Thursday, September 25, 2008

No Gasoline!

The part of Georgia where I live is in a panic. There’s not enough gasoline to go around!

I found myself contributing to the panic this week, as I searched for a station that had gas to put into my car. I was running on fumes and had to find some fuel in order to get home. Finally! I spotted a station with a few cars at the pumps, and pulled in. The man pumping gas into his truck nearby informed me that the owner of this station was accepting cash only. I had $10 in my wallet, so I bought a couple of gallons of gas. This got me by until yesterday, when I finally found a station that had only Plus and Supreme gasoline. I decided my little Honda would like Plus, so I began filling up. The pump stopped at $25 – the limit the station had set for fill-ups. At $4.39 per gallon, it wasn’t much, but it eased my anxiety somewhat. The worker at the counter told me that he doesn’t know when he’ll be getting a supply of gasoline.

I am working at home today and tomorrow, and perhaps days into next week if the gasoline trucks don’t make it out our way. I’m going to check our local stations here in Social Circle to see what their status is. Since I have to drive 50 miles each day to get to the bus that takes me to my job, I am very thankful that I have the ability to telework.

Besides the rush to the gas stations that have gasoline, at least for a short period of time, there is also the commuter bus to contend with. Everyone wants to ride, and nobody wants to stand. Yesterday morning I got to the park ‘n’ ride twenty minutes early, and there was already a long line of very disgruntled and angry people waiting for the bus. People who are ordinarily cordial had scowls on their faces and looked like they were ready to attack the world as well as the person in front of them in line. I don’t understand it. Being angry doesn’t change a thing. Times are tough right now, and from the looks of things, they could get worse before they get better. It doesn’t help matters at all for us to be ill-tempered toward our neighbor. I guess fear brings out more frowns than it does smiles.

Like I said, I’m working at home now, and glad of it!

Monday, September 22, 2008

The First Day of Fall

The sky is bright blue, the breeze is brisk and cool, the wildflowers are blooming everywhere, and the spider webs are draped all over my house. Fall has arrived!

I love summertime, and generally don’t anticipate fall and winter, as I hate to put my summer clothes away and start thinking in layers. This year is different, and I am actually looking forward to the change of seasons. I’m not sure yet how I feel about winter, but fall so far is looking pretty good. I have some nice clothes for the cooler weather this year, and I am looking forward to wearing some new things. I’m also very weary of sweating from the heat, and don’t think I’ll mind a few shivers this year.

I made my last batch of scuppernong jelly last night, bringing jelly making season to its official close. It’s a good time, too, because it’s almost impossible to find jelly jars anywhere! I finally located some in Winder yesterday and stocked up, just in case I may need a few before next spring. My pantry is stocked with jellies, ready to give away, and my jelly making equipment is now stored in the back of one of my kitchen cabinets. I am looking ahead to cookie season, which begins in late November as I prepare for the sixth annual Jennie Lou’s Christmas Cookie Baking Day which will be on December 6 this year.

I’ll do a good fall housecleaning between now and December, get rid of all of the spider webs, and hope that this winter is not a ladybug one. As soon as the weather gets cool, the ladybugs and all of their family and friends somehow find their way into the house, and spend the winter with us. We had an abundance of them last winter, and I am hoping that this year they may be scarce. They don’t do any harm, but thousands of them are a few too many!

The leaves haven’t begun to change color yet, so I have that to look forward to. And I know we’ll still have some warm days. But on this first day of fall, I’ll have to go for a walk and enjoy the crispness that is out there this morning.

I’m on my way now!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Snakes! Yipes!

Yesterday afternoon on our walk down our country road, Diamond and I happened upon a snake in the middle of the road. Being curious by nature, both of us moseyed over toward the thing to check it for vital signs. It looked as if it was dead, but one can never be too sure when dealing with snakes.

Sure enough it was dead, but even in that condition, it was creepy. It was about three feet long and what I’d call skinny. Probably not full grown yet, I surmised. Diamond sniffed it, and I nudged it with the toe of my sneaker. I looked a little more closely to see if it had the diamond-shaped head of a poisonous snake, but whatever had run it over did a number on the creature’s head. I also noted the pattern on its body. It was a light brown snake, with a darker brown geometric pattern running down its body. It didn’t look like what I remembered a rattlesnake to look like from the skin of one that hung in my brother’s bedroom for years when I was a little girl. But just to be on the safe side, I checked out the end of its tail for evidence of any rattles. None there – not a rattlesnake.

