Kathleen Osgood

My favorite blog of 2012 has nothing to do with sports. Or politics. It’s as fancy as a rusty spoon and as modern and hip as a can of Tab. It’s no frills, no graphics, no celebrity cameos, no buzz.

It’s Kathleen Osgood’s Sittin’ On a Porch, and it is absolutely wonderful.

Kathleen is a woman in her 50s who was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. The blog is about that, but, really, it’s not about that at all. Truth be told, it’s the life narrative of an amazingly intelligent, confident, secure human whose life, in many ways, I envy. While many of us rush around, looking for the hottest this and the coolest that, Kathleen kicks back and enjoys. She appreciates the little things—a warm expression, a soothing sound, a cold drink. I suppose part of this is because of her cancer, and a reminder of life’s fragility. But, more to the point, I believe Kathleen Osgood to be genuinely special.

Here, she discusses life with cancer, what comes next—and why she’d take dog urine over Menudo.

Kathleen Osgood, welcome to the Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: Kathleen, first I want you to know how beautiful your blog is. You call it Sittin On a Porch, and—genuinely—it does that title well. Very casual, very welcoming. I guess what interests me, first and foremost, is this: You have Stage 4 lung cancer, which is
obviously nothing to laugh and smile about. Yet in so many of your pictures you’re laughing and smiling; so many of your entries seem so jovial and uplifting. My question: How is this possible?

KATHLEEN OSGOOD: Thank you for your kind words. The name actually came to me in my sleep when I was trying to find a new name for my cottage soap and herbal products business. SittinOnAPorch, as you see, spells soap. And it just seemed to fit my new life and world.

Years ago my friend Lynne and I had made a plan that when we were older if we got a chronic disease we would wallow in despair. Maybe go to the grocery store and walk up to people all dramatic and sob that we were dying of cancer. That we would just lay down and give up, because we were not interested in dealing with being sick. When I found out I had cancer, nope, that is not at all what I wanted to do. This journey has been a wild roller coaster ride at times. But in the beginning I just figured that the doctor would treat me with WMDs (weapons of mass destruction) chemo, radiation, whatever and the cancer would go away and I would simply go on with my life. The first doctor did not run all the tests commonly run to determine the source, or type of cancer I had. When I first went in to see him I had pleurisy and it was extremely painful. The pain had started in my upper back on the left side. The cancer had already spread to my bones, and the doctor misunderstood and thought that the pain was from the cancer on my bones. I am sure that some of the pain was the cancer, but it was more from the pleurisy. The cancer affected a rib next to my sternum on the left side and my C6 and C7 vertebrates. Radiation stopped that cancer, but it had spread to other places, which we did not know about because he did not run all the tests.

Because the cancer had spread, he was right that it was Stage 4. But not a cancer from unknown origin which is what he diagnosed. No, I had Stage 4 lung cancer, or as I like to refer to it as, the “little c.” He gave me three chemo treatments that are commonly used for many cancers, but mostly for breast cancer. It did nothing to my cancer. To me, it made me horribly ill, I lost my hair and had the bone pain that feels like someone is setting fire to your bones—like the worst case of shin splints but it was not limited to my legs. After the three treatments he sent me home and gave me Hydrocodone and told me to get my affairs in order.

I called a doctor friend who found my current doctor for me—the amazing, wonderful and gorgeous Dr. M. He took me from being so sick I could barely lift my head to feeling wonderful, alive, healthy … like I could do anything. During all of this my friends from all over the world started sending me emails and calling and sending me good wishes. That outpouring of love and affection, of kindness and sweetness … how can anyone be anything but jovial and uplifted? And it is my basic nature to be happy, hopeful and positive. Just because some of my cells have gone rouge and want to kill me really isn’t enough to put a permanent frown on this normally sickening happy Pollyanna face.

J.P.: I want to get to some blunt things first, if that’s OK. Namely, when did you learn that you had cancer, and how did you find out? What was your reaction? How did the news hit you?

