Saved $60 but the dog hates me…

These days I’m always looking for ways to save money.  (Duh.  Who ISN’T, you say!)  Well, our dog hasn’t been to the groomers in … hmm.  When was that she last went?  All I remember from that visit was the groomer saying, “Maggie was a real brat!”  Haven’t gone back to them since.  I mean, I recognize that she is willful and does not like to be groomed, especially to have her nails cut, but honestly. to call her a “brat”?

Have you ever heard that phrase, “No bad dogs only bad owners”?  Or something like that.  Well, it is OUR fault that Maggie doesn’t like getting groomed.  She’s not used to it and it scares her and is uncomfortable.  Ah, but there are always reasons (er, excuses) for everything, right?  Like in our case, we are always wanting to save money and not get her groomed except when absolutely necessary.  We bathe her ourselves and all of that (otherwise, pee-euw!)  But when it comes to hair cuts,we figure she can go six months easy.

Only for some reason the last several months Maggie has decided to go the way of the Rastas and grow some wicked dreadlocks.  We’re talking mega-matting!  And once you go down that road, it’s really hard to go back to smooth and silky.  We try to brush her, but there is some sort of tipping point with brushing — after a certain amount of mats develop, you’re doomed. One of my former students had big, beautiful dreads but had to get rid of them when she joined the peace corps.  She said changing her hair was one of the most unpleasant things she had ever had to do, much worse than anything she faced in Africa for the two years she served there.

Anyway, so today was the day to “fix” Maggie’s fur.  She was not amused.  But I figured the best way to solve the issue was just to cut off every bit of matted fur.  I figured I’d give her what I believe they call a “puppy cut” (short all over rather than the typical Westie cut).  That way if there were spots that were REALLY short, it wouldn’t be as obvious.

Here’s what a Westie is supposed to look like…

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Well, that’s pretty cute, right?  One of the ways in which those dogs are able to look like that, though, is through the development of a stiffish, wirey overcoat that helps them keep this shape and not get matted.  For some reason our Magster has still — at three years old — not developed that tough outer coat.  She is still as soft as an alpacha.

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Which is nice for us when we pet her and all but leads to no end to the matting problems. (Our last Westie had the same problem, by the way — never got the wire coat.  Weird coincidence?  Our vet has no idea why Maggie is still so soft and fluffy.  We met her parents and they have wire coats.  Hmmm.)  Anyway, today I decided to implement my great money-saving plan and give Magga-muffin a new do.

She hates me.

Who doesn’t hate her hair dresser when she gives you a crappy cut?  Who doesn’t blame the one with the shears when we come away with a four week bad hair fiasco?

Honestly, I tried my best, but I REALLY underestimated how much matting there was. Every time I thought I had a leg looking okay and I’d run the brush through it, yank, it caught on yet another mat.  Maggie was none too pleased and took to biting the brush after a while.  “I understand, Maggums.  This sucks.”  I didn’t call her a brat.  She’s our soft little sweetheart of a Rastafarian.

I know you must wonder what she looks like now. Not sure this picture gives you the full effect of her humiliation….

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At least she was willing to go out in public!  Our good, brave Maggie-May!

Kreativ Blogger? Wow, thanks!

I want to say a big thanks to Montessori Mama, who has given me the Kreativ Blogger award!!

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You know, it feels kinda good.  I needed the boost — thanks again, MM.  Coming from one of the most creative of all bloggers I know, this award means a lot!

Now, on to the rules:
– List six things that inspire my creativity
– Pass the award on to 6 more kreativ bloggers
– Link back to the person who gave you the award
– Link to the people you are passing it on to and leave them a comment to let them know.

so…

SIX things that inspire my creativity:

