Saturday, October 31, 2009

Speechless

Stacey's at Ft. Hood. She had a rape prevention seminar. According to the information presented at this class, 1 in 3 women at Ft. Hood will be raped. So will 1 in 8 men. This is soldier on soldier violence.

Sort of makes you want to throw up a little when you hear the Pentagon talking about our well disciplined soldier, the finest fighting unit in the world. I am sure that there are good soldiers in the military, ones who are earnest, disciplined, hardworking. However, based on the statistics I heard last night, we've got some predatory animals collecting a paycheck every month who do not deserve to be called soldiers. Those numbers horrified me, and this is just not acceptable.

And we thought our biggest worry was Stacey going to Iraq or Afghanistan.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Circles

There is a card on my dining room table. I made it out for a woman from our cancer support group. Jeannine was a quiet woman, one who mostly listened. She was tough though. I went to a Cancer Banquet earlier in the year. I'd been at the Cancer Center that morning, and Jeannine was there for her regular chemo. Yet here she was, just hours later, just a tiny little thing, quietly listening, as was her wont. You'd have never guessed that she'd just had chemo a few hours prior. That was Jeannine. That card will never be mailed. I made out the card, intending to put it in the mail the following morning. I received an e-mail that she had died at 4:40.

Bill Hess talks about circles in his blog today, about beginnings, about ends. I've been thinking about circles myself today, about the spheres that we move in, about what we accept from others, about what we leave when we go, about how our lives touch the lives of others, about legacies. I thought about how the death of one of us resonates within all of us.

And so I cooked today. I cooked up a storm. I cooked up fresh venison steaks (this meat so fresh that it had been on the run just a few days ago...) smothered with onions, mashed potatoes for the thick rich gravy, squash rich with butter and cream, brown sugar. Apples stuffed with raisins basted in brown sugar. I made baking powder biscuits and whipped up a batch of cinnamon butter to spread on their hot goodness. When Tim came home, it was a feast. My sister and her husband stopped by. We ate and we visited. Somehow, today, it just seemed important to me, really important, that the meal be memorable, that the company be savored, that we all sit around the table and swap stories. I listened, and I ate. The plates were passed round and round, and the conversation spun lazily about the table. And I thought about circles.

Why Mothers have Gray Hair

I was on my way out the door to deliver a home cooked meal. I checked e-mails (that was my mistake). I had one from Cara, sent via blackberry. It read, 'Whatever you hear in the news about clarion, don't worry about it.. They exagerated everything.'

*blink*

I responded to that e-mail, with words to the effect: 'What the...???! What's happened?'

The veritable font of information that is my child texted me: 'Not me, everythings fine. You're just gonna here some things that happened in the news, and they sound scary but they're not.'

Mama lunged for the phone. After dialing her number, I heard 'Hi. This is Cara. Leave a message and I'll call you back.' I'm standing there with a warm meal and home made bread. I have to leave.

Tim and I share a cell phone. He's got it. I met up with him after work. I grabbed the cell straight away, and I tried to call Cara. I heard her cheerful voice: 'Hi, this is Cara...' etc. etc. I fretted while I washed the storm windows and Tim hung them.

By the time we got home, we could read about it online. There was a fight in the dining hall and one student stabbed another. There was also another text sent from Cara's blackberry earlier after my calls from the cell: 'MOM I'm in class.. Quit calling me, what's wrong?'

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

She finally called back nearly five hours after that first text. "I told you there was nothing to worry about. I saw the television news crews and figured you would have a hissy fit, so I sent a quick text, even though I was on the way to class." She acted as if her noble act should warrant a cookie. I pointed out that we couldn't have seen it on television. She cheerfully said, "Oh. I forgot you don't get reception.

Initially, she did not seem to understand that nothing about her original messages was reassuring. (In fact it had the opposite effect.) I'm pretty sure, though, that the ensuing conversation made it pretty clear how we will handle a situation like this in the future. Or maybe it was Tim's calm assurance that the next time we received a message like that, we'd simply hop in the car and drive the hour and a half to her college to find out what was going on.

Cara, this is the sort of thing that Santa takes note of. Seriously.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Listening

I've often wondered how some people can endure the unendurable and come away with a profound understanding of God. Others enduring the same experience can come away convinced that there is no God at all. This is a discussion of God and war. Sometimes, the words were painful to hear. I folded laundry thoughtfully, listening, and on a rainy and dark afternoon in Pennsylvania, I contemplated my own beliefs, my own humanity. Only once in my life have I ever threatened to kill someone, and I meant it, with all of my heart. I also knew that I was capable of it. It changes you to say those words. It changes you to mean them. But the stories that I listened to while matching socks are much bigger than any small drama I have known. I listened to principled and moral people discuss why they believed or did not. I listened to their reasoning, and I understood why they turned to God, and even why they turned away from Him.

I know what it is that I believe, but today I thought a great deal about why I believe in these things. It occurs to me that when you listen, you think. The world would be a much better place if we all learned to listen more.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Technology

Dixie is always on the cutting edge of technology. She sent me this news just today. Apple announced today that it has developed a breast implant that can store and play music. The iBoob will cost from $499 to $699, depending on cup and speaker size. This is considered a major social breakthrough, because women are always complaining about men staring at their breasts and not listening to them.

Television

Redlefty and Redwifey were curious about our lack of television reception. Allow me to explain. We live far enough out that cable is not available in our area. There is always the option of satellite TV, but really, we don't watch enough TV to warrant the expense. Our children firmly believe that this lack during their growing up years constituted child abuse.

*meh*

What can I say? It sucked to be them.

When the great switchover to digital was announced, we were pretty excited. Our reception has always been kind of poor. Tim every so often climbed around the roof yelping, "Can you see it now?" and "How about now?" and "Well, is that better or worse?" etc. He's getting kind of old for that and really, it never seemed to help all that much, so we welcomed the digital television thing, with all of its promises of better picture quality and more stations.

We bought our digital converter box, and we waited with bated breath. The great day dawned, and (TA DA!) we lost television reception all together. I guess that's a lie. We get the Public Broadcasting stations. Three of them. After the initial shock, we kind of discovered that (surprise!) living without television all together? Not that big a loss. We like the 'Antique Roadshow' on PBS, and Tim likes 'This Old House'. We like 'The Last of the Summer Wine' when we can find it, and 'As Time Goes by'. We can watch the news every night. We're actually pretty good with that.

We could have stood there screaming, "It's a PLOT! The government wants us all to be ignorant of what is going on, so they stopped the media from pouring the unvarnished truth right into our living rooms. The satellite communications companies are in on the whole thing, and expect to force us all to pay for satellite receivers. It's a plot I tell you, and I won't take it lying down. By gosh, this is the apocalypse and it's happening right here before our eyes. Get your weapons. Stock up on ammo! The end is near! 2012 is right around the corner!"

Really. We could have done that.

But we decided, really, if we have a craving to watch more than the PBS line-up, we can always rent a video.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Putting BB to the test.

Just seeing if that BB knows what she's talking about.



It would appear that she does.

BB? Dear? Yeah. You've never dealt with me before...

Okay, maybe she does.

But the captions are gone.

Eeeh.

Mrs. Sidney N.

