Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Traveling through jury duty

So I know that God shops in the produce area, I've bumped in to Him plenty there; the man shopping for his stage four breast cancer wife, Maria who just felt that she knew she had cancer, and of course my strawberries and soy milk little lady. But He goes to jury duty too? Yes I traveled to jury duty today. I spent the morning in a chair listening to names being called and working on a project for my retreat in December.  When the announcement came for lunch break I eagerly jumped up, well not literally my foot is causing me so much pain…., but figuratively I jumped up and hobbled to the cafeteria. 

A lady was staring at the lunch menu and I was staring at the huge crowd already in line.  I asked her if she was staying there for lunch or using some of the two hours we were given to go down a block or so to restaurants.  After a little chat, we headed out the doors. She walked slow for me, adding that she knew the pain of plantar fasciitis all to well. We landed in a over-packed place and found a tiny table for two, not good for space but great for conversation.  In talking to each other we found out we both are native San Antonians, two years apart. We both have been divorced and have someone wonderful in our lives now, and they both work at Lackland AFB! Her married name is Gomez, I worked for a company with that name, my foot was killing me, she works for a podiatrist and gave me great tips for healing.  We are both close to our moms, have a daughter about the same age, oh and did I mention we both had breast cancer? Oh and we both had the same surgeon? 

She battled breast cancer just as she turned 40, when she was pregnant.  I couldn't even find words to speak when she said that. She had surgery while pregnant, and remembers and felt quite a bit of it as they didn't sedate her as heavily as they did me.  After she had her son, she continued her treatment and had radiation and a new born at the same time.  I really felt small for thinking how radiation made me tired, and my skin burned, and my ribs ache, I wasn't trying to hold a newborn….wow. There’s that perspective yet again.  She told me how blessed she feels to have had her healthy son despite all that she was going through, and still feels blessed today. We finished lunch and hobbled, very slowly, back to the dungeon jury room.  We sat together and continued our conversation.  She reached in her bag, handed me a book, and said I want you to have this.  The title of the book is “I’m Not Finished, A Journey of Inspiration and Courage down the Road of Cancer.”

As we settled in for the long afternoon, and panels were being called regularly, around three my name was called for a panel.  I limped to the hallway, stood for almost an hour, and then was told they only needed the first 26 people, I was happy to be #54!  Back the jury dungeon we went and I dragged the foot back to where we were sitting. She was gone.  I spent that last hour alone, reading through the book and later came across a quote the author referenced, “All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware,” Martin Buber. I was the traveler today.

When they started to release us they called us each by name, and then they called hers, she never responded. Just like that, poof, gone. I had been postponed for jury duty, I wasn’t supposed to be there today but couldn't help but think how God calls us each by name and places us right where we need to be, when we need to be there. This was my destination today, and yes, God goes to jury duty too. 

God's Country...Lost Maples State Park, I look this last Friday, inspiration is all around me.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

The River of Truth

Amazing when we are still and quiet we can hear so much more than when we are loud, than when things are loud around us.  Tonight I am reflecting on the anniversary of finding the most surprising thing in my life, on October 5, 2010.  I realized I have a mammogram this month October 17, and I wanted to see where I was in my journey in 2010.  I have my journal printed out and I flipped back to beginning.  I saw handwriting on the back of the first page and I can’t believe it is just what I need to hear right now!  I have to admit that a diagnostic exam is really making my stomach turn. I know the mammogram is going to be painful in my radiated area.  I know the radiologist is going to want an ultrasound. The whole process is just unsettling and I understand why so many people opt for a double mastectomy to avoid this annual ritual.  I had to do what felt right for me at the time and a lumpectomy was my choice, so annual rituals are essential now.  Anyway, I really feel unnerved, disconnected even from this whole thing. Perhaps now that the doctors’ appointments have thankfully slowed to once every six months the nerves will come with them.  Here’s what I wrote on the back of my journal.  I think it was while I was on retreat in October 2011.  Wow, so many references to October in my life…..

The river flows gently, calling me at every turn, “Come float with me, “ it says. Through the trees I hear the voice of the river, but where am I? Which way do I run to find the river? I rush through the branches as they slap at my arms, and the thicket underfoot cuts in to my bare feet.  Confused and dazed I cannot find my way. “Come float with me, I am here,” the voice calls out again. I quickly run the other way looking for a path, searching for the water.  I run for miles exhausted, parched, and bruised from journey, “I’m here, “ the voice calls out so strongly. My desire to find my way engulfs my very being. I climb a tree to rise above the canopy of my own confusion. I see the river runs in every direction all around me. I was never far, just needed one more step and then I hear, “I am with you always,” and I joined the river of the truth.

