Extra Oxygen

In December 2016, my friends, a father/daughter team, organized a blood drive, and I signed up.  I’d never donated blood, but

J⁴ needed a blood transfusion.  The 12-week chemo/immunotherapy treatment had lowered her blood counts to a point where she desperately needed a life-saving boost. She needed three separate blood transfusions.

Although I knew she wouldn’t receive my blood, I went into the blood drive thinking about her need and about how having her blood type available saved her life. Someone else had given his/her blood for her to live.

I answered, in a private room, the medical history questions – some questions pretty basic, have you lived overseas for more than five years during 1980 -? And some questions downright personal, have you ever paid for sex?  have you ever had gay sex?  I got my finger pricked to draw a bead of blood to check my iron levels. I had my blood pressure and pulse taken.

Then I stretched out on a portable hospital bed and had a pint of blood drawn via IV. I squeezed a rubber ball to encourage the blood flow. When I finished giving, the nurse took an extra seven vials of blood for testing.

I didn’t coast through the whole thing – actually, I had some light headedness and nausea which I’ve now learned is normal.  After donating, I went to bed early, but in the AM, I felt fine.

I thought about the 12 weeks I accompanied J⁴ to chemo.  The needles that stuck her – blood tests, chemo IV, immunotherapy IV.  The machines she’s laid in and tables and hospital beds she’s laid on while having CT scans, radiation and doctor visits. The Penguin Cold Caps we put on her head every 20 minutes before, during and after the treatments.  How cold the caps felt on my gloved hands as I readied them, yet J⁴ had to endure the ice-cold caps wrapped around her head and also carry the worry, will I  save my hair? (which she did!)

A few weeks after donating blood, I received an email from the American Red Cross, asking if I’d give blood again, after 56 days, the required time between giving. Without hesitation, I downloaded the Red Cross’ blood donation app and scheduled my next donation.  I’ve now given 3x since December, and I receive notifications when I’m able to give again.

On my 2nd blood drive visit, I met a woman in the ‘recovery area’ where salty and sugary snacks and waters are served. The woman ate Chips Ahoy cookies while I munched on Cheez-Its.  She told me that she had worked in a trauma unit in an east coast hospital for over 30+ years.  She said she’d given blood, on schedule, for the last 15 years. She witnessed a patient who required 100 units of blood (a person can only give 1 unit/pint, so 100 people saved one life!) and who then fully recovered from his injuries. After seeing the miracle, she committed to giving.

I listened to a Canvas-SF service this week while I strung a NeckGrace. It was about minimalism; Less is More.

“Minimalism is not about having less stuff but it’s about being free to do more which matters. True life, that which is real and full, is found at the intersection of simplicity and generosity. You make a living by what you get, and you make a life by what you give away. Passing blame that you don’t have time is absolving yourself from responsibility – cuz you ‘B-lame” when you blame other things for owning your time. Are you making a living or making a life? Love and hurry are fundamentally incompatible – hurried people can’t love. Love takes time. Will you open your hands and loosen your grip on the more that you’re pursuing, so you may have true life.” – Travis

In 2012, healthy and well, three years before lung cancer, J⁴ traveled with us to our family’s favorite beach in the world, Anguilla.  For some local flavor, we recommended she read the book, A Trip to the Beach: Living on Island Time in the Caribbean, written by a couple who gave up all their worldly possessions and everything which with they were familiar and moved to Anguilla and started a restaurant, Blanchards. J⁴ loved the book, so once on the island, she went to Blanchards and met the owners. She bought a hat, and they signed it –

I photographed J⁴ on the Anguilla beach wearing her treasured signed hat.

IMG_8113picWe took the photo next to these:

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“Extra Oxygen”

Five years ago, I had no idea that the beauty of these tanks in the foreground to the most beautiful water in the world foreshadowed J⁴’s necessity for extra oxygen.  The extra oxygen that will buy her time; time to read books, time to share with her beloved husband and boys, time to visit places that bring her joy and time to impact the lives of those around her by all that she gives.

Breathe life into yourself by giving blood, extra oxygen, sweat & tears and love in any way, shape or form.

‘Cuz real life doesn’t allow us to take a timeout when the going gets rough, and after we’re gone, the stuff we’ve acquired becomes someone else’s clutter, but what we give away sets us free!

Like when we take a trip to the beach – we keep it simple – some sunscreen, glasses or a good book – all the rest is extra – extra clutter – blocking us from the simplicity and a true life.

Don’t b-lame – give your extra away.

 

 

 

Beauty in the Beast

“I’d like to have a herb garden, but I don’t want the rabbits to feast like beasts.”

I planted a cactus in the middle of my herb planter, so rabbits couldn’t kick-back and comfortably munch on my herbs, and it sure seems to have done the job!

Looking for the beauty in the beast –

it’s transformational.