K.O.: I am one of those people who does more in a day then anyone in their right mind would want to do or could do. I had just finished playing Yenta at the Monticello Opera House in Fiddler On The Roof. I went directly from that play into directing my first play, also at the Opera House, Sex Please, we’re Sixty. I was still working full time at the Florida Department of Agriculture as a Manager of the Certification and Training Program. I was very active at the Opera House, the garden club, the Art League and I have two acres with lots of animals (five dogs at that time, four cats, chickens, rabbits, fish) and gardens. By spring I had a killer cough and one day in April 2010 I sat down, right in the middle of Nun Bingo, a fund raiser for the Opera House. I always played the part in white face and was known as Sister Mary Mime, a nun who had taken a vow of silence that had gone terribly awry. I simply sat down and could not get up. I was worn out. My friend Mary, who is a licensed RN, had gently laid her hand on my arm and said she was worried about me. That I sounded like there was something wrong, maybe pleurisy, maybe going into pneumonia and that she wanted me to go see my doctor. The scariest part is that I felt so bad that I actually called the doctor that day and went in to see him that week. I told him Mary’s diagnosis and he said that he wanted a chest X-ray. The X-ray showed tiny nodules all over my lungs and pleural cavity, and fluid on my left lung. The doctor said that there was more fluid on my lung then he was comfortable with. I said, “That you are comfortable with? Let me tell you about not being comfortable.” He gave me some meds and told me that if I didn’t feel better in a week or so come back to see him. I had to go back and see him.

Another chest X-ray and he referred me to a pulmonary specialist who ordered yet another X-ray. Mary went with me to see the pulmonary doctor. After he had read the X-ray he started on the list of what could possibly be wrong. He said it could be a bacterial infection, maybe a cyclical viral infection, it could be cancer. And my hand went up and I said something to the effect of “Let’s not jump off the deep end.” I am strong, healthy, had no signs of anything seriously wrong with me except the cough and what the chest X-rays showed. Let’s start with the easiest to fix and see if that takes care of it. He looked at me. I had not lost weight, my color was good, I was one busy woman. I was happy and looked very healthy, so he agreed to the antibiotics. I took my 10 days worth of meds, and was sicker then a dog after the first two days, but by day 10 I felt better then I had felt in a very long time. So when we went back for the follow up, I announced I was cured and everyone was happy. About two weeks later I was not doing well at all. I went back to see the pulmonary doctor and more chest X-rays. He came in and sat down opposite of me. He could not look me in the eyes. Mary and I looked back and forth. We were still not worried. He said that he wanted me to go into the hospital where they would aspirate the fluid from my pleural area and run some tests and see if they could figure out what was going on with me. OK, this was July 2010 and I didn’t need night lights anymore in that my chest glowed from all the X-rays, hee hee. I called my friend Judy, a 14-year cancer survivor and asked her if she would join Mary and be on my team. I had not started blogging yet, but my family and friends knew something wasn’t right, and I was going to need help dealing with all the phone calls and working through this medical quagmire as they tried to figure out what was wrong with me. I think it was the first week in July when the three of us got up early and they took me to the hospital for the tests. We were jovial and talkative. I had no fear, there was no way I could have cancer. I remember the World Cup was on and the doctor who was in charge of doing the tests kept running into the waiting room and watching the games.

They stuck a needle in my back and withdrew the fluid. The doctor told me that it is common to feel like you need to cough when the needle goes in to pull out the fluid, but not to cough hard because I could blow up my lung. WHAT???? Okay, maybe it wasn’t “blow up,” maybe it was “deflate”—I don’t remember exactly what all was said, I had a needle in my back. But regardless, blow up or deflate, I mean, come on, that is a pretty frightening thing to say to someone. I did not feel like coughing, though. He asked me how I felt and I said it felt like I needed to fart out my lung. He and the techs started laughing. I was not kidding. Then they moved us to the waiting room to get the results back. At some point they also did an X-ray of my thyroid and verified nodules on it also. Time has no relevance when you are in this situation, but at some point I heard them calling an oncologist to the area we were at. He was in fact Judy’s oncologist, so there was no doubt what kind of doctor he was. I looked at Mary and said, “I have cancer.” She looked at me and teared up and told me not to jump to any conclusions. I was the only person in that area going through these tests—who else could it be? Then my world changed. They came in with a gurney and the doctor watching the World Cup started ordering all kinds of tests and people were scampering everywhere. They started to take me out for a sonogram of my reproductive organs, which I no longer had, and I looked at Judy and asked her what was going on. She stood up and would not let them take me anywhere until the doctor came in and talked to us. In short order he was standing in front of us, not happy, he was not used to being questioned. Judy started to talk to him but he was infuriated with the delays. He wanted to get the tests done and solve this mystery. He was in Go mode. This was when he was his best and we called him Dr. G, because he thought he was god. But let me tell you, he was that good. He was not happy and Judy was trying to be diplomatic. I was just laying on the gurney confused. Mary quietly looked up at the doctor and asked him if they had found any malignant cells in the fluid they had aspirated. He was extremely annoyed and said of course they had, that was why they were running all of these tests to see if they could figure out the source of where the cancer had started. Had started. Those were his words. Mary and Judy stood there stunned. I think as much from how we had found out that I had cancer as the fact that it was starting to sink in. I had cancer. That was the only time I started to tear up and be afraid. Not because I had cancer, but because I had asked these two dear precious friends to come with me on this lark. Now not only was it serious, but with all the tests they were running it sounded to me like they were saying it had already spread completely through me. So, not only had I brought these two woman into the hospital with me, but now, I was going to die on them. I felt so much guilt for doing this to them. It never occured to me that I should be upset that I had cancer. I never thought, “No, not me.” I never thought, “Why me?” I just couldn’t believe how thoughtless I had been with their love and trust.

