When you are sorrowful look again in your heart,
and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

~ Kahlil Gibran, from"The Prophet"

Friday, May 28, 2010

"An Incontestable Symbol"

In the first paragraph of a short book entitled "The Man who Planted Trees", author Jean Giono states ~
In order for the character of a human being to reveal truly exceptional qualities, one must have the good fortune to observe its action over a long period of years. If this performance is devoid of all egoism, if its guiding motive is unparalleled generosity, if it is absolutely certain that there is no thought of recompense, and that, in addition it has left its visible mark upon the earth, then there can be no mistake.

Consider the people in your life

~ who quietly move in the background and make a slight mark, with the magnitude of that tiny impression causing ripples to carry its meaning beyond just the immediacy of that particular act, ultimately creating dynamic results
~ who behave selflessly, dancing away from rather than toward the limelight, in oblivion of the big drum roll
~ who make significant imprints in the landscape, not just once for pronounced effect and then fading away, but rather staying the course no matter how treacherous


Jean Giono's book is about a humble man of such character whose tireless work, that begins with the simplicity of an acorn, produces a multitude. And when the efforts of this man, this Elzeard Bouffier, impress those around him, the results of his endeavors are thus declared

"Incontestable Symbols of the Resurrection".
May the stalwart pine, with boughs stretched in undaunted vigilance over Erin

~ provide a blanket of protection while holding the snow that delights her in winter
~ temper the intensity of the blistering heat while allowing the warmth to enfold her in gracious embrace
~ absorb the harsh winds that threaten to shake the moorings of our souls

with evergreen branches reaching toward heaven
stand firm, tireless
in steadfast allegiance
over my sleeping child.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Let the Music Change my Mind

I think I'm finally starting to come down to earth from the high I've been on since Monday night's concert.

James Taylor and Carole King ~ in the same place, at the same time. It was everything I'd hoped it would be, and then some.

The capacity of the Allstate Arena is close to 20,000 and it was packed with exuberant, devoted fans. I fit right it:)

I had purchased tickets back in January when they initially went on sale. It had not yet been a month since Erin had passed away. I looked at the ticket prices, hesitated for a moment, and then pressed "order 2". I felt we deserved the good ones. When Dave got home from work that day, I rather sheepishly told him what I did. He agreed ~ the cost was justified.

Our seats were just off the main floor, and since the stage was in the center of the venue and it rotated, the view was fabulous. Dave snapped some pictures with our camera that has just a standard lens, so most came out rather blurry. This one's not too bad.

Both singers were on stage at all times during the show, and the play list was arranged so that when one star took front and center with a selection from his/her album as the highlighted song, the other stepped into musical/vocal accompaniment. They danced in intimate complement of one another's unique talents; alternating and equally sharing the spotlight.

James' selections were mostly his gentler classics that had the audience seated in appreciation, seduced by the rich tones of his noble vocal distinction. He once again captivated everyone with that night's rendition of "Steamroller Blues" which he has sung at each concert I've attended, changing it up every time with facial expressions and vocal intonations, making it an unmatched experience with each performance. Everyone was enthralled. (By the way, he's still hot!)

In the previous post I bragged about my ability to sing every word of the songs from Tapestry. Thank goodness we were surrounded by other women with similar "talent", because together we danced and belted those tunes with unabashed abandon! Dave just smiled along with the other men sitting near us. Carole (we're on a first name basis now) sang all but three of the songs from the album. When singing "A Natural Woman", she exuded an aura of such confidence and dynamic energy that she had all 20,000 fans in the palm of her hand. She absolutely owned the place, and at the age of 68 I think she was better than she was when I saw her in Phoenix five years ago.

Is there anyone out there that cannot relate to "Will You Love Me Tomorrow"? Really! How many of us have cried over that song through the years? (Dave tried to get a good photo, and unfortunately they all are blurred.) I'm still trying to recover from hearing it live, after listening to it in recordings for years.

There was a lovely girl (age 20-something) to my right, and her mother was on her other side. As they began to sing the first couple of words to the song, I heard the mother say, "Oh, I'm going to cry." at which point I picked up my stack of napkins (they served popcorn, so of course I had some) stuck my arm out across the daughter's chest and handed several to the mother. The girl started laughing, and I just looked at her with deadpan expression and said, "Oh be quiet! You're just too young" at which point we all burst out laughing. The mother and I proceeded to sniffle our way through the song, and Dave just gently patted my leg in the "here she goes again" manner to which we've grown accustomed.

After the song was over, we blew our noses and stood back up and sang along with the next one. The whole evening was like that ~ alternating from "Oh God, just listen to his voice" to I have to get up and dance because "I Feel the Earth Move under my feet"!

