Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Wii Bit Harder!

The kids have been enjoying the Wii they received for Christmas. I haven't had much of a chance on it yet, but Maggie, Scot and Nora are perfecting their bowling game. Maggie has a real talent for boxing, and Nora has started kicking some princess arse on on a Disney game. Today when I turned around I caught a glimpse of her thrashing about with her nunchuk and remote. The remote was vigorously gyrating, shaking in an up-and-down, up-and-down fashion. It was slightly horrifying and perverted.

But darn funny. Much like Alec Baldwin in this recent (already classic) SNL skit.

Please enjoy.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Post #300 - Holiday Wrap-up






















The tree came down today. I've always been a believer that "when it's over, it's over."

It was a difficult Christmas Day. Everyone had told me to prepare myself for that, but I don't think you are ever geared up to feel lousy. Therefore, when the sadness hit, it really walloped me. There were great moments of joy and laughter to the day. But my mood broke downwhen I looked around and counted 10 seats at the table, not the traditional 11.

It was great to see the cousins enjoying one another. Nathan has graduated from college in Japan so it was good to have him back, knowing he won't be getting on a plane and leaving once again. After dinner, we all headed outside for a chilly walk around the block. We bundled up in jackets and scarves (I think it was 50 degrees) and enjoyed the neighborhood lights and crisp smoky air. The lasagna, ham, cheesy potatoes and Snow Mountain sat in our bellies as we played a heated game of Scrabble.

So, it's over. We all made it through Christmas. We yearned for old memories but I believe we managed to make some new ones as well.

Someone recently told me that by being alive, we are the "lucky ones." We get to keep enjoying the roller coaster. Very true. But for the love of God! Really- can 2010 have more exhilarating plunges than horribly hard hills? Please?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

I'm Back...

Hello?

Anyone out there?

I am going to try my derndest to commit to blogging again.

Perhaps a blog-a-thon would help.

The idea came to me today, as I started cleaning up Christmas. It's time for a fresh start. The first step I took was cleaning out the coat closet so that I could fit the Christmas tree back inside. Doing so opened up my clothing options! I was shocked to find jackets I hadn't seen in years.

So maybe the same could be said of my mind. While I've been toiling at anatomy, I've gotten out of touch with daily feelings and observations. I know stuff is lurking in the brain, it's just been stuffed full holding facts and figures.

A new blog look, a new year, a new semester. A little less memorization, a little more writing.

This feels a little strange. Kind of like friends that haven't spoken since they got drunk and said some things they now can't remember.

It'll come back to me. Just be patient.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Swine Time




And damnit if I didn't try everything. Obviously the vaccine wasn't enough, nor was the 3 bottles of Purrel I keep in the car. Nora, Mags, and I have the Divine Swine.

We are on Day 4 of H1N1. We've watched every Miyazaki film (My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away, Castle in the Sky) and the house is trashed. We've had a lot of "togetherness time." We've painted, made sock creatures, played Perfection, and cried "I'm bored!"

I have some wheezing and some junk in my lungs. I'm hoping it clears. Maggie and Nora still have a horrible hack, but their fevers are gone. By the looks of the pics, the girls look like they are starting to feel better. For that, I will be thankful. :)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Sierra Madre

In 1998, I tied the knot. The same year I began a love affair with a beer. Scot and I were living in San Francisco and the most popular beer served in bars was Sierra Nevada. Honestly, I choked the first couple back. This new amber brew was heartier than the Silver Bullets I had slung back in college. I wasn't sure I deserved something hearty, rich, and cultured. But, like the San Francisco fog, I grew to appreciate it. I drank it on Polk St. in a cozy bar with velvet couches, and on a concrete bench on Haight. We left San Francisco, and I returned to Arizona with a whole new appreciation for beer. Since then, there have been many different liquid loves. I like me a good Octoberfest, Kirin, and Fat Tire.

On Monday, I spent a blissful morning with my mother. We did some shopping at Williams-Sonoma, and then went for a bite to eat. We sat at a trendy restaurant, talking about life, death and how the two seem to be co-mingling in our circle lately. We shared a pizza, and when my mom ordered a Sierra Nevada, I joined her. Sure it was a Monday at noon, but why not? The first sip sent me over the edge. It was as if I had kissed Scot for the first time. I could only describe it as pure palatal pleasure, deliciousness and nostalgia mixed into one. My life did a rapid rewind in glorious technicolor. I slammed the table and had a long overdue heart-to-heart with myself.

Why had I neglected this beer? Had I forgotten how much it meant to me? Why didn't I indulge in this beer more often? Was the extra $1 a six-pack really holding me back?

Monday I went to Fry's a bought 2 six-packs. Thank God I came to my senses. I had missed Sierra Nevada, and hadn't even realized it. I'm so glad it was still there for me.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Pretty Is As Pretty Does


Hey , Scot ! Come out here! I want you to see the beautiful thing that's sprung up out back!

With this baby up, I hope he spends more time inside, and less time in the open garage yelling at his wife :) (you're looking at the satellite dish, not my ugly yard)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Ryleigh


I spent Saturday night in Las Vegas, relaxing at Joelle and Mike's outdoor table. The weather was breezy and slightly crisp, and we dined on grilled steak and veggies and sipped red wine. After dinner, Mike and I took it upon ourselves to purge Joelle's wallet. The monstrosity had grown too large to close. Joelle kept reiterating that her wallet was "just fine" and couldn't understand why we needed to help her organize her life. Or, quit fretting about something that wasn't that important, and frankly none of our business. It was then the phone rang.

Scot's brother's daughter (our niece) had passed away. Ryleigh is Keith's daughter. She was born 2 1/2 years ago, perfectly healthy apart from a small hole in her heart. She grew from an infant to a toddler, never needing surgery. Her growth kept pace with her peers, and she suffered no ill effects from her heart. It was only recently that doctors thought it prudent to perform the "routine" surgery. Better now than before it became a problem.

Three weeks ago, the surgery went off without a hitch. It was only when Ryleigh returned home that complications set in. A small cough led her parents back to the doctor. A stomach bug necessitated a visit last week. On Saturday, Ryleigh went into cardiac arrest, and left us.

Losing a parent is part of the price of living. Losing a spouse can happen. Losing a child is not expected. It is not normal. It is a slap in the face of everything we do daily (from wiping butts to crossing at crosswalks) to protect our angels. And it is a grief no parent can imagine.

I hung up the phone and glanced at Joelle and Mike's crestfallen faces. All three of us, parents, were devastated.

"Wallets don't matter, you guys, " Joelle said. "Wallets don't matter."

We love you Ryleigh. And we love your parents.


Monday, September 21, 2009

Jungle Alcohol




Life is passing by with great clippy speed these days. Which isn't such a bad thing. Usually that means there is order and harmony to daily life. I have been enjoying my anatomy class, and scored well on my first exam. The kids are healthy and happy and Scot is content with work.

Tonight I was searching through old emails, alphabetically, looking for a free Lands' End shipping code. I came across my dad's name, and took a look at his last few emails to me. My father was a faithful reader of my blog, and usually responded to every blog entry. I miss that so much. He always read, every day. :) At any rate, I found it amusing that the title of the last email he wrote me was "Jungle Alcohol." It was dated June 2nd. I couldn't remember what it was, so I opened it up, and had a look. A great final, fitting email. A classic clip, sent from the King of Funny Forwards. He really did go out with a bang.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Weekly Update

I've neglected you sounding board.

Busy week.

