Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Holiday Madness by Robin Janney

How is it Thanksgiving again? Didn't we just have the Fourth of July?

But no, as I walk my dog and view the few lingering yellow maple leaves on the neighbor's tree mixing with wet snow from Saturday night, the chill winds cut through my hoodie and my feet mourn the fact that I have shoes on instead of flip flops. The weather suddenly agrees that it's November. (It was 68F when I went into work Saturday afternoon and it dropped to 35F in 8 hours!)

At the beginning of this writing, I wasn't even sure where I would be spending this Thursday. Hubby and I had invites from both sides of our family.  One is maybe a half hour drive, the other nearly three. Regardless of our differences, I wish that we all lived closer. Maybe I can talk my father-in-law into building a family commune on his property to house the main characters???  I might ask him someday just to see the look on his face before he exclaims, "No!"

And the decision was made Monday to go north on a three hour drive. It will be longer for us as we'll be picking up my mom and another early Thursday morning. Into snowy territory. Anything for family, right?

Wherever you end up this Thursday, may your day be a good one filled with cheer. Happy Thanksgiving.

And I'll try not to be such a stranger from here on out. If you want to know what I've been up to these past few months, you can check it out here. Nothing very adventurous really, just life.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

What Have I Done? by Robin Janney

It started out innocent enough.

My brother, who lives at home with our mother, commented to me a few weeks ago how he's been trying to get someone, anyone, to clean off some bookshelves in the hallway so that he can lay down new carpet and have more room to travel the hallway. He wears an artificial leg and having the bookshelves in the hallway makes it a tight navigation. If it wasn't done by the time he was ready, he was just going to risk mother's ire and just throw everything out.

Can't have that now can we?

So this weekend I went through all the books on the small antique bookshelf and sorted them out. It has to be antique; we've had it since as long as I can remember and I turn 40 in a matter of weeks!

Rather busting at the seams don't you think?
Now, I ask you: does it really look like I needed to bring more books home?  My bookshelf pictured to the right does not hold all my books even though it is packed, with books stacked on top of books. I have books scattered throughout the house, some sitting on my desk, some in the bedroom. I've been saying for years that I need to weed out my books, but I keep putting it off. Someday, someday. Although I will note here, that as I was discussing this with Mr. Janney - who thinks it's all rather funny that I came home with more books - he did say that one of the things he wishes to make for me is a better bookshelf, he's just not sure where to put it yet.

The scary part is, I haven't told our mother what I've done yet. She wasn't even home as she's been away visiting her sister. I messaged my own sister and another brother to let them know that there were books at mom's that they needed to go through, I added the 'they'll be thrown out soon' threat just to motivate them. Either way, Mother will be coming home to two small stacks of books that she can go through and make her own decisions about.

Sadly, I had to throw some of the books away. There were a few that somehow had water damage to them. Not a little damage either. And some of them had been worm food (I really, really, really hope I didn't bring any of them home with me!!!) And a couple were badly outdated.  Like the computer book from 1990!! One of the pictures in it featured an old dot matrix printer!!  I'm not sure where it came from, it sort of looked like a college book but may have just been a book we picked up at a yard sale. I didn't go to college until 1994 and the book would have been outdated even by then. Part of me wanted to keep it as a conversation piece, but I honestly don't have the energy for that.

It was an interesting bit of conversation time with my brother. I came across The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and he exclaimed, 'That's a good book. The boys need to read that.' (He has 3) Whereas I - can't even remember if I've read the book in it's entirety. And The Red Badge of Courage; I know I've never read that one and he has. Apparently one of the reading classes he was placed in during middle school read a bunch of classics that year. He told me he was thinking about reading Shakespeare (and maybe Dickens since he quoted one of the lines from A Tale of Two Cities) and wanted to know if I thought it was worth it. Wellllllll, I liked Hamlet and Merchant of Venice was ok. At one point he said to me, 'How is it we've collected all these books over the years, but we don't have one copy of Moby Dick?' Another book on his wish list to read. Uhm, not sure.

Some of the books turned out to be mine anyway, which I'm not sure how I lost track of them but it happens. Like the one book I was looking for when I was clearing the shelves off; Job's Niece. I have no idea where it could have went to. And then brother tells me there are boxes of books out in the shed.


Well, that's a project for later.

In the meantime, I have to figure out what to do with the three little shopping bags of books I brought home. Although to be honest, it's more like two and a half since there was a small plastic box of recipe cards in the one bag. When I pulled them out and looked at them, I said, 'Hey, I think these are mine!' I collect recipes just like I collect books!

And I just got done talking with my mother about all this and she was okay with it. Whew! At least I'm not in trouble with mom or hubby then!

I might write about the different books as I read them, some of them are old. We'll see! I have to get done with the Harry Potter series first, I'm on The Half-Blood Prince.

How many of you are like me? More books than space? But it doesn't stop you from bringing home more? Have you read all the classics or like me, are you more 'hit and miss'?

Friday, June 10, 2016

Remember This Name: Brock Allen Turner – The Stanford Rapist

Photo courtesy of Change.Org

My plan was to do an upbeat blog post for my turn at Broads of a Feather. Lord knows I’ve written a few emotional ones over the past few months. This time around I wanted to talk about the NYC trip I took with my oldest daughter. I guess that will have to wait until next time.

