Monday, December 19, 2016

Rainbow heart

Once upon a time there was a bubbly, optimistic high school student who was obsessed with rainbows. She had rainbow sheets, rainbow decor in her bedroom, rainbow clothing, rainbow mugs, rainbows in her artwork, and rainbows in her heart. She even wrote a song about rainbows when she taught bible school. Rainbows surrounded her, because she even had a crystal prism that cast rainbows around her bedroom when the afternoon light shone just so. Rainbows have popped up in her life at unexpected times. To this day, every time she sees a rainbow, it fills her with hope and optimism that things will get better. Rainbows make her believe in miracles.

Here are some images of the rainbow girl in her peak:
Lovely creation my parents unearthed from their attic! :)
High school graduation 
Presents from my little Spur at PLU
College dorm room--rainbows everywhere!

Across town lived another girl who was obsessed with rainbows. They even went to the same large high school and shared a sweet naïveté, devotion to justice, strong work ethic, and fierce sense of optimism, but their paths didn't cross...

...Until over 20 years later, when they met at church. They became friends and discovered their shared love of rainbows, which drew them even closer. So many things in common:

Rainbow sisters!
And on Saturday, those rainbow sisters got shared tattoos, after a delightful lunch celebrating their friendship. We first saw this tattoo design when a mutual friend got one after the Pulse night club attack in Orlando...and we knew we had to get them. 

First, an amazing lunch at the Woodsman Tavern:

Then off to New Rose Tattoo, where I also got my first tattoo (from Carrie). We flipped a coin, and I went first.

Getting ready
  Catherine's turn:

We learned that Carrie loves tequila...perfect because that night
 we went to a tequila tasting party together with some other great friends
 (and had the great unveiling)!
All bandaged up! 
The next day!

Rainbow sisters for life!
My second tattoo, this rainbow heart signifies my beloved friendship with Catherine. It is also an impassioned statement of acceptance, inclusion, and welcome to all in our hearts and in our communities...LGBTQ, people of color, refugees, Jews, Muslims, atheists, immigrants, women, and anyone else dancing on the margins. In this time of helplessness and hopelessness, my rainbow sister heart gives me hope and reminds me of our shared journey and the everyday miracles in our lives.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Four reasons to boycott Salvation Army: LGBTQ, women, immigrants, and non-Christians

I wrote about the Salvation Army in 2010 and 2011, but this issue is now more important than ever with the rights of LGBTQ people being threatened under a Trump administration.

Here's why we need to pass on by those bell ringers and their red buckets during the holiday season:
Print out this dollar and put it into the red bucket instead!

Anti-LGBTQ: The Salvation Army is trying to repair its tarnished reputation on the issue (check out their Web site), but the facts lie in the leaked documents: their theology teaches that scripture forbids same-sex intimacy, they have no anti-discrimination policy, all of its officers must be celibate (gay or straight), and they still believe that marriage is only between one man and one woman. They deny that discrimination has occurred in the past, but no PR campaign can erase the history of its refusal to willingly embrace and welcome LGBTQ people.

Anti-women's equality: When Salvation Army officers get married, they are relegated to a much lower status and not given the same opportunities for advancement. Further, the organization gives a joint paycheck in the husband's name only. Essentially, the woman's pay comes in the form of the husband receiving 40% more in his pay because of his marriage. Citing a "ministerial exception," the Salvation Army gets out of following the Equal Pay Act.

The Salvation Army also is anti-abortion, but they do make exceptions for rape, danger to the mother, and fetal abnormalities that would hinder a baby's survival at birth. They do support birth control. (Hardcore Catholic groups actually bash The Salvation Army for not being staunch-enough abortion opponents and also for supporting birth control.)

Anti-immigrants: Not too long ago, children were asked about their parents' immigration status or their religion before receiving services. After a lawsuit in New York, they pledged to stop this discrimination in 2014.

Anti-secular or nonbelievers: Although they are officially an "equal opportunity employer," they are still allowed to discriminate against their employees who no longer attend their church. So although the Salvation Army does good work, this is a religious charity. You should know where your money is going.

So they've been forced, by law, to change with the times and not discriminate officially. That should make you feel better about where your money is going, right? ;)

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Light One Candle: The Song We Need

Last night at our choir board meeting, I had everyone share their favorite holiday song. One of the members mentioned "Light One Candle." Yes, this is the song we need right now!

