Me: "Who has the best seat in the house, me or daddy?"

Adam: "Well, Daddy's is nice, but yours is best. Your's is squishier."

Sunday, October 27, 2013


Two weeks ago was ArtTrails.  It is an annual art event in Sonoma County that Guy and I make a pilgrimage trip for each year, and have never missed since we began going when Ethan was just a toddler.  Some of the artists have watched out family grow up as we return year after year.  This year we took Kathy and Wayne with us, dumping sundry children at various locations along our way for tending (thank you Krista and Joanna!), and headed for the rolling amber hills and sunset colored leaves of Sebastopol.

Our first stop has become an important one.  Talented potters Cheryl and Mikio of Nichibei Pottery have created a tiny haven there, and we are welcomed with hugs and smiles.  This year was no exception, as we toted little Natalie in to show off to Cheryl, who was just a little bit surprised at #6 and more than happy to love on her.  I will admit, though, we come here first for more than the sweet greeting; Cheryl and Mikio set out a "seconds" table.  But if you want to take advantage of the deals to be found there, you have to be an early bird.  Wait even a few hours, and the table will be picked clean.  We love their art, but as their work is so skillfully and beautifully made by two master potters, we cannot afford most of it at regular price.

We also planned on meeting our dear Francine there.  She had plans for the rest of her day, but as we have done at other times when we knew a long visit was not in the stars for that day, we met, however briefly, for a few hugs and a quick visit at Nichibei.

Francine and I wandered over to the seconds table, arm in arm.  We marveled at what made something a "second" here, as every single piece on the table was so much better than anything I could produce on my gloriously-best-pottery day.  A tiny chip on the foot, a pock mark in the glaze, a glaze that simply had failed to accomplish what its makers had hoped it would, and it was banished from the lovely studio gallery, with golden lighting and music playing, and relegated to the tired wooden table out by the kiln.  I spotted the pot I wanted right away, a tall green vase with a proper pot belly, a delicate foot below and a lovely beige rim...oh, and a flaw.  On this pot, it was four or five bumps, right on the front, where some other piece must have shifted in the kiln and touched the surface, breaking the uniform mat glaze with unwelcome texture.

I picked it up and hugged it.

I was amazed that something so beautiful had the misfortune of such marring, and pondered on the frustration it must have been when Cheryl opened the kiln with hopes of lovely pots, only to find this one in such a disappointing state.  I felt a pang of familiar disappointment in myself.

I had been feeling inadequate lately; broken, chipped, marred... flawed.  I see my housekeeping, my body, my to-do list (which is really a "to-be-improved-upon" list), and feel ever so much like one of those empty vessels, not having lived up to my own hopes.  I know there has been a lot in our lives the last 9 months that would certainly justify a lackluster performance on my part, but ever since the clots, and now losing Steph and Kristi (another friend who died suddenly the same day Steph did), I have felt an urgency to make major strides toward important goals, but falling short.

"I would be on God's 'seconds' table," I told Francine with a giggle to cover the little ache inside.

"Well, you'd have plenty of company!" Francine sang out with a sort of childlike laugh.  And I knew she was right.  Not a soul on the planet would be in the gallery under the glistening lights.  We would all, every single one of us, be on the seconds table.  I pictured a massive table top, a continent long, with millions of tiny people standing on it with little discount price tags on our heads.

And in an instant, there it was.  Freedom.

Freedom to be flawed,
permission to try harder without being ashamed of past failures,
and company
-lots and lots of company-
 there on the tabletop.

"And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.

Then the Lord came to me, saying,

O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the Lord.  Behold, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel."

~Jeremiah 18: 4-6

Monday, October 21, 2013


My friend Ruth is amazing.  
She has 6 children; four in her arms, one in her belly, and one in heaven (and in her heart). 

Her baby boy, Rhys, died the day before he was born, three years ago this week.  As I have watched her grieve, I have learned so much about grace, finding peace, and  
about learning to be okay with not knowing all the answers.

Ruth never learned why little Rhys (pronounced Reese) didn't make it, and I can't say what she feels in her heart today compared to that terribly sad day three years ago, but I can tell you what Rhys's life, and Ruth's example have taught me.

