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I was with a friend last week who has experienced the ravages of cancer treatments. Five years ago, when she first began treatment, she gained well over 50 pounds, not because she ate more calories than she burned but because she had to take steroids to offset the effects of the chemo. During that time she was weak; every movement winded her to the point that she found it very difficult to shop for groceries on foot.
In order to continue to maintain some autonomy, critical to every person but especially when you’re under such a physical attack, she opted to use the store’s electric cart with the basket to hold her items. She told me that it was very embarrassing having people look at her as though she was just some lazy, obese person who chose not to walk. After all, those motorized carts are meant for ‘sick’ people. She felt as though no one seemed to consider that she just might be extremely sick herself. You can’t ‘see’ chemo, and the steroids taken because of it, so you judge that person as fat and lazy instead.
Fast forward five years to today. The ravages of the cancer have reduced her by not only that ‘extra’ 50 pounds but also by another 100 pounds as well, leaving her so thin she is embarrassed by the sagging skin on her arms. The weakness is much greater than it was before, yet being glad for the abilities she still has, she continues to get out of the house to the stores to purchase her needs.
The downside is that going to the store has made her even more angry than she was before. Can you guess why?
Each store visit requires that she once again use a motorized cart to get around. However, now she doesn’t get those scornful, judgmental stares. Now people are okay seeing this very thin, almost frail person using the motorized transportation! No judging. No dirty looks. They hardly pay attention at all.
After this last trip, when she got home, she began to think about all of the above: then vs. now. Here’s what she had to say (paraphrased):
“I thought about the difference between that experience five years ago versus the one this week and I got really angry! I no longer felt judged for using that cart, because now I was thin! Even though they didn’t know that I have cancer, because I was thin it was acceptable for me to use the motorized cart.
“There’s something wrong with our viewpoint when our message is ‘I’d rather see you have a devastating cancer that leaves you so debilitated that you need help to function than see a fat person, that I presume is just lazy, using the cart”.
“I had cancer back then and was debilitated, but because I appeared fat, bloated as I was from the steroids, everyone just presumed I was a fat lazy slob dogging it by using a motorized cart to which I was unentitled! Now I’m thin and they think that makes it okay for me to use the cart! What does that say about us?”
Hers is a valid and very good question: What DOES this attitude say about us?
I owned up and said that I, too, had done my fair share of judging of the people who used the carts and had no noticeable signs of illness. I apparently had forgotten my own mom who had emphysema (extremely thin) and my aunt (chubby) with cancer, who also used carts later in their illnesses.
I apparently also forgot, as many others seemingly do as well, that judgement should always be tempered by grace, grace that we all need to offer because we do not walk in someone else’s shoes. Grace because that person may be swollen up with the preparatory, pre-transplant drugs they need while waiting for a new liver or heart. Grace because knees or hips go bad. Grace just because that person you’re scorning is someone just like you: a human being, with cells, skin, hair, a soul, spirit, people who love them and issues you know nothing about.
Only if I had walked in their shoes, even for five minutes, might I be allowed to have the audacity to judge them. But I don’t get to and I shouldn’t judge them.
What I can do rather than judge, is show each and every person I see a measure of grace without reserve. The same measure of grace I hope to have shown to me.
Lately, it seems to me that the portals have opened up and there is a rush by those I know (and of course those I don’t) to fly away. Many of these lives have touched our lives greatly; some not so much. Today was the escape of our good brother-in-law, Dick Lanzer. I will say, he didn’t go without a fight, but as we all will, he went, nonetheless.
Dick came into our lives later in life. He and my sister met under circumstances we weren’t even aware of. My sister, Pat, always a totally independent woman, kept us in the dark a lot – or maybe we just weren’t paying close enough attention – so it was a surprise to meet Dick and a bigger surprise when they announced they were getting married!
