Limited Time

I’m not really sure I’m qualified to do a 9/11 post. I had left the east coast just under a year before it happened. But, it’s on my mind today along with everyone else.

I watched in shock with the rest of the world that day as I willed D3, who was due any minute, to stay put. To please wait to be born so that her birthday wouldn’t forever mark a day of such sadness. I mourned for the city I had grown to love and tried to reach the friend whose husband worked in one of the towers. I didn’t know which one but it didn’t matter. Thankfully, he had gone to the New Jersey office that day.

So many stories of the people who should have been there but weren’t, mixed with the stories of the people who shouldn’t have been but were. The ones who went in to rescue them and never came out. It is a seemingly unending list of those who died, mourned, prayed, survived.

Maybe this post is less about 9/11 and more about the frailty of human life.

Maybe it’s written under a cloud of drugs making me especially sick today.

I don’t really know. But my heart breaks for all those who witnessed such a horrible event and faced such life changing loss.

We so often take these beautiful fall days for granted. Hell, we take all of them for granted. That the beauty could be mixed with such horror was incomprehensible but it’s a part of that day, a reminder for anyone who watched.

I remember doing the NYC tourist thing early on and standing in awe below the towers. Being from a semi-small town I was also amazed at the number of people going in and out. That is what I remembered as I watched the news that day. The people. So many people.

There is an advantage to having cancer long-term. Though I sometimes take my additional time for granted, I occasionally get reminders of the gift I’ve been given in that I get to say good-bye to my family and friends when the time comes. Too many people have that right taken away. Today is that reminder for me again.

Today I will make an extra effort to make sure my family knows I love them. I don’t think they doubt it but they can never be told enough.

Even if you aren’t facing your mortality in quite such a direct way I think the reminder still applies.

Treasure the time you have.

Treasure the ones you love.

 

 

Menopausal Mother Nature & Her Hot Flashes

I grew up in a mountain valley at an elevation of just under 5,000 ft. I have a great respect for Mother Nature and her mood swings.

It wasn’t unusual growing up to wake up to several inches, if not a foot or two, of snow. I’ve waited to go skiing until they had a chance to dig out the lower chair lifts. Ski hills that couldn’t open because of too much snow.

I walked to school in temps that froze my nose hairs. Yes, it was uphill both ways. Instead of a ride, I got this sage advice: “Breathe in through your nose so you don’t freeze your throat and lungs.

But I’ve always drawn energy from nature and her extremes. From the breathtaking beauty surrounding me.

When we lived on the east coast, I survived by taking the chairlift to the top of Stowe in order to have a big open view again. I get claustrophobic if I can’t see for miles.

I’m claustrophobic now. In the middle of the convergence of 5 river valleys, in our house on the hill overlooking miles, I can’t see a damn thing.

Out here the humidity is so low that it storms without rain. We get lightning storms that provide no moisture. They strike and spark and smolder until just the right wind comes along. Then they explode.

A single smoke plume on an otherwise clear blue day signals the beginning of a forest fire. Mother Nature blows on the tiniest spark until it feeds on dry tinder,  beetle-killed pine trees and dry needles and takes off.

In the middle of the night I dream of water dropping helicopters and slurry bombers – the big airplanes you see on the news dropping red retardant. And I dream of campfires and s’mores only to wake up and realize it’s the smoke coming in the window that brings on the otherwise enjoyable images in my mind.

There is a fire in Idaho that used to be five. They’ve grown together into a massive unstoppable force, spanning hundreds of thousands of acres, moving our direction. Other fires have started closer to home –  in every direction. There are evacuations miles south of us but the smoke travels faster. It catches the wind and settles in the valleys and takes our breath away with it. Burnt pine needles settle on our trampoline. Odd little things that hold their shape in the wind for miles then dissolve when you touch them. Falling ash gives the appearance of snow in the middle of a hot September day.

Smoke from a forest fire over the Sawtooth Wil...

Smoke from a forest fire over the Sawtooth Wilderness in Idaho. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The last weeks I’ve opened the curtains on our big picture window overlooking the valley and I see nothing. Where the houses and mountains and trees used to be there is only smoke.

