PlazaJen: Passion Knit

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Depeche Wo

See, you need to understand why I truly, madly, deeply love the free spirit that is the JWo. He created new lyrics to Personal Jesus, just for me.

Your own personal knit night
Some friends to knit some yarn
Someone who spins
Your own personal knit night
Someone who knits and purls
Some friendly girls

Feeling crafty
And you're all alone
Big balls of yarn
By the telephone
Lift up the receiver
Ill make you a believer

Knit some new socks
Some socks that rock
A new sweater vest
You need to confess
UPS will deliver
Credit cards will shake and shiver

Reach out and buy yarn
Reach out and buy yarn

Your own personal knit night
posted by PlazaJen, 8:50 AM | link |

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Waiting Room

I feel like I'm in the Land of Indecision and Delays; my dad started chemo on Friday, and it's hitting him pretty hard, very tired & he was already weakened from all the radiation. I'm anxious for things to start WORKING. Things at work are kind of in a suspended state, waiting for things to happen and be approved and waiting for the next project to hit. We're also waiting on so many things with work - if we're moving, what happens next, etc. Then, most of the projects at home are done & I've been a little OCD about keeping up with the dishes & tidying up. It feels like a combination of calm-before-the-storm, peaceful-moment/impending-something-or-other-undefined, and I HATE IT, because I know I'm suffering from the delusion that if I can control every minute detail within arm's reach, then perhaps the rug won't be yanked out from under me when I'm not looking. It makes me snappish, which feels inconsistent with having a clean house, laundry underway, projects at work done, things humming along. Some might say I'm borrowing trouble; I should just enjoy the peace and live in the moment. Some might say I'm a control freak. Some might be really right on all counts.

Excellent. Something new (well, it's really an old theme) for me to work on. I've never been good at letting go - of things that make me mad, of things that hurt, of things and people I love and treasure. I keep hearing the words, "I just don't know" in my head and it's my own purgatory, my own hamster wheel, my waiting room for what will unfold. My goal today is to turn it off, shut the door, move along.
posted by PlazaJen, 10:25 AM | link |

Monday, May 29, 2006

Stone Cold Killah

~ VChip Note: If you're super-tender-hearted towards rabbits, don't read this entry.~

I don't think of myself as a super-duper girly-girl. Yes, I wear skirts a lot, yes, I love makeup & jewelry, but I also installed a new light fixture in our bedroom, and I'm not afraid of power tools. I am, however, afraid of snakes, bugs, and well, now, anything my dog brings me in her mouth that I didn't throw for her to fetch.

Polly has become a rabbit-killing machine, which ordinarily would disturb me more than it does, but the rabbits have been wreaking HAVOC on JWo's garden, and they simply must be stopped. Polly apparently has heard the call and stepped up into the role of Elmer Fudd, hell-bent on catching & eliminating the scourge of the backyard. She's gotten five so far. FIVE. Two nights ago she brought one up in the dark, and fortunately, James came out one minute later, so I didn't have to do too much jumping around in fear and indecision. Yesterday? She brought a HUGE rabbit, dead, and because she's a retriever, she comes straight up to you and wants you to take it from her with your hands. EEEEEEEEEEEK! I was dancing around and she kept following me, coming in closer and trying to hand off her prize. EEEEEEEEEEEK! I was alternating between, "Polly, SIT! Polly, Good Girl! Polly, NO!" and hopping around from foot to foot trying to keep at least 12" of space between her mouth and my body. Finally, I got a plastic grocery bag out & brought it up under her muzzle, the bag handles close to her ears & said, "Leave it!" and she let go, leaving said rabbit in the bag. James - bless him! - had just gotten up from his nap, so he made sure it wasn't going to spring to life (my biggest fear -hi! I played dead in your dog's mouth and now? I'm clawing to life and running up your FACE.)

Now, she has another word in her vocabulary that makes her perk up & raise her ears: Bunny? The others are Paper?, Squirrel?, and at dinnertime, What? Just saying What? makes her leap four feet into the air. James thought it was just the tone & inflection - but he tried Chocolate? (I perked up at that) and Barbeque? and she stayed in an uninterested, supine pose. Then he said, Bunny? and her head came flying up off the pillow, with an expression that said, "Ready to go, Mister. You said the magic word....."
posted by PlazaJen, 10:31 AM | link |

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Sign O' The Times?

I was driving down Wornall yesterday, and there's a house in Brookside that has the big "KC Royals" Cow, from the Cow Parade exhibit that was here a while back.

I couldn't help but notice that the cow had a black garbage bag tied tightly over its head. Not sure if it was for cleaning, or the object d'art had finally had enough embarassment from representing our losing team day after day, and was trying to end it all, a la Jerzy Kosinski.

Now, just so my blog's not solely the home of snark, obscure literary references, and self-obsessed drama, I will note that had :I: been invited to decorate a cow, I would have knit it a sweater and called it "Bovine in Sheep's Clothing."
posted by PlazaJen, 8:23 AM | link |

Anthony Kiedis, Have You Forgotten Where I Live?

The Red Hot Chili Peppers are going on tour again, and we love 'em. The closest they come is Lollapalooza in Chicago, which I would absolutely LOVE to go to, despite it being the first weekend in August, for the idea of being sweaty & smelly for three days in Midwestern summer heat surrounded by 8 gajillion people, and you KNOW at least 2 gajillion of them will be STUPID, just lacks -how do you say?- a certain "je ne sais quoi". It's simply the law of averages, and then you have the other 1 gajillion who will shout-sing along and spill their beer on my head. Shit, I'm talking myself out of it by the word here. I looked through some of the packages, and since I don't have a cool $1,500 sitting around waiting to be blown on three days of music, or another $1,500 for VIP packages (I would hope the VIP areas have misting fans. Love me the misting fans), I'm just going to have to keep hoping the RHCP add a show here or in Omaha, so the Wo and I can go and yes, sing along. (Singing along is ok as long as the music is LOUD enough to cover your own singing. And never at the top of your lungs, unless the band's looking for audience participation.)

