An Impact Statement on The Kindness of Strangers and the Love Of Friends

It was never a post I’d expected to write and this is hardly what I’d imagined as a post to mark my blog’s 7th anniversary (March 17th), and with apologies to my regular readers, some of this will be a bit of a repetition of circumstances previously written.

I know most of us never dream we’d write or live through the events I’d laid out. We know terrible things happen, but generally we feel safe that they happen to other people – over there. There is simply any place that helps us hold onto the fantasy that any distance from them is a protective cover for the rest of us.

When I got the call in January that my sister in Arizona was found on her bedroom floor unable to stand or speak properly and the concern revolved around possible strokes, in short order, I went into numb mode. That place where we don’t know what to feel, or maybe there’s too much feeling and there’s an *overwhelmed* switch that’s automatically tripped. We’d just been unwinding the numbing shock of the loss of one of our children only 20 days earlier. Maybe it was just continued numbness.

Some hours into news like this, we realize we must act and then thinking revs up again. What’s needed? Who will do what? When do we do whatever it is we figure we need to do? How can we support her kids? How will we do any of it? Then there are the really hidden thoughts, like, nope, I don’t want to be doing anything. This isn’t happening. This can’t even be real.

But, it is real, and very shortly after, we learned the real issue was a brain tumor. A very nasty, aggressive beast of a tumor. The scans showed it nearly covered a quarter of her brain, literally pushing it to one side. She had emergency surgery within 48 hours of being found on her floor and they were able to take out 99% of it. The surgeon said if she hadn’t made in when she did, it was unlikely she’d have lived another day or two. God, real, is a bitch.

Her cancer is never going away though. That’s a hell of a new normal to adjust to. They hope to help us keep her for up to 18 more months with heavy-duty radiation and chemo over several weeks. The days seem to fly by faster than ever. I avoid morbid activities like looking at calendars and counting back. I’m not always successful.

A rising sense of panic pushes me back to the questions about action. The more recent events of her world make sense now. Like, why did she suddenly quit her job and lose her health insurance and benefits? She couldn’t remember. It didn’t make sense to her either while she attempted to retrace her steps before the surgery. She couldn’t remember anything from 3 months prior. They have no idea how long ago that thing invaded her head.

We clearly had some heavy-duty work to do to sort how she will live until the end of this new normal inevitably. There was no way we could manage this on our own; we put out calls for help. That’s another exercise in faith and hope. When catastrophe strikes and you realize how bound you are in immediate helplessness, fear introduces itself in yet another incarnation. Who would even answer that call? Would anyone and if they did, would it be enough?

It turned out I wasn’t as alone as I’d feared. Friends responded with a generosity I couldn’t have imagined; even from a few that I’d never dreamed would be able to help. Yes, your $5 mattered, just as much as the gifts of $100 or more. I was on a plane within 3 days to get to her. They helped me get to her and hold her. They helped me get to look into her eyes and tell her, I love you. … It’s too hard to describe what all that feels like.

Those caring superheroes helped me get to the myriad mounds of paperwork needed to apply for assistance from myriad areas with their myriad requirements. Let me tell you, I don’t know how any of these agencies expect a patient to manage this. There was no way my sister had the ability to read through all the materials, let alone sort, fill-out and acquire the necessary documentation. Getting to that work alone was a huge step. After that, we’d had most medical and home expenses taken care of until at least the end of April.

How do you describe how much that means? I don’t know how to tell people just how much of a difference, how much of an impact their gifts create. I don’t think it’s possible to thank them at par value, I’m just so grateful that they accept my pitiful attempts anyway.

It was so hard to leave her. I wish it could be me that’s driving her to appointments, or shopping for her groceries, or just sitting next to her while we zone out in sister land in front of Netflix. Don’t get me wrong, I am so grateful for the services that we got to help her with that much, but I think you know what I mean.

