Boxing Match

During preparation for Tuesday’s surgery, one question was constantly asked, “What procedure are you here for?” I replied “Replace expanders with silicone implants, remove a mole (the nurses at this point are nodding approvingly as I continued) … and I think Dr. G said something about doing a face lift while I was under.”  I figured it wouldn’t hurt to try. They laughed and started thinking of other procedures we could throw in.

puftThe anesthesiologist was the next person to come in. He asked about allergies and had there been any past problems with anesthesia. He also explained that a tube would be placed down my throat to help me breathe. Then he asked if there were any questions. I asked him when the tube came out of my mouth, if he could tape my mouth shut. I had to explain that I had a colonoscopy last month and the recovery room nurse shared that I had made quite the fool of myself while I was knocked out. I was mortified and thought the tape might be a way to prevent a repeat of that incident. The doctor tried to comfort me by saying it was two different types of anesthesia, so there probably wouldn’t be any issues to worry about. Just in case, all I thought about while being put under was the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. My rationale was if a fictional character is on the brain, surely I couldn’t say anything too bad.

When Dr. G (the plastic surgeon) came in, he marked the incision spots and fielded our questions. I asked if I could have the packaging that the implants came in. Nothing ever ruffles this surgeon, but he did seem surprised at my request and started thinking out loud, “Well, I guess it wouldn’t hurt anything. We throw the boxes away. I might need to check with someone before I give you the boxes. I might need to check with the manufacturer, just in case.” Janet had my back  and asked if we could simply take a photo of the packaging. I didn’t want Dr. G to go to any trouble and I told him if it was going to be a hassle, that I didn’t have to have the packaging.

Upon waking up from surgery, I was in a frustrated mood because I found myself as declarer in a very unfortunate four spade bridge contract. Surely the recovery room nurses couldn’t have heard anything too offensive if my brain was at the bridge table.

Upon arrival to the hospital room, we were delighted to find the implant boxes waiting for us. Janet nor I expected to see such a nice design. Below is a family-friendly photo of my new implants.


Since surgery, my recuperation has been going well. I get tired easily, but the pain is not nearly what I was anticipating. Janet and DH have done a superior job of pampering and caring for me. I also know that all of the prayers and good wishes sent on my behalf are answered blessings. I cannot put into words how much your love and support means to me. It has been the fuel that has kept me going since last year’s mutant ninja cell diagnosis.  Thank you!

Today is a good day!

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the “girls” are in

Janet (Deborah’s daughter) here posting a quick update. Mom underwent her first post-mastectomy reconstruction surgery this morning. Compared to the last surgery this one was pretty quick, less than 2 hours and the doctor said everything went very well.

Mom’s wit is still intact and she is in good spirits and cracking jokes. I’m staying with her overnight and we are expecting she will go home tomorrow.

She requested a certain “souvenir” from the surgery while we were in the pre-op room. Judging from the doctor’s reaction, I don’t think anyone has ever asked for this keepsake before. I’ll let her share what that is when she makes her next update, haha.

Thank you so much for your prayers and strength, we can feel them!

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Say Cheese!

Growing up in the south, pimento cheese was a refrigerator staple. Most of the time we ate it between two pieces of white bread. Being a versatile food, it was great on celery and my favorite was as a substitute in a grilled cheese sandwich. After entering adulthood, pimento cheese drifted out of my regular diet. Every two or three years I would get a craving and purchase a carton of Mrs. Weaver’s pimento cheese at the store.

A recent yearning found me searching for my beloved Mrs. Weaver’s at the supermarket. Looking next to the ham salad (where, of course, it is supposed to be), it wasn’t there. Undaunted, I continued to the cheese section and then on to the deli. It was unbelievable to me that any store labeling itself a supermarket would not have ready-made pimento cheese. I finally asked a clerk “Where do you keep your pimento cheese?” The unthinkable came out of her lips, “What is that?” She then continued, “I think we have pimento loaf in the deli, if that is what you are referring to.” I found myself nearly in need of smelling salts. How could anyone confuse lunch meat with my gooey rich cheesy delight? The sad truth was uncovered. In the Pacific Northwest, pimento cheese is unheard of.

