As the Hourglass Gets Low the Sand Becomes More Precious

I went over to my painting instructor’s home with my painting in hand and a small bag of groceries she requested now that she can’t drive. It was mostly catholic candles and fruit.

She sat me down at her table and offered me a bowl of warm soup. Her kids may be grown but she extends her Italian Mom hospitality to me. As she speaks, she keeps telling me, “Eat, Eat!”

I know that with the cancer and her collapsed lung she tires more quickly so I obey her and ladle another spoonful into my mouth.

“I just know in my heart I’m not going to make it this time.”

A lump formed in my throat as I forcefully made myself swallow that mouthful of chicken noodle soup.

My spirit sunk as I searched for words and knew there were none to offer. Just this weekend, I ran across a powerful quote: “Learn to give support, not advice.” This time support was listening. I knew it wasn’t time to conjure up some false encouragement or tell her she could fight it. But I wanted to. So badly. She was entrusting me with her deepest feelings; ones she couldn’t even express to her children.

I wanted to remind her how strong she has been in life – how she raised three kids as a single parent and at one point juggled three jobs to make ends meet. I wanted to blurt out how she defied cancer last time with only a 5% chance of survival. But I also saw the tired in her eyes and knew this life and pain had caused her to grow weary and weak. She knows heaven is on the other side and isn’t scared to talk about death and dying.

She went on to explain that chemo was not an option right now because it is so potent and hard on the system and that at this point, she was only pursuing radiation to ease the horrible pain.

We moved into the painting room and I saw a little spark of energy as she helped me figure out how to blend my acrylic paints correctly with my cheapie brushes. I saw that smile and pride in her work and how happy art made her. I fought my sunken feelings and concentrated on what she instructed.

The phone rang a handful of times during our lesson. Her son, worried, asked her to spend the night. Her doctor, the one who helped her beat cancer four years ago, called to express his sincerest sadness in finding out she had cancer again.

When she came back from the calls, she helped me figure out the next part of my portrait and then went on to tell me this and that about what she would like me to help with if her time came to a close. She wanted me to help her children with the picture slideshow. She wanted me to make sure her paintings and her stories for each one were rightly recorded. I nodded and shook off the sadness best as I could but my face couldn’t hide it. When she noticed she asked me not to cry and of course those words opened the flood gates. I tried to compose myself as quickly as I could as I knew my sadness pained her.

Over the course of this year, her right arm has grown weaker. She had no idea what was causing the intense pain and her doctors didn’t figure out it was cancer until last month. Now she has cancer in multiple spots in her bones and is fighting a collapsed lung. I’ve never paid her a penny to take lessons. We had a special agreement that I’d give her Photoshop lessons in exchange for painting lessons. The last several months with that weakened arm, my “lessons” have mostly been visits where she tries to make me feel like I am instructing her even though she isn’t able to do much.

I know in my heart we’ve formed a sweet friendship and she mostly pretends to still trade lessons for my sake. She wants to see me further my painting abilities and at this point doesn’t really expect much of a trade. She isn’t even instructing at her two jobs anymore, yet she has invited me to continue our lesson time even though she is very weak.

I think of all the other things she could be doing with these two hours once a week, knowing she could possibly only have until the end of this year, and I realize how special this gift is. She is gifting me something very precious: some of her remaining time. I will always be grateful for these moments.

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Privacy, Growth, and New Blog Directions

I’ve been thinking about Quarter Lifer Musings and what my plans are for it. And I’m unapologetically honest and open here, with the intentions of keeping this blog raw and wholly me. I realize that my space doesn’t offer a steady stream of regular subjects as I write what’s on my heart and what is happening in my life, but I also think it’s time to stop nesting in shareable non-personal content. This blog is organic and I’ve noticed that any kind of “series” just doesn’t fit. As social media beckons us to put on a show, to give people what they want, and to have the best posed pictures and edited content, this blog is still my intention to defy the call to put on a mask. This truly is an open and safe space.

I don’t link to this blog on my social media accounts because I like having a sense of anonymity here, although I do enjoy a visit from friends and the occasional re-blog. It’s also a reason I rarely share lifestyle pictures and don’t include pictures of myself. I don’t necessarily want people reading up on my life whilst looking for advent calendar DIYs, plus size hacks, or minimalism. Or feeling really confused that my blog is 85% journaling. I think it’s best that I take recipes/dieting/health and give it new life as a separate blog and do the same for creative projects. Those are areas I do want to facilitate more traffic in and can leave personal details out of. I would like to see growth and more interaction in there and would like to share to my media pages.

