Friday, May 23, 2008

Another poem

This one was sent to me by Lori - thank you, Lori!

The Real Work

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,
and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.
The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.
- © Wendell Berry

Thursday, May 22, 2008


I am relaxing by sitting at the computer while Tessa plays; plus, I got a great break from cooking because I made way too much for dinner last night so Ryan got lunch today and Tessa and I got great leftovers (sweet and sour shrimp; a Cooking Light recipe that I tried out and am now in love with). Ryan's out with Paul, so it's just the two of us tonight.

I bumped into this poem and love it:

Everything is Waiting for You by David Whyte

And now Tessa is going to watch a video (I keep screen time to a minimum, really I do!) and I am going to pick up the painting project that I left off. The Landahls are coming tomorrow and I'd just love it if the guest bathroom looked less peach. ;-)

Tomorrow I'll hardly be able to move after all fo this activity today!

No car day

This is harder than it sounds.

At the last "Cool Moms for a Hot Planet" meeting, the group leader (Abby, fabulous woman!) suggested that we each try to park our car for one full day.

I thought, "Ha! No problem! I'm already a big proponent of walking - this is a piece of cake!"

Hubris always brings down the hero in the stories. I remembered that a bit late.

It turns out, upon further analysis, that I have cut out lots of little car trips, but I still do lots of little car trips.

Yesterday, I wanted to take the water taxi to meet Ryan for lunch (with Tessa), then walk to Madison (a reasonable distance for Tessa, less than a mile) and catch the 12 bus to go to the hospital, and then do it in reverse to come home. EXCEPT....Trader Joe's is a mile or so past the hospital, and I wanted to do some (cheap) grocery shopping. I was not willing to add two more bus trips to my trip, and as it was I was trying to squish grocery shopping in between the lunch with Ryan at 11 and the oncologist appt at 12:40. I drove, and was just barely on time as it was.

Today, Tessa and I spent the morning at home. Then, we walked to preschool (this is not unusual) and stopped to share a burrito (veggie burrito with carrots, zuchinni, potatoes, spinach, tomatoes....YUM!) at Taquaria Guayamos (sp?) on the way. We had Shep with us (tied him up outside for lunch), and so after I dropped Tessa off at school Shep and I went for a walk/run, with a little stop at Michele's house along the way for a spontaneous visit on her front stoop.

Chores at home, then time to get Tessa, and I knew she wouldn't want to walk the mile home. Sooo, I loaded up the bike with the kid-trailer, and for the first time in about five years, I got on a bike and went to meet her.

Riding along California, trying to share the road, terrified me. I do not have bike skills (did I mention it had been five years?) and I've never towed the trailer - ack. It was okay but nerve wracking.

My running pants (which look more like yoga pants) got caught in the chain somewhere in the junction. I yanked them out, apparently no damage, but I was not thrilled with that development. And I don't want to wear spandex bike pants...sigh.

When I go to preschool, I went down the five or so steps to her classroom, and I thought my legs would collapse under me (which made me laugh).

But I bravely put my helmet back on, put Tessa's helmet on her, and said, "Let's go to PCC!" which is about a mile further (two miles from our house). A couple blocks later, I heard "swish, swish" every time the wheel on the trailer went round. Sure enough, a flat.

Not to be stymied, I set to fixing it. I pulled out the pump, and pumped my little heart out with the hand pump (smashing the knuckle of my index finger quite impressively in the process).

I worked and worked at it, getting quite the UPPER body workout (never knew bicycling could work that part of me), but to little wasn't going to fully inflate no matter what I did.

So we limped home along the sidewalk. Tessa cheerfully reminded me that Daddy knew how to fix flats and maybe I should learn. (Not today, kiddo. Today I'm fried!)

I did not go to PCC, and to stick to my no-driving day, I'll go tomorrow. Tessa has preschool at 8:45am tomorrow and I find it very unlikely that she'll be up for a walk that early (we are usually rushing on Fridays), so I'll drive, and then just loop up to PCC.

Anyway, I'm finally having one day of success with the no driving thing. Tomorrow I will drive, but today, my car is off the road, and my carbon footprint is a bit smaller, and I'm quite proud of myself.

(I will not mention, then, that our grass out back was a jungle, and since it's nice out and the Landahls are coming to visit tomorrow and the kids might want to play out there, I mowed it. With our gas mower. No, I don't want to mention that as I'm reveling in my lowered carbon footprint from not driving. Okay, so since I DID mention it, I'll also mention that Ryan got a free push-mower -the people powered kind, not the gas kind - that needs sharpening, and so soon we'll mow our lawn carbon free. But not today.

