Friday, January 31, 2014

ordinary event

I got a mammogram and a check-up today. They are ordinary events. Well, they used to be...until I had cancer. Now, they're part of a muddled emotional experience that starts the very moment I pull into the parking garage. Every time.

As I park the car, it brings back memories of my first appointment, just days after I was diagnosed. Apprehension sort of begins to describe it, but really, words fail me here. The apprehension was mixed with a great deal hope and gratitude. I was going to see one of the best cancer teams around. I was an "easy" cancer case. They got this. Heading to surgeries, starting from that same garage, I felt the same emotional mixture. Now, I've reached the point where I feel twisty inside every time I'm in that garage, and I'm there a lot, relatively speaking, with surgeon check ups, oncologist visits, mammograms and whatnot. There's only one way past the garage twisty feeling: carry on, get out of the garage, and get lost inside the hospital. Yes, three years later and I'm still getting lost. Seriously.

I have found that there are (at least) two schools of thought with people I speak to about cancer: those who only view cancer as a real problem if it's incurable ("Oh? It was only Stage 1? That's nothing!" Seriously, that was said to me.) and those who look at even just one cancer cell as one too many. I'm in the latter group. In cancer treatment, it's all about the numbers. Like it or not, there are statistics associated with everything. During my treatment, my surgeon consistently reminded me that cancers like mine have a 98% 5-year survival rate. Yes, that sounds fantastic...and it is. Unless you're in the 2%. Being a rational person, I rarely panicked and stayed very positive...about 98% of the time. The other 2% of the time I was in full-blown panic. It didn't last long and my rational side took over quickly, but that sense of panic still comes back every single time the elevator doors open and I see the sign for the cancer center. I have to take some serious deep breaths to get a grip.  I HATE it there. I hate the waiting room...worry, fear, hope and every other crazy emotion echoing between everyone waiting there.

And yet, I LOVE the people who work there. Like, really-want-to-hug-everyone-but-that-would-be-weird kind of love. I am in awe of what they do and who they are. I am in awe that there are people who have dedicated their lives to helping all of us...the "easy" cancers and the scariest kinds.  They treat us all equally and respectfully. I am in awe that they can all invoke a sense of normal and calm when they work in a place that is anything but that. And I will be forever grateful.

Mammograms scare the hell out of me now. I'm not gonna lie. I go, of course. All of those lovable people keep making fantastic technology for early detection possible, so I'm certainly never going to miss one. I just keep the rational side of myself talking about the positives to drown out the 2% voice, with all of its yucky feelings, while I'm there. Yeah, it's still an emotional day for me, but so far, it's working. Amen to that.

Thursday, September 6, 2012


My fight-or-flight response is in tip-top working order. How do I know this? Our smoke detectors went off at 4:30 this morning. They only went off for about five seconds... and that's all it took. With lightening speed I went from a sound sleep to running in about a second. No exaggeration. I really wish I had just a little bit of that oomph when the alarm clock rings. Apparently the decibel level is woefully inadequate. I need earsplitting to really get moving.

Before we even started looking for the source, the alarm had stopped. After checking EVERYWHERE and finding no signs of smoke or fire, we went back to bed, thinking maybe the fan had created the problem and we "solved" it by turning off the fan. Back to bed, trying to relax and get my heart rate back to normal. Ten minutes later, it happened again. Whoosh! Back out of bed. After that, I held out little hope of sleeping. Of course, it was 5:00 am by the time the second investigation happened.

After finding nothing, we turned off the circuit breaker, although I wasn't entirely comfortable with that, I was even less comfortable hearing that noise again with no evidence of flame or smoke. False alarm. Over and over again. Our smoke detector was the alarm that cried "wolf".  Ugh.  SO... I spent the next hour lying in bed considering what I would do if there was a real fire to which we weren't going to be alerted. Would the kids freak out or follow our fire escape plan calmly? Would the dog hide? What would I save? Would I remember to wear shoes? Should I change now so I'm not forced to live in my pjs? Cute as they may be, I don't want to be seen on the evening news wearing them. Needless to say, this line of thinking is not conducive to sleep. 5:00 am is also not conducive to waking, except in very rare circumstances involving seeing sunrise... on purpose. It was a tough position.

