Friday, April 25, 2014

Times That Refresh The Soul

There are times which I always look forward to throughout the year.  The early days of spring in Colorado are so unpredictable.  One never knows if it will be a warm sunny day, or a day of wind and snow.  Some days we will have warmth, sun, wind and snow all in one day.  So, having grown up in a climate such as this, I never have huge expectations for a warm Easter celebration, but nearly always, I do host a celebration of some sort.  Mostly, I look forward to a time of renewal during Easter season.  Renewal comes to me through worship, time spent with family, and spending time in nature.

This year's Easter Weekend was so different from those in the past.  There have been few Easters when  my children and grandchildren have not gathered at my house.  This year, none of the children or grandchildren were here.  It seemed a bit quiet.  Quiet is good sometimes.  This year, I knew I just did not have the energy to entertain.  Also, my daughter who lives the closest had been traveling for her job for several weeks and naturally needed a weekend at home before she went on the next leg of work travel.

The Easter Weekend was mostly spent resting.  Good Friday services at church prepared my soul for an even more joyful Easter.  As we left the communion table on Friday night, we were asked to refrain from greeting each other until we reached the foyer outside the sanctuary so that we might remember the Body broken for us and the Blood shed for us.  The memory of a large congregation leaving silently after the service continues to touch me.  A dear friend hugged me momentarily as we made our way to the middle of the foyer, we parted silently and left the building with others still in silence.  In today's world, we have so few times when we actually experience corporate reverence expressed in silence.  As I left the church building, home of the church where I first began attending over thirty years ago, I was moved to gratitude as I reflected on the beauty of the service, the powerful sermon we had heard, and the overwhelming sense of homecoming that flooded my heart and mind.  Seeing the snow covered Pikes Peak looming large in the western sky anchors me always as it speaks of home and links me to my girlhood.

Hoping to buy a home with a view of Pikes Peak when we moved to my hometown in October of 2012, I moved that desire down on the list when we found our current home in the beautiful and peaceful Woodmen Valley.  Now, Blodgett Peak, with an altitude of 9, 423 ft. is a mountain peak I am growing to love as I watch her throughout the day.  At times, I  watch storms descend, rolling down  her sides, or watch as snow softly dusts her crown.  On our way home from church on Good Friday, I captured a view of the sun setting at the foot of valley in which I live.  Blues, and shades of grey or light purple colored the sky. The brilliant focal point of orange and yellow was perfectly framed by the deep blue black purple hues of the mountains that surround the dip between peaks.    (Blodgett is on the left side of the dip.)  Times like these on the journey towards home truly refresh my soul and bring great joy, peace, and hope.

On Sunday, after a joy filled Easter church service, my husband took me to The Margarita at Pine Creek for the brunch.  Our meal, as every meal there always is, was melt in the mouth good.  As we enjoyed eating the coffee cake served before the three course meal, we both spoke of summer and how we looked forward to coming to this place for farmer's market every Saturday.  I go for the produce and the coffee cake we purchase to eat as we listen to local bands on lazy Saturday mornings.  My husband goes for the coffee cake.  Summer is coming, and the harvest.  I don't want to rush things, but it is coming.

Later in the day, inspired by thinking of Easters gone by after my cousin wrote on Facebook how the memory of my beautiful mother's soprano voice came flooding back to her as she sang an Easter hymn in church that morning.  She asked my now nearly 98 year old mother to call her and sing to her.  Yes, mother's voice is still beautiful, and it blesses me each time I have the opportunity to stand beside her in church. I knew somewhere in my photos I had this photo of an Easter Sunday from my childhood.  In some ways, it is the quintessential photo that illustrates much of my earliest family traditions.

Taken in 1952 at my aunt and uncle's home either before or just after church, dressed in the turquoise colored raw silk dress made by mother and patterned after the dress she made herself, I am surrounded by those whom walked through childhood with me:  my mother, my sister, the one just smaller than I, my brother, dressed in coat and tie, my dear Aunt Katherine, my closest friend and cousin, Donna, born just ten days after I, her brother David, and her youngest sister, Diana.  My childhood centered around family, faith, and hometown schools and neighborhoods.  My father, not in the photo, received our smiles. My uncle, one always on the night shift at the railroad, was probably sleeping.
David, Rell, Donna, Sally, Carol and Diana
Alberta (Mother) and Aunt Katherine
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Perhaps it was the posting of this photo that prompted my cousin Diana to invite us to her home for dinner on the Monday evening after Easter to join her and husband as they hosted a gathering for her siblings Donna, who lives in Arizona in the winter, and her brother David and his wife, who spend most of the winter in North Carolina.  She also requested we bring Boston along for the evening so that he and her dog could finally meet and have a play date.  We've been anxious to have Boston and Nelly meet.  They are both golden retrievers.  Boston just turned three and Nelly is one.  