Diamond and I left the creature in the road where we found it and continued our walk. I began thinking about this summer and the many times I was deep in brambles and weeds searching for wild plums and blackberries. Phil always warned me about snakes, but I wasn’t overly concerned. I believed that between Diamond racing through the brush and all the noise I made kicking at briars and brambles, any smart snake would run (or slither) for safety from us. Thinking about this dead one in the middle of my road made me consider the danger I could have been in all summer long. I didn’t know if this snake was poisonous or not, but if it had been, I could very easily have crossed its path on either side of the road on a multitude of occasions. And I was sure that it probably had brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles slithering all over the place near my house. I was very happy thinking about the automobile that stopped its forward progress.

After we got home, I did an internet search for brown snakes in Georgia. From the photos on one of the official snake websites of Georgia, I determined that this snake could have been a copperhead or a mole king snake. I need to go back and look more closely at its pattern, because from the photos on the website, these two snakes have similar markings.

Whatever it was, it woke me up to being more careful and observant when I am out in the woods and brush. We have snakes!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

September 11

I am watching the replay of the events of seven years ago on the television this morning. The emotions that well up inside are almost more than I can handle. I am crying as I watch the replay of World Trade Center Towers being hit by the two planes, and then collapsing in clouds of smoke. I think about those people who were in the towers that morning, and the utter terror they must have been experiencing, at least those who survived the initial hit and fireball. I also cry for the firemen, policemen, and other rescue workers who risked their lives to try to save their neighbors. It is so emotional to me that I find it difficult to concentrate on the work I need to be doing this morning.

It was very different for me on September 11, 2001. It was the events of this day that initiated a turning point in my life and made me face my own inner terrors.

I had finished radiation therapy for breast cancer in June, 2001. I thought I had a great attitude toward my state of being, and felt optimistic about the future. However, I was taking Tamoxifen, in hopes that it would lessen my chance of getting cancer again. The Tamoxifen was giving me a variety of side effects, which I found hard to deal with. As a consequence, my oncologist prescribed two additional medications – an anti-depressant and a blood pressure pill. These two were supposed to help with the constant hot flashes and cold sweats that the Tamoxifen was causing. I was medicated to the hilt, and didn’t realize until September 11 what these were doing to me.

I heard talk in the hallway at TAPPI that morning, where I was working at the time, and caught the gist of the conversation – some planes were missing somewhere in the air in the Northeast, and nobody knew where they were. Hmmm. This sounded a little weird to me, but no concern. A little later, there was a scream down the hall that I stepped out of my office to investigate. We were all herded into the conference room where the television was now showing a smoking building on the screen. I quickly learned that one of the missing planes had hit the World Trade Center in New York City. How terrible, I thought, but I didn’t comprehend the tragedy. I went back to my office, where my phone was ringing. It was Brian, who lives in New York, reassuring me that he was o.k. I still was in a kind of fog. I was happy to talk to him, but nothing sunk in deeper than the surface. As the morning progressed, I traveled back and forth from office to conference room to see what was happening, soon learned about the three attacks, and watched the television coverage. I thought about my nephew, Gary, who worked at the Pentagon, and called Molly to see if she had heard anything. I was relieved to hear that Gary was o.k., but throughout this entire morning, I felt no emotion whatsoever beyond curiosity and a feeling that something bad had happened.

We were sent home early from work that day. When I got home, Phil was already there, visibly shaken by the events of the day. He could hardly talk about it without starting to cry. I had no tears in my eyes, and could not make myself feel sad. I knew something was wrong with me.

A couple of days later, while talking to a co-worker, I realized that it was my medication that had taken away all feelings of that terrible day. I began thinking about my personal situation, and realized that I didn’t want to go through life this way. I quit taking my three medications, cold turkey, called my oncologist, and made an appointment to see him. I knew that the threat of cancer was something I was going to have to live with for the rest of my life, but September 11 helped me realize that life is more than just trying to avoid cancer. I had to have my emotions back, I had to feel again! Even if some of my feelings were fear and anxiety, then they were feelings I had to confront and overcome. I told my oncologist that the quality of my life was much more important to me than the false reassurance of the medications, and he accepted my decision, although reluctantly.

It is now seven years later. I can now cry over September 11, and I live a full and highly emotional life. Hot flashes and cold sweats are my occasional companions these days, but I have learned to accept them as proof that I am still alive! My outlook on life is different, and I no longer fear cancer as I did seven years ago. If it makes a reappearance in my life, I’ll deal with it as it comes. I am not going to let the fear of possible cancer somewhere in my future stop me from living.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Relay for Life

It never ceases to amaze and overwhelm me how cancer touches each one of us. I’ve been participating in the American Cancer Society Relay for Life for a number of years – I’ve actually lost count of how many I have been involved in, as they are beginning to blur together – and I have to stop and think about it. I remember the first Relay I took part in, which was the year after I had breast cancer, which was 2001. I cried during the entire Survivor’s Walk. Since then, I’ve walked almost every year, maybe missing a year or two after we moved to Walton County, when my church formed a team.

