Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Meet Molly

Last month God gave us a dog. That really is the best way to explain it because it just can't be a coincidence.

One Friday night the neighbors heard her barking and whining outside. When they went out to check they found a drenched little Yorkie with thorns in her over-grown tangled fur. They pulled the thorns from her fur and gave her two baths. She had no collar so she was taken to the vet to be scanned for a chip but there wasn't one. While she was there the vet trimmed her painfully over-grown nails.

The neighbor's kids took her around the neighborhood asking about her. They put up signs and posted her picture on Facebook all in a fruitless attempt to find her owner. There was one big problem. Although our neighbor is an animal person, her husband is not. At all. He left for work that morning making it perfectly clear that he didn't want that dog to be there when he got home.

That is where we enter the story. It was a Saturday and we were just heading out for a community event when we saw our next-door neighbor with her kids carrying a rather disheveled looking pup. We stop, she tells us the story, we offer to care for the dog until the owner is found. Keith and I both hoped that the I mean us... wouldn't get too attached before then.

The poor dear was terrified for the first couple of days. It didn't help that Charlie and Jane were so excited about having a dog that they were all over her. We sat them down and walked through what we knew of her story with them. We talked about how scary it must be for her. After that they were better about giving her space and being gentle and slow around her, but they are kids so it was really hard for them. She warmed up pretty quickly though and after two days I was starting to feel guilty for hoping that her owners never called so she could be ours forever.

Jane just chillin' and picking her nose while Molly keeps watch from her perch.
The day the neighborhood signs came down and we went and bought her a collar with a tag that said Molly Merrill, I just kept on thinking that it was just too good to be true.

Between Keith's experience cutting his own hair, and my limited experience as Assistant Sheep Shearer, I think we did a pretty good job.
Here's why I thought that and why I say God sent her to us.

We have wanted a dog for quite a while now but I didn't want to have to train a puppy, especially potty training, while undergoing cancer treatments. Molly is, according to the vet's estimate, about 2-3 years old. She is completely potty trained, super mellow and doesn't chew on anything.

We also wanted a small dog that would work well in the house. Check. Keith and I both have some allergies to dogs, nothing severe but enough that we wanted a dog that wouldn't bother our allergies. Yorkies are very allergy-friendly dogs. Also they don't shed any more than a person. Instead of having fur that constantly sheds they have "hair" that is much like human hair. It just keeps on growing. That means that she requires a bit more grooming than your average dog but that is okay with me.

Molly laying in her sun puddle just like every morning.
Pretty much if almost any other dog had showed up that night and the owner never came forth we would have had to just given it to the shelter and prayed that she would find a good home before it was too late.

And then there was the timing. I had just returned home from my wonderful Sisters Trip less than a week before. The month or so prior to that trip had been a nightmare. A string of heart-breaking events followed by physically and emotionally painful decisions. I was mad at God. Through the tumor and the seizures I had never felt completely let down by God. He would some how always reassure me that he was there. But not now. Now, it felt like He had just left me hanging.

I am sorry for being so vague. As a general rule I try to not bring up things on this blog that I don't feel comfortable telling the public about. I am breaking that rule this time because I want to somehow explain what I mean when I say that God gave us Molly.

Molly snuggling up with me when I felt yucky on a chemo day.
My mom says that God has always spoken to me through animals. As I have thought back over my life I find that to be true for the most part. It is His unique way of letting me know He is there and aware of me. He used a mouse to show me he hears and answers my prayers. He used birds to reassure me of His love when I was pregnant and having several seizures every day.

And now He has comforted me by sending me Molly. I just have the strongest impression that, through Molly, He is letting me know that He was there during those terrible, heart-wrenching weeks. Even when I was mad at him.

She will forever be my constant reminder that God loves me and never truly forsakes us.

Walking home from the bust stop. Molly loves all the attention she gets from the kids there.

