Positive Thinking

Bob took this photo in the Grand Tetons area. It’s a rugged place, but like many places that are challenging to get to, and difficult to get through, it has a special beauty worth the effort.

AFTER THE RAIN: THE BEAUTIFUL WEATHER, PART TWO

The evolution of my marriage with Bob has been a blink in the universe of time. Thirty seven years and we’re still evolving, finding out what makes the other tick.

Emotionally, we stand taller together now, but physically are more bent. Perhaps arthritis is just the outward manifestation of burdens borne and cares that ran too deep. But I believe that love lightens the load and faith rebuilds  us, or finds what was supposedly lost.

We cannot bring back our lost children, our deceased parents, our absent friends. They dine at another table now. We will be reunited, but Bob and I have business to attend to here, promises to keep to ourselves and others, the fulfillments of our raison d’être.

I have had opportunities to leave the planet on quite a few occasions. Two direct angel interventions kept me here, one when I was five, and one when I was twenty seven. (I will give the account of those experiences at a later date.) I am also certain that Bob and I have been blessed by behind-the-scenes heavenly help many times.

I don’t remember the exact date, but sometime after the new millennium I discovered I had a severe kidney problem. The doctor  informed me I had a GFR of 25%. I learned a GFR (glomular filtration rate) was the measurement of how well kidneys worked. I thought I just had a 25% reduction in function. I was shocked to learn that 75% was gone.

Where had it “gone” and why was the doctor saying it would get worse? I had very little understanding of why I had been  switched from lithium to another drug to treat my bipolar illness, and why I’d been referred to a nephrologist. It was a medical wakeup call for me and my husband.

As the function went down to 20%, I learned all I could about “mighty nephrons,” the little parts of the kidneys that do the work. I even had a song I sang to them. We prayed. I visualized good health.

Bob and I went to the dialysis classes together in preparation for the getting the shunt. We discussed my options for types of dialysis. When I went to Loma Linda for the evaluations to be put on the transplant list, Bob was my faithful companion. I got on the list in 2007 and was told it could be years before I got a donor.

I was taken off the list the following year, but did not get the transplant. I had gone over the weight limit and kidney function had gone UP too high, too good, to be on the list. I never even got a shunt or put on dialysis. I told my nephrologist that there was a higher power than Kaiser (my medical HMO) and that I’d get to 30%. I did.

I had the goal of 40% by Christmas of 2012. Bob and I had released our Christmas CD, Carols for the Christ. We had concerts set up, but I started to feel more and more “funky heart rhythm.” We had to cancel our bobandkathi performances after I went through a catheter ablation which didn’t work. The six hour heart procedure, done while I was awake, established my electrical misfires were in the septum, an area that could not be fixed.

After a hospital stay two days later to try a new drug, I was sent home because it was too dangerous for my kidneys. I got a new combination of medicines and my rhythm got better. My kidney function went temporarily down. I am thinking it will be up to 40% by next Christmas.

Bob was usually the one taking me to medical adventures. When he turned sixty in 2009, he had a full physical. An elevated PSA score (a prostate screening test) led to an evaluation by a urologist. Another blood test showed an increased level. Next came the biopsy and we came back to hear the results.

Bob was positive he did not have cancer. POSITIVE. But the results were positive, too. The good news was that the cancer was in the early stages. The doctor went over the different options, complete with colorful pictures. He explained risks and side effects. He said Bob could think about it and get back to him. Bob replied, “I’ve made my choice.”

It was my turn to be surprised. I thought we’d discuss it first. He had chosen the least invasive procedure, radioactive seed implantation. I wondered if a more intense surgery would give a better chance for a longer life.

We did talk about the choice later. Bob got a wonderful radiation oncologist. Unfortunately, the doctor had his arm in a cast. We waited for him to heal, so he could do the surgery.

It was the right choice. In December, the doctor made the “template” for where the seeds of iodine 125 would be implanted. Bob had the procedure done in January of 2010. I drove him home the same day as the surgery with his list of instructions.

There were interesting precautions. He could not be around pregnant women or have a child on his lap for a while. There were sexual and urinary issues to heal. He was given a paper to carry to show doctors and X-ray screeners. He jokingly referred to himself as “radioactive man” to our friends. It was a small price to pay for an extended life together.

Now he volunteers for the American Cancer Society as a “Road to Recovery” driver, giving free rides to patients for their chemo and radiation treatments. Sometimes I have complained about the time it takes from our schedule. That’s when I forget what it means to Bob and to the ones he’s driving. I am very proud of him for his dedication.

As for the beautiful weather of life, BRING IT ON!

Here is Bob Haine at Mono Lake, California, on one of his photo trips.

Bob Haine at Mono Lake ©2013  Nancy Speaker

Bob Haine at Mono Lake
Photo By: Nancy Speaker

Sagres, Portugal, is the setting for this beautiful rainbow. Bob and I went to Portugal for my 60th birthday. I had broken my foot earlier, but refused to cancel the trip. After pushing my wheelchair over cobblestones in the rain, my husband was glad to relax and snap a series of gorgeous sky shots.

AFTER THE RAIN: THE BEAUTIFUL WEATHER, PART ONE

So much of my early life had turmoil. It was a blessing to find the “rainbow of my life,” Bob Haine. Or maybe he found me. Either way, after the first week of school, we met at a T.G.I.F. party sponsored by the local teachers’ union.