When we got home near midnight Dave, of course, was sound asleep, snoring within 3 minutes and 17 seconds. I, on the other hand, was so wound up from the whole experience. As I lay there, replaying and reliving the evening, I realized something. I had been happy at the concert. I mean REALLY happy, without the typical "but I just miss Erin so much" whispering in my ear.

I often work so hard to redirect thoughts so that I can enjoy an experience, but I found that night I didn't have to work. It just happened, and that is a pretty uncommon occurrence for me at this point. It felt good, in a kind of scary way.

In my last post I referred to some of the lines of JT's song "Music" that continue to cause a strong reaction due to Erin's inability to fulfill the "symphony" of her life. Yes, those words and that fact will gnaw at my broken heart forever. But a couple other lines from the song are ~
Crank out the music
Give me music
Let the music change my mind

Monday, May 24, 2010

There's No Going Back...

Music is a powerful tool that has the ability to evoke the gamut of my emotions, especially now since they are tucked just below my often-fragile shell. The meld of a capella harmony, the riff of an acoustic guitar, an explosive drum solo or a simple line or two of significant words has the potential to cause an eruption of feelings within moments, causing me to either roll down the windows in the car and turn up the volume and beat on the steering wheel, sing along like I'm a member of the band or drop to the floor in tears.

Along with the works of many musicians, the songs of both James Taylor and Carole King have been a part of my life since I was in junior high. Independently, each boasts a history rich in accomplishments and awards, and through the years the two have combined their gifts, composing together and lending their talents to one another's recordings.

When Taylor's first major album, Sweet Baby James, was released in 1970, I was hooked. Through the years I've gone on to purchase each of his records/CDs as they were released, and appreciate every one for a variety of different reasons. I'd be hard-pressed to name A FAVORITE song because there are so many that have integrated into the various facets of my life since the get-go. See my sidebar image for an appropriate illustration of my now-necessary "howling at the moon" days! I've seen JT perform in concert on a number of occasions ~ each time, Spectacular.

I've walked down his "Country Road" ~ "closed my eyes as the doggies retired" ~ gone "Long Ago and Far Away" ~ been "Back on the Street Again" ~ and, in frustration, belted out "Damn this Traffic Jam". I've felt the "I can't help it if I don't feel so good" storm of "Angry Blues". He's taught me "The Secret O' Life is enjoying the passage of time. Any fool can do it. There ain't nothing to it." ~ and continues to invite me to curl up with "Well, what am I to do today, with too much time and so much sorrow... on Another Grey Morning". I'm learning to appreciate my "Golden Moments... as I gathered up my sorrows and I sold them all for gold...and all I really needed was the proper point of view" ~ and I now often "walk down that Lonesome Road all by myself".

Plus, look at him. He's just hot! Still!

Sesame Street was the most popular show for children at the time Chris, Sarah and Matt were very young. The show was brilliant in that it not only successfully inspired a generation of toddlers to learn their colors, numbers and manners in concise, well-planned vignettes that packed a powerful punch, it also appealed to and thoroughly entertained the harried mothers of those children. Instead of using the "babysitter-in-the-box" during its one-hour time slot (to which I admittedly regressed on occasion), I made sure I was finished with my household chores, or dropped the laundry basket like a hot potato when I heard "Can you tell me how to get to Sesame Street?" calling from the living room. I can! I can!

Perhaps some of you remember this ~

Ah, the good old days.

With trepidation this morning, I read pages from a journal I began on December 15th, THE date, as I attempted to organize my swirling thoughts and make sense of the shock and mounting insanity that loomed before us. CANCER?!! She's 15 years old. She's a healthy, athletic machine. You people are CRAZY!

Through my written account and reading the between-the-lines images of the events unfolding during the surreal week filled with scans and biopsies that followed the diagnosis, my state of anxiety is palpable now, TODAY. Yet even through the initial panic, I can see glimpses of us already collecting ourselves and repositioning into "fight mode". There were the initial words of advice, quoted from the mouth of my "wise one" ~ the person who introduced me to the fine art of Redirection of Thought; to survival of the moment by not going to "the land of what-if", to LIVE in small time increments.

On the afternoon of December 20th, after being at Loyola all morning for the needle biopsy on Erin's thigh, among many other things I wrote ~
Why my beautiful daughter? She was healthy, strong...
Test of faith? I have it!
Test of courage? I am brave!
Test of strength? My fists are out!
I'm so ANGRY! Not wishing this on someone else...not this anguish...just not my Erin.


Erin just asked me to take her to practice tonight to see the girls. She has pain and still won't eat, but is insistent upon seeing her teammates... (I imagine some of you girls, as well as the parents of those teammates, have a pretty strong recollection of this time.)

