Come On In, Good Stress

Life comes in waves.  The good rolls in, then ebbs away.  The bad finds its way to your shores a little more aggressively, but still retreats to leave you in peace.  In fact, they even all often come in threes: the good, the bad and the waves.

Side note: I feel like all of my analogies are wave/ocean related lately.  Perhaps it’s that pesky beach town homesickness.

The past year or two have been filled with what feels like more stormy waters than peaceful ones.  But there have still been so many happy moments in between, or even at the same time.  At age 32, I still find myself surprised at just how complex life can be…and how ridiculously fast it is flying by.

Today, I looked through the photos on my phone and noticed just how many exciting moments have happened in the last month.  I realized that while I have been busy wading through tragic events, cancer recuperation and life stress on my blog, I haven’t shown you nearly enough of the JOY that has occurred around here lately.

The truth is that the waves have been crashing with such frequency that I have simply been overwhelmed.  And the end isn’t quite in sight yet.  My husband still has the culmination of grad school this May, he is the best man in two weddings, we have a condo we are putting on the market in D.C., and the boys have managed to accumulate a wide variety of gooey sicknesses.  We are wiped and stretched to the max and just plowing through until we get to the other side, but that is no excuse to not pause and acknowledge all of the exciting, all of the good, all of the happiness.

So here are some glimpses of the positive from the past month:

First of all, we were treated to a trip to Florida with my parents for Easter.  Which rocked, as you can see by Xavi’s display.  (ps. How is it possible this was only a month ago?!)

In addition to plenty of oranges, the trip included plenty of goofy swim attire all day, every day, since the beach was right outside our door.

Talk about moments you want to go back and relive, and relive and relive….

And what beats an Easter egg hunt on the beach?  Nothing.  Look how good those vibrant eggs look next to a tan! (There was also a drum circle involved in this trip, but no photos really do it justice.  Just know that it happened.  And it was wild.)

We returned and were pretty much immediately met with my 32nd birthday.  Everything bagels with alllll the fixins, a gift and a card? I am a lucky woman.  …who did consider investing in some arm-toning weights after looking closely at this card.  Nah.

That night we had a cake so delicious that I forgave my husband for forgetting that he promised he would make me Samoa cake from Pinterest.  Seriously, this cake was ridiculous.  Too good.

The next night my husband took me on a birthday date, just us.  Amazing French restaurant, 30 minute walk to Chelsea, Creme Brulee donut seed from Doughnut Plant and the new Ryan Gosling movie.  NYC romantic birthday perfection.

A few days later this little MAN started in a peewee baseball league.  Because apparently he is going to continue to refuse to listen to me as I beg him to stop growing up so fast.  Jerk.

The following weekend, we went to my in-laws beach house to have Xavi’s 3rd birthday party.  Because HE isn’t listening to me either! Jerk, number two. But you know what? This party photo isn’t from Xavi’s party.  Nope.  It is from the surprise party my husband threw me.  I have been aggressively pleading hinting for a surprise party for the twelve years we have been together.  At least someone is finally listening to my pleas, even if the boys aren’t!

So, the theme was Clam Bake (even though my husband is deathly allergic to shellfish) because he knows how much I miss the seafood and clam bakes of my childhood.  My mother-in-law made this unreal clam chowdah and my husband used huge pots to do steamers, little necks, corn, potatoes, kielbasa and shrimp over a grill. (Yes, shrimp aren’t part of a typical clam bake, but the man will literally die if he touches one, so I think it was strangely extreme love professing or something?) I was too busy with my face IN my plate to take any pictures, unfortunately.

I did manage to snap a photo of the giant cake.  That would be a chocolate cake with espresso filling and a caramel cream cheese frosting schlepped (secretly) all the way from Magnolia Bakery in NYC.  Good man.  Let me say, I felt extremely loved by everyone this night.

The next day, we did finally get to Xavi’s celebration and began with a round of Safari mini-golf.  Xavi’s typical natural athletic talent did not actually shine here – as you can see from his awkward grip on that club – but we all had a blast.

Then the whole family enjoyed the small arcade attached to the mini-golf course and collectively won enough tickets to get Xavi a water gun, a blue lollipop and the deadliest whoopie cushion you’ve ever seen.  Our class is showing, isn’t it?

His actual party included a ball pit that his Tia and Tio gave him, which we also filled with balloons.  There were sports-themed banners, hanging ball thingies, balloons, hats and tableware.  Xavi seemed satisfied by the number of balls, so all was good.  I am just hoping some year he will maybe let me try a new birthday theme.

I made him a carrot cake basketball cake and lemon baseball cupcakes, which he declared ‘super lemonaid-y’ which is his idea of a big compliment since he would be content if everything tasted lemony/lemonaid-y.  It was a great party, but I still can’t believe he had the nerve to turn three so quickly after being born.

Before we came back to Brooklyn, Carlitos decided to blow our minds (and break his mommy’s heart a tiny bit) by jumping on a giant two wheel bike and taking off without training wheels.  You know, NBD.  Because why shouldn’t life continue flying full speed ahead while I cling to it’s ankles, pleading for it to slow down.  (Note my husband sprinting after him in bare feet.  Nobody was prepared for him to take off so skillfully and quickly!)

Also before we left that weekend? Our bid was accepted on a HOUSE.  Yup, at this point we are now officially under contract and should be moving out to the ‘burbs around July 15th.  I still can’t believe it.

The most important thing about a house when you have two little boys…and a penchant for all things grilled outside?  A YARD!  The boys would like you to picture the super amazing swing set that will be at the back edge of this yard.  Ohhhhh yes.

Alright, if you stuck with me through this photographic novel, you deserve our BIGGEST and BEST recent news and event:  WE ARE HAVING A BABY!  I am twelve weeks and due at the beginning of November.  We are obviously really excited and now you can perhaps see why all of the other stress, events, important dates, etc. have been a little extra difficult for me in the past few months.  Life seems to find a way to make you understand that there is always a deeper level of fatigue you can reach.  Always.

I seriously can’t believe all of this occurred basically just in the past month.  Honestly, we don’t slow down at all until June and then more completely after the move.  But at least these are all happy events.  For this kind of stress and exhaustion, I am truly grateful.

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Boston, You’re My Home

Bit of a rough week, guys, eh?

One week ago, families and friends of Boston Marathoners were making signs, setting up rides into the city, getting excited to cheer on the people they love and the causes in which they believe.

Runners themselves were busy stuffing their faces with pizza, pasta, bread and other delicious carb-y delights.

There was a buzz in the air.

The Boston Marathon is not only the oldest marathon, but I believe it is the only one that has always been attached to a holiday.  That’s right, Massachusetts celebrates Patriots Day, a commemoration of the Battles of Lexington and Concord – the first battles of the revolution.  But which also means a day off from school and most jobs, allowing everyone to be in the city to cheer on the race, which is always held on the same day.

Marathon Monday, as we call it, is a Big Deal. Like, right up there with opening day for the Red Sox.  That kind of Big Deal.

I was extra excited this year because a lifelong friend, Molly, was running with my name on her back.   She was running to raise money for Dana-Farber in my honor. (Sidenote: If you click on the link you can still donate through mid-May!)  To say I was touched is an understatement.

