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Archive for July, 2010

The Cancer Center where I received my treatment is hosting a six week “Stress Reduction” course for cancer survivors as a follow-up to the Wellness Workshop I attended in May. Our first class was this evening. The facilitator, Pasha Hogan, opened the session by reading John O’Donohue’s poem For a New Beginning:

In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.
For a long time it has watched your desire,
Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,
Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.
It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the grey promises that sameness whispered,
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
Wondered would you always live like this.
Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plenitude opening before you.
Though your destination is not clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life’s desire.
Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

Hearing Pasha’s lilting Irish voice read these lines aloud was all the “stress reduction” I needed! I could have left right then and would have felt that I got something incredibly valuable from the class! But, of course, we went on to discuss a few stress management tools like “thought awareness” and “creating an inner sanctuary” – all very helpful in their way.

For me, though, just being reminded how any moment of our choosing can be its own New Beginning – that was enough.

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Hand-hewn wooden gate in Las Trampas, NM

One year ago today I was unexpectedly spending the night in the hospital for the first time in my life.

I had just spent the previous day (my birthday – July 13) on clear liquids, choking down a liter of “Go-Lytely” to get cleaned out for what was expected to be out-patient surgery the next day. I had a biopsy of my tumor on July 14 and wasn’t recovering from the surgery as rapidly as planned, so they kept me overnight. My most salient memory of that desperate night was begging the nurses not to catheterize me, to give me another hour to pee! It took all of my effort to get from the bed to the portable commode without losing consciousness even though it was about three feet away. [My very first blog post recounts all the gory details.]

And here I am, one hellish year later – having come through chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, and numerous other medical procedures and indignities – thanking God that I’m still here today and healthy.

Birthday Girl in Arroyo Seco

Yesterday was my 49th birthday. I’m tickled to report that it was one of the best ever! My sweetheart Tim and I decided to take a leisurely drive from Santa Fe to Taos by way of what’s commonly referred to as “the High Road.” We stopped in Chimayo (where some people report spontaneous healings at the Santuario) for a remarkable lunch at Rancho de Chimayo. We sat on the patio under an umbrella and ate the most delicious authentic New Mexican food – I had chicken enchiladas with green chile while Tim had chiles rellenos smothered in even more green chile. When our server learned it was my birthday, a very tasty flan was delivered to the table.

Church Crosses in Las Trampas

Church Cross in Arroyo Seco

We stopped along the way taking photos and enjoying the spectacular northern New Mexican scenery. In Las Trampas, we spent some time marveling at the San José de Gracia Church which was built in 1760. While Tim took photos of vintage trucks in Taos and Arroyo Seco, I stayed with my theme of snapping shots of church crosses against the blue sky. At the Rio Grande Gorge bridge, I delighted in leaning over the side looking down at the river hundreds of feet below while Tim nervously reached out to hold the railing – all white-knuckled. I bought a beautiful blue tea bowl from Rottenstone Pottery to add to my growing collection of handmade tea bowls.

As if lunch wasn’t terrific enough, we had dinner at Graham’s Grille near the Plaza in Taos. It’s become one of our favorite restaurants. Tim almost always gets the calamari appetizer and the duck entrée. This time, I had a dish of pappardelle noodles with goat cheese, mushrooms and spinach that was superb!

Church built in 1760 - Las Trampas, NM

The long, lovely day combined with a nice glass of red wine with dinner made me content enough to doze most of the way home while Tim dutifully stayed alert to drive. It was such a wonderful day of sight-seeing, eating, photographing and laughing – but the part I cherish the most was spending it together being thankful for the gift of another day.

I received the call telling me I had cancer on July 17, 2009. This year on July 17, I intend to spend the day creating more of my assemblage angels and being utterly grateful for the chance to do so.

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My dad’s mother, Helena Gardiner, would have been 100 years old today.  Her daughter, my beloved Aunt Carol, sent me the following few paragraphs in memory of her mom.

July 1, 1910, Mama’s birthday — 100 years ago.  Think of all that’s happened in the last 100 years!  An amazing time to live.
And has anything really BIG happened since October 1997 when she left us?  Well, 911, the obvious one, she would have been glued to the TV news. The current wars, but she lived through several of them, so nothing new there.  IPODS, IPHONES, IPADS, maybe.  Facebook?  Oil spills, major hurricanes and snow storms, and another financial crisis, like the one that happened in 1929, one year after she was married.  She always remembered that as the time she learned to fix ground beef 100 different ways.  But I think if she walked in the door today there wouldn’t be a whole lot of news for her to catch-up on, other than why her daughter looks so old, and when did we get a new car.  Of course, Karen’s tribulation, but she no doubt caught some of the prayers and was doing a bit of spiritual hand-holding in Santa Fe this past year.
I miss her, but so many of her physical idiosyncrasies are my own now.  I hear her when I laugh, sneeze or cough, and she still taps her onyx ring on the steering wheel whenever I drive, but when I look it’s my own hand and my wedding rings that are clicking.  I see her in my brother’s blue eyes, and remember her excited “Oh, Son, Son!” when he surprised her with a visit a few months before she died.  She left us with so many memories.  A single mom who would have smacked us if we had referred to her as such, but nonetheless, a woman abandoned to be the sole, if not financial than certainly emotional, support of her three youngsters.  A devoted mother who would never talk about dying, even in her advanced years, because she could not imagine leaving her children.  A survivor, a successful independent woman before society celebrated I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar!
Her 100th birthday — a good day to remember Mama.  — Carol

Grandmother

I knew this amazing lady as simply “Grandmother” (she would have it no other way – no shortened endearments like “Grandma” or “Granny” were acceptable!) and, thinking more about that today, I realize her properness had a big influence on me. Her love of nice things – china, silverware, glassware – obviously rubbed off on me! As a girl, I was always impressed that she dressed so impeccably no matter what the occasion was. And so I learned to love getting dressed up and going to her house for Easter and rolling eggs down the hill in her back yard. I recall she always made my dad remove his hat before sitting at the table – and to this day it bugs me a bit when a man wears a baseball hat during dinner.

She loved azaleas and roses, and by taking me with her to various public gardens over the years, she helped instill a lifelong love of gardening in her granddaughter.

She would have been 100 years old today, but would not have wanted you to know that.

Happy Birthday to my dear Grandmother – Helena Gardiner.

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