Sittin On A Porch

Sittin On A Porch
Our little back porch

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

An Early Christmas Present

I just had the best present I could ever hope for.  My cousin Ned, whom I have not seen for over 30 years commented on my blog, and gave me his email address.  Then he called me a few minutes ago and other then the fact that we asked a million questions about family, we talked as if we had talked last week instead of decades ago.  He sounds amazing.  He is married to a beautiful lady and has a 19 year old son and a 7 year old daughter who is gorgeous also.  Well, from the one picture I could see of them.  I am so happy to hear from him.  I don't have a big family and my parents were not into staying in contact with other members of the family so I grew up without much family around.  My Dad's only sibling, Dianne, came down each Christmas to visit her parents who lived near us.  And she would bring the three kids, Fred, Ned and Cara. 

Now we are all grown up.  Dad still lives in the same house he has for almost 60 years.  Dianne still lives in Indiana.  So it isn't that we are that hard to find.  And it doesn't sound like they have been moving around a lot either.  I don't care how many times I hear stories of people finding each other after, oh say, 30 years or so, and it always amazes me.  And now, here I have my own story.

Now to talk them into coming to visit us in Florida.  I played up the cancer, coughed a little and said that it isn't a good idea to wait too long.  Who knows how long I have.  Hey, that is all true.  Of course, I probably have way long enough for them to take their time getting here, but you never know.

This morning I woke up, turned the heater on in the house and wanted to just roll over and stay cozy and warm under my goose.  But I had to take Edna to the vets for her final visit about her skin, so I got up, took care of a few things around the house and then Edna and I headed off to the vets.  We had the same new young vet we had before, but she impressed me this time.  OK, she impressed me last time, and not in a good way.  But this time she seemed much more at home and I appreciated how she handled everything today.  Edna looks good, that is not just my opinion, that is also the vet's.  Maybe that is why I like her better.  So after a very successful visit we loaded up in the toy and headed home.  Just as the speed picked up as we left town, Edna looked at me and then emptied her stomach into my hat.  OK, I can clean that.  Oh, but no, she was not done.  She then continued being car sick all over the seats, but the worse was right down into the emergency brake.  I have no idea how I am going to clean that so the car does not smell like sick dog.  sigh.  She is so not a Labrador.  But she is a sweet pretty little girl and she is trying.  She really is.

So with the delay of trying to get the car some what cleaned up, I still had time to make it to Thomasville and the Y.  Then I got a call from Dad.  He fell yesterday.  He is fine, and he was able to get a hold of Rob who went over and get him up off the floor.  His knees are a little sore, and he cut his arm where his watch is when he went down, but for 86 he is lucky to be fine.  I know he is an adult, but it just scares me with him living alone like this.  He is just not stable on his own feet and I worry about him.  He is my Dad after all.

After the call with Dad I headed up to Thomasville and missed my yoga class by 15 minutes.  I could not walk into the class late.  So instead I ran errands then went to the Oncology Center to give blood.  I get to see the amazing Dr. M next week. 

I stopped at Lowe's on the way home and bought plastic to close in the back porch.  I want to put Christmas lights out there and hope that I can keep the porch above freezing.  That way I can keep the frost sensitive plants can be close where I can watch them.  I have a glass house I could put them in, but I have not cleaned that poor little place out in 2 years and I would need to clean it out to use it for this winter.  Also it is just in my back yard, but there are days that the only place I go is to the chicken coop.  I dislike the cold, but my only way to deal with it is to stay in the house.  I do not leave the house willingly when it gets below 60.  Shoot, below 70.  If I could move the chickens into the house I would.  But it is bad enough when they are peeps and I keep them in the bathtub, I am not having 11 grown chickens scratching around my house.  OK, I would if I had vinyl floors and could just hose the house out and then pour bleach everywhere.  I would do it just so I do not have to go outside into the cold.  Yes, I dislike cold that much.

This evening has been spent talking to family.  First Ned, then while I was talking to him, Rob called in with a video chat.  I put Ned on speaker phone, but I think it was difficult to hear each other.  But Rob's eyes got big and round and I thought they were going to pop out of his head.  Word ran through the family.  Rob called Tom, I spoke to Dad.  Then I went on facebook and requested to be Ned's, his wife, his sister and Mother to be friends on facebook.  So it has just been a regular Christmas family reunion.  And I love it.  I updated Ned on each of the family, as best as I knew and we laughed as we remembered the days as kids and visits to our shared grandparents. 

Now it is time to call it a night and head to bed.  To sleep, to rest, to dream, maybe about family.  Maybe about the holidays.  I don't care, as long as I get some rest.  Most of the side effects are from the meds.  But the tiredness is as much if not more from the cancer then anything else.  And it takes so much longer to get back on my feet.  So sweet sleep, good night, and sweet dreams. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Here comes another cold front

So I did not get to watch the UF vs FSU Game.  But it was probably for the best in that FSU won 21 - 7.  Trying to find a bright side, at least we were not scoreless.  It is the first time in three years that they have beaten us.  Congratulations FSU.  And to all of my gator friends.....wait until next year!!!

Rob, JongAe and Jessica came around noon to pick up Dad.  It was bittersweet.  One side of me understands that he has his life in Palmetto, and I have mine here.  But another side worries over him, and I wish we were closer so I could do more for him. 

I need to get organized and pull out all the presents I have received and go over the receipts with my lists to make sure that I have gotten what I have ordered and what have I received and follow through on anything sent by mistake or what I have not received yet. 

After the family left I baked cookies to take to the Cast Party.  It was a beautiful evening and I drove over with the top down.  I got there a little late and everyone was busy eating.  Many in front of the TV while Fred's video of Sin, Sex and the CIA played.  I joined those on the stairs who were watching.  It was great to see the show finally.  It was an amazing production.  And so much fun getting to sit around and watching it together with most of the cast.  George and Linda didn't make it, and everyone asked about them.  Amanda had gotten her hair cut and looked amazing.  Buzzy was home studying, and we missed him also.  The rest of us sat around, plates overflowing, hearts swelling with pride over the end result of all the hard work and opening up even further as we recognize that this time is over.  This group will not get together again for this show.  We will work together again, we will support each other and go and see other plays that some of us will be in, but this moment in time has played through and is closed.  The light is off, the stage is dark.  It was worth every second.  I learned so much and found a little faith in myself.  I still need to work on my self confidence.  I don't know why it is so hard for me to recognize my own worth.  I can see it in others.  Why do I deny it for myself?!!!

I left early and started driving home.  Fred had made DVDs for all of us of both this play and of the Poe reading.  I got a DVD of Poe for Ms Moon and as I drove by her house I could see lights on so I drove up just for a minute to give her the DVD.  I got to see both Mr and Ms Moon.  They are just so precious.  And I know Ms Moon is not celebrating Christmas, but I am.  And I don't want to even hear that I can not be me.  The same with two friends I have whose birthday is December 2.  Both have announced that they are not celebrating their birthday.  OK, I respect that...but.....all I want is to get to spend time with them near their special day.  I won't even say happy birthday more then once.  I just want to be able to have dinner or lunch, or even just 30 minutes with them for their special day.  I will not tell anyone, I will not force anything on them, but these dear precious someones mean so much to me and I just want to get a chance to be with them.  To whisper a quiet thank you for having them in my life.  So, maybe to not impose on their wishes I will celebrate with them after their big day, give them time to get through their birthday and then I can get to be with them.  We can call it a holiday get together.  And for the Moon's?  Well, I can always say it is not Christmas presents, but bon voyage presents.  Going to Mexico.  I don't expect Ms Moon to celebrate Christmas, but that doesn't mean I can't.  I am willing to compromise.  But not celebrating a birthday, not celebrating a holiday is a time gone by.  A moment never to be captured, a moment lost in time, time that can not be made up.  And time is shorter then any of us know.

Today I woke after sleeping well and it was raining.  Steady rain.  It has been so long since we have had rain that it almost seems foreign, out of place.  And yet so needed.  The plants looks better then I have seen them in forever.  They just sucked up all of that moisture and even though it was not a lot of rain, and will not make a dent in our deficit, the plants took it in and stood up tall again.

The cold is coming in, by Wednesday night it will be freezing.  This morning when I opened the door the damp cold swept in and through me chilling me to the core.  I closed the door and turned the heat on.  I called friends to get reference for a CPA.  I went on the computer and tried to down load the forms I needed for my conference call later in the day.  I found all the papers.  I really have to get organized. 

