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Autumnal Attitude

“No spring nor summer beauty hath such grace as I have seen in one autumnal face.”
― John Donne

Change isn’t always better.

Change can be scary, or damaging, or wrong.

But change is the natural order from whence forces conduct so a fresh line of hope can be drawn.

The beginning of this school year was distressing for me. Abraham and I have been inseparable for the past 18-26 months. Dropping him off each day is like sending him off to kindergarten all over again. Only this time he’s emerging in his third grade element, and I’m stuck, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

But as the days pass, I am wearing a positive groove into our routine, and my attitude is slowly improving. After all, I couldn’t ask for a more supportive group for our son than the staff and students of Taft Primary School.

For instance, the homecoming parade was across the field from the school. Abraham was able to walk there, but having the energy to return was a completely different story.

So the new principal, Mr. Lee, gave Abe a piggyback ride most of the way back to school. The kids thought it was great fun, and once again, a school situation that could’ve been beyond Abraham’s ability was not only possible but downright warmhearted and enjoyable. I must learn to rely on others now, and give myself some space to rebuild.

A friend told me that I needed to be as good in giving myself grace as I am in sharing it with others. I thought about that quite a bit over the weekend. I’m not sure where to start with myself, so I will do what always feels best; I will look to nature to find direction and peace.

Autumnal attitude comes as a second spring of color where even though the chill of winter is nearing, we warm to the idea of fall. I remain absorbed in the well being of my family, but I don’t want worry to mute the bright colors emerging from our recovery.

So, I’m going to take the advice from my dear friend as well as from Mother Nature and practice grace and depth born of natural change. With enough practice, I hope to find peace along the changing landscape.

Peace, hope, and faith…

Hustle Kindness Friday 

Two years ago today, we found out that Abraham’s cancer had returned. One year ago, we received these customized shoes in the mail from a small NFP in Farmington, NM that brings hope to children living with critical illness or disabilities by putting compassion into action. 

The kindness and love that found our family moved me, and I’ve tried to promote their mission ever since. Everyone has the power to make a positive change in this world, we just have to find our own unique way. The kindness hustle is real, and I am proud to be a part of the Peach’s Neet Feet tribe. 

It is Hustle Kindness Friday and today’s hustle is for Kaj, a strong little boy who has battled hard to overcome many obstacles, surgeries, and hardships after an accidental car fire. 

How do we grow compassion for kids like Abraham and Kaj? 

From our roots.

Kindness begins at home. All families are different, and respecting those differences is best learned through example. 

Today, be the voice of kindness for kids who can get overlooked during their struggles, but deserve to be seen just like everyone else. Include those who are otherwise left out, and talk to kids about diversity in appearance so they learn to see beyond skin or scars or baldness; and into the body of love.

Peace, love and hope…

A Single Sunbeam

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. –Leo Buscaglia

There is rarely a day without doubt, but that should not chain us to low expectations or a misguided acceptance of today’s status quo. What I am starting to see is that doubt carries with it a safety of sorts. It provides a shift to Plan B when hopes fall through or efforts fall short.

This morning, the part-time grandma who works at Abraham’s school met student after student as they exited school buses. Her 8:30-9:00 goal each school day is to assist the children from bus to building in a safe and orderly fashion.

Today,  instead of her no-nonsense standards of “Good morning” or, “No running,” she greeted each child or group by saying, “Today is a day to smile!”

I watched that single sentence work its way into several young hearts.  I saw sad children quietly walk up the sidewalk, and by the time they reached the building a belief in ‘what could be’ showed in their posture and gait.

Young souls captured the elder’s energy like a camera, and it flipped the possibilities of their day. Doubts about getting through whatever personal battles they have were partially lifted – maybe for just a moment – but hope worked its way in, and that is what matters.

A few extra children walked in to a school happy today. That easier, low-conflict start could end up restoring an empty world for any one of those kids or perhaps, even for one of their teachers with whom they spend so much time.

Sound dramatic? It’s not.

The shadow of doubt can cover the glory in our day, but a single ray of hope can alight thick shrouds of insecurity with texture and certainty: providing a grip of hope to keep a life from slipping away.

We can be that hope for others. All we have to do is gloss our actions and words with tolerance instead of criticism. Unless we are personally responsible or invested (parent, officer, official, or mate), there’s little chance our disapproval will affect the listener at all anyway; so why bother?

Instead of complaining today, we can, for free:

Give a smile to those who don’t have one.

Offer simple sentences of hope to those in need.

Notice what people do right especially during times of struggle.

Listen to listen and not to reply.

Be somebody’s Plan B.


When we make any of these changes within us, we give others around us a chance to thrive instead of wither: nourishing the personal landscape of our world instead of draining it.

