Into the Void? Maybe not.

Sometimes when I write, I wonder what the point is and what impact the words have.  I’ve blogged for fifteen years (and wrote horrible diary entries for about 10 years before that…seriously, they are so dramatic and self-obsessed and boy crazy and just terrible) and if I calculated all of the time spent typing away, it would be thousands of hours easily.  And for what?  A few laughs, a few “likes.”  So what?

I wrote a book and no one told me that the easy part about writing a book is writing the book.  Someone has to care enough to publish you and then they have to care enough to promote your book and then you just hope and hope that your little book might somehow find its way magically to the people who will like it.  It’s a process through which I only got through the very first step – writing the thing.  It sits, like an unwanted hamster whose owner went away to college, in this laptop I’m typing at now, gathering cyber dust.  I don’t have the time and I don’t want to spend the money it would take to get it out into the world.  What I have to say can be said here.  People trickle in, 50 here, 100 there.  Hi, Friends.  Mom.  Connie.  Aunt Barbara.  Random person seeking cancer treatment tips.  Hello.  Welcome.  I’ve made peace with my little audience.  I write for people who love me, to share how I’m doing.  And I write for strangers who are scared and overwhelmed and using their fingertips on a keyboard or touchscreen, seeking answers, information and hope.  This is the hope stop.  You’ve found the right place.  It’s going to be ok.  Ok?

But even so, sometimes I feel like I write and the words fling out of me and into space, into the void, never to be reflected back to me.  That’s what we really want, as writers, right?  We need to tell the story, real or imagined, and we want it to fly out and bounce back to us.  We want to see something in the reactions of our readers.  Some writers want to get their readers to buy something.  Some want you to be scared.  Some want to make you feel sad about injustice.  Some want you to recycle.  Some want you to believe the same things that they do.  Some want you to laugh (guilty.)  Some want you to hear their story and feel compassion for people like them.  Some want to impress you.  Some want to inspire.  What do I want?  I want you to read what I write and when you’re done, believe in yourself a little bit more.  I want you to know that we can get through hard things.  That you can get stronger.  That it’s possible to survive pain and bad news and chemo.  That you can even have fun, like 98% of the time. I want to make the hard things in life a little bit less scary and a little more manageable.  I absolutely believe that if I can do it, you can do it.  I’m honestly not especially talented at anything.  I just believe in my brain and my body and my heart and I don’t give up.

The other thing I want you to come away from my writing with is the understanding that I have faith.  I approach all of this with an unshakable belief that I’m God’s kid and He watches me and walks with me with Great joy.  He has my best interests in His plans, and my only job is to trust Him.  He isn’t keeping track of my mistakes with a clip board full of wrong doings and scheming to find ways to punish me for them.  He’s cheering me on, urging me to do my best, and He’s always up for getting ice cream after the game, win or lose.  There are other aspects of God.  He is holy and so perfectly powerful we cannot bear to look upon His face.  But I am so enamored of the side of God that I am certain would laugh at a slightly inappropriate but witty and well timed about flatulence.

So, I want you to laugh, I want you to believe in yourself, and I want you to understand that pretty much everything you like about me comes from my trust that the Creator of the Universe chuckles occasionally at my antics and loves me like crazy, even when I am not especially well behaved.

Today, I got some evidence that this is happening.  I got the coolest care package from the coolest group of young ladies.  A woman who has known me since I was born shared my story from the last few years with her church prayer group, and they have been praying for me for a long time now.  One of those people runs one of the church’s youth groups for girls and one way or another she ended up sharing one of my blog posts that talked about getting through these tough things with faith, with the group.  Since then they tune in from time to time and read my stuff and talk about it.  This gives me so much joy.  I have mentored younger women since I was in college and continue to do so, most often, currently, in the form of trying to be the best boss I can to a small army of rockstar young women who comprise most of my team at work.  Helping women who I am a little further along in life than (ahem, old) is a real passion of mine.  I’ve been SO WELL mentored by the greatest women, ever.  It’s been instilled in me.  Basically, if you learn something (a skill, a process, a method, a way of thinking, a way of looking at something) what good is it really if you don’t turn around and teach it to someone else.  Sometimes there is a shortage of “the teachable” but when you find them, they are attracted to potential “life teachers” like magnets.  It’s a beautiful thing when the mentor and mentee find one another.  It usually flourishes eventually into a friendship and mutual learning – and these relationships have been some of my greatest joys.  Just about everything I know is because some smart person was generous enough to share with me.

