Tuesday, March 26, 2013

What is too old.

Are there goals you have for your life and you find one day people look at you and somehow seem to say..."You're too old to do that."

Well maybe I am hyper sensitive. I mean after all I am turning 60 this year and that is, so I have been told, something of consequence. But lately I have had the distinct feeling some people want to rush me into a premature old folks home. That my friends is not me.

It was a wonderful moment for me when my daughter gave me a book a few years ago entitled "Granny D". Granny was 90 years old when she walked across America. In the process she had her point of view heard by hundreds of thousands of people. Not bad for someone who should be sitting in a rocker in a stupor of depression as she joined her companions in the steady decline to oblivion. Not for Granny D. My daughter believed I had the same kind of tenacity and optimism that Granny D had. She saw that I believed I could make a difference. She saw in me that I wasn't confined by other's definitions of me. She saw me as a tough cookie.

We tend to forget the quality of aging is somewhat in our power. I am not talking about face lifts here, although that certainly is a choice someone could make. I am talking about being active and involved. Staying at the top of your game. Ask the 80 year old I saw walking in San Diego. Or people who start new careers in their 70s like politics! ASK Betty White!

It seems women get hammered with this aging thing sometimes a bit harder than men. Especially in business. Listen they say wages are still not equal for women versus men, but if you look at women of a certain age versus men of a certain age I think you would be sickened by the inequity.

I cannot lie to you. There are times when I have self doubt. There are times when I think people have doubts about me. However it is not in my nature to believe that things are inevitable. I believe we choose how we deal with life's ups and downs. As for me, I am a fighter. Throughout my life I have defied odds. I am alive to tell you that... I was supposed to have been gone a long time ago.

Its hard for me to hear some say I cannot do something. There has not been one thing that I truly set my mind to do that I have been unable to do. Of course there are many things I have not asked myself to do along my journey. I haven't jumped from a plane. (I DON'T WANT TO!) If I decide I can do something I will do it. It used to be I didn't have to convince other people I could... I just did it. The biggest change in recent years is the number of times I have had age brought into a conversation where I believe it has no place.

How do you look at your aging? To me it is a gift - I don't intent on trying to pretend I am younger than I am, because that would trivialize that gift. I intent on embracing it. Holding my Grandchild, sharing my insights and experience, feeling confident in the person I am becoming, being excited to see what is around the corner and hoping while doing this I make my world happier and the people around me happier too. Care to join me?

Monday, March 18, 2013


I am a Taurus. They say we are patient to the point of being stubborn.

When people talk about Cancer, many discuss how horrible the treatment was. Some discuss the humiliation of losing your hair, or throwing up after chemo. Some people focus on the fact that your body is forever changed. In Breast Cancer you may lose piece of, or all of your breast/s. Certainly all of these horrors are frightening and dealing with acceptance of these things is challenging for anyone. But for me the unbearable part of the journey was the waiting. So much for the Taurus thing!

The waiting, before you know you have Cancer, is bad enough. The mind runs in wild directions of what ifs that become the worse case possible. But initially "what if it's Cancer" can be followed with "it might not be Cancer" so there is some reprieve in the worry. Once you receive the diagnosis of CANCER those worse case scenarios take on a new vibrancy and a new level of fear. So as you wait for the result of a biopsy, or surgical procedure you sit on pins and needles and find it hard to think of anything else.

A day in this worried state seems like an eternity (especially since you may imagine your days could be numbered). Your heart is pumping a little harder, tears come a little quicker, you find you cannot focus on much else. The positive things people say to you float by unheard and sometimes it is only the negative you can hear. This is unbearable. And then, almost as a relief, the news comes and the plans are developed.

Making a plan is frightening only because there are always options. Which of these will be the right choice? You consult, you ruminate, you feel somewhat lost. But once the decision on what the next step is made, your focus moves from the what ifs to the here and now. You can focus on each step and know you are heading down a path way from Cancer and toward the rest of your life.

The wait of the treatment is not the same as the wait for the diagnosis or treatment plan. It has a purpose. You can DO something about it. The wait for the diagnosis itself perhaps is most annoying in the inability to DO anything about it.

