Friday, February 27, 2015

Precious Days


My mom and I had the pleasure and privilege of traveling once again to Rancho La Puerta in Tecate, Mexico for a week of wellness, spending lots of time together, as well as following our favorite individual pursuits. It was the perfect blend of time to reflect, exercise, learn new things, deepen practices, refresh our bodies from the inside (with organic foods and balanced nutrition) to the outside (with fresh air, walking, hiking, yoga and meditation, among other classes).

We serendipitously met (and reunited with) fabulous, fascinating people, finding our second time to be more sociable than our first - perhaps that was due to our greater familiarity with the place. We shared the same lovely casita as we did last year, lighting fires in the evenings and talking, resting and reading in our little "home away from home." I enjoyed self-treating with Reiki every day, before heading out to hike at 6:10 A.M. I could so easily imagine settling there...

We both thrived at the Rancho, and are already looking forward to returning next year (if possible, by the grace of God). Gregg spent the days golfing, playing tennis, watching polo and lounging with my father in California.
We flew down via San Diego so that we could meet KBL2ORD2SAN and her belovED. Mom and I met her at the airport last year, but this year, our husbands got to join us. What a thrill, after being blogging buddies for so many years, to finally be all together "in real life!" We had a long, leisurely lunch, and left still bursting with things to talk about. Until next time...
Driving from San Diego to the Coachella Valley was a beautiful experience to share with Gregg. As we crested the top of the last hill on Highway 74, the valley unfolded before us at sunset.
Unfortunately, while we were away, my dear mother-in-law, Elaine, suffered a stroke. Elaine is 93 years old - in fact, the stroke occurred at her birthday party - and has for several years suffered from memory loss. She has been telling us for the past couple of years that she doesn't know why she is still here - she says it matter-of-factly, without self-pity or complaint.
Elaine and Ed Gerstenberger, "back in the day"
When the stroke occurred, she became paralyzed on her left side and was unable to swallow. Hospice was called, and she was moved to a nursing home with a dismal prognosis. But her miraculous body has recovered enough for her to swallow soft foods. She is sleeping a lot, but can recognize us and speak a few words at a time. We are hoping that she will be able to move back to the assisted living facility where she and Grandpa Ed normally reside, into a nursing-care unit. As for now, it is day-by-day, with lots of family in attendance, sitting by her bedside and driving Grandpa back and forth to see her. Fortunately, they raised four wonderful kids (now adults, with families of their own) who love her deeply, and are all doing their best to care for her and Grandpa.

These are precious days, indeed.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Cancer Cure

Did you happen to see this article in Seattle Business magazine's December issue?
If you missed it, please check it out - it is worth a read for information, and intilling HOPE. Cures are coming, and some of them are coming through Seattle.
Cancer Cure, Inc.

Monday, February 2, 2015

If - by Rudyard Kipling

This poem speaks of life's disappointments, setbacks, betrayals, heartbreak, slander - and some of the virtues which can help us to survive them with our hearts intact, moment by moment.

If— By Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you   
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;   
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;   
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;   
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;   
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,   
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,   
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
 
...with thanks to Russell Wilson, Pete Carroll and the entire Seattle Seahawks team for an inspiring season.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Hannah's Hopeful Hearts

