Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Four years later

Mid-morning sky.

Last night, Matt made the kids’ sandwiches and cut their apples for today’s school lunches. This is a task I usually have each school morning in our tag-team routine to get the kids to school by 7:30. He graciously did this, without my asking, so that I could have some extra time to myself this morning. I think his idea was that I could sleep in a little. Alas, I was up early, coffee in hand, and enjoyed some quiet time, reading and writing. We haven’t spent much time talking about today, but I know we both saw it coming. I believe we each felt it coming, too. Today marks four years since I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Today remains a marker in the road map of our life--a profound demarcation of before-and-after. I wonder if there will come a year when it doesn’t feel heavy, when it doesn’t feel huge. However, accepting it for what it is and how it feels, I will honor today with a few self-reflections.

Four years means I’ve traveled a significant, precious distance from my disease. Clinically speaking, each year I spend cancer-free increases the likelihood I will remain that way. I decided some time in the first year after my diagnosis that I didn’t want to live my life paralyzed by fear and anxiety. It’s one thing to have that realization; it’s another thing to try to live it out. Fear, anxiety, and sadness remain, and like I said last year, I accept them as traveling partners. I just try not to let them drive. My resolve every day has been to be calmer and stronger.

Invoking calmness or peace of mind involves a lot of intention and introspection. That’s often a struggle in our seemingly ever-changing, increasingly complex lives, raising three humans. Our kids are all reading, writing, and really thinking now, challenging and questioning us in ways that are both daunting and exciting. There’s certainly a lot to help them process these days, especially in school where so many of their friends are immigrants. In the midst of some anxiety, we have had opportunities to teach them about kindness. compassion, and empathy. I’m grateful for a public school that’s supportive and helpful in reinforcing these values. I’m thankful for a church where our kids studied this Bible verse in Sunday School earlier this month: “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are!” I John 3:1. There’s a peace in my heart, because I know I am loved. I see my most important work right now as helping my kids understand that they are loved and worthy of love. And so is everyone else.

Strength is also rooted in intentionality: a decision to grow--to move beyond a comfort zone. For me this past year that has meant entering the paid workforce. Back in September, through a fortuitous set of conversations, I landed a part-time job working for an investment advisor. Most of my work there is very simple, straight-forward administrative work, but still, I’ve been grateful for the opportunity to meet and work with some kind, thoughtful people in a very pleasant environment. While this job is only ten hours a week, and I can confine my work hours mostly to the kids’ school schedules, it has been an adjustment to have less time for myself--particularly in a year when I’ve taken on more time-consuming volunteer roles at the kids’ school. Additionally, I’ve acquired a part-time, project-based gig: my first legal writing work in eight years. I think we’ve all been stretched a little by this change in our family life. The kids have adjusted to riding the bus home most afternoons. Matt has covered a few more dinner and bath times solo for me to attend evening meetings. And I’m adjusting to a more rigid schedule for grocery shopping, meal planning, and other household logistics--and learning to let some things slide. While I lament the passing of a simpler time in our lives, I know it’s necessary to give way to something new for us. I’m grateful for what I’m remembering and learning about myself--and a measure of courage and confidence--as I reenter “professional” life.

As life moves and changes, I'm very grateful to be right where I am. I don’t appreciate every single moment, but I hope my heart and mind remain open to the everyday grace and love in my life--like a husband who does me a favor I didn’t even think to ask for.

Friday night. #durm #bullcitybabies

Thursday, February 16, 2017


After-school smooch.

This past week has me reflecting on the love in my life. Last Friday, marked 21 years dating for Matt and me. Our love has been central to my life for more than half of it now. Like he said, it's the source of so many wonderful things--memories, friendships, and especially our kids.

On Monday evening, I helped our kids put together their Valentines for their school friends. They were silly and sweet as they discussed "crushes" (Lauren's is Mace, Evan's is Ruby, and Tobin prefers to keep his a secret) and then picked out which store-bought card would be best for each friend. They came home on Tuesday, with smiles and bags filled with treats and notes. Tobin had a particularly special note from a long-time friend, who thanked him for being his best friend and drew him a comic book character. I'm thankful my kids' time away from me each day is filled with the love of friendship.

