The Big C

danamcintyre1:

In honor of World Cancer Day, thought I’d share this one again. Get yourself checked!!

Originally posted on Home Is Where Your Mom Is:

I am missing a big chunk of my leg this week. No, I didn’t get bitten by a shark or attacked by some criminal with a knife.

I saw my dermatologist.

As many of you know, going to the doctor in general isn’t one of my favorite things to do. It seems like whenever I go to a doctor I end up with something smashed, something violated, or something involving needles or x–rays.

I do not like going to the doctor. I cringe when I hear “This will only hurt for a little bit.”

Seriously?

I don’t want anything to hurt. Ever. Not even for a little bit.

I’ve discovered with age that I seem to be allergic to pain.

Years ago I had a zit on my nose that wouldn’t go away. The more I tried covering it up with makeup, the more it seemed to say “Look at…

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More Stuffed Than The Thanksgiving Turkey

Ahh the holidays. I love them for so many reasons but especially for the food. I love to eat, and holiday food is the best. Turkey and dressing, mac and cheese, desserts, and breakfasts with bacon and eggs.

Me looking at the scale after Christmas.

Me looking at the scale after Christmas.

From this past Thanksgiving through Christmas I ate like I was on death row and every meal was going to be my last.

Which is also why my pants began cutting off my circulation and my Spanx went on strike by the time New Year’s Day rolled around.

I had taken a hiatus from my dread mill, partly because of surgery to my leg last March but mostly because I was just about as productive as a slug.

So right after Christmas, when I put on a pair of jeans from my closet only to realize they were my husbands jeans – AND THEY FIT – did I decide I’d better actually honor my New Years resolution and start working out again as well as eating healthier.

Low-fat, low-carb…I cut down on bacon and other fatty foods. I’ve started eating so many nuts for snacks that I will probably grow a tail and climb a tree soon.

My new friends K and L talked me into going to the gym to do a “step” class. I don’t know if you have ever done a step class before, but it’s where an instructor has you stepping on and off a 6″ high platform while blaring music is pumped out of the speakers overhead and girls with stick-figure bodies in tight little workout clothes surround you.

I had taken step before a few years ago but I was not prepared for this one. Maybe I’m just getting old, but the moves were so fast that I’m pretty sure that I looked like I was doing “the Elaine” dance from Seinfeld while K and L were gracefully going through the movements with ease.

Me at step class

Me at step class

While they were going left I was going right. When they were going up I was going down. I was the complete opposite of what they did.

And with each break, I’d guzzle some water. Half-way through the class I thought my bladder was going to burst. I felt like a puppy near some new carpet.

After class, we decided to continue the workout with crunches. K showed me how to do sit-ups on a machine, and even though I had been doing crunches at home, it was clear that the ones I had been doing at home were the same intensity that a preschooler could handle.

The next morning, I had to literally roll out of bed because my muscles felt like I had been punched in the stomach. But, I went back two days later and my legs didn’t feel like they were full of lead anymore. And I actually enjoyed the class.

And I’m determined to honor my New Year’s resolution until I can no longer wear the same size jeans as my husband, and am back in my old clothes. And if that’s not enough incentive, then I don’t know what is.

Smile For The Camera!

I absolutely LOVE taking pictures. Photographs of people, where ever I am at the moment, my dog, whatever. It doesn’t matter. I have tons of photo albums in my bookcase – years’ worth of memories, all bound into multi-colored books. I’m probably one of the only people left in the world who still prints out pictures and puts them in albums.

Before every cell phone had a camera, I used to take mine with me everywhere. Since I’m naturally blonde, I’d take photos to help me remember certain occasions.

Company trip or Girls Night Out? Whether they liked it or not, I was there taking photos. Many times this really came in handy if alcohol had been involved. Who was the guy Jill was dancing with? What happened to Nicki’s shoes? Why is Carl wearing a cape? Hmmmm. Well, let me just reference my handy-dandy digital photos.

