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.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Guitar Heros

Bush Babe read my earlier post about Michael Hedges. She offered up an Australian guitarist. This reminded me of another guitarist, William Ackerman. I looked up some of his music, and lo, there was a set with Michael Hedges. Without further ado, for your viewing pleasure, another round of guitar hero. My version, anyways, having no interest at all in video games.

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

The results from Pittsburgh were good. We've got the green light for chemo to begin. Today we have an appointment for 'chemo education'. The chemo begins on Wednesday. They tell you to get a wig before you start losing your hair. I guess that I'd better do that today.
I was brushing my teeth and studying my reflection in the mirror, trying to imagine what I will look like with no hair. I say that losing my hair is going to be tough. Tim says, in his matter of fact way, "Well, maybe you should get everything all cut off. I think it would be easier to take if you had no hair, rather than having it fall out in clumps leaving long hair and bald spots." Surprisingly, that has occured to me. The thing is, I get my hair cut at the Wal-mart. (Don't laugh - it is convenient, and Alicia is very, very good.) I cannot bring myself to walk in there and ask her to shave my head in front of people, and then walk out of there with people staring. I have always been self conscious, especially about how I look. I imagine this is one of those things that you figure out as you go. I imagine that I'll hear other people's stories, other people's ways of handling this, and from their stories, I will figure out my own way to go.
I saw a woman who was having chemo in Pittsburgh. She was wearing a hat. She had no eyebrows, but had painted on some very nice ones. She did not look bad. Ethereal, even. I was gripped with this desire to just walk right up to her and begin to talk. Everyone talks about support groups, but I have not found one yet. Everyone deals with losing their hair, and people cope, and hair grows back and I know all this, but the simple fact of the matter is that I don't want Tim to see me bald. I know that he will. It's unavoidable. I'm dreading that moment.
Tim just laughs and pats his own bald head. "Your hair will grow back. Mine won't. That's the least of your problems."
I know.
He's right.
It is the least of my problems.
So why does it bother me the most?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Testing Bob

I am not what you would call technologically proficient . If you want to hear a girl laughing her nether regions off, you should hear Cara, who is most certainly laughing to herself and muttering, "No s**t, Sherlock." What with all of her college freedom, she's developed a bit of a potty mouth. She smoked a cigar with friends, watching 'her' candidate win the election Tuesday night.. Because she could, doubtless to say. All that freedom. And...well. Let's just stop talking about darling Cara.


Anyhow, blog buddy Bob told me how to install a video. I'd wrestled with it quite a while, trying to download McCain's concession speech and Obama's acceptance speech. Finally gave up and just installed the link. I'm embarrassed to say that I spent quite a bit of time on that little pursuit. I kept thinking that it could not possibly be that difficult. Unfortunately, in the end, I was forced to admit defeat. I uttered a couple potty mouth words, but it was not freedom rushing to my head. It was frustration. Bob provided me with impromtu lesson. So let's put this to the test, shall we?


The past few weeks have been stressful, and chock full of changes. I've been soothing myself with old music. One of the labels that I used to purchase from a lot was the Windham Hill group. One of my very favorite musicians from that label was Michael Hedges, a guitarist. Watching him play (I have videos) was remarkable. He played the guitar in ways that it had never been played before. He played with an energy and a passion that came from someplace that most artists never go. I don't know how to explain it actually, but he was a marvel to watch. He was referred to as the 'guitarist from another planet'. What you cannot deny is that the man was a genius, extraordinarily gifted.


Pulling out these CDs and blowing the dust off them brings back memories of other times, and other places. I listened to one of his CDs waiting for Cara's arrival nearly 19 years ago. She was very overdue, and I was worried about things, and emotional. (She was trying my patience even before she drew her first breath.) But I listened to this music and was soothed as I waited. I'm doing a lot of waiting now, and it is an emotional time. I'm being soothed yet again. So here you go. History being made, right here on this blog. Thanks Bob.


PS: Cara, I'd like to point out that even in my jubilation, I've no urge to run off and share a cigar with anyone. Just saying. Love, Mom.

Late edit: Sorry. I was thanking the wrong Bob. I've corrected that error. *sigh* There are certainly a lot of Bobs in this world.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Great Day

I tried to down load the videos. Someone will have to show me, because I'm apparently not the brightest crayon in the box. Anyways....
This is John McCain's concession speech, and I've got to tell you, I was impressed by his dignity, and his quick response to the booing from the audience. He gave a speech that called us all to come together as Americans, and support our country.
Likewise, Obama's acceptance speech called us to the same cause.
E Pluribus Unum.
For the first time, I see it happening before my very eyes.

