You are always welcome

Thank you for hanging in there with me. I’m still recovering but getting a bit better every day! Just getting out of bed, showered and dressed is an accomplishment. I spend my days lounging around the house between naps. Being in the house for weeks can feel isolating. It is great to know that I’m not really alone.

During one of my lounging sessions, I caught the movie Moonstruck on TV. My favorite part is the last 20 minutes or so. If you haven’t seen it – SPOILER ALERT.

The movie centers around an Italian family. This final scene takes place first thing in the morning. The mother is in the kitchen cooking oatmeal and, one by one, people arrive – either from upstairs or through the front door. First the daughter (Loretta, played by Cher), then the brother of Loretta’s fiancé, followed by Loretta’s aunt and uncle, Loretta’s father, his father, and, finally, Loretta’s fiancé, each joining the crowd in the kitchen, until there are more people than chairs assembled around the table.

When I first watched this movie in the 1980’s, a coworker from a British family told me that she loved the movie but the ending was unrealistic: People don’t just show up at your doorstep! And why would the mom make so much oatmeal?

But for me, growing up in an Italian family, that scene was the most realistic scene in the movie. Friends and family are WELCOME to show up at your door, anytime. And of course there is always food on the stove, plenty for everyone.

As I watched this final scene last weekend, I realized how incredibly grateful I am to everyone who just shows up. Sometimes it is at my door, which helps to alleviate isolation and adds color and dimension to my day. Sometimes it is online, or through meals, or cards, or a myriad of other ways. You are so very welcome. And while I don’t always have something on the stove, I am happy to share whatever I have. Again, you are always welcome.

Love,
Marie

Hallelujah

Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah is beautiful in so many ways. That melancholy tune kept running through my head following this past chemo session.

The last round of chemo hit me hard. I returned home on Tuesday, went to bed and stayed there until Saturday. On Sunday, I moved to the sofa and parked myself there.  I had a lot of pain, some bleeding, and a phenomenal amount of head fuzziness. I couldn’t think, read (even emails), watch TV, or knit. I could barely speak and I certainly couldn’t carry on a conversation. I hadn’t eaten since Monday, surviving on ice chips and small sips of water. My body had pains I never thought it could have.

I wondered if my body was at the beginning of a final downhill slide. My weight was lower than ever and I looked skeletal.

I had been absent from the family for so long that the kids were losing their grounding. My husband does a great job of being father and mother during my chemo weeks, but it is all-consuming. He needed the weekend to get some work done and maybe even exercise, but that wasn’t going to happen.

Plus, I haven’t had those huge messages from God and the angels that I used to have. I still believed they were out there, but I didn’t feel connected. When I looked at my life, I couldn’t find a sliver of anything I wanted, and I wondered in many ways what death would be like. My thoughts and emotions were dark.

As I lay in bed late one night, the lyrics to Hallelujah again ran an endless loop through my head. I decide to listen to the Leonard Cohen version one more time and as I did, suddenly noticed these words, which lifted me:

And even though it all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

Yes. Because even through all this crap: Hallelujah.

I started to look for the blessings. I had to really look, but I was, indeed, getting a little better each day. Not as fast as I would like, but definitely improvement. It was a start.

This cancer path makes everything feel like it is just wrong: This isn’t the life I was supposed to be living. It felt broken and crappy but I had to admit, I am still grateful for it.

Even though all this felt so very wrong, if I were to stand before the Lord at that very minute, I like to think that I would still say, Hallelujah.

Love and light,

Marie

(Those lyrics are around 6:10 on the video.)

Cowboy Up!

We had a fabulous family vacation at a dude ranch in Arizona.

Front of Ranch

Going into this vacation, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Our older son loves horses, but they only allow kids to ride if they are in the kids’ program, and group activities are not really his thing. Our younger son loves groups, but he broke his wrist and it would be in a cast. My husband has a lifelong fear of horses. And given my current physical state, I would not be able to ride. It didn’t look like a winner of a trip.

But I have learned to listen when I am guided to do something, so we set off.

The ranch offers a variety of activities. On a typical vacation, we do everything together, but here, there was so much going on that we also did things on our own. The counselors for the kids’ club were fabulous with our older son, and he took group riding lessons every single day. Our younger son LOVED the kids club; he attended every hour that it was open and talked about it when it was not. My husband rode daily and overcame his fear of horses. He also did a lot of mountain biking. And I was able to do a hike, some writing, and relax.

I also got to meet a blogger I follow, as well as her family. That was a fun surprise!

Karen and me

Toward the end of the week, we all attended a BBQ. It was outside, with fire pits, s’mores and a guitar player crooning country songs. (Obviously, we arrived early. It did get hopping after awhile.)

Ranch BBQ

The kids ran off to play together, with our younger son in the thick of things. I watched the group from afar, and suddenly, it looked like another kid was kicking him. Soon, our son and another boy ran over to me.

The other boy spoke breathlessly. “That kid keeps kicking Lefty, for no reason!” (Our son had picked up that nickname early in the week, and it stuck.)

The kicking kid slunk up behind them with a mischievous smile. I don’t typically discipline other people’s children, so I just said to the group, “No kicking. None of you.”

And they ran off.

A little while later, I glanced over at the kids. It was much darker and harder to see, but it looked like our son was getting kicked again. A lot. And he was.

