Saturday, October 14, 2017

Knowledge is Power

Every year in October I plead, beg and preach about the same thing. I give examples of neglect, I explain the seriousness, I describe the various outcomes, and I try my very best to give encouragement.

Because let’s face it, no one wants to do it. It’s not what anyone would describe as comfortable in the least, it’s a bit scary, and some would say, it’s just downright painful.

I have personally experienced all of the above emotions, but I still do it every single year. I still ramp myself up for the chore before me, make my appointment, and then I go and sit. I sit among chairs full of women.

Some of those women are there for their annual appointments’, some for second readings/more extensive testing, and some are there for things that none of us ever want to think about happening to us or anyone else that we know.
I have been to that place for two out of three of those things, many times now. It’s never any less nerve-wracking and it’s certainly never any fun.  It has always turned out in the favor of grateful and blessed, but my grand, at the roads it has taken to get there at times. Three or four weeks can seem like a lifetime when you are waiting on results.

So, we all sit and watch one another, trying to imagine our neighbor-woman’s plight; nervous and waiting for the unknown that always seems to go hand in hand with these visits.
And then a name is called, we look around anxiously to see who is the next to go through those closed doors ahead of us all, the doors that lead to all the places that can bring comfort as well as dread and the words we never want to hear.

I’m well aware of what the odds are – 1 in 8 women are at risk for developing breast cancer. In the great scheme of things that doesn’t sound like so much, but it also sounds like it will happen to many more women that you may know personally, than you could ever have imagined.

By the time I was 48 years in old, in five years’ time, I would personally know and be friends with, 6 different women who would have positive results for breast cancer. One would succumb to her disease, four would beat it and move on, and one is currently on round two of one of the most rare/deadly forms of breast cancer which is Inflammatory Breast Cancer and it presents itself in 1% to 5% of all women.
So, I ask this/beg this/plead this as I do every year - get your annual mammograms. Every single year – never skip a year. Because if you have ever known someone who tested negative one year and positive the next, then you MUST know the damage that could potentially be done if you were to skip a year in between. Twelve little months, coupled with neglect, could challenge the chances of living a full and complete lifetime. 

Love  your family, but love yourself the most – and get tested. 

Saturday, October 7, 2017


As we enter the season of bonfires, roasted marshmallows, sitting in tree-stands or window-blinds, falling leaves painted with the colors of change, hoodies and boots, and homes decorated with pumpkins and fresh mums – we also enter the season of hay-fever.

I’ve had sinus/allergy problems since I was a small child, complete with eczema break-outs on my skin as well. My allergy list is long and consists of just as many foods as it does trees, flowers, and other outside elements.

I’ve been to several different allergists in my lifetime, because as anyone who suffers as I do know that your body changes over the years, sometimes accepting of things it wasn’t before, and just as many times, adding more unacceptable / “can’t do” new items to your list.

One of the best things I came to love after moving here, was upon leaving work every day, I liked to take the back roads home in the afternoons. These roads were quiet, without traffic lights, often smelling of fresh cut fields / grass and absolutely FULL of colorful roadsides!

About a month into fall that first year I was absolutely miserable! I was popping one sinus medication or another every so many hours, sneezing my brains out and blowing my nose until it was raw. My eyes were pouring water like a faucet, and swollen like I had been in a 10-round fight with the likes of Muhammad Ali.

Sometime into that fourth week, my parents were down for a visit. I had taken my mom out for a drive to see the plant where I worked and I decided on the way back home to take her on the scenic route, the back roads, so she could get a feel about one of the reasons I loved my new county so much.

I had described to her before how much less stress I felt, and how every day when I would leave work and take that back road home, no matter what had occurred during the day, once I hit those roads and passed the fields of beautiful colors, all the weight of the world seemed to just drop-off.

