Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Mess Sharing

Hello again! Remember me?

It's nice to be human again. Nearly two weeks ago I had my fourth chemotherapy treatment. It was a new drug with a whole new set of side effects and it knocked me on my butt for a week. Just as the side effects were waning a nasty cold and fever appeared on the scene and I found myself back in bed (and briefly at the hospital). But today is a new day and a new week and I am feeling more like myself than I have in ages.

So much has happened since the last time I was able to sit down and write; there's so much I want to say, so many funny little stories to share. Since I was last here I have had dinner with 25 Extremely Fascinating Women, Dude has finished his riding lessons, Crafty has completed Girl Guides, Mr. Awesome had a birthday, I sang my way through some sketchy medical care, Crafty has turned 10, Mr. Awesome has gone back to work, Mischief has decided to start a business as 'cleaner-uper'  and I have had countless fantastic conversations and encounters with oodles of magnificent people.

The most amazing thing about this life journey I'm on, continues to be the people I meet. It seems that no matter where I go I end up in great conversations where I have the opportunity to encourage someone almost as much as they've encouraged me. My life wasn't like this before but somewhere along the way things changed, I changed.

I used to hate making small talk, especially with strangers. I didn't want to hear about some check-out lady's grand kids and I couldn't care less about the mailman's vacation plans. I wanted my life to be about me. I wanted everything to be fast, convenient and catered to my likes, my needs and my schedule. I liked people but only on my terms, just as long as they didn't ask too much of me, take too much time away from the things I wanted to do and as long as they weren't 'messy'.

And then I grew up.

Opened my eyes and looked around.


Somewhere along the way I realised that I was miserable and the cause of my misery was Me. Living my life so deeply invested in my own junk was toxic; it's not how were we created to be. In the beginning God looked at lonely Adam and decided that One is the loneliest number so He created Two and then Three and then Four. And then life got messy but at least so one was alone in their mess.

Life does get messy and complicated when you let others in but if you're honest with yourself you'll realise it was messy and complicated when you were by yourself, too. And you were lonely to boot. When you let others in, when you ask questions and care, some of their mess might get on you but you also get to unload some of your own and in this Mess Sharing a crazy thing happens; the mess doesn't seem so bad. Problems don't seem so overwhelming and sadness doesn't seem to deep. There's something else that happens, too.

Joy is amplified, Hope expands, Dreams abound, Inspiration overflows, Courage is strengthened, Love multiplies and the Future is brighter when life is shared. Everything bad diminishes in the light of friendship and everything good grows in the warmth of togetherness.

And that's just as it was created to be.

Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.

Helen Keller

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Creation Calls

Yesterday morning, for just a second before I opened my eyes, I was transported 300km and 17 years. For that brief moment between dreams and reality I thought I was 19 years old and at Manitoba Pioneer Camp; I thought that until I realised that my bed was softer than my bunk and my duvet was warmer than my sleeping bag and I didn't hear the scurry of tiny mouse feet across the floor. I'm 36, not 19, and I was asleep in my bed, beside Mr. Awesome with the sounds of The Wee Ones at the breakfast table, not huddle in my bunk with a roommate asleep overhead and the sounds of birds chirping and waving lapping against the rocks drifting through my open window.
Maybe it was the cold air that filled my room from the window left open, maybe it was the gentle sound of rain hitting the roof or maybe its just this time of year but I was suddenly homesick for a place I was only a part of briefly but has stayed in my heart these 17 years. Spring always calls me back, creation itself seems to beckon me to that little island on Shoal Lake with those plywood cabin, rows of red and aluminum canoes and the craziest, most beautiful group of people I've ever had the privilege to work with, live with and mature with.

I applied for the position at MPC on a whim. One afternoon, as I was leaving the university library, I noticed a green photocopied flyer on the jobs bulletin board. It said something about Real Wilderness, Adventure and Fun and it had a picture of a ton of kids sitting on a dock. I paused and read over the job openings and realised I could do almost any of the jobs listed and I didn't have any plans for the summer and I desperately wanted to do something that was me, for me and completely independent of my parents.

