Monday, May 25, 2020

Summer Breeze

Hi Darlings,

This blog is a little different...I hope you like it...

I'm laying in a lounge chair in my's Memorial Day 2020 and my mind wants to drift back to a time when life was so much simpler.

The sun is going down and there is a breeze stirring up the trees and blowing the scent of the Carolina Jasmine around in the air. It's a large unkempt bush that I refuse to chop down even though it doesn't put out many blooms but those that do still perfume the air.

I see a little squirrel running about in the branches of a tree hanging over from my neighbors yard and nearby two blue jays are having a quarrel while the peacocks that roam the neighborhood shriek and scream in the distance. A fat bumble bee flies at me and nearly gets caught in my hair it's buzz as loud as a saw as I shake it out.

I lay back and close my eyes and set my phone to play songs from my childhood summers...1976 to be exact...a time before my father chose to spend time with another woman and leave our family. A woman who never liked or accepted me and tormented me for years but is now in my past. She's mother to one of my brothers and two of my sisters but to me---nothing.

A song comes on that transports me to my childhood bedroom. It's painted lavender and soft green with a long shag carpet and my camp trump stands open at the end of one of my two canopy beds. The trunk is slowly being filled with whatever I need for camp along with whatever fun things I want to take that I might just want. And lots of stationery...because back then we wrote letters...

I want to go back to camp.

I sip on my Kool Aid since today, in 2020, I am fighting cancer and need to hydrate for the chemo to come. But the taste of the grape, sweet and sugary in my mouth, makes me think of "canteen" time at camp.

I picture my camp friends and beloved Camp Director Julie standing on the porch of the "Big House" before we snake inside to load our trays with food that in my memory---was delicious. I can almost taste the strawberry cake, the Hunter's Stew (which I am pretty sure was just Dinty Moore but it tasted better after having sat on a campfire), the sweet tea we drank by the gallons, the pizza cut in squares like at school and most of all the beloved Brownie Pudding that was sure to make all of us sugared up good but could also get us to behave in every possible way since we knew it was a treasured treat.

I hear the sweet voices as we sing our goodnight songs before heading back to cabins to shower and sleep with no air conditioning but the breeze through the screen doors and the whirring box fans (which to this day will lull me to sleep) kept us cool.

I was always on a bottom bunk so each morning I would sit up and get my hair caught in the springs of the bunk above me...woken by the clanging bell that started our days at the best place on earth.

I wish I could stand in the creek once more and feel the icy water rush past me as I hear the sounds of the guns cracking from the rifle range...and wave to the other cabin of girls as they ride past on horses for a trail ride---something I loathed but put up with at camp. I never was good at riding like my sisters and brother were...they loved it...I...survived it.

The peacocks scream again and I am transported back to the 70's and summer on the King Ranch...peacocks roamed the grounds and screamed constantly.

Memories flood back of Cousin Camp where I was forced to ride each day but did so just so I could do things all day with my beloved cousin Henrietta. I waited all year to get to be with her, and CeCe, and Sarah, and Anne Marie, and of course my cousins Mike, Linda, Jamie and Martin who would toss me across the pool like I was a ball.

Cousin Camp was as glorious as sleepaway camp...but in some ways better because we were all family. It was a week I lived for as a child and I mourned the loss of it more than I mourned my parent's divorce. Because of my father leaving the ranch we were no longer allowed to go back and I regret that my children never knew how much fun an impromptu dance party in the pool house could be. Or what it was like to have a pie fight and hear my aunts yell at us not to jump into the pool---which we did anyway. Or to just push the merry go round as fast as we could to see how long we could hold on. Simple pleasures.

I wish I could return to Kings Inn with my cousins or our dear family friends the Canales family and dance to the juke box while stuffing ourselves with shrimp and tartar sauce.

My memories of camp and Kings Inn give way to what Memorial Day would have been back then.

Music on the jukebox plays (mostly Eagles and Abba and Fleetwood Mac) as we swim for so many hours our toes would bleed from bouncing on the bottom of the pool. I can hear my father's laugh and my mother directing where the food should be and asking Peyton to take charge of the grilling as my dad tended to get to talking and burn things.

