Monday, November 30, 2009

Racking 'em Up!!

Why is it that we treat aging like a curse? It’s really the best blessing we could be given: Life. I mean, the only alternative to aging is dying. We want to live long, yet we complain about aging. We try to hide our wrinkles and gray hair, when we should be flaunting them. Each gray hair is evidence of days we were given to live – each wrinkle, a scrapbook of our time here.

My Mother (a very wise woman as you who’ve read my blog faithfully have probably gleaned) celebrated every birthday with a humorous amount of enthusiasm. She took the entire month of May as her “birthday month” rather than limiting it to the 24th. She loudly sang what the family now considers “her” birthday song: “Happy Birthday” from the 70’s feminist musical “I’m Getting My Act Together And Taking It On The Road.” She never made attempts to hide her age, or had any desire to. She would talk about how she loved each birthday, and wanted to “rack ‘em up.” I always liked the way she looked at aging, but never really related to it… until now.

Today I am 41. I have a few gray hairs, and have recently started developing crow’s feet. Nothing is quite as “in place” as it was 20 years ago. I have lots of aches, pains and stiffness.  My memory is getting worse, as is my eyesight. I couldn’t be more thrilled. I hope to collect a lot more birthdays, wrinkles, gray hairs, sagging, squinting, and forgetting. I will never again complain about any part of aging. Instead I’ll consider those who never made it to 41. I’m glad I have. I hope to make it to 42, 43, 44…

Embrace the aging process, as it’s also the living process. Be thankful that you have been given more years than many others. And celebrate your birthday for the entire month!

Mom's Birthday Song.


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Lightning Crashes

I have a book titled “2001 Things To Do Before You Die.” Joss and I both have a copy actually. We bought them together about 6 months ago, and have spend hours on several different occasions going through them together, talking about thing things we have done and could check off, discussing the things we want to do, and making some plans to actually do some of them. Since my new diagnosis a few weeks ago, we’ve gotten them out again several times, and made a much more sincere effort to cross things off.

One of the items in the book is “Start a tradition,” which prompted the peanut butter and jelly blog from a few days ago. Another is to bury a time capsule. Joss and I decided a few weeks ago, that we would do this, and that she and her children would dig it up in 20 years. I thought this was a great idea that she and her children would love in the future. We discussed including letters to the kids, pictures, items from our era, etc.

I thought about how I would have felt had my Mom left such things for me. It would have literally amazed me to find things that she was the last to touch and that still held her essence. I would have spent hours flabbergasted by the whole “time” concept. I do this often, like tonight when I came across a picture of my mother on her wedding day, standing with her mother. They were both gazing into a large mirror that I now have. It is mind-boggling to me, that the mirror that I have, once held her reflection. That the day that picture was taken was at that time, the present, just as today is for me. That when our time capsule is opened, the present that’s so real to me right now, will be just a memory in pictures of the past, the same way. I wondered if my grand children would find this buried treasure as valuable as I would have.

We planned the date to bury the time capsule for this weekend. I wrote to the family members who visited over thanksgiving asking them to bring any items they would like to include. To my surprise, they all did. Tonight I began packing things up in the capsule, which is an army ammunition can that I intend to add several coats of Rustoleum or sealer, and caulk closed. I am also putting all of the contents inside several vacuum sealed bags (another great use for the FoodSaver). I finished bagging and labeling everyone’s contents and started gathering my own. I started with the basics: a letter I wrote to James trying (but failing) to express to him how much I love him and how much fun we have together; a letter to Jocilyn with pretty much the same failure; a mouse, a cell phone, and a remote control, sure that the 2030 technological comparison would be fun; and some family pictures. I wrote on the back of all the pictures so that they would know who everyone is. I put in a dollar bill (which may very well be obsolete in 2030) sprayed with a perfume that I often wear, and sealed that in a vacuum bag, hoping that my future family will be able to experience the scent. I took a video of me and the family talking and going through all of the things we were including, and intend to add that also.

