Sunday, December 23, 2007

Happy Holidays!

Since my last post was so self-pitying and depressing, I thought I'd cheer everyone up (including myself) with a little Christmas movie of my family. Unfortunately, my husband's audition didn't go too well due to excessive egg nog consumption, so he didn't make the cut. But all in all, I think Santa was pleased...

...Enjoy!! And have a wonderful, blessed holiday week!!

Dust Bunny's Christmas Movie


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Confections and Confessions

You know, while they’re going down, eating freshly-baked cookies certainly seems like the right thing to do.

Just picture it…the warm, sweet vapors that rise up through your nose as you place the cookie near your lips, making your mouth water in preparation for the bite you will take of the slightly crisp outside of this sweet little orb, then further down into its softy, chewy center, while tiny bits of melted chocolate touch your taste buds and send your endorphins into a tailspin.

(Okay, right about now, I’m sure you are all thinking that I spent WAY too much time over at Loving Annie’s alter-ego blog!)

…Then of course, you wake up in the morning, look in the mirror and realize that you can actually see that wonderful confection hanging on for dear life to the outside of your thigh.

Okay, tonight it was either a choice of wine or Reese’s Peanut Butter and Chocolate cookies. I started with the wine, but soon remembered that I had to drive my son to jazz band practice and then go visit a home-bound elderly woman right after that. So I drank a few sips, and then left it alone. After visiting with my friend and then picking my son back up, I began to realize I still had that “empty” feeling deep inside.

The funny thing is, I know that feeling isn't hunger or thirst. Quite frankly, that emptiness is just another form of frustration, of feeling out of control of a life that’s actually supposed to be mine.

Take my husband’s ex (please!) for instance. I have had my share of good and bad experiences with this woman and I like her...I really do. But lately her discourteousness just takes the proverbial cake. Three years ago, when her daughter came to live with us, I made the mistake of allowing her to come and visit her daughter whenever she wanted. Of course, her daughter was not at the lovely age of fourteen back then. Now, the ex will call my stepdaughter on her cell phone to tell her she’s outside my house. My stepdaughter then tells her to come in, but does not get up to let her in. Within seconds, I will hear my un-knocked door opening, and there she is in all of her blond-haired, skinny-body, designer clothing glory. Added to this is the fact that within several minutes, they will start arguing like two teenagers (which is okay for one of them)…and then a full-blown fight will ensue. Of course, by this point, I am hiding in my bedroom just to escape, feeling like a prisoner in my own home.

The other day, she came in while I was cleaning my house with crazy hair and no makeup. I ran into my bedroom until she was safely ensconced in her daughter’s room and until the voices rose high enough for me to plan my breakout without the embarrassment of her seeing me. I quietly grabbed my walking poles from the hall closet, and tip-toed really fast out the front door. As I pounded the pavement with my rubber-tipped staffs, I subconsciously kicked myself in my butt for not being able to just stand up for myself and for the sanity of my house. And I never finished cleaning, either.


Then, of course, we have all of the other lovely family holiday drama going on, with jail birds and women that eat like birds and me turning into a cuckoo bird from all of it. And let’s not forget that I am supposed to go visit a college that’s five hours away on Thursday with my daughter and my ex-husband, who drives like Mr. Magoo on crack cocaine.




Okay, but back to the cookies.

I could’ve gotten on my treadmill. But no, I baked cookies. And I ate them. A lot of them. And now I feel like crap. But when I pass that cookie jar again, I know somehow that worthless feeling will go away, and visions of chocolate chips will dance very attractively in my head. And I will happily dance with them, at least for a minute or two.

But for you, my dear blogging buddies, I wish cookies eaten in joy and not frustration. I wish many happy hours of holiday delight spent stress-free with the ones you love most. May the wonder of the season embrace you with the things that matter most to you. Most of all, may God bless you and yours now and in the coming New Year. Happy Holidays!


(For some creative holiday reading, please visit Berserker Norway...she posted a lovely little article about "Thanks and Giving.")

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

More Thoughts on Blessings


This post was inspired by Paul, who made a very interesting observation about the difference between “having a sense of gratitude, especially for the simple things” and “blessings.” He made a reference to people in other countries, who are a lot less fortunate than us, and how can they be blessed when they are in a constant state of lack.

Here are my thoughts on “blessings”:

I tend to think that blessings are all relative. What it comes down to is that perhaps the people in third-world countries are not on the same mental realm as we are, and I certainly don't mean that in a cruel way--only a realistic one. Here in America, the land of plenty, we tend to equate “blessings” with “money”, or things that are purchased with money. In other words, the more money you have, the more “blessings” you have…or so it would seem. However, the people in third world countries who are starving every day probably feel "blessed" each minute that they remain alive. They feel "blessed" when they can eat twice in one day. They feel "blessed" when the CARE plane arrives with some much-needed supplies and medications for their children. They feel "blessed" that there are caring people in this world who will make time for them and try to help them.

Unfortunately, people here in America feel "lack" if they can't get to drive a Mercedes—that tends to be the attitude of an awful lot of people around where I live—but for that matter, there are people in every county in every state of the USA who are poor and starving, also, not just in third world countries. Most of these people have the ability to appreciate the little things that they are "blessed" with, like a roof over their heads, even if it's at the local shelter; or a hot meal, even if it’s at the local soup kitchen. In my profession, I see less fortunate people all the time. But when I delivered a Thanksgiving meal to a struggling grandmother and her two little grandchildren, the gratefulness I encountered was humbling! The little girls must have said thank-you at least ten times each, and they couldn’t have been more than four and six years old. It was a blessing from God for me to have the pleasure to meet such appreciative small children…they are truly being raised in the light of God’s Grace. And I imagine the small feast I brought was considered a blessing to them, as well.

I also see elderly people at the senior center we volunteer at who still “hoard” food, even though they are not for want at all. I would imagine some of them experienced the repercussions of living through or right after the Great Depression and were raised to be frugal, even if they came into money later in life. So even though they are “blessed” with money that could make their lives easier, they choose to live meagerly. That’s one of the reasons I personally don’t consider money the only “blessing” one can have. It obviously doesn’t make a difference to some people for many reasons. And when it comes right down to it, the most obvious difference between America and third world countries is that we have plenty of money, and they don't.



Let’s say I won the lottery right now, and came into several million dollars. Would this be a “blessing”? Well, to me, it would be a blessing to be able to pay off my bills. I could be a blessing to someone else by having the money to give to a family in need, or an organization with a good cause! But to me, that’s where the “blessing” ends. All the money would be good for after “fixing” my stressful problem is to basically purchase, in excess, many things that my family and I most likely do not need. That’s when the “blessing” becomes the “curse”, if you know what I mean.

I don't believe that God favors anyone. The world is the way it is, and it has been like this since the beginning of time. If there were no places on earth that were less fortunate than any others, and everyone had everything they ever wanted, we would be a very unappreciative planet indeed. And quite frankly, what would be the lesson? What would be the point of existence?

...Who really feels more "blessed"...the person who just got a meal for the first time in three days, or the person who just left the Mercedes dealership with a new car?



...Do people in poverty-stricken countries actually know what they don't have? Do they even care, or do they just want to make it through another day?


So “blessings” to me are the things in our lives that you just can’t put a price tag on. In my last post, I mentioned blue jays and dog smiles…and I can add to that list my husband's smiling face and the friend who takes time out of her busy day to pick up dishwashing detergent for me. Perhaps it’s the ability to appreciate these small things that’s the actual “blessing”—maybe a blessing is not a “thing” at all.


Perhaps a blessing is really just a moment of appreciation.


I believe that this life--our mere existence, whether "fortunate" or "unfortunate"--is but a drop in the bucket of an endless universal eternity. At the end of our earthly existence, it won't matter one bit what any one person had or didn't have. We may not enter into this life alone, but we certainly leave it with nothing but our souls. I believe that there is a God who will appreciate how much we appreciated what was truly important while we were here. And perhaps for that, He will “bless” us with the gift of eternal life.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Blessings

I have to be honest. I try very hard to present a positive image when I post on this blog. However, what started as a blank canvas for my dreams started to become nothing more than the whipping boy for my gripes.

As I sit here at my computer, this night before Thanksgiving, I think of how I should be reflecting on why my life is blessed in so many ways, but all I can think about are family situations gone awry that the holidays only tend to magnify.

