Cancer and GMO’s

Cancer is a touchy subject for most, laced with emotions and fear and uncertainty. Both of my grandmothers died from cancer. My dad’s been battling it for almost 20 years.

Some days I would love to blame someone or something for it. Have a place to point my finger and say “It’s all your fault.” But due to other events in my life, I realize that the real fear and uncertainty doesn’t come from the cancer, but rather from life itself.

Nothing in life is certain. We get no guarantees. No one is born with a warranty stapled to their forehead that says “We guarantee you will not be hit by a bus, struck by lightening, or diagnosed with cancer.”

Having parents who researched cancer for a number of years, gives me a unique perspective on the issue anyway. After seeing hundreds of cases of cancer, patterns emerge in the research setting that give scientists clues about where to look for treatment options. If 85 out of 90 fifty-five year old men come down with intestinal cancer, they know to look at genes as a cause. If 40 out of 60 children in a particular school are diagnosed with skin cancer, they know they probably need to research the environment.

The problem with cancer is just because one incident is associated with certain conditions, doesn’t mean every incident is associated with those same conditions. Even when environmental causes are suspected, blame is difficult to pin down. If all 60 children reacted the same way to the environmental hazard, it would change things … but because only 40 reacted, the researchers then know that while the environment may have played a role, it is not the only factor at work.

Cancer is tricky like that. Kind of like life.

No one responds the same way to the same question. We all have emotional baggage and unique life experiences that direct how we perceive things. Our brains take all those life events and mix them together to give us a unique perspective on what we encounter throughout our day.

Physiologically, we are the same way. Our bodies respond to not only our physical environment but our emotions as well, changing the chemistry and responses that we produce. For example, ever get butterflies before you have a big meeting? Or feel an uncontrollable urge to scream at someone? They are both physiological responses to emotional input.

But everyone’s response is not the same to the same set of stimuli.

Why? Experience? Genetics? Environment? A combination of all three?

The deal is humans are not one-sided creatures with solitary responses to emotional input and experience, so why would we ever consider that physiologically we would all respond the same way to input where disease is concerned?

My dad’s cancer they know is caused by a virus that affects the genes. Problem is not everyone who gets the virus, has the mutation of genes occur. It would be so simple to treat if that were the case … just protect against the virus.

The point is this is why I have trouble believing the whole GMO’s are to blame for everything bad happening health-wise to us human beings. It’s hazardous to the health of some people, maybe … but so is getting run over by a bus and we don’t have health warnings on those.

Do You Need Another Parent Yet?

My parents are aging and the challenges of recent years have grown by leaps and bounds. Added to my dad’s cancer, which he has battled for many years, he now has a hole in his heart that is so large it can’t be patched. The list of his diagnosis is long.

My mom has her own issues that she isn’t readily willing to accept, even when they are glaringly obvious to everyone around her. We finally convinced her to get her eyes checked and have her cataracts removed. Her memory issues are another matter altogether.

Last month my sister and I went with her to a doctor’s appointment. She sat on the table as the doctor came in and explained that she had no idea why she was there other than we had concerns. The doctor sat down on her rolling stool and ogled us.

We explained that mom was having issues with her memory and gave multiple examples of the problems. The doctor was great about it and arranged several tests to be run to rule out certain issues. So in the last three weeks mom has had blood work done, an MRI of her brain, two sleep tests to determine her level of sleep apnea, and a cataract removed from one eye.

Today when I mentioned her new prescriptions for vitamins (her vitamin d was extremely low), she made a fuss about not needing more pills and then proceeded to go on about being poked and prodded and having too many tests done.

I laughed a bit and made light of it all, trying to keep the mood up.

But she continued to complain … sort of like a three-year old who needs a nap. And then, out of the blue, she stops, looks straight at me, and says, “Do you need another parent yet? Perhaps the two of us aren’t enough to keep you busy.”

It was the funniest thing I’ve heard in a long time.

For all of her memory issues, some part of her knows that life is becoming more complicated and that she’s not accepting it with ease.

For me, myself, and I, life is definitely more complicated. I heard someone call us the “sandwich” generation – those people at a particular age who are caring for aging parents while ushering children into the adult world and trying to live out our own bit in the middle.

I feel like an Oreo that an elephant sat on. I’m the creamy filling that’s been squished out the sides and dropped on the floor.

No, mom. I don’t need another parent … or child … or animal … or husband … the ones I have are just fine by me and keep my world hopping.

Vol. 3 is On Sale Now

Vol 3 of my horror short story series went live today on Amazon. For a mere 99c (or thereabouts in the rest of the world) you can be mesmerized by this collection of three stories that continues the gothic tale of the Aubyn family.  THE LORD IS MY KEEPER is quick paced and gripping, according to one reviewer. Perfect for a lunch time read or while commuting to work.*Version*=1&*entries*=0


20 Things I Learned on Vacation

We drove home overnight from a short camping trip to the Sangre de Cristo Mountains near Taos on notice that our goat had given birth while we were gone. (rolleyes) Really?! How do they know when the absolutely most inconvenient time will be?

