Friday, June 26, 2015

About. Fucking. Time.

Still a little stunned.

For my wife:

Received this from my daughter:

Plus, she sent me a text:

I have always been so proud to be the daughter of you and Dad and Bing. Maybe you'll feel like a little supper tonight to celebrate this great day?

Yes, I think so. Some soup, maybe. With my family. My wife and my child.

And lastly, a text from Tinton, Liv's Father.

I have been so honored to be Livvy's Dad. Thank you for letting me back on that ride. And congratulations to you and Bing today. I don't know that I've ever known a couple who loves each other more. About time, baby, about time.

A happy day.

And now....time for some ale and cheese soup. Maybe just a few spoonfuls. And definitely some pie to take home....Liv is staying home tonight to catch up on Wayward Pines with us, so we'll all have pie. With a dog biscuit for Socks, who is also a part of this clan.

Go hug somebody. It's a day for that. 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Pretty cool....

 I always said that I did not want to be a member of this club. I came to the chemo room determined to just sit and read, to NOT engage. And then it happened. One person said hi. Another noticed that I was wincing when I drank my water and asked if I suffered from mouth sores too. And then told me about this great mouthwash that really helps...

And before you know it, I was one of the peeps in the chemo room. Checking in with Marnie to see how her last labs turned out. Squeezing Ben's hand when he came in with tears in his eyes because he just didn't want to do any more chemo, but well....he has this newborn granddaughter and wants to see how she turns out.

And then I shared that it bummed me out to miss my daughter's softball games this Summer and someone asked where she went to school and there you have it....I was showing photos on my phone to everyone.

I read out loud to Bess, who is blind. She knitted me a scarf. Said that I had the sexiest, sultriest voice she'd ever heard. And Leo, the guy who brings her to chemo said, "She sure ain't hard on the eyes, Bessie. She's getting up in years, but she has the prettiest eyes..."

Enough said...

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Long and winding

Back in the rabbit hole. Missed Liv's tourney.

So tired, bed calls. Have a good week....

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Spam, CWS, chemo and a talk with my Da

Lots of things on my mind this morning:

1) My 3rd chemo treatment on Tuesday.  Dreading it. I felt pretty good all week and now I will willingly subject myself to being poisoned again. Will go back to dragging myself to work, putting in my hours and then coming home only to fall asleep during dinner. Or worse, calling in sick or even worse....having to pinch myself to stay awake at work. My secretary hates chemo almost as much as I do since it makes me very unpredictable. I have gone from someone who practically has to be dead before calling in sick to being someone who is practically dead and calls in sick sporadically....or comes in and forgets that I have a meeting at 2:00 at the courthouse downtown or that I promised a half hour to the salesman who wants to sell us a filtered water system most humiliating faux pas: forgetting my own secretary's name and looking at her blankly until I remember that yes, it starts with a's coming, it's coming...DINAH! I overheard her tell a fellow secretary that it was like working for someone with Alzheimer's and I had to laugh to myself. I have never been the absent minded sort, have always been sharp as a tack, ESPECIALLY at work. Now, with chemo brain, I sit at my desk and wonder if I am spelling the word franchise correctly as I write a report. I used to be a walking dictionary.

2) I am getting a LOT of spam in my email. And this makes me think about big brother a lot. I looked up "chemo scarves" once and suddenly was inundated with spam about hair loss products. I looked up the best way to shave your head and you wouldn't believe what popped up. Suddenly, among the shaving head ideas, there were also sites where I could see MARRIED WOMEN WHO LOVE GIVING HEAD and WATCH A TEEN GIVE HEAD TO HER SUGAR DADDY. I was repulsed and didn't click on them. But, it was enough that they simply came up on my screen. For weeks after, I received spam asking me if I wanted to see someone give head to someone else. I did not. But some of my spam confuses me. For intstance:

Bill Sharpe is asking me if I want the energy and stamina of a 20 year old man.

No. I just want the energy of stamina of my regular old self. Please.

Beverly Hills, MD tells me that my "secret code" is waiting for me.

No thanks, I can barely remember the pass code for my cell phone these days.

