Monday, August 31, 2009

Edward Estlin Cummings, I Adore You

I can't remember the first time I realized
I was actually reading words on a page for myself
(and not just trusting that those black shapes
scattered below an illustration really represented
the sounds I heard my father make).

I can't remember the first time I wrote something.

A random word.
My name (the long, lyrical,
multisyllabic, Irish-Catholic Cathleen Theresa).
A note. A story. A poem. A song.

I can't remember learning to read and write,
nor when I learned to love both.
Nor when I knew I needed to do both to thrive.

Just like I can't remember learning to walk, to talk.
To breathe.

But I was sitting on a pink shag carpet
next to a four-poster canopy bed, wearing
Calvin Klein jeans and Bass penny loafers,
braces on my teeth but not my glasses
on my myopic, Maybelline-mascara'd eyes,
when I first read E. E. Cummings. 

That I remember. 

I was 14 years old and I knew I was in love.
I knew he knew every last rule
of grammar and punctuation,
but he broke them anyway.
Because breaking them made his words better.
Made the dominant right side of my brain
see, smell, taste, hear, and feel the message.
At. Just. The. Right(no, the best). Pace.

And, I remember reading the words below and
knowing I wanted everything they made me feel.

Everything they represented.

The way they made me feel empowered as a writer,
proved I could manipulate words to make them
speak for me when my voice could not.

The way they made me feel overwhelmed as a human,
hoping, dreaming, praying, wishing that one day ...
One day. Tomorrow? Next week? Next month?
Before prom? (I was 14.) Ever? (I am a girl.)
That one day I would feel about someone else
the way this ee dude felt about whomever
he was thinking of when he wrote those words.

Those words below.

In the intervening 27 years,
many words have
made me feel
many things
(so many things)
many people
(so many people).

Emotional, yes.
But not enraptured.
Not uniquely overwhelmed.

Not like 
just those words.

And not like
(finally, blessedly, eternally,
uniquely overwhelmingly)
just one man.

JRW, I adore you.

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

photograph of E. E. Cummings' portable Smith-Corona, © Bernard F. Stehle
i carry your heart with me, © E. E. Cummings 1894-1962

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Bella Sera

It's an oh-so-loverly Saturday evening here at Team Wedding Headquarters. Jamie and I are kicked back, in our jammies, watching Matty Ice try to light a fire under the Falcons in the Georgia Dome. Tilly is splayed out, dreaming whatever it is she dreams that makes her little feet twitch and her barkbox emit happy little erfs. Tonight, like so many other nights over the past decade, was experimental cuisine night in La Cucina Catalina. It's not as exotic as it may sound. No Zimmern-worthy menu items here. Experimental cuisine is code for let's-throw-stuff-together-that-seems-like-it-might-taste-good-and-see-if-it-actually-does. Taste good, that is. Sometimes it does not. (Taste good, that is.) But, I would be hard-pressed to remember anything truly inedible. The only significant difference in tonight's gastronomical adventure from those of nights past is that two different entrees were on the menu. Mine:
a Mediterranean salad featuring brown rice, white tuna, chickpeas, artichoke hearts, lemon-pepper, dill, Cavender's Greek seasoning, basil pesto, Modena balsamic vinegar, and feta cheese, accompanied by a crisp Venetian Pinot Grigio.
Idahoan brand mashed Red potatoes (instead of Russet or Yukon Gold), butter, and fresh cracked black pepper, accompanied by a fruit punch Gatorade.
Don't ask how much of anything went into anything I prepared. I can't tell you. I don't know. That takes the fun out of my fusion. (OK. Trade secret: 1 and 3/4 cups boiling H2O instead of 2 makes the potatoes thicker. But that's all I'm giving up.) I can tell you that it did, in fact, taste good. Both creations. I also can tell you that Tilly enjoyed a feast of tuna flakes mixed with kibble, followed by a dessert of about an eighth-cup of brown rice that missed my mixing bowl and hit the floor. And, I can tell you that even though these days are far from normal, times like these feel pretty damn close. And that, my friends? Feels pretty damn good.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Monday, August 24, 2009

Move On Over & Let Tilly Take Over

Hullo, fans!

