Thursday, August 4, 2011

A heart story

One of my good friends posted a link to a blog post this morning entitled "Heart" by Sharon Stevens. I read it (you can read it here) and was reminded of a short piece I wrote two years ago entitled Perceptions. I thought I'd share it here. It is one of my most beloved memories.

“Here, mama” the little five-year-old hand unfurled to reveal a shiny silver heart. It was the pendant from a long-lost chain that my treasure-hunting daughter had happily found one day as she played outside. The heart had been carefully stored in a treasure box for months, and I wondered why she was showing it to me now.

I looked at her, a little confused. “Mama, here!” She said with determination as she slapped my hand, leaving the prized heart laying on my open palm.

“Why are you giving me this?” I asked.

“Because now, everywhere you go, you’ll have my heart,” came the most precious reply.

My daughter had thought long and hard that day about what she could give me. The reason for this gift was because I spent a lot of time away from her and her 3-year-old brother. This was because her youngest brother, who was only 15 months old, had cancer. I spent weeks at a time in the hospital with him while he was undergoing what would turn out to be 11 months of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. I was a single mom. There was no option but to leave my daughter and son with relatives during those times.

She wanted to give me something so that I would know she was with me, even if I couldn’t see her. She gave me her heart.

Now, nine years later, as I transfer change and money from an old wallet to a new one, I catch a glimpse of a shiny silver heart in the change compartment. I am reminded, as I am every time I open that compartment, that I have my daughter’s heart.

I talked to her one day about this, and she didn’t remember giving me the gift. A gift that had such impact on me, and continues to mean so much to me never made it into the permanent files of her brain.

We must always be aware that our actions can be perceived by others in a different light than we see it. Small gestures that we may think trivial and are not registered in our permanent memory may be one of the most important moments in another person’s life.

Even if she doesn't remember, I'll always have her heart.

Friday, June 24, 2011

It's all precious

I posted this as a note on my Facebook page awhile ago. Recently, I've been trying to do more blogging, so I decided to post it here, as well. These pieces of thought will become a part of the book I'm writing this summer.
While cleaning today, I came across a little journal I used to keep in my purse when Nathan was sick. It has several pages in it that have my scribblings as things would come to me. Some of them are quotes that I used to read over and over for strength. Others are short observations I'd make. I thought I'd type those here - they seem to give one a sense of how that year formed the philosophies I live by today. Take from them what you wish.


The first one was written as I sat in the pediatric oncology wing at St. Francis Hospital in Wichita. The wing was originally built as birthing suites, then was converted to oncology when a new birthing wing was built.

This room, these rooms, once where infants breathed their first breath, have become where children breathe their last.

Once a place of great joy, now one with a potential for profound sadness, yet also a possibility of grand triumph.

Nathan's life has become so unreal, the fact that his is a rare form of cancer doesn't seem so odd.


This one was written while waiting in the doctor's office for a scheduled chemotherapy treatment.

Parents in Dr. Rosen's office -

There is a "look" parent of kids with cancer give each other. "I know", it says, "me too."

There is a look I find myself giving parents of healthy kids, "LIVE, LOVE! It's precious!" mine says.


Another entry from a hospital room . . .

Sitting in this hospital room, losing days of my own life, to sit awake at night listening to his little body shake with coughs, each breath a chore. My whimpering child, who I can do absolutely nothing for . . .


I gave this one a title - "Baby Steps"

Learning to line dance, the dance looks complicated at first. "I'll never be able to do that".

Start learning it just a few steps at a time. Gradually adding more difficult things. Repetition causes it to become easier. Add another step. Another.

After awhile, you are doing the entire dance and smiling at the thought that you ever considered it difficult.

Nathan was diagnosed with cancer. Piece by repetitious piece has been added. I don't know how many more pieces there are to this dance. I've never seen it in its entirety. It is unique to my son, but I know that God keeps showing me steps, over and over, until it becomes easy.


Some of you have heard me say the way I got through that year was because God gave me strength for the day each morning. Here is an entry that probably was the first time I ever thought of it that way.

Seems like I get just a little less "leeway" in strength. It's like each morning, God gives me just how much He thinks I need - no more, no less. I've been praying for him to give me just a little "cushion."


This is the last entry in the little book. I guess I must have felt victorious.

What is my worst fear? I have to come up with a new one, because I've had to face mine.

(Since I had been a girl in elementary school and read a book by Erma Bombeck "I want to grow up, I want to grow hair, I want to go to Boise", I had known my worst fear was to have a child with cancer. I still haven't gotten a new one).

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Traveling through Day 4

You might notice there isn't a Day 3 post. That is because the prompt for Day 3 asked us to think about it for 48 hours, so you'll see two posts tomorrow.

Here is the prompt for today:

If we live truly, we shall see truly. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Not everyone wants to travel the world, but most people can identify at least one place in the world they’d like to visit before they die. Where is that place for you, and what will you do to make sure you get there?

(Author: Chris Guillebeau)

As a science teacher and graduate with a Biology degree, the voyage of Charles Darwin on the HMS Beagle are fascinating to me. I have always wanted to visit the Galapagos Islands and see the remarkable creatures that Darwin saw. The islands are so unique in the variety of species who exist only in the Galapagos. I believe that is the one place I would really like to visit before I die.

