Necessary Things in Life: Unconditional Love and a Can of Whoop-Ass

I know it’s pretty normal to stop and reflect from time to time on the things we are thankful for in this life. You know: things like our families and friends, jobs, health, etc. While I am extremely thankful for these things, I have reason to pause of late and really reflect on the things I am most thankful for. Things I am truly grateful for and would never want to live without. The last several weeks have been very trying for me personally, and this is a rather personal post.

The focus of this post, however, is not me and my woes, and believe me, I could write a rather LENGTHY post outlining all of the things that have made the last several weeks tough for me. I am, instead, going to write about something that is weighing heavy on my heart right now.

We found out in early October that my sister-in-law Tammie had acute myelogenous leukemia (AML), which is a very aggressive form of leukemia. She is in her mid-forties and has a husband and three beautiful children who depend on her. She underwent months of treatment in Kansas City at KU Med Center’s Cancer Center. Tammie’s body fought hard though she was tired, but she DID NOT give up. After completing her chemo, monitoring her counts closely, and having “clean” bone marrow scrapes, she was officially in remission.

Tammie went home and resumed her life. She began a much healthier life style and joined an exercise group in her community to help her stay connected to people, stay active, and have the extra support she needed. Tammie was doing well.

And then she wasn’t.

Her counts started falling and Tammie found out two days ago that her AML is back and she must have a bone marrow transplant.

The other shoe we hoped would never drop, dropped with a thud that shattered that hope in a single instant.

Fortunately, when Tammie was first diagnosed with AML, her siblings were tested to determine if any of them might be a match should she need a transplant in the future: three of them were matches. We couldn’t believe it. From what we understand, it’s lucky for one sibling to be a match, but to have three matches is pretty remarkable, and now one sister and two brothers are her lifelines.

My husband is one of the matches. He went to Kansas City the evening we found out Tammie’s AML was back along with two

Photo credit: CafePress

of his sisters, one of whom is also a match, so other tests could be performed to determine which of the three siblings is the best match for Tammie’s transplant.

My husband himself is a cancer survivor. He was diagnosed with colon cancer in early January 2003. He had surgery to remove the cancer and underwent months of chemo. In late July of 2003, he was officially in remission and continues to be cancer-free nine years later. We were incredibly lucky, and I am so thankful our children still have their father and I have my husband.

Thinking about this, and trying to process the sheer gravity of it all, is pretty overwhelming. While it’s a no-brainer that whichever one of them is the best match will donate the necessary bone marrow without question, and his or her part of the procedure is clearly the easier of the two physically, the emotional toll involved will still be great.

It’s a tremendous amount of responsibility to bear when you think about it—this bone marrow donation is potentially the difference between life and death in the most literal sense possible. I pray one of them will be able to help Tammie open an old-fashioned can of Whoop-Ass and kick this leukemia right out of her body and stand next to her in victory shouting “AND DON’T COME BACK…EVER!!”

Yesterday we found out that my husband’s brother was the best match and he would be the donor. Today, we found out he has a heart condition that will prevent him from donating. The heart condition is not life-threatening, but it is enough to eliminate him. My husband and his other sister must go back to Kansas City early next week to undergo a battery of tests to see which one of them will be the donor.

I can’t imagine what it must feel like for them or anyone else who has been there. Or those who will inexplicably find themselves in the same situation someday. I don’t know how Tammie stays so positive, although I’m sure she has moments when it all seems like the worst possible nightmare. And it is.

One thing I know for sure is this dramatic turn of events definitely makes me more grateful for my family, my health and that of my family, and unconditional love. And great big cans of whoop-ass.

The Best Laid Plans Usually Get Thrown Out The Window

Has it really been nearly a month since my last post? And when did August get here?

I’ve had a crazy busy month that left little time for things like blogging and what not. Oh, and  I just finished a graduate class on eighteenth-century Restoration British literature, which kept me immersed in reading, reading, reading, and writing, writing, writing. The upside is I wrote a damn fine paper on eighteenth-century marriage practices and theories, which just may turn into the Master’s thesis I never intended to write.