So, to discover that I’m having an impact, 30 miles away, with a bunch of God following girls I’ve never met is just the greatest thing.  They sent me notes and the notes gave me tears over and over.  One (or several?) of them made a jar and put little note cards in it.  The top of the jar said “Who you are…” and the note cards said “amazing” and “beautiful” and “inspiring” and “role model.”

Holy cannoli did this encourage me.  I honestly had been feeling a bit down on myself, for not trying more persistently at “making it” as an author.  This picked me right up today!  I’m so full of love and joy from these notes (and the treats and sweet gifts they sent!) As a recipient of these blessings, I feel honored and humbled and invigorated to keep at it, sharing what I have to share.  And it reminds me, with great intensity how important it is for us to encourage one another.  Share with people the impact they have on you.  You’re probably sitting on a lot of unexpressed gratitude and appreciation right now.  Think of three people you couldn’t be where you are without – thank them!  Tell them how they impact you and how you couldn’t be you without them.

Cancer has given me terrible things.  But the beautiful things it has given me so outrageously outweigh the bad.  When life gives you lemons, like cancer…well, I’m Lemonscarlet, and I’ll be over here with my amazing friends, making lemonade.


Healing, as needed

One could characterize the circumstances of the past few years of my life as unlucky, unfair or unfortunate.  And in some ways, they have been. But what stands out most to me is the outrageous levels of love and support I’ve received from my tribe of family and friends as well as the way God orchestrates things to encourage, embolden, strengthen and heal.  I just had a glorious overnight with Lisa Pratt Slayton, my mentor and lovely friend who has done so many kind things for me and taught me so much, and Jennifer Schlieper, my beautiful, creative, thoughtful friend who has been my truth speaker and healer many times.  These women didn’t know many months ago when this weekend of tattoos and rest was first conceived how bad I’d need it.  Neither did I.  But God did.  
I had a very hard couple of weeks recently, emotionally.  Coming down from the heightened senses of battling through chemo takes a toll. I had a lot of dark, foreboding, fearful thoughts that were quite difficult to shake or to share.  I felt like a dark cloud was above me.  I was always on the verge of tears.   
But the past 24 hours have been full of healing, hope, laughter, love, truth and encouragement.  Between the prayer breakfast – a room full of hope-filled leaders, all of the blue shirts on all of you beautiful people, the drive out of the city and through the country, the conversations of real things, the skillful hands of a top-notch massage therapist, a good night’s sleep in a cozy Inn…the cloud has lifted.  The skies are clearer.  Shalom is closer.  I can flourish again.  I even did my training run today.  Slow as molasses, but run, I did.  Thank you to each of you who had a hand in all of this.  I am so grateful.

Brene Brown for the Win

I love Brene Brown.  She’s my author girlfriend.


For context, Ryan Gosling is my movie boyfriend, James Spader is my tv sugar daddy boyfriend, Tim Keller is my pastor boyfriend.  It should be noted that these relationships are all entirely one-sided and even so, platonic.  I guess you could just say I admire these people a lot, and the whole significant other thing is kind of stupid.  But that’s how I think of them, so (sticks tongue out.)

Brene Brown is a research professor and author and a really brave woman.  She’s into exploring our emotions, thoughts and behaviors and getting real about how we make up stories about ourselves and others that point us down dangerously dishonest paths.  She talks about shame and blame and how those experiences impact the way we see ourselves and our roles and identities.

I’m reading her book, Rising Strong, and it got me thinking about shame.  And wondering if shame has impacted me.  I don’t feel ashamed, typically.  I mean, if I do something wrong, like overreact to an employee’s mistake or freak out on my daughter over some small misstep, I do feel ashamed, and seek forgiveness and to make amends.  But I move on quickly and generally think of myself as worthy of love and care.  But as I was reading about how shame exists in schools, and how there is an impact on creativity and learning, I began to get flooded with memories of experiences where teachers said things that I experienced as shame.  Some examples:

Kindergarten.  I was playing a game of musical chairs with my class, and I got pushed out of the circle of kids walking around the chairs.  I tried to get back in but the other kids reacted as though I was “cutting.”  My teacher saw me out of the circle and crossly demanded I get back in.  The kids still wouldn’t let me in and I started to cry out of frustration.  She marched over and told me to quit acting like a crybaby.  I distinctly recall filing that information away: Don’t cry.  It makes people think you’re a baby.

