" I implore you, my child; observe heaven and earth, consider all that is in them, and acknowledge that God made them out of nothing (ex nihilo), and that mankind comes into being in the same way..." 2 Maccabees 7:28

Friday, July 24, 2009

Learn From My Mistakes

I had a bit of an adventure housesitting the other day, the end result of which was that I locked myself into the backyard and had to try to climb the fence 2 days after surgery. Here is the brief summary of my experience, as sent via email to the homeowners. They asked me, as an additional security precaution, to make sure that the little sliding stick in the back door was in place.

When you get home, ask me about my adventure going over to your house to put the stick in the back door. I won't try to explain it all now, but let it suffice to note these important points.

1. Although I have the key to the front gate, front door and all the deadbolts, I don't have the key to the locks on the knobs or the nice new padlock on the back gate.

2. My key opens the back door, but not if the stick is in.

3. THe black garbage can and your lawn chairs all either collapse or tip over under the weight of a full grown adult.

4. The green debris can can hold an adult weight, but it rolls.

5. Your sprinklers come on precisely at 7 pm. They do not give a warning.

6. You have nice neighbors.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

A Great Idea. If I Do Say So Myself.

As I've mentioned in several posts, I get very frustrated with my sarcasm. I don't want to be the kind of person who tears down rather than builds up. And I also am very conscious lately of the enormous debt of gratitude that I owe to my parents; more than can ever be repaid, that they deserve my deepest respect and instead all they get is more sarcasm. So I decided I was going to do a novena of confessions, in the tradition of Pope John Paul II who went to confession every day. Everyday for 9 days I will go to confession (I'm on day 3 today) and confess sarcasm and not honoring my mother and father.
It's sort of like sacramental chemotherapy- you hit it once and then weaken it, but then you don't stop there, you just keep hitting it and hitting it for 9 days.
Somethings gotta give. I'm sure of it.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


In my new apartment, there are two full - length mirrors. One of them makes me look skinny and one of them makes me look chubby, and I am correspondingly depressed or comforted depending on which mirror I'm looking in. And then obsessing about which one was accurate. And it dawned on me a few days ago- they could BOTH be wrong!
I have no reliable means for seeing myself from outside myself. Maybe that's a sign that I just shouldn't bother.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Peace At Last

Over the last year I have been following several blogs of people in various stages of cancer, and even corresponding with a few of them. So far there is only 1 left. Don Ritchie, who was the principal at Marin Catholic High School just passed away a few days ago. I thought this post about his last night was touching, so I've pasted it below because I can't get a live link here for some reason.

Peace...peace at last
Don found peace last night at 1:41 am. I know the exact time, because I was putting the microwave timer on every hour to make sure I was awake to give him his medication so he did not once again become painful. The medication also eased his labored breathing. Being very fatigued, I could not set the timer for some reason, so I decided to let it go and hoped that I would awaken on my own. I returned to the couch next to his hospital bed, and listened for his breathing. Very soon, I heard him take two deep breaths and then no more. At that exact moment, the timer went off. I had asked Don to send me a sign when he passed and I knew this was it. He had told me the day before that I was not to worry, that he was going to be OK and that all he wanted was peace. What transpired next was even more incredible. My sister-in-law had brought a rosary for Don to use that belonged to her little girl, Kaylee. Kaylee had received it from our niece, Amy, who had just brought it from a pilgrimage in Spain, El Camino de Santiago. We had placed it on the side rail of his bed. Most recently, his brother Bob had placed it around Don's right wrist, saying: "We might as well pull out all of the stops." Sitting at his bedside, just after his last breath was taken, everything was still. Suddenly, I saw a movement beneath the covers. It was his right hand being lifted and placed over his heart. For me, I know that the man who has loved me and that I have loved for close to 45 years, was letting me know that he will love me for all eternity and that "all is well." Peace and our thanks, Jane...

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A New Old Image

There are times when the old images of Christ just don't have the comforting power we need. When I was growing up I loved above all other bible stories the story of the shepherd looking for his lost sheep-I used to tell myself that story before goingt o sleep at night, replaying that pastoral picture in my head. But now as an adult there are times when I thirst for something more visceral, more violent even, to match the chaos of fear and grief.

