Tag Archives: family

First Leg of the Journey-Big Prayers for Big Kevin (Update)

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First Leg of the Journey-Big Prayers for Big Kevin (Update)

Greetings from the Lone Star State!  The Cancer Crusade left St. Louis on Thursday and arrived safely in Houston.  Friday was a long day for the patient (and his entourage) with a busy schedule of registrations and more testing.  Although Kevin had a lot of tests kev2leading up to his diagnosis, MD Anderson does all their own testing.  It is obvious that these folks are the experts and we were anxious to get the process going.  Kevin had another biopsy, which is currently being analyzed by their pathologist.  He also had more labs drawn and then a marathon MRI.

Friday he was also seen by his main doctor, Dr. Shirley Su, who is not only adorable, but brilliant and one of the few experts in the bitch-ass trespassing type of cancer that has called squatter’s rights and established residency in Kevin’s sinus cavity.  If anyone can deport these illegal alien cells, I am confident it is her.  Bonus track—she is also from Australia and I LOVE to listen to her talk.  She is a small woman of Asian descent, but I fully expect her to slap him on the shoulder and say, “No worries, mate.  We will have you back to being just a big healthy bloke in no time.”

Her initial impression is that the cancer was caught in the early stages, but is waiting on the test results to confirm the grade and stage, which will determine the actual course of treatment.  She nearly guaranteed surgery (removing the tumor, drilling into the brain to make sure the little jackass cells haven’t migrated, and removing the healthy tissue or margins around the tumor), but the unknown is if it will also include radiation or chemo or both.   We had hoped that Kevin would be able to get the surgery completed during this trip, but unfortunately that isn’t going to happen.  Apparently, when people come from all over the world to seek cancer treatments, there is a high demand for the experts and Big Kevin requires two—Dr. Su and a neurosurgeon.  Despite what I think, Kevin is not the only patient here and there are some logistics involved (insert sassy wife eye-roll here).  He has to endure a couple more weeks of not being able to sleep or breathe.

So really the update is- there really is no update.  MD Anderson is an AMAZING place and there is no doubt we he is exactly in the right place.  Being here has dialed down my panic a few notches and I am a little more at peace with getting him better and keeping him that way!

The only thing more amazing than MD Anderson is the love, support, and generosity of ALL OF YOU!  For those of you who know me, you know that no matter what I am feeling or thinking there is little or no guesswork involved.  Kevin, on the other hand, is geared quite differently.  To say that he is laid back and even keeled is probably an understatement.  In fact, I have witnessed extreme displays of emotion (anger, sadness, etc.) maybe 10 times in the two-plus decades we have shared.  As the messages of hope, concern, encouragement and support have rolled in, it has hit our big guy in a BIG way.  More than once over the last few days he had to put his phone away, completely overwhelmed.  It is pretty hard to piss Kevin off, but it is even harder to make him cry and he probably won’t like me spilling the beans about his “leaking eyes”.  There is no way I can express what a positive impact the community rallying around Kevin (and his family) has had during a time like this, nor could I begin to convey how the display of love and support has left him in awe of “all the fuss” over him.  There are no words worthy enough to express our gratitude (I even used my thesaurus).

Kevin will resume his appointments with his doctors on Monday and hopefully we will soon learn what the treatment plan will be.  Thank you in advance for your continued prayers.  There is no denying that God is at work in a BIG WAY and personally, I am expecting Him to come through in a BIG way!  With that being said, those of you who send me text reminders of God’s promises and God’s love, please don’t stop.  It keeps the tendency for my prayers of gratitude and faith escalating into sassy and angry rants to a minimum.  Kevin is good and I remain a work in progress.

Big Prayers for Big Kevin

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Big Prayers for Big Kevin

There is a line from the John Wayne movie In Harm’s Way: “All battles are fought by scared men who’d rather be someplace else.”  It would seem that this statement can be applied to all sorts of situations, but it struck a chord with my heart.  Even though I am not a man and the battle on the horizon is not mine to fight, but I am utterly scared to death.

Nearly a year ago my husband, Kevin, had a seemingly routine sinus infection.  It was treated with the standard combination of antibiotics and steroids and it did get a little better.  Several weeks later, it flared up again and the treatment was repeated, but it never completely resolved.  Advil Cold and Sinus, Mucinex, Flonase were used relentlessly with little or no relief.   Eventually, he was having such difficulty sleeping due to the chronic congestion he returned to the doctor, which resulted in a failed sleep study and a referral to an ENT.  I would like to put it on the record that Kevin DOES NOT LIKE to go to the doctor, so he didn’t go to the ENT right away, he sniffled and blew and popped Advil Cold and Sinus for the sinus headaches.  The congestion had progressed to the point of him not being able to breath from the right side of his nose.  He was miserable and so he went.

I returned home from a business trip for my brand new job and Kevin reported to me that he had seen the ENT (who also happens to be our friend) and was sent for a CT scan. “A CT scan,” I had asked, “what does he think it is?  Polyps?”  Kevin told me, “He isn’t sure what it is, but he doesn’t think it is a polyp.”  So what does any wife do in this situation? Of course, I Googled. The results of my ill-advised Googling actually made me feel better.  I soon learned that the risk of having sinus cancer is extremely rare ( 1% of cancers are in the sinus cavity).  I have one message for Google, “Screw you, Google and your false sense of wellbeing.”

The results of the CT scan revealed a mass in right sinus cavity.  This was followed by a completely horrific MRI experience to rule out the erosion of the orbital bone and possible invasion of the brain.  Much to our immense relief, this was not the case.  The biopsy followed the next morning and after a brutal bloody retrieval, the tissue samples were sent off to pathology.  I had already hung my hat on the sound medical advice rendered by Google and was confident that the results would be benign.  So we settled in for the 2 or 3 days for the test to come back.

