Friday, January 30, 2009

there's a tax on everything these days!

Even Liberty......

I think it's called The Patriot Act.

Freedom ain't free, ya know!

(Sorry for the poor photo quality; click on it for a better view. I whipped out my cell phone while waiting to make a left hand turn, and snapped this one. I've been trying to capture it for weeks, ever since the Liberty Tax Service store started its annual charade on Uintah.)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

he says he doesn't want drawing lessons, but............

he's always so pleased with himself after a lesson (he's only had two so far). Later, of course, he does the requisite complaining about his "homework", but then I see his face after he is done, and hear him say, "Dad! Come! Look!"

The pride is practically measurable.

I know he loves to draw, and so I ignore his complaints. You may think I am ignoring my child's needs, but I will tell you that I am doing just the opposite. I am listening to his whole body, not just his words. The sense of accomplishment he feels at the end comes from being pushed to face his insecurities, and it is up to me to do the pushing. It's a fine line, I know.

But isn't there something you wish YOUR parents had pushed you to do? And don't you regret it now?

Perhaps some day, Bennett will be as good as his teacher.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

war games

So, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates resurrects a favorite phrase and now declares that the war in Afghanistan will be "a long slog".

Well, DUH!! Witness:

I just can't get enough of these VBS Videos! Go ahead, try the link. I dare you
You'll be lost for hours.......... I promise.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

where's sue?

(hint: look for the bald head!)

Grant and Bennett are on either side of me, and John is next to Bennett. Click on the photo for a closer view.

Want more cool photos from the latest Yogic Spiral? Here you go.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

for swiss miss

As I lie on my back clothed in yet another paper gown, I stare at this man sitting on the stool next to me. I voice my feelings, for some reason, out loud to him: "You know, I actually WANT you to find something wrong... Isn't that strange?"

"No, not at all. You want it to be wrong, just not wrong wrong."

Exactly. I want an explanation, a reason, a diagnosis. I just don't want it to interfere with, you know, like, the rest of my life.

What I want him to answer for me is WHY, a day after my first Taxol chemotherapy infusion on January 5th, the tips of my fingers were so agonizingly painful that I could neither sleep nor pull up the happiness-inducing-flowery-over-the-knee socks sent to me by Cindy. You know the tingling in your fingers as they just begin to warm after the bitter cold? Or the momentary pain when one of your extremities has fallen asleep and is just beginning to awaken? It was like that, in all 10 of my phelanges, only it raged on nonstop for nearly 48 hours. Everyday activities were next to impossible: holding a pencil, turning a key, buttoning a blouse. Over the past two weeks it has subsided, and there now remains only a faint sensation, reminding me that I can't quite trust my finger tips the way I used to.

And so I was released from reporting to poison chair duty last Monday. It was, at that time, a huge relief. My oncologist sent me to another doctor, a neurologist, who ordered some tests to be performed by yet another doctor the next day. Their task is to find out if I have inherited CMT2 from my father, which may explain my reaction, and to generally assess the state of my nerves.

When I first enter the room, I am surprised by the tiny machine sitting along the wall. It's the size, shape, and color (baby poop beige) of a computer from the beginning of the computer age. It looks like a hand-me-down you would have found in a Boys and Girls Club 15 years ago. Four heavy-duty black knobs adorn the front. I realize that two weeks ago, my fingers would not have been able to turn them. Along the right hand side, assorted electrical cords in different colors are dangling like instruments of torture.

I put on the aformentioned gown, and sit, as comfortably as is humanly possible in a giant paper napkin, on the table.

And then the doc walks in. Jesus Christ! He fucking MATCHES his machine!

Short, balding, a combover complete with graying sideburns and a graying mustache. The blues of his striped oxford clash horrifically with the blues of his too-short whale tie. He reminds me of a man my mother might have dated in 1975 when I was eight. He is uncomfortable in his own body, uncomfortable with mine, but happy while squinting in front of his little machine and pinching the little electrical wires between his fingers.

I wonder, as he shocks the sensory and motor nerves of my arm and leg into spasms with little bolts of electricity, if he enjoys his job. Wonder what kind of pervert becomes a doctor who enjoys shocking people with ancient technology? I'm willing to bet he played Operation as a boy and got some sort of perverse pleasure when his tweezers didn't quite make it out safely. ZAP! He probably took apart the family's AM radio, just to look at the circuitry.

To take my mind off the fact that (ZAP!) this anachronistic man is attaching electrodes to my extremities and making my body convulse in a way that is completely out of my control, I stare at the ceiling. My mind floats back to all the (ZAP!) other machines (ZAP!) I have encountered over the past six months: the new digital mammogram, the ultrasound that guided the needle to the tumor, the MRI with its strangely melodic hums and whirs, Lynn's radiation laser monster, the beep-beep of the IV when the chemo was all dripped out. Then a small tear forms and (ZAP!) threatens to escape, because I am imagining the rest (ZAP!) of my life filled with the pricks of needles and the noises of machines.

