Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A New Me

Allow me to introduce the smiling woman in the photo above who should have tucked her shirt in better as she leaned groggily against a handsome man.

That woman is MomQueenBee 1.1.  This version has just returned from an 11-day vacation that included planes, trains, and automobiles. The vacation also included Husband and Boy#2, and astoundingly beautiful scenery and unscheduled days.

You know the vacuous saying that someone is too blessed to be stressed? At the risk of ruining my Pollyanna cred, let me tell you that this is a pile of hooey. I am the most blessed woman in the world, but I still was on the edge of brittle before we left for North Carolina. It had been a very long time since I had a vacation that did not involve moving a son into or out of an apartment, or scrubbing a nasty bathroom in (usually fruitless) hope of a returned cleaning deposit.

MomQueenBee 1.0 was getting just a tetch cranky, as evidenced by the past few posts which were one rant after another.

MomQueenBee 1.0 was worn out, as Husband can attest to by the fact that the words "I'm so tiiiiiiired" have etched permanent scars on his auditory passages. (You have to imagine those words repeated ad infinitum in a grating whine in order to appreciate their corrosive power.)

MomQueenBee 1.0 was sanded down by everyone and everything, to the point that she was waking up in the week hours of the night with gritted teeth having shouted in her dreams at clients who were irritating the bejesus out of her by making reasonable requests.

After a full week and a half of wonderful nothingness except sleep and pampering by Husband and Two, this version of me feels rested for the first time in recent memory. And I came back with stories to tell.

We rode a train! We ate grits! We avoided the Small Town electioneering that has set our teeth on edge!

And the cherry on the top of this sundae of wonderful nothingness has been baseball in October. Take the crown, Royals!

I could get to like MomQueenBee 1.1.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Words Words Words, But Not Here

Look! Cute kids in Halloween costumes!

Are you distracted from the radio silence that has been this blog in the past couple of weeks? Amused by the mad bunny? Tickled by the angelic smile on the bee to the left?

I hope so, because I am chagrined that I have not been fulfilling my blog-ly duties. A wild and wacky couple of weeks have been followed by an adrenaline crash and subsequent multi-day drooling stupor that left me with no words for this space. No words at all.

That does not mean I have not had any words, because in the past two days I have been visited by not one, not two, but THREE of my favorite past students and we have gabbed and cackled like chickens. Then today I have caught up with not one but TWO of my favorite past colleagues and we have talked so quickly and intensely that my tonsils are tired.

Before that I was spending time with one of my dearest friends from childhood, who is experiencing that exquisitely painful moment of transition when an ailing and suffering parent concludes this part of life. Tomorrow I will be thinking of that mom, who helped raise me, trying to find the words that comfort her daughter.

I love words, and I'm glad I've had them for my friends and dear ones, but do please come back when I have a few left over for this space.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Friday Orts and a Blurb

Happy Friday, everyone!

I'm assuming you all want to see what $613 sunglasses look like. Surprisingly, pretty much like the ones on the $11.95 clearance rack at WalMart, although in fairness, they do see better than the WalMart version. I really was hoping I'd look a lot more like this...
...but I guess even for $613 you don't get everything.

So, MomQueenBee, what is the creepiest thing you've seen this week? I'm glad you asked! It's this:

Ah, for the days when $5 in a thrift store was all that was necessary for a kick-butt costume.

But wash your eyes out with this, which is an absolutely wonderful idea from Attic 24.  
Husband is pretty sure my yarn stash is out of control and this week, as I searched through boxes in three different rooms to find black worsted ("I know I have some in here somewhere...") I was afraid he might be correct. But no! I will corral this addiction through organization!

Blurb of the Week
Remember a couple of weeks  months ago when I was extolling the virtues of Scribd? It's a subscription e-book service that gives unlimited access to its offering. I loved it through a 90-day free trial and have been paying for it since, but in my never-ending quest to be the cheapest person in the world (more money left for yarn!) I signed up for a 30-day trial of Amazon's Kindle Unlimited. I will let you Google that for yourself because when I do the link goes directly to my account and I don't want everyone buying books on my One-Click.

Anyway, so far, not so impressed. The selection is not what I had hoped it would be, given that Amazon sells every book in the universe, and the HUGE SELECTION OF AUDIOBOOKS that was the tie-breaker has been a no-show. So I'll be cancelling after my free trial, and sticking with Scribd. If your experience has been different, let me know what I'm doing wrong. 