Went to see Cracker, at a local bar. Such a fantastic, underrated band. You might know them from late 90's hits, Happy Birthday and EuroTrashGirl. About 200 people in a dirty bar. And yet they are overflowing with talent and deserve so much more. I'm not complaining. We were up close and sweaty. Everyone present was born before 1975 and was squeezing into their mom jeans. First place I've been in a long time in Scottsdale where I fit in. There was one woman rocking against the stage who was on crutches in her mid-40's. I wonder if the band wonders what happened to all the hot, young groupies. That woman was probably a vixen groupie 20 years ago. Alas, it is life and the shit it is of getting older. Not only does the band age, but the fan base ages. Ah well....

Mom is doing pretty well. She made it home from Russia, unscathed. We were so proud of her for seizing the moment and forging ahead with her previous travel plans. Every day is a new day with room for new opportunities. To look at it any other way would be pessimistic. Not that there aren't hard times. But you keep on trucking. Life is too short to curl up and sleep through the rest of it.

On to work, and studying. And more work, and studying. I have my first exam this Friday. In anatomy/physiology. It's going well, but it's a shitload of information to commit to memory. Glad I boned up on my brain puzzles and sudoku this summer.

A shout out to Jen, who is dealing with her sick, beloved canine. When they get old and leave us, the term canine is more appropriate. It's a more appropriately formal way of speaking of someone who has such a profound effect on our lives. A dog just sounds so offhanded, so disposable. And our four-legged friends are not that.

Love to all.

Monday, September 7, 2009

A Special Dedication...



My best friend started back to work this year. Now she's managing 2 kids, a husband, a dog, and 27 2nd graders every day. Phew...

I am back in school and handling my own busy life. In between, there hasn't been much time for the two of us to connect.

Next month, I will fly out to Vegas, where Joelle and I will see U2 together. They have been our favorite band for 25 years, but we've never seen them together. Seeing her, and seeing U2 equate to a religious experience for me. I CANNOT WAIT!

I miss you, Jo. This one goes out to you. You are always in my thoughts.

And I thought you should take a gander at how hot Bono looks in this video.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

God and Dog

This one goes out to Bernice, Patrick, and Annie. Divine Dogs.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Warning Sign

The Today Show had a segment on where the music intro was Coldplay's "Warning Sign." I recognized the song as it has such a stunning beginning. I think it's one of Coldplay's best songs, and I felt the need to hear the entire thing right then. Lickety split, I was able to que up a fantastic acoustic version. Delicious! Enjoy.

Monday, August 31, 2009

I was watching

Mom and Dad, Somewhere in Europe. I doubt dad was missing T.V. then, and now.


I found myself watching the CMA Music Festival tonight. It just kind of happened. I suppose it had a lot to do with the HiDef picture and the beauty of understanding the simplistic, audible lyrics. More than I can say about rock music these days.

Three songs into it, I felt myself welling up. My dad was missing it. My dad loved country music and used to watch every country music show. He appreciated the young ladies with poufy hair, and the simple songs about love on a front porch. I realized that if he was here, he would be cooing about pretty Taylor Swift, and calling me to tell me what I was missing (cause he knew I wouldn't be watching.) And yet tonight I was watching. Without any provocation.

Then I had an epiphany. If my dad was alive, he would be in Russia with my mom. He wouldn't even be at home! Hell! I'd still be sitting here alone, watching it. I sucked up a tear, and a smile crept over my face. I turned my tear-stained cheeks to Scot.

"Oh no, " he said. He had noticed the wet eyes. "What's going on? "
I let him in on my private little moment. From feeling sad to the realization that if my dad were alive he wouldn't be stuck indoors with the boob tube on this hot August night. He would have been in St. Petersburg!

Scot had only been half-listening to the show. First of all, country music is not his favorite. Then, for as loud as the T.V was, he couldn't hear it well. When the program started he had been doing homework with the kids. Then later he was yelling at the kids to brush their teeth and yelling at Patrick (humping dog) to "cool it." Not really the space and time for the introspection I was managing.

"Shooooot, " he said, fanning himself. "He might be better off where he is."

We looked at each other straight faced, giggled, and started to laugh.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Sexy Horiscope

fun quiz for myspace profile and blog


Can You say "Grrrrr" "Purrrrrrrrrrrrr" and "Yowza!!!!"
I'm going to be referring to this often, as a reminder of the vixen I am. Under the flour (from making banana bread) and the anatomy textbook a dazzling cheetah lurks.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Looking for signs


Scot's out of town. My mom is in Russia. YES! she went, good for her. A weekend with no adult conversation has me talking to people who aren't here. Dead people. Well, just my dad.

My mother and I both talk to my father. My mother's favorite place to dial-up Norm is in the car, on the way home from my house. Sometimes I talk to Norm in the car, too. Usually the kids are with me, but they already think I'm crazy. Last night I took the kids for a bike ride and tried to channel Norm through the clouds. Mary and I constantly ask him to give us a sign. We have to believe we are receiving them.

On June 4th, the day of my dad's surgery, the weather in Arizona was unseasonably cool and cloudy. Around the time my father came out of surgery, there was a rainbow in the southern sky. Tim, Scot, my mom and I were just wrapping up dinner out back when we all noticed it. I took it as a positive sign for my dad's health.

The next rainbow I saw came on June 22. Scot and I were leaving Blue Adobe, where we had just sat down with my mother and the restaurant manager to plan my father's memorial. As we drove west towards home, an enormous, vibrant rainbow illuminated the dusky sky. It was so startlingly 3D, so near, you wanted to touch it. My mother took note of it on her way home too, and saw a man pull his car over to get out and take pictures.

After my dad's service, I drove over to my mother's house to be with family. As I cruised up the mountainous road, I took a moment to glance west at the cactus and barren hillside. Above it all was a magnificent cloud. And under it a rainbow. I caught a small cry in my throat. I felt the presence of my father next to me. I imagined his slightly plump hand abutting mine on the arm rest. If it's possible to feel comforted by a spirit, I was. I took pictures of all three rainbows, and in a grievous error, deleted them off the card.

My mom has had her own share of hunting's and signs. I will share one with you. Forty years ago, Mary made Norm choose; the priesthood, or her. She promised her love and commitment, and handed him a book of Robert Frost poetry. Earmarked was her favorite poem, "The Road Not Taken." Obviously, my father picked that path, and it did make all the difference. A couple of years ago, I found a tote bag for my mother that had the most famous stanza of the poem silk screened on the side.

Two weeks ago, my mother returned home to find that Annie had gotten into mischief (I know that dogs don't necessarily die from eating chocolate; this dog has put away half of a chocolate cake and a 2 lb. bag of M&M's.) My mom found some plastic wrap (contents gone) and a corner-chewed paperback book on the middle of the family room floor. She picked up the book, flipped it over, and quickly realized she had never laid eyes on the book before. She called me, and asked me if the book of mixed poetry was mine. I dismissed it, and couldn't recall seeing it at her house before, either. The next morning, my mom thumbed through the book. She checked out the publishing credits, and learned that it was put out by Grand Circle Travel, my parents' travel group.

And on page 41, (the year she was born) she saw it. "The Road Not Taken."

Now I look for rainbows. And if gays hadn't cornered the market on them, I'd be buying cheesy rainbow sun catchers and posters. My mom looks for divine signals from her aging lab. When it's all you got, I guess you look for it everywhere you can, and take it where you can get it.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Max'ed Out

Enough with these dresses.