I just received this message from our friends, Reba & Bill:
     On March 19th, 2010, the Bainbridge community came together at Grace Church for the Hannah's Hopeful Hearts "Climbing Mountains for A Cure for Brain Tumors" fundraiser.  The event was an enormous success both in terms of the love that was poured out for Hannah and our family and for the funds raised for brain tumor research.  The funds were critical for the development of Tumor Paint in Dr. Jim Olson’s lab.  We are delighted to share that the US FDA just gave the green light to begin brain tumor trials in the US with BLZ-100, the first tumor paint product. 
     In addition to Tumor Paint, innovative research under the name of Project Violet was developed by Jim and his colleagues at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.  Project Violet aspires to develop a new class of nature-derived anti-cancer compounds that attack cancer cells while leaving healthy cells untouched.  This project largely depends on public donations – often from parents and friends of Olson’s pediatric patients - to fund the development of drugs to treat cancer or other diseases once thought incurable.
     Another pediatric cancer researcher, Dr. Michael Jensen, heads up the Ben Towne Center for Childhood Cancer Research.  Affiliated with Seattle Children’s Hospital, the Ben Towne Center has in a few short years achieved great success with their immunotherapy research.  Currently, 13 children and counting are leukemia-free, the relapsed neuroblastoma trial is beginning, and there is hopeful progress in targeting brain tumors. Additionally, Grace Church sponsored a young team of cyclists last year in the Race Across America (RAAM), benefiting Mike Jensen’s research.  Two of these cyclists were classmates of our daughter, Hannah.  We have been proud to support both Jim and Mike’s work.
     We are excited to announce that for the first time ever, Dr. Olson and Dr. Jensen graciously agreed to come together in one special night to update our community on their work and progress in childhood cancer research.
This new Hannah’s Hopeful Hearts event will take place on Friday, April, 10th, 2015, beginning at 7 pm at Grace Church on Bainbridge Island.  Following presentations from Dr. Olson and Dr. Jensen, a call for donations will take place.  During the night, wine, light hors d’oeuvres and a simple dessert buffet will be provided.  The evening will conclude with a lively concert by the band, St. Paul de Vence.  Friends with Jim, this band contributed to the Violet Sessions CD, a creative project that helps to fund research at the Olson lab. 
     We look forward to another heartfelt and inspirational evening to further the work of these two amazing doctors towards their mutual goals of finding less toxic, more effective treatments for pediatric cancer.  And in the words of our favorite QB who is #strongagainstcancer, Go Jim!!  Go Mike!!  Go Hawks!!

With gratitude and hope,  
Reba Ferguson and Bill Hunt
Gregg and I will be participating in this event, and we invite you to mark your calendars and join us. It's going to be a stellar evening, filled with good news, hope, thanksgiving and joy.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The "Yes" That Means "No"

Mark Nepo continues to enlighten me with his daybook, "The Book of Awakening." If you haven't seen it, I recommend you check it out from your local library or bookstore. A few days ago, his topic was, "I Say Yes When I Mean No."

Have you ever done this? I have, with consequences ranging from unpleasant to disastrous.
My mom gave me a calendar with a photo like this for each week (thanks, Mom!).
Though this photo is funny, anyone who has ever said "Yes" when she meant "No" knows it is not a joke. It is painful to override our own inner voice - our own deep desires and gut feelings.

I'm not speaking of choices like "vanilla or chocolate?;" I am talking about things that evoke a visceral NO, but are ignored. Things like, No, you may not touch me that way.  No, the way you speak to me is not acceptable. No, I 'm not ready to take action on this. No, that job isn't in my skill set, or my heart's path. No, I don't want another drink. No, thank you, I am not hungry. No, thank you, but I do not want to marry you. No, that is not what I meant. No, I do not have the time/money/energy to invest in your cause. No, I will not do your work for you. No, I will not abandon myself. No, I will not jump on this bandwagon. {Insert your own "No" here.}

In our family, we have a joke called, "The Yes that means No." This is the long, drawn-out syllable of "Yeeeeees," spoken without conviction, when one really means (and doesn't want to say) "No." We point it out - "Ah, there's the 'Yes' that really means 'No!,' " and we laugh about it, clear the air, and then, our true voice is heard on the subject: No. And I want to hear that true voice, even if I am disappointed or disagree. That has been one of the interesting things about this marriage: I love Gregg enough to want him to have his way, as much as I want my own. That was new, for me.

