Saturday, December 10, 2011

7 Years Later: In Theory

"We used to joke in medical school that if we have to have any cancer, then we would want to have thyroid cancer."  Hm.  Funny joke.

I say that with sarcasm, and a huge dose of understanding though.  I mean.  Everything is easy to talk about in theory and hypotheticals.   Who you want to marry, how many kids you want, where you want to live, how you would act if this or that happened, what kind of cancer you would have... But the reality is always so much.  Hm.  Different.

The stats on thyroid cancer are great.  Especially for a young female.  Like 99% curable.  Sha-BAM!!

But I have to tell you, truly, that my reality sucked.  After the physical trauma of the surgery and anesthesia, my body was a neurological circus on steroids; Cirque Du Soleil on acid style.  And lets not forget that my head had just been cut off.  (Smirk).

Prognosis really is only as good as you feel.  I totally get people going on an African safari after a terminal illness diagnosis when they still feel great.  Because, hell!, you could get hit by a bus tomorrow.  (This is the material for many a movie).

Yet, and, still, I would not advocate for that alone.  Wisdom, it seems comes from living in between theory and your experience.  Believing that life comes when not denying either.


My therapist called me a few days after the surgery, "So was it cancer?"  "Yes."  "Shit.  I'm sorry."  "That's okay!  Really.  I'm happy.  There is something actually wrong with me that has a name.  And there are tests to prove it."

7 Years Later: Waiting Room

The family and friend's journey parallels that of the patient, but rarely do their experiences intersect.  It is a strange and careful distance, a precious and dear closeness. 

I am told this is what happened in the waiting room while I was in surgery.  I am told that my family took up most of the waiting room.  I am told that my parents, grandparents, aunt etc..., and church friends huddled around; my cousin learned to knit at some point in there.

I am told that when the doctor came in to tell of the surgery, of the thyroid cancer, that the whole waiting room went silent.  That my mom and dad heard the news first only due to the laws of physics; you know, sound waves and all; but really, they all heard at the same time.

I am told my mom cried, my dad was shocked, and my grandfather said, "Not her.  It can be me, but not her."

This is a sacred story to me.  One that is passed on by oral tradition.  The details maybe sketchy, but the heart of it is huge: I am loved.  While I was oblivious, hearing German, and emotionally dulled with pain meds, these others bore my story.

7 Years Later: Sprechen Sie Deutsch?

I swear there were two people speaking German next to me in the recovery room.  The patient was male, the visitor (translator?) female.  "Would you like to sit up some?," the lady said.  I envisioned her with short blond hair, rosy checks, and a full, broad body.  I could only hear them.  'The surgery is done...that was fast,' I thought to myself.  German, blurred vision, cotton mouth, woozy head, i have cancer?, the voice said faintly.  I fell back to sleep.

Oriented again, my thoughts a little clearer, 'Do I have cancer?...'  'Open your eyes.'  Blurrrrrrry vision.  I closed my eyes.  'Do I have cancer?'  I opened my eyes, I moved my head a little.

"Do you want your glasses?"  'She is talking to you.'  "Lizzy, would you like your glasses?"

"Yes."  I could hear her stooping down to my bag of things.
"Do I have cancer?"  "Just rest now."  "I know but do you know?"  "The doctor will talk to you when you get back to your room."  "Okay, just tell me did they take the whole thing out?"  "The whole thing?"  "Yes, did they take the whole thyroid out?"  "Yes they did."  "Then I have cancer."  "Okay, just rest."

I felt the metal touch my temples, on the right, now left.   A flash of clarity and I nodded off again.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Too Much and Not Enough

It is Thanksgiving.  What am I thankful for?  Too much and not enough.

I am thankful for too much food, too much choice, too much love.
Too much food, that I can worry about calories if I chose.  Chose the food I like if I want.  And want a meal a few days out if I desire.   I am never hungry.  I am thankful.
Too much choice, that I can organize my days.  Makes plans in my planner.  And consider things like "what is my calling?" and "how do I want to get there?"  I am free to decide today.  I am thankful.
Too much love, that I can focus on the quality of my relationships, rather than the quantity.  That I can get angry, laugh ridiculously loud, make mistakes, act as if I am alone in this world, yet Love always finds me.  I am thankful.

And, (although I write this with trembling), I am thankful for not enough.
Not enough health so that I am nearly always reminded of life's fragility.
Not enough certainty, that I am regularly reminded, and sometimes flattened, by my finiteness.
Not enough in and of myself, that I am compelled and wooed by Grace.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

7 Years Later: Exposed

I felt naked walking around.  Sometimes I would freak out hours into my work day and grab my shoulder to find the strap: "Oh good, I put on a bra today."  One day I forgot to put on a bra; thankfully I realized it on the way to work.  That is how out of it I was.  If you know Lizzy, you know, this is like really, really out of it.

"Free to be" day was easy to recover from, though, compared to how exposed I felt in other ways.  I felt like someone had turned me inside out and my internal mess was out there for all to see.  Perhaps it was all the processing I was doing; perhaps the therapy.  But mostly, it was that I could not hide behind anything I had anymore: not my productivity, not my good nature, not my Christianese, etc, etc...

I walked around feeling like everyone could see "my junk," (double meaning intended - go ahead and laugh).  It felt terrible for a time...and a time again.  To not be able to hide behind your normal defense mechanisms is a terrible and wonderful thing.  Terrible and wonderful are a great team - especially 7 years later.  In the moment it totally sucked!, yet I am grateful.  Especially since I have been assured in retrospect, "No, Lizzy, I really could not see that you were afraid all the time; that you really felt you were dying most moments of the day even though it was totally irrational.  Or that a close secondary concern was how your ass looked in those jeans. (Every thing is relative?).  Or who you have a massive, embarrassing crush on."  But the point is I started to be honest with people; being honest is a lot easier when you think "they" have seen it anyways.

To be seen is a wonderful thing.  Now people saw in part what God saw in whole.  Only I don't think God requires modesty.  But, don't worry, people like me do: occasionally I still check my shoulder for a strap.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

7 Years Later: 90/10

I briefly entertained the idea of becoming a statistics minor is college.  It was really only because my professor suggested it and said he would mentor me; ...oh, what could have been... (smirk).

Silly me!  I thought I could put those darned interpreted numbers behind me.  But enter the world of medical patient and you can not.  In fact, in emotion, in reality, you can not.  In diagnostics, in treatment, in prevention, you can not.