Did I mention it was the night before the first day of school? Alarms set to ring at 6:00. Yeah, the ENTIRE summer, we slept in (whether that was a mistake in itself is debatable.) 4:30 was indeed the middle of the night, or at least the middle of our sleeping hours. But no, the first day that 4:30 is dangerously close to wake-up time, we're up. REALLY up. Not enough time to fall back to sleep, only enough to ensure you'll probably sleep through your alarm. Yeah, someone up there has a sense of humor.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


I was just pondering perspective shift.  It's some crazy hindsight phenomena: looking back things were often better than you thought at the time.  Well, except for hair and fashion.  Those were always way worse than you thought.  Mullets and legwarmers and suspenders, oh my! But seriously, I can't think of any picture from my younger years when I've looked back and didn't think, "Man, I wish I was that skinny again" or something to that effect.  At the time the picture was taken, of course, I was whining about how I really have to lose weight.   The same is true of so many things.  I complained about being tired for years, then had kids. I obviously had no idea what tired meant.  When I was single I complained that I was busy. Yeah, I had no idea where the "busy" scale started, or that I was really barely on the scale. I shot up quickly. 

It's a generalization, I know. Some people have lost lots of weight and look back with satisfaction at their "before" pictures. I know I'm in better shape now than I was years ago (although disappointingly still not much thinner...I don't get that.) My independent kids are now taking care of themselves more which means I'm less busy. Life improves for many in many ways. I'm not saying it all just keeps going downhill (that would be depressing, and I'm not going to drag us down),  but you get what I'm saying.

Back in March I wrote a post about needing a geek, because I had started a blog and was technically challenged.  Since then I've started a business. I had no idea what technically challenged even meant, apparently. Okay, NOW I'm technically challenged.  That was just a practice run. Now I'm dealing with a website and blog and Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest and...oh my, indeed. Meta-tags? Inbound links? SEO? Are you kidding me? I had no idea.  I thought I wanted a geek then.  Who knew?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


I have been without a job for a couple of months now, unemployed for the first time since I was 16.  The feeling of relief is incredible.  I guess that's how you know for sure that you're in the wrong job: you're thrilled when it's gone, even if it means you're joining the ranks of the jobless.  I'm now a statistic that people talk about. Honestly, I think it's the best thing that ever happened to me. Perhaps I will change this opinion if things don't work out, but for now, let's go with the positive.

Inertia has been the driving force behind every single career move I've made, starting in college.  I haven't actually been actively involved in developing my future...more like I've been along for the ride.  The path of least resistance has been pretty good to me. One job led to another with the help of key supporters putting in a good word for me. I was consistently promoted, given more responsibility, more money...the whole shebang.  The only real hiccup was that I wasn't happy. The only thing I've loved about every job was my coworkers...and I still love them.  Some of the best friends I'll ever have came out of jobs I complained about endlessly (to those same friends...)  Lots of things kept me where I was, but I now realize the biggest hurdle I've faced is fear. Fear that I wasn't good enough to do anything else, fear of failing if I tried, fear that I'd make the wrong choice and regret it.  A subtle change has come over me since I was liberated from my job: I now only fear NOT making a change.  I'm terrified that I won't take a chance at happiness and I'll go back to what's secure, even though it makes me miserable.  It's quite the driving force, this fear.  Of course it's not like dark alley at night fear, or "we have your test results" fear, but it's enough to keep me going.

I've decided to listen to some advice (novel idea, I know) and actually try to do something I enjoy.  I'm good at lots of things! So what if they don't easily match any job description I can find? I'm doing all the right things, taking inventory of my skills, likes, knowledge.  You know, I'm figuring out the color of my parachute.  I'm actually thinking of starting a business.  It may not pay much at first, but cliche or not, there are more important things than money.  I hope to hell I won't have to use that line with my mortgage company or anything, but it is essentially true.