That makes Molly extra special.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Sisters in New Orleans

Way back in April my sisters and I met up for a long anticipated get-away in New Orleans... without the kids. :) Why New Orleans? Well that is a question with a long answer, but basically we all live in different states and wanted to go someplace fun and exciting so New Orleans it was.

It did not disappoint.

All but one of the nights we stayed in this cute little hotel (the red one) right in the French Quarter. That way most of the things we wanted to do/see would be within walking distance. It may not look like much from the street, but the room was full of old New Orleans character and there was a lovely little courtyard in the middle. It was a store/bakery at one point and was a combination of various different buildings so the inside was a bit of a maze of stairways and halls.

Our first morning Sarah really wanted to take a ferry across the Mississippi. So we did. It was short but fun. Seconds after the picture on the left was taken, Sarah's white visor got swept up in the wind and into the muddy Mississippi. We sadly watched it churn around in the water behind the ferry before it went under and began it's trip out to sea.

 Everyone who ever goes to New Orleans absolutely MUST go on a culinary bike tour (in my opinion). It was delicious and so much fun. We followed a true local foodie around town to some of the most unique and best restaurants in town. This guy was legit. It was obvious that the history of New Orleans and it's food was his passion. It was fascinating!

We went to three savory places and one sweet. The sweet place was Loretta's. She makes truly amazing pralines and beignets (among other tasty things). She also makes a beignet filled with melted pralines inside. Those have now been added to my list of foods that I am pretty certain we will eat in heaven. Mmmmm.

Wonderful and unique food was a definitely highlight of the trip (it is New Orleans after all). The muffalatas in New Orleans are crave worthy and I realized that fried green tomatoes can be delicious. I can't remember details about the other delectable things we ate, but Sarah at one point said that every bite in New Orleans should be an experience and that was pretty close to the truth.

Another thing that New Orleans is known for is jazz. Lots of jazz. I am not a jazz buff but listening to old-time jazz at Preservation Hall was fun. The mission of Preservation Hall is to preserve the more original jazz style and experience. We sat in a cozy room on the floor or simple wood benches and the people in the back stood. It was a surprisingly enjoyable experience.

The street bands were a lot of fun too. This gal was belting it out on that sax. You go girl! Also pictured are trees still dripping with Mardi Gras beads and a large street market of sorts that sold quite the assortment of things.

Sarah wasn't able to have much of a birthday celebration earlier that month so Liz told the staff at this fancy restaurant (who's name escapes me) that it was her birthday. There were balloons at the table and at the end of the meal they brought her a dessert with a candle and a birthday hat.

Riding the street car back from lunch and a stroll around the Garden District.

Jasmine was all over and it smelled divine. I had to get an up-close shot of the lovely and unusual petals. I have never seen a flower with petals like that.

Gotta love the fun and beautiful buildings of New Orleans. Another fun thing about the bicycle tour was going to these out of the way restaurants via bike on side streets. I didn't get any pictures of those, but the homes that aren't in touristy areas are fun too.

Another tour we did was a city tour combined with a cemetery tour. Some of the older cemeteries are quite interesting but you are only allowed in if you are with an authorized tour guide.

 At the center of the French Quarter is this pretty square. It is surrounded by identical buildings on either side, a cathedral on one side and the street on the fourth. The square was purchased from the lady who owned/bought the two identical buildings. She was rich and had a very interesting story that I would totally botch if I tried to remember it. I do recall that after her husband died she spent some time as Jefferson's guest in the White House. Hence the statue in the center of the square. My favorite part of the statue was the tiny sparrow perched on the handle of Jefferson's sword just taking in the view.

The crypt on the bottom left is one of the three that is thought to be where the remains of the Voodoo Queen are (woooh...).

There were a few plantations that we would have liked to see but we only had time for one, Oak Alley.