IMG_3539“Beauty in the Beast”

Earth Angel

For my birthday, LCP, my daughter, gave me a trip to Puerto Vallarta, using her mileage points.  She flew from SJC to SNA, and I flew from PHX to SNA. Meeting in the middle, we then traveled together to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

On the first leg, flying SWA, I had A37. I chose an aisle seat in a 3-seat row where a man was already sitting by the window, and as the plane began to fill, a flight attendant announced it was a full flight.  Minutes before the plane’s doors were closed, a woman asked me if she could sit in the middle seat next to me. I stood up, allowing her to move past me into the seat. As she shoved her carry-on under the seat in front of her, I noticed she, too, carried a black pack.  I commented, smiling, “nice backpack, that’s the only way to go.”

She responded, “yes, a purse doesn’t work for me.”

It doesn’t work for me either.

We began a conversation that lasted the duration of the 55-minute flight to SNA.

“I have my work and personal stuff plus my daughter – who I take everywhere with me when I can – so I need a bag to carry it all.”

She has a daughter, too.

I used to take my daughters to work when they were young. Instead of play dates, we had work dates.  We needed our load to be light, too, and a purse was extra baggage.

I got an SWA drink coupon out of my backpack and offered one to her.  She said, “no, thank you, I have one of my own, but I’d like to have a drink with you.  Is it bad to drink this early in the morning?”

Don’t worry about what other’s think – if you want a drink, have a drink.

I felt like her mother.

She told me about her job – that she works for an organic food brokerage company. During her pregnancy with her daughter, she was exhausted, stocking shelves and doing manual labor at a local organic grocery store.  She worked 14 hour days. Her body ached, and her legs swelled from her pregnancy.  She was a mess, worrying about how she’d be able to sustain this pace after her child’s birth.  One day, while stocking shelves, a man approached her, asking if she’d be interested in a sales position with his company.  He said, “you have a twinkle in your eye, and I know you’d be great.”

She was dumbfounded – how could this happen?  A stranger randomly hired her, and now she has this great job that allows her to travel, and often, when in-state, with her daughter – she says, it was God.

She told me about her travels all over southern Arizona, her work territory.  Often she takes her daughter, who sits in her car seat in the backseat of her car.  They talk about the beauty of the desert (she says, Patagonia is awesome right now!) and try local restaurants, together. She mentioned a great pizza place in Sierra Vista, and I mentioned I’d recently been to a great, pizza place in Florence.  She related that she goes to Florence quite a bit. I told her the only thing I knew about Florence, before finding the pizza place via Yelp, was the prison that’s there. She said, “yes, I actually have a friend who’s in that prison who I try to visit pretty regularly.”

I asked what the charge is –

Armed robbery and car theft.

“He likes to fight, so he’s in trouble quite a bit. Lots of times I don’t get to see him during prison visitation because he’s being disciplined.”

I asked her how she knows him.

“We lived together throughout our childhoods – so he’s like a brother.  Our parents were meth addicts –  3 couples and their children lived with my parents.  When the parents would go on drug binges, we children would be handcuffed to a metal pole for hours. We were forced to do meth at around age 11, and there were times that we’d be up for 6 days straight, tweaking.  It’s weird though when our parents would disappear, we’d sneak up to the top of this hill near our house and just hang out – we felt like we were good.  It was in those moments that I’d talk to God, and know that everything would be OK, that He would take care of me.”

The children of meth-addicted parents craving love from mothers and fathers, only to be shackled to a metal post and abandoned for their parents’ highs.

“Just yesterday I had work that took me back home – I visited my mother, who’s still using. I had to tell her that she couldn’t take care of my daughter.  She was outraged.  I left with her being mad.”

You don’t have to feel guilty for leaving your mother yesterday. You can love her, but you can’t fix her.  The drugs are her daughter, not you.  She’s attentive to the meth, but you’ve been abused.  You can’t return to your abuser and allow it to infect you. As you love your own child today, you’re clean and sharing the beauty of this world with her.  Who knows – but I’d put money on it– your daughter will be taking you on a trip when she grows up and is out on her own.  She’ll be meeting you half way and helping you carry the load because you’re deserving. You share hard work, respect, and love, and with that cocktail, healthy relationships are born and nourished.

We each have our own drink coupons and mileage points – our own culminations of life experiences and influences.  Not all comes free – some of us have had to pay and to sacrifice enormously and to learn really hard lessons the hard way. However, finding happiness through goodness is free, as is trusting we’re never alone.

Don’t sweat the small stuff.

Be a good mother. Be a good daughter. Be a good father. Be a good son. Make a new friend or visit an old friend who needs reminding of the good in the world.

Change the world by changing the cycle. Rejoice when it’s awesome and believe

Good can come from the weirdest places, like sharing a drink on an airplane flight before 9 –

Life exists beyond the handcuffs –

Those cuffs make both prisoners and earth angels.

As children, we often have little choice,

but as adults, we choose.

Growing up and old has its perks –

Drink in these moments.

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