Second grade.  We were talking about movies and how what we see in a movie is the end product, but there is so much that goes into making it.  We were discussing how they might have to shoot a scene where a family is eating at a table and they may have to shoot the scene 20 times.  I raised my hand to ask a question about it, and inexplicably my teacher said “Yes, Jessica, we know, the actors have to pretend to eat while they’re shooting.”  I gleaned in that moment that my teacher thought I was a know-it-all.  I also learned in that moment that people make assumptions about what you say before you say it and they can be wrong.  I have kept those two pieces of information close at hand ever since.  I often worry that people think that I think I know everything and I frame my communication accordingly, occasionally saying things like “this probably isn’t right but…”  I know this is dumb, and I only do it when I’m operating out of insecurity.  But it happens from time to time, and it’s fascinating to trace it back to that day, almost 30 years ago.

Fourth grade.  I sat at a table with three other students and one was a boy I was friends with.  He accidentally kicked me under the table, I looked up, and he said “sorry” and we smiled at each other.  From the front of the room I heard “If Jessica and Josh would stop playing footsie, we could get on with the lesson.”  I was so embarrassed and frustrated.  First of all, we weren’t doing anything wrong.  Secondly, it was a sweet moment.  But instead, it became shameful.  I “learned” that teachers disapproved of girls and boys interacting and I took on that position, finding myself judging girls that did anything that resembled flirting with boys for the next couple of years.

Sixth grade.  I wore lipstick to school and my teacher called me up and told me it was inappropriate.  I am happy to report I completely ignored this and continued to wear it.  In 8th grade, I stepped it up to red lipstick and haven’t looked back.

It was right around sixth grade where I realized it was possible to know things teachers don’t know.  Like the time I used the word “stature” in a book report and my teacher marked it wrong because he assumed I meant statue (which wouldn’t have made sense.)  I am so grateful that I broke out of the false reality that adults always know more and know better.  I began making more keen judgments, regarding who was worthy of my respect and admiration.  Just being older than me didn’t get you that entitlement anymore.  I wasn’t being disrespectful; outwardly, I extended the requisite obedience and compliance regardless of how little I actually respected a teacher.  However, I had a very active thought life in my brain regarding whether these educators knew what they were talking about or not.  This probably ventured a little too close to “superiority complex” land, but, overall, I believe I was deeply empowered by this new awareness that things are not always what they seem, that adults have major shortcomings, and that I didn’t have to accept what was fed to me, mindlessly.

Like everything else, you can put teachers along a standard bell curve.  Like everyone else, I’m grateful to have come across a few genuine, intelligent, insightful, caring teachers.  Those people impacted me in a positive way much like the few truly bad apples impacted me in a negative way.

The important part, however, is that we go back, examine these stories, consider what we gleaned from them and decide if it’s useful or not.  We can CHOOSE how much these experiences impact us.  If we heard from a teacher 30 years ago that we were stupid, and we have operated out of that belief, isn’t it time to go back and consider how valid that one person’s perspective at that specific point in time was?  And this doesn’t apply to just teachers.

Your first boyfriend thought your feet were ugly.  Are you still hiding them under a towel at the beach?  Your mom thought the ten pounds you gained freshman year would ruin your life – was she right?  Do you still see her disapproving face when presented with an Oreo?  Did your camp counselor tease you for how you walk?  Do you find yourself adjusting your gait if you think others are watching?

We have to challenge these stories we subconsciously tell ourselves.  These stories that tally up our value and loveableness.  The fact is, from my perspective, you were created by God.  And He created you with loving intention.  Just because your feet, hips or walk don’t meet the weird, current, temporary standard of perfection that 21st century America has decided for you, doesn’t mean you’re somehow less worthy than those who do.  You have to decide what the standard is.  If you want to stick with society’s standards, go for it. But remember, it’s contrived by flawed people like my impatient Kindergarten teacher.  What matters is what you think, and what God thinks.  And you can invite as many caring, safe, loving people into your life, to speak into these things as you want.  But you can decide how much weight their opinion holds.  And you don’t have to be a slave to anyone’s standards.  Challenge those ideas you’ve been operating out of.  Because they could be dead wrong.  And you can be free of them.

