Lessons on Dying

I’m reading Cutting For Stone for book club. In it, a character mentions losing a parent after a long illness and that the parent first taught him how to live, and that now they were teaching him how to die.

When Dad was in hospice, the counselor on site (Who – coincidentally – knew my parents when they were married.) told my brother and I the same thing. The last lesson a sick parent can teach their child is how to die. I thought about it a lot at the time, as Dad was dying, and have returned to that thought since the book brought it up.

At first, I wasn’t sure what lessons I learned from the way Dad died. I thought at first – it was a lesson about giving up. Because Dad never even bothered to fight his cancer. But you know? I don’t think – after processing his death and my grief – that’s how I look actually at it. I just don’t see it like that anymore, anyway. That was my first instinct, I know, but even then I didn’t give it a lot of heart. There was no anger or bitterness there. Maybe disappointment, but not even disappointment in him not fighting. It was more just disappointment in the entire situation. That a man who raised two children alone, who lived his life so selflessly, would have to die in that way.

No…I don’t look at it as giving up. I look at it more about a lesson in Weighing the Odds. I’m a pro/con kind of person. Actually, I think I’m just a CON type of person. When weighing a decision, I imagine the worst-case scenario of either outcome. Which of those worst-cases would be the worst. Example – when talking to my brother recently about whether he should run a full-marathon or a half-marathon after an injury he sustained, I looked it it like this: Worst-case if you only run the half? You’ll be bitter with yourself and maybe down on yourself for not meeting your goal. BUT YOU’VE RUN THEM BEFORE, so the goal isn’t that huge anyway. Worst-case if you run the full? You hurt yourself again. And then you’re dealing with that for weeks if not months. To me? Worst-case was MUCH worse if he chose to run the full marathon. Of course, I’m lazy, so to me the better decision would be: Run the full marathon OR sit on my butt and eat donuts. And that – my friends – is a much easier decision to make.

With my Dad – he could have fought his cancer. But – let’s look at worst-case if he DIDN’T fight: He just dies peacefully in a residential hospice. If he DID fight? Worst-case would be more suffering (he was already in SO MUCH PAIN) just from the havoc the cancer had already reeked on his skeletal system, he would have dialysis for 3-4 hours 3 times a week (which he did twice and it was awful because of the previously mentioned skeletal pain), there would be the suffering from the chemotherapy itself, and then…THEN…worst-case? He dies anyway. So…just for kicks…let’s look at BEST case scenario for fighting the cancer. BEST case? EVERYTHING WOULD BE THE SAME. Minus the dying at the end. Basically, even if he was able to kill the cancer, he would have STILL been facing a lifetime of pain from the skeletal damage and a lifetime of dialysis which was already proving difficult. So – for my Dad? The BEST case of one choice was STILL worse than the worse case of the other. To my Dad? To die peacefully in a residential hospice was the easy choice.

His last few weeks after making his decision – the hardest part for him was the waiting. He joked when we asked him if he needed anything about getting someone to speed things up a bit. The waiting was hard on him. But he seemed at peace. He really liked the place he was in. He wasn’t at all talkative. We all talked the first day after he arrived, I guess it was “THE” talk you have with someone who has decided to die. But after that? There was almost no talking. He just spent his last weeks on earth in peace and quiet.

So, what did I learn about dying? I would say I learned not to be scared of it. Because if there is one thing I was very certain about? Is that my Dad did not fear death. Otherwise, the balance of the decisions would have been shifted. If he feared death? Then DEATH on the scale would have weighed a lot heavier than it did and might have counteracted the PAIN and MISERY on the other side. But for Dad? Who really didn’t have much of a view of the afterlife? Death was nothing to fear. I think that’s the most important lesson I learned from him. Whether or not I’ll keep it in mind if I’m ever facing death, I don’t know, but I do seem to have a calmness about it that I don’t think was there before. I think I am thankful for that lesson. I think – in terms of grand lessons my Dad taught me – the one that will probably have the biggest impact on my life? Is not to fear death. I had never really thought of it before the book brought it up again – but that is the last lesson my Dad taught me.

I just hope it’s not indicative of the struggles he faced raising two kids alone. Hopefully we didn’t make his life such hell that death was just an easier road. I mean – I know for damn sure I’m responsible for every gray hair he ever had. After dealing with ME as a teenager? Death at the hand of a bone-crushing cancer? Was probably cake.

