Thursday, March 31, 2011

The April Poetry Challenge

The alternative title of today's post is "April's Poetry Challenge," with me being the April in question.

Back in February, I wrote about my relationship with poetry. I had just seen "The King's Speech" and was deeply moved by the efforts of Lionel Logue and the future King George VI to overcome the prince's crippling stammer. I wrote about my own silence when it came to poetry and recent steps I had taken to overcome my handicap. At the end of the post, I mused that I was considering posting a poem of my own every day in April, which is National Poetry Month. 

Here we are on the far side of March, with April starting tomorrow. And the decision is…

I'm going to do it.

I have been writing at home, working on rhythms and word combinations. Warren sees me counting syllables on my fingers and nods, knowing what I am up to. I have been practicing with my poetry gang on Facebook, building up my voice and my courage. Some of the poems you will see are old poems (the few that survived the Great Shredding) to show you pieces of the past. Most of them are new poems, written in the last 60 days.

A poem a day. Big step. Big challenge. Big leap into the unknown.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Coming to the Table

A friend's adult son is in the start-up stages of a new ministry based upon serving God through feeding others. The friend and I had a spirited discussion about the ministry of food. At the time, I had just ordered The Spirit of Food, a book of essays about "feasting and fasting toward God" (and about which I cannot say enough great things, now that I have read it), and I had just finished reading Hidden Kitchens, some chapters of which are about building community through feeding others. 

I get excited and impassioned when I talk or read about the intersection of food and community. There are so many ways in which we can build and strengthen our communities. Serving someone a bowl of homemade soup is one of them.

For me, it is the way of community building with which I am most immediately comfortable. One of my favorite lines by writer Jesse Stuart is "we went to our supper table hungry, and we came away happy, full of food and great dreams." When I serve others, I hope that some of that fullness finds its way into the food.

Christian writer Frederick Buechner wrote about the ministry of food when he described a post-resurrection meeting between Jesus and the disciples one early morning by the Sea of Galilee. When the disciples, who had been fishing all night, came ashore, they saw a fire and smelled cooking fish and baking bread. And then Jesus invited them to breakfast.

Buechner wrote, "Instead of all the extraordinary words we might imagine on his lips, what he said was, 'Come and have breakfast.'"

"Come and have breakfast."

Simple words. Easy words.

"Come and have breakfast."

We so often get discouraged by the weight of the world, getting bogged down in the immense details of a global solution. The problems are so insurmountable, the challenges are so great. There is war and strife. In Japan, thousands have died and hundreds of thousands are suffering. In my own town, there is hunger and despair. Small wonder we throw up our hands and feel helpless. We feel we must make a Big Effort on a Big Scale, something far beyond the skills and resources of so many of us.

But it is easier than that. It is as simple as bringing others to the table. It is as quiet as saying "come and have breakfast."

A small task. A simple task. Feeding the world one sandwich at a time. Building community one pie at a time.

The friend's son has been serving hot chocolate, for a goodwill donation or for nothing at all, downtown during our First Fridays. He has dreams beyond that bare bone start, but rather than putting them off until he could launch a Big Effort, he jumped in, rolled up his sleeves, and began serving.

"Come and have a cup of chocolate."

"Come and eat breakfast."

Take and eat.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

And Now For Something Completely Different

It is Concert Week right now, with the Symphony performing back to back concerts this Saturday and Sunday. For those of you out of the area, you can watch it live-streamed. Go to this link. The concert starts at 3:00 Eastern Daylight Savings Time, so do the math and figure out when to turn to your computer if you don't live in this time zone. As for me, I am in the middle of week two of my new job. The great news is I love the new job. The not so good news is that it has thrown my schedule and our household into chaos, especially when combined with Concert Week.

My personal time has taken a back seat to everything else already in the back seat. I think about writing, try to set aside time for writing, and then find myself a day later down the road saying "what happened?"

