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“The only thing constant is change.” – Heraclitus of Ephesus

Today is, for the most part a typical Sunday morning, the clouds are abundant and the streets damp with the rain that fell last night.  It’s early at 5:15 a.m. and I didn’t go to sleep until midnight.

What is this energy I feel that isn’t typical?  Ever-evolving I am.

The other day I was looking for something and ran across an ancient pedometer that I believe my husband had brought home from some golf outing he attended.  Like most things fitness, it either went into a corner, was given away or thrown into a drawer.  This is the most basic of pedometers that you can find.  It tracks your calories, kilometers and miles.  Not steps, but that is okay – any step forward is better than back.

I went to that pedometer which seriously has to be no less than eight years old and pulled the small piece of paper attached to it to see what type of battery it would take.  In doing so, I pushed a button and the display came on.  “Some battery” I thought to myself as I began pushing the buttons. 0000 meant I had an awful lot of work to do.  It’s a balmy 60 degrees Fahrenheit, a nice breeze.  I can do this.

Like my husband’s death, we planned for it.  We knew it was coming and it would change my life in ways I had only imagined.  But I could have never imagined how much it would change.  I’ve lifted the covers from my head to the point I can breathe a bit easier.  I no longer need that filter to embrace the daylight.

Last week I took the incredible challenge to change.  I began a weight loss program and this morning, I used that pedometer.  I promised myself when I moved last year that I was going to do this.  I need to get healthy again.  I did try but often met neighbors who walk their dogs and wanted to chat – once that happened, my walks never continued as I need to walk alone at a pace that is comfortable to me.  I need to do this, I want to do this.  I am 4 lbs. down … and today I logged 0.778 miles on that pedometer.  It is baby steps.  I have a long way to go but when I realize my grief began with my husband’s diagnosis, I’ve been living this heavy burden for six and a half years.  Indeed it is time for change – my habits, my health and my life are as important as the man I loved, cared and advocated for.  As I walked this morning, I imagined him telling me “honey, you can do this and I am with you every painful step of the way.”

I don’t care much for change, especially when it is out of my control, but hopefully, the tools of faith, hope and the desire for change, will bring me further into the light of joy.

On Friday evening, I was privileged to return to the site of the Beloved retreat that I attended in January.  This time I was able to carry the luggage of new retreat-ants and light their path in the darkness to knowing they are beloved.  As I came together in community with others I had met on my own retreat, others who had attended at different times and once again my daughter at my side, I was able to share with them just how much I grew from my own experience there and that I did in fact keep my promise to find joy.

We do not always know when we go about our own lives how we sometimes affect others.  Sometimes, out of the blue, you can be called upon and a split second decision to say yes or no can make or break a person or situation.  I used to be a constant yes.  Grief began to change that and that is not the person my husband fell in love with.  Yesterday I said yes again to someone, to help them sort their feelings, their fears and angst and talk them through a situation that otherwise may have ended differently.  We do not know when we will be called – either spiritually or literally, but if we open our hearts to the possibility that carrying the load for others when they are burdened with the weight of the world, we can become the change that another person is seeking.

A step outside of our own comfort zone does not need to be a heavy task.  I can say with a smile in my heart, I am beginning, truly beginning to find joy.

 

Choices, Consequences and Life

 

trust and faithI have started to blog several times because I have a lot to say (surprised, aren’t you?) and then have ended up deleting because it all sounded so whiny.

Choices – as a reasonably responsible adult I knew I would have to make a choice about my living situation.  It was becoming apparent that I was sinking deeper and deeper into a situation financially that was not going to have a good outcome.  Here I was, for the first time in my life, living alone in a big house in which I generally occupy 3 rooms – the kitchen, family room and my bedroom.  The rest of the house was taking up space in my pocketbook and in my head.  I had to move so I made the choice to call a realtor to get “an idea” of what I might sell the house for.  Things moved swiftly with the help of a few wonderful people and the house was put on the market in two weeks from first meeting and then subsequently sold 14-days later.  Okay – now what?  The new buyer wanted to close in a month and I had no clue where I was going to live!  To say that I became a crazed insomniac would be putting it mildly.  Day and night I was searching for the perfect home … somewhere close to where I used to live, about 40 minutes north of where I am now.   I would be closer to the grandkids.  I could find nothing in my price range that didn’t have 15 or more stairs (hey I’m “oldish” now).  For what I could find, my car wouldn’t even fit in the garage.  To know me is to know that my vehicle should always be protected from the environment … to make matters worse; it would cost me what I am currently paying.