Tim took a weekend off, for the most part. Just hung out with me. We did stuff. It was very nice. We went out for supper on Friday. We went 'antiquing'. We watched 'As Time Goes By' Saturday night cozied up on the couch. Sunday, we did some kicking around. Tim was listening to the Steelers game on the radio (we no longer get TV since the switchover to digital, and we just don't watch TV enough to justify paying for satellite). His beloved Steelers won, and to celebrate, he stopped for ice cream cones. As I started to get in the car, he said, "Let's go through the cemetary," and so we did. One tombstone belonged to Sidney N. who died in 1839. He was 32 years of age, and was crushed by a load of stone according to his unusually informative tombstone. There was a nearly illegible poem about the grief of those he left behind. Right next to that tombstone was a tiny one. It belonged to a little boy named Sidney N. who died at the age of 3 years x months and some odd days, every precious day calculated in the custom of the time. He died in 1843. I think about Mrs. Sidney N. widowed, grieving. Doing a rough calculation between the time of her husband's death and the birth of her boy, I realize that she may not have even realized she was pregnant while she wept at her husband's funeral. To find out that she was pregnant...how stunned she must have been! And when a little boy was born, he was named for his deceased father. To lose him while he was still a baby~ poor Mrs. Sidney! Even after 170 years, that story made me teary eyed. There was no tombstone for Mrs. Sidney, and I assume that the young widow remarried, or perhaps simply couldn't bear to remain in what was, at that time wilderness, and returned to her family back east somewhere.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Bye Humbug

When Tim and I first married, he was a quiet fellow. He was also the sort of fellow who did not like messes and clutter. At Christmas time, I discovered that he was a simple man, with simple tastes. Three foot tall trees with minimalist decorating, easy to get in the house and set up by himself, and didn't make a mess at the end of the season when it was being hauled back out.

Then we met. He put a second floor and an attic on his house. We needed it. I came in bringing three kids, loads of furniture. For the attic, I had boxes of Christmas ornaments. Christmas dishes. The big hand painted nativity. The pine cone wreath from the Black Forest. *groan* Probably eight or nine boxes of Christmas stuff.

You hammer out a lot of 'deals' in a marriage. Some are small. For instance, Tim cannot abide lipstick. He can't. It brings up some very bad memories. I don't wear it. Some were bigger. He invariably fell asleep during Episcopal masses, so we're now Methodists. But probably the biggest deal we had to hammer out was Christmas. He is a preacher's kid, and Christmas is about Jesus, and, to his way of thinking, getting all excited about the more secular aspects of it might even be a sin. Now I love Jesus, to be sure, but I also don't see anything wrong with celebrating his birthday by dragging in a huge tree, decorating it to the max, having cookies, and lots of lights right along with the nativity, and the children's Christmas pagent, and church doings. So we began hammering out a deal. "We can't have a 3 foot Christmas tree, Tim. I like tall trees," and "I like long needled trees, they just look softer," and "Christmas just ain't Christmas unless you're up at the crack of dawn opening presents by the soft glow of Christmas lights." After Thanksgiving, I dragged down the nativity. And the Christmas dishes. And then Christmas began to sneak out into all corners of the house. For a man who handled Christmas so that it would disrupt life as little as possible, my version of Christmas was...well...a disruption.

After 11 years of marriage, I knew that, more or less, he'd been won over to my way of doing things. One year, he picked the tree himself, and was very disappointed that when he got it home, it was much smaller than he'd thought it would be (it was growing on a bank...he was standing lower). He fretted about the size of it, and fetched in a box to stand it on, so that it wouldn't look quite so puny. I knew at that point that 'Bah, humbug Tim' was a ghost of Christmas past. This past weekend, when we were out and about, we bought some Christmas presents for the kids, stocking stuffers, really. He came up to me at an estate sale hissing, "Come quick...I found something for Cara." We carted our finds home, and later that night, Tim contentedly talked about Christmas, making plans, happy with our purchases. It made my heart smile.

Oprah

I am not pretending that I've read all the books from Oprah's Book Club. Heck. I probably have read very few of them. Without fail, though, every single book I've read winds up being this long saga of humanity's inhumanity to (wo)man, sad and tragic books that actually are difficult for me to read. I just finished "The House of Sand and Fog". I stopped reading it for a time because it grieved me so. The ending was awful, and it made me cry buckets. I realize that sometimes life is grossly unfair. I realize that life is sometimes difficult and people sometimes are monstrous, but I do find myself wondering if Oprah ever reads happy books? Does she ever read anything just for grins and chuckles? Cripes.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

What Was.

We went to an estate sale today. The estate belonged to the Blair family. John Blair began a mail order company at the turn of the century called the New Process Company. It is a keystone of the local economy even today, although it has changed hands, and changed names.

I worked there right out of high school, as a key punch operator. I realized how dated that was when I tried to explain the job to my kids. They looked at me incredulously. They couldn't fathom it. Why on earth would you type information on a card that ran though a computer? In today's world of personal computing, it actually made no sense to them.They had no idea what I was talking about. I saw John Blair pull up once. He was retired at that point, and his son was running the place, I think. Mr. Blair was riding in the back of a Rolls Royce, and I'd never seen such a thing before. I was gawking from a window, and my boss bawled me out big time, afraid that I'd been seen standing there, doing nothing, which would make her look bad. John Blair was incredibly old then, back in 1975, his wrinkled countenance and hunched back bearing little resemblence to the face of the man with the chiseled features that appeared on the mailings we sent out, the envelope of little flyers that predated catalogs.

The mansion is old, beautiful, but dated, lots of bright green accents that you saw in the early 60s. A lot of the furniture was dated as well, expensive stuff, no doubt, but from an era I have no interest in, although the bedroom had a marvelous four poster bed, and the attic had some glass fronted book cases I coveted.

It is strange to pick through the mundane details of a person's life. There was a Corelle casserole dish that matched my own dishes. How strange to think that the mega rich would use something as ordinary as that, but how stupid to think that they would not use the ordinary things that are common to all households. What else would they cook their tuna noodle casserole in? We perused that house, from the first floor to the third, picking through the belongings of a man that shaped the economy of this town. I bought a small train case for Cara, still labeled with a customs sticker from 1955. I bought Christmas ornaments, cast metal reindeer, very detailed, brand new with the tags still on them, for the other kids, a momento of days gone by. I will put them in their stockings at Christmas, and they will look at me, and none of them will 'get it'.

None of them will understand that long ago, when I was a girl, I was making $137. every two weeks, pounding keys to punch holes in little cards that zipped through my machine. It was noisy and boring, a tough job for a girl with big dreams of college. Our bosses were incredibly old ladies who never married, choosing careers over husbands. They had to. If they had married, they would no longer be permitted to work at the New Process Company. John L. Blair knew a woman's place, by gosh. These old ladies watched over us suspiciously, and were quick to chastise if we talked too much. In those days, women wore dresses to work, and there were jobs that we were not permitted to apply for. Men made more money than women, but the jobs were separate. There were men's jobs. There were women's jobs.

Not one of my kids will understand what it was like to wander through that house, to look through those things. They will not understand that back when I was 18, I could not have imagined such a thing, would have been shocked at the thought of it. They will not understand that these momentos from the mansion are a link to what their mother was before she was their mother. I think of that young girl. I think of the middle aged woman she has become (sitting at a computer, for pete's sake, a computer. Quite a far cry from a key punch machine!) How the world has changed... Some of those changes are sad, I suppose, but really, there are a lot of things about those days that I am very glad that my children do not understand.

