Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Making it okay.

"The mind is constantly trying to give you advice about how to make it all okay. That is why the mind is so active; you gave it an impossible task to do." - Michael Singer, The Untethered Soul

These past few months have been some of the most physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually challenging for me and for my family. Not only must we deal with my dad's diagnosis of cancer and the road to recovery, we must also let go of who we once were and the life we once had. While life has changed a lot for my sister and me, it has changed drastically for my parents. I can't even begin to imagine what my mom is going through right now as she supports my dad every day of his journey to fight cancer. Even more so, I can't imagine what my dad is going through having to be the one to endure the stress of this situation day in and day out. In general, people say things like "think positive" and "have hope," and while I think these things are indeed of the utmost importance, I have to bite my tongue at times so as to not bite their heads off. "Have you seen my dad? Have you sat in that dialysis chair next to him? Have you felt this kind of pain before?" I want to scream, "You asshole! It isn't that simple! You have no f'ing idea!" Woah, wait a minute, Keri. You'd give the same advice to someone else! What was that reaction? It's definitely a knee jerk reaction to feel defensive of my dad, but I realize that it's not my anger at this person and his or her (actually very good) advice, it's my anger at being thrown into an uncontrollable situation. I want more than anything in the world to make it all okay, but I can't. And that downright sucks.

When going through a crisis like this, I've determined that you can have a million people around you, but you can still feel alone. Our extended family and friends have been so thoughtful and supportive, but we're left still feeling empty. Why is that? I think it's because we think that if someone could really understand what we're going through, it would all be okay. Plain and simple, they'd GET IT. But why is that even important? Why would we ever want someone to know this kind of pain? We think if someone "gets it" it will be closer to feeling okay for us, but that is just false. Everyone has been through their share of heartache, and everyone deals with it differently. To a certain extent, everyone "gets it" because they've been through some sort of enormous challenge in their own lives. Ultimately, friends and family just being there for us is what matters most. Many of my best girlfriends have actually dealt with seeing a parent battle an illness, and I can't say enough for how loving and supportive they and others have been to me as I support my dad. What I seek from my friends is just a loving heart which I know they all possess. While they can't make the situation okay, they have helped me be okay in more ways than they'll ever know, and for that, I am truly blessed.

What I've learned is that we can't expect ourselves or anyone else to be able to make situations like these okay. We find ourselves grasping for straws when life feels like it's spinning out of control. I think if we come to a point where we let go of the need to control, we will feel a bit more peaceful at least. We look inward to let go of the desire to make it all okay because it is wasted energy and an impossible feat.

While I cannot control this situation, I can control how I react and what I choose to believe. A friend wrote to me, "Being mindful doesn't mean things are less bad but that you are more capable of dealing with them." I think this is so true. I know my dad will overcome this. He is so incredibly strong and inspiring. Words can't describe the pride I feel when I think of how hard he is fighting every day. What people may not see from the outside is that he is thinking positively, and he does have hope - this is what keeps him going even on the toughest of days. What is happening is out of my control, and I will work to be at peace with that. I can't make this go away. I can't make it all okay. But what I can do is be there for my dad, love him with all of my heart, and fight with him, so that's just what I'll continue to do.

Morning with Mama.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Wannabe pasta.

I have this favorite pasta dish I order from Arugula in Boulder. It's chicken and zucchini with penne, and it's to die for. Tonight, I attempted to recreate the dish adding a little of my own flare. It turned out pretty well for a first attempt. Next time, I might add a bit of butter or some sage to make the pasta richer. In this version, I used olive oil to make it a bit healthier than the restaurant dish.

1 package of your favorite pasta (I used whole wheat spaghetti because it's what we had on hand.)
Salted, boiling water

Extra virgin olive oil
2 medium sized shallots, diced
1 clove garlic, diced
2 zucchinis, cut into 1/2 inch wedges
1 cup of snap (or snow) peas, julienned
1 cup butternut squash or yams, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese and some for garnish
3 sprigs of basil, julienned
Salt and pepper to taste

Put a pot of salted water on the stove to boil. Once boiling, add pasta. When the pasta is finished, drain in a colander and then return the pasta to the hot pot. Add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pasta and mix well. Add the 1/2 cut of freshly grated Parmesan cheese to the pasta and mix once more. Set aside.

