Friday, October 5, 2012


     I woke this morning, The dream that I had worked my way out of still hanging about my mind and body like a shroud.
     I was driving with my husband. The vehicle stopped working in the middle of a busy intersection at a plaza-like shopping center. I volunteered to go into Von's and get change. Why would change help in this situation? Who knows.
     I went in, with a large bag on my shoulder. In the bag was my Lulu, my pug that I had to help over the bridge a couple of years ago, and Gemma, my little one-eyed Japanese Chin that currently inhabits the places in my heart reserved for furry babies.
     I walked into the store and was transported into a sea of people. All were quite friendly. I saw a piece of paper at my feet and as I was staring at it, a handsome man in his 30's said, "Oh don't worry, I dropped that there." I smiled at him and he looked at me with recognition in his eyes and a warm and happy smile.
     I moved on through the people, and then made my way outside across a field of grass to where the truck had been parked in the middle of the road. I couldn't see the truck, or my husband, anywhere.
     I was getting hungry, and I walked into a little Chinese place. I ordered soup and coffee. The coffee to-go cups were strange and not all that clean. After waiting much too long for soup, I cancelled my order and told the lady behind the counter about the cups. She just stared at me with large dark eyes. The handsome man was sitting at a table, eating.
     I walked out and into another portion of the plaza. People were waiting in lines with placards that hung above them that read "Registrar". I moved through, calling "Mike!", but no one even appeared to hear me. The handsome man was in that room too, I am not sure if I saw him or just felt him there.
     The joy at seeing Lulu was palpable. I hugged her warm body and kissed her. She played with Gemma on the lawn. But I was growing increasingly sure that I couldn't find anyone I knew. I didn't feel afraid, but I felt separated. I woke.
     As the dream wove around my head like magic, I darted upright in my bed. My heart felt weighted and heavy in my chest, as if it was full of un-shed tears, and so I shed them. I was afraid that the dream meant I do have breast cancer, and that it would take me away from everyone that I knew. As I write this blog, I think about the word registrar. Of course I knew it existed, but I don't think I have ever used it. I looked up it's definition: An official keeper of records that are kept in a register.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A Lesson In The Rain

So this morning, it is pouring. Yesterday evening the rain started, and it is thick and heavy and concealing, and  I love it.

I felt content in my robe, with organic Montana Morning Coffee from Coffee Traders (The BEST coffee around) in hand and newspaper on the table, it was set to be a good morning.

My husband and son left the house at 7:30 to make it to the college by 8am. My daughter has to be at work by 8 am as well. The house would be silent and rainy and I could write to my hearts content. I could feel the muse stirring inside my chest. But M'Kayla was late, in-spite of frequent hurry warnings, and so they had to leave her. I was going to have to drive her.

I wasn't very nice to my sweet girl. I told her I would drive her, but bitched about how she should be able to get ready in the morning earlier. I quizzed her on why she didn't get up earlier, why it took her so long to get ready... she looked exhausted. She's been sick with every single cold that comes around since working at the daycare. We think it has something to do with having had Mono a couple of months ago, because since then, she has been sick. Her immune system took a hit and hasn't recovered.
She was saying, "Mom.. you don't have to drive me, I've walked in the rain before."  And, "I tried to get up earlier, but I just couldn't get out of bed."

 I got dressed and got my keys and started the car. Then I came in and looked at her. My heart broke. What in the hell was I doing? Why does my period make me such an awful bitch sometimes? She was exhausted. Her eyes had big dark rings under them. Her nose was stuffy. She is so beautiful and awesome...she has the sweetest soul, the most generous heart, she is the kindest most loving girl I have ever known. I realize I am her mom, and so my opinion is colored with a mothers love. But take that away, she is truly the sweetest soul I have ever met. People stop me and say, "Are you M'Kayla's mom? She is the sweetest girl in the world." No joke.

I hugged her and told her I was so sorry for bitching. She said "Oh no, mama, its okay, its my fault." Because she will always, and without fail, accept an apology. No matter who it was that did something to her or against her. An apology made to M'Kayla is accepted with open arms and total forgiveness.