In other times in our lives we wait. We wait for happy and sad things. You wait for a child to be born (if you are the pregnant one, that wait is mixed with anxiety and joy). You wait to find out if you are accepted to college or if you have been selected for a job. You have done all you can and then you wait. With illness however, you wait to be able to DO something your illness. And that is something I have a hard time with.

Now that I am on the "other side" of my Cancer, I found for the first several years I was still waiting. I was still holding my breath. It took me many years to start breathing again and feel completely out of "Cancer Zone." Now when I think about my health I realize my mortality is just about like everyone else my age. It isn't linked forever to my Cancer. I can do something about my life and my health. And when at times, as is normal, I think about getting older, it doesn't take long to remind myself that doing that is a gift I might never had received if I hadn't been screened in time to find my Cancer early enough to stop it.

Be proactive with your health. Doing that in the here and now will add years to your life. Focus on the beautiful day you are living, that will add joy to your days. And always, always remember although good things don't always come to those who wait, but the ability to move forward will be up to you.

How do you feel about waiting?

Saturday, March 16, 2013

How I love the morning light

There is this certain glow that comes with the morning light. It seems to me to be the most alive the world gets.

All throughout the night, there has been silence, interrupted by dreams that mimic life. But all of that darkness seems an illusion. The dawn reaches out to awaken the world inch by inch from its slumber, revealing a pulse in each and every creature, every flower, tree and blade of grass.

Somehow in this awakening all the senses are at high alert. The air is sweeter and more crisp than any other  time of the day. The music of the birds, squirrels and whispers on the breeze carry peace to your heart. As the sky brightens, color becomes full bloom, from grey to amber to pink to green. Dew glistens on the lawn like diamonds before kings. We are all reborn.

As the day becomes full, the creation of that day becomes muddled with the busyness of life. It becomes so full of responsibilities and stress it is all you can do to hold onto it's color until night falls, as a release from the weight of the day. You are left to slumber until it is time to hope again that with the rising sun, the magic will last just a little bit longer than yesterday.

Good Morning.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

You have to be brave

“You have to choose your combinations careful. The right choices will enhance your quilt. The wrong choices will dull the colors and hide their original beauty. There are no rules you can follow. You have to go by instinct and you have to be brave.”
Whitney Otto, How to Make an American Quilt

In high school I took a sewing class. I nearly failed it. In fact I eked by with a D. The suggested garment to sew was an apron. I chose a blouse, button holes and all, in a sheer material that tore easily. Often the material would gather itself in the bobbin mechanism leaving me to rip it out (ripping the material in the process) you could say I was virtually hopeless as a seamstress.

After my Mother died (when I was 24) my Father gave me a sewing machine. I assume his thought was to save me money in repairs of clothes and perhaps even to help me build a less expensive wardrobe. It gave me proof that my Father never looked at my report cards.

The first quilt I ever made was for my brother. He was going to college and I thought I would whip something together. I never had a lesson. I hadn't a clue. I believe I made a "rainbow" quilt before the rainbow became a symbol of something besides sisterly love. It was crude. My hand stitching showed a lack of finesse and experience. I designed the quilt myself and it looked like it.

One of the next quilts I made was for Glenn. We were dating. I suppose it was a symbol of my seriousness about the relationship. That Christmas he got a hand made quilt from me, and I got a champagne bucket. The gifts, each in their own way, cemented our relationship as permanent.

As time progressed I practiced this skill and the designs I followed continued to become more complex and intricate. When I was a stay at home Mom, quilting became my escape, my release.
I made quilts for our daughters for their twin beds. I made Christmas quilts for all our beds. I made wall quilts. I made baby quilts. I planned in our remodel to turn a closet into a quilting center. I hand quilted them all and got carpal tunnel syndrome in the process! Then I got Cancer.

While battling Cancer I discovered many things that reminded me of quilting.

When you are told you have Cancer (or any other life endangering disease) you feel overwhelmed. Where to start??? Who do I trust? Why is it taking so long? Will I ever make it through? Is all this worth it?

