Thursday, December 30, 2010

Joey

In which our Heroine wishes she was more Heroic. 

Every once in a while at the Brayton Ward building, a 400 pound Polynesian guy wearing a dirty yellow XXXL sweatshirt and jeans will come rolling into sacrament meeting.  He particularly likes to do this near Christmas time.  His name is Joey.  There is something wrong with Joey—to be frank, he seems simple-minded.  I once spotted him walking in sub-degree temperatures along the side of the highway in only his jeans and mustard colored sweatshirt to keep him warm from the driving snow.  Not something a healthy-minded person would do, or one that is well cared for.  There is no doubt that Joey is unpredictable, and sometimes disruptive or intrusive.  But rarely have I ever seen someone who radiates such purity from the inside out. 
Joey enjoys Christmas hymns enormously.  He is prone to sing during the piano interlude of each hymn.  A few weeks ago Joey found his way to the broadcast of the LDS church devotional at Brayton Chapel and did just this thing, singing random snippets from the song throughout the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s beautiful performances.  Poor Joey was wandering the hallways after church.  For years now I’ve had a sixth sense that allows me to pinpoint needy people.  I find it burdensome and sometimes even annoying on regular occasions, but it is something that I can’t seem to turn off.  In my saner, more Christ-like moments, I don’t want it to ever go away.  However, in the evening after a long day when I’m aching to get my fussy child home and in bed, I will wish not to have my odd little knack.  Ever the one to volunteer my husband for random acts of service, on this occasion I asked Joey if he would like a ride home, assuming he lived nearby. 
Joey lives across town in Mountain View.  I think we were out on the roads for an extra 45-60 minutes that night.  We had a hard time squishing him into the passenger seat.  He radiated an odd smell and would frequently interrupt our futile tries at conversation with arbitrary snatches of a hymn here or there.  I found myself sitting next to Eva in the backseat and listening as Joey offered strange tales of taking airplane flights and wandering all over the U.S., often finding himself stranded in places like Las Vegas and somehow miraculously ferreting out a benefactor who would send him back home to Anchorage.  It was during one of these stories that I found myself wondering how someone like Joey could even survive.  It was clear he needed better attention at home than he was currently getting.  I wondered where he got the money to eat at the restaurants he pointed out, or to take the bus.  It all seemed so impossibly far-fetched that I wondered if his tales were actually true.  Then with a jolt of pure understanding I realized that whether they were true or not, Joey had a way of miraculously receiving whatever he needed—even on a daily basis. 
Joey reminds me of that scripture in the New Testament “Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather in barns; yet your Heavenly father feedeth them… Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin; and yet… even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field… shall he not much more clothe you…? Therefore take no though, saying What shall we eat?... for your Heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of these things.” (Matthew 6: 25-34)
Joey has an awkward tendency to stand up in the middle of church meetings when he’s not supposed to as well.  A couple of weeks after driving him home, I was somewhat exasperated to find him back in our chapel for 9 am church.  Our ward choir was doing a series of musical numbers.  I believe it was during Angels We Have Heard on High that Joey reverently and joyously stood smack dab in the middle of the congregation and lifted his voice in praise of the baby Jesus.  He had his usual bed-head, but had on a clean deep red sweater and some black slacks that weren’t quite big enough for him to zip up.  When he stood, his belly hung out (like usual) and he had to hold his pants up with one hand while he clutched his hymn book.  It was touching that he tried so hard to look his best, but far more important that he felt so strongly—and understood so clearly—about the Savior. 
Upon spying him, I felt an immediate urge to also get up and sing the song like it should be sung: with my whole heart, body, and voice.  I reasoned hurriedly to myself that it would be disruptive and stayed firmly on my seat.  But then I saw a woman who I greatly admire stand up with tears streaming down her face, and then another woman—one of the most stubborn, but courageous people I know.  Only then did I stand, pointing what was happening out to Jon.  By the end of the song, nearly the whole congregation was spontaneously standing and belting out the song.  Some did it because they felt to sing joyously, others because they were pleased to do so, some for perhaps a sense of fraternity, and some simply to support Joey.   It was wonderful. 
I feel ashamed that I didn’t have the gumption to stand with guileless Joey right at the beginning.  However, I make myself feel better by remembering how I have never laughed at Joey, not once.  I feel only irritation and exasperation when I see people snicker or act overly embarrassed on his account—as if they are doing him a favor to make him seem more outside the norm. 
I truly believe that some people are sent to this earth to allow others to serve and show kindness to them.  Joey is clearly one of these.  He is so lit up on the inside.  He is happy, even in a happy-go-lucky kind of way.  Since I first became aware of him, I have heard countless accounts of kindnesses shown to him.  For instance, this Christmas, Joey showed up at one family’s Christmas gathering.  They had no idea who he was for the most part, but Joey remembered that one of them had been kind to him once and so requested another compassionate person to drop him off there at that warm house.  These people I salute. 
Now, to bring it home:  Sometimes I feel like I am one of those people too, though I thankfully have all/most of my mental faculties and have a warm home and wonderful caregivers.  I have related before how I was born into a family where the father had just left us destitute.  I remember kindness after kindness shown to me by not only family members, but my whole community.  I have included a picture at the end that shows me at age 6 or 7 with all of my dolls.  Most of these were gifts from people outside my family.  Trust me, my wise mother would never give me that many toys because it would obviously spoil me rotten (and in fact did). 
And then, at age 29 I get cancer.  I suddenly find myself at the intimate center of other people’s hopes, services, and prayers.  I’m telling you, some people are specifically sent to earth to fill the privileged position of ‘being loved’ by those around them.  As I said once before, I seem to have a “cancer of the privileged.”   I feel pretty emotional about Joey’s situation, at first connected to him in some indefinable way.  After delving deep into my thoughts as I write this, I find myself first wishing I had the courage to immediately stand for Joey, second that I had felt whatever feelings he is obviously gifted with during a regular church hymn, and third that I might make my sadness’s and my difficulties into simple joys like he does. 

