8 Lessons I Learned After Losing My Mother 

Had to share a guest blog…

 

My mother was just 48 when I lost her. I was 24. In a way we knew that it was coming. She had stage four lung cancer and it was only a matter of time until I would have to face the heart breaking r…

Source: 8 Lessons I Learned After Losing My Mother

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Cancer is Not Cancer; The Agony of being Dependent.

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This was written when I was still quite sick a number of months ago.  I was too low at the time it was written to post it.  I’ve decided to post it now.  I  share it to truth-speak about how painful cancer can be. Sharing what it was for me, as a way of being a voice for those who have not words to share.  This rant of sorts is not an attack on any one person, but a broad-brushed painting of the reality of what it is to be sick and dependant on others.

Cancer is not cancer. It’s not breast cancer or thyroid cancer. It’s strokes, heart attack activity that isn’t, doctors treating you like a hypochondriac while functioning slips away.  It’s skin that peels, clothes that don’t fit anymore, potassium levels so low that legs throb through the night.  It’s not recognizing yourself in the mirror.  Foggy mind half the time not remembering what I’ve said, what you’ve said, what we were talking about.  It’s family sweet as can be, and condescending sometimes too.  It’s having to listen to people “Oh you look like you’re feeling better” while the entire left side of body is numbed out, can’t hear from the left ear, do laundry for five minutes before having chest pain and doctor saying “you’re heart is in great shape”.  It’s your little six year old daughter telling you that you get first place for being the meanest one in the family.  The mean mom that gets tired of the denigrating remarks when trying to get kids to do their chores, one by one the entire family decides they are going to be sicker than Mom today – until their pals come over and off they race across the yard, Nerf and laser guns a-blazing, and once again, when they return to the house, asked to pick up coat, or feed the dog, the sudden illness takes over and death is at the door. 

It’s the doctors passing their job off to another doctor.  Oh it’s the endocrinologists job, no the oncologists job, no the primary care, … .on it goes, while the mystery symptoms that take away my ability to take walks, swim, drive, to care for my kids get worse.  The computerized diagnosis is last word, with physical problems all hovering in the “rare” category, no one bothering to dig deeper while symptoms hold me in place, so much piling up around me, and I must be still. 

Cancer is having all the kind persons who have pitched in to help become judgmental of the way my life looks, judgmental of what happens in this house, condescending of who I am.  It’s having to receive help from others who don’t respect me because they are incapable of helping and empathizing at the same time.  The most empathetic person is the world can flip a switch when doing another a good turn.  It’s watching them lose respect by the day – each and every act of kindness they provide decreases the peer to peer relationship – me having no alternative but to receive it. 

Cancer is not a surgery and missing body part.  It’s the loss, week by weakening week of clients, and eventually a career.  The destruction of a business.  The death of a dream.  It’s not rosy and romantic.  It’s ugly – creepy … the stopper of life.  And I’m stuck between.  Alive and not at all.  Stuck receiving support, care, favors, errands, driving kids to school, with bitterness in the doer, irritation of the helper, and shame at being the taker. 

The part of cancer I can do quite well is walk into the hell hole of the chopping block.  I can tolerate physical pain.  I can usually manage being mangled.  I can’t handle the shame I feel receiving assistance – the baring all – the inside scoop on our junk, irritably of the one doing all the favors due to their superiority and my shame. 

Cancer could be the most ideal way to go if it weren’t for all that.  Known outcomes, time frames, managed symptoms until death.  What makes it awful is loss of dignity (relationship) with people I care about most due to my neediness at the end, and their inability to give and maintain respect for the person they are giving to.  A few of us can give without shaming – most of the time, a few can receive without feeling the shame, but most can not.  We call it being “stewards” of our time and money by nosing into others lives when a need arises.  ‘If she hadn’t let herself go, he’d have never looked elsewhere.”  “There are consequences to slacking on the job”.  “Live and learn”.  We have all said things like this – or thought them.  It’s obvious it’s wrong to give cash to a meth addict.  We take this reasoning further and do harm – judge – while extending a helping hand.  I tell you from the receiving end, it helps more to not help but maintain a relationship of respect then to help with judgment.

