Saturday, September 30, 2006

Saturday Morning Lights

Football is a big deal in Texas, as depicted in the movie, Friday Night Lights. (By the way, Conan O'Brien pointed out that Friday Night Lights is now going to be a television series...airing on Tuesday nights. I still chuckle about that.)

The hype starts young -- much younger than I expected. I've seen posters for Pee Wee football for six-year-olds which blew my mind. But this year my son's soccer coach announced that instead of resuming soccer this fall, he was forming a football team. As it turns out, our city has football leagues that start as early as age four. (Of course, it's flag football at this young age, thank goodness!)

As much as my son loves sports, I was never in any hurry to introduce him to football, because it is so hyper-competitive in our area. However, soccer and baseball were great experiences for him, and I became comfortable moving into the world of football only because his football coach was the same one who worked with him through several seasons of soccer and baseball, and his team was comprised of the same kids who played these sports with him. They have a good team dynamic, and our coach has a great style: motivational and positive and challenging without high pressure. And flag football for five-year-olds isn't doesn't have all the fervor of Texas high school football. It's actually pretty fun.

My son plays for the Titans. His jersey looks like it comes from Tennessee, but it's not like we're an official training camp or anything like that. (It reminds me of when my son's t-ball team was called the Yankees, and they were outfitted in miniature New York Yankees attire. One game, as he fielded in the pitching position, I couldn't help but think giddily to myself..."Now pitching for the Yankees...MY SON!")

Instead of "Friday Night Lights", we meet under Saturday morning sunshine for our games. There is a cheerleading league for girls the same age, so we have a handful of tiny cheerleaders, sporting "Titans" uniforms and pom-poms, at our games. They always make a big banner for the team to burst through at the beginning of the game. They recite little cheers and songs, and do a brief half-time "show", before breaking for snacks. (It's always nice to see that they haven't developed eating disorders yet.) My son, who has already become aware of cute girls, likes the cheerleaders but is too shy to take a picture with them.

There's a real referee in stripes, and older kids who run around with the orange chains that are used to measure first downs. I figure we are merely a scoreboard, a marching band, a nacho peddler, and a beer commercial away from becoming a flag version of the NFL.

But it's fun. After his second practice, my son said he didn't like football. He wanted to go back to soccer. He didn't think he was any good at football. There's a natural life analogy: none of us likes change. We prefer our comfort zones. We bristle at new challenges. But after my son's first scrimmage, in which he scored a touchdown, he was hooked. He has football on the brain. Actually, as the only native Texan in our family (the rest of us are like the bumper sticker that says, "I wasn't born in Texas, but I got here as fast as I could."), maybe the love of this favorite Texas pastime was destined to finally surface. (It reminds me of the scene in Gone With the Wind, where Gerald O'Hara is telling Scarlett that she'll grow to love Tara, because it's in her blood.)

The game is fun to watch, and my son's newfound enthusiasm is infectious. At his first game, when it was his turn to be a running back and he was a blur, taking the ball more than twenty yards, I became one of those crazy moms on the sidelines, screaming and cheering and trying to capture my special little blur on camera. Now I have football on the brain, too (what's left of it, at least)!

When we were in Utah, my son had the opportunity to attend a BYU football game with my dad. Now his goal is to play football for the BYU Cougars someday. Having graduated from BYU myself, I'm certainly supportive of that goal. :) I hope I'm here when he does it. When I speak of such things, people will sometimes say in a soft, reverent tone, "of course you will be", which sometimes reflects optimism about my longevity, and sometimes reminds me of that sappy 70's Kenny Star song about The Blind Man in the Bleachers:

And when the game was over the coach asked him to tell
What was it he was thinkin' of that made him play so well
"Well, you knew my Dad was blind", he said, "Tonight he passed away"
"It's the first time that my father's seen me play"

I KNOW - yes, LaVell Edwards Stadium would definitely become a haunted site, if it came to that. But whether I get to see my son working toward his Heisman in the flesh or otherwise, it's nice to have the opportunity to see him now, that blur on the field, with the cheerleaders and the fans, under the Saturday morning lights.

Friday, September 29, 2006

My Hair List

I found a book that looked interesting: Annie Freeman's Fabulous Traveling Funeral. It's about a woman who dies from cancer, and she orders her ashes to be sent in a box to her girlfriends along with instructions. The friends are to be her pallbearers on a fabulous traveling funeral, taking them all sorts of places to have all sorts of experiences. The book is not supposed to be about dying, but about living. I thought the premise was neat, so I bought the book and started reading it at the airport back in July, when I was on my way to my Grandma's house for Scrabble therapy.

