Saturday, December 6, 2014

Holy end of the year....

wow, I cannot believe it's been that long since I have posted. I just wanted to check in and I will sit down tomorrow and get some thoughts down:) Hope you all are well!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Just keep swimming...

I wore a bathing suit today. In public. In front of strangers.

I wore a bathing suit even though nothing except a modest wear suit would cover the scar rainbowing across the left side of my chest...even though nothing covers the severely puckered skin near the center of my chest where my skin just didn't heal right.

I wore a bathing suit even though I felt like every eye was on me, and not for the reasons they were on me in my 20's.

I wore a bathing suit because my husband was so excited to tell me yesterday that a spot opened up at the community club.

I wore a bathing suit because it's been unbearably hot here for over a week with not much relief in sight and we now had access to a pool.

I wore a bathing suit because my son said "Mama, will you please go to the pool with us?"

I wore a bathing suit because I got to play with my son in the water for over an hour..and no one pointed at me or stared overtly. (some kids were a bit confused when they saw the scars though, but that's okay)

I wore a bathing suit because I was able to stretch out my still nowhere near fully mobile arm and it didn't hurt.

I wore a bathing suit because I want my daughter to always know it's okay to look however you are going to look and I want my son to know that a woman's worth is not in how perfect she looks.

I wore a bathing suit because I'm here, and able to, and I don't even forget that.

Friday, August 22, 2014

My friend.

My friend died last night.
That's really the weight of it. She died. She was here, we talked almost every day for a year and a half. She disappeared from all of us about a month ago, shut off communication at the news of stage 4, went into the hospital this past weekend and is now gone.
We sat in a virtual waiting room yesterday, waiting for news, sharing pictures, stories, laughing, crying...many of us strangers to each other, but connected by this one person. Holding hands and passing tissues and clinking glasses in salute over hundreds or thousands of miles. It was...surreal.
How do you mourn someone you've never physically met but were closer to than some people you've known for years? How do you forgive someone for shutting you (and most everyone else) out in the last month even though you completely 100% understand why? How do you forgive someone for leaving you when they were not supposed to, when you were both, having such very similar circumstances, supposed to beat this together?
I make friends neither quickly nor easily. Now I have one less here with me.
Sue was the inspiration behind this blog post. I ask that in her honor, you take a trip, you laugh a little louder, you try a different food, you celebrate this Halloween in an especially big way, you live a little bigger, and you make a friend out of a stranger. This is for Sue.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

How Facebook has changed the process of birth and death...

Pre-cancer, I was never one to shy away from death. I wouldn't necessarily say I was morbid, but I wasn't afraid either, at least not of the concept. In another life, I think I would have loved to be some sort of forensic scientist, among many other things. I went to my first funeral when I was four, when my great Pop-Pop, whom I loved dearly, died at 92. Then again the next year when my nana died, and so on and so forth. Needless to say, I've been to many funerals over the years and am quite shocked that there seem to be many people like my husband who had been to only one funeral in his entire life before my uncle's 9 years ago. I've taken care of some severely sick people, and watched a few people close to transitioning.


The beginning of this post has been sitting for months. I've come back to it often but just haven't been able to attempt it. But now it seems more appropriate then ever because of the juxtaposition of the last few days.

Last night my sister-in-law posted that my niece was in labor. I woke up this morning to pictures of a beautiful healthy new baby. This is, as most would agree I'm sure, pretty much the norm these days. What you used to hear on the phone after the fact, maybe even passed through a telephone tree or god forbid, in person, is now transported in a matter of seconds with shares and likes and comments. And who doesn't want to see a new baby, know that everything went fine?

But I also woke up to a horrible, heart-wrenching post.

I have a good fb friend, one of the girls in my group. We are the same age (ok, she would emphasize that she's a year younger), we were diagnosed around the same time, same stage, same surgery, almost same treatment plan...same same same. Same smart-assedness. We would often message each other, check in on each other, commiserate and snarkily comment on the bounty of stupidity in the world...her cancer was slightly different and made a reappearance shortly after she was done with radiation, around the same time I was. We got burned together, across country from each other. She started back up on a different chemo, and get this - didn't tell her mother or her boyfriend because she didn't want to upset them. So she's been on chemo for the past year now and we were chatting the day she got her scan results back...everything was clear. Sooo happy. A couple days later I realized I hadn't heard from her and started messaging her. This went on until I asked a fellow group member if she had heard from her - she had not. After some digging we discovered she was in the hospital "having many tests done but would get back to us soon". This week we found out that she had a stroke and had mets to her spinal fluid. The doctors had given her a year. I was devastated. We kept it quiet, from our group, because we knew that's what she was requesting. Early last week, my husband found out the guy he has golfed with every week for the past 7 years or so has terminal kidney cancer. Then Robin Williams died, which was a communal sadness. Then I found out about my friend. Last week was not good.

As I said, I was devastated, and was planning something Halloween themed to send her, as we both also share a strong love of the holiday. This morning, after seeing the new baby, I saw this post - " in the hospital in critical condition, unresponsive, intubated, seizure activity..." I'm angry. I'm angry and sad and heartbroken. Some of her friends started a private fb page tonight so people could finally be updated on what's going on, for all intents and purposes it is a virtual waiting room, and 21st century parlour. But instead of what used to be immediate family, or close (at least in proximity) neighbors and friends, everyone who has an internet connection can "watch" someone pass. This is not the first time, I've seen it often. I've seen people, even spouses, give status updates of those dying.  I have been, at least tangentially, privy to the passing of people I don't even know. I still am unsure how I feel about this, it's something difficult to process.  I do know that I am sad. I know that I will pray, which she probably would not appreciate. I know that I will "watch", from 3000 miles away, a friend pass way way too soon. I know that no matter how technology has changed the way in which we receive or share information, it will in no way change the feeling of joy at seeing a new life or feeling of your heart breaking.  

