Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

Over at Stuart's blog, he ponders whether there is actually a point to New Year's Eve celebrations. I think that there is. This has been a struggling kind of year for me, personally. Difficulties on the job led me to doubt myself, and my place there, a real point of grief because I loved my job. After reporting to a grueling and stressful third shift job for years because it was financing college educations for my children, simply enjoying my job was a luxury. I discovered I had cancer. Tim's company went belly-up, leaving us without insurance. We have always been careful with money, but now 'being careful with money' is an understatement.
Yet we will still be celebrating the New Year tonight. We will not be in Times Square with Dylan and Cara but we will be at home, quietly counting down the final moments to 2008. The year has been a milestone, in many ways. We've grown. We've found out who our friends are. (Heartbreakingly, we've also found out who are not.) We've been blessed in these dark times, and we are grateful for those blessings.
All over the world, people will be bringing in the new year. Some people will be looking back at 2008 and toasting the successes of the year that was. Other people will be looking ahead to 2009 and saying, 'This year will surely be better'. You have your good years, you have your bad years. You put all of those years together and you have your life. Today is the day that we have arbitrarily decided ends one year and begins another. It is a time to take stock. It is a time to look forward. It is a chance to look at your life, and resolve to make changes. It is a new beginning. It is an end. It is a day of note.
As for me and my house, we will celebrate it.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


funny pictures of cats with captions
more animals


So the kids and Tim and I were sitting around the table reminiscing. Dylan was marveling over what a good boy he had been. just the best kid ever. I reminded him of the time that I saw a Camaro tearing out of the country club (where he worked) to do a donut down the road in a deserted grocery store parking lot.
Having failed to notice his mother two cars back.
Dylan grinned a little, and tells me, 'if you knew half the stuff I did in that car...' I stared right back, and said, 'Stop talking, son. I remember the time I went with you to help you find the Employment Center in Jamestown. You were in there for quite a while, so I cleaned out that car. I found handfuls of change on the floor of the back seat, so I went to put them in your change holder, and found a box of condoms.'
Dylan: 'You should have been proud of my responsibility...'
even as Cara made gagging sounds.
'In this family,' she proclaimed, 'none of us have had sex.
Even Mom and Tim.'

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Road to Hell is Paved with Velveeta

Okay. I cooked the remainder of the Christmas ham off the bone by simmering it in a crock pot over night. Then I chopped that meat fine and added about 5 lbs of chopped potatoes, a stick of butter and simmered everything together until the potatoes were done. For good measure, I added a quart of half and half. The only seasoning I use is black pepper and a little dill weed. The real sinning begins with the final step, though. I added 1 lb of Velveeta cheese. Lest you chide me, the recipe actually calls for the entire 2 lb box. I, my friends, have self control.
This cholestrol laden soup is probably a heart attack in a bowl.
Do you have a recipe that makes you feel guilty?
I still have a pound of Velveeta cheese to get rid of.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas 2008

This Christmas was different than most. Because I am sick, I had to choose my activities. I simply couldn't do them all. I had to choose what was important. I had to prioritize carefully.
Because money was tight, we had to be careful about shopping, choosing the gifts that we thought would inspire the most delight.
The meal was simple and easy, but included everyone's favorites.
Despite all my worrying about Christmas cookies, between my own baking, and the cookies that Mary and my sister dropped off, I ended up with so many cookies that I bagged about half of them and put them in the freezer the day after Christmas.
Christmas Eve I had chemo. A preschool group had made gift bags for everyone. Hand lotion, lip balm, candy, even four new little ornaments for our tree. All my Christmas ornaments have a memory. I couldn't bring myself to put those little ornaments on my tree this year, but when I pack my ornaments away this year, you can bet that I will carefully pack these new ones in with the old.
This year, Christmas was different, and I did a lot of fretting about it. Next year, however, this Christmas will be a memory. It will be remembered as the year that we all drew close, the year that the only thing that mattered were the important things...God, love, giving, friends, and family. Next year, I will hang those little ornaments, and I will smile, remembering the Christmas of 2008. I will smile because it was perfect.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

This is our Christmas tree. I tried to take pictures of most of the ornaments, but couldn't, which disproves Bush Babe recent post on photography. But anyways, I've got handmade ornaments from my godparents, given to me when I was a teenager. Beaded ornaments that my grandmother made, and so people who are no longer with us are remembered as we decorate our tree. There are ornaments that the kids made in school. This is Dylan's baby shoe. There are two more baby shoes in my tree. Children long grown are remembered as I decorate my tree. Ornaments I received while I was in the service, people who have faded into memories. Ornaments from friends that I can call in a minute to say I love them. The kids are Irish, so there are Celtic ornaments.
Dixie sent me an ornament from the 'White House' collection every year when she worked in Washington DC. I also have a nice collection of bird ornaments from Tim. He knows that I love birds, and he loves me. There are also ornaments for Tim from me. Hearts. Baby's first Christmas ornaments. Ornaments that we bought for the kids each year, and hung on the tree. Some day, when they are ready to put up their own trees, these ornaments will be taken from our collection, and passed to them. Thus, their trees will be decorated with memories from the very first year. This ornament is older than I am. It is from my parents' first Christmas as a married couple, back in 1956, and it has hung on every tree that I can remember.
When Tim and I first married, he only had a very tiny tree. He didn't like the fuss and work of a big tree. This is our 12th Christmas. He's gotten so fond of big trees that he now rejects trees because they are too small.

'Family' is not just a group of people. We are our shared memories. Every year, when we put up the tree, those memories are taken out and enjoyed.
I love Christmas.
I love my family.
Merry Christmas, everyone. Make a memory!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Christmas is different when the kids are grown up. Not worse. Just different. Mostly what is missing is the anticipation. Little kids get excited about Christmas. By Christmas eve, they are about delirious with the excitement. Big kids...well...they don't get delirious about much, unless they've been drinking, and we don't encourage that here. Anyhow, I miss the anticipation. I used to do my share to ratchet that excitement level up a bit. I had my own memories of four children lumped together in one bed whispering excitedly in the dark hours of Christmas morning. We had to worry about waking my father, so we were especially quiet, but the anticipation was a big part of Christmas for me, and I wanted to my kids to have those same sorts of memories, so rule one of Christmas morning at our house was that the kids could not go downstairs until they heard the clock 'bong' six. So one of them (usually Brianna) would wake up and creep from room to room waking the others. They'd then all congregate in one bedroom and whisper until it was almost six. Then they'd slip down the hall past our bedroom and sit at the top of the stairs waiting for the keywound clock to wheeze as it did before it began to chime. And for this time, I'd lay in bed and smile to myself, thinking about my own Christmases past, thinking about Christmases yet-to-come when my own children would be laying in bed in the wee hours of Christmas remembering their own Christmases past.
Yes. I was kind of a fanatic about Christmas excitement. Such a fanatic that if, by chance, the kids were not up by 5:30, I'd slip out of my own bed, and reach behind my door for the wrapping paper tube that I always left there. I'd crack my bedroom door, and the tube would slip through, and I'd bellow "HO HO HO!" By the time I got my own door shut, and sneaked back to my bed, the youngest kids were gasping 'Santa!' and scampering down the hall.
This year, we will have 4 out of 5 home. Early Christmas morning, I can guarantee you that I'll be laying wide awake smiling in the dark. And for a fact, there will be a wrapping paper tube behind my bedroom door. I can also guarantee that I won't be yelling 'HO HO HO' through it. Grown-up kids grumble and swear when they hear Santa in the hall at 5:30 AM.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Every Child

They've positively identified the remains of the child found in Florida as the missing Caylee. She had been missing since June. The mother did not report the disappearance for five weeks. The skeletal remains give are no clues as to how she died. Her mother remains in prison, charged with murder. Things like this bother me. A lot.
Thursday night, Tim and I went Christmas shopping. There was a little girl, maybe 4 years old, in the Sears store, dressed in her Cinderella gown, with golden slippers. I commented to the father as I passed, "I don't think they sell glass slippers here..." and the father looked up from where he was kneeling next to his little girl. He said, "She's already noticed that. This is a major fixation. She wants to wear her Halloween costume 24-7, and those gold slippers belong to her cousin and are about 3 sizes too big." I stopped with my bags and said, "Enjoy these days, because they go by more quickly then you can believe. Teenage fixations can be a pain in the butt." He laughed, we exchanged Merry Christmases, and I went. Not before pointing out to the little girl "OOOOOOoooh. These shoes sparkle...." and left the two of them to their important choice, two heads together. I saw them again later, in the center of the mall, the man walking hunched over as they earnestly talked.
Because I am an emotional sap, I teared up. Every kid deserves that, don't you think?

