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I go through what I have dubbed Reflection Cycles.   These are the periods in which I spend more time thinking of the past and comparing it to where I’m at right now.   I haven’t decided yet whether or not this is normal and healthy or maybe normal but not exactly healthy or neither normal or healthy.  All I know is that it happens to me.  Although during a Reflection Cycle, the notion to reminisce can strike at any hour, I find the urge gets particularly strong at night. So maybe it was fate or just really perfect timing that I did something I never do.  I clicked on the little link in my window to The Daily Post:  WordPress’ daily prompt.  Like I said, frankly, I never, ever do this. This is my 58th post since January, which averages out to be about two or three posts per week.  I know, I know, some of you truly dedicated and amazing folks post every, single day.  I thought about taking that challenge but chose not to because, well,  why start something you know you’re not going to finish??   My point is I’ve been blogging on WordPress a long time, several years.  And I think, before tonight, I’ve clicked on the Daily Post maybe once or twice.  Certainly not more than three times.  It’s not that I’m against it, I actually think it’s awesome that WordPress provides daily prompts.  I just don’t need them.  And I’m really, really busy all the time between preparing for homeschooling, classes I teach at church and writing.  Bottom line,  it was very atypical of me to click over there.  But I did.  And, when I did, the title of the prompt made me go, “hmmp.”   How did WordPress know I’m currently going through a Reflective Cycle??  The question could not have been posed at a better time.  

It reminded me that we are at the half-way point of the year and asked me how it’s been going so far.

I’m not speechless very often but, when I try to think of a single word to describe this year thus far, I come up empty.  One year ago, in June of 2012, a doctor told me I had cancer in my thyroid.  I approached it like I do every crisis that sneaks up on me:  I held my breath, gritted my teeth and charged at it head first.  I cried.  But I didn’t really stop to think about it.  I didn’t go home and commit emotional suicide by researching cancer on the Internet.  I was upbeat when I talked to my daughters.  I showed them pictures of the thyroid,  called it a butterfly, said with a smile,  “Well, Mama’s is sick.  So, we’re going to take it out.”  I remember laughing with a nurse as I took the pre-op pills.  In other words, I defy fear.  Or maybe “defy” is not a good word.  “Ignore” is more accurate.  I don’t focus at all on the problem,  I focus on the solution.   If you’ve got cancer that can’t be killed with pills, you operate.  So operate we did.   I bounced back, my girls stopped asking if I was going to die, and we moved on.

January sneaks in.   It is the month of my youngest daughter’s birthday.  Usually, it comes in with trumpets and nothing but joy.  This year, maybe because of my weakened health state, it bought a twinge of sadness with it as well.  She was a twin.  And sometimes, when I am very lonely or otherwise hurting, I sense a baby in the room and it rips my heart out.  The “should haves” and “could haves”  have never been more ferociously painful than in this situation.  But, as is my want, I mourned into my favorite pillow and waited for it to pass.  And it did.  One morning, I woke up better.  Again.  We celebrated Alight’s birthday with joy and warmth; sleepovers and lots of smiles, hugs and kisses.  January passed and February dawned.

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Exhaustion like I have never felt in my life took control of my body.  When I say “exhaustion,”  I’m talking about a fatigue so intense tears would roll silently from my eyes when morning broke because it meant I had to get up out of that bed.  When I say “exhaustion,”  I’m talking about a fatigue so intense I literally could not walk from one end of the house to the other without feeling like I was about to pass out.  Somehow, I’m not sure how, we still managed to do the same routines:  we went to the parks, we went to the science museums, we played.  But I was reaching the breaking point.  I knew something was wrong.  When we would play at home, I would have to get a pillow and lay down in the floor because I could not sit upright.  Eventually, doctors would discover that my FE levels had reached a 6 (normal FE levels are at least a 30).  So the decision was made to start giving me intravenous iron therapy in February.  Ironically, this is what scared me.  6 hours is a long time to sit by yourself in a chemotherapy unit of a hospital.  My mind kept flashing back to my heart operation and intense flames and hearing a doctor I trusted tell me I had cancer, something foreign, growing in my body.  Let’s just say that I was not in a good place;  the trademark optimism was harder to find a few months ago.

But the IV iron works like a miracle.   About five days after the treatment, I woke up one morning and didn’t cry at the thought of having to drag my body out of bed.  Instead, I jumped right up in a fashion a girl I’d once known called Tiffini used to do.  Walking from my upstairs bedroom to the kitchen didn’t make me think I was dying.  And, with a renewed sense of energy, fear began fading to the background.  It wouldn’t last–I’ve had other IV iron therapies since February and have come to accept that it will probably be a continuous treatment for the rest of my life–but at least I knew what the problem was and how to solve it.  I was able to focus again on my girls’ schoolwork and emotional development.