One of the great things about living back in my hometown has been how much time I am now able to spend with extended family.  Just as in our childhood, we cousins really loved to be together and just lived blocks from each other.  We went to church together and to school together.  Diana and I both returned home to Colorado Springs within months of each other in 2012.  Diana to us, she is Dian Regan Curtis (click to visit her website) to those who read and love her books.  After the tragic death of her husband in 2010, she returned "home" to marry a man she had known since junior high.   He was also a widower.  Her husband is a great guy and fabulous cook, so it is always a treat to be invited over for dinner.  Last Easter, they had spent the day with us at our home in a celebration that included several generations of cousins.  

Nelly and Boston got along extremely well and were very excited to meet and play together.  Boston was a bit of a bad boy.  He ran through the garden that had just been planted that morning.  He got in the pond and played while Nelly looked on with a disapproving and envious eye.  He took a bone from Nelly and would not give it back even when it was time to go home.  I hope he gets invited back again.  

Boston is keeping that bone safe from Nelly
After dinner, just as it was getting dark, we went out onto the patio and sat around a fire pit to continue enjoying the early spring evening.  Diana and S have one of the best lots in all of Colorado Springs.  From anywhere on the back of the property, one has a perfect, unobstructed view of Pikes Peak, and the Garden of the Gods.  Their home is frequently visited by deer, bear, and coyotes.  

Dian Regan Curtis
As you can see, we had to bundle up to go out into the night air.  Thankfully, Diana had a closet full of warm coats that we could borrow.  It had been a warm sunny day when we left for dinner.  Once the sun went down, it was a perfectly beautiful, crisp, cool evening.  It reminded me of evenings from our childhood when we sat before a campfire and listened to the stories told by our aunts and uncles.  Storytelling is part of our family heritage.  Diana made storytelling a successful career.   

Here is a photo of our hosts, the happy newly weds, with Nelly who just recently turned one.  S has to deal with two red heads.  I'm sure this keeps him on his toes.
With my iPhone, I took this photo of my cousins who were also in the photo taken in 1952 shown shown earlier in this post.  These three have always been as much a part of my life as my own siblings.  Donna, and I are especially close.  (I wrote a blog post about Donna.  You can read it here: Cousins Ready Made Friends For Life.)  She lost her oldest daughter to cancer in September, so now we share the sorrow of losing a daughter.  
Yes, our history is very linked.  Here we are on our very first Easter celebration.  
Mother, Rell, Aunt Katherine
Sally and Donna

We've come a long ways since those baby days, but our bonds are deeper than ever.  Time spent with my cousins always stirs up memories of long ago when our gatherings included our grandparents, our aunts and uncles, and a houseful of cousins laughing, teasing, telling jokes, and playing games.  Now, only my mother and one uncle remain from the generation that went before us. I think it the bond and shared history that comes from spending time with my cousins that refreshes my soul.  Laughter is also good medicine.  I've always loved the wit that I find in my family.  They never fail to make me laugh with the great wit that so many display.  

For instance, Diana shared this on her facebook page just after she invited us and our dog to her house for dinner.  
 I told her I wasn't coming to her house for dinner again unless I knew for sure she used commas.

Thankfully, my husband also loves my cousins and looks forward to spending time with them.  He grew up never having a cousin.  Now, he has been adopted into my family of cousins.  Needless to say, our early springtime celebrations have been just perfect, just what we needed this year.  I'm so very grateful to be living in this place at this time where I am surrounded by great beauty in the world around me and the love and laughter of those whom I have known since my earliest days.  

That man next to me, and his dog, they also fill my heart with love and joy.  I am blessed.  

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Feeling A Bit More of A Spring In My Step

The snow fell again today.  My response to the snow was so different from my response the last few times it has snowed.  Perspective makes all the difference in the way one sees snow in April.  Early this evening, just as the light of day was beginning to fade, as I watched the snow fall softly just outside my window, feelings of peace and security filled my mind.  The snow, quickly swallowed up by thirsty earth, brightened the emerging green of the grass.  The earth emitted a smell of spring.  Snow may have been falling, but in my heart, I know spring's promised renewal is on its way.