How many walks I’ve made isn’t the issue here. What amazes me is the response every year when I send out my annual request for support. I always invite donations, but don’t ask for them. What I ask for is names. I want the names of people who are fighting the battle, have triumphed over cancer, and of those who have lost the fight. Three years ago I wore a memory bracelet with names of these people written on them. I had over 40 bracelets on both of my arms, and some hung around my neck as pendants to a necklace. I promised to walk a lap in honor or memory of each person. Since then, I’ve written names on my team shirt. Last year, I had so many names on my shirt, I was unable to walk a lap for each one individually – there were too many! This year I’ve enlisted my sister, Molly, to walk with me. Between the two of us, we’ll walk a lap for every single person whose name is on my shirt – I hope! The list is growing rapidly!!

I sent out my annual email this past week. The response is indeed overwhelming. I’m not counting the money that has been donated (but for which I am most appreciative), but the list of names is growing rapidly. The messages I receive from both family and friends when they send me the name(s) to put on my shirt are touching. I read stories of courage and bravery, faith and hope, joy and sadness, as well as requests for prayers. As I write this, I have tears in my eyes thinking about it. I am sure that I will cry my share of tears during the Survivor’s Walk and every lap that I walk in memory and in honor of these special folks.

Let’s all fight cancer. If we can’t do it with our money, we can at least take a walk in honor or memory of someone.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Rode Hard....

This morning I understand the expression “rode hard and put up wet.” When I woke up and attempted to jump out of bed, my body screamed at me to let it stay in a prone position where the pain and stiffness wouldn’t be so bad. I managed to sit up at the edge of the bed and for a minute contemplated all of my body aches before attempting to walk the short distance to our bathroom. I ached all over – even muscles in my thumbs were sore. As I began to move around, the screaming subsided, and became a begging voice for me to get back into bed. What made me feel like I’d been put up wet? The past two days of working out in our new garden plot with Phil.

Phil has been talking about enlarging our garden ever since we planted our three tomato plants, three pepper plants, two squash hills, two cucumber plants, and the little row of green beans this past spring. My strawberry patch was already well-established, and we decided that we wanted some fresh home-grown vegetables this summer. The little garden was plenty for me to take care of, and I harvested enough vegetables for us to eat and more. Phil caught the gardening bug, and nurtured our little garden spot with tender loving care. He began talking about having a larger garden for next year, and when my brother, Bob, offered to sell him his tiller, the die was cast.

I’ve never seen anyone brag on a machine the way Phil has his tiller. He staked off a section of our property for his garden, and began clearing. He soon found that it was too much for him to handle alone. When I came home from work on Thursday afternoon, part of our land had a new crewcut. Phil had hired a neighbor to come over with some big chopping contraption to do the job he and his riding mower and tiller couldn’t do. Trees had been felled, blackberry thickets were gone, and we had not one, but two garden spots- the original one was enlarged, and we now have a much larger rectangle of naked earth on the opposite side of our house.

On Friday, Phil asked me if I had plans for the week-end. Unfortunately, I didn’t. Bright and early Saturday morning, I received my assignment. My job was to take the tractor-mower with the wagon behind it and transfer dirt from one area of our property to the new garden plot. Five wagon loads later, my task was accomplished and I sat down to catch my breath. Phil, in the meantime, had begun tilling his new space. He shouted at me to go ahead of him and the tiller to pick up and toss out sticks, roots, rocks, and anything else I found that would be in his way. This job was more that I bargained for. After a trip to the shop to get the hatchet, I was bending, pulling, chopping, and tossing. We worked like this for three hours when we both looked at each other, noting that we are now 60 years old, and called it a day.

Yesterday morning I was sore, but not bad enough to turn him down, when Phil asked me to help him again. This time he wanted me to clear out the smaller plot where my extended strawberry patch will be planted. The tasks of Saturday were repeated, but this time I had a partially ground up tree trunk to deal with. After clearing the plot, I began the second task on my list – to take up the tomato baskets, tear down the poles and strings where the beans had climbed this summer, and prepare the old garden for mowing and tilling. I also took it upon myself to do some much needed weeding in my strawberry bed, and transplanted a few plants that had become strangled by Bermuda grass. By noon, I was done. Thank goodness, Phil was, too! We both spent the afternoon indoors- he napped and I worked on an afghan I am crocheting.

If he asks me this morning if I have plans, I am going to make up something! I want to spend my Labor Day holiday as far away from labor as I can get!