Back In the Game

I know I’m not alone when I say that the last couple of years have been a complete and utter cluster-cluck. The pandemic was hard enough with school going virtual, work shutting down for a couple of months, wondering if we were going to be unemployed and lose everything. We survived it, but 2020 decided to go down swinging.

A couple of days after Christmas, I took my husband to the emergency room for severe abdominal pain that had been building for weeks. His primary care doctor hadn’t come up with a correct diagnosis after multiple tests, and I was not going to wait anymore. I’d have taken him on Christmas except that it had snowed so much there was no way to get a car out or ambulance in due to the steep hills every direction, and it wasn’t possible for him to walk to the nearest cleared road to catch a ride from there. When I think about it at all, I can still feel the suffocating anxiety. How would I get him to the hospital? Would they be able to figure out what was wrong?

At the emergency room, the doctor said it sounded like classic gallbladder symptoms and sent him for a CT scan. Two hours later, he was in emergency surgery for a baseball-sized bowel obstruction. Six more hours passed alone in the surgical waiting room until I learned from a surgeon I’m fairly certain is still in middle school that the obstruction was a tumor, likely cancer. It amazes me the ease with which doctors can toss around words like “cancer” and “chemotherapy,” weightless as feathers instead of life-altering bricks raining from the sky. A biopsy later, and cancer was confirmed. We learned entirely new vocabulary. “Clean margins.” “5FU.” “Neuropathy.”

The following six months were lived in two-week increments. Chemo one week, recover the next, lather, rinse, repeat. The nice planner I bought for 2021 lay collecting dust on my dresser. Goals shifted from writing a couple thousand words a night to “get dinner on the table. Wash dishes. Did The Destroyer finish his homework?” Our lives were measured out in episodes of “The Office,” “Jeopardy,” “Wheel of Fortune.” Our social connections consisted of friends dropping off a meal the evening after treatment. We kept our heads down, and kept moving, one foot in front of the other.

Chemo ended a year ago. We began to make plans. Not big ones. We’re going to hike Gregory’s Bald, LeConte Trail, Charlie’s Bunyon. Next year. We’ll hike. We’ll get out and do it in 2022. Because we can. With this kind of cancer, if it doesn’t return in 2 years, it’s unlikely to ever come back again. We like those odds. 2023, we’re coming for you.

I don’t know when it happened, but one day I looked up and realized that we have moved on. One clear CT scan led to another, and then to another, and now we’re living our lives as though cancer never existed. It is a blip on a radar, a speck in the rear-view mirror. We adopted a dog-monster. Her name is Storm, and she has the energy of a caffeinated hurricane. I would never have considered adding chaos to the household if we were a cancer family, when we needed life to be as uncomplicated as possible.

We’ve hiked, too. Boy, have we hiked. We hit all three of our target trails within the span of a month, about 30 miles and God only knows how much elevation gain. On Gregory’s Bald, I kept thinking we would eventually run out of “up.” The Padawan even joined us for that one. We missed the peak of Flame Azalea season by about 10 days, but it was still worth it. We did it. We survived, and now we thrive.

Our next adventure is a trip to Peru to work on reforestation in the Peruvian Amazon. The Padawan is joining us for that one, too. Two weeks in the forest with no electricity or running water? Bring it. I did finally think to clear it with the oncologist a couple of weeks ago as an afterthought. She shrugged. “I don’t see why not.” Me, neither.

And here’s the best news. 2 years is considered cured. We learned at our last visit that the clock started the day they removed the tumor, not the day chemo ended. On December 27, we’ll be celebrating that two full years without cancer. We don’t have a year and some change to go; we have four months. In four months, this whole episode can be chalked up as a major pain-in-the-ass inconvenience and nothing more. We’re here. We’re back. We’re in this game to win it.

Lost In Translation: College Edition

It’s done. Last week my husband and I packed the car, loaded up the Girl-child, and transported her to her new life at college.  Such stress does funny things to your hearing.

On the road:

What I said: “Why don’t I drive?”

What I probably meant: “Take some time to relax. I’ll get us through the worst of the traffic.”

What he heard: “You’re going to kill us all, you crazy rage-monster!”


At Target buying last-minute things:

What I said: “I think we should get her the blue pillow.

What I probably meant: “The teal will brighten the place up. “

What he heard: “The dog has better taste than you, and she’s color blind.


Touring campus:

What I said: “Do you want some coffee?”

What I probably meant: “I could use a pick-me-up. Does anyone else want one?”

What he heard: “You are a giant, Debbie-downer turd. Please drink some caffeine so you can stop being a turd. Stat.”