Last Monday, as a Masshole living in New York, I had to mainly rely on my parents to tell me how the race was going.   They had it playing live on TV and were also using an app that tracked Molly using her bib number and displayed a tiny red running person moving along the route.   My mom was also texting with Molly’s mom, as they attempted to find parking and get to the finish line before their daughter crossed it.

Suddenly I had a text message from my mom saying “get out of that area asap.”

What????, I replied, thinking she had seen something bad happening in NYC on the news, since she knew I was walking to a doctor’s appointment.

I called my parents and they told me that they had just watched two explosions at the finish line.  I realized that my mom was trying to tell Molly’s mom to get Molly and get the heck out of there.  Walking down the street, past New Yorkers that hadn’t heard anything yet, I probably just looked like a woman in the midst of a break up – crying on the sidewalk with a phone pressed to my ear while saying ‘I don’t understand.  Why?’

But it was obviously much bigger than that.  And even bigger than we all understood at the time.

After an hour of panicked texts and phone calls, we finally got the all clear that Molly had been found and was safely with her parents.  I cried again with relief and with that release that happens after holding your breath because it’s possible something really bad happened, but you come to find it was very narrowly avoided.   The fear washes back over you almost as strongly on the way out as it did on the way in.

Once I had the boys asleep that night, I stayed glued to the news.  I cried for the people killed, the ones who were maimed and the city as a whole.  I did feel that wave of panic that this is the world into which I brought children, but somehow that wasn’t my main emotion with this tragedy.  Newtown, threats of nuclear war, global warming, watching a movie where a teenage boy gets beat to a bloody pulp all give me that immobilizing fear that my children’s world will be a horrible world.  I understand all of the blog posts about how this bombing created that feeling in many parents.  I get the resolutions to hug our children more, yell less, focus on what’s important.  But with total transparency, I tell you I was no better mother on Monday than I ever am.  Of course I hugged my kids, but I also gave two time outs, raised my voice way more than I wish I had and still checked Facebook before my kids were asleep.  I was far from a perfect parent, just as I always am.  I am a worry wort by nature and already fill my brain daily with all of the horrible things that could happen to my kids.  I grew up in a town where we had already buried several classmates by hig school graduation and many, many more by the time we were in our twenties.  Tragic death, unfair circumstances, awful mistakes, life changing poor choices, freak accidents or events? Those are so ingrained in me as a person that they can’t help but be ingrained in me as a parent.

But for some reason this tragedy didn’t take me there as much as it fueled this intense ache for Boston.  For Massachusetts.  For everyone who was there that day.  It made me understand so clearly that even if I left at 18, even if I never felt like I quite fit in, even if I can’t list every Red Sox player, that is my home.  And I suddenly wanted to be home so badly.

We tend to be very puritan up there.  There isn’t much passion or emotion shown on a daily basis.  That’s what all the drinking is for.  That’s what the sports team obsession is for.  That’s what tattoos are for.  I’m not saying everyone from Massachusetts is this way and I’m not saying it’s the healthiest thing in the world.  I am just saying that it’s my interpretation of our sub-culture in general.  And with that in mind, I ached even more, wondering how people would face this level of atrocity, of horror, of pain.

As I am sure you know if you watched the news at all, Boston quickly proved it knew exactly how to handle a situation like this.   Marathon runners ran an additional two miles to go donate blood, first-responders and civilians alike ran toward the mayhem and destruction to save whomever they could, and people who lived nearby offered up couches, guest beds and food to those who were stranded or not allowed back into their hotels.

Here is the thing about places and people that sometimes seem less touchy feely, emotional, mushy, or expressive…it’s usually because they don’t need to be.  They know what they are made of;  they don’t need to wax poetic about it.  Bostonians made it clear through their actions that they have heart.  Anyone who grew up in Massachusetts already knew this, but the world was able to see it loud and clear this week.

I felt so proud to claim it as my hometown.

As the week wore on and became stranger and stranger, culminating in 24 hours of even more tragic horror, nobody stopped showing their true colors.  Police orders and requests were followed, tips were given, suspects were found.  And at the end of it all, as the lock down was lifted,  people then came outside and stood in the streets to clap and cheer for all of the many branches of police, medical personal, federal agents and firemen as they finally were able to retreat.

Helping people, giving whatever was needed and whatever they had to give, following orders, cooperating, supporting, showing thanks, connecting:  what more could you ask for during a week of terror?  Unfortunately, the bombers partially succeeded.  They killed innocent people, they maimed and injured many others, and they caused so many people sadness and fear.  But their bigger probable missions of destroying the marathon, creating immobilizing fear, breaking down a group of people, and hurting this city and country were not achieved.  Everyone feels deep sadness for the families who are grieving, but we feel that sadness cohesively.  Every response I heard or saw was compassionate, passionate, strong and determined.  We are not broken or splintered.  The bombers didn’t even come close to winning.  And I felt so much pride strutting my boys around all week in their Red Sox caps because of all of that.

You all deserved the ‘wicked hahd pahtyin’ Brian Williams proposed may have taken place Friday night.

Much love Boston.

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Pineapple Fried Rice

Living in New York City, you become accustomed to ordering delivery for dinner.  Some would say overly accustomed.

I’m too tired/busy/sick/late/sad/angry/excited/lazy to cook tonight.  Plus, it’s rainy.  And my middle toe hurts.  What do you want, babe?  Pizza, sushi, Mexican, Chinese, Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, burgers, deli sandwiches, Korean, Mediterranean?

I think I actually want barbecue.  Remember the place with the great pulled pork?

Frankly, it is just too easy and there are too many options.  There are multiple websites where you simply choose a type of food, pick a restaurant, click the mouse to place your order and then press Pay with Credit Card.  Done.  They even show you with visuals exactly where your food is and when it will arrive.  Louis C.K. would have a field day if he ever heard anyone complaining about any aspect of this process.  We are spoiled.

Sometimes, when a certain food item becomes too alluring and I just want to attempt to put it on auto-delivery for a week straight, I force myself to try cooking it instead.  In this context ‘sometimes’ means ‘twice.’ The first time I tried it was to appease my husband’s craving for scallion pancakes since he doesn’t like anything else from Chinese take-out, which always makes it tricky.  While definitely a different consistency and a more healthy version, these were gone within minutes.

My second attempt is for a dish that I find myself craving constantly: pineapple fried rice. (Had you any clue after reading the post title?!)  Our local sushi delivery spot has this and I had never tried it until a few months ago.  It is addictively good.  Lightly fried rice, pineapple, broccoli, and cilantro.  I usually put more cilantro and add some mint if we have either at home.  Today I decided ordering delivery for the ahem-th time this week was unacceptable, no matter how crappy and emotionally draining this week has been.   My plan was to use brown rice, add more broccoli and more pineapple than they usually do, and top it with cilantro and mint.  Unfortunately, city supermarkets can be…lacking.   They had no cilantro and no mint.  Although the manager did tell me how much organic mint he has growing in his garden in Queens.  Thanks.  I decided to try fresh basil instead and some bright green sugar snap peas grabbed my eye so I threw those in the basket too.

