Friday Fruitcakes and Fantasies

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.:: Fruitcake
This week Rob and I drove down to Savannah, GA. As we drove down I-16, we passed by Claxton, GA. What? You’ve never heard of Claxton, GA? How can that be possible? Claxton, GA is the fruitcake capital of the world. Fruitcake capital, people! And, I’m not talking fruitcake as in ‘crazy’.

Hold on. You don’t know what fruitcake is? Fruitcake is cake made with chopped candied fruit, nuts and spices. Though some people actually consume the supposedly edible cake, others use the brick shaped concoction for door stops.

Rob’s Dad is a lover of fruitcake. And, I admit, Rob is a lover of fruitcake. (I saw past this flaw and married Rob anyway.) Driving by Claxton, GA was fitting this week, as it was a fruitcake kind of week. Of course, by fruitcake, I am now using the word to mean ‘crazy’. . .

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.:: Here’s the deal, folks…
With the death of James, this week ‘spent’ me emotionally. James was Rob’s cousin. He was my father-in-law’s nephew. James lived in Jacksonville, FL, and I saw him a handful of times. Still – James and I actively chatted online. Actively. James and I cut-up with each other. He found me funny, and I found him funny. We both appreciated the humor and the laughter. And now? Now, I’ve lost my funny buddy. And, the hole created in my life with the loss of James is huge. I’d love to email James – but ding dang it all, James isn’t here to reply to my email and send me a funny email response to elevate my mood.

I want to be funny. If only as a tribute to James. But, humor is a hard thing to locate right now. Because in addition to losing James, my friend Andrea HT dealing with yucky stuff pertaining to her Mom’s cancer battle. My friend Andrea HT is in the midst of a roller coaster ride, and it isn’t the kind of roller coaster where folks are willing to stand in line for hours to ride.

As I said to Andrea HT, I find myself saying “la la la la la…” in my head, attempting to drown out the sorrow. Hey! I know, in an effort to embrace my crazy and fruitcake-self, I will now change course and start a top 10 – make that a top 8 –  list …

.:: Top 8 Non-sense Words Spoken in Our House
8. Doogie Whompers
7. Bumper-doo
6. Wee-honked
5. Dingle Dork
4. Ka’nuckle Head
3. Bubba Bean Head
2. Kerplunk-kerplooey
1. Ding-dangity

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.:: Fantasy Meets Reality
Continuing with my rattling on of rambles, I share with you a story that has nothing to do with anything … this is a story of my fantasy shaking hands with my reality…

One of the Dads I see at my son’s school is on the attractive side, in part because he has very long hair. (Though the hair is just part of his attractive looks…) Rob knows long hair is something I quite enjoy on guys. I’ve tried puling his hair at night, in hopes of increasing the length – to no avail. And, I’ve joked with Rob about this guy, assuring him that no impure thoughts have crossed my mind. Which is a true statement. Still, I find this long haired man nice to stalk – er – look at.

Well, my son had a program and special lunch at school this week, and Rob and I attended. When it came time to sit down for lunch, the long haired man sat across from Rob. My son was chatting with the long haired man’s son (who happens to be in my son’s class). The next thing I know, the two grown men – Rob and the object of my stalking – er – stares – introduced themselves to each other and shook hands. Excuse me?! What?!

As soon as the two men met, I heard the bursting sound of my fantasy bubble. Now that Mr. Reality and Mr. Fantasy are ‘acquaintances’, my desire to stare at Mr. Long-locks has lessened . .  a bit. *sigh* After the lunch, as we walked to the car, I grumbled to Rob about meeting my fantasy man. Interestingly, Rob has been smiling ever since.

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Be kind, and take care of yourself and each other.

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Take Care of Yourself and Each Other

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My husband’s Aunt Mary Alice ends most of her emails to us by writing, “Take care of yourself and each other.” If you’ve read any of my Flighty Friday posts, you may have noticed I end my posts with a similar saying, “Take care of yourself, and be kind to each other.” I adore Mary Alice, and I adore Mary Alice’s family.

Mary Alice played the piano and organ at our wedding. Now in her 80s, she continues teaching piano lessons and playing the organ for various churches in her area. Mary Alice is an active, strong and classy woman. She has experienced a great deal in her 80+ years, including taking care of her in-laws during their illnesses.

James and his Mom, Mary Alice

Uncle Edward, Mary Alice’s husband, died three years ago. Edward had Alzheimers and cancer, and Mary Alice took care of him. Mary Alice’s daughter is a cancer survivor, having won the battle against Breast Cancer. YES! Sadly, this past Saturday, Mary Alice’s son, James, lost his battle with cancer. James had all kinds of cancer.

