By clicking on the images below you can find the source of my inspiration.
Have you ever stopped to notice how many miracles take place in one day?
In January 2009, when our world felt like it had come to a complete standstill, when every moment was devoid of hope – I had a revelation. In the midst of horrendous circumstances, good things still happen.
In the dismal space of Royal North Shore Hospital, days after we were told she had three months to live (without treatment), we started to look for the good.
1. “Isn’t it good that I came with you and made sure you had that blood test!”
2. “Isn’t it good that my friend can teach my class until you get better!”
3. “Isn’t it good that we have our own room!”
4. “Isn’t it good that the orderly noticed your Bible and prayed for you before you went in!”
5. “Isn’t it good that the doctor made a joke with you when he saw you at the café!”
6. “Isn’t it good that Dad found a park today in under an hour!”
7. “Isn’t it good that we have that lovely nurse rostered on again today!”
8. “Isn’t it good that my friend works in the blood bank and they have B+ blood today!”
9. “Isn’t it good that the lady in the café was happy to toast our sandwiches!”
10. “Isn’t it good that we have our iPhones!”
And so began the ‘Ten Tiny Miracles,” things you might not normally rejoice over.
Grant made Sam a book so we could write them all down.
As the years passed (almost two now) the miracles grew. There is so much to be thankful for.
On Monday night I watched her leave the house to go to work at the Mall. The sun filled the sky with its hues of magenta, and bright orange light filled our living room. A moment worth capturing! It was very significant to me. It was the way she held her keys. They dangled over her thumb; she shook them like she used to when she was stronger. Before cancer came. Before her youth was taken.
“I’ll grab a cheeseburger at Maccas on my way and eat something else when I get home,” she announced.
“Sounds great!” I smiled.
“See ya then!” she replied, shaking her keys.
The door slammed and I was undone. I ran the water in the shower. I stepped beneath its torrent and let it pound against my head. To me this is the equivalent of crying.
I don’t cry much. That’s my mother’s fault, or maybe my dad’s? I am of English heritage – stiff upper lip! We slam things but we don’t cry – who knows why? We leak a little – tears well up and fill the rims beneath our eyeballs. The water swirls. Our noses run. We sniff. But we don’t cry. No idea why?
And in the steam, under the pressure of the water, I took a deep breath. I closed my eyes and remembered all the times I have prayed and dreamed that I would see her dangle those keys the way she did, the way she used to, when nothing else mattered except for having fun and being young. I thought of how, for so long, I took it all for granted. Of how I expected long life and success to follow my children. Of how I never expected for their lives to be challenged by sickness, least of all cancer. Of how I never expected that our lives would fall apart and yet we stayed together. Somehow, through it all, through all the stuff that has gone on, we are all still okay. Better than okay!
Early on in her treatment I heard God whisper to me, “I will be to her a wall of fire round about and I will be the glory in the midst of her.” It’s found in Zechariah 2:5, so it’s not just for me; you could borrow it for you, and apply it to whatever it is that you or maybe your daughter is facing?
My heart is heavy these days for the plight of our daughters and our global responsibility to stand up for their education. I keep finding myself here and listening to things like this incredible speech by Hillary Clinton at the TED conference:
I am re-reading the fabulous book by Sylvia Rimm called “See Jane Win,” and am remarkably relieved that somehow, by God’s grace, I didn’t do too badly in raising my girls to be successful women. I’m thankful to my mum for reminding me that my daughters needed to be told that they were not only beautiful (which they are) but also smart, hard working and resilient. I think when Sam lost her hair, her eyebrows, her eyelashes, when her face blew up because of Prednisone and her skin became mottled because of GVHD, it was important for her to really know that her beauty is more than skin deep.
Similarly, it was Emma who stayed in France for a whole 7 months, even though she begged to come home, even though her dad would have arranged for her to be on the next plane. Somehow I knew that if she came back early, she would never forgive me; and though it was immensely hard at only 15 years of age, she conquered her dream. We need to help girls achieve their dreams!
