Ballet Class

Today was the day!! The big girl’s first ballet class!! I was nervous that she wouldn’t be comfortable leaving me to go into the classroom that she’s never seen before with a teacher she’s never met. I was more than pleasantly surprised. She went right in with the crowd of little girls in pink. She sat down directly in front of the teacher (that must be a genetic thing), and glanced back at the door to give me one final ear to ear grin before the door closed.
After the hour-long class, she emerged still with that huge smile. I was pretty crushed not to be able to watch her, but I’m happy she had the opportunity to be independent and develop her own feelings about studying ballet without looking for my expressions of validation. She continued to ask until bedtime if she could go back again next week. Hooray for my little ballerina!
While she was twirling, I was talking to other moms in the waiting room. I never intend to bring up breast cancer or the BRCA gene in a conversation with people I’ve only just met, but it always seems to come up. Is it that it’s just always on my mind in my subconscious? I suppose it was meant to be because one of the ladies lit up when I was talking. It was like a light bulb went off and she said, “I just decided to get the BRCA test last week”. She said her OBGYN had suggested it because her aunt recently died of the disease. She had forgotten about following up after checking in with her insurance company about their coverage of genetic tests. I told her about the place where I got tested who took care of the testing, the insurance, etc.
Even though I was so looking forward to this ballet class as a wonderful moment for my daughter and for me, one that would have nothing to do with breast cancer or surgery; I’m happy that I could impart some life saving knowledge to another mom. I don’t want anyone to miss out on improving their chances for a long and healthy life. I hope she’s negative for the gene, but either way, I know that she has the information she needs to take care of herself. I look forward to watching our little girls dance together for a long, long time.

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Friends

Add this to the list of what I love about wedding season. I get to see old friends who live far away. It seems like via this blog, my friends are catching up with me, but I’m missing out on their status updates. It’s not for lack of interest, Facebook just isn’t cutting it.
I was talking with a really old friend this weekend who lives far away. It’s the type of friendship where we could not see each other or even talk in months, but it’s effortless to pick right back up where we left off. We were discussing the value of friendship and how with a truly close friend, you almost tell more of the negative things than the positive. A person you can lean on when life is down in the dumps is a true friend. It made me examine who, in my life, I think would really be there for me if I needed them. And vice versa. Who can I count on? Who do I want to know that they can count on me? I would hope that I could be that rock for all of my good friends.
Sometimes I’m disappointed when someone I expect to be there isn’t. It’s not really fair of me to have expectations of anyone but myself (and my husband, who is unfairly expected of most all of the time). I’m sure that I’ve let people down too. At times, I know I’m caught up in my own day to day drama (or a dramedy starring my 9 month old peeing on me and my two year old screaming, “I’m being difficult!”, cut to my exacerbated face trying to mask a laugh with voice-over of inner monologue: “no shit!”).
I’m probably not there for my friends as much as I would like to be. I know it’s hard enough to contain my own everyday catastrophes, I’m sure my friends are just trying to keep a lid on theirs as well. We can’t always be there for each other. I have to cut myself and my friends some slack. No expectations are great expectations.

Bravery

As payback for making him watch the Jersey Housewives, my husband just made me watch Call of the Wildman. It’s a show on the Animal Planet channel that follows a “backwoods” trapper. He catches vermin that are a bother to people. I think this is ridiculous programming. Who wants to watch a trapped raccoon climb walls and hiss at the “Turtleman” (that’s what they call him, perhaps because that’s what he looks like)? What he lacks in teeth, he makes up for in bravery.
Being brave is not easy. I often ask my daughter to “be a big girl” and do something she’s afraid of. What I’m really asking of her is to be brave. Is this really fair? Are “big girls” all brave? Is it realistic to demand that someone else exhibit bravery when encountered with something they truly fear? I can barely walk through grass without being afraid of snakes potentially slithering by. What would I do if someone asked me to garden? After my big girl gets over her fear and shows her bravery, she’s so proud of herself. She says. “look Mommy, I did it!”
In most cases when I’m frightened of something I ask myself what I will be missing out on if I don’t suck it up and overcome. I have a fear of flying, but I took two 14 hour plane rides for my honeymoon (plus several smaller flights including a helicopter). I didn’t want my aversion to flight to hold me or my husband back from experiencing our dream vacation. It’s so easy for me to be brave facing my double mastectomy. There are too many positives that will come out of this procedure, how could I not suck it up and do it? I am a big girl. I can do it!

