autumn days

Wednesday, August 31, 2016


A lot moves through and around us as life grows and shifts.  It is a blessing to take time to intentionally focus upon the things that feel good.  Yes, we acknowledge the many troublesome details as they float by, though we put the most energy into what feels good.  The more we focus on what brings us joy, the more joy we have in our lives.  The same is true with other emotions we choose to broadcast.  This is part of intentionally living our lives.  For me in this moment, I find peace in recounting the joys of my day.  There are many.  The more I reflect upon them, the more there are.  Simple.  After a bit of practice, this gets easier, sinking in to heal deeper places without ourselves.  Today my blessings were many.

Today, my children and I touched the first autumn rainfall.  Today I meandered through tasks with my children.  We played at the park as long as we wanted.  We chose a special new back-to-school purchase for our first ever day in public school.  We ate delicious cookies as a prize for our library's reading program.  We brought home a loaf of cinnamon roll bread for Papa.  We had a leisurely breakfast, lunch, and dinner, all of us at the table together.  My partner tackled lots of dishes and some laundry.  He didn't cough so much today.  I had a shower.  We sold something on  We gifted yard toys to a neighbor.  We ate lots of fruit.

My children were helpful with grocery shopping.  I took a long ol' time to type out much of my children's imaginative stories and listened to them read them back to each other.  We finished reading The Green Ember aloud together and are moving onto other awesome tales.  I finished working on photo books of our recent family reunion.  We chose just the right photo for our computer screen from the reunion.

My son played lots of board games with his daddy.  We laughed when our baby girl's cloth diaper fell off.  She got a couple long naps and went to bed tonight when she was ready.  She has now let go of me long enough for me to rise and write.  My older daughter read through another five novels today and is reading another in bed as I type.  Our family had time together to watch the rain, relax, love, and smile.  I give the greatest of thanks for these extraordinary details within this blessed day in a life of miracles.  Aho!

Candyland Love

Friday, August 19, 2016

Scan Day

Today is the big scan day after six weeks of chemotherapy for my partner's lung cancer.  This whole health situation can be quite deep, dark, and devastating.  There is a very real possibility of not having much more time with the beloved father of my children.  Today's scan will determine if standard care will impact this particular cancer or if alternatives will be more fully explored.  We've feeling the depths of uncertainty lately.

What if we choose to believe in miracles, to delight in our time together, to find reasons to celebrate and laugh and dance?  That in itself is quite healing.  I can fill myself with delightful energy with a bit of effort, as I have this morning: a hot bath, meditation, singing, a touch of dancing, listening to my happy music (today's choice), and writing.  I count my blessings: children drawing at the kitchen table, music playing, cool air on a hot summer day, clean water, healthy food, loving friends reaching out, children's laughter.  I've filled up with so much light I get to share the extra with my family.  I ask this light to fill my partner and give him hope, to help him open to the wonderful possibilities that await, to believe in miracles, to find the light in the darkness, and to know he will get a more positive diagnosis.

I have no control over my partner's health, his choices, nor his feelings.  He has free will and his own preferences.  I get to be a beam of delight for my own benefit and know this brings some joy to my family.  I get to choose to find the joy in each moment, such as having the privilege to write while my baby sleeps off my body, such a rare gift.  Practicing mindful and intentional joy brings healing to my body, mind, and spirit.  It may even be contagious.  That's what I'm banking on.  Either way, I still win when I live in the moment and count my blessings.  Each moment is a gift.  Being a part of this resilient family is a gift.  Sharing my own presentness is a gift.  For these gifts I give the greatest of thanks.  Blessings!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Reflections at Day Three

A letter written to a friend on day three (June 11, 2016) of my partner's health issues helped me sift through plans, feelings, and goals.

Dearest Momh,

I've found a nanny to work various evenings when we need someone. I've cancelled our yard sale and am donating clothes and supplies to those who can use them.  I'll attend group counseling sessions with my children in August.  We're talking of how to arrange beds so if the kids get sick they won't give it to their daddy.  I'm currently looking forward to the routine of public school.

