Category Archives: En Route

Let’s do this . . .

nofaceI came home from November Paris attacks to a letter from the Mary Ellen Locher Breast Center . . . mammogram on November 11 . . . abnormality  . . we would like you to return in six to twelve months. The next day, a nurse called to inform me that I needed to come in STAT.  Poor lady–she was more shaken up than I was.

We sent you the wrong letter.

I reported the next day for a second mammogram and ultrasound.  I’ve seen cancer before. When I read that 75-80% of these findings are negative, I knew I’d not be in the favored percentile.

A full mastectomy and phase 1 of reconstruction was complete on March 23.

Today, after a grueling night shift, my husband told me of the surgeon’s call:

Left breast, invasive cancer.  1.8cm. entire breast DCIS entered into the left nipple.  Lymph node, 3-4 cells. Herceptin. Tumor board meets today.  

I don’t remember, but he told me I said,

Well, let’s do this. 




From One Borderline to Another

IMG_4044I haven’t posted in … over a year.  Because I didn’t learn my lessons well.  My borderline mother died and set me free, so I invited my MIL with an even bigger dose of BPD to build a house on my hard earned 16 acres and make me a slave again. The lesson I finally learned:  BPDs want to occupy every square inch of your mind.  Do you have four children?  Tough shit.  Do you have breast cancer?  Sucks to be you, sucker.  Did you survive the terrorist attack in Paris?  Oh, how terrible! You deserve it because you are the cause of all my suffering.  Did you have to undergo a full mastectomy?  Too bad. I will mentally abuse you, your spouse, you kids, and any chump who dares to ignore my supremacy. Go “no contact” with her for 6 months? Fine, I’ll marry a naive redneck who doesn’t have any idea about what is going to hit him in the nuts.  That’ll show y’all.

Like my dad says:  No good deed goes unpunished. 


Coins from Heaven

As I stood in the eternal ASA line in Atlanta last week, I heard a distinct ker-ching! ker-ching! Five or six folks turned their heads to see two freshly fallen quarters wobbling on the floor.  Fifty cents!  That’s a whole Coca-Cola!  Then I remembered that it was no longer 1983–I’d need significantly more coins from Heaven to score a can of my childhood elixir of life.  No matter, fifty cents is fifty cents!  My fellow travelers and I looked at each other, chuckling that this money seemed to have fallen from the ceiling above.  Then the line started moving again. Seeing no one claim the coins, I inclined to retrieve them and then stopped short.  Why isn’t anyone diving for this money?  The line is moving, no one is reaching for it . . . and then it dawned on me: we are above this now.   Two unclaimed quarters were too inconvenient, negligible, and perhaps too embarrassing to pick up from the airport floor.  I felt it myself, and it disturbed me.  It wasn’t much money, and it would have been insufficient to buy a coffee-flavored elixir of life for this now grown-up, but it could be enough to feed someone in a disadvantaged region.  Does that sound familiar? Feed a child for just fifty cents a day . . . ?  My son gets paid fifty cents to pick up trash in the yard, something that keeps him occupied for a blessed 15 minutes.  At the very least, two quarters would buy me an hour of metered parking in this town.

As I moved on, this small event brought to mind two mantras.  First my mom always said, “Pennies turn into dimes, dimes turn into dollars.”  She taught me to stretch my resources, to create for myself when I can, and to wait for things.  Second, especially as our debt snowball accelerates: “Watch the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves.”  It’s true. I’ve been practicing it for 20 years.  In five years, we’ve paid off hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, and one (of several) reason is because I say NO often.  But, walking away from that half-dollar shining on the airport floor, I wanted to say YES and grab it.  I trust that someone wiser than I did.

Taking Charge

2014 is coming to a close, but I’ve been too distracted for interviews or posts.  I started an exercise regimen and lost 10 pounds.  I gained back six over time, but I am stronger and have muscle definition that I’ve never seen before.  I can now hike 10 miles, run a bit, and do push-ups.  I’m saving my paddle boarding enthusiasm for 2015, but I can hardly wait to try that first yoga pose on the river!  We continue to educate our kids, navigate a relationship with a family member living on our property, plan some exciting trips abroad, and now operate an Airbnb rental. This new development has been so rewarding and fun. Further, we’ve gained momentum on our Ramsey-eque debt snowball, making space and freedom for other ideas.