J.P.: I am a hypochondriac. Literally, I always think I’m dying of something—and I hate this part of myself. The thoughts consume me, burden me, sap a lot of the joy out of my life. Then I read your blog, and—even though you actually have cancer—I find myself feeling jealous of your outlook and disposition. Is it Jesus? Moses? Faith? No faith? What has given you peace on this?

K.O.: It as simple as I get tired of being sick. I am no good hanging on to anger or sadness or illness. I just get tired of it after a while and move on. Seriously. I was diagnosed with HepatitIs C, which I probably contracted while working as a technician at a waste water treatment laboratory. They told me I would die from that. That was 30-plus years ago. I almost believed them and did die back then. But when I got to the point where I wasn’t going to work, I wasn’t enjoying my life, I was only doing what the doctors told me and was still getting sicker and sicker, I got up and said, “Enough!” I started building my life back and moved on. I quit going to see the doctor, which I do not recommend, but for me at the time it saved my life. No, it is not religion, it is not any type of spirituality, it is life itself. For me to be sad and consumed with whoa-is-me, well, it just doesn’t work for me. I am a scientist by education and by personality. I like the concepts discussed in quantum physics, that every possibility is out there, it is your perceptions that make the world a happy place or a place of despair and grief. So I choose to have a happy life. Some days it is hard, but on those days I keep to myself. I have a hard time remembering the bad. The good? Oh yeah, I remember all of that. But the bad, well, maybe I don’t let it in so it washes off.  And the love and affection of my beloved ones, both two and four legged, lifts me up when I am having those bad days. And trust me, the meds give me bad days, sad days, anxious days. But the bottom line is I have been given so very much. So many gifts and opportunities, and maybe I feel an obligation to pay back all the good things I have been given. One way to do that, is to count my blessings each night when I go to bed and wake up each morning with a smile on my face and get to living. The last tip is yoga. Breathing, stretching, moving, releasing the bad times, breathing in the good air, leaving a peaceful heart, namaste.

J.P.: Your blog can be very, very honest—sometimes painfully so. The passage about your mother admonishing you and a friend for playing with a black girl was extremely powerful and, I thought, gutsy to write. Has, in some way, your illness set you free? Or have you always been wide open?

K.O.: Much to my Mother’s horror, I have always been wide open. My mother was very private. I am not good with secrets. I don’t mean secrets like not telling someone about a present or a surprise party. Those I can keep. I mean about pretense and not being real. The only way I could deal with this disease was just to be me. I never fit in with the “normal” people, but I grew up at a time when the radio played Linda Rondstadt singing songs about dancing to a different drummer and it was a time when being different was OK. It was time to express your individuality.  I never thought for a minute to keep this to myself. I didn’t do anything to cause stage 4 lung cancer. This disease is not from smoking. OK, maybe giving fire eating a try in my 20s might not have been the smartest idea I have ever had, but my doctor has assured me that this is not from fire eating or anything else I did. I guess I just won the lottery, and the only way I was going to be able to do this was to be open and honest about it.