I feel a disconnect between my partner and I, as there's so much pressure on him to make the right medical choices, to hand off the family business gracefully and cleanly to his brother, to finish putting the new (dream) house together, to then sell the new house, to teach me to do everything he's always done: errands, finances, groceries, long term planning, home maintenance, etc.  He is too focused on the challenges and solutions to focus  on our connection.  Everyone wants to be with him now, though he wants to be productive.  He wants to provide for our futures and make his functional time productive.  He told me the pressures on him are so different than for someone with cancer at age 60 or 70, when their kids are grown.  It's like he's trying to do a lifetime of work to provide on a very short time.

He looks up statistics and stories and knows the reality of long-term illness we are facing.  It's going to be very ugly.  It's hard to be joyful and light for our children when there is such depth of sadness here.  We will get through it intact, though this is intense.  I feel he wants me to be less emotional and I want him to touch me, not just with the back of his hand as he tackles more tasks.  I feel he expects more from me, but I don't know what.  It's likely he's simply at a loss.  I'll ask him again how I may support him (meals, children, good attitude).  This is overwhelming.  I feel sad with the loss of our connection and of our lives together, the plans we'd made, hoped for, invested in.

Treatments are very complicated and confusing, though his cousin the oncologist will call the local oncologist to discuss treatments and clarify motives and get questions answered.  Then he'll start chemo in a couple days.  He says this first round will be the easiest as each attempt is harder on the body and less successful.  He may need a feeding tube eventually to get any nourishment into his body.  Plan for the worst, hold faith and determination to get to the best.  

I'm looking forward to a professional photo session near our home Sunday.  

I'm at a low point, and know I will bounce and float and soar.  The ebb and flow feel more dramatic right now.
The up and down are to be expected.  In my lighter days, still full of emotions and tears, the ascension is awesome.  There is great love, support, and a village to step in for whatever I ask.  I've already asked for help with carpooling to camps this week so my partner can focus on making the most of his time.  He plans to begin chemo in the next couple days and to continue working.

My task is to focus upon the silver lining, the bright spots, the love from those who support and help us, flowers and the bounty of Mother Earth, the laughter of my children, bringing that to my partner, speaking from my heart with respect and gentleness.

Your friendship is such a gift.  Such big blessings.  May you know deep love and abundance and grace too.


Pantene Beautiful Lengths Hair Donations

I love to grow my hair long and then chop it off every year or so for a good cause.  I donated to Locks of Love for many years, until I found most of their hair donations are sold for money to create wigs for those in need.  Pantene Beautiful Lengths shares all hair donations with women with cancer.  I feel good knowing my hair is helping other women in their own times of need.  I imagine a mom of young children with cancer covering her head with my beloved locks.  My hair lives on with others who are living with cancer, a topic now near and dear to my heart.

First Big Feelings

Through email with a friend I was able to open to my big feelings after getting the first signs of my partner's serious illness.  This was sent June 9, 2016.

Dearest Jenna,

I'm sad and terrified.  I also know great love and support.  I don't want him to leave us anytime soon.  I need and want him here with us.  I intentionally release control and appreciate what I have here in this moment.  I'm so exhausted from several days and nights with very little sleep.  So now I'll pray and meditate and send my partner as much love and light as I can without depleting myself further.  I accept my role as rock and navigator for our family, growing love and strength together.  Thank you for asking how I am.  I am so grateful for you.  Big blessings.


First Signs & Prayers

This letter was sent to loved ones on June 9, 2016.

Dearest Beloved Miracle Makers,

My partner heard today he has swollen lymph nodes in his lungs.  He will soon have a CT scan.  He has known of an unchanging, benign tumor in his chest for six years and has a family history of cancer; his parents passed of lymphoma and multiple myeloma.  
I pray for our family (with three young children) to be surrounded by peace, clarity, miracles, white angelic healing light, silver lining, healthy organs, and many more years together.  May we trust this process as we make way for our most benevolent outcome.

Blessings and great gratitude,

Aha! Parenting, Story Pirates, & Brains On!

While sharing resources with other parents going through similar challenges, I found the Aha! Parenting website.  One article that really spoke to me during a difficult time was on 12 Things to Remember When Your Child Gets Angry.  Just discovering this one resource made all the difference in managing my own emotions while my child expresses anger.  During these resourceful conversations, I was also introduced to podcasts to entertain the whole family while driving.  My two new favorites are Brains On! and Story Pirates.  What a treasure to share free resources with others that help us parent more patiently and compassionately.  Such gifts. 