Over the course of the week, news of the sentencing outcome for the Stanford Rapist, Brock Allen Turner, came to the forefront of the news and you’d have to be living under a rock to miss it. Stories like this open old wounds for so many people who are the survivors of sexual assault. As members of a club we never wanted to be a part of, we are compelled to speak out against the injustices the victims of sexual assault endure.
In the case of the Stanford Rapist, Brock Allen Turner’s victim has been victimized again by the very system that is entrusted to bring justice to those who commit these ghastly and unforgivable crimes. You see, Brock Allen Turner is part of the Good Ol’ Boys’ Society. Instead of focusing on the fact that this deviant moved around the crowd at a campus party, attempting to force his groping hands and unwelcomed kisses on other female attendees (including the victim’s sister), who each sent him on his way, he managed to stumble upon the one female in the group who was unable to push off his advances due to being under the influence of alcohol, the judge, The Honorable Aaron Persky, decided to factor in Brock Allen Turner’s swim times and the impact the outcome would have on his promising future when he sentenced him to only six months in prison. Six months. Six fucking months on a crime that normally comes with a minimum sentence of fifteen years. I was speechless after reading about it. How could something like this happen? It’s 2016, for God’s sake! Have we not evolved at all?
And this wasn’t a simple case of He Said/She Said. Two male graduate students came upon the rape scene (Turner dragged her off behind a dumpster to violate her while she was unconscious) and had to give chase when Brock Allen Turner tried to run away. These two witnesses who had to describe, in full detail, what they witnessed and, still, Judge Persky gave that abominable six month sentence for three felony counts!!! Outrageous. Utterly outrageous. And then I came across the victim’s victim impact statement and I shed tears for a person I’ve never laid eyes upon. She eloquently conveyed her thoughts and feelings over her horrific experience and how it is effecting, not only her, but her family members and friends as well. On the day of Brock Allen Turner’s sentencing, she stood up in court and read her 7,000+ word statement and addressed the judge and her rapist. This young lady is not only a survivor, she is a warrior. Because of her speaking out, it brings more attention to the rabid rape culture many in our society still refuse to admit exists.
The face of a rapist. Brock Allen Turner's
mug shot.Photo courtesy of Stanford Dept.
 of Public Safety.

What made this story worse—and who thought it could get any worse?—Brock Allen Turner’s father, Dan Turner, also wrote a letter to the judge, begging for sentencing leniency for his son because, “His life will never be the one he dreamed about or worked so hard to achieve. That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life.” Twenty minutes of action?! Did he really say that? Was this really read aloud in court? With stellar parenting like that, is it any wonder why Brock Allen Turner preys upon unconscious women to sexually assault them? Well done, Dan! You’ve raised a monster who shares the same vile ideals as you do! A female is nothing more than a living, breathing fuck hole for you to do what you want with! What did you call it? Oh, that’s right! Getting some “action” while mixing in a generous portion of victim blaming. By saying what you did, you condoned his behavior. You feel that he was entitled to take what he wanted from a woman unable to even stay conscious while he savagely raped her.
And now an online fund raiser has been started for convicted rapist Brock Allen Turner to help his family with his legal fees. Are you fucking kidding me?! What is even more startling of a revelation? There will be assholes who contribute to this fund raiser.

Stanford law Professor Michele Landis Dauber has organized a campaign to recall The Honorable Judge Aaron Persky. If this story angers you, then add your name to the petition as well! Let’s remove this man from the bench so he can’t make any more abominable sentences that victimizes victims all over again. As of 3:13pm June 9th, 2016, the Change.Org campaign to recall Judge Persky has reached almost one million supporters. 
**Update 6:52pm June 9th** 
An online inmate record source has Brock Allen Turner entered into the system with a release date of September 2, 2016. Not only is his sentence cut in half, he never has to leave the local jail! How's that for entitlement most grand?    

Robin's Two Cents:

While I was at work tonight, Carol sent me a message telling me about her blogpost so that I could read it in draft and she gave me the opportunity to add my two cents to it. Or a nickel and a dime...

I'm angry.

The entire ordeal pisses me off.  Because, I too am a survivor of a sexual assault.

I can't believe I just typed that. I've never really even said those words out loud. In so many ways, my assault was minor and I've always felt that because it wasn't rape, that it didn't really count.  That my years of PTSD were over nothing. I didn't even really say as much when Carol did her When It Happened To Me post back in February.

But it wasn't nothing. It was something. And like the Stanford rape case, it was in the public. Even though it went unseen. I hope. Because if not, OMG! 

I had stopped at a local convenience store one afternoon when I was about 21, and as I was getting ready to pull away I spotted one of my uncles. So I stopped, I think I called out to him and he approached my car. It all happened so fast. I think he looked around the parking lot before reaching in my window, but I'm not sure.  All I know is that I thought my uncle, my father's brother, was reaching in to hug me...but no, he wasn't. He was groping my breasts.

"You know your Uncle Dickhead wouldn't do anything to hurt you, right?"

Those were his words to me when he was done.  I did the only thing I could think of at the time, full of shock, and that was to nod my head.  We parted ways after that.  I never saw him again as a matter of fact. This man who looked enough like my father that they could have been twins died about two months later. And I didn't even go to his funeral.

I can't even judge how long it took for the shock to wear off and the reality of it to hit me. I doubt the ladies at the library I visited minutes after this occurrence were able to tell that anything bad had happened to me. There was a part of my mind that was saying: 'No, you're in public. You can't break down now. You have to be normal. You don't want them to know what happened.'

When I got home, I told my mother what had happened. I was not discrete, everyone who was there at the time heard what had happened to me. The only thing I really remember about the conversation was a sister, who is a family-rape survivor, advised me that maybe there were some things we didn't need to talk about with the whole family. Why upset things? Or perhaps she was trying to save me from victim shaming. I don't really know.

But see, silence makes it easier for rape and assault and abuse to keep on happening. I later found out, that this uncle had a reputation for assaulting his nieces.  WTF???? Why wasn't this talked about? Why weren't we warned not to trust him????

Why was the only one who suggested that I call the police and press charges, someone who wasn't related to me? A nurse at the nursing home were I worked was the only one who suggested this, as I sobbed at the feet of an elderly woman I had been uncharacteristically cross with. I never did, and today - part of me regrets that. Part of me regrets letting that bastard die thinking that what he did to me was okay.

My heart goes out to the Stanford Rape Survivor. We all heal differently, at different speeds and different phases. I hope she isn't plagued for years with the fallout of her rape, even though I know better.

This is how I felt.. Shattered.
Only like I was bleeding internally.
Like I was bleeding everywhere.
Because of the silence, I internalized my anger and hatred and rage. Even though I was in counseling. I lost my job because it affected my work. I lost my next job because of the depression

I no longer felt safe. I always had to know where the doors were in restaurants, and I had to have my back against the wall...I needed to see what and who was coming at me and know where to bolt if I had to. I STILL do this, because part of me never feels like it needs to be on guard even if I 'feel' safe.

I could no longer be in a tight space, especially if there was a man also in that space with me - which  meant I could no longer serve in my church's communication center, because it was really just a cubby hole beneath the stairway

And once I started feeling claustrophobic and couldn't get myself out of the situation, that's when the anxiety would start. Not worry, sheer panic.

