Thursday, April 30, 2009


I really enjoy working. Working hard. Physically pushing myself until I am tired and sweaty. For no other reason, I suppose, than that I am able to do so. There were times during the winter, when I wondered if I'd ever feel strong again, and each day brings me the satisfied realization that I am strong once more. I enjoy my shower when I get home from work. I could not use my favorite scented soap during radiation. Now that radiation is done, I stand in the shower and revel in the scent of that soap, scrubbing up a rich lather. I enjoy being able to use my regular lotions too, and I slather them on skin that is already beginning to darken in the sun. By the time that I go to bed, I am exhausted and sleep comes quickly. I love those last few moments of consciousness before I drift off to sleep, the tired aches in my legs and my shoulders and my back easing as I relax and stretch, wrapped around my three pillows. And when Tim gets home at midnight, like as not, I will not even hear him, although sometimes I wake up enough to feel his hand rubbing the soft bristles of my new hair, or to feel him kissing my shoulder.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


I got a call tonight from the hospital. I thought, "Gees, Mary's sister sounds just like her..." It was Mary! She's doing great. I went to the hospital to visit with her and her family. She looks great, hasn't had a pain pill since noon, was in good spirits. When her father kissed her goodbye, he said something about treatments. Mary replied, "Dad, this surgery is my last cancer treatment." You know, people, I believe her.


Today is Mary's surgery. A bilateral mastectomy. Mary's begun reading my blog, and she has even left a couple comments here. Mary contacted me, after reading an article in the paper. I will be forever glad that she did. She was ahead of me in treatment, and a wonderful sounding board when I had questions or concerns. Cheerful and matter of fact, she never failed to make me feel better. And now, it is my turn to comfort Mary. She's got cancer again. You all were so wonderfully supportive to me, and I hope that you will take a few minutes to leave a comment for Mary. Thank you.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Great Week!

I ripped out the lining for my ornamental pool (which hasn't been, up to this point anyways) much of an ornament. I am replacing it with a super duper heavy duty tub. I planted six evergreens. Work has been great. The weather has been beautiful, and I am already turning my regular summer brown. The dogwood is in bloom. I found a glade of white violets. I just wanted to fall face first into them and breathe. I crossed paths with my very favorite client today, and he was as glad to see me as I was to see him. I walked until I was exhausted. I got rained on. Repeatedly. I saved a robin today. I was waiting for a truck to arrive, and got sidetracked by some flowers alongside an abandoned house. I dug some up and put them in my lunch box. I heard a fluttering noise behind me and turned around to see a robin trapped inside the garage. I've got no idea how he got himself in there, but the door was unlocked, so I pushed it open and went in. He was so weak that I was able to pick him up and carry him outside. He revived in the breeze and flew away. I'm having a great week. I can hardly believe it is only Tuesday.

Used to it.

I've pretty much given up the wig, only wearing it to church on Sunday. I can't work in it. It is too hot. Also, after one day of working with it, I caught a glimpse of myself in the rear view mirror. My hair was standing on end, and the wig itself was askew and cocked forward. I looked like Donald Trump. I've begun to wear a scarf, or a bandana. I was quite self conscious about it at first. I felt like I needed an eyepatch, and like I should be yelling "ARRRRRRGGGHHHH, matey!" but now I'm used to it. By the end of the summer, I imagine that I'll have given up the bandanas too. My own hair will be disheveled and blowing in my eyes. Oh, I just can't wait to get used to that.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Life goes on.

We had a beautiful weekend. It was hot. It was sunny. We worked. We celebrated. I know it's psychological. It has to be. Having a whole month off from the cancer center has provided me with time to think about other things besides cancer. Tremendously freeing. 'Graduating' from treatment is a big boost to my spirits. I realize that the milestone means little. Is the cancer gone for good? Dunno. But I've completed a grueling round of treatment that is supposed to make a recurrence less likely. Cancer is a funny thing. You look at your own mortality square in the face, and it is unnerving. Somewhere along the line, I figured out that each of us live until we die. It's the same for all of us. Any person could sit around obsessing about the end, about how they will die. To do so is a waste of life.