LEGAL INFO tells me that the attorney information I requested is available.

Hmmpf. I didn't order any attorney information. Maybe the OTHER Maria Lastname who is on facebook ordered it. Facebook, for some odd reason, thinks that I am this person and is getting very strident with me about using my facebook code. I am NOT on facebook or twitter or any other form of social media with the exception of blogging. I feel like I am already too busy with a blog. I don't have time to do anything else. I AM good at pithy remarks but I like to say them in PERSON, not over twitter. And, I have not requested an attorney.

TEST X180 IGNITE tells me that they have a new testosterone booster I might enjoy.

I would settle for a few more white blood cells right now. Thanks.

ECZEMA STUDIES wants to know if I would like $1000 to be in an eczema study.

I don't have eczema. I have a lot of other things, but not eczema.

FIX YOUR HEARING tells me that I can get my hearing restored.

Did Bing put you up to this? Maybe my daughter? They are always accusing me of being hard of hearing. What? I didn't hear you.

ZIPPY LOAN keeps it succinct. It just says 15,000$!!!!!

I have no loans except my mortgage and if we play our cards right, that will be done in 4 years. And I don't trust companies with names like Zippy, Snappy, Rock Star. or Quickie.

Force Factor tells me that I can get my testosterone boosted.

WHY do all of you think that I am a man? Is is because I am bald and have no breasts?

NEW CREDAT CARDS says a new credat (sic) card can be shipped to my door.

Why would I want a credit card from someone who can't even spell credit correctly? Wait a sec? IS that spelled correctly? I can't be sure anymore with chemo brain.

FIX YOUR HEARING promises to fix my hearing in 17 days.

Bing, stop it. This isn't funny. But, I am intrigued. 17 days? What if it takes 18 days? Can I get my money back?

PSYCHIC READING Tells me that it has an important message on hold for me.

I would rather just wing it. Thanks.

Rock Star Loan tells me it has 2,500$ waiting for me.

Zippy Loan can give me 15,000$. Loser.

Probio Slim has a fat burner I might like.

Sorry, thanks to the chemo diet, I am now underweight.

Survive End Days tells me that Obama will not finish his second term.

All I know is this: if there is an end of days coming, if I'm with Bing, I'll be fine. She is like Daryl Dixon from Walking Dead. If there is an end of days, I am with the PERFECT person.

eHarmony tells me that my matches R waiting!!!!

I found mine. I married mine. There is no where else I'd rather be.

Facebook asks me if I know Randy, Sari or Courtney.

Listen, Facebook...for once and for ALL, I am NOT THAT Maria Lastname. I have seen her facebook page. She is into scrapbooking, for fuck sake and likes "Christian love stories." And her dog's name is Snookie. I can tell you right now that I have no interest in scrapbooking, Christian love stories are not only badly written but boring, and I would NEVER name a dog Snookie.

CHINESE WOMEN DATE Find you wife in China now...

No, thanks. I do know a man who found his wife in Romania. A dentist in my workplace. He brought her to a building Christmas party. He is in his 40's. She looks about 20. And she looked at him sneering when his back was turned. He looked like he felt like he was the luckiest man in the world. I have a feeling that once she learns English better and how the divorce process works, he will be paying some alimony.

I hate Spam, but I don't see much way around it. I just wish I knew how to sidestep big brother.

3) The College World Series is in town. So I have seen very little of my daughter. One of our Christmas gifts to her was a pass to the Series with a friend. I believe she has gone to every game except the ones she has missed because she had her own game to go to. She has taken Bing to one, but the rest have been with her friends. I am trying to remember what my daughter looks like.....and I confess to watching the CWS on television, hoping to pick her out in the crowd of thousands.....

She comes home and it's like she is speaking a new language that I do not understand. Kind of like listening to Bing speak Cajun with her family. I can pick out a phrase or two and then I'm lost again.

She talks about

Good cuts
Watch the junk! (I thought this was naughty at first....)
It was in the cup!
He threw a bean ball.
It was a brush back.
They brought in a clean up hitter
All the ducks were in the pond
The batter had his foot in the bucket
It was a four bagger
He put on the rally cap
There was a rhubarb out in the field
He took the collar. 

