Come Fly with Me

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I am not sure which is stranger the fact I am sitting in Newark Airport and it is so quiet or I am sitting in Newark airport writing a blog on my laptop. Today I am flying to Minnesota to visit my nephew and his family. I enjoy traveling. I try to be a “good traveler” – packing efficiently,travel documents in order, easy on and off shoes, etc. I am awed my air travel and sometimes underwhelmed by airport security.

The idea that an airplane can fly is amazing. Really think about it this metal bird looking transport vehicle rises in the air and moves us from place to place. It is awe-inspiring. Years ago it was a more comfortable journey. Remember when they gave you newspapers and magazines, pillows, blankets and food for free. Remember when children got those little pilot wings and got to visit the cockpit. I remember my girls visiting the cockpit as we flew home from England. They were thrilled. When we flew to Paris courtesy of the French Fire Department, another FDNY family was sitting in front of us and my daughters started a conversation with the 3-year-old. This adorable little girl asked my daughters “where are you going?” My daughters stated “France”. “Me, too!” too funny 

Another funny flight moment was when we were flying to St Thomas Virgin Island and we realized the people next to us had a dog in their carry-on bag. The funny or terrifying part was as we are preparing for landing the flight attendant finally sees the dog and mentions “I didn’t know we had a dog on board.” Really, you can get a dog on a plane and no one knows. 

Airport security is a necessary evil that on occasion that has tried my soul. I am ever amazed at whom the randomly searched people are. For some reason whoever I am traveling with or me is that random person. My 93-year-old mother in law was the ultimate – are you kidding me!?! They made her get out of the airport wheelchair. I came very close to saying “Wow! If you had been this thorough on September 11, her son would be alive.” But I held my tongue.

My Dad used to say that pilots say “That flight is 5 minutes of terror, followed by hours of boredom and then another 5 minutes of terror.” As the plane is taxing for takeoff, I pray “Lord, either totally safe or face to face with you. Thank you. Amen” I either want the flight to go as planned or just go totally bad because this floating around in the ocean or stranded on some mountain isn’t my thing. Well, it is almost time to board. I know there will be no magazines, too many bags in the overhead, no free food but it is still amazing that a plane takes flight and gets you where you want to be.

How old are you?

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On Facebook this morning there was a list of “friends” who have birthdays today. I scrolled down the list and wished a few Happy Birthday. I chuckled when I saw how old Facebook says one of those people is because that is not possible. Anyway how old you are seems to have become the theme of the day. While teaching Kids First Church today, I asked if the anyone knew what the word generation meant. One young man explained a generation is the years between a father and son. Correct a generation is usually considered to be about 30 years. And then I added to further explain the concept that between one of our youngest Kids First Church and me  there were actually two generations because her parents were just a little older than my daughters. “Wow!” explained that same young man and then he added “how old are you?”. To which another young man said “Don’t answer that”. “No, that is okay” and I proceeded to tell them how old I am. There was discussion about if I was really that old to which I said Yes, I don’t lie to you. Anyway we eventually continued with the lesson and as the parents were signing the children out I was suddenly aware of the fact that the discussion on the ride home would probably be about “how old Miss Ann is”. Oh well!!

Two random thoughts:

  1. The Bible mentions people who lived to be 600 years old. I have often wondered at what age were you a grown up?
  2. Have you noticed that when children tell you their age they mention how many years and a 1/4 or 1/2 or 3/4? At what age do we stop doing that?

Tricky Days

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Tricky days that is what my daughters and I call days that should be celebrated – holidays, birthdays, anniversaries but now there is an empty chair or no need to buy a Father’s Day or Birthday card. Today is a tricky day for my uncle and cousins. Today would have been my Auntie Jean’s birthday but she passed away in August.  I sent my uncle and cousins cards this week to acknowledge that I remember that today is Auntie Jean’s birthday. I wrote in the cards that I am thinking and praying for them because I am.

We all have tricky days. Days that had at one point been for celebrating and for now are for grieving but eventually will be for remembering. Tricky days aren’t just tricky for the person that experienced the loss, they are tricky for their family and friends as well. Sometimes we think we need to say that “amazingly poignant thing” but maybe “I remember” or “I know” is enough. The people in Newtown, CT have many tricky days ahead of them.