It's not as bad as it once was. But I still like to be in control of my situation. I like knowing what is going on in my work area, who is doing what.  Even though I don't feel threatened in any way by any of my coworkers, I still watch them from the corner of my eyes. Whenever someone walks through our area, my eye follows them.  I try not to panic when the carts full of product start getting too cluttered. I still lose my temper when I'm enclosed for too long and there's too many people

I hope the Stanford Rape Survivor's healing is different. I hope she shines in everything she does with her life. I hope she realizes that her life potential has not been diminished by what was done to her body.  I hope she realizes her value. I hope she has an amazing support group around her.

I hope her rapist rots. I hope her rapist's father rots. I hope her rapist's friend who also wrote a letter telling how 'respectful' of women he was - rots. Where they rot, I don't care. Just far away from The Survivor. I hope their friends turn on them. I hope work is uncomfortable. I hope the rapist can't even get a job and has to live at home with dad. I hope he chokes on steak and can never ever ever swim again.

I hope the men who stepped in and stopped the rapist are lauded forever as the heroes they are. I hope they are held up as examples of what men and women should do when they see a woman, a child, another man, in a situation where they are being harmed. Even if we forget their names like they want, may we never forget what they did. That they stood up for The Survivor when she couldn't stand for herself. That it didn't matter to them that she was drunk, that all they saw was a woman being harmed. May we also remember what they didn't do. There was no victim shaming. They didn't ask to take their turn at the "action".
Photo courtesy of  Healing Heart - Life After Rape

I hope Judge Aaron Persky - who is an alumnus of the same university as the rapist - looses his position.  I hope the petition Carol shared above is successful. That he looses the election.  Recalled. Anything to stop him from making this same horrible decision ever again. Brock the Rapist wasn't caught skipping school, or stealing a candy bar...he was caught raping a woman.  I hope the judge's family is kept safe though, it's not their fault.

If you haven't signed the petition Carol mentioned earlier, please do so now. As of 12:15am Friday morning, we are 3,866 signatures shy of making the goal.

That's all I have to say really. More than I intended, but still so inadequate.

Stop the madness.


Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Who Says Chick Books are Bad? by Robin Janney

Family can be harsh critics sometimes.

I have a brother, who discouraged our other brother about reading my novels.  Because it's a "chick book". Like it was something bad. And he said it in my presence.

It was embarrassing.  And honestly, I felt a little ashamed.  I've written a book that my brother feels that he can't read because it's a Romance.

The more I dwell on it, the angrier I become.

Why should I be ashamed? It's not the greatest book, but it's a good book. And while it is a Romance (which there's NOTHING wrong with that), it's also so much more.  Forgiveness is a major theme that runs through the entire series.  Forgiving oneself, forgiving those who've violated us...or not forgiving them. Mental illness is another theme.  Living in fear of it, living with it, battling it. Freedom from religion is another theme; each character is at a different place spiritually which causes some friction. There's also some Fantasy in the books.  I consider my demonic characters Fantasy characters as they are in no way 'biblical'. And many times, the Angels/Guardians take on the form of an animal of some kind...a dog, a horse, a cat. And there is the beloved Dragon Dream...ok, readers love it, the characters not so much. As the series goes on, the Dragon Dream becomes more and more real.

But even with all those layers, my brother says "Chick Book" like it's something bad.

So what if it is?

There's nothing wrong with Romance.

Boy meets girl (or whichever variation is relevant to your life), they fall in love, face adversity of some kind, overcome it and have a happy ending.

Which can be a welcome thing during those times when our lives is anything but a happy ending. It's probably fiction in general and Romance's harshest criticism...that it doesn't represent real life. Sooooo? Sometimes we need a break from the harshness of the real world.  We need a dose of hope. We need a chance to dream a little.

I'll admit that there were many years when I was single and unable to find Mr. Right that I had to put Romance novels aside. I never thought I'd find my Mr. Right and it hurt to read all those happy endings. Even sexless Christian Romances left a bad taste on my reading palate at the time.  But even in other works of fiction that I read, romance still had it's place. I mean, goodness, Rand al'Thor in the Wheel of Time series managed to woo three different women! Without trying! In the Visitation by Frank Peretti, the widower slowly falls for another character amongst the backdrop of the spiritual warfare plaguing the town. Even in this brother's favorite crime series he reads, which I've tried the first book of, there is a love interest for the main character.

So, really, I wonder what his beef with 'chick books' really is.  Romance, love, sexual tension, and ensuing conflict are all around us to varying levels. And unlike novels, we don't always get a happy ending. Hearts get broken, lives are devastated and turned around, marriages end and families are broken apart, partners turn out to be abusive jerks. Is it really so wrong to read novels in which things tend to end happier no matter what adversity hits the characters?

Yes, some people get stuck in the fantasy. Of any fiction. That's where a good therapist comes in, and I'm not completely joking when I say that, but I do mean it in a non-judgmental way. While I've never had this problem of separating fact from fiction, from reality and fantasy, I know that there are people who do have this problem, and there is really nothing I can do to help them...I'm not writing for them. I'm not writing to be theologically correct, biblically correct or historically correct...I'm not writing to be correct at all (this might be the core of my brother's issue). I'm writing a story that my head can no longer contain and if I don't get it out it's going to drive me mad. I'm exploring a world like ours, but slightly different. And if someone else happens to like it and wants to read along, that's great!

Not all my characters are going to get their happily ever after ending. Not even all platonic friendships will get a happy ending.  And some of them are really going to have to work for it.

I was just perusing Facebook and came across a meme that fits this subject. "So many men think women want money, cars and gifts. But the right woman wants: a man's time, effort, passion, honesty, loyalty, smile, and him choosing to put her as his priority." I know that this has been my main complaint from time to time in the past when Mr. Janney ignored me for his gaming. He's gotten better at that. There has to be a balance in any relationship, and that balance can change at any given moment depending on a partner's changing needs. This truth is reflected in many romance novels, at least the ones I read. It's not about what the guy can do for the girl, it's about the time and the effort.

And since 50% of the worlds population are "chicks", why shouldn't there be a genre of literature for us? I don't like the crime series my brother does. I tried, but I just don't. But that's ok, because those books aren't aimed at me. If it suits my brother's taste, then that's fine as those books are obviously geared for him and like minded readers. All genres of literature are equal. None is better than another. We just each have different tastes and preferences. I'm sure there are men out there that enjoy a good romance novel, I just don't know where they are!

