Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Republic Hill

Gardeners snipped hedges, sprinklers whirred, flags snapped in the breeze, the traffic on 7th Street moved briskly. I could hear a train and several times church bells. But all the sounds were swallowed up by quiet.

I spent some time this afternoon on Republic Hill in the Texas State Cemetery. Nobody I know was being buried, I just had to be in East Austin for a couple of hours and my favorite coffee shop was packed. So much for a working afternoon. There's no Internet on the hill, it was a beautiful day. 

The breeze was blowing hard enough to stir the many Texas flags up and down the lanes. There's a little flowing brook and lots of birds. The trees are amazing. There was thunder rumbling in the distance - and just enough ambiance for cemetery walking.

So I walked and prayed and read stones. 

I visited one of my favorite Elizabet Ney sculptures - Albert Sydney Johnson's reclining form. Such delicate beauty in such a place.

I felt braver about the upcoming elections, like maybe every elected official might not be a nut when I sat at Barbara Jordan's feet and read the words there - "Patriot" and "Eloquent Champion of Ethics and Justice."

I wandered by James Michener's memorial and was thankful to my bones for all the history I've enjoyed in his books. I got teary-eyed when I came upon Fred Gipson's stone unexpectedly.

A bigger than life statue of Stephen F. Austin stands high atop granite squares and points off into the east. There are the stones of governors and lawyers, judges, railroad officials, masons, football coaches, poets, artists and authors. Speakers and Signers and First Ladies. Medal of Honor recipients and senators. Susanna Dickinson and Ann Richards - oh, my. You have to be somebody special to be buried there.

There are angels and sheep and obelisks, fountains and sculptures, pink granite, gray and black. Old, undecipherable carvings and proud new ones made for the generations. 

There was one double husband-wife stone with a very long braggadocios list of the husband's accomplishments in education, government, lodge and church and the actual dates he did whatever wonderful thing he did. On the wife's side were the simple and almost apologetic words, "She was ever faithful." Good thing she died first. 

Alfred Lord Tennyson's lines, "Such a one do I remember whom to look on was to love" were present on several stones as were other sentiments both sincere and beautiful. There were scriptures and things that were sort of like scripture, poems and ridiculous sayings..."It was a great ride."

And there were rows and rows and rows and rows of dead soldiers. Two Revolutionary War veterans...although I can't figure how they got to Texas. Confederate generals and privates. Men with names like Claude and Martin and Sylvester from World Wars and 'conflicts.' New graves without grass to cover just yet.

It was a lovely afternoon place to pray, not sad or morbid, just beautiful. I prayed for our government, for my family far and wide, for dear friends, for creativity to abound in our lives, for the many children I love who started school this week, for troubles and grief, for soldiers everywhere. And the parents and spouses who send them off to war.

And I was mindful and thankful.

Terry had a good day off today. He mostly waited for repairmen to come and fix things that were broken last week. He puttered and napped. And drank so much tomato soup that he broke out in a rash.
: ) Thank you for your continued prayers. 

God is good and faithful. 

Friday, August 24, 2012

late last night....

This is Fiona. She has been at our house a few months, it started out as a fostering situation, and she is still here. She is contrary. She is cute. Entertaining. Even endearing. But I don't love Fiona yet.

Last night when she started throwing up I went into "do whatever it takes" mode and just got the job done. Mostly this meant wiping up cat vomit from every (literally) room in the house as she fled before the efforts of the three of us - Stephen, Emily and I, to catch and contain her. In the end she just had nothing more to throw up. Emily put the soiled duvet cover from her room in the wash, Stephen took out the trash full of nasty clean-up paper towels, Fiona curled up beside Terry, who had slept through it all, and peace descended. I sat down to have a cup of tea until I could put the next load of vomited-on bathroom rugs through the washing machine. 

And in the quiet, I got it. Finally. I think we must be winning this thing.

Because since last Sunday... 
     - the breezeway porch roof collapsed in a thunderstorm leaving a gaping entrance from the outside world into our attic
     - in the same storm the pool overflowed into the screened porch and messed with the innards of the hot tub
     - the AC went out on Terry's truck
     - the 'coils' went out on my car
     - the refrigerator needed a major repair
     - two of the three non-cancer patient members of our family have had medical challenges - one requiring 6 weeks of physical therapy, one requiring monthly labs and a new medication for the next 5 months

By Wednesday afternoon we were pretty much waiting for the next thing. And then laughing as it came. Not laughing in the 'funny ha-ha' kind of way but instead the 'HA, bring it on, we're shaking in our boots, but bring it on anyway' kind of way. 

