Thursday, January 1, 2015

Time to Say Goodbye . . .

Carole Leigh Fitch Ingram

Many times over the past couple of years, my mom, Carole Leigh, would mention to me that “one day you’ll have to make a blog post on my behalf.” I absolutely hated when she said that as I’ve been exceptionally talented at mentally pushing this day out into the future. But I did make her that promise and today it is my heart-wrenching duty to fulfill it. On the evening of October 23rd, Mom died peacefully at home after a brief stay in the hospital. She was surrounded by her family and her kitty cat Lily was beside her on the bed as she was finally forced to say goodbye.

One of Mom's all-time favorite songs "Time to Say Goodbye" performed by Sarah Brightman & Andrea Bocelli.

Today would have been Mom’s 69th birthday.  Mom was always pleased to note that she was the “first Baby Boomer.” And indeed she was born on January 1, 1946, the date historians mark as the first of the Baby Boom Generation.  Mom’s birthday was also special, simply because it fell on New Year’s Day. While she generally hated having this date for her birthday, I always thought it was incredibly special and it made our New Year’s celebrations so much more meaningful. For me, both New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day will always be intrinsically woven together with memories of my beautiful mother. And neither holiday will ever feel the same again – there won’t be any more birthday cake at midnight. I always thought it seemed so fitting to usher in the new year celebrating the birth and the life of my mom, one of the most remarkably good people I have ever known.

Carole Leigh age one

Mom was featured in the newspaper with another little boy on her 5th birthday as the first of the Baby Boomers.

Mom wasn’t ready to give up her fight with multiple myeloma. She had recently gone back on the new combination therapy she mentioned in her last post – carfilzomib, pomalidomide, and dexamethasone. That combination is a cutting edge therapy that she’d only been able to take one round of in the spring before multiple hospitalizations and kidney issues forced her to stop treatment. A few weeks before she died she met again with Dr. Bensinger at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance and had a very encouraging visit. Her road ahead would be very tough, but she had responded very well to the treatment the first time she was on it. So we had new hope – yet again.

Always a sweetheart, Grandma tells me Mom was an angel from the day she was born.

Unfortunately Mom had a fall in her kitchen. She took a glancing blow to her head and thought she was perfectly fine. But it turned out she had started bleeding in her brain. And because her platelet counts were so incredibly low – her body had no way to heal itself. Because of her many complications, including kidney failure and dialysis, the brain surgery that would have been required to stop the bleeding would have been much too difficult for her to tolerate. She likely would have suffered, and likely wouldn’t have made it. Her group of doctors including her attending doctor, oncologist, nephrologist, and neurosurgeon all agreed that it was in her best interests not to proceed with further treatments – and we were sadly forced to agree.

Many of you know my dad Brent as Mom's "hero" and indeed he was a tireless caregiver offering her constant love and support. He never complained and would drop anything for her smallest need. Here they are just starting out together.

Happy times together

While Mom hadn’t been ready to give up just yet, I also know that she was at peace with her life and with its looming and likely untimely end.  She’d had years to think on this disease and how it affected her life, and how it would affect her life’s end. And I know that Mom came to the end of her life with few, if any real regrets – and she was truly at peace with whatever would come. And she had good reason to be, for hers was a life incredibly well-lived.

 Mom was an avid roller-skater as a girl. She's the blond just to the left of 12 o'clock.

For those of you who only knew her through this blog, I’d like to tell you a little bit about her personality and life.  When someone passes on, we generally hear how wonderful they were and many positive words about them, as we should. But I can’t emphasize to you enough, when I say that Mom was truly, truly one of the kindest, gentlest, and most generous spirits, that in her case the words don’t begin to scratch at the truth of what a lovely human being she was. 

She walked through life with a cheerful and open disposition, making friends wherever she went. I’ve never known someone so ready to embrace new friends and to see the good in others. I read a quote years ago that said “He likes to like people, therefore people like him.” And I’ve always thought this described Mom very well. She expected to be pleased with others and I believe she saw in others their finer selves, and in turn people loved her very dearly. And maybe it was this open-hearted, loving nature of hers that accounts for her generosity of spirit. Mom was tirelessly patient with others and giving of her time, energy, resources, and love. She was tolerant and accepting of even the most difficult people in her life – and was willing to continue to lovingly serve them when they were in need. She was always the first to speak up for someone and give them the benefit of the doubt. As an elementary school teacher she was not only routinely given the difficult children, but also worked with extremely difficult parents very well. She had a unique and rare knack for finding common ground and compassionate understanding with others.

