Saturday, April 26, 2008

Thank you, God, that I am well

I think God may be in heaven hitting his head against the Pearly Gates and mumbling “I healed her and she’s STILL not happy?!” After the endoscopy I was so disappointed that Dr. P. didn’t find anything wrong. “I’ve been in incredible pain since February 29th and you mean to tell me that I don’t have anything to show for it?!” There’s something really wrong about crying when they DIDN’T find cancer. Later, I knew I was feeling better, but I think I didn’t want to admit it to myself for fear of being disappointed if the pain returned. I thought I was just having a good day, or a good few days. It dawned on me today that I’ve been well for over a week now. “Hooray!! I’m well!! “I realize now that even though the endoscopy was a scary, nerve-racking, yucky experience, it was worth going through, because it yielded valuable information: I don’t have stomach cancer. If I hadn’t done the procedure, I think the big C would have always been in the back of my mind. Today I believe God had mercy on me, healed me from the ulcer or whatever it was, and gave me hard data that my stomach is well. Praise Him.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

MCP Graduates High School

My daughter, MCP, graduated from high school today. I am enormously proud of her for many reasons. Although she doesn’t always like doing the actually school assignments and taking tests, she is a brilliant learner who is completely capable of turning in excellent, insightful coursework. She is an especially gifted writer. Although she often tries to get us to write her essays for her, when she finishes a paper, I love to read what she has written. It is usually interesting, discerning, and written in a way that makes reading it enjoyable. She has done well in school, earning good grades, and completing many college classes. In addition, while attending high school she worked, volunteered in an elementary classroom, and was involved in serving the poor in her town, in San Francisco’s Tenderloin, and in Honduras. She has a kind and compassionate heart, and is loved by children and adults. I admire all she has accomplished so far with her young life.

With every stage MCP has gone through I’ve felt happy that she’s achieved the milestone, but also a little wistful, knowing that she is my last. I remember taking the crib down, and realizing I wouldn’t be putting it back up again. I was happy when she learned to tie her own shoes and pump on the swing, but a little sad that she was growing up. I was happy that she advanced each grade in school, but when the annual “Blessing of the Children” came at church, and I didn’t have any more elementary-aged children, it was a little sad. Soon she’ll be off to San Diego State, and I’ll be happy to hear of all her adventures there, but I will miss her terribly. So I’m deliriously happy that MCP has finished high school. I’m also a little sad that my baby is so grown up.

Monday, April 21, 2008

A Time for Turkeys

I met with my Turkey team at Starbucks in Carpinteria yesterday. (People who love to gather at Starbucks are my kind of people). I had such a great time talking, laughing, and sharing stories with these three dear women and one amazing young man. I admire their commitment to Christ, the way they are living out their faith, and the diversity of their gifts. We missed the last member of the team, who couldn’t make it. One lady on the team sends out several emails a week to the team. As it turns out they are all written by her husband, and he signs them with her name. (Hi Ken, if you are reading this!) He even researches information on the Internet and sends it out, supposedly from her! So I’m rereading all the kind words “she” wrote about her husband, and wonder what SHE would have written about her family and how she spends her free time. I am not artistic at all, and loved seeing two of the women share the cross stitch projects and the intricate paper cutting we could do with the Turkish women. P was accepted into the SBCC nursing program for fall, so she seemed a natural to be in charge of the medical supplies. S. volunteered to handle the money. A and P are great at putting together slide shows. It was such a joy to pray together. No one had any hesitation praying in the Starbucks, even though the restaurant was packed with some gnarly-looking motorcycle dudes. God has assembled an amazing team. I am very thankful, and really looking forward to this summer’s journey.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

