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A Sign of the Times

Posted by Kathy on Jul 22, 2013 in Thoughts from ME, Uncategorized

DSC_0153Today, at a fundraiser for cancer research, the homemade sign I carried seemed to be a hit.

On one side was an upbeat, cheery “You Go…!” message for the 1000+ women who were participating in the Tri for a Cure, swimming, biking, and/or running.

On the other side?  A simple “F— you, Cancer!”

These women athletes were knocking themselves out to raise money, spirited on from deep within their own experience or on behalf of friends and family with cancer.  Unable to do the physical challenge for mechanical/physical reasons, I helped my husband through the crowd.  His medical battle is stable at this time, and he enjoyed the excitement of the day as we watched our friends rise to the physical challenge.

The sign got a lot of thumbs-up and positive comments from runners.  Toward the end of the event, a woman around my age walked over to where I was standing.

“Can I take a picture of you with your sign?” she asked, pointing to the more direct message.

“Sure,” I said.

This woman took the picture, then came back.

“I’m starting treatment Tuesday.  Looking at this will help.”

I gave her a hug.  Later, I wished I had gotten her name, maybe a phone number.  I would have liked to visit her, keep her company some time, bring her a meal – or at least send a card.

But the moment flew past, and there were thousands in the crowd.

A runner came up to me at one point after the race was over.

“I was walking, toward the end of the race.  But when I saw your sign, I felt so psyched, I ran the rest of the way.”

The funny thing is that I was wary of carrying a sign that was so bold.  I worried that people might be offended.  It’s possible that some were.  I worried that children would see it and read it (“What does that mean, Mommy?”) and my intention was not to disturb in any way.  I tried to turn the sign around when there were kids close by, particularly if I saw one looking towards it.  One mother commented to me that I didn’t need to do that.

I’m fed up with cancer.  She is, too.

Too many people, too many loved ones, too many other-peoples’ loved ones have had to accommodate the word “cancer” into their daily lives.  There’s progress, great progress.  Treatment and cures are slow to come, but come they will.  Not that many years ago, strep could not be treated, or a host of other illnesses we now cure with a visit to the doc and a quick stop at the pharmacy.

And meanwhile, people are taking their indignation about cancer and opening their purses and making a statement.

My statement may not have been pretty.

But neither is cancer.

photo (2)

 

 

 

 

Thanks to my young friend Christine for snapping this picture. 

 
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Thoughts in the Heat of the Day

Posted by Kathy on Jul 19, 2013 in Thoughts from ME, Uncategorized

DSC_0153There’s a lot of steam lately.  And it’s not just from the summer temperatures.

People are voicing and protesting their outrage of events, ranging from human rights to racism, trials and laws of the land to magazine covers to tragedies and injustices, here in the U.S. and  worldwide.  There are, indeed, some very bad things going on: things that have been going on for a long, long time; things that may never be solved but are worth our human effort to try.  Many have been awake to this for years.  Some are just now waking up.

Controversy in the media, individual social media posts, endless news reports, talk show guests and experts, demonstrations in city streets…everyone seems to have an opinion, and the very expression of it becomes controversial.  Though it’s easy to take offense with the ways of protest and expression, we must not lose sight of the core issues.

As tiresome and irksome as it may be to sort through what really matters, depending on your viewpoint and experience in life, most everyone, no matter what side or view is taken, wants the same thing: peace and justice.  There have always been powerful voices, urging our collective conscience to examine how we live and work together.  Now, once again  in our history, it seems that substantive issues just might possibly be taking center stage where not too long ago, the newest game or phone was the most important topic.

So, welcome back to the 1960’s, friends.

It’s about time.

peace - now!