Peace and hope…

Daily Duties and Daily Bread

The best things in life are nearest ones: breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, the path of right just before you. Daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things in life. 

-Robert Louis Stevenson

Today I give thanks for the path of right before me.

Abraham was examined by three doctors and four nurses; poked twice (port access, blood draw, and a shot); tested for three hours on his cognitive, emotional, and general processing skills; scanned; surveyed; high-fived and hugged warmly. 

Our daily duties are done.

We have given thanks. 

Sunlight is shining down on us as we head south on Lake Shore Drive.

And, our breath can expand a little deeper as the well-being of our precious boy, according to his dear army of a medical team, remains stable on all fronts.

Today, we feel richer than kings.

Peace and thanks…

Birthday Magic

“I do believe in an everyday sort of magic — the inexplicable connectedness we sometimes experience with places, people, works of art and the like; the eerie appropriateness of moments of synchronicity; the whispered voice, the hidden presence, when we think we’re alone.”    -Charles de Lint

Last year, the majority of our days – including holidays – were spent at the hospital and the Ronald McDonald House. RMH is a treasured and welcoming home away from home for us. We have stayed at three different homes over the past two years. Each one has a charm of its own. Here on Grand Avenue just blocks from Lake Michigan, we feel loved and protected amid the hustle and noise of the city.

Here we are upon today’s arrival:

Yes, I am wearing a birthday tiara. Today is my birthday! The boys gave it to me six years ago. It used to light up, too. It had been lost until this summer. I’ve kept it at the top of my closet for the past three months waiting for this day 🙂

RMH saved me from myself over two years ago when I was trying to “tough it out” at the hospital so I could contantly be by Abraham’s side. When I was forced to relent and get some sleep (I was kindly escorted by a strong paramedic off the hospital premises due exhaustion), I quickly realized what a blessing Ronald McDonald House Charities would be for our family.

Volunteers and donations keep RMH running. Anyone who uses Amazon Smile can support this oasis for families with critically ill children. Choose a house in your area, or donate to the ones nearest our heart at Ronald McDonald Charities Chicagoland and northwest Indiana.

Oftentimes, there is a care package of sorts in our room here at RMH when we arrive. Sometimes it’s a toothbrush, or maybe even a hat or blanket for Abraham. Today, there was a beanie baby – a very special one. 

When Abram pulled the little brown and black beanie from the bag, I exclaimed, “Congo!” 

Sure enough, I opened his tag, and that’s his name. 

How did I know? 

Over forty years ago, my mom travelled a lot for her job. On the longer trips, she would return with a beanie baby for me. The very first one she ever brought me was a gorilla named Congo. He became the leader of all my stuffed animals. 

With the magic and spirit that is Ronald McDonald House, Congo’s apparent grandson, Congo, greeted me at nearly the exact time I was born 48 years ago. 

Mom’s been gone eight years. She is with me every day in spirit , but today she really upped her game to a physical level. Abraham looked at me with awe and delight as I told him the story about his Nana. He hugged me and Congo tightly and let out an emotional, “Happy birthday, Mom!”

Try and tell me there isn’t more to the world than what we can see!

Tonight, we will take care of a few things and settle in early. Tomorrow and Wednesday Abraham will be outpatient at Lurie tending to his three-month brain and spine MRI with contrast, various tests, port maintenance, and doctor visits. 

Over our months of stay, the warm meals, soft bed, and caring staff have repeatedly brought comfort to my fatigued body and soul. Today, I am not as weary, but the light of love and synchronicity brought to my heart is without measure. 

With such an encouraging start to our week, we feel mightily prepared.

Peace, hope, love and thanks…

Go September Gold

As September comes to a close, I’m sure many are feeling a sense of relief due to the harsh content childhood cancer awareness month represents. I’m actually relieved a bit, too because I’ve tried to share on a variety of platforms and very, very few have liked, shared, or followed.

I get it. I remember in my twenties quickly changing the channel on emaciated children because it was much too depressing. But in my forties, my child was diagnosed with cancer, and I couldn’t switch away anymore.

I believe there are positive avenues that could form when awareness initiates prescription drug reform and research funding. But that can’t happen if people are curious at best when it comes to others in need.

I am all about focusing on the good in this world, but I was given imagination and peripheral vision so I could stay aware of sad or scary surroundings even when I’m focused on finding my own peace.


The Rising Waters of Anxiety

Today’s rain brings a melancholy that mirrors my shallow rhythm of anxiety as we anticipate Abraham’s MRI, labs, and cognitive testing next week.

This morning, with the lull of the raindrops patting the roof of my car, Abraham fell asleep on the way to school. He brings his all each day, but sometimes the “all” he needs is rest.

He and Tommy are both at school now.