Just a quick note from moi, home healthcare worker extraordinaire, to vous

The peeps today are feeling all, ummmm ... how you say? Yes, yes, that's it: Sick ... Ill ... Sore ... Puny ... Under-the-Rainbow ... Wait! What? Oh! Under-the-weather!

My educated opinion is that it is a combination of: 1- last night's pizza (I tried to tell them it was too rich for Dad's tummy and that Mom should really just have a salad, and they should just feed it ALL to the Tillmeister, but no-o-o-o-o-o-o-o ...); 2 - Dad being only six days off the drip and no matter how many endorphins may be flowing through his veins, they haven't had time to overpower Samuel L. Chemo's aggressive presence (that dude can really take over a situation!); and, 3 - a flare-up of one of Mom's annoying afflictions that has her flat on her back with strategically placed cold packs on various parts of her beautiful (she's looking over my shoulder right now) body.

So-o-o-o-o-o, I am on the job, trotting back and forth for Gatorade, ginger ale, fresh cold-blue-gel-pack-thingies, and various anti-getting-sick medications. Those last things make the peeps pretty sleepy, so I imagine it won't be long until I can take a break and join them .... (YAWN) ... there goes Mom ... and there ... goes (jeez, Mom, could you snore any louder?) ... Dad ... ahhhh. My work is done — for now.

T-Rat out.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Angels Among Us

Just in case there was any doubt (I had none) that our peeps at SCOA were the best, I offer the above proof. This note arrived in Friday's mail. It is a "thank-you" to me for my "thank-you" to them.
If you cannot decipher the script, the sweetest part reads as follows:
"... I will treasure time I've spent with you both. It is my privilege to have known you & become part of your healing & recovery.
God bless,
God bless you, Tess. God bless you.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Sibling Revelry

Cathleen (Cathie, Cay, Caffee, Cat Con)
Christine (Chrisie, Chris, Squeaky, Christine-uhhh)
Caryn (The Baby, Beady-Eyed-John-Conley, Piggy Princess)

AKA the pretty one, the cute one, the smart one, the sweet one, the bitchy one, the weepy one, the loud one, the funny one, the ditzy one, the lovable one, the one like Judy, the one like John, the one least likely to keep a secret, the only one who can keep a secret, the one who's got your back, the one who would cut a bitch for you, the one who will cry when she sees this, the one who will laugh when she sees this, the one who will have to be told to log on and see this, the one who's wondering which one of these she is, the one who knows she's every single one — and more — and the one who's still saying, "huh?"

The few.
The proud.
The cheesy.
The Conley girls.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

If It's Thursday, This Must Be Therapy

"There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down and open a vein." - Red Smith, Sportswriter, 1905-1982
I have always loved that quote. I have always thought it was equally applicable to psychotherapy. Another parallel between writing and couchtalking: Too many people think because they once scored an A- (or B+) on an essay, they can write. Too many more people think that because someone once (or twice) told them, "You are such a good listener," they have all life's answers, and are often all-too-willing to offer them to you. Today's a doubleheader (woo [insert sarcasm here] hoo): talk-doc and pill-doc. Don't misunderstand my derision. It may not always be fun, but it is always necessary. Kind of like writing. Huh. Another parallel: They've both saved my life.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Amen and Thank You

That's all I've got in me to say right now.
Chemo dosing is done (yes, really done).
But now? Now we sleep. We gratefully, blessedly, humbly sleep.

Slumber, You Are A Cruel Mistress

That's all I have to say. 
At 4:25 a.m. When my alarm is set to go off exactly 2 hours and 50 minutes from now.
Actually, I think I'll rephrase that statement:
You're a dirty little tease. 
And you know it.
That's all I have to say. Shit. Make that 2 hours and 45 minutes.

