“In the end….”

20140620-143346-52426179.jpg“In the end, though, maybe we must all give up trying to pay back the people in this world who sustain our lives. In the end, maybe it’s wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and to just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices.”
— Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia)

Words to Live By (Part 5)

“If I saw you hitchhiking, I’d smile and return your thumb’s up, just for you doing such a great job of being a positive roadside influence.”
― Jarod Kintz

1935760_142466655801_6505249_nBeing positive, having a positive attitude, looking at things with a glass half full changes everything about your day and your life. A person can look around and notice all the things in life that aren’t right, or need work.  They can wait for things to break or go wrong.  Or they can look and see the things that are working now.  They can see the blue sky, that there’s light and love and beauty all around them. One way leads to stress and worry, the other to contentment and happiness. We all worry, we all fret about the things that can go wrong, the things that might be going wrong, but we can’t live there, in that place. We have to live with light, and be in love with life. If we can manage that, even in times of trouble, we become a force for the positive. We can learn to see past what might not be OK now to know it will be soon.  We stay open to the world, instead of being afraid of it.  Light wins, dark abates.

“Life is to be lived, not controlled; and humanity is won by continuing to play in face of certain defeat.”
― Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man

Playing, as in riding a bike, or swinging on a swing, or going down a slide, or jumping in a bouncy house, is good for the soul. Those things speak to the kid living inside us and encourages that kid to come out and play. Being playful, however you do it, brings so much joy and happiness into our lives. It can be telling a stupid joke or saying something dorky to make someone laugh. It doesn’t matter how you get there, it’s that you get there in the first place. Joking around, being dorky, being willing to play, brings out the kid in us, the kid that’s always there, waiting to smile and have a good time. The kid that knows how to make things lighter and brighter and new.

“Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.”
― John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

Reading  a good book opens the world to us. Words create bonds.  They convey insights into life, living, emotions we might not understand, ways of living that are different from ours, or the same as ours. In every good book I read I find some new meaning and depth in life.  A turn of a phrase can enlighten and fills out more of the story of living. Books open worlds otherwise unknown.

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art…. It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

Friendship carries us through everything in life. The value of living is found solely in our relationships with others. In the experiences we have with the people in our lives.  Our friends can be there throughout our lifetime or people we only know and spend time with during shorter periods. They can be family or other people we’ve chosen to spend time with along the way.  Their presence gives meaning to all the most important experiences of our lives. They strengthen us when we need it, hold us when we need it, tell us the truth when we need it, and bring more love into our lives than we can even believe possible. The people we love and who love us back are the most important.  Period, the end.

“In the end, though, maybe we must all give up trying to pay back the people in this world who sustain our lives. In the end, maybe it’s wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and to just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia

Generosity of spirit and of self brings peace and tranquility to life. When you give of yourself you put out positive energy into the world, broadening it. Being generous of spirit means you give of yourself in small ways and big. You don’t have to give out loads of money, but you can get inclusive, you can share what you have to share, include others in your life, be gracious, be open, be willing to help when help might be needed, be a light when someone can’t see through the darkness in their lives. Being generous just means opening yourself and giving of yourself without thought for what you might gain from it. It’s selfless, and being selfless pulls us out of our own heads, our own lives, reminding us that we aren’t alone, and that we aren’t all there is.  It’s so important to remember that.  Be generous with your time, with your heart, with yourself.

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”
― Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

Appreciation for things in life, be it the actions of a friend, the kindness of a stranger, the smile on the face of someone you love, or wet kisses from your dog, brings a sense of connection, joy, and awe about this life we’re living. Knowing to appreciate what you have, not so much the things, though appreciating those as well says you realize others might not have what you do and you should be grateful for what you have, but for the people in your life, for the food on your table, for getting to experience the experiences you do, helps you to cherish life, cherish living. Appreciating the actions of others says you acknowledge a kindness or a gesture of goodwill. Having a real appreciation for things means you don’t take them for granted. Not taking the people and things in your life for granted means you feel what they bring to your life. Feeling that brings meaning.

“i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any–lifted from the no
of all nothing–human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)”
― E.E. Cummings

Being thankful for good and kindnesses and help and smiles in our lives further connects us to those moments. It brings a warmth and sincerity to our every day. A person can never say thank you enough. From the check out clerk to the post lady to helpful visits from family to just an everyday act of being passed something you asked for. Saying thank you spreads good will and encourages others to spread it as well. Saying thank you says you acknowledge the importance of what just happened. Saying thank you fills your heart with beauty and grace and a happiness that doesn’t come any other way. Being thankful, to your bones, for life’s little wonders, and some big ones, creates a force for so much good inside of you that it spills out to others. It gladdens our hearts as well as the hearts of those around us. You will never regret saying a deserved thank you. You will regret not saying it. We don’t act alone in the world, saying thank you acknowledges that. It’s a powerful force for good.

