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Posts from the ‘Family’ Category

7300 Days

On Ash Wednesday, February 17, 1999, I went to mass at the St. Paul Cathedral and came back to the office to a voicemail from the Doctor. The previous Friday, I went in to have a mole on my right arm checked because it was itchy and changing color. They took a biopsy. I had gone to the clinic in early January, but there was no Doctor available so the nurse measured it and I came back for in February for the biopsy. I called the clinic back asking for Jan who wasn’t available. The operator asked for my name and immediately said hold on and I’ll get Jan. At that point, I figured Jan and I weren’t about to exchange our favorite recipes. Jan came on the line and told me she made an appointment for me on Friday to come in for a wide excision (cut it out) – “you have melanoma.”

I sat quietly in my chair at my office for a few minutes and then started to make calls to my family – tough calls. Blew off work (still need to do more of that), went to the Mall of America to watch an afternoon movie and hang out with family to pass the next 48 hours.

Friday comes. I go in ready to get this thing done and move on only to be told that it wasn’t a in office procedure since in the month between appointments, it went from Stage 1 to 3 of 5. They needed to schedule a hospital visit to do a sentinel node where they put dye in the area of the mole and track it for a few hours to see if the cancer spread to the lymph nodes by putting a big metal door next to your face to take pictures for 10-minute stints. If it did, then the procedure is to be put fully under, dig deep into the arm and then take some lymph nodes.

This appointment was yet another month later in March. Waiting was fun. Sure enough, three lymph nodes came back suspicious so they cut deep into my armpit to remove and test those little buggers, which then determines the post-surgery treatment plan. My wake up requests were a diet Mountain Dew and Hot Tamales and my wish was granted as we waited for the results. Most excellent news – the lymph nodes came back negative so no chemo or radiation. Regular visits to the dermatologist and hold out for that 5 year mark which is a great anniversary in cancer land.

Fast forward 7300 days – two decades later – and I celebrate 20 years cancer free. My story was a lucky one. I have many friends and family who had to do chemo, radiation and experimental drugs in the past two decades. Some haven’t won the battle.

I’ve decided to frame the celebration in days rather than decades as a reminder to be live and be present in each day because they quickly add up to decades and we don’t know where they’ve gone when we don’t participated fully in each day.

The most valuable gift that cancer gave me is an acute awareness of the brevity and fragility of life. The result is a shift in perspective to lighten up and take all the chaos that life throws at us much less seriously and know that there’s more to the story than we know.

A few more lessons: Enjoy each day and laugh. Judge less and love more. Tune out negativity. Let go. Keep learning. Age is number, stay young by being active. Pray, a lot. Keep trying. Worry less. Ask for help. Offer help even when it’s not asked for. Be kind. Change the stories that you tell yourself that hold you back. Feed, cultivate and activate faith, hope and joy. Let God be God – He’s got it and doesn’t need my help to screw up the plan. I do forget all of this often, but always return when I get off track. Returning home to all that’s real and true, that which I know deep in my soul that quietly whispers to me – “come back home, keep unfolding”.

So how does all of this lead to the picture of a snow blower? We’ve been throttled with snow this winter. We now get to win the most snow in February award in Minnesota. Spike the football – we win! Last night, on my second round of snow blowing the dense pile of snow at the end of the driveway from the snow plow, the snow blower didn’t start. Damn it! We’re going to be getting more snow and buying a new snow plow now when they are in demand is not the best purchasing decision. Buying a lawn mower would be good now since it’s going to be 6 months for the snow to melt. I picked up the old shovel and started digging. That’s what we need to do when an obstacle pops up – shut up, stop complaining, dig in and keep moving.

As I shoveled in the quiet dark evening, it occurred to me that I bought that snowblower 20 years ago with my Dad after I had surgery and couldn’t move my right arm for a month while the incision healed. A few days after my surgery, we got dumped on with 12 inches of snow. My Dad and neighbor dug me out. At that point, it was time for the snowblower. I think about my Dad every time I start that snow blower and so I wanted to take a photo to capture and hold that memory if the snowblower is going to the snowblower cemetery.

Long story today, but short lesson – enjoy your days, all 7300 of them. Go deeper and be present today. Each day adds up to make up your life. No do overs. Keep going.

Hope Pulls Us Forward

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” – Mary Oliver

I started this week at a funeral of a 36 years old colleague and friend. When I met her Mom, she was stunned that I had flown out for the funeral. I knew I had to be there to honor her too short life. Seeing her tribe, the ones who knew her the very best, I could see where she derived her joy, grit, work-ethic, resilience and get-it-done with a smile attitude. On my second hug with her Mom, I told her how sorry I was for her loss and she said she was sorry for mine. What a generous loving response.