Part of my entry on December 19th includes bits of the lyrics of the James Taylor song "Music" from his Gorilla album.
Turn on the music
Strike up the music
Let the music fill the air

There's a symphony inside you
There's a thousand things for you to do
so come on...
I ventured into the journal this morning because I have a VIVID image of sitting on the bed and listening to this CD while writing in that red-covered book that day, and most specifically hearing the above words. I WROTE those exact words in that book. Through heaving sobs, I had been pleading with God to save her; this young girl with a "symphony" of potential inside had a whole life ahead of her ~ a thousand things to do. I was filled with such hope at the time ~ "so come on" damn it!

To this day, I have an incredibly strong reaction each time I hear just those three lines. The rest of the song doesn't really apply to the situation at all.

I think James' voice is more beautiful now than when he was young. It has mellowed, enriched with age and experience, and whether I'm singing with him at the top of my lungs or curled up with flooding tears, I believe it is one of the most splendid sounds on this earth.

And, is there anyone who was twelve or older in 1971 that did NOT own Carole King's Tapestry? Should anyone ask, I could perform each song, accurately remembering every word to every selection on this album. I know, don't ask!

One of the activities we did in order to pass the time during Erin's 14 weeks of in-patient chemo during Cancer Part One was watch the "Gilmore Girls" series on the DVD player my St. Cletus co-workers gave her prior to her first hospital admission. The two of us had some great times while plopped in her hospital bed watching Lorelei's and Rory's lives unfold, as we talked, laughed and consumed large quantities of cherry coke and cheetoes, because truly, there are few things in life as satisfying as the whole coat-your-fingers-with-orange-powder experience you get from that tasty snack!

Fortunately, Erin rarely felt sick from the chemo, and we both had some pounds to gain back. So we hunkered down with one another week after week, as the nurses hung bag after bag of the lethal drugs that swam through her system, hunting down and (we hoped) causing the demise of every single cancer cell along that road to the THE CURE. Looking back now, I loved SO MANY THINGS about those hospital days. How bizarre, to be able to say I loved anything having to do with cancer.

Gilmore Girls followers know each episode begins with the Carole King Tapestry song's invitation to follow ~ "Where You Lead"
And I would go to the ends of the earth
cuz darling, to me that's what you're worth

Where you lead, I will follow
Anywhere that you tell me to
If you need, you need me to be with you
I will follow where you lead

If you're out on the road
Feeling lonely, and so cold
All you have to do is call my name
And I'll be there on the next train...


As much as I love Carole King, the one and only time I saw her in concert was in August of 2005 when I impulsively took a trip to Phoenix. She was performing her Living Room Tour which I had missed in Chicago, and with very little effort the pieces of an excursion to see her in Arizona with a friend fell into place, and we hopped a plane just a few days after the inception of the idea ~ "Well, why don't we just go to Phoenix to see her?".

The trip there for the concert led to a couple of days in the breath-taking red hills of Sedona, through which we drove in a rented convertible (yes, it was 106 degrees - I love the sun and there was a great breeze with the top down!) as we joked about being "Thelma & Louise". I insisted on being Thelma because Thelma got Brad Pitt.
I look at this photo of myself now, taken when we had just randomly stopped the car to soak in the magnificent view, and it just says it all.


My life was so good at that time, and I simply didn't know it.
We had recently moved from the 105-year-old home we'd owned for nineteen years to a newer, smaller one, deciding we no longer needed the space as the older kids were stretching their wings and moving from the nest, nor did we want to stay on top of the upkeep on the vintage beast any longer. Seeds of a plan to do some renovations to the tiny kitchen in our new home were sprouting in our minds. I had a job I adored, and was just ending the six-week summer break I enjoyed so much as an employee of a school system. After some initial indecision, Chris was discovering his passion in the teaching profession. Sarah had graduated from UWM and had recently landed her first job - with benefits (every parent's dream) and Matt was deciding where his life was heading.

Erin had graduated from 8th grade and was eager to begin life as a high school freshman. We had been in Salt Lake City, about a month prior at the end of June, with her club volleyball team for Junior Olympic Nationals, where her team had medaled, successfully taking 3rd place in the 14's division. After one day's competition we drove up into the mountains where the ski events of the 2002 Olympics had been held, snatching a piece of big-time sports history.

FINE was SO FINE at that time in our lives, and I didn't realize the magnitude of it. I didn't REALLY appreciate it.
I took it all for granted.

And then, FINE AS WE KNEW IT became NOT fine so abruptly and so irrevocably a little over one year later, in December of 2006. Through hard work, we learned to find a new fine as we painfully struggled to adjust the sails of what we considered to be the normal winds. It's all a matter of perspective. As I said earlier, looking back on those days of eating cheetoes with Erin in a hospital bed now seems like a slice of heaven.