We liked him regardless of how he came into our lives. He had a good sense of humor, he loved Pat and they seemed to be a foil, one for another. They were a good fit in another way: Pat had been pretty much on her own for many years. She liked doing things her own way, working, enjoying friends, coming and going at will. Dick, being a long-distance truck driver would make that lifestyle still somewhat possible. They wouldn’t get tired of one another too fast; life wouldn’t change terribly but they would still be together.
Then a ripple. Just before they were to be married, we learned that my sister was to be Dick’s fourth wife – he’d had two wives before her (one of them twice). I was a bit uncomfortable with that information and I had a chat with her about it. She wasn’t concerned, didn’t see herself as ex #4 so who was I to question? I handled it as I always handle things: just before the wedding, I told Dick that if he ever did anything to hurt my sister, I would have him killed!
He married her anyway. I think knowing that we wouldn’t be living in the same town helped him feel safer. LOL
When Pat married Dick, she gained a huge family! He has a number of siblings, his mom, who my sister loves, three kids and a passel of grandkids, which was also fun for Pat. At holidays, Dick and Pat would take as many of the grandkids and kids out for dinner as could be assembled at one time. Sometimes a couple siblings would join in. If we were around, we were included. It was fun to see them all together, because they clearly enjoyed one another. Dick especially loved having the grandkids around and my sister made a really great grandma!
Then one day, I got a note from Pat. She and Dick were splitting. We were sad for the two of them. And I was mad that I would now have to have him killed!
It was 2007 and we hosted an engagement party for our son and his fiancé. Of course, Pat was invited and said she would come. What she didn’t say was that she and Dick had gotten back together! You can imagine my total shock when they walked through the door! Boy was I glad to see them! I wish I’d taken a photo of the look on his face as I came toward them. He looked like he thought I truly might kill him on the spot. He asked me if I was going to do it and I responded “Hey, if she took you back, I’ve got nothing to say. You’re in.” We were back on track and all was happy.
We always went to an Indians game at least once each summer and had really fun times. While I worked for the children’s hospital, they’d go to the Annual Fish & Field Report Wild Game dinner with us to try the exotic meats, participate in the raffles and sometimes even see an old crony or two. Dick loved his motorcycle and his truck (Pat nearly shot him over this last one) and going to the speedway for the races. Dan and Dick would text back and forth during Ohio State games or the Super Bowl enjoying their sports oriented camaraderie. He was a Teamster, driving long hauls cross country. Pat went along for the ride for some of the time. He was good with his hands and open with his heart. Dick was what you might call a ‘good ole boy’: down to earth, no nonsense, family-loving man.
Five years ago, Dick was diagnosed with a blood cancer. Over time, he was treated and went into remission twice. We were all so thrilled each time he got the ‘all clear’. He and Pat started living their dream of spending part of the time in Florida. They enjoyed the Florida lifestyle, but only got to spend one full winter there together. This last year was intermittent as Dick was trying to remodel their Ohio home while continuing with more treatments.
Dick managed to make it to Florida to help Pat close up the house before the trip back up north. What she didn’t realize was that by that time, he was very sick, to the point of collapsing the second day after he arrived.
He was admitted to a local hospital and from that point on, both he and Pat went on the roller coaster ride of their lives. Every ride up the steep incline was both dangerous and frightening; rolling down the other side went much too fast. Pat found her way through the medical barbed wire and was a tremendous advocate for Dick’s care, even thwarting the severe negativity of a physician they not-so-fondly named Dr. Death. Dick fought back again and again, while being shuffled between two facilities – one where he’d seem to make progress and the other where he’d lose ground. Unfortunately, his body broke down, one system at a time.
Two weeks ago, in a very lucid moment, he decided he didn’t want to continue; it had become too much for him. It was an answered prayer so Pat wouldn’t be put in the position of having to decide. But humans, being who we are, the next day he changed his mind. Who could blame him? It’s just not in our nature to lay down and die, is it?
In our family, we believe there’s our desire and God’s plan. As it would happen, God’s plan relieved both of them from making the decision.