And so, to take my mind off my uncertain future, I begin to count the little squares of the heater vent directly above my head. (I used to count lights and lines and pews and people in church as a girl to keep me occupied during the service; I think counting must be my own personal religious practice). There is nothing else in the room on which to fix my gaze. No pretty tulips, no inspirational messages, not even any comforting diplomas. The walls and ceiling are bare, the same color as the little bald man's electricity machine.

Eighteen squares across. That was easy. (ZAP!) The length, however, proves to be a bit more difficult, because me eyes are blurry from the tears, which are as automatic and as uncontrollable as my fingers and toes are at the moment. I begin counting, but have to blink, and lose my place in the cold gray metal, which I think must be as old as the doctor, as old as his machine, as old as I feel. I start over again. Blink. (ZAP!) Lose my place. Begin again. Keep my place this time. Keep counting. 42! My age. I don't believe it, so I start over. This time I am successful on the first try, having mastered the technique of holding my place while blinking through tears. It's a skill I realize would come in handy in so many other areas of my life. 42 again. Yes. Something about that just makes it all ok all of a sudden.

In the end, he finds nothing wrong. But, as he reminds me, that doesn't necessarily mean there's nothing wrong. Damn stupid inclusive fucking test bullshit! He explains in metaphors (all good docs do): "It's like if you have a water pipe, and it's only slightly clogged, the water still runs through it. We're testing the water flow, not looking inside the pipes."

So I still have my nerves, at least 90% of them anyway. They still sense and feel and conduct and react. But the Taxol did something to me that day. Something unexplainable. Something excruciating.

After I was dressed, the 1970's doctor with the 1970's machine handed me a copy of my report and explained that, from his findings anyway, he saw no reason to discontinue the Taxol. In short, there was nothing "wrong wrong". I think I am glad about this. Don't get me wrong, being 100% finished would have been nice. But in so many more ways, having to quit now would be, not just wrong, but "wrong wrong". I CHOSE to do this. I want to finish it. I want to be able to live my life, after cancer, knowing that I did everything within my power to make it leave me the fuck alone. I have finally learned, after surviving the hospital and reading this book, that ten more weeks of my life filled with chemo is not something I can't handle.

I've wanted to quit before. After three treatments, at one-fourth (a million years ago) I sobbed inconsolably for hours one night, wailing to my husband that I couldn't do it, this chemo thing. Now that I'm on the other other side of one-half, with the end in sight and 5/12 remaining, and they're telling me I might be done, I find myself, ironically but understandably, wanting it MORE!

I don't know what my oncologist, the dear Dr. Hoyer, into whose hands I have placed so much faith, will say when I see him a week from today. Whether or not he will want to "re-challenge" me with the Taxol or not. I have a feeling he will, as he has done from the beginning, lay all the facts on the table and let me decide. If he does...... bring it on, I say. Bring it fucking ON!

PS. Funny thing is, in order to write this post, I also went, in the words of Marc, "back to analog form". My beloved MacBook was in the process of being repaired, and I was forced to put pen to paper. While writing the above words, I was sitting on a patio on a nearly 70-degree January day, sipping Cuban coffee, stripped down to a tanktop and exposing my bald head to the glorious sunshine. Totally worth it. Sometimes you have to go backwards, in order to go forwards.

Monday, January 19, 2009

when does 7/12 equal 100%?

I hate fractions. I tell my adult students that there really is no reason to know how to add, subtract, multiply, or divide fractions if you know how to change those fractions into decimals. I still believe this. But what I have learned over the past few months is that thinking in fractions can be very natural, and more comforting, for some reason, than a decimal or a percent.

Back in October, twelve chemotherapy infusions were staring me in the face.

I wish I had had these balloons when I started, but I didn't actually get them until I was nearly half-way. They arrived from Denver in December. Of all the gifts I have received (all the food, all the cards, all the emails, all the books....), THIS has got to be the greatest one so far. Twelve balloons in a packet, complete with instructions. Instructions that took into account my children, and their need to be involved. The boys and I blew, numbered, and taped. Together. Then we popped.

Ever since October, I have been counting in fractions. One-twelfth done. Then one-sixth. One-fourth. One-third. Five-twelfths. One half. All this counting brings me to where I am now: seven-twelfths.

The bright colors make me happy. Bumping into them as I walk through the door reminds me that I CAN, indeed, do this thing. Finish it out.

Only now I may not have to. I'll let you know more after I see the doc tomorrow. But it seems that seven-twelfths may, indeed, be 100% for me.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

wuthering heights

The horizons ring me like faggots,
Tilted and disparate, and always unstable.
Touched by a match, they might warm me,
And their fine lines singe
The air to orange
Before the distances they pin evaporate,
Weighting the pale sky with a soldier color.
But they only dissolve and dissolve
Like a series of promises, as I step forward.

