Sunday, December 30, 2007

My lesson at church today

I continue to love attending WSUU. Not every word inspires me (would that even be possible?), but it offers me a lot of things. Sometimes, I have to think about the sermon for a week before it really hits home; sometimes, I hear something that connects with me immediately.

Today, it was an immediate connection. The sermon was about letting go and forgiveness - appropriate topics for year's end. There were several stories and readings, and one line from a meditation about forgiveness really stuck out to me:

"Forgive us the folly for trying to improve a friend."

In my marriage, in particular, I believe I'm guilty of this. Under the assumption of loving, caring, and compassion, I try to push my ideas on Ryan. Sometimes he is not receptive to these ideas, and I've been prone to thinking, "What isn't there to get? This is so obvious!" and I have felt frustrated and expressed my frustration with him. My mom was discussing this idea (not related to Ryan, but to life in general), and said "We are all at different stages of our life journey; we all have different levels of understanding. You can't expect everyone else to be at the same place in the journey that you are at the same time all the time," and I think that this line from the meditation speaks to that. I choose Ryan because I love him and he is a worthy partner, and I choose my friends for the same reasons. How foolish it is of me to push my ideas on others just because I'm at a new understanding, when I don't want others' ideas pushed on me. "Improving a friend" might mean "You should be more like me," and frankly, there's already enough of me to go around. I don't want a world full of me - I want a world full of the diverse people that I love.

The journey, to me, is like traveling the spokes of the wheel. We might be equally advanced, but in different areas (spokes). How irritating it is to be reminded that we are behind in one area, only because we're exploring another area.


This doesn't mean that we can't all learn from another and offer one another wisdom; there is room for that, too. But when it switches from sharing my own lessons to trying to improve another person, I'm guilty and determined to learn and grow from this new understanding.

It was a great lightbulb moment for me.

This is exactly why I choose to attend services, and why I'm embracing being a UU. I am grateful for the opportunity to reflect on these ideas, and I'm grateful for being given the space to learn and grow. No judgement, no finger pointing, just room to grow. Lovely.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Packing list

- Bag of boots (big, medium, and small)
- Bag of extra clothes in case we get cold/wet (big, medium, and small)
- Bag of snowshoes (big, medium, and small)
- Dog boots, leash, collar, and blanket/towel
- Backpacks stocked with tissues, lip balm, extra gloves, snacks and water (big, medium, and small)
- Bag of snow clothes (coats and snow-pants, hats, scarves, fleece) (big, medium, and small)
- Sleds and blankets

Are we going on an arctic expedition? No, we are going to Snoqualmie Pass for a couple hours tomorrow morning to play in the snow and do a little snowshoeing. From the looks of our car, you'd think that we could do the North Pole!

Thank you cards

For a couple of years (since diagnosis?) I have been incredibly remiss in sending out thank you cards.

I used to pride myself on sending them with regularity and punctuality. I have been the fortunate recipient of much generousity and thoughtfulness in my life, and it seemed a small thing to me to write a small note to acknowledge others' gifts to me. Of course it's good manners to send such notes, but my heart was really in writing them, too, because it was a way for me to feel gratitude and share my heart with the givers. Really, a win-win all around.

Then cancer came, and I just became utterly overwhelmed by so many things. This is my reason, but not an excuse. Many other cancer patients manage to keep up with their thank yous, but I did not. I can't exactly explain it, but I just didn't have anything to give. I was just tired by life, and sometimes the smallest of tasks seemed insurmountable. Perhaps this was an early sign of my depression, as thank you cards were not the only thing that slipped.

But I digress.

This Christmas, like every other year, I was the fortunate recipient of gifts of love and thoughtfulness. I have vowed to acknowledge them in writing. I know how fortunate I am to have such faithful friends and family members in my life, and I WANT to acknowledge them.

I can't go back to write all of the thank yous that I have missed over the past couple of years - the task feels impossible and doomed to failure, despite my good intentions. But I can start fresh, and vow not to miss another opportunity to thank those people in my life who share their kindnesses with me.

Check your mail soon. I appreciate you, and I send my love.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

A quick note in the middle of this Christmas Day.

We are having a wonderful family Christmas together, and many Christmas wishes were granted (bike stuff for Ryan, cashmere for me, a swingset for Tessa) and we've been enjoying a lazy morning. Of course, there's the excitement of the tipped over Christmas tree (hey, it looks like the tree's at an angle...we should fix that....crash!) but that just adds to the fun. (Ryan's vacuuming up needles now.)

Later today, my parents, grandma, and brother plus family will come here to have Christmas dinner with us.

