I Remember Those 10 Months…

My two experiences with pregnancy were not my favorite seasons of life. Both times I had polyhydramnios, which means my body produced way more amniotic fluid than needed. In layman’s terms – my babies were swimming in an Olympic-sized uterine pool. At first this was cause for possible alarm – it could indicate a serious birth defect. Was he peeing but not swallowing? Are his organs and systems developing properly? Most typical pregnancies only had 1 or 2 ultrasounds in those days (not sure how it is now?) but I had one almost every month. This allowed us to take a good look at baby and do

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Colin says hello 3/8/2002

regular measurements of the fluid and my belly. To give you a reference, when I was 30 weeks pregnant my belly measured 42 weeks! And I still had 10 weeks to go! It was uncomfortable to say the least. Uncomfortable with all the stares, with people asking “you haven’t had that baby yet?!” when I was barely halfway through! Uncomfortable with the weight and the strange way my body was changing. Uncomfortable being a spectacle, “Are you having triplets? … Are you sure?!” I was lucky to not have to deal with morning sickness, gestational diabetes, or other issues that lots of moms have to deal with. But the physical changes and attention it brought me made it not my favorite time of life. When the babies came, they were both big fellas. Healthy but big! Colin arrived at 38 weeks weighing 8 lbs and 8 oz. Sam arrived at 39 weeks week at 10 lbs and 2 oz. Thankfully I had c-sections both times. When Sam greeted the world the doctor said,  “This baby needs a manssier!” because he looked like a little sumo wrestler. I’m so grateful we were all healthy. But it was a difficult time.

As we follow our state and local Stay At Home orders right now, thanks to COVID-19 and the havoc it is wreaking in our community and country, I remind myself that this is temporary. Surely it will only last a few months (Dear Lord, 3 months or less, please!). I have been home since January when I was laid off, and now the kids are home from school, and Don’s employer has had to cut hours & salaries due to the virus’ economic impact so he is home some, too! I think we are managing (mostly) but this morning I thought, “I don’t know what I’ll do if this goes longer than 3 months!” It’s a scary thought. Not only because of the worry of someone I love getting sick, but also our mental health after being stuck at home for months on end. I bet you can relate.

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Sam announces his entry 12/29/2004

And then I remembered those 10 months. They were not my favorite. There was lots to dislike during that time. But now that I’m 18 years and 15 years out from them, those 10 months seem like a blink. I somehow managed. We somehow managed. I knew then that one day-at-a-time would get me closer to the end. Closer to the blessing of my baby. Closer to the joys and challenges of parenthood that Don and I signed up for. (More on that in blog posts past and future!) With that in mind, I think we can make it through this season of Stay At Home.

Connecting with family and friends virtually via phone calls, texts and Zoom has been so helpful. Seeing their faces, mostly smiling, sharing our angst and some laughter and some concerns helps me feel connected. Seeing live musical performances online via facebook or elsewhere has been a life saver for me. Tuning in to live-streamed worship services, online quick homilies, or thoughts of day have been comforting. The down time has been nice – time for podcasts, puzzles, dog walks, fires in the fire pit. I hope you and yours are able to take some deep breaths and try to embrace this new life. New for now, anyway. Remember, all we have to do is take it one-day-at-a-time. We can do this.

In the comments I’ll share some links to things that have brought me comfort and joy over these few weeks. Please add what you have found, too! So glad we are in this together.

Riding the Coronavirus Coaster

March 17, 2020

Well, here we are social distancing – hopefully like the rest of you. Nothing like a global pandemic to bring a family together, huh? I would love to hear how you are spending your time these days; please comment below with a few thoughts. 

A lot has happened since my last post. I will touch on most of it in the lists below. 