I drove up to the Monticello post office, the rain was starting to let up but left the bone chilling cold.  I mailed my packages, dropped off my garbage and hurried home to the warmth of the house.  I went on line and filled in a few gaps in my presents.  Cyber Monday deals.  Oh yeah!!  Then the conference calls started.

And the rest of the day was spent starting to organize presents.  Looking at wrappings and determining how many bags I will have to make, what material should I use.  I watched sappy Hallmark movies.  Yes, I love those sappy happy ending movies.  I love to read adventure novels where good always outsmarts evil.  I love watching movies that have happy endings.  I love this time of year where they pull at our heart strings.  I don't care their motives, sell me things?  Convince me that they are the best at what they do?  OK, I don't care, I just love to sit with a box of Kleenexes and watch these things.  Shoot Publix commercials start the waterworks.  It is all part of letting go the old year and the preparation of being open to the new challenges for the coming year. 

I have been thinking about this year's new years resolutions and what should I pick.  I love new year's resolutions.  I don't go for the ones with pressure like loosing, or gaining weight.  I don't try the hard things like quitting smoking or doing more exercises.  No, for the last two years, Vicki and I chose to laugh more often.  We did great the first year, it was a little harder this year, but fun to try to do.  But I think I need to come up with a new one this year.  Something I will want to do.  Something to focus on and feel successful.  I still have time to think about it.  Maybe eat more chocolate.  Hmmm, sounds interesting, and I am sure that one will be in the top ten, but I can see where that could be a problem with my inability to eat at times.  How about making 5 new friends?  hmmm that one should go into the top ten also.  Read one more book?  Pet the kids more often?  Oh I am on a role now.

Well, enough thinking for one day.  A good day.  A day to appreciate others.  To be aware of their value and how they gave me their best.  Took time to make sure that my concerns are answered and that I will have enough to live my life for the next couple of years.  To make the most of what I have managed to save through the last few years.

This time next week I may be down in Weeki Wachi.  Colleen is still fighting her battle with heart disease, congested lungs, a stroke, generally not taking care of herself as much as she should have.  Spat has been able to reschedule his back surgery.  Looks like it could be the end of this week.  And I am so grateful that I will be able to play a very small part in giving back to them all the love and care and giving that they gave to me.   Spat and Colleen were there for Larry and I through our marriage, and then afterwards.  They were still there when we found out about what was wrong with Larry, and they were the ones that stood up and said we will help when we needed it most.  And then gave and opened their home and took care of both of us.  They were there when Larry took his last breath on this planet.  The three of us cried and shared in his passing, mourning the man we had known for so many many many years  And they, like me, put aside all the craziness and just tried to love him at the end.  He knew.  He knew we were there, and he knew we loved him.  And he left this planet surrounded by friends and love.  And now, in a very small way, I hope to be there for them to help.  And like before I am sure that I will be the one that gains the most.  It has been a long time since people have let me give back.  Maybe that should be my resolution.  To learn how to let people let me give back. 

I have been given so much these past few years, by so many dear precious people.  Some I hardly know, others whom I love with all my heart.  But everywhere I have turned these last couple of years human beings have done for me, provided a kind word, a whispered prayer, a bag of leftovers to try and get me to eat, small thoughtful gift.   Others have done big jobs like sitting with me while I had toxic chemicals poured through my veins in a false hope that they would cure me.  People have worked hard, given their time, love, energy and money to make sure that I had what I needed.  And I have learned to accept these gifts.  To understand the importance to let others give.  And now, maybe it is my time to learn again how to give back in a way that these precious beloved ones understand that it is not out of obligation or paying back, but out of simple love. 
love life
be brave
Learn how to give so that people receive the gift as a compliment not to the giver, but to realize that to receive allows another to give.  And that may be the most precious gift we can give to anyone.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Christmas lights

Yesterday afternoon after Rob, JongAe and Jessica headed off to visit friends in Bainbridge, Dad and I loaded up in the Toy.  We put the top down, buttoned our coats and headed north up Hwy 19.  It was a beautiful late autumn afternoon, in the mid 70s, beautiful blue sky with clouds coming in from the west.  We drove up through Thomasville past the strip malls, Wally world, SW Georgia Technical Institute until we came to 319.  Turned east and followed the signs through Coolidge then Murphy and north to Moultrie.  We passed an airfield on our way up, so after figuring out how to get downtown we headed back to the airfield.  Dad was stationed near Moultrie when he was in the Army Aircorp, about 60 years ago. 
Things have changed since then.

We pulled up to a very nice little regional airport and I went into the office while Dad waited in the car.   No, this was not the airfield that Dad had been stationed for some training.  That was east of this airfield.  It was almost 5:00 and the lady was obviously trying to get out and close the office.  I appreciated that she took the minute to tell me about the other airfield.  She did not give me any assistance on finding the other airfield.  It would be dark within the next hour or so anyway, so I it was probably too late to go hunting for it.  Plus there is no guarantee that it would look anything like it did 60 years ago.  But I know Dad would have been happy to have seen it.

Instead we headed back up to Moultrie's downtown business district.  We drove around the square and looked at the businesses.  There did not appear to be many eating establishments on the square, only one was open.  So we made our way around the one way streets and parked outside the entrance to Beef O'Brady's which is located in the old Colquitt hotel.  A beautiful 4 story brick building, still wearing the grandeur and grace it wore back in its hey day.  We sat down at a booth, the LSU vs Arkansas game was on.  LSU  looked tough.  I wasn't hungry at all.  I thought maybe we could get a little something to pick at and then come home for dinner.  But Dad was hungry so he ordered fish and chips, I had a bowl of their chicken and dumpling soup.  Mine tasted canned.  Dad said his fish was cooked perfectly.  He had enough french fries to feed an army, and all of his food was fresh and hot.  Good choice on Dad's part.  I could barely eat the soup, but I wasn't hungry to begin with, so it is not fair to judge them in that situation.  We watched the end of the LSU game and talked and laughed.  Our server was a nice young lady who was patient, attentive and very kind to us.  We paid the bill, then walked into the lobby of the building. 

It had four columns holding up the center of the lobby.  The square pillars had been painted in faux marble.  At the top of all the pillars in the room were faux gold leafed leaves.  They had faux painted part of the ceiling to look like large carved beams.  Each section of the ceiling had beautiful old original crown molding.  In the center of the room was a big round table like you would see in any luxury hotel in the height of this hotel, well for that matter, still today.  On the table was a beautiful dusty artificial flower arrangement.  All in all, it was a lovely old room with the ghosts of well dressed couples waiting for the elevator after an evening walking around the town square looking at the Christmas lights.  Their spirits misty and vague, but their energy still palpable. 

We walked out to the car and turned our eyes toward the huge County Court house anchoring the center of the downtown square.  Strands of Christmas lights like a spider web coming off the top of the court house spanning the space across the greens surrounding the courthouse, across the street attaching to the facades of the businesses lined up in perfect formation around the Court house square.  The lights were strung across the streets a block in every direction past the square.  People walked around the square window gazing at the beautiful designed windows dressed in their Christmas finery.  Lights and trees, bells and angels, presents tied up with bows filled the windows with holiday gift ideas placed amongst the decorations. 

On the east side of the courthouse was a beautiful decorated tree lit up with a beautiful and intricate star gracing the top of the tree.  Looking like a TV movie, people walked past or stopped and took in the beauty of the colored lights, the perfect shaped tree with the large beautiful star like glow on the top.  It was a perfect way to start the Christmas holiday and well worth the little drive up to this lovely little town nestled deep in the southern agriculture community of Georgia.

Here is your exercise for the day, stretch your neck by turning it sideways.  Thank you
After driving around the square under the lights we turned the toy south and headed back towards Thomasville and then on to Monticello, south to Labrun.  It was a warm night for the end of November, but too cool to drive with the top down.  I have been getting cold flashes lately, and they are as hard to warm up as to cool down after a hot flash.  We both had on coats, but it was lovely with the top up so we could chat and discuss all the lovely things we had seen on our little jaunt.  We followed 319 back towards Thomasville and time swept by quicker as it always does on your way home, then when you are driving somewhere new.  We turned at the bright lights of 19 and headed south until we saw the white lights of the Flower's Bakery Headquarters.  They always have a beautiful display of Christmas lights.  I could not tell if they were done decorating yet, but there was a flashing blue light at the entrance, so we turned in.  We opened the windows to hear the Christmas carolles, we turned off our lights to better see the lights.  We drove through slowly mesmerized like small children, the reflection of the white lights shining in our eyes.  We drove past the waving Santa on the balcony over the door of the lovely house that headquarters this mainstay of the Thomasville community.  Around the bend, past the life sized nativity, under the flying reindeer then turned to go through the tunnel of lights.  Angels, Santas, elves, trains and other brightly colored lights glittered in their displays surrounded by the white lights wrapping all of the trees along the drive.  Then we turned out on to the side road and saw the last hurrah of the display which is a long row of red, yellow, green and blue lights outlining frames to show buildings and people and other Christmas designs.  It is one of my favorite traditions up here and Dad was very impressed.  Here are a couple of pictures he took.  They do not show the true beauty and magic of this display, but it is a nice reminder of a little ride that I will treasure always with my Dad.