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Risk Factor

In which our Heroine reads, eats, and writes about it. 

Not all books about cancer are the same, especially when it comes to food.  The biggest difference I am finding is that some books assume chemotherapy happened or is currently happening.  Although this may be true for many, and maybe even for the majority, I find this assumption generally problematic.  Not all cancers demand such chemical measures.  A few of us cancerous victims choose alternate routes to recovery because of the location of said dastardly cancer, or because of age, etc.  Any book that assumes chemo or radiation must focus primarily on the current big problems at hand: nausea, decrease in appetite or “waking up the taste-buds,” and increasing protein consumption because the body must rebuild its cells.  (Ever wonder why most people with cancer get so emaciated?) Most of the recipes in these books tend to be normal or only slightly altered from your everyday Betty Crocker.  And frankly, if these people were really trying to staunch my nausea, they already fail.  I can’t imagine eating tuna with horseradish when fending off an incumbent vomit, “waking up my taste-buds” or not. 
No, nausea and protein consumption are thankfully not my problems.  In my research, I am finding that books on food for fighting cancer are the best, though they are difficult to find.  Apparently this is a relatively new idea.  Far from assuming a difficult healing process, these books actually presuppose the landmark idea that cancer can be fought, or even prevented with something ordinary—food consumption—a thing we must do anyway.  It’s a matter of a healthy and sustaining diet.  Most people seem to believe cancer to be a matter of bad luck, or genetically inevitable.  In truth, only 15% of cancers can be blamed on genetic predisposition. 
I like cancer-fighting literature because it will often offer explanation as to why or how cancer happens in the body, and then a direct way to fight it.  It’s like finding the rusty chinks in an ugly enemy’s armor and then being wise enough to plunge my newly whetted sword in right where the weakness exists to exterminate the foe, hopefully leaving nothing viable or even recognizable behind.  If this were a movie, I’d be talking about a mess of severed appendages in a bloody heap on the ground.  I know my words are brutal.  But my enemy hasn’t been kind with me.  Cancer found my weaknesses and used them against me, and I see no reason why I should prolong his useless existence any longer and not do exactly the same thing.  It makes me feel so powerful to think that I can.
The best book I’ve found to date is entitled Foods to Fight Cancer: Essential foods to help prevent cancer, by Richard Beliveau, Ph.D and Denis Gingras, Ph.D.  The authors are top researchers who used to work for pharmaceutical companies to find new drugs to fight cancer.  After much research, these men have found promising results from the food nature has already provided.  I can only assume that they pay for their research with the books they sell, because there’s no way pharmaceutical companies love this result. 
According to this book, 1 in 3 people are at risk of encountering cancer (and subsequent death) in their life time.  Contrast that with the 1 in 7,000 who will die from a motor vehicle accident.  Which brings up the best part about this book: it’s a good read for any who have loved ones suffering from cancer, or are just generally interested in their own health and in understanding the role of healthy foods in the body. 
Some of you may be asking “Why if something as ordinary as a strawberry can fight cancer, then Tara how did you get it?  You are young and you eat strawberries frequently.”  Yeah, I’ve also come up against this question.  And here’s the truth.  My eating habits are awful.  Several times a day I find myself craving processed freezer food and mounds of fluffy white bread.  If you give me a choice between a frozen pizza and a pear, most of the time I’ll want to choose the pizza.  It takes real effort for me to eat the pear instead.  But what I’m learning is that poor dietary habits can lead to a 30% risk for cancer whereas hereditary factors only indicate a 15% risk.  Obesity and lack of exercise add another 5% on.  3 of my 4 grandparents had cancer, so I’m going to say that along with my bad dietary habits and a few extra pounds, I am looking at a 50% risk total.  Great.  Good thing I am drug-, alcohol-, and smoking-free, otherwise I’d be dead for sure (total 84% risk). 
All right, I’m starting to remind myself of Ben Stiller in that movie Along Came Polly, where he plays an insurance agent who constantly types numbers into his risk-adding computer program. So, in what I trust will be a helpful nutshell (and hopefully not too much of a copyright infringement) here is a quick list of the top 10 foods that help fight cancer as listed in the previously-mentioned book:
1.       Cabbage
2.       Garlic and Onions
3.       Soy (but you have to be careful about the source of the soy)
4.       Turmeric (especially as combined with pepper: food combinations matter. This is something that eastern doctors have known for—ever.
5.       Green Tea (I am LDS, so I don’t drink this—but sometimes I wish I could!)
6.       Berries
7.       Salmon and other fish with omega 3’s, or flaxseed
8.       Citrus fruit
9.       Red Wine (yep, still LDS…)
10.   Chocolate (dark, and good quality—don’t fall for the fructose-filled kind commonly sold in grocery stores.  Eating that stuff is just asking for cancer—trust me, I know).