The results didn’t come.  I started getting a little nervous and started texting our friend the ENT, “Hey, it’s me, have you heard anything yet?”  After being told that the results were still not ready, my texts started to escalate from nervous to borderline hysterical.  My nurse brain started to bully my Google brain a little and my worry was compounded by further delays.  The biopsy was sent to a special ENT pathologist in Louisville and then more tissue slides were requested.  I tried to stay positive, but I knew in my heart the news was not going to be good.  Unfortunately, I was right.

Esthesioneuroblastoma, (aka olfactory neuroblastoma) was the official diagnosis.  Have you ever heard of it?  Well, if you have, then you are among a very small circle of either very smart or very unlucky people.  As it turns out, it is one of the rarest types of cancers on the planet.  Our big lovable Kevin had better odds of getting struck by lightning TWICE than developing this rare breed of cellular proliferation.  I made it from the doctor’s office to the truck before I fell apart and my fear engulfed me.  As we drove home, I looked over at Kevin through my tears and he sat quietly and bravely digesting the news.  Par for the course he prevailed as the logical bulwark in the face of crisis and I remained his never failing maniacal ball of hysteria spewing sidekick.

It is hard to conceive how truly blessed one is until you find yourself in the valley and are simultaneously lifted up in love, support and prayers by family and friends.  Holy kevandevcow!  We are extremely lucky.  But sharing the bad news with our kiddos and watching those sweet hearts break was almost more than I could stand.  Our two oldest, kevandrileyEvan and Riley had been kept fairly abreast of the unfolding situation, but it still didn’t soften the blow.  But Sophi is in Medical School in Kansas City, and we didn’t want to cause her any additional stress than she is already under. She came home and we were snuggling in bed with her late on the night of his diagnosis and while trying to be as positive as possible, Kevin told her he had cancer.  I have been witness to few things I kevandsopfound more excruciating than watching a kid who loves her daddy like Sophi loves Kevin crumble under the weight of something so heavy.

So, this blog post sucks big fat hairy buffalo balls. Personally, at this point, I was floundering and didn’t really know what to do.  My step-dad, Ron, found me hiding in the basement the day after his diagnosis, paralyzed by helplessness.  He asked me what I was doing and I told me that everything was going to be okay.  I promptly responded by bursting into tears and sobbing, “But he’s my best friend.”  It was then Ron took the wheel and I have never felt such relief in my life (Ron and I have a long history of struggles over the proverbial wheel, but I have never been so willing to give him the controls).  While I was hiding in the basement worrying about everything from possibly losing Kevin to affording treatment, he had researched hospitals, treatments, and specialist and was ready with a plan.

We will be leaving in a few days to travel to Houston, Texas to MD Anderson Cancer Center.  They are one of the few places in the country who have treated this type of cancer.  We are scared, but we are hopeful and ready to get him better.   I have teetered on being angry at God and now I am lying.  I have been really angry at God.  Kevin is a much better person than I am, he’s a wonderful husband, the greatest dad to our children and my very best buddy.  He lost both of his parents when they were much too young and he has endured a great deal.  Kevin isn’t one to share his feelings or express himself quite as demonstratively as I do, but I know he is scared, as are all men heading into battle.   A little over a year ago, I had a breast cancer scare that turned out not to be anything at all.  During that time, he assured me that everything was going to be fine.  However subdued, however subtle, this text exchange is just one example of how big he loves:

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Please keep him in your prayers.  We are expecting all kinds of miracles.

Saying Goodbye to One Fine Ass

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Saying Goodbye to One Fine Ass

festus6Winnie the Pooh said, “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”  This quote sums up exactly how the folks around the Thurman farm have been feeling this week.  The legendary, elderly, clever, entertaining, dirty, scruffy, arthritic donkey, Festus, gave up the ghost yesterday and took a little piece of our hearts with him.

Festus was my hero from day one.  It has been nearly five years since our family left the town life and migrated to life on my husband’s family farm.  The horse and I got off on the wrong foot and I had a turbulent relationship with the mice who invaded my kitchen.  There was the incidental barn cat breeding fiasco, the introduction to the electric fence, and there remains a cow who stalks me and constantly tries to start shit with me.  But Festus, we were tight from day one.  Upon being introduced, I was told how his main function on the farm was to keep the coyotes away from the cows. I don’t know if this is just crap they were feeding me because I don’t really know the truths and myths of farm life, but I didn’t care.  There is only ONE thing I hate worse than that bitch-ass mean cow and that would be coyotes.  I knew right away Festus and I were going to be fast friends.

Festus was old; at least 35.  He was an old ass, but also a wise ass.  He couldn’t get around very well the last few years, his old bones were stiff.  The spring may have been gone from his step, but that ornery twinkle was there until the end.   Here are just a few of the highlights of our friend, Festus:

  1. Peppermints were the way to his heart. The old ass loved apples, carrots, and sugar cubes, but nothing made him happier than when someone trudged out to the field with pockets full of cellophane wrapped peppermint goodness to share with him.  And nothing pissed him off more than when you showed up empty handed.  He was an ass with expectations.  After nuzzling pockets upon approach, he would quickly determine if you were bearing gifts worthy of his company or if you were a human disappointment to be ignored.
  2. He was well equipped. When the little twin cousins, Carter and Caden, were visiting the farm, they excitedly announced to their mom, Jody, that Festus was having a baby.  In additional conversation with the little fellas, they announced that “Festus had a leg sticking out of his belly, so he MUST be having a baby.”  Imagine how hard it was explaining to them that is was not a leg but rather his giant donkey dong.  Old Festus set the bar very high for these youngsters.

