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"

Thursday, July 29, 2010

"Angel Catcher" A Journal

I've recently begun attending meetings with The Compassionate Friends, a grief support group for families who have experienced the death of a child. Through this organization, I've found comfort in being with "my own kind" once a month and talking about many topics of relevance to all of us. Even though at this particular Chapter I'm one of the few whose child has died from cancer (the majority of the other children died under more sudden, traumatic circumstances) we find parallels in the aftermath because the bottom line is still the same.
Our children are no longer here. How do we go on?

During a discussion at a recent meeting, a comment was made ~ "I'm forgetting some things about my child. I can't remember ..."
Those words absolutely scared me silly! I don't want to forget ANYTHING about Erin!

I took a lot of deep breaths on the way home, and after settling down realized that in this particular case I had an advantage, a blessing is a better word, that those parents whose children had died suddenly did not. I knew for a long time that the cancer would eventually take Erin, and that awareness afforded me the opportunity to absorb her in a way those others didn't because they had no idea what lay ahead of them. Their beloved children were here one day and gone the next, without warning. I've mentioned my gratitude for this "gift of knowing" in several previous blog posts.

Since writing has evolved into a personally fulfilling avenue of expression, I have resurrected treasured memories and recorded them, sharing some with those of you who choose to follow my blog, grateful for your interest. Other things are journaled privately, for my eyes and heart only. Boxes of photographs conjure even more images, and I carry a small notebook wherever I go to jot things down as unexpected triggers randomly blindside me. I don't want to forget anything!

I'm also incredibly fortunate to have the daily events of nearly two years recorded in our Gratitude Journals, with words written in Erin's own hand evoking a flood of vivid recollections of experiences during that period of time.
(About a month ago we experienced some severe thunderstorms, complete with tornado sirens blaring warnings to head for the basement. Dave arrived home from work just as the storm was really kicking in, and found me running around FRANTICALLY gathering these Journals and boxes of photos, yelling "We have to take these down to the basement! Oh my God, don't you realize it's storming?!" With water dripping on the kitchen floor from his clothes, he calmly looked at me in my state of irrational panic and said, "This isn't Kansas Dorothy! The house will not be airborne." OK, but I was really freaked, and "Toto" was certainly glad when Dave got home because I had been making him nuts too, as he'd scurried around after me wondering what all the fuss was about.)
note to Erin ~ I put my shoes on, in case there was rubble:)
Well, a few days ago I received a beautiful and most-appropriate gift from a friend.

This book is an extraordinary journal in which to document memories of a loved one. It is not targeted only to those of us whose children have died. It can be used as a vehicle to remember anyone dear to you ~ parent, friend, sibling...
(Amazon carries the book, and you can click on the link and read more information at their site.)

Statements on some pages encourage the remembrance of things forgotten due to the cloud of grief aftermath. Others bring details, maybe buried due to feelings of pain or guilt, to the surface. Some even gently remind you that your loved one was not necessarily the bastion of perfection you'd like to remember them as, and suggest they've really not been elevated to the level of sainthood.
FACT ~ Erin was sometimes a really snotty teenager!

Meaningful, appropriate quotes are interspersed throughout the book. Questions invite you to think about a multitude of topics, and space is provided after each to fill in your own thoughts. You just have to let them flow...

Some are light-hearted.
I can't keep from laughing when I remember ~
I loved your face when you ~
Right now I can imagine you are smiling because ~

Others are thought-provoking.
I keep wondering how you would have been if I had died first. What sort of funeral would you have given me?
What would you have said about me?
How would you be now?

More look to the future and dare you to dream of a life without that person.
You always encouraged me to ~
Now that you aren't here, I have to do it myself. Today I will ~
I think you would be proud of the fact that I ~

These are just a few examples of SO many great suggestions.

A Kahlil Gibran passage provides a very personal finishing touch to my appreciation of this book. I understand his exquisite words to mean that the surrender, or the willing release, of all our earthly holds allows us to attain the ultimate reward in God's kingdom ~ the essence of death and rebirth for all.
For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?
And what is it to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?
Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.
And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.
And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.

