Purple Is My Color: Pancreatic Cancer Awareness

Purple is my color…in November. Well, except on the Saturday of the Alabama-LSU game (which was this past Saturday). Other than that day, purple is my color in November, because the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network has adopted purple as the color for Pancreatic Cancer Awareness, and November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month.

My daddy was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in February of 2006. He died less than seven months after his diagnosis, on October 2. Our hearts broke when he was diagnosed, continued breaking for seven months, and shattered on October 2. But he was finally at peace, after a lot of suffering.

I remember exactly where I was when my parents told me Daddy had pancreatic cancer. I was driving up Colony Road, near the intersection at Carmel Road, in Charlotte, going to meet my friend, Wendy, for dinner with her, her husband, their son, and my daughter, the night before Wendy was scheduled for a C-section to have her daughter, Madison. I was devastated at the news from my parents, but I didn’t want to ruin the night for Wendy, so I dried up my tears and put on a brave face. Apparently, I was a better actress than I had ever realized, because they suspected nothing over dinner. We celebrated the upcoming birth of Madison (though she didn’t have a name yet, at that point).

I knew the prognosis for pancreatic cancer patients was not good. I knew my time with my daddy was limited, so we tried to make the best of it. We were fortunate to have a condo near my parents’ house in Alabama, so we moved down there for the last couple of months before he died. My brother came down as often as he could, and even though it was bittersweet, we had a lot of quality time together. We made the most of it, but we knew we were losing our daddy.

Daddy was brave. He even maintained his sense of humor. He worried about what would become of us after he was gone. He was sad he wouldn’t see his beloved grandchildren grow up. He encouraged us to stick together. And he often said, “I’ve lived a full life, and now, I’m spending lots of quality time with y’all.”  He was finding the silver lining till the end. Throughout life, he looked for the good. And in his final days, the good was that he had a family who loved him and loved each other. He knew it. We laughed. We cried. And then we laughed some more to keep from crying.

And here’s the thing. In the 12 years since we lost Daddy, not much has changed for pancreatic cancer patients. Most patients don’t survive one year after diagnosis, and very few survive five years…roughly 95 percent of those diagnosed die from it. It’s very difficult to diagnose, and it’s usually too late when it is diagnosed. It is considered by many to be the deadliest cancer, based on the general prognosis, but it gets very little press. Every time a friend calls me and tells me someone they know has been diagnosed, I don’t know what to say. The only thing I can do is offer prayer and refer them to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, also known as PanCan.org. We need more awareness, more funding for research, and we need more trials, and PanCan raises money for those things. They also raise awareness and on behalf of patients and families, contacting Congressmen and Senators, encouraging them to support bills that offer funding for research.

So, every year, since 2006, I wear purple in November. It might be just a purple handbag, purple pendant, or purple earrings, but I try to wear a little piece of purple every day…except the day Bama plays LSU…Daddy would understand.

***If you would like to donate to PanCan.org, please go to the website here. Call or write your Congressmen and Senators, encouraging them to increase funding for pancreatic cancer research.***

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Photo: pancan.org

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Let’s Talk…We’re the Been There Moms

My friend, Maureen, and I recently started a site called Been There Moms. I have loved spending time with Maureen for years…we chat, we laugh, we share, and now, you can join us for our chats! Been There Moms is a quick look at the things we discuss…and the humor we share. We make videos discussing topics of interest to parents and other folks, too! We share our own parenting fails, share our lessons, and sometimes we just “kvetch” about the hazards of parenting. And we laugh…a lot.

We have a great time, for sure. Maureen’s twenty-something son is very patient with us when he’s helping us with the videos. We are grateful for his patience, his directing skills and especially his mad editing skills. I know it’s hard to believe, but sometimes, we get carried away when we’re talking, and he has to reign us in. We can turn a three minute video into 15 minutes of chat, so he has to edit a lot. Lots of times, he has given us the “wrap it up” sign, and when he turns off the camera, we all laugh. Seeing our chats on video, I’ve realized some things: Maureen is especially talented with her sense of humor. She comes up with the best one-liners. I’m definitely the squirrel chaser, so Maureen has to get me back on topic. I’m the long, drawn-out storyteller. Come to think of it, I’m probably the reason our chats run long. I should apologize to her son, our director/editor.