There is no life higher than the grasstops
Or the hearts of sheep, and the wind
Pours by like destiny, bending
Everything in one direction.
I can feel it trying
To funnel my heat away.
If I pay the roots of the heather
Too close attention, they will invite me
To whiten my bones among them.

The sheep know where they are,
Browsing in their dirty wool-clouds,
Gray as the weather.
The black slots of their pupils take me in.
It is like being mailed into space,
A thin, silly message.
They stand about in grandmotherly disguise,
All wig curls and yellow teeth
And hard, marbly baas.

I come to wheel ruts, and water
Limpid as the solitudes
That flee through my fingers.
Hollow doorsteps go from grass to grass;
Lintel and sill have unhinged themselves.
Of people and the air only
Remembers a few odd syllables.
It rehearses them moaningly:
Black stone, black stone.

The sky leans on me, me, the one upright
Among all horizontals.
The grass is beating its head distractedly.
It is too delicate
For a life in such company;
Darkness terrifies it.
Now, in valleys narrow
And black as purses, the house lights
Gleam like small change.

Sylvia Plath

Sunday, January 11, 2009

the tale of despereaux

Arghhh!!!! I feel such anger at Kate diCamillo for letting Hollywood destroy her perfect little gem of a novel! Sadness for the children who may now never bother to read the modern-day fairy tale! Disappointment that something so seemingly dark but unbelievably charming was turned into something so mediocre and watered-down!

I read The Tale of Despereaux aloud to my boys about a year ago, in the February darkness, when they were seven and eight. It was one of the most profound experiences we have ever had reading together. I knew it would be a challenge to turn the exquisite language and themes of the novel into a film, but I thought the same about Charlotte's Web as well, and was pleasantly surprised by the screen version. I suppose my hopes were too high.

Do yourself and your children a favor, please: for the price of only one movie ticket, you can buy the book. Read it aloud together. Caress the uneven pages along the edges, marvel at the illustrations, talk about what it means to be yourself, about what happens to people when they are mistreated, about what it means to find light in "Once upon a time....."

The themes are heavy and dark, and for this reason alone, I know parents who have dismissed it. They are idiots. They forget that for true redemption, there must be real sadness, real suffering. Children need not be sheltered from these kinds of stories. They are powerful beyond measure.

For those that don't like Despereaux's themes of abuse, servitude and death (the themes that were completely left out of the movie!), I would refer you to this lengthy, but appropriate comment from C.S. Lewis:

"A serious attack on the fairy tale as children's literature comes from those who do not wish children to be frightened....Those who say that children must not be frightened may mean two things. They may mean (1) that we must not do anything likely to give the child those haunting, disabling, pathological fears against which ordinary courage is helpless: in fact, phobias....Or they may mean (2) that we must try to keep out of his mind the knowledge that he is born into a world of death, violence, wounds, adventure, heroism and cowardice, good and evil. If they mean the first I agree with them: but not if they mean the second. The second would indeed be to give children a false impression and feed them on escapism in the bad sense. There is something ludicrous in the idea of so educating a generation which is born to.…the atomic bomb. Since it is so likely that they will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage...

By confining your child to blameless stories of child life in which nothing at all alarming ever happens, you would fail to banish the terrors, and would succeed in banishing all that can ennoble them or make them endurable.For in the fairy tales, side by side with the terrible figures, we find the immemorial comforters and protectors, the radiant ones; and the terrible figures are not merely terrible, but sublime. It would be nice if no little boy in bed, hearing or thinking he hears, a sound, were ever at all frightened. But if he is going to be frightened, I think it better that he should think of giants and dragons than merely of burglars. And I think St George, or any bright champion in armour, is a better comfort than the idea of police."

in between reality and fantasy

I am only slightly older than the expansion of Israel and slightly younger than the invention of the video game console.

Happy Birthday to me!

Here's to the continual evolution of video games and the eventual devolution of Israel.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

In my early morning internet link wanderings, here's the best thing I stumbled upon:


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

number musings

A friend and I have made a pact to live until the year 2049.

In 2049, I will be 82.

I am 41 now, which is 50% of 82.

I am half-way through chemo. Six-twelfths. 50%.

My husband just celebrated his 50th birthday. One of his friends called it, in youngster-hip-speech, "Fiddy".

My mother-in-law's nickname is "Phiddy". She is 82 right now.

According to the computer-calculated data, I have an 82% chance of living 10 years.

Forty-two and seven-twelfths..... here I come!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

first poem.......


The woods are ablaze,
We look on the days ahead of us,
Of magic, mystery, and of rust
Fire lives on forever and ever.
In magic we live much longer than
We do, but everyone must die

-Grant, age 9

Thursday, January 1, 2009

you won't find this one at the carnival

This was bound to happen.....

I like it for the sound effects.  There's a small thrill of satisfaction when you launch the shoe and hear it smack.  

A diversion, yes, but what would this world be without them?

Try it yourself.  

Here's to the first laugh of 2009!