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Brooding Over My Brood

In which our whiny Lady remains Mother of One. 

On Christmas day, Jon, Eva and I were invited over to another family’s house for dinner.  They have been amazingly good to us—perhaps because they too lost a family member to cancer a few years ago.  They are very perceptive to our needs in ways that most cannot understand.  One of these people is a girl my same age.  She is one of the first to have asked me if I can have any more children now that I have cancer.  She cradled her own sweet newborn as she carefully inquired, and I simply replied that no—I can’t get pregnant while on my current seizure medication.  This is not an option for my immediate future. 
I have volunteered this information at least in part to quite a few of my friends, but I was grateful that she’d had the rare forethought to ask.  It’s something that I think about on occasion, and hardly any know it—until now I guess.  There’s something about the human condition that makes a person want whatever she can’t have.  This fall, many of my friends here in Alaska either had a baby or were clearly pregnant when I learned that this option was out for me.  Before that crucial life-changing moment in August, I hadn’t exactly planned on having a second child immediately, but it eventually became quite difficult for me to deal with the fact that I wasn’t free to decide to do so if I/we chose. 
In LDS culture, families in my age group and socio-economic situation often elect to have a child every 2-3 years.  Thus, when child number one nears or just passes the 24 month mark, child number two is often a plan already in motion.  I had to wait an extra year or so for Eva, so I am already a few years older than most of my friends who have just turned out child number two.  In truth, my original plan was to at least be pregnant around or just after Christmas-time.  Yeah, that’s right—now.  This will not happen.  And I have almost no choice in the matter.
It may be that there is seizure medicine out there that is okay for pregnant women to take daily, but I wouldn’t count on it.  Then of course, there’s the much bigger problem of the cancer possibly coming back.  Obviously, radiation and chemo don’t mix with fetuses.  And the stress of pregnancy doesn’t mix with cancer well either.  My doctor is still watching me very closely right now.  There are times when I wonder if it is an honest statement to suggest that getting pregnant at this tenuous point in my life is near-suicidal.  Because I would choose the baby over my own life, of course, this means that I would be subject to whatever course the cancer decided to take.  I suppose I should just be grateful that my brand of cancer appears to be the kind that won’t be prompted into aggression by reproduction.  Some brain cancers, especially the ones that affect hormones in the brain, can make things very bad this way. 
Several years ago, I wanted a baby terribly, and just couldn’t seem to get pregnant.  I remember having trouble looking at other people’s babies at one point, feeling intensely jealous of the ease with which they had their children.  I had the feeling at the time that I required that experience in my life for some reason.  I assumed that I needed more empathy for other women in this situation.  In sad irony, it appears that I needed it for me too.  The good news is that I don’t currently feel the bitterness and jealousy that I felt before because I have Eva already.  She is a salve to my wounds in many ways. 
Well, that’s enough brooding for now.  The good news is that having cancer will free a person from any cultural pressures she may have been feeling.  I admit that it is nice to be outside other’s expectations.  Sometimes I think Eva is enough of a handful for me anyway right now.  And even if it galls me to have the choice taken away and possibly to have to wait much longer than I want—at least I still have the ability to have children.
P.S. If any of you reading this out there are the kind with newborns or who are currently pregnant, please don’t stop offering me information about your children.  It would only make the whole thing exponentially worse.  I would feel cut off from ALL baby normalcy.  In my current state I much prefer to share in the joy of newborn babies where I can.  (Besides, I know it is impossible for most young mothers to stay quiet about their kids). 

Monday, December 27, 2010

Naked Bandit

In which our Heroine’s Child becomes villainous. 

Christmas is such a lovely day filled with gift giving: good family times in the early morn hours, the charming shaking of beautifully wrapped boxes, the frantic tearing of pretty paper, the maniacally giggling children everywhere—and oh yes, the memory of the sweet baby Jesus in his poor manger.  The day after (or rather two days after) Christmas is quite a different story. 
The raging naked child bouncing against the sides of her crib upstairs is not mine.  Nor is it the fault of a young, susceptible mother who was only trying to give her precious little one a nice Christmas.  In a somewhat futile attempt to pin the blame on someone or something, I choose the evil, plotting scoundrel of commercialism. 
Drat that foe.  Many a man or woman has fallen to its sweeping tide of glossy items.  I am such a one of those helpless creatures.  Perhaps it was too much to grab the bathtub crayons from the side aisle as I walked out of Target that day.  How could I know I was laying the foundations of my eventual ruin?  The toddler on the front of the package looked so happy in his little bathtub, holding a little ball of a crayon that “fits perfectly in his small palm.”  His little belly button just peeked out above the bottom of the package.  Yes, I am blaming the carefully driven packaging.  Heck, at this point, I’ll even blame the toddler model’s parents who all participated in this dread scheme.  All toward my own demise as a mother. 
The problem with the after-bath tantrum is that the child is naked, wet, and diaperless.  Because of this, I exacerbated the problem by not administering swift tantrum punishment (throwing child in crib and shutting bedroom door until I hear happy sounds eventually emanating).  Instead, I made vain attempts to wrestle my child down on the floor with my weakened left arm while making the maverick effort to dress her bum in a clean diaper with my not-quite-dexterous-enough right hand.  Her wiggles were not cute.  Rather, the wiggles were frighteningly effective.  I gave up and put my naked bandit behind the bars of her jail-like crib.  Hark!  She has just quieted!  (Finally).  I’m sure Eva is even now shivering in her skivvies, waiting for her beleaguered and commercially sickened mother to make a jail break before she decides to pee her bedding. 

