Monday, December 31, 2012

With Great Hope

It's been a good year in spite of much sadness.

I'm thinking about my intentions for the new year.

Happy New Year...

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Peace & Love to All

In some ways, this Christmas is harder than last year. But I am gamely working to make it through. There have been times of joy, and I will write more later.

And I will catch up with responding to your kind and lovely comments of encouragement that have been much needed lately by me! Thanks! 

Just hoping any who drop by are having a loving holiday season.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Road I Travel

Tonight I'm grateful to be able to send off a narrative litany of complaint to a friend who doesn't panic and won't buy into the complaint parts of the note, but instead reminds me, "I still like your funny--usually--narratives. I'm still pulling for the healing to be quick, the infections to be held at bay, and for the pain meds to be needed as briefly as possible!"

I'm also grateful for the naïveté to be cheered on just because I know others are pulling for me (as if their pulling for me actually has any power to make things better)!

Tonight I am also extremely grateful for a doctor who was willing to go in and fix a mess he did not create. His assistant said a lot of doctors would not have touched this case. I certainly understand. How fortunate I am.

Tonight (and always it seems), I am on The Road to Recovery. I am grateful.

(This is my contribution to Gallery 35, "The Roads I Travel" of the 52 Photos Project.)

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, December 17, 2012

Now For the Next Thing...

I'm back from my silent retreat. This is the view from one of my favorite reflection spots during the weekend. I'm still reflecting on the weekend and don't have much to say at this point, other than it was a good thing for me.

Tomorrow I go for surgery, again, to remove the lump under my jawline. It seems the original doctor did not remove the lump. It will be a 1-2 week recovery. Prayers and healing thoughts would be appreciated.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, December 14, 2012

Remembrance and Silence

Today marks the 18th anniversary of my brother's death.

My sister was teasing me about doubling up on my talking today so I'd be sure and use up my allotment and I remembered how she still owes our brother a huge sum of money because she bet him he couldn't be quiet for the rest of the trip to our grandparents' house and he did it! I'm wondering if I can collect on his behalf (she says she doesn't think so)!

I am going on a silent retreat this weekend. I've been wanting to do one since I first heard about them in the late nineties. It's been on my Unofficial Bucket List (the one I keep in my head) all this time. And now I'm doing it!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, December 07, 2012

One Year

December 8 will make one year. I don't know what else to say.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, December 03, 2012


This is Monday of the week before he died on December 8th. We are planning on going to our little place in the country. Our daughters will be there with us. My parents will be there with us. I will probably cook gumbo. We will visit the cemetery. We will plant a "rain tree" in his memory. There will be tears, sweet memories and stories.

When I think of planting a tree in his memory I remember how someone from our church sent us a tree to plant when my brother died in December of 1994. It was a Bradford pear. We had it all planted in the center of the yard, just back from the two big oak trees.

My son would have been seven years old. He had been riding a bike for three or four years by then. On the day I am thinking of, he came rolling into the driveway and said "Look, Mom!" He jumped off the bike without stopping it and thrust his hands into the air while the bike curved around and made a direct hit on my Bradford pear tree, breaking the slender truck off three inches from the ground. What are the odds that the bike would run into the newest most meaningful tree in my yard? I have no idea but my dear son managed to make it happen. He beat the odds on that day.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Journeys and Paths

I've been struggling a bit in the last few days with my grief. Understandable, I know. But, still.
It's just hard. A student asked me today if I was ready for Christmas. How do I answer that? 

And yet, there is much light and joy on my path.

Most days, the light and joy tend to outweigh the darkness. For that, I am grateful.

But for some unexplainable reason, I feel called not to deny the darkness.

“You do not have to sit outside in the dark. If, however, you want to look at the stars, you will find that darkness is necessary. But the stars neither require nor demand it.”
-Annie Dillard
BTW, in case anyone is curious, this tree with lights is the base photo for the "life is a sacred path" thang. All the work to the photo was done on my phone. I "inverted" it and did a couple of other things, then turned it on its side and added the words. I really like the way the tree turned out on the "thang."

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Blue Skies

 (This is my contribution to Gallery 32, of the 52 Photos Project, The Skies Above. I've missed the last two rounds. My time just got away from me.)

I was on a trail in the Kisatchie National Forest when I took this photo with my phone. It is spread across seven parishes. I visited the Fullerton Mill Pond area, where I walked a half mile trail the first day and then went back to walk a one and a half mile trail.

