Friday, February 27, 2009

Knowing the Rules in Order to Break Them Effectively

The Milk Guy and I have recently admitted to each other that we kind of (no longer secretly) enjoy it when the other one is sick, because it gives us respectively the upper hand in our verbal sparring. Not that we don't sympathise with the other's discomfort and wish him or her health. Just that . . . it's nice to have a moment when our albeit friendly opponent is not likely to contest our advantage too much.

Last night, while talking to him on the phone, my head was too congested to have much room for coherent thought and the Milk Guy had taken it into his head to analyse how we each typically end our stories. He said he most frequently ends his with an "oh well." I said I did, too, but he denied it, asserting that my favourite way to end a telling is tailing off with a "so yeah. Anyway." Then he said it surprised him, since I'm such a grammar and spelling snob, that I also include the phrase in my writing. He said I do not, as I posited, always write the way I speak.

I didn't have the energy then to take up this next point, but somewhere in college I picked up the maxim that the reason to learn grammar rules was so that you could break them effectively in your own writing. I really believe this, too. You have to know how something works at a basic level before you can see its true potential and have the freedom not to be bound by those basics. There is good writing and bad writing, and in my opinion and experience, either remaining rigorously tied to grammar rules, or being totally ignorant of or flouting them, generally leads to bad writing. One is result is wooden and the other is often incomprehensible. Both are often self-conscious. I feel free to write in vernacular sometimes because, if I think about it, I suspect I know how the language works well enough to be able to write it so that it reads like actual speech. My relationship here is more with the living language than with the rules themselves. My best writing flows unselfconsciously out of a love of words and of communicating.

I didn't have the energy to bring up this point because I was pretty sure the Milk Guy would seize the opportunity to universalise the maxim and ask if I apply the same thinking to my faith, or something like that. And I didn't want to talk about it right then because I wanted to think about it. I don't know. Do I? And is that wrong, or is it appropriate?

I believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God. And there are a lot of rules in it. Jesus said He came to fulfill the Law and He also told us that if our righteousness didn't exceed that of the religious leaders of His day, we were in sad shape. I think we need to know what's in there. I think it needs to guard our hearts and inform our thinking and give us a framework for our lives. But it isn't enough to get us into God's good graces--He gets us there Himself through relationship. If I don't know the Law at all or go out of my way to disobey it, or if I am completely tied to it by legalistic fear or self-righteousness, either way it's "bad writing." I'm not following Jesus in those cases. I'm following (or intentionally breaking) Rules--and I'm very self-conscious about it. But my relationship is supposed to be with the Living Word, and with everything I think and say and do flowing more and more out of unselfconscious love for Him.

Monday, February 23, 2009

How Are You Feeling?

Pretty much everyone--everyone--asks me, when they see me, "How are you feeling?" I actually appreciate the concern. A lot.

It kind of feels like a let-down to tell them, as I have been because it's true, "Just fine, actually, thanks." No--really it isn't true. I spend most winters sneezing and coughing and hacking around a sore throat, with my hands chapped and raw from the sanitising solution at Starbucks. I don't really know how I've escaped all that this winter, but if I were going to be really honest, I should have been going around saying, "I feel great, thanks."

(Nobody gets that enthusiastic about anything in New England, though.)

Anyway, it might come as something of a relief to all involved that, having gone through most of the cancer treatments with shamelessly few effects, I can now say in answer to the "How are you?" question, "Kind of horrible, actually."

It would appear that the cold/flu thing I've been dodging all winter has finally caught up with me. Meanwhile, tamoxifen seems to be going pretty well, except that it is refusing to allow me to sleep. I don't think I've had a full night of sleep since I started taking it. Which might explain why the cold/flu thing caught up with me, I guess. Also hot flashes. Those are weird, people. I really hope I don't have them (and sleeplessness) for the ensuing five years I'm on this stuff . . .

But otherwise? I'm feeling great, thanks.

Friday, February 20, 2009


I think this post is a result of combined laziness and self-congratulation. There's this meme-like fad going on over at facebook where people are writing down 25 random things about themselves and then tagging 25 people to do the same thing, and I'm pretty sure I've been tagged more than 25 times, but seriously, folks--I think you could come up with 25 random things about me just from this blog, and I'm not doing it.

However, this week a long-lost friend from elementary school tagged me in the following note and this one I thought was pretty cool. Mostly because the only thinking I have to do involves putting the correct symbol after each selection. But also because I'm pleased to report that I've read more than 6 of the books in this list. And also because it's intriguing to see what they list. I'm not going to tag anybody, but if any of you want to pick this up and do it yourselves, by all means go for it.