Most of us have ZERO BUSINESS being involved in another’s crisis, because crisis is a HOLY PLACE.  It’s where God hovers.  It is SACRED.  Anytime we have all the answers, we do harm.  Anytime we can’t give without judgment, we harm.  Anytime we get inside the disaster of each other’s life and can’t set judgment aside, we hurt each other.  I’m getting to feel it, first hand.  No one means to harm.  They just want the system to work better.  Just want routines in place that make things better, but that’s not how it feels to the one is on the receiving end.  If I ever get beyond this cancer mess, I vow to God and to others that I will NEVER HELP SOMEONE UNLESS I CAN HAVE A SOLID CHECK ON MY ATTITUDE. 

Do I resent helping my kids with things they need help with? 

How does that make them feel? 

Do I resent making supper. 

Giving a gift and resenting the giving DOES HARM. 

Do I resent helping a friend, I HAVE ZERO BUSINESS HELPING UNLESS I CAN HELP FROM A PLACE OF EMPATHY. 

Cancer is not cancer. 

Cancer is everything else – but one thing. 

Cancer is not Boss, God is. 

God is the only one out there I know what manages disasters and love all at the same time. 

If i’m well enough to work again, I’m working for Him.

What Race are the Kindest of Doctors?

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I had a doctor once, slight of stature, brown kind eyes, practical wash and wear hair, nothing fancy about her, and the one who sifted through mountains of charts – two separate charts belonging to one giant medical system.  One chart spelled with an “e”, the other spelled correctly without.  Both charts mine – and she found them.  Bent over her desk.  Diligent she was. 

Discovered, out of dozens of notes that I have 2 MTHFR gene mutations.  This information was not found where one might expect.  She found it anyway, because she worked on my case.   From this information she realized I must not take Tamoxifen, a medicine used for breast cancer patients who are found to be estrogen positive.  A medicine that can cause a stroke for those with my gene mutation.  She suggested I not take it.  Diligent hunt.  Diligent follow-through. 

I had 6 miscarriages before the gene mutation was looked for and identified. 

The gene mutation that caused the miscarriages. 

A number of doctors did not check, though they knew my history.

One did. 

Brown kind eyes he had, too.

Found it. 

Treated it. 

And Butterfly was born perfect and alive.

“Miscarriages are not unusual. 

They are nature’s way of discarding what is flawed”

say lazy doctors everywhere,

brown and blue eyed alike. 

Those doctors who do not see the value in learning the cause of a problem

before using one-liner’s to shush up the likes of me.

My PCP, always respectful of me, when I mentioned how heavy my sheets felt on my neck at night while laying on my back, immediately stepped out of the tiny examining room, hurried down the hall and ordered an ultrasound.  There it was, thyroid cancer. My endocrinologist who hand checked my neck each and every visit paid no attention when I told him the same story.  One doctor listened. On doctor didn’t.  Taking little stock in what the person that lives inside the body might know about herself.

After the thyroid cancer diagnosis, my husband and I asked my oncologist if thyroid cancer might have been related to the breast cancer I had months before.  She said “no”.  The next visit, the same oncologist brought in research showing us she had been wrong.  Said that it very well might have been related. 

She didn’t have to tell. 

Didn’t have to admit she had been wrong. 

There are doctors who are sloppy, lazy, don’t read the fine print. 

Make mistakes because they don’t listen,

don’t trust,

don’t respect. 

And then there are the doctor’s who do.

Thank God for the gene testing doctor’s of the world.

Doctor’s who don’t take it upon themselves to social engineer other people’s lives. 

Doctor’s who don’t minimize another person’s need when it causes them inconvenience.

For doctor’s that hunt and read and listen. 

The doctor’s who set aside ego, and act accordingly.   

I am alive because of some good ‘work hard for another’s sake’ sort-of doctor’s.

Women,

Men,

Asian,

Puerto Rican,

Jewish

Irish,

Tibetan,

Middle Eastern,

African American,

German,

a mix of them all. 

Each of these good doctors have more in common with each other than language and country of origin.  Hard-working kindness is a culture of it’s own.  A race of kind hearts, and kind eyes. 

I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin,

but by the content of their character.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Seattle Summer

 

 

You come to us when hope is gone,  

grey sog-ed muddy though we be.  

A corner of the planet

slashed from Spring’s itinerary.

When finally when you show your face,

we swoon and soak our need.

We must not waste one bit of you.

Burnt parchment skin, with greed.

Proud we are when sun beats hot,

to let our grass dry dead and brown.

As if to say, we’ve paid our due.

We’ll have a summertime here, too!

Even when the rain returns,

has now been months since sun shone here, 

wipers working overtime,

cross the oft-washed window blur.

Lawn now filled in nice and green,

I find myself in summer things.

Legs a-shiver’n in my shorts.

Feet still lacking shoes.

