Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year

Kicking Cancer

This is my friend Bethany.

In February, Bethany was diagnosed with lymphoma... cancer. It was in her stomach, lungs and neck. Her daughter, Tessla Meredith, was three months old at the time. Bethany thought she was a bad mom: constantly fatigued, losing weight (breast feeding will do that to you!), not enjoying time with her daughter. And then she passed out at work. And upon arriving at the doctor's office, she was promptly hospitalized for anemia, malnutrition, and a slew of other things. After much blood work and testing, the dreaded words were uttered: it's cancer.

Bethany smiled.

"I'm not a bad mom. I just have cancer." After a few weeks of receiving fluids in the hospital to normalize her system and the first round or two of chemo that eliminated the giant bulge in her stomach, she was healthier, her spirits had lifted, and her energy returned. The cancer began to die, and Bethany actually got well.

But the chemo treatments continued and Bethany got sick again. And we had the head-shaving party and brought gifts of wigs and hats and hair extensions and fake eyelashes.

And we cooked food and took turns doing dishes and washing laundry and holding Tessla. And Sunday school classes who didn't even know Bethany put her on their prayer list and bought her four months of a house cleaning service and sent money and cards. Bethany's wigs looked good and sometimes she had enough strength to hold Tess. Here they are at Easter.

Seven or so months after Bethany's initial hospitalization, we heard the good news. The cancer was gone. The chemo worked, radiation would seal the deal. We were home free! Bethany and her husband went on vacation. She sported a cute Jamie Lee Curtis look. She was promoted at work. Hooray!

But in November, it was back. In all the same places... the stomach, the lung, the neck.

Cancer is a bitch.

I knew that going into this process. One of my sister's best friends growing up, Johnny Cathcart, a.k.a. Hotpants was diagnosed with cancer in middle school. By then, I was in college, but I heard all the reports. This is him at 12 years old in Memphis.

He went through chemo at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and made three wishes with the Children's Wish Foundation. (You may have seen him in The Cider House Rules - one of his wishes was to be in a movie and since John was sick then, he appeared as one of the orphans in this great film starring Tobey Maguire. You can't miss him. It pans the orphans a couple is looking at adopting and there on the big screen is John's face. Pretty cool!)

And then the cancer came back. And he went through it again. And it was awful. But John lived.

And he wrote a book.

Bethany started a blog too when she thought her cancer was gone. It was titled, I Will Live and journaled the life of a cancer-free, but still healing cancer survivor. And then the cancer came back. Not two months later. And Bethany's blog became a sounding board for a whole new process, living with cancer. And living through treatment.

And this time, it will be much harder. Just as John did, Bethany will now recieve what is affectionately called, The Killing Chemo. Chemo that destroys everything in the body it is injected into. And to save the body? The person? A bone marrow transplant.

If I was scared the first time Bethany got sick, I tried not to show it, at least to her. I cried at church and pleaded with my friends to help out, but I tried to be positive for Bethany.

But I've read John's book. Bubble boy, is what I call the period of time when he underwent the Killing Cancer and the subsequential quarantine protecting his body form coming in contact with any foreign substances or illnesses that it will not have the resources to fight.

I've read John's story and it made me sick the first time though. Don't get me wrong. John is hilarious and his book will have you laughing through your tears. He writes, "My mission is to get my story out, to lift up the spirit of my cat, lift up people that are different, glorify distance running and unveil the joys of breakfast cereal." The Make a Wish Foundation says this of his book, "A simple yet profound message ... an inspirinig story of a young man's journey through cancer treatment... a tale about strength of character and the power of hope."

But now I will have to watch Bethany go through the same thing.

"I will be sick again." She said, remembering what she looked like and how she felt after the last chemo treatment. "But Tessla won't remember." And my hair hasn't yet grown out, so we won't have to cut it again."

"True," I said. Encouraged by her hope.

"And I'm so glad you quit your job," she finished.

I'm nannying almost 40 hours a week for her, or for Tessla, while Bethany continues to work (have to keep that health insurance!) as does her husband. She's glad Tessla has "family" taking care of her and that I can help out around the house and assist with other items that a normal nanny wouldn't do. And I'm glad too. Nannying is easy and fun, and the kid takes a nap twice a day! Brilliant! But I wouldn't say that somewhere inside I don't feel a little scared too.

