Luck and Simple Progress

I am due for another round of rituximab next week and then two weeks later.  I must cancel.  I am not sick.  I mean, there is no indication that a flare is coming soon.  I am cheering very quietly, trying not to disrupt the natural flow of good luck here.  Speaking of luck, it may be affecting my real estate situation, too.  I’m all set to occupy my next home, and the not-yet-sold house has been getting more attention lately.  I am whispering when I say that someone liked it enough to take a bunch of photos this week.  Don’t want to put any pressure on that luck thing, but an offer would be great…

I am light-years beyond the state of mind that says we can bargain for luck.  I can be as good as gold and not be lucky.  I appreciate it when I see it, but I know I don’t deserve it and that it could trickle away at any time, without explanation.  In spite of this, my recent days have been filled with fortuitous occurrences.  For example, despite a delay in making our trip to Athens, my daughter and I moved her things without difficulty and were back just in time to catch a visit from my Minneapolis sister.  Tied to that was my recent good health, which allowed me to be at IHOP before 8:30 a.m. today, to enjoy pancakes and see her off. 

I can think of so many “lucky” things that I’m aware of an undercurrent of anxiety today.  When I start seeing lucky occurrences, it is my nature to accept and enjoy them, but to leave a small piece of consciousness focused on waiting for the other shoe to drop.  I start trying to work out things in my head, things that aren’t yet at the working out stage.  I ponder the nature of my luck and try to predict the duration of it.   I poke it and prod it and wonder where it came from, and if I can send it away.  I blow it up to mythic proportions, embuing things with luck even when they aren’t particularly lucky, by calling myself lucky to have avoided the opposite.  For instance, I might say to myself that I’m lucky to not have a boyfriend, because it means that at least I don’t have a bad boyfriend.

Okay, now I’ve spooked myself.  I can’t stay on the topic of luck any longer without losing sleep over whether I’ve  interrupted this good spell by talking about it.  Instead, a summary of recent projects.  The Chattanooga Market seems to be full of folks who want items of clothing for babies and children.  Since that has been the greatest interest, I’ve knitted and crocheted a pile of  small hats, most of them cotton.  I’m still working on cotton baby blankets, too.  I’ve been reveling in the use of Blue Sky Alpaca Dyed Organic Cotton.  It is ridiculously soft and cuddly, the stuff to wrap your little ones in.  Dayna’s chicken is finished, and it’s a lovely overstuffed creature.  She wanted it to be very full and round, rather than the slimmer silhouettes shown on the pattern, so it is well-filled.  The body is purple, crown and wattles are lime green, and beak and tail feathers are neon pink.  I had big fun making it.  I finished it in Athens and it hasn’t been unpacked, so I have no photos yet. 

I am actually contemplating staying home when my daughter returns to school.  She has recruited a couple of boys and her dad to help move her things into the new apartment.  I am not needed for hauling (thank God!).  I may go along later to help unpack things, if it looks like she will be busy with recruitment for her sorority.  We are doing this separation thing nicely, thank you very much.  It makes me feel like a better mom, backing off until I am summoned. 

A confession:  Tonight, after I prepared the house for a late showing, I put on my turtle necklace.  A friend gave it to me yesterday, a beautiful pendant with a dragonfly on the turtle shell, made by a Lakota woman.  I have come to appreciate the slow, steady progress of the turtle, and the density and strength of its simple shell.  Having a chronic illness like lupus requires a long view and a steady pace.  Nothing happens quickly, but I look back and see my tremendous improvement from last year. 



Weekend Ramblings

Yesterday I looked in the mirror and saw a pink person.  I had a gentle flush all over, like someone with mild sunburn.  My skin blanched, that is, when I pressed down with my fingertip, it would leave a light place, then I could see the pink colour coming back.  Today I wore a pink dress to the breakfast restaurant so I wouldn’t seem so pink.  Or maybe it was so my pink would just seem like a reflection of what I was wearing.  Actually, it didn’t hurt that the pink dress fit a lot better than it did last year when I bought it, and I thought I was looking good. 

I’ve had spells of sweats for the past couple of days, and everyone has noted how warm my skin feels.  I’ve also been a little tired, but not so I couldn’t manage packing and going to see my daughter and enjoying it.

