Sock Basket

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T’s sister was diagnosed with breast cancer a month or so ago.  She received her diagnosis on the day her oldest brother died, and it was Christmastime.  She has three little daughters.  The youngest isn’t even in school yet.  She turned 40 a few weeks before the diagnosis which is almost impossible for me to fathom.  She was only three years old when T and I started dating.  When she was six, I traveled to California with her, T, and their mom to visit their grandparents.  She was just learning to whistle on that trip.  I shared a bed with her for two weeks on that trip, and she whistled late into the night.  I can remember gently lifting up her tiny body to move her over to her own side of the bed each night.  She was eight years old at our wedding when she was a junior bridesmaid in our wedding.  She was missing her two front teeth, and she cried like her heart would break when T and I left the wedding reception that night.

She spent many nights with us during the early years of our marriage.  We’d take her to Taco Bell, for ice cream and to Indian pow wow’s.  We invented an indoor, candlelight golf game to play, and she wore an apron to help with housework.  She was our weekend babysitter when Andrew was little.  It was a sweet deal.  We allowed her to bring a friend along and paid her with pizza and movie rentals.

Today, hundreds of miles away from us, she had a double mastectomy.  There are multiple tumors, and they’re large.  She will have a month of recovery after surgery before beginning a grueling regimen of chemotherapy.

I have navigated this day, and the weeks prior, with a heavy heart.  I hate the thought of the anguish and pain she has been going through and will face over the coming months.  I hate it that her life will be forever changed, because there is no way to face such things without it fundamentally changing who we are as a person.

My other sister in law has kept me up to date throughout the day.  I ache for what she is going through, too, her husband, my 80 year old mother in law, and my three little nieces.  I hate it that this one sister who was the baby of the family and cherished by all has to go through the evil that is cancer.

And so we trudged through another work day hundreds of miles away from our family, but we were with them in spirit and in prayer.  We were not asked to be there, and we know that our presences would have accomplished nothing.  This was a time when more people would have complicated an already difficult situation.

The contrast of my day with that of my sister in law’s was drastic.  I felt guilty to enjoy a productive meeting, a bowl of soup for lunch, and a song playing as I drove home from work.  How can one life be so normal, mundane even, when another lays helpless on a table while doctors slice away hoping to eradicate the killer?  I squeezed my eyes shut several times today in a prayer of thanksgiving for this normal and boring day, and I prayed for the life of my sister in law.

Tonight as we waited for word that she was out of surgery, I started in on the laundry.  I needed to wash the bedding for our new bedroom furniture that will be delivered tomorrow afternoon.  T was working on wiring in the basement.  We’re knee-deep in the middle of a major home improvement project.  I’m excited to see how things will look with the new furniture and with one little corner finished in the mess of our house.  I felt a pang of guilt to be happily anticipating these meaningless changes in our lives.

I finished folding laundry and grabbed the basket that sits on the shelf in the laundry room.  Whenever a stray sock shows up, it ends up in the basket to be sorted out later.  I called out to the girls to look through their sock drawers for strays, and soon they joined me in the sock sort.  We talked quietly as we paired the socks.  We wondered at where their missing mates might have ended up.  We found a few single gloves and a dog bootie.  I breathed in a deep sigh as we returned the non-paired stray socks to the basket.  The sorting and the conversation with my daughters had eased the tight knot of stress between my shoulders.

Simple days, days without pain, when loved ones are within the sound of our voice are days to cherish.  I told my girls that I love them and that I was grateful for their help and their company.

Tonight I pray for my sister in law.  I want her to have thousands of mundane days ahead of her, days full of work and simple chores like sorting socks with her daughters.

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Offended, Because I Am A Woman

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Today my Facebook news feed has been flooded with the bizarre Bruce (Caitlyn) Jenner photo shoot from the recent Vanity Fair magazine.  The photos have been called “stunning.”  Yeah…I was certainly stunned.  More than that, I was offended.

Bruce Jenner’s claim is that his facial-feminizing surgery is about “who he is as a person.”  WTF?  I’m sorry, but what does that mean?  Has Bruce spent his entire life wishing that he/she had the face of a woman, large breasts, and a penis?  Bruce is now calling himself “she,” and he’s taken the name Caitlyn.  Once again…WTF?

This evening, I read more about Bruce’s transformation.  I wanted to figure out why I was feeling so offended.  I have friends, both men and women, who are gay, and I am not offended by their lives.  I finally figured it out.  What offends me about this is the fact that this man thinks that he can just suddenly become a woman.  A couple of large breasts, long hair, and feminizing facial features do NOT make a woman.  That is what offends me.  Just as I do not know what it means to grow up as a male and grow into a man, Bruce cannot so easily claim entry into womanhood simply by surgical alteration.  Would I be a man if I grew a beard and had something hanging between my legs?  NO!