It was probably not a meeting to go into the history books, but the details carved a place in my heart. First he impressed me by knowing my correct shoe size. During an economically lean time he had supplemented his substitute teaching income by selling shoes at Bullocks. It was not his favorite job. He probably never dreamed it would lead to a fateful pickup line.

Bob had been fired from his first teaching job, as fifth grade teacher in a catholic school. His crime was passing gas after eating lentil soup, and then explaining to the students  that “farting” was a natural body function. The head nun did not appreciate him using an “F” word. This firing led to being  hired by the Chaffey High School District. I was hired that same year. This is another example of how a setback can lead to a positive outcome.

Our first date was not without difficulties, but they were fun ones. Bob was having the passenger seat in his Toyota reupholstered, so I sat on a pillow on the floor. After dinner we went on a spur-of-the-moment trip to Will Rogers State Beach, near Santa Monica. We were having a great conversation when he pulled into a gas station on the Pacific Coast Highway.

I got out to use the restroom. When I came back outside I saw his car driving away, my purse inside, and me not sure if this was going to be a very long night. He did come back and picked me up. It was his first, but not his last, attempt to get me to see the lighter side of life.

In a few months, Bob asked me to marry him while at our special spot, lifeguard station 14. That was over thirty seven years ago. He always jokes about the musical reason he married me: I was the first woman he’d met who could harmonize with him, in more ways than one.

We have been harmonizing together ever since that first date, singing Beatle songs at two in the morning. Now we perform as the married duet of bobandkathi. Seven music videos and three CDs later, he is still the melody singer and lead guitarist. I am the harmony and the background mandolinist, as well as the songwriter.

The music of my married life has not been without dissonance. I was diagnosed as bipolar in 1985, some months after the loss of my first pregnancy. It was a difficult time for both of us. Losing the next two pregnancies was not much easier.

It was fortunate I married a “rock,” because the breakdowns led to very rocky times. I am reminded of a line I wrote in a song for a wedding: “You will be the rock and I will be the flower that blooms through the stone.” And I did bloom, although I think of myself as a late bloomer. It took awhile to ground myself. It took awhile to pull out the two hundred songs I had written, the almost forty years of journals and poetry I’d saved, and realize I might have something worthwhile to say.

My breakdowns were breakthroughs as well. But I didn’t see that until much later when I had a grander vista of life. I reread and reviewed my life from a different perspective. I could see that the good weather had come from the storms. No rain: no rainbow.

My photographer-singer husband (a former French teacher) has always liked the optimistic phrase, “Après la pluie, le beau temps.” The translation: “After the rain, the beautiful weather.” Our weather has gotten progressively better, but we have passed through more rainy seasons as well. Some have even been life threatening.

 

The peaceful picture at the top of my blog was taken by the love of my life, Bob Haine. He shot it in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park last March while I was attending a Hay House convention where Doreen Virtue was the keynote speaker. The photo is a beautiful lead-in to my first public writing of my very private life. The green of the old oak and the green of the stream present the balance I look for in life. That is the theme of this blog.


FINDING BALANCE: SOMETIMES YOU JUST HAVE TO LET GO TO KNOW IT’S ALREADY GONE

I did something rather amazing this week. I changed my name. No, I did not make up a new one, or create a pen name, or even change my name that much. I decided to go back to using the name that I was born with: Kathleen. Not Kathy or Kathi, the names I had picked up along the way. But my real name, the name I was meant to be.

Why do this, one might ask? Simple. I realized why I had changed the name in the first place. It was an unconscious attempt to get rid of my past. Many people have a past they would like to forget. My mind was very accommodating in that regard. Except for a few, limited memories, I had pretty much forgotten the scenes of my childhood. This week, however, I started to remember. More importantly, I learned how to put it in its place, pick up the pieces, integrate it, dump out the garbage, and claim the parts that I still loved. Nothing was wasted in the experience.

I have two reasons for sharing this in text. I find it cathartic for me. But I think my main motivation is to help others who may have had similar situations in their life, or are going through it now, or who are really earnest about getting empowered to be the person that they were meant (and CHOOSE) to be. I realize that I am mainly writing for women, because my experience is from the female point of view. Yet, I speak to the needs of everyone, because giving and accepting love, being peaceful, having boundaries, and knowing we are powerful beings who are never alone, are things we all need.

If anyone is offended by what I have to write, let it roll off their backs like the rain and water someone else’s garden. The people who would be most upset or embarrassed by my words are dead and buried. I wish them nothing but love. Forgiveness costs nothing but the peace of mind is priceless.

I was given a “rose” of a life. Roses have thorns. One just needs to learn how to cultivate a rose while avoiding getting stuck. And every true gardener knows the oldest, thorniest roses have the very best fragrance.

Back to my title…finding balance. To live life completely NOW I have decided to put the past away, keep the lessons and love I got from it. I plan to restore harmony to my life in my way of seeing things, doing things, and being however I choose to be. I know that accepting who I am now is the first step toward becoming who I want to be. Others will benefit by the ripple effect of this change. Even if everyone else doesn’t notice I am different, I will know it. The inside relationship is what really matters.

Yesterday evening, I did a little ritual to finalize my departure from a previous life and entry into a new one. I burned some old photographs in a pretty abalone shell, I buried the ashes in the dirt, I said a few prayers, took a warm, salt bubble bath, and had peaceful dreams all night.

This is not a journey that ends here. Perhaps you would like to take it with me. I invite you to do so. I will be writing every week in the coming year. My birthday is next week. Writing is the present I give to myself. I will be sixty-two, a senior citizen. As far as I am concerned, I was just reborn and I am very, very young at heart.