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Some observations in light of the Robin Williams tragedy

I, like 99.8% of the population, am so saddened, heartbroken, and upset by the suicide of Robin Williams yesterday. I can't say I'm shocked, knowing the man has fought demons for years, but wholeheartedly saddened nonetheless. As I have stated before, my getting sick has given me a huge empathy (and yes, I emphasize empathy, not sympathy - I can directly relate to dealing with a life-threatening disease) that those who have not gone through this can never have. That I did not have before. Admittedly, before I got sick, I may have sympathized with those who suffered mental illness/depression, but I honestly didn't comprehend the magnitude. I do now.

What I've noticed, though, in many of the articles I've read, is something akin to this sentence used often when talking about mental illness - "People chastise and attack people with mental illness. You would never attack someone with an illness like cancer." The sad thing is, we do get attacked. People attack and chastise people with cancer ALL THE TIME. Even if your friends or family don't speak it to your face, there are thoughts of "what you could have done differently, what you could have done to prevent it...I do this, this and this and this is why I DON'T HAVE IT AND YOU DO." Have you ever looked at the comment board on any cancer site, or worse yet, a "natural" healing site? Did you know that all you had to do to avoid cancer was - be vegan, be vegetarian, run 5 miles a day, take cannabis oil, drink goji juice, dance under the moonlight, have been raised in a hyperbaric chamber, eat meat, don't eat meat, be a man, be a woman, meditate hourly, not smoked that cigarette in your 20s, had children early, not had children early enough, not had children at all, eaten organic since birth, been breastfed for 5 years, and eat almonds? Did you know that if you have cancer all you have to do to cure it is take cannabis oil, go to the rainforest naked, don't eat sugar, meditate hourly while eating almonds, drink goji juice and think good thoughts? Did you know that it was your fault for getting a mammogram, not getting a mammogram, not having acupuncture, not using coconut oil?

In fact, you're even told some of the same things as people fighting depression and mental illness - stop using this for attention, be thankful for what you have, be happy you're alive, other people have it worse, what do you have to feel sad about, stop complaining, get over it.

This is what you go through, what you read when you are fighting a disease, when you are fighting cancer. So yes, people with cancer get attacked all the time for having an illness. How about we stop attacking anyone when you haven't walked in their shoes. Period.

 RIP Captain. I'm so so very sorry for what you endured. The world is a dimmer place for you leaving. May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Teachable moments...

Last weekend we went to the county fair. Almost immediately upon walking in and into the barn area, while looking at the Watusi cow (have you seen one? They are awesome!) a little girl in a wheelchair rolled up next to us. Jack loudly asked (because he's 4 and the only volumes a 4 year old knows are loud, louder and whispering so quietly that I can't hear) "What is that wheelchair for?" At first I cringed a little inside, as I know most parents do, and then I took a breath and said "Baby, she hurt her leg so she needs help to get around" and that was that.
But as I thought about it, I'm glad he asked and I'm glad I responded. Because then I started to remember two summers ago...when I had no hair and was pregnant out to there. And people stared and looked away and ignored me. I would have been happy if some kid asked why I didn't have any hair, and their parent took the time to explain it to them, or even told them "I don't know baby, why don't you ask the lady yourself?" An honest question asked and answered, no matter how uncomfortable the parties are, is a million times better than a silent stare.
Jack knows that I have scars all over... I haven't hidden them from him because I wanted him to know mama has ouchies, but they are healing and will eventually get better. He knows that mama has been "sick" before. I don't want him or AR to ever be afraid to ask about people's differences but I also want them to understand that those differences are completely okay, that everyone has their own scars, their own abilities, their own normal.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

My side venture...sanity helper...same diff...

I have so many things waiting to be written but it's just so hard to sit down and write lately. Partially because it's slightly uncomfortable, partly because some of the things I want to write about are difficult to get out, and partly because even though I am still under restrictions and have help with the kids I'm still trying to do too many things in a day. And here is one of them.
This is probably a shameless plug but whatever, it's my blog. :) Even before I was laid off a few years ago I liked to do crafty things. Jack's birthday and the holidays offered limited opportunities. Then I was laid off, then pregnant, then diagnosed and my time was consumed by a new baby, and more doctor's appointments and procedures then many people can even imagine. So when I was done with active treatment, when AR was a little older and more independent (which is the ONLY thing she is these days, highly independent, you'd think the kid is 21 years old and not 21 months old!), I started to look for a small something to fill my time with again.

My Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Birthday post has remained pretty popular on pinterest, and I love to do certain crafty things, so I started up Moose Country Crafts to provide me with something to do! I love to make rustic, simple things so if you want to take a look, that would be awesome. You can also always follow me on Facebook, or on Instagram @moosecountrycrafts and twitter @moosecntrycrfts.


Thursday, July 3, 2014

the house

Sorry it's been so long, I promise to update on the whole surgery process. I've been a little slow lately...recovery is not quite as bad as I anticipated but it's still frustrating and it should be for such a large, long operation.

But this is where my thoughts lie today. I believe I have mentioned before that I have been in the process of cleaning out my grandparents' house over the past couple years. And that if you have ever been responsible for such a thing you understand why it takes such a very long time. Anyway, while involved in this process, I've not had much time for feelings about it, other than getting it done. I've had a baby, had cancer, a bunch of "life" has happened while I've been in this process. And frankly, there were such bad feelings around the house in the last few years - my grandfather's dementia, having to evict my uncle and the preceding and following strife around that whole debacle, my grandmother's decline, the increasing deterioration of the house - that frankly, I just wanted it over with, done and gone.
But now that it is done, now that the papers are signed to put it up for sale, now that I looked on this morning and saw it it's real and now I feel it. And now, like I suspected would happen all along but didn't want to admit, now it

It's the place that raised three kids and many animals over the past 64 years.

Adding on to the original 2/1 house.
My mom and uncles

It's the place that when I had dreams when I was little and they took place "at home", that's where they were, not in the crappy apartment where I lived.

My first Easter Sunday with my grandparents
It's the place where I spent the majority of my childhood, where 90% of my childhood memories live, where my name is still carved in the cement of the driveway, on a small square between the sidewalk and a dilapidated fence built by my pop pops hands.