  1. family night — We decided to rotate the responsibility to each family member each week  to choose an activity for Friday night that the whole family would enjoy.  Last time that it was my turn, I chose painting, and we had a marvelous time just hanging out and painting together. Never done such a  thing together ALL three of us at the same time.  Cool!
  2. Christmas — Something about that holiday brings out my creative side.  I relish the chance to make things beautiful, to use my hands to create something new out of something old (ornaments, table decorations, handmade cards….)
  3. teaching a text that students seem to find boring — Ah, I love that challenge! That’s when I revert to drawing crazy pictures on the board, jumping on top of furniture to act out a concept, bringing in wigs and hats for students to stage an impromptu dramatization of that boring 18th century poem, etc.
  4. dinner parties — I know you aren’t really “supposed” to make up new recipes when you have company coming, but I love to get creative in the kitchen for my friends.  Almost always there’s enough delicious food (if I do say so myself) in the meal to make up for anything borderline.  Even the flops are food for funny stories later on. 🙂
  5. scrapbooking — Okay, I admit it.  I actually like doing this activity.  I haven’t been able to work on anything for years, but I love how it is both a creative (making something new) and retro- and intro-spective activity.  I need to find a way to do this craft again, as it gives me much pleasure both in the doing and in the viewing later.
  6. Grandma’a life — I find my beloved grandma to be incredibly inspiring.  Writing her book is one of the most meaningful things I have undertaken in my life and one of the hardest.

Now, on to listing SIX more kreativ bloggers:

The Sruggling Writer is a wonderfully creative guy — I like how he just keeps on writing despite being busy with work and his young family. I’ve seen a noticable change in the quality of his writing, too, clearly proving that practice makes perfect. Paul, you’re awesome!

I read Kitty’s delightful blog  The Show Must Go On almost every day.  She is witty and hilarious and kind.  Check her out!  But bonus…she is also a gifted photographer and has another blog The Cuckoo’s Nest filled with interesting pixs.  This gal can do anything.  She even turned me on to cooking cabbage (yup, Kitty, I finally bit the bullet and cooked that thing in the bottom of my fridge — delicious!  Who knew?)

Ginny over at Praying to Darwin is a crack up.  Always makes me LOL when I read of her and her family’s escapades in the great white north of Canada.  I’ve actually snorted with laughter when reading her before.  Thanks, Ginny, for cheering my day!

I love handmade paper products (books, cards, etc.), and I really admire Diane Aldred’s work, often showcased on her blog Much of a Muchness.  She has a real knack for choosing just the right design.  She’s also a good writer, and despite my jealousy over her exciting travels, I’m nominating her as well.

I don’t recall exactly how I first found Katie Hoffman’s blog Paint Fumes, but I have enjoyed visiting it and viewing her paintings for a long time now.  I always find something worthwhile to contemplate there, and I’ve enjoyed learning more about the art wold from her interesting written posts, as well.

When I first began blogging a year and a half ago, I was searching the blogosphere using the keyword “grief”  and came across Linda’s mysteroriley, a “blog I never wanted to write.”  What strikes me so much about this blog is Linda’s courage and the strength of her creative energy in the face of the painful loss of her 20-year-old son.  Linda, I admire you both as a writer and as a human being.  You inspire me!

So, there you have it folks!  And I want to encourage everyone to visit Montessori Mama‘s site, too.  She is a gifted artist, teacher, and a great gal. Thanks!

Happy Sankta Lucia Day

Yes, I know that all of you American and English readers are busy eating your Lucia buns and drinking the coffee that your eldest daughter brought to you at the crack of dawn and all that.  Sorry to bug you.  I just wanted to wish all a happy Sankta Lucia Day.

In case you don’t know (though I’m sure EVERYONE does), Saint Lucy’s Day is celebrated in Sweden and Italy.  Yeh, that’s weird, huh?  Lucia was an Italian saint, a martyr who brought food to the Christians hiding from the Romans in the catacombs.  She is famous for wearing a crown of candles to light her way in the subterranean caverns (her hands were busy holding big baskets of food, get it?)  Of course, she was murdered, but not until after all the requisite miracles.  Etcetera.

So the Italians celebrate her feast day (Dec. 13), but why the Swedes?  Well, one thousand years ago King Canute was experiencing a bit of Seasonal Affect Disorder and feeling glum because, well, Sweden is relatively cold and dark this time of year.  Then he heard about Saint Lucy and said, “Ah, ha!  This is the saint for us!!” So he proclaimed that Sweden would observe her feast day, too.