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Maureen has four children, ranging in age from 14 to a second year law student…three boys and a girl. I have one child…a 15-yr-old girl. Together, we cover a lot of topics, and we offer different perspectives. Maureen is from the north, and I’m from the Deep South. She went to a highbrow, liberal arts college. I went to a big state university. We’ve had different experiences, but we are great friends.

So far, we have discussed some parenting parenting dilemmas: children flying alone; shopping with teenage girls; Homecoming proposals; being nice; high school sports; being the new mom at school; and summer reading. There are more videos to come, but since it’s not our day job, we have to make them when it’s convenient. We are having a great time! It’s a good excuse for us to get together!

This past weekend, my nephew visited with a friend, and the friend (she’s 22) told me she loves the Been There Moms site! Yay! We have a young fan who isn’t even a mom! According to my nephew, his friend watches our videos regularly and walks around saying, “We’re the Been There Moms!” Seriously, I was so excited, and when I saw Maureen at my daughter’s field hockey game Friday afternoon, I could hardly wait to tell her: our young fan thinks we’re funny! I guess it’s not just for moms anymore! Anyone who knows me knows I love a good audience.

So, here’s the deal: we are always looking for new topics to discuss. I have a running list, and Maureen does too, but we would love folks to send us some topics to discuss. Check out our Been There Moms Facebook page here; like the page, and then send us a message or comment with some topics! We would love to hear from you! And who knows? If you offer up a good topic, we might invite you to be a guest on our “show”!

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Learning to Drive

As our daughter’s 15th birthday approaches, so does the excitement about the driver’s learner permit. Yes, it’s exciting, but it’s nerve-wracking at the same time.

It’s a lot more difficult to get a driver’s license now than it was when I was a teenager. Our daughter doesn’t even have her permit yet, and we’ve already had to jump through some hoops.

In North Carolina, there are lots of moving parts to getting a learner’s permit. If no one tells you the different steps, it can be rather confusing. I’ve had to ask multiple people a million questions throughout the process, so hopefully, this will help some of you. This has been our process:

  • Register for Driver’s Education at age 14 1/2, if it isn’t offered in your school. (see bottom of page for contact info for three companies)
  • Send in payment for course.
  • Attend course and pass written driver’s ed test.
  • Go to the DMV for the eye test (if the company doesn’t offer it)
  • Schedule the driving portion of Driver’s Ed.
  • Complete the practice driving (six hours) with instructor.
  • Obtain proof of enrollment form from school.
  • Go to DMV on or after 15th birthday for written test and permit…take birth certificate, form from school, completed Driver’s Ed form, and Social Security card.

If I didn’t have friends who reminded me of things to do throughout the process, my poor daughter probably wouldn’t be on her way to getting her permit in a couple of weeks.

She completed the classroom/written test portion of Driver’s Ed the first week of June, getting it out of the way. She had to be 14 1/2 to enroll in the course. We then had to wait till about a month before her birthday to schedule the driving portion of the course. She had the first of two three-hour sessions this past Saturday, and she said everything went smoothly.

Anyone who has ridden with a new driver knows it can be nerve-wracking, but the only way to learn is through practice.

When the instructor arrived at our house, she told me that she usually stays in the neighborhood for the first two hours, and she never takes anyone on the highway in their first session. I wasn’t worried. I knew our daughter was in good hands, so I was very relaxed while they were gone. Plus, my daughter has practiced driving me around on private roads for months.I knew she would do well driving the instructor in the neighborhood.

When my daughter got home three hours later, she said she thought she had done very well, and she did go on the highway. She said that after they drove around the neighborhood a couple of times, the instructor said she was ready to get out on the open road. First, they practiced some parking skills at a nearby parking lot, and then they got in the interstate! Yikes! I love interstate driving, but some people hate it. I asked my daughter what she thought of it, and she said she liked it. Near the end of the lesson, they drove to pick up the next student driver and came home. She has her next session this weekend.