JLC 1983

It's the place where I could walk to the next block over and go to the house in which my grandfather was born, where my aunt (his unanticipated twin) was placed in the warming oven of the stove because she was so small.
Some unknown holiday dinner
Halloween circa '84?
It's the place where I learned to roller skate down the sidewalk, and almost lost control of my bike going down the steep hill at the top of the street, it's the place where I learned about crushes on boys (my friend had a crush on one of the neighbors grandsons - I still thought boys were icky and had no idea why she would do that...funny enough, that boy and I are still acquaintances)
It's the house in front of which most of my "milestone" pictures were taken - baptism, holidays, graduations...

Christmas of some unknown year
It's the house in which my grandfather built all of the kitchen cabinets, which will likely be torn out and tossed away.

It's the backyard where all of my childhood pets are buried.

The graveyard resides in the back left corner

Suburbs anyone?

It's the shed where I spent hours upon hours watching my uncle (not the one we evicted) work on his motorcycles, sitting on them, pretending I was flying down the highway.

Mom getting ready for a dance
It's the house where my uncle tried to teach me to ride a small motorcycle, where I took the corner down the driveway a bit too fast one day and dropped the bike (going all of what, 10 miles an hour?), where my mom freaked out, scared me and I subsequently never rode a bike again.

The motorcycle riding uncle, 1969

Random card game

My grandmother

It's the street down which my uncle tried to teach me to drive a stick (didn't work, had to learn it on my own, on the rainiest day of the year).


My uncle with Arlo
It's the backyard where I helped my pop pop garden, plant, build, create.

My pop pop's work shed
It's the back bedroom where I had my first kiss the summer after 8th grade.

It was the house where on a Saturday morning when I was 5, I learned what loving your animal until the end meant when our dog Arlo was taken to be put to sleep, with my mom and uncle crying all the way there and back.
Arlo and Horatio
It's the house where so many of my cousins, aunts, uncles, etc. visited over the years, when so many of the other family houses had dissipated.

One of the few times in the past 25 years my grandmother allowed the fireplace lit

It's the place where, in the living room, my grandfather took his last breath less than 500 feet away from where he took his first one.

My grandparents
It's the house in which, while cleaning it out, I am 100% certain that there were multiple times in which my grandfather and uncle made their presence quite known and scared the bejeezus out of me.

It's the place that when you're driving around the neighborhood after being away for many, many years, taking the back way out of the shopping center, and you don't really remember the right way to go but your steering wheel just follows what your hands do, which are turning without thinking, and you feel the way back that you've taken a million times before, that you apparently could truly do with your eyes closed.
For all intents and purposes, whether I wanted it to be or not, it was my touchstone. I will likely go back up to the house one or two more times and once, for certain, I will sit in the living room, by myself, and cry. And say goodbye.

Monday, June 16, 2014

A Roiling Boil...

Do you ever have so incredibly much going on - good or bad - that you just feel like you are in a bubbling whirlpool? I'm in the whirlpool. Between my very long and scary surgery tomorrow, Jack turning four, my baby girl just changing immensely every day, my grandparents house, a house that I pretty much grew up in, being almost emptied and up for sale....I'm just overwhelmed. They aren't all bad changes, but they are big life changes all at once and my goodness, for someone who does not like change at all, well...I was driving home from my grandparent's house this weekend, singing loudly with my Mumford and Sons and streaming tears - some happy, some sad, some grateful, some freaked out.
So now I will try to go to sleep until 5 am tomorrow morning when I get ready to go to the hospital, and kiss my sleeping babies heads, and get ready to put one of the big life changes behind me.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

My little man

Somewhere, a mélange of blinks of an eye and interminable days, you turned from this small helpless baby to my little man. You are so steadfast and determined - you do not absorb, move, learn, react, engage, until you are ready to. On the other hand, you are so incredibly full of energy, sometimes to a frenetic extent, that you continue to grow my patience quota daily. You are sassy, and so very sweet. You are hilarious. While you are full of a pre-schooler's disregard for others at times, you show moments of such sweetness and kindness - moments that you don't know that I see - that you make my heart balloon.
Oh my heart, I love you so very much. I am beyond thankful every day that I get to continue to enjoy the privilege of hearing you call me mama. Happy happy birthday my love. 

Thursday, May 29, 2014


So, I'm sitting here at 11:59 pm, which if you know me, is ungodly, watching the season premier of So You Think You Can Dance (umm, yes, I still harbor delusions that my few years of ballet in grammar school will translate into, I don't know, admission into the Old People's Ballet Company? What of it?) writing out a list of things that I have to get done in the next three weeks. Before I have the big big big surgery, on June 17th. This one is keeping me awake. This will be my 5th surgery (in my life, not because of the cancer), and it will be a doozy. Almost 8 hours, likely 5 days in the hospital. Six weeks of pretty ugly recuperation. Dealing with a 19 month old who I cannot in any uncertain terms, lift for 6 weeks and who loves to be picked up by mama multiple times a day.

And this one sort of scares the crap out of me. Yes, I've wanted this surgery forever - yes, I was completely theoretically prepared for it. But now that there is a date and a time...holy crap. Because you know what? Yes, childbirth can kill you and cancer can kill you, and hell, getting in your car can kill you...but surgery can kill you right.then.and.there. And this is elective...there is no medical reason to have this surgery, only my own vanity and comfort. I'm putting my own life at risk and putting my family through a large period of disruption...for my vanity? Does it really come down to that? I know it's much more than that and I know I have absolutely no reason to feel guilty and I know it will be a distant memory soon but you can't help but to think. And then maybe I need to remember, like everyone else has been , some wise words by a woman we lost today...
Yes, this all has changed me - mentally, physically, emotionally - but I need to remember that I should be damned if I let it make me feel guilty for wanting to feel somehow whole again; to somehow, after the Frankenstein scars from this surgery fade, feel semi-comfortable in my own skin again. I am worth it. I deserve it. I will have it. It will be good.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Check in

