Back to the Ordinary

“It’s hardest to love the ordinary things,” she said, “but you get lots of opportunities to practice.”

Brian Andreas for StoryPeople

I get to celebrate my birthday! I never used to care about birthday celebrations, but now I am just so tickled to grow another year older that the day itself feels special even if nothing is planned.

During chemo, I plan my life in one-week cycles: One week set aside for chemo and recovery, and one week set aside for ordinary life. Now that I am on a chemo holiday, I am thrilled to have many weeks in a row set aside for ordinary life.

I considered what to do with this block of time. My world often feels so small during treatments. Maybe we should rent a villa in Italy? Visit friends in Greece? Take the kids on a tour of Europe? Go to Hawaii? Alaska? Australia?

A feeling of accomplishment feels wonderful and would be a nice change. Should I begin a new knitting project? Acquire a new skill? Read my pile of books? Write a book? Return to rowing? Organize our home? (ha ha ha ha)

Connection feeds my soul. Maybe I should jump onto the already-moving train that is my family. I could actually be present for my children at their events and spend time with my husband. We could visit friends and help others. We could strengthen each other and laugh and have fun.

I haven’t figured out how to do all of this, and it might not be possible. But if I don’t select something, I may end up not doing anything.

How to decide? I considered what I miss the most when I am doing chemo. I miss the ordinary. I miss taking a shower, eating without nausea and moving without being tethered to a tube.

I miss thinking about what my family needs and being able to act on it. I miss easy laughter and relaxing times with family and friends. I miss exercise. I miss helping others. I miss traveling. I miss the ability to plan ahead.

So I’m working through all this while I enjoy cooking our daily meals, the impromptu visits of our friends (both adult and children!), and all the busyness that accompanies the end of the school year. No decisions yet, but maybe soon.

I suspect that my birthday will be an ordinary day, driving kids here and there, cooking creatively and seeing friends. And that is just perfect.

Excerpted from The Parent’s Tao Te Ching, Ancient Advice for Modern Parents by William Martin. Good words for me to remember for myself.

From the chapter Make the Ordinary Come Alive

Help them instead to find the wonder
and the marvel of an ordinary life.

Show them the joy of tasting
tomatoes, apples and pears.

Show them how to cry
when pets and people die.

Show them the infinite pleasure
in the touch of a hand.

And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.

Thank you thank you thank you for your very presence, making my very ordinary life to feel extraordinary in the most beautiful ways.



Miracles so far this week

So far, the chemo break is fabulous, though it presents dilemmas of a different sort.

But that is a topic for another time. For today, I will share some of the happy miracles of the week so far.

On Monday, I decided that I wanted to make steamed dumplings. I had a small bit of chicken and I actually had the rice wrappers in my freezer. I could add peas (also in my freezer) and scallions. I’ve never made them before but how hard could it be?

I thawed the rice wrappers and chopped the scallions. I set everything up like an assembly line and started to improvise.

On Monday nights, Puspa helps us out. Puspa just started college. She has lived in the United States for the past five years or so, but was born and raised – until 5 years ago – in Nepal. She noticed my inept beginnings, as I tried to construct and wrap one dumpling, and kindly asked if she could help.

I watched her demonstration in awe as she folded the sides on one half of the dumpling wrapper, knew exactly how much stuffing it would hold and sealed it closed. She even wrapped the ends around to make a beautiful, bite-sized morsel.

As I gushed about her skill, she laughingly said, “I’ve made hundreds of these.” I pictured a kitchen filled with generations of women chatting and making a meal together, the older female relatives doing the more complicated parts of the meal while the younger girls sat doing the repetitive dumpling-making. Kind of how I learned to make gnocchi.

Miracle #1: My urge to make Asian dumplings on a day when there was actually an in-house Asian dumpling expert!

Miracle #2

I woke early on a beautiful Wednesday morning, thinking that I would like to meditate outside but didn’t want to do my same old thing. So I went back to sleep.

When I woke again, I felt a strong urge to look at the cover of a book called The Way of Boys. I knew the author is Anthony Rao but suddenly noticed the name of the co-author, Michelle Seaton.

Later that day, a friend wrote to me about a type of meditation that is lovely to do outside. Did I want to learn about it?

AND, she told me a bit about Michelle Seaton’s latest project. “Had I heard of her?”

So cool!