This Christmas I am thankful for so many miracles like Sam’s part-time job, her new business, her new lease on life, for my amazing family, for treasured friends, for new opportunities and the list goes on…
I’m learning so much in this season. I still have so much to discover, so much I do not know. But this I do know: that every day there are miracles – at least ten – and dreams are not impossible; they just sometimes need many people to gather together to see the possibilities.
What do you see?
Ever since I posted my blog last week I have been slightly terrified. I feel like I’ve launched into a new space by deciding to stay on my swing and to open the conversation to the rest of my readers. Why is this terrifying? Well maybe because up until now this blog has been all about my journey and reflections, like the pages of my journal–slightly censored–for people to read. By jumping back on my swing and asking you to join the conversation I suddenly feel like I have nothing to say.
To resolve this problem I have spent the week reading, analysing and searching other blogs. Each time someone on my twitter feed posts an article I devour it; I’ve started a blog course by Darren Rowse at Problogger and I’ve looked at the Alltop site to see what are the trending top ten blogs world wide in my ‘topics of interest’. The problem is I have no idea what my ‘topic of interest’ is. The truth is, I really am just a girl on a swing figuring out life as I go.
I’ve lost sleep this week wondering what to say at dinner parties and celebration events. It’s ridiculous. Once upon a time I never had this problem; before my Sam got diagnosed with Leukaemia I was a totally carefree, laughter-loving girl who delighted in conversation, catching up on the goss’ and really didn’t care if I had anything worthwhile to say. I just enjoyed every moment of being with people, hearing their stories and sharing our lives.
It’s strange how an encounter with a life-threatening illness changes everything. I’ve been trying to return to normal life all year. I can’t tell you how wonderful it has been to work with the children. They are perfect company for someone trying to recover from grief. They are funny, innocent and honest. They are quick to say when they don’t get it and eager to have a go at anything new. When I introduce a new song in our morning routine, 9 times out of 10, they will start bouncing when they hear the intro music and call out, ‘yes great, I love this one’, but when it comes to the lyrics they don’t know the words. They act like they do anyway–they murmur sounds that could be the words, and every now and then they guess a word right.
You learn a lot about life from small children. You learn that it is important to keep getting up and having a go, that failure is never permanent, that making a fool of yourself can be laughed off and that every day is new to discover. Is it any wonder Jesus told his followers to come like children. We do lots of group activities towards the end of Kindergarten, problem-solving activities where you can work with your friends. Even the children know they need each other to achieve things. They are not threatened when someone is better than them; instead they rejoice that someone is good at something that they are not and together they make a team.
We need each other don’t we? We all have something interesting to bring to the conversation. I used to think I was interesting enough before my daughter got Leukaemia; nowadays I just feel sad and I am terrified that my sadness will leak out into conversation. It’s easier to stay at home, to read, to write and reflect but it isn’t easy for long. Deep inside I am the same me that I always was; but I need new strategies for social events, I need to surround myself with people who ‘get’ how dysfunctional I feel. In contrast to the happy lifestyle of the Northern Beaches, I feel like I wear my sadness as a heart on my sleeve. I worry that my pain will land on the conversation like a massive wet blanket and people will flee.
The answer to the problem is to talk about things other than yourself. You would think this would be easy wouldn’t you? But not for me–it seems I always find a way of making the conversation all about me. The only problem is that I don’t want to talk about me anymore–life isn’t quite what I expected. I am reading “Mama Mia” by Mia Freedman at the moment and I have to admit I am such a fan of that girl. I love how she tells it how it is, confessing her mistakes all the way to success. That’s how to do life I think. You just keep walking. You fake it when you need to, but you share your secrets with your friends and ultimately you realise we are all terrified about something. I’m off to Christmas drinks with some of my intelligent friends next week and I will certainly make sure I have read all the cheat sheets by Julie Cowdroy before I go.
What about you? What terrifies you about social events? Let’s start the conversation, I’d love to hear from you.
