Monday, February 23, 2009

My friend Nic

I'll post an embarrassing photo of Nic later but I just wanted to share with you all (who is out there anyway? :) ) an exchange I recently had with him. I met Nic at Camp Goodtimes when he was a cute little cancer patient who lived for lighting up the dance floor with amazing dancing and lip sync-ing to songs from Grease. He spent most of his non-dancing lip sync-ing moments chasing and annoying the crap out of the girls at camp. It worked out for him in the end though. Right now he's in his 20's and going out with one of them!

I just wanted to share a bit of back and forth texting that took place the other day between me and Nic;

Me;

Hey, I really enjoyed our random conversation the other day. Would you mind if I posted a bit of it on my blog?

I think that we really touched on some important points that might be of interest to some people.

Nic;

Sure.

At this point, I am one week month away from finishing my chemo, I might not have to do radiation for it, and all I am focusing on, is getting to camp and moving to Seattle to be with Athena...

and thank you Moose. That means a lot to me...

The conversation;

Nic;

I am about to get a little serious here, and that doesn't happen often with me. Ask Athena.

I just read your blog about Gloria. In it you wrote, "I felt crippled by my inability to help her suffering.".

Just by BEING there you helped her suffering Paul. Trust me. I know. There is no drug on the planet that can help ease pain better then knowing that there are people in the world who care about you.

The nurses at Children's and similar hospitals are angels. There is no doubt about that. It takes a special kind of person to sit and watch children get poisoned and what not throughout chemo and be able to walk in every day with a smile on their face. But it also takes a special person to do what you do...

Thank you for that. Thank you for everything.

Me;

Nic, I do greatly appreciate your comments. I just wish there was more that I could do...yesterday at the hospital, Codi could barely move. She was laying on her side breathing deliberately and most likely just counting the minutes between pain meds. At one point she said quietly that she was sorry! In other words, sorry that she couldn't be more fun. I told her that it was just a joy to be able to visit so she better knock off the crazy talk! What a sweatheart...

You know all to well what this ordeal is like my friend. You have tackled adversity so well and have made a huge impact on the world with your zest for life. You've even convinced (or perhaps trapped with some voodoo spell) a very nice young lady to hang out with you. Amazing.


I just found out this morning that Codi got all the way home last night for two whole hours before having to be rushed by ambulance back to ICU.

No one really knows how this or any other situation will 'end up', but the end DOES NOT define the situation or the person. NOW does. Now is real, tangible, attainable and transformable. To me that's what it's all about...life, camp, you name it.

We all have so much to do here and sometimes it's just the required elements of eating, sleeping, working. The key for me is twofold; one is to see what can be done with those other 'elective' moments, the other is to see if you can manipulate your working life to be as fulfilling as possible. That's the hard part, because some of the most amazing jobs only pay enough for you to afford living in a lovely van down by the river!

In other words Nic, to make a long message even longer but to also make a final point at the same time... let's just join the mutual admiration society and go out there and try to make the world a better place!

Deal?

Nic;

Deal

Friday, February 20, 2009

Happy Birthday Gloria too!!



Today is also the birthday of a dearly departed friend of mine, Gloria Strauss. I've talked about her before, and I will again...and again. Gloria would have turned 13 today. Instead of candles, unfortunately there are only memories.

Gloria died in September, 2007 which quite honestly seems like science fiction to me. She is alive in so many ways; her joy, her compassion, her flair, her faith, her strut down the beach...all these defined a kid the likes of which I had never met before.

When I would visit her in the hospital, before I could even get, "How are you feeling today?" out of my mouth, she would ask about me, my family, and what was going on in MY life. I wasn't trapped in a hospital bed though, attached to countless machines, in intense pain, unable to move and breathing with the help of an oxygen mask.

I will never whine again.

Gloria made you feel special because of her genuine caring and love for you. If the world at large could do the same, just think of what an amazing place we would live in. Gloria, in her brief stay here, made a difference and changed the world for the better.

I went to visit her one day about a week before she passed away. The normal commotion that surround her room was absent. It's almost impossible with 6 siblings and tons of other loving family and friends not to have a little chaos during a time such as that but at that particular moment there was none. One of her nurses, like myself, was a volunteer at Camp Goodtimes which is where I met Gloria. She said that I was welcome to just go in an sit with her, even though she was pretty wiped out from the morphine drip. I went into the room and just sat with her for a half an hour. I felt crippled by my inability to help her suffering. I knew that she had so much unfinished business to tend to in this life but that opportunity was being taken away by neuroblastoma. The thought that she was not going to survive this struggle to go on, get better, grow up and live a long happy life was so strikingly tragic to me. As my eyes grew heavier, hers started to flicker. Her pain was accelerating and I asked if she needed her "happy button" (the morphine drip), she nodded to which I helped her hand find it. I then I asked her if she needed a drink and I proceeded to hold a cup of water so that the straw poked through the opening in her oxygen mask so she could get more fluids. She soon drifted back to sleep. After a few minutes, when it was apparent that she was comfortable again, I slipped out of the room and said goodbye to the nurses. I returned again a few days later to visit and take the family photo that I shared earlier in this blog.

