When Punctuation Panic isn’t Enough

Posted by Kathy on Mar 26, 2014 in Thoughts from ME

DSC_0153I am having my annual panic attack.

No, it is not because spring is arriving and I still haven’t put all my Christmas stuff away.

Nor is it because the taxes are due and we can’t find something like half of all documentation, which is actually better than most years at this point. In some weird cosmic way, the more things get messy, the easier it is to find what is lost. Don’t ask.

And no, it is not because once again, a few pounds have crept up on my mid-section since last fall. I have no idea how that happened hot fudge sundaes celebratory suppers out sometimes late night snacks like every night like several times every night salty or fatty or both and all necessary to keep up one’s strength during a frigid winter when it becomes more essential to bulk up than to waste time with, uh, punctuation.

No. The annual panic is due to the upcoming deadline of a contest very near and dear to me: the National Society of Newspaper Columnists contest. And for those punctuation fanatics (of which I am actually one), there is no hyphen in Columnists. I don’t think. Well maybe. But anyway, there is panic. Not because I can’t find three “best” columns. It’s that I always, always find four. Or two. But never three. The rules are explicit. Send in your “three best” in the appropriate category.

First of all, being appropriate is sometimes a problem. But never mind. I write for a family-type paper, so I generally leave out the something-bombs, saving those for the ears of my loved ones who signed contracts to love me unconditionally no matter what spews forth (“Don’t touch that paper! Don’t Don’t DON’T and get your %#&$*^! fingers- yes, they do too have grease on them!!!”) Deep breath. And again.

The panic…is really about the details. All columns must be submitted on letter-size paper. My columns never fit. Not even the column breaks between pages fit. Cutting and pasting was so much fun in the old days. In grammar school, I could cut and paste with the best of them. But now?

“Dear Luenna…” I write to the group director. “What if my column is a couple of inches over the…”

I get a prompt and kind response.

The next day, I realize the title of one column doesn’t fit across the top.

“Dear Luenna…So sorry to bug you again, but…”

OK, so that one gets solved.

I get ready to do the paste-up.

Wait. Paste-up? Or tape-up? The rules say “no staples.” But…

“Dear Luenna…HUGE apologies, but…”

Boy, is Luenna ever a good sport. Note: Bring extra chocolate to conference.

A week and three more “Dear Luenna’s” later…(go ahead, challenge that punctuation – I’m too tired to give a-)…well, a week later, I get ready to bring the envelope to the post office. Hmmm…USPS or UPS? Regular mail or Registered? Or maybe Priority with an extra 95 cents or whatever they charge now for tracking? Or just First Class? Don’t want to have them not deliver something just because someone isn’t there at that moment, so forget the registered mail idea. But should it be hand-stamped? Or just…

I give the envelope to the snappy woman behind the counter (people can be so grouchy when there’s a line to the door – you’d think she’d be happy for the business in this economy) and I leave it all in the hands of the gods.

I hope it arrives there in time. I hope someone at the post office remembers to stamp the date on it.

I might not even know if it arrives. Although, if my check gets cashed, then I’ll know it got there. But, it could get there late and get disqualified if it wasn’t stamped by the deadline.

“Dear Luenna…”

Ugh. You know what?

I should have sent different columns.


My Husband Has a Brain Tumor

Posted by Kathy on Dec 9, 2013 in Thoughts from ME, Uncategorized


My husband has a brain tumor.

I would like to share some of this experience with you, except that any minute I will need to get up to help him with something he is no longer able to do, like retrieve chocolate from my hidden stash in the– no, I don’t think it’s safe to reveal that. But needless to say, I don’t have much time to write. So this will be short and sweet or possibly not that sweet, because if there’s one thing I’ve learned about loving someone that has a brain tumor, it’s that it’s incredibly frustrating for both persons. Heartbreaking and frustrating. And because of that, I would like to formally apologize to the many store clerks, medical and scheduling people, and the really nice folks at Starbucks for possibly being picky, bitchy, or crying in line and holding up the latte orders behind me.

My husband has a brain tumor. And I swear, the minute we found out, the lines between my rapidly aging and out-of-control eyebrows deepened. If I didn’t schedule five minutes a week with myself and some creams and tweezers, I’d look like one of those dime store mustache/eyebrow/glasses things people buy for laughs. It’s just not as funny on a menopausal woman who’s on an emotional roller coaster. Please pass the Dramamine.

Ted was diagnosed with a serious type of brain cancer two and a half years ago. With a ton of treatment, he got to a point where his condition was considered stable, meaning it would likely not go away but had stopped growing – for a full year. It was actually flat, a formerly spiderlike tumor gripping his left motor strip eventually was as flat as a spindly pancake. Then this September, his routine every-three-month MRI showed progression, meaning it had started to grow again. Talk about getting sucker punched. We were in the first revision of a book we were writing together when this happened. I mean, we were actually at the oncologist’s office. But we had been working on a major writing project at home.

