The Quiet Room

7 Mar

The room is lovely; serene & conducive to quiet speculation or whispered communication. The swirls in the mint green carpet complement the upholstery on the chairs, the hardwood sections of the floor & the paintings that adorn the walls. Even with the obvious hand of a decorator, it remains a nondescript room for waiting but adds some of the comforts of home like fresh coffee in a coffee maker, a small refrigerator stocked with canned drinks & little baskets filled with cheese crackers & various other cracker snacks.  A large flat screen TV hangs on the wall, its audio kept at a somewhat subdued level for those who are inclined to watch. Significantly, there is a box of tissues on the coffee table.

This morning there are 12 of us filling most of the seats. It is quiet & we don’t immediately speak; faces lost in thought; eyes seeing some far away image of a life well lived or a child waiting to be loved. Most of all there is sadness; not only in the eyes of those sitting & waiting, but it seems to hang on the well-appointed wallpaper, left there from years of women who have gone before us this morning & waiting to be brought to life by some memory or word that has been said there far too many times before.

We’re all wearing the same thing – our uniform; a long hospital gown made of the same fabric tied in the front….except for the elderly woman to my right who has tied her gown in the back in the usual way unable to understand that here we wear them differently. We tied them in the front for easy access & there’s something sad about that, too.

We’re all sharing space in this room together because of a similar condition. This is the Breast Imaging Center & it’s not the place most women go to get their annual mammograms.  On the contrary … this is where we go to get follow-up mammograms when the original one we got is somehow defective or irregular or abnormal. This is why we share the silence today & the hollow-eyed vacancy of a stare with tears & fear just rippling under the surface.

Some of us are here for the first time. Some of us are repeat attenders … we’ve gone down that breast cancer road & from that day forward we have come & will continue coming to this place for our annual mammograms because we are survivors hoping to continue to be just that – survivors. We are somehow forever different & we gather here annually to check & recheck our status, hoping for the best.

Because this is soon to be my 9th. year of survivorship, I break the palpable silence. This isn’t my first rodeo but I can look around the room & almost guess whose it is. Even more women have entered the room & taken a seat wearing our uniform. The eyes are a bit more frightened, a bit more haunted, a bit more filled with longing & sadness. I know what’s going on in the minds behind the eyes. I’ve been there… but today I say, “There couldn’t be any women in Lynchburg today because we’re all here.” There’s laughter & even gratitude in some of the faces … gratitude for hearing one of us speak & leading the way to conversation.

We all have such unique stories about how & why we’ve ended up here this morning together & some of us begin to share them … to break the ice … to reach out to our sisters because that is who these women & I have become. Sisters in the fight against breast cancer. One woman observes, “Women really have a lot to deal with” & we all agree….because we’re HERE.

In time some of us begin to tell our stories or ask to hear someone else’s. There’s comfort in numbers, whether sharing a similar experience or learning from listening to the telling of one by others.

Our circle, like our numbers is fluid. We begin with 12, then 15, then 9 as we are called individually to have our mammograms. Some are annual mammograms like me who are there because we are survivors & regular mammogram centers don’t process us anymore. Others are first-timers; there to follow-up on a suspicious mammogram with another mammogram & possibly an ultrasound that will change their lives forever.

I remember being at that stage & I say a prayer that today’s mammogram will be unchanged. I say additional prayers for my new found sisters who will receive life-changing news this afternoon, regardless whether it is positive or negative. Just crossing the threshold of this room today for the first-timers is a life changing experience. For those with bad news, that life changing news will catapult them into another realm where they will be tested as to strength & durability as they tentatively begin their journey down the breast cancer road. For those who are negative & have only experienced a scare, life at mammogram time will forever be tainted with more fear … fear of the “what ifs” & the unknown.

Today I am relieved that my annual mammogram is unchanged. I’ve been here so many times that the staff is more like friends than ‘staff & patient.’ I am hugged by one of the mammography doctors. She is my friend after these many years & she knows, like I know that she & I are sisters & part of that sisterhood of women threatened by breast cancer. As we hug we silently rejoice in the knowledge that today we are both free of that darkest of passengers.

