Day 6, Friday celebrating the ordinary and ubiquitous

How can it already be day 6 of Marie’s challenge? What a rhapsody of images, emotions and insights int the lives of so many blogesses.  What a wonderful week it has been!

I have to confess to be terribly backlogged though – trying to read all of the posts, trying to select and upload images myself in an connectivity challenged setting.  So I am very happy that the weekend has now arrived and I can try and catch up with the wealth of posts and respond to your very welcome comments.

But first, while I have electricity and a reasonable connection, here is my Friday Day 6 contribution.

We are in the midst of monsoon, and monsoon here is very, very monsoony!  Furthermore, there is general consent that this year the monsoon has been even heavier than usual and many areas have serious flooding. I am listening to torrential rain as I sit here writing this, wondering if it will continue all night.  Waiting for the rain to ease and the frog and toad chorus to start.  I too wonder if the smell of our rain is indeed different to that which Brenda talked about?  I think it certainly smells different to the rains which we have in Scotland. And seeing a snow-laden sky in Nancy’s post brought a rush of memory, bizarrely, of the smell of approaching snow.  I can always tell if snow is on its way – in Scotland I could predict snow by the very particular scent on the breeze.

Thanks to the rains and the humidity, thought, we have the most lush vegetation and beautiful tropical flowers. (Just like Paw Paw Salad in Darwin). One of my favourite pastimes is looking out for freshly fallen frangipani in the morning on my way home from my dawn swim.  I like to pick up those morning treasures,  take them home and put them in a little tub of water.

Every day, we have a delivery to our house.  Not milk. Nor a daily paper. No, the daily delivery is a string of jasmine and other scented flowers which we put in our Buddha room.  The flower seller brings the flowers each morning and hangs them on the gate.  Once a month she calls to collect her flower money.  She is happy with regular business, we are happy with our daily flower offerings. And it is a beautifully appropriate offering for the Buddha.  A perfect arrangement.

As if one budget line for jasmine is not enough, I also have another arrangement.  On the way to work every day, either walking or if it is too hot or wet and by taxi, I have a standing arrangement where I buy jasmine or other scented flowers from the jasmine seller at the traffic lights.  Those scented flowers are taken to the office, and I put the on the Buddha in the office.  This morning’s picture shows what are called golden flowers.  I am not sure of the correct name, that is the translation from Myanmar.  They smell exquisite, and very similar to jasmine.  You can also see the corner of a 500 kyat note which is part of my taxi fare, scrunched up in my hand.

We are surrounded by flowers and lush tropical vegetation, and I never tire of it.  I never tire of photographing it too!  And one of my very favourite sights at this time of year, is that of a flower glistening with monsoon droplets following a torrential downpour – an irresistible everyday image to celebrate.

Day 5, it must still be Thursday somewhere in the world? Celebrating extra and ordinary

Is it still Thursday somewhere in our world?

Although I had finally managed to select one image to celebrate the ordinary, I am going to envelope it in a couple more to give it some context.  And because I really struggled not to choose these ones.  This is a quick glimpse of my extraordinary day with countless celebrations of the ordinary before the day starts in this corner of the planet.

Buffalo wallowing in the water, a typical scene as we travelled out of town.

Refreshments.  Fresh being the key element – cooling, refreshing and nutritious coconut.

Women in the community, sharing a smile with paddy fields in the background.  You can see the traditional combs used for keeping their hair up.

A glimpse of typical transport – buses and trishaws.  And how many girls can fit on a trishaw made for the driver and two more?  I saw at least five on this one, not including the driver who had to push.

And finally, the main image.  The reason behind it all.  An example of why I am here.  This little boy is playing an instrument made of bamboo.  The sides open and when releaased make a loud “clack! clack! sound.

So much to be thankful for.

Day 5, Delays in celebrating the ordinary!

It is late evening here in Yangon, and I have returned from a full day visiting our projects out of the city.

An extraordinary day for me, spending time with communities, children and colleagues in their everyday setting. Another reminder why I live and work here.  Utterly humbling, inspiring and frequently heart wrenching.