Up in the attic, there was a briefcase, a battered old leather briefcase, with the monogram JLB on the top, inside the handle. I couldn't help thinking, "Perhaps he was carrying that briefcase when he got out of a Rolls Royce 35 years ago..." It was a silly thought, and the briefcase was $10. I didn't say anything to Tim. I don't think he would have understood, either. Actually, I'm not so sure I understand it myself, but I will go back Monday, when everything is 50% off. If that old briefcase is still there, for $5.00, I will buy it.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Amazing find

Tim and I went out tonight, just the two of us and had a quiet supper. We stopped by the Goodwill on the way home. I wanted to look at china.
Look what we found.

It is a baby crib, believe it or not. An antique baby crib. It stands only 27 inches high. It is three feet long. This is how they did it in the olden days. It has the original slats, and it is pegged together with wooden pegs. These pegs are not machined, which means that this could easily be from the mid 19th century, but solid and sturdy still. I stopped dead in my tracks when I saw it. Hardly breathing, I checked the price. It was $3.99. They did not have a clue what they had.

It's in my house now, and I've not a clue what I'm going to do with such a thing, but I have been researching this all night long, and daydreaming of the generations of children that slept in this tiny bed, now long gone from this earth. What is the story of this bed? Where did it come from? What hands made it?

*Sigh*

I love old stuff.

I also wish that this little crib could talk.

God is in the Details

The power was scheduled to go off today, all day while they worked on the lines, so I headed off to Mary's house. We both had errands to run and decided to do them together. It was a pleasant autumn day, and I sat in the car as she went in to pick up a part they needed for their school bus. I listened to the sound of a flock of geese honking their way across the sky in a 'v'.

On the way home, I stopped at a friend's house. The wind was blowing and the leaves were swirling off the trees, masses of them, nature's version of a ticker tape parade. They were everywhere. It was such a cool moment, as if I were standing inside a shaken snow globe ~ leaves instead of snow, though. And it in the warm fall sunshine, a ginger colored kitten leapt and twirled, honing his hunting skills on the falling leaves, wide-eyed, pouncing here, spinning around to pounce over there. He made me laugh out loud.

Mary had a household sale last week, and I helped her out. I also bought an antique dresser with a mosaic piece across the front and inlaid veneers. The round mirror was etched. I think it is probably from the 30s. It's a very pretty piece, and will go nicely in the spare bedroom. We picked it up last night. We all stood at the back of the truck visiting after it was loaded, laughing in the dark. The unearthly sound of a screech owl wafted up close, from the other side of the road. That was a neat moment, too. The owls at our house simply hoot.



Last night, driving home in the dark, I listened to my husband talk, his face illuminated in the dim glow of the dashboard lights, and I thought to myself, "I don't want to be anywhere else but where I am right now, right this minute."

It was one of those ordinary days with extraordinary details.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Cara

Tuesday morning, I hauled out of bed at 5 AM. I went down to have breakfast with Cara at college.

A while back, Cara, in keeping with her RA position, had dealt with a very angry boy. Her intent was to calm him down before allowing him to walk back out into the hall. His rage had made her fearful for her girls. She ended up soothing a very detailed confession right out of a rapist. The trial was to be Tuesday. The boy is no longer at the college, but the college has been very careful about assuring Cara's safety. The police were escorting her to the courthouse.

I knew that she would be a little stressed, even though she is one of the most unflappable kids you'd ever want to know. We had a long leisurely breakfast and talked. We walked around campus, and it pleased me to see her striding confidently. She has 29 girls under her care, and they call her 'Mom'. She is popular and confident. She is smart. Level headed. This tiny little thing comes only up to my nose (...and I, myself, am considered short...) but she is fearless.

Driving home, I realized (again) that Cara is grown up now. She no longer needs me. But there was an e-mail waiting for me. It meant a lot to her that I had driven all the way down to be with her, she said. She loves college and was glad to have a chance to show me 'her world'.

It made me cry a little. She is grown up. She doesn't need me. But she still wants me around.

...And the feeling is mutual.

PS: The trial was postponed. Cara wailed about the classes she had missed, a big oral presentation, etc. "I know, I know," I said, "rapists are just so self centered and inconsiderate..."

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Shameless Plug

Oh my goodness!

I was dying of thirst so I got up for a glass of water. I clicked on the blog to respond to an earlier e-mail from Susan. And there it was. My count. I was 44444. To visit my own blog! Isn't that something? I wonder what it means. I mean, really, 44444. That's really significant, don't you think?

Okay.

It's not.

There was a zero in front of it, and it accounts for just one of those things that catch your eye and make you think 'huh!' for just a moment, like running into your aunt in the bathroom of Mt. Vernon hundreds of miles from home. When neither of you knew that you'd be there.

Okay.

That actually was kind of remarkable.

Anyway, that's enough talk about the remarkable coincidences of my life.

Out in Arizona, there is a couple women who are rescuing dogs from the desert. When they are done, there's about 10 more in the dump to be picked up. Animal control will not do anything about it. The sheriff's advice to the neighbors? Shoot them on sight. The dogs. Not Susan and Mikey. But I digress. It's late. My water is gone. I should be back in bed. But here's the dealy deal. Mikey works for a vet, and gets a discount. She is having these animals neutered, wormed and vaccinated. Susan and Mikey and Mikey's mom are shlepping an enormous amount of food out to these animals. Just so happens that Susan owns a equine rescue ranch. Your donations would be greatly appreciated by both (wo)man and beast. Enclose a note letting them know the donation is for the dogs, and Susan will get that money where it needs to be.

The address is:
Painted Promise Ranch
23925 West Patton Road
Wittmann, Arizona 85361

If there happens to be a soul out there who reading this, thinking that they'd sure like to take one of these dogs, I'm telling you: Mikey can make it happen. That gal has connections. Wade might tell you she has 'loose' connections, but just don't you listen to Wade. You just can't trust a man with two wives.

Mikey? Susan? I'll get this party started. I'll send a donation.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Celebrating Mary

When I found out that I had cancer last fall, the once thing that I am everlastingly grateful for is all the people in this world who simply stepped up to offer encouragement. A good many of these people were cancer survivors themselves. One of those people was my friend Mary. I don't just run on and on in this blog. I also write a column for our newspaper. Mary was following that story because she was also being treated for breast cancer. She was about 2 months ahead of me in treatment. She looked me up in the phone book and she gave me a call, and I will never forget that call. I had a hundred questions and I think I asked them all. As our friendship developed, we found some amazing coincidences. Such as, she had been the maid of honor at my youngest sister's wedding. (I could not attend the wedding. I was in the Army, and Uncle Sam had other plans for me that day, so I did not know this little factoid.) Turns out Mary knew just about my whole family. Just a couple days ago, I figured out that Tim and I cut firewood up at her father's a few years back. That's how it is when you live in a quiet corner of Pennsylvania. You talk to anybody for more than five minutes, you're going to find that you've got 'people' in common. Anyways, the longer Mary and I know each other, the more sure that I am that we would have wound up in each other's lives at some point, whether we had breast cancer or not. Unfortunately, we did it the hard way.

