Friday, November 25, 2016

My Brother is a Cop

Four cops were shot last week.
My brother is a cop. I won't tell you about his views on gun laws or legalizing marijuana or who he voted for in this ugly election. I won't tell you how he feels about black Americans or Mexicans or Muslims or the LGTB...oh wait... I will tell you that. He said to me the other day, " I don't see those things, I just see people. People hurting, people scared, and I try to keep all the people safe, in every situation." I will also tell you that my brother loves the mountains and the rivers and the forests. And he loves the deer that come to his back door each morning for grain. And he loves his wife. And his son. And me. 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

I am a Helicopter Mom. Proudly.

Last week when I took Jasmine to the DMV, the smart ass behind the counter motioned his head towards me and asked Jasmine, "Does she always hover like that?"

"Yes!" I said, "Yes I do! And we are in the right line, right? The one where you give my baby girl a driving permit so she can hop in a tin can and be chased around the OC by boys smoking and texting and speeding? Not to mention all the massive, wobbly trucks barreling down the high way changing lanes haphazardly like there's no one else on the planet! And, oh yeah, there's this little tiny issue with the thing called DRUNKS ON THE ROAD!"

Actually, I didn't really say any of that. I just gave him a warning scowl and then mumbled something about how this is my third daughter to get her permit and I think I know what I'm doing and then I quietly took my seat in the Nervous Parent Waiting Area.

I hold my breath. I hold my breath to see if she passes the test. Let me be clear, I am not an over-achiever mom. Some may say I'm even an under achiever, 5 unfinished semesters of junior college and absolutely nothing to show for it. It's the straight up truth. I signed up, 5 times. I paid, 5 times. I picked out classes and bought books, 5 times. And then I dropped out half way, sometimes three quarters of the way, 5 times. I do not make brownies, I do not go to PTA meetings and I do not volunteer at school.

But still...I hold my breath for her. I hold my breath to see if she's happy, if she feels good about the test. Each day, I hold my breath to see if she accomplishes her goals and if she has grace and light for herself when she doesn't. I hold my breath to hear if she feels strong and confident and brave. I hold my breath to hear if she shares laughter and feels like she belongs. And I hold my breath for all her itty-bitty parts that can seem so big. I hold my breath to see if she feels good about her outfit, her hair, her weight. I hold my breath and imagine I'm in the halls, at the lunch tables, sitting in class trying to retain Algebra 2. I hold my breath to hear if the mean girls were maybe just a little bit... after all my praying and begging...nicer today. And I daydream about hovering in and watching over. And I pray the Holy Spirit goes with her where I cannot.  

And when I pick her up, I listen and wait. I wait to hear the things that give me permission to exhale...I'm pretty sure I got most of the answers right on the quiz...I'm having a great hair day, don't ya think mom...It was so funny at lunch when...

And so it goes, today I will breathe.

I can hear her now, strumming her guitar, she tells me she’s trying to learn a new song. Her voice is gentle and powerful all at once. Innocent and wise…as she is becoming.

And I hover, I certainly do…

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Email Beats Phone Call

An email beats a call from the doctor, hands-down any day of the week. When I woke up and saw the email from the Dermatology Center I opened it like a kid on Christmas morning.

It said... I was free! 

Well, It didn't actually say that, but what it did say was, "Good news Tamara! Your biopsy showed NO signs of melanoma. No further treatment is needed at this time. We will see you in August for your check up. Have a great day!"

A great day!


Sweet, sweet freedom. 

Free to go to yoga.

Free to plant dahlias on my porch.

Free to go pick up Summer and help move her boxes home.

Free to go to May's graduation. 

Free to plan May's wedding.

Free to hold my new baby nephew and smell the top of his head. 

Free to go to my brother's wedding in Oregon.

Free to go to the beach...

of course with a wee bit more rules, but no mind that...

I am free of cancer.
Some people say that you should live one day at a time, but in Melanoma world you kinda live 3 months at a time...
and I'm gonna live the hell out of the next 3 months!

Monday, May 2, 2016

Today is day 12 that I've been waiting for the phone to ring. I am not afraid. For I know that no matter what my doctor says, I am whole and I am healed and I will live forever. But most importantly I know that, whatever happens, God is good all the time. I know this in my bones.

