Thursday, November 12, 2009

Picture Perfect... and This Too Shall Pass

Every weekend since the dawn of creation our family has persistently declared its intention to get Family Photos taken…and every weekend we have been inundated with aggressive opposition. We have all been mugged by chronic Life Interruption.

Our mission is to capture our particular Nikon moments for posterity, but so far, posterity has been SOL.

How does life become so congested it is nearly impossible to assemble in one place at one time a dozen of the finest people I know?
Where do I begin?

Here is a comprehensive inventory of all the distractions that have thwarted our attempts on behalf of said posterity:

1. Soccer games
2. More soccer games.
3. Weight – either too much or too little.
4. Cleavage – either too much or too little.
5. A preponderance of root re-growth and insufficient platinum to cover.
6. Tantrums – by tired children.
7. More tantrums – by tired adults.
8. Post-menopausal facial hair growth.
9. Pre-menopausal pimples.
10. Diapers loaded with primeval muck.
11. Nasal glut resembling Metazoic ooze.
12. Recreational appendectomy.
13. Multiple hernia repairs.
14. Utah’s 3-season weather: it’s either just been too cold, or it’s going to be too cold, or it is too cold.
15. Inability to get on plastic surgeon’s schedule in spite of tantrum (see # 7) after years of full-throttle uglying up.

But Saturday, in spite of adversarial efforts by the Dark Side, The Twelve assembled at Grandma’s house. And so began the process of preserving the moments that will all too soon become memories.

With dangerous simple-mindedness, I am ashamed to admit we stooped to bribing the children with chocolate and candy to remove fingers from nostrils and sit still until the shutter clicked. We wondered if we would regret letting them out of their cages. Behind our smiles, pleas and empty threats were mumbled out the side of our mouths through clenched teeth.

Meanwhile, the adults were desperately mainlining caffeinated beverages through central venous catheters in an heroic effort to survive the exasperation of kids clashing with cameras. (The punctured-air clicks of opening Coke cans were nearly as rapid-fire as the staccato clicks of the photographer.) Eventually, inevitably, the sugar and the caffeine collided, with moments so hysterical, they were snort-cola-out-your-nose funny.

Beckham and Asher, however, soon became clear on the concept, and began to mug and pose for their close-ups like tiny divas. We could almost hear them singing “…if you want my body, and you think I’m sexy…”
But with yellow roses blooming in November, leaves drifting through the air like balsa wood gliders, and backlighting from the early morning autumn sun, we actually captured those elusive moments…in spite of diversions and distractions.

Time slips so easily into the past…and the future.

Posterity, whoever that eventually entails, will be given the photographic evidence of one brief shining exquisite hour on an early Saturday morning in autumn, when a dozen of the finest people I know gathered together at Grandma’s house for Family Photos.

It is November, the month of Thanksgiving and counting blessings for harvests and abundance. But did you know that November is also Pancreatic Cancer Awareness month? Of course, for the past two years, there has never been a moment when we were NOT aware of pancreas cancer. But perhaps this is a good time to profile the little fellow whose existence is so unobtrusive, and yet can create such havoc.

The pancreas is a pear-shaped gland located between the stomach and spine. When functioning properly, it is programmed to secrete digestive enzymes and make insulin and other hormones that regulate metabolism. And, if not trifled with, nobody gets hurt.

Its very efficiency causes us to take it for granted.

However, the pancreas lies hidden behind other organs, and doctors cannot see or feel any tumors or irregularities during routine exams. Thus, this cancer is particularly deadly because early detection is difficult. There are no reliable screening tests, such as a colonoscopy, to indicate the presence of cancer before symptoms are manifest.

The symptoms themselves can be deceiving, because they are subtle and routinely misdiagnosed. Abdominal pain, fatigue, and weight loss are associated with many other maladies, and do not necessarily indicate specific problems in the pancreas.

So here is an inventory of symptoms and signs to take seriously:

1. Jaundice, with or without itching, dark urine, light stool.
2. General symptoms: back pain, fatigue or weakness.
3. Other illnesses: pancreatitis, diabetes.
4. Digestive problems: unexplained weight loss, loss of appetite, malnutrition, nausea or vomiting, abdominal pain.

Cancer is a soulless demon, and a diagnosis disrupts the choreography of our lives, altering the body, the mind, the universe.

But there is so much that can be done to treat this plague. Dr. Mulvihill and the people at the Huntsman Center are leading a crusade to obliterate the obscenity that is cancer. And we have been inducted in the army who battle this disease. We are committed in the quest to eradicate this black evil.

Recently, Dennis and I were walking along the Jordan River Parkway, in companionable silence, when we looked up and saw a little piece of serendipity in the form of a 300-pound biker barreling straight at us – NO helmet, NO hands on the handlebars, pedaling DOWNHILL with the sun directly in his eyes, iPod in his ears, TXTNG! NO KIDDING!

There was absolutely no way to avoid blunt force trauma should his bike veer the width of a single hair in our direction. It reminded us of Indiana Jones and that infamous rolling boulder looking for road kill.

Through immense good fortune and a protective magic amulet, colossal catastrophe was averted. It would have required “jaws of death” just to extricate our mangled bodies from his bike.

But that biker was a literal vision of how adversity can strike with stealth and silence. It seems when you least fathom a crisis, that’s when it occurs. Be aware and prepare. This is a good thing.

November is a glorious season for family photos, awareness, and gratitude. I heard Christmas carols on the radio this morning…it is not too soon at all.