~ From The Prophet "On Death"
The depth of his words also hit me from a more concrete, physical standpoint because of the way the cancer filled Erin's lungs, and invaded her bones ~ surgeries, stealing pieces of her little-by-little. Due to that AWFUL tangible evidence, I love the image of her breath, free from its restless tides... unencumbered ~ and it is with geat joy that I can picture her TRULY DANCE!

If I am quiet and listen carefully, I can hear your voice inside me.
Here is what it is saying ~

(Words in gray quoted from "Angel Catcher - A Journal of Loss and Remembrance" by Kathy Eldon and Amy Eldon Turtletaub.)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Check It Out!

We had some visitors yesterday and
I thought they'd make a nice backdrop for some pictures.
Because, just look at them now!
To give you some perspective, Dave is 6' 2".

In the morning, Erin's friend Kristin joined us for breakfast.

And Chris & Tasha and Matt & Beth were with us for dinner.

I've never grown sunflowers before.
How tall will they get?
When will they bloom?
I'll be hanging out my neighbor's upstairs window
to get the next pictures!

Can we climb up to find a bag of gold?

Friday, July 23, 2010


In the spring of 2007, after Erin's leg surgery, we bought a puppy. The photo below was taken in April, when we went to visit the litter the first time. In the background you can see Erin's crutches, her constant sidekicks for three months after her radical procedure, as she was not allowed to take any weight at all on her leg for that period of time.

How can one choose when each is so irresistible?
Erin inspected them all.
NO, we can only get one!

That handsome little guy with the boxy head, sporting a green ribbon (hmmm) seemed pretty intent on getting her to notice him.

Keenan McGregor McCrory (The one wearing the green!) came to live with us in May.

You've seen Keenan included in photographs in many of my blog posts, specifically HERE and HERE, and more recently HERE and HERE, and also in my sidebar. The pictures can stand without a narrative, with just images capturing the gentle, patient, compassionate personality of this sweet animal.

It is difficult for me to articulate the importance of Keenan in Erin's life ~ in OUR lives. Those who are dog lovers might understand it a little better than others who aren't as affected by the allure of these creatures. Without going into volumes on the subject, which I could easily do, I'll simply say he played an integral part ~ was a steadfast ally giving solace when she didn't feel well, offered companionship when others retreated into their daily lives and lent vital support as she learned to cope with her many challenges. And he accomplished all of the above without saying a word!

I shared a story about one personal obstacle following her leg surgery HERE and told about the way he and Erin together came up with a plan. The remainder of that post touches on just one example of the ability he has to instinctively sense my need for comfort as I cope with Erin's death. I SEE her in his wise brown eyes and FEEL her in his compassionate gestures . That may sound crazy to some, but so be it.

Fully appreciating the ever-present challenges of navigating the crossover from cancer world to normal world on a daily basis, I try not to regret things I didn't do with Erin while she was sick. For the most part, I know I did the best I could, and the time to do "fun things" was so often interrupted by the ball and chain of cancer treatment and side-effects that she had to constantly drag with her, limiting her ability to partake in some desired activities.

According to the rules of her oncologist, Erin was allowed to swim in chlorinated pools, which she did - often. (She was a natural fish, loved the water and swam competitively for a number of years.) However, she was not allowed in potentially bacteria-ridden lakes. Due to doctor's orders, we stayed away from anything other than a chemically-bombed, germ-free pool. We didn't want to further aggravate her already complicated life by exposing her to yet something else that could cause an issue.

SO, since Erin couldn't go in a lake, we never took Keenan swimming. The thought didn't occur to us. Boy do I regret it! I've been trying to temper my disappointment by understanding the restrictions that a compromised immune system imposed on her. Looking back, the rebel side of me says, DARN IT ~ WE SHOULD HAVE DONE IT ANYWAY! (During those three years she never got sick - not even a cold! She probably would have been fine.)

Last Saturday, Dave and I drove down to the city to walk the path along Lake Shore Drive. Naturally, Keenan accompanied us. It was a hot morning, and as we strolled along we came to the new 41st Street Beach House ~ just built and very impressive. Click on the link to see some nice photos and scroll down to see the drinking fountain (click on it to enlarge) designed to accommodate adults, children and dogs. Nice touch! Keenan tested it.