I find that sometimes, I just can't let things go. No, make that a lot of times. I tend to have a "victim" mentality, and I allow myself to feel persecuted, most of the time by the same people, over and over. This way of thinking is so unproductive as far as turning out positive outcomes...but it certainly produces a whole bunch of negative ones. I often wonder why I care so much, but I'm starting to really understand that how I feel doesn't make one bit of a difference to the people I allow to upset me. I only end up chasing my own tail.

My purpose in writing tonight is not to convince you, my blogging buddies, how blessed I am. It's for me to remind myself why I need to smooth the hairs down on my back, release my tense, arched body, take a deep breath, then expel the pent-up frustration into the dark, foggy void of this night.

...So here's my "thankful" list for this year:

I am thankful for my health, for without it I wouldn't be able to enjoy the other things in my life that I'm thankful for.

I'm thankful for my husband, who is not only kind and understanding, but he's pretty darn cute, too.

I'm thankful that my daughter got on the honor roll for the very first time in her life. Even though she's a senior in high school, we couldn't be more proud.

I'm thankful that my son still tells me he loves me in front of his friends.

I'm thankful that my stepdaughter started telling me she loved me first upon closing a phone conversation.

I'm thankful that my stepson has a wonderful job that will take him in a positive direction.

I'm thankful that I got to see my dog sleeping with a huge smile on his face. Yes, it was a smile.

...No, it was 2:30 in the morning and I didn't get a picture.

I'm thankful that my other dog, despite his 427 lumps, is happy and pain-free.

I'm thankful that I woke to three beautiful blue jays outside my kitchen window this morning.

I'm thankful that no matter how stressful my day is at work, one of my "guys" will inevitably make me crack up--deliberately or not. They are treasures, just the epitome of purity, innocence, and honesty. And gas.

I'm thankful that my house is clean and all I have to do is bake two apple pies tomorrow morning...all while the Macy's parade is on (it's not Thanksgiving until I see Santa Claus...which doesn't really make sense...).

I'm thankful that my cousin is going to cook tomorrow. She's the best chef in the family, and her home is always welcoming and comforting.

I'm thankful for Merlot. Cabernet, too.

And I'm thankful for all of you, dear bloggers. There is not one of you who hasn't made me think, care, and most of all, smile.

Most of all, I'm thankful for God. I rest in the knowledge that even though I tend to try to "fight my own battles" and save up my prayers for a rainy day, He's with me, always....just waiting in the wings for me to ask for His help.

If you'll excuse me, I really think I have to have a chat with Him right about now.

In the meantime, I wish all of you a wonderful, blessed, joyous Thanksgiving. May your plates be full and your hearts be fuller.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Retraction

Okay, I apologize.

I should've delved a little deeper into my subject matter on my previous post before I made any "wondrous" claims, and I didn't.

My bad.

However, I will say this: I do believe in the general concept that the FDA will not benefit financially from approving herbs for consumer use. I do believe that there are indeed treatments from natural sources that can cure diseases, quite possibly even cancer (there are many groups of people who just don't get cancer; I believe that there are reasons for that. I also believe that there are reasons why my area has the highest concentration of breast cancer in the entire country. I'm just tired of the speculation; let's spend the money and find out why already, instead of wasting it by paying people who sleep at their desks or hold shovels for contractors). Having successfully eliminating high numbers of h. pylori bacteria from my stomach using mastic gum capsules instead of the two antibiotics prescribed to me (that I refused to take for the yeast infection they would inevitably cause), I will most likely always opt for the natural treatment first.

I digress. Let me get back on task here.

Thursday, I retrieved a letter from my mailbox addressed to me. I opened it up and started reading it in front of my husband and stepson. Apparently, because my "profile" (huh?!?) from my order of the Kevin Trudeau book was so special, I was one of a very select few people who would receive this invitation to belong to a private organization that would help me to realize my full potential in every area of life. I was told that I "knew" deep down in my soul that I possessed great talent and skill, and that this secret organization would help me to bring it out and succeed in ways I never dreamed possible.

I'm not quoting here for fear of being sued, but by the time I got to page two, all three of us were laughing our asses off. Apparently, there are major celebrities who I see every single day that belong to this "secret association", some of whom are extremely prominent (okay, I don't know about you, but a certain celebrity with the initials "T.C" started to come to mind). I began to guess the intent of this letter, and tossed it aside for future amusement when I had more time to read it.

Another thing that annoyed me was that I was also signed up to a web site that I can NOT get out of....I don't even know the address...and they take $9.95 a month out of my checking account for this "health care" site. They automatically sign you up for it when you purchase the book, and tell you that your first month is free; you can cancel at any time after that. What they DON'T tell you is that when you call to cancel, you will be on the line for 45 minutes listening to an advertisement for all sorts of natural products and books that repeats itself every ten minutes...and no one will ever pick up the phone.

I should've known something was up when the original operator who I ordered the book from tried to get me to order every other product under the sun, and then told me that just because I called, I won a trip to Las Vegas for two, and she wanted to give me all the details. I told her no thank you, I wasn't interested. She tried relentlessly to guilt me into taking this amazing trip, but I finally cut her off and said "Thanks, but no thanks. Are we done?"

Silly me. It was probably a great opportunity to go hang out with all of those "famous" members of the "secret association".

Well folks, I guess it's true...I've been had. And I'm sorry I promoted my ignorance onto all of you.

Thanks to Matthew for inspiring this post.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

It's All About the Money

I like to read. And although I enjoy fiction, I find that what really holds my interest are books that lead to some sort of outcome on my part, be it self-help and spiritual("Your Best Life Now" by Joel Osteen; "Secrets of the Vine" by Bruce Wilkinson), or books on nutrition and healing ("Prescription for Nutritional Healing" and "Prescription for Herbal Healing" by Phyllis A. Balch, CNC). I even adore certain cookbooks, such as Sophia Loren's "Recipes and Memories" (this is really just a lovely book with Italian peasant meals much like the ones I grew up with...but what makes this book wonderfully special are her various stories about her family and her enjoyable accounts of her lifetime experiences that seem to coincide with each recipe at hand). However, the book I just started reading, from what I've read so far up to Chapter Three, could've been written by me, myself, and I. I am aware that it's controversial. It's called "Natural Cures 'They' Don't Want You to Know About", by Kevin Trudeau. I'm sure some of you scoff just hearing his name.

Well, I don't. I believe him. Drugs are big business, there is no doubt. Take, for example, the advertisements for prescription drugs that NOW HAVE COMMERCIALS ON NATIONAL TELEVISION. You sure wouldn't have seen that twenty years ago. The list of side effects that they have to announce alone makes you wonder how desperate someone is to get to sleep or have some sex (more on the latter later). I actually started laughing when one of the prescription sleep drug ads warned consumers to contact their doctor if they experienced any of the following: Talking in their sleep, walking in their sleep or driving in their sleep. Yes, driving. So apparently, the FDA knows that certain people who take this sleeping pill may, in fact, get into their car wearing their nightcap and their puffy-eye gel blinders, and go for a joyride at the expense of innocent people everywhere while counting sheep at the same time. But an herbal "sleepy" tea has to have a warning attached to it that it is not approved by the FDA. My goodness.

And back to that sexual "magic" pill that of course was approved by the mostly-male FDA with no problem: Viagra. I can almost just hear them in the boardroom now...

"How much money do you think we can make off of a pill that guarantees a man an erection?? I mean, this stuff is so powerful that they might have a woody for four or five hours...but who wouldn't love that?!? And, okay, obviously most of the population that requires erectile help consists of older gentlemen who are probably on some sort of heart meds, but hey! We'll put a small warning on there not to take nitro glycerin at the same time that they decide to get frisky. When it comes to the more important organ, you know the penis will win out over the heart every time!"

I'm sorry, but to me, any organization that will approve a drug that will give a man an erection over an herb that may cure certain diseases for life is just not respectable. And I have touted this opinion for several years now, even before I started reading Kevin Trudeau's book (and a footnote here: I don't even know if he delves into Viagra. As I said, I've only gotten to Chapter Three).

Twenty-two years ago my mother died in our house. The attending physician was a new associate to our longtime family physician, who just so happened to be on vacation at the time of her death (he loved my parents, and would've been there for them in a heartbeat). I had never met this new associate, but when I spoke to him on the phone, he gave me all the comfort that I could ask for: "I don't want you to worry about a thing; if she needs more morphine to help her to not die in pain, I'll prescribe it. No matter what time of day or night that you need me, I will be at your house." What he offered to do for us was so generous...I knew this doctor was special.