Don't discourage people to read. Ever. It's not cool. It's not up to you to decide whether someone else will like a book.

End rant. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Much Ado About Nothing by Robin Janney

how my minds feels right now...
Here it is my week to post and I haven't got a good idea to blog about.

I take that back.  I have plenty of ideas. A lot of them 'good'. I just don't have the energy or the courage to write them. It was seriously hard enough getting out of bed this morning, and I even had  to have help with that. Unsolicited help at that. Husbands!

I could write about how I think the female lead Claire in Jurassic World has gotten a bad rap by feminists. Especially the criticism in general about her running from the T-Rex in heels. Heels she has been in through the entire movie, heels she traipsed through the wilder part of the park with.  And yet I have heard not one word of criticism about the chick fight in Furious 7 - during which Letty and the Head of Security not only dueled in heels, but formal dress as well. A scene sadly lacking blood when Letty stabbed the other woman in the leg; apparently that wouldn't have been 'hot'. If there has been the same kind of criticism, I haven't found it yet.

Claire was a woman in charge suddenly out of her element.  And I think she handled it pretty darned well. Was she smart in everything she did? No. But when faced with the Indominus Rex...not everyone is going to make smart decisions. But - she made decisions.  She didn't sit there fretting  and looking to Owen to fix everything. She didn't back down when he told her to go back and mocked those heels. She girded herself and marched into certain danger in an effort to rescue her nephews. When the pterosaur tried carrying Owen away, she didn't hesitate to pick his gun up and smack the animal down so that she could tranq it herself. Even when the raptor shattered the window of the vehicle she was driving, she screamed and kept on driving...even managing to maneuver raptor Echo into a tree.

She's not without her flaws, but it is those flaws that make her human and real.  She obviously loves her nephews, but is poor at showing it. She's bound to schedules, which is both good and bad in a woman with her position. She viewed the dinosaurs as attractions rather than living beings, and maybe some of her subordinates as well.  But we saw how she responded when these flaws were challenged and she was forced to face them herself. I don't think she and Owen are destined for a happily ever after, at least not without some compromising on his side as well, but thankfully they're movie characters and not "real" so until the next movie comes out (allegedly in 2018) we can all imagine their future however we wish!

I do hope the sequel has some of the main characters from the first three movies visit at some point...that would be so much fun!

Mom and me! :)
And here it is, past my week to post ... I should wrap this up and post it, I struggled all week to get it done.  I felt so badly over the weekend that I actually slept most of it away.  We came home from Mother's Day dinner with my mom and while hubby mowed the lawn, I crawled back into bed and slept far too many hours. I'm still feeling very lethargic and it makes me worry that the new dosage of thyroid meds isn't adequate.  I've been on the new dosage for a month now, I should be feeling better.  If my  numbers come back good, I may have to ask my endocrinologist for some further help.

Even though I think it's actually Carol's week, I'm going to go ahead and post this. She'll forgive me :)

Hope everyone had a good enough Mother's Day.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

I think I'm Slowly Going Mad By C.P. Stringham

The spot that started it all. 
I’m not myself. I haven’t been since March 2015. That was when an imaging scan revealed a lesion on my then fifteen year-old daughter’s brain. The scan was ordered to see why she was having increased headaches and vision abnormalities associated with migraines. (During this past week’s appointment at Golisano Children’s Hospital, I learned from the pediatric neuro-oncologist that such findings are called an “incidental diagnosis.”) For over a year, I have been walking a mental tightrope constructed of fear, sadness, and anxiety. Although her pediatric neurologist, whom she’s been under the care of for her epilepsy these past nine years, felt the lesion was going to turn out to be “something boring,” he still referred her to a pediatric neurosurgeon at a state and nationally ranked hospital for his official opinion. We left that appointment with the same prognosis as her pediatric neurologist had given us; addressing the brain anomaly as a lesion or scar tissue that she could have had since development and that it appeared to pose no threat. Due to her autism and the cognitive damage her grand mal seizure caused in 2014, the location of the lesion, near her thalamus, hypothalamus, and brain stem, was deemed too dangerous on both a cognitive and physiological level to risk a biopsy.
L to R: The morning after her grand mal seizure with broken capillaries evident on her face, neck, and chest
from increased blood pressure, straining, and lack of oxygen; four days later and her skin tone almost back to

