Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Dream Declaration Time

It is nearly New Years Day.  Soon the conversation starters will be in the form of questions regarding New Years Resolutions.  People will want to know if you have made any and everyone will be wondering if they will finally be able to keep theirs.  In sheer defiance, I have refused to make such resolutions the last couple of years.

A few years ago, I attended a small New Year's party hosted by my friend Alpha.  We lit candles and wrote down what we wanted to say good bye to from last year.  Habits we had formed and wanted to change.  Struggles we were ready to move past.  We wrote down things that we didn't like that had been part of our lives in that year on little slips of paper.  We then read them to each other and burned them.

When we were finished we talked about what we wanted to bring into our lives the next year.  Things we hoped for and dreamt about and things opposite of what we had just let go of and burned.  I plan to dream some big dreams and declare them rather than make resolutions.  I like this quote as it embodies the direction I want to take rather than make resolutions that fail by February.

 Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.
Henry David Thoreau

I know that I will be asked what I am going to declare and what my dreams are.  I haven't gotten that far yet.  I don't want to declare the obvious hopes but rather I want to think up dreams that extend beyond my circumstance.  I am not done living yet.  Cancer is not my life.  I have said it before but it bears repeating.  It is not my color, my identity, my journey, my bumper sticker, my cause, my war, the battle I have chosen or even what I spend my day focusing on.  My dreams are big and crowd it out.  It is a reality in my life currently, but God willing, that will not always be the case.

I had a huge light bulb moment with another friend of mine Rachel when we attended Pathways in Dallas, Texas.  We realized that all of the dreams we had for ourselves were so small.  We limited ourselves because we thought so small and didn't even take into consideration how God saw us.  As we limited ourselves we forgot that He makes all things possible.  We pledged then and there to dream bigger than we could fathom for ourselves.  Dream your dreams as the calendar page flips for you this year end and then make it bigger.  When it scares you then you are getting close. 

I leave you tonight with one more quote.

Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.
Harriet Tubman


Sunday, December 26, 2010

There are many ways to tell someone you love them

Have you ever seen love in action?  If you had been at my house today you would have seen it.  Gary Chapman talks about the 5 Love Languages in his book entitled the same.  He lists them as Physical, Verbal, Quality Time, Gifts, and my favorite, Acts of Service. This is a must read in my opinion but I digress. My family helped me deliver a surprise Act of Service Gift for my sick husband today on Christmas Day.

An Act of Service, as defined by Gary Chapman, is when you do something for someone to demonstrate your love for them.  Husbands who scrape their wives windshield on her car so she doesn't have to are practicing an Act of Service.  Wives who cook a meal for their family and have it ready when their hungry husband and kiddos get home are performing an act of service.

Today my family helped me rearrange the extremely heavy bedroom furniture that I bought at a steal off craigslist.  My husband has been really sick and we hadn't been able to enlist help for this project yet.  We did a little Christmas this morning for our family and then he and the baby went to Denver to be with Huy's family.  While he was gone we got to work.  With a little elbow grease and a huge brain teaser of a puzzle with the bed frame we got it all taken care of.  I was so relieved to have it all done and I knew Huy would be overjoyed to see it complete.

It looks fabulous.  Mom and Tracey even came by again this afternoon to help me put my clothes away. That would have been too big a job for me.  I felt a tinge of sadness that I could do no more for them than thank them.  With our remodel project in the works and my decreased work due to chemo, money is a little short on supply.  I was not able to purchase gifts for my loved ones.  I find myself in the position of practicing the art of being a cheerful receiver still. I felt a little embarrassed when so many of the gifts under the tree were for me and outnumbered the gifts for my family.  Sigh.  I am a work in progress it seems.

I wrote all of that to write this.  If you ever find yourself in a situation like the one I found myself in and cash is short on supply consider the other four ways to demonstrate your love and to give a gift.  Physical hugs, squeezes, hand holding, a kiss and a smile can uplift a loved one. Telling your family verbally or writing them love letters might be more your style.  Make it an honest communication of your feelings.  Parents would love to receive this gift from their children.  Spend some quality time with your loved ones.  No television but real looking at each other and active interaction between you and them is all that is required to accomplish this goal.  Finally, my favorite, doing something for them that they would not want to do.  Gassing up their cars, getting the oil changed, spring cleaning, running errands, or cooking a meal.  I could go on but I think you have the idea.