Cancer sucks. Death sucks. Having a cold or the flu sucks, but cancer and death suck more. I realize when “suck” is used in certain context, some may find the word offensive. My apologies if you are offended. I find ‘death’ and ‘cancer’ offensive.

Death sucks for those left behind. Cancer sucks for those fighting the battle. Sure, cancer sucks for those helping their loved ones fight the battle, but I think it sucks more for the actual fighter.

And the cancer fighters? There is an army of fighters. Though lately, it seems the fighters are losing the battle. My neighbor’s friend’s Dad died this past Wednesday. He had cancer. A friend from my son’s school had a friend die last week. His friend had cancer. My boss’ Mother-in-law died earlier this year. She had cancer. Another friend of mine lost her Mom to cancer three years ago. My father died over 20yrs ago. He had cancer. The list goes on and on. Have I mentioned cancer sucks? How about death? Did I mention death sucks? Just checking.

I realize there are thousands and thousands of cancer survivors. Ya’hoo! And, I say that at the top of my lungs! YA’HOO!!! And, I remind you that Mary Alice’s daughter is one of the cancer survivors. YES! The survivors help motivate those caught up in the battle. The survivors give us all hope that remission and cures are possible. Still …

I asked a friend of mine recently, “Is cancer more prevalent these days or are we just getting older?” Her thought was that we were just getting older. I’m sure there were friends and family members that died of cancer when I was a youth, teenager and young adult. Alas, during those years I was was pretty self-absorbed. (Yeah, yeah – maybe I am still a little self-absorbed. Your point?!)

Later this week, my husband and I will drive to Savannah, GA to attend James’ burial. We are missing the visitation and funeral in Jacksonville, FL. I am trying to prepare myself emotionally. James was a light in my life. He inspired me with his wit, his smile, his optimism, his wit, his wit – and have I mentioned his wit? I stop short in calling him a smart-ass, out of respect for his Mom. But honestly – in the best way, he was a … well, you know. (At least he was with me, and I loved it!)

At the risk of sounding cheesy, I feel James around me. And, I know when I attend the burial (and reception), I’ll feel his optimism and joy for life. Joy for life at a burial? Yes. Seriously, James was so bright to me, I know I’ll feel his joy. What I don’t know is how I will handle seeing his Mom. His Mom. Wow. It should come as no surprise that Mary Alice’s kids are as awesome as they are – because their influence is/was nothing but the best. Seeing Mary Alice will break my heart. As a Mom, I can’t fathom burying my child. That is not how the circle of life is suppose to play out. And yet, a child losing a parent is also hard – regardless of age.

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Andrea's daughter with 'Nana'

My friend’s Mom is battling cancer. Like James, my friend’s Mom has all kinds of cancer. Like Mary Alice, my friend is not new to cancer. She lost her brother over 20yrs ago to a brain tumor. My friend lives in FL, and my friend’s Mom lives in NC. My friend, her name is Andrea, left FL this past weekend, to spend the week before Thanksgiving with her Mom. She’s spending quiet time with her Mom, before the rest of the family gathers for Thanksgiving.

Ever since Andrea’s Mom was diagnosed with cancer, I’ve taken it upon myself to touch base with her daily. Yesterday, during our emails back and forth, she described the overall feeling at her parent’s house. I asked Andrea if I could share her thoughts with you. She said I could.

Andrea writes, I’m hoping to spend time with her talking and recording some of the conversations. But I keep finding things in the house that need to be done. There’s a mess in the linen closet that needs to be cleaned. I need to update and print her contact list. I need to go through the refrigerator and throw out old food. Of course these are things I’ll do while she’s asleep, but things I need to do because she would never allow things to get to the state they’re in. Not that it’s horrible – it’s just not up to her standard.

“It’s just not up to her standard.” That gets me. Andrea’s Mom is alive and actively battling cancer. But, she is fighting the battle in bed. Normalcy has changed. The ‘new normal’ is different. The standards are lowered.

It’s weird, Andrea wrote, I don’t really feel her presence in the house anymore, other than her bedroom that is. I don’t know how to put it in words. Her “essence” or “being” isn’t in the kitchen. Or the living room. Or the sun room. Her purse isn’t hanging on the chair in the nook and her sweater isn’t draped over the back of the chair. Her sunglasses and keys aren’t on the table. Little stupid stuff that makes this her home aren’t there anymore. I open the refrigerator door and it’s so obvious that she hasn’t been in it for awhile. The house is no longer under her control. It’s not her domain. I’m trying to find the right words to describe it, but I can’t. Does this make any sense?