Things I am worried about: 

  • The impact of this pandemic. Will my family stay healthy? How many people in my community – in my circles near & far – will be affected? Will our hospitals be able to care for all of them? Will we survive the obvious recession that will come from all of this? Will my son and his fellow members of the Class of 2020 be able to have their graduation ceremony? 
  • I was laid off in January. I have come close to a few opportunities, but nothing has panned out yet. Now with the virus situation, and looming recession, the hiring environment will obviously change. How long will it take for me to find something? Should I take “anything” or should I hold out for the right thing? 
  • Colin has decided on UNC-Charlotte for his next academic step. He wants to study engineering. We are excited for him! Will we be able to get financial aid & loans so this will be a reality for him? 
  • Our governor has ordered schools to close for two weeks (at least) and I am guessing there is a strong likelihood it will last longer than that. This is hard, but it’s the right call. I worry about our teachers who have been thrown into this just like we have. I worry about my kids and other students – will they be able to keep up with their academics? 
  • Will my children and I drive each other up the wall before this is all over? 

Things I am grateful for:

  • Don has a stable job and as far as we can tell it should not be hugely impacted by the pandemic; or at least not immediately. Things are leaner than normal, but he can support us. 
  • My healthy family. Don’s diagnosis was three years ago this month! He is doing well, living with NETs but carrying on with life. 
  • Colin earned his Eagle Scout Award this month!
  • We lost my friend Elizabeth two years ago after a challenging battle with cancer. But I’m grateful that her amazing husband Bob is still blogging, still living life fully, along with their two precious daughters. I learn so much from them.
  • Pets who bring lots of entertainment and joy.
  • Finding Katie Churchwell and Pop-up Prayer on facebook. Look her up!
  • We celebrated 20 years of marriage on March 8, 2020!
  • Livestream worship services from my church – WestPresChurch.org, now that services are cancelled due to the virus impact.
  • My friends who share funny texts with me related to life, politics, and parenting. You know who you are!
  • I was able to take a fun & relaxing girls trip to Richmond in February with some special friends. 
  • Losing 22 lbs since Christmas! Thanks, Noom!
  • Having more time for the super-fun Jazzercise workouts since I’ve been home for a few months. Although they have now been cancelled due to the current climate, I can check out online Jazzercise workouts – yay!
  • My dad is feeling good, back to his old self, after some leukemia treatment. 
  • Favorite podcasts: NPR’s Up First, Hacks on Tap, For the Love with Jen Hatmaker, Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations, It’s Been a Minute with Sam Sanders, Poetry Unbound.
  • Teachers who care about my kids and their other students and are doing their best in less-than-ideal circumstances.
  • My sisters who are only a text away! And who are available to help my parents when needed.
  • My friend’s daughter finally made it home from her study abroad program in Italy that was cut short.
  • My adult coloring book – Beautiful Cities. My version of Florence, Italy is featured here.
  • Spotify and playlists it makes for me.
  • The childcare gig Colin and I have picked up this week & next week – caring for children of medical professionals who cannot get off work to care for their children, because they are caring for the community. It feels like a good way to help, plus I’ll be earning a little income which never hurts.
  • Being able to close my eyes and breathe when things seem like too much.

Do you see a trend? The worries are questions to which I don’t have answers. Isn’t that just like our darn human nature to obsess over things we cannot control? Things we don’t know or couldn’t know? And do you notice that my Gratitude list is much longer than my worries? This is a worrisome time, but I challenge you to list the things that you are grateful for. Even if you only consider the last 48 hours, I’m sure it will be a long list! 

Finally, I’m grateful for the wisdom of Maya Angelou. I’m counting on this!

StormRainMaya

The Gift of Community

The Gift of Community

I was a little late, so when I arrived the ladies and men were already busy. Fall leaves, apples and sunflowers were being arranged. The tables were skirted and pound cakes were being dropped off, unwrapped and sliced – flavor & name cards along side each one. At least 15 pound cakes plus one gluten-free version. And of course, nuts, grapes, strawberries and cheese straws. Even Wynn made a huge batch that we all couldn’t resist. The helpers always get the broken ones, ya know. We placed the cakes on pedestals and pretty serving plates and found room for them on the three food tables. We arranged plastic plates, forks and seasonal paper napkins on each table. We chatted while we worked – caught up on the kids, remembered how we met — when we were pregnant together, or when we had young children. Most of us knew each other already, but there was a crossover of a few different circles, so introductions were made when needed. But jobs like this already make you feel like family.

