Dinner with Children

Growing up I was taught that children should be seen, but not heard. The only place appropriate for shrill giggles was outside. I have three siblings and we did run wild around the neighborhood. We could get loud, very loud. The rules were strictly enforced so when we passed the threshold of the back door our voices lowered and our giggles hushed. Unfortunately, the golden rule of not being heard was enforced more than I liked. The freedom to express opinions, talk politics, religion, or sex were all off the table.

I am a parent now, but unlike me, my children have been raised to be seen, heard, and expressing their opinions is encouraged. Our religious beliefs are openly discussed, we grumble about the state of politics, and we get loud together. My kids are now young adults so going out for a sit-down dinner is getting more rare. When we do get an evening out we put our cell phones away and enjoy each other’s company.

The other night, we had one of those rare evenings that brought not just my family, but also my brother, his wife, and my elderly mother to the dinner table. Unfortunately, we were seated next to one of “those families”. I assumed that they were a husband, a wife, and a female friend, along with four kids under four feet tall.

Having four pint sized kids is a wonderful mix of riotous behavior. I love watching a pack of kids run and squeal. Their joy is so contagious and I can’t help but smile. That is, I love it when they are zealous at home or outside. At some restaurants, like Chuck E. Cheese, it is expected that kids are running everywhere. Screaming laughter should fill those types of restaurants, but at a casual steakhouse where the atmosphere is quiet and patrons want great conversation, kids should be seated and hushed just like everyone else.

“That family” next to us was the epitome of what should never happen at a peaceful, sit-down restaurant. The mom and her female friend were fully engrossed in their cell phones. I can only assume they were texting one another because they couldn’t hear each other with their children running circles around their table screaming. Their male companion (I’m guessing Dad) sat in stupor like an overwrought father who has spent the past four years under child-induced distress.

When the kids actually did sit down they turned on their own cell phones and watched cartoons with the volume set to maximum. In the mean time, we patiently sat and tried to have fun. We did attempt “the looks” in hopes the moms would catch a hint that the kids were bothering us, but in the end that failed. My mother, who is 87, turned to the mom sitting at her back and said, “You need to control your children. They are being very disruptive and rude.” The mom was quite put off about the whole affair. She immediately packed up her kids and tersely informed my mother,  “Your opinion was so helpful,” then stormed from the restaurant.

We were happy to enjoy a quiet meal, but it left a negative taste in the air that took awhile to clear. Once the staleness settled, I noticed another table near us. There were four adults and five kids (three under four feet tall). The children were coloring and talking quietly among themselves, and the adults were having a lively discussion. I scanned the rest of the room and everyone, young and old, laughed and talked with one another. It reminded me that most families are not out of control, and that “those families” are in the minority. The vast majority of children will grow up to be great parents and their children will too.

Put the cell phones and iPads away. Enjoy dinner out with the kids. Let them be seen and heard in all the appropriate places. This is a fun world to be human in and even more so when you have dinner out with children.

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The News

I realized that I haven’t checked in to this blog in awhile. It isn’t because I ran out of dust bunnies to flambe. There are so many things rolling about in this country’s dark corners that there is enough fodder to last centuries. I have followed some of the stories about our political woes, and how our country is being kicked into a corner to play alone. This post is not about all that. I think enough bloggers, reporters, editors, facebookers, and the rest have beaten it all to death.

By reading the newspaper (yes, some of us still read those paper things filled with news), watching the television reports, and listening to the news blips on the radio, I had begun to think that the only thing happening in this little blue ball we call home, was political. It is crazy how the media has been fixated on all of it. So here are a few headlines that I thought might strike a more interesting note.

Fires Burning in Ten Western States — Thousands and thousands of acres of land have burned and the headline is relegated to the bottom of page three? A Boy Scout facility and two homes in California are gone. Burned to ashes. Over 62,000 square miles has burned in the US this year alone.

Drink More Coffee, Live Longer — I love the idea that drinking more coffee can extend your life. Cool. Do you suppose that it has to be caffeinated or do decaff drinkers get the same perks? I am a 60/30 drinker. I can have a tad bit of caffeine, but pump it up to full octane and you’ll have a full blown bitchy hurricane on your hands.

coffe-cup

Her Twins are Here (somewhere) — Beyonce (in her floral glory) has posted photos of her twins. The full length Goddess-like image is all about her. Like the news of the wildfires, her sweet babes are barely visible among the floral noise.

beyonce-babys

Volcanic Cauldron Ready to Blow? — Yellowstone is a volcano waiting to blow, but the latest news on this front is actually old news. The headlines are apocalyptic, but getting through to the bottom line I found that it is rumbling like it always rumbles, and the “big blow” is a long way off. But, just in case you’re wondering what will happen to your house? Here’s a quick look at the blast zone.

yellowstone

Same News, Different Day — The world does spin on its axis, the sun rises in the East and sets in the West, and the news will continue to be biased toward whatever headlines will sell the most papers, create the most readers, and fill the biggest data banks (not to mention the size of their checking accounts). We, as news consumers, will have to wade through the mess to get to what we really want to read about. For me, I tend toward turning off the television, putting the paper aside, and opening a good book with a nice cup of coffee.

