February 22, 2014

Putting on Brave (A Five Minute Poem)

Today I go to the closet 
Rifle through textiles sewn
To take the chill off
Or to dance 
Or sit at the table in front of 
New American cuisine.

I need to put on brave
Perfectly fitted yet

And composed. 

It is not cold
And there is no music
And dinner will call for pajamas 
Since likely it will be a 
Bowl of cereal

With Milk.

And tomorrow again,
I will put on brave and hope,
In a world 
Shooting arrows
When everything
Within wishes to put 
On a dress

And dance.

"Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm." (Ephesians 6:13)

February 15, 2014

Running in the House

My heart rate got up this afternoon. I haven’t exercised at all since last October. When I am up at the cancer center with Daddy and I need to go to another floor for some reason, I take the stairs. Three floors and I feel it. I am out of shape.

Last week marked the end of the fourth decade of my life. The AARP sent me “the letter” a few weeks back. I didn’t open it, but I assumed it was my welcome to the “old people’s club” letter. They wanted to be the first to lay out the welcome mat. I didn’t ask to join so I know they have been creeping on me.

My grandma played with me and my sister, my brother and cousins. I don’t think she had much of choice in the matter. We were always having her pull out blankets to make huge multi-room tents. We threw them over yard furniture out in the shade of the sycamore.

Other days, when the St. Augustine was thick and green, she’d be out the in the old milk barn finding “toad sacks” (burlap feed bags) for us to race in. We were into competition, running heats before we knew what they were, battling it out by twos until there was an eventual top sack racer.

She crawled in our tents and in the tow sacks and she played with us.

A race broke out in the kitchen and dining room this afternoon. It involved squeals and hiding and going round and round. The dog joined in nipping at my jeans and acting like a pup.

Maggie is thirteen but she acts younger when the grandgirls come over. Just like me, she can’t resist a good squealing game of chase.

About ten minutes in, I peeled out of my sweater and ran in my t-shirt for the rest of the chase. The girls, they padded barefooted on the sisal rug and the wood floors. I slid around the counters in my wool socks.

Finally, the little one was worn out and she reached for Dandy (my grandmother name). We didn’t make it long once I was toting a twenty-five pound weight.

Stopping to fill sippy cups with apple juice, we pushed our hair out of our eyes and caught our breath.

Naomi wanted to know if the juice had sugar in it. I told her maybe there was a little. (I didn’t get the memo that she was grounded from sugar. Oh, well…)

I made the remark, directed to no one in particular, really just thinking out loud, that we had gotten our exercise. Naomi was listening.

“No, Dandy,” she said as a matter of fact, “we were playing.”

Playing was on the afternoon agenda and the chase was the finale after reading books and jumping “one, two, three” and singing and dancing.

I once thought my grandmother was humoring us when she was playing with us but she was playing because she loved it and she loved us.

The old house rule, “No Running in the House” doesn’t apply around here.

We aren’t waiting until spring for a good game of chase. Life is too short not work in some play. This might including wrestling with my friends ----an activity I rarely did in my forties but am thinking about taking up again when I get back in shape.

(The above is a warning to my friends…and if they are reading they know to watch their backs. Surprise is my only advantage at my weight class.)

Thanks for all the birthday wishes this week. Turning fifty was fun for so many reasons---number one being I didn’t do it alone but with my twin sister, Leanne, who came into “old people’s club” eight minutes behind me.

Play this week. Run in the house. Wrestle. Life is too short not to play.

Linking with Laura at The Wellspring: Playdates with God

February 6, 2014

Day 18,257

Earlier today before the snow started, bluebirds flittered along a barbed-wire fence. There were four of them, as blue as midnight. A mockingbird disappeared in a thicket on the other side of the road. Down the way, a redtail hawk, his talons wrapped around a cable, spread out his wings and lifted into the grey just as I passed by.

Ice weighs heavy on the pine tree that stands towering above the rock bench out back.

At the top of this hill, the temperature slips down the thermometer ever so slightly and the pines out back have to bear under during a forecast of a wintery mix.

The limb just below the squirrel’s nest could bear no more and let go of its place on high leaving it's phloem exposed on the trunk. The top branches bend like the handles on canes but they haven’t broken... yet.

There’s been a chill in the air since November making the winter seem unusually long. 

Cold is often used to numb pain. I am feeling numb if numbness can be felt. (Isn’t “feeling numb” an oxymoron?)

Dad is in the resurrection phase of his treatment. His bone marrow took a deadly blow in January with a cocktail of poisons carried in a black bag. His stem cell transplant was scheduled for the day after his birthday. 

The medical team at the myeloma clinic call transplant day “Day Zero” and then, the days after are numbered. They told us to expect the worst symptoms on Day Seven. Dad would improve on Day Ten.

He did, but the improvement on Day Ten was relative when Day Seven took everything in him to make it to the clinic and back.

Nonetheless, he made it through the days and the nights without having to be in the hospital. There were days I wondered if being home was such a great achievement as Daddy struggled under the weight of his weakened body, shivered beneath his Cowboy’s blanket. 

We were numbering the days. (Psalm 90:12)

The flurries stopped in the middle of the afternoon but the night promises to be frigid.

Dad is better. We have a couple of weeks before he slings another black bag of chemo over his shoulder for four days straight. He can handle that bag though it will stay hooked to his line day and night. He says it reminds him of when he walked jetlagged in airports all over the world carrying his travel bag. It doesn't seem that unnatural.

Winter will end. The birds will eat pinenuts in the grove out back and the redtail hawks will wrangle the snakes. A bluebird couple will build a nest in the paper slot beneath the mailbox. The swallows will have babies on the porch trusses, and then they'll poop on the wicker furniture.

Life is not frozen in time. The numbness will fade and I will feel again.

I'm not sure what I will feel, but I will. And I want to.

Feeling has risks, but not feeling is the greater risk.

The hard graces sit side by side with joy graces. And somehow, they add up to the strength called "the joy of the Lord."

Joy in a boy sat on the couch across from me while I was writing today. He was dreaming up ways for his buddy to ask a girl to the prom. Seems it is not as simple as saying, “Hey, what do you think about letting me take you to the prom?” (Twitter and Instagram demand much more than that. #shesaidyes #prom2014)

My baby has just weeks left in high school and my granddaughter, Naomi, will only be three for eleven more months. (I love three. I wish all children could be three for at least five years.)

I want to feel the joy and pain of my last child wriggling free to fly. And I want to laugh at three-year old observations on life. I want to dance with Livy who, at eighteen months, loves to kiss---everybody. I want to be present to the people I love as I count the days of my life.

More than anything I want to be present to the knowing that my God is near. He is not unaware. He alone can melt the stone cold heart.

Lord, give me a heart of wisdom as I number my days. Chip away the cold exterior and let me feel the pain, the joy, the life that is mine eternal. So many roads in life are intersecting in this place. Let me see them as you see them. Help me open my heart to the gifts of this day and trust you with tomorrow.

Blogging has had to take a back burner during the last few weeks. Dad and I are both blessed to have a short break before his treatment resumes. I am so proud of him. And I admire all those I have seen daily in the clinics sitting across from us and beside us in the treatment pods. The world is full of such brave and beautiful people who reach out with kindness even when life is difficult. Often I find it a holy place…the Lord is near. Thanks for your prayers.