Monday, March 10, 2008


Some of you know that my mom has been battling ovarian cancer for about 1 1/2 years. She was diagnosed eight months after my father died -- a hurt that hadn't yet healed (does the loss of a spouse of 55 years ever really heal?) and was barely getting her feet back underneath her when she was hit with the bad news. She had almost a year of remission after her surgery and first round of chemo. Then in November the cancer was back, although so far it's only a small lesion and enlarged lymph nodes, nothing really aggressive or invasive yet. She was put on a trial drug that has great promise but, unfortunately, that didn't work for her. Fortunately, nothing was really lost by trying the experimental drug. It was our first choice because it has fewer and mostly milder side effects and the treatment regimen is easier than traditional chemo. Because her cancer is slow-growing at this point, giving the trial a shot for the extra months didn't hurt in terms of cancer advancement, and it was worth trying. Now we're back to more traditional treatments. She's frail and weak so our best option is to try gemzar.

She's nearly 88 years old and just a little slip of a woman at this point, but her emotional strength is amazing. And all that brings me to the point of this post: blessings. So here are a few.

I'm blessed to have this time with my mom. I'm blessed to be able to heal hurts, to see our relationship grow and deepen; I'm blessed to be able to help her in a way I know my brothers couldn't, although they would and do help in their own way.

I'm blessed to see her humor in times of tragedy. One day, in the oncologist's office, she started to lose her balance and trip; I grabbed her hand and asked if she was ok, and she made the entire office of cancer patients laugh when she said, with a crooked little grin, "If I was ok, I wouldn't be here!"

I'm blessed to be here to fill in some of her memory gaps; to provide the small gestures of strength -- opening a jar, lifting the corn flake box when she's too tired, driving her on small errands.

I'm blessed to hear her stories, even the ones I've heard a hundred times before, and even the ones that are being rewritten. I'm blessed to have the quiet times with her, to just listen, to see the woman she is.

And, I'm blessed to be her daughter.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

best friends

Each friend represents a world in us,
a world possibly not born until they arrive,
and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.

- Anais Nin

These two have definitely created a new world... cat and crow. About as heartwarming as it comes. As John Lennon said, "I get by with a little help from my friends."

This is my friend Sassy -- not the kitten in the video, Cassie, but they sure look like kin.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Happiness, hope, & freedom

There are as many nights as days,
and the one is just as long as the other in the year's course.
Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness,
and the word "happy" would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness.
Carl Jung

To know what you prefer
instead of humbly saying Amen to what the world tells you you ought to prefer,
is to have kept your soul alive.
Robert Louis Stevenson

Knowing is not enough; we must apply.
Willing is not enough; we must do.
Johann von Goethe

We must accept finite disappointment,
but we must never lose infinite hope.
Martin Luther King Jr.

The secret of happiness is freedom.
The secret of freedom is courage.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Topaz Mountain

I recently realized that although I haven't been in all the states, I've been in the four corners (not counting AL and HI) -- Washington, California, Florida, Maine -- and many other states as well. In fact, in the last four years, I drove through the following states: Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Colorado, New Mexico, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, Maine... And that's just in the last four years; I could add many other states if I went back further. All this got me thinking about my favorite trips and places. And although I love many, many places, and there are several that are right there in first place, there was something about two trips in particular that spoke to me on a very deep level. One was to New Mexico, and one was to Utah and Wyoming. I have lots of photos from both -- here are a few of my favorites; more to follow in another post.

Topaz Mountain sunrise

This is Topaz Mountain in Utah (for more information, check out the links here and here). It's not much of a mountain and mainly appeals to rock hounds (for -- yes, you guessed it -- the topaz to be found there). The area is high dessert, stark; the plant life there looks like it's been subjected to harsh weather because it has; the wildlife is, maybe surprisingly, abundant: jackrabbits, coyote, ground squirrels, and much more. The only camping at Topaz is primitive -- dig your own latrine, bring your own water -- it's miles and miles from any kind of civilization -- the colors are amazing, the light is beautiful, the stars are incredible... and so is everything else about the area.