Tuesday, April 2, 2013

NCAA And A Great Guy

Maybe you haven't heard but there's this thing called March Madness going on right now? Sixty-four of the nation's best college basketball teams stymie worker production while generating billions in ill-gotten gambling money for several weeks every spring in a single elimination tournament. Brackets are now more American than apple pie and Bracketology is probably a real course of study via online colleges. Heck, even the President falls victim to March Madness.
POTUS's plan for ending sequestration
Even I, the one that disdains most wildly popular things, fill out a bracket. For the past eight years I've participated in an online pool with a revolving cast of characters. There's Dave, the group commissioner. He's a pretty swell guy and once used the word "bastion" in a text message, but I'm willing to bet he doesn't remember. Tiffany is in sometimes. She's wicked awesome and is totally someone I would hide behind in a fight. Randy, Rich, Tommy and Ed are usually in with us. We even got some DocK action this year. He's one of the handful of internet freaks I've actually met face to face. He didn't murder me or anything. 
This is how I imagine two of the members.
My bracket this year is named Flaming Monkey Poo because I figure a monkey flinging poo could create a better bracket than me. That hasn't always been the case, though. For most of the years that I've filled out a bracket, my friend Dr. P helped me. To be honest, doing so was always one of my most favorite things of the year. Dr. P loved college hoops and knew something about every team, every year. Every team. Even the ones no one had ever heard of.  After the teams had been set, I could always count on him dropping by my office to help me. We'd go over every match-up and he'd tell me about the strengths of each team. He taught to me to always go with Duke, but not deep because they would always break my (he really meant his) heart. 

This year, I had to fill out my brackets by myself, hence the poo reference. Dr. P was too sick fighting cancer. Dirty, stinking, effing cancer. He passed away yesterday. He leaves behind a loving family, an untold number of kids he passed his knowledge on to through teaching. I had the privilege of both being one of his students at JSU and working with him many years. He was a truly great guy and I will miss him very much. That's the point of this. Had I gotten maudlin and weepy, I'm sure he would have found a way to hit me between the eyes with a 2x4.

Stupid cancer.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Happy Donna Day!

Today is March 1 and the second annual Donna Day. Now, I'm sure you're wondering, "who the heck is Donna?!" Donna is a little girl that spent most of her four years battling a rare brain tumor. Her story can be found here. Please read it. You will cry, I promise you that. When I first found Donna (more in a minute), I sat at my desk and cried like I had not cried since my mother died 17 years ago. But you will also be overwhelmed with love and hope. That is Mary Tyler Mom's (Donna's mom) mantra...Choose Hope. That is a powerful message on the best of days but to be able to cling to it in the midst of every parent's deepest, darkest nightmare? Incredible.

By now I'm sure you're wondering why we're celebrating a day that has no impact on you. Oh but you're wrong. I stumbled across Donna's story a few weeks after my niece Emma started treatment for her own brain tumor. I was blindly Goggling trying to find any information I could on what she was facing. I'll be honest, Donna was not what I was looking for. However, I started following MTM on Facebook and started to learn about the deplorable state of funding for pediatric cancer. This, friends, fires me up like nothing ever has before. I am passionate about protecting children. If you know me, you know this. And frankly, I am beyond pissed off about how shabbily our babies are being treated by The Man. You can read about that here. Please read that post if you have not. In a nutshell, our babies are being given the shaft because saving their lives is not profitable.

For months, I've been feeling both helpless and fired up to do something. I want to help. I want people to know that buying pink can openers and dropping pocket change in a purple bucket does jack squat for the kids. This is where St. Baldrick's enters the picture. St. Baldrick's funds pediatric cancer research. Good research. Please, please check out their site. Donna Day is the kick off to MTM's event in Chicago at the end of the month. I am donating a smocked dress to the auction. It is not much, but dammit, I feel like I am finally doing something. But I want to do more. I want to do a St. Baldrick's event for Emma. I will be looking at this and getting more information. Stay tuned......

Sunday, February 10, 2013


Somewhere in the six degrees of Facebookation, I have started to follow a group of bloggers in Chicago. Chicago. All I know of Chicago I learned from ER and Lewis Grizzard's columns from his time there. One of the Chicago chicks is I Want A Dumpster Baby. She's pretty darn cool and the blog I linked to is about her epiphany she just had nursing her newborn twins, Hall and Oates. Her epiphany led to my epiphany and I could not be any more relieved than I am right now.

If you didn't read IWADB's blog, it's about how feeding her babies has become her new smoke break. In it, she mentions taking one day at a time and making choices. Dammit. Wait a minute. I can take things one day at a time and I can choose what I do? Holy Hell. I'm being completely serious here. I have never stopped to think about things in the way she put them. I know these things. I am a Professional People Helper. I tell clients and friends all the time to take one day at a time. I tell my kids over and over and over again it's all about choices. But the light really went off over my head today.