This weekend I looked a lot. I paid attention. A cardinal caught my eye, a bright spot of red in the pale green of the buds. It was pretty. When we were getting firewood, the view was magnificent, one mountain rolling into another, to another, and on and on as far as the eye could see. And speaking of firewood, we will have to take a small break. We need about two more cord of wood for next winter, but Tim noticed that a nest had been built in the rafters of the woodshed. We could hear the parent robins having a fit outside as we unloaded the wood. There are three bright blue eggs in the nest. We stopped after only unloading half the wood, so as not to keep the robins away from the nest that means so much to them. We can unload the other half another day. I baked brownies and two chocolate truffle tortes for the desert sale today at church. On the surface of it, life goes on as it always has. What is different, I think, is me. It's hard to explain, really. It's as if I have wrapped life around me like a warm shawl, admiring the pattern of it, the colors, the softness of the material. I've buried my face in it, inhaling deep of the fragrance. And sometimes, I twirl with my arms outstretched, simply to enjoy the way the fringe swings with me.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


I have so many people in this world to be grateful to. I can't even begin to count them all. Something that really struck me as I listened to the stories of other women with breast cancer was that there were some who had a terrible time getting a referral after they discovered a lump. Their doctors told them it was nothing. Some women did not argue, but simply accepted his/her judgement. Others were nervous, but were afraid to speak up. Some argued, and at least one had to find a new doctor who would listen, who gave the referral. These are all women who have been diagnosed with cancer. Understand this is not the majority, not at all, but still, it surprised me how many had to wait on that referral because their own doctor was not convinced that they had cancer, for one reason or another.

Friday, while I was waiting to see my regular physician, it occurred to me, again, how blessed I had been. I found the lump on a Friday. I called the office. I had an appointment with Gina within a couple hours. She made an appointment for a diagnostic mammogram for the following Tuesday. I saw the surgeon on Thursday. The OR had already been scheduled for the following Monday. The speed at which everything moved was actually frightening at the time. Looking back at it, though, I'm so grateful that I did not have to push and argue. Gina took this seriously. Such a small thing, something that I took for granted, until I heard the stories of other women. I was mindful to make that gratitude known.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Not Me...

After I finished at the Cancer Center on Friday, I had another appointment with my regular doctor. I hadn't been there since last fall, when all this began. I walked in and greeted the receptionist in my regular way. "Good morning, you rotten woman, you!" and even though she had quite a cold going on, she was as glad to see me as I was to see her. I could tell because even after I sat down with a magazine to wait, she tossed a couple zingers at me. Me, being me, gave as good as I got. There was a gentleman watching this exchange with a surprised look on his face. Being in rare form, I looked over the top of my magazine and said, "That's the best thing about cancer. You can be just as awful as you want to people, and they have to be nice to you." The poor man looked shocked, but he managed a little chuckle. I went back to reading, but commented, "There are some in the world that would take advantage of a situation like that. I'm not one of those, though. I'm noble like that..." Mary, the receptionist (gosh, I know a lot of Marys...) croaked, "Don't you listen to one thing she says...."

Friday, April 24, 2009


Today was a momentous day. I finished the radiation, and the staff marched me out the door to the sound of 'Pomp and Circumstance'. It felt great to be done. So great. I stopped to look back at the building before getting into my car. I remembered how much I dreaded entering that building the first day. A rough calculation shows that I have been there 120 times in a six month period. Somewhere along the line, I got over dreading it. Now I don't have to return until May 29th. Seems incredible. I celebrated with a $4. cup of cappuccino.

Today was warm, and in the 70s. 23 degrees for you Celcius folks. I can say it now. I was a little worried about going back to work. I wondered if I'd be able to handle my strenuous job. Today I worked in the sun, and I worked hard. I carried my back pack sprayer for four hours. I walked and walked and walked. My body met the challenge. I did four treatments, and two of them were major operations. I've got to get another pedometer (the last one went through the stinking washer...). I know I walked at least four miles, part of it through heavy underbrush. I'm tired but triumphant. I can do this!

Tim's birthday was Tuesday. Since he works second shift and I work first shift, we decided to celebrate this weekend. So today I stopped and bought Tim's birthday presents. A special birthday card too. We've been through a lot since his last birthday. It was a rocky beginning, but we both got our footing, and continued on. Seemed as if we should not only be celebrating his birthday, but us, the two of us as a couple, a marriage that withstood some major shocks this year.