As for me, I want to send a warm hug and big thank you to Tracey, Scott, Mom and Joe for all their help today.  My husband was surprised and pleased with the gift you helped me give to him.  I also want to thank everyone who sent me a gift for Christmas and for all those that remembered my son as well.  You helped give him a wonderful Christmas when I wasn't able to.  Thank you, Thank you, Thank you.


Friday, December 24, 2010

The Reason We Celebrate


In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.  (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.)  And everyone went to their own town to register.   So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.  He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.  While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born,  and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.  An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.  This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,  “Glory to God in the highest heaven,  and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”  So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.  When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child,  and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.  But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.  The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Christmas Cookies

Yesterday it was our first Colorado day together as a family and the weather was not cooperating.  It was freezing drizzle so catching a movie turned out not to be a good idea.  We had planned to make Christmas cookies just like we did when we were young so we set about doing that.  Mom had purchased a super size box of sugar cookie dough and I had purchased a huge cookie cutter collection years ago in anticipation of such a day. 

We all pitched in and began making cookies.  Mom mixed, Scott rolled, I placed them on the cookie sheet and Tracey set about mixing frosting colors for painting them.  We all pitched in and made trees, angels, trains, sailboats, stars and all the usual Christmas shapes.  Tan eventually woke from his nap and Dad helped him paint a cookie.  I think he likes this little tradition of ours because he was stealing cookies off the table for the rest of the evening.  We had to cut him off the closer it got to his bed time and he didn't appreciate that one little bit.

It was so much fun that this morning (12-23) I awoke with eager anticipation to get over to Mom and Dad's and join in the fun.  We have two humongous plates of cookies to eat.  Yum!  We have plenty of funny stories to tell each other, laughing to do, a baby to play with, and general celebration.  We have absconded our neighbors blender and purchased Pina Colada mix.  We are having a jolly good time.

It is so nice to all be together for Christmas.  We have all gotten together in Florida around Christmas but it has been since 1992 that we were together as a family for actual Christmas Day.  I generally prefer to travel to Maine in the summer seasons because you can enjoy the out doors and visit with everyone more easily.  Winter time can be a little iffy as far as travel and activities in Maine.  If you have lived there for any amount of time I am sure that you will agree.

Our Family Newsletter 2010

(I wish I could have figured out how to post the pictures that were part of this, but, woe is me, I can't)

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”.. Dickens
To all of our family and friends, we wish you all the blessings of the season as we celebrate the birth of our Savior. Our prayer for you and yours is for a celebration filled with joy, and the makings of cherished memories that will last more than a year, indeed a lifetime. Our Christmas will be spent in Colorado Springs in our new home. Our entire family will be coming on the 21st and we will spend our time together, cooking, laughing, and as said in A Christmas Carol ‘making merry’. So, if you’re looking for us, we’re at 4801 Daybreak Circle, and yes, that is a beautiful view of the Rockies we can enjoy whenever we want.

As we think back on this year filled with best and worst times, some highlights stand out.

