Sittin On A Porch

Sittin On A Porch
Our little back porch

Friday, December 31, 2010

The Last Day of 2010

What an amazing year it has been.  It started for me at the Opera House dancing and laughing and making a new years resolution with Vicki to have more fun and laugh more.  And we have.  It was wonderful starting the year with her and now she will be here for a quick weekend visit next week.  I am so excited.  

In February I directed Sex Please we're Sixty with some of my dearest friends at the Opera House.  We had the most wonderful time and I laughed at every rehearsal.  That was followed with Wheel of Murder for our Spring Murder Mystery.  Again I worked with such dear and wonderful people.  But I had to drop out of that play.

It was at that time that I started the cancer portion of this year's journey.  And yes, there has been plenty of challenges, but the good outweighs any challenges that I have met or will have the opportunity for.  And having my friends surround me and be there for me has really made this portion of the journey so  worth it.  I have so many memories from this year, and by far they are tender moments filled with love and laughter.  I have learned better about what my body is really strong enough to do.  I have learned how pain can make you act petty and angry and short tempered.  I have learned that kindness and nurturing can make the scariest moments easier to handle, giving you a strength that you didn't know was possible.  I have learned that gifts come in all wrappings and it is how you accept the gift on how it will effect your life.  I have learned that there is more to me then work.  I have learned how to sit still and rest, read a book, do handwork, watch a movie marathon.  I have learned that you can always go  back to gardening if you put in good bones.  

And I am feeling the change.  I grow bored with being sick.  I think it is about time to quit dying of cancer and move on.  I realize that I will still be impacted by this disease, but it is time to quit letting it be the lead story of my life.  Step one.  I am bored, time to change; Step two.  Start the retirement process;  Step three.  Look into Insurance possiblities;  Step four.  You have worked for more then 30 years and have paid into SS.  Look into disability.  Step five.  Take trip to Europe with Dad;  Step six.  Recover.  

That is a good start, but the most important part of every schedule is taking time to be with freinds, to laugh, to live in as many moments as possible.  To celebrate my friends.  To enjoy my animals.  

Yesterday I went to the Oncology Center and gave blood.  They got me in and out and the rest of the day was mine.  I used it to rest, and knit on my board.  Jane Ann at the Oncology Center told me that they accept scarves for cancer patients.  And trust me I understand how helpful that can be for people dealing with the thermostat problems from chemo.  I have a pink varegated one and just finished a brown/cream/pink varigated one and now I have started a blue/green/cream varegated one.  If I get the third one done I will donate them to Jane Ann to give out when I go in for chemo on Monday.  This is something I can do for people who have it worse then me.

Today I will take down my Christmas tree.  This is early for me, but because of the chemo on Monday I need to do any heavy cleaning done this weekend.  I will clean up and try to declutter a bit.  I will call friends.  I will take time to rest in between.  I will sit outside in the sunshine to eat lunch, even if that means wearing a big sweater, although it is supposed to be warming up today.  

Tonight I will eat mussels and a big salad.  I will snack on guacamole and humus and olives.  I will eat Godiva chocolate and drink a glass of champagne to celebrate the last day of the year. Will it be a midnight?  I doubt it, but that is ok.  I will celebrate this day.  This day designated as the last day of the year for this calendar.  I will celebrate New Years and visit friends and eat black eyed peas and greens.  And then when the lunar new year comes along in a few months I will celebrate that new year.  

I love holidays and celebrations.  Holidays are an excuse to get together and spend time laughing or praying or mourning or celebrating, or maybe a little of all the emotions at times.  I love celebrating holidays, festivities and traditions from all over the world.  What a better way to get to know someone then what they celebrate.  What better a way to spread peace through out the world then to share celebrations with all the people in the world showing curiosity and interest in what is important to them.  One of my favorite things about Southern celebrations is the food.  And as far as I can tell throughout the world food is intricately inter twinned as part of each celebration.  Some cultures fast, but at the end of the fast there is usually a great celebration of special foods, and if cake is involved, all the better.  

So many of our cultural traditions involve cake, and that makes me very happy.  Births, deaths, birthdays, weddings and retirements involve cake.  I like cake.  I like people who put away their own trepidations and share cake with others on their special celebration.  Hmmmmmm, maybe I will make cake today.  ooooh, or brownies.  I realize that the Christmas holiday is almost over, and we have all eaten more sweets and treats then we meant to do, but the celebration for me does not end until tomorrow, so I can still bake something today for tomorrow.  I will of course make corn bread to go with the black eyed peas.  Ms Moon said that she would share a few collard leaves with me, and I will be sharing the traditional meal with her and Mr. Moon sometime tomorrow also, and going out to visit Ms Judy and Ms Denise.  Sunday I will get to have lunch with Janak, Geeta and Baa.  So a weekend filled with dear beloved ones.  

And then next week Vicki and Ken will be driving down.  And then at the weekend my friend Sioux will be driving up.  I wish they were coming at different times but this is the only time for Vick and I can not reach Sioux, and this may be the only weekend she can come, so I will be happy to have them whenever I can have them, even if it means at the same time.  After all they are dear friends.

I am looking forward to my chemo on Monday.  Ms Moon will be taking me this time.  Thank you Lily for making sure that I could have your mother.  I am so lucky to have two, no three dear ones who work on my team and make sure that I have someone when I need them.  So lucky.  I have a few questions for the doctor.  One, is about aspirin, I heard that it was being used to extend people's lives who have lung cancer.  But I have a problem with my platelets and I am not sure that is something I can do while we are doing the chemo.  I also want to know if he thinks one more treatment and then check or does he feel confident enough that this treatment has worked and we will see a little change.  I am afraid.  Yes, I do feel fear now.  I am afraid that the treatments are not going to work.  It is easy to be confident and happy and have a good attitude when you think that the doctors are "fixing" things, but to do all of this, to live with all the side effects of the WMDs, to live knowing that this treatment is the best chance at keeping me alive as long as possible.  And now to face the truth, is it working is scaring me.  I have been here before with the last doctor, and the results were grim.  No change.  I understand that he was using the wrong chemical, that he did not know my cancer and to what extent it was intertwined into all the parts of my body and life.  Can I take the chance of hearing that again?  Of course I can, but that does not mean it won't be hard and that I might not cry.  I have been edgy lately, getting upset over things that I should not be getting upset about.  I have had to take my anti-anxiety pills every day at some point.  So I guess I am reacting to my anxiety of what is to come.  So the sooner that we run the tests the quicker we will know, and yet, I am willing to wait and yes, stress a little longer, but to try and make sure that we give the treatment of the WMDs the best shot they can have for a first try to affecting this cancer I have.  

So hopefully next year you can journal about a full life, a complete life, a life that goes beyond cancer.  A life still full of opportunities and surprises.  Mr. Moon talked about his thoughts on what would be the best convertible for him to find me.  He said some kind of Toyota.  I have never been a big fan of Toyota's, but if Mr. Moon thinks this is the best choice, then I will happily give it a shot.  I had thought of a convertible Mini Cooper, but he said the repairs are too expensive.  Good advice.  I do so appreciate having Mr and Ms Moon in my life.  

I appreciate all of you in my life.  You have made this year such a wonderful and totally amazing time.  And now I think I will go through the ball for Bob and scratch Harry and hug on Maggie.  Time to enjoy the day, it is getting warmer and time is passing.

Happy New Year

Monday, December 27, 2010

Plumbing, Presents and Christmas Plays

My dear friends worry over me and nurture and advise me, bless their hearts they are so kind and really do love and take such good care of me.  But I am a hardheaded person and while I am still strong and healthy, I am not good at asking for help for things that I still feel like I can do.  My friends are patient, and honestly I do listen to them. They tried so hard to help me get to my Dad's, even if it meant changing their own Christmas plans.  I am so blessed.