However, in a complete 180' of music styles, RuPaul is coming to town, and you can bet your drag queen ass I'm gonna be there. It's a motorcycle convention, so I hope it's not too scary. (I joke, I keeed!! It's Gay Pride weekend... and what an irony that R.Kelly's "Trapped in the Closet" is playing right now....)
posted by PlazaJen, 7:58 AM | link |

Friday, May 26, 2006

You Can't Handle The Cute.

Well, first of all, here's Nyokki with a haircut. I didn't really go for any style, really, but when it grows out, I sense barrettes are going to come into play. This pic came out a little blurry, but you see the whacking that was done:

Nyokki: Haircut!

Then, I give you the cutest baby cardi, if only because the buttons are so stinkin' cute, you could sew them on burlap and the item would instantly become baby couture. I'm sure Britney and Angelina will be requesting custom orders, any day now. This one's a belated gift for some friends of mine.

Baby Sweater

Cutest Buttons, EVER

And last, but not least, and not necessarily CUTE, per se, but I give you bountiful berry harvest from JWo's garden:

Home-Grown Strawberries

He grew these himself! Three varieties, no less! They were absolutely yummy & I spilled juice all down my shirt. I'm triple-classy.
posted by PlazaJen, 12:03 AM | link |

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Mastering Thin Ice

Well, the only way to describe how I feel is that I believe I'm in the middle of a Guiness Book of World Records record-setting panic attack.

I remember when I had them, for intense short sessions, and the thing about panic attacks is you don't realize you're in them until you're right at ground fucking zero the sun is being eclipsed by the moon and an incoming missile is right over your head. Yee haw. It's a lot of fun.

Also, I'm running on fumes, and I'm trying to explain my soggy self to those most important to me, so they don't just leave me out by the road on the 17th of an odd-numbered month (Bulky Item Pickup Day).

James is on Red Alert, because I'm all over the place, what with the panicking & the weeping, and the requests for reassurance. So much so, tonight, he just looked at me and finally told me he felt like he couldn't say anything, he was on thin ice, my reactions weren't predictable, and I was very emotional.

It's funny how when you're in Ground Zero, things like being thin ice seem silly, almost preposterous, you're not being unpredictable, you have every right to ask for advice & reassurance. But as the eclipse begins to reverse itself, and the dark circle begins to wane, you see the truth illuminated, there's a mirror at your feet and as your breathing gets more regular, you know that where you stood was shrouded in confusion and shortsightedness.

I sent him an email tonight, and I think these words say it all:

You are my rock, even when you feel like you're on thin ice. You aren't. I am the ice; you are my shore.
posted by PlazaJen, 12:22 AM | link |

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Hey, Chicky.....

Grass Cup

This was a gift from a wonderful, caring friend to brighten my day, and when I went to find the website that sells these, I was reminded of just how darned cute they are when you style their "hair". Jo Ann, you're the best!


On a completely unrelated note, my brain is racing on the hamster wheel again, very frustrating, and a big thunderstorm rolled through this morning & the lightning woke me up - so I've been up since 4:30 a.m. - and am just now starting to crash. Doesn't bode well for the rest of my day..... Guess that means I should wait to style my Nyokki Chick's hair! Eh - it'll grow back. Oooooh. Mohawk?
posted by PlazaJen, 6:13 AM | link |

Monday, May 22, 2006

Jen & The Art of Road Trippin'

I just got home from Iowa a couple hours (and shower & nap) ago.... on my trip up there, I thought to myself about how Solo Jen Road Trips differ from James and Jen Road Trips - not a huge difference, except mine are, well, more GAY. Due to the music selection. (This occurred to me as I was listening to the Priscilla, Queen of the Desert soundtrack...)

Going up, I moseyed. I stopped and shopped at the Tanger Outlet Mall in Williamsburg, IA - spent more on JWo than I did myself (a gross injustice that will be righted soon, I am sure); then, I decided to take a gravel shortcut that was the stupidest move I could have made, as it put an extra half-hour on my drive and took me in a giant loop. Oh-tay, buhwheat, let's not do that again. We had a really lovely weekend, I intermittently lectured my father on how he should be putting less stress on his body & my vast medical expertise swayed him, I could tell. I remain firm: he must conserve & build his strength, which means balancing between projects and rest, doing vs. sleeping, and always, always, EATING. He just began to regain his appetite & ability to eat (from the sores in his mouth) as the weekend went by. Dad, keep taking that supplement I brought you! (Hey, everybody, meet Dad. He's a reader now.)

Coming home was a different story. I hauled ASS. I stopped once, to get gas & make a pit stop; the rest of the way I composed a thousand blogs in my mind, made elaborate lists to share with you, and then I got home, had good times with the dogs, took a shower, took a nap & promptly erased most of this important stuff from my brain. :)
I can tell you this: here are the key, important elements to a good road trip, and driving advice, from Jen the Zen Road Trip Master:

1. Bring plenty of snacks. You should always have pretzels, and you should always try something new, even if you end up hating it. (sugar-free mixed-berry Mentos - let's just call them the YECHmaker!) If you are going to eat Doritos or Cheetos, I recommend a big roll of Viva paper towels - but actually, I recommend them anyway, they are extremely useful.

2. I tend to drive 5-9 miles over the speed limit, especially on sparsely populated interstate. Also, feel free to make up your own base speed limit, as I did, thinking it was 75 mph on I-35. Once I realize that by going 81 mph I was violating my own rule, I backed 'er down to 78 mph.

3. If you have a fuel-efficient car, not necessarily a hybrid, you may feel smug about your mpg the entire trip. (38.9 - YOU GO, LaFonda the Honda!)