I worked today, but was able to make the rice with broccoli early in the day and then simply add the other ingredients and stir fry everything at night for about five minutes.  Even though I learned that I unequivocally stink at making rice, the flavor profile (shout out, San Fran!)  of the dish still came out pretty undeniably fantastic.  Plus, this dish is gluten and dairy-free.  Vegan, too, if you leave out the eggs.  Most delivery food can’t claim all of that and include this many servings of fruits and vegetables, my friends.

Here’s to hoping this can be a small bright spot in your week the way it was for us tonight.

Pineapple Fried Rice:

Ingredients:

~ 1 cup dry rice

~ half a fresh pineapple, diced

~ 1 1/2 cups of broccoli, chopped into bite-size pieces

~ 1 cup sugar snap peas, chopped into bite-size pieces

~ 3 scallions, sliced

~ 2 eggs

~ handful of basil

To Make:

In a pot, put one cup dry rice and two cups of water. (You can also use a stock of some sort or seasoning.  I did add some Adobo brand all purpose seasoning.)  Bring it to a boil, uncovered, and then simmer it, covered, for about 20 minutes (white) or 35 minutes (brown).  Or however long it takes to make it gummy and mushy, if you want to be a terrible rice-cooker such as myself who refuses to follow instructions.  About 5 minutes before it is done, add the broccoli and a splash of extra water to steam with the rice.  (Unless you have thyroid issues, in which case I suggest you add the broccoli about 20 minutes ahead of time to rid it of about 95% of its cruciferous vegetable, goiter-inducing qualities.)

In a big frying pan or wok, add a bit of your favorite oil and turn the heat to med-hi.  I used a combination of coconut and sesame oils.  Once the oil is hot, add the rice/broccoli mixture and then, while pushing it around rapidly, crack both eggs into the pan.  The egg should cook quickly throughout the rice, at which point you can add the pineapple, scallions and sugar snap peas.  Stir fry for about another 3-5 minutes and top with finely shredded basil.  We love to eat ours doused sprinkled with Sriracha (us) or KimKim sauce (the boys).

Enjoy!

My mushy rice/broccoli combo, ready for the eggs to drop in and say hello.  Speaking of dropping in and saying hello…if you make this dish with perfectly cooked rice, can you please ask me over, feed me and teach me how to properly cook rice?  Thanks.

I felt all cooking show-y as I poured in my pre-diced pineapple, sugar snap peas and scallions.  Unfortunately, there was no camera crew here to catch it.

I stopped myself after two bowls, but only because I had already sent my husband a photo of what awaited him for dinner.  Explaining the empty pan when he came home starving and pumped up for pineapple* would have been awkward.

*Saying that my husband is ‘pumped up for pineapple’ is also awkward.  And probably one of the many reasons he prefers to be anonymous on here.

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Regrouping

I just read through my two most recent posts.  It was actually pretty difficult to do.

Even though writing has been an excellent way for me to work through confusing events in my life, a way to cope and heal and make my way through murky situations and emotions, this was too much.  Dealing with the immediate aftermath of cancer surgery and hormone medication required looking inward in ways that simply needed more silence.

As I wrote in my last post, I needed to hunker down.

I have been putting off reading those posts because I knew it would be hard.  They are a *tad bit* erratic combined with a hefty dose of sadness.  I would like to believe neither of those descriptions accurately describe the real me at my core.   Goofy?  Yes.  Strange?  Depends who you ask.  Emotional?  If you show me kindness, I cry, sure.

But those posts show a level of instability and confusion that is hard to face.

In the end, I suppose I’m still happy I wrote them because it was how I was feeling at that moment and why take the time to write a blog if you aren’t being honest and real.  Why show yourself so nakedly to the whole world if it isn’t even you you’re showing?

The truth is, it took a lot of time to process the events of the past few months.   Getting cancer is scary enough.  As a young mom, it is even more terrifying to be reminded that you could be gone before you even really got started.   And then, after you ‘beat’ cancer, there are more layers that await you.  How do you need to change your health habits from now on?  What are the chances of this recurring or of having a different type of cancer?  What additional treatments are doctors suggesting?  Will those treatments ensure that I am cured?  Or will they actually lead to more cancer down the road?  How the heck do I schedule this many doctors appointments a month?!

And then the layers that I really wasn’t prepared for and perhaps which took the most time to figure out.  Admitting to myself that I was disappointed by the reaction, behavior or choices by people I cared about.  There were so many people who amazed me in the love and care they showed.  But I hadn’t imagined that some would break my heart.   There were friendships strengthened, familial bonds bared, but there were also friendships that ended, friendships that changed, family who did not act like family.

I have never been so in awe and grateful.  I have never been so disappointed and hurt.  I have never seen people and relationships so clearly.

Those are the layers of cancer that I didn’t see coming.

Well, that and weird comments from some about me being lucky to have the ‘good’ cancer.  You know who never, ever made comments like that?  The people in my life that have had cancer.  Even the ones that beat stage four cancers.  They understand that no matter the stage or type or treatment, if you survive cancer, your life will be turned upside down.  It changes you and I see now that you have to go through it to understand that.

So here I am.  I am ready to get back to learning, growing, sharing and laughing. Or in other words: writing.

Plus, you guys have missed out on at least seven stories of me putting my foot in my mouth, ten about me falling and 50 concerning Xavi’s ability to sneak off and empty things that shouldn’t be emptied, as well as several fascinating ‘mommy politics insanity’ scenarios.  And recipes!  I am working with a thyroid nutritionist and have some seriously delicious recipes that are gluten, soy, dairy, egg and corn  free.

Of course, if you follow me on Instagram or Facebook (And if you don’t, what’s wrong with you?  There are GIANT buttons up top that tell you to do so.  You aren’t very obedient, are you?) you know that I totally had Oreo whipped cream cake last night*.  Nobody’s perfect, especially me.  But that’s why you’re here, isn’t it?

Thanks for hanging in there with me and joining me in my saddle.

(See? I’ve moved from a bland “The end” to an awkward sign-off that takes a few minutes to get.  By the next post I’ll be back to zingy, one-liner, clean as a whistle closers.)

*In my defense, it was my birthday.  So I ate exactly 32 slices bites of that delicious cake and didn’t feel guilty one bit.

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Kind of Bleh

It has been 27 days since I had surgery.  Two and a half months since I was told I had cancer.  Both experiences are still vivid in my mind if I choose to replay them.  But both also kind of feel like an eternity ago.

I think for that reason, I keep wanting to write on here about something funny and non-cancer related, but it just isn’t coming.  I want it to be completely in the rear-view mirror.  To actually feel as great as everyone keeps telling me I look.  Which doesn’t make sense to me in the first place.  I have greasy hair from showering only twice a week due to how difficult it is with these steri-strips, I have bags under my eyes, and I have 45 pounds of awkward, extra weight taking up residence everywhere.  I feel sad at least once a day,  I feel exhausted by 2:00 pm and my bloated tummy won’t deflate despite detox shakes, salads and yoga up the wazoo.

I don’t feel great.  Thankful, yes.  Great, no.

