Forget Ready, Set. Just Go.

It’s been a week of medical offices and State of My Body revelations. And, honestly, it has kinda sucked.

I have known that I regained all the weight that I lost in The Great Reduction; however, there’s a difference in knowing it by the size of your pants and knowing by your BMI. My doctor calculated my BMI this week and I nearly fainted. In the words of the Sheriff of Nottingham in Walt Disney’s animated Robin Hood, “Criminently!”

Doc also ran some blood tests which show that I am not only obese again, but also pre-diabetic now.

Oh-ho, but no! No. Thank. You.

I resolved the instant the doctor gave me that little tidbit of news to go back to eating the way I did during The Great Reduction and get this weight back off. Then, on the way home, I stopped at the grocery store to pick up something for dinner and picked up a piece of carrot cake for one last treat.

Then I put it back down.

Because “one last treat” never is. “I’ll start tomorrow” becomes Monday, then after that dinner party or holiday. There is ALWAYS a reason to delay making healthful choices. Always. And for me, those reasons are often found in the freezer section in pint containers or in the bakery in single cake slices. Or, you know, if it’s been a trying day, I’ll swing by both departments!

But an A1C of 5.9 means that the time for dinking around and snagging slices of cake on the sly is over. It’s time to decide what I want.

Do I want a life of daily injections, increased medical expenses, circulatory issues, with a potential case of neuropathy, amputation, blindness, or organ failure the side? Do I want to decrease my risk for breast and colon cancer, heart disease, and stroke? Or do I want another slice of cake?

As my mother used to say, “It’s time to shit or get off the pot.”

So, I put the cake down because I want a life of better mobility, decreased joint pain, lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and fewer medical visits. I am going to fight like hell to decrease controllable cancer risks.

So I replaced the cake with a bag of Cara Cara oranges that were on sale and I picked up some plain yogurt and cottage cheese to eat with the them. It’s not ice cream or cheese cake, but it’s sweet and creamy; so, my body won’t freak out. In a couple of weeks, I’ll phase out the dairy, but at this moment, my body wants sweets; so, I have to make healthful food choices that will increase my probability of successfully getting through the first six weeks of this lifestyle change. The first weeks are always hardest as my body adjusts to lowered or no refined sugar or carbs. To get through this stage, I will be eating a lot of fruit and things like yogurt, cottage and hard cheeses.

Once my body stops freaking out over not having daily ice cream, I’ll start replacing the fruit with vegetables and I’ll use smaller portions of strong tasting cheeses like parmesan or Romano in place of butterkäse  or provolone. Leaner meats will take the place of beef and fatty cuts of pork. Whole grains will replace refined grains. It will take a while, but I’ll find the balance again.

I know I will. I have already begun.


Magic 8-Ball….

Are My Boobs Going to Try to Kill Me?

Grab a cup of coffee and let’s talk about our Girls.

Last year, my sister (my only surviving sibling) was found to be harboring an alien in her chest – breast cancer. Her cancer was caught super early – it was about the size of an early green pea, you know, one of the little ones. Thankfully, mercifully (insert your own adverb of relief here), they were able to get it all with a lumpectomy and radiation.

Upon her diagnosis, Chele had a genetic panel run. She had tested negative for BRCA1 and 2 years previously and had thought herself safe from breast cancer. Turns out that BRCA1 and BRCA2 are not the only genetic mutations with demonstrated links to increased rates of breast cancer in women. There are actually 72 genetic mutations with links to increased risks of breast cancer, according to Hurray, right? Chele’s test results showed that she had one of those mutations. At her urging, I also had a panel run. I have two of those mutations.


As you might expect, I was unsettled by those results; but, I put it in the back of my mind until it was time to have my annual exams. So that I can remember what month I have those done, I do them in my mother’s birth month – May. Check your calendar. Guess what month it is.

Because it is now time for me to think about my mutations and their ramifications, I’ve been a little on edge this month, particularly this week when I was scheduled to consult with a geneticist to get a better idea of what my actual risk for breast cancer is.

According to the National Cancer Institute, some 12.9% of women born in the US today will develop breast cancer at some point in their lives. That is one woman in eight. Take a minute to let that soak in then look around at seven of your friends. Statistically, it’s going to be one of you. Having genetic mutations increases that risk. My sister’s mutation increased her risk by up to 20%. My mutations increase my risk by up to 20% EACH. So, obviously, my question for the geneticist was: what is my real risk for developing breast cancer? How likely is it that my boobs are going to try to kill me?