Rising Strong is an excellent book.  It’s incredibly challenging if you’ve never thought about this stuff before.  I’ve been thinking about this stuff for 18 or so years, and it is still bringing up new challenges for me, regarding how willing I am to reckon with and rumble with and allow the revolution of my thoughts and feelings to take place.  Emotional honesty and vulnerability are so, so hard.  We all want to hide, to pretend we’re fine, to act like the choices of others don’t hurt us.  We want to run from the tough emotions.  We want to dismiss them and move on.  But there is beauty in the uncertain, sticky, icky places of hard emotions.

Today, Cass went to see if the boy across the street would like to play.  For a few months, they played almost daily and couldn’t get enough of each other.  Recently he has stopped coming over and when she’s gone to see him, he’s been about to leave for an activity, or not feeling well.  Today, he just flat out said he didn’t want to play.  She was devastated!  She came back, quite dejected.  My instinct was to change the subject and get her engaged in something before this turned into a howling, negative mess. But since Rising Strong was literally in my lap, I paused.  I invited her over to sit by me.  I asked her some questions about how she was feeling.  And when she started to cry, sharing that she feels like he just doesn’t like her, I wanted to run – literally wanted to run away from this hard feeling of a 7 year old boy rejecting my daughter.  I wanted to run or yell at someone – his mother maybe?  Yeah, I could yell at her for raising such an insensitive little brat who would hurt my little girl in this atrocious way by refusing to play with her.  She’s better than him, anyway.  He’s out of his league, by far.  Why was she even wasting her time with him?  I’m going to have a party and invite the entire neighborhood and purposely exclude them.

Oh my gosh.  We go to such weird, dark places in pain, don’t we?  But I hung in there.  I stayed with her.  I held her through some tears.  Asked some more questions.  Assured her that she is loved and a fun playmate.  We sat quietly for a long time.  I prayed silently, asking God to bless the moment, to bring some light.  After a while, she slithered off my lap and ran off to play on her own.  I caught a glimpse of her resilience and thanked God for it, because I know almost no characteristic is more valuable than the one that helps you bounce back.  And it is often developed by experiencing loss or disappointment, being surrounded by a support system, and learning that “it’s ok.”  We created a foothold today, with this tiny loss.  We crammed strong metal into the rock face and tested it.  It held.  The rock face is high.  But those footholds make all the difference.

Brene Brown for the win.

No regrets

Years ago, in my family, we started using the term “no regrets.”  Basically, we all kind of came around to the idea that when someone is dying, you should be able to, shall we say, send them off to greener pastures, without obsessing over how we should have spent more time with them, been kinder to them, been more understanding or generous.  

Basically – do the right thing now so you won’t regret not doing it later.  This began in my mid teens and it has really stuck with me.  I really do make an effort to engage with others in a way that I won’t later regret.  That doesn’t mean I don’t have conflict – I have plenty of that.  And I fall short at this when stressed or tired.  But I do seek to take time, to make peace, to be generous with my words, to make sure people know what they mean to me.  I’m not great at this, but I make a real effort.  Sometimes I want to hold a grudge or ignore a need or pretend I didn’t see the “missed call” on my phone.  But a common prayer of mine is that I would put the needs and interests of others above my own.  Because regrets suck.  
My friend and coworker whose wise and encouraging words can be read here: recently quoted some famous leader as saying you should greet people and spend time with them as if it’s the first time getting to know them and part ways as though it’s the last time.  I never thought of it quite that way before but that’s a helpful thing to consider and put into practice.  

Sports people say something like “leave it all on the field.”  I think it’s a Vince Lombardi quote.  I say do that with life and especially relationships.  

