The Voice Whispers To Me

It’s 6:31AM. I’m awake.

Photo by TJ Parker

In these days of no certain schedule, we try to keep busy, to keep our own schedule. But sometimes we go to bed earlier than normal, or maybe we don’t and I just wake up because my brain never shuts off. It whispers to me, we are not safe.

Coffee.

Weston is alseep now, moved from being next to me in the bed to being next to me on the chair. He can’t get comfy. He’s trying. Soon, when he does, he’ll be snoring. This is a dogs life. This world we’re living in is a dogs world. He doesn’t know anything about the big bad. He just wants a comfortable place to sleep awhile.

K is working a bit this week. She wasn’t supposed to. Was actually supposed to be off all week. We were supposed to be driving back from California this week. We came home early. It was a whirlwind trip, and scary. “Did you touch that?” “Use hand sanitizer.” “Did anyone get close to you when you went in?” “A woman was coughing really bad in the stall next to me in the bathroom.” And on and on… We were not safe.

K’s working because her company, who off-shores some work to India just got word India is shutting down. India is trying to contain the big bad with drastic measures. The work will not get done. Now some people on her team are training to do some of the data entry. Her comment… this is one of the reasons we should not be off-shoring. She is proud of her team. Knows they will rock this new challenge. Many of them were data entry people when she hired them years and years ago. It’s an ever changing world right now. Everyone is trying to adapt.

We’re counting down the days until we’ve been home two weeks. It’s been 8 days today. It seems like an important marker somehow. As if when we reach it we can release a breath and say, OK, we’re safe now. But we aren’t safe now.

We put a bear in our window, it’s bear hunt time. We clean the house, look for chores. We order a lot of groceries, trying out different methods. We want to feel safe. We wave at neighbors across the street, across the fence. We ride bikes and don’t get close to anyone. Don’t get close. It’s not safe.

Sitting here right now, listening to K’s work call, Weston sleeping between my legs, drinking a cup of coffee, sound of the dishwasher running in the kitchen, looking out the window, things seem normal. Spring is here. The trees and bushes are budding out, the daffodils are up and blooming, the sun is out. Things seem normal. They are not normal I remind myself. They are not normal at all. We are still not safe.

We try to focus on moments of laughter and beauty. Those moments happen often. Like when we made a lip sync video and danced. We made ourselves laugh so hard. We keep watching it. It cracks us up. We feel the sun and look at the flowers and get a kick out of our dogs, not to mention tons of love from our dogs. We try. We want to forget, just for a moment or two, that we are not safe.

We watch the concerts of friends and singers we like, take virtual tours of museums, listen to music, try yoga, read enough of the news to know what’s going on but not too much, not too much.

We were separated for 10 days when the shit was really hitting the fan. When we were still on the West Coast. K in California with her parents, me in Oregon and Washington and Oregon again with my Mom. It was tough to be away from her, and then tough to leave my Mom. I flew one direction, but rented a car to get back to her. Seemed safer than flying again. 10 days is a long time when you’re in the middle of something like this. I got back to California and we left that same day to head to Illinois and home. We hadn’t planned to, but then who could plan for all of this? The authorities were going to shut down the bay area and we wanted to get out while we could. It was a whirlwind. It felt like an escape. It felt like a movie. To be honest, everything still feels like a movie.

I need another cup of coffee now. It’s 7:53.

I check the weather.

I try to think of some task or chore I can do right now. This post is winding down. The distraction is winding down. And the whisper starts to sneak it’s way in again… we are not safe.

We are not safe.

I’m going to go empty the dishwasher, have some cereal. Take vitamins that help boost immunity. Everyone is probably taking those kinds of vitamins now. First though, I will wash my hands. Wash my hands for 20 seconds.

We are not safe.

… and, Breathe

It’s an anniversary for me and I thought I’d share this post I wrote in 2015. I’m so grateful for the life I’m living. For the people who I love and who love me in return. I’m just… Grateful.

The Life of Things

November 18.  Four years ago today we got the news that we’d been waiting for.  The molecular scan of my latest bone marrow biopsy showed I was in molecular remission.  It was a big deal.  My honey gave me a necklace with the date, a heart, and an inscription that included, among other things, the word, “breathe”.

I haven’t talked much about my experience with Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia.  When it happened I was so sick I basically had a near zero count for neutrophils, white blood cells, and platelets.  I was so sick they moved me by ambulance from the urgent care to the hospital because they said if I’d gotten in a car accident at that point, or even had an impact at all, I would die because my blood wouldn’t clot.  The first thing they did when they got me to the oncology unit at the hospital…

View original post 3,490 more words

Eight Years

ba19f-23164498_1128679173929687_3936966949946261504_n
Photo by TJ Parker

Eight years ago today a doctor walked into my hospital room and told me I had leukemia.

Since then I’ve periodically asked a question of myself.  Not, as you might expect, why me, or even just why.  There is no why.  It was random, not predictable, and as far as we know not preventable.  It just was.  So the question isn’t why, but who.  Who was I then, am I the same person now, what did I learn from the experience?

I’ve written here about my philosophy of life a bit… which is basically kindness is key, our love for the people we love and who love us is all that really matters, find joy in the every day, and don’t lose hope about the things that matter to you.  But as this day rolls around every year I find myself doing a bit of an assessment.

I believe in forgiveness, in kindness, joy, hope, and love.  But, I’m not always the best at those things.  And on this day I find myself trying to remind myself who I am.  I find myself trying to forgive myself for the ways I know I’ve hurt people, which doesn’t let me off the hook for those slights, but it does let me employ one of my strongly held beliefs which is that each of us is doing the best we know how at the moment.  Sometimes our efforts aren’t that great, and we don’t handle things well, but at the moment we are only doing what we can with what we have.   It still means we have to try and do better, be better.  We owe our people that.  But, we also can’t continually beat ourselves up for the things we’ve done.  This is where apologizing comes in.  Sincere apology.  We admit what we’ve done, we feel it in our bones, the ways we’ve hurt someone, and then we say we’re sorry for it.  The apology is freeing for both people.  So I ask, have I apologized enough and meant it.  Have I forgiven others, have I forgiven myself?

Kindness.  Have I been kind?  To my people, to strangers, to myself.  Am I moving through the world as a kind person?  Do I say thank you, look people in the eyes, empathize, treat people with respect, watch out for their feelings, simply honor people as the beautiful human beings they are?  Am I kind to myself?  I hope so, I hope I do all of these things, but I know the answer is, I don’t always.  So I need to be more kind.  We can always be kinder.  I think there’s always another level of kindness to strive for.  I think the key for me is to be aware, to be present with people.  If I am, I’m kinder.