A way to hold onto the heat,

tapping barefoot blues.

By Lisa Boyl-Davis

August 18, 2016

Billboard Hiding

Sitting on a bench alongside my friend in a sundown park, people, they are everywhere and we watch.  Watch the milling about, the comings and goings.  A group of boys silently step out of the overgrowth, walking slower than boys going any place at all, more silent than any collection of guys together on any August evening. And without a billboard announcing drug sales and drug use, 7 boys let the entire park in on what they’d been up to.  Hiding. 

I know this hiding.  Our kids start young.  Round eyes watch through soft blond lashes, little arms tight behind back.  I peek round the little hider.  Melted blobs of green, yellow, orange, red.  Warmed M&M’s concealed behind brown smudged lips and chubby fists.  It’s hard not to laugh just a little.  It’s cute at 3.  Not so cute thereafter. 

What if boys and girls of all ages came right out and stated:

“I use drugs and sell it to my friends.”

“I sneak your credit card number and use it intermittently so you won’t notice”

“I prefer porn to people”

“I cheat on my taxes”

“I live in more of a house than I can afford so you will think I’m important”

Honest, and still not helpful enough.  I’m thinking it’s not the lie that feels so worth hiding.  It’s the action.  And why, with all the variety of ways to think about life, with a wide range of taste in popsicle flavors do people choose to hide and lie about certain behaviors rather than just say “I’m grape, you’re strawberry”?  Maybe lying is used for avoiding trouble.  The law doesn’t support kids snorting coke in bushes.  Doesn’t support streakers.  The baby doesn’t want M&M’s taken away. 

And still, at times we hide because we don’t like and don’t approve of the way WE act, and don’t want anyone who isn’t doing what we are doing to see us act the way we act. 

Shame is a thing of the eyes.

It’s eyes catching the action of another person’s shame.  Eyes seeing bottle downed.  Eyes watching as item is lifted.  Eyes that make pretese hiding so ridicules.  We think no one can see our pretense, and then we parade it out for all.  Never knowing.

What do I hate about my own actions?  What do I think I hide from you – that indecent piece of me I’d rather die than let you see?  The hiding I do is a waste.  I’m not hidden.  I’m announced.  The knowledge of good and evil.  The garden gift we all share.  To see the shame of another, no matter how much we try to conceal. 

Let my eyes be used for loving, no matter another’s shame I see.  Let my own eyes notice my own shame – with purpose in mind.  Let me allow kind eyes to peer into who I am, those healing eyes of knowing and loving anyway.

  

Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked.  Genesis 3:7

Jesus looked at him and loved him.  Mark 10:21.

You’re Gone

DSC_0153Breast Cancer killed you.  It took and done way with you, my friend.  Tore your life away.  Now you’re gone.  We were both getting well to run a ridge together on some grand mountaintop.  Now we can’t. I can’t even believe it.  You’re gone.  You died this morning “quietly in her sleep”.  Quietly.  Right. That’s what happens when your very breath is choked out, your brain is eaten, you just die and I HATE IT.  I’m so so so sorry Wendy, that they couldn’t heal you.  Wonder why God said no.  So sick and angry that your life is gone.  I want you back.  Want to fb you once again.  Call you on the phone.  Want to get off my lazy ass and get an airplane ticket and fly out to your Ohio farm and hold your hand and command you “Get Up in Jesus Name” but I had my fears, was too lazy and I didn’t and you are nowhere to be found as you have died, and have been taken away, and are no more and I ache with Leif who is alone now, and for your beautiful daughters who had to watch cancer show its menacing teeth, ripping tearing at you until you disappeared but for ash and earth and a stone overhead.  I HATE CANCER.  You were alive, an active God fearing beautiful woman.  Another beautiful woman fighting thyroid cancer also young died few weeks ago.  I’ve been holding on by strands, and feel I’m slipping away with the rest of you have who have been taken.  You had breast cancer, she had thyroid cancer.  I’ve had both.  How am I to fare?  I needed you both to make it, and you didn’t.  Your families, they have their reasons to need you to live.  I have my own.  I want to live.  Why will I live when you don’t?  I can’t breathe.  Something on my chest.  And I gasp, while you stopped gasping.  And the fear overtakes.  A non-pretty blog for the ripping, tearing torment of a thing called cancer death.

How a Busy Working Mom Finds Time to Write.