Miracle #3

For the past couple of years, my friend Lisa has been recommending that I see this particular bodywork person. “I can’t explain what he does. He is just gifted.”

I put off calling.

More recently, I was having tea with Natasha, who recommended that same bodywork person. “I can’t explain what he does. He is just gifted.”

THEN he walked into the cafe, so Natasha introduced us and told him that I needed to see him.

“Email me directly,” he offered. “I will squeeze you in.”

Apparently, this is rare. But did I take him up on it? No, I did not.

This week, on Wednesday, Natasha called. She couldn’t use her appointment and would I be able to take it? This time, I had to step up. Yes.

I can’t explain what he does. He is just gifted. I was transported. I learned a lot about the impact on my body of all this inactivity. And I am so grateful for Natasha and Lisa pointing me in this direction and to God and Natasha for putting that opportunity right in my face.

Miracle #4

As I prayed for the health of the many people I know who are dealing with cancer and other challenges, I realized that three of those for whom I pray by name got good news this week. I gave enormous thanks for answered prayers and, of course, asked for more, confident that that well has no bottom.

Thank you, too, for being here, through everything. I pray that you are happy with the miracles that are unfolding in your life every day, and that you feel the love, blessings and prayers always.


Give thanks in all circumstances

Thank you for your prayers and good thoughts, for making me laugh and expanding my world.

Spring arrived in New England! The blooming flowers and trees fill me with hope for all kinds of wonderful new life and beginnings and made me optimistic about my CT scan.

Today I met with my oncologist to get the results of my CT scan. I have been doing chemo since last August. Plus over the past week, I’ve had problems with my hands and feet that I believe are side effects. My body could use a break.

Normally, I would try to brace myself for bad news. But lately, I have been aiming to embrace ALL of life: the stuff that feels good and is fun, and the stuff that might not feel so wonderful. I want to embrace it, move through it, give thanks for it all.


As with many of my bright ideas, I try them out first on my kids.

Before bed, I generally annoy the kids by asking them to tell me one good thing about their day. I rephrase it as “something that makes you feel good inside when you remember it” and “something that makes you smile” to try to encourage their participation in this activity. They don’t like to share much information with me, and they definitely don’t reflect out loud, but they eventually give in and begrudgingly answer.

Then I move onto asking them about one thing that wasn’t quite so good, or something that could have gone better. Most people don’t like to remember the bad, especially before bed, so this part often feels a little funny, but I also think it is important to face these times and then move on.

You can see why they prefer that their father puts them to bed.

The other night, I lay next to one of the boys and asked him to tell me something good about his day.

“Gymnastics,” was his eventual answer.

“How about something that wasn’t so fun?”

He paused, long enough that I decided to offer a suggestion rather than tease it out of him. “Maybe your coach yelling at you?” He looked at me and I was afraid that tears would follow.

In my new inspiration of embracing it all and giving thanks continually, I decided that I had to help him give thanks for the “not so fun.” So I asked, “Can you find something good in his yelling?”

He thought for a moment, then smiled and said, “His coaching makes me a better gymnast.”

I was really impressed with his ability to see good in something that he didn’t want, that hurt his feelings and made him angry. I can’t get over my own self that fast.

But today at Dana Farber, it was my turn to try, and I vowed that, regardless of the CT results, I would give thanks to God, even as I prayed for smaller (or totally absent) tumors.

I’m so happy to report that all in my abdomen and pelvis is essentially stable. They did see something that looks like a tiny dot in a few places in my lungs but we (including my incredibly smart and very conservative husband) are all comfortable with “watch and wait” on that.

Weirdly, I wasn’t worried. I remained totally in the framework of “giving thanks for all things” and didn’t feel like I had to brace myself. Woo hoo!

Of course, it is still easier to give thanks for that which feels good. And I give thanks always for you. Thank you for helping me to feel better through this whole process. And thank God for this amazing life.

I’m officially on chemo holiday and my next scan is at the end of June!

Sending you love and peace and light and joy,


Scan results come next Tuesday

Thank you for your prayers, positive thoughts, comments and emails. Everything really lifted me up at a time when I needed it!

The logistics of the scan went well today, and I get the results on Tuesday.

Thank you again for all your support. The CT waiting room can be a hotbed of anxiety and you really helped to keep it at bay. Thank you for making a difference.

Have a beautiful week.

Blessings and love,