The Swedes today celebrate with Lucia buns and coffee in the early morning.  Girls wear electric lighted crowns and bring their parents the food.  Boys wear funny pointed hats and are called “Star Boys.”  There’s lots more to it and all, but that’s the basics.  Oh, and there’s a song, of course, as well!

Anyway, happy Sankta Lucia Day to one and all!

Ice Storm

We awoke this morning to the news that today my kid’s school was canceled due to an historic ice storm in New England…and then I called my university and found it was also closed for the day, thus leaving the semester forever unfinished.  No leave taking means no closure.  The last day of class is a very bad day to have a weather cancellation.

Ah, well, the students, no doubt, are rejoicing that they have extra time to complete their final portfolio essays, and I suppose it will not kill me to be unable to grade papers this weekend!

So my kid and I were home today.  Hubster had to go to work, governor declared state of emergency or not, his office was open!  Anyway, kid and mom have been housecleaning and ventured out to go to the grocery store, as we are a bit low on food.  So we went to our favorite local store where they sell a lot of organic foods.

When we arrived, we found that their power was out, and they were cleaning the fish and meat sections and tossing out a bunch of perishable food.  There were only a few lights on in the large store — eerie and more than a little weird to be let inside.  But they were selling food to those who made it to their store.  We got what we needed, including the last carton of buttermilk in all of Massachusetts, no doubt.  Thank goodness — since my quick bread recipe that I wanted to try out this afternoon calls for 3/4 cups of buttermilk.  Eeghads, what would I do without that ingredient?!

As we walked to the checkout counter through the frozen food aisle, I stopped to take this photo with my phone camera.  They had saran wrapped the doors all shut so nobody can buy the food from the freezers.  Think of the enormity of the waste and financial loss.  Yikes.

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In the parking lot, I started chatting with an elderly gentleman who works at the store as a bagger.  He was on his way home.  He first asked me if my power was out at home (so nice!)  Then he went on to explain that by law the store has to throw out perishable food if the refrigeration or freezer is shut off for three hours or more.  The store will lose tens of thousands of dollars, and it will take quite a while to restock. In fact, the Governor says none of the power in the whole state  is likely to be back on until at the earliest MONDAY.

What a terrible waste, I thought.  I mean, of course, there is the safety issue and all.  But if only someone from the store had decided at 2 hours and 45 minutes into the power outage that they should donate all the perishables to the local food pantry (which still DOES have power and does not have enough food)….  Alas, instead everything is being dumped into the county incinerator.

It was quite an eye-opener for my son.  He usually relishes storms, especially when they mean no school, but I think he is beginning to understand how interconnected everything is.  His school friend’s power is out and their sump pump is not working, so their basement is flooding.  Lows in the teens tonight will mean a chilly evening for that family.  I’ve called to offer them a place to stay with us, but I can’t reach them. Friends from church just sent out a plea on the church listserv asking to borrow anyone’s generator to run their sump pump because their basement, too, is under water.

As the sun begins to hang lower and lower in the sky, I can feel the temperature dropping.  We enjoyed about an hour of sunshine this afternoon, during which time the tres and bushes tried to shed as much of their ice encasements as possible.  The outdoors were blindingly bright, shimmering with falling ice, glittering in the sun. Now everything has turned gloomy again. High winds and low temps are expected tonight.  I can only hope enough ice melted earlier to keep us from joining the one million households in the northeast currently without power.

Saving Money at Christmas…

This year, since my husband was laid off in August and had to take a job at much reduced pay, we are particulary keen to save money.  Here are a few tips I thought I’d share with you:

1) Invest in LED Christmas lights.  Yeh, I know, that means spending some money.  But those little lights add up to a big savings.  Did you know that LEDs use one tenth the electricity of standard lights?  Plus, they are SOOOO much safer — very much cool to the touch.  And they last SOOOOO much longer than regular bulbs, so this is savings that will continue for years (not to mention it’s better for the planet).  I bought the colored mini-lights because I prefer their warm tones.  The white LEDs seem kinda almost blue to me.  Some people like that, though.  Whatever.

