Archive | January, 2018

Tripod Goes to Church

22 Jan

Yesterday as our Sunday morning service was drawing to a close & we began singing the final hymn of the morning, my thoughts went racing back 10 years to an individual who attended our church briefly during the spring & summer of 2008.  Our final hymn of the morning, God Will Take Care of You, always reminds me of him; that individual who brought so much joy & even a little bit of magic to our congregation.

I would later write a poem about him & that poem would even later be included in my very first book that was published in 2013. Of all the many poems I’ve written in my life, that particular poem has become one of my personal favorites & is the one poem from the book that readers never fail to comment on when they meet me & tell me they enjoyed it.

Because my memory still tingles as it always does when hearing that hymn yesterday & even though some of you may remember the poem if you’ve read my book, I wanted to share it again here as a blog entry. I simply wanted to share again … & with some of you for the first time … the “magic” this brief visitor brought to our church.

Of the subject of this poem, I hope he is still alive today; still delighting everyone he meets with his friendly, loving personality & still inspiring those with hope who find themselves disabled & with none. Mostly I hope he is still going to church …

Tripod Goes to Church

(August 3, 2008)

Tripod is an amputee,

who lives behind our church.

He greets us as we come and go

and doesn’t ask for much.

 

 

No one seems to know exactly

why he is disabled,

but he doesn’t let it slow him down;

his speed is the stuff of fables.

 

 

Lately as the service ends

and the doors are opened wide

he strolls into the narthex

then runs all the way inside.

 

 

He takes a seat down at the front

and stares up at the altar.

Through closing words and closing hymn

his attention doesn’t falter.

 

 

He’s always there on Sunday.

He seems the most devout.

While sitting at the altar

no one wants to toss him out.

 

 

He’s really quite a charmer.

Folks are bringing him cat food.

The choir sings as he’s walking out,

God Will Take Care of You

       So what happened to Tripod? He very abruptly stopped showing up at church and, as with any member who has been faithful and stops coming to services, the congregation was worried about him. Our minister, maybe going a bit above and beyond his duties, tried to find out the fate of our faithful cat.

It seems Tripod DID actually have a family that lived down the road and behind our church. The family relocated and, thankfully, took Tripod with them.

Putting an end to speculation about the fate of Tripod, our minister announced, “We can assume he’s going to another church.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Today the Fat Lady Sang …

11 Jan

10 years ago on September 19, 2008 my life changed forever. As my husband & I were very shortly to find out, that day also changed our lives as a couple.

I had been to the Mammography Center to have a follow-up mammogram after having a suspicious one. After its completion, the mammography physician told me to call my husband because she was 98% certain we were looking at a cancer. I called him & he came & stayed in the room with me while the doctor did the confirming biopsy.

There followed what seemed to be a never-ending round of appointments with doctors, blood work, exams, oncologists & radiology oncologists. I was poked & examined & tattooed by the radiologist & fitted for a bean bag device to hold me in the same position treatment after treatment when I began the 33 radiation treatments I was scheduled to have.

My husband, Willy, accompanied me on as many of those visits as he could & I told him … of the ones when he couldn’t be there … that EVERYBODY I saw, in office after office, wanted to examine my breasts. And so at some point I decided just to walk into the offices without introduction or preamble & expose them. In an effort to maintain my sense of humor (& my sanity) I told my husband that that had surprised the hell out of our dentist!

I would have 8 chemotherapy treatments over a 6 months period. I probably wouldn’t lose my hair (but I did). The choice whether to have chemo or not was up to me, with gentle encouragement from my oncologist who became my partner on my unexpected journey. Making the most difficult decision of my life, I decided to do it primarily because I wanted to do everything I could to give me a chance at the longest life possible because NOBODY loves life as much as I do. I also didn’t want to decide against it only to have my cancer rear its ugly head somewhere down the road. I wanted to know if that happened that I had done everything within my power to keep that from happening.

The 10 years since that September day in 2008 have been filled with fear, confusion, caring, difficulty, concern, the importance & support of friends, the loss of the friendship of a friend (a casualty of cancer), treatments, laughter, learning & finding out who I am. Together Willy & I learned to be strong & that it was OK for me to lean on him during those moments when I just wasn’t able to be. We learned that it is OK to cry & even to scream, as long as you don’t make a habit of it.

I learned important lessons about chemo … like saving my hair in a Walmart bag when it came out. When it came back almost a year later as white as snow, I had my “first” hair in that Walmart bag, which made it easier for a really good colorist to match. I also learned a lot about synthetic wigs & how not to lean close to a very hot oven when wearing one because they melt. I have so many stories …

There are so many things I learned during that year following September 19, 2008. When I began attempting to help other women as they went through their own frightening breast cancer experience & later when I began speaking to seminars about breast cancer, those experiences were vital to me &, as I began to realize, to the women to whom I spoke.

