Monday, November 30, 2009

Vandals

I live in the country, but we have a tradition in a little town nearby. The local Lioness Club decorates some trees in a local park. There are two big trees that people can 'purchase' lights on to commemorate a loved one. For $25, you can purchase a little tree of lights with a sign in front giving the name of the person being honored. It's just a nice thing to do, and the little park is decorated for the holiday, and it gives people that little rosey glow. We have an official tree lighting ceremony the weekend after Thanksgiving. The scrolls with the names of the honored people are uncovered. Friend Tom is the MC. The girl scouts read a little Christmas story, the boy scouts pull the tarps from the scrolls, and then we all sing Christmas carols and retreat to the pavilion for hot chocolate and cookies.

This year was different. In our quiet little village vandals destroyed ten of the trees. Most shockingly, the children believed to have done it are very young. Two of them are in elementary school. And the adults there whispered about this. The fact that the mother is suspected to be a drug user, the fact that these very young kids are left to roam alone for most of the time, with no supervision at all. Stories about the poverty, unkempt and dirty children. What stuck in my mind is this: children normally are excited by Christmas. Wide eyed. The idea that children would lash out at that particular holiday was jarring to me, and I could not stop thinking about this. Long after Tim had fallen asleep, I thought about these kids. Their actions pretty much insure that the community will be watching these kids closely, suspiciously, waiting for them to do some other bad thing. These are kids that won't be given the benefit of the doubt, not again. And the 'why a Christmas display?' just kept niggling at me. Curled up, warm and drowsy next to my snoring Tim, suddenly my eyes popped open. A child would lash out at Christmas when they knew that it was all a bunch of bullshit. All the stories about Santa coming to leave presents for good little boys and girls...well, when you're poor, it does not matter how good you are, sometimes Santa doesn't come. Or if he does, you know that your gifts will be pretty sparse, no matter how good you've been, no matter how hard you've tried. Santa Claus, in this case, is no more reliable than their own mother. I laid there, viewing the holiday from the perspective of these children, and it made me very sad. By the time that morning came around, I had a plan. I talked to my Sunday School kids, and we made a plan to begin collecting for these kids, to give them Christmas. Just looking around my own house, I found two warm winter coats for the girls. Cara donated two hoodies that she scarcely wore because they were too large. We had children's books. I found teddy bears with the tags still attached at the Goodwill, and we bought them each a Christmas mug and packets of hot chocolate. We had games that the kids had received as gifts throughout the years, games that they already had. I had two duplicate kid's DVDs. Boxes of crayons bought and put away for company. A thrift store had a collection of CDs on sale that a young boy would think was cool. According to Cara, anyhow. I also found stockings for each of them, heavily ornamented and beaded stockings for the girls, just waiting to be stuffed. The whole family got involved, scouring the excesses of our own home, and coming up with an embarrassing pile of things that we had used little, or even not at all.

I'll take these things to Sunday school next week, and my kids will be excited by this. I am not sure what the rest of the church will donate, but they tend to be quite generous about things like this. My class will come to the church on Christmas eve, and we will wrap these things, and deliver them anonymously. The fastest runner will then ring the doorbell and run, and the rest of us will be waiting in my running car around the corner. Alex will leap in, and we will sneak back to the church.

Will it make a difference for these kids? I cannot tell you. But I know for sure that I could not live with my own conscience if I did not try, and it gratifies me to know that my class got so excited about this project that we failed to notice that we ran ten minutes late until a mother walked in. We can only try. That's all. We will see what God does with our efforts.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Traditions

Tomorrow morning is the first day of buck season. I don't hunt, but I have an important role to play. I whipped up a batch of cinnamon rolls, and they will be tucked into pockets of hunting jackets, along with baggies of cheese curds and salami and chocolate bars. I have the last of the turkey in the crockpot. I'm making a pot of turkey soup with wild rice for tomorrow, so that no matter when the weary and cold hunters return, they will have hot soup simmering, waiting to be ladled into a bowl, and served with homemade bread to dip.

Tim has never missed an opening day since he was 12, and I think that it is dear that forty years later, he will lay awake in the night, just as excited about all of this as he was when he was a kid. Dylan is staying home to hunt for the first time in 2 years, and Trevor is hunting for the first time in many years. The day has been spent getting the hunting clothing out and ready to go, spotting deer, and the retelling of hunting stories.

This is our family. These are our traditions. I think it's kind of cool.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Serendipity

Yeah, so Tim and I have been going to a lot of estate sales lately. That's the kind of folks we are. At one of them, there were a couple boxes of classical music CDs, all of it recorded in Vienna or Berlin or London or the like. Rich folks boggle my mind. These boxes of CDs were all mostly pretty much unopened. How to you justify spending money on a collection like that, and then not even listen to it? Well, I like Vivaldi, and I like some Mozart, and I knew that the kids' grandfather was coming and he is a huge fan of all classical music. I also knew that he was coming up on a hard anniversary, and thought these would be a welcome distraction, so I sorted through the boxes selecting my choices at 50 cents a pop. Surprisingly in the middle of all of this, I found Bruce Springsteen. Not new. I guess the old folks rocked, too. I can't call myself a fan of 'Broooooooooooooooooce'. He's kind of repetitive, sometimes, but he's got some good stuff, and at 50 cents, hey, I decided to go for it. Today, I'm got the urge to listen to some music, and pulled out Bruce, opened the case, popped it in, and guess what? The sound of Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band flooded the room. Man, I am grinning. I may be equivocable about Bruce, but I do love Bob Seger. That is just the most excellent mistake ever!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Chemo brain. I thought that I was getting better, but the night before Thanksgiving, I was sitting there after baking bread, pies, making the waldorf salad, pistachio salad, and assembling the sweet potato casserole. I just knew I was forgetting something. It finally came to me. I nearly forgot the cranberry sauce. I went out and made the sauce. The next day, I've got potatoes boiling, and I'm assembling the vegetable dishes, and my son in law mentions the year that he forgot to make the gravy and never realized until they all were sitting around the table. I gaped at him. God bless his heart! My giblets were in the fridge. I nearly forgot to make gravy. Worst part? I HAD A LIST! I was so flipping afraid to forget something, I had a list, and still managed to nearly forget two integral parts of the meal.