Monday was Mary's birthday. I wanted the gift to be special, because she is special to me. I thought a lot about it. Mary is remarkable for a lot of reasons, but this is a biggie, right here: At Easter-time, 2008, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She went through all the steps, just as I did. Mary's cancer is triple negative, which makes it worse than mine. She picked up with me right after Christmas of 2008. After being a tremendous support to me, becoming a dear friend who understood what I meant even when I couldn't come up with the words myself, in Easter 2009, Mary was again diagnosed with breast cancer. I remember telling her, "Mary, next year, just buy a ham..." Despite my joke, her news sent me reeling. I cried. I cried hard. I cried for her, initially, but before it was done, I was crying for myself, because really, there are no guarantees for any of us. It had never occurred to me that cancer could return that quickly, and it was devastating news to me.

Mary was stunned and reeling too. Then she took a deep breath and she opted for a bilateral mastectomy. She endured the weeks with a drain in place. She went back to work right away. Through it all, her calm practicality brought me back to earth as well. Again, I found myself saying "It is what it is" and moving forward in my own life. (Don't ever underestimate the importance of a role model.)

Like I said, Monday was Mary's birthday, and I wanted it to be special. I kept thinking how much her friendship has meant to me. I realized also how much of our relationship is based on that ugly thing called breast cancer. And you know what? Suddenly I did not want it to be. So for her birthday, I bought Mary a bottle of champagne, and champagne glasses. I told her to celebrate herself, to raise a toast to herself in the company of her family. I also got three plaques with the best advice for living that I know: "Live well" and "Love deeply" and "Laugh often".

We both have stepped out of the shadow of the cause that threw us together. We both are living life post-cancer. The end of the story is uncertain, but you know what? This chapter here, this part of the story, right now, by God, it looks pretty darn good.

A trouble shared is a trouble halved.
A joy shared is a joy doubled.
Thanks Mary.

PS: Let's do this year different.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Obligatory Breast Cancer Awareness Post

Okay. In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month, I've been asked to 'lend my voice' here and there and all over. I've been very willing to do that. I think it's important that we all share our stories, that we all encourage each other, so I've been doing a lot of that, although I've said precious little about it here on my blog. I've been thinking about it though.

Here is my obligatory Breast Cancer Awareness Month post. I also apologize in advance.

Make your appointment for a mammogram today. Do not delay. I did not have my first mammogram until I found a lump. I was under the misguided idea that I would instinctively 'know' if something was wrong in my body. I was a ass.

Secondly, (and this is where I get snotty), if you are one of those women out there who complain endlessly about the agony of mammograms, how horrible they are, etc. etc. etc., really, you need to shut up! (Don't bother sending those little 'comical' emails out either.) That kind of talk dissuades women from having a test that, while it is uncomfortable, it has a beginning, and it has an end, and, really, the two points are not that far apart. It's endurable. YOU'LL SURVIVE IT, for pity's sake! Which is more than some people can say about breast cancer. I'd also like to say that a mammogram is far less painful (and takes up a lot less time) than being sliced and diced, chemo'd, and radiated. (although Ida has explained, repeatedly, that these are not burns, they are reactions ~ which feel a lot like a really bad sunburn, look a lot like a really bad sunburn, peel like a really bad sunburn. I say tomato, she says tomahto.)

We all need to step up to the plate and take responsibility for our own health.

Thus endeth my sermon for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

I have now stepped off my militant soapbox. We will return to the regularly scheduled chaos that you have become so used to.

Mikey and Susan

Last week was a busy week for me. I removed everything from the downstairs bathroom, painted it, scrubbed it all down, put it back together. I cleaned bedrooms and got them ready for company. I planned a party and shopped for a party. I got firewood. I prepared food and lots of it. I even helped out a friend last week. All the while, I kept thinking "You know, last week, I couldn't have even done this." Then I'd get all grateful to God and teary eyed. Then I'd get back to work. I mean really, there was a lot of stuff going on last week.

You know. I was kind of impressed with my productivity.

But then there's Mikey and Susan.

*hangs head*

Yep. I can't keep up. I cannot lay claim to trapping man-eating dogs in the trailer of death on top of my domestic duties.

It's folks like these two that make desperate housewives out of the rest of us.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Disappointed

The cake picture turned out great.
But I took three pictures of the kids, and they turned out like this. I am so disappointed. Lord knows when we'll have all five of them back under the same roof at the same time.
Unlike the family picture, the party went well. We had a house full of people and a whole lot of fun.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Oh No!

This is what we woke up to. This is my lilac bush. It is probably about 15 feet tall, and a real thing of beauty in the spring with both purple and white lilacs. I love my lilac bush. Tim wanted to trim it. I told him to leave my lilac bush alone. He argued that it was too big. I refused to budge on it. I got a little stern about it.

Our power went out sometime after 2 AM. The four inches of snow was wet and heavy. Because it was an early snow, the leaves were not off the trees yet. The leaves caught and held the snow, which weighed heavy, snapping branches, and bringing down trees, across roads, on power lines. It was a flipping mess.

We're having a party this weekend for Stacey's homecoming. She is home from Korea and headed to Ft. Bliss in a few days. Dylan and Cara will be here in a few hours. Brianna and Michael will be here also. I cannot remember the last time that we had all five kids in the house at the same time. (Yes, BB, I will take pictures). Anyhow, I had a hundred and one things to do this morning. Instead, I packed Tim's lunch by lamp light. No water. Limited hot water heat from our boiler. Not much I could do around the house. Couldn't even make a coffee. *grumble*
I had promised to help a friend out, so I headed off the hill.

This is what it looked like down in the valley.

People thought I was nuts when I told them what was going on up in Scandia.


We got more than a dusting.

Power came on sometime late this afternoon. I got back from Mary's and set to work on this house. My shoulder feels much better. I've got the bedrooms opened and ready for kids to come home. I got the bathroom put back together (we painted). Laundry done. Even got the silver polished. Amazing amount of work. Last week, I seriously could not have done this. My shoulder feels tons better. I even loaded a truckload of firewood, by myself. I'm blessed. Truly.
*sniffle!*
Except for the whole lilac thing.
*moan*

Tim's in his glory because he wanted to cut it back. I wouldn't let him. This wouldn't have happened if I'd let him cut it back.
Of course, he's absolutely right.
Don't tell him I said that.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Good News and Bad News

Today I got good news, and I got bad news. We'll talk about the bad news first.
Can you see it? Can you see what I'm talking about here?
How about this? A little bit easier to tell?







Yep. We got our first snow today. I looked out the window this morning, and greeted the day with a grumble. We don't have our snow tires on yet. We both have studded tires which cannot be put on your cars before October 15th. (Tim's out there putting mine on right this minute.)
************
The good news? I saw the orthopedic doctor today. To be perfectly honest, I did not expect much to come out of it. Nobody else has seen anything, and after a while you just feel like a big ol' hypochondriac. But he breezes in the room, and looks at the X-rays, and immediately points. "Here's your problem." I squint. "See this little hook on your shoulder? A lot of people have that. Not uncommon. However, holding your arms above your head for radiation caused that tiny little hook to rub on the tendon in your shoulder. Once that tendon is inflamed, it causes quite a bit of pain." Me, smiling sweetly, thinking, "...and you ain't just whistling Dixie, doc." One shot in the shoulder. "Does that hurt?" he kept asking. Answer: the shot is nothing compared to the shoulder pain. He'll see me in 7 to 10 days, expects the shoulder pain to be gone. Could it be just that simple? The Omega-3 and the glucosamine-chondroitin have ratcheted the joint aches down to a bearable level. If the shoulder issue is resolved on top that, I am well and truly blessed. I will count my many blessings, and I will not complain about the snow. Much.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Mrs. Incredible

Bush Babe made the most incredible claim.