As it happens, geneticists are about as forthcoming with concrete answers as are Magic 8-Balls.

To be fair, they just don’t have the answers to give, though. It is believed that my mutations don’t have a cumulative effect, meaning: I don’t have a 12.9 + 20 + 20 percent chance of developing breast cancer. There is some overlap with the population groups and, honestly, there just isn’t enough data for scientists to really know. My risk is higher than 12.9%, but lower than 52.9%. That’s not a comforting range.

You should know this about me: I am Henny Penny. I prepare for the worst-case scenario, which makes those who love me a little crazy sometimes. However, for me, that means that I have planned for the worst and anything less than that horrific outcome is covered. It’s how I cope with things. Soooooo, in preparation for my visit with the geneticist, I had figured out that if my real risk factor was over a certain percentage, I was going to proceed with a prophylactic mastectomy.

Big leap, right? I know. However, in the event that there is a 60% chance that The Girls will try to murder me, they have to go and I’ll get new ones with squeaky toys or air bags in them. That’s all there is to it.

The thing is, breast cancer, while terrifying as hell, isn’t necessarily the death sentence it was when I was young. In talking with the geneticist, I learned that of the four kinds of breast cancer, the one I am most likely to develop as a result of these mutations is the same kind my sister developed – a non-aggressive, very treatable (I hate this word in cancer discussions) kind that is fed by hormones. In other words, it’s probably not time to evict The Girls just yet.

For now, we will proceed with mammograms alternating with MRIs every six months, keeping a close eye on everything and foregoing any hormone replacement therapy for menopause. When there is evidence of a murder plot afoot, then we’ll evict The Girls and go for the squeaky toy models.

The problem with all of this is that it really is just a best guess based on the data we have at this time and the data is not where it needs to be. Researchers just need more of it. To get that, more people with cancer-linked genetic mutations need to be involved with the Inherited Cancer Registry. However, because there are no national legal standards protecting against discrimination by insurance companies based on genetic test results, many people are reluctant to be tested regardless of their family history of cancers. Other people just don’t want the burden of knowing they are at increased risk. My family, for instance, is a train wreck of various cancers; but, my sister and I are the only two who have opted for testing. Trust and believe that I understand why others are reluctant.

Still. This Henny Penny believes that knowledge is power and that the freedom to plan for a potential disaster is a gift; so, I had the panel run and am participating in the registry in the hopes that whatever happens with me and The Girls will increase general knowledge around inherited cancers. Even if I don’t benefit, someone else may and I’m good with that.

The 8-Ball had no concrete knowledge to share, but I still got some reasonable advice. That’s about the best I can hope for at this point.

Operation Overlord – The Inertia Version

I’ve been feeling overwhelmed. Like the mother of four toddlers in the cereal aisle, I have had things pulling me in all directions at once, all screaming for my attention, and all wanting something from me that is going to cost me money now, time and aggravation later. It has left me feeling like Bill the Cat.

At a recent family gathering, one of my cousins mentioned a method she uses to cope with her ADD when it comes to daily chores. Now, listen to me here: I have never been diagnosed with ADD. I am not claiming that I have been or that I struggle with this condition. However, it seems that I, like most of us I suspect, share some of the same focus challenges as people with ADD. So, when I got home, I used her method to make a schedule to tackle the physical items that have left me overwhelmed and exhausted.

When I finished drawing out the plan, listing every chore and job around the house I need to get done, assigning them a date and time (generally in 30-minute blocks), it was a thing of beauty! Detailed, with a clear target! It was Operation Overload – the Dotyness Version, planned beautifully.

The execution has been more along the lines of Operation Middle Management – the Committee Version.

I catch myself overthinking and over-planning before getting sidetracked with something completely irrelevant. I am not following the list of chores in order, not by a long shot.

However, I AM getting things done. Slowly, but surely, I am getting things done. Using my cousin Henley’s method of working for 30 minutes at a time on any given project, I am getting things done. The public areas of the house are clean again. The summer soft furnishings are in place of the winter ones. The flower beds are cleaned out and ready for planting. The vegetable beds are built, fenced, and ready for planting. Closets and drawers are being sorted (30 minutes at a time).

And I feel so. much. lighter! Without those four toddlers pulling me in every direction, I can breathe!