Aside from taking this class, I’ve had a lot going on over here and I haven’t really talked about it in this forum. I’m talking BIG changes, and I’m not quite sure where those changes will take me. But here it is in a nutshell: I turned in my resignation for my teaching job in March and have no new teaching job to go to in just a few short days. YIKES!!

Now before you start trippin,’ this was not something I did on a whim or without TONS of consideration, soul searching, or many, many, many long conversations with my husband. Truth be told, I was pretty miserable in my middle school teaching position. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE teaching. With all of my being. But I teaching middle school just isn’t for me, and I pretty much knew that all along. I attempted to move into a high school teaching position for over a year within my own district, but never got anywhere; it became clear that I would need to make a clean break if I were to have any luck achieving my goal of being a high school English teacher.

Unfortunately, even with several interviews that went quite well, I was not offered a position. I knew when I resigned in March this would be a possibility, but I was fairly sure I would score a new position before the new school year began. I was wrong. Now, I’m a smart girl (really I am—in spite of what you’ve just read) and did not go into this without a Plan B. I just didn’t want to have to implement said Plan B.

Plan B entails subbing in my local schooldistrict—which is not the district I worked in—and going to school full time to finish my Master’s degree in English, which I could conceivably finish in the spring. I’ve also been kicking around the idea of getting an MFA in creative writing, but that would add at least another year to my program. Additionally, I have been looking to the future, and the fact that I would really like to teach at the college level—not necessarily the university level, but a community college where I could teach literature classes or creative writing would be fine with me. Okay, so I really DO want to teach at the university level, but that requires a PhD and the thought of writing a 300+ page dissertation makes me want to run away screaming. Loudly. Oh, and it would also mean I would have to have multiple publications by totally legit publishers. Ugh! But who knows? Maybe someday.

But for today, I will simply move forward and reach a couple of goals I have set for myself: finish my Master’s degree and focus on my writing. I have a novel to finish, remember?

A Double Dose of Pam

I have read two books recently that were written by Pam Bachorz: Drought and Candor. Both books received a four star rating from me on Goodreads (, and I am reviewing Drought for you here.

     Ruby Prosser dreams of escaping the Congregation and the early-nineteenth century lifestyle that’s been practiced since the community was first enslaved.
She plots to escape the vicious Darwin West, his cruel Overseers, and the daily struggle to gather the life-prolonging Water that keeps the Congregants alive and gives Darwin his wealth and power. But if Ruby leaves, the Congregation will die without the secret ingredient that makes the Water special: her blood.
So she stays.
But when Ruby meets Ford, the new Overseer who seems barely older than herself, her desire for freedom is too strong. He’s sympathetic, irresistible, forbidden—and her only access to the modern world. Escape with Ford would be so simple, but can Ruby risk the terrible price, dooming the only world she’s ever known?

I finished Drought yesterday and decided to take a day to process my thoughts about the book before rating it and writing a review. I’ve read a lot of less than favorable reviews for Drought, and although I get what most of these reviewers are saying, I don’t completely agree with them. Are there parts of the plot that require you to suspend belief? Yes. Are there some holes in the plot that could have been knitted together better? Absolutely. However, for me at least, I think the strengths of Pam Bachorz’s novel outweigh its weaknesses.

Bachorz has written a strong heroine, Ruby, who is easy to identify with and who seems quite real. While Ruby’s plight is far from typical and is infuriating, she experiences many things a teenager would: young love, mother/daughter conflicts, loss of loved ones, unwanted affections from a boy, and the persistent need to think for herself and to be free. Ruby longs for a better life, which is something most of us can relate to.

I also like what Bachorz does with the character of Ford—how she effectively shows the internal conflict he has between what he feels he must do for his family and what he must do to Ruby’s family because it’s his “job.” In doing so, Bachorz also explores the dichotomy of doing what’s necessary for survival vs. what’s right as she explores this age-old argument.

