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Care for the Caregiver

Published on May 9, 2014 by in Inspirational

Do you care?

For someone else, that is?

Actively, like for a child or parent or ailing spouse?

My husband does.

He cares for me. He has become the chief cook and bottle-washer around here. Not to mention aching-back rubber. (He tries not to rub me the wrong way!)

He soothes me, coos to me, woos me, and tells me he will take good care of me. Since he can’t “fix” my condition, his new mission in life is to give me the best quality of life possible.

But who cares for the caregiver?

In my weakened condition, it is incumbent upon Mike to take care–great care of himself. And he does.

How?

Seriously, by letting his hair down:

Because I Care!

Because I Care!

Letting one’s hair down once in a while helps. It helps to keep one’s head on straight. Well, as straight as can be expected in the topsy-turvy world of care giving.

But there is another way a caregiver can refresh himself when times get hair-curling. That is to refresh with a friend: (Hi, Ron)

Refreshments!

Refreshment!

 

and then take a bath and read a good book at day’s end:

Living The Sweet Life!

Living The Sweet Life!

Ahh…life is good.

And the next day, when the mission of giving is once more undertaken, the load is lightened. Lightened enough that the caregiver can once more give to his beloved one of life’s most precious gifts:  a reminder that life is not to be taken too seriously–especially when it seems like life is no laughing matter.

Because it is! :-)

 
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Classmates Have Class–and Heart!

Published on April 26, 2014 by in Inspirational

Classmates have class!

At least mine do.

When Ken Brown sent out the notice that he and Mike Deay would be performing at the Grape Escape (in Redding) May 10th, I so wanted to go and watch them sing. Or should that be listen? Anyway, I wanted to be there, front and center. They’re two gifted musicians who have that twisted sense of humor that keeps things hoppin’.

Unfortunately, however, their performance isn’t scheduled to start until 7:30 p.m.

Normally, evening hours don’t present a problem for people. That is, of course, unless they are working night shifts, two shifts, or “shifty” shifts. Or, as I have found out, unless one has a malady that zaps her energy. I fall into that latter category. Without a three hour nap, I’m good until about 4:00 on my good days. With a nap, I can function until 7 or maybe 8.

So, regretfully, I told Ken I wouldn’t be able to make it.

Guess what his reply was?

No, really, guess–take a moment, because this is where he melted my heart. (He did that in high school, too, but that’s another story.)

He said, “Then Mike and I would like to come do a performance for you. How about Friday afternoon?”

I swooned.

I accepted.

I would have jumped up and down except for this tender belly!

So, come they did, and they made their music, shared their laughter and struck the core of me with their golden chords.

Ken & Mike at the Mikes

Ken & Mike at the Mikes

For you see, for someone who has a debilitating disease, whose life activities are dropping away one by one and sometimes two by two, who doesn’t have much to offer anyone anymore, it is indescribable what it means to have others give of themselves. Yet, the story must be told, as there are so many people who don’t know what to say to me or what to do.

The answer is simple. Be who you are! Anything less than that is a lie, and I don’t have time to waste.

Drop the shoulds, the coulds, the woulds.

Bring me who you are.

If you want to cry in front of me, because of me–cry. I’ll join in.

If you want to tell me about your hurts and disappointments–tell me. You will not add to my burden.

If you want to tell me about your successes and joys–tell me. I will not feel bad that you’re happy. I will be happy, too.

If you want to ask me questions about life–and facing death–ask. My wisdom is yours.

If you want to be invited next time Mike and Ken come to my house to give of themselves–let me know. They are a class act.

Thank you, Ken. Thank you, Mike.

You will never know how much your giving means to me.

By the way, those tears you saw running down my cheeks as you played were not because I didn’t like your music.

They were because I love you!

 
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I Choose Life!

Published on April 17, 2014 by in Inspirational

Hmm…..

What if you had a choice to make?

One that could extend your life or one that could shorten it–immediately?

Sound like an obvious choice to make?

Not so–not now, for me at least.

Now, as I examine my current life situation, I find that wrapped within the outer coating of that question lies the inner question, the question that begs an answer each and every day and has begged one since the day I first became aware of choice.