Before I could reach the end of the first chapter I was finished with the book. It was too R-rated for me, and my eyes were starting to catch fire. But I still think about the premise, and I later shared the idea with my husband. He doesn't exactly like talking about my funeral, but he indulged me with the conversation. I explained that I wasn't a cremation kind of person, so maybe I would just give him a lock of my hair (or the ziplock bag that collected the hair I lost during radiation treatments) with a list of places to go (taking the kids with him). He added to the idea: he'll leave a hair at each place. Like the book, the concept isn't about my death so much as it is about him living - for me, for him, and for the kids.

I started making my "hair list" of the places I want him/them to go, and the things I want them to do. The first one on the list is the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. It was my favorite field trip spot when I was in grade school, and I loved going there when I was older and would have occasion to return to Chicago. I always loved the giant heart that you walk through (hope it's still there), and later they added a fabulous fairytale dollhouse exhibit (which enthralled me as a young collector of dollhouse stuff). I also remember seeing a display where they took a corpse and sliced it into hundreds of thin pieces (reminds me of deli meat), giving an icky but interesting view of the human body. It's just a super darn cool place, and my son is at an age where he would start to love it.

The list goes on to include more sentimental favorites, as well as places I've never been. It includes ancestral homelands and the church in Denmark where the original Christus statue is located. I always liked that statue (there is a replica on Temple Square in Salt Lake City), because when people would say "The Christus Statue" it sounded to me like they were saying "the Krista Statue". I know - it's ego-centric, but what kid isn't ego-centric? I also like it because it is a very comforting and welcoming depiction of Christ.

As I compiled the list, it occurred to me that this list could have a dual purpose. It could also be a list of places to go and things to do while I'm still here. When I was first diagnosed with cancer I balked at the cliche idea of "go and travel and see the world before you go." But now it sounds kind of fun. And there's no pressure to make sure I get everywhere, which is good because I don't want to drain the family savings for my "farewell tour". After all, whatever I don't see in the flesh I will be sure to haunt, and it's nice to know that at least my DNA will be there when my husband drops a hair at each spot. The words to the song, "Seasons in the Sun" always come to mind: "Think of me and I'll be there..."

(I think I have the only blog that has a soundtrack.)'s not about dying. It's about living.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Tomorrow is Another Day

As a huge Gone With the Wind fan, I always remember Scarlett O'Hara's approach to the turmoils in her life: "I'll think about it tomorrow. After all, tomorrow is another day."

Not to advocate procrastination by any means, I do agree that sometimes a twirl of the planet can help a lot. For a while I felt like the guy on Arther Miller's The Crucible, who is lying down, being interrogated while heavy rocks are piled on his chest to threaten suffocation and extract a confession. (His defiant response just before his death: "MORE WEIGHT!!!") But my "stress therapy" day has been followed by "another day" (and even another day after that), bringing a string of relieving and happy events. I feel like some of those rocks have been lifted from me, making the daily grind more manageable.

I still have a lot on my plate, but I always knew it was better to be busy than bored. And I am still just so glad that I can appreciate complex thinking.

I listened to my new copy of the soundtrack to the musical, Wicked, and there was a snippet of a song that made me laugh:

But I say: why invite stress in?
Stop studying strife
And learn to live "the unexamined life":
Dancing through life
Skimming the surface
Gliding where turf is smooth
Life's more painless
For the brainless
Why think too hard?
When it's so soothing
Dancing through life

I kept thinking of myself, becoming gradually more "brainless", putting on my clog dancing shoes and dancing through life. It gave me a good chuckle. And then I snapped back to the reality that - hooray! - I'm not really brainless (at least not yet). I can still take on the challenges of the day, and it feels great when I do.