Yeah, not all things in life work out the way we want them to work out, but they do work perhaps as they are intended.  In the meantime I needed to get a pre-approval for a new mortgage and submit the necessary documentation.  I have learned that I keep way too much “stuff” but I am organized in most of it.  That financial process, for the most part was easy and approval came two days later.  What I wasn’t expecting was an IRS issue.  Stress … when you open your mailbox and receive a letter from the IRS.  It happened to come on the day of our annual TEAM KEITH fund raising event.  That was a Saturday and I had to wait until Monday to contact both the new loan company and the IRS.  I needed to submit 3-years’ worth of tax returns.  I did that.  But as a normal course of business, the lenders will generally have you sign a document requesting IRS transcripts.  It’s sort of a double check that what you provided is actually what was filed.  This is a public service announcement: If you apply for a loan and you have previous filed a joint return with your spouse and request records and he/she was the primary on said taxes, the file will be flagged.  Dead people should not be applying for mortgages – period.  I learned that in fact, people will try to do that in an identity theft scenario so the IRS began doing this “flagging” upon final tax returns for the deceased.  All is well that ends well, and I was able to have the IRS fax me the 33 pages necessary after giving my crazed, manic-even, sob-story to the agent on the end of the phone line!

Back to the story, I was out with my Realtor looking for a home and becoming very discouraged.  On a whim, I had asked to see a home or homes within a 55 plus community – the opposite direction of where I wanted to go and about 10 minutes south of where I am now, but quite close (maybe too close for him) to my son.  I was not thrilled, but did not rule it out either.  On the last day of looking for a few hours, I sat in my Realtors car, put my hands over my face and cried “what have I done”?  I was second guessing myself … maybe I could have stretched the pennies a bit more and just stayed … now the house has a pending contract, a cash deal and I’m closing in 29 days … I have nowhere to go.  At that moment, the realtor’s phone rang and it was her office assistant.  The seller of the home I had not ruled out just lowered the sales price.  I asked my brother in-law to come and see it with me … and the next morning, he and my sister in law came and gave their blessing.  It’s got “good bones” he told me.  The kitchen though … it needs a major overhaul.  My brother in law said he would do the remodel … As my Realtor and they stood in the kitchen talking, I walked into the main living space which I will call my great room and I swear, I don’t know, out of nowhere, I heard my husband’s voice … “make it our home honey”.  I looked at my brother in law and gave him a dollar figure and said “tell me what you can do” … so things moved quickly – I made an offer and it was accepted.  My daughter and friends came and helped me pack one day I am almost completely done.  I will move on the 9th of September, and fortunately, was able to negotiate with the buyers of my current home a rent-back for these 9 days.  The new home will be painted on the interior this coming weekend.  Yes, I am a woman blessed.

The new home is not the home of my dreams; I am leaving that one behind.  My dreams were fulfilled in this home and it is a bittersweet move.  In reality, Keith and I knew that someday we would downsize and oh how I wish we were doing this move together, but I feel his love and presence every step of the way.  I had the pleasure of meeting the new owners on their final walk through last night and they have two small children.  This home needs life again, and I know they are the perfect buyer.  I told them that I hope they love the home as much as my husband and I did and they were so excited in saying, “we do”.  I am happy for them and I am happy to leave them with a home in pristine condition – a reflection of the best parts of Keith and me together.