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Broken Bones

I’ve been lucky through my life in the fact that I have never had a broken bone. When I was young I crashed my bicycle on “suicide hill” and only bashed my head up a little. In my early driving career I was in a head-on collision, and a horrific motorcycle accident walking away from both just a bit banged up. I’ve fallen down stairs, ski hills, bike paths, and all the normal places you can crash. My mother always yelled at me to slow down, “You’ll break a leg!”

broken-leg-cartoon

A few weeks ago my luck ran out. I was skiing with my family and didn’t quite get in the chairlift, and was promptly thrown out landing with my full weight on my hand. Even though I never experienced a broken bone before (I’ve had several sprains) I knew immediately that I had broken my wrist. The pain was quite incredible and I could guess a knife stabbed into my arm might hurt a little worse (but I don’t want to find out if that’s true or not).

After a ride off the mountain on a rescue sled, a couple hours in the ski patrol shack*, and then down to the ER near home, I found myself in a splint and no use of my left hand (I’m right-handed so that is one good thing that came out of it). Until now, I never realized how many simple activities required two hands. Putting on socks, tying a shoe, pulling on pants, buttoning a shirt, styling hair, or cutting food for a meal. As the days went by I found more and more things I struggled with. The challenge of shuffling through papers was made worse by my inability to stack them back into a neat pile and refile them.

I’m thankful that broken bones heal pretty fast. I have regained dexterity in my fingers, and have gone from a plaster splint (sorry no pictures of that behemoth!),

to a beautiful purple fiberglass cast,

purple-cast

and now a removable cast complete with a zipper.

removeable-cast

 

 

 

 

My challenge to shower and dress myself has become easier.

My take away from this is that I have a strong appreciation for the challenges faced by people who permanently do not have the use of one hand. I have been introduced to the frustrations that continue every day for them. I salute them and their resolve to get through the minor things in life, that become major, with the use of only one hand.

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*I want to take a moment to say THANK YOU to the Loveland Ski Patrol. What a wonderful group of volunteers.  Within minutes I was surrounded by carrying and concerned people. My ride down the mountain was smooth,and my stay in the ski patrol shack was actually, kind of fun! THANK YOU for taking such good care of me!!

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Dragon Naturally Speaking

I just bought the software, and thought it would be rather fun to try and do a single blog post without editing without doing anything that that Dragon Naturally Speaking can’t do. So here it is, a single stream of consciousness type of post without using the keyboard. As you read this remember that I’m not using the keyboard I am not making any corrections in my editing so therefore this post will be a little clumsy.

I just got the software yesterday. Install it on my computer. And found it didn’t work. Way? Okay that word that last word was supposed to be “really”. While actually the software did work, it was just my headset. So once I got my regular headset one that actually works, the software kicked into action. My first attempt was to post something on Facebook, doesn’t that just figure? Doesn’t everyone post on Facebook first when they’re trying something new? Pretty simple stuff. I was able to do a post with a little bit of help from my keyboard.

So this is my next test on the software. So far, making this post has worked out quite well. Most of the words I have spoken have come out correctly without with the exception of “the word above” really”. Okay too many quotes. I haven’t quite figured out how to backspace and delete yet so I will work on that one. Back to the subject at hand. It really does pick up the voice quite well, as you can see there have only been a couple of mistakes in this post I’m quite happy with it.

What I find the hardest is when I see mistakes and have to backup or erase or delete or whatever I have not quite figured out how to do that yet. Also being sure that I have all of my punctuation in their quick correctly has not worked perfectly either. Trying to think of what I’m going to say, plus adding punctuation has challenged my brain a little bit.

I will continue to use and learn this program, and work to improve my dictation skills. I find the more clearly I speak, and the more precise my enunciation is, the better the software works. if you are considering purchasing a speech to text type of software I find that this one seems to work extremely well. Although, I don’t have a lot of experience or comparisons to this software. I feel pretty impressed with what I’ve seen so far. Dragon Naturally Speaking is a software that does seem to truly know what you’re saying.

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What? Really?

