Thursday, March 5, 2015

The First Time My Parents Tried To Get Rid Of Me

In the 1960s, my family had a pontoon boat, because we were cool like that.

We didn't always store it in the front yard, but when it was there,
it was a great source of fun. Those are the next door neighbor kids.

My dad worked as a meter reader for the gas company during the week, but evenings and weekends, he worked at a boat dealership near a small lake just outside Kansas City. He made repairs and got boats spiffed up for the sales lot, and this made him able to buy one for us. 

Our boat was kept on Lake Jacomo, a little lake east of Lee's Summit, Missouri, that was maintained by the Jackson County Parks Department. (Get it? Jackson County, Mo = Jacomo) There was a marina with docks (for the rich people with boats, which means richer than us - it wasn't a yacht kind of lake) and there were buoys out past the docks with boats anchored to them for the not rich people (like us). If your boat was buoyed instead of docked, you (meaning my dad) had to ride in a dinghy out to the boat and bring it back to the dock for loading and unloading of passengers and picnic baskets and coolers. 

Why do we have so many pictures of the pontoon boat in our yard? I swear, it was seldom there.
My dad would only park it there when we were getting ready to take it on vacation.

When we first got the boat, we were a one-car family. On summer Saturday mornings, my mom would load us sleepily into the station wagon and drive my dad to the boat dealership for work. That gave her the car for the day for grocery shopping and errands. Then she would fill the picnic basket with paper plates and cups, chips and cookies, the cooler with bottles of Pepsi and hamburger patties, and we would pile back into the station wagon to go pick up my dad at work, then on to the lake and our pontoon boat.

See? Not always in our yard. That's my brother, my mom, and me (in a dorky pixie haircut),
pulled up to a gravel bar on what appears to be Lake Taneycomo.

Our pontoon boat was so cool, we had a charcoal grill strapped to the front deck. We would chug out onto the lake and into a quiet cove, where my dad would grill burgers and we'd eat our picnic supper on the boat. 

Grill, see? Lake Taneycomo bridge dead ahead. Look out, Daddy!

During this same time period, my mother was the Den Leader for my brother's Cub Scout pack. About 8 boys would come over to our house once a week, sit around our formica kitchen table and drink Kool-aid. Or that's all I remember of it, since I was only about 4 at the time. I'm sure they did crafts or something else Scout-ish.

Me, about the same age as when
The Incident occurred.

In some weak moment, my parents decided to take the Cub Scout pack out on our pontoon boat. All the boys, plus little me, piled into our family station wagon (pre-seatbelt laws; most of the boys were in the way-back of the station wagon), and off we went. My parents kept the boys from falling and/or jumping off the boat into the water (swimming wasn't allowed in the lake), grilled hamburgers, let each Scout take a turn steering the boat, then returned to the marina.

That's when it happened.

The car loaded with rowdy Cub Scouts and picnic baskets, my mother happened to glance towards the shelter house next to the marina as they got ready to drive out of the parking lot and saw a little girl walking around the top of it, singing. She took a double take, looked in the back of the station wagon, AND REALIZED THE LITTLE GIRL AT THE SHELTER HOUSE WAS ME!

They nearly left me.

To this day, my mother says she breaks out in a cold sweat when she realizes how close they were to driving off and leaving me behind at the lake.

Whatever helps her sleep at night, because what I call it is The First Time My Parents Tried To Get Rid Of Me., and yes, you can count on a sequel.

The shelter house where THEY LEFT ME. I was walking around the rail at the top,
blissfully unaware that my parents were going to ditch me....

Returning to the Scene of the Crime nearly 50 years later.
And why am I smiling?! I ALMOST GOT LEFT HERE!

Monday, March 2, 2015

I'm A Lucky Duck

Every morning when I wake up, I pick up my phone and delete the endless emails from Old Navy and Kohls and Bath and Body Works and all the other messages from stores that browbeat me into giving them my email address at checkout time. I check Twitter. Instagram. Facebook. And I save the best for last.

I check my Time Hop.