I'm very brave in some ways but I am also a big fat chicken in some ways. The first day I was there, my husband and my uncle were with me. I wasn't sure where the place was and my uncle came along to guide the way. He and my husband were talking and I told them I was going to walk a bit of the trail. They knew I'd come to take pictures. They waited and visited while I walked. I was not too nervous that day. But on the next day I went all by myself. It was kind of like meditating. At first my mind went all kinds of crazy thinking about things that could happen (though most of them were highly unlikely)! I thought about black bears, snakes, axe murderers and cannibals (just kidding about the cannibals!). Finally, about 20 or 30 minutes into the trail, my mind settled and I got into looking for things to photograph.

The pine trees, a few birds, some gnats and one me. That was all that I saw on the trail that day. It was fun!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving When It's Hard

I love Anne Lamott's work. She has a new book out, "Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers." In an interview for NPR, she said this about the thanks:

On the second prayer, Thanks: 
"Thanks is the prayer of relief that help was on the way. ... It can be [the] pettiest, dumbest thing, but it could also be that you get the phone call that the diagnosis was much, much, much better than you had been fearing. ... The full prayer, and its entirety, is: Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you. But for reasons of brevity, I just refer to it as Thanks. "It's amazement and relief that you caught a break; that your family caught a break; that you didn't have any reason to believe that things were really going to be OK, and then they were and you just can't help but say thank you."
It's a distillation of what she's written, I know, and by no means a complete treatise, but still, my breath caught when I read this passage because I asked myself what happens when you've lost a son (or a daughter, or a mother or father, or a spouse--all of us have lost someone or something important, I know). Or what happens when the diagnosis is not such a great one and you find yourself facing the end of your life way sooner than you expected?

I don't know what my son's future might have held. What I know right now, today, is that it's tough not having him around and I miss him a lot. I can say "thanks" for the time I had to love him and to be around him and to have him love us. I've certainly said "help" many times in the past year or so.

And really, now that it is coming up on a year since we lost him, I can almost say "Wow" with a quiet sense of reverence. I have survived but it is a tough road to walk.

Monday, November 12, 2012

A Turtle, Lily Pads and Birds

A turtle with a pyramid shaped shell sunning himself on a lot.
The lily pads were huge! I was fascinated with the way the water droplets rolled around on the leaves. This one was about a quarter of the leaf. It look like a ginko leaf.
 Some were green and some were this rusty brown looking color.
 I believe this is a male Anhinga.
This would be the female Anhinga. You can tell because she is wearing a "mink stole."
Blue heron.
I know I was told what kind of bird this was but I've forgotten what it is.
I played around and did some odd editing on this one but I do like it.

Sunday, November 11, 2012


Photos from my first ever kayak trip are posted below. I've never been much of a water person. I love being around it but not so much in it and the idea of getting squished into such a tight boat sitting so low on the water sort of made me nervous. But you know, things that have happened recently have opened me up a bit and I find myself more willing to do things that make me nervous. Besides, I was going with a long-time friend who knows the water well. I reminded her that my parents (whom she knows and loves) would never forgive her if she let me drown!

The swamp is a beautiful place and being able to quietly float around amongst the trees and the moss seeing the beauty so closely was a serene experience. Well, we did chatter a bit and squeal a time or two but there were moments of awed silence and appreciation for the wonder of nature. I'd love to go back sometime.
This was sunset. We had finished our trip but we were sitting in the kayaks near the landing watching the sun set.
There is a lot of gray in the swamp this time of year. The moss and the trees can look rather dull. The cypress trees do have a reddish-pink tinge to them under the bark and there are a few trees that have the orange fall-colored leaves. I pumped up the color on this one. It might almost be over-done but there is some brilliance out there in the swamp.
This ominous abandoned houseboat was one of the first things we saw as we paddled away from the landing and headed toward the closed in nooks and crannies of the swamp.
Here is one of "cuts" through the swamp. We could have paddled to the end of this and we would have been in a more open area of the lake. We went on through though.
This is some of what we saw. This is not a road! The golden brown stuff is floating on top of the water. We were waiting here for the sun to peek out and light up the trees a bit. It never really came out. I had to help things out in my editing software. We sat here for several minutes waiting and taking in the beautiful peacefulness of the day. It was at this point in the trip that I started looking around and thinking, "I don't know where solid ground is."

We had seen an alligator a few minutes earlier sunning himself on a log. We were talking a bit and he slipped into the water. You can't see through this stuff so I was a little skiddish. There were some small logs and tree trunks in the water. It was a bit jarring to hit those things because you didn't know what you were running into at first, coulda been an alligator!
The cypress trees and the moss is another beautiful part of the swamp. I love seeing their gnarled trunks.