    Carter and Caden with Festus

    Carter and Caden with Festus

  3. He was not afraid to use what the good Lord gave him. Festus was really old. He walked stiff-legged and preferred to lay around in the sun most of the time.  His range of motion was limited and so he didn’t move around a great deal and he certainly didn’t move anywhere fast.  Except that one time…when the neighbor’s Jenny (that is what they call girl donkeys FYI, not her actual name. I don’t think Festus even got her name) was all hot and bothered and prancing her fine ass on the other side of the fence.  Perhaps in his prime he would have jumped the fence for this fine piece of Jenny, but he was way past his prime.  He did, however, manage to barrel through the fence, have his way with the sultry temptress from greener pastures, and then collapse in his post-coital bliss.  The only thing he was missing was a cigarette.  He was so tuckered out by his escapade Uncle Bob had to drive to the neighbor’s farm and load his bad ass on a trailer and haul him home.  Festus was not ashamed and he got more than one, “Atta boy, Festus” from my son, husband and other male inhabitants of the farm (filthy animals).
  4. He sometimes had to say he was sorry. On not one but two different occasions, Jody encountered Festus when he wasn’t on his best behavior.  She claims that she was giving him treats and he bit her.   Jody is a farm girl and knows how to saddle and ride things and drive tractors. She knows how to round up cows and raise steers and all that jazz.  So, she definitely knows how to give an ass a treat.  I talked to him after the first incident and he said he was sorry.  After the second time, I started to think she was either showing up without the proper treat or using peppermint scented hand lotion.  Festus wasn’t mean, but as stated above, he had expectations.
  5. He always was excited to see you. It didn’t matter if you hadn’t visited in a day or several weeks, Festus greeted you with his one of a kind, high decibel, uniquely his own, welcome bray.  While I could try to explain it to you, there really aren’t words to adequately do it proper justice.  You can click on the video below to experience a greeting Festus style.  Loosely translated, he is saying:  Hello, my friend.  I have missed you.  I love you.  You better have peppermints. Get over here and hug my shaggy ass”:

 

 

Festus, you were one fine ass.  Thank you for making us smile.  You will be missed.

 

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Partly Sunny with a Chance of Cancer

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Partly Sunny with a Chance of Cancer

 

The fact that I am 44 pisses me off. I might look 44, but I rarely feel it and even less than rarely act like it. It is only when I have to dig my readers out of my bag so I can read a menu or someone asks me my age and hearing myself verbalize the truth always sounds strange; that age belongs to someone else—someone old. Then I have to get real with my aging self. There are signs all around me that I am no spring chicken. I don’t dare jump on the trampoline without completely emptying my bladder first. I have to pluck more areas on my face than just my eyebrows and if that isn’t bad enough, I turn down the radio in the car when I want to talk. WHO AM I?

It may be part of my internal denial and my hopes to cling to the youth I once had, but often I don’t take time to ensure that my ‘old lady’ medical checks are done routinely and regularly. If my body was an automobile, it would not get the routine maintenance, fluid checks and changes, or the occasional diagnostic checks. Nope. I just kick the tires and turn up the radio to drown out any clanks or knocks.   This is exactly how I ended up way behind on my annual health checks (and when I say way behind, I mean several years, not months).

A couple of weeks ago I was rarely not traveling for work and folded under the intense pressure by my husband (who is also not as young as he used to be) to get my wellness exams caught up. I showed up to complete the well-woman’s circle of life maintenance check. They looked in my throat and under the hood and checked the pipes and that all went fabulous. I ended the fun-filled day with a mammogram relieved to finally have all of it completed. What I wasn’t expecting was the call I received shortly thereafter—We need you to come back in for an additional test. There was something suspicious on your mammogram. And just like that, things just got real.

I spent the next week out of town with work and tried to tamp down the word “suspicious” that kept slipping out of my subconscious and tap dancing all over my conscious. It is really hard to focus on work when you have an ambiguous word tap dancing in your brain. I arrived home and went for boob-smash ‘take two’, which led to yet a THIRD boob smash a couple days later. Boob smash number three was the equivalent to having someone fold my right titty into an Origami swan and then secure it firmly into a vice grip. The whole thing gave “titty twister” a completely new meaning, with the end result being that it wasn’t the end at all.

I was scheduled for a needle-guided surgical biopsy the next morning. The good news is that I was asleep for the “surgical biopsy” part. The bad news is I was wide-ass awake for the “needle guided” portion. Holy God, a little GHB or chloroform next time, please! I should mention this included mammogram number FOUR, and a big needle, and a Styrofoam cup taped over a wire hanging out of my boob? It was all kinds of glamorous. In addition, I had my husband, and Mom and Stepdad with me, which would have been appropriate if I was having a heart transplant, but holy cow it does feel good to be loved.

And then we waited. Waiting was difficult enough, but I was scheduled to fly out of town for work and so I had to wait 700 miles away from home. I do try and plan ahead for these situations. Unbeknownst to her, I had put on my initial paperwork that any and all health information could be shared with my sister, Kim. She called me early in the week to ask if I had heard from the doctor.

Kim:   Have you heard from the tests?

Me:        I am not calling.

Kim:       Yes you are. We have to know.

Me:       Yes, we have to know, but I am not calling. You are.

Kim:       What the hell? They won’t tell me anything.

Me:        I already signed a consent saying they could tell you anything.

Kim:       You are shitting me.

Me:        I shit you not. I can’t hear bad news from the doctor. If it is bad I need you to tell me.

Kim:       I hate you.

Me:        I know.

Kim:       I love you.

Me:        I know.

 

She called and we had to wait a few more days before the results were finalized. In the interim, I didn’t sleep much. I prayed a lot. God always knows when I am in trouble. I am so predictable. I also inventoried my life and the way I live it. My life is a continuous battle to keep what is important at the forefront. My little priority ducks are a bunch of bastards that I can never seem to keep in a row. I consistently fail at being present in the moment and I had to have a suspicious something show up on a mammogram to remind me that I don’t have an infinite amount of moments. I still have so many damn ducks to wrangle. At some point in my existence I want to present my wily-ass little ducks to the world in a complete and unified row.

Later in the week:

Kim:       Hey! How are things in Texas?

Me:        Mostly sunny with a slight chance of cancer.

Kim:       (sobbing)

Me:        The results are negative, aren’t they?

Kim:       (sobbing) Yes!! And now I can breathe again. (I knew if it had been bad news, she would never had let me hear her cry. She, too, is predictable).

Me:        Thank you!

