The Fire Within

There is a fire within that has one small ember still aglow, but this fire hungers for attention, it’s survival depends on it. It longs to be tended and stoked so that it may shine as brightly as the sun for those who want gather around in need of light and warmth. 

The beauty inside the flames are there for anyone who cares to take the time to gaze upon them. They flicker and dance for you alone, and while you watch they glow so vibrantly under your attentive eye. The soul of the fire will only keep you as warm as you wish to be. When left alone the flames disappear, the fire wanes, the light no longer radiates outward for others to share, the warmth can hardly be felt. 

It is then that the ember must turn inward to conserve its energy so it may continue to exist waiting patiently for the right soul to bring her back to life so that once again her tribe may gather around her, feel her warmth, be guided by her light and captivated by her hypnotic glow.

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Labels: do they define us or limit us?

Things are bad when you wake up thinking about them, they are so bad that those things are on your subconscious mind while you sleep. I woke up yesterday morning thinking that the labels we assign ourselves and each other serve no purpose other than to divide us, but we do it constantly. When simplified, we have far more in common with our neighbors than we realize. We are all of one race, the human race, that’s as boiled down as it gets. It’s with that thought in mind that I bring up the fact that there are people I love who voted for Donald and those who voted for Hillary. I do try to listen to both sides because I don’t understand many things. I turned on Fox News Friday night to hear what Chris Wallace was saying, because I don’t understand how what Trump is doing can be okay with some people. I really want to understand this. I’m going to be honest and say, I did not vote for Donald Trump, and the label that I am assigned for that is being a liberal. I see friends and colleagues post disdainfully on their Facebook accounts about “liberals” and I wonder if they dislike me because that is the label I have been assigned.

There are multiple reasons and some are more complicated than others, but I’ll go on the the record as saying my biggest reasons for not voting Republican are that the environment, equal rights; human, civil, and women’s rights are important to me, education is important, affordable health care, immigration and the economy are all important to me and generally speaking the republican party does not seem to share my views. Our environment is a delicate living organism which is supposed to be self-sustaining, but when we start changing the chemistry and therefore the biology supporting life on our planet by exploiting our natural resources and manufacturing causing off-gasses etc, we are putting that ever-so complex system at risk for collapse. I believe climate change is real, it is scientific fact that humans are causing the damage and without a planet on which to live, all our other issues are moot. This is the reality of the situation and unless we start to reverse some of that damage we’ve done our species will not survive here. The effects we’ve had on our environment have caused cells to mutate, cancers to form and people are dying, this is our present and our future, it’s a real problem, ignored by many whose focus is narrowed to their own immediate personal and financial gains.

The U.S. Declaration of Independence, written by our (bi-partisan) founding fathers states: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” I believe in those inalienable rights and the pursuit of happiness for all. Which does not mean some citizens have more rights than others, and therefore get to tell other citizens who they can marry, where they can pee, what medical treatment they can have. I am not gay or trans-gender so I don’t have to suffer here, but individual opinions should not affect the rights of other citizens. I may not like your politics, but I would not try to take away your gun, because I too have a right to own a gun if I want one. However because I choose not to, that does not entitle me to tell you what to do. I only ask that as a responsible gun-owner, you first just admit that there is a problem with people killing people, and then try even harder to come up with a solution to the craziness of mass shootings to preserve that constitutional right for all who choose to exercise that right. I am a woman who has raised her children, with the exception of the youngest who died from Cancer, and I do not think the government, because of the opinions of some citizens, should be able to restrict what surgical procedures are best for me or any other woman, under any circumstance. I am also pro-immigration, cultural diversity is the essence of who we are as a collective people, as U.S. Americans the color of our skin and the country of our origin is not supposed to matter because all citizens have the same rights.

It is along those same lines that I believe that every child in this country deserves the right to the same standard of education regardless of zip code. Children don’t choose the color of their skin or whether they are born wealthy or poor, healthy or sick, they are children, and some are born with parents who care and others are born to drug addicts, poverty is not contagious, but attitudes are. Correspondingly as individuals we do not choose our country of origin. It is a lottery won by some and lost by others. Our country has welcomed and was built by immigrants, and every single one of us with the exception of the Native American can thank an immigrant ancestor for our citizenship.

