Friday, July 29, 2011

Evening Gatha

In Zen Buddhism a gatha is a song or hymn that is chanted as part of one’s practice. This evening gatha was a gift from a friend. It hangs in my bathroom.

Evening Gatha:

Let me respectfully remind you~
Life and death are of supreme importance~
Time swiftly passes by, and opportunity is lost~
Each of us should strive to awaken…..
Take heed. Do not squander your life.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Workshop for Women Cancer Patients and Caregivers August 10th

To Life! Presents... Beat the Odds

A FREE Workshop with Breakfast and Presentations for Cancer Patients and Caregivers.

Date: Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Location: Gideon Putnam Resort
24 Gideon Putnam Rd, Saratoga Springs, New York

Time: Breakfast at 8:00 am Presentations to follow at 8:45 am

Tpoics and Panels:
The Role of Genetics in Cancer Diagnosis & Treatment
Presented by Luba Djurdjinovic, Executive Director of the Ferre Institute

Hormone Therapy—What is Right for You?
Presented by Dr. Vinita Singh, Medical Oncologist at Samaritan Hospital Cancer Treatment Center

Caregivers: Perspectives on Caring for Your Loved One
Presented by Diane Cameron Pascone, Times Union columnist and teacher of caregiving courses

Pre-registration is required by August 7, 2011.

To register call To Life! at (518) 439-5975 x22, or e-mail

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Broken Toe

It’s the little things not the big ones that test my humility and self-concept. I made it through cancer, caregiving and blended family craziness, but last night completely lost it over my little toe.

I broke my toe. I was rushing and turned quickly and tripped over John. (I’ll let my therapist sort out the deeper meaning of that.) I went down howling at the sharp pain but came up sobbing that “I don’t have time for this right now.”

You would think that I have had so many ways in the past few years to learn that life happens when you are making other plans, but my ego insists she will have her way. I’m laughing at myself, and I’m not. I see in this how hard it is to take care of myself, to accept life on life’s terms and to just be human.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


I’m home now from Chicago. A wonderful vacation in a new city with an old friend. I met my friend Brigid in Chicago and we had art, culture, shopping, and endless talking about our lives. Brigid and I know each other 30 years but we haven’t lived in the same city for the last 15. Earlier this year it seemed that the friendship would break from the distance and changes in our lives. We were young, single women together in Baltimore and shared passions for art and food and self-improvement.

In Chicago we went to museums, the symphony in the park and walked Michigan Avenue until our feet burned. Then we went to the Nordstrom shoe department for relief. And we talked nonstop about how our inner lives had improved and the parts that still resisted change. We swapped names of therapists, gurus and self help books.

It also felt good to go away alone—to have all that quiet time in travel---the good news of long waits in airports is that it gives me a huge amount of quiet and solitude and that really feeds my writer/creator self. I was delighted to find that Chicago’s Midway Airport has a Chapel and Spiritual Center in the airport. I went there to pray and meditate and be still.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Do Not Disturb

On my office door I have one of those hanging cards from a hotel that you attach to the doorknob to advise the housekeeping staff of your wishes. This one, from a hotel in Toronto, says “Do Not Disturb” on one side. On the flip side of the card is the same phrase in French—“Ne pas deranger”. But, as my husband pointed out, the literal translation of this phrase in French is, “Do Not Derange”. I love that. It’s fair warning to anyone in my life.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Sleeping with Bread

A favorite book of mine is called, “Sleeping with Bread” by Dennis, Sheila and Matt Linn. It’s about a simple discernment process that the Linns teach—helping us to see what matters and what brings us joy.

My favorite part of this book is the story that gives the book its title. This is the story:

“During the bombing raids of World War II thousands of children were orphaned and left to starve. The fortunate ones were rescued and placed in refugee camps where they received food and good care. But many of these children who had lost so much could not sleep at night. They feared waking up to find themselves once again homeless and without food. Nothing seemed to reassure them. Finally, someone hit upon the idea of giving each child a piece of bread to hold at bedtime. Holding their bread, these children could finally sleep in peace. All through the night the bread reminded them, “Today I ate and I will eat again tomorrow.”

I love everything about that story –the problem and the simple solution. I can relate to the persistence of old feelings and fears—and how any kind of deprivation can cast a long shadow.

Each time I read it I ask myself: What am I trying to hold on to now to meet a need that was in the long ago past? Are all my shoes a kind of “bread”? Old relationships? Old ways of relating to others? And what new bread might I ask for and hold instead? Bread is a spiritual metaphor in every faith—so what “bread” can I hold onto instead of shoes, scarves, resentments, fears, jealousies and my own cozy ego?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Cancer Doesn't Correlate

We so badly want cancer to be caused by something other people do that we don’t. She used to smoke. He eats so poorly. She’s a worrier/has a lot of anger/doesn’t express feelings. He was always in the sun. Maybe it’s a family thing? Was there cancer in his family? Didn’t her sister have cancer?

It’s our voodoo hope. “If I don’t do the things the things they do I won’t get cancer.”

But no, cancer doesn’t correlate.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Infidelity Keeps Us Together

That’s the title of yesterday’s cover story in the New York Times magazine. Mark Oppenheimer writes about sex columnist Dan Savage and Savage’s suggestion that marriages need less fidelity and more flexibility. Basically what Savage is suggesting is that monogamy isn’t quite natural and that we do relationships a disservice by pretending or insisting that absolute monogamy be the standard.

What’s good is that Savage is not espousing secrets or affairs or running around—rather he’s advocating for talking to your partner before, after, and during marriage to say, “This is who I really am; what I really want; and “Will you still love me if I need to try this out?” In a way, he’s talking about a very high form of commitment.

But just the title and then reading the article was disturbing. (Click on the link below to read the article). Right away I found myself asking, “What if John said he needed something –some kind of sexual experience—I couldn’t offer or even try?” Would I love him enough to say, “Ok, go be you?”

I doubt it.

In the article other experts on sex and marriage weigh in to say that some open marriages work but most do not—not because of the sex but because of the emotions and the dishonesty—again, not the dishonesty of the partner who needs to go outside the relationship but the dishonesty of the partner who agrees or acquiesces and then realizes they really are not OK with that.

But then the bigger and more personal question to myself is this: Do I have the right to want and insist on monogamy and fidelity in our marriage? This is a marriage that came to be from infidelity—so did I forfeit my rights by marrying a man who left his wife? Or do we painfully know just how high the cost is and not wish that on ourselves or on any others?

Reading this article provoked a deep and daring conversation with John about our love life and our sex life and our intellectual lives—and how we keep all of those alive so we can keep things fresh and exciting. And what it means to be sexually “good, giving and game” in a monogamous marriage.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Pure Romance

In the Sex and Cancer workshop a few weeks ago I got to hear Vickie Yattaw, who is a Registered Nurse and Oncology Educator. She provided a lot of resources. One was the company, Pure Romance—a “sensuality toy company”. Vickie recommended some of their lubricants for women during and after chemo and cancer.

These products are, of course, great for women during and after menopause as well. So I went online to to place my first order. I’ll keep you posted on the products—I bought one that is pretty basic and one that is described as “chocolate” and “tingling”. We’ll see.

But the best part of my little adventure on the Pure Romance site is the founder—Patty Brisbane’s -- blog called “Under the Sheets”. She writes about couples and communication. It is the most delightful thing to see sex framed in the context of good communication and good relationships.