2) Send your presents to relatives who live far away NOW.  Do NOT wait.  It is five times as expensive to send things express at the last minute because you forgot to take care of this earlier.  Save money by thinking ahead.  And this particularly applies if you are sending presents to ME!  Don’t delay! 🙂

3) Cook for people.  Seriously.  Who really wants yet another bodywash/lotion/loufa sponge set or a kitchy little Christmas doo-dad?  Give folks what they really want: chocolate.  Here’s a simple truffle recipe that will make everyone SOOOO happy you are their friend.  Warm up one cup (240 ml) of heavy whipping cream in a saucepan over low heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat and add one pound + 6 ounces (625 g) of semi-sweet or dark chocolate, chopped.  Stir until chocolate is melted. If you want to add 3 tablespoons of rum or some other flavoring, you can do so now.  It’s you liver.  Put the pan in the fridge about an hour until mixture is firm.  Scoop out teaspoon-sized mounds onto a baking sheet and refrigerate again about a half hour.  Then roll each one in your hands to make it into a smooth ball, and roll balls in plain cocoa power, chopped nuts, or coconut — whatever you like.  These look so time-consuming and  fancy and taste so delicious.  But this is a super cheap and quick gift (makes about 65 truffles in less than two hours)!

4) Regift.  I mean do so deliberately.  Get together with friends for coffee at someone’s house and bring items that you want to get rid of (new or gently used).  Put them all out on a table and then everyone goes around and tries to see if any items might work as a gift for someone you know.  (Of course, this doesn’t work if the gift you want to regift came from someone at the regifting party!!)  In my case, though, I’ve got a few different sets of friends, and we don’t really give each other gifts anyway, so I anticipate no worries on that count.  This is a great way to do children’s gifts, by the way.  I mean little kids especially are almost more interested in the box than what’s inside!  And I think this is going to be pretty hilarious, too.  I mean wow some of the stuff people get — at least this event’ll be good for a laugh. 🙂

5) Do not buy wrapping paper!  Use what you can find around the house…like brown paper bags turned inside out  with red painted stars and a rafia ribbon wrapped around a cinnamon stick…or tinfoil with shiny ribbon…or the tried and true–newspaper comics page…for a small gift, create your own fancy paper from a plain sheet of white paper with watercolor paint splashed on it….  Use your imagination.  Time spent on a nice wrapping counts as part of the gift, you know.  And it’s possible to make your wrapping look like it took SOOOO much longer than it really did.

And now, it’s time for me to practice what I preach and wrap those presents that I need to send to California tomorrow!

What I’m thankful for…

For Thanksgiving, we went to Grandma’s niece’s husband’s sister and brother-in-law’s house.  in other words, we were with family!  We follow my cousin pretty much wherever she and her husband go during the holidays.  They are the only relatives we have in the Northeast, and it’s to far and too costly to go “home” to California.  Anyway, it was the fifth time we’ve gone down to Connecticut to K and M’s house for the holiday.

This year I discovered something I never knew about K (the brother-in-law).  He had known Martin Luther King Jr. back in the day and had even marched with him.  During the “I Have a Dream” speech, K was able to squeeze his way into the fourth row, right up front. He was a classmate of MLK’s and had even been invited to King’s wedding.

K told me about how “when you go into a situation like what we faced, you have to have a plan and know the plan before ever setting foot there.  People just don’t know what it will feel like or be like when the violence starts or when the threatening presence of the police officers sweeps in.  It’s absolutely necessary to have a plan going in.”

He related a story about one day going into a cafe with a mixed race group and sitting down together to be served lunch.  They were hungry, plain and simple.  But they couldn’t just go get a bite to eat.  They had to have a plan. Ready for trouble, they finally filed in and sat down at a single table, black and white friends together. The waiter just served them their food.  Nothing happened.

At first, I was dismayed by the story, a little annoyed.  I thought, well, at least you could have gotten put in jail.  No beatings?  Bah!

Then I caught myself and realized how utterly ridiculous my reaction was.  It is because of people like K. and MLK, white and black together, that such blatant discrimination is no longer allowed.  As K. put it last night at dinner, sitting there loading his fork with a big bite of apple pie, “I’m sure you’ve already heard it, but it’s true. King marched, so Obama could run.” Then he spoke about how on election night his tears could not be stopped.  K. marched, too.  He helped make a President Obama possible.