Consequences – Everything we do in life provides a consequence, sometimes good and sometimes bad.  I truly believed in my heart I needed to be where Keith and I began further north; after all he is buried there.  There is 15 minutes added to my commute to get there (minus rush hour traffic) … I am not readily available on short notice for the grandkids being further away, but as it turns out, they don’t need me like they used to.  My daughter is happily married to the man of her dreams and they have their family dynamics worked out perfectly.  Being closer to my son is just an added bonus and he need not worry about me “dropping in” because that’s not my style.  The consequences of this move are positive ones so far … it was a very wise financial decision and my insomnia should lessen over this issue once settled in.  I am looking forward to living on one level, with two spare rooms for those grandma sleepovers and my essential office equipment.

Life – It continues to happen whether we want it to or not, so I have decided to be present in it.  I am looking forward to a big conference in Washington, DC in November with the ACPMP Research Foundation and I will be starting some volunteer work at my local hospital in the spiritual care department as well.  I hope to meet new people and engage with others again and not sit at my computer 24/7 like I have the past few years.  I want to be healthy of mind and body and the only way to do that is to make positive changes.  I think I just made my first step.  I am choosing life.  I am grateful for my faith to see me through.

Ripples and Circles

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This photo was taken off the shore of Waikiki, two blocks from Diamond Head, in June of 2012 during our first visit to Hawaii.

A slight wind or pebble in the water will make a ripple and spread out to sea.  Keith is a ripple inside of me.  With his love and with my memories, I brave the  often-times tumultuous waters. Life is full of ebb and flow and I am grateful for the ability to ride these waves.

I wrote this on Keith’s CaringBridge site on January 28, 2014 as the decision was made to bring him home from the hospital with Hospice Care:

“Both of us believe today that no matter what transpires, our love will cross the heavens and earth and will hold strong until our souls are entwined again. We believe God mapped this out for us. He brought us together because He knew what each of us would need from beginning to end. I won’t pretend to understand how God knows I am the one who will endure, but I have faith enough in His purpose for me.”

As promised in my last blog update, I have some exciting news to share – I know I am a week delayed, so hopefully nobody has held their breath for my news!

Effective this evening, I am officially a member of the Board of Directors for the PMP Research Foundation.  

This is the full circle that I mentioned before.  What does full circle mean, anyway?  We all start somewhere and we end somewhere; first the womb, and (my belief that) in the end, heaven. But the middle holds a lot!  I met Keith, we fell in love, we created a beautiful life and then he died.  That was a full circle.  Lucky for us, we can link these circles together, and my joining the Board, does this!  It is with Keith’s love and I know, his blessing, that I continue my personal advocacy, awareness and support for those being treated and who will be treated for appendix cancer and pseudomyxoma peritonei.  Forever linked with these memories of Keith, the decision I made a year ago to be a background volunteer for the PMPRF has come full circle!

This is a huge personal gain,  for those who know me.  I am very much a team player, but have always preferred to play in the background.  The time for me is now.  With the support of my family and friends, and especially the other Board Members, I am ready to tackle my very first national public appearance on behalf of the PMPRF.  Arizona here I come!  I can’t think of a better place to be on Valentine’s Day than to be supporting our organization with amazing love in my heart!  One of the best things Keith did for me was to constantly tell me that he was proud of me for helping others all throughout our marriage.  The key for me now is to remember his sweet words and carry them with me.  After all, it is because of him and my love for him, that I am paying his life forward.

A little background of the PMPRF:

The PMP Research Foundation is an IRS-designated 501(c)3 charitable organization. The Foundation was created in 2008 by a community of individuals affected by Pseudomyxoma Peritonei (PMP), Appendix Cancer, and related Peritoneal Surface Malignancies (PSM).”

“Our organization exists to support and fund promising research that moves us toward a cure for pseudomyxoma peritonei (PMP), appendix cancer, and related peritoneal surface malignancies (PSM). We also endeavor to support the PMP, appendix cancer and PSM community of patients and their caregivers by providing the latest, most accurate information about the best practices in managing their disease.”

The truth is I am still so very much in love with Keith.  I can’t help but believe he is also in love with me – eternally.

 

 

Goodbye 2015

Hello 2016! 