It's not that they're not pretty, or don't have a certain appeal. A sophisticated, I'm so confidant I can cover my body with a bag look. I suggest wearing them at a poolside resort restaurant, or a garden ladies lunch. They have their place.

But I'm seeing them every day at school pick-up. With flimsy flip-flops. On young women who weren't alive when the whole President- Reagan- getting -shot thing went down. Also, Such dresses need a certain level of classiness. And a cellphone stuck in the cleavage isn't very Audrey.

I don't think you asked, but I thought you should know how I feel.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Journey of ten thousand miles begins with a single phone call - Confucius Bell

In 1992, I was having a fifth-of-my-life crisis. Should I choose to be young, semi literate, and married, or do something risky, life altering, and potentially awesome? The answer seems easy now, but I was a frightened girl of 20 at the time.

After consulting several self-help books, I got up the nerve to take a risk. I dumped the boyfriend and spent 4 months in London. It changed me forever.

A couple of weeks ago, I came across hand written quotes on my "Toni Helber" stationery. That list was tucked into a corner of my dresser mirror for months , many years ago. I kept it, because I still find the literary morsels on risk to be inspiring.

Here it is:

Don't play for safety-it's the most dangerous thing in the world. - Hugh Walpole



Try everything once except for incest and folk dancing. - Sir Thomas Beecham



You can't build a reputation on what you're GOING to do. - Henry Ford



Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work. - Thomas Edison



I believe in getting into hot water; it keeps you clean. - G.K. Chesterton



Never be afraid to try something new. Remember, amateurs build the ark; professions built the Titanic. - author unknown



One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time. -André Gide



Every man has the right to risk his own life in order to preserve it. Has it ever been said that a man who throws himself out the window to escape from a fire is guilty of suicide? -Jean-Jacques Rousseau


On Tuesday, I registered for Bio 160- Human Anatomy. I'm scared, but thrilled. I am beginning a new era of my life.

Not only did I want to share these favorite quotes with you today, but I also wanted them as close as my laptop. Just in case I need them.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Cabela's















Sunday seems as good a day as any to drive 30 miles and witness how the other half lives. Apparently they live by the gun. By that, I mean hunting of course!

Near the new Cardinals Sport Complex in Glendale, Arizona lies Cabela's. It is the ultimate "outdoor" store; 160,000 square feet. My outdoors is comprised of flowers, bikes, and Rollerblades. But the folks out west mean "outdoor" as if you might hunker down with your fellow militia-folk and make a life off the land.

We wandered from department to department, admiring plastic and foam deer target dummies, meat preserving kits, and $5000 gun safes. We walked through the aquarium, stocked with local river and lake fish, and listened to the "living" animal displays. Scot found a Turkey "beer cozy" which he couldn't live without. I resisted the temptation to talk with a twang at the register, and I suppressed a chuckle when I heard a man wrangle his children, Delmont and Harley.

I'm kind of sorry I didn't need a stainless steel industrial meat mill. They had a great one. But now I'll know where to find one shall the neighbor's cat ever encroach on my grass.

I'm kidding!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Dear Developmental Pediatrician,

I made the appointment for your office in late June. I have been gearing up for the two-and-a-half hour consultation since. In the past six weeks, I spent two hours filling out the almanac of information you wanted on my kid. I slaved over answers that made the slightest distinction (i.e. sometimes/often.) I attached our family picture to the front of the Encyclopedia Maggie. Finally, I lovingly tucked the whole kit-and-caboodle back into the manila envelope. And that was just the the paperwork.

I alerted the school the Maggie would be late today. Her father changed a scheduled call so that he could be present at the appointment. I woke early, showered, donned a dress and applied makeup. I looked palatable. So much so my daughter called me "pretty mama" and her father looked at me. Do you see where I'm going with this? The day in itself was becoming an event.

So, when I reached your office at 8:30 a.m. and was told that I had CANCELLED the appointment in a voice mail last Friday, I think I had a right to be livid. NO, I called and RECONFIRMED the appointment last Friday. I s..l..o..w..l..y enunciated the word CONFIRM into your answering machine (because no one EVER answers the phone) and told you "we will be there."

Which brings me to the problem. You should not make your clients call back and reconfirm what they already know. I made this appointment six weeks ago. This is not the same as me being drafted to Iraq; you might have to chase me down to fulfill that appointment. I made the first call. I want to come and see you. I've been waiting with expectation for this day. A call to remind someone they have an appointment is fantastic. By insisting your clients CALL BACK and reconfirm their appointment is RETARTED. Especially when live human ears do not answer the phone, and I'm trusting that the Voice Mail Gods deliver the goods.

We left your office, unseen. My daughter was delivered to school, and my husband and I tooled around Barnes and Noble for a bit. I wasn't about to waste these fresh pits scrubbing the kitchen. An hour later, the front office called and rescheduled us for next Tuesday. I told your scheduling woman NOT to call me to re-confirm. It's four days from now- short of being hit by a truck or losing my short-term memory, we will be there. "Sorry for the confusion this morning " she said. "We've had other people forget to call back and reconfirm, and we canceled them, too."

I had called. I had reconfirmed. I bit my tongue. It's not a tumor on the neck- that is a problem. It's just a inefficient system that could use some retooling. Would you like my help?

Sincerely,

me

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Back in the saddle

I have recurring dreams, quite often. One is that I'm late to my own wedding. I can't find my shoes, and someone is applying sky-blue eye shadow to my lids. The other common anxiety dream is that I'm in College Algebra. Again. Because in real life, the first three times I took College Algebra I fell into Dante's rings of hell. I was scarred and burned. I Failed. Eventually, I did what every mathaphobe does. I selected a major where I could take College Math instead. Breezed through that with a D, and graduated.

I'm doing the previously unthinkable, and thinking of going back to school. In the allied health care field. Where there is some amount of math involved. The nightmares are returning. I've narrowed it down to Dental Hygenist, and Respiratory Therapist. I've weighed the amount of schooling, prerequisites, and general potential disdain I will harbor for my choice, after I choose said career path.

It's come down to this: Hygenists make more money, but breathe a stream of constant bad breath and work for cranky, suicidal dentists. On the positive side, I like helping people, especially ones who are in a prone position with no ability to yell because my hands are in their mouth.

Respiratory therapy is near and dear to me, as Nora has asthma and my father suffered from IPF. The downside to that field is old people hocking sputum, and the constant threat of airborne H1N1. On the bright side, the only math required is Intermediate Algebra. I had that. 3 times. That might make my choice right there.

Joking aside, I have felt a calling to get involved with health care. I appreciated all the sweet souls who took care of my father, and saw myself in their shoes. The lure of a secure, vocational job with a name tag has a great deal of appeal, too. I am leaning in the aforementioned direction, but am open to suggestions. Just please remember the little problem I have with advanced math.

Thanks.

Monday, August 10, 2009

A show of hands for hotness


My brother was out for two weeks this summer. We see each other about twice a year, and it's never enough. I adore Tim. He's generous, funny, and has a genuine zest for life.

We've never been able to figure out if Tim looks like my mother, his father, or the shoe salesman at Younkers. But it doesn't seem to matter. He's a hotness all his own. The ladies out west fawned over my brother during the time he was here. I fielded questions and inquiries into his marital status. We can now add "hot," and "muffin" to his list of attributes.

Lap it up, Tim.

Something tells me you'll be back for a visit soon.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

A small, well not so small, correction.