J.P.: You wrote this paragraph, and I thought it jumped from the screen: “Please, I know you love us, I know you want this terrible disease to go away. I know the news is full of tidbits of stories and information about new treatments, drugs, alternate treatments, etc.
But please, please, no one has ever given me an idea that I did not already look into, that I was not already trying, or that had nothing what so ever to do with my particular cancer. I am sorry if that sounds mean or judgmental, but really, it does not matter what the
chronic disease, people just feel that they have to share this knowledge with you. And how kind can that be? Well, actually, it is overwhelming to us living with the disease. We appreciate your love, and good thoughts and kindness, but please, do you want an idea of how to best support us? How best to support the care giver taking care of
someone with a chronic disease? Just listen. Just love us. Ask if we are happy with our treatment. And if we say something that allows you to give us your ideas, your advice, your knowledge, then you know we are ready to hear what you have to offer. But up to that point, please, please, do not share this with us.”

Kathleen, I wonder if it’s hard writing words like this, knowing you’re directly going against the behaviors of so many?

K.O.: I did not write that post for me. I wrote that for my friend Jan whose husband of 40-plus years had just died from lung cancer. I have to admit that it is frustrating to have lived a very healthy lifestyle for most of my life and to have people come up and start telling me what to do, but I knew that they did it out of love. Out of fear, too, I think. I noticed at work that as long as I came in everyday, even part-time, it gave them hope. Hope that people can survive cancer. And when I would be out for tests or was sick on the chemo, it really affected them. Whenever I was was struggling was when people would really start giving me advice on where to go, what to do and how to eat. I think their fear was more for me then themselves. After all, none of us want to think about our own deaths. But when someone near you gets cancer, a little bit of you has to consider it. Or deny it. It is frustrating, but much much harder on the care-givers. The husbands and wives and friends and family of those who are sick. Whether with cancer or Alhzheimers or whatever, they are the ones who are closest and yet no more able to do anything to change the situation then anyone else. And for them to have to hear, “You should be doing this or that,” it really does take a lot out of them. So, since I was thinking of Jan and her loss and another friend Georgie, who is taking care of her father, I felt that I had a platform to stand up for them. It won’t stop people from making suggestions, because they love you and that is the only thing they can do. It is the only way they can feel less helpless. But just writing that post, let both Jan and Georgie, and maybe others that I have no idea about, know that someone understood and was standing up for them and their loved ones.

J.P.: Before you were the famed Kathleen Osgood, blogger, who were you? What I mean is, what’s your narrative? Where are you from? What’d you for your career? Married? Kids?

K.O.: I was born and raised in Palmetto. A small town tucked up between Tampa and Sarasota along the Gulf Coast of Florida. The only daughter with three brothers. My family was and still is close. Born in the 1950s, it was a perfect time to grow up. My best friend from kindergarten, Vicki, always says we had the perfect childhood and we did. I received my BS degree in entomology from the University of Florida and moved to Key West to teach special ed agriculture. After two years on the rock I moved back to my home town and then married Larry Osgood and moved to Pine Island for 20 years. This is the Pine Island in Lee County near Sanibel/Captiva and Gasperilla. I spent 25 years working for the Florida Department of Agriculture in the regulation of pesticides, feed, seed and fertilizer. The last five years were spent in Tallahassee as the Manager of the Certification and Training Program. Licensing and assisting in regulation of applicators of restricted use pesticides in agriculture, the golf course industy and aquatic and aerial applications. I was married to Larry for over 22 years. He died this past March from brain cancer.

Unfortunately by the time we figured out what was wrong with him, it was too late and he was gone within six months. There is no connection between his brain cancer and my lung cancer. Just the luck of the draw. We shared three Labrador Retrievers—Maggierose, who was black and we kept two of her puppies from her only litter, Harry a giant chocolate and Lily, the only yellow female in the litter. Maggierose and Lily both died this past year, but I still have Harry and he will be 14 this Valentine’s Day. I also now have a 3-year-old chocolate lab, Robert Copernicus (yes he is the center of my universe) and Ednarose, a black mixed breed puppy who is about 7-months-old now. I have chickens whom I adore. They give me eggs and fertilizer for my gardens. They all have names. John C. Bennett is named after the man credited with developing the Barred Rock breed and all of the hens are named after flowers. I also have rabbits that run wild in my yard and a handful of gold fish in my lotus pond. I retired from the state after 31 years of service in June and immediately took my 86-year-old dad to the Netherlands, Spain and Portugal for two weeks. It was such a memorable trip and I am so very grateful that I had the opportunity to take that trip with him. I have had the opportunity to go to 49 state. Twice we rented a BMW motorcycle and road all over Alaska. I have been able to travel to Canada, eight countries in Europe, Great Britian, Mexico and Central America. I have worked at several plant nurseries, waitressed, was a professional clown and taught clowning at a couple of community colleges. I have worked at a flower shop, a stain glass shop, an art gallery, and a state park, as a part-time park ranger. All the time working full time for the state.