Friday, December 19, 2008

Good News

Do you want to hear something that makes me glad (and ashamed...)? We've been trying to sort out this insurance thing for so long. Turns out that, yes, an insurance company can tell you that you're covered for a month, but your insurance can be canceled retroactively, and with no warning at all. What we discovered is that since we live in Pennsylvania, Univera will not even offer an insurance plan for us, being a New York State insurance company. We were shocked and disappointed, but Cara, being Cara, called Adagio. I had their number and was waiting to see what our insurance company was going to do before calling. Cara couldn't wait. I signed the paperwork yesterday. I'm covered. This is an organization that I know nothing about, but any woman with a cancer diagnosis who has no insurance can be picked up by Adagio. It is 100% coverage for chemo, radiation, prescriptions, any doctor visits. Even dental and vision. There is no co-pay. It is free. I left their offices feeling like a ton had been lifted from my shoulders.
Since we need to provide them with written proof that our insurance has been canceled, Tim called the secretary at his old job. She's working with Doug to close up shop for good. We had been assured by the company that we could buy insurance through Univera, and that employees would be offered COBRA. It was a big shock to us to find out that this was not true. The thing that makes me glad, but shouldn't, is that the owner and his top engineer, the ones that drove the company into the ground while assuring everyone that things would be fine, had planned on simply buying COBRA coverage until they retired in a few months. They both freaked out to discover that they can't. Apparently they did not know that when the fecal material hits the rotary oscillator, everyone gets splattered.
This cancer thing has put a damper on the holiday. I'm so exhausted that I cannot find any joy in the normal holiday preparations. I'm glad the kids will be here. I'm glad the tree is up. Most of the presents bought, most of them wrapped. Simple dinner planned. I can just focus on baking a batch of cookies each day until the big day. Everything has become such a monumental effort that I've really begun to struggle. Yesterday, at the cancer center, I met with one of the hospice folks. I'm trying very hard to endure all of this with some amount of grace, but really, I have to say, I never expected it that it would take everything that I've got to do so.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Side Effects

Back in the beginning of this latest chapter, it amused me to no end that everytime I turned around, I had someone wanting to write me a prescription for Ativan. Here's the deal. I don't take a lot of medication. I'm not sure why, but I end up with side effects. For instance, one of the times I turned down Ativan, I did say that what I needed was something to help me sleep sometimes, that my mind seemed to slip into gear the minute I layed me down to sleep. I would get up in the morning exhausted and half sick. Everything seems much worse when you are tired, every ache, every pain. Molehills become mountains. So I asked for, and got, Ambien. And lo: it was good. For about two weeks. Then the stuff built up in my system. I got up one night, walked to the bathroom. I was not feeling well, but suddenly, at the stop of the stairwell, I got this overwhelming feeling that I was being sucked down the stairwell. I did a little shriek, hugged the wall, felt stupid, but by the morning, could not move my eyeballs, or turn my head without being so dizzy I nearly threw up. And I stayed on the ground floor far away from stairs. Back into the doctor, who gave me something for vertigo, and back home. Within 24 hours, I was markedly better, 36 hours back to normal. I made up my mind then that I should simply avoid whatever medication I could avoid, keep my system as 'pure' as possible, despite chemo, despite the pre-chemo cocktails to make sure that I don't throw up, despite the post-chemo drugs to make sure I don't throw up. It works pretty well. Although I am nauseous a lot, I don't throw up. I consider this bonus. One of the anti-emetics is Ativan, an anti-anxiety medicine. I'm supposed to take it every 8 hours. I simply don't. I'm not anxious, and the Emend and the compazine have taken care of the post chemo problems.
The first six weeks went okay. This past week, I've discovered that I'm a bitch. Really awful. Everything annoys me. Noise. Christmas planning. (Bob B: Take note! This is not my normal nature.) I was sharpish with my family. I was weepy to the nth degree. Instead of looking at people in my church and thinking 'they don't know what to say' when they said unhelpful comments, it irritated me, although I managed to bite back the harsh words. I was perfectly awful, and could barely stand myself. I just felt jangly, for lack of a better word. Yesterday was the worst. Tim and I argued about the Christmas tree. I was being unreasonable. I knew it. I was trying to make myself stop, and couldn't. So I did the only reasonable thing. I fell all completely to pieces apologizing for myself. I also blew the dust off the Ativan bottle, and I began taking it every 8 hours just like the bottle said.
I'm better today. I can already feel the difference. I've apologized to everyone. If any of my posts seemed out of charactor and extraordinarily 'whinging', I apologize to you as well.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Saying it Out Loud

I was talking to my friend Mary yesterday. As always, she asked me how I was doing. Everyone asks me that question. Usually, I respond with "Pretty good." If its a close friend, I might say "I'm tired a lot." But yesterday, my friend asked me how I was doing. I took a deep breath and I told her. "I'm so exhausted, I can hardly stand it. I haven't got any thing finished for Christmas, and I'm trying not to be stressed about that, but I am. I love Christmas. I love the preparations. This year, I can't get excited about them at all. I'm also tired of trying to figure out what to say to well meaning people who say things like 'you need to make sure that you're learning what God wants to teach you' (my immediate response, always choked back before the words are said: 'Why? If I don't, is God going to give me cancer again?) or the people who want to know why I haven't called.
I told her that I was angry and impatient. Frustrated at Tim's job loss, and the shoddy treatment at the hands of his boss. Disappointed that things are, financially, so tight right at Christmas. Afraid to think about insurance. As far as we know, we still have it. Can an insurance company go back and cancel you retroactively? We don't know. COBRA is not offered when a company goes out of business. We did not have a clue about that.
While I was baring my soul, I said, "I'm sick, Mary. I'm sick all the time, and really, I didn't expect that one, because I'm NEVER sick. I'm lonely because hardly anyone calls. I feel like a poor wife to my husband, a poor excuse for a mother, like everything is about me, and my routine, and my shots, and my appointments, etc." Finally, I stop talking, ashamed, and grab for a Kleenex.
Mary quietly begins talking. She tells me that I need to be selfish. She reminds me that Tim's job loss does add stress to the situation. She comments that I need to stop saying "I'm fine" because she's known right along that I'm lying to her. And when she's done talking, I do feel better.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Merry Christmas

funny pictures
more animals
more animals
funny pictures
more animals
funny pictures
more animals
funny pictures of cats with captions
more animals
funny pictures
more animals
more animals
Well, I'm getting ready for Christmas, but am not there yet. Since we use a live tree that has not been cut yet, we are not yet ready for the Christmas blog tour. We're getting to it, we're getting to it! I will post pictures then.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