We drove home and settled into our chairs, ate Godiva chocolate, watched a movie as we reminisced over our little jaunt.  Then Bob and I headed to bed.  Not sharing the sofa as we have the last two previous nights.  Tonight we nestled down under the goose on our bed, stretched out and fell fast to sleep.

This morning I woke up hungry.  Good sign.  I fixed myself half of a turkey sandwich and dared my body to just be normal, it is Thanksgiving, gain weight for heavens sake!!!!  Dad had a rough morning.  His back has been bothering him and his stomach decided to be a bit of a pest this morning.  I was in the mood for pancakes.  I made a batch and cooked them up not realizing Dad's stomach issue this morning.  The chickens enjoyed them and I made a fresh batch for us.  We didn't have breakfast until noon, so it was a good thing I had my little snack this morning. 

We have been watching football this afternoon.  I love watching football if the games are good.  I have to say some of the scores they have been running on the bottom of the screen, look more like basketball scores then football numbers.  We watched Michigan vs Ohio St.  And it was a great game.  I disagree with the call back,  for the first time of the last touch down.  The second time they called it back, there was obviously frustration and two big fouls were made by Michigan.  After the game I ran though the guide trying to figure out which ESPN channel I would be able to watch the UF vs FSU game this evening.  I looked this morning and they did not have the schools named on the channels.  Now I can not find my ESPN channels.  ARGH!!!!  I have no idea now if I will get to watch the game.  This is the most important game of the year.  Oh well, we will see what happens.  I will not be happy if I do not get to see this game.  But what are you going to do?!?!!  I suppose some would call the dish people right now.  I am not in the mood to be frustrated or to get angry.  And that is what happens more often then not when it comes to dealing with the satellite people.  I will live.

Well, time to fix Dad a turkey sandwich for lunch.  A few pickles, some cranberry sauce, a lovely lunch.  Then back to football.  Dad is talking about taking a break from football and watching Rick Steves.  OK, I can do that.  But there are a lot of good games on today.  And turkey to eat.  I am determined to put that weight back on before I go to see the amazing Dr. M in little over a week. 

Tomorrow Rob, JongAe and Jessica will be back to pick up Dad to take him home.  I will miss him, but I am sure that he is looking forward to getting back to his own bed, his own schedule, his own space.  I know he enjoys his visits here as much as I do, but this is not his home.  He knows that I would gladly share it with him if he ever wants to move up here full time.  We will see, now......back to the games.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The day after

All of the work for the giant feast was worth it.  We had the traditional dinner, turkey, cornbread stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, broccoli casserole, creamed onions, two type of cranberry sauce, relish, pumpkin pie, and sweet potato pie.  We had a bottle of Pierre Joullette, and glasses of acorn liquor.  We ate and laughed, talked and drank.  We did not talk about gratitude.  We did not need to.  You could see it in the faces, the eyes, the smiles.  You could hear it in the voices, the laughter.  It was a beautiful day.  The sun was bright, the day in the mid to upper 70s, the sky blue blue blue.  The table full, both of love and food.  A lovely day, a time to cook and share and look around you and be aware of all we have here.  Of how fortunate we are, to think of those who may not have as much. 

And today, black Friday, woke with another glorious day.  Clear skies so pale blue, a light breeze and the sun bright and warming the day into the mid to upper 70s.  Hard to believe anyone would call today black anything.  I hope the shoppers are having fun.  I am having fun staying as far away from the stores as possible.  Dad and I will be heading up to Moultrie within the next hour.  He was based there during his days in the Army Air Corp.  They turned on their famous Christmas lights.  We hope to be up there this evening to see them.  I am sure that Dad will entertain me with plenty of stories from those old days.  Of buying watermelons from the fields, of dating local girls, travelling through the state, wanting to be a part of the war.  A time gone by. 

And the biggest feast day of the year has passed, and I hoped to gain weight.  I did not.  I am down now to 115.  I started the week at 118 and I thought, no worries, everyone gains week during Thanksgiving.  Well, so much for that idea.  It is not that I am not eating, I am eating.  It feels likes I am eating a lot of food.  But within an hour of eating my stomach gives me trouble, and it almost seems like the more I eat the further behind I get.  I will see the amazing Dr. M in less then 2 weeks.  I have to gain back up to 120 minimum.  I am not sure how to do that.  And it is hard to discuss this with just about anyone, because it seems like most of the rest of the world is struggling in the opposite direction.  I am sorry.  I wish they could loose weight as easily as I do.  Shoot, I wish I could gain weight like a normal person.  But it just doesn't work as easy as it sounds like it should. 

Another Thanksgiving behind us.  Christmas lays ahead of us.  No deep thoughts, just one day at a time.  Trying to adjust to the last few days Dad is here.  I have enjoyed having my oldest brother and his family here.  I have enjoyed having Dad here.  But I worry about letting him leave on Sunday.  I know he takes care of himself.  I just worry about him.  He has taken care of himself for a while, but that does not mean it is easy for him. 

I have talked with friends the last few days.  Worried about my friend Colleen, a woman not much older then I am, laying in a hospital bed right now, a week after having a stroke.  She and her hubby, Spat took such good care of me when Larry was at the end of his life.  Now it is my turn to step up and help take care of them.  What a gift to be well enough.  To have life.  To be blessed with health and life and to be able to give back to others.  So many others have given to me this past two years.  I look forward to being able to give to others.  To feel worthy and as if I deserved all the love, nurturing and attention given to me on this journey.  Autumn is all around, life is slowing down a bit in nature as humans speed up their lives.  

Time to go get ready to take a little drive with Dad, to see a new place, remember a place from days gone by.  To be alive and to recognize how very lucky I am.   

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

One of the lost days

Today is one of those days that gets very little respect for itself.  It is the eve of Thanksgiving, and unlike Christmas Eve, this is not a day where we focus on it, but rather it is the day of preparations for Thanksgiving.  That is how most of my life had been prior to getting cancer..... a day to get things done for the next day.  A day to get through so I could do all the things on my list in the future.  I have always done lots of wonderful things, and spent many a glorious day, but honestly most of my days were simply lost in doing too much.  Now that I actually enjoy more of my days rather then letting them rush by, it amuses me when we come to the day before, and "do" right through it and miss out on the day itself.  I am still as guilty of this as everyone else.  Well, maybe not quite as guilty, but I still get busy and miss the living in the moment, no matter how hard I try to always have my mind's video camera on and try to capture each of the moments.

Yet, this morning the dogs and cats woke me early and I got right to it.  I have done three loads of wash; cleaned the oven, made the "lumpy" cranberry sauce and started boiling the neck with onions, celery leaves, carrots and garlic.  I usually put the giblets in there also, but this turkey came with a frozen packet of gravy, not giblets.  It does not indicate that on the turkey or I would not have bought it.  I want giblets to make my own gravy, thank you very much, not someone elses version of gravy.  I will just have to make another turkey in another month or so.  Harry loves the giblets and he loves sleeping in front of the oven when the turkey is roasting, and Thanksgiving is his favorite holiday.  For a Labrador, I guess it is hard to beat the feast day.

But I have also planted pansies and amaryllis, because I didn't want this to simply be a lost day of preparing for Thanksgiving.  I wanted to get my hands in the dirt and spend a little time celebrating this beautiful bright sunny blue skied day.  It is cooling down, and in the wind it gets a might nippy, but out in the sunshine, it is glorious.  I have thrown the ball until I thought Bob would explode chasing after it.  He loves the ball.  I have had many a lab, but Bob by far is the most ball focused of all the dogs I have had in my 56 years.  And as tired as my arm gets, as guilty as I feel when I am too busy to step outside for a moment and lob that tennis ball up, up, up over the back fence into the pasture, I am happy that he loves the ball.