On the way home:

What I said: “The speed limit is 70 now!”

What I probably meant: “Yay! We’re finally out of the construction zone!”

What he heard: “You drive like my grandma.”


On the road:

What I said: “Put a Clif bar in your cakehole.”

What I probably meant: “Put a Clif bar in your cakehole. NOW! You’re driving me nuts!”

What he heard: Yeah, okay. He had to get one right.


At home:

What I said: “She’ll be okay. She’s ready for this.”

What he heard: “I never loved her like you do. I should have raised show rats.”

What I probably meant: “I miss her, too.”

Me and my girl.

Me and my Girl-child


Sweet Girl-child, don’t you even worry. You’re going to do great! And we’ll be okay, too.

So Here’s How It Happened

I must apologize for my last post. It left people hanging. It’s my fault. I haven’t blogged in a couple of weeks, and the new editor from WordPress was a little harder to use than I expected. I refused to switch back to the “classic” (read: “for those too old to adapt to the changing times”) editor, the post went live prematurely, and some of the changes I thought I had made weren’t saved. The post was a little confusing and incomplete. Let me fill in the blanks.

Go back in time with me 19 years, when times were simpler. Gas cost a mere $1 a gallon***, and only rich people had cell phones. My husband of two months and I went out to Carter caves in eastern KY to spend some time together before I began my last semester of college. We were early for our tour, so we took of to explore the woods. We had wandered probably a mile down the trail when we heard screaming.  It took us a moment to realize it was a cat, and probably a small one. I dug through the underbrush to try to find the source of the sound. The volume of the cries were in keeping with those of an animal with a limb caught in a trap. I found the little critter, all giant belly and eyeballs. She was not injured in any way. Her calls were a terrified version of “Marco Polo,” and once she clapped those luminous eyes on us, she wasn’t about to let us go. She followed us out of the woods, crying the whole way, begging to be carried. It was when we turned and saw this tiny kitten braving a running stream to keep up that we relented and picked her up.

Eight months ago, we said goodbye to that waif, having shared lives and home for over eighteen years. Eighteen years sometimes just aren’t enough.

My old friend

My old friend

I never thought I’d have another kitten. They’re troublesome little creatures. I can’t count the number of times I had to leave the bathtub to pull Piper off the living room drapes, and if I had a quarter for every plant our cats knocked off/turned over/peed in, I’d be a rich woman indeed. And there are plenty of adult cats who need homes.

So imagine my surprise when I felt a sudden urge to look at kittens on Craigslist. Two clicks later, I found myself looking at the most arresting face. Within minutes, I fired off an email to the rescue group’s contact person. She responded almost immediately. I asked a few more questions, and my heart sank when I got the response. The kitten was slated to make an appearance at an adoption event the following day, during hours I had to work.

There are other kittens in the world, I said to myself. And besides, it’s not a decision for me alone. I emailed my husband and included a photo of the kitten. Piper’s death hit him just as hard as it hit me, and to bring home another tiny tuxedo without consent would be wrong. I hit “send” and waited. And waited. I saw him check his email. And he was quiet for a long time. Finally, he closed the computer and left to go run some errands. I had to go to bed early, and he was still asleep when I left for work.  We never got to talk about it. Oh, well. It was never my cat. Never mine.

I thought about the kitten at work all the next day. I couldn’t get her out of my mind. Not my cat. Not mine. Never was. I tried to put the whole notion out of my head. Not my cat.

I came home that evening. She was sitting on my bed like she owned the place. My husband had gone to the adoption event just about as soon as they opened to pick her up. She’s my cat now. Always will be. She’s mine. She’s my Pixel.

Pixel. Forever mine.

Pixel. Forever Mine.



*** I can’t vouch for the veracity of that statement. I just know that when old people tell me stories, they usually reference the price of gas somewhere.

Room For Improvement

Dear friends, it’s a brand new year. The slate is wiped clear, and we all get to start fresh. All of us. Let’s do this together, shall we? Working together can make the world a better place.

I have goals for myself, of course. It wouldn’t be quite fair otherwise.