      Six months later, we returned to the larger hospital for a comparison contrast MRI. Due to the mild reaction she had to contrast dye at our local facility, the MRI had to be performed at Golisano because they are better equipped for an adverse reaction. The contrast dye plays such a pivotal role in imaging lesions, her doctors agreed it was worth the risk to get the better images. She was prescribed Prednisone, an antihistamine, and Ativan ahead of the scan. We left the hospital for her across town follow-up appointment with the pediatric neurosurgeon. During the appointment, his vocabulary evolved since our initial appointment from lesion and scar tissue to glioma and tumor. My husband and I felt like we suffered a direct blow to our hearts. A medical sucker punch. We had been naïve. Maybe looking through rose-colored glasses during the first round of appointments. At any rate, I chastised myself for not jumping on the computer and researching as much as I could about brain lesions. If I had, I would have asked a lot more questions during the first visit. I realize doctors don’t want to make a patient and their family panic, especially when they feel the prognosis is positive, but I went into it blind and uninformed. I know how much doctors hate when patients or their family members use computers for self-diagnosis, however, being prepared isn’t a bad thing.
Posing for photos last summer. I love that face! 
With the change in vocabulary, I researched the terms and recommendations. My husband, while he was just as worried, wasn’t freaking out like I was. He remained patient as I had my mom meltdowns fueled by “what ifs?” I consulted with a friend who is an ER physician’s assistant. In her department, she gets exposed to a little of everything. I asked her if getting a second opinion was too extreme. She actually encouraged it even if it was just for peace of mind. I arranged for a second opinion at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Their pediatric neurology and oncology departments are ranked third in the nation. My daughter’s godmother’s mom let us spend the night at her house to make the five hour trip to Philly a little easier on all of us. Staying with her put us less than forty miles from the hospital. Their pediatric neuro-oncologist agreed with our daughter’s doctors not only on the status of the tumor, but reaffirmed that a biopsy would be detrimental to her. Mackenzie isn’t the same child since her grand mal and we can’t risk losing more of her.
In March, Mackenzie traveled to Rochester and had another six month comparison MRI. The neuro-radiologist and her pediatric neurosurgeon concurred that her tumor appears to be stable and unchanged. Upon getting her latest results, her pediatric neurosurgeon turned Mackenzie’s future follow-ups and comparison imaging over to a pediatric neuro-oncologist. Before meeting the new doctor, she had her routine six month epilepsy check-up with her pediatric neurologist. During the visit, we discussed her increased incidence of migraines with “Alice in Wonderland” syndrome tendencies, her weight gain caused by her anti-seizure medication (forty-eight pounds in two and a half years), and her memory issues (ßthank you, Grand Mal Seizure). On the way home, I read over her computer printout from her visit notes. Under "Problem List" it read: "Migraine with typical aura, Malignant neoplasm of the brain, Generalized convulsive epilepsy, Congenital anomaly of brain, Amnesia. “Malignant neoplasm of the brain?!” I was crushed. With everything we’d been told, no one had used the M-word. Not once. We were told, “low grade glioma of the thalamus, without midline crossing of the brain; clear edges with no vascular involvement; size unchanged and stable.” I called the doctor’s office en route to our home and asked the receptionist if a DX code had been entered incorrectly since there had been no mention of a malignancy. She assured me she would speak with the doctor since it needed to be fixed for insurance purposes. My husband waited until the next day to call and make sure it had been fixed. With everything going on, having an issue come up with our insurance would be horrible. That was when she told him the doctor wanted to talk with us. He called an hour later. It boils down to there being too much “uncertainty" with her lesion and DX code limitations. Since Kenzie is being referred to the pediatric neuro-oncologist for further follow-ups and monitoring, her pediatric neurologist wanted to make sure her paperwork was in order. The hospital’s computer doesn't allow for a "middle of the road" diagnosis. A glioma is either benign or malignant. There is no in between. While images showed no signs of growth changes or indicated vascular involvement, the only 100% way to know would be to biopsy and, as already stated, it isn’t an option.
This past week, we met with her pediatric neuro-oncologist. He was a very nice man. Kenzie explained that she was missing school because her teachers ended their strike the day before and he went on to tell her how, when he was a student, he and his classmates went on strike to protest the quality of the food served in their cafeteria. He winked at her and told her that he was a student during the 60’s and protests like that happened all the time. At any rate, he made us feel comfortable and encouraged a lot of questions—from all of us. My college freshman daughter joined us for the appointment. We’re a tight-knit family. What affects one of us, affects all of us. While we chatted with the doctor, my thoughts focused on his occupation. I couldn’t imagine having his job. While I know there have been many breakthrough treatments, I still can’t imagine telling a family their child has terminal cancer. Right now, Mackenzie isn’t part of that group. He seemed very optimistic about her prognosis, but did acknowledge the difficulty “uncertainty” caused for all concerned.
Do they come in a chocolate truffle flavor?
This past year, even with some truly great events occurring, has been shadowed by Mackenzie’s diagnosis. I try not to dwell. God bless the creator of Xanax! Without it, I’d never be able to focus coherently again, especially when my mind goes around in what if circles. Uncertainty sucks. It rules your life. Several times Mackenzie has asked me, “Why do all the bad things happen to me?” The kid has autism, epilepsy, migraines, and cognitive issues. And now she has a brain tumor. Seems like a fair question for her to ask. Only I don’t know how to answer her. Honestly, I barely have time to turn away from her before she has a chance to see the tears welling in my eyes or the worry lines appear on my face. I’ve become a hermit. I've isolated myself from others more than ever before—I’m already an introvert. My poor husband takes the brunt of my turbulent emotions. I usually snap at him and my patience level is pretty much non-existent. I have great friends who keep telling me to remain optimistic and to focus on the positive. I wish I knew how. I wish I knew how to turn some worry switch off inside my brain to make such a feat possible. I lack this ability. Meanwhile, we go forward and wait for the next six month comparison MRI.

As for productive writing, it doesn’t come to me. I wanted to have my next book published in May. The book is only at the halfway point. I simply can’t focus on writing. I hope my readers will continue to be supportive and don’t forget about me.   

Monday, April 18, 2016

"It's Just Like Riding a Bike" - by Robin Janney

They say that once you learn how to ride a bicycle, you never forget how to.

They are not kidding!

The bike.
My husband loves me just as I am, my fat doesn't phase him one bit.  But he would like to see me weight less, to be healthier.  Himself as well since he's gained weight since we've been together, even though his fat doesn't phase me one bit either.  So he's always trying to come up with ways for us to exercise together.

For some reason, he doesn't like just going for a walk. Even though walking has always worked for me in the past.   I walked away weight to fit into a prom dress.  In my twenties I walked off almost 40+ pounds - that I ended up putting back on because I stopped walking.  Part of the problem is that I don't walk fast enough for him to break a sweat.  I've told him to walk on ahead at his own pace, but nooooooo, he wants to stay with me. So, he's been coming up with different activities - - that often end up pushing me outside my comfort zone and stressing me out.

Last summer, it was swimming.  I never learned how to swim as a child.  And because one of the first times I stepped into a pool as a teen was an unpleasant experience, I was terrified of the water.  Didn't like it over my head, didn't like it in my ears (still don't), and was just afraid of drowning. But Mr. Janney knew how to swim and did his best to teach me.  It was stressful for me, for all the reasons I already listed and because sometimes I felt like he was trying to rush me. Still, I kept at it.  Even one of the lifeguards at the pool commented on how well I was progressing.  I'm far from being an experienced swimmer, but I'm no longer afraid of drowning - or having my car end up in a lake and not knowing how to swim to the top (thank you Mythbusters!).

Of course, after the warm weather was over and I couldn't swim, I put some weight back on. I've been holding steady where I'm at though since Christmas, so there's that much at least.

So this year's project, even though I want to get back to swimming, is apparently bike riding.