So, what does a 25 year old girl with a 90/10 chance of cancer do with herself in the meantime? Surprisingly, she gains a bit of a bounce in her step.  After all, something could actually be wrong!, like treatably wrong.  And her sense of humor rebounds a bit.  At some point ridiculous is funny. She makes jokes with the doctor that is sticking a huge biopsy needle in her neck about ruining her new shirt from Anthropologie.  (They even wager a bet and the tech wins a soda).  She laughs out loud when she finds out the biopsy is inconclusive and the chance of the matter still remains: 90/10.

Next up? Surgery: knife to neck.   But not until after Thanksgiving; load me up with some stuffing and pecan pie.  And, yes, I will have another glass of wine.  Doesn't it have anti-oxidants?

Sunday, October 9, 2011


Dan suggested it.  He really did.  It wasn't me.  "Do you want to go see that movie 50/50?"

I won't review the movie, because I don't really know how to do that.  But, will say this: while it was too Hollywood for words at some points, dirt-ball at some points, and I was bored at some points (only a few), I laughed, I cried, and I think I finally have a compelling dissertation idea: Acute Illness Incidents During Young Adulthood and Its Impact on Lifelong Human Development.  You know you want to read it.  (And to those that actually would, I know I need to be more specific).

But here are some less academic take aways:
1.  Everyone in their 20s that is very sick, very suddenly should have a friend like the Seth Rogan character.  He is crass and raunchy, but faithful.  He saw his friend and the sickness, not denying either the sickness or especially his friend.  And he used the F-word a lot.  (I personally thanked my dear girlfriend that said, "for "f***'s sake" a lot during those years of my illness over a glass of wine Thursday night.  Invaluable).
2.  The relational dynamics are exaggerated, but real.  The girlfriend/boyfriend really does freak out, but is not honest about it with themselves and, as Seth puts it, basically, "suck as a person;" ... at least in that way.
3.  The scene with Joseph Gordon-Levitt getting ready and then going to the hospital is pretty true to life: feed the dog, get in the car, watch your neighbors go to work, drive to the hospital, hug your friend, and walk freely into the building that will change your life either way.
4.  I love the play with chance in the movie, albeit narrowly themed through out, and that real, raw, imperfect relationship comes out of moving through the odds of life.

7 Years Later: Permission to Go Inside

My injury and illness gifted me permission.  Permission to go inside and find healing.  The messages around me and in me all my life had been the opposite, despite some of my various attempts to challenge them.  But my body was such a wreck anyhow, what choice did I have?

Interesting, because I'm a professional counselor.  My career values people going inside, to the "hidden things" to find healing.  I entered this profession before this critical permission entered in; I believe that many of us in the ministry, helping, and healing professions are trying to find a way to heal without having to go inside for ourselves.  I get that, on so many levels.  I also believe we need to.

Thankfully and gratefully, I did not have a choice.   I don't think I would have willfully took such a journey: I was so young and embroiled in my own patterns and afraid.  Yes, yes: I was involved in a small group, and therapy group, and etc, etc.  Yes - I desired to.  But my circumstances found my need all the more better; God did.

I was so undone, that suddenly I had some boldness that I had not had before.  Boldness to be brutally honest with my family, my friends, myself, and my God.  And it was there and within that I began to find some healing that I did not imagine was available to people like me.  Especially with a body that was going through the wringer.

I Still Baby My Right Side

I have been writing this blog mostly about my life change that happened seven years ago.  Mostly because, after years of surviving the ripple effect of this bomb (these bombs? and other associated land mines?) that dropped into my life, I find myself in a new place of acceptance.

And it was this week, that a spunky, loud spin instructor helped me along.  (She sold herself as a centered, peaceful, yoga-spin-combo spinner; I need to talk to her about her packaging.  Calm waters blue should not wrap a firecracker).

The music was thumping, but with a sitar in the mix, "Interesting..." I thought.  But I was down.  After all, my usual spin lady climaxes our workout with the Chili Peppers.

And we were off: legs spinning, heart pumping, breathing heavy.

"Lizzy!," she shouts, "Do you favor your right side?"
"Do you favor your right side?  Do you have an injury on your right side?"

I mean, how do I answer this?  How?  Enter Lizzy A and Lizzy B.  Lizzy A speaks out loud.  Lizzy B uses lots of profanity, but keeps that to herself.

Lizzy A, "No, why? ... I mean, years ago, but..."
"Well, you are favoring your right side.  You are so young!  You are going to injure yourself.  Use your right side evenly."
Lizzy B, already as angry as a swatted hornet, "Um...okay.  Give me a f***ing second while I tell my body to please forget that it was HALF F***ING numb and took years to recover to where I am now.  And GOING to injure myself...going to..."  This is the mild version...
Lizzy A was honest, "I don't know how to fix that."
"Stick your right elbow out."   Lizzy A and Lizzy B, "Okay.  Thanks."
Mind you, the music is pounding and there is a workout class as our audience.

20 minutes later: "Lizzy!  Your right side!"
Lizzy A, "I'm trying!!!"  (My friend in the class laughed sympathetically - bless her).
Lizzy B, "And F*** you."  Lizzy A said this through her body language.

Some unearthed anger, much?  Yes.  And it says a lot of F-yous.  (Say an amen if grace sounds even sweeter). Thankfully, I have a filter that has functioned pretty well through these years of having a hidden handicap.  I know it is not HER fault.  It is my story still finding its voice.  And truthfully, this anger is mostly helpful, as it shows the places I have not yet healed.  If the F-bomb pops up, I know I've got something to move through.

And bless my spin instructor.  God bless her.  She really helped me; she saw me.  She saw even what I could not see: I still baby my right side.

Afterwards we talked for quite a while.  I shared bits of my story and she did hers too.  She has survived lymphoma: "It totally changed the way I did sit-ups."  Well, there you go.

My right side is sore this week and I am exhausted after my work outs.  Elbow out and this baby is growing up.  

Saturday, September 10, 2011

7 Years Later: Chances

I've said it before and I will say it again (for the umpteenth time): If someone had said to me, "Lizzy, we would like to try a surgery where we cut off your head and reorganize some things in there.  It is an experimental procedure, with a 50% chance that it will reduce your dizziness and a 50% chance you will die," I would have said, "Sign me up."  The chance was worth the risk, in my little fantasy world created to describe the level of misery of my invisible injury.

So, I was actually happy to be back in the MRI machine that cold October day.  My symptoms were worsening and doing nothing was not an option.  I waited anxiously for the results from my neurologist.