If any of you can translate....I'd be grateful...

Lastly, I've been dreaming of my Da a lot lately. Crazy dreams. Being on a ferris wheel and watching him doing handstands in the seat next to me and laughing. Soft, sweet dreams of him bringing me an armful of roses and telling me that I'm his little gal. And looking down and seeing that the roses are like babies, they all have faces and are trying to talk to me, except I don't understand their language and feeling so distraught until my Da says, "You don't have to understand their words, A ghra geal, just that they need you and love you. They keen to your kindness." Walking to school, my elementary school with him, holding his hand and realizing that it is not him, but Liv, and she is only 6 or so and I am taking her to my old school. She smiles up at me and says, "I love you so much!" and suddenly I am her and it's my Da looking down at me.

And waking up missing him all over again. So, I curl against Bing and go back to sleep.

Here's to the next week....that we all survive it well and do our best....

Friday, June 12, 2015

Bing joins the corporate world

Bing taught for over 30 years. She started out as an elementary music teacher. She changed over to a junior high music teacher. HATED it. Went on to be a high school band director. And then finally found what she loved: being a music and media technology high school teacher. She did that for the last ten years and was the happiest I have ever seen her.

She retired this year. We have a new superintendent who is not teacher friendly. This kills her because she rooted for him, an underdog who went to all the teachers and swore that he would fight for them. And when he became superintendent, he started showing his true ass hat colors. Suddenly, a lot of teaching perks (and let's be honest, there aren't many....) are going off the table next year and she decided that it was time to jump off this train.

She was offered a new job faster than you can say "I retire!"

It is with a non-profit in the state next door. We live in a red state and right on the border of a blue state so it is only a half hour drive for her her to get to work. And she gets to work in a state that believes in throwing a lot of money at educating their young. She is proud of that. They work with at risk high school students, helping them get to college. Even at this non-profit, she still makes more than she ever did teaching. (And I truly hope you are not one of THOSE people who still say, "But, you get your Summers off!" Any teacher will tell you that they DO NOT get their Summers off. They are UNEMPLOYED for three months.)

She started two weeks ago. She was astounded. We talked well into the night about it for many, many nights.

"They don't seem to have hours. I was told I could either work at home, at the office or in the Fall, at the schools I have, and I don't need to keep track of my hours! I mean, it wasn't as if I had to punch a time clock before, but I was expected to be at work by 7 and I stayed until the last kid was out of the building on most days."

"All meetings start no earlier than ten and there are tables full of pastries, cookies, cuppy cakes, juice and coffee EVERY DAY."

"I went out to lunch with a bunch of co-workers and I kept looking at my watch. It went nearly two hours!"

"I have a new Apple laptop. I have a discretionary spending budget of more money than I could spend in 5 years teaching."

She received her first paycheck yesterday. She gets paid twice a month. She said that she was getting paid for doing very little work. She said that she realizes she is still in training, but JAYSUS...this is incredible. No staying up late to grade. No going in on the weekends to catch up. No kids to guide. No kids to teach. No kids to learn from.

She has gone from teaching in a "ghetto" high school to working for a non-profit corporation. She knows that she will be helping kids. But, she aches for her kids.

Her kids from her old school. Where there was a lock down in the school nearly weekly because of shootings in the neighborhood. Where her kids called her classroom Narnia because they felt safe there. No one would EVER be bullied. All were expected to be kind to each other. Her classes were like families.

She wonders how she will fare out here in this world, away from her world.

Monday, June 08, 2015

Portrait of my Mother

So many of you have asked me about the relationship between my Mother and me.

I think I'd rather tell you about her. This way, it makes more sense . Why our relationship never worked.

My Mother was born in County Cork, Ireland. Her Da (a very short man at 5'2, with a volatile temper and a penchant for the ale) came to America because he heard that it was the land of milk and honey and that carpenters like himself were in short supply. I have no idea how he ended up on the prairie, just that when my Mother was barely 2 years old, she came over with her Mother and her older Brother and Sister to join him in a house he built with for them.

