Friday, January 15, 2010

More Gratitude

I am doing my best to avoid seeing pictures of the devastation in Haiti. I simply can not shake such images out of my head, and it makes me feel so hopeless to see the despair. I saw one picture of a mother, writhing in emotional pain on the ground, as she mourned the loss of her child. In that glimpse, I was she and she was I and I shared her pain and it was hard to breathe.

The other night when Tessa was drifting off to sleep, I crawled into bed with her for a quiet snuggle. We talked about our days, giggled, whispered, and I felt the warmth of her body next to mine. I held her close and every cell in my body sent out a prayer for the people of Haiti, wishing that they could experience the same comfort.

I do have things to complain about - we all do. My wrist still hurts, especially when I over-use it, and it has a combination of burning and throbbing pains. Money is still tight. I still have nightmares about cancer, and I still bear the scars and pains and fatigue. The porch still needs replacing. And we have to drink cheap wine. (That last one added for humor. Ha.)

And the people of Haiti are quite unintentionally reminding me of my massive, amazing, incredible good fortune.

I am alive. My family is alive and well. When we are sick, we get medical care, and, miracle of miracles, we heal. We turn on the tap and water comes out every time - hot and cold, and we don't have to boil it before we drink it. The cupboards are full of food, and when they run low, we go to one of a dozen nearby stores to restock them with food. My bed is comfortable. I held a party (church potluck) and 50 people came to my house, and not one complained about inadequacies - the children laughed, the adults talked.

And our home - our lovely home. Today, I'm not seeing the rotten porch and the missing fireplace (what kind of 1923 house doesn't have a fireplace?!) and the 1970s basement. No, today I don't see that at all. I am seeing warmth, light, polished hardwood floors. I'm seeing colors chosen because they give me joy and soothe me. I'm hearing the rain beat on the windows, mixed with the sounds of Mozart on the radio. I'm gazing at hundreds and hundreds (thousands?) of books, chosen because they sounded interesting. My giant puppy is on the floor beside me, sleek and well fed and loyal; my cat refuses all but one kind of food (he's a bit of a grumpy old man sometimes) but spends each night curled at my feet. The phone rings with offers to play, to gather, to dine, to share.

In the darkest days of my life - my cancer, Ryan's depression, then my own depression - I still had this warm, comfortable home. I went to bed every night beneath soft blankets; I still had music and books and friends and family to soothe me. When my body ached beyond bearing, loving hands swooped in to care for me, my home, my family. "We're here for you," they said, and they meant it. Ryan stayed with me, Tessa kept laughing, and we remain a family, loving each other.

So today I'm thinking about all of that incredible good fortune.

The people of Haiti have lost so much already. On the radio, I heard about the contaminated drinking water, and how the silver lining is that the people of Haiti mostly already know about contaminated water and how to treat it. I saw a picture of a shantytown - the poorest of the poor, and even their shacks are gone now. I heard that most people can live three days without food and water.

And the pain of the real loss - the people. It is unbearable. All of the losses grab me, but the ones that hurt me the most are the mothers losing children. And children losing mothers. I know that those mothers love their children as much as I love Tessa, and that those children need their mothers as much as Tessa needs me. ESPECIALLY in the midst of this devastation. I think to myself that maybe I could handle it if I had Tessa beside me reminding me to care for her. Maybe. But if I lost her? My mind would leave me, too.

And the thought of Tessa, separated from Ryan and I, wandering in the streets, hungry and frightened and among corpses? No. Nononono. NO. Just writing that makes me want to fly to her school to hold her, to stroke her hair, to remind myself of her aliveness, her happiness, her safety.

And for the people of Haiti, it's not an exercise in gratitude. It is their hell on earth right now, stepping over bodies and looking for survivors and broken bones without casts and illness without antibiotics. Undoubtedly, there are cancer patients needing radiation or surgery or chemo and now they have nothing, not even water.

Here in Seattle, clean water is falling from the sky, and inside my warm home, I'm sipping peppermint tea and writing and thinking. What great luxuries. My life is one giant luxury.