My husband is waiting for me, his brow creased with worry until he sees me & I smile. He tells me how worried he’s been & he kisses me. He gives me a yellow dandelion he’s picked for me because he doesn’t have real flowers. I take it gratefully because it is a treasure & a symbol of the goodness of the day.

On the way out of the building a woman rushes up to me smiling. She & I sat side by side in the waiting room, sharing stories of our illness, which resulted in sharing stories of our courage with a sister who understands.

I tell her I am OK & she tells me she is, too. We hug as though we’ve known each other for ever, but that’s what sisters do. I introduce her to my husband & they shake hands. She is beaming.

We exchange names & promise to keep in touch through Facebook.

She leaves before we do & there’s a spring in her step … a good news spring & I wonder if I have that same step … but I’m sure I do.

This morning the size of my family has increased & that both makes me glad & saddens me. I’m glad to have shared a moment in time with a waiting room full of special woman but my heart aches for every one of us who has ever or will ever hear those words, “You have breast cancer.”

Before my new friend leaves, I tell her I hope all the women we shared the morning with are cancer free & she agrees, even though we both know that is unlikely. We HOPE because our family circle has increased & we want the best for all of them … our new sisters.

And so we HOPE ….

 

Background Music

27 Feb

Hollywood Indians are coming over the hill, blazing arrows precisely aimed & fired at the canvas covers of the wagons that are in a circle at the bottom of the ravine. Just in the nick of time the cavalry comes riding over that same hill & saves the day. The only thing better than flaming arrows, cowboys, Indians, a wagon train in distress & salvation just at the right time is the background music. What would that scene be without it?

We’ve grown up with background music. Movies & early television depended on it to set just the right mood … or tone … of a scene or film. We take it so for granted that, if asked, I’d bet 90% of us couldn’t describe the exact music that was playing during our most favorite episode of The Walking Dead. Well, maybe not The Walking Dead because that background music doesn’t change much, but most shows meld the music so well into the scene we hardly notice that it’s there. What we WOULD notice is if it weren’t. I can’t imagine background music simply not being there. It builds to a blaring crescendo at just the right moment, encouraging our pulse to race in anticipation of what will be at the end of that startling bit of music. We may not notice it, but subliminally we do & it helps push the plot along.

On the other hand, the National News at 6 & 11 has no background music at all but maybe it doesn’t need it. The News is frightening enough without background music scaring us to death along with the narrative.

Did you ever think about our lives & especially our personal drama being enhanced by background music? Would washing dishes & cleaning up the kitchen after a big holiday meal be more easily done with a little soothing background music? And just what type of music would be good for kitchen clean-up … or for bathroom cleaning, for that matter? Music that whips us into a cleaning frenzy or lulls us into methodically doing a really good cleaning job & making sure the porcelain sparkles under that toilet rim?

I’m wondering what type of background music should accompany me frantically searching for my car keys when I’m late for an important appointment, only to find the cat has coughed up a furball on the hardwood floors. The furball has to be cleaned up before I leave the house or it will discolor the hardwood. I imagine a frantic score with lots of drum rolls & maybe cymbals & if I happen to find my lost car keys under the furball yak, I wonder how the music would change.

Standing in the grocery store check-out line waiting for the woman in front of me to whip out, check & give to the clerk no less than 4000 coupons, half of which went out of date in December 2010, I can imagine that ominously audible background music. It includes drums sounding a heartbeat staccato that increases as my blood pressure rises right along with my heart rate. I believe the music would be distracting but it could possibly be a stress reducer by lowering my blood pressure while I’m trying to figure out what the song is & separate it from that annoying, overhead elevator music playing in the grocery store. My ears are exploding!

There definitely would be whole selections of pulse-pounding music to choose from. There would also be, out of necessity, soothing, soft, ‘waves breaking on the shore’ selections to use at our most vulnerable times.

I’d need music to get me through struggling into a pair of support pantyhose only to find a run in the heel after finally getting them situated in just the right position. THAT music should be racy until the heel run is discovered when it should, if it’s good background music worth its salt, slow down to a heartbeat-dropping lullaby that is listed in the “Stroke Prevention” category.

Dealing with children would call for one type of background music while dealing with teenage children would be something else entirely. The possibilities boggle the mind.