But still, this has been a super rough 12 days. When she did the biopsy I barely flinched. My doctor is pregnant with a baby girl and I was busy cooing. As she removed the mole, I was preoccupied talking about baby names and how hard it is to be pregnant through the August heat. She and I have become good friends over this last difficult year.

It wasn't til later that night when the bandaid fell off that I gave the site a second thought. It was angry. Dark purple around the edges and black in the middle. I gasped and Jon came into the bathroom, examined the site, and with big eyes, put one hand over his mouth and shook his head. We've been here before.

And that's the real problem. I know the toll this takes on my family. It throws off our family rhythm,  it's exhausting for everyone, and it's expensive. Plus, I don't love surgery, and after the first few days when the happy pain pills wear off, I get cabin fever and I get whiny. I get tired of asking for a drink of water, I get tired of needing help to get dressed and I will always be tired of needing help to get to the bathroom. I'm the mom, and these things put me in opposite-land.

Also, I simply don't have time for surgery right now. It's almost summertime, and I have wonderful plans. May graduates college this Saturday and we have much planning to do for her wedding. Summer is coming home from studying in the mountains for the semester. I haven't seen her since February! Her and I have months of coffee and tea time to make up for. And my baby sister and her husband are coming to stay with us in two weeks, from very far across the pond, and bringing my new nephew who I have only seen in pictures and not yet smelled the top of his sweet baby head. Plus, Jazi loves to go to Laguna now with her friends, of course drenched in sunscreen, but I love driving them all there, we roll down the windows and blast Aurora on the stereo. It makes me feel like one of the girls. And in June we are traveling to Oregon to see my brother finally wed his lovely lady of 20 years. And my other sister and nieces and nephews are flying out from Tennessee and we have several beach days planned.
I have purchased a very wide brimmed hat and a sun-protection shawl and painted my toes bright watermelon pink, so as you can see, I simply have no time for melanoma.

I hope God gets my memo about this. Maybe the fall would work better for me, I could probably squeeze it in after my birthday in September but before Thanksgiving, or maybe even after Christmas but before the new year, like last year's surgery. That is better timing for me.

But I'd really like this summer to be cancer free. Free is such a great word. Free to splash in the waves, free to spread my toes in the warm sand, free to eat tuna sandwiches with sweet pickles while I watch the kids make sandcastles. You can take the melanoma out of the girl, but you can't take the beach out of the girl.

I promise to where my hat.

I promise to where my shawl.

I promise to wear my sunscreen.

I promise.

So now can the phone please ring?

Saturday, April 9, 2016

I had another cancer dream last night. They always leave me groggy and unsettled when I wake.

I had a little bit of cancer at Christmas time. They say they got it all, but my dreams still worry. 

In last night's dream, my stitches were growing out of my chest and belly like unruly old-man grey hairs. I was trying to tweeze them, but they were thin and wiry and moving like seaweed under the waves.

At the roots, where they crept through my skin, were tiny rivers of blood and Jon was angry with me for making them fester. I tried to cover the sites with bandages, but the stitches weaved their way up through the gauze, along with tiny patches of blood. 

The thing is, it's been almost 4 months, but my stitches are really still in there. They were supposed to dissolve, but my body always spits them out for years after any incision. I know this because these last two surgeries make 12 spots where they have cut at me. And when I run my hand over the scars, they are lumpy and pokey and sore. 

But they really did say they got it least for now. And I have been living, really living as deeply and honestly and creatively and thankfully as much as I possibly can. 

My mind moves slower, stays longer to meditate on the gifts that surround me. Jasmine's cheek. I touch it with the back of my hand and it is still as soft as when she was a baby. 
Music is ridiculously soothing, seeping into every part of me and making me whole. 
Fresh bread and butter and strawberry jam have changed my life.
And oh how I wish you could see the rain falling on the purple pansies on my porch right now, they're wiggling like happy puppies in a garden hose as they drink in the water.

People say, "it's the little things" and it's the truest of truths. It can be that the little thing is the worst of all things, a little bit of cancer. It could be the end of the world, and somewhere inside me, when I try to sleep, my body likes to tell me that.

But it's morning now, and joy comes in the morning. And I am awake now and in charge of my thoughts. And for this moment, I am thinking of my warm cup of coffee and my husband's silly morning hair and the rain outside that our dry land so desperately needs.