Speaking of…

  • Entertainment Weekly told me (and me – personally – you know) that Matched by Ally Condie could be the next Hunger Games. It’s another dystopian YA series that has already been sold for film rights even though it doesn’t hit shelves until tomorrow. While I truly loved 80% of the Hunger Games series, the last 1/3rd of the last book kinda rubbed me wrong (another entry for another day) so I’m not jumping on this recommendation with rabid excitement, but I will be reading it as soon as I finish my current book club book. Just wanted to share the YA news with you guys since so many of you are also YA fans.
  • Speaking of reading…between my book club and the Kindle my husband bought me for our anniversary, I have read more in the last month than I have in the last year. While I was hesitant to jump on the e-reader bandwagon due to my love of simply holding books, the Kindle has made reading much more convenient. No matter what I’m reading, how big the book is, how many books I’m reading, or anything…I’ve always got my books in my purse. Either on the Kindle itself or on the app for my iPhone. So, days like yesterday where I found myself with 20 minutes to kill just sitting around, I could read. And my book club holds me accountable, because I really want to be able to contribute to conversation since it’s always such a rich one. I forgot how much I just love reading and I’m thrilled to have finally found a way and a reason to fit it into my busy schedule.
  • Speaking of my busy schedule…I start a mini boot camp session today. We’re squeezing in a 3-week session before Christmas. I’m determined to actually lose some weight this time around. I’ve been a bit itching to going back to being vegetarian lately. I did it for seven (is that right?) years (Vegan for 9 months just to see if I could do it) and lately when I eat meat I feel a little regret for my vegetarian life past. It’s just hard being a lone vegetarian in a meat-eating family. We’ll see, I guess. Just something that’s been on my mind. Any of you loners in your family’s diet spectrum? How do you plan meals?
  • Speaking of recipes…I need some soup recipes. Some Sit-In-The-Crockpot-All-Day soup recipes. You got any? I’d love a black bean soup like Panera makes but I’d also like some good Non-Bean type soups because I already cook the hell out of some chili and my husband’s stomach can only handle so many bean meals. That’s all I’ll say about that.
  • Speaking of Crockpots…I don’t do Black Friday or anything, but a week or two before Thanksgiving, Target had this 3-pot server on sale for 60 bucks and let me tell you…I already love it. It was great for the Harry Potter party and I can’t wait to use it for every other gathering in the future. I’m such a Crockpot Whore as it is (I need a t-shirt that says that) that I already have one full-size one that sits out on my counter at all times, 1 full-size that is packed up for emergencies, 2 smaller ones with carriers for Potluck type events and now a 3-fer/warmer. That brings my total to SEVEN CROCKPOTS. And I don’t even have any of the small dip-size versions! ALL HAIL THE CROCKPOT.
  • Speaking of things I’m whorish about…I bought these Nikes recently. They’re an older style, my Fleet Feet only had an 8.5 and the shoe guy thought that’s what size I should be wearing (I’m normally an 8 ) (There are double spaces after that “8” because WordPress wanted to make it an emoticon since it’s next to the parenthesis. What the Hell, WordPress? Don’t give me emoticons I don’t want!) but after an hour or so of wearing them I realized they were too big. They didn’t have the 8 so I ordered them on Zappos. I’m never sure why I don’t just get all my shoes from Zappos. Anyway – it’s the first exercise shoe I’ve actually liked the way it looks. I find most of them so ugly. I’m very proud of my Nikes and am so worried that they’ll be hard to get when this pair wears out that I really want to ask Santa for a backup pair. JUST IN CASE. I mean, I have signed up for an entire year of bootcamp, I’m fully planning on wearing these shoes out. DAMN YOU, Nike – for making the next version uglier.
  • Speaking of ugly…What is your least favorite thing about Christmas? Mine is traveling costs. Is it just me or does it seem like the airline price-hike around the holidays should be illegal? I know airline tickets are hard to price shop for anyway, they change so much over the course of time, but come ON. Don’t make it harder by jacking the prices up around the holidays? Traveling that time of year is sucky enough without having to pay double for the privilege.

That’s all for me on this random Monday morning. This will be an awkward week as Monday already feels like it should be Thursday and it hasn’t even started yet. I think we’re going to need a bigger coffee cup.

Black hair, Photos, and Mutating Laundry. The usual post-Thanksgiving blog entry.

The black hair from my Bellatrix getup is washing out slowly as indicated by a subtle gray stream of water down the drain every time I shower. As many of you know, I quit using shampoo on my hair in 2003 after learning how bad soaps are for curly and severely dry hair. (And to answer your questions: No. I’ve never had oily hair. Not before I quit using shampoo or since.) So, since I do want the color to fade out eventually, I’m using a very mild baby shampoo on my hair periodically. This, I think, is making my curls more frizzy but I guess that’s a sacrifice I’ll have to make so that the hair dye will eventually prove the “temporary” label on the box justified. However, I am enjoying the dark hair while I have it. I mean, why not?


I’m wearing a dress with leggings in that picture and NikkiZ about died when she found out I was planning on wearing a dress to Thanksgiving dinner. “A DRESS? I didn’t know you had any dresses!” Well, I didn’t. I bought this one to go with the black hair. And I wore it with leggings so I felt less in fear of flashing all of MrZ’s extended family.