I'd nearly missed watching trees coming to life this year.  I'd not seen any flowers blooming.  For the last twelve days, my view has mostly been limited to what I saw outside the windows of my house.  Things still looked mostly bleak, dry, and brown.  Inside my mind and body, I've been fighting to get well.  I've exhausted, ill, and uncomfortable.  Fear kept knocking at my door.  Was I ever going to feel well again?

Today, my dear and patient, but also very weary, husband drove me to Denver to see the surgeon.  The word is:  I am healing very well on the outside, but the inside is taking longer than it takes most folks after gallbladder surgery.  The doctor spoke of the abscess and assured me it would dissolve.  He told me he had been confident all would be fine last week when he saw the labs and CT scan because all bile ducts were fine and other complications that could occur were not present.  He spoke of the bell curve of healing.  The teacher in me identified with that analogy well.  He said a few are out skiing in four days, others are doing very well after four or five days, and a few are having problems after a week.   "Where am I on the bell curve?" I asked as I reminded him that I was a retired teacher.  I was thinking I must be in 70 IQ range of the curve if we were using the bell curve for healing.  "Oh, you are definitely in the "A" range of the curve.  You have an "A," he said.  "That's good," I replied, "because I only do "A's."  In truth I thought he was only trying to make me feel better.  I am just glad we are not graded on how quickly we heal, or why we heal one way or the other.  

He said I looked so much better than I had in the ER last week.  I mentioned that make-up helped.  He had seen me sans make-up the last time we met.  He said, make-up had nothing to do with it.  "It was in the eyes," he said.  He said he couldn't decide if I was showing exhaustion, pain, or worry in what he saw in my eyes.  "All of the above," I said.

As I look back on the twelve days it has been since my surgery, I can't help but reflect on the experience.  Perhaps, I needed this time to grow in my own determination to work towards good health.  Perhaps, I needed this time to grow in faith. Perhaps, I needed this time to feel deeper compassion for those who are very ill and suffer more than I will ever imagine possible.  Perhaps, I needed this time to gain a new admiration for those in the medical field that I have the good fortune to have on my team.  

Today, as we left the doctor's office, I felt a new awakening.  My confidence in the process of healing was strengthened.  To celebrate, given the fact that I had not eaten a decent meal in at least five days and had not eaten a decent meal for about seven days before that, I asked my husband to take me to my favorite lunch spot in Denver:  The Bistro at Nordstrom at Cherry Creek Mall.  We sat in our favorite booth.  We even were served by our favorite server.  We savored the club sandwich.  I ate as many French fries as I dared to eat, dipping them in the wonderful Kalamata Olive Aioli Dip that Nordstrom Bistro makes.  I love that dip!  

My husband drove down University Boulevard to get to I25 from Cherry Creek Mall.  He said he did not want to deal with Colorado Boulevard again today.  The first thing that jumped into my mind, was Bonnie Brae Ice Cream.  "Since we are going down University, could we stop into Bonnie Brae?" I asked.  I figured that since I'd risked eating French fries, I might as well add a little ice cream to my sensitive, anti-biotic filled digestive system.  It had been a very long time since I'd had any fat in my diet.  Ice cream really sounded good.  

On our way to my favorite ice cream shop, I drank in the beauty of the soft green petal like growth of new leaves on the trees.  We drove around the block near the ice cream shop.  I always love the flower filled yards in that area.  The tulips and daffodils in the area seemed to bloom just for me.  I realized I'd nearly missed seeing forsythia bushes blooming this year while I've been cooped up inside my house.  

Isn't funny how just going to a favorite place can lift your spirits?  Who couldn't be happy here?

As I ate my small serving of my favorite flavor of ice cream, peppermint from Bonnie Brae, I looked out of the window at the scene that promised the hope of many fun summer evening visits for many during the months ahead and felt more of the load of winter and illness and worry lift off my shoulders.  

I saw the potted geraniums that were boldly placed on the table just outside from where I was sitting. Just seeing these red summery looking blossoms made think of warmer days that will soon be here.  I love those optimists that set out potted geraniums on an April day in Colorado when snow is in the forecast for later in the day.  These people know that we must capture sunshine while we can.  Geraniums can always be moved indoors later in the day, but it is a sign of a good gardener and positive person to move plants outside while the sun was shining.  

