Monday, March 30, 2015

Theme Reveal: 2015 A to Z Challenge

Last year was my first year to participate in the A to Z Challenge. As I do with most things in life, I put a lot of thought into the decision to participate in the Challenge; namely, I remembered how cool my friend Christine's posts were when she did it in 2013, and I thought to myself, "Huh! That seems like fun! I think I'll sign up for that!" The word "Challenge" did not sound any alarm bells in my little brain, as well it should have, because writing a post every day AND linking it to a letter of the alphabet is not easy. Fun. Interesting. CHALLENGING. But not easy.

My theme was also characteristic of the way I roll, as in I fly by the seat of my pants a lot, and my posts in the 2014 A to Z Challenge reflect that pretty accurately, running the gamut from applesauce to Jesse James to Superfund sites.

But this year, THIS year, I actually have a theme. Have I pre-written any posts? Done any real planning? Ummm, no, but I HAVE A THEME!



I will be writing about shizz I find on Pinterest. Some will be wins. Some will prove to be failures. Feel free to look at my Pinterest boards and make suggestions of pins you'd like me to feature. And then stay tuned. Starting April 1, my Pinterest-inspired posts will begin.

Challenge accepted.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Squeeeeeeking In Under The Wire

I knew this was going to be a busy weekend. Knew it, knew it, knew it, and STILL, I didn't go ahead and write my Ten Things of Thankful list early. Now it is late in the afternoon Sunday. So late, in fact, that it's really not "afternoon" anymore; more like evening. I don't feel very well; haven't, really, in a week and a half. I just woke up from a nap and feel foggy, but by golly, I'm going to get this post written before the deadline.

Gratuitous picture of Ruby, because I saw that Yvonne
posted one of HER calico and I sensed a trend....

1. I haven't thrown up since December 23, 1971. I have wondered a few times over the past week and a half if that record was going to be shattered, but so far, it's held on.

2. With spring comes the risk of severe storms in this part of the world known as Tornado Alley, and we had our first round this week. No tornado warnings this time, and the worst of the weather mostly passed to the south of us. 

3. The American Red Cross tornado app. It is a must-have if you live in an area that is prone to severe weather. The Red Cross also has a wildfire app, a hurricane app and a first aid app, among others. Something for everyone! 

4. Diet Coke, especially first thing in the morning. Cold. In a glass. With ice.

5. I got an awesome deal through Priceline for a hotel room in Arkansas this weekend when we had to travel for a volleyball tournament ($60 instead of $120).

Look at that little girl jump!

6. My own bed.

7. Wallflowers from Bath and Body Works. I got a supply of spring and summer scents last week when they were on sale, and my house smells sunny and fresh. It's a very old house, so that's not always an easy thing to accomplish.

8. Daffodils. 

Zoysia grass, the last to turn green in the spring, first to turn
brown in the fall. REAL grass would have made a better backdrop.

9. My bilateral mastectomy with tram flap reconstruction was three years ago yesterday. So far, so good.

15 hours after my surgery, I finally got to have something besides an ice chip.

10. And this just in: I just found two new cousins by using I discovered I am 10th cousins, twice removed, with Kristi of Thankful Me and 13th cousins with Christine of In The Coop. I hope I'm in their Wills now!

It's still not too late to link up your thankfuls. It may SEEM like it, but it isn't.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

It COULD Have Been A Bad Thing

Last week was Spring Break. Glorious, rejuvenating Spring Break. Even though the weather was cool and a little rainy, delightful Spring Break. Because, you know, Spring Break.

It started with a spider lowering itself from the vicinity of the passenger side visor while my daughter and I were driving home from a volleyball tournament, and while we screamed a lot (A LOT), the spider ended up dead and we didn't, and that was a good thing. 

Tuesday morning, Emma and I (mostly I) loaded the car for our trip to Nashville to stay with my Person, Terri, and her daughter (another good thing). We stopped to fill up with gas and get drinks for the road (not a good thing, as Emma threw back a Mountain Dew Code Red and TALKEDNONSTOP the entire trip). 