Summer in the Neighborhood

We are blessed to live in a neighborhood and to know some great neighbors.  These last couple summers we've taken advantage by hanging out with local friends in their wading pools and sandboxes, on their swing sets and with their animals.  What a treasure to walk to our cost-free local adventures with friends.  Here are some photos of our recent adventures.

Rodent Love

Splashing on hot days

Digging in shady sand

Taking time to journal on a local hike

Neighborhood green space

Home vs. Public Schooling

In my own inner debate between public school and homeschool, I made lists that helped me come to one decision.  After talking with friends about this choice, I see every family as a homeschooling family who pulls in different resources to educate our children.  This coming year we will utilize public school.  We would like to get back to homeschooling full-time, though public school is the right place for us at this time in our lives (with a daddy living with cancer and parenting a busy toddler).  There are only right answers for these challenging questions, as we navigate the plethora of options for parenting our children.  Here are my lists that helped me make a choice for our family at this point in time.

Pro-public school
  • Simplicity of scheduling, fewer activities
  • Quieter morning time for baby to nap
  • Absence makes the heart grow fonder. 
  • Save money (take taekwondo with extra funds)
  • Children get to experience public school for one year when they are young and don't lose out on later homeschool continuity.
  • Walk to/from school daily through park, stop to play
  • Learn social lessons without parental protection
  • Make friends on their own without family supervision
  • Gain resilience for trying new things
  • Deepen relationships with local kids
  • Baby gets regular quieter morning routine, maybe take a baby class
  • Exposed to new things not in our usual routines/programs 
  • Much less driving my children around to supervise them in classes, forced into helicopter parenting
Con-public school
  • We ALL lose social interaction time. 
  • Lose out on social/academic programs
  • May not get full refunds from programs 
  • Disconnects us from current friends
  • Bullying and non-child-centered program in school
  • Disconnection between siblings and child/parent 
  • No mid-week vacations (only taken mid-week due to prices)
  • Lose spot in homeschool co-op
  • Feels like giving children up for strangers to raise
  • Hannah is so sensitive and will be devastated by being made to attend public school. 
  • I fear being home without any children eventually and going back to a profession I dislike.
  • Probably I won't get any more of my personal projects done than I do now (currently invisible progress) without big kids home to entertain the wee one.
  • Con-public school:

Waves of the Day

We got a health update yesterday for my partner as he lives with cancer.  This update is based on scans taken a couple months ago.  The cancer is in the pleural lining of the lungs, turning this into a stage four uncurable case.  The cancer is right next to the liver and may be in the bones, turning it into a stage four B case.  We are aiming for a stage four A case with more treatment options.  Radiation and genetic mutations are now off the table.  My partner will have a scan in a week to see if two rounds (six weeks) of chemotherapy have made any impact.  Then we'll go from there.

We have relatives visiting this week and haven't yet made the time for a conversation past sharing this information.  With our home full of children, their first slumber party, our daily adventures together, and the joyful sounds of young cousins, I ride the waves of devastation, sadness, and delight.  Living in this moment, I move away from contemplating this diagnosis and into the casual discussion of simple, yet profitable restaurants with family.  My children squeal and shriek and play with cousins around me.  Life is amazing.  I am so grateful for this life I get to share with these remarkable, resilient people.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Baby Feet

I love baby feet.  They are so tiny and bendy and make me think of newly hatched butterfly wings.  And they grow so quickly.  What a treasure to get to love on baby feet.

Another Beautiful Day

Each day is such a beautiful gift.  As a family living with cancer, we see this gift more clearly.  I treasure a cloudy morning in August.  I treasure salmonberry blossoms covered in dew.  I treasure one last day to play with my best friend's children (as she packs) before they move to teach overseas.  I treasure another opportunity to gracefully decline time at Chuck E. Cheese.  I treasure pajamas.  I treasure my ten month old toddling around the house pulling bookmarks out of all our chapter books.  I treasure my five year old pulling his eye lashes out so he can make more wishes.  I treasure my oldest daughter spending every spare moment with her nose in chapter books.  I treasure my partner advocating for his health and asking many questions on the telephone with his doctors.  I treasure to ability to type on the computer in the middle of it all.  Each day brings such delights when we open our eyes and hearts to them.