Cara has whizzed in from school, and from finals. I am exhausted, but I don't want to miss a visit with her, so we bake spice cookies today. She tells me about her adventures. Her classes, and her teachers. The girls in her dorm...'L' who is so comfortable with herself that she mooned the RA in the lobby. The girl who goes to bed at 8. Allie, the friend who saran wrapped her door, meaning that Cara woke up and opened her door and found herself trapped inside her room by a duct taped clear wall of saran wrap. About tight-wad girl who always 'forgets' money, although her parents deposit money in an account for her every month. The girl then waits to see who will volunteer to buy her meal or her drink or whatever. We laugh and we bake, and I listen.
Cara has plans for her month off. She's going to Michigan to see her grandfather. She's back here for Christmas, and then she's hopping a college-sponsored bus to New York City with friends, to do New Year's Eve in Times Square. She'll bunk in with her brother, and he'll go into town with her and her friends. She is determined that I should be able to see them all on television. Then she's back here for a while, and then back to college, where she's hopping another bus to go to Washington, DC for Barack Obama's inauguration.
Geoff is having some problems with her independence. She has explained to him that she's young, and she wants to see these things. She's explained that they are dating, but that she doesn't want it to be anything more than that, not right now, that she wants to live, and to experience, to savor the college years. Geoff is not happy. Cara says, matter of factly, 'It won't work. He's a nice person, but I'm not going to be happy if I just stay home and date Geoff. He's not going to be happy unless I do. I'm going to break it off now.'
I look at this girl, and I think that I was never so independent as she is. She is a breath of fresh air, strong, beautiful, sure in her own spirit, ready for whatever adventure awaits. I feel my own exhaustion slipping away a bit, as I drink in the energy of my youngest daughter.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


Everytime that you go to the Cancer Center for treatment, you get a medical bracelet. Every time that they do a treatment, they check that bracelet, and ask you to verify your information. It is how they make sure, 100% that there are no errors in medication. I watched an elderly woman throw a fit about her bracelet. Refused it. They finally brought it out to her in the waiting room and told her that she had to carry it, at least. It's interesting, the little slices of life that you see played out in the waiting room there. I watched this woman, angry and uncooperative, and I thought, in the great scheme of things, what a stupid thing to make an issue of. I think we need to pick our battles carefully. I'm fighting cancer.
It amazes me to see the number of people that come into the Cancer Center reeking of cigarettes. I used to smoke. Seeing my dad die of cancer was a powerful motivation to quit. I did. I can't understand how people can get a diagnosis of cancer and not lose the desire to smoke. How can people love themselves so little that they cannot fight to win back their health?
It's a real mixed bag of people in the Cancer Center. You see very sick people with a genuine joy about them. You see people seething with rage. You see people sitting docile. You see people that do not love themselves. You see people still dealing with the shock of the diagnosis. You see people who have walked this path several times already. You see people who have realized the importance of love, and living in the minute.
I wonder what they see when they look at me.

Christmas Tour.

Muse Swings, Stevie Wren, and Lavinia have put their larcenous heads together yet again. You will not understand this comment unless you've been on one of their 'tours' before. It's a chance to view Christmas celebrations in your blog friends' homes. I will not have my tree up, probably. We do that much closer to Christmas as we use a live one, but I will participate. See you then.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


My doctor is wonderful. Once, when I couldn't afford an operation, he touched up the x-rays.
Joey Bishop
Politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first.
Ronald Reagan
I am a marvelous housekeeper. Every time I leave a man, I keep his house.
Zsa Zsa Gabor
If you look like your passport photo, you're too ill to travel.
Will Kommen
Insanity doesn't run in my family. It gallops.
Cary Grant
Every day I get up and look through the Forbes list of the richest people in America. If I'm not there, I go to work.
Robert Orben
Misers aren't fun to live with, but they make wonderful ancestors.
David Brenner
My therapist told me the way to achieve true inner peace is to finish what I start. So far I've finished two bags of M&Ms and a chocolate cake. I feel better already.
Dave Barry
I'm not going to vacuum ‘til Sears makes one you can ride on.
Roseanne Barr
To attract men, I wear a perfume called New Car Interior.
Rita Rudner
If you love something, set it free. Unless it's chocolate.
Never release chocolate.
Renee Duvall
The most remarkable thing about my mother is that for 30 years she served us nothing but leftovers. The original meal has never been found.
Calvin Trillin
I haven't spoken to my wife in years. I didn't want to interrupt her.
Rodney Dangerfield
My grandmother was a very tough woman. She buried three husbands and two of them were just napping.
Rita Rudner
My husband wanted one of those big-screen TV's for his birthday. So I just moved his chair closer to the one we have already.
Wendy Liebman
I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.
Douglas Adams
I have an aunt who married so late in life that Medicare picked up 80 percent of the honeymoon.
Don Reber
I hate housework - you make the beds, you do the dishes - and six months later you have to start all over again.
Joan Rivers
My grandmother is over eighty and still doesn't need glasses. Drinks right out of the bottle. Henny Youngman
Inside me there's a thin person struggling to get out, but I can usually sedate him with four or five cupcakes.
Bob Thaves

Monday, December 8, 2008

I Disappoint

There is an elderly lady I know who has been very sick for a very long time, and she has been close to death several times, but always lives to see another day. She never hesitates to give God the glory on Sundays. She's actually quite a marvel, I suppose. Today, when I walked into the Cancer Center, she was there, and she asked me how the chemo was going. I said, "Pretty well, actually." And she fixed me with a look, and she said, "I don't believe you."
I did not know how to respond to this. Mostly, I think I am doing pretty well with chemo. I mean, I will never consider this a highlight of my life, but I think that I am confronting the challenges well, learning the lessons, seeing the blessings. There are the bad days, but no sense in dwelling on them. I do not want to talk about feeling like crap. I do not want to talk about exhaustion, and blood levels, and shots every day. I know that I look haggard. She stares intently at me, waiting. I fidget a little, and I repeat, "No really, I'm doing good, I think." Disappointed, she turns to another elderly lady, who regales her with the story of her latest hospitalization.


This is courage.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Energy, or Lack Thereof

It's been a long weekend. I dealt with low blood counts before, just a little, but this time my white blood count dropped very low. I'm exhausted. For the first time, putting together a post seems like way too much effort. Yesterday, I took both a morning and an afternoon nap.
Life swirls on around me. Brianna got a job. Tim got a deer. Mike came up and went hunting and got both a nice buck and a nice doe. The Christmas season goes on without me. My world has narrowed to this: sleeping, slogging down for a daily neupogen shot, pushing myself to get through the day. I am trying to be graceful about it. I'm reading a great book, 'The People of the Whale', by Linda Hogan. I'm trying to be as productive as I can be while accepting these new limits on my own energy. I'm trying to use this time for praying.
It just feels as if my life has become very self centered.
It makes me ashamed.
I keep reminding myself that it is temporary.

Friday, December 5, 2008

What a Wonderful World.

I can do a very nice shadow bunny.


Thursday, December 4, 2008


I'm almost completely bald now, wearing my wig. It's a bit lighter than I'm used to. I'm making my peace with it. It is what it is. That's all.
Cancer is a strange reality. Bush Babe wrote a very nice post on courage yesterday. She included me. It actually surprised me. It's not that I don't realize that I possess courage. I do. I know that thing about myself. But cancer is a little different. I woke up one morning and began my day like any other day. Before the end of the day, I'd found a large lump and things haven't been the same since. I believe that I've simply been playing the hand that I've been dealt the very best way that I know how.
This is not to say that I've dealt with it perfectly.
I have cried a great deal in the last couple months. But also, I have laughed a great deal. I've been afraid in the dark, and I've gloried in the day. I've found myself more patient, but on the same token, I've been able to separate the wheat from the chaff in a way that's never happened before. I've taken a look at troublesome relationships, and decided that I really can't deal with these things now, and told the people so. Distancing myself from drama is probably one of the greatest gifts I've done for myself. Tim and I have drawn closer. The kids have rallied beautifully. This is a hard time, but truly, I have never been more blessed.
Is this courage? I still cannot say that I see it that way. Everywhere, all over this world, people get up in the morning and resolutely play the hand that life has dealt them. I'm no different. This time around, I got dealt some pretty sucky cards, but I'm still in the game.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Jobless in the USA