Well, yes, he was special, and he was also adorable and right out of med school. After my mom's death, every ache and pain I had of course meant cancer of some major organ. "Dr. M" tolerated my bi-monthly visits with grace and aplomb, and was always understanding and kind, no matter how crazy my imagined ailment may have been. But let's fast forward about twenty years.

I still see Dr. M. Most of my family has given up on him...they said he spends one minute with them, prescribes them some new, fabulous med, and shoves them out the door. For some reason, he really does spend time with me and my brother; I'm assuming it's because we were two of his first patients, but I'm also assuming that it may have something to do with my mom being one of the first deaths he attended to. As much as I adore Dr. M., I had noticed in the past couple of years that he was way too "gung ho" about handing me samples of new drugs, and a prescription for them as well. Anti-depressants were his cure-all to everything. After he realized that I would take the samples, read the contraindications and throw the pills out, he started to beat me to it and throw the inserts out right in front of me, and then hand me the sample, stating that he really wanted me to take the pill and that it would help me; I shouldn't waste my time reading about all the side effects that most likely wouldn't happen to me.

Well, of course, being the great skeptic that I am, I started to doubt that Dr. M. was caring about my well-being at all. It really seemed like he was trying to make some sort of "sale"! It was just about this time that a friend of mine began working in his office. She told us that there was not one day she had to buy lunch because every single day of the week, lunch was catered in by one of the pharmaceutical sales reps! And I thought to myself...why? It started to become crystal clear to me just how corrupt this business of "healing" people was. No one was "healing" anyone. They were merely treating symptoms with various drugs, and apparently getting some sort of "kickback"...they didn't care what the cause of anyone's ailment was, or if it could be treated with something a little more natural. As long as the patients were sick, the doctors could benefit. If they were healthy, the doctors couldn't make a dime. It became all about the money.

What really clinches things for me are nursing homes. Not only was my dad in one; my work takes me into a very prestigious facility almost weekly to volunteer with my developmentally disabled individuals. What I have witnessed is frightening. When I asked to see my dad's med sheet, there were two pages of meds listed that he was taking. What was sad was that some of the meds were given solely to counteract symptoms caused by the other meds. What was even sadder was that my dad basically didn't even know where he was, and slept through most of his day. This is a quality of life?

When I volunteer at the nursing home in my area (where the minimal cost per month is $13,000 per patient), all I see are people sleeping through the remainder of their lives, being woken up only to take their meds and to get bathed. It really does make you wonder who is benefitting here. Certainly not the families of the patients, who have to watch them dying a slow death, sometimes for years. And most certainly not the patients themselves, who are so far gone they have no say in their own lives anymore--and they are so drugged up, they don't even care. No, I'm sorry, but the only people who stand to benefit anything at all from situations like this are the owners of the nursing home, the drug companies, the pharmaceautical companies that supply bandages, gauze, syringes, etc...and even Kimberly-Clark! There's not one nursing home patient who doesn't wear Depends. This is not speculation; this is the truth as witnessed from my own eyes.

I don't know where all the craziness will end. As a matter of fact, I don't believe it will end at all in my lifetime. It seems as though the world now worships money and power more than God Himself; I've even heard people try to reason that what they're doing is the "right" thing because they stand to make money off of it; meanwhile, what they are doing may only stand to hurt someone else. And to them, that's okay, as long as they see the green. I don't understand this way of thinking, and I don't think I ever will.


In the words of the dying, melting, Wicked Witch of the West: "OH, what a world, what a world!"

Friday, October 26, 2007

A Funny Thing Happened...

Funny things happen to me when I "vent" on my blogs. Any time I'm being the slightest bit negative, or sharing personal stories that I really need to keep to myself, things happen all around me that let me know that what I'm doing is...well...not exactly the best way to go about it. I seem to be reminded time and time again that this is not the blog I originally started...a blog that was more positive, and not a "venting venue" for all of my personal struggles. I enjoyed my blogging in the previous year a lot more than I do now. I was sort of reminded of this in the past week.



After creating another blog for the "darker" posts (which really aren't "dark" at al
l...they're just me whining....oops, I mean venting), I discovered that that blog was just as easy to locate on the internet as my "Comforter" blog. It wasn't hidden. Which meant that anyone could find it just by entering my name on "Google" (my advice for anyone who doesn't have a blog and is considering creating one...DON'T use your full name anywhere in your blog if you don't want to be "Googled." Not even on your profile. They will find you). My blog and personal information came right up on the first page, and the second as well. This is very scary to me...especially considering the fact that I just posted an article about a man who wronged me who will be permanently out of jail next month. Not a brilliant move on my part.



But besides all that, I've been starting to allow myself to fall down that slippery slope of negativity. It wasn't just apparent in my posts; my whole family has made various comments over the last month about my "depressed" attitude. I'm not exactly sure why I seem "depressed"; I'm so very thrilled about my successful surgery, and I had no idea a month ago how wonderful I'd be feeling right now. Years of health issues and fatigue caused by organs that didn't funtion properly are now in the past; at this moment, I feel like I could conquer the world. My guess is that since I've been home from work, I have no routine, and I am definitely a person who operates a whole lot better with one (of course, this has nothing to do with my disorganization...however, I do like to know that things will happen at the same time every day or will go about in the same way every day, even if it means the same mess will appear in the sink every night by 6:30pm).



Or perhaps it's because of a whole host of other problems, stemming from money to family issues. I really don't know. But what I do know is that being negative has not helped me move one step closer to anything I hope to accomplish in life, whether it's something big like moving to the country, or something small, like just being the best person I could be (maybe I have those juxtaposed, actually. It could be a very "big" thing to be a forgiving, kind person, and God only knows if I'll actually ever move anywhere...so that's not such a big deal right now).



After posting on my other blog about a not-so-nice family situation, I received some very positive comments from people, one of whom I didn't even know (thanks,
Sue). I was reminded that my position in life as a woman who follows the teachings of Christ is to practice forgiveness at every turn. It's not for the other person; it's for me and my own peace of mind. Simply Me is always there for me to explain the psychological aspects of why people behave the way they do, and helped me to understand where certain people were coming from from a "mental" point of view. This in itself helps me to release those angry feelings, and to bring on a more sympathetic outlook. And really, it does feel so much better not to be angry. Actually, it gives me almost a feeling of power to be able to let go of the family drama. Just to take a step back, and let everyone else deal with the nonsense, the unkindness, and most of all, the lies. I do know my truth. And no matter what anyone says or what anyone believes, nothing can change the truth.



So with that, I have decided to delete the post from my other blog. I want to take this blog into the direction that it was originally intended to go, with posts such as
Positive Dreaming and Happy Is as Happy Does. I will most likely keep the other blog for title purposes (I liked the way it was sort of in conjunction with this blog), although I don't particularly know what kind of material I will be posting on it at this time. Time will tell.

Thank you to all of you who were genuinely concerned with my feelings and offered up such comforting words of encouragement. This "blogosphere" has certainly been a great blessing in my life, and I'm so grateful to all of you for your kindness.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Shut Up and Wake Up

Yesterday, I realized that I was in a “funk” of sorts. It all started when my husband and I actually took ten minutes to discuss that most loathsome of subjects…our finances. When we realized that our debt was not moving despite our efforts to keep our credit cards at home in a drawer, we decided that our only options to release the stranglehold of the credit card companies immediately were drastic at best, and not going to be popular with the kids in the least.

Of course, the most desirable option for us as a couple would be to sell and move out of state. I paid a fraction of what my house is worth now, and even with refinancing and a home equity line of credit, I could still pay everything off and have plenty of money leftover to purchase a home and put security in the bank. Plus, from the research I’ve done, we could have a house twice the size with 10 times (or more) the amount of property. However, in doing so, our kids would have to leave their suburban, Abercrombie & Fitch high school and try to adapt themselves into the John Deer Institute of Agriculture and Levi’s. Not a popular option.

None of our other options have them doing the happiness jig, either. They range from not going on our annual family vacation to Lake George to selling our house and renting another in the area until the kids graduate. Although the latter would be overwhelming, it has thus far been the only option that anyone has even considered. However, trying to find a house to rent for half of what we spend every month on our bills and that’s large enough to fit a family of six has proven quite impossible. What’s a person to do?

Well, I decided to go to church. In regard to the aforementioned funk, I was beginning to feel sorry for myself and to question if God was actually even hearing anything I’ve had to say in my prayers. I felt stressed, I felt option-less. I figured if I was going to find an answer somewhere, it would probably be in the House of God. Or at least in the parking lot.

…Which is where I started to come to some pretty sad conclusions about myself upon walking towards the entrance.