We all know the drama queens who, when someone dies, they sob and shake their fists and wail and say stuff like “I never told him I loved/forgive/appreciate him!”  Ew.  What a terrible way to live.
Relationships are hard.  Loving people is risky.  You’ll get hurt.  You’ll be disappointed.  But when you give up, check out, or lock the door on a relationship that doesn’t truly warrant it (yes, there are times to lock the door and throw away the key – abusers, for example) you’re setting yourself up for regret.  You can ignore that family member who is a little draining.  You can skip the hospital visit, the 80th birthday, the driveway across the street you know you should shovel. You can find 100 excuses.  But those excuses are the breeding ground for self-centeredness.  And self-centeredness, if left unchecked, will end in regret.  
So, a reminder to myself and anyone who doesn’t want to be at the funeral feeling like a jagoff:  
Send the flowers
Write the note
Forgive the offense
Express appreciation
Give grace
Play Scrabble
Give the foot rub
Bake the cookies
Accept the apology
Say thank you
Point out the talent
Give the hug
Erase the debt
Hold the hand
Mend the fence
Say sorry
Leave it all on the field.

So…where have YOU been?

When you have cancer, some people just come out of the wood work. Of course there are the usual suspects – those family and friends that you know are with you no matter what. But, I am back in touch with some people that I honestly thought I would never hear from again. Some of my friends have become even better friends. Some people I always thought were kind of self-absorbed have really gone out of their way to reach out and show love and care. People who don’t owe me a thing have sent cards, letters and gifts. It’s incredible and I can’t overstate how grateful I am.

But here’s the other thing. Some people…don’t. There are a few people who have become conspicuously absent in the face of this disease. At first, it just hurts. Like…how could so-and-so disappear when I need them most? I mean, what kind of person shrinks into the shadows at a time like this? A selfish person! An uncaring person. A rude, thoughtless, hurtful person.

I’ve been thinking about this for a while. Because there is definitely a short list of those people for me. And every time I think of them, I am just flabbergasted that they haven’t been around. Some, it was immediate and abrupt. Have not heard a peep since the diagnosis. Others more so kind of have faded away. Again, I’m totally amazed and grateful for the support I have – it is significant and fulfilling and need-meeting and just incredible. But there are little holes in my heart where those absent people should be. People that I thought wanted to “do life together” no matter what.

It’s really kind of crappy to have this illness and the crappy treatment and also have the hurts associated with people who just can’t be bothered. The imperfect human part of my heart is hurt and mad. I want to unfriend them on facebook, say mean things about them and send them a box of dog poop in the mail.

But the Holy Spirit lives in me. And what He has to say is this: People are scared.

People are scared of cancer. Scared of sickness. Chemo. Vomiting. Bald people. (I’m not one of those bald people, but people think I am, especially those who haven’t seen me.) They are scared to see a friend sick and hurting. They are scared to potentially watch someone die. They are scared to get closer to someone who (through no fault of their own, it should be noted) just signed up for a crap load of pain, drama, inconvenience and changes. They are scared to GET CLOSER to someone who MIGHT NOT BE AROUND.

I understand. I know that feeling. I’ve watched someone die. And I definitely was faced with a choice at one point – to get closer even though I knew what the end might look like. And it didn’t end how I wanted it to. It was hard and sad and heartbreaking. It challenged my faith. It made me so sad it felt like pure anguish. BUT…I wouldn’t trade that experience for the world. To know that I was there means EVERYTHING. To know I didn’t shy away. I didn’t hide. I didn’t make excuses. I showed up. I brought pumpkin flavored coffee and rubbed feet and held hands and prayed. That doesn’t make me some special person. I’m only saying it because you know what? It made me BETTER. My heart is softer. And bigger. I love MORE because of that experience. I am blessed because I was there. And I would hate myself now if I had made a different choice.

So, if you’re faced with this situation, please consider a few things:

Your friend needs you. They notice you’re not around. TRUST ME. Sometimes us cancer people are forced to lay around and do very little but think, and sometimes our thoughts turn to those we miss.

If you haven’t been around and you think it’s too late now, IT IS NOT.

If you go, and you visit or call or whatever, it might be weird…but it might be FINE. It might be WONDERFUL.

If you bite the bullet and dive in even in the face of fear, you’ll learn a lot of things – what suffering looks like, how to love someone going through something hard, how to think of someone besides yourself, what strengths you have that you didn’t even know you had. How to show love when you are totally incapable of fixing what is wrong.

If you don’t, you will regret it. Whether they get better or not. I mean, seriously?! Do you really want to be that jagoff who ran for the hills at the face of adversity? (It never ends well for that character in the movie.)