Thank God for Quote Snack's writing prompts. For some time now, I have been doing them, especially when I fail entirely at my personal horological management. Blogger E.A. Able sets you off with a short quote, sometimes just a phrase, and a five minute limit.

Even on my worst days, I can find five minutes. I can always find five minutes.

Her most recent writing prompt was this sentence: I didn't have anyone around for whom I had to put on a cheerful mask. My response is below.

*************************


All the masks were lying on the floor. Brightly colored ones, dull ones, grim ones, cheerful ones. Feathers, bangles, glitter on some. Curious inlaid rims on others.

Christ, it looks like a Mardi Gras carnival float wrecked here.

I squat down, picking up one from the floor, turning it in my hands, the light glinting off its smooth polished surfaces. It was one of the most cheerful ones: upturned eyes, a broad smile, glowing pinks and yellows.

I didn't have anyone around for whom I had to put on a cheerful mask. I set it carefully on a shelf, giving it a little pat.

I turn to the dance masks. These are the Great Carved Masks. They were done carefully over many generations, carvers telling stories as they huddled around a fire, carvers breathing the magic of the Spirits into the faces. Here is Raven. Here is Wolf. Here is Salmon. Here is the Hamatsa.

The masks are heavy. They are freighted with meaning, freighted with magic. I pick one up, weighing it in my hands and my heart. I carefully put it on and look at myself in the mirror.

I have become the Cannibal at the End of the World and Whoop-Szo will send the avalanche to destroy me.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The 3¢ Solution

Was it only yesterday I was lamenting my clothing dilemma? (Yes, it was.) Well, here's the bottom line: the problem is solved.

Yes, you read that right. The problem is solved.

My friend Cindy - my friend since infancy - read my post yesterday morning and immediately emailed that she loved the analogies. (Cindy is a horse person, so she would.) Then she emailed back a little later and said if I was thinking of going to the Marion Salvation Army in Marion, she was free and we could go together.

I jumped on that offer as soon as I could.

Warren and I then went out last night, looking for a pair of shoes for me, and the more we looked at the gigantic mall just south of here - you know - the one that starts with a "P," the more discouraged I grew. No shoes, no skirts, no service. I had earlier struck out at our local Goodwill, as well as another smaller one that Warren and I had stopped at together. I was already thinking ahead to next week and whether I could cobble together enough clothes to make it to Friday again. So when I pulled into Cindy's driveway at 10:00 this morning, my expectations were low.

But my spirits were high. They always are when I am with Cindy. This is the friend I have always had. This is the friend with whom I learned to swim, and to shoot a camera, and a whole bunch of other stuff. This is my wonderful friend of a thousand sleepovers and a million memories. Before we got out of her driveway, we were laughing and talking.

That mood carried into the Salvation Army store, where Cindy announced "we'll need a shopping cart! Here." She then steered us straight to the dresses and we started to cull jumpers from the racks. 

I soon learned Cindy's technique: flip through the rack quickly, pull any possibilities and toss them into the cart to try on. She worked one side; I worked the other. Sometimes she would hold up something: "What about this?" Sometimes I would hold up something for her nod. Twenty minutes later, I was headed to the dressing room with a cartful of clothes. Thirty minutes after that, I had three jumpers, one dress, and soaring expectations.

"Okay, shoes next," Cindy said, leading me in another direction. I protested mildly: shoes are hard to find for me, I can't wear anything more than a low heel, my feet are really touchy because of the neuropathy. No matter, let's look. Fifteen minutes later, I had a pair of dress shoes that I had tried on and then worn while walking up and down the shoe aisles. They felt fine. (I would have had a pair of casual office shoes as well, but they were just that much too big.)

"Now what?" Cindy said. Well, could I find some skirts? Anything was possible. We worked the skirts rack with the same efficiency we had applied to the dresses, then I went and pulled a few men's shirts (which I prefer to blouses) to try on as well. In the meantime, Cindy picked up some pieces of her own.

Another twenty minutes in the dressing room, and I was ready to go. Not because I had given up in despair, but because, thanks to Cindy's enthusiasm, my new wardrobe had come together.