So that’s what I’m thankful for on this holiday that is dedicated to gratefulness.  I am thankful that the sacrifices of so many for so long have at last come to this pass, that it is indeed possible for an intelligent and capable man whose father was black and whose mother was white to be elected to our highest office. Because so many marched — including a sprightly, elderly white man with a big fuzzy white beard, who just happens to be my grandmother’s niece’s husband’s brother-in-law — on January 20 we can give thanks for President Obama.

Why my son is sad… :-)

“I’m sad, Mommy.” (Yes, he still calls me mommy though he has now turned eleven.  For a while he wanted to change to mom and I said fine, but it was too hard for him to make the shift, I guess.)

“I’m sad, Mommy. I’m going to have to wear glasses and have braces and… be BALD!”

Sweet little guy.  “Not all at the same time, honey.”  Yeh, like that helped.

Bubby is myopic, it turns out.  We bought his glasses on Tuesday night and will pick them up Friday after school.  It will be an adjustment.  They are nice glasses, dark blue rims with open bottom, Ray Bans, featherweight lenses.  But it will be strange to see him with glasses on all the time.  I suppose we will all get used to it.

The braces, well that’s not until next year, says the orthodontist.  Have to correct an overbite.  No big deal.  He has told me that he wants orange braces.  Hmmm.  That sounds pretty gross.  And it’ll clash with the blue glasses, won’t it?

As for the baldness, we were chatting along one day and me an my big mouth — I mentioned that baldness is actually passed down through the mother’s father.  My dad hasn’t had much hair since he was…hmmm…when did he start losing it, exactly.  Ah, well, bald is beautiful.

My son has the loveliest face and beautiful blue eyes, and he is tall and strong and has a killer smile.  I know he has nothing to worry about.  But he has become a tweener and suddenly these things matter. On the other hand…

Yesterday he told me he was “really excited” about getting his glasses.  He’s sure a trooper!

Walking the dog…while the guys run away

So I think I mentioned before that my son and husband have taken up running. This was part of a deal we made with my son, who wanted to quit playing travel team soccer this year after playing the sport since he was four (he’s almost eleven, so quitting is a big deal). We have all signed up for a road race on October 18 to help raise money for an orphanage in Kenya, and the guys have been training hard for their 5-mile run, and I’ve been, well, er, thinking a lot about training hard for the 5-k walk I’ll complete.

Anyway, our son really has set his heart on running as a sport now and is eagerly awaiting the day that he will be old enough to enter the Olympics. (He’s calculated when the first games will be held for which he will be eligible to compete–2016–and he’s been asking where those will take place.) We agreed to let him quit soccer (yes, we are that controlling as parents) but only if he had some other form of regular exercise. Let’s face it, one 45-minute session of gym each week at school just doesn’t cut it!

So I’m happy to say that the guys have worked up to running three miles now, at six a.m.! Pretty impressive, I think. Of course, for this to work now that my husband has a long distance to commute to a new job, we all have to get up at six a.m., and I need to take the dog for a walk almost immediately while the boys get ready. They pass the pup and me somewhere during the first half mile leg of my one-mile walk with dogga (I need exercise, too, right?!) We turn around at the entrance to the State Forest and head home to heat up some oatmeal for breakfast. At least I do the cooking. The dog does the worrying. You should see the pained look in her eyes when she sees that once again her beloved one (the hubster) is running, oh joy RUNNING towards her … only to pass her up yet again, and then disappear from view…

Oh, no, I must run faster…arrgh what is that thing poking me in the neck..ouch…Training Collar. Sit? SIT??!!! But alpha dog and that boy are running away, and I must join them. The pack is leaving without me. There could be WOLVES in that forest where they are headed! They may need my protection. I must…ouch. Sit. SIT? Fine. Make me turn towards home. I will just wait at the window until they come back, IF they come back. Oh, just thinking of what could happen out there… pains me. Hooooowwwwl…ouch. Damn training collar. SIT? Fine. Have it your way, but don’t come cryin to me when they are eaten by a coyote. Oh, my goodness. Are there coyotes out today. Sniff, sniff. Maybe I can sneak a peek back and still see them before they disa… Ouch. Sigh. Poor alpha dog. I loved him so. And it was so delightful to lick his sweaty face the last time he came home from running away from the wolves. Mmm. Salt. What’s that? A squirrel??? Ouch. Leave it? But it’s a SQUIRREL! What’s wrong with this lady and her jerky leash anyway??? Sit? SIT!!!!! Sigh.