And if you’re in the suffering seat – if you have the cancer or the tragedy or the crisis and you feel a little bit abandoned, consider this:

It’s not that they don’t love you. It’s just that they are terrified and they don’t know what to do. Pray for them. Do your best to forgive them and try to understand – they are broken; something inside them is a little wonky and they probably don’t know how to fix it.

And finally, I say to those of you who have dived in head first – with me or with other people that you love – especially if it scared you….you are the heroes. You are a blessing. You have made something terrible much, much easier.

Separating love

So my friend, Laura gave me this bracelet 

I really like it and wear it almost every day.  It’s glass and some little gems and trinkets rattle around in there.  There is a sparkly cross and a square with the word LOVE.  I noticed that the cross and LOVE had gotten stuck together and they ain’t movin’.  
I like how they rattle around, so I tried to free them with all manner of shaking and tapping, to no use.  So for a while I’ve been vaguely annoyed by it.  It frustrates me deeply that those little pieces are stuck.  Rattle around, freely!  Clink charmingly against that flower!
So this morning I was listening to a Tim  Keller sermon and this was the Scripture:
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38, 39 ESV)
So, the cross and the LOVE square wont separate in the bracelet no matter what I do.  It’s a nice reminder.  I like it how it is now.  

Good grief

Grief feels pretty bad.


It can feel like anxiety, depression, shock, outrage, emptiness and more.  When someone we love dies, we’re going on an emotional ride, like it or not.  You can shut your eyes and pretend like you’re not hurdling through the air at high speeds against your will…but if you’ve ever been to Cedar Point, you know how well that kind of denial works.  Most of the emotions are unpleasant.  Like really tough. Parts of you that you didn’t even know existed hurt.  Time seems to pass slowly.  The pain springs up in unexpected and awkward ways.  Hot, stinging tears fill your eyes while you’re just trying to pay for your milk and eggs and (let’s be honest, chocolate.)  Choking back sobs while you’re putting a sweetly clueless child to bed.  Burning the toast because you got lost in a memory that swept you down the river of grief…rendering you pretty useless and frankly not hungry anymore. 

I would like to start a new tradition.  When we lose someone we love we should be issued a t-shirt that says “I am grieving.  Please be nice to me.”  Why?  Because it feels like the entire world is acting like a jagoff to you when you’re grieving.  You get cut off in traffic.  Your boss yells at you.  For some reason the hardest times (and I’ve only had a few) of real, life-altering grief I’ve experienced, I’ve actually, physically found myself at some point in some kind of situation where I’m essentially standing in the rain, cold, drenched and unable to feel anything but totally sorry for myself.  And no one even notices!  In fact someone in a large vehicle drives by splashing muddy splatters everywhere. That’s what the real nitty gritty of grief feels like to me, standing alone, freezing, drenched, dirty and void of hope.  
So the title of this post is good grief.  How can it be good when it’s so bad?  I have a few thoughts.
Grief is good because its usually so intense we can’t help but be real.  Typically, we spend a lot of time managing our reputations, creating ways for people to think we’re cooler, smarter and stronger than we are.  Grief yanks those masks right off and burns them.  Grief is not gentle but it is helpful in this way.  We allow ourselves to be seen more authentically when we grieve.  Of course there’s always the deeply unhealthy attention seeking jackass who has to collapse in a public puddle of sobs when the opportunity for a lot of attention arises.  That’s not what I’m talking about.  I mean quiet (or loud…but maybe at least a little private?) moments with people who love you.  Stripped bare of your tough facade, crying and saying things out loud that you know sound a little crazy.  “We were supposed to go to the mall on Tuesday!!!!”  Or “I forgot to give him back his sweater!!!!”  It’s ok.  Let it out.  This lets people love you in a unique and wonderful way.  Frankly I completely hate that part of grief, but I know it’s good for me and my relationships.
Grief stops us in our tracks.  Shows us what little things have been taking up our heart and brain space.  Who cares if my gray hairs are showing or that my car is full of empty yogurt containers and granola bar wrappers?  Don’t sweat the small stuff, you know?
Grief can be a gift.  How?  We look heavenward even if we’re not into that.  God can use grief to draw us near.  When you’re really desperate, really lost…sometimes we’re willing to believe, just a tiny bit, that there is actually something…someone out there who is bigger and better than we ever dreamed.  Don’t be afraid to seek that out just a little…you can always go back to believing we got here randomly and that we’re on our own. That belief will always be available if you don’t find something better.  God says if we seek Him, we’ll find Him.  Ain’t no harm in taking a peek around, right?
Grief can bring up old hurts.  Dealing with grief in a healthy way can help heal those wounds.  Sometimes when a loved one dies people feel like everyone they ever love dies. Those are abandonment issues that, if unaddressed, can lead to some bad life controlling habits like refusing to connect deeply with anyone out of self-preservation or even starting down the path of addiction.  Considering the seriousness of believing that (everyone we love dies) then responding by investigating what led us to believe that, defining reality a little more clearly and willingly releasing that belief and its associated fears can be very freeing.  
Grief creates community.  You know who has really got your six when life falls apart in this way.  Also, I’ve become new friends with people simply based on the fact that we lost a mutual loved one.  
Grief creates opportunity to serve those most impacted.  However much you’re hurting, there is probably someone even more devastated.  Think of your very best talents and resources and how you might offer them in some way.  Food, music, your company, a poem that doesn’t suck, help with legal issues, cleaning, a foot rub, letters, texts and phone calls as are appropriate.  Don’t just force yourself on hurting people.  Pay attention and try to see what the best way to help is, and when.
Grief is the worst.  But it is also an opportunity for growth, learning and love.  Don’t waste your grief.    