Quarter Lifer Musings is an open book and I hope to garner conversation, but it’s also somewhat an unlocked private diary.  I wouldn’t stash my sketches and diet and exercise notes in a diary, and likewise, those subjects on this blog has come to a close.

You’ll still see me mention creative musings and the constant battle of the bulge and keeping active, but you won’t see me posting in great detail about it here.

What is nestled quite safely here is my thoughts on religion, social justice, feminism, Christianity, being a plus size lady, living intentionally, minimizing, being in a creative field, and all the wonderful and confusing bits and pieces of life in my 20-30’s.

Thank you for being a part of this space with me and I hope you’ll continue to visit despite the changes. I’ll have more information on the creative blog and health/diet/exercise blog as they come to fruition.

Tahoe Fun

***Super long post warning***

Right before my little vacation I was near my cutoff for dealing with life. Sometimes you just need a small escape to help you focus on the everyday again. More importantly, sometimes you’ve just got to see a best friend in person after emails and texts and Skype calls don’t quite cut it any longer. And luckily, I got both this trip.

We stayed at my friend’s grandmother’s house and I secretly love other people’s grandparents, so I had a lot of fun getting to know her. We’d do some adventuring, H and Me, and then retire in the evening to the living room and watch some Netflix (Anne with an “E”) with her grandma and the siamese cat, Max [who I was sadly *VERY* allergic to]. It was fun re-acquainting with an area I visited in childhood and exploring it again as an adult.

Lake Tahoe is a beautiful mix of “away-from-it-all” and “tourist central” but thankfully we were there right before everything gets busy and flooded with guests. The downside? A lot of activities and museums weren’t open. The upside? Much more away-from-it-all and relaxing for the both of us. Which truly, was more of the focus of this trip.

Things didn’t start off quite right; the flyaway bus took an hour and a half to get to the airport when it should have gotten me there in nearly half that time. From there, I was kindly placed in the express TSA line and RAN to my gating area. Only to find that I had a shuttle to take from there. I finally hopped on, checked the time frantically, and asked the driver if I’d make my flight. She, half-caring, nodded and told me to take a seat. Once I got to THAT building, I once again ran in a frenzy to the actual gate and was told that the planes doors were shut and there was no way to board it now. I’d have to attempt the next flight as a standby. There were four or five of us total that I could see who had just barely missed it and that worried me too: we’d all be vying for a seat on the next nearly full flight. I was about three minutes too late. Three. Because the flyaway bus took forever and the shuttle was running late. Because we waited for a plane to clear the shuttle’s path. I was so upset that all of these things that were happening were out of my control despite planning my flyaway bus in plenty of time. I will be sending them a formal complaint for not disclosing shuttle times or the fact that my flight wasn’t in a main terminal.

I texted H and let her know of the change of plans and felt terrible for extending their wait in Reno to pick me up. She assured me they understood and that I let them know at a good time so they could figure out some things to do in the meantime. I was so frustrated, especially since my trip was so short. I should have landed by 12:32 pm, and now I wouldn’t be in Reno until 6:30. The half a day I expected to have with them was gone, and we only had time to dine and get to her grandmother’s. They were such troopers and I could tell her grandma was quite exhausted from a full day out.

Our first full day we walked around the South Lake Tahoe marina and shopped and enjoy coffee in the Heavenly center. It was super casual and just what we needed. That evening we walked down the street and up the hill near the house. I could feel the combination of  thin mountain air, tight lungs from the recent bronchitis and cat allergy, and extra weight really making this relatively short inclined stroll a problem. I needed to pause and catch my breath a handful of times to make it all the way up.

The second day, I got to meet H’s cousin and we all enjoyed a good chat over coffee. We got basic instructions on how to drive down to the Emerald Bay lookout, and started our second adventure around noon. I was surprised at how easy it was to get gas and go to the lookout; we had our GPS going for good measure but would have gotten there without it very easily. The lookout was gorgeous and easy to get to, with only one little ominous-looking portion of road. We knew the trail there would take us to Vikingsholm, which is still closed. We mutually agreed to take it easy and not go any further than we felt since the 1 mile hike was easy down, and very steep coming back up.

Really, we should have known better. We kept saying we’d stop here or there and not really follow through. We finally got to a spot where EVERYONE looked like they had some labored breathing and H said it might only get steeper there. Did we stop? Ha! We asked a person hiking up how much further and he said 10 minutes and we went for it! The views from the bottom were amazing. We got to see a small log cabin, the beautiful craftsmanship of Vikingsholm, and get to the water’s edge of Emerald Bay. If we didn’t go all the way, we would have been so disappointed.

