Friday, April 30, 2010

What We've Learned

Not everyone reads this blog because they like me. Some read it for ammunition. (Grab that ammunition! Load! Ready! Aim! Fire!) Why do I continue to put it out there? (Or phrased in the negative way: 'She just puts it all out there. Call me old fashioned, but I just don't think that's right!') So why do I? Because I am not a perfect person. Because I fall down on a diet, and get back up. Because sometimes marriages go through rough times. Because sometimes people get cancer and struggle to be positive. Or people face unemployment as best they can. Because going back to school is an option, even if you are old and gray-headed. Because life is beautiful, and it is hard, and it is funny, and it is rewarding, and it is a rut, and it is a journey. All of those things. Mostly, though, because people have been kind enough to share their stories with me, and I have been encouraged and because I think that I can be encouraging too.

Anyways, in the most recent struggle, Tim and I learned a great deal about ourselves and about our marriage, and about each other. Do not think that I am exaggerating. We teetered on the edge of separation for a couple weeks. What we learned about each other is that there is enough love there that even then what was most important to us was making sure that the other would be okay. We were very civil. We were kind. We listened to one another. We did not throw our hands up in the air and head off to seek the true love we deserved. We did not shame the other. We told very few people what was going on. The people we did tell prayed, because they love us both. They supported us. Tim and I struggled and it was an awful time. We're moving away from the abyss. We scared ourselves though. Wide-eyed, we are gasping for breath, shaken.

What we've learned though is this: that every marriage has a breaking point. It is our responsibility, each of us, to know what that breaking point is, and then to stay the heck away from it, to never go near it. We have learned that we actually have very good communication skills, both of us. We've learned that our love has a very solid foundation. I've learned that my cancer has profoundly changed Tim. Me. Our marriage. Mostly, though, what I've learned is that although my marriage is a good one, a strong one, I can never, ever allow myself to believe that divorce cannot happen to us. It could. We are both now aware that we are not invincible.

Things are settling down, but hard times are hard times. Working the bugs out in anything is a pain in the behind. However, we move tentatively back into each other's arms, and the music begins again. The rhythm is just a little bit different so our dancing is sort of awkward, but we hold each other more tightly, looking into each other's eyes for reassurance. We listen carefully, mindful of where we are stepping. Can we learn this dance? We're pretty sure that we can. We are giving it our very best efforts.

For anyone out there who is having a hard time, I hope this is encouraging. For the people looking for ammunition, there it is. I've put it all out there again. Fire away. You're not hitting anything anyway.

Cancer Side Effect

Forgive me for not posting the Friday Weight Loss. I decided not to. I don't need one more thing to feel badly about. I ate three candy bars this week. *sigh* When the going gets tough, the tough eat chocolate. Or something. I'm pretty sure that the weight loss is zero. I decided to cut myself a break. I've gone back to my SlimFast (chocolate). I'm back on the horse, and will resume the weigh-ins next week.

I was driving to school yesterday morning and I heard Marcia Cross doing an advertisement for migraine headaches, urging all people who suffer from headaches to be medically diagnosed because there were treatments for migraine. Migraines were a terrible problem for me. They would last for a week sometimes, and probably two or three times a year, I'd get such a severe one that it would require a shot. However, I have not had a migraine since the first chemo. That was a full year and a half ago. I've had minor headaches from, say, not getting my morning caffeine (Addicted? No. Why do you ask?) or when I read too much, but they are minor things that I can quickly fix. I do not believe that I have resorted to even taking an aspirin for them.

That just amazes me.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Wordl Waits

Over at Bill's, he posted a picture of his son, Caleb looking out the window. Bill wondered what he was looking at, just staring out the window like he was. I can't be sure, because I don't know Caleb, but if it were one of mine, it would be that daydream-y itchy feet sort of a thing going on. I was working on the computer when I received an instant message from Cara. I responded with "So, what are you doing?" and she answered that she was pricing train fares. "To where?" I asked, and she began to list places. I made a joking comment and received the reply. "There's a whole wide wordl out there, and I'm stuck here." I could almost hear the wail. In her agitation, she misspelled world, and I messaged back using the same spelling: "Be patient. The whole wide wordl will wait, just as its waited right along." And she wailed (in brief blasts of instant messaging) her doubts that while the wordl would wait, she was not sure that she could wait to see the wordl. She spoke in complete confidence that I could not possibly understand her impatience. That made me LOL, as they say. I messaged back. "Of course, I understand. I had the same itchy feet when I was young. Sometimes, I still do." I pointed out the the wordl had waited on me. The wordl would be waiting for her. I could have told her about the times that I climbed to the top of the powerline and daydreamed off, wondering what lay beyond the next mountain, and the next, and the next, and the next. Wishing that I could see. Or the times that I flipped through the National Geographic reading about faraway places, and hungering to see them. Or even listening to distant crackly radio stations in the dark, wondering about other people who listened to those stations without static, about the people who were so close that they could hear them clearly. What was it like to live in a big city? And I'd be daydreaming. Now I am old. I have been other places. I have lived in big cities. Now I live in the woods, and I am content. I still have places that I want to see. Things that I want to do. I'm not impatient though. I know that those things will come in their own good time. I know that the wordl will wait. It was a nice conversation, and it brought back pleasant rememberings.

So, while I can't be sure, Bill, you might just want to ask Caleb what he's thinking. It might open the door to a fine and pleasant conversation.

The Stuff of Life

Lately, it just seems like very nice things have been happening for me. One day I went out to get the mail, and there waiting for me was a package from WhiteStone, a book that was perfect for the time that I find myself in. It was short, focused, profound. It helped. In that same mail delivery was an encouraging word from one of my role models at church. She is quiet, but I have watched her as she deals with the death of her husband after a long and happy marriage. I think that it is a remarkable testimony to your faith when you can take a deep breath, dry your eyes, and continue to do God's work. There was not one hint of bitterness to her. Anyways, she'd noticed that I was quieter than usual at church one Sunday, and sent me an encouraging note. I was encouraged. We received an invitation to the first birthday party for one of the newest members of our family. That was nice too, being a part of things. Later on that same week, we were invited to another party. I was invited to attend a seminar for writers. It is remarkable to me that someone considers me a writer, even still. Someone gave Tim a book for me. It was a book to encourage writers. My editor e-mailed me to say that my recent column made him cry. (Behold the power of words.) Someone worked behind the scenes to help me negotiate the unfamiliar financial aid stuff. People have e-mailed with scholarship opportunities. A chance meeting with an old acquaintance at the store gave a new perspective on an old problem. We were given tickets for a night out and had a good time with good friends. I've been quietly envying Mr. M's white violets...and then find a mess of them growing in the back yard of one of the rentals. What a thrill that was! They were not there last year, of that I am certain. I hauled a lot of brick from that yard, and I would have noticed them. The list goes on and on. It just seems like the positive affirmations are coming from all directions. I am not looking for them, I am not seeking them out, but it just seems as if I am being strengthened and encouraged at every turn. This is a hard time for us, but we are not overwhelmed. It's a pretty amazing time.

I've been thinking a lot about the fact that when it is all said and done, it is the smallest things that make the biggest difference in a life. White violets. Good friends. An encouraging word. An invitation to celebrate. The stuff of life.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Perspective

I was driving to Mary's house today. She and Danny are moving into a smaller home. Anyway, I passed a gaggle of Amish children, presumably heading towards school. They were walking at the side of the road, the girls all together in their long wool capes and bonnets, the little boys in their dark jackets and broad brimmed hats. They looked at me and I waved.

