Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Motivators ...

Laura, you've motivated me. Laura Pankoe is my daughter, who recently started a blog of her own. As I read the antics of my child and her children, I am once again reminded how much the computer keeps us close. I hesitate to phone her, I usually hit during bath time, or in the middle of some tempest in a teapot ... but the blog keeps me up on what's going on with all of them. I think we all need motivators, for different reasons obviously, but needed nonetheless. As a society, complacence seems to be ever lurking in the shadows. It's so much easier to plop down in front of the TV, or pick up a book and get lost in it ... when in reality we should be plugging in with our families. I had my annual mammogram last week. Now for most of you, what's the big deal. For ME it was a very big deal, as it's been one year since I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Ever since then, I've dealt with the scary monster lurking in the shadows, who questions "Did we get it all, is it going to show up on the other side" and similar thoughts. I doubt my friends and family had the date earmarked on their calendars to follow up with me. Why should they?! It's not part of their daily lives. And that's okay!! But by taking time to update my blog, those who do follow up with me know the date came and went, and I'm clean. A very dear friend of mine had thought I'd use the blog to share my journey throughout the ordeal last year, and I'm ashamed to say it didn't occur to me to do so. I wish now that I had. I certainly didn't feel it was a "private" thing, I blurted out to anyone who would listen to get tested. It's a real thing. It DOES happen to people you know. The very real slap in the face came when I was diagnosed, it doesn't just happen to other people, it happened to ME! It's our personal cheering section that keeps us going. The few close friends who hung in there with me and stuck it out through surgeries and radiation gave me something I can never repay. They were my motivators, who said "you can do this", who crossed off each day on the calendar marking my progress. Motivators come in every size and shape, both human and animal, some are no more than written words from someone else. There are those special souls who give you their phone numbers, and tell you they answer those phones 24/7. I know I'm that way, I'll answer my phone at two in the morning for someone who needs an ear. Motivators can be the household pets, who need us to get off the couch and feed them, play with them, or put on a sweater and take them outside for walks. Even my fish motivates me. He's a very handsome fellow, his tank sits on the partition that divides my kitchen from my dining room. When I am at the sink, he comes to my side of the glass and interacts with me. I talk to him as I sprinkle his food on the water. We have a little ritual. He motivates me to smile, and start my day with good thoughts. Such a tiny creature, I can't hold him or pet him, but he's part of my life, and I enjoy him. So, I ask, are you someone's motivator? Can you identify your motivators? those people or things that keep you going? Let me be your motivation to think about it!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Life is full of surprises. I think we get ourselves into a routine, or rut, where cause and effect are predictable.  Dennis' death punctuated a string of failed relationships, which in one respect never had a chance because each new one was built on the rubble of its predecessor.  I lived alone for nine months, collected a pride of cats, and settled myself in for a life of solitude.  I just didn't think I had it in me to try again. People I loved had their own lives, which didn't align with mine. I was learning to accept that, and discover a new M.O. for myself.  At least I though that was what I was doing.  

What I really did was "let go, let God".  I always thought I knew better than He did what I needed and wanted.  At least it seemed that I did.  And when I "let go", a funny thing happened in McDonald's.  Even more fun was the folks who worked the morning shift and knew both of us separately began to watch us arrive to have breakfast together.  They smiled, and became part of the relationship that was unfolding.  

I think it's a tall order to "let go, let God".  Most of us say we do, but in reality we're all Indian givers.  We're so sure we know what we want, and how we want it to be, we never give His ideas any credibility.  I knew I could live alone. But I didn't want to. I knew I could take care of myself just fine. But the bottom line was I'm not HAPPY alone. Having been such an abysmal failure in the past, I figured remaining alone would be better for everyone.  But not for me.  I wore my "aloneness" as a sort of penance, my "just desserts" for having done so poorly in the marriage department. Kinda like Hestor Prynn's red A.

But THAT wasn't what God really wanted for me either.  Again, I wasn't letting go, and letting Him, I was orchestrating what I felt I deserved.  

Do you do that? Are you your own judge, jury and executioner? That's not the message we're given.  Can you "let go, let God" in your own lives? Start with the little things for some practice, and then move up to the bigger stuff.  There's so much God wants for us if we'd just shut up and listen.  

That's the part I didn't do well: Listen.  I always dumped the dramatic sorry saga of my life on someone early in the game, for what reason? Sympathy? Empathy? a Warning? Who knows. But this time I kept my mouth shut.  I listened to what this man was saying to me. I gave the Master room to work.  