Thanks to Henley’s advice, I was able to take my tendencies to get bogged down in the details and to get distracted by, oh, everything, and use them to come up with and execute a plan to create more order in my home in 30-minute, bite-sized pieces of time.

My great-looking plan has suffered some setbacks; but, it is still moving in the right directions because I adjusted my timeline and my attack strategy to account for my weaknesses, particularly my tendency to be a body remaining at rest. And that’s what will make any plan work – allowing for our individual weaknesses without allowing those weaknesses to become excuses.

Make a plan. Make it beautiful. Then make it realistic and workable.

Then get your body in motion.

For the Last Time

If you spend any time at all with me, you will hear a movie quote. It might not be 100% correct. It may be obscure. It may be ubiquitous. I likely won’t be able to name the film or even actor – I’m not Remington Steele – but I will quote you something. Trust and believe.

In this scene one woman was asking another why she had never married. The second woman replied, “Because I didn’t know that the last time I was asked was going to be the last time I was asked.”

I’ve been thinking about last times since Sunday when I found out that one previous colleague died the day before and a second is in hospice care in her home. While I wasn’t close friends with either person, I liked and respected both of them and am saddened by the news. I don’t know the last time I saw Dave, but the last time I saw Betty was at our friends’ wedding and we had a great time.

With the exception of just a handful of people, I haven’t known that the last time I saw them was going to be the last time. Thankfully, I did not part with Sandy or Joey, or Lance or the others in anger; however, I always expected to see them or speak with them again. Looking through my friends list on Facebook, I see about 15 people who have died. Fifteen people whose voices, quips, responses I will never see again. Would I have done anything differently had I known? Would I have told them something special I appreciated about them?

But death isn’t the only divider, is it? My foot injury and subsequent weight gain made the last time I ran, the last time. Would I have run a little further had I known? If I had known that the last time I rocked my son to sleep was going to be the last time, would I have held him a little longer? If I had known that my last Sunday morning at Coffee and Co. was going to be my last Sunday living in New Orleans, would I have had another chocolate croissant? (Spoiler alert – I would have AND I’ve have ordered a couple to go.)

It’s not feasible or reasonable to spend every moment of your life as if it is your last; however, it’s not a bad idea to remember from time to time that things end – that there are last times. Tell people you respect them. Tell people you admire them. Tell people you appreciate them. Enjoy your run. Hold that baby a little longer. Savor your coffee and croissant.

Nothing lasts forever.

Old Habits Die Hard

As I mentioned in my last post, my father graduated from Mississippi State in 1959. He was a Bulldog fan through and through; so, anytime the Dawgs were on TV, you can bet that he was watching. We would often call each other to make sure we both knew that they were playing and what channel they were on. Neither of us wanted to miss the boys in maroon and white if we could avoid it.

This Fall, it seems like Mississippi State football has been on TV every Saturday in our market. And, every Saturday, I am on the couch yelling for them (and sometimes at them), doing my part as a fan to send winning energy to my team. And, every Saturday, I have to stop myself from calling Daddy to see if he’s watching. During the unbelievable Auburn game yesterday, I nearly called him during the game to see if he could believe that comeback that was going on.

But, he’s not there. And I still weep several times a week because I can’t call him when I’m driving home from work like I used to. I can’t call him about the football games. I can’t call to ask his advice on anything. I can’t call him.

My sister Chele (bless her), my cousin Faith, and Chele’s friend Linda have done all the packing up and moving of Dad’s things. I couldn’t help. I was paralyzed just thinking about it. I feel weak and pretty pathetic admitting that I just couldn’t do it – something so basic – but I couldn’t. When we went over to his house a couple of weeks ago to get the last things out, I started crying two towns over and when I got out of the car, I nearly went down. My knees gave way and grief hit me like a boulder. I couldn’t stand. I couldn’t breathe. All I could do was scream. It was horrible.

Dad didn’t have a minister that really knew him well anymore and neither Chele nor I could bear the thought of some stranger standing there eulogizing a man he didn’t know; so, we planned and spoke at Daddy’s funeral ourselves. Chele and Faith chose most of the hymns – all 600 year old plodding Presbyterian hymns that are the songs that stones would sing – and Chele and I both eulogized him. The hymns were heavy, comfortable things that we grew up with, or they would have been if the pianist hadn’t played them in the key of dog whistle. Still, they were songs that we love and that he loved. Then Chele talked about Dad and his Christian faith, about how he loved the Book of Daniel, in particular. I talked about him as my father and my friend. Here is what I wrote to say (although I’m sure I strayed from my script – I always do):

Good afternoon and thank you all so much for coming. Frankly, I don’t know if I can do this, but I don’t want someone who didn’t know my daddy all that well to stand up here and talk about him; so, grab a tissue and bear with me while I do my best to honor this man.

