Saturday, December 24, 2011


Remember how I love Christmas music? Well more specifically, I love Christmas hymns and carols. No, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and Santa Claus is Coming to Town do not make me smile (unless they’re sung by my adorable four year old neighbor), but things like O Holy Night and O Come, O Come Emmanuel do.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel is my favorite Christmas hymn. It’s a beautiful song – it’s lyrics are amazing, it comes from a beautiful vespers* used the last seven days of advent, and the names of Jesus it describes are all in Isaiah, my favorite prophet in the Bible.

But last night, as I was reading the vesper for December 23rd (O Emmanuel, God with us), and sang the first verse of O Come, O Come Emmanuel to myself I was struck by something, something I knew about the hymn, but had forgotten:

O come, o come Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
Who mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appears

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee
O Israel
Israel was mourning in lonely exile. They were captives, they were in the middle of really crappy times. But they were waiting for the Son, and rejoicing that he was coming, that he had promised to come. They weren’t denying the fact that times were shitty (hence the mourning) but they realized that God was mourning with them, and that he still had promised that his son, God with Us, would come to them.

I’m mourning now. Maybe not in lonely exile, but I’m mourning. And yet Christmas reminds me that the Son of God appears, he has appeared, and that is something to rejoice in, or at least have hope in. Jesus is with me, he’s with my family, and that promise is renewed at Christmas.

*My favorite thing about the Antiphons? When you take the seven names of Jesus that make up the Antiphons, and line them up backwards and in Latin (the language the Antiphons were written in), the first letter of each name makes an acrostic that spells “ero cras,” which translates to “tomorrow, I will be there.” How cool is that!


A few days ago I walked into an Old Navy.

I haven’t set foot in an Old Navy for six months. Not because I’m boycotting Old Navy specifically, but because in July I decided to only buy thrifted clothing for a year. No new clothes for a year (except for things like underwear, or socks. I will never buy thrifted underwear, that’s just gross), and as little new other stuff as possible.

As I walked around the Old Navy, I realized that I could basically buy anything with very little effort – no searching racks and racks of unorganized jeans, old lady shirts, or 80’s dresses. But I could also buy anything with very little gratification – no discovering hidden gems amid the 80’s dresses, or getting excited about getting a designer pair of jeans for seven dollars.

After my six months of thrifting, shopping at big, regular stores is just too easy. It makes me wonder if shopping for clothes really should be that easy. I like the mystery, the wonder, the effort it takes to thrift. It’s an investment, but it keeps me from buying clothes too easily, which is a good discipline.

How does this connect to my mom? I thrifted her a Ralph Polo Jeans sweater for Christmas. BAM! Connection.

Radiation Update

Last Wednesday my mom finished radiation, and this first round of chemo. She’s so excited to be done with all of that – to not have to go in every day, have them put this weird mask on her face, and zap her head with the radiation thingy.

She’s still missing a lot of hair, and having a hard time speaking. It seems like her speaking has gotten worse in the past few days, and she’s also been feeling more tired. We hope that all of this will regulate when the swelling in her brain caused by the radiation goes down.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Little Things

It’s the little things that catch, that snag, that remind me how different things are now.

Like the fact that when she says “sure” it sounds like “sir.”

Or the fact that her hair isn’t flipped out on the sides anymore. If you know my mom, you know she always liked to look her best – hair, makeup, earrings, the whole deal. So not having her hair all fancy looking is weird.

Or that she can’t say “I love you,” she can only say “I love you too.” And that that is her response to me saying “goodnight,” or me saying “see you tomorrow,” or to anyone saying “goodbye.” She can’t form the words to give any other response. (Granted, it’s not a bad response to have – it’s nice to hear “I love you too” over and over again. But every time I hear it out of place, my reality snags again.)

But it’s also the little things that make me so glad that I can spend time with her.

Like her tenderness, especially as she’s falling asleep. The ways she says “I love you too” and “I’m so glad you’re here.”

Or her laughter. She laughs a lot, and every time it brightens up the room.

Or her sound effects. She makes sound effects when I help her get around – she learned it from my dad, because he says that life is better with sound effects.