Hopefully, much of this will change once I see the Endocrinologist and have my Synthroid adjusted, but some of it will be an ongoing battle off and on for life.  So, I am doing what I can to hunker down and build new healthy habits that will help me maintain a healthy body and a happy spirit.

Other than caring for the boys and our home, my life currently consists of learning how to eat dairy and gluten free and making myself do yoga every day with my husband.   There hasn’t been much hanging with friends, fun cocktails, gooey food, high energy exercise classes, outdoor adventures with the boys, date night.

Life has been a bit boring, to be honest.  But I guess it has to be for right now, while I figure this out and still give my body some time to heal.

And in case you can’t tell, I’m not feeling super humorous.

So, that means I don’t have a witty one liner to tie the end of this post back to the intro.

So, um…

The end?

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How D’ya Do, Wackadoo?

From Kalamazoo.

I was about to erase all of that.  Or at least the part about Kalamazoo.  But then I realized it actually works perfectly to demonstrate what it is I came here to talk about.

If you have seen me in person since October, you may have noticed that my phone screen resembles the heels of a professional ballerina.  Cracks spreading out in webs across the whole screen.  Shards held together solely by the thin screen cover my husband lovingly applied as tightly as possible, risking bloody, shard-y fingers in the process, in order to hold me until the fee to replace a screen drops below $230.

Cuz, yeah.  That’s 5 visits to my Endo or surgeon.  Or 2 full sessions of basketball.  Or half of our monthly grocery bill.  Or, frankly, 10 bottles of Jim Beam.

We will not be handing over $230 to Apple right now.  I think they have enough of our money.

So, I have been squinting at photos to see if Xavi is smiling or frowning and unable to properly edit since I can’t tell if I typed an n or an m since October.

Now you know why I texted you, “Mewwy Chrustmas!”

My husband just gchatted me (It’s 2013.  I’m pretty sure that’s a verb by now.) to tell me that his phone screen stopped working today.

Oh, babe, we are a hot mess.

You see, it isn’t just our broken phones, we are truly a hot, hot mess all around.

Which brings me to our next corner of failure at the moment: roundness.  We are both suffering from it.  Me more than him to be sure. (Damn males and their natural tendency to not add padding to their bums! {shakes fist at nearest male})  We are simply not at our healthiest.  And frankly, I feel that at age 31 we actually should be at our peak of health.

Our wallets, on the other hand, are leaner than they should be.  I was brought up to never discuss money and my husband is the worlds most private man, which obviously includes finances, but I am just saying that we aren’t making it rain simply because it’s Tuesday and we feel like it.   We have to keep it to Saturdays.  (Ki-dding.  Like I would denigrate women that way.) (Ki-dding.  Like I would stand next to a petite naked woman in front of my husband right now.) (Okay, hopefully  you understand everything from ‘making it rain’ until now has been a big joke.  Also, no more parenthesis for Annie.)    In any event, all I really mean is that this was supposed to be a year of saving and somehow it turned into one of our most expensive years yet.  A nice little Thyroidectomy/Neck Dissection combo does not really help this cause.

The truth is that the past several months have been challenging.  So much of my attention, time and energy was focused on doctor’s appointments, stress, waiting and now recovery, that too many things fell to the wayside.   Anything else I was accomplishing was likely done in a state of distraction.  Fear has a way of sitting right up front in your brain and smirking at all of the other thoughts and tasks and emotions trying to come up and speak to the driver.

But now it is time to move on.  Sure, I still have some recovery time ahead of me.  Yes, I have a lifetime of monitoring and adjusting my meds to normal levels.  More importantly, I need to learn specific techniques to deal with the unique trials and tribulations that accompany a body with no thyroid.  But, the cancer is gone.  I need to release the fear, shake myself out of semi-paralysis and start participating in all aspects of my life with clarity, energy and a sense of presence.

Time to come back to Earth.

I am saying this as though I have been processing and accepting this for awhile now, but it is truly something I only fully realized in the past seven minutes or so.   I told you writing is cathartic.

You see, the past two days have actually perhaps been the height of my lofty, crazed existence.   There was a good week of fuzziness after surgery, until I was shaken awake by news that they were able to remove all of the cancer from my body during surgery.  That was a high like I haven’t had in a long while.  I cried.  I called family.  I texted everyone I know.  My 6th grade science teacher was probably surprised to hear from me.  I couldn’t stop smiling.

After three days of euphoria, I had a sad day.  I don’t know why, but there it was.  Plopped down on top of me.

For two days after that, leading up to today, I have been doing my best to get up and help out when I feel up to it so that I am not in shock when it’s totally up to me again.  But for the past couple days my time in bed has been spent cruising the internet with no real sense of direction.

I mentioned buying throw pillows for our bed, which is mostly okay since I mostly used an old gift card.  But then Pinterest swallowed me whole again.  I found myself pinning fatty, gooey, drippy foods that I know I shouldn’t – and probably won’t – ever make.  It was still comforting somehow?  And I still gained a pound afterward.  No joke.  I got sidetracked with Make-Your-Own! Soy Candles and almost dropped $58 on soy wax flakes before I remembered we don’t even have room to store our toaster in this apartment, let alone a giant box of soy wax flakes.  And that most of my friends would look at me sideways if I gave them a homemade candle for their next birthday.  Oh, yeah, and that we are supposed to be on a budget.  By we, I clearly mean I in this case.  After the candles I somehow discovered Jelly Shots – apparently Jello Shots classier aunt.   On a side note – I have a feeling ‘jelly’ desserts are going to be to 2013 what cake pops were to 2010.  I’m calling it now.  Feel free to buy me an elegant jelly shot next December when you realize I was right. In any event, I guess I used up my limited amounts of common sense and self-control with the wax flakes because I did find myself buying boxes of clear gelatin and adorable molds.  I have to have these Cucumber Lime Margaritas and these Watermelon Basil Martinis, along with basically every other thing from the Jelly Shot Test Kitchen.  Of course, once I was looking at adorable molds, I started seeing some that would be perfect for Valentine’s Day.  I know!  I will jump back into parenting by trying a craft slash cooking project with the boys that I have never before attempted!  That seems wicked smaht!  Yes, I purchased additional molds for chocolate lollipops to make with the boys for Valentine’s Day.  And then I had to buy the chocolate candy melts, since, you know, I don’t have any since, you know, I have never done this before.  Of course, I realized that I needed lollipop sticks. Oh! And small cellophane bags to put around each lollipop so we can hand them out.

You guys, I was the mouse and I think those throw pillows were my cookie.   For any non-parents reading this – and your numbers are actually quite surprising, by the way.  Thanks for being here! – ask a niece or nephew what happens when you give a mouse a cookie…

On the bright side, I easily surpassed the $25 minimum necessary for free shipping!  Oh, wait, that’s right – we have Amazon Prime.   Hmm…well, then, on the bright side:   Jelly shots! Candy heart lollipops!  Wheeeeee!

After ‘repinning,’ ‘liking’ and purchasing just about everything unhealthy I could  find on the entire world wide web – yup, no stone unturned – what do you think I did today?

Oh, spent at least two hours reading Paleo blogs.  Nodding as I read, in the way you do right before you are completely converted to any new concept.   Analyzing recipes, running through grocery lists in my head.  Why, you ask?  Because crazy is as crazy does, I suppose.