I guess what I'm trying to suggest to you is that you quit trying or orchestrate every bend and turn in the road, quit cutting off someone who's speaking to you because you know what he's going to say (or think you do) ... back up, back off, and give Him room to work in your life. You might be surprised at what happens next!
Things happen when you least expect them. I posted last almost 5 months ago! Whew! many changes. Some bitter-sweet, some wonderful, some not so hot, but then change is what keeps us going. For openers, There’s a man in my life.

We met on the 26th of April, in McDonald’s of all places. I was in line in front of him, and ordered “My Usual” ... (oatmeal); He was behind me assessing me from the ground up ... jeans, pony tail, the voice, and then his turn where he ordered “my usual” as well (sausage McMuffin), and turned to look at me sideways, and said “wow” to himself.  We had to stand aside and wait for our food; I noticed his AZ hat and said “where about in AZ?”  Then our food orders were called, and we got them, and he asked “Would  you like to have breakfast with me”, and I said okay, and we did. 

About the first or second thing out of his mouth was “I’ve been married before and I’m never getting married again”.  (God Laughed).  I said I’d like to do things and go places but I won’t do it alone (his feelings to a T).  He asked if he might have my phone number to call me, and I gave him a business card, then thinking “good grief, you gave him the one that says you’re a pastor, that’s the last you’ll hear from  HIM”,.. but he simply asked for my first name. 

I left to go do bookkeeping at a local restaurant; He stopped by my house on the excuse of helping me with the 50 pound bag of corn cobs in my trunk, but I wasn’t there. He tried a second time, but then left for Detroit, as it was the third anniversary of his daughter’s death, and he was going to pay his respects.  

Sunday I went to Wal-mart to get a simple silver bracelet. I had a bracelet with silver bells, but lost it, and was in the process of making a new one. The only one available had a disk on it that said “Hope”. 

Sunday evening he called and asked if he could “stop by” on his way home, and I said yes, so he did. He said he’d been thinking about me a lot, and wanted to get to know me better. He showed me two fortunes (from fortune cookies) he’d gotten that night: One of them said “You’re about to receive one of life’s most precious gifts, Hope”.  The other was “you’ll be pleasantly surprised soon”. 

He asked if I would be interested in dinner/movie ... and we made a date for the next evening.  After dinner/movie, he took me home, and as an afterthought, ducked his head and kissed me chastely before he left.

Tuesday he took me to see his house in Greenbush (19 acres, wooded, ponds, hills, flat lands). I fell in love with it.  He said he was developing “strong feelings” for me.  In the mean time he started fixing things around my house, because the greatest satisfaction he has is making a positive difference in someone else’s life. (direct quote).

By Thursday he was head over heels ... a week later, he asked very firmly, “will you marry me”, and I said yes.  We’ve been together ever since. May 24, our one month’s anniversary, we stood in the kitchen and said our vows to each other, and exchanged rings that read “I am my beloved’s and she/he is mine”. 

Both of us feel God was behind all this, as the things that happened in the sequence they happened was just too much to be chance.  

I feel  cherished, loved, respected, treasured ... and I feel a whole lot of things I’ve never felt before. We’ve taken each other to places neither of us have ever been.  After a quick trip west, we turned around and went to PA for him to meet my family.  I was anxious about that, not sure what the kids would think. But the one I expected to be the hardest to sell wasn't, and really bonded with him. When we left, of her own accord she reached for him and hugged him, and told him to take care of mom. 

For once it’s on my terms, and his, and they are the same. It’s not on the heels of some other failed relationship.  

I’m happy. Simply, completely, refreshingly happy.

SO, in a year and a day, we’ll make it official. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Requiem for a Squirrel ... i buried you beneath a tree, one you used to climb for me, you knew i'd put some peanuts there for you and other squirrels to share. your life cut short by man's machine, and now those eyes that used to sheen in sunlight bright are closed in death and never more you'll draw a breath. i loved you so, you made me smile, i'd sit and watch for quite a while. you'd fluff your tail and scold at me if there were no peanuts neath the tree. now that tail around you curled, never more to be unfurled. Sleep, dear one, until you hear, the Master's voice, then leave your bier. to run and play another day safe and free, out of harm's way. Some grand day we'll meet again, i know not where, i know not when.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Endings and Beginnings

Well, it's all over. My last radiation treatment was Friday, I have 2-3 more weeks of side effects to deal with, and then find out what's next. I believe it's a pill, called Tomoxafin, but don't quote me on that.