I’m excited for her, and nervous for us. I remember when I was learning to drive. It was exciting thinking about the freedom that was coming my way! I’m sure she feels the same way, but first, we have to make sure she knows what she’s doing. We have a year to help her practice to get her prepared.

It was a lot easier when I as a teenager. We took Driver’s Ed at school, and then when we turned 15, we could test for our learner’s permit. That was it. I don’t even think we had to show any proof that we had taken Driver’s Ed. But Driver’s Ed at school was fun. We had driving simulators. They were nothing like real driving, but they were fun!

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LEAD Technologies Inc. V1.01

I remember some of the driving mistakes I made early on when I was learning to drive. My poor Daddy. Our house was at the top of a hill, so if you backed out of our driveway in one direction, you were backing a little downhill on the road. One day, with my daddy in the car, I forgot to put the car into Drive after backing out, and I stepped on the gas pedal, sending us speeding down the hill backward! Somehow, Daddy stayed calm, and I got things under control. He probably never wanted to drive with me again, but he did. Another time, I stepped on the gas instead of the brake as we turned into a street. And somehow, we survived it.

I’m sure when Daddy was teaching my brother to drive, it was much less stressful for him. My parents had caught my brother driving a friend’s car when he was just 14, so there’s no telling how much driving experience he really had when he got his permit. It wasn’t funny at the time, but Daddy laughed about it years later.

Later, after I had my license, he taught me to drive a manual transmission on a Jeep we had…another adventure, but not one my daughter is likely to have, since so few manual transmission cars are made now.

So our adventure in driving is about to begin. It’s difficult to believe. I remember when our daughter first started walking, and we said she didn’t have walking around sense. Will we feel the same way about her driving?

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DRIVING SCHOOLS IN CHARLOTTE (I’m only listing companies my friends have used):

Helms Driving School…Website:   http://www.helmsdrivingschool.com/Services.html

Jordan Driving School…Website:   http://www.jordandrivingschoolcharlotte.com

Faulkner Driving School…Website:   http://faulknersdrivingschool.com/about-us.aspx

 

 

 

 

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Daddy’s 80th Birthday

My daddy died a couple of weeks after his 68th birthday, in 2006. Pancreatic cancer. Today is his 80th birthday. It makes me sad to think he has been gone so long and to think about what he has missed, but it makes me happy to think how happy he would be that my brother and I have remained close. He would be happy to know my brother and I have great relationships with our extended family, and he would love that I have come to know our cousin, Ardrue, over the last couple of years.

Daddy worked hard to make sure we had the things we needed and most of what we wanted…within reason. He was practical, but some indulgences were allowed. According to Aunt Katie (Daddy’s younger sister), Daddy was a quiet young man…and serious, making it interesting to me that he made a living in sales and was good at it. He had to step outside his comfort zone (quiet) and talk…convincing companies to purchase his product. I don’t remember him as quiet. At home, he was jovial. He loved telling stories about his childhood. He loved goofy jokes, and he loved wordplay. He mellowed with age, so I can only imagine what fun he’d have been if he had made it to 80.

My nephews were crazy about daddy, whom they called Big Ken (he was tall). My daughter was almost three when he died, so she doesn’t remember him, but she loved him. I think being a granddaddy was his greatest joy. After he retired, he had time to spend with them, and he laughed and smiled when they were around. When they were infants/toddlers, he spent a lot of time holding them in his lap, reading to them or talking to them. As my nephews got older, he played baseball with them, had Easter egg hunts, and let them pretend to be waiters at Cock of the Walk (a fried catfish restaurant) while he sat out on the back porch, repeatedly placing his pretend orders for hushpuppies and fried catfish.

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My 2-yr-old daughter enjoyed Easter egg hunts with Big Ken too…all year. Other times, he would take spoons outside for her to dig in the dirt. He had built a bridge across the Civil War mound in their front yard, so my daughter spent a lot of time running back and forth across the bridge. Daddy was amazed that she never stopped running.