We are so happy to announce that Tracey and Joe Rich are officially engaged. We happily welcome Joe to the family and anticipate more good things to come for them. Joe and Tracey share a love for beach combing for sea glass and antiquing. We look forward to a RICH future for them!!
Scott is in the process of relocating to New Hampshire. Like the rest of us, this has been a year of transition and change for him too.
I spent the first part of the year in Colorado helping the family and working some remotely. We were blessed to be able to rent the condo of a friend and took up residence there for the winter. As I went back and forth to Florida to keep up with work, Paul stayed in Colorado and became Tan’s full time “manny.” He and the baby are best buddies (Paul calls him his ‘buckaroo” among other things). To celebrate that special relationship, we had this picture taken on Tan’s first birthday. Susan and I had fun shopping for special look-a-like “Paul Comeau” shirts for the photo too. Paul and Tan share many things together and we have all rediscovered the joys of childhood. Tan is now 19 months old and is talking a lot. It is a joy to see the world through the eyes of a toddler and remember that little things can be so enjoyable. Just to take a walk to “find some dogs”, smell the flowers, crunch the leaves, and just spend time is a blessing beyond description.
We have had a great time exploring the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo with the baby and he has a special appreciation for the giraffes. It is fun comparing the various pictures taken throughout the year and seeing how he has changed and grown. I know it seems silly to say but we don’t know how we ever got by before “baby” (that what he calls himself) came along. Our lives seem so much more complete now.
In spite of Susan’s battle with cancer and chemo and all of the complications that involves, we did manage to get to Maine for two vacations and family parties. On both occasions, Paul, Susan, and Tan flew from Denver to Manchester, and I flew from Tampa to join them. We had a wonderful time “at home”, introducing Tan to the family and enjoying the sights, food, family and friends there. We had some wonderful times, went lobstering, dipped our feet in Frenchman’s Bay, and made sure Tan went swimming every day. What we enjoyed most though were the special times we had with family and friends.
We are looking ahead to 2011 with confidence and joy. Yes, Susan will be continuing in her fight and we will have difficult times ahead. But God willing, she will win this fight and we will stand by her as she does. We are so grateful for the faithful undergirding of God and for His provision. We are also so humbled and strengthened by the prayers and support of family and friends. We have learned that you are an army that does not quit and we love you all. Susan has received quilts, prayer shawls, scripture pillowcases, meals, rides, gift cards, cash, calls, emails, and the list goes on. Thank You! Please continue to keep us in your prayers.

We pray God’s richest blessings for you from our family to yours.
Merry Christmas and the happiest of New Years.
Becky and Paul, Susan and Huy, Tan, Tracey and Joe, and Scott

Thursday, December 23, 2010

What We Wish She Would Have Said

So without going into any detail or male-bashing of any sort, Susan and I had a great laugh over this video clip and suggestions about what we wish she would have said.  For example:
1.  "husbands may be tigers in the bedroom but they are DEAF in the rest of the house".  

2.  There will be a lot of times in your marriage when you will have a few choice words for your husband but it will be wiser not to say them.

3.  Division of labor is not a fancy term that means the wife does all the housework.

We welcome your suggestions............Susan and Becky

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Couple Doing Fantastic

Just a little update.  The young couple celebrating their first Christmas have taken me up on my suggestion and have begun making their own ornaments.  They said that they do not know when they have had so much fun.  They have purchased a tree and lights and craft supplies.  They have set everything up on the table and spent hours laughing, talking and glittering to their hearts content.  They have already begun planning next years theme.

Merry Christmas


Sunday, December 19, 2010


"All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated...As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon, calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come: so this bell calls us all: but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness....No man is an island, entire of itself...any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."
- John Donne, Meditation XVII

I am struck this evening by how vital companionship is.  I have had three glimpses into the lives of others and what role this plays in each.  I shared a meal this evening with my husband, my companion and with a friend who has no companion.  He wants one.  He became ill nearly 15 years ago and this resulted in his being abandoned by his friends and family.  It is difficult to be around someone with chronic pain and one by one they disappeared from his life.  Their absence is felt strongly by this man.  He is saddened and angry.  To share a meal with another person and to hold conversation is a luxury he doesn't often get to experience.  An invitation to do so puts a smile on his face and he is ready with gratitude.  It means so much to him.  I am brought to tears that something I take for granted is such a huge gift to him.

Another man I know had companionship and as a result of his poor decisions lost it.  He misses it.  It was a relationship that was easy and comfortable for both parties and spanned nearly a decade.  He is grief stricken with the loss.  He knows that he can only hold himself to blame.  He wonders how and when he might find companionship again.  He wants to share his life with someone.  He doesn't want to face the holidays alone.  He is depressed.  He doesn't want to be without companionship.  He gets invitations from friends and colleagues but they never materialize.  They make plans and then do not answer the phone when the appointed hour and day arrives.  He is living with the sting of love squandered.

