Guest Post: Staying in the Race

 

 

Kathy Pooler

Kathy Pooler

 

I am honored to feature fellow writer and Dan Blank’s Build Your Author Platform course classmate, Kathleen Pooler as a guest blogger this week. She writes about how faith and hope,  family and friends helped her stay on the course in her battle against cancer.  She is inspirational.

Staying in the Race

“THE ONLY WAY OF DISCOVERING THE LIMITS OF THE POSSIBLE IS TO VENTURE A LITTLE WAY PAST THEM INTO THE IMPOSSIBLE.” Arthur C. Clarke, Profiles of the Future.

On a picture-perfect sunny, blazing October morning in Eastern New York State, along the Mohawk and Hudson Rivers, I had the thrill of following my daughter, Leigh Ann, as she ran her first marathon. Grandsons, Jacob,5 and Ethan,4, played a key role in this effort as they held up their homemade “Go Mommy Go and “You Can Do It” posters. When she reached the finish line four hours and nineteen minutes later, Jacob and Ethan joined her in crossing over. Her message on Facebook was “a great support system can get one through what once seemed impossible.”

My marathon was a diagnosis of Stage Four Non Hodgkin Lymphoma on Christmas Eve, 1996. After dealing with the shock of the diagnosis, I had to learn how to be a patient, handing in my stethoscope for a hospital gown and two years of intense chemotherapy, radiation and a stem cell transplant. I was in training for the battle of my life and for my life. I cried, I prayed, I let my family and friends rub my feet and make me meals, I raged until one day, I just yelled at God,

“You are the great Miracle-maker so make me a miracle. Heal me so I can dance at my daughter’s wedding and hug my grand-kids. Let me see my son find his way. Give me hope for better days.”

Then before my stem cell transplant, I sat down to write a list of positive visualizations~ attending  my friend’s wedding, traveling to Missouri and Wisconsin to visit friends, dancing at my niece’s wedding with hair and going back to work as a nurse practitioner.

And every single wish came true.

Dealing with illness is every bit like a marathon. In the midst of a diagnosis, whether it be an acute condition like cancer or a chronic condition like an autoimmune disorder, health seems like an impossible dream, an amazing feat.

Illness requires the ongoing support of medical professionals, family and friends. One has to learn how to be a patient, to listen to the medical experts while still maintaining a semblance of independence and normalcy. There are many hurdles and setbacks along the way. When a runner “hits a wall”, she is told to keep working past it much like a person with a diagnosis needs to keep working past the hurdles and setbacks of medication side effects or disease exacerbation’s. In a marathon, each participant competes against herself, striving for her own personal best. A person with a diagnosis needs to dig deeply within herself to find her own inner strength to fight the battle. Both runners and people with illnesses have to pace themselves so they can last in the long haul.

I have been in remission since 1998.

For me, the power of hope through my faith in God helped me to stay in the race and cross the finish line.

How do you stay in the race?

 

Kathleen Pooler is a Family Nurse Practitioner and writer from eastern New York State, at the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains. She lives on a 135-acre farm where her husband, Wayne, grows organic vegetables and sells them at local farmer’s markets. She is a very grateful cancer survivor who is writing a memoir about how the power of hope through her faith in God helped her to climb out of the abyss of her life’s challenges~ divorce, single parenting, alcoholic son, cancer and heart failure~ to find a life of peace and joy. She believes that hope matters and that we are all enriched when we share our stories of hope.

You may visit Kathy at her blog: Write On~Random Thoughts About Writing and Life from a Memoir Writer http://krpooler.com

Twitter: @kathypooler

Facebook: Kathleen Pooler

LinkedIn: Kathleen Pooler

Email: kpooler63@gmail.com

 

Happy Mother’s Day – Honoring all kinds of moms any day of the year

Moms come in all sizes, shapes, and colors. There are biological moms, adoptive moms, teacher moms, coach moms, mentor moms even Mr. Moms.

Women, like my sister, born with an extra kindness gene, guide special needs kids through high school and spoil nieces, nephews and grandkids with perfect gifts and favorite baked goods.  Others like my roomie, who still looks after us today, became a surrogate Mom to a “family” of friends in college.  Some moms like mine, embrace each day with the joy of a kindergartener and invent fun, like painting sidewalks with water, reading books by candlelight and sewing matching outfits for grandkids.

4 generations Olson & McKinzie

4 generations Olson & McKinzie

Moms put Band-Aids on skinned knees, make cookies for bake sales, send cards to shut ins, and give pep talks via iPhone and internet.  They remember anniversaries, birthdays, and graduations, and never miss ball games, band performances and school plays.  They also play catch, rebound basketballs and run marathons. Moms are the first to take the sting out of life’s hurts and the last to criticize mistakes. Moms, first up and the last to bed, stay up late, work overtime without pay and never go on strike.  They put their own lives on hold to jump-start someone else’s.  Moms keep the world spinning in a zillions small ways that we overlook everyday.