Joy.  It’s easy to get discouraged in life.  About our place in it, circumstances we find ourselves in, the state of the world.  The enemy of joy is fear.  So the key is to not be fearful.  But, that’s a tough one.  Having gone through this whole life-threatening experience I find myself afraid of the random and unknown.  Afraid of what could happen, suddenly, without warning.  This fear has no face or name or even bearing on what’s actually happening in my life at the time.  It just comes with large amounts of anxiety.  And when it comes it eats my joy whole.  Like a kipper snack.  So I find myself searching for ways to lessen the fear and find the joy.  I’m innately a silly, joyful person.  I’m a dork.  I can find joy in the smallest things when I’m not afraid.   So I’ve spent some time working on and continue to work on trying to be present in the small moments of life, which I feel is where joy lives.  In smiles and sunsets and dogs and wind in the trees and whispered secrets from grandchildren and laughs over nothing at all.  I try to remind myself to be present.  Nothing is promised to us, which certainly includes time, so we have to live now.  Be alive now.  Be joyous now.  This is a tough one, but I’m trying.  The wind chimes are going strong right now on the front porch, and the sound is magical, and there is joy in that.

Hope. It’s tough to be hopeful when all you see is the stuff that’s not working out.  But as I’m taking a look this year I find myself reminding myself that life is perception.  We see what we want.  Which brings me to one of my favorite quotes of all time.  It comes from the movie, The Abyss, “We all see what we want to see. Coffey looks and he sees Russians. He sees hate and fear. You have to look with better eyes than that.”  At the time the film was made the cold war was still in full swing, so the Russians were the bad guys.  But the point isn’t that part of the quote.  The point is the essence of it which to me means we see what we want to see, which is frequently driven by our personal fears, and we have to look with better eyes.  So, I can either see the world from a place of love and forgiveness and hope, or I can see fear, I can see enemies.  I try to come from a place of seeing people as friendly, as human, as trying.  Again, I don’t always succeed in this, but when I do, hope springs and the world looks different somehow.  Brighter, fuller, rich in color and possibility.  It is hopeful.

Love.  I believe in connection and responsibility to and for that connection.  Life is about love.  Who we love, who loves us.  It’s about how we love.  Do we say it?  Do we show it?  Do we let the people we love feel the love we have for them?  For me, this brings gratitude into my life and makes me want to share that gratitude.  To say how grateful I feel for the people and love in my life doesn’t even cover it.  I am sometimes overwhelmed by the waves of it.  Struck profoundly silent by the weight of all the love I know I have in my life.  But, it’s sometimes too easy to see what we don’t have in life, what we think we’re missing.  And in the muck of that, we sometimes forget to take stock of what we have, or even to recognize that it’s there.  Who we have and what that means to us.  Love is all around us.  It’s all around me.  So, as I go through this day I let that wave of gratitude for enormous and profound love wash over me.  Hold me up.  It did when I was sick.  It’s what got me through.  Even though I was semi-isolated when I was sick, I felt the love pouring into me.  Lifting me up.  Holding me.  I felt it.  And luckily, I feel it still.  If I sit with it for a few moments I cry.  Out of a gratitude so overwhelming it crushes me in all the right ways.  That’s where I want to live, where I try to live.  Even when things are tough, the love is there.  I have it, and I try to give it back.  We’re responsible for giving it back.  For loving, and loving well.

Eight years.  If I think of all the beautiful and strange and magical and messy things that have happened in my life in the last eight years I’m amazed and so moved by it all.  It has definitely not all been easy, and there have definitely been sad and heart-breaking times, but there have also been so many moments of joy and laughter and love.  And I guess maybe that’s the point of taking stock.  Which is to say, it’s a messy thing, life.  But it’s in the middle of all that mess we find love and hope, kindness, and joy.  And I remind myself, isn’t that an amazing and beautiful thing?

Eight years.  Eight years on top of the nearly 45 years before those.

Wow.  What a ride it’s been so far.

 

 

 

 

Gratitude and Grace

 

4a019-21985301_1929405673989176_5000413346495725568_n
Photo by TJ Parker

I had a great conversation the other night about gratitude and grace and the things that are important in life.  It was lovely, and a good reminder.

 

It’s very tough to not be overwhelmed by the things in life that don’t go as planned, the things in the world that are heartbreaking.  It’s easy to forget ourselves, forget the good and the light and the hope.  But this time of year, it’s all about those things.

There’s meaning in the little things, it’s really where the good stuff lives.  A smile, a sunset, a snuggle from one of the dogs, the laughter of a grandchild, light through the trees, a good meal, warm socks, a good hug, small kindnesses, small generosities, the bluest blue in the sky, music playing, walks in the crisp air, a good meal with friends, love, love in any form it comes to you.

I have no big message of thanks, this year, but will offer this.  It isn’t about the big things, the mighty changes, and large leaps.  Those things are rare.  What it’s about, and should be, are the small things.  Those little moments of grace and gratitude.  They are the meat of life, the soul of it.

And in that vein, we’re going to take the dogs out for a walk on this crisp Illinois fall day.  The sky is the most lovely blue.

Time to Look in the Mirror

 

3c8a9-18298997_1628450720517478_7504843690582474752_n
Photo by TJ Parker

We see what we want to see.  That’s part of the problem.

I was perusing Facebook, which I must say prompts many posts on this blog, and I saw a theme.  Negativity.  Plain and simple.

There were posts about “those” people.  Of one sort of another.  You know them, the idiots, the ridiculous, the terrible, the stupid, the crazy, the deluded, the poor things… them.   They seem to be everywhere, “these” people.  They must be.  Everyone is talking about them.

Then it hit me.

We are a beautiful lot, humanity.  A tapestry like no other.  Preferences, likes and dislikes, and ways of being in the world that differ from each other.  We are sad or happy, diet coke or Pepsi, Chevy or Ford, Republican or Democrat,  dressing on the side or on the salad, rural or city,  cream or taking it black, gay or straight, married or single, serious or silly, tomAto or tomato, and on and on and on.  We love our families the best way we know how, we want the best for our kids or grandkids, we want to earn a decent living, take vacations, laugh a lot, and we want the right to live peacefully, with joy.  Each and every one of us.

But it’s not that simple.  Because what I noticed today, as I was perusing, was that people see what they want to see.  They notice what they want to notice.  I bet they don’t even know they’re doing it.  We seize on information, posts, articles, videos, that speak to us.  Things that in some way support our world view.  There’s probably a theme to how we post, what we post, etc., only we don’t even know it.

