Friday, May 15, 2009


I returned from my walk to Rice Village—always enjoyable but now a necessity since I’ve joined the ranks of a sedentary profession. My last full time job was tennis which provided plenty of exercise unlike my latest job--writing. There are similarities in the two: Neither pays much. I’m passionate about them both. Both require some natural talent but skill development can compensate for a deficit in talent.

I walked about seven miles today. On the first trek to Rice Village I practiced gratefulness and listed all the things I was thankful for. I thought about how blessed I am to have been able to do so many things I am passionate about. Or maybe I’m like Campbell—passionate about many things. She is so full of life. Everything is “her favorite.” She loves blue, and cats, and baby animals, and spiders, and bats. Annie, The Sound of Music, swimming, the play house, Donut, and twirly dresses. High-heeled shoes, lots of jewelry, The Wizard of Oz, and purses. Out of the clear blue, she lays her head on my shoulder and says, “I love you, Gigi.”

I feel the same way about writing. Finding exactly the right word or phrase to express a thought or feeling is like playing tennis on a golden afternoon when every ball hits the mark and my partner and I are perfectly in tune.

When Jim was in treatment in 2003, I read some book (surprise) about cancer with one excellent take-away. The author suggested that cancer patients in re-evaluating their priorities (which most do) make a list of the 5 things they love to do and five they hate doing. Jim and I found this very helpful. The idea is to eliminate or delegate the tasks you hate, leaving more time for the ones you love. I remember the lists ,and writing wasn’t even on mine.

That God opened the door to writing during the cancer journey was one of the gifts of the disease. Jim, too, found an outlet and passion in public speaking. The natural bents were there all of the time but we didn’t see them until other doors were closed.

Make your lists. Life is too short to waste time on activities you don’t enjoy. Maybe you can take over some task your spouse deplores or you might hire someone to do those chores that take a big chunk of your free time. Some of the things on your list might surprise you. Until I thought about it I didn’t realize how much pleasure working in the yard gave me.

I just wish there were more hours in the day to do all of the things I love.

Sunday, May 10, 2009


When Jim had been ill for several months, I wondered, when does he become a survivor? Was he a survivor six months into the disease? A year? Would he only become a survivor when the doctors declared him cancer free? Or only when given a clean bill of health? (Lots of luck with that one. That’s one bill a cancer patient never receives.)

I read that anyone (caregiver included) who lives through the diagnosis and the turbulent weeks that follow, can be called a cancer survivor. If suffering and stress make a survivor, I would agree. We deserve some sort of acknowledgement for living through that ordeal. But "survivor?"

Technically those who outlive a poor prognosis might be survivors, but often their survival has little to do with their own effort. To say, “I am a five-year survivor” seems like a claim of personal accomplishment when in fact some survivors could best be described as richly blessed or darned lucky. It makes no more sense to credit someone with survival than to blame someone for death. Both are random events orchestrated by a God whose methods and motives are unknowable. “On a large enough time line, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero” (Chuck Palahniuk).

Just living through an ordeal and coming out on the other side still breathing isn’t such a great feat. In 1980 Jim was driving to work in a little MG convertible. He slowed to cross a double set of train tracks on a country road where the trees and brush obscured the view. A three quarter ton truck designed to travel the tracks but not heavy enough to trigger the cross arm failed to make the required stop at the crossing. The driver crashed into the side of the MG pushing it into the path of a train coming from the opposite direction on the parallel track. Jim’s car was hit first by the truck and then by the train which carried it a mile and a half before it could stop. The car was demolished but miraculously Jim lived. He was a survivor, sure enough. But his survival had little to do with anything he did.

Length of survival should be celebrated, but every death should remind us that survival is a gift. Does the five-year survivor deserve more recognition than the person who dies after a valiant six month fight? Is it even necessary to have cancer to be a cancer survivor? Any caregiver who lives through a spouse’s diagnosis fits the survivor definition. The length of time one endures, the severity of the disease, or the type of suffering don’t make a survivor. What does? Next time.

An Almost Perfect Mother's Day

After a hiatus because of Jim’s chemotherapy treatment, we began the day with church where the minister reminded mothers what blessings children are. Not that I need reminding—at least not this week when all three of mine are in my good graces, and the problems that come with raising children are long behind me—though not entirely forgotten.