Last year's celebration was different. I'd had chemo the day before. The kids had prepared a lot of the meal. It was out of necessity, simpler. The pies were store bought. It was the first time that we had been all together since the diagnosis, and I think the kids were still very afraid.

With that poor spector of Thanksgivings past, I wanted this one to be a knock-your-socks-off meal. New recipes. I made careful lists, for shopping, for meal preparation. I wrote the new recipes down in my little notebook. Despite the near disasters, everything made it to the table, and it was good. We gave thanks, and we talked and talked and ate and ate and laughed and laughed. I wanted memories, for myself, for everyone around the table. I think that it happened. It was a Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving, and I found myself getting teary eyed at odd, private moments. Last year I did not know if I'd ever be able to give my family this gift again, and out of all the blessings that I counted yesterday, just the fact that I was back in the kitchen working at this meal made me more grateful than anyone at that table could have guessed.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Ya'll come!

The turkey is stuffed, the waldorf salad made, the bread baked, pies made. Dylan's particular favorite, pistachio salad is made and in the fridge. The sweet potatoes are in the oven. Tomorrow, I'll only have to reheat that. In the morning, I'll get up early, pop the turkey in at 7, and let it bake all day. The only thing left to do is to make the mashed potatoes, the dill peas w/ walnuts, a pan of corn, and whip up the gravy. I keep feeling as if I'm forgetting something, and unbelievably, sitting here, I realize that I have. I'm off to the kitchen to make my cranberry sauce. Geesh. How does a person forget cranberries?

*wanders off rolling eyes and muttering to herself*

Cara's home, Dylan will be enroute before too long. Brianna will be here tomorrow with her fiance, Mike will wander in at some point. Three generations will gather around the table, and we will be grateful for much. Whether you celebrate the day or not, let me wish you a happy Thanksgiving. I've got a lot of blessings to count and you all are a big blessing to me. I wish that you could all come to dinner tomorrow!

Just for Grins and Chuckles

funny pictures of cats with captions
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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

What Do You Say?

What do you say when it becomes evident that someone you care about has a drinking problem? A bad drinking problem? It is two AM. Our guest has not yet arrived. He missed his exit, drove three hours out of his way before he noticed, called from a bar in Pittsburgh. Backtracking, he wound up in a ditch out in the middle of no where. He doesn't want us to worry. A tow truck is on its way. I am worried though. It seems to me that his car is not the only thing that has veered off into the ditch. If I knew where he was, I would go get him. Lord knows he should not be driving. He does not have a cell phone. Gees. What a mess.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Eyes Wide Open

You know, Algernon had a post that knocked me on my duff. I actually took that lesson to church with me, to discuss with my kids. They have a fascination with the end times and Revelations. It's been a struggle for me, because I am not a Revelations kind of gal. I figure that the end of the world falls directly into God's responsibility, not mine, and so I don't give it a lot of thought. My responsibility is simply doing His will in the time that I have been placed in. Period.

But those kids are talkers, and the conversation eventually gets turned around and headed into that direction no matter what my carefully selected topic is. That darn Left Behind series has turned the apocalypse into wholesome family entertainment, and Nostradamus and Quetzalcoatl have only added fuel to the fire. But as usual, I digress. And as a side note, this is exactly how my classes always wind up in a discussion about the end of the world. Crap. I digress yet again.

Anyways, I finally decided that having their undivided attention was more important than staying in my own comfort zone, so a couple weeks ago, we discussed Jesus' description of the end times, a time that we are warned that we will be confronted by false prophets and liars. How do we tell the difference between a Godly person and a liar? For a class that has been sternly schooled in 'Thou shalt not judge,' the idea that I was asking them to do just that was astounding. They were intrigued that they might, one day, meet a false prophet face to face. How would they know? What were the warning signs? What about me? Am I a false prophet, a teacher who lies? Why? Tell me why you think that. So the debates have raged for a couple weeks. For these kids, debate in Sunday School is a new thing. They have come to my class from other classes where their little hands are folded on the table as they listen to someone tell them what the Bible passage means and then they do a craft. In my class, I expect them to figure it out, to come up with their own answers. They are not prepared to have a teacher tell them that she does not have all the answers, and has an aversion to crafts. They are not allowed to raise their hands. They are young adults now, I tell them. They are expected to listen when others speak, and when that person is done, they are welcome to speak their piece. And it works out pretty well. We sprawl around and have some great discussions. We have a pile of brightly colored flip flops. If people get off topic, I throw a flip flop at them, if I notice. Usually, sadly, I don't, but there is always a kid to gleefully point out that we've gotten off the topic.

In any case, Sunday I began with this: 'If you saw a man walking down the street wearing a tee that had a picture of our president on it and read 'Pray for our president. Psalm 109, vs. 8-9' what does that shirt say about that man? And they all decided that he was a holy man, a good person, a person who prays, a Christian, someone that they would be glad to spend more time with, etc. It entered none of their minds to look that verse up. They hunkered over their Bibles when I told them to look it up. They read it out loud. And slowly the scales fell from their eyes. For the very first time, I think that they got it. They finally understood what I was trying to say the previous week. Just because you know the Bible does not mean that you know God. And I told them that in Somalia this week, a divorced woman had been stoned to death for adultery as two hundred people watched. We talked about the dangers of religious fanatics who believe that somehow, God's judgement has become their right and responsibility. For the first time, I think that they saw how it could happen. Even here.

Busy

Today is more blood test, and another PET scan. I guess that at this point, I've rather lost faith in the PET scans. If they show something, it will not be specific. It will simply be another round of scans and testing. Tumor markers rising. This is an indicator. It is not conclusive. In the end, who knows? But I've got a batch of cooking to be done, and company coming in, and the kids coming home, and you know, really, I haven't got time to think about this crap right now.

And you know what?

Seems to me that this is a mighty fine way to live. Simply be too busy to worry about things like tumor markers and areas of activity. It is what it is, and I've got things to do.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Different

I've been trying to figure out why, suddenly, everything is different.

After an intense conversation with someone whose response to everything that I said was "That's not true..." or "That's where you're wrong...", it just came to me clearly. It doesn't matter. The relationship is broken and beyond fixing. My normal response to the conversation would have been trying to say the right thing, to find the magic words. I would have been upset. I would have cried. I would have agonized over the why and tried to defend myself. This time, I was simply sad. I tried. I can't. I'm done.