Here are some other pictures from the trip. The pictures always sum up the adventures better than my words do, anyway.

The Boyz
Man. These guys are cute.

They were both very tired from traveling and I thought they were almost going to doze off in the front yard while I took this picture.

Because no picture is complete without Wes making a whacked-out face in it.

The sun was forming rainbows through my camera lens the first evening in Slidell. I definitely approve of this effect.

Looking at the pool
Taken by E

Penguin sweater-vests are the new craze, you know.

Our Thanksgiving was great. I didn’t take any pictures of the crazy amount of food because I was too busy eating it. I did run Thanksgiving morning, though. On my own. In a strange neighborhood. I was kinda proud of that. Although I’m pretty sure that 30-minute run didn’t counteract the 14 pieces of various pies I ate after dinner. At least I tried.

We made it home without too treacherous of a time in the car and now I’m doing the ritualistic 14 loads of laundry post-travel. Why is it, no matter how short our trip, we always end up with an entire week’s worth of dirty clothes when we get home? Do we pick up castaways while we’re gone? Do our close mutate along the highway? We were gone barely 48 hours yet there are no less than 6 loads of laundry being dealt with today. Obviously my belly wasn’t the only thing expanding under the weight of tryptophan.

On the road again…

2 Sticks

We’re hitting the road today to Slidell, LA. I wasn’t asked to cook anything specifically for Thanksgiving dinner, there’s always plenty of food. However, I am bringing a batch of cake poppers for dessert and I made three different kind of muffins to take down for breakfasts while were there. I made Mihow’s Giant Delicious Pumpkin Muffins which have won me tons of favor among the teens in my life, Bakerella’s Bananaberry Muffins which I love because it gives me a small break from all of the pumpkin AND Pioneer Woman’s Good Morning Muffins which are a fall-back fave in our home. If they all make it down to Slidell without being eaten in the car? I’ll consider mission accomplished.

I’m not sure how the road trip today is going to go. We have a DVD player in the van but we only use it on long trips so that the Movies In The Car thing is unique enough to actually get some traction when you need it most. However, Wes is still only into watching episodes of Dora. Movies seem to only hold his attention for as long as one of those last. Therefore, we could end up with 1 hour of peaceful travel and 5+ of screaming fits of rage. Either way – PRAY FOR US.

I start this conversation every time I make a roadtrip somewhere: Who does the packing in your home? It always amazes me how many homes are like mine and just have a designated packer. It isn’t usually spoken out loud, it’s just understood somewhere along the way. In my house it’s me. I think it started because I would pack the kid’s stuff, therefore I had a better understanding of what all needed to fit in the back of the vehicle, so packing the car just fell on my Task List too. Who does the packing in your home? Or have you mastered the Shared Responsibility Packing that I assume is only an urban legend along with The Monster In The Closet and something called Cleaning Blinds. (What is that about? There aren’t really people who do that are there?)

Have a great Thanksgiving. If you have a recipe that is a fan fave on Turkey day, share the love here in case anyone is looking for last minute inspiration. I showed you what I was making, now I want to see yours.

More awkward smiles

Because I Know What’s REALLY Important

Yes. I’m thankful for family, friends, my home, my financial security…etc. But let’s talk about what I’m really thankful for, shall we?

Curious Wes
  • I’m thankful that Jumbo Eggs don’t seem to make any huge difference in a recipe that calls for Large eggs. At least not in the recipes I’m using for the contribution to the family trip to Slidell, LA tomorrow.
  • I’m thankful that my car holds 7 people. It makes 6+ hour road trips much more bearable. The DVD player doesn’t hurt either.
  • I’m thankful for SmartWool socks. SERIOUSLY. They are totally outrageously priced but I have a few pairs after big splurges and I’m always totally depressed when they’re all dirty.
  • I’m thankful for the Pink and White Volkswagon Bus I see driving around South Huntsville. It makes me happy and totally envious every time I see it. Dear Santa, I WANT A PINK AND WHITE VOLKSWAGON BUS!
  • I’m thankful for snowglobes and snowmen. They are my two favorite things about Christmas decor. I’m doubly thankful for snowglobes with snowmen. It’s like the most perfect Christmas knickknack.
  • I’m thankful for The Pioneer woman. Without her I wouldn’t have anything to bring to Slidell for our Thanksgiving trip.
  • I’m thankful for soft pillows. I don’t like firm pillows.
  • I’m thankful for capri spandex. They allow me to keep my ass covered during bootcamp (shorts are a bit too revealing during some excercises) but aren’t big bulky sweatpants which are impossible to move around in.
  • I’m thankful for our Garbage Man. He has learned to look for us and he waves now every garbage day. Some days he even honks. Makes Wes SO HAPPY.