“When You Are Old”

WHEN you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.”
― W.B. Yeats

Grace can’t be put on, it has to be cultivated inside of us. Simplicity of movement, of thought. Being present for people in your life. Not like a bull in a china shop but by being quietly there. Not everything has to be done with a big splash, some things require a quiet manner, they require a certain dignity. I struggle with this, but reach for it, try to cultivate it in myself. I have seen grace under pressure, I’ve seen simple dignified grace. It is a beautiful thing.

“How much time he gains who does not look to see what his neighbour says or does or thinks, but only at what he does himself, to make it just and holy.” 
― Marcus AureliusMeditations

Keeping quiet, not speaking unless you have something good or positive to say, perpetuates good.  Speaking out of turn, gossiping about others, even stating your opinion when it’s not asked for or warranted, creates discord, chaos, and possibly hurt feelings.  It’s always better to stay out of things.  Jumping into situations only helps to keep them going, to keep the negative talk in the fore.  There’s a difference between standing up for something or someone, and putting yourself into the drama.   There’s a proper way to stand up for someone or something without being nasty or ugly or hurtful.  If someone is hurtful, you don’t have to sink to that level.  If someone is bullying, you don’t have to become a bully to fight against it.  Don’t talk about others.  Talk about ideas.  Talk from a place of love and understanding.  Use your powers for good.  It will help to keep the chaos at bay.  It will simplify your life.  It will keep you from being the victim and will add to the strength you already have.

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!” 
― Hunter S. ThompsonThe Proud Highway: Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman, 1955-1967

Adventure can be found right where you are.  I watch the grandchildren and everything, including a leaf, or jumping off a step stool, holds adventure for them.  There’s a lesson in it.  We get so caught up in our daily lives with the business of living;  paying bills, making money, doing chores, we don’t stop and look and experience things in a pure way.  We’ve forgotten how.  But, it’s still in us.  Those feelings of awe and inspiration and wonder.  So go on an adventure, even if you can’t leave your house right now.  Make a game of it, tackle a task as if you’re on safari, narrate doing the dishes.  All of this beautiful life we’re living is an adventure.  It’s incredible.  Say yes to life, even if you’re unsure.  Grab it.  Be bold.  Be brave. Be adventurous.

“I examined the poets, and I look on them as people whose talent overawes both themselves and others, people who present themselves as wise men and are taken as such, when they are nothing of the sort.

From poets, I moved to artists. No one was more ignorant about the arts than I; no one was more convinced that artists possessed really beautiful secrets. However, I noticed that their condition was no better than that of the poets and that both of them have the same misconceptions. Because the most skillful among them excel in their specialty, they look upon themselves as the wisest of men. In my eyes, this presumption completely tarnished their knowledge. As a result, putting myself in the place of the oracle and asking myself what I would prefer to be — what I was or what they were, to know what they have learned or to know that I know nothing — I replied to myself and to the god: I wish to remain who I am.

We do not know — neither the sophists, nor the orators, nor the artists, nor I— what the True, the Good, and the Beautiful are. But there is this difference between us: although these people know nothing, they all believe they know something; whereas, I, if I know nothing, at least have no doubts about it. As a result, all this superiority in wisdom which the oracle has attributed to me reduces itself to the single point that I am strongly convinced that I am ignorant of what I do not know.” 
― Socrates

To be humble, to know you don’t know everything, allows you to be more relaxed with others.  It leaves you open to new and different ideas.  It broadens what you could experience, it creates a space to let others in.  If we think we know it already, there’s no room for anyone else.  If we are continually certain of everything, there’s no space for beautiful surprises and mistakes.  Being humble in our opinions and in our lives creates a place that says we are all in it together.    Absolute certainty, being right, is the bane of relationships.  Connections get severed because of it.  There’s always more than one way to look at something.  There’s always room for another idea, another thought on the subject, another viewpoint.  If there’s one thing in life I try to remind myself of its that I don’t know everything, I haven’t experienced what others have experienced, and my thoughts and ideas and opinions are no better than anyone else’s.

“Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.” 

― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

You can look at everything in life as something to battle, to conquer, and to fight, or you can look at everything from a place of love, understanding, and togetherness. Either perspective colors your world, informing how you live your everyday, and how you see things.  The choice is always yours.  If things have been done to you, you can turn around and project that nastiness out onto others, becoming the very thing you despise, or you can be the better human, rise above, and transform that ugliness to something wonderful.  The world is full of bullies who use as an excuse the fact that they themselves have been bullied. Do better.  Perpetuate good, light, and hope instead of fear, anger, and hurt.

“I sit here…. “

20140303-173148.jpg“I sit here
drunk now.
I am
a series of
small victories
and large defeats
and I am as
amazed
as any other
that
I have gotten
from there to
here
without committing murder
or being
murdered;
without
having ended up in the
madhouse.

as I drink alone
again tonight
my soul despite all the past
agony
thanks all the gods
who were not
there
for me
then.”
― Charles Bukowski, The People Look Like Flowers at Last

Thankful Everyday – The Thirtieth

Here we are, the final day of thanks for the month of November.  I think every day, in my normal life, I say a mental and emotional thank you for something… the way my honey laughs, the excited way the pups greet me every time I walk in a room, the smiles of my grandsons, the beauty of the sky or the day or the soul of a friend.  I appreciate things.  Even so, this has been a lovely exercise in purposed thankfulness.  Being cognizant of what I have in my life.  I have a lot.

30.  I am thankful for love.  Love of all kinds.  Love from friends, family, my pups, the grandsons, the kids, my Mom, my siblings, and most of all my honey.  I am blessed to have so much love in my life.  More love and more joy from that love than I could ever dream possible.  I feel it like a wave sometimes, immense and overwhelming in a totally good way, and other times it’s presence is like a vast and endless calm sea supporting the weight of this tiny ship.  Most importantly, I feel it.  Always.  I’m lucky, fortunate, grateful, thankful, honored, blessed, graced, and humbled by the magnitude of it.  I am loved, and I love.  It’s beautiful.

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Thankful Everyday – Day Twenty-Nine

29.  I’m thankful for travel.  I’m lucky enough to have been a few places.  K and I love to experience a new place; the people, the smells, the tastes, the culture, a window into the way people live their lives.  We love this.  I’ve loved it since I was young and our family headed out on one road trip after another.  I loved it when I went to Europe for the first time when I was 16.  I love it when K and I go on a car trip that can last a day or a couple of weeks.  I love it when we pack and bag and fly off to who knows where or jump on a cruise ship or take a train ride.  Traveling brings a sense of how large the world is, and yet it also brings a feeling of sameness and smallness.  People are people, everywhere.  Loving, searching, laughing, angry, happy, striving, living — the same.  Travel gives you a window to that.  It also gives a sense of wonder about the world. There are amazing things to see and wonderful people to meet.  This world of ours is a fantastic place.  However we travel, being out on the road with a backpack, a camera, and my honey is about the best place to be.

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Thankful Everyday – Twenty-Eight

28.  I’m thankful for film.  I love going to the theater, buying the tickets, finding seats, lights go down, previews play, some guy sitting somewhere coughs, the sounds of people munching popcorn, music comes up, and then… action.  Movies open us to worlds we don’t know, lives we haven’t lived, places we’ve never been, feelings we’re to afraid to speak out loud, and beauty inside and out.  They are magical and heart-wrenching and filled with wonder.  They are scary and frustrating and amazing.  They are our stories, and where some of our best story-telling happens.  I’ve spent a lot of time in theaters and pressing play on the Blu-Ray player.  I find movies wonderful and am so thankful for the joy they’ve brought to my life.

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Thankful Everyday – The Twenty-Seventh

27.  I’m thankful for sunsets.  I was just working on my photos over at Flickr and came across several lovely sunset photos.  Nothing creates a sense of awe and peace and wonder quite like a good sunset.  Nature made, they are wonderful things to behold.

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Thankful Everyday – The Twenty-Sixth

26.  I am thankful for beautiful architecture.  I’m fascinated by building.  Not the building I have done, which is none, or might do, which is also probably none, but by the amazing structures all around me.  Capturing form, light, and harnessing the marriage between use and beauty, I am constantly in awe of form, everywhere.  From amazing mid-century modern homes to the Natural History Museum in London, Tower Bridge to La Sagrada Familia in Spain, I’ve been lucky to see some wonderfully gorgeous buildings and structures.  The minds of humans are fantastic and astounding.

