I was all set to write about my fashion rut or the genetics behind the canker sore in my throat that has plagued me for the past week. But I just read a NYTimes book review featuring a seemingly morbid work entitled ‘Mortality’ by Christopher Hitchens. The title drew me in, because although I’m optimistic about the outcome of my surgery, like anyone else who is waiting for results of a biopsy or some medical test, you naturally question your own mortality. As I read, I felt like I was in high school again. I almost wanted to jot notes in the proverbial margins on the many worthwhile takeaways. Don’t you just hate it when you realize the work you did so begrudgingly as a student was indeed preparing you for life as an adult? (Dad, is that you? How’d you get in my head like that? Are you taking over so that I quote the Times and not Real Housewives? Sneaky.).
The article itself was written so beautifully by a friend of the author. He quoted excerpts from the book which impart knowledge from beyond the grave. The author was diagnosed with cancer shortly after publication of his memoirs, “Hitch-22”. ‘Mortality’ is a collection of “dispatches” he wrote for Vanity Fair over the next 18 months along with an 8th chapter of notes he wrote while succumbing to his disease. The following is my favorite quote from the book: “Another element of my memoir — the stupendous importance of love, friendship and solidarity — has been made immensely more vivid to me by recent experience. I can’t hope to convey the full effect of the embraces and avowals, but I can perhaps offer a crumb of counsel. If there is anybody known to you who might benefit from a letter or a visit, do not on any account postpone the writing or the making of it. The difference made will almost certainly be more than you have calculated.”
Yeah that was long. You still here? Cool. Basically what I like about it is two-fold: don’t live to regret and make sure those you love know you love them. It’s so hard to be there for people in ways that our schedules just don’t allow, but Hitchens makes the point that even a letter or a quick visit (let’s face it, a text message) can mean a lot to a friend in need of support. I have expressed before my desire to be there for my friends. There are just not enough hours in the day to cook for them, visit them without giving them my kids’ germs, or brighten their day in some significant way. When reflecting back on life from the bittersweet end, I know it will be the memories of the relationships I nurtured that will bring me joy. No one seems to look back and say, “I wish I had spent a little more time by myself”.
Yes, it’s that wonderful time of year again. I can feel the faintest crisp in the air. Fall. That glorious season is upon us; blank notebooks, sharpened pencils, and fantasy football drafts. Goodbye Sunday. Goodbye Monday night. “Are you ready for some football?”
Our household is a virtual fantasy land these days. Before we had kids, fantasies had only two varieties: sexual or football. At least football gave me a break (even if it came with my husband obsessively refreshing the computer screen and/or yelling at the tv). These days, our fantasies are more likely to start with, “…and what beautiful princess are you going to be today?”. My husband and I use our creativity to craft tall tales of mermaids or fairy princesses to play out the fantastical images our daughters fall asleep thinking about.
At the end of our exhausting days, what beautiful imagery do we get to see? For my husband, I’m sure it includes his fantasy football lineup actually playing as a team and racking up enough points for him to win the championship. For me, I have many deep and thought provoking ideas as I fall asleep. I dream of a time where modern medicine has accomplished genetic modification and my girls won’t have to worry about the BRCA gene. I fantasize about a world without war. And like every other woman, I think about walking on a gorgeous beach with aqua waves lapping at my feet sinking into the perfect white sand. My body looks awesome in a bikini (even after popping out 2 or 3 kids) and I have perky boobs and slimmed down hips. Thanks to the reconstruction and lipo I’m going to get, finally a fantasy that can become a reality.
Well if I had been holding the flood gates together for this whole time, the dam broke yesterday. I wouldn’t usually describe myself as a crier. I cry at weddings and funerals. I’m a sympathetic crier. If someone else is getting emotional, it’s hard for me to hold it in. But when it’s something I’m facing myself, I’m usually ok. The big exception: my kids, of course.
En route to my first appointment with the child psychologist yesterday, I had already started getting teary-eyed in the car. Getting in touch with your emotions is so not what it’s cracked up to be. So I cranked Moves Like Jagger loud enough to drown out the sad thoughts that were trying to scream out in my head. It worked until I started to talk to the doc. I’m sure she’s no stranger to weepy ladies, but man, I’m an ugly crier. All that aside, I think the appointment was extremely worthwhile and helpful.