And this is my point.

I feel like I am wildly sprinting from one point to the next, looking around and then darting over to another equally indulgent or extreme location.   And I’m not sure my husband is far behind.

Things have taken their toll on us far more than we realized.

But it is time to get ourselves in check.  For him, that means a yoga plan with daily guidelines so that he sticks to it.  And trying to eat clean for at least the next 108 days.  Including no alcohol.  We shall see how long Jim sits on the shelf, twiddling his lonesome thumbs…

Actually, my husband’s will power is much stronger than mine, so I bet Jimmy will have a nice layer of dust before his next encounter with an ice cube.

Me?

I hate writing the word ‘sigh,’ but honestly, I just sighed.

Last year I tried no less than five cleanses, eating plans, programs and philosophies.  I am not saying the word diet because each one professed to not being a diet.   A year later, I weigh exactly what I did last January.  Kind of makes me want to give up and wallow in a big bowl of chocolate pudding.  Like, literally inside of a human-sized bowl of chocolate pudding.

I think I need to start smaller.  Focus on holding myself accountable by recording what I eat and specifically not following anyone else’s plan. By this point, I know what foods are clean, what foods I should stay away from, and that my portions should probably be cut in half.  I just need to find ways to hold myself accountable and reward myself when I reach milestones.  As far as exercise is concerned, I will try to join my husband as many mornings as I can muster even though anyone who knows me knows that I have always despised yoga.  I think my body and mind’s current need for it outweigh my distaste.   And I may do Couchto5K with a neighbor/mommy friend of mine since we can easily watch each others toddler while the other one runs.  And hold each other accountable.   Clearly, a necessary aspect for me.

Somehow I have a feeling that refocusing ourselves health-wise will help alleviate many of the other smaller issues that are out of whack.   Except the phones, I guess.  Those will require separate solutions, but maybe clear minds and energized bodies will allow us to handle them quickly once we are ready.

Or maybe an Apple employee will stumble across this post and offer us each new, fully functioning  iPhone.  Stranger things have happened, right?

In the meantime, if you live nearby, be ready for some trial chocolate lollipops headed your way that will probably be heart-ish shaped.   Just be thankful you won’t be getting a small soy candle for your next birthday.

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Enjoying the Spell

Let me begin with a few little housekeeping notes: I BEAT CANCER.

How’s that for a hashtag BOOM moment?  Cancer Survivor. #BOOM

Yup, sucker didn’t stand a chance.  TKO down for the count in the first round. (I am possibly mixing sports slang gibberish to be even more gibberishy, but what the heck.)  The call came on Thursday. *Mayhaps* after seven ‘inquisitive’ phone messages left on the surgeon’s voice mail by my husband.  Side note: bless your frightened soul if you have ever had my husband speak to you ‘inquisitively.’  I was told that the pathology of my thyroid and it’s ten nodular cling-ons and ‘some’ lymph nodes above and below my thyroid showed one, singular malignant tumor.  When the cancer has not spread to other nodules or surrounding lymph nodes, there is no medical reason to believe it has spread at all.  So no scans.  No low-iodine diet.  No radiation.

Happy Annie.  Happy, cancer-free Annie.

Okay, so teensy, weensy housekeeping aside, I am still working through this whole ‘recovery from Thyroidectomy and Neck Dissection’ thing.  By still working through it I mean I haven’t really gotten out of bed except to pee.  And no, I am not simply saving you from vulgar potty talk by only mentioning pee.  That statement is, unfortunately, pretty accurate.

I have already discussed that my family has rallied around me.  My husband took a week off from work (he doesn’t even do that for vacation), my in-laws were here, my parents were here, my siblings-in-law (It’s not my fault if that terminology is incorrect.  I am an only child.  How would I know?  If you tell me it’s incorrect now, you are pretty much taunting me for being an only child.  Don’t do that.  Bully.) are here now, my dad is returning, my mother-in-law is returning,…

You get the drift.

This has been taking place since Thursday, January 3rd and I believe I have family help scheduled to be here through at least Sunday, January 20th.

It’s too much, right?  Like, nobody deserves to be that lucky.  To have family do that much for them.  I was almost scared to tell them that I found out the surgery got out all of the cancer.  That I was cancer-free.  I thought they might drop the sponge, tell me to get my own stupid Vicodin and tea jump in their cars and drive home.

But they haven’t.  They are still here, playing with my kids, feeding them way too much candy three meals a day, asking me what kind of organic soup they can make for me, washing the dishes, emptying out/taking inventory/re-organizing my fridge. (Yes, take a minute to let that one sink in.)

And they are still being nice about it.

Every time my sister-in-law or husband sticks their head in and asks me if I need anything, I find myself freezing and slightly tilting my head as I cautiously answer them, “More water, please?”- preparing myself to hear them cackle and say, “Get it yourself, lazy!”  Instead they get mad at me when I try to get up and get my own water.  I keep being encouraged to please for the love of all things two-legged stay in bed and rest.  Which, frankly, for someone who is used to running after kids all day while trying to cook and clean (Don’t laugh.  I actually do try.) is kind of…uncomfortable. But I get it.  I don’t just have a cut on my neck.  I have an incision.  The entry point through which they cut out a pretty important part of my body, and surrounding parts, before closing it up again.  And my body had been trying to fight cancer on it’s own for, well, months at least before surgery.  And now it’s adjusting to not having a thyroid.

But still, it all just feels really weird.

However, it has led to some quality time on the internet.  Oxymoron, you say?  Well, then you haven’t listened to all 50 of NPR’s Favorite Albums of 2012.  Alright, to be honest, kind of a big, fat…meh.  2012 was apparently not a great year for music.  But see?  I wouldn’t have known that if I wasn’t laid up in bed all week!

If mentioning such highbrow things as NPR and Albums doesn’t prove to you what quality awaits you on the vast interwebs, how about Pinterest?  It’s pretty hard to deny the value of Pinterest, isn’t it?

Did you know that boiled eggs could be made into heart shapes before Pinterest?  Bet not.  I didn’t.

What about Chicken Potato Green Bean Bacon Buffalo Cream of Mushroom Casserole…in a Crockpot! Had your mind been blown by it’s existence prior to Pinterest?  Nope. Were you “Definitely going to make this for dinner tonight! Delish!”?  I don’t think so.

And I know you didn’t know that pretty much any item you can pick up with your hand can then be placed in a mason jar, rendering it immediately “Adorbs!” to the point where you are “Totally going to do this!”  Not before Pinterest, you didn’t.

Whoa.  I just almost got sucked into a Pinterest rabbithole without. even. being. on. Pinterest.   That’s what I call Black Magic.

In any event, I was on Pinterest, daydreaming about what totally loving, yet quirky and unique quotes and Family Rules we can paint onto a blackboard wall in our future home, when I came across something special.  Yes, special even when floating around in the ocean of special that is Pinterest:  A Samoa Cake.

My favorite kind of Girl Scout Cookies?  Samoas.

Favorite kind of cake? Marble.

Favorite topping?  Coconut.

Okay, so maybe answers two and three are more supporting evidence of answer number one, rather than separate facts, but still.  The point is that I have to have this cake.

