Flicker

I’ve always been an early riser. Not a 6AM early riser, or even a 5:30AM early riser — I’m a 4AM kind of girl. Maybe I’m a masochist, but really I just have a love affair with early mornings; each is reminiscent of my favorite Robert Frost poem, Nothing Gold Can Stay. I’m in love with the crispness of the air, the faint rustle of leaves as they eagerly await their brief chance to be golden with the rise of the sun. I feel peace on the empty roads and abandoned beaches, as the vestiges of natural landscape glimmer with whispering critters, most of which I long to cuddle and have as pets. I’m in love with early mornings because they’re not insistent; they don’t demand that I accomplish tasks, solve problems or make plans. Early mornings don’t expect me to look presentable, speak logically or even act accordingly. Early mornings allow me to just be. I’m in love with early mornings because they bring me as close as I’ll ever be to experiencing the world before life was so…busy, so crowded, so hurried and so complicated.

Early mornings offer me the opportunity to witness what I would otherwise overlook in the post-morning bustle. Like this morning; I saw a flickering street light — not the usual flicker of a bulb making its final stand before eternally burning out. This was a flickering that appeared as a deliberate, even strategic, dimming and brightening. As I drove by, I glanced in my rearview mirror, only to see it resume its ordinary glow alongside its streetlight companions. To anybody else this might have  been something explained away by the nuances of modern electricity. To me, however, it was a wink, a wave…a nod from beyond.

I’ll be the first to tell you I’m a skeptic when it comes to just about everything. I have a hard time believing in anything I can’t see, anything that hasn’t met my burden of proof, and anything that isn’t justifiably explained in a textbook from a highly verifiable source. With that being said…I see Hawks. Red-tailed Hawks, Cooper’s Hawks, seahawks, Red-shouldered Hawks. Hawks. Everywhere. Hawks on lampposts, Hawks adorning trees, Hawks circling overhead, and Hawks seeming to barrel  directly at me. This is a daily occurrence. The skeptic in me sometimes wonders if I just have a keen eye for spotting them, habituated by years of my dad’s conditioning. Other times, the Hawks are undeniably there for me. A Hawk will screech and swoop ceaselessly until I acknowledge it, speak to it — then it will appear to vanish. And just like the flickering streetlight, I know it’s my dad. I just know it.
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Admittedly, instead of being comforted by these visits, I mostly feel frustrated and anxious; “I SEE YOU! I HEAR YOU! WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO TELL ME?!”
Recently, after again being accosted by a Hawk, I told my frustrations to my friend, Elyse. Without hesitation she said “maybe your dad is just trying to let you know he’s with you.”
Aha. How could something so simple (and seemingly, so obvious) have escaped me?
I had been so fearful and worried that he’s been here to warn me, it had never crossed my anxiety-ridden, skeptical mind that, of course, he’s here to love and comfort me, he’s here to watch over me, he’s here to swoop, screech, flicker, glow and to light my path. Most importantly, my dad is “here”, so simply and so beautifully, to remind me that he’s here.
And even when the Hawk flies away, the flickering streetlight returns to uninterrupted illumination, and morning gives way to day — my dad will still be here. And though Nothing Gold Can Stay, I know now that my dad’s love and presence will forever remain.

Nothing Gold Can Stay   {Robert Frost, 1923}

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

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Lily Loved Cookies

Lily loved cookies. Lily also loved burying her cookies in the garden, then digging them up the moment she suspected she had been discovered. She loved hot sunny days and cold rainy nights. She loved cuddling and trips to the park. But most of all, Lily loved cookies.
Lily loved to be held. She loved the feeling of being in our arms, squeezed tight against our chests. She loved sleeping by the fireplace and going for rides in the truck. She loved playing soccer with rolled up socks and her favorite blue toy. But most of all, Lily loved cookies.
Lily loved to bark. She loved to bark upstairs and down, in the garage and by the door, and anywhere people could hear her. She loved sunbathing on the patio and lying at our feet. She loved growling at the vacuum and sitting shotgun in the car. She loved chicken and cheese, biscuits and bones. But most of all, Lily loved cookies.
Lily loved her dad. She loved sleeping on his pillow and, when he got sick, she loved staying right by his side…except for when she was burying cookies in the garden. Because most of all, Lily loved cookies.
Until one night, Lily had a fateful encounter with a dog of another sort; and there in the warm September air, Lily left us to join her dad again — to sleep on his pillow of clouds, and bury cookies in his heavenly garden.
Because most of all, Lily loved cookies.

In Loving Memory of Lily Nancarrow (2002 – 2014)

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For All The Warriors

This month, I had the incredible honor of delivering the keynote speeches at two Relay for Life events. I’m new to Relay and, honestly, I was blown away. I was blown away by the commitment and passion, and by the awe-inspiring expressions of love.