Of course, I have returned with memory cards crammed with memories – my camera memory card, and my own personal in-my-head memory card.  I have spent some considerable time carefully sorting through the many images which all, in their own way, represent celebration of the ordinary.  And finally  selecting the one sole image to share.

And that is where I have come unstuck.  In the evenings the connection is so slow that I can’t upload more than 4% of the image before the system freezes and refuses to upload any more.

So this is an apology for the delay in posting.  I will try again in the early morning when the cyber waves tend to be a bit freer.  It will also give me a chance on the posts I have missed, and reply to the lovely comments you have left.

Watch this space!

Day 4, Wednesday – Celebrating the ordinary and everyday

 

You can’t get much more ordinary than eating!  Or can you?

My celebration of  the ordinary today focuses on our lunchtimes.  And more importantly our lunches!  Pretty  much every day I have lunch with my colleagues,  and the scene depicted below is a fair and accurate impression of the daily  experience.

The hero of our lunch is in fact the amazing yet humble tiffin box. This perfectly designed lunchbox contains every element and nutrient needed for the perfect lunch.  They are produced in an unending variety of designs with two or three layers or even more, different sizes and different widths.  We can procure the perfect tiffin box for our needs.   My own tiffin box has two storeys and I carry it to work in the cutest little wicker basket.

In the lunch room we sit together, dismantle our tiffin boxes and spread the various  dishes we have on the table.  One of the nicest things about Myamar culture is that we share the assortment of dishes freely, tasting and savouring such a wide variety of flavours and regional specialties.

And then, at the end of the meal, when every last bite is finished, the hotch potch of assorted tiffin tinlets are magically rearranged back into their individual tiffin boxes ready to be dismantled, washed, taken home and prepared for the next day’s lunch.

 

Day 3, Tuesday – and celebrating the ordinary with something a little different

In the first two days of Marie’s challenge on Journeying beyond Breast Cancer, I have been struck by the enormity and complexity of celebrating the ordinary.  Already, I have had insights both visual and descriptive, into the lives of friends on the blogosphere.  The images are striking and the words underneath them tell so much.

I know that I am fortunate in having no shortage of material (well, perhaps that is the understatement of a few millennia) and  I am surrounded by amazing sights, and experience so many “oh gosh” heart stopping moments in an ordinary day, living in a place very different to my original and home culture.

So today, I want to do something a little different.  I am perhaps cheating a little in that this is not one of the images I have taken today (oh yes, of course I have already taken quite a few) but a picture from my “archive”.  And of course there is a story behind this.

For going on 20 years, I have regularly spent time on the tiny Scottish island of Lismore.  The island has a population of around 150. Yes, 150.  150 people, not homes.  The island itself is around 10 miles long (perhaps 16 kilometres) and at its widest point, around  2 miles wide.  Which is just over 3 kilometres.  A tiny island with a tiny population.

Every year, when I visit the UK, I always try and spend as much time as possible on the island, and was able to spend longer than usual there after the nine months of cancer treatment.  Spending time there is not as easy as it sounds given the fact that my family are spread around the UK and getting to Lismore (on public transportation) is complex.  It involves trying to coordinate bus times, train times and ferry times and usually means a dawn start to get to the island the same day.  However, once on the island, time slows down and the important things take over. Precious time with family, long walks exploring the island, and my usual jaunt to the minute tidal island of Bernara just at the western edge of Lismore.  If Lismore is tiny, I am not sure how to describe Bernera.

To get to Bernera, it is vital to check the tide tables, as the island is only accessible at low tide when the causeway appears. I have spent hours there, watching the tide go down and the path miraculously appear, watching the tide come up slowly and the island become distinct from the bigger island, and especially watching the inhabitants of the island.  And I am sure there must be a lot more than 150 of them, a clan of hardy, common grey seals, hanging out, fishing, swimming and lounging on the stony shores of Bernera.  It is fortunate that the Scottish summer evenings are so long, as it gives so much extra time to wander, watch and wonder.