Anyway, in an effort to keep vacation alive and kicking for at least a few more minutes, here is a list of some wonderful, wacky, and odd things I learned on this trip. (Please remember I’m Scottish and have a hard core bent for sarcasm.)

1. Despite a babbling mountain stream and chirping birds filling a serene canyon with peaceful, meditative sounds, playing music as loud as possible is a MUST-HAVE for camping out.

2. Sage brush tangled in a barbed-wire fence in the dead of night looks suspiciously like a deer ready to bound into traffic.

3. The Rio Grande is a big river in New Mexico and has formed a gorge that is fun to explore, or at least drag your dog un-willlingly to the rim.

4. If you walk through a spa to check it out in your street clothes, everyone stares wildly.

5. Anyone parked on a forest road in a beat up car at one in the morning terrifies me.

6. People with a chain saw can make good money in a national forest.

7. A bottle of soda at a ski resort in the summer months costs more than a McDonald’s hamburger.

8. Eighteen year old girls are just as bitchy in the wilderness as they are at home.

9. Flies beside a babbling mountain stream smash without taking flight.

10. The mini-van battery will fail if the doors are left open and someone plays the WiiU for two minutes.

11. Being two miles down a dirt pot-hole filled road in the middle of a national forest when your car battery dies sucks.

12. Even if I move my chair two hundred yards from the fire pit, the smoke will still engulf me.

13. Driving hairpin ‘S’ curves back-to-back at twenty miles per hour after dark in the mountains is almost as bad as driving a flat straight road at seventy miles per hour across the Oklahoma panhandle.

14. Farm animals birth their young while everyone is gone.

15. Wal-Mart is not universally the “same”.

16. The degree by which an item is necessary for a successful camp-out is directly proportional to what remains at home on the dining room table.

17. The shadow from a cloud can look like a dragon climbing over a mountain top or a pterodactyl attacking a T. Rex.

18. Despite amazing and yummy looking pictures on the internet, cooking a hot dog wrapped in biscuit dough on a stick over a fire results in a gooey mass of half-baked dough falling into the fire with the hot dog still cold.

19. Cats left behind will search their owners belongings at will … and leave behind presents in the most unusual places.

20. Four-wheelers top the list of camping essentials. Apparently.

A Simple Lie

I’ve heard a lot over the years about the “simple” life. Especially in the last half-decade or so, people are gung-ho to lead a more simplified life, eat simple foods, have simple hobbies, etc … Even long running tv shows like “The Victory Garden” have subscribed to this genre of living.

Every time I hear the phrase “The Simple Life”, I have to laugh. Because the reality is, it isn’t simple. No matter where you live, what you do for a career, the size of your house, or the diet that you eat, life is not simple.

It’s complicated.

Relationships with other people are complicated.

Making money is complicated.

Obtaining necessary life items is complicated.

Raising chickens is for certain complicated.

Raising children is even more complicated.

(I think you get the gist. )

So, honestly, no one lives a simple life. There is no simple life to live. If you are alive and you are living and you are doing anything – parenting, gardening, farming, banking, teaching, living in a bus, etc … – if you get out of bed in the morning and speak to anyone else, if you go to a store of any kind, if you pick up your smart phone from your bedside table, … you have already lost the “simple” life.

Simple is a lie we tell ourselves to make us feel better or perhaps make us feel like we’ve accomplished something more than we have. All I know is that if someone is selling you free range eggs in the farmer’s market along with their veggies and honey and jam, and they are extolling the virtues of living the “simple” life, they are lying to you.

Want proof? Okay, go buy a few chickens, dig a garden, and cook up a jar of jam. Then come tell me how simple your life really is.

Paragraphs in Fiction

I review a lot of other writers stuff. Or maybe critique is a better word. Hands down the one problem I see over and over and over is with paragraphing.

The most common thing writers seem to do is combine the actions of more than one character within a single paragraph. For instance:

“Mary watched as Jimbo combed his hair over his bald spot. She just didn’t know if she could love a man with a bald head. Jimbo clearly made googly eyes at her all the time, so he must be interested. But Mary was going to have to stop this before it went too far.”

Is this paragraph about Mary or Jimbo?

The reader will make a determination about it even if the writer didn’t mean what the reader infers. If the reader infers correctly, then all is good, but if the reader infers incorrectly, problems will ensue that could lead to the reader putting the book down and walking away. No one wants to be confused.  And no writer wants the reader to quit reading before the end of the book.

Each character should have their own paragraph for action. Period. It’s that simple. So, to correct this:

“Jimbo combed his hair over his bald spot.

Mary shook her head. She wasn’t sure she could love a man with a bald head. What would people think?

He looked her way, winked, and smiled. Turning in his seat, he waved a finger towards her.

She didn’t wave back. The flirting had to stop and stop now. She was never going to love him.”

Prose aside (I am not a romance writer by any means … ) This version is very clear as to who is doing what and thinking what. Each paragraph contains the actions of one character. There is no chance for confusing the reader. Yes, it uses a few more words, but those words mean something.

Good writing takes work. It’s more than just putting a story on the page. And making sure you’re paragraphs are clear is one small way to make your writing better.