To be honest I am praying that the last cat-tastrophy has happened this week. But if not, we've got too much invested in life these days. Giving up and whining is not an option. Acting crappy and treating one another in a crappy way is just not happening. No glory-to-us, our eyes have just seen seen the prize. Love is worth it. We are certain 'the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end, they are new every morning, great is his faithfulness.' 

Landis family economics and cabin fever necessitated Terry going back to work a few hours four days this week. He did well but is exhausted. He is still on a liquid diet but has felt hungry and even ate a couple of mushed up tater-tots one day. Low-level nausea persists as does pain in his throat and tongue, but over all he feels better each day. The oncologists have set a CT for late September and a PET for late December. I can't wait. Because I am pretty sure we are winning.

God is good and faithful.      


Thursday, August 16, 2012


Peonies don't really grow in Texas but they became my favorite flower a few years ago when I spent the afternoon with a friend on a hillside in Germany where they grew beautiful and semi-wild. The conversation that day was about our marriages and our children, friendship and life, duty and joy. It was a holy place for me then and now in my memory. 

These days when I've needed a little bit of a quiet and holy spot I've gravitated to a funky florist shop in Austin, converted from a gas station, where there's a walk-in cooler full of flowers. Almost always there are peonies. I feel sure the guys who work behind the counter roll their eyes and think, "there she is AGAIN" when I slip in the front door. But they don't bother me while I stand in the cooler. This florist is near a large hospital so I doubt I am the only one who comes in and weeps among the blooms.

The cooler and the glider beside my pool in the backyard, the week-day empty hallways of my church and the inflatable bed where I am sleeping are my private holy places. The more public ones are just as precious. Holding hands with friends over a meal. The sink in our master bathroom.  The grocery aisles, the waiting rooms. The park where I watch the child of a friend. The kitchen counter full of medicine bottles. The car where Emily and I talk as we drive. My office, the yogurt shop, the drug store.  

All these places are somehow holy as we navigate this season of healing. The only sure thing in the ebb and flow of these painful days is that grace meets us in each place, public and private. 

Terry is improving in many ways, still has a way to go in others. He has an amazing attitude and sense of humor, is patient and positive, full of courage and hope while I can often be found heading for the peony cooler. I was thankful for my husband that day on the German hillside, I am even more so now. Is it just that our hearts are so tender, just that we are so grateful? If so, I want to stay aware of these holy spaces and hours, not to forget.

God is good and faithful. I am pretty sure He made peonies. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

10 days post treatment

Terry's beverage of choice these days, well, really his meal of choice -Promised Land Midnight Chocolate Milk. If you've never indulged you should splurge and give it a try. One cup = 240 calories via the 'divine bovines' in Floresville, Texas.

We're thinking about food a lot at our house, though no eating is yet taking place. Terry watched cooking shows all afternoon on Sunday instead of the Olympics. It encouraged me no end. Some day we will cook and eat again at our house.

Today makes 10 days post treatment. Last week was very, very difficult  - Terry was unable to drink much of anything. We took him to the infusion lab Wednesday and Friday to tank up on a couple of liters of fluids and anti-nausea meds. We stayed very low and quiet. One of us cried some, one of us was brave. We believe he has 'turned the corner' towards recovery. Today he just needed one liter of fluid and is looking and feeling some better. Big thanks to those divine bovines.

The radiation burns on his neck and face are healing - they are itchy and feel like a really harsh sunburn. His throat is at about a pain level of 7 most of the time, the nausea is about a 5 with medication. He is consistently loosing weight for the first time since treatment began, so of course is feeling weak. His hair is mostly gone, but bald is cool. Other assorted side effects are slowly waning. Those are about all the details I am allowed to share. 

Know we are feeling loved and cared for by all your sweet messages in texts and emails, thoughtful packages and silly gifts. Know we are finding solid ground under our feet each day. Know we are following the example of many of you who have gone before us and shared your stories of suffering and healing. Know we are finding joy each day in small and unexpected ways. Know we are winning most of those skirmishes which happen between our ears. Know we are hearing the Voice we most long to hear daily. 

That's me with the royal We again. But I am right. Terry is amazing. Be impressed with him. And thankful with us for chocolate milk.

God is good and faithful.