Another remarkable trait of Mom's was her lack of complaint. Throughout the 5 years of her illness, while she had many moments of feeling down, and gloomy, and sad - she never asked "why me?" I view this as a testament to her humble nature. In fact, she often asked the opposite, "why not me?" This always blew me away - so many of us (myself included) might rail against the Universe, scream "it's not fair," and ask over and over again "why is this happening to me?"  Mom never did. While she was very sad and many times scared about her diagnosis, she accepted it and steeled herself against the heavy winds this disease brought her way.

Enjoying her beautifully decorated living room one Christmas.

Mom was also an intense lover of beauty with an eye for detail that I always envied. She had a gift for finding the beauty in the smallest of things and noticing it all around her in the world. From the smallest leaf, to the hawk perched atop a tree a mile away, to the most spectacular of sunsets, Mom noticed them all. On a typical rainy, dreary northwestern day, my dad and I can often be heard moaning and complaining about the weather, and the lack of the bright, beautiful sun. But Mom would usually chime in and say “but look at that bare tree there – look at the beautiful lines of its branches and the lovely silhouette it makes against the sky.” That was Mom through and through.

Mom in her classroom with her "Tigers."

Mom not only appreciated beauty and art – she also created it. One of my greatest regrets in life is that I did not inherit her endless artistic talents. She was a wonderfully talented painter, despite not spending a terribly great amount of time doing it. And she brought her artistry into her classroom, creating wonderful displays and art projects that stimulated and enriched her students’ lives. Her classroom was always a riot of color and covered with art she created and taught her students to create. A school district custodian once told her she had the best classroom in the entire district – and he knew as he’d been in every one.  But Mom’s talents weren’t limited to the visual arts. She was also a lover of music and was a dedicated and talented pianist as a girl. As a sophomore in high school Mom spent countless hours practicing Chopin’s Polonaise Heroic as her talent for the Quil Ceda Pageant, at which she won Sophomore Princess. One of the last things Mom wrote on her Facebook page was about an upcoming performance we were planning to attend together of Mozart’s Requiem. She had this to say: “I have always loved Mozart and said his music makes my heart sing, but his Requiem makes my heart soar!”

Mom practiced tirelessly to perform this Chopin "Polonaise N°6 l'heroique". Performed here by Martha Argerich.

Grandma Ella, me, and Mom out to lunch in August.

Mom with her niece Tova when she visited from Denver this summer.

Mom would want me to make sure to tell you that despite what was an incredibly difficult year for her (the lack of blog posts speaks to this fact), there were also many bright spots peppered throughout. Sometime in late spring or early summer, her white counts boosted back up well into the normal range and she was free to get out and enjoy the world on the days that she felt strong. We had several wonderful dinners out on the waterfront in Seattle, celebrated my dad’s 70th birthday with a surprise party, and had treasured friends and relatives come and stay with us in August and September. The highlight of this time for Mom was attending her 50th high school class reunion in August. She felt like a million bucks that night and said she felt like the belle of the ball.

Belle of the ball - on her way to her 50th Class Reunion

Our dear friend Amy came to visit from Charleston in September

Mom would also want me to tell all of you out there around the world – how tremendously much she valued your love and support. Both the vocal support and the quiet nameless hits to her blog from points all across the globe. She marveled that people from the seemingly farthest corners of the world were reading her blog. You buoyed her spirits and gave her solace in the messy world of multiple myeloma in which she’d found herself. And we, her family, can’t begin to thank you for giving that gift to our beloved wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend.

This image was the very last post Mom shared on her Facebook wall.

As we start this new year, and what would have been the start of her very own new year – her loss feels all the greater. None of us really felt up to celebrating New Year’s Eve last night without her. But today I want to honor her memory, her life, and this fortuitous day on which she entered the world 69 years ago. I do this by sharing these little pieces of her life with all of you. By fulfilling the promise I made to her, by promising to go forward into the new year remembering to live by her example, and by bringing with me the lessons she instilled in me of what it means to be a good person. What it means to be a patient, generous, and loving member of our community. I have been blessed beyond all measure to have had her these many years. She will be sorely, sorely missed - but we take comfort in knowing how many lives she touched, and how many friends she had who loved her as we did. Her life was shorter than we'd have liked - but it was full to brimming with community, friendship, adventure and love.

Happy Birthday Mom – our lives will never be the same, but we will carry your gentle spirit and generous ways with us always, tenderly in our hearts.

