Friday, March 29, 2013

Friday's Letters

Dear Westin Rancho Mirage,

You're a lovely resort with beautiful grounds, spacious, tastefully decorated rooms and friendly employees. I love that you offer fantastic rates through Priceline which I've been able to take advantage of twice now. But $7.55 for a tube of toothpaste is outrageous. For that price, I should get a oral hygienist who brushes my teeth too.

Dear Starbuck,

I've fallen in love with a new coffeehouse. Their dark roast brew is nowhere as delicious and steaming hot as yours, but they make a mocha that absolutely rocks my tastebuds. On top of that, they serve it as it should be served if you're drinking it there, in a real mug, not a paper cup. The ambience of the coffee house is so inviting, I love kicking back and enjoying every drop of the liquid goodness. Luckily for you, there is currently only one location, so I'll still be stopping by every morning on my way to the office and perhaps on other occasions, but Saturday or Sundays will belong to Dripp.

Dear Greece,

We're seriously considering coming to visit you this summer. It's hard to make a commitment when I'm concerned about the amount of walking my body can take, but I'm thinking if we visit one of your islands or a city along the beach, we can do less sightseeing and act more like a local. But if I visit you then it's unlikely that I can take a road trip to the East or Pacific NW like I've been dreaming. What to do? What to do?

Dear Chemo,

I hate you. I hate you. I hate you. I know that I shouldn't because it seems that you are doing what it is that you're supposed to do. And at least this time you didn't make my hair fall out. So why should I complain? What more do I want? I could do without the nausea and fatigue. Thank you anyway for the job that your doing.

Dear In-N-Out,

You're what a hamburger is all about.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Long Walk

After a week off, you would think I would ready. But I'm not. I want another week off. I want this to be completely done. I know I should be thankful. Thankful for my insurance. Thankful for the care I receive. Thankful that compared to other options, this one isn't so bad.

After a long day at the office, a long, slow drive home, the last thing I want is to drag myself to the lab for a blood test. If anyone asks, I act as though is no big deal, because that's the truth. It's not a big deal. It's one little prick with a needle. It doesn't hurt, it just feels uncomfortable as the vials are changed. It's just a quick two minutes and it's over and done. So why do I hate it so much?

Because I know it's just the beginning? The precursor to tomorrow when the chemo flows through my port into my blood. Where fatigue will later set in and possibly nausea. Yes, my body is "tolerating" it well, but the truth is, sometimes my brain doesn't. Tonight was one of those nights.

Tonight, it was a long walk to the lab.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Finding Purpose

All of us want to find our purpose in life. Depending on the job that we have, most of us want it to be something more than what we do for a living. I like my job. Sometimes, I love it. Sometimes, I get frustrated with it, but I always want something more than it.

There is a desire in most of us to create. What we desires differ from person to person, but ultimately we have a desire to create, whether it be to write, paint, draw, build, make, play an instrument, act, photograph. I believe this is because we are created in the likeness of God who is the ultimate creator. 

When we know our days are numbered, the desire to find out purpose becomes even stronger, even more meaningful. Every day it gnaws at me. Most days I feel I fall short. Yesterday was one of those days. 

But the beauty of it all is that today doesn't need to be a replica of yesterday, regardless of how many yesterdays we had. If there is something that you've wanted to do, I pray that you have another day to try it again. 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Micro Mini Vacation

Thursday afternoon, I shut my computer down promptly at 4pm, threw some things into my overnight bag and Brie and I drove off to the desert for a mini micro vacation with my babies.

I can't get enough of them. Our Aurora is such a little cutie pie.

So sweet and happy. And her eyes, her eyes...

I was able to book the Westin in Rancho Mirage for under $100. Friday was perfect pool weather. 

It was so fun hearing their laughter, watching them play.

Check out was at 12pm which worked out well. By that time, the little ones were getting tired and everyone was getting hungry. 

After lunch, Aurora went down for a nap and Brie and I took Maximus for a ride on the wagon.

Our intention was to take Max to the neighborhood park.

Matt warned us that it was a bit of a walk, suggesting that we take the car. I thought he was underestimating my endurance. 