I see my parent's friends fanned out around the pool---some smoking and having a beer, others bouncing a baby in the water, the dogs running about and trying to jump in. My little sister Katie is in the "baby pool"---a place she was so comfortable in that she would often sneak out of the house, remove her diaper, and sit in the pool with a dog on either side of her. My sister Susan is a baby and is in her outdoor bassinet in the shade of the pool house and my friends, sisters and I try to boss the younger kids around and keep them from joining us in the bigger part of the pool.

The memories are jolted away by the sound of my air conditioner kicking on loudly and whirring as it cools my house.

My house.

It feels like 5 minutes ago I was in Kingsville in my backyard in the pool with a camp trunk waiting to be closed and instead I am alone in my own backyard in a lounge chair I bought in a house that is mine alone.

It's 2020 and my kids are in their own places and their father is now spending time with another woman (with my blessing).

And there is a pandemic.

And I'm alone...and a bit lonely but at peace with the lonliness.

I change my playlist to 1982 and remember that May so long ago.

I remember my graduation...praying my parents would be nice to each other and just give me one night where I didn't have to listen to one complain about the other. I solved that for my own children by placing myself somewhere else in the stadium than where their father was sitting.

I remember sitting in the chairs with my hair curled just so in my very hot graduation gown and my cap perfectly placed on my head so as to show off those curls. I sat next to John and we entertained each other during the ceremony and I remember looking at him thinking he might just be the nicest boy I had ever met and I knew he was going to accomplish things. He did.

We had a party at our house where my friend Kris and I made the worlds worst margaritas and my friends who dared to jump into the pool were shocked by how freezing it was. But it was a fun party.

And now back in 2020 I think of my friend's kids who will not get to sit on a track in a hot polyester graduation gown with a cap perched just so on their heads...or if they do it won't be the same as it was when I was young...or even last year. And they might not have a boy as sweet as John was sitting next to them.

My mind then drifts to Memorial Day about 2008 when camp trunks are sitting open in two bedrooms in my old house. It's 3 years before I will leave my ex and the washing machine is broken as I am trying to wash all the camp stuff before packing it. My daughter has just finished 8th grade and my son will be moving on to middle school. We lazily swim in our backyard pool and discuss what needs to go into the trunks and I am disappointed that my daughter doesn't have the same excitement about camp that I did but my son is fully ready to get to his camp and spend 28 days just being a boy.

And then I remember the last summer I had in that house. The kids and I floating in the pool most evenings before dinner...time that was so precious because we would swim and talk and laugh. And I knew that in a moment they would be gone...

I open my eyes and watch the squirrel a bit more...and a lizard who seems to be desperately trying to find a girlfriend. He bubbles out his little red throat bubble and scurries around but I don't see any lady friends around for him to attract so maybe he's doing it for me.

The air conditioner has quieted again and I say a prayer for my friends who are in the hospital battling COVID. They are a dear married couple who have already had a hellish year because their house burned down (killing all their fur babies) and their daughter is one of my seniors. He is in one unit recovering while she is in mid-battle in another unit of the same hospital. She tells me that the nurses relay messages between the two of them and my heart breaks that this is how their daughter's senior year is ending. This is not how Memorial Day should be for them or any of us.

I look down at my raggedy nails and long for a manicure but my doctor warns me that I am at too high a risk because of my cancer. So they will look awful for a while longer.

My hair, once so bleached blonde from hours in a swimming pool as a child (and sometimes green thanks to that same pool) now needs Sun-In (yeah I am old school) to lighten the roots. My hair is not the shiny platinum of my youth but is now a brassy golden blonde that could really use a cut.

But no one is seeing me and I'm not allowed to go out to eat or shop so who cares what my hair is like. Besides it is always residing in a pony tail atop my head.

I'm stuck in my house...or in my backyard.

But as I feel the sun getting lower and decide to move inside and write this all down before it leaves my head I feel gratitude...

I had a great childhood despite some hiccups along the way.

I didn't have a great marriage but I have wonderful memories of my own kids when they were young and we enjoyed the summer together or when I packed them up to go to their own camp.

I worry for my friends but am grateful they are responding to treatment and I pray that I will not be texting any other people I love in the hospital.

I stand up and my nerve that is pinched in my left leg reminds me that my body is damaged and standing is not as easy as it was last summer...before the second spinal fusion.