I then looked around for other things to add. I thought about adding a lipgloss, a lock of hair, or something that I had actually used, and maybe held a bit of my spirit. I started collecting more and more things. I wanted to write more letters, add more items, put more and more of me in this time capsule. It then hit me, very suddenly in a crashing jolt of reality, why I wanted to put so much in this box. Why, to my surprise, not everyone thought it was as important as I did. Why I didn’t want to seal it but wanted to keep adding everything.

I'm trying to get in the box.
I don’t want to disappear.


Friday, November 27, 2009

To My Family, I'm Bequeathing Peanut Butter & Jelly

I have the absolute best family. I’m sure most people think that, but I really do. We never argue. Seriously -- never; we have no reason to. We cherish every visit we are able to have together. This has been the nature of our family for as long as I can remember, but the attitude was certainly amplified by my Mother. She had an amazing outlook and always knew what was really important. If others would say that they “don’t have enough room” for someone to visit, or that they “don’t have enough food” to include someone, Mom would never understand. I can literally hear her voice saying “there’s always room; we’ll sleep on the floor if we have to” and “there’s always enough food; we’ll order pizza if we have to.” I’m delighted to have inherited this attitude from Mom. There have been occasions when I’d invite a bunch of people over, and would be asked with a tone of concern “do you have room for that many people?” I am always somewhat bemused by such a statement, and say something like “Of course! There’s always room."

While talking with Neil last week about what we might be having for our Thanksgiving dinner, he said (right in line with our family axiom) that we could have peanut butter and jelly and it would be wonderful, as long as we are together. He was absolutely right, and I decided that we should celebrate this attitude! So in addition to the huge antipasto, shrimp, ravioli, meatballs, turkey, stuffing, gravy, potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, bread, cranberry sauce and a plethora of pies and cookies, we also had one peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
I cut the sandwich into small cubes, and at the start of the meal, explained to everyone that my intent was to create a new family tradition. I told them that I hope they will all keep up with this tradition and pass it down. (I’ve not asked if they plan to, or if they think it’s completely stupid, but we’ll see how it goes.) I explained that sharing the peanut butter and jelly sandwich would serve as a reminder of the importance of holidays: that it doesn’t matter what we have, as long as we share it together. I then told my family how glad I was that we were together today, and everyone ate a small piece of the sandwich. (Thanks to all for amusing me).
I think it might be cool, especially after my time here is up, and even more so in future generations, if we kept this tradition, and I hope that it always does reiterate the fact that holidays are not about what you eat, what presents you give/get, how your house is decorated, if your plates match, or how many chairs you have. My Mom would say that it doesn’t even matter what the date on the calendar is. Holidays are about spending time with people you love, enjoying their company, sharing, laughing, loving, and appreciating all that we have.

I was fortune this year, to have spent Thanksgiving with Neil, Al, Don, Jeannie, Jocilyn, Dominick, James, and Mark.  My Dad and Diane could not make it, but I hope to see them soon!!  I hope everyone also had a wonderful holiday!
Special note to all of my family: I’m eager to know if any of you have PB&J at Christmas dinner!


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Super cute pics of Jamie Jame

Grandmama gave me a cookie!!

Two Li'l Monkeys

Sweet Baby James

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Gal's Night Out!!

I'm finally getting to posting pics from GNO last week.  Lulu, Cyn City and I had a blast with Art, our super cool limo driver!  We went to Comedy Zone, and then downtown for hot dogs from Sandy (the new runner) and her boyfriend. 

Who rents a limo for Comedy Zone and hotdogs?  I have awesome friends!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Chemo bites too!

