31 August 2010

How to turn 49:

The day before, go check out a Dave & Busters, be really disappointed in it, so instead wander around a mall you've never been to.

It'll be cool. Really. Much bigger than your local mall.

Then, do something you've always wanted to do. Like, go see the Golden Gate Bridge. Walk on it. Then go into the gift shop to get a sweatshirt that actually fits...

Then go see other things. Like Union Square. And Pier 39. and express incredible disappointment that there's a sign forbidding anyone to get on that giant macaroni noodle, because you realy really wanted to sit on it ;)

Then, go to a flea market:

Spend the day walking around, looking at other peoples' crap, but chances are, you won't find any fleas...

Then...go to Six Flags.

Walk around all day, but take the time to see the tigers...even if they do get a little dramatic and lie prostrate on the ground, as if wailing No...stop taking my picture...! and one of the coolest parts of the day will be seeing two baby tigers, and then two grown ones playing Thundering Herd of Elephants.

Oh, and when you caually say "It would be really cool if he got into the water" while sitting there looking at a beautiful tiger, and he gets up and gets in the water, your day will totally be made.

Next, go to San Francsico. To avoid the driving nightmare of having been there to see the Golden Gate Bridge, take the BART train in, even though it smells like pee.

First order of business: walk. Walk and walk and walk. Up the biggest damn hill you've ever walked. Keep walking, until you've gone halfway across San Francisco and are at the Wharf.

Finally get to see Ghiradelli Square...

See all kinds of unique people...

Then walk some more so that you can catch a cable car back to where you were:

...because you've never ridden one before, and if you're going to do the tourist thing, you have to ride it at least once.

Then walk around a whole lot more. See the big mall. See the people. Take the BART train back, even though it still smells like pee.

Oh, and don't do all of this in one day. Not possible. At least not advisable.

Do it all...it'll make turning 49 fun. Or at least take the sting out if it.


23 August 2010

Why Ask Why?
(cross posted to A Wabbit Walking)

Simple enough question. “Why are you doing this?”

Look, I've kind of expected that question all along and have had a pat answer: nothing I've gone through—none of the chronic pain (I'm not proud, I'll list it: Fibromyalgia, Chronic Myofascial Pain, and arthritis in my lower spine and in both hips), the months in the wheelchair, the brain tumor, the marathon peeing and drinking and wondering when the hell my meds will kick in, or worse when they'll wear off—has been half as hard as someone else hearing they have breast cancer, and then what they go through in treatment. The chemo. The radiation.

It sounds like a great answer, right? Doing this long walk because even when you add it onto everything else, it still seems insignificant.

But before I could type out my at answer, I was hit with, “And don't give me any of the typical bullshit. I don't really need to know why you're doing it. YOU need to know why you're doing it.”

Well...fine. Color me stumped and momentarily speechless.

“Don't tell me either that you're doing it because The Grate Jeter Harris Hizself's mom asked you to. Why are YOU doing it?”

The person posing the question? He doesn't really expect an answer. He's the kind of person that asks random crap just to make other people ponder themselves. I imagine he asks himself random crap like this all the time, just for the exercise of self-introspection. I imagine he asks his wife things all the time to just get her to stop in time and in place for a moment, to simply consider.

I had plenty of time over the weekend to ponder the why of it all. I distracted myself from the sheer number of steps required to complete 17 and then 13 miles with a really good audiobook, but that didn't keep my brain from working in the background while I was listening to Joshilyn Jackson read her own work. The last two miles of Saturday's 17 hurt like hell, and I pondered it over and over.

What the hell am I doing to myself?

When I got up Sunday morning and had knee pain that rated an 8 on a 1-10 scale, I briefly considered not walking at all. Why go through the pain? After all, this is the training portion, this isn't the “real walk.”

Except that it is.

I got up and walked, not because I'm a masochist, and not because I'm some wonderful person who said she'd do it, so she's doing it. I got up and walked because all the steps leading up to The Walk count. They're part of the process. They're part of bigger picture. They're just as real as It is.

I'm not kidding anyone; this training is kicking my ass, and it fucking hurts. That pain you feel the first day after starting a new exercise routine? I start from there. My best days start from some version of that. I knew that when I accepted the invitation to sign up for this walk, and I decided to do it in spite of it.

And the truth is that I didn't say I'd do it because getting a diagnoses of cancer is harder than anything I've gone through; I didn't do it because chemo and radiation and mastectomy are more difficult. When it comes down to it, I wanted to do this because what I've gone through has been hard. It's been gut wrenchingly hard, and it's been Phuckit-am-I-going-to-die? hard.

Hearing a bad diagnoses? I've been there. I remember what it felt like to be told I had a tumor clinging to the underside of my brain, and that it was big. I remember the dread of being told that because it was big, and because they just couldn't tell from the MRI exactly what type of tumor it was—something harmless or something insidious—that it had to come out; I know now how fear drips from your fingertips in electric slivers. I will never forget the feeling of checking into the hospital and just not knowing. How badly will this hurt? How long will it take? Will I wake up and hear “Sorry, but it sucks to be you”? Will I wake up at all? I still feel the resignation of knowing that I wasn't getting out of it, that someone was going to reach into my head and cut something out, and if I bolted it just meant more uncertainty.