Turns out he knew what he knew what he was talking about. We had to turn around after several blocks. 

By the time we returned to the house, we were hot, sweaty, thirsty and tired. 

We kicked back, watching Toy Story as we dozed off and on, munching on homemade chocolate chip cookies.

Nothing makes me happier than being with my family.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Friday's Letters

Stealing this idea from a wonderful blog I happened upon in which I write short little letters to anyone and/or anything that I desire.

Dear Palm Desert,

Thank you for consistently providing gorgeous blue skies with beautiful mountain ridges that take my breath away. After the gloom of the week, your welcoming weather is just what I needed. Even if I don't like that my son and daughter-in-law live so far away, it's a wonderful place to come visit (except for the dead of the summer and the 100-something temperatures, I don't care if it's a dry heat or not) and at least you're within driving distance.

Dear Body,

I don't know what's up with you. Why are you suddenly making it harder for me to walk when I was moving around pretty decently before? Why is it suddenly hard to bend over to mousse and dry my hair. These have always been my litmus test to how strong I am so I'm a little worried here. I thought after the Aredia infusion I had last week that I would be feeling stronger, not weaker. I'm hoping it was just the damp, dreary spring start that we had and not related at all to you know what.

Dear Motivation,

Whatever you do, don't let what Body is doing affect the things you want to do. You can kick Body into gear if you keep on moving, but already I have felt you slow down too. Get back to it!

Dear Hipstamatic,

Thank you for creating such a wonderful app so I can take pictures I love. Sometimes the results are disappointing, but it's user error, not you. I didn't realize how attached I have grown until I dropped my phone into my cup of coffee and had to do without you for half a day. It was agonizing. I love, too, the prints I finally had processed. It makes me love you even more.

Dear family

I've been reading "The Kneeling Christian". It has opened my eyes to what prayer can be like when prayed with a right and trusting heart and it has opened my heart to desire to pray more fervently, more specifically and more devoutly for you, for others and for me. In our family, we knew that my grandma was our great prayer warrior. It is my desire that I would be this for you, for others, for me. But at the same time, how much powerful it would be if you would join me on this journey.

Dear chocolate chip cookies,

What a delightful little treat you are. I must say we did a standup job of mixing all your ingredients up and baking you to the perfect consistency of golden brownness. You have made a tasty little treat as I wait for the kids to wake up and join me for breakfast.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

At Last

Since my nephew, Brie and I headed for a photo walk last year roaming the streets of downtown LA, I've wanted to go back and shoot at Union Station. There was always one excuse or another.

On Friday, I told myself that no matter what, I was going to go on Saturday. Friday had been a good day. Only a very minor touch of nausea in the morning and I had more energy than I had hoped for. I felt ready to make the commitment.

On Saturday, I awoke, still feeling good. I had a brunch date with my bestie and her daughter, but that would in no way prevent me from making good on my promise to myself. When I got back from lunch, I passed out on my recliner, suddenly exhausted from staying up too late the night before and getting up early in the morning. I told myself this was in no way going to stop me from making good on my promise to myself. I would sleep until 3pm, okay, maybe 4pm and then head out.

I almost reneged on my promise, but I sensed it was now or never. Time to move. Time to stop making excuses. I dragged my sorry little body off my recliner, grabbed my keys and kissed Brie goodbye. I almost decided to turn around. I fought with myself the whole way there.

The moment I arrived, I was struck by the light. The glorious light.

It was just as I hoped it would be. I wandered the station taking pictures, at times boldly standing in the center of the walkways lining up my shots, at other times, trying to inconspicuously take pictures of an interesting character.

After a while, I decided to take advantage of the energy I felt and head across the street to Olvera Street for some more photos. I would have stayed longer, but I felt my leg start aching and decided that I should leave before I got too tired. I'm glad I listened to myself. The rest of the night, my leg ached, but it was well worth it.

As I reviewed my photos and critiqued the results, overall I was satisfied. I went, I shot and while I didn't conquer, I did learn. Next time, I want to move slower. I always move too quickly. I need to worry less about what others think and take my time. Wait for the right shot. Be still. Be patient.