It's 5:43 Thursday morning, and I haven't slept a wink since 6 this morning. I've been tossing and turning for hours, and finally accepted the fact that I am not going to sleep tonight, and got up to poke around. Today I learned that my recent nighttime fidgeting is attributed to the chemo, and that today's dose may increase that. Yep. I already suffer from Restless Leg Syndrome (a/k/a "jimmy legs") so it's quite uncomfortable. Not to mention I am having to wear gloves and socks because of the cold sensitivity one of my chemos causes. I cannot turn the heat up because I am always so hot, so even "room temperature" foods and drinks are too cold. I had to nuked some juice for 20 seconds and that made it drinkable, though not nearly as refreshing. I am also cloudy headed and having body aches in my back, legs, and ankles. The effects from the last treatment were not nearly as uncomfortable, and the nurse told me the effects should not be cumulative because it should clear out of my system between one treatment and the next, but I am definitely having more trouble this time. Maybe I will call the Dr. later and ask her why.

Here's some good news though... My Dr. said that she will be able to move some chemo dates around so that Joss and I will be able to go on a mother/daughter cruise in January. We are hoping to go January 23, for 7 days, visiting Belize, Honduras, and Mexico. As long as she can survive that long without James, we are going to have a blast!! She is in the process of getting her passport, and then we will book.  I am very excited about it. My Mom and I went on one and it's some of my best memories.  We had such a great time -- just me and her, laughing hysterically about 18 hours a day.  Joss and I will surely laugh at least as much. 

And more good news... Joss and I were talking today about having a "Pink Poker Party."  A very pink and girly poker night.  We'll have snacks, and cosmos or something, and play poker for chic-prizes.  Anyone interested?  Please let me know if so.  My fear in planning parties is always that no one will come.  I'll make it fun, I promise!

Well my alarm is going off in the bedrooms, so I guess it's time to get up for work.  Unfortunately I don't think I am going to make it today - at least not this morning...which sucks because I was excited about the new phones we are getting today.  Luckily I am blessed with the absolute best and most understanding and supportive workplace.

OK, I'm off to turn off the alarm, and then watch Married With Children.  Maybe I'll make some cocoa too.  Today's challenge:  do something that makes you smile. Wear a tiara, stand with your back to the door in the elevator, color in a coloring book, buy yourself some flowers...anything :)
I love you all.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

OK, Call Me Obsessive...

My favorite line from The Wizard Of Oz:
Dorothy:  If you don't have a brain, how can you talk?
Scarecrow:  I don't know.

The one that annoys me the most:
Dorothy to the Flying Monkey (talking about broomstick) Can we have it?
Flying Monkey:  Yes, and take it with you.

OK.  I will shut up about the W.O.O. now.

A Little "Wizard Of Oz" Trivia


I am watching the Wizard of Oz, which I've seen a zillion times (like everyone, except for my freaky stepfather (he's not really freaky; he's awesome!), and my sister, neither of whom have seen it, which is weird.  Really weird.  Especially for Neil, who is over 60.  I mean, how can you live 60+ years, and NEVER have seen the Wizard of Oz?  Anyway...) but never noticed  this detail, that tonight I noticed.  It tickled me.  So, if anyone else already knew/noticed this, comment and let us know!!!

When Dorothy and the crew first go into the forest to seek the witch, what are they each carrying? 
(scroll down for the answer)











Answer:  I had to rewind it to catch all of it, but here it is:

Tin Man:  His axe, and a HUGE pipe wrench
Scarecrow:  A big stick, and a gun
Lion:  A butterfly net, and one of those old fashioned pump exterminator things
Dorothy:  Just her basket.  Girls are bad-ass and can take on a witch with just what is in our purse...or basket.

What an awesome movie.   Gotta run now... The Wizard is digging in his black bag!!

DAMn, Virginia, Stomp Your Feet!

I've taken a few pictures over the past week, and have finally got some time to sit down and share them. First off, Oliver and I took a ride to Virginia last week. No particular destination, just got in the car and started driving.

First we stopped for sausage biscuits.

Then we drove north and came across a dam.