 
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Oldest Living Teenager – Back Again & Up Too Early

Posted by Kathy on Apr 26, 2013 in Thoughts from ME

peace - now!You know how sometimes you have to sneak out of the house early in the morning to walk the dog?  And you don’t have time to change so you just throw your husband’s sweatshirt on over your PJ’s thinking no one in the world could possibly be out there at this hour?  It’s a country road, after all.  And doggy needs to go out.  And then you get outside and look down at the ridiculous cut-off PJ’s that are showing, plus the multi-colored flowered socks plus your green clogs ’cause that’s all there was to put on real quickly?  And you look across the street and see that nice mom with her 2 kids, waiting for the school bus, so you just keep walking, eyes to your dog in case that makes you invisible?  And then there seems to be dozens and dozens of cars passing by and just when you convince yourself probably nobody notices what you look like anyway (and certainly no one sees the big clumps of hair sticking up all over your head because you wore a barrette to bed last night after you washed and set your hair and it got all super-wavy-curly plus the barrette is still in there, somewhere, somewhere) – well, that’s the moment you feel like “Hey – what’s the big deal?”  So a few people see an early-morning dog-walker inappropriately dressed to go outside (I mean, I wasn’t even wearing my newer, nice PJ’s – no, I was wearing the ones that are all old and ripped.)  Yeah.  Anyway, that’s the moment – when I’m thinking it really isn’t a big thing – when I hear a louder engine.  And I look up just for a moment to see it.  It’s the moment when you’ve finally rationalized that really – no one would even notice you – the same moment when the big (much bigger when so close up!), yellow school bus packed with kids looking out the windows passes by oh-so -slowly.

 
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The Real Me Redux

Posted by Kathy on Apr 11, 2013 in Thoughts from ME

DSC_0152You know it’s a bad morning when:

1)      You only get 4 ½ hours of sleep before the urgent text messages come rolling in

2)      You try to text or call back about the most urgent ones and can’t reach anyone, so

3)      You imagine the worst outcome, because (see #1) you only had 4 ½ hours of sleep, and

4)      On the way out of the house (look ahead to #5 – come on, you can do it) you get a request from a family member and when you try to help that person, you have a big argument with your spouse while the party to whom you are trying to reach (regarding the other person’s request) answers.  So now someone you barely know thinks you’re white trash.  Which maybe you are.  I hope you followed that.  Note that the person on the other end of the phone doesn’t hear you and your husband making up and kissing good-bye afterwards, and now

5)      You are running late for your medical appointment and halfway there come upon an emergency road block with flashing lights and fire engines and detours

6)      And you wonder if this is one of those days when you should go home, pull up the covers, and not come out for a long, long while, but you don’t because

7)      There is still time, at the doctor’s office, to make an idiot of yourself by saying things like, “Oh, my God!  Has anyone ever told you that you look just like Cam on Modern Family?” to a complete stranger and when he looks at you and says, “Um, no, not really” without a smile you then add about five disclaimers to reassure him how handsome he is and good-looking and…you quickly get into the elevator because there is no way to come back from telling a complete stranger that he looks like a loveable, plump, gay character on a TV sitcom.  So,

8)      Now you worry that you have hurt his feelings by inadvertently calling him fat and there is no way to retrieve your words which seem to spill over anywhere, everywhere, especially when you are anxious at the doctor’s office, and you are now certain you are trash, so

9)      On the way home you think maybe you’ll go sit in church for a while to settle down and repent but as you pass the church you see dozens of cars out from, so you figure there’s something going on, so

10)  You go home.  And after the chilly morning, the sun comes out and you walk your old, sick dog.  And that’s when you notice the dog crap in the grass…

 
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Oldest Living Teenager

Posted by Kathy on Apr 6, 2013 in Thoughts from ME

My new list of things NOT to do to impress someone in the business world.

1) Tell them that after the workshop presentation you sat through, you had a strong urge to open the window and jump out.  Of the 7th floor.

2) Fail to laugh along with them after that comment.

3) Tell them about your background and experience and then suddenly blurt out the horrible diagnosis your family member has and laugh uncontrollably because, um, you are trying to make a good impression.

4) Tell them about your menstrual history.  Especially if the person you are trying to impress is male.  Include a description of how to deal with hot flashes (rapid removal of clothing, sheets, dog.)