I’m betting that in our most intimate moments … off screen … seldom do any of us at the end of that interlude tell our spouse or partner, “Now that would have been 10 times better with a little background music” (we pick our battles ….)

The idea of background music just came to me out of the blue today. Maybe it came because of some subtle background music that was on TV as I was making up the bed or fixing lunch. Whatever got me thinking led me to try to consider what kind of music, playing subtly in the background of my life, would there be at different mundane, exciting, tedious & obviously fascinating moments as I tiptoe through a normal day.

Now I can’t stop thinking about it & trying to consider just what perfect background music would be the defining score for cleaning the litter box.

Since I’ve thought about it & shared it with you I am pleased that there will be several of us thinking about this for days on end & dealing with the accompanying “brain itch,” much like getting an old song stuck in your head whether you like it or not. There’s comfort in numbers.

I’m going to go to the kitchen now to decide what to fix for dinner. I’m sure, like a good phone app, there’s background music for that.

Thank you for reading & have a nice day (Who Let the Dogs Out? … )

who-let-the-dogs-out

In the Company of Astronauts

17 Feb

It was still early but already a small crowd was gathering in the gallery on Main Street. Lovely photographs on canvas adorned all 4 walls; pictures in vivid colors of a snow fence in a field in summer & a second of the same fence on a snowy winter day; a church steeple & many pictures taken from the vantage point of the space shuttle or the International Space Station.

A man stood by holding a picture of himself with 2 other people. One was a woman who had previously autographed the photo & the other was the man the gathering crowd was waiting to see & hear when the program began at 5:30. I assumed that the man with the photo was hoping to get the other side of the picture autographed before the evening ended.

We stood at the front of the crowd. We’d gotten there first & I wasn’t about to lose that front row seat … well, stand, since there was no seating at the event.

I’ve been a part of science fiction for many years; starting a local club 33 years ago that is still going strong & having been to conventions & conferences in numbers too great to remember over the years. My husband & I have even seen & met at least 2 astronauts but tonight was different & so was the astronaut we were about to see.

52-year-old NASA astronaut, Leland Melvin was showing a collection of his photography at the gallery & speaking about his life as part of Black History Month. It was an event that was quietly publicized, which led to fewer than 100 people attending, but that was good.  There was no push of the crowd to get closer so we were comfortable, even though standing, & the event took on a more personal feeling.

Melvin came into the gallery right on time. He was tall & smiling & seemed like someone we’d known for at least a decade.

He began by telling us about his life … growing up & some of the hardships he faced as a young black man. He told us about playing football for the local high school & his career as an athlete (he is the only person drafted into the National Football League to have flown in space). He showed us pictures, including the cover for his new book that will be released in May; Chasing Space. He charmed us with tales of how he became an astronaut & the many joys of that part of his life. He said he would volunteer in a heartbeat to be part of a Mars mission.

Melvin was serious & nostalgic & he was funny. The hour passed much too quickly.

I had an opportunity to tell him that our science fiction club, through an inordinate amount of fundraising, has sent 9 local middle school kids to Space Camp. This year we will be sending student number 10. He seemed very excited about that, as we are, & said Space Camp is a great beginning for young people who may eventually become the astronauts of tomorrow.

What sets Leland Melvin apart from all the other NASA astronauts that are & have been part of our nation’s space program is that Melvin was born & raised right here at home. He played football at our local high school & went to the same movie theaters, skating rinks & restaurants that we did. He isn’t just a visiting celebrity passing through town, showing his photography at a local gallery & speaking during Black History Month. He is home folks. He is US. And that’s what made this night at the gallery so very special.

After Melvin’s presentation ended, I did see the man with the picture approach Melvin & I saw him autograph it. The picture was of Melvin standing on the left side of the man & on the right side stood a woman who had already autographed the picture. She holds a very special place in our nation’s space history as a recruiter of minorities. Years ago she recruited Sally Ride.

For me it was especially exciting seeing the picture & seeing it to completion. I’d met that special woman on several occasions & understood how important it was to the man to have Leland Melvin complete the picture with his autograph added to that of Nichelle Nichols – Star Trek’s Lieutenant Uhura. It somehow made the evening more than special.  It made it MAGICAL.