When you 'don't fit,' you move from the spot that you have been placed in, the corner that you were backed into, and you begin to wonder where you do fit, or if you fit anywhere at all. And cautiously, tentatively, you try on a pair of apple green pointy toed shoes, and like them. Or you try on a plain gray suit with a leather lapel, and discover that it fits like a glove, and that the fit of it turns you into something elegant. You look at yourself in a mirror, and are shocked to find that what looks back at you is not what you've been seeing for the past 52 years.

Or perhaps, you look at recipes on the internet and think, "Hey! I can do this," and without one doubt, you head to the kitchen to do just that, feeling creative and clever and accomplished. Maybe you buy a couple of bottles of wine for the meal for your guests, but after that pleasant evening, rediscover that, really, you like a glass of wine at night, talking with your beloved husband, just the two of you. And even though your husband is a tee-totaller, you resolve to keep a bottle of wine in the house always, because you can never tell when there will be something to celebrate.

Perhaps you are talking to a person dear to you, and she is talking about a friendship, and in your heart of heart, think, longingly, 'that is the kind of life that I want' and almost immediately realize that you too are capable of relationships just like that, because you are not what you've been told you are for all these many years. You are simply what you are. No better, no worse than any other person on this planet.

The realizations have come rushing in, one after another, this week. It is a time of discovery, of looking at myself with new eyes. And with each new thing that I learn about myself, my view of myself changes. I can't describe it really. It is sort of like wandering around in a heavy winter coat, intent on other tasks. In an absent minded way you realize that you are too warm, sweaty and uncomfortable. You shuck the oppressive thing, amazed that spring could have arrived without you even noticing. 'In the depths of winter, I learned that within me there lie an invincible spring.' (Camas)

My children are coming home this week, and a guest from Michigan. We have plans for cooking a great feast for Thanksgiving. There will be new recipes, and wine, and laughter. Tim and I will head a table filled with some of the people we love best in this world. Each of us, every last one of us, will fit perfectly.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Letter from Jesus

Oddly enough, I received this forward from someone that I have considered 'blocking'. We don't agree, politically, and she sends an enormous amount of mind sucking propaganda that shrills that the president is gonna take our guns or somesuch bull. Even though I have asked her to stop, I received an e-mail from her on Inauguration Day, bitter at this, the saddest day in the history of our nation. You get the gist, I'm sure. I received this from her, and I nearly deleted it without reading, as is my wont, but lo. It was good.

Without further ado, I present ~

Letter from Jesus about Christmas
Dear Children,
It has come to my attention that many you are upset that folks are taking My name out of the season. Maybe you've forgotten that I wasn't actually born during this time of the year and that it was some of your predecessors who decided to celebrate My birthday on what was actually a time of pagan festival. . . although I do appreciate being remembered anytime. How I personally feel about this celebration can probably be most easily understood by those of you who have been blessed with children of your own. I don't care what you call the day. If you want to celebrate My birth, just GET ALONG AND LOVE ONE ANOTHER. Now, having said that let Me go on. If it bothers you that the town in which you live doesn't allow a scene depicting My birth, then just get rid of a couple of Santas and snowmen and put in a small Nativity scene on your own front lawn. If all My followers did that there wouldn't be any need for such a scene on the town square because there would be many of them all around town. Stop worrying about the fact that people are calling the tree a holiday tree, instead of a Christmas tree. It was I who made all trees. You can remember Me anytime you see any tree. Decorate a grape vine if you wish: I actually spoke of that one in a teaching, explaining who I am in relation to you and what each of our tasks were. If you have forgotten that one, look up John 15: 1 - 8. If you want to give Me a present in remembrance of My birth here is my wish list. Choose something from it:
1. Instead of writing protest letters objecting to the way My birthday is being celebrated, write letters of love and hope to soldiers away from home. They are terribly afraid and lonely this time of year. I know, they tell Me all the time. USO - Wounded Warriors just to name two.
2. Visit someone in a nursing home. Not just during Christmas time, but all through the year. You don't have to know them personally. They just need to know that someone cares about them.
3. Instead of writing the president complaining about the wording on the cards his staff sends out this year, why don't you write and tell him that you'll be praying for him and his family? Then follow up. It will be nice hearing from you again.
4. Instead of giving your children a lot of gifts you can't afford and they don't need, spend time with them. Tell them the story of My birth, and why I came to live with you down here. Hold them in your arms and remind them that I love them.
5. Pick someone that has hurt you in the past and forgive him or her.
6. Did you know that someone in your town will attempt to take their own life this season because they feel so alone and hopeless? Since you don't know who that person is, try giving everyone you meet a warm smile; it could make the difference.
7. Instead of nit picking about what the retailer in your town calls the holiday, be patient with the people who work there. Give them a warm smile and a kind word. Even if they aren't allowed to wish you a "Merry Christmas" that doesn't keep you from wishing them one. Then stop shopping there on Sunday. If the store didn't make so much money on that day they'd close and let their employees spend the day at home with their families
8. If you really want to make a difference, support a missionary-- especially one who takes My love and Good News to those who have never heard My name.
9. Here's a good one. There are individuals and whole families in your town who not only will have no "Christmas" tree, but neither will they have any presents to give or receive. If you don't know them, buy some food and a few gifts and give them to the Salvation Army or some other charity which believes in Me and they will make the delivery for you. Most grocery stores have food packages for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
10. Finally, if you want to make a statement about your belief in and loyalty to Me, then behave like a Christian. Don't do things in secret that you wouldn't do in My presence. Let people know by your actions and words that you are one of mine.
Don't forget; I am God and can take care of Myself. Just love Me and do what I have told you to do. I'll take care of all the rest. Check out the list above and get to work; time is short. I'll help you, but the ball is now in your court. And do have a most blessed Christmas with all those whom you love and remember :
I LOVE YOU,
JESUS
*********************************************
I know that it is unrealistic. I know that there are some mighty hostile and judgemental Christians out there, but wouldn't it be nice if this went around the world, and the sniping. simply. stopped. If we could look at one another and not see our differences first? If we could simply join together to celebrate a holy day?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Cheap Entertainment

Alright, already. People sure get excited about shoes. These are the apple green pointy toed mules that I bought. I will be able to wear them in the spring. I have three outfits that they would go with.
I saw these, and liked them too.
This is more my usual type. Sensible low heeled things. Comfortable.
Will match with most anything.