Sorry, I've been holding my breath as I always do when I have a scan and I received the all clear today, so now I can breathe again. Couple posts in the works and have also been working on reopening my Etsy store (Moose Country Crafts on etsy and facebook) aaannnd as I've talked about, getting my grandparents house reaaaaaalllly close to the market. Basically I have been keeping myself busy trying not to think of getting results! Be back soon!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mother's Day 2014

Mother's Day now, to me, is not a day to be feted. In fact, oftentimes I'm so frustrated and disappointed in my own mothering skills that the last thing that I think I deserve is any sort of congratulations in the matter. What it does represent is a day to be so thankful that I was gifted these two beings. I don't always remember this in the throes of another dinnertime where Jack is refusing to eat or when AR decides to scream and cry for half an hour because I don't give her the 300th cracker before lunch, but I am well aware of many fellow cancer ladies who have been stripped again of one of the most basic of human rights - the choice of whether to have children or not -  as a result of this completely unfair siege.
This is a day to thank God again that I get to be here. A funny thing about Mom's with littles who have gone through this fight - while most other people (and I do NOT in any way begrudge anyone this, it's just a difference that I have noticed) talk about their bucket lists and places they want to visit and things they want to do (and yes, I am not in any way saying I still don't see myself sitting in my little coffeehouse at the end of the street in the Salzburg Altstadt, sans kids, sometime soon), we make deals with God about time. And not time for us, time with our kids. I can't count how many of us have told each other that we have tried to bargain with God by asking "Please just give me 5 more years so I can get them into elementary school" and then "Please God, can I just have 10 more years because then they will be in high school" etc etc etc. Things that don't occur to other Mom's swarm our brains So these holidays, Mother's Day, birthdays, etc., are not just holidays, not just breakfast and flowers and cards -  they are milestones.
 I don't need to know how much they love me - I desperately need them to know how much I love them.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

How time passes so quickly I have no idea. I write something then turn around to write again and find it's been over a week. Amazing. Anyway, just a stop in on this May 5th to show a tribute to my own familial Cinco de Mayo...
My Mexican Nana (my great-grandmother) and my French Pops who joined forces to create a whole bunch of dysfunctional family members! I didn't get to know them much...Pops died quite a few years before I was born. I knew my Nana but she was sick and bedridden which is a bit of a scary prospect to a 3 or 4 year old. She died when I was 4 and as any good Mexican family would do for any occasion, her after-funeral reception was filled with tears, laughter, fighting and lots of alcohol, not necessarily in that order. But these two people raised 5 kids in a house that, from my memory, had to be less than 800 square feet (we bemoan having 4 people in our 1280 square foot house quite often). When my grandfather and his twin sister were born, my aunt was so tiny that they kept her warm by putting her in a cigar box in the warming oven. Their 5 kids went on to have 14 grandchildren, 20 great-grandchildren, and 7 great-great grandchildren so far. Their house still stands on the next street over from my grandparents house. They are remembered.  Salud!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

You keep living.


A facebook "breast" friend of mine posted this the other day - it's from "Call the Midwife" (I watched a few episodes and it was very good but I didn't keep up, do any of you watch it?)...anyway, I have no idea what the context of the quote is but it about absolutely perfectly describes what I've been going through, and probably most anyone who has gone through some traumatic event.
You just keep living until you are alive keep going every day until you don't see that black veil behind you because you are just too busy to even think about it. And then you keep living until you don't see that black veil because you are too happy in this moment to think about anything ominous. And you smile because you realize that you haven't been able to feel and embrace that happiness in a long long time because you were terrified to... because if you let your guard down and think that things may just be okay, that maybe you don't have to worry every single minute of every day, that if you dare to have the audacity to plan ahead, to dream again, to recklessly believe that you are actually okay - that that moment will be the one that invites shit to walk right back in the door. You keep living until one day you don't internalize and personalize every bad story that you hear, and you hear entirely too many of them in this club. You keep living until someone offhandedly saying "Wait until she's a teenager" doesn't make your heart shatter - because you know you will be there to suffer through it and you will cherish every fight coming your way. You keep living until there are more and more minutes and hours strung together in which you actually improbably forget that you have had cancer. You keep living until there is a day when you feel pretty again, when someone looks at you, like they used to, and your first thought is not everything that is wrong and scarred and mangled underneath your clothes but what is still present in your face and your eyes and your smile.
You keep living until one day you realize that you do have permission - you have a right - to feel alive again. I'm not there yet, but I'm working on it.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Happy Easter

Wishing you and your family a wonderful, peaceful Easter.
 May you find joy and happiness in whatever you are doing and whomever you are around.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Craigslist encounters...

 Sounds salacious doesn't it? Well, I meant it to because you really wouldn't want to read about my Craigslist rantings otherwise would you?

For the past 6 months (and sporadically the past three years) I have been one of two main people cleaning out my grandparents house. Doesn't sound like a big deal does it? But if you've ever done it, you know. Sixty years of stuff in one house is a LOT of stuff. And if you have ever had dealings with any Depression-era folk, you realize that you have to look through everything because they are so adept at hiding things all over the house that truly, Jimmy Hoffa could still be in the garage (I haven't looked in the rafters yet). You cannot, in any uncertain terms, just toss bags of stuff like you would say, at my house, because there could be important documents hiding within, like car titles, stock certificates, tax documents, cash, Christmas cards from 1968 (not even joking), your grandfather's pay stubs from approximately 1948 through 1983, receipts for oil changes from 1973, etc, etc. Anyway, the process of cleaning out the house and my feelings on it, that's a post for another day. But now that we are almost cleaned out there are a few pieces of larger furniture that we either need to sell or give away and I have been using Craigslist quite a bit for that. Don't get me wrong, I've used Craigslist sporadically before for both buying and selling, but not this much at one time. And it has proven to be a usually fruitful relationship, considering it's free, which is an automatic winner in my world, and considering it's usually very easy. You want it, you come see it, you buy it.
However, apparently that's not how it works for everyone. Apparently there are people out there that choose to flout the rules and make this lovely free platform of buying and selling into a frustrating hell. Therefore, here you go-

1) If you say you are going to show up...SHOW UP!! I realize things happen, but things do not happen to 10 people on the same day. If you say you will meet me at a certain time, especially to pick up a FREE ITEM, then have the courtesy to drag your lazy ass out of your crack den into the bright sunlight, get your coffee, get in your car, and get over here. Though you may not believe it, or mommy may not have taught you this, other people's time is as valuable, if not more so, than your own. If you cannot make it because said car broke down, your bed is just that cozy, you scored a big hit the night before and need to smoke up, have the decency to text/email me to let me know. I have 30 other people that could have come but no, I did the fair thing and offered to the first response. Thanks for being a tool.

