Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Most Important Accessory

My children wanted to go swimming.  In Louisiana, August should mean really warm water, but since our nighttime temps were dipping into the 60's, I worried that the pool might be just a bit too cool for me.  To understand why, it's explain in I'm Blue.  Part of me wanted to brave the water, but I decided that it would be better to let the sun roast me a bit before plunging in.  Pulling weeds and trimming plants would warm me up even faster than just lying in the sun, so addition to my swim suit, I threw on my beach wrap to protect my legs from any creepy crawlies and went to work.

I was busy with my iris' when my sister-in-law came down the driveway.  She gave me a funny look and asked "Why are you pulling weeds in an evening gown?"

The laughter that bubbled up inside of me won't be forgotten soon.  Now every time I look at my little flower bed, I can picture a colorful courtyard fit for a King's Ball.

It's funny how just the idea of wearing an evening gown can inspire a feeling of confidence.  Maybe that's because most people tend to feel better when they think that they look better.  Of course, we don't have to get all dolled up to feel great.  I can be happy through and through while in a pair of comfortable jeans, a soft t-shirt and a pair of fuzzy long as I'm also wearing the most important accessory.  

If you are over 30 and from southeast Louisiana, you probably remember the words that Buckskin Bill used to close his show.  The Boylan Sisters sang it in "Annie."

"You're never fully dressed without a smile."

Sometimes it's difficult to smile, but often those are the time when we need most to do so.  Not long ago, a wonderful, brave woman told me about a difficult challenge she was facing.  It was the kind of news that brings tears, not smiles - but she smiled anyway.   That smile was like a sparkling evening gown.  Her optimism felt brighter than the Queen's jewels.

Underneath her bravery, I imagine that there must be tears, fears and pain, but for now I want to focus on the positive - for her and for everyone facing struggle.

Today I will pray.
Today I will wear a pretty pink ribbon.
Today I will give, to all those who may need it...a smile.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Alphabet Book

Last year my students made their own Alphabet Books.  Each time we had a new "Letter of the Week," they put together a new page with glue, coloring, glitter and paint.  Nearly all of the letters were inspired from other sites, but I'm afraid that I don't remember any specific website or blog because it was over a year ago that I first put these together.  I'm posting the pictures here for anyone who would like to use the ideas as inspiration to create their own alphabet book with their little one.  
Alligator starts with A
Bumblebee starts with B
Caterpillar starts with C
Dragon starts with D

 Elephant starts with E
Feathers start with F
Glitter starts with G (grass was my other option)
Halloween starts with H (this letter falls right at the end of October, so it fits well.)
Island starts with I
Jewels start with J
Kites start with K
Leaves start with L

Mouse starts with M
Numbers start with N (have dot numbers for child to trace)
Owl starts with O
Purple starts with P

Quilt starts with Q
Rainbow starts with R
Stars start with S
Tractor starts with T

Umbrella starts with U
Vegetables start with V
Watermelon starts with W
X-ray starts with X

Yellow Yarn starts with Y
Zebra starts with Z

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

For the Ladies...Part Two

It's just us gals in here, right?  Maybe not.  In that case, I'll just jump right in where I left off.

I found a lump.

Yep, that did it.  The menfolk are gone again.  At least they should be.  Just in case there are any stragglers, let me state clearly here that I'm not going into any detail about how I found the lump.  Sorry, but that's none of your business. What I will talk about is how I reacted to the discovery.

The initial shock morphed, almost immediately, into denial. I don't mean that I pretended that the lump didn't exist.  My imagination isn't quite that good. What I mean is that I quickly convinced myself that it didn't matter. Supper needed to be cooked, bills needed to be paid, the house needed to be cleaned, the children were going to be home from school soon...Who had time for a silly lump?

But it was there anyway, just under the surface - both figuratively and literally.  In everything I did, it was there.

Finally I gave up trying to ignore it and did the next best thing.  I turned to the internet.  The first site I read had a calming tone, probably meant to quell panic. It told me that there was no need to drive straight to the doctor. At least I think that's what it said. Or maybe that's what i wanted it to say. I was certainly in no rush to face my GYN less than a year after throwing a fit over (I mean, politely questioning) too many mammograms, only to admit that there might have been a reason for concern.  I searched further.

Breast cysts tend to be smooth and round.  Check!

Breast cysts are most often found in women who are nearing menopause.  Check again!

Breast cysts are slightly squishy - like a grape or water balloon. Umm...not so much.

Breast cysts can change in size and move around.  So far, my lump seemed to remain consistent and stationary.

Still, it had to be a cyst.  There really was no other option. Anything else might mean thinking about things that I didn't want to think about.   Obviously Google wasn't being helpful.  It was time to make the phone call.  Before dialing, I mentally went over the message that I was going leave for my GYN's nurse.   Shockingly, I didn't get to leave my message because I wasn't sent to voice mail.  The nurse actually answered the phone.  That never happens!!!  After resisting the very strong urge to hang up, I quickly explained the situation.  I assumed that she was going to transfer me to the reception desk so that I could make an appointment for some future date.  Wrong again.   Instead, she told me that since my GYN was booked for the day, I would be seeing the nurse practitioner.  Could I be there by 1:30? 

