Friday, December 28, 2012

For Bridget

Sometimes in life, a person crosses your path who simply takes your breath away.
Their spirit is so strong so powerful, things change when they are near. The best of these people can leave a presence so moving that you change your own behavior for the better.

Bridget Spence is one of those people. She is young and so it is hard to believe that in her short life she has had such an impact, but it has been her destiny.

If there was a way to "save' her from this destiny, I would be one of the first in line to make it happen. Bridget was diagnosed with Breast Cancer at the age of 21, months after graduating from college. She has dreams like everyone. Her dreams included marrying a fantastic man, buying a house, traveling the world, having a family. Her dreams did not include having Cancer.

When Bridget first felt a lump she went to her doctor. The doctor assured her there wasn't anything to worry about since she was so young. Later, when she was diagnosed, the Cancer was grade 4 - Her 2 positive Breast Cancer. The doctor "ran his hands through his hair and said I don't know what to do for you."

Bridget went to Komen. From the moment she asked for help, Komen was there. They were there with a recommendation of a Doctor who worked specifically with younger  patients. They found her a support group of young survivors where she could get support from and give support to her peers. The research funded by Komen was the reason she could try 20 different drugs, some brand new drugs. She participated in 3 clinical trials and her tumors shrunk only to grow again. But the good news in the story of Bridget is not only what we have learned from her Cancer, it is that Bridget has been able to marry her "big man", travel the world holding his hand (even in the snow in Vienna for New Years last year), buy a house (last August) and change the world. In the 6 years Komen helped give her, she has touched hundreds of thousands of lives and her story will continue to change the course of Breast Cancer getting us closer to a day without the fear of it's power.

Bridget is just a young woman, not yet 30.
She wrote a blog that will inspire you, that will touch you and I believe will spur you on to join this fight. If you haven't read her blog, the time to read it is now.

Her last entry was a couple of days ago. It was her goodbye. She asks that she not be forgotten. I can promise you and her I will do what I can to be sure she is always remembered, especially on the day we wake up to a world without Breast Cancer. Because you see, Bridget will have helped create it.

The link below is the entire speech Bridget made to the Komen Leadership conference this year. If this doesn't move you, nothing will. God Bless you Bridget.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

December in review.

This has been a busy holiday season. Starting with Glenn's Dad's 90th birthday, then our Christmas party and our younger daughters visit. Then Allison and Chris arriving for a Baby Shower and Christmas. It seems as if I have been cooking and cleaning and entertaining for a month... oh wait... I have! Frankly I am exhausted, and feel like I gained 20 pounds. I look at the house and the decorations to be packed and stored and I want to take a nap.

Like most holidays this one has been an emotional potpourri. Certainly there has been an abundance of joy. Celebrating family and friends and most assuredly a grand baby on the way, but there has been sadness as well (my father in the nursing home, Sandy Hook, a close friend's loss of a parent, a dear young person's sadness and yesterday Bridget Spence saying goodbye after a 6 year battle with Breast Cancer) . But in this post I want to focus on the joy, share a few pictures, extend my gratitude.

We started our celebrations by visiting Glenn's Dad who was celebrating his 90th birthday. I cooked him a nice meal and we shared Marker's Mark and Cake. He is as sharp as they come. We can certainly be grateful for that. I am sure he appreciated the visit.

I am incredibly grateful for the people in my life. I have some truly amazing friends who have filled our years with memories we share. There has not been one year that I did not have a Christmas Party. Get me straight here, I haven't always felt like having a Christmas party. It's a lot of work. When I was pregnant I had bruised heels from standing in the kitchen! Even before I married Glenn I threw a Christmas Party in my home in Redlands. Some years I invite lots of clients and acquaintances, some years it is the core group. This year, I stuck with the core group. Santa of course would make an appearance since we have 3 wonderful children in our lives now to share him with. Katie was here this year and had a couple of her friends come by to spend some time. I had some dear Sorority sisters there with their hubbys and that is ALWAYS good.  The big tree seems to be more of a commitment than it used to be. But it was shining bright and smiles were everywhere.

We visited with Glenn's Dad with Katie so they could catch up. Katie and I went shopping for Blixa, Dominic and the new baby. It was good together time all around. On the morning before she left we opened presents.

But then she was back on a plane to Washington, and her life there. It is the first Christmas I can recall that she would not be home for, but I was glad we could celebrate a little in advance.

Then it was Allison and Chris's turn. It will be the last time I see my daughter and son in law without a child in tow. The next time I see her will be when I go back east to help out after the baby is born. Seeing the two of them so full of excitement was wonderful. (Even with the back story of knowing they most likely will never live nearby - it was fun to play the Grandma for a week.)

I planned a shower and invited people we know well, people who have known Allison since she was little. At the time I started planning the shower I knew only that they planned on decorating the nursery in yellow and greens with a jungle theme (mentioning monkeys). Later we discovered the baby is a little girl.

The gifts were special. The company enjoyed themselves. The food nearly disappeared and everyone left full and sassy. We played three shower games, "Name the Baby" where people matched the baby pictures with current day photos; First Baby Born , where ice cubes with plastic babies float in drinks until the first one escapes; and guess the number of good wishes in the jar ( a jar filled with jelly bellies).

After everyone left and we were on our own for awhile, the routine was..sit down, open your device and hang out. Oh and eat, we sure did eat.

The day before Christmas Eve we headed up to Petaluma to shop for a pattern for the Baby Quilt I will make. Through the rain and wind.... We also decided to add a border and some more colors so once it is done, I will post a picture so you can see the final project.