In addition to the seal population, there is a sizeable sheep population which must far exceed the number of human inhabitants of the whole island.  It often feels as if they are the ones in charge.  I do not know how many times I have looked back, or up, to see a number of eyes fixed on me.  And that is the image which I want to share today.

But times are changing, my future visits to the island unsure and my long breaks there unlikely in the same way.  I will have to rely on memories and the many photographs, and of course there are some pictures of visits to the island as well as a few from the island itself.

Celebrate the ordinary today, because tomorrow may be different.

Day 2 Celebrating the ordinary – Monday’s choice

This truly is an awesome challenge!  In so many ways

It is awesome because I am enjoying it so much.  It is awesome because it is so all encompassing.  My goodness, this is going to be a less than gentle re-introduction for Marie, I do believe!  Already I am losing track of all of the wonderful images, and the beautiful stories behind them.

It is also awesome because I get to share some of the innumerable everyday gems which I treasure, living and working here in Myanmar.

So this morning, I made sure that I had the camera with me when I got up at 5.30 am to get ready for my swim.  I love my walk to the place I swim, and I knew that there would be no shortage of ordinary wonders.  Little did I know that the snapping would start even before I was fully dressed!  That image is not the one I will share today though.  As expected, there were plenty of moments and impressions that took my interest.  By the time I had left home, walked to and from the pool and eventually arrived at work, there were a silly number of images to choose from.  i soon realised that I would indeed be struggling to select just one for the day. (I have a plan in mind for those photos which will not make the daily “cut”, but I will share that later).

I did finally manage to select just one – and this is what I have chosen for my Monday picture.

This was the scene at my front door as I left for the pool this morning.  One of the first tasks of the day here is the sweeping up of leaves, dust (in the dry season) and generally tidying up.  It is kind of ritual cleansing, so that the day starts fresh and clean.  The brushes used are traditional, and give a gentle “swish, swish” sound as the sweeping is done.  The brush was resting against one of the plants, mid way through its sweeping work.

A simple, ordinary, daily sight.  And one to celebrate.

Celebrating the ordinary – Sunday’s starter

As I posted yesterday, Marie of Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer, is marking a return to blogging with the following challenge:

For one week, starting Sunday, I would love for you to join me………  it’s about celebrating the ordinary simple things we can sometimes take for granted each day.   So, will you join me in finding one thing each day to take a picture of to remind us of the simple ordinary pleasures in life? If you have a blog, then please post the picture and leave a link here.  And if you don’t have a blog, you can still join in on Facebook. Just upload your pic to the JBBC Facebook page where I will also be posting everyone’s pictures.  Looking forward to seeing your contributions!

Irresistible!  I was already in the midst of preparing a post, which would herald a new aspect to my own blog – I guess I could call it the Background Image Backstory?  So to start the week of celebration of the ordinary, I am using the image I was poised to share and describe, the image which was the first background image on my New Look Blog.

This is a photograph which I actually took during my Christmas break, in 2010 in Ngwe Saung, on the western coast of Myanmar.  I was fascinated by the patterns appearing on the sand, and ended up taking a number of photographs of the various designs and patterns.  This image is of a design left in the sand as the tide went out.  These incredible designs were everywhere, all I had to do was open my eyes and celebrate them in their extraordinary simple sophistication.

It may come as no surprise that I photographed very many of these various images, including the patterns left by burrowing tiny crabs and doodles by sand slugs.  There is a full album of these on my sister blog, where I post photographs of my life here, and another album of that Christmas break in black and white images.

As the week of this challenge progresses, I will be sharing images, new shots and some from my archive, to celebrate the ordinary.  The biggest challenge is only selecting one each day for only a week!

Images and synchronicity….

Amidst all this bloggerly pondering, overhauling and refreshing,  I had an idea yesterday.