We walked through the recreated slave quarters and toured the large house complete with a balcony with a great view of the oak alley. The oaks were planted more than 100 years before the plantation existed. One of the oaks looked it had been at one point split down the middle and the large crack had been filled with bricks and mortar (lower right picture). I was really confused. I asked an employee about it and it had been hit by lightening and split back when the plantation was still operational. They tried to save the tree by patching it up with bricks and concrete. Of course that doomed the other half so all that is left today is a fraction of the tree attached to a small brick wall. It left me wondering what things we are doing today that will leave people decades in the future wondering what on earth we were thinking.

Another neat factoid about this plantation is that an enslaved gardener here was the first to successfully graft a pecan tree, which in turn, created a new variety of pecan. The Centennial pecan. It had a shell thin enough to allow it to be cracked by hand.

We drove from the plantation to where we had made reservations for a swamp tour. We didn't make it in time for the day-time tour we had planned on, but were able to catch the next one which was a night tour. The gator head with the skin still attached in the picture above sells for about $300. Imagine then how much an entire large alligator would sell for and you will understand why there are very few large alligators left in these swamps. The guide would tap the water with a stick, mimicking something moving in the water, to lure gators close to the boat. He would then put a piece of alligator food on the end of the stick and make them jump for it.

A heron nesting down for the night, a craw-fish, and an abandoned house. For one stretch of the swamp there were several houses on stilts, some abandoned but most inhabited but only reachable by boat. According to the guide, the swells made by Katrina went well over the tops of these homes.

The next day was Saturday and one by one we flew off to our homes. It was such a wonderful time!

Let's do it again soon sisters!

Foot note: At a park on this trip I saw a black-bellied whistling duck. Number 152 on my bird list. It is really pretty so you should look it up. ;)

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Earth Day/T-Day Anniversary

Yesterday was Earth day but I missed blogging because I was on my way home from an absolutely lovely trip to New Orleans with my sisters.

Here are some Earth day/T-day posts from previous years: (I celebrated this Tumor Day 4th anniversary by not having a seizure.)  :)




Tuesday, April 18, 2017

It's Back!

My hair is back!!!! And that, my friends deserves a blog post. So here, for your enjoyment, is the photo documentation of my hair loss and its lovely  come back. 

This was the beginning - sometime in October. I thought this was going to be the extent of it since the doctor said to expect patches of hair loss about the size of a quarter.

He was wrong.

It kept on progressing...

... but this random patch in the front kept holding on. When I tucked it behind my ear and wore an ear warmer, I could still hide the bald spot.

That didn't last long.
Around this time my head also got incredibly tender.  The weight of my ponytails and even turning my head on my pillow at night, would pull on the edge hairs making my scalp ache.

So I took the trimmers and cut it off. It was a bit sad to see all that hair on the floor but it felt SO much better.

The  perfectly straight hair line above my ear wasn't shaved, that was just how it fell out. It was odd but gave me hair all along the borders of my hats.

That was the extent of the hair loss and it lasted until just over a month ago. Then it began its fuzzy come back!

There are a few bald spots that never grew back after the surgery over 3 years ago.

Sorry for all the selfies. I am really excited. :)

The kids thought it was fun too. Jane would squeeze herself between my back and the couch and rub my super soft new hair while I read her books. 

This is how it is now.  I have thick curly patches and thinner straight patches. Also, it is hard to see in the pictures, but there is a LOT more grey than there was before. :( The radiation doctor told me before I started radiation that sometimes the hair will grow back a different color and/or a different texture than it was before. I joked that it would be nice then if it all fell out and grew back without any grey. Well only most of it fell out and it came back with more grey.

At least I have hair again! And hopefully as it gets longer the thin parts will fill in more and it will decide if it is going to be all straight or all curly. I don't have a strong preference either way, but I don't know what to do with patches of both.

For now I am having fun with head bands. I am getting quite the collection.

I am pretty sure I have taken more selfies since radiation than I have in my entire life. Not included here are all my hat selfies, I got some cute ones from dear friends. 

Really the timing worked out perfectly. Hair loss during hat weather and just as it warms up, it comes back. :)