I do most of my clothes shopping at thrift stores. A local store brings stuff in and then, after a certain length of time (usually at the end of the season), they are placed on racks and priced at 29 cents to move them out. I bought these shoes for 29 cents a pair. I also bought two dresses, 3 pairs of slacks, three shirts, two books and a set of espresso cups and saucers that were new, still in their box. Oh. And a long spring dress coat. I had a pleasant afternoon for $20.

Nice Day

I headed into town to have coffee with Brianna. She suggested a new coffee as I went up to order. I started to say, "You know, I'm a vanilla cappuccino kind of gal" but then I stopped. It's been a week of discovery about myself. I looked at her and said, "You know what? I'm going to try a new coffee." I did. It was good.

I returned a couple DVDs to the video store.

I also returned a stack of books that had been loaned to me last fall. I sat with a cup of tea, and talked some more. There is nothing nicer than good conversation and hearty laughter.

I came home, unloaded (and stacked) a truck load of firewood. The sweater I'd pulled on proved to be too heavy, so I shucked it, working in my shirtsleeves. I was sweaty by the time that I was done. Mighty peculiar weather we are having for November.

I finished putting away some things from the back deck, and then ambled in and whipped up a batch of pizza dough. I have the best recipe. 4 3/4 c. flour, 3 tsp. yeast, 1 tbls. rosemary olive oil and two cups of warm water. I mix the whole thing up with the Kitchenaid mixer while I put everything away and wash the dishes, then turn around, dump the dough on a floured surface and knead a little more flour in until it's how I like it, divide it in half and put half in a zip lock bag in the freezer for another day, and roll the other out. Slap in in a pan, let raise, bake and then top and finish baking. It's a great supper and quick.

After supper, I talked to one highly caffeinated daughter who was writing a paper she was stressing over, heading on a coffee date ("Who's Jim? What do you mean that it is not your first date? Oh, and I suggest decaf.") Then I curled up on the couch with a good book while Tim puttered on the computer.

It was a nice day, a quiet night, jampacked with pleasant things. Earlier, I had been talking to my aunt about how different I felt. That I couldn't explain really, but I just felt alive and good and free and unselfconscious. I said, "You know, I bought a couple bottles on wine, and it just occurred to me that you should always have a bottle of wine in the house. You just never know when you are going to have a reason to celebrate." And we laughed together. But I was right. Tonight, Mary called. She had a suspicious PET scan a couple weeks back. She had gone to Pittsburgh for a second opinion. I'd been thinking of her all day. Mary had good news from the doctors there. I had a glass of red wine and celebrated with my friend.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Grateful

I had to see the ever funny Dr. K. yesterday. He's a hoot. He wasn't sure why I was there, and truth be told, I wasn't all that sure either. Peg had called me to remind me of my appointment, and I was sure glad that she did because I did not have anything written down. I had no clue of it. Anyways, while we were blabbing, Dr. K said he heard a woman say that breast cancer had been a blessing. Yeah. That drew me up short. Here's what I think. Cancer sucks. However, while I grappled with the unpleasant reality of cancer, I was well blessed by the people around me, by God Himself. Out of a dark time came miracles. Miracles!

I am different today than I was a year ago. I am loved. When that realization sinks in, when you understand from a deep place inside, that you are loved, well, it makes a difference in how you live, how you interact with others. I love my husband better. He loves me better.I am a better mother, able to stand back and let my children live without a bunch of interference and advice from their mother. It brings me comfort to know that they will survive quite nicely without me. I am a better friend.

I love the details of living. It is the small stuff that enriches your life. It is the rosemary sprinkled on top of your fresh baked bread that adds that special touch. It is the vanilla in your oatmeal that makes all the difference. It is the magic of finding the perfect stocking stuffer for one of the kids, something that you know they will hang on to and think of you for. It is the little spontaneous chats among friends, the discovery of a tiny flower beneath the leaves, the way that a branch silouettes against a gray sky, or the view of one mountain feeding into another, to another, to another, to another. Laughter mixed with tears. An arm around you in the night when you wake. Thunder. The sound of the wind. Really, all those things were present in my life before cancer. I've always been a person who took great pleasure in the little things, but now these small pleasures have become my treasure.

I'm never going to call cancer a blessing, believe you me, but I am a blessed woman all the same.

Sensible

I did go back to get those shoes, but they were gone. Somebody else is stepping out in my shoes. *sigh* I tripped over my own practicality.

But browsing, I found a pair of black flats. I found a pair of navy blue pumps. Good sensible colors that match with anything. I looked at a pair of apple green mules, pointy toed. Who buys shoes like that? Why, could you even keep a pair of shoes like that on your feet?

Turns out that I buy shoes like that. And I've been walking around the house in them, and they stay on my feet just fine.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Poor Beast

Today, I stopped in to pick up a few groceries, and carrying the bag across the parking lot, I caught glimpse of movement out of the corner of my eye. On the bank behind the store, a deer moved slowly across the leafless hillside. I watched him moving in and out of the trees. The way that he held his head lead me to believe that it was a buck. It wasn't long before he had moved close enough for me to see that this was true. He had a lovely rack, and was at least an eight point, maybe even a 10 point, but he was limping badly. I saw that his rear leg was broken and it swung out awkwardly, as he stepped. He only had one antler...the other appeared to be broken off. This is the 'rut', and the bucks are after the does. They run alone, and once they are on the trail of a doe, they are wild and careless. I imagine this beast, driven by lust, had bolted in front of a car and got himself hit.

You know, I have never shot an animal in my life. I am not a hunter. Luckily, I don't have to be, because Tim is quite good at it, and we usually have at least a couple venison in the freezer every fall. I have to say though, watching this poor creature lurching and limping along, I wished for a gun. If I had one, I would have shot the beast myself.

Because I am a sap, there were tears.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Different

Something has happened. I don't know how to put words to it, exactly. Something has changed. When I walked out of the salon after my hair cut, I felt different. I felt good about myself. Usually, to put it bluntly, I don't.