On February 26, 1936, John Larry Doty was born to Luby J and Hazel Doty. That lasted just long enough for one grandfather to find out he’d been named after the other one. Soon after and evermore, he was John David. If you thought his birthday was on the 29th, you’re not alone. He told people that regularly; but, no, his birthday was on the 26th. He grew up in Memphis. Ran track in high school and had the cinders in his knee for the rest of his life to prove it. He finished a pretty ordinary scholastic career and graduated from Central High School in 1954. Afterwards, he went out to California to fight wildfires. He went to college at Mississippi State because they had a School of Forestry and he really wanted to be a forester. Even so, the dean’s secretary, Doris Lee, always said that he never would have graduated if she hadn’t hounded him into it. He would always agree before adding that Dean Doris made the best pecan pies in the world. And he loved pecan pie! Not as much as he loved strawberry shortcake, but he loved pecan pie.

After college, he worked for Mr. Buchanan in Selma, AL, where he and Mother lived when my sister Chele was born. He went back to Memphis to pursue a Master’s Degree at Memphis State and to go into business for himself. That venture was a short-lived one before he got a job with Kopper’s Company and moved the family to Brookhaven, MS, in 1969. He lived there until 1995. In the late 70s, he and some collegues went into business for themselves and formed Monticello Hardwood – a company he worked very hard to help make successful.

I never really understood what he was doing when he would get on the phone after dinner and stay on it, it seemed, until it was time for me to go to bed. I hated that he would do that, but I didn’t understand that he was working so hard for us. Often, I would sit in the hallway, listening even though I had no idea what he was talking about. In those days, when you made a call using your credit card as payment, you told the number to the operator. I listened to him so much that I could recite that credit card number myself – I still can. I was an adult myself before I truly appreciated the work that he did on those calls and his efforts to be home every night for dinner. Some days he would leave before we left for school, but often, he was there for that and he was nearly always home by 7 o’clock for supper. I was an adult before I realized that he would often drive 3 hours and more after breakfast, walk a few miles cruising a stand of timber, then drive all the way home just so he could be home at supper. 

And he loved his job. He loved walking around in the woods, figuring the worth of the timber, but enjoying the peace of it all as much as anything. Most days he took what he called his “jungle food” with him and ate his lunch of Vienna sausages, sardines, cheese and crackers, or (his favorite) a peanut butter and mustard sandwich wherever he happened to be. Often, he would take a .22 with him to do a little squirrel hunting while he was out.

And, man, did he love to hunt! He hunted deer in Claiborne county for decades. He took friends, business acquaintences and even missionaries visiting the church out for a hunt. He taught both my sister and me to hunt (he was more successful with her) and frequently reminded us that you don’t kill what you don’t plan to eat, and you don’t shoot unless you can kill it. You don’t kill for sport alone and you don’t make an animal suffer. He enjoyed hunting at his own camp as well as joining friends at theirs. His annual trip to Pennsylvania was a tradition for him, as well as trips to Kansas with Malcolm Carr, and trips to Utica with Steve Rochelle and Joe Foster. He sure did love you guys. And he loved those trips even after he had progressed from being one of the hunters to being one of the old men who cooks and sits around the fire telling lies. And he could do that, too!

I could always count on Daddy to answer any question that I had. One year, while looking for a perfect Christmas tree to cut, I asked him why some pine trees lose their apial dominance faster than others. Mistake. I got a full-on lecture on soil tables. Another time, I asked him why it was called wolmanized lumber. He said it was because the cells were impregnated with preservatives. And I believed him. Of course, he forgot all about that until he heard me repeat it some years later. He laughed at me! Then I remembered that I had believed him – the same man who had handed me several thistles as a child, telling me to take the pretty flowers inside to mama for the table. 

I say that, but I honestly believe that he did not have a malicious bone in his body. He was a generous man – taking firewood and food to widows in town, inviting friends for dinner, as a deacon in the church, he would go to the store with people who showed up at the church for help on Sundays when he was an usher. He would buy them groceries, diapers and put gasoline in their cars. He was that kind of man. He didn’t talk about it. He did it. He was a good man and a really great father.