The best part of the day so far is watching Tessa unwrap her gifts, while we sip coffee and eat twice baked almond croissants from Bakery Nouveau. Today isn't a day to count calories, and I'm not. (I just hope I can fit into my workout clothes after today.) Christmas music playing, a roast waiting to go into the oven, the smell of pine needles and coffee wafting through the house, and a plate of cookies just waiting for us. The cousins' presents are under the tree, and Tessa can't wait to play on the swingset with Caleb and Joshua. Four generations will sit around our table, and that has a magic of its own, too.

I want to give my daughter a fantasy childhood, filled with laughter, traditions, and fun times together. Today, it feels like we're doing a good job of that, and I am filled with contentment.

Love, joy and peace to you all. Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Christmas Crab Bisque

A friend asked me to send her the recipe, and since I typed it up, I thought I'd share. It's a huge hit around here, and we serve it as our opening course for Christmas dinner. I can't wait!

Crab bisque is a huge hit around here. I couldn't find a recipe I liked so I took four recipes I found online and combined them. Here's what I do:

Crab Bisque - Serves 10-12

2 tablespoons butter
1/2 large onion, finely chopped
4 celery ribs,chopped
3/4 cup flour
1 cup dry white wine
4 cups chicken broth
4 cups half and half
2 pounds crab meat
handful fresh parsley
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in a large soup pot on medium to medium high, add onion and celery, and cook until soft. Add flour and cook for a full minute. Slowly add wine, broth and half and half, stirring constantly to mix in flour and keep smooth, and simmer for a half hour.

If desired, you can complete this step in advance, and finish the dish just before the meal (which is what I do, so that I can enjoy the day instead of cooking all day).

Heat the broth/onion mixture through, and then add herbs, seasoning, and crab, and heat through and serve.

If desired, reserve some of the crab meat and use for garnish.

I love dungeoness crab, but since it's about $25/pound I usually use part lump canned crab meat (Costco and Trader Joe's both sell it at reasonable prices, about $10/pound) and then do the rest with fresh dungeoness crab, garnishing each dish with a sprig of thyme and a piece of dungeoness leg meat. Many recipes call for less crab, but our family LOVES crab and so I make it "crab-heavy" as a special occassion dish.

Other recipes call for cutting up some potatoes and adding them, or using dry sherry instead of wine, or omitting the wine/sherry and using extra broth. Sometimes I add a clove or two of crushed garlic to the onion mixture, as well.

The recipe can be played with - the amounts of onion, celery, parsly, etc. are all pretty negotiable. Some of the recipes I found call for 2 tablespoons of onion, and some call for much much more. These are the quantities that have worked best for me.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Telling little kids about cancer

I keep meaning to put together a brief set of blog entries for newly diagnosed women; short summaries of some of the top questions or concerns or areas of interest. Well, today someone on the YSC boards asked a question about how to tell her small children about her diagnosis, and this is what I replied. In case anyone out there in internet-land is searching on information about telling children about cancer, I thought I'd share my experiences here.

(This is a repeat of information found in a variety of earlier blog entries, probably not relevant to my friends and family at this time.)

The book "Sammy's Mommy Has Cancer" was INCREDIBLY helpful to me; it doesn't discuss mastectomy directly but it talks about chemo, baldness, surgery, fatigue, etc. It's available on Amazon and in other bookstores. My daughter asked us to read it to her every day for months, because it helped her to understand.

I was very straightforward with our daughter, who was 2.5 at the time but highly verbal. We used the words "breast cancer" and explained that our bodies are made of cells that work together to make us strong, but the cells in Mama's breast had turned to bad cells that made me sick. We explained that the doctor would cut out the cancer and give me strong medicine to make me well, but that the medicine would make me tired and bald. We were very careful to explain that this was unusual, and not something that little kids could get. We made sure that she understood it was not like getting a cold or a fever or a sore throat, so she didn't need to worry about herself. (I know kids get cancer, though not breast cancer, but the idea was to help her to not worry if she got a sniffly nose that next they'd cut her breasts off.)

I never quite explained that they would be removing my breast along with the cancer...I meant to but never figured out how (eventually, both breasts, but initially, just one). My daughter walked in (barged in!) to the bathroom when I was just a few days post-op and I was coming out of the shower, and exclaimed "Mommy has only one nipple!" As calmly as I could, I said, "Yes, the doctors had to take off Mama's breast to make sure they got all of the cancer." Because I knew that I was going to get reconstruction, I said, "It's okay with me because I'm glad the cancer is gone. And one day, the doctors are going to build me a new breast!" That became my daughter's understanding: this was temporary, and I'd get new breasts. She seemed pretty okay with it.