And I guess that's why I'm writing this. To get it out. Because I believe it takes a community to cure cancer.

Johnny's sister (a friend of mine) dropped out of college when John's cancer came back.

She and her mom moved to Memphis to help Johnny through round two.

I'm writing so that you will join the communal fight against cancer. That you'll read Bethany's blog. And buy Johnny's book. And donate or help out through St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital. Or help out Bethany's family even. Who knows. I write to create awareness... in case neither you nor one of your family members are one of the 11,714,000 people in the U.S. who has cancer today.

Cancer's a killer. But we can kick it. Together.

I think. I hope. I pray.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

North Pole Gift Tracking Sheet

Santa's very organized...

In case you can't read the fine print...

PETS: Yes **Caution!!! TWO DOGS -- Janie and Sophie- (Sophie gets very excited, but is very lovable / Janie is very protective and cautious, but is a cutie) - both respond well to dog snack #2 and petting on bellies. Silencing dust will definitely need to be used on both.

TREATS HISTORY: Cookies, milk, cherry mash candy, fruit

SPECIAL INSTRUCTIONS: Warning!! Don't leave peels on roof and clean up ashes off of floor. These kids are very observant). Bedrooms are on second floor. Noise should not be a problem. Sound sleepers.

Friday, December 24, 2010

2010 Christmas

The clocks are all off in my house. It's impossible to tell what time it is. For example, I just set upstairs to put myself to bed because I thought it was well past midnight, Christmas indeed. But as I open my computer, I discover it's only 11:30. What's with the clocks in this house?

Earlier tonight I was scheduled to sing at the Christmas Eve service at my parents' church. 4:15 one clock read. "Mum, we've got to leave in an hour." "I don't think so, honey, it's just a little past three."

It's all a little off.

We didn't have to buy gifts for everyone this year. Well, mom and dad did because as Amy put it at Thanksgiving: "I feel bad about how much money we usually spend on Christmas, and ITE (in this economy) it might be better if we trade names and only buy for one person this year, except for mom and dad, because we'll still need presents from Santa." Poor Mike and Carol. But it was easier on the old pocketbook, as grandma would say, since I'm only employed as an almost-full-time nanny, but not quite.

And it's a little strange not buying presents.

I'm the sort of person who buys gifts all year long. Last year, in Chile, in May, I bought gifts for my mom and two sisters. If I see something I know someone will love, I buy it and store it away to give to them at a later date. And unlike my grandmother who will find presents she's stored in holidays past at the most inopportune time (usually way past the designated holiday), I actually give the gifts I've stored away. And I love that.

And I love shopping for people. Being clever. Buying what I think they'll like. Catering to personality, spiritual deference, and whim.

But this year I had one name. Well, two actually, since when I was "shopping" I had a boyfriend. So two. But two is much less than the usual number. And $50 for one person is much less than I usually spend at Christmas-time. But ITE... So the names were drawn.

And for the first time in a while, I didn't shop at the local Austin stores, supporting local business and picking out what's fun and unique. This year, I worried about practicality and buying my "person" what they might need, find useful, not what they'd think was sweet or cool or creative of me to pick out (and for them to promptly store in their closet). So truth be told, to get my person some of the things she had on her list, I went to Craig's List. Ebay. The Super Savings Sales. The Internet. Places I'd never shopped for Christmas items before.

My voluptuous pastor's salary always bought local, hand-made, or fair trade gifts. Rarely commercial America or (gasp) used items. But desperate times call for desperate measures and ITE, we gotta cut some corners.

I don't know if she'll love the gifts I bought. I don't know if she'll hate them. Hopefully the former, but who knows? The times are changing and as hard as I stare at the clock on my wrist or my phone or the microwave, it's becoming more and more challenging to disern where I am or what the times are callling for.

So this Christmas, here's to making the most of what you have, financially, emotionally, chronologically...? And maybe you, like me, have cut some corners here and there. But hopefully, you're making the most of the time and the resources you've been given. And for this, you will be very thankful.

Merrry Christmas. 2010.

Merry Xmas from WJC

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from William Jewell College!