I have heard cancer survivors refer to their life before cancer as “BC.” It is funny that once you have been diagnosed with something like cancer your life changes. I think that some very important parts of me have changed. I still do too much, but I am more aware of each moment then before. I really live my life more fully because of that awareness. I have been on my own now for two years, having split with Larry almost three years before we found out he had cancer. We got back together before he died and we discussed our 25 years together and were able to forgive each other for the past. More importantly we were able to forgive ourselves. I was with him when he died. I was whispering that I loved him, and that it was OK to let go. I sang the lullaby I had written for him about our little family from many years before. It was not until months after his memorial service in May that I was able to decide to go on a dating website. I had dated someone after my divorce, and he was a great guy, but I think I was just not ready to date then. We remain friends today. But in September I actually tried a dating site. Once again I found that I do not fit in well. I seem to be too free spirited for the conservative men and to conservative for the bikers and more free-spirited men. I did meet one man, who lives up close to your neck of the woods in Delaware. Gary and I have become friends and chat several times a week. Having a virtual “boyfriend” is not the same as having someone next to you. Someone who, when you need a little support, lets you lean into him and he catches you in his heart and holds you there, safe and sound. The kind of someone who knows that they can rely on you to reach out and wrap your arms around them when they need a little contact. But he makes me laugh, and the loneliness I felt so often here with my animals, but no humans, is gone. And it is amazing how he can reach out through the ethernet and touch my heart with joy and laughter. We watch football games together and text each other. “What a pass!” “What a catch!” It is a new world. I would never have thought that I would be happy in this type of relationship, but when he says hello and that sweet smile appears on my computer, I can’t help but smile. And I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to laugh out loud with someone that I just like. He makes me giggle like a teenage girl and always has something nice to say about how I look. Doesn’t everyone need to be told once in a while that they look nice? He met me after I was living with cancer, and he does not see me as sick or dying. He sees me as a woman. What a lovely gift to have at this time in my life. I have gotten to do so many wonderful things in my life. And really, I don’t have any plans to change that. Whatever I do, it will probably be in my blog.

J.P.: I’m sure you’ve given this some thought: What do you think happens when we die? And are you comfortable with the answer?

K.O.: I consider myself a Possibilarian. That means I believe in the possibility of God and I also believe that my mind is not large enough to truly understand most of the secrets and magic of God and the universe. And isn’t that how it has worked over the ages? Anything we don’t understand is considered magic. I say what we know and are learning every day does not make this amazing existence any less magical. I would like to think that after I die that there is nothing. I could just stay as busy as I want and then when I die I could cease to exit. It would be the most complete and total rest. But as a scientist I do not believe that energy can be created or destroyed. And our bodies are atoms coming together to make physical bodies. The same ingredients as in stars, rocks, trees, birds and animals of all kinds and maybe even fairy dust. And all of these atoms are run by energy. Energry generated by food and light and thoughts. All of this energy has to go somewhere when we die. And since our thoughts and experiences and memories are made up of this energy then it can not be destroyed. It can only change form. What is that form going to be like? Oh, that is part of the magic. I will tell you this: When I am gone, if I get to still recognize my friends, my beloved ones, I will definitely want to watch and see what happens next because my friends are just so darn entertaining. But I will not come back and give away any of the secrets. Just like a good magician, I will let the magic of the universe unfurl before you. Because so much of who we are and become is based on our beliefs of what comes next. And I am comfortable with the laws of science and not knowing. I am not worried, this life has been such a wonderful journey filled with so many twists and turns, how can whatever comes next not be a continuation of the joy or a quiet still rest?

J.P.: In your first-ever entry, you write about going along with the doctors and hoping it all works; that, in a sense, it’s their ballgame more than yours. The phrase “fighting cancer” is used very often, as if it’s a Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier fight. Is there a such thing as
“fighting” cancer? Do you believe optimism matters? Outlook? Or, day’s end, is it just hoping the methods work?

K.O.: I have never actually understood the whole “fighting cancer”. The war on cancer???!!!! That makes no sense to me. And I have angered friends who want me to fight. I have known cancer survivors who tell me to “fight the good fight and don’t stop fighting.” Always with an embarassed voice I explain that I am not going to fight anything. After all cancer is simply some of my cells gone rogue. It is me. It is a part of me. Please, I never ever want to know that it wasmever said that I lost my fight with cancer. There is no fight.