Daily “red flag warnings” mean that the more wind and humidities in the single digits will continue. Air quality advisories are checked as often as the weather. In my quest to do long training walks for the marathon, I get only “limit your outdoor exposure”.

The sun is stunningly beautiful and eerie. It’s a huge red ball in the sky that you can look directly at in the middle of the day. At night the sunsets are nothing short of extraordinary.  My Science Guy would point out that “particulate matter makes a gorgeous sunset”. He’s a romantic that way.

It’s an eerie gold this morning that brings on a growing sense of Armageddon. Mother Nature is a being a bitch. I hear she’ll bring us rain in October. As news breaks of a new fire cresting the mountain and moving down into one of the valleys, I have to say I’m tired of it.

D1 says it never feels like summer until she smells smoke. I think it’s going to be summer clear into fall. The amazing brave firemen and women aren’t going to catch a break until the snow flies.

With any luck it’ll be a winter of feet rather than inches of snow. Enough to cool off any remaining sparks. As nighttime temps drop and humidity rises, we hope for a break.

An educational tour

In honor of my friend Marinka’s inpending trip to Montana, I’m reposting this as a refresher. I think she’ll find these tips handy!

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SG and I escaped the kiddos for a couple of days over spring break. One of the days we spent at Mammoth Hot Springs just inside the north entrance to Yellowstone.

I learned a couple of things that I’d like to share with you.

The 1st:

You think?

Sadly, so many park visitors have decided it would be fun to stick their fingers in hot pools, that there is now a need for a sign like that. Kind of sad really.

Oh, and in case you think the thermal features double as playground equipment, I give you this, in several languages:

Kind of gives new meaning to the phrase “blowing smoke up your ass”. I especially like the guy with the stylish man purse and the woman pointing at the soon to be boiled child. Again, hot water will scald.

My new dream job? Drawing obvious signs for tourists.

My last discovery? When you’re as tough as this guy, you can get away with any hairdo you want. Even a cool windblown faux hawk sort of thing. Justin Bieber wishes he had hair like this!

Lest you think I snapped this shot from anywhere other than the safety of the car, I leave you with one parting thought from the handy-dandy rear view mirror hanger they gave us at the entrance:

It’s not a petting zoo people!

Dear Congress, You guys are dumbasses! Sincerely, Me

So it appears it takes an act of Congress to get me to write a post these days. No, this blog post was not tucked into a highway bill and it was not sponsored by any major corporation! No lobbying was done on my behalf.

It’s this whole pizza sauce as a vegetable thing – yes I realize it’s not a new rule. It’s been part of the nutritional guidelines all along but dammit, this would have been the time to change it. Revamp the guidelines into something that helps our kids, not hurts them.

No, I don’t expect the government to be in charge of feeding our  kids but I do expect some sort of accountability to them. Accountability to the health and well-being of the future generations.

I DO NOT expect them to sell out to ConAgra and Sysco and other makers of refined processed crap!

We are fortunate enough to be able to afford to put fresh fruits and veggies in our daughters’ lunches, but there are so many families who rely on free or reduced cost lunches to feed their children. What about them? What about their  nutritional needs? Do they not deserve high value foods just because they can’t afford to supply it themselves?

This is not about big government reaching into our families, or telling us what to eat, it is about COMMON SENSE!

The CDC estimates about 17 percent — or 12.5 million — of children between the ages of 2 and 19 are obese. But it’s not only about obesity. It’s about what we put in our children’s bodies.

For me, it’s also about trying to make sure that they don’t end up like me. No I’m not saying my cancer came from processed foods. My mom was a good cook who made almost every meal from scratch but the fact remains, I don’t know where it came from.

There is no certainty but I do know for sure that when I read the ingredients on packaged processed foods, most of them are chemically based. They are preservatives and additives and fake colors. They’re chemicals my chemist husband advises against ingesting.

