Making connections

I met Kathy when I was about 20 years old. I always liked her, and we traveled in the same circles, but we never socialized one-on-one.

Time passed and I grew distant from the friends who connected Kathy and me, so I didn’t see her or hear about her life.

A couple years ago, maybe one or two, we reconnected. Though I don’t remember exactly how, I suspect that Facebook was involved. And I don’t remember how or why I told her my story, but she started to pray for me. And then, she had her prayer group praying for me.

You know how I am about prayer and its power. I was incredibly touched (and still am), and felt so much closer to her, even more than 30 years ago.

Recently she told me that she would be coming to Needham, a town relatively close to where I live. We made loose plans to get together.

Then life intervened and my schedule got crazy. I only had a sliver of time, so I suggested that I meet her at the airport for a quick hug and hello. She said no. She already arranged transportation and wouldn’t give me her airline or flight number, but I did know her arrival time.

No problem – I used to travel frequently and I can figure this out! I did have a bit of uncertainty – I wasn’t even sure that she would be flying in from Pittsburgh. But I kept picturing how fun it would be to see her and decided I would take the chance.

After driving to the airport (and figuring out parking – the lot was full!) I headed inside to wait. I brought a book to pass the time but I realized that I was too excited to read. Plus, I had to watch two escalators to make sure that I didn’t miss her, though I shouldn’t have worried. You couldn’t miss the influx of Pittsburgh Steelers apparel. (In case you aren’t familiar, Pittsburghers love our Steelers clothing, and one can purchase, and wear, a Pittsburgh Steelers outfit for every occasion.)

Pretty soon, there she was! We immediately recognized each other and then talked for so long that the limo driver called her cell phone to track her down. It was such a high to see her again, and I’m just sorry that we didn’t get a picture together!

This feeling is so fabulous that I want everyone to feel it! I hope you get a chance to connect with someone, whether you just met them, see them all the time, or haven’t seen them in 25 years. And thank you, always, for being connected with me. It makes this path immensely more positive to travel.



Attitude of gratitude?

I remain incredibly grateful for all your good feelings and prayers on my behalf, for the meals you cook, the driving you do, the fun emails and FB posts. All of it is uplifting and I know that I am incredibly lucky to be feeling so great.

When I am completely down and out, I am automatically grateful for every little thing: the feel of sunshine on my skin, a kind word, a drink of water. There is a piece of me that feels so open to grace that I want to keep that feeling without also experiencing some catastrophic event.

When I feel good, though, I become more critical of myself and others and have to consciously generate gratitude. For example, I took an extra week off chemo and on Saturday, I felt really good. We even had friends coming for dinner – something we used to love doing but a rare event in the past many years. I don’t have the energy to throw a dinner party, so we offered to take them to a restaurant.

On Saturday morning, my husband told me, “They said they would go anywhere we wanted. Where can we go where you can eat something too?”

I became really excited. I am not just vegan, but I also avoid sugars of all types (including fruits), vinegars, fried foods, processed foods, carbohydrates….basically, I eat vegetables and beans.

That said, many restaurants in our area fit the bill. Plus, I know that these friends are game to try anything and have even been juicing vegetarians in the past, so I took them at their word and rattled off three vegetarian restaurants.

My husband paused for a moment before asking, “What will the rest of us eat?”

Now, I know he has good intentions. He wants to be a considerate host and make sure that there is plenty of food that everyone will enjoy. But did my grateful heart focus on that? No. My critical, ungrateful side focused on counting the times I have gone to fancy restaurants and ordered a lettuce salad with olive oil and lemon. I don’t mind, honestly. I primarily go to dinner to enjoy the company of friends. But in this moment, I focused on a very selfish and manipulative angle, and it wasn’t pretty.

I snapped, “What do you mean? Everyone can eat vegetables. Why do I have to always be the one to make do?”

As soon as I said it, it didn’t feel good, but I’m not good at turning on a dime. So I walked away.