I first discovered this song, written by Peter Yarrow, on the Peter Paul and Mary holiday album. Many years ago, when our beloved Franciscan priest Fr. Matt began conducting peace and nonviolence workshops in partnerships with local priests and nuns, he asked me and Mike to sing this song as the opening for every workshop.

Then, we were asked to sing the song at the funeral of two young people involved in the workshops, Mark and Katie, who died in their prime, while on a hike in the Columbia Gorge. I will never forget that horrible evening...with two coffins at the front of the church. That song seemed apt for their lives, which were committed to peace and justice. Chris was just a baby then--and I remember him waving to everyone in the packed church while we were singing. Later, the grieving family commented that his waves cheered their souls.

Peter Yarrow cast his vote for Hillary, dressed in suffragette white, with just as much hope as the rest of us on November 8. On November 9, he shared this message on Facebook along with this beautiful song he wrote in October (Lift Us Up), also perfect for our times.
We endured a terrible blow yesterday but, now that it’s a fait accompli, we must focus with ever greater determination on doing “the work." The measure of our success will depend upon the strength of our hearts, our love for one another, and our commitment to the principles in which we believe. We must listen to the words and hearts of those with whom we are at odds, empathize with their narratives, and help to relieve their pain and distress. That does not mean, however, that we can or should forbid ourselves to be outraged by acts that seek to injure or destroy justice, fairness, liberty, or the goodness that is within us. Notwithstanding, we must be less preoccupied with what’s wrong and more focused on what it is that we need to create. Onward my friends, with ever greater resolve.
This great folk singer/songwriter, whom I've always adored, is still writing folk songs that are balm for the soul. And I treasure that lingering memory of baby Chris waving at the sad and bereft, reminding them that life goes on, and giving them hope. That's what we need right now...the baby at the funeral, and the candle in the darkness.

Light One Candle
Light one candle for the Maccabee children
With thanks that their light didn't die
Light one candle for the pain they endured
When their right to exist was denied
Light one candle for the terrible sacrifice
Justice and freedom demand
But light one candle for the wisdom to know
When the peacemaker's time is at hand

Don't let the light go out!
It's lasted for so many years!
Don't let the light go out!
Let it shine through our love and our tears.

Light one candle for the strength that we need
To never become our own foe
And light one candle for those who are suffering
Pain we learned so long ago
Light one candle for all we believe in
That anger not tear us apart
And light one candle to find us together
With peace as the song in our hearts (chorus)

What is the memory that's valued so highly
That we keep it alive in that flame?
What's the commitment to those who have died
That we cry out they've not died in vain?
We have come this far always believing
That justice would somehow prevail
This is the burden, this is the promise
This is why we will not fail! (chorus)

Don't let the light go out!
Don't let the light go out!
Don't let the light go out!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Rage and hope: the future will come anyway

Here it is, five days after the election, and I'm still feeling rage.

I am not usually an angry person. But I do not remember ever feeling this angry, for this long.

I feel rage at the media who spun the stories about Hillary, Benghazi, and who-cares-about-her-stupid emails, and those on the far left and far right who swallowed those stories and repeated them over and over again. I feel rage at James Comey and Anthony Weiner, and I feel rage at Donald Trump and the entire Trump machine. I feel rage at the people who voted for Gary Johnson or Jill Stein, wrote in Harambe or Bernie Sanders, or said that Hillary was just as bad as Trump--or unbelievably, "crooked" or "corrupt" (TrumpPot, meet Kettle!). And I feel rage at the men--and women, for God's sake!--who completely negated my and so many women's PTSD about our own sexual assaults and voted in a self-confessed sexual predator. As my husband commented today, it's like Trump is an abuser, and we are the victims. We just continue to take it, especially white women, who should know better.