Cindy checked out first and paid for her purchase. I then checked out: one dress, two skirts, three jumpers, three men's shirts, a pair of socks, and the dress shoes. Yellow tagged items were 50% off; pink tagged items were 99¢. I had several of each. (The dress shoes? 99¢.) Grand total? $34.51.

Cindy looked at me, her eyes big. "My gosh, I think that is what I just paid!" She rummaged for her receipt and started laughing. Her purchase was exactly three cents less.

It figured. That's what happens when two old friends go thrift shopping together. They come out within pennies of each other.

We drove away laughing. I called Warren to tell him of my success, which caused him to say, in mock sternness, "you spent how much on new clothes?" I gave Cindy a huge hug before driving on home, where I spread the new purchases out for Warren to view. Before this afternoon was over, I had scored a pair of casual office shoes at our local Kohl's. By using a $25 gift card I had received at Christmas, I paid an additional $3.81 for the shoes, which had been heavily discounted. (A note: I went to Kohl's twice in one hour. The first time to try on shoes, the second time with Warren in tow to give me a second opinion, as in "do you think these are okay?" When you suffer from a severe lack of fashion sense, it helps to be married to a man like Warren, who patiently looked, gave a thumbs up, and didn't once question why he was asked to go back to a store I had been in a half hour earlier.)

It is almost 6:00 p.m. on Saturday. The sky is brilliantly blue and clear, which bodes well for viewing tonight's supermoon. I am doing laundry; Warren is working in the shop. I am starting to think about supper. Today's purchases are spread out on the couch, except for the ones already in the wash. I already emailed Cindy about my shoe coup. She wrote back, "you are set for clothes for a year!"

A year? I'm thinking a couple of years at least. But when I am ready or need to go shopping again, I know what to do. Grab Cindy, laugh our way through the store, and come out with totals within mere cents of each other.

The 3¢ solution. It works for me.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Stable is Empty

I have been called many things in my life, but "clotheshorse" is not one of them. I am widely known through my circle of women friends as being the last person with whom to go shopping or discuss which pair of shoes to wear with which pair of slacks. (You mean to tell me others routinely own more than one pair of slacks?) My friend Patricia interrogates me to make sure that what I am wearing on high occasions (my wedding, Ben's wedding) passes fashion muster. My closet has, on at least one occasion, made a girlfriend scream in total shock, "April, this is it? This is all you own?"

So why is it I read a blog devoted to dress and fashion regularly?

The blog is Rags Against the Machine. I met its writer, Terri, in Blogville when she popped up on my blog and I returned the favor by visiting hers. We are of the same generation, so I tend to "get" her cultural references. Despite my lack of couture savvy, I could immediately supply the name of the 60s era styling gel she once alluded to (Dippity-Do).

Terri recently blogged about her changing style through the years and her clothing choice as a reflection of feminism, socio-economic status, personal values, and community. After reading it last night, I noted that I wanted to comment about my own journey through the decades. I then wrote: But not tonight. This is week one of new job with the accompanying wardrobe complexities including realizing I preferred to wear my lone jumper (I used to have a whole stable of them) over my slacks, and breaking the heel off of my only pair of dress shoes and it not being repairable. Sigh.

Terri's comments about herself through the years did stir a raft of memories. There was the college professor, a new transplant the same year I was, calling across a crowded walkway to me, "April, you are such a slob!" because I was such a contrast to my impeccably attired classmates. I thought of my "young mom, older attorney" years here in town, the height of my jumper days, when one little girl walking to school stopped me and sighed, worshipfully, "you dress just like a teacher."

Oh, there are lots of fashion memories to sift through, from the miniskirt years right up to the broken heel on Wednesday.

It is early Friday morning as I type these words. I have been awake since 4:30 a.m. for lots of reasons, including the Symphony. I plan on swimming this morning before working a little more than an hour today to fill out my 24 hour week. There is the gas line problem here that will keep me tethered to the house this afternoon until the plumber arrives. 