Of the main things I learned as I tentatively began my walk down that dark breast cancer path is that we have few choices when faced with cancer. We can either ball up in a corner & cry or attempt to make the best of what we’ve been handed. From the beginning I chose Door #2. That choice helped me AND everyone I have ever spoken to about the breast cancer journey because we never know what we can do until we try … & we never know how strong we are until we HAVE to be.

Following chemo & radiation life returned to a kind of normal … but never quite.  The experience had a profound effect of me & was an eye-opener. I became all too aware that we don’t always get second chances so I struck out on a new path … a path that ran parallel to the breast cancer road. I intended to do all the things I wanted to do but had been putting off.

I wrote a book & got it published.  I hosted a local cable television talk show for 6 years. I began speaking to groups & seminars about breast cancer, which began a new phase of my life in public speaking about a number of topics. As difficult as it is to imagine, I dug around & found a number of positives that were the direct result of the huge negative that breast cancer is.

During these past 10 years I’ve developed a very special relationship with my oncologist & the people in the oncology office. What started out as a strange & frightening place has been, for years now, more like a second home where I could depend on the caring of a large extended family. When I was still working at the hospital just within spitting distance of the Cancer Center, we all watched as the facility was built. I remember thinking how beautiful & functional it was going to be. I also remember thinking that I hoped I never had a reason to go there. Today as I left the Center following my appointment I realized I’d spent 10 years of my life there & if I had to have the cancer experience, there was no better place to have been.

Today, after all these years, my oncologist had “the talk” with me. He told me, “In September it will be 10 years since your diagnosis, your tumor was very small & you had no lymph node involvement. You are cured.”

And with those words, words that were once again life altering, he released me.

There was joy & sadness & hugging & tears shed with the office staff & as I was leaving, more tears shed with the people in the lobby of the facility. It was like graduation for a promising student & everyone was sharing my joy at having done well & having the OPPORTUNITY to move on … with life.

There’s that old saying, “It ain’t over until the fat lady sings.”

With deepest apologies to my oncologist … Today the Fat Lady Sang ……..

Fashion, Over-the-Knee Boots, and Stirrup Pants in the Attic

4 Jan

Entombed in our attic in several long boxes … like long-distance space travelers cocooned in cryounits & frozen in order to make the long voyage between planets, & more likely between galaxies, intact … are a couple dozen pairs of stirrup pants. Like those space travelers awaiting reanimation when they reach their destination, those stirrup pants have been peacefully & quietly resting, awaiting reanimation at the end of their journey when they re-emerge  in a time when stirrup pants have “come back in style.” They are occupying quality attic space because I use to love them & because my mother told me, almost since I popped out of the womb, “if you keep clothes long enough they will come back in style.”

What my mother failed to tell me & maybe even failed to realize herself were two very important rules:

  1. When those ancient garments DO come back in style, we may be too old to wear them, and
  2. Even if we’re not too old, the garments may have suffered unexpected “closet shrinkage” & we may not be able to squeeze our unexpectedly acquired bulk INTO them.

Knowing all that, however, didn’t stop me from carefully preserving those much-revered stirrup pants. (My husband calls my attention to them every year at Christmas when he stumbles over the boxes on his annual mission into the attic to retrieve our holiday decorations.)

My mom never had money to spend on a personal wardrobe. As a child of the aftermath of the Depression, she tended to buy a few quality pieces &, year-after-year, built her wardrobe around those several treasured things. When I came along, she had a reason & an excuse to enjoy fashion shopping; not for herself but for her baby girl child. Not realizing she was indulging herself, she dressed me fashionably from the days prior to my first baby steps until her death at age 84 when she STILL enjoyed purchasing & giving me the latest fashions at Christmas & birthdays. When I protested, she would answer, “Let me do this while I can. I may not always be able to.”

So the whole thing with me being highly attuned to fashion & loving clothes actually began when my mother dressed me as a small child, stood back a few steps, clapped her hands & said to me as we both looked in the mirror, “What will THEY say when THEY see you?”  It never occurred to my still-forming brain to ask who THEY were. If my mom said THEY would be ecstatic when they saw me all dressed up, then I assumed it must be true. Years later I told my husband this story & occasionally, when we’re dressed to go to an annual cocktail party or special event, he will look at me, smile a sly smile & say, “What will THEY say when they see you?” It always makes me laugh because I know he’s being very funny & complimentary at the same time but also because it reminds me of my mother & brings her closer to me in that moment.

So great was my mom’s fashion influence on me that, at age 5 when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, my answer would always be, “An archeologist or a model.”

 With that kind of background & “family history,” one would wonder why I chose a 38 year career as an Operating Room Registered Nurse. For all those years I wore exactly the same thing that all the other OR nurses wore, plus the doctors AND the orderlies. The “scrub fashions” went with the job & I was dedicated to the job, so perhaps I wasn’t too terribly damaged by those early years. One thing I know for sure is that NOBODY greeted any of us at 6:30 a.m. by saying, “What will they say when they see you?”