When I mentioned my discovery to a friend who has roots in Texas, she made some wonderful pimento cheese for me. It set off my craving even more. I decided I would have to follow in my grandmother’s footsteps and make my own pimento cheese. A Google search found a decent recipe and a few tweaks of my own made it perfect.

Two Sundays ago, at a bridge club game, I brought a bowl of home-made pimento cheese and served it with crackers. A little sign was made so those new to this culinary treat would know what that heavenly spread was called. I put the bowl, tray of crackers and sign on the treat table and walked away. Across the room, I heard a shriek, “OH MY GAWWWWDDD, YOU CAN’T GET THIS STUFF IN THIS PART OF THE COUNTRY.” Being a Kentucky transplant, the enthusiastic shrieker was delighted to have a taste of the South. It warmed my heart to watch her hover over the bowl like a hummingbird guarding his feeder during a drought. It didn’t take long for the bowl to empty. Another bridge player, who was newly introduced to the spread, said if she were home, she would be licking the bowl.

At the next Friday night game, I brought a sun-dried tomato dip and put it on the table. As a fellow bridge player was eating it off the cracker, she said, “Is this pimento cheese? Everyone at Sunday’s game was talking about it. It was gone before I got a taste.” Mixed emotions ran through me. I was delighted that the pimento cheese was a hit, but sad that anyone could confuse sun-dried tomato dip for pimento cheese.

The next Friday night, the cheese spread was again introduced to the snack table. It was a hit. On Saturday night, I took some to a party. The hostess was from Louisiana and had similar experiences as me in her search for the delectable treat. We both agreed that making our own is so much better than any store purchased product. It quickly flew off the snack table.

It has been delightful to see the joy in my friends’ faces as they savor a new food that I introduced them to.

Today is a good day.

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One Ringy Dingy

Next week I get the “girls” replaced from last April’s bi-lateral mastectomy. In preparation for surgery, the hospital called a few days ago to make an appointment to do an over-the-phone interview (so they called to make an appointment to call). Then they called the day before to remind me that they were going to call me.

The phone interview consisted of the expected things, such as what prescription and over-the-counter medications I was currently taking and did I have someone to care for me post-surgery. I was asked if I used illegal street drugs. It occurred to me that since marijuana is now legal in the state, they may need to rephrase that question to include legal street drugs.

I was quite surprised when informed that during my hospital stay, it would be my responsibility to watch the door of my room and make sure everyone entering and leaving uses the anti-bacterial hand sanitizer. I was planning on zoning out with the maximum allowed pain killers in my system for the duration of my visit. What a buzz kill.

The next question addressed if I had a ride home from the hospital. I answered that yes, DH or daughter would be driving me home. This opened up a whole new can of gooey worms. “Are you going to go STRAIGHT home?” Honestly, I was looking forward to coming straight home, putting on pajamas, wrapping myself in my favorite quilt and playing the latest version of Angry Birds while DH and Janet took care of me. Naturally, I answered “Yes.” She then asked “Are you SURE you are going to come straight home?” At this point, I am totally perplexed. It’s going to be 24 hours after surgery, drains will be hanging off me like cheap Christmas ornaments. I doubt my make-up and hair will be done when I leave the hospital. Where else would I go? I said, “Where on earth do you think I’m going – out to eat lunch?” She said “Well, we want to make sure you don’t go Christmas shopping, the ride home should be enough for one day.” 

I finally was able to satisfy her that I would not be making any detours on the way home. However, my brain got to working. The bridge club is just a few blocks from the hospital. If I can be discharged by 10 am, I could make Wednesday’s game. After all, it is my second home.

Today is a good day!