No, there is no going back. There are only the sacred memories ~ of the years of health and good times. of the survival of the soul, the rejoice in the ordinary and the recognition of the importance of time with one another.

And then there's the background musical accompaniment to it all!
As I attempt to put each tiny step I take, together in an action with the intention of mostly-forward movement, I set out tonight with Dave to see James Taylor and Carole King perform TOGETHER, in the same room, at the same time! ~ Be still my heart! There are always new memories to make with more music to enrich them.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Have YOU Begun your Summer Workout?

Memorial Day is coming, and we all know what that means!
Just one week from today, the LaGrange Field Club opens for the season.

Are YOU ready to walk out on that pool deck in your bathing suit?

These may be rather sensitive questions, but some we must ask ourselves nonetheless.

~ Do our pecs look their best? Are our chests firm, or are things beginning to sag?
~ How about those upper arms? Biceps, triceps? Do we have the dreaded dangling chicken fat?
~ Is there any muscle definition? (For a work in progress, see Matt in photo below.)
~ Are our delts at their peak? We want our rotator cuffs in top form while swinging our golf clubs & baseball bats, or when hitting that volleyball.
~ And what about our cores? IS there a core in there, or does that muffin top continue to rise and spill over the tops of our jeans? (Again, see photo. Clearly Erin's core was NOT engaged at the time.)

After digging deep, if we are not pleased with our answers to the above, here's the solution.
The Military-Press-with-Young-Child!

This highly effective exercise may be done with your own child, the child you're babysitting for the summer, or you may simply grab one nearby that meets your targeted lift goal depending upon your needs for that day, thus creating a personalized routine.

Warning!! For those at the beginning weight levels, do NOT grab the infant of a first-time mother! This could result in hysteria on the part of said new mother. Third, and especially fourth children work quite well. These mothers, starved for a few moments of peace, are typically VERY accommodating, and an infant falling in that birth-order position will most likely sleep in calm oblivion throughout your exercise routine, thereby eliminating unwanted attention to your efforts.

~ Check with physician before beginning any exercise routine.
~ To avoid muscle strain, begin slowly with 1 rep of 1 - 3 times per week.
~ Increase weight and reps as needed for the ultimate challenge.
~ The goal is typically 3 reps of 10 - 3 times per week for the overachievers.

Before long, we will be able to stand in the company of Megan Fox, Michelle Obama (arms? what arms?) and Mark Wahlberg (ah, Marky Mark...) with heads held high!

Or really, if it's one of THOSE days

~ Toss child aside into water. Child may simply be pushed away if too heavy to lift. (If you are at the beginning stages and holding an infant, it's highly advisable to return the baby to its mother rather than throw it into the water. Hormones can do strange things to some women, ie: cause heightened sensitivity in some situations!)
~ Grab large, brightly colored beach towel, XL T-shirt or Hawaiian-print muumuu (there are lovely selections of all items now at your local stores) and head for the snack bar.
~ Have a burger, some nachos & cheese and top that off with an ice cream bar for that nagging sweet tooth.
~ Now, grab a DIET Pepsi, and settle comfortably into any one of the many lounge chairs provided. Read a few paragraphs of your summer romance novel - guys can read the newspaper's sports section - and nod off.

Try not to drool and embarrass yourself or your loved ones.
Don't you just love pool season?

I did when I was eighteen.

Now? Not as much.

Does anyone want to join me at Target for buy one, get one free cover-ups, followed by a Blizzard at Dairy Queen?
My treat!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Our little VILLAGE came together again ~ a community, united once more by a cause ~ this time, donating the "gift of life" to those in need.

Last Saturday in memory of Erin's 19th birthday, her peers and volleyball teammates, the St. Cletus family, our relatives, friends of friends and co-workers of friends, LT & St Cletus teachers, and kind souls we had not met prior to that day, came together in a spectacular effort of generosity.

Morrissey Hall bustled with the presence of people of all ages ~ filling with the happy sounds of music, chatting, yelling, laughter and a few tears.
In the time span of just six hours, the efforts of these considerate people resulted in the donation of



For those of you who missed the event and have been asking if you can still donate ~ YES!
Please click on "Ongoing Blood Donation Information" at the top section of my blog page. There is no time limit, and all future donations can benefit this particular cause. See details above.
The day began at 7:00AM, when the two LifeSource trucks arrived and the staff began unloading a ton of equipment. Things were in place for the first appointments at 8:00AM, and people began to stream in. During the first hour, we had 15 walk-ins along with the 40 people who had scheduled an appointment ahead of time, resulting in a little back-up. Thank you to all for your patience and understanding during that time, or any other time of the day when things took longer than you expected. Understanding how hectic a Saturday can be, I sincerely apologize to anyone who was inconvenienced by a delay of any kind.