A few folks have said to me "now you can get back to normal". Only thing wrong with that idea is that I have no idea of what normal IS.  How far back do I go? Dennis' death? Dad's? the Elder Ts'?   My son tells me it's the first time in my life I'm not responsible for the care of other people. SO, I guess I start with that.

I cried on Friday (third meltdown. First was last Saturday, second was Monday).  Though it was a pain in the neck to go to West Branch every day for 7 weeks, there was a "routine" to it ... that made my day predictable. I saw the same technicians every day, they ended up with quilt related nick names because I took a quilt with me to cover me during treatment.  They became extended family.  Everything about the last seven weeks came to an abrupt halt on Friday, and I felt lost.  I felt loss.  Breast cancer turned my life upside down for 4 1/2 months, and now deposits me here in the middle of the road and doesn't look back.  Some of the gals from the quilt shop were my drivers, but the two who did the most became part of the fabric of my life. And now they're back to their own lives, and out of mine for the most part.

I don't know what I want to do with myself, other than feed the cats and quilt.  And read. I like to read.  At least I used to, I can't seem to concentrate now. Oh, and cry at the drop of the hat for no apparent reason.  I'm told that's "normal".  There's a deal of self pity going on, I realize that, and fight it, but there really has been a string of events beating me down for a really long time, and even though they took their toll, they were the "normal".  

I made myself a Cancer Quilt.  There is a pre printed panel of quotations that begins with "Things that cancer cannot do".  Didn't figure anyone else would make me one, so I made it myself.  As I chose the fabrics, some with a print that was appropriate (cats), some purples (purple is the "awareness ribbon" color for fibromyalgia which I also have), I gave the quilt a statement of purpose.  They were "Patty" colors. Some left overs from long ago projects, some more recent. I mixed in some batiks, and some metallic. I wasn't predictable about any of it. The quilt police will tell you calico doesn't go with batik, and cat printed fabric doesn't go in a cancer quilt. Since there are no quilt police ever going to SEE my quilt, quite frankly, I didn't give a damn!

As folks saw it, and shared it, two more cancer quilts are on the drawing table. One for my daughter-in-law-elect's friend who is faced with ovarian cancer, and oddly enough, a quilt shop owner I admire and love, who admitted to me on Saturday that SHE now has breast cancer.  So, those two quilts will be "beginnings".  I have over 20 quilt tops to quilt that are hanging in my hallway, enough to keep me busy for a bit.  And naps. I can take naps. I find I need them, as long as they're not fraught with weird dreams. The sun is shining, and the white snow makes everything look pretty. Thanks to my daughter, I can put a pile of CDs in the stereo and listen to those for hours.

Flowers. I received flowers. One bunch from one of my drivers, the other bunch from my grand-sons. I love flowers, any time, for any reason. I didn't put up a lot of Christmas decorations, but of what I did, I've taken down half.  It's too cold to go out to the shed for the boxes.  SO, I'm mixing my holidays with a little Christmas through Lent.

Perhaps, since it's still Winter, I have these months to heal. Then with Spring I can feel refreshed, ready to lift my face to the sky and feel the warmth of life washing over me. Maybe it's too soon to worry about the "beginnings". I'll think about those later.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Week 4

I'm plugging along with the radiation, thanks to my cadre of drivers who keep me on schedule ... winter weather adds some thrill to the trip upon occasion ... but all things considered, I can't complain too much. My skin is breaking down a little, but I was told that would happen. And being more and more tired.

However!!! I awoke this morning and decided to make it a "git 'r done" day ... load of laundry, washed hair, Canadian Brass on the stereo (Vivaldi, Bach, Mozart, Pachelbel etc), decided to treat myself to brownies. After all, I'm half done with radiation! Whomped up some mix, added walnuts (Sorry Hugh), preheated the oven ... and all of sudden kitchen fills with smoke, smoke alarm goes off .. I yell at the alarm "I SEE IT, I SEE IT", turn on the exhaust fan, open oven. Apparently and unbeknownst to me, last weeks' apple pie oozed over.

So now, down on my knees, scrubbing out the oven. Meanwhile brownies are calling to me. Since I have no adult supervision at this point, I pull out a spoon and sample the batter. (Sorry Laura) ... and it was good, so I ate some more. It's now in the pan, waiting for the oven to preheat (again).