What was it exactly that was bothering me? My husband was only trying to consider everyone involved, including me. And once I turned it around and saw it that way, and was simply grateful that he was taking everyone’s preferences into account, I felt better.

I know from experience that being bitter, sad or selfish increases the pain in my body. I feel physically better when I focus on the good and keep my sense of humor and perspective. It took a tumor to teach that to me, and apparently, I am still learning.

Thank you for being in my life, and for giving me so many opportunities to practice gratitude.


There is fun, and then there is fun

Thank you for all the energy you send my way. It enabled me to travel to Pittsburgh with my family, to celebrate Easter with my parents and siblings and partners and cousins and friends. A two-day trip would normally be crazy and unthinkable, with everything that gets packed into that, but your support enabled me to do that.

On Easter Sunday night, at bedtime, I laid in bed with my younger son. As part of their bedtime routine, I like each boy to reflect on his day and think about what he is grateful for. I also like them to give thanks to God for those same things, though sometimes that part pushes my luck with their patience.

Neither boy is the reflective sort and they find this exercise tedious. Still, I persist, posing the question in various ways.

Tonight’s version was, “What was your favorite part of today?”

As I waited for his answer, I mentally ran through his day. We all slept at my parents’ home, so the kids woke in the same house as their cousin. They had a special breakfast made specifically with them in mind and received Easter baskets of goodies and gifts from my parents and their aunt and uncles. We went to church (granted, not a potential highlight when you are seven years old) and they ate cookies and cake and special treats throughout the day. He put on a gymnastics and dance show with his cousin.

Midday, a friend of mine arrived in a convertible BMW and took our son for a fabulous fast ride in her car. His grin was non-strop and I don’t think it was the power of the wind against his face.

He didn’t reply so I asked him again, “What was your favorite part of today?”


Late in the afternoon, my cousins arrived, bringing their two boys. Their older son is a teenager and did a fabulous job of playing with his younger brother (Antonio) and my younger son, who are close in age. My cousin and sister and I sat on chairs in the backyard and watched while they played football and freeze tag and lots of other games where you run around a lot. The balls would go over the hill, and the boys would race each other down the hill over the brambles to get the ball, then race back up again. Their clothing gathered grass stains, and the feet of my barefoot son were so dirty that we couldn’t scrub them clean in the bath that night. Both of my cousin’s boys are amazingly easy-going and fun, and they laugh easily. It felt idyllic.

Because it was the last big event of the day and everyone left barely an hour before this, I attributed his answer to the recency effect. So I pushed. “Easter candy?”

“Tonio,” he said again, definitively.



Riding in the convertible?


Though it had been a great day overall, clearly the best was the connection he made and the physical fun he had playing outside with someone he adores. Okay. Tonio.

I know that I get so caught up in what I am trying to get done that I often put off that physical connection and that fun. This was a good reminder for me to refocus.

Thank you for connecting with me, for being open to my connecting with you, and for enriching my life.

I send you wishes for a beautiful week, filed with the absolute joy and love of connecting with someone amazing.


Meaning and Joy

Thank you for your prayers and positive thoughts, your visits, food, emails and every other uplifting and helpful thing you do. As chemo weeks go, this one wasn’t so bad, and, to my delight, I rebounded quickly. Thank you for all you did to enable that. It not only helps me, but it helps my family as we function each day.

For a long time, and often even now, I just aim to get through the day. I don’t generally commit to anything in advance. For example, I’m never sure if I can do school pick-up on any particular day. I haven’t thought much about family rituals, and certainly not yearly ones. I didn’t have the confidence to plan for something that would occur year after year.

But last week, I started thinking about how to make events more meaningful and joyful. With Easter Sunday and its preceding Holy Week approaching, I spied an opportunity. Maybe we could make this week special somehow, maybe even starting with Palm Sunday.