With not much left to try, the doctor suggested that Dick’s blood work and other numbers weren’t on the end that he’d like them to be. He said they could try a chemo treatment to see where that would get him. He warned that it could either help him or kill him. It was a 50/50 chance. Dick asked for the treatment.
I truly believe that Dick also didn’t want to have to make the official decision. I do believe that ultimately, he wanted to follow God’s plan, whatever that was meant to be.
Unfortunately for Pat, the kids, the grand kids, the siblings and his momma, God said “Dick, the portal’s open. Come on through!” And Dick went on through this morning.
How you see him on this page is how I choose to remember my brother-in-law: ornery, kind, full of fun and laughter, loving his kids and grand kids and doing all he could to help them, but especially, being in love with and being loved by my sister, Pat.
We’re thankful that he had Jesus in his heart and we know we will get together again at the family reunion, sometime, in God’s plan.
Love you buddy. Thanks for letting us be part of your life.
Today is one of those days that marks endings and beginnings. Not for me, but for my daughter-in-law. It’s her last day at work in a place, for the most part, she has loved. It was both a difficult decision and yet a seemingly easy one, all things considered. She took her time with it and ultimately came to one conclusion – it was time to make the change, to move to the next level – and so she is. But even though the decision is made, that doesn’t mean there isn’t sadness over leaving what has been good.
This morning, I wished her a happy but sad last day at work. She responded that she was having a sad morning but trying to remember all the exciting stuff on the horizon. My response? Let today be today. Let yourself feel it. It’s better if you do and that’s okay.
BAM! Like a gunshot in my own soul, that comment went off because, while I totally believe what I told her, I’ve rarely afforded myself the same opportunity to ‘let yourself feel it’.
It started when I was just a child. My home life went pretty much awry and I started having to be someone else, someone much older than my childhood would wish for. Always doing the right thing, always taking care of everyone else, squelching every feeling, always holding back, never letting it out, taking care of everyone but myself with no one to take care of me. It was very frustrating. I held in a lot of feelings, actually most of them, except the smile plastered on my face so no one would know. I learned to pretend pretty well.
As I got older, that didn’t change. When my mom died, my grandmother, who lived with us and was part of the ugly party, squeezed the back of my neck and told me I had to be strong for my dad’s sake. (I still have a weak spot in that part of my neck where everything I’m holding in still goes – ouch!) So I pretty much had to hold it all in and smile while I was melting inside. It was a terrible time. After the funeral, I ran to my neighbor’s house – someone who was a grandma herself – to hide out because the sound of everyone laughing and talking like nothing had just happened hurt so much. I just couldn’t stay there and be strong any longer.
When my dad died, a month after our son was born, inside, I was struck down, laid low, immovable. But outside, I had to be strong for everyone else, get them through. I went to the funeral home the afternoon of the family viewing long before anyone else and asked to see my dad. The director, who was a friend of our family – and most of the local families – didn’t think this was a good idea. I remember telling him I had to do it so I’d be able to help the rest of them through it. He let me in.
Later, when we all went back, dad’s mother (another grandmother) from whom he’d been estranged, came in wailing. It was horrible, especially in light of previous behavior. I was so furious with her; yet I held it in along with my own anguish. Next morning I warned her that should she do that during the service I would personally come drag her out of the service because no one needed to hear her fake wailing. If I had to be strong then she could not be ridiculously emotional.
Calling hours were limited to an hour before the service. Dad was laid out in the receiving area. There I stood for an hour, looking at his lifeless form, hearing the comments of the guests as we greeted them, holding in for all of dear life so I could ‘be strong’. When it was time to close the casket, all I wanted to do was throw myself across him and scream for all that was now lost – never seeing my son, never playing with my daughter again, never teaching them how to fish, no more chasing them around the living room, oh just so much lost in one moment of time! It was unbearable and yet I was expected to bear it and be strong. It made the coming months very difficult and I did have to see a counselor for a while. But old habits die very hard.