Happy Thanksgiving and love to all,

The Clot

Monday, November 2, 2009

Thanksgiving and Giving Thanks

Dear Clotters,

We have excellent news. After three weeks of WAITING, Dennis’ blood was drawn again. This time, the labs showed the tumor markers that had been elevated, are back down to normal. NORMAL! Once again – NORRRRMMMMMAAAAALLLL. Can you believe it? We are euphoric, and a little dazed – as if we’d just taken a tranquilizer dart to the brain. We can hardly wrap our minds around the concept that there does not appear to be an upward trend that would indicate a possible recurrence.

I am trying to spark my consciousness out of its bewilderment, resume minimal brain function, and reclaim some semblance of perky competence. So far, I’ve only succeeded in appearing cuckoo, and inviting ridicule.

I am overwhelmed by monumental concepts, and lost in small thoughts. But our family is reveling in uncontained mirth. Mental fitness will come later.

Cancer is eerily unpredictable. And there are times when it seems doing anything is better than doing nothing. But Dr. Mulvihill said wait. And so we waited.

There is an art to the “wait.” I “wait” ugly. I am definitely a candidate for “wait” management training.

While we WAITED, we went to Disneyland, where we indulged our hedonistic behavior receptors by riding on Indiana Jones 3 (count ‘em…3!) times in succession, ate dinner after 8:00 p.m., and stayed up past 11:00. Pure depravity. Don’t tell me we don’t know how to PAARRR-TAY!

Disneyland really is the magic kingdom. It’s the only place on the planet where menopausal, varicose-veined, crepey-skinned women with pendulous…arm flaps can wear full Tinker Bell regalia and not be ticketed for impersonating a fairy. No one did so much as a double-take.

We saw a whole coven of Tinkers (do fairies travel in covens?) moving through the streets of Disney as if they were 9 minds without an abstract thought.

They were an eclectic consortium, ranging in age from perhaps 3 to barely ambulatory. This, of course, is an approximation, since it would have been rude to stop the procession to count cellulite thigh rings in order to get an exact carbon date. They were a hybrid of the fantasy of childhood and the inevitability of age. But the point is, they were all sharing a joyous time, and for that reason, I found it endearing. In fact, I wanted to apply for citizenship in the land of the Tinker “Belles.”

I suggested discarding my witch’s hat in favor of Tinker Bell wings. But Dennis said he’s grown accustomed to my wart, and changing characters mid-Halloween could lead to a serious identity crisis. But I think multiple personalities should be stored in everyone’s closet in case of shortage. Besides, fairies and witches, in reality, are just opposite sides of the same Rorschach.

It has been hard to GET MY HEAD IN THE GAME while I’m WAITING. Sometimes the air I’m attempting to breathe seems liquid, and I’m laboring to schnuck it into my lungs. I try to be patient, but that lacks long-term sustainability. Patience are not me!

Practicing my “wait” technique is sort of like trying to ignore a canker. No matter what you do, you are never not aware it is there. Whatever I’m involved in, I am always conscious that I’m WAITING.

Dr. Mulvihill is a wise sage. We never regret abiding by his counsel. Sometimes, though, he asks a lot of us.

And Boy Howdy! Are we ever going to need patience. Saturday we are having a family portrait taken. That alone strikes terror in the hearts of three generations.

We have instructed the photographer to snap the picture if at any time Asher is still. It doesn’t matter if the rest of the “Dirty Dozen” are in a collective blink.

That child is like a run-away train. He puts the “loco” in “locomotive.” Raising him to adulthood without debilitating brain damage will require “extreme cage patience”…and a whole lot of miracles. (Unconditional love is a constant.)

Saturday, we took care of our favorite gangster for 5 hours while Erin went somewhere or other. We made her swear a blood oath she would return before he hit puberty. We were not at all reassured. However, Asher actually fell asleep as we drove him through the streets singing lullabies. Asher sleeps cute. We realized that sleep is Nature’s way of persuading us not to eat our young.

We survived the Family Felon in O.T.

Last night we turned the clocks back and got an extra hour of rest. Sleep surplus could prove to be a dangerous thing to the severely sleep-deprived. But we have a sleep debt as large as the national deficit, and that extra 60 minutes didn’t even touch the interest!

But today is November 1st. There are mangled jack-o-lantern guts in the streets, as if the
The Great Pumpkin himself had been pummeled into orange, pulpy, grinning road kill by revelers high on sugar and mischief…silent reminders that Halloween is history.

For now, the only numbers that concern me are how many days until Christmas, and will Dennis always weigh in at 128? Forget the stock market, the temperature, the national war debt, and the number of cavities. I’ll let the dentist worry about all of the above.

It is the season of gratitude.
So here are the things I’m thankful for:
1. Asher (and all his cousins)
2. The number 38.
3. The word “normal.”
4. The Utes beat Wyoming.
5. An extra hour of sleep last night.
6. Patience.
7. Autumn leaves.
8. Loved ones who care.

Things I’m not thankful for:
1. The number 45.
2. A glut of Halloween candy mocking me on Fast Sunday.

Waiting is a daunting task…anticipating with hope and dread the phone call that will deliver crucial lab results that will critically impact our lives.

Halloween haunts have nothing up on the soulless demon that is the specter of cancer.

But we have emerged from a 3-week fetal contortion emotionally lobotomized. Our hearts are overwhelmed with gratitude. And our heads are back in the game.

Bring on Thanksgiving, turkeys, pilgrims…Asher, and Loved Ones.

Our lives are blessed and richly abundant because of your constant love and support.

We are so grateful.

Love to all,

The Clot