Earlier this year, I had prayed that God would take some things off my plate, responsibilities that I didn’t want anymore, duties that felt too peripheral, too disintegrated to truly be worthy of continued financial, emotional, and mental energy.  I think His word to me was, “It’s time for you to take charge.  I want you to learn to learn to persevere in the face of what I have given you to do and steward it well.”  This has forced me to solve problems more creatively, something that is so good for my mind.  And in order to take charge well, I had to enlist help with some responsibilities and rearrange other ones.   So, bring on 2015!  A year for me to stretch more creatively into that calling of perseverance and stewardship!

Far Away Memories


A few days ago, as I scanned my bookcases filled with titles that have been with me for almost twenty years, trying to decide which to keep and toss, I found this card and message.  It was lost inside a book on natural home remedies, bought at a used bookstore years ago, read once and seldom consulted since.  While I don’t doubt that it was a message to myself during the period of my life that I lived 2500 miles away from family, I have only a muted memory of it.  I believe that it used to hang somewhere in an apartment, possibly on a bathroom mirror or refrigerator where I would see it often.  It’s preserved appearance suggests, perhaps, that it held a place in various books I was reading at the time.  The more I look upon it, the better I remember creating this warning to myself, and I feel some regret for having misplaced it.

In the morning, I leave with my daughters to visit my ailing grandparents.  It’s been four years since I visited their home, although they have travelled thrice in that time to visit me.  I’ve sloughed off the guilt to my constant demands as a mother, to pregnancies, to nursing, to weather. To whatever. Recently, my grandmother was diagnosed with Lewy Body Syndrome.  We don’t know how long she’s had it or how much longer she’ll be with us.  I speak with my grandfather every couple of weeks, and I can hear Mama Ann prattling in the background alongside the television.  She always sounds upbeat when we’re on the phone together, though I can never be sure if her account of the day’s events reflects the facts.  Papa Roy, too, is starting to sound worse.  As I spoke with him on Monday night, touching base about my upcoming visit, I fancied at first that he was inebriated. The longer we talked, the more I realized that constant care of my grandmother has caused him to lose a little bit of his mental grip on the world.  He sounds a little silly, a little detached.

It will be a sad trip, but a good trip, too.  I haven’t traveled alone with my girls in six years, so I’m excited about the chance to spoil them a bit on the journey.  We’ll stop at a nice restaurant for lunch, spread a picnic under a live oak at a rest stop somewhere.  We’ll be able to have actual conversations since they’ll sit right behind me, not in the third row on the other side of our high-decible boys.  I can answer all their deep questions about what they are thinking of lately, what they are dreaming of.  At least, I hope we have those conversations.  And, I’ll remember all the road trips that my grandparents took me on when I was their age.  And one day in the future, when they leave home, I’ll make them a little reminder card of their own.

Fast to Move

IMG_1374For the 2013 Lenten season, I have given up my two favorite night time rituals: sleep aides and sitting on my derrière.  (It was an accident, really.  I went on vacation and forgot my opiates.)  What I haven’t given up?  A glass of wine and a fabulous book.  I’m going to push straight through Resurrection Sunday and beyond with P90X, a glass of sparkling white, and Moby Dick. Every night, in that order.  I reckon that trifecta would put me to sleep as well as a pill.  But don’t be looking for my B&A shots on this blog. No, Madame.