Mother was sick after the births of both my sister and me; so, Daddy took care of us. There were times when both of us disappointed him, I know, but he loved us and we never doubted it. He wasn’t quick to say that he was proud of us so it really meant the world when he did say it. And when we told him that we loved him, he just said, “thank you.” Still, we always knew. 

When I was 26, my best friend was killed in a car wreck. Although he lived about an hour and 15 minutes from my house, he was there with breakfast 45 minutes after I called him. I was devastated so he stayed with me for two weeks. Several months after Joey died, I went to the phone to call him for some reason. When I realized that he wasn’t there, I dropped the phone and asked my dad when I would stop doing that. When was it going to get better?! He said then that his father had been his best friend and that, even then, more than 20 years after Pop died, on bad days, he sometimes thought that if he could just talk to his dad, he would know what to do. I can tell you that I suspect that if you ask me that same question 20 years from now, you’ll get the same answer. He was a wonderful man, a great father and a true friend. He is missed already.

Dad on the back row in the far right. The first Fellow of the College of Forest Resources

I don’t think I got those last two sentences out before my tears overwhelmed the Valium.

We went to the graveside, toasted him with a great single malt Scotch that he would have loved – The McAllan 12-Year-Old Double Cask – put our tiny red solo cups in the crypt with him (won’t a future archeologist have fun with that!), and left him there beside his grandmother.

Only we didn’t leave him. He is with me every single day – in my heart, in my thoughts, and in my tears. He was a wonderful man and I miss him.

Losing the First Man I Ever Loved

Twice before I’ve buried men I loved – one was my best friend and one was a man I really thought I might marry. Both events were awful, soul-splitting times in my life that still hurt, years later. But, on June 19th, I attended a funeral that made those look like a skinned knee. That day, I buried the very first man I ever loved.

He was a handsome man – I always though so. Maybe he wasn’t handsome in a matinee idol kind of way, but he had a ready smile and these powdery blue eyes that sparkled. He had dark brown hair that would sometimes glint red in the sun and he wore an epic beard trimmed Just So that made him look distinguished. He smelled like forests and breath mints. He was a wonderful cook and I loved him completely. I loved him so much that I didn’t even mind that I had to share him.

After all, my sister was born five years before me and he was her daddy first.

Dad was sick last Fall and came to live with me, my sister and my “damned cats” for about six months. We got him all patched up and strong again. Although we wanted him to stay here, Daddy wanted to go home to his own house; but, we were worried. We found a lady that would come spend five hours a day with him, make sure he took his meds, ate well, hadn’t fallen and had survived the night. You see, he wanted to die at home “with his boots on.” We didn’t want him to die alone. He was 85 in February, older than anyone in his family has ever been, and he knew his body was wearing out.

In May, his helper Jennifer began to raise alerts that his health was deteriorating and that he was losing weight. My sister went over to check on him and, sure enough, things were not looking good. Dad was going downhill fast although he was still talking about going to Omaha again (he went to 2018 and 2019) to attend the College World Series if the Mississippi State University Bulldogs made it to the tournament. Dad graduated from MSU in 1959 and LOVED Mississippi State Baseball.

Dad had been with us during Thanksgiving, but because of his frailty and the pandemic, the planned extended family gathering was postponed to the summer. At the end of May, we agreed it could be postponed no longer; so, we set a date of June 12th.

On June 5th, some guy chalked up his 4th DUI by driving up my driveway, totaling my car, destroying my home air conditioning unit and spraying the property with shattered auto glass, but we were full steam ahead for Thanksgiving 2020.5! I invited friends and relatives from near and far. I got Thanksgiving themed placemats, napkins and decorations that we put on tables in my yard. And we ate ham, turkey and dressing, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, butter beans, bacon wrapped shrimp, smoked pork, fresh garden salad, desserts by the pound, and drank soft drinks, iced tea, pina coladas, and, of course, traditional Thanksgiving margaritas. (We declared them to be traditional, anyway.) We put our feet in the wading pool and played corn hole, but mostly we just talked, visited, shared love and stories with one another about our lives and about Dad. He wasn’t strong enough to come down into the yard, but he sat on the porch where I joined him to eat lunch. He was quietly looking over the mob when I asked, “That’s a pretty good view, isn’t it?”