Since then, I’ve spent a lot of my life ‘being strong’ when all I felt was weaker than ever before. The ingrained attitude of strength is okay to a point, but, my belief is that when forced upon you to the limit of never being able to express your weakness, it is extremely detrimental. It’s important to feel what you feel and to let it out appropriately; turning it inward just makes you sick.
So, people, my advice to you is this: whatever you’re feeling, embrace it, examine it, see if there’s anything to be done about it. If so, do it; if not, let it go. Then be strong for others by helping them learn to do the same thing. LLHHKK
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Just three weeks ago, a young man walked into a church and sat down during a Bible study. He interacted with the assembled group who received him, spoke to him, tried to make him feel welcome. He was white and they were black.
How they responded to him wasn’t enough to change his mind about what he’d really come there to do.
He stood up, pulled a gun and without regard, shot nine of them dead. When he was done, he told one lady that he was going to let her live so that she would tell the story of what had happened.
That statement made it clear that what he’d done had not much to do with them and everything to do with him.
As I looked into the face of that young man in the ‘mug’ shot, I saw nothing; his eyes seemed soul-less, his face had, what they call in the psych world, ‘flat affect’. Looking out from the photo, he appeared to me to be hollow. I couldn’t help wonder what had happened to him in his short, 21 years that could empty him of his humanity?
In other cities recently, the death of innocent African Americans has been followed by riots. Not so in Charleston where people of all races came together to mourn and love and care for one another. This purely race-driven crime, instead of driving a wedge between them, brought all sides together. They came together in love and resolve to see that it would not happen again.
This act also caused dialog about the Confederate flag flying over their capitol building, a sign of racism and belligerence that had been going on since Lincoln freed the slaves back in 1865 when the South lost the Civil War. I admit, I’d never thought of the Confederate flag in that way. What did I know? I’m a northerner. To me, that flag was about The Dukes of Hazard. But as I think about that show, they were also renegades after a fashion, so it was instinctive for them to carry that flag of rebelry.
Another good thing came of those nine deaths: because of what happened, now the Confederate flag that hung over the state house has been removed and relegated to a vault in a local museum. Of course, that can only change things to the degree that the hearts of the citizenry is changed as well.
As I thought about Charleston and what happened there, I couldn’t help think about the numerous, seemingly unnecessary, killings of other African Americans recently – Missouri, Cleveland, Chicago. What is going on?
I could take the easy way out and say, oh, it’s always been this way. We’re just more aware because of the media’s penchant for hyping these crimes. I could do that but I won’t because at the same time, I couldn’t get the following idea out of my head.
When then presidential candidate, Barack Obama, made claims of how he would bring on change for the better for every American, the people really wanted to believe him. They hung on his every word and came to believe that here was a guy who could do what he said, so they elected him, believing that he would make a change.
After Mr. Obama was elected what changed? We plunged into a huge recession with hundreds of thousands of jobs being lost; people lost their homes in greater numbers than ever before.
Over all, we, as individuals of a stricken middle class, have experienced change all right – negative change. We’re constantly worried, frustrated, angry. Pensions are gone; we work two or three part-time jobs just to keep life together; there are no extras.
The guy who told us there would be change, forgot to mention it would be ugly change. Instead of being seen as someone who changed us for the better, under Mr. Obama’s watch, things have gone further downhill.
That being said, here’s the idea I couldn’t let go of: Are people taking out their frustration and anger on innocent people of color over Mr. Obama’s negative changes ? Could that be what’s really behind all these killings?
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So, I said I was back but then I didn’t post anything. What’s up with that?
Here’s what’s up with that: I’ve had a writer’s block for over two years – or has it been three? Even though I wrote again for the local newspaper, when it came to my blog, I had nothing to say. Or rather, I had things to say, but didn’t think I could, or should, say them here. Too personal and better left to my on again, off again journal – yes, even with that I’m selective about what goes on the page.
Then there’s this other ‘thing’. I can best express it (and of course I’ll feel compelled to explain it) this way: Lily Tomlin, who has been one of my favorite comedians since the first time I heard her say “One ringy-dingy….” also said this: “Sometimes I worry about being a success in a mediocre world.”