In my previous life before I moved up to Tallahassee to Manage the Pesticide Certification Section I spent 20 years in the field, the greatest majority of it as a Field Supervisor driving a minimum of 2500 miles a month for work.  I loved those days travelling around the state working with growers and worker associations, Extension Agents and the Field Inspectors.  I spent lots of time on back roads, some roads that were mere dirt paths cutting through cow pastures; long stretches of interstate and more small towns then I can remember.  So surely I could drive the 4 1/2 hours to Palmetto to my Dad's house.  There really was no choice.  Everyone tried so hard to come up with a better way, but there wasn't a better way.  The only logical choice was for me to drive myself down.  

Christmas Eve eve came and Judy came over to have breakfast with me.  I had the car packed and with excitement and trepidation I got in the car, filled with bright packages, the family gift, bags of food for dinner that night, Christmas Eve, and my contributions to Christmas Day.  The car smelled of clementines and chocolate.  I had pimento cheese sandwiches, grapes, nuts and waters packed in the cooler for my lunch.  I hate having to stop and get food when I am driving.  Nothing looks good, so I usually tend to stop at a grocery store and get food that way, but I was not sure if leaving on Thursday if the traffic would be better or not.  I pulled out of Farm Boy and left would take me down Hwy 19 and the back roads, avoiding the Interstates and the possible accidents and delays.  I turned right.  I have no idea why.  Habit?  Maybe, but there I was on I-10. Well, I thought let's see how it goes. 

And it went fine.  I drove for about 3 hours and then pulled into a rest stop.  I went into a rest room and as I was washing my hands a beautiful family of Mennonites were fixing their hair and looking into the mirrors. They saw me and my almost baldhead and they assumed I had shaved my hair.  You could tell they had made this decision by the side-glances and pursed unapproving  lips.  I was going to tell them I had cancer, but they left abruptly trying to walk as far away from me as possible.  Their long hair contained liked their emotions, held closely within their beliefs.  I smiled and tried to look harmless, it did not help.  As I walked out the bathroom they were talking about the odd sinner in the bathroom who had cut off her glory.  They shut up quickly and turned and walked away, still glancing back at me to make sure that the devil did not follow them to their car.  I wanted to call out and explain, but they frightened me as much as I apparently did them.  How silly.  Everyone else at the crowed rest area all looked at me and did their little knowing smile given to us with cancer and our badge of honor of no hair.  I thought long and hard about whether I should have just butted in and said something, but I decided that it was their problem, not mine, and they had not given me the opportunity to speak.  So instead I ate my packed lunch and then took a walk around the rest area seeking out the sunshine where it was much warmer.  It was a beautiful day, and I felt strong and capable.  I was out on my own and driving.  I was heading away from my beloved friends and moving ever closer to my Dad and brothers and our traditional celebration.   

Back in the car and in less then 5 hours I was "home".  Back in my family home, the home my parents bought almost 60 years ago.  The home that they raised four kids of their own and countless of others and a gaggle of pets.  The house that over the years expanded to hold the growing the family.  Where on the doorway into the kitchen the  markings with dates and lines show the growth of so many children.  I know where the Christmas tree will be set up and how it will blink and sparkle with colored lights and ornaments collected and made over life times.  

I unpacked my presents and carefully placed them under the tree leaving a space to be able to add water in the base of the tree and to turn the switch to bring the tree to life.  I went to put my suitcase and other belongings into my room.  Yes, I am the only "child" that still has a bedroom at our parent’s house.  In all fairness I am the only child who moved away and needs a room.  As I stepped into my room to put my things and instead I found present wrapping central.  It looked like most of the presents were wrapped, but none of the big ones or heavy ones.  Dad took a fall a couple of weeks ago.  He was "hurt" but not bad.  Which of course is relative.  He has been unable to use both of his arms having bruised them pretty bad.  I also noticed that there were things that needed to be cleaned up, specifically the kitchen and the two bathrooms.  It was obvious Dad was moving slower and was not able to take care of himself since the fall as is needed.  I quietly starting cleaning the microwave, the front of the dishwasher the handle on the frig.  Tom and Pat my youngest brother and his wife had just cleaned the oven, and it looked great.  They had also scrubbed the stove, so we would be able to roast the meat without a fire, and I was grateful they had taken care of that.  Dad came into the kitchen and said that the front bathroom was flooded. 

Flooded is an understatement and the water was out into the hallway which has a parquet floor.  I grabbed towels and on my hands and knees I soaked up water, I searched for leaks, I did everything I could to get the water out from under the parquet tiles.  While I was there I scrubbed the toilet, sink and tub and did my best to get the floor dry and clean.  Then I washed the towels.

I had brought turkey Italian sausage, sauce and pasta with bread.  I fixed supper for dad and I and we sat and looked at the tree as we planned our schedule for the next couple of days.  I went to go to bed that night and as I went into the back bathroom.........oh no!  It was flooded and the water was in the back bedroom.  Back on my knees, pulling up wet floor mats and soaking up water with towels.  More laundry.   I finally dropped into bed, exhausted, I took two antihistamines to try to keep my nose from running and bleeding.  That is one of the unpleasant side effects of chemo, bloody noses.  I had been asleep about an hour when in my dreams I could hear my name being called.  I jumped out of bed and ran to the front of the house.  I was so groggy from the meds, and there is my Father on the floor in the entryway of the house.  He had tripped over the step and fallen again.  He was able to turn over and was trying to push himself up, but after the last fall he does not have the strength in his arms or legs to get up.  I have no idea how to lift him. I know not to pull on his arms, but I don't know how to place the leverage to lift him.  Dad tells me to call Tom, Rob is at work.  Tom is also at work, but fortunately Pat, Tom's wife is home, and says  she will be right over.  Bless her sweet nurse’s heart, she will know what to do.  She showed up a few minutes later in her jammies, and yep, just a smart as can be she squatted down close to dad put her arms under his armpits and lifted a man who outweighs her from a cold sit to a standing position and then held him there as he got his feet under him.  I was so grateful to her.  After she left, I went and soaked up more water, I mean I was up, I might as well.  Dad went to bed.

Christmas Eve morning I was up at 4 and out of bed at 5.  I mean I wasn't sleeping, I might as well get up and do the laundry and soak up the water.  The back bathroom was dry, and the front bath was not in bad shape.  I washed more laundry.  And finished scrubbing the back bath.  Put water in the Christmas tree and tried to find any little things that needed to be done that I could get accomplished before Dad got up.  He got up around 9 and he took me out to breakfast.  It was nice to have a little time with Dad where we could just talk and not worry about present wrapping or flooding bathrooms.  We picked up the last needs for dinner that night and for Christmas day dinner and headed home.  

I had slept in the back bedroom instead of my room because of all the presents on my bed, but I wanted to spend the night in my room for Christmas, so I lifted the heavy presents and helped Dad wrap them and all the big ones.  We finished up his wrapping in no time at all.  I made him lunch, cooked the jumbo shrimp for Christmas dinner, soaked up water, did laundry, helped my older brother when he came over to fix a drawer that had come off of its hinges.  Dad finally got down for a nap and I started working on dinner.  We were having ham, scalloped potatoes and asparagus.  Dad had bought Christmas cookies for desert.  

When Dad got up he drove over to pick up Marie, Dad's girlfriend and her daughter Rita.  They would be spending the holiday at Dad's house.  Marie has been under the weather so she did not want to drive over.  It is only about 20 minutes away.