It’s about improving the odds, decreasing the number of carcinogens we feed our children and trying like hell of protect them. Because of my drugs, anytime I eat something processed, my body says “NO, get this out of me!”  It recognizes that this is not anything I should be ingesting. I can tell which restaurants in town use fresh ingredients. It’s that simple. My children rejected school lunches years ago because every time they tried them, they felt sick afterwards. Again, it’s that simple. Our bodies know.

Yes, even the fresh stuff can have bad things in them – wash your apples people – but if we’re going to play the odds, I’d rather do it with an apple than tomato paste. There has to be a connection. There are so more people, from my perspective, who have cancer than they did when I was young. So many more parents leaving their kids or watching them go through treatment.

THERE IS A CONNECTION! It needs to be recognized. I’m not saying if you feed your children a frozen pizza from time to time you’re giving them cancer. Please don’t think I am. I do it too. Those $5 hot and ready pizzas are so appealing on busy days. But it’s about balance. It’s about not encouraging the substitution of chemicals for real food as congress had done.

It’s about not sacrificing the health of our children for special interests!

At some point, if they’re going to encourage feeding our children crap, screw the environment and the air they breathe, and only look out for their pocket books, politicians needs to be held accountable. Not because government should tell us what to do but because they are the ones with the power to change the guidelines. They are the ones we elect to make decisions on our behalf. OUR behalf, not the lobbyists.

Today I’m saying you screwed up! The welfare of our children was in front of you and you chose to ignore it, to give into millions of lobbying dollars. Most of you leave office as millionaires because you give in more often than not.

Congress, you guys suck!!

 

 

Out of practice

Well wow – I have a chance to write this morning. Two of my girls are at a sleepover, one is at speed & strength camp – a conditioning camp for athletes – and SG is at work. The big dog is asleep in her bed and the little one is crunching loudly on her food.

There is nothing I have to do right now except drink my coffee and type. Funny thing though, I’m not sure what to say.

This summer has been the busiest one yet. I always thought once the girls got older, they’d need me a little less and would just sort of overnight, have the ability to entertain themselves. Hmmmm, that kind of didn’t happen.  Instead the number of rides they need to places has increased exponentially.

I suspect that’s so I’ll actually look forward to D1 taking driver’s ed? So I’ll put all that stress aside and say “Yay, your sister will drop you off at soccer camp.”

Speaking of camp, D3 just finished up a week with the UK Elite soccer coaches. Funny how young guys with Scottish accents made her sisters suddenly want to go with me to pick her everyday. Even the 10 yr old.

Also funny how it was the only camp where the moms showed up bright and early well dressed with fresh combed hair and make-up. Usually the moms, at least at drop off in the summer, tend  more towards the hats, sunglasses and all natural look.

Not so much when our children are greeted with a rich Scottish brogue.

The nannies were also not immune. I overheard one young girl tell Coach Ross that she was “just the babysitter” several times within a span of a few minutes. What is it about a man with an accent? Sorry SG. Your southern thing is cute too.

Our girls are also asking if maybe dad could do a year sabbatical in Scotland? “Please mom?!” Even the oldest is willing to give up a year of high school to travel. This is the girl who moved so many times when she was little that the sight of a U-Haul makes her break out in hives.

Times, they are a changin’. I blame boys.

Hmm, looks like maybe I found something to say after all. Sorry it’s neither brilliant nor witty but I’m a little out of practice.

Oh and by the way, the dogs love each other! Good news right? The bad news? The puppy discovered the hamster. So far it’s safely in it’s cage but that could change.

ps. Thanks for all the nice comments on the dream post. I meant to reply to all of you but I think I was in a bit of a mood. Shocking right? Anyway, thanks!

All parents rock!

I’m sure this is going to shock most of you when I say there is something annoying me that I need to get off my chest. I’m usually so reserved and keep my feelings to myself, right?

Remember how I told you we were going to my nephew’s graduation? Well we did and it was wonderful. The graduates looked great and the speeches were fantastic –  especially the one given by one the teachers. It was a perfect sendoff for 195 kids who were both excited and nervous about their futures.