As we looked at the posted sign on the beach stating "No pets allowed" we watched a dog leap into the water after a toy his owner tossed in. The beach doesn't officially open until 11:00am and it was earlier than that. That rebel WE SHOULD HAVE DONE IT ANYWAY side took over and the photos below tell the story.

All I could think about the whole time was how much Erin would love this.
Every single part of it.

And I deeply regret not having this experience with her...

I know this is water, like in my bowl at home.
It tastes good. I'm really thirsty after that long walk.
Why is it moving toward me and then going away?
I'm not sure I like this ~ kind of creepy!

You want me to go IN THERE? Seriously?
That's a ROCK, not a treat! Give me a bit of credit here!
My brakes are engaged.

Oh geez! She's wading farther into it.
Maybe if I look down the shoreline at that other dog, she'll be more concerned about me bolting down to visit him and she'll stop trying to get me out into this weird stuff that keeps moving around.

Oh boy. She took my collar off so she's serious.
Well, I do have to admit that the cold water really does feel good on my head.
It's so hot today! Ahhhh

She's calling that little twig a STICK?
She's now trying to convince me go out to her with THAT?

I'm getting there.
I know she's babying me, but I'm really a big fat chicken.
So what. There aren't many people here to see me.

Whoa ~ my whole body is in!
OK. I'll just walk up and down the shoreline with her.
My paws are still on the ground down there.
So far so good.
Hmmm this actually feels pretty nice.

Oh no. Here she goes with that pathetic stick again.
OK - I'm going to try to be very brave.
She REALLY wants me to do this.
I think I can. I think I can.
One, two, three, GO!


Erin would be so proud of me.
Don't cry mama. It's OK.

Some people might not get this stuff,

but we sure do...

Sunday, July 18, 2010

It's Seven Months Today...

"Real grief is not healed by time... If time does anything, it deepens our grief. The longer we live, the more fully we become aware of who she was for us, and the more intimately we experience what her love meant for us. Real, deep love is, as you know, very unobtrusive, seemingly easy and obvious, and so present that we take it for granted.

Therefore, it is often only in retrospect - or better, in memory - that we fully realize its power and depth. Yes, indeed, love often makes itself visible in pain."

~ Henri Nouwen
This morning, seven months since Erin passed away, I feel relieved reading this passage written by Fr Nouwen.

I sometimes grow tired of hearing people tell me my grief will lessen with time ~ that it will become less raw, less intense.
What about the saying less is more?
I'm told the edges will soften. Grief won't be front and center.

I just don't get that...

Perhaps they're right, but at this point I feel comfort in the validity of my gut feelings as I read his words. Maybe it's because it's a benchmark day, seven months, and sometimes these days stand in prominence - become more jagged than just an ordinary day, whatever that is anymore.

During the time I knew Erin was going to die, I threw myself into loving her. As I saw more pain, my love dug deeper - to protect, to absorb. When there is a known deadline to life on earth, it dramatically changes the way you look at things and allows the opportunity to see EVERYTHING at a level that is previously not understood. Therefore, I learned NOT take ANYTHING for granted, and I was given a gift that those whose loved ones die a sudden, tragic death are not afforded.

For that time with Erin and that awareness, I'm so grateful.

I can only imagine missing her MORE rather than less though, as those moments and that love, merely "unobtrusive, seemingly easy, obvious and so present" that occurred during the 15 wonderful years before she was sick that I DID take for granted at the time, continue to surface with growing clarity. And then I combine those with everything I experienced during the days when I knew she was going to leave me...

How in heaven's name is it supposed to get easier when there is SO MUCH future to live without her? I can only image that the intensity of the grief I feel in the part of my body in which I carried her will deepen. There has to be interdependence between grief and love. That's all I can figure.

Thank you Fr Nouwen. I agree with you.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Just A Drop in the Bucket?

Think again.

Those of us who donated blood on May 15th
are now eligible to do so again.
According to donation guidelines,
we are able to give blood every 8 weeks (56 days).

I went to the center in Westmont yesterday afternoon.
The facility is great ~ well-staffed, well-organized.
I showed up without having made an appointment because I was unsure of my plans for the day, and I was in and out in less than 40 minutes. That included time for my snack of juice and yummy animal crackers.
I ate a box of Milk Duds in the car on the way home too
just in case.
One can never be too careful!