Dad, me, Mom, and my brother Tyler in Hawaii in 2006.

If you’d like to help remember Mom today, please consider donating blood, platelets, or plasma - and as I know many of you can’t - please encourage those around you to offer this gift. I can’t even comprehend the vast number of units Mom received, and that saved her life on more than one occasion, letting us keep her with us a little longer. I have continually marveled at the generosity of so many nameless strangers out there who gave this gift to my mom and to us.


In Bologna, Italy 2012

Friday, May 16, 2014

New Hope . . .Bodaecia Rising

Since my last post in January, things have gone from bad to worse and it has been an extremely difficult time.  Many times, I tried to begin a post but I was overwhelmed by how I was feeling and the frightening fact that the drugs were failing me and my lambda light chain was going up at a precipitous rate. My warrior spirit had left me and I was beginning to feel defeated.

In my last post, I was on 200 mg of thalidomide along with dexamethasone.  I felt postively toxic and never felt well and at times, I felt like a toxic dump. To make matters worse, my lambda light chain kept going straight up along with the beta 2  microglobulin number. The thalidomide was having no effect on the myeloma and after one 28 day cycle and part of the next cycle, my doctor stopped that regimen.  My creatinine was creeping up and being watched carefully.  

My next plan included a 21 day cycle of 20 mgs of revlimid daily  along with dexamethsone.  I continued to feel toxic and the creatinine was still misbehaving.  I was ready for the week off after the 21 days, thinking I would start feeling better.  That was not to be.  Each day I felt worse and by the fourth day, I knew I needed to get into the doctor and soon.  I went the next morning and by afternoon I was in the hospital with acute renal failure.  They flooded me with fluids and transfused me and on the fourth day I was able to go home.  My doctor reduced the revlimid to a much lower dose: 10 mg every other day.  On April 22, I was hospitalized again because my calcium had become dangerously high and I was still in acute renal failure.  Again, I was flooded with fluids and transfused.  This was followed by:

- A kidney ultrasound which showed that my kidneys did not look damaged.

- A kidney biopsy that revealed that the myeloma was sending proteins to gather in the kidneys and that was causing the failure.

-A bone marrow biopsy which revealed that the myeloma burden in the bone has risen to about 70%.  This has caused my wbc and rbc to have taken quite a prolonged dive. My white count has hovered from .7 to about 1.6 for about three months.  However, yesterday, the wbc was 2.9!

- Next, my feelings of toxicity were validated because the toxins were unable to be processed out of my body and the residue was still in there swirling around. It was determined that kidney dialysis was in order, so I had surgery to place a hemodialysis catheter.

-Another phase of treatment was to begin plasma phoresis.  This process uses a centrifuge like is used to separate out platelets, stem cells. etc.  The goal of plasma phoresis is to remove the proteins from the kidneys that are impairing the kidney functions.

- While I was still in the hospital, I began dialysis and plasma phoresis.

- I was released after nine days, but have been going back to the hospital to continue dialysis and phoresis.

Last week my outpatient schedule looked like this:

Monday, 8:00 AM -  Four hours of dialysis 
Tuesday1:00 PM -  Two to three hours of plasma phoresis
Wednesday, 8:00 AM -  Four hours of dialysis and two units of blood
Thursday, 1:00 PM -  Two to three hours of plasma phoresis. (This  turned out to be a seven hour day....a long story.)
Friday, 8:00 AM -  Four hours of dialysis

I had seven plasma phoresis treatments and am finished with those.  But the dialysis continues on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

In the meantime, my oncologist started dexamethasone again at 40mg each day for four days and then four days off and repeating that.

I have been feeling much better lately even if I am  being "propped up" by dexamethasone, dialysis, and transfusions. I even baked bread yesterday!   However, there have been some dark days especially when I was still  in the hospital. I felt like I was nearing the end and starting to think about things like not making it to my 45th anniversary in June, attending my  50th High School Reunion in the fall or finding out how the last season of Mad Men ends.  Of course, there were many other much more important worries and laments that were troubling my emotional state. It was the worst of times.

My oncologist was adament that I go back to Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) which includes world renowned Fred Hutchinson Cancers Research Center. In 2010 I had my autologous stem cell transplant there.   I was able to get an appointment with Dr. Bill Bensinger who is their myeloma expert and guru.  He has been prominently featured a in number of Patient Power videos with Andrew Schorr.  That appointment was today and I feel like I have a new lease on life.