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Violation

In which our Heroine takes Christmas Vacation. 

Even bloggers need Christmas vacation.  I was not going to take the time and write this.  I was going to cheekily say that no apologies are offered.  And then last night my mother-in-law called and asked if everything was all right because I wasn’t writing on my blog.  Oh.  In my moment of selfishness I  forgot that some of you are keeping tabs on me through the blog.  Silly me, that’s the reason I started the thing. 
I also wasn’t going to write any more, but now my fingers are itching to keep going, even though my kid is screaming at me. (She hates it when I start typing).  Anyway:
Dear Sister-in-law Sue,
Thank you for all the CDs.  I opened the one you said I could open early—it is great.  Unfortunately, I know what the other CD’s are too.  No surprises for me on Christmas morning!  When I pulled the package out of the mailbox, the words “Media Mail may be Inspected” were insolently stamped in red on either side of the giant rip running down the center of the package.  Gee, many thanks to the post office for inspecting what was obviously a pile of CDs and a DVD.  They had bandaged their idiocy with clear plastic tape.  Inside, Jon’s present was left untouched, but my little bundle was a shambles of torn and scrunched wrapping paper.  You know, Jon and I made the grave mistake of spending way too much on one of the gifts we sent off because we made the mistake of trying to use UPS, but at least they have a policy of not ripping open their clientele’s property like the United States Postal Service.  Doesn’t the idea of property come up somewhere in the Bill of Rights?  Is courtesy not implied in our national custom?  How na├»ve of me to think it applied to my mail. 
Many thanks for a stellar, if unsurprising, collection of music,
Tara

Thursday, December 16, 2010

My Medley of Overused Christmas Songs

In which our Heroine meets Jack Frost. 

          I just got back from the walk of death.  30 minutes of walking time a day, my physical therapist said.  Well, unless I miraculously end up with a new treadmill in the next 24 hours, I can tell you now that this cannot continue.  Truth be told, I have been failing at the daily walk for a few weeks now.  There is a good reason for this.  It’s called a cold snap. 
          2 pm yesterday was the high temperature of 15 degrees for the whole day.  I bundled up my hapless child and took her out into the killing cold.  The way she was bundled into her mostly enclosed jogging stroller, though, I’m sure she felt much warmer than her mama.  The memory of that 25 minute walk was enough to keep me from trying again today, but the mailbox was calling me and I thought, “Why not?” 
          I’ll tell you why.  Because, baby its cold outside.  Jack Frost was not romantically “nipping” at my nose.  He had a miniature, but very sharp ice pick and was slowly chipping away at my beleaguered pores.  Before I’d gotten close to the mailbox (though by circuitous route), Jack had created a pattern of lacy ice across the tops of my cheekbones, now a showing a prominent red, (but not of roses, apples, or cherries, which only flourish in summer or fall weather).  My eyeballs began to sting, even behind my thickly shielding glasses.  Home was starting to seem like a real haven, but before I’d reached it I had the epiphany of why Silver Bells is such an appropriate song for Christmas.  I’m sure they have nothing to do with jolly sleigh bells and warm horse breath.  It’s because they make such a crystalline sound on clear nights—the aural equivalent of the tactile freeze of air in the lungs and ice from your frozen breath lacing across your exposed skin. 
          I know, I know.  Those of you from warmer climates are saying, “Duh Tara, you live in Alaska.”  Even for Anchorage, this is cold weather.  Its not even January yet for pity’s sake!  Those of you from cold climates are saying, “Wear your winter gear, stupid.”  Yeah, I was.  Have I mentioned yet how in the winter I tend to think endlessly of the warm desert?  It is possible that these warm and unbidden thoughts are the most awful part of winter for me.  Forget the sun going down at 3 pm.  It’s the contrast of warmer times that kills me. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Path to Shangri-La

In which our Lady creates her own Religion.