I talked to the psycho-onc and read books about what to share with her, and what was recommended to me was to be as straight-forward as possible without overdoing it. (We've never talked about mortality issues, and won't unless something changes.) I also learned that children's number one fear is that they are not being told the whole truth or that they are being lied to, and so I was encouraged to be as open as possible. This worked for us, because it's how we do most things, not just big stuff like cancer. My daughter was not thrilled to have cancer in the family, but I don't think it terrified her, either.

Everything I read said to tell the child that it is NOT their fault. This seems obvious (of course it's not their fault!) but children make some strange leaps of logic, and many children have been known to say "If only I didn't bug Mom so much she wouldn't have gotten sick" or "If I was good she'd get better" etc. You want to nip that in the bud right away and state up front that it's nobody's fault.

I also told my daughter that she was the person who could help me to feel better. Her smiles make me happy; reading stories to her makes me happy; playing games with her makes me happy. When I was really sick it made me happy when she made things (cards, bead necklaces, simple things) for me. I tried to let her know that it was her job to just be a kid, and that just having her around made me happy. The idea was to give her some power in the situation to make HERSELF feel better, rather than just be a powerless bystander.

At age almost 5, my daughter knows about chemo, radiation, Herceptin, reconstruction, mastectomy, etc. This is part of her childhood, and that saddens me....but it's also the reality. Some kids deal with divorce, poverty, and other losses, and my daughter has had to deal with cancer. It's part of her normal, now.

Our way might not be right for everyone, but it's been great for us. I'm delighted to say that my daughter is pretty well adjusted - a happy, smiling kid who loves to play on the monkey bars, is learning to read, and begs for playdates fifty times a day. She's also capable of throwing an impressive tantrum, or whining when she doesn't get her way. In short, she's pretty normal, despite the abnormal features of her childhood.

I hope you get something out of this book that helps you. I'm pretty passionate about the subject, as all of my deepest fears about cancer are about its impact on my daughter. I hope I've given you something positive to give you hope that your kids will be okay, too.

Sunday, December 16, 2007


Well, interesting times.

Today Tessa is recovering, but not at all her normal self. The fever is gone, but she's still tired and low energy, eating much less than usual. She's on the mend, but she's not mended.

And then there's Shep. I stopped in at Marisa's party this afternoon, and when I got home, Shep looked normal when he came out to greet me. Twenty minutes later Ryan said, "What's wrong with Shep's eyes?" and when I looked, they were nearly swollen shut. As we debated what could be causing the problem, I practically watched his jaw swell up.

$156 later (well, it could definitely be worse) the vet (the one that's open all night closest to us is in Burien - of course this happens on a Sunday night!) has declared that Shep probably ate some thing and had an allergic reaction. Since he had strewn garbage from the office garbage can, we suspect it might have been a candy wrapper with chocolate residue. We'll never know what caused it, but an injection of Benedryl and steroids seems to have reversed some of the swelling. We'll watch him tonight and take him to our regular vet tomorrow if he isn't fully improved.

Really, there are other things I'd planned this weekend....yikes!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Change of plans

Well, this is how it goes some days.

Tessa woke up this morning with a fever (103.2), and so this weekend will be spent laying low. Ryan and I are taking turns with her and going out one at a time(I went to the C&P Arts and Crafts fair and got a fabulous gift for my mom's birthday - hurrah!). The bummer, though, is that tomorrow was to be her blessing, and now we can't go. Wahhh.

Seeing our girl laid low breaks my heart. She just sleeps and watches TV; she's very snuggly (which is nice) but she's got absolutely no energy. I hope this illness passes very, very quickly.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Christmas Card Photo

Okay, so here it is. A darling picture of a family enjoy themselves....

or is it just a picture of my butt?! ACK!

I hope you get a good laugh out of it. It IS one of my favorite photos, because I remember the moment so clearly, but after I chose it I started to wonder if I was insane to send a picture of my rear end to many people I know.

Well, it is what it is. Happy holidays!

Varolli Holiday Party

Here we are! You can see my longer hair in this phot.


Our new camera arrived and it's functional. Here are some of the first pics. Carolyn & I in San Fran, the Herceptin Advisory Panel girls, and of course Tessa and Jessie decorating the gingerbread house today (I think they did a great job).


This Sunday, we are having Tessa blessed at WSUU. Reverend Peg sent out part of the script for that event, which reads:

Sunday, during the blessing ritual, I will ask all the parents (we have thirteen children involved) to answer at the same time "I DO" to this
Peg: Parents, your job is the most important job in our society. Do you promise that, to the best of your abilities, you will help your children to love themselves, to love others without prejudice, to gain an ever evolving appreciation of truth & beauty, and to achieve a deepening understanding of
how to live lives of good character and compassionate living? If so,
please say "I do"
Parents: I do.