At the appointment, I carefully disrobed.  Ladies, you know the routine.  First, you take off your top and remove your bra.  Then you carefully fold your bra into your shirt, place the combination carefully on the chair and cover it completely with your coat.  It doesn't matter that you are about to expose your boobs to a stranger.   Heaven forbid that anyone see your BRA!

It disturbed me slightly when the practitioner came in and started examining the wrong side.  Just as I was about to point out her error, her facial expression changed a bit and she asked, while pressing into me, "So is THAT what you found?"   Umm...wait...what?  No, it's on the other side.  After that she was impossible to read.  She found the lump easily and then told me that they were going to set up a couple of appointments for me.  Within the week I was going to have a diagnostic mammogram - on both sides, then an ultrasound.  After that, I would have to see a surgeon.  Was there any particular surgeon I preferred?


I didn't think that I knew any surgeons.  She began rattling off names.  One caught my attention.  I knew that name.  Okay, that was the doctor that I would see.  I was still uncertain about WHY I had to see a surgeon, but I convinced myself that it was probably just standard procedure.  Overall, I left that appointment feeling with more worry on my mind than I did walking into it.

By the morning of the mammogram/ultrasound, I was more than a little nervous.  Then something very cool happened.  Just before my daughter (who was blissfully unaware of any of this) got onto the bus, she picked up a tiny rock and gave it to me, proclaiming it a "lucky pebble."  I don't know how I didn't burst into tears right then and there.  Instead I smiled, thanked her and put the pebble in my coat pocket.  Instantly my mood lightened.

The appointment started off just as expected.  I disrobed, got squished, then pulled the paper cover back over me while I waited for the tech to come back and ask me to get dressed and go to ultrasound...where I got to take off my top again.   With the lucky pebble still in my coat pocket, I sent up a silent prayer as the tech squeezed warm goo onto the side that did NOT have the lump - at least not the lump that I was worried about.  After a few minutes, she turned the monitor toward me and pointed out how differently "regular" breast tissue looked compared to "dense" tissue.  Okay, that's was educational.  Now can we get to the lump please? didn't know that we were supposed to be checking that side too?  Yes, I'll wait while you find out for sure.

Apart from that teeny tiny mix-up, the tech was wonderfully sweet and once she got confirmation, she went right to the troublesome spot, took a couple of measurements and then explained that the black spot on the screen was most likely a fluid filled cyst.

Relief filled me.  Of course, I still had the appointment with the surgeon to get through.  For a fourth time in a two week period, I was in a room where I was expect to take off my top.  Sheesh, at this point, I was starting to expect Mardi Gras beads to be thrown at me!  The "films" from the previous ultrasound were up on a screen...showing the wrong side.  I think that I might have actually groaned out loud at that point.  After a few clicks, the right image came up.  Then the doctor performed his own ultrasound and decided that it would be a good idea to aspirate the cyst.  The nurse handed him the needle and tube that he would use.  He looked at it and requested a longer needle.


Then she asked him if he wanted the lidocaine.  He declined.  Why jab me with a needle before jabbing me with a needle?  Some might have a problem with not being numbed first, but his reasoning made perfect sense to me.  I won't lie and say that I didn't feel a thing, but it wasn't horrible.  To be honest the absolutely worst part was what happened just before that needle went in.

There I was, feeling suddenly I blurted out "You look just like your son." I hurriedly corrected that with "I mean he looks just like you." 

Perhaps I shouldn't have picked a surgeon based on the fact that I taught his children.

So there it is ladies.   The Saga of the Lump is complete.  Well, almost.  We're still waiting for lab results of the fluid that the doc removed, but he was pretty confident that it would be just fine.

I think this is where I'm supposed to remind you all to get yourselves checked.  What are you waiting for?   Go get squished!

For the Ladies...

Seriously...guys, you don't want to waste your time reading this one.  It's about boobs.


That's not really going to stop you from reading this is it?  How about's about mammograms, hospitals, doctors and big ole needles. 

There.  The men are gone.  They are such wimps when it comes to medical stuff.   Now we can talk about boobs - and all that other stuff.

When I was 35, it was recommended that women who are 35 get a baseline mammogram.  So I did.  Naturally I was a bit nervous about the whole process.  Some women claim that mammograms are no big deal, but others say that they are terribly painful.  The idea of having my breasts squished flat as a pancake was kinda scary, but thankfully the machine didn't press me quite that thinly.  I was happy to join the crew of "it's no big deal."  Afterward I put mammograms out of my mind complete.

