Wednesday, May 20, 2015

And We All Shine On

I've tried so many times the past few months to write my blog.  But how do you go from talking about Cancer to explaining how to finish a Countertop?  The lightness and humor that once flowed easily has been hard to find since December when I held 3 things in heart:

1. Bruce knew he had Stage 4 Lung Cancer. What he didn't know was the 1st doctor told me he might only live 3 months.
2.  Because the cancer had spread to his spine, a fall could paralyze him or be fatal.  Our dream home had become a potential for a nightmare.
3.  He would not be returning to work and I would need to assume all the responsibilities of Surfaces.  If not right away, within at least 6 months.

And in the craziest twist, our only good news turned out to be a gene mutation.  Most people cringe when they here mutation but in lung cancer it is like winning a golden ticket (with odds of less then 8%). Bruce has the ALK mutation which means he can take a targeted therapy with better outcomes and less side-effects then traditional chemotherapy.  But you don't know how your body will respond and when it will stop working. And it is expensive. So I started 2015 thinking I might possibly lose my husband, my home, and my business.  As Bruce said to me after a long day of tests and doctor's visits, "who did we piss off?" 

Karma. I'm not sure there is always "a plan" in suffering. What if sometimes really bad things happen to good people for no reason at all-just bad luck as unfair as that sounds. I couldn't think of anything we had done that warranted such a stiff lesson from the Universe.

But maybe Karma wasn't the question but the answer? An opportunity to release my burdens and begin embracing our life again.  After all, Anger and Fear will hold your energy as much as Love and Friendship. I needed some better juju and I needed it soon.

The Call
Outwardly I tried to be optimistic. I wanted to be brave and keep Bruce's spirits up but inside I was balanced right on the edge of despair and grief. I felt like a fraud. Then I got a call from a finisher I met last year.  She was returning to her love of finishing after caring for an elderly parent.  I sensed that Ann just needed someone to say, "give yourself permission to let go. Enjoy the moment." We had nice conversations during the class that I hoped would encourage her to re-embrace decorative arts.

The day in December when I posted my blog about Bruce's cancer, Ann suffered the worst of losses-her son passed away.  A young man who had just talked with her on the phone the day before was gone.  But in her own grief, she called to talk about mine.  Because her son Taylor embraced joy and living in the moment she had found some comfort.  He sent her a sign in his passing, that gave her peace.  She shared all this with me and I have thought about our conversation everyday since.  Talking with Ann reminded that loss is universal. Suffering unavoidable.  But beauty and happiness are possible. Relationships endure. Later my friend Anna would send me this:
No One Fights Alone
 I needed to re-set my physical, emotional, and spiritual self before I could move on to what is ahead. This meant getting our home ready to sell and finding a new place to live. Learning our home and store finances better so I am prepared to manage them. Keeping my body and mind healthy. 
Maintaining Surfaces' classes and sales. Finding ways to celebrate the milestones of this year. And do these things with Gratitude, Love, Generosity, Kindness, and Forgiveness. No small task.

But I couldn't do them alone.  From the moment I told family and friends the reality of our situation, we have been the recipients of Instant Karma.
My brother in law Stan flew out to help.  He has given me guidance on budgets and our home. In the early days, he provided Bruce companionship while I started tackling the house.  His love for his brother expressed in words and deeds eased my own suffering and helped me with forgiveness. I am fortunate to enjoy a close relationship with both of Bruce's brothers and my sister in laws. And his nieces and nephews
They even hosted a party so Bruce and I could celebrate a milestone birthday while enjoying time with their extended family and friends.  The Slaton are not my blood family but definitely the family of my heart. 

My sister Sally.  She may be the baby in the family but she became my pillar of strength.

Sally has her own demanding career teaching children with Autism and Spectrum Disorders plus two children of her own and a husband. She came over multiple times during the week to help me clean and pack.  We had signed up for our first marathon before Bruce's diagnosis. Because of her, I continued to train and remain mentally & physically strong even when I wanted to give up.

Together we ran that marathon which had become a metaphor for my life.

It was important to me that Bruce knew I could achieve this goal.  We ran the Oklahoma City which seemed fitting since it raises funds supporting the memorial created to honor sacrifice and loss. But also the will to survive and go on!


My Dad, who was there to see us accomplish our goal. Who has always been there to cheer me on.

He and my Mom always give me good counsel offering support when I need it. I used to think they demanded a lot from me. Now I am grateful. My Mom is the person who can talk me off the ledge better then anyone.  Because of her own struggles she knows empathy better then most.

And my brother who offered much and took the time to research matters of trusts, medical directives, and other things I had not thought about on his own.  He still checks in to see how big sister is doing.

The quiet hero of this story is Emily. Talk about Instant Karma. Emily grew up in the home behind ours but we had never met her.  Until she happened to come into our store with her Mother's Designer Friend. A recent graduate of Fine Arts, Bruce offered her a job. And thank goodness he did.  I am not exaggerating when I credit Emily with keeping our business running. Through-out all the hospital stays and doctor's visits, she has kept Surfaces' open.