Earlier that day, I read of a fellow blogger whose grandson was facing cancer head-on, enduring all sorts of painful tests and procedures, and coming through every one of them like a trooper. All this kid wants to do is go to school with his friends, and yet he’s stuck at Ronald McDonald house for weeks at a time. I thought of this brave boy and his amazingly strong grandmother as I walked through the rustic lot, wood chips crunching beneath my feet, and the fresh smell of cedar filling my nose. This awareness suddenly brought feelings of gratefulness and shame at the same time before I even walked through the church doors.

You see, I was alive to smell those chips. To feel the light breeze on my skin. To hold my husband’s warm hand and acknowledge his constant supportive attitude toward my needs. I started to realize that God had heard some really big prayers of mine in the past few months. Even though I’d been worried over my finances for years, they won’t kill me. Ovarian cancer could have, however, and although it was in my family history, God answered my prayers for health. How dare I complain about Chase or Citibank. I was healthy, and I was present. I had one good ovary left; I had my hair.


Shame on you, Lisa.

Appropriately, the pastor gave a sermon about our words…how strong the small orifice of our mouth is, yet how the words that come out of it have the power to hurt…or to heal. At the end of the service, he handed us little cards that we were to use as a tool for the upcoming week. This piece of thick paper, called a “mission card”, had the week’s objective on top: “Shutting up.” Underneath the title, it had a small list written next to the word “Stop:”

A. Complaining
B. Lying
C. Gossiping

Underneath that list was another:

Each time you mess up, you will:”

A. Start the month over

or

B. Give one dollar to charity

By the time I had gotten to my car on the way out, I was up to three dollars already. Two gossips and a complaint, and that happened in the church lobby.

In those moments, I decided that, for at least this week, I am going to try to speak more positive words not only into other people’s lives, but into my own as well. What good is it if I’m positive towards others around me, but I can’t seem to convince myself that I’ll ever be out of debt? And what good is it if I’m never grateful for the things that I have been given for longer than five minutes? Perhaps my debt is in lieu of something much worse. I’m sure that my fellow blogging buddy would take ten million dollars in debt if it meant that her grandson had perfect health. I think we all would.

So in other words, I’m shutting up.

…Wish me luck.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

When Things Were the "Best"

After watching me obsess over the whole Graceann issue last week, my daughter finally asked me where my yearbook was, so she could get a visual. I told her it was in the basement, and she dug it out with great enthusiasm. I showed her Graceann’s high school picture, and then we jumped over to the best section. You know, “best dressed"…"best looking"…"best hair", etc.

Graceann had won “best body.” When my daughter viewed the picture of Graceann in her white man-tailored, buttoned-up shirt tucked into her high-waist chinos with a small, thin belt, her mouth opened. Almost forlornly, she stated: “This girl would never win ‘best body’ in my school.” When I looked at the picture, I realized she was right. As a matter of fact, the only reason we knew that Graceann had a nice figure was because she was a cheerleader. She would never dream of coming to school in a micro-mini skirt with a miniscule tank top combined with a push-up bra that gave her more cleavage than one sees in a Victoria’s Secret catalog. None of us would have done that. Somewhere along the line, modesty flew out the window and headed so far down south, it made it to Antarctica. Add to this the large amount of young teachers coming into the schools, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. After going to “Back to School” night last night and meeting up with teachers who looked like they were hiding surfboards under their desks, I wondered how these young men could possibly teach a class without being distracted by the ocean of boobs in front of them.

Although we both agreed that the girl who won “best looking” was, by far, the prettiest girl in the school (and she was really nice, too, and now she’s a doctor…don’t you hate those girls?), she was shocked when she saw the girl who won “most popular”. “Mom, how was this girl the most popular girl in the whole school? She’s not even amazingly pretty, and she’s a little chunky.” Wow, I thought. So this is where our kids’ heads are at.

I looked at my daughter in disbelief, and she kindly retorted, “…Not that she wasn’t nice, or anything. But she would never win in my school, either.” I told her that not only was the girl who won “Most Popular” really nice, she was on every sport, she was one of the cheerleading captains, she was captain of “Heraea” (girl’s sports night) every year amongst other clubs, she was smart, and she knew just about everyone in the whole entire school. Surprisingly, my daughter looked at me and said, “I wish it was still like that now.” Admittedly, I felt her pain.

Perhaps there are more young girls out there than we would imagine who are tired of keeping up with their peers. Who are tired of starving themselves or throwing up to achieve some unnatural state of emaciation, just so they can fit into clothes from Abercrombe & Fitche. But what are we, as adults, doing to rectify this situation?

Absolutely not one damn thing.




Let’s take a look at our teenage girls’ (and younger) role models…Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, Nicole Ritchie, and that ever-popular Long Islander who lives one town over, Lindsay Lohan. These young women (dis)grace every magazine cover at the supermarket checkout stand. We idly watch as Britney walks around with no underwear, exposing herself and not even seeming to care. We as adults watched in horror as Nicole Ritchie starved herself down to 80lbs., while the attention she received only ignited our teens’ fire for their own attention even more. And as cruel as this sounds, Paris Hilton seems to be nothing more than the world’s biggest slut. Which is sad, because she seems to be the nicest one out of her group. Haven’t her parents taught her anything about morality?






Speaking of parents, we here on LI get to watch firsthand the antics of Dina Lohan. This woman’s actions speak volumes…she’s the “white Oprah Winfrey”?!? Hello!


Ms. Lohan…I know some of your friends. Some of them are only friends with you because they are narcissistic attention-mongers just as you seem to be. And then there are the others who “knew you when.” Those people are shocked at your behavior. They are shocked at your parenting skills (or lack of them). When your daughter was making a movie in L.A. at the vulnerable age of 17, living in a hotel by herself, and begging you to come out there every week, why didn’t you go? As a matter of fact, if Lindsay’s career was so important to you, why didn’t you just up and move your family to California? Your other children were certainly young enough to make the transition. Perhaps you were too busy trying to fulfill your own selfish career needs here in NY. When we hear stories such as the one about you being at a party with your daughter and introducing yourself to George Clooney as her “assistant” because according to you, once you say you’re someone’s “mom”, men don’t want to know from you…well, what do you expect us to think? Apparently, you thought that Mr. Clooney was just going to drop everything for you. I don’t know him from a hole in the wall, but I do know this: there has been less gossip about George Clooney in the last ten years than you’ve had in the last ten months. He seems like a gentleman who appreciates honesty (how many times has he said he’s not getting married?), and to be embarrassed by the fact that you are someone’s mom makes you as shallow as they come. Shame on you. Your daughter had the talent to be something amazing for years to come. Why don’t you step out of the limelight, and be what she needs in order to get back on her feet…her MOTHER. Not her competition. Perhaps the caption should read "Bizarre."


Whew…I feel better.


Sadly, I have no idea how to make the situation better. It seems as though I fight an uphill battle with my kids every single day about one selfish thing or another. They are surrounded by narcissism and self-absorption everywhere they turn ( as a matter of fact, so are we…if I hear the name OJ mentioned one more time in conjunction with a “not guilty” verdict, you will hear my scream around the world). It is getting harder and harder to be a parent, and it’s much more stressful than when our folks raised us (and I don’t even think they’d disagree, even though they walked ten miles to school every day in the snow, barefoot). I try my best every day, and I hope for the same. Yes, sometimes I feel like running away. But perhaps someday, all of this stress will be worth it. Lord knows, it would be a lot easier to ignore my kids and only worry about myself. I guess in some way, I should be thanking the parents who have done just that. They’ve given us a glimpse of the horrors of being a child’s “pal” instead of their “parent.” And in most cases, even though I know they love their kids, the outcome is not good.


(The following video clip is supposed to be funny...but quite frankly, I found it appalling and hypocritical. What are your thoughts?)



http://crackle.com/c/Moving_Targets/Role_Models/2005534#ml=fk%3Drole%2520models%2520video%26fx%3D%26o%3D7


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Big Chill

(Please see update in comments.)


It all started with an email from a high school friend titled, "Bad, bad news". I opened it up and read a very cryptic note that gave me the chills: "Just heard....GraceAnn passed away last night, something about a train in Bellmore last night.She has 2 boys.... not sure what happened...holy...."