But I'm still going to revel in the not driving for a day thing.)

Not driving for a day is largely symbolic for me - the real trick is to cut back driving a lot, and I'm doing that, even though I do a couple miles here and there most days. I'm carpooling more than ever before, walking more than ever before, bussing more than ever before. Bit by bit, it's coming together.

But I'll take the symbol, too!

My next hot thing


Yes, chickens.

I've promised Ryan to hold off until next spring, but if things go according to plan, my neighbor Sarah and I are going to become chicken owners, sharing the chicken-stewardship.

The idea behind it is the same as all of the other stuff - humanely raised animals, living off our kitchen scraps (which is good, because even with two worm bins we produce more than the worms can handle), producing healthy eggs, all organic. No carbon footprint to speak of - talk about local food. I assume that it's cheap, at least break-even, but we're still looking into this.

I have a corner of our yard figured out (by the fence dividing the front and back yards, tucked in the back where the kids don't play).

Some reading this will think, "Way to go!" but I'm pretty sure that the majority of my readers/friends will think that I've lost it for sure this time. I can live with that.

And I'm not doing anything NOW, I'm waiting to make sure that I can actually harvest our garden before I take on another project. Assuming that I don't kill off the garden in July, and that we make it all the way 'til September/October with our garden crops, I will move forward with chickens in '09.

Much more fun to think about than cancer, don't you think?

Edited to add: Chickens for EGGS, not MEAT. The butchering process feels really, really beyond me, and even though I don't expect to bond with chickens, I do not relish watching them grow and then eating them. This is an egg business only! I know, I eat chicken, so it shouldn't be a problem. But still, I have my limits.

One of Tessa's favorite activities

(In Spokane.)


I love my neighbors. Really, I do. I think I live in one of the finest communities anywhere, and the word "community" is an important part of that statement. People on my block know each other, talk to one another, stop to say hello. In the middle of cooking dinner last week, I realized I was out of fresh garlic. I sent Tessa over to the neighbors to ask for two cloves of garlic (and I remembered to buy them a head to replace what we borrowed the very next day). Good, good neighbors.

But West Seattle's funkiness allows for all kinds of stuff, including this:

This house is about a block from us, and I'm SO glad that we can't actually see it from our front porch, because it's an eyesore. Every friend who comes by comments - it is impossible not to.

But still, "crazy house" and all, I'll take my neighborhood, because I love it here.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


I find myself just about falling apart tonight.

When I found the lump, the "real" one, it was right before Memorial Day weekend, and I had to wait over the weekend to find out what it was. It was what I feared most at that time, as we all know. (Now, I don't fear cancer the most. I fear dying. Cancer, I can fight. Dying, well, that's permanent.)

This was really, really deja vu.

And tonight I'm pretty much shaking. Relief, but something more. I can feel the cancer beast breathing over my shoulder, its nasty breath hot in my face, grumbling, "Not this time. Maybe next time."


I went to my oncologist, Dr. Rinn, today. I am declared okay. I can breathe again; I can exhale.

What I didn't say on my blog is that last week I found three new lumps, all in a row, on my "healthy" side. They weren't there, and then they were. They were hard, and visible when I looked in the mirror.

They terrified me. For a moment, my mind went to the darkest places - the fear of what would come, the gratitude that I'd had another three years with Tessa and Ryan after the initial diagnosis. I thought that if this were it, at least Tessa would have memories of me. It is not an accident that I carry my camera everywhere. One day, Tessa will know that her mother wanted to capture every moment, fully aware of how precious it is. If I am gone, the pictures will remain.

My mind visited these dark places and tried not to panic.

The bell curve of reoccurances shows that the greatest number, in my kind of cancer, occur between years two and three after diagnosis. My three year diagnosis anniversary is June 1, and I choked to think that I might not get to that anniversary without the reoccurance. I'm not safe after June 1 - it just doesn't work like that - but my risk decreases. June 1 this year is very symbolic to me.

But today, Dr. Rinn definitively stated that it was scar tissue and adhesions pulling on the expander. She was certain. She was not concerned. She told me to call tomorrow to get my bloodwork (CA 27.29) results back, but not to worry. She said to come back in November, after my next surgery, to get checked and to get another DEXA (bone density) scan.