You know, they live in the same county that I do. They see the same flowers that I do, and the same trees and the same view. They just see it through different eyes. And I started thinking about that, how everybody views the world through their own eyes. We all live in the same world, but we all see it differently.

I don't know what it means. I was just thinking about it.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Did my Heart Good.

Mr. B. is in the hospital. Tim and I stopped over to see him, with a card that reminded him that 'ye are worth many sparrows'. We had a small ceramic sparrow for him. When we got to his room, he was sound asleep. He looked so weary (even asleep) that we left the card and bird where he would find it and crept back out.

We stopped to pick up supplies at the store. I am helping Mary paint ceilings tomorrow and so we made a stop at one of the houses to pick up painting supplies. It's kind of handy having all this stuff on hand.

By the time we got home, there was a message on the machine. It was Mr. B. to let us know that he 'could just pound us' for not waking him up. He sounded so outraged, that it made me laugh out loud. His voice was tired, but he sounded just like himself, and it did my heart good to hear it. I'll stop by and see him tomorrow.

Huh.

Tim was reading the local job postings. My college is looking for a psychology teacher.

Late edit: I do not know that it's MY psychology teacher. Just think it is interesting.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Operation Bunny

'Operation Bunny' was a complete success. No jobs were lost, no animals were harmed in the covert mission. Tim took the smaller trap in and set it for them. M. just e-mailed me to say that he had been caught and swiftly relocated to a back yard.

The story behind the story? Tragic lawn mowing accident. One bunny remained. At the end of the day, he was rescued and brought in for the night. He showed his gratitude by leaping from the box and leading his rescuers on a merry chase.

I cannot tell you how many times this little adventure made me smile!

Just Wondering

It's a quiet and rainy morning here. We needed the rain, so I'm not complaining. I'm sitting here in my jammies, finishing my usual second cup of coffee. I've got to get started on this house. I've got a busy week coming, helping Mary and Danny move. I have a couple tests this week. I'm on the downhill side of school. My classes end the second week of May. I have finals coming up. I'm still straight A, as far as I know. Wouldn't that be something to wind up with straight A's for my first semester?

I'm ready for school to be over. I am taking a pretty intense (from everything that I hear) summer course, but just the one course. I've got some scholarship forms to fill out today. Cara will be coming home for a month, but then she is headed back out. She is working with Upward Bound for the summer. She had a free day, so she decided to bring home a carload of stuff. She is ready for school to be done too.

Tim thinks the interview went well. We'll see what happens this week.

This week will be a toughy for us on a personal level, so all you praying people? Pray.

Last week at church, I was worship leader, and when we did the sharing of our joys and concerns, Mr. B shared the latest on his recently diagnosed lung cancer. Then there was an outpouring of concerns. Pray for this person, who has cancer. So-and-so who has cancer. Three year old nephews, with cancer. Cousins. Brother-in-laws. Fathers. Mothers. I wrote the names down as people offered them up, and I was just really struck by the sheer number of these requests. I feel like I'm supposed to be doing something, but I don't know what it is. I'm a sap anyway, but add to that a week of personal issues and a euthanized dog, well, I was a wee bit more emotional than usual even. It was hard not to be teary eyed about all those names. Yesterday, back at church, I saw Mr. B and went to him. It shocked me to see his gray pallor. He admitted that he was having trouble with shortness of breath. He had his medport put in, and he begins chemo this week. Three times a week. He's having chemo three times a week. I cannot imagine. I tried to be encouraging, but on the inside, I was aghast. Three times a week! Holy cow. I pointed out that he was no less stubborn than I was. I assured him that he was tough enough to take it. Then I got off by myself and let the tears fly a minute.

We all operate in our own little corner of our world. We try to make a difference where we are, bloom where we are planted so to speak. I'd like to think that I make a difference, but it's hard to tell. There are people who seem to accomplish a lot more than I do. There are also people who accomplish a lot less. I write a column, and I write this blog, and people are encouraged by it, or interested in it, or entertained by it. There are some who simply use it as another way to criticize. I have a circle of friends and I am glad to have them, but it seems like we move in and out of each other's lives. This makes me doubt the importance of any difference I can possibly be making. I saw new Mary's aunt in the store yesterday and realized that it has been some time since I've had a chance to talk to her. How do we lose track of people like that? Do you ever think about it? How it will end? When we are gone, will our absence be noticed, or will we simply disappear with no trace to mark that we were ever there at all?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

My Saturday.

I worked today, and it was a fun day. Busy. Tim was waiting for me when I got off. He found a pair of lamps in an antique shop that he wanted me to take a look at. I went along with him. We really don't need lamps. They were ceramic with gilt and burgundy and had who appeared to be Martha Washington on them. "What do you think?" he asked. "I think," I said carefully, "that I'm really, reeeeeeeally glad that you asked my opinion before buying them."

And then we stopped into a local place of business that shall remain nameless. The woman asked me if I knew where she could borrow a live trap. "A smaller one than this," she said indicating a trap that really could have held an entire family of skunks. "Good grief," I said. "What are you trying to catch?" And she frantically shushed me and whispered, "A baby bunny." Dead silence. We were standing on the second floor of a business. "Um. How did a baby bunny end up here?" And I can't relate the story, but it is really hilarious, and the idea of a baby bunny being loose here makes me laugh everytime that I think of it. Really. M? I love you dearly. I feel like I'm involved in a top secret mission here. This is great!

When we got home, we had received a call. We were treated to a night out. We saw a band called Seven Bridges Band. There is something about being at a concert where you can sing along with virtually every song. You can't help but walk out of there into the night with a reminiscing sort of smile on your face. Thank you, Kathy and Art.

Actually, The Seven Bridges Road is my favorite Eagles song. I leave you with a video for comparison purposes. The band did a good job.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Friday Weigh In, Additional Thoughts on Nothing.

Well, first things first. I have gained a pound.
*blink*
That's the first time that this has happened, but I must go back. I have only lost 16 pounds for the year. Man. I did so hate to do that.

Remember that guy who slogs across the highway, again and again and again, to buy handsful of scratch off lottery tickets? He hit it for a thousand dollars on Friday. He said that he'd also won big at the K-mart, big enough that they could not cash his ticket there. He had to send it in to Harrisburg and wait for the money to come from the state. He said happily that he wins $4000 a month in the lottery. Alyssa and I looked at each other after he left. "Can you imagine how much he spends if he's winning $4000 a month?" Amazing. It truly had not even occured to me that he was walking across the highway to other places besides our own fine establishment.

You know, I posted on the Tea Party, providing a link to Wasilla Bill's post on the activities there. I'm doing it again. I've gone back to that post again and again for the comments. I have to say that reading them made me proud. Yeah. We have our radicals. Folks who run around running their mouths, spouting lies and distortions and angry rhetoric. Some of them commented. What I loved is that people spoke back to them. You can see that reason carried the day, that reason triumphed over rhetoric. It was good to see.