It Is What It Is

One thing that sent me reeling was the 'onc' report. That report talks specifically about the cancer. It refers to it as highly aggressive. Because of this report, the oncologist decided that I should have the strongest chemo they've got. Since my goal has been, from the beginning, to fight this once, and be done, I'm certainly willing. But what knocked the wind from me was to read the data that gives it a 39% chance of recurring in the breast. That same data shows a 27% chance that it will move somewhere else in my body. I looked at those numbers, and I could not breathe for a moment. This last month has been full of shocks, but this one was a biggie. Suddenly, my goal of fighting like hell, winning, and then moving on, seemed pretty naive. I've been telling myself that all I've got to do is endure for the next six months.
I can endure.
I've endured before.
I'm actually pretty good at enduring...
Holding this paper in my hand, reading these numbers, suddenly reality shape-changed yet again.
It could happen again.
There is a very real chance that I will fight this fight again.
I pride myself on responding well under fire. I listened calmly to the doctor. Asked appropriate questions (I think), and when the appointment was done, I left the office and I calmly drove home. I wanted my husband badly. Neither one of us knew that this was 'the' big day, the unveiling of the treatment, we did not know that we would be getting a new, clearer image of the beast, an image that would reveal it to be a bit more beastly than we had believed it to be. And when I told him, he was speechless.
'This is not good.'
'Why has this changed?'
'How can this be?'
And we spent Halloween night sitting together on the steps downtown, handing out candy to the children. Quiet. Digesting this news. Each of us independently coming to grips with what lies ahead. We are both strong people, we are both enduring people. We're in it for the long haul. Still, this latest was a lot to digest.
It is what it is.
I do not talk a lot about my mother. My father died of cancer in 2000, on Thanksgiving Day. My mom and I are estranged. There's no sense trying to explain why. She will tell you that it is my fault. I know that it is not. I also discovered that mom's version of the truth is the version that makes her a pitiful victim. My mom has disconnected from two of her children in a very big way. I try to imagine one of my children dealing with cancer. The first thing that I would have to deal with is my own grief. My first goal would be to comfort my child. My mom cannot. She does not. There is no sense to trying to explain her difficult life. It would take too long. It begins when she was a baby, and left with relatives to be raised. The relatives, fearful that her real mother might return and take her, raised my mother with words like 'she did not love you' and 'abandoned'. I understand that my mother is a product of her life. I do not hate her. After a while, though, you simply get tired of the family dramas, and the anger, and the necessity of picking sides. I stepped away. I stepped out of the picture. I feel better for it, because while I was in the picture, everything was MY fault. Now that I am out of it, I feel much better, less anxious, less guilty. Although every problem my mother ever had was my fault, she's still got problems, a lot of them, and she is still a pretty angry person. Remember the dream that I had all those days ago, that I'd heard my mother's voice from another room? That sums it up as good as anything. My mother and I reside in different rooms. She can't hear me when I talk. She hasn't heard me in years. She'll tell you the same thing about me. The difference is, she'll be good and mad when she tells you about me. I'm not angry anymore. It's sad, but like so many other things in my life, it is what it is.
Mom called to check in. It was the first time that I've spoken to her since all of this started. Like I said, 'my wheels were wobbling' in a pretty big way. I usually keep things light, and assuring, and don't give a lot of details. This time, I told her about the recurrance rates. My mom said, "How's Tim doing? Is he back to work?" I said that he was, and my mother said to call if we needed anything, and the phone call was done.
It is what it is.


We have discussed the whole 'I can haz cheezburger' phenomenon.
Cara is a fan.
Actually so am I.Cara believes that the mispellings make the site even funnier.
Cats do not go to school.
This is how they would write.
I know people who have gone to school.
This is how they write.
I don't think it's funny.
The site would be just as funny with good grammar.
But I'm a freak like that.
Ask Cara.
She'll tell you.
Lord knows, she tells me. Repeatedly.

An expert weighs in.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


If you're American, I hope that you're voting today. We are doing that as soon as the polls open up at 7, and then the country bumpkins are headed to the big city of Pittsburgh. We are armed with our MapQuest directions. Mary and Danny strongly urged us to take their Tomtom. "I don't know," I said doubtfully. "Are they complicated to use?" Mary said, "No. I can use it." I meant no offense when I blurted, "We should be able to figure it out then." Really. You shouldn't try to be my friend if you've got low self esteem. I will only make the matter worse. It's probably a wonder I have friends at all.
Oh. And Stu? Don't forget my prediction: Landslide, early concession.

Monday, November 3, 2008


The editor of our small town newspaper sent an e-mail that ended with this line: 'Newspapers and drunks have a guardian angel that looks after them to keep them from harm.'
I shot an e-mail back:
'You may have just inspired me to take up heavy drinking...'

Sunday, November 2, 2008


Today, I baked Tim a homemade apple pie using the apples we bought at the Farmer's Market yesterday. I was taking Barb's advice. I was taking a day off from the worries at hand.
Cool story: At church this morning, a couple that has struggled with infertility announced they were pregnant. We all gasped and applauded. Although I was overjoyed for them, I dared not hug Jen for the same reason that I was cautioned not to go into Canada this weekend. After the test on Friday, I was told that I would set off the radioactivity detectors at the border. America, always on the alert for terrorists, would not have let me back in.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Second Opinion

I wrestled with it all night long, sleepless. I simply could not ignore it. For the first time, I realized what a monumental shock it was to Tim to hear the words "It was cancer" after the first surgery. He heard 'cancer' and 'chemo', and 'radiation'. And then he shut down completely. I'm glad however that our pastor was there. He said, "The surgeon said that he had decided not to remove the second lump, but assured us that he would watch it closely." Mary said, "I didn't understand why he would do that. Pre-op, he was pretty clear that it would be biopsied as well." I agonized about calling the cancer center. I did not want to alienate them, or ruffle the feathers of the very people I need so desperately right now in this fight. but I had some serious questions. I mustered up my nerve and I called the cancer center, and explained my concerns. I was shocked that they asked me to come in right away.
Turns out that they had some very serious misgivings as well. I have an appointment Tuesday. I will be going to University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's cancer center, state of the art, one of the east coast's finest. The onc testing, which, as best I can figure it is sort of a DNA deconstruct of the cancer itself shows it to be a highly aggressive cancer. The chemo I will have is the most aggressive one they've got in their arsenal. First however, they will need to make a decision about this lump.
Being the emotional sap that I am, I cry, yet again. How wonderful to sit with the oncologist and talk, not like adversaries, but like people on the same team, staring directly into the face of a common enemy. And when she says, "Do you honestly think the lump is under the mediport?" I simply unbutton my shirt. "Look for yourself. The lump was described as in the exact same place, on the other side. She looks at both scars. She feels the lump of the mediport. And she leaves the room to make arrangements in Pittsburgh.