4. You should bring new music, but you should also bring oldie-but-goodie, shout-sing-along music, for when you get tired. If this includes George Michael, it helps to have a sunroof, so you can get your big arm movements & very gay jazz hands going to accompany your singing.

5. Oh, yes, if you are bringing new music, in the form of MP3s burned on to CDs? 12 hours worth? You should have a car with a stereo that PLAYS MP3 media. Otherwise, you have to stop at SuperTarget at 9 am in Des Moines at the semi-beginning of your road trip, and buy a CD player and FM antennae transmitter and batteries so you get your DAMN MUSIC to play for the next 6 hours and return trip as well. Did I mention yet that items purchased on road trips are excluded from your personal budget? They are.

6. Do not speed in work zones. 'Nuf said. You are like a captive sitting duck & according to their press on those big orange signs, fines are double and a minimum of $250. That is like, more than two of those CD players that play MP3s and two of those FM transmitters and god knows how many batteries. Tickets and fines are NOT as easy to gloss over in one's personal budget. I do not tell you this because I was ticketed, but because this is one area in which I become Extremely Serious, because we all know you just can't fuck around with the construction zones. So I don't.
Not worth it.

7. When you get back to the city, the left lane will immediately cease to be a passing lane, and instead function as a lane for fucknut cocksuckers to dilly-dally in, oblivious to the fact you've been driving over 6 hours, and they can't hear you muttering "cocksuckers" between your teeth as you pass them on the right, but they will see your unkempt hair-do and your baleful glare from behind your cateye sunglasses. And they will be very, very afraid. (Hey, look, there's another difference between James & Jennifer vs. Solo Jen road trips. Solo Jen shares her road rage a little more freely.)

8. If you road trip to visit my father, you will start using the word "cocksucker" at an inordinately high rate. He watches Deadwood, what can I say.

I'd like to make this an even "10" but it will have to wait. I've only eaten snack food and drunk diet soda all day - my body wants a big glass of water and - shocker - Thai food. I'm home, I missed my hubby so much, but I also can't wait to get back up there for Father's Day. Perhaps I'll discover the best new road trip snack food ever, and have some more handy tips for the traveller then. :) (Y'all should put your favorite road trip snack in the comments!)
posted by PlazaJen, 5:19 PM | link |

Friday, May 19, 2006

Happy Friday....

I am posting this Thursday night, as I'm off to Iowa bright & early in the morning.... Dad starts chemo next Thursday; he feels like crap and my job this weekend is to love him, be strong, and remind him every minute that he's fighting and not giving up.

I got my hair cut on Wednesday, and accordingly, put in one day of styling afterwards. It was a pretty good hair day; one self-portrait managed to accurately capture how I feel on the inside most of the time: a strange mixture of sadness, fragility & strength.

Have a good weekend & thank you all again for your love, thoughts, suggestions, and prayers. You're good peeps & you help me stay brave.

Self-Portrait 5-18-06

How I Feel On The Inside
posted by PlazaJen, 5:30 AM | link |

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Fogbanks & The Dump Truck of Love

My dad used to call me "Fogbanks" when I was a teenager; I was always preoccupied with what was going on in my head more than the world around me. These days, I have quite a few fogbank days, sometimes it helps me manage to get through the whole day without crying, because I feel like just a small part of me isn't paying attention to everything going on.

It comes with a price tag, and it usually means I crack at night, lying in bed, so tired and yet still unable to sleep. I went to bed unusually early last night, but was still awake when James came in. He commented on how I was in bed so early, and I weepily replied in the dark that I was tired & sad. He climbed in next to me & put his best bear hug on me.

"You know, I think this whole thing really has brought us closer together. Just when I thought I couldn't love you any more than I already do, a giant dump truck of love put another big load in my heart."

My tears became a mixture of sadness and gratitude. Then he started making country music songs out of "dump truck of loooooove". And the fog was gone and I wasn't standing on the edge any longer, and even though I was still crying, I was also incredibly calmed inside. I will get through this because we will get through it. Together.
posted by PlazaJen, 7:15 AM | link |

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Perhaps It Comes From My Long Struggle Against Reality

I admit, I get tenacious about shit. Sometimes it's stupid shit that makes James flip out and think I'm going to get into a fistfight at a concert because I've finally had it with the drunk-ass woman who just whacked me upside the head and is jumping around shout-singing, and yes, while I had no interest in a fist-fight, I did want her TO STOP SHOUTING and JUMPING and WHACKING ME IN THE HEAD. I have a great sense of entitlement that is closely linked to "right and wrong" and the standards I have for myself. Another example of this? I was extremely annoyed at the clerk at Target this morning who DID NOT RESPOND when I said "Good Morning, how are you?" I made a mental note of her name & considered calling the store later. Yes! I am a bitch! I demand to be greeted before I hand over money!

I know this, and I try to keep some of the indignation & daily warring for Truth, Justice & The Jennifer Way in check. But there are things that I find absolutely unacceptable, and my father's battle with cancer and the doctors and the information, or lack thereof, have all conspired to send me spinning into an outer-space orbit of rage and tenacity. For instance, they didn't tell him that radiation would make him weak. IT DOES. He needs to KNOW this, because otherwise he feels like he's simply DYING, not experiencing side effects. Now, he has horrible sores inside his mouth, so painful, he has been dropping weight, can't eat, can't drink, is in unbearable pain. Well. I just don't stand for that. I could hardly hear him on the phone yesterday, his mouth was so dry. He faintly said he'd call the doctor, as I kept prodding & pushing & saying that there had to be things they could do, and then I just said, "Save your voice, save your strength, I'm calling them right now." Which didn't solve everything, because the nurse started asking me things like "does he have white spots?" Shit, lady, I don't know. The point is, he's probably dehydrated, he isn't eating, all of that's making him weaker, and I don't care if you don't think the sores were caused by the radiation, don't argue that with me, the point is YOU NEED TO FIX THIS. I checked back at the end of the day & they had called him, talked about his symptoms & he's going in to their office today so they can see him & get him something - my fear was that he'd be more susceptible to infection with the sores, along with his general health & lack of nourishment. I will give the doctor's office this, they take my calls, call me back, and allow me to push issues and questions on to them like the steamroller I can be.