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Thankful Everyday – The Twenty-Fifth

25.  I am thankful for poetry.  e.e. cummings, pablo neruda, w.h. auden, william carlos williams, sylvia plath, h.d., charles bukowski, poe, whitman, longfellow, yeats, thoreau, tennyson, shakespeare, frost, dickinson and on and on.  I’ve spent hours enjoying beautiful words written by amazing minds and hours trying to write my own words.  These words have enriched my life, helped me to better make sense of my world, and given me deeper understanding of life as I know it.

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Thankful Everyday – The Twenty-Fourth

24.  I am thankful for lined jeans.  It’s cold cold cold outside.  Temps well below freezing and wind chill bringing it even further down.  Lined jeans, down coats, and warm hats make all the difference.  I was walking the dogs tonight in the cold and the wind was blowing hard.  It was cold out and I was toasty warm.  Thanks to lined jeans.

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Thankful Everyday – Twenty-Three

23.  I’m thankful for my grandparents.  Bill and Martha were the best.  They gave us all, and there are a lot of us, such a great sense of family and fun and strength and curiosity and acceptance and love.  I’ve written about them here and here and here and so many other times on this blog before, but I can’t say enough about how thankful I am to have come from, and been able to spend time with, such amazing people.  I see them everyday in my Mom, my aunts and uncles, my cousins, and myself.   We are their legacy, and if you ask me, they did good.  I feel them every day and I’m so thankful for that.

The photo below is courtesy of my uncle, Tom.

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Thankful Everyday – Twenty-Two

22.  I’m thankful for YouTube.  I’m not someone who watches loads of silly videos and in fact I haven’t done that hardly at all.  Mostly I watch, and listen to, music videos, live performances, and such.  Once in a while I use it for movie clips or trailers as well, but mostly it’s all about the music for me.  And what a wonderful thing it is to be able to sit with headphones on and listen to recordings of live performances.  I’m a tad obsessed with music, as I said in an earlier 30 days post, and YouTube is just another avenue for music listening.  I adore it.

Today I listened to this…

Thankful Everyday – The Twenty-First

21.  I am thankful for the birds in our backyard.  I’ve never really been a bird person.  I like looking at them, am amazed by them, but haven’t ever really been into them.  Until now.  My honey loves birds.  She loves animals of all kinds actually, but she really digs on the birds in our backyard.  So much so we’ve got this whole feeding system going on back there that’s pretty spectacular.  It actually involved putting in posts (with cement to anchor), stove pipe (to stop the squirrels from climbing), and then hooks on top for the feeders.  We stained them and put copper post tops on.  They look pretty fantastic.  We have two of these posts now which means there are eight feeders.  This doesn’t count the outside clothes dryer pole that used to be a drying apparatus and was cut off to now be a post with a tray feeder on top (we didn’t need to dry clothes outside anyway… we have a stand alone rack for that if we want one) or the other colored rod iron poles we have around the yard or the two bird baths.  Yes, we are a veritable bird sanctuary.  All because my honey loves birds.  We have bird books now and binoculars for looking out to see them up close.  It’s sort of awesome.  I was never into them before, but now… I just went and filled up a pitcher with hot water to take out and pour over the bird bath water (which this time of year pretty much freezes every night) so they have some water to drink.  I’m in it.  And I’m thankful for that.

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Thankful Everyday – The Twentieth

20.  I’m thankful for this beautiful place we live.  We’ve traveled a lot and especially love road trips here in the states.  We’ve seen a lot of the country and we’re always amazed by it.  It seems no matter where we go it’s beautiful and unique and pretty fantastic.  We’re lucky to live in the U.S. and we know it.

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Thankful Everyday – The Nineteenth

19.  I’m thankful for the kids.  I never had my own children.  Never really wanted to, until I met K.  By then we were old enough that we decided having them wouldn’t work.  Lucky for me K already had children.  They were grown, but she had them.  It meant, and means, that I get to be a step-parent to some great kids.  When I met K her daughter was in college.  She visited in the summers and we went to visit at various times of the year.  In the years since she graduated, met her husband, moved to England with him, started having babies, and moved back to the states.  K’s son graduated from college and moved to Japan, lived there for several years, and is now back in the states.  We live near K’s daughter, her husband (who I also feel is a kid to us), and the grand boys, and we get to see K’s son when we visit Portland or he visits here.  I’m lucky.  Before K there was just me, my family, and my friends.  It was a good life, I enjoyed it.  But now, wow.  My life is so much richer, so much more full and lovely because I get to spend time with the kids and the grandsons.  We enjoy them, have fun spending time with them, have had big adventures with them, and we love them tremendously.