She had a difficult childhood. Her Da was not only a heavy drinker, he was also a wife beater. She and her seven siblings would be ordered to leave the house when he came home drunk and she had vivid memories of listening to her Mother crying and begging as she and her
Sisters sat on a stoop two doors down. Her Brothers ran to a nearby park where they wouldn't have to hear their Mother.

Finally, when she was 9 years old, this all stopped. Her Mother, unbeknowst to her Da, got a job as an operator for Ma Bell and gainfully employed, she and her sons kicked my Grandfather out of the house. She never took him back and my Mother remembers him as a pitiful man then, crying out in the street, begging her Mother to reconsider until one of her Brothers would drag him back to the boarding house he lived in.

After that, things were better. She knew my Da from childhood. He was a kid in the neighborhood until his family moved to a farm just outside the city. He stopped attending school after the 8th grade to help run the farm and after that, she didn't see him again until she was older and going to dances. She remembered that he was a handsome boy and had lots of girlfriends. My Mother was no beauty. She was freckled from head to foot and while she had beautiful red hair, her eyes were small and her nose was sharp. She was tall and thin. As she put it, "Nothing special to see."

She never knew why my Da took note of her. But he did. They married and moved to a farm of their own.

My Mother was one of the most stoic people I have ever known. I never recall her complaining about anything. She just endured. She and my Da were the most ill fitted couple that I can imagine. He was a dreamer, a reader, a man who would make up stories to tell me nearly every night when it was nice outside and we laid outside on the blanket, singing to the vegetable garden. He was full of the Irish, laughed well and easily, had a wit that was clever and sharp. He encouraged all of his daughters, my girls he called us, to use our imaginations, to believe in the faeries, the wee people, the merrows, the pooka, the changelings, the banshee, the grogoch and of course, leprechauns.

My Mother was not a believer. She was an eye roller, a head shaker. Yet, my Da saw something in her and she saw something in him and they found each other.

I know that they loved each other, ill fitting as they were. My Da would croon to her, calling her his Wild Irish Rose and dance her around the kitchen, even as she protested that the potatoes were burning. They often shared a beer at night before my Da would take my Sisters and me out to sing to the garden or look at stars. My Mother was a terrible cook but my Da ate everything she put on the table without a peep. I think he saw a fellow gardener in her, a lover of soil. She was not farm bred but she took to farming easily and grew to love it and excel at it. Her roses were her pride and joy and like my Da, she could make anything grow if you just gave her the seed.

When he died young, of a heart attack at the age of 41, she didn't cry in front of us. Not once. She sat stoic and dry eyed at his funeral, leaning over to fix my collar and straighten my Sister's barrette. She must have done her crying in private because in in all the years I knew her, I never saw her cry. Not once.

She had a slight brogue until her death of breast cancer at the age of 64. She ran the farm after my Da's death with no trouble at all. She dealt with the hired man, the cows, the pigs, the chickens, the garden, and the corn crop. She was thrifty with money, hated to part with it. It was rare that any of us wore anything new. Clothes were handed down from older cousins and then from Sister to Sister. Even shoes were handed down, if possible.

I wonder now if she ever thought of remarrying. She was still young (42) when my Da died. But, I never remember her going on a date or seeing anyone. I just remember her being there. She was the one in charge. Even when my Da was alive, she was the one who made sure we had clothes to wear, shoes, a warm Winter coat.

She had little patience with whining or complaining. To this day, I can still hear her voice in my ears when I feel like complaining.

Buck up and quit yer bawlin.

In my family, we didn't cry. We bucked up. She was up every Summer day at 5 to work in the garden before the heat set in and she made sure that ALL her daughters were up with her and out in the garden, too. I remember being a sulky teenager and feeling a sort of fury at being awake at 6 in the morning and picking beans. And then hauling everything back to the house and the second I sat down with an empty lap, she put an empty bowl in it and another bowl full of peas to shell or beans to snap.