And a special thank you to Lifesource representative Dennis, who helped me coordinate my first of what will be an annual event. This "guppy" here had a lot of details to think about, and Dennis' experience was essential.

We celebrated Erin's birthday with the community, resulting in her biggest party ever.

Photos in the sidebar show her birthday pictures along with a few of my favorite family shots, and were on display on the walls of the gym, mounted on lime green poster board of course! We took many pictures that day, but unfortunately missed a good number of people who were present. Please enjoy the ones we did capture, also in my sidebar. (I'm so sorry if we missed you.)

Sarah and her friend Carly burned CD's of many of Erin's favorite songs, and aptly labeled them, "B Positive", "AB Positive" and "O Negative", and music blasted away creating a fun party atmosphere.

There were bunches of fresh sunflowers.

We served yummy birthday cake, before and after donations, so everyone's system could have a little boost of sugar and really, what is a birthday party without a cake?

So many people that day arrived as first-time donors, and were willing to face into their jitters because "seriously, this is NOTHING compared to what Erin endured". Some were even willing to get poked a second time when the attempt to find a vein in the first arm was unsuccessful. Thank you to ALL who conquered their nerves.

The majority of willing donors were accepted. Only a few were turned away because of low iron levels, inaccessible veins or possible exposure to diseases due to travel out of the country. One of Sarah's friends tried to donate, and because of a recent residency in Europe there was a concern about her possibly carrying Mad Cow Disease! Through frustrated tears she pleaded her case to no avail, "BUT I'M A VEGETARIAN!" Thank you, to anyone who was unable, for your genuine intention to donate.

I have a confession. I'm embarrassed to say this was my first donation as well. Whew, I feel better for having said that.

For years, I didn't meet the minimum weight requirement (yes I know ~ HUSH!) and then I just got BUSY with life. I have no fear of needles and blood doesn't bother me a bit. I simply didn't even think about it. Then, I was raising four children, working, coaching, running to this football game and that volleyball tournament. When Erin was sick, I spent way too many hours watching her (and many other patients) get transfusions, and I got hit with a really sharp slap-in-the-face reality check. DUH Mary, that blood has to come from somewhere! Dave has donated a couple of times in the long-ago past, but was unable to do so on Saturday because he had a temperature the night before due to a bug he's been fighting. The two of us have vowed to become regular donors, every two months.It is such a simple and deeply gratifying experience.

Chris overcame his case of nerves, and held onto Erin's stuffed Lion (Sarah packed it for him just in case) while Dave and Tasha (Chris' girlfriend) stayed close for moral support ~

Matty was half asleep. He donated before work.
8:00AM is really early on a Saturday morning!

I want to especially recognize my sister-in-law Sue. She and my brother Jim live in Milwaukee, and Sue began donating at the Blood Center of Southeastern Wisconsin in January of 1986 ~ 24 years ago! She has donated faithfully, nearly every eight weeks since then (unless she has been ill or out of town), and has reached a total of 93 pints! This selfless act has been done for all these years and I JUST found out about it when we announced our drive, so she obviously doesn't do it for a pat on the back. Sue & Jim made a special trip here that day so she, along with their daughter Colleen and her husband Tony, could make a donation on Erin's behalf. Thank you so much Sue. You set a fine example for all of us.

The Sarcoma Alliance, to whom all funds raised from the Erin Potts Invitational Volleyball Tournament were donated, graciously supplied us with the sunflower seeds I requested for the event.

Every birthday party has take-home favors!

We made tags and tied them to the packets and gave one to each donor in memory of their act of generosity, reminding them of Erin's wish to "Have Fun" and encouraged them to go forth and "Plant the seeds of HOPE" when they walked out the doors.

So yes Sarah, your shirt is appropriate.










It might feel as if life moves on, so I wanted to make sure you knew that for me it moves on differently because of Erin.
- LT teacher, Tammy Fear-Petrakis

Sunday, May 16, 2010


Look at the card I found tucked between my doors!

Hmmmmm ~ Someone must have seen this quote SOMEWHERE BEFORE.

And the inside of the card reads ~
"and watch for the sunshine that never fails to follow"

Some people are very very wise.

On Erin's birthday the sunshine was GORGEOUS, and there were

~ yellow tulips that I put in the vase she gave me last year on Mother's Day
~ a multitude of emotions
~ first grade students at morning mass
~ a cousin's hand to hold during that mass
~ thoughtful cards, emails and blog comments
~ bunches of sunflowers
~ a volleyball at Bronswood with messages from friends written on it
~ bouquets of flowers there from visitors
~ messages to Erin on Facebook

In the evening there was
~ family
~ some Dispatch music playing in the car
~ a little volleyball game at Bronswood
~ some romping with Keenan there too
~ funny "Erin stories"
~ chicken tenders, bbq sauce, french fries & Pepsi
~ chocolate chip cookie dough and then cookies, fresh from the oven
~ a soft red Lions blanket
~ a wooden snowflake, still in the pine tree
~ a Harry Potter movie
~ many special memories
~ sadness and gratitude

I'm taking a couple of days for rest and recovery from the weekend's activities.
Yesterday's blood drive in one word - WOW!
I'll write about the wonderful details in a couple of days.