Since that time, I keep thinking about my friend Lysen, the oncology nurse, and the other nurses and docs at Children's Hospital, whose job...no...whose priviledge it is to help children like Gloria every single day. There is always someone there who not only looks at a patient clinically but most specially, with caring and compassionate eyes. That love is unconditional and priceless. I'm comforted knowing that Gloria, and the other kids who have suffered through similar situations, have had absolutely the best care possible.

How can you thank someone enough for that kind of gift?

Happy Birthday Smearp!



I hope you forgive me for sitting on your head when you were little...oh and that time that I almost blew you up with lighter fluid at the beach...AND I'm still sorry that I impaled your finger that time with the lawn dart (but you'll have to admit it was a pretty amazing throw!).

Thanks for being a great little brother and a wonderful best man at my wedding 22 years ago. You have accomplished a lot of things in your life, the most important of which is being a great dad to two remarkable children. And don't too complacent now that I'm saying all these nice things about you. I'm still your big brother so be prepared to get tackled, tickled and sat on the next time I see you!

Happy Birthday!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The day the Orcas came- 1989

An old friend of mine recently found me on Facebook and asked if I had any of the photos handy that I took 20 years ago when I took she and some of our other friends from Camp Sealth out on the Argosy tour boat Goodtime and we encountered two pods of whales off of Alki beach...


...yes! What a great day that was.

Every time I look at this photo I get more and more thankful that I live in the Pacific Northwest where this moment is even possible. What other major city IN THE WORLD could you see a pod of Orcas just a mile or two offshore? And not just once in a lifetime. I've been lucky enough over the years to witness this over a dozen times, twice close inside of Elliot Bay.

Orcas are beautiful...let's be nice to them and their home.

Friends

Remember when you were a kid and you had friends for friends-sake? You hung out with people without expectations? Instead, you found people along the way who were just fun to be around? Well I think of those times when I think of Miles and his friend Courtney. Courtney is a former cancer patient and camper at Camp Goodtimes who I met when she was about 9. She first met Miles when he was 6 and would see him three times a year; at camp when he was running around with me (or helping out at the cotton candy machine), on the Christmas cruise, and at the spring reunion party. At every event Courtney would walk up to me and say, "Hey Mooselips, where's Monkey Boy?" (As I've said before, you're going to have to get used to the camp names!). Then she'd find him and they'd hang out and talk for a while.

Last fall, Courtney made an epic journey from her house in Issaquah to come over for a visit in Poulsbo. She traveled by cab, bus, ferry, bus, car, bus, ferry, bus, and cab that day and in that order. To commemorate such a Herculean effort I thought I would share this photograph that I took that day.


Monday, February 9, 2009

Katie & Gloria

Though they never officially met, Katie and Gloria's journeys overlapped on the Argosy donated cruise for Camp Goodtimes in June 2007. Katie was at Camp all week having the time of her life. Her cancer returned just 3 weeks later. Gloria was too sick to go to camp but was able to come out for the boat ride. For that day, all that was important was having fun, hanging out with friends and just enjoying being a kid.

I wanted to share these two photographs because I mentioned each in comments to my GLOW post.

Two amazing 12 year olds with two equally amazing loving families.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Memory Circle


This stone was left for Gloria during Memory Circle at Camp Goodtimes last summer. Memory Circle is a time of celebration, remembrance and the sharing of feelings about campers or staff who have passed away. I was blown away by the outpouring of emotion. Who would ever think that the combination of some Sharpies, some rocks and some kids speaking silently from their hearts could create something so powerful?

Saturday, February 7, 2009

GLOW

video

Friday night Gloria Strauss' family was celebrating her life in a "Night of Inspiration". I couldn't attend but wanted to let them know that Gloria will never be forgotten. Gloria passed away in the fall of 2007 but continues to inspire so many people. At times, I really can't believe that she is gone. She is just so very real to me. We had so much fun together at camp, at her home with her family and cruising around on Puget Sound.

This was my tribute video to Glow that was played at her memorial service. If you ever saw her light up a room, a stage, a dance floor, or a smile on the face of anyone she met you were one of the lucky ones!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Camp Goodtimes 1992

video

This was the video I made for Camp Goodtimes in 1992. I've been volunteering there for 25 years now. There are seven people (kids and staff) in this video who are no longer with us. Most recently, we lost Grandpa Fred, who helped start the camp, late last year. I love being able to go back in time and remember how great those moments were and see my friends having the time of their lives. The bonds that were created still exist. Just today my friend and long time volunteer, Kitty, reminded me that 1992 was her first year on staff. She has been there every year since!

So if you have eleven minutes to spare and wouldn't mind watching a bunch of amazing people have a great time, just click the link. I'm sure that it will bring a smile to your face!