Blood supplies are low in the summertime, so please consider choosing to donate in the near future.
You can click on "Ongoing Blood Donation Information" at the top of my blog page and follow the instructions there,
Click on the facility that is conveniently located to you for the address,
of operation because each place is a little different.

Erin's Group Number is 556C.

If you live outside of Chicagoland,
perhaps you'll consider finding a center located in your area.
Sarah and her friend Stacy donated at work yesterday in Milwaukee.
The company offers monthly drives for its employees.

Thanks so much!
Even though you may think your donation is just
A Drop in the Bucket,
please consider the ripple effect your gift may have...

Please forward to spread the word. Thanks.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Geometry and Carnival Ducks ~ aka Radiation Absurdities

Students, take a sheet of graph paper out of your notebook. Begin by drawing your coordinate plane with x-axis and y-axis. Label your four quadrants.

Parents, to radiate daughter, begin by folding gently. (Dotted line marking center of body is hidden discretely under clothing.)
Y-axis will divide her vertically into virtually symmetrical sections.

~ mouth is bisected by y-axis, resulting in nearly congruent (when flipped) sections of undiminished smile
~ brown eyes, rimmed with sweeping lashes, are located parallel to and equidistant from the axis
(those are the sparkling areas marked by ordered pairs 2, 25 and -2, 25)
~ brows do not begin at precisely equal points, therefore slope is not identical on each side, resulting in endearing imperfection
(use slope-intercept formula y = mx + b)
~ Heart occupies the majority of Quadrant I, untouched by any degree of cancer

Plot affected points, labeling appropriately.
Just a few of Erin's, for example ~
A (not Again) - spine
B (oh my Baby) - right elbow
C (I Can't take this) & F (F#*@) - right and left hips
D (Don't say it) - right scapula
E (it's Everywhere) - left rib

Label ordered pairs on body with permanent marker. You may use a Sharpee in a pretty color to complement daughter's lovely summer glow.

Please observe in uncropped photo below ~ annoying marks on body do not excuse daughter from chores such as assisting with meal preparation. Also note presence of intimidating body guard with plastic fork in hand, ready in case anyone has an insulting remark concerning Sharpee color choice or my reference to the F-bomb above!

"Radiation therapy kills cancer cells by damaging their DNA (the molecules inside cells that carry genetic information and pass it from one generation to the next). Radiation therapy can either damage DNA directly or create charged particles (free radicals) within the cells that can in turn damage the DNA."

"Does radiation therapy kill only cancer cells?
No, radiation therapy can also damage normal cells, leading to side effects."

Yes, thank you. I know.
Last October, her esophagus was burned while hitting an area on her spine. This was NOT fun.
Note - smile diminished minimally for a very short period, and then reappeared with same reflective property.
Heart in Quadrant I remained untouched.

"Doctors take potential damage to normal cells into account when planning a course of radiation therapy. The amount of radiation that normal tissue can safely receive is known for all parts of the body. Doctors use this information to help them decide where to aim radiation during treatment."

"Radiation therapy may also be given with palliative intent. Palliative treatments are not intended to cure. Instead, they relieve symptoms and reduce the suffering caused by cancer."
Please just point and shoot again, and again!
Make the pain stop!

Dear God.
Such barbaric treatment to ease pain.
The absurdity...

Heart in Quadrant I still remained untouched and thereby unaffected by cancer.

details in quotes provided by the National Cancer Institute

Friday, July 9, 2010

My Extended Family Tree

My Internet family circle continues to expand as I hear from more people, through blog comments or via email, who have found my site while searching for someone with whom to hold hands in a communal bond as their lives are affected by cancer. I seem to be a "middle child" in birth order now. As one who has survived the stage of walking with Erin for three years as she lived with this wretched disease, I now look up to the "older siblings" who have gone before me. Having laid their precious children to rest, they are now moving through life without their physical presence, and I can find common ground with them as their experienced wisdom gained from forging steps ahead of me gives me hope and courage to continue to put one foot in front of the other.