I don’t know what the next steps will be, and we do know the calls for help will continue, for as long as it takes, but we’re taking it one day at a time. These are the experiences that crystalize that notion for us. Day by day, minute by minute. I can only pray that we’ll receive what we need and that we see the beauty there is to see and feel the grace we’re meant to, while we can. One day at a time.

Kininiskimotin, all my relations.

RL

My sister’s fund remains open for any help we can get. I moved platforms from GoFundMe because of issues with getting the funds in a timely manner. While they apologized for the undue stress, I’m not comfortable with continuing with them. The new site is here: https://www.plumfund.com/medical-fund/terminal-hope-not-homelessness–u

For those in Canada who prefer fee-less transactions, I am thrilled to accept e-transfers at blogwoman@outlook.com

Sister, Reva, her son, Jacob, and our beloved step-dad and mom.

Tales From The Heart: Dad

Nova Scotia, July 2017

Of great character
Lovely men earn the prizes
Strong and gentle wins

Cowards wilt in their presence
Fight or flight; laugh while they run

Haiku / Tanka

 

I’ve written a few times about the days of my childhood, when my mother was alone or alone within the presence of an abusive man who tormented her and her children. I’ve even written a bit about that broken man. Yet, I’ve never been able to really put down a word of meaning about the man who would ultimately become my beacon of manly decency, the barometer for all who’d follow and be measured against.

No matter how hard I tried to write a nod of love for Father’s Day or his birthday, whatever event, I would draw a blank or the words I put down felt far too much like a eulogy. Even when I wanted to relay one of his famous tales of hilarity, I’d cringe at how much it felt like I was standing at a funeral lectern; the same feelings washed over me as did when I delivered a eulogy for one of his grandchildren.

Then, this summer holiday, during our annual events of hugs and dinner talk, huge laughter, day trips, familial eye-rolling impatience, and intense political arguments that look like someone’s about to get offed, I entered epiphany territory. If I didn’t say these things now, for him, to him, ultimately my words really would simply become the very thing I feared.

So here it is, not a “Happy Something Day” anything. Just a summer hug to my dad, who as a step-father, stepped in it and all over it in his own inimitable way, to become the embodiment of what a man of decency and character should be. Whose heart was far bigger than he needed to shelter us. Whose protective and respectful love is genuine and unreserved.

He’s shown how it’s done after screw ups. Oh yes, he’s definitely a pro at screwing up, BUT he’s equally adept at employing his best to undo his infractions. His apologies are quick and he fills the holes of his failings with triple the ratio of acts of kindness. I’ve never met a man who wants to make up for his failings as badly as he. It’s one of his most admirable aspects which has repaid him with enormous, widespread respect.

Outside of that, he’s your basic straight shooter, what you see is what you get, and certainly honesty is a key attribute. Well, unless he’s got a story to tell. There’s no doubt he’s got a blarney bone floating in there, but that’s just one more lovable trait, right? I’ve not met anyone yet, who can tell a tale with his level of wit and witty circuitous routes. That’s bonus material right there.

Tin man 7.jpg

Oz never needed to give this Tin Man a heart

And so, if all this isn’t the embodiment of good character, what is? His shoes will always be a bit of a loose fit for someone to fill, but that ain’t no complaint by me. Damned certain neither of us will ever make apology for that. I hope when he sees this note, he’ll feel my respect too. Maybe he’ll even have seen something that surprises. Whatever his feelings, I do know I’ll get a hug not long after.

Thanks, Dad.

RL

Tempered

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Narcissus banished
Comforting reality
New sweet nothings real

Overwhelmingly cherished
All storms tempered by love’s grace

languid

And, I win.

Fabulicious street art, thanks to the wonderful walking & eye spying work of Randall Willis of CreatedByRCW and So, What’s Your Story  Randall’s photo posts are amazing views of art, wildlife and human wildlife… He has gifted me another batch of creativity challenge and for that, I’m thrilled to have the privilege of immersing in poetic thought for most of the summer. Hopefully.