As I was pondering tricky days, I was reminded of when I had the opportunity to share my September 11 story with the “Faces of Hope”. The Faces of Hope were children who were born on September 11, 2001 – one (or twins) to represent each state. A book had been published with their photos in 2002. I met some of those children in early September 2011 right before their 10th birthday. (Actually part of my visit with them was on the Today Show. How weird was that!) I reminded them to not let the attacks of September 11 define them, to remember that they were a wonderful thing that happened on a bad day. I told them I was so glad to meet them because they were truly faces of hope. On sad side note, the little girl that was killed when Gabby Gifford was shot was actually one of the children that was featured in the Faces of Hope book. 😦

I mention this idea of tricky days for a few of reasons. First we don’t always know if today is a tricky day for someone so let’s listen to each other. Second we can’t expect someone to know it is a tricky day for us unless we tell them so let’s talk to each other. Thirdly let’s just cut each other some slack because until I have walked in your shoes, I can’t know what you are going through but I can choose to walk beside you instead of over you.

a dose of kid

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004 A few weeks ago a friend sent me the card that is pictured above. The inside says “Sound familiar?”  I have heard my share of amazing kid questions, comments and ideas through the years.  And I have to admit that kids make me laugh. There are many times when I have to stop myself from laughing out loud. It is amazing how their brains work and the things they say. This was a week with more than my average “dose of kids”.  When I was teaching dance and/or a Kindergarten aide my weekly dose of kid was daily but since I am retired from those activities my weekly dose of kid is not so daily. This week on Tuesday and Thursday I spoke to four groups of middle schoolers at the  Tribute Center. Wednesday I had my weekly afterschool program at church and today I had Kids First Church. And this week was not without  a few KQOTD – kid quote/question of the day.

The KQOTD for Wednesday actually wasn’t quoted on Wednesday but the conversation with one of the boys at church reminded me of something my younger daughter said years ago. One of the boys at church asked me “why are some of the words in your Bible in red?”. I explained to him that it is called a Red Letter Bible meaning the words that were spoken by Jesus are written in red. I was instantly reminded of when M was in first grade and asked if for Christmas she could have a Bible that showed Jesus’ words. Bruce and I figured out that she wanted a Red Letter Bible and gladly purchased it as one of her Christmas gifts. On Christmas morning, M unwrapped her Red Letter Bible and as she looked through it she promptly exclamation “Wow, Jesus didn’t have anything to say in the Old Testament?” Still makes me smile 🙂

On Thursday a group of  public school middle schoolers were very excited to share with me all they knew about September 11. Their teachers had obviously done a great job of preparing them for their trip to the Tribute Center and the September 11 Memorial. Many a little hand went up when I asked “what do you know about September 11, 2001?” We had an interesting time discussing the events of the day, I shared the timeline (in kid terms) and I shared my story. Then I asked “does anyone have any other questions or comments?” Many hands went up and I picked a little girl who proceeded to mention something she saw on YouTube. We discussed that. I called on another child who proceeds to tell them something they saw on YouTube. And you guessed it, the third child proceeds to tell me something they saw on YouTube which lead to a whole discussion about YouTube and the internet. It reminded me of the television commercial with the “this is my date, I met on the internet, he is a French model.” To be honest I am so glad my daughters are grown because navigating this whole instant information thing is going to be much harder for today’s parents  than just deciding when you get your first cell phone.

Today in Kids First Church one of my little friends just couldn’t control himself and after reaching “3 strikes, your out” I walked him upstairs to his mom. Don’t worry the kids were supervised by my teen helper while I was walking my little friend upstairs. Our Kids First Church time together continues with a reminder of “crossing the line” and Miss Ann doesn’t threaten, she promises and if you cross the line you will go to your parents.  As we are finishing up the lesson one of the girls suddenly realizes that said young man is gone and says “where is _____?”. And without missing a beat, one of the boys with a straight face states “He crossed the line!” My teen helper and I looked at each other and burst out laughing.