Kim:       I hate you. Don’t ever do this to me again.

Me:        I love you.

Kim:       I know.

Cancer is a beast and I have seen mighty warriors fall to its ruthlessness. I will not pretend that I was not scared shitless. I am NOT a warrior. Hell, I can’t even keep my ducks in a row.   My days of kicking the tires and running on empty are behind me. I came away with a heck of a scare and a right boob that looks like it might belong to the Bride of Frankenstein. But those are two outcomes for which I have boundless immense gratitude. Life’s forecast can change without warning and I am blessed beyond belief with family and friends with whom I can find shelter, when there is even a mere threat of a storm. The truth is, I probably won’t ever get my shit completely together, but I will bet my right boobie that I won’t miss another mammogram!

 

 

 

 

 

The Security Breach at Breakfast

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The Security Breach at Breakfast

There was a time not so long ago that the avoidance of national and world news by my sister, Kim, was viewed by me as bordering on irresponsible. I would ask her opinions on a crisis, mass murder, or natural disaster and she would respond with, “I have no idea what you are talking about and I don’t want to know. So, shut up.” Recently, I have started to envy her ability to close herself off from the world that seems to be unraveling. It seems to be open season on human beings killing one another has had me considering looking for real estate under one of the secluded rocks she likes to hide under. The world is a scary place.

One would think that with all the headlines screaming violence, I would be extra vigilant in protecting myself, my family, and my home from the volatile world. In many ways I am. I have educated myself on gun and personal safety and I have obtained my Conceal and Carry permit. I have purchased a firearm I am comfortable carrying, handling, and shooting. While traveling, I try to be aware of my surroundings and not put myself in vulnerable situations. But Sunday morning, when a homeless young man showed up on my porch asking for a drink of water, my heart overrode my brain and I invited him inside for breakfast.

He couldn’t have been more than 20 and he had a heavy pack and a long road ahead of him. It wasn’t just hot; it was MISSOURI sticky-sweaty-humid-as-hell hot. When I went outside and handed him a couple bottles of water he was very grateful and thankful for my offering and as I watched this kid turn back toward the highway, it never crossed my mind that this shaggy-haired tattooed kid with more than one piercing was a serial killer or an axe murder. All I saw was a kid who probably needed something in his belly and so I called after him, “Hey, are you hungry?”

After offering him a seat at the table, I made him a plate of biscuits and gravy, something to drink, salt and pepper, etc. His only request was a napkin which he placed in his lap. While he ate, I asked him where he was headed and if he had any family in the area. I didn’t want to pry. It was obvious this kid had a story, but it isn’t my story to tell. He ate. He said very little.

Things really got interesting when I went to the bedroom to give my husband, Kevin, a heads that I was feeding a wayward stranger breakfast. He was not overcome by the warm fuzzy feeling of helping out our fellow man. In fact, I believe the emotion I identified reflected in Kevin at that moment was: completely pissed off. We had a rare and heated exchange in whisper voices:

Kevin: What in the hell were you thinking?

Me: I don’t know. What was I supposed to do, let him starve?

Kevin: NOT invite him inside the house would be a reasonable thing to do.

Me: I had to invite him in so he could eat biscuits and gravy.

Kevin: You know better!!! I can’t believe you.

Me: ….

 

In all my arguments with Kevin I end up sounding like a toddler, especially when confined to whispers. It is hard to really sell a good point in ‘whisper voice’. Kevin went into full protector mode talking briefly with the young man and seeing him on his way, all the while keeping our .38 in his pocket. He made sure the kid made his way down the highway and proceeded with the following: Complete perimeter check, locked and secured all doors, reviewed the security modus operandi with the kids for locking cars and doors, emphasizing the point that someone had breached security protocol and so we were all going to have to be EXTRA vigilant for the next few weeks (followed by an accusing stare at me for my reckless behavior).

I went about my day justifying in my own mind what I failed to articulate to my husband. Later that afternoon, I asked if he was still angry at me for inviting a potential murderer, terrorist, puppy kicker inside for breakfast. He assured me he was not mad, but I had to promise not to do it again. I was compelled to try and justify my actions and I probably should have just made my promise and kept my mouth shut.

Me: Kevin, I traveled thousands of miles around the world to feed hungry children in Africa! Do you think I could just let a kid starve on my front porch?

Kevin: Of course not, you invite him in and feed him biscuits and gravy. We will see what a good idea it is when he comes back and kills us in our sleep and steals all our shit.

Me: …..heavy sigh.

Kevin is right the world is a scary place and I could have very well invited danger into our home. I appreciate his ability to protect us and keep us safe. I do hope that in some small fashion he finds a way to appreciate the innate flaw in me that allows my heart override my head in some situations. The truth is, I am so caught up in my own crazy life I neglect so many opportunities to make a difference in the lives of others. My focus has gotten so blurred that it has become easier to see only what I don’t have and I have become blind and complacent to the abundance of my blessings. I hear the news, read the headlines, and I become consumed by all the things that separate us. I needed a reminder of the one thing we have in common; at the end of the day, we are all just human beings.

heartPerhaps the good Lord sent that young man to my door to remind me that I need to look for opportunities to lift up others around me. Perhaps, it was God himself coming to the door as a scruffy homeless kid to see if I would give him a drink or turn him away. Truly If nothing else, I can rest easy knowing that had I been chopped up by the biscuit eating guest, I would probably go to heaven (the way I am quick to anger, cuss like a sailor, struggle with envy and pride and occasional slothfulness I need all the help I can get)….AND if it was God testing us, I fed him biscuits and gravy and Kevin covertly held a gun on him while he ate them (I am still winning). We make a great team– I can try and save the world and he can try to save me from the world…and myself…and coyotes….and spiders…and BigFoot… I think this text he sent me says it all:

murder

FAKEBooking-Mastering the Art of Omission

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My mom asked me three questions, when I was 16 years old, to which I answered honestly. Subsequently, this left her standing in the kitchen sobbing into a dishtowel.   Her response ultimately being, “Why can’t you just lie like other teenagers?” Okay…that went well. I should have used my filter. The greater part of my adult life has been trying to tame the wily beast that is my tongue. Sometimes I am able to remain silent, at least in the time it takes to reformulate more socially acceptable responses. Most of the time, this requires the firm use of my teeth on aforementioned tongue and walking away, but progress is progress. With all of my attempts to be authentic without the use of blunt force emotional assault, I sometimes still lose the battle. War is hell and my tongue hurts.