2.) If I say pickup time for something is between 8 and noon, do not text me at 11:50 and say I just got in my car and I'm on my way. No. This is L.A. Unless you live on the next block, you won't get there in 10 minutes. Thank you for assuming that all I have to do on a weekend is sit around and wait for your rude entitled millennial ass to waltz on over.

3.) If you are coming to pick something up that is of the large-ish persuasion, and usually have trouble lifting the 5 lb bag of sugar at home, bring help. Do not assume that the person you are picking it up from is capable and/or willing to help you. You could be  picking up from an 80 year old lady, or a paraplegic, or hell, from me. As an aside - people younger than me who are picking things up, for goodness sakes, put down your damn phones and facebook and iPads and lift a weight or two every once in a while. Your general weakness is pathetic. I'm a pushing-40 year old women who has had recent cancer and has an arm I'm not supposed to seriously exert. If you can't carry half of a TV 30 feet...really???

4.) If you are coming to buy furniture - large furniture - don't bring a tiny car. Really. I mean, I just... really.

5.) When you respond to a Craigslist add, do more than what basically amounts to a grunt. Don't just say interested. Okay, that tells me nothing. Be polite enough to say, Is this still available? If so, I would like to come see it, etc, etc. Also, don't just send me a phone number or say call me. No. I'm not here to call you. I don't call anybody. If God had meant for people to be talking to strangers on the phone then He never would have gotten rid of the 90's party lines and invested texts.

See you on Craigslist - anyone need a free couch?


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Constant battle

Source: Pinterest

It has been a bad few weeks on the news front as far as our facebook group of girls and some other people that I have heard about as well. It just saps the heart out of you some days, and your already semi-constant anxiety grows and you have to consciously, almost physically, stop your mind from spinning like a hamster wheel. It's tiring, exhausting actually, but you do it. You contemplate running away, singing while your fingers plug your ears and not looking back but then you remember that you would not want people to run from you if, there but for the grace of God, something should happen.
So you make sure to soak in the sound of the rain that's fallen for the past two nights. And to stand in the ferocious winds that blew today, with your face toward the sun and the sound of hyena-like child giggles in the background, and breathe.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Nature vs. Nuture...daughter of anarchy?

This post has taken me forever and a day to write. I couldn't really figure out if I was telling the club's story or my father's story or my story or what, but I guess that's the point, it's all an intertwined mess that can't be separated. I don't know enough about the club to tell it's story specifically, but I do know my story, as a child of a member of the club, and the ramifications that came along with it.

With the wonder that is Netflix I developed a love of binge-watching shows during chemo (I am a voracious reader but 4+ hours in a chair + IV benadryl = limited cognitive abilities).  I've gone through American Horror Story, the first season of Downton Abbey (bastards went and switched over to Amazon Prime so I'm stuck for now), House of Cards, The Walking Dead, Mad Men, Hemlock Grove (OMG!), The Fall, Top of the Lake, and probably more that I can't remember. TV's great, we get to escape for a awhile, to Regency England, to the 60's, to an insane asylum...well, you get my point. Maybe you see yourself in a character or see a snippet that reminds you of something but for the most's fiction, and that's the point (and great for taking your mind off of sitting in a chemo chair and to drown out the older gentleman "singing" next to you).
So in bed a couple weeks ago I was searching for something new to watch, which if you have Netflix you know is a feat in and of itself. Came across Sons of Anarchy, which I honestly didn't know a whole lot about (for the longest time I think I assumed it was something akin to Duck Dynasty or Appalachian Outlaws, some pseudo-reality show about hillbillies), and thought oh hell, why not. Well. Here's where fiction and reality cross paths. No, I most regrettably do not have Charlie Hunnam riding up to my house, guns literally and anatomically blazing, (omg, have you seen this buzzfeed?? #11, ummm yeah...Charlie Hunnam Queer as Folk or Cold Mountain days, NO, not, omg, I have dreamt about him) preferably speaking in his native accent. I don't even have Tommy Flanagan with that "Glasgow smile" and gorgeous Scottish brogue lilting around my house (yes, I have a serious British Isles accent thing). What I do have is in my blood.

My father - sperm donor, biological contributor, whatever - was a founding member of a motorcycle gang called the Heathens. They started in Southern California, namely Venice, in the late 60's, spread a couple chapters around and sort of flamed out in the 80's. They have regrouped these days and you can actually find a website they run (, but I would gather to say that it's pretty much just some guys flying colors these days and not much else. And there you go - I was raised knowing what terms like flying colors and ape hangers meant (although much hilarity ensued when I was little and mistakenly called them monkey bars). Instead of the Mayans and the Grim Bastards, I knew who the Vagos and the Mongols were (funny enough, small world story - when my husband and I were house hunting years ago, we walked into one house and my eyes went to the huge flag on the wall. I screeched, "This is a Vagos house?? We can't buy this house." The real estate agent looked at me like I was nuts...and kept more than a few paces away from me after I explained what it all meant). Instead of Opie and Juice and Tig, when I was born I was held by people with names like Turk and Hillbilly and Grinch.