"I actually boasted publicly that for a brief couple of hours, NOT ONE THING was dirty in my house... laundry, I mean. And if THAT ain't worth twittering, my dear feathered friends, then NOTHING is!"


Just reading those words gave me a little thrill. Imagine it, people. Not one piece of dirty laundry in the whole house. This thing has never happened to me before. Not ever. I mean, through the years, there have been lots of times I thought I was done with laundry. But there was always a baby to spit up (or worse). Or when they got older, there was always someone coming in with a gym bag, or dropping some work clothes down the chute. Sometimes it was simply a matter of opening a bedroom door and finding another two bushels of laundry. But it was never, never done.

So, Bush Babe, you have achieved something that most of us only aspire to. I don't know how you'd celebrate something like that, really. (Although, I know it shouldn't involve changing clothes.) Somehow you have managed to find favor with the great laundry god. I actually see him as not so much a deity as much as a troublesome imp who visits every house in the world every day (what?!!!! Santa does it..) leaving mounds of dirty laundry behind. He also is known for swiping socks leaving you with a handful of socks with no mates (you've always wondered, haven't you...) If you are having trouble with your washer or dryer, you know that he's been there and gone. He's also known for casting a cloud across the mind so that you forget, sometimes to switch the laundry from the washer to the dryer. Mysterious stains. Things left in pockets. Small annoyances, but don't underestimate his power. When you've really aggravated him, he's capable of things like porcupines in the washer.

The worst part is that he is a capricious and temperamental thing, and you can find yourself on his bad side and never completely understand what you have done wrong. Yet somehow, somehow, Bush Babe found favor.

*stares in awe*

BB? Really. We all wait with worms on our tongues. (Bated breath) What was the offering that so pleased the great laundry god that he allowed you to be done with laundry?

Conversation with a Boy

"Mom? I've been thinking about getting a bearded dragon."

"Alrighty then. Why?"

"Because I just want one. They only get about two feet long. I could hold him and pet him, and ..."

Me: "Wait. Would you have to bring this thing home when you come visit?"

"Yes. I'd have to bring him home."

"Maybe your sister would let you keep him at her place. She doesn't mind creepy stuff. But no, you're not bringing him in here."

Pause.

"Either a bearded dragon or a motorcycle that goes 160 miles an hour that I could run on the track at the Poconos. Did you know that you can run on their track..."

Me *blinking a little*: "I can see how you would be hard pressed to decide between the two of them...a bearded dragon or a motorcycle that goes 160 miles an hour. They're so close."

The long and the short of it is that he is a grown man who lives on his own, is self supporting and can do any darn thing his heart desires without his mama's permission. I think he just likes to get a rise out me. Just to make him happy, I began to complain. "Why can't you just get a motorcycle that goes an even 60-65 miles an hour. Why 160? And if you're going to be doing some dummy thing like running it at that kind of speed, why don't you just not tell me about it?"

"Mom!" he said indignantly. "I'd be sensible. I'd always wear a helmet. I'd never run at that speed on the road. I'm not stupid."

I said, "Really?!!!!" It was reassuring to hear this.

You know, some folk think that once their kids are adults, you no longer have to worry about them. Those folks must have a whole 'nuther kind of boy. Next time, I'm getting that kind.

Ack.

I type every day. I don't think about it. Everyone who hears me clacking away says things like, "Man! You are fast." I received word that I might be testing for a job. Part of that testing is a typing test. Minimum to be hired is 45 WPM. "Piece o' cake," thought I. Filled with all that confidence, I've been taking some online typing tests. On one site, I type between 43 and 50 WPM. On another, I type between 50 and 58. After about 20 typing tests, I wonder how in the world people can possibly enjoy computer games. I'm totally stressed, sweating even, shaking and short of breath. Probably goggle eyed and red faced too.

Off to play in the happy land of medical terminology. Good heavens. I haven't much time to totally annihilate any remaining self confidence I have.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Confession

I'm almost afraid to say it, outright, for fear I will jinx it, but I'm feeling better. I started taking Omega-3 on the advice of Roland and Galya. I also, at the same time, began to take a glucosamine-chondroiten-MSM tablet, on the advice of Karen and countless others. This is my seventh day. Yesterday, I noticed that although my shoulder still hurt, it was a far cry from agony. I have slept the night through two nights in a row. Being rested is a big help, in and of itself. My joints still give me trouble and I still feel like I have a toothache in my shoulder, but now it is bearable. It has dropped to the point that my naturally high threshold of pain can again take over. Life has again resumed what passes for normal in my family. I even painted the bathroom.

I have a confession to make. This is the first time in my life that I've ever had to deal with anything like this. Except for migraines which have a beginning and ~blessedly~ an end), pain has never derailed my life before. I've felt poorly before, and I've had my share of aches and pains, but two weeks of constant and unrelenting pain was discouraging, and exhausting, and really, really hard. Trying to cope with all of this was a humbling experience, and the toughest two weeks I've endured since chemotherapy. Do you want to know why it was so humbling? Yesterday, I talked about that uncomfortable conversation at church. I'm not looking down my nose at anyone, believe me, because I also remember my own impatience, and my own unkind thoughts. My pet peeve? I had a hard time listening to people who bitched and moaned about their health, and how they were feeeeeeeeeeling, thinking to myself, 'Dear God, just suck it up already...' Suddenly, I was one of those people, and my own impatient thoughts have haunted me.

So I want to thank everyone who took the time to advise. Roland and Galya, Karen, everyone else, thank you. You appear to know whereof you speak. I also want to thank everyone who patiently waited me out as I bitched and moaned about my health and how I was feeeeeeeeeeling. Not one of you said, "Gees, just suck it up already!" So yes. Okay. You all are far better people than I... but I've learned a valuable life lesson here.

*casts eyes to the sky*

Really, God, I swear to you, I've learned this lesson. It's been engraved upon my heart, and if it is all the same to You, lets skip any reviews. Amen.

Bothered

It's been bothering me.

An acquaintance of ours has acquired a building. When I saw him, I congratulated him on his purchase, and asked him what he was going to do with it. He said that he was going to turn it into apartments. "Great idea," I told him, "because really there is a shortage of good housing here." That's the truth. There are a lot of folks who buy buildings and put no money into them, and just let them rot down around peoples ears while squeezing every bit of money they can out of the tenants. If I've heard it once, I've heard it a thousand times...'Don't fix a rental up too nicely. It will just get trashed.' Nice rentals are few and far between. This fellow agreed, and talked about the fact that his apartments will be upscale. I commented that having a washer and dryer on premise was a big deal for our tenants. As I poured my coffee, I said, "I could not believe how many calls we got on our last apartment. A tiny little efficiency, but people were begging to move in, with their significant others, in some cases with a child or two, and once, two adults, a child and a coon hound." Much to my shock, the gentleman began to mock the caliber of tenants that he had come to look at his apartment, admitting he was stereotyping, but making fun of their bad teeth, making fun of the way they spoke, etc. I didn't know what to do so I stood stupidly in my place and said nothing.