I have always hated tests of any kind

Dr. G's office called to tell me they had scheduled a HIDA scan for next Thursday. I didn't even know what this test was for, but when they told me to bring 8 ounces of half and half I decided not to like the test. (Turns out it's to test the gall bladder function). Then a few minutes later Dr. P's office (the gastroenterologist) called to tell me they had scheduled an abdominal sonagram and blood tests. I really want the two doctors to be working in concert with each other, and that no one gets hurt feelings. I'm not sure how this whole medical territory works...will one doctor feel the other is impinging on his province? I hope not. So I called doctor G's office and spoke to his nurse. "Dr. P. has ordered these tests, and Dr. G. has ordered these tests. Which should I do?" She put me on hold, talked to Dr. G. and said "Do all of them." So I told her she wasn't my friend anymore. I'm actually going to wait a week to do any tests. I'm just tired of the stress of going through the diagnostics and the waiting for results. And I'm feeling a little better today. It's a hopeful sign.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Waiting, wating, waiting

I am now laying around guilt free, watching movies, eating sugar cereal, and surfing the web, while I recover from the endoscopy. The procedure went well. People were kind to me, my hypoglycemia wasn’t too painful from the fasting, they didn’t have trouble inserting the IV, and people brought me heated blankets. The best part: I got to wear my own clothes! They put the hospital gown on over my jeans and T-shirt. How cool is that? The sad, discouraging part for me now is that they didn’t find anything. It’s not an ulcer, and it’s not cancer. I’ve been in pain since February 29th and no one knows why. They are going to order more tests, and I’m going to wait some more. I am not a happy camper.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

I have a good husband

Jim surprised me Sunday, by packing a picnic lunch so that, immediately after church we could drive with the top down in his Miata to the beach. We parked on a cliff north of Emma Wood State Beach and talked and ate and watched the sun glisten on the ocean. We didn’t see the dolphins that I saw Saturday, but the day was beautiful and I felt as if I was on vacation. Watching the pelicans dive for fish, and seeing the surfers catch waves made me want to linger there with Jim forever. This was a very romantic time, but I also find it romantic when Jim does loads of laundry, cleans the shower drain, works for hours in the yard, and fixes my computer. He did all these things, too, last weekend and so he has accrued an amazing amount of good husband points.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

A Day of Joy and Pain

I seem to grieve differently than other people, and I've decided that's OK. I'm in tune with my feelings/body and I know what's bringing me comfort. Although people keep telling me to slow down and "take time for myself", what brings me healing is having the house full, or walking on the beach, or making a difference in someone’s life. Today a friend is here from Palo Alto, and she and I walked on the beach and saw tons of dolphins. When I saw the birds at the shore I remembered Mom teaching me all their names. I find healing in doing ministry—like when I’m praying with my Stephen Leader team for the hurting people we are comforting. (And usually we are a comfort to each other, too!) I get a satisfaction out of making someone else’s life better. The work I’ve done on Personnel TEAM is something that makes me feel happy. So it really is something I’m doing for ME. Mom’s and Scott’s deaths have taught me that you never know the hour and the day, so what brings me joy and peace is spending the time in meaningful pursuits. For me, it’s part of the way I’m working through the grief. The activity is not a way for me to avoid the grief, but a way to work through it and find meaning, and heal. After walking on the beach my friend and I went shopping at the consignment store, and I bought a bunch of new clothes. It was very fun. Even though I’m in pain, I can still enjoy a great day spent with a good friend.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Still in pain, but more hopeful

I wrote a letter to the GI doctor, expressing my sadness that I would have to be in pain for another month. Reading the information on the Internet had not made me any more confident about waiting a month to find out if I had stomach cancer or not. (I’ll bet doctors hate it when we consult the Internet.) Anyway the kind and knowledgeable Dr. P. called after he got the letter, and he moved the endoscopy up to next Wednesday (the 16th) at 7AM!!!! I am doing the happy dance over here.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

More waiting ordered

I saw a gastroenterologist today. He looked younger than my children, but seemed really sharp. I was so fearful before I saw him, mostly because of the unknown, but he allayed all my fears. He acted like I was giving him See’s candy when I showed him copies of all the tests I ‘d had already, and the table outlining my medications and what I had already tried under the supervision of my Primary Care doctor. "Wow! Dr. G did all my work for me!" Predictably, he ordered an endoscopy to find the root cause of my pain. He understood about my hypoglycemia and scheduled the procedure at 6:30 am. Whew! He explained the pain would almost certainly be one of two things: stomach cancer or an ulcer. Let's hope it's the latter. Unfortunately, I have to wait until May 12, and then I'll have to wait again for results. I curse the shortage of gastroenterologists in Ventura.