Pound cake was Angus’s wish. They were representative of the people — traditional, lemon, bourbon, IMG_0688brown sugar, raspberry gluten/lactose-free, poppy seed, five flavor, butter, sour cream, coconut — and probably some others I missed. Each made with love and fine ingredients, ready to offer comfort and grace.

Then the family arrived. Wynn arrived first, “I was dressed and the others were still getting ready. I knew it was time for me to leave that chaos behind and head over!” From the moment I first met Wynn about 15 years ago, she made me feel like a special friend. Today we lavished her, Winston, Dale, Liam and Parker with hugs, smiles and small talk. Winston proclaimed, “All the peeps are here!” and I corrected her that she surely meant all the important peeps were here. Over the years Winston and I have compared boy-mom notes and our love for social justice. We met Kate, Angus Jr. and the other non-Greensboro family and friends with handshakes and “we finally meet!” comments. Parker said the college sophomores were finally into their rhythm, especially this time of year and I told him I loved watching his card trick videos. I remembered the time my kiddo was invited to Liam’s birthday party – I think they were maybe 6 or 7? Now they’re high school seniors. Liam told us that today all of the grandchildren wore a necktie from Angus’s collection. You know that pastors have lots of neckties, right?

The time finally came for us to gather in the sanctuary. The service to celebrate the life of Rev. Dr. Angus McGregor had begun. Angus was a retired Presbyterian pastor and in his family is a solid lineup of Presbyterian ministers. As the family came in, and the organ sang, it was already feeling like a holy moment. I don’t always get this feeling at funerals, but this really was a time of worship. The sanctuary was full and I saw lots of familiar faces. We listened intently as the homily was delivered by Angus’s niece (also a Reverend) and a prayer offered by his nephew (also a Reverend). We knew that Angus loved people, the church, and justice. We learned that he played an integral role of helping integrate Clemson University when he was there as an undergrad. We learned of the time he invited Klan members into a prayer service that they were there to protest. I thought back to the first time I met Angus – he said hello and asked me if I was a Democrat! Wynn chastised him for being so presumptuous. This still makes me smile. We heard his son talk of Angus’s stories and his last visit with his dad. As he held back tears, our tears welled in our eyes.

I let the feeling of worship and grace envelope me and all I could think was this was the gift of community. Friends showing up to prepare the reception, bring cake, usher at the service, serve at the reception and clean up after … the list goes on. My role was small, and in fact, just a drop in the bucket of the McGregor community, but it’s such a blessing to be a part of something like this. The McGregor family has known how to build community for many generations and I am so grateful to be included and to learn more about acceptance and friendship from them. I hope your community is like this one — made with love and fine ingredients, ready to offer comfort and grace.

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From the service program:
Give us a heart for simple things: love and laughter, bread and wine, tales and dreams. Fill our lives with green and growing hope. Make us a people of justice whose song is Alleluia and whose name breathes Love. Amen.                                             – A prayer by Walter Wink

Photo credits: S. Keaney

You Will Be Found

It’s been awhile. Let’s see … homecoming, college applications, football games, recomendation letters, band performances, essays, club responsibilities, confirmation activities, good choices, not-so-good choices … not to mention work and grown-up volunteer gigs … we’ve been riding the coaster, for sure.

