Of normalcy

I cross the intersection and glance at a window facing the street. A figure is jumping up and down, waving frantically at me despite the strong glare. I see it is my friend, Kathleen.

I enter the building, grab a glass of my favorite fruit infused water. I stroll over to another office, greeting another soul. Despite our conversations, I cannot recall her name and it is well beyond on the point of decency to ask. But she asks about me, my family, our lives and my work. She is another ray of light.

With such pleasantries, who could believe I am about to enter a life changing meeting regarding my parent’s health?

I know I am blessed. Not just for the amazing family I have or the way in which I grew up, but even in the shit that is the now, that there are these moments of grace. My friend handing me contrabanded chocolate from her desk, or another asking how my “Seth” is…an homage to my boyfriend, who is both ingeniously funny and a stand-in for a famous comedian. Its the knowing smile with the nod of understanding that we need to discuss anything else, but the real reason that we are here.

These small interactions brings normalcy. It’s people who understand the stress of this disease, who care enough to ask, to voice the tough questions, but also let me feel the real world. In a place as dank as a cancer center, their spirit fills the room, especially when they are jumping up and down to greet me. They offer 30 seconds of order. Of jubilant energy. Of hope. All while arranging the care necessary to fight one of the worlds most aggressive diseases.

But without that ineffable spirit…it would not be the same at all.

 

**** Thank you Kathleen and dearest name-forgotten friend!

No regrets

No regrets.

 

No regrets means living fully.

No regrets is embracing the adventure.

No regrets means reflecting on the past AND moving forward.

No regrets is finding joy in every place you can.

 

No regrets is more than living without mistake. It’s nearly the antithesis- it is believing, baring, and barreling through the missteps.

It’s continuing the journey despite the hard times and alongside sorrow. No regrets means having faith while surrendering control.

It’s the father of wisdom. It’s the financier of betting on yourself. It’s the constant cheerleader, the one who never misses a game. It’s the hard-worker, who reminds us the importance of practice. It’s the essence present, when all else has evaded.

No regrets means living this life without overdependence on the errors of the past. Thus, no regrets takes us ordinary beings and drives us to our best self. One absolutely worth being.

Before & After

I suppose many moments in life are punctuated by the clear line of before or after.

For me, that moment is now “before tumor” and “after tumor”. While grateful it is not my own, it is part of my story. Part of my life.

Dad’s tumor brought a full stop to our lives. It severed the world we lived in- one of life, even with Alz or struggles in finding our way. We three knew how to care for the fourth.

This abrupt change has shifted the world to before and after.

Before cancer, and after.

Best of…DIY!

I love a great do it yourself project. I’m not the craftiest of persons, but I do love these fabulous tricks, DIY, or homemade creations as you may call them. While every now and again I find a goo one, I thought I might share them with all of you!

Do it your self awards (starting with the first three I have used for years and the last three all discovered this past month!)

  1. Cleaning product: I love the more natually side of products, but I also want it to work. I want it be working as hard as I am attack the soap scum! This concoction of vinegar and baking powder does wonders for stuck on foods for a kitchen surface to toothpaste in the bathroom. I put mine in a small spray bottle and get to work.  You can also create a similar solution to clean your oven in a healthy, non-toxic way.
  2. Yogurt: This one I learned about a year after my time in FrancisCorp. Truth be told, had I know about it beforehand, we certainly would have been eating this then! Fresh, homemade, less bitter yogurt- yes please! Now with this one, patience is key! It takes a few batches to get your yogurt to the thickness you want, but well worth it.
  3. Plant Food: Every gal loves a nice bunch of fresh flower. But nothing is sadder than seeing them wilt by day two. By taking a little vinegar and sugar, you can feed your flowers to last as long as two weeks!
  4. Hair-cuts: Recently I was out with some grad school gal pals. I comment on T’s new hair cut. Looking for my own new do, I asked where she got it done. She told me “I did it myself”. As I said, “whaaat?” our other friend B also said “Yah, I cut my own hair too”. Well, I just had to try it. And this chick guided me the whole way (and I also love how I can rock out to a great Broadway musical during a tutorial vid ;) ). TRY IT!
  5. Fruit fly traps: This is one of my newer finds, but I love it oh so much. I’m not sure if it is because I always have a stack of banana hanging out for smoothies or that I live in a 120 year old space, but man those fruit flys are pesky. When my dear friend Jane from Spain posted this, I was in heaven!
  6. Gar-scrap-ening: It’s not gardening, it’s not composting, it’s growing food from scraps. Say what?! As my mother’s child, I have a fairly black thumb. I try gardening, growing food from my window boxes, and I’m just not all that successful. I keep trying, and maybe one day I will get it. But this trick, both as a frugal grad student, and foodie makes me thrilled. The first 3 are pretty stinking easy, and I’m having great success with the first 2 I have tried!

What do you think? Are you game to trying the cleaning wonder or going to take the big dive and trim your hair?

CAM01318

My garden of scraps, fruit fly trap and my handy cleaning solution!