 After my early retirement & during the 6 years that I hosted a local cable television talk show, I did kind of make up for all those scrubs by using the show as an excuse to have a very healthy wardrobe. And there have been difficult times in my life when just going to my favorite store, trying on some special clothes & buying a few pieces made me temporarily forget my difficulties & rediscover myself. While I never felt obsessed with clothing, there have been those times when it gave me joy & shopping was cathartic.

A friend recently commented that I have quite an ability to put outfits together. So I told her the story about my mom & her fashion sense & also that, when I have time, I’m a use-to-be artist. Mixing colors always has come easy to me in my art & in my wardrobe. I always point out that I can’t add 2 and 2, & can’t sing a lick but I do take a bow in the areas where things just come easily for me.

So, like tracking the horse around the barn to get to the barn, here’s where this story is going ….

Way back in the late 80s, above–the-knee boots made an appearance on the fashion scene. They were there so briefly that I’m betting most fashion-conscious individuals were not even aware that they’d been & were gone like a flash in the pan. But I fell in love with them. For 30 years I’ve been thinking (lusting) about those above-the-knee boots. But just like my Mama predicted & told me, in 2017 they made a huge comeback into the fashion world & just about everybody was wearing them. I saw a pair of black ones but wouldn’t let myself try them on. I was remembering Rule #1 & decided my time for above-the-knee boots had sadly passed.

After slightly over a month I went back to the store & tried on the boots & I was in love. I bought the black over-the-knee boots, telling myself they were tasteful & that life is too short & too unpredictable  NOT to have a pair of black suede over-the-knee boots, even if I WAS older.

So comfortable & warm were those black boots that I decided I’d like to have a pair of burgundy ones. My husband suggested I look on Amazon.com because they usually have some of everything AND our club would receive a portion of the sale if I found something I liked through the AmazonSmile program.

I found the perfect burgundy boots & placed my order in mid-November. Arrival was to be December 29, which seemed like quite a while. As I was able to track the boots I realized they were coming from Shanghai.  I should have checked earlier because I prefer buying ‘Made in America’ products but the order had been placed, the picture of the boots showed them as beautiful burgundy & our club WAS receiving a portion of the sale, so what could go wrong, huh? Well ….

A month & a half later, after Christmas, my boots arrived from Shanghai in a slightly misshapen box. It’s a long way to Shanghai & they obviously had taken a slow boat from China. I tore into the box.

Opening the lid I was startled … & shocked … to find that the perfect burgundy boots were a shocking shade of red … later to be named “Hootchie Red” by me because that’s what they looked like … more on my feet / legs than simply folded in the box… & the fact that my husband laughed & offered me $20 to cook dinner in them.

I wrote the company telling them the boots, while extremely comfortable & stylish were NOT the burgundy they were advertised as being but were, instead, shockingly the brightest red ever known to man. They responded immediately, telling me they had “experienced that complaint before.”  They offered to refund me half the price of the boots & said I could keep them because, “returning them to China was troublesome” (remember that slow boat???)

 So I slept on the offer … & the boots, kinda. The first thing I did when I got up was to look at the boots. Unbelievably, they seemed even BRIGHTER red in natural daylight than they had the evening before in house light. I wrote back to the company. I thanked them for their generous offer but declined, asking for my money back & telling them I would return the boots. Although, with just regular calculating it occurred to me that I could cook dinner in those “Hootchie Red Boots” for Willy just 3 times & make back almost the full price of those “on sale” boots. But I thought better of it. I’d still have the boots that would remind me of China & hootchies on the corner & sometimes I might be asked to cook dinner in them when I’d only planned to fix hot dogs.  It all just seemed like too much.

The company wrote back telling me they would refund my money in full but since returning the boots to China remained, “troublesome,”  I could keep the boots in exchange for a good evaluation with Amazon.com for service, if not for product. I agreed but told the company that I still had no use for the blaze red boots & would donate them to our club’s annual charity auction where whatever money they made would go towards funding our local charities. It seemed like a win-win solution & the company agreed.

Although those bright red boots were very stylish & extremely comfortable, they are back in the box & have been added to the 2 auction donations we already have for our August 2018 Charity Auction. Someone younger will love those boots & be able to get away with the bright red color, where the more mature me could never pull it off so well.

I’m not sure even my fashion-forward mother would have stored those hootchie red boots away waiting for them to become stylish.  And even though I still have them, I am certain they will sell at the auction.

In the meantime, with apologies to my mama, I have given away all my size 12 clothes that I loved, to a friend who has lost a full clothing size on a diet. And if anything good has come out of my losing a clothes size myself this past year while I struggled with an illness, it’s been that … with THANKS to my mama … I’ve had a wonderful time replacing my wardrobe with a smaller size. My cholesterol is squatting at “normal,” & I certainly have enjoyed shopping.

Meanwhile, those stirrup pants are still in cryosleep in the attic, where they will probably remain for another 30 years. I DID buy a lovely pair of burgundy, over-the-knee boots that are easy to add to a tasteful outfit & I doubt they will ever find themselves in cryosleep in the attic. ….

And so in the attic, 2 dozen pairs of stirrup pants are awaiting reanimation in the year 2048.