When I went to Monicas memorial, the next day I went to mass with Lydia at their home church (I know, it's not a great picure; I took it myself, what do you expect? We can't all be John Steubler, winner of the Best of Silicon Valley for photography!!). On the tabernacle there they have the image of a mother pelican, encircled by hungry babies facing her with their mouths gaping open. The pelican has her beak pressed to her chest, and on some versions she is bleeding. This image of the mother Pelican is an ancient symbol of Christ and most especially the Eucharist; the legend goes that in times of famine the Pelican will feed her young all the food she has until she is about to starve, and then she will rip open her chest and feed them her heart so that they may live even as she dies. This image is so powerful to me- it brings me to tears every time I encounter it, which is rare. It has been all but forgotten.

Please pray for the repose of the soul of Sharon who died of cancer on Monday. Pray for the comfort of her husband and five children, pray for Sol and Kai as they face this new life without Monica. I pray that in their times of famine Chirst would feed them from his very heart that they may know his presence in their grief.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Survival Kit

In cleaning out the apartment we found in the porch closet a box of apparently random items belonging to a former roommate of ours (who shall go unnamed). Upon questioning this person, we found out that the apparently random items were not so random after all- it was an earthquake survival kit. Here are the contents.
3 cans of tuna
2 cans of vegetables
1 can opener (very important)
1 exercise tank top with a puppy on it
clean skivvies
1 dental floss
saline solution for washing contact lenses
novena to St Therese.

Not bad things to have if you are in an earthquake and you happen to be trapped out on the apartment porch and can't open the sliding glass door to get back inside, wouldn't you say? And I guess anything that's missing you just ask St Therese for. So you're pretty much covered. But was she really going to put on clean underwear in full view of the whole apartment complex, also trapped out on their porches after the disaster?

Sunday, May 17, 2009


Monicas memorial was so deeply beautiful that I'm a bit emotionally overwhelmed. I never met Monica in person, so it was joyful to hear everyone talk about her so that I could add mannerisms and personality to the picture of her I had in my head. I was so thankful to have Lydia (Trisha's mom) with me there; she came so I wouldn't have to be alone (and Trisha told me later that she thought I'd be an emotional basket case and unfit to operate a car) which was such a blessing. Not just to have the support, but to have someone to share the experience with after. I'm tired and will post more details of the memorial later, but I wanted to leave you with some beautiful little details we learned about Monica.

1. Monica loves pizza and chocolate (no big surprise).
2. She hated her calves.
3. She was very competitive and almost always won.
4. WHen she would laugh really hard, sometimes she would slap her thigh.
5. She was a notorious back- seat driver.
6. In college, she had a group of 10 very close friends who called themselves The 10 Virgins (Ten V's).
7. Monica was a procrastinator, and in college often had to make trips to Kinko's in the wee hours of the morning in her pajamas.
8. She had done missions trips in the Ukraine working with orphans, and had always dreamed of going back. Even a month before she died, she was still making plans with her friends to return when their children were older. She had a deep heart for orphans and youth.
9. She set her sights on Sol and made it happen! (More on this in later posts).
10. Monica died the way she lived; trusting God.

Here is a poem By Ella WHeeler Wilcox; the italicized part was read at the memorial, but the whole thing is beautiful.

One Ship Sails East
But to every mind there openeth,
A way, and way, and away,
A high soul climbs the highway,
And the low soul gropes the low,
And in between on the misty flats,
The rest drift to and fro.

But to every man there openeth,
A high way and a low,
And every mind decideth,
The way his soul shall go.

One ship sails East,
And another West,
By the self-same winds that blow,
'Tis the set of the sails
And not the gales,
That tells the way we go.

Like the winds of the sea
Are the waves of time,
As we journey along through life,
'Tis the set of the soul,
That determines the goal,
And not the calm or the strife.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


I'm planning on driving up to go to Monica's memorial. If anyone wants to write a letter to Sol and Kai, I would love to bring them for you (though you can just mail them yourself as well if you prefer, Sol put his address on their webpage, see the link on the side for Sol and Monica). You can email me a letter if you want at faith.gillis@gmail.com.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Monica Update

Monica died today. Please keep her family in prayer.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Monica Update

The latest chemo for Monica didn't work- the tumor in her liver has grown to 9 inches. She had an appointment with a sarcoma specialist soon, but her pain has been bad and she is now in the hospital to try to manage it. Her family has all been called in. Please pray for her as she prepares to go Home, and for her family in their grief.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Overdue Easter update