Next we stopped at a Goodwill and got some books for James for .35 each! While walking out of the store, I met a kind elderly woman who beat cancer and we chatted for a few. Sadly, I didn’t think to take her picture.

We then drove home, and saw the most amazing HUGE harvest moon. It's hard to tell in the pictures, but it was really big and beautiful!


Joss, Jamie Jame and I had dinner at Cici's one night:


Yesterday (Saturday) was fun. First I did some Christmas shopping and had my car washed:

This guy worked really hard to remove a pretty nasty white mark where some douchebag must have hit my car with their door REALLY hard (Rude bastard...I hope karma gets him!)  I didn't intentionally photograph his ass, just didn't wanna get up from the grassy knoll.

Then my son-in-law took me, Joss and James out for lunch:

Look at those handsome men!!!

Then Joss and I went to a Step competition at Dudley High School. It was called "Stompfest" and featured several schools from around the state. It was fun, and a couple of the teams were really impressive!

My chin is cut off because I had to crop out Jocilyn's infinite cleavage.

Remember to do something fun this week!  Think of one thing, and then be sure to do it.

Monday, November 9, 2009

I have found my limit

I have posted a lot lately, trying to remind everyone of the brevity of life. I have tried to inspire everyone to do things now, enjoy life, take risks, and have fun because life is short. I’ve tried to show that you can do things you want to do. I have now discovered that I too have a line, which once reached, I give up and say “I can’t do that.” Apparently my line is a terminal diagnosis.

It’s a bizarre feeling, to know that your end is near, that you are being robbed of decades, that the thing that will kill you is already living and working inside you, and yet have no idea how it will play out, when it will come, how it will come, or how functional you will be. It has certainly given me a lot to think about over the past week.

For the past few days I have been thinking that I would soon need to make the decision that trumps all others: how to spend the rest of my life. The reality started to strike me, that the “rest of my life” isn’t as vague and seemingly infinite as it was a week ago.

I considered lots of possibilities, and ways I could choose to spend the remainder of my life. I came up with three scenarios:

1. Status quo: I do whatever the doctors say to prolong my life as long as possible, while continuing to work as long as I physically can. I spend as much time with family, especially Joss and James, and try to take an occasional vacation between chemo and hurling until I am too bogged down by sickness and oxygen tanks, and then eventually become hospitalized, hopefully not for too long, and hopefully without much suffering, until I move on to hopefully be with my Mom.

2. Just be with family: Finish this round of chemo, see what the scans say, and based on that, determine when to start traveling between Maine, NC and Florida spending lots of time with my family.

3. Go out with a bang: Finish this round of chemo, see what the scans say, and based on that determine when to take off to Europe. I’ve started feeling a strong yearning to return. A sadness even, that I am no longer there. This is not necessarily a specific desire just to be in Europe, but also and more so a longing to return to the place I was mentally while there. The complete freedom, lack of responsibility, and sense of newness, adventure and beauty in everything. Had I been born rich instead of beautiful, I would go back and spend at very least, another month there, mostly sitting on the beach and picking out little rocks. If I could do anything right now, I’d give anything to be there.

These are a few of the choices I thought I had, and have been thinking about, along with the basic question of quantity vs. quality. Should I do everything I can to extend my life as long as possible? What would the point of that be, though, if I were suffering for much of it? Having cancer in my lungs, my doctor informed me, could mean an oxygen tank in my future. We did not discuss what the effects of the liver tumors could cause, but I’m sure it would not be pleasant. Then there is the possibility of developing tumors in other organs. There will also be many rounds of chemo, along with its side effects. Is it worth living an extra year, if I spend that year puking, suffering, and feeling like a burden to my family? Is it better to live less time but enjoy that time more? Is it fair to my daughter and grandbaby to choose quality? Is it even fair to my purpose of being here, whatever that may be, to choose to shorten my time for my own enjoyment, or ease of discomfort?