The call came quickly, (in medical exam results sort of quickly), but strangely.  I expected the easy, monotone, Russian accented voice of my neurologist and instead I had heard the chipper, familiar, Minnesota-esk voice of my primary care doctor.

"Lizzy, it's John.  So - I got the results of the MRI.  The good news is that the lesion in your brain is healing quite nicely...  The other part, though, is that there seems to be a mass on your thyroid..."  The next day at John's office, "So, most masses in the thyroid are benign nodules, but some are cancerous.  There is roughly a 10% chance that it is the latter.  But who wants to walk around with a 10% chance of having cancer when we can know if it is or not..."

Good point.  Is this the point where he suggests that they cut off my head?, she thinks sarcastically.  (Your thyroid is in your neck, by the way).

7 Years Later: Carried to Light

I haven't written since July.  And how fitting that my last reflection reads with such heaviness and stuckness.  The Day of Darkness were long.  Waiting, miserably; therapizing, endlessly; suffering.  I would grieve one thing to lose another.  The biggest black holes were the losses left nameless.  Physically, spiritually, emotionally I felt as a vapor.  I spoke to people through an invisible triple pane window.  Even now I realize just how sick and traumatized I was.

During this time, I wrote a devotional entry for the seminary student handbook at the request of a colleague and friend.  It is the story of a paraplegic man whose friends carry him on a mat to Jesus.  (Does a hole in a roof ring a bell?).  Because of their, (as in the friends'), belief, the man was healed.

And, during the Days of Darkness, it was my friends, (including my family who are the dearest of friends), bold belief that, I think quite literally, kept me alive.  I was carried to Light.

If I started to name the ways, I would be typing until morning.  How appropriate.

"...and you will know them by their love..." 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

7 Years Later: The Days of Darkness

I am not sure when I labeled this season of my life that I am writing about "The Days of Darkness," but the word picture stuck for its succinctness and fullness.  Thank goodness for Mexico, that Pocket of Hope in the black hole of the coming days and months.

Shall we bullet point through September into October?  That will make it a little more bearable:
- Return from Mexico and begin injectable medication.  Mistake liver failure for the "flu-like" symptoms that said injectable medications have as normal side-effects.  Stop injecting myself to let my liver heal.  Catastrophic liver failure averted.
- Right foot drops.  Meaning, my right lower leg stops working; Lizzy limping around.  Motor functioning lost.  (Let us rejoice when we tell our bodies to do something and it does it).  Crazy dizziness sets in; crazy.  "This is not right.  This would be a crazy fast progression of MS..."  Crazy: with great speed and recklessness.
- Lots of tests: peripheral nerve test (featuring electricity shots directly in the nerve), spinal tap (starring a needle the size of a pencil being stuck into the bodies nerve center), MRI, MRI, draw blood x20, brain wave test, shiney-lights-in-eye test (when you are upside down, left, right, and inside out).  You name the test, I had it.
- Lots of therapy: physical therapy (to learn to walk with a brace), vestibular therapy (to learn to walk a straight line), pruden-myo therapy (what the?), cranial sacral therapy, massage therapy, psychotherapy (for the creeping and crushing complication: depression).  There was more, but you get the picture.

The picture: The Days of Darkness.  The absence or deficiency of light during the interval of (what should be) light between two successive nights.

Monday, July 11, 2011

7 Years Later: Just An Earthquake

The inner ear has miraculous functions.  One is the levitating function.  This is part of what cues your body to feel weightless when you free fall, that you should push harder with your legs on an incline, that tells you you're more secure when sitting.  It is instrumental in the music your body makes called movement.  In my orchestra, it was a violin out of tune and on a different sheet of music: screeching, out of sink, and wildly erratic.

While I was sitting, I would suddenly feel like a phantom was pushing my body back.  When I was walking on level ground, it would feel like the ground was suddenly falling, ...or rising quickly and unpredictably.  My body would react "as if" and with in milliseconds of my sympathetic nervous system going into hyperdrive, reason would catch me and I would realize we actually hadn't entered into an Escher drawing or the movie "Inception." ("Lizzy, you aren't really feeling like your falling because in a higher state of consciousness you are careening down an elevator shaft." Although I did not say this to myself at the time because the movie did not come out until just last year, right?)  I would ground myself against a wall, in a chair, or keep moving in a deliberate walk to scream reality at my body that was totally out of sync.  And then I would break out in a sweat.  (That is a lot of work "behind the scenes," eh?).

Puerto Escondido had an earthquake the first night we were there.  I was on my hands and knees pushing my suitcase under my bed.  It felt like the ground was rising.  When reason caught me, I fell to my knees and felt around at the ground to remind me it was still; it wasn't.  I panicked.  "HOLY CRAP!  Save me!"

I looked at my parents.  And caught their eyes.  They were panicked too.  They were panicked too!

"I think that was an earthquake!" said my dad, just a couple seconds later.

"Phew.  Really?  For real? ..., ... Alleluia!  It was just an earthquake."  The locals talked about it for days.

Friday, July 8, 2011

7 Years Later: Esperanza

My parents had one more idea for my six weeks of FMLA.  They were going to Puerto Escondido, Mexico for a week..."why not come along?"

She said in her head, "Well, lets see...ummm...I am half numb!, I need medical care, I can barely handle the thought of being by myself for two seconds, (ie- I am experiencing some serious trauma symptoms, Mom and Dad!), and you want me to fly to Mexico City and waaaaaaaay south from there by myself?...!!!...!!!"

"We think you can do it."  Three weeks after my life sentence had been issued: Hope.

You see, the night I came home from the hospital I instantaneously grieved the loss of my plan for my life: my story was supposed to climax with me living in some remote corner of the world, in love, spiritually full, offering health to the masses (including glorious rays of sunshine and a constant cool breeze).  I think I heaved out through loud sobs, "I will never live in Africa;" it was symbolic yet real and raw.  How can you refrigerate injectable meds with no electricity?  I sobbed, and sobbed.  Grieved and grieved.

And Kindness stepped in through my parents Faith.  "We will get you there; you just need to say yes." And with fear that I let eek out in a constant state of teariness, (I quickly learned this was a way for me to prevent unpredictable, explosive bursts of anxiety), I boarded a plane with a kiss from my grandparents in Denver, navigated Dallas with God holding my hand, hugged and clung on to (for dear life) Gustavo in Mexico City, and fell into the embrace of my parents in Puerto Escondido.

"I was soooooo worried about you," weeped my Mom.