My two favorite kid questions of all time are: “Were there fish on the ark?” and “If God loved us so much, why did He send his Son instead of coming Himself?” Those are good ones aren’t they.

“He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”

Five years ago…

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Today marks the fifth anniversary of my first chemo treatment. I am cancer free and I am 5 years since diagnosis. Thank you, Lord!!   I thought the most difficult conversation I would ever have with my daughters was on Sept 19, 2001 when I asked them “where do you think Daddy is right now?” Actually the most difficult conversation I would have with them would be right before Christmas 2007. when I had  to tell my daughters that I had breast cancer. I had decided not to tell my daughters or most of my friends anything about the lump in my breast until I had a diagnosis. I knew that everyone would worry and it was Christmas and maybe this lump was nothing. The cancer journey would start in November of 2007. Very few people were privy to the situation. It was my way of believing it would be okay.

On December 13, my good friend, JK would drive me to Middletown for the needle biopsy. I remember  having to keep my left arm up over my head and the nurse holding my left hand through the whole procedure.  I was so thankful for her compassion. JK and I would come out to a snow storm and lots of voice messages on my cell phone. Which seemed strange as the person who left them knew I was having the needle biopsy. My partner in crime and best friend, CM would leave messages apologizing for calling but she needed to speak with me. As I was having the needle biopsy a car had driven into our dancing studio. Thankfully there were no classes going on. An elderly woman was going to get her hair done at the hair salon next to our dancing school and had “jumped the curb and crashed into the studio.”  She took out the front window and door. She would be uninjured and since she was already there she had her hair done. Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up. Thankfully the snow caused classes to be canceled and after the initial shock, dealing with the accident became a good distraction.

On December 17, I would be in the Dollar Store ( strange the things you remember) and my cell phone would ring. It would be my doctor’s office calling to say that he had the results and did I want to come in that day to hear them. The original plan had been for my sister to go with me later in the week for the results but they had the results now so I went right then. My sister and the two friends who knew would be annoyed that I went alone but I have found that there are some things that you have to do alone.  As I drove home, I stopped to buy gas at the Sunoco Station in Chester, NY  and I called to tell my best friend that I had breast cancer. Well, actually I didn’t tell her because I couldn’t say those words to her. Thankfully her husband answered the phone and I told him and asked him to tell her. I said it quickly and hung up and she called back immediately. Every time I pass that gas station I think of that conversation and how blessed I am to have such good friends.

The conversation with my daughters was spoken around our kitchen table a few days later.  My younger daughter and her boyfriend had gone to the airport to pick up my older daughter and her husband. While they were gone, I thought, pondered and prayed about how to tell them. There was no great line to ease into it, no perfect scripture verse to quote. My daughters will tell you that I am worst person when it comes to telling bad news – I just say it. I remember sitting at the table and saying something about I had some bad news. My older daughter reached over and grabbed her husband’s hand. I didn’t make eye contact with anyone. I don’t know what I said. I know my younger daughter jumped up and said “no”. And I took her in my arms and said “this is not September 11. I am right here. I am not going anywhere. This is not a death sentence. I am right here.” I explained a little of what the treatment would be. I informed them “that E was going back to WA with her husband. And M was going to Ghana for J term.” After more questions and discussion, M said “Mom, I am sorry but I can’t shave my head to make you feel better.” Laughter, the best medicine.

I would read and learn about breast cancer so I could become the CEO of my treatment. Scott Hamilton has a great site about chemo drugs and their side effects. JK’s brother-in-law, who had lost his wife to breast cancer, would spend over an hour explaining so much to me about treatment and things to ask.  I had wonderful doctors and nurses but I can tell you that medicine is an art not a science. I had people praying for me, people doing my grocery shopping, people cleaning my house, people sending me cards. One friend send me a card, article or cartoon every day for the 40 days of Lent.  I was fortunate that I was home alone because the only person I had to worry about was me. I may have been in my house alone but I had friends who had a schedule of calling me – breakfast, lunch and dinner. Someone always went with me for the chemo treatments – 8 treatments over 16 weeks. I had a little calendar which I wrote how I felt – good, bad, really bad. there was only one day that said really bad. My chemo treatments were on Fridays. I would have a treatment then be at home until the following Thursday when JK would drive me to the studio to “teach”. We would go out for dinner. I would have a turkey club not sure why but turkey was the food of choice. The following week I would usually feel well enough to drive myself to teach on Tuesday and Thursdays. CM picked up the slack on my off Tuesdays and one of my alumni, KH, who just happened to be available was my substitute and legs for the other classes.