My Mother did not have hobbies. She was not a reader. She was good at math. She was not a prosaic writer. When I left home to go to college, (before she disowned me for falling in love with a woman), her letters to me would be simple and to the point. I still have the first letter she sent to me:

Dear Maria,
I hope you are studying hard and earning your keep. No slacking. Don't forget to send Aunt Regina a thank you note for the birthday sweater.  Remember not to come home until Thanksgiving. The price of gas is too dear. Instead, use your weekends for studying not galavanting around. DO NOT FORGET MASS. Be my good girl. Love, Your Mother.

My Mother was intensely Catholic. She believed that one did not eat meat on Fridays and not just during Lent. EVERY FRIDAY. She volunteered to help clean the church weekly and we often had the parish priest over for dinner.

My Mother was not a hugging person. She rarely hugged her daughters. Once when I asked her if I was pretty, she told me that being pretty was not important. Being clean was far more important. And polite to everyone. But, then she grudgingly admitted that "All my daughters are nice looking." Of course, she couldn't let that lay there, though. She immediately followed up with "And all of my girls are a credit to me in public."

Of course, when I foolishly announced (during a dinner, of course) on one of my visits home that I had fallen in love with a woman, her reaction was immediate. She stood up, ordered me to go upstairs and pack my bags and meet her at the front door. I don't know why this surprised me so much. I think that I had been in college just long enough to find a rope long enough to hang myself with. I had begun to think for myself and challenge a LOT of what I had been taught in the Catholic Church. I was nervy in the way that only a twenty something girl can be.

When I met her at the front door, in tears, she coldly informed me that I was to leave and leave now. To not come back until I had renounced my sinful ways and confessed to a priest. Until that time, I was dead to her, not her daughter.

I don't know which chin was higher in the air when I left, hers or mine.

And my Mother was always true to her word. She didn't let me back in until she was dying of cancer. And then, as soon as she saw that I had not come back to confess my sin, she turned her face to the wall and refused to look at me or speak until I was on my way out. And then, as I leaned down and haltingly told her that I loved her, she turned her emaciated face to me and said, fiercely: "Don't forget to get mammograms."

And that was it. Her final words to me.

She never got to know Liv. She was dead years before Liv was born. And to be honest, I seriously doubt that she would even consider Liv as a grandchild. A bastard. That is what she would see in my daughter. She would have been so ashamed that I had a child out of wedlock, as she would have said.

But, you know, my Mother was the strongest person that I have ever met. I was shocked that cancer could take her on and win. And I think that a lot of my finest qualities come from her. And my worst, probably. I have her stoicism but I also possess her stubbornness, her tendency to not give in. Ever.

But, I do have some shining memories of her. And that is what is what I will leave you with. One memory. It was the first Christmas after I left for college. I came home for the holidays with a terrible cold. I woke up one night, unable to sleep for the coughing. Went downstairs to get a glass of water and noticed that the Christmas lights were on in the living room. I peeked in to see my Mother seated in her big green chair. She beckoned to me and I came in and she said that she hadn't been able to sleep so she was up saying a rosary for the poor souls in purgatory. She told me to get the brush off her dresser. I did so and she motioned for me to sit in front of her and I did so. And she brushed my long hair. We didn't talk and occasionally she had to stop to let me cough but she must have brushed my hair at least a hundred strokes or more. And then she leaned down and kissed the top of my head. And said to me: "Don't be vain, now, Maria. But, you do have lovely hair. And remember, that a crown of shining hair is the gift that a woman gives to her husband."

By that time, I already knew that there probably would be no husband, but I keened into her, loving the feel of my Mother's gentle hand on my hair, her kiss on the top of my head.

I sometimes see my Mother's expressions on my daughter's face. And it doesn't bother me. I hope that my child will have my Mother's strength and strong will.

And I hope that wherever my Mother is now, she finds a way back to loving me, loving us. 

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

The library

If I could, I would have my own suite there.

I have had a library card since I was five, thanks to my parents. Every Saturday, my Mother dutifully took us to the library and I would pick out my seven new books (the most allowed) along with my Sisters.

We are all readers, all love reading. My Mother was never a reader, but she was smart enough to know that if a child read, they did better on tests and she was ALL for ace-ing any and all tests.