5) Exchange business cards.  Talk about how much you’d really like to be his best friend and that if he agrees to publish your work, you will definitely be his best friend forever.  No matter what.peace - now!

It’s going to be a long, introspective night…

 
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From Me to You

Posted by Kathy on Feb 12, 2013 in Thoughts from ME, Uncategorized

BrDSC_0153ace yourself – I’m gonna give you a little wisdom.  A little something to think about.  It’s probably nothing you haven’t thought of yourself, many times over, or read about, in more eloquent words. 

It’s about time.

Now and then, I get a thought.  It – this particular thought – has occurred to me a number of times in the past couple of years, ever since someone very dear to me was diagnosed with a serious illness.

It’s about time.

Tonight, the thought again came back to me, much clearer than before, possibly brought on by ingestion of a small but delectable double chocolate cupcake.  I do some of my best thinking after a bit of the cocoa bean.  See, as I was partaking in this holy moment, I was also thinking.  I was thinking about how people suffer.  With good reason, they suffer.  None of us is immune from suffering.  I fight through those times as best as I can.  If you’re human, it’s part of your fight, too.  Yet, it’s also a rich part of our experience that some would argue must be embraced.  So what is this about?

It’s about time.

How do you spend yours? 

For us, once we got used to the idea that an illness was now part of our lives, with but a sketchy promise regarding the years ahead, and once we got past the early days, weeks, months of shock and grief, we began to think less of giving up our time.  We started asking ourselves:  If we only have a month, how will we spend it?  A year?  Ten years?   Would we look back ten years from now, if fortunate enough to be here, and see that each day had been given away?  Given up to worry and anxiety?  To anticipatory grief?  Would we see that we had wasted precious time?   

Or would we want to see something different – that we had laughed, looked at babies, hugged our grandchildren…gone to the movies, put words to paper, spent time with friends…read good books and bad ones, sent Valentines through the mail, loved each other, played games, walked in the sun…and in whatever way possible, delved into the business of living, even if that meant with sorrow and adjustment mixed in?

Now, sipping tea in the quiet, dimly lit cottage where we spend time for a little while longer, I look around at the complex mess on the counter, jackets strewn about, papers thrown sloppily in some semblance of a to-do pile or ten to-do piles, and I see the spoils of a day enjoyed, rather than wasted. 

It’s about time.

How will you spend yours?

 
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EVERYDAY PHOENIX ANGEL

Posted by Kathy on Jan 25, 2013 in Thoughts from ME

 

DSC_0153No, I’m not in Phoenix.  But it turns out that’s where the customer service reps for Cigna hang out.

I’m no fan of insurance companies, and today, I sat through endless menus, and got disconnected  twice, while waiting for a rep to talk to, just at the very moment someone was supposed to pick up.  I was beginning to think it was part of their grand scheme.  But I persisted and dialed again, a third time, because I was helping a family member sort through complex problems involving finances, claims, a new insurance plan, preferred providers, co-pays…you know, all the usual stuff we do now instead of exercising, planning healthy meals, meditating…well, you get the point.

The last thing I expected when I finally got through to a live voice was a human being.  A human who listened to my questions, took inordinate amounts of time to thoroughly research the information before giving me answers, who went out of her way to do everything possible to help – of which she was successful .  In short, she acted on our behalf, treating me with respect and dignity and fairness.

So to my Everyday Angel – “Michelle” from Phoenix – a big thank you for being a humane human.  I realize you are one in a million and Someone must have shed a whole big lot of mercy on me after so much frustration with other business matters earlier.  You were an angel.

I will never forget your last words:  “Is there anything else you have questions about, while I am on the line?”

Only this – can you clone yourself?

 
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Everyday Maine Angels

Posted by Kathy on Dec 30, 2012 in Thoughts from ME, Uncategorized

It was the day after a major snow storm.  We were meeting family for supper in a downtown Portland restaurant.  There were no handicapped spots (nor any regular parking spots even close to our destination) for my family member who has a disability.  I pulled into the small hotel lot next to the restaurant to ask if we could park there for an hour.  “Really sorry, but it’s only for hotel guests,” the young man said.  “But across the street, you can park there because of the snow storm yesterday.  It should be open to the public.  It was yesterday.”