Well, I know the following information is not of interest to the general public (as well as being sorely overdue) but Ill add pictures to increase marketability.
I sought help from the true Poles in my life (my Aunt BIna, my ex- roomie Kasia) this year as I was responsible for putting together a true Polish Easter meal. It was inspired by discovering, within a few blocks of my house, an authentic Polish deli where they hand- made their own sausages- you can get things there that you can't get anywhere else. I even got some types of tea and pickles that came straight from POland and had Polish writing on the jar-( how cool is THAT??)
So I was inspired to put on a true Polish Easter meal, complete with eggs dyed with vegetables rather than food coloring and a sugar lamb for the centerpiece. (Actually, those two components of the meal were the first to get axed as I couldn't find a sugar lamb anywhere and who likes eating hard- boiled eggs anyway?)
So the final menu turned out to be mushroom soup, 2 kinds of pierogi, white lielbasa (which refers to it being unsmoked) cooked in beer and then browned in butter with onions, barbecued regular kielbasa, apple and leek salad, cucumber and dill salad, and 2 types of traditional desserts; mazurek and babka cake. Trinka really saved the meal from being a total artery- clogging experience by her addition of the salads. As much as I love the Polish, I can't really say that that Polish cuisine is top of the list as far as a healthy diet goes. Here's the pictures.

Dried wild mushrooms for the mushroom soup. $72 a lb (but that's a LOT of mushrooms)
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White sausage. I know- it doesn't look so appetizing in this form.

A plethora of pork products.

The only truly healthy offerings at the Polish Easter table- Trinka's salads.

Trinx also made both desserts. She by far took all the harder assignments in this meal.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


One of my students likes to lock himself into the toilet stalls so that he can splash in the toilet water uninterrupted. He did this today and would not come out, so I made the difficult decision that I would make the sacrifice to crawl under the door (the decision to let your skin touch the floor of the kindergarden special ed boys bathroom is never one to be taken lightly) and unlock it from the inside. My student, watching me worm my way into his stall just looked at me with a grin spreading across his face. Then, dripping in toilet water and with his pants down around his knees, asks "big hug?"

I'm sure there's a lesson to be learned somewhere in this story.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Improv Everywhere

Improv Everywhere is a group that started in New York (and has now started in many other countries as well) where hundreds of people come together for elaborate improvisational acts in public places. Some of my favorites are the ones where 177 people all freeze at the exact same moment in Grand Central Station for 5 minutes,"Food Court Musical (where several food court employees hijack the sound system and perform a misical number) or the one embedded here. They have a group in San Francisco, but as far as I could tell most of the SF pranks just involve dressing up in costumes and blocking points of egress.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Michaels Arms

I think Michael's chubby little arms look like corn dogs without the stick. They make me hungry.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

That blasted pride again...

Someone once told me that some cancers are easy to remove- they come out cleanly like a hard- boiled egg out of a shell. THen there are others that are more like removing cooked egg from hair- these are very difficult and perhaps impossible to remove completely, apart from removing the whole organ.

I am so proud. Not the good kind of proud, the kind that recognizes dignity in myself and others and shrinks away from anything that is not consistent with that. Not that kind. I'm just your garden variety kind of pride. I don't like to be wrong. I'm argumentative and stubborn. I'm excessively concerned about others opinions of me. But I don't think I'm ever going to make much headway with these parts of myself- a priest told me not to expect much more than a 5% improvement over a 10 year period. So seeing as I can't remove this organ, I'm just going to have to accept that, if pride was a cancer, I'd be terminal (does that sound crass? It's not meant to).

It's so good to know that God is not discouraged by my mistakes and shortcomings; in fact he expects more failure from me than I expect of myself. It's nice to have someone like that in your life.

Saturday, March 14, 2009


Well, I managed to escape getting a pink slip this year, despite the fact that I am one of the newer highers at school. Friday was "Support Your School" day and everyone was supposed to wear pink to protest education budget cuts. Contrary to popular belief, pink slips are not pink. They are white. But my brother- in- law informs me that green cards aren't actually green either; they're pink.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Monica Update

FOr those of you not following Monica's progress, she is really in need of your prayers and any sacrifices you can send her way. The CT scan showed that all tumors have grown, as well as new ones starting in her lungs, liver and spine. THey will try her on a new medicine on Monday that has shown some progress in a few angiosarcoma patients.

It is so amazing to me to think what she must be going through right now. I am resolved that every worried thought I have for her I will turn into a prayer. The one that comes to mind is Mother Teresas prayer- "Mary, mother of Jesus, be a mother to me now".