I sliced her some watermelon because she wasn't really hungry. I loaded her up with a fist-full of vitamins and immune boosting supplements, and then we ducked out the door into the rain.

We  darted to the car, and it just so happened that we got in our seats and shut our doors at the exact same moment. The radio was already playing...and as soon as we shut the doors, Supertramp sang the chorus "Oh no it's raining again, and you know its hard to pretend..." 

For some reason, it was one of THOSE moments. Tears filled my eyes because I could feel the emotional impact and importance of being aware that this very moment, was special. I looked over at M'Kayla and a tear ran down her cheek. She said "Oh my God, I'm so emotional right now, that song and the rain, it just made me cry."
We both felt it.
It was a moment that we would never forget. It was special and set apart, a gift, given for reasons unknown.
And I almost missed it. 
It was a lesson for me, if we look around, life is full of them. Lessons, and moments.

So here is my request:

Be kind. To everyone. Love. Everyone. Reach out, draw in. We have the amazing power to change the moment, to change the day, to change the life of other human beings around us. Everyone is just trying to get through, doing the best they can. Our greatest power lies in our ability to show kindness to another human being. We can change the world, one kindness at a time. It is a magic that we all possess.
Use your magic today.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Meditation and Spirituality For The Sake Of Being Spiritual

Since my diagnosis roughly 3 months ago, the spiritual side of me has become more alert and awake. Today when I ran into my primary care physician outside of the office, he asked me how I was doing and I told him I was doing well...that I was "watching & waiting". He said how he would hate that, not being able to actively fight. He looked me in the eye then and said, "It's got to make a person religious."
For me, I do not believe that CLL has made me religious, it has made me spiritual.
I have done religious. Growing up as one of Jehovah's Witnesses, I was very religious. I was so religious that I was terrified that God was going to strike me down the day that I came to the realization that Jehovah's Witnesses do not have sole rights to "truth". I remember the day that I gathered the courage to explore other religions, other denominations within Christianity. I will never forget the fear and exhilaration that I felt when I walked through the doors of a mainstream Christian church. As a JW, we were taught that other Christian religions were of  "Christendom", and were the "Great Harlot" and that churches were houses for demons. I was overcome with emotional release at being free from what had felt like chains of mental imprisonment. I felt the love of God as He led me out. Please do not get me wrong. There are many good JW people. People with good hearts who just want to do the right thing. I just feel that they are being horribly deceived by an organization of fallible, imperfect, men.

My hunger for the spiritual has always been strong. I have always been able to find the spiritual, the awe inspiring, the amazing and unearthly in the mundane. I have always loved God. I devoured the plethora of Christian literature, music and prayers that had been off limits to me before. It was as if I had been starved for years and then thrown into an all-you-can eat buffet. I could not get enough. I had looked outside the box I had been living in, and I was in love with what I found. I felt such freedom. Freedom because no one came to my house in suit and tie to check in with me if I did not attend a meeting or get the required number of hours in the door to door ministry that month. I felt freedom because main stream Christianity seemed to love everyone. Accept everyone. Because isn't that what Christ was about? About love? About acceptance. About reaching out to those who were broken and bandaging them up?

But within a few years, I began to feel disillusioned. I looked around and realized that most of the followers of Christ, picked and chose which verses they would deem the most important, and then use those verses to make a safe and comfy world for themselves to live in. A world that was filled with people who thought just like they did. I was disillusioned when it seemed to me that the Christian "right" were the one of the most unloving, judgmental, greedy group of people around. More concerned with individual rights than taking care of their brother. More concerned with homophobia than with obesity, greed, lying...etc.

And perhaps it is my Jehovah's Witness upbringing, but I was never able to wrap my mind around hell. Hell. It is preached in most churches and is the most horrific, awful, gut wrenching, unloving, unkind teaching that anyone could dream up. I mean after all, its not as if your tortured for a moment and then you die. No. Your tortured for eternity. Without let up. Forever. And ever. For a choice you made as a broken hurting human. I've talked about it before, I know. But if God is love...then there is no hell. And if there is a hell...then God is not who He says He is.