I'm fostering a kitten. I think she's about 4 months old, and already in the week she's been here she's grown. It's been awhile since a baby anything lived here, and I find myself laughing at the funny things she does. After two days of being too terrified to do more than huddle in her basket, she now runs about the house as if she owns the joint. Now she purrs, louder than a motorboat. How is it we lose that sense of wonder we have as children, when everything is a toy, or to be explored. How do we end up as couch potatoes. Is it lack of environmental stimulation? Sheer laziness? or worse yet, boredom? She's good medicine for me at this point. I'd like to just curl up and sleep, but there are things to be done, and with a little more effort I can do them. My other three cats are asleep, and as I write this the little one is playing with the ribbon on my slippers.

I guess it all boils down to what motivates a person. While snoozing away the afternoon sounds grand, I know I'll feel more like I actually accomplished something if I press onward and try a little harder. I'm not suggesting you all go out and adopt little kittens, but I am suggesting that with a little bit of effort you too can find things to do. Even if you just tackle a pile of accumulated clutter, just one pile, and deal with it, you'll feel better. As I watch her, realizing the world is her oyster now, her enthusiasm rubs off on me. -->

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Week Two

Yesterday marked the first day of the second week of radiation. I can do this. I am continually amazed at life in a small town. Yes, everyone knows if you roll over at night, but help comes out of the woodwork when there's a problem. It's rather like the whole town survives as a networked entity, no one stands alone (unless you choose to).

And, yesterday my firstborn reached the age of 39!! Lord but THAT makes me feel old! Not really. I can't complain. My internist says I am "aging gracefully". Whatever that is!

I think my challenge to you is to look around you, at folks in your town. Is someone shut in? Could you take someone to the store to shop, or meet at someone's house to carry in said groceries? I time my shopping so I'm home when a friend of mine drives by on HIS way home ... and he lugs in the heavy stuff. Help make your town a tighter knit unity! -->

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Day two ...

Radiation day two. I don't "glow in the dark" yet. The procedure was much faster today, as there was nothing extra they had to do. I assumed the position, and stared at the ceiling while the machine did its thing. Then off to Arby's for lunch.

And as of today, there is MUSIC in my house! I came across a used pair of kenwood components, two small speakers and now there is wonderful music! Up until now it was a boom box from Wal-Mart. Maybe it was a dumb thing to spend $75 on, but I know it will lift my spirits.

Music has always spoken to my soul, classical in particular. I cut my teeth on it I think. I think though each person loves a particular genre the end result is often the same, across cultures, races, and walks of life.

The other thing I did today was to take a special quilt with me to the radiation treatment. It was like having my dearest friend there with me.

I will get through this. I can do this.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

New beginnings ...

The year is in its infancy, but already there are new things on the horizon. For one, I cleaned off my desk. (don't laugh. that was a chore!) I have all new underwear. (You're laughing again). Really! I threw away all my old underwear New Year's Eve. Out with the old, in with the new. Picked out a new make-up. (I really like Mabelline's BB cream!) and that makes me feel prettier. Had a dinner date for New Year's Eve with a dear friend, and we both agreed we ought to do so more often. And today was the first of 35 radiation treatments for breast cancer.

Yup, you read right. The "unknown" I spoke of last turned out to be cancer, followed by two surgeries, and now radiation treatment. I will beat this, but I also reserve the right to have periodic emotional meltdowns. I am, after all, human. Due to the sophisticated mammography available now it was caught VERY early. I can't urge you enough if you are a female reader, or urge your female friends should you be male, to have this valuable screening.

And while nearly 100% survival rate is assured me, nothing reduces the initial trauma, shock of having words like cancer, oncology, radiation, etc put into your here-to-fore cancer free vocabulary. There were a few folks who said "It's not really cancer, you don't have to have a mastectomy", or "it's pre-cancer", ad nauseum. To the patient, it's still terrifyingly real. So, if a friend or co worker has to face this, NEVER EVER diminish what she is feeling.

In fact, you should never diminish anything someone else is feeling, as you have no accurate means of assessing said feelings. I have been reminded in the past few months, that while everyone reacts to things differently, the need for a strong shoulder to lean on remains the same. You will be the best friend, if you let him/her vent, and as the Arabic proverb goes, "gather in all of the harvest, keep the grain, and with a breath of kindness, blow away the chaff."

So, here is to all 2013 will bring us. Stand tall, take care of yourself, and be the kind of friend you want to have.