The Jesuit church near us has a Palm Sunday Mass where liturgical dancers act out the Passion (the story that runs from the Last Supper through the crucifixion and burial of Jesus). I was encouraged to bring my children to this, in the more formal “upper” church, rather than attend the very family-friendly children’s Mass.

I wondered whether my kids were up for it, and whether I was up for shepherding them through it. For us, a regular Sunday Mass looks like this:

  • We arrive between 5 and 10 minutes late (on a good day)
  • My kids settle into the pew, sitting on the kneeler and facing the seat. There, they set up whatever activity they brought to occupy their time during Mass (anything from drawing to reading to Legos).
  • Partway through, they get restless so I ply them with snacks and a drink
  • If their behavior is good, they are allowed to get donuts afterwards

But, I was up for trying something new. I said I would bring my kids.

“Oh, make sure you arrive early to get parking and a seat. It gets crowded,” I was told.

“How early?”

“Thirty minutes should do it.”

THIRTY MINUTES? I thought. The overachiever in me added its two cents: If everyone else is arriving 30 minutes early, I’d better aim for 40 minutes early.

How would we get there 40 minutes early? And worse, how would I keep those kids engaged for 40 minutes before Mass even starts, and then through the entire, longer than normal, Palm Sunday Mass?

One step at a time.

I developed a strategy, buying treats they rarely see, like chocolate milk and candy. (Well, they get plenty of candy but not usually at church.) I talked with them about activities to bring and packed extra paper and pens and yarn. I brought water for myself.

Miraculously, we arrived 40 minutes early. We got good parking.

The kids picked up palms and then one of them immediately asked if I could make it into a sword for him.

“A sword?”

“Yeah, you know – with the handle and the bar across and the long part?”

He meant a cross, which, if held upside down by the shorter top part, apparently looks like a sword.

“Let’s wait on that.”

The church was already filling in the front but we found seats. The boys settled in as they usually do, opening their Legos and playing quietly together while I prayed.

Then I looked around. The kids near us had books with titles like, “The Saints” and “My Catholic Mass Coloring Book.” One child in the pew behind us leaned into our pew, ignoring his books and watching my boys play Legos.

I got close to my sons and whispered, “Share with him,” then held my breath. I’m never sure whether I will get resistance or compliance. Thankfully right now, I got only a bit of resistance before compliance. Good. I heard the parents say to their son, “Make sure you give that back to him before Mass starts.”

I was suddenly self-conscious about our secular toys and my plan.

I leaned over the boys and whispered, “Let’s put those away once Mass starts.”

Though they looked at me with big, shocked eyes, at least they didn’t say, “But you ALWAYS let us play Legos.” I remain grateful for the small things.

Mass started and we waved our palms over the procession. At first the kids got into the action, then their arms were tired. Whining and complaining totally drains me and it was too early in the Mass and too early in the day to start that. We were now squeezed into the center of the pew and I didn’t see an easy exit.

Then the liturgical dancers took over, and the boys and I were captivated as they acted out the Passion. One of my sons even sat on my lap to get a better view. The rest of the Mass had a rhythm that was different enough to hold their attention. A nice person behind us made a “sword” for my son out of the palms. I eventually allowed them to have the chocolate milk but held off on the candy.

And then, the Mass was over and we walked out of the church into a beautiful rainfall. As we drove away, they even talked animatedly about the service and absentmindely sang the songs from the Mass.

Eventually, they asked, “Donuts?”

“Sure,” I smiled. I guess that after-Mass donuts have become our family ritual. It happened without planning or realizing. And maybe it isn’t particularly meaningful, but it is filled with joy.

I wish you much joy and meaning this week, whether you are celebrating a holiday, birthdays, or any reason to either gather with those you care about and love. If you are spending time alone, I hope that feeds your soul as well.


Try not get worried

Over the past few days, the pain in my abdomen started getting sharper and more frequent.

Another friend passed away this weekend from cancer, triggering my concern about whether this pain was just another blip in the road or a milestone. At best, it was distracting. At worst, worrisome.