I'm a woman who wears work boots and sturdy denim to work each day. Now that I have eyelashes again and can wear mascara, I happily get up and put on makeup each morning. This simple routine has made me feel like a woman again. That's worth celebrating too, so I went to the consignment shop and bought myself five tops, feminine airy tops. Three of them could be called 'sexy'. I spent $16.49 to celebrate the return of myself.

We've got a lot to celebrate, Tim and I. The end of cancer treatment. Both of us working again. I'm just as strong as ever. Our marriage is stronger than ever. He's turned 52. We are so very blessed. Tonight, when Tim gets home at midnight, his wife will still be awake. For the first time in a long time, there will be candles in the bedroom again. There will be gifts for him to open. There will be a card that tells him how lucky I am to have him. And we will celebrate.


Today is the last day of radiation! Just the thought of it gives me a warm glow.
Oh. Wait.
That's the radiation.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Laughter is the Best Medicine

I love Mr. Bean, and this is something that no one else in this house understands. They think the skits are stupid and can't stand the ridiculous noises he makes. I try to explain his genius, the fact that he can get a whole story across with his remarkable face and those goofy sounds. They don't get it at all. Early in my diagnosis, my friends Mary and Danny bought me two Mr. Bean videos. They'd never actually watched him, but they remembered how funny I thought he was, and they figured that a cancer diagnosis was as good a time to start laughing as any. When the going gets rough, I drag out Mr. Bean, and lo, it is good.

Tim's on second shift now, and I am by myself in the evenings. It's a good time to get things done, I suppose, and the radiation has been wearing on me these past couple weeks, so it is nice to be able to go to bed early, and not feel guilty about it. However, last Friday, I could bear being alone no longer. Mary and Danny weren't doing anything, so we made up our minds to get together. I offered to introduce them to Mr. Bean. By the time that I'd gotten to their house, I was a little embarrassed. I was sure that they'd think he was stupid, but be too polite to say it. Know what? They laughed as hard as I did. Finding two more fans of Mr. Bean was exciting stuff, and driving home, reflecting, I don't think that there is anything nicer than an evening of laughter with people that you've known for a long, long time.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Mary Decides

My friend Mary is dealing with breast cancer again just three months after finishing her radiation. She knew that she would have a mastectomy. After a one and a half hour doctor visit today, she decided that she couldn't bear facing breast cancer again in six months. She decided to have a bilateral mastectomy. I think she's made the right choice. I also think that she's being tremendously sensible about a very emotional issue. My friend Mary is one tough cookie.


One of the things that I love about my job is that my busiest time is when the kids are out of school for summer vacation. Sometimes, when I'm walking along with my mosquito dipper, a curious kid will catch sight of me, and stop to ask me what I'm doing. And I love to show them. As we crouch over a dipper of water, they listen as I explain what they're seeing. Never once have I had a kid who was not enthralled by this. Never. I always have extra plastic pipettes in my truck to hand out to kids. There are a few who become so interested that they recognize my truck, and come charging over excitedly to tell me about what they've seen. For them, I tend to collect stuff. When I see interesting things along the way, I pick them up. A blue jay feather, or an interesting leaf, or a four leaf clover pressed in my log book. I always make sure that I have something to show them, and stories to tell them. This is a small detail of my job that brings me immense satisfaction.

My children are all grown up now, and the thing that I regret the most is that when they were young, I felt as if I had nothing to offer them. Their father had a master's degree. By the time that he had gotten that degree, he had decided that he had married 'beneath himself' and that our marriage was a regrettable mistake. I cannot tell when I began to believe that I was a stupid woman, but by the time our marriage blew up, I was convinced of it. I have such an easy raport with kids now. I teach Sunday School. I banter with the kids I meet as I travel around the county. I listen to them, and they are excited to see me. I guess that it's one of those things that you learn along life's way: that every person has something to impart to the next generation.

I wish that I had known this when my own were still with me. I wish that I had been less ashamed of myself and my perceived deficiencies. It is one of the few regrets that I have in this life.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Sunday Morning

Darndest thing. We have a woodpecker swooping in each morning. He sits on our television aerial. Remember those? No cable at this house. Hard telling what will happen when the rest of the world goes digital in July. Anyhow, Sunday morning, I was jarred out of a sound sleep by a rattling pounding on the south side of our house, which is, incidently the wall that the head of our bed is against. I lifted my face from the pillow and blearily asked, "What the heck is that?!!!!!" As previously reported, I am not a morning person. Tim lay on his back, wide awake with a broad smile. He is a morning person, which accounts for the ridiculous look on his face. He explained about the woodpecker. "He's being nice today. Usually he's here at 7."