I've been having a rough time lately, and you all have been great. Tim and I will be okay. Backing away from that precipice, we are wide eyed and sweaty, breathing a little heavily. We scared ourselves, badly. But we do love each other a great deal. It's interesting to me that even at the worst, when we were considering a separation, we spoke calmly and reasonably. We were not shouting. We were concerned for the wellbeing of the other. It is not what either of us wanted. Someone suggested that I might want to seek solace from another woman who is going through a divorce. "She would understand," I was told. Said woman is angry, spewing venom, very bitter. It made me shiver a little. "No," I said. "I don't think she would." But thanks for your comments. I can't say for sure how this will all work out, but I know that Tim is a good person. I know that I'm a good person. I know that we love each other. I know that we love God. The idea that it might not be enough is mind boggling to me.

I've been struck lately about the amount of niceness in this world. Mrs. L, from church, sent me a lovely card of encouragement. I haven't shared a lot of what is going on, but she noticed right away that I was not as chirpy as usual. A lady at college reads my columns. Her mother clips them out and sends them to her, which makes her laugh, because she lives in the same town, about three minutes from her. When I walked into her office, she recognized my name, and she has taken a special interest in my situation, and has been working quietly behind the scenes on my behalf. That is encouraging too. I look around at all the good people in my life, on the fringes of my life, and I realize that really, I'm a very lucky person.

There's more, but my husband has a job interview at nine, just down the road from the college. I'm going along, because I have some paperwork to drop off at school.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A Post about Nothing

It's been a rough couple months here. Lots of things going on. It's been wonderful. It's been stressful. It's been busy. It's been just a trifle chaotic at times. When life gets rough, the last thing that you expect to happen is to hit a rough patch in your marriage. I guess that because Tim and I disagree so rarely, it comes as a double shock to me. We were walking along fine, and then suddenly, we hit a slippery place, and arms flailing, we sought to save ourselves. We've been in the throes of this for some time now. It peaked a couple weeks ago.

I remember once reading, (I think) over at Redlefty's blog, and we talked about how in any marriage, there's 'a line that shall not be crossed'. And because we love the other, we do not cross that. We do not want to run the risk of those terrible consequences. Redlefty also commented that as the years go by, that line gets pushed back, further and further. The love grows so deep that there is very little that will bring you up to that line. That's how it is with Tim and I. I pretty much figured we had an indestructable marriage. Faulty thinking, I guess, because *wham* we were upon that line. There was no shouting. There were no accusations. There was just a quiet, "Tim, I can't do this again," and his answer came back. "I know. And you shouldn't." And that's where it stayed for a while. And then slowly, we began to edge back from that line.

Things are not perfect. Hard times are not fun. Yesterday was Tim's birthday, and I gave him a card. I wrote how much I loved him. I needed to say that. I believe he needed to hear it. I fixed him a steak dinner with mushrooms and potatoes and broccoli salad. His son came over. It was a quiet celebration. Tim has a job interview on Friday. It's a good job. One that will, once again, provide us with benefits (after he's worked there three months), so we have our fingers crossed.

Life's funny like that, isn't it? You slog through the hard times, you rejoice in the good times, and somehow, some way, you find a way to keep on keeping on. I guess what I've learned is that you cannot take anything for granted. Everything, and I do mean everything is subject to change. You can only do your best to keep up with those changes.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Wasilla Bill Speaks. Finally.

They had a big Tea Party up in Wasilla. It so depressed Wasilla Bill that I was tempted to head north and kick his Wasilla behind. Many of us spoke firmly to him, and he finally posted what he saw. Read this, people. Read this and understand.

All the talk about revolution? Wrong. All this blaming and scapegoating? Hitler employed the same tactics during his rise to power. Refusing to accept our Commander in Chief? That's pretty un-American too. In the minds of these people, the poor deserve to be poor. In the minds of these people, threats and intimidation are useful tools.

A lot of people will say that they prescribe to the beliefs of the Tea Party. A lot of people will say that there are a few bad folks giving the whole thing a bad name. I say this. If I hear rattlesnakes buzzing, I'm turning around and heading the other way. However, that's just me.

Late edit for Mikey: Yes. I do plan on getting to Arizona one day. That being said, I wanna also make it clear that if I am walking up to your porch, or Susan's porch, and I hear a rattlesnake, yeah, I'll be heading the other way. Quick-like.

Worse Than War

I watched a powerful documentary on PBS. If you ever have the chance to see 'Worse than War', I strongly urge you all to make the effort.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Speaker at the Local Tea Party

Sunday, I was working at the Kwik Fill, the local gas station where I work. It was slow, and I had time to get to know my co-worker, Zac. A man pulled up, and filled his tank, and came inside to pay. Zac and I were talking about the counterfeiter that has been hitting the local gas stations. She drives an Aveo, a gray car with New York plates. She is in her fifties, thin, with bleached blonde hair. We got a pretty good picture of her when she hit us up Friday morning. It was busy, and the manager was running the register. The woman came in and called out, 'I'll set the money for my gas right here, honey!' and walked back out. The manager picked up the money immediately, realized it was fake, and headed out the door after her, but she was pulling out of the parking lot and headed north. We have a lot of information about her, but she has yet to be caught. The man asked some questions about it, interestedly. I mentioned that my husband feels that as times get harder, these sort of things will happen more frequently. Hard times sometimes bring out the best in people, but also, hard times bring out the very worst in people too. Tim believes that many people in our neck of the woods seem to have this sense of entitlement, that somehow, they are owed a living. He believes these people will resort to stealing, and robbery, and counterfeiting, because they don't have a conscience. They do not believe that it is wrong for them to take what they are 'owed', according to Tim. Sometimes, I can honestly say, reading the papers, I think that he may be right.

Anyhow, this fellow said, in a very important way, that he was in town because he had been invited to address the local meeting of the Tea Party. He then began to hold forth on his views that raising the minimum wage had destroyed this country, made us unable to compete in the global market. I said, "I can see why you would believe that, but consider this, as well: The minimum wage is not a liveable wage. Can you live on $7.25 an hour? Truly. I can't." I went on to explain that both my husband and I were jobless, that I know lots of people who diligently work their minimum wage jobs, but are still grindingly poor, unable to afford health insurance, let alone keep food on the table. That is a fact. "Why," I asked him, "are the company shareholders for corporations like McDonalds entitled to obscene profits on the backs of the little people that have nothing, nothing at all but that minimum wage?" And he said to me that I was right. That wasn't fair. "However," he explained, "I'm referring to more to the manufacturing sector." He continued speaking, and it seemed as if he was suggesting that we have two minimum wages. I told him that my husband was a machinist. I told him that he was a very hard worker. The problem in my eyes is not the minimum wage. It is that companies are able to take their business overseas to third world countries and exploit those people. There are no taxes to make this option unattractive to these companies, so our country bleeds machinist jobs (like many other trades). He really, at some point, ceased to have answers but I do have to say that he was listening. I can get kind of passionate about things. I said, "Do you have any idea what it is like to have everything in the world going for you. You're planning for your retirement. You and your husband are working hard. Then all of a sudden, you've got cancer, and....(at this, his eyes widened. "You had cancer?!!" "Yes, I finished treatment at the end of last April.") I continued on, "and everything changes. Your husband's company closes up, and the insurance is gone, and there is no COBRA when your company simply closes its doors. His job is lost, and then he finally gets another job, but is laid off in a matter of months, and then laid off again. I lost my job due to State Budget cuts." I looked at him. "Neither one of us are lazy. We are hardworking people trying to do the best we can."

Mr. Tea Party looked at me, and I looked at him. There was no animosity. We were just two people staring at each other from different sides of the fence. He said, "Hey, if I hear of a job, I'll come back in and let you know." "Thanks," I said. "Have a good day!" He left.