“It’s a wonderful view,” he responded.

Eventually, he came back into the cool house (a miracle worker had replaced my air conditioning unit the day before) where everyone rotated in and out to talk with him for a few minutes and where he could watch the Mississippi State vs Notre Dame baseball game that was on television. (Mississippi State needed to win that game and one more to make it to the College World Series.)

As I was helping him get ready for bed that night, I asked him if he had enjoyed the day. (He never liked to be the center of attention and I was anxious about him feeling overwhelmed.) He said that he had enjoyed it very much but that he had been surprised that so many people had come from such long distances. That statement crushed me. I turned to look at him and said, “Dad, why would that surprise you? You are a remarkable man who has had a tremendous, positive effect on the lives of more people that you can imagine. Of course, people came!” He looked skeptical as I tucked him in.

Sunday, we were all exhausted and slept most of the day. Monday, he refused all food and drink, but he, my sister Chele and I still all watched the last game of the Super Regional Tournament to see if Mississippi State would make it to the College World Series. We watched the game like normal, sitting on the couch, holding hands, questioning the elastic strike zone, and cheering on our Bulldogs. From time to time Chele and I would have to leave the room to collect ourselves because we knew this would be our last game with Daddy.

Outfielder Tanner Allen clinched the game for the Bulldogs with a three-run homer. I was in the kitchen at the time, but walked back in the living room to see what all the cheering was about. When I walked around the corner, I saw Dad, who could barely make a sound, with his hand in the shape of a megaphone around his mouth cheering. It was a sweet sight and one of the last sounds he made.

On Tuesday, Chele and I got him home and into his own bed where he went to sleep and did not wake up. I climbed into the bed with him, put my forehead to his and shared memories of family vacations we took, the time he took me to work with him when I was five or six, rafting trips, him playing with my young son, memories of everything.

Sometimes as people are in their last moments, they will struggle to breathe; but, Daddy didn’t. He was very peaceful. His breathing got slower and slower until it just stopped, his spirit quietly left and we all got what we wanted. He died at home with his boots on, he didn’t die alone, and the Bulldogs went to the College World Series.

Focus on the Cans

I’m trying, but all I see are Can’ts

I actually started this piece at the beginning of all this Covid-19 quarantine business and I was full of optimism and advice on ways to stay positive and healthy (both physically and mentally) through the challenge. Then I just got sick of seeing articles on those subjects so I put mine on the back burner, guessing that you all were also suffering from Quarantine Pollyanna Fatigue Syndrome, otherwise known as Thhhssbbbpp!

Now, we are all also subject to Quarantine Misinformation Fatigue Syndrome and Quarantine Political Battle Fatigue Syndrome (at least in the States, we are). It’s exhausting and it’s ridiculous, amirite?

Still, we have to deal with it all. So, how?

At first, I was taking my Labrador retriever Stella for a walk around the neighborhood every day and I was doing something else outside every day – weeding flower beds, clearing deadfall, arranging supplies, whatever. On rainy days, I was working on indoor projects – organizing drawers, closets, etc., and taking donations to thrift stores, ripping up damaged carpet, removing damaged sub-flooring, cooking and freezing tasty, healthy meals for my sister, and spring cleaning. I was also calling my dad every day to chat and I usually called at least one other person just so I could talk to people. (My sister works nights; so, we don’t talk very much most days.) And that was working nicely.

Until my allergies struck.

My sister has a lot of allergies that attack her sinuses, make her sneeze, and leave her with a stuffy head. My allergies go straight to my lungs. I don’t normally have a stuffy head, but my lungs will clog, leaving me with a deep, wet cough. The coughing fits are sometimes so bad that I can’t get air back in, which leaves me lightheaded and panicky. The cough also makes me very tired. The fits are scary from my perspective, but they are apparently terrifying to listen to. My sister is constantly afraid that I’m just going to either keel over or cough up a lung.

Most years, taking an allergy pill nightly keeps the whole cycle under control; however, after two mild winters, this Spring has been an allergy killer in Middle Tennessee. The topography of the region doesn’t help since we sit in sort of a bowl in the middle of the state. Allergens and pollutants get in this bowl and just linger for. ev. er.