Company having a party? Check. I was there, camera in hand, ready to document. (One of my coworkers nicknamed me the company “Documentarian.” I thought it she was kidding until I Googled it and realized that it’s a real word – someone who documents things.) Okay. That was me.

This came in handy each year when the company would take all of the employees to Florida. As usual, I packed my camera. And the crazy and fantastic group of people that I worked with always provided me with opportunities for great pictures.

I have to include a bad one of myself.  It's only fair.

I have to include a bad one of myself. It’s only fair.

It’s funny how people act like they don’t like getting their picture taken, but as soon as I would take a photo, people would want to see it.

“Oh, that’s terrible of me! Take another one!!!”

Now, that always made me laugh. If you didn’t like me taking a picture in the first place, then why do you want me to take another one?

It’s because PEOPLE LIKE PICTURES. They’re memories you can see.

V on a stuffed horse.

V on a stuffed horse.

My friend, E.Y.* says I have a knack for getting people to do things that they normally wouldn’t do, and then I take a picture of it.

“Hey E! Go stand by that fountain and it will look like you’re peeing!”

“Okay!!!”

Click-click-click.

“Hey E! Wrap yourself up in this beach towel and you’ll look like a baby!”

“Okay!!!”

Click-click-click.

Flying back from the Fla trip, the airline said babies could board first, so here E is acting like a baby.

Flying back from the Fla trip, the airline said babies could board first, so here E is acting like a baby.

What’s REALLY funny is that E doesn’t drink so these pictures were taken when he was perfectly sober.

E said that I’m the friend that will take really crappy pictures of you all year long and then give them to you on a CD as a Christmas present.

Yep. That’s how I roll. And now that I have a camera on my phone, those great pictures for next year’s Christmas CD are just a quick click away.

Ho! Ho! Ho!

*E’s name and people’s faces have been hidden to protect my life for including these stories in this blog post.

Bra size?  C - for cakes.

Bra size? C – for cakes.

It's a bird...it's a plane!  It's a man on a piano!

It’s a bird…it’s a plane! It’s a man on a piano!

Going Home

One hundred years ago, a little baby girl named Mary Evelyn Gunn, known to her family as Aunt Sissy, was born in a big white house in Enterprise, Mississippi. She was the beloved sister of her five brothers (two older and three younger), one of whom was my grandfather, Frank Carlton Gunn, affectionally called Bubba.

Riverside Plantation

Riverside Plantation

Little did her family know then, how many lives she would touch in her life time.

Many of those family members gathered this past weekend to celebrate her life and her 100th birthday at that same white house, named Riverside Plantation.

All week, I had stressed over how I was going to manage making it from Atlanta to Enterprise to join in the celebration. My husband is in the process of getting his masters and had a huge project due and we realized it would be too risky for him to make the trip in case he couldn’t finish his work on time.

At the last minute, my son and his girlfriend decided to drive up from college in south Georgia to make the trip with me. He had never seen the old home place but had heard about it for years. I welcomed the company and was thrilled that they wanted to be a part of the occasion.

As we pulled into the grassy yard, Riverside stood tall and proud, albeit a bit weathered. Two tall white columns flanked both sides of the front porch, welcoming visitors into the foyer. Built in the early to mid-1800’s, it has seen better days but the sight of it still overwhelmed me. I had been to the place only twice before, but this time, I was older and truly appreciated and understood where I came from. Two chimneys flanked both sides of the house. The green shutters had faded as had the once bright red door, but the beautiful decorative transom windows were still intact. I could hear the squeals and laughter from children who were playing on the balcony above the front steps.

I thought of my grandfather and my great-uncles and Aunt Sissy as they played in the front yard as children. They had climbed the trees, worked in the garden, tended to the livestock, and swam in the Chunky River nearby. I was confident that if I listened hard enough, I could probably hear the ringing of the dinner bell and the voice of my great-great grandmother calling everyone inside the house for dinner.