The owner of Tim's company called Monday morning to tell the guys not to come in. He rents shop space, and has not paid the rent. The landlord padlocked the shop up over the weekend.
Tim's outraged about a lot of things. Ranking high on that list is the fact that he's got a couple thousand dollars worth of machinist tools in a 'roll-around' that are now locked up where he can't get to them. Machinist provide many of their own tools, and they take years to amass their collections. Some of his tools are handmade, things that he invented as he problem solved jobs that he has done. These tools are his livelihood. Each machinist at this shop is in the same situation.
Tim came in early from hunting to drop off his resume at another company. If he gets this job, he won't be able to start until he can retrieve those tools. The rich men will argue, and like as not, the legal system will grind along at a snail's pace. The company president had promised to call everyone by 5 today, to let them know what is going on. He hasn't.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Yesterday, a reader called me. She just finished chemo, started her radiation. She wanted to be an encourager. WAS SHE EVER!!!! After comparing chemotherapies, she gave me very encouraging words. For instance, I've been hopeful that my hair would begin growing back by my 52nd birthday in May. Mary told me that hers began to come back after she finished the first half of chemo. It appears that the second round of chemo does not affect your hair so badly. I was glad to hear that, and did the mental calculations...I will be finished with my first half of chemo at the end of this month. It was a bit of a jolt to realize that.
She also told me that the second half of chemo was a piece of cake compared to the first half. That was darned encouraging. She says she remembers saying at the half way point, "You know, I just don't want to do this again," and then the therapies changed, and suddenly, everything was bearable again. I personally think that I've been doing okay with the chemo. I feel like crap for the first 12 hours, and then I start getting better. I haven't had a recurrence of the horrible headache, and am optimistic. Hearing that this is as bad as it's likely going to get is happy news.
She told me that, in her experience, she found this to be 100% true: she had been warned how exhausting radiation therapy was, how it just sapped your strength. She was dreading her daily radiation. She realized that every single person that told her that had had radiation only. People who had had both chemo and radiation therapy invariably told her that radiation was a breeze compared to chemo.
We both shared stories about how wonderful people have been. We laughed about eyebrows and eyelashes, scars, and the surprise of dealing with such a thing at our ages (she's 6 years younger than I am). We talked for a long time, and I have to tell you when I hung up that phone, my outlook had become much, much brighter, even though I didn't consider myself especially disheartened before I picked it up. I carefully wrote down her number from the caller ID, and I put in the rolodex. It's very reassuring to have that kind of positive energy waiting to be tapped into if you need it.


Dylan's headed back to Allentown, and Cara's headed back to Clarion. It was a nice time having everyone at home. Thanksgiving night we sat up until after 1 AM reminiscing. I discovered that ignorance really is bliss. Turns out that Dylan and Cara were a lot more 'mischievious' in school than I ever heard about. It was a funny sort of bad though, and they all made me laugh. I really do have the funniest kids ever.
They were still laughing at the rememberings after I went upstairs to bed. It just felt so normal to hear them going on, and I enjoyed falling asleep to the sound of their muffled laughter.
The next morning, they all slept in late. I set the livingroom back to rights. I was a little taken aback to see a box of tissues from the bathroom sitting on the coffee table. I put them back. When my kids got up, I asked no questions. I'm glad that they have each other.

Monday, December 1, 2008


Someone told my daughter 'If your mother's faith is as strong as she thinks it is, she'll survive her cancer.' I was dumbstruck by this. 'If your mother's faith is as strong as she thinks it is...' The beginning of that sentence implies that
a) the person is not as convinced of my faith as I am,
b) that my children should not take much comfort in the fact that I'm trying to be upbeat and faithfilled during this time, and
c) that our God is a score-keeping God.
My faith is NOT perfect, and you have never heard me claim otherwise. My faith is this tattered, battered thing that I keep running up the flagpole anyways. That faith is always growing, but believe me, I'm not 'there' yet. I am acutely aware of this.
I think of all the people I know who did not survive cancer. Positive attitude can go a long way. In the end, however, there are people of enormous faith who die of cancer. Moreover, they die with their faith intact.
I think of all the people who don't believe in God. Hearing these sorts of words from 'Godly people' is not an encouragement, and feeds into the stereotype of the 'judgemental Christian' that so turns them off.
I think of the dark times when I struggle. God and I do argue.
We get over it.
I thought so anyways.
Unless He's measuring my faith, found it lacking, and has already consigned me to the 'will not survive cancer' column.
I think about Jars of Clay, and their song 'Good Monsters'.
Mostly, I think that some people should just shut up.

Sunday, November 30, 2008


Okay, I grew up pre-VCR. When I was older, I didn't have time for movies, much. I generally worked in the evenings. Then I married Tim, and with five children, neither one of us had time for movies. Now I'm slowed down, and by necessity, Tim has slowed down too. One of the things that we've been doing a bit more of is watching movies. The problem is that Tim and I are so out of the loop, we can't even pick a good movie. I got this idea over at Bush Babe's. She was talking about a piece of her childhood, hearing her dad recite the poem 'The Man from Snowy River', which sparked a great deal of comment chatter about what an excellent movie that was. Right away, I put it on our short list of movies to rent, our short list containing exactly one movie...
Here's your challenge.
What are some 'must see' movies?
There are none which are too old to be listed.
I'm pretty behind in this area.
Do not assume I've seen anything.

Saturday, November 29, 2008


We finally got to meet Geoff. He seems like a very nice person. He was quiet, kept stealing glances at Cara to make sure that he was 'passing muster'. He was nervous, and you could tell. But then again, Cara was nervous, too. And you could tell. For his part, he told us that he'd just mentioned to his mother that he had a girl friend as he was headed out the door to our house that night. I imagine that he left her with lots of questions.
We visited politely, and joked a little bit, understanding that it was not good to release our humor full bore until the fellow had gotten a firmer footing. But it was cute to see the furtive way that they held hands, and the way that their eyes widened in fear when they got caught. That sort of thing. But the most amazing thing happened. No. Not dog gas, although predictably, that happened too. And when it did, Cara studied the dog in disgust, thinking, 'Oh, for pete's sake, why does he have to smell like that?' and went on watching the movie as Buck stood by, chaperoning the new couple closely. After a couple more 'issues', it suddenly occured to Cara that Geoff was not aware of the Buck situation. So she turned to him to say, 'Our dog smells sometimes,' but she said the look of horror on his face caused her to hesitate just a bit. Embarrassed, she said the words, and he responded with, 'Oh, thank God! I thought you'd think it was me!' So now he knows that the dog farts, and it doesn't seem like it will send him packing.
The other hilarious thing? I've made no secret of the fact that I think Mr. Bean is pretty funny stuff. Painted Promise sent me a Mr. Bean Pez dispenser after reading an exchange between Muse Swings and I. I cherish my Pez dispenser, and I love Mr. Bean. No one else in this house 'gets that'. They all roll their eyes and say, 'This is NOT hilarious. This is just stupid,' and other equally ridiculous things. Well. As horrified as Geoff looked as the dog farted, I imagine that Cara looked no different when Geoff, catching sight of our DVDs said, "Oh, Mr. Bean! He's great! I love Mr. Bean!" That in itself was enough to convince me that Geoff is a fine young man, although it seems to have shocked the spit out of Cara.
Life is just sssssssooooooooo funny like that!