I take a few last sips of my Kool Aid and make my way inside to fill my glass again lest I have an oncologist fuss at me for my creatinine levels once more. I head to my shower to wash off the sun and the sweat just as the katydids start to sing their songs...visions of summer's past blowing through my mind.

Summer has started...what memories are there to be made in a year of a pandemic?

Only August knows...

Inspiration Song: "Summer Breeze" by Seals and Crofts...because the summer breeze reminds me that once again we will all feel fine....

Bye Darlings...I hope you enjoyed my reverie...and maybe it reminded you of the summers of your past...and let's pray for the one that is before us...and please pray for my friends and all the sweet seniors who have had their school year end this way...

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Times Like These

Hello Darlings...

(This is not a "cancer" blog...we don't need that right now...I'm ok and the Keytruda/Lenvima seems to be working...we are balancing my dying thyroid and I had the sinus infection from hell that caused me not only to have hives but also severe gut issues and an allergy to's been super fun! Ok enough about that...)

well well well...

I don't think anyone could have ever imagined we would be in a global pandemic locked in our houses, did we?

I mean if you had said to ANY of us:

"Spring Break will end in disaster and you will end up locked in your house for months at a time and Texas will allow restaurants to serve alcoholic drinks to go and the irony will be that Cinco de Mayo will be ruined by a virus called Corona"

"oh....and there will be something about hornets..."

Well we would have laughed and said "try better at a joke".

But this is no joke...

Over these last many weeks (I have lost count since I have been locked inside since early March) I have had so much time to think about all of this...and thankfully it has let me work through some stuff.


I've learned a lot...

I bet we all have...
and if you haven't learned something from this...well...

honestly how the hell are you functioning because there is no way to have been dealing with this unscathed or without some lessons...or learning what Tik Tok is...

hell if I can learn to bake banana bread surely most people have learned something about themselves or at least tried a Pioneer Woman recipe

And can we discuss the lack of washing our hair?

On second thought...maybe not...

I've literally gone nuts inside my house so I am blessed that Aunt Jane is letting me have the use of her spin bike so that I don't start glittering items in my home as a way to deal with stress.

And thankfully my beloved Revolution has virtual classes so I can ride with my people and cry when I see their beautiful faces on my computer screen (full disclosure I have actually watched a yoga class just so I can hear the beautiful Aussie voice of my HeavenlySkye).

One would think I have gotten all kinds of things done...

One would be WRONG

Oh I have perfected my bourbonrita and I am a wiz at making one chicken last for many more meals than I thought possible and yes I attempted banana bread but otherwise I have been lazy and/or dealing with feeling like crap because of the meds I am on to battle El Diablo.

For the first time in over 30 years I have bare nails and I will not comment on my feet.

My skin looks great because I have only put on makeup maybe 4 times in 8 weeks (for doctor's appointments and chemo) and I'm drinking all the water water water...

I've also had some sleeping issues which I am sure more than a few of you have also had. Mine seem to be induced by my thyroid issue but I also think a layer of stress is on me that I am not acknowledging. I have discovered that if I turn on BBC America and they are showing one of the 423 Planet Earth documentaries that the soothing sound of Sir Richard Attenborough's voice does seem to help me drift off...and I have learned a lot about the mating habits of birds in Madagascar and New Guinea (look up seriously look them up...really cute...not gonna tell you why so you have to look on Wikipedia).

I've started and stopped more streaming series than I care to list but I will give you:

Hollywood (just started...excellent)
Little Fires Everywhere (about halfway through...really good just other things to watch)
The Morning Show (soooo good)
Unorthodox (beautiful and enlightening)
We're Here (watching as each episode is doled out by HBO...compassionate and beautiful)
Ugly Delicious (when I don't want to think)
Alta Mar (subtitled but oh the it was described to me: Clue on the Titanic)
Dr Thorne (lovely...just lovely)

I tend to go for happy sweet shows or anything with Reese in it (and yes I have watched Legally Blonde at least twice) and I am always always in for a costume drama (Belgravia anyone?)

So we are all washing our hair less (did I mention that I wish I had stock in dry shampoo?) and washing our hands a lot more and spending our time watching Netflix and not wearing bras or real clothes...

So how many Pioneer Woman recipes have you tried? I tend to cook like her so to me it's like watching myself cook...