          I have two big thoughts to write about, both from a documentary Jon and I watched tonight on Tibetan caves recently ‘found’ in a region named Mustang (moos-tung).  The caves are set in high cliffs, and form a complex and impressive system of interconnecting rooms and levels.  Some are graveyards, others are living spaces, and still more are religious.  One set of caves was a convenient storage space for thousands of sacred texts on the Bon, a religion predating Buddhism.  The texts are highly respected by the locals, not only because of the beauty and history, but because of the idea they represent.  It was incredibly cool to learn about all of this, but my big Ahah! moment came when the film revealed that Tibetans don’t actually have a word for religion.  Instead, the word they use is the equivalent of the word scripture.  Isn’t that intriguing?  And true too.  What is religion without its written precepts? 
          Not to put too much weight on my mostly frivolous writing, but what does that say about journal-writing in general, and specifically my blog?  (No, I do not plan on forming my own religion.  Besides, what would I call it? ... hmm ... How about Tumorism—with a sound doctrine consisting of brain reincarnation? ... The scriptural writings will contain spiritual guidance for the cancerous and non-cancerous alike, with a health code, a guide toward general healing, both physical and spiritual.  It will espouse creativity and positive attitude, combining mind with body in ways metaphysical.  Also, the scripture will lay out the paths toward future uncharted lands, sacred Nirvana-like valleys of shelter for those who have faced the gaping chasm of death.  It will flourish in blogopheres everywhere...)  Ahem.  Aside from such interesting segues, when typing the gritty or especially hum-drum details of life, it can be difficult to remember what a collection of well-turned words can aspire toward, can’t it?  I will say that for me writing is becoming an increasingly important part of my life.  Apparently, brain surgery has literally jogged something loose upstairs.  Thus am I enabled to find my own heavenly paths toward happiness and healing, whether it helps anyone else or not. 
          I’d also like to point out that the documentary also uses Shangri-La in its title.  In the actual film, it was used once, in a tidy little sentence at the end.  Talk about false advertising. 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Lefty vs. the Tee

In which our Heroine matriculates. 

1.       Does Christmas shopping count as creative therapy?  Because I think it should.  Abject apologies all around for not writing regularly this past week.   Life happened—in the form of a serious unawareness of my lack of Christmas preparation (suddenly made apparent). 
2.       Exactly a week ago, I graduated from physical therapy.  That’s right, I said graduated.  They gave me a T-shirt and sent me home early.  I hadn’t known I was working toward matriculation.  It’s a good thing too or I might have gotten confused about my ultimate goal.  With appropriate amounts of dripping sarcasm: Regain the use of one’s left hand or get a free graduation t-shirt?  Hmmm, what to choose?  With all seriousness though, I already begin to miss having all that wonderful attention lavished on me at least once, maybe twice a week.  But my T-shirt’s pretty cool. 

Friday, December 10, 2010

An Exercise in Confusion

In which Eva sits on a Tree Ornament

          Remember when I listed some of the funny things that Eva (Weva) does?  I mentioned that we sit on “exercise” balls together.  Well, yesterday, Eva found a small (1/2 inch in diameter) ball that had fallen off of one of our older tree ornaments.  She sat on it.  Or tried.  Apparently that small of a target is hard to hit when you’re trying to bend over and look at it at the same time.  From a parental standpoint I am proud and pleased that she knew what that little painted-up thing was for.

The Life Miraculous

In which our Heroine lives the Miracle.

            Yesterday, a woman said quite frankly to me, “You know you’re a walking miracle, right?”  It’s funny that she said that, because yes, I am aware of this fact.  It is this awareness that made me pause and re-read page 3 of Leif Enger’s Peace Like a River several times just a few days ago,
“Let me say something about the word: miracle.  For too long it’s been used to characterize things or events that, though pleasant, are entirely normal.  Peeping chicks at Easter time, spring generally, a clear sunrise after an overcast week—a miracle, people say, as if they’ve been educated from greeting cards.  I’m sorry, but nope.  Such things are worth our notice every day of the week, but to call them miracles evaporates the strength of the word. 
“Real miracles bother people, like strange sudden pains unknown in medical literature.  It’s true: They rebut every rule all we good citizens take comfort in.  Lazarus obeying orders and climbing up out of the grave—now there’s a miracle and you can bet it upset a lot of folks who were standing around at the time.  When a person dies, the earth is generally unwilling to cough him back up.  A miracle contradicts the will of earth.
"…People fear miracles because they fear being changed—though ignoring them will change you also… No miracle happens without a witness.  Someone to declare, Here’s what I saw.  Here’s how it went.  Make out of it what you will.”
           From my standpoint, the statement rings clear and true.  Miracles are things like having relatively no symptoms or swelling even though you have a baseball-sized tumor in your brain.  Or the kind of healing that physical therapists shake their head in amazement at.  I especially appreciate the miracle of literally having my medical information fit snugly into position alongside an answer to personal prayer.  I knew from personal revelation that I would be fine, and it seemed that my pathology report was just trotting to keep up.  It’s not often that a particularly aggressive form of cancer changes its mind and decides to lie dormant.  No, my grave hadn’t been dug yet, and so the earth never had to literally cough me up.  Nevertheless, I see my situation as a contradiction of the will of the earth: my dust-to-dust limbs currently have strength.  In this way and others, I sense miraculous change in myself, as well as in many around me.  These things I witness, and more.  

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Weva (not a mis-spelling)

In which our Heroine delights in her daughter.

Man, being a mom is so worth it.  Here is a much-truncated list of cute things Eva does, along with experiences that are the best thing ever:
1.       My daughter calls herself “Weva” and it is really cute.  If she’s feeling blustery, it is a solid “Beva.”