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Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, dog  nichelle

Fifty Shades of Grey(s)

5 Feb

After we made a definite decision to make our house our “forever home;” to do away with any notion we entertained when we were younger of building a home for our retirement on 5 acres of property that we own & that is paid for, I went methodically ahead at planned intervals with adding a new & upgraded master bath, doing a total renovation of our outdated kitchen &, our most recent project, adding a large sunroom. If we were, indeed, going to stay here literally until the end of time … or until the end of OUR time anyway, I wanted to make our home as user friendly as possible while continuing to be the one place in this world I truly preferred to be. As it’s turned out, the sunroom addition in 2014 has become one of my happiest places.

The sunroom is large … big enough for a recumbent bicycle, an elliptical trainer, & an assortment of plants. The room also accommodates a full-sized sofa, 2 leather chairs, an occasional chair & a bar-height dining table & 4 tall chairs. The table & chairs are directly in front of a large expanse of glass & give diners the best seat in the house.

Most days when I’m home & on weekends when we’re both here we have breakfast & lunch in the sunroom. It overlooks the back yard & the woods & we have private stadium-like seating watching wildlife, & especially deer wandering through the yard, unaware of our presence in the grandstand. We have even watched, to my amazement, a family of deer lie down in the snow in the woods on a wintery afternoon.

Watching the seasons change through those sunroom windows while having breakfast has become one of my truest joys. Recently I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast watching the snow fall outside those windows. With no television & no radio in that lovely room, it literally was as quiet as falling snow.

This morning, just 8 days away from Valentine’s Day & a little less than 30 degrees outside, I took my breakfast to the sunroom table & sat in the warmth of the room watching puffy white clouds streaming past the bluest morning sky at the highest window point in the room. No deer this morning, but the yard was alive with squirrels; another section of the wildlife spectrum that charms us, with the possible exception of the 2 years a family of them lived in our attic, defying us daily & all through the night to evict them.

What caught my attention on this brisk & beautiful morning were a couple of grey squirrels balancing on a twig of a branch extending from the limb of a large, leafless poplar tree. Instead of their usual gymnastics, the pair was engaged in a dance ritual as old as time. They were mating … & I was mesmerized.

While it wasn’t entirely the squirrel biology that fascinated me, the unstable logistics of the exercise WAS. There was a lot of scampering & twirling & hang-gliding off that spindly branch &, in turn, a lot of flexing of the bark. The branch seemed to be precariously attached by a thread to the limb & there was a heck of a lot of movement. It boggled the mind just how any creature could carry such an important biological mission to completion under those tentative circumstances. And it was very cold this morning.

So, yes, I DID watch until the grey squirrels had completed their mission, against the many odds of nature on this crisp morning.  It was a lesson in tenacity, determination, danger, possibly love & maybe a rite of early spring.

When I went back into the kitchen, breakfast dishes in hand, Willy asked why I was in the sunroom so long when we were obviously going to be late for church if I didn’t hurry. When I told him about the squirrel play, he accused me of being a “Squirrel Voyeur,” even though I explained it was not the act that kept my attention but the many impediments the squirrels faced in accomplishing it. Ever the romantic, I explained it was sort of like a novel of forbidden love that leads the characters down many twisted arteries & limbs but somehow they manage to consummate the relationship … no matter how weird, aberrant, deviant & against all odds.

Willy just looked at me ……….

He googled, “Grey Squirrel Reproduction” & found out February is one of their most prolific months for “getting it on,” so this morning’s squirrels were right on time & apparently, right on target.

Willy & I have a checkered history with our neighborhood squirrels. We’ve fed them in winter & reluctantly housed them in our attic for 2 years while exterminators came & went, unable to find a humane means of evicting them. They’ve made attic nesting places among the limbs of our artificial Christmas tree to store their nuts & scratched the attic sheet rock to shreds in several places. Now I have witnessed their mating ritual & was blown away … not by the act, but by how, with a little ingenuity, they overcame pretty tremendous odds. My respect for them ebbs & flows …

In the world of the grey squirrels, we’ve witnessed at least 50 Shades of Grey(s) …

juvenilegraysquirrel

 

Encouragement

17 Jan

I mostly enjoy writing blog entries that are amusing in some way if not downright funny. I like making people laugh. I especially enjoy recalling events & incidents that have made ME laugh & sharing them  … but occasionally something serious comes along that really makes me think & I want to share it.