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Thankful Everyday – The Sixteenth

16.  I’m thankful for our furnace and air conditioning.  It’s cold in Illinois in the winter.  Cold.  It’s also hot in the summer.  Humid and hot.  We live in a place of extremes and I’m so very grateful for the warmth and coziness of the heat on those cold winter mornings (like today) and for the cool refreshing air conditioning on those hottest of hot summer days.  They both make our lives so much nicer, so much easier.  And it’s not lost on me that other people in other places don’t have either, which makes me appreciate both all the more.  I’m so thankful for the heat every time the temps get down to 17 and the windchill brings that down even further.  So grateful for the coolness of the air every time humidity is 88 percent and it’s already 100 outside.  For these things I’m thankful, everyday.

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Thankful Everyday – The Fifteenth

Halfway through.  I can’t believe this little exercise is going so fast, let alone how the month of November seems to be speeding by.

15.  I’m thankful for photography.  It is a vehicle for the passionate drive I have to create and allows me to see the world in ways I didn’t, before I picked up a camera, know were possible.  It brings me joy and helps to fuel my awe for the wonder and magic all around us.  Whether it’s snapping a picture with my iPhone or capturing an image with one of my Canons, I’m lucky to have found it and so very thankful I did.

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Thankful Everyday – The Fourteenth

14.  I’m thankful for the water around me.  Whether it’s clean drinking water, a warm shower, snow, a lake to kayak in, a pool to swim in, ice for my drink, a river to fish in, rain, or an ocean to be amazed at I am so grateful and thankful for all it’s lovely forms.  I’m a water girl.  I learned to swim at a young age and have spent many hours near or on the water creating memories with family and friends.  It’s a gift and a blessing I appreciate whole heartedly and don’t take for granted.  I’m lucky, and thankful, it’s so readily available to me.  I know others don’t have it so lucky.

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Thankful Everyday – Day Thirteen

13. I’m thankful for the music in my life.  I was fortunate to grow up around people who love, listen to, and play all types of music.  It instilled in me a love for all types of amazing sound.  Nothing fills the soul more than a fantastic piece of music.  My tastes are eclectic and varied, which was also a gift from a myriad of people, and thankfully I have music in and around my life every day.

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Thankful Everyday – Day Twelve

12. I’m thankful for my friends, near and far, who are the best people I could hope to know.  Each of you has brought such depth and joy and fun and meaning to my life.  I’m blessed, honored, lucky, and humbled beyond measure by the quality of my friendships.  I have so much love for you and am so thankful for the love you’ve always given me.

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Thankful Everyday – The Ninth

Day Nine….

9.  I’m thankful for the visual world.  I am made breathless every day by something I see.  It seems everywhere I look there’s beauty and magnificence. It constantly amazes, enlightens, and nourishes my soul.  Leaves blowing from trees, blue sky, rain drops falling just so, structures made by man, light in all it’s forms.  Everything has history and a story to tell.  All of it inspires awe and is magical.

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Thankful Everyday – The Eighth

Here we are, day eight.

8.  I’m thankful for my second family.  When K and I got together I didn’t realize at the time that I’d be gaining a whole new set of people to call my own.  People who in turn would call me their own.  People who made me a part of the family and have accepted and loved me ever since.  They are amazing and I’m so fortunate to have them in my life.

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Giving Thanks

Wow…  Thanksgiving is tomorrow.  Can’t believe it.  Sometimes these things sneak up on us.  Not that we aren’t prepared, we are.  It’s just that I can’t believe it’s already that time of year.  We have entered the holiday season.  And again I’ll say… wow.

Now that I’m getting over my shock at the time of year it is, I want to give some thanks, as has become my tradition here at the think tank every year.  I am thankful for so many things….

First, as always, I’m thankful for my honey.  I just spent a couple of weeks away from her and let me tell you, I’m no good without her.  I mean this in a metaphorical sense people so don’t go making assumptions about my lack of self esteem… my self esteem is in tact.  It’s just that I don’t like being without her.  As I explained to my Mom and my brother, Karen is my home.  A house is a structure that, if done correctly, reflects who we are, feels cozy to that end, and shelters us from the elements.  A home, on the other hand, is where our heart lives.  Mine lives with Karen.  Hers with me.  We are simpatico in this.  Which makes it all the more real and heartfelt.  My home is with her, no matter where we live, and I am beyond thankful for that.  I’m blessed to have met her, lucky to have snagged her, and honored and humbled by the fact that she continues to love me, and love me more every day.  I can’t begin to express what this means to me, and really I don’t think there are words to describe it.  She is my breath, my light, my warmth, my love.  She is my split apart, and I am hers.  I whisper, thank you thank you thank you, out to the universe every day for her.