Until Sunday, the last time I was on a bicycle...was over twenty years ago. Over twenty-five even.  I seriously don't even remember the last time. I remember the bike ramp incident when I was somewhere between seven and ten - the most common age mentioned as I try to figure out how old I was is eight.  My twin cousins built a bike ramp in our driveway one summer when they were visiting; they are only a few years older than I am. I think my brother Cliff and I were the only two to go over it.  I landed my jump, but I came down hard and swore up and down I'd hurt my genitals.  So I ran inside to make sure I wasn't bleeding. My brother apparently did not land his very well, because as I was coming out of the bathroom, Cliff was running inside with blood hanging out of his nose.  By the time our mother got out to investigate, the ramp was long gone!

Needless to say, I've been a little intimidated at the very thought of getting back on a bike.  But, I don't want to disappoint my husband. In the weeks leading up to this, whenever I've expressed my fears, he's told me "I have faith in you."  I mean, what is there to say to that?  He said the same thing when I was trying to learn how to swim, and I was able to do that.

The training grounds...
So while Mr. Janney and his father were working on a flag pole to put up in the yard, I was down below in the lower part of my in-laws driveway facing my fears. I was so anxious about this, I'd actually had a dream a few nights before where I just hopped on the bike and took off.  Which is honestly pretty much how it happened in real life - - I hopped on the bike pictured further above and took off.  I didn't ride far, just out into the road and down to the other driveway which you can't see in the photo.  I hopped off to turn around, hopped back on...and almost didn't make the turn and almost rode right into the woods on the other side of the road.  But I managed to get straightened out and back into the driveway.  And apparently was going too fast when I tried stopping and hopping off again, because I went face first into the driveway...I jokingly say that I kissed Mother Earth! Thankfully the only thing scraped up is the knee I landed on, and my hands a little bit.

I didn't let that stop me though.  After I finished telling my hubby that I was alright (he didn't see the fall, just me sitting in the dirt) I hopped back up and tried it again.  Much better the second time. The third time I made it down to the nearest neighbors, still not far away, and back again.  I can't even begin to describe to you the different feelings I had going through me as I soared.  Joy and fear held hands.  It was exhilarating, it was fun, it scared the crap out of me.

So I took a break to help with the flag pole.  Meaning I tried to take pictures for the most part.  But they all flubbed because my fat fingers got in the way.  The picture to the left is seriously the best picture I got.  I know Mr Janney will be happy that I didn't get his face in there.  The picture below is after they got the bell hung and the flag hoisted.

And let me tell you, when they were hanging the bell, all I could think was 'well, that doesn't look safe.' They put the bell in the bucket of the tractor you see, as well as my husband!  Then my father-in-law raised the bucket, bell and husband.  I did help during this part - I got to hold the rope attached to the bell so that it wouldn't get in Mr. Janney's way when he stood and lifted the bell into place.

I'm pretty sure we all took turns ringing the bell once it was all said and done.  I like the picture to the right; that little dot by the bell is the moon.  I wish it showed better, but my fingers weren't in the picture so that's a plus!

After this, Mr. Janney got his bike out and we both went for a little ride.  I tried making it as far as the neighbor who has the pond we like to go swimming in, but my legs would not push me up the little hill. So I told hubby I had to stop and get off...and almost face-planted myself again.  I managed to get myself flipped in time, thankfully there was no traffic as I was laying in the middle of the road. What's even worse, my hubby got off and tried helping me up - only my legs locked and I couldn't stand.  I was so embarrassed even though it was just him there.  He gave me another minute to stretch my legs out, still in the middle of this not-country-enough road, and this time he was able to get me to my feet.  My legs were so shaky from the exertion that I walked my bike back part of the way.  But once again, I didn't let the falling stop me - I got back on and rode the rest of the way back.

I thought I was done for the day after that, but my Mr. Janney decided to make a few alterations to the bike to see if it would be easier for me.  So of course I was obligated to give it another shot after he was done making his changes.  And I don't know what all he did, but it was more comfortable after that.

It was a fun day, and even though bike riding still scares me, I know that the fear will not stop me.

Although I really do think I'll be buying some knee pads and a helmet in the near future!

Safety first!

So dear readers: What fears have you faced recently?

Friday, April 8, 2016

Random Thoughts About Mother Earth by Robin Janney

I think strange thoughts, at strange times all the time.

My husband caught me at it one Tuesday afternoon during our drive into work and picked on me for the rest of the drive.  You'd think he'd be used to it by now!

I was deep in thought, and he said something all of a sudden as we turned by Wendy's.  Whatever it was, caught my attention and I looked over at him and said, "What?"

Realizing I had zoned out, he tried brushing it off with, "Nothing."  I did not let it go, I repeated what I thought he said, and he confirmed my hearing.  Which didn't clear up my confusion any because it made no sense to me (I'm not ever sure now what it was!)

He made a sound of disbelief.  "It was just on the radio.  Didn't you hear it?"

No, no I did not.  And that's when I made the mistake of telling him what I was thinking about so deeply that I missed the nonsense on the radio.

"I was thinking about how it's probably a good thing there's no Mother Earth Goddess, because of how we rape our planet. We drill into her, and raze her forests. And then I thought, what if there is and we just can't hear her screams because we've lost the ability to hear her?"

Somehow our conversation turned into cars and whether our transportation was wrecking the earth or not.  I'm sure it certainly contributes, but given that both Mr. Janney and I prefer older vehicles the tone of the conversation soon changed to makes and models and character.  He recently mentioned something about a car show in NYC that he'd like to go to, something I would have no problem with.

But, back to Mother Earth.

Since I first started writing this post, which is some time now, I've watched two 'end of the world' type movies,  San Andreas, and 2012. If The Day After Tomorrow was available on Xfinity, I'd have watched that one too. I often wonder what would become of society if the world were to drastically change liked depicted in any of these movies, because I often think too much.

For some reason, during the middle of San Andreas, I decided to look up a question about earthquakes.  I don't remember now what the original question was, because as I started typing it into the search field, good old Google suggested 'how many earthquakes today' and I thought...yeah sure,  why not?  It took me to  this link. there were 90 some earthquakes that day, and in the few minutes it took me to post that number on Facebook there were 2 more.  Not big earthquakes, they record anything 1.5 or above.

But that's not really the point is it?

This is probably very normal.  There have probably been dozens of earthquakes daily for millennia.  We're only just more aware of them because of how humanity has spread out and the ease of instant communication.

But then again, that's not really the point either.

What if it hasn't been this way for millennia? I mean, records only go so far back. And, if there was no one around to record an earthquake in the first place, geological evidence aside, it went undetected and unnoticed.

