Friday, November 5, 2010

A Big Sigh of Relief

I finally received the call. And, the news is good.

Last Thursday, David had a bluish bump removed from his hip. It wasn't a mole and it had some pain associated with it. The dermatologist really had no idea what it was and so he needed to biopsy it. He thought it might be a blue nevis or a glomus tumor.

After researching it a bit, it really didn't look like a blue nevis, and a glomus tumor didn't seem like a very good option. Too many associations with cancer. I thought I had put it out of my mind and determined not to worry about it.

Then the call came. My neighbor was visiting and so I couldn't answer the call. The message from the nurse just said, "Mrs Mann, we need you to call us back." Oh, yikes. So, as soon as I could clear the kids from the room I returned the call unsure of what I would hear.

Isabel, the nurse, hurried through the polite conversation and said, "Mrs Mann we received the biopsy results. It is a pigmented benign cyst."

Then I realized that my heart was racing, my palms were sweating and I was essentially holding my breath bracing for another bad news moment. I heard myself sign an audible big sigh of relief. I'm sure Isabel shared my joy since she was the one who called me with each of my prior biopsy reports. I'm sure she was also relieved not to have to deliver bad news.

Such relief... oh, thank heavens!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Tears of Graditude

Today I was going through some papers and found an envelope. I cried a few tears as I remembered the day I scribbled the times on the envelope. Tears of gratitude.

I remember sitting at my desk watching helplessly as Ryan kept seizing over and over. 16 times in 10 minutes. (This must have been one of the early recordings because it increased to 60-70 times in 20 minutes.) I really didn't even know then that the odd movements were seizures. I just knew that something wasn't right. My heart ached. Each of the recorded times represents a myoclonic seizure. The "choking" incident above I now know as a general seizure.

So, why the tears of gratitude? Well, thanks to an unknown number of people Ryan has medicines that do a fairly good job of controlling the seizures. They're not perfect, but we have less than a dozen a day now.

Have you ever thought about how many people have sacrificed to go to school to help develop the drugs or the medical technologies that help to treat the conditions that you or your loved ones deal with? I frequently think of the sacrifices that our doctors and their families have made to have the knowledge they have, but I haven't really spent much time before thinking of the countless people who have worked on the medicines and the technologies that help so much. But today I feel thankful for them.

A Conversation with Jessica

I had the following conversation with Jessica this morning on the way home from seminary:

Me: I like Taco Cabana's breakfast burritos.
Jessica: Yea, they're pretty good.
Me: I thought you didn't like eggs?
Jessica: I just prefer chicken to pre-chicken.

Pre-chicken? Oh my, oh my. She's definitely Dwight's daughter. ;)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Is it innate?

What is it about a pile of leaves that attracts children? Is there an inborn desire that forces them to run and throw themselves into even the smallest pile of leaves?

Tonight I took Johnathon and Deborah with me to a store. Just outside the store was a small pile of leaves. I probably wouldn't have even noticed them if it hadn't been for the way Deborah darted from my hand bee lining directly to the pile and started joyfully jumping. Johnathon quickly joined her and I stood in amazement wondering where they even got the idea.

I grew up in Indiana. We always had an abundance of leaves. I can remember raking huge piles of leaves. Of course, the best part was jumping on top of the pile when the work was done. But, my 4 year old has never seen us rake leaves. I don't remember reading any books about it with her and I don't recall Blue jumping in any leaf piles. Hmmm.... perhaps it's an innate ability to recognize ways to find joy.

Wouldn't that be great? Wouldn't it be great if we all had an ability to know just what would give us great joy? Just to know instinctively. Maybe you do. Or maybe, like me, you've had to work a little harder to figure out what brings you joy. Maybe you've had to experience some sorrow in order to realize that you have joy, or to more easily recognize the joy.

I don't know that a few years ago I would have stopped to appreciate the joy that they felt tonight as they jumped in the leaves. I might have just hurried them along to finish the shopping. I'm glad I could watch and share in their joy.

What gives you joy?
I just read an article by Dr. S. Michael Wilcox. Perhaps you have heard of him. I was going to just include a link to the article, but then I thought that ultimately I will be putting this blog into a book form for my children and the link will be lost. So, I hope that Doctor Wilcox does not mind that I have chosen to copy and paste the text here to share with you.

I think this article is inspiring. I love to travel. We do not travel as often as I'd like, due to financial restrictions. However, we can still explore the world through learning. Aren't we lucky to live in an age where we have such easy access to the world around us?

Passport Family Portraits, Written by Dr. S. Michael Wilcox
It was a Saturday afternoon, the mail lay waiting on the kitchen counter. I saw the slightly thicker envelope topping the pile addressed to my daughter-in law. When she came in the door my wife casually said to her, “There’s a letter for you, Carolyn, you may want to open it.” She looked at it and read the return address—U.S. Passport Office….. Picking it up somewhat breathlessly she broke the seal. Holding her first passport in both hands she said with almost reverent awe, but with a voice bursting with excitement and tinged with a measure of joyful disbelief: “I have a passport! I have a passport!”