Apparently the BBC reckons most people will have only read 6 of the 100 books here.
1) Look at the list and put an 'x' after those you have read.
2) Add a '+' to the ones you LOVE.
3) Star (*) those you plan on reading.
4) Tally up the ones you've read and put the number at the bottom

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen x +
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien x +
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte x +
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling x
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee x +
6 The Bible x +
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte x
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell x
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens x
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott x
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy x +
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare (no--but many of the works of Shakespeare!)
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier x
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien x +
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot x +
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald x +
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh x
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky x
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll x
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame x
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens x
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis x +
34 Emma - Jane Austen x
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen x
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis x +
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini x +
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne x +
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown x
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving x
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery x +
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy x
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan (couldn't get into it)
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel (couldn't get into it)
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons x
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen x
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens x +
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon x
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez (couldn't get into it)
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville x
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens x
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett x +
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath x
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens x
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchel
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White x
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad x
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery x
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams x +
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare x
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl x
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

I think I counted 45 x's, me. How about you?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Of Blood Clots and Financial Haemorhage

I saw the doctor last week. She said I'm so young, my chances of either blood clots or uterine cancer are practically nil. I didn't even have to look like a hypochondriac by asking about them . . . she offered this information of her own volition. That was nice . . .

So . . . I've been on Tamoxifen for six days. Six days out of five years? Okay--I'd better not start thinking like that.

I found out in the same week that my insurance has decided against covering my Oncotype-DX test. Which is disappointing. I'm glad that the test (and some prodding from the Milk Guy, my mother, and Pastor Val) enabled me to decide not to have chemo. I'm less glad that the people conducting it seemed to have told me my insurance would pay for it when it was evidently not a foregone conclusion.

Still, it was all put in perspective when the insurance statement came in for my radiation treatments. Having met and exceeded my out-of-pocket expenses, my insurance is covering these. The December treatments alone (not even a full month) exceeded $18,000. Good grief! If I had to pay that, I'd be taking out a mortgage on my life right now . . . !

Monday, February 09, 2009


I'm having a little trouble deciding which posts to write over here and which ones to write at A Wandering Line, but I just posted something about fighting with Dinosaurs and something else about antidepressants over there, and I'm gearing up to start musing about happiness, if you're curious and want to start peppering me with difficult questions.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Whoa. That Was Weird

After writing that last post, I tried one more search on my computer and found what appears to be my songs, lurking in the shadows. I dragged and dropped them into itunes, and they seem to have gone there, and, randomly, one of the songs started playing.

It was Jason Harrod's "Messed Up Everywhere Blues." Ironically. And also which I love. And which I had been singing earlier. As the melody tugs on my heart, the album covers reappear in the itunes screen . . . one . . . by . . . one . . . like little stars . . .

So melodramatic. So silly. But somehow the music seemed to imbue even that with meaning.

All that to say: basically better. I still need to check a couple of things, but I think we're good. And . . . I'd better back up my ipod.

Plus, We Are Again Having Technical Difficulties

Although my gratitude remains heartfelt to Matthew-the-Macintosh-Evangelist, I confess it only took a couple of months to realise that I wasn't as convinced by the product as he is. I like my Macbook a lot. I just tend to think . . . it's a computer. I know my tastes aren't honed to appreciate the subtleties in computers the way they are able to tell coffee from coffee. Heck, I can't even do half the things on my computer that my computer could allow me to do if I knew how. (Does that make any sense?)

Mostly I think I mean . . . Macs are touted as being these perfect machines. And they aren't. Or at least . . . mine isn't. I don't know why I would expect any computer owned by me to be perfect, but I confess I sort of had that in the back of my mind.

What I have discovered instead, however, is that Mack, my generally cooperative Macbook, likes to snack on CD-ROMs. Sometimes they get stuck. When that happens, I have to shut him down unceremoniously and turn him back on and hope he will release the disk without any more fighting. Usually he does.

Today I bought the 2008 version of TaxCut, which I always use. I inserted the disk. It got stuck. I shut down the computer. I turned on the computer. I ejected the disk. But I still wanted to do my taxes, so I re-inserted the disk. I installed the software. I ejected the disk. Then the software wouldn't run properly. The whole system got stuck. I shut the computer down again. I turned it back on again. This process (minus the disk, now that the software was supposedly installe) repeated about three times. Finally I decided to return the software and give up for the night. It's not April yet.

I turned the computer back on. I inserted a music disk so I could copy some files. ITunes opened with a horrifying error message to the effect that it couldn't locate my music library because my music library had been damaged. I think I had three days worth of songs on there. I had not backed up my ipod in some time. My itunes library is nowhere to be found.

I called the Milk Guy, more for moral support than because I thought he could fix it; he hasn't had a Mac in years. He said, "It sounds like the computer tried to upload the programme into itunes and it messed up the whole system." Yep. I think he's right. I just . . . couldn't be more frustrated right now.