Everything about the experience was calming and reassuring. Her voice, her office, her white noise machine, but especially the information she shared. It’s always amazing to me how resilient kids are, three year olds especially. She assured me that their resiliency, in large part, depends on the availability of support, routine, and consistency. Fortunately, in our case, the support we have is tremendous. There is not a shortage of people around who love and care for my girls. They worship their daddy. Their grandmothers, in particular, are constants of positive encouragement and unconditional love in their lives. Not to mention, their many other family members who are nearby and totally entertaining. (Thanks to my 7 and 8 year old nieces, my big girl has been walking around cheering, “hey girl shake that thing, shake that thing and stop, hey girl shake that thing, shake that thing and stop”. Now that her big cousins do cheerleading, she’s shaking her thing nonstop.)
Part of the reason I have waited since last December to have this procedure is because I wanted a few milestones to pass. I wanted to wait until my little one turned one, until she started walking and until the big one started her new preschool. Well, next week is the little one’s birthday, she took two steps by herself for the first time today (hooray!! Such a big girl!), and school’s in session in a week and a half. I didn’t realize that the routinized week would be so important for my daughters’ resiliency. I wanted her to get adjusted there before my absence and I figured it would provide distraction and a break for the caretakers. The psychologist reviewed her schedule of school three times a week, an hourlong dance class one day and a music class for the last day. She reassured me that this was a perfect load for a three year old; enough of a schedule, but not overwhelming.
The last piece we talked about was what to tell my girls. I’m really focused on what to say to my big girl, because the little one is so unaware and will hopefully not remember any of this. I was impressed that the doc kind of gave herself homework to think about some choice phrases that will be appropriate for a three year old. We don’t want to tell her that “mommy’s boobies don’t feel good, so they’ve got to go” and we don’t want her to think she can just chop off some body part that’s not feeling great, we don’t want to give her anxiety about surgery or sickness, etc. The list goes on, but I’m so relieved that our pediatrician and friend gave us this doc’s name. I feel that this was a necessary step in the process. A smart decision in how to avoid future issues with my girls’ adjustment and possibly mine as well. I need to have something already planned out to say to the big girl and make it consistent. It needs to be said the same way every time so she’s assured that I’m being honest and that it’s not scary. I need to make sure everyone who will be with her says the same thing too. I also want to draw on the fact that she just had surgery when she wasn’t sick so that she wouldn’t get sick as much in the future. Ugh, this is harder than the Sunday Times crossword. So many words to fit together until they make sense. Hopefully this doc will be my Will Shortz and write the answers for me.
As you’re well aware, I am a potty mouth. I try to tone it down in most situations. On the job, never. When conversing with family friends, hardly. Around my kids, unacceptable.
It is practically a rite of passage for three year olds to explore the linguistic pleasures of poop talk. We are in the midst of my big girl’s fascination with saying bathroom words outside of the bathroom. I know it’s not right and I tell her that if she wants to say those words she can go into the bathroom and say them. Am I being a tad hypocritical? Yup, but aren’t all parents?
I try not to laugh when a classic tune now gets jumbled with the occasional 3 year old profanity. “happy birthday dear … poopy, happy birthday to you”. I totally get her hysterics, I mean, poop having a birthday? It’s hilarious. How can I tell her sternly, “that’s not funny, don’t talk like that” when it’s not true and s and f bombs are dropping like it’s hot straight from my mouth whenever she’s not within earshot. And when I drop something on my foot or a bee stings me and I want to scream out, but I just stop at “MOTHER…!!”? What’s it going to be like at school when she says that in front of her teachers? I prefer her adorable fuddy-duddy expressions, “oh my golly gracious” or “that’s the ticket” for public consumption.
I’m nearly overjoyed that my heavy duty doping after surgery will not be witnessed by my little copycat. I’m sort of terrified at what might fly out of my mouth. Someday I’d like an anesthesiologist or surgeon to publish a book of the bizarre shit that people mutter as they come in and out of anesthesia. It must have them rolling on the ground. And what about confessions? Whoa nelly. Thank God, I’m so virtuous. But what if I have a dream about a hot celebrity during surgery and come out saying some random name like “Ryan” or “Adam”? (note to my husband: you know whose on my list so just keep that in mind if I utter random names. I wouldn’t hold it against you if you came out of a stupor saying, “Katy”, “Kristen”, or “Eva” or whoever else is on yours – just in case, let’s review that later, because all other names are off limits).