Betcha bucks I never see him again. Still. He was the most interesting customer I had that Sunday afternoon.

Monday, April 19, 2010

For Pam

There's been no shortage of potential posts here. Just a shortage of time to write them. It is a busy time, filled to overflowing with mostly unbloggable things. The unbloggable nonsense is preventing me from blogging. In any case, I owe a post to Novel Woman. She is having a skunk problem. I am a person of many talents, some of them even useful. I, my friends, know how to trap skunks.



This leads me to a side question: Do you all have skunks in Australia? I was wondering.

Anyhow, so Novel Woman has a skunk problem in her back yard. Skunks pose an unusual problem because you just can't dispatch them in the ordinary ways. They make a mighty stink when confronted with things like sudden death. So the only logical thing to do is to relocate them. Gently.

Step 1: Get a Hav-A-Hart trap or the like, a cage trap. You want to get the largest one that they have. For NW, I would suggest going by this rule of thumb. Look at the trap. Envision your cat in the trap. Would your cat be comfortable in this trap? This sounds like a stupid thing, but remember this: No matter what, you want the skunk to be comfortable. So get the big trap. Really. Take my word on it. Do not make the skunk uncomfortable. The other thing to make sure of is that the trap has only one way in and out. Some traps have two entrances, one on each end. You don't want that. The skunk needs to have only one way out. Seriously. The other important consideration to this trap is to make sure that the door is solid metal, not screen. The skunk should not be able to see through this door. These sound like minor details, but they are not. Not at all. Big trap, one solid metal door. If the back is solid metal, that's helpful too. If it is not, you need to cover it.

Step 2: Get a large piece of canvas, large enough to cover the trap completely, except for the trap door, of course. Cut a slit in the canvas, set it on top of the trap, fish the handle through the slit, and then pull the canvas down tightly over the entire trap (if the back is screened, this needs to be covered also.) Pull this canvas tightly around the trap. You might have to make a second slit in the side so that you can pull it around the lever assembly that operates the trap (on the side), but work with it. If you can knit, you can figure this one out, NW. Take my word for it. Use a piece of thin flexible wire to 'sew' the piece of canvas together at the bottom of the trap. Just weave that wire through the canvas (punch holes if necessary). When you are done, take a look inside of the trap. It should resemble a small dark cave. THIS IS KEY.

Step 3: Take this trap outside, to your back yard. Bait the trap. Probably the best bait that I know of is sardines. Just open a can of sardines. Set them at the way back of the trap, and then set the trap. Go away.

Step 4: Check the trap the next morning. If the trap is 'sprung', you've got yourself a critter. Probably a skunk. If it is your neighbor's cat, it will be mewing and making a lot of noises that skunks do not make. Now this is the part of the whole thing that makes people very nervous, but you have to understand the mindset of a skunk. (The fact that I do makes me just as nervous as it does you.) Pick up that trap (and skunk) and put it in the back of your pickup truck. Drive it out to the woods someplace. Set the trap down where you plan to let the skunk go. (No, NW. You should not let it go in the lobby of Brault and Martineau, no matter how mad you are about the dishwasher deal.) Anyways, take the trap out of the truck, set it on the ground, facing the door away from you, and just work the lever on the side to open the door. Back away. (Go cower in your truck if it makes you feel better.) Contrary to what you might expect, the skunk will not be in a big hurry to explode out of that trap. The trap is safe. It is dark. He has not seen you. He has no reason to be alarmed. He will be studying the open door, and what lies beyond. Ever so slowly, he will exit the trap, sniffing about. Seeing nothing to fear, he will placidly amble off to the woods.

You have to trust me on this one, NW. Really. I have only been sprayed by one skunk in my whole life, and that was because we had set leg traps for porcupines. Yeah. I know. I'm not a fan of leg traps, but Uncle Sam didn't ask my opinion. In those days, when you were wearing green, you did not debate with Uncle Sam. You did what he told you. At that point in my military career, I was setting leg traps for porcupines who were eating portions of the buildings out on some of the remote firing ranges. In any case, there was one trap that had not had a critter in it after a full week. (We checked them daily). I was running across the field. I had gotten a whiff of skunk, but it was Friday. I was in high spirits. The weekend began just as soon as I got my traps pulled and the truck returned to my unit. I wasn't thinking. So I was loping across the field, and I got to the gully where the trap was. I leapt, and then realized that there was something in the trap at the bottom of that gully, and that it was not a porcupine. I understood fully the folly of not looking before you leap. Unfortunately, one can not change direction in midair, and I hit the ground next to that poor wounded skunk who let lose with a mighty blast.

Skunk is awful. I showered and showered and showered. I had only two small cans of V8 juice (note here: You cannot wander into the Commissary after being sprayed by skunk to buy yourself a couple dozen cans of tomato juice.) I showered and I used that tomato juice, and when I thought that I smelled okay, I stepped forward. However, for several days thereafter, every time that I broke a sweat there was the faint, but unmistakeable smell of skunk. Running PT? Pretty soon people around me were sniffing in confusion. 'Do you smell skunk? I smell skunk.' Take it from me. Skunk is not a fun thing to smell like. I much prefer sandalwood, thanks.

Anyways, NW, I would not lead you astray. If the trap is well covered, and it is dark inside, this plan will work beautifully.

I will offer up one caution to you. If you go out there one fine morning, and the trap is sprung and there is an obvious smell, and the trap is rocking back and forth as one very angry skunk shows his displeasure inside, I will warn you: this is not normal skunk behavior. Skunks are by nature, pretty placid. You may well have a rabid skunk. This might make you squeamish, but it must be done to protect the pets in the area. The wild animals too, for that matter. Submerge the whole trap in a tank of water, and set a rock on it. Go away and come back a half hour later. Yeah. I know. I'm braced for a flood of angry PETA comments. Rabies is incurable. The animal is going to die anyways. You are simply removing the disease vector.

So that is how you trap a skunk, Novel Woman. Truly. It sounds scary, but it is not, not after you've done it the first time, and realize that I am not lying to you. If you have any questions, e-mail me, and I will give you my phone number so that you can call me.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Middle of the Night.

funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

I love I Can Has Cheezburger, although I don't always 'get' the LOLspeak. However, this morning, these two in particular had me laughing out loud as I sat in the dark, shivering. Now that I've had my giggle and my trip to...well...never mind. Just accept the fact: when you're old, you get up in the middle of the night.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Friday Weigh In

Surprise! I've lost three pounds this week. I guess grief and worry is a good thing if you're watching your weight. Thanks but no thanks. In thinking about it, though, I'd rather walk. Anyways, this bring my total weight loss for the year to 17 pounds. Boy. Did I have to scrounge around to find that. I didn't post the total lost last week (because there was only ounces lost, not pounds). I didn't post at all the week prior. (How did I forget? I've never forgotten before.) Finally, three weeks back, I found it. Man. I write a lot of nothing. Why do you folks keep coming back here? Honestly. Have you no sense?

That young mother from the cancer center? A pastor's wife e-mailed me. She thought she knew her. Bless her heart, she called up the woman and said, "Did you meet a woman at the cancer center..." Her name is Kathy. Turns out she's been unable to stop thinking about me. She gave me her address. Her phone numbers, both at work, and at home. Judy, my friend, e-mailed this information to me and closed with "Do you see God at work in any of this?" Yes. Yes, Judy, I can. Just as He led us to meet. Just as he led new Mary to call all those months ago, because she had read a column. Just as he led old Mary and I to be roaming the halls of Youngsville High School back in 1969, both of us lost and looking for the same classroom. Thank you, Judy. And just as soon as I get my self over my dog, as soon as I take a deep breath and (again) turn my kids over to God, well, I'll give Kathy a call. She does not need an emotional sap calling her out of the blue.

