Friendship

You are currently browsing articles tagged Friendship.

This is what the after-dinner cuddle looked like last night. It was Dennis’s last supper at home before leaving for his annual China trip. We ate a roast, sipped wine, and talked Virgil into believing that all would be fine with his Daddy away.

Dennis has only been gone since 7:20 this morning, but I miss him already. The first few days after he departs are always the hardest. A little off-kilter, I don’t sleep as soundly, and I wear an extra sweater around the house because I know that warm hugs aren’t coming through the door any time soon.

Little J and I are excited though too. First of all, Auntie Mari is coming to stay.  Second, the long-awaited Chuck E. Cheese trip is coming up. And finally, Grandma will be here. For Little J, this means brand new sneakers and many other treats. For me, it means good food, deep sleep, and sharing a quilt for an old movie or two.

This China trip is shorter than most, so it shouldn’t be as hard. But when you land and read this baby, please know that we already miss you dearly. It’s about to start raining, and we’re hoping the new blossoms will hang onto their branches until you’re back.

Hugs,

Jennifer

Tags: , ,

Taken at a very hip coffee shop near Carolyn and Tommy's house in Portland.

One of the things I adore about my new iPhone is that I can post to Fourseeds from just about anywhere. So today I’m doing something I’ve never done before: blogging from the chemo chair.

I should point out that my friends, family, and I have begun to refer to chemo as “getting juiced” since every Monday is now chemo day, or Juiceday.

This Juiceday, I’m thinking about a phrase Byron Katie uses a lot: Love what is. (By the way, I love “Byron” as a first name, and did you notice the Oscar winner last night who gave a shout-out to his daughter “Bronte”? Awesome.)

Byron Katie’s an inspiring writer and speaker whom my friend Jill told me about over lattes recently. Katie uses the Socratic method (asking questions) to awaken people to the concrete things they love about who they are and what life has handed them, no matter how dire their situation seems.

She doesn’t talk people into being happy in spite of the difficulty in their lives. Rather, she leads them to discover what they love about the life that pain and difficulty has brought them.

I think embracing Katie’s notion of “loving what is” requires a belief in a bigger picture, a broad plan that we all somehow fit into, a context where natural disasters, disease, and mean people make sense.

I personally agree that we’re all part of a bigger plan that we can’t quite grasp. Believing this gives me some relief, and it supports my conviction that my role is to love: to love my son and husband, to love my family, to treat my friendships with reverence, to take the best care of myself that I can, and to live with the biggest heart possible. I can say that my role in this life felt much more complicated before November of 2008 (when I was diagnosed), and that I lived with a lot more stress, many more feelings of lack, and wanting always just a little more of everything, and from everyone.

I do love what is. And if it takes weekly Juicedays to experience that love, so be it.

Hugs,

Jennifer

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

We were so wishing for snow today. The weathermen had our hopes soaring, and bone-chilling temperatures had me dreaming of waking up to a winter wonderland. Alas, the sun is shining and the briefly frosted-over grass has already thawed. Ah, California.

It’s been a busy time since we arrived home from Portland on Monday night. Little J’s school was closed for “ski week,” so Tuesday he spent the day with his friend JStew while mama got chemo. It was a snap for me. A short 2.5 hours in the chair, and I was done. I barely had time to get through all my magazines.

Wednesday, I was a bundle of energy thanks to Decadron, the steroid they give me with the chemo. The stuff makes for a red-faced and talkative Jenn the day after getting juiced.

Thursday was tough. It seems like two days after chemo is going to be my one pooped out day of the week. But that’s doable.

Yesterday was full of treats because Linda traveled up from the South Bay with her little ‘uns for a play day. The kids worked on out-sillying each other while Linda and I caught up and wished we lived closer.

Last night I went out with two new friends, moms at Little J’s school. Dinner and drinks at Finn’s with these two sweet ladies reminded me of what puts the sugar in Sugartown.

No snow, but lots of sugar. Lots of sweetness.

Hugs,

Jennifer

Penguin photo credit

Tags: , , , , ,

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

Tags: , , , ,

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

Tags: , ,