The dinner was wonderful, Jong Ae, my older brother's wife had made a gorgeous salad and yeast rolls.  We ate heartily.  There were more then enough choices from me even though I have no interest in ham.  It was a lovely night.  The beginning of the holiday for me.  Everything else leading up to this night is wonderful, but as a child my earliest memories are of Christmas Eve as the beginning of the festivities.  When I was a child we would go to church and do the Christmas pageant.  I always wanted to be a shepherd but always ended up being an angel.  I think they thought I would behave more like my character is why they always forced me into the white sheet with the gold tinsel and wings.  Or maybe it was because I had one of the few mothers who could actually make wings and so because of her talent is why I was always one of the heavenly hosts.  After the pageant we would go down to the basement and Santa would give out small presents and candy canes, there would be punch and cookies and then we would take a drive to look at the Christmas lights.  We would always go to the planetarium and see how much the podacarpus had grown and see the strings of lights wrapped around the trees higher and higher as they grew.  Then we would go home and mom would sit us on the maple couch.  The one that has maple leaves carved in the arms of the couch, and she would read us a Christmas story.  Sometimes it would be the Night Before Christmas, other times Bible stories, or maybe her favorite story.  We would drink hot cocoa and snuggle up close as the Christmas tree sparkled and glowed with presents all around, carols playing in the background, dad was sometimes there, other times he was madly putting together bikes and benches and other presents.  Then to bed to dream of sugarplums and presents that I had already opened, played with and rewrapped.  I always knew what everyone was getting each year, and instead of it taking the pleasure away, I knew when to pay attention to someone else opening a present because I knew what would be their favorite gift.  I also knew the order to unwrap mine, building from minor presents to the big one.  I knew how to please my parents, how my eyes sparkled and I sounded so excited and surprised.  They were never disappointed, my parents, I was always appropriately surprised and when I asked them years later and told them about what I did every year, they had no idea.  Really they were amazed to find out I had always unwrapped everyone's presents.  Now I was wrapping my presents for my dad, still looking surprised and pleased when I opened my gifts.

This Christmas eve Rob, my oldest brother sat down in mother's chair and read the Florida version of The Night Before Christmas.  We sat gathered together and watched the same magic and sparkle in his daughter's eyes.  It was the best Christmas Eve.

Christmas morning found me mopping up water in bathrooms and doing laundry.  I had made 3 loaves of nut bread the day before.  I got it out with butter and brie and jars of ambrosia and I had Christmas breakfast set up, just like my Mother did for most of my life.  I turned on the lights on the tree and sat down for a quiet few moments before the rest of the family would start showing up and the noise and joy and chaos and insanity of Christmas morning would begin.  I had decorated part of the Christmas table the night before for our Eve dinner, but I still had to add the chocolates and clementines and the little wrapped wind up toys.  I placed the activity books with crayons at each place and then placed the Christmas crackers on top.   The table looked like a giant gift with the flowers and presents, chocolates wrapped in foil to look like presents and the sweetness of the clementines on the bright cloth covering the table.  

Dad, Marie, Rita and I opened our stockings overflowing with candy, fruit, and small presents.  We laughed and talked and had a lovely morning.  Then Rob, JongAe and Jessica showed up and we started opening presents.  Wonderful gifts, laughter, smiles and wrapping paper filled the room.  Then Tom, Pat and the boys came over and we did it all over again.  When all but one present was unwrapped I got up and passed out the scripts for the first ever Miller Family Christmas pageant.  I asked them to emote and that I would call the few bits of blocking needed.   It only took about 5 minutes to complete the play and by the end a beautiful new telescope was presented to my brothers as a family present.  I have to say everyone joined in with enthusiasm for our little play and at the end where it said that the family gathers together in a big group hug and spontaneously breaks out in We Wish You A Merry Christmas, they each reached for the closest person near them and sang out with vigor.  I was so proud, we all laughed and everyone said it was a great addition to our Christmas traditions.  They said they can't wait until next year for the next play.   Pat was the kitchen coordinator this year, and did a wonderful job.  Normally I cook the roast, make the gravy, set the table, plate my dishes, act as the coordiantaor and then announce dinner.  This year, I put the roast in the oven and then asked for help.  Tom decided when the roast was done, made the gravy and cut the roast.  Everything worked out much smoother, but Tom cut the roast without asking Dad if he wanted to, and it really hurt Dad’s feelings.  I understand they did the same for Thanksgiving with the turkey.   I know that Tom was trying to help Dad and save him from the struggle of standing and cutting the meat when he is still re cooperating from his fall, but next year, we have to make sure to keep dad involved.  We often times think that by doing something for another person we are doing good.  But sometimes we just make them feel useless.  Life is a hard balance.  

I received so many wonderful presents, a beautiful new comforter set for my bed in burgundy, clothes, a giant book on mythologies of the world, teapot, mugs and tea, a peace sign bag and so much more.  But my favorite present is a cobalt blue ceramic compost bucket that sort of looks like a fire hydrant.  It will replace the ugly plastic one that I used to use.  Don't get me wrong, the plastic bucket was a gift and if I had left it under the sink instead of putting it on the counter, who cares what it looked like, but it is so convenient to just leave the compost bucket on the counter near the sink so I can put my organic waste in it as I cook. I used the plastic one for many years, and now I have this lovely blue one, and I can retire the other.  

Yesterday I got up, soaked up the water in the front bath.  I had found the leak Christmas eve around 11 that night and had put a bucket under it so no more water in the back.  Unfortunately the leak in the front appears to be the drain in the wall between the kitchen and the front bath.  So that means whenever you use water in either room it floods the bathroom.  sigh.

After I had gotten all the water soaked up, did my last loads of laundry, I made breakfast, vacuumed the living room, emptied all the trashes, packed my car and then had time to sit down and do a little knitting while I waited the rest of the house to wake up.  We had a nice breakfast and then I got in the car waved goodbye and headed back home to my "kids".

Just north of Tampa I ran into a traffic accident that stopped traffic for about 20 minutes and miles and miles of cars impatiently sitting in 2 straight lines for as far as you could see.  I got off at the next exit and took the back roads and made it home in about 5 and a half hours.  not bad for a holiday.

It was one of the nicest Christmas's I can remember.  I got to talk to dear friends, and even managed to spend a couple hours with my friend Maggie and her aunt and brother.  Ms Emily was my Sunday school teacher and was also a second grade teacher and taught many of my friends.  She is an amazing woman who is a breast and colon cancer survivor.  Bless her heart.  I spent quiet time with my dad, drank champagne and eat delicious food lovingly made.  I got to play with my family and do a play with them.  Nathaniel got his restricted license 19 days earlier and he took me and his mother for a drive.  Christopher and I looked at his Dr., Who book and I counted as he jumped up and down on his pogo stick.  I got to hug on Jessica and help her watch a Tink DVD.  I gave, I received, I worked hard to help my dad and I laughed and hugged and felt a part of a family that keeps traditions tight in our heart and act it out each year.  We add new traditions and revive ones long abandoned, but not forgotten.  I was in the heart of my family and was loved and I loved. 

And then I came home to the heart of my family here.  I hugged my "kids" and shared presents with them and then called friends.  I am tired, and still tired today, so I am here at home taking it easy and planning on a lovely nap later today.  One of my favorite parts of Christmas is that there are so many fun things to do leading up to Christmas, parties, crafts, cooking, present buying and wrapping, but on December 25 it is done.  It doesn't matter what you didn't get done, it is over.  The whistle has been blown, the clock has run out.  The finish line is crossed.

This morning when I finally got out of bed at 8 I looked outside and everything glowed with a white frost.  By 10 the frost was starting to melt and the water dripped and sparkled like a million rainbows falling to the earth.  Next week is New Years.  It is cold.  I am tired.  Christmas is a happy memory and back to work tomorrow.  life is so good. 