I grew up in a traditional household, the product of a 1950s marriage as it evolved through the 1960s and 1970s. There was not an equal balance of power between my parents in those days, and it was felt by all of us (they have since established a happier balance). I grew up feeling that I hadn't had enough of my own way, or the opportunity to self-determine. I'm not sure if this is a universal quality of youth, or if it was an effect of growing up in my family of origin; perhaps it was due to the overbearing nature of the religion we practiced, or to observing people outside of our circle who had more freedom than I. I just knew that I wanted some control when I became an adult, and when the time came, I did my best to assert it. I didn't always do it gently or gracefully, and made plenty of mistakes in the process.

Mark Nepo says, 
"There have been many times that I said yes when I meant no, afraid of displeasing others, and even more afraid of being viewed as selfish. I think the first time I decided to get married, I said yes when I meant no. Young and inexperienced in being myself, I agreed to  be a fish out of water for as long as I could, so as not to hurt or disappoint or displease. Not surprisingly, it all ended badly."
That passage could have been written about me; I did the same thing, and it was a mistake of large proportions. I ended up hurting the man (and myself) far more in the long run than if I had simply faced the truth at the beginning, and said - and acted upon - the NO which I felt so deeply.

Because I did feel it, but was afraid of it - afraid of what it meant I would have to do.

After divorcing, I have tried to learn from my mistakes. When I met Gregg, I learned that not everyone is driven to have his own way. Gregg freely shared the power in our relationship. This shifted my consciousness; I found the pleasure of giving way, of asking, "What do YOU want to do?" - and meaning it. It took some time, as I am strong-willed and tenacious, but after a little while, I had enough of "my way," and began to enjoy seeking and finding out what Gregg really wanted (when he had a preference), and giving it to him.

Nepo goes on to say,
"...those who truly love us will never knowingly ask us to be other than we are...when we agree to any demand, request or condition that is contrary to our soul's nature, the cost is that precious life force is drained off our core. Despite the seeming rewards of compliance, our souls grow weary by engaging in activities that are inherently against their nature...watch any piece of nature doing what it does--tree, moose, snake, or lightning--[and] it becomes clear that the very energy of life is the spirit released by things being what they are."
"God holds in power the soul of every living thing,
And the breath of every human body." -Book of Job, Chapter 12

If our soul, our true self, is God's gift to us, and our gift to the world, there can be no benefit in putting it "under a bushel," or on "mute." May we each have to courage to give (and to receive) whole-hearted "Yes" and "No," from attention to the soul of who we truly are.

"The Glory of God is a human being fully alive." - St. Irenaeus

Friday, January 16, 2015

Hello? Anyone Still Out There?

Blogger, how I've missed you! Happy New Year!

I can hardly believe that it's been so long since we've spent time together - reflecting, savoring, sharing moments of meaning. I have missed you so very much, and it feels absolutely wonderful to sit down with you again.

I don't know where to begin. I have kept so much inside, unable to write here due to time constraints, but my photo albums are full of images which tell stories of the past few months when you and I have been apart. I will try to summarize, and begin anew. It is still January, after all.

We went to Palm Desert for Thanksgiving and my mother's birthday...
 cut our tree at the tree farm...
spent Christmas with our Gerstenberger family...
and Boxing Day with some of our Boren family...
and New Year's Day at the park with friends...
and now, Gregg is back at work, as am I, and David continues his search for permanent work.

I have been busy with the Core Team of Field's End Writers' Community, and am a new member of the Bainbridge Island Public Library's Board. We held the annual Board retreat at a place called Yonder - if you've never been there, do check it out. It was a beautiful, peaceful place to begin the year's work.

It's going to be a season filled with new opportunities, responsibilities and relationships - and I am thankful for it.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Jikiden Reiki with Tadao Yamaguchi

If you have any interest in studying and practicing Reiki, here is a wonderful opportunity in Seattle:
TadaoYamaguchi and his mother are the founders of Jikiden Reiki; his mother was a student of Chujiro Hayashi sensei. Hayashi sensei was taught by the founder of Usui Reiki Ryoho, Mikao Usui.
Mr. Yamaguchi is my Reiki master's teacher.