These are two of the odder shaped trunks we saw yesterday. They were located side by side. One looks like a woman with a big rear end wearing an evening gown with a low cut back. The other one looks like a man wearing bell-bottomed disco pants!
This was one of my favorite sights of the day. I like the reflection too. My friend and I wondered how stable this tree was. It was pretty tall. We paddled on before we were tempted to bump it with a paddle or the kayak to see what would happen. We decided our families would be sad to hear that we had been hit by a falling tree in the swamp and our bodies had been eaten by alligators!
We were coming around a bend and I shot this one rather quickly. I like the way it turned out.
This is one of the lily pads. This one is brown and rusted looking. There were plenty of green ones too. The water drops rolled around like mercury on the lily pads. I was fascinated with the water droplets but I didn't get many good shots of them. If I go again some day I might spend more time trying to get good shots.
This is a turtle we saw. He had a pyramid shaped shell. We don't know if this was some sort of deformation or if this is a certain type of turtle. He didn't stay too long on the branch letting us take his picture before he slipped off into the water.

Okay, probably this is enough for one post! Maybe tomorrow I'll post a few of the bird photos I got.

I'm sure not a water girl but I had fun yesterday. My friend did most of the paddling so I was able to concentrate on taking pictures and not "tumping" over the boat! Oh, and watching to make sure no alligators reared their heads to try and get us (I've watched too much "Swamp People" TV)! Toward the end she gave me the paddle so I could see how easy it was to paddle. Paddling was as much fun as being paddled around! I learned to back up and turn around. I struggled with keeping on a straight path and stopping. I hope to get the chance to practice some more sometime.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Lemons, Kumquats and Cracks Under my Feet

(and various other important things)

Random things about today:

A year ago today was the day I had my colon cancer surgery.

Today makes eleven months since my son's passing.

Today is my son's best friend's birthday.
Today begins the year anniversary of the month (and year) that radically changed my life.
(And I don't think I am exaggerating a single bit when I say that.)

I was holding back tears this morning when all these little tidbits started coming together and as I texted his friend to wish him the happiest of birthdays. It is no coincidence the Rilke quote came to my attention yesterday: "Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final."

I'm okay, really. For the most part. But my senses are heightened and my emotions are tender. I have to feel these things and I have to write about them in whatever way I can (even when it doesn't totally makes sense, even when the old me would have died before I allowed myself to be this vulnerable in this place). It's important, almost urgent.

I do not hurt all the time. Really, most of the time, I am at peace. But sometimes the gravity of what all happened in the last few months of last year weigh so heavily on me. 

Sometimes it feels like I'm watching a movie and I already know how it's going to end and my whole self tenses up and mourns in anticipation of what is coming. But it's true: I've already lived it. And I am surviving and learning to live with the knowledge of my loss. For that I am grateful.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Holding, Gallery 29

I hold the tension between beauty and terror-
the feeling that I am going to fall over the edge into the pit,
the fear that I want to jump from the ledge.

(And what of the brokenness of that crack?
Will my foundation hold?)
And then I spy

the exquisite beauty that is in fallen leaves
and dropping acorns of fall,
and oh, the rusty color of the saw's biting edge.

(Yes, I must keep going.
No feeling is final.)

(My contribution to Gallery 29 of the 52 Photos Project, "Holding")

Thursday, November 01, 2012


The theme for Gallery 28 of the 52 Photos Project is "celebration." This is something I created as I remembered the good news that my colonoscopy results were clear which is most definitely an occasion for celebration!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Those Last Times

It's been almost a year of firsts. But this morning I woke up thinking of last times. Husband says my son and his friend left on the 27th of last October, heading for Pennsylvania to work. I have a text from him in my phone that is dated October 26, 2011 where I was checking on him and he said he was "working right now." And on the 28th he texted that "it's real nice up here and the job seems really good too" and "I can learn a lot while I am up here."

(What did he learn? What have I learned?)

His friend was teaching him to weld. His friend was also helping him to save his money. There was talk of him saving to buy his own welding truck. Instead, his money was used to pay for over half of his funeral expenses. There was talk of settling down and marrying his little girlfriend, and dreams of being a father.

Anyway, my point is that sometime in these last few days of October, that was the last time I saw my son alive, the last time I hugged him tight while telling him I loved him, and to be careful, and to behave. I had no clue of the pain that was in the road ahead.