2.       Every day we “Dance With the Animals.”  This is music video at the end of a Baby Einstein movie.  It involves running in place, hopping, making swimming and flying motions, and crawling.
3.       Every time I say good bye on the phone and hang up, Eva (or should I say Weva) says, “Bye Bye, See ya” in a sing-song voice.  This is confusing when her best friend Celia is over, because see ya sounds just the same as said child’s name. 
4.       When Eva is happy she lets out a low hum as she runs.  Her voice vibrates as she does this, by the way.  She has been doing it since about 6 months, first with just laying on a blanket, and then crawling.  No, wait—I just remembered that she used to do that at the very beginning every time she was happily nursing away.  Hmmm… maybe she’ll never stop? 
5.       Sometimes when Eva attempts to sing, she actually hits the exact notes of the song.  The rest is kind of meandering, of course.  But it is usually discernable.
6.       Jon taught Eva how to wear a superhero cape (dish-towel) and pose like a hero.  It’s great.  Unfortunately it is difficult to get a photo of this.
7.       When I sit on my exercise ball, she sits on hers too.  (One of those cheap balls from Walmart).  Really hard to take a picture of this.
8.       Eva’s laugh is loud “HA HA HA.”  No really, she actually ha-has.
9.       Her favorite words: crack-a (cracker), ti-ga (tiger), a nasally nian-da (panda), and puppy (puppy, puppet, pocket), and woof-woof. 
10.   Eva never goes down on the slide on her bum.  It is always a careful twist to the side while holding onto the top-side part, and then down by belly, feet first.  This is useful as she can hold food in her hand while sliding.  If you sit by her and clap when she goes down, she’ll never stop.   This is also useful for distraction of all kinds.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Angelic Artwork

In which our Heroine speaks visually.

          Tonight I did a little presentation for a Relief Society meeting (an LDS women’s meeting that is meant to enrich the lives of those who attend).  The subject was on the Life of Christ.  The number one thing I learned tonight: use fewer images because it was way too long, and never underestimate the diversity of comments you may get (therefore, again, use fewer images).  Here is one that we discussed that I really like:
The Annunciation, Fra Angelico, 1438-45, tempura painting on wood
          This is The Annunciation, by Fra Angelico, and yes, he truly painted like an angel.  I love the feelings of calm and balance that suffuse this painting.  He is actually using mathematic proportions here to create that feeling.  One woman tonight used the word “submissive” to describe Mary.  Yes, here in this otherworldly moment, a time when any normal woman would be perhaps afraid or confused, Mary sits with arms reverently folded and accepts the Lord’s will for her to be the vessel of God by immaculate conception.  In case you haven’t noticed yet, this is not my reaction to anything in life.  I prefer the dramatic hands-raised-in-the-air-reaction (as I’m not the fainting kind, which is equally dramatic but really puts you out of enjoying the drama of the moment because you’re out cold). 
          Another thing I like is the sense of a holy space here.  You see the tall fence in the background, shutting out the noise of the world and hallowing this private garden into a place where an angel could come and give defined personal revelation.  The room is clean, sparse even, but it doesn’t diminish from the tranquility here.  Mary is clearly a very holy person—and it is wonderful to know that this is the kind of environment that Christ would be born into.  Fra Angelico must have been a good, deep-thinking man, as his name suggests.  How angelic to understand this truth (and also how angelic a painter).  The canonical scriptures don’t exactly flesh out the visual or emotional parts very well.  And although this is only one artist’s view, I like it.  It reminds me of good, Christmasy things—like the feeling you get on Christmas Eve when only the tree lights are on and Christmas hymns are sung.  He was a monk (Fra = brother) and painted this as a reminder of constant veneration and reverence to those at his monastery.  A good reminder indeed. 

Monday, December 6, 2010

Maintaining the Status Quo

In which Our Lady goes on with Life as Usual.

Well, after all the suspense, here’s what the Doctor says: I can continue life as usual—for the next three months at least.  This is good news.  The residual cancer that I had leftover from the surgery is still in my motor cortex.  (There would have been serious physical repercussions had the Doctor moved to remove all the cancer, along with part of my motor function)  The cancer doesn’t appear to be making any dastardly moves against me.  It is lying dormant for now.  And so, my current task is to eat mostly fruits and vegetables for my diet, while simply maintaining the status quo.  I am mostly relieved that I get to continue my life as usual.  You know, I have things scheduled into my calendar until past Christmas.  This is telling.  Apparently, I never had any desire to stop life as usual anyway.  I feel like I have more time to figure out this healthy-eating, scripture reading lifestyle that I’m trying to do better.  Meanwhile, the waiting game continues… Here’s to maintaining the status quo.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Christmas Cancer

In which Our Lady figures out the Limitations of Cancer.

There’s something about Christmas that brings out the best emotions.  It was a few hours ago while watching the LDS broadcast of the Christmas Devotional that I felt an overwhelming sense of peace and contentment.  The giant projector screen hung down at the front of the chapel showed a beautiful display of Christmas trees and lights.  I heard wonderful messages of Christmas joy and holiday giving from members of the First Presidency.  And each of them personally testified of the wonderful miracle of our Savior’s Christmas birth.  I was sitting between my husband and my in-laws, with Eva playing contentedly on her Grammy’s lap and listening to the most gorgeous Mormon Tabernacle Choir songs when I felt that rush of warm gratitude for the things I have.  How blessed to sit with good family hearing about the birth of Jesus Christ through beautiful music.  Regardless of how things go at the Doctor’s office tomorrow, I am glad to have these moments.  And I realized tonight that whether or not I do cancer treatments will little affect the fact that I get to celebrate Christmas.  The anxiety I have felt over the last several weeks, and the possible trials of the upcoming weeks cannot, should not, and will not ruin my Christmas.  It’s comforting to realize that I at least have this.  However much power I imagine cancer to have over my life, it cannot take Christmas away.  My truth of the day: Cancer exerts no control whatsoever over either natural forces or national holidays. 