Well, there was some cancer. Just because you don't see the words "malignant" and "positive" in a medical report doesn't mean it wasn't there. Another big, scary word like "adenocarcinoma" should have had me sitting upright, at attention. I guess it's just that my brain has always been taught that positive and malignant are the words that should strike fear, where cancer is concerned. I'm sorry for the confusion there. That's what you get when you let a medically uneducated civilian read a wordy medical report.

So maybe he didn't die in vain. But did he die way before the cancer would have gotten him? My dad was alert, talking and sitting till his third day post-op. On day 3, my father got confused and agitated, and needed sedation. We were told that his confusion was from high ammonia levels in his brain. The high levels were a result of clogged bowels. By having a bowel movement, he would flush the ammonia and insure the reconstructed plumbing was working correctly. After all, he had his gallbladder removed, 1/3 of his stomach removed, and the head of the pancreas removed. By day 4, when he still hadn't pooped the doctors did a turn-about and pinned his listlessness of pneumonia. He did indeed contract pneumonia, but what happened to the importance of clearing the toxic levels of ammonia? Why, when the obvious symptoms of gangrenous bowel were present, didn't they take action ? Instead we were told his mental confusion was caused by the pneumonia and perhaps alcohol withdrawal. WHAT? Why was a social drinker pumped full of Ativan, an alcohol withdrawal drug? We repeatedly told them my father was not an addict. In the end, his pneumonia cleared, and his heart and liver were strong. It was the damn gangrenous bowel that took his life.


I can now return to a state of peace and acceptance surrounding my father's ultimate fate. In the end, he would have died of pancreatic cancer. But I continue to be in turmoil about how and why he died in the hospital. We are now pouring over 1200 pages of documentation taken during my father's 15 day stay. I will not rest till we investigate every angle of these medical reports.

Boy, isn't is a friggin' laugh a minute reading my blog lately? Thanks for sticking with me.

On a good note, the kids' both start school tomorrow. Maggie will be entering 2nd grade, and Nora Ruby, kindergarten. Poor lambs. Out the door at 7:30 a.m., to be fed to the real world sharks. I will be sure to take pics of the big day.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Just when I thought I had found peace...

Yesterday would have been my father's 69th birthday. Before we went out for a celebratory beer my mother stopped by the hospital and picked up my father's records.

My father's cause of death was "gangrenous bowel, with perforation."
The bowel was obstructed due to re sectioning of his pancreas and intestinal organs, as part of the Whipple Procedure, which was performed for Pancreatic Cancer.

The pathology on the tumor came back "negative." The "lemon-size" tumor the surgeon mentioned was actually 3 1/2 cm's, about an inch and a half big.

My father was told if he did not have the Whipple surgery performed, he would have 18 months to live. Yes, that's if it's a malignant cancer. Unfortunately, growths in the pancreas are not biopsied. It's a "go in and rip it all out until you die" exercise.

I'm starting to think my father died in vain.

I am mad. Really mad.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Hermosa Beach









We've returned from the beach. Our 11th annual boondoggle. The first year we threw an air mattress in my parents room for 3 nights, and this year we spent 9 nights in a large room with kitchen. The funny thing is that we'd still mooch, were in not for the two children we now have.

It was wonderful. Hiking to the supermarket in flip flops for beer, tipsy Scrabble on the beach, Target with sand on the legs, and a nightly pilgrimage for ice cream. The perfect vacation.

Every year, Scot and I feel like it could be the last. How long can the crazy place exist before it self destructs or has its own apocalypse? Yet in the midst of plastic people and trashed-up freeways beautiful fragile tulips spring up on dingy curbs. California is wacky; but its appeal is hard to resist.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Friday Night Lights



It's Friday night, and I was trying to best to download some new pics on here for you to peruse. Last Sunday, I had a big memorial pre-gamer at my house, and my nephew Christopher snapped some cool, underwater shots of the girls in the pool. But I'm a tech dumb-ass and can't seem to get them on here. Scot is in Flagstaff, enjoying the cool weather with his siblings. So, you'll have to dig the ones I put on here. I put these two in a collage for the memorial.

The top shot was taken at the Michigan cabin last June. My SIL Cindy was "candling" my father. Not sexy, but sort of nasty and a complete hoax (go ahead, Google it.) Nonetheless, we had a good time smoking each other's ears out. We almost set fire to the whole damn place, and that kind of drama always makes for some pants-wetting laughs.

The bottom pic was snapped in Grand Haven, Michigan, in front of the hot dog stand. Can you tell Scot was at the end of his rope with all of us? Hardy hardy har.

My mom and I had dinner together with the kids tonight. We stumbled upon an open house (score!) and got the kids some Dairy Queen. Tomorrow we are off to Marshalls to look for new flip-flops. It's supposed to be 116 all weekend. Have mercy.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Memorial script

Yesterday was the memorial for my dad. This is my script I used for my speech. I elaborated on this, but it's basically how it went. We had a huge turnout with lots of friends and family. My sister sang "What I Did for Love" from A Chorus Line (my dad's choice) , and a probation officer sang "Wing Beneath my Wings" for my mom. My best friend Joelle came in, and her husband surprised me by flying out, too! Thank you to everyone.

Ever since my dad passed away, all I can think about are Bugles. I sat to write this and Bugles came to mind. One silly, seemingly inconsequential food item. Bugles. I haven't seen these since 1979. That was when my father cornered the market on the corn snack.

When I was little, my parents dragged me around to every flea market, auction, and craft fair in the N.J. tri-state area. I spent countless Friday nights at the Berlin Farmer's Market in Berlin, NJ. And one night, my dad bought 10 cases of Bugles. I had Bugles in my lunch bag for years. And when that got old, we mixed 'em into omelets. I know my father didn't have a thing for Bugles or Pop Rocks or broken candy bars any more than any of us. What he had was a love for negotiating a great deal. And then it dawned on me. Bugles are a tangible thing I can hold, something small, but an important metaphor of sorts. They stand for the passion that my father had.

As a child, I wasn't allowed to be sick. Sick days were to be used for traveling. And as such, I was yanked out of school every year. Sometimes the trip was work related, like the week on the gulf in Texas, and sometimes we went because the price and adventure were too hard to resist. That would have been the week in the Dominican Republic. For a couple of days we lounged by the secure comfort of our hotel. But then my dad got it in his head to visit a local orphanage. While Norm navigated, Mary drove the stifling hot car through the streets on Santo Domingo. We passed goats and shacks and things I had only read about in the newspaper. It was exhilarating, horrifying, and unforgettable. Never a dull moment. When I was 20, he funded a semester abroad, telling me to take advantage of everything. Take every side trip, see every play, and shop at every store? I thanked him for the handout then. Now I want to thank him for the experiences.

When I graduated from college, I looked hard and long for a career path. I knew my father loved his job. He welcomed the challenges and sought innovative approaches to dealing with old problems. Sounded fantastic. Sign me up! So I looked into it. And I could only shake my head. While worthy and good, getting stoked about probation was like getting whipped up about egg noodles. Where was the excitement? I asked him. I envied his passion for his job. And was mystified by it. But my father's answer was far less inspired than I would have imagined. " I wasn't dying to get into probation. I just did it, and I gave it everything I had". And he did.

My dad and mom had the most beautiful relationship. Passion begets passion. The two of them supplied enough energy to keep the room lit. My dad was content to glow while my mother shone. My father surrounded my mother with humor, and a generous spirit. I can only recall a couple of times when my father every raised his voice to my mom, and it usually involved a cell phone bill. In having this gentle, loving demeanor, he provided the best example of a great husband. I want to thank him, for it was he who taught me what a loving spouse should do and be. I knew that I would never settle That said, when I moved out, Norm proved a hard act to follow. I spent the first couple of years of my marriage asking Scot what he was going to do with me every weekend. Did he have a restaurant in mind for dinner? Was there a culinary fair in town?


