how is your heart today?

It is still dark, not yet five, too early to be awake. But here I am, eyes wide open. It’s a new habit, this four a.m. restlessness blossoming into a low-grade anxiety that makes going back to sleep impossible. But this morning, oddly, it’s a question that nudges me to consciousness:

How is your heart today?

I lie in bed for a while, taking stock. How is my heart? There’s no easy answer.  And so I try to remember, instead, where I first heard or read these provocative, tender words.  In a book? A conversation? A blog post?

More curious now than sleepy, I turn on the light, reach for my glasses and phone, and Google the words “How is your heart today?” [continue…]

choosing love over fear

img_1151-1“The world is violent and mercurial — it will have its way with you. We are saved only by love — love for each other and the love that we pour into the art we feel compelled to share: being a parent; being a writer; being a painter; being a friend. We live in a perpetually burning building, and what we must save from it, all the time, is love.”   ~ Tennesee Williams

I wonder what would happen if we were all to commit ourselves, over these next months, to small gestures of love, healing, and reconciliation? Would the national mood of distrust and divisiveness change for the better?

What would happen if we took our cues from the graceful, forceful words spoken yesterday by Hillary Clinton and President Obama, and by the President-elect as well, all of whom encouraged  Americans to come together now, and to do whatever we can, wherever we are, to repair our torn social fabric?

What would happen if those of us who grieved the results of this election chose today, and in the days ahead, to transform that grief into renewed determination — determination to create a kinder, safer, more tolerant country, one in which to be a citizen means to uphold our deepest national values of freedom and dignity and respect for all Americans?

What if we were to stake out this small territory as our first patch of common ground: a respect for our imperfect yet precious democracy, manifested by an insistence, from both sides, that the President-elect    start making good, right now, on his election-eve promise to reunite the country?  [continue…]

our America

UnknownLet us cultivate a culture of kindness. In that moment, we are determining the outcome of the world.
~ Sakyong Mipham

I know I’m not the only one finding it impossible this summer to make sense of world events. I suspect you, too, are mourning the senseless deaths of innocent people at home and abroad, looking in vain after each new round of violence for answers to the seemingly unanswerable question “why?”, and trying to cultivate an informed, thoughtful attitude toward our presidential candidates.

Perhaps, like me, you assign yourself articles to read written by journalists from the left and the right, writers and reporters who do their homework, who think deeply about where we stand as a country and who choose their words with care. Perhaps you, too, are struggling to keep your heart open to all people, to opinions that conflict with your own, to the concerns and worries of friends and family members who see things differently. Sometimes very, very differently.

It’s not easy being a good citizen these days. In the past couple of weeks two of my friends have confessed to blocking or defriending those whose political postings on social media cause them angst. Others have expressed a desire for Facebook to remain a place where we can enjoy browsing photos of our friends’ children and pets and vacations, without being confronted with their opinions, especially when they conflict with our own.

I have recently deleted political comments from my own Facebook page, remarks that were disrespectful, rude, or insulting — not to me, but to others. To do so causes me pain, for I value a free flow of ideas and information as much as anyone. But then, name-calling and personal insults don’t fall into that category.  I believe there’s a difference between conversation, which demands empathy and a willingness to listen with an open mind; and invective, which is about hearts and  minds that have been willfully shut down.

I don’t have to tell you: there are many loud, belligerent voices out there, all straining to be heard. Turn on the TV or radio, scan your news feed, scroll through Twitter, and you will find them. Voices full of accusation and suspicion, hatred and superiority, disdain and incivility. Voices eager to label and vilify. Voices that separate us from one another, that seem bent on dividing souls rather than uniting them. Voices quick to judge, voices meant to instill fear, voices that incite distrust or even violence. There are voices that condone cruelty, voices raised in self-righteous fury, voices that disregard quiet, unassailable truth in favor of suspicion and innuendo and outright lies. There are voices that speak the language of the F-bomb, the bully, the oppressor. And, alas, there seem to be very few voices asking simple questions of the heart, such as, “Tell me why you feel this way?” It’s a bleak and painful chorus, the kind of dysfunctional acting out we would never tolerate in our own homes or in our own families.

And yet somehow we’ve allowed this disgraceful shouting match to become our national dialogue. [continue…]

26.2 things to be grateful for on a 26.2 mile walk

IMG_1696On September 21, for the fourth time, the members of Team Diane participated in the Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk. And then, as always happens, life came rushing right back in, and I didn’t get to write the blog post I’d planned for the next day. But what stands out in my mind even now, two weeks later, is one over-arching feeling: gratitude. And I realize that even as I walked I was making a mental list in my head. Writing it down just now, it was hard to stop at 26. What was I grateful for? Well, among other things:

  1. You! My dear friends, your words of encouragement and support filled my soul and gave wings to my feet. “Thank you” doesn’t begin to express my gratitude!
  1. You, again. Thanks to your generous donations, I exceeded my own fund-raising goal this year. But more importantly, all the money raised by our group – over $30,000 this year alone — goes directly to Dana Farber oncologist Dr. Ursula Matulonis and her team of researchers, dedicated to finding better treatments for women’s cancers. Together, we’re making a real difference, improving the odds for every woman being diagnosed or treated today.
  1. Team Diane! I feel blessed to be a part of this spirited band of women walking arm-in-arm for a cause that’s touched all our lives.finish line
  1. Marching orders. How proud our friend would be to see that we’re carrying on this work she herself began with such passion. This was the legacy Diane hoped for and the instruction she left us with: To live our own lives fully, and to do whatever we can to ensure better futures for all women with ovarian cancer.
  1. Husbands. You know who you are: the ones who willingly got up at four in the morning and caravanned on the Mass Pike out to Hopkinton to deliver the members of Team Diane to the starting line. And my own husband, Steve, who not only took photos from start to finish but trailed along the route as sweep, ready to offer a ride to any one of us who needed to bail out. Hats off to you guys!
  1. The heavens. They opened, the rains poured down for a solid hour and then, as if by magic or grace, the skies cleared at 6 am. We balled up our un-used slickers, tightened our sneakers, and put our hands together for a “Go Team” salute.
  1. My new chiropractor. “No, it’s not a pulled muscle,” she said a few weeks ago, when I first arrived at her office, after limping with a mysterious hip and leg injury for over ten months. “I’m pretty sure it’s referred nerve pain from your L1 vertebrae, and that you’ll feel better after I adjust you.” She was right. I did. (Still mending, but at least I’m walking without wincing.)