So I’m late to the party on Dear Evan Hansen. I guess I was too caught up in Hamilton to notice. Of course this is my little circle of suburbia … I haven’t seen either of them yet, but you can bet I have the Hamilton soundtrack memorized. And now I’m realizing I need to memorize DEH, too! They don’t seem linked, but actually are both centered around a person who is not sure how he will fit in. As a human, I think that resonates with all of us. And as a parent, I think it especially resonates with young people. In case you hadn’t heard, parenting teens is not for the faint of heart. We are doing our best to help our  kids navigate the murky waters of high school, when days are full of confusion and stress with a few bright moments woven in. They are bookends in the high school life – one freshman and one senior with a serious case of senioritis. One wanting to plug in and one ready to fly the coop. One day we think we’ve got things covered, and other days we realize we may not have a clue. But I guess this is how parenting teens go. I’m thankful for friends to lean on and compare notes with.

Today is also Worldwide NET Cancer Awareness Day – the whole reason this blog was started. I’m thankful beyond words that we are still here able to do the parenting thing together. There are about 115,000 NET patients in the U.S. The online NET community has taught us so much about living with this disease. We found some people who can help us through the difficult moments – carry us through, so to speak.

As DEH and Hamilton tell us —
When you don’t feel strong enough to stand
You can reach out your hand
And someone will coming running
And I know, they’ll take you home

‘Cause you’ll reach up and you’ll rise again
Lift your head and look around
You will be found

  …..
Raise a glass to freedom
Something they can never take away
No matter what they tell you
Raise a glass to the four of us
Tomorrow there’ll be more of us
Telling the story of tonight
When our children tell our story
They’ll tell the story of tonight
If we hang on, we will find our people. The ones who will support us through the dark times and celebrate with us during the happy times. This is what being human is all about. You will be found.

P.S. If you or someone you know is feeling sad or lonely, there is help! “No matter what problems you’re dealing with, whether or not you’re thinking about suicide, if you need someone to lean on for emotional support, call the Lifeline. 800-273-8255″ Or contact an adult mentor, teacher or clergyperson whom you trust. They will be happy to talk.

I made it to Fifty

September 22, 2019

I woke up today earlier than expected. But I woke up! Heart pumping, lungs breathing, stomach hungry, mind wandering. The love of my life next to me. The apple of my eye down the hall. (The other apple away for the night.) One dog snoozing at my feet, another dog ready to greet me with my coffee.

I made it to Fifty.

Last night I was able to celebrate with some of my favorite people and it was so fun! We enjoyed some wine, beer or water with lime and some delicious cake. We played 80s Playlist Bingo which we were all masters at because it was OUR music! It was a great night and especially fun to have a reason to celebrate.

I made it to Fifty.

I am embracing it because not everyone has the privilege of reaching this milestone. I can think of a few childhood friends who passed on before graduation. A few college friends who did not see 30. And now in my middle age, I have had a few friends who did not see 50 or just barely made it past 50. (Thanks, cancer, you suck.)

I made it to Fifty.

I started this blog when Don got his cancer diagnosis in 2017. I knew I had to write to process my thoughts and record our journey. We have been blessed to have 95% of that chapter behind us. Other than monthly treatments in the form of a shot, it is business as usual for him and for our family. I recognize what a blessing this is. I hope and pray it will be like this for a long while.

I made it to Fifty.

The blog is named Riding the Coaster on Red Forest Road because I knew that life is like a roller coaster. Ups and downs. Twists and turns. Surprises that make your stomach jump to your chest. Quick stops. And, of course, parenting teens makes the ride even more adventuresome! This year we have a high school freshman and a high school senior. I’m not sure how that happened, except that we’ve been riding the coaster and here we are. Mostly smiling and enjoying the ride, sometimes holding on for dear life, gripping the safety bar, hoping the scary part ends soon. But here we are.

I made it to Fifty.

Today I will relax and hang out with my family. Probably putter around the house and take a nap. This is what 50 year olds do! I will revel in the memories from last night celebrating with so many wonderful friends. And I will thank God for another year.

Respect

Chapter 48: Respect

Several people in my circle, people whom I deeply care about, have recently been mistreated by self-absorbed people who have no perspective. So maybe a lesson on being a decent human being is in order?