So – more treatment. And now we wait, get more tests, I watch each step he takes for stumbling, he tells me to quit watching his feet…his medicine has side effects that make us both miserable…my fatigue is significant, my back hurts from an old injury, our joint symptoms are a mile long and yet, somehow we manage to find some good times and have been the beneficiaries of some amazingly wonderful people who cross our path. People whom I call angels. Ted just calls them by their given name.

Thanks for reading. More another day.

When I get a minute.


Grandma’s Rant of the Day

Posted by Kathy on Jul 25, 2013 in Thoughts from ME, Uncategorized

image (10)To all the wonderful food servers out there: 

Please stop asking: “Still working on it?”  I am not working.  I am eating.  I realize it probably just comes out naturally because someone kidnapped you and tortured you under hypnosis and brainwashed you to say this.  Please, could you just ask if we’re finished?

To all deli workers:

Since you’re wearing gloves as a health practice, please try not to 1) scratch your ear, 2) pull up the back of your pants, and 3) adjust your cap which looks like it hasn’t been washed since your Granddaddy wore it in 1960 when this corporate conglomerate grocery chain was a 12 x 20 corner store.  With a pickle barrel.

To all car salespeople:

Please stop with the secret sliding-across-the-table-of-the-paper-with-a-price-on-it while we’re negotiating a price.  I am not in second grade playing “Memory” or homemade “Guess Who?” or “Pick a number, any number” or any other 8-year-old version of a game with paper and a pencil.  Can’t you just talk to me?  Holy shit.

To all front-line medical people:

Will you please introduce yourself?  A simple “Hi, I’m Judy” would do (unless your name is Tom.)  I don’t need your full name, social security number, home address, or mating habits.  I just need a basic introduction, and I might need it every time I come in, ‘cause I’m getting older and a little forgetful.  “Hi.  Remember me?  I’m Adam.”  I mean, you know everything about me.  It’s at your fingertips, and if you’re actually touching my fingertips for blood, blood pressure, or anything else, I’d love a name to go with your smile.  Even though my insurance company prefers to pretend I am a non-person, I believe you really do care but, well, see above (reference food servers, kidnapping, and so on.)  I know you’re doing your best.  Just tell me who you are.  For all I know, you might be the person delivering the staff lunch.

And no.  I’m not still working on it.


A Sign of the Times

Posted by Kathy on Jul 22, 2013 in Thoughts from ME, Uncategorized

DSC_0153Today, at a fundraiser for cancer research, the homemade sign I carried seemed to be a hit.

On one side was an upbeat, cheery “You Go…!” message for the 1000+ women who were participating in the Tri for a Cure, swimming, biking, and/or running.

On the other side?  A simple “F— you, Cancer!”

These women athletes were knocking themselves out to raise money, spirited on from deep within their own experience or on behalf of friends and family with cancer.  Unable to do the physical challenge for mechanical/physical reasons, I helped my husband through the crowd.  His medical battle is stable at this time, and he enjoyed the excitement of the day as we watched our friends rise to the physical challenge.

The sign got a lot of thumbs-up and positive comments from runners.  Toward the end of the event, a woman around my age walked over to where I was standing.

“Can I take a picture of you with your sign?” she asked, pointing to the more direct message.

“Sure,” I said.

This woman took the picture, then came back.

“I’m starting treatment Tuesday.  Looking at this will help.”

I gave her a hug.  Later, I wished I had gotten her name, maybe a phone number.  I would have liked to visit her, keep her company some time, bring her a meal – or at least send a card.

But the moment flew past, and there were thousands in the crowd.

A runner came up to me at one point after the race was over.

“I was walking, toward the end of the race.  But when I saw your sign, I felt so psyched, I ran the rest of the way.”

The funny thing is that I was wary of carrying a sign that was so bold.  I worried that people might be offended.  It’s possible that some were.  I worried that children would see it and read it (“What does that mean, Mommy?”) and my intention was not to disturb in any way.  I tried to turn the sign around when there were kids close by, particularly if I saw one looking towards it.  One mother commented to me that I didn’t need to do that.

I’m fed up with cancer.  She is, too.

Too many people, too many loved ones, too many other-peoples’ loved ones have had to accommodate the word “cancer” into their daily lives.  There’s progress, great progress.  Treatment and cures are slow to come, but come they will.  Not that many years ago, strep could not be treated, or a host of other illnesses we now cure with a visit to the doc and a quick stop at the pharmacy.