What will I do to make sure I get there? As with most things I do in my life with regards to travel, I don't make a lot of well-thought plans. I have faith that an opportunity will present itself and I will make sure to take advantage of that opportunity.

Sound like a lack of a plan? It is. Isn't life better when we don't plan every detail?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The imposter

It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude. - Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

The world is powered by passionate people, powerful ideas, and fearless action. What’s one strong belief you possess that isn’t shared by your closest friends or family? What inspires this belief, and what have you done to actively live it?

(Author: Buster Benson)

Today's prompt was a little difficult for me. On the one hand, I really believe I have surrounded myself with like-minded people. Even when one of my family members disagrees with me, it is not about a fundamental, strongly held belief.

On the other hand, I strongly believe in the purpose of this writing challenge. I read the prompt many times, thinking that the prompt was meant to force us to really think - to be honest with ourselves.

As a result, I find that I have to be honest with you, so here goes:

Yes, I surround myself with people who have the same fundamental religious beliefs as I do, or at least believe in the same God. Yes, I tend to friend those who have similar philosophies to mine about life, about education, about living.

And here is the honesty - yes, I hold beliefs that are seemingly not shared by those closest to me. Here they are:

I believe that I am not a very good mother. I think that I have stumbled through the role and accidentally created five superb young people.

I believe that I pose as an educator. The entire time I was in a classroom for my day job, I came home feeling like an imposter. Those days when the students or other faculty were especially kind to me in expressing what they believed to be true about me were the days I felt the most like a plastic version of the teacher I thought I ought to be.

I believe that I lucked into having such a great husband. I believe I do not deserve him, and I think every day that it is only a matter of time before he figures this out.

I believe that my life being in a state of goodness is not because of anything I have done, it is in spite of it.

I do purposefully live the realities of these beliefs. I don't take compliments well - I find reasons why I'm not responsible for the good things people say. I look at myself in the mirror and see a disappointing version of who I wish I really was. The spirit of the prompt today was to give us a chance to think about our convictions and how we live up to them, but instead it has caused me to realize how limiting these beliefs have been for me over the years.

I will work toward changing my beliefs, or at least forgive myself for them. I've often said that if I had to describe my life in one word, it would be "lonely." It is the "independence of solitude" I have built for myself over the years that makes me feel that way. I have people surrounding me who love me, support me, believe in me - I must try to believe, as well.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Describing Today

Today's prompt in the #trust30 challenge is this:

If ‘the voyage of the best ship is a zigzag line of a hundred tacks,’ then it is more genuine to be present today than to recount yesterdays. How would you describe today using only one sentence? Tell today’s sentence to one other person. Repeat each day.

(Author: Liz Danzico)

My first thought was to say something about today being the first day of my journey, and I even took a picture of my coffee cup to illustrate my belief in this philosophy (and have gone ahead and attached it here).

After thinking that seemed too cliche for this challenge, I came up with the sentence that I think really describes today, whether you are in this challenge or not:

"Today is a blessing because I had only 15 minutes to live yesterday."

I think that encompasses both my belief in the journey and my firm knowledge that every single moment is borrowed.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

30 Day Writing Challenge

I came across a writing challenge today and it happened to be the first day of the challenge, so I decided to commit to it. You can see that I don't post to this blog often and the last time I did, I was also promising to regularly post following prompts.

I hope this time will be different. Following is my response to today's prompt in the #trust30 challenge.

Prompt: You just discovered you have fifteen minutes to live.

1. Set a timer for fifteen minutes.
2. Write the story that has to be written.

I've written many stories in my life and have decided this last needs to be a letter, rather than a story.

Having lived my life in recent years attempting to do each day as though it were my last, I find that in these last fifteen minutes, I have few regrets. One is that I didn’t keep in touch with my friends and that I do not have time to do so now.

To all those friends: I think about you all the time even though I don’t let you know. You made a difference in my life. I am happy with who I am today and part of who I am is you. Thank you for being a part of me.

Another, larger regret is that I won’t see four of my children graduate from high school or any of my children have families of their own. I won’t know my grandchildren and I, to them, will be just a name, a few photographs, and poorly remembered stories.

To my children: I hope that you are able to remember the important things I’ve taught you – be true to yourself; do what makes you happy, not what pays the most; try those things that seem too hard so that you won’t have to regret not having tried later and you just might discover something you love; strive towards following a journey with God – if you don’t succeed all the time, He understands; it is never too late to go back to school and become who you dream of being; choose carefully what you decide to stress about.

I also hope that you are able to forget or forgive the things I wish you never knew.

To my husband: You have made me complete and given me happiness that I never really believed I deserved. Your love for me has been so obvious and so unconditional that I have thanked God every day for giving me you.

To my future grandchildren: I have loved you even though I haven’t seen you. My biggest hope is that your parents are better parents than I was and that you find yourself leading a life that makes you happy and serves God above all else.

To the random reader: I am a storyteller, and if I had been given more than 15 minutes, I could have written volumes. Live your life as if you have only 15 minutes. Get to the point. Don’t waste time.