Monday, August 17, 2009

With Apologies to Clement C. Moore (and probably Dr. Seuss, as well)

Tis the day before chemo, and all of Team Wedding HQ 
Are thinking and thinking about what next they will do. 
It is not much unlike the other Eve you all know. 
I am making cookies; I am tying packages with bows.
Tomorrow I'll weep with joy; Jamie will ring a bell.
But what truly happens after this? I think only time will tell.
Tomorrow is Jamie's last scheduled dose of chemo. He still will receive a Neulasta injection (Go Neulasta! Go, go Neulasta!). He most likely will be scheduled for an additional transfusion, as well.
But so far as we know now, it will be our last date with the drip and sweet Tess and dear Wendy. To thank them for all of their fine care over the past few months, I am making cookies. I will make plenty to share with the rest of the staff, families, and any patients who are lucky enough to have an appetite. I will package quantities of two or three into cellophane baggies tied with ribbon, then put them in a larger basket or box. I'll do that, one, because I'm cute like that. Two, because chemo patients don't need to be eating food that's been touched by random germy hands reaching into a pile of loose baked goods. Three, because I'm cute like that (oh, did I say that already?), okay, three because it will keep me busy to do it. And, four, I want to package as much love as I possibly can, because words can never — and I'm pretty good with the words — never express the gratitude I have for the infusion team at South Carolina Oncology Associates (SCOA).
I am not sure what happens now in this journey — other than living, that is, and I like to think we've been doing pretty well with that. I suppose we will discuss next steps tomorrow with Dr. B before that last date with the drip. I would be lying if I said I wasn't anxious. There is a perverse security in a chemo schedule. It is a routine that even when interrupted, still resumes with a trusted cast of characters. And so coupled with that perverse security is a paradoxical affection. As much as I love everyone on the infusion level of SCOA — and I do, truly — I hope we never have to see each other in these same roles again.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Hello, My Name Is Cat Con, And I'm A Wordleaholic ...

I may be late to the Wordle party, but holy moley, how have I lived this long without a toy like this? Thanks, Robin, for giving me my first fix.
I feel wordley, oh-so-wordley, I feel wonderfully witty & bright!
And I pity, any little word that falls in my sight!
See the little word in the margin there! (What margin, where?)
What can that delightful word be?
Such a wordley look, Such a wordley sound, Such a word for me-e-e-e-e!
Oh, I can see this getting really obnoxious.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Fairy Tale Friday

Once upon a time, in a land not-so-very-far away, there lived a very, very, very (very!) important princess. She had very serious work to do in her royal kingdom and could not be distracted by typical princessy things. She kept any glamorous demeanor she might possess hidden. If you peeked in the windows of her castle, you would see her wearing men's boxer shorts, sports bras (sometimes) and cotton t-shirts. She flitted around barefoot with no decoration adorning her toes except a slightly askew silver ring. Her wavy locks were twisted into an unassuming ponytail, and loose tendrils tucked behind her royal ears. Although her prince had given her many, many, many (many!) beautiful pieces of jewelry, she wore only her matrimonial rings on unpolished fingers, a yellow rubber wristband embellished with the word livestrong on her wrist, and a silver chain with lucky amulets around her royal neck. No makeup sullied her skin, and most of the time, her brown eyes sat heavy-lidded behind black-framed spectacles. Now, it should be noted that this very, very, very, (very!) important princess knew that one's beauty never has to be sacrificed. But, oh! It was so very, very, very (very!) much easier. It should also be noted that when the kingdom's very, very, very (very!) serious work being done reaches its conclusion, there will be a jubilant royal celebration. And, dear reader, we are told that the oh-so-important, oh-so-intelligent, oh-so-inconspicous-for-now princess cleans up very, very, very (very!) well.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

It's A Love / Hate Kind of Day

See that grin up there? It's not much different than the one featured yesterday. Hilary is my goddaughter, my niece, my shopping buddy, my backup singer, my partner in crime ... and my heart. Today's a big day for my Hilly-Girl. She's headed off to college. There hasn't been a day in her life that I haven't been proud of her, but I can honestly say that right now, I have never been prouder. Things I'm really loving:
  1. My munchkin is off to live on her own, and will do just fine.
  2. She is in love, head-over-heels happy, and seeing the world in a whole new way.
  3. Her mini-vacations to Chez Cay haven't been happening this summer, and not because of Jamie's chemo schedule, but because of Hilly's thriving social schedule.
  4. She doesn't really need any more life lessons from me. She's smart, beautiful, thoughtful, and kind, all on her own.
Things I'm kinda hating:
  1. Hmmmm ... see all of the above.
I can't even begin to imagine how my sister Chrisie is feeling right now, but me? My heart's in a silver Honda Civic, being sucked all the way to Milledgeville.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Voodoo Child