Many tears, laughs, sweet conversations and honoring a wonderful person who will be deeply missed. In addition to the conversations with family and friends, the words that remain are from the priest as he concluded with a profound insight and reminder – “hope pulls us forward.”

So no matter what is going on in your life right now, hope does pull us forward and holds us when we can’t hold ourselves. Cling to that, knowing that in the fullness of time, it will be more than alright. And when we stop asking the “unanswerable in this moment” why, we can go deeply in moments of struggle and loss to find hope, gratitude and meaning.

Be grateful, generous and kind today. It will make a difference for others and yourself. It’s a win-win proposition, one that you will never regret.

“Said the river: imagine everything you can imagine, then keep on going.” – Mary Oliver

From Glory to Glory

“Patience is not simply the ability to wait – it’s how we behave while we’re waiting.” – Joyce Meyer

Whether we believe it or not in this moment, we are built to transform, to unfold, to become new. Rarely in our time, but surely in due time.

Cynicism is easy, it’s defensible. And it also makes for a lousy life. Optimism may be disappointing time to time, but cynicism owns disappointment all of the time, stealing our joy.

Create a space for light to break through and in. Light always remains. Steady and true. Hold your joy close. From glory to glory. Transformed.

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Cease to Complain

“Any form of complaining is the small self becoming lost in self-importance. So much energy needed for awakening is wasted on complaining. We many not be able to change our external reality, but we can transform the negative thoughts and feelings that are our reaction to that reality. We have a chance to awaken from the nightmare we create through our resistance to what is. Stopping all complaining is one of the first steps. When we cease to complain, we conserve life force for what really matters. A new world begins. Each event becomes a mysterious opportunity rather than an inconvenient vexation. A tremendous amount of life force, once bound up in feeling sorry for oneself, is released. Where there was frustration and self-pity, there is now space for appreciation to bloom. The misguided belief that life should be other than it is dissolves and in its place, acceptance flowers, joy awakens, patience blooms, and peace permeates.” – Ann Mortifee, In Love with the Mystery

It may be justified. It seems reasonable. It seems like it should help, but it makes it worse. Complaining is wasted energy that blocks gratitude. Rather than being a release, it traps us in our thoughts of scarcity, comparison and self-pity.

Last week summed up to be a bust. And I made it worse by letting external things get internal and define my entire week. And then three things happened to shift my limited view, to open up my senses again.

My sister sent me beautiful flowers. A friend texted me after our run yesterday letting me know she noticed I was quieter and that she was thinking about me. I told her I was trying to get my inner “Tigger” back and send “Eeyore” on his way. She told me she likes “Eeyore” too and it’s ok to not be “Tigger” sometimes. And then I walked by a book that I got from a friend years ago and opened it up to the page with the passage above.

These three encounters brought gratitude back into view and where it should remain, front and center. I can’t guarantee that I won’t trip and fall into the complaining trap again. But it’s worth trying to keep space open for the gifts of acceptance, joy, patience and peace.

I am grateful for those kind souls who took the time to notice and offer encouragement and support rather than answers, platitudes or solutions. We sometimes need to be merely seen. Remember, your light can bring someone else’s back. Cast light.

 

The Purple Truck

I bought this truck in 1997. The dealer told me it was sapphire blue. I bought it sight unseen. And then when I went to pick it up, there she was – purple with teal detailing. A teenager’s truck. I tried to like it and kept it for two years. And then I knew I couldn’t drive it anymore. It bugged me too much.

My Dad was looking for a truck, so he bought it. The purple never phased him. If it did, he never let on. Rather than looking for a truck that he really wanted, he was letting me off the hook of a quick purchase that I regretted.

Now, I love this truck because it reminds me of my Dad’s character. A generous soul who didn’t take grief from anyone and rarely gave out either. Quiet, unassuming and kind. If anyone commented on him driving a purple truck, he never let it phase him. And 21 years later, you can tell that he took care of it.

It’s been over two years since Dad passed away and Mom really doesn’t need two vehicles. We sold it this past weekend to a family member looking for truck. The right side of the garage is now empty, but my heart is filled with memories like the truck story.

Our loved ones are here one minute and then suddenly they’re gone. And yet they remain with us in our hearts, in places, in memories, in others and in our own ways. Even in a purple truck.

Call your parents, give your kids an extra hug, don’t hold grudges, laugh as often as you can. Life is happening right now in the little things. No guarantees beyond today. Cast Light.