Just inside the large double doors of our church, the “greeter” Sunday morning handed us the bulletin with a smile. On the front of the bulletin in large bold letters were the words, “Encouragement is Awesome” & the message, “It can actually change the course of another person’s day.”

The minister’s message was also, “Encouragement.”

During the message that touched on many kinds of “encouragement” & how it can affect our lives, he also mentioned how negative messages can also change our lives. But his main message was about how encouragement affects us & he asked the congregation to think about personal encouragement we have received & how it may have been life changing. While he engaged us, he wasn’t actually asking for individual responses to his question but, instead, encouraged us all to reflect on those specific personal moments of encouragement that have been a large part of who we are.

The very first thing that popped into my mind was being told, “You have breast cancer.”

It’s unlikely that such negative news could hold anything even vaguely connected to encouragement, yet for me, it did. It wasn’t immediate, though, & not for a while.

After receiving the diagnosis & that awful news, I was totally overwhelmed. The first few months that included breast conserving surgery & my first 2 chemotherapy treatments I was existing in a fog that included confusion, disbelief & fear. It was a very dark time.

Two months following my first chemo treatment & the loss of my hair I began working on putting together my club’s 24th. Anniversary Party. Even with my husband’s help I wasn’t sure how I was going to do that around chemo treatments & my continuing confusion.

As I got into working on the party & attempting to be creative I decided that we needed to build a backdrop related to the theme of the party for people to stand in front of to have their pictures taken at the event.  Building the party around a Star Trek theme, from there I had an idea & told my husband, “We’re going to build a Holodeck!”  And so on the weekends when I didn’t have a chemo treatment, we DID build it.

As the Holodeck took shape so did my determination NOT to let the cancer change me or stop me from doing the things that made my life the joy that it was & had been before that awful diagnosis.

So how did that awful, negative statement, “You have breast cancer” become the huge encouragement that it was?

After completing the Holodeck & enjoying the party my determination grew. While completing chemo & 33 radiation treatments I had a bit of time to do a lot of serious thinking. I thought about all the things I’d hoped to do with my life; a number of them that I had put off, telling myself I could do them later. That frightful diagnosis brought home to me the fact that we really aren’t promised tomorrow & if there is something we’d like to do, we need to do it now. We may not have second chances.

Consciously & perhaps a bit unconsciously I made a mental list of things I still wanted to do with my life. It wasn’t anything I called a “Bucket List” because it really wasn’t like wanting to fly a helicopter or wrestle an anaconda or see the Northern Lights while standing at the top of the North Pole. My mental list consisted of using the talents I’d been given & enjoying them while I still had time.

Some of what I was able to accomplish & check off my list simply fell into my lap. I was offered a chance to host a local television talk show on an independent Comcast channel. For years people had told me I should be doing a TV talk show because of my sense of humor & ease in interacting with people, so when the opportunity came along I only had to think about it a few days before I signed the contract.

With the help & encouragement of a published author from New Zealand that I met through a friend on Facebook, I wrote a book. It took me 2 years but I did it & included another seldom used talent. I did the illustrations for the book & laid out the cover myself. It was a labor of love shared with my author friend from New Zealand who guided me through the process until the book was published.

I began speaking to seminars & groups about breast cancer, hoping I could make the journey through that darkness somehow easier for those facing their own dark journey.

Today I have realized most of what was on my list & have done just about everything I’ve ever hoped to do with my life. I am blessed.

I was especially blessed to host the Lynchburg Live television talk show for 6 years until the studio closed its doors due to increasing production costs. I realized that dream &, in the process, met some amazing people & brought attention to causes & concerns locally that eventually, & in some cases, made life more fulfilling for many of my viewers. It was one of the most exciting & rewarding times of my life.

Today I am a freelance writer. I’ve been published in several magazines, in our local newspaper & in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Nurses. I’m writing this blog & it’s the most enjoyable writing that I do. Even though I don’t get paid for it, it’s an opportunity to share my thoughts & experiences with those who wish to read it. I am able to share MYSELF.