Today is dose one of our fourth and final round with Samuel L. Chemo. It's a good thing there's just one more date with the drip, because there seems to be only one delicate element of my husband's constitution: his veins. Those little buggers like to roll around, hide, and sometimes just flat-out shut down. This is nothing new, but it has gotten progressively worse with the past few months' frequent vein tapping. Sweet Tess tried twice. No luck. She called for backup and dear Wendy tried twice more before she finally struck gold. I watched as they worked,wondering what it was they spied among the many spots and bruises on Jamie's forearms and hands. As they massaged and thumped his skin, looking for the elusive vessels, I marveled at how different his limbs look from mine. Where I have bright blue patterns that look like the Mississippi Delta, he has vast expanses of skin as barren as a desert. Where I only have to clench my fist to see my O+ rushing like rapids, his A+ sits still and stagnant. Jamie never complains about the multiple sticks required to start an IV on him. In fact, it always -- always -- bothers the sticker more than it does him. No matter how many times he says, "Dig around in there. You're not gonna hurt me," the needleholder is always full of apologies. I'm certain it's because very few people are ambivalent about venipuncture, much less blithely tolerant of multiple pricks. I've become accustomed to seeing the trial and error prodding and poking of my husband's arms. I, like him, find myself feeling sorry for the pair of gloved hands trying valiantly to get the job done. Today, for the first time, I worried about him. I wondered if, after completing three quarters of this journey, he'd have to have a port installed so he could reach the finish line. I wished, not for the first time, that I could share more than the emotional burden of this process. Stick me and have the potion flow through him. Slice open my veins and plump his with whatever pumps out. Transfer my muscle twitches to his and give him strength. Cast your spell, voodoo, and do with me what you will. I will gladly be his black magic woman.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Hello everybodeeeeeeeee!

If you've been paying attention to the goings-on here in Halfglassistan, well, first of all, ummm ... thanks! Secondly, you may have noticed my affinity for all things hailing from a particular address. I think it is utterly amazing that the same cast of characters that I adored as a toddler, kindergartener, schoolgirl, teenager, twentysomething, young professional, and (I like to think) seasoned writer, is still around to inspire me in my forties. Oh — and, that all the kids in my life (from 8 months to 18 years) are inspired by them, as well — yeah, that's pretty darn cool, too.
Of all of my friends on Sesame Street (and I have many), that manic little blue guy up there has always been my favorite. His earnest eagerness to please; his careful attempts to choose his words, even though they sometimes come out wrong; his bubbly, babbling, bewildering (ok, twitchy, fast-talking and often inappropriate) reactions to his surroundings; his alter-ego SuperGrover (So-o-o-o-o-per-Gro-ver-r-r-r-r-r!), and his unbeknownst-to-him autobiography, There's A Monster At the End of This Book ... well, he reminds me an awful lot of someone I know.
Good thing they're both still around. It may be taking 40 years, but I'm still figuring them both out. There's a lot more to be learned here, and I don't intend on stopping anytime soon. Keep coming back.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Furtive Floral Friday

When Jamie and I first began dating, he warned me to never expect flowers. Not never-never, just not to expect them on prime flower-expecting days. Like birthdays. Or anniversaries. Or Valentine's Day. Or other Hallmark holidays. He told me that it wasn't his style to be so cliche (it's not), and he'd rather surprise me with random flowers (very interesting choices) on random occasions (Happy Survival of Your First Major Media Event, anyone? How about I Know You're Scared To Have Your Uterus Removed, But I Promise It Will Be Okay? Hallmark's got nothing on my boy).
So yesterday afternoon, after having walked in the door 15 minutes prior, when I noticed blossoms peeking from behind the flat-screen TV (not only does J make the giving of the flowers a surprise, but also the finding of the flowers), I was — and I wasn't — surprised.
I wasn't surprised that he knew just what I needed, just when I needed it. I wasn't surprised that even though he knew there was a good chance I would already have a headache, and would likely burst into tears yet again upon seeing flowers from him, he took the chance anyway. I wasn't surprised that he took the time to choose healthy flowers with plenty of buds so they would continue to open and last as long as possible. I wasn't surprised that instead of roses or mums or daisies, he chose lilies. I wasn't surprised that he knows that when I buy flowers for the house, I choose bold and vibrant shades that match our decor, but because these were for me, he picked pink. I wasn't surprised that he put them in my favorite vase, or that he knows which one is my favorite.
I was surprised, however, at my reaction. It never fails to amaze me that no matter how much in love I am with my husband, he always — always — makes me love him more.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

"It Would Be, It Would Be So Nice ..."