The relationship between Ruby and Ford is not only forbidden, it is what holds this story together and makes it easier to overlook the flaws of the plot. Although I think the meat of the story is in the relationship between Ruby and Ford, I do wish more backstory regarding Otto and the history of the Congregation had been woven into the story. There are a lot of unanswered questions that may not be necessary to the Ruby/Ford plotline, but would have definitely tightened up the other veins of the story and filled in some of the holes.

While I’m not reviewing Candor, I did want to give you a little tidbit about this novel that will leave you with chills at the end:

 In the model community of Candor, Florida, every teen wants to be like Oscar Banks. The son of the town’s founder, Oscar earns straight A’s, is student-body president, and is in demand for every club and cause. But Oscar has a secret. He knows that parents bring their teens to Candor to make them respectful, compliant–perfect–through subliminal Messages that carefully correct and control their behavior. And Oscar’ s built a business sabotaging his father’s scheme with Messages of his own, getting his clients out before they’re turned. After all, who would ever suspect the perfect Oscar Banks? Then he meets Nia, the girl he can’t stand to see changed. Saving Nia means losing her forever. Keeping her in Candor, Oscar risks exposure . . . and more.

Happy reading!

That’s a Wrap. Well, Almost.

Another Christmas has come and gone, but I still can’t get the soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas out of my head.  That might actually be a good thing, though, keeping the spirit of Christmas like a whispering voice inside my head.

I feel very blessed this holiday season, and Santa was very good to us this year. My family and I spent Christmas with my brother and his family, my mom, and my sister and her family. It has been many, many years since we were all together on Christmas. And I loved every minute of it.

My three girls and my brother’s two girls spent some serious quality time together that was reminiscent of my own childhood. We heard their voices drift up from the basement of my brother’s house. Sometimes they were singing, sometimes they were laughing, and occasionally, it was a plead for mercy that made its way upstairs. Ahhh…the sounds of life-long  bonds being forged. Bonds like that last a lifetime. Or longer.

We do have one more Christmas to do at the Fryhover house, and this one is with my sister and my dad. As I prepare my house for yet another round of Christmas, I’m sure I will still hear the words from “Christmas Time is Here.”  Thanks, Charlie Brown.

Welcome Back, Fryhover!

As part of my writer’s “training,” if you will, I became a member of the Kansas Writer’s Association (KWA) a few months ago. Of course I didn’t join solely for the “training.”  I joined partly as a result of gentle nudging from my good friend April, but also for the support, guidance, encouragement, networking, and friendship that was sure to follow. And also because I know myself, and I know I need to have a little accountability. I need to set goals and surround myself with other writers who will challenge me and give me a kick in the pants every so often and who will help me celebrate my successes. Even teeny tiny ones. Like writing this post.

This afternoon I attended the KWA Holiday Party and spent some time with my ever growing circle of writer friends. As I listened to them share their various successes, both professionally and personally, I was in awe of the sheer talent, determination, dedication, enthusiasm, and energy that filled the room. I felt inspired, and maybe a little guilty because I’ve been so neglectful to my own writing. When I decided to write this post, I could hardly believe it has been more than a month since I’ve posted anything. There seems to aways be something that stands in the way: several stacks of papers that need grading, lesson planning, Facebooking, dinner to make, episodes of NCIS to watch, the family to tend to…the list goes on and on. Now don’t get me wrong. I’ve added bits and pieces of various word counts to my WIP (work in progress) at the rate of about once a month thanks to my Newton Community Writing Group’s fearless leader, Mollie Sultenfuss, who gives us the gift of writing time whenever we meet as a group. Mollie, you’ve earned yourself a spot in my acknowledgements when I finally finish this novel and get published. You’ve got it black and white.

Unfortunately, dabbling with my WIP and only adding a few hundred to a thousand words a month will certainly not get me very far. I must, therefore, commit myself to write regularly and consistently. This will be much easier said than done, but Christmas break is just around the corner and so is a  opportunity for some marathon writing. My characters have been begging for some attention, and I can hardly wait to give them some.

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