That you can touch people you have never met.
That you don't have to grieve any certain way.
That sometimes the mission we serve in this life will be the opportunities we give others to give service.
That sad tears and happy tears can mingle sweetly together.
That you can witness greatness in another person's trial, and learn from it.
That we never know what path we will walk, or who we will be blessed to walk it with,
 but we will never walk it alone.
That each life is precious.
That somehow we make it through.

This past week our family was invited to share in the sweet tradition Ruth, Steve and their family have embraced as a way of remembering and honoring Little Rhys.  We met at the cemetery just before sunset, and we prayed together.  Prayers of gratitude, spoken and unspoken, rose to the heavens as tears moistened our cheeks.  Ruth said she looks upon this place as a place to come and remember Rhys, but that she knows he is not here, but with his Creator and Heavenly Father.  Then we released blue balloons, some with children's drawings tied to them, up into the clear autumn sky.  They rose in a cluster and stayed together until the blue of the sky enveloped them and we couldn't see them anymore.

We couldn't see them, but they were still there.  
Gone from our limited mortal sight, but not from God's.

Ruth told me once that she doesn't picture Rhys as a baby, but as a strong and wonderful young man, the essence of who his spirit, in an eternal sense, really is.

I love that.  

Happy Birthday to my dear friend, Ruth.  
You are an amazing woman.

Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.

He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.

Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.

They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

~Isaiah 40:28-31

Birthday Wish

Today was Steph's birthday.  

We got together with her hubby, son, parents and a few friends, and ate - per Stephanie's request- Shake'n'bake pork chops, Rice-a-Roni and peas.  Well, they ate the peas.  Steph knows I don't do peas.

We talked about her laugh, her jokes, and her antics.  It was a great way to spend her day, even though she couldn't be with us.  It's hard to believe she's only been gone 4 days.  Seems longer.  She was sick for so long.

Last Sunday, as Guy and I were at ArtTrails with Wayne and Kathy, Dave called to tell me that Steph wanted to see me to say goodbye.  We had just limped back to our motel on a spare tire after a blowout, and it would be at least two hours before repairs would get us on the road, and another two to travel.  We rushed.  There is no feeling like the feeling that you might miss your last chance.

When we got there, we slipped into her room as dim pink light filtered through the drawn curtains.  Her mama directed us toward some chairs, and we sat, not sure of what to do.  Prompted by her mom, I took Stephie's hand, and her eyes flickered open as she whispered, "hi", then fell right back to sleep.  We thought we might just leave so she could rest, but then she opened her eyes and spoke to us.

I asked if she was scared.  No, she said, just anxious to be out of pain.  Was she excited to see what was coming next?  Yes, she supposed.  I asked if she would say hi to my mom for me.  "Is there anything you want me to tell her?" she asked, but for all the millions of times I had wanted to tell my mom something, I couldn't think of a thing in that moment.

"My birthday is this week," she said after a while.
"I know, I guess you won't be wanting my present," I said.
"I always love your presents." she smiled.

I had thought about it, about her birthday and what I would have wanted to give her, but there is nothing I could have given her that she would not be leaving behind, so I said, "Can I sing to you?"

"I'd like that," she answered.

"What do you want to hear?"

"Surprise me."

I began softly with the only song that came to mind; the song I sang to Natalie as I labored with her, and what I sing to her now when she is sad.

"Sweet dreams till sunbeams find you,
sweet dreams that leave your worries far behind you,
but in your dreams, whatever they be, dream a little dream of me.

Say nighty-night and kiss me,
Just hold me tight and tell me you'll miss me
while I'm alone and blue as can be,
dream a little dream of me."

All through the song she closed her eyes and smiled, and at the end whispered her thanks.  She was so tired then, that we said goodbye.

We had pink cupcakes tonight.  She would have liked that.  It was her signature color.  We sang the birthday song, and had one of the kids blow out the matchstick we had improvised into a birthday candle.

I don't suppose anyone made a wish.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

A Wake-up Story in Pictures


Good morning.
Go snuggle someone you love.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


My sweet friend, Stephanie
lost her battle with cancer tonight.  
No, you know, she didn't loose anything.  
She decided that she didn't want any more 
of the needles and scans and tests and radical treatments,
 and last week she decided it was time to go.  
I was blessed to be able to say goodbye.