This is pretty much the scene right now at Team Wedding Headquarters, if you lose one backup dancer and replace the other with a terrier.
Really. If you don't believe me, then clearly, you have never seen my alter ego Cat Con take over when the endorphins kick in. She's quite obnoxious. In a cute way.
Why the supershift of my mood swing, you might ask?
Numbers, baby. Numbers that meant nada to me less than a week ago now represent a winning ticket in the CBC lottery. Jamie's complete blood count (CBC) this morning showed:
  • Hemoglobin (the little red thingies that carry the oxygen 'round and 'round that just tuckered out last week): up to 10.8 from a pre-transfusion 5, still not-so-hot for a walking-around-guy, but freakin' awesome for a guy just this side of consciousness and organ failure just a few days ago;
  • White cells (the little infection-fighting thingies that have been going AWOL): up to 6.2, which is just fine for us walking-around-folks, and just super for a third-round-of-badass-chemo patient with neutropenia;
  • Platelets (the little thingies that clot the blood if it tries to escape the body, like in any myriad of possible accidents, or even a simple nosebleed): well, I don't remember that number, but I do know it is good now and it was bad before.
Apparently we hit the powerball, too, which in today's drawing was (drumroll) 97.8°, marking the end of this appearance of our febrile foe. This appearance are the key words in that statement.
I know that. I do.
I know that white cell count is only here until the next date with the drip, when we'll check J's temperature daily no matter how he's feeling (I'll ask. He'll humor me. It'll all be over inside of two minutes, and I will joyfully listen to an "I told you I don't have a fever"). We'll get another injection (Go Neulasta! Go, go Neulasta!), avoid as many germs as possible, and hope for the best.
I also know we'll be scheduling another transfusion when those little Hemoglobin buggers go bust again, and they will. We — and the blood bank — will be ready this time, and we can hang for a few hours in an outpatient clinic rather than overnight on an oncology ward.
I also know we have to be extra careful about bruises, cuts, nosebleeds, and other irritations. Those platelets may be all set to scab up today, but there's no guarantee enough of them will hang around down the road (fortunately, I'm the only major klutz around here).
I know all of this. And I will deal with all of this when it happens. Maybe it will be easier, because it won't be so unexpected. Maybe chemo still has something unexpected to throw at us. Bring it, Samuel L. I handled your Awful Anemia Event and came out on the other side. You can shake me up, but you can't break me. I'll come through whatever you've got, whenever you've got it.
But, if you're bringing it today, know this: Cat Con is in charge. And today? Today, we dance.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Still Hungover

Today is Tuesday, about four days after our latest adventure.
I haven't known how to describe how I'm feeling. I haven't known how to describe how I felt last Friday when Jamie was admitted to the oncology ward. He is home now, and doing much better after a transfusion of three units of blood. I'm just not sure how I'm doing.
I can't find my words and that is a scary place for a writer to be — because I want to write about it. I need to write about it.
But I can't find my words. Except for that one that I just used: scary. That one applies.
The other one that keeps repeating (and repeating and repeating and repeating) in my mind is control. And that's just ridiculous — that I can't stop thinking of how I couldn't control what was happening. Ridiculous, because I have no control over any of this, and I do know that (don't I?). Ridiculous, because after so much time with so many good therapists, I do know (don't I?) that the only thing I have any control over is how I respond to something. Yet, that is what I seem least able to control right now. I do have to stop crying sometime (don't I?).
I will be able to stop crying and find my strength again (won't I?). I will find my words again and use them to heal myself, as I have so many times before (I will. I know I will).
But I don't think it's going to happen today.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

One-Two-Three ... (AHH... AHH... AHH...)

THREE. THREE pints of blood. (ahh... ahh... ahh...) COUNT VON COUNT © 2009 SESAME WORKSHOP
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