 

There is a place I still struggle to remain authentic and that place is on social medial. It is a fine balance between sharing too much (which I often do) and cutting loose without abandon with every shitty thing happening in my life. Teetering on the virtual tightrope between TMI and Debbie Downer all the while trying to avoid getting to sucked into the dark abyss of ‘my shit is perfect’; the struggle is real and my shit is far from perfect.

 

My newsfeed is alive and well with posts ranging from folks’ fun-filled summer vacations; good times spent with great friends, the proud moments of sports parents and last but not least, the selfies. I have posted numerous times in each of these categories. How authentic are my posts? How well does the life I portray on Facebook reflect the life I actually live?? Not even close. I am living a lie, virtually.

 

Classic examples of my Facebook Omissions:

sophi fist day

Fact: Sophi’s first day of her junior year.

Omission: She was totally Pi$$ed that I asked her to take this picture because she was running late. She was not very nice about it and I wasn’t very nice back.   It was an ugly exchange.

Patch

Fact: Hanging out with Patch, the new horse on the farm.

Omission: I was supposed to be on a run, but I stopped and played with Patch, because I am out of shape and I was dog-ass tired of running.

 

cornhole

Fact: Sophi got out of the shower and played corn hole in her towel. Things like this really do happen in our home.

Omission: I can’t beat Sophi at corn hole and it makes me crazy. I can’t beat Kevin either. I can beat Riley, but she doesn’t count. She is horrible.

magic12

Fact: Kevin coaching his Magic girls in a rare moment of spirited coaching in response to the team not playing well at all.

Omission: Briley, the center, hurt her back early in the tournament and with her mom’s permission I gave her some muscle relaxers. Kevin hurt his back last week and took the same kind of muscle relaxers and was groggy and couldn’t stay awake for a couple of days. Yeah..maybe that is why Briley was having trouble getting up and down the court. Ooops!

 

I think there is a part of my life that I vehemently try to hide on Facebook.   If I had to put a label on it, think it would be vulnerability. What parts of my life can I reveal and not be judged by my Facebook community as a shitty mom or crazy wife or horrible person (I have been called all three).

There is nothing virtual about my reality.

 

I am blessed with good kids and they are basically happy and healthy, but they drive me bat-shit crazy sometimes. They fight. They can be hateful as junkyard dogs to me and each other. I push Sophi too hard, haven’t pushed Evan hard enough and Riley has basically co-parented herself, so there is that.

 

My house stays clean for exactly 2.3 seconds and then the chaos erupts. The cute little dog, Piper, whom is adored and treated like a baby, won’t pee in the grass if it is wet.   She sneaks into the kitchen and pees in the floor. I cover for her and tell Kevin she is sorry. She is not sorry.

 

Kevin really is the mild-mannered, cool-headed voice of reason in the family. He did say he wouldn’t love me if I lost both of my arms, because I wouldn’t be much good to him. I am pretty sure he was kidding though; sort of kidding.

 

I can’t take a selfie that is worth posting. If I try, it takes me 37 tries and by the time I get one that is halfway decent, the moment has passed. Actually, my selfie ship has passed. Perhaps, being a woman of a certain age, I don’t feel compelled to see my mug daily on a newsfeed. Honestly, I don’t want to. I require a lot of makeup, low-lighting, and numerous filters to pull it off. I have a scar on my chin, crow’s feet, and ain’t nobody want to be looking at all that (see the horse picture above…I am the one on the left). I am not that cool and I know it—affirmations through comments be damned.

 

I am flawed. I am not the matriarch of the Sunshine Family. Sometimes I am sad, scared, and stressed. My kids aren’t beauty queens, top athletes or anything extraordinary, but they are unequivocally loved. Our home is filled with more laughter than tears, but laundry is more abundant than either. There always seems to be more wants than money, more things that need to be done than there is time and more places to go than gas in the cars. We sing, we dance, we wrestle, and we laugh. I love to share the moments of my life, but the life I share is often a watered down version of the real thing. The watered down version is never as good as the real thing. Live your life—love your life—no filter.

 

The Epic Tirade Over Bleepin’ Wet Socks

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The Epic Tirade Over Bleepin’ Wet Socks

Every once in a while, I completely flip my $hit. I have scaled down my grand meltdowns and while I have no specific data to back up my bold claim, I am confident the number of Richter scale measurable come-a-parts has been on the steady decline over the last several years. I am uncertain of the reasoning behind the lengthening of my fuse and the rounding out my sharp edges. Perhaps arriving in the fourth decade of my existence has brought about a shift in the hormonal tide.  It may be attributed to a heightened awareness of the struggles of those around me and a growing appreciation for mankind. Truth be told, it is most likely that I just don’t care enough to work myself up into an emotional lather… well that and I am slightly medicated.

 

The push to take ‘don’t sweat the small stuff’ to a new level hasn’t always been easy. Laundry thrown haphazardly next to the hamper on most days is met with a sigh and a quick deposit into the receptacle. Other days, I can just ignore it. There are those days, however, when I feel the adrenaline surge through my veins, and I have visions of lighting the whole damn pile on fire and walking away. I have found that visual imagery helps alleviate my stress and seems a viable imaginative alternative to a verbal assault on my family and/or acts of arson. I am learning to self-soothe, which I am counting as a sign of progress.

 

Nothing seems to validate all of my hard work, like witnessing a colossal screaming crazy rant of another. While staying at the historic (and haunted-another story) Congress Hotel in Chicago my husband, Kevin and I were audible witness to the tyrannical verbal hurricane of a neighboring guest. As we were leaving our room late one evening, we were halted in our tracks (okay we stopped and eavesdropped outside the door) of a man who was coming completely undone, specifically because his socks were wet.