It was an encouraging and uplifting consultation as we reviewed my case and discussed possiblities.  His recommendation is a combination therapy with two new drugs, carfilzomib and pomalidomide along with dexamethasone.  He indicated that it has been an effective combination in a high number of cases and he was confident that it could help me. This may also allow my kidneys to improve their function if the myeloma is being beaten back.  No guarantees on this but I am hopeful.   He said this combination has the ability to get patients back into remission and if not remission, close enough that an autologous stem cell transplant  could be the next step. I still have 5 million stem cells in cold storage at SCCA and we can follow up the combination regimen with a transplant if necessary.

It was the best of times today.  We left Dr. Bensinger feeling there was hope again and that has been sorely lacking over the last few  months.  Today, I began  to feel my inner warrior emerging again.....she has been absent for months.  I think I'll call her Bodaecia after the Queen of the Iceni who led a revolt against the Romans in ancient England.  She was a fierce warrior and that is exactly what I need to be as I enter this next phase of fighting this insidious disease.


Friday, January 31, 2014

Best of Times. . .Worst of Times

Happy New Year friends. . .
May 2014 be the best of times for you!

It has been such a long time since I wrote my last post, "The Philosophy of Piglet and Pooh." In that post, Pooh exclaimed the sentiment that "today" is his favorite day. I have given a lot of thought about what to write in a new post since there haven't been many of my todays that I can call my favorite lately.  However, there were a few days that were my favorites and I will call those days the best of times.

The Best of Times

During December I got great pleasure from preparing for Christmas.  Decorating is something that I have always loved to do but since my diagnosis of multiple myeloma I haven't been able to do as much.  This year was different.  Even though I was often tired and not feeling great, I felt compelled to decorate. I even created a new vignette, "Bonfire"  that inspired me and put me in the Christmas spirit.  Now, my house was not decorated in the full regalia that I used to do, but it was much more than I have done since 2009.
Inspired by author and artist Susan Branch
In My Living Room

Christmas was special this year because my nephew Peter and Marisa's boyfriend, Dan spent the week with us.  We ate good food, played games, opened presents, celebrated and enjoyed all the cozy trappings of the holiday.  My energy level was pretty good and everyone pitched in and helped me as needed.  It was, indeed, the best of times.
Peter camping out by the Christmas Tree.

The Worst of Times 

I suppose "worst" is a little strong . . . maybe "not so good" would be more accurate.  I have been on velcade for nearly a year and it finally stopped working.  At  the end of November, my lambda light chain went up seven points.  It was a small increase but I don't like any increases. Three weeks later it had jumped up 42 more points.  This was quite upsetting, but my doctor reminded me that the total number was still fairly low.  Because it had gone up rather quickly it was apparent that velcade was no longer working. It was also causing side effects that were affecting my day to day life, so it was decided that I would start a new treatment plan.   

My next appointment was on December 31 and my new treatment was about to begin.  I am now back on  200 mg of thalidomide and 40 mg of dexamethasone on the first, ninth and seventeenth day of the cycle. Dizziness is a side effect of thalidomide and I have been experiencing that, but that has passed.  At times, the effects of this drug make me feel like I am radiating!  And then there is the dexamethasone. I have a couple of good days and then when it wears off.....Oh my!

I had bloodwork done on December 31 and received my lambda light chain results online on January 6.  My number had gone up another 118 points.  I expected it to go up because velcade hadn't been working since November and I hadn't started my new plan yet.  However, that number shocked me.  My number is still in the lower range but the trajectory has been straight up and it is frightening.  Will it stop going up?  Is this when the myeloma cells get the upper hand?  Will it become refractory?  I have so many questions and I am discouraged because I feel like I am back to square one in this battle.  

My most recent appointment was on  January 28.  I had the usual blood tests and the CBC numbers were pretty typical for me.  I won't see the light chain results until early next week. While I would be relieved to see the number go down, I have told myself I will be quite thrilled if it doesn't go up as much as it did last time. At this point, any positive change is a good thing.  The last two months have revolved around not feeling well most of the time and light chain numbers going up, so even the slightest improvement will make me happy.