Prayers tonight for my Rachel recovering from surgery and my friend’s mom who will have surgery Tuesday. May Jesus’ lay His healing hands on them, and give them the rest they need to recover and do His will. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

I can see clearly now

I have a confession to make today.  I have been at this computer for the last hour laughing hysterically so much so that my cheeks hurt from smiling, all by myself in my little computer room with my real virtual friends.  Many people have asked how I got though this or that, and if you know me well, you know God is my first answer. He is my hope and my salvation, no question no doubt.  My family ranks right under there, my daughter, my immediate family, my Doug, my whole extended family, his family, my ex’s family, my friends that are family, etc.  Of course, the doctors that God placed in my life at different times and the friendships that grew from them too, like Dr. Joe and Barbara.

Just some of my family

Donna's memorial day celebration
However, what I haven’t mentioned a lot of, are the friends that I have met because I got the big bad "C" word.  There are so many people in my life at this very moment that I can’t believe I spent thorty something years without.  And yes I meant thorty, it lies somewhere between the thirties and forties in my imagination.  But I met Donna K. because her friend Karen befriended me at my second chemo infusion. Then Donna and I met at Karen’s funeral just a few weeks later.  Through Donna I met Cyndie G.  and we have melted together as “hell-n-backers” as Donna calls it.  They suffered great losses in their lives, but it’s not sorrow that glues us together, it’s hope twisted around love and friendship.  

If I hadn't gotten “c” I also wouldn’t have met the wackiest, funniest, interfaith, hope filled group of women on line. This group of women is remarkable. Each of them has or is battling the “c” word, each has a life all their own with everyday problems too.  Yet each of them is just like me, swimming against the current sometimes, and enjoying the ride back down.  The fun part is that we get to say “weeeeee” together as we journey.  We laugh out loud at our computer screens, a lot, no even more than that.  We have private jokes that perhaps wouldn't even be funny outside our internet lives.  And we share intimate details of our c battles, that yes, we understand together.  Funny enough I have never spoken with any of them only typed to them.  I know their children’s name, when chemo head allows, I know where they work and what they like to do when they aren't working or aren’t at doctors appointments.  It’s been such a blessing meeting these women, as we encourage, pray, and laugh with each other, every day. 
women under the age of 30, stage IV breast cancer signed these pants

I have had the privilege of meeting so many different people along this way.  I have been given a chance to step back and let the goodness of people shine though, when I needed it most. I found myself somewhere along that way, and didn't even know I was lost. The world is greener, the sky bluer, I love more deeply, and pray more often and with so much more passion and praise.  I guess my confession today is that I am grateful for the gifts I have been given, even the gift of c.  You see, "C" really, all it stands for is clarity

if you let the waters lay still, you can see yourself so clearly

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The scooter lady and me, juggling life

Today at Walgreens, I watched a woman on her motorized scooter trying to maneuver around the merchandise placed in every corner and aisle of the store.  She had just enough clearing and barreled though the space with confidence and familiarity.  I went about my shopping when her scooter came quickly around the corner and I moved to let her by.  She stopped and asked “Are your eyes better then mine?”  Being very familiar with the place myself, I asked her if she needed help.  “Yes,” she tells me in a curt and frustrated voice, “I’m trying to find the probiotics.”  She led me to the vitamin aisle and said in a very irritated voice, “they said they are right here, but I can’t see them.”  I scanned through the vitamins on every shelf, and on the very top, way above the eye level of a scooter bound person, I found them.  She barked, “Hand me the cheapest ones would ya?” Then she explained that she heard they are better than antibiotics.  “Thanks for the eyes” she softly shouted and off she drove.
After a little more searching for what I needed, I headed to the register and she was checking out.  One lady was behind her and quickly three of four people were behind me.  She apologetically explained to the clerk that she had to write a check since all her credit cards were stolen from her and misused and she didn’t have new ones yet.  As the lady started to write the check she mumbled to the clerk and the clerk replied, “that’s okay if you can’t see it, leave the line blank and the computer will fill it in.” I could feel the impatience of the other shoppers just as an announcement rang over the intercom, “There is no waiting in cosmetics.” The lady in front of me took off, and all the people behind me left to cosmetics too, so I moved up one in line.  I could hear the conversation even more clearly now as she told the clerk, “I can’t believe someone would steal my credit cards. One time I lost my purse when I was drunk so I couldn’t get mad, but this time I was mad, they stole from me!” She apologized for taking so long and the very patient minimum wage clerk so assuring said, “Your fine,” her voice almost melodic.  Moving very quickly trying to gather her bags, the scooter lady kept dropping items from her bag, “I’m so sorry,” she said. Calmly, without hesitation, the clerk said, “It’s okay, it’s fine, take your time.” When the lady left the store I paid the clerk for my stuff. Never did she complain about the previous customer, or try to apologize for her. She was just helping one customer as they needed and moved on to the next, seamless, with the quiet dignity she kept for me and the scooter lady.

