Casey's and Sloane's Blog
Two nights ago, in low light and with a drink in my hand, I was asked how my dad was. A good friend was wondering about the ongoing cancer that lives in my father. This friend can handle most of what I put out, and I blinked twice before answering.
In general, those in the Simmons tribe like opposition that is clearly defined and worthy of our full battle abilities. My father lives with a very picky strain of non-Hodgkin lymphoma that is a bear to treat. His goal, our goal, for the last four years has been to gain remission so he can undergo a bone marrow transplant and possibly knock this cancer down a notch or two and then put it to bed. Three completed chemotherapy protocols have not done that – but one got him damned close. “Close, but no cigar,” as a grandfather used to say.
In the next few days, my father will enter another treatment that he and his doctor already know will not bring him remission, but it is the only option available to him at this time. It’s like we are all waiting for science to catch up to his need. His need, and the needs of probably thousands of others as well.
And so we will tussle with cancer. I am viewing this as not a full-fledged fight but a skirmish. We will help, and hold, and laugh, and cry. And wait. He will be sick again from the poisons he will ingest, and we will all dream of limited reactions on his part.
I asked my friend, with a voice that quietly betrayed my emotions: Who really wants an all-body rash?
Photo note: This is my dad, my stepmom, and my son on the night my son was crowned Homecoming King last fall. There will be more nights just like this in all our futures. Of this I am certain.
I received this care package in the mail last week.
A gift of creativity is always appreciated.
It was unexpected. It brought me joy. It reminded me why people love getting gifts of art and creativity. Even a co-owner of a store, like me, dedicated to the mission of sharing creativity with the world, needs a reminder once in a while. The happiness it is spreading is immeasurable.
I had re-posted on Facebook an article about a recent study that found that coloring is good for adults. You can read about it here at the Huffington Post. Julie Cates, an accomplished artist and friend, had responded. And, I believe, that was where the seed for this deeply appreciated gift was planted.
Since my original post I have come across another post about coloring books intended for adults. Again, it made me happy to know that coloring, this seemingly “for children only” hobby, has many benefits. You can find out about the newly published coloring book here, coloring book for adults.
So, it turns out coloring is good for people of all ages. And, I for one, will be coloring more often and well into my years. Join me.
Dakota had a dream. A wish, really. A desire to visit all 50 states “before I go to college.”
Those last words were spoken to us, his parents, when he was maybe five years old. To him, and to us, that deadline seemed forever away.
He has always loved maps. Even as a small child, he would hold them while strapped into his car seat and look them over. Occasionally the map was indeed upside down, but that only made the flash on my camera react faster.
We thought he might not continue with this wish. I mean, really, most children that age will tell you they want to be policemen and firefighters and veterinarians when they grow up. Few of them follow through on those adamantly delivered statements. Things change. They change.
But not our son. This wish to visit all the United States stayed with him. Our driving trips to Florida became missions to see Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Georgia “on our way.”
Our son was insistent from the beginning that you could not count a state as “finished” just by driving through it. You had to do something real or see something real – a Confederate cemetery, the Tuskegee Airmen Museum, a Usonian town – and then you could chalk it up as completed.
So, state number fifty presented itself to us this year. North Dakota. The final spot on the map just a few months before he would be college bound. Sounded like a spring break trip made in heaven…by an only child with doting parents.
We loaded the car – with only two days provided for this journey to and fro – with pillows, water bottles, cameras, a mom, a dad, a kid, sweets, and a dear friend of mine. My friend and I met in junior high – not middle school! – and she has a desire to visit all the states as well. (North Dakota was #34 for her.) She shares a deep love of travel with Dakota, and they adore each other on multiple levels.
It was short, sweet and delightful. Too much food, too much driving, too much cold. But never enough friendship, laughter and smiles.
There can never be enough of those last three.
Note #1: All photos were taken in one day in two states. Many were in North Dakota and a few in that other Dakota.
Note #2: In an effort at full disclosure, state number forty-nine was Delaware and was mistakenly overlooked last year during the “East Coast Mop-Up Tour” with his grandfather. Dakota also visited Delware during this spring break, with his friend, Ryoko. Every member of our family has seen to it that Dakota had help – financially and transportation-wise – reaching this amazing goal. To my mom, her partner, my sister, my dad, my step-mom, and everyone else, I say thank you for making this amazing dream come true. Wow. What a lucky kid.