Whatever Could Be Next?

Tamoxifen. That's what.

I've been kind of nervous the last few months about Tamoxifen. Way more nervous than I was about radiation--which I wasn't that nervous about, though. Mostly I'm nervous about going into early menopause. I'm not sure why. I don't plan to have children and I am not a terrific fan of The Cycle, so you would think I might kind of be looking forward to this prospective side effect or something.

But I guess I feel like I will be aging my body before its time. While I don't consider 50 to be
old, exactly, I do consider myself to be not-50, and I don't want my body to be all acting like it's 50 when it isn't. Also, one time I was on the Pill to treat my acne, and it didn't help that at all, but it did make me very sick. I'm now kind of afraid that anything that messes with my hormones will mess with my entire body.

So I voicemailed the Nurse Practitioner. I haven't seen her in a long time and I like her, and I thought maybe I could chat to her about some of my concerns. I said, "I'm a little nervous about Tamoxifen, and I am planning on taking it, but I wondered if I could maybe ask you a few questions about it."

She emailed me back:
"Attached are a couple of handouts I use in my high risk clinic that I developed on Tamoxifen..see if they answer your questions...if not let me know and we'll see what else we can come up with..."

I was okay with this until I read them and learned that I could also develop blood clots and deep vein thrombosis. Who knew? After that I thought, "This was probably not the best approach for dealing with someone who has just admitted they're nervous about the prospect to begin with."

Then, a few weeks later I was in the bank changing tip change into bills for Starbucks and the Bank Ladies asked me how I was doing. "I'm doing okay," I said. "I'm almost done with radiation. But I have to start Tamoxifen soon. I'm actually a little more nervous about that."

"Yeah," said a Bank Lady seriously. "My mother had to take that. And she
did get uterine cancer from it, but the great thing is that they monitor you all the time, so they can catch stuff like that right away."


If we didn't have the right to free speech, I would not be able to write this blog, but sometimes I think that people should be prevented from talking without a license.

The Last Day

I feel that I should follow up this post with one that tells how it actually turned out:

I did not get a convenient parking space. BUT . . . I did get my favourite dressing room and some not-too-faded gowns and a warm blanket without asking. I also got a little computer-printed "diploma" to certify that I had completed my prescribed radiation treatment, with the names of all the technicians on it, and tied with a little blue bow. That was better than a bouquet of hazardous toiletries, by a long shot. Also--takes up less space.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Just Like Magic

So, you know when people talk about "kids these days" texting all the time. It is really true.

Ever since I started my job at New Church, I've been trying to figure out the best way to let the youth (and leaders) know about upcoming events, or to get feedback about things or whatever. I tried the "group" thing on facebook (there was already a group set up, so I didn't even have to get it going). And I tried the email thing. But not every kid, evidently, checks their email. What? This does not compute . . .

Then one Sunday I was discussing with some parents how I would communicate something with their daughter and her mother said, "Just get her cell phone number and text her. She'll get right back to you."

She wasn't kidding.

I now have most of the cell numbers of the kids who at least usually come to youth group. This afternoon I found out that the church would like us to help out with some "Lenten suppers" they offer on Wednesday nights during Lent, apparently. I sent everybody an email about it. Then I decided to text them and see what happened. So far (and school isn't even out yet as far as I know), I have received 14 text messages in response to mine. There aren't even 14 kids in the group. I think over the course of the last six months, I've only received a total of 3 emails in response to about 10 of those I've sent.

I'm just happy to have been clued into this phenomenon. But I might have to up my texting capabilities on my cell phone plan . . .

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

One Day More

Today was supposed to be my last day of radiation, but last Friday the Other Machine (which, for the last seven sessions, has become "my" machine) was broken, so I effectively had to make up a day the way all the school kids in the Northeast are going to have to make up the rest of their lives because of all the school they've missed this winter.

So anyway, tomorrow is my last day of radiation. Did you hear that?! It's my last day of radiation!

Radiation wasn't even that bad. I got tired, but that was because last Saturday we had a lock-in with the teens at New Church, not because of radiation. Still, in spite of its being Not That Bad, I feel that some sort of celebration is in order. I think they should make "Congratulations on your weird sunburn and not having to get it anymore" cards, and maybe bouquets of hazardous aluminum-filled deodorant and bubble baths and ladies' razors and stuff. I think, though, that getting appetizers and beverages on Thursday with 409-Caitlin and various other friends is going to be just the thing in lieu of that nonsense.

However, I also think that for my last day, I should get a parking space right next to the exit door of the parking garage, and I should get to change in my favourite dressing room, and I should get "gowns" that are not faded, and I should get a warm blanket without having to ask for it.

Why do I want to be spoiled when this wasn't even hard?