I drove across the street and pulled into what certainly seemed like a private parking lot, got ourselves into the restaurant, and nervously watched from our table.  As I feared, I soon saw a pick-up truck appear, and a man walking around studying cars in the lot.  I threw on my coat, and headed out.

“I was told it was ok to park here.  Do I need to move my car?”

He had a bit of a gruff edge.  He told me it was not open to the public, asked who had told me it was, and was obviously not happy to pass along the reality of the situation…but as we talked and I told him my situation, I felt a shift in his previously business-like manner.

“It’s OK.  You can stay here.  No problem.  But I think I better talk to the hotel people so they don’t keep sending folks over here.”

I asked if he was sure it would be ok to stay there while we ate across the street.

He assured me that I could stay put, “but don’t tell anyone else.  Special exception,” he added.  Then he looked at the back of my car, pointing to the political bumper sticker.  “Even though you voted for that guy,” he smiled.

“Yeah,” I said, and motioning toward his cap, “But look, we like the same baseball team!”

An hour later, as we were pulling out of the lot, I looked to the right, and there he was, shoveling the edge of the lot and waving good-bye to us.  It was a distance of a hundred feet or so, but I could see his smile.

Sometimes an angel just needs a little nudge to remind him of how good he is.

Thanks, John.  God bless you!

DSC_0153

 
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Everyday Maine Angels

Posted by Kathy on Dec 27, 2012 in Thoughts from ME, Uncategorized

THANK YOU to our angel, Michael L., who came to plow our graceful but impossible driveway, got stuck, had to get unstuck, did a tough chore inside the house for us while waiting for his back-up, finished the job with skill extraordinaire, and from somewhere down the road, called to let us know he’d be back tomorrow to do the “finishing touches and I didn’t want to leave without saying good-bye.”  This fellow has helped us in the true spirit of Mainers since the day my family has faced serious illness some time ago.  He is always cheerful, capable, puts up with my fussing, and yes – wears shorts outside in this 30 degree, blizzard weather. 

DSC_0153God bless you, Michael!

 
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Thoughts on Newtown, CT

Posted by Kathy on Dec 18, 2012 in Thoughts from ME

DSC_0149Now we see the headlines go a bit deeper into details.  TV shows, news programs, even comedy genre, pay moving tributes to the victims – all the victims, not just those physically taken away from this world, but those left behind.  The news stories slowly recede, the questions still linger, and Facebook posts start, little by little, to pry into the routine and silly stuff of life.  To see if it’s safe to come out yet.

We grieve and continue to try to understand why a horrific tragedy has occurred.  The experts spew theories and the heartsick call for gun control. We wonder why semi-automatic’s are sold and sometimes, we shake our heads, secure in knowing that we are never, ever completely free from evil acts, that there’s no such thing as certain safety.  We have learned from experience to wrap up heartache and move through tasks for survival.  But in the quiet moments, we still feel that awful and now familiar pit of darkness and feel the wetness come to our eyes for children we didn’t know but cry for, just the same.  It does feel like they were all our children.  We cry for their parents and families, for their grandparents who surely wish they could have traded places with those cherished little children, for a community whose normal-ness is a reminder that violence and cruelty can happen on any street, in any building, born in a sick-enough head.  We are scared and we are scarred from this.  The imagination cannot stretch far enough to figure out how, exactly, the victims and loved ones, now including an entire nation and maybe the world, can move through this to do life again.

That becomes our task.  The task of comfort, the task of action, the task of repair.  And it seems incumbent upon us to not let this and other useless, deeply wasteful events pass without pulling out the task of finding life more precious.  We learn that we have just this moment in time.  We hope for more.  Our inner voices tell us to hug more, love more, gripe less – sadly, not quite as easy as it sounds.  Yet in the midst of searching for answers, and finding there may be few, the only one we know is that love is never wasted.

And that answer may have to be good enough.

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