Stress and worry will always be in my life.  I will fall and I drop things, forget things, and try to juggle everything in my bag, and I will get frustrated and lose my way, and often not see what is just in front of me.  Just like the clerk, God will stand next to me and say “It’s okay, it’s fine, take your time.” He will be my eyes, and I will breathe, and remember I can only juggle what fits in my hands, not in my bag, and God will take care of the rest. 

Friday, August 3, 2012

Gina, the flying squirrel, goes for gold!

A funny thing happened on the way to the forum. No, really, I was on the way to the Forum shopping center to meet Donna and Cyndie for lunch!  I had a little bit of time to kill between dropping Doug off at the base and meeting my two friends for Donna’s birthday – yep I’m singing to you again!  Anyway,  I drove through downtown taking pictures out the driver side window, but only while stopped at red lights, or pulled over in a parking lot.  

If I ever make it as a photographer, you know get paid for a picture some day, I could call myself the “Drive By Shutterfly”!  I was winding through the one way streets of downtown, took a right, and ended up the beautiful and historic King William district, home of the homes we all like to look at and wonder how anybody could afford just the electric bill! 

 I took some pictures of the neighborhood as the sun beamed down in full force blanketing the canopy of trees as its rays squeezed in between the limbs to paint the streets with sunshine.  I drove up and down often forgetting to take pictures as the architecture and landscaping distracted my quest.  I turned on a street called Arsenal and ended up at a T in the road.  To my left sat a beautiful pedestrian bridge crossing the San Antonio River Walk in a not so commercial area.  The large trees provided enough cover from the sun’s heat and I thought I just might be able to get out of the truck long enough to run to the bridge and snap a few great pictures. I parked in the shade so the truck wouldn’t heat up too much and started down the dead end street leading to the bridge.  Suddenly to my left I heard a rather loud rustling in the ground cover. I focused my eyes on what looked like a rat, then before bolting, I realized it was a squirrel.  

I lifted the camera to my eye and started taking pictures of the little guy as it climbed up the iron fence and found a good spot to devour its lunch.  After a few pictures, I noticed something from the corner of my eye and lower the camera enough to see another squirrel perched on the fencing way down at the end.  The first subject of my pictures moved along down the fencing for a more comfortable spot to eat, obviously unaware of the unwanted neighbor and that unwanted neighbor stared down that first squirrel like a cat waiting to pounce.  

Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Bag

After the gynecologist called me at work and uttered the words, “You have a breast cancer, “ I cried, I prayed, and withdrew from the speaking world for a bit. Talking proved one of the harder things to do since cancer, said in a quick whisper, seemed to creep up in every conversation.  I know my family and friends felt helpless and wanted to do anything they could to help.  My sister drove to Target that very day I believe, and bought me a scarf. Looking back now I have to giggle a little bit since we couldn’t possibly have known at that point what I might need . Shortly there after she came to my house looking for something to do for me, to run an errand, to clean something, anything, so I told her I needed a bag for chemo.  She brought me one of her own that had been given as a gift to her. She filled it with a blanket, a book, and some snacks, the chemossentials.  My first chemo Doug and I spent the whole day there, CT scan first, blood draw then off to the infusion room for my cocktails. Doug carried that beautiful, bright red bag with him…and to every chemo after that.  Valentines day 2011 the bag was emptied, no more chemo, no more books, no snacks, no magazines, emptied, and it sat empty for almost a year.