Because my car has a teeny little habit of burning oil when it is first started (think exits and entrances by the Wicked Witch of the West), I thought it best to check the oil before we hit the road, since we had just taken a 250 mile round trip for the volleyball tournament. When I opened the hood, however, I immediately noticed the absence of the cap that goes on the thingy the oil goes in. Hmmm. I knew my husband had put oil in the car before our trip to the tournament, so he apparently didn't put the cap back on afterwards ("It was dark when I did it" was his later excuse). The oil level was fine, though, so I shut the hood and we took off, with me figuring I'd pick up a cap when we got to Nashville.

Our trip was uneventful. We sang to the radio. We talked (one of us talking way more than the other one). We arrived in Nashville and Terri and I went out to hear an old friend sing, and that's the last thought I gave to the cap that goes on the oil thingy.  After a couple of days of driving around to my favorite restaurants and shopping and shizz like that (many good things), I finally remembered the cap on Thursday and stopped at O'Reilly Auto Parts Store. Here's how it went down:

Me: You know that thingy where you put the oil?
Counter Guy: Yes.
Me: You know that cap that goes on it?
Counter Guy: Yes
Me: I need one of those. Mine's gone.

The very nice counter guy said he didn't have one in the store, but he could have one there in a couple of hours. 

Me: No problem. I've been driving without it since Friday.
Counter Guy: 
Me: What?
Counter Guy: You've been driving a week like that?!
Me: I drove from Joplin to here. Is that bad?
Counter Guy: 

There was an exchange of wild-eyed looks between my counter guy and the OTHER counter guy.

Other Counter Guy: Uhhh, your engine could be ruined.
Counter Guy: The oil will spray out without the cap.
Counter Guy: I think I'd better check your oil.

He followed me outside and raised the hood. 

Counter Guy (incredulously): There's no oil sprayed in here.

He checked the oil.

Counter Guy (even more incredulously): Your oil is fine.
Me (smugly smiling): Whadya know?

Shaking his head, he closed the hood and went back inside.

I returned to the store a few hours later. My cap had been delivered; in fact, I didn't even have to walk up to the counter and ask for it. The counter guy remembered me (imagine that), rang it up ($3.80 plus tax) and said he'd put it on for me (which I resented slightly, because it implied that I was too stupid to put it on correctly, although I never told him that I wasn't the one who lost the cap in the first place. Maybe I should drive back and set the record straight?). 

So, what could have been a bad thing ended up a good thing. Or, if not really a GOOD thing, then a not as bad as it could have been thing. 

And you KNOW those two counter guys will be telling everyone about the dingbat who drove over 500 miles without the cap on her oil thingy and the car didn't self destruct.

I'll be a legend.

That's a good thing.

This post was an entry for Mama Kat's Writing Workshop with the prompt:

Talk about a time you got lucky.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Another Of Those "Lived To Tell About It" Thankfuls

Spring Break. Spriiiiing Break. SPRING BREAAAAAAAAK!

I've been on Spring Break.

I took my laptop with me and never even opened it. Not once. Didn't write blog posts. Didn't read blog posts. Just spring breaked.

We started our Spring Break with a volleyball tournament, like we've started many a spring break over the past few years. Nice weekend, spent at the lake house with my parents, who were able to attend the games. We took Ruby and Pete with us (to the lake house, NOT to the volleyball games). My son rode to Branson with me and Emma, then went back to school on Sunday with my husband, who had driven down separately. Emma and I stayed an extra night, leaving on Monday morning (because we were too lazy to pack up Sunday and go, because, well, Spring Break). We were toodling our way down the interstate in a moderate amount of traffic (including a tractor-trailer directly behind us) when my daughter pointed to a spot near the visor above her and said, "Spider."

"What?" I asked.

"SPIDER!" she shouted, and I looked at the spot where she was pointing and, indeed, there was a GINORMOUS SPIDER lowering itself on a silk thread from the visor. (I have no exact measurement, but I estimate it to have been about 3/8 of an inch across, legs and all, and HEY, YOU DEFINE GINORMOUS SPIDER IN YOUR TERMS AND I'LL DEFINE THEM IN MINE.)

