Motherless daughters

After my mom died, a friend gave me a book called Motherless Daughters by Hope Edelman. It was several years — literally — before I was ready to read it. Not because I didn’t have time and not because my stack of books to read was long, but because the grief was still too raw. Too raw to read a book that is meant to help ease that grief. That’s pretty bad.

It’s true that time heals, though, and after a few years I was ready to delve into Edelman’s wisdom. While parts of the book were hard to read because they brought back a flood of memories and transported me back to the time of losing my mom, other parts reminded me that many other women were walking the same road, missing their moms every single day.

The single best thing I learned from losing my sweet mama is that no one can dictate another person’s grief. People grieve as differently as they live, and no one has the right to say “This is how it should be done.” There are no “shoulds” in the process of grieving, and if anyone suggests otherwise, walk the other way. You have my permission to be flat-out rude if need be.

I’m tickled and honored to again be a guest blogger on one of my all-time favorite blogs, Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer. I’ve never met Marie, the bloggess, in person, but don’t have to be in her presence to know that I like her, that she’s good people, as they say in my neck of the woods. Marie’s blog was one of the first BC blogs I found after being diagnosed and joining the pink ribbon club, and through her I’ve “met” many other BC bloggers whose words and experiences enrich my life on a regular basis.

I wrote this post for Marie a while back, at the behest of another BC blogger friend, Lauren, who had the amazing idea of having BC bloggers “stand in the gap” for Marie while she dealt with her beloved mother’s failing health. Blog posts came from far and wide, and while Marie no doubt felt loved and relieved, those of us in the gap felt honored and happy to help. It wasn’t until I embarked on this cancer “journey” that I truly understood how it feels to help someone in need. Sure, I’ve minded my friends’ kids while they ran errands, and I’ve delivered home-cooked meals to friends who’d had surgery or brought home new babies. But being on the receiving end of so much love, so many great meals, and such endless kindness was a whole ‘nother ball game.

Now that I’m on the other side of the cancer experience (knock wood), I’m even more motivated to lend a hand to those in need. Being featured on Marie’s wonderful blog is a thrill, but knowing I’ve lightened her load a bit is even better. And, after being home with sick kids for days on end with no end in sight, it made my day.

Cheers to Marie and Lauren and the other Nancy and every other woman out there navigating the world without her mom.

If you’re hankering for more, click here for my first guest post on JBBC, or here for my second one.

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Dear iPhone

Dear iPhone,

I’m sorry I treated you badly. I can change. I promise. 

I love you. 

I need you.

I miss you.

My heart is broken.

We’re so good together. 

My life is incomplete without you.

I’m committed to you. No other device will do.

I’ll be better. For you. Because I love you. Because you deserve better. 

I promise not to take you for granted. Ever again.

I never intended to leave you outside, all alone. I was distracted. There’s no excuse, I know. 

I didn’t know it was going rain so hard. The sky opened up, and before I realized where you were, you were soaked. Drowned. Sogged out. I tried CPR. I bought the best rice I could find and made you a dry, cozy bed. Too little too late, perhaps, but my heart is in the right place. Please come back.

I’m sorry.  

Please come back to me. 

Give me another chance. 

love always, N.


The most beautiful struggle

I came across this quote from Sigmund Freud and have been thinking about it for days:

“One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful.”

Hmmmmm.

Gonna need to ponder that one a while longer

Of course this made me think of the cancer “journey.” At first blush, my instinct was to think, “If Freud said it, it must be true.” I’ve always equated Freud with absolutes, and if the granddaddy of psychotherapy believes it, so do I. Nothing like putting blind faith in a long-dead, much-maligned, and perhaps slightly insane Austrian guy, right?

I’m still on the fence about whether the “years of struggle” will become the most beautiful. I’m inclined to think not, but am reserving judgment.

My blind faith in all things Freud did get me to thinking, though, so I consulted the all-mighty Google to learn a little more about him. On a side note, I laughed out loud at one of the hits that turned up in my search of Freud: “Why Men Pull Away — 10 Ugly Mistakes Women Make That Ruin Their Chance at Relationships” by http://www.catchHimAndKeepHim.com. What in the world would Freud think of that??

Back to Freud.

Born in 1856 to poor Jewish parents in Pribor, Czechoslovakia, Freud was an outstanding student and graduated with honors. He originally planned to study philosophy but was drawn to med school after reading Goethe’s poem, “Hymn to Nature.” I shudder to think how different our world would be if Freud had not read that poem and gone on to study neurology and, more importantly, anesthesia. Freud was instrumental in using cocaine as an anesthesia, and while many patients died and providers became addicted, the way was paved for modern medicine to employ drugs during surgery. As one who has endured multiple procedures, with perhaps more to come, I’m grateful to Freud for his pioneering spirit. A world without Versed is one in which I do not wish to live.

Freud has many famous quotes, besides the one about the struggle being fondly remembered. This one caught my eye: “Dreams are often most profound when they seem the most crazy.” Anytime a psychiatrist talks about crazy dreams, I’ll listen. You know there’s a great story waiting to happen.