Share your other favorite do-it-yourself wonders!

Sleeping out and speaking up

At some point a few weeks ago, I decided that I really wanted to volunteer at this year’s Sleep Out Broadway Edition. This annual event, run by Covenant House, provides a space for Broadway stars and homeless kids to connect, share and celebrate hope. This year, over 70 sleepers and another 10 participants raised over $200,000 to benefit the thousands of kids that CH serves in four countries around the globe. The goal is part awareness, part fundraising, as we say “sleep out so homeless kids don’t have to”.

My own experience with CH has been nothing short of amazing. I was blessed to secure a summer internship working with a large, successful non-profit. I had amazing supervisors, full of knowledge and who led with passionate hearts. Hence, I wanted to come back (even from my 3 day vacation) early to help out at this event.

Each sleeper that I checked-in was so excited to be with us! They were eager to tell me there story of connection to this work, through a co-star or even some children of long time CH supporters. No matter their nerves or excitement, they were ready to experience this night.

Story by story, activity by activity, I witnessed walls falling down and solidarity spreading between our kids and the Broadway community. Be it a life journey that hit home, an unforgettable witness of abuse, or a desire to wipe away pain, active listening was apparent.

While I had to leave to catch an early train, my last task was to unwrap the cardboard ‘padding’ for our sleepers. One night is not meant to replicate what the kids experience, but can provide a lesson and a place to develop an even deeper sense of solidarity.

This morning, as I still processed this beautiful night, I saw this amazing clip. The Stars sang to our kids, who were settling into their rooms just a few floors above the street, where our sleepers camped out.

This is hope. This can be a movement. This: community, listening, love, and action, can make a difference.

*

Disclaimer: Any opinions stated or inferred are my own, and do not necessarily represent the view or opinions of Covenant House. 

My writing process

Thanks to my friend, Ellen, I am participating in my first blog hop! This post acts as an interview, a place for me to explore my process. Plus, I am going to introduce you to 3 other amazing writers!

  1. What am I working on?
  2. How does it differ from others in my genre?
  3. Why do I write what I do?
  4. How does my writing process work?

Alrighty, here we go!

What am I working on?

Currently, it alternates between a personal project and absolutely nothing. Honestly, it is probably more of the latter these days as any of you readers still loyally with me in the blogspehere have noticed! Between completing my first year in graduate school and joining the senior staff at our Journal, I think I have relished in the opportunity to reflect in other ways (*ahem* maybe some foreshadowing to question #3!)

How does it differ from others in my genre?

Oh, my nothing very much differs from other’s nothing ;). Well, one aspect that has been liberating in my process has been a lack of a time frame. Something that is so unnatural for me….my to-do lists *may* include a rough schedule as to when they shall be done in a day’s time. However, working on a personal piece also allows me to write for me, not seeking approval for publication.

Perhaps now might be the best time to define “my writing”. It’s a collection of missives, woven by storytelling, spiritual reflection, and connection to other aspects of life. Sometimes it reads as self-help, other times humor, but it is always from the heart.

Why do I write what I do?

Solely to process. That’s my total and ultimate motivation.

How does my writing process work?

Well, its probably the first, most long lasting contrast to the rest of my life- it is undisciplined, selfish, and occurs because not one more fiber of my being can have it contained. I love writing, I love this blog and this creative place, whether or not words flow my hands and onto the screen.

 

So there you have it, small missives on my process! Now, I’d love you to read about these wonderful ladies:.

Mary: We met during our years of service in the lovely ‘Cuse, while living across town from each other. While we may have been in ‘competing’ programs some would say, we continue to keep in touch. I think you will love Mary’s style of honest, soul-bearing writing as much as I do.

Alli: My dear friend, food blogger and gifted writer. She has appeared here before and most certainly will again. She is a damn good cook, but also a damn good social advocate, who strongly believes that  every single person can (and should) use their votes, voices and consumer dollars to bring about real change in the way food is produced and distributed.

Talley: This gal  is studying for her Master’s in urban planning. When she’s not in class or stuck in the library studying, she enjoys writing and photographing about the places and people she sees. Her blog Rainy Days Aren’t Always Bad, shares her photographs and musings . Her hope is that her words and images will provide another perspective on how to view ones surroundings.

 

Nellie, Nancy and Ned

A personal pet peeve is feeling like a “negative Nellie”….or Nancy or Ned. However, these last few weeks, hell these last few months have been intense beyond words. One problem or crisis ends and a new one begins. And while I feel like I’m weathering this storm to the best of my ability, I’m starting to operate on a loss.

Yes, there are moments of light and laughter; a dear friend’s wedding, an evening of improv in my own backyard under the stars, a two hour get-away to the shore with my boyfriend. I am grateful….and I want more.

Writing a quick email update to close friends about my parent’s health, I hit a wall. How honest do I go? I wondered. Do I say I’m fully in “survival-only” mode?  There are no concerns about sharing the frankness of the illness in my family, but of my own, I just don’t know.