I got another e-mail. A doctor from our small hospital stopped the nice mammogram lady, Cheryl, in the hall and told her about my blog. I've met Cheryl three times now. She really is a lovely person, perfect for the job that she does. It's an interesting point that I'm at. I just don't want to be surprised by things. I want to know. I want to know what other people hear. I don't want candy coating. I want numbers. I want to know what I can do. I don't want to research on the internet. I don't want to be surprised by what I'm reading. I want to talk about 'this is what I'm doing', and I want to talk about what others are doing to keep themselves happy and (hopefully) healthy. I am not one to wait and see. I guess when it's all said and done, I need to know that I've done everything, no matter how small, to fight my best fight. I am losing weight. I am exercising. I am eating broccoli until it comes out of my ears. Is there something else? What do you hear? What else can I do? What do you do? The Cancer Center could provide a plan, or at least give us the information we need to create our own plan. Cancer changes a person's life. Worry that cancer will return is normal. When your fears are dismissed, you feel small and foolish. Whiny, even.

So now I worry about whether or not people are mad at me at our little hospital. It was not meant as criticism. It would be nice if, for instance, people at the hospital said, "Well, this is something that we could do better at..." We shall see, I suppose. We shall see.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Good Bye

It's been a strange time. Hard time. Things have been up in the air for a while about a great number of things. The dust has settled. Brianna and Buddy came home from Indianapolis to pick up their car and the rest of their things. They got a shock while they were here. Some money that they were counting on did not happen. They are heading back to Indianapolis tonight, to job hunt in earnest. I bit my tongue. My instinct wanted to say, "Do you have enough money? How much do you need?" but I know that money is not what they need at all. So I gave Brianna a shopping bag filled with the makings for tuna noodle casserole, penne w/ sauce, baked beans, peanut butter and jelly, the like. That way, if they get a couple pounds of hamburger, some hot dogs maybe, well, they can eat for a week. I told them that they could do it, that they just had to knuckle down and set their minds to it.

Today, I had to have Buck put down. It wasn't easy. I drove him down by myself, had my time with him to say good bye and then it was done. The vet staff helped me load up my blanket wrapped dog. They assured me that I had done the right thing. I know it. I do know it. However knowing it was the right thing to do doesn't make it any easier. I bawled, and then I got possession of myself, and I drove my dog home for the last time. We buried him in the backyard. Buddy and Brianna were still here. Buddy asked a couple of times if I was okay. "Yes," I said. "It's not an easy thing. That's just how life is sometimes. It's not always sunshine and roses. Sometimes it sucks." I continued digging. Tim pulled at rocks. "You know," I said. "I need you to make it out there. I need to see the two of you work it out together. I need to see you being a team, making a go of it. This means that you'll have to work just as hard as the rest of us. That's life."

They listened, soberly.

I saw them off in their little car. Tim changed the oil for them, and did some repairs on it. I waved good bye, and I cried some more. I gave them Buck's dog food, enough to last their little dog for a few weeks. I gave them groceries and the makings for some meals. We did for them what we could do. I hope they saw the lesson in today. I hope that they understand. I watched them go, and I prayed with all my heart that they begin to look to each other for what they need in this life, that they understand that everything has a price tag, and that you earn what you have. I send them off with my hugs, and my very best wishes.

I did the same for my dog.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Thinking

Something that is little talked about in cancer care is the fears that come afterwards. I think that I am a very sensible person. I expected to celebrate when I was finished with treatment, and don't get me wrong, I was glad to be finished with treatment. I was walked out the door to 'Pomp and Circumstance', and, really, it was funny. I laughed as hard as they did. But then, they went back to work, and I stood there, waiting to feel jubilant. It didn't happen. It never did happen.

This phase is the 'watching and waiting'. Every ache, every pain, I find myself wondering. And the fact is there is plenty of pain to wonder about. It is usually not overwhelming pain, but there are joint aches galore, and the breast itself is subject to odd twinges of pain. I read on someone's blog once that she was much reassured to hear that these twinges of pain were normal, that if cancer was to return, it would not be twinges, it would return with grand scale pain. That was reassuring to me. I can't describe my pain as grand scale, although the winter cold made my joint pain a lot more difficult to deal with. Anyways, so I've been plodding through these days, trying to be a brave little soldier. And then came the pain in my hip. For the first time, I was dealing with pain on a grand scale. Walking into the cancer center is always a sobering thing for me, especially now that I am not in there multiple times every week. I have the long stretches of time where I do not go back at all, and then I find myself walking across the parking lot to the building and I am just filled with...what? Not dread, exactly, but I just don't want to be there, I don't want to walk in there. This time, I was going in there with grand scale pain. I hate the routine. Every appointment begins with 20 questions. Among them: Are you tired? (Yes) How tired? (rate the exhaustion) Do you have pain? (Each time I answer yes.) How much pain (rate the pain). And they go through the list of questions and I give my answers, and I begin to feel the niggles of concern inside. 'What does this mean?' And then it is simply never addressed. I feel like a hypochondriac or a weak complaining woman if I carry it on. I realize that this is something that I have to get over.

My last visit to the cancer center had me meeting the young mother with metastic breast cancer, and it was as if all those niggling fears I had suddenly became 'illustrated'. I had a picture, a powerful, powerful picture to go with my niggling fears, the ones that I try not to think about, (and have been carefully trying not to think about for months now). It was shocking and it was galvanizing. I cannot get her face out of my mind. She said something that stuck with me. "They don't like me here. I'm sure of it. I have questions. I asked about having part of my liver removed, and I was told that I shouldn't even be thinking about such things. Why not?!!!" she demanded. "I have every right to think of these things!" She sees a doctor in Pittsburgh. That doctor oversees her treatment, which she takes at our cancer care center. She said to me, "I don't think that this cancer center is equipped to deal with young people who have cancer. I don't think they are able to deal with people who want to fight. This is where people come if they are old. They are going to give standard treatment a try. If it works, good. If not, well, they are ready to opt out of more aggressive treatment." I looked around the waiting room and I saw all the faces of the elderly people. Her words have really struck home with me.

I've been thinking a lot. When I saw the doctor from Philadelphia, the one that was filling in, she was like a breath of fresh air. She talked openly about all sorts of things. I've asked right along what a normal tumor marker is. I've been told that it varies. This doctor, without prompting, in talking about tumor markers, simply said, that a normal tumor marker is considered to be 37. So yes. Mine are above normal. I didn't know. She used words like SUVs and explained what they meant. I asked questions, and she answered them in the most matter of fact way. I appreciated that. I appreciated that a lot. I was there for a long time simply asking my questions, having them answered. I told her what I was doing, about losing weight, about my walking program. She was impressed by my commitment to my own health. She said so. Cheryl, the nice mammogram lady at the hospital, oh, she just talked and talked and talked. I drank her words as if I were dying of thirst. Without prompting, she just asked about breast pain (concerned, I think, that the mammogram procedure would be more uncomfortable for me than for others). I allowed as there was breast pain, just as I've been saying at the cancer treatment center right along. But Cheryl, in talking, said that breast pain was normal. She matter of factly said that 'unfortunately, that was sometimes something that women dealt with for the rest of their lives.' *blink* I had no clue. I'd been enduring these odd tweaks and twinges and thinking that it was not a good thing. Choking back my niggling fears. Trying to be sensible. Only to find out that this is normal. Who knew? Not me.