Her future is ours.
What if it is Mother Earth trying to get our attention? I dare say, she'll continue to scream louder until she gets our attention if this is so. What is all our drilling and digging and deforesting doing to her? I'm far from a scientist, but it's a safe bet that we're damaging our planet.  Whether it has a 'spirit' or not is beside the point.  We only have one planet, and her future is our future.

Knowing human history, I do wonder if we'll change our ways in time to save her and remain living here.  Pretty much because I know I wouldn't be chosen to survive the Apocalypse.  They always save those seats for the rich and the young and the smartest. I might randomly survive, but you see characters like me killed off all the time in these end-time movies. (Someone had better take copies of my books along with them!)

I guess I'll end my soapboxing now by asking: have you ever felt an earthquake?  I have, although I live in rural Pennsylvania.  I was one of the few Pennsylvanians who felt the 2011 earthquake in Virginia. Neither places are the first to come to mind when you think of earthquake.  I still think about that day.  I was on the phone with my mother, who was in upstate NY and didn't feel  much of anything. But I most certainly did.  I felt as though my washer was spinning out, unbalanced...although the machine wasn't even running.  And I remember looking at my walls, and I even said to my mother on the phone, "Why are my walls moving?" I was confused, and tried to stand up ... and staggered. And then it was over. It was short enough that I didn't have time to be scared.  It was weird, because I had neighbors who didn't feel a thing, and neighbors who did - and if you know anything about trailer parks, you know how tightly we can be packed.

Until next time, hope you are having a good week and are ready for the weekend!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Happy Easter! by Robin Janney

Well, it seems Carol and I have managed to get slightly off our schedule, but it's all good because life happens!

Today is a holiday for many, and at the very least a day to spend time with family.  Rather than have a home cooked meal, some of my family went out for our traditional ham dinner.  Of course, the restaurant is owned and run by some of our family so it's a double bonus.

No matter what you do today, whether you celebrate the Christian holiday or not, I hope you and your family have had a Happy Easter!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

You’ve Got A Friend In Me – By C.P. Stringham

My dad's pride and joy 1946 Willy's Jeep and Mom's brand new
1979 Buick Regal in the background. I just remember the Jeep
didn't have any seatbelts. Have times changed! 
I’ve had a lot of time to be retrospective lately. I’m helping plan a 25th wedding anniversary party for a high school friend who I had lost touch with until recently. The sad part of this admission is that, for the past twenty years, we have lived within seven to fifteen miles of each other at any given time and have only been “reunited” since I joined Facebook seven years ago. Alas, while we complain about the time we “waste” on social media, it has been a great tool for catching up with long lost friends. While Penny graduated a year behind me, we attended a very small school in rural Northeastern Pennsylvania where everyone knew everybody. Since we were from the same “neighborhood,” we rode the same school bus and her younger brother was best friends with my younger brother.
Fred's 1979 Camero - This car ate Ford Mustangs for breakfast! 
My kid brother's high school sidekick and Penny's kid brother, Brent.
In fact, while I was in college or home visiting from the Philly area, I felt like Brent was a part of the family. He and Fred were always working on some car project. Brent had a classic Chevy Nova with a 383 engine that he was able to miraculously keep dirt road dust off of like it was made out of Teflon or something. Fred’s first car was a ’79 Buick Regal. The car was ordered new by my parents, driven by our mom for years before being given to me until I bought my yuppie Honda Accord, and then was passed down to Fred. The stock 231 V-6 engine wasn’t enough for my brother—the vo-tech student who took after our motorhead father. He
 dropped a performance 350 in with a racing cam, installed a racing torque converter, and replaced the highway-friendly, gas-saving 308 rear for a lower 373 rear for weekday driving, and had a 411 rear for “weekend driving”—which meant faster take off for drag racing. You know, something EVERY high school boy needs in a car. Zero to sixty in what-the-hell seconds! I grew up in a house where knowing the higher the number of a rear, the lower it was geared for faster take off and the lower the number of a rear, the higher it was geared for higher top end long distance speed was all second nature. And then came his 1979 Chevy Camero. Again, its stock 305 V-8 wasn’t fast enough, so he upgraded to a small block Chevy 350. He bored out the cylinders and added a performance cam. It was fast. Really fast. I recall a test drive with him at the wheel, Eric Cressman in the copilot’s seat, and me in the rear seat, flying along the back stretch of County Route 427, heading back towards Wellsburg, at an easy 140mph. The engine had more to give, but we were running out of unpopulated roadway. I remember saying, “What’s that smell?” and Eric answering with a grin, “Brake shoes. It takes a lot of brake to slow down at this speed.” I made the sign of the cross and wondered if my brother had the foresight to install a parachute—just in case. Whatever car my brother had taken from tame and transformed into “Frankenwheels,” you could bet Penny’s little brother had spent some time under the hood as well. I guess that makes him Igor, the mad mechanic’s assistant!
Our founding Liberal Ladies members!! L-to-R: Jan, Michelle,
Penny, Me, and my oldest. We are now 23 members strong!

Penny is one of the founding members of our Liberal Ladies’ Luncheon League. Living in a predominately conservative area makes for lonely political conversations to those who are like-minded. We have to stick together. And we do. While I tend to keep my social media posts tame, she isn’t afraid to ruffle feathers. As an author, who counts on social media to help sell books, I have to exercise restraint. That doesn’t mean I won’t like the hell out of someone’s progressive post!
Penny and I are also 
Meeting up at ArtsFest! Me with Penny and her boys!
moms of children on the Autism Spectrum. Both of her boys have the higher functioning Asperger’s Syndrome, while my youngest was classified with Pervasive Development Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified. We’ve learned to lean on each other over the past few years because, even though our families and other friends mean well, they truly don’t understand what moms of special needs children go through. If it isn’t a medical or a behavioral issue we are trying to work through, it’s a school-related issue. Our kids have Individual Education 
Me with Robin Janney- Author and Penny. Unplanned purple wardrobe.
Plans or IEP’s. We have to continually advocate for our kids to make sure they are receiving the necessary educational services to make them successful students. For my daughter, things have gone smoothly at our local school. For Penny’s boys, not so much. They are almost finished with their first year of homeschooling and it has been highly satisfying for momma and sons.
Penny and her family; L-to-R: Dillon, Helene, Ashton, and Kevin.