I recently received a beautiful email from a woman watching the effects of this disease from the outside, so desperately wanting to do whatever she can to help her sister-in-law whose son has cancer. With her permission I'm sharing her words.
"...I find myself wanting to align myself with people who know what this disease is and have a deep understanding of all that it encompasses. Again, he is my nephew, I can't imagine how his parents are feeling... You see, I want to help- I just don't know exactly how. His mother is very quiet when it comes to this and doesn't vocalize her fears, needs, or thoughts...she would rather not impose on anyone and therefore saddles the brunt of this thing called cancer herself. You wrote in an early post that you didn't do the caringbridge or blogging during Erin's illness, that hit a chord with me. I have had such difficulty in understanding why my sister in law won't open up to me and have struggled with figuring out how to help her. I am a nurse and a helper-fixer-make it better person, and like I told my nephew - I wish I had a magic wand that would make it go away, for good... When you blog, you never really know who you are reaching with your words. Please know that your experiences have helped others who are dealing with this horrible disease... "
If only that wand existed.

Oh, the frustration and helplessness of those on the outside! I am slowly beginning to see it now in a way I couldn't when I was entrenched in the throes of it myself, so absorbed in the task at hand, and I can answer from my own perspective because the way this poor mother is reacting sounds all too familiar...

Some people respond to the tragedy of their loved one's diagnosis and ensuing treatment by reaching out to everyone, by describing the illness so others can know the medical details, by sharing information about scans, treatments, etc. with a preferred openness. In effect, they "gird their loins" with the whole community at their side. CaringBridge is a fabulous avenue of correspondence to accomplish this choice, and that's a beautiful thing for those inclined to cope in this manner. I will never criticize the way anyone gets through their personal tragedy, believing each must choose whatever method allows them their most effective lifeline.

I, on the other hand, turned inward with immediate family, and preferred to share detailed medical information with very few. It was my belief that people really only needed to know that Erin had cancer, and that fact, in and of itself, was horrible enough to elicit response from my community. It did. There was an outpouring.

Since Erin lived with Ewing's for three years, she (and therefore, we) went through SO many different stages as we rode the roller coaster of ~ The initial hope for a cure. The hope for disease stability after the quick relapse. The hope for a good live-in-the-moment life. The hope for peace in the end, and a whole lot of things in between. My reactions usually varied with the stages.

During certain times my goal was to perform the basic functions of eating, sleeping and breathing every few seconds to the best of my ability. For me there was little energy to do anything else, like communicate details to the outside world. In the beginning I went into a tailspin of anxiety, partly because I was in shock, but also because I tend to be a "fixer" too. As a girl who likes a plan, I was out of my element with this disease that defied all logic, and I had to learn, very painfully at times, to just go with whatever happened - to be as proactive as I could about what I could, and simply react when the many other things surfaced unexpectedly. There were times when I'm sure I was totally irrational because I was fearful of so many things, and there were times I just couldn't talk about it because talking made it more real. I was not in denial. I knew exactly what was going on. It simply hurt too much to vocalize it all. I just didn't want to.
As time went on and we became more entrenched in the cancer-world, it became a safe place, a place of routine. Everyone at the hospital, or at the day treatment rooms of both medical facilities where Erin did out-patient chemo, understood pretty much everything. The nurses were absolute angels here on earth, and they became another part of our extended family in a comforting way that is perhaps difficult for many to understand. Bess was Erin's nurse for most of the 75 sessions of out-patient chemo over her nine-month protocol just after her first relapse. Erin was balancing school full-time as well. Bess was like a big sister, not only her nurse but a trusted friend with whom she looked forward to spending time. Erin adored her.

During treatments we didn't have to explain anything. There was no pressure. They just knew, and there was comfort in that familiarity, and we gratefully settled into those routines. This was an ongoing way of life in Erin's situation because she received chemo for ALL of her three years with cancer, with the exception of a brief four months from the end of her first protocol to her 3-month scan relapse.