 

HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO BLEEPIN’ TELL YOU TO WIPE UP THE BLEEPIN’ BATHROOM FLOOR WHEN YOU BLEEPIN’ GET OUT OF THE SHOWER?? YOU BLEEPIN’ LEFT WATER ALL OVER THE BLEEPIN’ FLOOR AND NOW MY BLEEPIN’ SOCKS ARE WET BECAUSE YOU ARE TOO BLEEPIN’ LAZY TO WIPE UP THE BLEEPIN WATER!! NOW I HAVE BLEEPIN’ WET SOCKS!!!! GET YOUR BLEEPIN’ ASS IN THERE AND WIPE UP THE BLEEPIN’ FLOOR!! AND DON’T USE A BLEEPIN’ CLEAN TOWEL EITHER. YOU USE A BLEEPIN’ DIRTY TOWEL!! THIS BETTER BE THE LAST BLEEPIN’ TIME I STEP IN BLEEPIN’ WATER AND GET MY BLEEPIN’ SOCKS WET!!!! DO YOU BLEEPIN’ HEAR ME?

 

Actually, Sir, the entire 14th floor heard you. That was some powerful rage over wet socks. I thought about tapping on the door and sharing my visual imagery techniques, but I figured he probably wasn’t to the receptive stage in his development and decided against it. Then my heart started to imagine the receiver of that powerful verbal pounding. Of course, I imagined a little lad of 8 or 9 standing there in his PJs with wet hair and big sorrowful eyes. I pushed that image out of my head, it was too much. I started leaning toward the battered and abused wife, but that wasn’t any better. I settled on the recipient being the madman’s adult unemployed sloth of a brother, who drank all his beer, sleeps on his couch, and is still favored by their mother. One thing I am sure of, he wasn’t berating himself for not wiping up the water in his bathroom floor.

 

I haven’t thrown too many sticks or stones around, but I have tossed some pretty harsh words at the people I love most in the world and I am pretty sure some of them left a mark and probably even a scar or two. The scars on the hearts of the people I love are permanent. I cannot erase them with a million apologies or cover them with platitudes. My only hope is that my moments of tenderness, my smiles and laughter, and unconditional love can patch the holes I may have made. Love can’t float with holes in it, but a good sturdy patch may be just the thing to keep it from going all the way under.   I can’t guarantee things will always be smooth sailing. I am 100% human and a continued work in progress.

 

If you ever find yourself standing in the bathroom with bleepin’ wet socks, remember somewhere I am standing in my own bathroom sitting fire to a pile of laundry in my mind. Life is too short. Be kind. Be real. Be careful what you scream in a hotel room…

A Fist Full of Poppies and a Heart Full of Shame

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hatSometimes I get tired, frustrated and homesick during my seemingly long stints away from my family, while traveling for work. May has been one of those months with a lot of travel and an equal amount of homesickness. Fortunately, the majority of my time working this month was spent in the Missouri Veterans Commission in their homes for veterans and it was here I met an old soldier. It was he who reminded me that I have no actual concept of what being tired, frustrated or homesick really is.

He sat close to the nurses’ station, where we were training the staff on how to use the electronic medication administration software. He was sitting in a wheelchair. He asked for a warm blanket, which a staff member tucked around his stooped shoulders. He thanked the young lady with sincere gratitude and then I overheard him reciting lines from the poem, The Golden Years: “I cannot see, I cannot pee, I cannot chew, I cannot screw, the golden years are here at last and the golden years can kiss my ass.” His laugh was infectious.

Later that day, I had returned to the nurses’ station to check on the progress with the electronic medication pass.   He was sitting in his wheelchair. His US Navy cap had fallen to the floor and I watched as he strained in vain to reach it. I excused myself from my trainees and retrieved it for him and returned it to its rightful place. He thanked me with the same gratitude he had expressed over the warm blanket. I said, “I believe it is you who deserves the thanks. Thank you for your service, Sir.” His skin was thin and nearly transparent beneath the bill of his cap, but his eyes were shining.

He told me he served in the US Navy during World War II. I shared with him that my grandpa had also fought in WWII, but that he had served in the Army. He smiled and said he wouldn’t hold that against him and once again—that laugh. He shared with me that he loved the men he served with, but many of the names he has forgotten; the faces he never will. He grew quiet and

Vernon Thomure WWII Veteran, Hero, and Awesome Grandpa

Vernon Thomure
WWII Veteran, Hero, and Awesome Grandpa

I thought maybe he had fallen asleep, but when he looked up, his shining eyes were filled with tears, and he continued, “There are some things I wish I could forget. Our ship was hit in April, 1945, and there was so much water and so much blood. It seemed like more blood than water, if you can believe that. We were in the middle of the ocean with a hole blown in the side of our ship. You would think there would have been more water, but it sure didn’t seem like it. I still see all that blood and all those faces of men who were my brothers.”

The tears had made their way down his cheeks and the lump in my throat occluded me from speaking, which was a blessing, because I couldn’t find words to fill the space between us. I tentatively reached out and covered his vein-streaked pale hand with mine. After a few moments, he looked up and said, “I am sorry, young lady. I didn’t mean to start crying.” I told him I didn’t mean to make him so sad. He smiled and said, “Some things are just sad. I think what would be even sadder is that if nobody remembered.”