We need to pay attention.  To ourselves.  Instead of looking out at what that idiot said or didn’t say, which by the way, in and of itself, that language on its own, is wrong.  I would hope no one would put me in a class of “those idiots”, just because I happen to align myself with a certain ideology.  But they do.  Friends have posted many things about liberals being idiots or crazy or wrong or disturbed or… it goes on.  I’m shocked by it, every time.  Just as I’m sure some of my more conservative friends feel shocked or hurt when a liberal friend of theirs posts something about those idiotic conservatives.  Let’s be honest… none of us are idiotic.  We just don’t agree with each other.  That doesn’t make me an idiot, it just makes a person with a different opinion.

But I digress.   This doesn’t just apply to politics.  I noticed it applies to many things… the videos people choose to post, the things they choose to put out into the world under their own names…. it’s interesting.  Are you a person who posts things that are generally positive, generally informative, upbeat, things that speak to beauty and light and love.  I’ve seen those people, and honestly, I hope I’m one of them.  Or are you someone who sees the dark and the crazy and the wrong in everything and then feels the need to put it out there?  And if so, why? So others like you can agree how bad everything is, or so that you can enlighten those of us who may be Pollyannas who try to look for the good?  I’m not being rhetorical.  I really want to know.

There are people who feel the need to fight everything, against life and what they see as wrongdoing.  I get trying to fight for what you think is right.  I get speaking your mind and your truth.  What I don’t get is a person coming across some debasing or derogatory or hurtful thing and re-posting it.  What’s the purpose of spreading that kind of negativity?  If you have strong opinions, if you feel things are wrong in the world and need fixing, find what you think are some solutions, speak to issues from the place of problem-solving, not finger-pointing.  Re-posting terrible things, some not even based on truth, just for the sake of talking bad about someone or something, is wrong.  You aren’t shining a light on them, you’re shining a terrible light on yourself.

We need to look at ourselves.  Decide if we want to be people who create solutions, who seek a more beautiful world for all of us, or are we people who debase, make fun of, and act from fear.  Who do we want to be?  How do we want to live?  What do we want to be putting out there into the world?  What do we want to be teaching our kids about how to be in the world?  Hurtful to others, or uplifting to others.  It’s up to us.

Look in a mirror.  Look at your personal news feeds.  Look at everything you’ve posted in the last year and judge for yourself.  What kind of person are you?  Are you happy with that?  If not.  Change.  Let’s lift people up.  Let’s inspire with kindness and goodness and love. Let’s try to speak from joy.  From positivity.  From a place of understanding, humility, and love.

I know there are things wrong in the world.  I know there are things that need to be changed.  One of those things is people calling other people idiots or other derogatory names.  One of those things is people being hurtful just, it seems, to be hurtful.  Let’s start being, and communicating, like intelligent humans.  After all, we are.  Sometimes I think we just forget ourselves.  Get swept up.  Let’s be better.  Let’s look with better eyes and hearts at a world that is a beautiful, wondrous place.  Let’s talk about that.

This is What Marriage Looks Like

20140602-125937-46777141.jpgIt happened.  Wow.

Many of our friends and family members are celebrating right now.  My Mom just sent us a text message expressing her excitement about the decision from SCOTUS today on marriage equality.  To me it’s always a beautiful thing when love wins.

For those wondering what gay marriage, which from now on will just be referred to as marriage, looks like, I wrote this post to fill you in.  First though, some background.  We’ve been married, in one form or another, since 2003, having had our actual marriage ceremony (the non-legal one) on the beach in Maui, then a few years later we got our legal domestic partnership in Oregon (I think it was 2007), and finally we were legally married in Illinois last year.  We’ve never had to have the paperwork to tell us who we are or to define our relationship.  We’ve always known.  And in fact we’ve only actually had one ceremony, that day on the beach in Maui, just the two of us, all those years ago.  The rest of it, for us, has just been about getting the paperwork, making it legal.  And being legal matters because we wanted the same privileges when it comes to protections for each other, rights to be enjoyed, etc.  We celebrated each time we took a step in that direction, each time we were afforded another set of rights, protections, and privileges.  And we are celebrating again today, because now so many of our friends can, if they choose to, make that same legal commitment to each other.  It’s a beautiful moment.

But what does “gay” marriage look like you ask?  What exactly is “gay” marriage?

Every day we get up when the alarm goes off.  We grumble a little, sometimes just laying there, petting the dogs, wishing it was a no alarm day.  But it is, so we get up.  We open the doggie door and put the water on for coffee.  Coffee is essential.  If there are dishes in the sink from the night before they get loaded into the dishwasher.  The dogs get breakfast.  My honey fires up her work computer in the office and gets to the task of ruling the world from her pajamas.  I pay some bills and get an appointment made to get our Jeep serviced.  Breakfast of some sort gets made.  The morning goes on, turning into afternoon.  Sometimes I run errands, we may get a visit from the grand kids, we take the dogs for a walk.  In the spring and summer we find time to pull weeds in the garden, dead head some flowers, fill the bird feeders.  We say hello to our mail lady and sometimes have a friendly chat with our neighbors as on both sides of the fence the barbecues get fired up to make dinner.   We laugh together.  We talk about our upcoming vacation and get excited about the places we’re going and the beauty we hope to see there.  We talk about the news and the grandkids and our parents.  My honey’s birthday is coming up and I’m excited about the present I got for her this year.  She’s hard to buy for, but I think I did it right this time.  I hope so.  We make dinner, barbecuing some steaks, steaming some vegetables, and feed the dogs their dinner.  They are, as always, excited about getting fed.  We head down to the family room where we sit in our recliners, which are side by side, and watch whatever shows we happened to have recorded.  I’m a huge fan of the tiny house shows at the moment so we usually watch one of them.  My honey enjoys them too, but mostly I think she watches them because I love them.  That’s how we are.  We hold hands and pet the dogs who seem to always find their way onto our laps.  We chat, we make each other laugh.  Every day it seems we have to take turns emptying the dehumidifier which always seems to be full this time of year.  My honey heads up to the kitchen and comes back down with some small sweet dessert.  I throw in a load of laundry.  We finish up our evening, wander back upstairs, do the dishes so they won’t be in the sink the next morning, make sure the dogs go out and then shut the doggie door.  We turn off the lights, brush our teeth, and make our way back into bed.  We flip on the tv for a little bit, the dogs snuggle in with us, we watch, we chat, we laugh, we say I love you, and then we shut off the tv and go to sleep.  Tomorrow we’ll do it again.  And the next day.  And the day after that.  It’s our life.  Our beautiful, wonderful, regular life.

This is what marriage looks like.

… and, Breathe

November 18.  Four years ago today we got the news that we’d been waiting for.  The molecular scan of my latest bone marrow biopsy showed I was in molecular remission.  It was a big deal.  My honey gave me a necklace with the date, a heart, and an inscription that included, among other things, the word, “breathe”.