A copy of an email from a friend, received when I got home afterwards, exhausted!

What a great event the blood drive was today.
Since we cannot change what has happened, what a wonderful honor to Erin you all put together. For me May 14th will forever be a reminder to "do something for others" in memory of Erin. I am thrilled to have been part of today.
- Judy

Thank you so very much, my friend. That is exactly what our goal was.
Your words hit the nail on the head.
It just doesn't get better than that!

Friday, May 14, 2010

To Find You in Presence, Erin

I'm groping for adequate words today,
so again bowing in gratitude of John O'Donohue's exquisite ability.


Though we need to weep your loss,
You dwell in that safe place in our hearts,
Where no storm or might or pain can reach you.

Your love was like the dawn
Brightening over our lives
Awakening beneath the dark
A further adventure of colour.

The sound of your voice
Found for us
A new music
That brightened everything.

Whatever you enfolded in your gaze
Quickened in the joy of its being;
You placed smiles like flowers
On the altar of the heart.
Your mind always sparkled
With wonder at things.

Though your days here were brief,
Your spirit was live, awake, complete.

We look towards each other no longer
From the old distance of our names;
Now you dwell inside the rhythm of breath,
As close to us as we are to ourselves.

Though we cannot see you with outward eyes,
We know our soul's gaze is upon your face,
Smiling back at us from within everything
To which we bring our best refinement.

Let us not look for you only in memory,
Where we would grow lonely without you.
You would want us to find you in presence,
Beside us when beauty brightens,
When kindness glows
And music echoes eternal tones.

When orchids brighten the earth,
Darkest winter has turned to spring;
May this dark grief flower with hope
In every heart that loves you.

May you continue to inspire us:

To enter each day with a generous heart.
To serve the call of courage and love
Until we see your beautiful face again
In that land where there is no more separation,
Where all tears will be wiped from our mind,
And where we will never lose you again.

(© John O’Donohue. All rights reserved)
Some may question my use of a picture of the "sick" Erin on her birthday. This photo was taken last Thanksgiving, one week after her brain tumor surgery and the day before the earth made its final shift.

On that day, Erin was so incredibly HAPPY. The family was together for the whole day. Physically, she felt well. She had a certain sense of peace about her that I now look back on with such gratitude. That day was absolutely beautiful. She OWNED that day with special strength in a way that was so ERIN!

So yes, I want to remember THAT Erin ~ the shining example of courage and love.
And I thought she looked gorgeous!

Oh my goodness!
Look what I just found from my wonderful friend REED!
Talk about a friend staying with you - even from afar.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Sunflowers and HOPE

~ planting the seeds of HOPE for those in need ~

In memory of Erin's fight with Ewing's sarcoma, we are using the symbol of the sunflower as we live with intention, assisting others whose lives are challenging.

A HUGE thanks to all who have signed up for Saturday's blood drive so far. The number of donors is increasing daily, as people are finding room to fit this event into their busy weekend activities. We're getting really excited about seeing all the generous people willing to come out for a good cause. Birthday cake has been ordered!

There are still some spots available for those of you who have expressed eagerness to come and haven't had a chance to sign up yet. LifeSource will gratefully accept walk-ins, but prefer scheduled appointments so they can be better prepared.

Just a few reminders ~

Arrive about 15 minutes prior to your scheduled time. You most likely received an email reminder generated by the LifeSource website. I got mine yesterday.
Bring an ID - your driver's license is fine.
I'm certain all of you have been eating well!
Eat a good breakfast/lunch before coming to donate.
Make sure you're well-hydrated. (especially if you've had fun the night before!)
Stay calm ~ don't be nervous!
Smile:) This is fun!

You must be 17 or older to donate. (16-year olds may donate with written parental consent.)
There is no upper age limit.
You must weigh a minimum of 110 pounds.

If you have a question about your eligibility due to any medication you're taking, or if have a concern related to a medical condition that you think may prevent you from donating, please call
The LifeSource Medical Help Desk
(847) 803-7921
or (800) 486-0680

My cousin will be out of town for a wedding this weekend, and she really wanted to be a part of the activities. Last week she went to her local center and donated in memory of Erin. Because she fit this into her hectic daily schedule that includes running around with three young boys who are all very active in sports and other activities, she didn't know exactly when she would be able to go and donate because it depended upon who needed to be where at what time, so I couldn't really arrange to be with her.