Christmas Eve we went by Opa's (Glenn's Dad's house) and shared a cup of cheer. Then on to our dear friends the Cihak's house. Their Christmas Eve is as traditional for them as our Christmas party is for us. Their group too seemed smaller than years past. Their daughter is up in Oregon and couldn't join them for Christmas. But  it was a good time, with good friends, some of whom I actually saw 3 times in 2 weeks!

Once home we planned to get up and open presents on grownup schedules and that is what we did.

We opened our Christmas presents first then had our Christmas breakfast. Diced New Braunfels Ham and Cinnamon rolls with Mimosas. The idea of Christmas dinner seemed to be crazy but we had ours planned. Friends were going to join us who had to cancel at the last minute so we had food for 7 for 4! Prime Rib, Yorkshire Pudding, Roasted Potatoes, Asparagus - Home made Peppermint Ice Cream and Hot fudge sauce. Ok maybe I actually have gained 20 pounds now that I think of it.

I just dropped Allison and Chris off at the airport and they are flying back to the other side of the country. I suppose in a day or so things will begin to return to semi normal. There most likely is nothing normal about our lives. They are blessed. I am blessed. Each and every day I think about how sweet life is. How little time we are given and how important it is to be present for every minute of it. I think about what a waste it is when people will hold onto the negative and not embrace the joy. I think of how important family is and how time and life is pulling us all in different directions. NEVER should we be disconnected - not matter the miles - no matter the difficulties. We have each other and for that we are very lucky. I for one do not want to diminish that gift.... I love you all.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Love in the face of hate

I have always believe light is stronger than darkness.

Last Friday darkness descended on a school in Newton Conneticut and took with it 26 bright lights. The saddness that followed for me was nearly crippling. It is easy to say "What wrong with this world." Or debate gun laws or mental health issues. There is very little any of us can do to stop true evil. The one thing we can do is to live our lives with more love. To live our lives in more connection to others and not less. We can't turn back the clock and save anyone. But by our actions, we can change the world around us for the better.

My dear friend Leslie started a group on Facebook to help us all create more light and love in our world. She did this to help deal with her grief over Sandy Hook. Here is how she explains it.

This is a website dedicated to the idea that we are not powerless in the face of horror. It is designed to combat the helpless fear and sadness overtaking our nation. Join me in pledging to perform 26 acts of love and kindness to send a message to the families consumed by grief that we honor their beloved with our acts of love.

Let's give the nightly news a story we aren't afraid to listen to with our young children.

If enough people act perhaps it will tighten families, communities, nations and maybe just maybe it will rescue someone when they really need to be rescued.

Join me and perform these 26 acts and leave a note of explanation where possible to honor the victims and perhaps inspire the recipients to pass it along.

Feel free to post your ideas on the website and thank you.

I started on my 26 acts a couple of days ago by going down to our local school and delivering some baklava to them. I told the secretary I wanted to acknowledge our local heros. I gave her the card that explained this was one of my 26 acts of love to honor the victims of Sandy Creek. I then went to Safeway where there were three young teens in line pulling out their dollars to pay for their lunch. I told the clerk and them "I'm paying for that." It was only $9 but the look on the girls faces was priceless. I told them why I was doing it and asked them to do something unexpected and nice for someone else and tell them why. The clerk, the people in line behind me and the girls had stunned looks on their faces that slowly turned to smiles. My 3rd act was a donation to someone I don't know who is walking in their first 3 day for $26.

Today, I gave out 20 $10 cards at Target as part of my 26 Acts of Love. It was really strange and a lot of people were looking at me like I had some sort of agenda. I would just hand them the card and say Merry Christmas. The card said “Accept this gift in the spirit in which it was given. This is one of my 26 Acts of Love in honor of the 26 victims of Sandy Hook. Pay this spirit forward if you are able.” Then just the facebook address for the group.

I had about 6 left in my hand and a security guard came up to me. She just stood there, so I assured her there was no solicitation at all. And I handed her a card and said this is for you. She opened it up and was taken aback. She showed me a couple of cards she had in her hand. They were anonymous Christmas cards just wishing people a Happy Holiday with some children’s drawings inside. She said she had picked up 7 of these shattered around Vintage Oaks. The front said Open from a Secret friend.

As I was attempting to give out the last of the cards several woman came back to find me. Tears in their eyes, they thanked me and gave me the longest most heart felt hugs ever – one right after the other. They all promised to pay it forward. I handed out the last of the cards and left in tears.

Then I went to the emergency room of Marin General. I went up to the desk and dropped off a platter of Christmas cookies with the card attached and asked that they be shared with the Drs. Nurses and Staff. I thanked the person and left. The final stop today was the nursing home. There was a man my Dad’s age sitting in a wheelchair – staring out with little connection to me or anything else. I heard a woman groaning in another room. Finally someone came to the desk and I told her my cookies were to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. I explained my father was in a rehab place far away from anyone. As I left the man who seemingly was in a never ending daze, looked directly at me and said “Thank you – Merry Christmas”. 

So I have comepleted 25 acts, but I have one more act of love. As I drove home I passed many places where there were people I had worked with, or gotten help from - the Cancer Center, the Hand Therapy Center on and on. I thought to myself how often we don’t acknowledge or thank people when we should. I thought how often time goes by, we get caught up in work, in life , the sometimes negative collection of troubles that seem to overwhelm so much else. I hope in this holiday we can reach out and make a difference even in the smallest of ways.

Leslie and Rob in the days their daughter's illness fought Cancer and were faced with the idea she may leave them at a very young age. That kind of pain they imagined, but thank God they didn't have to live through. Those parents and grandparents in Newtown are living the unimaginable.   I want to flood our lives with a light so bright, people don't need to be afraid to be in a "society like ours." I want the reality we expect to be one of kindness and love not bitterness and hate.   If you would like to join this movement visit www.facebook/26actsoflove