Monday, December 20, 2010

Marvelous Monday

I have a staff member who sends out emails with the day in the subject, such as "Marvelous Monday", "Terrific Tuesday", "Wonderful Wednesday" and "Fabulous Friday".  I can never remember what she calls Thursday.  I love her upbeat way of starting each email and seeing them always puts a smile on my lips.  And today was a Marvelous Monday.  I went to work and then ran by the Credit Union on my way to meet Ms Moon for lunch.  Who should try and sneak into the Credit Union with out being noticed but Ms Judy herself.  I reached over and slugged her arm.  She looked up with such a comical expression she made me laugh.  I told her I was getting ready to meet Ms Mary at the Red Elephant.  She looked back a little pitiful and told me that she was starving.  I couldn't help myself, but honestly it never occurred to me that I should try, I just laughed again and told her that I was hoping that she would join us.  How fun, a spontaneous luncheon party!!!!  And with 2 of my most favorite people in the world.  So off we headed and the three of us had a lovely lunch and such a good time talking and laughing together.  

As we each went our own ways, Mary to a beauty salon for ideas.  Ms Moon is playing Truvy in the Opera House Stage Company Production of Steele Magnolias.  Judy headed off to finish picking up the last few things on her shopping list and I was headed to the Lamont Post Office to figure out which of my packages, that I mailed a week ago Saturday that had been returned because the address label had fallen off.  I only had until 3 to make it there and fix this situation.  No worries, I was there with 15 minutes to spare, which for me is like a life time.  The mail courier and the office person were both there and greeted me like an old friend.  That reminds me I need to put an envelope in my mail box tomorrow for my mail delivery person.  She does an outstanding job and I like to give her a little baked treat and then a little cash treat.  She always leaves an official thank you note, but then writes something sweet on it also.  I love my mail person.  And this gentleman in the post office was so helpful and re taped my box after I had to open it to remember who it was going to, and then he let me upgrade it to Priority mail so that it would get there by Christmas.  This is the box that is most important to me to get there on time.  Not for the kids, but for the "dad".  I have bought him a fishing related shirt for the last 20 years, and he always acts like he appreciates it.  His wife once told me that he puts on his new shirt each Christmas, so now I feel obligated to get that box to them on time.  The Mail person assured me that Jim will be wearing his new fishing shirt on Christmas morning.  ah la, life is good.

I picked up my mail as I turned into Farm Boy and was thrilled to see so many lovely Christmas cards from so many dear beloveds.  One from my oldest nephew and his wife with a picture of their adorable son.  I wish they would write something on the card, but I guess I should just be happy that they send me a card.  I also saw one addressed from the son of a former co-worker.  I felt the tears well up in my eyes.  

I never used to cry so much.  I am not complaining, it is somehow very comforting to be able to so openly express my feelings whether in tears or laughter.  And I think as much as I cry more these days, I also laugh out loud more also.  

I opened the envelope from Fazal's son and was a little surprised to see my hands shaking.  I realized that I was somehow hoping that nothing really bad had happened, maybe Fazal was on a cruise and wasn't able to send a Christmas card.  We haven't spoken much since he left, just a couple of times, but we always sent each other cards at the holidays.  My worse fear came true and I mourn out loud for the loss of my dear friend.  I am still leaking heart tears, as Ms Moon puts it, now for him.  He was a good man.  A dedicated state employee.  A kind person.  A thoughtful man of peace.  He was Muslim and he taught me so many things.  And now he has gone.  He was diagnosed with prostrate cancer in 2005 and died of metastatic prostrate cancer a few months ago when it returned.  I swear I don't fear my cancer as much as I hate this terrible disease.  Not for what it has done to me, but for it taking Fazal away from his family.  Fazal loved his family so much and was so very proud of each of his children and grand children.  He loved his wife very deeply.  He loved peace.  Tomorrow I will have to send out the email to his co-workers and let them know about his passing.  I loved Fazal very much and feel the loss more deeply then I could have imagined.  I know that most of that is because I respected him so much and his desire for peace in the world.

And now I am down to wrapping the last few presents, hopefully I can do that by Wednesday.  I am almost done with the last two presents I decided I had to make.  Ms Moon told Judy and I about one more present she has decided to make before Christmas.  I love her so much.  I am happy that I am not the only one that does this.  I love making presents for people.  I think of each person and I love getting to spend the time with them, even though they are not actually here.  They are in my heart and mind as I work on a project that I picked out based on things that I know about them.  I really don't care if they like the present as much as I enjoyed making it.  Of course that would be ideal.  But I get so much joy of just being able to make something for some one special in my life.

So Marvelous Monday.  I am sitting here surrounded by Christmas cards filled with loving wishes, and I am thinking of someone special as I make them a present.  But mostly, I am sitting here and remembering Fazal.  He used to always say, "For example........"  good by dear friend, you are remembered and loved by so many of us.  safe journey.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Christmas letter

Every year I write a Christmas letter of the good things that have happened over the year.  Here is this year's. I hope you enjoy!

December 2010, the end of another year, a year just twelve months ago that was brand new and full of hope, joy, and opportunity.  And now we are on the verge of another holiday.  Thanksgiving is this week, Christmas in a month.  And the holidays are all around us.  Christmas carols in the stores, plans under way, menus and seating charts, trees to be decorated, presents to be bought and wrapped by hands in cloth, paper and ribbons; expressions of friendship and of love.  The weather is changing from summer to winter, and we rush to meet the obligations, the scripts, and the traditions of the season.  Then we slip into our nests for the cold and frigid weather.  A time to remember, to think of friends, and happy occasions that have come and gone, and to gather our family and loved ones around us.  To while away the long dark winter hours with garden catalogs and anticipation of spring flowers. 

And what a year I have had.  April.  2010.  Spring.  That is when this journey of mine began.  No, that is not when my body started to go rogue and produce cancer.  This is not even when I am diagnosed.  It is just the first visit to the doctor.  When the worse case scenario was maybe an infection.  And now here I am almost 8 months later and we now know.  I have lung cancer.  Stage 4 lung cancer.  Sounds pretty scary, but you don’t get to pick which cancer you get.  Well, I didn’t.  I have been through so many worse case scenarios.  Those are done now; it has finally been diagnosed definitively.  It has been a journey with lots of twists and turns.  A journey shared with all those who chose to come along, to lighten the burden, to experience the love and kindness and sharing that has been expressed this year.   

Cancer.  It is not a cancelation of a life.  It is not the end of a life.  It is part of a journey.  My life has changed so much this year.  From going and doing, and doing, and doing, directing plays, garden circle, work, friends and animals, gardens and community activities.  From staying busy to accepting a life learning to balance activity and rest.  To appreciate each moment instead of planning over them.  To sometimes be so in the moment that the smell and glow of friends over comes me and can be recalled with such perfect clarity in the dark quiet hours of the night.  A time to appreciate the strength of the body, the endurance of the spirit, the healing power of love.  My body has been poked and prodded, sucked dry and cut into, poisoned and radiated, and here I am.  Thinking of you, writing you this end of the year thoughts so that you know that you are in my heart, my mind, my memories.  That you are a piece of the strength and love that makes this journey worthwhile.  And to know that I am happy.  Happy to be alive, to be challenged, to find out how much love and kindness, sweetness and caring there is in the world. 