In our house, Easter is a little bit of a non-holiday. I don’t think either of my kids have been to an Easter service. For myself, it has been many, many years. We do have Easter baskets and the Easter Bunny gets a bit of candy and other goodies into them, but beyond that…not much.

My son, who is eighteen and getting ready to move out, asked me today, “What is Easter?”

I replied, “For some it is a celebration of spring, rebirth, and things new. For Christians it is a celebration of Christ’s rebirth. They believe that after Christ died on the cross, God came down and gave him the gift of being reborn.”

With a far off look in his eyes and his facial features revealing nothing, he said, “So he died and then came back to life?” I nodded. “So that means he was a zombie then. I mean, really! Isn’t that what zombies do? They die and come back to life, right? So instead of this being Easter, it’s actually National Zombie Day.”

A brilliant mind thinks of the oddest things.

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85

I’ve always been curious how many books I read in a year and in 2015 it was 85. I was surprised by the number (I actually thought I had read more than this) so I had to go over the previous years as well.

  • 2014 it was 65 books,
  • 2013 I read 56, and in
  • 2012 it was 53, then in
  • 2011 60, but
  • 2010 was the year I bought my Kindle and the end to paper books so only 2 books were read (according to my Kindle, not my library).

319 books in 5 years makes an average reading of 63.8 books per year, 5.3 per month or just over one book per week.

Of all the books I have read here are a few of my favorites (not in any particular order):

  • Scorpio Races
  • Wool (The entire Silo series was excellent but I liked Wool the best), by Hugh Howey
  • Outlander Series, by Diana Gabaldon
  • Stephanie Plum series (its good for a giggle so I added it to this list) by Janet Evanovich
  • Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern
  • The Hunger Games trilogy (these are the best when all three books are read), by Suzanne Collins
  • Divergent trilogy, by Veronica Roth
  • The Uglies series, by Scott Westerfield
  • Leviathan series, by Scott Westerfield
  • Ready Player one, by Earnest Cline
  • Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell (I have to admit I loved this book but I never finished it. It hurt my brain too much.)
  • Lunar Chronicles, by Marissa Meyer
  • Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman
  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane, By Neil Gaiman
  • Lamb, by Christopher Moore
  • The Hundred Year House, by Rebecca Makkai
  • The Magicians series, by Lev Grossman
  • The Paper Magician series, by Charlie N. Holmberg
  • Once Upon a Heist, by Ashley Hodges Bazer ( I have to thank Ashley for adding this much needed humor during a time when I needed it the most).

I have enjoyed reading all 319 books and I think there was only one that was written so poorly I had to stop. I deleted it from my Kindle so it wasn’t counted.

Some of you might think I consume books, while some may read more than I, but no matter how much or how little you read, it is the fact that you are reading at all that makes the difference.

Do you have any favorites? Please add them to the list below.

 

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Flash Fiction

I love discovering new things and I recently was introduced to a style of writing called Flash Fiction. I had heard of this genre in the past, but never gave it much thought. A writing friend of mine shared a piece by Erica Satifka called, Real Plastic Trees that I had to share with you. A taste of the story is below and you can finish reading it at Fantastic Stories of the Imagination.

ENJOY!

Real Plastic Trees by Erica Satifka

Bam. Bam. Bam. I throw on my tattered blue bathrobe and hobble to the door. “Hold your horses, I’m coming.”

It’s the New Woman across the hall. Julie, she calls herself. She gets nervous if she doesn’t check in on me at least every other day, and I don’t blame her. I’m an old, old woman now. “How are you feeling today, Mrs. Delacorte?”

I sigh. “Can’t complain. Want to come in for some coffee?”

Of course she does. Julie’s kind can get nutrients from anything on this ruined Technicolor world of ours, but when given the option, they’ll always pick traditional food over Styrofoam and concrete. They’re bred that way, both to fit in with real humans and to, in some way, continue our legacy.

Earth’s dead. The neon crazy-quilt of the atmosphere sees to that. If you’re staying here, you’d better be okay with living behind a six-inch layer of reinforced glass. It’s no wonder that so many humans choose to emigrate to the extee colonies, even with all the hardships involved.

Read the rest at: Fantastic Stories of the Imagination

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Surgery and Radiation

Surgery and radiation were the final two steps in my treatment program. I have had surgery before (just last summer I blew out my knee), but for some reason this one terrified me. It was a relatively simple procedure. Many women have to have full mastectomies, but I was lucky, the tumor shrank so much that a lumpectomy was all I needed. My surgeon reassured me that I would be in and out of the hospital in half a day. Me? Well, I was still on the, “I’m going to die” wagon and I thought for sure this would be the end of me. HA! I thought every step was the end of me….. so what’s new?