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Brushing Up

During last week’s visit to North Carolina, Iris (my sister), suggested participating in a “ladies night out” session with an artist friend of hers. Tracey, the artist, has a fun concept. All one has to do is show up and she provides everything needed to create a piece of art. I did question Iris if one needed ANY talent to attend one of these workshops. I was assured that these sessions were for all skill levels. After two relaxing hours, a participant will have a painting she created with her own hand to bring home.

This is what we aspired to create.

Iris packed wine, cheese and crackers. She was making sure that we got maximum fun out this event. When we arrived, white canvases were set up on easels, brushes ready to be taken in hand and smocks were sitting on our stools. Without touching anything I felt like a real artist.

Tracey began the class by posting an example of what we would be painting. We were told that “no two would look the same.” Dusk is my favorite time of day, so I was really excited to get to create such a peaceful scene. Paints were passed out – now we were cooking with gas! Tracey showed us how to put a light brown “wash” on the canvas so there wouldn’t be any white spots showing through. So far, so good, no challenges there!

Then we were encouraged to be creative by using our reds, yellows and blues to make the background. Ack – creativity – this looked like a prime place to mess up. Oh well, I forged on. We were then instructed to make a sun. We were to take a smidgen of bright yellow paint and make a “not perfect” teeny circle, working in some orange around it. It looked so incredibly simple during the demo. However, I managed to make a flaming astroid hurtling toward Earth. Of course, the more I tried to fix it, the angrier and closer to impact it became.

I ended up with a scary apocalyptic piece. I did get lots of compliments on the orange paint in the left corner


Our next task was to paint clouds. Now to be honest, I have been on this earth for 55+ years. I have seen every variety of cloud there is. I thought this task would be a snap. Somehow what came off my brush looked more like alien warships flying in formation over the skies.

We were told to take our black paint and fill in the silhouette of the foreground. We were strongly encouraged to resist the urge to make the ground flat. Following instructions, I ended up with some serious hills that would break the most hardy hiker’s ankle. Next came the trees with their branches. Everyone else seemed to be able to paint really strong branches. My trees are going to topple from the wind of one of those warships cruising overhead.

Our next instruction was to create blades of grass to give the hills “texture.” I was sitting back, finally happy that I could paint grass right when Tracey came by. As she took my paint brush she commented, “Oh your grass is too even, let me help you.”  Instead of grass, I was left with straggly weeds. As she returned the brush, I said “Hey, I just finished mowing that field!” 

On my own, I decided to add some fir trees in the distance. After all, there needs to be a place to take shelter in when the fireball finally impacts with Earth.

In spite of my shortcomings as an artist, I had a great time. Today is a good day!

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In 2010, my mom spent the month of November with us in Memphis. DH and I were looking forward to our move to Washington state the following summer. After that Thanksgiving I drove Mom back to North Carolina, with the promise that with relatively cheap air fare, I would probably see her more frequently than if I continued to live in Memphis.

I had sincerely planned to visit last year, but then my ninja cell diagnosis got in the way. For the past year, I’ve either been in the process of or recovering from the various treatments the medical community has thrown at me. During this summer’s radiation treatments, Mom’s health declined to the point that she needed to be moved to a skilled nursing facility. I hated that I couldn’t be there to support her and my sister, Iris, during this stressful transition. Thankfully, they were understanding and encouraged me to do what was needed to fight my cancer.

Two months ago, I was excited to set a date to visit Mom and Iris. Iris and I conspired to surprise Mom. We decided that I would simply show up to her room. When I told my friends here of our plans, they questioned if that was wise. I was asked “You haven’t seen her in two years, is her heart strong enough?” I’d just wave my hand dismissively and say “Oh, of course. With my hair change and her faltering eyesight, I just hope she recognizes me.”