To_VID8854night will be only be the second New Year’s Eve I’ve spent by myself in 55 years. I don’t mind really; I plan to make myself a halfway decent home cooked meal, and count my blessings for what I have to celebrate.  And I know, though I cannot physically feel him, Keith will be holding my hand.

Gratitude!

To those who read this blog, thanks for always encouraging me to continue.  It’s been a year since I started writing here and it has helped me a lot to deal with the grief of losing my husband and in the process I share these thoughts as honestly and openly as possible.  While sometimes it may prove to be too much information, they are such raw feelings when they make their way to paper for whomever chooses to read.  I’ve always been a writer and that was the one class that I excelled in during school.  It comes easy to me – easier than speaking because I can pause when I want to and just type away and go back and edit my many run-on sentences.  I’m glad the grammar police haven’t found their way here … yet!

I want to thank my on-line friends for being here for me 24/7 and for those of us who have built amazing, life-time friendships, wow – who knew?  I freely admit to being an on-line junkie.  I spend from the wee hours of the morning to late hours at night here.  And you’ve all been there with me throughout the day and night!

Thank you to my friends and family that have checked on me and spent time with me – you will never know how much that has meant to me and I know, because Keith and I talked a lot about that; what would happen after he was gone, would friendships struggle going forward.  I can honestly say that some friendships were actually strengthened and have become more than an occasional acquaintance over this past year.

Some relationships have gone away and Keith and I talked about that happening too, but honestly they weren’t much of a relationship to begin with – for Keith or for me, so I’m working on the forgiveness aspect and moving forward in 2016 with those who care to be a part of my life.  People that make excuses that they are too busy or too whatever, really are not invested and it takes years of tears to overcome that harsh reality.  I have never had a problem with honesty, it’s the only way I know how to be, but one of my goals for 2016 is to be drama free.

So again, thank you friends and family that have been here – for the long haul.

Happy Trails!

When Keith was healthy we took a few road trips and we took a couple of vacations, but it wasn’t until we started living in the moment that our traveling really took off.  I think I got my maternal grandma’s gypsy spirit … of course I wish Keith were sitting next to me on the plane or in the car, but in some capacity I know that he still is.

So an amazing group of on-line “family” have gotten together to bring me to Florida in January!  I am blessed by a pre-paid plane ticket by a wonderful woman who I pray will be well enough to be there and for me to hug in person, and the homes of three beautiful women who have graciously invited me to stay in their homes.  When I was told of this trip, honestly, I was so overwhelmed with emotion that they would think to get me there (which I was working on anyway) but this just worked out so perfectly for all of us that well, again, I am just so blessed and grateful for their friendship.  Florida in January when you live in Chicago, yes please!

In February, I will be attending an International Cancer Symposium which requires travel to Arizona.  Arizona in February when you live in Chicago, yes please!  As a volunteer for the PMP Research Foundation, I will represent this amazing organization with pride.  We are an all-volunteer charity working hard by providing hope for current and future patients..  Funding research for this specific cancer is what we do, by generous donations and benefactors.  Supporting educational seminars is as important to the public as it is to physicians and we are proud to sponsor events like this.  Providing, up to date treatment information, clinical and research information is what we strive for.

And giving support to patients, caregivers and friends of those diagnosed, is important to me.  I was able to do this for Keith and in many ways, I am blessed to continue doing this through him and his never-ending love for me.

Changes

2016 means other changes for me as well.  My youngest daughter and her two children are getting married!  Yes, I did say the kids are getting married because they are a family unit and I cannot be more happy for her and them as this blending becomes an incredible mix of nothing but love.  I am blessed that I will have a son-in-law who is so caring, loving, hard-working and respectful to my daughter.  He reminds me so much of Keith in his attitude and ethics.  God bless their marriage always.

This marriage also means a change for my living situation.  My loving grandson (4 years old in the coming month) likes to remind me daily that “Grandma, you are a very, very old lady” and sometimes, with all the chaos in our house, I think he’s right!  I have never lived alone so once I figure out whether I sell or stay (although this is an awfully big house for one person) I am going to embrace the change.  Talking to a friend recently, she explained how empowering it was for her to live alone.  It’s just going to be different.  And I will finally get to be a grandma for these two kids, instead of another parent – bonus!