Then on to brunch at Windyke with three beautiful little girls in linen dresses, Mary Janes and hair bows, one grandson, now old enough to be pleasant dinner company and tall enough to qualify as an adult, two daughters, one son-in-law and one handsome husband who even wore a suit for the occasion. The rest of the family was accounted for and excused: Cade and Corbin were at a soccer tournament, Nicole, Chebon and their boys were here last weekend to celebrate birthdays.

The rainy day begged for an afternoon nap, so I curled up in my favorite shabby green chair, with my fat, four-legged, furry son on my lap, and caught up on “All My Children” (so appropriate for Mother’s Day). Soon the cat and I were fast asleep.

If you’ve never taken a “cat-nap” I can tell you the only thing better is a “baby-nap,” which I had recently with Campbell. You lie down in hopes of getting the baby to sleep; she grows heavy on your chest, mouth slightly open, cheeks flushed. You breathe in the sweet aroma of her baby breath, her heart beating next to yours, and soon you are both transported to sleepy town with Winken, Blinken and Nod.

A cat-nap can’t match a baby-nap but it is the next best thing. The cat, in preparation for sleep, takes his little paws and kneads on your stomach for several minutes not an entirely unpleasant experience unless he hits an ovary.(When I was a little girl our snarly, black cat “Baby” waited for my grandma to sit in her favorite rocker in front of the picture window, and kneaded her plump grandma lap until he slept. I was so envious, but he was a one person cat and not about to perch on a skinny ten-year old who didn’t sit still long enough to make a lap. Alas! I am the grandma now and apparently my stomach now meets cat specifications.) Soon the cat finds a comfy spot, and like the baby, grows warm and heavy. Before long, I’ve synchronized my breathing with his rhythmic purring and we’re gone farther away than Calgon ever takes me. I should hire this cat out; he’s much better than Lunesta.

After two hours, when I intended to use for writing, I wake up in need of something sweet. Surprising since I topped off brunch with chocolate pudding cake and bread pudding with coconut, swearing to never eat so much again. BUT, I discovered the perfect mini-treat. At church the youth group was selling baked goods to finance their trip to Guatemala and I bought these cute little things called “cake-pops.” What a great invention. A little glob of cake, the size of a ping-pong ball, covered with a layer of smooth chocolate icing, sprinkled with multi-colored pareils, impaled with a lollipop stick. Not only are these seemingly innocuous (after-all, they are bite-size), but they are surprisingly doughy—kind of like nearly-done dense cake batter. A perfect mother’s day treat. (Someone find the recipe. Although, I suspect a grandmother has to form and frost all those little balls.)

All in all, it was a nearly perfect Mother’s Day. The only things missing were some sunshine and a mother.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

When it rains.....

I think the universe is conspiring against me. Nicole, Chebon, and the boys came to see Jim this weekend--that part was great. Tara, Nicole and Ashleigh had everything worked out so that Jim and I could enjoy the family without wearing him , or me, out. Then Ashleigh and Chris went to Shreveport for MawMaw's funeral leaving Tara to keep Ashleigh's girls along with her own three. The second night Campbell got sick which meant trying to keep her separated from Jim.

I stayed at Chris and Ashleigh's with her on Saturday and took her to the Dr. on Sunday. Cade watched her Sunday morning (no church for any of us). The four boys had plans for paintballing and to play outside all weekend but the rain kept everyone inside.

Remember, I still don't have a dishwasher so we had to resort to the old-fashioned method.

Yesterday I tried to catch up on my writing and worked about 5 hours revising each chapter. I should have quit when I was tired but after "24" I sat down at the computer determined to finish a section that has me stumped. Somehow I deleted it--the entire chapter. I copy everything onto my hardrive at the end of the day but I hadn't had a chance to do that before I mistakenly hit delete. That was at 10 oclock . I sent an e-mail to my computer guru who called within the hour and sent me a program to retrieve lost folders from memory sticks.

At one o'clock I was still looking for it. I will never understand computers. Where is the recycle bin and why didn't my chapter end up there? Maybe some peculiar virus ate it. Maybe another want-to-be author pirated it.

I have the chapter on hard drive from January but that means more revision. I am so sick of this book. Pray that I hear something from the publishers--who have had the proposals since December--soon. A yes or no would make my decision easier. WinePress called last week again and they are ready to go when I sign the contract. What to do?