The morning of the surprise visit, Iris called Mom so she wouldn’t go to the lunchroom ahead of us. “Hi Mom, I’m going to be on your side of town. I thought I would bring some bar-b-que and we could have lunch together.” Iris was so smooth on this call. She even asked Mom what kind of sides she wanted and if she wanted a plate or sandwich. I also must explain that I LOVE North Carolina bar-b-que. It has always been a family tradition that when I come to town, at least one meal is going to be from a local bar-b-que establishment.

We stopped at a local eatery and picked up our lunch. Iris thought the facility’s atrium would be a great place for us to dine together. It was sunny and provided privacy from the other residents and staff. She had me sit with my back to the room’s entry way, so Mom wouldn’t see me right away. I set up the table, while Iris went to get Mom. Mom was wheeled in the room and then put straight across the table from me.

I didn’t say a word, I only smiled at her. At first, Mom’s face had no recognition on it. There was a fleeting thought of how I could introduce myself to my own mom without it being awkward. Then her eyes became enormous, with her hand clutching her heart and her mouth simultaneously dropping wide open. She didn’t breathe for what seemed like the longest time. All I could think was “Oh no, I’ve killed my Mom! BREATHE!!!!!” She finally did take a breath and was fine. We hugged for what seemed forever. Mom was so excited and needless to say, totally surprised. That moment was so perfect and so very sweet.

Today is a good day!

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The Painted Hills

On the second day of our exploration of the John Day Fossil Beds, DH (dear husband) and I took in the Painted Hills. What an amazing site! It is recommended to view these hills after a rain. This is because they are made of clay nuggets and as moisture is absorbed, the colors become deeper. The hills also change hues with the position of the sun.

We were fortunate with the timing because it had rained two days before. The sun was out and the hills were spectacular with their reds, yellows and greens.

From a distance, it looked that they were made of velvet. Walking on the hills are forbidden. The soft clay can hold a footprint for decades. DH and I could see where animals had been frolicking on the hills. Unfortunately, they cannot read the “Keep Off” signs. No vegetation grows on these hills, so we wondered why wild animals would be attracted to scaling these hills.

There was a short walkway that we took to get us up close to the hills. The colors were so vibrant!

The hills are made of loose clay pebbles, creating an unusual texture. If it rains enough, the clay absorbs the moisture and the rough surface becomes smooth and shiny.

There was a nearby hiking trail leading up to the top of a ridge overlooking these vibrant colors. As we started up, DH noted there was a mesa and said that we would probably get to finally see what it is like on top of one of them. I was excited, because we had been speculating for two days what the top of a mesa would be like.

Our three-quarter mile ascent brought us to the top, and this is what we found. There was simply dirt on top of the rocks. I don’t know why I thought it would look like a surface we could skate on.

I’m not complaining. We were rewarded with marvelous views. There was bench that DH and I rested on. We would watch an occasional car drive to the overlook below, make the circle and keep going. I remarked to DH that it was beyond my understanding why these people were not stopping to enjoy the amazing views. DH said that other people just don’t know how to have a good time like we do!

Today is a good day!

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Hiking the Blue Basin

DH (dear husband) and I celebrated our thirty-second anniversary this week. We took a two night trip to see the sights of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, located in central Oregon. The scenery was spectacular and we learned so much.

After driving across Mt. Hood, we noticed quite a change of scenery. The hills became flat on top with interesting rock structures. DH wondered why someone would build rock walls on top of the hills. It didn’t take long to figure out that those were natural formations. We would later learn that they were called “mesas” and were formed naturally. The mesa rock stops erosion. Mother nature taking care of the scenery – very cool! We wondered what it would be like to walk on top. We imagined that it would be smooth and slippery to walk on.