I know I cannot singlehandedly cure his cancer, nor can I make everything better. But I just don't understand accepting things the way they are, when there have to be SOME solutions that can make life easier. My friend's mother-in-law told me she was prescribed a solution that she used on the sores in her mouth, to numb the pain. I wanted to scream at the sky, SEE! THERE'S STUFF HERE! There are solutions. It's hard, because I know he doesn't have a lot of strength in all this, and he's very, very sad. I'm just grateful that he taught me to question everything, to never assume everyone else just knows the answer and to trust my own intelligence. Yeah, it might get me dangerously close to a fistfight sometimes, but I'm willing to hang on to this piece of myself, if it lets me help my dad, even helps just a small bit in all of this.
posted by PlazaJen, 11:40 AM | link |


So, I decided to head over to a 'bitty soccer game' last night; my friend Beth's daughter Amy has been practicing & playing in the YMCA league the past few weeks, and their games are just south of our house.

Let me just say that watching 4 & 5 year olds play soccer, and I use the word "play" quite loosely here, is one of the funniest things you could ever ask to see. They're all different sizes & heights, but the jerseys are all the same size. So some of them are dwarfed in their uniform, others look like it fits just right. Direction is a big thing most of the players still need to work on. Understanding the concept of making a goal is also optional. One little girl just idly lay in the grass, watching from a distance. Three kids lined up at the goal, even though the ball was at the other end. One child got control of the soccer ball, and kicked it right on out of the boundaries, and headed to the next field with the ball, with about 5 of his teammates all running behind him. There were a couple of boys, almost ringers by comparison, who really got into the game, and you know that they'll continue to play the game as they get older. The rest, well, they were just plain cute. Funny to watch, funnier to see them struggling to figure out which way to kick the ball, and there were almost as many parents on the field as kids. For those just taking pictures, that was fine, but one guy held his kid's hand the entire time & actually stopped the ball repeatedly so his son could kick the ball. Dude. Cut the cord!

My favorite player, besides Miss Amy, who was splendiferous with her pigtails, pink cleats & gold shinguards (she is a fashion maven at the ripe age of 4), was the little red-cheeked boy on the other team, who, every time the ball arrived at his feet, would bend down, pick it up & then scream bloody murder when the refs came to rescue the ball. Miss Amy just shook her head. She knows you don't ever touch the ball with your hands!

I tried to take pictures with my cameraphone, but they didn't come out so well. This is a cute one of Miss Amy from Beth's site - note those shinguards!!!
posted by PlazaJen, 11:05 AM | link |

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


I was asked by a friend the other day, "Are you going to be ok?" And I replied, "I don't have a choice."

That's probably my biggest frustration in going through all of this, is that there is little action or solution I personally can do. Sure, I have some choices, I could stay bed-ridden and weepy all the time; I could be snappish and irritable ALL the time, instead of just some of the time. My boss said something today about how you can choose to be happy, and really, I just thought about throwing him into traffic, and that made me a little happy (just kidding). And I do believe it's true, happiness is a choice. But I have an undertow in my heart, and it pulls, pulls, pulls. I am simply doing the best I can.

I feel the shoring-up within, as I scrape and muster, bolster myself inside, like wrapping a blanket around me as tightly as possible in the cool night air. I feel the adult-ness in me taking over, solemn & serious, like I am going off to war and if there's no crying in baseball, there sure as hell is no crying in war. It feels like shutting down. Of course there are still tears, sometimes at extremely inopportune moments, but each day I feel the pull and struggle between hope & positivity and the undertow.

When our foreign exchange student lived with us, I grew miserable. She dated the boy I had a crush on, she seemed perfect in every way and I felt eclipsed by her. When she left, everyone was crying at the airport, except for me. Not because I wouldn't miss her, not because I didn't love her, too, but because the Shutdown Gnome was in control. Stoicism, reservedness - all took over, and those adjectives simply aren't who I am most of the time. It's a strange, strange feeling, but grows more familiar each week.

Later that day, after she was on a plane going home to Sweden, I went down to our creek, and sat on a big rock in the middle of the water. I was facing one side of the bank, and the sun was hot while the cool water sluiced over my toes. I was deep, deep in thought - no tears, just processing everything at my own pace. There was a loud, squawking behind me that didn't stop, and the noise finally broke through my ruminations; I turned around to see what bird was causing the commotion - and was face to face with a badger. Yes. A badger. In the filo-fax of my brain, I heard everything my father had taught me about badgers: dangerous. We always worried our fearless black lab, Ghost, would try to tangle with a badger, and they can kill a dog. It was probably two feet from me, sniffing me, curious as to what this thing on the rock was. I don't actually recall my feet hitting the water or rocks, but that in the next moment, I was standing on the other side of the bank, looking at this badger, who looked back at me, and then turned & trundled off in the opposite direction. My dad grilled me, unsure I had identified this animal correctly - they are pretty reclusive & avoid people; when I said he looked like a coffee table with fur, he was finally convinced. (They have flattish, square bodies.)