I am thrilled to do this with and for Tessa. The congregation will also read their promises to the children, to help them grow in a loving and supportive environment, etc. I am grateful to have found this type of community, and to give Tessa the gift of support in her quest to be the best person that she can be.

Because this is not a typical Christian church, and because this fellowship embraces many world traditions and not just Christian ones, we have not invited a large group to attend the blessing ceremony. We wish to be respectful of our family members' Christian beliefs, and understand that there are those in our family who may feel uncomfortable with the liberal nature of our beliefs. For that reason, we are not sending out invitations or having a party etc. for this event; we're being pretty quiet about it. I am mentioning it here, though, to say that I am happy about this part of our spiritual evolution, and grateful that we have found a spiritual home. This is one further step in our commitment to spirituality, and I feel strongly that we are on the right path for us.

I thought I'd use the blog today to share my thoughts on the subject. Our church encompasses many world traditions and beliefs, and is as liberal as they come, but there are commonalities with Christian traditions. The blessing is akin to a dedication or christening. It is about love, commitment, values, and spirituality. I hope that our friends and family who come from a strong Christian faith can celebrate these similarities with us, and share in the understanding that we are striving to make the world a better place together. Our approach might be different, but there are important similarities, as well.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Christmas Cards

If you get one of my Christmas cards (I wish I could say that I sent them to everyone but as time and money are short it was a smaller list than "everyone"!) I wonder, sincerely, what your reaction will be.

The part of me that chose the photo thinks, "This is a picture of our family having fun together, looking ahead to the future, dreaming, laughing." Another part of me thinks "What was I thinking?!" You can decide for yourself what you think. ;-)

This year I am really, really, really trying to simplify my holiday season. I am trying to keep spending in check by making homemade gifts and shortening my giving-list (please note: I love everyone as much and more than before - the lack of giving is NOT a lack of love, but an attempt to rein in our finances and focus on time and love not stuff); I am trying not to overcommit; I'm trying to enjoy the pleasures of the season (hot coffee while sitting by the tree; singing Christmas carols to myself as I do chores; parties but not too many...) instead of feeling the dreaded "should" and "rush" that I usually feel. I did not write a single word in my would have been nice, but I would have felt rushed and stressed (and late - there is no way I could have gotten them out in time). We did not have a cocktail party. We're taking it easy...and that feels good right now. Maybe another year I'll try to do a Martha Stewart imitation, but this year I'm trying to just relax and enjoy.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Home from San Fran

Just a note to let everyone know that I am home and well. The trip was great; incredible women, interesting work, a nice hotel (nothing compares with the Ritz, but still, it was nice), and of course the incomparable Carolyn.

I have been reading (especially on the airplane ride home) the book "When Things Fall Apart" by Pema Chodron (sp?), which was a gift from Adrienne after my meltdown, and I can't tell you how much I am getting out of it. I'm receptive to the messages in it, and I feel like I'm learning so much. It is about dealing with loss and pain and grief, but also about meditation, joy, anger, fear,'s brilliant so far. I am ready to be a student.

Since my meltdown, I feel like everything has changed. The book tells me that the meltdown might have been a great turning point in my life, and I tend to agree. I am reinterpreting everything through new eyes, and I'm open to many things because I have to be. What I mean is, when things are going well, I'm not looking to change much because I have no incentive to do so. But now, when things have fallen apart and everything feels uncertain, it makes sense to be open and to try new things. Hey, it can't hurt.

In the book there is a story about a boy and a snarling, barking, ferocious dog. As the dog growls and runs toward the boy, the boy runs, too....toward the dog. The dog, startled, turns and runs away. The author suggests that this should be our approach to fear, and that only by running INTO the fear can we save ourselves. It's an interesting idea, and I'm thinking about it.

I'm tired; this much isn't new. I still feel unlike myself, and that is filled with uncertainty and I feel uncomfortable with the uncertainty. But I'm starting to feel that it will be okay, that I will find joy. I'm on a mission to do so.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Flooding update

Just a quick update here...

Fortunately, the heavy rains stopped on Monday evening, and since then, our basement has been drying out. We were able to confine the flooding to the laundry-room, office, and the landing at the bottom of the basement stairs, so only perhaps 15 or 20 square feet of carpeting plus a nice area rug was damaged (the rest of it was concrete floor). Unfortunately, that carpet is currently stinking up our house. We've got fans and heaters on it, but a most unpleasant, moldy, "old" smell is invading our basement and wafting its way upstairs - UGH.