These are my "cousin's" parents...we'll get into their story below.
As I started watching the show, I felt things most people probably don't feel while watching a show - I saw, acted out in front of me, things that I knew a family member had done but could only imagine before. I didn't need to imagine them now. Obviously I've seen all of this portrayed before, but not on a show specifically about a motorcycle gang. Because while the show is fiction, many of the crimes were all too real. The drugs, the guns, the gun running, the beatings, the rapes, the murders...I know that I come from someone who participated and committed most, if not all of those crimes. And I don't quite know what to do with that, because knowing it and seeing it are two very different things.

Have no idea who these people are but these were the easiest pictures I could find, the other photo albums are packed away somewhere.
Since most of these people are still alive, and I'm borrowing their story through my eyes, I'll use initials to protect the players. You think the show goes overboard? A little dramatic? Too many people interconnected, a touch incestuous in the dealings? Let me give you the rundown of the people in the first picture above. Big B was married to my cousin L when they were very young. They got divorced and Big B was then with M, who had my "cousin" (always called each other cousins but we are not blood related) Little B. Little B and I grew up together, he is 6 months older than I am. Little B was born with fetal alcohol syndrome and was also born to a mother who had on/off periods of being a junkie and a drunk over the years so he had quite an uphill battle. Big B was not around except sporadically, which was more than most. Little B and I grew up and he tried really hard to get through school but it was very difficult for him.

We kept in contact over the years as we were close growing up and our moms were still good friends, but sort of lost track for a couple years. I went to college, the Marines, Little B worked his way through gas stations but did end up becoming a plumber and making a decent life. I went to his wedding, he and his wife came to mine. When my husband and I bought our house he came down and helped fix some old plumbing, helped us install a gas line for the dryer. Then he and his wife decided to move to greener pastures in Denver, cheaper living, more jobs, bought a house they could never afford here. And I thought he had made it. And then their marriage fell apart, and he stupidly followed her and hounded her and probably harassed her, not violently, but the guy she was dating had connections and he didn't let up. He was convicted of stalking and has been serving the past 10 years in prison.

M's sister S was also married to someone in the club. S and Big F had two kids and moved to Vegas to try and get away from the life. Well, they didn't get far because in the early 80's, during some sort of highly volatile argument, likely drug and/or alcohol fueled, Big F shot S and then killed himself, leaving behind two small children, J and C. M found them. I still remember hearing about that, and really, as a 7 year old, I shouldn't have had to know what a murder/suicide was, and their kids should most definitely never had to have lived it. I saw J and C sporadically over the years...J tried really hard to keep clean and stay out of trouble, and other than the occasional teenage scuffle I think he may have, I'm not sure. C however didn't fare quite as well and last I heard, years ago, was dabbling in drugs and prostitution.

Now I'm not saying these stories are specifically because of the club, but there is an aspect of the life and it's all too real.

I can tell you what wasn't real...stacks of cash on the table and professionally decorated houses. Most of us grew up in shitty apartments, hand to mouth, with single or may-as-well-be single mothers.
As for me, well, here it is. What would not get a second look or thought these days as far as family dynamics go was pretty traumatic 35 years ago. I was the only kid with a different last name than their parent, and I was only one of two kids in my elementary school class (I went to Catholic school so went to school with pretty much the same 35 kids from 1st-8th grade) raised by a single mom. Add to that the fact that my dad was not just gone but in prison for murder (I remember that he, explaining it to me in a letter, said that he "had gotten angry and hurt someone really bad") made it all the more something to hide. I'm guessing not many kids got letters from Soledad when they were 8. By high school I didn't care so much anymore about the circumstances, I just was dealing with growing up without a dad. Although I was actually a really good, responsible teenager, probably specifically because of what I was raised around (I never drank a drop until college), I was quite guilty of playing the card "well, whatever I do can't be as bad as whatever my parents were doing". My mom knew for years that I would race out to get a tattoo on my 18th birthday because "it was in my blood", and it was. I've loved tattoos since I was little, when only, well, criminals and gang members got them. Drinking in, wasn't doing anything as bad as my parents had done!

So, just like Jax on his rooftop perch, I often wondered - is it in me? I don't know. I know that I come with a mighty temper than I could have acquired from either parent. I know that motorcycles enthrall me. I know that I've never been afraid to start shit with people, and have been lucky that's it has never blown back on me. Whether that's luck, or because I look scary when I mean it, I don't know. My mom loves to tell the story about Little B's 3rd birthday party when he got a motorized truck. She says most kids would ride around the park smiling and laughing and giggling, but apparently we got in it, started riding roughshod over everything and mad-dogging everyone along the way, not a tooth showing between either of us.

I also know that I've always been an extremely good student, that the most serious infraction I've had is a speeding ticket in 1997, that I put myself through college and went on get my MBA,  that the thought of being in jail terrifies me, I've always had a decent respect for authority,  and the thought of some of those crimes makes me ill. I was lucky in the fact that regardless of whatever issues my mother had, and there were plenty, I was raised in a relatively stable environment given the circumstances, with a strong emphasis on education. I can tell you that I would tell Tara to take those kids out of Charming and go far far away. So who knows...

And then Jack went to a birthday party a few weekends ago...and picked this out all by himself. Passed up the soccer balls and dragons and turtles...and picked this. And I said, yep, that's definitely my kid. Uh oh.


Thursday, March 6, 2014

The most important piece...

After my little breakdown yesterday, as I sat on the couch last night trying to explain to my husband why I was so sad, why it was one of my bad days, he reminded me that I was forgetting the piece of this puzzle that I have held on to from the beginning, one of the first things my doctor said to me. That even though the medical community is based on a platform of statistics, numbers, algorithms, percentages, and calculations because they have to be, I do not. I am not a number or a statistic. This is my story and as tragic and horrible and awful and unfair as some other people's stories are, as similar as they are to my own - those are not my stories. This is my story and right now my story is that I'm fine. I'm okay.  I'm 39 and I'm a mom and a wife and I've been through some crappy stuff. I'm tired and I lose my patience and I try to figure out this mothering thing everyday, because really, if anyone knows the secret to one and three year old crazy I'd be willing to pay. I'm happy and weird and I like to sing loudly in my car...and at home. I'm super-sensitive and I cry easily at many many things. I do not take shit from anyone very easily and my 5'2" self has been known to scare things much larger. Cancer is part of my story, but I will not let it be my whole story. This is MY story - the story of one.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Never going to be...