It is hard tonight to see the last images I have of her in my mind's eye. 
 I prefer the image I see above.  

And I want to remember her best gifts and most joyful moments.

Steph was my friend.  She was a riot.  She was so fun and so funny.  She loved her family, her "babies" (nieces and nephew), and her son and hubby so much.  She and I had a mutual appreciation for all things chocolate, which we shared regularly.  She spent countless hours helping me with the kids when I was getting paintings done.  They would snuggle up to her and listen to her read for hours.  

She loved God.

I guess random things are floating into my mind 
as I try to make sense of her passing.

I can't believe she is gone.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Road Trip

I am writing this just 100 miles from home, on the last limping leg of our whirlwind weekend getaway to Southern California.  I sit between a finally-sleeping Natalie and a softly snoring Ethan.  And this is what the last 7 hours have been like…

Just before we left for our trip, the radio was pulled by the dealer to be repaired.  It has left us without tuneage, which left me with no choice but to discover how many 80’s songs I could consecutively butcher the lyrics to.  I did learn, however, that I know all of the lyrics to Bohemian Rhapsody, including guitar solos, and can do a stirring one-woman rendition of the opera segment wherein I sang every part.  Sadly, I am the lone witness to this feat, as everyone else was asleep at the time.  Galileo! Galileo! Galileo Figaro! (you’re singing it now, too, aren't you?  I can hear you… “Magnifico-o-o!”).

Sans radio, Jonah’s voice has been the back ground music for this trip.  A while ago he told me, “Uh-oh mama, I foh-got my cwoze” (clothes).  It’s a pleasant change from announcing his farts and burps every few miles, and his asking “we doh-ing home? No!!!  I wan’go Andwoo’s house!” fifty or so times.  My particular favorite was the scream about 10 minutes ago, blood curdling and painful sounding, all because Tessa LOOKED at him.  I know her eyes are a penetrating blue, but really?

This is our first family trip in our new-to-us van.  We have learned that it is the vortex of all sound, and though all 8 of us are contained in what seems like a duffle-bag-sized space, for some reason no one can actually understand each other.  None the less, cries of “Be quiet!” have blasted through the van like air horns at a football game.  I find myself in the middle row, middle seat, leg elevated, because dear Natalie was screaming for about 50 miles.  I climbed back and tried the car-seat nursing that I have done successfully with many a weepy babe, but she would have none of it.  As droopy as “the girls” have gotten over the years, they just weren't long enough to reach her.  She finally fell asleep from sheer exhaustion.

We now carry air freshener with us on road trips, because we have teenage boys.  They smell like mummy breath.  And that is before anything is emitted from their bodies that could be measured on a Richter scale.  If you have ever driven I-5, you will also know that the milk commercials claiming California cows live in lovely, grassy fields are absolute bovine pucky.  The kids are sure to announce these aromas and their respective feelings about each nuance of scent as we pass cattle yards with “happy cows” by the thousands.  Though I detest the cow smell, at least the cows don’t laugh after they blow methane. 

Then there is the food thing.  We are, at best, inconsistent with how we handle food and travel.  I succumb to the hunger cries of my offspring sometimes like a mother bird, and at others like a prison warden in an old movie.  It does not seem to matter how often you feed the children however, they are always like a nest-full of baby birds.  “I’m staaaaarving!” Tessa exclaims 30 minutes after our dinner stop.  Finally, I go from mama-bird to warden to bar-keep, and I cut them off.  The poor, sad babes whimper of their sure starvation until they fall asleep. 

I doubt any of us will remember this particular trip.  Though we might recall that we stopped 4 times in the first 5 hours, but the rest will fade like trips and childhoods do.  And while most are not noteworthy,  I wouldn't mind remembering the moment I am having right now.  The girls are awake and listening to their Mp3 player-  a mix of pop music and ballads sung by their mama.  “Ellie, “ Tessa says, “imagine what if mom was up on stage singing a rock song like on the Fourth of July but not on the Fourth of July.  That would be weird.” They giggle, and as I try to envision what they are seeing, I giggle a little too.  Adam rides shotgun, and as any good co-pilot would, he occasionally points out something interesting in the road signs and billboards we pass, to Guy, who has driven the whole way.  And last of all, to my left, my youngest child sleeps under a well tucked blanket, looking for all the world like Ethan did as a baby, while to my right, that very boy -now so grown-up -, sleeps with his head tucked against my shoulder.  I can feel his warm breath on my arm, and I can’t remember a time since he was small that he has slept on my shoulder.    