During Bruce's testing, Emily got married. How many other brides do you know who would come to work the Monday after getting married?  She worked the whole week before her honeymoon.  And took no time off while preparing for her wedding.

She is an important member of my family and I've often questioned if that random day she came to the shop was not so random after all. Mentoring her has been one of my joys through all this.

My Circle of Trust
You are truly lucky in this life if you can have deep and meaningful friendships whether you see each other every week or once a year. These are the people who have shared my fears, struggles, and hopes for the future.

My "faux sisters", Sue, Suzanne, and Mary coordinated the efforts of our finisher community to help us in our time of need. They organized shifts to work on our home and meals during Bruce's first days of diagnosis and treatment. They set-up the accounts that allowed our out-of state friends to donate to helping get our home ready to sell.

Sue, My Conscience Sister. Thank you for being there with me and Sally when I found out Bruce had cancer.  For helping me with classes, working on my house and many road trips-I am grateful for your integrity and steady support.  Thanks to you and Jim for opening your home on Thanksgiving and being there many times over.

Suzanne, My Soul Sister.  Thanks for being the caregiver and checking in with me weekly. For taking the time from your busy schedule to work on my house when you had so many things going on in your own.  I am grateful for our deep discussion about life but also for the laughs-we share the flair for drama. You are the kindest of souls. We are grateful to share so many happy memories with you, Thom, and Donovan.  We are a family of our own making.

Mary, My Compass. The sister that helps me be steady and even.  We needed someone that could keep things focused while sharing an amazing laugh! Bruce always lights up when he finds a meal from you.  Your presence in the studio is appreciated in many ways.  We are grateful for our friendship with you and Dave.


Ashley, who picked right back up at Surfaces when I needed help during Emily's honeymoon.  Thank you for working on the house and bringing your talents to planning my 50th Birthday party with our local friends.  Everything was perfect and I will cherish the memories always. 

Brenda Mac, who helped me learn to let it go and the power of moving on.  Thank you for working on the house and my party. For including Bruce and me in your life with Joey and your kids. I am grateful that we have our long and funny history. We hope to see the painted trees.
Jeanette, my guardian angel.  Thank you for your hard work on our home and at Surfaces. You are an important part of our family.  I can always count on you to lend a hand or an ear.

Mona, Julie, Heather, Tyler, and Eber, thanks for working on our house and being a part of my party. Your support of us and Surfaces is greatly appreciated.  And to Kevin, thanks for popping out of a cake and singing to me-but mostly thanks for all the lake memories.

My friend Kim, whom I've known for 20 years and has always been a source of the truth, taste, and good conversation. Even though she moved away before Bruce's diagnosis, Kim always keeps in touch through messages, emails, and phone calls. She remembers every special occasion and makes time to see us when visiting Kansas City. Seeing her new home this year is an important goal for us.

My friends Sass and Sasha. We have exchanged many cards and late night emails.  I know that you are due some good Karma too and I always include you in my private requests for Joy.

My friends Anna and Jackie:
For the words of encouragement. The hospitality. All the signs that show you care. I don't get to see you often enough but your long distance support means the world to me. you helped to mend my broken wings. Some day I hope to help you continue to fly!

My Faux Community

To everyone that sent us a caring token from videos to hand-made items. From gift cards to cash. For your prayers, messages, notes, and posts.  You made a difference to us and helped us prepare for the next chapter in our lives.  We can now say good-bye this house but we will take all your love and support into our new home.

Because wherever we land-it will be home. My Karma Cleanse taught me that the most important things in life are the people (and pups) who are in it.

The love you take is equal to the love you make.

 I can now let go of my burdens....

Choose Happiness...

And write about countertops again! 


  1. Love you girl! Bruce, jim, and I have already planned this years thanksgiving!!!

  2. Beautifully written as always Rockstar!! How fitting my nickname for has really become. The nickname started from your mad guitar hero skills has spilled fittingly over into your real life as you marathon your way through life changes with true grit, and grace.. Sharing lessons learned with the rest of us along your journey! Truely an inspiration - loved this blog and feel honored to be mentioned in it. love you Rockstar! SHINE ON!

  3. wow!! I can certainly understand why your circle of love is so large. Your heart's contents are spilled with every word you typed. I know of you and Bruce through Sass and Anna and I can only imagine you and Bruce must be incredible people. Your words are a wonderful reminder that we are here to enjoy our lives and those we are privileged to have in them. Thank you. Thank you. Love & Light.

  4. Thank you so much for the kind and thoughtful replies. This journey has taught us a lot but mostly about how fortunate we are to have such good friends and family. I would encourage anyone facing a crisis to reach out to your circle and if you don't have a circle, start drawing one today!