Friday, August 21, 2015

How I Don't Know What to Pray For

Dear Blog Readers -
Fair warning: this post is probably going to be pure, raw emotional response. I don't plan to proof-read it or anything, so if I offend you, then I'm sorry in advance. Also please don't try to "fix" the emotion that you read it this post - that will make things worse. Thanks.
So, if you don't know, my Dad has some pretty serious cancer. People like to ask what kind, and my response to that in my head is usually something like, "who cares what kind, it's cancer and it's bad, OK?". When he was first diagnosed, so many people told me about various family members of theirs who had beaten cancer - which is great. But it isn't as encouraging as it sounds - what you're really doing in my head when you say that is downplaying the news that my family has recently gotten by saying "it's not that bad, we already got through it".

Anyways, that aside, my Dad got treated for cancer, then it came back, then he got treated again, (you can read about that on my blog here:

But then it came back again. And again. And again. AND AGAIN. Here's my Dad's most recent Facebook status update:

"I suppose it's time to add my cancer spread news to Jimmy Carter's. The chemo I have been on the last ~40 days has not been effective and my tumors continue to grow and sprout in new places in my body like dandelions in a yard. I have at least 10 active tumors now including the new one I discovered in my right forearm this morning. Like Jimmy, I am not without hope come what may and I remain grateful for daily grace over these last many months. Hopefully our experience of that daily provision has prepared us some for the harder days to come. With respect to attempts at treatment, my counts were too low for anything this week but perhaps I'll start on a different chemo regime next week."

All the comments from my Dad's Facebook friends are some variation of  "we're praying for you". This drives me insane. I know most of those people personally, and I know their hearts are really hurting for us, so it's not that - I just don't know what they're praying for, and that drives me crazy, and it hurts me, and it feels trite.

Are they praying for my Dad to "get better"? Well, in that case, they're praying for a miracle, because this is not like those cancers that people come back from - this is the terrible horrible body-betrayed you kind of cancer.

Are they praying for our family to feel peace? Peace, when my Dad has a six year old child, when the unfairness of it all rests so strongly in our minds? Peace, when I can't even walk around the grocery store without crying because I see a Hallmark book "Messages and Memories from a Father" and think that books like that might be the only thing my kids (if I have any) will ever know about my Dad? Would you feel peaceful in the face of that massive upheaval to the life you always expected and took for granted? My family always joked about who would take care of Dad when he got old - we never thought he might not get the chance to grow old.

Are they praying for his treatments to buy him a bit more time, to start being successful? This one I understand the best, but I also see the bad things that chemo causes. I see my dad sitting on the beach for my sister's birthday with fruit flies buzzing around because his surgery site is attracting them. More time, while it has the potential to be great, also has the potential to be terrible. I want more time for him too - but I want it pain free, and that just isn't going to happen, and that makes me so, so angry.

Tell me what you pray for, because I don't know how to do that. I honestly don't know how to pray right now, or what to pray about. There are times where I can "forget" that my dad has cancer - I go to work and keep living my life - but there are also times where I just can't stop thinking about it. I want to be praying, I do, but all I can think is "this is not fair", "this is not how things are supposed to be", "I don't know what would make this better" and "I don't understand why".

I don't want to pray for peace of mind - you shouldn't have peace of mind when you're watching your Dad be so sick - so I don't pray for that. I don't want to pray for a miracle - I want to feel like I'm being realistic. I believe God can do that, but I don't want to be disappointed and even more upset if he doesn't.

So I mostly say the things that I just told you. I say "God, I don't know what to say. You know my Dad's situation, and you know how mixed up I feel about it, and that I think it's crazy and makes no sense. Please communicate with me how to feel and what to do and how to be the best daughter possible. Oh and also please help my angry little heart feel less mixed up about you right now for letting this happen. I still believe in you and want to have a relationship with you, I'm just confused and everything's complicated right now. And now I feel bad cause this started as praying about my Dad and turned selfish. You and Dad have this whole cancer thing figured out better than you and me, right? It seems that way watching him from the outside. Thanks for letting me have him as a Dad. Help me turn into a woman who reflects you like he does. Just fix everything, OK? Then tell me why the thing you do is a fix cause I might not understand why). k thanx bai. (little humor there). For reals though, Amen"

I started this post really sad and angry and ended it more peaceful (with love and encouragement and kisses from my husband to help along the way). Thanks for letting me be vulnerable, y'all.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Why Space?

I've been meaning to write this post for a long, long time (ever since APL's "song of ice and fire" concluded  - New Horizons, the mission to Pluto, finally made it on July 15th of this year, and MESSENGER, the mission to observe Mercury, hit the planet in April. Get it? Ice and Fire? Furthest from Sun and closest to Sun? OK, I'll stop explaining it now).

However, it has slipped my mind until now, when a co-worker asked me about why we were so excited about visiting Pluto, and what the point was of space exploration. So here's what my answer to that question would be, and you all can answer the "Why Space?" questions yourselves.

My Personal Interest: The summer between my senior year of high school and my freshman year of college, I worked at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. Not only was it my first paying job (err, internship), it was the first time I'd felt like my computer science knowledge was useful, efficient, and saving me time (They had planned a data entry task for me that I managed to automate, taking a task that was supposed to take me six weeks and turning it into a task that only took two). Anyways, when I worked at Goddard, I was working on a project called the "Virtual Wave Observatory" ( It collects wave data from many different missions and allows you to conveniently search it in one place. I was amazed to find spectroscopy data collected on the day I was born - though I couldn't interpret the picture, the rainbow peaks and valleys tied to my birthday were indelibly etched in my mind. While an intern at Goddard, I also heard from a number of great speakers (most memorably for me, astronaut Piers Sellers, who dazzled me with his two step career - starting as a computer modeling analysts, and ending as an astronaut). One that struck me the most was a scientist who talked about seeing the moon landing and dreaming of the day when men would walk on Mars. So I've been hooked on space for a while.

The History and Research: Pluto was the last of the original nine planets that we hadn't explored. We explored Neptune over 25 years ago. They've been campaigning for a mission to Pluto for a long time, and we finally made it. This is kind of the last chance we have for history making. Why wouldn't you be excited? Also, this mission took us from a fuzzy, pixelated image from the Hubble Space Telescope to a high resolution, high definition image that shows the cool heart shaped mountain plain! Now we know more about the universe than ever before. I think that's worth it!

So, it's up to you to decide, "why space?". My co-worker dramatically announces, "FOR SCIENCE", which may be true, but you have now learned why I find space so exciting. YAY PLUTO! (A month late)