My own Dr. B is a wonderful person. A compassionate, compassionate woman. The radiologist oncologist is a funny man, and I get a kick out him. But looking at things from a completely realistic point of view, I realize that what I am looking for in all of this is not just the blind reassurance. 'What are you worried about? If anything, you've been over treated.' Words that made me feel silly and overdramatic. (I HATE drama, I tell you). I don't want to be comforted. I just want to win. I want to know the truth. I want to hear the numbers. I want to feel free to ask my questions and feel as if the answers I receive are the truth, the unvarnished truth. I'm not saying that I'm lied to, but I am saying that in an attempt to be positive, there is information that I don't hear, that I read about it someplace else, and it comes as news to me, and it shouldn't. I am out here, adrift. That's what I feel like. I haven't been to a support group meeting for a while now. Between work and school, I'm usually scheduled for something else that night. I've never gotten anything out of these meetings before, not really. Just good friends. Laughs. Philosophical musings on cancer. I can attend the meeting this month. I think I'm going to. But really, what I want most in this world is to sit down with that woman from Ludlow, the young mother with metastic breast cancer. I want to sit down and talk for hours about fighting, about winning, facts, figures. I have just read that the most critical phase, post treatment, is the first two years. I did not know this. No one ever said. These are the sorts of things that I want to know. These are the sorts of things I need to know. I am nearly one year out of treatment, and I don't like picking my way blindly.

(if any of my local readers have an idea about who this woman is, please direct her to my blog, to my e-mail. I can also provide my phone number.)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Hard Times, Rambling

Yesterday, Tim wanted to look at another house. We've been married for almost 12 years. We met at a plastic injection factory which no longer exists. Tim was the mechanic on my machine. Luckily, it broke down frequently. Anyways, the real estate agent who showed the apartment building to us was another person who worked at that plant. I've watched him in the years since the company went down (and out...). He's quite successful, and even helped to sponsor the July 4th fireworks. His name appeared right up there with some of the companies that have managed to hang on through these economic hard times.

We talked a little about these hard times. How people are really struggling to make ends meet. As my uncle phrased it "Making ends meet? Shoot. I can't even find the ends." I know that comparatively speaking Tim and I are lucky. He can (and does) do all of our automotive repairs, which is good. Our old car did not pass inspection. To repair it would have been $500. Tim can go to the junkyard in most cases and find the part he needs. I heard once that a good cook is not someone who can take the freshest, finest ingredients and turn out a good meal. A good cook is someone who can take a scrap of meat and a piece of stale bread and make a good meal. I am a good cook. We heat with wood. Tim hunts. We cut our own meat. We have seen deer get hit by cars. Depending on the hit, the meat is salvageable. We bring it home, so technically, I guess we are eating roadkill, just like some red neck joke. (Fresh roadkill, I hasten to add.) We will have a small garden. I dress from the Goodwill. We are careful with our money. We are resourceful people, and we are practical, and I am glad for that. We'll get through these times, and we will be okay. It's not fun, but like I said, we are pretty practical.

I don't understand. I was talking to a relative last night. They are both unemployed. Her husband turned down a truck driving job because it required 'over nights'. They are both young. They have no children. It is exasperating. I want to say things like 'A job is a job. It doesn't matter if you like it. You take it because it pays the bills, and from the safety net of that job, you continue to look for another.' I worry about how they will be able to afford their new house. I worry about the fact that they are headed home for a visit when they probably should be job hunting. Both of them. They seem blissfully unconcerned about what will happen next. I love them, and so I worry. But they have to make their own way. Life is going to bite them. They refuse to listen to anyone's warnings, so they will get bit, and they will sit there wide eyed and angry at the unfairness of life. You know, life is not easy. Everyone goes through hard times. I cannot tell you the number of times that I've looked at Tim and thanked God that I'm married to a practical, hard worker. I know that he values that in me, as well. The old saying is that tough times don't last, but tough people do. Tim and I are definately tough people. I sure do wish that it was possible to gift wrap that commodity and hand it out for birthdays, weddings, Christmas, and the like.

We decided not to get the house that we looked at. It would have paid for itself. We could have qualified for a business loan, probably, since all the units were rented out, but we have a philosophy, Tim and I. We believe that it is morally wrong to ask tenants to pay us to live in a place we would not live in ourselves. This place was in horrible condition. It is not a place either of us would want to live in, so we decided against it. I thanked God, this time that I am married to a man with ethics. I shot an e-mail off to the agent to let him know.

It is a strange and hard time. Someday, Tim and I will be well off. I know this. The careful decisions we make now will pay off. At some point, these houses will be paid for, and the repairs all done. We will begin to realize a profit. At some point, I will have a degree and a good job with benefits. At some point this hard time will end. Until it does, however, Tim and I hunker low, living careful lives, living by our wits and our ethics, taking pleasure in the small joys of life: a good book from the library, our 2 for $1 video trips, our cozy nights on the couch with popcorn as we watch movies that most people have already seen. It is enough. We are content.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The End of Spring Break

Spring break is over. My first class of the week is tonight's math class. I have a test tomorrow that I have to study for. I've read and taken notes on my psychology chapter.

Spring break was nice. I had been so busy, with school, with work, with wedding things, with trying to get everything ready for company. It just seemed like forever since I had a chance to sit down and read something for pleasure. I did, too. I read 'The Solace of Open Spaces' and 'The Nazi Officer's Wife'. I began reading 'The Vicar of Wakefield', and I got to the same place I got to the last time before setting it down and never getting around to picking it up again. It's not riveting reading, but it is pleasant. So I've enjoyed reading and it was relaxing to have time to focus on the house and on Tim.

It's probably a good thing that I leapt into this school thing without too much forethought. If I'd have given myself time to think about it, I would have talked myself right out of it. (Low self esteem sucks.) Last night, laying in bed, thinking about school, I started to get scared again. I began to worry that I couldn't do it. That test on Tuesday...good grief. I wasn't even sure that I remembered the topics. I fretted over my last essay. The teacher commented that it was 'dark'. (It was. My life is not all sweetness and light.) And then I began to dread psychology class. The teacher had written my name upon the board, along with maybe a half dozen others. She said that she wished to speak to us after class, and said that it was her customary talk with the students, the one that she does for every class, with every student. Since I'd already attended that little meeting, I saw no need to meet with her again. I really don't have anything to say to her. She is erratic and an ineffective teacher, close minded, surprisingly unaware. I think that I should avoid putting myself in any situation where I am alone with her, opening myself up to claims of 'she said....' In any case, I lay in bed and that niggling fear began to creep in, that certainty that I am not going to be able to juggle this. I took a deep breath, and pointed out to myself, yet again, that I already was. And then I rolled over and went back to sleep. Today, I studied, and I took notes. Today there is no doubt in my mind that I can do it. Why is it, do you think, that we are far more uncertain in the dark?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

People

I feel sorry for people. That's just my nature. There is a man who came into our store at least 9 times on Friday. He came at least that many times during the day, according to the staff. He continued to come in on third shift. He buys scratch-off lottery tickets. The man lives in a cheap motel across the street. He walks across the highway, over and over, and over again. Buying lottery tickets. Day shift said that he got belligerent when he didn't get any winners in one of his batches, but it didn't stop him from coming back repeatedly until on his last trip, he had about $8 in change to cash in. He could not afford the $10 tickets, or the $5 tickets, but he still had the money for $2 tickets and $1 tickets. He spent it all. We have not seen him since. It's not my business, but I've got this notion that he spent his entire paycheck on lottery. What will he live on until this Friday?