Monday, March 2, 2009

Monica has her CT scan tomorrow- it will let her know whether or not this new medicine is working. If not, they're not sure what to do next.
Please pray for her, and offer up any small sacrifices you can make.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Fear of Flying

I went out to visit friends in Seattle; this was the first flight I'd been on since last January when we almost crashed. I thought I'd be okay, but it was not my finest hour. From the minute the plane took off my heart rate accelerated and I couldn't really calm down, even when the flight was smooth. Every jiggle and bump made my palms break out in a sheen of sweat ( I could actually see it) and I was shaking slightly from take off to landing, but really shaking after landing. This is going to put a crimp on my love of travelling. There was a really nice lady sitting next to me; she said, "honey, you don't like flying, do you?" How could she tell? Was it my dialated pupils? The way I braced myself on the seat in front of me with every bump? Praying the Hail Mary out loud?
She said "I'm here for you, whenever you need me". What a nice person.

I'm thinking about trading in my frequent flier credit card for one that wins you points towards cruises instead.

By the way, Feb. 12th was the one year anniversary of my diagnosis.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Humility... (sigh)

BroRo and I were talking tonight; I was telling him how I was writing an email today and, in the reread, I realized how arrogant it sounded. So I edited it, to make it sound more humble. And as I was doing so I thought to myself that, in the end, humility is just a virtue that can't be faked. True humility, when we see it, is jarring in its simplicity.

The closest I can get to true humility is to admit that I ain't got it. Lord, don't let me blow these chances that you offer me, I don't want to spend my life admiring humility from afar, but never being intimately acquainted with it.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Good Things in Small Boxes...

I've been really struggling with a particular question which God chooses to remain silent on. Not knowing makes me feel insecure and unsure of myself in so many areas; I've prayed and prayed, but there is no clarity to be found. But even in the midst of this frustration, God still lets me know that he's with me every step.

For my birthday, Trisha gave me two beautiful ceramic angels. One says on the bottom of her dress "Lord, hear our prayer" and the other one just says "Courage". When she went to pick them up from the Hallmark store, she asked the saleslady for the boxes that they were shipped in. The lady went into the back room to search for them, and came out with one box. Then she unwittingly gave Trisha a message to me from God- she said "well, the prayer box is full, but the courage box is empty".

Cool, huh? As I said to some friends, it's nice to have a diagnosis, even if you don't yet have a cure.

Monday, January 19, 2009


Saturday was my birthday. My mom rented a cabin in Santa Cruz and we all went out there to barbecue steaks and play Cranium in the moonlight. It was great fun.
My birthday present, you ask? Oh, yes. Certainly worth mentioning. I got pepper spray.

So here I am, the beginning of a new year in my life. Life Teen has started, and every time I'm put in a position to do something new and uncomfortable, I feel that familiar hesitation and certainty that I'm inadequate for the task. But if I take it to prayer, one thing comes back to me; a line I heard years a go from a book about temperaments. "Throw a melancholic in the water and he will swim". Perhaps the theme for this year will be learning to swim.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Please, More Prayer Requests

Please, to all you out there praying, add 2 more to your list:
Monica Rodrigues (whose website is linked at the right) has found out the tumors in her lungs have all grown by 2-3 mm, despite the fact that she's been on chemotherapy this whole time. Please pray for her emotional state and also that she makes the right decisions about what treatment comes next.

And a friend of a friend, Sharon Skinner, has been diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic cancer. It's in her brain, lungs, and spine. She goes in today for surgery to put a shunt into her brain which will remove fluids that are building up. She is 35 years old and has 5 kids.

Pray especially that they CLING to God n this most frightening time, throwing themselves on his mercy.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Another Celebrity Sighting

Well, we can't be sure, but I think we saw Bono and a girlfriend at In And Out burger the other day. They were wearing expensive looking ski clothes, and also dark glasses and scarves as if they wished to remain unrecognized. But my sister spotted them.
If it was him, he looks pretty different. We went and did a google image search to find some pictures to confirm the sighting, but all the pictures that came up were of him in his younger days. B. said we were going about it all wrong; that we had to do a google search for "Bono old fat". That didn't turn up any images either.
But in our search we did find mention of one of his favorite recipes (I think it was ribs or something) so we know he's not a vegetarian. So the sighting remains inconclusive.
I hope he doesn't google his name everyday and find this posting, because that would be hurtful.