For such moments I live. We travel for many reasons, but prime among them is the opportunity to watch our children thrive in the atmosphere of another country, among other peoples. Most people who travel carry their cameras, snapping shots with each new locality. We too bring our digital memory cards, but the most precious stored images are those held in our minds not those captured in the electronic world of gigabytes. They are the memories, savored and relived when the tour is long past of connections made between those I love and that broad, wide, wonderful world of which we are all citizens. These are moments that can never be captured by the limited focus of a lens.

We took our children on a journey from Palmyra to Winter Quarters. At that critical stop in Carthage my nine year old son shared in the collective memory of that sultry June day in 1844; heard as if he had lived it, the hopeful sadness of “a poor wayfaring man of grief,” then the noises of the mob, the rush to the door, the gunshots, the final words, and the troubled silence of the summer rain on the grass below. I found him a few moments later outside lost in the poignancy of the moment, the love of Joseph forever sealed into his heart.

Perched on a cooler next to the driver’s seat in a bus in Guatemala another son, age 12, listened to the unceasing joyful banter of our driver Sergio. It was all in Spanish, of course, and our son couldn’t understand a word, but the feelings came through and a bond was created strengthened every day as the two became inseparable. He shared with him the colorful costumes of the Highland people, the farmers in their corn fields green with the summer rains and the women weaving by the lakeside. They saw the children peddling their tiny homemade crafts, smelled the tortillas warming on an outdoor grill, laughed at the antics of the spider monkeys—and my son’s spirit was enlivened. When we left, Sergio put his hand on his heart and patted it tenderly his dark eyes soft as he looked at my son and said, “Mckay, McKay. In here.” You can’t buy that kind of education for all the tuition in the world.

A few years later we walked with our daughter and son in law through the rainforest at Tikal whose pyramids wait hidden until that moment when the jungle clears and they tower above you in Mayan magnificence. Not one given to expressions of exhilaration or the use of the exclamation point my son in law stopped dead center in the trail looked up to the roof comb scratching the sky and said, “You’ve got to be kidding me!!!!!!” It was a six exclamation point sentence and we all laughed in the delighted uninhibited emotion of his wonder—the most excitement I had ever seen generated in this man of controlled and guarded enthusiasm.

There was that moment in the Louvre with my oldest daughter who took an Art History in college. She loved the painting by the Dutch master De La Tour titled “Christ with St Joseph in the Carpenter’s Shop.” De La Tour was a master of the contrast of light and dark and you can almost feel the warmth of the candle held by Jesus, it’s glow shining through his closed cupping fingers. We were running out of time and had not found this one painting she most wanted to see. We separated to broaden our search. At last, rounding a corner, there was our daughter transfixed before the painting tears flowing from her eyes. We said nothing. The silence confirming the truths imparted. And in my memory will always breathe that moment in the Sistine Chapel as my wife looked up to the central panel of Michelangelo’s ceiling. There was the Father cradling the yet uncreated Eve in the protective reach of his arm, the other extended in life-bestowing gift towards Adam who received the offered sacrament in trust and adoration. My wife’s head bent full back was unaware of the tears dropping down the side of her face wetting her hair and ears or the soft murmur of her voice.

There were the Chinese kites soaring above the deck of the ship bright against the cliffs of the Yangtze River and the soaking downpour on the Li as we vainly but laughingly ran for cover. Reading Wordsworth’s “Tintern Abbey” in the ruins that inspired it, listening to my father in law recount the Christmas story in Bethlehem, counting tropical fish on the Great Barrier Reef, walking in Red Square surrounded by echoes of the fading Cold War, an evening meal in a sidewalk cafĂ© off the Piazza Navona in Rome, a son doing magic tricks with the children in front of the Pyramids, all rest comfortably in the holding places of my heart. It doesn’t seem to matter where or how far one travels, sharing it with family sanctions the recollections and embeds the feelings deep within.

The story is told of a guard at the Rijkmuseum in Amsterdam who was standing in his assignment next to Rembrandt’s “The Night Watch,” the museum’s most beloved treasure. He heard a visiting tourist comment, “I don’t see what’s so great about that.” “Ah,” replied the guard, “But don’t you wish you could.”

There is nothing quite as satisfying or so completely heart-healing as when your own child opens their eyes and sees. Then the earth is created anew, man’s dignity reborn, and the world seems a friendlier, more welcoming place, where all are lifted by all. “I have a passport! I have a passport!” But not one that simply allows us to visit other countries, but a passport to experiences that leave us and our families touched by the universal goodness scattered in a hundred thousand places across this earth—from pole to pole.

Are you inspired?

If I could take my kids anywhere, I would love to take them on a history tour. Wouldn't it be fun to learn history in the places where it happened? Around the world or even just around the states. Of course, Jessica would probably love to go on an art history tour. And, well, we'd need to throw in a little diving for Dwight. ;)

Where would you go if you could travel?

Sunday, October 31, 2010