Saturday, December 31, 2011

last of the year

hard to believe that the last post of this year is here. time flies. i got this card last week from a good friend (thanks kimberly) and really liked the quote on the front. the card is from this series which are some of my favorite to give if i am not giving one of my own. there is definitely a lot to be thankful for from this last year, and i know that there is much to come to be thankful for as well.

in this year when i felt like hell more than i felt good, i am thankful for all of the good that has occurred. the unrelentless love of my family and friends. the good care that i received over the last year from my myriad of doctors and nurses and other medical staff. knowing that i am stronger than i ever knew. the ability to really appreciate every single day and all of the moments that i have with family and friends. the friends i have made that would not have otherwise come into my life had i not been diagnosed - i wish that melanoma was not the reason that we had met - but they are some of the best things that i gained from the diagnosis (hi wallace!).

for this new year, i hold out hope for many things. that recurrence won't be something i have to face. that i can continue to heal emotionally from all that has happened over the last year and a half. that family and friends that have been blessed with good health this year continue to have good health, and that they truly appreciate every single day that they are one of the lucky ones. that friends and family that already know that cancer treatments will continue or will begin in 2012 find the strength to fight the fight and will be surrounded by a lot of love and support while doing it. that they end 2012 in a better place with their health than where they are today. that those with a loved one fighting cancer will have the love and support they need because it will be a fight for them as well. that my friends that already know that 2012 will be a tough year remember that they are strong, they can do this, and that they have people who love them fiercely supporting them every step of the way. that overwhelmingly more good than bad comes to those that i love.

i wish you all the very very best for the new year, i hope that it brings you all that you are hoping for and more.

you deserve it.

we all do.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


i hope that everyone has had a good holiday week so far as the new year looms ahead. ours has been great, a lot of good times with family and friends, it has been really nice to have some down time away from work to just breathe a little. and to sleep a little. yes, sleep - my friend that left me around thanksgiving. i have been able to get some sleep especially in the early morning hours when the darkness starts to lift. the nightmares have eased some during recent nights which i am very, very grateful for.

i have been thinking a lot about the new year, especially tonight as i saw a movie focused on new years eve with one of my most favorite movie buddies. resolutions and new starts are definitely on my mind, more about those later this week.

one of my christmas gifts was a book that i was anxious to have. i first heard about this book when i read this blog post on marta writes. when i went to see about the book, the background on the book caught my eye - and my heart. the inside cover page starts "when molly wizenberg's father died of cancer, everyone told her to go easy on herself, to hold off on making any major decisions for a while. but when she tried going back to her apartment in seattle and returning to graduate school, she knew it wasn't possible to resume life as nothing had happened." when i read those words, i knew that i needed to read this book. the words "she knew it wasn't possible to resume life as nothing had happened" immediately registered with me. i too know that isn't possible. i am now about 40 pages in and loving it so far. after i get to the end, i am sure that i will write more about it - and maybe there will be some posts in between (though i don't think this one will really end for me because there is already one recipe that i am anxious to try). molly shares recipes and the stories behind them which is my favorite part. i love stories. when talking about her dad on one of the first pages she writes "my father woke up each morning wanting that day. you could see it on his face." when i read those words it confirmed for me that i was meant to read this book.

i also want each day. more than you know.

on this specific day, i wish one friend safe travels as she heads home to face the unknown twists and turns that life has planned for. i know that it will be tough, but she will hang on tight and will make it off the ride just fine - if not even better than she was at the start. i wish one friend a happy birthday and hope that the upcoming 365 days bring him all he is wishing for and more, it would all be well deserved.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

red nose

um, how cute is this idea that becky higgins posted on her fb page today? i know, very cute. a friend made this for her as a welcome gift. i am soooo doing this next year. love it.

also on my love list from today was this story on the curly girl design blog. my favorite part of the post was this excerpt...

Time well spent with those you hold dear is too big to put on any wish-list or gift guide. It doesn't fit into a stocking or sit under the tree.

It calls you on a Wednesday or shows up with a bottle of wine. It takes a walk with you, or a long drive. It travels through two airport hubs and goes through security to get to you. It doesn't involve gadgets or take batteries or need it's software to be upgraded, in fact, it often requires you to unplug.

It is the best gift you can give someone else or yourself and it will never be worth less than what you paid the day after Christmas! I promise.

when reading these words, i had a rapid fire of thoughts move through my head about the time well spent with those that i love. i am so very lucky, i have a lot of people to love. it is laughing. it is the funny text messages that make me smile and even sometimes laugh out loud. it is having a drink with a friend and talking about everything and nothing and anything in between. it is getting a hug. it is giving a hug. it is being comforted. it is giving comfort. it is being told you can do what seems impossible at the time. it is having cheerleaders who always are there to cheer you on, even when you have been benched. it is hearing a knock on the door and knowing that someone you love is on the other side. it is hearing the word "mommy" and knowing you will never get tired of hearing that little voice say that one little word. it is listening. it is being listened to. it is the unexpected fun mail waiting in the mailbox. it is the unexpected gift from a friend when they give you something for no other reason but that they knew you would love it. it is hoping for the best. it is comforting when the best isn't the outcome you get. it is the email with kind words that comes at just the right time. it is knowing that you are loved just as much as you love. it is realizing that it is ok to mess up as long as you get up. it is knowing that you are strong enough to keep going, and even if there was another option, your choice would still be to keep going. it is knowing that it is ok to be really scared, that just means there is a lot to lose. it is letting go of some things that really aren't important for those things that really are. it is making things better, and when they can't be fixed, it is being there to say that you aren't alone.