Right down to the day he went into the hospital, my dad was sucking the marrow out of life. That morning, a poor timeshare saleswoman called the house. Norm pretended to be an old, eager man, and strung the woman on for a good half-hour. He feigned interest and even asked the woman if she would be accompanying him on the trip. Tim, Mary and I sat in the kitchen, peeing our pants, laughing.

My dad was a brilliant man who was capable of accomplishing large things, but found happiness in every day gifts, like a tasty burrito. He wanted to go everywhere, and try everything once. He drew inspiration from everything and everyone, and left us all wanting to be the best versions of ourselves. Frankly, he has left me realizing how boring most people are.

Norm searched for deals at home, and afar. Sometimes this resulted in cases of dog food, the World's largest collection of Vatican stamps, and bejeweled cuff links. Other times his bargain hunting provided the family with Mexican cruises. Still yet are the 5000 Life Magazines squatting in my garage. But my first taste of my dad's passionate spirit will be the one I can never forget. Those damn Bugles.

I love you dad.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Support Group

What?! What?! Oh, I'm here. Sorry. Been in a fog. Doing pretty well.

Tonight, Mary and I decided to check out a support group at a local church. Realizing I couldn't mix therapy with beer saddened me a bit, but I sobered up and prepared myself for some tears and disclosure.

The group included a 62-year old widow, a 50-something widow, a woman mourning her sister, and one guy that was disturbed by the whole thing and left abruptly. We all gave our stories, and listened and supported one another. It was an hour and a half of nose blowing and wadded tissues. One widow seemed to be doing as well as possible, moving on with her life. The 50-something woman, widowed for 7 months, has no joy, nor will she entertain the idea that joy might ever come into her life again. She has sold the couple's vacation home, and has said she doesn't want to make a new life. She wants the old life, with her husband in it. During the last five minutes of the session, one previously quiet woman spoke. She was there because she had lost someone, too. Her dog. In January. I felt for her. Dogs are family. But as she started to wail and rock, I knew I didn't want to feel how she felt next year.

There is no right or wrong way to grieve. I feel for everyone in that circle, and realize that people do the best they can when dealing with death. But I like the healthy approach my mom has. When she addressed the group tonight, she said, "I've got to love myself more. More than my husband, more than our life together. I can't let myself slip away. " She said this with tears and determination. I was so impressed. My mom walked to the car and told me she wasn't sure she gained anything from the group. She might not have, but I did.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

This horrible, heinous, awful, painful grief . OR , ('I want You Back' my Micael Jackson song)

The last two weeks have followed the same pattern. I suppose it's the new normal. I wake up with a tugging in my chest. I shuffle, semi-paralyzed, to the shower, and splash awake with the water. I make breakfast, tend the children and offer Scot my best smile. The rest of the day continues in a similar manner. I can laugh, but am quicker to cry. I was unpacking groceries today and noticed a fresh, unopened bag of peanuts in the pantry. I thought of Norm, and the silly fact that peanuts were his favorite food. I tossed the nuts into the corner, cursing the surgeon that butchered my father.

Grief is not linear. Just when you think you've moved into another stage, you circle around for another pass. What breaks it up is a little levity and humor. I picked up Norm's ashes this morning, with four children in tow. After buckling in the kids, I did the same to Norm, seated in the passenger seat. I told him to hang on, and peeled out of the parking lot. I'd like to think he would have liked it. If Norm was here, he would only want these mopey shenanigans to go on for so long.

Here's hoping the days to come have more humor, and less tears.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Baby Did a Bad, Bad, Thing

Ya know how you always want to throw out a "dead aunt" comment to shut someone up, but think better of it cause karma is such a kick in the pants?

Yeah, well, I got my chance today. I was in the line at the grocery store. I had gone to purchase a few items, notably, the newspaper containing my father's obituary notice. I threw the merchandise on the belt, which included not one paper, but six. I want those babies laminated. The bagger, a woman in her 40's with hearing aids, glanced at the papers, and then at me.

"Why in the world do you have so many newspapers?!"
she shouted. Only it didn't sound so succinct and biting. More panicky and warbley, as if Marlee Matlin was yelling at William Hurt.

I had to do it. I knew I was playing the death card, but I couldn't resist. It was the one time in my life I would not be condemned to hell for invoking a loved one's name and death in the same sentence.

"I bought so many because my father's obituary is in there today."

The cashier, who until now had been silent, turned tomato red. Her eyes rolled, and I saw the words "I'm sorry" silently pass her lips. I'm pretty sure she thought Ashton Kutcher would round the corner any moment and let her know she'd been punk'd. But it didn't stop there. The mental midget bagging my groceries went on to ask how old my father was, and what he had died of. I answered all of her questions graciously, remembering she was doing a job my five-year-old could do. The cashier vocally apologized as I steered my cart out of her lane. I wasn't put-off, or offended by her co-workers questions. Death in interesting. But death in America is taboo. As a society we don't talk about it, and God forbid we bring a beloveds name into a death joke. Norm would have appreciated it. I walked away, smiling.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A return to "normalcy"



When I started this daily blogging thing some months back, Jen T. said I'd never be able to keep up the pace. She was right. Life got in the way.

The last 4 weeks have been a time warp, a strange continuum of grief. It has been absolutely exhausting, stressful, and hell on earth. Stress and grief do weird things to your body. I would recline on my bed for an hour every day, unable to control the children, who were stuffing 40 Oreos in their mouths. But frankly, I didn't even care. Losing someone makes you see what's important, and what's not. My mother chewed gum relentless for two weeks, breaking down a tooth.

But our minds still function. Sort-of. Things might be fuzzy (that must be self-protection) but you soldier on, making the coffee, running to the supermarket. Hence why I am back. I'm missed you all.

Today, I share with you my father's obituary. It will run tomorrow in the Arizona Republic. The original, longer version was much better, but I had to trim it to keep it under $500!!! It's become clear to me why newspapers are failing.


Helber, Norman Leslie

Norman Leslie Helber embarked on his next journey June 18, 2009. Norm was born August 6, 1940 in Bay City, Michigan. At thirteen years old , he took the opportunity for grand adventure and higher education and left Michigan for the seminary in Mt. Saint Francis, Indiana. For his Master's degree in theology, he attended Assumption Seminary in Chaska, Minnesota. At the age of 27, Norm was ordained a Franciscan Friar. (OFM Conv. ) He was assigned to Saint Anthony's Parish is Grand Rapids, Mi. where he served the church proudly for two years. In 1969, Norm changed life paths, when he met and married Mary Therese Meeter DeDinas. The couple relocated to Cherry Hill, New Jersey, where Norm built a career in criminal justice. He began working as a probation officer in Camden County, New Jersey. During this period, he obtained an MBA from Central Michigan University. In the 1980's, Norm served one term as President of the American Probation and Parole Association. In 1989, Norm accepted the position as Chief of Maricopa County Adult Probation. During his tenure here, "Chief" was respected for his innovative probation practices, and hand-off management style. In addition to being clever and capable on the job, Norm was also regarded as fair and downright funny. A testament to this was that many of Norm's lifelong friends were former colleagues and employees. In 2000, Norm retired. With no career to keep him stateside, Norm spent the last nine years traveling with Mary and dozens of friends. Recently, he became a group organizer for Grand Circle Tours. When at home, Norm enjoyed local theater, serving as an adjudicator for the Arizoni Awards. Norm was preceded in death by his mother and father, Noreen and Frank Helber, and a sister, Fay Helber. He is survived by his best friend, and wife of almost 40 years, Mary Therese; children, Tim DeDinas (Cindy), Julie Whelihan (Stephen), and Toni Therese (Gregory). He is also survived by his brother Daniel, sisters Connie and Barbara, seven grandchildren, one great-grandchild, and his precious mutt, Annie. Norm was never without a positive idea, whether it be as mundane as a dinner suggestion or as grand as a planned family cruise. He leaves behind many who were inspired by his intoxicating appreciation of life. We will miss his enthusiasm and sweet nature. Next month, we will gather to talk about the man who had passion for so much; his family, his friends, St. Francis of Assisi, and accruing frequent flier miles. The celebration will be held at Blue Adobe Grille, in Scottsdale, on July 13th, from 12:00-2:00 p.m. Please RSVP by July 10th to (480) 314-0550. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the American Cancer Society.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