I think of our tenants. The one with bad teeth is my daughter. All of them have had some real rough times. But they are good people, despite these struggles. They pay their rent on time. They tell us how lucky they are. We tell them how lucky we are. We feel a big responsibility to them. They are loyal to us. We can trust them. One of them even went out and bought a lawn mower to keep our grass mowed. He likes yardwork, bless his heart. The antique library table in the front hall is decorated for the seaon by our Laura, and she waters the palm tree.

I look at this man going on, sarcastically, mockingly. He was not raised in wealth. He has been lucky in life, and is busy in our church.

Now, two days later, I am still bothered by this conversation. I keep telling myself that I would have been bothered by that conversation even if it had taken place in a McDonalds. It didn't though. It took place in Sunday School and that is bugging the crap out of me.

Know what else? My own silence shames me.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Reading

My friend, Karen, lent me a book called 'The Red Leather Diary' which is a fascinating glimpse of another time. This piece is attributed to Susan Glaspell, from her play called 'The People'.
We are living now.
We shall not live long.
No one should tell us we shall live again.
This is our little while.
This is our chance.
It just has me thinking about what a small piece our life is in the great story of the world. We have such a short time to make a difference. I find myself wondering, 'Have I? Will I? Can I?' It's just a cold gray day, a pondering sort of day. I need to get a job. No call backs today.

Time Travel

I am not sure why, but Tim likes to look at what's come up for sale. This home is in Bradford, and we stopped by to take a look at it. It's beautiful, but in desperate need of someone to care for it. Much to our surprise, as we walked across the damaged stone patio with the wrought iron awning framework, down the spiraled stone walk way, we noticed at the back of the ivy covered home that the door was open. Completely unlocked. Not broken into. Just left wide open. We were a little astonished by this, because this is really a beautiful home, four bathrooms with the original circa 1920 fixtures. I seriously have never seen such exquisite toilets, which seems like an odd thing to go on about, doesn't it? But really they were remarkable. Clawfoot tubs, pedestal tubs, the sinks were great china pedestal sinks. At least two of the bathrooms had recessed vanities, with tiny drawers and fancy mirrors set up. Elaborate wallpapering, even a large painting leaning against the wall.




I love old houses and I could have wandered around all day. I imagined the house in its 'hey day', when all of that elegance was new. When the paint was new, and the wallpaper was new. When the circular entranceway welcomed you inside the beautiful and massive wood door. Once inside the chandelier would cast prisms of light around the walls, small rainbows of bright color splashed everywhere, the spiral stair case framing the whole scene.

I imagined parties there, and exquisitely dressed women holding court in the bathrooms peering in the mirrors of those elegant vanities, reapplying makeup while smoking their cigarettes back in the day before cigarettes caused cancer (Joke, people...that was a gentle joke at the ignorance of the time...). I imagined the music, a fire in the fireplace, and how the hardwood floors would have gleamed. I wandered upstairs to the bedrooms, big and spacious, and then again up to the third floor where I am assuming the nursery was. I imagined the house with period furnishings. I imagined the original family. It was a wonderful home, and I know that we should not actually have been inside, and really, Tim seemed anxious that we should not linger, so I cut my daydreaming short, and headed back downstairs, out through the cluttered and junky kitchen, no appliances, a stash of unmarked jugs in the corner, an old record album lying in front of a window.

When we were probably 10 miles down the road, I was still daydreaming about the darling little arched doors that went under the stairs. The unexpected little twists and turns of that house. It really was a little house you could get lost in, and I was having a fine time daydreaming about what I would do with all of those rooms.

Tim interrupted my reverie. "Those jugs in the corner of the kitchen? Do you think someone is brewing 'meth' there?" I stared at him slackjawed. Heck. It had not even occurred to me. When I'm wandering around in another time period, it is always a shock to be slapped back into the present.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Lesley's Day


.Yesterday, we went north, up along the reservoir and passed through the Seneca Nation. This casino goes on and on, a huge complex. Gambling is legal here, because they are their own country. This casino makes the tribe a lot of money. We've never been, even though they have some very good shows up there, comedians and musicians.
We left the Seneca Nation and headed back back into Pennsylvania. Our destination was a little town that is noted for, of all things, a terrible accident (long ago from the type of car). Apparently, owner had indulged too much at the bar, came out, hopped into his car, and somehow wound up on the roof of the bar. The bar owners, realizing how much it would cost to get the car down simply said, "Okay, then," and changed the name of the bar, painted some words on the car, and there the car has remained ever since. This story is not true.
But this is a true story here: We were headed to a party for Lesley. Lesley just finished treatment for breast cancer, and being a woman of high good spirit, she celebrated. This is Lesley with her daughter Karley, holding the cake she made for the occasion.

Lesley's mother, Kay, made me an afghan. She used all the colors of a fire. She wanted me to see it and feel warm. It was extremely thoughtful, and I was embarrassed. It was Lesley's special day, after all. But it was a wonderful thing to do, and I thank you Kay. I worked with Kay years ago. Little did I know that I would cross paths with her, and in such a remarkable way.
We met Lesley's family, and swapped stories, and even met a shirt tail relative - a cousin to my niece's husband. I was surprised at the number of people at that party that had their own battles with cancer. Gosh. We are everywhere.
As the sun went down, it began to get cold (there were frost warnings for the night). So Tim and I left. We went into Bradford, and I got a cup of hot coffee. I took a picture of this building because I love the art deco trim around the top of it. I rode home sipping coffee, with a warm afghan across my aching legs. It was a nice day, spent celebrating a wonderful milestone with my good friend.
A joy shared is a joy doubled.
I was glad to be a part of it, Lesley.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Don't Get It

Okay. We have a bank account. This bank sold off some of its branches to another bank. Our checking account was sold to them as well. The new bank sent us new checks. New debit cards. Everything emblazened with the new bank's logo. We received a letter explaining that after such-and-such a date, the switch would be complete, that we would be doing business with the new bank, and would need to use our new checks and debit cards.

I drove to the new bank. Ironically, I had to drive past the bank where we have always done our business, open and still doing a lively business. (They also retain our home equity loan.) I drove out of my way to go into town, and made two laps around the block looking for a parking place. I went inside and waited my turn. "May I help you?" the very pleasant teller asked. "Yes," I said. "We need to close this account." Brusquely the teller asked the reason. I said, "Because we pick who we do business with." The teller acted as if I'd suddenly begun speaking in a foreign tongue. "What?!!!" she said. I said, "You may want our business, but my husband and I choose who we do business with, not vice versa. You might be a perfectly fine bank, but we did not choose to do business with you. We wish to withdraw our money and go back to our own bank."

She did not seem to understand my reasoning.

It's perfectly logical to us.

We again use the same bank we've always used, but I will never understand how a bank can simply come in, decide they want your account and buy it from your own bank. The fact that our bank sold us out without warning is not comforting either. How hard up for money are they?

Has this happened to anyone else?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Paint Job

Before.
After.

It's not done yet, but what a difference a paint job makes, hey?

Getting Out

Today, I headed out...
...with my pile of packages, and my 'to-do' list, and my library books. I had things to do. First I stopped off at the post office. I like to use our little post office. There's hardly ever a line, and if there is, you generally know the folks, so you can blab while you wait. I'm a talker. You may not have noticed. Anyways, the post mistress here is Becky, the daughter of the couple that hold down the other end of 'our' pew at church.
Stopped by church to pick up my dish from cookies I had dropped off for a funeral. Also I needed to see the lovely and talented Karen. Sure enough, she had the address I needed. She also lent me a book. A couple Sundays ago, she stopped by with flowers. Karen is a genuinely nice person who is always pulling crap like that. Honestly. I love Karen. Oh, and our church is nearly 160 years old.