Too soon, our time in the ice cream shop was over.  As y husband and I drove north towards home, we watched  clouds, heavily pregnant with moisture,  drift down the sides of the mountains.  We knew that snow would soon be falling. In fewer than forty minutes after we left our sunny ice cream eating spot, we were in a springtime snow storm.  

The snow can fall.  It won't last long.  The flowers are beginning to bloom.  I will soon be outside digging in the dirt.  Yes, I am feeling a bit of a spring in my step.  

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Surgery Update

A week ago yesterday, I had my gallbladder removed laparoscopically.  Once the surgery was done, and I had spent some time in recovery, I was sent home.  That is how this surgery is done these days.  I expected to be up and going by the fourth day or so.  In fact, on the fourth day, which Tuesday, April 8, I felt quite well.  Since I had been cooped up for a few days, and since the day promised to be a beautiful warm one, and since it also marked the anniversary date of what would have been my daughter's 38th birthday, I suggested to my husband that we drive down to Pueblo, where we used to live, to take a walk in the sunshine.  The weather was perfect.  The flowers and trees were in bloom.  I actually took some photos, which might be quite nice ones, but I don't seem to have the energy to download the images off of my camera.  The day was actually a wonderful day.  I walked quite a bit, and then Jim and I had dinner and came home.

The next day, I didn't feel well.  I thought perhaps I had overdone.  I had pain where my gallbladder once was, and I was chilled.  A neighbor stopped by to visit and to bring a homemade treat.  While she was there, my husband said, "Sally, you don't look well.  You need to go to bed."  My neighbor agreed, and I went to bed and slept for the rest of the afternoon.

On Thursday, I thought I really should be better.  Others told me that they had returned to work on the third or fourth day, and yet here it was the sixth day after surgery and I felt worse than ever.  I called my doctor.  He said complications are extremely rare, and said he wasn't worried about the chills if I had no fever.  He also said if I was real concerned,  I could either go to the emergency room or give it one more day.  I gave it one more day.  Jim had a sleep study at the hospital that night.  I just thought I could rest and be better.  I didn't think I needed to disrupt everything and go to the ER.  Besides, I hate the ER and am quite tired of making trips there.

The next day, Friday, which was the seventh day after surgery, the pain was worse than it had been.  I could move around better, so the surgical pain did not seem to be the problem, but deep down inside I had a deep, sharp pain.  I also was chilling.  I called the doctor.  His nurse seemed to think that the problem was not the surgery.  I wondered if I was having pancreatitis.  I was told to call my GI doctor.  I did.

That is when things began to shift.  I can't say enough good things about the doctors at National Jewish and my doctor in particular.  When she was told what was going on with me, her nurse called me right back and said that pain on the seventh day after laparoscopic surgery is not the norm.  Dr. M. said that her nurse would call the surgeon's office and tell them that this was an acute situation and I needed to be assessed STAT.  I then got a call from the surgeon's office telling me to go to the lab at Rose Medical in Denver for blood work.  "How quickly could I be there?"

Since, our original plan had been to drive north of Denver on Friday to babysit my grandchildren that day, we were actually already packed and ready to go.  I said we would be there in an hour and a half if traffic cooperated.  Thankfully, I then suggested to my husband that we board the dog rather than taking the chance of me being tied up at the hospital while Jim had to deal with the dog.  Jim's daughter came over and got Boston and took him to doggie daycare.  After daycare, he would then be boarded.  With the dog taken care of, we were off to Denver.

About half way there, my cell phone rang.  It was Dr. M. from National Jewish.  She wanted to know where I was and what my plan was.  I said I was going to have labs at Rose Medical as that was what my surgeon's nurse had said to do.  I told her I was in Castle Rock and expected to be at the lab in about 45 minutes.  That is when Dr. M., my GI doctor at National Jewish,  told me that she did not want me to go to the lab.  She said, "You are to go directly to the emergency room at Rose Medical."  I followed her directive.

Rose Medical was first class all the way.  They quickly admitted me, took my history, drew lab work, and sent me down for a CT scan with contrast.  My pain was getting worse and worse.  I was becoming nauseated.

Soon the labs were back with good news.  I did not have any indication of infection.  My liver and pancreatic enzymes were normal.  In fact, my labs looked perfect.  Thank God.  The CT scan told us what was going on.  I have an intra-abdominal abscess.  It appears to be a "collection of fluids" about an inch or so across in size.