this christmas i am so very thankful for all of the things that can't be wrapped up and put under our tree or in my stocking.

santa knows what i am really hoping he brings me for the next year.

i have always believed in him.

i know he believes in me too.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

her hands

i miss my grandma josephine all of the time. i think about her a lot during the holidays since my childhood christmas memories were all at her and grandpa's house.

i remember the decorations. i remember how the tree looked. i remember the ornaments. i remember the lights she had on the front porch that constantly changed color. i remember the tinsel. i remember her cookies. i remember all of the food. i remember being so excited when i was picked to be the kid to pass out the presents. i remember the true excitement of opening presents.  i remember grandma's house being so warm because she always had the heater going. i remember going to bed and being so excited to see what santa would bring in the morning. i remember not being able to sleep because i wanted to hear santa and the reindeer when they landed on the roof.  i remember having stevie and nerd to tell me to go back to sleep when i would try to get them to wake up and go downstairs at like 4am. i remember showing grandma and grandpa what santa brought me. i remember the year santa brought me a yellow shopping cart and plastic food and how i wheeled that around their house for hours with absolute delight. i remember feeling that i was in a house full of love. i remember the joy grandma and grandpa had when their family was gathered together in their house. i remember how grandma would hold your hand, she would hold your hand between her two hands.

today i read the paper coterie blog called "these hands" written by april meeker and i have copied it below. i miss my grandma holding my hand.

I don’t have pretty hands. It’s a fact. I’ve come to accept it. They have always been wrinkly, like I just got out of the bath, and my nails are often chipped and black from working with silver. I usually hide them in my pockets when I am feeling self conscience.

I tried getting fake nails to glam them up a bit, but they just looked like wrinkly hands with thick plastic ends. I spent the first day of my honeymoon ripping them off.

I inherited my ugly hands from my father, who, in turn, inherited them from my grandmother. My grandmother’s name was Vola. Vola Wyatt. She was the pinnacle of our family. She made Christmas happen.

Her hands, her wrinkly hands, kneaded and draped and clipped and cleaned and stirred and smoothed until Christmas, Campbell style, materialized. Then she dialed and served and presented and hugged and made each of her grandkids feel like her favorite. I miss her so much this time of year my chest constricts each time I make one of her recipes or catch myself humming the way she used to hum. And, oh how I miss her hands. If only I could feel her stroke my hair or grasp my arm. If only I could plant one more kiss on her downy cheek.

And now it is up to me. I have to put my hands to work and recreate the type of Christmas I had as a child, the type of Christmas I want my children to have.

They are large gloves to fill.

i remember.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


this awesome homemade card is from my friend jill (jill - you know i am framing those other cards too asap, love those as well, xo) who rocks it in wisconsin.

on friday we checked out the gingerbread houses at the sheraton, very fun, and the donations go for diabetes research. fun and a good cause - win win. here are a couple of the pics. these are serious gingerbread mansions people. seriously awesome.

later on friday we tackled our own gingerbread house. it was the first time that malena had made one and she loved every second of it. she also ate some of the candy while she constructed, pretty sure that she picked up that habit from yours truly. today she got to make another gingerbread house at daycare, and she was showing it to me while we were getting her things ready. a little girl who is in another class came up to me with the sweetest and saddest eyes and was looking longingly at malena's house and said to me "in my whole life, i have never got to make a gingerbread house." oh man, i wanted to rush out and get her a kit asap. a reminder that those traditions that seem so simple are ones that some kids never get the chance to do. we are so lucky. when we decorated our house, we had two expert helpers - mema and papa who were critical to the overall construction and decorating process.

i agree with you, i think that ours is the best too. who needs mansions when you have spice drops and peppermint circles and can eat the candy? the last pic one is one of the many that malena took herself of her house. i think that i have about 60 gingerbread pictures on the camera. our little annie leibovitz.

shall we move on to some other holiday fun? we shall.
- if you want easy to make and good to taste chex mixes during the holidays (and i know you do and so do i) then you need to check out the recipe for this honey chex mix (tnx gloria for introducing me to my newest addiction). when my cousin gloria made the mix she didn't include the sesame seeds and subbed the cherries for craisins. so, so, so, so good. another yummy mix is the chocolate muddy buddies recipe which my mom makes for me (yes, i am spoiled but i deserve it right?). i am the first to admit that i am a sucker for good chex mixes.
- if you need a good idea for what do with your christmas cards, i have one for you. years ago my mom gave me a suggestion that i use every year. i keep the fronts of the christmas cards and use them the next year to decorate our presents. i haven't bought bows for christmas presents for years, the gifts look great, it's a good way to reuse the cards, and they make my presents easy to pack up when we need to take them somewhere. get a glue stick and you are good to go. i told you it was a good idea. you are welcome.
- there are a ton of holiday ideas on marta writes today, many of them diy and i would love to stay home tomorrow and craft some of them up.