"I made it," my tears said as they bid good bye.  Puerto Escondido is hot!, with a constant cool breeze.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

7 Years Later: The Goodness of God

It seems I have always had an intense emotional relationship with God.  I would not describe it as devout, but maybe...ever present.  I talk to him about everything: my fears, my hopes, my thighs. 

Like I said earlier, I didn't deal with the big theological questions as one might expect.  I was too sick and overwhelmed to do that.  (Truthfully, it hasn't been until the last year or so that I have even wanted to delve into this study.  I have had all the books on my shelf for years, but perhaps I needed to feel safe (?) enough with God, myself, and others in order to "go there.").  But, I was conversing with God an awful lot: my constant companion, solace, confidante.

As we talked, strange things came out of me.  And I do mean strange - like actual pictures of shoe designs, two or three at a time, that bordered on the strength of how others describe visions.  (I know!  Strange!  I might guess this had to do with my right brain having more space to operate...but then again, I'm a dork).  But also, strangely "normal" things:  I want to fall in love, I want a family, I want to complete that triathlon, I want to travel.  Normal seems like heaven when it has been stripped away.

One morning it hit me like a ton of bricks.  Literally, I was walking around in my little apartment and I fell to the ground sobbing.  This was not physical; this was spiritual.  "I am praying to God about the deepest desires of my heart - why?  Does he care?  I mean, is he good? "

I sobbed my eyes out, "I don't feel you are good.  I have lived like you are good, but do I really know this?  I have worked through the "issues" around this, but do I really know this?   Are you good?" 

I had been exposed to incredible suffering: poverty, loss, illness; but it was not my own.  I had had childhood illness, teenage angst, identity crises, some scary situations, but they had all resolved in their own due time.  Maybe I thought, deep down, that I was exempt because I was "getting it right"...maybe.  I wasn't aware, I didn't "know" this though; it certainly wasn't conscious.  Now, though, I was in the unexempt category - starkly - and "due time" did not apply. 

So the goodness of God was on the table.  My lifelong, trusted companion was in question.  Was this the death of my imaginary friend?  Because if God is not good, what is the point?
It was out there.  Some relief was found even in this most basic of questions.  I "knew" in my head that lightening would not shoot down from heaven, but now I felt it.  I had questioned my God's character and I lived to tell about it.  At least He is that good.

(And with that, I will retire from this topic.  There are tons of good books out there by people far smarter than me on this topic.  I am not encouraging a formula to relationship with God or pretending to have studied this well;  I am just telling my story to honor the pain and this experience of having some emotional distance from it.  As personal testimony, I will say that the compelling part of the Christian faith is that Jesus answers the question about the imaginary friend, and addresses issues around suffering and its process that are the opposite of condemning - although us Christians are often the opposite. This is one of my deepest griefs for my Church.  Christ is freeing).

Saturday, June 4, 2011

7 Years Later: A Deal with God

It was quickly decided that I should start MS medication along with all the crazy medication to help my body/brain recover from this injury.  MS meds are injectibles that have pretty severe side effects.  Many people that are diagnosed chose not to use them for various reasons, but a major reason is the side effects.  I decided to give them a try since my path seemed clear at this point.

 (By the way, there is tons of exciting, breaking research, on MS and treatment for it.  For more info on the disease and its treatment visit

My saint of a mother had this wild, (and genius), idea: take the full FMLA allowance of 6 weeks off right away.  She gave me good reasons for my practical mind: to be with family, adjust to the medication, make some initial lifestyle changes, and let my mind and body heal.  

“But, what if this happens again?  I need that time just in case.”  

“Honey, if this happens again I am coming to get you and you are living with me.”  


And then I made a deal with God.  “God.  If this happens again, I am going home.”  (Back to family's home in Maryland.  I was in Colorado going to Seminary.  Like, as in, I had a call to ministry and was going to grad school for it; hence, the direct deal with God).   I did not worry about the cosmic questions at that point: did God do this?  Did He allow it?  Could he have stopped it?  I just simply said it; I was certain.  (Decisiveness in crisis is key).

The one thing that is certain about the diagnosis of MS, is that nothing is certain.  The diagnosis carries a ton of weight, but actually predicts very, very little.  But I was certain, that if I had another "episode,"  I was going home to momma.  (And Dad.  Who was also a saint.  Maybe more later on his two week stay in a one bedroom apartment with his physically, emotionally unhinged 25 year old daughter.  Definitely a saint.). 

I think I should have been a little more specific with God, though.  Because I said, "If THIS happens again."  Too specific.  But again, I get ahead of myself.  That was September, October, November, etc.  I'm still in July and August - with a lot of time on my hands.  

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

7 Years Later: My, My, Look At Those Thighs

Early in my life I decided that I hated my thighs.   I mean, really hated them.  The problem was they were attached to me, yet I was at war with own body.  For 25 years I was at war with them. 
The night after my first neurologist appointment a cease fire was called between my psyche and my legs in the shower.  I felt the water trickle over my body on the left side - light, warm, and comforting; my right side - sharp, stinging and muted all at the same time; I was regaining some feeling.  I was very aware of the contrast; I imagined what it would be to sense the left side on my right.  I prayed for that kind of healing. And then I think the brain lesion had something say; I think God said, "You have hated these legs for way too long.  They are yours.  You want them.  You really do."  I really did.  I grieved and felt free all at the same time.     

This is how it is when your life is turned upside down in a moment.  Any time of stillness brings up something unexpected; often overwhelming.  Plus - I was on a boat load of steroids, anti-seizure meds, etc.  We are whole people; that could have factored in.

Friday, May 27, 2011

7 Years Later: Hurry Up and Wait

Imagine how your lip feels when you go to the dentist.  The numbest stage: thick, thick, thick, heavy.  The phantom stage: "did I really just feel that twinge and tingle?"  ...and so the final part where you think: "Sometime in the next 5 minutes I will feel 'normal' again."  That final stage is how I live with my right side now - 7 years later - I am thankful.  And the sea-ship that my body feels like it is on has found much quieter waters.  Most days, my imbalance is hardly noticeable and maybe even lulling.  I often find myself swaying to keep up; I don't think others even see it. 

I'm not even sure when my body arrived at this "baseline," this "new normal."  It must have been sometime in the last 7 years...SEVEN, 7, seven years.  That is a long time.

I am fast-forwarding too much as I write.  I am.  I want to HURRY UP.  Get to the good stuff.  The stuff about how I went through more and more hell, BUT that I learned so much about myself, life, God, others.   That my story winds through misdiagnoses, surgery, diagnoses, undiagnoses (which isn't even a word).