Monday, April 20, 2009

All is Well.

I did not realize that I was going to be awake for the removal of the mediport. I was pretty squeamish about that. I don't know why, exactly, but I was dreading that appointment. To make matters worse, it was at the end of the day. They were running late. Everyone was very nice, but that extra hour gave me time to quietly feel plainly sick about the whole thing. That and the fact that it was four and I had not eaten since the previous midnight. For some reason, Tim felt honor bound to be there. This surprised me, since he got sick watching the needle being inserted into my chest for chemo. I tried to make it clear that I understood if he could not. Finally, it was time, and the numbing shots were given. The cutting began, and there was conversation. As usual, the actual event was not nearly as horrible as I'd imagined it would be, although at one point, the wet, slurpy sound coming from my chest made me feel sickish. Tim was holding my hand, and I turned my head to him to say something and noticed that he was very pale. I said, "Um. Tim. Are you okay?" The doctor said something to him, and he did not answer. I said, "Really, he is not normally that color." They made him sit down. He suddenly said, "It is too hot in here," and excused himself. We both survived. We came home and got a load of firewood. Tim said it wasn't so much the cutting that bothered him, or seeing things. It was hearing the play by play commentary. "This is deep," and "We're cutting away a lot of scar tissue," and the like. The incision hurts right now, but that's the extent of it. I've taken some ibuprofen and am headed back to bed. I've got time to make up at work tomorrow.

Be Back Soon

I get my medport removed this afternoon. I'll be back when I can.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Job Benefit

When I am working, I find that quite unconsciously, I am noticing that the willows have leaves. The forsythia is in bloom. Daffodils. The joyous cacophony of birds all around me. Frogs and frog eggs. There's a curious and attentive little five year old boy at one of my stops who follows me around asking a thousand questions. I gave him a glass aquarium and a couple magnifying glasses last year so that he could study nature with his own two eyes. I wondered if he had found frog eggs. The sky is always interesting. Blue or black, cloudy or clear, it's a wonder to look at. New plants are springing up. And did you ever just look at a scoop of swamp water? It's alive with creatures. I love to watch them darting about, a world within a world. Getting reacquainted with dogs from last year. Some remember me, or at least remember that I usually am good for a biscuit. There's all kinds of things to think about when you're out in the field. My mind is way too busy to be thinking on things like cancer. That is an unexpected job benefit.

Friday, April 17, 2009


Hey, I may not have mentioned it, but I'm wearing mascara again. My eyelashes are still short but they are there. I have one and a half eyebrows. Seriously. One full eyebrow, and half of another. *sigh* My hair is about 3/4 of an inch long.
and I waxed the fine hair on my upper lip for the first time in months.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Today I worked out in the field. Even with a water temp of 41.7, one of my 'hot spots' is already alive with mosquito larva. I walked and walked to see how widespread the problem is. The wind was cool and the sky was blue. The 'peeper' frogs were singing a chorus that says 'spring' like no other sound that I know. I waded carefully with my rubber boots because there were frog eggs everywhere. A swallow swooped around me and landed on a post to watch me closely. Returning the honor, I stopped to study it. As close as I was, the little charactor simply cocked his head and looked at me curiously, with no sign of fear at all. I got back to the truck, put on my mask, and filled the tank of my Maruyama. It's a lovely piece of equipment that started like a champ even though it has not been run since the end of September. Despite all my worries, I shouldered it with no problems at all. It only weighs about 42 lbs when it is filled with granulate, but it rode comfortably. I hauled it for an hour and a half, and put down a total 35 pounds of product over about two acres. Walking back to the truck for the final time, the sun warm on my face, I felt good. The wind blew, the frogs peeped, and the willows stood greenly silent.

At the end of the day, when I was walking back into the office, my cell rang. I fumbled it out, and said, "Hello?" It was my boss from DEP, wanting to know how things were going. "Man. What a great day," I said. "If I haven't said it this season yet, I really, really love this job!" Rick's heard this before, but he laughed anyway. I realized it like I've never realized it before. I need to be outside.