Do you have the Time Hop app on your phone? Because you should. Every day, it compiles the posts, tweets, and pictures posted on social media on that date, going back about five years. I see pictures I forgot I had even taken. Posts about fun times with friends or family. Reminders of silly things my preschoolers said or did. Status updates or tweets where I think, "Man, I'm pretty damn funny sometimes!"

This morning, after verifying through Twitter that we did, indeed, have to go to school IN SPITE OF THE ICE AND SNOW ON THE STREETS, my Time Hop included a (I thought) hilarious tweet from a year ago, a couple of pictures from a volleyball tournament two years ago, and the following status update from three years ago:

This was pretty exciting stuff! My son was a junior in high school; my daughter was in 7th grade, and they both qualified for State with their National History Day projects. 

The awards ceremony had ended around 5:00 p.m. My daughter and I left together in my car, heading to Academy Sports to purchase a pair of volleyball shoes. My husband and son went home to change clothes, then play tennis at a park near our home. 

And while Emma and I were at the checkout, paying for her shoes, my cell phone rang, the call coming from the surgeon I had visited earlier in the week about yet another new lump in one of my already lumpy and bumpy fibrocystic breasts with the results of my biopsy.

"You have cancer."

Higher than a kite on opiates,
post-bilateral mastectomy
And that fast, life would never be the same again.

I had a bilateral mastectomy with free tram flap reconstruction.

Being the poster child for early detection was probably the reason I didn't have to have infusion chemotherapy, but I didn't know that until almost three months after the diagnosis and surgery, when all the pathology reports were in.

I began what is projected to be five years of chemo treatment with an aromatase inhibitor (Arimidex), which works to block the enzyme aromatase from turning the hormone androgen into estrogen in post-menopausal women.

I was not post-menopausal; therefore, my ovaries had to be stopped from producing estrogen. This was accomplished with monthly injections of Zoladex, also projected to be for five years. The injections are into my lower abdomen, near my tram flap scar (which is fortunate, as that area is numb anyway), where a capsule about the size of a grain of rice is deposited.

I take copious amounts of calcium, Vitamin E and Vitamin D to counteract the side effects of the Arimidex and Zoladex.

I also take Fosamax once weekly (like an 80 year old, hump backed old woman) because the chemo drugs caused a 13% depletion in my bone density within the first two years of treatments.

And every day, every little ache or pain, every tender spot, every glance in the mirror at the miracle that is my reconstruction, I wonder if it's cancer cells returning. Then I brush the thought away, because that's what Scarlett O'Hara would do. 

I'm not complaining here. I'm just reporting. I know how lucky I am. I've seen friends go through infusion chemo and radiation, and I thank God often and profusely that I did not have to go through that.

Early detection.

I believe in it.

Girls, check your girls. Know your girls. Boys, make sure your girls are checking their girls. And check your own while you're at it. Men are not immune to breast cancer.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Outside The Box Thinkers And More Thankfuls

It's only the end of February, and my daughter has enrolled for her junior year in high school (gulp!) and my son has signed up for next year's housing (upgrading from the honors dorm to a university owned apartment-type building for upper classmen). Spring Break is a mere two weeks away, yet it is snowing and bitterly cold outside. Gahhhhh!!! Find the thankfuls, find the thankfuls, find the thankfuls....

1. My dad passed his eye test and got his driver's license renewed. He had been sidelined after the poor timing of his cataract surgeries and the date his license expired in December collided head on. He not only passed the test, he did it without wearing glasses at all. Yay, Daddy!

2. I borrowed my dad's Sequoia to drive to Nashville in December, and since he couldn't drive it anyway, I just kind of kept it until last weekend. (I was doing a service for my mom, who gets irritated because it takes up so much room in the garage that she can't get to HER car.) Giving it back kind of sucked, because it was really fun to drive, but I told him we would bring it to him last weekend when we went to a show choir competition in my parents' home town. "We" meant me and my 16 year old, newly licensed daughter. Whom I let drive our car and follow me on the hour drive to my parents' house. When she had never driven by herself on a highway. I may have spent more time looking in the rear view mirror at her than I did looking forward at where I was going, but she did a great job, kept the car between the ditches, and didn't do anything that scared me (that I noticed).