We think of moms’ most in May. Over fifty countries honor moms on the second Sunday of May. Others, such as England celebrate Mother’s Day on the first Sunday of the month. France and francophone countries, celebrate it the last Sunday of May.  Elsewhere the tradition is commemorated during eight different months of the year. In Norway, moms are honored on February 11th. The Thai celebrate August 12th, Queen Sirikit Kitiyakara’s birthday. In Indonesia, it’s on Dec 22.

Since I live cross culturally, I milk mom’s day for all its worth and celebrate several times a year. I gave birth to two children, but helped raised dozens of others on the teams I coached and in the classrooms where I taught. I always stop to remember the children who’s lives I touched and to honor the women who guided me over the years especially the moms who are no longer with us.

Traditions, like Mothers’ Days are nice reminders, but there is no right way or day to honor special women in our lives.  Whether you are sending chocolates, giving flowers, or wrapping gifts in October, May or August, any day is a good day to show appreciation for the moms in our lives.

Give a shout out to the moms in your world!  0ld moms, young moms, grand moms, friend moms, sister moms, teacher moms, team moms.

“Hey Mom, merci, gracias, danke!  I love you.”

How do you honor the moms in your life?

 

 

 

 

 

Seven Spring Cleaning Tips from Small Countries

Switzerland could win awards as the tidiest nation on earth.  As a compact country, the Swiss are born with an extra chromosome, a clean gene, to help conserve space. The streets are so sanitary, you could  eat off the sidewalks. I have never been a neat freak, but I have adopted a few helpful spring cleaning tips from our European neighbors.

  1. No shoes in the house. Ever. The Swiss are trained at an early age to automatically remove footwear at the door.
  2. Commune rule. Divide heavy tasks with household members on a rotational basis.   When I lived in an apartment complex in Germany, the residents on each floor took turns mopping the stairwell.  Same rules should apply in a family.
  3. Cut down laundry. Throw bedding out the window for a weekly breather.  Europeans, great believers in the curative properties of fresh air,  hang duvets over wrought iron balconies and wooden framed window ledges.
  4. Recycle bread crumbs (another French custom) Shake table cloths out the window.  First make sure pigeons, not people, inhabit the balcony below.
  5. Eliminate dust. Triple stack books on the shelves, that way there is no shelf left to collect grime.
  6. Clean sweep.  Push-everything-under-the bed-trick.  It’s a great storage area for books, essays, newspapers, laptops, and used Kleenex. Technique also works well in the living room using space between the couch and floor as magic drawer. (another personal invention)
  7. If all else fails, follow my Norwegian mom’s wise advice – hide the incriminating evidence, (including children):
    • Move the messy kid to the basement
    • Close the door
    • Condemn the area as a natural disaster

That is how my parents and I co existed during my adolescence. Consequently, I grew up serenely in comfortable chaos as a cellar dweller and only had to clean my room semi annually when the basement flooded.

 

 

 

Easter Customs Across Europe

Easter is a holiday filled with family, friends and reflection.  And eggs.

Since ancient times, the egg and the rabbit symbolized spring and in Europe, different colored eggs, pinched from the birds’ nests, were made into talismans. During Lenten season in Medieval Europe, eggs were forbidden and consequently, considered a treat again at Easter.

In modern day Norway, during the five day weekend holiday from Holy Thursday to Easter Monday, Norwegians head to the mountain cabins and devour detective novels.  The Easter pastime became so popular, Paaskekrim (Easter crime) refers to the novels released at Easter.

Church bells, not the Easter bunny, deliver eggs in France.  The bells remain silent from Good Friday until Easter as a token of mourning for the crucified Christ. On Easter, my mother-in-law would ring a dinner bell and my children would race down the stairs like on Christmas morning, to find eggs hidden in the flower pots on the wrought iron balcony.  French children search the skies to see the bells flying home to the Vatican in Rome.

hunting eggs in France

hunting eggs in France

In general, the Easter celebration in Switzerland entails elaborate preparation like in the U.S. and Germany.  School children share a giant omelet for lunch and spend hours decorating human sized, paper machete bunnies to be displayed in commercial centers.  Whereas in France,the church bells ring dropping eggs from the skies, the Swiss adopted the German legend dating from 1572 of the Easter bunny hiding eggs in the garden.

Centuries ago in Switzerland, the cuckoo bird delivered the eggs – an appropriate legend for the capital of the cuckoo clock.  According to the Swiss, the cuckoo bird sat on the eggs of neighbor birds.  In modern times, the rabbit delivers the eggs.

Some families have adopted the German custom decorating the Easter table with a branch of a tree adorned with small wooden chickens, bunnies and eggs as decoration. Egg decoating is popular too. Unlike France where only brown eggs can be found, the Swiss stores sell individual white eggs. However, nothing is more popular than the chocolate egg.  Easter is big business especially for Lindt and Nestlé and other world famous Swiss chocolate makers.