Right there on the spot I called the camp office. After mispronouncing the camp director's name and fumbling my way through a brief phone interview he invited me to stop by his office on my way home from university. Three hours later I was walking out of the camp office with a job and a list of supplies for the summer and meetings I'd have to attend before we left in three weeks. Wilderness Camp? What the heck did I know about wilderness camp?!

I had no idea just what I would be learning, or how I would change over those four months, that cool crisp morning in late April, when I climbed into one of two club vans headed for Shoal Lake. I felt awkward, lonely and slightly mental to be doing this crazy thing, but mental or not it was the best decision I had made up to that point in my life.

That summer, living, working, sleeping, churching and learning with 40 strangers who quickly became family was the most amazing thing. Sure I learned wilderness skills like paddling, setting up a camp and how to cook spaghetti for 120+ people and I worked harder than I ever had before, hauling canoes, clearing a drainage ditch and feeding pigs (like real pigs, not just sloppy kids). I set up mouse traps and peanut butter pails and I even dodge a bear or two but it was the life lessons that real stuck with me.

Being at camp was like being in a maturity incubator. In those 4 months I began to figure out the kind of person I really wanted to be. I learned about joy, strength, beauty and community. I learned that I was capable of than more than I thought, that I had talents yet undiscovered and that life only gets better when you operate in a team. I learned to value of meditation, the paradise that is a silent walk in the woods and that the sound of waves lapping against the rocks is like contagious laughter.

I survived my first real heartbreak that summer and I discovered the healing power of kind words. I experienced my first crack at real leadership and learned a few hard, but necessary lessons along the way. I learned that part of being a mature person is getting past disappointments and loving people when they are at their most unlovable. I also basked in the security and joy of having friends who always had my back, were ever ready for a laugh and who loved me enough to speak gentle words of correction into my life.

Manitoba Pioneer Camp holds a special place in my heart and a magical hold in my memory. That summer I spent there was among the greatest life experience I've ever had. I am grateful for the people I met there, the lessons I learned and the memories I have. I love that I will forever be connected to that cedar scented piece of heaven on earth.

Every Spring, as the snow melts and the rains come, I think of all the staffers and campers who are preparing for their own MPC adventure and I pray for them. I pray that they will learn, grow and make friends. I pray that they will try new things, meet new people and experience all that that place has to offer. Mostly, I pray that they will cherish their time there because it all goes by too fast. In a blink, you are married, with kids and a life a million miles away from that sandy beach and lofty lodge but if you let it, MPC will sink into your heart and you'll never be too far away from it, not really.

"...becomes an extraordinary space where all distractions can be stripped away to reveal the realities of God, the wilderness, and each other."
~Chris Milne, Director of MPC, from The Ripple, 2007

Monday, May 7, 2012

Here's to the Girls who Love the Boys!

This weekend I threw on a wig and strapped on some high heels and partied with my family. It was my cousin's wedding on Saturday but we were celebrating more than his marriage; on the B-side we have a lot to celebrate and be thankful for these days.

The kids were very excited for this swanky shindig; the boys got suits and Crafty got a new dress. Mr. Awesome dusted off his dress clothes and a borrowed a dress from a cousin. To tell the truth, I felt a bit like a drag queen as I got ready on Saturday. I hardly ever dress up and I NEVER get this dressed up so I felt a little conspicuous with the wig, sequenced heels, party dress and custom made fascinator but in the end it was a lot of fun.

We spent the evening visiting with family, teasing, laughing and telling stories. The groom looked dashing in his tuxedo and the bride was glowing. My aunt and uncle were all smiles as they celebrated with their son and showed off their new baby granddaughter. My dad was the recipient of dozens of hugs and my uncles looked at him with joy filled relief all evening and my cousins hardly left his side. We celebrated new starts, new life, new hope and the bliss of being together.

One of my favourite things about the B-side is how much the guys love each other. Uncles, cousins, nephews, fathers and sons and grandfathers all hugging on each other, loving on each other; it's amazing! They just can't get enough of each other and every time they're all together we take dozens of pictures of them; most of them goofy candids!