3. Not to be a big sissy or anything, but this is the first 5 day week I've worked in several weeks, and I made it to the end, reasonably unscathed.

4. Our snack helper in Pre-K this week brought Dude's Doughnuts on Friday for snack. It doesn't get much better than that.

5. Even on days when my preschoolers are wound up and completely crazy and I think I might run screaming out of the room, they say and do things that are so completely amazing that I can't believe I get to work with these little people every day.

Playdough snails. From 1/2" high on up.

They built a kitchen. With a grill to
cook the fish they catch.

Example: I took construction paper hearts, about 4 inches across, wrote each child's name on one, then cut them apart into puzzle pieces. The plan was to have each child put the pieces back together and end up with their name on a heart (the other pre-k teacher did this project with her class, so shout out to Miss Debbie for the great idea). My directions to the class, in fact, were to put the pieces together to make a heart by putting the letters in their name in order. (I kind of didn't realize that Miss Debbie made one of the hearts as an example for her class; I just gave each kid their own cut up heart and told them to put it back together without any further direction in how to do it, bless their little hearts.) 

Here is one finished product:

Most of them did very well. Some of the younger ones in the class struggled a little, but they finally got the pieces together so that their name was there, even though some of the pieces were upside down and didn't get back into the heart shape. But one boy kept working and working on his heart name, but wasn't getting it put together right at all. I finally told him to go ahead and glue what he had down on a piece of paper, which he did. When I hung them up in the hallway later and got a good look at his, this is what I found:

It's a heart shape, with the letters in his name in order, just like I asked. He did exactly what I told him to do. You could say he did it the hard way, and he did labor over it, but if this isn't the ultimate example of problem solving, I don't know what is. He's going to do great in this big world!

Another example: After snack, we have mandatory bathroom time. I walk between the boys and girls bathrooms to keep an eye on them (i.e., tell them to quit playing, help when it's hard to get the faucet turned on, snap jeans back together). Remember how I said we had doughnuts for snack? Glazed doughnuts. While I was standing between the two bathrooms, another teacher was walking down the hall. She glanced in the open doorway of the boys bathroom, stopped, then, grinning, told me to look in.

There stood one of my boys, his back to the door, washing his hands, with his pants pulled down, his bare bottom shining. Thinking he might have forgotten to pull his pants all the way up (hey, it happens when you're 5), I asked him if he was doing okay.

"Yes, I'm just washing the doughnut off my fingers before I pull my pants up."

See? I have outside the box thinkers!

6. The last one counts as two.

7. It's unbelievably cold this week. Stupid cold. That means I got the minkrat out! I still don't have a full length picture of myself in it, but I got enough of one that you can see the luxurious fur synthetic fuzzy fabric. The cold doesn't penetrate this coat, but when you wear it, you draw a lot of attention to yourself, especially when parading through Walmart.

8. I had a great visit with Kristi of Thankful Me the other night on Facebook. We chatted back and forth for two hours, talking about one-eyed cats and dead hamsters and puppies and stuff. I am very grateful for blog friendships!

9. Ruby and I had a rousing game of fetch this evening with a twist tie. She hasn't played fetch in months, choosing, rather, to play by herself by dropping toys and trash she fished out of the trashcan into my husband's shoes. She brought me her latest favorite twist tie as I sat in my chair and fetched it about twenty times when I tossed it for her. She only quit playing when she dropped the twist tie somewhere behind the chair and couldn't find it.

10. It's Friday night and NO ONE HAS TO BE ANYWHERE. We are home and warm and cozy. Hope you are, too, and if you ARE somewhere having some kind of heat wave, then just keep it to yourself.

Link up your thankfuls! It's too cold to do anything else, anyway.

Ten Things of Thankful

 Your hosts

Join the Ten Things of Thankful Facebook Group

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Lots To Say About Nothing

My brain is full of disjointed thoughts that are now running down my arms, flowing out of my fingers. Follow along, if you can....

Not ONCE has my mind been blown by anything prefaced with the words "mind blowing."