My grandfather, Aunt Sissy and Uncle Kiddo on the front steps of Riverside.

My grandfather, Aunt Sissy and Uncle Kiddo on the front steps of Riverside.

As we walked in, Aunt Sissy sat in a chair in the very room that she was born in, grinning as those who came to celebrate with her stopped to wish her Happy Birthday.

The hardwood floors creaked as people walked around, soaking in the history that has made up the house, wishing the walls could tell us stories of those who lived here. Before the Civil War, the house was owned by a man who was a Mason. When Union soldiers took over the house, they found a box (supposedly full of valuables) wrapped in Masonic papers. With many Union soldiers also being Masons, they stood by their vow to never cause harm to a fellow Mason, thereby ordering the other soldiers not to burn the house or steal anything. They then turned the home into Union headquarters, where they planned the Battle of Vicksburg from the front parlor. The home is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

There is a book called Riverside Remembered by Wallace Neal Briggs, Aunt Sissy’s cousin, who everyone called “Buster.” His story tells about the times he visited his beloved Riverside, starting when he was only six years-old. For those of us who were not around during that time, it has been a beautiful way to learn about Mammy and Pappy, my great-great-grandparents, along with Allie and Cally, my great-grandparents. I have also learned about my grandfather as a young man, before he met my grandmother. What a rare gift to be able to treasure events in his life long after they occurred!

In addition, the book tells about Mattie Riley and her son Leroy, their black neighbors who helped at the house who were really just part of the family. Sissy and Mattie were especially close, since Mattie had taken care of her since she was a child.

One of the most cherished moments was when Mattie’s grandson, Floyd, arrived at the celebration and handed a photograph of Mattie to Sissy. I wish I could have frozen in time the moment Aunt Sissy saw the photograph – her delighted expression clearly showed the love she had for her and how much she missed her.

Throughout the day, all of the family laughed and told stories of parents and kids and simply loved being there. I hope Aunt Sissy looked around and realized that the people who were there, were there because of HER family – each one of us being a child, grandchild, great-grandchild, niece, nephew, cousin or other relative.

I watched my father laugh with his brother and sisters. I watched my son and nephews look for rusty old railroad spikes by the Chunky River. I laughed with my cousins, some of whom I had not seen in over 25 years.

My Great-Aunt Sissy with her brother Bubba (my grandfather's) kids - Aunt Carol, Daddy, Uncle Pat, & Aunt Polly.

My Great-Aunt Sissy with her brother Bubba (my grandfather’s) kids – Aunt Carol, Daddy, Uncle Pat, & Aunt Polly.

And as the children of my cousins ran through the house and people mingled about sipping coffee and eating birthday cake, I felt the house shake. Some would think that a 150+ year-old home shaking wouldn’t be a good thing, but I felt otherwise.

To me, it felt as if the home was happy and giggling because after way too many years, it was once again full of the love, laughter and life of the Gunn family.

Been Away!

Dear Readers,

Please let me apologize for the delay in my recent postings! My sweet husband encouraged me to evolve my blog posts and write a novel. I have finally finished it and it is now being edited and will hopefully soon be on it’s way to publishing. I will let you all know when it’s ready!

Thank you for your sweet notes telling me that you’ve missed my weekly posts. I should be back very soon (and will probably write one about my recent fantastic weekend at a family reunion!)

Camping Chaos

This past weekend, Dale and I went camping at our favorite place in the North Georgia Mountains.

We wanted to go a few times over the summer, but with all of the rain that we had, we cancelled our plans each time.

Then, the Weather Channel finally predicted a dry weekend, so we planned and prepared to go.

It seems that each time I have ever been camping, something completely funny has happened.

The first funny memory I have is when I went camping with my parents and Aunt and cousins when I was a little girl. We were all in bed sleeping, when we heard a loud racket. My father looked out the window of the camper and saw raccoons feeding on the cake that we had accidentally left out on the picnic table. From then on, it became known throughout our family as the “coon cake” story.