Of course, not all Trump supporters are racist, misogynist xenophobes. But everyone who voted for Trump, or anyone but Hillary, saw a racist, misogynist, xenophobe and said to themselves one of these things:
"Donald Trump doesn't really mean the things he says!"
"I am so furious at the Democratic party that I don't care enough about disenfranchised people to protect them"
"This is an acceptable person to lead our country." 
The third party voters
 are equally responsible
 for the Cheeto Elect
Millions of people voted for him not because of his bigotry, but in spite of it. The brilliant Samantha Bee nails it: "Once you dust for fingerprints, it's pretty clear who ruined America: white many times do we expect black people to build our country for us?!?!?...If Muslims have to take responsibility for every member of their community, so do we....did you not hear people of color, begging you not to legitimize this?" (queue racist Trump rallies)

Trump and third-party voters: your votes or lack thereof unleashed the beasts of racism, misogyny, homophobia, and xenophobia. I'm talking to you, Susan Sarandon. The Southern Poverty Law Center is tracking bullying and harassment all over the country, and in recent days my heart has been broken to hear about multiple racist and homophobic incidents in my hometown and my son's university campus...all conducted in the name of Trump. Are you surprised to see this, when this Bully-in-Chief was enthusiastically endorsed by the KKK and neonazis?

And then there's climate change. Ironically, the state most likely to suffer devastating effects from climate change is Florida, now a red, climate-denying state. In the next four years, the actions Trump and the Republican congress plan to make, rolling back everything President Obama has done in this area, will accelerate global warming and we'll all be in trouble.

Maybe Trump voters didn't realize this would happen. After all, if we get our news from Facebook, our political views completely skew the news that we see. Check out this handy Blue Feed, Red Feed tool from the Wall Street Journal that shows what you see in liberal and conservative news feeds. This, and the decline of objective journalism, is one of the reasons we are so divided in this country.
Now, here's my hope.

The media is saying "half the country" elected Donald Trump, and that's just plain wrong.

  • First of all, nearly half of registered voters did not vote in the presidential election. Damn. That still infuriates me!
  • Voting is hard in most of this country. It's not a fair, or easy system except for places where people can vote by mail.
  • Hillary won the popular vote, by what's expected to be 1.7%! 
  • Donald Trump won 26.3% of the nation's votes.
  • Although many millennials voted third party, they were much more likely to support Clinton than Trump.

What this means to me is that half the electorate is apathetic, thought Hillary would win so didn't think their vote mattered, or didn't like either of them. Brexit passed in the UK for similar reasons...a lot of young people didn't vote because they thought it would fail.

Trump was voted in by a small percentage of the country. Far more Americans didn't vote for Trump than voted for him, similar to the Republican primaries. So this is where my rage--and my hope--lies. With the millions of people on the secret Facebook groups supporting Hillary and peace and justice--and with the thousands of people peacefully protesting the election around the country.

The day after the election, Gloria Steinem said, "This was a vote against the future. And the future will come anyway." For those Trump voters longing for a "White Traditional Values America," this is their last desperate stand. The future is coming. We are a nation of immigrants. Own it. Thanks to climate change deniers, our children will pay the price. The future is coming, and it will not be pleasant.

My hope is that people come together and stand up to bigotry and racism. That businesses and state and local governments continue to challenge on the issue of climate change. That the grassroots organizes and raises up young, energized people to run for political office. That we shape the future for our children. That we maintain peace and avoid war. That women rise up and get educated instead of voting for their abuser. And that our children will carry the mantle of hope and peace, because their parents have failed them.

This has been a hard week for our kids. But they give me hope. May peace and justice prevail.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

She Flies With Her Own Wings

Signing the equal suffrage proclamation
 she wrote, with Governor Oswald West
Just a little over 48 hours ago, I was gathering with other women--and a few young men--at the grave of Abigail Scott Duniway, pioneer woman, teacher, writer and journalist, prolific orator, and suffragette who was responsible for helping women finally getting the vote in both Washington (1910) and Oregon (1912). She also helped her husband run a farm, ran a few schools and a millinery shop, launched and published her own weekly newspaper, published fiction and nonfiction, and raised six children.

She welcomed all to the suffrage cause: Jew, Catholic, Protestant, Mormon, Christian Scientist, Spiritualist, Theosophist, and Pagan. Because of her steadfast campaigning, Oregon became the seventh state in the U.S. to pass women's suffrage. She was a badass, just like Hillary Clinton.