Somewhere over the weekend (Saturday probably as the Symphony already has a claim to Sunday), I will have to apply myself to the task of expanding my closet, or at least finding another pair of shoes. My enthusiasm for shopping is on par with my enthusiasm for waiting for the plumber. (Truth be known, I would rather wait for the plumber than go shopping as the former activity allows me to be home and tend to other matters.)

So why do I read a blog devoted to fashion?

Because. Because I hope a little of Terri's observations rub off on me, just like Patricia saying enough times "no, you can't wear that skirt to that event because…" eventually sinks in. Because maybe as I am looking in despair at all the clothes that aren't me, I hope to hear Terri's voice in my head pointing out the lone combination that does appeal to me. Because I knew what Dippity-Do was.

And because the clothing stable is empty. And even a non-clotheshorse like myself knows that sometimes you just have to saddle up and ride.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Journey, Part 5: The Road Goes Ever On

I am nearing the end of reading The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren, and I am exhausted.

Not because of the book, mind you. The last chapters just happen to coincide with the first week of my new job and therein lies the rub. My new job is wonderful. My body's adjustment to a new schedule and demands is not. But this is not about my new job. This is about the journey I began almost 40 days ago, at the request of my friend Katrina.

As I pondered this post, I almost started it by saying that I am nearing the end of my journey, but I quickly realized that would be nonsense. My journey, like Bilbo Baggins' road, goes ever on.

I have not taken everything in the book to heart. Some chapters, particularly those on service, resonated deeply with me. Others, less so. I am not of an evangelical bent when it comes to my beliefs, so at times the author lost both my interest and my heart.

Rather, what reading The Purpose Driven Life has done is pulled my sleepy little craft - my life boat, as it were - out of the eddies into which it had drifted and put me right back out on the ocean again. It has cast me out upon the endless sea: closer to my beliefs, closer to the Spirit of the Universe, closer to God.

Among the many works I have read in recent weeks has been the novel Brendan by Frederick Buechner. (Discovering the writings of Frederick Buechner has been one of the highlights of this time of spiritual journeying.) Towards the end of that work, St. Brendan, who has spent much of his life exploring the seas around Ireland in an effort to reach the Isle of the Blessed, is asked to give another man, Gildas, a hand standing up, as Gildas lacks one leg. "I'm as crippled as the dark world," explains Gildas, to which Brendan replies, "If it comes to that, which one of us isn't?"

Then Brenda reflects: "To lend each other a hand when we're falling...perhaps that's the one work that matters in the end."

I will still be writing about my journey in the weeks to come. I want to spend time at the table with The Spirit of Food, a beautiful compilation of essays on feasting and fasting and belief by editor Leslie Leyland Fields. I want to write about serving as opposed to helping. I want to continue to explore the currents and waves of my spirituality.

My journey, like the road, like the ocean, goes ever on.

Remember me, Lord, for the sea is so wide and my boat is so small.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Changes

"New Occasions Teach New Duties."

Those words, from the hymn "Once to Every Man and Nation" by James Russell Lowell, are inscribed on the fa├žade of what used to be our community's high school and is now one of our two middle schools.

When I was in high school (the "new" high school), Mr. Felts, the quintessential math teacher who'd begun his career decades earlier at the "old" high school, would sometimes look at the class with a glint in his eyes.

"Mr. Wilson," he would say, calling on a student. "New occasions teach new duties. And now I need you to rise to the occasion. To the board, Mr. Wilson, to the board."

That motto and that scene are echoing in my head these days.

This coming Monday, I begin a new job as a mediator for our county Juvenile/Probate court. For the first time since I last practiced law in May, 2005, I will have an office. For the first time in over a decade, I will have a supervisor, a schedule, a regular paycheck, and (drum roll, please) medical insurance.

New occasions and new duties, indeed.