When I was in college, my sister and I went camping with her fiancé and his friend. We knew they were going to play tricks on us – plastic spiders, plastic snakes, etc. So we decided to “one up” them. Years before, our parents had gotten an album of “The Mating Call of the Wolves” as a gag gift. This was, of course, back when we had cassette tapes. We decided to fast forward a blank tape three-quarters of the way through, and then we recorded the wolves howling.

When we crawled in the tent that night, I pushed “play” on the tape player and we got in our sleeping bags to go to sleep. Thirty minutes later, the first “wolf” started howling.

We all sat up. “What the heck was that?” my sister asked. I had to stifle my giggle by burying my face in my pillow so as not to spoil the trick.

“Sounds like wild dogs.” The guys started looking out the zippered windows of the tent. (We had made the guys sleep on the outside edge of the tent because we figured if something attacked the tent, it would get them first.)

“Do you,” I gasped, “think they,” I gasped again, “can get,” gasp, “in the tent???” My sister and I were in tears because we were laughing so hard, but they guys totally missed it. They thought we were crying because we were scared.

“Sounds like they are on the other side of the creek,“ they said. “Maybe we can make a run for the car,” not understanding that the whining and barking was coming from RIGHT INSIDE THE TENT.

After ten more minutes of the guys trying to figure out how to get us to safety, they caught on. Their response? No escorted middle-of–the-night trips to the bathroom. Cathy and I were on our own.

Fast forward to 2008. I took my son, Matthew and several of his hockey buddies camping – two of whom had never been camping before. Besides the typical gross boy stories, my favorite part of the weekend was when they climbed in the creek below the hiking trail. Matthew had gotten an electronic device that played sounds of wild animals, and they would play barks and growls of fox and bears as people would walk above them on the hiking trail. I sat by the campfire watching and laughing hysterically as people would frantically look around trying to see if an animal was nearby.

Then, that leads me to this weekend’s camping trip with my sweet husband. It was our anniversary, so we looked forward to sitting around the fire sipping on wine, and just enjoying the quiet. The entire trip was so peaceful…until about 3 A.M. when an owl started hooting right outside our tent and woke me up. I could have easily gone back to sleep, until I noticed that our normally two-foot high air mattress was now so deflated that I could feel the rocks and sticks underneath the tent, stabbing me in my hip. photo_1

Besides the fact that Dale and I were so squished together that it seemed we had eaten magnets for dinner, we probably looked like two hotdogs in a bun. I started giggling and woke Dale up, who then proceeded to turn over and as his body weight adjusted the air in the mattress, I was catapulted off the other side.

So even though we both woke up each with a wickedly sore back and bags under our eyes from lack of sleep, I can’t wait until our next camping excursion.

Just to see what funny thing happens.

Sunday Morning Bliss

When I was a little girl, I went to church every Sunday with my parents. Church, for me, is pretty important for obvious reasons, but what I really love, is that every time I smell the inside of the church I attend with my husband, as I walk through the door, I am flooded by memories.

But not of this church.

Or my parent’s church.

But my grandmother’s church.

A little country church that my grandmother has gone to her entire life. A church where, as a little girl, she would sneak in and swim in the baptismal pool behind the church on scorching hot Mississippi summer days.

A church that my grandfather helped renovate and rebuild many years later.

A place where I feel closer to God than any place on earth, and can still feel my grandfather’s calloused brick mason’s hands as he would lead me inside. I can still see the mud on my little white, lace trimmed gloves, and I can still feel the weight of my little patent leather pocketbook that I would fill up with dozens of pretty rocks that I would find out in the gravel parking lot before the service.Screen Saver 427

I can still hear my sweet grandmother singing “Just as I Am” so terribly off-key that, even as a child, I knew those notes were definitely not right.