I will be okay and able to breathe fine for a day or two, then I’ll do something stupid like go outside for an hour and I’ll be right back to sounding like a TB ward. I need to mow my back yard. I enjoy mowing my back yard. But, I know that if I do it – even wearing a heavy-duty mask – I won’t be able to breathe. I need to finish removing the damaged sub-floor so I can put the new floor in. But, if I am in that room for more than a few minutes, the mold spores still there get me and I’m screwed. It is incredibly frustrating.

Frustrating AND infuriating. I have never thought of myself as particularly delicate or vulnerable; but, this lung thing makes me feel that way and it makes me SO angry! For all the things I want to do and need to do, my lungs are throwing up a big CAN’T when I want and need a big, ole CAN.

Most of the time, I think that the answer to any challenge can be found in the perspective with which you approach it. However, this one is kicking me in the teeth, friends. I can’t seem to get a good perspective so I’m asking you:

How do you approach your CAN’Ts so that you can see your CANS?

Eating Paper

This weekend, I participated in a 5K run/walk with several cousins. Most of them ran, but I /walked. I still went 5K and enjoyed the hot chocolate provided by the race. Walking back to car, we fell into conversation about terms, brand names, and idioms. For instance, in the US, we call small bandages that you stick on “band-aids” even though that is a brand name. It has become synonymous with the item itself. However, once in Stratford-Upon-Avon, I had a little trouble getting one at a Boots chemist because Brits call those little bandages “plasters.” I had no clue – but I did have a mighty blister; so, I persevered until I got what I needed. Band-aid is a brand name recognized as a product name regardless of manufacturer pretty much across the United States; however, there are other examples that are more regional.

In the Deep South, all carbonated soft drinks are Coke. When you stop at the gas station, the person going in will ask everyone in the car if they want a Coke. Then they will ask what kind of Coke they want and that may be anything from a Dr. Pepper to a Sprite to a Fanta. In other areas of the country soft drinks are “pop” or “soda” and in parts of the south those terms are becoming more and more common, but Coke is still well recognized. Still even more regional is “Nabs” for packaged peanut butter or cheese crackers because Nabisco was the first company to market them. I’ve lived in several places and this term seems specific to parts of Mississippi, not even the whole state.

I say all that to say this: as I have gotten older, I often use idioms that I think are common to everybody only to find out that they are apparently specific to my family alone. For a long time, I felt like such a weirdo until I decided that perhaps my family simply had very colorful ways of saying things. Perhaps many of the sayings were translations from some translation from the Danish side of my family. Maybe they had their roots in the rural Mississippi part of my family. Who knows? The end result is that we have LOTS of colorful phrases, one of which applies when you are feeling sorry for yourself and having a pity party. You say that you should “just go out back and eat worms.”

I’ve shared a little with you about my foundling cat Drucilla. She’s been with us for about a year and a half and is probably the highest maintenance demon I have ever had in my home. She is a love, don’t get me wrong, but she is so imperious that most of the time I refer to her as the Tsarina and she seems to think that name fits. Because she has no incisors and her renal health is delicate, I often feed her tuna and, recently, sardines (which remind her of her trips to the Black Sea as a kitten). She jumps up next to the fish plate indicating that it is time for Cook (that would be me) to serve up a smackeral. If I fail to do so within what she considers to be a reasonable amount of time – two minutes – she “goes out back and starts eating worms.” Actually, she starts eating the paper towels. Not even kidding. Sometimes she jumps up on my desk and starts eating my papers there. Perhaps when she was living in the woods she once found some grease on a piece of paper so she tests every piece of paper now to see if the miracle repeats, I don’t know. I just know that I find these little gnawed scraps of paper all over the house if Her Imperial Majesty is not given a little bite of fish every 90 minutes or so during the day. Ridiculous. She fills her stomach with paper rather than wait just a little while!

Then I look at myself.

How many times in my life have I gone for the cheap substitute because I got tired of waiting? How many times have I sold myself short because I didn’t put the work in?

There have been times I have failed when I legitimately gave it the best I had and I think that’s okay. We are not all meant to do all things. Sometimes we have to know when it’s time to walk away AFTER we have given it our best. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the times I half-assed something I said I wanted, then abandoned it before I got it. Those are the things that haunt me. I have always been well-known for my patience, which ranks somewhere alongside a toddler in the candy aisle and a beer drinker waiting for the restroom. Yeah. Schoolwork was always easy for me before college. I rarely had to study; so, I never learned how. Then, when I needed to know how, I didn’t even know what I didn’t know.