A fellow from our church is having a biopsy tomorrow. He says that it does not look good. I'm quite fond of the old fellow, tall and in his 80s. He came into the store after his announcement. I called across the customers, "Wait! Do not leave this store until I can get around this counter." I waited on everyone, and then scooted around to give Mr. B a hug, and to tell him how sorry I was to hear his news. He is surprisingly emotional. I tell him, "Listen, there are things that they can do for lung cancer. It's small, and gees, even if it is the worst thing, it may well be that it can be removed." And he looked down at me, from his great, great height, and behind his glasses, he said, calmly, "I have many other health problems, though." "No, no, no," I say. "Don't think like that, Bill!" And he said, "You know, I just want to face this with the same courage that you and Dolly did." Dolly was diagnosed with cancer in the midst of my own treatment. I look up at Bill, and I say, "We will encourage you, just like we encouraged each other." And Bill smiles. He knows that I will, he says. He tells me that I am always an encouragement to him, and he heads out of the store with his newspaper tucked under his arm.

There are such a lot of people in this world who need prayers.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Chaos

funny pictures of cats with captions


I've been thinking about chaos.

There are times that my life has descended into chaos. When I think of these times (and granted, I think of them as little as possible...), I realize that there are commonalities, threads that tie these things together. Agents of chaos. Dealing with a daughter who has untreated bipolar issues, well that's a biggie. Cancer could have been one of those things, but for me, strangely, it wasn't. It was even a clarifying time. Still, it was a time when I wasn't in control of what happened next, and so it was a scary time.

Another 'agent of chaos' (this sounds like an episode of 'Get Smart'. doesn't it?) is angry people. Angry people are great harbingers of chaotic times. Angry people spin on a dime. One second they are fine, the next, spitting mad and you've no idea what provoked it. You've no idea how to stop it. All you know is that they are really, really pissed, and you've no idea why. I come from an angry people. Somebody's always mad at somebody else. Tim was married to an angry woman who continues to be an angry woman to this day. My own ex used to be a very angry person. He's settled down a lot since he married his own angry woman.

Angry people are interesting. They spend a lot of time screaming about how angry you are, that it is your fault. Everything is your fault. Meanwhile, they spend their lives ranting and raving about some damn thing, and it doesn't matter whether you're there or not. They were screaming long before you got there, and they'll be screaming still even if you drop over dead tomorrow.

I'm not a big fan of anger, and I will run from it every time that I see it. I'm not afraid of it really, but the chaos it creates...oh my God...that maelstrom...that lashing, whipping force that sucks all the good out of a world, that leaves you panting and breathless, with no energy to do anything but cling and hold on and wait for it to be over. And when it finally begins to lose its power, you drag yourself out and try to continue on with life but it also makes you leery and cautious. The idea that you might be sucked back in is terrifying. You begin to make safe choices, to avoid the people or the situations where you found yourself nearly drowning before.

I think of the times that I've told my beloved daughter, 'Listen. You cannot bring your chaos into my house. I simply can't do it.' I've stuck to that. I think of how motivated I am to lose weight, afraid of a repeat episode of cancer. I worry about my estrogen producing fat cells and any stray cancer cells that might be lurking about, their little estrogen recepters glomming on to whatever estrogen it can find in my menopausal body. I think about the angry people that I avoid like the plague. I think about Novel Women and her comment yesterday. She may be right. I may have revealed a great insight about myself. Did it actually make me sick inside? I don't know.

But, better safe than sorry.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Friday Weigh In

I missed last week's Friday Weigh-in. You'd think that after two weeks, I'd have big news to report. I don't. I haven't even lost a full pound. Still the scales continue to go down. I guess that's good news. I think that I lost a bit of momentum by being unable to do much walking. The hip is better. I expect to be able to get back to that this week.

We got up this morning and had breakfast with Buddy and Brianna. They have a U-haul and are moving to Indiana, all of this decided in the matter of two weeks. I'm a little bewildered and befuddled, but what do you do? You can only pray for them, and hope for the best.

There's been fall-out about the wedding. My ex-husband's wife found out that he walked Brianna down the aisle. She blew a gasket. She's mad at him. She's also, inexplicably, mad at Brianna. So much for turning over a new leaf. I guess she's the same woman she was when she sent me that awful letter. I don't understand that. I don't get that sort of behavior. I found myself getting angry simply hearing it, but I just told Brianna, firmly, that the things that Catherine says actually constitutes verbal abuse, and that she has to make up her mind whether she is going to continue to put herself in a situation to be abused. There was no reason that she should have stayed on the line.

I just watch all this happening, and feel a little sick inside. All of this chaos swirls around me. I watch my footing carefully, lest I slip and be sucked down into it.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Daydreams

I had a very nice evening yesterday, cleaning the gardens out, mulching, general sprucing up. It was nice. The night before, we were outside sweating as we wrestled with a big old oak, turning the massive chunks of trunk into firewood, and stacking it. Two completely different tasks, but I found myself really thinking about the forward looking hopefulness of both of them. I plant flowers thinking ahead to warm summery days when they are 'in their glory' and I will be able to enjoy them. I split wood thinking ahead to cold winter days when I'm inside sprawled on my old leather couch, listening to an old dog snore. I enjoyed my little daydreams as I worked.

I'm headed over to Mary's today. We'll play scrabble and we'll talk. We always do. We talk about what's going on. We talk about what was, and there is a lot of what was for us to talk about. We have a forty year friendship. It's the final few days of spring break, and I'm glad to have a day to myself. It's been a rough time, and it is very nice to be again daydreaming about what was, what is, and what will be. I'm a very lucky woman.

Quid wrote a poem. It ends with:

I inhabit
The memories of what was
And spend a little
Time thinking of what will be
I’ll love again
I’ll inhabit
Other people’s memories
When the sands run out.
I’m satisfied.
I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Somehow that just sort of fits with my daydreamy mood. Today, I will have a relaxing day with my friend. When I come home, there will be the pot of soup to finish making, and a myriad of other household chores to get done. I'll be working this weekend, and school resumes next week. The time of daydreams will be ended, and it will be time to be busy again.

Late Edit: I mistakenly attributed this poem to Kelly orginally. (Although I did link it to the proper website.) My sincerest apologies to Quid. I must have been daydreaming when I wrote the post. Heh. Also, I have to apologize to Kelly. I think she quite nearly had a heart attack when she saw it.

In my defense, I'd like to point out that I've never been the sharpest tool in the shed...

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Just about Perfect

Boy, we've been having some nice weather. It has been in the 70s. Even close to 80 for a time. It has been great. Everything is budding out, and I have daffodils blooming. Tulips are close to blooming, from the looks of it.