Andrea and her Mom

Yes, Andrea. What you wrote makes sense. And, I know anyone who has experienced what you are experiencing will ‘get’ what you’ve written. And, I believe they will find comfort in your words. And, I hope you find comfort knowing you are not alone. And, maybe your Mom’s presence is hard to feel now, because her new normal is not the real normal – the true essence of your Mom. But, when all is said and done, your Mom is with you each and every day – alive or not. She’s in your expressions; she’s in your mannerisms; she’s in your attitude; etc. And Andrea … you look like your Mom.

Obviously, this is a personal (and lengthy) post. I hope I haven’t overstayed my welcome with my 1300 plus word count. But, I needed to write this post. I wanted to shout out support and appreciation to Mary Alice, James and his sister. I wanted to shout out support and appreciation to my friend, Andrea, and her Mom. I needed the release. And, I need (and love) my friends and family. Thank you.

In honor of Mary Alice, James, my friend Andrea, her Mom and your loved ones, please take care of yourself and each other.

Today’s Flighty Friday

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:: A Bounty of Bottles
“This is our 7th bottle.” The Mom says, as I arrive at my overnight gig.

The parents of my nighttime responsibility are in the process of testing bottles for daycare. Mom goes back to work soon, and they want to make sure Baby is doing well with her bottle. As it stands now, Baby gets more ‘boob’ than anything else. But, with Mom heading to work, Baby will have to settle for a plastic boob. My first child was mainly a boob drinker, but when a bottle was used – he wasn’t picky. My second child? He wanted a boob and nothing else, and he was not open to discussion.

The 7th bottle? Craziness. Yet, the different styles and types of bottles are endless. Add to the mix the countless types of nipples for said bottles, and well – one can easily become overwhelmed with the choices. So, I should not be surprised that Mom and Dad are trying several different bottles to find the one that is ‘just right’. And a note to parents, Dr. Browns bottles work well, but honestly – with all the parts and pieces … spare yourself, your ‘to do’ list is long enough already.

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A perfect bottle is the quest.
Until it’s found, no one will rest.

So many choices, each a different type.
What is practical and what is hype?

Next comes the nipple, another choice to make.
There are six different types for goodness sake!

Overly complicated? You think? Maybe?
Then again, nothing is too good for baby.

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:: What’s in your Dryer?
Top 10 Items Found in Our Dryer
10. Rocks
9. Pens
8. Coins
7. More rocks
6. Plastic Army guy
5. Always Thin Maxi Pad (still neat (though swollen) in wrapper)
4. Kleenex
3. Pampers diaper (did not fare as well as the maxi pad)
2. More Kleenex
1. Raisins (the raisin box is still MIA)

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It eats socks,
and spits out rocks.

It handles pads with care,
leaving diapers worse for wear.

Regardless of the setting, whether normal or fluff,
it is truly dependable, and it is truly tough.

Though it can create static cling,
the dryer is a wonderful thing.

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:: Distracted
Today I am spending the day in bed. My husband has taken today and Monday as a vacation days, so he can watch our youngest, since our daycare provider also took those days as vacation days. Anyway, I’ve been battling a cold for the past three weeks, and I am finally forcing myself to do nothing. Well, do nothing except write. (Thank you to my kind husband and my kind boss for allowing me this down time.)

I am struggling to finish this post, in part because my head is clogged to the point that I am having a hard time hearing real voices, as well as my inner voices. In addition, I am struggling to finish this post, because I am distracted by what is going in the lives of those around me. I prefer my Friday posts be funny and lighthearted, yet life doesn’t always cooperate. Forrest Gump was right. Life is like a box of chocolates; you don’t know what you are going to get. Furthermore, while you are enjoying your caramel chew, someone else is stuck with the vanilla cream. Eeew.

My friend’s Mom continues her cancer battle, as her radiation treatments resumed earlier this week. And my friend feels her Mom’s last visit to their house was the last time she’d be able to make the trip. Rob’s cousin was told by his oncologist to start looking for hospice care, because he (the doctor) did not have any other treatments to offer him and his battle with cancer: renal, liver, lymph and spine. (Though Rob’s cousin is not giving up, and he is currently seeking treatment elsewhere.) Another friend of mine is in the process of getting her daughter tested for a chromosomal disorder, which would mean a lifetime of health challenges. And yesterday, out of the blue, my son asked me, “When are you going to die, Mommy? Will I still be a kid and have to watch Charlie?” He was afraid he would have to watch Charlie on his own (at the age of 5), and he didn’t think he could do it.