If you have any questions, please contact Emerald City Reiki Center, or info@jikiden.org.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Devote Yourself

"Yours is to live it, not to reveal it." - Helen Luke 

I am reminded of the gift of Mark Nepo's gentle wisdom as I read the piece he has selected for each day of the year in his luminous work, "The Book of Awakening." Today's reading begins with the quote above, from his mentor Helen Luke - some of her last words to him before her passing. As abrupt as this quote sounds upon first reading, Nepo goes on to explain:
"...I've come to understand her last instruction as an invitation to shed any grand purpose, no matter how devoted we may be to what we are doing. She wasn't telling me to stop writing, but to stop striving to be important. She was inviting me to stop recording the poetry of life and to enter the poetry of life.
"This lesson applies to us all. If we devote ourselves to the life at hand, the rest will follow. For life, it seems, reveals itself through those willing to live. Anything else, no matter how beautiful, is just advertising."
This passage struck me deeply. What does it mean to "devote ourselves to the life at hand?" Looking up "devote" and "devotion" tells us that it involves wholehearted giving of oneself and one's resources; the root is in "consecration," - the word's origin is "vow."

It resonated with one of my favorite passages in "Radical Grace" by Richard Rohr. Writing about Mary, the mother of Jesus, and her actions upon receiving the visit from an angel who announces Mary's pregnancy, Rohr says:
"The events themselves will be her guide and teacher. She does not need to figure it out and plan accordingly; the plan will be given by God through life's encounters. Reality is her teacher. That is why she could hear angels.
"Decisive action beyond our fears gives us a sense of our own power and the power of God within us. [Mary] can hold her power comfortably because she knows it is from Beyond."
I held on to this passage when Katie was in the hospital. My prayer practice had been so peaceful and regular, before her illness; once we were uprooted and transplanted from our old life, my practice became prayer-in-action, pray-as-you-go, the prayer of living service. It was the prayer of devotion, wholehearted giving. Now, eight years later, I pray to work and live as wholeheartedly today as I did then, in the midst of the crisis of illness.

Since Katie's passing, I have accepted invitations to serve in places which - eight years ago - were not even on my personal radar: the University of Washington's School of Medicine and Field's End Writer's Community are two examples. Serving on panels, taking classes and teaching classes are fun and rewarding ways to give. Now, I have entered a new field of learning and service: I recently completed the first level of Jikiden Reiki training. Reiki is a spiritual healing practice which is not linked to a religion. It originated in Japan, and it is a way to practice healing prayer, relying upon the power of Universal Life Force, or ki (which is another name for God). I am enjoying the practice enormously.

This is a natural step, after a summer of suffering physical pain, limitation and the medications which masked it. It is also a natural step, considering my attachment to my DVD project as "the" way to help clinicians deal with their grief and pain. In releasing my grip on that project, I can now see other ways to serve. Reiki is practiced in medical centers and has unlimited potential. Its Gokai, or five principles, are:
Just for today -
Do not be angry
Do not worry
Be grateful
Do your duties 

Be kind to others

In "Do your duties," I hear, "work wholeheartedly,"  or "devote yourself."

Life itself is revealing where I need to go. God provides the inspiration, and the power of His creativity and love, and I follow, as wholeheartedly as possible.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Creativity in Healing & Spiritual Growth

Grace Episcopal Church on Bainbridge Island, WA
is hosting a series called
"Spiritual Practice Saturdays."
On December 6, from 9:30am - Noon, 
I'll be leading "Creativity in Healing and Spiritual Growth,"
and you're invited to attend!
Here is the description, from Grace's email:
 "God as Creator has made us creative. Inviting that creativity into our spiritual practice can be daunting, and an authentic pathway into healing and growth. Come spend a morning with us as Karen Gerstenberger, author and speaker, guides us as we write and walk and draw mandalas as spiritual practice. Together, we will playfully and skillfully encourage our 'unencumbered self' to authentic expression - the kind of expression that leads to healing, growth and joy. 
To help us plan, please contact Robin Livingston robin@robinmlivingston.com if you wish to attend."