Today, he’d be proud of his grandsons…one working hard in college and the other making his way as a writer. He would enjoy watching my daughter play sports.

When we were growing up, he enjoyed watching sports on TV…there was always a baseball or basketball game on. If sports weren’t on, he was likely watching Sanford and Son, Cheers, All in the Family, or The Jeffersons. He loved to laugh, and those shows made him laugh, without fail. As for dramas, he loved Lonesome Dove, and one of his favorite movies was Cool Hand Luke.

He peppered his language with things we called “Bascom-isms,” named after a place he lived as a little boy, Bascom, Florida. I wish I had written them down over the years, because they’re difficult to remember. I was reminded of them recently, when I posted on Facebook a picture of the sun shining while it was raining, and captioned it, “The devil’s beating his wife.” It was something Daddy said, and lots of people from the south say it. We learned it as, “The devil’s beating his wife with a frying pan,” while others apparently said, “The devil’s beating his wife behind the door.”

Here are some things Daddy used to say:

Ned in the first reader. Daddy said this all the time. I called Aunt Katie to confirm the meaning. In our family, Ned in the first reader means someone who is poor at what he/she is doing. It means Ned never advanced beyond the first reading level, meaning he wasn’t good at reading or he wasn’t very smart. For example, let’s say Suzy and Jane are doing the same job, and Suzy gets three times as much done as Jane in the same amount of time. Daddy would say, “Suzy makes Jane look like Ned in the first reader.” Or if someone is trying to learn to sew but can’t even thread the needle, we might say, “Bless her heart. She’s like Ned in the first reader.”

“Don’t care” has neither home nor master. This is something Daddy would say if we answered, “I don’t care.” I think it means that if you “don’t care” about something, then you stand for nothing. You should always care. Daddy’s mother used to say it to him when he was growing up. She was right. We should never say we “don’t care.” Maya Angelou once said, “Can’t Do is like Don’t Care. Neither of them have a home.” The meaning is the same…you should never say you can’t do something, and you shouldn’t say you don’t care about something.

You can make three days (or any time reference) standing on your head. This was Daddy’s way of saying “you got this.” If we had three more days of exams, it’s something he would say to remind us something was do-able.

I hope my brother will call me and remind me of some of Daddy’s sayings, because I feel like we keep his memory alive, in part, by keeping these sayings alive.

If Daddy were here to celebrate his 80th birthday today, I would call him and sing the birthday song from The Little Rascals. The episode is called Feed ‘Em and Weep, and it’s about Darla’s friends bringing gifts to her dad on his birthday…when all he wanted was a quiet evening with family. Daddy thought Alfalfa and Spanky were hilarious, and he looked forward to my singing every year…and we would laugh. To see the clip of the song, click here.

Today we celebrate his birth 80 years ago. He loved sunflowers, just like Mother did, so we will use some from our yard as our centerpiece for the day, and I’ll have a tomato sandwich. Maybe I’ll make the Sour Cream Pound Cake his mother used to make. Our cousin, Ardrue, gave me the recipe last year, and it is delicious.

Hurricane Sanity Preparedness

This is not one of those standard posts about hurricane preparedness. You’re hearing plenty of that with 24-hour news, I hope. Between the hype and the doom, they throw in a little information about getting prepared for a disaster. This is about being prepared for the long hours of being stuck indoors…waiting. How will you stay sane?

Hurricanes are scary. No doubt about that. I “survived” four hurricanes and a tropical storm (at least one) when I lived on the Gulf Coast, so I know how scary they are. For one of them, I was 20 miles from the eye at landfall, so I know how long it can take for a hurricane to arrive and move out…making for some long hours.

So for Hurricane Florence, do everything you can to be prepared…stock up on nonperishables (and favorite junk food snacks!) and bottled water, remove any possible projectiles from your yard (planters, patio furniture, etc), fill your tubs with water in case you need it to flush toilets later (this is rare), bring in pets, charge your cellphones and laptops, charge your portable chargers, put fresh batteries in your flashlights, and settle in for a long ride.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

What they won’t tell you on TV is how to stay sane during the storm. My disaster preparedness routine includes entertainment for sanity. I’m not making light of the storm, but if the power goes out, we will need entertainment. Otherwise, everybody just gets grumpy. We don’t need a situation like The Shining after everyone starts getting cabin fever.