Thursday, December 2, 2010

For Such a Time as This

In which Hindsight aids our Lady’s Recovery.

Today I’d like to try my hand at inspirational writing.  I will use biography (not autobiography) as my starting point. 
My husband is an Indiana Jones fanatic.  A while ago he found this cable TV show called The Adventures of Indian Jones, which documents Indiana’s childhood and teenage years.  The show was made in the early- to mid-nineties and is utterly stupid.  However, when they put the episodes all together on DVD a few years ago, George Lucas and friends added a slew of documentaries on each disc.  Jon and I love watching them.  They cover a wide range of topics from Tolstoy to women’s suffrage, and spend a lot of time documenting the World Wars in particular.  This is how I came across the detailed background story of Winston Churchill.  If ever there was a man born at a specific time and a specific purpose, it was Churchill. 

1941, after a speech. Churchill reminds me of a bulldog, in both looks and attitude.
Before WWI he served in the British Army in various colonial outposts, and then as a war correspondent.  His political career began just before the outbreak of war.  As a political leader, he made a horrible decision in the First World War, which resulted in heavy casualties and absolute failure.  He resigned from his high position and volunteered for the army itself, becoming an officer and gaining what would later be crucial knowledge of war in the trenches. 
His political career after the war had both its ups and its downs, and his position constantly vacillated between popularity and contempt from the British people.  During the 20s and particularly the 30s, he gained the reputation of one who cries wolf.  He predicted that the retaliation and control of Germany after WWI would result in only the bad, and then urged the British to begin rearming themselves when Hitler began doing so for Germany in 1932.  But British Parliament had other plans, and hoped instead to sign a treaty with the Nazis instead of going to war.  They just didn’t believe that it could happen again so soon.  But somehow Churchill knew.  Germany and Britain did end up signing an agreement, which Hitler promptly broke.  The acting Prime Minister resigned in shame, and suddenly Churchill found himself as the new PM after being summoned to the palace.  For Churchill, it basically amounted to a return from political exile.
He found himself in an unenviable position.  All of Europe was being overrun by Nazi Germany, and France was just surrendering.  Basically, Churchill knew that Britain couldn’t win, but in one of his landmark speeches, urged the British people not to bow before tyranny, but rather to die fighting.  He offered a kind of beleaguered hope, not senseless or escapist, but the necessary kind that keeps men living.  Despite his untenable position, Churchill kept doing what he could to win the war.  He would go home to cry himself to sleep, and his health began to fail him, but he kept on his purpose.  Let me make this clear: at this point there was no way that Britain could win.  None.  Germany was bombing London, and Britain had hardly enough resources to defend themselves, let alone fight back.  Nonetheless, Churchill ordered a counter-attack.  For a while, it was only the British bombs raining down on German land that stopped Hitler from absolute success. 
Undoubtedly, Britain would have fallen if Hitler hadn’t gotten greedy and attacked Stalinist Russia during that winter.  Churchill hated communism, but saw Hitler as the bigger threat.  Fortunately, he had already been traveling constantly in an attempt to gain allies.  Stalin and Roosevelt were both men that Churchill frequently hob-nobbed with—thus forming the great alliance that would break the Nazi party.  
I admire Churchill so much for his resolute stance against what he considered to be the greatest evil the world had ever known.  He knew that the fight was futile with the resources he had, but still thought it worthwhile to try.  He would rather have war than dishonor and loss of freedom.  I can only see that he was born in that time and place for a purpose.  Churchill himself would later comment that he felt his whole life’s experiences had prepared him for his role as leader during WWII.  He reminds me of Esther in the Bible, who saved the whole Jewish nation at her own peril.  It says in Esther 4:14, “and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”  Indeed, who knows whether any of us are come at such a time as this?  What inherent royalty do we each hold inside us?  What resolve, skill, or courage is to be our offering?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Trouble with Wednesdays