Dad and I had a big breakfast and then he just could not keep his eyes open.  I am pretty tired myself, but napping is frustrating, so instead I choose to find things I enjoy doing like writing a post, answering emails with friends, setting up a lunch date for next Wednesday, planting plants, etc.  I am not sure if the dogs and I will sleep on the sofa tonight or if we will venture out to my airstream.  I have a lovely old airstream that I love.  But it is still full of Larry's things, so it is a hard place to be.  I know I have to get into there and go through his things separating out what will go to Wag The Dog and what will simply be discarded or go into the rag bin.  So I am not rushing out there to sleep tonight.  But I might.  It might be easier to simply have all the dogs out there with me, then trying to control them in the house when it is full of family.  Only my oldest brother, my "big" brother, his wife and daughter are coming up.  My youngest brother has to work, so he can not get away.  His wife came one year with the two boys without him, but I certainly understand her wanting to stay home to have the family together rather then coming up here.  Also John and Meg, my sister in laws cousins, who live in Tallahassee have gone done there for Thanksgiving, so they will have a lovely family gathering there while he have one here.  Family gathering.  It brings up sweet precious memories, while it also reminds me of difficult times.  A double edged sword with a slim blade.

So I will continue cleaning up and straightening things before they get here.  I am pretty tired, so I am not going to push it.  If they want to come to a clean house, they can send a maid.  I admire people who have sparkling clean houses, but I do not feel the pressure of judging myself on that basis. I try to be close to clean, but a little dust, OK a lot of dust on shelves and tops of pictures, etc.  do not catch my eye.  Weeds in the garden are quicker to catch me then dust in my house.  Priorities I guess.

Well, it is a day that most of us hurry through to get to the turkey, or the parade or the football.  My table will be graced with lovely roses my dear precious friend Maggie sent me from Texas.  They are fall colors and will look lovely in small separate vases lined up along the middle of the table with Godiva foil turkeys hidden in between.  There will be acorn salt and pepper shakers, dishes in the shapes of oak leaves and acorns and more food then we will ever be able to eat at one sitting.  There will be left overs.  Glorious Thanksgiving leftovers.  That is my favorite part of the meal, making left overs.  And as I remove the meat from the turkey I will secret away the bones until all the meat is gone and then I will boil those bones until everything is soft and manageable.  I will make that turkey soup for Harry and pour it over his dog food in the morning along with Bob and Edna.  And Harry will look at me with those old blurred vision dog eyes and I will see the sparkle, the love of this special treat that usually only comes around once a year.  But even an old dog like him dreams of this feast and the turkey soup to come.

My friend Louise sent me this poem.  It is written by Dawna Markova, a cancer survivor.

I will not die an unlived life.
I will not live in fear
of falling or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid,
more accessible,
to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing,
a torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance;
to live so that which came to me as seed
goes to the next as blossom
and that which came to me as blossom,
goes on as fruit.
fully alive - dawna markova

I am not a poet, so I appreciate others words to voice my feelings.  I talk about my cancer here, and I talk about it in life, but it still amazes me that I have this disease.  It is not what I expected.   When diagnosed properly, and treated correctly, this chronic disease is a blessing, a gift, a challenge to learn to appreciate yourself, life, precious beloveds surrounding us, and all the moments around us, waiting to be noticed. 

I am thankful for being alive to cook that turkey and make the pumpkin and sweet potato pie, the mashed potatoes, the cranberries.  I am thankful to have family and friends gathered around a table with me, eating and laughing and celebrating being together.  I am thankful for this disease and for all the gifts that have come along with it.  I am thankful for those who have come before, and those who will come after.  I am thankful for this country, and for all of the people of the world.  I am thankful for the diversity of life on this planet, and for the rocks and rivers, mountains and oceans.  I am thankful how all of this spins around a star keeping us attached to this planet rather then flying off.  I am thankful for this universe and all of the others ones we are learning about.   All the colors and lights and atoms and matter that makes up this amazing life I have. 

And spending tomorrow cooking that 20 pound bird, something I do not do, but maybe once a year, and sitting down at that table, maybe with a little glass of a nice champagne.  Looking across the table at the small group of people there, people I adore.  I will lift that glass of sparkling bubbling wine, that is from the champagne region of France, therefore legally referred to as champagne and I will think of all the people I have been blessed to know in my life.  The nurturers, the teachers, the takers and the givers, those that have loved me, those that have not loved me, and I will be thankful, yes, so very thankful for all of them.  I will listen to my chickens as they scratch around the pasture, and as my dogs whine because they want to join us but instead will be outside in the sun.  And I will remember why this country was founded, and appreciate that although my beliefs are not the same as those who were here and those who have come here.  That each and everyone of our beliefs is right and belongs to each of us and that we have the right to think about them, talk about them or not and to be kind and thoughtful of others. 

To appreciate this day, as much as tomorrow, and the day after.  And when my days have all been played, I will with gratitude lay down and go to where I will go.  Without fear, without regret.  Yes, it is a glorious day here, and I am feeling a little thoughtful, and grateful.  Maybe Dad and I will dance over to the Moon's house for a little visit this evening.  But maybe we will stay home and enjoy this time together as we wait for my big brother and his family.  Time spent worth while whichever we choose.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Be Brave

I have finished all of my big shopping for Christmas and now I only have to focus on a few more stocking stuffers and the rest of the things for the Christmas table.  How did this happen?  I am an organized person in many parts of my life, and a fly by the seat of my pants the rest of the time, and I am just fine with the inconsistencies of that.  I feel no obligation to be predictable or consistent.  I am still sort of floating out here as I make my way through retirement and determine how each day of my life goes.  But it isn't Thanksgiving yet for heaven's sake, how can I be done with Christmas shopping. 
I have to give all the credit to Dad.

Dad is a planner and is always early for everything.  And as it becomes harder and harder for him to get around, we have started working together on his Christmas shopping to take some of the physical work off of him.  Sometimes I think that I forgot that he still lives by himself and manages to take care of most things just fine.  But when I watch him walk or get up and down, I just want to do whatever I can to help him.  I don't believe I will ever reach his age. Maybe I feel like doing what I can to make things more enjoyable or easier will somehow make up for the guilt of getting out of old age.  Yes, I know that makes no sense, but instead of being angry or resentful that I might not live to the statistical mean of my sex and race, I sort of feel like I have been given a pass on all the hard things that come each passing year as we age.  So by helping him with his Christmas shopping, it just naturally led me into doing mine.  Taking away the stress of going to the mall or a discount store, standing in long lines of holiday shoppers, not me!  It feels kind of odd, but this will give me more time to do the things I enjoy most about the holidays which is crafting and baking.  I have my Christmas letter done so I can work on my Christmas cards at leisure and hopefully get them in the mail prior to Christmas Eve.  I figure as long as they are postmarked by Christmas Eve that counts.

Ok, and that is one of my favorite parts of Christmas, the deadline.  That is it,  come Christmas Day it is done, over, no more.  Some things you can just drag them out wringing out a daily dose of guilt over not having completed the task.  For making a mountain out of a mole hill, and therefore rendering the task virtually unsolvable because it has been built up into such an ordeal.  Yes, I know that guilt is one of the least healthy emotions, but it can be a good tool to get things accomplished if used correctly.  Hey, it has been the weapon of choice for mothers and grandmothers from various religons for millineum.  But it also can be an extremely self defeating weapon when used upon your own self.

I still have to get the Christmas pagent down on paper, and it has to be something that will be done as a cold read for the most part, so must be simple and straight forward.  But I will work on that after Thanksgiving.  This coming week my focus will be on the feast day.  The celebration of abundance and remembering to give thanks, to be grateful, to stop and appreciate all we have around us.  I have to finish getting the menu set, do some cleaning before Rob, JongAe and Jessica get here and Jack and Jan come over for dinner.  Another wonderful holiday where it is done and over on the day designated as Turkey Day.

I think I need to sit down and write a list, get myself a little better organized here.   To make sure that I am receiving everything I ordered.  I have been so focused on Dad and helping him that I have not been doing a great job following up on my stuff.  That will come the week after Dad leaves.  And there will still be plenty of time to take care of anything that needs attention.  I already have so much done, and any little problems with orders still have plenty of time to be corrected.

In the process of making all of these orders I would find something here or there that caught my eye,  I ordered a second scale for my soap making.  If the scale goes out, I can not make soap, so an extra scale as a back up only makes sense, especially when it is on sale! 

