  It had just taken several months and me being “pushy” to find that out.

Something beautiful happened when my friend shared the information above last night.  I shared it on my Facebook page in memory of her sweet Mom, not knowing if anyone would even read it.  It was late, and you just never know who reads what.  Today some of my friends–none of whom know each other–commented, encouraging each other to take care of themselves…..to seek information and push until they get it.  Friends reached out with loving sympathy and with gratitude for facts and stories shared.

That right there.  That’s what we need more of in this world.  Sisters looking after sisters (because we all are, you know–color and class and nationality and religion and state of our kitchen sinks all aside–we are all sisters).  Sisters empowering each other.  Holding each other accountable to take care of ourselves.  To celebrate with when the numbers come back really good, and to hold hands or offer a shoulder or listen and make soup or milkshakes or cry with when the numbers are not.

Tonight I’m thankful for brave women who gave it their all in the face of giants like ovarian cancer.  I’m thankful for their daughters, who carry their stories and encourage others by educating and listening.  I give thanks for women like Fran Drescher who pave the way for us to have the courage to speak and not worry about being called “pushy” or “bothersome” or whatever.  Speak out.  Be loud.  Take care of you.  If you even think something is off or wrong, get thee to a medical professional.  Now.  Keep going until you find one you trust.  Who listens and hears you.  And stand tight and strong with your sisters.

Most of all, tonight I am thankful for all of my sisters.  Who are always there when they are needed most.

Y’all take care of yourselves.  You men too.  And take care of each other.

Love to all.