It's reiterated over and over again that after this crap that you will have to figure out a "new normal", you will never be the person you were again...and that's true. So very very true. I will never again be who I was prior to approximately 2 pm on July 13, 2012. But then, isn't that true for everyone, at any life-changing juncture? I will also never be the girl I was in high school again, I will never be the girl I was in college, I will never be the person I was before I got married. I will never be the person I was before I had one child, nor will I be the person I was before I had two children. And that's okay. So much has changed and I'm okay with it for the most part.

What they don't tell you about this "new normal'? The your new normal will involve days of being terrified because your back hurts, even though your back has hurt in different places for the last 20 years. What they don't tell you is that even though both kids and your husband and you have been passing around some sort of cold/crud/allergy/sucky thing for a week now, the cough you have, that they all have, keeps you up at night wondering if it's something else. What they don't tell you is that you will stumble across someone's prayer request on facebook, read the story and have it be almost identical to yours - age, cancer while pregnant, left side, may instead of july 2012, triple negative- yet she is at home in hospice right now after stopping treatments last week because they weren't working for the mets in her brain, and you will spend your afternoon in uncontrollable tears, silently raging at God on Ash Wednesday. That is the new normal that I am not okay with.


Sunday, February 23, 2014

A peaceful view...

"We ourselves feel that what we are doing is but a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop." -Mother Theresa

May we all have a joyful week ahead.

Thursday, February 20, 2014


I went through 12 years of Catholic school. I'm sure teachings on this have changed significantly over the years, but in first and second grades, we learned a lot about purgatory, the place between heaven and hell where you went if you weren't quite good enough to get straight into heaven, but certainly were not bad enough to go straight to H-E-L-L. Purgatory housed people who didn't have enough graces (I used to think of it like collecting enough skee ball tickets to get the big prize at Castle Park) or didn't say a perfect Act of Contrition before they died, or maybe you were a baby who had not been baptised and therefore had not committed any sin but had not been cleansed of Original Sin. Whatever the story, you were stuck in no-man's-land until enough people left behind prayed for your soul and you collected enough grace tickets to gain entry into heaven...or you just languished there forever.
The aftermath of cancer, after the treatment, at least in the beginning...that's like purgatory.
Heaven would be the rest of your life cancer-free, but of course no one knows if that will happen until, well, until they die without having a recurrance. So basically you still live your life in purgatory. I'm sure as the years go on without any problems purgatory transforms into a much more comfortable place. Don't get me wrong - after this crap, even in purgatory most of us are trying to dance more, laugh more, be a little more wild and at times reckless - and get all of the tickets that we can from the damn skee ball machine. Purgatory doesn't have to be boring, but it is at times...I don't know...heavy.
Because you know that at any moment the cancer bitch could come up and sucker punch you and steal all of your tickets because SHE wanted the 5000 point prize and the floor drops and down you go...and you find yourself in a doctor's office, being told that the scan doesn't look good.
When you join this craptastic club, unless you shut yourself off from everyone, which some days you really want to do, you will see loss. You will have a front seat to shitty outcomes for people you may never have even met in person but care about and cry for and hurt for. You will hear of a bad diagnosis, of mets, and the twisted black tiny portion of your mind that you are ashamed of but that is purely human and natural will sigh and think thank god that's not me. And you will cry silent tears while you are rocking your baby before bed. You will go and sob alone and undetected in the shower and you will dry your eyes and go read to your son before bedtime. And then you will spend the next week rehashing over and over again the thought that this could be you, at any time. But then you will get up and brush yourself off, and put on loud music and dance and sing and keep on swimming and live in purgatory.  
In the past six months, in my small 120 or so person facebook group, we have lost one person, one person's mets have spread and the chemo is no longer working so well, one other person has had brain surgery and radiation due to mets and one was just diagnosed with mets today. I'm just angry. Angry that it's still a zero-sum game, angry that all too often someone gets sucker punched and robbed. I'm just angry.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

A couple firsts...

We have been away for a few days. A couple highlights...

Little girl experienced her first snow...
I celebrated my first cancerversary...

And Jack just hung out looking cute...


Thursday, February 6, 2014

22 Weeks and Cancer: Breast Cancer is not the "easy" cancer...

22 Weeks and Cancer: Breast Cancer is not the "easy" cancer...: As the 4th was World Cancer Day and many cancer awareness campaigns are being done this month, a few ummm, interesting, ads have shown up.....

Breast Cancer is not the "easy" cancer...

As the 4th was World Cancer Day and many cancer awareness campaigns are being done this month, a few ummm, interesting, ads have shown this one from Pancreatic Cancer Action...
Well, hip hip hooray!! I didn't even know that I won the cancer competition when I was diagnosed, at 37, with Stage 3C cancer, while pregnant!! How silly I was to be concerned, because we all know that everyone with breast cancer lives! It's like having a cold!! Hooray for me!! Phew, I had no idea that I can relax now, without a care in the world for what might happen to me, because I GOT THE EASY CANCER!!
Excuse me for a minute but WHAT THE FUCK?? I wish I had breast cancer?? I understand, believe me I do, that pancreatic cancer is no joke and has a very high mortality rate. I completely get that. But maybe you'd like to talk to some of the girls in my facebook group, who are in their 40s and fighting stage 4 breast cancer. Maybe you should talk to the 32 year old mom of two littles that I went to the August retreat with, who is fighting stage 4. Maybe you should talk to me after my 4 rounds of chemo while pregnant and my resultant mastectomy and my 12 rounds of chemo after that and my 33 doses of radiation after that and my constant numbness and pain and tightness that I deal with every single day. Maybe you should talk to me after I dealt with the plastic surgeon who basically insinuated that I was probably going to have a recurrence any day now and really shouldn't bother to look into reconstruction right yet because really, I may not be here long enough to enjoy it.
How about I wish there was no cancer? How about no more deaths of any type of cancer? This is not some sick kind of competition, this is something that everyone should be in together. Because with crap like this, we all lose.