But the present I bought myself that has given me so much joy in the few days I have had it, is a simple silver band.  On the outside it says, "Love Life".  Isn't that nice?  A good reminder of a simple rule on life.  But the best part of this sterling band is on the inside, hidden away like a secret garden, a whispered affirmation, two words........Be Brave.  I love that.  Those four words, Love Life, Be Brave seems like what I have always wanted my life to be about.  Each time I look down on that shiny piece of metal circling my right hand ring finger I know that hidden from view, etched into the silver where it barely kisses my skin is "Be Brave."  As this journey continues to weave in and out of predictable and unpredictable adventures those two words seem like a guardian angel sweetly whispering in my ear, Be Brave.  Like my Mother from wherever she may be, sending me a message, Be Brave.  A reminder when I feel the most alone, most vulnerable, most frightened, Be Brave.  And like a loving look from a parent to a child, or the gentle stroke pushing the hair from their face, the words do not need to be said out loud.  The look, the stroke, the love is there.  It is felt.  Be Brave. 

It has helped me as I have been so tired from this play, to be brave.  Last night when I went to the Opera House wondering where I would find the strength and energy to walk out on that stage and be a part of the talented cast and crew entertaining the audience, I whispered quietly under my breath, be brave.  And I wore the head set and cued the actor's entrances on stage left.  I set the cargo net and held it in my hands until Tim and George were set.  I held the ladder to minimize how hard Tim hit it as he swung back and forth hanging upside down from a trapeze he had hung from the ceiling.  I held the coat for the actor to slip their arms into, I talked into the mic and made Sir Perceval Cedric Buckthorn come alive.  I held the bucket and tin cans tied together so Tim could slip them on and get back on stage.  I walked through the door onto the boards and said my lines with intent playing the straight man to Tim's buffoon.  I drank the spiked tea almost gagging it out across the orchestra pit when I was surprised.  I yanked my beard and mustache off, dropping my hat and coat revealing a woman where a moment earlier a man had supposedly stood.  I thanked the audience and the Directors, Sound and  Stage Manager.  I bragged how all of this work had been done by volunteers to bring quality entertainment to our little Rural Jefferson County.  Hopefully breaking even or making money to go towards the maintenance and restoration of the Opera House.  The center of our community.  I thanked the audience for being a part of our show, and invited them to join the Opera House and to come back and see more shows.  I looked out across the bright lights of the stage and saw my Dad and my dear friend Bob sitting there.  I saw other familiar faces of friends and beloved ones sprinkled across the sparse audience.  I did my best, and I did it all when I wanted to lie down and weep from exhaustion.  Be Brave.

Dad saw the show again last night.  My friend Bob came out and had dinner and sat with Dad during the show.  It took a lot of the pressure off of me knowing that Bob, Jan and Carolyn were all there if Dad needed anything.  I did not stay over at the Opera House last night with the few and brave of the cast and crew.  I missed the fun of being a part of that select group, getting to know these beloved people even better.  No, Bob and I helped Dad into the car and we drove home and then way later then I would like to be up, I finally succumbed to the exhaustion and slept in my own bed with my dogs and cats.  Clustered up close and sweet, precious to have these creatures in my life. 

I dreamed all night that I had lots and lots of animals.  I would get up before light and start feeding them, stopping to give each one a few minutes of attention and affection.  And all night dreamed this dream as I fed and loved each animal and there was a never ending line of more animals to feed and hug on, to stroke and pet and tell them how special they are.  I woke up exhausted and thankful that it was only a dream.  I do try and give my animals as much attention as possible.  Why have them if I do not take the time to love and enjoy them.  I have such sweet and loving creatures under my care and I try to nurture that everyday.  They give me their love and affection and I try to repay that with care and attention.  It means so much to me at night to nestle down under the covers and no matter which way I turn, there is someone to hug and give a little hug to as I close my eyes to sleep.  As I wake and open my eyes and see the bright eyes of my "kids" up and ready for the day. 

So the play is over, the proverbial light turned out.  The stage has been struck.  I helped very little.  I would feel guilty over this, only I have given everything I have to this play.  I have worked until I was exhausted.  I tried throughout the show to do for the other actors.  I made soap and wrote a silly label with key words from the play.  "I can do that" soap.  I baked for them, bought humus and other healthy snacks for them to pick at during the show.  I bought chocolate and tried to make sure that each person's special needs were taken into consideration.  That is not the same as doing the hard work, and we have had a small group of very hard working people who built this set and now broke it down.  It was more then I could do.  They understood.  They know that I do as much as I can and then a little more, but no matter how much that is, it was not enough.  But it was all I had.

After working upstairs moving cement blocks, boards, trash and trying to do my part, I walked down those old polished wooden steps to the Stage Company Annual Meeting.  It was a small group of us seated close to each other, friends, actors, people focusing on bringing opportunities for art to our little community.  Whether a play or a reading; donating all of our profit to the old brick building we all love or setting up a scholarship in honor of our beloved Colin, we are there working together.  We may be few, but we are brave and large in spirit.  Friends with a shared passion for the theater, working together.  What a wonderful opportunity to be a part of this.

And now I have the chicken in the oven along with an acorn squash, yellow rice simmering on the stove top, dinner for Dad and I.  I will go to bed early tonight, hopefully to start the healing process of this exhaustion from doing what I love.  The exhaustion of playing with beloved ones.  Exhaustion because I have cancer and simply can not do what I used to.  But I can be brave and try.  I can still get out there and live the passion, play with my friends, push myself as I learn more and improve my skills. 
Be brave, love life.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Surprise, surprise, I am tired

Well, it is the same familiar story, I am tired.  Tired to the bone, muscle, veins, arteries, blood, cells, atoms, tired. I understand that it is mostly staying up late for the play.  That is why I never schedule a pick up rehearsal (rehearsal in between show weekends) on Thursday. It wears me out doing a late rehearsal on Thursday, then the show on Friday and by Saturday I am just flat worn out.  Please don't say I do too much.  It is cancer.  Yes, I am a busy person.  Always have been.  I have cut back so much in the last two years, but it is the one side effect from the cancer that just whoops me.  I an not able to recover like a normal person.  After doing Thursday, Friday, Saturday night shows/rehearsals and a Sunday matinee last weekend I was pretty tired, but then you do this third weekend of late night shows and it will take me weeks to recover. 

I realize that I am on the go with Dad here.  Thursday we drove up to Thomasville so I could do my workout and go to yoga class.  I realized how tired I was as I was doing my workout and my body was definitely feeling the weariness.  I had to move down on some of the weights, and I broke a full glow, which is my version of perspiring.  Yoga was good, but again, I could feel it.  At first I blamed it on not having time to do my regular exercises, but today as my body feels like it has been run over by an elephant, I know that I am just pushing myself too far.  Thursday night when I got to rehearsal I was dealing with stomach issues, and I sat down and I was tired.  I felt it and the realization of what I was doing to myself again hit me in the chest with an exhaustion that is all too familiar.

Friday Dad and I drove up to Conehaven Plantation and attended the senior picnic.  I was amazed how many people I knew there.  It was great after only three months at the Y and I have made some very dear friends there.  It was a cold day, way too cold for Dad and I to be on a pond with the wind blowing and the temps barely in the 60s.  But there was food galore.  I had made 2 dozen pumpkin spice muffins and 4 dozen cranberry orange muffins.  Just bite size bits of flavor.  In the process of getting the dogs into the pasture and Dad into the car I forgot the muffins.  sigh.  It was a lovely drive up and we made it in perfect time for lunch.  I wore my red boots and red suede jacket.  My boots were the hit of the picnic.  Several of my friends put dibs on those boots.  I had to laugh because one of them just might end up with them if I keep wearing myself out and kick off early.  Just kidding.

Today I went up to the Opera House and helped Jan to set tables for dinner, and then picked up chicken feed.  I came home and Dad and I drove into Tallahassee to Wally World so Dad  and I could pick up some stocking stuffers.  We got home and I made brownie cookies for tonight and now I will go and lay down for about 45 minutes to try and recover enough to have the energy needed for the play tonight.  Another long night. 

The play has gone very well, and I have loved the opportunity to work under another director.  I love the directors I have worked with at the Opera House, but it is always fun to get the opportunity to work with someone new.  And she has taught me so much about directing and acting.  I learn each time I work for someone new and Barbie has given me a lot of tools for directing in the future.  She is pretty darn amazing.  And getting to work with her entire family has been such a joy.  Tonight is closing night, and I have loved being a part of this show, and getting to do all the different things that I have been able to do has been just what I needed right now.  But the hours have just whooped my butt.  Whooped it.  Some of the cast members are going to stay over tonight for a slumber party at the Opera House.  I would love to stay and be a part of that.  But I can not leave Dad here alone with the dogs.  And I can not afford loosing anymore sleep or rest then I have already lost. 