The third man has a companion who demands that she alone hold the spotlight.  Neither of them have had good examples of a healthy man and woman sharing love and their lives together.  This man dreads going home for fear that she will be in a bad place emotionally, which is often the case, and he will need to spend his evening trying to uplift her.  He does not have a soft place to fall with his companion.  He is offered no acceptance.  He has no peace, no ability to let off some steam, and is never given a chance to pursue his own interests unless they share the road with hers.

It is sad to see how far away from God's plan we have strayed.  Families are under so much attack and so are couples.  Where is the loyalty, the commitment and the love that form the glue that can hold the companionship together?  I know that there are many couples that get it right.  Many of you faithful readers are in good standing with your mates.  Perhaps I am preaching to the choir.

I just have one request this holiday season.  In the next week think of the people around you that might fall into the three examples above and reach out to them.  Let us make time for the lonely, the shut in and the down trodden this week of Christmas.  Nothing major necessary here, just a cup of coffee, a phone call or a visit.  It will not take up much of your time and may mean all the difference in the world to the recipient.  Afterwards, when you go home, take a look at your companion and take your inventory.  Is there a little room for improvement?  Make that the greatest gift you give because I promise you it will make you a very wise person this week and every week you pledge to do it.

Merry Christmas with much love from me,


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Santa Sentiments, Sharing 62 years of Santa Photos

2009, Tan age 8 months

2010, Tan age 20 months

Paul, age 2 1/2 
Michael and Paul

Tracey (2 mons) and Susan (2 1/2 yrs)

Susan 3 1/2 yrs, Tracey, age 14 mons

Monday, December 13, 2010


Look for Photographer
I was asked today why I work.  The questioner wanted an answer for why I waste my time on other people's problems when I have such a problem in front of me.  He is young.  He doesn't know himself yet.  He is a sea shell being tossed to and fro by the strong waves and getting scratched a bit in the sand.  I sit higher on the beach away from the waterline.  I have come to rest.  I know myself.  I have found my place in life.  Work is not work for me.  It is an art that I practice and I can imagine myself doing anything else.

What I do feels so much a part of me that to not do it would be to deny myself the privilege of a portion of my identity.  I am blessed.  I am blessed beyond imagining.  I have found myself.  I have found my art.  I have found great love in my life.  I have birthed an incredible child.  I have a tremendous family.  I am a blood sucking weasel because I am asking for more than all of this.  I want the greatest gift of all.  I want time to enjoy it all for many years to come.

They say in life you either love your work or you work to do the things you love.  To have both is a nice situation to be in.  I know that I am lucky.  I am able to help others and get paid.  I am able to do something I am talented at.  I have found someone who taught me to live beneath my means so that we can both spend time with our son.  I love him for that.  He rescued me from the rat race I was existing in.  I worked too much. I spent too much. I have nothing to show for it except a collection of stories.

God made me a promise once.  Well, He has made me many promises but I want to tell you about one in particular. I had spent so much time off doing my own thing.  When I went looking for Him, He was waiting for me.  I went forward on an altar call.  The church employed teams of intercessor's who stood at the front in groups of two.  When I went forward they prayed with me and one of them shared these words with me.  "God wants you to know that every thing that has happened to you will become valuable and precious and useful.  You will use your experiences and be glad for them."

I did not know how this could be possible.  There are several experiences I have had, many choices that I have made, and things that I have walked through that I didn't care to remember then and certainly could not regard as precious.  I had not found my art then.  I have since realized how true this promise was and in the limitations of my human and flawed mind did not even grasp that God was not referring only to my past.  He planned to deliver on this promise past, present and future. The cancer has enhanced and brought out deeper hues in the palette I paint from.  The colors are more vivid and I understand more than I did before.

As a therapist I meet people walking through hell on earth.  Some have become lost and need to be led out of the dark place that they are in.  It would be hard to lead someone out of a place that I had not been.  God sends me clients that are in need of the help that I am uniquely equipped to assist them with.  I do not profess to have the expertise to handle everything out there and resolve all needs.  I stay in my area.  It is God who develops and expands this area from time to time.