Let's be safe out there, everyone! 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Spelling Makes Everything Better

You will not believe me when I say that sometimes I censor what I write in this spot. I know! The person who has written about pantyhose and her eyebrows so many times they show up in Google searches leaves something unpublished?

Yes. Once in a great while I look at what I've just written and say to myself, "Hey, how about you hold off for just a second and think about this? Is that really the tone of voice you want to use, Missy?"

Yesterday was such a day. I wrote a page-long rant about elections, which actually was a page-long rant about the people who are making me CRAZY calling me about elections. I mean, normally I am a good citizen and want to do the good citizen-y thing by participating in all things election related. But this year? We are getting four to six calls EVERY NIGHT asking whether we plan to vote, and for whom we will be voting, and would you please listen to the following statement and say whether you strongly agree, somewhat agree, neither agree nor disagree, somewhat disagree, or strongly disagree? I know the pollsters have a job to do and are way underpaid to do it, but we do not continue to pay for a land line in the House on the Corner just so I can mess up the poll results because I get confused between 7 (somewhat strongly agree) and 2 (would never in a million years wear stretch pants).

I even had a picture of cranky Uncle Sam queued up and pointing directly at you, the voting reader, to indicate my displeasure with the hundreds of calls from pollsters and the mega-hundreds of robocalls from elected officials who are endorsing candidates, which in my opinion is a pretty poor way to solicit my vote since I think every current office-holder should be thrown out and we should re-start government with a clean slate. I mean, didn't they seem to do this better back when Washington was president?

Anyway, I'm not going to write about that. Instead I'm going to say that this morning I was pronouncer at the city spelling bee, and I pretty much love that job to an incoherent degree except that I spent two hours staring at the backsides of the winners' trophies while I pronounced words and I now want one desperately.

Are those not the cutest things you've ever seen in your life? They are Spelling Queen Bees!

Queen bees who spell, and who are either holding torches or making a rude gesture toward the i-before-e-except-after-c rule. I seriously thought about slipping one into my purse then looking around with big innocent eyes when the fourth-place winner wondered where his trophy had gone.

If I had one of these trophies I could not be irritated, not even when the eighth call from UNKNOWN NUMBER shows up as we're finishing dinner. No, I would stay calm and answer it, and say "Friend, we have a land line because the stucco walls of the House on the Corner make cell phone reception sketchy and I'm pretty sure someone I love is going to call, but you are not that someone. So unless you are calling to offer me a Spelling Queen Been trophy, good-bye."


Monday, October 6, 2014

How to Fix Flying

Well, hey, everyone! I'm back!

I thought of you often in the past week, as I was struck by the eccentricities and foibles of the traveling public and wished I had you buckled in right beside me so we could discuss those eccentricities and foibles. Six flights, only one of them delayed, meant I had an unusually fortuitous trip to Minneapolis (where everyone talks like they're right out of my favorite television series), but airline travel is not without it's whaaaaa...? moments, including the following:

1. Has everyone lost their senses in the boarding of the airplane process? What is up with the boarding first of everyone with seats in the FRONT OF THE PLANE? I know, I know, they're all members of the Super Duper Platinum Zirconium club, but that doesn't mean they know how to put a carry-on into the overhead bin wheels first, and that does mean all of us who are in seat 26F (oh, yes, I was) are stacked up in the jetway like dominoes waiting to fall and hoping we land in our seats. This is not pleasant, American Airlines.

2. Of course, wrestling carry-on luggage appears to be optional these days. Each of my flights was full so "courtesy checked luggage" was offered, nay, was URGED on us. I didn't take advantage of this on the way to my fancy meeting, where I would have been embarrassed to meet people wearing yesterday's underwear and no make-up had the airline misplaced my bag. On the way home, though, when the gate agent pleaded for us to let them stow our luggage for free, I was all heck-yeah. Later I congratulated myself endlessly for not having to wrestle that bag in the airport during a six-hour wait after that delayed first leg meant I missed my connection.

