Friday, January 28, 2011

Sisters, sisters...

Jud was born into a very loving family. Jud was the first child in the family, born in 1949. Joan joined him in 1951.

Janny came eight years later. 

And here are another set of sisters. Joan, Jan and I are sorority sisters. We were all members of Kappa Alpha Theta at the University of South Dakota.

Joan and Jan are extremely devoted sisters to Jud and to me. I am so grateful to have such loving and caring sisters in my life. I was born into a family of brothers, and they are wonderful people, but I always wanted a sister, too. When I married Jud, I was given the gift of sisterhood. Our relationships have deepened over the years and the four of us just spent a wonderful week in Mesa at the home of Jud's parents. We laughed, we cried, we laughed until we cried and we told lots of funny stories about each other "way back when." Jud's dear parents? They are the theme for another entry ;-)

We have one more sisterly relationship. Jud's mom and my mom were in the same sorority in the 1940's. We can even go further with "sisterhood." We have counted twenty-five relatives in the Gillis and Reaney families who were members of the same sorority.

"To have a loving relationship with a sister is not simply to have a buddy or a confidante. It is to have a soul mate for life."
Victoria Secunda

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Sing along with Suz...

 ..accompanying you on the baritone ukelele!! Today we will be singing Suz' favorite song from the 1970's...

Well, no matter where I wander    
I know I'll always find a welcome.      
At the end of every journey      
There'll be friendly people waiting.    
California, could not hold me         
 Though I loved her timber mountains    

Susan and Gary
Susan and Jud

Susan and Jud

Photo by
Worked her fields and worked her orchards

Up and down her Central Valley

I'm going HO-O-OME

Well, I am not really going home but those are the words to the song and I wanted to show you what we are missing in Minnesota right now! In truth, we are currently in Mesa with Jud's parents and sisters, having a wonderful time, eating, shopping, setting up a laptop for Jud's father, writing in my Brave Girl Journal, eating, shopping (repeat again). 

 We will be here until a week from today and then we will go back here

The Stanford Cancer Center

For this


description of photo
The Stanford Cancer Center became on Sept. 16 the first treatment center on the West Coast and one of a select few globally to offer cancer patients the TrueBeam, a machine that represents an exponential leap forward in the speed, power and precision of radiation therapy.
The TrueBeam linear accelerator is capable of delivering radiation at a faster dose rate than most conventional linear accelerators. This advance translates into shorter treatment times for patients. The time for a typical radiation treatment could be cut in half with the TrueBeam. Other special features improve the accuracy of treatment so the overall duration of a course of treatment may also be shortened from several weeks to just a few days.

Please remember us in your thoughts and prayers. Jud has a long road ahead of him and this is an important step. We are hoping that SBRT therapy will shrink the tumor to the point that he will qualify for Whipple surgery.  That would make a huge difference for him. His attitude is great and he is getting ready to "move along" the treatment path once again. 

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A time for healing...

 Photo by Jud Reaney

There are moments when wellness escapes us,
moments when pain and suffering
are not dim possibilities
but all too agonizing realities.
At such moments we must open ourselves to healing.

Much we can do for ourselves;
and what we can do
we must do ~
no less than illness,
is participatory.

But even when we do all we can do
there is,
still much left to be done.
And so we turn as well to our healers
seeking their skill to aid in our struggle for wellness.

But even when they do all they can do
there is,
still much left to be done.
And so we turn to Life,
to the vast Power of Being that animates the universe
as the ocean animates the wave,
seeking to let go of that which blocks our healing.

May those
whose lives are gripped in the palm of suffering
even now
to the Wonder of Life.
May they let go of the hurt
and Meet the True Self beyond pain,
the Uncarved Block
that is our joyous Unity with Holiness.

May they discover through pain and torment
the strength to live with grace and humor.
May they discover through doubt and anguish
the strength to live with dignity and holiness.
May they discover through suffering and fear
the strength to move toward healing.