Purple Passion
Yes, I am still working.  I do not plan to stop.  Jeff is leaving his work to find his more proper place on this big beach of life.  Maybe that is not accurate.  Maybe it would be more correct to say that he has finished this stage of development and is transitioning to the next.  I wish that when it was time for me to say goodbye to the different stages in my life and move on to the next stage I had been more willing to go.  I liked where I was.  I didn't realize that God was calling me on to bigger and better and molding me into the person that I am today.  I often forget that He is still doing that.  I am not yet what I will be.

What is your work?  Is it your art?  Do you conduct it with passion?  Do you look forward to it?  Can you see yourself doing something else?  Has God been beckoning you away?  Is He offering you another opportunity?  Take it.  It will be infinitely better than where you are.  It requires trust and perhaps a leap of faith.  My mother gave me great advice once when I was fretting over a decision to leave a job that I loved or stay.  I knew it was the right work but was it the right place?  She said, "It is your work so you will take it with you when you go.  It is what you do but you are miserable in that particular place."  I knew that she was right.  She brought me so much clarity in that moment.  It wasn't that job that I loved it was MY work.  I took her advice and it has brought me rich experiences, valuable learning lessons and peace.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Thoughts on Marriage

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness; it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity; it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness; it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair; we had everything before us, we had nothing before us; we were all going directly to Heaven, we were all going the other way." Charles Dickens

I know that this is the opening line to his famous work the Tale of Two Cities but he might have been writing about marriage in my humble opinion.  If things are ever going too well and you find yourself uttering a sigh of boredom you might ask your spouse how to liven things up.  If your spouse mentions that they have been considering a remodel project I can testify to you that it will do just the trick.

Huy and I have been through every emotion and played out some dramatic scenes here in this spacious 742 square feet.  It has been the tale of two cities...Paris and Saigon and like the original some parts are not pretty. There has been war, fierce battles, stand offs, impassioned pleas of forgiveness, high roads taken, horrendous mistakes made, ugly words uttered and commitment and love restored.  Heck, I should stop writing this blog and begin writing a screen play.

I do a lot of work helping couples work out issues in marriage counseling.  I am frequently asked if fighting is normal and if horrible fighting in the first year or two of marriage is a sign that a couple should not be married.  The answers are yes and no and in that order.  It takes some a little while to learn how to work as a team, make decisions together and to fight in a healthy way.  It is not a smooth process.  It is not a comfortable process.  It is a process.

I wanted to write this blog on marriage because cancer, crisis and stress can weigh heavily on a marriage and if there are weak spots they will undergo tremendous strain.  It is sad, but a lot of marriages do not survive cancer or other types of tragedy.  This is not even taking into consideration the stress and strain that an entire family suffers when one member has been afflicted with an illness or decline from age.  If you are newly diagnosed with a life threatening disease you should have a conversation with your spouse and with your family.  You can then join together as a team and try to mitigate any damages.

It is important that each member's needs are taken into consideration.  Everyone will need time to get away and recharge their batteries.  Sleep is essential.  Try to get more than what you normally get.  Also be sure and be thick skinned.  Sick people are grouchy and so are sleep deprived people.  Give each other an extra measure of patience and compassion.  We all know that we tend to growl and snap at our family members so try to exercise some self discipline.  In the face of crisis our loved ones can become hurt and these wounds can run deep.  Should the family crisis result in the loss of a family member it could result in a long term family fracture and loss of relationships.  This is just a sad case of tragedy upon tragedy but it happens.