Healthcare should not be a luxury and yet in our country it is, because it is not affordable for everyone. This is an enormous problem, unless it is a federally funded program like the NFIP, insurance is for-profit business. That means that if you are not in perfect health, then they do not want to insure you. The idea of them staying profitable is that you give them your money every month and that equals more money than they ever have to give you back to pay healthcare bills. Therefore people who have had cancer or any other serious illness requiring acute or extended medical care are not who the insurance companies want to insure, and they don’t have to, because they are a for profit business. Employers are not required to provide it, even though as incentive it is 100% tax deductible and so people are forced to choose between paying their mortgage or having health insurance.

Those are the core reasons I did not vote Republican. Then there’s the matter of Donald Trump. I felt during the campaign, and still feel that Donald Trump behaves and responds in every circumstance like a ten-year-old, spoiled rich-kid, and bully who in my opinion seems mentally imbalanced. I’m not talking about hearsay, I’m talking about what I have heard him say publicly. I will conclude with this point: I think using the label ‘Conservative’ for our current president is absurdly inaccurate, he is anything but conservative. He is autocratic, dictatorial, arrogant, egotistical, pretentious, obnoxious, unbalanced, and putting it kindly perhaps eccentric, he might even be a communist, but he is definitely NOT conservative. My grandmother, may she rest in peace, was conservative and Donald Trump is nothing like my grandmother, except maybe for the tiny hands, they do have that it common.

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Founding Father’s support Presidential Propaganda or Freedom of Press?

When I was in the 5th grade I specifically remember the word “propaganda” being on my social studies vocabulary list, we were studying the Cold War, learning about communism and it scared me.

prop·a·gan·da
noun
  1. 1.
    derogatory
    information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view.

The thought that a government might try to ‘control the dissemination of information’ frightened me as I learned that definition, I remember being so grateful that I was born in a country that wasn’t like that. One that had amendments to protect the rights of it’s citizens. I remember learning about the First Amendment and how that made us so much different from so many other countries around the world who didn’t have such rights, I remember feeling lucky to be born American, and felt equally sorry for the unlucky people who were born in places where they couldn’t say what they thought, read what they wanted, or learn as much as they wanted about whatever they wanted. I learned about Socialism, Communism, Fascism and much more, I learned about dictatorships and Democracy. Democracy is a government run by its citizens and a dictatorship is a government run by one person. Fast forward to this evening when I got home from work and I learned about Trump’s exclusive “press briefing”; now as an adult I am as scared as I was in fifth grade and I am angry too.

I just lived through eight years of Conservatives calling President Obama a Communist and now we have a conservative president who would seriously be highlighted, with multiple asterisk at the top of McCarthy’s list of Communists. The President of the United States of America is a Commie-loving, non-tax-paying rich guy who thinks that he is above the law and now he controls which news agencies get to sit-in on  U.S. Government press briefings? I am absolutely horrified, and if we allow this to go any further than his one month in office we will soon be forced to buy and wear Ivanka designed uniforms while saluting giant troll doll haired Trump statues, and frighteningly that is closer to a reality than we have ever imagined. He alone declared that the polls were rigged, then he won and we are living with it. When he was elected I was afraid for human rights, for civil rights, for woman’s rights, but I had NO IDEA that I would be upset enough to sit down and post about the parallels between His wall and the Iron Wall. His petulant (spoiled rich kid) inability to listen to, let alone learn from, the concerns of his opponents that he would try to control the information we hear? Before we became Democrats and Republicans we all had that friend growing up who told us that if we didn’t do things their way, they would revoke their friendship. That kid that exaggerated his every accomplishment and lied mercilessly- to our extreme annoyance. Trump is that horrible child and I fear in a few more months this type of government censorship will extend to no-name citizens like me being banned from voicing my concerns publicly.

I traveled to China in the mid-nineties and I was carrying a paperback book with me from, then British ruled Hong Kong, into Communist China, the book was something so nondescript that I don’t recall what it was, but as I walked through border patrol and showed my passport  I was not allowed to bring that particular book into their country, the book meant nothing to me, although the fact that I was not allowed to bring it in made me wonder if they knew more than I did about the book and momentarily heightened my interest in it.  While I was there, I learned that the Chinese people only get the information their government wants them to have. That, my friends is Communism! It’s not less government, but it is deconstructed government. It’s where the laws only apply to the people not powerful enough to evade them with a greased palm. It’s abuse of power, domination and control. The powerful make up the rules as they go to control the poor and the weak. There are no rights, no laws, just power and powerlessness. The absolute opposite of Democracy.