Before I describe the idea, let’s rewind to the overhaul, and particularly to the image at the background of the new look blog.  It took me a great deal of identifying, selecting, experimenting and painfully slow uploading of images to serve as the background image.  The one I finally selected, I was very happy with, even if you could only see the edges.  Oh, but choosing only one was so hard, and when I look at many other blogs around me, with such a variety of beautiful images, I felt sad that I could not put all of my favourite images as the background.  And then I stopped.  Why can’t I?  A slide show would take up too much memory and be painful for slow-downloading environments which are more the norm than not in this part of the world.  But what I could do would be to develop a regular kind of “feature”  where I could change the background picture, and at the same time display the image (in full since only the edges which are shown as background image), and links to any posts which relate and more images of the same kind.  Now wouldn’t that be a fine way of expanding the content of the blog in a way which truly reflects its purpose of telling the story of  the “Life and work of a Scottish woman in Asia – with the added complication of Breast Cancer thrown into the mix!”?  Well, let’s give it a try and see…..

So I have changed the background image 🙂  The new image I have chosen is from my visit to Timor Leste in February which I wrote about here along with a selection of photographs of the visit.  And I propose to change the background image, regularly (depending on connectivity) along with a post with the picture itself and giving a bit of the story behind it.

My next step was then to share and describe the first image which I had selected.  That plan changed. It was late in our day, Friday, when I read Marie’s challenge in her return to the blogosphere.  Her challenge is simple and beautiful.  We are challenged to open our eyes and appreciate our surroundings, and share the images from those wonderful everyday little things.

And that is where the synchronicity comes in.  Not just in relation to the images themselves, but the very image which I had painstakingly selected for the first background of the revamped blog look is one of my favourites for the very reason that it is a simple picture of an everyday wonder.  Marie challenges us to share our images on Sunday (tomorrow) so this post is to give the backstory and pave the way for the image which (coincidentally I had already uploaded for this post) for me truly represents a celebration of the ordinary.

And that will appear here tomorrow, with a link back to Marie’s challenge post.

The Meaning of Life and the Why of Blogging

 

There is something going on in the blogosphere. There is a shifting in the breeze and a sense of unsettledness. The groundswell of a movement is still there but amidst it s a sense of questioning. Questioning, why we blog, for what purpose and with what aim? We seem to be drowning in questions, and struggling to find many answers.  A bit like the meaning of life, perhaps.

In many senses the blogsphere is awash with breast cancer related blogs. (My own blogroll miserably fails to capture too many brilliant blogs). Of course the scale of breast cancer blogging reflects the enormity and diversity of the disease on top of our own individuality. The fact that there is such variety in the approaches we each take to blogging, reflects the uniqueness of our own diagnosis and experience and what breast cancer means to us individually.

I can see that I am not alone in feeling the need to spring clean the blog, peeking into the dusty corners of the archives and emerge with a shiny new, squeaky clean refreshed Feisty Blue Gecko space. I worked on the visual side a few weeks ago, and am quite pleased with the revamped look, although it might experience some tweakings and refinement.

That is the easy part though. The visual side is far less complex and much clearer than the “what’s in it” aspect. So following some heavy weeks at work, residual tiredness and gradual recovery from the recent ill health, it has taken some time in this post taking shape. Added to that is the continued feed of posts from fellow blogesses who are also thinking about the Why of Blogging.

It is interesting to see how our blogs develop and evolve as time marches forward. I remember the thinking processes I went through as this blog entered the blogosphere in October 2009, not long after diagnosis. Being so far away from family, many friends and support networks, I wanted to keep folks informed and updated as I was propelled along the diagnosis-treatment path. I also wanted to record the tiny details that I knew I would forget as time wore on. This would be a record of my experience that I could revisit. And connected with that was the interest to revisit when I would be in a different place emotionally and physically. I find it very powerful re-reading some of the posts from my earlier days following diagnosis. It is difficult to recall just how you felt long after the event. The level of detail I have written preserves that.