I guess the reason this memory has pushed forward in my mind is not only because I recall the Shutdown-edness I have felt at other times in my life, but that there are times to choose flight, and times to choose to fight. I am shoring up all my reserves, all my support, all my energy to fight, fight, fight. I flee things that sap that energy & strength, and I conservatively believe I can't put a lot of energy into being raucously happy, either. Because I don't see flight as a choice here. I have to stand and face my own fears, my own sadness, my own pain, my own life, as much as I hate it. I feel the fierceness, my own badger, within me, and it is a little frightening; I fear it will fly out uncontrollably, or I will do something utterly stupid, like pick a fight with my mother after two & a half years of not speaking. (I know, it's a terrible idea - yet the explosion is so appealling, so tempting, to get rid of some of this stored anger.)

And then my Shutdown Gnome reminds me that there is a difference between Fierceness and Foolishness. The choice is there, just like it was that day in the creek. And when I turned to face that badger, mostly to make sure it wasn't about to bite my ass, still prepared to run - the badger walked away from me.

posted by PlazaJen, 10:16 AM | link |

Monday, May 15, 2006

Happy Anniversary.....

Three years today! I love you, James. Your love & patience, your support & understanding, your connectedness to me are just a few of the things I treasure, and I cannot imagine my life without you in it.

When I got home from work on Friday, frayed & sad, this greeted me on the dining table:

Friday Night Welcome

I did a big "awwwww" and then turned to hang my keys up on one of the hooks. Then I screamed a little:

More Fisher Price Dogs

They're Fisher Price doggies, from the aforementioned yacht fame. Just so sweet, so unexpected.

For better and for worse, and it has not been an easy spring for me; you have carried me emotionally, held my hand in the dark, wiped tears from my eyes and made me laugh when I thought only sorrow remained. May our journey together always keep dear the love and the humor that make us who we are, both as individuals and to each other. I love you to the moon and back.
posted by PlazaJen, 12:01 AM | link |

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Mother's Day

In the dark
Before sleep steals my consciousness
I hear it, the voice
Whispering its mantra
Words slicing deep.

Yours is a life wasted
So much potential
What you could have been
All that you’ve lost.

Poor decisions you’ve made
Bad roads you’ve taken
What were you thinking -
It’s clear that you weren’t.

What you should have become
The failures abound
Death will come soon
Why won’t you change?

I’d love you if you were different
We’d be fine if you’d change
Why won’t you undo
All your mistakes?

I pray for sleep
Relief from the sound
Of your voice, of your words,
The responsibility and burden
Of being your daughter.

I wrote this back in February. Given everything else going on, I don't hear her voice nearly as often in the dark now; I struggled with even publishing this on a day meant to celebrate all the great relationships out there. In the end, this is for everyone who doesn't have one, and the reminder that despite all those Hallmark cards trumpeting what we should have, you're not alone.
posted by PlazaJen, 7:47 AM | link |

Friday, May 12, 2006

The Apple Doesn't Fall Far From The Tree.....

So, my dad recounted a story from Tuesday, when he went in for radiation, but they stopped off at Betty Jane's for some candy first, and he was picking out some assorted creams, and then he moved on to the nuts. (And despite the stupidity I'm about to document, they DO have excellent chocolate. Outta sight stuff, in fact. Just a small local chocolatier, and I've waxed rhapsodic before about the chocolate covered orange peel....mmmmmm.....)

The salesperson then informed him that they'd raised the prices on the nuts, and therefore his entire order would be charged at the higher per-pound rate.

(Yes. How wack is that? He asked her to repeat it, it was that goofy. She did, same conclusion.)

He said, "So, you're telling me, if I go to the grocery store & buy broccoli for a dollar a pound, but then I add cauliflower to my cart, and cauliflower's two dollars a pound, you'd charge me two dollars a pound for the broccoli, too?"

"Uh. Yes. I guess. That's how they do it."

"That's not how we're gonna do it today."

...and they didn't.
posted by PlazaJen, 12:12 AM | link |

Thursday, May 11, 2006

My Own Personal Mastercard Commercial?

Parking at Starlight: $5
Outrageous "handling fees" to Ticketmaster: $32.10
Dinner with my husband before the show: $35
Two tickets to Depeche Mode: $150
Having the lead singer become mysteriously ill after 6-7 songs & have the concert get cancelled? YEAH. TOTALLY PRICELESS.

There are a LOT of pissed-off people today - it was a pretty packed show, and as you can see, the tickets weren't cheap. I feel sorry for the folks at Ticketmaster today, because everyone (including me) wants their money back. I'm just glad I paid for them with American Express - if there's not a rescheduled concert, you bet your bippity I'm calling AmEx and asking them to take on Ticketmaster on my behalf.

Hell, I'm even reasonable, I'll let them keep their outrageous fees. I just want my $75/ticket back. And if there's a rescheduled concert, I want new seats, because the woman behind me shouted all they lyrics. Yes, I'm getting cranky and old. When the concert ended before 10 p.m., I said, "Well! At least my ass won't be draggin' tomorrow! We'll be in bed at a reasonable hour!" And then we all did shots of geritol and talked about our stock portfolios and waited for the crowd to clear out.
posted by PlazaJen, 7:39 AM | link |

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Ferociousness of the Heart

Good news, even though I struggle right now finding good news anywhere, because good news and hope of late have been tissue-paper kites, unable to support me more than a day or two. But anyway, I can't succumb, every day is new, every piece of positive news is still positive. Dad was able to get in for radiation yesterday, which happened because his pathologist/friend went in to the offices and demanded they do it that day. I am heartened that despite my absence, other people are being demanding and angry on my dad's behalf. Because the radiation was near his esophagus & stomach, he was horribly sick last night, and I just ached with my own sadness at hearing his pain. He continues with the radiation the rest of the week, and they're coming in on Saturday as well to finish the final treatment. Really, I am very glad that people's "office hours" and "already scheduled stuff" are all falling by the wayside, given the urgency of the situation. Otherwise? Those 2x4's that were hitting me in the face? I'd be grabbing one of them and pulling a scene from "Walking Tall" & dispensing some of my own displaced pain & anger. OK, not really, because isn't The Rock like, 7 feet tall? And my 5'3"-ness really isn't as formidable. And I can't do that thing with my eyebrow the way he does. Sigh. I still like to believe I'm ferocious. Maybe I am, just not in a physical-harming sort of ferociousness. More of a ferociousness of the heart.
posted by PlazaJen, 7:33 AM | link |

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

An Open Letter To Rare Forms of Cancer

(and all the rest, of course, but most pointedly at the crap multiplying inside my father.)

