The “10 Books” List

Mom reading to Matt and Tina - and Ginger

Mom reading to Matt and Tina – and Ginger

There has been a game of tag being played on Facebook recently. The rules are to list ten books that have had an impact on your life, then tag ten more people to do the same. When I was tagged, my first thought was, “Oh no! If I do this, everyone will know just how little I read!” And, reading the lists of some of my friends, I did feel a bit stupid and ignorant.

I was a reader as a kid. I loved biographies and mysteries and books about horses. Mom would scold me when I tried to read at the dinner table because I didn’t want to put my book down long enough to eat. So what happened?

College.

It seems like college ruined my ability to read for pure enjoyment and entertainment. There was so much assigned reading that I couldn’t find time to read for pleasure. And nearly everything I read was a textbook or non-fiction with the purpose of teaching me something. By the time I got out of college and graduate school, I was seven years removed from popular fiction. I didn’t know what authors I liked to read any more. And there was always a feeling that I should be reading to “learn” something. Sigh.

After a few years, I finally started reading some fiction again and found authors I enjoyed: E. L. Doctorow, John Updike, John Irving, Anne Tyler .. to name a few. And then another reading killer came along – kids! I just didn’t possess whatever it is that true readers have to keep it going once we had kids. I did enjoy lots of children’s literature, though, and once they were old enough for chapter books, I got to revisit my old favorites and read wonderful books that I had missed as a child. I had never read The Boxcar Children series, or Anne of Green Gables, or books by Roald Dahl. How had they escaped me?

These days I actually spend a lot of time reading – but not always books. Every day I read the newspaper and numerous blogs that I follow. Unfortunately, I have not been reading my favorite family history blogs – but I intend to correct that. I’m getting depressed and stressed reading so many current event and opinion pieces. One day I counted the tabs I had opened on my computer of links on my Facebook feed that looked interesting. 22! So, yes, I do read …. but not what the game required.

So I tackled my list of 10 books that had an impact on my life with some reservations and fear of embarrassment. I decided to start at the very beginning (a very good place to start – please, sing along) and proceed through time. Admittedly, I didn’t spend days thinking it through, so my list might be different had I given it more thought. Here is my list of books and why I chose them.

“10 books that have shaped me, changed my perspective, or moved me. Tag 10 friends and me so I can see your list.”

book cover.little engine that could1. The Little Engine That Could – I mentioned this book in a previous post about a few of my childhood books. Undoubtedly, several generations of American children have been influenced from a very early age by its message of success through optimism and effort. If you think you can, you can! And, looking back, I don’t think it was lost on me that the Little Blue Engine that could was female. She may have been small and lacked experience, but she had compassion, optimism, the will to try, and the strength to succeed. Hurray! Hurray!

Brownie Handbook2. The Brownie Handbook – This book, in and of itself, did not have a great impact on my life. But it represents the other Girl Scout books that followed and the many years I spent as a Girl Scout and a Girl Scout leader. In that sense, it had a tremendous influence on my life. One of the truths of my life is that Girl Scouts made my life tolerable and fabulous as a child who moved every few years. As a new kid in a new school in a new town, joining a Girl Scout troop was the first line in making friends. And being empowered as a girl. And singing and playing games and spending time (and testing myself) in nature and serving the community and making decisions. And, as an adult, I enjoyed nearly thirteen years as a Girl Scout leader, taking a group of girls from Kindergarten through graduation from high school. And those wonderful girls are now amazing women whom I treasure.

3. The Nancy Drew series – ah, well. Another smart girl! Enough said? Nancy and Bess and I spent many many many many hours together!

Christy4. Christy by Catherine Marshall – This is the first – and perhaps only – book that I can link with a very specific outcome in my life. As I approached graduation from high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do in life. People often told me I should be a teacher or a nurse. (What else was there to be in the late 1960s – early 1970s?)  But I knew that these professions were not for me. Teacher? I knew I didn’t have the skills or where with all to deal with a room full of kids and handle discipline. Nurse? Are you kidding me? I can’t stand the sight of blood.