Friday, November 28, 2008


I couldn't bring myself to cut my hair until I knew for sure I'd lose it. Even though I'd been told that I would. And when it hung on a little longer than I thought, I'd begun to think that maybe it would be different, that my hair wouldn't fall out after all. The day before Thanksgiving, I lost a lot of it in the shower. For the last day, I styled my hair as usual. Thanksgiving morning, before I hopped in the shower, I cut my hair off. Yesterday, I wore my wig for the first time.
I guess that I can honestly say it was a big wad of emotional angst over something that turned out to be simply a thing that you do because it's what needs doing. I did not cry. I did not grieve. I wished that I wasn't losing my hair, but I was, so I cut it. I studied myself in the mirror, thinking about the fact that 8 years ago, on Thanksgiving day 2000, my dad died of cancer. And then I put on my wig.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


Brianna is here for Thanksgiving, and Cara got in Monday night, after a hair-raising trip in bad weather. She got half way up our hill and began to spin, sliding backwards down the hill, as her front end went sideways, and ultimately, she ended up facing downhill. A stranger helped straighten her out, and she called us from her cell phone, slightly frantic, wanting someone to come down and get her. The lake effect snow is still coming down. We probably have a foot and a half of snow. Dylan will drive in from Allentown after his second shift job. He will arrive about 5 AM Thanksgiving morning. We are doing Thanksgiving differently this year. Cara has to work from 2 - 6, and Dylan needs to sleep, and I'm pretty dragged out. Dylan, bless his heart, was fretting about me fretting about Thanksgiving, and came up with a plan. He and his sisters would do Thanksgiving this year. Our meal will be later, about 6:30 PM.
I baked my pies Monday, and my rolls. They are in the freezer. Not ideal, but they are ready to go when I pull them out and thaw them. Cara baked banana nut bread yesterday. Sarah, my spare daughter is also home from college, and she brought up some homemade apple cinnamon bread. Brianna will stuff the 20 pound turkey. The rest of the dishes have all the ingredients, and are merely waiting to be assembled. My job is to offer technical support. Surprisingly, they are all pretty excited about this. To add to the excitement, Mike will be here too. We didn't think he'd be able to make it, but surprise!
This is going to be a great day, and I am looking forward to Thanksgiving. I've got a lot of blessings to count.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Tim is a German, raised in a way that honored work and G0d and not much else. He was self supporting at 16, and his first car was the hottest car in town. This is the way of the H------- men. They have all grown up to be hard workers. His other brothers have their own businesses. Tim has been rather a failure in that part, and his father has made no secret of that, but we do pretty well, and one of his father's biggest goals is to find out where we get our money from, asking all sorts of nosy questions. The others boys - it's fairly obvious. 40 hour weeks are unheard of and their businesses are tied into the booming oil drilling that is going on here. Tim, on the other hand, works as a precision machinist at a failing company, but right now, anyway, he cannot afford to jump ship. Not because we don't need the money, but because a new insurance company would refuse to pay for my cancer treatments, citing it as a 'pre-existing condition'. Tim does his 40 weeks there, but he also cheerfully works on cars, houses, and fields requests from little old ladies who watch him working on our stuff, and need work done on their stuff. He probably winds up working 60 or 70 hours a week himself, around here, around other people's houses. And then he comes home and he gets on the computer and reads up on how to fix things, or where to get the stuff to fix things. That is his nature. That is not to say that Tims do not understand when their wives say, turning their heads on the pillow to stare at them in the dark, "Ok, Bubba, I'm not laying here naked because I want to talk about furnaces." He laughs at himself as hard as I do. He often says that God put him into my life to show him how a life should be led. He believes that I have made him a better man, and a better father. For my part, I believe that God has put him into my life at a time when all of us needed grounding, and we have all benefited as Tim as the head of the household. You can always tell when God's at work. His plan works for everybody.
One thing about Tim is that Tim cannot sit still. We were at the emergency room for 7 hours last week. I was so noise and light sensitive that he could do nothing but sit in the dark and wait. The dilaudid would start to wear off, and I'd fret about him, sitting there in the dark, and I'd urge him to go out and get a sandwich, or something. I knew that sitting there, doing nothing, must be agony for him. And then the headache would creep back, and there'd be another shot, and I'd become comfortably numb, as Pink Floyd phrased it. But once, as I was drifting off, I said to Tim, 'gees, this cancer has changed everything, hasn't it?' and his quiet answer was, 'Yes, it has. But it will be okay.' As I dosed off I heard him say, 'But cancer is a pain in the butt.' (Did I mention that Tim doesn't much swear.)
Anyways, Tim took me down to the cancer center for chemo yesterday. We're having some pretty bad lake effect snows and it turned out that Mary had to cancel at the last minute. I told her it was okay, I'd have my other best friend with me. (He does not play scrabble, but we always have something to talk about.) As always, the cancer center was a busy place. Lots of sick people there. The staff is great. Always something to laugh about. The oncologist spoke with us about her plan to take a skip on the headache. It will involve driving in every day, including Saturday and Sunday, but we all quickly agree that we're willing, if only we can avoid the headache. She's done a lot of consulting with my own family doctor to come up with her plan, and I am touched by that. She also set up a protocol at the Emergency Room. Just in case. I'm starting to feel pretty hopeful again.
Let me explain that the cancer center has a bookshelf full of books, and you can borrow them, and return them. There is lots of waiting at the cancer center. And Tim was looking. He found one. Tim reads, mind you. But where I read for pleasure, and for thinking, Tim reads for learning. He doesn't understand reading novels, because novels are 'lies'. Trying to explain that the best novels incorporate human nature, and life in a very real way, well. Tim doesn't get it. He does not understand reading for pleasure. But he selected a book. I figured that he'd found a book on machining, or cars, or hunting, or home repair. And Tim began to read. We sat quietly immersed in our own books. I'm reading Stevyn Colgan's book, 'Joined-Up Thinking', which is actually quite entertaining, filled with all sorts of facts that I never had an inkling of before, and one fact leads to another. It's a pleasant read, and the nicest thing about it is that the rounds are broken down into a chapter, so that you can read it, set it down, and pick it up again, with no fumbling around trying to remember what's going on...the new chapter begins a new round. It's perfect for people with 'chemo head'. So I'm chuckling over my book, and thinking, "I never knew that," reading aloud little factoids to Tim from time to time. Suddenly, I hear Tim chuckle. I look over. He's immersed in his book. "What's so funny?" and he reads to me from his book. He is reading a story about a soldier in Iraq who rescues a puppy and brings him home. I'm a little astounded. Although I am fully aware that Tim can read, and he can read well, I've never known him to read for pleasure. He brought the book home with him, and he read beside me on the couch, chuckling as he turned the pages. Tim is reading for pleasure, and it tickles me to see it.
I've noticed in my own life that one of the biggest blessings of this time is that, suddenly, I am slowed down, whether I was ready to be or not. Suddenly I have time to visit, really talk. I've got time to putz around my house and get the little things done. I cook meals with a mind as to what can be frozen away for a second meal on the bad days. I'm wondering if this enforced slow down is not about to bring Tim to the same point. I've said it before. When this is over, none of us will be the same. Even Tim.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


I'm gone this morning. Thanks to (or damn) the magic of pre-posting, you get a post anyways. These are strange days. Challenging days. These days are also punctuated with joy.
Our church's kids got together and sent me a envelope full of construction paper balloons with their prayers for me. I missed two Sundays, and my class has been divided between two classrooms. One of the balloons noted that the pray-er prayed I'd come back soon because he didn't like having his brother in his class. Funny stuff, touching stuff. I miss those kids. I miss my normal life, a lot.
Another joy punctuating these days is that my friend, Mary, comes in to the cancer center after her bus run. We play scrabble and we talk while the IVs run. I really savor those conversations, and the memories, and my time with her.
I've got a whole week home with Tim. His company looks increasingly shaky. The owner closed up shop this week, although he is going to pay the guys for Thanksgiving and Friday. Even though it's an uncertain time, it's still nice to have the time with Tim.
It's been pleasant having Brianna home, and it continues to feel as if she really is ready to begin again, this time. What's different this time is me, as well. I understand that in the end, one of two things will happen. She will go back to the chaos, or she'll start down another path. Whatever happens, I'm grateful for these days. I treasure them.
I think of Charles Dickens.
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..."