We are going to have to replace the carpet, and since it's the same (30 year old) carpet throughout the entire basement, we will probably have to re-do the whole basement. That's going to cost us a pretty penny, so we'll have to see when we do it. I think we're going to put in vinyl or marmoleum flooring in the laundry/office area, because we just might get another flood some time. (sigh)

However, the Home Depot guy showed me a concrete sealing product that he said may help with future problems. After Christmas, when things aren't so crazy, we'll do that, and put flooring on top of it. Fingers crossed that such a simple problem works, because the alternative (French drains) would run us about $10,000 and we are not prepared for that kind of cost.

And in other news...

I leave tomorrow for a Genentech advisory board. I was going to spend a night with Carolyn and family, but poor Zach has both the stomach flu AND strep throat, and unfortunately I don't have the guts to risk getting either of those illnesses, especially when I'm out of town and it's the holidays. Darn it! I was looking forward to hanging out with their family. Anyway, unless I delay my trip by a day, I'll be gone Thurs-Sun (though I may be able to change flights; I'm waiting to talk to my reps to see what they advise tomorrow).

Love to all - I'm off to bed.

Monday, December 03, 2007


Well, today could have been better. Of course, it could have been worse, but it definitely could have been better.

Today it is pouring rain in Seattle. Not your average misty Seattle style rain, but really coming down in buckets, without letting up. (This is also not average for Seattle; even on a rainy day there are usually periods of clearing.) The ground is so saturated that the ground water has nowhere to go...except into our basement.

Since about 8am, Ryan has been using the wet and dry vac on our basement floors, primarily in the laundry room and office aka kitchenette downstairs (originally a MIL kitchen, we use it for an office). The water has been coming in as fast as we can bail it out, which has been frustrating and back-breaking work. (Ryan calculates that the wet and dry vac holds about 100 pounds of water, which he has been lifting into the utility sink to drain it out many times per hour.) I borrowed a smaller vac from the Hisatomi's, and tried to do my share, while keeping up with Tessa, etc.


Ryan had to use a vacation day to do this work - what a drag!

Hopefully tomorrow will be better. It's not raining at the moment and so we're hoping for a reprieve....

Friday, November 30, 2007

Arghhhh matey!

Here is Tessa in her pirate attire earlier this month. Jessie had a pirate party, and all the kids dressed up. This may be the last time Tessa wears a goatee - we'll see! I asked if she wanted to be a boy pirate or a girl pirate, and she looked at me like it was a foolish question and said "BOY!" She's moved to a stage where not everything is princesses and pink any more - the other day she and her friends were playing dressup and one was a princess, one was a mermaid, and Tessa was a "mean witch." It's fun to see her develop this other side of her imagination, taking on various roles, playing with ideas, and getting creative with her costuming.
(But she still wants to be a princess sometimes, and this makes me glad, too.)

Thursday, November 29, 2007


Well, today I feel the opposite of yesterday...grouchy.

Maybe it has to do with the fact that I have a UTI. I went to the doctor this morning after a particularly sleepless night and discomfort/pain. I got the first symptoms last Friday, so this is day six, and it was time to get antibiotics. Ugh.

I was busy running around, like usual, but today I have a bad attitude.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Lexapro is working!

Today I went to the gym again (yeah for me) and I happened to be running on a treadmill positioned near two mirrors, so I could see myself from both the front and side views. I was wearing my hair pulled back in a barrette from the front, and long in the back, and as I ran, I could see my brunette waves bouncing up and down in rhythm to my steps. These small facts - that I could run, that I had long hair, that it was long enough to bounce - filled me with joy. I found myself smiling and just feeling happy, remembering how far I've come. It wasn't that long ago that I was bald and could barely imagine looking or feeling normal again...and yet here I was, running my heart out, with bouncing hair.

And then it struck me - I haven't felt that kind of happiness in months. Honestly, I don't remember the last time I just felt smiley over a small thing like that, and it has occurred to me that this is how I used to feel most of the time, smiling over little things, and it feels so damn GOOD. I really think that the Lexapro is working - it was the first time I've felt like myself in way, way, way too long.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Thanksgiving pics

Our house has nearly recovered from Thanksgiving, and after a relaxing weekend, I have too. I went to the gym yesterday and took my first proper yoga class in a couple of years, and it was relaxing and wonderful (despite my inability to do everything due to range of motion yada yada yada).

My lovely sister-in-law Kerri celebrated five years since her diagnosis at Thanksgiving. I am particularly thankful for that. I really enjoy Kerri's company and we have much better things to bond over than breast cancer treatment, though we share that experience. It amazes me to think that there were three cancer survivors at our table(s): Kerri, myself, and Josiah (nine and a half years out from diagnosis). I hate stupid cancer, but I am grateful that our family has - so far - survived it.

Here are a few pics from the day. Thanks to Scott & Susan for sharing them with us.