Note #3: The Grand Forks Herald – and the amazing Marilyn Hagerty – saw the magic in this trip. Our lunch with her was the the trip’s focus, the thing we “did” in that state so it could be checked off and counted as complete. She left us wanting to spend even more time with her. Read her words in the Herald here.
My first email received today was from my son’s pediatrician’s office. Today, on my son’s eighteenth birthday. And the subject line stated:
“You have been removed from Dakota’s Care Team.”
It made me laugh to my core. My husband was already on the highway to a client, my son on his way to school. I sat in my office at home and laughed out loud. The dog looked at me, then placed his head back down on the carpet.
The three sentence email went on to state things about “Dakota having reached the age of majority,” and “state regulations.” I’m sure all of that is true.
Removed from the Care Team? Not in my lifetime. I might not be able to access his health records online, but I will never stop caring. No combination of letters and numbers in password sequencing will keep me from remembering every little thing about him. Every fine blue vein on his baby eyelids, noticed best when he was sleeping in my arms. Every tear cried over the toddler ridicule of his favorite color. Every fitting for tiny eyeglasses. Every mole, scrape, and hairstyle.
My baby is eighteen years old today. My, how time does fly….
p.s. Dakota pushed this box of Coke around the floor for over an hour just a few months after turning one. We were preparing for a party, and he considered himself a huge help. The smile never stopped….
I have entered into an unhealthy relationship with a plant. Two plants, really. Both geraniums. Almost co-dependent, this relationship is. I provide water and shelter; they provide color and joy.
This photo was taken on Valentine’s Day. These blooms were not there on the 13th of February but were bright and cheerful when I came downstairs on the 14th. Full of love for me, and smiling in the weak sun.
I do love these plants. All summer long, they live on my deck and are more gorgeous every day. They get huge and bloom constantly. They are the two colors I love most in geraniums – red and hot pink. Both of these colors were grown by my maternal grandmother, and therefore I have placed a value on them higher than the 99-cent plants they grew from.
I do hate these plants when I bring them in every winter to the only window in the house that can hold them – the south-facing one in the kitchen. Our busiest room in the entire home. Already overfull with our active lives. I get to enjoy them, true. But I have never enjoyed house plants – in any variety – and I’ve tried to trick myself into thinking they are just “visiting for the winter,” not staying in the house permanently. True, again, but winter is long.
Just when I reach my winter peak of wanting them out of the house, they give me a show of color. I don’t talk to plants or listen to them if they are talking, but I know a plea for a few more months of patience when it is silently offered.
So they will stay.
p.s. I have written of geraniums before. Feel free to read more here and here.
This is a story about cookies. But first, I need to admit to feeling a little smug about brownies until cookies brought me back to Earth.
On Valentine’s Day, I admitted on Facebook that I liked Valentine’s Day and always have. Since long before boyfriends, a husband, or a son. My dad and mom both celebrated the day and included their children in the lovefest. Candy, flowers, small gifts. Tokens really. Nothing big.
In addition, my dad’s mother loved holidays with her whole heart, and, after she moved out of her last home and into a care facility, I found a box titled “non Xmas decorations” in a closet, written in her majestic cursive. I asked other family members cleaning out the house that day if they were interested in the contents. A resounding “no” echoed back to me.
I kept the box and opened it much later. Single and simple decorations were found for most holidays. Easter, St. Pat’s, and a touch of Halloween. She and my grandfather were farmers, and spending money on holiday decoration was not a high priority. Many of the decorations still held price tags from the Five & Dime store in their small town. One Thanksgiving turkey still says 29-cents on his belly when I set him out every November.
I have not been as good about decorating the house as I was when I was first married or as over-the-top as we used to decorate for the non-Christmas holidays when our son was little and growing up. He loved unpacking the small boxes of pumpkins, turkeys, plastic eggs, or hearts. He let me tell him stories about where things came from, and he had real ideas when he was five and six years old as to where things should be placed. Amazingly, they were all at his eye level – our waist height! – and precariously positioned for the dog and cats. After he toddled off to bed, I would move them and make a big deal the next morning about how his “helping” me had inspired me to move them up in the room(s).