Lately, I have been drowning in a sea of crap. One of my hopefully non-fatal character flaws is that I would rather be immobilized by fear than take a risk. On anything. I am a over-thinker and I always think through every conceivable outcome and a few no-way-this-could-ever-happen-not-even-in-a-Lifetime-movie ones. Then I get bogged down in details and fear and doubt so I freeze and do nothing.  But you know what? Thanks to IWADB, I don't have to! No, I may not ever get the house back to pre-divorce cleanliness  But today I can choose to put away the dishes and sweep the floor. Will I ever not have to juggle finances? I don't know. But today I can choose to not spend needlessly. Will I ever be sexy and sassy? Who knows. But today I can choose a fruit smoothie instead of a donut.

That , my lovelies, is empowerment and freedom.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Grief and Comfort

Lee Brice's "I Drive Your Truck" is probably my favorite song right now. The emotion in his voice coupled with the simple visuals in the lyrics give me chills every time I hear it. It also hits close to home for me. I don't have a truck but I do have a purse. A tacky, tacky purse that has been hanging in my closet since September 1995.

I'm pretty sure she got the purse at K-Mart. It doesn't matter, it fit her to a tee. I remember her always having a big purse. Sunflowers were her favorite. I'm glad this is the purse I have to remember her by. When she went in the hospital, she sent it home with me for safekeeping. I still have it but not her. Maybe I should have taken her home instead.

This purse is my anchor, my security blanket, my connection to Mother when I need her. There have been times I've taken it to bed, clutching it to my chest, seeking solace. The contents, though not much, bring so much comfort because they are her. The key to her handcuffs. Six different tubes of lipstick. Receipts from the credit union, one of them with the boxes I remember her doodling all my life.

Pictures of my sisters, forever 9 in the depths of the denim purse. An address book that has no area codes attached to the phone numbers. A scrap of paper with the specifications for a computer written in my brother in law's neat script. Worthless crap that would have been trashed as soon as she got the chance.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Reading Stuff

2012 BooksThe Book of Tea by Kakuzo Okakura
The Stand, Unabridged by SK (I finished my re-read after the year changed)
World War Z
The Family by Mario Puzo
The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
The Bone Collector by Jeffery Deaver
Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All by Allan Gurganus
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey'
Storm Front by Jim Butcher
Fool Moon by Jim Butcher
Grave Peril by Jim Butcher
Summer Knight bt Jim Butcher
Death Masks by Jim Butcher
Blood Rites by Jim Butcher
Weaveworld by Clive Barker
Death Beat by Jim Butcher
Proven Guilty by Jim Butcher
White Night by Jim Butcher
Small favor by Jim Butcher
Changes by Jim Butcher
Ghost Story by Jim Butcher
The Wind Through The Keyhole
Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay
50 Shades of Grey by EL James
Fifty Shades Darker by EL James
Fifty Shades Freed by EL James
A whole bunch of other shit I don't remember.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Bittersweet Symphony

I had to stand on the front porch the other night and wait for the pizza guy (note to self: change the porch light bulb). As I was standing in the dark, I was blindsided by bittersweet memories of my brother Zac. He loved waiting on the pizza guy more than any human, stoned college kids included, ever has. He would sit on the top step and patiently wait with a smile on his face when we had ordered pizza. Some days, he would sit and wait even if there was no pizza on its way just because it made him happy. How could I have forgotten that?

Zac was born two weeks before my 16th birthday. His older sister was already living with us due to their birth parents' own issues. Zac did not last long in the home due to life threatening medical issues and his parents' inability to care for them. He was born with biliary atresia, a congenital liver disease. To be honest, I don't know what all he had done to save his life but when he came to us at just a few months old, he looked like an Ethiopian baby with his stick limbs and big, distended belly. There was a horrible scar all the way across his poor belly that looked like he had been roughly cut in two and crudely sewn back together. His medicine regimen was a nightmare and took hours to prepare. He was a sick, sick little boy. 

This is quickly trying to turn in to a treatise on Zac's illness and how his short life was a a long string of hospitalizations interrupted by a few days of false health. That's not what I wanted to share. I wanted to share his love of life, his spirit, his sweet smile and remember his bright spirit while I still can.
This picture was made on Zac's third birthday, a mere five months before he died. Look at that smile! His beloved Beth gave him that cowboy hat and six shooter. At that time, I was a freshman in college and not at home most of the time. I came home for his birthday and made a cake shaped like an ambulance and he was ecstatic  When he wasn't naked (which was most of the time, to be honest) Zac was in overalls. I think we liked them because the billowiness helped hide his watermelon belly. Look at those pitiful legs!

Zac was one of 6 foster children under the age of 6 in our home and half of the boys. He loved terrorizing the girls when he was feeling well. When he mastered the manly art of aiming, he would chase them around the backyard, naked, trying to pee on them. Usually while singing the theme song to "Cops."