But it’s not chocolate; its the egg representing fecundity, new life, new beginnings that is the greatest symbol of Easter in Switzerland.  When the thick veil of winter clouds disappear, revealing snow capped mountains and emerald yards where yellow jonquils dance in the wind, one feels reborn with the stirrings of spring.

kids popping out of giant egg

kids popping out of giant egg

In the past, Europeans exchanged cards more frequently at Easter than at Christmas, with drawings of bunnies, ducks, lambs, and eggs. So wherever you may be in the world, Happy Easter from Switzerland!

Wishing you bells ringing, good tidings, bunnies proliferating with chocolate eggs and leisure time for a good read.

Homecoming, Always a Celebration

When the kids are little, you can’t wait for the day when they won’t distract you with demands for meals, rides, and errands.  Then bad-da-boom, they graduate and head off to college and onto careers and you long for an interruption – a call, a letter or an email – from that wayward daughter or son.

As they do their best to squeeze you into their busy lives, you find yourself crossing off days until their homecoming.  You bake childhood favorites and stock the pantry with the treats your child used to love when he or she was 6 or 12 or 20.  Suddenly the volume picks up. The screen door bangs; the refrigerator squeaks and the phone rings with their childhood friends wanting to reconnect.

In a flurry of joy, you attack the chores you hate with renewed vigor, you wash bedding, clean under furniture, and air out rooms filled with memories.  Some people remodel, changing bedrooms into bureaus when the kids move on, but I am unable to discard anything. Their rooms remain the same as the day they left, like shrines to their childhood.  Sport medals hang from bedposts, favorite books perch on shelves, stuffed animals sit on bedcovers, posters of athletes and pop artists cover walls and closets remain full of Beanie Babies, Little Ponies, and PlayMobile figures.  OMG! Am I the only mom that cannot part with my children’s keepsakes decades after they grow up? Each time I step into their rooms, memorabilia lets me stop time to relive that stage in their lives, which, in retrospect, blew past the first time around.

baking family favorites

baking family favorites

My parents, edging toward eighty, still spoil their adult children.  Mom fixes my brother’s favorite meal,  “Swiss” steak, a cheap cut of meat slow cooked in tomato sauce that has nothing to do with Switzerland.  (No one is really sure it ever was his favorite, but it has become part of our family lore.) They stock up on veggies for me, which makes them laugh, because as a kid I hightailed out of the kitchen when anything green showed up.  They tidy up before one sister visits; or add an extra bit of disorder for me, more comfortable in chaos.  They indulge in the same rituals for grandchildren, fixing favorite meals and stocking up on favorite brands: Yoplait Strawberry (only) Custard Yogurt, Kraft macaroni and cheese, and Wisconsin Colby.

Homecoming is a universal ritual everywhere in the world. When we go to Normandy, my in-laws, nearing their nineties, will lay out the finest fare the land and the sea can offer. My mother-in –law still slings a basket over her arm to shop at the open market, preparing to serve five course meals with my husband’s favorites, from coquilles

traditional diner in Normandy

traditional diner in Normandy

St Jacques to strawberries in cream, while my father in law uncorks a bottle of his best burgundy.

My youngest sister recently returned home and said, “It was great.  I never cooked a meal!  Got to talk as much as I wanted.  I was the Babe again!”

Whatever your age you will always be somebody’s kid.  You are never too old to come home.

Spring in Switzerland Parades Past My Window

Spring parades past my Swiss house that perches on a slope overlooking Lake Geneva. Puffy gray and white clouds hover over the mountain range where Mount Blanc, the highest peak in Europe, sticks its head out like an apparition of my imagination.  On a clear day I can see as far as the water jet in Geneva and the tips of the Alps, sixty miles away.  The mountains, in different shades of gray, appear to bow down to Mont Blanc, the queen bejeweled in a sparkling white crown.

The earth unfolds before my eyes. In my yard, forsythia transforms into a sunburst. Across the street, yellow colza fields contrast with green wheat fields. Grape vines like gnarled, old arthritic hands reach toward the light. Pink and white blossoms explode on the rows of apple and cherry trees.

Below the fields and vineyards, the rust-colored rooftops of villages peek above a ribbon of green trees outlining a purplish-blue lake dotted with sailboats.  On the far side of the lake, milk chocolate colored chalets lace the mountainsides.

Lake Geneva and the Alps

Lake Geneva and the Alps

A John Deere tractor, like a giant green snail, creeps along turning the soil, while migrant workers bend over vineyards pruning the vines by hand.  A rider trots across the field on a dappled grey horse, while overhead falcons and great blue herons soar.

In the picture outside my window, light changes the perspective every second.  A ray of sunshine breaks through the clouds, casting a spotlight on a mountain flank.

Why would someone with one of the world’s most spectacular views, live behind closed shutters?

Even though it is spring outside, winter remains in my soul.  April marks the third anniversary of a demanding pulsed antibiotic medical treatment that requires me to avoid light exposure.  My skin and eyes must be protected and covered all the time.  Too much light will damage my eyes and lead to inflammation throughout my body.

Discouraged? Sometimes.  Defeated?  Never.  If I close my eyelids, I can picture the lush emerald fields, majestic mountains and peaceful blue water in my mind’s eye.

I know paradise resides outside my window.

Believing makes all the difference.