My book was remarkably well received. I received notes & emails from readers that brought me to tears. My goal for the book was never to make a specific amount of money but was, instead, that it resonated in some personal way with my readers & touched them on some personal level that we shared.

Not only do I still speak to seminars & groups about breast cancer, I also speak about fundraising, being a professional woman & various nursing topics. No longer afraid to speak publicly, I’ve found joy in speaking about those things about which I am passionate.

Because of that terrifying news, “You have breast cancer” & an unexpected determination, I have been able to do all those things I’d wanted to do but never really thought I could. It was a negative ‘kick in the pants’ that opened my eyes to the joys of using my talents. It also opened my eyes to the joys around me … the beauty of spring & fall, the quiet of a rainy day, the joys of having breakfast in the sun room on a snowy morning. I saw those things before but not with the depth & appreciation I see them now.

So when our minister asked us to reflect about our most positive encouragement & my first thought was being given the frightening news that I had cancer, it made me think back to how those events unfolded. I wanted to share how sometimes the most unexpected, terrifying negative news can be our greatest encouragement. It goes hand-in-hand with, “Never give up …”

Our minister is new with us this year & he is young but sometime when he has a moment I want to tell him this story & tell him how his sermon led to my response & eventually this blog entry.

We never know what we can do until we try. And we never know how strong we are until we HAVE to be …

 

conference psych may 2016 14

Building Character

7 Jan

If drama, like adversity, builds character, then I’ve got enough “character” to last a lifetime. When you get a sustained bunch of both at the same time, well, I’m not sure what that builds, but I’ll let you know.

I think it all started when I didn’t get my flu shot. I haven’t gotten the flu but I think not getting the shot is when things started to go south & this winter became “The Winter of My Discontent.”

I kept forgetting to make an appointment with my doctor’s office to get a flu shot & I definitely was NOT going to the same local pharmacy where I got the shot last year. The pharmacist who “administered” my shot also administered to me, as his captive audience, tales of his divorce, child support & what lessons he learned from his dad as a growing boy. It wasn’t that his stories were dull. On the contrary, they might have been spell-binding were he not sticking a needle in my arm. At the end of the injection he removed the needle & kept talking while continuing to squeeze my arm. I quickly stuck my finger over the injection site & applied pressure to keep the serum from leaking out & running down my arm … as it had started to do just as the pharmacist began wrapping up his tale. I didn’t want to run the risk of getting THAT particular pharmacist again unless I had a free afternoon & most of an evening.

November was a flurry of activity. Our club was planning, & eventually constructing our float entry for the local Christmas Parade. As club president, I was right there “constructing” while also planning the Annual Christmas Party for our chapter & I was looking forward to an early December cocktail party.  I’d bought a fabulous new dress.

So I didn’t get the flu shot but the last of November, when I’d planned to make an appointment to GET the flu shot & didn’t, what I DID get instead was a month-long attack of a G.I. condition that started in 2009 … way back when I was getting chemo for breast cancer. I’m used to getting those attacks several times a year but this one started on November 30 & lasted the entire month of December.

Fortunately, as truly miserable as the attacks are, they were spaced so I was able to be in the parade, go to our club’s Christmas Party & eat a wonderful Christmas dinner, minus my homemade pecan pie that would have had Martha Stuart drool with envy. Missing the cocktail party was disappointing but one out of several wasn’t bad.

To make a long story short, I’ve spent a lot of quality time recently with my gastroenterologist. He has had a thoughtful look at all of my bloodwork (normal), biopsies (normal) & my anatomy literally from the inside out. With one more test left to do I’m hoping to find a resolution to this on-going problem because I simply don’t have another body part or square inch of flesh … inside or out … to be examined. I can only hope …

I’ve lost 12 pounds during this on-going experience & my diet has mostly consisted of BLAND  … grits, potatoes, rice, oyster crackers, green beans, Jello & an occasional chicken breast baked in the oven – no seasoning, no marinade. I wouldn’t recommend this as a weight loss program. I’m starving! I hope the “babbling pharmacist” is having a better month.

