Thursday, February 15, 2018

Hang on lady, we going for a hair-raising ride!

It was December, 1987, and I was completely bald--but sporting a stylish wig. I had FIVE of my six  prescribed chemo treatments under my belt. And I had a week's vacation due, so we decided to take Melissa (who was then 13) to Disneyland.

We had heard that the Magic Kingdom at Christmas time was indeed magical. Every night there would be a "Very Merry Christmas Parade" right down Main Street (the reproduction of Main Street in Marceline, Missouri, Walt's boyhood home town). Yep, some magic was in the stars for us. Besides, it was getting COLD in Missouri, and flying to Southern California in December sounded pretty luxurious. Neither Harold nor I had ever been to Disneyland ourselves, so it was a first for all three of us kids. Which meant we really didn't know that much about what was there.

Since I had been on chemo for several months, I did have some side effects that I needed to consider. I couldn't participate in anything too stomach-turning, and, of course, there was that bald thing going on under all that fake hair. LOL. Other than that, I was ready for adventure! Disclaimer: I was not ready for the "It's a Small World" exhibit. I don't think anyone is ever ready for that one!

Melissa had a blast riding all the famous Disney rides like the flying elephants, the teacups, etc. I have pictures of her in all those, but she would kill me,'ll have to use your imagination. We did ride with her on the bigger rides like trains through dark jungles, boats through infested waters, underground cars through pirate caves, etc. Typical Disney stuff. We were all having an adventure!

After lunch, we happened on Space Mountain. Now, we had heard it was "awesome" because of some kind of movies or graphics or something that we would get to see if we went in. I mean, it was named Space Mountain, right? So there must be something related to Star Wars or outer space or something like that, which we all liked. So in we went.

We found ourselves in a huge waiting line, so we figured it must be awesome! Once we were inside, there was no turning back to get out, so we just waited our turn. When a string of cars finally pulled up to the ramp right in front of us, Harold and I got into car, Melissa got into the one right behind us, and we were off!

Well, about 30 seconds into this adventure, we realized something with horror. See, I had planned to avoid some "adventures" that day for all kinds of reasons, all related to my chemo side effects. We all realized the same thing at the same time and all three of us yelled
"This is a roller coaster!" To make it even worse, it was a roller coaster the dark!

What made us realize we were on a roller coaster was that we were making a steep, slow, jerky climb to what we figured was about to make a death  plunge at breakneck speeds. Or hair-raising speeds. But I couldn't afford any more hair raising, so I grabbed my wig with one hand and tried to hold onto the car with my other hand. Harold had the exact same thought at the exact same time, and I felt his protecting hand plop on top of my hand, on top of my head! We were both holding onto my wig with all our might. I was yelling, "I've got it, I've got it" to Harold. There were enough flashes of light for Melissa to realize what was going on in front of her and she was laughing--LOUDLY--her head off at the spectacle in front of her. Thanks a lot, kid! Even with my eyes closed, I had visions of Short Round in his underground coal car in front of the screaming heroine, yelling, "Hang on lady, we going for a ride!" Yup. Hanging on here. To my hair!

After that was over, it took a good hour of sitting on a bench in the sunlight to get my stomach settled. I didn't want to lose that expensive Disneyland lunch. But I still had hair!!! And for that, I considered myself fortunate indeed! I couldn't even imagine what would have happened if my wig had come off inside there, in the dark! I knew that we would never forget that ride as long as we lived.

Preview of things to come: My best Christmas present that year was knowing that when we got back home from Disneyland, I would take my final chemo treatment. It was just a few weeks before Christmas. And that would bring about some chuckle-worthy issues related to the adventures of Christmas shopping on chemo brain! Stay tuned...

Thursday, January 25, 2018

From hair to there.

Something very UNfunny also happened with that first treatment...I was told that my chemo cocktail (shaken, not stirred....see previous post) would cause my hair to fall out. All of it. And boy, did I have a lot!

Doc said approximately three weeks after my first treatment to expect the shedding to start. Well, how right he was! It was exactly three weeks to the day of my first treatment as I was getting ready for work and washed my hair. When I rinsed it, not only did the shampoo come out, but big clumps--hands full--of hair also came out! YIKES!

When Harold called me that day from the road, he was in Dallas. I told him the news, and he said he was going to "take care of it" for me. I didn't know how, but I knew he was true to his word. Now, he had taken a couple of pictures of me with him showing my full head of hair, and found an exclusive shop in Dallas that sold wigs. He took that picture into the shop with him and told them what he was doing, and they dropped everything else they were doing and started helping him on his mission.