Ride Upon the Wind

“Come Fairies, take me out of this dull world, for I would ride with you upon the wind and dance upon the mountains like a flame!” – William Butler Yeats

A visit from this little guy last night turned a Monday full of BuSy into something delightful and fundamentally good. An evening filled with bubbles and a walk to the Dairy Queen with his mom and mine. We wrapped up the evening watching some television, getting stickers on my forehead and coloring.

And then he came up to me and asked me to dance. Be still my heart. We swirled, giggled and twirled. Our last dance number was to our favorite song that we’ve danced to since he was born almost two years ago – Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon.”

When this dull world gets the best of you, dance. And dance with no concern for what others may think. It unbinds the soul and sets the spirit free.

“Dance is the hidden language of the soul of the body.” – Martha Graham

“Dance is the hidden language of the soul of the body.” – Martha Graham

SIT DOWN!!!!!!!!!!!!!

“Innocence can be more powerful than experience.” – Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu

“Remaining childish is a tremendous state of innocence.” – John Lydon

“Remaining childish is a tremendous state of innocence.” – John Lydon

I received the blessing of watching Liam today for the afternoon. He forced me to stop my chores, duties and obligations to fully enter what Sundays are made for – rest, repose and restoration. As he woke up from his nap, he beckoned my name to get him, no tears, just a gentle order. We had dinner and he then requested to watch Coco for the second time today, the 20th time this week and 100th time since the movie came out. His absolute favorite movie, obsession.

I negotiated a trip to the park before we started the movie so we could enjoy the burst of sun on a mostly rainy day. When we returned, we agreed on Finding Dory rather than another round of Coco.

As the movie began, I started my usual multitasking. After a minute, Liam yelled, “SIT DOWN!!” I stopped in my tracks and sat down with him to enjoy coloring and Dory’s short term memory challenges. We proceeded to enjoy the simple experience of single-tasking, un-busyness and full presence in the very moment. Brilliant.

Sometimes it merely takes the wisdom of an almost 2 year old to pull us back to what’s most important and to the gift of now. Stop and sit down. The most valuable activity that you can do is to stop and embrace the sweet gift of now.

SIT DOWN!!!!!!!!!!!!!

weeeee :)

“There's something just magical about flight. Period.” – Graham Hawkes

“There’s something just magical about flight. Period.” – Graham Hawkes

“The world is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.” – Bertrand Russell

No further than a playground swing and magic unfolds. The delight of flight. The sheer joy in simple play. Children have it figured out and what we can learn from these wise souls. No over complicating. No distractions. They enter each moment as an explorer, an adventurer, a believer of goodness and light in the world. It is only when we grow up that we dull our wits and surrender our joy.

We can transform our days by sharpening our wits. Take back your joy.

Weeeeeeeeee!!!!!

Pursue with Confidence

“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.” – Thorton Wilder

“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.” – Thorton Wilder

My niece Jenna graduated from law school yesterday. What a wonderful moment for her and for all of those in her life cheering her on. When we truly love, we share in each other’s struggles and triumphs.

As with all lasting victories, it was achieved through hard work, diligence, uncertainty and long hours. There are no short cuts and the daily journey is the substance of a meaningful life. So as I see this young confident woman, wide-eyed and enthusiastic, in the beginning of her career as I am on my 30th year of my own, I tell her and all other young women to keep up the hard work, never let your enthusiasm and optimism be depleted and keep diving in no matter what others say or think. Be your own person and be kind. Return to yourself again and again anchored in deep faith that you have a purpose here and be gratefully aware that God is behind you, aside you and ahead of you every single step of the way.

And on this day that we honor mothers and those who have given love like a mother to others, feast on your life now as you are in it and know that your love has carried so many to find their own journey. Pursue your life with confidence and light.

Love After Love by Derek Walcott

“The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.”

Honor Thy Father

“It is not the honor that you take with you, but the heritage you leave behind.” – Branch Rickey

Today marks the two-year anniversary of Dad’s passing. Missing him is a daily occurrence that I don’t expect will ever change. But rather than focusing on what is lost, I am choosing today to focus on all that I am grateful for including what he instilled in me and my family.

A quiet unassuming work ethic, give your best and the outcome will take care of itself;
Love of family and friends, help others and expect nothing in return but the gift of generosity;
Have a sense of humor and don’t take yourself too seriously, the only way to joyfully get through this life;
Finish what you start, be resilient and find your grit;
A deep faith and pursuit of God, not so much through words but in our actions.

So Dad, I miss you every single day and thank you for remaining in all of us as we continue on our journey. And the best way I can honor you is living out what you have instilled in me. Be kind, humble, celebrate the wins, accept the losses gracefully and never underestimate the power of hope and faith. Cast Light.

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