The very worst of times was on January 7 when we had to say goodbye to our beautiful 18 year old tabby cat, Aislinn. She was an extraordinary cat who was tiny in stature but huge in personality. She was in charge at our house and everyone knew it.  When people came to visit, they would often ask, "Where is Aislinn?"  We always liked to say she had "star" quality.  She was a star in our lives and we will love her forever.
 In July of 2012 I wrote a post entitled, "Aislinn Striking a Pose."  Here is the link:

I am hopeful that I will soon begin to enjoy more "favorite" days. As my body gets more accustomed to the thalidomide, there should be more days of feeling better than just all right.  If the maximum dosage I am receiving starts beating the light chain numbers back towards the normal range, it will change my outlook completely.  I have been discouraged in the last two months, but I am beginning to emerge from that feeling and looking toward brighter days.  Just as the days are getting longer, my hopes are growing for the ultimate goal of achieving remission again.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Philosophy of Piglet and Pooh

 “What day is it?"

"It's today," squeaked Piglet.

"My favorite day," said Pooh.
~ A.A. Milne

Yesterday, I had my appointment with my oncologist and began the next cycle of chemotherapy.  The first thing on my mind to ask him was about the elevation of the lambda light chain on the last blood work.  He reminded me that what we really need to look at is both the kappa light chain number and the lambda light chain number and the ratio between the two.  My ratio had stayed the same and that was a good thing.  It would have been more alarming if there was a change in the ratio. So, for now, we are going to watch those numbers carefully and continue on with my chemo regimen.

One thing I love about my doctor is his great sense of humor.  I have always felt it was a bonus to have an excellent oncologist who also has a sense of humor.  I see him every three weeks and at each appointment, we laugh.  Maybe some cancer patients wouldn't like this, but I do.  Yesterday was no exception.  I asked him what we will do if the lambda light chain goes up and the ratio indicates a problem. His quick response was,  "I'll stop testing for it!"  In all seriousness, my doctor said that if that happens, we will probably change my chemotherapy plan. Brent and I laughed so hard  at his first response  and, as we know, laughter is good for the soul. 

"What does all this have to do with the charming words of Piglet and Pooh?" you might ask.  Well, to me this quote is one of the simplest and purest expressions of the idea that we should enjoy and cherish each day we are given.  When you have been told that the disease you have cannot be cured, it is a natural progression to spend a lot of time thinking and even philosophizing about life and death and I have had nearly four years to do just that.  Talking to my doctor and being reassured and laughing hard reminded me that each today can be my favorite day.  Even on a difficult day, when I  am not feeling well and find it challenging to control the anxiety that living with cancer can bring, it can be a favorite day. . . I am still here. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Hiatus and Halloween

It seems like I have been on hiatus since my last post was written over two months ago on August 15.  Since I began this blog, I have posted every month until now and I am not sure why it has taken me so long to write a new post.  Could it be writer's block?  Sometimes I think it is but maybe not. 

Over the last 5 1/2 months my multiple myeloma oddysey has been one of chemo twice a week for two weeks and then a week off.  I see my doctor and start all over again.  Nothing too interesting to report there, just the usual fatigue and what I call a toxic feeling that usually includes a headache.  On the days after chemo, the steroid drip that I am given before Velcade, gives me a boost and I can almost always count on feeling pretty well those days and often the next day after.  As you can see, nothing terribly interesting or exciting has been happening since I last wrote. Until last week.

To my great disappointment, my lambda light chain went up instead of down.  The time before it had gone down only four points and that was unsettling because it seemed to me it was an indicator that Velcade was losing its effectiveness against the myeloma cells.  So, when the number actually went up last time, it was upsetting.  Actually, it was scary.  I haven't talked to my oncologist about this latest result, but I will see him on October 29.  At my last appointment, I talked to him about the possibility that Velcade was losing its mo-jo but he said it is too early to tell.  He assured me we still have a lot of options including my 5 million stem cells in cold storage.  Since the initial shock of reading that elevated number in my online medical chart, I have calmed down a bit.  I know that there can be blips in blood work.  My WBC is a perfect example.  It is up and down like a proverbial yo-yo from one week to the next.  I hope that is the case with the lambda light chain since it is the main cancer marker that they track for me.

Three years ago, on October 19, I began the stem cell transplant process.  We drove back and forth to Seattle each day for  new rounds of screenings and tests.  This included full body x-rays, heart scans, breathing tests, blood work and more blood work, a dental exam, a mammogram, just to name a few.  It also included a couple of scares along the way: the surprising diagnosis of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and the need for a breast biopsy.  To my relief, the biopsy turned out all right.  I had two emotional meltdowns during this time.  First, when I got the call that I needed a breast biopsy and second, the day they placed the Hickman line.  That Hickman line made the whole ordeal so real and the thought of those two lines hanging out of my chest for the next two months was more than I could take on that day.  But, I got through it.  On November 14, I checked into the University of Washington Medical Center and the real journey began with 24 hour round the clock chemotherapy that went on over five days. After that, we lived in Seattle for two months to be near the clinic as I continued the arduous process.  It is hard to believe it was three years ago.