wednesday, i love you. you represent the half way mark.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

the firsts

the firsts of the holiday season have continued this weekend with building gingerbread houses and malena wrapping her first christmas presents...more about those firsts later this week.

during this holiday time of firsts, i have thought a lot about whether these will be our only firsts. last year the decision to be pregnant with our second baby was taken away from us with the diagnosis. pregnancy while doing treatments was not an option. had we not got that fatefull call, we would likely either be pregnant right now or would already have had our second child.

we always assumed that we would have two kids, and i hadn't really thought about not having two...until last year forced me to think about it. now the thought of being pregnant carries far more risks that it did before. could the changes in my immune system during pregnancy contribute to a recurrence? what risks come with getting pregnant and pushing out scans from my regular schedule? what would we do if cancer came back when i was pregnant and i couldn't do any treatments? what would we do if the cancer came back and we had malena and a newborn to take care of? if the cancer came back and i didn't beat it, what would life look like for barrett raising malena versus raising two children? how could i face leaving two children when i can't fathom leaving malena?

i am very scared that i will have a recurrence, the thought of having a recurrence and not being able to do everything i needed to scares me even more.

i think that i had always pictured a sibling for malena partly because i have two siblings that i completely adore. my brother and sister are two of most favorite people in the world. some of my best memories include them. i love to laugh with them. i talk with my sister every day. i can't imagine my life without them. i want that type of relationship for malena too.

it isn't like we have to make a decision today, and we will definitely not be making any decisions until after my scans in january. i haven't felt good enough since treatments stopped to even consider being pregnant. but, i need for us to make a decision soon. the decision about whether to have a second child weighs too heavy on my heart, i can't carry it around with me for too much longer. i can't have baby things in our house if there will not be another baby under our roof. when we took malena's crib down this fall, i couldn't watch as it was too hard because i didn't know whether we would ever put it up again. we will either need to put the risks aside and hope like crazy that life plays in our favor with a second pregnancy, or i will need to grieve the loss of what we thought our lives would look like. i think that the grief of the things that are forever changed will continue to play out for me in more ways - and for longer - than i can imagine.

all of this is not to say that i do not love every single second of all of these firsts with malena, i most certainly do. i have always been - but am more so now - thankful that we had her when i was healthy and that she is healthy. if we do not have a second child, i am already luckier than i could have asked for.

no matter what life gives or takes in the future, life brought me her.

she will always be my most favorite first.

*photo by nerd (aka denise hamilton)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


it seems that i just need to get a really bad cold in order to get some sleep. i have been home sick the last two days. i can now feel the roots of all my teeth and they ache, i think that could be a sinus infection coming on. oh goodie. i have been taking my cold medicine and the last two days i have just curled up in a little ball during the day. and slept. with no nightmares. it has been so nice. i of course can't sleep when night comes around due to the nightmares, but i haven't got as much as sleep as i have in the last two days since thanksgiving. i think that i might just need to start reversing my schedule and working at night and sleeping during the day. i will have to look into that.

one of the other things that we need to look into is doing our will. i promised myself earlier this year that we would do that by years end. but truth be told, it was too much to do during treatment, and has been too hard emotionally to do after treatment. so i have given myself permission to put that off until the new year.

last year after i was diagnosed and before we knew exactly what was ahead of us, there were a few things that we talked about and then agreed to not talk about again during treatment. the reason for that was we wanted to just focus on getting through the treatments, and to not focus on the what ifs of what could come. one of those things was that i told barrett that if something happened to me, i would want him to remarry again if he found someone to share his life with. when we had that conversation, i realized that was one of the conversations that we probably never would have had if i hadn't been diagnosed, but it should have been a conversation we had regardless. there are things that no one wants to talk about because they are associated with something going wrong, but they are important to say nonetheless. if it wasn't cancer, and something happened to me unexpectedly, i would want barrett to know what my wishes would be for him and malena - and what my wishes would be for myself if i had to leave them early. all of those wishes haven't been said yet, but over time, they will be. they are important for me to say, to be at peace they have been said and be able to move on. i can only vocalize those thoughts in small doses though so they will come a little at a time.

how about moving on to some happier thoughts...yep, sounds good to me too.

- this friday we are going to check out the gingerbread village at the sheraton and then make our own gingerbread house (not sure which will have more candy - the house or my mouth;))
- next year i think that we will also do this awesome idea for creating a gingerbread village out of recycled cereal/cracker boxes
- love this idea for using books to make a christmas tree - might have to put this on my holiday to do list for next year, it would look great on our dining room table
- read this story the other day and really connected with the thought of sending my wishes out to the world and then letting them go

happy wednesday peeps, we are half way there.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

monday dinners

on the second monday of every month, i have dinner with the same person - my dear friend chris. our pic from our latest dinner is below, not sure why it looks like my hair is tinted blue, and no matter how hard we tried, we couldn't a pic where our eyes didn't shine bright white. i blame it on the lighting at the spaghetti factory;) but you get the idea...