Reading Christy, I felt that I had found my calling. But I didn’t know the name for it. I wanted to help people who were disadvantaged in some way access a better life – as Christy had done when she went to Appalachia to teach. It wasn’t until I started reading college catalogs that I found the name for what I wanted to do – Social Work. I studied Social Work in college and graduate school and worked as a social worker for about ten years – until I decided to leave the world of the employed when I had children.

5. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – This one is on everyone’s list. I don’t think it needs any explanation. And, besides, I was beginning to grasp at straws in making my list. Were I making the list today, I might make a substitution here.

DSCN34956. Native Son by Richard Wright – I wasn’t sure if this was the right book, so it stood in for whatever book led me to read book after book about living “black” in America. Maybe it started with To Kill a Mockingbird. Maybe it was The Learning Tree.

Maybe it was Five Smooth Stones – a book I saw on someone else’s list after I posted mine and then remembered how I loved that book; how it stayed with me for years after I read it. I remember trying to find my copy years ago and looking at the library and book store, but it was out of print. I hardly remember the story all these years later. Would it have the same impact today? I don’t know, but I just purchased a copy on Amazon last week and one of these days I’ll get around to reading it and find out.

7. The Color Purple by Alice Walker – Kind of continuing the theme above, only several years later. Very powerful and moving. I love the conversation between Shug and Celie about God.

8. The Bible - I decided my list would not be complete if I didn’t include the Bible. What other book do I return to again and again and have memorized passages from and find new insights in rereading?

DSCN34969. Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott – I thought this was my introduction to Anne Lamott and that’s one reason why I included it on my list. I was wrong. I read Blue Shoes first. I’d still include Traveling Mercies, though, because I really fell in love with Anne in the pages of this book. I’ve gone back to read the chapter on forgiveness more than once. It is hilarious and so true. That’s what I love about her. She is hilarious. And serious. And spiritual. She says what she really thinks and feels – and so often you know those thoughts and feelings too. Her books make me wonder if messed-up-life Anne had walked into the church I attend, would she have been welcomed with abundant love and acceptance and nurture and grace as she was in the little Presbyterian church she attends in Marin City, California? I wonder because I would have not been the one to give those gifts to Anne and I sure hope someone in the pews around me is a better Christian than I am!

10. Cane River by Lalita Tademy – I loved this book and need to read it again. Lalita Tademy put skin and bones and emotion and history and connection and faces on the ancestors whose history she researched. It is so well-written I couldn’t put it down. And the family historian in me was overjoyed that she included documents and pictures from her research. Historical fiction at its best, it begins with the birthday of nine-year-old Suzette, a house slave in Cane River, Louisiana.

I heard about this book from my sister because it takes place in Louisiana, where most of my family now lives. In fact, we were in town to visit my parents one summer and decided to stay in a hotel because we were “all” in town. I noticed a group of people in the parking lot wearing matching t-shirts. Later, we were getting on the elevator and some of them were exiting. It wasn’t until the elevator door closed, that I realized their shirts said, “Tademy Family Reunion.” I was so excited, but it was too late to catch them. Of course, they only wore the matching shirts one day, so I missed my chance to ask, “Are you members of ‘The Cane River’ Tademy’s?”

So that’s my list. Other books I almost included but didn’t are:
Plain and Simple: A Woman’s Journey to the Amish and Everyday Sacred: A Woman’s Journey Home – both by Sue Bender

The Harry Potter series – many many joyful hours and days spent sharing these books with my kids

The Work at Hand by Carol Flinders, an introduction to the cookbook Laurel’s Kitchen. I know … a cookbook? The introduction? Maybe I’ll reread it and write about it one of these days.

Tag! You’re it!  What ten books have shaped you, changed your perspective, or moved you?

My Recipe for Portacath Pillows

Enough hair for a little trim!

Enough hair for a little trim!

I’ve been neglecting this space again! Jana Last even included my last post – Mom’s recipe for Blender Custard Pie – in her Fab Finds. A  week ago! I didn’t realize it until today.

I usually post family recipes on Friday, but today will be a different kind of recipe. Not really a recipe – I’m fudging cheating. It’s a pattern.