Friday, November 23, 2007

The vision fulfilled

Yesterday was crazy - all of the usual busy-ness of hosting a big event at home. All that food - dishes galore, cleaning galore, etc. It was a bit tiring (ha!) and I'm glad it's behind me.

However, it was utterly and completely worth it.

There were a few moments prior to the meal being served when I was working in the kitchen, with many hands helping me, and I could hear laughter from just about every room in the house, and I couldn't help but smile. Everyone was helping, and everyone seemed to be having a good time.

And then, it was time for the meal. We stood in a circle, holding hands, to say grace, and I was overcome with the loveliness of it all. Twenty relatives, all in one room, enjoying one another. Three big tables filled to overflowing with food and drink. The "adult" table was sparkling with gold and white china; the "kid" (the oldest kids are legally able to drink...!) table was decked out in my blue and white dishes. There were candles lit, and classical music playing in the background. I am grateful to have been able to create this experience, and I'm proud of my part in it.

Some families don't enjoy one another. That is not the case in the Surface clan. I believe that everyone had a good time, and I think that the sound of laughter was good testimony of that.

The Weitz's (Ryan's sister and family) are still visiting with us, though they're off visiting Lynn's sister this afternoon. Tonight, we dine on leftovers.

Tomorrow, Michele & I are off to the gym together - that treadmill has my name on it, and there's a yoga class I've been wanting to take. I'm afraid to step on a scale for a couple of days, but I know what I need to do, and I'm looking forward to doing it.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

And now...bring on Christmas! I brought down the Christmas CDs, put up our wreath, and put out a few Christmas decorations today. Hurrah! Next weekend, we'll put up the tree....

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Almost Thanksgiving

The butternut squash soup is done now; the bathrooms are scrubbed; the sheets are changed; the towels are folded and ready; the refrigerator is full; more cranberry nut loaf is being made; the lawn is mowed and raked (thanks, Ryan!)'s almost time.

I have decided that tomorrow is a no-counting day for Weight Watchers. Nobody ever got fat in a day, and I'm going to enjoy the tastiness of the day...especially after I've put so much effort into it. On Friday I can "behave" again without feeling deprived. I've lost another .6, I think, and I'd like to keep it off...but tomorrow I will not stress.

(I could get fat on appetizers alone tomorrow. Blue cheese ball, summer sausage, salmon dip, artichoke dip, brie, crackers, cashews, cinnamon nuts.....)

Tonight there's still work to do. I'm behind on folding laundry, and I want to make more cranberry bread and get the mashed potatoes done. I'll do the stuffing tomorrow morning, and I'll do the green beans and salad tomorrow, too. Just setting up all the tables will take some work, but that's okay! It'll all work out somehow. :-)

Linda, Lynn, and their three kids will be here tonight, so I bet I'll be pretty busy. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Preparing for Thanksgiving

I have been busy readying myself for Thanksgiving - every day is packed with things to do. Of course I'd like the house to be spotless for all of our guests, but at this point I may settle for "reasonably clean" because it's a never-ending game of catch-up on that account.

(Note to prospective owners of black labs: Black labs are, in my limited experience, wonderful pets. Shep is sweet, loving, playful, gentle, silly, friendly, great with kids, good with the cat, and a pleasure to be around. HOWEVER - you have never seen so much dog hair on a floor in your life. I sweep and vacuum all the time, but to no avail. You'd think the poor dog would be bald with all that shedding, but instead, he simply has a never-ending supply of dog hair which follows behind him, leaving a trail. He's worth it, and yet....!)

We purchased an organic turkey at the Farmer's Market this weekend, and it's defrosting in the downstairs fridge. We also picked up potatoes (Yukon Gold, my favorite) for mashing, and butternut squash that I will roast and turn into soup tomorrow (to be served as a starting course, with spiced pecans as a garnish - delicious). Today I went to Trader Joe's, and picked up all kinds of things, pretty much filling the cart to overflowing. I'm serving honey baked ham, in addition to the turkey, to round things out.

This afternoon I made the cranberry sauce, and a couple of loaves of cranberry nut bread. I'll make more cranberry nut loaf later today, as it will be great for snacking on for breakfast or anytime.

I settled on a simple green bean dish with shallots and butter -sounds good to me, and easy enough to prepare at the last minute. I'm going to do a stuffing (some say dressing) with roasted chestnuts, sage, and sausage...yumm. (I may actually do two kinds of stuffing: one type for the bird, one type for the pan. I like an apple-celery-walnut stuffing, too....) I haven't decided yet if I'm going to make the stuffing a day in advance (don't worry, I wouldn't put it in the bird until the last minute) or make it the morning of...but I have all of the ingredients now, so I'm set there.