Haiti, still trying to recover from the earthquake, is getting hit by a hurricane. Indonesia is battling the after effects of an earthquake, tsunami and volcano. Mosque bombing in Pakistan. Plane crash in Cuba. The depressing news surrounds us. And, because I am forcing myself to stop today, the sad news is harder to ignore.

Thank God for the complications in finding the perfect baby bottle, and thank God for the miscellaneous items that find their way into the dryer. We need those ‘crazy’ moments as comic relief (though, one may not be laughing as s/he pick up each and every tiny piece of Kleenex scattered through the laundry). And my cold? Please. My cold will go away. And, my cold is not even a blip on the radar of life. Plus, I have a 4yr old coming in my room hourly, asking me if I need anything.

My life is good. And, while I enjoy my bed rest, I will keep those around me in my thoughts and prayers. And, I will do what I can to provide a little bit of sunshine and hope to those around me. After all, everyone is battling something. Hopefully, you’ll find a better chocolate soon.

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The roller coaster of life,
Filled with joys and strife.

We’re all aboard this crazy train.
And, we all need help in staying sane.

So, keep the chocolate at your side.
You’ll need it for this bumpy ride.

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Take care of yourself, and be kind to others.

Musings of the Mind

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Please indulge me. Typically, my rambling posts take place on Friday; however, I feel the need to ramble today. So many thoughts are filling my head, I fear I will explode if I don’t release some of the pressure. Some of these ramblings may be repeats. My apologies.

My friend emailed me last night, providing me with an update on her Mom. The news was not good. We all hoped (and prayed) the chemo was working to reduce the size of the tumors. Unfortunately, the CT scan showed the chemo did not work, and the tumors showed signs of growth. Fortunately, my friend’s Mom started a new chemo-cocktail yesterday. Again, we turn to hope and prayers to yield the results we want.

My friend is off to see her Mom later this month. She’ll get to spend quality time with her Mom – just the two of them. As my friend shared the news with me that she purchased the tickets and made the plans, I remembered my Dad.

January 1994. My family had mentioned Dad seemed depressed. My family had mentioned my Dad was not acting like his normal self. Though no one in the family knew what was going on with my Dad, it was apparent something was happening. Mid-January. I buy a ticket to fly home the 2nd week of February to be with my Dad and family. Late January. We find out my Dad has Lung Cancer.

February 4, 1994. I receive a phone call at work. It was my sister. My Dad was admitted to the hospital. Another sister of mine was working with Delta (she’s a flight attendant) to help me get a plane ticket to Atlanta. I leave work, and head to my place in DC before heading to the airport.

I think I arrived in Atlanta around 4pm. My sister-in-law’s parents met me at the airport and drove me to Piedmont Hospital. The ride to the hospital seemed to take forever (as did the flight from DC to Atlanta, for that matter). I don’t remember what my sister-in-law’s parents told me. I was in a daze. I was nervous. And, my stomach was in knots just like my stomach is in knots now, as I retell the story.

Walking with my friend through her Mom’s Cancer battle, takes me back to my walk during my Dad’s battle, his incredibly short battle. I met my friend (and another) prior to my Dad’s death, and my friend (and the other) got me through my Dad’s death.

I didn’t have the prep-time my friend has with her Mom. I was called. I boarded a plane. And, I saw my Dad – unconscious. He was in and out of consciousness before I arrived in Atlanta, and my Mom and siblings told him I was on the way to see him. But, I didn’t make it. He did not regain consciousness after I arrived, and he died shortly after midnight, February 5th. My Dad was gone. And, I did not have the kind of closure that eases the horrific sting of death. I admit there is a selfish side to me walking with my friend, as her Mom battles cancer; walking with my friend helps me come to terms with my Dad’s death.

He’s been gone for 16yrs. The intense pain I felt when he died has lessened significantly. But, as those of you who have lost a loved one know, the pain never truly goes away. And, as sick as it sounds, I find it comforting to feel the sadness again. I find it comforting to feel the pain. It is as if my Dad is with me all over again. Though I don’t remember him as the man hooked up to the respirator, unconscious. I remember him smiling, smoking, drinking, joking and being the burly New Englander, striking fear in my friends with his deep voice and subtle humor. I remember his laugh. And, I remember him answering the phone by saying, “Yell’oh.” (That’s Yankee for ‘Hello’.)

Hmm . . . maybe my head isn’t overwhelmed with countless thoughts at once. Perhaps my head is just filled with thoughts of my Dad and thoughts of my friend and her Mom. No. Really, my head is filled with other stuff, too. But compared to family and friends, the other stuff is just crap. I won’t sweat that other stuff, and you shouldn’t either. Now, reach out to a loved one by phone, email or better yet – send a card or letter via snail mail. Why not?