This past Friday night, I realized I had never decorated the house for Valentine’s Day this year. I have three items left – from my peak of too many! – that carry provenance from my past and I truly adore. With those decorations still upstairs and packed away, I decided not to beat up on myself. I thought that baking would take my mind off guilt. So I headed to the kitchen.
Brownies are my forte. And what could possibly be cuter than brownies cut into hearts? And cut with cookie cutters that my grandmother gave me? And in two sizes! Genius and cute. I was on a roll….
My pride ran away with me when I placed the freshly cooled and cut brownies on a bright white ceramic tray in an arching circle. Cuteness incarnate held in place with plastic wrap! One for each member of our staff and a few extras for snacking. I arrived at work Saturday morning with a smile on my face, ready to meet the day’s shoppers on one of my favorite days with treats for the staff.
It was a good day. Happy. Much talk about gifts being given and to whom. I even had a visit from a friend that is a “Bah! Humbug!” about the day, and he left with a smile on his face and told me his love for me has forever changed his view of “Gee, I’m Still Single Day” (his words, not mine). I choose to believe him.
When I arrived home, I was greeted by the most amazing display of baked goods ever to enter our home on Valentine’s Day. Handmade by dear friends. Each heart decorated in a pink and white theme with the perfect icing. A single bird in the softest blue. Our names on individual cookies. Such talent with an unwavering grasp of beauty. Each unique. Personally delivered to our home by the chefs themselves. Crisp wrap with a bow and ribbon.
My brownies paled in comparison to this food art. I stared at them in wonder. Then I ate one and marveled again. Light, not too sweet, and delicious.
The artistry of my brownies paled in comparison to these cookies, but the love that made them was the same.
You could taste it.
p.s. No photos were made of the brownies. It’s better for all of us….
It may seem obvious to say that, at STUFF, we love art. Over 18 years ago, we started the STUFF journey, and our mission has never changed: to help you find the stuff that makes your home and your life extraordinary. Valentine’s Day seemed like the perfect time to for us to renew our commitment to artistry, artists, and art.
We enter this renewed covenant with a much deeper understanding of what will be expected of us. We know how hard it will be. We know how incredible it will be. We know how it will drain us, raise us up, and grant us amazing rewards. We know it will continue to be inspiring, never boring, and filled with unexpected discoveries and challenges. We renew our vows with our eyes and our arms wide open.
Please join us. We hope you will choose to renew your commitment to keep shopping at our store. We love you, too, after all.
To have and to hold from this day forward….
Casey & Sloane Simmons
Sisters & Co-owners
I live a life of having. I have a home. I have a job. I have insurance. I have reliable transportation. I have a child. I have my health. A happy marriage. Loving friends. The list goes on and on. And, as my sister and I say to each other when things seem bad, I have my own teeth.
A week ago, after a week or so of dry coughing and a no-longer-sexy-to-me-sounding voice, I needed someone – a professional – to take a look at my throat. Getting in to see my primary care doctor is easy when you can book months in advance for a wellness exam, but it gets dicey when you need to see him on the fly. I like him very much and trust him implicitly, but I needed a quicker opinion. Like a walk-in clinic. But the one in my local Walgreens makes me nervous. (I’m sure I’m being irrational and it is just fine.)
Then it dawned on me that I knew of just such a clinic, and I headed for an appointment at the Kansas City CARE Clinic. Excellent choice, and I was able to get in one day after I called.
Me and the Clinic. Well, the front door logo at least.
Now, in an effort a full disclosure, I have served on the Clinic’s board since 2009 and am currently their immediate past board president. I have known about them and their services since 1995 when I began my volunteering love affair with our local AIDS Walk and, therefore, the AIDS Service Foundation of Greater Kansas City. These two entities raise much needed funds all year for not only KC CARE but three other local AIDS service organizations.
I have been a part of leading multiple tours of the Clinic and the building as a whole. I have helped clean the garage, shoveled ice and snow from the front, and sat for a multitude of meetings in the various meeting rooms.
But I had never been a patient in the Clinic. Several people who I work with there knew I was booking an appointment, but I specifically asked that I get no special treatment and that no one on staff know of my volunteer service. I wanted to experience the Clinic as all our patients do.
The reason I had never been a patient is because I have had health insurance since I was 20 years old. Plastic card carrying member of the “I have insurance” brigade. I’ve been lucky to be able to keep it through a multitude of life and job changes and premium increases.
But now, after a multi-year implementation conversion that allows the clinic to be able to accept insurance should a patient have it, I was in!