But despite all of my food talk - and I do love food - it's not about the food. It's about making people feel welcome in our home, ensuring that Tessa feels the traditions that come with these foods, and enjoying the companionship of family. It's a rare treat to have 20 people together in the Surface clan, and one that I intend to enjoy thoroughly. Tessa will love being with all of her cousins, and sharing her life with them and vice versa, and I will enjoy watching that.

I am incredibly grateful that life allows me this opportunity. Not only am I in good enough health to be able to throw this kind of party, but I (we) have a lovely home that will (somehow!) accomodate this large crowd. I'm grateful that we live in a part of the world that is filled with good things to eat that are available to us; as I think about that I think about the situation in Darfur and how grateful I am that I am given the luxury of choosing from so many dishes to share with my family, when it could be otherwise. I am grateful that I married into such a loving and large family, where people are kind, fun, loving, and good to one another.

I am, most of all, grateful for Ryan and Tessa. Words can not say how much.

I am also grateful to come from a large and loving family - my birth family (Dahls, Goddards, Gribbles, Smalls, Ochoas, Lyons) - will not be with me this holiday, but I will feel their love and support, because we are close. I am grateful for that. (I am also grateful that I will not be hosting all those other people this time....20 is enough, thank you!)

I am grateful that though I've been through the pit of hell, I'm coming out. Not unscathed, but coming out. Physically, mentally, emotionally, I've been through the ringer, and I'm working it out. I'm coming to terms with it. I still see my therapist (this morning, as a matter of fact), and I like the Lexapro so far (I actually think I can feel it kicking in), and I'm dealing. Some days are easier than others, but I'm not in the throes of despair now - thank God.

And now, off to get the cranberry loaves out of the oven, then off to preschool to pick up Tessa. We're going to Lincoln Park (with Shep, for those of you who have seen the news....he LOOKS intimidating, even though he's not, and he's a good sidekick) so Tessa can burn off energy, then I'll come home to keep on cooking and cleaning.

I am thankful. In case I don't get to post here again before the holiday, Happy Thanksgiving. I hope that you have much to be thankful for, as well.

PS Monday is my weigh-in day for Weight Watchers (I do it at home; we have a digital scale). I lost 2.4 pounds my first week - wahoo! I'd like to lose 8.4 additional pounds, but I can feel the difference already and I'm very happy with that. I'm being very careful to watch what I eat this week, because on Thanksgiving I will splurge somewhat (stuffing + gravy + cranberry sauce = delicious), remembering that it's what I do in the long run that matters most, and one day will not ruin a week's efforts. I'm also trying to remember that Thanksgiving and Christmas are days, not months, so I will treat myself to decadent food on those days, but not the entire month in between.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Sharing poetry

Wild Geese by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of th rain
Are moving across the landscapes,
Over prairies and the deep trees,
The mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
Are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
The world offers itself to your imagination,
Calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -
Over and over announcing your place
In the family of things.


My head is filled with thoughts of my online friend. I will not post of her here every day, and I may not talk about her, but I think of her all the time. My thoughts and prayers are flying out into the universe on her behalf.

And yet, my life is here, going on.

I'm getting ready for Thanksgiving, and realizing of course that I'm behind before I even get started! There will be 20 at our table....that's a crowd under any circumstances! It'll be a zoo but I can't wait. The entire Surface family - except David, away at college - will be in attendance. The "kid" table will have cousins ranging from age 4 to age 22 if I remember the top age correctly...I think I'd better call it "the cousins table" instead of "the kid table" or they'll gang up on me! LOL

I am delighted to host the holiday; it's a treat to have the extended family together and with it spread through Seattle, Kirkland, Portland, Gladstone, and Spokane, and with such busy lives for all, it's not easy to get everyone together. I don't know how families spread across the country do it - we're only in two states and that is difficult enough. Our house is not at all designed for such a large group but nobody seems to mind - it will be a happy chaos.

I love traditional Thanksgiving food. This year I'm doing a stuffed turkey (slightly smaller than usual because I'm buying an organic bird, and they don't grow as large as the non-organic ones), a honey baked ham, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, salad (with pomegranate seeds, my new favorite salad), fresh cranberry sauce, and some kind of TBD veggie dish (I have a stack of magazines to go through for recipes). Since the Surface7 are vegetarian, they're also bringing tofurkey, and everyone is bringing something like pies or rolls or salads etc. We won't run out of food, that's certain.

Okay, off to get organized. Now where to begin....?

I have to pace myself. My energy levels are NOT even close to normal, so I have to figure out how to do this stuff without crashing.

Monday, November 12, 2007


Day one on WW and I'm hungry! I've eaten healthy snacks. I've discovered that two small satsuma oranges are only a half point, and I've eaten four of them today. I've eaten light string cheese and cashews in the hope that the protein would fill me up. Still, I'm hungry!