For the last five years, almost to the day, I have been the special projects administrator (a self-coined title) for David Sunderman, one of our two Municipal Court judges. David and I had been colleagues at the bar and friends for many years and he had actually asked whether I would be interested in working for him back in late 2004, less than a week before I was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer. I began in March 2006 once I was well enough to start working and have never looked back. 

Working with David Sunderman has been a blessing, professionally and personally. By any measure, it has been a successful collaboration. I have had my hand in a variety of projects over the years. The two I am proudest of are the establishment of a mental health docket for criminal defendants with mental illnesses and the establishment of a civil mediation program. The last five years epitomize what I recently took to heart: "go where your best prayers take you."

My new position first came to light last summer when I fielded an email from a good friend and employee at Juvenile County telling me one of their two mediators would be retiring and asking me whether I knew any mediators who might be interested in the position.

If memory serves me, I replied, "yes, I do." As in "Yes, I do know mediators who might be interested."

My friend immediately responded with "Good! I was hoping you would be interested!"

To this day, I still don't know how "yes, I do" became "yes, I am," but it did and, as it turns out, I was.

I kept "my" judge in the loop from the outset. It wasn't until this February, however, when the job officially opened and I applied and was given an interview that it suddenly became apparent that I might be leaving Municipal Court.

And then it changed from "I might be leaving" to "I am leaving."

This past Monday my "new" judge, Ken Spicer, made me the formal job offer. I've known Ken for years; I've practiced in front of him. (I've known many of the people I will be working with, including my new supervisor, for years.) I accepted.

On Tuesday, I sat down with my "old" judge and began discussing my transition. Because the new position is part-time and the two courts are only a half block apart, I will have the ability to move out of projects over the coming weeks and not have to do it abruptly.

I am about to experience a new occasion.

This new occasion became real - more real than saying "yes" to Judge Spicer - when I drafted notes to my co-workers at Municipal Court announcing my new job. One to the Mental Health docket team, one to the deputy clerks in the Civil division, one to the mediators, and the last to the court staff. 

I was a little sad, but reserved, with the first.

I was sad with a lump in my throat with the second.

I had a larger lump in my throat as I did the third.

It was the fourth note, though, that brought me to tears. In sending the note to the administrative staff in chambers, I added a post script asking Pat to please make sure the bailiffs got a copy of my announcement. I wrote: Especially the bailiffs, since I have been a "Junior Bailiff" on Thursday afternoon for months now.

That's when the tears started rolling. I hit "send" and cried. Not long, not hard, but I baptized my new occasion with tears for the old.

Yesterday I was at Municipal Court to manage the small claims mediation program. My space at the court check-in table was covered with chocolates, courtesy of the Mental Health Docket coordinator. Dave, one of the bailiffs, announced with a grin, "oh, I see our Junior Bailiff is here." Throughout the afternoon there were comments ranging from "gee, I'm sorry you are leaving" to "just wait until they find out over there what you're really like to work with - you'll be back."

It just about killed me.

Last night Warren and I were en route to a Symphony concert-related event with our good friend (and Symphony Board member) Dave, who happens to be the person who asked me many months ago whether I knew anyone who would be interested in the mediator's position. As we drove along in the dark and the snow, Warren and Dave talking Symphony matters, his children having a verbal tug-of-war over a small flashlight, and me sitting in the back of the van remembering my children having similar skirmishes, Dave suddenly asked "so, April, are you excited about starting on Monday?" I answered back immediately that I was and Dave replied with an emphatic "Good!"

It is good. I am excited.

New occasions teach new duties. My five year stint at Municipal Court was a wonderful occasion with many great learning experiences. The new one awaits.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A Journey, Part 4: Of Flannel Boards and Sunday School

As I have written before, I am on a journey. As of today, I am on day 28 of 40 reading Rick Warren's A Purpose Driven Life.

Reading that book has caused me to examine my beliefs and my faith more deeply that I expected. I have found myself reaching for other books about faith and spirituality, seeking paths others have traveled before me.