I haven’t talked much about my experience with Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia.  When it happened I was so sick I basically had a near zero count for neutrophils, white blood cells, and platelets.  I was so sick they moved me by ambulance from the urgent care to the hospital because they said if I’d gotten in a car accident at that point, or even had an impact at all, I would die because my blood wouldn’t clot.  The first thing they did when they got me to the oncology unit at the hospital that night was to give me a transfusion.  It was the first of many.  I went into the hospital that first time on June 1 and was there until July 1.  I would go back in for a week later that July for my second round of chemo, then again for a week in August for round three, and again for a week in September, before I was even supposed to get my last round, because I’d developed what’s called a neutropenic fever.  My counts were so low, from the chemo, that I’d somehow gotten an infection that my body couldn’t fight off.  My temp passed the holy grail of 102 and the oncology nurses said, yep, get thyself into the hospital.  I was there for a week that time, pumped with antibiotics and fluids until my fever broke and my counts went up enough for them to send me home. My last round of chemo, which was two pushes on two consecutive days (by far the shortest round I had since the others were four or five days), ended up being outpatient (I was excited by this as before then the nurses at the infusion center couldn’t push the kind of chemo I was on because it was considered too dangerous.  Somehow, near the end of my chemotherapy, they’d managed to get that rule changed which was great for me as I was able to just go in, get the last two pushes, and leave… yes, it was more complicated than that, but outpatient chemo was way better than days in the hospital).  My last push was actually on my 45th birthday.  Crazy, but true.  I’d agreed to that because I didn’t want to delay it at all.  I wanted to get it done, which had pretty much been my attitude all along.  Let’s do what we have to do, let’s go, let’s get it done.  In fact, when the doctor came into my hospital room the third day of my first stay and was there to tell us (my honey, my mom, and my brother, Kev, were there with me) I had APL my first reaction was OK, what do we do about it.  What’s next.  I was weak as hell, bruised like you wouldn’t believe because I had hardly any platelets and had just had a bone marrow biopsy and IV’s put in, but I was determined.  Let’s do everything we can, let’s get started, let’s go.

Pacific
Pacific

I have talked a bit, on and off, about the details of what I went through, answering questions people have had, telling my story.  What I’ve only talked a little about though, are the feelings.  The determination, the fear, the sadness at the thought of leaving K alone, of leaving my Mom, of leaving family and friends, and as crazy as it sounds, of the thought of not being there for our pups when it was their time to go.  Strange thought, but I’m supposed to be the one to hold them when that time comes (hopefully a long time from now), and I couldn’t bear the thought of not being there for them, of not being able to tell them I loved them.  Weird huh?  A person thinks strange things when there’s a good possibility they could die.

The nurses and doctors at the hospital that first time, and every time actually, never pulled punches with me.  I appreciated that.  They told me what was what in an upfront and matter of fact way.  They told me I could die.  They told me that the first month would be the hardest, and possibly most lethal, and that if I made it through that first month I might even be able to be cured.  Crazy.  The most deadly and most curable leukemia.  Great.  What a juxtaposition.  They were honest, and so I knew I could die.  I knew that first month would be especially hard.  I was right.

At first, after a few transfusions (which made me feel so much better I would ask if I could have another… too funny… what a vampire) and being given other things to bolster me, I felt better than I had in a while.  A little more energy.  It was fleeting, and came right after a transfusion, but still, I’d feel a little better for a couple of days.  Even as I started that first round of chemo I felt pretty good, all things considered.  Granted, pretty good for me at that stage was still not great.  I had no energy and could hardly walk to the bathroom without having to stop and rest after a couple of steps, but I felt good in that context.  The nurses said I should be getting sicker, from the chemo.  At first, I didn’t.  Then, I spiked a fever, out of the blue, and was put on antibiotics.  A lot of antibiotics.  And then, finally, all hell broke loose.  I was allergic to one kind they gave me (I was on more than one) and reacted to it.  I don’t really remember much of those two weeks of craziness, thank goodness.  It’s all pretty fuzzy.  I remember not being able to get to the bathroom without a lot of help, I remember throwing up and having diarrhea all at the same time and all in my bed, which then the nursing staff had to clean up (this might have embarrassed me, but somehow didn’t… they were so gracious about it), I remember bags of clothes being sent home with my Mom or my brother so they could wash my soiled shorts and t-shirts (I was wearing my stuff, not hospital gowns) and I felt bad they had to do that.  I remember at some point the medical staff were worried about my something or other (at differing points they did extra tests on my heart, my lungs, and who knows what else, I don’t remember it all) and I was supposed to drink all of this cranberry juice that had some liquid in it that they needed in me before they wheeled me down for… uh, I think that one was a heart test?  I don’t know.  Anyway, I was supposed to drink all this juice and I couldn’t do it.  K was there, trying to help me do it, to coax me to do it, and I was resistant.  I got some down, then threw up some, then got more down.  It was a terrible process.  Finally they said they thought I’d gotten enough in me.  It was awful.  I remember I didn’t want to shower either, it was too hard, and I couldn’t do it on my own (my honey basically had to get me in there and wash me every time as I couldn’t stand up, I used a shower seat, and I could barely raise my arms).  The nurses said I had to do it because I had no immune system and I could end up getting an infection from my own body if I didn’t wash often enough.  Pretty scary to think you might not even be able to fight off the normal bacteria on your own body, but there I was.  I remember the difficult time they had putting in my pic line and then the infection I got in it a couple of weeks later that resulted in fevers and ultimately having it removed.  I remember having special protocols for my room, people couldn’t come in unless they were free of all possible colds and hadn’t been in contact with anyone who might have had a cold, and then sometimes they had to be masked to even come in.  Masks became familiar to me.  Later, after I was home and then had to go into the clinic or back to the hospital I would have to wear masks everywhere so that my compromised system would be as protected as I could make it.  Doctors orders.  They weren’t messing around.

