Sunday, May 31, 2009

May Reflections

So, I already gave you the spoiler, but I will say it again because it feels so good...I do not have a brain tumor.

As you know, I have a lot of health issues, and this was not the first time that I contemplated having a shorter life than most. These kinds of experiences change a person. I can't speak for others, of course, but for me I can say it has changed me in positive ways.

I am closer to God than before. There have been many times when I have prayed and said, "I can't do this alone. Please help me or I can't do this." That help comes in different ways, but it always comes.

I am closer to my children and my husband. Every moment is precious to me. I praise the children more, and make a greater effort to spend time with them. When I have to chastize them, for example if they don't do their chores, I stop, think and find a kinder but still firm way to do it.

I care more about people, and but have little patience for contention.

I value time.

These are good things. Life is a good thing.

Waves...May Drama

"Waiting is worse than knowing. Knowing shreds the heart cleanly that it may begin to heal, waiting shreds the spirit."I read that quote eons ago when I was a teenager, and I have always liked it...until now.

Now, I'm thinking that waiting is not so bad after all. If I don't have an MRI on Monday, and I don't get the test results, and I don't get bad news, then I can stay in my lovely cabin in Denial forever. That doesn't seem so bad.

I'm doing ok. Sometimes I think I can handle this, not denial just a sense of peace. Other times though pain or fear wash over me. These waves can come at unexpected times. Today I woke up and was sitting up in bed, pondering the day when a wave hit me. I sat there with tears streaming down my face when my oldest son walked in unexpectedly. I frantically wiped my tears and hoped he didn't notice. If he did, he didn't mention it. He broke the spell, and I was fine again.

Later, I was a the local high school production of the musical comedy, "Little Shop of Horrors". I always get touched my young people performing, I can't explain it, but that little bit of, "Aw, isn't that awesome how good they are?" somehow morphed into near sobbing. Fortunately I was able to put the kabosh on that quickly. An emotional scene would have been so embarrassing, and I would have missed the rest of the play! Horrors!

That experience reminds me of when I first saw the movie, My Life with Michael Keaton and Nicole Kidman. It is about a man, whose wife is pregnant with their first child, and he has just been diagnosed with terminal cancer. I started sobbing early in the movie and cried all the way through. I missed a good deal of it and I had to watch it again later to figure out what happened. Amazingly, it is one of my all-time favorite movies...though, as you can imagine, I have no plans of watching it again any time soon.

Denial can be a beautiful thing...May Drama

This was a good day:

Denial can be a beautiful thing.

Probably not always the healthiest course of action, I'm not sure, I'll have to ponder that one...but still a nice break, you know?

I read about metatasized melanoma (just musing if that is what this could be since I have had melanoma) and it was grim. For people who have melanoma spread to the brain, the prognosis is about 1 year or less... Frightening stuff. I think I read too much. Knitting is a better hobby.

But today, I am blissfully in denial. I am fine. I am invincible. I don't know what is causing these obnoxius odors, but I feel good and there is nothing seriously wrong with me...well except for the usual stuff, LOL. No tumors though. Too bad that happens to other people. After last night, I have more compassion about what they must be going through...but I'm sure that is not me.

Yep, denial is beautiful. I'm going to build a cabin and stay here as long as possible.

What does expedite mean to you? May Drama

Here is another one of those posts from my May nightmare:

What does expedite mean to you?

Last night was a bad night. I had bad nausea and a bad headache. It is hard not to be worried when I feel so sick.

So today, I called the Radiology to set up the MRI. Apparently, the radiology department doesn't have the same definition of expedite that I do. They won't even schedule an appointment for me until the radiologist reviews the order. And that will take...24-48 hours. Today is Thursday, so it could be Monday before I can even schedule an appointment! Ack! Of course, I told her that my doctor said to expedite it but she was unmoved. "This is our policy," was all I could get out of her. I was speechless for a moment, finally I said, "Oh, it's just a possible brain tumor, what's 48 more hours?" The receptionist apparently does not understand sarcasm because she said cheerfully, "Ok, good-bye." I wanted to scream, long and her ear!

I didn't have much better luck with the Neurologist's office. They won't schedule an appointment for me until a Neurologist "reviews" the referral. Nevermind that it was a Neurologist that told Dr. Chapman they wanted to see me. At least they said they would call me later today. The receptionist then cheerfully told me to "have a nice day". I wanted to reach through the phone and slap her. "Have a nice day," yeah right. Not today, thank you. Do these people have no sensitivity whatsoever? Geez.

Be afraid for the next stranger that greets me with a cheery, "How are you?"...I just might tell them.

Real Life Spoilers

I hate spoilers. Whether it is a book or a movie, I hate spoilers. Years ago, I was on my way to see a movie called "Taps" and my brother said, "You won't like it, the hero dies at the end." I was so mad at him for spoiling the ending! He was right though, I hated it. Looking back, I think he was really just trying to help. I should have listened to him and avoided that movie.