And I have remembered that I don't enjoy baking (although I have loved looking at the pictures of my friends' efforts on social media and I am jealous).

Margaritas to go is something that better remain in place after quarantine is lifted because I am safer drinking a Club No Minor purple margarita at home than I am while at the restaurant. Plus I'm the only one who has to put up with me AFTER said margarita...

Now raise your hand if you have taken scissors to your own head or put on some form of color on that may or may not have left you with hair that was not quite the shade you were going for...yeah I see you...I took off a few inches the other day and I rediscovered Sun-In (which mercifully took my roots away and has not left me looking like I had an accident with peroxide).

I flirted with the idea of dying it pink, or putting in a pink streak, or doing a dip dye thing and then I realized I didn't want to risk ruining my hair and that I am 55 and maybe I need to I bought clip in streaks instead and that way I can have pink when I want it...

I had a sad little moment when my last acrylic nail popped off...and I found myself buying nail polish on Amazon that will hopefully grace my nails sometime before June...or July...or August...(polish will not stay on my naked nails...I have to have 1988 style acrylic for it to work lol)

Speaking of Amazon who has "sad shopped"?

What is "sad shopping"?

self explanatory---it's shopping while sad...which is not to be confused with drug or drunk shopping.

Sad shopping yields things like blow up swimming pools or Adirondack chairs or a color balancing hair treatment (see above with the hair stuff)...and yes all 3 of those were or are about to be something I am purchasing...guess which 2 are already paid for?

Drunk or drug shopping is a whole other thing...

I shall explain:

in 2018 when I had the first spinal fusion surgery I was on a good deal of morphine...a very good deal of morphine...because it HURT LIKE NO PAIN I HAD BEFORE NOT EVEN CHILDBIRTH.

So there I was hopped up on morphine and at 1:30 in the morning I'm channel surfing while I am recovering in Memorial Hermann and I find QVC and...well...

let's just say things came to my house that I had no idea I had ordered...I had even received emails about them but in my drugged state I just deleted...

I ended up with:
a fabulous primer
a dress that I always get compliments on
a new eye shadow pallette that I use all the time
yoga pants

by some miracle I seem to do better shopping on morphine than I usually do while sober but I will tell you the surprise of all of these boxes appearing at my door threw me for a loop...the yoga pants was normal...

So mercifully I have avoided drunk shopping during quarantine because I have not gotten drunk and I don't do drugs unless I am recovering from surgery and then those drugs are the serious scary stuff...

and the last time I was in the hospital I noticed that they had taken QVC off the channel lineup...

I'm betting I wasn't the only one who had a mysterious dress show up...just sayin....

But I do think we might all succomb to quarantine shopping...

and let's see how many of you have bought things off Facebook or Instagram ads...(I will be raising my hand least twice)

I will not make you raise your hand if you have hoarded the Charmin but honestly people are you sure you needed all of that lifetime supply? I'm sure none of my friends have but I am sure some of you saw *that woman* in the HEB who had a basketful of Cottonelle and all the Clorox wipes who was unapologetic about it.

I am unable to go into HEB (or any store for that matter) so I have not witnessed this craziness firsthand but I have heard about it on FB.

Instead I have to depend on curbside delivery as my doctors have basically told me that I have the immune system of a newborn and I better not mess it up or test it...I tend to get texts from one of my doctors that end in exclamation !!!!! points to make sure I understand I am under no circumstances allowed out in public. I'm not even gonna ask her if I can get a pedi or hair done and I already can imagine the 8 !!!!!!!! that will accompany the "no" if I ask her if I can go spin...

So I am grateful to curbside delivery to keep me stocked up with chicken and the worlds biggest spaghetti squash (that will get tackled this weekend) and I sadly can't seem to get goat cheese (but I found a new source). And yes those magical margaritas I mentioned...(seriously people if you haven't tried a purple El Patio margarita now is the time when you are safe at home...I recall I almost left the ex early on in marriage thanks to the blue ones from there).

Right now my favorite game is seeing how long I can make one chicken last after boiling it (so far I have had a chicken salad, chicken tacos, and have 3 quarts of liquid gold chicken stock that is so rich it is practically gelatin). I also like to see how long I can go between curbside visits and to use all my groceries wisely...and I have learned that I really really like to use cilantro and onions...