2016 means, as I said above, drama free.  I am not big on making resolutions because I usually break them (fairly quickly).  But I am going to try to eat better – I will never be perfect with diet because I love good food and I love bad food too.  I love donuts.  I love greasy french fries.  But to be really drama free, I have to be better at my choices so I don’t create a health drama!

Letting go of hurt and changing my way of thinking will greet me tomorrow.  Forgiveness is something I have worked on this year and I have not been very successful.  Some pain runs so deep that I’ve thought that only God can forgive those transgressions.  I prayed a lot and asked forgiveness from Him in my ability to not be so forgiving.  I have never intentionally hurt someone and if I have unintentionally done that, when made aware, I beg forgiveness.  I am not perfect; I am human but I do know that after the last five years of my life, there is nothing more important than being with those you love and making time for them.  I take nothing for granted in this life because it can change in an instant.  Forgiveness only needs to be in my heart and I think I have that worked out.  It will never change circumstances and will never change the past, but it will allow me to say, with a clear conscience, yes, I am able to move forward – without fan-fare, without drama.  I’ve learned that all I have to do is “walk away” from things that bother me, now that is empowering!

Happiness and Music

I am choosing happy.  One of the last conversations that Keith and I had been about happiness.  No, I will never “get over” his death.  But I am, as I have said several times, happy that he does not have cancer.

I am happy with the person that I am.  I am happy to do good work to honor this man who honored me with his love and with his life.  My love will always be with him, but as he always told me, “honey, you have the biggest heart of anyone I know”.  I believe him now – because I still have this ability to care about others.  I am not angry, really never have been and sadness sometimes creeps in for what may have been, but I am happy to be alive and happy that I have children and grandchildren and some parents still living; I have siblings and in-laws and cousins and aunts and uncles and friends!  I am loved and that makes me happy.

Music is also my happy place.  Some music shakes me to the core and I cry because it is so beautiful and speaks just to me –to my memories of Keith and us and to my memories of our son, my sister and brother and others who have gone before me.  Some music reminds me of friends and good times spent together.  And my favorite music is the music that reminds me of Keith and I where I literally get butterflies in my stomach because they were “our songs” and give me the feeling of I can’t wait to see him again feelings of love!  Those are the absolute best!

Happy New Year!

May yours be healthy and prosperous and full of love and friendship.  For me, I am counting my blessings.  God bless you all.

Dreams

I have a dIMG_1526ream that I wish I could somehow turn into reality. If I had the means, I would show up at every single doorstep of my friends who need a hug or someone to hold their hand, if only for a short amount of time. Sometimes, I believe, people don’t even know that is what they need.  I know that I did not always know.

My heart feels so enormous now and aches for those who I know could use an understanding friend. Words are important in our interactions but feelings of desperation often need a human touch.  To have someone sit beside you and say nothing, but hold your hand, or give a nod and shed a few tears together because you know.  You have done this before.  I feel this push; almost a gravitational pull to get out there and help.  My heart cares so much for those who are experiencing what I have experienced.  It is more than feeling empathy.  It is more than feeling bad for people and their circumstances.  I do not have the words to describe the emotion that is inside of me.  It is something I have not felt for a very long time, almost an excitement.

I have prayed.  I have prayed a lot.  I have asked for guidance.  I believe it is more than missing my husband.  I think it is more than missing the care-giving of him.  I think it is in my soul.  I am feeling the need to reach out beyond myself in a way that is bigger than I can imagine.  I’m not looking for a job or a career now.  I am looking to fill the hearts of others with joy and peace.  I’m looking for a way of being that friend to others. Keith and I often reached out to others in their time of need, together.  We would often hear something and immediately get into our car and go…just go.  Be there.  Be there in person and be there now.

I am mostly a doer, not a planner.  I run from the heart and will be the first to raise my hand.  I’m not a leader, but I belong to something bigger than myself. I am also, a bit shy until I am 100% comfortable in what I am doing.