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Power of Love (or Serendipity)

On Thursday, David and I traveled to Seattle to meet a photographer and a representative of Seattle Children's Hospital's Guild Association. I had been asked to to coordinate a comforter delivery with a story which will be published in the Guild News (a regular publication of the Guild Association. By the way, if you don't know about the Guild Association, please follow this link and look around. It is a fabulous organization of which I am thrilled to be a member). I will post a link to the photos and article when they are published.

David came with me on the spur of the moment. We brought a batch of gorgeous quilts from the Fearless Quilters of Rolling Bay Presbyterian, along with a batch of fleece blankets from our dear neighbor, Cami - 28 in all. As we pulled into the driveway, I said to David, "I should have called Carly, and told her we were coming!" Carly is our representative at the Foundation, where Katie's Endowment resides.

The fact is, there are so many staffers within the organization of Seattle Children's Hospital who have touched our lives and blessed us that I would probably need to visit every week in order to see each of them - so I often don't tell anyone when I am coming, and just slip in and out delivering quilts. On this day, I was focused on the photo shoot, thinking we would meet in the reception area, hold the comforters and smile for the camera. Well, serendipity was at work behind the scenes...

We took the comforters to the Volunteer Office, and there was one of my favorite volunteers: Jane Humphries, a.k.a. "The Blanket Lady." Jane volunteers every week, delivering comforters to patients who have been admitted to the hospital. She was loading a cart, and brightened up when she saw the bounty we had brought for her to deliver. We learned that Jane was going to be part of the photo shoot, and that we were going to be allowed to go on the ward and actually GIVE a blanket to a patient. This just doesn't happen anymore, due to HIPAA regulations, so this was a rare treat.

Seattle Children's has a fantastic new facility called "Building Hope." Its design is gorgeous and family-friendly in the most progressive ways, filled with light, beautiful artwork, well-designed, attractive furnishings and comfortably-equipped rooms. It is a wonderful place - that is, if you have to be a patient in a hospital. I had a quick tour a while ago, but David had never seen it. That was our destination for the photo shoot - a nice surprise.

The photographer and manager of Guild Marketing arrived. As we were getting acquainted, Carly walked into the Volunteer Office - serendipity! She and David had never met, so I happily took care of that. She revealed that she was expecting a "special visitor" to tour the hospital with her, and was going to be in the same area as we were. Looking forward to running into them later, we said "goodbye" and prepared to deliver quilts and blankets.
Please visit #strongagainstcancer on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter
We took some #strongagainstcancer photos before we entered the cancer unit. #STRONGAGAINSTCANCER is a new initiative being launched by Seattle Children's Hospital. A BIG announcement will be made during half-time of the NFL Thanksgiving Day football game. Please be sure to tune in!

Once we were admitted to the ward, we noticed a number of the staff who had taken care of Katie were on duty. Many hugs followed, with exclamations of surprise at seeing David, "all grown up." The nurses posed for photos with us around the cart, each one holding a blanket. What a beautiful, full-circle moment that was - to see our comforters in the hands of staff members who have brought such comfort to our family!

There was so much palpable love in the air that I kept saying, "This is the best day ever!" Then I thought about it and said, "Well, this is the best day on the cancer ward." And it got even better...

We were introduced to a lovely young patient who selected a pink fleece blanket with owls on it, and we posed together, with me handing it to her. As our eyes met, and I looked at her sweet mother standing behind her, something deep within me connected with them. I longed to join them in the room and just stay there; of course, that wasn't possible, and I would not have suggested such a thing, but I felt a kinship with them, without words. I have been in their place.