If you are a frequent visitor, you know that I had a stem cell transplant on February 12th – my new birthday. That makes me 7 months old today!

On August 12, my six month new birthday, I celebrated by taking snacks and portacath pillows to the infusion (chemo) room where I received six rounds of chemo from Sept.- Dec.

On my first day of chemo I was scared and apprehensive. A friend texted me after a couple of hours and asked how it was going.

My answer to her: It is strangely pleasant here.

Cancer free! 12/14

Cancer free! 12/13

And it was. My nurse, Emily, took such good care of me, patiently explaining everything and making sure that I was comfortable. The woman across from me had a friend with her and they were playing cards and laughing. They wanted a picture taken with Emily, so I suggested my husband take it. :) There was a volunteer in the room who came around every so often and offered to get water, coffee, or a snack for my husband and me. It was so nice to be looked out for in that way.

Hours spent in the chemo room were mostly pleasant and I always had wonderful nurses and the best of care. But there was never a volunteer with snacks on any of the other days. :(

Now that I am able to be on the giving side of cancer, I decided that, once I felt up to it, I would spend some time in the infusion room and try to return just a bit of the goodness that I had received there. I’m not up for doing this on a regular basis, but I decided that I could do something once a month to celebrate on the anniversaries of my transplant.

Now let me tell you about those pillows, as they are the main point of this post….

In the infusion room, there was a basket that held hats that had been sewn or knitted or crocheted by volunteers and were free for the taking. Friends who had been cancer patients told me to look for the basket and to find a hat to wear to bed because my head would get cold at night. (They were right!) I found a hat I sort of liked …. (I’m not much for turban-style pink hats that scream CANCER), but it was just the right weight – not too heavy and thick – a nice, soft fabric for a sleeping cap.

my pillow

my pillow

The other thing I found in the basket – and there was only one – was a portacath pillow. There was a note with it saying that it had been made by a woman in her 80s who is a cancer survivor and her daughter is a cancer survivor. It even had her address so I could send her a note of thanks. :)

Many cancer patients have a power port or a portacath “installed” under the skin a couple of inches below the collar bone. You know – right where a seat belt will fit perfectly over it, pressing firmly to make it just a bit uncomfortable. This great little pillow attaches to your seatbelt and holds it off of your port. I prefer to have the pillow higher than my port as I find that if it is right over the port it still puts pressure on it.

lots of pillowsI used the pillow I took from the basket as my pattern and made 31 for the infusion room last month. There were none in the basket today. Time to make more! I’m sharing my directions with you, in case you would like to join me.

A friend helped me pick out the gold fabric off the discount table at the fabric store, noting that is is gender neutral. What smart friends I have! I made some from denim I had on hand, but they take longer to make because of the little bit of hand sewing. It’s dense and hard to poke a needle through, so I don’t recommend denim or old jeans unless you are only making one or two or have special denim super powers. Just plain old odds and ends of poly/cotton or cotton or muslin will work fine. Feel free to alter as you like. The pillow I have is just a little bigger than the ones I made.

What you need:
Enough fabric for two 7-x-4-inch rectangles.
Velcro – the sew-on kind, not with sticky backing. I used 5/8-inch width.
Fiber fill stuffing
thread

Cut two 7-x-4-inch pieces of fabric.

Cut two 7 x 4-inch pieces of fabric.

Cut Velcro to 4-inch strip. Machine baste one side of Velcro to right side of fabric – fuzzy/loopy side up. Stitch only one end of Velcro, leaving the other end free.
baste 1

 

Baste other half of Velcro strip to opposite side of fabric – loopy side down.
baste 2Put fabric pieces right sides together and make 1/4-inch seam all the way around, leaving an opening about 1 1/2 – 2 inches at one end. Be sure not to catch the “free” ends of the Velcro pieces in the seam.
right sides openingTurn right side out and lightly stuff
turn and stuffWhip stitch opening to finish. Ta Da!
finished

These are great to do assembly-line style, if you want to make more than one or two.

I look forward to celebrating many more 12ths of the month and practicing this small act of gratitude.