I had company this week, and got the idea to put together an authentic Italian meal. I enjoyed preparing this meal. There was no nervousness that company was coming, and these were new recipes. I moved confidently around my kitchen, following the instructions, and never worried at all.

And then Cara came home, and we went shopping. I am a frugal person, and a careful shopper, especially now, but I saw a pair of high heeled shoes. Extremely high heeled shoes. Completely impractical for life in the woods. Despite that, I wanted them. I looked at those shoes, and I really longed to be a woman who stepped out in shoes like that. Even though they were a good bargain at a second hand store, even though they were my size, I could not bring myself to spend the money. Instead, I bought myself a pair of jeans.

But this morning when I was getting dressed for church, I put on a crisp white shirt. I caught sight of a scarf that BB had sent me last Christmas. I had never worn it. I had experimented with it, trying to cover my bald head, but I felt foolish and self conscious, and couldn't bring myself to wear it out. It hung in my closet and I admired it often. I liked the neutral color, and I liked the texture of it, but accepted the fact that I was not a woman who 'did' scarves. This morning, however, I took it out and I draped it across my shoulder. I liked the look, and I wore it. I was worship leader, and for the first time, I noticed that I was not nervous about standing before the church. I did my work, and I did not worry about how I sounded, or how I looked or any of it.

I cannot explain to you what has changed. I only know that it has. I also know that tomorrow, after my meeting and after my appointment, on the way home, I am stopping by the thrift store to take a second look at a pair of extremely high heels I saw. I have this certainty deep inside that I just may be, after all, a woman who steps out in shoes like those.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Domestic Goddess

I'm still job hunting, but have not had one call back. Not one. I am trying not to be discouraged about this. I know that after Thanksgiving, I can go back to my customer service job, if need be. (Dear God, please don't let need be...)

But today, I cooked. I had new recipes and I spent a pleasant afternoon chopping and mixing, cooking, listening to music. It felt luxurious to be able to do this. I am perfectly, perfectly happy in this quiet moment. I know that it will change. I know that I will be back to some sort of job after Thanksgiving (please let it be a pleasant one...) It just feels nice to move around my own kitchen in my bare feet, sipping wine, with the smells of rosemary, tarragon, basil and garlic swirling around me.

I'll be going back to work. I need the dough. But tomorrow, I will knead dough, and I will be perfectly content.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Fed

I'm getting ready for company tomorrow night. We'll have bruschetta with toasted bread and strombolis stuffed with sausage and pepperoni, peppers and onions and mushrooms and cheese. A pasta salad. The meal will be good, but even better will be the conversation around the table, the relaxed laughter and talking. We will all join together to encourage our friend Mary.

When everyone leaves, each in their own direction, my hope is that their hearts will be as full as their bellies.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Good Stuff

You know, Stevie made a comment on the last post. She said, "Congrats on all the good stuff...it's about time it happened for you." I love Stevie. But I really wanted to address this comment. I want to focus on the part 'it's about time it happened for you.' This past year has been quite an astonishing kick in the pants, and there were parts of it that were just downright awful. But the thing is, the good stuff? It's been happening right along. Really, truly, honest to goodness-ly. I have always considered myself a very blessed woman, and cancer did not change that. If I ever led anyone to believe anything else, I apologize, and I want to make it clear: the good stuff happens no matter what is going on in your life. If you don't believe me, stop what you are doing, right this moment. Look around yourself and begin to count your blessings. You'll see what I mean.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Charmed Life

You know what? Nice things have been happening to me lately.

Fer instance: I found a pair of shoes in the basement. I forgot about them entirely. They are a pair of brown suede scuffs with the gores on the side. They are very comfortable, like wearing slippers. I must have put them on to run outside and bring in a load of firewood, shucked them in the basement, and promptly forgot about them. I love those shoes. Don't ask me how a person forgets about her comfy shoes, but lo, they are now found, and my life is good.

And know what else happened today? I got my hair cut.

*waits expectantly*

What's up with you guys? This is my first real hair cut post chemo. I had too much hair. It was getting tufty and unruly. I GOT MY HAIR CUT!!!! And it is a nice cut. I like it. I feel stylish. I walked out of there feeling like a million dollars. Even better, I saw Laura from church. I grabbed her arm and whispered, "Laura! I just got my first hair cut." And she looked at me and said, "That's your real hair?!!!" Gaping, I said, "Well, yeah..." and she said, "Oh my gosh...all this time I thought you were still wearing your wig." Yeah. I was grinning.

And then I got home and know what else? There was a letter from the PA Treasury. The letter states that they have some money from 2003 that belongs to me. Certain that it was a big mistake, I called the toll free number, and was soon speaking to a nice lady. It's not a mistake. She's sending me the claim paperwork.

There was also another letter. From Verizon Wireless. It didn't take them 4 - 6 weeks to send me written verification that my non-existant cell phone account had been corrected after all. I was nearly speechless. It only took a week. I don't believe that I've ever had the opportunity to say 'Verizon' and 'efficient service' in the same sentence before. And it only took two days and three hours on the phone this time. Dang.

I'm leading a charmed life.

Passing the torch

Today after church, we had a birthday party to go to. It was Dalton's 11th birthday. He is my nephew Tom's boy. Tom and Carrie are in from Virginia, so everyone got together, bringing a dish to pass. We met at the home of Kristy and Mike and the party got under way quickly. Since the nieces and nephews have taken the Lord's admonition 'be fruitful and multiply' to heart, I was quickly up to my armpits in children. We heard the news that there will be even more of them at future family gatherings. I dandled babies, marvelled at the growth of the others, visited with the greatgrandparents of the whole herd of them. It was noisy and riotous, and I liked watching it, the easygoing way that everybody took charge of everybody else's kids, and babies passed easily from one hand to the next, the babies so used to it that they didn't even bother to put up a fuss.

You really see the circle of life displayed in all its glory at something like this. It seems like only yesterday that I was the young mother with the babies. Heck. It doesn't seem all that long ago that I was the kid sitting on the steps of my grandmother's basement with my own cousins. Now I am one of the 'old folks' at these shindigs.



I sat quietly rocking a baby, watching the hubbub contently, visiting and listening.