When it comes to real life though, I have decided that spoilers can be good. In fact, I would love some spoilers! (read: clues, ideas about the future). The reason I am thinking about spoilers today is because May has been a hard month for me. I used writing to help me along the way, and now I am ready to share some of that with you. I really debated whether or not to share, I mean what is it that people read blogs for anyway? Certainly not for depressing stories, right? And yet, we are all suckers for a movie like "Steel Magnolias" now and then. I have asked myself a lot lately why we like those kinds of movies. Possibly because seeing other people deal with their pain, helps us in a way to deal with our own? That is my best guess. . .leave me a comment if you have a better idea, I would love to hear it.In the spirit of helping you deal with the hard things in your life, I will share some of mine. Besides after all what is a blog, if not a journal?

Which brings me back to the point about spoilers. In the beginning of May, I started having olfactory hallucinations, or in other words smelling things that were not real. Apparently that can be an indication of a brain tumor. The spoiler is that I do NOT have a brain tumor. The mystery is that we still don't know for sure what is causing it, but idiopathic is better than brain tumor any day.

So with that "spoiler" as a buffer, I would like to share some of what I wrote to help me cope and process during that frightful period.

May 7, 2009 Not too long ago, I wrote a post joking about how I felt like my life was a version of Rip Van Winkle. Today, I feel like a badly written version of Steel Magnolias, or Friday Night Knitting Club.

My doctor called. I'm always nervous when I answer the phone and hear the voice of one of my doctors. You know they are not calling to talk about the weather. Sure enough, Dr. Chapman was calling to tell me that the Neurologist wants to see me. He said the uncinate fits (that's doctor lingo for my fake smells) may be caused by something electrical, so I need an EEG. The "fits" could also be caused by a mass (read: tumor), so an MRI was recommended as well. Would I mind doing that, he asked. I wanted to say, NO! All I really want to do is turn back the clock and somehow make all this go away. But as you know, turning back the clock only happens in fiction, and my only possible way through this is forward. So I agreed to the tests. What choice did I have? He said when he put in the referal he asked them to expedite it so I wouldn't have to wait. I appreciate that.

I haven't even told my husband yet (I will before I publish this blog if you are reading this he knows). I thought about telling him when I got home, but he was in such a happy mood. I didn't want to take that away from him.

I was on my way to a Staff Meeting when I got the call. As they were talking about work-related issues, I couldn't help but think how possibly soon none of that stuff would matter to me any more. Amazing how your life can change so quickly. It was also fascinating to me how I could sit there and ponder such things as brain tumors with people all around me who have no idea that today is any different than any other day. It makes me wonder what "secret pain" other people hide.

Young girls in love often doodle their name with the last name of the boy they love, thrilling in seeing it on paper. In similar fashion, I try to imagine myself saying, "I have a brain tumor." I try to imagine the doctor saying, "You have a brain tumor." I type it here in my blog, all trying to come to grips with it. None of it helps.I wonder how my husband and I will tell the children. That is the worst part, even worse than telling my husband. I wish I didn't have to tell them, but I have never been one of those parents to take them to Nursery (at church) get them distracted and then slip out. I've always believed it is better to say good-bye, and let them cry rather than let them wonder when I am going to "disappear" next. This is no different. Better to say good-bye and cry, together.

I pondered briefly NOT telling my friends and co-workers. I don't want a lot of sympathy and people feeling awkward around me, but I can't keep this to myself. I am an open person and I have to be open about this. We'll all just deal with it the best way we can, I guess. I can't do the 'strong, suffer-silently' role. It's just not me. Drama queen is more my style. I'll try not to over do the drama on this one.

Perhaps it is time for another meeting of Worrier's Anonymous.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Letterboxing, Anyone?

I'm probably the last person that should be talking to you about Letterboxing, since I have never done it. But ignorance has never stopped me from writing before. . .

I just heard about this hobby (overheard, if I were being honest), and I was hooked immediately. If you like the outdoors, treasure hunts, art or collecting things, this is the hobby for you. It is very simple, and inexpensive (as hobbies go).

Letterboxing means that you get a set of clues (I'll tell you how to do that in a second), and you go where the clues lead you. This may be a local park, or a hiking trail. You follow the clues in search of a "treasure box". In the treasure box, you will find a visitor's book and a rubber stamp. You use the rubber stamp from the treasure box to mark your "journal" and you leave your own stamp or mark in the visitors book. As you find different treasure boxes, your own log book will fill up with stamps, kind of like a passport or a memory book of some great hikes.

Can I tell you I love this idea?! A few years ago, I used to take my kids on "Family Hikes" often with my good friend, Heike, and her children. My husband, the die-hard Boy Scouter, says they were more like "Family Walks" than Hikes. . .whatever, My Love. One of my fondest memories is of going to Maple Lake during different seasons and observing the changes there. Another memory is of Heike and the boys going off the trail and scaling the mountain while I stayed behind (with the babes and toddlers), bit my nails and pretended I wasn't scared to death for them. Yes, Heike is the braver of the two of us. One of my sons still bares the 3 inch scar on his scalp from one of our less successful excursions. (That day, Holly was with me, not Heike.) A hike in well named Rock Canyon. He was just a toddler and while we were taking a short break, he climbed up on a boulder. As I was reaching for him, saying, "No, Honey, you'll fall." Sure enough, he fell. What a day! Do take your First Aid kit when you go out!