On Saturday night, as we gathered the boys together to snap a couple of pictures I got a little misty-eyed, seeing them all together, laughing and proud to be together. The picture is fabulous but not half as fabulous as what you can't see; the B-side women, lined up snapping photos like a group of crazed paparazzi. These women, these incredible, strong, loving women are the strength of this family.

In the movie 300 there is a line about Spartan men being the strong warriors they are because they come from and are supported by Spartan women. On Saturday night, standing with all the other B-side women I felt a little bit Spartan. These men, my dad, uncles and cousins, are wonderful men, in part, because of the women who love them, who have loved them their whole lives.

My grandmother was an incredibly strong woman, my aunts are forces of nature and I can see this strength and confidence in my girl cousins and in the women my boy cousins love. Even The New Girl has it already, the ability to love these guys through their flaws while bringing out the very best of who they are. I have never seen my Groom Cousin so happy, relaxed and content.

So here's to the girls who love the boys as they are. Here's to Grandma, Auntie Marie, Auntie Anne, Auntie Vickie, Auntie Debbie, Auntie Eileen, Auntie Leonie, Auntie Joanne, Auntie Dawn, Kim, Milka, Barrett, Helena, Paulette, Laura, Evelyn, Genelle, Rebecca and all the rest of use B-side girls. Here's to us and here's to the men we love!

A woman should soften but not weaken a man. ~Sigmund Freud

Friday, May 4, 2012

It's Raining ...

Its raining here, it's pouring, in fact. We are in a deluge of good news!

I love good news; I don't care if it's something huge or just a little happy happening, good news rocks. Good news, when shared, is a beacon of hope. It reminds us that good things still happen, that if my pal had some good fortune then I could be next, that even if the world seems like it's going to pot the possibility is great that things will turn around at any moment. Good news is a declaration of Magnificent Possibility.

Sometimes when I'm down I go trolling for good news. I'll scan my Facebook page, read our town newspaper or ask the kids what crazy awesome thing happened to them today. I'll also make a list of the good news in my own life. My lists have included things like finding Mischief's tie for an upcoming wedding, having the time to sip my coffeejuice and read a book and seeing that the kids picked up their miscellaneous junk from the front entry. I look for any little thing that can put a smile on my face.

Today I woke up to some spectacular news. First, I discovered that Mr. Awesome let me sleep in ... late! Then my mom texted me to let me know that my dad just heard back about all of his post-chemo tests and it's all Good News! He has no active cancer in his body at this point; the chemo did it's job! He still has some maintenance things to do for the next couple of years but all the scary words like bone marrow transplant have melted away in the light of this magnificent news!

Then I clicked on to Facebook and was greeted with dozens of 'May the 4th be with you' messages from my dorky pals. As I scrolled through my news feed I discovered that friends are getting books published, another one is celebrating a daughter's engagement and yet another is announcing her son's acceptance into university. There were posts about races won, surgeries booked and time spent with family. Good news is all over the place if you open your ears, and heart, to it.

In a culture where news reports are full of fear and violence, where people have made being cynical fashionable and where joy seems all but extinct it is our responsibility to be Bearers of Good News, Ambassadors of Hope. Those of us who can see the glass as half full need to remind the others that that means there's always room for more. We need to teach those around us how to see the good, how to celebrate the everyday happenings that make this life incredible.

Whether great or small, celebrate the Good that you see, embrace joy and live hope.

Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom. --Marcel Proust

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Back in the Saddle

A new day, a new attitude.

Treatment didn't happen this week and although the change of plans was difficult for this hyper-planner to deal with at first, I'm so glad things worked out the way they did. Having this week off treatment has left me time to get a few things done and have a few cool experiences with the kids that I would have missed otherwise. It was like winning the Healthy Me Lotto; I was given this extra week of feeling good between appointments and so far, I've made the most of it.

I have loved the little moments of sitting with Crafty and talking about school and seeing Mischief's crazy excitement after he caught a passel of butterflies with the neighbors. I have enjoyed going out for coffee with a friend, volunteering at church and taking a drive in to the city with Mr. Awesome but nothing compares to yesterday evening!