My prayers for the people of Haiti. My condolences. My tears.

We sent a little check to help, and another Alki mom, Jill, convinced me (merely by mentioning it) to hold a fundraiser for Haiti involving the children of Alki Elementary. This weekend, our church is holding a soup lunch as a fundraiser for Haiti, and I am making a big pot of chili to donate to the event. (Want to come with me? Call me!)

My impact is tiny, just a drop of water in the sea of need. But I am doing what I can, and I hope that others will, too.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


I've always been a talker; my mother says that I was born that way. (And that my favorite word was "no" but that is another post.)

I'm working on being a better listener these days; maybe that is one of the reasons that my blog has been so silent. I'm listening to my body, and it says that I am tired; I'm listening to my inner voice, which reminds me to stay true; I'm trying to listen more to Ryan and Tessa and all of those in my life I care so much about.

I'm also listening to the rain fall against the windows - a soothing sound. And I'm listening to Alison Kraus crooning on the CD player, melodious and sweet.

My wrist is still hurting quite a bit; I overdid it again yesterday and the price was a burning and throbbing sensation that reminded me not to do that again. It is not broken - two sets of x-rays have confirmed that - but "just a bad sprain" and it is definitely getting better. At first I couldn't even hold anything in that hand, and now, with modifications, I can do most long as I don't do too much.

Ryan is settling into his latest PwC job, another Microsoft placement, and though the work sounds interesting and promising, the commute is horrible, and he spends a lot of time on a bus. He has a good attitude about it, and I am grateful for that. This gig looks like it goes through March, so at least it's not too long. We're still hoping for placements at Seattle firms.

Tessa is, well, Tessa. She's growing, both physically and intellectually, in leaps and bounds. She's going through another round of outgrowing her clothes and eating around the clock, and she's really doing well at school. She's started reading some chapter books, and she's doing much better with her homework so that it's not like pulling teeth the way it was for the first part of this year. She's excited for her upcoming birthday - we're going ice skating with a small group of her girlfriends. She is still madly in love with her American Girl doll, and takes it with her most places (though she has to leave it at home when she goes to school). She's also in love with The Beatles - she's getting Rubber Soul and Abbey Road for her birthday, at her request.

I am really slowed down by my wrist and by fatigue, but I'm doing my usual nesting around the house, and playdates with Tessa's friends, and chaperoning field trips, and the like.

One of the biggest pieces of excitement on our horizon is that our church, West Side Unitarian Universalist, is trying to buy their (our) own building. There is a very promising property, and the church is in negotiations, and in the middle of a giant capital campaign to raise funds. Our current space is rented, and it barely works for us - there are no windows, no is not a very worshipful space and it doesn't accomodate families well at all. The new building is in a 1950s church previously owned by the Baptists, and it has big windows, some of which have views of the Sound, and some of which have pretty stained glass. It has real church pews instead of folding chairs, and, glory of glories, actual classrooms and meeting spaces. I hate that Ryan and I don't have much money to spare (this is where, once again, I say "I HATE CANCER DEBT!") to help the cause, but we will help in as many ways as we can. In addition to being a place where we worship on Sundays, our church has become an important part of our community. Tessa has "adoptive" Grandparents there, Lois and Creighton, who dote on her almost as much as she dotes on them; I have found friends of my own, too. Ryan is involved with the Habitat for Humanity project, I'm involved with Family Promise. We can't wait to host Family Promise in our own space, to hold town meetings there, to gather together to play and laugh and drink coffee and potluck. Tessa has lots of friends there, and it makes me smile to see the kids running around and laughing together, and I hope that she will grow up with these children.

I also have an image of Tessa, on Ryan's arm, walking down the aisle in a long white dress in this building.

Only time will tell, but I am hopeful.

So our days go by, and we are busy, and grateful for our lives. Last night I crawled into bed with Tessa and snuggled and laughed with her, talking past her bedtime, and as I held her I felt my whole body give out a prayer for the families of Haiti. I complain - wrists, debt, broken dishwasher, the usual - but my life is rich and blessed and I am grateful. I wish that everyone was so lucky.