But now, now I feel like I have opened Pandora's box, because I do not know what I believe. Who put the books of the bible together? Are they really the inspired word of God? Because if they are, there are so many questions. So very many questions. I continue to move through the questions, cherishing the journey.
 I think that God is bigger than our mistakes. I think that God is bigger than our denomination. God is more than a gender. A race. A religion. A sexual orientation. I do not think we can box God into human form, but I think that we try very hard to do just that.

Lately I have found peace in Christian Mysticism, in Meditation, chants, peace, stillness. I listen to Jewish Rabbi's and Enlightened Catholic Monks, to Buddhist teachers and spiritual philosophers. I light incense and candles and close my eyes and rest in a stillness that is so profound that I cannot give it words. I can only sense it with my spirit. A connection to life, the source of life, God, other humans, nature...a beautiful connection that requires nothing of me, except that I receive it. And I have decided that it is okay to live with the questions. Questions are part of the great experience of this life. For some, unanswerable questions are more than they can bear, and so they choose to cut the spirituality out of their life like a cancer. For me, I just keep walking towards it, because I love God. Do you think that God could be angry because we chose to worship incorrectly? I cannot put that much humanity into the Source of life.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

New Blog Just For CLL

I have decided to separate cancer from my everyday life. Ha. That was funny. Actually, I have created a blog dedicated to JUST cancer and chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Those that want information about CLL, don't have to wade through piles of chickens to find it. The CLL blog is called Chronically Crazy: Life With Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia , and if you click on the will take you there!    Here on Apron Strings, I will be upping my farm-girl life posts. Walking and talking through life on a city farm. I have some really great recipes, some new projects in the works, new information on gardens and composting, chickens and eggs. I'll keep a link over to the side for easy access to the CLL blog, Chronically Crazy: Life With Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia. Thanks everyone!

Sunday, February 26, 2012


I've been quiet the past few weeks. I have felt the need to wrap myself in a protective bubble of solitude. Our world is so full of noise. Cars, sirens, televisions, radios, crowds of people, phones, iPods....everywhere I listen, there is noise. Maybe it has been longer than a few weeks. Maybe it has been since my diagnosis. I am not quite sure.

Noise isn't necessarily bad, and some sounds cannot really be classified as noise. Bird song for instance, invites solitude and reflection. Laughter lifts the spirit and can be shared or experienced solo. And even the cacophony of life ...genuine noise...can be good, because noise = life!

But there are times, when I need to pull inward and reflect and meditate on the things I have learned amid all of the noise. When I lived in Florida, I would go out early in the morning just as the sun was rising, and walk in beautiful silence along the ocean shore. There were sounds, my feet moving through thick white sand, the gentle shush of the Gulf Coast as it touched the shore, gulls and sea-birds, and even a quick hello as one morning sojourner passed another in their morning quiet. My walks never failed to bring peace, to find beauty, because it was matter which direction I turned.

Here, I do the same. I get up and walk and I try very hard to enjoy the stark beauty of winter. Every day I find something peaceful, a bird, a deer, or just the sound of my footsteps as my feet crunch through the snow. It is difficult at times though, because I crave the sun as if it were my breath. Day after day of heavy low clouds weighs on my spirit and infringes on my attempts at peacefulness. If I had to choose, I would choose to be walking on that beach right now.