I couldn't wait to get out of the building. Tessa was with me, so I put on my best Mommy face and tried to be brave, but it was all that I could do to keep from hyperventilating; tears were close at hand and I had to focus intensely to keep them back. It felt overwhelmingly terrifying. I think I can say that I HATE visiting there.

But it's over, and I was declared safe for the moment. I am grateful.


Pictures from Spokane

Here are some pictures of our weekend with family. I adore the picture of Caley and I; I really truly feel connected to Caley and I'm glad we have a (flattering!) photo of us together enjoying one another's company, celebrating instead of mourning.

Tessa had some MAJOR bonding with Charlotte & Caley, and two nights in a row, Charlotte stroked and held Tessa until she fell asleep. Charlotte was always special to me, and I'm delighted that Tessa feels the bond, too.

I am so fortunate to have such a loving family.

Tessa's Kindergarten Letter

Yesterday I submitted the letter to Alki stating that Tessa would definately attend kindergarten there. Per their request, I also wrote a letter describing Tessa, to better help them to place her in the classroom.

Here's part of what I wanted to say:
Tessa is one of the most special people you will ever meet. Her intelligence shines from her eyes, and her laughter is quick and frequent. She is empathetic, kind, and thoughtful. She is deeply loved by her family.

I wanted to go on for pages in this manner, describing Tessa through her parents' eyes. Of course, I'd also have to talk about her willful behavior, and her independence (and how that can be as much of a detriment as an asset), but I wanted to show in some way just how lucky the teachers are to have my daughter in their classroom. My assumption is that every parent feels this way about their child(ren), and that it would not be helpful to write pages about how special Tessa is....though I wanted to.

But instead, here's what I said. I hope I didn't come across as a crazy mom; I hope that I provided the right information.
Dear Ms. Hill and Alki Staff and Teachers,

Our daughter, Tessa Surface, is absolutely delighted that she will be attending kindergarten at Alki next year. As a family, we are excited to be a part of your Alki community, as well.

Tessa has many loves and interests: her favorite animals are bats and horses; she loves gymnastics, swimming and soccer; she adores the color pink (although I joke that her favorite clothing choice is “clash” and she’s very independent about how she dresses). She loves all girly-stuff, but won’t hesitate to go on the monkey bars in a sparkly dress, or to pick up bugs and worms. She is a loyal friend and would have sleepovers daily if we allowed it (monthly is more usual). When left to her own devices, she plays on her swing set, looks at books, creates art at our kitchen table, or plays pretend with her ponies for hours.

Tessa is a child who loves going to school. She is excited to learn about all kinds of new things, and particularly likes coming home from preschool to teach Mom and Dad about new things that she’s learned, especially facts about nature. In the school environment, she is eager to please her teachers, and to be a “big kid” and take on responsibilities at school helping out in the classroom and following instructions. She does a pretty good job with sharing, taking turns, and other social niceties of the age; she’s not perfect in this regard and sometimes needs reminding, but in general her social behaviors make her parents proud.

Academically, our preschool teacher (Shelley at A Child Becomes) assures us that Tessa is quite ready for kindergarten. She can recognize and write all of the letters of the alphabet, and she knows all of their sounds (although she occasionally gets soft vowel sounds confused with one another). She can sound out simple three or four letter words, and has memorized the spelling of her best friends’ names. She can count upwards of thirty, but is much more interested in letters than numbers. She is very interested in learning how to read, and will sit for extended periods of time “reading” to herself (in reality, looking at the pictures and repeating out loud the stories that we have read to her). We read to her daily, and we have books all over our home for her to access. According to our pediatrician, she is on target or ahead for all of her physical milestones, as well.

Socially, Tessa is a mixed up combination of shy and extroverted. She can take a while to warm up to a new situation (at her new preschool it took a couple of months), especially if all of the people are new to her, but then it “clicks” for her and she often becomes the chattiest child in the room. She is fortunate to have many good friends, and while she prefers playing with girls (especially pretend play) she’s learned to be friends with boys, too. We are a social family, and though Tessa is an only child, she adores other children and our lives and home are filled with other children on a daily basis.

Attending kindergarten at Alki with Tessa are some of Tessa’s dearest friends, whom she has known for years, including Anna Huycke,Jessie McComb, and Lexi Reifel. She deeply hopes that she will get to share a classroom with some or all of these girls, and I share that hope with her, because when she has the comfort of a friend(s) she is most likely to feel comfortable and respond well to her environment.