Finally, one lady brought a wig out to him and told him she thought it might be the closest thing to my real hair. He asked if he could take it outside and look at it in the sunlight and, of course, they said 'yes.' He turned it this way and that, shook it, and decided that yep, this was it. So he paid for it and they gave him a little "head" to keep it on in his vehicle for the trip home. He set it on the seat beside him, and said every once in awhile he would catch a glimpse of it out of the corner of his eye and felt like it was me riding along with him.

Can you tell which pictures he took with him of my real hair, and which pictures were the man made version?

Anyway, he got it to me just in the nick of time because within a couple of days, about all my hair had fallen out. Luckily it was on the weekend, so we were the only ones that saw it. I just went into the front yard with a hairbrush, and brushed the rest of my hair gone. Then I took my wig to my hair dresser after shop hours and she locked the door and, with it on my head, trimmed it into the same style she always cut my real hair. The next morning was church. And the morning after that, back to work. And not one single person ever knew that I was wearing a wig the whole nine months I wore it. My sweetheart was true to his word...he took care of it for me!

I had more fun fiddling with that wig. I could put it onto my wig stand and fix it into all KINDS of styles--Gibson girls, fancy updos, etc.--that I could never do if it was attached to my head! It's amazing how creative you can be with your hair when you can hold it in your lap or sit it on the table in front of you! HAHA!

So why am I including stuff about this in my "funny stories," you ask? Well, to get to the funny stuff, I had to cover a little of the back story first. And a lot of it has to do with hair! Dare I say it? It's about to get hairy up in here.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

James Bond on Chemo

My first chemo treatment was memorable for many reasons. Some of the others I'll talk about later. But one of the ones that still gives our family a chuckle is this one.

During the oncologist's consultation about what to expect after my treatments, Harold was mentally checking off all the different symptoms or side effects he would need to pay attention to. One of them, however, slipped through a crack, and reappeared at, of all places, the movie theater!

Doc had told us that I may experience certain side effects and recommended different ways to address them. Like "jitters." What??? He had recommended Benadryl to sort of "calm down" those heightened nerves. Well, apparently both of us didn't take that one too seriously because some of the others seemed a little more serious, so that little nugget of advice went in one ear and out the other. Besides, I wasn't the "nervous" type. At all.

Fast forward a week or so after I had that first treatment and had gotten through some of the more serious side effects that happen within the first couple of days.

A new James Bond movie, "The Living Daylights," had just been released, and we had always been James Bond fans. A great first outing after my chemo treatment would be to see Mr. Bond. I even got popcorn!

"You'll find these new gadgets helpful in your mission, James!"

About an hour into the movie, I started looking at my watch every couple of minutes. Fidgeting. Could NOT sit still for the life of me! Finally I asked Harold, "Will this be over soon?" Now, there was no shortage of action and adventure to hold the normal person's attention. I kept asking him about every five minutes, "Is it almost over?" He started wondering what was up with me, and by the end of the movie he had remembered something... and asked me, "Do you remember the doctor telling us we might need to get you some Benadryl if you started feeling jittery after a chemo treatment?" I vaguely did, but my behavior had brought it back to him really clearly.

We stopped by the store on the way home to get my "James Bond pills" as we called them from that night on. Every time I see them on the shelf at the store it still brings a little chuckle to this day. Just one of the many gadgets in my arsenal to fight the evil Chemo villain!

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Cancer and Chemo Secret Code

I wrote this on June 25, 1987, right after I had been diagnosed with breast cancer and was going through all kinds of fun stuff. And I hadn't even started the chemo yet! The place where I worked ran it in their monthly employee newsletter at the time. I think they didn't quite know how to take someone joking and laughing in the midst of something that was supposed to be so scary and serious. But God is good. All the time. Even in the dark times, His Word can give us a peace that the world just can't understand.

Having been as healthy as a horse all my life, these past two weeks have proven to be an eye-opening experience for me! Out of the clear blue, I have suddenly become the center of all kinds of attention I'd rather forego. BUT, dear friends, there are ALWAYS priceless bits of wisdom one can acquire from *any* experience...even when one goes into it as naively as I.

For instance, I have learned not to listen with my ears, but with my gut when the professionals are talking to me. And you know what? I discovered there is a second language to their language! So I thought I would pass it along in case any other greenhorns out there are called upon to experience the same rigors I have.

Here is my translation for you:

"We just want to perform a couple more little 'tests' to be sure..."

"Lady, when we get through with you, there ain't NOTHIN' you can hide from us--not even a warped personality!"

"Oh, honey, you have such...*exquisitely tiny* veins!"