I have had lots of wonderful moments this year, St. George Island with my girl friends, time spent with my family, our team, the Walcoholics - winning the walking competition, work, time at the Opera House, time in my gardens, throwing the ball for Bob, hugging my other “kids”, burying Lily, bless her sweet heart, raising chickens, laughing, putting in an orchard, talking on the phone, drinking wine and eating chocolate, sunsets and full moons.  Wonderful moments, small and large, the best shared with beloved ones.  And cancer.  And I am still me, still strong, healthy and ready to let the doctors fight this battle for me with their WMDs. 

And I send to each of you the blessings I send each year.  Hold on to each other, love deeply and take moments, just stop, and look around you, and experience the moment, the smell, the light, the feelings, the words, the hugs, the movies in your mind; and hold on to those for the entire year; so this time next year, life will be worth remembering.  My year has been full of glorious moments and small quiet moments, and I hope to be better at living this time next year.  Come and visit me.  It is just a small place, but the magic and blessings over bound.  Merry Christmas, Happy Yule, happy holidays, Love sent for the coming year and each moment it holds to each one of you.

The Fancy Pants Camellia Garden Circle and gourmet dining club

That is one of the names we came up with for ourselves at the annual Camellia Garden Circle White Elephant Christmas party.  It is my favorite Christmas party of the year.  We dress up in our gaudiest Christmas best.  Santa earrings, sweaters with cardinals or snowman or stars, most everyone is in green or red and we eat and laugh and drink wine and laugh and talk and laugh and then do it all again.  The food is amazing from rum cakes to lamb stew to quiche to roll ups, every kind of sweet imaginable and the wine flows like water.  And this year we also had wassail.  It filled the house with the most delicious smell.  After we had loaded and emptied our plates at least once we moved to the living room and did our white elephant Christmas gift exchange.  We are getting better at it.  Last year it was pretty boring, but encouraged by our Bobbie Golden, Host of the party, the CD/DVD rack, which looked like a toilet paper holder to me was passed through several hands.  I ended up with a silicon dish with all the instructions written in Japanese.  The most popular was the moose head egg separator where the egg whites come out the nose and the yolk stays safely in the head.  Yep, we were all impressed by that one!  We laughed so hard and enjoyed each other's company.  

Before long we were telling the same old stories about how we met.  I joined the garden circle when I first moved up here.  I was taking a class in pine needle basketry at the art league from Jane Davis.  She is the mother of my favorite vet, Dr. Matt.  Anyway, I mentioned that I was an avid gardener and would be interested in joining a garden circle if there was one that met on the weekends.  Jane looked at me and asked me if I drank.  I said I like an occasional glass of wine.  She said, "That should work, we meet the third Sunday of the month and drink wine, oh, and there might be some gardening involved.......maybe."  Well, she just won my heart and at the first meeting I met my friend Carolyn and they have been my friends ever since.  And as I sat laughing with these woman.  These supportive loving woman who compliment me on my hair and love my quiche, I realized that I have no reason to be anxious about retirement.  Look at how  busy they are, and all the fun things they do together.  And they are inviting me to join them at these events.  Dottie is going to take me to the once a month vegetarian luncheon.  Carolyn suggested that I would enjoy the Wednesday quilting craft group at the library.  I felt so safe, so accepted, so hopeful that life after work will be full and happy and filled with friends. ah la!  happy days

And as I drove home from this traditional event, singing Christmas songs with the radio I felt such a peace and happiness to be living here.  I loved Pine Island.  I lived there for 20 years and there were lots of dear beloved friends, and I have so many memories of happy times, silly and crazy times.  And now I have ended up here in the cold barren waste land of north Florida.  OK, so it is not barren or waste land, but it sure as heck is cold!!!!!!  And I am again surrounded by dearest friends with the Garden Club, the Art League, the Opera House, work.  I am so so so very fortunate to end up in the middle of a little community that is made up of people who love our courthouse, our Opera House, our library, each other, the crepe myrtles planted along Hwy 90, the lakes and rivers, the wildlife, the small town life.  I love it here, and I love my friends so much.  

I turned into Farm Boy Road and everywhere I looked were robins.  Big fat healthy looking birds with their gaudy red breast.  I don't know what it is about robins, but they make me smile.  And I am still smiling.  My tummy if full of quiche and cookies and rum cake and toffee, and my heart is filled with love and robins, Christmas lights and carols.  The dogs are nestled up near me, the cats are curled up on blankets and I sit here yarning, smiling, and feeling like the luckiest person in the entire world.

An egg in the tub

Monday is chemo, Tuesday I feel pretty good, and then I take my after treatment shot.  Now I don't feel so great.  Wednesday, I have to stay on top of the anti-nausea meds and rest.  Thursday, I am too tired to drive or get up and go to work.  Friday I am still tired.  I feel better, but driving is not a safe idea.  Saturday I am weary, but not as sleepy tired.  I have a little more motivation and energy.  OK, that was this treatment, what will the next one be like. 

Today I thought hard and long.  I lost 5 pounds this past week and I did my best to eat, and eat healthy food and high calorie food that I could choke down.  But that is a big part of the tired and exhaustion is loosing that much weight that quickly.  

So here is the plan today.  Go to Winn Dixie and buy frozen veggies.  Those fancy things that have cheese or cream sauce or a souffle or something a little exciting.  I notice that when I am having trouble eating fresh food is not good because I eat so little of it tat it goes bad.  So frozen fruits and veggies might be an answer.  I haven't figured out the fruit thing.  I don't care for canned fruit.  but maybe with cottage cheese.  I used to love peaches and cottage cheese and broccoli and cottage cheese.  Well, I am going to look to see what I can come up with.  I am used to buying plain frozen veggies and then fancy them up for my own taste.

At 5:00 am or so this morning I was awake.  Very awake.  Laying in the bed, Bob snuggling up close with one eye on me to see if I was getting up to feed him or to just lay in bed a while longer, spoiling him.  It was about 5:30 when I heard Dani screaming.  I ran out of the house in my jammies, bare foot, but with my heavy flashlight.  It was light enough to see that it was the biggest damn opossum you have ever seen in your life.  It was black with a tail the size of a lab tail.  He was dragging Dani by the head towards his hole.  I started beating the opossum on the head with the flashlight.  Then I thought, don't make his jaws dig in any deeper to Dani.  So I hauled off and smacked that chicken thief upside the head.....hard!  It dropped Dani and waddled away.  I carried my poor sweet dear hen into the house and made her a nest in tub.  She calmed right down.  I made her Irish steel cut slow cook oatmeal and cut grapes in it.  She ate heartily.  Much more so then I would have if I had been dragged across the ground staring at the world's biggest damn opossum's tonsils.  Then she ruffled her feathers just so, settled down and laid an egg.  After her big accomplishment of the morning, with no consideration of her life and death battle from the night before, proceeded to search for the perfect spot to roost in the house.  The new book case was a great spot, right behind the vacuum.  So I picked her up and took her outside, put more big rocks into the holes, dug dirt and filled it in, and left her and her two sisters clucking and scratching.  chickens are just so darn amazing.  

Last night Richard took me to Liam's for dinner.  He had the pork roast medium well, I had the Chilean Sea Bass.  We had a lovely dinner over a glass of wine and then we headed over to TOSAC for the Christmas play.  hmmmm, it was not the best production I have ever seen.  Actually the best part was when a 4 year old boy sneezed a gallon of slime out of his nose and onto everything.  Dripping from his sleeve, on his pants, the floor, etc.  It was disgusting, and I have to say that might have been my favorite part.  I think I have seen enough Christmas plays for this year.  But Richard and I laughed and laughed and had a wonderful time.  We drove through the Flowers Bakery Headquarters Christmas light display.  It was lovely.