That question is: How do I choose to live my life?

If taking chemo and feeling crummy means a longer life,

while taking less chemo and feeling better means living life,

which do I choose?

I choose life!

Some days that choice will look like being sick in bed due to chemo effects.

Some days that choice will look like leaving pills behind so I feel well enough to do activities I love.

That happened last Wednesday.

Susan Greaves, one of my favorite artists, demonstrated plein air oil painting (painting on site) .

Susan Greaves--What a Site!

Susan Greaves–What a Site!

She painted and I loved. Loved that I could be there. Loved that others in class loved being there, too. Loved that Susan is willing to share herself with others. Loved nature. Loved being alive. Loved.

As for making that final choice about chemo, I am not ready to give it up yet. The new drug is harder, but who said life is easy? The pills are easier to swallow, but when their taste becomes too bitter, I ease up. I’m not recommending any other cancer patient do the same, I’m just saying…for me…

I choose to live until I die.

And if that results in a little beauty and love along the way, then I say, “Bring it on!”

Shared Beauty!

Shared Beauty!

 

 
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One Day…

Published on April 9, 2014 by in Inspirational

One day.

That’s all it takes.

On Monday I drove past a manly oak. He was standing bold and proud in his nakedness, back-lit against a slate gray sky.

“I want to paint him,” I thought, “just as he is–without adornment.”

But I did not stop to take a photo.

Tomorrow….

Tomorrow came and I went–with my camera.

But he had veiled himself.

Fingerlings of leafy spring had flourished from dusk to dawn, shrouding his physique like a shy bridegroom on his wedding night.

Beautiful?  Yes, this, too.

But the purity for me had been masked.

In just one day.

Grandfather Oak

Manly Oak

 

 
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Bake Bread to Break Bread: Bread is Connection!

Published on March 22, 2014 by in Inspirational

Breaking bread with loved ones probably dates back to the time bread needed to be broken!

I mean, really, how did primitive man (or more like woman–ha ha) figure out how to pound wheat into anything that could pass for bread? Heck, for that matter, how did she even find wheat!

Primitive Man!

Primitive Man!

These questions are both worth pondering–some day.

For today, however, I want to ponder this question: How can I get my husband to add sesame seeds atop his bread?

It’s not like I haven’t tried: hinting, suggesting, urging, cajoling.

But who can complain? (Besides a well-seasoned wife, that is. :-))

My husband bakes bread!

Breaking Bread!

Breaking Bread!

And then he breaks it–with Loved Ones. (Hi, Pamela)

What is it about that creative urge that lies deep within us?

Where does it come from? Why are we driven to express it?  And why, oh why, are there still some of us who continue to insist we are not creative? Balderdash!

If one can imagine, one can create.

Skills may be lacking, but not creativity.  So quit your sniveling and express your Self. Just imagine it–it’s what the world wants from you. It’s what we’re all waiting for.

And what is it about that longing to connect with others? Sweet, isn’t it? The best, really.

So, may your day today be filled with creativity and connection.

I know mine will.

And if I’m lucky, really lucky, my husband’s day will be filled with loafing around.

Creatively, that is!

Mike Loafing Around!

Mike Loafing Around!

Are those sesame seeds I see?

 
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Life’s Simplest Pleasure

Published on March 13, 2014 by in Inspirational

 

Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge

Somewhere within that misty shroud lies a mystery.

A mystery as old as mankind.

A mystery large enough to envelope us all.

A mystery for which there is no answer.

A mystery I am attempting to solve.

Somewhere behind that misty shroud points the way to answering my question:

Is it my time to die?

 

Mike and I drove to San Francisco last week for my latest medical appointment. I had been experiencing symptoms that suggested time might be drawing nigh.

As I looked at the fog-veil masking the city, I wondered what news awaited me there. In this moment, it was still a mystery….

Dr. Baron greeted us in the waiting room and led us down the hall to his office.  He seated himself at his desk before scanning the results of my CAT scan.

“Well,” he said, looking at us, “Your cancer is growing, but just a small amount. Nothing to be concerned about at this point. I’ll show you how large the tumor is.”

As his fingers displayed the size of my tumor, I shrank back in the chair.