By all accounts, that same kid just went crazy, kicking him for no reason anyone could give. We figured that the best bet was to separate the fight, remove ourselves (all of us) from the situation and head back to our room. The parents of the other kid were handling him; it sounded like this wasn’t the first time this had happened, and I felt for them.

Lefty had a bruise and cuts on his leg, scratches on his face, a cut lip, and a bruised ego.

The worst part, he noted, was that the two of them would be in kids’ club together the next day. He felt like he couldn’t go.

We assured him that we would figure something out, and we all went to bed.

The next morning, we told him that he didn’t have to go to kids’ club. Everyone had seen what happened and I’m sure we could figure out a way for him to ride the horses outside kids’ club.

But he loved the time playing with his other friends there. He didn’t want to give that up just because of this one kid and this one episode.

He thought about it over breakfast and decided that he wanted to attend the kids’ club after all, if his father and I could talk with one of the counselors.

Of course, we did. She had seen the altercation, so we simply reminded her of what happened the night before and asked if they could help to manage the dynamic. And though Lefty was still a little hesitant, he was also still determined not to miss a minute of fun, so he walked into the kids’ club with his favorite counselor and pushed through any discomfort.

He had a fabulous day. And by two days later, the boys were actually friends.

I hope to remember that when something is really hard. Do I want to give up the other things that I really enjoy in order to avoid what makes me uncomfortable? When I am in a lot of discomfort, do I want to give up on the fun things in life? Just like we talked with his favorite counselor, I may need some help laying the groundwork, but maybe from there, I could get going again?

On our next-to-last day, Lefty was riding a new horse, who bucked and threw him to the ground. He rapidly crawled away, determined that he was okay and got back on the horse.

This is unusual there – they don’t aim for the guests to get bucked. As a result, he got a strong reputation around the ranch as the kid who got bucked and got back on the horse. One of the cowboys loaned him chaps for his next ride, which made him feel like a real cowboy, and they gave him a lasso of his own to take home.

They signed his cast with what is now my new motto:

Cowboy Up cast

Cactus Flower

As you might expect, I think a lot about length of life, quality of life, and our unique (or maybe not-so-unique) life purpose.

On our recent desert vacation at a dude ranch, we saw this cactus flower in bloom.

Cactus Flower

Apparently, it blooms for just one day. But what a magnificent bloom.

I was rooting for it to open again on day 2, though very grateful that I got to see it when it did flower.

This, of course, makes me think about those of us who have thorny lives yet still bloom. And those among us whose bloom is far too brief, yet still beautiful, and how lucky we are to witness their bloom.

Divine guidance

When I started this blog, I was pretty nervous. I had been having all these spiritual experiences and I even “heard” that I should start a new blog and what the name and focus should be. Would people think I was weird? Way out there? Crazy?

But at some point it became scarier NOT to do it, so I did it.

After I started writing about my experiences, many people showed up telling me – confidentially – about similar experiences in their lives. I felt honored that they would share those with me, plus it made me feel a little less nutty.

As for me, I began to trust that when I got those messages, and if I followed them, they would take me someplace good. I began to rely on them.

I haven’t heard any messages recently. I kind of miss them. Plus, now that I have relied on them, it is a little scary to do things without them. There is a certain security to knowing that someone is guiding me, that they have my back, that it isn’t just me on my own out there.

As I began to realize this, a few friends appeared to tell me about the messages they recently received and the miraculous happenings in their lives, how they are connecting with something bigger than we are. I am again honored that they would share this with me. And it helped me to remember that something doesn’t have to happen to me personally for it to exist. And maybe sometime I’ll get those cool, instructive messages again. Or something else!

In the meantime, I like that these connections exist for my friends and family, and I can bask in that. And going into my CT scan tomorrow, I feel like someone has my back, even if I’m not hearing them.

I hope your guidance, wherever it comes from, takes you someplace that makes you smile.

Love,
Marie

A cup of coffee

On Sunday, I went out for a cup of coffee and carried it with me while I took a walk.

Very unremarkable, I know. This may be something you do every day, multiple times, without thinking much about it.

But today, almost every word in that sentence fills me with wonder.

For example, I went out. On chemo weeks (like last week), I spend Tuesday – Thursday inside and in bed, and I often don’t leave the house on Friday or Saturday either, especially in the winter. On Sunday morning, I always aim to make it to church, but usually getting ready takes all my energy and then I am too tired to go. So again, I stay inside. As a result, I spend almost a full week in my house.

But last Sunday, I went out!

Not just that, I went out for a cup of coffee. For a variety of reasons, I stopped drinking coffee around 10 years ago.

But we have a wonderful café near us, and I was recently tempted by, then fell in love with, their Turkish coffee. But getting a cup involves a lot of standing: Standing in their typically long lines to order, and then standing as I wait for the five minutes it takes them to make it. Standing longer than a minute or two can be difficult for me. But I did it!

Plus, in our culture, carrying a cup of coffee feels very normal, and cancer patients crave a sense of normalcy. I got to do something normal!

And, I took a walk. This means that I spent time outside, and I walked on my own two legs. It was awesome. It helped that the weather was unseasonably warm.

When I am doing chemo, and shortly afterwards, the days can seem dark and it feels like things will never get better. But then they do, in surprising ways. And even the most simple ways can bring power and joy, and take me to the next step.

I hope you are feeling power and joy today and if you are not, know that it can and will come, that and whatever else you dream of.

Love,
Marie