But we can't always choose. Sometimes we must take what we are given and craft something lovely out of it, no matter how bleak it seems in the beginning. Sometimes the end result is far more magnificent than we ever could have imagined. And sometimes it isn't. I will be so grateful when spring is here, the snow is gone, and there are blue skies to lift my heart. Until then, I will revel in the winter wonderland at my doorstep and breathe in each moment of peace where I find it. I will continue to use this diagnosis to transform myself and my life into something magnificent that otherwise would never have been possible.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Meaning of a Florida Panther

On a Tuesday evening, just as the sun was setting in Naples, Florida, I was blessed to have a Florida Panther cross my path.  I was in a hurry, a quick trip to the grocery store to grab something for dinner and some kitty litter. We had just moved into the home we would be watching for the next 6 months. Tonight would be our first night sleeping in the luxury of this multimillion dollar home. I didn't want to begin our time there without kitty litter (and the series of unfortunate events that could occur without it), so after getting our things settled in, off I went. As I was rounding the curve to exit past the guard gate, there she was. She had emerged from the edge of the trees walking slowly, as if she were out for an evening stroll. She was large, and heavy with muscle, and her long, dark-tipped tail moved gracefully behind her as she went. She crossed the road without a glance in my direction. Her grace and beauty slow my world, and in that moment, I knew I was in the presence of something special. I was amazed to have encountered such an animal here, just steps from grocery stores and Target.

For the past three nights, I have met a panther in my dreams. In each dream, chaos is taking place. I didn't write it down, so I cannot remember what was happening, only that it was loud and confusing and full of colors that were too bright and too many people. As I am standing in the middle of this chaos, the panther walks through. She is determined, and sure, and walks past me and down a corridor and then turns to the right and is gone. As she moves past me, and down the corridor, I am mesmerized by her strength and her purpose. I am entranced by the gentle movements of her strong tail. I am compelled to follow her, but I wake up. She seems full of purpose, without hesitation, as if she knows exactly where she is going.

So this morning, with the dream fresh on my mind, and it having been the third morning of dreaming of a panther, I looked up the "dream" meanings of panthers. Here is what I found:

When it shows up as a totem it may be time to learn about owning your own power—albeit by trial and error. This testing is what hones your skills and strengthens your inner power. Cougar is a solitary animal, and you may feel alone when going through these tests to prepare you for your ascent to the higher realms of knowledge and spirituality.

When Cougar appears, much of the trial is usually already worked through—the ground work has already been laid out; now it’s time to ascend, to assert your own power and demonstrate what you have learned from the test or trial period. Cougars may be associated with trees, as they climb to higher ground. Trees are naturally archetypal images of knowledge and growth. Cougar scales the heights to higher knowledge and security when other animals cannot. It is grounded in the Earth, but can easily scale into the loftier realms. Wolf may often precede Cougar, guiding and teaching you along the way until you have found your path. He may then hand you over to Cougar so you can now “climb” to a higher position or state.

This would be the time to break out of your shell or the “category” that you might be stuck in, or that others may try to keep caged into. It is your choice to remain as such, or to flex your muscles and reveal your newly found courage, strength and capabilities. There is a choice to be made; but Cougar leaps at any opportunities quickly and with strength. Cougar teaches to be swift and decisive about using personal power; to not hesitate either to defend or to attack—with equal effectiveness.

Interesting stuff. Wonder if she will show up again tonight. I would like to see where she goes after she rounds the corner.

Speaking of sleep, I've slept poorly the last few nights. I seem to feel  angst and worry like the princess felt the pea. Hoping that I can get a solid night of sleep tonight and not wake up in the weee early hours of the morning with nothing but my whirlwind of thoughts to keep me company

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Post Traumatic Sadness. . . and then Spring.

I have no right to be sad, but I am.