But in reality; in real time; although I wanted to hurry up, and deeply believed in the good stuff on the other end, I had to, (and have to?) wait: uncertain, suffering, waiting.  And wait some a lot of waiting rooms. 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

7 Years Later: Half Numb

I think my first tears of this journey came in the MRI machine: such a solitary, isolating experience.  You lay there alone, prone, required to be completely still.  Only the hammering sound of the machine to keep you company.  There was nothing to distract me and my physical symptoms were suddenly more apparent.  I talked to God; I did not plead, I mostly wondered.  Something was definitely very wrong.  The slow burn of a new reality settled in. 

They found a white lesion through out my left corpus colosum: the "switchboard" of your brain; the means by which left brain controls the right side of your body and vice versa.  And one in my left temporal lobe.

My right side (draw a vertical line down the center of my body - half my nose, half my trunk, my right leg) had lost its ability to sense.  ("right side anesthesia" is the medical term; motor functioning intact, yet you need sensory input to achieve normal motor functioning).  Dizziness and imbalance are tame terms to describe the added layer of misery.

Back in the ER, with my faithful friend and grandparents, the news was the "best that could be expected."  "The good news is that you did not have a stroke and you do not have a brain tumor.  But it does look like this is first episode of Multiple Sclerosis.  You will need to see a neurologist right away to consider immediate treatment for this episode.  People don't die from this; your life is not at risk, but you do need to see a neurologist right away."

My M.O. in crisis: think, act, feel.  My brain was tired, the action for the day was over: I wept.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

7 Years Later: What a Day Can Bring

My story took a drastic and unexpected turn 7 years ago this July.  They say it takes seven years to recover from a brain injury, and since I am nearing that mark, I figure it is time to start telling my story.  Plus, I can hardly get by myself for more than two seconds without thinking about how to put words to this.  this.  ...story of mine.

So, to start, it is very strange thing to have an injury that no one can see.  We live in a world that values what it can see.  If you can see it; it is real.  So, an "invisible" injury has so many difficulties without even naming the symptoms.  "Well, you look good."  "Well...ummm...thanks. ? ." 

I went swimming on a Friday night.  A full time grad student.  A full time employee.  I was training for a triathlon that was scheduled in a few months.  I wasn't feeling great, but went anyways.  What was a little dizziness and fatigue anyways?  Stress?  Inner ear?  Swimming was low impact, so I picked that over running.

I went to bed that night satisfied.  I had just gotten back from a week out east for a dear friends wedding and time with family.  Work and school were good; my relationships were deepening; life was moving.  I was 25; not bad for 25.

And so when I woke up that Saturday feeling even more off than I had for the last week, I didn't think too, too much about it.  "Maybe I am just really worn out.?"  And so I sat down to read some and journal a bit.  The page was a little blurry as I read and it was hard to write, but again...worn out...tired?  I felt calm, but the symptoms were slowly becoming undeniable as my grogginess wore off.  "I think my right leg feels numb...and maybe my ear, cheek..."

And so I called: my friend, "I'm taking you to the hospital;" my mom, "Please go to the hospital."

Before I knew it I was in an MRI machine.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Entering In

While the majority of seminarians, seminary graduates, and theology enthusiasts are reading and responding to Robb Bell's, "Love Wins," I have been doing some lighter reading: Don Miller's "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years."  I have no gauge on how far behind I am...when did this book come out?...Barnes & Noble still has Miller's book only in hard back, so I can't be that out of the loop.?.  Right? 

Anyhow.  I read the book because one of my new, favorite friends Tammy Breeser recommended it and this is generally how I decide what to read next: when someone awesome says a book impacted their life.  And I am so glad I did.  Thank you, Tammy! 

The concept is simple.  The theology loose, (but not off target; typical Donald Miller).  And the impact great.  In four words: enter into your story.  (Wait - is "into;" "in," "to;" or "into"...maybe five words).  He just says to really live your story.  Stop imagining it.  Get out of your head and get INto the narrative: the mess of it, the boring day-in-and-out of it, and face the fear of it.  It will be far more doable AND far more freeing than you imagine. 

His is a modern, north American existential narrative.  He describes himself: he got off the couch and on a bike to ride across the continent, he forgave his father, he started a mentoring non-profit, etc.

I think this is what James talks about: faith without works is dead.  It is! Don't you feel it? I do when I am not entering into my story; especially when I am just thinking about it.   But when I do enter in, even when it is painful, I find freedom.  And Life.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


I have been reading a lot about perfectionism lately.  It comes up in my counseling practice all the time and I have been accused of being one a time or two (whether by myself or somebody else).  As with most human problems, this area was identified and quickly pathologized.  And now, years later, there has been some pull back and studiers of perfectionism are saying their are adaptive and maladaptive forms of perfectionism:

Adaptive: driven, goal-directed, yet able to celebrate goals even when they are not fully completed.  Perhaps, these are even the most hopeful of people.  Idealistic, but accepting.
Maladaptive: only see what is not completed.  Unrealistic expectations and difficulty, well...adapting.  Prone towards depression.  Idealistic, and judging.

Hmmmmm...I think i will shoot for the first.

Accepting What Is...

I am pretty much strongly opposed to anything that smacks of giving up.  It is my personality.  It is how I was raised.  And most of the time, it serves me well.  I'm pretty tenacious and go after what I want.  Like, the long distance runner type; not the sprinter.

But, sometimes, it does not serve me well.  Like today.  I feel a bit guilty.  I called in sick for a shift at work.  I woke up early this morning and I had a bit of fever.  (Perhaps more later on Lizzy's tragic health problems; like even when they seem basic).  I went to the doctor this week and the antibiotics have not quite kicked in.   I know they will sometime today.  And actually, I could be working; feeling bad is relative and I could push through.  ...thus goes my thinking, my feeling...

Being the pusher througher, it is hard to know when to just accept what is.  What is.  This is: a sick day.  The call has been made.  So, even though it is not "that bad," I will stay in my PJs and write a blog, (afterall, I'm not puking my guts out).  And when the fever does break...well, maybe I will take a light stroll.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

I Like to Go to Church

One of the earliest songs I learned went like this, "I like to go to church.  I like to go to church.  I love the happy songs we sing, I like to go to church."  And I really did!  And I really still do. 