My fingers fly over the page, opening a new portal. I type the only words currently weighing on my soul ” Stake me to the ground”. I want to express my desire for life and love during grief and pain. I want to feel rooted to this world, even with chaos all around. Hold me, let me cling. Let me grasp the ground.

And the first page that opens provides the beautiful wisdom below:

 

ROMEO
Give me a torch. I am not for this ambling.
Being but heavy, I will bear the light.
MERCUTIO
Nay, gentle Romeo, we must have you dance.
ROMEO
Not I, believe me. You have dancing shoes
With nimble soles. I have a soul of lead
So stakes me to the ground I cannot move.
……
I cannot bound a pitch above dull woe.
Under love’s heavy burden do I sink.

Happy Mother’s Day, to me

I was not looking forward to this day. It was the midst of finals season at school, with every last paper to write, groups to meet, and exams to be taken. In addition, home was chaotic. While I wanted to be there, it felt as if every aspect of life was pulling me in a bad way.

Yet, two beautiful and simple moments turned a day I slowly began to dread to one of silent bliss.

I had no idea what to get Mom this year. My Christmas gifts had fallen a bit flat, and there wasn’t an easy ‘need’ to fill. I decided on some lovely two- toned tulips. When I arrived at the house, Mom was watching TV with A, our aide. Starting to fall asleep, Mom wasn’t really phased by the holiday. Yet, A kept saying “How nice. Look K, look how nice. She brought you flowers, say thank you”. Mom’s “thank you” struck me as I thought “well I’ll be….that’s like a Happy Mother’s day to me!”

 

Later in the day we went to Mom’s friends for dinner. There our family friend was asking about my summer plans, when she turned and said to my mom “Look at Katie, hanging out with all these movers and shakers”. My Mom leaned and said, “who”? As our friend pointed to me, Mom turned to look at me with the broadest smile, one I hadn’t seen in ages. Again, a happy Mother’s day for me.

After dinner and before the favorite dessert of ice cream, we ladies went for a walk. I held back at first to catch my breath, and then captured this:

Sweet mother's day

Sweet mother’s day

There were 5 of us on a walk. Just part of the journey and a sliver of a reminder…it takes a village, not only to raise a child but to raise up each and every one of us. I know that my Mom has done that for me, my sister, and countless others. I just hope we can do the same for her.

To all the mothers and the motherly in this world- may you feel the love of community not just on your day, but everyday. Thank you. 

Grabbing hold and letting go

Lately, I have noticed that I am hoarding. A picture. A locket. An item of clothing once mine, then hers, and back to mine.  Pieces of Mom to have close. To be present and simultaneously live in the past.

She stuffs things in her pockets. We constantly laugh as we pull out pens, elastics, tissues, scraps of paper, rosaries, and other items. It’s a bit like Mary Poppins’ purse…you can’t believe all of what can fit in there!

***

But tomorrow we start a new step of this journey. It’s a bit more of the letting go and so of course I want to hold on tight. I want to hold on and not let go. Of time. Of the past. Of my Mom and who she is to me. And so we breathe through it. Sit with the urges to clench the present and avoid change. And sit with those moments of wishing we were three steps already ahead. Settled. Secured. Safe.

I don’t have any easy answers. But I know this process. I know it’s a flow. A struggle. A birthing of new life, even when it seems so contradictory.

For this beautiful poem by Ellen aligns with this idea: when it’s over, we may want it all back.

Just a day

Awaken. Lovely morning, and a mist the busy-ness of getting out the door, recognize how grateful I am to be in school. To take a moment to really appreciate this gift to self- taking a ‘time-out’ to learn, to excel (or fail), to challenge myself. The thought goes: “I really love that I’m in grad school right now“.

Moments later I am fighting with a banking institution over their egregious error. Frustration that could last the day is contained just to an hour (or any other time I brought it up ;) ).

A sweet friends brings individual bags of home-made cookies to class. Just because. I swoon and happily munch away them money woes.

A few of us skip out on a review, instead choosing to enjoy one of the first, true days of spring. Warmth on our faces, plenty of people watching, and another “oh yah, I am loving this [grad] life” moment.

A few hours later, I’m ready to pull my hair out over a powerpoint for a final group project. Yes, I’m being overly concerned, yes I am the only one stressed out, but it still manages to eat at me.

Arrive home to a seasonably warm apartment, and find a long lost show to rewind with.

A call comes in, Mom fell (second time this week) and I quickly leave to help out.

Thankfully Mom seemed to be ok, and after being checked out by professionals was allowed to stay home tonight. Both on the ride to and from my parents I notice the clarity of my thinking. Yet, noticing how silly it seemed to be so annoyed at a bank or powerpoint, when hours later, the ‘more’ hit.

This is just a day. I thought to myself. Not even “one of those days”, this is just a day that fits my norm right now. Glee, gratitude, grace, love, laughter, concern, worry, frustration, stress, appreciation, exhaustion. They exist independently and concurrently.

And yet, there is no desire to fight this. No pressure to find another way. Because it’s just a day. Just one of the types of my day.

Fall into bed. And sleep.

And beginning again.