And this: “I have found little that is ‘good’ about human beings on the whole. In my experience most of them are trash, no matter whether they publicly subscribe to this or that ethical doctrine or to none at all. That is something that you cannot say aloud, or perhaps even think.”

Whoa. So the master of psychoanalysis, the guru of getting inside your head, thought that most people are trash. That is heavy stuff. Makes me rethink my instinct to believe all things Freud to be true. And makes me think that perhaps he was wrong about the years of struggle seeming the most beautiful. While there are many things to be gained from a struggle, and I myself have indeed learned a lot from my cancer “journey,” I think I would have been just fine without it, Dr Freud, thankyouverymuch.


Happy birthday?

Macy and I were watching Animal Planet (aren’t we always??) when this commercial came on. There’s a series of them, created by the American Cancer Society through the More Birthdays campaign. I like this campaign. I give it two thumbs up. The list of musicians who have participated is long — from Aaron Neville to Weezer, with plenty of variety in between. Even my personal fave, Jack Johnson, got involved.

According to the ACS:

“We believe every birthday you celebrate is a victory. Another year that cancer has not prevailed. Your birthday means everything to us. That’s why we’re dedicated to creating a world with less cancer and more birthdays. Thanks in part to our work, 11 million cancer survivors will celebrate another birthday this year. But we can’t stop there. With your help, we can create a world with even more celebrations, more laughter, and more birthdays for all.”

morebirthdays.com

Macy was puzzled by the campaign, which surprised me. Cancer has been a part of her life for most of her life — my mom was sick during Macy’s preschool years, then we had several “normal” years before I was diagnosed. Kids whose parents have cancer grow up fast — they face the ugly realities of illness, fear, uncertainty, hospitalizations, treatments, doctors’ appointments, and death.

My girl didn’t quite get the point of the campaign for more birthdays. I would have guessed just the opposite — that because she’d witnessed my cancer “journey” firsthand, she’d understand exactly what the ad meant. I guess it’s a good thing that my kid doesn’t associate my cancer with death and, by extension, with no more birthdays. It’s a slippery slope when dealing with young kiddos and disease. On one hand, I’ve tried to be open and honest about my “journey” with my kids, but on the other hand, I sure don’t want to plant the seed that makes them realize that, hey, wait — people die from this, so Mom could too.

What’s the right answer to the “how much is too much info” question? I haven’t the faintest idea. There’s so much about the cancer “journey” that lacks a definite answer. Come to think of it, there’s so much in parenting that lacks a definite answer. I’m sure there are a million and one books on amazon.com about the best way to talk to kids about cancer. I was way too busy upon diagnosis, though, to order any, much less read them. Having cancer is a full-time job, as is raising young kids. So I never found the right answer, and decided to just wing it. So far so good, as evidenced by the fact that my favorite girl doesn’t understand the campaign for more birthdays.

 


Cupcakes

No, this post isn’t really about cupcakes. Sorry. It’s about a funny shirt and stupid people.

I wore this shirt to the gym on Friday and then to run errands afterward. I meant to write about it then but was busy being the hostess with the mostess and am just now getting to it. Anyhoo, the shirt:

My friend Jodie sent it to me in the midst of my cancer “journey” and I howled with laughter. I wore it proudly after my mastectomy and before reconstruction, when my chest was flat as a board and very conducive to easy reading. I wear it proudly now after reconstruction, and will continue washing it on delicate and hanging it to dry in hopes of prolonging its life.

I usually get a comment or a sly smile from my fellow gym rats when I wear this shirt, but Friday I encountered two older ladies who didn’t appreciate the humor. The first one looked at me and tsk-tsked then told her friend how inappropriate she thought it was to make light of such a serious situation. She wondered aloud why our club doesn’t have a strict dress code.

Really??

You know me, I couldn’t let it go. Just couldn’t turn the other cheek and walk away.

I said excuse me, I couldn’t help but overhear (not that she was trying to be discreet in her criticisms) what you said about my shirt. I’m curious what exactly about it bugs you? She replied that she thinks it’s disrespectful for people to be flippant when they know nothing of the disease.

Oh boy.

I pointed out as nicely as I could (which probably wasn’t really all that nice) that I do indeed know something of “the disease.” She looked a bit surprised when I told her that I myself had breast cancer and am proud to be a survivor. I like the fact that people in the gym who don’t know me see my shirt and realize that cancer survivors can get on with life. I’ve had several people tell me that seeing me at the gym is inspiring to them, and on days when they’re struggling through their workout, they see me hitting it hard and decide to step it up a bit. After all, if the girl who had cancer can do it, they can, too.

But Judgemental Lady didn’t see it that way, apparently. See, she thought there’s no way I could be a cancer survivor because I’m too young. Women my age don’t get breast cancer, she says.

Let’s just say that she got a bit more education on that topic than she might have wanted.