So yes, back to you, Mr. Rare C:

Fuck you. I hate you. I hate you more than I ever thought I could hate something. I hate this up-down-spin-me-round crap you have imposed on my family, our lives, our hearts, and our strength. I wish a fiery death upon you, and elimination from the face of the earth.

Thought you'd like to know,

I knew, last Friday, that the good news came with caveats. This was not a first-class, Lear Jet champagne-service ride out of the darkness and unanswered questions to a private island with a chef and a beach all to yourself. I had hoped for an over-packed, sardine-esque flight with long layovers and trying times, but the news that came today, this is more like flying with some drug runner who uses a forty-year old plane and angry motherfuckers are shooting at you while you try to grab on to anything to keep you from hurtling around the tin-can interior. And when you think you've reached cruising altitude, a wing falls off.

Don't get me wrong, because I'm grateful he went to Mayo. We wouldn't have known, we wouldn't have known what they knew, what they saw. The lesion on his spine, the one he's been wanting to radiate, that his oncologist in Dubuque didn't feel necessary to order radiated? That lesion's grown. And it's close to connecting with his spinal cord, and when that happens, it's paralysis followed by death. In a matter of days. Right now, if he did nothing, and had proceeded with the chemo in Madison, he'd probably have died within a week. So, as the doctors at Mayo have recommended, there's an urgent rush to get 5 consecutive radiation sessions, starting NOW, to pinpoint this lesion and stop it in time. I told James tonight, after my meltdown, that this is like helplessly watching some surreal movie, where someone's told me the ending already, but I have no idea how long it's going to run, and I keep hoping for a reprieve, and there's still a chance for one, because he will start chemo once this radiation happens, and we have to fervently pray that all the pieces click together and it gets us more time, but you never know when another two-by-four is going to swing out unexpectedly and lay you out flat. I keep hoping that this all isn't real, that it's a giant mistake. I know - it's all stages: grief, anger, denial, bargaining..... and they don't have a particular pattern, and I have to just keep sucking it up and coping.

So many ifs. So many hopes. So so so many tears.
posted by PlazaJen, 12:47 AM | link |

Monday, May 08, 2006

The Wreck of the Fisher-Price Yacht

When I was back home, I took some pictures of the landscape: junctures of grass & field, trees and streams, so permanently etched in the memory of my mind, and yet changed through time to be unidentical to those etchings.... yet everything was still similar enough to bask in the warm familiarity of it all.

This dam was not here, back when I was 7, so the water grew shallow by the crossing, and though it was only ankle-to-shin deep, the water moved quickly, over the rocks and down to the juncture with the other trout stream. On the fateful day I reference, my parents were working in a large communal garden, a garden that would later prove to be one of many examples of why communal living doesn't work very well. My father was on a tractor, my mother in earshot of me. I was having a GRAND time, playing with my Fisher Price yacht, complete with a Captain, life preservers, a lifeboat, and passengers. I still remember the little plastic grill, with the sticker that featured some hot dogs & burgers on the grates. (It WAS a yacht, fine dining included!) Then, the unthinkable happened. I tipped the boat over, and suddenly, all my little Fisher-Price passengers, and all their Fisher-Price accessories, including the tiny yellow life preservers, and the small white lifeboat, that would have only saved one passenger, but still, and the grill, and who knows what else were all racing away from me, carried away by the flow of water and rush of the shallows.

There was nothing else to do but scream at the top of my lungs. I did not stop screaming while I began performing Emergency Rescue Actions, sloshing down the creek barefoot, grabbing at Fisher-Price Paraphenalia, as it slowed and bobbed, depending on the current. My mother arrived a couple minutes later, and interrupted the Rescue Mission. She was PISSED. She thought I had been attacked by a snapping turtle, and to be sure, had a snapping turtle latched on to my toes or fingers, I am quite certain a similar blood-curdling shriek would have travelled across the countryside. I had no time for her ire, as I was losing passengers & accessories by the second. This was probably the beginning of a long pattern of disdain and irritation between us, as one person's agenda and emotions became completely unimportant to the other and the only course of action was to YELL. And/or cry. I remember she dismissed my silly Fisher-Price Yacht Disaster, and was not inclined to help me find everything that had been lost. (I think she did help a little, but seriously? I was looking for a higher investment of energy.)

If my foggy memory serves me correctly, we did lose the lifeboat, some accessories, and a couple of the Fisher-Price people. I don't think I lost the captain, and I'm sure he lived with the horror for years afterwards, probably wishing he'd gone down with his ship. As we traveled down to this section of our creek two weeks ago, the stream now formed into a pool by the dam, yet still familiar as that hot summer day, I chuckled through the strange mixture of love & heavy grief that was smothering us all, and said, "Hey. This is the site of the Great Fisher-Price Yacht Disaster of 1976." I didn't explain it any further, it wasn't necessary, and I saw myself as that screaming kid, where the world's greatest misfortune was to lose a few pieces of plastic, and have your mom think a snapping turtle was attacking you. We prepare for loss our entire life, don't we?

Update: On a whim, I did an eBay search and found this listing, talk about a pristine collection.