Mom and Kev… We are, and have been for a long long time, the three amigos.  Having spent time with you these least three weeks (one here and two there), I appreciate you even more, if that’s even possible.  There is a magic that happens when we are all in the same room.  I’m so lucky to be a part of that.  So lucky to have you… I feel love and gratitude for you every day.

Mary, Martin, and our little man… Thank you.  Thank you for allowing me into your lives, into your family.  As I’ve said before, I never had my own children, but nevertheless I consider you mine.  I feel a part of a family, with children, and grandchildren, that I would never have without you and your acceptance and love of me.  I love you guys and am so very grateful for you every day.

My family and friends… I tear up thinking about all of you, near and far.  For one person to be blessed with such an outstanding group of people in my life… I am so humbled.  You bring the zest, the encouragement, the support, the fun, and more love than I thought possible.  I’m amazed every day by the depth and quality of the people in my life.  Not only the sheer numbers of you, but by the people you are.  Each and every one of you is a stellar human.  I mean this.  Family to friends, each of you brings something so uniquely you to my life.  I treasure that.  I treasure how individual you are, how loving you are, how fun you are, how many smiles and laughs you’ve given me over the years, and I feel so fortunate to have all of that with you.  I am blessed beyond measure for knowing you, for having you in my life, and for continuing to get to spend time with you when I can.    No matter the distance it seems we always manage to pick up where we left off, be that a year ago or yesterday, and I am honored by that, by your presence in my life.  I feel you with me every day and I’m so very thankful for you.

The pups… I don’t know if I’ve said this before, but they are so important to me and every day I’m so loved by them, and grateful to them for their little selves in my life.  They are my home as well, and I am so lucky to have them.  They love without condition, without pretense, without judgement or agenda.  They’re always excited to see me, even if I’ve only been outside for a moment, and they are always completely genuine.  I love them more than I can measure, and am so very thankful for them.  They bring a joy to my life, our lives, that can’t be measured.

I always say the only thing in life that truly matters are the people we love and who love us.  I mean this.  Everything else is set dressing, though nature, in all it’s glory, is a wonder and something I’m also grateful for every day.   To that end I’d like to include the following poem by e.e. cummings.  He’s my favorite poet, and I’m humbled by and grateful for his words, words that have helped, at times, me to get through periods of struggle.  Words that have at times helped me to better explain the world to myself.  This is one of my favorites of his… and it pretty much sums up the rest of it, the rest of what I’m grateful for…

i thank You God for most this amazing

by e. e. cummings

i thank You God for most this amazing

day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any–lifted from the no
of all nothing–human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

Thanksgiving Come… But Not Gone

I have been mulling over what to write for my Thanksgiving blog this year. So much mulling that Thanksgiving came and went without so much as a peep from this girl. But today, sitting here with the rain coming down and the weather turned cold I thought I might just dive in.

Thanksgiving. A holiday that, though initially maybe not traditionally about this, has become mostly about people eating, watching football, and most importantly pausing to give thanks to anything, everything, and everyone that people might pause to give thanks to. It’s a holiday about family and friends. A holiday about the people in our lives. Breaking bread (and don’t we all wish we could break it with Stan M? LOL An inside joke… and I digress), telling tales, laughing, loving, crying, and getting really full.

I think I’m still full from the meal we had on Thanksgiving over at the kid’s place. It was a lovely day. Spending time playing with the little man, helping to make what turned out to be a fantastic meal (my help consisted of making the green bean casserole… just empty cans into dish, but hey… I helped… and it was damn good baby!), hanging out with my honey, Mary, Martin, the little dude, and also Raya, Alex, and Tavish. We ate, chatted, played with the two little lads, and then after those lads went to bed we played games, drank tea, laughed. I will not reveal anything about things discussed during those games other than to use a couple of tell-tale phrases… Pam and skid marks. All other secrets are better left hidden. To be sure, it was a grand good day.