I just thought I’d share one of my speeches with you. Whether you’re a survivor, a caregiver, or someone who has been touched by cancer in some way, this one is for you. This one is for all the warriors…


I have to admit, I don’t really feel worthy to stand up here and speak. I don’t feel worthy because I can’t tell you anything you don’t already know about cancer, loss or survivorship. In fact, most all of you know significantly more about surviving than I do. So instead I’ll tell you something that all of us know too well: cancer sucks.

But the way I see it each of us have two choices in life. And the choice that we make has the potential to change the course of history, to change the human condition, and to change the course of all of our lives for the better.

Our first choice is to be afraid. To be afraid of losing the fight. To be afraid of losing the future we’d dreamed of. To be afraid of losing a loved one. And to be afraid of losing our own battles.

And although we know that fear stifles us and keeps us from our happiness, so often being afraid feels like our only choice.

But all of us here tonight know that we don’t have to be afraid, and we don’t have to let fear decide our fate. Because all of us here understand that our other choice in life is the choice to gather our strength…and to fight — To fight with everything we have against the disease that has both dimmed and extinguished many of our brightest lights.

And just by being here tonight, I know for certain, that each and every one of you have chosen to fight.

Each and every one of you have chosen to fight for a cure, for remission, for survivorship, and for each of those bright lights that have burned out before their time.

So it is an honor for me to be here tonight among such a brave group of warriors.

And it’s been my bittersweet fortune to come from a long line of warriors. My Grandma Phyllis was a warrior. My grandpa Kevin was a warrior. My great uncle Lou was a warrior. Recently, my great uncle Chuck became a warrior too.

And just like all of you, my dad was also warrior. He was a thinker, a leader, and someone who never stopped fighting for what he believed in. In his final year, my dad shared his story and much of himself on our blog, The Nancarrow Project, where he wrote that “it is far better to good for others than to do good for oneself.”

And that’s exactly what he had spent a lifetime doing.

My dad was passionate about conservation, education and germination. And when he was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, he exemplified determination.

As was typical for my dad, his determination extended beyond himself. On our blog he wrote “…if you’ve got cancer: DON’T FREAKING GIVE UP.”

My dad never gave up. He fought courageously. But cancer did what cancer has done for thousands of years, and my dad passed away after just 11 months of fighting.

And although cancer stole my dad, it also toughened me for the fight ahead. Now, here we are, continuing to fight so that, one day, we will defeat cancer for good.

And not only are we here fighting against this cruel disease. We are also here fighting for something much more precious.

We fight so that children may grow up to “discover their passions and explore them fiercely”. We fight so that fathers may walk their daughters’ down the aisle. We fight so that mothers might become grandmothers. We fight for more time and so that we might live to see all of life’s treasures.

While my dad won’t be there to walk me down the aisle on my wedding day, or to bounce his grandbabies on his knee and teach them about bugs and plants and the many uses for coconut oil…and though the sadness we feel in this moment is particularly heavy — it’s important for me to express the other feelings I hold in my heart – feelings of joy, gratitude…and hope.

I feel joy because happiness is what my dad wanted for us. He wanted us to find beauty and wonderment in the world. He wanted us to “treasure the importance of each day and to be understanding of the fleetingness of life.

I feel grateful because I was lucky enough to have a father who taught me about passion and laughter and about unconditional love. As Winnie the Pooh said:

“How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard?”

And tonight, as I look out at each of your faces and each of the flickering flames around us… I AM HOPEFUL. I am hopeful because each of these flames burn bright because of you. Because you are the light.

Now, before I leave you, I want to share with you one more piece of advice from Winnie the Pooh:

“If ever there is a tomorrow when we’re not together… there is something you must always remember: You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart…I’ll always be with you.”


xoxo,

Hannah

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From a Father to His Daughter

An array of e-mails, a smorgasbord of commercials on every TV channel and radio station, a plethora of fancy cards and decorative balloons haunting each checkout line at the grocery store — all reminding me of a day I could never forget: Father’s Day.

I’d usually spend a full hour picking the perfect card, and several more hours hand-selecting songs for my annual Father’s Day CD (which he always kept in the CD changer of his car for the entire year or more). This year will be different. It will be my first Father’s Day without my dad — and it aches more than I anticipated.

Feeling nostalgic and a little lost in all the Father’s Day bustle, I thumbed through some old photo albums and boxes of keepsakes. Then I found it, tucked in the back of an old shoebox. A note from a father to his daughter, handwritten on a scrap envelope addressed to weathercaster. It was from my dad — and it was written for me.

“Boy is that a pretty purse. It’s packed so full. What did you bring today? Lipstick, blanket & the dress of a princess. The objects so important to a young lady. Lipstick for the confidence that comes with presentation — looking your best helps you do your best. A blanket for warmth & security — so necessary to feel your feet adorned on this planet. When you wrap yourself in its grip — think of mom & dad’s arms holding you, laughing with you, loving you for the wonderful force you are.

Oh that dress… when you slip it on, your dreams play panovision in your head. That knight on a horse like Picasso — the vision of what you will become, an artist, a thinker, a leader, a strong individual as loving and trustful as we all wish we could be.