This is the entrance to the small town I live up the hill from. In case you can't read it, the sign notes that the township was established in 1795.


Right across the road from that is this old house. It is called 'The Locusts' and it is from the early 1800s. It is also for sale, in case anyone is interested. If you buy this house, I will visit you every day, because I covet this house, and secretly want it for my own, although I know this will never happen, and really, I'm happy enough where I'm at.

This is the library. I remember reading these quotations over and over again as a kid. Quotations about history, literature, and...crap. I've forgotten the third quotation on the front. I guess I shouldn't have relied on childhood memories.


At the side is a quote about biographies: 'The story of lives that counted in their times for love or hate, for misery and woe, for well being and joy.' Except for the whole 'lives that counted in their times', it sounds a lot like blogs. And what does it mean to 'have a life that counts'? Whoa. Getting deep. I'll ponder that another day, because I don't have my boots on today. Yep. Library books were overdue and I owed them 40 cents. I think of it as funding.
This is where the magic of newspapers happens, at least in our small town.


Lest you think it was all glitz and glamor.


You know, I kind of 'get' BB and her camera. When you have a camera on hand, you begin looking for pretty things around you, and they are always, always there. You forget to look sometimes. A camera reminds you. Unless the batteries die before you get home. (And they did.)

Mood Buster

What a day yesterday was. And the day before yesterday, for that matter. The shoulder has been an issue for quite a while. Now I'm discovering, when it is cold and damp, that the aches sort of hijack my whole body. The last couple weeks have been severe. The aches begin to disrupt sleep. I'm not a rational woman when I am short sleeped. I began to try to research things online, how to help myself, but reading about cancer and aches and pains and treatment and...well. That's some depressing stuff. Next thing you know, my mood is taking on a definate dark aura, and I'm thinking things like, "This is how it's going to be forever..." and crying over pictures on Jeanie's blog and Jamie's blog. Sorry, Bill, still laughed at yours. The visuals that went along with the story of your citizen's arrest of the drunken Good Humor Lady were hysterical. By the time, I got to the Cracker Kat post, I had tears in my eyes, but not from weeping. I had to leave your site right away, before my dark and dreary mood was completely ruined.

But, as usual, I digress.

Over on Jill's blog, she's been dealing with weeks of lymphodema. I realized, reading her frustrations, that it is the time involved that begins to wear on your patience. I still am the stoic and strong person that I used to be, but give me a couple weeks of dealing with pain, and I begin to unravel around the edges. I also kind of figured out that it is natural that this would happen, which made me feel better about things.

Today, I've got a check list going:

1. Pick up potatoes to go with salmon tonight.
2. Drop off job applicaton at the courthouse.
3. Mail off a half dozen boxes that I finally got put together last night.
4. Drop off books at the library, pick up some Christmas ornament craft books for a church project.
5. Drop newspaper payment off.
6. Pick up some Omega-3.
7. Etc. etc. etc. (I really could get pretty tedious here, but decided to have mercy on you.)

It's a pretty boring little list, but as I check things off, I will feel productive. I haven't lately, and feeling like I'm accomplishing something is important to me. While, I'm out and about, I'll run into people that I know, and I'll end up talking for longer than I should. Just the thought of that makes me feel better.

I'd like to think that I have a pretty good handle on life, but it never ceases to amaze me how I can lose my bearings during the rough patches. The worst part is that I never seem to notice that I've lost my bearings until I'm up to my armpits in alligators as we say. I suppose this is why support groups are so important. Support groups and blogs. Sorry for all the gloom and doom and dark and dreary posts. I think I'm getting over it.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Love

Mary posted about her son's first 'falling in love', a touching tribute to her boy. It made me smile. Today I had lunch with an 83 year old woman and her daughter. Carol is waiting the results of her PET scan. She has already had lung cancer. We talked about cancer, and Carol looked at me and said, with great emotion, "It doesn't matter what is going on, when I get into bed at night with my husband, I feel safe, and like everything is okay." And her eyes got teary.

There's an elderly man who visits his wife in a nursing home. She has Alzheimer's. Although she doesn't know it's her anniversary, or what an anniversary is, or remember that she's ever had one, he does. And he celebrates it with her. He knows it's their anniversary. He knows what an anniversary is, and he remembers all the other anniversaries they've ever had. He gives her a card that reads "The first kiss is special" and on the inside it read, "So are the next million." She may not remember him, but he remembers her, and loves her still.



There are many chapters in our own books of love. First love, old love, the opening chapters (which set the tone for all the chapters to follow), the hard chapters, the learning chapters, the coming togethers, the falling aparts, the raised voices, the whispers in the dark, the laughter, and the tears. Our stories probably have no value to anyone but ourselves, but we write our own stories, and we hug the books close to our chest. They are precious to us.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

There is good news...

...I've got enough hair to blow dry now.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Dunno

I've had joint aches for most of the summer. However, things have gotten progressively worse. Now that the weather has changed, it has become, at times unbearable. When I got a sore throat, and chills alternating with hot flashes, exhaustion (probably because I can't sleep at night?), I figured that I was coming down with the flu. Going into the second week, I slowly figured out that it was probably not the flu. Things got so bad this weekend that I went from three aspirin straight to the prescription stash. It helped. A lot. After taking my 'wonder drug', I discovered that my bed was spinning and swirling. I spent the night wide awake and hanging on for dear life. The aching bones became a secondary concern.

I've been reading about the side effects of tamoxifen. Each of my most problematic symptoms can be found in the side effects, and I can honestly say that this has now begun to compromise my life. But reading on the long range effectiveness of tamoxifen, I read that 'Among women with ER positive or unknown breast cancer and negative nodes who received about 5 years of treatment, overall survival at 10 years was 78.9% for Tamoxifen vs. 73.3% for control. The recurrence-free rate at 10 years was 79.2% for Tamoxifen versus 64.3% for control'.

In ten years, I'd definately like to be at the 'recurrence-free' party. (I'll bring the veggie platter).

For several months now, I've been plugging right along, keeping my stiff upper lip, telling myself "This is what you do to win against breast cancer." It is my intention to win, but here I am, wrassling with side effects, and finding myself ready to cry 'uncle'.

We'll give it a few more days, but gees. I don't know.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

No Point

You know sometimes how a simple home repair, say, like replacing a leaky pipe, which should take, oh, maybe a couple hours, turns into the home repair from hell which finds you cutting the paneling of a section of wall from floor to ceiling, and then cutting through plaster and lathe, and then cutting away boards that you have no idea why they are there except in the old days things were built solidly to last, never mind the fact that the house was built in 1860, and the plumbing went in long after? And then you are on the second floor following that pipe by pulling up a commode and pulling up floor boards and then pulling up more and more floor boards as you try to follow where that pipe will finally end up? And then you have to remove the whole pipe, section by section, because you don't really have a lot of room to work? And repeat trips to Lowe's. At one point, I am holding one fitting and explaining to the man that I need another fitting just like this, only female, and oh, yes, I also need a galvanized nipple. Without blinking he said, "How long?" and I said, "Good gravy I don't even know what a galvanized nipple is, let alone how long I need it." And so he called my husband because we only have one cell phone which was in Tim's pocket. But I digress. What was I saying? Oh. Yes. You know how sometimes you have those home repairs that you begin thinking "Oh, this is going to take a couple hours," but six hours later, you've finally got the pipe replaced with pex tubing, and you've still got to put the second story bathroom back together because the tenant cannot be without a bathroom. (Thank goodness she was away for almost the entire afternoon as it was). So then you put the bathroom back together, and finally, at 9 PM, you are finally able to head out the door, where interestingly enough there are three police cars two houses down and someone is being taken away in handcuffs, which leads you to fret a little about how your newest tenant, just moved in that day is taking all this banging and clanging in the walls, and floors being hammered in place next door and police busts out front. Boy. I'll bet she's just glad she moved into our apartment. You know how some days are just like that?