I feel her pain.
Years ago, when Erma Bombeck (look her up) was still alive and writing a daily newspaper column along with her many books, you really had to be almost a stellar, one-of-a-kind writer to be invited for an interview on shows like TODAY or CBS This Morning. Not that those interviews were the pinnacle of a writer’s career, but that accolade was pretty darn special and didn’t hurt your book sales one bit! Now it appears that anyone can get a gig on these shows. In fact, it’s nothing to see several writers pop up on any given day.
One such writer is touted as one of the best this generation has to offer. Someone gave me a copy of one of her books which I dutifully read. It was so below the ranking of mediocre that I tossed it in the trash rather than subject anyone else to its contents.
I asked my son, because he is a writer and understands these things, how these people make it to the TV set? I have to say I was horrified, yet not at all surprised, by his answer which was this: If you write a book, and you have a blog with a lot of followers – think over 80,000 give or take a few – versus some mom in the sticks who’s written the greatest thing since The Kinsey Report, the chic with the blog will win. TV people see her as someone who can potentially bring them 80,000+ viewers to add to their ratings and for them, that’s all that’s important. Not the person. Not the writing. Just the ratings.
Why am I so surprised by this? Actually I’m not. Instead, I’m insulted for all of us that they choose ratings over excellence, which more often than not, enhances the culture of mediocrity.
So I question: Do I want to be a success in a mediocre world? No, I don’t. However, like Erma Bombeck before me, I do think I have something to say that people can relate to. And for that reason, I will continue to write. It may not often be stellar, but it may make someone laugh, or cry, or realize that they are not alone on their journey. And for me, those responses make it worth the effort.
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It’s been quite some time since I last wrote anything, much less for ‘1/2 Full’. It’s not that I haven’t had things to say, it’s just that I couldn’t quite trust myself to say them. Some were too personal, some were just mental junk that had piled up and some you probably wouldn’t have wanted to read about anyway!
But now, I’ve managed to give the header a new, bolder look. I’ve gotten some thoughts together and I decided I might as well inflict my opinion on anyone who is brave enough to show up here periodically. BEWARE! I will speak candidly and without apology but I will not purposefully try to hurt anyone.
As always, you’re welcome to comment. The fun part about that is, that if I don’t like what you say, I can cut you off like the Queen in the story ‘Through the Looking Glass’ (although your head will remain intact). I’ve yet to stop a comment, but there’s always a first time!
So, welcome back to me, and hopefully, to you! Happy reading!
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The author of the following is unknown. However they recall something very important that in our hurried, anxiety ridden world, we tend to forget. It is the appreciation we might have for how fortunate we are if we have able bodies and the breath of life filling our lungs. I think this is a charming piece…..
THE WORLD IS MINE
Today, upon a bus, I saw a very beautiful woman and wished I were as beautiful.
Suddenly she rose to leave and I watched her hobble down the aisle.
She had one leg and used a crutch.
But as she passed, she passed a smile.
Oh, God, forgive me when I whine. I have two legs; the world is mine.
I stopped to buy some candy.
The lad who sold it had such charm.
I talked with him, he seemed so glad.
If I were late, it’d do no harm.
And as I left, he said to me “I thank you; you’ve been so kind.
It’s nice to talk with folks like you.
You see,” he said, “I’m Blind.”
Oh, God, forgive me when I whine. I have two eyes; the world is mine.
Later while walking down the street, I saw a child I knew.
He stood and watched the others play, but he did not know what to do.
I stopped a moment and then I said, “Why don’t you join them dear?”
He looked ahead without a Word. I forgot, he couldn’t hear.
Oh, God, forgive Me when I whine. I have two ears; the world is mine.
With feet to take me where I’d go….
With eyes to see the sunset’s glow….
With ears to hear what I’d know….
Oh, God, forgive me when I whine. I’ve been blessed indeed, the world is mine.
FROM OUR HOUSE TO YOURS – HAVE A WONDERFUL THANKSGIVING!