If you are in the middle of a crisis or find yourself confronted with one in the near future I hope that your family is able to circle the wagons.  Perhaps you will remember the words I have written here and they will help you fix any potential problems before they take hold.  Peace has been restored in my home.  This remodel project tested and challenged both my husband and I but we made it through unharmed.  We have a strong extended family and we are able to work through issues as they arise.  We love each other and support each other even as we face this crisis.  Your continued support and prayer is vital to us and I want to extend a warm thank you.  It has helped us so much more than words can express.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Christmas and the Comeau's

Thank you all for all the positive feedback regarding Mom's blog post on Aunt Rose from the Audet/Violette side of the family.  In the spirit of fairness and equal billing, I want to write about the Comeau's in general, and my Uncle Michael in particular, who was my father's younger brother.
There is so much that could be said about my Uncle Michael.  There were good times and good years and there were times that were not good.  He loved us, his nieces and nephew and he loved to be generous with us, especially at Christmas time.  When things were not good and money was tight, he was sad, though we were too young to be aware of it.  When things were good you could count on him to be over the top.  I think that the most important thing that I could say about him is that he was fun.  He made celebrations, holidays and ordinary days fun.  We lost him to leukemia in 1996 and he is sorely missed.

My Grandmother Elaine Comeau
forced to pose in her toilet seat
cover and bath rug set,
typical of Uncle Michael's humor
One of the things that I remember about Christmas with him was how he had uplifted every aspect of the event into an art form.  Even gift wrapping was done with precision and care.  He would purchase the gifts, select a box if it didn't already come easily wrap able, and then perfectly center the paper over the gift so as to highlight and cast the most perfect Christmas glow.  He would then adorn the gift with accessories of ribbons and bows to complete the look.  He made each wrapped gift a masterpiece and work of art.  The Santa Claus in the wrapping paper would be perfectly centered and unobstructed by a haphazard and unconscious bow placement.

Michael and Paul Comeau
In his quest to create his wrapped art occasionally he would need to use a box borrowed from the pantry or left over from a past household purchase.  It would often be heard on Christmas morning..." don't trust the box" because when you unwrapped your gift and found an All Bran cereal box, for example, you might be led to believe it was a gag gift.  Not so, it was simply a way to turn the cashmere gloves into a nicer finished product to display under the tree while awaiting your moment of admiring the beauty of it before unwrapping it.

One year he gave my mother a purse stuffed with money.  He fanned out bills in the front pockets, he crumpled bills to serve as the stuffing inside and gave the appearance of it being loaded with money.  It was a scream.  We all went nuts over the gift and I think we all remember that moment.  A few years later, he gave each of us kids a piggy bank loaded with quarters.  I think it might have been $20 in quarters which to a kid was a lot of money.

My father and Uncle Michael grew up in the city of Lynn, Massachusetts.  My mother remembers how much he and my Dad would laugh and tease and joke.  In comparing and contrasting their upbringing, Mom says that while her family went skating or did activities outside together as a family, they having grown up in the city, learned to do fun things at home.  I consider myself blessed indeed to have been raised with the best of both worlds.  Comeau silliness inside the home along with parents and extended family who valued children and spent time with us doing a wide variety of activities outside the home.

Uncle Michael and my father had a special relationship.  They are fine examples of two people who were complete polar opposites yet loved each other unquestionably.  If one were to call the other and say, "I need help" the immediate response given would be "I am in my car."  I think that this is the first and most valuable lesson as family I learned growing up.  It had a big impact on me and my siblings.  We are also very different in nature from each other but we are close, we love each other and are able to express that to each other and we enjoy spending time together.

This year we will be celebrating a Comeau Christmas in Colorado.  Scott and Tracey along with her fiancee Joe are coming to celebrate with us.  We will be laughing and joking and teasing each other but it will all be in good fun.  We have a new Comeau and that makes it all the more important to remember and participate in family tradition.  Tan Michael Paul Nguyen, who is very much a Comeau and who very much inherited the Comeau humor and sense of fun, will celebrate his second Christmas. This year he is 19 months and much more aware of what is happening around him unlike last year.  He has discovered the lights and decorations of Christmas and he is inspired.  We are preparing ourselves for a rip roaring good time.

This year as you are putting the final touches on your holiday preparation I hope that you think of Christmas' past and your own family traditions.  Take a little extra care while wrapping your gifts to ensure that they are little works of art.  My Uncle Michael believed that gift wrapping was not a chore but a labor of love.  I hope that there is a lot of love for you and yours this holiday season.  If not, stop in and see us we have enough to go around.

Uncle Michael and my brother Scott Michael Comeau
Michael is sporting a trash can on his head

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

What kind of battle do you want to fight?