I had totally forgotten about the lounge chairs, and, obviously, the steak on the grill. And the DOG! Also, it seems this particular toy was officially called a houseboat, but even at a young age, I preferred the notion of a yacht.
posted by PlazaJen, 7:59 AM | link |

Friday, May 05, 2006

My Heart Is Singing

Through all the tumult and the strife
I hear its music ringing,
It sounds an echo in my soul.
How can I keep from singing?

While though the tempest loudly roars,
I hear the truth, it liveth.
And though the darkness ’round me close,
Songs in the night it giveth.

No storm can shake my inmost calm,
While to that rock I’m clinging.
Since love is lord of heaven and earth
How can I keep from singing?

I have tears streaming down my face right now & for once, they are such tears of joy, a release of pent-up energy I have ignored this week, for I have a bigger hope, a confirmed hope, such a raucously joyful hope, it feels like my heart will explode from my chest and light the night sky with a thousand raining stars.

My father saw another doctor today, in Madison. I learned that his previous doctor had only seen four cases LIKE his cancer before, none in the past five years (until he showed up.) This doctor? My dad was his fourth patient TODAY with his kind of cancer. It's very rare, but they have a protocol they follow (Yes, James, protocol, just like CTU on "24") and it has a 75% success rate in prolonging life. This particular doctor has a patient who presented with identical-to-worse symptoms like my father's - and is still kickin' it a year and a half later. And all of this before we even touch the basket called "Alternative Therapies", like stem cell and whatnot. The doom and gloom is still there, but it has been banished to a corner. They have two kinds of chemo he will take, and he starts next Thursday. He's still going to Mayo on Monday, because why wouldn't you, and then if it ever reaches a point he needs to get in there, they have everything, he's been there, the process accellerates. We all know there is caution, there is no cure, this isn't a ten-year reprieve. But when you're staring at two months and it feels like you've suddenly been given a task in Hades, to fill a pot with water using a sieve, the notion of a year, the notion of solutions and hope, feels like the desperation has been reduced. (You know, when I was a kid and read about that Hades task, I always imagined I'd line the sieve with moss, to make it retain a little bit of water. Always looking for an end-run, even around death...)

The lyrics above are from an Enya song, and because I have a permanent jukebox in my head that associates songs with how I'm feeling, I kept hearing the line "How can I keep from singing" in my head all night & I decided to look up the lyrics to see if the rest was a fit. I'm just so very, very grateful that today, we were given a rock to cling to, and the storm around us seems to have calmed. I know the waters will churn again, and I recognize the odds, and know we have no guarantees. But if I've learned one thing in the past four weeks, which is exactly how long it has been, today, I have learned that the things we think are important and the things that truly are important are often different. The petty bullshit of friends who've let me down, who've dropped out of my life, all that choppy stuff that consumed the irritated part of my mind, I've discovered how quickly I divested those stocks, and put my energy & love into what's most important to me. I thank you, too, for continuing to read - I noticed a drop once Ye Olde Cancer Story hit here, and those people just want Fun Jen, to be entertained, but that's not life, or at least not my blog. My blog's as real as I can be in written form, without getting my ass fired or calling out people by name who piss me off. And tonight, I give you a photo I took when we were at my dad's two weeks ago, a picture I've greedily kept only to myself, for what it represented, for what it signified - he still has his hair, we had spent a wonderful weekend together - and my god, I just love him so much. What the hell, here's two:

The Consummate Fly Fisherman

Dad Grins

I cannot keep from singing.
posted by PlazaJen, 9:11 PM | link |

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Taffy, Trivia & Theraflu......

All right, so yesterday, I decided to freak out about avian bird flu. I don't really know how to prevent getting it, apart from living in a bubble (and, by the way, how do you drive a car if you're in a bubble? Does it un-bubble? Could you FoodSaver yourself instead, with an air source?), and the recommendation in the Reuters story was all the same stuff as preventing a cold - wash your hands a lot (hi, let's bring on the OCD!), cover your mouth when you sneeze, and the new one, my favorite, maintain a ring of personal space roughly 3 feet in diameter. Yes, that won't set me apart at work. DON'T TOUCH ME. STAND BACK! NEVER MIND MY GLOVES. OR MY PLASTIC SHEATH.

Then, Kristin told me the good news, that in ferrets, Theraflu cures the bird flu. ROCK ON! I love Theraflu! The hot lemony goodness that puts me to sleep in no time. Of course, there is nothing ferretlike about me, the only thing pointy is my wit, BUT, hey, I feel reassured that the CDC and WHO are on top of this pandemic, testing the ferrets.

Moving on. At lunch yesterday (pre-avian-flu-freakout) I decided to procure the largest bag of taffy I've ever seen, where else but Costco? This taffy is like chewing flavored air, which means after about 12 pieces, you pick up on the fact you're popping taffy like a junkie, and only then because your desk is littered with little waxy wrappers. GOOD STUFF. I was thinking last night about the candy I would buy as a kid - I never went for chocolate, I went for stuff that lasted a long time. Lik-M-Aid Fun Dip, for instance. And that taffy that was flat, really big, and super stretchy - had the ribbons of color that told you what flavor it was, unsophisticated packaging? They were teeth-pullers, too, very taffy-ish. Fortunately for me, everyone else likes this new taffy, too, so I doubt it will be around very long. (4.5 pound bag! I'm telling you, the Costco values, they are astounding! I can't wait until they carry Personal Orb-O-Spheres.)

Last, but not least, tonight is our Ad Club's Ad Wars trivia competition. Just label me "dead weight" - especially for anything before 1990. If it wasn't in the New Yorker, I hardly knew about it. The brand that was the biggest mystery to me was always Clinique. I never understood what they were sellin', because I didn't know what in hell it was. But, as I've waxed rhapsodic before, I always wanted to go to the Helmsley Palace, because even though Leona was ugly as sin, she wore a tiara, and she had no time for bad hangers, poor-quality sheets, or sub-par service. So, if there are any questions about Leona Helmsley and the Helmsley Palace? I am ON IT like a ferret on Theraflu.
posted by PlazaJen, 7:28 AM | link |

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

It Ain't Just A River In Egypt

him: You went to bed early.
me: I'm still awake.
him: You were snoozing when I came down.
me: Nope. I'm awake.
him: You were SNORING.
me: No I wasn't.