Pen choices. I chose the purple flower.
A smiling man met me at the counter. ID card and insurance info were whisked away and returned swiftly. Questions were answered quickly and in a friendly manner. This was an experience I shared with the people who followed me to the counter to check in and then waited with me in comfortable chairs in the warm, well-lit waiting room with a huge west-facing window.
“Ms. Simmons?” the man in the orange pants said as he opened the door to take me back to the scale. My nurse. A private room. A blood pressure check that confirmed, again, my severe “white coat syndrome” and its high-numbered reaction to health care providers. He asked good questions. We laughed at several of my answers, and then he was gone to retrieve the doctor, but not before I asked to take a photo of his pants because they matched my jacket. He smiled wide at the request.
Nurse pants. Great color.
A snippet of my orange jacket. And the reading materials.
All was well with my throat. Nothing out of the ordinary, but it was clearly angry. It wasn’t scratchy, it didn’t hurt when I breathed in or out, and it didn’t burn when I swallowed. The doctor and I talked through a few oddities – mid-life onset allergies being one we landed on. We’d wait and see.
Clutching a prescription, he left me to decide whether I needed it after another day or two. I was asked to check back if anything stayed “funky”. I was given clearance to continue to be with people and to share tight space with a friend on a road trip.
Mostly, I was asked to consider making the Clinic my “home”. I knew just enough about the phrase “patient centered medical home” to know what the doctor was asking. I said I would think about it and walked out of the room after a warm pat on the back.
I had to wait in front of the huge window for my ride home to appear. During that time, I watched people come and go from the waiting room. They were always greeted and cared for with a smile and respect. It blew my mind. This was not always the case at my primary care doctor’s office. Many of the people I was sharing this waiting room with – maybe most of them – do not have what I have. Or in the combination in which I have them. Most of them did not have insurance.
Place was spotless. Spotless.
For over an hour, over a week ago, I was clearly in the hands of people who know how to run a true home. It was warm, inviting and clean. I was cared for, and extremely well.
In that sunny room, for that fleeting time, we all were living in “have”. We were having incredible and focused attention paid to our deepest fears and immediate concerns.
We were all lucky. Together.
p.s. The stated mission of the Kansas City CARE Clinic is “…to promote health and wellness by providing quality care, access, research and education to the underserved and all people in our community.” That means insurance or no insurance, if there is an appointment available when you call, you are welcome as a patient. Turning people away is not part of the mission.
These guys were in my room and were my favorites. It’s like they are begging to be set free!
I left town for twenty-nine hours over the weekend with a friend. A road trip. You never know how much you need to leave town until you are in the car and rolling down the highway.
I was past ready to get out of town and away from some of my responsibilities. My traveling companion is pretty darn fantastic at pre-planning a road trip. Dinner reservations for the first night? Done. Snacks for the car? Done. Food and drink packed for late night cocktails and breakfast? Done.
I was the slacker as such. Well, I drove. That counts. There was gas in the car, a fresh oil change, and a music mix available with the punch of three buttons. Not as impressive as the rare mini bananas my friend provided. “Show off,” I said, as I bit into my first.
Art was what got us out of town. A desire to see a show that was closing at a museum in not so many days. It was the impetus we needed to spend much needed time away together.
I have learned in the past year to not let ideas – and therefore chances – for getaways get by me. Life is looking shorter and shorter most days. I am not known for my ability to relax, but I am willing to finally learn. Time away with friends has proved to be tonic for me and a great education in kicking back. Earlier this fall, I headed an hour south with two friends for a night of glamping – an incredible twenty-four hours away from our families and our to-do lists that felt like days, not just one day.
What was spoken one night well over a month ago while sitting in bar chairs – “Let’s go together and see that show!” – turned into reality because we made it so. My friend and I are both owners of small businesses, and the needs of those businesses can overwhelm and overstep. So, we danced right around them and carved out the time.
On the drive home, we kind of planned the next trip. A location was mentioned, a desire to go was announced, and we had just proved to ourselves that we travel well together. Quite well, actually.
I’ll be packed and ready.
p.s. All images were taken by me, and most are only small parts of some of my favorite pieces at the State of the Art exhibit that closes at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, on Monday, January 19th. A few are images of pieces in their permanent collection. Again, close-ups of my favorite parts.