So, suddenly my phone beeps with a text message. I check, and it's her. And the conversation goes ~
Her ~ Got any good jokes? They're about to draw my pint!
Me ~ (Run to my computer. Google "knock knock jokes + blood"!)
Knock knock. Who's there? Buster. Buster Who? Buster Blood Vessel!
(I know! Lame - but it was all I could come up with on the spur of the moment!)
Her ~ Excellent! And topical! Erin is sending a gorgeous cool breeze into the room I'm in & it definitely kept me from fainting!
Me ~ Wish I was there with you.
Her ~ Me too. You're better at this med stuff than I am.
Me ~ You're one tough cookie yourself! So grateful to you for walking the walk!
Her ~ Don't make me cry for Pete's sake!!

a few minutes pass

Her ~ Holy shit my blood looks purple. Is that normal?
Me ~ You've got GOOD stuff! You're gonna make someone with low hemoglobin feel like a million bucks!

a few more minutes

Her ~ OK! Nothing to it...pint #1 is sealed in honor of one great girl.
Me ~ Beautiful. Are they giving you a good snack?
Her ~ Animal crackers & cold water... never tasted so good.
Me ~ As my dad used to say to you. "Liz Liz the best there is!"
How great that modern technology had us ALMOST together in that room!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Today's Post Includes Part One and Part Two


While attempting to wash off the "mud" from yesterday's necessary BIG WALLOW, I am again working very hard to count the blessings in my life. Thank you to all who commented on my post, and also to the many who preferred to send personal emails. Hearing support from the outside world means so very much - always, and especially on the more difficult days. And to "Mary from Ohio" ~ please ring my doorbell some day. I'll take that enveloping hug from you anytime. Your "rambling" was beautiful. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for taking the time to write all those words. And when Erin does challenge me with that sprinkler, I feel confident that I will want to run through!

The second "comment" from a not-so "gentle reader" however, called for a refresher course in my lamaze training of long ago, as my breathing wanted to increase to hyperventilation pitch. Yesterday's blog comment of "OUCH" on my part was all I could muster at the time. I'll try to respond now in an eloquent manner to "Anonymous". I'm so sorry you neglected to mention your name when you signed off. Maybe next time you'll do so, and we can have a more personal conversation.

Perhaps the intention of your comment was a version of Tough Love, meant to help me snap out of my mood, since it was "sent with respect and admiration"? I must say, I was terribly confused by the contradictory way in which you wrote, and I can only assume from your words that you have not experienced cancer on an intimate level. Lucky you! My daughter died. In case you missed that, I will repeat - MY DAUGHTER DIED! and there are no words that can adequately detail what it was like to hold Erin's hand and watch that happen - to actually tell her it was OK to do so, and with God as my witness, in response to her wish for us to "Have Fun" vow to do so to the best of my ability each day, and now live with full intention of honoring that vow. And that act alone came at the end of so many things I witnessed over the three years of her illness that are unmentionable to anyone other than immediate family. Let's just say, a part of me died with her, and in very simple terms, I will never be the same again.

Through my blog, I share a portion of my experiences with the intention of working through some of my grief and also to give some insight to others about this insane world into which we were thrown. No, it is certainly NOT the life of my choice as you state, but I think I've done a pretty good job so far making the best of "the life I've been given". Remember, it hasn't even been five months since Erin passed away.

Due to those experiences, there are now periods in this aftermath, during which I am overcome with a pain that is indescribable. There are days when I cry - nearly the whole day. There are nights when I don't sleep much - last night was right up there! But I typically don't share that. And I don't stay "there". If you knew me well, and I don't know whether you do since you neglected to leave your name, you would know that since Erin died there has not been a day that I have stayed in bed all day. I have showered and dressed and functioned every single day since December 18th. I don't take pills and I don't drink more that the occasional glass of wine. I walk my dog a lot and I pray a lot and I talk to Erin a lot.

Have you REALLY read my blog? If you have, you should know that I try very hard to be happy and upbeat. Yes, I believe in moving forward and I believe in honoring Erin's memory by being positive. I do count my blessings and share so many of them through what I write. I always try to look at what I have as opposed to what I've lost. Last night after receiving your comment I looked over my posts, and yesterday's was the first one which was a brutally honest downer without a redirection to a positive outlook! I had a rare stream of consciousness flow to my fingers. Sorry, but it just came out! Believe it or not, this is part of what really happens when someone's child dies! To put it in elementary terms, it is very very sad and very very hard. I gave a brief up close and personal glimpse of the grieving process! I resent the condescending tone of "My dear" prior to your advice to count my blessings and be more like Erin in finding things for which to be thankful. Where the hell do you think Erin got some of her moxie?