Since we had to live cancer day in and day out with all the treatments, we craved some semblance of normalcy - both Erin and I did, so when we were "sprung" from it, we just wanted to live without having to explain anything. Talking about it was distracting and it dragged us back into sick-mode as we tried to live in the moment. When the moment was good, we didn't want it clouded with tumor talk. I was also so intent on the outside world seeing ERIN (her desire) and not the cancer, and throughout the three years that she was sick she was able to carry on a pretty normal life in spite of this thing crawling stubbornly through her system.
My instinct, once she relapsed in February of 2008 and we knew that her life would end at some point, was to absorb every single bit of her before I was no longer able, and I got to do just that for almost two more years while she went about the business of packing life in each day. I simply wanted to be with her - period.

I immersed myself in her company, both when she felt well and when she didn't, because she was an absolute joy to be with at all times. She never complained, and I was blessed and inspired by her strength and her positive attitude. She did a spectacular job of LIVING until the day she died. I saw it all, and I carry it all in my heart now, and I wouldn't change a thing.
And I guess I didn't want to impose on others either. I'm a very self-sufficient person too, even when half crazy with worry, but in retrospect I can see how gratifying it was for people who felt so incredibly helpless to do things for me/us. It's just that most of the time I couldn't figure out what to ask them to do, so the open-ended, generous offering of "Let me know what you need. I'll do anything!" spoken by people so willing to help, was left just hanging there because I honestly didn't have a clue about what I wanted. My mind often couldn't think along those detailed lines.
Friends offered to stay with Erin, to "give me a break", and I found at the stages when she was so sick or recovering from a surgery, I couldn't leave her for long periods of time.

I was under more stress being away from her than I was when I was with her ~ calmed by the sight of her and the sound of her voice. (This was taken in March 2008 after her lung surgery. I want to crawl right into this picture with the two of them now. Everything would then be fine...)

At other times, when she was feeling well and in school full-time, even though she was constantly undergoing treatment of some kind or another, I held a part-time job, learning to juggle my way into the skewed sense of normalcy the cancer life imposes.

Bottom line, what I needed most was for Erin to be cured and that was impossible for anyone to accomplish. No one could take my pain away - no one. My pain was/is intimate and exclusive to me and only me - a mother's pain. It was something I had to absorb myself, and it continues to be that way now that she's gone.
"If only the people that love her and your family could each take a day, a week of the pain and sadness, we would, we truly would."

"I know there are hundreds out there just like me who have you in their thoughts also and who, like me, would take on as much of your grief as we could handle if it lessened your burden just a little."
Bless all of you for wanting so desperately to do so, and I'm thankful when you hold my hand, but the pain ultimately was/is mine.

I'm eternally grateful for all the acts of kindness from people in our community who cooked meals, dropped gift bags at the house, shoveled our snow, put up Christmas decorations, sent cards and emails... all in beautiful displays of love and support. As I said in a recent post, I have 700 emails in my inbox and several boxes of treasured letters from people. The written word is an exquisite gift. Use it as a means to bridge the gap that divides you from the one who is struggling.

My main point, after this RAMBLING (sorry!) glimpse into my personal reactions, is to follow the lead of your loved one. Respect their individual and unique reaction to their situation because cancer carries such an overwhelming assault that hits with physical and emotional ferocity, and the longer one is engaged with it, the deeper it goes. It creates so many layers of complexity that include both horror that breaks your heart to pieces and grace that astounds and nurtures your soul. As Erin's mother I WANTED and NEEDED to witness and soak in all of it first-hand.

Everyone has such good intentions, but try not to give in to your frustration by pushing your loved one to be someone they're not, just to fit into the mold of the way you think they should react. I can attest from experience that it will only make them uncomfortable, put their back against the wall and compound their stress level.

STAY in touch with them. Let them know you think about them, and KEEP LETTING THEM KNOW, even if they don't have the strength to respond. DON'T GO AWAY.

Gently suggest ways to spend short periods of time with them doing things you know they like ~ ie: I like to walk, bike, garden, do yoga, etc. Be creative and think of simple things that they don't have the wherewithal to instigate. If they say NO, don't be offended. Ask again another time, even if they say NO again.

One friend gave us a gift card to 7-11, knowing we liked Pepsi Slurpees. We used to stop for them on the way home from chemo, a refreshing treat after getting "unhooked" for the day. Simple - perfect.

If you know it's a tough day, show up with a milk shake, (or something else you know they like) hand it to them, hug them and then leave. They'll think of you and be grateful while they're sipping it.