I have been going to church since I was in my grandmother's womb, (YES! that is biologically and historically accurate.  I can explain if you want me to...), so there is a lot I could say here.  And it is not all roses and sunshine...or "happy songs."  But today, I felt nostalgic and thankful for many warm memories and Sunday traditions that flooded my memory:

- My dad was responsible for weekend breakfasts most of the time.  Pancakes on Saturday and donuts or Pillsbury orange rolls on Sunday.  Those orange rolls still take me right back to Sunday mornings.
-  We used to listen to Casey Kasum's top 40 on the way to church and on the way home.  On the way there the songs were, ummmmm.... not very good; many unrecognizable.  But on the way home we were listening to the top 10 and it was awesome.  A lot of time we sat in the car to listen for #1!
- In "big church," (that is what we called the main worship service), my mom often held my hand.  And sometimes I held my brothers and sister's hands too.  Even when we were teenagers.  No - we did not do this at movies or baseball games.  Just in big church.
- Dad always had lifesavers in his pocket for big church.  My favorite was/is butter rum.  The other options were the fruity kind or wintergreen.  He normally had two options.  I think my parents started them as a pacifying technique to ween us from the nursery to big church, but I still count on Dad having them today.
- Two words: Golden Corral.  And it was okay to have dessert first or only dessert. 
- One word that follows those two words: NAP.
- And my final memory, was about youth choir.  I have so many fond memories of youth choir.  We used to sing most Sunday night services.  I mean, it sounds so dorky, and I have not even heard mention of one in ten years, but it was fantastic.  And we had a blast!  There is something about the combination of community and learned music and adolescence that is so formative.  If I had it in me, I might just start one at my church.  Maybe I will convince my musician husband one day. 

A Liberal Feminist Goes to a Southern Baptist Church

Imagine the gray-haired, Southern Baptist, church goers shock and surprise if I stood up as a five year old and said, "Now, I don't know it yet, but one day,  I will be somewhat of a liberal feminist."  This is especially funny for me to think about as a recovering people-pleaser and natural rule follower.  But, mysteriously, internally, something like this was forming from a very young age.  

Now, I am not even sure I am a feminist, (I'm a bit afraid of the images that category will conjure up in people), or really that liberal - that is all relative I suppose.  But I am convinced that the historical accounts of Jesus make him an advocate and even a revolutionary for woman's value, life, and rights.  And I am saddened that the Christian church is more often seen as, and sometimes are truly contributers to, the opposite of that. 

I suppose the five year old Lizzy could have added one more thing to her self-proclamation, "But don't worry, in the process of becoming a liberal feminist,  I will also become, (or it will be because I am becoming), more and more enamored with Jesus."

Friday, March 4, 2011

"Balance, balance"

One of my favorite girls in the whole wide world is Maggie Lawrence.  She is my nine year old niece.  When she was not even three I found my self near the top of a very elaborate, very tall playground structure with her.  She led us up, up, and up.

Suddenly she paused for a moment and looked back at me.

"Phew, this is very high, Maggie!"

With her classic straight face and steady stare she replied, "Mm-hm," and paused for a second, two, three...

Not even a half a beat later, she abruptly moved on to the swinging rope bridge that we would traverse to the next tower.  Fears relieved; confidence regained. 

As we continued, though, I heard a little voice saying quietly to herself, "Baaaaaalance, baaaaaaaalance,"  until we reached the other side. 

I hear Maggie's sweet, childlike self-talk in my head these days as I take my next steps, "Baaaaaalance, baaaaaaaalance."  The next tower is in sight.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Enter Into the Mess

Before I went to the DR, I sort of anticipated that I would come home with more to do than I when I went: because I am a big picture gal and because I felt the momentum for the trip building enough to sense that Project I See You would continue and even grow after our second trip.   It just felt as if my life could become a little more messy? non-routine? out of the box?  And that it has and here I am.

Some are naturally okay with this, but in my nature I am a 9 to 5 gal; I like my life in tidy little compartments.  My life is anything but that right now.  I work as a counselor, which by nature ebbs and flows and is somewhat day to day.  When counseling is ebbing I spend my extra time working on Step Up Enterprises and its non-profit arm, Step Up to Help, with my friend Brian.  I also pick up shifts at a 24 hour acute treatment unit when they need help. I also have a husband that works an overnight rotating schedule... And, now, to boot, Project I See You had an amazing week, (actually two weeks - three ladies stayed an extra week!), and it seems that our next steps will involve areas that are irresistible to me and I know something(s) about.

Having a past of perpetual over-commitment, (that was thankfully altered by years of serious physical illness), I asked for prayer from my nearest and dearest before I went "to be able to discern what is best" and where to say no.  Interestingly, as I have prayed, I have heard one thing, "Enter into the mess."  To which I reply, "Like - this messier mess?"  To which I think I have heard, "Yes...for now."

So - here I am: entering into the mess.  The mess of my non-routine, day to day, out of the box life.  Freely, deeply, with open hands...

Saturday, February 12, 2011

La Victoira Post #4

We ended this week as we did on our last trip: washing the women's feet on Wednesday night and going to the beach on Thursday.  All along we have wanted to love these women in practical ways, yet our deepest desire is to build up their inner person - that they would believe that they are seen, loved, and valued, so deeply valued. 

(As a group of women we see that our health, creativity, relationships, and industry are directly related to where we draw our value. We believe that in order for these women to be self-sustaining, or rather God-sustained, they need to see themselves as they truly are.  Not based on the defeat and disappointments they have experienced in their lives.  Just as we do ourselves).

So we washed their feet in faith.  And had delicious ros con leche.  One of the Dominican leaders in the group, Ellie, spoke, "Thank you for coming here.  We know you could have gone many different places to show God's love, but you came here.  And we know that has to be God and His love for us."  And she thanked us for sharing our intimate stories, for the training we offered, and for choosing to come back.

And the beach day was so very fun.  There is nothing like some sand and sea water to level the playing field and to get grown women to act like little girls. I was especially glad to see Francie there.  Francie is just 14 with an 8 month old baby boy.  She lives with a alcoholic man that is at least 20 years her elder who beats her if she does not have sex with him each night.  She calls him her esposo, but they are not married; one day he just "called her over" (as they say) and this orphan saw her chance at providing for her baby (whom she had before meeting her esposo).

We had helped Francie through out the week because her baby had a bad burn on his hand and needed medical care.  Also, strangely, her esposo is the one that lets us use his yard for our meeting place. So we were around her quite a bit.  Francie slowly opened up some over the course of the week, but this young girl, who lost her mother at 4 and was kicked out of her house by her father at 13 when she became pregnant, was understandably guarded.  But at the beach, she came alive.  And to see a 14 year old girl wake up because of a few moments of freedom is something to behold.  What joy in the midst of sorrow.