Friday, January 24, 2014

My 39th year...

"Oh, Earth, you are too wonderful for anyone to realize you... Does anyone ever realize life while they live it...every, every minute? No, saints and poets maybe, they do some." - Wilder
I can guarantee to you that my husband...and Jack...and A-R if she could talk...and the rest of my family and friends would tell you that I am no saint. My high school creative writing teacher, Mrs. Roth, would tell you that I'm no poet. But with all respect to Mr. Wilder, although not a poetic addition (see, I know what's not poetic), I would add "and people who have or have faced life threatening illnesses or situations".
Google Images

This crazy beautiful precious life is just funny. Life truly ain't nothing but a funny funny riddle. You spend your youth voraciously coveting additional candles, longing to be older, waiting for the day that your life will "begin!!" "When I'm older I will..." starts innumerable sentences. Somewhere in your 20's, you start feeling time accelerate - not only chronologically, but also across your face, parts of your body, your hair (in my case for sure, I've been going grey since my early 20s). What only years ago was a source of pride - "I'll be 16 six months before you!!" - becomes "Ha Ha, you'll always be six months older than me!" Your 30s come and eventually parts of you start creaking and cracking and you realize holy crap, somehow I've ended up precipitously close to middle age. The music you grew up with starts to be played on "retro" weekends and classic rock stations and the band members are receiving their AARP membership applications. You find yourself going to your 20 year high school reunion, which you can't really understand because you are certain that, even though you have been married for 11 years and have two children, you KNOW you only left college about 5 years ago. But if you are healthy, all of these thoughts are accompanied by the tiny voice in the back of your mind going "but I still have soooo many years ahead, no big deal." And then something comes and smacks you in the face so hard that a punch would feel like a cotton ball, turns your world so upside down that vertigo seems like a gentle ride on a small carousel, that everything you previously knew for certain, everything you knew to be true about this world, is intrinsically forever changed.

People who hide their ages, are ashamed of them...I just want to shake them and say "Why can't you see? Why can't you see how very very lucky you are? Those years are family you got to love and sunsets you experienced and places you traveled and children who were able to know you." But I understand. It's truly not something that you can ever comprehend until you live it and I get that. And I mean that - I have been on both sides now - even if you have taken care of someone who has passed, even if you have lost people around you, even if you have lost a piece of your heart when they left. I have lost many people in my life. I have lost people at a young age (both them and me), I have taken care of people that I have lost, I have taken care of someone who at one time held my heart, I have lost chunks of my heart, a rather large chunk of my heart- but I didn't fully understand - I didn't fully ingest, absorb, taste, consume the complete and utter fragility of this life until I got sick. I can see the theoretical thestrals. I wish to God I couldn't, I wish I thought the carriage was still invisibly guided, but I can see them.
So this is what a birthday means now.

 It means that I had another year to practice at this crazy dance called marriage. It means that maybe to these two beings I will actually be a tangible mother, not a vague memory or scent conjured only by pictures or stories. It means I had another year to try and realize any, some, bits and pieces of my dreams and goals. It means that I have had another chance to continue in this powerful play, to contribute another verse.
It means that if someone says, "Oh, you'll always be older than me" I will smile and say, "Yep, isn't that great!?" It means if someone says, "Don't worry, you'll be there one day", that I will gleefully say "Yes, I will, and I can't wait!".
Never again will I lament the opportunities, the blessings that the passing of this time has given me. Never again will I fail to celebrate another candle, another 365 days, another 525,600 minutes.
Never again will I spend and waste time as if I had a million years.

I am 39 years old today.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The thin line between writing about what you know and what you think you know...

Ooooh, this blogging world...thine are but a tricky mistress...
A former co-worked posted a link on facebook today that a friend of her's had written. It was about vaccines - very anti-vaccine talking about the medical problems that her son had faced and alleging that it was all related to vaccines. I'm not going to repost it here and I'm not here to debate about vaccines...I happen to have no problem with them, my children are fully vaccinated, and that's my business. I'm not here to debate the medical validity of certain claims or whether people's beliefs are right or wrong. This lady certainly had the right to compose her post, recite her story, talk about what she believes caused all of this, etc. If that was where the story ended, then I wouldn't be writing right now. But her final sentence (and title of the post for that matter) is basically where the whole thing goes haywire - to paraphrase her, she contends that all children who have been vaccinated are injured, that all children who have been vaccinated have some sort of illness - ADHD, asthma, spectrum disorder, allergies, etc etc. - that are a direct result of vaccinations, even if their parents don't want to admit it.
I won't even go into the complete and utter fallacy and, what I perceive is delusion, of this statement. What I will say is that's where you lost me. Write about what you, personally, know, not what you think you know. I write about my experience, my cancer, my family. If I hear something from a friend, then I will write about that also, disclosing that it is the opinion of someone else. I enjoy reading other's blogs and their personal experiences, even, and sometimes especially, if they contradict my own opinions or experiences. How on earth can we hope to be convicted in our own beliefs if we do not try to understand the opposite viewpoint? What I do not enjoy is someone presuming to tell me what is going on in my body, in my family, in my personal world.  
When you start writing about what you *think* you know, that's when credibility flies out of the window faster than pants off of Anthony Weiner in front of a phone. You turn into the people who troll cancer sites extolling the virtues of hemp oil as the cure-all - you turn into Todd Akin talking about a woman's body closing down production during a rape -  you turn into someone who closely resembles a fanatic.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

And January flies on...

So sorry, I have been in the midst of a New Year cleaning dervish. I get these urges ever so often and I have to go with them, because if I didn't then my semi-hoarder-like tendencies would have us dealing with a 100% useless garage vs. the almost 50% useable one that I am currently working towards. Between that and the never-ending family issues (I am currently dealing with the impending preparation and sale of my grandparents house, amongst other things that I will address in the future) and the holidays and the plague that seems to have hit every single person I know, I have been a bit busy. But I press on and will check in a bit more in depth shortly!