I am not defined as a woman by my facial features, my hair, or my breasts.  I am not defined as a woman because I have ovaries and a uterus.  These things could be removed, and I would still be a woman.  I am not a woman simply because I have carried my children within my own body and given birth in pain.  Without these things, I would still be a woman.

I am a woman, because of the generations of women who came before me.  They are who guided me and taught me what it means to be a woman on the inside.  I gathered eggs with my ancient great-grandmother as she told me the stories of her life.  I sat on my grandma’s front porch as we shelled peas into a bowl while I soaked in even other lessons.  I learned gentleness and strength from these women.  They prepared me with stories, laughter, and love for what would lay beyond my years of childhood.  They prepared me for the secret, magical, sometimes scary world of womanhood.

I have four children – two boys and two girls.  I love them all immensely and without reservation.  Each one of them is an amazingly unique individual.  Still, I will admit that I have a special kinship with my daughters.  We are able to understand each other in a way that often astonishes me.  We can communicate without words, and we can communicate non-stop with words.  We speak freely of anything and everything, and we’re able to clear the male members of the family quickly from any room when our talk becomes too candid.

My daughters are the new generation in the long, long sisterhood of women.  I share my stories of magic and mystery with them.  Someday, if I am very lucky, I will be an ancient old woman sharing my stories with some yet-to-be little girl.  That is what it means to be a woman, Bruce.

 

Sweet Miracle of Kindness

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I received the following email today:
Dear Pam,
Just want you to know that I am honored to be your second Mom.  I never had a daughter, but if I did, I would hope she would be just like you.  You are a kind, honest, considerate, intelligent and loving woman.  I am so proud of you, and I respect you for how you have adapted to a new city, job, and home this past year.  Not an easy task !
Pam,  you are very special to me.
Love,
S…

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Ashley’s Dress

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I hate to shop, so I order most of my clothing online.  I am a hard to find size, and I get frustrated to find something I like in a store only to find out that it isn’t available in my size.  From the comfort on my home, I can shop for what I like and order it in my size.

tdressA couple of days before my vacation to New Orleans, I received a box in the mail.  I was excited, because I had ordered a couple of things to take on my trip.  The first thing I pulled out of the box was a black dress.  The girls were standing with me watching as I opened the contents of the box.  They looked at me curiously.  Why had I ordered a black dress to take on vacation?  I honestly didn’t remember ordering it.  I checked the size.  It was my size.  I opened up the plastic packaging and held it up.  I liked it, but I still couldn’t remember ordering this black dress. Continue Reading »

Laughter

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I’ve recently started doing something that I haven’t done in years.  I’ve been laughing.  The sound often startles me, and the feeling in my belly is a delicious shock.  I lay in bed last night listening to an episode of Frasier playing on Netflix as I fell asleep, and I started laughing.  I jiggled the bed with my laughter.  I couldn’t seem to stop or catch my breath. Continue Reading »

Can This Be Optimism?

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The trip to Vegas did me wonders.  I’m still feeling upbeat since my return.  There was one moment on my trip, sitting in the sun talking with two friends, when I felt a warm tingle.  During this particular moment, I felt life’s blessings surrounding me.  I was warm.  The sun was shining, and I was with friends.  I felt humbled to know that they actually like me, chose to spend time with me, and that they cared for me.  I knew it was one of those moments in life that would become a treasured memory, and I felt honored to know it as it was happening.  I sat there thinking in disbelief, “These are good people, and they are my friends.”  I had grown to believe that I did not deserve such things.  I still smile at the thought of such a blessing in my life, a simple moment that made me happy to be alive and on this earth. Continue Reading »

Brownies and Memories

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I dipped my finger into the warm, chocolaty batter and brought it to my mouth.  The scent was heavenly as flavor expanded across my tongue.  Tears filled my eyes.  I stood motionless for a moment, my finger still in my mouth, as the flavor released its memories.  I closed my eyes, and I could once again see three little blonde children chatting happily at the kitchen table as they made cakes out of Play-Dough while a baby girl banged her fist in a highchair.  I imagined a different kitchen with a maple-topped center island and tall ceilings.  I could hear the sounds of my children and feel a warm breeze blowing through open windows.  When I opened my eyes, the only thing that was left were the tears and a lingering taste of chocolate. Continue Reading »