So that first month, terrible.  Scary. Muddled in my head.  As I said, I don’t remember much of it.  Unfortunately, my honey does.  When people talk about how their loved ones never left their side, well, that’s my honey.  She stayed with me, never left the hospital except for one night (when I finally convinced her to take one night off, take a break, go see and love on the puppies, breathe, take a shower, sleep in her own bed… she wouldn’t agree to it unless my Mom agreed to stay with me that one night, which of course Mom did) in the whole of that month.  My hospital room had a little twin sized window seat meant to be big enough for someone to sleep on.  My mom brought in a twin sized air mattress for K and the hospital staff gave her linens and my honey lived there, with me.  She couldn’t use the bathroom in my room because it was too dangerous for her with the chemo circulating through and then coming out of my body, so she had to go down the hall.  She got a Verizon mobile modem and worked from the hospital, each time I went in.  I don’t know how she managed to both rule the world from the hospital and still take such good care of me, but she did.  She held me up, literally, more times than I can count, and urged me to take the myriad of pills I didn’t want to take, and coaxed me into eating a bit of something, and talked me into showering and into doing much-needed laps around the oncology unit the nurses said I needed to do when I was starting to get my strength back, and bought me a new laptop so I could stay connected with things outside of the hospital, and communicated with friends and family outside of the hospital because I couldn’t bring myself to do it, and she held me.  She held me up, held onto me, she never let me go.  I relied on her so much, during not just that and the following hospital stays, but in between, when I became afraid to leave our house because it was too hard and too scary and too everything and she would urge me on.  She protected me and saved me and helped me and nudged me and loved me.  She loved me.  She loved me more than I could have ever imagined, and that love of hers, strong, and unending, and selfless, it saved me.  When the panic attacks and major anxiety started and I would feel like I couldn’t breathe and couldn’t move and  that just the simple act of leaving our house filled me with so much fear and anxiety and scared the crap out of me she could talk me off the ledge, help to get my nerves under control, help to keep me moving forward toward healing and health and a day when life would return to normal.  The staff at the hospital kept telling me how great my attitude was, that I smiled all the time, even though I was going through something so hard, and that I was always gracious and nice about everything that was going on.  I guess I was, but I could only be that way because my honey had me.  It’s what she said to me, what she still says to me… I got you.  She did.  She was my rock, the foundation that did not, and will not, ever crumble.  The hospital staff also kept mentioning what a great relationship we had, how well we loved each other, how good we treated each other.  We did, she did.  She does.  She has me.

Life was insular.  When something like this happens it’s almost exactly like when, in old movies, the frame fades in toward the center, first to a pinpoint, then to black.  Everything outside of hospital visits and treatments and medications and test scares and transfusions and antibiotics and weird side effects and leukemia fades away.  Life becomes small and exact and finite.  You live in a place of fear and hope and anxiety and holding your breath.  There’s a lot of holding your breath.  You live for the blood tests and the results and fear them at the same time.  You hope the treatment is working, you hope you live.  You want to live.  It becomes the focus of your existence.  Living.

Somehow, through the course of my time in and out of hospitals and clinics, I managed to maintain myself and my attitude pretty well, to the outside world anyway.  It’s strange that after the first major chemotherapy and that first hospital stay I would then get anxiety.  After.  After I was done with the first part of my treatment.  It started to creep in when I went home that first time.  I was scared to be without my safety net.  Scared to be on our own, so far away from help if I needed it.  I was scared of a lot of things.  I’d been so so sick, been so dependent on everyone at the hospital, I was so unsure of trying to do it all without them.  So the anxiety came and it crept up in intensity as I went along, through the next rounds of chemo.  I’d actually be relieved, in a love-hate kind of way, when I had to go back into the hospital for the next round as I’d know I would be there, where it was safe.  Then, when after the rounds of major chemotherapy were done, I entered maintenance, which is called consolidation, and the anxiety started to increase even more.  Now, looking back, I think I know why.  When something like this happens to you it’s sudden.  Sure, I didn’t feel very good before diagnosis, I had no energy, felt under the weather, but I never thought, wow… I’m tired, I must have a touch of leukemia.  You think oh, I must have a cold.  So when you have the test and the doctor comes in and says OK, your blood is chock full of APL, you’re surprised.  Not totally, since by that point you know you’re in the oncology unit and you know something is definitely not right inside of you, but it’s still a total surprise.  One minute you’re living life… working, playing, waiting for the birth of your first grandchild, enjoying everything, and the next you’re getting a transfusion and chemo and you don’t know if you’re going to make it through the month.  Weird.   Sudden.  What it does, or at least what it did to me, was make me acutely aware that life can be great one minute, and something terrible can happen in the next instant.  Nothing is guaranteed.  Which means that it’s all sort of random and unpredictable.  That scared me, still scares me.  A lot.

I’ve spent the last four years hopeful and afraid all at the same time.  In the last couple of years you can throw in a good dose of anger to that mix.  I’ve had some periods of time when I’ve been really angry.  Angry this happened, depressed as well.  It really wasn’t just this experience, it’s been a lot of things (K’s terrible illness before mine and all the deaths I’ve had in my family), but my illness certainly contributed mightily to the feelings of hopelessness in the face of odds that at times seem to be stacked against us.

Don’t get me wrong though, I’m not walking around angry and depressed all the time.  Those feelings, the blasts in the face I’ve had of them on and off, are finally starting to subside some.  It’s not who I was before all this, and certainly doesn’t define me now.  It’s just that those feelings have been a part of my life in a bigger way than they were before leukemia.  I still get bouts of fear and depression.  I still get angry over things that are silly and insignificant, but that for some reason trigger a reaction in me.  I’m working through all of that.  Working through the new impatience I feel when I’m doing a project and something goes wrong.  I don’t much like it when things go wrong now, even in a little way.   But, I’m getting through it.  I think I might be, finally, coming back to myself a little.  I think maybe the haze that’s been there the last four years might be lifting.  And yes, my honey has had a major part in helping me through it, in getting me back to myself.  She’s also been patient with me.  Patient when Mr. Hyde comes for a visit and Dr. Jekyll completely leaves the room.

You hear stories from people who’ve gone through traumatic experiences, near death experiences, who say that afterward they are left with a wonderful sense of possibility and living life to the fullest.  That wasn’t me.  Certainly not initially that is.  My illness did give me an overwhelming sense of appreciation and gratitude for the people in my life, family and friends, who I love and who love me, though to be honest I had a pretty good sense of that already.  But, it magnified it, which is a good thing.  But I’m not one of those people who will tell you that they are grateful for their experience because it woke something up in them.  To that I say pshaw.  At least as far as I’m concerned.  It didn’t make me free, it scared the crap out of me.  It didn’t wake me up, I was already awake.  I’m definitely not one of those people who now, after having this nearer-to-death-than-I-would’ve-liked experience, goes sky diving and takes more risks.  I don’t think anything could make me want to sky dive, not the thought of cheating death or the promise of a million dollars.  I keep waiting for the miraculous feeling of “grabbing-hold-of-life”, but it hasn’t come yet.  I sort of had it before.  I mean, as I said, I have always appreciated what I’ve had in the people in my life, I’ve always known that’s where the magic lies, and I’ve always thought of myself as lucky in that regard.  Leukemia did nothing to engender those feelings in me, it just made me scared of losing them.

Now, as I continue to come out of the haze that’s been the last four years, I’ve chosen another path with regards to how I look at all of this.  I’ve chosen to look at it like any other thing in my life that has been hard or unpleasant.  I got through it.  I put my head down, did what was necessary, and plowed through.  My own body betrayed me.  It took me down the rabbit hole and I clawed my way out of it (with some fantastic help of course) and somehow I must forgive it for doing that terrible injustice to me.  I must say to it, yes, you threw me a big curve ball, but sometimes that’s how things go.  Sometimes unexpected things are going to happen and the only choice is to move forward.  I have to put one foot in front of the other and I have to keep moving.  Because when I plow through, there are always beautiful things waiting for me on the other side of it.  Always.