Friday: A Week in Review

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.:: Plain and Ordinary
I sat down to write my Friday post, and I found myself struggling for content. Much, okay – all of what I write is taken straight from my life experiences, for better or worse. I love plain and ordinary weeks; however, plain and ordinary does not make for an interesting blog. So, we’ll see how this goes.

A picture message for Joe and Charlie's cousin, Shannon.

10 Things About This Plain and Ordinary Week
10. 12 days have passed since I have had ice cream.
9. My child threw a peppercorn in a teacher’s ear. SCORE!
8. I took a great picture of my boys, because they wanted to send a note to their cousin.
7. I enjoyed eating fresh, plump blueberries. (So sorry the blueberry season is over.)
6. I picked up my neighbor’s son from school, because her keys were locked in the car and she couldn’t find her spare key. (It’s nice to know it is not just ‘me’.)
5. I started watching season 4 of Dexter, thanks to Netflix. (I love Dexter.)
4. I watched my neighbor’s kids for a couple of hours, enjoying the chance to hold a baby and rock her to sleep.
3. I set up a dinner date with my friend for next week.
2. I’ve made it 12 days ice cream free. (Yes, this is mentioned twice. I’m proud, people!)
1. I had relations with my husband. Wait. Maybe that was last week. Meh, I’m still glowing, so it counts.

P.S. I hope next week is plain and ordinary, too.

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.:: Seeing is Believing, and Sometimes that Stinks
As I’ve mentioned in prior posts, I have a friend whose Mom is battling Cancer. Until Thursday, my friend had not seen her Mom since learning of her Cancer diagnosis. And, since the diagnosis, her Mom has undergone two periods of chemotherapy.

Knowing her Mom was coming to town, my excitement for her has been building all week. I sent her a note asking her if her Mom was in town yet, in a similar fashion to kids asking if they are at their destination yet: “Is she there yet? I she there yet? Is she there yet?”

While letting me know her Mom had not yet arrived, she added that she was a bit nervous about seeing her. I understood. I was nervous for her. All week, my excitement for my friend was combined with anxiety, nervousness and happiness. My friend had not seen her Mom, and she had no idea what to expect.

This week I have been thinking about my Dad. Because I was living out of town, there was a period of 5 months where we did not see each other. The last time I saw him, he was in the hospital. I was not prepared for how my Dad looked. Not prepared. And, I spent this week hoping my friend would be better prepared.

Hair loss? Yes, she was expecting hair loss. I think for my friend, she was more anxious about her Mom’s overall appearance, like her weight, facial features, mobility, etc. And, as the time of her mom’s arrival neared, my friend wondered if seeing pictures prior to her Mom’s visit would have been a good idea. Regardless, it was time. As her Mom has said many times, “Let’s get this show on the road.”

My friend’s Mom arrived. Though she looked frail, my friend said her Mom looked better than she expected. The hair loss? Yes, the hair loss is evident. In fact, her Mom took off her wig early to get ‘the show on the road.” But, the anticipation and uneasiness is now gone, at least with regards to appearances.

The fact of the matter is that seeing her Mom walk through the door wasn’t the tough part. The tough part was seeing the reality. Now my friend has to be present in the moment of her Mom having Cancer. My friend has to be present in the moment of what had been only words spoken over the phone or typed via email. Now the journey becomes a tough journey – a real tough journey.

And to my friend I say, “I love you very much.”

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.:: Giving Until I Get Old
If you read my post from yesterday, please pardon me as I repeat a little of what I said yesterday. I spent two days helping in the call center during the WSB Talk Radio Care-A-Thon, benefiting the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Care-a-Thon. (Actually, day two is taking place as I type.) The Care-a-Thon benefits the Aflac Cancer Center and Blood Disorder Services. This was the 10th year for the WSB Talk Radio Care-a-Thon, and I was honored to participate.

One of the calls I received was from a 97 yr old woman. Please understand, she shared her age without me asking. As a woman, I respect my fellow women, and I respect the unwritten (but famous) rule to never ask another woman her age. This woman volunteered her age, and she let me know she has been calling in every year in support of the Aflac Cancer Center; then she apologized.

“I’m sorry. This year I can only afford $20.” The woman said to me. “I wish I could donate more, but I just don’t have the money right now.”

[Insert deliberate pause here.]

I hope I live to be 97yrs old, and I hope I am able to pull together $20 to donate to a charitable organization. God bless that 97yr old woman. Even though she is limited financially, she still made a point to give. And, I am here to tell you, every single dollar we received mattered. Every. Single. Dollar. Mattered. And that woman – that generous woman? She can teach us all a thing or twenty.

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Be sure to take care of yourself and others.