So here I go. I'm going to do this, naysayers be damned. I may fail, but oh my, I may not. It's a little a roller coaster, thrilling kind of way.  Hold on for the ride!

Friday, September 23, 2011

a little help

It started with a self-closing toilet seat.  Sounds like a great does it know it's time to close?! Magic! Unfortunately, it's not so magic. The toilet seat needs a little help. A little nudge is needed to start the closing process, but once it gets going, it does so with grace. Yes, I know it sounds disturbing that I'm excited about a toilet seat, but, hey, what can I say?  I am, of course, the only one in the house who appreciates the elegant close, since no one else attempts to lower the seat.  One step at a time.

It's completely understandable that after experiencing the self-closing joy, I just HAD to have that feature on the new kitchen cabinets.  The doors in our old kitchen cabinets often remained in a state of open.  The effort to close is apparently too much after all of the work of opening and all.  This actually was preferable to the alternative...slamming the doors.  So I walked through the kitchen closing doors on a regular basis.  On the rare occasion when someone else unloaded the dishwasher, all the doors would be open at once and I would walk around closing doors feeling like Vanna White flipping letters.  Without the fancy evening gown, of course.

So, back to the cabinets...all with the soft-close feature on the doors.  They are unslammable.  Just a touch and they close.  Somehow this is now an attraction, unlike the toilet seat, and the entire family is overjoyed at how quiet the kitchen is.  They show off to guests...look at our family's door-closing prowess.  The drawers close with a little nudge too.  Just a touch with the hip and off they go, easing into the closed position.  Aaaahhh...  this is the life.

But there's a little wrinkle.  I can only hang out with other people who live this refined life too or I'm a total barbarian when I'm out of the house.  As a guest, I'm politely lowering the seat when I leave the "powder room" (so much classier than what it really is), giving it a little tap to start the closing sequence and SLAM!! Down goes the seat - FAST, not so gracefully.  Apologies all around: So sorry.  You see, my seat at home is automatic...

Later on, trying to help out in the kitchen, I just gave the cabinet door a nudge and SLAM!!! Hey, take it easy!  Again, with the apologies.  You see, my cabinet doors are self-closing... And we won't even mention the drawers, all left open in my wake, since my little nudge didn't get them all the way closed.  Sigh...what have I done?  I've created a monster! I've lost my good closing sense!

The more I think about it, I have MANY things on "automatic": lights on a timers and sensors, my car's headlights go on at dusk, the directional signals turn off after 3 seconds, the list goes on.  Which means I'll never turn off the lights when I leave the room elsewhere, I drive around at night without headlights in a rental car, and yes, I've kept that blinker going driving through three states.  I'm not so sure this "help" is helping...

Monday, July 25, 2011

command center

The kitchen is absolutely the command center of the house...without my command center I'm feeling a little powerless.  I don't know where to put myself!  I've been without a kitchen for a couple of weeks now and I have to say, I'm feeling the pain.  No, it's not the lack of cooking.  Honestly, I don't really like cooking, so this construction just gives me a handy excuse for my laziness. Take-out it least 2 meals a day.  It's not the mess...that just gives us all a reason to let loose and free our inner slobs.  I'm just feeling all out of sorts.  It turns out the kitchen is where I spend all of my time. I never realized that until I didn't have a kitchen.  Now, that seems a little strange, given that I don't cook, but it's true.  It's where my computer is usually set up (and we know how much time I spend on that...too much), it's where the kids do their projects and homework, it's where the phone is, and it's where I putter.  Yup, just putter. Doing what, I'm not entirely sure, but it filled up my time.