And here is the thing about having cancer, even if you don’t have it for very long, even if you don’t have Stage IV or a variety whose odds stack up hard against you or you treat it with surgery, rather than chemo, there is something about hearing the words, “You have cancer” that changes you, even if it’s only due to the stigma of fear we have created -rightly so – around that word.  And then there is something that changes in you again once you hear that you no longer have cancer.

It doesn’t change you back, but just again. More.

For me, I can already see that I have a much stronger urge to never take anyone or anything for granted.  At the end of my life I want to know that I left everything on the field.  A friend just posted this quote that sums up pretty accurately what I am fumblingly trying to explain: “I do not want to get to the end of my life and find out that I just lived the length of it.  I want to live the width of it as well.” – Diane Ackerman.

No better place to start than a Samoa Cake, right?  Doesn’t get any wider than that!     Ba-dum-dum.

So I sent my husband a Pinterest link in his email at work (He loves that.) and kindly asked that he make this cake for me on my 32nd birthday.   He said yes.  Which I knew he would.  To be fair, he probably always would say yes to this type of request, but I knew for certain he would say yes this time.  He is in kind of a holy-crap-my-wife-has-cancer-she-had-her-throat-slit-oh-wait-now-she-is-going-to-be-okay stupor lately that has left him even more loving than usual.

Like, he noticed I have a few hairs on my big toe when he rubbed my foot after surgery.  (Shut up, you know you do too.  …don’t you?)  It was actually one of the first things he whispered to me once I was semi-coherent.

Baby, did you know you have hair on your big toe?

What the?

Yeah, I know! So crazy, right? You didn’t know it was there either, did you!

Why do you speak to me of this now, husband?  I just had surgery.  Have you seen your feet?  You could braid your baby toe hair.  Of course I know mine is there, I just lost all seven pairs of tweezers lately.   (Pain meds make me monotone.  Enjoy the !!! break.)

The point I was getting to is that after discovering  my toe hair (Random aside: We have been together for twelve years.  Me thinks I’ve not requested enough foot rubs, it seems.) he tried to kiss my toes several times this week.  This man is clearly sick.  Love sick.   Puppy dog love sick.

It might be wrong, but I plan on using this sickness.

C’mon, people.  For good, for good. Obviously. I mean, we all benefit from a Samoa Cake, if we are being honest with ourselves.   But yes, I asked him to bake me this “Totes amazeballs!” Pinterest cake because I know there is zero chance of him turning me down right now.

Alright, and I *may* have also used some Macy’s gift cards we’ve had since 2007 to buy several throw pillows for our bed that, even on sale, cost more than what I would usually spend on shoes.   I think seeing more pillows on our bed should be the perfect litmus test to see just how strong this wife/cancer scare spell is.

Listen, it’s not my fault I’m stuck in bed trolling the world wide web while recuperating from cancer surgery!  Cancer isn’t fair, remember?  We all suffer.  His suffering is just in the form of rectangular turquoise chevron-patterned throw pillows.  He should just be thankful I didn’t push my luck and get one that said Live Laugh Love.

I’m no dummy.  Trust me, I don’t want to do anything to break this spell.  My birthday is several months away and I HAVE to HAVE that Samoa Cake.

I wonder if he’ll figure out a way to serve it in mason jars…

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Static

Crackle…crackle…crackle on the radio wire.

I’m not feeling so chatty lately.

This doesn’t mean I haven’t posted anything on Facebook or taken a photo to upload to Instagram.  It doesn’t even mean that I haven’t texted or emailed anyone who reached out to me.

I have done all of those things.  But you’ll notice none of those activities require more than 250 words.

I mean, I didn’t say I’m not bored.  Because, ohhhhh, I am.

But I don’t feel like waxing poetic on the baby politics of NYC or delving deep into self-analysis of personal flaws or wishes.  I don’t feel like describing my days in annoying painstaking detail or writing dry, imaginary quotes under photos of my boys.

I certainly don’t feel like trying to explain the hodge podge of emotions I have felt recently.  (Not that this Vicodin, even when used sparingly, truly permits writing coherently enough to do so anyway.)  And the fact that I have remained in a position ‘lacking movement, development or vitality’ for the past five days isn’t helping my inspiration.

Although I suppose the fact that I logged into my site and started writing anything at all means that I do have something to say, so I will go ahead and put a few things down in writing, albeit probably not eloquently.

On Thursday, January 3rd, 2013, the very beginning of a fresh, clean, bright-eyed year, my parents and mother-in-law arrived in Brooklyn.  My own personal army.  Their presence was soothing, but also the main reminder that the following day was a big deal.  Full Thyroidectomy with Neck Dissection due to malignancy.  Big Deal.

I tried to spend Thursday preparing mentally, emotionally, and with an empty sink and clean floors.  I also planned to get a mani/pedi and have my eyebrows done.  As I parked for an errand mid-day and then looked down to get my phone and purse together before opening the door, a car side-swiped me.  I ended up waiting an hour and a half for the police.  Just to be told that if I pressed charges (I have her license plate number) she would be arrested.  I started crying and took an accident form to complete and mail in instead, not wanting a fellow mother to be locked up on my behalf for a mistake.

The day was not as relaxing as I had envisioned.

By dinnertime things were back on track and we were all able to have a delicious meal at a perfectly cozy and elegant restaurant nearby.  Surrounded by my family and with two glasses of Pinot Noir in my belly, I felt ready to shake my nerves and step back into the glow of positivity.

When our alarm went off at 4:45 am I was still full of confidence and strength, giggling with my husband as we drove into Manhattan.  By 5:45 I was checked in, still smiling.  By 6:15 I had my hospital attire on, including a snazzy seersucker robe that would have made my martini-sipping, cigarette-smoking grandfather proud.   The fact that the hospital pants have a gigantic open area where a piece of fabric covering your genitals should be produced equal amounts horror and hysterics by my husband and I, made okay only by the two gowns that offer some modesty over them.  The fact that the pants did not at all quite fit correctly and that a nurse weighed me and I saw a number 30 pounds higher than when I weighed myself in September, defeated me, even as my husband told me I was still beautiful.  No laughter.  By 7:00 another nurse was inserting my IV and I had already been introduced to each individual who would be in the operating room for the surgery.

By 7:30 am, I was saying goodbye to my husband and mom and being led toward the operating room with a goofy surgical cap on my head, an IV pole in my hand and plenty of tears in my eyes.

I was completely unprepared for how terrified I would be to go into surgery.   Entirely unprepared.

Walking into a huge, sterile room with concrete floors, tile walls and way too many metal rolling carts with metal tools and blue liner paper did not calm my fears.  Amazingly. {Biggest sarcastic wide-eyed eye roll ever}   Still teary, I kept telling the anesthetist and assistant that I was extremely nervous, hoping they would club me and drag me up onto the operating table.  Instead, I had to walk over and climb up onto the ‘table’ myself, while placing my head and arms each in their own correct Motion Prevention Device (title created by yours truly but not yet trademarked) where I continued to weepily explain how nervous I was…until I finally stopped breathing.

