January 2011

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True Grit

When we told Little J the other night that I had to do more chemo, possibly forever, he looked at me like he was waiting for me to say it was a joke. He stared at me for a few more seconds, like a cowboy in a Western, but with chubby cheeks and a spoon full of mac-n-cheese mid-air.

He went right on eating, and Dennis and I explained that there was just a little cancer and I would have to do just a little chemo, but every week, and for a long time.

Dennis added quickly that Little J could still do Taekwondo, still play with his friends, still get walked to and from school by mom. We wanted him to know that his life would be the same without promising him that his life would be the same.

He just said, “OK,” and went on eating.

After a long silence, I added that I was sorry I told him just three months ago we were done with chemo. I really thought we were. He ignored me. I held back tears.

Dinner was long and awkward. We all talked about our days. The boys who chase the girls at school, the walks and tea with friends, the meetings and such.

About a half hour later, Little J curled up in my lap for his after-dinner hugs and said, “Apology accepted.”

I held him for a long time and have had him in my arms as much as possible since that moment.

I didn’t sleep very well that night and haven’t slept well since.

There is a bright side to what will be my new regimen. Regular small doses that my body can handle, hopefully without too many side effects will replace large, aggressive doses, the likes of which my body has still not full recovered from.

There are many down sides, obviously. The one that made me cry a lot yesterday is that I won’t be able to volunteer in the classrooms at Little J’s school anymore. I know I haven’t complained about specific losses through all of this, and I still assert that this disease has given me more than it has taken away.  But I am going to complain about this loss. I love sitting and reading with those kids so much. But if I caught strep throat from one of them, it could be curtains for me. And it’s just not worth the risk. If I catch something, let it be from Little J. That is worth the risk and largely unavoidable.

Another other upside to low-dose chemo once a week is that we can all get off of the rollercoaster we’ve been on: It’s here, I’m in remission, it’s back, I’m in treatment. I will be in treatment and that will be that.

In the mean time, there will be hugs and joy, and juicing, and surrounding myself with the most positive people possible. There will be time spent with Little J, Dennis and friends. And then there will be a cure so I can get back into those classrooms.

Hugs,

Jennifer

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Branches from Heather's quince tree, clipped and soaked in warm water to get early blooms.

Many winters ago, my friend Joanne and I took lunch-time walks around a little lake near the office where I worked in the East Bay. We chatted and marveled at the early blooms and sunny days in January, a phenomenon she and I dubbed California’s “Early Fake Spring.”

During those walks, unbeknownst to her, Jo taught me the art of making a new friend.

She’s Australian and was living in the East Bay at the time. Our husbands worked together. She had to make new friends every time she and her husband moved, and clearly she had developed her own sweet process of it. Up to then, I’d made friends by simply meeting people I liked at work, college or whatever, then became friends with them. Happenstance is what brings friends together, but there’s something more conscious that allows a true friendship to grow.

I took notice of Jo’s thoughtful approach to making a new gal-pal: setting up coffee dates, suggesting  walks, then evenings out with the husbands, eventually trips out of town to Tahoe or Yosemite. But she also remembered certain things about me, took an interest in things I was interested in. And I followed suit, taking interest in her nieces and nephews back home, the books she was reading, cooking. We gradually shared personal stories and struggles, trusting they would be kept between us. I don’t know how to describe it really, and maybe it’s a given to most of you, but I realized for the first time that the path toward a new friendship is sacred and beautiful in and of itself.

Since then, I’ve approached the process of making new friends consciously, moving slowly, building trust, holding secrets with care, like a tender beating heart. I’m not perfect at it, if there is such a thing. But I don’t take it lightly, that’s for sure.

Since those January walks, I also learned to look at my existing friendships as precious living things, to be cared for, kept in the sunlight, and nurtured. That way, inevitable absences or unavoidable misunderstandings are nothing a cup of tea and a hug can’t fix.

Luckily, before I moved to Sugartown, I’d learned from Jo that making new friends is something you could enjoy more if you do it consciously. When we first arrived, I was lucky to meet some lovely friends right away, but after that, I got sick and didn’t have a chance to meet new people. But over the years, even during treatment, I’ve been able to meet pretty remarkable women: a couple through the chemo room, one at soccer practice, one at gymnastics, another at a mother’s club meeting, and now that little J is in Kindergarten, a few more through school. Thanks to Jo and what I’ve gleaned from her artful friend-making, I’m enjoying making new friends in this town. And I’m content to take each friendship slowly. Letting it flower.

Eight years on from those January walks with Jo, we are currently experiencing another California “Early Fake Spring.” A few days ago, I clipped some branches from Heather’s quince tree and from the next door neighbor’s apple tree. I smashed the roots and put them in a pot of warm water. I’ve never tried to “force blooms” as it’s called, but was inspired this year to do it. And now I’m off to prune the roses, cut them back to stalks and clear away anything that’s choking those roots. It’s sunny today, but “Fake Spring” will end, and we’ll be back in the clutches of winter and its too-cold fingers soon enough. I’ll have blooms indoors and roses that are ready for the next wave of cold.