RL

Haiku/Tanka

 

YEAH, TAKING A PERSONAL DAY

So, another major milestone crossed in this life story. As of this very day, I survived and even thrived in another year where the current scenery doesn’t match up to what the old dreams were…

I don’t know if that’s good or bad anymore. I’ve weaved around enough moments to know a story may only look like it’s ended. There are so many corners we can never expect. The best things ever, turn out to be the biggest nightmares, or some of our biggest un-packaged fears are really the sweetest blessings.

If we’re lucky enough, in every year we’ll have people to hold us up while we endure and to share the biggest laughs when we’re soaring.

I am grateful beyond these pitiful words to know I have an amazing child who already takes a stand for what’s right – a sage soul in his beautiful, young mind and body. My parents – my rock, my comfort. (Happy Labour Day, Mom). Auntie Maureen & my friends, well really my sisters and brothers, are my holders and laugh with-ers. I thank them all for their love, wisdom and presence. And presents.

For circumstances that are normally unusual (hopefully), other people may stand out for us. And so it was for me again this year and for that, I am more than grateful to some special souls. I can’t reveal the private details in this missive, but they do deserve public acknowledgement. While they aren’t a part of my nearest circles, their impact was as big as any, and in some ways, pretty likely to have been bigger. So, to –

Kim, Rebekah, Rachel, Bruce, Sandy, Louise – Thank you for sharing your amazing level of knowledge and strengths that have emboldened my courage to speak out in truths. I deeply, deeply appreciate your friendship.

Ned and Beth T. – Thanks for your sheer decency. That’s my personal 5-star rating. Thank you for helping me to understand and accept what I could change or not; especially in seeing what wasn’t within my control, and would never be.

To J, N, C & G – I respect your wishes for anonymity and I thank you, most of all, for listening to me, believing me and in me, for the vindication and trusting me with your own stories along with the parts of ‘our story’. You turned unimaginable madness into dawning awareness that got me through so much. If only more people were as strong, as kick-ass fierce and generous as you in covering another woman’s back.

To the eyes in the sky – thank you for taking me into your hearts too. Thank you for playing such a critical role in righting my sight and spirit… I would never know how to repay you, but then again, I know you don’t need me to. You are serious hero material. I hope someday the people in your world get to see why they should be so proud of you.

And then, there’s you… who, without any payoff or coercion whatsoever, stop by anyway to read what’s going on in my world. Thank you, so much for your time, for your kindnesses, for your likes/comments/emails, for your own tales and your humor. You’ve added so much to my world. … … …

…<cue the music>…

…and thus she trails off singing to herself… happy birthday to me, happy birthday tooOOoo me….

RL

 

With Lois, For The Win

I determined I’d open  2017 with a gratitude post, but to be honest, and this is no complaint, there were so many avenues I could go, I wasn’t sure where to start. I’m privileged enough to have most of my needs met and most importantly, I have pretty amazing family and supportive community.  It was in this, that I felt inspired to say how writing has played a role in winning me some of that love and support.

Years ago I reported for newspapers, later side-lined for an opportunity to make a bigger splash by managing the start-up of a non-profit foundation.  After that, a similar turn in the private sector, and then onto the biggest job ever, motherhood.

Throughout those years, I continued to write – scads of your basic business letters and mountains of personal journals. Then Facebook came along.  Once in awhile I’d wax on, and on…. and on and fill my status box with a full-page of opinion. I’d get pretty good feedback, but more likely, I’d hear from Lois.

loisWe’d met at a performing arts studio where our kids attended.  Lois was smart, an English major and she was a writer. A real one; which she practiced with a business blog.  I enjoyed her replies to my status comments – witty and smart. Sometimes, she intimidated me. Not in a bad way, she made me want to try harder.  Then she brought up the idea of starting a blog. She’d simply suggest it now and then, until one day after yet another of my Facebook essays, her inner- warrior firmly tapped out the order, “Blog, woman”!!!

And thus a new blog was born.