For those of you who have wondered what it feels like to have cancer I can only answer what it feels like for me.  Having been recently pregnant I can tell you that the energy depletion is like the first trimester exhaustion.  I feel as though I am making my way through really deep snow and each step is difficult.  I am more motivated to take the steps because I don't know how many steps I have left.

At the end of a long year of fighting, if you want to call it that, I can tell you that I thought I would have made more progress.  I was very confident that I would have had this thing licked by now and would have been on to bigger and better things.  I do not know what the future holds or how big a piece I have to work with. I can tell you this, I am interested in tasting the sweetness of life.  I want now, more than ever, to do the things that matter.

I enjoy watching my son play.  I enjoy working as a counselor.  I feel a little sad because I have a desire to do a lot of things that I am no longer able to do.  Running to Target with my husband to pick up a few things on a Sunday afternoon is no longer an option.  I have to reserve my strength because I have spent too much at times and suffered the consequences. I could focus on what I am not able to do or I could enjoy the things that I am.  I can make my son laugh.  I can love my husband and my family. I can share my heart.  I can offer guidance to those that come to me for help.

I am inspired by Elizabeth Edwards and how she chose to live her remaining days.  She died of breast cancer this week.  I am not interested in the politics but I would like to share a couple of quotes about her.

"I have found that in the simple act of living with hope, and in the daily effort to have a positive impact in the world, the days I do have are made all the more meaningful and precious. And for that I am grateful."
   ----- Elizabeth Edwards' final Facebook post
According to an article in Today People, "Elizabeth did not want people to say she lost her battle with cancer. The battle was about living a good life and that she won."

I agree with Elizabeth Edwards on the battle.  I do not want to live my life in war against cancer or anything else.  I have no desire to fight.  I am interested in being healthy.  I am praying for a body that is free of cancer and full of energy and vitality. I am pursuing a life that is long and meaningful.  I want to spend my days surrounded by those that I love and to fill my day with activities which demonstrate the love that I feel.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Home is Where The Heart Is

I was driving back to Colorado Springs the other day and enjoying some gorgeous views of the sun setting behind the Rockies.  I was driving along a country road just enjoying the scenery.  There are farms and ranches, little rural towns, old, old, country homes, and a lot of new, huge and beautiful homes.  It's prairie as Susan has informed, so the grass is low and brown, but beautiful anyway.   I wish I could have taken a picture of the setting sun because it was awesome and you would have enjoyed it.  Maybe another time...

Anyway, as I was driving along, I got to thinking about my trip to Florida and going home on Sunday.   We have rented our Florida home for the winter to a lovely lady from Michigan.  Mary is a widow and has opted to return to Zephyrhills for the winter and will be staying at our house.  When she learned that I was coming back to work for a week, she invited me to stay with her (at my house).  I was initially reluctant because it is kinda weird to rent your house to someone and then go stay there with them.  But she kept insisting so I checked into it a little and Gloria told me I would be crazy not to, so, I accepted.  And it beats the Red Rose Inn.  (fast-forward to Monday night.  got home from work, Mary greeted me at the door with a glass of wine, chicken supper on the stove, jello in the fridge, table set for two.  lovely evening)

But, I digress.  What I was thinking about as I was marveling at the Rockies, was how much I was looking forward to "going home" next week.   And then I realized how convoluted that thinking was and started to explore my feelings.  We now have a lovely condo here in Colorado Springs a minute from Susan, and it is comfortable and convenient.  I love it.   And then, we have a wonderful little home in Zephyrhills on the edge of the golf course, with two little ponds close by just filled with bird life and turtles (and golf balls).  We spent a lot of time designing this home because we just knew we were going to live out our twilight years there.  We just love it.   And then, we have our Surry, Maine home on Patten Pond where we enjoy lake views and loons, and the smells of pine woods and home.  We just love it.  I figured out that where ever I'm not, I miss, and wherever I am, I love, and am loved.  Does that make any sense at all???    So that is what prompted my question, "where on earth is home"  ???  (in case you are thinking that Paul and I must be independently wealthy, I can assure you that we are not.  What we are able to do is keep our heads above water by renting our homes some of the time.  But what we are is blessed, and so far, so good)