OK, now I'm losing the eloquent manner in which I intended to respond, so I will not address this any longer. My hackles are up again and it's only 5:30 AM. I will close in saying that at times my writing may make one uncomfortable due to its dip into the bowels of the cancer venue. If the words make anyone uncomfortable, I apologize and advise you not to read my blog. If you choose to stay with me, keep your seatbelts fastened because sometimes the ride will be bumpy.

Thank you for allowing me to vent, and I invite any of you to comment.


Yesterday I did a lot of reading, forced myself to exercise, then ate things that were not good for me including way too much pizza for dinner, took a long hot bath (the ONE good thing about it being cold!) listened to some music, wrote down many thoughts and cried ~ buckets. Once again, Keenan earned his keep.

And I stopped and smelled the flowers.

Have you ever taken the time to really look closely at and smell lily of the valley? If not, you should!

I have a little glass vase of intricately perfect, naturally healing aromatherapy here on my computer table, right by Erin's bear in the background who stoically sits in support, eying me closely as I compose my blogs. He is the silent type, but his mere presence speaks volumes.

This bouquet, aptly termed "small, but mighty" by the gracious friend who bestowed the handful upon me at the door on Monday, was one of the catalysts pushing me toward the turn from feeling DESERVEDLY pathetic to ~ I need to keep going, not because I should, but because I REALLY WANT TO.

This friend "gets it"! She has many good qualities, among them ~ a sense of humor, a love of chocolate and a wisdom borne of experience from having loved ones taken from her by cancer. We take weekly walks together, and our conversations run to many topics, but the one thing I truly love about spending time with her is that she is not afraid of the presence of the "elephant in the room". That presence can often be an UNDERSTANDABLY daunting one to some who are not as well-versed in cancer's habits and effects. Well, my beautiful little "elephant" will be with me forever.

When we walk and talk, the conversation can comfortably flow from ~ would you look at that person's house! to ~ I can't believe some idiot people won't pick their dog's poop up off the sidewalk! to ~ Erin was so self-conscious about her short hair when I thought it was gorgeous, but she knew it would fall out again so she continued to wear her wig and it made me so sad, to ~ what book are you reading now? We can complain, laugh, cry, marvel at something ludicrous and tear up again without missing a beat due to either of us squirming with discomfort.
And, ironically in some situations, I think I'm often the one who squirms more while trying to make others feel more at ease with me. It's all very complicated!

So, when my friend presented me with this little fistful of "small, but mighty" flowers, she didn't know the extent to which it would help. Oh, it did!

And it gave me a focal point for my unexpected lamaze practice!
By the way, I did inform her that my mom's wedding bouquet was all lily of the valley.

Coincidence? Small, but mighty indeed!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

let it rain

"For after all, the best thing one can do when it is raining
is let it rain."

— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

straightforward, elementary, logical
a slap of common sense

there are days when i am SO TIRED of trying to be brave or happy
for everyone else and for myself
i know that is what erin would want, but she can't always have what she wants
she told us to "have fun" but it's not always possible
when it's all just confounding, overwhelming and absurd
when i miss her so badly that it's hard to breathe

it's so difficult to constantly redirect the negative thoughts and be positive
when SHE'S REALLY NOT COMING BACK! is pounding on the back of my skull
sometimes it is all just too hard...

and so on this chilly, dreary, rainy "spring" day
after not having erin here on christmas or on easter
or on my birthday
or just a couple of days ago on mother's day (which was the hardest so far)
and on all the rest of the days in between

and on this day, just three days before her 19th birthday
when she should be just arriving home after completing her first year of college
~ after playing division I volleyball like her teammates
~ after making new friends
~ while starting the next chapter of her vibrant young life

she won't be here on friday when the calendar says it's may 14, 2010
happy birthday erin

i am just going to wallow in it all like matty did
here in the mud puddle in the back yard a long time ago
because it feels better to just immerse myself in it
to sit in the sadness
and let the pain ooze

longfellow's quote is simple, right-on
sometimes it's just not worth fighting it

and because my broken heart just hurts
there are days when it's better to just go with it

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day To All

On this Mother's Day, I count my many blessings ~

My Christopher David

who is responsible, self-assured, directed, reliable, witty

My Sarah Maureen

who is patient, independent, easy-going, secure, tolerant

My Matthew Robert

who is tender-hearted, resourceful, sentimental, free-spirited, kind

My Erin Elizabeth

who was tenacious, courageous, determined, resilient
and still-inspiring

And My Keenan McGregor McCrory

who is gentle, instinctively comforting, devoted, usefully absorbent (if kleenex is not handy)
and everyone claims, "mom's favorite"