My Goals For Self-Improvement

  • This is the year I will finish my current manuscript and begin querying agents. I’m hoping the manuscript itself will be finished in the next month or so, a first draft at any rate. And then on to rewrites, finding beta readers, and then the query. I am excited and terrified. This particular novel is a departure from anything I’ve ever written.
  • I need to do a bit of work on the ole physique. Yeah, I know it’s cliché. Have we met? I made a conscious decision to eat whatever I wanted over the holidays. This morning, I looked in the mirror and discovered all the fluffy pigeons had come home to roost. Right on my bum-bum. I must do better. I will get back to regular exercise and intentional eating. Although I would argue my Christmas eating was pretty intentional. I intended to eat that entire basket of candy bars without sharing.
  • If I buy books, I must immediately add them to my To Be Read list. It takes the commitment level up a notch to publicly commit to reading it. No more saying “I’d like to read this new book sometime.” I’ll post my list later this week.
  • To be as generous of spirit and selfless as my husband. The other day, I went downstairs to get a movie for us to watch, and I knew that no matter what I chose, my husband would happily watch it. I could have brought “Twilight,” and he’d have still smiled. At least on the outside.

My Wishes For the World

  • For words to be used properly.  The two that come to mind at the moment are “artisan” and “handcrafted.” Here’s a flow chart to let you know if the word is being used properly.

My first flow chart. Any recommendations for programs?

My first flow chart. Any recommendations for programs?

  • For reviewers to stop expecting that every female protagonist is a role model. There is a recent trend to upbraid authors for writing women and girls that aren’t paragons of modern feminism, especially in YA. As a writer, this trend really bugs me. I’m not writing role models; I’m writing people. Not every person I meet in life is someone I will look up to. I don’t see book characters any differently. Just because the protagonist isn’t a hero doesn’t mean the book is a bad one. Flawed characters are more interesting.
  • For us to make this the year we get the facts before forming an opinion. Or taking action. Even if it involves reading a primary source. I have to turn off social media periodically when some celebrity/political figure I may or may not have heard of is accused of doing/saying/thinking something horrific, so my feed blows up with folks calling for a tarring and feathering. And then it turns out that (*gasp*) the person in question was misrepresented and the media was making mountains out of tiny little mole hills. Hear something that bugged you? Research it a little. It feels terrible to get the proverbial knickers in a knot and later find out it was a tempest in a teapot. Don’t believe me? Ask Goodreads. And I could think of at least five other examples without really trying.
  • For all of us to quit being mean in the name of Jesus. In researching my current novel, I came across two websites by two different Christian groups that broke my heart. Both sites were busy trashing other Christians for what they thought the other believed. That’s not what it’s about, friends. If we’re caught up in mocking a group of people because they believe in predestination versus free will (or salvation instead of sanctification), we’ve missed the whole point and we might as well go home. Jesus was pretty clear that the most important thing after loving the Lord is to love our neighbor as ourselves. How’s ’bout we get busy doing that? Seems more productive in the long run.


And what are your hopes for the coming year?


Nearly Wordless Wednesday: Decorating With Heather

In the market for a new centerpiece for Spring? So were we. And here you are.

Another reason they don't let me on Pinterest.

You know you want one. Admit it.

What is it? I’m so glad you asked.

Yeah. They're bullfrogs.

Yeah. They’re bullfrogs. Because it’s me.

New pillows? New centerpiece?Just call me Martha Stewart.


Conservation note: These are captive bred and will not be re-released. It’s illegal here to take animals out of the wild, and there’s a fatal fungus that can be transmitted to wild populations if they are released into a local pond.

I Usually Avoid Controversy, But…

I don’t air my dirty laundry on my blog. I have aired clean laundry a couple of times, but only because Squish was sleeping in it. I don’t usually take on the Daily Post challenges, either, especially the ones that involve any kind of controversy. But I read today’s challenge, which discusses something-something, polls, something-something, divisive issues. And it got me to thinking. I wonder if a poll could save my marriage.

I know. The challenge is to discuss whether we prefer ebooks or paperbacks, but I haven’t the energy to beat a dead horse (Incidentally, polls show that 9 out of 10 people surveyed prefer hardcover books for beating a dead horse). I’ll cover this part kind of quick.

I have an e-reader, so I read both. Paper books have intrinsic resale value while e-books don’t even belong to you if they have a DRM, say something about e-books being freakishly expensive, add a little note about saving shelf space by using an e-reader, and done.

Now on to the real topic that is on my heart: my relationship with my husband.

Every once in awhile, we get blind-sided; totally taken by surprise; knocked for a complete and utter loop. Now is one of those times. We thought we had the parenting thing worked out. We agreed on the general principles, and we’ve been able to talk through almost any conflict that arises. But we missed something along the way. We never talked about grilled cheese sandwiches.

I’m teaching the Padawan to cook. Well, cook may be a bit of a stretch. I’m teaching him to feed himself. Last week he learned how to make a grilled cheese sandwich. He did a great job with minimal supervision. He let the butter melt, dropped the sandwich in and toasted over medium heat until golden brown, then did the same for the other side. Confidence soaring, he asked to make them for the family. Conflict arose.