So here is my list for hurricane entertainment in the event of a power outage:

  • Charades. I know. Sounds boring, but charades by flashlight is hilarious. I’ve done it. Heck, even if the power doesn’t go out, it’s fun to play Charades by flashlight!
  • Movies. Have movies pre-downloaded on your phone or iPad and watch an old favorite or one you haven’t seen before. Since Burt Reynolds just passed away, I will be downloading some of his movies. Or maybe watch movies about a storm…The Perfect Storm, Adrift, or even Sharknado! Or rewatch a favorite classic…maybe some Hitchcock: Vertigo, Rear Window (one of my all-time favorites), or The Birds. I was at my parents’ house one time during a storm, and since Daddy loved Lonesome Dove, we watched the whole series while we waited for the storm to pass. We were very close to where the storm made landfall (20 miles away on the bay, and my parents lived less than a 1/4 mile inland) and we never lost power.
  • Prompt stories. Have everyone in the family write single words on tiny pieces of paper. Put the papers into a bowl or hat and take turns pulling words from the hat. When you pick a word, you have to tell a story from your life using the word. Some good words to use: sunset, key, gate, walk, accomplishment, sport, etc. It’s a lot of fun, and it’s a good way to get people to talk.
  • Start a blog…or do lots of writing for a current blog. I’m always looking for subjects for my blog and making notes. I have a long list of topics, so what better time to sit down and write than in the middle of a hurricane? Aside from the storm itself, there won’t be many distractions or obligations.
  • Clean. I know…cleaning with no electricity sounds terrible, but you might not lose power, and if you do, there are some things you can clean by flashlight. My bathroom cabinets can always use a purge. Being trapped inside is the perfect opportunity to sit down and go through all the stuff to see what can go.
  • Read a book on your Kindle or Ipad. If you’re going to be stuck without TV or power for a few days, it creates the perfect opportunity to finally read that book you’ve been meaning to read. Daily life is so busy that it can be difficult to carve out time to sit down and read.
  • Play board games or cards. How often do you bring out those old board games? Well, this is your chance. I could spend hours playing Yahtzee and Scattergories. In fact, I could likely destroy my family’s sanity by forcing them to play.
  • Laugh. Find things to laugh about. Laughter will cure a lot of ills and get us through a lot of hard times. Laugh, laugh, laugh.
  • Watch sports. Download ESPN, CBS, and ABC, so you can watch all your favorite college teams Saturday and favorite NFL teams Sunday, even if the power goes out. You’ll need your login information for your provider. Again, make sure your electronics are charged in advance, and remember you can charge things in your car if you need to!

And if your grocery store was out of bread and water when you went, I hope you bought cake and champagne. This is a good time to enjoy that!

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In all seriousness, hurricanes are dangerous and frightening. It’s not a good time to be inebriated, because you need to be able to react in an emergency. Take care of yourselves and your family, and say a prayer that no one is injured or worse, but please don’t sit around worrying! If you’ve prepared, there is nothing else to do. Worrying won’t help. Try to relax and stay aware of what’s going on in your area.

Stay safe, friends.

 

 

 

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Hooray for Low-Maintenance Friends!

A friend and I had some tentative plans for tonight. I texted her and asked if she was still up for it, and she explained something had come up with one of her children. She didn’t totally back out of our plans, but she knew I’d let her off the hook. I said, “I’m not going to hold your feet to the fire. You don’t have to go…no biggie.”  I’m a low-maintenance friend.

What does that mean? To me, that means that I love my friends exactly as they are. It means I don’t get mad if they have to change plans or choose to change plans.  I don’t have to talk to them every day. I don’t take it personally if they don’t return my calls, texts, or emails. I don’t “expect” them to be a certain way. I simply want them to be there for me when they can. I know real life gets in the way sometimes, and sometimes, you just want to sit on the sofa and watch some mindless television. Years ago, when we had our toddler playgroup, I told all my friends that I am a low-maintenance friend. I also told them I expect the same in return.