3. Is there anything better than wireless access in an airport? I will answer that question. No. There is nothing better than wireless access in an airport. After I had been rebooked into the final flight of the day out of the hub city, instead of fretting about the hour at which I would be arriving and how much sleep I would not be getting before trustees arrived at Small College the next day, I pulled out my iPad and spent those six hours watching Inspector Barnaby solve Midsomer Murders whilst I knit an entire sock. It's a combination that's better than Prozac. Also, an overdose of Inspector Barnaby makes me use words such as "whilst."

4. Finally, you may be wondering why I illustrate this post with a can of Bloody Mary Mix. That's because my sole flying superstition is that I drink Bloody Mary Mix on flights. Always. No vodka, just the spicy tomato juice that says "Hey! You're on an airplane! But you're not going to crash!" better than anything else. The very day I got home I ran across an internet article that explained why BMM is so delicious on planes. It had to do with increased cabin pressure and salt sensitivity and blah blah blah and now I cannot find it, in spite of Google's best efforts. But take my word for it--science.

So to summarize: If I were queen of the airlines, I would check everyone's bags, board travelers in a civilized and rational manner, and hand each person a can of Bloody Mary Mix right there on the jetway, where Midsomer Murders would be playing on a continuous loop.

Who says flying can't be fun?

Monday, September 29, 2014


Boy#1 had the first emailed reply after the update to him and his brothers Friday afternoon.

"Whooooooo! I haven't been this relieved about something I didn't know was a potential crisis in quite a while. Excellent news". 

I couldn't have said it better myself. 

And now I'm traveling and meeting with trustees and greeting alumni until I collapse in an exhausted heap Saturday night. Behave yourself until I see you again next week.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Friday Morning

These are the first initials of dear friends who are currently fighting breast cancer:

G., who will get her portacath Tuesday to begin chemo. G. is taking care of her aging mother who can no longer get out of her wheelchair unassisted.

S., whose early treatment plan of lumpectomy plus radiation has been altered to include mastectomy plus 12 weeks of chemo, the hair-loss variety of chemo. S. is the mother of three teenagers.

R., who had beaten her breast cancer several years ago but is back in treatment after a recurrence.  R. is funny and energetic and keeps the trains running on time.

And Mary Ann. I'm using Mary Ann's full name--I'm pretty sure she won't mind. Mary Ann was my roommate when I was in the Peace Corps, and she's one tough cookie. The kind of tough cookie who rides a horse over mountain roads in pouring rain to meet with her nutrition group when we were in Costa Rica. The kind of tough cookie who took over when our house was robbed, cleaned up the mess, sedated me (yeah, I thought it was an aspirin), and sat next to the broken window all night just waiting for the thieves to come back. For the record, I don't condone giving people sleeping pills so they'll calm down after their house is robbed even if those people are shrieking about their lost cassette deck, but hey, I kind of can't blame her.

I describe Mary Ann in full because she was the one who let me know a month ago that she's been diagnosed with breast cancer, Stage 4, and is halfway through chemo.

"I'm tough, and I'm going to beat this," she told me then, "but would you pray for me? And get a mammogram."

I got that mammogram. And I flunked.

The form letter from the hospital clearly was designed to not induce panic but to make it clear that its recipients needed to act immediately.  "Irregularities in your mammogram make it necessary for you to come back for more testing. Many of  these irregularities turn out to be benign."

To my surprise, my first reaction to the news was not panic but irritation. There is no history of breast cancer in my family. I have been compulsively punctual about getting my annual mammograms--until two years ago, when some government agency announced it was okay to go two years between testing, and the two years stretched into three. But gynecologist had checked me every year (while chiding me that I should ignore the government and be tested every year).

I had always been fine so I wasn't panicked, I was irritated. I have too much going on to have breast cancer. In the next few weeks I had calendared a three-day trip to Minneapolis for a national denominational meeting, Small College's Homecoming, trustee meeting, the start-up of two different women's groups after summer hiatus, and being at the piano for a friend at her first gig as a lounge singer.

"Dang!" I thought as I read the lines. "I don't have time for this."

But then reality set in. I knew that no person is immune to breast cancer, no woman and no man. I had seen my boss and mentor, Susan, die of breast cancer at age 42. Strong women? She was a national age-group racketball champion. She was strong and awesome and she died.