Another song from the soundtrack reminded me of all of my family and friends who have blanketed me with support:

I've heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led to those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return
Well, I don't know if I believe that's true
But I know I'm who I am today
Because I knew you
Like a comet pulled from orbit
As it passes a sun
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood
Who can say if I've been changed for the better?
But because I knew you I have been changed for good
It well may be
That we will never meet again
In this lifetime
So let me say before we part
So much of me is made of what I learned from you
You'll be with me
Like a handprint on my heart
And now whatever way our stories end
I know you have re-written mine
By being my friend.
Like a ship blown from its mooring
By a wind off the sea
Like a seed dropped by a skybird
In a distant wood
Who can say if I've been changed for the better?
But because I knew you I have been changed for good.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Stress Therapy

Today is one of those days when I probably just need to read my own blog. Today I am undergoing "stress therapy".

I won't enumerate, but my life has many facets, and it seems that there are stressors coming at me from many angles. Client emergencies. Concerns about my children. A house in chaos. Medical bills. An aging "to-do" list. Busy days with obligations still suffering from neglect. Many things screaming for order and attention, combined with the icky feeling that I fell short of my best, when people are depending on my best. It feeds my insomnia, it's exhausting (which launches a vicious cycle), and it makes "chemo week" a little rough. On top of it, that little voice keeps reminding me that I'm at that magic 9-month point, where "most" glioblastoma patients start to see their fatal recurrence. I have to beat back that thought with a mental stick, because things are what they are, and they aren't what they aren't. But it does make me hyper-sensitive to the added influx of physical symptoms (which are probably nothing more than a response to stress). I also had to beat back creepy thoughts about how this stress might just make terminal cancer a little more appealing. what do I do?

I give thanks that I have a loving and supportive husband, and other family and friends who care and who are good at listening and talking me down from the ledge.

I give thanks that I know some good stress management techniques, such as exercise and journaling ("go for a jog and blab on the blog").

I give thanks that I am capable of complex thinking. I mean, really - I could have been reduced to a ball of goo that only operates off of what's left of the brain stem. Talk about the simple life.

I give thanks that maybe...just maybe...all of this mental effort is good for the brain. Stress is bad for the brain and the body, but perhaps if it is used constructively, it might exercise the good glial cells.

I give thanks that I have the cancer glasses that help me remember what is a big deal and what isn't. It doesn't take away all of the stressors, but it helps to be able to remember that these are temporary things. If I can endure this moment and avoid giving up, all will be well.

I give thanks for the knowledge that most of my life's worries have been smaller in reality than they were in my vivid imagination. I give thanks for the hope that today's worries will be the same.

I give thanks for experiences that have taught me that even when my worst fears have been realized, there has always been a purpose and a blessing around the corner.

I give thanks for the knowledge of where to turn for help, and for the faith to trust in that help - even when it takes a form that I wouldn't have expected.

I give thanks.

It helps - I finally feel like falling asleep. (Which I can do, once I get the kids to bed and exercise and take my Temodar and sit up for half an hour afterward and prepare for tomorrow's meetings, and...)

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Everything Therapy

Yes, I'm still around! I think I set a new personal record for the longest interval between blogs, and it wasn't just so that I could enjoy hearing from people who missed me. I was busy with "everything therapy".

My husband and I sang with Evening Song ( for eight years, and we were invited back to join them on a trip to Utah for some very memorable performances. (By the way, the director also invited us to join them in Prague in '08, and my response was that I'm game for being ANYWHERE in '08! Me - in a body - still alive - pick a spot, any spot, and I'm there!!!)

Our family boarded the plane for Salt Lake City, and I had to learn the hard way about the new airline security restrictions regarding liquids, gels, etc. I thought I had been vigilant about putting all such items in my checked baggage, but I learned to my horror that I had overlooked my mascara, which was sitting in my purse. My MARY KAY MASCARA - THE BEST MASCARA IN THE WHOLE WORLD!!!!!!!!! It didn't occur to me that - oops - oh, yeah - it is kind of a liquidy, gel-ly kind of substance, and it couldn't go into the airplane cabin with me. My bags were already checked, and we also didn't have time to run it back to the car. I begged, "But sir, it's my MARY KAY MASCARA!!!" His reply was sympathetic but unyielding. Into the discard bin it went. My husband reassured me that he could get me some more when we returned from our trip, and I had to make do with some L'Oreal version that I picked up at the drugstore after we arrived in Utah. (Sorry, L'Oreal -- it's okay, but it's not the same.) The good news was that it provided the only bad luck moment during the whole trip, clearing the way for a series of unforgettable events.

One such event was a lunch meeting with my publisher. It was awesome! I'm officially under contract with them now, and I received the first round of suggested edits for my book, my favorite of which is the comment that they preferred my own "voice" to any quoted passages that I used. This will be a really cool process. It means everything to me to be able to see this important legacy project moving forward.