Today I followed two 30-something men out of Wal-Mart and they were chatting and talking and a veteran with the Buddy Poppies was standing at the exit. He buddypoppolitely asked if they would like to make a donation. These men didn’t even acknowledge the veteran or his request. One gave him a sideways glance and then turned his head and they both kept talking and walking. I stuffed a few dollars into the donation can and accepted my Poppy, trying to reflect as much gratitude as I had seen in the eyes of an old soldier when he was given a warm blanket. I thanked him for his service and I headed to my car. Once in my car I placed the poppy on the seat beside me, along with the several others that have accumulated over the last several days. I tried to stamp down the anger I was feeling for the two men who had nothing to offer, even in the way of a thank you and I wondered how many times I had failed to recognize the sacrifices made on behalf of my freedom and my anger dissolved into shame.   Because there are things that are just sad, but what would be even sadder is that if nobody remembered…

In the spirit of the Golden Years Poem, I wrote a few lines for the guys that blew off the veteran at the store today:

He cannot see, he cannot pee, he cannot chew and he cannot screw,

But he is more of a man than either of you.

The golden years don’t discriminate, and you can bet your ass

They show up without warning and they come on fast.

To you he may be an old man with poppy on a stem

But even for jerks like you, he would do it all again.

So enjoy your long weekend, your beer, and big toys

He knows what it takes to separate the men from the boys.

 

A Mother’s Day Wish List-Revised Edition

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A Mother’s Day Wish List-Revised Edition

As Mother’s Day approaches, I have been making a gift guide for my sweet children to utilize, in the event they want to borrow money from their father and purchase me a little sumthin’-sumthin’.   The following is the first edition of my Mother’s Day Wish List:

  1. Fitbit Fitness Band (in black)finch
  2. Converse Monochrome shoes-Size 8.5night vision googles
  3. Atticus Finch T-Shirt and the Preorder purchase of Harper Lee’s Novel Go Set a Watchman, to be released in July (the T-shirt will keep me happy until the book release).
  4. Yukon Night Vision Tracking Binoculars
  5. Conceal and Carry Compression Tank (in black)
  6. A very tiny monkey.

After reflecting on the likelihood of my Mother’s Day wish list ever coming to fruition, I decided to make some revisions. As I attempted to whittle the list down and refine the focus to practical customary wishes, it was apparent the list, while authentic, was not representative of the true spirit of Mother’s Day. I dug a little deeper and explored what my true wishes were for Mother’s Day. The following is the compilation of my revisions:

  1. For my oldest daughter, Riley, I hold these wishes for you. I wish you could embrace the amazing young woman you are and hold tight to the beauty of your soul. Each morning, when you wake and you look at your reflection in your mirror, I wish you no longer sought out your perceived imperfections, but instead focus on the gifts God has given you. My hope is that with each passing day, you will learn to love yourself. The many ways you guard you heart serves you well, when done so for the right reasons. Hearts are made to be broken and human beings rarely escape a life without some degree of heartbreak. A heart that has been broken beats on, but a life without love is just a beating heart. May you always know how much of love being your mom.                            Addendum: I wish you would someday in the future reconsider your decision to opt out of motherhood. I cannot be a Nana to a batch of rescued cats.
  2. For my son, Evan, these wishes are for you. Looking back on the long journey that has brought you to this moment, I wish you to know how very proud I am of you. I know that the things that are so easy for others were not so easy for you. I want you to know that the mistakes I made along the way were my attempts at helping you the only way I knew how. There were many people who might have given up on you, but that was never an option for me. It is my hope for you that you will remember to give more than you take, lift others up, treasure the little things, and don’t be afraid of failing. There is something great inside of you, Evan and I pray each day you have the courage to discover what it is, the resilience to carry on when you fail, and the graciousness to appreciate those who help you along the way. Don’t let a day go by without fully knowing how blessed I am that God chose you for my son. Addendum: I wish you would please stop teasing my sweet old Cooper. He is over 70 years old in people years!! Please be kind to my crabby geriatric furry friend.
  3. To my baby girl, Sophi, I wish these things for you. There will never be more minutes in an hour, more hours in day, more days in a week or more weeks in a year. I know of no other who crams more living in a space of time than you. It is my wish that you are able to make the most of each moment and give yourself some space to breathe. The only thing that ever gets in your way, Sophi, is you. It makes me proud that you are motivated to set the bar high, but don’t forget that you don’t have to be perfect. All that you have to do doesn’t have to be done today. It is my wish for you to find balance and understand that if you always stay true to God, yourself, and the people who love you, the life you make will be successful. You are forever and always my bonus baby.                                     Addendum: I wish you would PLEASE put the lids back on your makeup and quit leaving it all scattered on the bathroom counter!! And for the love of all that is holy, you only need ONE towel for a shower

kidsThe truth is the greatest gift is one I have already been given. It cannot be purchased at the store or ordered online. I have been blessed with the privilege of being a mother, and this is simply all I could ever want (except for a very tiny monkey, that would be freaking AWESOME)…and maybe the night vision goggles. Seriously, this nest is going to be empty someday. I really should start planning ahead.

Living the Simple Life Status Update…It’s Complicated

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Living the Simple Life Status Update…It’s Complicated

 

Whoever said living in the country is the ‘simple life’, obviously never lived in the country. Country living takes grit, resilience, and emotional fortitude. It has been just over two years since I said farewell to the city limits and embraced my tougher rural side. The transition has been filled with a multitude of learning opportunities for me and I am woman enough to disclose that I sometimes lack grit, resilience, and emotional fortitude. Sometimes, I am just an idiot.

My first faux pas was made with good intentions. Spirit is the resident matriarch horse on the farm. She is a beautiful Morgan Paint, which loosely translated for town folks means she is BIG and looks like Tonto’s horse from the Lone Ranger. Each morning before leaving for work, I would take Spirit an apple or handful of carrots. Her forelock (loosely translated—horse bangs) was always hanging in her eyes. My attempts to use my hairclips to pin it up out of her eyes didn’t go well. She lost every single one of my hairclips. I decided to give her a trim. Spirit ended up looking more like Jim Carrey in Dumb and Dumber than a beautiful horse. As it turns out, the forelock is important for keeping flies and other debris from irritating the horse’s eyes. Who knew horse bangs were more than a fashion statement??dumb

In addition to the acceptable grooming practices of horses, I have had my eyes open to other farm animal maintenance. If a baby calf gets stuck in her mama cow’s vagina, it is customary to hook chains to the calf and help pull it out. The boy cows don’t have it easy either. If you are unfortunate enough to be born a boy cow and you aren’t given immunity status to continue growing into a bull, a routine circumcision would be a welcome trade for what is in store. The little boy baby cows are rounded up and their little baby cow balls are cut off and tossed into a bucket. Chains in a vagina and a bucket of cow balls…all in a day’s work.