The past week has been chock full o’ nuts. Crazy. One best friend visiting from Spain and another best friend about to move across the country. We partied last weekend and then prepped all week for the going away bash we threw last night at our house. And right in the middle of it all, I went to my breast surgeon and set the date for my surgery.
It’s been a whirlwind. I haven’t actually come to grips yet with just how imminent this date is. We still have the little one’s first birthday to celebrate and the big one’s first day of school to get through, but the date looms ahead of me like a tropical storm gaining force and speed.
Last night was pretty awesome. From the ribs my husband barbecued to the smiles on our friends faces as we danced in the backyard at 2am; start to finish, a great time. None of it would have gone off so well without the tremendous support we’ve gotten from my parents.
While trying to cook, prep and decorate for the party, the little one got sick. Having a fever and throwing up for the two nights prior and being totally miserable during the day, the poor thing needed our attention. I was a nervous wreck about how I’d be able to care for her and throw the party we had so looked forward to. As usual, my parents swept in and distracted the kids when we needed them to, ran to the hardware and grocery stores for us when we had to take the baby to the doctor, played sous chef by chopping and blanching veggies, did dishes, and just generally did whatever we needed them to do. My dad wrapped up all the leftovers while my mom stayed upstairs and made sure the baby was okay so I could relax and party. Then she got up this morning and played with the girls so we could sleep a little. As I’m writing this, I’m kind of wondering what I did to contribute? When we thanked them as they left, I asked how we could ever repay them. My mom said, “Pay it forward. Do it for your girls, too.”.
To have two people who show me more and more each day how to be the best parent to my girls makes me feel so lucky. (even if I did get one crap gene in that bargain, I’ll take it). They continue to exemplify what I’d like to become. I thought at this point in my life, I’d be the one giving back to them, but it still feels the other way around. In the year ahead and during my recovery, I’m going to be leaning on them still. I hope when all of that is behind me, I can be the one that helps them to have more fun, enjoy their lives and be less stressed because that’s certainly what they’re doing for me. I will absolutely pay that forward to my kids, too.
I’ve often expressed my frustrating lack of brain power lately. When emailing with a friend, she told me she’s been keeping up with my blog via RSS feed. Shamefully, I had to look up what that was. As I explained to her, if it doesn’t start with “how to” and end with “your child” I haven’t read about it. Feeling more idiot than engineer, I used the Google to find out who is RSS and what is he feeding my friend. Can I get some?
To put it simply (because that’s all I can handle), RSS is a technology that delivers new content from websites that update frequently. After downloading the free FeeddlerRSS app to my phone, I’m now getting CNN.com, the New York Times headlines and my friend’s blog posts via RSS. All in one spot. Did you know about what’s going on in the Middle East? Awful!
It’s ironic, because I’ve been telling my husband for the past three years, “if only there was a way that I could just see the headlines in one place, I swear I’d be less stupid.” We shall now see about that. You can henceforth look forward to hard hitting journalistic entries from me. My commentaries on the politics and news from around the world will be enthralling, to say the least. (disclaimer: don’t hold your breath). I am really resisting the urge to add Perez Hilton to my repertoire. I don’t need any help being distracting by dumb shit that has zero to offer by way of intellectual stimulation. Check back post surgery when I will, for sure, have added that and other incredibly daft celebrity gossip blogs.
‘Sup? Please stop posting any more amazing photos from your African safaris. The extraordinary tales of the incredible wildlife sightings and cultural experiences are making it really hard for me to dissuade my husband from going too (with or without the girls in the future). The stories you’ve shared of being one with the animals and your unexpected sense of calm is making my “we are going to be scared shitless” argument really weak. I’m so happy you’ve departed safely, but please don’t tell my husband the truth of your awesome adventures.
Seriously though, my dear friend from college is in the middle of an 87 days around the world exploration with her husband. Their blog is a testament to their adventurous spirits and willingness to step out of their comfort zone and experience life. It’s quite inspirational, especially to a worry-wort homebody like myself. It’s definitely a risk to travel the world, not always certain of what you’ll encounter. If only we all took a little step out of our cultural comfort.
I have always said that the more you expose yourself to other peoples’ languages and cultures, the greater your appreciation of diversity. If more people learned about others, the more tolerance there’d be worldwide. And… World Peace (pageant wave, hand on hip, chin down, smile at judges).