In that next year I kept moving the bag to different places in the house as not to look at it.  I would almost gag thinking about the chemo bag, thinking about chemo.  In that bright bag lined in sunshine yellow decorated with blue, white, and green flowers, I had left all my nausea, my weakness, my baldness, my anger, and my pride.  Looking at it wasn’t an option, yet giving it back didn’t seem the solution either. So the bag sat here, then the bag sat there, shoved in a closet, under the bed even, but it’s vibrant colors and shiny coat always managed to peek out from the dark corners. The more I tried to hide it, the more I could see it.  It was useless to hide it, it was a daily reminder of the darkness that lived within the colorful bag. I moved it to the corner of the room and we stared at each other a little bit more each day.

Then this past February I got a call to team on a retreat as a music minister.  Thrilled beyond words my excitement bubbled over. I went to the first meeting with my purse in tow to see what I would need. The next week I took some music sheets in a blue and back canvas bag that Doug received at a trade show.  It held the music but would fall over since the bottom narrowed to a point.  A few weeks later I needed to carry a lot more music, so I put it all in a binder and carried that back and forth, for a while.  Finally it was retreat time, I packed, loaded the guitar, then stared at all the music and stuff I wanted to carry.  I couldn’t find a bag big enough.  The chemo bag lay limp in the corner of the room - I looked at it, but figured all the music wouldn’t fit in there anyway.  After a fruitless search of my house, and at the last minute of course, in a huff I grabbed that ugly old chemo bag.  Funny how when I emptied all the nausea, the weakness, the baldness, the anger and yes the pride, all the music fit just fine, and the bag stood up straight and welcomed the load.  Today I understand that I need to empty my bags so all the good stuff will fit instead.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Enjoy today, worry tomorrow....

I get so caught up in the necessary routine of daily life, the worry about paying bills, going to appointments, getting lab work done, that I sometimes forget to just enjoy the day.  My life’s canvas paints new colors all the time and entwines them with the fading colors from yesterdays, with my memories of childhood. Like this very vivid memory…

My Aunt and Uncle picked me up in the blue hatch back station wagon on their way to their high school reunion, maybe their 20th?  Yvette, my cousin and best friend, feverishly waved her hand motioning me to climb in the very back with her. I got in the wagon, threw my leg over the slippery blue upholstery, and glided in to the very back where only groceries and luggage should go.  The short ride to the county park proved fabulous as we opened the glass window in the hatch back and felt the wind whip around our hair.  When my Uncle parked the car, we sprang out of the back, pushed our now frizzy and very large hair down and raced each other to the pavilion.  The whole day we enjoyed food, games, music and each other’s company.
My Aunt and Uncle were having such a wonderful time with all their friends that the party continued at a local restaurant. The patio found the adults engrossed in conversation while all the kids enjoyed kid stuff. Since cell phones and game boys were just figments of someone’s imagination,  we just ran around and laughed and played, calling Marco and Polo, or wondering if the donkey lady really had a phone number. The night wrapped up sometime in the early morning and off to the back of the blue hatch back station wagon we went. This time I needed no prodding to climb into the back, it was just big enough for us to lie down.  I spent half the years at Yvette’s the other halves she spent at my house, so that night her room was the ticket.  She turned on the radio, said good night to her Adam Ant poster and we listened to Madonna asking her daddy not to preach as our eyes grew heavy and our conversation trailed in between quick moments of sleep.

This month I found myself remembering 25 years ago; my high school graduation, Yvette’s high school graduation. I didn’t go to a park, or take my daughter with me, or pick up one of her cousins.  I sat here quietly remembering my Aunt and Uncle’s fabulous reunion and wondering how I caught up to them so quickly.  The colors I made with Yvette etched so deeply in my mind and on my life’s canvas. I didn’t know why at the time, why everything we did was big and bright and memorable. She blazed through all she did and 25 years later I can still hear her laughter and see her smile.  She lost her brief battle with cancer in 2009, when her daughter was just getting ready to graduate from high school. If she could tell me anything right now, I know she would tell me -  enjoy today, worry tomorrow...

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

my first blog on blogger, I'm a caringbridge junkie

Well, I took the step, away from the wonderful caringbridge site, by the asking of some.  Strangely I love to sing, but I won’t karaoke. So naturally I love to write and I just never blogged. Well here’s to new beginnings.  I don’t have a clear direction of where I would like to take a blog, so we will just have to ride the waves of life and follow the words where they lead us.  I hope you come along for the ride and always know the only thing that stays the same is -  it really is all about todays.