I haven't been on a Family Hike/Walk in a long time and I miss it. Part of the reason we haven't gone is because I am really more comfortable navigating my way around the Net, or the local bookstore than the trails. . .so without a buddy like Heike, I just didn't know where to go. One of the things I love about the Letterboxing hobby is that it solved this problem!

I just went to On the blue bar, I clicked on Letterboxes. That opened up a new page with a map and I clicked on my state, then chose a local city. After a little browsing, I now have 5 or 6 new hike locations with directions not only to the site, but to a treasure box. What could be better than that? All I need now is a tank of gas and a sack lunch!

Another reason I haven't been on any hikes for awhile is I didn't want to take the little kids out alone (when you have a Rock Creek incident it is nice to have another adult to help). Now my oldest is 14 and taller than I am. He and my second oldest, 12, are fine young men, and have both taken first aid in Boy Scouts. So I'm ready to venture out again.

I think all my children will love the 'treasure hunt' idea too. Who could resist it? Whether you associate it with Leprechauns or Pirates, "hidden treasure" appeals to everyone! Once you have some clues printed out, then get an inkpad, and some kind of journal to keep your stamp collection. You are ready to go! Letterboxers usually have a rubber stamp (bought or handmade as you wish) to leave their mark in the "visitor book". I like this tip from Atlasquest: New letterboxers often use a thumbprint signature temporarily until they acquire a real trail name and signature stamp. Be creative...make your thumbprint into a smiley face, an animal, a flower...whatever you want!

Guess what my kids and I are doing this Memorial Day! Hey, Heike...I challenge you to a Letterboxing Contest. Let's see who can collect the most stamps by the end of the summer. Anyone else want to join us?

Sunday, May 3, 2009

GNO (Girls Night Out) at...The Range???

I have seen my women friends from church with guns many times...glue guns, that is. Last week though we had a different kind of activity with guns. As you can see, we had Girls Night at the Range.

When the idea was presented to us, it was met with a lot of nervous laughter. When the evening arrived a group a brave souls gathered for a safety lesson. Some of the ladies had used weapons before, but most had not. You have to know, that I have handled guns is a requirment for Correctional Officers. No, I never carried a gun on the yard, that would be too dangerous, but I did have guns when I drove the perimeter. I also knew what I had to do with one of those guns if I ever saw a prisoner trying to escape and he refused to "Halt" when I asked him to. My superior officers filled our heads with images of the havoc an inmate would reek on the community if one was allowed to escape.

I have to say that going to the range with a group of women was much different than going with my fellow Correctional Officers. In my COTA class (Correctional Officer Training Academy), it was mostly men (you kinda guessed that didn't you?) Men are so competitive! So when I went to the range with them, there was some joking around, but mostly it was serious business. With the ladies, nerves led to much laughter and we had a blast. I don't mean to imply that we were friviolous; we weren't by any means. Before we went to the range our mentor taught us the safety rules and said if anyone did anything unsafe he would blow the whistle. I am proud to tell you that he never had to do that with us. (Pssst...a secret, he did blow it when he took the husbands!)

While I have used guns before, it has been a long time (never mind how long!) At the Range, the first gun I tried was a pistol. I remember putting my hand on it and thinking, "This is not right! Ack, this goes against my very nature." And yet, when I picked it up and pulled the trigger I was hooked! I have no reasonable explanation for this. I do not ever plan to shoot an animal, and I would only shoot a human in self-defense (family-defense). I pray that never happens. So why the fascination with the guns?

I think it was many things. It is overcoming fear. That is exciting in itself. Yes, I was nervous, it's been a long time. It is competing with yourself to make the next shot a little closer to the bulls eye. And what can I say, it is some thing primal about holding something so powerful and controling it. The AK 47 (semi-automatic) puts out a flash of flame when you fire it...who could resist that?!

In the name of science...(pretend you believe me)...I will tell you which weapon was my favorite. The ladies had very different tastes about which one they prefered. Some chose pistols, others rifles. My favorite hands down is the shotgun. It is probably the least expensive of all the weapons we tried that night, and the ammo is inexpensive too. (Budget is always a considering factor). When you shoot the bird shot at the target, it makes a really big hole. Impressive. The real reason I love the shotgun though is the classic sound it makes when you chamber a round. If that doesn't scare the bad guys away, nothing will.

All that said, I do not own a gun, so you are still safe to visit my home. Just don't come unexpectedly in the middle of the night, because I do have a big dog and his bark is not what you need to worry about! Ok, ok I dog is old and he has hip dysplasia, not very ferocious. But then I know you won't come in the middle of the night so "no worries" for either of us!