My husband and I usually try to operate with a risk/reward mentality. Is what we want to do now really worth it in the long run? And typically, we err on the side of conservative caution. Not always yielding the greatest reward, but health and safety are rewards we are the most appreciative of. Yes, my surgery is a risk, but the reward of healthy longevity is more than great!
My reticence to experience an adventure similar to the safaris of my friends is a risk my husband is undoubtedly ready to take. I’m still on the fence or maybe a hundred yards back. I’m not worried about being eaten, maybe just maimed or otherwise impaled? For me, the animal adventure is not yet worth the risk. Let’s see how I feel with new boobs. Maybe tigers and lions are into organic meat? Soon I will be genetically modified and perhaps less tasty to them. And with flotation devices built in, I’ll be harder for crocodiles to drag down and roll under water in preparation for consumption. See, with an imagination like this, I would not be a very good safari travel companion. Not worth the risk.
I always try to approach things with a sense of humor. Try. Sometimes that’s just not possible. When we were in Paris, there was a store close to our hotel that had t-shirts of famous people. They had their finger painted with a fake mustache held in front of their nose. Under the picture, it says “Life is a Joke”. At first I thought, “that’s a little offensive and why is that in English?”. But as I pondered further, I thought that’s not such a terrible way to approach everyday life. Ya know, keep it light. Obviously, life can be quite serious. My present predicament is no exclusion. But come on, if I can’t laugh then all I’d do is cry. Who wants to be around a total drag? No one likes a Debbie Downer.
It was kind of fitting that the French were selling a shirt with this saying. Apparently the French attitude towards cancer is similar to everything else. (“pfft”, shrug, drag from cig). Do they not have a Surgeon General over there? My husband asked me one day, “at what age is it acceptable to start smoking? At 12, you get smacked, but your parents might bum a cig from you at age 13?”. It seems laissez-faire lives on in France. Or perhaps they just don’t take life as seriously as they do their cheese and wine?
My father has told me that children are like little investments. You put in time, effort, knowledge, values, and let’s face it, a buttload of cash into them and then watch them grow as you wish the stock market would. Of course the cash advances on these little investments might not yield monetary dividends, but something else entirely. Isn’t it like everything that is worth doing in life? You have to work at what is most rewarding: marriage, parenting, your career, friendships, etc.
I’m considering my double mastectomy to be an investment in my future. It’s definitely going to be hard work, but the outcome will yield great results. Think of my life expectancy as a stock chart. At this moment, it may look like a mountain with one side a gradual incline and the next a rapid decline at a point far too close to the present. But post-op, I’m banking on a very rich and much longer incline; a long term investment.
La lune de booby. Translation: Boobymoon.
As a fifth anniversary surprise, my husband shocked me with a trip to my favorite city ever. We left Thursday evening and returned last night, Monday. A quick and perfect trip. My parents and my mother-in-law watched the girls together. And my brother, sister-in-law and nieces stopped by to entertain them as well. It sounded like our little ones had an awesome, fun-filled weekend too.
I’d love to go into detail about everything we saw and ate, the architecture and charm of the buildings and city streets, the smells and sounds that are so alluring. This is not the place. My appreciation and love for the foreign city pales in comparison to those emotions I feel for my husband.
I’m sure Paris wouldn’t be his first choice for an decadent, luxurious long weekend getaway, but he knows it’s mine. Vacation planning is not his passion or forte and neither of us like to fly. However, he executed this trip perfectly to make me happy. He was thrilled to just walk around the city with me, letting me play guide and visiting all of my favorite spots. He even spent 8 hours of his birthday on the flight home.
Our vows said “in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad”. These were definitely the healthy, good times that precede the sickly, bad ones to come. The memories from this trip will get me through the rough voyage we face ahead. I once wrote about painting the walls of mind with an image of Monet’s water lilies. I have a fresh new version in my head now. The backdrop that will help me remain calm. And certainly, the best part of this vacation was spending time just being us. Without the everyday mundane insanity of life, we got to hang out, joke around and enjoy each other. The other beautiful part was knowing that the girls were totally fine in our absence. They were happy, they were well taken care of, they were with family. Our parents are so giving and selfless. So much of my fear of the little ones’ well-being after my surgery has been alleviated.
The trip was short, but sweet. Long enough to give us a break, short enough to get us home before anyone got homesick. Plenty of time to remember that even though I have to go downstairs to get him after he falls asleep on the couch… a lot, my husband is the absolute best!!