Write down the names of your dear friends today, and draw a heart around each one. Think of something sweet about them. They will feel it, I swear.

In fact, I have to tell you, Joanne contacted me from Australia, just as I was writing this post this morning and said, “Can we have a Skype call?” I kid you not. And we have not been in touch for a while.

The love we feel for our friends is alchemical. We can change them and ourselves with our sweet thoughts. We can bring blooms in winter, create a fake spring any time of year.  Here’s thinking of you.

By Leigh

Hugs,

Jennifer

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Happy Birthday to this extraordinary man. I love how beautifully and bravely he states, “Longevity has it’s place…”

Little J is mesmerized by his speeches. How could anyone not be?

Hugs,

J

Beautify

Today is gray. I’m inspired to beautify my space, to add a little surprise right here next to me, to keep things cheery. Perhaps a little yarn angel in a tea cup will do the trick nicely.

Ahh, that’s better. A tiny gesture to keep me smiling. You are all so creative. I know it. Email me a photo, taken from your phone or camera of some gesture of beauty you made today, to brighten your “space.” A ribbon around your pencil cup? Some glitter on your blotter pad? And I will post them. Include your name and city if you like. Let’s see if we can get Australia, England, Chile, NYC, and LA to participate. Go beauty!! Mail to four_seeds@yahoo.com.

Update: Email me via Contact if your pic isn’t posted here. Some are not getting through.

Hugs,

Jennifer

Mari, SF

Legos make the world a better place. Hyun, Santa Barbara

Jodi's desk. Turlock, CA

Lori's music stand. Sugartown, CA

Mia, beautified. From Katrina in Shrewsbury, PA.

Purple Cranes. Helena, Wollongong, Australia

Leigh, Sugartown, CA.

Dennis, SF

Sandra. Venice, CA.

Eddy, Piedmont, CA.

Carolyn's Letter Box. Portland, OR

Amy's desktop, beautified by little H. Jersey City, Jersey.

Vilma, beautified. Santiago, Chile.

Cathy's parasol. Petaluma, CA

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Christina Green 2001-2010

I was going to post about my intention to be more compassionate this year. More tolerant, to be specific. I have a tendency to react to things in a way that causes me pain. I react inwardly, stuffing down feelings which never really dissipate. And before you know it, I’m surrounded by black swans. My own shadow side, projected outwardly. I think we all do this, a little bit. Right?

So is the answer to be more compassionate? More tolerant? And if  so, what does that mean?

A world-renowned specialist in Chinese medicine and cancer treatment, a guy whom people travel the world to see in his tiny office in San Anselmo put his pen down and looked me in the eyes after we’d talked for about a half hour, after he’d had a chance to gather a sense of me.

“You know there are some who believe there is a cancer personality.”

“Really.”

“Yes. There’s a belief that our cellular activity mimics our mental/emotional activity. If we are the types to accommodate abuse and other transgressions, no matter how large or small, then our healthy cells will do the same. They’re suppose to attack the offensive, rogue cells. But the healthy cells look the other way. They accommodate the dangerous cells. Then the cancer grows and takes over.”

“That’s fascinating,” I said. Accommodating. Emotionally looking the other way.

I don’t know if I believe the theory, but I find it intriguing, a sort of quantum relationship between cellular behavior and emotional behavior. I certainly haven’t forgotten it. I wrote down what he said, word-for-word.

“So, if we have this cancer personality type, what should we do?” I asked.

“We should get really, really angry.”

Interesting. Allowing ourselves to rant and get pissed off, we teach our cells not to put up with it so that our healthy cells turn on the cancer, stick up for themselves.

But what about compassion? Tolerance? Isn’t that what Jesus and the Buddha would have us practice instead? Do we respond to hateful political rhetoric, for instance, with tolerance and compassion? Do we look the other way? Won’t the cells then do the same and allow the cancer to grow? Incite the shooter, like the one in Arizona, to take people down?

I just don’t know.

I was mulling over this question over my morning tea while little J played out a furious battle between his Hero Factory characters. Then I read Tim Booth’s blog post in which he asks a similar question. He wonders what would happen if we let our inner F*you a little free range. Would we be living from a space of truth? And would this mean we are not compassionate?

Some people think that every word or action is an expression of love or a desperate cry for love. I was going to post today that my fourth intention for 2011 was to live from a space that sees things this way. My intention was going to be to have compassion and tolerance for every word or action, knowing that it is either from a space of love of lack thereof.

But I just don’t know.

Instead, my fourth seed, one for love, is the intention to try to balance compassion and tolerance with my inner F* you who won’t tolerate bad behavior, hate-inciting language on the part of our “leaders” or the people in my community, even. I don’t know how to balance that, but I intend to try to this year. To show my cells (and my son for that matter) that we deserve better.

Hugs,

Jennifer

ps: Please share with me how you balance compassion and tolerance with “not putting up with it.” I know I have some peeps out there who are especially good at it.

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Green shoots peeking out from a charred landscape is what the healer saw when she closed her eyes and lay next to me.