Tomorrow is the Annual Stage Company Meeting and I will go up to the Opera House tomorrow and help to break down the set.  I will make an appetizer and more brownie cookies to take.  And Dad will probably stay here at the house, and I will come home and I will be so happy to have been a part of this amazing opportunity.  I will also be so happy to be back to a schedule where I am not up until after midnight each weekend.  I am a morning person, and so are my animals.  So I rarely get to stay in bed after 7:00 am, and well, less than 8 hours, shoot, less than 9 hours wears me out, barely getting seven hours simply does not cut it anymore. 

So, nothing new.  Dad and I are enjoying our time together.  We are getting a lot done.  I have my soap ready for tonight to give as closing night gifts to the cast and crew.  I like my new label.  It may change as time goes by, but it is a good start.  I will be giving away mint/eucalyptus, orange/rosemary and lavender/oatmeal soaps for people, and all of them are called "I can do that."  It is the line in the show that makes us all giggle, that we catch ourselves saying all the time, always with a smile on our lips.  I am exhausted, but feel good about everything that Dad and I have accomplished.  I am proud of myself for being able to memorize my few lines.  I am proud of all the different ways I have been able to give.

This is the time of year to be thankful for the year, for the bounty, for friends and beloved ones.  And as I write "beloved ones" faces flash across my mind and I can not help the smile that lights my face.  Yes, I am so weary, but I am thankful for the weariness.  For the life that I have, and for the time I get to spend with my Dad, my fellow actors/crew, my friends, my beloved ones.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The weather outside is frightful

Bad weather is pushing through.  We have had some wind, very little rain, OK, no rain, and lots of clouds.  Big gray clouds being pushed through fast enough to make you dizzy if you stand outside and look up at them.  That kind of gray that does not really say rain, but could hold damaging winds, even tornadoes.  We have been just fine here, and it looks like other then not getting any rain, we have nothing to complain about.  Not so in other parts of the south that have been hit by some tornadoes and just wicked weather.  Dad and I were having lunch in the Rosemary Tree when Denise got a call from her daughter, Emily at Auburn.  She was pretty shook up.  Their area has been hit pretty bad and I guess they moved all the kids in the dorms down to the basement just minutes before the tornadoes hit.  It must have been pretty scary, and then to go outside afterwards and see all the damage, very upsetting.  Denise is such a great mom.  She talked and listened to Emily and reassured her over and over.  You could hear the calming influence in her voice as she spoke to her precious daughter.  When we first walked in, Denise was pretty worried herself.  The weather channel was on, and she was waiting to her from Emily to know that she was alright.  As soon as she heard that girl's voice, she was fine and she was there to lend that support to her baby girl.

It is such a weird day here.  It is 100% humidity, I am sure, and warm.  Gray, windy and warm.  We have already had a record breaking cold front move through last week that gave us our first frost for the season.  Now it is summer like temperatures and mugginess.  Such is the world we live in now.

Dad and I got up this morning and got down to business.  We wrapped the presents for overseas, wrote out name tags and then lovingly packaged them up in the boxes to be mailed in.  We sent presents to Spain, The Netherlands and Ireland.  OK, the present to Ireland was just a couple bars of my hand made soap to my precious fairy god daughter Annie.  Annie is working in Dublin at the campus there from her college in Vermont, Champlain College.  She had gone over last year for a semester there and she is a golden child and they obviously recognized that at the Dublin campus because they then offered her the job for the fall semester while the regular person is out on maternity leave.  I sent soap to Annie's mother Susan, in Connecticut for her birthday, and I did not want her sending any of that to Annie so I mailed Annie her own soap.  Yes, the soap I make is that special, that people who have tried it will do what they have to to get a bar of it. 

I love going to the Lamont Post Office, there is never any customers when I go.  It is small, the people there are all so very nice and take care of you like they only have one customer.  "Looks like you did your Christmas shopping on line this year.", said the Post Master.  I had five packages sitting there waiting on me.  "Yes sir I did", was my reply.  I believe in using the post office.  I like sending out Christmas cards, I like using the mail.  Email is great, but just not the same thing as hand writing out a note and then sealing it in an envelope and taking it to the post office to be mailed.  We got our business done, exchanged the boxes, leaving the ones to be sent over seas and gathering up the ones that had been sent to me.  I head out to the car, Dad stayed behind to tell a few jokes.  "Stories" as he calls them.  He is a good story teller and many of his stories I enjoy hearing over and over.  But there are a few that I just do not care for, and so he warns me now when he is planning on telling one of those so I can go ahead and get the car ready for him and not stand there listening.  Seems like a reasonable trade off.

This is really crazy for me in that I still need to pick up one or two more things for stockings, but I am 95% done with all of my shopping.  I will make a couple more batches of soap, and will have to put together some gifts that will include home made items like scarves and soap, but the hard work is done  And Dad has almost all of his Christmas cards done.  He uses a program on his computer to make the cards, then prints each one out, folds it, signs and then slips it into the envelope, seals it, places a mailing address label, a return address label and a stamp.  I keep reminding him not to mail them until after December 1.  I am sorry, I just can not abide to Christmas cards showing up in my mail box prior to December 1st.  I love getting Christmas cards and I put each one out somewhere in the house so that they can all be seen.  I put a lot on my upright piano and it makes the living room so festive.  I not only love sending and receiving Christmas cards, but I love the letters people send in the cards.  Yep, I know that most people do not appreciate those long letters bragging about all the amazing things the over achievers accomplished in the same year as normal people managed to survive.  But I love them.  Dad has one friend who sends out those letters and it is like a novella, always more then one page, of 9 font front and back writing, I think I have seen her send two full and complete front and back pages of letter one year.  She had been particularly active I guess, and just reading them makes you feel like maybe you do not have to worry about volunteering to do good, she seems to be doing more then her fair share.  And she is a precious dear woman whose husband is as busy as she is.  Dad always saves me her letters because he know how much fun I have reading them and laughing at how busy she is.  Trust me, I am a sloth compared to this woman.

Of course I write my own Christmas letter and have off and on for more then 20 years now.  I started writing these letters when Larry and I were first married.  It was not that we accomplished so much, but that we had had a particularly great year for travel and I was talking about that.  I also give an update on all of my animals, and my letters used to be quite funny.  Even in 2004 when on August 13, we got hit with 186 mph winds from Hurricane Charlie.  There was still plenty to laugh about.  I am not sure my letters are that funny any more, but they are upbeat as I talk about how grateful I am for everything I have been given this past year.  I stopped writing for a couple of years after I over heard so many people talking about how much they hated those letters and the braggarts who mailed them.  So I took the hint and stopped.  But then I started getting calls, emails and letters from friends who wanted the animal update as they all referred to my letters.  They loved the chicken names and the exploits of my "kids".  So I started up again, and I have to say last year when telling people about my cancer, it was so easy to just write it one time and mail it out.  And the response amazing.  I heard from friends I had not heard from in too many years to count.  The love and support and good wishes and prayers just poured in over me.  Blessing me as I opened each email, each letter and answered the phone.  I had never expected to hear from people.  I was just letting them know what was going on.  But friends are amazing, and so many people just took a minute to let me know they were thinking of me.  No wonder I have responded so well to all the treatments with all the good wishes, hugs and prayers sent out to me.  This year was another hard letter to write, because I had to tell everyone about Larry.  I think most people know, but not everyone, so I wrote about that loss and the loss of Maggierose and Lilly and of so many dear precious friends lost this year, so many of them to cancer.  But it is written, and after Thanksgiving and when everyone has headed home, I will start the process of updating my address labels and then take the time to think of each person as I slip a card and letter into the envelope and get it ready to be mailed.  One of my favorite Christmas traditions. 