Before you critize someone – a teacher, a volunteer leader, a coach, a colleague, a friend – take a moment to reflect. Is your feedback meaningful? Or is it vicious and self-serving? Is it the kind of feedback where the recipient can learn from it? Will it help the program in the long run? Or will it just make you feel better by being critical?

Take a moment to think about this person you are critizing. Are they a professional? Do they have lots of experience? Have they been doing this job longer than you have participated? If so, remember that they have probably seen it all. They have most likely dealt with whatever is bothering you. They may know how things will improve or will turn out. Instead of criticizing, maybe engaging them in a respectful conversation would be more useful for you and for them?

Take a moment to think about this person you are critizing. Are they a volunteer? Do they have lots of experience because they have been doing this volunteer year role out of personal passion for the kids or the program? Are they using personal time to contribute to the group? How much personal time have you committed to the group or program? Do you know the background of this person you want to criticize? A little grace can go a long way.

Take a moment to think about this person you are critizing. Remember they are human. Perhaps they have an ailment, so don’t feel physically 100%, and it is impacting their usual contribution to the program, but they are doing their best? Or perhaps they have a loved one who is ill, so they are carrying an extra load of worry? Perhaps a spouse or child lost their job, so there is an extra layer of financial burden? The possibilities are endless. A little grace can go a long way.

Take a moment to think about yourself. Have you contributed to the program that you are complaining about? Have you volunteered? Have you spent time in the trenches with the folks who are really engaged? Do you know how things are run and how things get done? If not, perhaps take some time to get some more perspective? It’s easy to complain from the outside, but harder when you understand all that is involved in pulling off a successful program.

Take a moment to think about yourself. Do you want to be known as the Negative Nelly of the group? The one who is always complaining? The one who everyone knows is intolerant and impatient? The one who is mean, nasty or vicious? The one who screams and threatens? FYI – those qualities are very unattractive. No one wants to be around people who behave like that. Some people may not care about those things, but I believe most of us want to be decent humans.

Please remember the Golden Rule: Treat others the way you want to be treated.

Is that really so hard?

BeKind

 

Motherhood in 377 words

Chapter 47: Motherhood in 377 words

Motherhood is jumping out of bed at 2am for my first born when he needed to nurse. Being happy as the sweet little body nestled into me, finding what he needed.

Motherhood is dragging myself out of bed at 2am for my second born (three years later) when he needed to nurse. And he nursed and nursed and nursed. And his sweet puffy body full of rolls nestled into me, and it was precious, but I was tired. When will he finish?

Motherhood is watching them “graduate” from pre-k and knowing they are ready for big school. And missing the days when youngest would grab my chin and turn my face into his, “Mommy. Let me tell you something.” with all the seriousness in the world. And when oldest would bound onto the playground and announce to whomever would listen, “Here I am! Here I am!”

Motherhood is seeing the oldest struggle a little with reading and finding a tutor to help him master the skill. And now watching as he soars through high school AP courses, reading lots of books for pleasure, knowing I did the right thing for him. Thanking God I got that one right.

Motherhood is worrying over the 8th grader as he finds his independence and his sour teen attitude. Sometimes sweet, mostly bitter. Being frustrated that he pushes every boundary and drives his teachers crazy; all the while being an excellent student and great athlete.

Motherhood is watching oldest navigate the murky waters of teen friendships. See him caring for his friends, sometimes too much, not knowing what to say to him on the difficult days. Telling him I understand and I’m sorry he’s feeling that way. Knowing these moments will pass and hoping he understands. Cheering for him and laughing with him on the easy days.

Motherhood is being so tired and annoyed that I sometimes cannot wait for this chapter to end. Until I realize then they’ll be gone and the house will be quiet and the schedule will be open and I’ll have to take out the trash and maybe mow the lawn. And then I think, look what Motherhood has given me: a treasure chest of memories. Two amazing human beings to love and who love me.