Be an astute observer of their situation and see what smooths everything around them (mundane chores, shopping, mowing the lawn) and take initiative there so they can focus on their loved one instead of those distractions, because the most important place for them to be is at their side.

My extended family tree continues to grow ~ a diverse lineage with branches intermingling as we reach to one another for assurance and reinforcement. I continue to be grateful each day for the support that is showered upon me from those on the outside who do their best to understand the exception-to-the-rule life I lead, and appreciate the respect for my need to keep the personal roots of my own beliefs firmly planted in the ground to stabilize my soul.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Someone Told Me It's All Happening

at the ZOO!

I do believe it,
I do believe it's true.

The monkeys stand for honesty,

Giraffes are insincere,

And the elephants are kindly
but they're dumb.

Orangutans are skeptical
of changes in their cages,

And the zookeeper is very fond of rum.

Zebras are reactionaries,

Antelopes are missionaries,

Pigeons plot in secrecy,

And hamsters turn on frequently.

What a gas!
You gotta come and see ~

At the zoo.

(thanks to Simon & Garfunkel for the lyrics)

Friday, July 2, 2010

Friends Who Care? PRICELESS!

There are days when I feel as though life has gone on for everyone, and it should - of course it should. The world is turning as I slowly attempt to find my way. There are jobs to do and families to care for and responsibilities that pile up. And that's the way it needs to be - of course, it has to.

Then, there are weeks like this one - days when the weather is absolutely perfect, and the hours are filled with fun things to do and people who take a moment from their spinning worlds.

And I'm invited by a thoughtful coach to lend my voice at a volleyball clinic in my old "stomping ground", the gym filled with noisy young girls - some sporting the bright lime green Erin Potts Invitational T-shirt.

I attend a Spa day at a friend's house - my tired face and feet pampered for a couple of hours, topped with good conversation, food, woman-talk, camaraderie.

I'm asked by another, "Please, take me to Bronswood", and together we walk through the woods, communing with one another, soaking in the sights and smells of the forest - damp earthy scents. Then we continue on to Erin's resting place where the oaks that line the winding road stand tall, and the carefully tended flowers bloom abundantly - reds, pinks, purples, whites - marking the places of ones so loved, so missed.

Yesterday, three of us stack our bikes on my car with the hope we won't lose them on the Stevenson, head to the city and pedal the trail along the lakefront. And I don't do this more often because?? Really?! The sky - cloudless. The lake - SO blue. The sights - spectacular. The ride - invigorating and peaceful at the same time. The food at The Taste - so yummy. Do you know how pretty Chicago is? I think I forgot, or maybe I just needed a different viewpoint. I have to do this more often. Next time I need to bring the camera.

AND, the other evening, out of the blue, there's a knock on the door. Before me stands this awesome guy, with compassionate eyes and a warm smile, holding a plate covered with yummy, fattening, decadent, chocolate-peanut butter treats, and he says ~ she made a little something for you ~ and the gorgeous plate is part of the gift!

There's a card, and fortunately I read it after he leaves, because the words cause me to sniffle, then puddle. I quickly find Keenan - my kleenex supply is low.

"...it is hard to even wrap one's head around everything that Erin, you and your entire family have been through..."

"...the insurmountable loss that you have endured..."

"...hope that it helps you to know...I think about you and Erin often and pray that you and your family are doing okay..."

To be prayed for, to have one beautifully articulate the thoughts that swirl in her head about the unimaginable path our lives are on...

The very next day, I open an envelope that arrives in the mail.

It's from the friend who lives way too far away -
the one who always manages to throw a lifeline of love across the so many miles that physically separate us.

It's typically a simple phrase,
usually accompanied by beautiful, meaningful images.

This - a bookmark.
(stunning design found here)
The card with it reads,
"I hope you will think of all the love coming your way whenever you see it."

How could I not?!

Today - breakfast with another friend, followed by a trip to The Hidden Gardens. Oh Lord, this place. Don't tell anyone, but I think I've become a plant-whore. I can't resist the temptation - finding there's always room in my BED of flowers for one more!

Such a good week...
Friends who think about you and spend time with you, tell you that they care, now - six months later?