[continue…]

a friend, a walk, a cause, a book, a thank you

Diane and KIn two weeks, I’ll turn 56, a birthday my dear friend Diane did not live to see. The photo above, my favorite of the two of us, was taken the year before she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

As always in the early fall, Diane, our friend Carol, and I had used my birthday as an excuse for a girls’ getaway at my parents’ house in Maine. For years we celebrated our time together with the same fool-proof menu: old Jackson Browne music on the stereo, lobster risotto (a collaborative culinary effort) and champagne for dinner, Diane’s scones and fresh fruit for breakfast, long walks, and no-holds-barred late-night conversations – the kind that can only happen between the most intimate friends, away from home, with no kids or husbands within earshot.

I’ve been thinking a good deal lately about how Diane spent her 55th year. It was she who originally inspired the phrase “the gift of an ordinary day,” for her delight in simple pleasures and time spent with her family and friends only deepened as she bravely faced both her devastating prognosis and a heartbreaking series of “lasts.” Diane negotiated the realities of ovarian cancer with the same determination and clarity she brought to everything she did – continuing with aggressive treatment for her disease while fully embracing the joys of her own everyday life. Under the care of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, she was able to do both for nearly four years.

During that time, she also worked tirelessly to support ovarian cancer research. As her own journey came to and end, Diane made clear her desire that her loved ones might carry on this effort in her memory.

Team Diane was formed in response to that wish.

Team Diane 2013Walking together in the annual Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk over the last three years, our small group has raised over $125,000 for Diane’s cause — money that, by Diane’s design, goes directly to her beloved Dana Farber oncologist Dr. Urusla Matulonis and her dedicated team of researchers. It’s a great achievement, but of course there is much more work to be done.

Next Sunday, on September 21, I will join Team Diane for the fourth time to walk in this event that’s become a touchstone of my life. I’m proud and grateful to be part of this committed group of walkers – some of us who knew and loved Diane, others who have joined because they’ve been moved by her story or touched by cancer themselves.   We are mostly women in our forties and fifties and sixties, and so we walk despite our own individual challenges – sore knees and cranky backs, cancer and Lyme disease, tight hamstrings and tender heels, the usual aches and pains of age. (Although I’ve got my own tricky back and gimpy leg to deal with this year, I didn’t for one moment consider dropping out!)

IMG_3186 - Version 2As always, we’ll begin the day in the dark, eating homemade scones on the pre-dawn ride out to Hopkinton (another Diane tradition, happily continued). We’ll hold hands for a moment at the start and then set out together, joining the more than 8,500 others who will be walking for a cure that day. En route, we’ll share our BlisterGlide, sunscreen, and Ibuprofen. We’ll urge one another on and catch up on one another’s lives. We’ll take plenty of stretching breaks and pit stops and remind each other to drink more water. And late in the afternoon we’ll cross the finish line arm in arm, with cheers and tears, remembering our friend, knowing how proud she’d be to see us carrying on her mission. And knowing, too, that we are making a difference. Collectively, working together, we can improve the odds for every woman who is diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

1235289_10151642734492304_1068429755_n - Version 2 (1)Once a year, I reach out to you, my dear readers, to join me in this cause that means so much to me and to so many others. For, as we all know, cancer touches each of us. As I write, my dear friend Lisa is being treated by an extraordinary team of doctors at Dana Farber, while another is celebrating her recent recovery from ovarian cancer. And so, it’s little wonder that I’m more committed than ever to doing my part to help conquer this disease. I am deeply grateful for any support you are able to give. Together we’re walking and giving and working to change lives — and perhaps to save them.

Thank you. Your support and your presence in my life means more than I can say.

how to donate – and a special thanks from me

Each year when I invite you to support me and Team Diane’s efforts, I like to choose a book to give away here, one that has some special significance to this cause. I can think of none better than the first volume of Mary Oliver’s collected poems, perhaps my favorite poetry book of all time. Four years ago, Diane borrowed my copy and found deep solace in these poems; later, when the book came back to me, her slips of paper were still in it, marking the ones that spoke most deeply to her. This too was part of her legacy: she wanted to remind us to pay attention, to love life and to live it fully, with gratitude and awareness and wonder.

So, if you do make a donation, make sure to also leave a comment below and let me know.

On Friday, Sept 26, I will choose one winner at random to receive Mary Oliver’s New and Selected Poems, Volume One. (Needless to say, I wish I could send a copy to each and every one of you.)

Donating is easy.

        Go to my personal fundraising page by clicking here: 

http://www.jimmyfundwalk.org/2014/katrina4teamdiane#sthash.9xacweAR.dpuf.

Or send me a check: Make your check payable to “Jimmy Fund Walk.” Write DIANE’S FUND on the memo line. Send it directly to me at: 101 Middle Hancock Rd., Peterborough, NH 03458.

Note: You may wish to check with your employer’s Human Resources department to find out if they  will match your gift and double the impact.

Every single contribution is both meaningful and deeply appreciated.  Onward, with gratitude and love!