Laura taught me…

My friend died last night.  My sweet beautiful friend went rounds against cancer, fighting hard while living gracefully.  As it stole her energy, her comfort and her hair, what it failed to steal was her spirit.  Instead, her soul strengthened through the journey and reached out beyond her inner circle to everyone who knew her, like a rainbow whirlwind, sweeping up others with her love and joy.  

Laura gave people hope.  She continually inspired and astonished people as she marched on, full of grace and joy, down this path that I can tell you is rocky, intimidating, dark and full of danger.  When I found out a month ago that I have cancer, Laura paused on the path.  And she came back for me.  “It’s this way,” she said, smiling.  “It’s not so bad.  Lets walk together.  I’ll help you,” reaching for my hand and giving me some of her bracelets to wear for encouragement.  And she showed me that I could do it.  
I was willing to do it with her.  Now I’m standing here without her.  Ive got these bracelets, but she’s gone.  Another moment where I look heavenward, toward the God I love and trust and say “Are you freaking kidding me?!”
But The Lord, He is to be trusted.  His ways are not our ways.  He hasn’t said much to me on this topic but He’s clear that He has Laura and He’s got me.  His plans are “too wonderful for us to know.”  
So I have to do this without her now.  My heart is completely broken that she is gone.  I can’t even imagine how her family feels.  It feels like the brightest spot in the world just went out.  How can she be gone just like that?  But she is.  And we must look around and take inventory of what beauty she has left us.
What Laura taught me:
There are never too many bracelets. 
You can fight cancer with all you’ve got while accepting that your path is your path.  
Rainbows are awesome and not just for LGBT support. 🙂
One should change one’s hair color and style frequently.  Why not??
Accept gifts graciously.
Give generously.
It’s possible to be kind and thoughtful even when you have cancer.
Hot baths are awesome.
Bald is beautiful.
Cancer is not something to be feared.  Neither is death.
Eastern cultures have much to offer us.  Tea!  Yoga!  
You can make a fun day out of a trip to the chemo bar.
Gifts are a great way to show a sick person love.
Dr. Who is a good time investment.
You can be positive and loving at all times.
Take photos of everything – especially yourself.  Cancer = permission to selfie it up!  Use filters when chemo washes your complexion out.  
Rest.  Enjoy it. 
Be silly whenever possible.  Dress up as your oncologist for Halloween.  
When you can’t go to the party because you’re sick, have your own.  Dress up even if its just for yourself and your dog.
Go to a spa whenever possible.  Treat yourself and let other treat you to luxurious things.
Let people help.  Let them rub your feet.  
When in doubt make someone a gift.  Loom it up!
Fuzzy socks.
Thank people often and express appreciation whenever possible.  
You can be truly grateful in the midst of deeply challenging circumstances.
Family is your staunchest force of allies but some select, special friends belong in that group, too.
I’m better because I’ve known Laura.  I’m stronger and less afraid.  She will always be in my heart.  I know she is in heaven, with God.  She trusted His plan.  Heaven is a little more colorful today.  