For example, if we have plans to go to dinner on a Tuesday night, and on Tuesday afternoon, I decide I just can’t pull it off…I call and say, “I just can’t pull it off.” And that is fine…no questions asked. My friends know they can do that with me, but I expect the same courtesy in return. If it’s an important event, it’s different…I WANT to attend important events. My friend of 20+ years, Mary Ann, uses our friendship as her example of “low-maintenance friendships.” We have the same views. It doesn’t mean one or the other of us is neglecting the friendship or taking advantage of the other. It means we can be honest and realistic. We don’t get bent out of shape about silly things. We don’t sweat the small stuff. There’s no pressure. We can be forgiving.

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Photo from Barber’s Marina in Elberta, Alabama, home of dinosaurs.

In the photo above, Mary Ann and I are looking at dinosaurs on the grounds of Barber Marina. For more information on the marina’s attractions, click here.

Here’s how I tend to look at it: we all mess up sometimes. There have been countless times I’ve messed up with friends…didn’t return calls, ran very late, accidentally didn’t show for something, or maybe I was just plain thoughtless. I’m sure I’ve done worse things, and I have friends who have done all this too at some time. The great thing about low-maintenance friends? They don’t freak out. They don’t unfriend you on Facebook or give you the silent treatment. They forgive. After all, if we want to be forgiven by others, we have to be forgiving, right? You know…without sin/casting stones, right?

And frankly, it’s so much more fun to take the high road. In my younger days…meaning my teens and twenties…there were times I just couldn’t be forgiving. But I’ve learned.  There is no fun in that.  Staying angry just takes too much energy. It’s exhausting, and usually, it’s worse on the person who stays mad. It’s also simply the wrong thing to do. If I ever got mad at you in my teens or twenties, I’m no longer mad. Honestly, chances are I don’t even remember being mad.

Life is a lot more fun if you don’t take it too seriously.

One thing my mother always told me was that if I want to have good friends, I have to BE a good friend. Different people may have different ideas about what that is. But for me,  being a good friend means giving your friends the benefit of the doubt. I might be able to remember the names of everyone in my kindergarten class, but I can’t always remember where I’m supposed to be on any given day.IMG_4717

This is a roundabout way of saying “thank you” to my friend who couldn’t keep our plans tonight. Thank you for reminding me how fortunate I am to have low maintenance friends. Thank you for being up front with me about tonight. Sounds crazy, right? It’s not. Right after she told me she couldn’t go, I texted her back and said, “I totally get it.” It turned into a love fest when she texted back saying, “I don’t deserve you.”  I texted back the same thing, and then she texted, “I enjoy having a low maintenance friend.”

And that was what prompted me to write this today.

In fact, THANK YOU to all my low maintenance friends out there. You know who you are. You’re the friend with whom I haven’t spoken in a few months, but you know I still love you. You’re the friend who didn’t return my call last week, but we’re cool. You’re the friend who didn’t care when I didn’t want to go to a concert with you. YOU ARE MY FRIEND.25396091_10215007394683148_3322438155130201318_n

Here’s one thing I know for sure about my low maintenance friends: you would drop everything to help me if I needed your help, and you wouldn’t complain. You would drive a long way to pick me up, or drive to New Orleans with me to get my passport renewed, or babysit my child in an emergency.  In fact, you’ve likely done it before.

My friends know I often say, “I do not do high maintenance friendships.” And it’s true. Too much drama? No thanks. There is nothing worse to me than a friendship that feels like work because we are always having to apologize to each other, or because the friend is too needy. I have been known to walk away from a friendship like that. While I love to think I can get along with virtually everyone, I can’t.

I can’t get along with complainers, whiners,  negative people, people who try to control me, or high maintenance friends. I don’t need that in my life, and at 50 (almost 51), I won’t even try anymore. It wears me out. It…is…exhausting.

Life is too short.

So, if you consider yourself a low maintenance friend, we would likely get along. Let’s hang out! But if I don’t return your call in a timely fashion, don’t freak out.