I can still hear Brother Floyd’s booming voice as he taught about Heaven and Hell from the pulpit, making me jump when his voice would get louder and louder as he was making his point.

And I can feel the hardness of the wooden pew as I would adjust and readjust to keep my butt cheeks from going to sleep. I am convinced people made those pews so uncomfortable simply so that no one would fall asleep during the service.

But church wasn’t always entertaining for a child, so I would find ways to amuse myself. I’d draw on the bulletin that was handed to my mother as we walked in the sanctuary. I would play “I Spy” with myself and try to go through the entire alphabet trying to match items with letters.

Or, as I did one particular Sunday morning, got up from the front pew and proceeded to do somersaults down the center of the aisle. My mother was mortified, and my grandmother, who was also the organist, just laughed.

Luckily, this was also a church where 99% of the congregants are related to me somehow because the town is so small, so no one was really surprised when I did that.

As an adult, I no longer do somersaults down the aisle (although there ARE a few rocks in my purse), but I have come to realize that no matter where I go, or what church I attend, I know my love for the church started there.

And that is a very good memory, indeed.

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Where did the summer go? It seems that school was released last week! Where did all of the lazy days by the pool go? Why is it still dark outside when I’m getting up? When did we get back from vacation? How do I work my alarm clock?

That’s right. School starts today and all of the kiddos are going back.

Kids are complaining and mumbling about how life sucks, and how tired they are, and that the first day of school just happens to be the worst day of the WHOLE YEAR.

The obnoxious buzzing of the alarm goes off at 6:45 a.m. It’s the butt-crack of dawn and time to get my step-son up for the first day of school.

I shuffle into the bathroom and turn on the light. Good grief. I feel like a Gremlin. Bright light! Bright light! It’s so bright that it actually hurts. I take a horrifying glance at my reflection in the mirror. I look like I’ve been electrocuted. I really don’t like early mornings.

I have to force myself up the stairs to his room, knock on the door and turn on the light. Now he feels like a Gremlin.

He growls at me.

I sleep-walk into the kitchen and make a quick breakfast for him even though he says he doesn’t want much to eat. I pack a brown-bag lunch full of fruit, cheese, chips, yogurt, and a chocolate bar (I’m not a health food nut – he just has food allergies) and put it by his book bag.

Last night, I made sure new gym clothes were tucked away in his backpack. What seems like ten-thousand dollars-worth of school supplies have been placed in bags to be taken straight to the teacher’s desk. We almost needed to take out a small equity loan to cover the cost of all the supplies the school required this year. How he is going to carry all of this mess is beyond me.

His school uniform has already been washed and pressed. Socks and brand new shoes are placed by the bedroom door.

I confirm that his teeth are brushed, his shirt is tucked in, and his hair doesn’t show any signs of bedhead.

We jump in the car and head over to the school. It seems that every person in the city is in the car rider line today. Hopefully I won’t get in a wreck because I literally just pulled on a pair of shorts and tucked my night shirt into them. It’s going to be A-W-K-W-A-R-D if someone sees me.

He gets out of the car, tells me “bye,” and heads into the building.

Yep.

School started today, and for me and 99% of other parents out there, it’s THE BEST DAY EVER.

And since I’ve been done with school for years now, you know what that also means?

I get to go back to bed!

Toughness Comes In Many Colors

I’ve always been a bit of a tomboy. I love camping and working on my house. I still like manicures and makeup and I love the color pink so I guess I’m a bit of a girly girl as well.

My step daughter recently decided that she didn’t want to wear pink anymore because she didn’t want to look like a little girl. She’s 12.

I tried to explain to her that there is nothing wrong with wearing pink and that you can still assert plenty of toughness when wearing it.

I told her about one of the best concerts I have ever attended – the Metallica concert. My dear friend, Kim, and I were standing in line, waiting to get in the arena. An older gentleman that worked for the arena was walking up and down the line asking to view inside people’s purses (just in case they were trying to smuggle in booze or guns). He walked by, checked my purse and went on down the line. A few minutes later he came back up the line and asked to check my purse again.