I'm not sure what it is within us, that sometimes denies the truth, and counters with the utmost conviction to the contrary. Obviously I had fallen asleep & awoke when he came to bed, but in my mind, I had been awake the entire time. And I fully believed my version at the time, though this morning I knew if he said I was snoring, I'm sure I was.

As we grow up, as we learn to accept truths and tautologies, things which cannot be denied forever if we want to live a real, honest life, the fight to deny or avoid becomes shorter, for we realize that place gives us nothing but a delusion that we are immune. I have gradually grown to accept that my father has cancer. I even accept that at some point, it will be what takes him from me. I don't accept that nothing can be done, I don't accept that one doctor has all the answers; yet, in this not-even-a-month-long journey, I awoke today to realize that I am getting a callous on my heart. Intellectually, I know I have to, otherwise, every day is awash in pain and grief and denial all over again. In order to function, in order to move forward, both with my life & to support his fight, I have to thicken the scar, plaster the cracks, and yet I hate that callous, I footnote it in my mind: because it exists does not mean I don't care, that the pain isn't still there, that anything has dissipated, that I love him any less or that I accept anything lying down.

(This experience may change me, but I doubt it will change the core of who I am, and I never accept anything lying down. Except bon bons. Bon Bons are perfectly acceptable, and indeed, preferable, when lying down.)
posted by PlazaJen, 10:33 AM | link |

Monday, May 01, 2006

Today Is Brought To You By The Letter "I"

The three words that floated through my head before I fell asleep last night were:

Impenetrable, inured, indefatigable

I thought of how my father has given me this wonderful vocabulary, how we studied for the spelling bees, how he encouraged me to read so many books, way beyond my age level. How yesterday, on the phone, I thought the word "inured" and two second later, he said it. Nobody will ever, ever take this away from me.

Impenetrable and indefatigable are similar enough. My spirit and drive and force of will yesterday would not be stopped. It was even more rewarding that night, to know how it buoyed my father's spirits, hearing how I had entered the battlefield, pushing things forward, maneuvering through the medical system and every time an obstacle came into my path, I pushed it aside. It truly is not a system designed around the patient, and the wires and tape and numerous locations and branches and divisions simply fuel the Hydra that it is, every time you lop one head off, two heads grow back in its place. I was absolutely drained & exhausted by 3:30, but I left work early & went home to update JWo, my aunt, and then a closing call to dad, just to make sure he knew everything I knew, and in case he had any other questions.

A lot of people have asked me if my mother knows about this whole situation. (My parents have been divorced about 6 years or so, and my father re-married 4 years ago.) I haven't actually spoken with my mother in nearly 3 years. The topline is that we don't have a relationship because I'm fat, which always shocks people, because even the most physique-obsessed people can't comprehend severing ties with your offspring over weight. Believe me. I know it's nuts, it's taken a lifetime to get used to, and while I spent many hours and years fighting the reality of the situation, I have decided to put more energy into living my life than lamenting what could or should have been. I cannot control another human being, only myself. It may sound like a skin-deep problem, but with most everything, there is always more beyond the surface, and who knows, maybe someday I'll finally write that book, "Fat Like Me" and give the whole subject the time & space it's occupied in my world. This is a long-about way, but important background, of bringing us to the last word, inured. ( "To habituate to something undesirable, especially by prolonged subjection; accustom")

When I spoke to my father yesterday, he let me know that his friends alerted my mother to his condition, I think he wanted her to know so if she wanted to try & make peace with him, or in her own heart, she would have the opportunity. I of course indulged in 10 seconds of bone-cutting sarcasm, because she knows that for me, my father hung the stars in the sky, and she would know how all of this is ripping me in half, and someone capable of being a mother would set aside her own anger, her own problems, to support her child. My father, who hates the notion of me steeping my heart in anger for even a minute, chided me gently for it, and I reassured him, that 15 years ago, all of this would have hurt me so much more, but that I have gotten used to the mantra of not caring. And the word "inured" floated by in my mind. Always paranoid I might use a word incorrectly, I didn't say it. But then he came back and said, "Yes, you've become inured," and it was like we were hanging the stars together.
posted by PlazaJen, 9:11 PM | link |


Boy. I am going to eventually become a patient advocate, and while I'm sure the pay won't be great, I will be excellent at it. I am already struggling with not feeling guilty for not having done all of this for my father before today. I won't say I've been perfect; in fact, all of the nurses I've spoken with today have gotten to hear the quaver and high voice that comes before the tears. Hey, at least I'm not being a total cold-hearted bitch.

I have pushed ahead the process of getting him to Mayo. In fact, the referred doctor called me back, twice, and we had long discussions about his condition, what else he needed before an appointment could be made, etc. As I said later to Kristin & our boss, they don't fuck around at Mayo.

It is going to require two more courier deliveries before all the necessary films, slides & x-rays have all gotten to the desk of this doctor. He has to have everything before he makes the appointment. But given my dad's condition, they will get him in quickly. And as we've all said, even if they don't suggest doing anything differently, we'll know we've tried. And I can't imagine they haven't got a more sophisticated process for managing his pain, which has been enormous. So many unknowns, but today, I feel like I can at least see the road under my feet. Called I-35 to Rochester, MN.

Oh, and the whole thing about Mayo not fucking around? Neither do I. Even in great sorrow. My new rap name will be Tenacious J. I'll still record under P. Nuggy, but for some independent projects, Tenacious J it is.
posted by PlazaJen, 2:36 PM | link |