The dog back when she was CUTE!

SIT???!!!!!!   Are you kidding?  Let’s GO!!!

When I had cancer…

When I had skin cancer, I thought a lot about what would happen to my family if I died. I also thought a lot about what I would change immediately about the way I was living my life. How would my teaching alter? Would I even be able to continue teaching? What would I tell my students or would I even tell them? Would I finish those scrapbooks of my son’s last eight years that I keep meaning to get to…just in case? How would I complete Grandma’s book?

I had gone in for my annual skin check at the dermatologist and asked about a suspicious mole on my back. It was irregularly shaped and was two-tone. Uh oh. So when the doctor asked if I wanted her to take a biopsy, I jumped in with a resounding YES. Then I pretty much forgot about the whole thing. I had other matters to attend to.

A week passed and then I was supposed to call to get the results. But the nurse refused to speak to me about it, and in a grave voice said she would have to have the doctor call me back. So for two hours I panicked, thinking, oh, great, now I have cancer.

The nurse called back, not the doctor, and said the doctor told her, “There’s no cancer, nothing abnormal. The cells were absolutely clear.”

Wow! That night at dinner when my family did our little ritual thing we do every night now where we each share three things for which we are grateful, I kept saying I’m grateful I don’t have cancer. 🙂 Then…

The next day I got a call from my regular doctor’s nurse about my recent mammogram. She said, “Well, the technician said that it was ‘questionable’ but that there appears to be an emerging mass on your left breast.”

Stunned silence. Oh, shit! That’s what I get for gleefully reveling in the no skin cancer diagnosis. Now I have something worse.

“We’ve made your follow-up mammogram appointment for September 11th, and they’ll also do an ultrasound to investigate further.”

“Yeh, okay, 9-11. But you said they said it was ‘questionable,’ right?”

So then I waited for two weeks further before my appointment. Mostly I was able to move on with my life, but the sobering realization that this time there really could be something wrong made it hard to dismiss the whole thing out of hand. Once more I went through all of the questioning and reevaluating, which made the start of this school year just about the most bizarre ever.

My cousin reminded me, “Nothing’s happened yet. Try to remember that.” And mostly I did. Then the day of the mammogram re-do came and with it all the gloom of remembrance for the great tragedy on that day in 2001. I was fine until the technician had to re-do one of the pictures she just did. Then I lost it.

At first I couldn’t speak as the tears flowed. Then I squeeked out, “Usually these things are nothing…right?”

She handed me some Kleenex, ignored my question and instead replied, “Everyone feels this way. Whether they show it or not, everyone feels this way. It’s perfectly normal.” She took the re-do of the re-do and then showed me where the bathroom was so I could calm down privately.

I sat back down in the waiting room, trying to grade some student’s essay. I have to get my mind off of this…. Then the radiologist came out and told me that there was something, indeed, on the mammo and that she was going to take me over to ultrasound right now. “They will determine what it is and you should get the news today. Nine times out of ten, these things turn out to be nothing serious.”

Waiting in the ultrasound area, I was too stunned to cry anymore. I had convinced myself — at least it was my party line — that the original pictures were just flawed and that there was nothing at all to see in my left breast. But now there was confirmation that something WAS there. I felt a sense of dread mounting.

By the time I was stretched out on the ultrasound table in a very dark and very large room, I was crying again. Then the ultrasound technician, whose cheerfulness I will never forget and for which I was immensely grateful (for, who would be so cheerful if the patient in front of them had cancer, right — so it must be good news!), chirped, “Oh, that’s a cist. Don’t worry!” She took a few more pictures and added, “The radiologist will come in and say the same thing in a minute. I’ll go get her.”

When she arrived after a long while (where WAS she that it took that long to come and confirm that I will live to see another day?), she took a quick look and said, “Clear cyst.” But I wanted to know HOW she knew that and how SURE she was. I was not content after all I had been through to sail on blithely through this experience as if nothing had happened. I had cancer, damn it. If I NOW did NOT have cancer, the story had to be as convincing as when I DID have it.