Three minutes into the drive back to my house and my mom said “Honey, do you know what that stuff is on the side of the road?” And I as I slowly said no, because I knew something was coming, she began to tell me the story of a little girl (herself), long ago, who gave her mother a beautiful bouquet of those same “flowers” and how her mother was miserable for a week because of it – sneezing and blowing her brains out.

I can remember looking back her, and then looking at my car windows which were both rolled ALL THE WAY DOWN, and suddenly realizing, I had been slowly killing myself!

So, no more windows down for me until the first freeze that kills it all that golden rod off. I’ll just have to take my Saturday evening drives with the a/c on instead of the nice cool breezes of fall, and be satisfied to look at the beauty THROUGH the window.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Nature ~vs~ Nuture

As we raise our children, nobody really knows how to be a parent, it’s a guessing game for the most part. It’s a memory rendition of how you were raised yourself, the things you were taught, and how much of that you actually retained.

But some things are just a given and can show themselves out of the blue and remind you that your children absolutely did come from you, you absolutely did “make” them (or part of them) who they are today, and for those times, there is just no denying it, even if you tried.

My oldest child sent me a text a few nights ago at about 9:45pm, which isn’t really that late, but for us to begin a conversation, we would normally start earlier.

He began by telling me that if I ever had any doubts that he was my child, he was about to explain to me just how clearly that could be proven. He had just gotten home from a night out, was tired and ready to settle down and go to bed when he discovered that his box fan that he keeps near his bed was not working.

Nothing to do but to find himself inside a Wal-Mart in Brattleboro Vermont at 10:20pm, trying to locate a fan. Because Vermont is already well into their fall season, and at night, people are wearing sweaters and coats. So naturally a box fan is not anything that would still be out in a local store.

Luckily, they had been stored in the back, so there would be no sleepless night without the soothing noise of the air circulating in the room as the box fan hummed.

As he’s telling me about his fan and his late night victory – he tacks a note on at the end that said: bonus - the fan is PURPLE! Double-win! As purple is one of his favorite colors.

Immediately upon receiving that last text I rose from my chair, stepped into our spare-bedroom and opened the closet door. The same closet door that would conceal many stored things, one of them being my own box fan – one that I use on every vacation/time away from home. I stack that baby up on the luggage cart with my suitcases and hanging clothes, and roll right up into any swank (or not) hotel I may be rooming at for the night – because shame – I have none.

Because you see, I too, must have the whirring noise of a box fan (or an a/c unit in a window) to be able to fall asleep each night. The rumbling noise that ensures that I will fall asleep MUCH faster and in my case, MUCH cooler than I would otherwise.

As I opened that door, I snapped a picture of mine, and I sent it to my child – to show him that just as much as we are very different, that yes, we are very much one and the same at times. Because I too have a box fan addiction, and my favorite color is purple, and so is MY box fan.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Her Name Was Irma

I’ve lived in Gadsden County for almost 20 years now and the very first three months of moving myself and my children here, we had a hurricane scare.   Now I was from just over the line in Georgia, but even still, that 90+ miles north makes a difference in the matter of what is a reality concern and what is not.

All my growing-up life in Georgia, I don’t remember any huge discussions about the hurricanes in Florida. We might have had a few windier days than was usual, and a little more rain than was the norm, but there were no tornado scares, no hearing of trees down on homes, and certainly, no extra days out of school or work.

So back to my original point, we moved here the first of July, and that following September we had three hurricane’s in a matter of three weeks come through: Hurricane Earl, George and Hermine; talk about a Welcome to Florida, How Do You Do!

Everyone at work was slamming me with advice and safety instructions:
1.       Get your swing and sitting chairs off of your front porch!
2.       Take all your wind chimes and hanging baskets down!
3.       Make sure you have plenty of gas, water, bread and canned goods handy.
4.       Make sure you have flashlights and batteries because the power WILL go out.
5.       And if you have to hunker down, pick the room with the least windows or a walk-in closet.

Now I had a 3 and 12 year old and I was single mom; so to say I was a bit overwhelmed, and that I was feeling like Dorothy who wasn’t in Kansas anymore would be an understatement!

