Friday, April 20, 2012

Willy Wonka Jr

My thirteen year old son has been staying after school for months now, joining the cast and crew of his middle school musical, Willy Wonka Jr. in their rehearsals.  He will play Grandpa Joe, who accompanies Charlie through his adventures, and has had to memorize a lot of lines and song lyrics.  I have heard him singing around the house, and have seen a few practice snippets, and I cannot wait to attend opening night!  We would love for you to come and support him and see this delightful musical.  It runs from April 26 through the 28th, and plays at 7pm (with a matinee on Saturday) at Robbinsdale Middle School.

I am so proud of Deven, and all our talented and smart kids.  What a joy it is to see your child work hard to  develop his or her talents and watch them grow!  I'm very blessed :)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

A wee bit excited!!

Today I apply for my U.S. Passport!  I haven't done this for 25 years, and words can't describe the excitement I feel at the prospect of international travel!!

It has always been my wish to experience other cultures around the world, to immerse myself in the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of distant lands.  As a senior in high school I got to travel to Germany with my foreign language study group, and the experience blew my mind.  Just breathing air in a spot across the globe is exciting to me.

Now, for our twentieth wedding anniversary, we are going to...  Ireland!!  I have ancestral heritage there, and I've always longed to see the green rolling hills and the powerful sea, hear the brogue and meet the people, and perhaps experience a hint of the magic of lore.  I am soooo thankful and excited for this opportunity to be in another world again.


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Time to center...

Do you ever feel overwhelmed?  There seem to be so many important ways to spend energy...  Ways to support the family, a moral code and knowledge to impart to the children, ways to nourish our connection to God, ways to keep the home clean and running effectively, ways to better the business, ways to feed the soul, ways to nutritiously feed the family, ways to exercise the body, ways to nourish bonds with loved ones outside the nucleus, ways to be a good neighbor and compassionate citizen, ways to create and express what is within, ways to have fun, learn, enjoy life and explore the wide world:  So many things to do!!  And really, it may be more accurate to say, 'So many things I'm supposed to do!'  Expectations of society and self add intensity to the feeling.

Sometimes I am overwhelmed by it all.  Sometimes I fill ill prepared, and without forward momentum.  I wake up with a focused, strong energy, and it seems within minutes it is swept away in the huge, roaring maelstrom, and I feel diluted and ineffective.  Often I make lists in the morning, soon after waking, and again whenever a clear idea hits me--so I can remember what is most important, what struck me when my focus was keen.

When overwhelmed, within me the urge is very strong to escape.  Set all worry aside for something that would be relaxing or fun or absorb my focus enough to take me to another place.   Giving in to this urge is only a temporary fix, what truly brings relief is to wade in, stand strong against the current and accomplish something concrete.  Otherwise I can get swept out to sea, spinning, reactive, and at the end of the day with a strong sense that I did not seize it.  The days not seized can add up in my mind if I am not careful and become a weight.  Not something to anchor, but something to upset the balance.

It is clear to me in times like these that I need to get centered again.  There is a very real comfort in just being, and acknowledging the beauty and power of existing.  Not judging, not feeling inadequate, just being.  At times yoga and meditation feel like just another thing I'm supposed to do.  But the practice never fails to center me, give me strength and peace, and focus my energy again.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

My heart breathes...

"Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart." ~William Wordsworth

I like the sentiment, and it helps explain why I write...  My heart needs to breathe.  As for the sharing with the wide world part, hmm...  I'll have to ponder the 'why' of that a little longer.

There's a bit of tension in my outlook just now.  The winter months are not a busy time for the henna artist in Minnesota (at least not this one), and so we turn to crafts to keep our skills sharp.  I am involved in the online community of henna artists, and we commonly  share photos of our work with one another.  Within the community, the work of some very talented and experienced artists are hailed as perfection itself. And of course, their work is beautiful!

Though I admire artistry and expertise, I find I don't appreciate this show and tell/adulation response dynamic.  I don't aspire to be like any artist other than myself, and don't think anyone should.  I'm not keen on comparison, or favoring one style over another.  And, even stickier, as I examine myself to see if I would feel differently if folks were fawning over me and my work, the answer is, yes I probably would not need to write a blog entry in this case.  So it appears I'm tasting sour grapes, not usual for me and not something I wish to perpetuate.