I'm not afraid
There is no need.
He's but a grown up
Pumpkin seed.

In October of 2009 my home was in full Halloween regalia.  Oh, how I loved collecting Halloween things and decorating our home at the beginning of each October.  Sadly, all that Halloween fun has been boxed up and stored in the garage until now.  After I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in January of 2010, I didn't feel up to the task of decorating and undecorating for Halloween for the last three years.  Even though I haven't been feeling great the past few months, for some reason I felt compelled to get those boxes out of storage this year.  My house is not in "full" regalia but I have put out some of my favorite things and it looks like Halloween in here again.  It has buoyed my spirits (no pun intended) and it has felt wonderful to get creative and be back doing what I love to do...decorate.


Halloween at Carole Leigh's House

Thursday, August 15, 2013

On the Summit


One cannot stay on the summit forever -
One has to come down again.

So why bother in the first place? Just this.
What is above knows what is below -
But what is below does not know what is above.

One climbs, one sees -
One descends and sees no longer
But one has seen!

There is an art of conducting one’s self in
The lower regions by the memory of
What one saw higher up.

When one can no longer see,
One does at least still know.

Poem from ‘Mount Analogue’
RenĂ© Daumal (1908–1944)

Rene Daumal was a French spiritual surrealist writer and poet who was born in Boulzicourt, Ardennes, France in 1908. One can assume that when this poem was written he was relating to life in general and I find the first line to be profoundly moving, "One cannot stay on the summit forever."  This is not a sad statement because this brief poem gives us hope and confidence that what we saw and experienced on the summit and can no longer see is always with us.  Furthermore, this poem gives me the sense that there are many trips to the summit and descents as we travel through life.

Yesterday at yoga class, the instructor read this poem during the resting phase of our workout. Instantly, it struck a chord with me and my recent experiences with relapse and treatment and it somewhat changed the direction I was planning to travel in this new post.  It even changed the title which I had tentatively decided would be Unpredictable

The past seven months have been, at best, unpredictable.  There have been so many trips to the summit and descents to the valley and most with no predictability.  I never really know when I will be feeling well and enjoying the view from the summit or when I will be too tired to do much of anything but nap.  Over these months, I have had some very good days and if I didn't know better, I would think I was back in remission and feeling well or maybe I could even imagine that I had never been sick in the first place.  Along with these wonderful days, there have been a fair number of days of illness (shingles, colds, coughs) and then there were the low blood counts that caused me to miss treatments.  These missed treatments and my trip to Washington DC, which caused a gap in the cycles, allowed the lambda light chain to reverse its downward trend and go back up.  Fortunately, it has only gone up about 20 points.  

In all this unpredictability, there is one positive constant:  Velcade doesn't make me feel nauseous or sick at all.  However, it often makes me incredibly tired and head-achy. I do know and understand that being tired is a lot easier to cope with than being nauseated and I am grateful for that.  Another positive note is I won't lose my hair.

Now how does this all tie in with the poem with which I began this post?  As I listened to our instructor read the poem, I realized that when I am at the summit, I am collecting knowledge and memories for those times when I have descended back down the mountain.  No matter how tired I may be or worried or frightened about my future, I can "have the memory of what I saw higher up" and I still know that I can climb there again and I will. . . many times.  I can see that with clarity now. 

Finding Peace and Contentment in My Own Backyard

This summer has been one of the best ever in Western Washington State.  We have had many summers in the past that never seemed to quite materialize into the lazy, warm days that we all love and enjoy.   Well, this summer has been one to remember with warm sun, little rain and many hours of daylight.  Because of this lovely weather, I have been outside more and our backyard has never looked better.  Now, I must confess, neither Brent nor I are crazy about gardening or yard work and if you were to look too closely, you would probably see more than a few weeds.  We have lived in this house for 39 years and the yard has evolved more by happenstance than planning and much of the "borrowed scenery" beyond our yard is wild, but I love the natural beauty and privacy it affords.  It has been a great source of peace and contentment to me more than ever before.  
Enjoying the Morning Sun

"Borrowed Scenery"

Tomato Crop on the Porch

"Borrowed Scenery" Beyond the Hydrangea

 Evening Falls