We really enjoyed it – until they got to the part in the program called “parent awards”. They had all 5 Salutatorians give speeches where, for the most part, they told their fellow graduates how much they’d miss them, how thankful they were for their families, their teachers and everyone else who graded their papers, coached their teams and wiped their butts.

The “parent awards” followed that and as it turned out, they called the parents of the Salutatorians up one at a time and gave them a trophy. They didn’t acknowledge the other 190 sets of parents with graduates. This is where my rant begins so if you’re not up to it you might want to check out now.

Here’s my thing.

I am in no way trying to diminish the parenting of those 5 who were at the top of their class. BUT, what about everyone else? All the rest of the parents who struggled and fought and loved and supported their children all the way to commencement.

What about them?

What about the parents of the child with a learning disability who fought the system for years to get their child tested? The ones who spent twice as much time making sure their child comprehended the material enough to pass a test. The ones who lobbied on behalf of their children year after year to make sure their needs were being met.

What about the moms and dads of the kids who gave up the last year or so and fought all efforts to get them to finish? How about some credit for the parents who met with the principal and counselors day in and day out to make sure their son or daughter got the credits they needed to graduate.

Or the parents of the middle of the road kids who appreciated that sometimes, no matter how much effort, their children will be somewhere in the center of the bell curve. Despite all the help and encourgement, they will be C students. The parents who were proud of them anyway.

Where the hell are their trophies?

I can’t imagine that the parents who got the trophies loved or supported their kids more than the rest.

How do we know there wasn’t a Salutatorian or two who graduated with honors despite their parents? The kids who pushed themselves and got those grades despite deadbeat parents who were absent, just didn’t care or worse?

What if it was just easier for one or two of those top kids? I had classmates who graduated at the top but put in zero effort. I also knew kids who put in hours and hours and graduated by the skin of their teeth.

None of their parents deserved a trophy over the other!

Every parent has their own struggles – their own battles to wage to get their kids through those years of school. We can’t pick and choose who did the best job based on their child’s transcripts.

If any of my daughters get top honors, I won’t deserve a trophy! I’ve been known to put off checking homework for Bejeweled and Survivor.

If I get a trophy for one child and not another, does that mean I’ve failed one of them? Did I parent differently because they learn differently?

If one struggles with test taking in math but is a brilliant musician or artist does that make her, or me,  any less worthy? If school is easier for one child than another is that a result of my parenting style?

I don’t think so.

Maybe if my daughters struggle in school because I’ve lost my battle with cancer and deserted them,then that’s my fault. I know that. But in that case, no matter the grade point average, SG will deserve a huge trophy! Not because of their grades but because he got them through.

It got quiet during that portion of the ceremony and I can’t help but wonder how many of the other parents felt just a little bit “less than”. How many of them questioned themselves on a day that should have been one of their proudest.

How could they justify honoring so few when so many deserved a hearty congratulations on a job well done?

In a world where every child, no matter his or her level, is celebrated as a winner, what of the parents?

Here kitty kitty

There is a 5 word sentence that strikes fear in my heart!

It isn’t:

“Annie, your cancer is back” – though that one sucks too.

It’s not:

“Your daughter is failing math”

Or even:

“SG is doinking his secretary”

No, the worst 5 word combo in my world is:

“Mom, I saw a mouse!”

To my horror, D3 uttered those awful words this morning when she went to the garage to get her rain coat. The very same rain coat that was hung nicely off the floor, on the coat hooks next to the door. Away from peering beady eyes and dirty mouse feet.

Those words were followed by:

“Can you get my coat for me? The mouse is on top of them!”

WTF?

The little bastard was 6 feet off the ground sitting on the narrow board where the hooks are attached. I’m thinking the hanta virus carrying fucker climbed the big umbrella leaning against the wall.

The umbrella has been moved, the snowboots have been put into plastic bins and the traps are out. I will prevail. We have a gorgeous weekend coming up and I’m thinking the garage will be emptied and any little gummy babies will be purged.

In related news, my sister’s cat is pregnant. Coincidence?? I think NOT!