Living with Cancer

We received the big news two weeks ago.  Today is the first day of my 43-year-old partner's chemotherapy treatment for stage 3-4 lung cancer.  Stage 4 is what doctors call treatable yet incurable, so we are moving forward with the faith of being in stage 3.  As my baby sleeps on my back, my son sings traffic safety songs at my feet, and my oldest daughter is at a day camp, I bake vegetables and meats to offer to their daddy upon his return this afternoon.  It will be nice for him to have options compatible with his ketogenic (sugar/glucose/carb-free) diet.

My husband usually does all the shopping for our family while I care for our three young children.  On my trip to the grocery store today, my first trip in a very long while, I ran into a friend who invited me to her home for our children to play together.  She has just started an energy healing practice out of her home and offered a session to me.  As the cashier scanned my items she asked what I would do with the rest of my day.  At this raw time, I cannot skim over my current pain.  I told her I was preparing foods for my partner on his first day of chemo.  Her eyes opened wide and she said, "My husband is doing chemo also!"  She gave me a hug, flowers, and wonderful advice that will change the course of my husband's care and extend his life.  ("Keep looking until you find a good oncologist.  Doctors are a dime a dozen.  My husband says he has to keep moving or he's done for the day.  We say he's living with cancer, not dying of it.")

What a blessing to be so open to the world in our time of need and receive such amazing gifts.  On one of my hardest days I ran into a caring friend, made a new one, and accepted healing words of support and encouragement.  When my partner will arrive in a zombie state in a couple hours, his cousin will stand with me as I read through all the prescription instructions.  My partner's cousins and siblings will reach out to let me know they are available to help.  Windows of opportunity are around us all the time.  Perhaps these challenging times make our windows more visible.  To see these gifts and to be open to them is a mighty treasure.

Uncommon Family Photos

My second child was still a baby in our family's last professional photo shoot.  Yesterday we had our first session with our family of five.  At a time when we are especially unsure of our future, this is a big deal for us.  Will my partner lose his hair with chemo?  What will our lives look like in six months?  Will he live with cancer to see another year?  Everyone in our family now has a cold except for my partner, who is under strict orders not to get sick.  At home he refuses to be separated from us, yet stays far enough away to stay healthy.  We presented an uncommon situation for our amazing photographer.

Near the end of the session, as my partner and I held each other and our children played in the background, I thought of how this closeness could make him really ill, how we were taking a risk to commemorate our togetherness, and how I may not be able to hug him like this in a decade.  Yes, I cried on film.  Each moment is an incredible gift.  The more we live in each moment, the easier these steps forward.  Bitter and sweet.  As is much of life.  I intentionally hold my partner while leaving a little space for what our future holds.  We live in these moments together, holding each other in the ways we are able.  I love my people.  I love my life.  I love this time together.  I love the closeness we share.

Treasuring Every Single Day

My dear partner has been diagnosed with late stage lung cancer.  He's nearing the end of his first three-week round of chemotherapy.  There may be five more sessions and six weeks of radiation as our first line of treatment.  We spent last night at the beach, two hours away, delighting in the adventure of being away from home, playing at the beach, spending time together.  It ended with a health crisis and our returning home asap.  Now my children and I have colds from swimming in a cold pool on a windy day.  A simple cold is no longer simple in our "new normal".  A cold can threaten the life of my partner.  Exhale.

This is just the beginning of a long road for us.  Next weekend we will have a family reunion for my partner's family.  Most relatives are flying to be near us from California.  My partner will have started chemo round two and will be unable to attend his own family's reunion.  Our children and I will go without him.  So many firsts.  So much love.  So much surrender, patience, and support.  And grace.

I feel myself pulling inward, moving through the motions of caring for my family, losing my sense of self, trying to sleep in my spare time.  There are so many swirling emotions: sadness, grief, uncertainty, hope, compassion, wonder, joy, gratitude.  Each day I wake, meditate, give great thanks for this life I get to share with my people, hold my partner and children close, and step into the adventures that await us.  We are surrounded by love and support.  We feel valued and validated.  We are so thankful for this time together, the ups and downs, the ebb and flow of our lives.  Taking nothing for granted, we treasure every single day together.