I’m listing these symptoms because, with the infrequent dosing schedule, I tend to forget what the aftermath of rituximab treatment is like.  I just have a vague idea that I don’t feel great for a couple of days, then it’s okay, when actually, some very specific things occur.  The first of this pair of treatments occured four days ago, and will be repeated in two weeks.  I had post-treatment giddiness related to being around that roomful of cancer patients and knowing that, thank God, I wasn’t being treated for cancer. 

My daughter curtailed other activities and spent lots of time with me on this combined birthday-parents weekend visit.  Her dad was also there, and we shamefully missed every parents weekend activity and made our own plans.  I had a great time.  Saturday night consisted of my girl and her best friend hanging out in my hotel room.  We watched Madagascar and Shrek, talked and played on the computer, and they introduced me to blackberry Alize.  This was the twenty-first birthday, and it was absolutely perfect to be able to see her enjoying it.  Friday, at her favorite restaurant, she proudly ordered a beer and presented her legal ID. 

I drove home today listening to a great oldies station.  It should be the law that you have to go back and listen to some oldies once a month.  I heard “Dance to the Music” by Sly and the Family Stone, “Instant Karma” (John Lennon), some great ’80s disco music, ’60s Motown, Simon and Garfunkel, Billy Joel…just a huge array of great music without many breaks.  Did you know “Bridge Over Troubled Water” was the number 1 song the year I started high school?  Okay, me either. 

This weekend I put my knitting down long enough to re-discover my online Scrabble game.  I think I should give it a little spin now.  There’ll be more writing time this week. 


Parenting Post-Mortem

Yesterday, discussing the death of my best friend from a brain tumor, here:,

     brought a flood of memories that intersected with one of my greatest parenting concerns. 


My daughter is 20 years old, a successful college student at a very large institution three hours from home.   Some family members and friends expressed concerns that she would be able to leave her mother for extended times.  She had grown up with me always struggling with illness, as I was diagnosed with systemic lupus when she was 4 years old.   I was divorced two years after that, so for the most part it has been the two of us.  Despite worries about her mom, she has always been independent and the first one to go spend the night (or the week) with her friends.  One trip when she was about five was from Chattanooga to Ashville, NC with her best friend’s family.  When they returned to Chattanooga after four days, she called to tell me she wasn’t ready to come home yet and that she’d let me know when to get her.  As I recall, she stayed with that family another four or five days.  I appreciated the opportunity for her to spend time with other families who could be more active.  She didn’t lack for interesting experiences, despite my limitations.


That’s not to say she didn’t express some concerns.  She asked me a few times if I was going to die, and seemed to be satisfied with my stock answer “Not any time soon, sweetie.”  She was alert to any health hazards, focusing on things like smoking (which I’ve never done) and drinking alcohol.  When she learned that alcohol could be harmful, she worried about my infrequent bottle of beer, so much so that I stopped drinking completely.  I figured that my medicated liver could do without the additional toxins, anyway.


From age 8 to age 18, she experienced something that I hadn’t anticipated and found totally at odds with my statistical expectations.  For ten years, her friends lost their mothers at a rate of one per year.  These were all women with whom she was acquainted, all of them active as parent volunteers at her various schools, some whose children were very close friends.  She had out-of-school experiences with all of the children; none were just distant schoolmates.  The women died of various causes:  one young colon cancer, a brain tumor, two breast cancers, a complication of leukemia, a stroke, a cervical cancer (in a health professional who admitted she had neglected her own Pap smears), a pulmonary embolus, and one aneurysm.  One was murdered in a terrible domestic situation.  Ten women, all within 5 years of my age, either way.  Between them, 19 children, four  of whom are my former Girl Scouts. 


My girl may have been better prepared to face these deaths than most.  From age five weeks (when I returned to my practice) to age two and a half, she stayed with her grandparents while I worked.  My parents were in their early 70s.  As with most folks in that age range, they were gradually seeing their contemporaries and more elderly friends and relatives die off.  My parents were very faithful funeral goers, and never missed an opportunity to express their condolences (mostly Daddy) and count the number of bouquets sent by mourners (mostly Mama).  Since Dayna was with them, she attended those events, too.  Like most of my family, she was quite matter-of-fact about this steady stream of death celebrations.  Actually, I didn’t give it much thought until I heard her refer to seeing an older physician friend “in the box”. 