chris and i met in 1998 when we were both working in olympia at the same office. chris left to take another job in 1999 and we decided to meet up one month in tacoma for dinner. we had such a good time we decided to try and do it the next month and we made it happen. thus began our tradition of having dinner together on the second tuesday (we now do the second monday) of every month. since 1999, we have met every month for dinner except for five times - the three months after our kids were born, and two months when i was too sick from treatments. so in about 13 years, we have had a lot of dinners together! during that time, chris has always been in tacoma - i have been in vancouver, kirkland, aberdeen, olympia, kirkland (again) and sammamish. but no matter where i have been, we have found a place to meet that we could both to get to, and never cancelled due to weather which is pretty amazing considering we live in the nw.

it is one of my favorite traditions, and one that i hope we are able to continue for a long time. it is amazing how much we have to talk about after only four weeks apart. i often think about how great it would be if i could have dinner once a month with all of my friends to catch up on everything in their lives. i also think about how much i miss of what goes on in their lives, since i only see most friends a couple of times each year if i am lucky. i am lucky to work with some of my best friends so i get to see them more often, but even that proximity doesn't allow us time to regularly catch up on what is going on with each of us.

our dinners have included talk on boyfriends (those are some of the funniest stories), husbands, parents, pregnancies, our kids, cancer (her mom, my dad, my own fight, others we know and love), our families and friends, work, and all of the other things that life throws at us. sometimes we laugh (a lot actually), sometimes we cry, sometimes we encourage, and sometimes we just listen.

in addition to our monthly dinners, we have celebrated other events in our lives, many happy, some heartwrenching sad like the day we met in tacoma to say goodbye to chris's mom gail. chris and i walked together for the 3-day, 60 mile, breast cancer walk about 6 years ago. chris's mom gail, who was fighting breast cancer at the time, drove us to our drop off point the morning of the walk and cheered us on as we took our first steps. both chris and i walked for her mom, but i also walked to support chris as well, and every other woman affected by breast cancer. we did it, all 60 miles. with lots of bandaids and blisters, laughs, and tears. gail physically left this world on may 29, 2006, but i know that she continues to watch over chris and beckett, stella, and sawyer each and every day. she is greatly missed. these pics are from the morning that we started the 60 mile walk.

this monday will be our next dinner. december is always super fun because we exchange holiday presents, and mine from her is always the same and i wouldn't have it any other way (assuming she will keep making it for me;))....chris's homemade peppermint chocolate bark. yum yum. like my birthday cake, if i offer to share a piece of it with you, you know that i really really really love you.

so here is to 2012 and 12 more monday night dinners, can't wait.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

jingle all the way (with no sleep) the nightmares are taking a toll again. they are back every night and unrelenting. i have not got much sleep in the last two weeks. i am starting to feel like a walking zombie. i was wondering at work today if people could tell they had a zombie in meetings with them. if they knew, they didn't let on. very nice of them. i can't wait until i sleep again. i really miss sleep.  i hope that i am not waiting for its return for too long.

on to happier things (which is coinciding with "modern family" being on tv right now which always makes me happy)...

- last weekend i went to the timber creek christmas shop which is a must shop/stop every christmas season. they have two cabins full of great gifts and christmas decorations. one cabin is all christmas ornaments and gifts. here is what the front door to the christmas cabin looks like....

when you walk in to the cabin it is warm and toasty and there is music playing (the quiet kind, not the overpowering-too-much-christmas-music-kind) and they offer warm cider. love that. here is a little glimpse of the fun inside...
- we went to snowflake lane last night for some snow and drumming fun. great time. got to kick it with the michelle and her clan which increased the fun factor.

- if you are looking for cute, free, downloadable christmas postcards you need to click here, a great tip from how about orange

happy thursday all...we are so, so close to friday. woohoo.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

on comet, on cupid, on donner and blitzen

today we went to the reindeer festival at the cougar mountain zoo. we had such a great time. lemurs. tigers. moutain cats. cranes. alpacas. dears. emus. wallaby - most of which we got to feed. we got to sit in santa's sleigh. we fed all of santa's reindeer, who really love to eat apples (which we will now be leaving out on christmas eve). we saw santa in his house and got to tell him what we wanted for christmas. hot cider, hot cocoa, and animal cookies were the perfect treats on this cold day. a new tradition has begun, one i hope we get to do for many more years together.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

hello friday, i have missed you

oh friday, i am so happy that you are here. this has been another long week.

the funeral for diane was very nice, but tough. to hear about her fight with cancer, and to hear stories and see pictures of the last year or two (when she didn't feel well, when she lost her hair, when she wore a wig, etc.) were hard to hear and watch. a couple of times it felt like watching snapshots of my life flashing by. they played two songs that generally make me tear up when i am not already upset. at one point during the second song - about a woman who goes before her time - i felt like i literally couldn't breathe for a second. another goodbye. i am so tired of those. i never like goodbyes. ones that involve cancer are even more brutal.

but life comes with the sad as well as the happy times. tomorrow i get to celebrate a friend's 40th birthday. i wish her 40 more (and beyond that) years of good health, joy, laughter and adventures. i look forward to more fun memories to share with her. love you christina. you are rockin it out at 40.

a couple of things for the weekend...
- you can download this holiday print from marta writes for $7. awesome. as she usually is.
- these two songs are on constant rotation on my ipod

"run" by sugarland and matt nathanson (jon - saw your post today my friend, you are going to love this. i am so excited for february to get here. i am counting down the days til i get to see you. can't wait. xo)

"little lion man" by mumford and sons - i heard this for the first time last week and immediately knew that i would have to load it up

martina mcbride's "i'm gonna love you through it" is a song that i can't get through without tears. i heard it the first time this summer when i was driving. i remember feeling like i had been stopped cold in my tracks while i was driving at the same time. in the last part of the video is one of the women saying that you know that are loved, but you don't know how much you are loved until you get sick. i would definitely say that is true. i would also say that you know that you love your family and friends, but you don't know how much you love them until you get sick and have to think about leaving them.

off to bed i go. will try to get some sleep. sleep has not been my friend this week. i guess we are on the outs. not a big surprise, i was expecting the nightmares to gain frequency again this week. they showed up as expected. they are not a welcomed guest.

tgif peeps. hope your friday is a good one.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

the spaces in between

dear floss,
this is my i-broke-up-with-you-but-i-want-to-get-back-together plea. i know that i pretty much dropped you cold last july, and have used you only when i felt like it or when i had to (i.e., i would look like a total idiot with food in my teeth - although i think that you are clear i would never use you at work in front of others). i am sure that you have felt like i have moved on and left you behind. in the last year you have represented effort, and i haven't had much motivation for effort if it wasn't effort i absolutely needed to expend (michele j - i know that you spent a million years going to school to take care of people's teeth, and so you probably think that i did need to expend the effort - i hope that you can still love me after reading this. my teeth and my gums and i still love you dearly). you represented a delay in going to bed, even if only for a minute or two. truth be told, in the last year, a minute or two of not being able to lay down seemed like an eternity. you just weren't worth it, even though i knew that i would eventally pay the price when my hygienist made me sorry you weren't worth my time. which she did. as i expected. but i love her nonetheless. i deserved it. i do hope that you will take me back. i promise to never let you go again (if i can help it). you are again worth the delay in going to bed. i will take good care of you and will treat you better than anyone else does. i will tell my friends about you. i will take you with me when i go on trips. i know that you love me too, so let's work this out. talk to the elliptical, i am totally back in a routine with her (she also got dumped last july) so i can be trusted to stick to my word. i plan to see you tomorrow night. don't stand me up. unlike you, i am not good at rejection. you know you missed me too. much love.

Sunday, November 27, 2011


that is how this last weekend was.

the sweet was...
- time with family for multiple days in a row
- sleeping in and even one quick nap on thanksgiving
- cupcakes

- games
- laughter
- great food
- decorating for christmas (not necessarily out of being in the holiday mood quite yet, but not sure when else we would have time)

the bitter was...
- wanting to be able to wrap a good friend entirely up in bubble wrap to protect her from pain and not being able to do that but supporting her the best i can
- the loss of a family member on thanksgiving to cancer. my mom had told me when i got to her house on thanksgiving that her cousin diane was in the hospital and not doing well. the call came to notify us just as we were sitting down to thanksgiving dinner. on wednesday we will meet to say goodbye to diane. this will be the third funeral since my diagnosis, funerals are never easy, there are harder for me now than ever before. i wish there were no more goodbyes to be had this year. i can't remember the last year that has gone by that we have not lost a friend or a family member. i hope that 2012 breaks that cycle and there are no goodbyes. i hope. i hope. i hope.

i saw my counselor last week and we had an interesting talk about my nightmares. the nightmares continue although i don't have them every night. she had an interesting perspective as she always does. she told me that she thinks it is likely the trauma of the last year finally finding its way out, and i hope, out for good. since i went right from diagnosis to surgery, to high dose treatments, to low dose treatments, and so many doctors appointments in between, there hasn't been much time for me to just process as i was always focused on the next hurdle i needed to cross (for the bulk of the year, that focus was always on getting throug the next shot). i have known for a long time that i should have taken more time off at the beginning. but going back to work was a decision that i could make at a time when there weren't many decisions i had control over. it was my routine and what i knew. it provided me the ability to think of something other than how scared and sick i was. it gave me comfort that some parts of my life could continue as usual, even if i felt like hell doing it. i got to spend my days around people that i liked and who made me laugh. but it was too fast to go back, and i knew even before i ended treatment, that if i had it to do all over again (which i hope i never do), i would have taken more time to really deal with the diagnosis and how my life would forever change - in both good ways and bad. so i am going to take some time soon to catch my breath and give myself the time i didn't take last year.

i look forward to december coming and feeling up to more this year than last. last year was brutal and i remember spending most of christmas day on the couch with nausea. so this year can only be better than the last.

i have a fun list of things that we will do, including...
 - the reindeer festival at cougar mountain zoo
- making a gingerbread house and getting to eat candy at the same time (jill, i won't make mine from scratch like you do - which is a tradition that i think rocks by the way, so i hope that we can still be friends after you read this)
- going to snowflake lane and hearing the drummers rock it out
- watching malena open her advent calendar surprises every day from the calendar my mom made her from scratch
- going to the garden d' lights at the bellevue botanical garden like we do every year between christmas and new years
- drinking hot chocolate
- making these flourless peanut butter cookies
- hopefully making it to zoolights for the first time
- eating my mom's chocolate covered pretzels and my friend chris's homemade peppermint bark (yum)
- painting wooden snowflakes with malena for homemade christmas presents (everyone who is getting one and is reading this will need to act surprised)
- doing some on-line shopping from artists like kate endle, malena will be getting this book and i will getting this calendar (thanks mom, i will totally act surprised when i open it, you are such a good shopper;)) or tag team tompkins from which i have purchased two pieces (this one and this one) that are framed and in my craft room and now nerd has this one

happy monday all, november comes to a close this week and december begins. the final transition of the year. bring it on. i am ready for a fresh start.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

many thanks

malena's mr. turkey

this thanksgiving i am thankful for (these are some highlights, the list would be endless in its entirety)...
- being here to celebrate this holiday
- my family (inclusive of melhoff, ray, sheehan, hanson peeps)
- my friends (how did i get so lucky?)
- a warm home
- a car to drive
- my job (even on the days when i don't get to use the restroom more than once)
- the food we will eat tomorrow (and friday, and saturday, and sunday)
- denise being able to be in texas to see ty graduate from basic training (love you ty!)
- laughter (can't get enough)
- smiles
- good hugs
- cinammon bears
- thinking that i sound good when i sing in the car (i do sound good, right?)
- music
- hats
- the gf pecan pie i am going to eat tomorrow (assuming it is good, haven't had this brand before, i may revoke this one from the list if it isn't good, stay tuned)
- fresh air
- my general doctor
- my oncologist
- my nurses
- all of the staff at scaa
- cupcakes
- my counselor (her ability to always make me feel like i am doing better than i think i am)
- fun times to come in december
- having a new round of holidays to look on back next year that won't remind of me of treatments
- cheese
- my craft room and all of my crafty goodness inside of it
- time to make cards
- games (current favs in house is "five little monkeys" and "let's go fishin'")
- an upcoming new year
- umbrellas (especially in last two days of sideways rain with major wind)
- endless memories
- happy hours
- pictures
- my favorite blanket
- art (and being lucky enough to have some of my favorite pieces in my house to see every day)
- traditions
- malena loving to bake, cook, and do craft projects with me (hence mr. turkey)
- flowers
- not having to do a treatment shot tonight
- love
- finding the perfect card or gift
- my elliptical (even when it kicks my you-know-what)
- kindness
- seeing fun mail  when i open my mailbox
- candy
- "modern family"
- naps
- mornings when i get to sleep in
- wine
- fun jewelry
- having time to just walk around my favorite stores and take it all in
- my nightmares starting to decrease
- this blog
- dora the explorer (because she makes malena happy)
- good health for family and friends
- waking up tomorrow to have another day
- hope

Saturday, November 19, 2011


"i am your mother, the first mile of your road. me and all my obvious and hidden limitations. that means in addition to possibly wrecking you, i have the chance to give to you what was given to me: a decent childhood, more good memories than bad, some values, a sense of a tribe, a run at happiness. you can't imagine how seriously i take that - even as i fail you. mothering you is the first thing of consequence that i have ever done." (kelly corrigan, "lift")

my baby girl turns three today - at 1:52pm exactly. i do not know where the time has gone, but it has gone in the blink of an eye - and i have loved every single second of it. i remember people telling me when i was pregnant that life moves at lightning speed after you have children, they definitely knew what they were talking about.

i found the book "lift" when i wrote this blog in july. i had come across the video that i shared in that blog, and that led me to find kelly's books. the excerpts below are from the same book. i will forever hold on to my copy of this book. i will however be rotating it around because i think that every mom should read it (chris, you are the first on my list my dear, i will bring it on monday).

she is now officially a big girl. not my baby anymore, she would tell you that herself. i loved having her as my baby, but i love this stage - we can have conversations, we can do projects together, we can bake, we can really laugh together, she can give me great hugs and kisses, she can run to me when i pick her up at daycare (like she does every single day, and i know that someday she will no longer run towards me so i cherish it while it lasts), she can show her independence and her own personality, the list goes on and on.

"i think about your futures a lot. i often want to whisper to you, when we're tangled up together or i'm pinning your poetry to the bulletin board or repositioning the pillow under your head so you don't get a crick. remember this. this is what love feels like. don't take less. but what i end up saying is "this was my dream. you were my dream." i've said it too many times though; now when i look at you all soft and gushy and say "guess what?" you say "this was your dream. i was your dream."

malena's party last year was fun of course, but it was a hard day for me to get through without showing how i really felt. i was an emotional mess. her birthday snuck up quick last year after treatment started and i had a hard time not thinking about whether i would see more of her birthdays - would i be there for the sweet sixteen, the 21 run, etc. - not to mention all of other birthdays which are no less important.

in some ways, it has been tough over the last year with her being so young while i was going through treatment and dealing with the harsh realities that come along with the diagnosis. when those dark thoughts have crept in, i have thought about whether or not she would remember me if i wasn't around to see her grow up because she would be too young to remember me. i try to put those thoughts out of my mind quickly when they come, because nothing good comes from dwelling in that place for too long. but i would lying if i said that there haven't been times over the last year that i was at some of my lowest points wondering if she would just have pictures and stories told to her to know my part of her story.

"you'll remember middle school and high school, but you'll have changed by then. you changing will make me change. that means you won't ever know me as i am right now - the mother i am tonight and tomorrow, the mother i've been for the last eight years, every bath and book and birthday party, gone. it won't hit you that you're missing this chapter of our story until you see me push your child on a swing or untangle his jump rope or wave a bee away from his head and think, is this what she was like with me?"

i think that since malena was born, and even before that day, i have felt like being a mom was the most important thing i have ever done. i have always felt a very strong desire to chronicle her life, to take tons of pictures and to memorialize all of the good in her life. i have had a tough time in the last year with pictures, because i would often get upset thinking about not being around to be in pictures in the future. i am slowing moving past that hold that pictures had on me. on my current "to do" list is to get caught up with printing our pictures and to start to scrapbook pictures for malena to document her life.

when i think about getting back into documenting our lives through pictures, i think of this video that kelly did with paper coterie (love!).

"i don't know when you'll read this. maybe when you're a teenager? no, probably later, when you're on the verge of parenthood and it occurs to you for the first time that someone has been loving you for that long. maybe (let's hope not) you'll read it because something's happened to one of us - my cancer came back or dad was reading a text going across the bay bridge and cars collided - and you want to piece together what it was life before. no matter when and why this comes to your hands, i want to put down on paper how things started with us."

in "lift", kelly also talks about the being a parent when your child becomes unexpectedly seriously ill.

"it's one thing to know your child is in pain, it's another to attend it."

when malena was just over one year old, she had two surgeries at children's for what was thankfully a non-life threatening condition. that was brutal. you never think about having to take your child to children's. but, if you have to, you are so thankful you live close enough to get there quickly. i am forever thankful for children's. when we went through that time with malena, it was emotionally overwhelming. seeing her get poked and prodded (her screaming at the same time and looking at us with this sense of wonder as to why we were not coming to her rescue, i will never forget that look), holding her hand and looking at her as they put her under general anesthetia (no parent should have to see that, trust me), her screaming and reaching for us when the doctors took her from us to take her into the surgery room, etc. i remember the morning of her first surgery bawling to my mom because i was so scared, and then shutting that off so malena didn't see me scared because she needed to see me strong. i realized then it was natural instinct - that is just what parents do, without even thinking about it - you protect your kids from knowing how scared you are because you need to protect them from being scared as much as you can.

"she said no matter how stark the diagnosis, parents never fall over or scream like they do on tv. they keep breathing and listening and asking very good questions, and minute-by-minute they expand on the spot to take it in."

i have thought a lot over the last year about my parents as they watched over me. i know that they were (and probably still are) very scared. but they also let me know that they would be with me every single step of the way and that we would get through this together. they drove me, and were in the waiting room, on the day i had surgery. they stayed with us in the days that followed. my mom helped me to shower when i needed help cleaning around my stitches and i couldn't lift my arms to wash my own hair. they drove me to treatments. they sat with me in the room while the iv dripped into my arm. they watched as i winced when the nurses missed my veins, when they had to manipulate the iv in my arm. they saw me as i started to get sick on the drive home from treatments. they helped sneak me in the house so that malena didn't see me when i was too sick to see her. when i was crying because i was shaking uncontrollably from the chills. they fed me. they ran errands. they did laundry. they mowed the lawn. they listened. they cried. they listened as i cried. they waited on test results. they told me my new haircut looked good. they let me lay down and rest when i was too nauseas to move. they celebrated good news. they comforted when there was bad news. the list is endless, and luckily for me, i have a similar list for my other set of parents that i got the day i married barrett.

i remember the afternoon i came home from surgery. it was a beautiful july day and i was in bed upstairs and was in and out of it due all of the drugs. the windows were open and i could hear malena playing outside and laughing. i was so sad to not be out there with her, and to have had to hide upstairs because i knew that the blood and bandages would scare her. my mom came in to check on me. i can still remember clearly that she started to cry and told me that she so wished she could trade me places. i of course wouldn't trade her places even if i could, i wouldn't want anyone i loved going through what i was going through. but, i got it, i felt the exact same way when malena had her surgeries. you never want to see your kids in pain and would trade them places in a second if you could.

"but the smell of the hospital, the sting of those overhead lights in the night, the snippets of conversation i'd overheard stayed with me and marked the beginning of how i came to know what a bold and dangerous thing parenthood is. risk was not an event we'd survived but the place where we now lived."

"mothers go to the hospital with their children. we hold their hands and look at them with our most reassuring expressions and whisper encouraging things like the medicine will help you sleep. we slip into the hall for a minute to talk openly with doctors. we make decisions and sign forms and go back into the room wearing that same put-on look of composure. we check for signs of pain, we reposition pillows and lower the bed and curse the paper-thin shades as we darken the room the best we can. we sit, we stand, we stare and stretch, we shudder and sit back down and hold our heads and decide it's better standing. we lean over the bedside and run the backs of our fingers across our child's cheek and close our eyes in a moment of passion and physical memory of every other time we touched that cheek, that singular orchid of a face."

so with this miletone of 3 years, another fun years begins with malena. i can hardly wait to see what adventures this year brings us. i know that it will bring me another year of finding my way as a mom and that can only be good for both of us.