I can tell you that it is easier to pray “your will be done” when you are praying for someone else. But I can also tell you that God is faithful. Life is meant to be lived one day at a time and sometimes life is meant to be lived 10 minutes at a time because that is all you can do and God is okay with being there for this 10 minutes and then the next 10 minutes.

Five years ago I had 8 rounds of chemo over 16 weeks, one year of herciptin, a lumpectomy that wasn’t a lumpectomy because the lump was gone, 32 rounds of radiation which is a whole different beast that chemo.  And because God doesn’t waste anything I have been able to shed a little light into other people’s cancer journey. And it isn’t fun but it is doable. Five years ago, I lost my hair which was okay because I never liked my hair and for a while I got good hair. And to be honest it is just as well you have no hair because really you don’t have the energy to take care of it. Maybe your body or someone knows that and that is why you lose it. 🙂

Be vs Do – that is the question.

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2012 was my first “full” year of retirement. In September 2010, when my good friend,and partner in crime and I had decided that this would be our last year of teaching, I had started thinking about what retirement would look like. What should I do, what should I add to my life to replace the hours that were filled by my studio responsibilities? I am very fortunate that I don’t have to work to support myself, I will always have my husband’s pension. And that is a gift. After thinking about all kinds of possibilities, basically I felt I was to continue doing the volunteer things I already did and not add anything new.  Okay, let’s see how that works. The summer of 2011 was full of the usual summer activities of district camp and summer programs at church. As the fall rolled around, the 10 anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks offered opportunities for tours, interviews and events. The Tribute Center’s “move onto the Memorial” brought added tours, training and lots of trips into lower Manhattan. I didn’t feel retired. I didn’t have to go to work and my days were full.

And then it was January of 2012 and  my first full year of retirement loomed ahead of me.  I am a list maker not so much a resolutions person but a daily list maker. I am  that person who hand writes the list and adds things that I have already done so I can cross them off. I realized that many of my list items were random deadlines and expectations that I placed on myself. I started 2012 thinking “who am I suppose to be” a shift from “what am I suppose to do”. I am starting 2013 with the same thought “who am I suppose to be”.  And it is a good thought. I don’t know the answer and that is okay. As I look back on 2012 and think on “who I was supposed to be” I see that I was:

  1. a tourist in my own city – I took the NBC TV studio tour, attended a filming of The Chew and Live with Kelly, attended a hard hat tour of the National September 11 Memorial Museum. Saw Godspell and a private screening of Blue Like Jazz.
  2. a cross between Mary Poppins and Mrs Doubtfire for my nieces in New York and my great nieces in Minnesota
  3. a learner – I attended a writers conference, started a blog, joined a book club. I used you tube to learn how to remove the hard drive from a desk top computer,  and how to eat a pomegranate.
  4. a traveler – visiting my daughters in PA and Seattle. As well as attending the American Library Association Conference in CA
  5. a friend – I enjoyed breakfasts, lunches, teas and dinners with old and new friends a like.
  6. a personal assistant to my mum – I learned more about medicare, assisted living, rehab and elder care than I wanted to know but I was able to be there for her.
  7. a volunteer at church and the Tribute Center.
  8. trying to be who God wanted me to be. To hear His plans for my days.  To be present each day. To be compassionate. To be obedient to the small still voice that is so easily drown out.

Richard Rohr in Everything Belongs states: “I use this prayer to draw myself and others into a contemplative frame of mind:

Be still and know that I am God.

Be still and know that I am.

Be still and know.

Be still.

Be.”

a little word but a big deal – Lord, teach me to be.