Where does the time go?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Kids

The kids are grown, and not so much in the area any more. I miss them. Yesterday, Bill had a post on his blog that brought tears to my eyes. I think that kids in little footed sleepers are just about the cutest thing on the face of the earth, even cuter than puppies and kittens.

My children have long outgrown the footed sleepers, and sometimes I get misty eyed remembering little voices, and the sweetness of children, the little voices, little scraps of songs, and conversations. Dylan had 'dandelion hair' that would poof up. Brianna had a tendency to make her own words. 'Forleft' was one of them. 'Forleft' was a marriage of words, used for the times when she forgot something and left it at home. It was forleft. I remember what a placid baby Cara was, and how I'd slice up peaches for her, and set them on the tray of her high chair while I cooked supper, and she'd happily sit there eating and smiling. These memories make me smile.

I think it is interesting that these are the sort of memories that spring forth when I start reminscing. I don't remember things like the time that Cara began to chant 'dog poop' in the middle of a sermon at church, or the fact that Dylan screamed from six weeks to six months, and no one could figure out why. I don't remember the time that Brianna learned a new word. Boogersnatcher. And she was so pleased with that word that she called every one boogersnatcher everywhere we went. Temper tantrums in public places. I don't remember the fighting over toys.

Edit after morning shower: Now that I'm thinking of it, allow me to add to my little list of things that don't come to memory right away ~ like the time a child forgot a toy for show and tell and improvised. The 'tell' was about her mother having her tubes tied. And there was the boy who, as soon as he turned 18 simply walked into the office at school, changed his home address to a PO box, thereby eliminating the fuss his mom put up everytime that she got a letter from the school. Those letters went to his mail box and he was thus assured that his mother never heard a discouraging word. And then there is the time... well... never mind. (*deep cleansing breath*) You know what? It's better that I remember the sweet little memories of them in their footed PJs.

Yep. Being a parent is not easy.

You know, I saw something that made me cheer. I was in the store and I heard a little kid screaming like there was no tomorrow. His mother told him that he didn't need whatever it was that he was after. He was hopping mad. "I want it! I want it!" He screamed long and loud, jumping up and down like a little Rumpelstiltskin. His mother placidly said, "You got a toy yesterday. You don't get a new toy every day." He said, "I don't like the toy I got yesterday." His mother said, "You played with it all day long." And she headed for the checkout line as he trailed behind her, screaming his head off in frustration. She quickly paid for her purchases and headed for the door, telling her angry boy, "Come on, we're leaving now," as he shrieked, "I'm not going until I get a toy." Without ever raising her voice, without showing any sign of anger, she simply said, "Well, I'm leaving now. Goodbye." And out the door she went. One wide eyed boy stood there, shocked silent for the moment. He then wailed "Waaaaaaaait!" and went out the automatic doors. His mother was there, and they had another bit of a squabble until he finally agreed to give her his hand as they went across the parking lot.

Everyone in that store watched this little drama unfold with some amount of amusement. Every single one of us had probably 'been there, done that', as the saying goes. I said, "You know, I have to say it did my heart good to see that. Usually, you see parents getting rattled and upset at the child, or worse yet, simply giving in and giving the child what he wants to shush him." And the crowded checkout line rumbled in agreement.

And suddenly, each of us wanted to rush after that mother to tell her 'Good job!'

I hope she reads blogs.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Major Praying

Sometimes we forget about the story behind the headlines. We do not have TV, so I follow the news about Ft. Hood online. I read an article about Major Malik Nidal Hasan. Turns out that he is still alive, although he was shot in the fracas. The immediate question is: 'What sort of a mind can justify this?' and I have been reading news reports for the answer to that question.

I had not thought of it, but the man had a family. His parents are dead, but when the media contacted his brother and told them what he was accused of, that brother fainted. His family (aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers) is trying to distance themselves from his actions, trying to make it clear that they are loyal Americans, and I find myself feeling really sorry for them. How horrible that must be for them. I'm sure that as Muslims, they must have already been dealing with some amount of hostility from stereotyping bigots. And now, one of their own stands accused of the most heinous crime ever to occur on a military base. They are caught in the white hot glare of the media spotlight. The suspicious eyes of a nation fix upon them. They did not bring this attention on themselves, and they will not be able to make it go away. I imagine the terrified eyes of a deer in the headlights, and I find myself praying for these people, the victims behind the headlines, just as I am praying for the victims of the shooting. Because I am a poor Christian, I cannot yet bring myself to pray for the Major.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Speechless x 3.

Edit: I didn't think about this not being front line news everywhere. At 1:30 this afternoon, there was an incident at Ft. Hood. 12 people dead, 31 injured at present count. One of the alleged shooters is Maj. Malik Nadal Hasan, a psychiatrist, a military doctor. The office of Sen. Kay Hutchison (Tx) reported that Hasan was upset about his upcoming deployment to Iraq. Two other suspects were captured.

Stacey is at Ft. Hood. Stacey is fine. She just in-processed. These troops were being outprocessed. One of the shooters was a Major?!!!!! Jeepers. 12 dead and 31 injured. Boggles the mind. For the third time in one week, I am speechless.

Don't get all excited people.

It's not bound to last long.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Begins with a V, Rhymes with Horizon

I got up this morning and contacted the company who will not be named. The number that I was given that was supposed to connect me to their In House Fraud department ('Um...I really don't think this is fraud. I believe that you folks made a mistake.') Anyways I called the number, the one that I had verified before hanging up, and immediately was speaking to a very nice lady. Unfortunately, she worked for the Indiana Wesleyan State University Off-Campus Library. Thinking I had certainly misdialed, I verified the number. I dialed the right number. 'Huh,' I said. 'This is the number that Verizon gave me,' and she said, 'Don't I know it. We get a lot of calls for Verizon here.' Since she was going to be no help to me about my non-existant wireless account, I bid her good day, and redialed Verizon's number. I sat through a number of assurances of how important I was to them, and that someone would be right with me, and then, lo, somebody was. And she was nice, and she was apologetic, and she transferred me to the good folks that I needed to talk to, In House Recovery, after giving me their number, just in case we got disconnected. I verified the number and waited. And my call went to a big call center. I could hear everyone talking. I cannot tell you how many times I heard, 'I do apologize for this.' However, nobody said that directly to me. However, just hearing it said, over and over, made me a little bit hopeful. Surely someone would be able to fix this situation. Surely someone would tell me, 'I do apologize for this.' I waited, patiently, calling 'helllooooooo?' into the phone at fairly regular intervals. Finally I heard a voice say, ' Okay...' and then the phone was disconnected. My dander was up at that point. I called the number I had been given. Twice. I was not granted access to a live operator because I had no open account with them.