*sigh*

It's been a long day. Tim worked hard and I held lights, and held on to pipe wrenches with all my might, and I ran up and down two flights of stairs to fetch this thing or that.

When I fell into bed tonight, I thought 'the only good thing about some days is that they end.' I fell asleep. I dreamed that I was lying in bed, wide awake, next to my husband who was angry at me. I got up and went down an open staircase to a library. It was a huge library with lots of books, and my husband came down to see what I was doing, and I looked square at him and told him that I thought he was the most selfish person I knew. Even as I was telling him, he was headed out the door, and up the stairs back to bed. I turned and went the other way into a huge open hall, with a huge fireplace, and atop the mantle a huge tall mirror flanked by two narrower mirrors not so tall. Everything looked shimmery and blurry and I realized that I was still wearing my reading glasses. As I took them off, two large black dogs came running up to see me, laughing like dogs laugh, tails wagging furiously. I petted them both and told them how glad I was to see them, while they pressed in closely, and finally knocked me to the floor in their enthusiasm. I was laughing right along with those happy dogs, as they crowded in to lick my face.

I woke up in agony. My shoulder is bad tonight. I got up, put on my bathrobe and headed downstairs for some drugs, wondering why I would have dreamt such a dream. Freud would have a good time with that one. I realize also that the husband I was so angry at (and who was so angry at me) was not the husband I have now. That makes me glad. I marvel that the dream seemed so real that I could feel the dogs' breath on face.

The point of this? I have no clue. Except the drugs are kicking in, and I need to negotiate my own stairs and head back to my own bed while I still can.

Good night.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Paradigm Shift

As you all have probably figured out, I'm coming out of a hard time. I know that I've got a great deal to be grateful for, but here's the truth of it: One year ago, I had cancer, and it frustrates me that I am not 'over it'. I don't feel well and wonder what that means. The aches and pains are discouraging. The last couple months have really taken their toll.

Trying to find information on what to expect after cancer is difficult. There is not a lot of information. Bloggers have come through once again, sharing their own experience. I realized, finally, that I've been looking at it all wrong. I have been looking at this one year milestone, and really fretting about the fact that I am not over cancer. September 26th, I found the lump. October 6th, it was official. One year ago, I found out I had cancer, and dammit, I'm not over it yet.

BUT...

Cancer did not make me sick. It was the treatment for cancer than knocked me on my keister. For the first time, I really understood what chemo and radiation actually does to a body. I'm being unrealistic to expect that I'll simply 'get over it'. * snaps fingers* Especially, considering I'm only 5 months out of treatment. I feel a little stupid, really, because people have been telling me right along. My response has been a snarly 'yeah, but it's been a whole year'. Finally it has sunk in.

Really, people, I'm not the sharpest tool in the shed. Not the brightest crayon in the box. Etc.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Flushing Taxpayer Dollars

Really, how often does this happen: that someone asks for your opinion on something when you've actually got an opinion to give?

I got a survey asking about my last experience at the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles). The little survey asked a number of questions. I did my best to answer them all completely.

First of all, they assured me that my satisfaction is their greatest concern. Then they went on to ask questions like: 'Was the building easy to find?' (My answer: 'Well, it stayed right where it was the last time I went. I like that in a building.')

'Did you like your picture?' (Dear heavens! I wrote: 'I had chemo. I had no hair. I had no eyebrows. I had no eyelashes. Add the steroid bloat, and basically, I looked nothing like myself. One employee said that I did not need my picture on my license. The other said I did. No one seemed interested enough to find out who was right. That is how Uncle Fester's picture came to be on my license. Am I happy about that? Er. Not so much.')

'Overall, were you happy with your license?' ('See above')

Was the staff knowledgeable? ('See above')

Were the restrooms clean? ('Don't know. I did not have to pee. Although I nearly crapped myself when I saw the picture. See above.')

Yeah. I had a good time with the survey. Here's the thing. We do not have a state budget. I lost my job due to budget cuts. I wonder how much that stupid little survey cost them? Way more than I make in a year, I'd warrant. Do you imagine that anything is going to change if every person in the state admits that they hate their driver's license photo? I also wonder about the fact that I had my license renewed in May, the letter was dated August 5th, and I received it sometime in September. Say it with me people: 'Government waste!'

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Rites

Yesterday, Stacey came to visit us, the first time she's been up since she got back from Korea. She arrived at about the same time that Tim pulled in from work. It was confusion for a few moments, tears and gladness to have Stacey home, gasping at Tim's red face, windburnt from being out in the cold all day.

"I got you something," Tim said, reaching into his lunch box and pulling out a stone. He handed it to me, and I said, "Oh!" It was a plain river rock, but in an almost perfect heart shape.

"What?" said Stacey, not 'getting it'. And her father explained. I gave him a kiss as Stacey said, "Awwwwwww!"

We had a pleasant meal. Stacey wanted venison. That's not something that is on the Uncle Sam's menu. It's not a staple of the Korean diet either. I was glad to fix her something that probably reminded her a lot of home, and of her father. We ate, baked potatoes with sour cream, venison with onions and peppers and gravy, a huge salad, and we visited.

Later, Stacey and her father went down to get a movie while I cleared the table and washed dishes, thinking about it. Stacey left a year ago. Her father was a pretty quiet charactor. However, within a few days of her departure, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Two strong self sufficient people were blindsided. After the initial shock and faltering, I learned to turn to my husband. My husband learned to nurture. We are both a lot more demonstrative than we used to be. Since we don't know what tomorrow will bring, we are careful with our todays. I imagine that it is a bit of a surprise for Stacey to see her father so changed. It's a good thing though.

You know, I always thought we were a close couple who worked well together, a practical sort of a relationship. I really never doubted that. But it strikes me as ironic that after 11 years, the two have become as one, really and unbreakably truly. But it was a not a ceremony that did that. It was cancer.

Happy Story

Sometimes, it just seems like there is an awful lot of bad news in the world. I enjoy this blog. It is quiet and peaceable blog. It reads like windchimes sound. This story made me particularly happy. I've been back to look at the pictures several times. I like looking at that old dog's face, the transformation from the first picture to the last.

You know, I found a dog once. I chased him down with a bucket of food. I sat down on the ground, a few feet from the bucket and I talked on and on as the dog watched me warily. Finally hunger brought him in. I blabbed on as he ate. Finally, he stopped eating. He studied me closely. He came up to me and I continued to talk as we stared each other in the eye. I can tell you the exact moment that dog made the decision to trust me. He buried his head in my shoulder and made a strange whistling whimper. And when, I stood up and said, "Let's go home," he came along with no hesitation. On the drive home, I named him Buck. I have him still.