Stopped breathing?!  Seriously?!  I know Annie can be dramatic, but isn’t that a little extreme even for her?

I swear on all that is Holy, that at 7:00 am, when I asked the anesthetist how they would be sure that I was truly knocked out and not just seemingly knocked out (but secretly aware of the entire surgery and just unable to let anyone know because I couldn’t speak or open my eyes) she told me that they start the anesthesia through the IV line and know that it has fully taken effect once you stop breathing.

And then, they put in a breathing tube and start breathing for you.   No biggie.

Anyway, thankfully I was put under quickly and completely.  The part that was the easiest for me, was probably the hardest for my husband and mom, as they waited for me to get out of surgery.  It wasn’t made any easier by the fact that we all thought surgery would be about an hour to an hour and a half, but they weren’t called in to see me until after 10:00 am, over two and a half hours later.

The scariest part was done, but cancer wasn’t done wreaking a little havoc on our lives.  I spent the next few hours groggy and out of it.  I had a few moments of clarity, sharing a laugh with my dad once he arrived, chatting with a nurse.   I had other moments of overwhelming sadness, sobbing into my husband’s chest when we were alone for a few minutes.

Mostly I was fuzzy, uncomfortable and uncertain.

When given the option of spending the night in the hospital or going home, I chose my own bed, so we were driving through the Battery Tunnel toward Brooklyn by 5:00 pm, ready to start the recovery process.  I smiled delicately at the boys when I saw them, as I heard the other adults tell them to kiss their mommy’s hand.   They obliged awkwardly and smiled back at me, clearly confused.  My heart broke a little.  And then I walked into a different bedroom than the one I had left at 4:45 am.  This one was removed of all clutter, had been reorganized, sanitized, and mopped. (Okay, Swiffered.  It is 2013, after all.)   There were crisp, clean sheets on the bed, with soft blankets laid smoothly on top and fresh flowers arranged on the dresser and by my bed.   I cried with gratitude, making my mother-in-law cry too and in turn hit my arm for making her cry.   I’ve mentioned before that neither my family nor my husband’s are outwardly emotional.  I usually carry on enough for everyone combined.  So they hate it when they get dragged into my displays.

After passing through my seventy-three different emotions between the front door and my bed, I finally crawled under the sheets and rested my head on two pillows, trying to keep the wound across my neck in a position where I didn’t feel any pulling at the edges.

Ever since Friday night, my days have consisted of recording the timing and amount of each medication and trying to find liquids that don’t choke me, burn, or cause phlegm, but still offer some semblance of nutritional value.  Lovely, right?

On the bright side, my husband hasn’t left my side.  My parents rented a nearby apartment to help take the boys away from the strangeness of it all.  My in-laws helped cook and clean. My sisters-in-law are coming on Thursday.  I am lucky beyond words to have immediate family that has rallied behind me and done everything that needs doing.

I have also received beautiful flowers, gifts and cards.  Twice, friends have even stopped by for a visit, bringing flowers, vegetable juice, DVDs, homemade organic soup and soft risotto.

Lucky, lucky, lucky.

But lying in bed for four days also gives you too much time to think, be bored, feel lonely.

I would be lying if I said I have remained 100% positivity and rainbows and unicorns throughout all of this.  I have felt fat, ugly and gross.  My hair is greasy.  My armpits smell for the first time in…ever.   I have to ask my husband to get me every little thing…including prune juice.   This is pretty much the opposite of glamorous.

Not to mention how much it kills me to hear the boys playing in the other room and not be able to run in and tickle them.  Or to have them sent in to say goodnight to me and have to softly kiss their heads instead of scooping them up in a tight squeeze.  How badly I want to know what the joke was as I hear everyone laughing in the dining room.  How desperately I want to have my husband sleeping next to me again, instead of on the floor beside my bed.

Lying here, trying to let my body rest so that it can recuperate as quickly as possible, has also left too much time to analyze these past few months.  It was kind of surreal to be told that I had cancer.  You would think, that after months of testing and uncertainty, it would feel like closure in a way.  The possibility of cancer was what had everyone reminding me to be positive during testing.  But once we knew it was actually cancer, I still didn’t know how I was allowed to feel because apparently this is ‘good cancer if you have to get cancer.’  (Who knew I had to get cancer?)  There were people who started crying when I told them and people who smiled and said ‘You’re the lucky one!’  How do you figure out how you feel about something with reactions that varied going on around you?

Then there were friends who literally disappeared.  Good friends.  Best friends.  And others who came out of the woodwork offering support and concern. Many, many people reaching out and letting me know they care.

I feel like I have been disappointed and then happily surprised at every turn.  It isn’t a roller coaster so much as a bumper car, jerking you harshly from side to side.

With all of this time on my hands, I feel like I am finally working through some of that confusion.  Although it is also still occurring.  People who let you down when you least expect it and people who show up more than you would have ever anticipated.   The reactions of others will perhaps never stop being utterly confounding, so I am starting to simply figure out my own reaction to all of this.

My feelings seem to change moment to moment, but in a nutshell:  cancer sucks.

It isn’t fair to have to be cut open, to have radiation, to go to chemo, to lose your hair, to have scars, to be missing body parts, to deal with other peoples’ emotional baggage, to pay huge medical bills, to sit on the sidelines, to be in pain, to be on medication, to await phone calls that tell you if you still have cancer inside of you,  to have to ask for help, to not be able to hug your kids.   None of it is fair, that much is clear.

But I can’t help but realize that there continue to be these shiny, bold, silver linings.  I have never been more appreciative of life and I can’t imagine taking it for granted from this point on.   I get to see, very clearly outlined, how much my family loves me and what they are willing to do for me.   I am learning many lessons about human nature and about friendships.   Um, annnnd my room looks and smells like a flower shop, you guys. (Unless you get too close to me and catch a whiff.  I don’t suggest you do that.)

Ultimately, I am grateful that this is happening at age 31.  I still have so much life ahead of me and I get to live it knowing what it is worth.

Okay, maybe I’m not still as static as I thought…

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Living

My blogging routine goes something like this:  Think of something I feel like discussing, fight to find a few free minutes during nap time or after the boys’ bedtime on nights my husband has class, write.

I don’t do a lot of pausing, thinking or editing.  Pretty much, I just kind of swoop a net through my brain and gather some thoughts, then let them flow onto the page.

Sometimes, though, it is a little more intense than that.  Sometimes I write because I feel like I have to.  Not that I owe it to anyone, but literally like my brain needs that release.  At those moments, the thoughts don’t flow so much as pour onto the page, pushing each other aside as they all fight to find their place through my fingertips and onto the screen.

This Fall, has been full of times like this.  Times where I needed to write.  Unfortunately, most of these times have been due to events so upsetting that my need to write was surely a part of my own processing, coping or grieving.

Once I have written my original ‘release piece’ about any event, I waver.  I still have leftover emotions, obviously.  But I also have other things I want to talk about, want to share, want to have in writing for my kids to see someday.  I think of my readers, too.  When something like a massacre of first graders occurs, I imagine that you, like I am, are still reeling, still grasping for understanding, still welling with tears at a certain comment or sight.  However, we can’t live our entire lives heart-deep in sorrow.