My first thought was to blame this damn Long Island Railroad, with it's infamous gap problems. Although I hadn't seen Grace Ann since right after high school (somehow, she never made it to any of the reunions), I always remembered how tiny and petite she was (she even won "class body"). I was saddened to think that a beautiful woman was lost to the claws of the LIRR because of her miniscule stature. But what really gave me the creeps was that I had woken up that morning at 4:30am, and couldn't go back to sleep. Since I'm within walking distance of the train, I kept hearing it's slow and steady chug-a-chug as it came in from the towns just east and west of us. It would be picking up the early birds in my own town who either wanted to get to Manhattan early enough to deal with the lines at Starbucks, or to drop off the night owls who spent a weekend in the city. Twice, I heard the honking of the express train, warning all passengers still waiting on the platform to stand back and keep clear of the tracks. But for some reason, a vision of someone nameless and faceless kept creeping into my head. My daughter had shared a horror story with me a few months ago about a passenger who met an untimely demise after being hit by a train at another station, and I couldn't stop thinking about this person and how scared they must have been when they realized that they weren't going to make it. I actually had to say a prayer to get this vision out of my head so I could go back to sleep. When I read the devastating email, I couldn't help but think how ironic my thoughts were.

I decided to look up the local newspaper online and see if anything was in the obituaries. While I didn't find any information there, what I did find after doing a quick search was disheartening: "Woman Killed by LIRR Train in Apparent Suicide."

...Suicide?? No, it couldn't be. People like Grace Ann don't commit suicide. She was one of the most popular girls in high school: a beautiful girl who was captain of the cheerleading team, a bright student, a smile always on her face. She married her high school sweetheart, and they had two teenage boys. There was just no way it could be a suicide. She wouldn't do that to her family; not to her husband, her kids, even her parents, who I heard are still alive. I don't understand. Dear God, I just don't understand.

When someone is crying out for help and feels like dying, sometimes they go a gentler route and take a handful of pills with some strong alcohol. Or they'll slit their wrists and lay in a warm bath tub. Or they might sit in their running car inside the garage so they'll go peacefully and easily (and unknowingly). In all these instances, there is always the thought that someone might find them and actually have the time to save them, and quite possibly, that was the outcome they were hoping for in the first place. But when one throws themselves in front of a speeding train, they are absolutely sure and certain of what they want their outcome to be...and it's the final ending of death.

Although I search for answers, there are none. I can not begin to imagine the pain that she must have been in to take her life in such a violent, disfiguring, permanent way. The "what if's" swim around in my head, only to be sucked into the whirlpool of helplessness. If I feel this badly after not having seen her in so many years, what must her family be going through? And those children...being a teenager is so hard emotionally as it is. Are they feeling guilt? Are they accepting all of this? Or are they just as shocked as the rest of us? Could someone have helped her? Was her depression obvious? And the most disturbing thought of all...Dear Lord...where is she now? The questions are unending, and none of them have definitive answers. But the one that haunts me unendingly is only short and sad: Why?

Annie introduced me to this wonderful video several weeks ago on her blog. I only wish Grace Ann had seen it before she took her own life. It's just a reminder that no matter what, all is not hopeless. You always need to keep the faith...and you always need to know you're not alone. God bless her family. And God, in your mercy...please bless Grace Ann.

Lifehouse Video

Thursday, September 13, 2007

What Would You Do? (A Personal Poll)

I have been dealing with the repercussions of my actions before my operation for a few days now.



I had my reasons for doing (or, actually NOT doing) the things that I did in the weeks and days leading up to the surgery. Now, I would like honest opinions on how YOU would've gone about it. I'll be honest myself; I'm hoping you'll agree with me so I don't feel crazy. But if you don't, I want to know why...and I will accept your opinion and ponder it in order to humble myself a little and try to see things from another's perspective. Just some background:



I was once very close with a relative through marriage who I'll call Linda. Linda's husband Mitch was never on the up-and-up and was involved in a scandal in our area that caused him to be sentenced to prison for a few years. Right before he went in, he made a very inappropriate phone call to me that my husband caught the tail end of. We did not know how to tell Linda, so we told her parents (who are also my husband's parents). After a while, my husband couldn't take it anymore and confronted Linda and Mitch. Mitch denied his actions to the whole family and tried to depict me as a drug addict who had the hots for him (his own fantasy; Simply Me can vouch for me on this one). Since Linda is very, very beautiful, the family had a hard time swallowing my story. Needless to say, Mitch spewed hatred towards me and my husband and even wrote the nastiest of letters to us displaying this hatred after he went to prison. Eventually, he was caught in all sorts of lies while he was away, and the family realized that he probably was to blame for what happened after all. However, Linda and I stopped speaking on a personal basis and only made small talk whenever we saw each other. It was very uncomfortable.



Fast forward 2 1/2 years. He has done most of his time and is now in a program that allows him to come home on the weekends. Thankfully, we have not had to cross paths with him or her at all (no holidays yet). However, I was now faced with my surgery and all the frightening aspects of it that I had posted about. I decided to keep the information of my surgery to myself until the last minute, and requested that my husband do the same. While we were waiting for the results of the CA125 test, however, my husband became distraught and told his parents what we were going through. When I saw them, they asked if they could do anything for me, and I requested that they keep it to themselves and not let Linda know, because she would then tell Mitch. My point was, I wanted all the positive thoughts and prayers that I could find during this difficult time. Under no circumstances at all did I want someone who loathed me to have any opportunity to wish me ill will while I was on that operating table. My in-laws respected my request and did not say a word.



I had told my husband that once I was out of surgery, he could tell whomever he wanted to; he could shout it on the rooftops. His first call was to his mother, who works in an office with Linda and their other brother, Ralph. He told her that everything went well, there wasn't any cancer, and that she could pass the word along to Linda and Ralph ( I had previously told Ralph's wife what was going on, but she also didn't say anything). I imagine that's where Linda first learned of my surgery in the first place. That was last Thursday. On Friday, my in-laws came to visit me at the hospital, and on Saturday, Ralph and his wife came up. It is now one week later, and I haven't heard from Linda. Sadly, she hasn't even called her brother to ask him how he was faring through all of this.



Through the grapevine, I am hearing possible reports that Linda is insulted that she wasn't called personally about my operation, and as far as she's concerned, she doesn't even know that it took place. I consider that standing a bit on ceremony; does it really matter how you heard the news? Either you're going to call, or you're not. To blame someone else is just giving yourself an easy way out of making the effort to be a grown-up and just pick up the phone (that's my humble opinion...I doubt she would've called, regardless).



My question to all of you is this: If you were faced with an operation that was absolutely frightening to you; if you knew that one found cancer cell meant a complete hysterectomy and possible chemotherapy...would you want to take the chance that someone would be thinking bad thoughts about you while you were on that operating table? Or would you rather go into surgery knowing that you had the best of blessings and sincerest of prayers from people who honestly cared about you?

Monday, September 10, 2007

Home and Healing

I wanted to write a quick post today to let you--all of my dear blogging friends--know that I came through my surgery just fine, with nary a cancer cell in sight. I am feeling very lucky and very, very blessed right now, and I wanted to say "thanks" to all of you who took the time out of your own hectic lives to pray for me and send me good wishes. I don't know if I would've had the positive attitude that I felt going into surgery if it was not for the knowledge that there were so many people rooting for me.

And God bless my Dylan...he saved my sanity today by lending me his laptop, since I can't make the trip downstairs yet to get to my own! I'm not much of a television person, so this was a true blessing. Also, "Simply Me" and my cousin Tina are bringing me some books to read, so I'll be set for the week!

So once again, thank you. I know I've said it before, but I truly don't know what I would've done without all of my wonderful blogging buddies throughout this ordeal. You are the BEST!!!

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Gratitude

After a week of hearing about tragic accidents involving children--many life-altering, some fatal--I felt an overwhelming need to express gratitude towards God for blessing me with my kids.

Last night, all of my teens were home by 11pm. Kristin was safely ensconced in her room, IM-ing with her friends. Kayla and Dylan were on the couch, battling it out on "Guitar Hero", having a ball. David...well, I was hoping he was safe, being that he and my husband were camping at that dreaded "13th Lake" (http://acomforterisnotabedspread.blogspot.com/2006/10/first-and-last-time-for-everything.html). But they brought so many cans of baked beans with them, I'm sure the bears had no desire to go anywhere near their tent.

I love my children with all my heart, and I thank God that he grants me each day with them. I may have a messy house; I may have financial woes; I definitely have some annoying health issues. But I was blessed with a wonderful family, and to me, that's all that really matters.

Special blessings to Annie (http://mylifeasannie.blogspot.com/), and my friend Vinnie and his family in Oregon.