I came in to the office and listened to Dublin's Phantom 105 as I did my paperwork and data entry. Energized, I wrote an article. I did a lot of work today, and I'm tired, but it's not the exhausted tired of being sick. It's a healthy tired that you feel after a good and satisfying day at work.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Once I knew someone who was big, and strong, a blustery charactor who challenged and fought everything in life. Then he got cancer. He said, "I believe that this cancer is going to kill me," and in just a few months, he was gone.

I heard about a young woman who was diagnosed with breast cancer at a very young age, years ago, when treatment for cancer was always radical and awful. She had every reason to be afraid. Her sister had already died from breast cancer. But this teeny tiny woman fought, and she won, and many years later when she had become an old woman, she was asked, "Weren't you afraid that you would die, knowing that your sister had?" And the teeny tiny old woman snapped, "I couldn't die! I had young children to take care of." In her mind, that was that, then.

Cancer is not only a physical battle, but a mental one as well. I have always considered myself a strong person, and that was validated when my body really held up well to the rigors of chemo. I'm red and hurting, but radiation is nearly done. (NEXT Friday, people!) Now that the physical challenges are nearly behind me, I'm overwhelmed by the mental challenges of it all. Reading about metastic breast cancer scared me. Mary's second diagnosis of cancer three months after finishing radiation rattled me big time. By the time I discovered words I hadn't noticed before in my own onc report, I was completely unhinged. A fearful heart is not going to win this battle. I need to buck up.

On that bright note, I am going to bed early. I will listen to a CD of thunderstorms, and I will visualize myself, tanned, cancer free, sitting on my back deck watching a storm roll in after a hot summer day. The lightning does not scare me, and the thunder is just a noise. The air crackles with electricity, with life. When the rain comes, it comes in torrents, and when I finally make my way inside, I am soaked to the skin. Water drips from my new grown hair, and I reach back to brush it out of my eyes...

Monday, April 13, 2009


Last month, Mary was able to ditch her wig. Her hair was still short, but she thought that she 'could carry it off', she said. I was so happy for her. Mary had beat it. I'd finished chemo, and was quite happy with the way my body had met that challenge. I did alright. I was pretty sure I was going to breeze through radiation, and then I would be done, done, done!

Mary had an appointment with the surgeon who did her biopsies. He tells her that this is "Bad. Really bad." Mary will have a mastectomy. They are moving quickly on this.

I'm a bit ashamed of how devastating this news is to me.

A Moment

Cara was sprawled in a living room chair and stretched lazily. Suddenly she was clutching her foot and yelping "Ow! OW! OWWWWW!" Her brother looked at her from the other chair, expressionless. Finally, still clutching her foot, she gasped, "Oh my gosh. I got a cramp in my foot. Look at my toes..." Dylan said, "Yes. I did that with my mind." And we all laughed ourselves stupid.

It was a fun weekend.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

My Friend Mary

My friend Mary is a new friend. She was about three months ahead of me in treatment. She is an invaluable support system, having already been through treatment. She finished chemo at the end of November shortly after I had begun it. She is a tremendous encouragement to me, and she is the first one I call when I have questions.

The tables have turned. Mary found a lump. Three months after her final radation, Mary has cancer again. It is my turn to be the support system. I fumbled around for words. Her voice got shakey a few times. Mine did too. She said that she couldn't do it again, and I told her yes, that she could. By the time I hung up the phone, I was shaken to the very core of my being. I dragged out my files and read my 'onc' report over again, looking for reassurance, looking for differences between our two cancers, looking for signs that this could not happen to me. There were none. It was a sleepless night as I prayed for my friend. By the time Mary called this morning, she was bucking up for the fight of her life. By the time that Mary called this morning, I was bucking up to support my friend.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Happy Easter!

The kids are home for Easter.
I'm up to my armpits in laughter right now.
As God has shown his love to us, let us show our love to others.

Thursday, April 9, 2009


It seems that my life has been broken down into small chunks of time since the whole cancer diagnosis. At first it was 'I'll just get through the diagnosing, and once I know, for sure, it will be better...' and then it was, 'Okay, I'll just get through the chemo and it will be better...' and now it is 'I'll just get through the radiation, and it will be better...' The next thing will be tamoxifen, so today, I was reading up on tamoxifen. The side effects are pretty sobering, but it reduces the incidence of metastic breast disease by 60%, they say. I clicked on a link and read about metastic breast disease. It tells me that I have a 25-33% chance of ending up with metastic breast disease, which is not considered curable. The average life expectancy is 2 years.