Monday, December 20, 2010

X-Mas Mix Tape 2010

So one thing I miss about my job this time of year is Christmas songs. During the Christmas season, when there were several students home from college and several local college students who hadn't gone home yet, the FBC college group would have a Christmas party. And every year as party favors, I would make everyone who came to the party a Christmas CD.

I wouldn't want to brag or anything, but these CDs were kinda famous. Every year Lauren Greaves would text or email me... "What's going on the CD this year? I can't wait to find out!" and I'd write her back... "Oh girl, I found a Kristen Chenoweth song you're gonna love!"

The staff would always get a copy of the FBC Water's Edge College Christmas Mix CD too, and while I'm not sure how much they appreciated the ecclectic music, I know at the very least that Marshall Smith, FBC's business manager and resident mystic, loved them. He mentioned to me a few days ago that he was going to really miss not getting the Christmas CD this year.

So as I was driving 13 hours to get home to Missouri from Texas this weekend, I decided to make a "What I Would Have Put On the Christmas Mixed Tape If I Still Had That Job CD" in honor of MSmith and the FBC college crew...

In no particular order, here's some songs would have made it on the compilation...

Love Again by The Animal Beat
Baby It's Cold Outside by "Kurt" and "Blaine" from Glee
Follow the Shepherd Home by Mindy Smith
Jingle Bell Rock by Darrell Shepherd
Christmas Is All Around by "Billy Mack" from Love Actually
Christmas In the Sun by April Maybe May
Silent Night secret track by Damien Rice
O Holy Night by the David Crowder Band
River by Angus Stone
A Child Is Born by Rihanna
The Peasant King by John Perkins
Cherry Tree Carol by Emmylou Harris

On that list are a couple of songs that you can find already all together on an album whose ENTIRE proceeds go to charity. Check out Christmas Gift, a new album produced in the UK by the label Rainboot which even has a song on it by Austin artist, the Whiskey Priest. The money you spend on one song or buying the whole album goes to Save the Children an organization that provides food, medical care and education to disaster struck regions.

And if that really gets you in the Spirit, then here's another Christmas CD whose proceeds go to charity: Christmas for Kenya. This is an organization that one of the former pastors (Ben Dudley) at my old church (UBC Waco) helped start. The money raised from this CD (it's the third CD - so if you're feeling really generous or Christmassy buy the previous two CDs too!) goes to the Kianga Project, an organization dedicated to fighting HIV/AIDS in Kenya.

P.S. If you wanna know what songs made it on the previous five FBC College Christmas CDs... here's the latter three! (I'll have to find the others... when I get back to Austin).

College Xmas 2009
My Dear Acouaintance (A Happy New Year) by Regina Spektor, Deck the Halls by R.E.M., Jingle Bells by Lisa Loeb, Christmas Baby by G. Love, White Christmas by Katy Perry, The First Noel by Weezer, I Believe In You by Sinéad O'Connor, Cool Yule by Bette Midler, Lullay My Liking by The King's Singers, Come Darkness, Come Light by Mary Chapin Carpenter, Silent Night by Johnny Cash, The Christmas Can-Can by Straight With No Chaser, I Believe by Andrew Bocelli with Katherine Jenkins, Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) by Death Cab For Cutie, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas by Colbie Caillat

College Xmas 2008
Baby, It's Cold Outside, I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day by Sarah McLachlan, I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus by Jessica Simpson, I'll Be Home For Christmas, You're a Mean One Mr. Grinch, Ave Maria, Get Behind Me Santa by Sufjan Stevens, Carol of the Bells by the bird and the bee, Chesnuts Roasting On An Open Fire, Do You Hear What I Hear

College Xmas 2007
Little Drummer Boy by Sufjan Stevens, Sing We Now of Christmas, Grinch Dialogue by Jim Carrey, Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas by Hem, O Holy Night by Sufjan Stevens, Sleigh Ride by Ella Fitzgerald, Track 05 by Sufjan Stevens, All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth, River, Rudolf, the Red-Nosed Reindeer by Jack Johnson, The Friendly Beasts by Sufjan Stevens, Let It Snow by A Fine Frenzy, Holy, Holy, Holy by Sufjan Stevens, White Christmas by Aimee Mann