On the Eve of Chemo-Smackdown-O-Rama-Fest

I have been the receiver of a lot of love and support as of late.  I was thinking that it might be helpful to list the things that have been helpful, touching, appreciated, fun, needed, etc.  Maybe someone will Google “How to help someone with cancer” and this will be useful.  that being said…here are a few of my favorite things:

Prayer.  Seriously.  We (I and much of my crew) believe in God, who heals, who is with us, who comforts us.  Pray for me, but pray because connecting with the Creator is good for YOU, too.  
Food.  It is hard to cook.  Surgery takes a toll.  So will chemo.  I have a couple of freezer meals from kind people – it’s a relief to know they are there.
Checking in on my husband.  He is strong.  But he needs community, too.  The man is my hero.  Buy him a 6-pack of Guinness or just tell him he’s doing a great job.  
Offers of close friends/fam to shuffle my child off to do fun stuff.  Take her, please.  I love being near her.  But.  She’s an extrovert like me – she likes to go out and do stuff or hang with a cool loved one.  I can’t be super awesome to her right now.  So when you are, it rocks.
Texts to start the day with an encouraging word.  Morning after a tough night can bring hope but sometimes it’s just so blindingly bright and glaring and looks like a big uphill climb.  Under the covers, its warm and dark and quiet.  my heart has simply been unwilling to start the day sometimes.  Your words (you know who you are) are the “oomph” I’ve needed many times.  
Cards.  Holy moly, the cards.  I know how hard it is to get to the store, find a card that doesn’t suck, buy the card, locate a stamp, find the address.  Remember to mail it.  I get lost halfway most of the time.  So every card…I appreciate the full follow through.  You put me to shame!
Gift cards – so handy.  So generous.  I’ve also gotten some lovely personal gifts and I sincerely primarily appreciate the thought that goes into that.  I am amazed by how thoughtful and kind people are!   Gifts are never, ever expected – I have everything I need, really.  But your generosity has blown me away.  I feel so loved.  
Actually coming over and doing a chore or two.  This one is weird.  See.  It is basically impossible for me to call you and ask you to clean my house or do my laundry.  That’s tacky!  This whole experience is humbling me but I still can’t quite do that. It’s also so…vulnerable.  A couple of times, close, wonderful people have basically gone ahead and done stuff and it has been hard for me to be ok with it, but also…amazing.  There may be no greater expression of love than cheerfully cleaning someone’s toilet.  Not just anyone can wash my skivvies or scrub my kitchen floor.  But those in that tiny inner circle – you are awesome.  My advice is: everyone needs a few of those people…don’t hesitate to be that person for someone if you can.
Screen communication – immediately post surgery I had an appointed “PR” person.  This was so helpful.  She updated people and fielded questions.  I highly recommend this practice.  One less thing to worry about!
Asking me constantly what I need.  It changes!  Daily!  I am not going to call you and say “bring me some tea bags!”  But someone was wise enough to ask me constantly.  And…I really needed that tea.  🙂
Visits.  It makes me feel fantastic when you are kind enough to offer to visit me.  Hanging in my PJs, sharing a soy latte or coffee with a funny friend – the best way to spend an hour or two.  My two 60-something uncles stopped by one afternoon and we had such a great conversation.  Just text first so I’m not haggard.  That is stressful.
Music.  A couple people made me playlists.  It’s a really creative, fun way to show the love.  
Make me laugh.  Let me make you laugh.  I’ve got some pretty good tales of hospital mishaps and bathroom incidents if you’re up for them.
Stay positive.  I feel positive.  It’s wonderful to hear positive stories and why you know I’ll kick this things butt.  I love being reminded of the goodness of God.  I appreciate hearing that I have encouraged someone.  These are all helpful.
I share these thoughts not so anyone would feel compelled to do anything for me.  But to share my appreciation for all that has been done, and to provide insight into what might be helpful to others who are sick or recovering.  I know that in the past, I have often not known what to do.  I know better now – so I thought I’d pass that along.