So the stately radiologist lady explained all about ultrasound technology and the way that tumors (solid masses) block the ultrasound waves from penetrating and thus can’t imagine the breast underneath, but how with clear cysts the waves pass through and show the breast tissue on the other side. She showed the cyst on the screen, my cyst. And there was the breast tissue on the other side. Okay. I bought her story.

This little blip on the screen looked huge, by the way, but it was only .83 centimeters. I had not even caught it on a self-exam. But the diligent technicians did. And I am grateful for their caution and care.

I have a big imagination. It’s generally a good thing. Sometimes, though, not so much. Yes, of course, I did not ever really have cancer, thank goodness. But in my mind, I did. I really did. And the experience — just a tiny taste of a much more shattering reality for so many others, I’m sure — did make me stop and think, once more, about what matters, about my priorities.

A sobering reminder not to take any second of this precious life for granted.

…and to get regular mammograms and complete regular breast self-exams.

P.S. I asked for a picture of my cyst from the ultrasound machine so I could put it on my blog! They thought I was NUTS and were ultra concerned about my privacy — really freaked out, actually. But I assured them I would only put the picture itself up without any identifying info. But the printout I did manage to get from them was too dark to scan, so I’ll just have to leave it to your imagination. For the life of me, I can’t think of a good reason not to post about this experience, though the way those two women freaked out gave me pause and delayed my posting by a couple of weeks. Ultimately, though, I decided it was an important story to share. I want to remind women to get those mammograms and do those self-exams. It’s really important. And though it was a scary experience, nine times out of ten everything really is okay!

Dear Grandma…

Dear Grandma,

I miss you.  Lately these flashes of memories keep intruding on my day.

Your laugh.  You looked so regal, so classy.  But your laugh was down home, real folk, spilling out of you whenever the smallest opportunity for mirth arose.  How much we laughed, working on your book, our book.  Every Sunday night when I called you on the phone, we inevitably found our way into a laughing fit.  Such simple things, too. Silly, really.  But you and I, fifty years apart, found so much to chuckle over.  No cynicism in you.  Honest and kind good humor.

I miss you.

Your reassurance.  When I sometimes had not had a chance to work on the book that week and we spoke on Sunday, I knew you were disappointed, but you always said such kind words. You knew I had other responsibilities. You never pressured.  You had faith in me to carry on after you were gone.  And I feel so bad that sabbatical is over and the book is still not finished.  I’m sorry, Grandma.  I’m still working on it. I thought I’d get farther.  Of course, I traveled a lot to research the book settings and stories.  And that was a jolly good thing I did since I found so much usable information that the book is being transformed into a much fuller account.  You’d hardly recognize chapter one anymore, Grandma.  Did you know that Grandpa Skaug’s mom was illegitimate?  Did you know your Dad’s relatives were soldiers back in Sweden?  Did you ever hear about the shipwreck at Kløkstad, Norway?  Did you know our famiiy church was built in 1240 and is still standing?  Did you know that the sea off the coast of Bodø can be as still as a pond and turn savage within minutes? Did you know in Sweden they had a big stick in church to poke people with when they fell asleep during the sermon?  No, you never knew these things.

I miss you. Lately all I want, suddenly, is write your story.

But timing is everything.  I know you’d say now that I ought not to be too hard on myself.  That I have to work and take care of my family.  You’d never begrudge me that.  I was thinking only the other day about the story you told me of when my mother was a baby and Grandpa wanted to go to a movie (always go go going, that Grandpa).  So you swooped up the baby in a blanket and got your coat.  In the theater, you wondered what was poking you, only to find the coat hanger still inside the coat you were wearing.  I understand such exhaustion. I know it’s okay with you that this project is taking a while longer than anticipated.  After all, we moved at a snail’s pace, and I asked you if you wanted me to speed up.  You said, “Do it right!  It’s more important for it to be good and to be read than for me to see it finished.” So you died without seeing it.  And here I am pluggin along over two years later. Still.  I’m sorry, Grandma.

I miss you.