As promised, I was in and out of the hospital the same day. I checked in at 6:00 am and my husband took me home at about 3:00 that same day. I was pretty sore for quite awhile afterward (I still get pain now again and it has been 4 months since surgery), and I was quite swollen and turned all kinds of black and blue. I only have the scar left now. The best news is the removal of the tumor and one lymph node was a success. They had clean parameters and only 5% of the cells had live cancer. Clinically, this is a negative result and I was declared cancer free!

Radiation came next. What an odd experience that was. They had to map the area where I would receive radiation by way of live X-ray and CT scans. I was given six tiny tattoos, each the size of a pin prick. There are three down the center of my chest, one on each side of my chest and one just above my left breast. These were for the technicians to align the radiation machine when I went in for a treatment.

Each visit I lay on a hard table with my arms in stirrups over my head. A huge machine circled over with a buzzing sound starting to my right then circling up, around, and down to my left. In all I lay there for maybe 2 minutes and I was done. Five days a week and 35 visits later I had quite the rectangular sunburn on my breast. Thank goodness for emu oil!

I have now been finished with treatment for over a month and it feels strange to be done. The biggest surprise was how I felt emotionally. I have seen movies about survivors, and I have read many stories too where the survivor has a new lease on life. They have a 360 degree turnaround, and joy pours down from the heavens and lifts their hearts and their lives to new heights. This was not quite so true for me. I have been visiting with a psychologist who specializes in cancer patients and when I told her that I was depressed and wasn’t that thrilled with my life she wasn’t surprised.

Although she wasn’t surprised, I was. It turns out that many cancer patients are actually depressed post-treatment. The way I understand it is that when  patient is given a diagnosis of cancer they go into survival mode that is cranked up full blast until they are finally done. This is when [they/we/I] have a chance to breathe and are able to work through the anxiety, depression, and grief of this illness. Prior to that it is a mind set to just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

It is now the end of October 2015. Eleven months have passed since my diagnosis and my life is now moving forward. I still have the chance of my tumor returning, yet I am working to keep that thought from dominating my ability to live, love, and laugh. As my family and I carved pumpkins today I thought about how lucky I am to be sitting at the table with my family. It was wonderfully normal.

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This is the end of Part 4 of a multi-post story. Part 5 (the final installment) will be coming soon!

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Make a difference by donating to your charity of choice. Support the fight against Breast Cancer!

breast-cancer-ribbon

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Treatment

Enduring the route of traditional medicine, for me, was the best choice for this type of cancer. Aggressive cancer had to be treated with aggressive medications. Chemotherapy followed by a surgery of some kind (lumpectomy or mastectomy – depending on the chemo results), then radiation treatments. The entire process would start late December and end sometime in August. Eight months. Eight very long months.

On December 23 my first treatment was administered. Two drugs, Paclitaxel and the study drug, were given via IV through a port that was surgically inserted under the skin of my chest wall. It was all very sci-fi. Sitting in a recliner with intense drugs dripping into my body. It made me think of the song “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons (this is a better version of the video IMHO). I felt like it was the end of days, breathing in all the chemicals, becoming radioactive (no, chemotherapy is NOT radioactive). Very surreal to say the least. “Radioactive” became my theme song for the next 7 months.

Every week I joined 20-30 other people in treatment. We were all there for different cancers, but to think that everyday of the week up to 40 people could be in the infusion room being treated for some kind of cancer. The treatment center consisted of a long hall with treatment bays jutting off on both sides. The hall, with forty bays, forty recliners, treating up to forty people, stretched out in front of me, yet compressing into me at the same time.  My perspective on how rampant cancer is has changed forever.

Earlier I mentioned a study drug. I thought I should give page time to this study. When I learned of all the possible treatments I faced (there were actually not very many choices) my oncologist also told me about a study drug in the final phase of testing before FDA approval. The trial, called i-Spy 2, was an added drug that gave an extra “kick” to the standard taxol. I have always supported non-profits that helped in finding cures for all cancers (especially the American Cancer Society) and now I could put my best breast – or foot – forward because I was the research. It is amazing to see the strides that have been made to find the cure for so many cancers and I am impressed by how far treatments have come. It is through clinical trials, like i-Spy2, that have helped move research forward.