The serendipity continued when we ran into Carly and her "special guest:" it was Macklemore, at the hospital to visit patients. (You may have seen him on Instagram or Facebook in photos at the hospital with Russell Wilson, who visits every.single.week.) Carly invited us over to meet him and his friend, so WE MET MACKLEMORE on the cancer ward! I thanked him for visiting the hospital and told him how much it means to the patients and families. We spoke for a few minutes about the blankets; he has noticed them on his visits. He was so present as we spoke. (He has also been out on the streets at night, without fanfare, with Seattle's Union Gospel Mission - another reason for admiring him.) Oh, serendipity was at work - and David just happened to be along for the ride!

We also had a wonderful visit over lunch with one of our favorite doctors - one who has become a close friend, and who took care of all of us when Katie was in the ICU.

Lying in bed last night, I reflected on the day with overflowing gratitude. My one regret was that I wished I could have done more for that sweet patient and her mother, but I also know that I am living their worst nightmare, so I always - and I mean ALWAYS - stay away from people who are in active treatment, unless they seek me out. I wasn't at the hospital as a chaplain, I was there as a guild president, for a specific purpose, but oh, my heart was there in pastoral care!

What a day, filled with the power of love - of Katie's love for her comforter, our family's love and gratitude, the love of staff and benefactors, our guild member's loving acts of generosity, and the appreciative love of the hospital organization for its guild members. And what is serendipity, anyway - isn't it really LOVE in action?

Happy 22!

It's that time again...
...party time!
David is turning 22 today!
We could not have asked for a more wonderful son 
 and brother for his sister;
we are grateful to have been chosen as his parents.
He has brought so much goodness into our lives in every way, and
we are thrilled that we get to celebrate his day with him.
Happy Birthday, David! We love you!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Enjoying Autumn

To every one who has served in the military forces for the United States of America, Thank you. I know that "freedom isn't free." We cannot "catch" it from others, and it is not "given" to all human beings to live in a free country. Though each of us has freedom within (as unique creations of our Creator), not everyone has the privilege to live freely. For that privilege in this time and place, paid for by your sacrifice, dear veterans, I thank you.
The last time I visited the Bloedel Reserve, I was rewarded with the pleasure of rich, intense colors of the remaining leaves on deciduous trees, and the patterns they created on the ground. I expect that the next visit will reveal many changes wrought by the high winds and heavy rains of autumn.
Just now, we are enjoying gorgeous, cold, clear days here in Western Washington. This was the view as the setting sun painted high clouds a tender pink, and a lone boat struggled against wind, whitecaps and current.
The wind caused widespread power outages that day.

On Saturday morning, I awoke early to this sunrise view...
It was a perfect day for a trip to Port Townsend. We never tire of walking through that town and the surrounding area.
This is the view looking over the old military buildings and parade ground. If it looks familiar, you might be remembering it from the movie, "An Officer and a Gentleman." Mt. Rainier looms on the horizon, faintly visible and wreathed in clouds.
If you had to make a caption for this photo, what would it be?
The deer were enjoying an apple-feast under that tree; not timid at all!
We walked around the marinas, and admired the craftsmanship of many wooden boats, especially the sailing ship Adventuress.
We saw tiles with messages from supporters of the maritime center.
Good advice.
I colorized the mermaid tile using Picasa.
I am thankful that Gregg and I still have so much fun doing something which is free of charge and open to anyone, which we enjoyed from the very first days we met. There is something comforting in the fact that, as much as our lives have changed during these 25+ years, this simple pleasure remains for us to enjoy again and again, in different places, seasons and moods.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Gold Ribbon Night

Katie with Dr. Pollard (left) and Dr. Gardner (right)
Last night, I had the pleasure of attending the 2nd Annual Gold Ribbon Night for Pediatric Cancer Awareness, put on by Seattle Children's Hospital and Research Foundation. It was held in a beautiful private golf club in Seattle which is called "Broadmoor."