Lois continued the encouragement through my spotty and rough start. I do know I’m not above some clunky writing here and there. Anyway, she was always very kind about it all and this was just an extension of her amazing generosity and wonderful, thoughtful presence.  Our shared connections always gave her the highest marks for decency.

Yes, it’s a cliche’ when I say it feels like only yesterday, when I got that Lois smack-down to work up to something. it’s especially so now, because we lost Lois last October.  A brain tumour discovered a couple of years ago overcame her.  I was out of town when she passed and I wasn’t able to attend her service.  Not unusually, I struggled about what to say to her family, especially from a distance.

I wrote her daughter, Kathryn, a friend also and within that note, I ended up explaining how her mother’s influence affected my life in ways that I’d never told Lois. I asked for permission to print parts of that note here.  I thought my 2017 gratitude for writing couldn’t begin without my 2013 re-start from Lois.  What writing has done for me over the last nearly four years is inextricably tied to her…

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Kathryn… I’ve tried so many times to write something to you about your mother.  It’s hard to admit a loss for words, but it’s especially frustrating when you want to tell someone how sorry you are for their losses of such significance…

I want to tell you what a wonderful person your mother was… is.  But you know that – and I am so glad about that for you and your family.

I want to tell you how much your mother influenced my life.  I want you to know how she actually changed it.  I want you to know that her insistence, with that boot to the butt,  that I write for real, introduced me to a world I had no idea existed and yet there it was, waiting for me to meet dozens of amazing people who would then move me along into opportunities I never could have dreamed were waiting for me.

Even love was there in that new world.  I found all sort of love and that too changed me and grew me up some more.

I would never have found new work that challenged me to use every creative thought I could muster. I would never have found friends that stand like sentries whenever I need.  My whole world would not have been so beautifully enforced.

Initially, I think I found it hard to believe that a writer really thought I was a ‘writer’.  I was once a reporter, but somewhere along the way, I’d lost the idea that what I’d write in my journals could possibly be readable, or understandable, or maybe even helpful to someone else.

Your mother gave that gift back to me. She made me take a chance by offering a glimmer of confidence that I could claim for myself.

So, I want to say, I am so glad and I am so enriched in so many ways to have met Lois Wasstrom.

I thank God for, Lois.

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I’d also mentioned to Kathryn I was certain her mother would always be a guiding force for her family. I can only hope that maybe now and then, she’ll continue to lend a hand to this very grateful writer.

RL

The Love You Make is Equal To…Frickin’ Awesome If You Can Match the Joy This Inspires

Steven tyler 2

When life knocks you onto your buttocks and it feels like you may never catch your breath or a break again, sometimes something really, really wonderful shows up.

Maybe it’s not the lotto win or the love of your life, but it gives you at least a few minutes of awesome respite. Real awe.  Awe, as in the original intention of the term, reverential respect, astonishment, extra special wonder…

I know inspirations can be anything for anyone, but for me, a little gem I came across  a couple of years ago was positively heavenly in its level of power and I have returned to bow at it’s rainbow-hued unicorn hooves as much as needed since.

It is the  2010 Kennedy Center’s honoring of Sir Paul McCartney. It is a masterpiece of musical powerhouses, but within that group of exceptional talent, Steven Tyler, heartbeat of Aerosmith, brought me to my feet especially.

Steven’s initial magnificent mix is in this first link:  Steven Tyler 2010 Kennedy Center Honoring Paul McCartney

But…

But…

If you really, really want to treat yourself to a show that brought the President of the United States, the First Lady, Oprah,  the Sir Paul McCartney and even Sir Stoic, Colin Powell to their feet in joyous glee, watch the whole portion of that tribute: 13 Minutes and 50 Seconds of Sublime 

If this doesn’t have you up in mind, body or spirit, somebody better call the coroner. You have to be dead.