On the unseasonably warm and sunny afternoon on Tuesday, we were full of confidence we'd be toasting our first female president that evening. We had young boys with us, who proudly proclaimed themselves as feminists:

We had Dr. Esther Pohl Lovejoy with us too! (Dr. Lovejoy was the first woman appointed to direct a department of health in a major U.S. city, the Portland Board of Health.)
Some of my coworkers joined me:
My mom and friends from church also joined us, as well as others from our secret Pantsuit Nation Oregon group. Some wore white, one wore a clergy collar, some wore pantsuits, and some wore Hillary shirts. And the Oregonian sent a reporter and a photographer, in the hopes of recording history...which was not to be. At least not just yet.
Excited, hopeful women gather to pay homage
I understand many didn't like Hillary as a candidate, but I enthusiastically supported her candidacy. As the most qualified presidential candidate we've ever had, because she's a woman, she had to be 100 times as good as her opponent. Instead, she was only 99 times as good.

I am still grieving and raging this loss. I was an enthusiastic supporter of the most qualified presidential candidate we have ever had. I cried when I read inspiring stories on the Pantsuit Nation Facebook group about why women and men were voting for Hillary. I couldn't believe we would finally have a female president, a proud feminist. defender of women and children, and supporter of reproductive rights. Instead our country elected a self-identified sexual predator who is stoking the flames of racist, xenophobic, and homophobic hatred. My heart is broken.

And you'd damn well better not tell me "it will be okay." What happened on Tuesday is very much not okay.

But I am doing my best to move from rage to action. It's going to take some time.

"She flies with her own wings" is Oregon's motto and the title of one of Abigail Scott Duniway's books. I am reminded that it took five unsuccessful campaigns (in 1884, 1900, 1906, and 1910) to pass women's suffrage at last, in 1912. Abigail died three short years later in 1915. And so we fight on.

I am in it for our children...for my friends' children who are Muslim, Mexican, black, Jewish, LGBT, female, and scared shitless at the moment...and I'm in it for the white men I love too, like this guy:

This rage has got me back to blogging. Next: white people, what have we done?

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

I'm voting for Hillary on behalf of my foremothers

On this Day of All Souls, I am remembering four strong women who are no longer with us and honoring their spirits:

1.      My grandma Margaret, who had to drop out of school to start work in her mid-teens because her brother got sick and her family had no money to pay the hospital bill. She suppressed her great sense of humor and feisty spirit while she was married to my serious grandfather. But when he died, she remarried and was incredibly happy. She raised six sons (one died as a toddler), all who in turn married strong women who all worked outside the home. (That's me she's holding!)

2.      My friend Mary, who was one of the most spunky, opinionated, caring, and progressive women I’ve known. When our ELCA Lutheran church has discussed whether to move forward on a variety of initiatives (such as openly embracing the LGBT community many years ago), we could always count on Mary, one of the oldest members of the community, to say “Let’s do it! Why not?” (She's holding my son Kieran in this photo)

3.      My friend Clara, who endured abuse and great hardship as a girl and young woman but became a creative, amazing teacher of all ages, and who inspired everyone she met.

4.      My husband’s friend Serena, who was the fashion editor of the London Daily Telegraph, a prolific writer and traveler, and a STAUNCH democrat. She used to debate abortion rights with the conservative women in her retirement home. So sad that she died earlier this year and did not get to cast her vote for Hillary.

They are my foremothers, and I am thinking of them in my heart today and all week.

I'm voting against Trump because as a victim of sexual assault, I'm truly horrified that someone who despises and disrespects women as much as he does could become our president. And as a Christian who embraces diversity and people of all cultures, I'm equally horrified that he's actively supported by white supremacists (and has not rejected their support!) and spews hatred at Muslims, African-Americans, the disabled, Mexicans, veterans, LGBTQ folks, you name it, every day.

But even more important, I'm voting FOR Hillary because she is a feminist, has always fought for the welfare of women and children, is the most qualified candidate we’ve ever had, has proven her ability to work with others, does not hold a grudge (joining President Obama’s cabinet after losing the candidacy), and gets shit done. As Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did backwards in high heels, Hillary has endured more vitriol and scrutiny than any other candidate in history because of sexism, but she’s still standing. We’ve got her back. The Pantsuit Squad will help her rise up!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Me too, and it's #NotOkay

Listening to Michelle Obama's impassioned speech this morning in New Hampshire made tears run down my face. More than anyone else, she is capturing how I feel about this week in politics. The speech is a "must watch" for all women, and for all men who respect and value women.

Speaking to a packed auditorium of mostly women and children, Ms. Obama seemed to be holding back tears as she said, "I can't stop thinking about this. It has shaken me to my core in a way that I couldn't have predicted." She honored women everywhere by naming our experiences as painful and hurtful.