We look forward to meeting our teacher(s). Thank you for considering Tessa’s traits as you place her with her teacher and peers next year.

Regards, Kristina Surface

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Reading List

Today's email from the Seattle Public Library listed the following holds available to me:

On Chesil Beach /
Nerds : who they are and why we need more of them /
The god of animals : a novel /
The assault on reason /
Simply organic : a cookbook for sustainable, seasonal,
Green chic : saving the Earth in style /
American Earth : environmental writing since Thoreau /
The larger hope /
Bringing God home : a traveler's guide /

I have several thousand pages to get through in the next few weeks - sad that I will not have enough time! Ah well. I'll make a sizable dent, anyway.

I'm still up to my eyeballs in the "Deep Economy" book that I started a week ago; it is an environmental economics text at its heart, and reminds me of one of my favorite college classes. It is terrifying to read because its predictions are so dire, but it's also interesting and helpful because it lays out a reasonable response to the environmental issues that are so near and dear to my heart.

I'm doing a lot of reading these days, and I love it. The library and I are becoming good friends, and I've gotten really good at placing holds and visiting the library regularly. The online system is accessible from home, which is a very good thing, because when I visit the library I tend to spend most of my time in the children's section seeking Clifford books (by Bridwell, so Tessa, look for the authors that start with B...).

I'm probably posting this mundane stuff because I'm trying to avoid thinking about seeing the oncologist tomorrow. I have a check up with Dr. Rinn, and I'm just realizing that I have a lot of anxiety about returning to Cancerland at any level. Walking into that building as a patient, putting on the ugly blue gown, and having professional fingers explore what is left of my chest leaves a lot to be desired. It's one of those reminders of it all, and unpleasant at best. It's almost three years, and I hate going there more than ever before.

So instead, I'm reading this and that.

Monday, May 19, 2008


Just a PS -

The garden is flourishing; the heat helped, and I see that Sarah & Steven (lovely neighbors) watered for us, as they knew we were out of town. I'm so grateful! Anyway, the spinach is coming up, the carrots and radishes are twice the size they were when I left, and the strawberries are getting heavy with (green) fruit. The beets are even sending up little stalks, and I wasn't sure they'd develop at all. The cabbage is getting large (although very un-cabbage looking, in my uneducated view...I think of cabbage as a head, and this looks like a clump of leaves), the lettuce and chard are growing nicely.....things are looking good.

So far so good...

Home from Spokane

We arrived home safe and sound from our trip to Spokane. It was wonderful spending time with the Weitz, Dahl, and Ochoa families; the weather was hot (a treat after all the rain we'd had); we got to see a bit of Spokane; Ryan got to go on a bike ride with Heather and Linda; Tessa got to play with the kitten Matt aka Oliver; and we got to see Caley graduate.

We listened to the Little House on the Prairie CD in the car - what fun! The whole family loved it. The book is actually 6 CDs, and we still have one left (sometimes we listened to music or talked). Listening to the simplicity of their lives, and their joy in small things, and their work ethic - as well as their time at play - reminded me of how much I have to learn. I've learned a lot, but I have a lot more to learn.

Bonding with Caley was an incredible part of the trip. She and I are destined to be very close friends, I believe. As she gets older, our ages become closer together, and I am appreciative of the friendship that we share, and have yet to share.

Caley's reading brought tears to my eyes. Her graduation was lovely. I am so, so proud of who she is: not only is she accomplished and successful, she is kindhearted, genuine.... she's fantastic.

Laundry is running, grocery lists are being made, and there is work to be done...but it's bedtime. More on all of this to follow in another post, complete with pictures.

And now, to close, a poem that was read at Caley's graduation. I liked it so much that I wrote down the name and author on the back of an envelope so that I wouldn't forget it, and then I looked it up tonight. I bolded the verse that spoke to me the most. Here it is:

Prophets of a Future Not Our Own
by Bishop Ken Untener
(often attributed to Oscar Romero)

It helps now and then to step back and take a long view.
The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God's work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is another way of
saying that the kingdom always lies beyond us.

No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith. No confession
brings perfection, no pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church's mission.
No set of goals and objectives include everything.

This is what we are about. We plant the seeds that one
day will grow. We water the seeds already planted
knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects
far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of
liberation in realizing this.This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning,
a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord's
grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results, but that is the
difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders, ministers, not
messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own.