Zac's life was too short and filled with too many mind numbing hospital stays and emergencies. I don't know how many days I stayed with him in the hospital, how many hundreds of banana Popsicles we shared. He knew being in the hospital was a one way ticket to unlimited Popsicles  He quickly learned to work the call button and I can still hear him calling out "heeeeey lady! Bring me a Popsicle please!" His body was so ravaged with infection  he always ran a temperature. I can still feel his hot hand patting my cheek, telling me that he loved me. The last time we were together was right as he and Mother were rushing to New Orleans for the long awaited liver transplant, Seeing how upset I was, he climbed in my lap (as much as my 8 month pregnant belly would allow) to comfort me. He was fresh out of the bath for his trip and smelled so sweetly of strawberry shampoo. As he had so many times before, he patted my cheek with his little, hot hand and said "Don't be sad, Beth, It will be okay."

Dammit! There goes the sad again. Banana Popsicles  Strawberry Suave shampoo. Ambulances. Cops. He was deathly afraid of the storm drain in the parking lot of my dorm because he had watched IT with me. His smile slowly becoming blue- tinged as his poor lungs and heart started to suffer from the bastard liver taking up too much space. I think Zac was the one that started the habit of calling my ex by his first and last name that persists to this day. Waiting on the pizza guy, Skinnamarink.

Three years is not enough time to make a lot of memories.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Fight Like A Mom

Tomorrow is October, which marks the beginning of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. However, that means today it is still September for one more day. And September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. That is what has been on my heart and mind all week. I am no stranger to childhood cancer. Or cancer at all. Acute myeloid leukemia robbed me of my mother 18 years ago. My dear cousin Heather battled ALL as a teen. I can think of four other classmates from my small town that battled their own cancers. Another sweet friend from Talladega was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. And then there's Emma, sweet, energetic, bright Emma. So Cancer and I are not strangers. But I became more intimately acquainted with the bastard that is Pediatric Cancer this week through the stories of Aidan and Donna. Those are hard stories to read, especially in light of what my family is facing right now, but they are filled with faith and hope and love and strength. They are also filled with what I see as horrible injustice. Not just to Aidan and Donna but to all of our children.

The National Cancer Institute, the government's (our tax dollars) research arm, spends only 4% of it's budget on pediatric cancer research. Four percent. That's only $26.4 million dollars. For leukemia, brain cancer, bone cancer, ALL THE CANCERS OF CHILDHOOD. Compare that to the $254 million AIDS receive and the $584 million allocated to breast cancer. Just typing those statistics has brought me to tears. Breast cancer is a bitch, a heartless bitch that steals so much from so many. I have read so many stories of how the insidious part of breast cancer is how it strikes at a woman's femininity and allure. Yes, women have to brutally chop off their breasts, the first outward sign of womanhood that we all long for so fervently in our childhood, breasts that we have nurtured our children with, breasts that we enticed our lovers with. I am not discounting that. However, treatments for childhood cancers steal from the future, things children don't even know were theirs to begin with. Aidan's Army reports these as the most common long term effects of treatment:

1.  Radiation to a child’s brain can significantly damage cognitive function, limit the ability to read, write, do basic math, tell time or even talk.
2.  Physical and neurocognitive disabilities resulting from treatment may prevent childhood cancer survivors from fully participating in school, social activities and eventually work, which can cause depression and feelings of isolation.
3.  Childhood cancer survivors have difficulty getting married and obtaining jobs, health and life insurance
4.  Cancer treatments can affect a child's growth, fertility, and endocrine system.  Child survivors may be permanently immunologically suppressed.
5.  Childhood cancer survivors are at significant risk for secondary cancers later in life.
6.  Loss of limbs, or shortened limbs whose growth was stunted.
7.  Cataracts, poor vision, damage to the optic nerve or other effects to the eye.
8.  Hearing loss.
9.  Cardiac problems including an abnormal heartbeat, congestive heart failure and increased risk of a stroke or blood clots.
10.  Kidney failure.
11.  Weak or thin bones that can break easily.
12.  Teeth and jaw problems including missing teeth, smaller teeth, tooth decay and gum

Part of the problem is that all of the currently approved drugs (and there has not been a new one approved in 20 years) are adult drugs. Think about that. Think of the heated debated over vaccinations. The furor over BPAs in baby bottles.  All of the trivial hot buttons that fill innumerable message boards. Then think about critically ill child being poisoned with decades old technology that have only been approved for adult use. Would you give YOUR child an adult medicine that had not been improved on in over 2 decades? For anything? No, you wouldn't.

 Why are the children, the babies as I call anyone under 18 at work, being treated so horribly? One of the rallying cries for Breast Cancer Awareness is "Fight Like A Girl!" I titled this "Fight Like A Mom" because the disparity in research funding offends me as a mother. Moms are the ones that sacrifice, do without, eat the fried chicken wing instead of a breast, all so our kids can have what they need and be able to thrive and be happy. We need to do more to ensure childhood cancer research gets more attention and much needed research. For Aidan. For Donna. For Emma. For all the tomorrows that are being stolen in some form or another by cancer.