Long Day, Long Week

It’s Saturday. Glad for the weekend.

I haven’t seen one ball game of Gavin’s for a very long time. Today , I get to see two. 9 and 11. I look forward to it, far more than you can probably believe.

My brothers will look after Mom over the weekend. It works well. They are so easy to work with. The three of us are a good care team.

Last weekend, Memorial Day weekend, was the unofficial summer start. We have had a couple of days hot and humid so far, and we will have many more ahead. It’s time. And I have some baseball to catch up on.

It’s so hard to believe Gavin will be 11 this year. He loves baseball, and I love to watch him play. It’s great. Best fun I’ve had in years.

My oldest played Little League ball. He was a skilful player at 10, just like Gavin. His dad coached, but that was when we separated, and his dad refused to pick him up for practice and games. I had to work until 5 every day, and did not get home in time to take him to practice or play games. His dad wouldn’t since it I filed for divorce. His dad was the coach. My son told me he could forgive his dad for everything else but baseball. I’m so happy my grandson doesn’t have that situation.

The rest of the weekend? I will spend time with the Babe. We haven’t seen each other much this week. We have a lot to catch up on. I feel so lucky to do that. There are a lot of husbands who wouldn’t have it if their wife needed to tend to her mom. Mine knows family is everything and knows we all have only one Mom. I’m a lucky woman.

You know, we have a lot of things to do to finish preparing for summer. I’m so sad there will no longer be a specialty nursery in Gretna who raises seed planted Geraniums for summer and poinsettias for Christmas. I should be able to re-start the geraniums every spring, for as long as I want. It will be wonderful to have those same plants, year after year. Such a keepsake.

We have some things to take care of this weekend; hope you get to enjoy yours. Have a great Saturday! See you tomorrow.

June 2, 2023

My challenge is over. I wrote 30 minutes a day every day during May. I chose different topics based on situations the Babe and I have encountered with the many friends and family members diagnosed with cancer. It gave you an overview of situations, feelings, and processing all of it.

It turns out we’ve finished the challenge, raised $345 for the American Cancer Society, and raised awareness of some situations and feelings. This month, I want to finally finish editing my narrative for my children’s book. I’ve had it on a shelf, because life got in the way.

My book, about grief and loss, is for children. It is about the hard lessons our grandson Gavin learned about losing his Grandpa Randy and our dog, Roxie. I wanted it to be finished for his birthday last year. That didn’t happen, but I hope this year, I can at least present a draft copy to him on his birthday.

One thing I’m experiencing now since Mom’s treatment is over is I feel like I need to see her every day. Five weeks of being with her five days a week built a habit or expectation I didn’t have before. It takes up about four to six hours a day. When I return home, I’m tired and don’t feel like doing much. This is sabotaging my creativity and the things I do for myself. I believe those feelings are normal, and I need to integrate my creativity back into my daily routine.

In two weeks, we visit the oncologist again, and probably have scans to check how Mom’s treatment did its job. And that’s a lot to have on my mind as well as hers.

It’s hard to keep doing the things to get through the day, while life is changing so drastically around me. I care little about cooking, eating, and most other things. The best thing I can do is read a book, if I can concentrate on the story. Another best thing is to do my embroidery stitching or work on a small quilt. The act of working with floss, thread, a needle, and a pattern for color and stitch placement occupies the part of your mind where worry originates. It nips the problem at the bud. Try it.

Hope you have a beautiful Friday. We get to go to a ballgame tonight and see Gavin play. It will be a wonderful way to spend the time while we’re waiting to see what comes next. See you tomorrow.

A Summery Day in June

Saw a fun thing today. Although I thought the kids were a little young to be out alone, minibikes in tow, complete with racing helmets, it evoked thoughts of summer as a child.

We saw two minibikes parked in the same parking place in a lot, and two little boys, at a high tabletop and bar stools on the patio at the restaurant. Their racing helmets, perched on the table next to each of them as they drank large sodas and ate their burgers and fries. Yes, life was large for these two lads.