However, by far the biggest catalyst for my blogging about breast cancer was to try and get a grip on what was going on in my mind. I would lie awake at night, thinking, worrying and fearing. Starting to record everything and process it was incredibly cathartic, and still is. Having the blog to focus those thoughts and shape them into a post which would have to be coherent enough for others to read provided an outlet for the the scary thoughts, a kind of download button. Yes, blogging really helped to bring some meaning to life in the new cancer world that we are thrown into.

If my original Why of Blogging was multipurpose, then no wonder I am having difficulty making sense of the current Why of Blogging nearly three years on. And this is where I find myself far from alone.

Take Lauren’s blog,  After Five Years, for example. I would look forward to Sunday evenings and luxuriate in Lauren’s insightful and eloquent writing as I prepared for the new week ahead. On a Sunday even in Asia, I could time fairly accurately when the Tweet would arrive, which would tell me that Lauren had clicked publish on her latest post.  The end of last year brought a break in her weekly blogging, which I found quite unsettling and disconcerting. As the weeks turned into months, I would continue to click regularly on the link in the hope that there would be a new post. And then one day, there was. And her post was a discussion linked to the Why of Blogging and how this was shifting for Lauren.

Last month, within days of each other, Uneasy Pink and Bringing up Goliath published posts sharing very similar thoughts. Uneasy Pink expressed a tiredness. Tiredness of cancer, of the lack of real progress, and so tired of good people dying. And tiredness of trying to find some new to say when the nothing is really changing. Bringing Up Goliath shares a similar fatigue as she says she will be stepping back a bit to re-think.  She expresses a deep sense sadness, especially in seeing the progression of metastatic disease in women diagnosed at the same time as she was early in 2009.  Not long before I was diagnosed myself.

I feel as if I am in a kind of “cohort” amongst women who were diagnosed around the same time. A kind of “Class of 2009”. However, we are all in different places depending on our various diagnoses, stages, treatment paths and situations. I keenly feel injustice, guilt and uncomfortable relief simultaneously that so many are living with Stage 4 metastatic disease while I count my blessings daily that I am still in NED’s company. That very fact, that so many women are dying of metastatic breast cancer, despite advances and despite often early diagnosis and regular screening, is one of the drivers for many to advocate and shout for change through their blogs. There is a wealth of articulate, clearly argued and passionate debate in the breast cancer blogosphere which is a major Why of Blogging.

The Accidental Amazon is one such tireless advocate. She is the Queen of Snark and one very smart cookie. And she has told us that she is also feeling the fatigue and taking time to step back for a bit. She says:

“So, here’s the thing. I’m taking a break. No idea how long a break it will be. But I’m going to just live my life for a while — you know, that life I used to have before cancer. That life that has, in very large part, been on hold for four years”.

And that leads us to another kind of development in the blogosphere. Just a month ago, I was inspired to read news of another “blogging change of direction” from Second Base Dispatch.  She clearly articulates the complexity of finding her way, and the relationship between her new path and the breast cancer which probably put her back on the path and describes how she is now making her way forward:

“I’m going to have to devote time to poetry, likely at the expense of my breast cancer social media activity and blogging (unless I can figure out how to give up sleeping).

It might feel like you’re giving up if you don’t continue to fight for the friends you’ve lost, and we’ve all lost too many. But I also feel very strongly that if we don’t live the life that matters to us, we’re doing them an even bigger disservice. We owe it to them to make every minute count.

I don’t plan to walk away from breast cancer advocacy completely. The community I’ve found online means too much to me. I may not be blogging as often and instead of focusing on breast cancer, I may want to share what I’ve learned in case anyone wants to try their hand at writing as therapy.”