She screamed.

I screamed.

And the two cats in carriers in the backseat (who were facing each other, because I thought that would be fun for them on a two hour car ride, seeing as how much Pete hates Ruby and all) started to yowl.

I reached into the backseat and grabbed the first thing I could find that might work as a weapon, which was a jacket that my husband had forgotten at the lake house and we threw in the car with us. I brought the jacket upwards and smashed it into the roof of the car next to the visor. But when I brought the jacket back down, the spider (who appears to have been a quicker thinker than we were and had shinnied back up his silk thread) slid right back down again from his spot behind the visor. 

She screamed.

I screamed.

The cats yowled.

I brought the jacket back up again, squashing it against the roof of the car and holding it there. When I lowered the jacket, it was evident the eradication of the spider was successful (I squished it with the jacket - sorry about your jacket, dear).

She screamed.

I screamed.

The cats yowled.

And it was all accomplished while driving 70 mph (okay, maybe a little more than that) down the interstate in traffic.

The Book of Secret Rules allows that, pursuant to Rule 14.6(c), surviving a spider attack while hurtling along the freeway counts as a full list of thankfuls. Rule 14.6(c)(ii) states that no one shall be Judgy McJudges about the killing of spiders, especially humongous, deadly ones.

Thankful for anything? You know you are. Link up below.

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Sunday, March 15, 2015

Big Awards, Big Cats, Big Thankfuls

Busy week, busy weekend, and (lucky readers) no time for a big, drawn out Ten Things of Thankful this week (you're welcome).

1. Emma's show choir got first place in their division last weekend at the last show choir competition of the year. They also got best opening number, best closing number, best ballad, best choreography, best back up band, tied for best vocals, and were the overall Grand Champions. Pretty awesome for a group that started late because of a director leaving, had no classroom because the high school wasn't completed when school started and their class was first housed in the wrestling room (until wrestling season, when they got booted out) and then in an automotive room in the tech school THAT HAD NO MIRRORS. Best choreography. No mirrors. Let that soak in a minute....

2. Parent-Teacher Conferences. Hearing seven teachers tell me they wish they had an entire classroom of Emmas is pretty darn nice to hear.

3. Andy's Frozen Custard Choco-Rocko Concrete: chocolate frozen custard blended with marshmallow cream and almonds. If my kids ask, I will deny that I had one this week with my husband when they weren't with us.

4. Ruby.
Ruby trying to insinuate herself into CBS This Morning.

5. Microwave ovens. Mine is broken and will have to be replaced. You have no idea how much you use one until you don't have one. In fact, I seriously thought my son might starve this week when he couldn't figure out how to heat up a frozen dinner without it....

6. My pharmacy. Locally owned, they know me when I walk in the door and meet me at the counter with my order. Thank you, Medicine Shoppe!

7. Emma's club volleyball team. Good girls, good friends.

8. A lake house we can go to any time we want.

9. Fat cats who don't care that they have taken the best chair in the house, and the people who allow him to stay there instead of making him move.

27 pounds of trouble.

10. Spring break! Adventures may ensue. Stay tuned.

Link up your Ten Things of Thankful below. Visit the others. Comment, comment, comment!

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Friday, March 6, 2015

Snow Days and Big Wheel Days and Happy Family Days

What a weird weather week! Last weekend, we were snowed in. Tuesday, I bought groceries (bad timing, because there was a winter storm forecast to begin that night and the stores were crowded with people who interpreted that as the apocalypse), and it was warm enough that I didn't have to wear my coat. Wednesday morning, the promised winter storm hit. Thursday afternoon, no coat again. All that and then some make this week's Ten Things of Thankful list:

1. Last Saturday, my daughter had to be at school at 5:45 a.m. in order to ride a school bus to a show choir competition in a neighboring town, about 18 miles away. While she can drive now, there was a pretty good chance of snow that morning, so my husband VOLUNTEERED to get up and drive her to school. At 5:45 IN THE MORNING. While I stayed in a warm bed with two kitties snuggled up against me. 