We thought there were maybe about ten or eleven. Too young to take out the minibikes and have lunch at the local sports bar. As a mom and grandma, I’m hoping they made it home safely. And I hope they never lose their sense of adventure. While following the rules. Be safe, guys. Be safe.

This was the quintessential view of summer and reminded me of going on our bicycles down to any soda fountain in South Omaha, and having a cherry coke. It was the sense of freedom for us. It was great. Our initial debut in the world.

Young men, be careful out there. I hope you are safe this summer, and I hope you have a blast at the same time. You will always remember these days. See you tomorrow.

And Just Like That . . .

The weekend is over.

The flags, folded and stored. The bugles back in their holders. Uniforms hung to use at the next funeral. The veterans and Honor Guard of the towns and cities are alone with their thoughts of comrades lost. Gold Star Families have empty seats at their tables. Precious, yet painful memories.

The beach goers are shaking sand off everything and drying towels and swimsuits. Little kids are getting their nightly baths to remove the grit of the day and cool the sun from their skin.

Do you feel you had enough relaxation? Me neither.

While memorials and gatherings were going on the last three days, doctors and nurses were still tending our sick in the hospitals. Our military was still standing guard. Priests still visited the sick. Families still visited their elders.

Life, strangely, still goes on while many are doing other things. Celebrating holidays, swimming, picnicking, boating, and enjoying the first event of summer. Where ever we are in the moments of our lives, others are experiencing their worst events ever. It is strange to notice those things, coexisting.

We had mixtures of those kinds of things. Visiting with Mom, going to a graduation party, and snacking on summer foods. Life takes you from one side of it to another. And tomorrow, it’s back to business as usual. Mowing the lawn, walking the dogs, and living your best life.

As you enter regular life again today, wear the nice outfit, put on the special earrings, save nothing for special occasions. Every day we live is a special day, a good day, a day to consider special. Remember that as you move through your day. Make special moments and memories. You will have them forever. See you tomorrow.

Another Birthday This Week!

My author friend James R. Lawrence informed me I share my birthday with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle on May 22. How cool is that! Of course, I suppose that means I was born on Doyle’s birthday. He died in 1930, long before I was a twinkle in Dad’s eye. In fact, Dad would have been six years old in 1930.

It tickled me to death about sharing a birthday with someone who was such a genius writer. It’s nearly as good as my daughter sharing her birthday with Paul Newman. If they only knew what wonderful, strong women shared their days of birth.

So, the Babe is celebrating his 73rd birthday this day, May 24. We’re just puttering around at home. I finally feel calm after two days of craziness. Yes, any elderly person is a handful as they are closer to the end of their lives than the beginning. I suppose we could say the same for any of us. If you throw cancer in on top of the normal issues, you’ve got a situation needing a lot of management and intervention, while helping them keep their dignity. A tall order for four healthy people in their 60s and 70s.

Sometimes, you just need to melt down. Even those of us who are the strong ones in the family. It comes with good mental health. If we don’t/can’t keep it together and relieve the stress productively. I’ve learned healthy ways of doing that, from people respected experts in their field.

Centering Corporation in Omaha, NE, is the first place I look for; printed information and handouts for any stage of grief and mental health. Personal guidance to select those resources for civilians and veterans alike is available. I’ve learned so much from them. Just give Janet a call.

I’ve never been one who says, “I need a drink,” while getting through strife. If anything, I feel it is the worst thing you could do. I still feel that way. Yes, I drink. Yes, I have, at times had one too many. Not so much lately. It’s there, but not a primary focus in my life. I’ve escaped the family curse from generations ago. It is truly not going to solve anything. Please remember that.

When you think about all a human needs to do while navigating through this thing called life, it can be overwhelming. We all need to remember it does not mean for us to go through things alone. If they blessed us enough to have a partner through all of this, it’s great. If you don’t have one, you can select someone to be that go to for you. Yes, it takes getting outside of ourselves. It takes risking rejection. Just do it. After practice, it becomes second nature. Your perspective changes with your attitude does. You can do it.