I refuse to give credence to any recipe on Pinterest (or elsewhere) that uses the word "crack" to describe it.

That being said, I do love the game Trivia Crack. I finally found an outlet for all that worthless information I hold in my wee little brain.

My JBL bluetooth speaker is so cool. Everything sounds good on it. EVERYTHING, I tell you!

I can tell how cold it is outside by how many cats are on my bed.

The Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace has nothing on three cats vying for the same spot on said bed, that space being where my feet are supposed to be.

Approximately 50 pounds of cat takes up a lot of space. 

Ruby eventually bows out of the battle for the coveted spot in the bed and lies right on my bladder.

A very small kitty cat, when lying on a full bladder, eventually feels as though it weighs about a thousand pounds.

Second day hair looks better than first day hair, but it feels worse.

Never underestimate cereal. It can be breakfast. Or lunch. Or dinner. It can be dessert. You can eat it with milk on it, or you can eat it dry, which makes it a snack. If you eat dry cereal while wearing a scarf, you can have a second snack later, because you will surely find some of the cereal tucked away in the folds of that scarf. Or so I've heard....

I hate that stupid Candy Crush. Please send me lives and tickets so I can continue to hate it, mmkay?

I mooned half an auditorium of people at the show choir competition last weekend when I stood up after forgetting that my jeans had slid down a little as I sat down in my seat.  

Even if I HAD remembered that my jeans slid down an hour earlier when I scooted in my seat, I don't really see how I could have adjusted them without standing up first, so I would have mooned everyone, regardless.

Shoulda worn a belt.

I hate belts.

While full blown panic hasn't set it yet, I am a little concerned about the A to Z Challenge and whether I'm going to have a theme or go with my usual fly by the seat of my pants routine.

That I have already had pants issues this week makes me think I should go with a theme.

Anybody got a theme for me?

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Snow Thankful

I've worried so all week about getting my post written for 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion that I haven't given this week's Ten Things of Thankful too much thought. Since the week was largely defined by the weather, then a weathery list of thankfuls I shall write:

1. The College Boy was home this past weekend. Always good to have him home; always good to send him back (I mean that in the most loving way possible).

2. I got said College Boy back to school and was headed home before the freezing rain started.

3. Note that I said "heading home." I was peppered with both freezing rain and sleet on the hour's drive home. It was freezing on the windshield faster than the wipers could clean it off, and I drove several miles while bent sideways, trying to peer through an opening the size of a saucer in the bottom middle of the windshield. I was hoping an exit was coming up, because I didn't want to risk pulling over onto the shoulder, when the defroster finally did its job and the icy coating started breaking away. Whew!

4. I might have gotten home before any of the frozen precipitation started if I hadn't stopped at a store I like moderately and tried on jeans. Since I found a pair I liked, and since nothing bad actually happened to me on the way home, then this becomes a thankful.

5. Sleet pelted our house the entire evening Sunday, changing over to snow some time around 11 p.m. Given the layer of freezing rain, topped by an inch or so of sleet, the superintendent of our school district canceled classes for the next day long before the first snowflakes fell. No 5:30 a.m. phone call saying school was canceled! We could all sleep in! 

What she does when she's supposed to be cleaning her room.

6. If you take note of the date last Monday, you will realize it was President's Day. Our school district did not observe this as a holiday, and I personally think the dead presidents were angry. I'm thankful they showed our district leaders what for by collaborating with Mother Nature on that winter storm system.

Looking out my living room window. It may not be
that impressive to those of you in the northeast, but
this is a lot of snow for us!

7. We ended up with about 5 inches of snow by the time it ended on Monday afternoon. Our street was a solid sheet of ice, though, and thankfully, so were most of the other side streets in town, leading us to ANOTHER SNOW DAY!

Looking up the hill from our house. Solid. Ice.

8. Back to school Wednesday and Thursday, but that was okay, because we had Friday off as a professional development day for the public school teachers (our preschool is private and not part of the school district, but we follow the district's academic calendar). TWO DAY WORK WEEK, BABY!