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Yesterday I thought I might try to publish some of my work.  And I say so.  Out loud.  As would have it, yesterday left not a minute for writing.  A weekend day filled to the brim with everything but.  Worried husband at the very mention of the thing has visions of our lives falling into shredded bits.  The kids suddenly are very needy.  As are numerous unmentioned others.  There is dinner to make, a friend I’ve promised to call.  The dirty house, the eternally corrupted place of living, reaching to me, wanting more and still more.  Hurriedly, I do what I can, hoping.  Kids, finally kissed goodnight, I rush through my own bedtime busyness, still in hopes of quiet space for writing.  And alas, it’s bedtime – Adored husband reminds me of this fact as I move toward overstuffed writing chair.  In bed, I lay still.  Very much awake, mind spinning with the things paper and I might say.  I behave myself.  I don’t slide out of bed the way I want to, to a lonely laptop.  Adored Husband might stir, and even if he doesn’t, tomorrow is full.  I need sleep. 

Today I wake to the early dawn alarm. The daily race, it rushes me.  Leaving College Girl and Butterfly sleeping, I ready myself for an hour at the pool where our son swims for a team, and where I swim with Mom.  Out of pool, showered and ready for the day, together we hurry toward home, Mom and Son and I.  Gulp down a breakfast, hugs and kisses to Butterfly, still sleepy she has meandered down the stairs – all decked out in a tinkerbell tutu. 

Goodbyes said, I make my way back to the track where I walk with my clients.  Walk and talk, that’s what we do.  Step and then another and another.  7.5 miles my dusty shoe tread takes me round the track.  I listen to the happenings of the week, shame and fear, days past, strengths gained, tears, rage, numb and steps we take together.  Hour after hour we move across the earth, warm and bright today.  The last hour, is overcast, with sputters of rain, and still we walk.  All hours filled with life raw for healing. 

Last client seen, I make my way toward the thrift store for sharing 5 bags of books, clothes and toys that hoard space in the backseat of my kid-mobile.  Home again, Butterfly and Grandma have made peanut butter cookies.  All Mr. Business is listening to an old Spike Jones song – and loud.  Laughing, he plays it one more time for me.  I laugh.  Write.  How am I to write?  A few minutes for hearing the happenings of the day, knock on door, neighbor-kiddo’s face peeks through door glass – the stampede and they’re off to play.

Oh, my chance.  A minute to steal.  Here I sit, stolen moment, and all is blank.  Of all the inner tuggings to write, it’s gone. Nothing.  Too tired to be angry or hopeless, just numb.  Blob on couch with screen and keys.  The only thought that comes to me is a question.  How clean, I wonder, is a writer’s house?  House of working Mom who writes?  And I remember the grand writing projects that form when I’m in motion.

washing dishes

pulling weeds

piling them high in wheelbarrow for hauling away

painting a chair

                                   sorting

                                                                             throwing away

The best of both worlds.  Dig into the ever-reaching house until I’m inspired, and like a hot potato, drop it all to write without ceasing until the beauty unearthed by some grand cleaning frenzy has taken shape on paper.  Then back to daily tasks again for the next gathering of rich and lovely heart things to tell about. 

The family, they will survive.  They will become accustom to the rhythm of the exchange.  With hopes high, I spring off Seat of Nothingness – rush to the pantry to grab a paper bag and two for filling.  Piling high.  Higher.  Tap shoes, plaid shirts, engineering books, games, tupperware lids without a use.  Haul step by heavy step down the stairs, out into the car where they will be rushed off for sharing. 

That’s it!  Scouring and scrubbing, purging the shelves, chopping for soup pot, folding mounds of wearing things, no longer in the way of writing at all.  These tasks are a petri dish of the best of discoveries.  A greenhouse where the bud of good writing blossoms.  Routine motion in exchange for deep and profound thought. 

Our agreement. Writing, Mother Tasks and I.

How to Prevent Hoarding In Children

Once in awhile I do something just right.  The Mom job has left me with a steady drip, drip, drip of ‘what were you thinking, anyway?!’, so when I happen upon the rare ‘atta-boy’ for my parenting, I accept it.  Today as my 7 year old loaded toy after special toy into a Trader Joe’s paper bag, to the top and overflowing, it dawned on me that Butterfly is the last of our 4 kids to have passed the “am a share-er of nice and special things, am not a hoarder’ test.  As hoarding seems to run in parts of the family, it was one test I hoped they all would pass.  The kids have been natural savers of every little thing.  Ticket stubs from a special play, a glass bottle from an unusual soda, shells and stones and really cool pieces of wood. 

