Saturday, October 29, 2011

The blessing of friendship

My dear friend Kathleen and I met for breakfast this morning and shared conversation, poetry and a few tears, all of which we fully embraced. A short walk along a section of the Burke-Gilman took us past waterfront homes with inviting gardens under an ever-changing morning sky.

Ours is a friendship of mutual gratitude and love. Laughter, stories, silence, music, mud antics, water play, disclosure, road trips, picnics, tears, overnight getaways, concurrent massages at NSM, a willingness to listen in; we honor it all.

Life is good.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Heads up!

Spending time outside, especially in wild spaces, has a balancing effect on me and tilts me toward greater equilibrium on all counts. This past week has been a time of grief and reflection, gratitude and solitude, and a time of standing in my body where it is in time and place. I'm more visually acute; the world seems more beautiful than ever: shimmering, fresh, original.

At the kitchen sink today I looked out into the back yard and turned on the faucet, and then I saw it: a great blue heron, flying low, rising up and over the dogwood tree directly over my field of vision and carrying my breath away with it. Leaning in to gaze at the invisible stream of its flight path, a second miracle revealed itself: a lone hummingbird, holding her own high above the bamboo thicket like a hovering helicopter scouting out earthly events.

"Chin up, girl," they called, and then they were gone.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Forgiveness, healing and the passage of time


Or perhaps it's as simple as forgetting. Whatever the case may be, precious feline girl, Delilah, has returned to the master bedroom as of last night, 4 months after fleeing the second floor following the installation of our ceiling fan.

Curled up. Purring. A sentry of sorts, though decidedly carefree. And on her own timeline.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Laundry therapy

Three years into his surgical residency, my sister Geo sent Mika a wacky postcard in sympathy of his chronic state of sleep deprivation. The black and white photos showed a man in a suit lying down in various places, including a well tended vegetable garden and atop a cluttered desk. The caption offered clear succinct advice: "When in doubt, get horizontal."

I tried the horizontal state several times today in an effort to prevent falling over with grief. I also managed to mow the lawn and circle the sparkling waters of Green Lake, but I found the most therapeutic result from two loads of laundry.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Choices

Meet Andy d'Elia. At 94, my stepfather maintains a daily routine that keeps him going from morning til night. He lives alone in a 3-story townhouse and has a lifelong practice of disciplined living. Despite his advanced age and weakened state from chemo for metastatic lung cancer, this 5'3" West Point grad, former pilot and die-hard tennis player continues to surf the web, read email, follow the stock market, oversee his home affairs, manage his personal care with minimal assistance, and make lists of things to do and achieve. And he answers his landline; who does that? Today he mentioned plans for a patio-area garden next spring and admitted somewhat sheepishly that the time has come to purchase an iphone.

Tomorrow he will meet with someone from Home Instead and decide if this is a suitable resource for him. My sisters, Geo and Melinda, and brother-in-law, Art, have assisted, accommodated, and, on a few occasions, rescued Andy for many, many moons. Through regular check-ins, phone calls, home-cooked meals, in-home help and extraordinary patience, they've extended immense grace beyond measure.

It takes a village to live our lives, even when we think we've got it covered all by ourselves.


The sure comfort of poetry

The Peace of Wild Things by Wendell Berry




When despair for the world grows in me 
and I wake in the night at the least sound 
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be, 
I go and lie down where the wood drake 
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.



I come into the peace of wild things 
who do not tax their lives with forethought 
of grief.


I come into the presence of still water.



And I feel above me the day-blind stars 
waiting with their light. For a time 
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The eternal company of music

Dear Mr. Westlund,

Not sure if you had anything to do with the placement of these wind-chimes, but I've got to tell you, I'm inspired! I trust that the sweet music brings you a measure of pleasure year 'round and serves to remind you that you are not forgotten.

Autumn blessings and peace to you,
Jenny


Thursday, October 20, 2011

A birthday gift in reverse order

Received today, via text message, on the occasion of her 22nd birthday:

"I love you Jenny. Thank you for all the years of love, hugs, laughs, cries, Pam's (roti), support, generosity, and, most of all, thank you for being such a role model for me."


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

With deepest gratitude and a heavy heart


Caroline Faith Sinanan, much loved cousin and soul-mate, found a full measure of peace today after a long course of treatment for breast cancer. On a crisp, sunny autumn day, Faith drew her last breath in the peaceful sanctuary of her cherished home, Whispering Oaks, in Ashland, Oregon. Daughter, sister, mother, cousin, aunt, niece, sister-in-law, nurse, neighbor, friend, landlord, foster-care home owner, employer, Jane-of-all-trades, beloved "mom" to Bindi and Gracie, well-informed patient with metastatic breast cancer, stunning woman, world traveler, roti-loving, woman of joy, and a highly independent spirit, to name a few.