Our first stop was the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center. Traveling mid-week when school is in session has its advantages. It seemed we had the entire park to ourselves. The park ranger at the Paleontology Center was friendly and eager to answer our multitude of questions. We learned this particular area of land has seen an incredible amount of changes through millions and millions of years. The hills are full of fossils and paleontologists are constantly finding new animals and plant species buried in the rocks. The specimens bring people from all over the world to study here. We were especially impressed with how these scientists can pinpoint within a few million years where each of these land samples and fossils originated from. At one time, the area was a tropical environment with elephants, crocodiles and palm trees residing here. Until 1975, anyone could dig and find fossils among these precious formations. The Department of the Interior then started managing and protecting this beautiful place.

A three mile hike through the “Blue Basin” was next on the agenda. The hill behind DH is actually made of lava. It was more of a sea foam green in color, rather than blue – but it was gorgeous! My camera did not do it justice.

There was water in the stream from rain the prior night. The erosion from the green lava hill made the water look like someone had dumped a can of paint.

Our hike took us up hill to where we could view the entire country side. The blue basin formation is to my left (your right).

There were so many colors! DH and I were overwhelmed with the colors that nature was dishing up – vibrant reds and greens. It was amazing!

Today is a good day!

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Up The River

Last week I was honored to have my friend, Judy, visit from Memphis. I had the best time showing her the area. She came at the right time year to get to see the salmon swimming upstream to spawn. To be honest, it’s something I’ve only seen on television. The salmon begin their lives in freshwater, then they swim down to the ocean where they hang-out for a few years. Then something clicks in their brain where they feel the need to fight their way back upstream to where they were born so they can reproduce. After they spawn, their life cycle then abruptly ends (sigh).

We went to the Klickitat River Falls, where the salmon were jumping. There were people seated on the banks to watch the show. Every time a fish made the leap, we would “oooooh and awwwwww,” much like watching a fire works display.

Native Americans fish this river from platforms, using large hoop nets to catch them, just as they have done for hundreds of years. Knowing the fish were working so hard to get upstream, I wanted to take one of those nets and help them get past the falls. It’s probably a good thing I didn’t because both the fish and fishermen probably would not have appreciated my efforts.

All that was needed at that spot was the National Geographic theme playing. Getting a photo of a fish leaping the falls was impossible. A cheap camera with a slow finger is not a good combination to get a leaping salmon. I must have wasted twenty digital shots trying to capture one of those buggars in mid-air. The photo to the right is one I took at the falls that day. I added a goldfish cracker in the shot so you can get an idea of what the salmon are like in action.

Today is a good day!


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Phone Home

I have finally stepped my toe into the 21st century and purchased a smart phone. I thought it would be awesome to have the capability to text and email photos. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what else I could do with it, but decided to give it my best shot.

The first week of ownership I was on a steep learning curve. How is someone supposed to know the difference between an “app” and a “widget?” The biggest problem came with texting. The little keyboard made a simple text seem like typing out a college thesis. I was constantly fat-fingering the wrong letters and auto correct was always making non-sensical phrases I would have to delete and start over.

Two weeks into my new gadget ownership I discovered I could talk into this little machine and it would type the words for me! What a time saver! This has caused some confusion with DH (dear husband). I’ll be in a room by myself, verbalizing a text message, when DH comes in and says “Are you talking to me?” Of course, the phone then types “Are you talking to me?” in the text box.

It has made me happy to be able to look at my cell phone screen and see what the current weather is. A little icon tells me if it is cloudy, sunny, or raining. Who needs to bother with looking out the window?

I have the most wonderful shopping list app. When I say “Olive oil,” that item appears on the shopping list. Today I realized I needed to put cheese on the shopping list. DH asked if I was taking my own photo.

I admit that I like showing this thing off. All someone has to do is start a sentence with “I wonder …” and I am on a hair trigger, ready to pull up the information. Two very valuable apps have been added to my phone – both by the Red Cross. One is an earthquake app and the other is a first aid app. These apps can be downloaded for both Android and iPhone formats. They are my favorite price – FREE! I hope I never need to use the first aid app, but in case there is someone choking, bleeding, or needing CPR, I will have the capability to calmly look up what I need to do.

Today is a good day!

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