While trying to mentally work all these things out, I realized I really don’t have choices at all. I have a house to pay for, and now a new debt from my trip, as well as taxes and all that good stuff. Sure, I could sell everything and live carelessly, but what if I live longer than anticipated? And I certainly want to leave Jocilyn with as much as I can – at very least, a house. Not only could I never even consider leaving my job, but I will need to do whatever necessary to keep it as I get sicker, because I am dependant not only on the income, but equally on the medical insurance. While I would undoubtedly be trying to inspire a person in my shoes to live their dream, do whatever they wanted, not feel held back by anything, and convince them that the details will work themselves out, I, on this side of the situation, resign myself to the fact that this choice is made for me. I am actually surprised to learn this about myself, and in a way it ties in with self discoveries of my Europe trip. I’m disappointed in myself, and would work on it if I had more time to. At least I recognize my limitations, and can accept them. Maybe my outlook will change as my journey progresses. Maybe I’ll start playing the lottery...winning that would certainly change my outlook. Maybe I’ll just live out my life like it is. Things could be a LOT worse!

I promise to go back to funny and adventurous posts soon.  And pictures!  Really!  Check back.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

It's funny how everything can change in a second

I've ridden the euphoria from my Europe trip to its end.  It lasted well beyond my return home, so that's a blessing.  It probably would have continued another few weeks had today's events not happened.  But they did, so I'm working on accepting it and announcing it, so I can work on changing it, or at least enjoying what I can.

My scans from yesterday showed a recurrance of cancer.  It's popped up in "splatters" on my lungs and liver.  Not nice big localized spots that can be removed or zapped with radiation, but speckles that can be treated only with chemo.  My doctor has told me today, that this will kill me.  The question of when depends on how I respond to chemo.  Most likely, I have less than two years.

My first thought, seriously, for a fleeing second, was "I'm so glad I went to Europe!!"  Next was "how can that be??"  It's only been a few months after surgery, and after my surgery it didn't sound very serious.  I put off my chemo because it didn't sound serious.  Now I'm wondering if I killed myself by not taking it seriously.  It doesn't seem right that I could be months away from death, but feel normal. 

My doctor started me on chemo immediately, so I had my first round today.  I got two new chemicals while at the cancer center (all day) and went home with the pump like I had before, with the same 5FU chemical I had before.  I will wear the pump for 2 days, then have a 2 week break, and then do the entire procedure over again, every two weeks, for twelve weeks.  After that, we will repeat the scans and hope that the chemo made a difference. 

Telling my family was the worst part.  Especially Joss.  It breaks my heart to know that she is going to have to suffer the loss of her mom.  I know how much that sucks.  I love her more than anything.  Telling my Dad, Brother, Neil, and Dave sucked too.  I love them and don't want to bring them pain.

I am seeing my surgeon tomorrow, and will beg him to do my reversal now, even though I am currently in chemo, so that the rest of my time I can feel as normal as possible.  I am not sure if he will.  I will also ask him for a referral of an oncologist at Baptist, to get a second opinion on my scan results. 

Everyone keeps telling me how sorry they are, but I am the one that is sorry.  I'm sorry that people who care about me will be in pain.  I'm sorry that I didn't take the chemo right away, and could be contributing to that pain.  I'm sorry that my baby will have to lose her mom so young.  I'm sorry that my little precious beautiful grandboy won't get to know me and how much I love him.  I'm not sorry for me.  I'll be fine... I'll be with my Mom, so be happy for me.  I won't have to deal with the upgrade to Windows 7!  I lived my dream!!  I do know, though, that no matter where I go, I will miss my baby girl.

My brother said in passing, something that really struck me --  I don't have to work on dying - that's being handled for me.  I just have to work on living.  So I am going to try my best to let this affect my life as little as possible.  To spend time with my family and loved ones.  To spoil my grandbaby.  To tell people how I feel about them.  To have fun!  To fill my book as much as I can before the pages go blank.

That's all I feel like writing right now.


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