9. Snowfall was heavier where the College Boy is going to school. He had Monday off already for President's Day (no pissed off presidents there), and classes were canceled Tuesday and Wednesday for him due to the snow. The dining hall is almost a block away from my son's dorm, and he really didn't want to mush out in the cold and snow to eat, so he stayed in his room and ate from the provisions I sent back to school with him. On Wednesday, I received the following text from him:

Oh, how this kid can make me laugh!

10. Freezing rain expected tonight and tomorrow looks as if it won't hit our area with more than some trace amounts. Which is VERY good, because my daughter has a show choir competition on Saturday and would be devastated if it were canceled. 

There's talk of another storm system moving through at the end of next week, so with potential for another snow day or two, this system will be eagerly anticipated. After that? I'm done with winter. It can go away and make room for spring.

Snowed in? Freezing cold? Find some thankfuls and link up with us, below.

Ten Things of Thankful

 Your hosts

Join the Ten Things of Thankful Facebook Group

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Compassion: More Than A Feeling

Feeling compassion is easy. We all feel sympathy or concern for the misfortunes of others at one time or another. We see these stories every day on the news, and as humans, it's impossible NOT to feel badly for these victims. We can do it while we're sitting comfortably in our homes. But being compassionate? That takes a lot more effort. 

Compassion exemplified would be Kayla Mueller, the 26 year old from Arizona who had devoted her young life to helping others. She cared deeply about helping relieve suffering of people who could not help themselves. She volunteered for an organization working to save Darfur while in college, worked with the homeless in Arizona, then on to give humanitarian aid in India, Israel and, finally, in Syria, where she helped families displaced by civil war, then was kidnapped, held hostage and then, sadly, died at the hands of terrorists.

Kayla Mueller practiced a level of compassion that few ever will. Does that make the rest of us less compassionate?

I say no.

The world needs Kayla Muellers, but not everyone is meant to BE a Kayla Mueller. I say we have to seek our own level of compassion. 

My friend Deena is compassionate about animals, particularly cats. She lives in Fresno and works in an area with a large feral cat population. She sets traps for the ferals, gets them neutered, takes them home to recuperate, then works to socialize them and find them homes, funding all of it herself. Yes, there is still a large population of ferals, but there are less than there were, because Deena has made a difference. Little by little, she is slowing the population growth of the colony. She takes in mama cats and their litters, rejoices for them when she finds them a forever home, weeps over them when they are ill and pass away. 

That's compassion.

We can't all be Deenas, either. But some of us can be like Thomas. He is a volunteer for the American Red Cross and has been for years. The mission of the Red Cross itself is that it exists to provide compassionate care to those in need. Thomas does that. As a trained volunteer, he responds to disasters, from tornadoes to ice storms to house fires. (By the way, did you know the Red Cross responds to every house fire and provides emergency assistance for food, clothing and shelter?) He helps at the office and with special events. He shares his time and talents tirelessly.

That's compassion.

And you know what else is compassion? It's buying some extra canned goods at the grocery store (the good brands, not the generic stuff)  and donating them to the local food bank. It's volunteering at your child's school. It's taking in foster puppies for the local humane society, even if you wondered what you'd gotten yourself into at the time. It's baking hundreds of cookies for a show choir camp snack rather than picking up store-bought cookies from Walmart. It's holding a door open for the next person, even if you have to stand there awkwardly because your timing was off. It's making eye contact and smiling as you're walking through the mall, just to make people smile back.

It's seeing a need and fulfilling it. 

That's a level of compassion we can all be.  

A little seed of an idea was planted earlier this year by Yvonne Spence. She and Lizzi Rogers watered it, and it grew into 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion. Look for #1000Speak on Twitter.

Friday, February 13, 2015

I Can Kill Two Birds, Too!

The Sisterhood of the World Blogger's Award is making a circuitous route among my blog friends. Kristi at Thankful Me also received it from our Ten Things of Thankful co-host Lisa, but she actually followed the directions (part of them, anyway) and wrote ten questions of her own for others to answer. And I do love a good questionnaire, so here I am, answering Kristi's questions and stealing borrowing her format of incorporating them into the Ten Things of Thankful for this week.