Hope you get to enjoy this day and we’ll see each other tomorrow.

Today’s About Me.

Whether we get to spend our birthday, how we wish they leave to the gods. Or THE God. It’s said trials come along to see how you react to them. Such went my birthday. And it wasn’t the worst thing, just disappointing. So we’ll do what actual adults do, and we’ll go to Plan B. We spent the whole day with Mom in the ER. She had symptoms showing they may need to have emergency equipment since the situation could escalate. It didn’t but I’m glad for the precautions. Just another pesky UTI. You cannot be too careful. Birthday cocktail of an Old Fashioned and dinner of pizza. Check.

Plan B? Do it the next day. It was to just be a quick conference with a banker, and on my way to write the blog I missed from my birthday. Guess again. I’d planned to spend three hours catching up on writing while waiting for my appointment to get a haircut.

The conference appointment didn’t register; they had no record of it. I had already spent two fruitless hours at another branch with the same issue. They told me I needed the permission from another person. They took off work to get this process completed. After begging, they saw us, and in an hour, got the job done. OK, now the blogging. Just now got started at 5:30 p.m.

I’m super late for the recap of my birthday. This is at least recognition of yet another timely example of how taking care of our family and friends with cancer can disrupt plans for daily living. There are no holidays, birthdays, and celebrations sometimes. Duty calls.

In a nutshell, tomorrow we’ll share the ideas I had for writing about the trials of the birthday day. And how the whole essay disappeared, despite frequent saving and backups. Hope your Tuesday was good. I’m very overtired from my aggravated asthma. Resting is tops on my to-do list this evening. See you tomorrow.

ACS Challenge-31daysx30 minutes

Over the years, one thing standing out among all the achievements in cancer treatment is fewer people are dying from it. Treatment helps you not only kick cancer, but is also helps you have more birthdays. Some of us might not, I understand that, too.

One thing some people do is procrastinate getting the diagnosis. They don’t want to ruin Christmas, or your birthday, or anniversary, so they put off the visit to the doctor. They delay the scans. Work is always a great excuse. Trust me, if you work for a company with health insurance and/or PTO, you can certainly miss an hour to have this important test. Your life may depend on it. Too blunt?

Sorry, not sorry if it is. The whole point I’ve learned over the years is something ACS hammers home every chance it gets: Early Detection Saves Lives.

Please, get those diagnostic tests.

Some people with cancer the Babe and I know diagnosed early had much better chances of survival after treatments. Some cancers, hard to detect, are advanced staged at diagnosis. The Babe’s ex-wife Sandy was one of these people. We were all friends, and Sandy and I became good friends during her illness. I was home during the day, and when she felt up to it, we’d go to a movie or have lunch during a weekday. I treasure that friendship. She, given 6 months to live, lived a life full of love from her kids and grandkids. And she lived two years longer than expected. She enriched all of our lives. Miss you, my friend.

Sandy’s sister Sharon, diagnosed with the same cancer as Sandy, died the next spring. Their mother died in 1988 from the same cancer. Sad situation all the way around. Sharon’s husband, Lou, began inviting us to have Christmas dinner with him, with the Babe’s daughter Tracy, TJ, Addison and Gavin. It’s become an annual blessing. The Babe worked for Lou at Watkins Concrete Block Co, Inc. until they both retired. A very kind man, with a big heart. Miss them both now.

We’ve known two people diagnosed with kidney cancer. They both underwent kidney removal surgery. Later on, cancer appeared in a nearby location, and the fight was on. The cancer, and other factors, resulted in the loss of another friend. The other person, the Babe’s Mom Liz, had the kidney removed and not more cancer. She passed from complications from MS. Bless her, too. Miss her every day.

For about seven or eight years, it seemed that’s all we knew, one friend after another; lost to cancer.

The loss to our family of my sister-in-law Laura was equally as devastating as the loss of our dad.