Liz walked by my office door at that moment and asked how it was going. "I just scared myself," I said, and told her that I'd just read about metastic breast cancer. "Don't even go there," she said. "Do not read those things." She then goes on to tell me that she has metastic breast cancer. She has been in remission for about 5 years now.

I'm pretty practical, but still, sometimes, things threaten to overwhelm me. It never ceases to amaze me how it works. I'm never far from an encouraging word. I resolve to work harder to be an encouraging word to others.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


It feels like my chest has been roasting over an open fire. Strangely enough, it snowed yesterday, so I can also say that Jack Frost is nipping at my nose. I'm exhausted, even though I've done scarcely anything but paperwork at work. I came home to my empty house (Tim is on second shift) and fell asleep for two hours. I am having a reaction to radiation. I've got 12 more treatments. This will be over on April 24th.

Must. Find. Bed.

Waaaaaaaait a dang minute here...

The radiation oncologist is a hoot. I like charactors, and he is one. Last week, another patient was telling me that our good doctor took a day off to go see the Eagles. That made me laugh, the idea of a doctor 'rocking out'. I remember a day when every doctor that I knew was old. On the way to my car, the smile sort of froze on my lips. Waaaaaaaait a dang minute here. I rock out to the Eagles.
I think of every doctor that I have.
They're younger than me.
How the heck did that happen?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


Just did it.
'What are you doing right now?' was the question.
Hm. Thought for a moment, and then began to type.
"Well, I just got home from work. I'm sitting on my butt, eating the biggest salad you ever saw."
*sound of drumming fingers*
I 'twittered'.
Is something supposed to happen?
Just curious.
*Goes back to eating salad*


I live in Podunk, Pennsylvania. Podunk is a joke. Podunk means that I live in the middle of nowhere. Last week we had an armed robbery at the local drugstore. He wanted hydrocodone. I had to look that up to see what it was. He didn't get any. They've got pictures of him running away. He's described as clean shaven, mid to late 20s. Last week, a man got mad at his wife, and beat her unconscious. He left and then returned to get his children. The police were called. He wound up shooting at them. They shot back, and killed him. The idea of a shootout right in town astounds me. I live in Podunk, Pennsylvania, a quiet little place. Armed robbery and shoot outs with local law enforcement just don't happen here. Here in Podunk, Pennsylvania, I am at a loss for words.
Tim and I went to Clarion to watch Cara be inducted into an honor society. She was grumpy and not impressed. Tim and I were, though. She didn't study much in High School, although she always got good grades. Now she's collecting honors and and praise. She's a disciplined exercise freak who doesn't eat processed sugar. She has a poise and confidence that she must have found at school somewhere, because she didn't seem to have it before she left. She's a gifted writer who's attracted the attention of her English professor. Her history professor said that she's probably got one of the best minds he's come across in all his years of teaching. I cannot imagine the heights this child will rise to. I watch this girl, speechless in gratitude.
I'm starting my fourth week of radiation. I was breezing through it. I figured that my dark skin, with all its melatonin was saving me. Then I noticed a burning sensation when I raised my arm. I had a big red spot in my armpit, where the incision was made for the removal of the lymph nodes. Now I have a red rectangle of burned skin across one half of my chest, with a splotchy rash. That was another surprise. I wait quietly, even a little apprehensively, to see what will happen next.

Monday, April 6, 2009


I stopped at the grocery store to pick up a few things. I was waiting in line behind a mother with a teenage girl and a little boy, maybe 7. They had quite a cart load of stuff and the little boy seemed incredulous. "Mommy," he asked, "Where did you get the money to buy all this stuff?" "My job," she answered. "Mommy?" the little boy said again. "What?" said mommy, unloading the cart. "Is the reason we don't tell daddy about your job so that he won't take your child support away?" And the mother and the teenage girl laughed as if this was the funniest thing they ever heard. Being a single parent is hard, but I thought it was very sad to train a small child to keep secrets. I thought it was even sadder for the teenage girl who is learning that this is how it's done.

Hi ho, hi ho...