Lu on my bed.
     In late September of last year, Lulu my precious pug died in my arms. She was only 3. She developed liver failure in August and made it until the end of September. I was devastated. It is hard to put into words how much Lulu meant to me. We connected the moment we met. It was as if we had been together always. She was my little black shadow, always going wherever I went. She followed me out to do the chores, helped me in the garden and got into mischief constantly. She was always up for anything as long as I was there. Our morning walks were pure meditation, she loved to be outdoors. She was my confidant. She listened tirelessly with those warm brown eyes to my tales of woe. I complained about school, about my relationships, about my life and she listened and crawled onto my lap. If I cried, she would slowly and gently crawl up on my lap and lift her face to mine, and very softly lay her pug cheek on mine. What a gift she was.
     When I came to realize that I was going to have to say good-bye. . . I panicked.  I had said good-bye to my one year old daughter 21 years before, and the suffocating feeling of not being able to escape the reality of the situation was hauntingly familiar. Lu knew I wasn't ready, and she tried to stay. It was a beautiful sunny Sunday morning in late September that I woke to her panting for breath as fluid built up around her tissues. I knew the time had come. I drove her to the emergency vet that sunny Sunday morning, and helped her over the bridge, all the while whispering over and over into her soft black pug ear the words I knew would make her happy. "Good Pug, you are such a Good Pug and I will never ever forget you." Just as I did with my daughter, I kissed her cheeks, her eyelids, memorized her smell and held her until I was ready to let her go. God Bless that wonderful vet who cried tears with me. I will never forget that.
Lulu and Opus at Granny's
    We buried her that morning at my moms house behind the garden. She loved going to "granny's" and running on the property there. She loved the BBQ's where she always got a bite of burger, we knew it was the right place.
     My heart was sad for two weeks. It was two weeks before the trial that trumped Lulu would enter my life.
     It was at about the two week mark when my son Garrett became ill. At first we thought it was the flu. But there were no other symptoms except exhaustion, fever and chills. We were repeatedly at the physicians office. Blood work, x-rays... nothing showed up definitively. Until the day that we went in to get the second set of blood  test results. Garrett had been annoyed because they wanted him to actually come into the office to get them. When we got there, the doctor was puzzled as to why the nurse would have him come in, as nothing in the blood work was that alarming. He decided to give him a physical exam again, and I saw it in his eyes when he heard it. A heart murmur. A murmur that had not been there 4 days before. All of a sudden our lives became a flurry of activity. Garrett was immediately admitted to the hospital with a diagnosis of bacterial endocarditis. So many tests. Echo-cardiograms showed that he now had a severe mitral valve leak and that the infection had eaten through the flap in his heart. The only remedy was open heart surgery and valve replacement. But before that could happen, Garrett needed to be on IV antibiotics for 6-8 weeks to clear the infection from his heart valve. He had a PIC line inserted and we moved him into our living room so we could help care for him. 2 weeks later a bit of the infection from his heart flew off and traveled to his leg where infection developed in the deep muscle of his thigh. There were ER visits in the middle of the night, 3 separate hospital stays and daily trips to the infusion room for a refill on antibiotics.
1 day after surgery
Painful Recovery
Home and recovering

And then on January 7th,  he had open heart surgery. It was harder than I had ever imagined it would be. The hours of waiting during the surgery, the ICU, seeing him with a trach tube in his throat. He was in so much pain, and there was nothing we could do but wait for time to pass.  He was in the hospital 6 days and then thanks be to God we had him home again. His recovery was slow, but before we knew it he had recovered. Thank you God, for my son. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
    During the events of this past fall and winter I held up well. I was strong. I was empowered by God I believe to keep moving. It is now, after all has seemingly gone back to normal that I have let myself feel the trauma.
    I started this blog entry 2 weeks ago and only finished it today. I am no longer sad. Spring is here. There are the beginnings of buds on my lilac tree and there is garlic sprouting in my mostly snow covered garden beds. Renewal. Rebirth. Spring. The promise that all will not be dark and cold forever. The promise that there is light, that there is hope.
  In a few days I will have to go to the hospital and have a test on my heart. While studying EKG's in anatomy and physiology at school, I realized that there was something not right with mine. My cardiologist wants to rule out an abnormally formed coronary artery. So I will have a CT angiogram with iodine (which I am allergic to). If it turns out that my artery is not formed correctly, the fix will be. . . . open heart surgery. What are the odds? Probably astronomical. Could I not just win the lottery instead? And then I realize, I already have. My son survived open heart surgery. My husband and I are still passionately in love after 25 years. My bright beautiful sunny daughter is healthy and well. I am the luckiest woman on earth.