Isn't it interesting how art, which is sooo personal, and an expression of what is within, once shared, can make the artist vulnerable to the perception of others?  Art is to be shared.  And of course once shared, there will be an impression or opinion, favorable or not.  But should the artist let the perception of someone else impact how/if/why they express what is within, or how they feel about their own work?  Should the breathings of my heart be affected by outside perception/comments/or lack of them?

At the same time, constructive criticism or even just shining less brightly than another is a good growth catalyst.  If a person is met with only stroking and positive reaction, perhaps they do not push for excellence.  We all are soo different, what makes us tick or work harder or achieve our best is so vastly different from one person to the next.  My artwork is not about competition, I refuse to let that spirit enter my space.  And yet I feel it breathing on my neck.

I think the upshot is, what I have to give has value, pleases me, and brings pleasure to others along the way.  It doesn't have to please every one, or be the most pleasing overall to be worthy. Where I stand in rankings in the community or in the mind of another does not matter.  Nor should I rank myself.  

What I should do, what we all should do, is let our hearts breathe.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Being with Dying...

That's the title of a book that my thoughtful and caring sister bought me.  I haven't spent much time with it yet, I guess I'm too busy processing my own feelings and memories and thoughts to let in those of someone else, no matter how wise.  Perhaps this post will free up some space for that, perhaps not.

Yesterday I accompanied my Dad to a consultation with the surgical oncologist who performed his emergency surgery to remove a mass from his rectum which had perforated through his bowels.  There was lots of infection, and as we found out later, the mass was cancer and that had metastasized freely in his liver as well.  He had drainage ports put in because of the infection, and his digestive tract had to be diverted outside and an ostomy was installed.  These were life saving measures, and still, in the ICU after surgery, he looked like death warmed over, mumbled incoherent thoughts, and gripped my hand like I was a life preserver.  The doctors spoke to me in hushed tones, concern in their eyes, Dad was being watched carefully and they expected trouble from the infection in his gut.  I drove to the hospital every day for weeks as he convalesced, packing bags to keep my 4 year old live wire quiet by the bedside, bringing coins for meters, finding all the best parking spots and learning the maze of HCMC.  It felt good to hold Dad's hand, to be a reassuring presence, to pump his system with juiced carrots, and massage his feet with essential oil, an act of Biblical proportions, but to me just a way to show love and take care.

He got better!  He recovered from a surgery they didn't think he might.  He got well enough to be moved to the regular unit, and eventually to the care facility where he lives today.  When he found out he had Stage IV, metastasized cancer, his thought was to fill up the month or so left ticking off a few bucket list items before his time was up.  He reluctantly agreed to undergo the recommended chemotherapy, which was billed as palliative, meaning we could expect no cure for Dad from his colorectal cancer, but chemo could extend his life and keep the disease at bay.  Many times I heard from his hematologist that chemo would continue, "as long as the disease responds and as long as he is able to tolerate it."  And respond it did.  After the first two rounds, Dad's tumor marker, a test run on blood, fell from the upper 20s to in the normal range of 1.6 or so.  The mass did not regrow at the original site.  After the second two, everything remained 'stable', meaning it shrunk a millimeter or less.

And at that point, Dad decided he no longer wishes to tolerate chemotherapy.  Part of me understands...  He spends his time on a small cot in a shared room at the care facility, does not wish to participate in the goings on or develop relationships there.  But, he does not feel able to go out because of the bag.  He worries it will leak and embarrass him.  He finds the whole thing disgusting, embarrassing, and very, very limiting.

Which leads me back to the surgical consultation yesterday.  The ray of hope.  The surgeon had said initially that the possibility existed for Dad to be reconnected and function normally.  He tempered that with the high statistical likelihood for the cancer to reoccur in the pelvic region, but the ray of hope remained in our hearts.  'Maybe Dad will beat it, his body is responding to chemo, maybe he can eventually have a normal life.'