I couldn't help but wonder about Michelle Obama's own personal sexual harassment or assault story. We all have at least one (and often several), and many are bravely speaking out at last, sharing their stories. Why do women stay silent? As the First Lady said,
"All of us are doing what women have always done; we're trying to keep our heads above water. Just trying to get through it. Trying to pretend like this doesn't really bother us. Maybe because admitting how much it hurts makes us as women look weak. Maybe we're afraid to be that vulnerable. Maybe we've become accustomed to swallowing these emotions and staying quiet. Because we've seen that people will often not take our word over his. Or maybe we don't want to believe there are still people out there who think so little of us as women. Too many are treating this as just another day's headline. As if our outrage is overblown or unwarranted. As if this is normal."
We are living in a world where this kind of behavior is excused as "locker room banter." Where a woman's looks are commented on, constantly, every day. We all have multiple stories. I am ashamed to admit that I used to watch Trump's horribly sexist "The Apprentice," even though the beginning and the board room segments with Trump were awful. He humiliated women on a regular basis. But because I was trying to pretend that it didn't bother me, and because women become so immune to sexism on a daily basis, I watched it anyway.

Now, prompted by Trump's claims that he has never harassed or assaulted women, his victims can take it no longer. All these brave women coming forward are facing the scorn and accusations from the far right of the Republican party (Trump supporters). New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito felt compelled to share her own story of childhood sexual abuse.

Women are sharing their stories on Twitter and Facebook and in the blogosphere, using the hashtags #TYBraveWomen and #NotOkay. As strong women, we stand together and help each other be brave. These women inspire me to be honest about my own story, which only a few people know. I am another 1/5.

When I was 13 years old, I was sexually assaulted by a stranger. My first experience of sexuality was one of pain, terror, and lasting post-tramautic stress disorder. I am still afraid of dark streets and distrustful of intimidating strange men. This experience is why I cannot abide graphic rape scenes in TV or movies (and why I refuse to watch "The Game of Thrones"). When I was called to sit on a jury for a sexual predator similar to my own (35+ years later!), I had to name my experience in a full courtroom, in front of everyone including the predator. I asked to be taken out of the jury pool, as did other female sexual assault victims, but to have our request honored, we were forced to speak about our awful experiences out loud. When I left the courthouse, I called Mike, completely broken down. I felt shaken for days afterward, and even still now when I remember that afternoon. That's another reason we stay silent.

As many of you know, I'm a confident, self-assured woman. But I have kept this mostly quiet until now, for the reasons Michelle Obama named: fear of vulnerability and being perceived as "less than" or weak. Not to mention the fact that this was an extremely private, traumatic experience in my life.

But if other women can face Donald Fucking Trump down in the face, after he assaulted them--in either thought or deed, I can do it too. Now he threatens to sue them all, and in a bizarre strategy that merely amplifies his disdain for women, he says that they were not pretty enough for him anyway.

I am okay, and I am strong. I've surrounded myself with loving, compassionate men (especially my husband!) who would NEVER treat women this way or dismiss this kind of behavior as "locker room talk." The kinds of men that Michelle Obama spoke about:
"I know the men in my life do not talk about women like this, and I know that my family is not unusual. To dismiss this as everyday locker room talk is an insult to decent men everywhere. The men that you and I know don't treat women this way. They are loving men who are sickened by the thought of their daughters exposed to this kind of vicious behavior. These men are worried about the impact this election is having on our boys who are looking for role models about what it means to be a man. Strong men do not have to put down women to make themselves feel powerful. People who are truly strong lift each other up, bring people together."
One of the most heartbreaking things about this recent Trump catastrophe is that his supporters are defending his despicable, dishonorable actions, even though he's admitted that he is free, even proud, to sexually assault women. And any man who sexualizes a preadolescent girl OR HIS OWN DAUGHTERS is human filth. I simply cannot believe that people are still defending this man's actions.

As Michelle Obama said, "the measure of any society is how it treats its women and girls." That's also the measure of a human being. How will your vote show respect for women and girls, and decent men? Our children are watching and waiting to see what we will do.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Don't mess with my brain again!