I can’t remember now which one of those storms was the worst for us here locally, but I do remember having no power during the night of one of those storms, and me and my children all three of us were huddled up in the middle of my bed, listening to the wind roar through the trees and seemingly slamming against the house windows, all night long.

In the years since, the preparation has been a lot more by remote and experience, but the anxiety that each storm brings is never reduced; mostly because no one ever really knows what a storm will or won’t do.

So for Irma, we did all the usual things. I have a different house now, but another big front porch with all the same things that had to come down: gliders, wind-chimes, bird feeders, hanging flower baskets, rocking chairs, and anything else that the wind could possibly pick-up and put through a window.

We regained power, internet and cable late last Monday after Irma came through early Monday morning and all day. I am hoping and praying that by the time you all are reading this, everyone in our area is safe, with power and somewhat back to normal.

The devastation we’re all viewing from afar is both sad and pretty scary, so for our friends and family in the whole state of Florida, prayers continue for a full recovery for everyone.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Orchestrated Chaos

As I sat at her dining table that is square in the middle of the kitchen, I was never any more sure than I was in those few minutes, that it’s not the measurements, the ingredient’s, or the recipes that necessarily make a dish or meal turn out perfect – it’s the cook.

From the time she picked up the first utensil, her hands moved gently and methodically from one place to another on the stove, even though she was operating three dishes at once. Each movement was seamless and steady, and never once did her fingers falter or her hands move in any kind of erratic motion during the preparation of those dishes.

Never did her body sling-around from one direction to another; she actually seemed to glide from one place in that kitchen space to another, never stirring the air with anxiousness or the feeling of nervousness.

It all came back to me in that few minutes, that what I was watching was a well-oiled machine at work, just as I had watched for years and years prior, but never really seeing – only taking for granted, thinking that one day, that was how it would be for me.

Well, it’s not. I am here to tell you it just is not. No matter that I try my best to prep beforehand, by having all the ingredients and anticipated artillery lined-up on the counter, it doesn’t matter. I’m herky-jerky at best, ever-questioning myself as I go, becoming rattled at the first thing that doesn’t seem to be developing like I think that it should.

So as I watched her, I thought to myself, why? Why after all these years, does that ease not come as naturally to me? And then I began to think about my children, both of who learned to cook at early ages and both of whom love to both cook and eat good food. And somehow, one of them learned the art that my mother perfects so easily, and the other, goodness bless him, has inherited my scattered way of cooking instead.

Me and the youngest – we’re snatchers. We’re requesters, and we need assistance A LOT. We prefer to have someone close at all times, to wash this, get that, and to “hold it right there, for just a minute.” We’re erratic, we’re messy, and we’re all over the place, and we do not look like ballet dancers while we’re doing it. There is no easy-flow-motion, only cabinet doors and refrigerator drawers/doors being jerked and slammed at intervals throughout the entire process.

My oldest – he is my mother. He is systematic, he cleans as he goes, he is thoughtful in his process, and even cutting up vegetables, fruits, or onions – he’s like a smoothly skilled machine as he slices and dices with a huge knife as if it was made into his hands from birth.

Maybe one day I’ll grow-up and be just like them; in all probability I will not. I’ve kind of gotten used to the chaos that feels kin to a Lucy & Ethel episode, and I’m not sure my food would be as good without it.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Who Would YOU Be?

I was watching an episode of the Today Show and the crew of newscasters that is the usual for the morning part of the episodes were sitting around the table as they do every morning.

As is also usual, at certain times of the morning, they do particular segments that happen every day at a certain time, so I know that if I am watching from 8am to 8:25am each morning I am going to be viewing the “what’s trending today” segment of the show.

During this particular space in time, all kinds of subjects are broached, but this particular morning they were all discussing who they would be if they could come back to this world and do it all over again. The conversation went from serious to silly in a quick minute as you would expect it to, after all, there are many different personalities sitting around that table at any given time.