So things settled down to a routine … kind of bland like my diet … until last weekend when I was standing at the kitchen sink looking out the window. I noticed our neighbor walking what looked like a new white, kind of fat dog on a leash. The animal took off at a trot past the mailbox, pulling on the leash, headed across the street seemingly intent on terrorizing our across-the-street neighbor’s dog. She yelled, ran into the yard & scooped up her dog while the woman next door pulled on the leash. I was thinking how our next door neighbors really didn’t need to add yet another animal to their menagerie. Their 2 dogs (that seem more like 10) have not stopped barking since they bought the house next door a year & a half ago.

I kept watching & noticed that the animal on the leash was not a dog at all … wasn’t even vaguely canine, but was, instead a white pig. Yes, of course I blinked to see if I was seeing what I was seeing … you don’t even have to ask me that question.

I called Willy on the intercom & told him about the pig. His response was, “You’ve been sick a long time & I’m sorry it’s affecting you like this.” I told him to come upstairs & see for himself, which he did & eventually admitted that it was, indeed, a pig. For at least 30 minutes we went from window to window with cameras trying to get a photo of the porcine pet, but to no avail. That pig is way talented at staying behind the shrubbery & avoiding the paparazzi.

I’m not really sure, even considering the shock value, that a neighbor walking a pig on a leash is “drama,” but it does speak volumes about how little it takes to amuse Willy & me. I’m blaming that mostly on my being sick for a while & us not getting out much lately. Mostly I’m blaming it on that pharmacist & his rather annoying stories that have kept me from getting my flu shot & probably included a pig on a leash somehow.

Jumping ahead to our biggest drama lately … Last night Willy started a fire in the woodstove in our family room. It snowed all night last night & half of today so the air was heavy & dense & a gusty downdraft forced a rather huge cloud of smoke out of the stove around the closed door. It was a freaky thing. I started closing doors to keep the smoke from reaching our smoke alarms but was too late & that awful alarm went off, piercing the night & sending the cat as far under the bed as she could go. We have ADT Security & Fire Alarm Protection but with no call from ADT I figured I’d disarmed the system in time.  Willy had turned on ceiling fans & opened a window.

But much like that old familiar, recently read story, “The Night Before Christmas,”  I disarmed the alarm & was turning around when a fireman landed on our porch with a bound.

ADT had called the fire department & they responded immediately.

We invited the fireman in, told him our story & while he was in the family room checking out the stove, a second fire department vehicle arrived followed by the hook & ladder truck; lights twirling & blazing, lighting up the neighborhood. Thankfully, there was no siren. That would have certainly disturbed our neighbor’s new pig.

Everything checked out, we apologized & the fire department (half of them were in front of our house) said they would rather respond to something like that than a real fire.

I finally coaxed the cat out from under the bed with cat treats. She’s a pussy for a treat.

This morning I heard from a couple of neighbors who realized what had happened & who let me know they were glad there wasn’t a real fire. I told them it was the pharmacist’s fault & advised them never to let him give them a flu shot.

So I’ve been thinking about drama & character-building & here are the conclusions I’ve come up with:

  1. My glass is half FULL – we didn’t have a fire
  2. ADT really ROCKS!
  3. I got to do most of what I wanted to do at Christmas, even though I was sick
  4. My beautiful cocktail dress will look even better on my 12 pounds slimmer body even though my face looks like a refugee
  5. If you THINK you see someone walking a pig on a leash, even if you can’t get a picture & you’re not drunk, it probably IS a pig on a leash
  6. Most cats are pussies for treats
  7. I have enough character to last several lifetimes
  8. AND … Never EVER get a flu shot from a pharmacist who is a story-teller, even if he’s walking a pig on a leash at the time.

pharmacist

Christmas Nostalgia & the Pig

4 Dec

It’s been an unusual few weeks. Our club has been working on our float entry into the local Christmas Parade; a project very close to my heart. It gives our members an opportunity to be creative TOGETHER … to laugh & even curse a little during moments of frustration as the project takes shape. It’s all good.

On Wednesday before the parade on Friday night, I got sick with a debilitating GI bug. Fortunately I was better by Friday & was able to be in the parade & enjoy that special, freezing moment on the float with friends when you just know all that effort making the float … well, float … was worth it.