One Day

Last night we watched a pretty horrible movie, One Day, with Anne Hathaway. It was based on one of those Nicholas Sparks-ish novels. It was fairly awful with moments of excruciating and my poor husband sat through the whole thing and only barely complained.
There is a star crossed lovers theme where the best friends don’t get together until nearly 20 years later. ***Spoiler Alert*** (although I highly recommend skipping it, so actually I’m doing you a favor here … You’re welcome). They get together only to have her get hit by a bus when you think she might finally be pregnant. I totally saw it coming. Who writes this shit? Ugh!
After a whole evening wasted on this tragedy (the tragic part was us on the couch watching the film), I did feel somewhat validated at the end.
My husband and I started dating in high school, went to separate colleges and aside from a few two week breaks, we stayed together for the past 13.5 years. It wasn’t easy and I wouldn’t advise my kids to go to college attached, but I’m grateful that we didn’t waste any time apart. This movie made me realize that we did the right thing for us by staying together and sticking it out through the fights, the temptations, the 11 hour bus rides in the middle of the night to see each other. It has made marriage that much easier. We know each other probably better than we know ourselves (at least that’s what I tell him when I want him to do something that he doesn’t want to do).
We don’t often articulate to our loved ones how thankful we are to have them in our lives. It’s a choice people make to be with another person and commit themselves forever. To put up with the nagging, the task mastering, the compromising that often accompanies a lasting relationship, it’s no picnic at times. I’m referring mostly to what he has to deal with being with me. He is able to see the big picture when I only see details. He is totally supportive of me lopping off my boobs so that we can enjoy each other’s company for a long long time. This is a big deal because I can be a pain in the ass and sometimes I think it was my boobs that brought him to me in the first place and has helped him stay for so long. I’m so lucky to have him as my husband, the father of my children and my best friend. Darn, another one I should have saved for Father’s Day or our anniversary. But the moral of this story is never waste time by not being with the one you love. Tell them you love and appreciate them (even if their dirty clothes always wind up next to, not in, the hamper). Life is too short.

Overcoming Obstacles

Last night I was watching MasterChef. It’s a cooking competition in which Gordon Ramsey (the British d-bag from Hell’s Kitchen) judges amateur chefs for an ultimate prize. The series just started so this is when the audience meets the contestants. This season there is a blind chef.
She is a young woman with an autoimmune disease that affects her nerves and spinal cord. Over the past ten years she has totally lost her sight. Her husband helped her into the arena with the cart of her cooking tools and the things she needed to put the finishing touches on her meal. We saw her cut lemon, taste everything before she plated for presentation, and wow the judges with her delectable dish.
I can’t imagine the tenacity, the drive, and the passion this lady has for food. She must have endured many cuts, much frustration and moments where she just wanted to give up. She has overcome what seems like an insurmountable obstacle. In her aside, she spoke humbly, encouraging everyone facing hardship to put their mind to it and push through.
As if her story wasn’t enough, as we sat outside at our local deli having lunch today, we heard police sirens. Not the kind that indicate an emergency, but the sound of an important escort. It was the Special Olympic torch. Everything that procession embodies is incredible! Imagine the hurdles those athletes jump over during their lifetimes and in the games.
I’m going to try to keep them in mind when my recovery seems too daunting to persevere. I know there will be times when I get down and exhausted, but I am going to remember what this chef and all of those Special Olympic athletes face every day. What an inspiration!!