No.  I watched Dad accept the words of the doctors into his body physically, like there had been a touch accompanying them.  No, it is not recommended to reconnect the colon, he had so much infection after the first surgery that the very real possibility is that he may never leave the hospital after the procedure.  Besides which, there is about a 50% chance of a leak with the location and condition of his body there.  The doctor found it a miracle that he survived the first surgery and feels Dad had used up his good fortune.  He is welcome to consult with another surgeon for a second opinion.  It is recommended that he continue with the chemotherapy.

Life can hurt.  I remember this morning, the Dad of my youth, with golden hair, twinkling eyes, an irresistible smile, and lots of stories and corny jokes, ready to lend a hand and host.  By contrast I see the Dad of today, thin, grey, silent, no twinkle and a smile that is a habit but with no heart in it.  Why is it that color drains of a person nearing the end of life?  Color = Life.

I wish I could bring color back to Dad.  I wish he hadn't lost his ray of hope.  It seems unlikely that he will make peace with his bag, and live with gusto until his time is up.  This is my version of best case scenario, but I know that when you are terminally ill your priorities and perspective changes.  Dad tells me this.

It is my time to be with dying, and it is a sad time.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Happy New Year

The first post in a brand new year.  I saw in the month of November that blogging for me can be a catalyst for lifestyle changes.  If I'm going to write in a public forum about goals, I hold myself more accountable and seem to accomplish more.  (The influence you have, dear reader!)

Which phenomenon may come in handy as I write after having done some introspection about the last year(s), and what worked well, and what needs to be stripped out to free me up for more of the good stuff.  Isn't it interesting the power a blank slate can give for refreshing intentions and bringing action into line with those?  I'm really not one for resolutions.  But I love a fresh start and the feeling of a new beginning.  So much so that I am working on cultivating that feeling with each new day.  Wisdom dictates that really each new breath is that, when you are truly in the moment.  I am not sure why this takes effort to be aware of for me, and yet it does.

At any rate, I'm happy for January, happy for 2012, and uppermost in my mind now is being more present as mom, wife and homemaker, daughter, sister, friend.  I am setting the intention to consistently find the joy that exists in homely tasks, to consistently find the happy comfort that exists in routine.  Perhaps the goal is to be consistent on a basic level in many areas, and learn to enjoy it. Tantamount to that will be continuing to explore creative expression in henna and my business, which is the yin to that yang.  The craving for variety and spontaneity must be met, and my pitifully weak consistent routine muscle must be built up.

This is my intention for the year:  live in the moment, become consistent in routine and enjoy it, be creative...  and at all times send love out and let it in.

Happy new year to you!  And may your (and my) intentions for this year of life be.

Monday, December 5, 2011

December is here...

December seemed to arrive with out me noticing.  When we travel for Thanksgiving, preparing for Christmas is shifted a week later or more.   Depending on how cold it gets and how fast, sometimes the outside decorations don't even get put out these days.

But yesterday the family went out and chose a live tree, rearranged furniture, installed the holder and tree, wound lights around it, and put our ornaments up while listening to our traditional Nat King Cole Christmas CD and sipping hot chocolate. The tree emanated cold when we first brought it in, and as it soaked up the warm water we gave it, the scent of fir tree filled the house.  It really is a pleasant aroma.

Every year our kids get a new ornament, and so from youngest to oldest they get to put up their personal collections before we fill it out with shiny purple and teal globes.  Now that Deven is 12, he takes objection to his first year ornament, which for all of them is a photo of their infant or toddler selves, but he happens to be adorably naked.  At his advanced age, he is not amused.

I think this will be the first year that Emmett leaves the tree alone, and is old enough to look at the gifts without touching.  He really wants to give gifts too, and has already put some homemade items under the tree :).

It's fun and comforting to keep the traditions each year, to listen to the same music, drink hot chocolate, pull out collections of things we've seen year after year.  I think it is interesting how we humans (animals too I guess) like our traditions.  For Nat and I, Christmas is not a tradition we carry on from childhood, it is one we established in our lives when I was pregnant with Eliana.  But it has come to mean a lot, add great enjoyment to our lives, and give us a special focus for worship, tradition, correspondence, family, togetherness and fun.