I' ve always been able to write. In happiness, and when trouble is deep. I can't do it now.
I can't put down the words to explain how deep my grief is right now.

My dad is hanging on. He has toxic amounts of amonia in his system. The amonia has essentially poisoned his body, and made his brain crazy. He's being sedated, as when he's awake, he tries to pull out all his cords. Since he's been in a prone position for five days, fluid is starting to gather in his lungs. If Norm gets pneumonia, he will not have a fighting chance. Today, they placed him on a ventilator to help expand his lungs and discharge the fluid. It did help. Once he passes the amonia (by pooping) his head will clear and his body might be more likely to take on any lung issues. In the meantime, I watch a man who six short days ago was vibrant and pain free now suffer and fight to hold on to his life. Birthing two children and enduring layoffs weren't as tortuous and painful as supporting my mom last night. We stood over my dad, and told him he loved him and to turn back if he saw a light.

We knew there were risks, and potential complications, and we got 'em all right! We have known for eighteen months that my dad is sick. I thought I was preparing myself, but nothing has prepared me for feeling this damn sad. And helpless. And out of control.

We sit, pray, and wait. I am so grateful for my ladies on the right. Every one of you taught me something, and I'm looking to you now for some words of wisdom. Darcy, I still can't post on your darn blog. But, I'm reading. I'm reading all of you. You bring me comfort.

Love to my mom, one tough lady. I love you mom. Also to sister Julie. You brightened my day with your insane, cherry personality. And Scot, you are a saint. I love you.

More tomorrow. I made it through this without crying. Maybe I can do this.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Day 109

A rehash of a letter sent out today. We are tired, fat (pizza, Chinese, too many beers) and emotionally spent. Tim leaves tomorrow. I will miss my brother. He is a good person who sees the good in everyone (unlike his caustic, suspecting sister.) On to a new week. Oh yeah, tomorrow is my anniversary. Happy 11, honey. NIght all. More later....




HI All,

Here we are on Friday night, and it's been about 28 hours since Norm came out of surgery. As a refresher, a mass was seen on Norm's last MRI, which was taken as a follow-up after a bout of pancreatitis. During yesterday's seven-and-a-half hour procedure, he had 1/2 the pancreas, 1/3 his stomach, part of the small intestine, and all of his gallbladder removed.

Tim, Mary, and I were allowed to see him four hours after he woke up from the sedation. The nurses thought he was still feeling the effects of the anaesthesia, but we know Norm better than that; that's just how he always is. When a tech told him he wanted to test his blood sugar, Norm said, "He called me 'sugar'." Then, when the nurse advised him to push a button on a cord for morphine, he pushed the bandaid on his nose repeatedly. His spirits were amazing.

Today, they had him sitting in a chair. He attempted a walk, but grew too excited and tired after standing for ten minutes while his forty-billion wires were being made mobile. My mom and Tim are visiting him now, and I will give you a further update tomorrow. On Monday, the pathology will be back from the surgery. The results of that will determine what the next course of action will be.

Please continue to send good thoughts and prayers to my dad, and my mom. Their strength and humor during this time is admirable. It was fantastic having Tim out; he provided support and laughs despite how fragile and rotten we all felt.

We thank you for all the calls and emails. We are lucky to count all of you as our friends.

Toni

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Day 108 - There will be Mountains to Climb

Lifted from my facebook page updates.

7 1/2 hour "difficult" surgery. Removed 1/3 stomach, gallbladder, 1/2 pancreas, part of liver. Cancerous tumor the size of a large orange. Holy sh*t. He's been moved to recovery, can't see him yet. Thanks for all of your concern. It really DOES mean a lot.:)

just saw dad. My heart broke for him. It'll be touch and go the next couple of day. But, his humor hasn't been removed. He told the RN who wanted to draw his blood sugar, "hey, he called me 'sugar'", and he told them he would pay extra to have his lips wet. He pushed the badaid on his nose for his morphine button. I alternated between laughing and crying. Thanks to Tim and Scot. And my true friends.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Day 107 - Working all the angles, calling on all the angels

Catholic:
O God, the source of all health.
Fill my heart with faith.
Be near me in times of weakness and pain. Although I know You are in control, I am apprehensive about what faces me. You made me, loved me, and have provided my surgeon with needed skill to perform a miracle in my behalf. Sustain me by Your grace that my strength and courage may not fail; Heal me according to Your will.
Amen.



Buddhist:May all that have life be delivered from suffering - Gautama Buddha

THE FOUR NOBLE TRUTHS:

  1. All is suffering (dukkha).
  2. Suffering is caused by desire/attachment.
  3. If one can eliminate desire/attachment, one can eliminate suffering.
  4. The Noble Eight-fold Path can eliminate desire. Extremes of excessive self-indulgence (hedonism) and excessive self-mortification should be avoided.
More important than anything is to say that we love you dad. Sleep tight and we'll see you tomorrow.



Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Day 107 - Up by Eight

"So yeah, I've put on about eight pounds."
"I don't know exactly what's done it, I'm not eating any more for breakfast or lunch than I was before."
"No, I don't think it's dessert." (I can't fit in dessert after dinner)
"Stress is a huge part of it."
"If anything, it's the drinking. About 2-3 beers a night lately."
"Well, maybe a little more dinner than usual, too."

Monday, June 1, 2009

Day 106 - Shut the GOP up

You had to see it coming, didn't you?

This morning, FOX Noise was all ablaze about The President and Michelle's Date Night. Barack opened his wallet for dinner and theater tickets. However, the three jets and helicopter necessary to ferry the couple cost taxpayers $25,000. No small sum, but when you consider that the Prez must use The Secret Service and White House transportation, it kind of comes with the territory.

How many times did Bush fly to Crawford Texas, to only sit on his porch rocker, whittling wood figures? Obama was working on getting lucky with the lady. And a president who unloads his own weapon seems a little less likely to show off the U.S.'s big guns to the rest of the world.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Day 105 - Sweet Life



photos from clockwise top left (China, Brazil, Pakistan) Week In Pictures, May 21-28 , MSNBC

Heavens to Betsy! The crazy shit these poor people and animals are going through!




Scot and I took in a Diamondback/Braves game today. When Scot graduated, Joelle outdid herself in the gift-giving department and sent him two tickets to the game. It was a touching personal gesture, as Scot is from Atlanta and loves the Braves. We enjoyed the alone time, complete with hot dogs and soft pretzels.