And then Spring came.

I love life.  And every Season brings with it a host of sparkling opportunities.  We went to a farm, milked some goats and learned how to make homemade cheese.  And then, once beautiful, Sunny day, Beech Bend opened.  We’d made a calendar to count down the days until we could see it again.  Since it opened the last week of May, we’ve been six times and plan to go back at least once more before it closes.  Lemonade stands and puppet shows and runway fashions…. all of these took the place of fear.  Smiles were more genuine, optimism back in place.  The Summer has been a good one.  It’s seen us soaking up the sunshine at the lake (my traditionally pale face finally got a little color!), playing in some of the finest creeks, we’ve picked strawberries and, today, peaches and apples.  I wrote Taya’s story and it was published in April.   In July,  Aria’s story came out.  Through all the ups and downs, writing has stayed true.  Late at night, when the rest of the world is sleeping,  I’m still dreaming with my eyes open of a world in which pain is understood, acknowledged and comforted.    I had a book signing at a BN and got a little misty-eyed when a short line of four waited to talk to me at the table.  I kept wanting to turn my head around to see if Ash was watching on the sidelines, smiling gently with pride like my heart was.   In fact, the book sales have all jumped this year, making me excited and giddy like a little girl.  Dreams do come true, after all.
I’ve met a handful of really, genuinely kind people.  Today, when we went to the orchard,  I was excited about it for a lot of reasons.  One of them was the fact that I knew the owner would be there.  Jack is one of the most down-to-earth, calming people I have ever met.  He’s old enough to be my grandfather but he’s got this contagious sense of humor that makes me just love him.  And he’s so welcoming to the girls, so much of a simple country man.  Frankly, I’m not sure they even exist anymore,  at least until I see Jack.  He barely knows me, has no idea I write, no idea I’m not married, no idea we drive a long way to visit his orchard every year, no idea of what my last name is.  But he’s nice to me and my daughters.   My sister and I go white-water rafting every year.  We’ve been once so far and have already purchased another trip.  On these trips, we laugh a lot.   Kind people make the journey worthwhile.   Alight was baptized this Summer by a pastor I both love and trust.   The morning of her baptism, half a dozen people from our church came up to her to congratulate her, pray with her and hug her.  Her face was glowing with pride and joy, and my heart was full with humble gratitude for all that our church family has given us over the years.

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All in all,  this year has been special and tender.   We are living every moment and the crisis our little family has faced on more than one occasion serves  to remind us that life is fragile and our time together should be valued.  We don’t take anything for granted.  There aren’t fights in this house, not even amongst two little sisters.  We take care of each other and say “I love you” to each other a dozen times a day because we know tomorrow might not come and, even if it and a hundred more do,  one morning,  we’ll wake up in a house void of each other.   We actively surround ourselves with each other.  The month of July alone,  here is a list of things we did:

  • Went to the zoo
  • Went to Granny White Playground
  • Went to Chuck E. Cheese
  • Went to the Creative Discovery Museum in Chattanooga
  • Went to the Frist
  • Went to the YMCA around three times
  • Went to the Boro Beach
  • Went rock climbing
  • Went to Beech Bend with friends
  • Went to the lake three times
  • Went to the fireworks
  • Went to the Adventure Science Museum
  • Went to Kids Castle in Murfreesboro
  • Went peach and apple picking
  • Went to Baskin Robbins and had fun taste testing multiple flavor

When we stayed home,  we:

  • Played fashion show
  • Played Beach Bend using our pool, hot tub and zipline
  • Played art gallery
  • Played old-time
  • Played Lava
  • Played board games
  • Enjoyed Picasso Day
  • Played Barbies and Critters with each other
  • Transformed a big box into a TV
  • Played puppet show
  • Made handprints
  • Baked homemade bread without bread maker
  • Had a food fight
  • Enjoyed Chatter Chat every morning
  • Took evening walks and drives to see the sunset

We did all of this in the month of July.   And that’s typical for us.   Because time is precious and playing is the best way to keep children talking.

I am excited about the rest of the year.  I know that there are mountains I cannot see right now up ahead.  I know that, before the end of the year, we’ll undoubtedly face problems.  I have no idea what is coming next.  But I do know that we’ll continue to use the roadblocks as stepping stools to help us grow.  I do know that, no matter what challenges are up ahead, we’ll face them together. We won’t stop looking for pretty flowers or seeing what shapes the clouds make.  And we’ll cling tight to peace.  We won’t lose sight of hope.  After all, clouds aren’t stationary…. they move.

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