(I have learned that loss hurts and that you do make it through, somehow, by the grace of God and with the help of caring and alert (alertness is needed because grief does not always announce itself as grief-lately my own grief has looked very much like sheer orneriness and irritability and the feeling of wanting to run away and hide) and compassionate friends. In my neediness and pain, I have learned more about what love looks like. How very grateful I am for the love of others.)

It feels like I am set to relive again the events of the last two months of last year. There is this feeling of intensity and necessity. It is a path I must walk though it's not like I will be "healed" once I reach the one year mark on December 8th. But I will be far more healed than I would if I tried to ignore all my grief or to stuff it back so I can look like everything is good and I am okay.

(I have learned it is okay to admit to trusted friends that I am not totally okay.)

There were tumultuous times with that boy/man but I loved him fiercely and I grieve and mourn his loss just as fiercely. He was alive, you know. And he made a difference in our lives and in the lives of his friends. But now he's gone. And I have this huge hole in my heart. 

(I have learned you can live and experience joy and beauty even with a huge hole in your heart.)

It is important for the living to stop sometimes and take a deep breath and to say "I love you" to those you love-to look them in the eye and really see them. We all know this and somehow we often forget that today might be the last time we get to say "I love you."

(I have learned (in the case of mother love at least) it really is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all. How very grateful I am for the time I had to love my son and how much more aware I am of the time and opportunity to love my daughters.)

Here he is (the tallest one) with his best friend and his best friend's son.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

On The Table

Fresh Louisiana satsumas were one of the things on my table this past week.

Magazines, glue sticks and my journal were also on my table.

 When I was all done I had a found poem in my journal (among other things):

transforming pain into words-
once you start, it's hard to stop.
are you comfortable being...
what's next
Navigate life
no, you aren't dreaming
getting unstuck
the possibilities are (not) endless
what do I
yearn for?
there's no turning back.

(This is my contribution to Gallery 27 of the 52 Photos Project: On the Table.)

Friday, October 26, 2012


I took a couple of days off to come to the country and celebrate the fact that it looks like I am going to live a little longer.

My husband has been away participating I high school reunion activities so that has left me with some free time. I spent the morning and early afternoon cutting pictures from magazines and making collages in my journal. The photo below is one from my journal that I enhanced. I've had quiet music going in the background and the experience has been refreshing. I'd been neglecting my "alone time."

I've been thinking a lot about life and death this past year. We are none given any guarantees of a long life and yet we so often live as though that is a given. I want so badly to live more fully and yet I have this terrible tendency toward waste. It is so often so difficult to carry what I feel in these quiet places out into my every day world.

Here is where I should have a nice little "concluding paragraph" that neatly sums everything up or lays out a plan to correct my direction towards waste. Well, guess what? I don't exactly have an answer. Yet. For now I think I will grab my camera and head for the woods.

(For sure, small changes have come about, and there will be more. For one thing, before the "opening up" of the last year, I never would have written something so candid and vulnerable as this here.)

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, October 22, 2012


(My contribution to Gallery 26 of the 52 Photos Project, Golden.)

Golden is the news that the doctor only found one polyp today during my colonoscopy. She removed it and sent it away for testing but she was confident enough today to say that I would not have to come back for two years! Year one of being cancer free has passed!

I've been thinking a lot about what might have been and about the ramifications of what bad news might have had on my life. I've been thinking a lot about death and dying and priorities and using my remaining time wisely. I do need to make some changes. First I need to figure out how to move from thinking to doing. 

But for today, I am savoring the good news with gratitude.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Still Life

 The theme for Gallery 25 of the 52 Photos Project is "Still Life."
"Angles Among Us"
This was a phone photo (all of these are from my phone, processed in various apps). It's a corner in the women's restroom at work. I like the way it turned out.
Leaf on Porch
I believe this is one of my all time favorites.
"Flowers" in a bottle.
Remember the fern in the bottle, the "world inside a bottle"? 
This is the fern after two weeks. 
I thought it had grown pretty white flowers but when I looked closer, 
I realized it was the fern leaves with all the green sucked out of them! 
One of the titles I thought of was "She Died Beautifully." 
The awareness of death has been prevalent in my mind lately, for various reasons. 
Anyway, still life, that's what we're talking about. ;)
Making time for still life is what helps me 
stay calm and keep moving.
Taking pictures is one way to still life for me.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

What is Lacking?

(My contribution to Gallery 24 of the 52 Photos Project, Orange. It turned out to be more reddish than orange but I'm okay with that. I need to figure out how to make the words show up more clearly. It would probably be okay once printed out but my printer is on the fritz.)