In early August, I shared that I'd received news that my cholesteatoma had returned and that I'd have to have a modified radical mastoidectomy. And now that's changed again: the surgery will be similar to what I had last time (mastoidectomy and tympanoplasty).

Yesterday I had a CT scan and MRI, with a mammogram snuck in between them. (My friend Rachele said she's never heard the words "snuck in" and "mammogram" in the same sentence...leave it to the great multitasker!) Mammograms scare me because I've had so many close friends battle breast cancer, and I've had to have several biopsies. Fortunately, it was clear. Phew!

Today I met with my ear surgeon, Mike in tow to take notes. As I told Mike later, as a communicator I always write the most important point in the beginning instead of rambling on to the point. Well, my ear surgeon doesn't operate by those principles. He shares lots of details, with the point at the end.

He began telling us all about what he's been considering for my surgery on September 23, starting with explaining to the insurance company why he needed both the CT scan and the MRI. Then he started talking about why he chose to consult with the neurosurgeon who did my brain surgery.

After they both looked at my films, the highly accomplished neurosurgeon, who is really not my favorite doctor, shared his belief that the modified radical mastoidectomy (which would essentially open up the inside of my ear) could expose my dura (the lining of my brain), which they had to repair back in 2012. It's too risky.

Sometimes I have a hard time following my surgeon's extremely detailed explanations about ear anatomy and cholesteatomas, but I like him. He reflected back to 2013, when he had an "epiphany" that he should try an alternative to the modified radical. He trusted his instincts. I believe in following your hunches while balancing data at the same time. I'm glad he did so.

So instead of the modified radical, he will remove the cholesteatoma and attempt, again, to rebuild my ear drum. I asked him if this means I might still require further surgeries, and he responded that if I do, I will break the records. That's not exactly reassuring for me, because I seem to have done that already. But I'm also glad they are trying to protect my brain.

Mike later revealed that when the ear surgeon mentioned the neurosurgeon's name, he panicked a little, thinking that I'd have to have brain surgery again. That thought hadn't even occurred to me, and I'm glad it didn't!

Sixteen days until surgery. The thing I'm dreading most is the pain. Many Web sites claim that the pain from ear surgery is minimal. I don't know what they are smoking! In my experience, it hurts like hell.

I'm stocking up on DVDs and clearing my schedule. In spite of my pain fears, I'm actually ready for it to be over with so I can move on with my life again.

Monday, August 22, 2016

And in the blink of an eye, 20 years come and gone!

I have a quiet moment alone tonight to reflect on the life of my oldest son, Chris, who turns 20 on Tuesday, August 23. Twenty years since:

NICU, August 1996
  • I went into premature labor at nearly 24 weeks gestation.
  • I drove myself to find Mike at the track so we could go to the hospital (a story that later alarmed the nurses!).
  • A nurse gasped when my OB examined me and saw that the umbilical cord had prolapsed (earlier she had doubted me).
  • My OB told us that we had a choice: have a regular delivery and our baby would die, or transfer to Legacy Emanuel to have a c-section and give him a 50% chance of survival.
  • I had an emergency c-section, with general anesthesia, quite the opposite of the natural birth I'd dreamed of. Poor Mike had to wait to see who survived the surgery.
  • We were thrown into the previously unknown, foreign world of the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), a story in itself. 
Kangaroo care
I have written plenty about what it's like to have a 24-week micropreemie, in such posts as Chris' full birth story, 10 things I wish I didn't know about prematurity, and Letter to a Micropreemie Parent. Six years ago, we revisited the NICU with Chris as part of a fundraising video for the hospital (tissues needed for that video!). Now that NICU as we knew it is no more. 

In its place is Randall Children's Hospital, where every NICU family has their own private room...a setup that we dreamed of and planned for many years ago as part of the NICU Family Advisory Board. What a different experience we would have had there for 117 days back in 1990, if we'd had privacy and a place to sleep. We could have been at Chris' side constantly, 24/7, instead of feeling like we were visitors all the time.

Freshman orientation
But back to my 1-pound-six-ounce miracle baby, who didn't speak until he was three. The one who just finished his freshman year at Pacific Lutheran University, my alma mater, where he hosted a weekly radio show and acted in several drama productions. The one who's been working his butt off this summer as a courtesy clerk at Safeway, often starting his shift at 6 a.m. or ending at 1:00 a.m., walking home in the pitch dark. The one who is one of the sweetest, kindest, most resilient, and most friendly people I know. The one who has always had a deep appreciation for life and family, because he knows he almost didn't survive.