As luck would have it, I am not involved in the day-to-day operations of the farm. It is probably a good thing, because I am a little too emotionally high-strung to be of much use. One of the baby donkeys got stuck in the mud near the pond and drowned. All the Animal Planet viewing in the world did not prepare me for this travesty! While tuning into Animal Planet, I fully expect crocodiles to leap out of the water and snatch up little water buffalo, but this isn’t the Serengeti! We are smack in the middle of America’s heartland. Mother Nature’s bitch-slap is far reaching.

donkeyI don’t cut off baby cow balls or get near the vagina of a cow birthing her young, but I do have animal responsibilities on the farm. I am the caretaker of the barn-cats. Barn-cats are an integral part of country living and I do my part to make sure they are fed, warm, loved and cuddled. According to barn cat protocol, barn-cats are not to be named, as there is a high turnover among the resident barn-cats and thus, I have been advised not to get attached. I seldom follow sound advice (heavy sigh).

LuLubelle was one of the initial barn-cat residents and the beginning of my cat wrangling adventures. LuLubelle was born with a hole in her diaphragm, which resulted in her not being a candidate for spaying. Contrary to popular belief, her breathing difficulties did not eliminate her from lifting her tail for the first Tom Cat who came along. LuLubelle’s transgressions led to a small but robust barn-kitty boom. I had my hands full trying to keep up with finding homes for adoptable kittens, foster mothers for the shitty-kitty moms’ kittens, and keeping up with sterilization for the youngsters coming of age.

LuLubelle tired of the mother (and now grandmother) grind and headed off to take up residence in the solitude of a quiet, not so crowded, barn (this is what I tell myself anyway, because recognizing the fact that she may have been a late night snack for a coyote is just too horrible). Finally, all the kittens had homes, LuLubelle had moved to her retirement home, and our barn was home to one small kitten named, Yellow Cat. My work schedule had been rather hectic and I knew I had several months before Yellow Cat would be mature enough to have kittens, but evidentially some kitties mature faster than others…and now we were suddenly back up to six barn cats.

**WARNING: This is the point in the story, where things take a tragic turn and cat lovers and the squeamish should probably bail out now.**

I found yellow cat with her new brood in the hay manger in the barn. It was early morning and I was headed to work. The light in the barn was dim and she wasn’t really keen on me poking around. I could still see that several of the kittens weren’t cleaned well and I was worried that she was going to be a shitty-kitty mom. I gave her some words of encouragement and headed off to work. Returning that evening, I went out in the barn to check on her. I brought a flashlight so I could get a better look at how the situation was progressing and I was totally unprepared for what I was about to encounter. There were three kittens nursing and two seemingly piled beneath them. I started moving them around to get a better look and I saw what looked to be a placenta, which Yellow Cat should have gobbled down long before this point. Confused by the mangled ball of kittens, I reached in and picked one of the kittens up, and instead I hoisted up four tangled kittens. They were all still attached to one placenta and completely entangled in a web of umbilical cords.

The act of me picking up the intertwined kitten-placenta ball caused one kitten’s umbilical cord to pull off and I couldn’t control the bleeding. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to save that little guy, so I reluctantly turned my attention to the other three still mangled together. With hands shaking, I was able to tie off and cut the cord, freeing one kitten from the mass. The remaining two were in a pitiful predicament. It was obvious that the kittens had been tangled long before they were born. Their little legs had been cinched together with an umbilical cord so tightly and for so long, their little tiny paws hadn’t formed. There was just rotting dead tissue where little paws should have been.

One of the kittens was visibly smaller and looked as if it was already succumbing to the infection that was no doubt raging. I had to get them apart. I went plundering for medical supplies. Running back to the barn, I had discovered that the weaker kitten had died, but was still hopelessly tethered to its sibling. Using every ounce of courage I could muster, I carefully snipped the rotten leg off of the dead kitten. I surveyed the situation; I had one living kitten, which was not a part of the original tangled mess. I had one living kitten that I had been able to successfully free, two kittens that had not survived, and one kitten with a rotten leg, still attached to both the placenta and the severed rotten leg of its sibling. Kitten farming is REALLY hard.

kittySadly, even after a successful amputation and antibiotic therapy, little “Stumpy” kitten wasn’t strong enough to make it. I buried him in a sunglasses case under the tree near the barn, where yellow cat likes to sun herself in the afternoons. Sweetie and Dot are the surviving twin brothers of the ordeal and have grown into a handsome loving duo. Sweetie, Dot, and Yellow Cat have decided to leave barn-living behind. Mama and her two sons have moved into the garage, where my husband has built them a two story insulated and heated condominium. They often join us in the house and stretch out the furniture or curl up in a lap, before retiring to their kitty-condo.

It has been hard for me to convey the situation I encountered in the barn that day, even to my family. When I arrived at the house bloodied, panicked and carrying Stumpy still attached to the severed leg and nasty placenta, my family questioned my sanity (this is not the first time my sanity has come into question). Several days later, my daughter’s friend commented that her throat was hurting and my daughter replied, “Don’t tell my mom, she might cut off your head.”cattwins

I read somewhere that tough old farmers don’t cry, but I know better. This country way of living is still pretty new to me, but I have seen enough to know that tough old farmer also have the biggest hearts. I am not sure if having a big heart is a prerequisite for the job or rather something they acquire along the way. I assume if it is okay to sometimes cry in the barn, perhaps I have some farmer potential. It is probably better to look at my potential as a farmer more objectively and as my dad would tell me, “You aren’t tough enough to make a scab on farmer’s ass” and I am pretty certain he is absolutely, 100% correct.

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