I did not journal or blog for an entire 30 days! This was quite an achievement for me. Journaling and blogging have become a kind of habit – good or bad I am not sure? Good I think, but like any habit you do have to wonder what might happen if you stopped it? I didn’t journal or blog in November because some strange, ‘middle of the night,’ random thought struck me that I could write the first draft of a book in 30 days. I had watched people do it last year via Twitter. I had read about it, considered signing up, admired the participants but November 2009 passed and I did nothing about ‘National Novel Writing Month’ The moment passed and it was gone – from my memory, my thoughts, my desires – until the middle of a wakeful night this October when I found myself googling the possibilities again. It was utter madness – I had reports to write, programming to do and all the end of year preparations at school looming – but I felt inspired. I had that thud, thud, pounding in my chest kind of inspired and caught myself trying to work out how I could actually write the 50 000 words that were required to ‘win.’
Truth be told, I didn’t win anything; I just wrote and wrote and wrote and now I have 51 933 words that may or may not eventually be useful to edit and create a book out of. To ‘nanowrimo’ makes me a winner; I received the winner’s badge because I made the required 50 000 words. I really do not know what might come of the experience but I am glad it is done and glad it is over. I wrote from 5–7 am most mornings, then went about my day as if those two hours before daylight did not even exist. I don’t know if anyone noticed that I was a little more weary than usual; I tried not to complain about being tired. My kids and husband were a great encouragement, asking me daily if I made my word count, forgiving me when I snuck back into my room after dinner, while they snuggled in front of the TV, so that I could get my tally up. They even allowed me to escape to a little boatshed on the lake for two weekends of November and it was absolute bliss, pure indulgence. So November passed and somehow everything that needed to be done got done, except my blog and my morning pages and now I face December with new questions – the biggest question of all being: “What happens now?”
As is my habit, or was my habit prior to November, I asked my journal the question. I began to look for a sign. Signs come from everywhere – the universe conspires, dreams unfold and doors open, but only if you are looking. Seek and you will find!
This week as I wrote on the classroom whiteboard, a voice perked up behind me saying, “Mrs Froggatt, did you always want to be a teacher?”
I turned to the voice and paused to answer. For one he was calling out, and it was also a personal question, disrespectful perhaps but I was intrigued nonetheless. I didn’t answer him directly; instead I asked him another question: “Why do you ask?”
“Well, its your handwriting,” he said. “It’s not so good.”
I looked at the board. He was right. I hate my handwriting. I don’t know how I want to write; sometimes it is big, sometimes it’s small, but on the whiteboard it is rarely in those perfectly straight lines that teachers are required to create. At teachers college the only thing I ever failed was the handwriting test. I had to do it again and again and finally I passed; but in my mind, when it comes to handwriting, I am a failure. I live with this fact, thankful that now my interactive smart board can turn my handwriting into whatever type or font I desire just so long as I am connected and wired to the Internet. Problem solved!
“Is that the only reason you don’t think I should be a teacher?” I asked.
“Yes,” he replied. “You are good at everything else, maybe you should be the principal. He doesn’t have to write on the whiteboard. You could just run the school instead!”
I laughed, the innocence of a small child with big ideas.
I have big ideas too and even if I can’t write well on a whiteboard, I think that maybe I can write? I hope that I can, because I love to write. I am addicted to writing. I write for myself, delighting in words, but even if I continue to journal what should I do about blogging? My daughter Sam has had enough stories told about her to last a lifetime and yet it was because of her that ‘Girl on a Swing’ started quite by accident in a way. It was a compilation of letters to friends to help me endure the horrendous journey through her chemotherapy and bone marrow transplant; then somehow it evolved to something so much bigger than I ever intended.
In November I considered jumping off the swing, returning to my anonymous world of normal life, putting down my pen as it were, but the small boy in the classroom has me thinking grand dreams. No, I don’t want to be the principal but I do like to share, to write, to converse. So what if I stay on the swing? Would you hop on the one beside me? Could we start a conversation as we weave our legs back and forth, touching the clouds? If we did, what should we talk about? What stories could we share?