Saturday morning I woke up sick again. I remarked to Willy that God must have understood just how important it was to me to be in the parade on that special float. I was grateful for that small miracle.

I so enjoy going to church during the Christmas season. Last Sunday, at our minister’s request, Willy & I lit the first advent candle. Even though I still felt bad today, I struggled to go to church … because that’s where I wanted to be.

The sanctuary is lovely during December. Wreaths with red ribbons hang on windows & doors & this morning the Chrismon Tree had been decorated & was brought to lighted life just before the second Advent Candle was lit by Betty & Bill. The sanctuary smelled of Christmas & cookies … truly a gift of the season.

We sang an old Christmas carol; a favorite from my childhood & I not only got rows of chills on my arms, I had to swallow back tears. They weren’t tears of sadness but tears of remembrance of being a child at Christmas in my great grandfather’s old church in North Carolina. I never knew him & was born many years after his passing but he founded that church & it was as much “home” to me as the house we shared with my grandmother.

Singing that carol flashed many a Christmas memory through my mind’s eye of Christmases in that old church, the smells of baking & real Christmas trees, the “visceral feeling” of joy at having family come from several states to share that special time.

Sometimes a song & especially a hymn in church will bring back that kind of emotional nostalgia that is so personal & beautiful. I’m glad whatever is necessary to bring about that kind of reaction is part of who I am.

There was a small girl in church with her grandparents this morning with big eyes nestled in a sweet face that was haunting. I told my husband she looked like a waif & should be selling matches somewhere on a corner. He didn’t know the Little Match Girl story & ‘Goggled” it during communion. The female Google voice began speaking, telling him matter-of-factly the Hans Christian Anderson story while he frantically attempted to silence it as the wine was passed during that familiar ritual. A friend later commented that the Google voice was fairly unexpected at that particular time. She laughed & so did we. It was an unexpected mingling of nostalgia & technology shared this morning with our church family during communion in a church filled with the sweet aroma of holiday smells.

On the way home I tried to remember just how The Little Match Girl story went so I could tell my husband.  It was such a poignant story because of its mixture of beauty & tragedy & I wanted to get it right. I loved that story as a child because, even though it has a tragic end, there is such beauty in it. Remembering it today made me cry all over again & I remembered asking my mom to read it to me many times when I was a child. I hadn’t thought of that little match girl in years until this morning.

There’s a couple who own a home not far from our subdivision. They have a HUGE combined sense of humor & have a life-sized concrete pig at the end of their driveway that they dress in seasonal piggy clothing throughout the year, EVERY year since their new home was completed & they moved in … lock, stock & piggy, about 10 years ago. Those of us who live in the area have not only come to LOVE that pig, we depend on it … & WAIT for each holiday & seasonal wardrobe change.

Wrapped in the cocoon of my Christmas carol induced nostalgia at church, I hadn’t given a thought to the neighbor’s concrete pig until we drove past their driveway. From the corner of my eye I noticed she’d had a costume change & begged my husband to go back & take some pictures of her. For several years I’ve been posting pictures on Facebook of every costume change Miss Piggy graces us with & I wanted to add new pictures today. Since Willy is also fairly invested in that pig, he went back & took 6 pictures of the newly dressed piggy in her Holiday attire.

When I saw Miss Piggy my heart leapt. I laughed out loud & clapped my hands, releasing a childish joy I wasn’t aware I still possessed & making me feel better than I had in a week.

Miss Piggy, even as I write this, is wearing antlers, Christmas sunglasses & a big red ball on her nose. Behind her she is pulling a small sleigh that is carrying a jolly, white-bearded elf waving to us & our neighbors as we drive by. Miss Piggy is Rudolph the Red Nosed Piggy … to my pure & un-watered down delight, the delight of our neighbors & now also to the delight of my Facebook friends from around the world.

This morning has been an emotional roller coaster ride but it took a concrete pig wearing antlers & a red nose pulling a sleigh full of Santa to bring me back to the present … & to make me realize the multitude of joys of this holiday season.

Christmas isn’t just for the young. It’s for us ALL … kids, adults, kids at heart & those who love that concrete pink pig that brings such pure, childish, hand-clapping delight to all who know, appreciate & love her.

 

little-match-girl