Well-known for her decades of service to countless families in the Rogue Valley area as a compassionate, skilled and highly intuitive OB nurse, Faith had a following of fans that knew no limits. All who knew her loved her; plain and simple. She found great joy in sharing time with family, especially her beautiful daughter, Viyda, and her beloved nieces and nephews: MacKenzie, Quinn, Wyatt, and Maya. A teacher at heart, Faith loved to share her knowledge and understanding of things and how they worked and nudge others to further inquiry. She could fire off a list of questions and cite research studies and statistics like an eager intern, much to the occasional embarrassment of family who often sought the short version.

Since her initial breast cancer diagnosis in 2004, Faith took on the challenge of living life and educating herself about her disease with equal passion. She inspired us, challenged us, and lead the way. I responded by availing myself and, as a result, grew to know and love Faith like a sister, developing an intimate relationship that served us both. Through biopsies, port-placement, blood draws, chemo, more surgery, MRIs, CT-scans, spinal taps, gamma knife procedures and WBRT, there we were. Through water play at Bowen, Maui, Kauai, local lakes in the Ashland area and at the Golding's pool party, there we were. Through the night, on many occasions, awake, talking, holding on to each other, crying, laughing, sharing stories, there we were, together, living our lives.
Unselfishly, Faith offered me the rich blessing of intimacy. She loved that I accepted that gift, and she rewarded me with a deep trust, confiding in me on issues that took great courage for us both.

I shall miss Faith dearly. I give abundant thanks for our time together and for the generosity of spirit she so freely shared. And I vow to do my best to honor her memory through intentional, joyful living. Namaste, Faith.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Holding without holding on

Gracious God,

Thank you for bringing us safely to the beginning of this day. Thank you for our lives and for opportunities to reach beyond our own small sphere into the realm of others' sacred space. Guide us to that still point where grace may flourish like the welcome of dawn's first light. Help us to open our arms in your service, surrounding those in need with comfort and tender love.

Amen.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

In stillness, listening

Conversations, thoughts, prayer, people: all have passed through today and left me with more to further explore. This morning I unearthed a small collection of artifacts commemorating a dear friend who died in February. Prayer followed.

At midday, two separate conversations an hour apart with Gladys, her voice revealing fear and anxiety and an underlying theme of impending loss. In retrospect, I think I fell woefully short in offering her support. Even a brief window of time allowed me to see that listening and simply honoring her words and feelings is much more vital than espousing my own perspective. More prayers.

Later, I spent time reflecting on my mother's life and our respective places in it. I began working on a book for her, filled with pictures and a few words to serve as a lifeline anchoring her to her life.

Then a blow-through visit from Reilly, always in motion, ready to share ideas, film clips, music, projects, all in an effort to connect, and oh, connect he does!

Sometimes all I need to do is be still and honor what arises from that place.

Friday, October 14, 2011

A shining light

Today I attended the Wyckoff Luncheon & Awards Ceremony, benefiting Provail, a Seattle non-profit organization helping children and adults with disabilities live better lives. I've had the honor of attending this event for several years, thanks to an invitation by my dear friend, Sharon Jodock-King, a past-board member. The fund-raising luncheon is an inspirational community celebration, honoring the many businesses and individuals in our region who volunteer their time and services to support Provail and their programs.

Sharon served as our table captain and was an awards presenter today, which also happens to be her birthday. Her presentation speech, delivered through her communication device, was classic Sharon, infused with poignant facts, eloquent stories and her trademark sense of humor. A sensitive and spiritual woman, Sharon takes great pride and joy in living independently with her husband, Alan, in their Shoreline home. She is a breast cancer survivor and a devoted advocate for those living with disabilities. The DSHS Aging & Disabilities Services website offers this bio:

Born in Washington State, Sharon spent much of her childhood living in a hospital ward for children with disabilities before spending most of the next 30 years living in three different Washington State institutions, including Rainier School, the Interlake Nursing Home in Bellevue, and the United Cerebral Palsy Center in Seattle. She moved from the UCP Center in 1986 and has lived on her own in Seattle with her husband, Alan King, since that time. Sharon was honored as the first ever recipient of the lifetime achievement award from Washington People First, having been active as a founding member since its inception. Among her many other accomplishments, Sharon earned an AA degree in general studies from a Seattle area community college in the 1970s and has served on multiple boards, including Washington Protection & Advocacy, the Developmental Disabilities Planning Council, Provail, the Neglect and Abuse committee, and her local church council. She is also an artist, having sold many paintings over the years.