  ~ Rabbi Rami M. Shapiro (from Prayers for Healing, 365 Blessings, Poems, and Meditations from Around the World; entry for March 5th)

I am in pain. I came with a scooter from a dear friend and it worked wonderfully. It is heavy, though, and did not fit in our friend's smaller car. I did a stupid thing. Barry (our friend) took me to the hospital when Jud had his endoscopy and offered to park the car and push me in a wheelchair. I said, "Absolutely not. I am doing fine. It's just a short walk." The short walk was almost a mile both ways. I woke up the next day with severe pain in my right knee (the one approaching surgery for osteoarthritis) and severe pain in my left leg (the one with neuropathy and RSD). I am still in a lot of pain, five days later. I am kicking myself for insisting on walking. I hate having assistance, but what a ridiculous price to pay.

I will need to see an orthopedist and get another shot in my knee, though we don't have time until we get to Mesa. I can have three before a knee replacement. My fear is that I will not be able to take care of Jud if he has surgery or becomes more ill. When I woke up this morning, Jud told me that he wakened in the night and worried that I might be recovering from knee surgery while he is recovering from a Whipple procedure. He was having the same worries.

May we both find a way to move beyond suffering and fear and find the "strength to move toward healing."

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Kindness of Friends, Part 2...

Picture by Sheila Rumney

This is Sheila Rumney of Blessed and Distressed. She is a Silver Bella, par excellence, and a lovely person. She is what I would call "the genuine article." Honest, sincere, spiritual, real. I admired her from afar last year. This year I got to know her when she was in my Upcycled Treasures Swap. Sheila was always one step ahead of me with good ideas. I was new to this "hostessing role." I was grateful.

Picture by Sheila Rumney

She makes beautiful things like this paper-crafted bird.

Picture by Sheila Rumney

And this beautiful journal for the stories of your ornaments.

On January 1, I got this lovely comment on my blog...

Sheila Rumney said...

Suz, I just love your angel tradition. What true angels you have for friends!

My heart goes out for you, Jud and Kat each morning in prayer. I wish there was something else that I could do for you, possibly a scrapbook/journal for you on your journey. I saw the message on how people could sign up to help, but being so far away I didn't know if this was the avenue to help you. If there is anything that I can do, please let me know.

Hugs, Sheila

I thought about a journal for our journey but somehow it felt a little too sad. When I looked on Sheila's blog, I saw her ornament journal. I was smitten! No one loves their ornaments as much as I do. She had a journal kit and I asked if I could buy one. The She really wanted to do this for me and let me feel blessed in this way. Well, did I ever feel blessed! I started taking picture of our ornaments right away.

I am aware it is way past Christmas but bear with the joys of an ornament-lover. I want to take you on a little tour. 

This was given to us on Katie's first Christmas, thirty-one years ago. I still remember the couple the gave it to us, though I have no idea where they are anymore.

This is part of the "Jud as Santa" series. He bakes a mean pie...

and he almost scuba-dived at the Great Barrier Reef! We all got severe respiratory infections that day and couldn't do our final dive. Jud begged the doctor to give him antihistamines but to no avail. Oh, well. In our imagination, we are excellent scuba divers!

Now, I was going to make big money off these ones. I was chosen to be in the fanciest Christmas Fair in Saint Paul and made a ton of them. I didn't sell one. I have given them as gifts for the last ten years and this is the last one. The beauty of crafting, right? You always have gifts on hand.

Ah, the cactus tree collection. From San Miguel, Mexico...

and Telaquepaque, Mexico...

and Santa Fe.

Then there were the ones we gave away and got back. We fell in love with ornaments so much that we showered them on friends and family. We were young and poor and they were a great gift. My dear SIL Joan had too many for her tree and one Christmas, these came home. This sweet angel...

...and the unicorn rocking horse. We got these outside Ghiradelli Square the year we were first married. Dirt cheap but beautiful. Still in perfect condition.

These are some of our South Dakota ones, from friends who never let us forget our roots. How do you like this birch bark moose? 

We got three of these one year ;-) They are pretty cute, huh? And our South Dakota friends are flakes!

I have a dear friend who is in my fibromyalgia group. Claudia has given me some gorgeous ornaments over the years. This Tiffany Lamp is one of my favorites.

This was my "yearly ornament" from my "lover boy." The picture was taken by Kat about five years ago. She was so pleased that the shape between our bodies formed a heart.

Picture by Sheila Rumney

My ornaments tell the story of my life with Jud and Katie. I am so thrilled that Sheila would make me a special scrapbook to hold them. She told me is will look different than this one and will be made from the new Webster's Pages. I can't wait. 