The nurses were just getting ready to send me up to a room when my surgeon came in.  He was very kind.  He also was reassuring.  He said that since I didn't have indications of infection, he wanted to give me a big dose of antibiotics in the hospital.  He then wanted me to go home because he didn't think that my condition was serious enough to require hospitalization.  I was given instructions to call immediately if things changed once I got home.  I was sent home with two antibiotics, pain meds, and four pages of instructions on what I was to do and watch for.

Today, has been mostly good.  I am taking the antibiotics and hoping they do the trick.  I have some pain this evening.  I am still chilling some.  I have spoken with the doctor.  It seems that we are doing all that can be done.  We just have to give the drugs time to work.

I hope this takes care of it.   I am confident that I am in good hands.  I just had a fluke happen to me that is quite rare.  I am grateful for caring doctors.  I am most grateful that Dr. M. told me to go to the ER because if I'd only had labs done, the abscess would not have been found and who knows what could have happened.  So far, I don't have any regrets on having the surgery.  This could not have been foreseen.  Hopefully by next week I am as good as new and all of this is behind me.  I won't be one of those that says that my gallbladder surgery was the easiest surgery I ever had.  Well, I guess the surgery was fine.  It was what happened afterwards, and who knows why that happened, that wasn't so great.

If you think of me, lift up a prayer.  I am encouraged by the good labs.  I am hoping I can tolerate the antibiotics without side effects.  I'll keep you posted.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Health Reports~Should They Public or Private?

I hardly know how to begin this post.  I have had such heartfelt wishes for my recovery as I prepared for gallbladder surgery that at times I felt a bit overwhelmed.  It is a blessing to know that one has so many friends in the world out there cheering one on through the good days and the bad days.  The surgery, scheduled for 2:30 in the afternoon on this past Friday actually didn't take place until around 3:00.  I was on my way home by around 6:30 that same evening.  It seems rather unimaginable that such surgeries can take place so quickly these days.  That is the  beauty of removing the gallbladder laparoscopically.  While my activities are somewhat limited, and I do have some pain, I am just amazed at how well I am doing.  Thank you all so much for your good good wishes, prayers, phone calls, and cards.  I am feeling quite cared for.

I recall the time over Labor Day Weekend in 1965 when President Lyndon B. Johnson had his gallbladder removed.  I was at my grandparent's home, staunch Democrats, when my grandmother showed me a photo of the President showing the world his gallbladder scar.  It was quite shocking to many that he would so publicly discuss his surgery and show his wound.  My grandmother was quite appalled.  Her sense of decorum was quite upset by his decision to show the world his scar.  

I decided I would look to see if I could find that photo on the internet.  It is out there, but it is copyrighted, so I'm not including it in this post.  It is interesting to find out, these forty-nine years later, that Johnson was politically motivated when he pulled up his shirt and showed his long scar to the reporters waiting for a story.  Evidently, some thought Johnson had cancer and that the public was just being given the story that he had gallbladder surgery.  He asked what a scar for exploratory cancer would like and was told it would look nothing like a gallbladder removal scar, so LBJ showed the world that his scar proved he did not have cancer.  (Read more about it here if you are interested.)

I'm so glad I don't have a long scar to show you. (No, I wouldn't show it to you anyway.) We've come a long ways surgically since the sixties.  The procedure to remove a gallbladder now takes only about thirty minutes. I was in recovery for about another two and a half hours.  After that, I was sent home to be cared for by my dear husband.  

Surgical methods are not the only things that have drastically changed since the sixties.  Now, it seems that our health issues, good and bad, are discussed openly on the web by those of us who feel no qualms about doing so.  

I do hope that this surgery will solve many of the issues that I have had for some time.  Time will tell.  Some wondered why I went to Denver to have my surgery when I live in Colorado Springs. My husband and I even laughed a bit on our drive to Denver, which is about 65 miles from our home because when we lived in Pueblo, we drove 45 miles to doctors in Colorado Springs.  Now that we live in Colorado Springs, we are driving to Denver.  The reason I went to Rose Medical Center is because I have suffered for over a year with severe pain in my upper right quadrant.  I was hospitalized for three days in Colorado Spring last May because of the pain and the lab reports that went with it.  I've made no fewer than five trips to the emergency room in Colorado Springs with this problem.  I've had labs drawn, and I've had more labs drawn.  I've had two MRI's of my gallbladder, more scans than I can remember, and a HIDA scan.  While none of these tests were conclusive that I had gallbladder disease, the pain and nausea were making my life miserable.  