It's early morning, not yet 5. I'm going to work today. I'm starting at 6 so that I can work my radiation treatments in to the schedule without losing time.
Blue jeans, check.
Flannel shirt layered over a tee, check.
Work socks, trusty Carolina work boots. Check.
On the surface of it, it seems normal. "I'm getting ready for work..." but I have not done this since October. It is time though. This fall the focus became cancer. Nothing but. Winter came, and although my focus was still cancer, there were the holidays, and family. I learned to enjoy life while I dealt with chemo. That was a triumph in and of itself. Life goes on, and we all live till we die. When chemo was done, as I felt better and better, I was able to step back into the mainstream of life. I began to feel productive again. Another triumph. Today I will go back to work. I will fully assume my new life. I feel different though. I'm not the same woman who left in October. I'm not sure what it is exactly. I haven't put my finger on it. I can only tell you that I am not the same. Maybe I'm a better woman than I was in October. We shall see.

Saturday, April 4, 2009


Yesterday, when I was uploading the pictures to show you how I make pepperoni rolls, somehow, I ended up downloading our whole picture card. It was interesting going through the some of the pictures of our year. I realized just what a big year this has been for us. Birthdays.Hard work and home renovations.

Children heading off in new directions.

Senior prom. A wedding. Graduation.Fourth of July.Family celebrations

There were homecomings.Departures.Breaking bread with family.Hot sweaty summer days.Cooling rain.Cheering with friends.College.
I realized that there were no pictures of autumn.
We were preoccupied.
But winter came anyway.
And Christmas...I celebrated the end of going to the small townto a small houseto spend time with my boy

Cancer was a surprise.
I lost a season.
Sometimes people lose a lot more.
I've got a lot to be thankful for.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Pepperoni Rolls - The Pictorial

Some of you wanted further instructions for how to do the pepperoni rolls. I guess pictures would help. I aim to please.

Step 1. Make your favorite bread dough. I use a basic white bread recipe when I'm making them for the kids. It's the same one I use to make my cinnamon rolls, or plain rolls, or plain old white bread. I knead the dough exactly the same way as I knead it for anything else, and then I dump it in a bowl and let it raise until it has doubled. I punch it down, and then the fun begins.

I tear off a knob of bread, and roll it out flat.

I lay four pepperoni in the center, like so.

I lay four more on top of that, because my kids are rightly fond of pepperoni.

I take a generous handful of mozzarella cheese and lay it on top of the pepperoni, like this. You don't have to be really neat about it, because you'll be folding these up.

I lay four more pepperoni on top of the whole shebang. Did I mention that the kids really, really, like pepperoni?

Then I start folding. I always fold these ends first. It looks neater, and prevents cheese from oozing.

Then I fold the sides, just like this. If you find that you've got dough overlap, you can simply cut off the excess. You can also just fold it back and tuck it under the roll.

Then I pop it in a baking pan that I have have greased and waiting. Looks lonely, doesn't it? That's why you go back and grab another knob of dough from the bread bowl and start the process all over, repeating as necessary until all the bread dough is gone.

You can sprinkle the tops with parmesan cheese if you like, or garlic powder. Let them raise until they are about doubled. Bake them at 350 until they are done, and then pull them out. Just that easy, you are the world's best mom. You can do no wrong, at least while they're still warm from the oven. Mine dip them in spaghetti sauce. Just buy a jar of Prego or Ragu or something. I mean, after all, you've just made homemade pepperoni rolls for them, the ungrateful wretches. Er. The darlings.

You can microwave left overs. I've been making these for my children since they were wee. They are a popular request. They are a celebration food here, and a consolation food here. Why am I making them again, after making them just last weekend? Well. We're celebrating. Cara is being inducted into the honor society. We're driving down to Clarion this weekend to see the ceremony. When it's time to go, I'll leave a little piece of home behind in her dorm fridge. A dozen, actually.

Comfort food.

Celebration food.

I love my kids.


The day before yesterday, I struggled with my column. I knew what I was writing about, but it was not coming to me at all. It didn't flow from my brain to my fingers, onto the computer screen before me. I've been writing long enough to know that if it doesn't, it's not a good column. After a couple hours, I had a column, but I wasn't happy with it. I got up and started cleaning.