Married to my brother Tim, Laura was a sweetheart since kindergarten. Yes, kindergarten. Their lives went different ways, but they remained in touch. Laura married after high school, divorced with one child. She remarried, was pregnant, and her husband died of cancer. Two little children, a girl and a boy.

She wed again, had two more boys, and this husband committed suicide. Dear God, this could be a movie plot. And it’s absolutely true. Alone with four children. My brother re-entered her life.

It was a roller coaster much of the time. They were intent on changing each of their lives, and learning a better way to live and raise the children. After several years of marriage, they diagnosed Laura with oral cancer. Her brother passed from it as well. Now, Laura suffered the same fate.

To help my brother, I spent a lot of time with her. He was trying to work his job, save his time off for when he absolutely needed it, and run the house, keeping track of the kids. Hard enough for two people, much less for one with a day job. She was in and out of the hospital, feeding tube, massive weight loss, chemo and radiation, and she stayed positive. We talked a lot about heaven, God, and forgiveness. She and I were distant over a misunderstanding for a long time. Her illness and my love for my brother helped heal that issue, and I’m grateful for what I learned from her.

Mend your fences, folks. Take it from one who knows. You don’t want to run out of time. Love you, sister! See you in heaven, someday.

Both women added to my life and my understanding of others. So grateful for their friendships and the memories I have with them. Make some memories today. See you tomorrow.

The Worst Year of My Life – Part 2

1988, as we’ve been talking about yesterday and today was the worst year on record for me. So far. You never know. If you didn’t get to read Part 1, click above, and take a minute to read. I’ll wait.

So that brings us up to September, 1988. Several cancer-related deaths of friends, family, and others make for a hard year. And it wasn’t over yet.

Dad retired in July 1988, and was enjoying not going to work, especially on Saturday nights during football season. Before e-mail for photos, etc., if there was a Saturday night game in Lincoln, Nebraska, the film had to be driven up from Lincoln, processed, then printed for the paper on Sunday. They were proud of their color photos of the Huskers.

The delay meant an extra long night for the pressroom. Dad told us about that at a late celebration for Mom’s birthday, at my home with the kids. It was a Saturday night, and the first football game of the season. I’ll never forget hearing him tell us how glad he was to not be working that night.

Dad didn’t feel well for the rest of September. He had an ache in his side. He thought it was a pulled muscle. It seemed to get worse. He found out he had lung cancer on October 20, my oldest son’s birthday. We felt crushed. My kids weren’t seeing their dad much, and Dad was a great male role model to them.

I remember again what Dad said. Let’s wait to worry until we find out what we’re dealing with. Expert advice, but so very hard to do. It’s something we try to do when we learn of another diagnosis, friend, family, or neighbor. Don’t desert your people. Yes, it’s hard, but being isolated because your friends are uncomfortable is not good. They need you, and especially now.

Of all days Dad could of died, it was December 7, 1988. A day of infamy. Absolutely.

There are constant reminders of Dad everywhere that first year. In less than a month, we had the first Christmas and his first birthday (January 1) without him. It was all uphill from there. We were all so sad; this great man who never had a vacation missed his trip of a lifetime. His Blackhawk Division was due to go on a tour of Europe that spring. Seeing the sights they saw as young men in combat.

He’s missed graduations, weddings, births, and other deaths. He was only 64 when he died. So unnecessary. Like most men his age, he was a lifelong smoker. That, and the work environment at a newspaper, probably left lots of stuff in his lungs that were constant irritants. Many of his fellow pressmen also died of lung cancer in the years that followed.

I don’t know if any of you survived years longer than your parent(s) did, but it is a strange feeling. I’m 71 this month; when I was 65, I spent a lot of time thinking about how short Dad’s life was. It seriously robbed him. I know we won’t all live forever, and some folks live longer than others. It’s frightening. It left me with all kinds of unresolved feelings. I think what made it worse since I had kids to comfort, and had no one to comfort me. Loss is so hard when you’re alone.

Cancer played a huge part in the worst year of my life. Big losses in a short time. After Dad died, I had one thing to be grateful for. I didn’t have a self-centered boyfriend to contend with. That was a great blessing. And now, I can look back and see how God makes some changes in your life to help with what is coming. We might not understand it, but He does. And I’m glad.