It’s the little things.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Pops (or, as you may know him, my dad)

My dad is amazing.

I mean, he’s always been a great dad – always told me I was beautiful, and that he loved me. He always protected me (just ask any of my guy friends in high school who received the super strong I-could-crush-your-skull-with-one-hand handshake) and cared for me like a dad should. But with all of this with my mom, I’m seeing more and more just how great he is.

Like how tender he is with her. How he washes and blow-dries her hair in a certain way every morning so it covers the bald patches. How he puts her in bed every night, and organizes her pillows for her. How he sat in the hospital for hours at a time, just holding her hand and whispering sweet nothings in her ear (granted, I always make a gaggy face when this happens, because it’s my sworn duty as a daughter, but I secretly love to see how much he loves her).

Or how he goes to every radiation appointment with her (she kinda makes him, but even if she didn’t make him, he wouldn’t miss it), how he does her therapy exercises with her every day, how he jumps up to take her to the bathroom, or get her a cup of water, or do anything she asks, no matter what he’s doing when she asks. He even used to basically carry her from chair to wheelchair, until the therapist made him stop, because my mom wouldn’t get stronger if he kept it up.

Or how he bends down and helps her get on her shoes (which certainly isn’t good for his back), or how he stands up and walks much more than he used to (which really increases the pain in his leg and foot), or how stays up late so he can work on his sermon for Sundays (which means he gets even less sleep). Why all the snarky parenthetical statements? My dad has had two herniated discs in his back, numerous surgeries and as a result lost feeling and movement in one leg, and now has chronic pain, which is mostly caused by Stage 3 Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, also known as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. He can’t walk very much, and instead uses a scooter. And he hasn’t slept through the night in years.

Taking care of my mom is really physically hard for him. A few days ago we were just sitting and watching TV after a pretty standard day, and his pain on the pain scale was an 8 or a 9. His pain scale, he says, goes up to 12 instead of 10 (please tell me you thought of Spinal Tap when you read that). Which basically means he’s learned to live with an 8 or 9, since his ordinary, lowest pain level is probably a 4.

So he’s taking disability. He’s giving up a job he absolutely loves not because he really wants to, but because he physically can’t take care of my mom and pastor the church at the same time. It’s not that he’s retiring, or taking a leave to take care of my mom. It’s that he physically can’t do both. And though he loves the church, and has so much he still wants to do, my mom comes first. And he can’t take care of her if he is incapacitated with physical pain.

He cares so much for her. He always says he’d do anything for her. They’ve been married for over 30 years, and they really, truly love each other.

He and my mom made a pact not to make each other cry. I mean, with everything going on, they could probably be in tears all day, every day. Instead they make each other laugh.

And so they spend the days together, watching shows, laughing, and just being together. They won’t grow old together, but they still have more time. And my dad will use as much time as they have left to keep loving my mom.

Radiation is...

Radiation is a gift we weren’t sure we’d receive. My mom was barely healed enough to go to rehab, and there was no guarantee that she’d ever be well enough to get radiation. But she improved, and she was healthy enough. And so she gets 30 days of treatment. 30 days that could keep my mom healthier for longer. 30 days that could mean extra time with my mom.

But radiation is also a curse (or whatever that saying is. A curse, something shitty, a lump of coal in your stocking. Whatever the opposite of gift is.) It sucks. Losing chunks of hair at a time, being fatigued, struggling to speak again like she was two months ago. And the trek to the hospital every day, and the whole process of getting in and out of the house, and in and out of the car. Even that basic stuff takes so much longer now than it used to.

And yet radiation is not something to take for granted, both because of its awesomeness and its crappiness. It sucks, so we want it over sooner. But it will keep my mom alive longer, so we want to get as much of it as we can (you know, without overdoing it. Hence 30 days instead of more – there’s only so much your brain can take.)

Are there days we wish we didn’t have the appointment? Days it would be nicer to just stay at home watching The West Wing in the afternoon, instead of going to the doctors? Yes. But would we ever skip the appointment, and lose that chance for as much time together as a family as possible? Absolutely not. Not for anything.