And meanwhile, people are taking their indignation about cancer and opening their purses and making a statement.

My statement may not have been pretty.

But neither is cancer.

photo (2)





Thanks to my young friend Christine for snapping this picture. 


Thoughts in the Heat of the Day

Posted by Kathy on Jul 19, 2013 in Thoughts from ME, Uncategorized

DSC_0153There’s a lot of steam lately.  And it’s not just from the summer temperatures.

People are voicing and protesting their outrage of events, ranging from human rights to racism, trials and laws of the land to magazine covers to tragedies and injustices, here in the U.S. and  worldwide.  There are, indeed, some very bad things going on: things that have been going on for a long, long time; things that may never be solved but are worth our human effort to try.  Many have been awake to this for years.  Some are just now waking up.

Controversy in the media, individual social media posts, endless news reports, talk show guests and experts, demonstrations in city streets…everyone seems to have an opinion, and the very expression of it becomes controversial.  Though it’s easy to take offense with the ways of protest and expression, we must not lose sight of the core issues.

As tiresome and irksome as it may be to sort through what really matters, depending on your viewpoint and experience in life, most everyone, no matter what side or view is taken, wants the same thing: peace and justice.  There have always been powerful voices, urging our collective conscience to examine how we live and work together.  Now, once again  in our history, it seems that substantive issues just might possibly be taking center stage where not too long ago, the newest game or phone was the most important topic.

So, welcome back to the 1960’s, friends.

It’s about time.

peace - now!


Oldest Living Teenager – Back Again & Up Too Early

Posted by Kathy on Apr 26, 2013 in Thoughts from ME

peace - now!You know how sometimes you have to sneak out of the house early in the morning to walk the dog?  And you don’t have time to change so you just throw your husband’s sweatshirt on over your PJ’s thinking no one in the world could possibly be out there at this hour?  It’s a country road, after all.  And doggy needs to go out.  And then you get outside and look down at the ridiculous cut-off PJ’s that are showing, plus the multi-colored flowered socks plus your green clogs ’cause that’s all there was to put on real quickly?  And you look across the street and see that nice mom with her 2 kids, waiting for the school bus, so you just keep walking, eyes to your dog in case that makes you invisible?  And then there seems to be dozens and dozens of cars passing by and just when you convince yourself probably nobody notices what you look like anyway (and certainly no one sees the big clumps of hair sticking up all over your head because you wore a barrette to bed last night after you washed and set your hair and it got all super-wavy-curly plus the barrette is still in there, somewhere, somewhere) – well, that’s the moment you feel like “Hey – what’s the big deal?”  So a few people see an early-morning dog-walker inappropriately dressed to go outside (I mean, I wasn’t even wearing my newer, nice PJ’s – no, I was wearing the ones that are all old and ripped.)  Yeah.  Anyway, that’s the moment – when I’m thinking it really isn’t a big thing – when I hear a louder engine.  And I look up just for a moment to see it.  It’s the moment when you’ve finally rationalized that really – no one would even notice you – the same moment when the big (much bigger when so close up!), yellow school bus packed with kids looking out the windows passes by oh-so -slowly.


The Real Me Redux

Posted by Kathy on Apr 11, 2013 in Thoughts from ME

DSC_0152You know it’s a bad morning when:

1)      You only get 4 ½ hours of sleep before the urgent text messages come rolling in

2)      You try to text or call back about the most urgent ones and can’t reach anyone, so

3)      You imagine the worst outcome, because (see #1) you only had 4 ½ hours of sleep, and

4)      On the way out of the house (look ahead to #5 – come on, you can do it) you get a request from a family member and when you try to help that person, you have a big argument with your spouse while the party to whom you are trying to reach (regarding the other person’s request) answers.  So now someone you barely know thinks you’re white trash.  Which maybe you are.  I hope you followed that.  Note that the person on the other end of the phone doesn’t hear you and your husband making up and kissing good-bye afterwards, and now

5)      You are running late for your medical appointment and halfway there come upon an emergency road block with flashing lights and fire engines and detours

6)      And you wonder if this is one of those days when you should go home, pull up the covers, and not come out for a long, long while, but you don’t because

7)      There is still time, at the doctor’s office, to make an idiot of yourself by saying things like, “Oh, my God!  Has anyone ever told you that you look just like Cam on Modern Family?” to a complete stranger and when he looks at you and says, “Um, no, not really” without a smile you then add about five disclaimers to reassure him how handsome he is and good-looking and…you quickly get into the elevator because there is no way to come back from telling a complete stranger that he looks like a loveable, plump, gay character on a TV sitcom.  So,

8)      Now you worry that you have hurt his feelings by inadvertently calling him fat and there is no way to retrieve your words which seem to spill over anywhere, everywhere, especially when you are anxious at the doctor’s office, and you are now certain you are trash, so

9)      On the way home you think maybe you’ll go sit in church for a while to settle down and repent but as you pass the church you see dozens of cars out from, so you figure there’s something going on, so

10)  You go home.  And after the chilly morning, the sun comes out and you walk your old, sick dog.  And that’s when you notice the dog crap in the grass…


Oldest Living Teenager

Posted by Kathy on Apr 6, 2013 in Thoughts from ME

My new list of things NOT to do to impress someone in the business world.