I tried to pay close attention to the pain and realized that whenever I was upset, anxious or thinking some judgmental thought, the pain got worse. I gave up judgment for Lent and thought I was doing pretty well, so those moments of awareness were particularly stabbing.

At Whole Foods this morning, still in pain, I got that shaky “off” feeling that I get sometimes, where things don’t feel like they are clicking and I feel like I need to get out of whatever physical space I am in.

I hurriedly collected and paid for my groceries, and I bagged them. I actually love bagging groceries and am pretty good at it, but not today. I wasn’t efficient and I wasn’t careful about putting my bags in the cart, leaving one precariously balanced on top.

The woman behind the register asked, “Can we help you get to the car?”

I thought, you don’t have someone to help bag. Who is going to get me to the car?

Jabbing pain.

I said, “No, thank you. I think I got it.”

Two steps later, the bag toppled onto the floor and one gallon of orange juice broke, causing a mini-flood. I stood and watched, not knowing how to stop it. It was right where the entrance and exit meet, so anyone coming into or out of the store was blocked.

The clean-up crew arrived. I apologized and rushed to get a replacement gallon. When I returned to my cart, all three workers who were cleaning the mess said to me, “It is all okay. We don’t mind doing this. We are more worried about you.”

I really needed to get out of there.

And so my day went.

A few hours later, driving to teach my religious education class of first graders, I started to panic. I promised them a pizza party today and often, with this age group, a change in routine has the potential for things to spiral out of control. Why was I even doing this? Who even cared? Was it worth the effort?

Jab. Jab. Jab.

How was I going to get through the class with this pain?

And then this song started playing:

Try not to get worried
Try not to turn onto
Problems that upset you

Oh don’t you know
Everything’s alright yes
Everything’s fine

It has been so long since I heard that song, I couldn’t even remember that it was from Jesus Christ Superstar. It was just what I needed to hear. And of course, I just love events that occur against all odds.

I got through the class. The kids were AMAZING. The person helping me said that it was the best behavior she has seen from them all year. And if the pain was there, I didn’t notice it at all during the entire hour.

Everything’s alright yes
Everything’s fine






Leg warmers of love

When I was growing up, my mother made all my clothes. For my senior prom, we went dress shopping together. With each dress I tried on, I would tell her the aspects that I liked, and when we got home, she made a pattern that incorporated each of those aspects into one unique dress that I loved.

My friend Harriet has similar skills. She can look at any set of raw materials and quilt, knit, crochet, build, sew or otherwise construct a thing of beauty.  And fast.

I can do that with food. I cannot do that with knitting, at least yet. From watching my mom and Harriet, I know a project can be done and I generally dive in, even knowing my limits.

When I wanted knit leg warmers, the pattern I loved was a cable stitch, something I’ve never done. I don’t require perfection but I know that I am a slow knitter. I worried that I wouldn’t get the leg warmers finished until next winter (who knew how endless this winter would be!). Also, there was that nagging feeling – would I be around to wear them?

Harriet and her flying needles immediately came to mind. Maybe she would make them? After a brief, online conversation with her, I sent off the pattern and the yarn.

Something to know about me: I don’t see people as they are today. I generally see them at their best. So say, if they were a great gymnast at age 7, a brilliant student at age 15 and a fashion model at age 20, I see them as all these things at once, even if they are 80 years old with a failing memory and walking with a cane.

It never occurred to me that Harriet might be out of her knitting phase and into something else. And she is too generous to burst my little imaginary world.

This is the story of the leg warmers and the generosity of friendship, from Harriet’s point of view. So beautifully told, I had to share it.

My beautiful leg warmers from Harriet

And the leg warmers arrived well before the end of winter, too. Thank you, Harriet!

Lots of love,

P.S. Harriet also taught my children to say, “Thank you for my lovely dinner. May I please be excused?” I LOVE that gift every single day.