With a quilt, you don't have an idea where to start, but you go to the quilt shop and sift through the patterns. After due consideration you select one and start to look over the variety of colors and textures of the fabrics on display. You find exceptional ones that speak to you. If  one fabric is speaking louder you use that as the one to which the other fabrics will relate. You consult (if you have found the person worthy) with the person working at the shop. Then you have them cut and stack your purchases into a neat little pile, layering it into a bag that weighs as much as a small child. The idea of turning all this material, batting and thread, into the quilt you see in your mind is hard to accept. It still feels like such a long way to go, but you feel better because you have a plan.
2013 Warrior Quilt "Never say never"
Someone tells you you have Cancer. The news has you feeling as if you have no direction. You get on the Internet and talk with friends and the closest of your family. You hear the directions of the Doctor and you set out to find out more. There are many treatments once the disease has been discovered. Some are more aggressive than others. And you realize doing nothing, while being a choice of sorts, is not a good choice, so you select the plan. You gather the people, you prepare your life to start this fight. You envision your head without hair, your refrigerator comes to be filled with nausea preventing foods and healthy choices. You buy a journal. You buy books to entertain or educate. You get ready and then you begin.

2010 Warrior Quilt "Hope Blooms"
Cutting the fabric is scary. You know you only have so much to work with. You realize there are certain directions in which the design is better, and not only that, the strength of the quilt is better. If you make a mistake, and you don't have enough fabric, you may never be able to complete the same quilt you have begun. The fabric you chose could be gone when you go to buy more. And so the quilt will change. But you are brave - you remember mistakes are less frequent if you measure twice and cut once. You are careful with your choices.
For some people it is encouraging to focus section by section, first cutting the center and then moving outward to the border and backing. For other people, the focus on cutting all of one color making stacks of each, ready to turn the actual sewing into more of an assembly line is what works best.

2011 Giants lap quilt
Going into surgery you realize all of this journey will be a matter of steps. First tests, then results, then the surgery, then the treatment, then the recovery. You also realize each of these steps has steps within it. Part of getting through Cancer is looking at the step ahead of you. It's hard to handle the surgery if you are thinking about Chemo. Its hard to think about your life when you are worried about your death. One task at a time, one day at a time, one moment at a time. Breath.

2013 Baby Girl Quilt  "Starry Night"
When you set the pieces into the machine and start seeing the pattern emerge, you are rewarded in knowing you are on your way to realizing your vision. Sometimes you find a certain fabric doesn't do justice to the rest of the quilt and you choose to abandon it in favor of something that will make the quilt "sing". You feel when it is right. You know by the smile that crosses your face that this quilt will be something special.
As you begin the treatment phase of Cancer (usually drugs and/or Chemotherapy, perhaps with a round or two of radiation) you begin to count. 24 weeks. OK I just finished 1 week. Eventually you can look at how many left and see it is fewer than the ones you have already endured. Sometimes adjustments need to be made. You may need additional drugs or different drugs. You are shown that the choices are making a difference as tumor markers recede. You start to recognize that special feeling that you have been holding onto in the darkness as hope. You start to realize that hope has become belief. You start to believe you are going to survive. You are ready to turn the page.

The power point of 2012 Quilt "Circle of Hope"
When your quilt has been pieced you need to give it strength by the actual quilting. You begin stitch by stitch to bind the three layers (top, batting and backing) together. It does no good to expect it to be finished in one sitting. Rather it is wise to focus on one section at a time, knowing in so doing you will finish this quilt and it will be made to survive for years to come. You look at each and every piece and see the beauty in each. You stand back and admire the completed vision. In the end you announce "it was more than worth it." This quilt is a part of me!
Once you stand on the other side of Cancer it may take you awhile to realize what you have done. But when you are ready you will think back on the moments and people it took to get you through. You think of how frightening some of those choices were. Then you take a look in the mirror. What you see there makes you smile. She is stronger and wiser than she was before. You still can feel the love that was added to your life in pieces to form this more beautiful version of yourself. You say a quiet thank you in a way you thought you never would. You realize without Cancer you may have never come to be this person you've become - and in a very very odd way you are grateful.
Please send me the names of your warriors to include with the card that goes with our 2013 Warrior Quilt. Our recipient (young McKenzie) will be surrounded by their strength and beauty. Although donations are not required they are welcome www.the3day.org/goto/cathy