A Tale of Two Moms

In the Bible Paul talks about Rufus, and his mother, who was a mother to him, (Paul), too. I completely understand this statement since M. is like that to me. I received a letter from her yesterday. Starting with "Marsh, Darling" and ending with "I love you tons and tons", the letter is filled with affirmation. It's no wonder M. and I became friends. Growing up, I craved the praise M. gave so liberally. I wish my real mom could have articulated her love for me more. She was clear that I should spend more time in the garden, get the piano tuned, and hire the windows cleaned. As soon as I graduated from college (with high honors), she wanted me to get my master’s degree. When I did, twenty years later, she wanted me to be a principal. (“I really WANT to be “just” a teacher, Mom”.) I never really knew the extent of her love for me until she died. In a drawer I found every card I’d ever sent her, lovingly saved and cherished. The biggest surprise was the poetry she wrote about me. On paper she expressed the feelings she couldn’t say out loud. Her mother was in a mental hospital from the time my mom was five, so Mom never got the mothering she merited. I know this is why she was stingy with her praise to me. It would have been wonderful to hear the words growing up, but I’m thankful I have them now. I love my Mom, and I miss her. I wish I knew before she died what I know now about how much she loved me.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

A Good Week Off School

I've had a good week. Our dear friends from Palo Alto came. He is a brilliant engineer and entertained us with stories about replacing the plumbing pipes under his house in spaces only two feet high. To get enough light in this cramped, smelly, space he strung Christmas lights. Lol. She is now an associate professor at SFSU and it was fun celebrating her new tenure track.

Then my friends whom I stayed with in Tokyo were here. His dad died, and B. played the violin as his sister accompanied him on the cello at his father's funeral. Their boys had not seen us since last summer, but the 2 year old warmed Jim's heart by walking up to him and saying "Hi, Jim!". So cute! Jim also got to read The Red Ripe Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear to the almost five year old. The wife gave me a great massage and did acupressure to relieve my ulcer symptoms. I loved talking to them, and want to get back to Tokyo.

Then my dear friend from England came. We have been friends for 30 years, and her husband was in our wedding. A friends of hers came, too. The friend told us stories of growing up in Thailand and Saigon while her dad was working for the CIA during the Vietnam war. My friend shared some of her struggles that she had hinted at in letters. I'm glad I could be there to listen to her.

Jim and I spent two days in Oceanside using a friend's condominium on the beach. I'm so grateful to this friend for loaning me her home, because the time was restful and healing. Jim worked. I read, napped, surfed the Internet, walked on the beach and fed the koi on their lovely grounds. I also got to see my friend who is a mom to me. I liked how she told a new friend of hers that she had ten children. (Meaning I am her tenth.) She is the only mother I have now, and I treasure this relationship. We prayed in Starbucks for each other, and had great conversations.

Once a week I have coffee with my dad. (Only now that I'm off coffee b/c of the ulcer, I have Skinny Vanilla Steamers). My dad is home, and he's already planning his next trip. I'm glad he's home, but I'm also glad that he's independent enough to pursue his own adventures.

I think God is healing me from the grief by putting friends/family in my life who have time to talk things over. The talking is so healing. Sometimes as I'm talking things will remind me of my mom or Scott, and I remember that I won't see them again in this life. And I'm becoming more comfortable with that. I can see how there are good things. I see how my dad now has a relationship with one granddaughter that he didn't before. I see my own children being kinder, knowing in an even deeper way that life is uncertain.