Making ornaments, baking cookies and nut bread, sewing bags to wrap the presents in (They are reusable and much more earth friendly then wrapping paper and actually take no more, maybe even less time then using paper) and decorating the house are traditions I shared with my Mother and now that she is gone, I continue with these traditions smiling and tearing up over memories of her.  The Christmas pageant is a new tradition to our family.  It started last year with a simple one act play I wrote about a present I bought the family.  This year we are going to do it up big!  Nathaniel will play O Holy Night on the French horn, Jessica will play Away in the Manager on the keyboard;  Christopher will play Jingle Bells on the harmonica, and I may join in with him.  All of the girls, except Marie whose arthritis is acting up will do a Rockette number.  Dad and Marie will sing a duet.  My Dad has been in a lot of musicals for community theater, he has never sang in one.  He has talked his part, but not sing.  He has an.......interesting singing voice, and is always just a little off key.  He likes it just fine the way it is.  Rob will narrate the story as we move through the pageant ending with the entire family singing We Wish You A Merry Christmas.  Oh and there could be so much more.  We will just have to see what I write.  At any rate it will be fun.  I have asked Nathaniel to see if his girlfriend Heidi could come and participate.   Might as well worn here now what kind of a family she is involved with, no need to wait until it is too late.  OK, it might already be too late, and I think she has already figured out that we are not a normal family.  I am excited about getting down to writing it.  I have found that I love writing play scripts.  I am not saying that I am that good, or that I accomplish all that much, but I do love trying my hand at it.  Judy and I are working on a couple of plays that may or may not ever grace the stage.  But we have fun talking and planning and even working on them sometimes.  But the Christmas pageant is especially fun because how all of my family tolerates me and goes along with the Golden Child's request. 

It has always been easier to go along with me, then to try and stop me.  I have a couple of photos that my brother gave me for Christmas one year.  One is me looking up at him, he is 4 years older then me, and I am telling him a joke.  He is smiling, but looks like he is being patient and trying to get me to stand still for the photo, which appears to be Easter.  The other is one with my Mother, tall and gorgeous smiling down on a very small Kathleen who is ripping her hand away.  The look on my face is priceless, stubborn and head strong.  I look like the word "no" is coming out like a 2 year old, and who knows, I was probably not much older then that.  The home videos that Dad took throughout my childhood at some point just saw a blur where I had been or was supposed to be.  I was constantly shooting in and out of the movies, while my three brothers stood there like stair steps with a stair missing in the middle where I was supposed to be standing.  Today they would probably have put me on drugs.  I think they tried that back then, but Mother refused and just said I was full of life.  That there was nothing wrong with me.  Thank goodness because the drugs then are nothing like what kids take now a days.

I met Rob and Dad in Gainesville at the Cracker Barrel yesterday.  They were sitting out front in rockers sipping on orange sodas.  We had a good lunch, but I always have stomach problems after eating there.  I think it is because my digestive system does not do meat well, and I think they cook everything in bacon fat or ham.  I am very careful what I order so that you do not see meat or even suspect that they could slip some in, but my stomach tells me otherwise each time. 

Dad and I drove back  home with the top up, the front that has caused so much damage today was just starting to show itself yesterday, and just not weather you wanted to drive with your 86 year old father with the top down.  We got home and got him settled in.  I made dinner and we watched some TV and then I went to bed.  This morning I fixed him eggs that my chickens have given us and cooked them just the way he likes.  "Brake the yolk and cook them hard, then flip them over and cook them hard on that side.  If they bleed I can't eat them." is how he always explains in a restaurant.  My mother hated when he would say "bleed" she had a sensitive stomach and dad kept it in turmoil most of time.  On Christmas day he would love to bring up stories about the fire from the evening before.  It seemed my dad was always out fighting a fire on Christmas eve as I was growing up.  Space heaters, Christmas lights, you name, this holiday is a fire hazard and it was just another family tradition at our house for my Dad, and then later also my older brother to be out pulling seared remains of bodies out of the charred house remains.  So on Christmas day, Dad could just not help himself and would point at the standing rib roast and comment on how it looked the person he had dealt with the night before.  Mother would get up and go into the bathroom where I seriously think she was sick every time.  Dad never believed that she was.  We four kids would just sit there and listen fascinated by the macabre.  Mother did not make it back for dinner sometimes, Dad never seemed to notice.  I always did.  And I guess I got my mother's stomach and the sensitivity to see how words can affect someone.  I got my  wicked sense of humor from my Dad.  The hard handedness I think I found on my own.

After my last post I had a message left on my voice mail from Pete Girven.  He is my friend that is married to Jan and lives in Wakulla.  Pete is dying of lung cancer.  His oncologist, Dr. Santoli did not do his job properly and for unexplainable reasons went from a treatment that was helping Pete to two other treatments that not only did not work, but gave Pete horrible side effects.  Bone pain that felt like it would break this man whose strength at handling these things amazes me.  They tried to get their insurance company to let them go see Dr. M.  The insurance company declined their request and after an appeal, said that they could go and see him, but any previous visits would be on their own dime.  Dr. M did see Pete, but because he did not see him in the beginning the damage was already done, and there was nothing that Dr. M could do.  He might not have been able to significantly extended Pete's life if he had been the first doctor.  But he would have explained things better to Pete, have made sure that he did do everything he could, and Pete would never have had to suffer like he did on those other treatments, that did not help him in anyway! 

Anyway Pete had called and said, "use my name.  It will help to make me more human."  Well, he is very human, and so is his loving wife Jan.  They are a hoot these two, and bless their hearts they have lived a wonderful life together.  Everywhere you walk in their home or yard are signs of their teamwork.  Electrical power outlets are throughout the yard.  Done professionally by an electrician who has a stake in his own property.  The chicken coop is another marvel of simplicity and utilitarian purposes, but is very attractive without being ostentatious.  And these two people, Pete and Jan, are still such a team. It is not just Pete who is dying of this devastating disease.  It is affecting Jan in different ways, but just as hard, maybe harder.  Pete is accepting of this disease.  He understands what is happening and that there is nothing that can be done to changes things.  He is stuck in that time now of purgatory where he wakes up each day, but can not live his life as he is used to.  He is on oxygen 24/7 and tires out more easily, and well, he is dying.  But he is still alive and folks let me tell you, this is the true curse of cancer.  There are so many amazing and wonderful gifts we who contract this disease are given.  But this time when your body starts to loose the battle, and you are still alive and your mind still ready to get up and go, and your body has turned on you and you do not control it anymore, but instead live in limbo.  Dreading, but not dreading the end.  Looking at the woman you have shared so many years of your life with.  The woman you raised a son with.  The woman who has caused you to laugh and cry with so many many times during all of these years, and you see her pain.  For the first time maybe ever, this pain is being caused by you and there is nothing you can do to change it or to help here.  That is the worst.    But these two as they go through this.  The look at each other and that bond, that love is there and it does help both of them.  But it is still so very hard.  So I promised Pete that I would use their names from now on as I talk about them.  Tell the part of their story that I know.  Tell how when you are diagnosed with cancer you are shoved onto the oncology train as it hurtles out of control down a track you don't know.  How by the time you are able to raise your head and realize that maybe something isn't right, it is so hard to get off that train and onto one that might take you to places that give you a little more time.  A little less pain and suffering.  A little more care.  I brought up getting a second opinion from the very first phone call I had with them.  But I know how that train is.  You are barely holding on, and getting a second opinion is too much to deal with.  That is until you have had enough of their treatments to realize that maybe something ain't right.  And sometimes you still have time, others you don't. 

All I can say, is that they have fought this battle together over this despicable disease and they are still fighting together.  And there are a bunch of us who love them dearly out here rooting them on.  So there you go Pete, I will not talk about you on this blog again without telling the world who you are.  I am proud to call you and Jan my friends, and I love you both dearly.  I am here if there is anything I can do.  anything.

So, after lunch at the Rosemary Tree where we learned that Simpson's Nursery has bought the old apron factory, and are fixing it up real nice.  Dad and I drove home.  I had a load of booty to go through and then wanted to get a post out.  Dad took a nap.  The dogs have been excitable and just now finally laid down to rest.  The storm outside is still off of the main path of destruction, but it is completely dark and I can still see the clouds scurrying across the sky and hear thunder in the distance.  It is cooling down from that unnatural warmth and storm from earlier. 

Dad is getting up from his nap and I will make us spaghetti for dinner tonight.  And maybe I will get to video chat with my friend in Delaware.  He always makes me smile and often times laugh out loud.  All in all it has been a very productive day, a good day.  A day I got to spend with my Dad, lovingly thinking of friends and family and boxing up presents, driving to the post office, and having them mailed across the pond.  An entire ocean away.  A totally different continent.  It does not matter how many times I travel or where, I am still amazed that this giant blue/green marble is so small and accessible, and that there is "family" waiting everywhere to be found. 