And now it is Sunday.   I have no feeling in my feet, and very iffy in my hands.  Nothing new, and I have learned to be better about wearing my shoes, and not sticking my hand into the toaster oven.  I think I will make some Buttery nut fingers for the Garden club plus a mushroom quiche.  I am folding clothes right now and listening to Carl Osgood sing the Christmas song on TV.  I love this time of year and Carl playing the piano and signing for me.  

And next week is Christmas.  I am so excited.  I have thought about writing a script to give out to everyone about the family present.  I thought it would be fun, and that way I can be very happy and share how important this gift is to me to give to my family.  I love them, and this is the Christmas present I would give them if I were to be here in 20 years.  But I probably won't be, so instead I am sharing this gift now.  I hope they enjoy it.  

I just need to wrap a few more presents and finish yarning a thing or two.  I can do this.  Everything else is done.  Just last minute details about the meals.  The weather outside is seasonal, inside it is toasty warm, the Christmas music is playing, the lights are twinkling on the tree.  Stockings are hung everywhere.  From my first one that my Ganny made me when I was born.  The "T" is missing out of my name, but Santa's beard hangs over the opening where my parents loving filled this stocking for 20 years for me.  Always a tangerine, little things that I needed.  Some of my favorite food treats, like olives.  Simple every day items loving given to fill needs for the full year.  Little presents and surprises pulled out of a simple red felt stocking, now lovingly hung on my upright piano along with stockings used or given throughout the rest of my life.  And over the kitchen table, stockings hung for the animals, filled with cat nip and jerky, balls, stuffed animals and special little treats.

It is Christmas.  I need to get back to my baking.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Another chemo

I feel so productive this year.  Maybe that is the difference of trying to multi task versus focusing on each moment at a time.  Maybe I am doing less.  I don't think so.  Maybe I got an early start with Dad.  Now that is possible.

Sunday night I felt good.  I had made a big dent in the Christmas cards and sewn the first half of gift bags.  They are so simple in design, straight lines, mostly gold, red, orange, forest green and peach organza and then some lovely golden silky material.  I use brighter ribbons with music or sparkle and shine.  They are so simple, but when slipped lovingly in a box with tissue and boxes of hot cocoa nestled in between, a Christmas card laid on top with silk poinsettia flowers.  

Monday morning I woke anxious, nauseous and not quite myself.  Judy picked me up, and it was cold, but not as cold as it would be when we finally got out of the Infusion Center.  We were the last ones to leave, literally the last 3 people, our nurse, Judy and I.  And it was a long, long day.  We had arrived at 8:45 am, got our water and coffee and went to wait for my name to be called. Over an hour later I was called for the blood work.  The waiting room for the lab was filled with more people then I have ever seen before.  Monday is always a busy day, but this was people standing and sitting everywhere.  But they took me straight  back and I got the new girl.  She fits in well, is nice and quite competent.  The nurses were talking that they had finally hired the third blood letter, but there was a mistake in scheduling and instead of adding one more person to the schedule, they added three so they were triple booking.  The nurses did not seem to find this explanation funny in anyway.  They were booking, and in the weeds, but they still tried to be nice to each of us and not make us feel rushed.

It was about an hour and I was called back to the infusion room.  They only allow you to bring one person with you, so Mary had Owen, and Judy got me.  Poor Judy.  We sat in the fusion room and waited and waited.  We did not waste our time, we yarned, and the time passed.  Finally they came over and explained that some construction at the hospital had cut into the tube line and so none of the blood samples were making it to the hospital and they did not know where they were, so they were going to take my blood again and they had a driver who was taking the samples to the lab at the hospital.  

Another hour, the samples were back, now they needed to find the doctor to order the chemicals  and get them from the hospital's pharmacy.  More time slipped by but by a little time after 3 they had started the premeds, and we were out by 6:00 pm. 

It was so cold, so through to the bone shivering cold, and you could feel the temperature dropping as you walked across the parking lot.  We drove to Judy's to pick up her stuff, she graciously offered to stay with my dogs and cats at my house because I was so nervous about the cold and leaving them in the hospital with no one there.  We finally got to Mary's a little after 7.

I was beat and made a bee line to the couch in the Glen den.  I could hear Mary and Judy talking and laughing in the kitchen, but I simply did not have what it took to get up and join them.  Instead I dozed.  Mary slipped in quietly and set the table for our delicious dinner of home made pizza.  Now Mary makes an amazing pizza, much better then you can get at any take out or delivery place, but this pizza was remarkably wonderful.  And I ate two pieces!  Wohoo!!!  And then I went to bed.  I hardly even had a conversation with Mary.  I don't think I made it through one of my favorite movies, the Princess Bride more then a half hour.  I went straight to the panther room and feel into a deep sleep.  Exhaustion, chemicals, healing rest, sweet nurturing from my dear dear friends.  Sleep of a baby.

And I woke around 7:30 and snuggled with Dolly.  She always sleeps with me when I stay at the Moon's.  She is my special little bed buddy.  Mary came by to check on me at 8 and closed the door.  I got up and dressed and she made me tea and steel cut oatmeal and we talked and laughed.  Then Judy came to get me to take me home so we could run errands today.  My first obligation was to finish packaging the boxes I had started on Sunday.  

Judy was not able to head to town, but I filled my car with packages to ship, 2/3 of my Christmas cards, my toys for the service groups, and a few local cards and presents to deliver.  I ran those errands and still felt fine, so I stopped by the Dollar stores.  Monticello may not have a single red, yellow, green traffic lights in the county, or as I understand any Deer crossing signs, but we have a Fred's and 2 different dollar type stores.  Yep, we know what is important in this county, and it isn't traffic lights.  So I am finally finished with all my shopping.  I may still go with friends out and enjoy the lights and music and chaos, but no pressure.  Oh, and the family present I ordered has been shipped.  I am really excited about this present, I hope they like it.  

meds.  No pain so no need for that type of meds, but keeping on top of the anti-nausea meds is extremely important.  And resting the day after chemo makes for a more productive Wednesday.  I plan on going to work tomorrow.  

So chemo treatment with Dr. M is down, not so bad.  So 1 or 2 more and then we will check and hopefully find that it is helping.  Please let be helping.  I see where people are willing to go anywhere and do anything to try and get rid of this disease.  I am comfortable with my choices.  I could fight harder, but that would not be me.  I need more then anything at this time in my life to be true to my own nature, to try and live in the moment, alive, aware, but passive versus violence.  I want to be engaged but I want to only leave whispers of hope on this beautiful blue green planet of ours.

It is another miserable cold day.  Have I mentioned before how much I really really detest the cold.  And it is predicted to be back down to 20 again tonight.  I mean I live in Florida!  And as I understand it, it is cold all the way down the state.  But I am snuggled in warm in my little place, the Christmas lights are twinkling on my tree, I have bravely placed candy canes on the top half of the tree in hopes that the dogs will not discover them too soon.  I have some hot cocoa on the menu tonight before bed which will be early.  I am working on Christmas cards, but with all that I have accomplished today, I am not in a rush to get them done tonight, tomorrow will be soon enough.  I am a little worn out from my errands today, so I am sitting back watching the Princess Bride again, one of the great stories with something for everyone.  Ah, a little respite and relaxation, a few meds, a little sleep and tomorrow is another day.    

Sunday, December 12, 2010

So much

So much has happened.  So much.  I woke up Tuesday morning, so tired.  Not that bone tired exhaustion that I had after my last chemo treatments, but just tired.  Sleepy tired.  However, I got up, took my shower, washed my 1/4 inch long hair, chose my clothes, fed the animals, cooked steel cut oatmeal (quick cook version) and drove to work.  It was an important day.