Monday, November 24, 2008

Little Stuff

You know how, sometimes, we create these to-do lists for ourselves, and we prioritize everything, and sometimes the low priority stuff just gets transferred to the next to-do list, and sometimes this happens for long periods of time? Well. I got the laundry caught up, and I have meals prepared in advance and in the freezer again. I've swept the basement. Washed all my rugs. Waxed the kitchen and bathroom floors. But also, those little things are getting done. I cleaned my CD case out the other day. Today, I found myself ripping the keyboard apart, and cleaning it. Cleaned the front door. Wiped the dog smudges off the patio doors. Now I'm looking at things like 'cleaning the junk drawer out in the kitchen'.
I wonder what happens when a person gets 'caught up'?
I'm just curious.
It's never happened to me before.
How about you?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Kids and Chaos

Cara called. "Mom," she says, "What does it mean when you're coughing up blood?" My heart just about stopped. It turned out she was not talking about herself. I was trying to jump start my heart again, while saying, "It means you should take the girl to a hospital. You're not there yet? You better hurry up."
Dylan called. He casually mentioned that he had baked a meal for himself. Not only had he gone to the grocery store, but he'd also bought the pyrex baking dish that he needed. Moreover, he bought a set of three baking dishes because they were on sale and cheaper than the one he had initially pulled from the shelf. I should mention that Dylan has been on his own for some years now. When his sister went to visit him last summer, he had a block of moldy cream cheese and a jar of peanut butter in the fridge. So, really, the news that Dylan has begun to feed himself (after a year and a half on the other side of the state) is an encouraging thing.
Brianna is here. Begin again. But things are different there, as well. She's quiet, and painfully thin, and has obviously been through hard times. As a mom, you can only pray and hope that, really, it is going to be different this time. She's very grateful for the second chance.
Mike can't be home, and neither can Stacey, but for the first time in a long time, I've got my three birth children gathered for Thanksgiving, and I am thankful.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


It strikes me as strange, how pieces of your life all come together, as if it were planned. Yesterday was kind of stressful day, and I was trying to get the house cleaned. I'd gotten behind this week. Way behind. Clutter makes me nervous, as anal as that sounds. I like things neat. The phone kept ringing, and they were important calls, and I was walking around with a phone to my ear doing housework. I'd gotten some sleep, I felt better than I had all week, and I don't take those sorts of days for granted anymore. When I get them, I use them. One of the things I did was empty out my CD case, wipe the dust off each CD, sort them out by genre. I actually put the whole CD turnstile into the bathtub and washed away an embarrassingly large number of dustbunnies. As I replaced the CDs, I came across many that I'd forgotten about, and I separated them out to listen to again. One was Officium, by the Hilliard Ensemble. Initially, when I listened to it, I was disconcerted by the saxophone wandering through the Gregorian Chant. It just didn't fit together. It was like smoking in church, or having sex at the altar. I listened to it a couple of times through, and after I got over the initial surprise of it, I found that it flowed together nicely, and was soothing. However, no one else in this house shares my penchant for Gregorian Chant, and so it was one of those things which, once put in the CD rack, languished quietly with the ever increasing dust bunny population and my cherished bluegrass collection.
Today, it is snowing, again. I am (okay, I was, before I got sidetracked) folding laundry. And I am listening to Officium. The house is quiet, and I am alone, and I am at peace. Although the gift was mailed out probably three years ago, it was sent for today, I think. And it is perfect. Although I've lost track of the giver, I say to Jeremy, thanks again.

Quiet Time

Friday, November 21, 2008


I have long been a person who's found some amount of comfort in the fact that I continue on, no matter what. I'm not self indulgent, I am not comfortable being the focus. I would guess that I'm probably worse than most. I found myself talking to a friend, and trying to explain the shock of discovering that, well...I felt like crap: "Karen," I said, "when I heard the word 'cancer', I knew right away that I was going to beat it. But I never expected to be sick." And as stupid as that sounds, that just about sums it up.


This week has been a shocker. I've been sick. Really, really sick. Two shots of morphine sick. I've never had such a sickening headache in my life. It was worse than a migraine. And for a person who prides herself on her ability to 'suck it up', I found myself saying to the oncologist, "I can't take that again. We have to figure out what to do about that, because I'd rather die than endure that each time." And wonderful as she is, she understood, but explained what I already knew in my heart...I'm so chock full of drugs at this point that finding what drugs are interacting is going to be trial and error. It might happen again. And I can tell that she's really, really sorry about this.


Out of necessity, I've canceled plans for this weekend. Out of necessity, I've given in to my body's demands, and taken naps. Out of necessity, I've put awkward relationships on hold. I don't have time to sort their shit out now. They will simply have to deal with their own dramas. I've not the patience or the energy to do it. Tim thinks it's long overdue, and it made him smile, big. I can't say that I am pampering myself, but I am not feeling quite so guilty when I don't tick everything off my to-do list. I don't feel quite so guilty when I say to someone, "I can't" or say that I am having a discouraging day. I imagine that this is one of many lessons to be learned on the way.

Feel Better

It's going to be a quiet weekend here. We are having getting a major snow event. By tomorrow at 6, we are suppose to have 1 - 2 feet of snow on top of what we already have. I'm also at low ebb, and so weekend company has been canceled. Cara cannot come home anyways. Sleeplessness is becoming a real problem. I was tired yesterday. When I'm tired, I get emotional. Dylan called, and I'm ashamed to say that I cried. Everything hurts more. After several days of sleeplessness, I was not fit to be around. Yesterday, exhausted, I finally gave up the fight and laid down for an afternoon nap. Lo. I slept. I slept hard, and I woke up feeling better. So I took another nap. I woke up, got a container of soup out of the freezer for Tim's supper and laid down again. I took a two hour nap on the couch. I missed a phone call from Korea. Slept right through Tim's conversation with Stacey. I was exhausted. I went to bed at nine, slept until 4. Soundly. I feel so much better, words cannot even begin to say.
It strikes me that again that in the midst of the best treatment that modern medicine can pull out of their bag of tricks, what is going to make the difference in the end is the old fashioned common sense things. Like sleep.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Dog Farts

Due to my foul mood, I've released a pre-written post early. When life sucks, better find something to laugh about. I imagine that it's very telling the funniest thing in my life at the moment is my dog. Mind you, I'm not laughing at him, but every single time the subject of dog farts comes up, people laugh. Go for it. Maybe it's contagious. The laughing, I mean. Not the other.
I've been getting things ready for our small group of guests. Okay. Two of 'em. But they're special guests, so I'd like things to be nice. So I'm doing the extra. Suddenly I notice that the dog has some especially noxious gas. Deadly. So I throw a quick comment to Buck that really, I'd like to see him get over that little problem before we get our company.
Then I stop to think. It's been awhile since I've noticed that he doesn't have gas. A long time. Our preacher once commented about our dog: "When they tell you that dog has gas, believe 'em. He does. Even worse, he follows you where ever you go, so you've got to worry about whether people are thinking it's you or not." We laughed when Gary said this, but really, somewhere along the line, I guess this has become a chronic condition with Buck. I start to worry a little bit. You don't worry so much about your old farting dog when, say, your sister visits. Your sister has owned Festus, the decrepit but beloved beagle who began to smell a bit 'off' as she got older. So, like, if my close family comes, you don't mind so much about 'Farty-the-Friendly'. I mean, these are the sort of people that understand that you can't just set a dog outside because he's gotten farty in his old age. But this visit is different. This is my daughter's friend. We want to make a good impression. And this is my ex-father-in-law, the one who sees my ex's perfect wife, who keeps a perfect house and has 'Angel' the white poofy dog who probably does not fart. I study my loyal and good dog. My big stinky friend. He snores gently from his bed, and if on cue, he farts an audible fart.
You know, people, it is what it is. I love my dog. I found him as a stray a few years back, and he is a dog that I know would lay down his life for me. Well. I'm pretty sure, anyways. He's old. He moves a bit slower. He's got Arthur Itis. But, in his day, he was fiercely protective, and was saving me from Tim on a regular basis. I was in no actual danger, mind you. Tim just gets amorous sometimes, and announces that fact with strange groaning noises and quick grabbing motions. This upset the dog to no end. But like they always say, had this been an actual emergency, well, by golly, the dog was on it. So when the good Lord drops a dog like that off in your lap, well, you don't just abandon him in his old age because he's gotten rancid. No. It would be like dropping off a relative with Alzheimers along a busy highway because he's inconvenient, or like leaving your spouse because he's lost his (her?) hair. No. Life is about more than that. Anyone that can't see that isn't worth the time it takes to prepare for their visit.
Still, though, I call to ask Tim to pick up some Bean-o on his way home from work. When I hang up the phone, I also pray. I'll let you know how this all works out.