La Victoira Post #3

Today is our last full day in La Victoria and in the campo.  Tomorrow we will take these beautiful friends of ours to the beach!  La playa, la playa.  I don´t know if I am even spelling that right!

Today has been one of those days that I reminded myself that it was the women around Jesus that did most of the crazy stuff.  Stuff where people asked about the meaning, purpose, orworth of the action.  For example, the woman that cleaned Jesus´feet with her tears.  Today we prayed for healing for the dear, dear Biemba´s husband who is blind and mother who has cancer.  Biemba is the local leader for these women and our blessed cook for the week.  We have been doing things that it feels God is telling us to do, like putting spit on people´s eyes.  Yes, that is crazy talk.  And yes, it was done.

Hebrews 11, Now faith is being certain of what we hope for and sure of what we do not see.

And as far as all of the plans and things that are happening here and our hopes that carry us into washing these women´s feet tonight, I am lead to this Psalm.

Psalm 131, God, I´m not trying to rule the roost, I don´t want to be king of the mountain.  I haven´t meddled where I have no business or fantasized grandiose plans.  I´ve kept my feet on the ground, I´ve clutivated a quiet heart.  Like a baby content in its mother´s arms, my soul is a baby content.  Wait, Israel, for God.  Wait with hope.  Hope now! Hope always!

La Victoira Post #2

Just a minute, but we have had another great day.  And all of us can´t believe it is Tuesday already!  I mean, really...time has flow.

Today, more women were trained on the sewing machines.  They are soooo excited about sewing.  We did a business training focusing on finances, and the ladies were very interested.  Also!  Great talks with the women about their primary health concerns, water!  Connections to start a well, filtration system, and employ women are happening already...can you believe it!  In a week!  But we are praying through it and trying not to get ahead of ourselves.

As we as a team consider this grassroots project, we are encouraged by all of the local connections that are coming to mind, including a female pastor that is already doing great work there.  More to come...Mercy is calling me to get in the car!

La Victoria Post #1

What an amazing first couple of days we had!  It is hard to say all that has happened, but here are a few points,
-  Amazing visits with the women in their homes asking questions about their lives, their health concerns, their dreams, their ability to start or run a business.
 - Today we started several projects with the women.  Including magazine beads that the women took home over our lunch break and came back with them better than we showed them.  A woven magazine basket, which is the hardest, but we made progress!  Including getting the pieces compiled and then starting to weave the bottom of the basket.
-Training for the women on working together as a group and how to address things like jealousy, unforgiveness, competition, and each being gifted uniquely. Prayers for unity.
- Two babies in the campo were desperate for medical care and we were able to provide that for them.
It seems that the needs should be overwhelming when I sit back and consider all that we have heard and seen from the women.  We are asking that God allows us to truly see each other, these women, and what God wants to do here, and he has shown us so much!  But, God has been so faithful to show us our next steps each day and we are amazed at how things are lining up.  Things like the community center director already considering  starting a sewing business, connections with a campo church to start a well and-or a water filtration goes on.

On another note of a bunch of Americanos living in a little DR town....well...the stories could flow.  We have had more than the usual issues with water and have had to haul our water up stairs each day for 14 people to flush toilets and for brief bucket showers.  Lets not go into the poop water on the floor incident...should we use bleach on that...Don´t worry, us liberals bought supplies for a cuba libra.  Those always help.  Praise God.  But seriously, lets praise Him.  We are blessed beyond belief. 

Thursday, February 3, 2011

La Victoria, Here We Come...

I had these visions of writing this reflective, hopefully inspiring blog post about my upcoming trip to the DR with Project I See You.  Well, as with most idealism, that came crashing down today when reality set in.  I have 12 hours until I have to sleep for a few and wake up on my way to the airport.  7 of which I will be working; oh, yes - and I must pack.  And make sure I have my passport.  And my daily essentials.  And don't forget your bathing suit...and toilet paper....  You get the picture.

Speaking of the essentials though, here are a few of our trip for those that are interested. 
 - We leave Denver early, early February 4th from Denver and get back late, late February 11th. 
- During the week we will be working on handicraft projects, brainstorming ideas, and offering some training in the afternoons.  And since I am not crafty!, (ask me about the baby hat I knitted that was too big for my husband's head!), I will be doing some business and financial literacy training with my friend Tammy.  And I will also be leading some discussions and teaching on women's health with my friend Angie.
- All the while we will also be doing things that hopefully communicate to these women how much we love them, God loves them, and their deep value.  We want them to truly see them; and we want to be seen too.  One night we will wash their feet, like Jesus did.  (We did this two years ago and it was powerful).  On Thursday we will take them to the beach.  (No men allowed.  And only children that are nursing; or as Mercy said once, "Mama con leche...;" we all cried it was so funny, but especially our Dominican friends).

If you pray and think of us, we would love that support.  There have been a few minor safety concerns in La Victoria recently; we will be smart and covet your prayers.  We feel there is something much bigger than our plans for this trip; we will be listening and watching for that.  Several of the women going are pregnant (all trimesters included); they are brave and trusting.  That is just the start, so "pray as you feel led."

I hope to have pictures of some original, free-trade, eco-friendly handicrafts when I return!  (How many more yuppie buzz words can I include!, she said self-deprecatingly).  And stories.  Stories of single mother's and young woman's lives that give us hope for this fatherless community on the outskirts of La Victoria. 

Friday, January 28, 2011

Just a Word About Chronic Illness

It seems to me that every human struggles to share their internal world with this external world.  Part of growing up, maturing, and intimacy is dealing with this very thing.  Now if you add to that the layer of chronic illness, then things get even more messy.  (That same thing can be said for grief, or anything else that is not readily apparent, by the way).

I have hesitated to write much about dealing with chronic illness, because it can really be burdensome for people to read.  And there is this "victimy" feeling that I project that other people are projecting on me.  Not fun.  And I want to be careful, because I think there are many important things for people to hear about dealing with chronic pain or discomfort.  There is something terrible about it; but there is something holy about it. 