What I want to say here I think is that Thanksgiving should be a state of mind, not a one day a year kind of deal. Don’t get me wrong… I’m not saying do away with the turkey, fixin’s, football, game playing, and all of that. Let’s keep the day and on that day doubly send out those vibes of many thanks. I guess what I’m saying is we should strive to be thankful every day. All days. Always. It’s tough when the day is dark and dreary and work is a pain and people in one way or another are suffering. But it’s a great thing to still, in the face of all of that, pause during the day and say to yourself, if you don’t say it aloud, I’m thankful for… I’m grateful for… I’m happy I have this person or that thing or that dog or cat in my life…

So today I decided I’m going to say it out loud…

I am so grateful, thankful, lucky, fill in any other and all other words to express gratitude, thanks, and praise all rolled into one, for my honey. I will cry writing this, but I am in awe of your presence in my life. I say this over and over… but I have no idea what I did to have this happen. Whatever it was, thank you, thank you, thank you. You are light, laughter, air, grace, beauty, imagination, wonder, art, and all my wishes fulfilled. It’s been over eight and a half years and I love you more with each passing minute. I can’t believe it’s possible to love someone this much and tomorrow it will be more, but that’s what happens… every day. You get me. And I’m not easy. But, you get me. You understand me I think better than I do. Know where I’m at before I know I’m there. You are joy walking, my little sage in disguise. You bring light with you everywhere, and I am so blessed that your light gets to shine on me every day. I love you my love… more than this much.

I’m blessed also to have the best Mom ever. I don’t know what to say about her other than to say she is also grace walking. My Mom has been through some stuff, and I’ve seen her handle it all with so much class and grace. Maybe not always with a smile, but nearly always. People tell me I have a great smile, and I always say I got it from my Mom. It’s true. To say you’re my friend as well… bonus. It’s not everyone who can say they just like hanging out with their Mom. I can. I do. I love you so very much and every day I know how lucky I am to have you in my life. To have had you in my life through everything. We are separated this year. Me moving away to another state. We’ve never been this far apart and even though we are both dealing with it pretty well I think I miss you. I miss you but also know you’re right here with me. As I am right there with you. It’s that kind of bond. The kind big love makes.

Kev… You are my champion, my defender, my buddy, my partner in crime, my big little brother. To say we are peas in a pod is putting it mildly. We have seen a lot you and I. Been through a lot and always been there for each other. Always. Sometimes when life hasn’t been as kind as it could be to us we were all we had. Or at least it seemed that way. Kev and I against the world. I love that big lug of a guy. Fort building, mini bike riding, pool playing, adventure making, fighting each other and defending each other against others. I am grateful for you. For your friendship, your noble ideals, your loyalty, your laugh, your grin, and the best hugs given by any human on the planet. You are an amazing man. And thank goodness, you are my brother.

Mary… I never had my own children, I didn’t want any actually, until I met your Mom and by then it was, we felt, a little late in life for us. But lucky me, I didn’t just get a life with your Mom, I got a life with you. And you, my step-daughter, are amazing. I have never said these things to you, but I am so very happy and lucky to have you in my life. I am so very proud of you. Funny, fun, so very smart, silly, clear minded, stubborn, tough, with high expectations and a loyalty stronger than steel, you are fantastic. I am also so very grateful for the little man, our Sebastian. And you, Mary, are a fantastic Mom. I watch you with him and think to myself… wow, she’s doing this or that just right. Teaching him to swim, teaching him to be in the world, teaching him to grow up and be an amazing man. You are a great Mom Mary. And I am grateful every day that I get to be around you, be around your son, be in your life. Thank you for letting me be a part of things, for not just being my partner’s daughter, but mine as well. Thank you… and I love you very much.

Martin… No greater son-in-law could a mother in law have. You are a gentleman… and gentle man. I love how you treat Mary. How you make a home with her. How you are as a father. I love watching you with Sebastian, talking to him, playing with him. I love how you take care of your family. All that, and you make me think and laugh. You are easy to be around. Easy to be with. And that, my son-in-law is a gift. As you are a gift to me.

And what would this blog post be without a mention of our pups… Weston and Riley. Every day I get joy from them. Exasperating, sometimes annoying, loud, hyper, needy… but always loving. Always loyal. Always affectionate. Always there with a snuggle. Funny little creatures that have totally stolen our hearts. We adore them. Are in love with our dogs. I sometimes say it’s a sad state of affairs, loving dogs this much. But it isn’t. It’s a glad, happy, wonderful, grateful state of affairs. Unconditional mutual admiration and adoration.