I understand those cancer survivors who get to go into remission. Who get a new lease on life, a life where the rogue cells have been controlled and destroyed and only the good well behaved cells remain. That must be amazing, and yet frightening. Most of the people I know who have survived cancer and are now in remission, any time they get sick it is always a bit frightening. I am grateful to my cancer—it has given me far more then it will ever take from me. When it comes to being optimistic, science tells us that it does not appear to make a significant difference in studies that have been conducted. Having said that, I think that the two things that people with cancer or any other chronic disease are interested in is, 1. how long will they live and; 2. quality of life. So even if optimism does not increase the length of our life, it definitely makes all the difference when it comes to the quality of life. A positive outlook can decrease pain and anxiety, two of the big ones for people with cancer. And at the end of the day, a good relationship with your oncologist and all the amazing giving and wonderful people who work at the clinics and hospitals, well, at least at my hospital, will not only help to add to the length of my life, but to the quality. Everything is connected.

J.P.: If someone is reading this two … five … 10 … 20 … 30 years from now, and you’re not here, what do you want them to know and think about you?

K.O.: I have never thought about that. Hmm, I must be learning to live in the moment better then I thought. I think that I would like my message to be, it is okay. It is okay to laugh and enjoy life, regardless of the challenges. It is okay to love your life and to really live it. It is okay to get sick. It is okay to sit down and give up. It is okay to just keep running. It is okay no matter what you do. And no matter how scary life can feel at times, that is okay, also. There is no script, so no one is going to know if you mess up or don’t get it right. Each person has their own life. And it is okay to love fully and completely. And to say I love you out loud to those you love. And to say it to everyone you love, regardless of the kind of love. We each are the artist of the tapestry of our lives. Weaving memories and experiences, with our lives and loves into what will be the stories that remain behind us. Isn’t that just absolutely amazing? As long as you show up, you don’t even have to participate anymore then you want. After all it is your life. Live it anyway you want. It is okay.

J.P.: I often debate this with myself—is the world a beautiful place, or is it an ugly place? Are people good, or are they bad? Selfish, or selfless?

K.O.: I have always thought this blue and green globe is a place of amazing beauty. A favorite moment in my life is spending a day just laying in a field of fire weed and gazing up through the bright magenta flowers into a clear blue Alaska sky on a summers day listening to the familiar song of insects as they danced in and out of the mass of wild flowers. Larry had gone combat fishing, as they call salmon fishing during the runs. He had fallen to the fishing fever curse and taken everything we owned with him in the car when he drove off at 4 am, leaving me alone and abandoned with out the basic necessities of food or a book. There was a hand pump for water. At that time the idea of spending 12 or 14 hours alone listening to the Russian River hurry by filled with cold water and salmon with only one destination was perfect. Since being diagnosed with cancer I have found that same sweetness, that same beauty, that same joy now in people’s faces. In the love and concern that is always directed my way. I don’t understand people very well. But these past two years I have found that is not what matters. What I have found are people who have never met me, but have heard my story who reach out to me with love and concern and true compassion. I have always had a full life, and yet now I find it richer and deeper and happier and full of so much more meaning because of the goodness and kindness that truly does exist in the human race. It is when we try to organize and or define people that we start to bring in the selfish, greed and jealousy. We are all the center of our own universes. So of course there is always going to be complications in our lives and relationships. But when we come together, when someone reaches out to a beloved one or to a total stranger, it is so sweet and precious. I would weigh that sweet precious kindness against one hundred selfish people and I think I would still come out ahead.


• Rank in order: Fernando Valenzuela, Celine Dion, Brett Favre, MC Hammer, your eye glasses, Woodrow Wilson, candied yams: My eye glasses, Woodrow Wilson, Fernando Valenzuela, Brett Favre, Celine Dion, and tied for last would be MC Hammer and candied yams. I may be a southern woman, but give me sweet potato pie—you can keep your overly sweet candied yams.

• Give me five reasons why the Florida Panhandle isn’t the armpit of the state:
1. The Monticello Opera House; 2. St. Marks Wildlife Refuge and lighthouse on the beautiful Gulf of Mexico; 3. McClay Gardens with all the camelias, azealeas, magnolias, roses, crepe myrtels and Bradford Pears in the fall; 4. Blue Springs, Marianna, Florida;
5. The state Park on St. George Island.