Dude is back at Keen Ridge this spring, but instead of just participating in the Equine Therapy during the day, he is going out there once a week in the evenings for riding lessons. He couldn't be more excited to have the opportunity to actually RIDE the horses but he's also been disappointed that I've not been well enough to go out to the arena to watch him. This week, my Lotto week, that all changed!

Yesterday after super we packed our crew into the van and headed out to Keen Ridge for Dude's lesson. He chatted the whole way there about how cool his horse is, how much he's learning and what an awesome teacher Terry is (even though she's a girl and really, really pregnant!). We had barely stopped the van before he jumped out and raced to the door of the arena, pausing for only a moment to pet his favourite dog along the way.

Mr. Awesome and I had a seat in 'The Cage' and watched for nearly two hours as Dude groomed, saddled and guided his horse (Skitty) through different exercises. He rode around and around the arena, pausing often to make sure we were getting pictures of him and his horse pal. We were amazed at how calm, in control and responsive to correction Dude was while he was in the saddle. All of his normal anxiety and defensiveness seemed to melt away as Terry taught him how to build trust with Skitty so that she would respond to his direction.

On the way home, Dude recounted every moment of the lesson with excited detail. When I asked him if it felt good to be in control, he answered, "I'm not really in control. Skitty and I are partners, we have to trust each other."

That reminded me of how anxious and grumpy I had been earlier in the week. My whole attitude crappy because I wasn't in control, but I don't need to be in control. I just need to remember to do my part, stay positive, take care of myself and keep moving forward, and let the doctors and nurses (and most importantly, God) do their thing. I need to trust.

It's good to feel like myself, to be back in the saddle again!

Horses and children, I often think, have a lot of the good sense there is in the world. ~Josephine Demott Robinson

For more information on Keen Ridge click here or here.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Just Passing By

I've been sitting here, staring at this blank page for at least half an hour, trying to muster up something funny, light-hearted and inspirational but I got nothing. I am tired. I am frustrated and I wish I could just throw in the towel with this whole chemo thing.

I am halfway through my treatments, which should be a good thing but I have had a really hard time with my port. Each time I've gone for treatment we've spent more time trying to unblock my port than actually pushing the drugs. I have to bend, twist, stretch and get pumped full of what Mr. Awesome calls 'medicinal draino'.

Oh, and to top off this lovely adventure my white blood cell count is low so after spending all day at the hospital yesterday, trying to open things up for chemo, I may not actually get chemo this week! All of this has left me exhausted and exceptionally grumpy today. So grumpy, in fact that I wasn't going to blog at all; then I looked at the calendar.

May 1.

The first of the month. The one day every month where I have pledged to blog with the sole purpose of reminding you, My People, to check yourself so that, hopefully, you will never have to walk this road. So here I am, writing this stinking blog.

I try to write things that are uplifting, that leave you feeling a little happier, a little more hopeful than you were before you gave me a few minutes out of your busy day. I also try to be real, honest and open about my journey as a wife, mother, woman and now Cancer-Kicking Ninja. So, I'm writing because this is real. It ain't pretty, eloquent or inspirational but it's honest and that has to count for something.

May 1 also marks six months since I found out that my non-cyst was actually cancer. I have been fighting this battle for six months. Six months plus one day ago I never would have imagined that this is where life was taking me but here I am, half a year in and still alive, still fighting and still winning.

I have learned a lot about myself, my family and my friends in the past six months. I have learned that I am a heck of a lot stronger than I thought, that my family loves me more than I could have ever imagined and that I have more friends that I ever dreamed of. I have also learned that days like today have come to pass. They have come to pass not come to stay but they have come and just as quickly they will go again. Thank God!

Thanks for hanging with me today, for loving me through my whining and for being here when this has passed. You (yes you!) are an inspiration and constant source of strength for me. Thanks for being My People!

Now, go have a coffeejuice and we'll meet up again tomorrow ... when this has passed!

If you're going through hell, keep going. ~Winston Churchill