The oncologist continued, “But the cancer has not spread. That’s the good thing. This isn’t an “A+” report, it’s more like a “C+”. At least it’s not a “D.”

I had to agree.

We also agreed to set up a different chemo regimen and to schedule a follow-up visit for June. He gave each of us a warm embrace. Mike and I left his office quite relieved.

June!

How sweet is that.

It is not my time to die.

Mystery solved?

No.

That answer remains in the hands of my maker.

Simple pleasure?

Yes.

Isn’t life itself life’s simplest pleasure?

I hope you are enjoying yours as much as I am enjoying mine–don’t wait until your time might be drawing nigh!

 

 
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Valentine’s Day Love

What is it about Valentine’s Day lately?

On February 14, 2011, I was diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer. In August 2011 I had surgery and became cancer free.

On February 14, 2013, I was diagnosed with recurring cancer. I could expect to live 4-6 months. Possibly double that if I opted to resume chemotherapy.

I opted.

It doesn’t take a math wizard to figure out that February 14, 2013 plus 12 months = today. Yikes! It got here sooner than I expected!

Yet here it is, February 14, 2014, Valentine’s Day. A day of love.

And I’ll let you in a little secret. Because of Valentine’s Day 2011 and Valentine’s Day 2013, I have learned to love. Not family and friends, I loved them before. Not nature, I loved Her before. Not art, I loved art before. Not life, I loved life before.

But rather, Self.

Because of those two momentous Valentine’s Days, I have had cause to find the core of myself. And I must say, at long last, I have fallen in love with me!

It was easy to do really–fall in love that is. Because what I am, what you are, too, is so indescribably delicious and dazzling that chocolates and flowers and glitter only point the way! And lest you think I’ve gotten too full of myself,  I assure you, I have not. Self love is the greatest Valentine any of us can give the world. It is pure.

And I’ll let you in on another secret. Loving myself has opened the door to loving all.  Sweet!

As I live my day today,Valentine’s Day, 2014, I give thanks for the gift of one more day. One more day to love. One more day to taste chocolates, one more day to smell flowers, one more day to live. One more day….

And I give thanks for you, sweet friends, who fill my life with a living bouquet; ever delicious, ever dazzling, ever unpredictable, ever rosy!

So, I am sending you this valentine on this day of love.

May it fill your heart with the love we all share.

May it fill your heart with remembrances of gratefulness.

Gratefulness that we have one more day to love.

One more day to taste chocolates.

One more day to smell flowers.

One more day to live.

One more day….

Happy Valentine’s Day

Sweet Valentine!

Sweet Valentine!

I love you all!

 

 
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Drumming: And the Beat Goes On!

I wondered what all the hoopla was about.

I decided to find out.

I signed up for a drumming session, as EVERYONE I know who drums LOVES it. Now that’s a recommendation!


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Abbie Ehorn, Instructor: Photo courtesy of Abbie Ehorn @ www.abbiesmusicbox.com

Abbie Ehorn conducted the class at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Red Bluff. She’s a full-time elementary school music teacher during the week, so don’t ask me how she can possibly fit in a weekend class, but there she was, with her entourage of hand drums spreading across the floor.

Hmmm. How could these unpretentious-looking tubular instruments stretched with white covering produce such a thrill?

I was soon to find out!

Dub DUB

Dub DUB

Dub DUB

As we dub dubbed our heartbeat on the drums something happened. I was transported to a place inside my mind where I was angry. I don’t know at whom or what I was angry about. Heck, I didn’t even know I was angry! But as I continued to drum, my dub DUBs turned into whack THWACKs. I was sitting next to Abbie, so I figured if my pounding became too vigorous for the drum she would let me know.

Whack THWACK

WHACK THWACK

THWACK  THWACK  THWACK

Ah

The next rhythm made me want to get out of my chair and dance. I would have, too, except I wanted to drum!

Pat Tap Slide

Pat Tap Slide

Pat Tap Sliiiiiiide……

Ah

Drumming fever! I caught it and I think the only cure is to buy myself a drum! Or two.

I’ve already begun shopping. Haven’t quite found the right one yet, but I’m hopeful.