I got to work, reviewed my leave hours, and yes, I think May 31st will be the best date to retire.  I wrote my letter of intent, made copies and handed them out.  I returned to my office and wept.  The idea of leaving the known is scary.  I love my job.  I love the people I work with and for.  I am good at what I do there.  I am not so good at not going to work.  Well, I haven't been in the past.  And I am leaving this job because I don't have that much longer on this planet.  That is not true.  I have all the time in the world left.  I have years yet.  OK, maybe not 20, probably not 10, but I do have years.  And it is time to leave the comfort zone of the known and dip my toe into the unknown.  I don't mean to sound depressed, just a little frightened.  Frightened of the unknown.  And I know this unknown has all the opportunities of the world.  I can set up a new time to wake in the morning.  I can fix anything I want for breakfast because I will not have to rush to work.  And then will I sit and read the paper?  Or will I go out and work in my gardens? Maybe throw the ball to the dogs, or just sit and read a book.  Each day a new canvas to paint on anyway I want.

I went home that evening, so tired.  I sat in my red chair and fought to keep my eyes open.  Fought to sit upright.  Like I said I am not exhausted, just sleepy tired.  I worked on Christmas cards and made pumpkin bread for tomorrow's Division meeting I refused to give in and sleep because I was afraid I might not sleep through the night, and I need that full nights sleep.

Wednesday I awoke even more tired.  But I got up and went to work; after all, there is a party at work.  Well, party might be a bit overstating.  It is a giant cover dish.  We sit in the big auditorium lit only by Christmas lights and the fireplace on the TV.    In other words, it was dark.  Not really the best way to celebrate the festival of light.  But we had a good time and ate and ate and talked amongst our tablemates laughing.  Another year gone by.

Thursday when I got home, I sat in my red chair and fell fast asleep for 2 hours.  I woke and moved to the couch where I slept for another two hours.  Then I got up fixed dinner and then went to bed.  I was asleep by 6:30 and slept until the alarm went off the next morning when the alarm went off.  Up and out to work.  How can I still be so sleepy?

I managed to get a lot accomplished this week at work.  It felt good.  Then I met my friend Paige for lunch on Friday, across the street at the Chinese restaurant.  We sat and talked and laughed for hours.

Then I hurried home to dress for the Opera House Christmas Spectacular.  I pulled out my Christmas red sweater.  No, I put the sweater up and pulled out my new black cashmere sweater.  Yes, a bit Goth for Christmas, but it is warm and soft and feels like a baby’s breath on my skin.  Suzanne and Tim Peary, neighbors from behind me picked me up.  

And I have to say I highly recommend this Christmas spectacular.  The Director starts out in a green velvet low princess cut neckline that fit her like a Barbie doll.  She looked beautiful.  She went through two more changes ending in a long white dress reminiscent of Marilyn Monroe.  In fact a teenage boy ran up to her after the show and actually told her she looked like Marilyn.  She glowed.  

But there was more to this spectacular then just fancy dresses.  It reminded me of a Perry Como Christmas special.  There was dancing and singing and children who have grown up on that stage.  There was a scrooge story told from a Monticello point of view.  Instead of Marley being Scrooge's sidekick, it was John Perkins, the father of our Opera House.  And there was Victorian Carollers, teenagers dancing/singing to Rocking around the Christmas tree.  There were rockettes, Monticello style, religious music, the nativity, but no live birth.  There was a bit from Babe's in Toyland, Santa Claus, more singing and dancing, and flute playing and so much more.

But my favorite was Larry Blake accompanied by Caleb Vaughn, Michael Starling and another young man playing guitars with a choir of young children all dressed in white led by Lisa LItteral and they sang John Lennon's Christmas song.  "So this is Christmas, and what have you done.......” with the chorus singing, "war is over if, you want it" and the tears filled my eyes.  That is my favorite Christmas song.  

The show ended with "We wish you a merry Christmas" with Santa, played by Larry Blake who was a wonderful Santa.  And all the young children got to feel so grown up as they helped the even younger children in the audience up the rickety stairs to the stage.  Eyes bright and so important.  They are not babies anymore.  And they are not.  Their legs go on forever, the baby fat on their faces leaning out to reveal the adults they will one day be.  Voices changing, choices of clothes more mature, so grown up and yet so young.  I have watched these children for 3 years now, such a short time to an adult, an eternity to a child.  I sat in the audience with the few people who came with out my hat.  I sat there brave and strong, with my little fuzz of baby hair covering my head.  And I smiled and sang along and silently cried as Larry's beautiful voice and the guys acoustic guitars sang out through the hall of peace and love and giving to your fellow human.  The hall glowed in the gory of the fellowship of friends and families who have bonded here at the Opera House.  Watching their children grow, babies born and families coming together.  It was a magical night, truly a Christmas spectacular.  And as my friends too many to count on the stage and behind the scene, saw me and recognized me and my baldish head, I saw smiles and tears.  And after the show hugs, big strong hugs.  If these people could heal me with a hug, I would be the healthiest person in the world.  

Yesterday I sewed Christmas bags.  I wrap very few Christmas presents in paper, preferring to sew simple bags of cloth tied with ribbons to hold my presents.  It started when Corie and Cole, and Annie and Jim were young.  They asked me why.  I explained that they were reusable and environmentally friendly.  They loved the bags.  Sometimes more then my presents.  Annie and Jim's family have received so many bags over the years that they now use them for their family presents.  Year after year, I watched tiny ones eye's glowed as they figured out how to open the bag, pull out the present and throw it to the side as they then gleefully stuffed all other kinds of things into the bag.  Children love boxes and bags.  They love places where they can put their own things.  Their very own stuff.  I also worked on some Christmas cards and then said, I have to get Vicki and Ken their present so I can mail their box with the Grantham and Kriner boxes this week.  So I got up and dressed and drove into town and finished my shopping.  Yes, I am finished.  Well, I will continue to look for stocking stuffers for Dad.  And I am still looking at a family present.  I was able to look at something yesterday and it gave me some great ideas.  I can't wait to see my brother's and their families faces when they open it up.  

I have been blessed with so much.  I have 2 plus acres with a barn, a chicken coop, Chickenham Palace and a little trailer, 2 airstreams, a car port, gardens, orchards and a vineyard that I put in with my own hands, my own sweat and those of my friends.  I have worked hard for the Department for 25 years.  I have moved up through the organization to a position I love.  I have had the opportunity to work in lots of other places also.  I have made people laugh as a professional clown.  I have taught others how to give in that same way.  I have worked with stained glass, a flower shop, plant nursery, a park ranger, worked at every level of the restaurant business; I have owned my own business making soap and other natural body products and herbal teas.  I have worked in an art gallery and been surrounded by such talent.  I have laughed until I cried more times then I can count, I have had food on the table, even if at times, I had to pick grapefruits free from my back yard, and buy brown rice from the bulk food store to eat with veggies picked from the neighborhood garden.  A feast at the time.  I have been given diamonds, had a champagne bath, road in Rolls Royces, and walked.  I have had all of my heart's wishes come true and spent time with the most remarkable people.  I have been loved and have loved, and even though I will never be a woman of unlimited resources, I have enough to give back.  Which in the past has been some of my happiest memories.  Nothing makes my heart sing like dropping a dollar into the red bucket, a sincere Merry Christmas spoken with true belief from the bell ringer.  I truly believe that each time I give I get back 10 fold.  Whether with the song in my own heart, or the look on the other person's face when they realized that someone thought of them and gave to them.  I like being anonymous in my giving. It takes the joy from the give and gives it to the receiver.  As it should be.  