Like I said, Sheila's the genuine article!

I am deeply touched.

"God, make me worthy
Of my friends."
Edgar Guest

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Kindness of Friends...

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho 
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans 
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside, 
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.  
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth. 
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and 
     purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.
 Naomi Shihab Nye

Lately I have known sorrow like an old friend. A minute may pass, an hour, never as long as a day, when out of the blue, I feel a gnawing heartache, the sensation of my stomach sinking to my toes and an all-over fearfulness that makes me feel raw and skinless. It waxes and wanes, somehow manageable, other times, hardly manageable at all. I bought this mixed-media collage from a Silver Bella instructor because the words of Hafez seemed to be an antidote to my fear (and the work is so simple, yet, so incredibly lovely, with its black and white window and embroidered pastels on muslin). Essentially this piece of art says to me that God does not want me to live my life in fear, no matter how frightening the circumstances appear. FEAR-False Evidence Appearing Real, my friend, Betsy, would say. God would like me to find the joy that continues in this lifetime. For one, there is kindness. Somehow in my sorrow and loneliness, someone will do something so sweet and so kind that my sadness and fears melt away.

I bought the first piece from Colette Copeland. I have followed her blog for about a year now and love her work, which often includes collage, painting, embroidery and transfer in one piece. When my package at last arrived from Canada (amazing that Canada is just right across the Minnesota border), I didn't see that there was a surprise. Almost a half hour later, I noticed that there was a hard piece of art board behind my Hafez pieces, and on it it said...

To Suz, With Love. 

I ripped it open and turned it over and there I met "The Little God of Happy Endings." This God has a bird sitting slightly over his bald head, a head sort of like my husband's. What a perfect message. I cried. Happy tears.
There is going to be a happy ending to Jud's illness. 
This I know.
It may not be the ending I think I want, but there is going to be a happy ending.

Here is a picture of Collete and I, she looking not as pretty as she really is and me looking quite gooney with my estatic Silver Bella smile. I am in her class. I have on my riotously fun new craft apron, made by my friend, the talented Jem, and I have been creating, side by side, with my dear friend, Donna, sitting at a table where everyone is freely sharing materials, ideas and complements as easily as they breathe. 
I am so happy that my lips ache from smiling.

Just so you could see how pretty she is, I "borrowed" her avatar. I also wanted you to see what the face of a truly kind woman looked like. This is a woman who has "known sorrow as the other deepest thing" and still finds value in kindness to another who deeply needs it.

I still feel fear.  I still feel sorrow. But there is this other "thing" that keeps me going, keeps me putting my shoes on and trudging out into the world each day.
That, my friends, is kindness. 
If kindness is the currency, I am a rich woman indeed.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Mimi Meets the Archangel Michael...

Every year for the last...oh, fifteen or so...we have exchanged angels with our dear friends, Jo and Sheryl. I don't know how it got started. I don't know how Jud (originator of the *Angel Rule) let it get past us! I think it started when we both gave each other angels for Christmas by coincidence and, right then, a tradition had begun. Some years, we give each other similar angels. Some years, there are whimsical angels. Some years, there are serious angels. This year, we could not have given each other more different angels. Sheryl and Jo gave us the beautiful angel on the left (who I decded, was the Archangel Michael, patron saint of San Miguel). We gave them the coquette on the right, who we all concluded was named Mimi. Mimi came all the way from the Adriatic shore of Croatia and is a bit of a coquette, maybe even a little naughty. She wears short skirts over her twig legs and a seashell cloche. Archangel Michael appears a bit disgruntled at her skirt length but I can't help but think he has forgiven Mimi for her wanton ways!

Here is the Happy Foursome in front of our fireplace, Jud, Suz, Jo and Sheryl. 

And here is Kat, with her dear "aunties."

Ah, good friends. What would we do without them?

I was reminded by a poem that was part of a friendship reading in my sorority in college (and I cannot believe I can remember it all!)

It is my joy in life to find
At every turning of the road
The strong arm of a comrade kind 
To help me onward with my load.
But since I have no gold to give
And love, alone, must make amends
My only prayer is, while I live,
God, make me worthy of my friends.
                 Edgar Guest (I believe)

* The Angel Rule...For every angel that comes in, one must go out (does not apply to Christmas angels.)