College Xmas 2005
All the Angels by John Perkins, I Wish You a Merry Christmas by Bing Crosby, Christmas Celebration by B.B. King, Christmas Time Is Here by Melissa Manchester, The Christmas Song by Nat King Cole, The Hallelujah Chorus by The Philharmonic Orchestra, Winter Wonderland by Aretha Franklin, White Christmas by Lena Horne, Let It Snow! by Ella Fitzgerald, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas by Lee Greenwood, O Come O Come Emmanuel by The Canadian Brass, 2000 Decembers Ago by Joy WIlliams, What Child Is This by Chris Rice, One Solitary Life by Hal Hotbrook, To Zion by Lauren Hill

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Dear 1985 Santa

November 23, 1985

Dear Santa,

How are you?

I'm doing grate.

School is grate to. In 2nd grade.

Here's what I want for Christmas A Porcelin doll, roller skats, An I can control dog, pussle, boy cabbch pachs kids, games, sume books.

Nov. 22 night we went to eat at sister's chicken after that we went to see magic Christmas. It was good.

Your freand From Ann Pittman

Complete with a pencil drawn picture of my family in between two Christmas trees. Awesome. I need a scanner so you can see why Santa should have brought me all those things.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends

I once told someone that my life is a community effort. And it is. Truthfully, I believe everyone's life is.

So, today, with Thanksgiving still waving in our rear-view mirror and Christmas Spirit opening its front door, I would like to say thanks to a couple of friends who have helped me out this year...

I get by with a little help from... Taylor. You may remember I had some issues with rain this spring... well, I arranged to have gutters put on my roof for a mere fifteen hundred odd dollars, but a friend in my Sunday School class at church got to thinking and said he had a better, cheaper idea.

For a month or so he'd show up on Saturdays or maybe Fridays and dig alongside my house. And after several full days of digging in the hard Texas dirt, I had a swale. A swale is a long ditch sloped away from the house that runs alongside the house and all the way out to the street. When rain falls off the side of the house, of course, it slip 'n slides its way on down the street... and not into my reading room.

Taylor saved me thousands of dollars and donated his time and architecture expertise to alter my landscape and help out a friend...

I also get by with a little help from... Paul. Now, this story may need to be confidential, because it involves the IRS. You see, I hadn't done my taxes since 2007. Truthfully, the IRS was probably happy I hadn't yet filed, because they owed me money. But taxes overwhelm me, and I never know what numbers go where, so I just hadn't gotten around to doing them... in a couple years. I'd paid the $1 for an extension, every year, just not gotten them done. But when my friend Paul heard about this one lazy afternoon in the park, he said, "Ann, I read the tax laws for fun. Every year. I can help you do your taxes." And sure enough, two late evenings and a carton of ice cream later, my 2008 and 2009 taxes were finished. And I had enough money to put (fake) hardwood floors in my house! No more dingy carpet! Hooray! My allergist and I were thrilled.

I also get by with a little help from... The Lawyer. He has a real name, I promise. And like Taylor, he attends my church. But he and his wife like to remain mostly anonymous on the internet, and since she calls him The Lawyer in her blog (she's the Librarian), so will I. A couple of years ago, I got el screwed-o by a certain groovy car repair shop in Austin. Ahem. Thousands of dollars and three letters later, I'd heard nothing from them about making ammends for the problems they caused... The Lawyer got on the phone and called the shop's lawyer, and long story short, this year I was able to recoup a small of amount of the money I lost thanks to The Lawyer's mad lawyering skills. (and he is seriously legit... his office building is awesome! - fountains and books and everything - because everyone knows the mark of a good lawyer is whether there's a fountain in his office building).

So I wanted to say thanks. Thanks to these three men who could do what I couldn't, and chose to help a friend And thanks to so many of my friends who help make my life happen... to Chris and Michelle who feed me, to my Mom who worries for me, to my Grandparents who send me money when things are tight, to Nicolette and James and the others who share their music when I need an accompanist, to my roommie, Amanda, who voluntarily helps with the housework, to Bethany who hired me, to Justin who encourages me... the list goes on and on.

My life is a community effort. And I'm thankful for my community.