I can’t fully describe how the anticipation builds within me before an MRI. All I can say is scanxiety does not allow a feeling of confidence, but there is more to it than just fear. It carries with it a strained and weary reluctance to return to the moment where cancer struck, and our world shook until pieces of us fell away and we were left, wounded, to fight a rare and deadly disease.

But we were never alone. Together we battled, and together we will watch.

Now that the fighting has stilled, we engage instead in a reconnaissance mission to assess and maintain Abraham’s safety. Tommy will stay with Grandma; Chris, Abraham and I will return to the scene on Monday, and again every three months thereafter for scans.

Hope is the rope we hold fast as the waters of anxiety rise. We are grateful for so much and so many, and because of that bounty, we hold on – rain or shine.

Peace, love and hope…

The Veiled Coexistence of Mankind and Nature

“Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.”

-Mark Twain

Nature and politics are forever at odds. Nature does nothing uselessly; whereas the art of politics can only create change when idle authority and active competence collide.

If humanity is going to survive, we must foster the essence of what it means to be human. We are flawed; we are different; but we are connected.

“The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.”    -Albert Einstein 

It is only when we speak our individual truths- no matter how harsh or scarred- that those who seek a better world will hear the vital, indigenous voice at its core.

The farther we step from the sanctity of Earth the greater its divide.

Peace and hope for harmony…

At Bat

I’ve heard there are troubles of more than one kind; some come from ahead, and some come from behind. But I’ve brought a big bat. I’m all ready, you see; now my troubles are going to have troubles with me!

-Dr. Seuss

How do you protect yourself? What do you bring in defense?

Anger? Denial? Projection? Indifference?

I usually bring intense energy, a knotted stomach, and resourcefulness. I may not always solve a problem right away, but I keep swinging at ideas in all directions until something connects.

That’s how I protect myself and those I love.

That sense of defense and preservation goes beyond having children. All ages and walks of life do what they must to protect what they love. It’s an instinctive and pure reaction.

Taft school called at 11:00 this morning to tell me Abram was in the office again. Recovering after radiation and chemotherapy has its own set of cautions. Plus, his compromised immune system creates an easy target for germs.

The secretary said his stomach aches and his throat “feels funny” not sore, but not funny “ha, ha” either. When I talked to him on the phone, he sounded shaky. I immediately sprang to action and got him home.

He’s in his cozy recliner but looks unwell: dark eyes, pale skin, and that listless slump we get when we’re tired. He has no fever, but says it doesn’t feel like a normal stomach ache. On a pain scale he gives it a five.

Those details leave me without answers to what is really wrong with him, but I can work with that.

After I got him comfortable, I gently rubbed his neck and abdomen with essential oils: ginger, marjoram, and fennel to alleviate the pain and soothe his throat and stomach. Now he is resting.

For the past 27 months our two duffel bags have been packed in case we need to respond to a medical emergency and head to Chicago. I don’t think I will ever fully unpack; I need to always feel prepared.

Today, I finally realized on a deeper level, that I made the right decision staying home to take care of my family. I had doubts. I miss my classroom and friends, and I’ve found over the past two weeks that the view of the stay-at-home mom is to some, an old joke.

On a few occasions, I found myself accounting for how I fill my time now that all I do is “stay home.” That’s been a sensitive subject for me. I’ve worked hard at every job I’ve tried since I started babysitting at eleven years old. Now I’m trying to reclaim my home and my life after being blindsided by pediatric cancer and the onslaught of grief that goes with it.

I don’t know what I expected these back-to-school weeks to feel like, but defensive wasn’t something I’d figured on.  Their comments made me feel a bit selfish. After all, why should I get more time to my family and myself? Do I/we really deserve it?

Today, I can firmly say, “yes.”

Being sick is easier with a mom around. I miss my mom every day, and when I’m feeling low, it’s twice as painful. Abraham, although improving, will remain medically fragile for some time. Since I have been fortunate and blessed with this special child, I will treat the honor with the dedication and patience it deserves.

Tommy needs me, too. He got by without his mom’s help for much of his fifth and sixth grade experience. I’m here for him now to support and guide him through the challenges of junior high. I can clearly recall my friend, Jane, telling me as a school administrator how she firmly believed that although it’s obvious how younger children need a solid home to offer nurturing and guidance, during her years in education she has seen time and again how vital it is to be there for tweens and teens as they transition into adulthood.

After helping Abraham today, I know where I am needed most. Chris and I have always put our children first, and I am proud of that.  Yet, “Only by pride cometh contention,” so it’s a thin line to defend. The hard part is keeping hostility at bay as we raise our precautionary bats in defense of our love and commitments.

I like to cooperate, and I prefer defense to offense; however, when the health and harmony of my loved ones is compromised, I’m going to stick with my basic instincts and come out swinging.