From time to time, the question comes up: what advice would you give your younger self? That would be mine. Give it your best if it’s something you really want. Stay focused, swallow your pride, ask questions, and never settle for eating paper.

Fry Up Your Own Bacon

When I was young, there was a perfume commercial featuring a woman who said that she could “bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan and never let you forget you’re a man!” Well, then! Get you some of that “8-hour perfume for your 24-hour woman” right now, gents! (I’m not even going to go into the sexism of all of that. I have a different point to make today – a different fish to fry, as it were.)

As I mentioned last time we visited, I listened to Brené Brown’s book Dare to Lead in October of last year just before I went to Seattle to visit my son. I’m afraid I may have turned him off on her since I praised her constantly to the point that I sounded like Sandy Olsson going on and on about Danny Zuko. Brené Brown says this. Brené Brown said that. Brené Brown has this concept that….. You get the idea. I was a total fangirl; but, that has no effect whatsoever on the validity of her ideas. It only makes me a boob for being so overbearing in how I presented them.

Valentine’s Day is tomorrow and, I am sure, will be chock FULL of what Dr. Brown calls “Stealth Expectations.” Those are expectations that we have for other people that we don’t actually tell them about. Saturday will come and all kinds of men and women will be scratching their heads, wondering why their partners are so angry with them. They will truly have no clue what they did wrong because, in truth, they did nothing wrong. They simply failed to meet an expectation they knew nothing about. They failed a test they didn’t even know was being given. Instead of hinting about that thing you want – flowers, card, leaf blower, weekend in Monte Carlo, whatever – you have to tell your partner what you want. They can’t read your mind and it’s not fair to ask them to. Maybe you are one of those people who pick up on subtle cues and is able to surprise people with what they want. Wonderful! How fantastic that you have that gift and even better that you actually use it for those you love. However, not everyone has that gift. For instance, my son loves me, I have no doubt, but he doesn’t even remember my birthday, much less have any idea what I might want. That’s not his gift. It never has been and he knows it. He also knows that it’s something he needs to work on – at least getting the dates right.

So, instead of having stealth expectations about flowers, tell your someone that you would like for them to buy them for you or, better yet, buy them for yourself! The beautiful blooms featured here are some I bought for myself a couple of weeks ago. But if I had wanted someone to do buy them for me, it would only have been fair for me to openly tell them. Stealth Expectations lead to Overt Disappointment and sometimes even Open Hostilities that are so easily avoided.

I may be middle-aged, but these are not the middle ages. I’m not waiting for a knight of any sort to rescue me, fight my dragons or whatever else. This is the third millennium and I am a grown-ass woman. I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan….and I can buy my own flowers, too.

Keeping it Real or Keeping it Quiet

Yesterday I wrote something on my personal Facebook page that reflected a very deeply held belief of mine – very deeply held. However, it was inappropriate for me to make that post. I’m not going to say what it was and I have since deleted it because I realized that I really should have just kept my face shut.

Last week, I mentioned Brene Brown and her book Dare to Lead. In that book, she advises everyone to have a “square squad” a very small group of people (whose names will fit on a 1-inch by 1-inch piece of paper) whose opinions matter to you. Those are the people you listen to, not the people in the cheap seats who have something to say about anything and everything you do. You listen to only a select few who will tell you that you are “outside of your integrity” on some action. That’s another phrase Brene uses – outside your integrity. There is so much packed into that! And to say that “you are outside” your integrity is much more applicable than to say that “you are wrong.”

What I posted yesterday wasn’t wrong; however, it was harsh and edified no one. It was unnecessary. It was outside my integrity.

I used to watch the show America’s Next Top Model (complete guilty pleasure and intellectual bubble gum). I stopped watching after the season featuring an aspiring model from the Bronx. This girl was just mean as a snake! Hateful and spiteful for no reason. Her reason was that she was just “keeping it real.” The things she said might have been true, but they didn’t need to be said. Nothing was gained by saying them and no one would have been hurt had those things remained unsaid. Likewise, nothing was gained by my comments yesterday and no one would have been hurt had those things remained unsaid.

The world, in general, spends so much time spewing negative energy at us, right? It’s exhausting! I try really hard to be a source of positive energy. I failed yesterday. For the two members of my Square Squad who gently called me on it – Thanks.

Now. Here’s hoping next time I will pause, stay inside my integrity and keep my face shut.

Thoughts about everything and nothing in an effort to be a better person than I was yesterday.