Until I turned 40.  That's when my GYN informed me that it was time to start getting them annually.   That was fine with me.  My maternal grandmother and maternal aunt are both breast cancer survivors, so I easily accepted that following the official guideline was probably the best course of action.   Of course, there was also this part of me that just KNEW that mammo's were a waste of time for me.  After all, I had read often enough that pregnancy and breastfeeding both reduced the risk of breast cancer.  Since I've been pregnant four time and have a cumulative total of seven YEARS of breastfeeding under my belt, I figured that the odds of staying breast cancer free were in my favor.  Sure enough, my mammo came back "clean" that year.

Then something weird happened the next year.  When the nurse called to give me my results, she told me that I had to go back for a more detailed mammogram.   It had to be a mistake of course, but I followed the advice and went back for another round of squishing.  This time, the tech warned me that the machine would be compressing me more than it did before.  I was supposed to tell her when the pressure became unbearable.  I kept my mouth shut.  Okay, that hurt a bit, but I figure that it was worth the discomfort to get the best shot.   After the machine did it's thing, the tech left for a bit.  When she came back, she informed me that there was an area of concern.  I went straight from mammo to ultrasound.  There it was pronounced that I had "dense tissue."   Whew.  Umm...okay...whatever.

Another year passed, another mammogram was taken and another stress inducing phone call followed.  I went through a repeat of the same steps once again with the same results.  The only change was that I was informed that I was being put on a six months schedule..."just to be sure."

I was quickly moving from the "It's no big deal" to the "I hate mammograms" group.

Six month later, it happened all over again.  And then again six months after that.  And six months after that.  The only thing they ever found was "dense tissue."  I started to wonder if all that radiation wasn't just making things worse.  Google searches both confirmed and refuted that idea.  Then I found out that I was having thyroid issues.  Once again I supplemented the information that I was getting from my doctor with whatever I could find via Google.  The mere suggestion that radiation from mammograms might play a role in thyroid problems was enough to push me over the edge.   I decided to put my foot down at my next GYN visit.   I intended to DEMAND that the nonsense stop.

Well, that's not exactly how it went, but I did bring up my concerns and asked, politely of course, if I could be put back on an annual schedule.   Thankfully, he agreed.

That was less than a year ago.  I wasn't supposed to have another mammogram until March of 2013.

Then fate laughed at me.

I found a lump.

To be continued...

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Elf Antics

Christmas is a very merry time of year for many. I'm not usually among them. For me, Christmas means cold weather, shopping, and crowds. I'm not fond of any of those things. 
I'm especially not fond of all of them happening at the time. 

Of course there are some rather nice parts of the Christmas season too. This blog entry is about one of those wonderful parts. 

My Anna is at an age where she knows that Santa isn’t “real,” but isn't 100% sure that she really knows what she thinks she knows.  We had an interesting conversation about that very subject one day while walking through Hobby Lobby (yeah, I just said that I don't like shopping, but Hobby Lobby trips are different.  Hobby Lobby is a wonderland.) 

It all started over an elf. Y Last year, we had visits from an official “Elf on the Shelf."  This year Anna decided that she wanted a GIRL elf. She found one at Hobby Lobby and wondered if the doll could somehow become a real elf. She caught the words just after they came out of her mouth and quickly reminded me that she was quite sure that there was no such thing as a real elf...but just in case there was...well, maybe there was a way for Santa (who, she pointed out, is also not real) to somehow make the girl elf... that she found on the shelf) just as magical as the creepy official elf. 

At that point, my confusion took over and I asked her why it mattered? She patiently educated me. You see, it doesn’t matter if Santa or elves are real. It’s just fun to pretend that they are. 

Our "From the Store Shelf" elf was dubbed Petunia and it was decided that she would become a true Santa Elf, with full elf powers beginning on the Sunday after Thanksgiving and remain so until Christmas Eve.

Petunia wasn't nearly as naughty as certain other elves that I've seen pictures of, but she did have a few adventures.  

On her very first night, she fueled up for fun.  Then she took things easy for a while, hanging paper chain loop decorations and candy canes from various odd places.

She colored a picture and left a blank one for Anna.

Here it may look as though her artistic skills increased...and maybe that is what she told her little monkey pal (that Anna gave her) but we weren't fooled.  The artist that painted that particular scene is my oldest daughter.
Marshmallow snowmen races!

What do you do with leftover marshmallows?   Roast them over a campfire of course.  Since she choose to build her "fire" on my stove, I was unable to cook that day.  Yes, it was a terrible hardship. 

Anna found Petunia reading to monkey and nutcracker.

Oh no!  The night after Anna was dx'd with the flu, monkey apparently caught it too.  Luckily Petunia knew just what to do!

On the night before Christmas Eve, Petunia built a graham cracker house and then put another together for Anna to decorate.

And here is Anna's finished graham cracker church. She told me that she wanted to turn it into a church so that Santa would see that she remembered that it was Jesus' birthday.