Tonight, I went out with a group of neighbors to celebrate two of their birthdays. I felt grateful for the companionship and the opportunity to hear what's going in our increasingly lives. Our favorite spot was closed in honor of the nation-wide protest A Day Without Immigrants. We happily found a different place to go. I felt really moved that a small, local restaurant would give up a day of business to honor immigrants in our community. Once again, I encountered love.

When I got home, I checked my email to read messages from the kids' school with plans for teachers and parents to welcome back the nearly one-third of immigrant students who stayed home today. Our message will be simple: we love you, we missed you, and welcome back. Teachers are ready and willing to help kids in their class process the meaning of today. Earlier this evening, we talked with our kids about what it felt like to miss their friends, why they weren't at school, and why we love them and our country.

Next week, I will focus on a harder love as I mark four years from my cancer diagnosis. I feel deep gratitude to be where I am. I love my life. I also remember that in the wake of my diagnosis and the disorientation I felt, I knew one thing: I am loved.

There's a lot of fear these days, but my hope is that I can keep love in front of me--always first. I've read these verses from the Bible for as long as I can remember, but they are especially poignant at this moment in time:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. I Corinthians 13:4-7

Thursday, February 09, 2017


As I've tried to think and live more deliberately over the last few years, I've been abundantly cognizant of where my center for gratitude lies most of the time. I've written about Allison more during this 12:34 project than anyone else, and I texted her the other day "It's 12:34, and you're the first person I think of. Like most days, tbh."

Tomorrow marks 21 years to the day since Allison and I started dating. Our friendship, relationship, and partnership is the blessing for which I am most grateful, in part because it has been the foundation of so many others--parenthood especially.

So today, I'm thankful for a windy day trip to the beach in 1996, and the excitement of beginning a road trip that still hasn't stopped.

Thursday, February 02, 2017


I’ve been feeling grateful for the community in my life. Really, I’m part of various communities that I envision as circles, sometimes separate and sometimes overlapping.

The fundamental one is my family that includes several circles: the nuclear family I was born into, my extended family, my in-laws, and the nuclear family Matt and I created. They interact and overlap and are connected through shared experiences and unconditional love. My life naturally prioritizes my nuclear family as Matt are sharing the labor of love that is parenting. It helps me to think of part of that work as building community. I want my kids to know they’re part of a community that supports and loves them and is preparing them for, one day, going out into the world to be part of their own network of communities that make up grown-up life.

Our church is a newer community for us. Finding community in a local congregation has always proven a bit complicated. We’ve been involved in a number of churches over the years in Durham, since leaving a congregation in Charlotte that we were deeply involved in. Over the last year and a half, we’ve been part of a church where we’ve met some really wonderful folks, who’ve reached out to love and teach our kids in kind, thoughtful way. I’m thankful for the promise of this community.

Friends represent other circles of community. Matt and I are lucky to have so many in common, since our circle of friends in college. We also made some great friends right after college, in those days when we were working and then I was in law school, before any of us had kids. Many of those friends live far away now, but there’s a group of them we vacation with almost every summer--along with our many children--and we always have the best time.

Closer to home, one of the most meaningful communities we have right now is our kids’ school. Over the last couple years, as Lauren started school, I’ve had more time to be part of this community. It’s pretty awesome to walk into a building and truly feel that I’m somewhere, where my kids are loved and appreciated. And it’s not just my kids, of course. My work as a volunteer has helped me understand more deeply how everyone in the building works to make sure every kid--regardless of ability, race/ethnicity, or language--thrives. That is a constant work in progress, but I’m thankful and honored to be part of this effort.

My closest community is my neighborhood. Since moving here two and half years ago, we’ve made some great friends, who happen to live across and just down the street. It’s wonderful to feel like we’re raising kids together, enjoying friendships and backyard football along the way.

I think I’ve been so mindful of and grateful for my communities, because the news these days has me thinking a lot about shared values. At times, it’s hard to believe that there’s more that unites than divides us. But that has been the story of my life: I would be nothing apart from my connections, grounded in loving kindness, to so many people, past and present. And the only way I know how to live my life is by seeking and building community, even when it’s hard and scary.