• Bigger concern for you—climate change or the price of gas?: This old tree huggie, “save the whales” sign carrying hippie has to say climate change. I don’t blame the human race on climate change. But if we do not use our brains and talents and energy to adjust how we react to climate change, this planet may not be a place where humans can survive. We need to quit pointing fingers and come together to determine how we can best keep this beautiful planet healthy in the ways needed by the species sharing it.

• Strangest reaction you’ve had from someone when they learned you have cancer: It was when I was working out at the Y with the HOPE project (Helping Oncology Patients Exercise) and I had on my HOPE shirt. The woman asked me if I had had a radical double Mastectomy.  Okay, I did have on a sports bra under my shirt, but really? I smiled at her and said that this was all I had been gifted with, that I had lung cancer, not breast cancer. But I could see her confusion as I looked down. After all my port, which is above my right breast near my shoulder is perkier and stands out further then my breasts.

• I’d love a recipe for something delicious. What you got?: Pesto, Florida style. This is one of my favorite things to make. It is so versatile. Try it on a turkey sandwich or on some hot fresh pasta, a tablespoon in a soup or stew, or spagetti sauce, or spread over fish, chicken or meat before roasting, grilling or baking. Or add additional equal parts of olive oil and lemon juice and it is a wonderful salad dressing over garden greens. My favorite way to enjoy this is to toast some sliced whole grain baguettes, about 1/2 inch thick. Spread on the pesto and the put some sliced, roasted in olive oil red peppers, onions and portabello mushrooms, maybe some chopped olives and then top with a little more parmesan-reggiano cheese and broil until bubbly and brown.

Florida Pesto
Prep time: 10 minutes
* 2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed (I use the lemon/lime scented basil)
* 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano or Romano cheese
* 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
* 1/3 cup pecans chopped
* 3 medium sized garlic cloves, minced
* Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
* 1 T lemon juice

* Special equipment needed: A food chopper or processor

Chop the garlic and pecans together to a rough chop. Add the rest of the ingredients except the cheese and process until well mixed. Remove from the processor/chopper and fold in the cheese. Can be stored in the refrigerator for a week or so. Up to three months in the freezer, but do not mix the cheese in before you freeze. The cheese does not freeze well.

Hmm, think I am going to go make a new batch! It will be a bright flavorful addition of summer on a cold winter day.

• Gauge your interest in Rocky VII: None, sorry Sly, sorry boxing enthusist, sorry Philly, and sorry Adrian.

• Would you rather have a dog that pees on your carpet every hour or a radio in your house that’s on 24 hours and only plays Menudo’s greatest hits?: Definitely the dog pee. Yep, that is an easy one, I go with the pee.

• Five greatest places you’ve ever been: 1.National Camp Ground outside of Cooper Landing on the Kenai Penisula, Alaska; 2. Prince Edward Island, Canada; 3. The Alhambra, Granada, Spain; 4. Muir National Redwood Forest, California; 5. Butchart Gardens, Vancouver Island.

• Best piece of advice you’ve ever received: Hard to pick from my favorite four: Righty tighty, lefty loosy, no wait, I think maybe red skies in the morning, sailor take warning, red skies at night, sailors delight. Or maybe my grandmother telling me when I was like 5-years old to wake up each morning with outstretched arms and a smile to match, to start the day. Advice I still use. Or my last choice is my dad telling me that I could do anything I wanted if I was willing to work for it. But to be careful not to do something just because I was told I couldn’t, because it was a time when girls were told they could not do what boys do. But to choose what was important to me and then go for it heart and soul.

• Does prayer belong in school? Why or why not?: The problem I have with school prayer is not whether it is right or wrong, but whether it brings people together or tears them apart. There are so many different ways to pray. Some bow their heads, others chant, some may dance or sing, some may sit quietly in a chapel or go out in the woods. Prayer is such a personal thing. However, it can also be an important part of some communities. I think the problem is trying to make it uniform in a country that is so diverse. Would I support my nephew to pray in school? Yes, but our freedom and rights only go as far as they do not hurt another person’s rights and freedoms. I would not want the right of my child to pray to what they perceive as god to infringe on another’s. Does that sentence even make any sense? I guess my answer is it should be up to each community to determine how best to compromise and represent their entire community.