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10 November 2009
Two words cut sharply through the heaviness of spirit that has pervaded my daily tasks the last few weeks: “chemotherapy and radiation.” My heart stopped as I read the text message from a dear friend of mine.  My struggles instantly transformed  into Cadillac problems when I saw them through the truth of what he is facing.  It was supposed to be routine removal of a cyst (as routine as removing a growth on his skull could be), now he faces fear in a form unlike any other.  He is strong. He is positive.  He’s fighting.
I’m proud of him. I am.  In a time when he should and could be completely self-absorbed, he still asked how we were doing.  “How am I doing?!?!”  I felt like saying, “It doesn’t matter how I am. I’ll find the strength to be there for you every minute of every day if I have to.”  I feel small: very small, and very helpless.  Cancer – just the word – makes me feel constricted; it brings tears to my eyes. It brings back memories of pain, of fear, of anxiously waiting.  Yet to say this out loud to someone who is currently beginning his own journey and his own courtship with the monster would be selfish. Or would it?  Would it be better too say, “I’m scared for you. I’m scared for me. I’m scared of loss.” I wanted to say that, I wanted to gush and tell him what he means to me.  I wanted to say, “You’ll be ok.” I wanted to say, “Be strong.”  Instead, the only words that seem to fit are, “I’m here.”
With the sobriety that came along with the news of my friends’ health, I went about my day.  Frank seems to be having a good day, with only a little swelling and TONS of energy.  I decided to take the two horses on a long walk since the sun was shining, and the footing in the round pen is horrid.  This was a mistake: a BIG mistake.  Frank was feeling good, energetic, and plain ol’ HOT.  He’s been getting lots of grain, lots of protein and little to no work.  That combination is not fun to deal with – especially when you have a young 17hh gelding in the other hand.  Between the two of them, I don’t think there was a moment when all 8 legs were on the ground. Frank would kick Avdou; Avdou would return the kick.  Frank would bolt; Avdou would halt.  We got as far as the shop, and made that our destination.  After some grazing time, we turned around and made the journey back to their stalls.  I did make sure I had two calm, cool, collected horses for the last few feet of our walk, but it was certainly a challenge to maintain patience, and calm, assertive energy!  Not to mention, my arms are going to be sore tomorrow!
Living out in the country on such a large piece of property has brought some new experiences to me, obviously.  One of them is the “burn pile.”  We have three burn piles at any given time, built from the trimmings and the leaves and the branches and the whatever-the-heck-it-is; it seems to double overnight, especially at this time of year!  There are restrictions on burning, of course; some days are burn days, other days it’s prohibited.  So every morning on the way to pick up Victor and Lorena, I call the “Burning hotline” and listen to their recording, then let Victor know.  Several of his friends from in town have brought their yard waste out here to add to the pile – it’s much easier to burn it here than to try to chip away at a huge pile in the backyard using only the city allotted yard waste bins!  It doesn’t make a difference to us, so we have no problem letting them “dump” here.  After this weekend, the pile was quite big, so we were happy to be able to burn today!
Halfway done!

After the hand-walking fiasco, I headed inside.  EG has had a bit of a cold, so she was taking a nap – which meant I could spend some time in the kitchen.  Earlier in the day, Victor had brought in the ripe tomatoes from the greenhouse.  Knowing that they would need to be used or canned within the next few days, I started the process of peeling them.  Mind you, I HATE handling tomatoes.  They’re slimy and runny and just gross.  BUT, canned salsa with the peels of tomatoes just isn’t right, so I got down to business: a dunk into boiling water (30 seconds or so), cool in cold water, core with the corer, and slip off the skin.  It took a while, but I got about half of them done…14 cups diced, to be exact!

Peel all these?!?! I got halfway through.

Dunk in boiling water, then cool in frigid water

Core and slip the peel right off!
After peeling and dicing the tomatoes, I decided that since I was already in the zone, I’d keep going and make some canned Chipotle Salsa.  The last batch

I made was rather spicy, so I decided to seed the jalepenos this time.  It turned out delicious, and I got 12 bottles with a tiny bit left over for Jeffrey to try when he gets home.  I also bottled the jalepeno vodka, and started filtering the plum vodka.  Tomorrow I’ll probably focus on bottling the vodkas that are ready to age.

Cooking the salsa

All bottled up

A little of this mixed with a little Passion Fruit juice? SIMPLY AMAZING
The rest of the night, EG and I played and tried to stay awake.  She’s got the sniffles and is a bit clingy – but I really didn’t mind. It felt so comforting to feel her body pressed against mine, her little hand on my cheek, and see in her eyes the feeling of safety that I bring to her.  That connection and mutual sharing of trust and love makes me remember and stir up the strength that I have in my inner being.  I’ve been through some rough times in the past, and I KNOW I can do it again!

Fear, you’re not going to win.  Pain, I’m stronger than you.  Hope, we can win this together!

My shelf of canned foods

My shelf of small bottles of Vodkas

What a face to wake up to!

The joy of pancakes. 
This struck me as incredibly beautiful this morning

Can you see the hummingbird?


2 Comments to “Perspective”

  1. My prayers also go out to your friend in his time of need. I all to well understand the fear you are feeling. You just being there for him is probably more of a comfort than you will ever realize.


  2. Mary Stewart Anthony

    Wow! Melissa, this is an awesome post, one deeply felt, and conveyed to your readers. I have recently been through a death valley journey with John's mom who had a recurrence of cancer. It was a shockingly quick mowing down of a vibrant life, even though she had other health issues. I also admire your cooking skills and the steps to follow that you capture so beautifully.
    I want to encourage you as a writer. You have a delightful no-nonsense style that is easy to follow, and you couple it with wonderful photos.
    Hey, maybe a book will be born.

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