It makes me excited to go back and try again.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Into the Light

She walked into my room in the early evening to tell me hello. I was tired out from my day at work, resting in bed. As she walked across the floor, her face caught the light. I hadn't realized how beautiful it was, streaming in from the open curtains of my window. It was almost as beautiful as her.

When they both met at a certain point, she looked ethereal, her face glowing in the light. She could tell by the look on my face something was up. The light, I exclaimed, begging her to let me take her picture. She was tired, she protested. I didn't wait, I sprung from my bed, thankful my camera was in my room. Please, I begged her.

If she knew how beautiful she looked bathed in the golden sunlight, she would have let me take a thousand pictures. She only half-willingly obliged. I couldn't get her to turn in the direction I wanted. I couldn't get her to take the steps so the sunlight hit her at just the right place.

I didn't get the shot I had hoped for, but I will always remember how beautiful she was anyway.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

This is My Life

Day 3 of cycle three was supposed to be a three hour infusion. On top of my 1/2 hour drip of Gemzar, it was time for Aredia which is another 2/12 hours on the chair. No biggie, I had a boatload of work, free internet and my laptop by my side. I was not expecting to have to have a blood transfusion. Two bags of blood = 3-1/2 more hours in the infusion chair.

As it happens every time when I go to the medical center. I go through a series of highs and lows. Thankful I'm still here. Thankful I can still walk. Thankful for my insurance. Thankful for the blessing I've had since this all begun.

In disbelief still that this has happened. That I can't walk the way I used to. That I think about living and dying every day. That my life has come to this, a series of blood tests, doctor appointments, infusions. That I am living with cancer.

Even after 4 years, sometimes it's hard to comprehend that this is my life.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Time to Get to It

Words and themes are coming at me, like a perfect storm that can’t be ignored. Even yesterday morning, both the devotional study I’m doing and the book I’m reading, The War of Art used the words, “delay gratification” with both explaining the words practically the same. 

Last year I documented my dreams thinking that in doing so, it would make things magically happen. What I forgot was that work was involved. True, there is something powerful in writing things down, but that’s just the start. Starting is the easy part. It’s the finishing that so many of us fail at. Sometimes I feel like an expert at that part.

Billy Sunday said it best, “More men fail through lack of purpose than lack of talent.”

Most of my life I've wanted to create. From the time I was in third grade I wanted to be a writer. In the years of my angst, I aspired to be a poet. In my thirties, my creative aspirations were fulfilled by crafting. In the past five years, photography has become my outlet. Yet, still the desire to write has never escaped my dreams. 

After I was diagnosed with cancer, I read numerous accounts of woman who said that a byproduct of their cancer was a flood of creativity. For the first several years, I felt cheated because nothing came. Last year I felt the door was opening. My photography was coming together. I was finally writing again, albeit nothing of major importance, but I knew it was coming. 

And just like that it got derailed. My setback just didn’t affect my health, it affected my creativity. Now that I’m doing better, I want to do more than dream. I need to do more than dream. 

I need to work at art, even if it’s just for me. Time to get to it.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Venice at Night

Most fanatics with a camera have dreams about exploring Venice at night. It's the reason why I packed my tripod in my suitcase. Happily I used it in Florence and Tuscany, but that was just a warm up for Venice.

By the time we finished our gondola ride, the sun was beginning to fall. The girls were ready to go back to our hotel, enjoy the cool air conditioning and free wifi. As I packed up my camera, adhering it tightly to my tripod, my excitement grew. Liz talked about possibly going with me.

I paused, I felt bad about it, but I just wanted to make things clear. It was okay if she came, but I wasn't going to stop for window shopping or sightseeing. I wanted to explore. With my camera. And be selfish about it. It was to be the only night we would be in Venice. I wanted to roam the streets and stop when I felt like stopping, move when I felt like moving. I know that sounds selfish, because it is.

If we were going to be there for two or three nights, I would hope that I would have been willing to share. Instead I headed out by myself for an adventure of a lifetime.

I had no idea where I was going. That was the beauty of it all. I wandered over cobblestones, through alleyways, across foot bridges, stopping when I felt like it, moving on when I felt like it. The sky slowly got darker, but I never felt afraid. Sometimes the streets were empty, sometimes I would come across another person or two, but I never felt afraid.