Yesterday, I had a busy morning. I got home, frustrated and worried. I surveyed my yard. What a mess. My life was interrupted rather abruptly last fall, and I did not get my raking done. Leaves were everywhere. The winter winds had limbs and sticks everywhere. Beer cans, fast food papers, cigarette butts thrown from the windows of thoughtful travelers littered the front of our property. I decided to vent my frustration outside. I have three gardens. I began pulling the leaves back to expose what I already knew I would find. Tender shoots from the new flowers had pushed through the soil. Tenacious, they were still pushing upwards. Eventually they would have popped through the leaves, and actually, some already had. I made their little green lives that much easier, pulling the leaves away and letting in the light. I started a fire, and began burning the rubble from my yard. The ash will be nice for the rhododendrons, the azaleas, and the asparagus. Our apple trees are budding out. I found myself making a list of things that I needed for the yard. I raked. I called out to our neighbor walking down the road. Jerry and Tim used to work together. They both lost their jobs when the company closed. Jerry hasn't found another job yet. He stopped and visited a bit. He makes me laugh.

A red truck went by. I noticed this is that fleeting way that people take in the unimportant details of their lives. When it slowed, I noticed it a bit more. When it turned around, and came back, it had my full attention. I did not recognize the man who was asking me if I was Debby. "Yes," I answered warily. And the passenger side of the truck exploded and his wife jumped out. They were on their way up the road to the Blueberry golf course. The wife was certain that I was the Debby from the newspaper. She was so certain that she made her husband turn that truck around. She wanted to meet me. She wanted to talk to me. "I love your writing. It comes straight from your heart. You are funny. I look for you every Saturday." Her husband petted Buck while she explained who she was...Gloria's sister, the aunt of the pastor at the church Tim and I got married in, the sister of Jim, who delivers Little Debbie Snack foods. It never ceases to amaze me. In the country, by the time that you've recited your pedigree, whoever you are talking to will know at least one person in your family. She hugged me and hopped back in the truck and they were gone, on their way to Blueberry Golf Course, to play some golf.

I continued raking, but it was different. I was thinking about my column, the one that had been so hard to write. The words began to come, slowly, at first, but then they began to flow. And for the first time in a while, the column was a funny one. Not just a few laughs in the body of a serious subject. It was a funny column. I finished what I was doing in the yard, and wandered inside. I got Tim's supper around, but then I sat down at the computer, and my fingers flew, and the words flowed, and a perfectly cheerful column about bald heads and driver's license photos appeared before my eyes. It was the same column that I had been so unsuccessful with, but written with a different tone, from a writer in a different mood.

Last night, I lay awake in bed for just a short time. I'd worn myself out, running in the morning, yard work in the afternoon, writing in the evening. I drifted off to sleep thinking of gardens. People. The satisfaction of writing, of breathing in the scent of the earth, solitude to think. Stones to arrange. Birds to be fed. Dogs to be petted. Wood to be stacked. Really, all these pieces fit together so well. I have a happy life. When I am happy, my fingers fly, and the words flow, and I write about life from my heart, with humor.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Hiding Place

This winter I spent more time within the walls of my home than I've ever spent there in my life. I did not go out a lot. Sometimes, for weeks on end, I went to the cancer center, down to one of the houses to work, to church on Sunday, but not much of anywhere else. I read a lot. I wrote a lot. Then the company that Tim worked for suddenly went out of business. We spent a lot of time together. That was new too, a bit of luxury in a hard time. As I felt better, I was able to cook nice meals and experiment with new recipes. For the first time in a long time, housekeeping was not a slapdash affair. I've never been a full time homemaker before. Even for the few years that I was home with young children, I baby sat others' children during the days, and worked part time in the evening as well. This winter, however, there was nothing. Although I applied for jobs, I was not hired, and I suppose that it worked out for the best.

Monday I go back to work. I went to do the paperwork today. Our agency has been moved. We are in a building with several other agencies. We share the halls with many new and unfamiliar faces. Before I even got to our floor, and our end of the hall, I started feeling self conscious, and pulling at my hat to make sure it was covering my straggles of hair and bare scalp. For the first time, I realized that if I'm going to be honest with myself, I have to admit that staying home this winter was so nice, in part, because I was hiding.

New Perspective

Life IS getting back to normal here! Yesterday, getting dressed after radiation, I noticed a stray chin hair. The lights in the dressing room are much brighter than my lights at home, I guess. But I was so happy about that little hair on my chin. I have to tell you, there was a time when I would bitch about shaving my legs and my armpits, and waxing my facial hair. Plllllllllt!!!! Removing hair from where I don't want it is much easier to take than not having it where I do want it.