It's kind of amusing to me that I am missing my kitchen since I complain about so many of the activities that take place in that room:  the homework (goes without saying), going through the mail, cleaning off the counters a countless number of times, doing the dishes (over and over and over again).  So why do I feel so lost without it?  I'm not doing ANY of those tasks during construction.  I'm hoping nothing important is coming in the mail, because I'm not even sure where it is.  I'm hoping whatever is in there will keep.  We bought enough paper plates and plastic cups to feed an army, and we've already discussed my lack of cooking, so dishes aren't an issue. (Except for my crystal scotch glasses.  I lovingly wash scotch out of plastic glasses for me.  Just call me Zsa  Zsa.) No counters to clean, and the dust and dirt are so out of control, nothing else is worth cleaning either.  My kids are in heaven.  Anarchy.

I'm sitting in my bedroom now.  The past two weeks I've logged more waking hours in this room than in all the previous 4 years that we've lived here.  Add to this the fact that there's air conditioning on much of the time so the door is closed, and I have a little sanctuary.  Or prison.  Tomato, tomahto...  I come out every now and again for a snack, feeling like I'm sneaking downstairs in a stranger's house. Snacks in the bedroom?! Unheard of previously, now, not that unusual. (Gasp)  The kids don't get told to go to bed (there's no sense of time in my sanctuary/prison) and they don't really have their chores to complete. Anarchy.  The troops are out of control.  I'm feeling a little like a commander in hiding.  It's time to get back to the battle...I need my command center back.  Hoo-ah!

Thursday, June 30, 2011


I'm an upstanding citizen.  I follow traffic laws (mostly...I confess that sometimes I turn right on red even when it says not to). I pay taxes.  I'm a big believer in the honor system...even if no one is looking.   So imagine my shock and horror when I realized I accidentally stole something yesterday in Texas. 

The hotel told me I needed to make a reservation for the airport shuttle 24 hours in advance of my flight.  Of course, they told me this 2.5 hours before my flight, so that wasn't really a possibility.  Once we took that option off the table, the concierge mentioned that if the shuttle driver had space when he got to the hotel, maybe he'd take me. The shuttle had space. He took me. 

As we were driving to the airport I wondered how he knew at which terminal to drop me off.  Turns out, he asked me when we reached the first stop...I told him United and he said that was my stop.  He held the door open for me, went back to get my bag, I tipped him, and we said goodbye with a smile.  I walked with a spring in my step into the terminal, checked in,  and hopped on a plane.  Smooth travels all around.  Pleasant seat mates, minimal chit chat, delicious smoothie at my know, a nice travel day.

Next morning I'm arranging my receipts to do my expense report.  I have to do it right away or I forget where the hell I even was, never mind what I spent.  As I looked at the airport shuttle receipt from the airport TO the hotel it occurred to me: I NEVER PAID THE DRIVER for the ride to the airport.  I stole a ride.  What resulted was a moment of panic (OMG, what's the penalty for this?), followed by guilt (OMG, I'm a thief!).  Then I spent a fair amount of time trying to figure out how to remedy the situation.  Or even if I should.  I didn't even catch the name of the service! It was an honest mistake...kind of like eating meat on Friday during Lent.  Heck, that's not even a sin if you didn't do it on purpose, right?  Is the same true of accidentally stealing a ride?

What's even more amazing to me is how the whole event unfolded.  Because I confidently walked away as if I didn't owe the guy money, he didn't think a thing of it.  Act like you belong and no one questions you...Could I rob a bank that way? Don't worry, I'm not going to try it.  I  freaked out all day over a car ride!  I feel like hunting the driver down just to say, "Really, I'm not that kind of person!" 

So, does this make up for the fact that the last hotel I was in charged me for the $4 bottle of water in the room when I never even drank it? (Of course I didn't notice until I was home...I'm not that observant. Obviously.) The balance of the universe at work? Perhaps.  I'm hoping this doesn't anger the travel gods.  I added to my good travel karma by giving up my aisle seat for a center seat so a couple of lovebirds could sit together on my flight down to Texas...maybe I won't be stricken down for this.  This confession made me feel better...thanks for letting me get this off my chest...