My hip has been doing better. It still bothers me, but it is not nearly as bad as it was. Today I had an appointment with the orthopedic doctor. The nurse said, "What kind of dancing do you do?" I laughed and told her that I was a stripper. Yeah. There's a real market out there for lopsided women with multi colored bosoms and scars. That gave her a case of the giggles. "No," I confessed. "I was just dancing at my daughter's wedding." I think she liked the first story better. Anyway, the good news is that there is no sign of a stress fracture. There is also no sign of metatastic breast cancer. I'm good with all of that. The doctor said, "I'll get word back to Dr. B (my oncologist). She was quite concerned about that." I stared a bit. She never let on that she thought it could be anything serious. I was quiet with shock that day. I'd just met that young mother with metatastic breast cancer, and my wheels were wobbling a bit. A person can't help but think on things like this, especially when her hip goes *pop* for no apparent reason, but I was struggling to keep my perspective on things. It's best not to let your mind get carried away on the topic of cancer. I think that, all in all, I do a decent job of that, but that day, limping in to see Dr. B, there was a bit of trepidation. To meet that mother as I waited with my own worries, well, suddenly, it was as if my own dreads suddenly became illustrated. After the appointment, I went into a tailspin, even as I hated myself for doing it. I just could not stop thinking about her, and wondering what the future held for me. It was very reassuring to have people e-mail me right away to say that every cancer patient wrestled with doubt and fear from time to time. It made me feel much, much better, and I thank you all for that. It helped. It made me feel a lot more normal.

I also had another test, overdue, but I'd gotten sidetracked with all the cancer stuff, and never quite gotten around to it. Now that the dust had begun to settle, the oncologist brought it up again, and with a sigh, I made the appointment. Dr. M was delighted to tell me that I had a normal colonoscopy. He also commented that it was a pleasure to have a conversation with me that contained the word 'normal'. Yep. He had that right.

You probably don't remember, but I came across a glade of white dogtooth violets last year, and the year before that. They just stretched as far as the eye could see, and they were in Mr. M's back yard. It was such a beautiful sight, and I marveled over them every time that I trekked across his yard and headed back into the swamp. Well. Mr. M. came into the store a while back, and I mentioned his white violets, and how I loved them. Then I casually said with a laugh, "So if you see me marching across your back yard with a shovel, well, you know what I'm up to." He said, "Come right over. You're welcome to them." He was so quick to answer that it made me feel embarrassed, as if maybe I'd backed him into a corner or something. Well. I got the shock of my life today. I stopped by one of the houses downtown to dig up some rosebush. It is too big where it is, and the whole corner of the house is overgrown. So Tim helped me and we dug some of it up. It has brilliant red flowers and will look nice trained up over our trellis at home. "Hey," he said, "why don't you dig up some of those lillies from the back yard?" I told him that we had so many of those already that I hated to bring home even more. But I walked back to take a look anyway. I saw a huge patch of white in the back yard. White violets! I dug up a nice shovelful of them and brought them home to plant as well. I never saw them last year. Not at all. This year they are everywhere!

Today, I just felt like the luckiest person in the world. That's the way life kind of works, isn't it? Sometimes you're the windshield, and sometimes you're the bug, as they say. I foundered around for a time, but I'm better now. I've regained my footing, and I'm continuing on.

Monday, April 5, 2010

It is Well in my Soul

Read a nice book: 'The Solace of Open Spaces' by Gretel Ehrlich

Things are settling down, just as things always settle down. Hip is better. This week, I will hang out with my old friend and play scrabble.

Remember in the beginning of all of this when I told you that a woman from our church had announced that she was pregnant? With twins? And I couldn't hug her, because I'd had some scan and was slightly radioactive? And then we had to go to Pittsburgh, to McGee Women's Hospital later that week, and cruising around hopelessly looking for someone to vacate a parking place so that we could take it, we saw Steve and Jen? And I was able to jump out of the car and hug her in congratulations? Plus they were leaving so they gave us their parking spot? Remember? No? Well. Anyways, I got to hold one of those babies during church. She was wide awake and kicking her little pink shoe off a couple times, following every sound, just as content as she could be. At one point, her father leaned across her mother to ask if I wanted a break. "Nope," I said. "This is a real treat for me." And he said, wistfully, "So what are you doing at four in the morning?"

Anyhow, I can't explain it really. It was Easter morning, and the baby was so sweet and happy. She cooed and giggled and chewed on her toy and drank her bottle and did all those things that babies do. I just had this sense of inevitability. Babies come, lives are lived, people die...it is the way of it. It is simply the way of it. I believe that all of this fits into a bigger framework. I don't understand the why of it. But then again, that is not my job. So I played with that happy baby, and I listened to the sermon on resurrection. I went forward for communion, and the words were spoken as they have been spoken for over two thousand years: 'Do this in remembrance of Me'. I stopped to let the baby look at the array of spring flowers and Easter lilies on the way back to our pew, and to let her marvel at the way the sun shone through the stained glass window. Her little hand reached out in wonder, her little eyes taking it all in, and it was well in my soul.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Happy Easter.

You know, Friday, I was at the Cancer Center, and I met a woman. She had the pink hat pulled low, but some wisps of hair stuck out. I knew she was 'one of us', so to speak. WhiteStone is so good about just reaching out to people. It's odd. I'm a blabber. But you know, sometimes, when it really, really matters, I just get shy and awkward. I was reading (I'm on a Garrison Keillor kick. I was re-reading Lake Wobegon, and loving the simplicity of it), but I was also watching this woman. She was younger than me, and her two young children were with her. Her husband, too. She talked to the kids matter-of-factly about coming back to sit with her while she had chemo. Anyhow, I listened for a while, while pretending to read. Finally, I got the nerve to speak. I meant to give her encouragement, but was amazed to find that she was dealing with metatastic breast cancer, that it is in her liver, and her lungs. She had breast cancer five years ago, and was thinking that she was in the clear...and then this. "I didn't know," she said. "I thought that because my mammograms were good, I was okay. I did not know that if it came back, it would probably be some place else." "Yes," I said. "Liver, lungs, brain, bones," and even while I said it, I was trying to figure out where I heard that. I don't think that I was told that at the Cancer Center either. I think that I read it somewhere. The woman continued: "I've got young kids. I have to take ativan, or I'd go crazy. I cannot bear to think of (her voice broke off and she simply mouthed the words so that her children would not hear) dying." I looked at her, and I'm telling you, she had the fiercest eyes I've ever seen. We talked some more, but this woman is a fighter. It wasn't long before her name was called, and she left her children with her husband, telling them that they could all come back 'in a few minutes'.

I sat there, shocked a little. Okay. Shocked a lot. She is so young, and those children. 10 and 8, maybe. I have always counted myself lucky that my children were grown when this all began. Her eyes, and the faces of her children haunt me still.

I'm going to be honest here. I'm having a hard time now. There is a lot of pain. I read stuff online and scared the puckydoo out of myself. I'm struggling to not give way to speculation and fear. This cold has kicked my butt, and I'm exausted. I'm not going to school (I still have another week of spring break), but I have picked up more hours at work. Not complaining, but it aggravates the pain. We need the money though, so let's just call that a blessing. It's just a hard time right now, mentally and physically, and I find myself doing what I always do when the going gets rough. I am being still and knowing that He is God. It'll all come right again, but I can't really write this minute, because I cannot seem to stop thinking about the 'what ifs'. They dominate my thoughts. I'll write about what I know, but prefer not to write about what I don't know. As soon as I get my wits gathered, I'll be back.

Happy Easter everyone. Alleluia! God is good. Celebrate His gift to us.