A New Way of Life

The kids' grandfather has just moved back to the eastern half of the country. We reconnected. He's recently widowed, and lonely, I think. Starting all over again. Tentative reaching outs were encouraged, and this weekend, he'll be circling through for a visit. I passed this word on to Cara who announced that this weekend might be just the time for her to bring 'her friend' home to meet the family. I think that her grandfather was shocked by her generous and open heart, grateful for the 'no-questions-asked, pleased-to-meetcha' response. Plans are firmed up, and I am looking forward to the weekend. Dylan cannot make it home because he will be headed home in just a few days, for Thanksgiving break (five whole days with my boy!) but Dylan will be able visit with his grandfather at Christmas time in Michigan.
Suddenly, I'm all agog at how close the holidays are, and the unplanned 'meeting of the friend' which must be done up nicely, and so I went into 'mom' mode, and sent an e-mail out to family members letting them know what was happening and inviting them to stop in for good food and a nice visit. I began to plan a casual buffet. I realized that Tim was getting a little ornery. He's quiet, but I can always tell when I've provoked him because
he sniffs.
So I'm gaily making my plans, and in the middle of this,
I notice that Tim is sniffing.
So I said, "What?"
He said, "Nothing,"
but made sure to give me a look that insured that I knew it was something. And then he went out to the garage to beat on a car engine for a while. When, he came back in, he stood at the door pulling off his boots.
He sniffed a couple times.
I said, "What's wrong?" a couple more times.
Then he finally came out with it. I wasn't supposed to be around a lot of crowds especially crowds that included kidlets (who are never fastidious in the matter of personal hygiene), and I had just sent out a mass e-mail. He was grumpy about it, and he was also right. I had simply forgotten. I had to shoot out a second e-mail to say,
'Um. Sorry. Never mind.'
Hugely embarrassing.
So, I've been thinking all night. It's going to be a quiet holiday season here. It usually is. I'm estranged from the bulk of my family. Tim and I celebrate with the rest of the people who don't fit... and really, we're a nice enough group, as far as misfits go. We're also an evergrowing crowd, which is comforting. It doesn't appear to be long before the misfits have a bigger bash than the 'family-in-good-standing'. This year, our options are limited. I'm realizing that this year, it's not a choice. We're celebrating quietly because we have to. I've no idea why this should bother me, but it does. I lay awake in the night thinking about it while Tim snores comfortably.
It bothers me so much that I finally get up to take a couple Tylenol PMs. I've also managed to twist my foot on the way to the mailbox today, and that pain is keeping me wide awake in addition to my busy mind.
Can I possibly make things worse?
The answer?
(in case you're waiting with bated breath)
No. This sucks.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Take my Breath Away

Our first snow melted off, and is long gone. Yesterday, we got more.
The last snow was a wet snow. This is a fluffy snow. If you can't tell the difference, you're not in a snow belt. I'm not sure whether to feel sorry for you, or envy you. Get back to me about late January, or so.
See how nicely it pads the rock in our front yard?
This is our road in front of the house. It is called 'Casino Highway', and heads straight into the Seneca Nation, and the obligatory Native American casino. There's some dark, desolate territory between our home and theirs. Once, we found a beautiful but very drunk Indian girl lying along side the road. Her brother pushed her out of a moving car and kept on going. It does not look like such a thing could happen on a road like this, does it? It does, though.

Doesn't appear that the snow is over any time soon.
This is our work truck.

Do you see a problem with the work truck?

Hint: this work truck has a multitude of jobs.
One of them is snowplowing.
We have a very nice snowplow for this truck...

...which we need to pull from along side the garden shed,

and slap on the front of our work truck. ASAP, even).


There was a quote that was once attributed to the late, the great George Carlin: "Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away." He disclaimed that. I thought that was a real testimony to his integrity.

I would have claimed it, totally.

In fact, if nobody has, I will.

Right now.

Monday, November 17, 2008


It has been a very satisfying time in blogdom lately. Bush Babe traveled to Paradise for Jeanie's wedding. I've enjoyed watching Jeanie cope/recoil in horror as the 'wedding express' bore down upon her. That's been good fun. Mikey and Wade caught Sugarfoot, that wild horse, and brought her in. They are now in the process of taming her. That's a cool story line. Stevyn's book got published, and he sent me an oddly-graphed copy. Now he's busily writing a novel in a month. Mr. Peel and I had a grand time dissecting American politics in the days leading up to November 4th. Hal's had some great thoughts on being a dad and being a husband lately. Michael lost his new puppy, and found his new puppy in satisfyingly short order. Mike's back after a 5 month sabbatical (but who's counting, really...). The Brummie came to Arizona. Painted Promise fled Arizona for the safety of grizzly bears and Yellowstone National Park. This was surely a coincidence, but it made me laugh anyways. MuseSwing put forth Dr. West's professional opinions on every darn thing female, and made me laugh harder than any blog to date. On and on they go. Stevie's blog, Lavinia's blog, Scotty's blog, Don's blog, DavidM's blog, Mary's blog, the Pencil Writer's blog, Portia's blog.
Tiny glimpses of the lives of others.
Shirley wrote a recent blog post about 'Voyeurism'. It makes me a cringe a little to think of myself as a voyeur, but really, I have to confess that I love watching people. I sometimes stand outside my own home in the dark, looking at the picture framed by my picture window, wondering what glimpse of my life that people get as they pass by in the night. And I think that it is a home-y sort of picture. Yellow light, plants, the carved back of the leather sofa , people I love. I think it is a picture worth a second look. I am glad for it. I am also glad for the glimpses into your lives. In all the ugliness of the world, and the news of the world, it pleases me to see that good people abound, open generous hearted people living their own lives on their own terms.
Thanks to you all for your blogs.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

One Day at a Time

I went to a meeting yesterday. It was good to find other women dealing with breast cancer. They were farther down the treatment path than I am, and they had good advice. Carol, the instructor, is the mother of Meggie. Meggie and Cara attended high school together, and are now at college together. When Cara first heard my news, she turned immediately to Meggie, since Carol dealt with breast cancer (and won!) when both girls were in high school. So Meggie has been a huge support for Cara. I am glad for that. Carol and the other women were an huge support for me as well.
Today, I got my wig in the mail. It will look okay. When my hair begins to fall out, we're ready for what comes next.
I guess that how you fight cancer.
You do it one day at a time,
one step at a time,
one challenge at a time,
until you've won.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Oz Couple

I hope that everyone takes a moment to congratulate Jeanie and V on their wedding day. Our very best wishes to you both, and to 'Salina too.
Hurray for the women of Granite Glen!
(and for the men brave enough to take them on!)
We hope that you like your gift.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Because I Can

Not having the time of my life,


I can stand it.

Be back soon.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Today, I'm not home. Today is the day of my first chemo. I've tried to read up on it, but you can't, not really. Everyone responds differently, they tell me. From what I can tell, the first half is the roughest. I've been trying to get my emotional self together to deal with whatever needs dealing with, but it's hard to wrap your head around what you do not know.
Yesterday, I was scrubbing down walls at the new house. The radio was blaring, because hard work is easier when the music is loud. Every fool knows that. Rascal Flatts sang 'Stand'. I'd heard it before, of course, but this time the words were my words.
"Cause when push comes to shove
You taste what you're made of
You might bend, till you break
Cause its all you can take
On your knees you look up
Decide you've had enough
You get mad you get strong
Wipe your hands
shake it off
Then you stand,
Then you stand"
And really, that is all there is to it. This may be tough stuff, but I will be tougher.
Have to be.
No matter what.
And when it is said, and done, like any person who's been through hard times, I will learn great lessons about the stuff that I'm made of.
When it's said and done, I will stand.
Wiser, I will continue on.
I'll be back when I can. Until then, talk quietly amongst yourselves.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Life Goes On