Middle Age

Chapter 46: Middle Age

I guess if you hear of friends and colleagues dying unexpectedly — or earlier than you ever imagined — that means you are definitely in the Middle Age chapter of your life. Unfortunately, it’s happening again, much like this time last year.

Two men I know passed away this week. One was diagnosed with lung cancer about 5 years ago and the other was diagnosed with esophageal cancer only 23 days ago. Both were around 50 years old and had wives and children. There are no answers to this kind of suffering. The suffering of the one with the diagnosis — the long path of treatment, discomfort, sickness, pain, a few answers for a while; or the short path of treatment, sickness, pain, no answers. And the suffering of the families — to watch your husband/father face the disease, succumb to the finality, wonder what you could have done differently. Grasping to remember the warm and wonderful moments. No family should have to endure this. And yet it happens all the time.

Here we are on Good Friday, facing the cross and death straight on. Growing up I was taught that Good Friday was important, but Easter was the real deal. As I have engaged in the Presbyterian faith tradition the last 20 years or so, I have come to better understand how Holy Week in its entirety really matters. A clergy friend writes this week, “Good Friday agony was too close. Holy Saturday darkness was too real. Easter indeed felt like “an idle tale. … Just as the road to the manger has always been for the weary, the empty tomb has always been for the betrayed, broken, and grieving.” I know that sometimes I don’t feel like celebrating a resurrection. Sometimes it’s the dark Good Friday where my heart and mind want to sit for a bit.

If you are grieving a loss, or tending an injury of the heart or illness of the body, I believe the crucifixion teaches us that pain is part of the process of living. I know the painful moments of my life so far have been finite. Even when I wasn’t sure I could make it another day … the sun still came up.

golgathadark

You can read my friend Rev. AAM’s full post here.

 

Storytellers

Chapter 45: Storytellers

We are Storytellers the headline declared on The Bitter Southerner podcast. I had to listen. How I want to be a storyteller.

Maybe I am a storyteller? I recently told the story of how I got in trouble in 7th grade for writing “<teacher’s name> SUCKS” on a desk. But lo and behold I was the only kid who sat in that desk all day, so they nailed me. Five days in the slammer (ISS – in school suspension). My mom was devastated. I was her oldest child and a typical one at that — mostly a rule follower and non-risk-taker — so this was very out of character for me. She couldn’t believe I would do something so horrendous. But, you know, it was 7th grade. That was my rough patch. I wanted to be grown up. I wanted to be cool. I wanted to be liked. Maybe I was already a little bit of all those things, but what 7th grader has the confidence or maturity to recognize that kind of stuff? (And BTW, the teacher really wasn’t great. I know I had classmates who shared my opinion.) But thirty-seven years later I don’t remember the five days in ISS. I don’t remember if my friends thought I was cool or if they liked me. I just remember my mom being so, so mad and disappointed and my dad being mad because I had made mom so mad. And it seems that this kind of thing may be hereditary to a degree because I was telling this story to my 8th grade son who got in trouble at school recently for writing a note that included some unsavory verbiage. He got 2.5 days in the slammer. He apologized to us profusely. And lost privileges at home for a week. We talked about getting this nonsense out of his system now before he starts high school next year. By the end of the week he was cleaning his room, walking the dogs, doing extra jobs, begging for renewed privileges. I hope he learned the lesson. I wonder if he’ll remember my story.

Maybe I am a storyteller? Just today I remembered the story of the chickens. Don and I were pet sitting for some friends who were on vacation (maybe around 1999?) and these friends had two precious spaniels and about 5 chickens. The chickens stayed in their chicken coop and only had free reign of the enclosed backyard when the dogs were inside. Another friend had watched the pets the first half of the week and it was our turn to take over the duties. So we showed up as planned to check on the pets and feed them dinner. I opened the back gate and a dog greeted me with a bloody smile. I was confused – what did he have all over his face? And then I saw the massacre in the yard. Strewn about were bloody chicken wings, bloody chicken bodies. Bloody. Chicken. Parts. Everywhere. And two happy dogs who apparently had no idea the jig was up. I slammed the gate shut and ran to the car to Don, who was still there, and screamed “THE CHICKENS!” Thank God Don grew up in the country. He has the patience and skills of someone who can live off of the land. We walked together to survey the scene. And here is where my memory goes black. I feel sure we cleaned up the dogs and cleaned up the carnage, but I just don’t remember those details. Don probably does. I just knew that my friends loved those chickens and now we had to tell them over the phone that the chickens were gone and the dogs were murderers. Amazingly, these friends forgave us and are still good friends to this day!