As I have wavered following this latest tragedy, several things have guided me.  One is a movie my husband and I watched the other night called Happy.  There are people in horrible situations all over the world that maintain true happiness.  Yes, things like poverty or disease are different from random acts of violence in that the person or thing to blame is not always as clear.  The level of anger probably less  because of that.  But it is a reminder that happiness is a choice, truly counting our blessings is a choice and reacting with humor and love, rather than continued despair and anger, is a choice.

Additional guidance came in the form of a beautiful comment on the Real Mommy Chronicles’ Facebook page from a beautiful friend.  She quoted an excerpt from this blog post on  www.OrdinaryCourage.com about practicing gratitude for what we have.  What Brené Brown has to say in her post is absolutely worth clicking over to and reading, but basically she explains that honoring what you have is actually the best way to honor what others have lost.

As you can imagine, the third thing that has steered my choices about how to navigate all of this is my own family.  When Hurricane Sandy hit, we had to prepare our apartment for the worst without scaring the boys, when I was diagnosed with cancer I had to deal with my own shock and fear without placing worry or sadness onto my sons’ shoulders, when children with whom Carlitos had attended school were stabbed to death by their nanny and when many children were shot and killed in a building where they should have been safe I have had to entirely shield my own children from my devastation, let alone the facts themselves, in order to preserve their sense of security and joy.

Life is a messy thing.  There truly is joy and there truly is pain.  Ugliness and beauty.  Love and hate.  Acts of terror and acts of compassion.

All of it at the same time all over the planet.

We can’t focus solely on the horrible in the same way that we can’t only acknowledge the good and put blinders on to the bad.  The human experience is supposed to be all of it.

A couple days ago, we went to see The Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall.  When Santa talked about how important the light in a child’s eye is and how the spirit inside of them is joy, I cried.  For all of the kids that don’t get to enjoy a complete childhood and for all of the parents who outlive their children.

But I also spent most of the show laughing at my two boys who couldn’t help themselves from bopping their shoulders (Xavi) and doing jazz hands (Carlitos) to each song – totally absorbed in their own happiness and unaware of their surroundings.

So, I will now finish a blog post I had started early last week, in the spirit of honoring the ones I love.  And hope that there can be a little more space in between ‘I have to write’ moments for a little while.

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My husband worked in a gas station convenience store growing up.  The thing he seems to remember most from this period is when parents would come in, buy cigarettes or beer and then yell at their kids when they asked for a piece of candy.

So the parent gets to spend money on their vice/unnecessary pleasure but the child doesn’t?  And worse, gets in trouble for daring to ask.

The impression this left on my husband has been entirely in my benefit and the benefit of our boys.

He has never come home with beer for himself without something in the the bag for us, typically candy for the boys and chocolate for me.  Never, ever, ever.

It works with bigger things, too.

This week, my husband had his work review and his bonus was a little bit more than he anticipated.  While most of the extra will probably go toward our deductible because of my surgery, and he definitely needs a new suit, his first thought was of the boys.  We had already purchased all of their Christmas gifts, but had stuck to a budget.  Now, he wanted to think of something extra that would make this Christmas even more special for the boys.

His first thought: the boys.

While visions of a weekend getaway to Vegas, bottles of fancy champagne and reservations at a chic restaurant flashed through my mind, my husband had already begun thinking of what he could buy for our kids that would be entirely frivolous and amazing and mind blowing.

Parent points go to daddy on this one, big time.

So, we are trying to find a cabin in the mountains to rent this weekend.  We did this one weekend this summer and the boys LOVED it.  We just got back a huge pack of Carlitos’ written stories from his teacher and at least three of them were about this weekend at a cabin in the mountains.   I am thinking being up there with snow just might make their little minds combust with joy and fascination.

I am grateful that I have a husband who can think of nothing better than giving to his kids.  And I am beyond thankful that we are able to have so many adventures as a family.  In honor of those who have lost a child, I vow to never take mine for granted.  We will continue to fit in as many family outings, explorations and new experiences as possible.  I will hug and kiss them every day and remind them how much I love them as often as they’ll let me.  We will laugh and play and create.

My husband and I will do everything in our power to give them the happiest childhoods possible.

I am trying to take comfort in hoping that those parents who have lost children really do see that as the best way to support them and to honor the memories of their children.

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Posted in Chronicles: observations of the outside world, Mommy: just showing some baby love, Real: my personal trials, tribulations and tales | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Seconds

Parents spend millions and millions of seconds thinking about what is best for their child, deciding what is best for their child, doing what is best for their child.  Seconds upon seconds upon seconds nurturing, loving and supporting their child.

As a pregnant mother, you cook your deli meat to the correct safe temperature, stay away from microwaves, drive a little slower, triple wash your lettuce, pay extra for organic milk, give up alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, stop visiting nail salons, make it through your days without your morning coffee.

As an expectant father, you start doing the math about saving up for college in 18 years, give up smoking, attend birthing classes, CPR classes, put together cribs, research the best parenting techniques, find the safest bottles and start dreaming about what lessons you will teach your child.

As parents waiting for an adopted child, you prepare your finances, give up extra expenses, add safety features to your home, exercise more and give up unhealthy vices so that you can be alive and healthy for as long as possible, take classes, research the best formula and healthiest sleep techniques.

This is all before our babies are even in our arms.

From the moment we realize we are going to have a child, every second of our lives is ultimately focused on somehow making life better for that child.  Every second of every day is spent doing things for our children, helping them grow, caring for them, trying to bring them joy, trying to ease their pain, working hard to earn money to provide for them, hugging them tightly and telling them how much we love them.

All of those seconds add up.  They literally add up to a lifetime.

That is why people say that their children are their life.  It is because they truly are our life.  Once they have entered our life, everything we do is for them.

And nothing can hurt us more than losing them.

Nothing.

The problem, is that losing them can also take just a second.  Not the lifetime of seconds we have woven together to raise our child, but just one solitary second.  One stupid, senseless, careless, horrific second.

After spending millions of seconds protecting our children, something outside of our control can take them away from us in one, single second.

Gone.

The seconds following must surely feel like eternity.  I can’t fathom the millions of seconds adding up after losing a child.  Each one unbearable.

For many of us, sending our kids off to kindergarten is the first time that they are out of arms, our sight, our control for such significant amounts of time.  We aren’t dropping them off for a music class or a morning pre-school.  We are fully entrusting them to adults other than ourselves for six hours a day, five days a week.  It can be scary.  It is a reminder that having a child is truly living life with your heart outside of your chest, bracing itself for harm and hurt.   But then you get into a rhythm, laugh with other parents at pick-up, forge a place in your heart for your child’s first teacher, smile as you see the same friendly staff at the front of the school each day.  Your guard goes down a little.

And then someone comes along and sadistically squeezes your heart, twisting it in a way you didn’t know was possible.  Your heart that is living outside of your chest, giving them easy access.  They squeeze it so hard you think it is going to burst.  There is no way it can withstand that kind of pain.  But it does survive and they walk away.

Only taking a second of their life to forever change yours.

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Posted in Chronicles: observations of the outside world, Mommy: just showing some baby love, Real: my personal trials, tribulations and tales | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments