Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Dope Slap

I’ve been cancer-free now for a few weeks and well, it was just too dull. I missed the doctor’s, I missed hospitals, I missed getting jabbed with needles that really hurt, and so I devised a cunning plan to stab myself three times, simultaneously in the same hand and to bleed as much as possible. No easy feat... I’m not sure how this was actually possible, but since replaying it in my mind trying to figure out the chain of actions and reactions makes me queasy, I’ll leave it a mystery. However, it seems that if you combine chemo-brain {poor decision making abilities}, brand new, very sharp paring knife from IKEA and a bag of chestnuts, you get emergency room, puncture wound in palm, stitches in thumb, lot’s of bandages and a tetanus shot. I am now officially a drama queen, reluctant, but none the less, I think I qualify.

I’ve been wholly infatuated with roasted chestnuts the past few weeks. I bought some at the farmer’s market recently and scored them with an X on top, roasted the little angels in the oven and then sprinkled with sea salt, and accompanied by a couple of juicy clementine's they were intoxicating. When you roast them, the X opens up making a little pouch that you just peel away, they’re gorgeous, the perfect snack -- aesthetically pleasing, delicious and nutritious.

A few years ago, when I had a working fireplace I tried to roast chestnuts by wrapping them in foil and tossing them in the fire. I didn’t know you had to score them first to avoid launching a volley of flaming projectiles. One by one they exploded, sounding like gunfire, and shot across the room taking refuge under the couch. There were no casualties, but not everyone was amused and burnt carpet doesn’t smell good.

I was at Stop & Shop the other day and was thrilled to see an overflowing bin of chestnuts so I stocked up. They were harder to slice this time and the very minute I thought “girl, you are gonna cut yourself,” I cut myself, duh.

Yet again, disabled, I’m taking a few days off of work to holiday shop which I didn’t get to do last year because I was already so sick from chemo. My hair fell out a couple of days after Christmas. I wandered aimlessly around target today, tomorrow I’m going to the mall, I need to ogle some Apple products and buy some presents. On Saturday, I’m throwing myself a Birthday BINGO party which the boys are really excited about and that makes me happy beyond words. The tall one keeps offering to help {!} and they both have lot’s of suggestions for the guest list which I think is sweet as can be. I’m not used to celebrating my birthday because in years past I left it to someone who wasn’t interested and last year I had chemo on my birthday and so a party this year, the last of my forties, seems necessary. I want my kids to learn how to celebrate. Celebrate well and celebrate often.

Saturday, November 24, 2012


It’s a fine line between informative and narcissist, as it is between observant and redundant. Straddling that line is tricky business especially when your memory is shot. None the less, here I am, blogging again.

I was driving up to Vermont on Thanksgiving morning enjoying the scenery, and the autonomy of driving myself and my dozing boys to the place of our choice in Sparky, our safe and comfy new car. I was feeling really grateful, and powerful for getting us packed and out and on our way. I used to be the passenger and now I’m the driver. I don’t know what the heck we packed, but we all had socks and underwear and really, everything else is optional, right? I had my iPod loaded with occasion appropriate music, Alice’s Restaurant and Pete Seeger’s This Land is Your Land. I was writing blog posts in my head about my gratitude and they were poignant and elegant, uplifting and you’ll have to take my word on that as those words are long gone. My brain is still a sketchy thing, it doesn’t retain information for long. J is always asking if I remember this or that and I don’t... I really don’t, even though it was something we did or talked about only weeks or months ago. This unsettles him, so now I pretend -- I know, honey, that was so funny, I could never forget that.

It’s so much easier to be positive and optimistic when you’re feeling better, which is a good feeling, but maybe a trap. There’s a woman named Laurie Cordeiro from Bristol, RI who was diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast Cancer 2-3 years ago. I don’t know her but I know several people who do {or sadly, did}, and so our common cancer and those six degrees of separation make her seem real {as of course she is} and personal to me. She went through the same treatment as I did at the same age and after her year in hell, she had a year or so of triumph and optimism and took a job at Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Foundation, helping other patients and families and then her cancer returned and I got an email in tribute to her yesterday speaking of her death a few days ago. It’s hard not to wonder how many green smoothies she drank and how often she exercised. She makes all those statistics turn flashing neon, the statistics I’m trying so hard to stay away from.

Her death makes me realize that you never get out of Cancertown because while you were there, you’ve met so many, heard so many stories, and our outcomes will all be different. The lovely Kim I met at radiation, lost her husband and soul-mate a few weeks ago to Multiple Myeloma and there was nobody more optimistic than they were, he was barely 40. Once you visit Cancertown you experience more death than you’ve ever known, even if it’s not your own, it affects you surely. You lose your innocence in so many ways. You have more joy but it comes with corresponding sadness. You have to live every day like it’s your last and plan for the future at the same time. Reconcile that dichotomy. I suppose that’s what we all should aim for our whole lives, but cancer makes it imperative. Little boy has been telling me all weekend how grateful he is for me and we’ve been having such a nice time together and I can’t imagine how he would react if given the bad news I can’t speak or write and try not to think about. He’d look at me with those great big beautiful eyes and say “but what would I do without you? who would take care of me? who would understand me?” It’s unfathomable to me, unthinkable, it’s an experience I could not bear, but we don’t get a choice, do we? I don't like that... I like to have a choice, we get used to excessive choices in our lives, but when it comes down to it, we don't have a choice at all... it's almost a foreign concept... I guess we deceive ourselves with all these small choices. Some children lose their parents, they do, they really do. Oh please, oh please, oh please, let that not happen to mine. If I didn’t have kids, I really think I could be graceful and philosophical about dying young. I wouldn’t like it, but I would go quietly. But I have kids, kid’s that without a shadow of a doubt count on me more than anyone else and who are loved so purely and without reservation in a way that could not be compensated for by any one any where and so leaving is just not an option. Just not an option!

How does one incorporate all this knowledge and foreshadowing into a happy life? I don’t know, but you do, you have to, somehow. You have to learn how to live without thinking I suppose, just forge ahead with blinders on and leafy greens in the fridge.

We're leaving Vermont later this afternoon, have had a lovely time, but I'm resentful for the undercurrent of reality and loss that has followed me here. Was feeling almost carefree last week, so aiming for that again, footloose and fancy free and the stamina to drive home. Grateful and thankful as we’re zipping through the green mountains.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Cork Pop

I’ve been meaning to post for days. I’ve written posts in my head, none of them terribly compelling, but not sat down to write them, because i’ve been really busy and it occurred to me that real life should take precedence.

I got my shop opened and it looks beautiful! Each and every one of my consignee's is a lovely and talented person, many of whom I’ve come to count as friends and the new one’s have been dreamboats to work with. I had a grand re-opening party which was fun and then I was getting ready for Craftopia which is a large event I host {with two lovely partners} twice a year. It’s stressful and always crazy busy as the event gets closer.

I had a bottle of champagne sitting in my studio mini-fridge, kindly given by an unlikely source at my re-opening party, but I didn’t open it. It was a really good night, but I wasn’t feeling celebratory enough, there just wasn’t the right moment.

Craftopia was yesterday, I’m so tired I can barely walk, but while exhausted, I’m content. It was the best event we’ve put on yet. We got a crazy amount of media attention, we were on the morning news, featured in the Providence Journal and in every local paper, we have built something from nothing and to me, that is a beautiful thing and incredibly rewarding. I remember how hard it was, the first few shows to even get a simple listing and now we are routinely featured and reporters actually call me. We were on the morning t.v. news, how nutty is that? We were jam-packed from the minute we opened the door to when they closed. Set-up was a breeze because we have the best vendors and I love when customer’s tell me how cohesive the event feels. High quality, with a distinct feel, YES, that’s the plan, it is a carefully curated event and I love that people notice that!

My beleaguered, neglected business is off to a good start. My posse of teenaged boys got themselves up at 7a.m. and came to help and their good nature and dependability touches me deeply. These boys I’ve watched grow almost into men. My son, of the larger variety, and his friend-who-is-a-girl and our tenant, turned housemate, turned member of the family worked the front entry table all day and they did a great job and had a blast. I always wanted a big family. I could tell my son was really proud of me, lot’s of high fives and even a great big hug as he departed which is a rare and special thing.

As vendors started the long process of packing up, I had my cork-worthy moment. This was the first week in such a long time where I felt better every day instead of worse. While I have a calendar full of follow-up appointments, there are no procedures scheduled, no ghastly new treatments to begin and it had been a great, great, successful day. So I popped my cork, grabbed a bunch of cups and visited as many of my favorite crafty peeps as I could and said “take a cup, we’re toasting to ME, and my upward trajectory.” And finally, I could hug without being in pain and I could kiss without being immuno-suppressed and fearing germ exchanges. I had my perfect moment. My bottle ran out way too soon and before I knew it I was laying on the couch of my comfortable, familiar, friendly house feeling like this day had been a turning point. Truly, the beginning of my upward trajectory. Without constant medical appointments, I can finally establish a new routine, join the living instead of the dying. That is my choice, to live every day instead of dying every day. Today I could go into work and start cleaning up or I could leave that until tomorrow and bundle up and spend the day in my yard cutting back plants and enjoying the fresh air and my sweet, sweet neighborhood. So that’s what I will do. I will slow down and smell the proverbial roses and start my new life, or at least the newest chapter in my old life, which most mercifully, is a LIFE.

I don’t know if I’m ready to give up the blog completely, as it’s become such a presence in my life and so many people have asked me not too {which is so powerfully meaningful to me}. The downside of the blog is that so many people know me a hell of a lot better than I know them and you see, I want to know you too. I want to live a real life and not a virtual one. It would be easy to keep hiding in my cancer-cave, worrying and having people want to help me... but most essentially, that doesn’t suit me. The blog kept me connected to the world when I couldn’t leave my house, when I couldn’t partake of it myself, but it suddenly occurs to me that now is the time to make oh so many changes. I think I was waiting for that “cork-popping” moment and it has now presented itself. Life is short and you only get one, I most certainly know that, if nothing else. I want to be present in my actual life instead of always thinking about what I’m going to post. I’ve begun to continually write blog posts in my head and I think it would be better to be spinning other tales, be more present in the immediate instead of recapping the past.

I’ll post to the blog every now and again to let you know how I’m doing, so you don’t worry, but I’m going to place living over writing. It’s time to give my blog the big hug it deserves, it kept me going, kept me sane and connected through a dark and difficult time, so I’ll honor it by not letting it be a crutch, not let it keep me from living. I know I have a lot of work to do, I can barely walk a couple of blocks, I have to reorganize my life in a way that takes care of myself and not just other people, but I'm feeling confident that it will get done.

I’ll keep writing, I’ve discovered how much I love to write, but I’ll be posting, much {much} less frequently. Thank you so, so, so much for reading and for keeping me going. I will never forget or cease to appreciate all the folks who kept me company by reading the blog, or all the folks that fed us {literally} and who’s love and attention kept my precious little family going. Your attention and kindness has affected my boys {and me} in the most beautiful way, you have changed lives. Thank you, thank you, and let’s see each other in the real world, not just the virtual one. x o k t c