Two books I read recently have moved me deeply: Telling Secrets by Frederick Buechner, and a work I just finished, The Spirit of Food: 34 Writers on Feasting and Fasting Towards God, edited by Leslie Leyland Fields. In the days to come, I plan to write more about The Spirit of Food. I just finished it last night and want to start it all over again. As I emailed Leslie this morning, I am uplifted, I am deeply moved, and I am hungry!

A third book that I would add as having moved me deeply, which I read last fall and plan to reread again in coming weeks, is Every Day is a Good Day:  Reflections by Contemporary Indigenous Women, edited by the late, great Wilma Mankiller. (It is very interesting to note, as I link back to my post about Wilma Mankiller, that I titled it "Journeys.")

All of these works, and others, are helping guide me on my journey.

This current path has been an interesting one. I am not always enlightened by Rick Warren's writing. There are sections that I disagree with, sometimes strongly. It's not a perfect fit - it's not even a comfortable fit sometimes. I just finished several chapters about churches and the need of believers to join and invest themselves in a church. Those are issues that I struggle with for lots of reasons, starting with my upbringing in the land of flannel boards.

This is not my Sunday School class, but this is a 1960s era class that looks a lot like the ones I attended as a child and about which I write below.
When I was a little girl, I wanted to grow up and teach Sunday school.

Not because I was particularly religious, but because I wanted to use the flannel board.

I loved flannel boards. I would sit spellbound in class while Mrs. Sunday School Teacher would tell a Bible story and press the characters onto the board as she recited the tale.

(A sociological note: This was the 1960s. Sunday School teachers were almost always "Mrs." The only unmarried Sunday School teachers at our church were the two adult daughters of the minister. In their case, their unmarried state was so engrained in us that they were always known as "Miss," even after one of them went and got married. "Ms.," of course, did not yet exist.)

There was a box of flannel pieces to use on the flannel board. Some pieces were characters, some were animals, some were scenery. Sometimes Mrs. Sunday School Teacher would press a palm tree onto the board so we would know it was Galilee and not Delaware, Ohio she was talking about as she told us a story. Sometimes she'd pick up Jesus and press him right onto the board while she told us all about the loaves and fishes.

That always seemed a little chancy to me, handling Jesus so casually. 

Once in a great while, if you sat really, really still and didn't whisper to Kristi Barber sitting next to you and you raised your hand without shouting "Me! Me!" when she asked a Bible question, Mrs. Sunday School Teacher would let you put a piece on the flannel board for all to see. But that rarely happened (and you never got to press Jesus up on the board).

I know why, too. The flannel board was so much fun that Mrs. Sunday School Teacher didn't want to share it.

Not all of the Sunday School teachers used the flannel boards. Maybe our church didn't own that many. Perhaps some of them thought flannel boards were a bit silly.

Miss Lois (one of the two aforementioned daughters) didn't use a flannel board. She taught the nursery room (3 year olds and younger) and was famous for having the only straight line of silent children following her into the sanctuary for the Sunday School closing service. She didn't use the flannel board because she was too busy teaching the little ones how to sing "Jesus Loves the Little Children" in their infant voices. Besides, there were no children colored the four colors of the song to press up on the flannel board. Only shepherds and disciples, all of whom looked remarkably Caucasian for being Israelis.

(An observation: It took me a long time to realize it was fear of Miss Lois, not fear of God, that made those little feet walk so neatly and silently every Sunday.)

As we grew older, Sunday School got more serious. We moved into catechism age and set aside childish things like flannel boards and simple songs. Our Sunday School teachers were now male and we spent our junior high years being taught in Sunday School what we had already supposedly just memorized in catechism class.

(Another  sociological note: This was the 1960s. After you got to 7th grade, the Sunday School teachers were all married men, often church deacons or elders. Maybe the Church Council, which also was all male, thought a man's firm hand was needed to control a group of wild teenagers.)