My kids have taken a surprising interest in the P90X videos.  I wish they were that interested in Herman Melville, but there’s still time.  My four-year-old son asked me if I was watching my “big muscle movie” and if I was going to get some big muscles, too. My girls watched me do the first workout, participating for about 20 minutes before settling down on their leopard-print bean bags to watch me sweat and strain.   I shared that I was doing this to get stronger, that I want to keep up with all of them as they grow. My oldest asked me if she would lose weight by doing P90X.  What the what? She’s a nine-year-old, über-sheltered bean pole!  Where did she hear this stuff?  Well, probably from her mother.  I tried to redeem those negative messages explaining that muscle actually weighs more than fat and that the goal is to get strong so we can explore the world together.  She flashed a shy smile and said she’s glad that I’m doing this.  And for so much more than burning fat and building muscle, I am glad, too.  Now, for that plyometric workout . . .

The Only Song That Fits Today

IMG_0811By Stephen Sondheim, Into the Woods

No more questions,
No more tests.
Comes the day you say, “What for?”
Please- no more.
They disappoint,
They disappear,
They die but they don’t…

They disappoint
In turn, I fear.
Forgive, though, they won’t…

No more riddles.
No more jests.
No more curses you can’t undo,
Left by fathers you never knew.
No more quests.

No more feelings.
Time to shut the door.
Just- no more.

Running away- let’s do it,
Free from the ties that bind.
No more depair
Or burdens to bear
Out there in the yonder.

Running away- go to it.
Where did you have in mind?
Have to take care:
Unless there’s a “where,”
You’ll only be wandering blind.
Just more questions.
Different kind.

Where are we to go?
Where are we ever to go?

Running away- we’ll do it.
Why sit around, resigned?
Trouble is, son,
The farther you run,
The more you feel undefined
For what you’ve left undone
And, more, what you’ve left behind.

We disappoint,
We leave a mess,
We die but we don’t…

We disappoint
In turn, I guess.
Forget, though, we won’t…

Like father, like son.

No more giants
Waging war.
Can’t we just pursue out lives
With our children and our wives?
‘Till that happy day arrives,
How do you ignore
All the witches,
All the curses,
All the wolves, all the lies,
The false hopes, the goodbyes,
The reverses,
All the wondering what even worse is
Still in store?

All the children…
All the giants…

No more.


IMG_1394I took off with a good friend last week for a Girls’ Only trip to Savannah.  If ever a town was made for wandering! On our tour of squares, we found E. Shaver Bookseller. While my friend had a book wrapped for her daughter, I perused the bargain section. I found a vivid photographic book on the nomadic tribes of Niger. One image caught my attention most: a mother, devoid of expression, nursing her little baby. A child of three or so, wearing a hint of fear on her face, sat leaning against the mother.  The captions explained in these tribes, immediate families don’t show affection to their children until they are two years old. Infant mortality is high, so it makes sense. The next page showed photos of smiling aunts and uncles filling in to snuggle, play and laugh with them.

Since I’m an only child and my husband’s siblings are 2,000 miles away, we are our children’s main source of bonding and physical closeness.  I wouldn’t have it any other way, but looking at those images did cause me to reflect on how I want to be my children’s everything.  It may eventually drive them bonkers.  I’m happy, though, that they are showing a physical attachment to one another.  I watched my baby toddle up to one of my girls today and raise his arms to get picked up.  She was so delighted!  This same daughter kicked my bedcovers off last night and then snuggled up to me when she got cold. For now, at least, I still make the grade for snuggle duty.

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Having a blog is much like owning a rental property: sometimes you want to be an absentee landlord.  You hold your breath and hope the tenants don’t call about an emergency repair or necessary maintenance.  You avoid certain streets so you won’t get a glimpse of your “investment” as you whizz by.  In fact, you just pray that it’s still standing, and in case it’s not, that you paid the insurance premium on time. The day of reckoning comes when a tenant moves out, the A/C unit needs to be replaced, or when the city sends a warning about the grass being too high.  I wish this metaphor were just that, but I’ve experienced all of this and more of late, and it’s good to get back to managing my blog.  I’m stockpiling interviews and general musings on minutiae.  Stop by for a walk-through. No deposit required.


I’m afraid for this day to end.  It’s as if the passing of a calendar year closes the gap between Bracken and me.  As if, for the past year, a few vaporous plumes of his existence still touched me. By tomorrow, they will have vanished forever.


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