And this morning I awoke not as tired.  Not so worn out.  Finally!!!  I suppose it will come back after the treatment on Monday, but for now, I feel good.  And I got up early and started sewing bags, then wrote Christmas cards during Charles Osgood.  And now I have caught my blog up.  I swear that I did a million other things, all of course quite important, but all I remember is being tired.  Sleepy tired.  And I slept and allowed the healing to strengthen my body finally.

Today the temperature is dropping, the wind is picking up and it will be so very cold tonight.  Tuesday morning will be the coldest day of the year.  Have I ever mentioned how much I loathe the cold!  And today I will look out the window to the gorgeous sunshine tempting me to come out and play.  Oh, you can never trust the sunshine in the winter, it looks warm and lovely.  But the sun is so far away and as hard as it tries to warm our little corner of the world, it is focused elsewhere on our blue and green planet.  But it will come back in the spring, warming the dark mulch rich earth, causing plants to sprout and shoot out of the ground reaching up to the sun.  

Oh what a wonderful week it has been.  Even with the sleepiness and tired moments.  I was strong.  I wrote a letter that I didn't think I would write for years yet.  And when I was in JoAnn's yesterday, a woman came up to me and shook my hand.  With a big broad smile, she told me that she had just been given the news that she is one year cancer free.  I told her that I am still going through treatment.  She hugged me and told me to hang in there.  I smiled, I didn't tell her that my cancer is uncurable, it was her moment, I didn't want to tarnish it.  She was so proud.  And I am proud also, of what I am accomplishing.  I don't know that I will ever hear anyone tell me that I am one year cancer free.  But I hope that I might hear that the cancer is contained.  My achievement will be waking up as many mornings as possible and get up and smile and welcome another day.  Another day, isn't that wonderful.  It does not make me happy to hear people say, "Oh you will live for ever."  No, instead, it makes me happy to see my friends there knowing that I will not be here forever, but that I am here today, and really, that is what is important.  

Today, that is the most important day there is, today.   And I am here, and I am happy and I am sending cards to friends and sewing bags to wrap presents of my beloved ones in.  It is a wonderful day.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Dr. Newman

This morning Ms Moon and I went to meet with Dr. Newman.  She is our Radiological Oncologist.  She is amazing.  Beautiful, sweet, warm, affectionate, professional and takes her work very seriously. She looked at my records and talked to us.  It wasn't a long visit, but was filled with lots of interesting information.  Where Dr. Broeseker had said that there was no way to find the primary source of cancer, but it was probably reproductive, her records said it was pulmonary.  The more information that I learn, the worse Dr. Broeseker looks.  Mary brought up that she thought that he was burned out.  Dr. Newman agreed that in her business that is common.  We talked about going to Thomasville and how much we love it there.  She was happy to hear that.  I talked to her briefly about my plans to retire and how much time, statistically that Dr. Mchayla had talked to me about.  She agreed with Dr. Mchayla.  

I went into the office and talked to my Bureau Chief and Assistant Chief.  I told that I am planning on retiring from the state May 31.  They asked me if I was sure I wanted to wait that long.  I said yes, this would give us time to train my replacement and get us through the busiest of the Temik season.  Tomorrow I will give them a letter of intent and will then send in my letter of resignation to the Commissioner when the new one starts after the first of the year.  This will allow them to go ahead and hire my replacement while I am still there and give us time to train her.  

I feel a little anxious about leaving, after all this has been my life for 25 years.  I know I could leave earlier, but I think I will need this time to adjust to my new freedom from work.  And I am just not ready to admit that this is the end.  The end of my employment, coming up on the end of my life.  And yet, I feel like I will still have time to do the things that I want to do.  I am not going to rush my death and I am not going to rush my life.

I am happy with my decisions, with my plans with the timing of things.  I can adjust if I need to.  But in the mean time, while I am going through the treatments, my life remains the same.  No big drastic changes.  Everyone tells me I am brave.  I don't know about that, but I do know that I feel braver with a plan.  And I have my plans, for retirement, travel, buying my convertible, living a balanced life for however I have left.

But here is the true secret for me, is liking who I am.  Trusting my instincts.  And surrounding myself with loving, intelligent, kind and thoughtful people.  

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Good Morning

I slept through the night.  I did not wake up one time, I did not have cold sweats or dry heaves or panic attacks. I slept peacefully with Henry and Luna on my left side and Bob on my right.  I went to sleep about 9:30 and woke up at quarter to 8:00.  That was because Bob wanted to play. He loves to cuddle in the morning with the ball in his mouth.  If I ignore him he tries to put that nasty ball in my mouth.  He is good at getting me up.  But the sun was up and shining in through the windows, the day had started.  I got up and felt rested.

I fixed breakfast for the kids and myself and here I sit in my red chair, laundry is going, the dish washer is going and Sunday morning with Charles Osgood is on.  This is my favorite way to spend a Sunday.  A cup of tea and Charles Osgood.  I wash my clothes and then fold them while I watch the TV.  I don't know that I would say that Sunday is my day of rest as much as I would call it my day of gratefulness.  I am grateful for this day each week to catch up taking care of my little place, to spend time with my kids, to make it an early evening and enjoy my little world, and then to get to sleep early to start the new week alert and ready.

So as the dryer tumbles and blows hot air on my clothes (too cold and too far of a walk this morning to the clothes lines) I am taking a moment before I clean the kitchen and then fold my clothes.  Just domestic doings.  How lucky to have my own place to take care of.  My mess to clean up.  My kids to hug and love.  Even Marina is feeling affectionate this morning.  That is scary.  She climbed into bed with me this morning and curled up next to me and demanded attention.  She has hair.  This summer she was almost bald, but now that the weather has turned cold, she is once again covered with her sable fur, and she is more affectionate.  

After Charles this morning I will drive over to Janak and Geeta's to share lunch, and then I will head to rehearsals for Steel Magnolia's to see if there is anything I can do to assist the directors and Judy and Denise.  Denise and Pat Cichon will be working on the costumes.    And then this evening I hope to decorate my Christmas tree.

Last year Vicki was here for Christmas.  Dad loved having his two girls back at home.  This year Vicki will be having Christmas at home with her grandchildren, Dad already misses that she will not be here, but he understands.  And Vicki and I had a Christmas tree last year, but we never decorated it or brought it into the house.  We left it in the bucket between the barn and the carport.  Every time we went anywhere we would look at our tree and comment how beautiful it was.  And it was, all the way into April, when I finally put it in the burn pile.  This year I got a 5 foot tree and I plan on bringing it into the house. And decorating it.  And sitting here at night with all the lights off and watch the blinking lights on the tree.  Ornaments sparkling nestled in the green needles.  A velvet skirt wrapped around the base of the tree, a soft green bed to snuggle in presents wrapped in paper and cloth, ribbons flowing off each.  

I used to wrap the trees in garlands of cranberries and popcorn.  After catching Harry standing at the tree chewing the garland and actually turning the tree around as his lips pulled the garland into his mouth.  He spit out the cranberries and swallowed the popcorn and string.  It wasn't pretty when the string had to pass through, so no more garlands of popcorn on the tree.  

I just talked to Vicki she performed her first wedding yesterday.  The wedding sounded perfect and everyone had a wonderful time.  She also said that she and Ken might be able to drive down for a long weekend the end of January.  I hope so, I would love to see her.  

Sunday, the sun is shining and the air is crisp, OK, cold for me.  I will bundle up to go to Janak and Geeta's and then rehearsal.  I will scurry back home and turn on the heater and have a cup of tea.  Snuggle down this evening and enjoy my  Christmas tree.  Maybe I will start working on my Christmas cards.  Tomorrow I will go to see my Radiological Oncologist Dr. Newman.  I am very fond of her and it will be nice to see her again, although I am not sure why.  Charles Osgood is done and time to get going.