While water is coming to a boil and the pasta is cooking, prep your veggies. Add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a large-sized skillet, and allow the pan to heat. Add butternut squash cubes to pan in a single layer. With heat on medium-high, cover the pan, and allow the squash to steam for about 4-5 minutes. Check squash. It should be toasted on the bottom and soft to pierce with a toothpick. Allow squash to cook another 2 minutes uncovered or until done. Salt and pepper to taste, and set aside in a small bowl.

Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the same skillet once the squash is removed. Put the pan back over the heat, and add the chopped shallots and garlic. Cook the shallots and garlic over medium-low heat until translucent then add the zucchini to the pan. Cook the zucchini for about 3 minutes or until done. Do not overcook - zucchini should be firm but juicy. Add the julienned snap peas to the pan, and cook for about 2 minutes.

Next, dump the pasta into the pan with the shallot, garlic, zucchini, and snap peas. Mix well over low heat. Add the butternut squash cubes to the mixture and then turn off the heat. Add the julienned basil to the pan, and mix once more. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve with extra Parmesan for garnish. Viola!

Serves 4.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Looking beyond.

My mother tells this great story about my sister Katy and the first time she sat on the Easter Bunny's lap at the mall. Katy was always very skeptical of life size characters and would approach them with hesitation and downright resistance, so she didn't like it one bit when she was told she had to sit on the Easter Bunny's lap. She reluctantly sat on his lap with a sour look on her cute, chubby face. Almost as if a lightbulb went on over her white-blond locks, she turned to face the bunny peering beyond his friendly fur face and into his large mesh eyes. In utter shock, she burst out, "Mommy, dere a man in dere!" That's the last line of the story every time. I have no idea whether the realization resulted in tears or laughter, but I'm sure in that moment, my sister's view of those scary creatures changed forever. She learned that the ominous, life size bunny is simply a friendly (or creepy) man in a fuzzy suit.

Over the past few months, I've been watching Calvin learn new things about the world. I love that he's so aware. He's just simply aware. It's beyond amazing to watch him study a scene or person's face trying to adjust his emotions or thoughts according to that scene or face. Every minute he's exploring and taking in what's around him. What's crazy is that he's already judging, forming associations, and opinions about the world. But he does so with an innocence that is so precious. If only we, as adults, could harness a more childlike view of the world around us. As we move through life, we are constantly collecting and internalizing the "stuff" that surrounds us. We learn to feel and react in certain ways because of what we've been through in our lives. Why do we hold onto things? Why can't we let go? Why when we have all of our basic (and not-so-basic) needs met are we still not happy?

I feel like this time in my life is one huge standardized test. It's high stakes, nothing can prepare me for it, it's definitely not fair, but despite all of these negatives, my future still depends on whether or not I pass. And I will pass. It may not be with a perfect score, but it will be good enough. My strong, determined father and my spirited, loving son are my inspirational teachers. Every day I learn something from watching them. I have learned that my fears are conquerable, my woes insignificant, and my joys worth celebrating fully. Sometimes it takes something big and scary to push us to look beyond the mind and into the heart. We realize that despite the fact that everything around us is fucking bat shit insane, everything inside us can be OK and peaceful.

Friday, April 8, 2011

So sweet.

I must admit that we are completely addicted to our video monitor...if not for any reason but because of this sweet, sweet image.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Close your eyes...make a wish...and blow out the candlelight.

Calvin fell asleep in the car on the way home to Angus and me singing along to Angus's 90's playlist. The song was Boys II Men "I'll Make Love to You." Nice lullaby.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Poppy is home!

Dad got home on Friday, and he's been exhausted but in good spirits. It's been GREAT to have him home. We are all so happy, especially Calvin. Dad is doing well...he's adjusting to dialysis and resting a lot so that he heals from this surgery. There's still a lot to come, but we're just taking things one day at a time.