I had gone to an excellent GI doctor at National Jewish Health last spring after not getting any answers that were conclusive about my GI problems from doctors here in town.  Dr. M. has expertly guided my medical care ever since.  Finally, after inconclusive pancreatic tests done at the University of Colorado, and after my pain continued without showing an elevated lipase level, Dr. M. sent me to her surgeon for a consult.  He meticulously went through my records and said that if I was ready to have my gallbladder removed, he would perform the surgery.  I could not have been happier with the kind of care and the level of expertise that I received from this fine surgeon and from Rose Medical.

I am hopeful that I am on the upswing when it comes to my health.  I am off all of my heart meds and that has greatly improved my over all GI health.  I am watching my diet and exercising to fight pre-diabetes.  I have a fine team of doctors who are monitoring my auto-immune issues.  It has been a long journey.  

Health and Grief

I've learned much about the effect that grief and loss has on the body.  I remember a phone call from a dear friend just days after my daughter had died.  This friend, no stranger to the kind of shock that I had received, had worked with my husband as an assistant principal at one time.  She told me what to expect during the next few years as I mourned the tragic death of my daughter.  She was the first one who told me that grief can compromise health.  

I've always been an optimistic person.  I think that whatever I faced in life, I just pushed through and did what had to be done.  I found that I could no longer do that after Julie died.  

I hesitated to have surgery so close to Julie's birthday.  She would have been 38 years old tomorrow if she had lived.  I know that this time of year is hard for me and her family.  I also know that Julie would want me to go forward and take care of my health.

Just walking into a hospital and putting on a hospital gown is more than I can bear.  When I first saw Julie after her death, I was shocked to see her in a hospital gown.  I will forever remember the print that was on the gown.  

I was once given a surgical gown made of the same print about a year after she died.  I bravely put it on, fighting back the tears.  The nurse came once I had changed and lowered the bed to give me an i.v.  My blood pressure plummeted and I passed out cold.  The next thing I knew, I was in an ambulance and on my way to the hospital where I went through hours of testing.  

Thankfully, in the four years since Julie's death, the designs on surgical gowns have changed.  I can pick up a hospital gown and put it on.  I can do that.  Not easily, but I can.

In preparing for last week's surgery, I was quite upbeat.  I could not wait to get it done.  I wished it would happen at a different time of year, but I was more than ready to go forward.  I don't think I was that nervous about the surgery.  I felt I was in good hands.  Yet, I was not prepared for what happened as I came out of surgery.  

It seemed I'd barely been wheeled into the freezing cold operating room, and lifted my body from the hospital gurney to the hard, skinny operating table when I was quickly administered the anesthesia.  As I moved my body from flat surface to the other, I thought of making that same move from gurney to table to give birth. I commented on how skinny the table was.  "Are you going to tie me on in case I get too crazy during surgery?" I jokingly asked the nurse?  I remember she said, "yes."  Then I was gone.

I woke up in pain in recovery.  I was crying for Julie.  Literally, I was calling her name and crying.  I've not had extreme physical pain like I experienced right out of surgery since her death.  I remember thinking that it felt like I'd just given birth via a c-section, but I've never given birth via c-section, so how would I know how that felt?  All I know is that in my physical pain, I could only cry for her pain and hope that she had not suffered.  Grief is funny that way.  It hits you in the body when your defenses are down.  It hit me hard.  

Julie & Mom
Walking for A Cure

Today, I wrote this poem about that experience.  I am sharing it in the hope that it will help others know that they are not alone as they suffer the loss of a child.  I am sharing it because as I heal physically I know I am still on a long journey of  emotional and physical suffering that accompanies  the loss of my beautiful daughter.  I am healing, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  I am doing what it takes to move toward health.  Thank you for being by my side in the journey.  


I cried out for you.
Anesthesia just losing its grip on body and mind,
Shocked by the pain.

I'd been just fine.
Then I was in no man's land.
I felt nothing,
Remembered nothing.

 Awakened, not knowing where I was,
Pain took over. 

Just as on the day you took your life,
I went from happiness to shock,
And unbearable pain. 