In eighth grade, I got into a serious argument with Mr. Sunday School Teacher over the doctrine of transubstantiation. When he said that the communion wafer and wine literally became the blood and body of Christ, I came back with "so if I take communion and then immediately have my stomach pumped, you're telling me they will find human blood and flesh in me? And if that's the body and blood of Jesus, why doesn't someone get their stomach pumped and analyze it?"

Eighth grade was not a good year in Sunday School.

Fortunately for me, due to a lack of willing male volunteers, all high school students were consolidated into one class taught by Mr. Springer, who was a ray of sunshine and free-thinking in an otherwise buttoned down, conservative congregation. We had a lot of leeway in his class to discuss religious freedom, religious doubt, and current events, all of which were more pressing in our minds than the three attributes of God.

If Mr. Springer had used flannel boards, his pieces would have included drive-thru churches (for those in too big a hurry to stay), "Sunday Pills" (for those who were looking for an easy way to get their religious "dose" for the week), and a crowd of young people looking for more meaningful ways to worship, including those that weren't Lutheran. In those days at that church, that was practically the same as announcing you were a communist and moving to Moscow.

(Another observation: Even though Mr. Springer was a church elder, I think there were some in the congregation who saw him at best as a troublemaker and at worst as a reprobate.)

It has been a long time since I have seen a flannel board, but they are still out there. Google "flannel board" and you will get over two hundred thousand hits. For a price, I could purchase my own flannel board and my own box of pieces. If I were feeling particularly plush, I could buy several different sets and let Jesus feed all of Noah's animals with loaves and fishes. (Not saying I would - just saying it could be done.)

But in my heart of hearts, I know it wouldn't be the same. I'd need to be sitting on a hard, wobbly wood chair, wearing a scratchy petticoat under my dress, my head sore from a night of sleeping on curlers. I'd need to have an offering dime clutched in my fist while we all sang "Jesus Loves Me" in off-key voices that were as wobbly as the chairs on which we sat. I'd need to have Kristi sitting next to me.

Kristi's been dead for many years now, killed in a hit-skip auto accident when she was a young mother. Mr. Springer is dead, too; he is buried very near Warren's parents and I think of him when I am visiting them. I don't know if they still sing "Jesus Loves the Little Children," with its Crayola colorings of the world. I don't know if the flannel boards of my childhood still exist at the church, perhaps tucked into a closet somewhere.

I do know I'm on a journey, and I'll be on it long after I finish A Purpose Driven Life in a few more weeks. It's a journey of hope and of love, of faith and of searching, of seeking and of finding.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Cancerland's Top 40 Hits


Sometimes my body reminds me in no uncertain terms that I live in Cancerland.

Today is one of those days.

When my cancer had the upper hand, before it was diagnosed (and even afterwards for many weeks), I felt different internally. I was not "sick" exactly, but not "well" either. At best, it felt as if there was a constant turmoil in my body. Was I coming down with the flu? Did I pick up a virus? At best, I constantly felt that a creepy-crawly prickling sensation both inside and out. (We won't discuss the worst days.)

When I first met Tim, my wonderful oncologist, and told him about it, he speculated that my body was trying to fight the cancer, much like it would any other infection, and I was feeling the fallout from the battle.

The first time after my stem cell transplants that I felt that internal battling sensation, I knew - just knew - that my cancer was back. It turns out it wasn't. So as soon as I stopped hyperventilating, I asked Tim why was I still feeling this way?

He said that there is evidence to suggest that when the body has undergone some major medical trauma such as a stroke or cancer, the physical trauma imprints itself in the memory. For unknown reasons, the body then randomly "replays" those physical memories and the occupant of the body feels the traumatic symptoms just as if they were happening all over again "for real."

Today is one of those days in which my body has decided to replay "Cancerland's All Time Greatest Hits." Like a radio alarm clock, it was playing bright and bouncy when I opened my eyes this morning. It's still going strong at the mid-morning mark.

It is annoying and a real drag, both physically and mentally.

Don't get me wrong. I am grateful that I am still around to listen to my internal DJ spin these tiresome tunes.

All the same, "we now return you to our regular programming" can't come soon enough.