Being Sarah, for example, has been a launchpad for things broader than breast cancer, such as the wonderful sounding “Friday Walks which she and her partner have developed into a protected and precious Friday routine, and reports from Pot 44 which is a vital part of her life. This is amidst the grief she is reeling from, since losing Rachel earlier this year and most certainly does not mean she does not continue to shout when the need arises.  This is abundantly clear in her latest post. At the start of the year, she launched her new Shine like a Bee blog to share things creative, as well as gardening and updates from plot 44. Being Sarah, meanwhile, is focused on her breast cancer advocacy and experience, and matters related to her authorship. The Friday walks have now moved to A Sense of Place. She is also in a stage of thinking and organising how she keeps the content of the blogs discrete and focused. Questions, more questions.</

Time is a major factor too.  Blogging is a time-consuming lark.  It involves a great deal of thinking, writing and refining words carefully, selecting (and uploading which can take ages here) the right images, and then the tidying of links and tags and then often a great many deep breaths before the “publish” button can be hit.  This process can be sabotaged by breaks in connection and although I usually write most of my posts offline, there are times when I find myself on a roll, craft the best words and exactly the right tone only to have it all disappear in the ether when connection cuts.  I really should learn, and promise myself to every time it happens.  Until the next time……  Furthermore, I find myself pretty busy trying to fill my days with non cancery stuff and carpe the diem, so time can be pretty tight at weekends and evenings.  I have the latest Book Club book to read, writing exercises for the Writing Group, and Masterchef Australia to keep up with.  Not to mention the day job….  So the balance of trying to keep the blog alive and fresh, while living for the day is also tricky.

And that brings me neatly back round to my own personal Why of Blogging and how that fits with this recent overhaul of things gecko. I started blogging in April 2007, with the original Feisty Blue Gecko intended to note and document aspects of life and work in Asia. There were so many details, which would make me smile or surprise me and partly I did not want to forget them, but also I wanted to share these gems. When I was diagnosed in 2009, I created the current blog as I felt the clear need to create a different space dedicated to the breast cancer experience. However, I did not want to maintain the previous space. Nor do I want to return to it now.

I had no idea when I started blogging that I would become part of a community of bloggers and others online and become so emotionally involved and feel so supported and connected.  That is a very important Why of my Blogging.

All that brings me to the present day. As life moves forward, I know I will not return to the life I had back in Feisty Blue Gecko Days because my life is different now that it is lived through the breast cancer lens. It just is. So in terms of blogging, I might have posts which reflect or rant about on breast cancery stuff. I will also be updating and recording how things are going with health stuff generally, as well as the cancery stuff specifically. I am in fairly good health now, but I realise how fragile this is as I recover from the recent embolic escapade, and when I look at the cocktail of daily drugs I have to take. And there will undoubtedly be times when I feel I have nothing new or original to say.

However, I am in a fortunate position. I live in a fascinating environment at a very interesting time. I live in a culture in which I learn and observe new things constantly. There is a great deal to share as I experience and see new things.

Thus, the plan is to continue to blog in a similar vein, but perhaps to share more of the “life and work of a Scottish Woman in Asia” part of the new strapline. Who knows what will happen in my breast cancer future. It is impossible to predict. No matter what does happen to me, you can be assured that I will be blogging about it. When I see something that lights my touchpaper, you will be seeing a rant on here. When I go through checks and scans, or experience other steps in the path forwards, yes, that will be here too. I will aim to share the snippets and images of life and work here and the moments which make me stop and pinch myself in wonder that I am following the path that I am.

So in fact there may probably not be a great deal of change here. But then again, there just might be …..

 

Birth days and death days

 

Birthdays are a strange thing.  In our family we have a guarded attitude towards the special days because they are tinged with sadness and poignancy.

In 1998, my mother died on her 65th birthday. Every year I struggle to get through that day.  Then in 2007, my step-mother, with whom I was also very close, died. On her 75th birthday.   When birthdays approach in our family, we half joke (in that totally inappropriate way which Scots are rather good at) that we hope we get through the day.  Not so deep down, we are very nervous about our own and each others’ birthdays.

When I woke up yesterday, on my birthday, I was in a strange mood.  My recent unexpected health escapade meant that I cancelled my plan to celebrate my birthday somewhere new.  I would be spending my day in Yangon and it was impossible not to associate the day with the birthday I marked not long after arriving in Myanmar in 2009.  It was a Big Birthday – one ending with a zero, and due to paperwork difficulties we were not able to travel, so any wish bucket plans were not possible to realise.  Furthermore, being in the middle of rainy season it meant that travel anyway even nearby was not really a great idea.  So we marked the day in Yangon, visiting the beautiful Shwe Dagon temple in the daytime, and then with a small group of friends in the evening.