I called back to the original Verizon Wireless (oh wait...did I say that outloud?) number and spoke to a very brusque young man. I got brusque right back. His advice to me was that I needed to call the collection agency and straighten it out with them. "No. No I don't," I said. "how many times a day to they speak to bad debts who claim that they don't owe money? I prefer to straighten the problem out with the folks that turned me over to them. You made the mistake. You fix it.' The young man snottily told me that if I disputed with IC System that they had an 'inside line' and would be able to straighten things out with Verizon (oops.) I pointed out that I had my land line and my dsl through his company, and that I was a customer, and that I felt that Verizon's (dammit) motivation to get this resolved quickly might be just a bit greater than a fly by night debt collection place. I also pointed out that, "By God, you are the most exasperating company to deal with when there is a problem, because it is never handled in one call. If this is not resolved by the end of my conversation with you, we will find a new phone company, and we will find a new internet service carrier." He suggested that I call the In House Recovery like I'd been instructed. I suggested that he connect me to an operator so that I could avoid the automated system. He told me he couldn't. I told him I wished to speak with his supervisor. He said 'Let me work on this...' and I was back on hold, listening to repeated assurances that I was most important to Verizon (sorry). Several minutes later, Mr. Snotty had figured out how to connect me to In House Recovery. Daniel told me that the issue was taken care of, the debt removed. I asked for an explanation of how this had happened to begin with. How did my name get in their files? What was the bill for? And he brusquely told me that it had been taken care of, repeatedly. I took down his operator number and name and he told me that I would receive something in writing. He said, 'Be aware this might take 4 - 6 weeks.' Inside, I thought, 'There'd be hell to pay if my payment took 4 - 6 weeks.'

So, that's how it went. The situation is resolved, supposedly, but no one has offered any explanation. If I had a wireless cell phone account, I'd be checking that bill carefully. And if any of you see my name listed on your charges, give me a call. On my land line. You'll have to. We don't have, nor have we ever had, a Verizon cell phone.

Now. If you will excuse me, I've got a bunch of raking to do. I seem to get more of it done when I'm mad as all get out. I guess that's one thing I can thank Verizon for.

Merry Pre-Christmas

Yesterday, Cara left to head back to college right after our cappucino and bagel. The house seemed empty. Well. It was. Just me and the dog. I went out to rake leaves. There are tons of them, and they seemed to all drop at once. I have raked six truck loads of leaves from the front yard, but still huge amounts of leaves remain. In the brisk wind, I raked and I loaded, and kept an eye on the dog who was looking for an opportunity to escape my watchful eye and have himself another good roll.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, a wind picked up, and began to spin, like a miniature tornado. Leaves whirled and spun clear up to the sky, taller than the house, and this funnel of leaves danced across the yard. I thought of Clement Moore. 'As dry leaves before the wild hurricane fly, when they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky...' I finished raking seeing how much of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas' that I could remember by heart.

Christmas started creeping in to my consciousness well before Halloween. I was surprised to walk into the local Lowe's and find their Christmas trees display just a few feet from their animatronic lifesize Halloween figures. Red eyes and maniacal laughter and twinkling pre-lit Christmas trees, some musical and playing 'Silent Night'. Call me old fashioned, but really, those two images kind of clash in my mind. It becomes kind of jarring. And it's not just Lowes. I bought Christmas cards the first week of October. Yes. I realize the irony of it...purchasing the cards simply feeds the preholiday frenzy.

Today, the incomparable Rhubarb has a poem on her website.


Already?!

You better watch out, you better not cry,
You better not pout I’m telling you why:
The Christmas hype will take you right down.
Look at the calendar, go on check it twice
You know you are right
it’s the date not your eyesight’s the first week in November, right now.
Westfield are quite sneaky, they get you by surprise
they have up all their strings and things to make you spend and buy – Oh!
Oh, you better watch out!
You better not cry.
Get your credit card out I’m telling you why:
Santa Claus is coming to town.
Yeah you better watch out,
don’t think you’re immune,
Another few minutes you’ll be humming this tune
The economy boost is coming to town.
Shelves are stocked with tinsel, I know it’s early too
Next year I hear the Santa hype well begin somewhere in June.
Oh, you better watch out! I think I might cry,
I am sure we just had the Easter Bunny hop by
How can Santa Claus be coming to town?
Marketers are quite sneaky, subliminal messages you can’t see
ads and banners and discounts and things that make you think ‘buy me!’ - Oh!
Oh, you better watch out! You better not cry.Get your credit card out I’m telling you why:
Santa Claus is coming to town.
Santa Claus is coming to town

I tried to sing this to myself, and I remember part of the tune, but not all of it. I betcha that will change in just a few weeks.

Merry pre-Christmas...

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Madder than a Wet Hen

Okay. I have been on the phone for forty five minutes. I have gotten no where.
NO WHERE!

I have been turned over to a debt collector by a wireless phone company which shall remain nameless, except to say that their name begins with a V and rhymes with 'horizon'. For $15.52. The most astonishing thing about this is that not only have I never received a bill from them, the fact is, I don't have a wireless account. I don't have a cell phone!!!!!!!! Tim and I share a pre-paid track phone which we buy a phone card for, but we don't use a cell enough to warrant going whole hog, living in an area where reception is an issue. The name on this account is listed as my own, and the fact is, I have never had an account with them. Neither has Tim. Has to be an error. An error that I am playing hell trying to get corrected. After forty five minutes, four phone calls, waiting on hold for an interminable amount of time, what I discovered is that the people that I need to speak with are gone for the day. I need to call back tomorrow. I explained that since this is undoubtedly a mistake, I think they need to call me. They won't.

Holy cow. It takes quite a bit to get me good and fired up, but by george, I'm seeing

red

right this stinking minute. I've never been turned over to a collection agency in my life.