Victoria, BC, last month
For example, this evening Kieran and Nick apologized to Chris for not having birthday gifts for him. Chris said they didn't need to buy him gifts, because the greatest gift he received was being around them and having them for brothers. 

Revisiting Legacy Emanuel
 Hospital, last month
I've grown used to having Chris at home with us again this summer, and I haven't faced up to the fact he'll be leaving again soon to return to college. I am good at that, trying to postpone thinking about the sad and hard stuff. I rewatched the Red Wagon video I linked to above, tears running down my face, even though I hate seeing myself on video. Thinking about the NICU always does that to me. It breaks me.

Birthday cupcakes, today!
These are the words by Elizabeth Stone we used to announce Chris' birth to the world, before we knew if he would survive or not:

“Making the decision to have a baby is momentous.
It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”

Truly, that day that changed my life forever and turned me into a mom feels just like yesterday. One of the simultaneously best and worst days of my life made me wiser, more grateful, and more heart is there for all to see. Since August 23, 1996, I easily dissolve into tears.

Chris, you will always be my hero. Thank you for surviving, thriving, and becoming the wonderful young man you are today. I am so proud to be your mom.
With my miracle boy, now 20!
Just a reminder that he was 11 inches long at birth,
and now he towers over me!

Monday, August 8, 2016

I'm back, and so is my cholesteatoma

Sadly, it's true.

I have been missing my blog and intending to get back to it, so here I am. I learned this week that my cholesteatoma has returned and I need to have a fourth and final surgery: a modified radical mastoidectomy. As my friend Brad so aptly put it, it is another round of suckitude.

I suspected something might be amiss in my ear, because I'd had some ear pain a month ago and I could tell my hearing had worsened. Well, the reason for that was an enormous ball of hard wax. It took my ear surgeon 15 minutes of extremely painful digging around in my ear, followed by a strong sucking machine, to get that sucker out. And once it was out, he saw that the cholesteatoma had come back with a vengeance and was infected. Just lovely.

Even though I'd tried to brace myself for bad news, I teared up in his office, much to my embarrassment. The surgeon had planned to do a modified radical at my last surgery three years ago, but decided at the last minute to take a less invasive approach. I asked him, again, why he had decided not to go full bore, and he said my anatomy is complicated. Isn't that reassuring?

I was feeling very low and emotional after hearing this news first thing on a Tuesday morning, especially on the heels of news the previous day about our company's financial performance and my uncle having a stroke. I returned to my office and couldn't keep myself from crying. Suckitude.

The bad news forced me off to the gym--I figured I needed to work off the stress. That helped a bit. And then in the afternoon, I received this beautiful pick-me-up from Mike and the boys:

The next day I continued to feel puny, so at lunch I set out for the river. I've been rereading The Bell Jar for my book group this month, and Sylvia Plath (as Esther) describes her love of baths:

“There must be quite a few things a hot bath won't cure, but I don't know many of them. Whenever I'm sad I'm going to die, or so nervous I can't sleep, or in love with somebody I won't be seeing for a week, I slump down just so far and then I say: "I'll go take a hot bath.”

Well, I am not a huge fan of baths. But walking to any body of water (river, stream, lake, or ocean) is a curative for my soul. As I was standing out on the boat dock in the middle of the Willamette River, I could feel my resilient self rising again, realizing I just need to get through this. What can't be changed must be faced. I recalled hearing my mom describe how low maintenance and blase I was as a small child as I had surgery after surgery after surgery. I guess it's in my nature. 

By the time I returned to the office, I felt strong enough to call the surgeon's office and schedule my surgery for September 23. I have to schedule both a CT scan and an MRI before the surgery...I will try not to complain too much about that, as I suppose it's important for the surgeon to know where he's cutting.

I also discovered on my desk this lovely green stone, which my friend April gave to me...when I went to the beach with her and several other women in May, she had a bag of these beautiful stones and each one of us chose one out of the bag. When I saw "courage," I thought, "hmm...wonder why I need courage." Now I know why I needed that stone. Divine chance. 

 A brief visit with close friends filled with laughter, combined with messages of amazing support from friends and family, and I feel encircled with love and courage.