If anyone can remind me how to rename a web address to just say the person's name, please feel free to tell me.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

I'll See You In September

(The following post was entered in a 9-11 writing challenge. For more information about the challenge, please visit http://cathysplacetoblog.blogspot.com/ --If I had time, I'd figure out how to link that the right way--forgive me! Speaking of time, I'm not sure if I'll have any to write or post a blog in the coming week, and from the experience of having the same surgery exactly twenty years ago--almost to the day--I'm not sure how long it'll be until I can sit at my computer for the extended amount of time that it takes me to write my stories! So this post should tide me over for a while. Please do not feel the need to vote for me--I enter these contests merely to challenge myself. Thank you all again for your prayers and good wishes.)



September 11, 2001 will be ingrained in everyone’s memory forever—people throughout the world felt its effects and sensed the horror of this tragic event. However, I doubt that any two people were personally affected the same way, even if their tales are amazingly similar. Every soul carries the burden of 9/11 in a different manner, because as humans, we are all so amazingly different.

The weather was beautiful on that day. It was one of those crisp, wonderful, late-summer days that made a person so thankful to be alive. However, here on Long Island, we have many days like that in September. For the last six years, I have caught myself saying, “The weather was just like this on 9/11.” Who would’ve thought that something as simple as a dry, cloudless day would bring up memories of that tragedy?

I am reminded every day of the heartbreak of several neighbors as I drive past their houses; homes that are now vacant of husbands and fathers who were fallen heroes or sitting ducks at Cantor Fitzgerald. Where there used to be a wonderful skyline view of Manhattan on our drive to the beach, the empty space to the left of the Empire State building renders the picture incomplete. There has not been one occasion that I have crossed over a bridge or under a tunnel that I have not though about terrorism; the signs on the toll booths stating, “If you see something, say something” just confirm my fears even more. For six years, I have felt that my area is nothing more than a giant bull’s eye. No matter how I try to go about my daily business, something as insignificant as a plane flying too low overhead will cause my mind to revert back to the events of 9/11.

In my quest to eliminate my anxieties and not walk around in a constant state of fear, I realized that I needed to try to educate myself on the different cultures involved in that fateful day. Although it is hard for most of us to refrain from herding all members of a certain religion or culture into the same mental corral, I have tried to understand that all people are different, no matter where they come from or what they call themselves. It is extremely hard to live a peaceful life in my area if one is prejudiced in any way; this island is filled with people from every different race, creed, and culture you can imagine. It is unfair to blame all Muslims for the radicals who were involved and continue to be involved in their quest to destroy our country, just as I would be offended as a Christian to be associated with radical Christians who kill and maim other humans when they bomb abortion clinics. I know there are many, many people who disagree with me. But the reality is we only see what’s shown to us on television, or what we read in the newspapers. Unless we seek to educate ourselves, many of us will continue to live with constant feelings of hatred and anger, perhaps even going so far as to hurt or kill someone who doesn’t deserve it. I am not “romanticizing the enemy”—I know the enemy exists. I am merely saying that we are not hearing the voices of the thousands of Middle Eastern people who want peace just as much as we do. We’re only hearing about the ones who don’t.

I do still fear further terrorism; no matter how I can empathize with innocent people, the reality is that the radicals are still on their mission to bring us to an end. I worry about how I will get my family off the island in the event that a bridge or a tunnel is destroyed. I worry about whether or not I should store water and canned goods in my basement. I worry that my youngest will not finish high school in time for us to finally move off of this island before some other tragedy happens. The damage has already been done to our kids. They have already witnessed their friends losing parents in the towers. They have grown up in a time where they have known nothing else but the real and palpable threat of terrorism. Its existence is ingrained in them; they will never have an age of innocence, and the sadness is that they don’t even realize it’s missing.

I long for a simpler time, a time that was a reality in my life. A time before I had to imagine escape routes and hiding places. I realize a time like that does not exist anymore. The best I can do is put my fears into God’s hands, and live each day to the fullest.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

"Reproductive Reflections", or "An Ode to my Organs"

(Male readers, you are being forewarned…some very graphic, intimate female topics will be disclosed in this post…view at your own discretion…)

After volleying back and forth between the need for my surgery and my doctor’s own impending hernia operation, we finally settled on September 6th to be the day that I start a life of freedom from the bondage of my menstrual cycle and leave behind the years of blood-soaked car seats, second-trimester sized bloating, and my stock in Playtex, Kotex, Stay-Free, and Always. I should feel liberated in some way, shouldn’t I?

Truth be told, I am very melancholy over this whole experience. Although my menses has sometimes been very wicked to me throughout the 33 years of our oppressive relationship, my female organs have been the vessels of miracles, from egg to human being. They’ve worked hard for me, perhaps too hard, and are now suffering as a result. They are being strangled and leeched upon by foreign objects, and I feel their painful cries for help—literally. As with an old dog who is full of tumors and whose every step is achingly slow, I am put in the position of sending my organs to their eternal rest—and it seems strange, almost immoral in a way. I feel as if I should have my doctor put them aside and let me see them to give them one last good-bye—and to say, “thank you for all you’ve done.” To bless them before they’re sent off to their disposal, a process that I have no knowledge of and shudder to think about.

If you think I have lost my mind, join the club. When I shared this desire with my 17-year old daughter, she told me I was weird and that she wishes she could never have her period again (I told her, “God forbid.”). My husband had no words—just a stare and a very wide mouth. Well, maybe it isn’t the “norm.” Perhaps I can say my farewells in my own silent, retrospective way before I go into surgery. I’m sure this would make everyone else more comfortable with my mental state; although I’m sure that my doctor has heard stranger requests than that.

I realized the other day (during my period, of course) that this would be the last time I would ever have to deal with cramps, bullet-shaped cotton products, and multiple frustrated visits to the bathroom at work. Was I sad? Well, yes, in a way. Although we haven’t always been the closest of companions, this “friend” has visited me monthly for most of my life. To me, it represents youth and vitality, femininity and fertility. If that factor is removed out of my life’s equation, I am left to feel—in a word—old. Or am I?

In the most preferred circumstances concerning my surgery, one ovary will be left in my body. The reason for this is so I don’t experience “instant menopause”, and become a victim of osteoporosis before I’m fifty. This also means that I will still be waging my monthly war against that all-time favorite adversary of everyone’s—female and male—PMS. In some way, that has to keep me feeling young. However, the bout of PMS I just experienced earlier this month was so severe, I ended up cutting off all of my hair. Nine inches of hair—nine. For some reason, I thought this would look “cute.” It would be easier; no more hour-long hair drying and straightening sessions. But the person staring back at me in the mirror isn’t “sassy” and “sexy”—she just seems old. It has gotten good response from those whose opinions I value the most—my husband and relatives, my good friends—but I know some acquaintances are wondering, “Why?” My cousin actually came right out and asked me. The truth is I don’t know why. Maybe I did it because I always wanted to feel what it was like to have hair this short. Maybe I did it because I thought it would be easier. Or maybe I did it just to feel alive. To take a wild chance, to know that I could be brave. In reality, I may never know. All I am certain of at this point is that I look much, much better with hair than without.

The “Eleven Year Glitch” factor seems to be coming into play again. Here I am, 44 years of age, and I’m once again experiencing a life-changing event in an eleventh year of my life. Strange, isn’t it? Perhaps this time, the change really will be for the better. I spent years with severe fatigue, bloating, and pain—I’m now hoping to come out of this feeling refreshed and renewed, and ready to take on the world. I know the void inside of me will only be making room for more hope, more energy, and most of all, more spirit. My life has only just begun.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Thank You

I have not been able to think straight for five days. No matter what I was involved in at the moment, no matter how cheerful I might have been--that sneaky, little, black cloud of despair would start drizzling on me until I found myself in the middle of a downpour of hopelessness, resignation, and defeat. If I hadn't said it before, I was really, really scared. Twenty-two years ago, my mom succumed to ovarian cancer--and now I might be facing the same fate as her, only fifteen years earlier than when she received her diagnosis.

The internet is no help. I tried in vain to stay away from any websites that dealt with the downside of ovarian cancer, but did find myself on one about survivors. It was actually an advertisement for Cancer Centers of America. One woman had unexplained gastrointestinal symptoms for months before an acquaintance filled her in on the silent symptoms of ovarian cancer. Her doctor suggested a CA-125 test, which she received promptly. Her results revealed a number of around 1,125. When she asked him what was considered normal, he stated "Zero to 35." Needless to say, she was startled, and very, very frightened.