There he was, prepping his bread and cheese like a little soldier, melting his butter in the pan just as he had been taught. He had no more than tossed the sandwich into the pan when my husband uttered the fateful words; “You’ll want to flip that over and get butter on both sides.” Confused and uncertain, my poor son followed his father’s instructions, which resulted in a sad sandwich that was rather dry and decidedly non-buttery.

Let me back up a moment. My husband is a good man, but he brought baggage into the marriage. He never learned to make grilled cheese properly. Left to his own devices as a college student, he taught himself to butter the bread before sticking it in the pan. It was cute at first, like watching a baby eat a sock, but it has since lost its charm, especially since this behavior has now impacted how we raise our offspring.

Words were said that cannot now be unsaid, mostly to the effect of “You’re doing it wrong,” and “That’s going to burn.” Feelings have been hurt. Mostly my husband’s. No one wants to be told their grilled cheese is dry. And my poor son is caught in the middle.

I need your help. Am I way off base here?

I know that I don’t usually bring controversy into my blog, and this is a heated topic. A delicious, melty, buttery, heated topic. Please keep comments kind and constructive. Make grilled cheese sandwiches for others the way you would have them make them for you. Or something like that.

Of Straws and Husbands

It really is the straw that breaks the camel’s back. It’s not the Bedouin. Or the Bedouin’s tent. Or his wife. Or her pet dog. It’s a straw. The little things get us.

For me, it wasn’t the dead refrigerator, or the roof, or the dead tree that caught fire while we watched helplessly. It wasn’t even my camera.

Oh, did I not mention the camera? Sometime between dead tree and roof, a kid at the pool splashed my camera, filling it with saline. It was a total accident, nobody’s fault. But now the digital display is inconsistent, and there are sometimes pictures that cannot be deleted. Because they won’t go away. But if I try to delete one, the whole memory card is erased. Fun times, but I am making due until I have saved for a big girl camera.

My breaking point was the shower head. I knew it was too good for me the moment we bought the house. And clearly, it knew it, too. The house’s previous owners remodeled and added some pretty awesome features. They wanted the bathroom to be like a hotel, complete with soap/shampoo/conditioner/lotion dispenser (I kid you not. And I have yet to find refill kits for it.) and the shower head. The shower head is was a marvel of engineering. It has a two-foot long slide bar that allowed us to adjust it to the proper height for the current occupant, from the six-foot man of the house to the two-and-a-half foot Squish. More importantly than that, however, the slide bar actually held up the shower head. And now it doesn’t.

It started its slow death a few months ago. There was a little wiggle when we changed the height. Then it kind of slid to one side. But we could work with it. Until two nights ago when it gave up the ghost completely and I found pieces of its carcass in the bottom of the tub, shower head laying as unsupported as a volleyball player without a sports bra. You knew there would be at least one Olympic reference, right?

And I lost it. I didn’t go all Hulk-smash or anything, but I’m still not proud of myself. I muttered, cried a little, maybe I beat my head against a wall. Because I’m good at that. I lamented every single thing in my life that has turned to crap because I touched it, all the way back to the Wal-Mart stock I pretend invested in in economics class in the eighth grade .Seriously. Stock was booming until the moment I filled out my assignment form, at which point it tanked. For years. Yes, if you lost your cheap, foreign-made shirt investing in Wal-mart in the late 80’s, all I can say is “You’re welcome.”

Anyway, back to my current tragedy. I attempted to take a shower, broken equipment and all, and it was unpleasant. Any idea how hard it is to condition one’s hair with one hand while the other holds the water at just the right angle so as not to wash it all off before the stuff has done its moisturizing duty? And forget shaving the legs. I don’t ask much out of life, but I do have a need to be clean.

My tantrum subsided after a bit, and I was able to discuss calmly with my husband the importance of repairing the device soon.  My sweet guy gathered the broken parts, and then he left, cancelling his evening plans of lame Olympic coverage and an episode of Sherlock so he could fix the problem sooner rather than later. I love him.

Maybe it was my tears of despair. Maybe it was the fact that I’ve let a lot of other crap roll of my back lately. I even handled the malfunction of my beloved camera philosophically, though it is practically a second limb. Or maybe it was the inability to shave my legs. Few enjoy sharing sleeping quarters with a porcupine, after all. I choose not to examine too closely and just say that he loves me. A lot. And he fixed it.