And then, I started thinking about all of the benefits and blessings of these homes and these places.  Mostly...friends and family, people we love and love to visit at each of these places, beloved, faithful, concerned folks who are there for us through thick and thin.   In Maine, we have lots of family of course, my parents and siblings, then Tracey and Joe, Scott, Diane and Skip, Mary and Mike, Sally and Ed, Priscilla and Grange, Patty and Rob, First Baptist Church, and dozens of others too numerous to mention.  In Florida, we have Gloria and Bob, and Sandy, Kate and Charlie, Dianne and Edward, Debbie and Heather, and the Bible study ladies, and the Winter Haven Hospital crowd to mention a few.   In Colorado, we have of course, Susan, Huy, and Tan the incredible, Pam and her father Frank, Jimmie and Joy, and Marilyn.  Susan has her own list of course, a long list to be sure.  (there is also an 'other' crowd filled with beloved friends that I have never met like Jo and Barbara, and some Facebookers and bloggers.  how wonderful)

So, where is my home?  Where is yours?   Then, I pondered that the biblical answer, the eternal truth, is, "none of the above."   We are merely sojourners here, just passing through, renters not owners.  We are ambassadors of a heavenly realm with mansions ready and waiting for us.  (will we ever have to clean bathrooms there?).   So, the real answer for me, for now, is the one I gave at the beginning of this piece.  HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS.  It's not really a physical space, a house, a place where we store our goods and possessions.  It isn't the sum total of stuff and things as much as we take comfort in those items.  HOME is where hearts connect, where lives entwine, and where your soul can rest.  HOME is where you can be yourself, go without makeup, stay in your pajamas all day, and as Tan demonstrates, dance with abandon.  This Christmas, as we decorate the house, I'm going to decorate my heart and celebrate with Thanks for the ones who make it a HOME.  Umm, that would be YOU!!!    Thanks!!!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Power of a Positive Word

As the clock ticked away bringing me closer to chemo treatment number two I was filled with dread.  It is one thing to get sick.  It is another thing entirely to know that you are about to do something that will cause you to be very sick.  I was trying to follow Dr. Matei's advice that I needed to be positive about this treatment for maximum benefit.  I was struggling to get there.  On 11-29-10 I met with Dr. Matei and spoke to the nurses who felt confident that I would not be as sick this time around.  Dr. Matei also informed me that I would be having four treatments rather than four months of once every three weeks. This meant that I was half way done already.

A few well placed words of positive encouragement and I felt like I could face the treatment.  My strength began to return and I felt positive again.  I think it was pretty evident that I was not excited about chemotherapy but hope had been restored.  I am receiving a lot of emotional support and prayer but I was still struggling with some fear and negativity.  I cannot emphasize enough that a few words of encouragement given at the right moment can make a huge difference in some one's day.  I know because these words of encouragement made all the difference for me.

I do pretty well to keep myself in a positive place.  I think my readers can testify to that.  Facing the holidays with the thought of being ill and losing my hair and all that chemotherapy entails was enough to derail me momentarily.  It amazes me how quickly I was able to recover with just a few kind words and a small ray of hope.  Yesterday, I was struck by how sad, miserable and daunting it can be to face the holidays when you do not have a foundation of love and healthy family life to draw from.  I told the young couple to keep it simple and fun.  Get a tree and lights and then buy popcorn and paint.  Give each other one gift and one home made card and maybe one gift for the house.  If they want to do more of a gift giving save it for Valentines Day and take advantage of the sales.  I gave them permission to refuse to attend any and all holiday parties. 

They left my office relieved.  The pressure of a first Christmas with all that they are facing was just too much.  Throw in college and military life and the mix got ugly.  I hope that you will remember a few things this holiday season as well.  First of all it is supposed to be fun and not stressful.  If it is stressful then please consider toning it down.  Next remember that a few kind words of encouragement can breathe life into someone who is struggling so please give generously of them.  Please sprinkle these powerful and positive words along your way this holiday season as you never know when someone might really need them.