I can’t go on to list everyone I should… to say thank you to everyone I love. If I did this blog would be much longer than anyone would probably want to read, or have the attention span for. I will just say this… to my family and friends, old and new, I am blessed. I have the gold standard of people in my life. Each one of you brings something to my life that is cherished, noticed, and appreciated by me. I couldn’t be luckier to know and call you friends and family. I don’t say it enough, maybe don’t even talk to some of you enough, but I think of you often. I can’t begin to express how deep my appreciation and love go. It’s deep. It’s endless. My life is a beautiful tapestry of people, woven together by thread upon thread of shared life experiences and stories. I love you guys. I’m so very lucky to have you. And I hope with all that I am that I’ve been and continue to be as good a friend, sister, daughter, niece, aunt, grand-daughter, cousin, sister-in-law, and all around person as you all have been to me. I’m lucky. Lucky. Lucky. So fortunate. And so very thankful for each and every one of you.

And there it is… my none Thanksgiving Day thanksgiving. Thanksgiving has come, but not gone.

Maintaining

Getting the maintenance phase of this all worked out is… happening.  Had to go in again today (had the CBC yesterday) for another blood test (one of my liver function tests were high from last week and my doc, who is the hospital doc this week, didn’t get it ordered before we went in yesterday).  No biggie.  Just another slip sliding adventure coming back up our driveway.  Have to go in again today to get my shot.  The results of all of this tweaking of my maintenance (my doc lowered my shot dose to half last week as well as my pills from two to one after getting my blood work back last week and finding my white count wasn’t quite as high as he’d hoped)… I will, from now on, be on the half dose amount of both shot and pills.  They will not be raised back up.  The protocol calls for starting at the high dose and if the counts don’t go too low, staying at that dose, but if the counts don’t maintain well enough at the high dose it should be lowered to the half dose amount, which is what seems to work in my case.  My liver test from today also improved with the lower doses so the doc and all feel this is the dose for me.  We will see next week.  We’re hoping to get all this stable in the next couple of weeks… before we fly to England to see the kids and our grand boy, Sebastian.  I can’t wait to meet him!

To clear all this up…  I am now on half the shot amount and one pill a day.  Then, every three months, I take another 15 days of ATRA along with the continued weekly shot and daily pill.  The only thing left to finish working out is getting it squared away  with an oncology department in England to give me my shot every week while we are there.  Four shots in total.  Karen called and talked to them to start the process and got the contact info for my doc to call them.  Kaiser is going to package my shot meds so that Karen and I can carry them to England.  Karen talked to the TSA to make sure we had what we needed from the doc, paperwork wise, etc., to get through security.  So after my doc talks to the doc there we should, hopefully, be good to go.  Yay!!!

I’m not looking forward to the long hours of travel… we fly to Chicago from Portland then from Chicago to Manchester, England.  O’Hare is a bummer of an airport.  Busy, no good services (internet, etc.), and weather effected this time of year.  But hey, we’ve flown through there many a time so we are familiar with it and know how to deal with it well.  We are definitely seasoned travelers.  We make ourselves laugh we are so efficient….  Get to the airport, check bags, go toward security, stop to take off watches, put cell phones in the backpack, get to security and take out computers and take off shoes in line, go through the line… get some food for the plane, get on the plane, get out Bose headphones and laptop for movies if movies on plane aren’t any good and also iPod in case music is the thing, eat our previously purchased food, get to O’Hare, find some floor space in a terminal hallway near an outlet (they don’t have areas with plugins for computers, etc…. part of it being a bummer), plug in and put in a movie or two depending on amount of time, get on the plane to Manchester, repeat all plane activities mentioned before, get off the plane, bags, customs, train to Lancaster, stay up to what is a reasonable evening hour in Lancaster to combat the jet lag, and then crash for like 13 hours.  And that, ladies and gents, is how it’s done. It’s going to be a tiring long day, but it’s so worth it… and always kind of exciting.  I might say it’s tiring, but it’s also sort of fun while it’s all happening.

For now we have tiny bits of snow coming down and we leave in another hour and half to go back in to the clinic.  Tomorrow…  Thanksgiving and really taking time to be joyful and thankful.  As I said in an email to some of my family the other day… to quote myself…

I am thankful every day for the day itself, for my beautiful family loving me and me loving them back, for my friends who also love me greatly and who I love as well, and for the wonder and joy I feel just looking at the world around me.  It’s a glorious beautiful thing, this life.  So thank you both for the Thanksgiving dedication… I think Thanksgiving has, this year and moving forward, become my favorite holiday.  What better reason to have a day of celebration… to stop, pause, and be thankful and grateful in a very conscious way.

Happy early Thanksgiving everyone…