When all of this started I had GOALS:
I was going to blog a lot
I was going to organize my closet
I was going to hang the pictures I have never bothered to hang
I was going to learn to bake things
I was going to organize and start using my study(instead of it just being the cat box room)

Zero of that happened...and this is my first blog in months...

But what I have learned is some grace for myself and my fellow man through all of this...

I had a silly fight with an old friend when this started and I'm happy to say we reconnected better than ever once we both simmered down (I'm gonna throw myself under the bus for that one).

I have learned that just because I can handle things a certain way doesn't mean others can

I will not judge those who want to "get out" and those who want to "stay in"...everyone deserves to be as in control of that as they are over their own bodies...

I do not have to "make things happen" at home and if I can just manage a day that I don't cry I am calling it a good one.

I am so grateful to God, Jesus and the Holy Ghost that I am not married to the ex during this and that my kids are grown and I'm not having to tell someone to do their calculus or read that book...

My ex and I would have killed each other...seriously we would have been on the 10 o'clock news and guess which one of us would have been holding the gun?

My cats are completely annoyed that I am home so much...Angel finds that I am in her way although Dragon loves that there are more meals he can try and steal from.

I have learned that I can do with a lot less than I thought (especially grocery wise).

I don't miss putting on makeup so now I take these awful selfies with a bare face and no filters...but it has made me realize that I feel braver and more beautiful that way. I have always been one not to take a photo unless it looked good until a few years ago when I started at Revolution and sweaty selfies became a thing. My current social media profile pic is me with terrible hair and no makeup in the sun. Something I would never have done a year ago but now I'm feeling like I want to be me and not hide behind a veil of something. And I don't judge those who do but for me the challenge lately has been to find the love and self acceptance of myself AS I AM. (and there is more to that but it is for another blog).

I have a lot of beauty products...let me rephrase that: I have far too many beauty I have been trying to use them to make my skin/hair/teeth/nails look better even if all I do is take selfies with no makeup/no filters. I scared the beejeezus out of my daughter the other day when she came by and found me with a sheet mask on and it scared her...her words: good one, Mom.

And do we even know what day it is?

I just call every day "DAY" now...there is no distinction...Monday can also be Wednesday.

I used to mark my days with my workouts but now that is gone too...I just fire up a class on my computer and get on the bike and take my punishment (and have fun) but it's no longer "Mel Monday" or "Ethan Sunday Service"...every day is just everyday...

Today it is Day and tomorrow it will be Day...

I'm blessed that I don't have to work remotely and show up and look good on a zoom call.


Now for me when I used to think of the word "Zoom" it conjured up a 70's public television show that featured kids doing (what I thought were) cool things like cooking and making crafts.

I learned to make my own play dough from that show.

And cook cinnamon toast.

And do Bernadette's magical arm that was some witchcraft right there until she showed us how she did it.

THAT'S what Zoom means to it means that my friends mostly end up looking at me with a glare behind me from my lamp while they look mostly up my nose and see me once again with no makeup and hair that has only flirted with washing...

But I have loved that it has let me connect to a group of my close friends and we all have a virtual happy hour once a week so we can catch up, sing together, laugh and generally not feel so alone.

During those calls we have witnessed a haircut, played games, broke into song many many times, shared recipes, had birthday parties, and no one has turned themselves into a potato on screen.

Another thing (on a positive note) that I have noticed is that my neighbors are all being so "neighborly".

I live in a very stereotypical suburban neighborhood full of houses built in the late 60's and 70's with a few new ones sprinkled in where we have mature trees and a strong neighborhood association. I love driving through and seeing families out on walks and bike rides and neighbors sitting in their FRONT yards to talk across driveways.

Today I caught up with my neighbors across the street who have little ones...I love seeing their children playing outside. We were waiting to see the Blue Angels but alas the trees here prevented us from getting a good look. But I feel like that wasn't my purpose of sitting outside today---it was so I could meet these two PRECIOUS young moms and make new friends. I also got to meet the couple behind me who have this great fun dog and a cat (named Mayhem which is probably the best cat name ever) who likes to go for walks with the dog and his humans. So no fun jets but a good excuse to catch up with the people who surround me...

I've tried to support friends who have restaurants by ordering from them along with my own attempts at what I call "Quarantine Cuisine" and I pray all my friends with small businesses are able to stay in business once the worst of this passes us.