So this is how it is for me, this new gloriously strange life.  Life is unexpected, it’s challenging, it’s scary, and not guaranteed.  It’s also joyous and beautiful and sacred and luminous and spectacularly, singularly, amazing.  It is all of those things.  Those and more.  I have to take the good and the bad and all the gray in between.  Sometimes that means living through the fear and the pain and the awful, and sometimes it means celebrating and laughing and being joyous and going balls out.  Under whatever circumstance, it means living.  Always. Living.  And luckily, fantastically, I am miraculously alive.  This experience does not define me, no experience can.  We are defined by how we live over the long haul, how we love and are loved in return.

Today, four years later, I’ve moved on and am moving forward, small steps at a time.  I’m laughing, I’m awed, I’m sad, I’m joyous, I’m angry, I’m elated, I’m overcome, I’m held captive by my past one minute and free of it the next.  That freedom though, ah, that freedom is so very sweet when it comes.  I love deeply, and I am loved just as deeply in return.   And when the fear comes, when it grips my heart and things become just a bit uncertain, I feel my honey, gently holding me and whispering in my ear, just breathe.  And I do.

Trading Up to a Marriage We Already Had

192513_10151471565185802_1069606502_o

It’s the 12th of June.  We’ve been legally married for 10 days now.  I don’t feel any more married than I did before, though we were told, immediately after getting the deed done, that now if we split up we’d have to get divorced like everyone else.  That made us laugh.

In 2003 my life changed for good, in both senses of that word.  It got infinitely better and was also altered for all time.  I met K, and life changed.  Ours is a true love story.  Girl meets girl, they fall madly in love, they buy a house, they do their own marriage ceremony on a far off Hawaiian island because it’s not legal where they live anyway and Hawaii was the perfect spot, they return home and have a party with their families and friends to celebrate both the purchase of their first home together and their union, and bliss ensues, even if it’s not legally wedded bliss.

Flash forward five years and Oregon gets Domestic Partnership.  We already considered ourselves married, but this was a step toward legal recognition, so I marched over to the County Clerk‘s desk (I worked for the county so it wasn’t a long jaunt), filled out the form, took it home for K to sign, paid the fee, and tah-da! we were suddenly legally domestically partnered.  Soon after we got a letter from the state of Oregon telling us we now had to file our state taxes together.  However, we still couldn’t file together federally so we had to do a fake federal return every year to go with the real Oregon return we filed.  Hilarious, and annoying.

A couple of years later K got sick, and not long after that I did.  Both required hospitalization and nearer to death than we’d like experiences.  Both times the hospital staff were very nice to us, as a couple, and even complimented us on our relationship, saying we were more devoted to each other than many couples they’d seen together.  But, they also asked us, in the middle of emotional crisis, to call our attorney and have him fax over our legal paperwork, which we’d done not long after we bought our house together, to protect ourselves and our relationship because we couldn’t get protections through legal marriage.   They said that they didn’t perceive an issue, but just in case, to be safe, we should get that paperwork on file with the hospital so we could make decisions for each other.  We were glad we had that paperwork, but slightly upset we had to go through all that, on top of everything else that was going on, during very hard times.  But, you do what you have to, even if other couples don’t have to.

We continued to live our blissfully un-legally married lives.  We got dogs (who we still have and adore more than we could ever explain), we bought rental properties, took vacations, took a motorcycle class and then bought motorcycles, got into kayaking and started doing that, went to dinners with friends and celebrated birthdays and anniversaries, visited our families, worked in the yard, eventually moved to another state, set up a new house, spent time with our grandson (and then, as of last year, grandsons), bought and sold cars, sold that first house we’d bought together those years ago (ironically the sale happened during our 10th anniversary road trip), and loved each other the whole way.  We are still loving each other, the whole way.

Suddenly, or actually not so suddenly, this year, an amazing thing happened, marriage became legal.  Huh?  And, Yeah!

The subject of marriage equality, in our normal every day lives, rarely ever came up.  We were living as a married couple, thought of ourselves as a married couple, and have been treated like a married couple by our families and friends for years.  But, we were never legally married.  We were married in every way that counted, save for that one.  Once in a while we’d talk about it, about being legal, about getting to be the same as everyone else we knew, as our brothers and sisters had been able to, as our parents had been able to, as many of our friends had been able to.  Something they all took for granted.  Meet someone you love, marry them, settle down.  For us it was never that easy, we had never been allowed do it.  We were barred from it though we were expected to pay our taxes like everyone else, without getting all the benefit those taxes are supposed to ensure.  Rubbish.  It was rubbish, but there was nothing we could do about it, not really.  So we’d talk about it once in awhile, get disgruntled, I’d sometimes cry, and we’d move on to other more important things, like what to make for dinner and the logistics of taking the car in for service and what we were going to do on the weekend when we spent time with the kids and the grand boys.  Life stuff.  Tangible stuff.

Then, as I said, marriage happened.  So, the day after it was legal here in Illinois, we again marched down to yet another County Clerk’s office to, as we’d read we could, to trade in our Oregon Domestic Partnership for an actual marriage certificate.  We walked into the building joking with each other, laughing, saying hey, wanna get married?  We walked up to the counter, whipped out our domestic partnership paperwork, and were immediately told no.  It was a kind and polite no, but a no none the less.  They said IF we’d had an Illinois Civil Union we could trade that in, and trade up, but not with our domestic partnership stuff.  I was, as is per usual, ready to accept it and ask for a marriage license so we could get married, K was not deterred, as is per usual for her (thank goodness!).  She said she’d read it on the state website, that we should be able to it, and that the conversion should be, as stated on the state website, backdated to our domestic partnership date.  The clerk went back to talk to the actual County Clerk, more than once, who finally came out to chat with us.  He again said no, but by then I was onboard and explained that Oregon’s Domestic Partnership was legally binding, just like Illinois’ Civil Unions were, and that we were even required to file taxes together in Oregon.  He smiled and said this was the first time they’d run into a situation like this, as it was all new to them as well, and he had to go make a call.  A bit later he came back, said we were correct, that Oregon’s was legally binding, and that they would indeed convert our domestic partnership to a marriage certificate backdated to our domestic partnership date.  He congratulated us, shook our hands, as other people in the office also congratulated us.  So did the heterosexual couple standing at the window next to us who was applying for their own marriage license.  Everyone was pretty awesome.  About 15 minutes later there we were, walking out with two legal copies of our marriage certificate, dated 2008.  We were, suddenly, after all this time, legally married.  We smiled, we giggled, and… I cried.  Of course I did.