And if you are the praying kind, join me today in offering a prayer of thanks for doctors, nurses, researchers and modern medicine, and for those receiving treatment today and those caring for them.

100 Days, 100 Nights

Reposting from my Caring Bridge post of yesterday:

I posted the song by that title (above) on my Facebook page this morning, but I don’t think anyone “got” it. :)

We made the trip to San Antonio today for my 100 day follow up appointment. I had them take blood from my port because it hasn’t been accessed in a month and needed to be flushed. That’s something I’ll have to schedule monthly as long as I have it.

My blood work was great!

I saw Dr. B’s Nurse Practitioner and she said she hopes they never see me again. :)

Sharona was replaced by Natalie, who carried on, always ready with a hand wipe.

Sharona was replaced by Natalie, who carried on, always ready with a hand wipe.

I am pretty much free to do whatever I please now. I still need to be careful, though, as I have less immunity than the normal person and it can be harder to shake an infection once I get it. Wash, wash, wash my hands – preferably with good old soap and water. My friend, Rebecca, says I need a Sharona. (Only Monk fans will understand.) I’m accepting applications.

If I get sick and don’t start to feel better after 48 hours I am to see my doctor, not just shoulder on as I would have done before.

My skin has been damaged as well and, combined with a weakened immune system, I also have to be especially careful about skin cancer. She recommended that I see a dermatologist soon and always use sunscreen, wear long sleeves, wide brim hats, etc. I’ve never been very good at daily sunscreen, so I have a new habit to develop. And it’s time to go to the dentist.

Vaccinations begin at 6 months – sometime in August, I guess. I forget what is first. Then more at 1 year (DPT and some others). Then those that contain live viruses (MMR) at 2 years post transplant.

Do I look like a person who doesn't like pills?

Do I look like a person who doesn’t like pills?

When I asked about my peripheral neuropathy, she said that she could tell by looking at me that I’m not the kind of person who likes to take pills. How could she see that? I wasn’t wearing a sign or anything… She said some patients have had good luck with vitamin B6. Others have tried Wellness Formula – one patient especially had good success with it. She didn’t observe by looking at me that I often consider herbal supplements as another form of “pill.” I’ll check it out, but may see if yoga and massage do the trick without any pills.

We were both a bit confused that Dr. T didn’t order a PET scan for me as it was in my discharge orders and I specifically asked about it a couple of times – and that the CT scan I did have was only of my abdomen. Maybe he’ll replace the next scheduled CT scan with the PET.

When I started writing this, I tried to google the link between stem cell transplants and skin cancer. I didn’t find a lot, but I did find that, in general, I am now at some increased risk of several cancers. Good to know so I can be aware of the possibilities, but best not to dwell….

Although I wasn’t nervous about this appointment, I was really tired afterward – the kind of tired you feel after you have been through something stressful. I think it was being back in San Antonio, having my port accessed, smelling the heparin to flush it out as it was over and over again in the hospital, the focus on what has transpired …

I am happy to be doing so well, but I am so sad right now about friends facing their own rare diseases and young adults losing their lives in car crashes and young people with cancer. On the drive home I was visited by a memory of myself when I was in 3rd grade and struggling with the realization that life can be unfair. There was a girl in my class whom I thought had a hard life. She didn’t seem any different than me. We were just a couple of good kids who liked to play and did our best in school and maybe thought our teacher was too strict - why should her life be more difficult than mine? The conclusion my 3rd grade self reached was that if your life is easy – going smoothly, it is so that you are available help others who are having a hard time. I decided that is God’s plan. I think it’s time to get back in touch with my younger self and recognize my privileged position of being restored to health. (Well almost!)

And on a lighter note – I have half-length eyelashes…. long enough that if I put mascara on, they almost look full grown. And my hair looks like it’s coming in darker – except for the white hairs (!). Christina thinks it looks kind of gray. We decided “ash” brown or something sounded better. It’s not really long enough yet to tell what color it is against my pale scalp, so we’ll wait and see.

I guess that’s it for today…. although my still-addled mind thinks I am forgetting something.