Will I live, or will I die?

I've done hard.

I don't want other people to do hard.

I don't want some 20-something young woman who hasn't even started her life to have to face anything that hard. Or some 20-something young man. Or 30 or 40-something. 90-something.

This wouldn't even have to be a walk for breast cancer. My mother had lymphoma; I could easily do a walk for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and I may at some point. Hell, I probably will. My father had kidney cancer. I could easily walk for symptom awareness, how to save your own life.

It's all hard. It's all fucking hard.

But this? I can do this. If any or every step I take means there's a small chance that someday someone else won't have to sit there and hear about some wayward thing growing in their body, that's some of the why of it all.

The possibilities.

The hope.

That doesn't make me some Pollyanna tightass halo-glowing wonderdork; I'm not doing anything thousands upon thousands of other people aren't doing and haven't already done this year. Hell, if I hadn't been asked to join a team*, it never would have crossed my mind. And when I was asked, it scared the hell out of me.

Because I knew it would be hard.

I will probably find myself weighed down with more doubts over the next month; the next long walk weekend is 18 miles one day and (I think) 15 the next. It's going to hurt, and I'm going to complain about it. Not whine, but complain, because it's going to hurt, and it's going to be hard.

The thing is, hard isn't fatal.

Why am I doing it? I think the answer is because I need to know that I can. That everything that's been hard hasn't been in vain. So that I can say I damn well did it.

It's a selfish motivation.


I can live with that.

*Blogger Babes for Boobies...if you haven't donated yet, please consider picking one of my kickass teammates to toss a few bucks at.


15 August 2010

Norval G. Whisler 5/7/27 - 8/10/10
My father was a navy veteran; he served at the end of World War II and during the Korean War, so I should not have been surprised that there was a Naval Color Guard on hand for his funeral, but when they got out of their car I curiously asked one sister, "Are there here for him?"

Color guard bugler
Really, I should have asked if they were here for us, because I found the playing of taps and folding of the flag to be dignity that my father deserved, and it was incredibly touching. I hold deep respect for service members who serve for funerals; it takes a special sense of honor to be able to do that, and it requires utmost respect and care, something not everyone can pull off, no matter how badly they want to.

After the playing of taps, the folding of the flag, and presenting it to my mother, the minister spoke; he didn't drone on and on and never tried to make it seems as if he knew my father, which I appreciated; he picked the right scriptures, and kept his part of it short and sweet, and then began to read pages of memories written by some of the grandkids and of my sisters.

That's when the laughing started.

Appropriately or not, my father's funeral soon swelled with laughter; their remembrances were touching and loving, but some of the things they shared were flat out funny and we couldn't help but laugh. And the common thread was the funniest, something my father did that trickled down from his kids to his grandkids.

Every night my father sat in his chair in the living room with a canned drink--sometimes beer, sometimes not--and when he wanted a new one, he grabbed the can and squeezed until it crinkled. We all knew what that meant: get up and get your father (or grandpa) another drink. There was no question about it; we just did it. When my oldest sister's twins were little, they raced to the kitchen to see who could be the first to get Grandpa his drink. It meant something to them; they wanted to win, to be the one who got to get it for him.

Everyone remembered the crinkling of the can. And every shared page of memories made mention of that, it was so ingrained. And in looking back, it was freaking funny.

The funeral was simple and sweet, with mostly close family in attendance, which is what he would have wanted. And I think he would have loved that he left us with laughter.

Me, my niece Shannon, and her way-too-cute baby boy Caleb
It didn't stop there; after lunch (more laughter) the Spouse Thingy and I went home with my mom and sister, to just chill for the rest of the afternoon, until everyone else came over for dinner (they humored me and sent out for Schlotzsky's which I wasn't leaving Texas without having) and while we sat there, all of us somewhat drowsy and  fighting it, my sister Dorothy looked at our mother and said, "Tell them about his hand."

My dad, for whatever reason, was never a jewelry person; other than a wristwatch, I don't think I ever saw him with anything remotely resembling jewelry on. But when he was on a ship headed for Korea, he wrote my mom and asked her to get him a wedding ring and send it.

I don't know why; it was surely an all-male crew back then and he likely wasn't fending off unwanted female attention, but he wanted a wedding ring. So she went out and got it for him and sent it off. He wore it through the rest of his service time, but afterward he worked with machinery that made it a little dangerous to have a ring on his finger. I'm guessing that he rather enjoyed having the use of all ten digits, so the ring came off and went into my mom's jewelry box. He never wore it again.

Until now.

"I got the last laugh," my mother said impishly. "I'm sending him through eternity with that ring on."

I can hear my dad now.



10 August 2010

It's August 10th, 2010.

In 16 days I turn 49 years old.

My father died this morning.