This time shock and pain cried out for you.
Your mother 's body experienced shocking, cutting pain.
Did you feel pain?
Did you?
I can't bear that as you left this life you might have felt the cutting pain that severed your life from mine. 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Seeking Stillness ~ Creating Community

Seeking Stillness

Do you have a sanctuary?  Do you have a place where you can be still?  Do you have a place where you feel safe?  For me, my physical sanctuary is my study, which is also the guest room.  I have carved out two little corners for myself in this sanctuary.  One corner contains my small desk where I write.

The other corner contains my reading chair.

Throughout my life, I have always had to have my solitude.  Along with that solitude, I've always needed a place where I could go to close out the world and connect with my inner world.  I connect best to that inner world through reading and writing.  Without stillness, and that place where I can just "be," I would never be able to function in the world at large.

Despite my need for solitude, and stillness, I also thrive on the energy created by other people around me.  I could not be happy if I were not a part of community.  In my need for solitude, I am not a loner.  I am a "people person," yet, I cannot always be surrounded by people.   Ironically, while I re-energize and heal through solitude and stillness, I find that I am also building community through the reading and writing that I do in that solitude.

This morning, I had a Bible study to attend.  That meant that I needed to up no later than 7:30.  I planned on getting up at 7:00.  My husband also needed to get up early, so he had set an alarm for 7:00.  I had a rough night.  Late in the day yesterday, my gallbladder had acted up. In the middle of the night, I was awakened by nausea.  I heard the alarm at 7:00, but I ignored it.  At 7:20, my husband came into the bedroom to gently wake me.  I appreciated his nudge.  I then asked if it had snowed as was predicted.  "Yes, but there are no school closures yet," he said.  So, I pulled myself out of bed and made my way to the shower as my husband checked the church website and the church school website to see if anything was posted saying that the school was closed due to the snow.  If this had been true, our Bible study would have been cancelled.

I know it is the third day of April, but we had snow today, lots of it.  After my shower, I walked into the kitchen to get my coffee that my sweet husband had already made for me and looked out of my kitchen window.  This was my view:

My decision for my day was made as soon as I put together a few factors:  it had snowed quite a bit; I still was feeling quite nauseous; I had not slept well; and, I am having surgery tomorrow.  Tomorrow, after a year of quite a few gallbladder attacks, and more testing than one would ever imagine, I am finally having gallbladder surgery. I decided today was a day to stay home.  

"I need to just be still today,"  I told my husband.  "I need to take the time to rest up and prepare for tomorrow."  My husband fully agreed with my decision to take the day to rest.

And so, today, instead of building community with the lovely ladies in my Bible study, and instead of being able to spend some time with one of my best friends, I chose to take the time to do some reading and some writing.  I chose to connect with the community that I find in books.  I chose to connect with the community that I find through blogging.  

Today, I chose Mary Pipher's book, Writing to Change the World, for my reflective text.  This book was on my bedside table because I had recently retrieved it from a bookshelf downstairs to use in preparing for a writing prompt for the monthly writing time I have with my writing partner, Iris.  From my notes in the margin of the book, I learned I had first purchased this book in July of 2007.  Mary Pipher, a favorite non-fiction writer of mine, and author The Middle of Everywhere:  Helping Refugees Enter the American Community, had through her excellent book on how to be a cultural broker provided me with one of the great texts I had used when I was teaching in the area of linguistically and culturally diverse education at Colorado State University-Pueblo.  Just after I retired, I found the book she had written in 2006 on writing and decided it could become a great text for my retirement years which I hoped would be filled with time for writing.  The inspiration I used in writing today's blog post, came from a portion of a chapter title in Writing to Change the World: "Seeking Stillness/Inspiring Action."

I've been mostly retired for nearly seven years now.  At times, I can't believe it has been that long.  I truly did hope to spend a large portion of my retirement days writing.  I thought I would be able to sustain the discipline of having a schedule similar to that which while I had while working when I began retirement.  Knowing my personality, this was really a very preposterous idea, but I did have hope that I would do so.

Today's Reflection:  Creating Community through Reading, Writing, and Blogging

Reading has always been one of my favorite pastimes.  One enlarges and enhances one's world by reading.  One creates an community of character's in one's mind through reading.  One visits other countries, centuries, and cultures through reading.  Reading, just for reading's sake, has never been the driving force in my reading life.  I read to connect to the author, and to the characters in the story.  I think much of my life is about building connection; therefore, I read to build connection to myself and others.  