It’s a temporary fix, to be sure. But it will hold until we find the distributor who made the hotel shower head holder. And save up the money to replace it. I can work with that. A $5 solution by a husband that loves me, and I am ready to take on the world again. Sometimes its the little things that break us. And sometimes its  small stuff that gets us right back up on the camel. It’s a good view from up here. I like it.


Don’t forget to visit here to enter my giveaway. I’ll have pictures of the goodies tomorrow, I hope.


Students of Life

We’re never too old to learn. Not ever. Each and every day brings us the opportunity to learn something new, to add to our bank of knowledge. Don’t pass up your opportunity! You never know what’s out there. Allow me to share with you the things we learned this weekend.

My husband learned:

If I drop half a candy bar on the movie theater floor, I will wrap it back up, take it home, and put it in the freezer until such time I forget where it has been. In my defense, it was a 100 Grand bar. And sitting in the freezer for ten minutes six months  will kill any germs that may have hopped aboard. Right? This confession does not paint me in a good light, does it? Feel free to forget what you just learned.

You’d have done the same thing, and you know it. Thanks, Wiki, for the picture.

I learned: 

My husband loves coffee so much that not even a felony***  can keep him from his caffeine fix. For real. As we were driving into the parking lot of a nearby coffee shop, half a dozen police cars rushed in, lights flashing. A suspect, already cuffed and waiting to be stuffed was being wrestled to the ground by a pair of undercover cops. I thought perhaps we should skip the coffee altogether. Husband disagreed. His argument? This was now the safest coffee house in town, what with the eight cop cars and all. My favorite part was when the cop stopped beating the bushes for evidence (They really do that. They have a special golf club-looking piece of equipment for it and everything) and gave us a friendly “How ya’ll doin’? Don’t mind me!” wave as we drank our coffee.

My mom learned:

Heights literally scare the poop out of Squish. If you’re taking him to the playground to let him play on the big climbing structure, pack an extra pair of underwear. For him. And yourself, if watching a kid stumble around 8 feet off the ground makes you nervous.

*** suspect would like us to remind you all that at this moment, it is only an alleged felony. 

Ever Have One Of Those Days?

You know. The kind of day where you sigh and say “Wait, why do I have camel food in my car?” Yeah, me, too.

It’s not as if I feed camels everyday. I don’t. They’re on the other side of the zoo from where I work, and I rarely venture that far in a day’s volunteering. But there it is. In the console, waiting to make some camel very happy. Or very sick. That stuff has been in there for at least a year.

The biggest why comes not from the fact that camel food appeared in my car. That would be like asking why there are rocks in my dryer. Duh.  The real question is why it’s still there. My husband cleans out my car all the time. “What a sweetie,” you might say. And he is. But not when it comes to my car. He has very specific ideas about what is allowed to stay in my car and what is not.

Items on the unacceptable list include but are not limited to:

Car books. You know what I’m talking about. Books we keep in the car so we have something to read in the car line at school, etc. They’re too good to throw away, not good enough to devote any real time to.

Napkins. Am I the only parent who stashes fast food napkins in the console for emergencies? Where else am I going to put the boogie that Squish sweetly wipes on my sleeve? I’ve been forced to get creative.

Emergency stash of feminine hygiene products. A napkin is a napkin, no matter how sanitary. I assume these are like kryptonite and must be removed from the little drawer under the passenger’s side seat before it is safe for a guy to drive the car.

The sign with my son’s name on it that allows me to retrieve the kid from school when I am forced to drive.

Any CD by The Wiggles. He may have a point with that one.

Extra pair of shoes for Squish. Seriously. You never know when a sandal is going to go flying out the window break.

Reusable bagsTo be perfectly truthful, these are not removed from the car. They are locked neatly in the trunk, so I think they’ve been left behind.

SunscreenHe might be trying to kill me.

Items that are apparently deemed worthy to stay include:

Any CD by REM. Except for the ones that mysteriously disappear and later turn up in his car.

Camel food.

The only question remaining is why I have not removed it myself. And that’s an easy one. I rarely see it. The bag is usually buried under clean napkins. Maybe I’m not perfect, either.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever found in your car?

What Love Looks Like

I packed a lunch for my husband today as a little surprise. And I treated him to one of my most precious, triple-decker Moon Pies without him even asking. That, my friends, is what love looks like.

What love looks like after nearly 17 years of marriage:

moon pie, relationships, this is what love looks like

Yes. It says "But hands off my stash." Marriage is about accepting one another for who and what we are, and sometimes what we are is a sneaky Moon Pie thief. And these are too big to hide in a tampon box.