That year taught me a lot about myself. And about life. I’d never want to re-live it.

Angels of Mercy – Nurse Navigators

During any critical illness, especially cancer, it helps so much to be able to communicate with someone who can listen, help you figure out a possible solution for your problem or concern, and walk with you until you’re comfortable with any changes to the regimin, changes you help to heal better.

Some patients don’t like to be truthful about pain, questions they may have, even how/when to take their medication. They don’t want any intrusion that could cause a change in their living situation. God forbid if they have to go to a care center. Denial isn’t just a river in Egypt.

Navigating the black waters of caregiving is hard. It helps to have someone who can listen, reflect back, and ease the patient’s pain, fear, and help with the anger. Most of us are not equipped to do that, we need guidance.

The Navigator attends appointments with the patient, taking notes and providing them to the family at every visit for referral later. It’s quite helpful.

In some ways, the relaxing Sunday the Babe and I had seems far away. Our family knows the reality of this illness is hitting our home right now. The fatigue, the pain, and all that goes with it. It’s nothing out of the ordinary, it’s what each patient endures. The treatment Mom had is about 50% less than a normal dose, of oral chemo and radiation. And that would sideline a person half her age. We’ll all get through this.

And thank you to Pam, our Nurse Navigator. We’re glad you’re on the team. Only five more treatments as of today (Tuesday).

Sunday Blessings-ACS 31x 30

For those who have missed what I’m writing about during the Month of May, I’m taking part in the American Cancer Society Fundraiser. It’s not one of a 5k Walk or Ironman Event. This nearly 71-year-old grandma doesn’t run anywhere. I stroll. 5k would have to be a multi-day event. You get it. Considering my lack of ability (medically backed) I can do what I can do. Bon Jovi recorded a pandemic song, this version with Jennifer Nettles.

This song boosted America’s spirit as we were closed down. Regardless of your opinion on the entire event, this is about what we humans do in a crisis. You can almost compare a cancer patient to a person during the pandemic. We could infect someone with this terrible illness. No, we can’t catch cancer from someone. What I’m saying is with reduced to no immunity, the cancer patient can catch a simple cold and die from the complications. They compromise everything in their system. Wash your hands. Frequently. Wear a mask if you have sniffles, a cold, whatever. You could save their life.

Although it’s a day off, this topic is on my mind. Of course it is.

I woke this morning hearing the songs of birds in the wetlands behind our house. It was wonderful. It calmed me. I felt rested. I remembered how creative hobbies such as adult coloring, crocheting, sewing, quilting, and even writing can put you in a nearly Zen state. The same part of the brain you used to worry, is the same part of the brain that calms you as you create. Mom and I used to have a once a week adult coloring date. It was fun to sit and relax, remembering all the days we colored when I was about 4 years old. Older brother Tom was in kindergarten. I missed him terribly while he was at school. We walked every day, morning and noon, with Mrs. Bauer, to walk the boys, our Tom and her Johnny, home for the rest of the day. I loved it. My best friend at home with me for the afternoon.

I’m choosing a creative project to work on all afternoon, and continue reading my friend, fellow Nebraska Author Tammy Marshall’s book “State of Georgia and Other Writings. Tammy, I love the story of Georgia and can relate. More on this later. Thanks for your example of great writing and your friendship. You are a person to follow for writers like me can learn a lot from.

If you don’t have a creative hobby like one of mine, it’s ok. Get some coloring books, markers, gel pens, and color away. Taking a break from constant worry will surprise you. Or do Crosswords, Word Puzzles, Sudoku, or several others. You deserve a break. Make it a priority.

I’m fortunate to have the Babe, who took over all the things I used to do, except for laundry. His philosophy is two loads; dark and white. No further sorting for lingerie (mine) or boxers (his). Thanks, Babe, you are a Godsend during this time. It is a gift. Get some time for you, and take it soon. See you tomorrow.