My daughter showed her aplomb when she was vacationing with the family of one of her friends when the mother (since deceased), received her diagnosis of breast cancer.  She continued to demonstrate her security about this everyday thing called “death” by attending the majority of the funerals of the women listed above.  She is very loyal to her friends, and when they have an event, whether it’s a party or a funeral, she is there.  She has been surprised repeatedly to find that some of her friends only attended their first funerals in high school, with some of these deaths, and even more so to learn that some people are afraid to attend.


I’ve always thought my role as a parent was to raise a compassionate, productive, independent child who could see her place as a citizen of the planet, not just the town.  Had I foreseen the rash of untimely deaths of mothers she knew, I’m sure I would have talked to her more, as talk is my currency.  I would have wasted a lot of hot air explaining why loved ones die and how to cope with it, not understanding in her early years what I can’t escape now:  that she is the teacher in her world, and words don’t do it for her. 


A story often told by her father, and still relished by her, is the one about learning to tie her shoes.  Her father, seeing her awkward and rather sloppy technique, was at his gentle, tactful best:  “I’m going to show you how Daddy ties his shoes.”  He then demonstrated, ending-of course!  with 30-plus years of experience-a beautiful bow.  Her response:  “Now let me show you how I tie my shoes,” and proceeded to repeat her awkward method, ending her lop-sided bow with a flourish.  My girl, always the teacher, confident in her knowledge and her place. 






Going to the Prom and Other Parent Experiences

Senior prom.  My host son modelled his brown pinstriped tuxedo, promised to take lots of photos, and left to pick up his date.  His date, also a boarding student, is a girl he’s been dating for a while, and they seem quite comfortable with each other.  He discussed after-prom plans with me.  He is not the one who is likely to push the envelope and wind up arrested or dead, but still a prayer is in order.


Senior prom is supposed to be one of those events that you remember all your life, but I honestly can’t recall the details of my own.  Some things I’m sure about only because they could have happened only one way.  I had one steady boyfriend in high school, and he was a freshman at a local university during my senior year, so I know that I attended prom with him.  I also know that there were no after-prom parties or restaurant visits.  My parents were on their second set of offspring, and their rules hadn’t changed in 30 years of parenting.  My mother knew the number of minutes it took to go from any possible date destination to our house, and I didn’t dare deviate from the expected “come straight home” instructions.  Not one of the bookish, law-abiding teens in my school crowd was above suspicion, so I was rarely allowed to socialize outisde school.  I was allowed one date per week with my long-standing, dependable, ardent Christian boyfriend, on the principle that if we had seen each other once, that was enough.   


It is enough to say that discipline in that household was swift, undisputed, and harsh.  I spent my high school time longing for the day when I would leave for college.  The senior prom was a landmark on the path out that door.  Because the things I was disciplined for were trivial, mostly consisting of thinking and believing differently from my parents, my childhood was especially rough.  I was a law-abiding straight-A student  who never did anything to embarrass the family or to make it difficult to stay on the path to my profession, but it never seemed to be enough.  Now, in these late years, my parents say “We are proud of you.  You have done well.”  Some late revelations, but not too late. 


The movie Juno   will be on sale soon.  I have to buy it and watch it again.  I am fascinated by portrayals of the kind of childhood where there is no abuse.  I am in awe of children who have honest conversations with their parents, express differences of opinion, are allowed to be involved in decisions affecting their lives.  I have tried to build that kind of household myself.  There is increasing evidence of the harm we do our children when we rely on physical discipline (read “abuse”).  I am frightened by the number of people that I know personally who brag on the abuse they took as children and the need to perpetuate that with their own children–the “I turned out okay” line of thinking.  I want to blurt out “You really think you’re so okay?” but I don’t.  I remain calm and point to the evidence to the contrary:  a quick search for “consequences of spanking children” on Google brings up reams of documents on the controversial topic.  


Choosing the kind of parent that you want to be is one of the great decisions of adulthood.  Practicing that style of parenting day after day, from one event to the next, in good times and difficult times, is a discipline.  Blessed as I am with easy children, it still isn’t a given that my parenting will go smoothly.  With two 20 year-olds full-time and a handful of part-timers, days like this when a formal dance is the biggest issue are beautiful experiences.