And now apparently we have to worry about "Murder Hornets" which honestly I felt like I needed to look in the Bible for because that sounds right up there with a plague of locusts.

Time passes differently these days...I sit outside in my back yard and get some sun to feel it on my skin, I ride my spin bike to feel stronger and I miss being with my students and people.

I feel so bad for my seniors and my friends' kids who are prom, no last performances, and possibly no graduation---at least for a while. Those things are important.

But so is the time they have gained with their families as they are locked in together in their homes, apartments, townhouses and yards...

I miss hugging my students and hearing their silly jokes...or what happened in math class...or drying tears after a breakup.

I miss those precious moments of CONNECTING...zoom calls happen, texts happen, but nothing beats getting to hug one of them with love and pride...

I miss hugging people in general...

I'm a hugger...and it is HARD on ya girl here not to hug...

the other day at chemo my nurse Amshaa and I said to hell with it and hugged...for me it is normal to hug my angel nurses and it hurts not to wrap my arms around nurse Ivy held my hand the other day after telling me my CA125 was still in normal range...I cried and just needed to connect with relief.

Being alone in a pandemic is LONELY y'all...

but it also has taught me to appreciate the moments I am not alone even it with my kids...or a zoom birthday party...or a text exchange with a student...or sitting in my driveway talking to my neighbors.

I'm buying some adirondack chairs to put in my front yard.

For the 6 years I have lived here I have hidden in my back yard when I went outside. But now I will sit in the front in my new chair and enjoy a bubbly water while I watch the kids play outside and visit with my neighbors.

I can't easily walk up and down the street but it will be nice just to say hello on a day when going to Walgreens might be my only excitement because I get to talk to the human at the drive through.

I've learned things about friendship during this time and today I was reminded of how I often think of my friendships as a giant garden...and I think now is a good time for us to be mindful of our gardens...

The succelents bloom away and don't need much tending...the roots of those friendships thrive without constant attention but if tended easily they thrive...

The flowers need more care and attention...those are our fun friends and they bloom for us and keep us bright and happy...

The trees are our sturdy shade...they are the ones who shelter us in our own storms and they have strong roots with us...they are our real and chosen families...some trees are strong oaks and some are evergreens and some are fruit who nurture us along with the shade...

There are vines in the garden that weave in and out to connect us to others...

there are vegetables that nourish us as well...they are the ones who feed our souls and keep us going....

and yes, there are weeds...I have pulled out more than a few of those lately...

So each day while I am alone I know that I have a garden of love out in the world that I need to tend and it will give me back great love and pleasure...

I hope all of you are safe in this crazy storm of illness...I pray you are all healthy and learning things but also have the grace to know that it is perfectly ok if you spend a day in bed with the covers over your head or binging on Real Housewives...

There are no rules here on how you have to be...other than wearing masks and washing hands...

I just wanted to check make sure you all are doing ok...that the murder hornets aren't building nests in your faith that this will all end...

that it's ok if you don't bake sourdough bread...and it is great if you do...

that it's ok if you don't shower...but at least wash your hands...

that it's ok if you get a lot done...or nothing at all...

it's ok...

we will be ok...

and one day, after this has ended, we might all have a little more love and grace for each other...

because it is in times like these we learn to live and love again...

Inspiraton Song: Times Like These by the Foo Fighters (one of my favorite songs and bands...Dave Grohl is my biggest celebrity crush). There is a gorgeous new version from Live Lounge All Stars from BBC Radio. There words are perfect for this time...


I, I'm a one way motorway
I'm the one that drives away
Then follows you back home
I, I'm a street light shining
I'm a wild light blinding bright
Burning off alone
It's times like these you learn to live again
It's times like these you give and give again
It's times like these you learn to love again
It's times like these time and time again
I, I'm a new day rising
I'm a brand new sky
To hang the stars upon tonight
I am a little divided
Do I stay or run away
And leave it all behind?
It's times like these you learn to live again
It's times like these you give and give again
It's times like these you learn to love again
It's times like these time and time again
It's times like these you learn to live again
It's times like these you give and give again
It's times
Source: LyricFind

Bye Darlings...stay safe...stay smart...find grace and forgiveness...there is no "right" way to do this so just find a way to live and learn and love...