So the next morning I called to schedule the recommended follow-up mammogram and diagnostic ultrasound. The earliest I could get in was 10 days later. Ten days. That's nothing in the eyes of eternity, but 10 days of wondering what the first mammogram had found. What was it? Was it a shadow, or a lump? Right breast or left? Was it bigger or smaller than the lump that had led to a biopsy after my very first mammogram 20 years ago that turned out to be the aftermath of breastfeeding four babies?

I didn't tell many people, not even tell the Boys, not at this stage. But Husband, of course. My two sisters. Another dear friend from Bible study who has had breast cancer and is officially deemed cured. My work buddy to whom I Skype prayer requests before I go into tough meetings. G. And Mary Ann.

I wanted people on my team who could pray for me, but pray in a way that harmonizes with my own prayers. A few weeks ago we worshiped in a different church and the pastor clarified this so perfectly that it had been ringing through my mind every day, every hour:
"We know that prayer works," he said. "We know it because we have experienced prayer working, and we know it works because the Bible tells us that 'the prayer of a righteous person availeth much.' But we also know that God is not a vending machine. You don't put in your dollar's-worth of prayer and out pops what YOU want to happen. No, prayer is a matter of aligning ourselves with the will of God, of reflecting His will back to Him."
The week was long and I was cranky. On Thursday I had no patience for anyone. "You think you have problems because your brochure isn't printed yet? I may have CANCER." It was like being newly pregnant, before you tell anyone. "You think your life is wonderful? I am PREGNANT!" Yes, just like that, except on Opposite Day.

Husband followed my lead in talking about What Was Happening. We didn't verbalize what ifs. We didn't jump ahead of the following step into the unknown. But on Friday before I left for the hospital he let slip that he had researched the subject on WebMD. I had told him that the sonogram would only be done if something untoward was found on the next mammogram. "No, I think a sonogram is standard in this case," he told me. To my own amazement, I had not Googled "abnormal mammogram." This is unlike me; I am normally into the tenth screen deep before I make a follow-up appointment.

Husband and sisters and friends offered to stay with me during the mammogram, but I told them no. I didn't want to be responsible for anyone's emotions but my own, and from long experience as a middle child I knew I would worry about how each of them was holding up.

As I sat in the waiting room, I pecked out lines into my iPad's Notes program.
"I have so many people praying for me. I feel it. I laughed as I walked out of the door to come here. They're praying for God's will to be done.And what is God's will? That I do not fear. That I am kind to those I encounter. That I seek him. That I glorify him. All of these I know are indisputably His will because He repeated those things over and over in the Bible. That I have perfect, perky boobs? If the past 60 years is any indication, not so much."
Since this post is already book-length and I'm sure any of the men in my life are squicked out by all this talk of my breasts, I'll fast-forward over the ensuing hour.

I called Husband from the ultrasound room, my shirt halfway back over my head. I broke the no-cell-phones rule because I couldn't wait a moment longer to hear his voice.

"I'm fine. They didn't find anything wrong. They said to come back in a year for a well woman check." His sigh was so deep it sounded like a sob. "Are you breathing?" he asked me with a laugh, "because I just started again."

Then I left the hospital grinning so widely that my cheeks hurt. I stepped into the street in a daze before noticed a car was coming half a block away, and this made me laugh out loud. Wouldn't that be ironic? If I were hit by a car just as I felt so invincible?

I texted my other prayer warriors, and the joy and relief spilled out of the iPhone screen. Much Older Sister, when she heard that the abnormality on the first mammogram may have been a digitally-captured wrinkle, reminded me of our Great Aunt Gladys, who claimed that in her later years her once-sexy bras were just "a handy way to roll 'em up and tuck 'em in." (Great Aunt Gladys was a character.)

This morning I woke up early, something that never happens on the rare unscheduled Saturday. I couldn't get back to sleep, thinking about the days between when Mary Ann urged me to get a mammogram and yesterday.  I'll get up and go about my day without having to temper my joy about the Royals play-offs (woo-hoooooo!) with the knowledge that "I might have CANCER."

G., S., and R. do not have that luxury. Nor does Mary Ann. They are all strong women and tough cookies, and they plan to be with us for many, many more years. Please, in their honor, make sure your mammograms are current. I will be praying for God's will in their lives, His good and perfect will that is peace and kindness and grace during suffering.

Because my initials are not among them, but until Friday morning they could have been.