When Trump was elected sadly I expected his bigotry, his racism, his misogyny, his elitism, but the one thing I didn’t expect was an anti-Americanism dangerously synonymous with Communism.  Thirty days into his presidency I now see his campaign slogan as the frightening anti-american sentiment that it is, because our founding fathers wrote our constitution and THAT is what makes us great, we never stopped being great until our leader started blatantly disregarding our constitution and it’s amendments. Inexplicably, his hard-working, decent, tax-paying American supporters, how-ever disenfranchised they might be, or have been, I have to believe that they did not see his disregard for the US government as Communist, but what happened today should scare the shit out of ALL Americans, because that Amendment that he claims liberals are whining about is the same one that gives the KKK the right to gather in this country, the same right that allowed his daughter to convert to Judaism, the same that allows him to speak his thoughts (no matter how meaningless) and allows all those dissatisfied with his performance to protest his actions, THAT is what makes America great!

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Creature Comforts

Tiny houses and tiny living have probably fascinated me my entire life. When I was a child I loved the works of Beatrix Potter and similar authors whose writing offered me a peek inside the cozy tiny homes of any tiny critter. I loved imagining their intelligence, creativity, and resourcefulness; seeing how they up-cycled (before up-cycling was a thing) a matchbox or a spool of thread. I liked where my mind could go through the illustrations of overstuffed chairs in floral slipcovers inside the tree trunk home of a sweet little mouse family.

When I was in third grade I designed, redesigned, built and rebuilt my first tiny home every weekend. My “fort” was made from shipping pallets woven with asphalt shingles against the back of our barn. It had a roof, walls, rooms and a front door, the green front door was hinged to a broken 2×4 and tied to a pallet with a pair of knee-socks. Every weekend I took down my walls and my roof and I would thoughtfully rebuild my space, considering every detail, including bricks I used to line my “sidewalk” from front to back door. There was also furniture inside made from whatever building material I could find in the barn. After working all day on the redesign I enjoyed the satisfying feeling of sitting in, and surveying my refreshed environment, making mental notes for my next redesign.  My fort was my sacred space and I was never happier or more content than when I was working on it or spending time there.

Samantha in Fort cropped.jpg

Me poking my head out the front door of my fort. Photo by: Peggy Kessler

Routinely people seek people or places where they find comfort. Where one finds comfort or is comfortable varies from person to person, but for me, being a survivor of childhood trauma, this was my sanctuary, this was my happy place, my safe zone, where I found peace and comfort. I know it doesn’t look like much, but I thought it was fabulous, and part of the joy of that was building it with my own two hands, making it mine, by putting my physical energy into and mental stamp on it. My mental and physical abilities made this place a reality with only found objects. By the way, there was a breakfast bar in there on the left, I’m surprised that I never made the cover of House Beautiful or Architectural Digest, at that time I wouldn’t have appreciated the significance of it anyway.

Since the days of my fort, my desires to build, construct, remodel have generally been assuaged by binge watching HGTV or DIY Network until very recently when I purchased a 1982 Gibson 42′ Houseboat. I have owned this vessel for almost 3 weeks now. I have learned so much already, for example I have learned how little I knew about boats and the most important lesson has been that there is an infinitely fine line between bravery and stupidity. I will not tell you which side of that line I now find myself walking, or more accurately, drowning. My plan was to buy the boat, start a Kickstarter Campaign to raise money to remodel the boat and then write about the process via blog and eventually publish a book about the process. Preparing for and starting a Kickstarter Campaign is only slightly more time consuming than owning a boat and now I am tasked with both while working my full-time (8-5) job. I have spent the past two weekends from dawn to dusk gutting (still not finished) the houseboat only to find myself too exhausted to write a word when I get home, but I will make every effort to bring you up to speed in the next few posts.

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Living an Authentic Life

I’m not sure if it was Eleanor Roosevelt or Dale Carnegie who said, “Life is what you make it.” but I couldn’t agree more. Conversely the too often regurgitated phrase, “it is what it is” is a depressing, apathetic, fatalistic cop-out in my (not-so-humble) opinion. In fact I might go as far to say that I hate that statement; it’s a pathetic excuse that means the owner just doesn’t give a shit, they don’t care enough to make it better than what it is, and that is unacceptable, unless of course you are satisfied with substandard quality.