"my default answer to everything is no. as soon as i hear the inflection of inquiry in your voice, the word no forms in my mind, sometimes accompanied by a reason, often not. can i open the mail? no. can i wear your necklace? no. when is dinner? no. what you probably wouldn't believe is how much i want to say yes. yes, you can take two dozen books from the library. yes, you can eat the whole roll of sweetarts. yes, you can camp out on the deck. but the books will get lost, and sweetarts will eventually make your tongue bleed, and if you sleep on the deck, the neighborhood raccoons will nibble on you. i often wish that i could come back to life as your uncle, so i could give you more. but when you're the mom, your whole life is holding the rope against these whily secret agents who never, ever stop trying to get you to drop your end."

i know for sure there will be a ton of craft projects. that is a given. we share a craft room after all.

"you girls can pin your fixation with file folders, hole-punchers, and three-ring binders on me. watching you fashion a wallet out of index cards and double-sided tape, or embellish the edges of place cards with deckle-edge scissors, or swoon over a metallic, fine-tip paint pen? talk about genetic validation."

so bring on year three, i am ready to see all that it brings. the good and the bad. hopefully more of the former than the later.

"turbelence is the only way to get altitude, to get lift. without turbelence, the sky is just a big blue hole. without turbulence, you sink."

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

all in all

the good/great outweighted the unpleasant today.

unpleasant category included the following:
- not one spare minute at work to catch my breath - i was lucky to make it to the restroom. once. a catheter might be a wise investment for me. or a big bag of depends. or both. while i was in there, i saw a coworker flossing her teeth. three thoughts - 1) wow, must be nice to have time to pee and floss, 2) wow, you don't mind having coworkers see you floss your teeth, 3) wow, i will never have a coworker see me floss my teeth. ever. even if it means i have food in my teeth during a meeting. never. ever.
- i got jammed on a super crammed bus where i had someone on all sides about 2 inches from me. if malena wouldn't have been locked in daycare overnight, i would have waited for the next one. i hope that she appreciates sleeping in her own bed tonight. it was a close call.
- i had to spend quality time with poop and dora at day's end. yesterday when i picked up malena's bag at daycare, there were two bags tied together. two bomb bags. when i see two bags, indicating one bag was not enough, i know that i will be spending some quality time with dora underwear and clorox. there was only one bag today, a break in the middle of the week. the end of potty training can't come soon enough. i still hold to the hope that if she can take pictures, craft, bake, and work my iphone better than i can, she can figure this out. maybe there is an app she can download to help her out. i should have her look into that tomorrow.

good category included the following:
- i had a chocolate gluten free muffin waiting on my desk at work for me today when i walked in this morning - love the days my muffin fairy visits me. especially on chocolate days.
- my umbrella did not fly inside out while i was walking between buildings during sideways rain and wind today.
- i got to bake and decorate cupcakes with malena tonight which was a blast, time spent with her baking is so great (oh, and we ate some chocolate after all of our hard work - yum).
- malena and i watched a video i took on my phone the other day that made us laugh everytime we watched it, which was ten times total i think by the time she was ready to move on to something else. love laughing with her.

great category included the following:
- my friend got cancer free test results on his mole biopsies. it simply doesn't get any better than that. the unpleasant category could have been 1,000 items long. wouldn't have mattered. that news meant the day was officially a great day.

Friday, November 11, 2011

their day

"As we express our gratitude,
we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words,
but to live by them."

today is the day we say thank you to those that have served and continue to serve.

so on this day we say...
- we love you tyler, we are so very proud of you, and we think about you all of the time while you are at basic training. i have always thought about what you are up to, but now i think of you more consistently and wonder if you are running, doing push-ups, getting to sleep, if the food is ok, etc. i often wonder where this journey will take you. you are now the one person that i send mail to each and every week, i plan for that to the case for a long time to come. it has been so good to hear your voice the couple of times that i have got to talk with you. we can't wait to see you next month. we love you, hang in there, you can do this.
- we miss you jamie (and thank you for serving in the navy), samantha, and kyrstin. we wish that we could keep you all with us here all of the time. we are happy that you are back in a home and town that you know. we hope that the adjustment is going well (minus the awful nachos you had) for all of you. we love you, hang in there, you can do this.
- we wonder where you are kevin, but not knowing where you are is the point, right? we are very proud of you and miss seeing your smiling face and red hair at family events. i often think about where you are in the world, but am always comforted by knowing that i may not know where you are, but i do know you are ok and that we share the same sky. we love you, hang in there, you can do this.
- to all of our other family members and friends who have served, those physically here with us and those with us in spirit, we thank you for the time that you dedicated to serving in the military. we remember you on this day and we say thank you.

as i write this and watch malena all cuddled up in her blankets watching her cartoons, i am thankful for all of those that have served to allow us to have a morning as easy as this one.

i hope that you all in some way say thank you as well to all of those that have served for you.

photo by denise hamilton, very proud mom of tyler who will graduate from basic training in the air force in two weeks (yay tyler!!!)