What stories do you have? Telling our stories reminds us of our humanity. Of all that we have in common. Of hard moments that we survived. Of the instants in the course of this crazy roller coaster life that bubble up and ring clear and help us become who we are. And become who we are still becoming. I hope you will take a moment to tell a story today.

A New Year

Chapter 44: A New Year

This blogging experiment began almost 2 years ago when my DH was diagnosed with neuroendocrine cancer. If you are new here, you can check out older posts to learn what the heck that is. An update on that front: Don continues to do well, especially since his surgery in June 2017. He still gets his monthly shot of sandostatin and any symptoms or side effects are minimal. (Or else he just pushes through them and doesn’t tell me.) Just this week he had his first gallium-scan since June 2018 and we were happy to hear that no new NETs were found. The existing spots are still there, but have not grown. In cancerland this is good news! We are not the experts of living in cancerland, but we are residents here, so we are always learning the ropes. A good scan is a good day!

Also this week the boys and I had the chance to see the film Angst about living with anxiety. I made the boys go and while they said “We already knew that stuff” I am sure they learned a little something. I definitely did! The biggest lightbulb moment for me was how being honest about the fact that I deal with it is the first step to figuring out how to manage it. I was thinking about a few friends whose children deal with anxiety on a regular basis and how hard those moments must be. And then I had this moment of clarity — if my kid had cancer, of course I would pay for him to get treatment. There would be no end to the treatment I would seek! But why do we (in our society) pause and not seek treatment when there is illness of the mind/heart/emotions? Why do we resist seeking counseling when it could be the very answer to the issue? And much less costly than treating cancer. I’ve had this perspective for years — since counseling definitely saved my life in the late 1990s when I was depressed — but I’m glad to have it bubble up with clarity again.

A few days ago I stumbled upon a podcast interview with Anne Lamott. Anne is one of my favorite authors and certainly one of the great sages of the 21st century … authentic, awkward, funny, and says the stuff most of us won’t say but want to, with a lot of grace, a few curse words, and a little bit of church and Jesus thrown in. This episode was about creating — being creative  — and how one needs to just do it regularly. Start with shitty first drafts, and then let the process unfold with the diligence of doing it. She says that everyone has the voices that tell us we have no talent, or are not enough, and she calls those voices misguided helpers. I can totally relate to this, as I have a few voices pinballing around my head now and then that will toss in a grenade of self-doubt or criticism and sometimes it’s hard to ignore them. But Anne gave this great tip: imagine the voices as little mice running around at your feet. Grab them by the tail, one by one, and drop them into a mason jar. When you have collected them, place the lid on the jar, and set it aside. Then get on with your creating. The voices are silent. You have acknowledged them, you know they are there, but you have set them aside to proceed with your project, your passion, or whatever it is that needs your focus. This is a breakthrough tip for me. The voices are there – they are part of being human – but we don’t have to let them stop us. Acknowledge them, set them aside, and carry on.

Finally, Anne reminds us that we are pre-approved. We are alone on our journey, but there are people all around who will never let us fall and not get up. We know what fills our heart with gladness and that feeling of accomplishment. We just need to do those things and along the way make more messes, have more failures, try & fail, try & fail, and learn to fail better. Messes and failures are gifts along the journey. The more we make them, the better we get at creating, and the better we get at this thing called life. I don’t know about you, but this sounds like a good way to start a new year.