*grumble, fume, rant*

Tuesday

Last night, we went to see a performance of Julius Caesar, put on by a professional group of actors. Cara had come home from college to see it with Tim and I. The Library Theater is from 1883, and it has been restored. It was there that I saw my first theater movie, as a child. It was 'Peter Pan', and not only was it the first movie I'd ever seen in a theater, it was the first time that my siblings and I had been dropped off in downtown Warren (pop. maybe 25,000), on our own in the big city. Heady stuff for a kid living on a dirt road out in the middle of nowhere.

Cara recited Roman history as we waited for the play to begin, and really, it was all very interesting to me. She loves her major, and can really hold forth. When the play began, I had trouble hearing at first, my hearing damaged by years of listening to loud rock and roll, no doubt. But my ears adjusted, and then I struggled with the words themselves. Gradually, even that smoothed out as slowly as the lessons from Mr. Miller's eighth grade classroom came to mind. My mind swung easily from the theater I sat in to a classroom I once sat in, with a wooden desk and blackboards that were black not green, big wooden unscreened windows that flung open and were propped open with sticks kept there for that purpose, stray breezes sending our papers flying and rattling the big green shades on rollers. A stray thought occurs...does anyone else remembers the smell of freshly copied papers still warm from the xerox machine?

It was a pleasant evening. I visited easily with the people present, but my mind roamed freely to other places, and to other times, and to other faces.

This morning, Cara and I had coffee and watched 'World' and 'To the Contrary' while folding her laundry and then she got in her little car and headed back off to college with her clean clothes, and the 1935 college textbook 'Ancient History' that I discovered at an estate sale.

Mondays, no matter how monday-ish, are almost always followed by Tuesdays.

*sigh of relief*

Monday, November 2, 2009

Monday, All Day

I had a Monday yesterday. I had some bloodwork to be done at the lab. Being a person who likes to be efficient, I assembled a small list of errands to be run while I was down town. I had my list and my lab work sitting on the table when I got up. At a little past four. 'Are you nuts?' you ask. Well. No. I simply forgot to set my own alarm clock back, although I'd changed all the other clocks. By the time I figured it out, there was no sense in going back to bed. I got my shower, and packed Tim's lunch.

I headed out the door at just past seven. I wanted to get the lab visit over early. There were no instructions with the paperwork. Some lab work requires you to fast. I did not want to eat and find out after the fact that I shouldn't have eaten. I skipped my morning 'two cups' as well.

On the way off the hill, I stopped at the local Walmart to drop off two tires to be mounted on two rims. I was just going to drop them off, but by the time the paperwork was complete, the tired on the rims had been removed, and the friendly folks told me they'd be ready in ten minutes. Might as well stay around for that. I roamed the store, and came back only to find that those tires couldn't be mounted on those rims. Size difference. Tim's never made a mistake like that before.

I went to pay for the work they had done and discovered that my wallet was not in my purse. With a sickening feeling, I remembered...I made a quick run into town for something on Friday. I had taken my wallet from my purse and stuffed it in my coat pocket. I had not put it back.

I left the store, and came home for my wallet.

I went back to the store, and paid for the service, and they loaded my tires and rims back into the truck.

By then, it is nearly 9, and I'm hungry, and have a headache from missing my morning caffeine. I headed over to the hospital and discovered that my bloodwork did not need me to fast. Natch. But I got it done, headed out and I stopped and got myself a cup of coffee. I got the bright idea to grab one and deliver it to Mary working away at the hospital. Carrying my two cups of coffee to the third floor, I found out that Mary had called in sick today.

I headed back downstairs, hitting my own caffeine hard.

I put the extra cup in the cup holder and head off to errand number two. Turning a corner, the cup sails out of the cup holder, hits the floor of the truck. The lid pops off immediately, sending most of a $4. coffee spewing all over the floor. This causes me to say 'Dammit!' Several times.

The tenant I was trying to meet was gone by the time I got there.

I came home and vented my spleen by raking the leaves at an aggravated pace, grumbling to myself. My dog took advantage of my preoccupied state to roll in something.

I bathe the dog. He is not happy, because he just had a bath Friday. I'm not happy, because I just gave him a bath on Friday.

Did you ever have a Monday that was just a bit more monday-ish than most?

Edit: This was supposed to be tomorrow's post. I forgot to change the post options. *sigh*

Still Speechless

Actually, Quid was wrong. There is quite a bit online about the military rape statistics. It has been covered on the national news. Google 'rape statistics in the US military' and you'll be reading all day. The statistics are Army wide, but the actual statistic is 1 in 3 women will be sexually assaulted. Not all sexual assaults are actual rapes. This makes me feel some better, but not much. What does not make me feel better at all is this fact: In order to make quotas, the military is issuing 'moral waivers' in some cases. This allows a person who has been convicted of a sexual assault on the outside to enlist in the army.

When I was in the Army nearly twenty five years ago, there were soldiers who were given the choice: join the Army or go to jail. I met one of those fellows close up and personal in Korea. I was not raped, but it was terrifying. (I was asleep in my bed. My roommate gave the key to our room to the guy so that he could 'come in and get something'.) It was scary. I know that I talked about it openly. I reported it to the CQ. No action was taken, not against my roommate. Not against the man. Somewhere in a CQ log, the incident was reported. I don't remember being particularly outraged about this fact at the time. It was an acceptance to how things were. It had already happened twice before at AIT. In one case, an instructor at Ft. Sam Houston followed me into a women's room. In another case, assigned to the motor pool for detail, I was given the job of polishing an officer's military vehicle. There I met the officer's driver. In those days, the best thing that you could do for yourself was to literally become 'one of the guys'. I was a very tough cookie who chose her friends carefully. While I was still in the military, the 'jail or Uncle Sam' program was discontinued. I guess that I am shocked that these sorts of unsavory characters are again being allowed into the military, because the military has quotas to fill.

The other thing, sadly, is that out of the twenty two hundred rape cases the Army prosecuted, only 181 of the cases resulted in a guilty verdict. Reading on some of these cases was horrifying. It seemed as if, sometimes, the 'not guilty' verdict was incomprehensible. I'm not all that confident that the military will 'fix' this problem. It would first have to be acknowledged.