While we were at the game, Scot reminded me that today would be my first full day at the cottage, had we gone. Instead, we stayed home while my father awaits his surgery. Today, my brother came in from Michigan, and I went a baseball game (that alone is bizarre.)

Life changes with a phone call, , and what seems to matter is how you regroup and carry on despite the disappointment. After the game, we returned for the kids, and had dinner with my parents and Tim. All in all, a nice day. Not Michigan by the lake, but not a sharp stick in the eye, either.

Every now and then, I check out MSNBC or Time's Pictures of the Week. Not only are the photos breathtaking, but they also remind me of the sweet, easy life I live in this wonderful country. Adversity is adversity, but I cannot imagine handling a problem child or sick parent in dirty, flooded, inhospitable living conditions.

My problems? Nah, not so much.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Day 104 - Snap Happy Kid

The kids abuse the computer, and my camera. Scot can fix the computer should anything become sticky or broken, and the camera is a point-and-shoot. Better they have a good time with the electronics and let me eat dinner in peace. The following slide show comes from Maggie. She took these pics last weekend at the hotel. There were actually over 60 images, but I cut it down. You don't have to thank me.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Day 104 - What I've Learned

What I've Learned (If Anything) This Week (quoting Willy Geist from Morning Joe)

1. Six-year- old boys can smell like hoagies. Are they really maturing this fast? And if so, does he already want to bone my five-year-old?

2. Waiting for a life-changing surgery is much like waiting for a baby in week 39 of pregnancy. As much as you want to see that baby's face, you have no idea what you're going to get. There's a chance you'll never sleep again. If they have colic, throw in a personal prescription for uppers. Once this surgery is complete, we'll know what we're up against. I'm only hoping it's calm, bonding , healing time. This afterglow would be complete with hope of a renewed, healthy life.

3. Fat Tire's Skinny Dip beer has me feeling robbed. It's got nice hops, but has a light finish. Give me the calories and something to burp about.

4. It's much easier to bite your tongue with family than with a stranger in a parking lot. Although this may save feelings and face, it does seem to lead to dysfunction.

5. Bernice eats like Scot and Nora - light. Patrick eats anything within reach- like Nora and myself. We all tend to favor the dog with the similar appetite.

6. You marry what you expect. If you don't expect to be treated well, chances are you won't be treated well.

7. If you're going to have a beer, have the one you really want. Life is too short to save 30 calories.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Day 102 - Family Haiku ( with commas)

Dysfunction Junction
Late, drunk in-law, mother mad
These ties, how they bind

I'm not pulling a Kate Gosselin and letting all the family baggage hang out tonight. I'm just giving you a snippet. Enough to make you wonder at what the hell happened to my evening. OH, and it wasn't my husband and his family. All this crazy, it was my side. Scot's family is looking more normal all the time.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Day 101 - Catch up

Did ya miss me, didja?

I had a friend call today, wondering if I was dead on the floor. Since I hadn't posted in two days, the natural thought was that I must have perished. And here I was, simply giving you all a break.

First of all, I'd like to extend some kudos to Darcy, the Tenacious Blogger, on her post today. Brilliantly put and felt Darcy. I see my future in your postings, and I am petrified/scared/hopeful of the teen years with my kids. Once they sow their oats, your kids will be back to spend time with you. It appears you've done a good job. I tried posting all of this in your comments, but I cannot get anything published on there.

The "staycation" was nice. I clocked it. We were three miles from the house. Staying in an ice box of a hotel room, with slick Frette linens and piped-in hotel smell. Delicious. I could stay in a Motel 6 and be giddy. Scot, the girls, and my mom and dad and I sat by the pool, maxing out on sesame crackers topped with dilled Havarti and horseradish cheddar. All washed down by plenty of beer.

Norm's surgery is scheduled for next Thursday, June 4th. I detest that such a thing is happening in my birthday month. It is my mom and brother's birthday month as well. Bad things should only occur in January and February, when you expect snow, rain, and shit, and don't mind heaping on more for good measure. June is for vacations, ice cream and weddings. Damn you, pancreas, and your timing.

My brother Tim will be coming out on Wednesday. My dad and brother are very close, and that is a delightful thing to see for a step-parent/child relationship. I adore my brother, and am so glad he will be staying with my mom for a couple of days. I only hope we can laugh the entire visit.

Dirty Sanchez (Patrick) eats toenail clippings. It's true. I'll try to get it on film. Ours is an unconditional love as I still picked him up and gave him kisses after witnessing the event.

Nora got stung by a bee today, and I thought we were going to need a paper bag to keep her conscious. Not for any allergic reaction, just for the sheer drama of the event. She's fine.

Scot and I found ourselves watching a tribute to George Strait tonight. We're not big country fans, but we'll watch Jai alai if it looks good on HD. After many celebrity dedications, Martina McBride belted out a Garth Brooks classic, The Dance. It never fails to make me ponder every single opportunity I've ever had; those taken, and those wasted. Fantastic song. I will leave you now, with the lyrics. See you tomorrow night.

Garth Brooks - The Dance

Looking back on the memory of
The dance we shared beneath the stars above
For a moment all the world was right
How could I have known you'd ever say goodbye
And now I'm glad I didn't know
The way it all would end the way it all would go
Our lives are better left to chance I could have missed the pain
But I'd of had to miss the dance
Holding you I held everything
For a moment wasn't I the king
But if I'd only known how the king would fall
Hey who's to say you know I might have changed it all
And now I'm glad I didn't know
The way it all would end the way it all would go
Our lives are better left to chance I could have missed the pain
But I'd of had to miss the dance
Yes my life is better left to chance
I could have missed the pain but I'd of had to miss the dance

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Day 100 - Peace Out!


The Millenium Hotel, Scottsdale. $99 a night, with $100 food and beverage credit. Why stay home?

Packing up the family today and joining my parents three miles south of here, for a "staycation." That's what they call it here when you leave the comforts of your house to sweat it out at a local hotel pool. I won't be blogging tomorrow, as the computer will be at home. We will return to the house once tomorrow, to feed the dogs. Back on Tuesday. Have a happy one.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Day 99- If I was a Carpenter...


We'd all be in trouble. Does it speak of your lack of handiwork when specific chairs are designated for lighter people?

Yesterday, I scored this perfectly cute and acceptable dining set at Home Depot. For $99. Metal and glass. That's right biotches. AND, with the cushions. Cushions alone can break the bank. The catch was that it was in a box, and had to be put together. It only took me about 3 hours, a couple of assists from Scot ('thread the washer through the screw, don't hold the washer with one hand, and the screw with the other' Duh ) and some last minute pitching in from Mary. And here it is. What I did with the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. Nice.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Day 98 - Picture Pages

















Thank God I wasn't the photographer! Great job, Jo.
Have a wonderful Friday everyone.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Day 97 - Sending out an SOS



"Hey, big guy, ya mind slipping one in there for me?"

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Day 96 - I should Have Stayed Home. Oh wait, I never left!

Norm is scheduled to be scheduled for surgery in the next ten days. It is a mass, and it needs to come out. We don't know what kind of mass it is, but it's fast-growing. As I was recounting my dad's condition to a friend at Maggie's school, Nora threw up on my shoes. I took her home to find she has a fever. Mama told me there would be days like this.

A friend's little girl was bit by the family cat. When my friend asked her daughter what happened, her daughter replied "I touched Boo's privates." When I heard this, I shot a snot booger I laughed so hard. While sitting on the side of the pool with the kids, I went to put my leg down on the step. Only I miscalculated, and fell boob-deep into the pool. All I could do was laugh.