Tiny Dancer

Again, it seems the fog has lifted. There is a cyclical pattern to parenting like there is with summer weather. Two weeks of gorgeous sunshine. Two weeks of hot, humid mess. Sure, the baby coughed so much that she puked on me in a restaurant tonight and then pooped through her diaper and onto my shirt at Barnes and Noble, but it was a great day!
The girls seem to be on their way to better health and that’s all I can ask for. Their wonderful pediatrician, our friend, told me the baby’s lungs sounded great and her ears looked good. Hooray! The big sister was beyond excited to go to the doctor’s office knowing that the baby was being poked and prodded, not her. “it’s okay, it’s okay, you’re okay”, she chimed as the little one sat on the deli paper unsure whether she would use the stethoscope like a teething toy or chuck it across the room. As a reward for being an awesome big sister and as a special treat for her last day of school, we went and got her her first pair of ballet slippers. It was also my reward for the past week of sick kids, no sleep, and administering meds to a 2 year old.
The moment these tiny pink shoes slipped onto her feet like Cinderella’s glass slipper… amazing! You could see the sparkle in her eyes as she beamed into the mirror doing arabesques and attitudes. She was thrilled to be a ballerina. I was overjoyed, but I will try to keep myself in check. I promise to never be a “stage mom” and only show her support and help her when she asks for it. My years of passionate training and discipline studying ballet, tap, jazz, modern will not be compared to what she wants to do. I will encourage, but not pressure.
It was a hip injury that drew the curtain on what I had hoped would be my career. At 15, I saw the lights dim during my final performance. The Sugar Plum Fairy was my last role, my ultimate goal. It was recommended that if I wanted to continue dancing, doctors would need to perform “exploratory” surgery on my hip. And if I chose to forgo surgery, but continue to dance, then I should resign to the fact that I may not walk in the future. So dramatic (at least that’s how I remember it, for aren’t all 15 year olds dramatic?). No, this surgery wasn’t going to be giving me a new lease on an already unrealistic career aspiration. It wouldn’t be as hopeful as my double mastectomy will be, providing hope to beat the odds already against me. It would have been possibly more damaging to me than anything ever could. It could have interfered with my fertility and my parents were wise enough to protect me from that. Having my little girls now, and being so grateful for them in my life, is far more than being a ballerina could have ever been for me. I mean, if we’re being honest, I like to eat way too much to think I could really have made it to the stage of my dreams (although I tell my picky eater that ballerinas eat a lot so they can get strong and dance their best… I’m lying).
Being a parent means making tough decisions for your kids sometimes. I’m just happy I will be around to watch my girls perform whatever they wish to. Even if it’s just the private performance I got today when we got home from the ballet store. Slippers, tutus, and Tchiakovsky’s overtures. I am, once again, in Ballet Heaven!

Everything in Moderation

It was pretty incredible to see the crowd at Buckingham Palace today celebrating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. I always get a little choked up when I see the fighter planes do their fly-by. It was so beautiful to see the red, white and blue streaming out of the jets. The patriotic smog was breathtaking. Or was it that I was holding my breath so the swarms of Brits didn’t inhale the jets’ fumes?
It has been said that the no-fly policy following 9/11 showed interesting facts about the polluting effects of airplanes. Some studies indicate that the greenhouse effect was diminished when the contrails from jet planes were not present during that three day period. Blah blah blah, more science. The bottom line is we all know that modern day technology and conveniences contribute to a more polluted environment for us to live in.
As I was watching some highly educational programming last night, I was reminded of the everyday toxins we are so willingly putting into our bodies for vanity’s sake. One woman on the show was trying to protect her friend from these chemicals. She discouraged her from ordering a diet soda exclaiming that it might give her cancer. Ok fine, these were Real Housewives of New York. Not exactly biochemists with real facts, but still.
There were some valuable takeaways from this brief exchange (as there always are from the Bravo housewives). The lady who ordered the diet soda infused with artificial sweeteners played devil’s advocate and asked “doesn’t everything cause cancer eventually”? Aviva (a new housewife on the series) replied, “maybe, but I’d like to stack the odds in my favor”. So wise. So very wise. They both ended up having iced tea. So not only did they show female camaraderie by trying to protect one another, they had a meaningful conversation about cancer and they both detest Ramona. These newbies are already my faves. I do agree that chemically enhanced foods should be consumed at a minimum. I don’t feed my kids any of that crap so I probably shouldn’t feed myself anything like it either. But damn, I love hot dogs!!! Everything in moderation.