1) Tell them that after the workshop presentation you sat through, you had a strong urge to open the window and jump out.  Of the 7th floor.

2) Fail to laugh along with them after that comment.

3) Tell them about your background and experience and then suddenly blurt out the horrible diagnosis your family member has and laugh uncontrollably because, um, you are trying to make a good impression.

4) Tell them about your menstrual history.  Especially if the person you are trying to impress is male.  Include a description of how to deal with hot flashes (rapid removal of clothing, sheets, dog.)

5) Exchange business cards.  Talk about how much you’d really like to be his best friend and that if he agrees to publish your work, you will definitely be his best friend forever.  No matter what.peace - now!

It’s going to be a long, introspective night…


From Me to You

Posted by Kathy on Feb 12, 2013 in Thoughts from ME, Uncategorized

BrDSC_0153ace yourself – I’m gonna give you a little wisdom.  A little something to think about.  It’s probably nothing you haven’t thought of yourself, many times over, or read about, in more eloquent words. 

It’s about time.

Now and then, I get a thought.  It – this particular thought – has occurred to me a number of times in the past couple of years, ever since someone very dear to me was diagnosed with a serious illness.

It’s about time.

Tonight, the thought again came back to me, much clearer than before, possibly brought on by ingestion of a small but delectable double chocolate cupcake.  I do some of my best thinking after a bit of the cocoa bean.  See, as I was partaking in this holy moment, I was also thinking.  I was thinking about how people suffer.  With good reason, they suffer.  None of us is immune from suffering.  I fight through those times as best as I can.  If you’re human, it’s part of your fight, too.  Yet, it’s also a rich part of our experience that some would argue must be embraced.  So what is this about?

It’s about time.

How do you spend yours? 

For us, once we got used to the idea that an illness was now part of our lives, with but a sketchy promise regarding the years ahead, and once we got past the early days, weeks, months of shock and grief, we began to think less of giving up our time.  We started asking ourselves:  If we only have a month, how will we spend it?  A year?  Ten years?   Would we look back ten years from now, if fortunate enough to be here, and see that each day had been given away?  Given up to worry and anxiety?  To anticipatory grief?  Would we see that we had wasted precious time?   

Or would we want to see something different – that we had laughed, looked at babies, hugged our grandchildren…gone to the movies, put words to paper, spent time with friends…read good books and bad ones, sent Valentines through the mail, loved each other, played games, walked in the sun…and in whatever way possible, delved into the business of living, even if that meant with sorrow and adjustment mixed in?

Now, sipping tea in the quiet, dimly lit cottage where we spend time for a little while longer, I look around at the complex mess on the counter, jackets strewn about, papers thrown sloppily in some semblance of a to-do pile or ten to-do piles, and I see the spoils of a day enjoyed, rather than wasted. 

It’s about time.

How will you spend yours?



Posted by Kathy on Jan 25, 2013 in Thoughts from ME


DSC_0153No, I’m not in Phoenix.  But it turns out that’s where the customer service reps for Cigna hang out.

I’m no fan of insurance companies, and today, I sat through endless menus, and got disconnected  twice, while waiting for a rep to talk to, just at the very moment someone was supposed to pick up.  I was beginning to think it was part of their grand scheme.  But I persisted and dialed again, a third time, because I was helping a family member sort through complex problems involving finances, claims, a new insurance plan, preferred providers, co-pays…you know, all the usual stuff we do now instead of exercising, planning healthy meals, meditating…well, you get the point.

The last thing I expected when I finally got through to a live voice was a human being.  A human who listened to my questions, took inordinate amounts of time to thoroughly research the information before giving me answers, who went out of her way to do everything possible to help – of which she was successful .  In short, she acted on our behalf, treating me with respect and dignity and fairness.

So to my Everyday Angel – “Michelle” from Phoenix – a big thank you for being a humane human.  I realize you are one in a million and Someone must have shed a whole big lot of mercy on me after so much frustration with other business matters earlier.  You were an angel.

I will never forget your last words:  “Is there anything else you have questions about, while I am on the line?”

Only this – can you clone yourself?

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