RL

On another note: My 2016 posts were mostly written weeks ago and pre-scheduled for publishing while I’ve been taking care of some things. (see Weird Normal – February 19). I’d hoped by now I’d be back in the saddle fully, but that hasn’t quite worked out. So until I get there, maybe you’ll bear with me & some sporadic posts, maybe you’ll scan some of my older stuff and enjoy the occasional guest post from fabulous people. 
 Cheers for now.   ❤

Weird Normal & Cancer Envy; Part One of Bear With Me

Friends, Ed & E called. They were concerned, curious mostly about the intensity and/or emotional topics on my recent posts, and because I’ve been missing in action.

Bear With Me 4I have been quieter in general, but to address some of their concern, I explained that I usually write about my or other’s experiences in the way they felt at the time of the occurrences. It gives the impression they all happened recently, but really they could have happened yesterday or thirty years ago.

I do mix them up because while they make the point that I want, it also protects people who may need shielding.  I also just like to indulge in a little mystery for fun.

Admittedly, the events of late are not all related to that fun; they have been more unusually taxing. So yes, I’ve been more reserved in my activities and have expressed more personal poignancy in my posts.

I manage a rare disease within my daily routine. For the most part everything about me seems pretty normal, except for when this disease bounces my world into chaos.

To explain the beast in 10 words or less – it’s an inflammation-based disease of all kinds of irritation, but mainly it unpredictably interferes with organ function and defies prognosis.  It’s a pick an organ, any organ to screw with when it’s bored or cranky, kind of bastard. I call these visits by it, the ‘big ones’.

Friends may observe it has pounced by my newly inhibited movement, or noticeable weight loss, or I might be hospitalized for months engaged in hand to hand combat with the Grim Reaper. Sometimes he’s content to just gnaw on a limb for a few weeks.

The moments in between these time-outs are the same as most – work, growing kids, growing me, up days, down days, and once in a while even surviving catastrophic days unrelated to my health.

This fall, previously written about on the loss of someone I loved, and the pain of a betrayal, played into that old myth that these sort of events come in threes.

So, in the midst of the hell, number three showed up, in the form of another scary, frustrating flare-up. It would take another post to detail it and I’d rather leave it at saying I acquired a painful syndrome that they say will take a couple of years to unwind. It also triggered a former crisis. Let the good times roll.

Of course, I’m scared. Yes it troubles me, and yes, I’ve cried. Navigating pain is tricky business & each of these events makes me feel just a little bit or a lot bit, lost at times. There is a real aura of alone because I am in some ways, the least of which is that I have never met anyone who has my disease.

Not that I wish for someone else to have it for company.  It can stir up a weird head space though.  I’ve actually envied cancer patients.  They have so much support, myriad services and immediate sympathy.  And ready understanding.

Once I walked out of a private ‘washroom for disabled’ and a woman waved her cane and loudly castigated me, “You should know this room is for the disabled!”

I’d used the privacy to deal with a temporary drainage bag attached into my belly. I only stared at her, feeling indignant embarrassment as I brushed past her. I wish I would have said something to puncture her presumptions and I still can’t believe I didn’t…

That experience was too new for me to think fast enough.  Maybe.  Probably, I was drugged. I’d later considered wearing a scarf to cover my hair – chemo hair-loss style – whenever I was struck by the big ones. I eventually got over that and earned another level of psyche strength; I definitely don’t feel obligated to always explain myself anymore.

Which leads me toward the point of this post. Well, it will somewhere down the line.

Hindsight is 20/20 when measuring growth through adversity, but when awesome reader/friends, Rebekah Ingram & Randall Willis, zinged me with some gorgeous insight, there was an intriguing moment of ‘aha’!

Their views pointed me to observing the growth & changes in me as they are occurring. Maybe we call it 10/10 forevision. This means I’m paying attention to what’s going on in my feelings, body & spirit now, during these trials, rather than surviving and processing later.

Along with mom & dad flying across the country to hug & assist me, I believe applying this new aspect could, in some ways, help me heal a little faster.

It’s another work in progress, but I look forward to seeing what’s being brought to me and through me with this new process. I’ll start in gratitude to these friends for sharing their caring hearts at just the right time.