Some people might say that a cancer diagnosis is what it is, those same people might say that the death of a beautiful young person is what it is and to add insult to injury, life goes on. It is true that for those of us left behind, after the death of a loved one, life does go on, however strongly we might wish it wouldn’t, but that life, more specifically my life, is forever changed and how it changes is up to me. The death of my daughter revealed a grief and a pain that I could never have imagined. The fact is, that particular pain has always existed, because people have been losing children for as long as they have been birthing them. However, the parental majority have happy, sparkling and shining images in their mind’s eye of watching their children graduate high school and college, become adults, fall in love, get married, have children and so on, but there are a few of us who know that there is a dark corner where the potential for suffering and loss reside.

If I had to try to explain the magnitude of this loss to another parent I might ask you to remember the expansion you felt in your heart when your child was born; it’s love at first sight and if you had more than one child, then you marveled at the fact that your heart was capable of expanding even further, filling with more love. That seemed impossible to me until my third child Emma was born. I was completely bewildered and impressed by the ability, I unknowingly had, to love one more child absolutely and unconditionally. That feeling of wonder and bliss you feel when a child is born is reversed when a child dies, that’s the best I can do at describing it. I had no idea this feeling existed, that I could feel so empty and lost, and still have two children living, that I could still be breathing and feel so dead. So as if there were a puppeteer manipulating my movement with strings I made my way through each and every act to bring me to this very word in this very sentence.

When I think about my daughter’s short life I do not think, ‘it is what it is’. I think it was extraordinary, I think she lived her life so impressively, authentically and passionately. When she had an opinion she shared it, when she was angry she showed it, and when she was happy she emanated it. She touched many, many lives especially after her diagnosis. I do feel somewhat awkward talking about her as if she isn’t here, because her human life was her story, for her to live and tell the way she wanted. What I don’t feel uncomfortable saying is that she is was and always will be inspiring people. She has inspired me to live my life without her physical presence as honestly as I can, and to share that with anyone who wants to be included. Grieving, like healing, is a process that I will be going through for the rest of my life, but as long as I am growing and learning I will be progressing. I choose to make my life one that’s worth living regardless of how long I have to do that, just like my daughter, Emma Greer, did.

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Sometimes it rains in paradise.

Immerse yourself in the beauty of nature and you will find joy in the rain.

Our collective journey includes both life and death. Simply stating the obvious, they call this the circle of life. Each individual journey is touched by the infinite journeys of others. Sometimes our unique paths, connect and become deeply intertwined, sometimes they intersect briefly and sometimes they diverge completely. This can be found, with much introspection, to be a natural, beautiful, personal and collective evolutionary process.

A mother losing her youngest daughter is part of this process for some of us. The child is never truly lost of course, because she will forever remain perched atop a jewel encrusted throne in the gilded chambers of her mother’s heart. She will be everywhere, all at once. She becomes the light in the day and the dark of the night, the wind in the trees and the rain in the clouds, the warmth of the sun and the salt in the sea.

There is tragedy and despair in the death of a child, but there is also beauty and growth if you take the time to find it. Life is eternal, it did not start with one child and it will not end with one child. It is a journey on a long continuum collectively traveled by many creatures both great and some not so great, but each one depends the existence of another to sustain itself.

The rain has nourished the earth for millenniums.

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How to Survive the Loss of a Child -One parent’s journey.

 

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One breath at a time is the only place to start. -This is my journey.

Some people think that losing a child is the worst thing that can possibly happen to a parent. I disagree.

Being told that your child has cancer is devastating, watching your child suffer and being helpless as her parent is torture, planning her funeral is unimaginable, but having to go on living without your child is a desolation of apocalyptic proportion,  and that; is the worst thing that can happen to a parent. So how does one handle this catastrophic loss?

Breathe.  In. And. Out. And then again, and again, until….

Almost four months have gone by, some of the mental fog has lifted, some of the emotional paralysis has eased and the reality has begun to set in. Loss is not substantial enough a word to describe this experience, the knowledge that there will never be another laugh, another hug, another photograph. Correspondingly, sadness is not a deep enough psychological descriptor for the lingering darkness. Maybe wreckage and salvage. There’s some hope in that. Hope that this parent can one day be upcycled or repurposed into something useful once again.

In the meantime spend some time outside every day, photograph nature, write, exercise, eat healthy, be patient and kind with yourself. You will have sleepless nights, you will cry at the drop of a hat, you will meltdown, you will feel drained & weary, you may want to isolate yourself, you may move to a tropical place to get a change of scenery. Whatever you do, it’s okay, you are allowed to take as much time as you need to find yourself and your passion again. Give yourself permission to be your own caregiver now. Take. care. of. you.

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