The Assembly Hall at Temple SquareOur two choir concerts were also amazing experiences. One was in the Alpine Tabernacle in American Fork, and one was in the Assembly Hall on Temple Square in Salt Lake City (where I have longed to sing for many years). One of my favorite moments was when an Assembly Hall official opened the concert with prayer and gave thanks for our choir who had come "from the GREAT STATE of TEXAS". (I had to suppress the impulse to "Yee-HAH"!) We had many friends and family members attend our concerts, and it meant everything to me to see these dear people, to have them support our performance, and to be able to sing great stuff with a great choir. One of our many supporters was our high school choir director (who was also our clog dancing teacher and Cloggers West director), and it meant everything to us, to be reunited with the person who discovered and cultivated our talents, and who directed these activities that formed lasting friendships (including my "gaggle" of girlfriends and the romance with my dance partner who later became my husband). We had a couple of family gatherings outside of concert time, and those family relationships mean everything to me. Some of my favorite memories of my growing-up years include the family gatherings that would happen almost every weekend.

I had some fun bonding time with my son as we went for a long walk one morning while everyone else slept in. He was enamored with the mountains, and he listened to my story as I took him on a long walk up one of the foothills in Lindon, starting at my old bus stop at the bottom of the hill, to where my old house stood at the top of the hill. The hill is now paved, but it was a steep gravel road when I was a student in junior high and high school. After a long day of classes (and clogging) that steep gravel hill was a tough climb for a girl who was really into fashionably uncomfortable Candies shoes during the early eighties. As I explained to my son, I was relieved a couple of times when a nice boy pulled up to me in his parents' car and drove me up the hill. He was my dance partner at school, and I later married that nice boy. It meant everything to me to relive those early years of a budding romance, and to share more of our family's "story" with my son.

We also had some time to reunite with some friends, including two of the "gaggle". One of them is a cancer survivor, too, and she and I share a fantasy of starting a girlie rock band called the "Longflicks" (because life is just a flick of the finger, and we each want a long one). So we posed for our album cover. It meant everything to me to spend time with my friends, and especially to have some hang time with the one who walks a few steps ahead of me and gives me lots of laughs and inspiration as we travel our cancer journeys together.

On Sunday morning my husband and I bid a temporary farewell to our children, who stayed with their grandparents during the next leg of our adventure. We drove back to Salt Lake City and attended the broadcast of "Music and the Spoken Word" with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and we even had the opportunity to meet with the director of that choir afterward. It was an unforgettable experience, and it meant everything to me that they opened the broadcast with one of my favorite songs, "How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place", from Brahm's Requiem:

How lovely is thy dwelling place, O Lord of Hosts
For my soul, it longeth, yea fainteth, for the courts of the Lord
My soul and body crieth out, yea, for the Living God
How lovely is thy dwelling place, O Lord of Hosts
Blessed are they that dwell within thy house
They praise thy name evermore
How lovely is thy dwelling place

After the broadcast we went to church services with some friends, and it meant everything to be able to take part in that worship, to take the sacrament, and to feel the wonderful spirit that surrounded us. After church we headed straight for Star Valley Ranch, Wyoming, to our original honeymoon cabin. It meant everything to me, to be able to recapture one of the most magical times of my life in such a beautiful, memorable setting. I married well, and that means everything to me, too.

A couple of days later we came back to Utah, reunited with our children, and took them to Salt Lake City to see the temple grounds. The Salt Lake Temple is where our family was first "born", upon our marriage there eighteen years ago. We also toured the visitor's center, where our son marveled at the large statue of Jesus Christ, the Christus. As we approached Temple Square, we also passed by the McCune Mansion, which was the site of our wedding reception. This historic home is alleged to be haunted, according to, and while I've never personally experienced anything that would confirm that rumor, I sure do plan to haunt it myself someday. Meanwhile, it meant everything to me, to share these special places with my children, and to see them enjoy the big statue of Jesus.

After a wonderful week we returned home to Texas, and it meant everything to me to return home, safe and sound, and find that all is still well here. "Everything" therapy paid off well: I aced my neuro test and blood tests the next day at my oncologist's office, and I feel pumped and ready to take on Round 6 of my maintenance chemotherapy on Monday.