(Whenever I hear that name, I think, "detained during His Majesty's pleasure...in Broadmoor Asylum"* in England. I wonder if the founders of the exclusive club and gated community in Seattle had any idea about the name's "other" meaning...) 

Anyway, last night's event was a warm, elegant, yet informal affair, filled with passionate advocates of pediatric cancer research and the local clinicians we support, who are doing fantastic work in the field. It was delightful to mingle with friends, acquaintances and familiar doctors, nurses and researchers, sharing news and memories.

The program was led by our friend Jeff Towne, co-founder of the Ben Towne Foundation, and moderated by Dr. Bruder Stapleton (one of my personal favorites in the administration of the hospital). The panel consisted of three researchers who are doing ground-breaking work in different areas of pediatric cancer (two of whom - Dr. Rebecca Gardner and Dr. Doug Hawkins - took care of Katie) and a parent-advocate. They answered questions, and shared their thoughts about their current projects and personal research goals.

We watched this video, which tells the story of one of the patients recently cured by T-cell therapy at the Ben Towne Center for Childhood Cancer Research in Seattle. Please take a few minutes to watch - it will inspire you!

One of the highlights of the evening, for me, was sitting with Dr. Julie Park (Katie's primary oncologist) and our friend Charlotte, who was my "date" for the evening, and sharing in a heartfelt discussion with them after the panel program ended.
Another highlight was returning home and checking my messages to find that yet another patient has been cured by T-cell therapy here in Seattle. That is the 11th patient cured, as far as I know!

And today, even more wonderful news: an immunotherapeutic clinical trial is has just opened, under Dr. Park's leadership, for pediatric patients with neuroblastoma. This awful solid tumor has a horrific treatment regimen and a dismal survival rate, but now, there is a new way to treat it - using the knowledge gained from the successes in Dr. Jensen's T-cell therapy trials. This is the cancer from which Ben Towne suffered and died, so it is particularly meaningful to have this clinical trial at the BTCCCR.

If you would like to know how you can get involved in this important work, which will also benefit adult cancer research, please leave a comment here and I will reply privately

*quoted from A System of Medicine, Volume 8, edited by Thomas Clifford Allbutt, Sir Humphry Davy Rolleston

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

All of Creation is a Song of Praise to God

Japanese Garden, Bloedel Reserve

 The fire has its flame and praises God.
  The wind blows the flame and praises God.
In the voice we hear the word which praises God.
  And the word, when heard, praises God.
So all of creation is a song of praise to God. 
- St. Hildegard of Bingen
  
Strolling each week at the Bloedel Reserve is continuing to inspire and bring solace and healing to me, even in places where I didn't anticipate healing. One of those areas is ART.
The shapes and colors of the leaves, and the changes in the landscape from week to week keep me in deep, yet gentle observation. It is like Christmas morning each time I start out walking the paths. I move in different directions on different days - responding intuitively to the mood and the map. I find that I observe as an artist, and even if I think "I won't take photos today," I can't NOT take them. I am seeing - and composing with my eye - as an artist, and it's joyful.
It so happens that one of my favorite art bloggers, Collage Diva, started a new project using mandalas. She calls it #100MandalasChallenge, and the idea is to create 100 Mandalas in 100 days.
I'm not sure I'll complete it in that amount of time - and there is no pressure to do so - but I am loving drawing mandalas using the Zentangle concept of Zendalas, inspired by all that I see at the Bloedel Reserve.
Here are a few of my drawings...
It's relaxing and fun to draw in this way. It has opened me up and relieved some of the stress I felt around doing artwork. It is play, not work, and it comes naturally, rather than being forced.
I'm deeply thankful for this season of strolling, healing and renewed creative energy. It is a time of quiet joy and praise to our Creator.
This struck me as a "faerie's-eye view" of the Bloedel residence
 No detail is too small for the Creator's creativity. I love that fact.