I am looking for humor and joy in everything, because I am so sad. I am clutching my loved ones to my chest and savoring every moment. As my mom and I sat crying today, my dad walked up to us and jokingly said "Hey, I am here to help you get through this." He is right. With each other, our love, and our humor, we will get through this.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Day 94 - 25,000 Mornings

On Thursday, my father got a call from his doctor. Seems his follow-up MRI on his pancreas is showing a large mass. The doctor has ordered tests. And now we wait. If it's serious, surgery. If it's really serious, well, I dare not go there. If it's simply inflammation, they will be released for take-off. My parents were supposed to shove off for Michigan on Sunday. Now they are in a travel holding pattern.

This will be our third annual summer trip to Michigan. If my parents don't go, I will probably stay home as well. It just wouldn't be any fun with half the party missing. Every morning, as I drink my coffee, I see an ad for "Pure Michigan." On my most callous, hardened day, the ads make me tear up, and serve as a "carpe diem" siren. Today, this ad was almost too much for me to bear.

Come on pancreas, the fish are biting! We need to get to Michigan.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Day 94 - The Office





My New Part-time Gig

I spent two hours cold-calling today. Scot and Keith's company is helping a friend to raise sponsorship for a golf tournament. I called companies in the Seattle area and tried to generate interest in parting with 500-5000 dollars. I received one lecture about the economic crisis (in other words 'go screw yourself') and 15 voice mailboxes. I tried to sound concise and sexy with the men, polite and no-nonsense with the chicks. You could call it "playing to my audience."

It wasn't selling a book, or my spectacular jewels at a craft fair, but it wasn't changing shitty diapers either. It's a job. I suppose I'll give it another couple of days. I've already let my employer know that if I'm given the pick of the work, there will be something in it for him. Who knows; maybe I'll be calling you soon. If you don't hang up on me, I'll let you call me Pam.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Day 93 - A huahua Wedding

Scot and I were sans children for about an hour this morning. We ambled about the kitchen, perused the paper, and after a couple of Bloody Mary's wondered where the kids were. HA! We found them out back, in the 97 degree heat, planning a wedding. That's right! Hot on the heels of a graduation, the children threw a wedding today. Their favorite Webkinz, Papi and Chloe, tied the knot. Maggie had made Papi a tie and top-hat out of paper and an empty tape roll. Chloe donned her finest bling for the occasion. The girls had even gone to the trouble of chalking an outline of an aisle. All Webkinz guests were in attendance. The happy couple will be residing in the Family Room, where they've built a house out of a blue box and a Fisher-Price garage.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Day 92 - My dad, the guest blogger

Here's the email I get from my dad today:


Toni -- my write up on NORTHERN MEXICO won the write-up of the week from independenttraveler.com I opted not to take the $5000 prize and went for the free T-shirt instead. If any of your blog readers are interested they may read the "award winning" write up on my website.


What he's really saying is "get them to book a trip with me Tone. " OR, " I've been published, how about you?"
Sheesh, get your own blog, daaaaad (said in the voice of Pearl from Spongebob.)

On second thought, this leaves me off the hook to blog today.
Here is the article, in its entirety.



FEBRUARY 2009 -- by NORM HELBER

"Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace."


I thought of the old John Lennon lyrics when we drove from Scottsdale to Tucson (both of which use to be part of Mexico) to join the Grand Circle trip to NORTHERN MEXICO. Crossing the border we saw the huge ugly metal fence which now separates the two countries. Use to be that lots of Mexicans crossed this border illegally looking for jobs in America. With no jobs left in America this traffic has slowed down (Another problem solved!). Now they cross illegally to shop at Walmart then go back home.....except for the drug dealers and police who seem to be killing one another in the border towns with such growing numbers that we could have just piled up the bodies and skipped building the rusty fence.

The Mexican peso has had a virtual collapse in the past few months and bargains are everywhere. A really great dinner for two in an attractive and upscale restaurant in Chihuahua (Mexican City and word meaning: rat on steroids) including shared appetizer, shared desert, two HUGE T-Bone steak dinners, at least 3 drinks and tip came to $35.00. The downside to shopping is that there isn't much to choose from.....unless you want junk or boots. This much about Mexico is true: If it's on the endangered species list, the Mexicans make boots out of it.

I take that back about nothing of value to buy. Northern Mexico is a veritable shrine to General Francisco "Pancho" Villa. We toured his house, his car, his gun collection and his headquarters. We saw portraits and murals devoted to him everywhere. We also had numerous chances to buy authentic artifacts. Knowing that he had been decapitated and that his head was never found we were amazed when someone offered to sell us his scull. When we commented that it was too large to carry home, we were offered his authentic scull as a child. If only they took Visa!

Another bargain.... The women loved to buy the Renova, or Retacnyl-A. Tubes of this stuff are pretty much available at every Pharmacy for about $6 for the generic or $11 for the brand name. Apparently the same thing at home requires a prescription and costs about $50. So while the women are dutifully occupied the Pharmacist gets to approach the males, somewhat in the manner of the fake Rolex salesman on Times Square. It goes something like this:
Pharmacist:"We have Viagra!"
Me: "Can I get it over the counter?"
Pharmacist: "Probably, but you'll have to take 2 or 3."

We pretty much bussed through the Northern Mexican states with a train ride across the Cooper Canyon (larger than our Grand, but not as deep or dramatic). We did get to meet some representatives of a couple Indian cultures. The most interesting (personal opinion) were the TARAHUMARAS. These are known to us (Thank you National Geographic) as "the foot runners." You know the ones who run 100 miles and then turn around and run back home when they realize they forget to wear shoes. Actually some of them do wear shoes of a sort. They have learned to cut pieces of rubber from old tires and tie them to their feet. Seems like everyone is getting soft. The Indians still live in cave dwellings. In fact we visited one of the caves and saw for our selves. We had to buy the handmade woven basket to commemorate the climb to 7500 feet.

We also met some Mayo Indians.....famous for inventing "nnaisse." (This could not be verified by Fact Check.)

The Mexican food was consistently wonderful. Those of us who delight in their savory specialties 3 times a day were not disappointed. Some were longing for their bland old diets. De gustibus non est disputandum." The only let down in the culinary department was the "home hosted dinner." This is a real special feature with Grand Circle, the experience of small groups (6 of us) eating dinner at someone's home. The home was very modest and the food even more modest. The Tequila drinks went down well, but the rest was the blandest food in all of Mexico. The first thing we noticed on entering were the Trophies on a shelf.....a number of which proudly showed a "Rooster." I guessed the trophies were for Cockfighting....and the homeowner proudly informed us that her brother raised champions. (It reminded me of my first summer in Arizona, as I approached a Supermarket, a guy with a clipboard stepped in front of me and said: "How do you feel about Cockfighting?" Somewhat surprised and very nervous, I answered: "I don't even arm wrestle."

I feel like I must mention the town of El Fuerte. Cute town with a charming hotel of the same name.....Hotel Cute Town.....just kidding: HOTEL EL FUERTE. (http://www.hotelelfuerte.com.mx/) It's a really old colonial house transformed into something like a museum with rooms. It has more Mexican junk than our house! If you ever get there.....stay there!

All in all a really good two week trip at a discounted bargain price. Great food and folks, nice experiences, and black-belt shopping. Maybe a little too much bus time.....but that's another personal thing....as Mary loves to sleep on the bus. Northern Mexico.....if it wasn't so great we wouldn't have bought it in the first place!

I love his sense of humor. That article makes me laugh. Good job dad!