It was not unexpected, but that doesn't lessen the sting any. His health had been on the decline and he'd gone from being this stoic, strong man to being frail and needing help for just about everything. He had Parkinson's Disease, had survived kidney cancer, and had lost most of his hearing, and I'm sure he hated all of that.

But, he died at home, which is where he wanted to be. And it's where he could be because my sister Dorothy quit her job a couple of years ago and dedicated herself to caring for our parents. She gave up having any real life for herself, and has done the full time job of at least four people, providing them with hands-on dedicated care, doing it all.

Yeah, we owe her. We owe he a lot.

But, my dad. I wrote this on his 81st birthday, and it seems fitting to run again:

When I was a little kid, mid-to-late 60's - early 70's, women were burning their bras and fighting for equality, while little girls were banned from things like Little League baseball and auto shop. Girls were discouraged from developing friendships with those dirty, dirty boy because ONE DAY those dirty, dirty boys would harbor dirty, dirty thoughts about them. While the boys played rough games of Kick Me Off The Monkey Bars during recess, the girls were expected to swing (with their legs crossed if they were in a dress, of course) or play hop scotch.

Girls had Girl Things to do, and boys had Boy Things. One certainly did not teach his young daughter to hook a worm and cast a fishing pole, and one certainly did not spend fatherly one-on-one time at the side of a small lake teaching her the difference between trout and crappie.

Except for my dad.

Whether it was a conscious effort on his part to blur the gender lines or if he just wanted to teach one of his kids to fish, my father ruined many of his own fishing trips by taking me along. He taught me how to get the worm on the hook in a way it wouldn't wash off, he taught me how to cast my own rod and what it felt like when I had a bite. He made me hold my catch myself, all slimy and gross, and get the hook out.

When we were in Germany, I spent more mornings with him out by the water than I can readily count. It couldn't have been much fun for him, sitting there with an overly talkative and whiny little girl, but he did it. He allowed me to step over those gender lines as if it was a matter of course.

There were no arguments about his little girl playing baseball in the giant community backyard with the boys. He even bought me a baseball glove.

He once bought me a guitar while he was on TDY and held it on his lap on the plane ride home; while other little girls were learning feminine woodwinds, I learned to rock out.

I played on the junior high school basketball team, and never once heard "girls don't do that."

I mowed the lawn; one summer he hired the son of a family friend to cut the grass, but when I wanted to save money to buy a 10 speed bike, the job was mine. I never heard "that's not girl's work," though many of my friends heard it from their fathers. Mine handed over the lawn mower to his 12 year old daughter, paid her $4 a week, and when I had almost enough money, he drove me to pick out my bike and he covered my monetary shortfall.

About a mile from home he pulled the station wagon over, and told me to ride it the rest of the way home. I hadn't asked, but he knew how badly I wanted to ride my new toy. He pulled the bike out of the car and let me go.

My dad, whether he intended to or not, whether he was comfortable with it nor not, stepped a little bit ahead of the times and let his daughter soar. I don't know if he went with the changing times or if he saw that no matter what, his youngest daughter was never going to be a girly-girl and accepted it for what it was, but he allowed me to be me before the climate of the times would.

Whatever his reasons, what he gave me was the gift of being comfortable with myself. My parents are amazing people, but it really sticks with me that my father was a little progressive when my friends' fathers were not, and could not, be. Very quietly, he gave me that sense of comfort, he showed me strength, he showed me what real men are made of.

Today my dad is 81.

You may thank him for the gift of me. I am that special ;) Oh, and wish him a Happy Birthday, too. He deserves all the good wishes the world can muster.

The world is just a bit dimmer today without him. While he's in a better place—and I do believe that—it sucks for the rest of us.

Truly sucks.


1 August 2010

All the walking has taken a bit of a toll on my feet, keeping me mostly off them during part of this last week. Murf suggested I soak my feet in strong brewed tea to help toughen them up, and I figured why not? I can't hurt and might help.

Is that my freaking litterbox???
Max, on the other hand, wasn't too sure about the whole thing.

For starters, I used a litter box to pour the tea into (a new one, cripes) which had him staring like WTF? and then sat with it in the living room while I watched a couple things that were on the DVR.

That was as close as he got; even though he's well acquainted with the litter box, he wasn't taking any chances with something that was obviously wet, and at his level.

It's way too soon to know if the tea will help--only soaking once is probably not going to tell me diddly squat--but it felt soothing enough to keep trying.

But what felt really good...

No, it's not that deep...
After walking fourteen miles today, I had this waiting for me in the back yard.

The water is still too cold--it was only filled the day before yesterday--but as hot and sticky and sweaty as I was, it felt great.

This is our cheap-assed Sam's Club special, an 18' vinyl pool on ground that's not exactly level--though the Spouse Thingy got it a hell of a lot more level than it would have been--and the one we figure made more sense than popping for something like a Doughboy. If we keep using this, maybe in a year or two we'll get the permanent pool, but for now, this is awesome.

Even if Max does look out the back window with an expression like "Dood, you're taking a bath outside?"