I informed her and her friend that according to the American Cancer Society, nearly 20,000 breast cancer diagnoses a year are delivered to women younger than 45. That my breast surgeon has performed bilateral mastectomies on women younger than me. That my OB-GYN — who diagnosed me — recently diagnosed a women who is 27 years old. That young women with breast cancer fight a different battle than their older counterparts, for many reasons: facing more aggressive cancers and lower survival rates, (hopefully) battling the beast for more years than we’ve been alive, a lack of effective screening for women under 40, being underrepresented in research, having young kids at home, dealing with fertility issues, enduring early menopause, and struggling with serious body-image issues being among the more egregious.

No charge for the lesson, lady.

I set her straight and went on about my business. While waiting in line to return a coat that was too small for Piper (yes, little piggies do need a coat, even in Houston), a lady told me she liked my shirt.

Oh, really? How refreshing.

She went on to ask if it was a fundraiser for cancer. I had to think about that for a minute, and while I was trying to figure out what in the sam hell she meant, she started blabbing about a bake sale her kid’s school did for cancer. She thought my shirt referred to a bake sale! Now that’s a new one.

I explained that no, it’s not a fundraiser and it’s not a bake sale, that I myself had breast cancer. She still looked puzzled, so I spelled it out for her: “cupcakes” is a euphemism for breasts, and mine “licked cancer” by defeating the wily beast that was laying siege to my body. I guess technically my cupcakes didn’t lick cancer, but my surgeons did by amputating said cupcakes, but that seemed like more detail than the conversation warranted. She smiled at me in the manner one would smile at a deranged lunatic on the loose and scooched her shopping cart back a little bit.

I don’t care what the general public thinks; I love my shirt and will continue to wear it proudly. Judgemental old ladies and bake-sale zealots be damned.

 


Party pics!

I know, I know–I’ve been seriously neglectful of this little blog. I’ve been busy. The days are just packed. It’s bad. I feel guilty. Yadda yadda.

To assuage my blogger guilt, you might think I’d craft a meticulous, witty, and informative post about something, anything.

But no.

Not today.

I hit the ground running this morning and got the kiddies off to school, fed the animals, pounded out a good workout, grabbed some groceries in the rain, unpacked said groceries, horked down a Greek yogurt with blueberries & raspberries, threw some chicken breasts in the oven to bake before they take a dip into chicken noodle soup, and now I’m heading to my tennis drill. And it’s not even noon.

Sooooooo, in lieu of a meticulous, witty, and informative post, you get this: enjoy!

Piggie party hat, ripped from the head of a $3.49 stuffed turtle from TJ Maxx, then customized for our little piggie. The turtle went to the dogs and is now limbless and sans stuffing.

The party girl in her hat. A ribbon chin-strap and a little bling and she's ready to party.

 

The birthday girl with her party-hatted pig. This, my friends, is what life is all about. A girl. A pig. A hat. A party. Good stuff.


Double digits!

Today is a very special day.

10 years ago today, Macy exploded into this world.

She’s been making a splash every day since.

My baby is 10 years old today.

When we brought her home from the hospital, in her little car seat, we had no idea what kind of fun, wildness, and hilarity would ensue. Her personality was right there from the very beginning, ready to wow us and cause us to scratch our heads at the idea that someone so small could have that much verve.

Every day with Macy is an adventure. This girl has been going places since Day One.

She may be tiny, but she’s ready to go.

As soon as she checks her voice mail, that is.

I hope she’s not such a heavy drinker as she seems to be here. Yikes! (Although, yes, she does come by it honestly.)

She’s always been the queen of the wacky projects. No telling what she had in mind for that giant stack of paper plates. Whatever the plan, she’s hatching it with intensity. Intensity, but no pants.

Such creativity is hard to contain. Starting school was rough for this girl. She was not a happy camper at preschool open house.

She’d rather be on the beach.

There’s a lot of important work to do in the sand.

People to see, things to do. Shades to wear.

This girl has always had her eye on the prize.

Make that two eyes on the prize. Two very big eyes.

Love those big eyes!

And the funny faces. That girl is a master of the funny faces.

“You want a piece of me??”

What ‘chu talkin’ about, Willis?

Hanging with Hayley always elicits wackiness.

I am 100 percent sure Macy was behind the bubble explosion and that she convinced Payton to come along for the wild ride.

She has her sweet side, too.

With a love of animals as big as Texas, our girl never met a creature she didn’t adore.

Macy, as you celebrate the wonderful world of double digits, I have a few things I wish for you:

May your creativity always rule as you live your life out loud.

May you always take it to the limit. Push the envelope. Go your own way. March to your own beat. While this trait of yours drove me nearly to madness in your early days, I trust that it will serve you well as you navigate life’s twisty, turny path. Be yourself — no matter what.

May your projects always inspire you.

May your acute fashion sense always lead you to put your best foot forward.

May your days be full of magic.

May your every recipe turn out just right.

May your life be long and sweet and full of all your favorite things.

May you always sparkle!

May you never lose your drive to work hard…

…and party hard.

May you soar as high as the clouds.

Make a wish, sweet girl!

Cheers to you, Macy girl!

The happiest of birthdays to my favorite girl.