2. It gets better. Before coming home, my husband stopped by our favorite doughnut shop (do NOT tell me that you don't have a favorite doughnut shop) and brought home a box of doughnuts. And unlike the Mother's Day Fiasco of 2014, he got the kind I liked! 

3. Snow started falling later that morning as promised, and several of the schools entered in the competition had either dropped out the day before on the strength of the forecast or decided that morning that they couldn't risk the trip. I was hurriedly showering and getting ready to drive over there to watch Emma's group sing when she texted me that the competition had been canceled and they would be heading back to our school at 11:00 a.m. I was concerned about the safety of her riding in a school bus on snowy roads back to Joplin, especially when you consider a school bus is just a big ol' tin can on wheels with no seatbelts, but they made it back safely (thank you, bus drivers!).

4. Tuesday marked the third anniversary of my breast cancer diagnosis. Only two years of treatments left - yay!

5. The highlight of the preschool year was scheduled for this week: Big Wheel Day. We set up the gym to look like a town, with a road circling it and centers set up to be things like a jewelry store, a beauty salon, a grocery store, a fitness center, a dress up shop, etc., and they can stop at any of them any time and participate in activities there. It's tons of fun, and the kids ride around on their big wheels or tricycles for three hours and leave absolutely exhausted (as do we). It's a hugely popular event, so much so that kids that are now in high school and college will STILL tell you that Big Wheel Day was the best thing EVER and they wish they could come back and do it again. That's a long time to carry a memory from when you were 4 years old, and it feels pretty special that those former students still remember it.

6. Problem: it snowed on Big Wheel Day. And sleeted. And freezing rained (YOU figure out how to word that better and I'll change it). The pre-k classes were supposed to go to the college on Friday to see a children's play, but do those grown up former preschool students list going to see a play at the college as a favorite preschool memory? No, they do not. Plan B went into effect: move Big Wheel Day from Wednesday to Friday for the MWF preschool classes. Completely doable. Problem solved.

Officially done with winter. I took all the
snowman decorations down and put them away

7. Another problem: there was enough snow and freezing rain and sleet to close school on Thursday, too. That means the T-Th classes would not have Big Wheel Day, and that was unacceptable. (No, it wasn't a viable option to postpone their day until next week. The gym is used on Sunday for the church's contemporary service, so everything had to be taken down before then. And the gym was already scheduled to be in use the next week. Also, it takes us about 7 hours to set up.) Plan B(1): Invite the T-Th kids to come to school on Friday and have everyone there on the same day. Second problem solved. 

This big guy, all fluffed up against the cold
and snow, sat patiently on the back fence,
looking for something to eat.

8. Friday was Big Wheel Day - wheeee! My kids arrived and were WOUND UP. The hallway outside the preschool classrooms were lined with tricycles and big wheels, each with a personalized "license plate." At 9:30, we were off, riding down the hallway to the gym. The kids had a fantastic morning, pedaling around the gym, stopping at the various centers, visiting the "drive in" movie, having ice cream, eating McDonald's "hamburgers" (vanilla wafer buns, oreo burgers, frosting ketchup with shoestring potatoes for french fries), ending with a lunch of hot dogs, chips and soda. A good day was had by all!

9.  My College Boy is home for spring break! My husband brought him home this afternoon (with laundry basket in tow). Shortly after, Emma got home from school, and we were all in our bedroom (where I had just had a nice nap - Big Wheel Day is EXHAUSTING), along with all three cats. There was much laughter and teasing and chattering (Emma) and tormenting of cats (Kyle, by holding them against their will), and Robert Browning's "God is in His Heaven/all's right with the world" went through my mind. There are ups and there are downs, but life is certainly good.

10. Seasonable weather has returned, and it should be 60 degrees by tomorrow afternoon. HELLO, SPRING! Emma has her last show choir competition tomorrow and has to be at the bus by 5:45 a.m. again, AND BOTH MY HUSBAND AND KYLE have offered to drive her to the high school to meet the bus. (My husband is just being kind; my son is offering just so she can't drive herself there and leave him without a car all day, but hey, it's still an offer regardless of ulterior motives.)

Find your thankfuls. They're everywhere, if you just look.

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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.