Now, looking back on it all, the legalization has changed nothing in our day-to-day lives.  We made dinner that night, we chatted with K’s parents, who were visiting us at the time, we called our tree guy about a damaged limb we need to get removed, we snuggled our pups,  held our grandsons, and did a million other things we do every day, every week, and have done every year since we met and fell in love.  It hasn’t changed us, but somehow the light is a bit brighter, the wind is a bit sweeter, and the world is strangely a tad more solid under our feet.  We are married.  We are legally married.  We are suddenly, miraculously, the same, afforded the same privileges and pains in the ass as every other legally married couple.  And yes… if we ever decide to split up, we will have to get divorced.  I can tell you, with absolute certainty, that won’t happen, but the fact that we would have to get divorced means a lot.  We take on the good with the bad, the consequences with the privileges, we take it all.  Because we, my friends, are now in the same boat as every other married couple we know.  We’ve traded up.  Traded up to a marriage we already had.

Crying Tears of Joy, In the Garage

Ever find yourself sitting in the garage after you’ve pulled in, unwilling to get out of the car because the song that’s playing is making you feel something?

That was me just now, and damn, it is great to be alive.

Every once in awhile I find myself, because of a song, or a video, or a thought, or something my honey or the grandsons or the dogs do, just loving being alive. And not just loving it, but being so overwhelmingly grateful that I’m here, enjoying whatever it is that’s making me feel so much at the moment, I cry.

There’s a story behind this. Yeah, yeah, isn’t there always?

The story is a tad long, but it’s mine, and today I’ve decided to tell it. Here goes…

At the end of 2009, November it was, life was moving along just fine. Work, home, friends, family, dogs… a good life. Then, unexpectedly and out out of the blue, my honey got sick. Not just sick, but really sick. Sick as in we went to urgent care, they said oh, you have pneumonia, and here … have a shot in your bum, and go home. Only to be called by an emergency room doctor a couple of hours later who, after reviewing the blood work, told me to get her in immediately. He even told me all the other hospitals along my route in case she lost consciousness. Seems she was sicker than we were originally told. She went into the cardiac critical care unit. One of her lungs was completely full and the other was half full of stuff. This was effecting her heart as well, hence the cardiac critical care unit. She was delirious, literally. I didn’t know what she was saying half the time and she didn’t know much of what was going on. The nurses repeatedly told me she was the sickest person on that unit. She was there in critical condition for a week, before they were able to downgrade her and then finally send her home. I stayed with her at the hospital, never leaving. How could I? She’s my everything. It was the worst week of my life. Which, after you hear the rest of the story will mean even more than it does right now.

Fast forward to May 2010, six months after her illness, and I started not feeling that great. Looking back now I wasn’t feeling great for a little while, but by the end of May 2010 I really wasn’t feeling good. On June 1st we had yet another fateful trip to urgent care. Some blood work results, and they sent me directly from urgent care to the hospital, by ambulance. Seems I was so sick by then that if I’d gotten in a car accident on the way to the hospital from urgent care I would’ve bled to death. The EMTs took me directly to the oncology unit. A couple of transfusions, a bone marrow biopsy (my first of three) with the results a couple of days later, and what we feared had come true. I had leukemia. I was told that it was the deadliest form, but if I lived through the first month, it was also the kind that was curable. Scary, but… good? Yes. Good. If I lived, I thought, I might live.

I spent a month in the hospital… multiple transfusions, multiple tests, and my first round of major chemotherapy. I say first because though I got out of the hospital a month to the day that I went in, I had to go back in later in July for a second round. I was in for a week that time. Then again in August, for another round and another week. And then, in September, I got to do my last round, which was only two pushes (the last of which was on my birthday), outpatient. Unfortunately I ended up getting a neutropenic fever after that round and ended up in the hospital again, for another week, anyway.

By October I was done with the major chemo and starting on maintenance treatment. Which would last for two years and entailed me taking rounds of ATRA (the thing I started right in the beginning that really saved my life), low dose chemo in the form of pills, and a shot, every week. I had to go into the infusion center every week for that shot. It was my life, our lives, for two years.  My first, and diagnosing, oncologist, who was an amazing guy, told me that the maintenance treatment was akin to sweeping the floor. Done to make sure we got anything that could be lurking. I was all for it. My attitude, during the whole thing, was let’s go. Whatever we have to do, let’s do it.

In November, of that first year, I had the third of my bone marrow biopsies. They did a molecular scan and I was cancer free. No aberrant cells found at all. Yay!  I cried, my honey cried, my Mom cried.  I think I might have breathed deeply for the first time since the ordeal started.

Here I am, three and half years later, no longer on maintenance treatment, still getting blood work and seeing an oncologist every three months. Leukemia free. I will do this for another year or so before, once again, my protocol will change and I will only have to go once every six months, and then, at some point, maybe once a year. Who knows. I’m OK with whatever the schedule is.

I chronicled part of this journey here, on this blog. Not posting during that initial time in the hospital, except maybe right in the first few days, but posting here and there during the months that followed. I posted about things that happened, but I never really posted about how I felt.

Damn, I’m so glad to be alive.

I was, as maybe you can or can’t imagine, scared as hell. Scared doesn’t even cut it really. I was terrified. When you hear the words, “your body is chalk full of Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia” everything sort of freezes. Slow motion starts and you look at your honey and your Mom and your brother who are all there with you and they all start crying at once. You look back at the doctor and he’s looking at you, and you say something that seems like it comes from you, and from someone else all at the same time. You say, “OK, what do we do, let’s go”. I didn’t cry. I didn’t cry at all. Everyone else was crying, but I just felt this thing come alive in me. Will. An amazingly strong will. It was there, nuzzled right up against the terror. I would be so determined and yet I kept thinking about things like, oh god, if I die my honey will be alone, my Mom will lose a child (which is unthinkable), my brother will lose his sister, that my grandson won’t know me, that my honey won’t have any more adventures with me, that my dogs won’t understand if I don’t come home. I was so worried about everyone else. Interesting. I kept rehearsing the speech I would have with my Mom if it looked like I was going to take a bad turn. The speech where I tell her to be with my honey, to help her through losing me, to comfort each other. I wanted to live, I was fighting to live, but I also had to prepare myself mentally for the other thing that could happen.

I went through some awful things while I was sick. After the first round of chemo, while I was still in the hospital, I got so sick I don’t remember much, thank goodness. I had to be helped to the bathroom (by my honey or my mom), someone (my honey or my mom) had to shower me, I would throw up and have diarrhea at the same time which the nurses would have to clean up. During this time I also had to have a test (one of many), I don’t remember which one, and part of it was that I had to drink some stuff. I remember my honey, who spent only one night away from me during that entire time (working from the hospital, sleeping there, taking care of me) having to try and talk me into drinking it because I was getting so sick from it. I was sick anyway, and having to drink that stuff didn’t help. She convinced me and encouraged me to get enough of it down so I could take the test. She also had to talk me into taking my pills every day, and trying to eat, and taking a shower. She was my champion.