It’s only been 3 years since you were that squishy faced little mystery that so puzzled mom & me. You’ve always made me wonder. Who are you? How’d you get so special? How’d I get this far without you & most of all, will you always make me feel as important as you make me feel today?”

His note made me wonder —  how’d I get this far without him?

I think I will put together that Father’s Day playlist (with all of his favorites, like Petty and Dylan and the Stones) — and I’ll turn it up as loud as it will go, so I know for sure, that he can hear it all the way up there.

xoxo

Hannah

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We are the Phoenix

In Greek mythology, the legend of the Phoenix tells of a bird that is cyclically destroyed by fire, only to be born again, more powerful and vibrant than before.  As wildfires burn violently in the hills, valleys, riverbeds and neighborhoods of San Diego, I envision the silhouette of the Phoenix, rising above the ash and ember, as a beacon of hope. We are the Phoenix.

We are the Phoenix, not only in that we will undoubtedly emerge from this fiery tribulation, but also in that we will emerge with a renewed sense of hope, gratitude, love, understanding, and strength. We are the Phoenix in that each time we go up in flames, amidst the sadness, terror, and ruin — together we are reborn.

Although the fires continue to burn, the Phoenix has already begun to rise from the flames. The Phoenix rises as dauntless emergency crews give themselves to protect and serve our community. The Phoenix rises as volunteers, journalists and local leaders ceaselessly and strategically advise and inform. The Phoenix rises as neighbors offer aid to neighbors. The Phoenix rises as friends and strangers alike open their hearts and homes. The Phoenix rises as animals are fostered and pets are reunited with their families. The Phoenix rises as parents hug their children a little tighter. The Phoenix rises as loved ones take an extra moment to say “I love you” before hanging up the phone. The Phoenix rises with each prayer and kind thought sent from across town, across the nation and across the world. The Phoenix rises as we give thanks for one another. And if you look closely, you can see the Phoenix rising at this very moment.

The Phoenix is an emblem of hope, endurance and revival. We are the Phoenix, ascending from the smoldering remains of catastrophe to regenerate — now stronger, wiser, more grateful, and more magnificent than ever before.

We are the Phoenix — and we will rise.

 

xoxo

Hannah Jane 

Photo Credit: K.C. Alfred Photography - San Diego

Photo Credit: K.C. Alfred Photography – San Diego

Rejoice!

“If I could tell the world just one thing it would be —  we’re all okay,

And not to worry, ’cause worry is wasteful and useless in times like these.

I won’t be made useless.

I won’t be idle with despair.

I will gather myself around my faith,

For light does the darkness most fear.”

You know those days that you awaken to a sharp pain, an awful wrenching in your stomach, a sudden realization that, today, something is barring you from your happiness?  Sometimes the discomfort is physical. Other times it’s emotional or spiritual. Sometimes it’s worry, sometimes grief or loss or injury. It’s those days that make you want to stay in bed, to hide away from the existing pain and protect yourself from the plethora of other things that threaten to steal your joy — and it’s those days that it’s more important than ever to rise and rejoice.

In the past 10 months, I’ve had A LOT of those days. I’ve had a lot of moments where continuing on seems too painful and too difficult to even fathom. It starts each morning as my alarm goes off and I have about 6-8 seconds before I remember. I remember how cold it is outside. I remember that I’ve been out of work for months. I remember that my puppy chewed the inside of my car. I remember that I have a huge zit on my face. I remember that my pants are too tight. I remember that my boyfriend is now my ex. I remember that I still haven’t done my laundry. I remember that I had “one too many” the night before. I remember that I have a ton of sh*t to do. And I remember that my dad has terminal cancer.

Well…there goes my day. It’s funny how the weight of the world can do that…make you forget the things that bring you joy by reminding you of the things that make life tough. But throughout all this, it has become increasingly clear that it’s joy that is the antidote for all of that tough stuff, and life can be so made so much more wonderful by simply reframing your mindset and rejoicing in all of the things that make life…life.

So, here it goes…

I rejoice in sweatshirts and heaters and relatively warm San Diego winters! I rejoice in all my extra free time that has allowed me so many special days with my dad! I rejoice in owning a car…and a puppy…and a new menagerie of chew toys! I rejoice in knowing that most acne isn’t life-threatening! I rejoice in stretchy pants (and I’m literally rejoicing while wearing them at this very moment)! I rejoice in having experienced romance and love! I rejoice in laundromats! I rejoice in tequila…and Advil! I rejoice in being alive to do all that sh*t I have to do! And most of all, I rejoice in the love and warmth and knowledge (and awesome genes) bestowed upon me by my incredible dad.

Suddenly, I’m able to rise up out of my bed (and I totally rejoice in having a bed), excited for a day chock-full of both the good and the bad — throughout all of which I can find reasons to rejoice.

XOXO

Hannah

“Rejoice! Rejoice!

We have no choice but to carry on.”

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