This year is Penny’s 25th wedding anniversary; a huge accomplishment in this day and age of high rate divorce. She and Kevin have made it through years of infertility issues, employment setbacks, Penny’s autoimmune disease, and, currently, they are both dealing with spine-related injuries. Penny is in need of a second cervical spine fusion and Kevin just had his first cervical disc surgery—because, when it rains, it pours. With all the stress of keeping up with their financial responsibilities, they need to take time to celebrate the milestone their marriage has hit. With everyone’s hectic schedules, it is too hard to attempt a surprise party, so family and friends alike are helping to organize the event. Penny asked if I would help out and I jumped in and our fellow Liberal Lady, Jan, and her husband, Doug, have offered their services as well. Since my family is dealing with its own set of medical issues with both of my daughters, I needed the distraction party planning would bring about. I’ve been crafting for two weeks. Guest table centerpieces, dessert table decorations, bridal table decorations, etc. I’ve been doing what I can to make it special for my friend. My mom even lent a hand last weekend. She loves any crafting task that allows her to whip out her hot glue gun! She’s also making the cupcakes and ceremonial cake for the cupcake tower. My neighbor, Betty, is even donating her incredible bar cookies, my mom’s making pecan tassies, and Penny’s aunt is making snickerdoodles with more varieties to come. What’s better at a party than a fully equipped dessert table?!?
At any rate, that’s what I’ve been up to, so no writing is really going on. A little here. A little there. It’s all good. I’ll be sure to post party pics in an upcoming blog post.  
The invitations! 

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Traveling Woman by Robin Janney

Most of the time, I live my entire life in one little square county of Pennsylvania. Monday through Friday I get up and go to work, maybe stop at Walmart on the way home from work and go to bed.  With varying mundane chores in between; and walking my dog.

But since my last short post, I have probably traveled close to 2000 miles outside of my little corner of the universe.  Part of the reason why I'm posting so late, actually at the start of Carol's week, is I'm just plain exhausted even though I've been home since Tuesday.

The "Big Chair" of Thomasville!
The first trip was to Thomasville North Carolina for my Aunt Pat's funeral.  I'm very grateful that my work allowed me to take the time off for this trip, even though aunts (and uncles) don't technically qualify for bereavement leave.

The different ceremonies for my aunt were spread across three days, rather than the usual two.  Mostly because of scheduling at the National Cemetery where she was to be laid to rest.  So late Monday afternoon, after the funeral and the meal that followed, my immediate family and I were left to our own devices.  We didn't want to just sit around, so after some discussion (and finding out what was opened and closed) we ventured into Thomasville in search of the "Big Chair" which as you can see in the photo, we found.  Pretty impressive, even if it does seem strange.  But then, the area's claim to fame is their furniture so I guess it's understandable.

Managed to sneak myself into this one!
Across the road from the big chair, was a pretty fountain and a small clock tower.  We wandered across, and decided to wait to see if it would chime on the hour like the internet said it should.  Of course, we took the opportunity for another photo...or two.

It was a lot of walking for my mother, who walks with a cane, but we managed to keep up with her.  Still, I don't think any of us minded waiting for the top of the hour.

And then when nothing happened, and we started to leave...the darn thing started chiming!  About two minutes past what the clock face said was six o'clock!

After this, we wandered down to the caboose they had sitting on a retired track.  We have one in our town, but this seemed something special since it wasn't...well, wasn't home.  Of course, more pictures followed. 

Antics like this is probably why the town cop kept driving through the center of town real casual like.

There wasn't much else to do after that, so we returned to our rooms for the evening.

After my aunt's internment, my husband and I started the long trip back home.  For the most part, it was uneventful, although we did drive by a tractor trailer accident not to long after it happened.

It was heavier traffic than what either one of us were used to, although according to another brother since we were still moving it wasn't that bad.  Still, we detoured into Fancy Gap, Virginia for a while.  Just to get off the highway and find some breathing room.  Thankfully the rest of the trip was uneventful and we found ourselves home shortly after one in the morning.

Life returned to usual for a few days, and then Mother, my younger sister and I were off in the opposite direction.  North. To Rochester, New York.

First we stopped along the way and picked up one of my brothers, then we headed to Rochester.  To see a specialist for my mother.  She's  been plagued with bladder problems for years and our local specialists no longer have much to offer and they sent her to Strong Memorial Hospital for a second opinion.  And all that ended up happening this trip was the doctor ordering a test Mother has never had done before (which sounds really uncomfortable).  I'm not sure yet whether I'll be able to accompany her in April, but at least my brother and sister are up to speed and could step in just in case.

After lunch, which took longer than expected due to a new waitress, we took a few minutes to relax and site see since we were in another new locale.  My brother found us a waterfall in the middle of the city to look at, so off we went!

High Falls.

HIgh Falls, Genesee River, Rochester NY
Which felt a thousand times higher than what it was.

Pont De Rennes Bridge, from whence the previous picture was taken.
Now, I only made is about halfway across this pedestrian walkway.  Walking down the middle, only looking at my feet or straight out to the left or right, never downish.  I began repeating to myself that "I've been higher. I've been higher."  Indeed, I managed to look down from the top observatory in the Empire States Building in New York City.  This should have been cakewalk.

I did manage to get to the edge of the bridge to take a picture or two.  I never did look straight down even then though.  My body was shaking by the time I got back to where my mother was sitting on one of the many benches they have on the bridge.  It felt to me like the entire bridge was shaking when groups of people would pass.

The rainbow
Still, I managed to stay in control and didn't freak out.  I walked out, took my pictures and enjoyed the view, and then walked back when I decided I had enough.  Even managed to see a rainbow in the falls spray!  And if you look in the background of the first picture of the falls, we were lucky enough to be there when a long train was passing over.

Mother stayed the rest of the week with  my brother, who kindly brought her home today.  I'm not sure I had another trip in me.  I like traveling, although the pre-trip is anxiety-ridden (did I pack everything I need? Where am I going?), but I sure do like landing back at home in my own trailer, in my own bed.

There truly is no place like home.

Although, husband and I are already planning a trip across country.  Hey, nothing wrong with dreaming and planning a few years in advance!

Hope everyone's had a great weekend and may your week be a good one.