Everyone talks about the chemo, but no one talks about the other things… weird little side effects from basically having no immune system, like yeast that develops on parts of your body that you can’t get rid of, and other just as lovely things. I had a reaction to one of the transfusions and had to have a major dose of benadryl shot directly into me. I had neutropenic fevers followed by loads and loads of IV antibiotics (two at the same time), which didn’t help with the nausea. I had a pic line put in that was very difficult for them to get in and three weeks later an infection from that pic line which resulted in them having to take it out. I had ultrasounds because I had so much scar tissue in my veins in my arms after pushes and lines and blood draws and IVs that a couple of times they wanted to make sure I wasn’t clotting too much in there. I ended up at urgent once, during those first few months, because I got a hemorrhoid from all the laying and sitting, that started to bleed. Gross.  But, so it went.

I think the worst of it though, ultimately was, and is, the anxiety. I’m a person who never had anxiety before all of this. I’m pretty laid back. Pretty care free and pretty full of joy. Anxiety was something unknown and foreign to me. But during this I developed anxiety. So much so that leaving the house, after I had been allowed to go home, was scary for me. My body would just react… feeling like I couldn’t breathe, heart pounding, panic. When I was neutropenic, which was a lot during those first months as every time I’d have a round of chemo my numbers would crash, I had to be so careful. When I was in the hospital the precautions for neutropenia were major. Gloves, masks on everyone who came in, no flowers in the room, no fresh veggies or fruits on my food tray (and if there was, even a sprig of parsley placed there accidentally, they had to remove it quickly from my room and get me a whole new tray), restricted visitation, basically creating a germ free zone. It wasn’t just that I might get sicker, it was that I could die. My body couldn’t fight anything off when I was neutropenic. An infection became life threatening, as did a cold. So I got anxious about a lot of things. When I was permitted to go home my honey had to remove all house plants from the house (there’s a fungus that can be in the soil that could kill me if I inhaled it), we couldn’t have fresh fruits or veggies, no one could see me if they had even been around someone who might have been sick. I was weak and tired and nauseous most of the time. And just when I’d start feeling better, just when the numbers would start to rise, I’d have to have another round of chemo. My life became very boxed in and small. Hospital for treatment, then home where leaving the house (I’d have to wear a mask when I was outside the house) was not worth it or even possible sometimes. I couldn’t drive, couldn’t do anything really. My honey didn’t even sleep in our bed during this time. She slept on that same air mattress she’d used in the hospital, next to our bed, with the dogs, who couldn’t sleep with me either. It’s not just that things were dangerous to me, I was dangerous to them. I was leaking poison out of my pours most of the time. No kisses, from my honey or the dogs, no using the same toilet even, because I was toxic. All of this created anxiety in me. I still get it actually. Less and less all the time, but I do. I have pills for it. I got them a lot in the hospital, and used them a lot during those months of chemotherapy. They help. And thank goodness for them. Sometimes my mind would go and go, worrying, and worrying. A loop of worry and fear and anxiety and sometimes, panic. As I said, I’m better now, but I don’t know how many times my honey has had to look me in the eye and say to me, “it’s OK my love, you aren’t sick anymore, there’s no leukemia in you… none”. And the rational me then sort of wakes up, comes to again, and knows it’s true.

And damn, it’s amazing to be alive.

I guess I’m recounting all of this because I never have before, and it’s time. Time for me to say it aloud, as aloud as this is. But I guess it’s also because all of this is the counter point to what I was feeling just a bit ago sitting in our garage after having come home from running some errands. Nothing big happened while I was out. I just went to the library and then to the coffee roasting house and then drove home, sipping some coffee and listening to music really loud in the car. It’s sort of gray outside today and the leaves are falling. But as I drove into the garage, and shut off the car, staying in there to listen to the rest of the song (Change by Rascal Flatts, for anyone who’s wondering) I was overwhelmed. Overwhelmed because the leaves are falling, and the dogs were barking in the house knowing I was home, and I knew my honey was in her office working, and earlier today we’d gone swimming with our grandson, and the music was so beautiful. I started to cry.  Crying from a place of overwhelming happiness and a feeling that life is so big and wonderful, and so fully felt.

Damn, it’s so so good to be alive.

I am grateful and I’m humbled by the quality of my life.

The thing I learned from my honey’s illness, and then mine, was something I already kind of knew anyway, but it got reinforced big time. It’s something, a feeling, I wish everyone could feel and something I wish everyone could know, without having to go through something so major, so awful. It’s the surety of knowing that there’s nothing important in life save for the people we have in ours. That is, period the end, the only thing that matters. Stuff, problems, annoyances, possessions… none of it matters. Not really. The time we spend having adventures and experiences with the people we love and who love us, that’s what matters. That’s what you think of, what you fear you’ll miss, if you think you could die.

It’s so damn good to be alive because I have so many fantastic people in my life. People, and dogs that is. People I love to be with, who love to be with me. People who I miss when I don’t see them, who miss me right back. Dogs who love me unconditionally and bring me so much joy I can hardly stand it sometimes. People who I laugh with, and get angry at, and cry with, and am silly with. People I have adventures with. People. There is nothing more important than our relationships and the experiences we create together.  It’s the journey we’re making, with each other, that matters.   It’s what matters most to me.

I am so happy, so thankful, so grateful, and so overwhelmed to be alive. Life is so beautiful.

1094041_10151884167640802_293897564_o

Mom and Don’s

Here I am blogging from Mom’s place. She and I made the drive down earlier today, stopping at Starbucks on the way. Tea latte and a donut. Yum. We got down here and wandered around outside a little and then sat outside for awhile. Mom then went and picked some fresh tomatoes and we had toasted tomato and cheese sandwiches. Mom had vegan cheese…. I had cheddar. :-). It was wonderful! So great to be able to have something fresh. So nice.

Mom and Don’s place is lovely. So pretty. They are quite the gardeners, which many of you already know.

I am so lucky to have Mom. I can’t even express how much she means to me, how much having her at our house to help me out while Karen is gone has been more than wonderful. I can’t say how lucky I have been to have her and Kev with me, loving me, putting up with me, and both taking such great care of me. I’m lucky Don understands and has been willing to be separated from Mom during this time.

Lucky… That’s what I’m feeling right now, laying here on Mom and Don’s couch, after eating a fresh from their garden tomato, and taking the ride down here. Lucky and loved.