The third time he walked by and asked to see in my purse I started to wonder if maybe I had some underwear in my purse or maybe someone had stashed a Playboy in there. Finally, Kim, who was wearing the standard blue jeans and black shirt – attire that you would expect to see at a Metallica concert, said “Do you not recognize the fact that you have checked her purse two times already??!? She is
the ONLY person at this entire concert in PINK!”

Yep. You can wear pink and still be cool enough to go to a Metallica concert.

Recently, we took Bailey to the shooting range so that she could target shoot with a 22. Again, she had refused to wear pink that day, but she still had to wear my ear protection – which happen to be hot pink. She said she didn’t feel tough enough wearing the pink earplugs…that was until she saw my target covered in holes and me in a pink shirt and pink sound suppressors.

So yes, whether you’re rocking out to Metallica or shooting a 9 mm handgun, just remember, toughness comes in many colors. It just depends on how you wear it.

Just ask this little guy. And he’s wearing green. photo(18)

When in Key West, Beware of the Gherkin Patch

I have a tiny bladder. It’s kind if embarrassing to admit this, but since it has to deal with the rest of this story, so be it.

I have to go so much that my brother-in-law, who is a urologist, thought I might be diabetic. Considering my love for sweets, all things mostly made of carbs, and the fact that I’m a self-called starchitarian (the bready sister to being a vegetarian), it made perfect sense.

The other reason could be because of how much water I drink a day. I drink a LOT of water.

Dale has gotten quite used to my pee-pee dance movements and knows exactly when he needs to help me find a place to go.

Today, we were by the pool at our hotel in Key West, when nature called. I had just downed an entire bottle of SmartWater (I’m not sure that stuff really works because I actually feel kinda stupid for paying $3 for a bottle of water) when I realized I needed to GO.

I was about to pop and the long walk back to our room seemed like the distance of a half marathon. I asked one of the ladies if there was a restroom nearby.

“Sure. It’s upstairs on the top deck”.

I jumped up, put on my flip flops and bolted up the stairs…completely missing the sign that said “Clothing Optional Deck.”

Just so you know, clothing is not optional for me. It’s actually pretty much a requirement. I mean, I even jump in the pool at least wearing a bathing suit – sometimes even with one of those sun shirts on. Clothing for me isn’t optional. It’s a necessity.

However, for the folks hanging out on the “clothing optional deck,” it was VERY much an option for them.

A couple of them giggled at my obvious discomfort as I choked on air when I realized where I was. Men who were clearly registered AARP members were letting it “all hang out.” The sheer amount of women’s boobs just flopping around put a strip club to shame. (Okay. Maybe I’m jealous because my boobs don’t flop. They are so small they don’t move at ALL) but that is completely beside the point.

Regardless, seeing boobs and everything else out in the open when all I wanted to do was find a bathroom really messed me up. I tried being discreet but ended up looking like Stevie Wonder while trying to open the bathroom door.

“My eyes! My eyes!” I thought, thinking I might have damaged my retinas.

After I did my business I sat in the stall a few more minutes trying to figure out how to get out of there without making another scene of myself. I pulled my hat way down over my face like the character “Dumb Donald” from Fat Albert, put on my glasses, flew out the door and beelined it towards the stairs.

Dale asked me where I had been for so long and I told him I got held up in the gherkin patch that doubled as a nude sun deck upstairs.

Dale doubled over with laughter. After a while my blood pressure finally returned to normal but the red in my face stayed…and it wasn’t from sunburn.

So even though I didn’t show my girlie parts on the sun deck today, I’m not going to be at the pool tomorrow. I think I’ll head on over to the beach instead.

Because I’d much rather my skin blister from running through scalding hot sand to get to the bathroom than have to ever witness another wiener roast.

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