Signing out for tonight.  A little tired.  My right arm is going to be the size of a professional league baseball player with as many times as I throw the tennis ball for Bob.  He is off of exercise restriction and that boy, that sweet Labrador retriever loves to retrieve the tennis ball.  Yes he does.  And I can see the change in his body already.  He still needs to take off a pound or two, but he is looking sleek and shiny again.  A ball held softly in his Labrador mouth, dripping with saliva.  His eyes bright and excited, happy that he is once again allowed to run and chase that ball. 
Yep, life is good.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Golden Child

I have always been the golden child.  My life has always been a little more special.  As the only daughter, with three brothers, I was known quite simply as "the girl".  I was not required to do some of the things that my brothers had to do.  I was always the favorite of the grandparents, and even though my parents loved all of us as much as they could love a child, I was still the special one.  I tried never to take advantage of this as a child.  I was never sure why this was so, and in fact it was a little uncomfortable because I loved my brothers so much and could not figure out why I was always the special one.  They seemed to be very special to me. 

At school Vicki and I rarely got into trouble.  We were good girls.  We did not smoke or sneak off or drink or do anything bad.  We were a handful, don't get me wrong, but they referred to us as high spirited.  We were responsible for other people getting into trouble.  But that was because all the great ideas we would come up with, we knew were not something that good girls did.  However, many of our school mates were not as smart and would like our ideas and actually do them, usually with negative results.  We got called up to the office sometimes not to get into trouble, but to be reminded not to say our ideas out loud because others would do them.  That was just hyterical to us.  We did laugh a lot.  Yes we did.  Ok, we still do.  And we still think of naughty things to do, but we still do not act on them......for the most part.  We were smart then, we are still smart, mostly, and now maybe a little wiser, maybe.

The same has followed me most of my life.  I worked hard in school, but teachers were always generous with me because I was not the smartest kid in the class, but I did try, and I was not good looking, but cute in a special way.  Then in the work force, I tended to be an over achiever so again the bosses would treat me special, the golden child.

Now I have cancer.  Am I dying?  No, not yet.  And I am doing better then so many of my friends with this disease.  Today I went to visit my friends in Wakulla County, he has Stage 4 lung cancer.  They asked me how I was.  I felt horrible, I felt guilty.  I am doing fine I said.  That is the truth, but only paritally true.  The whole truth is I am doing great.  He is not, and has to decide each day what can he do.  They are close and share a life that many would envy.  They love each other dearly, and this disease has only reminded them how much they are both grateful for the life they have had together.  They are a joy to be around because of this relationship they have together.  I remember when Larry and I had that kind of relationship.  It was a long time ago, when we were first together.  We were a great team, and loved each other deeply.  Things changed and eventually turned into a bit of a nightmare, but looking back at photos of our life together and the trips we took together, I remember that love.  It was golden.  He was a golden child also.

And now, I think I have survivor guilt.  I hate to talk about my cancer around other cancer survivors because my chemo treatment seems so much easier then theirs; my radiation treatment, less then anyone else needed, and the results were the best that could have been hoped for.  Being a golden child almost feels like a curse.  Because I have been so gifted all of my life, do I owe more to others?  I do try and be considerate and pay it forward, always have, but is it enough.  I know others who give so much more then I do.  I feel great, I look like I am well, not like someone with Stage 4 cancer.  It looks like I could have a long, healthy, full, active life yet.  Why are some people given so much, while others seem to have so little? 

I try to rationalize it sometimes by thinking that it is not that I have been given so much more, I just appreciate what I have.  Well, I do appreciate the life I have been given.  I have had some challenges.  Some of these challenges have been pretty difficult, but afterwards the bad, hateful or hurtful just faded away.  Just disappear from my mind leaving me with nothing but good memories and few foggy mind movies of things that now don't seem so bad anymore.  I know I have worked hard.  I know that I have tried to be good, to make good karma.  And yet, it just seems like I always receive more then my fair share.  And why or how does that happen? 

I don't know.  I have tried to live a good life, a healthy life with good eating habits and exercise.  I have tried to be kind and a good friend.  And now I just sit back amazed at how many things I have been able to do with my life, how many gifts I have been given.  One of the girl's in the play was talking about her bucket list.  She had a few very interesting ideas about a book of stories and so on, but most of her list was things I have done already.  I have lived my life doing those things that interested me.  I have taken advantage of opportunities that have come along.  I have worked to make things I wanted and to obtain desired goals.  And I have relished and savored these wonderful days and opportunities.  I remember them like jewels on a necklace.  Each sparkling and bright, special and lovely.  Each appreciated and enjoyed. 

And yet, the idea of living with Stage 4 cancer does affect my life each day.  Not because it is hard or difficult; it is not painful and I do not suffer.  But it is like living in a pergatory of sort.  Even waking up each day, fairly healthy and strong, but each day I wake up with cancer.  I live each day grateful for the day filled with moments of grace, joy and beauty.  But it is like living in the movie, Groundhog Day.  I have stage 4 lung cancer, I am supposed to be dying, and yet I am not.  I am living.  I am living the life I would hope for, gardening, driving my toy with the top down, playing with my "kids", spending time with friends, playing at the Opera House.  I can do pretty much whatever I want.  The challenges just don't seem to match the gifts.  I feel guilty for being alive.  I grow weary waiting for the end.  Don't misunderstand me, I am not rushing my death.  But at the same time, where most everyone else I know just wakes up most days and goes about their day, not a wisp of a thought of dying.  I realize there are others who suffer everyday and long for the journey to end.  I am caught in between the two.  I was talking to my friend with stage 4 lung cancer, and he understood completely what I was saying.  He also has thought of plan B.  What to do when you do not get to live your life, and yet you do not die.  See, once again as the golden child I understand that quagmire.  But as the golden child, of course, I have it easier.

I doubt that I will ever understand why my life has been more special, bigger, brighter, happier then so many others.  I share some of the same challenges they have, and yet, my challenges have not affected me as much as others who have been through similiar things.  I have been told more then once in my life that I was dying.  I have prepared, and yet, I always get better.  I have lost almost everything more then once, but always seem to get back more then I lost.  In 2004, our house was the least damaged from Hurricane Charlie on our street.  I have Hepatitus C, and yet, even though I do not take anything for it, like milk thistle, my liver is doing wonderful considering all the chemicals that it has had to process on this journey with cancer.    And the cancer is one that is rare, special.  But it is a cancer with its own treatment and someday it will not work like it does today, but that is more then likely years from now.   I don't know what opportunities will still come along, but they are sure to be special. 

Honestly, the only thing I could wish to add to my life, would be to have someone to share all of these gifts with.  Someone to hold next to me at night when I am counting my blessings.  Someone to wake up next to, to smile at and say, "good morning, sweetheart, it is another wonderful day."   I do have special people in my life to share my good fortune with, and I am not complaining, I may still have time to find someone to share all of this with.  I do have some very special friends who make me laugh, who make me feel good about myself.  So I am thankful for that.  And they each promise to come and visit.  Each a different type of friendship.  After all, The Sweet Potato Queen says each woman needs to have 5 different men in her life.  You will have to read the book to learn about those men, and trust me you will laugh.  But she is right, we do have so many different people in our lives and each of them bring their own special gifts.  Once again, I have been given more then my fair share there.

I hope this does not sound like I am complaining.  I am not.  I am so very grateful for everything, challenges and gifts alike.  Each brings something new to my life, to celebrate or to help me become a better person.  But please understand, if I do not "fight" this cancer, but choose rather to accept it and the gifts that come with it.  Please understand if I do not want to live forever.  Please forgive me if it upsets you that I need to have a plan B to get through being well, still being alive.  Please understand that all of us must choose each day to live it to the fullest or to let go, maybe ride with your hands off the wheel for a little distance.  Or if I want to make sure that when my life is no longer a gift to me, that I have a plan to get though those times.  The plan on how to die, is really more a crutch to continue to live in this world of inbetweens.  I have always been aware of the inbetweens.  So it should not be a surprise that my life has ended up in a place in between.  A special place where live continues to be so very full and wonderful and amazing and yet teetering on death.  But I am still human, and if I need to step back every once in a while to remember how wonderful my life is, it is still a heavy burden to be the golden child.  Especially since it is not a title or a gift you can give away.   You are who you are in this case.  I have several friends who are golden children.  My mother was a golden child. When she walked into a room it was like a spotlight held by angels turned on her, showing her grace and beauty to all those normal people around her. I appreciate growing up with such a wonderful example. 

These golden children are the special ones in the family.  They are the ones that glow a little brighter, not because they try to or even aware of it most of the time.  It is just a gift, or maybe a joke, but it is put on you without your choosing.  I am grateful for this joke or gift.  I hope that when it is all said and done, that if I am remembered, that instead of remembering me as a golden child, I am remembered as someone who did a few good things, and who lived life to the fullest.