I read this in a book I've been reading. I suppose it is a good question to consider, especially if one is in a stressful place. It's designed to bring you into the present, to help you focus on what is needed right now. I think it also helps you avoid moving toward the drama of imagining all the "what ifs" and alternate scenarios we tend to create when we are stressed or frightened, the dramas that tend to paralyze us.

Asking myself this question also sometimes leads me to gratitude. I think that is a good thing.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Thoughts on Darkness

(And Things We Don't Know About Ourselves)

"The dark night of the soul
comes just before revelation.

When everything is lost, 
and all seems darkness,
then comes the new life
and all that is needed."
~ Joseph Campbell

I saw this quote on Facebook a couple of days ago and it has haunted me ever since. I don't know if the "average bear" is smart enough to know how much tenacity and courage it takes to hold on "when all seems darkness."

I've got some friends who are going through some tough times in this moment. I want to affirm and admire and encourage their bravery. It ain't easy, I know.

He has other annoying quotes :)
"It is by going down in the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure." ~ Joseph Campbell
I know there is light, I know Light. But darkness is part of the equation too. It is inevitable. I tend to get into times where I embrace the darkness. Maybe it is because I know from experience there are valuable things hidden in darkness. I am there now. I am not without hope. I am not flailing about or blindly running about trying to escape. I am (mostly) sitting with the darkness, waiting. Surely a time will come for action. Maybe the time is now, I don't know. In retrospect, I seem to have been sitting in darkness for long enough now and it feels like maybe it is time for action. But I am not sure what to do.

And yet another annoying quote :)
 "The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are." ~ Joseph Campbell
I ran into a girl I worked with back in the late seventies. When I introduced her to my oldest daughter, she told her how I had looked out for them and took care of them (we worked in a family owned sporting goods store where they hired a lot of college students, I was a full time permanent employee). She said that was her first real job and she was kind of scared. I never saw myself as doing that! But it was a good thing to hear.

Of course, me being me, I had to ask myself if my looking out for them was really me being me, or was it me doing what others expected me to do? Who am I? And am I being me? These are a couple of the questions I face in the darkness.

I'll get it worked out again, or at least worked out enough that I can get back to moving along the path with acceptance and purpose (and maybe a little less introspection). Eventually. Life might be too short for so much introspection!

I can't do a post anymore without also including a photograph. Here is one from my son's birthday celebration (which went quite well, if I have not already said so!). The light was so pretty on the morning I took these pictures. I went out with my camera hoping to catch what I saw.
One of my favorites from that day, darkness and light.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

World Within a World

My daughter and a friend walked in the woods this weekend. They discovered an old pile of discards from someone's housekeeping that was long ago discarded. This bottle looked like a terrarium with its fern growing inside. The metal cap was still on the bottle though it had a small rusted out hole in it. The fern had somehow reached inside the hole and started to grow. We left the bottle in the country but I have no illusions that the fern will survive now that it has been displaced from its original location.

I call the picture "World Within a World" and for some reason I am reminded about the story of the fish who doesn't know he is in water. I found an interesting commencement speech that started off with the telling of that story. Here is the link if you'd like to read it. Be forewarned, there is language that might be offensive. (Commencement address)

Along the same lines of some of his speech, I think about how we can see ourselves in that glass bottle world and think that is all there is to the world and we have no real clue how big the universe really is. We think we've got all the answers and seen all the possibilities but all we really know is our life inside the jar.

Here is another picture of the jar, this time taken with my camera phone. Notice the other two jars on the ground. They too had stuff growing in them.

Okay, so both these pictures are my submission to Gallery 23 (Withering Beauty) of the 52 Photos Project. I've gotten behind on visiting the links to the other participants and I've gotten behind on my regular blog reading. Sometimes it's impossible to catch up. Sometimes you have to let go of the idea of catching and just jump back in where you are. That's probably what I will try to do.

The next few months are going to be tough for me and for my family. I soon will have to go back to the doctor to do my yearly checkup to make sure the cancer is still gone. That is weighing on my mind, not in a terribly big way--just in that "oh, my, here I go again" way. And December 8th will make a year since my son died. Everything was all so new and fresh last year. We just got through the holidays the best we could. We were all pretty numb. This year we are more aware of the fact that the holidays are coming and we are missing a member of our family.

I've lately been reliving some of the moments from those days and freshly feeling the pains. I have not responded to any of the kind comments from the last three blog posts. I do appreciate every one of them.