When trying to think through what might bring on hoarding, I had a couple questions: 

Might hoarding take root when I force my child to get rid of a thing?

If I discard my kids things when they aren’t looking,

might I create fear and an unhealthy protection over his or her things? 

Would it help to have my child pack up some items temporarily (for the attic), as a way to teach them to practice parting with something special for good?

With these questions in mind, when it came time to clean a bedroom or toy room heaped high with too much stuff, I’d ask the kids which toys they wanted to keep in their rooms, which they wanted to pack away for another time, and which toys they wanted to give away. 

First time around always took more time, they were little and putting a special toy into a box to be put away worried them… but I let them do this choosing and packing while supporting them.  Packing for the attic became familiar over time.  As each child learned that the things they had chosen to store in the attic could be retrieved again, the fear of packing up treasures faded. 

There are drawbacks. 

I had to release my need for an instant minimalist home and attic.

Release my desire for instant personal relief in exchange for

hopes that my kids would mature into open-handed individuals. 

The ideas above were important, but most importantly, when son or daughter wanted to give something away, I tried to never argue about what he or she wanted to part with.  I didn’t always do this perfectly.  Sometimes I didn’t like the idea of losing an expensive toy or book, special for whatever reason.  But I decided if I couldn’t bear to see a thing parted with, how would I ever expect my kids to learn what I was trying to teach.

Hoarders aren’t just junk collectors who don’t like to clean.  They sometimes extend kindness to an unwanted object, as if the thing were were a person.  Finding value in something that is about to be tossed.  Finding value and thinking themselves clever for having rescued it.  They also self sooth their own anxiety by saving an object, experience a feeling of relief and security holding onto a thing.  Difficulty with decision making can be part of the equation.  The more hoarding that takes place, the more difficult decision making becomes.  Some hoarders have a bit of maverick in them.  A bit of ‘ain’t nobody gonna tell me what to do.  I ain’t beholden to nobody.’  Owning things, a way to avoid buying or borrowing from another person, living in the fantasy of complete independence. 

Hoarding is no worse a break from the best than overeating or yelling at my kids.  It is, however, very debilitating and very isolating.  And is also somewhat socially acceptable.  We Americans in 2016 love our junk.  I don’t want that for my life, and don’t want that for my kids.  Objects are not able to provide what we really need.  We spend time dreaming and saving and buying the most recent really cool thing, telling our friends what we hope to buy one day, telling them what we have. And while we are consumed with our things, we miss it all.  Miss another catching our eye.  Stop reaching for the hand beside us, there to hold.  The hair for tousling.  I want my kids to realize that some of the nastiest thieves in life are really cool things.  Things are not people, do not carry feeling, and can not meet our deepest needs.  Surrounded by excess I forget to ask, am I comfortable?  My family, are they comfortable?

We long for vacation

surrounded mostly by air and dirt, mountain, river and each other 

Very few trappings. 

If we were to quiet our souls back home

ask what can be done to experience vacation inside our own four walls

much of what is special to us would have to go.

When a thing takes away from living life, it’s time to give it away to someone who will experience more blessing than curse.  I want my children to realize that even a thing with possible future value, something that might be used one day, if taking space in heart and home is a thing that holds more power than it should.

As I’m coming off of three years of being sick, house budging to the brim, finally able to load up bag after bag, Butterfly and Mr. All Business at my side, I’m thankful for what I part with.  Husband, children, Lincoln the dog and myself in this house, all more valuable than its contents.  Extra items, they gasp and choke out a full breath of life. 

Out! 

Away, you choking items of ownership! 

Come near, hands to hold, blond curls, happy paws. 

And together we carve out spaces of togetherness. 

Charred Noodles with Cheese

Summers are the worst! For all ADHD Mom’s dealing with summer and food and kids who are always hunger.

...because healing spreads

I Kiss Better THAN I COOK

I’m jarred into the moment with a shrillness of a blaring fire alarm.  Holding my ears, I rush through the kitchen, switch the burner off, grab billowing pan off stove, rush toward the back door to the deck.  This is not a rare event.  It’s at least a weekly one.  I can’t say I hate cooking.  I just like to cook occasionally.  I won’t say I’m a pyromaniac, no that’s not it.  I’d rather say I love to learn and think and write, and kids and husbands have to eat so often.  If I’m ever to think deeply, put something down in writing, struggle over an idea, it will get in the way of cooking.  So when I found this sign, I decided to proudly post the truth:)  The sign is me, not only because I can be forgetful about meals themselves, but because I’m lacking nothing in the way…

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