At last I turned to go back to our little courtyard, when I somehow stumbled across what appeared to be the docking place for many of the gondolas that glided across the canals. I stopped to take some pictures, soaking in the moment. There was the lapping of the water against the edge of the canal, the low laughter of a few of the gondoliers no doubt sharing some tale of the day and the gentle breeze that wafted through the air.

Continuing on in the general direction of our hotel, I did what I read every tourist should do in Venice...get lost. If it weren't for the fact that it was late by this time and I didn't want the girls and Liz to get worried, I probably would have roamed the streets even more forgetting that I was lost. Added to this, was the fact that I was getting tired. I finally resorted to asking several shopkeepers for help.

Even with the fact that most of the shopkeepers spoke English, it was still hard to follow directions. There is a lot of waving of the hands and the alley ways are so crooked it's hard to know if the block is ended and that's where you turn right or left or if you should continue for a few more steps before making the turn.

Staying calm helped a lot as did having landmarks to refer to. After thirty minutes of confusion, I finally came upon a familiar place and was able to make my way back to the hotel from there. By the time I lay my head upon the pillow, I was ready to call it a night, excited about what the next day may bring.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Going Gondolas

We managed to make our way easily back from the Piazza San Marco to our hotel at the Campo de la Fava. How, I don't know. But I was thankful that we did. I was also thankful that our room was ready upon our return.

The girls were delighted with our accommodations. I thought I had booked a room with two queen beds. Instead, we had a one bedroom suite with a living room, dining room table, full on kitchen and laundry facilities to boot. But the nicest feature of all was the air conditioning which was already doing its duty. It was simple, but clean...and mosquito free.

After we rested, we decided it was time to find us a gondola. Sure it was cheesy thing to do, but this was Venice and sometimes you just have to be a full fledge tourist. As we were crossing over a foot bridge, a gondola was coming in for a landing. The family getting out were exclaiming about what a great ride it was, so we asked the gondolier if he would be willing to take us around the canals.

The ride started off as we expected. I had Dean Martin's "That's Amore" on my iPhone and started playing the song. The gondolier was telling us about some of the surroundings when he received a call on his cellphone. It was to be the first of several long phone calls in a row our gondolier took. In between calls, he apologized, telling us that he had to take the calls because they were from his best friend, his mother and then his wife. Apparently, they don't have no talking on the cellphone while steering a gondola law.

By this time we had pretty much written him off, not that we cared a great deal. After all, we were on a gondola in Venice with Dean Martin crooning to us over my iPhone.

Experiencing Venice from the viewpoint of a gondola is truly different.

It's something that must be done at least once. It was worth every euro we spent.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Exploring Venice

Free of our luggage, we were ready to explore Venice with the first order of business...get lunch. Following the advise of our sweet hotel receptionist, we walked over the bridge at the Campo de la Fava and found ourselves in a little alley way with a sign several shops down which read "The Mamo".

Like everything else we had seen at Venice so far, it was a tightly squeezed, but we were welcomed right away to a little table for four. We could tell the waiters were smitten with the girls. It was a rather funny scene, as three waiters came to the table talking to the girls, asking them their names while never giving Liz and me another glance.

Turned out the meal was a good as the service. It was without a doubt, the best meal that I had the whole trip.

The girls had fun with the attention, asking the waiter why pizza isn't sliced in Italy like it is in the states. The waiter didn't have a good answer, but he showed them how to properly slice their pizza.

After our tummies were full and satisfied, we followed the signs to the Piazza San Marcos. Passing scores of shops along narrow streets among scores of tourists, we came to an opening which led to the Piazza. On this side of Venice there was space.

There was still throngs of tourists, but gone were the narrow streets.

After having been cooped up in the car and then twisting and turning amongst the crowds in the narrow passageways, this was a refreshing change. We wandered around the area checking out souvenir stands, snapping pictures, simply enjoying ourselves.

I saw a little alleyway with lovely light so I talked the girls into going down the way and back again so I could take some pictures.

After roaming about for a while, it was time for gelato and to head back to see if our room was ready. We were feeling sticky and tired.