I do not know where this dream of mine will lead.  What I do know is that I am keeping my heart wide open.  If I show up on your door-step, you know I just felt compelled to do so.

A Lifetime Gift

Keith gave me the most amazing gift while he lived. He gave me his love. He also gave me an incredible perspective on life. His love helped shape my future and because of his belief in me, I am a stronger person today than I ever have been.

I’ve mentioned before this once-in-a-lifetime love affair that Keith and I shared. When I hear people mention that a good marriage takes hard work, I really and truly don’t get that. We never needed to work at anything – it just was. We went through times that our life was in turmoil with finances, raising 5 kids as a blended family, health issues, (mostly me) and outside influences that affected our lives with family and friends and incredible personal losses like everyone does. But we never let those things get in the way of what was most important. Let me say, the needs of our children came before our personal needs, always. But from the perspective of what I needed and Keith needed, truly – all we both needed was love.

A very wise woman whom I loved deeply, God bless her and rest her soul, once told me: “Your husband had better be your best friend. Someday your children will grow up and move on and you are stuck with that person for the rest of your life.” Keith was my best friend. Keith gave of himself so completely that it was impossible not to fall in love with him. There was never a “me” in our relationship, it was always “us”. There was always “we” – what are we going to do now? I refuse to go forward in life in the singular, because Keith will always be with me to guide me and love me.

We can go through life with blinders on (I lived that way pre-Keith) or we can pick ourselves up through adversity and look at the whole picture. We are on this earth for a short time and that became increasingly evident when Keith became ill. I think because Keith and I shared the same objectives in life everything just fit.

Keith and I figured out “our” key to life many years ago. For us individually and together, giving always felt good and it felt right. I am not talking about financial giving; I am talking about the giving of you – to another person, to strangers, to family and friends. We gave together and that was the best feeling of all. We were partners in love and in life and even now, when we are approaching two months since his passing, I feel him pushing me to keep smiling and living life.

I look at this experience of losing my husband as one of personal growth. Through Keith’s continued love and support (call me crazy, but I’m a believer) I have been seeking opportunities that would emulate the way that Keith and I lived.
I will not let Keith’s life and especially his death, be in vain. Toward the end of his life, Keith and I talked at length about what the future would hold. We both knew, at least we thought we knew that it would involve appendix cancer and pseudomyxoma peritonei.

Last month I contacted and asked to volunteer, in whatever capacity I am able, for the PMP Research Foundation. www.pmpcure.org.

The mission of the PMP Research Foundation is to fund promising research to find a cure for Pseudomyxoma Peritonei (PMP), Appendix Cancer, and related Peritoneal Surface Malignancies (PSM), and to fund educational programs for physicians and patients about these diseases.

I truly cannot think of a better way to pay Keith’s life forward – to feel like a part of something that is bigger than I could have ever imagined in honor of Keith, feels so right. I am so thrilled to have been welcomed so graciously by this organization.

For those of you who are not on Facebook, please take a look at the following link. If you donated after Keith’s passing as was our wish, you can be proud, right alongside me that with others, Keith was included in the memorialization of the following research grant: http://www.pmpcure.org/blog/2014-research-grant-recipients

Keith lives on through all of those whose life he touched, those who loved him and those he loved. He will always live through me as I continue my own advocacy and awareness campaign; supporting other venues relative to this disease, and especially keeping active providing support of those whose lives were, are and will be affected by this cancer. We will also continue to be very connected to Dr. George Salti, who truly gave us the opportunity of a lifetime. So from my non-singular life, we are still together.

My life is busy and full. I am loved and I love where my life is taking me. I am also excited to share that my sister, our girlfriend and I are going to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico next month! A full week of fun in the sun and a few cocktails (hey, it’s all inclusive after all) shared with two of my favorite women has me a little more than excited! Thanks to Kimberly for holding down the fort at home!

My blog would never be complete without mentioning my faith. I am so grateful to God for bringing Keith into my life and for his love, which will truly will last me a lifetime. I am grateful for the opportunities that I have been praying about being made clear to me.  Amen.

“God is good all of time. All of the time God is good”.