Even though I sometimes cannot see past this big mountain in front of me, there are other things going on in my life besides cancer. Cara came home this weekend. It was not, unfortunately, to see me. No. Cara has met someone. When she first told me, I had to shut my eyes. My first thought was that she's struggling right now, herself, and doing a beautiful job of being supportive. Even though she will not say, I'm sure that she's worried and afraid about things. But she will not say. My immediate fear, when she began to tell me her news, was that she would find herself jumping into things for the comfort, rushing headlong into someone's arms because she simply needed to feel arms around her. It turns out that her fellow is here. We don't know him, actually, but we know who he is. He seems to be a very good fellow, hardworking. He's graduated college already, and is working toward his teacher's certificate. He volunteers his time within our community. He has a brother who needs assistance, and he is there for his brother and parents. Although Cara has known him for a while, it wasn't until she came back from college for a visit that she ran into him again. And instead of seeing him as she always had, as a 'grown-up', for the first time, she saw him as a peer, someone just a few years older than herself. And after that visit, there were phone calls and IMing. Finally, after weeks, there was a date. And finally, a few weeks after that, Cara decided to let me in on this big news.
Cara came home, again this weekend, and she had her second date. Cara is shy, and she will not call this by any names. They are 'getting to know one another', she'll tell you. She's not ready to say the words. But there is a glow on her face. She spends a lot of time staring off into space. For the first time, Cara has fallen in love. I can plainly see that she has fallen hard. Best of all, it sounds like the feeling is mutual.

Sunday, November 9, 2008


Sometimes, in the midst of all this uncertainty and upheaval, it is easy to forget who's running the show. Patiently, though, God reminds me. We've been fretting about finances. We've got a child beginning college. I've been layed off from my seasonal job, and have not found a replacement job yet. Tim's job looks uncertain. After years of living debt free, we took advantage of the depressed housing market and bought a house, which we've gutted, and just begun to put back together. Tim found another house, on the same street, and over my objections, felt quite certain that we should buy that as well. And so we did. Then I was diagnosed with cancer. Suddenly, nothing was certain anymore. We just took possession of the house, and began to update it when we received a phone call. A friend had moved into an apartment, only to discover, two weeks later, that the owner had sold the house, and she had to move. She wanted to rent from us very badly, but she needed to move in instantly (instantly!!!!!). Tim headed straight down to the house to assess the situation. While he was there, people, he crossed paths with a friend. After chatting, Mark took a look at our apartment, and rented it on the spot. Both apartments were rented within the space of 4 hours. We had not even advertised them.
Last week, we went to Pittsburgh. We were circling around the parking lot looking for an empty spot, and much to our amazement, a couple from our church crossed in front of us. I could not hug Jen in church because I was minorly radioactive from the MUGAscan, but there in Pittsburgh three days later, I was able to jump out of the car, calling their names, and hug them both. Jen, after years of infertility, is finally pregnant. But on Tuesday, we rejoiced in a hospital parking lot far from home. What a moment! And, since they were leaving, we were able to (finally) get a parking lot.
Today, at church, I was worship leader. I looked at all the dear faces before me. Years ago, when Tim and I were looking for a church, we had walked into to this church with the intention of trying it out. People were so warm and welcoming that we never tried another church. We had found the right church on our first try. In this emotional, crazy time, my church moved quickly, to provide meals, to provide comfort, to send cards, to volunteer to sit with Tim, to drive me to chemo, to drive up to let the dog out. There are a number of cancer survivors there. All of them tell me the same thing. A survivor has a certain spark about them. I have that spark, they tell me. My sense of humor will see me through, they say. My faith will see me through, they say. Although my own praying is choked and halting, their praying is not. Riding home from church today, I reflect on all thse things. I don't believe that it was a coincidence that Tim and I ended up in a church that has everything we need to help us in these times. I don't think it was coincidence that our house rented so breathtakingly quickly. I don't think it was coincidence that we ran into the comfort of good friends in the parking lot at Magee Women and Children's Hospital.
A month ago, when I broke the news to my Sunday School class that I had cancer, you could have heard a pin drop. I comforted them with these words: "This is a chance to watch God at work, close up. I guarantee this." Every week, they ask me for a God story. Every week, I've got more than one. Say what you will, believe as you want, but I will call this God.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Shirley is Right

Ding, ding, ding, ding!
We have a winner. Shirley, over at Rhubarb Whine, left a comment on 'Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow'. In the great scheme of things, I know that losing my hair is a vanity issue, not a matter of life or death, but it's something that I'm really struggling with. A bunch of you offered some really insightful comments, and I was able to look at them and see the truth in them all. However, Shirley commented "Perhaps it is the understanding that people 'know' something is afoot when they see a woman who has lost hair. One of 2 reasons, usually, for the loss. Like wearing a sign on your back." As soon as I read that, I knew that was it. Right there. Shirley had hit that nail square on the head.
Although I don't hold much back on my blog, the fact is, I'm more comfortable writing what I think than saying what I think. So 'cancer' is not something that I'm really comfortable talking about yet. If someone raises the topic, I'll talk about it. But if it's not mentioned, I don't mention it either. I don't want people to think that I'm looking for pity, or that I'm a big whiney baby. Sometimes, I'm afraid that if I begin to talk about it, I won't be able to stop. Or maybe that I'll begin to cry, and I won't be able to stop. I'm afraid of people's reactions. I was raised in a family where if you were feeling poorly, you simply took a deep breath and continued on. It was considered a sign of weakness to complain, so I've always been a bit of a stoic. Until now. Until this cancer thing. I'm everlastingly grateful to Mikey for making me take up blogging...I'd have probably burst by now if I couldn't type all this frustration and fear out of my system.
Like I said, yesterday, I went wig shopping. You have to understand that I am not a woman who spends a lot of time on her appearance. I've got my regimen down. Except for undergarments, I buy my clothes at a second hand store. I'm self conscious about myself. I just don't spend time or money on myself, either one. But yesterday, I walked into an actual beauty shop, which is a rare thing in, and of, itself. The lady cutting hair asked if she could help me, and I said that I needed to look at a wig. 'M' was summoned from the back room. I had to explain about the $75 grant from the cancer society to buy a wig. And right away, you saw people's shocked looks, and the pity ('Oh, the poor thing, she's so young'). 'M' told me that the wigs were $100. and I was trying to ask questions in a self conscious way, and she was simply trying to get me to pick out a wig. I finally did, but it was $175. and I realized that she was telling me that my share was $100. I not only looked like a pitiful cancer person, but an impoverished pitiful cancer person, and I was mortified. I just said, "Thanks. I don't want a wig," and I fled. Really. Fled. And I got to my car and started crying again. (Keeee-ripes! How much can one person cry over the course of a month. It's really starting to get embarrassing.)
Tim and I went to the chemo education appointment. We talked to the doctor. Tim asked questions. He's pretty concerned about the chemo. He's come a long way. The cancer diagnosis was a big shock to our marriage. He sought to comfort himself by pretending it was not happening. I sought to comfort myself by reaching out to my husband. Now, finally, we have reached the point where we are, once again, comforting each other. And for all the fallout in the comment section of a recent post, I gotta tell you - I've been reading up on this, and it appears that the rough patch we endured was fairly typical. Anyways, when we got home after this appointment, we were both quiet for a while. Then I tried to explain about the wig, and how awful it was, and embarrassing, and I didn't want to go to get my head shaved where people could see me, in case I cried, etc. etc. etc. So we looked at wigs on line. He picked out one that looks like I wear my hair now. He measured my head, and we picked the size. While I ordered it, he called my brother in law. He asked to borrow their clippers next weekend. My chemo starts on Wednesday. My wig should be here by the weekend. We figure that it's probably best just to cut the hair before it starts falling out. He'll do that for me at home. He won't care if I cry.
In the end, when it's all said and done, I know that I will weather the loss of my hair, and I will be perfectly fine. It's just contemplating that loss that is so difficult. Once I lose that hair, Shirley is absolutely right. There will be no denying the cancer. Whether I'm ready to talk about it or not, people will know. No matter how self conscious I am, I'll have to deal with this.