However, that broadcast continued to stick with me for the rest of that day. It’s actually pretty complicated, for me anyway, to decide who I would really want to be in another life, as I have so many ideas of how I really wish I COULD be.

I’d like to be gracious and loving with words of ultimate wisdom like Maya Angelou. I’d like to be as funny as Ellen DeGeneres – but also knowing I have a sassy/salty side - so there would have to be some room for a little Wanda Sykes or Richard Pryor. I’d like to be as worldly-intelligent as retired General Colin Powell, as financially-wise as Steve Jobs, or as charitable as Bill and Melinda Gates. I’d like to be as brave as Harriett Tubman, Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks and Amelia Earhart; but I would also like to be as insightful as Helen Keller even when I could not see.

Now of course physically, I would have to be a mixture of elegance like Lena Horne, Rita Moreno and Meryl Streep, have a body like Jennifer Lopez, Sandra Bullock and Kerry Washington, and a laugh with huge resemblances to Lucille Ball and Melissa McCarthy.

But in reality, to come back again, to have the chance to do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing other than to learn:
.         The ability to have more patience, more kindness and more understanding when it’s needed.
2.       To make more of the best decisions the first time, instead of having to learn from mistakes.
3.       To always remember that no matter the situation, it should be met with empathy and compassion,  and an out-stretched hand to help someone up – or a hug to pull them in.
4.       That bickering and arguing never resolves any situation as quickly as teamwork, respect, and  consideration.
5.       To take better care of myself, my body, sooner.

It turns out it’s not such an easy decision to make, but if we could each simply take a step back, and figure out what we would like to change about ourselves, to make ourselves better people, well now, wouldn’t that be a grand place to start.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Meltdown In Motion

While some are still green, many are wilting and have already began to turn a funny hue of yellow and are hanging less staunchly than they did a month ago. And some leaves are already letting loose and free-falling to the ground, scattering and drying in just a matter of days from the heat. Soon they will be brown and crunchy and will lie among the straw that has already began to fall as well.

My flowering plants are struggling to still bloom, their coloring not as near as magnificent and bright as before, and my canna lilies have been taken over by wasps as they are every year about this time, causing the leaves to look as if something much bigger has gone through their bed, chomping on the leaves as they go, leaving behind a look of massacred foliage.

The lawn growth is beginning to slow down, but the smut grass has begun to take over in both my yard and the flower beds, causing your legs to be striped with black seeds in between mower cuts, while the grass itself is still low to the ground. The more I seem to pull from my flower beds, the more that seems to come and take its place.

And the birds, bless the birds and their weariness from the heat. They no longer feed in frenzies but almost seem as intolerant of each other’s presence as humans seem to be of each other these days. Instead of lighting on the feeders and eating, they cut each other off in mid-flight, often all but colliding in the air, and fighting for branch-space in the trees. They perch languidly from those branches, but still with their heads held high, as if they are daring another to come and inhabit their space.

And the humidity, which is normal in our region of the world, seems to be at an all-time high; so much so that it literally takes your breath the minute you step out of the door. It drips from your brow without any real exertion taking place and your clothes are damp and soggy within minutes of outside exposure.

Everyone you pass appears to be in slow motion, their feet moving so sluggishly as if trudging through mud, and their body language screams for some relief that doesn’t seem to be coming anytime soon.

September 22nd is the last official day of summer, though we all know, being from these parts, that we’ll still feel heat, humidity, and uncomfortableness for another couple of months to come. I can’t wait for the evenings to be cool enough that a noisy, front porch fan blasting in my ear is no longer necessary to enjoy watching the sun go down.

Until then, all we can do is stay hydrated, wear as close to nothing as is presentable, keep dodging the mosquito’s that seem to be out in full force, and pray for an unusually early, and much cooler fall than we’re accustomed to having. Because I for one, could stand to feel a little chill in the air for a while.