I was totally oblivious to the fact that I was nurturing two already significant tumours and was blissfully unaware of the turn life was going to take in a few short weeks.  Now, on my birthday, in addition to the association of birth days with death days, I have the added association of my 2009 birthday with Breast Cancer.  And that starts to explain my mood yesterday, when I found myself fighting back tears before I had even got out of bed.

However, I had decided to take a day’s leave and was determined to have a relaxing and indulgent day.  I opened up my constant companion (my laptop) in anticipation of birthday greetings through email and Facebook.  And it was wonderful – messages had arrived overnight, and more were streaming in from around the world.  There are some things which Facebook is very good at.

As I skimmed through my newsfeed, however, my eye caught an update which I struggled to understand initially.  Then the realisation sank in.  My blogging sister Jenny, author of Get out Gertrude, had passed away the previous evening.  We knew that time was limited for her, but as her family said in the notice it was far sooner than expected.  Those tears which had been on standby behind my eyes sprang into action.

Jenny and I had connected through our blogs and twitter interactions based on our (albeit different) breast cancer diagnoses.  Jenny had been diagnosed with Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC) which is notoriously aggressive and although Stage 4, she was leading a very full and meaningful life.  She was studying, blogging regularly and a tireless active advocate on IBC.  She tells the full story on her blog.  As the disease has progressed and treatment options limited, we knew that her time with us was limited.  But with regular activity online and her incisive and wise insights, the severity of her physical health was hidden behind a strong vibrant voice.  I will miss her enormously, but value how much I learned from her. Her post on talking to her youngest daughter, who has special needs, is one which will always stay with me and shows her strength, humanity, openness and selflessness.  The fact that she documented and shared this when time and energy were precious, and sadly limited, shows her generosity.

As I am based in Asia, and Jenny in New Zealand we are in a small number of bloggers/tweeters in this side of the planet.  So, for example, while the weekly #bcsm discussion would be underway on Monday evenings in the US, Jenny and I would be joining from Tuesday morning/lunchtime.  I think of us as the “Tuesday bloggers”.  Her passing on a Tuesday is strangely meaningful and comforting to me personally.

It was probably a good thing that I had decided to take the day of my birthday off work.  In my poignant and pensive frame of mind, I could focus on Jenny as well as the preoccupations which had already been crowding my thoughts.  So I moved back to my Facebook feed and the greetings, so that I could attempt to respond to each message individually.  When I was young I was always brought up to send a thank you note for presents and cards, and never seemed to quite finish the task.  So I have tried to redress the balance in this Facebook era.  As messages came through from different parts of the world, the phrase “many returns of the day” and its inference echoed round and round in my mind.  And then one message hit me with an almost physical force as it resonated so much with my emotional place.

“Happy Birthday! I’m so glad you are around for another one!!! :)”

And that was it in a nutshell.  When I found the lump in September 2009, I thought I would not be around for the forthcoming Christmas, never mind birthdays one, two or even three years hence.  None of us has any idea how many more “returns of the day” we will have, but to have three is something I am incredibly thankful for. My relationship with mortality has matured and changed beyond recognition and I do not take these “returns” for granted any more.

So, today is August 2nd.  And here’s another strange coincidence.  Today is Rachel’s birthday. Her close friend Sarah has shared a post which Rachel’s mother has written.  My fears and associations connected with my own birthday, Jenny’s passing and Rachel’s birthday are all joining together in an emotional whirlpool.

But mixed with that emotion is a sense of bittersweet gratitude.  It is the day after my birthday. and I am overwhelmingly thankful.  Thankful that I did indeed wake up today!  Thankful that there have been returns of the day which I feared there would not be.  I am thankful that I am most clearly around for another one!

And most of all, I am thankful for the rich friendship of very special women like Jenny and Rachel.