I love road trips.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Getting with the Flow

Two Cuties: Natalie and Jane

As I pushed Natalie in her stroller up the walkway at Kaiser South, a sweet old fellow was working on getting out of his car in a handicapped parking space near the door.  He was tall and dark, with a spritz of black freckles across his cheeks.  I gave him a smile, and he returned it with a deep sing-songy "How you doin'?"

"All right," I said with a shrug, in that chipper not-so-great-but-what'cha-gonna-do? tone.  "How are you?"
"All right." he echoed, his words a bit more tired sounding than mine, but with all the cheer.
"I mean, were both here, right?" I joked.  He looked up at the hospital as I pointed to it and laughed knowingly.
"Right." he conceded.


After my procedure Tuesday for removal of my 4th blood clot in 8 months, I wasn't feeling great.  My leg, which usually feels "less" of everything after one of these clot-busting procedures -less fatigue, less pain, less tightness, less tingling - was feeling more.  And then some.  A strange new symptom had been added to the list.  I was having waves of  "the chills" that would stretch from hip to toe and raise almost painfully intense goosebumps on my leg.  What's more, my foot was chilly; according to Ethan's reptile thermometer, 13 degrees colder than my other foot.  And I was having pain where no pain had been before, in my pelvis.

I gave it a few days to see if it was just adjustments from the swelling, new stents, and tools from the procedure.  I could be brave in the daylight, and many times throughout the day I felt only very mild symptoms.  But each night as I lay in bed, the symptoms seemed more pronounced, and in the dark it was hart not to imagine that a clot was forming; to picture it in there, filling specific veins whose locations and names I now know all too well.  Popliteal, femoral, saphenous.  Though I tried to shut it out, my mind conjured the image of a clot growing and finally breaking off and hitting my lungs.  For several nights, I held little Natalie close and smelled her sweet, precious perfume, and prayed for sleep to come.

Monday I emailed Dr. F. a little 'heads up' and within 30 minutes was scheduled for an ultrasound with our angel Jane.  As it was last minute, I went alone with little Natalie.  Jane took us back, and her familiar face was a comfort.  After a pleasant chat we settled in for the scan, and this time, things were very different.  For the first time since the stents were placed, true blood flow could be captured by the ultrasound.  The vein was lit up with profuse flow, and Jane very happily showed me these new and surprising images.  Prior to my collaterals being blocked off by the new stents, there had been too much flow diverted through the alternative routes to force a vigorous flow through the femoral vein, but now that full flow was routed back along its normal course, there was no mistaking it.  The vein was clear.  Jane, Tara (one of my other favorite techs) and I celebrated, passing the baby around and enjoying the way a room feels that is filled with happy news.

Later that day I got a text from Dr. F. affirming what we had seen.  There was no need to guess if the stents may still be blocked, or to do an angiogram just to be on the safe side.  No drugs, no needles, no contrast dye, and no hole in my leg.  Hooray for stents that work!

Yesterday on the way to see the hematologist we ran into Dr. F. in the hallway.  He told us he had talked at length to my new doctor and given him a complete history.  More importantly, he said he trusted Dr. W. and really liked him, and thought we would, too.  We felt like we were being put into good hands.

Dr. W. met with us and though he had already spoken to Dr. F. and read my extensive and complicated file, he asked us to tell him all that we have been through.  It was a very nice way to start off.  He ordered some tests to look for cancer and other problems.  He believes that the reason I clot so well while on blood thinners may be a rare clotting disorder.  Most of the clotting disorders that are known today have only been discovered in the last 15 years.  He said that this disorder may not have been defined yet.  I guess well find out.  I gave blood, and now we wait.

Next up: CAT scan. TBA

Post Edit: I guess it would help to mention here that the reason I am feeling increased pain and sensitivity is due to the increased flow.  My tissues just aren't used to the intensity of it, and everything is coming back online as a result.  Eventually I should get used to the flow and it will come to feel "normal" again.