“Spring is coming,” she said.

I feel it, too. As cold as it got last night, and as gray as it has been for days, I see those shoots coming out of the ice, coming out of the darked-over places in the landscape, in my body. I intend to focus on the green shoots, to stand over them and whisper, “grow, grow.”

Green is the color of healing, compassion, the heart chakra, balance, life.

Beauty.

My third seed of intention for 2011 is to align myself with beauty in the form of the healing, hopefulness, and perfection of the color green. Taking walks by brimming Sugartown creeks, whose rocks’ light-green doll hair is moss, swept by the currents; filling the house with plants (and actually watering them); blending my super-green smoothies of kale, cucumber, celery and the like, I’m going stock up on the life-giving color in any way I can.

Color is electromagnetic energy. We’re drawn to a certain hue because of its particular vibration, because we need something from it. I need something from green. And I’m going with it.

A Bursting of Green by Raymond A. Foss

Long dormant carpet of grey, of brown
parched and pending
poised for an awakening
showers and warming
a bursting of green
in the yard, the trees, my world
a different day,
from a single spring shower
on a world ready
for greening

Hugs,

Jennifer

Photo credit.

I laughed inwardly last week when I heard myself mentioning to Dan that I was a trained yoga teacher. The truth is, I haven’t had a steady yoga practice in a couple of years. There, I said it.

Part of the reason is that my body (on the inside) is filled with scars. My lungs, from malignant fluid. My abdomen, from tumors now gone, from cutting and stitching and clamps that still remain. But this isn’t the only reason.

The thing that keeps me from doing a yoga regularly is a fear of being still with my body, of breathing into it and feeling what’s there the way I used to.

Yoga, for me, used to be a path to inward seeing. Eyeballs on the inside. When I was preggers with Lil’ J, I could rest in supported child’s pose or sit in meditation and not only feel him in there but see him, see the energy field that surrounded him and how he curled snugly between my pelvis and my ribs.

Now when I do yoga, my inner eyes clamp shut when they travel anywhere near my abdomen. They do this because I had to leave my body several times during painful procedures and sickness. I learned to just check out of my physical self, float up out of it, and wait in a corner until the pain was over.

But now I’m fully back in my body, occupying every brilliant cell and healthy tissue. And my inward eyes are slowly opening again. Yoga is coming back to me.

So the next seed of intention for 2011 is renewal. I intend to renew my connection with yoga, one breath at a time.

I start with the breath because I know that taking one conscious breath per day has the power to transform. Seriously. If you stop once per day, close your eyes, and follow your breath all the way into your body, just feeling where it goes, then release, you’ll start to become attracted to the feeling. Then addicted. Then meditation happens. At least for me. I bet for you, too.

So I’ll start with a few conscious breaths per day, follow them throughout my healing, healthy body and begin to open my inward eyes again. The yoga will follow, and my connection to practice will be renewed. It’s my intention.

Here’s a beautiful video by Four Seasons Productions. It features Coleman Barks reciting Rumi’s poem, Only Breath. Enjoy with a few conscious breaths.

Hugs,

Jennifer

*painting credit

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Hello! Today marks the first anniversary of Four Seeds. Readers have popped up like wildflowers around the world over the last twelve months, and here we are together, celebrating the arrival of 2011.

Instead of making resolutions this year, I’ve decided to plant seeds of intention. Four seeds, to be exact.

The first seed is the intention to focus on those who inspire me.

Who inspires me?

First there’s Dennis and Lil’ J:

How can a girl not be inspired by these guys?

Then there are the women in my life: my mother, my friends and family, and the other survivors I know. They are my mentors every day and in ways they don’t even realize.

Now I want you to meet three more remarkable women who inspire me to live like I mean it in 2011.

Kris Carr

Kris, a cancer survivor and wellness warrior, is a film-maker, juicing advocate, and a dang good writer to boot. Anyone who has cancer, or knows someone with the c, should check out her books and film. And her website is chock full of resources for tapping into your own inner magic through healthful practices.

And speaking of magic:

Meet Kate Shela.

The Spanish have a special word to describe people like Kate: duende. It refers to that certain mysterious something that some people exude and transmit to others just by being. Take a look for yourself.

A healer, shaman, and dance teacher, Kate clearly follows her life’s calling without fear or reservations. She emanates loving energy, and to be near her is to be transformed by the openness of her heart. Kate teaches seminars and dance throughout the US and the UK. Check out her schedule as she may be coming to a town near you!

And finally, meet Laura Shawver.

Laura is a cancer researcher, surfer, and ovarian cancer survivor. She founded The Clearity Foundation with the intention to provide individualized treatment for women with ovarian cancer. She’s helped hundreds of women with the oc and has raised awareness about the kind of tailored treatment that will lead to our eventual cure.

What unites these three amazing women is that they live from the heart and improve the lives of those around them simply by pursuing their passions. That inspires me.

Who inspires you?

Hugs,

Jennifer

ps: Forthcoming seeds of intention are (you guessed it!) renewal, beauty, and love. Stay tuned.


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