After all, if we truly desire that which is best for us, and best for all, it usually comes–sometimes when and how we least expect it. Like marching to the beat of a different drum. Sometimes that’s necessary to find out who we truly are. Like now. “They” tell me I am dying from cancer. Heck, I’m merely marching to the beat of a different drum, finding out who I truly am. And as I do, I’m finding the simple drumbeat of life. The one that beats with enduring vitality:

Dub DUB

Dub DUB

Dub DUB

Ah!

 
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Passion Painting with Susan Greaves!

“You don’t get to run this experiment twice.”

Those are the words my husband said to me the other morning while I was wavering about taking my chemo pills.

I laughed.

So true.

In December it was discovered that my cancer had grown, (groan!)  so Dr. Baron started me on a regimen of daily chemo pills in addition to my weekly chemo infusion. I do this for two weeks, then off two weeks. Then on. Then off. Until my next evaluation in March.

In the meantime, I swallow the pills, sit through the infusions, and do what I can as I can. The other morning, however, I was simply sick and tired of being sick and tired, so I considered skipping the pills. I mentioned my dilemma to Mike. That’s when he said what he said.

Of course!

I swallowed the pills.

That’s also the day I started an oil painting class with Susan Greaves, award-winning painter. Susan has long been one of my favorite painters. I’ve always wanted to own one of her paintings, so I bought my first one two months ago.

The Picnic by Susan Greaves

The Picnic by Susan Greaves

Her impressionistic style draws me into her paintings, her  heart keeps me there. The fact that she lives in Redding is incredible as it is, but couple that with her decision to teach a class this year, and I practically swooned.

Susan Greaves demonstrating oil painting

Susan Greaves Demonstrating Oil Painting

I have spent the last few years spending hundreds of dollars on watercolor supplies; last year spending hundreds of dollars on acrylic supplies, and last week spending hundreds of dollars on oil painting supplies.

I guess that’s the price I pay for passion.

But I say, “Thank God for passion!”

Passion! Passion! Passion!

Without passion, I would be a lump, a slug, a joyless twit. Well, maybe not that last one, but maybe….

So, thank you Susan Greaves for bringing new passion to my life.

Thank you readers for encouraging me to continue my blog passion.

Thank you God for giving me passion: passion enough to swallow the bitter pills life hands me.

And thank you Michael for giving me laughter.

Laughter, is after all, one of my favorite passions!

I hope passion finds you today. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s that sweet nibble of excitement that spreads warm from your heart and out your mouth into a grin that cannot be wiped off.  Or sometimes is burns like fire, igniting your soul. Either way, you will know it when you feel it. Either way, it will help you overcome that which would suppress you. Either way, you will be happier.

As for today, I am officially off my chemo pills for two weeks. That should give me enough time to look at stained glass art around town. I wonder how difficult that is to make….

 
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Bucket List?

I don’t have a bucket list.

If I were to die today, I would be satisfied I’ve done all I’ve wanted to do.

I’ve lived,

I’ve laughed,

I’ve loved.

I’ve made my way in the world the best I could and can honestly say I have no regrets. Even the stupid things have given me a look into human nature–especially my own.

Having said that, however, I have been craving warm, tropical waters.

You know, where snorkeling transports one through the portal of a kaleidoscope, flashing the silver rainbows of iridescent fish.

And where turquoise water caresses your skin and soul.

My favorite place to snorkel is the British Virgin Islands. But that was a lifetime ago!

I’d settle for Hawaii.

Who wouldn’t?

Dr. Ari Baron, my oncologist at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco told me long ago that if I wanted to skip chemotherapy to take a vacation, DO IT!

He is a wise man. He knows that living life is the priority.

So who knows, maybe one day soon I will  journey to those tropical waters. If I do, you can be assured that I will dive in. Diving in is one of the things I do best. And Mike is the perfect playmate to join me: he dives in, too.

Maybe you’ll join us, too, someday, that is. When you’re willing to give up one part of your life to gain another.

In the meantime, I’ll be content to dive into the salt water pool at my local gym.

It may not be a portal into an underwater paradise, but it makes me laugh.

And really, isn’t that enough?

Watercolor class 013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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