This has come to mind in recent weeks for me because I have been dealing with a non-chronic health issue that is not serious, but concerning.  And I have had this overwhelming fear as I have walked into each doctor appointment that the bobbling doctor head would recite, "Oh, that is because of your chronic issues."  And before I even walk in the door, I want to punch the doctor in their face.  Terrible!  But this is where the holy part comes in:  I have to slow myself down; waaaaaay down.  Pray.  Ask God for whatever: patience, insight, assertiveness, receptivity.  And somehow, instead of wanting to punch the doctor,  (which really is NOT an option), I see the other human standing in front of me, (a really smart one), just trying to figure this big mess out.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Project I See You

I just realized that I have not posted a link to the group that I am going to the DR with!  Check out Project I See You at  Or you can find us on Facebook or Twitter.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

A Beach Day? I Mean, That Is $400.

As part of Project I See You's trip to the Dominican Republic Feb 4 to 11, we are taking a bus full of women to the beach for a day.  Last night at our benefit concert auction, someone sponsored the day - it went for $400.  $400!  That is a lot of money compared to the other "more practical" things we were auctioning off like $500 for two sewing machines, or $250 to pay two cooks for the week.  I mean - wouldn't it be better to buy food for these women?...they could eat for a month or more for $400!.!

Good question.  My pragmatic mind goes straight there.  But consider just a few things that are expanding my heart, and curb my boxed in thinking:
1.  In May 2009 we did this very thing for these women.  They still talk about it.
2.  How do you communicate to someone that they have inherent, indelible value?  I am not sure, but I think it leans towards extravagance, which by nature is not practical.
3.  And if my practical mind persists, I go back to this:  Many of these women, who live just 20 minutes from the beach, have never been!  White, sandy beaches; clear blue/green water.  Their lives do not allow this.  That simply would not be true for any of us sitting at a computer and reading a blog.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Raising Money

I, like many, hate raising money.  I can remember feeling badly asking my grandparents to buy girl scout cookies from me.  I mean - come on!, grandparents are a shoe in.  And the stories of undue guilt like this have only continued as my life has lead me to work that inevitably involves raising financial support: non-profit, church work, entrepreneurial endeavors, etc.

Like I said, some of this is "undue" due to some insecurities that needed (need?) to be worked on.  Granted; duly noted.  Some of this is rooted in my upbringing in a family full of ministers and missionaries that have had specific ideas about how money should be raised for ministry endeavors.  Some of this, though, still remains as viable doubt that guides me as I search for confidence in money raising ventures I find myself in.

Here are just a few pieces of "this":  The love of money (and ease) is common to all humans; myself especially.  I need to check myself.   My friend pointed out many years ago that some people pay full price for "service vacations" to do some humanitarian work cross-culturally.  As far as I know, they don't get a tax-break on this.  I realize there is more to donor involvement besides paying the bills, (ie - building an involved community and donors that simply want to give to good causes), but it does serve as a double-check for my own sacrifice and financial commitment to projects I am involved in.

Also, non-profits and ministries alike have to constantly balance overhead, lifestyle, and stewardship.  And motives are messy.  This will always be an issue, regardless of the project, and will hinge upon the personal integrity of those involved.  This deserves special attention, but also is difficult and terribly problematic to judge.   So I try to keep it simple and pray:  is this where I am to invest my time and energy?  If the answer is yes, and these issues of integrity seem balanced, then my confidence gains steam.

What are your thoughts?

Friday, January 7, 2011

Foot in Mouth

I’m kind of notorious for putting my foot in my mouth.  As a small example, I say things like, “I got roped into this,” when what I really mean to say is something like, “I’m not sure how I arrived here, but I am thankful.”  Now, combine that with some of my efforts, (and authentic desire), to connect with and relate to minority, marginalized, and oppressed individuals and groups; and oh, my ignorance is undeniable.

In high school I had this fantastic US History teacher, Mrs. Lewis. She was African American woman who identified strongly and proudly with her African roots as well as her American heritage.  She was passionate, genius, and gracious in teaching us about slavery, civil rights, and detailed African American history. Her father marched with Martin Luther King.  I so desperately wanted to be teacher’s pet and was constantly looking for connection points with her.  One weekend I met an African American pastor from our area; I was sure this was Mrs. Lewis’ pastor – perfect!  You see where this is going…: “Mrs. Lewis, I think I met your pastor this weekend,” I said eagerly….it was a downward spiral from there; foot in mouth.  Thankfully, I wasn’t the first eager, white kid Mrs. Lewis had come across and her grace flowed like a river.

This weekend I am attending the Gay Christian Network’s annual conference,   I’m straight, I’m an evangelical Christian, and I’m newly reengaging my own thoughts about the number of issues that surround my fellow conference goers.  Perfect recipe for Lizzy to put her foot in her mouth.   So, for today I was mostly in listening mode at the conference.  But I will say at least this through my blog, (to my handful of faithful followers), "I'm not sure how I arrived here, but I am thankful," and grace flows like a river.  Philip Yancey spoke this morning at the conference and fleshed out this idea:  grace is like a river, it always flows downhill.  For that, I am really thankful. 

Sunday, January 2, 2011

My Outdoor Mentors

Santa brought Dan and I snowshoes this year and boy do we love them!  Today we took them out for a quick spin on Mt. Evans and it was just beyond beautiful.  As we were hiking along, my thoughts got to floating, as they often do when I am trudging up along a path.  The theme that emerged was simple: I love doing this!, and I am so thankful!  Thankful that I am able!, and thankful for the many mentors that got me to this point.

When I first moved to Colorado, I was attracted to the many outdoor activities, but also overwhelmed by all that I did not know and completely intimidated, mostly due to my tendency towards comparison and difficulty with being a novice.  Thankfully, I had friends that mentored me along the way:
- Kevin: you got me out on hiking trail before I even knew that I wanted to be.  Thank you for your presence and for teaching me that in order to stay warm at night, I needed to keep my arms inside the sleeping bag.
- Lynne: you went walking, hiking, running, and skiing with me when I was recovering from cancer and beyond.  Thank you for your belief, encouragement, and steady friendship.  And for laughing through it all.
- Addy: you knew that my biggest hurdle is my fear of being cold!, so you taught me about good gear and then stuck me in the deep end with winter hut trips and snowboarding in frigid temps.  You are a gifted guide and the antidote to unhealthy competition that plagues outdoor enthusiasts. 
- Dan: you take care of things and take care of me; often tying my boots when I am exhausted or on the verge of giving up.  You are patient and kind, even when frustrated.  And you always bring really good snacks (and beverages) - so key.  Being outdoors with you is a deep joy and especially fulfilling.

Today I thought of all of you with gratitude and big doses of warm nostalgia.  (Especially you, Dan, because I was looking uphill at your backside!!!).