Thank you, Sharon, for your steadfast advocacy and community service, and for your friendship these many years.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Sweet, tender autumn

The Fall

I love the light of autumn:
the fall from grace
through space and into place,
a season between extremes
when we forgive each other and ourselves
for all we have done and not done,
and prepare together
for the darkness and cold to come.

~ William Chipman

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Taut and tethered

I remember with great fondness an autumn walk with my mother and Andy, many years ago, during a weeklong visit to our home. Descending a steep wooded trail, Andy fumbled with his camera, calling out to his wife as she got dragged down the hill by Maude. "Marianne!", he called, "Wait! I want to take your picture!" It was indeed a lofty wish. My mother, nearly airborne, was already out of sight. When we caught up with her, she shot me a glance and posed a reasonable question. "When are you going to get a dog that isn't intended for hunting?"

Exhibit A: taut leashes, red-alert postures, all canine muscles fully engaged. No wonder my gait is akimbo!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Of bikes and children

It's bike club time at our local elementary school, and this is my 4th year of volunteering. Today was our first ride of the school year and we had 22 student riders, two staff, and three volunteers; that's a lot of adrenaline on wheels.

The route begins at Cedar Way Elementary and winds through Mountlake Terrace, including a lovely section on a wooded trail through Terrace Creek Park, and ends at the library, where students spend time checking out books or working on their homework. I love both the concept and the experience. Combining exercise and literacy excites and delights me, and riding with the students and bringing up the rear gives me a chance to support them in an entirely different realm. And best of all, I get to spend time with students that I've known for nearly 6 years.

Today's ride began during a sun break on a blustery day and ended in a steady rain, adding significant challenge for many. We had a few spills on slippery surfaces, lots of tired riders with varying fitness levels and coping abilities, and one frighteningly close call with an inattentive driver.

Volunteering is one of the bright beacons in my life and I hope to keep at it well into my elder years. For now, the bike club is an especially good fit!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Restoring a balance

What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Philippians 4:9



Friday, October 7, 2011

Sigh.

I freely admit that I am in need of some alone time and extended periods of silence. I returned home today after a 6-day visit to Faith's home in Ashland, and the sound of the dryer cycle is about the extent of the stimulation I desire. Caregiving is the work of saints and though I've been called that moniker, I struggle with claiming it. Truth be told, I love giving care and nurture to others; most who know me well can attest to that. What I could really use, though, is some work in standing firm with my boundaries, acknowledging what I need, and creating space for that to manifest.

When I take on too much and the energy flows in only one direction, I feel like this lowly sunflower, and it's all I can do to breathe in and breathe out. Most of us don't function well in that position; I surely don't. If I've learned one thing in my years of attending support groups for caregivers, it's the importance of self-care. I'm starting with a dog walk, followed by a quiet evening and a long hug in my partner's arms.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A favorite keepsake of Faith's childhood

Kindness is leaving the eggs in the nest and putting the frog back in the water.

~ from Kindness is a Lot of Things, by Edith Eckblad

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Have scarf will travel



Today brought clear evidence that the seasons are turning, but wait! Fall follows summer right? Down here in lovely Ashland, fresh snow adorns the local mountains, having fallen overnight, and it looks close enough to touch.Yow!

Thanks to a colorful assortment of head coverings and a carefree approach to attire, I'm good to go!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Cherished team member

Now that Faith has entered hospice care, the team of care providers has grown exponentially. Family, friends, former colleagues, former patients (from her decades-long nursing days), doctors and nurses, both locally and in Seattle, social workers, personal assistant Jackie; the list goes on.

Perhaps the most cherished member of the care team is Faith's soulmate, Gracie, pictured here in her favorite water play locale, just up the road. Steadfast, loyal, quirky, devoted: that's our dear Gracie-Lou, and we love her so.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

In the company of women

Faith and I attended a beautiful worship service this morning at Unity of Ashland, accompanied by her dear friends Ana and Joan. It was a peaceful music-filled experience; a time to still the heart and quiet the mind, and to welcome the blessing found in now. And find it, we did!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Tools of the trade

An early arrival at Sea-Tac this morning offered me the chance to watch the action on the tarmac while sipping hot coffee. I was intrigued and impressed with what appeared, at least from my vantage point, to be a clear illustration of effective communication at play. A man used his orange light sticks and carefully executed arm signals to direct the pilot to bring the plane in to the gate. Everything about the interaction indicated all parties were on board with the task and there was no room for misinterpretation or an independent agenda: "Do this, and do it now."

As a teacher of young children, I often hear myself say, "Follow directions the first time." In truth, it's a fairly futile attempt on my part to convey my expectation that students are to respond to my direction now. In reality, some completely ignore me, some hear but don't listen, some don't hear and therefore miss the instruction, and the rest have an agenda unrelated to mine.

Eureka! Could it be as simple as using orange light sticks? I'll get back to you on that!