1. What small act of service have you received that has meant a lot to you?

These were actually HUGE acts of service, but so many did so much for me when I had my bilateral mastectomy nearly three years ago, and I am still overwhelmed by everyone's kindness.  My kids were ferried around, I was given all kinds of gifts, my sister in law and my friend took time out of their schedules and away from their own families to stay with me for a couple of days when my husband had to be away from me after my surgery. I had lovely visitors and received all kinds of flowers and balloons and Diet Coke. I was given a gorgeous Tata to the Tata's party, complete with boobie cake. The list goes on and on. 

I am thankful for good friends who are there for me in times of great need.

2. What was your favorite meal when you were a child?

My favorite meal as a child was my mom's smothered steak. She would cook pieces of round steak with potatoes and carrots in her electric skillet until they were fork tender, then thicken the juices into a gravy. I can make a similar version, but it doesn't taste the same.

I am thankful we always had plenty to eat.

3. Do you enjoy camping?

God, no! 

To paraphrase Jim Gaffigan, I'm thankful my parents loved me enough not to take me camping.

4. Have you moved (changed houses) more as an adult or as a child?

We only moved once when I was a child; the summer after I finished 6th grade, we moved from a little ranch style house to a neighborhood with a little bit bigger, nicer homes. We were still in the same school district, and even though the kids in the new neighborhood went to a different elementary school than I had, we all went to the same junior high.

I moved to college when I was 17. If I'm counting correctly, I moved 17 times in the next 20 years. The last move was into the house we're in now, 16 years ago.

I'm thankful not to have had to pack and unpack boxes for 16 years now!

5. Where would you like to retire and why?

I imagine when I am retired and have grandchildren, this answer might change, because I suspect I will want to be near them. Putting that aside, I'd like to summer either in upstate New York or near Rocky Mountain National Park, because both places are beautiful, and winter somewhere warm and beachy. Florida, maybe.

I'm thankful I have had the chance to visit a variety of places.

Taughannock Falls, Ithaca, NY

6. If you had a free day next week, how would you spend it?

I am always well meaning when I have a day off. I think I'm going to use it to get Great Things Done, but that rarely happens. Now, if it were a snow day, then I would spend the day in the kitchen, baking bread, making homemade noodles, making some kind of cookies. Snow days inspire me to use a lot of flour!

I'm thankful for occasional days off from work and (most) responsibilities that allow me to do whatever I choose, even if it's just sitting in a chair and reading.

7. If you could suddenly develop a new talent or skill, what would it be?

I've always wanted to be able to sing Broadway style. I can sing, but I'm only okay. 

I'm thankful that lack of talent doesn't keep me from singing like a rock star when I'm by myself in the car.

8. Do you know where your grandparents and/or great grandparents were born?

I do! My mother's parents were born near Urich, Missouri. My dad's parents were born near Marshfield, Missouri. I also know where my great-grandparents on both sides were born.

I am thankful to my brother for all the work he has done and shared with me on our family genealogy, and I am thankful to Kristi from Thankful Me for showing me how to make a family tree of my very own!

My maternal grandfather (1890-1960)

My maternal great grandfather

9. What is one trait that describes you?

 I'm very positive and optimistic.

I am thankful for the ability to see the cup is always half full.

10. What is one of your family traditions?

On Christmas Eve, after we attend the candlelight service at church, we come home and have a late supper of appetizers. We started this about 12 years ago, when my husband's sister and her family would come for Christmas from their home in Pennsylvania, and we continued it even after we started celebrating Christmas with my husband's family on a day other than Christmas Eve. 

I'm thankful my oven has a timer, so we can come home from Christmas Eve service to an oven hot and ready to bake up some appetizers from your grocer's freezer.

There you have it. Ten answers, ten thankfuls. Pick one and answer it below. Consider yourself nominated and pick all ten and post them yourself. And don't forget to link up with us, below.

Ten Things of Thankful

 Your hosts

Join the Ten Things of Thankful Facebook Group