The hike up was absolutely awful for me physically. I was breathing super heavy and since the circulation in my feet isn’t the greatest right now, there were portions of the hike up where my calves and foot cramped stiff. H was gracious and let me take a ton of breaks. Some of them were quite sad; maybe 15 feet away from each other. I finally figured out my stamina and breathing worked out better if I power walked in a quick burst and then rested a good while rather than trying to go slow and steady. I’m really glad we did the hike even though I wasn’t happy with how hard it was on my body. The big plus here was I never got wheezy, I just had labored breathing.

On Sunday, we left for the airport and back to our places. It was really only 2 full days, but I left feeling full in heart and soul. I’m so thankful for our friendship.

I’m super open with my friend and don’t ever feel judgement from her which I so appreciate. I told her I really felt like I was at “that point”. Sure, there were contributing factors to how I felt on our walks, but really, I knew my weight and health had hit a point where it was starting to disable me. I think I’ve had a couple enough-is-enough points, but this one really hit home. I shared with her how now, at this heavy point, physical exertion was harder, and I had to be mindful of my weight limiting some activities, like say zip-lining or maxing out a weight limit paddle boating with an equally overweight friend. I just don’t want that kind of worry and limitation in my life.

I’m happy that in that admittance and through the strenuous labored portions of our trip, I never felt shame or hated on my body. I was somewhat ashamed of my hiking performance, sure, but it never negatively affected my idea of my body or worth. I think that shows a lot of growth on my part. I’ve learned to not make the idea of weight loss emotional or negative (although of course we all have those days). It was just simple: I don’t like how I feel and how hard it was on my body so I need to be more disciplined to doing something about it. And I didn’t let it stop me from enjoying sugary coffee because I was on vacation. No. More. Guilt.

Yesterday I started my day with a bowl of traditional oatmeal. I had a light healthy lunch and allotted the calories for dinner out with my boyfriend. Today, I had some baked oatmeal and egg whites and have a sardine salad for lunch and the gym scheduled for this evening. None of this is rooted in negativity.

I printed out the Tahoe pics already and have them in all the little corners of my room for happy memories.

Now back to the grind.

Race Day, Debriefing, and Vacay

The days leading up to the event and shortly after were a blur. After spending a whole year with a team planning up a one day event, I can only imagine the race day as something along the lines of a wedding day. After months and months of laying everything out, the actual day is overwhelming and wonderful and a lot.

This is my second year on the planning team but the first I’ve made it to the event (thanks, stomach flu) so it was amazing to see it all in person. I helped with publicity so my task was done before event day so I had the chance to be a volunteer and enjoy the event as an attendee after that. My mom volunteered with me to be race course monitors during the actual race. I cheered the 10k crowd on as they ran and was pleasantly surprised at how kind runners are. Many thanked me for volunteering or took time to say Hi to me or Thanks. There were so many people, and I can only hope that through runners, attendees, and everyone else present that we raised a lot of awareness and funds for foster kids in my county. We had a pinwheel garden that had over 1,000 pin wheels in it representing every child in the foster system. It was probably the biggest visual impact we had and new this year.

One of the sweetest surprises of the day was a phone call from my boyfriend. I was a major grump after trying to find parking again post course monitoring and practically yelled at him for asking me if I wanted a starbucks. I scratched my head at that thought since he doesn’t live that far away but it was totally out of his way to get me coffee (but Lord knows I needed it). It turns out, he was super sneaky and signed up for the race and walked/ran it without my knowledge! I was greeted by a java chip light and his smiling face with a race medal around his neck. ❤

This weekend we did our debriefing where we discuss how to make next year even better. It was from 8am-5pm and really did take that long to go over all the bits and pieces. A lot of the team was there and we really have bonded over this event. Our hearts our unified in benefitting foster kids and the rest is history. I will never take a non-profit event for granted after knowing personally how much has to happen behind the scenes.

I’m glad our 2017 planning year is officially done until 2018 planning starts back up in August. That means being able to sleep in again on Saturdays which I could use. Ahhh.

I’ve taken one vacation day this year so far and I realized next month is a halfway marker for the year. I was definitely feeling a little work and home life (renter) burn-out and it happened to work out that one of my best friends and I worked out an 4 day lake getaway. I’m looking forward to some R&R and best friend time with one of my favorite people in the world. 🙂