"Now, how in the HECK am I supposed to stick THIS needle in THERE without making her look like a sieve?"

"Just sit in here and make yourself comfortable. The doctor is running a little late."

"You might as well relax, sweetie, because you'll probably need treatment for *senility* before ol' Doc shows!"

"This? Oh, we're just injecting a substance that will cause... ah...certain *organs* to...'light up' when we use our scanning equipment."

"This stuff should still be good by Christmas. If you want to save on a tree, just stand in the window and turn out the lights!"

"Now, just lie under the scanner in that position without moving for just a little while...until you hear the little beep."

"Ok, Sam, set the timer for an hour and we'll go have lunch."

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Dry bones? No thank you!

When you have cancer, any time you get a chance to laugh at something, DO IT!

Proverbs 17:22 says "A merry heart does good, like medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones." Well, I don't want no dry bones, do you?

It's true! Laughing is like the best dose of medicine a person could be prescribed.

Proverbs 17:22One of the best gifts I have ever been given is a family that loves to laugh. My husband and I have more fun laughing together than we could have by spending money on exotic cruises, romantic getaways or anything else that couples to do charge up their relationships. Don't get me wrong. We love those, too. But laughter is free. So we enjoy it daily in large doses.

We sometimes laugh so hard at home--all by ourselves--that our poor dog thinks something must be wrong with us. We also get some curious glances from people in restaurants or other public places when we start laughing so hard that we are mopping tears from our faces. And anyone who knows our daughter will tell you that in a crowded theater or any other kind of "venue" where a lot of people are, when she laughs, the people in that crowd who know her, immediately know the owner of that laugh! We've been told more than once by performers who were on stage, after the show, that they could pick out where she was sitting in the dark auditorium by her laugh.

Laughter is infectious.



I went to a bridal shower a couple of years ago and little cards were handed out to the guests who were asked to write down their best advice to the bride and sign their name to it. Well, I knew the couple were already committed to having Jesus in the center of their marriage, so that #1 bit of advice had already been fulfilled. The #2 bit, from my own heart anyway, is what I wanted to pass along: "Laugh together. Every day."

Now, when I was handed a diagnosis of cancer in 1987, I learned pretty early on that that gift of laughter--of a merry heart--was still intact. Life didn't immediately become one of doom and gloom and shadows and tears. And fears. Because of the promise in the Word that Jesus already paid for my healing, I had hope. A peace. Even though I knew I was getting ready to go through something new to me, there would still be joy even in the midst of---whatever it was that was going to happen.

I felt like Short Round (of Indiana Jones fame) was saying to me, "Hang on Lady, we going for a ride!" And how true that advice would, quite literally, turn out to be!

Hang on Lady, we going for a Ride!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

We're never too old for big dreams of little houses.

The sign on the front door says "Welcome Friends." So come on in!

The house that Papa built

When we bought our (first) house in the spring of 2009, one of our main dreams had always been to build a playhouse in our back yard. We had always wanted to do that for our daughter when she was little, but since we lived in a rented duplex throughout her growing-up years, we were not able to do that. We were always were kind of sad that we missed out on that opportunity.

Well, in 2004, God presented us with a second chance when our daughter became Mommy to a little bundle of joy, unbounded energy and imagination--London.

London had just turned five when we moved into our house in the spring of 2009--the perfect age for a play house, and we started working on first-things-first right away, like drainage issues that resulted in a mosquito ranch in our back yard. Then, just four months after we moved in, my precious Daddy passed away unexpectedly, and my Mom was in fairly advanced stages of Alzheimer's, deaf, and could not live on her own in the middle of nowhere, three hours away from anyone in her family, so house projects were put on hold for the next few years while we focused on taking care of lots of details with Mom and the farm she and Daddy had lived on for so many years.

Building a tiny house

By summer of 2013, Harold finally got started on this dream project. And I had been poring over Pinterest for ideas. Harold had already been working on the drainage issues that comes with a house located at the bottom of a very, very steep hill. That problem somewhat in hand, and after months of studying, planning, drawing, and saving our pennies, Harold got his building permit from the City, and away we went.
In the beginning was just four stakes, stuck in the ground.

I should say , "Away he went." He literally built this thing single-handedly, except for the light stuff like "interior design," painting, and the tall stuff like roofing and shingling. The sheer volume of manual, physical labor this involved boggles the mind. Everything was manually carried to the building site....and we live on a hill, remember? You can figure out the rest. The summer of 2013 was very, very hot, and very, very dry, which didn't make it easier. But he stuck with it.