I read everything and almost anything. My Da was the same. He rarely went to the library with us, too many chores to attend to on the farm, but he always had a list for us and we found books for him. He liked poetry best, especially the Irish poets and liked Emerson essays and Poe thrillers, but he ADORED Walt Whitman. But, since we had all these volumes at home, he settled for political books, was a lifelong Democrat. He also liked memoirs.

This is how I remember my Saturdays:

Get up and clean the house. My part was dusting all the baseboards in the house and chairs. I also was responsible for changing my own sheets on Saturdays. My Sisters did their chores and my Mother baked bread and one dozen cookies (peanut butter or sugar, always....) that were to last us the week. We could have one a day, if we chose. Since I had two Sisters at the time and two parents, this meant that the cookies rarely lasted past Monday, but she never made more than a dozen.

After lunch, we would head into town. My Mother would drop us off at the library and go to buy a few groceries that we didn't have at home. Our farm was self sustaining but we were always in need of other things: salt, pepper, white Mother would always buy a tin of sardines for my Da since he loved the treat. And sometimes, if she was in the right mood, she would purchase a can of Hershey's chocolate syrup....delicious on vanilla ice cream. She also bought oyster crackers sometimes, and this was considered a huge treat. I took my lunch to school every day: a sandwich made from her crazily sliced homemade bread (one side would be an inch, the other a quarter inch...), an apple or an orange and carrots or celery. When I went off to college, I became enamored with Wonder Bread and those cheese crackers that can be bought in packets. Also Snickers. But, when I was growing up, we ate what our farm produced.

I would carefully select my books from the library and produce a list for the librarian to put on what she called her wish list. She had to account for her purchases with the town hall but she was very good at sliding in my book lists and our library was beautifully stocked for a small town in Iowa, because of her.  I have come to admire librarians so much because of her and have rarely met one who wasn't wonderful.

Then, it was home to get our weekly hair wash. I dreaded this. My Mother believed in using her knuckles to wash her daughter's head and I often endured a lecture about my ridiculously sensitive head as she scrubbed. Afterward, my Mother would set our hair in rag curlers, which are exactly as they sound. Twisted rags.

But, when the hair washing was done....I could read ALL afternoon until milking time.  Bliss.

My Sisters and I would all be teased by our Da at dinner about our heads with their juttings of rag curlers. Dinners on Saturday nights were always tuna salad sandwiches with big sour dill pickles and raw vegetables.

Sundays were mass. And the untangling of the rag curlers. My Sisters would look cherubic with their soft curls. My curls would fall by the end of the mass, a by product of my straight-as-a-seal hair. No curl could last long with me.

But, when I think of Saturdays, to this day....I think of the library. And Liv has had her library card since she was five. I rarely purchase books, just get them at the library. If I really love a book, I buy it after it is read to add to my collection.

Libraries are sacred to me. I get so angry when parents let their children run around screaming in the library. A library is meant to be a hushed, cool, tranquil place. Liv knew what I meant when I said, "Use your library voice" from a young age.

I have over 30 books on hold presently. If I wanted, I could just go to my local bookstore and buy them. I have the cash flow. But there is something to be said for having to wait for what you want. In the meantime, I have 14 books that I am trying to get through by their due date in three weeks. It will be a challenge that I will meet. I am very proud of the fact that I have never incurred more than a 75 cent fine. (And that was ONLY because it was Stephen King and everyone knows that King is worth a fine....)

Life goes by. Liv is slinking through driver's ed, says that teacher is mean spirited and seems to enjoy showing them horrid videos of what happens when one disobeys the rules of the road. I support this teacher. Scare the hell out of her. I WANT her to take driving very seriously. I have already told her that if I EVER see her texting and driving, I will take away her privilege to drive. Even if I see her in a car where the driver is doing this, she will still lose her driving rights. I LIKE it that she is enduring bloody videos of bad decisions made while driving.

I stayed home from work today. I had labs this morning and decided to just take the day. More and more, I am becoming better at listening to my body. It knew that I wanted to sleep the lazy afternoon away and than awaken to beat my wife at Jeopardy!

Now, I am off to the garden and then in to watch another segment of House of Cards. Is there anyone better than Kevin Spacey?