She was alright because of Cancer Centers of America, according to her videotaped message--which quite honestly, seemed a little contrived to me. My doctor had already told me the "normal" range, but that if the results came out around 300, he would operate immediately. The numbers obsessed my every thought this weekend. What if it was 50? What if it was 100? What's a "normal" tumor marker number for a fibroid (which can cause the numbers to be high)? I found myself planning my demise, unable to be certain if I was going to be up for the fight of my life. Oh well, I thought, my kids know I love them. They'll be affected, but they'll be alright--they have so many people around them who would give them support and who would love them. But God, all I could think of was, "...But not as much as I do." I want to be around to see my great-grandchildren.

Then I remembered...my God is bigger than my problems. He's certainly bigger than some cancer cells. So I gave my troubles up to him, gave a request for my desired outcome, and then acknowledged that it ultimately would be his will, not mine, that would prevail. I chose to believe that he wanted the best for me, like any parent would for their child. Every time I started to feel gloomy, I repeated these thoughts, or prayers, in my head. I also took comfort in knowing that my family, friends, and blogging buddies were praying for me...the support was unbelievable.


I called the doctor's office early this morning looking for my lab results. They said that they were not in the morning batch, and that I should call back at noon to give them a chance to come in the afternoon batch. I called back at 11:58am, and got the answering machine: "Your call is important to us...." Yeah, yeah. Blah, blah.


"...Listen, I know no one wants to call back the person waiting for CA-125 results, but the 'not knowing' is absolutely killing me. I can't think of anything else, and I'd appreciate it if someone could just let me know if you've even gotten the results back yet. Thank you so much."


Ten minutes went by; no phone call. Two hours went by; no phone call. I finally called back at 5:00, and the receptionist told me that the lab girls were gone for the day. "But I left a message...a really desperate message! Now I'm worried! Maybe they didn't call back because it's really bad!!" The receptionist, hearing my concern and fear and understanding it, calmly asked which doctor I saw, and then put me on hold. When she came back, she told me that they would call me back as soon as the doctor was done with his patients. Wow. Was that supposed to be reassuring?

I started to cook to take my mind off of everything. At about 6:30pm, my cell phone rang. The caller ID said it was my doctor's office. It was the point of no return...my future, my destiny in this life, was residing on the other end of that phone line. I picked up the phone and meekly said "Hello."

"Hi, Lisa? This is Dr. B's office! I'm just calling to tell you that your test results were in the normal range!"

"...My test results?? For the CA-125??"

"Yes, they're in the normal range!"

"...They are?? Are you sure??"

(laughing) "Yes, it's right in front of me."

"...Um...do you have a number?"

"Yes...it was a five."

"...A FIVE?!? Are you sure?!? The CA-125 test?!?"

(laughing again) "Yes, it was a five. Now you can enjoy the rest of your day!"

I broke down in tears, thanked her, hung up, and dropped to my knees. I immediately thanked God, and continued to do so over and over again until my son walked in and asked if I was feeling alright.

So this goes out to you, my dear, sweet, wonderful, blogging buddies....THANK YOU. Thank you for your support, your encouragement, and most important, your blessings and prayers. Someone up there heard you, and I will be forever grateful for your thoughtfulness.

...You'll never know how much. God bless each and every one of you.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

What Do We Deserve?

I would like to think that a lot of us wish well for our fellow human beings. That our general instinct would incline us to feel happiness when someone succeeds at something that they worked hard for and stayed honest about. That we would genuinely wish our fellow man good luck as they set off on a new venture that they’ve dreamed of for a lifetime. That we would be proud of a child who just got a dream job at the ripe, old age of 20.

The last scenario describes a situation involving my stepson. Let me state for the record: he is a gem. He has never given me or my husband an ounce of trouble. He’s responsible, respectful, and he has big dreams for his future. Any parent would be proud.

And proud we are. We do wish him the best and we do wish him success. However, something that he did—and moreover, something that he said—made me feel…how can I say it? Inadequate. Incompetent. Deficient, ineffective, imperfect—any one of these lacking words would fit. Sprinkle a small amount of resentment in for good measure. What was it that caused my soul to deflate just a little? He went out and bought himself a brand-new car. A nice car. And I’m proud…I really am. But he didn’t even start his new job yet…he hasn’t even started his training. I asked him if he was sure that he could handle the payments. He assured me that he worked it all out, and he should have absolutely no problem. And then he came up with a philosophy that is generally age-appropriate for him, but worrisome all the less: He said that he deserved it.

Now, in my lifetime, I have seen some pathetic, nasty people make gains and strides over others more “deserving” in areas of business, home and car purchases. On the other side of the coin, I have seen honest, hard-working individuals—most of whom would be considered to be people who “deserved” the best—end up with family issues, health concerns, and failed businesses. When my son said that he “deserved” to have that car, I immediately thought of myself and his father: two hard-working, sacrificing individuals ourselves who have tried and succeeded to blend a family and create a loving household. Yet we are driving second-hand cars. As a matter of fact, we are living in a house that’s many square feet too small. We struggle financially to stay afloat and to keep a roof over our kids’ heads. Don’t we “deserve” something nice? Is my son being arrogant, or is he merely just trying to justify why he made such a large purchase before he even knew if he was going to like his new job? Or is this the sad state of today’s youth: they honestly believe that they only “deserve” the best of everything, just for merely existing?

Quite honestly, he was working very hard at a company that his family members owned prior to attaining this new job. He learned the business, put his whole heart into it, and made the company a lot of money. However, all of his efforts weren’t really compensated. As a matter of fact, there were times he may have felt taken advantage of just because he was part of the family. So in the grand scheme of things—or at least in his own mind—he felt that he had really devoted himself to his work in the last two years, and if his higher-ups weren’t going to acknowledge him, he at least could acknowledge himself. He made the break from the family and set it in stone by buying the car—now he has to make this new job work. And he will, because that's the kind of kid he is.

Today I went to discuss surgery for an ovarian cyst with my doctor, a wonderful soul who I know for many, many years. As I sat down in his office and we began our discussion, the seriousness of my condition was becoming apparent. What I merely thought was a menstrual cyst gone wild seemed to be a major cause of concern for my doctor. He stated that he wanted an oncologist in the operating room with him and that after they removed my ovary (my ovary?), they would immediately biopsy it to see if there was any cancer (wait…you mean ovarian cancer?). If it was benign, everything was all good and they’d close me up. If not, they would have to remove both ovaries, fallopian tubes, my uterus, my cervix, peritoneal tissue, lymph nodes, and something called an omentum that I didn’t even know existed. And that would be that.

…Is this what I “deserve”? Where is my new car? Heck, where is my 5,000 square foot house in the mountains, full of servants to wait on me hand and foot??

Amazingly, I don’t feel resentful. I feel challenged. And I do know I “deserve” better…but maybe the art of going through a rough time with grace and strength and coming out on top makes all the physical, “deserved” things more appreciated.

…Or maybe we come to realize that they just don’t really matter at all.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Birthday House




Every once in a while, a memory will creep up on me like a kitten waiting to pounce on an unsuspecting mouse. Once it hits me, I am startled by what it evokes; actual thoughts and visions clear as day and feelings as powerful as if I only experienced them an hour ago.

Such a memory occurred to me last week for reasons unknown. Bits and pieces scattered throughout my mind of events that took place forty—yes, forty—years ago. I am talking of the time I appeared on Paul Tripp’s Birthday House.

Paul Tripp’s Birthday House was a live television show taped here in New York City. The first episode aired on Monday, April 1, 1963 and starred Mr. Tripp, who was “kid-TV’s” first educator. Several lucky kids in the metro area would come down to the “Birthday House” to celebrate their special day with such characters as “Mr. Knock Knock,” the birthday gift-giving closet and “Mrs. Oven” who would bake and present the kids’ birthday cake to them at the end of the show. As one of the show’s biggest fans, I was enamored with the different puppets, the pretty ladies who dressed and spoke so eloquently, the fun games the kids would play, and of course, the dapper Mr. Tripp himself.

You can imagine my surprise when one day in 1967, out of what seemed to be the clear, blue sky, a postcard handwritten by Paul Tripp arrived at my house and announced that I had been chosen to celebrate my birthday at “The Birthday House.” I knew every quirky character on that show. I had every song memorized by heart. I had every puppet in stuffed-animal form sitting on my bed. One would think that this would be the absolute highlight of my whole four years of life on this earth. Why, then, did I sit on the top of the steps and cry my eyes out? I can still see my mom sitting next to me, trying to convince me that I would have a wonderful experience, and saying over and over again, “…But isn’t this what you always wanted??” Well, yes, I thought it was. Until it became a reality.