Treatment itself was fairly straight forward. The docs checked my blood, my weight, and my vitals to be sure I was in good shape. Then I headed down to the center, took a seat and waited for the nurse. I was given anti-nausea meds, antihistamines, then the taxel and the study drug. It all took 3-4 hours and then I went home. I felt fine for the first 3 days, then, every week, on day 3 I would start to feel the drugs’ effects. I got quite tired (sleeping for 12-15 hours was new for me) and felt some stomach upset, but never really got overly sick. I was lucky, and I did what my doctor told me; walk as much as you can, was the prescribed exerciser program. I was also to continue with Pilates for as long as I could. So, I walked. Some days I made three miles and some days I made it across the living room.No matter how far I got, I walked nearly EVERYDAY.

I firmly believe that walking was the key to keeping my side effects to a minimum. What I did get were rashes. At one point I had rashes on my rashes. The effects would last 3-4 days and just as I started to feel better the routine would start all over again. This went on for 12 weeks.

Then the big guns were pulled out; Doxorubicin (Adriamycin) and Cyclophosphamide (Cytoxin) commonly referred to as A/C, were the second set of drugs I was given. I don’t recall ever being so sick in my life (although when I had viral meningitis…that was a close second to this). The effects hit immediately following the infusion and lasted, to some degree or another, right up to the next infusion. By the forth, and last,  treatment I thought I would never be able to move again, and I was completely bald (bald is defined here as: every hair on every square inch from my toes to the top of my head was gone…just think about all the places you have hair.) I also had chemo-brain so badly that I could barely string a sentence together. I had to quit driving. Everything hurt and if I still had hair I’m sure that would have hurt as well.

All of this sounds quite miserable (and it was…more like a living hell actually), BUT it saved my life. Back in November I thought I was going to die. If the cancer didn’t kill me, I was sure the treatment would. After 16+ weeks of medical treatments, another biopsy, and two more MRIs,  the tumor had shrunk to half its original size, and the lymph node was back to normal size. Surgery and the biopsy results would be the final curtain call.

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This is the end of Part 3 of a multi-post story. Part 4 will be coming soon!

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Make a difference by donating to your charity of choice. Support the fight against Breast Cancer!

breast-cancer-ribbon

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Decisions for the Rest of My Life

After all the poking and prodding, the diagnosis was not the best news. Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. The good news; this is the most common type of breast cancer and a lot is known about it. The bad news; “triple negative” and aggressive. Triple Negative means that there are no hormonal influences that produced the tumor so I could not receive non-chemo treatment. How aggressive? On a scale of 1-4 (4 being the most aggressive) mine was a 3.

My research began in earnest. I read cancer blogs, articles, research papers, and watched videos about the benefits of traditional medicine vs alternative medicine. In a short week I felt I knew more about breast cancer than I would have otherwise learned in a normal lifetime.

I really only had two choices for treatment. (Well, actually three choices, but the “doing nothing and dying” was immediately taken off the table for discussion. I had too much living left to do.) I could follow an alternative path by making extreme changes in my life choices (a strict, and extreme diet change along with intense daily exercise) and the chance that the cancer would stabilize or even go away (also a chance it would continue to grow). Or, I could follow the doctor’s recommendation of chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation treatments. I had very little time to make a decision.

Both sides of the argument were convincing. On the one side I could change everything about my lifestyle (eating, sleeping, exercise and diet). The experts said that this approach shifts the Ph balance in the body to make it a toxic environment for cancer to survive. There is science to support alternative medicines and lifestyle changes. I read about several people who have kept their cancer under control with these aggressive changes. Yet, the alternative route was a little frightening to me. What if it didn’t work? What if the cancer spread and I faced a more grim prognosis? Could I really make that extreme of a change in my lifestyle?

On the flip side was chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation which are strongly supported by science, yet the side effects aren’t pretty. These highly toxic treatments do kill the invading cells, but I ran the risk of having side effects that could pop up anytime in my life. First, it might not work, or it might only have partial success. Then there is the possibility of secondary cancers from the radiation, or the side effects of the chemo could be debilitating. Not to mention the inherent dangers in any type of surgery.

 I was depressed, in shock, and horribly confused. I had no clue what to do. Both arguments had pluses and minuses. My husband and I talked endlessly about what to do and we found ourselves returning to the same place of indecision. One evening, I talked at length with a practitioner of acupuncture and Chinese Medicine. He shared his professional experiences with me at length. Then, he shared one final thought with me and it went something like this, “I have treated many, many patients with cancer. I helped them follow the alternative treatments as well as the traditional treatments with acupuncture and herbal remedies. To be brutally honest with you, the only ones alive today are the ones who followed the traditional treatments. Everyone else is dead.”

My decision was made. On December 23, 2014, I began my journey down the long road of chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation.

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This is the end of Part 2 of a multi-post story. Part 3 will be coming soon.

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Make a difference by donating to your charity of choice. Support the fight against Breast Cancer!

breast-cancer-ribbon

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