Blogging, when was the first time you heard that term?  For me, I have a very distinct memory of when I had first heard the terms blog and blogging.  I must admit that I had no idea what either word meant.  I was meeting with the English Department Chair at CSU-Pueblo when he spoke of blogging.  I would imagine that the year was 2005.  As a program coordinator in the Education Department, I was hired to write the curriculum and develop the program where teachers and pre-service teachers could take the classes necessary to add an endorsement to their teaching certificates that would enable them to teach  linguistically diverse (ESL) students.  The process of writing the curriculum and creating the endorsement involved, among other things, building a strong relationship with other departments.  During my meeting with him, Dr. S, almost as a side note, mentioned how he was quite fascinated by blogs and was thinking about how to build them into the English curriculum.  I smiled, tried to act as if I knew what he was talking about, wrote the word "blog" in my notes, and said, "Yes, that is an interesting idea."  When I got back to my office, I did a Google search of the word, read a bit about blogging, decided it made no sense to me, and filed the idea away in the back of my mind.  I had no intention of building blogging into the curriculum I was writing.

In 2007, I read more about blogs in Pipher's book Writing to Change the World.  Chapter Fourteen, "Blogs - A Revolutionary New Tool,"  gives the reader a short summary of the history of blogging and includes a brief assessment of blogging and how people all over the world were using blogs to give voice to all sorts of social and political concerns.  She also speaks of blog  "building communities, sometimes international ones, of people who do similar work."  (p. 221)

It is interesting to note that in the margin of the book next to a paragraph about how blogs provide instant self-publication opportunities that seem to "emphasize self-reflection and social commentary," I drew a * in the margin and re-wrote the words:  self-reflection and social commentary."  (A * in the margin has always served as an indicator to me that this is an important point to remember from my reading.)  At this point in my life, blogging was purely textbook knowledge.  I saw its value as a way to connect to the world.  I even saw its value as a writing tool, but I had not made it a part of my life.

As I initially intended when I began my day today,  I have spent time in my sanctuary where I came seeking stillness.  I have rested, and I have read.  In my stillness, my inner being has been been at work.  My thoughts have given way to expression through writing.  This is the natural process for me.  It is one I have followed for many years.  But now, I write not only for me in my journal, I also write on my blog.

I first began blogging in response to becoming a part of our family blog in June of 2008. This private, family only, blog was created my daughter Keicha, who now writes her own blog at O-townramblings.  Our family blog was an active, happy part of our lives through much of 2008.  Soon, our exchanges on Blogger were replaced by exchanges on Facebook.  I miss our family blog.  I wish we would resurrect it and use it again.   Like many other things in the life of our family, our family blog died a quiet death after the death of our daughter and sister Julie in 2010.  The header of our family blog contained this quote:  "AMONG THOSE WHOM I LIKE OR ADMIRE, I CAN FIND NO COMMON DENOMINATOR, BUT AMONG THOSE WHOM I LOVE, I CAN: ALL OF THEM MAKE ME LAUGH." W.H. AUDEN  Perhaps, after Julie's death we just could not find ourselves able to tell each other our funny stories.  I don't know when we began to have funny stories again.  Did we ever have them again?  There was just too much sadness, heartbreak, and unfortunately, we soon found ourselves isolated from each other when we needed each other the most.

I began my own blog on June 28, 2008 in response to a class assignment when I was taking a semester long class through the Southern Colorado Writing Project.  I did not post another entry until November 4, 2008.  (Click to read that post.)  It is clear from my writing, that my target audience was my family.

Today, April 3, 2014, I am writing my 299th blog post.  Today marks a milestone of sorts.

I have not only spent my day seeking stillness through reading, I am sharing my day via my blog.  Through blogging, I have welcomed others into my inner and outer world.  I did this quite by accident.  I could not have created this special community to which I belong through any sort of design of my own.  In some miraculous, serendipitous way, I have found myself a participatory member of the larger community.  When I seek stillness, or healing, or laughter, or support, or new insight, or friendship, I do so by sitting in the corner of my sanctuary at my desk.  Here, I connect to myself and to others across several continents by writing and by joining in the blogging community conversation.  How would I ever imagined all of this when I first heard the word blog?

And, so, as I prepare myself mentally for tomorrow's gallbladder surgery, and for the recovery time that I will have after the surgery, I find it interesting that I not only feel it necessary to tell my closest friends about the procedure, but I also find it important to share this information with my blogging community.  I hope to be back reading and writing soon.  In the meantime, know that your friendships have sustained me and enriched my life more than any of you could ever imagine.