The train ride into NYC was most likely my first, and so enjoyable that I can remember it with perfect clarity to this day. One of my parents asked me, “What does the conductor say before the train starts moving?”…and it was all over with. After my first “ALL ABOARD!” and the subsequent laughter and applause from every other passenger in our car, I was hooked on the attention. I must’ve said “All aboard” four hundred and fifty-seven times, much to the enjoyment of my parents and eventually to the chagrin of the passengers who sat there dreaming of ways to invent the impossible mechanism that could play all of their favorite music while they wore earphones so as not to have to listen to the annoying child one minute longer.

I only remember bits and pieces of being in the studio. At one point in the show, Mr. Tripp sat all the kids down on a small set of wooden steps. As I positioned myself up high in the back, I recall him asking us questions I can’t remember, but that I answered in unison with the other kids.

That, and the huge, prominent mole above his left eye.

I can honestly say that I could not remember that mole ever making an appearance on his show for even one brief second. But that day, there it was in all of its mole-ly glory, riding up and down on his eyebrow every time he excitedly told us a story or sung us a song. For reasons that are only valid to a four year old, the advent of that growth put me in a state of petrified fear and prevented me from participating in the rest of the show. Although I was present, I couldn’t take my focus off of it and constantly had to be redirected by one of the pretty, eloquent women, who seemed to be losing their graciousness and poise as each minute progressed. Before I knew it, Mr. Tripp was also turning into a regular human, and started to become curt with me as well. Where were all the perpetually, impossibly nice people that I saw every day on my television? Who were these people telling me where to stand, telling me how to act, and being…well…not nice to me??

I couldn’t take it anymore and did what any self-respecting four year old would do: I started to cry. And cry. And cry some more. So much so that my dad had to come and take me off the stage.

And there it was. My fifteen minutes of fame, over in five.

I don’t remember much after that. But I do remember watching the episode in my living room with my mom, who apparently forgot what events took place that day until she was reminded by viewing the footage. “Lisa!! Look at you!! You’re just standing there!! I can’t believe it—you nagged me and nagged me to be on that show, and you just stood there and did nothing!!” Believe it or not, I do remember feeling regret…probably for the very first time in my life. Why didn’t I move? Why didn’t I participate and sing along with the characters? Why was I afraid of the puppets that I adored when they were inside my TV set? Why can’t I just have another chance? Hey, now there’s an idea!! I’ll just go back on the show when I’m five. I’ll bet there’s not a mole around that can scare me when I’m five!

Well, of course, my mom didn’t think that was such a great idea. And ultimately, the show went off the air six months after my birthday anyway, so it wasn’t an option.


Most people I talk to do not remember "Birthday House." The internet doesn't supply much information, although the pictures I found almost brought me to tears from the memories (good tears and good memories). Hopefully, the next time I'm asked to be on a television show I'll be able to behave myself in a more mature manner. I think forty years can make a difference...




(Paul Tripp: 1911-2002. Rest in peace...thanks for the memories!)

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Somewhere Over the Wine-bow

We sat at the small table and picked up our menus, the awkwardness apparent but growing less dense as the minutes passed. I had given my brother Joe a $60.00 gift certificate to this small Italian restaurant for his 60th birthday. Being the frugal and fair man that he is, he refused to use it on himself and his wife, Janeard, unless Al and I went along—he felt that it was way too generous a gift, and would not accept no for an answer. We agreed to meet there on a Friday night when there was a live jazz guitar duo there, adding some evening ambiance to this otherwise bland little room that was actually the “restaurant side” of a pizzeria.

My brother and I have an odd history. Due to our sixteen-year age difference, and the fact that there were never any other children in between us that may have created some kind of bond, we were never particularly close. I’ve known Al for ten years, yet I can count the number of times that he and my brother have actually been in the same room together, let alone out to dinner. Over the course of his years, Joe seemed to drift away from our family and most of his friends. Where I am very forgiving almost to the point of being someone who is the equivalent of a throw rug, my brother tends to hold grudges in order to keep the wall around him impenetrable. Our differences are apparent in other areas as well: I have a varied taste in music; Joe basically can not understand why they even bothered to produce music after the early sixties. He does not understand the point of screaming a rock song or having a course called, “The History of Hip Hop” at our local university. I actually saw him cry for the first time the day Bobby Darren died.

…We won’t even get into the subject of movies. He's still reeling over the fact that they actually made "Mannequin 2."

Being that Al had to finish a job and was running late, we waited to order our meals until he showed up. Of course, we did not wait to order some wine. After tossing around whether we should buy a bottle of wine we had all never tried or just have a glass each of the house wine, we opted for the latter. This particular merlot was a fine choice for the three of us, being that we’re all lightweights when it comes to drinking alcohol. We sipped and chatted, and the minutes that passed seemed to take away any tense feelings that were present, turning them into fond sentiments full of shared memories and silly laughter. I do admit; it felt good to laugh like that with them. I truly began to wonder why it was that we hardly ever got together.

Al arrived, looking as handsome as ever, and ordered his usual Grey Goose martini with three olives. Joe laughed at him, openly wondering how Al could possibly handle drinking that “rocket fuel;” my brother admitted that he would be passed out under the table if he imbibed in one of those. With a few sips, Al caught up to our level of giddiness, and we all engaged in conversations ranging from “Casablanca” to the “most beautiful, perfect head of broccoli” that my brother ever saw in his life at a local farm stand.

After their break, the musicians noticed our lively, little table and upon their return, came over to inquire if we had any requests. Of course, Joe asked for “anything by Frank Sinatra,” and I requested their wedding song, “Happy,” by Bobby Darin. The lead guitarist told me that he wasn’t sure if he had ever heard of that song, but he promised he’d try to look for it in his song book. Joe told him that he probably wouldn’t find it, but that he’d be happy if he just played some classics. They went back to their guitars, and continued to play some wonderful, old standards that fit the atmosphere perfectly.

In the meantime, we were served our sumptuous dishes. We continued to eat, drink and chat as the music played on in the background. I’m not sure what it was that caught my attention, but as I took a break from talking, I noticed that the lead guitarist was softly playing “The Christmas Song.” I leaned over and looked at him, and he winked and smiled as if he knew I got the joke. Never one to keep my mouth shut and just let things be, I shouted out, “Hey!! You’re playing Christmas music!!” Al looked at me in bewilderment and snorted, “Are you crazy? Have another drink! They’re playing, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow!! How can you not know what they’re playing? You just made me watch that stupid Meg Ryan movie for the hundredth time last week, and they play it at the end of the movie!! Every time!!!” Chuckling, Joe and Janeard chimed in that yes, it was indeed “Over the Rainbow” and maybe we all had had a little too much to drink. I stopped to listen for a minute…and I immediately felt embarrassed. My goodness—they were indeed playing “Over the Rainbow.” I looked around to see how many other tables were filled with people who may have heard my drunken outburst, and I meekly uttered an “oops,” followed by, “Wow, this pasta dish is delicious!”

…”How about those Yankees?” probably would’ve worked better. I started to feel that the cobwebs were really taking over my middle-aged brain.

Recovering from the Christmas blunder, I decided to continue enjoying myself and my family. We had such a good time, we didn’t realize that the whole restaurant had cleared itself, and we were the last ones there. We got the check, and my brother opted for a quick bathroom visit. As we sat at the table to wait for him, the jazz duo packed up their guitars and headed in our direction toward the front door. They came over to us and apologized for not being able to find the song I had requested. We assured them that it was fine, and that their selections were just as enjoyable. With that, the lead guitarist looked at me and laughed, “I can’t believe you caught on that I was playing “The Christmas Song!” The rhythm man chimed in that he couldn’t believe it either—that they do this on occasion just to see if anyone is actually paying attention.

SCORE!! I excitedly jumped up from my seat to give them both a high five. “I knew I wasn’t crazy!!” I exclaimed. I turned to Al, who looked both surprised and relieved at the same time; surprised because he really didn’t hear it, and relieved that his wife was, indeed, not suffering from dementia. When Joe came back, he laughed with us as well and also seemed thankful that his sister was not just another loud-mouthed, drunken fool who’s inclined to random outbursts of nonsense. Actually, being a musician himself, I think he was actually disappointed that he didn’t hear that sneaky riff as well! As strange as it sounds, I really was relieved myself. There is something quite unnerving about being so certain of something, beyond the shadow of a doubt, and having everyone tell you otherwise. You can tend to feel a bit crazy.

One thing I am certain of is that I will have to do this again with them soon. Life is really too short to not get together with the ones you love!