In which our Lady sees a flaw in the Calendaring system 

The trouble with Wednesday is that it comes every week.  It is true, Wednesday never fails.  It is something awful to see a hulking Wednesday muscling in after a particularly fine Tuesday.  The problem with Wednesday is this: it’s in the middle of the week.  It is the day I never seem to have anything scheduled.  It is the day that inevitably ends up being the coldest and therefore the most house-shut-in day of the week.  It is the day that my energy level peaks after several days of rest from the weekend, and conversely the day that Jon’s exhaustion catches up with him and therefore makes the evenings truly boring.  It is the day that things I’ve ordered from Amazon should have arrived but haven’t, the day that leads inevitably to paperwork or some other organizationally boring task. 
Eva feels the same way about Wednesdays.  Despite her inability to speak full paragraphs, or even full sentences clearly, she makes her preference known.   At 11 am she brought me my shoes, hat, and scarf.  She insisted I put them on, perhaps hoping that an outdoor excursion would follow.  Alas, 3 degrees is just enough to keep me staunchly indoors.  She had failed.  With nothing better to do than watch Baby Einstein again, Eva eventually consented to go down for a 3 hour nap. 
In the meantime, I wile away my hours by cooking, reading, and blogging.  It is inevitable that I have a streak of mind-boggling efficiency on this the most lingering of days.  I even manage to do some Christmas shopping online, wishing the whole time that I could drive a car and go do it in person.  This from a self-proclaimed home-body who greatly dislikes both shopping and stores.  The trouble with Wednesday is that I had a seizure 3 months ago and by law can’t drive for a while.  (Sigh)  Tonight I will urge Jon to drive me somewhere.  Instead, he will sneakily fall asleep on the couch before we’ve even had dinner.  It is then that the dullness will drive me insane, and then who knows what will happen!  At this point, I feel that my options are either to sleep straight through from Tuesday to Thursday, possibly stealing my own car out of the garage and driving illegally, shopping online and spending exorbitant amounts of money, or the writing of knock-off poetry.
Wednesday, Wednesday, can’t take that day.
Wednesday, Wednesday, you’re all that I hoped you wouldn’t be.
And Thursday morning—I can guarantee,
That in a week, Wednesday will again be here with me…

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Rosie the Food Snob Riveter

In which our Heroine eats Vegetables in front of other People 

There are only two words for me these days: Food Snob.  First off, I found a lovely looking recipe for homemade cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving dinner and decided that would be my great offering at the dinner table this year—whether anyone wanted it or not.  As I plugged away at the hour-long process of slowly cooking up pears, soaking cranberries until they popped!, and thinly slicing ginger root, I thought non-stop of how utterly wrong it is that something as potentially beautiful and delicious as home-made cranberry sauce should morph over the years into the molded lump of dull red that slithers out of the can each year during our commemorative meal of bounty.  “When,” I thought, “did it become traditional to slice up a jelly that still has the pattern from the can quivering on its surface?”  (The other and probably less intact side of my brain decided it must have been the Beef Wellington years at the Kennedy White-house.  I have no support for this reason, but some random part of me regards Jackie O as important enough to have influenced decades-worth of Betty Crocker pictures of the Thanksgiving spread in America.) Seriously though, it was my first time ever experiencing cranberry sauce NOT from the can. 
In addition, last week I was at a meeting with some other people during the lunch hour.  The friend who was sitting across from me pulled out one of those highly processed peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that you get in huge frozen boxes at Costco.  Its familiar packaged yumminess called out to me as she broke the seal on the bag and pulled its unnatural white oval shape out and proceeded to eat it.  Earlier she had found a baggie of leftover Halloween candy in her capacious mommy bag.  This is how she began her lunch, but the PBJ sandwich was the real headliner for her meal.  Even with the sight of such ambrosia before my eyes, I held firm (mostly because I had to) and pulled out my own lunch bag.  Unfortunately, I made the mistake of setting it on the vacant seat next to me.  Over the course of the next few minutes I saw every person’s eyes flick over and settle on my brightly colored and see-through plastic bag.  Honestly, its like I was showing my knickers or something, for all the shame I felt at being so openly healthy. 
And open I was.  There is a bit of the devil in me at times like this.  I began with the humble but vivid red-yellow apple, next turning to the perfect green of my crunchy celery stick.  I also had exactly one long and perfectly tapered carrot, which was of course bright orange because they never come any other way.  It was the fresh green beans that did it.  Velvety green and looking like they’d just come out of my mom’s garden, I’d just begun on the pile when my friend interrupted the conversation to say, “Wait—is that a green bean?” as if it were an alien life-form.   Realizing her own mistake at sounding food-snobbish, she quickly added, “Its just that I’ve never seen anyone eat them raw like that before.”  Feeling pity, I explained that this is how they come out of the garden.  Then, to add insult to probable injury, I added, “And they are all organic too.” 
It’s possible that I went too far by peeling my luscious oranges just then.  Juices squirted out from under my fingers, permeating the air with a tang that you just can’t process in a factory or shelve in a supermarket.  Oh!  The smell of a good piece of citrus is mouth-watering, isn’t it?  Is there any other word for me at that moment?  No.  Loud and clear: FOOD SNOB!!!
No, I am not eating perfectly.  When I’m tired, I still pull out the easy food.  I figure that if I’m tired and headachy enough to practically feel the cancer growing, then it is probably okay to just eat a microwave burrito.  But I’m trying, and most of the time I am eating WAY BETTER than before the cancer.  I tell you that I feel so much better!  My big realization for the day is that healthy food is called healthy for a reason: it gives you health!  (I know, my rocket-science is astonishing).  By the way, as you read the health line, you should be picturing strong biceps, like this:
I’d like to muster the proper amount of offended-ness from the PBJ vs. green bean face-off, but my somewhat-intact memory tugs at me, gently reminding me of my own past food snobbery—times when I may have been stupid enough to say something like, “Man, you gotta live… How can you eat that stuff all the time? Mmmmnmmn… (satisfied smacking sounds) All those vegetables are nothing compared to this luscious cheese-cake…”