The dirt taken out came in handy to fix some other drainage issues along the side of the "big house."

There's a porch!

From this angle you can see the steep grade down to the street from which all the materials had to be carried!

One of my favorite shots, through the early morning fog.

Papa's little helper.

This is starting to look like a house!

Daddy (Nathan) nails on and weathers in the roofing for the winter months until we get it shingled in the spring.

Now it's painted the color London picked out, and the shutters are up.

I did the painting (London helped with that on the inside!) and made or bought the furnishings, mostly at thrift stores, garage sales, and the like. And we had a couple of younger guys help with the tall stuff. But I have been taking photos of the whole process, saving them up so I could share from start to finish. It's now almost finished. Just a few more minor details to go, like hooking up the electricity, installing and hooking up the doorbell, putting up the railing and loft ladder handles, and extending the width of the loft a bit so two giggly girls could fit up there instead of one. A flagstone pathway and a step from the yard onto the front porch, building a drop-down table attached to the wall to serve as dining, art, and homework headquarters, and it's a wrap!

London loves to paint!

Every day after school London checks out the progress. Found the perfect door at Habitat Re-Store.

A kid can dream some big dreams up in that loft!

A Moreau Heights Chargers t-shirt-turned-flag waves in the brisk autumn air.

London LOVES getting mail in her mailbox. After all, she does have an address!
 And now, fall has arrived, and the building must wait out the winter months. Until finally, in the spring...

Another Spring, and the Finish is in Sight!

We hired Justin Duren to put on the shingles and install the wood flooring. He did an awesome job!

Wood flooring purchased at Habitat Re-Store. Darker wood downstairs, light wood in the loft.

The loft will be wider when it is finished, but for now, it's quite comfortable. The bed is four pillows sewn into a comforter, ala Pinterest!

Her fridge / pantry when it was just a bookshelf at the Habitat Re-Store last summer.

You'd never know it used to be a bookshelf!

Real dishes. Real food. Even a place for cold drinks & foods.

No fridge is complete without artwork on the doors.

Ewok loves playing in London's house.

Pictures of London's pets, and one of her with Mommy and Daddy. Still lots of decorating to do.

Flameless candles add a soft, cheery glow after dark.

There will be lights. But for now, flameless candles work fine!

The view from her bedroom loft.
The ladder to the loft. This corner, as London has dubbed it, is the "Library." There will be books!

Some landscaping underway to replace the grass killed by all the construction work.
The little house on the hill.
There are two tiny hummingbird feeders in hanging plants...

...and it only took about five minutes for them to find this one.

Furnishing a tiny house

Since she's too old now for "pretend" food and cooking utensils, I told London she would be have real food and cooking equipment in her house. I converted a bookshelf purchased from our local Habitat for Humanity Restore to her "fridge." It actually serves a dual purpose: Fridge and pantry. A small cooler at the bottom holds her cold food and drinks, and her snackies and dishes are stored up top. I have an induction cooktop that I use in the house, and when we get her countertop / table space built, she can bring that out, plug it in, and cook real food on it, with adult supervision, of course. Since we have our picnic table and grill right outside her house, she can throw a few shrimps (or hot dogs) on the barbie, and serve up her culinary creations to the whole family. The flag out front is her beloved school mascot, the Moreau Heights Chargers, made from a sweatshirt. Her mailbox gets real mail in it. She's amazed at how the postman can find her mailbox when she gets mail. (wink)

Sure, London is now over ten years old, and growing up fast. But we think she will still get lots of great use out of it, even as a teenager, when it could still be a neat place to spend time reading, doing homework, or watching movies on the laptop. Oh, and I'm making a Nana-sized sleeping bag for my "bed" on the downstairs floor for sleepovers.

Let's face it, hasn't every woman always dreamed of a little "house" of her own from the time she was a little girl. I'm pretty sure I'm having as much fun, if not more, spending time in there as London. Since we did everything ourselves, and bought a lot of things at the Habitat Restore or other thrift stores, the total cost for the project ended up being much less than the ready-made sheds you buy at your local big box lumber yard stores or places specializing in "outbuildings." And, even if I say so myself, it is built MUCH better than those are. I know, I've been in them many, many times, tape measure, pencil and paper in hand. As our building inspector said when he came to make his first inspection of the foundation work: "This thing ain't goin' NOWHERE!" Wait until he sees it finished!

Oh, and lest you think it will go to waste when she is all grown up and no longer spends time there, it's going to become the prettiest little garden / potting shed! The perfect place to start and nurture seedlings for spring planting!

Kind of fitting, wouldn't you say?

London's house.