I'm trying to remember something I heard once: that hungry feeling is the feeling you get when you're losing weight.

I remember from before that the first week is the hardest, as the body adjusts to the new regimine, but after that it gets much easier.

Mondays are always new starts

This morning I am re-beginning my Weight Watchers journey. I signed up for the online program, instead of attending meetings this time. I am certain that I will have success - WW has worked so well for me in the past, and the reason that I have gained a few pesky pounds is that I have utterly ignored all of the good habits that I learned and practiced while on WW before. I plan to wear a sassy dress at New Year' shouldn't be too hard to be back to my favorite weight by then.

I am reminding myself that my risk of recurrence may be cut by 60-70% by keeping lean and fit. I am reminding myself that I am at higher than average risk for heart disease (family history and medications that I currently take), and that there is diabetes in my family, and that healthy choices will reduce those risks. I remind myself that my mind goes to dark places, and it can't help but to feel better about myself. I remind myself that at my healthiest weight, I feel more energetic, and I could really stand to feel some extra energy these days.

And here is the post that I have hesitated to write.

Last week, I learned that one of my favorite YSC members, who has the same stage breast cancer as myself, was just diagnosed with mets. Her doctors, while hesitant to put numbers on it, said that without treatment, she would have weeks left; with treatment, she has months. Two weeks ago, she was just like me. Now, she's suffering facial paralysis, liver mets, and possible mets to brain, bone, and lung. She's coming to terms with "putting her affairs in order" even as she hopes for the best.

This woman is sassy, spunky, and smart. She's a mother - her daughter is younger than Tessa. She's got energy and zest, she's incredibly sassy, and her intelligence shines through. Even though we've never met, I feel a connection to her.

The news hits me very, very hard. On the heels of Melinda's death, it hits even harder.

Many people tell me how lucky I am that I am cured. Many people tell me how fortunate it is that I was diagnosed at an early stage. Many people tell me that I am just fine. But here is the thing: I'm not cured. And early stage doesn't always mean anything.

I may live a long time. I may not. The uncertainty can feel crippling. It is baffling.

So, please remember this. I am no longer in chemo, or radiation, and I look healthy and normal and strong, but the word "cured" is not used in breast cancer. Please remember that I live with that knowledge, and that while I wish to be optimistic, and while I am hopeful, I am also fearful. The fear isn't foolish, and it can not be dismissed. Indeed, it should not be dismissed, because it is part of my reality. My fear is as real as my hope; they walk hand in hand.

Please put in a good thought, prayer, wish, or whatever you call it for my online friend. And if you have some thoughts, prayers, or wishes to spare for me as I struggle with these ideas, I would appreciate that, too.

My friend Adrienne loaned me a copy of "Eat, Pray, Love" and I'm two thirds of the way through. This book speaks to me as if it was written just for me, and the author's humor and wit in the face of her spiritual journey are refreshing and intelligent. As I struggle with my own life's questions, I'm looking for wisdom in all kinds of places, and it is helpful to hear of others' journeys.

I'm trying to eat healthfully, mindfully, consciously. I'm praying for myself and my friend. And I'm trying to love in the middle of it all. So simple, and so complicated.

Happy Monday, everyone. In Seattle it's wet and rainy, and I don't mind. I'm going to force myself to put on rainboots and take Tessa for a walk - she will jump in the puddles and Shep will strain at the leash out of the joy of being out, and it will remind me why I'm fighting so hard.

Thursday, November 08, 2007


Today was a misty day; the fog is both inside my head and out. I feel like the weather looks - I'm there, but it's hard to make out the details and everything has a surreal feeling. In moments of clarity I see myself so clearly, with a bright and optimistic future ahead of me, but in the moments of fog I can't find my way.


This evening Scott, Karen, and Fiona, along with their dog Sitka, will arrive for the weekend. I'm very much looking forward to visiting, and "the homies" are coming over for dinner Friday night (I'm trying out a crockpot recipe - pork tenderloin with granny smith apples and fresh cranberries) at our house, which will be great, as that crowd isn't often together. I'm worried that by 5pm I'll be my antisocial self, though, and that I will be too tired to enjoy myself. I'm going to pace myself, and just cross my fingers and hope for the best. (The best being clarity, and not fog. Where IS my energetic self? Who is this new, whiny, tired self?)

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


This morning I met my new shrink (I use this term affectionately...!). She seems quite nice. I didn't get any revelations, as mostly we reviewed my history, but we made progress there so I hope that next time we can work on resolving my issues and getting some tools for moving forward.

The whole thing is hard work - ugh. I'd rather take a nap.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Manual labor

Usually, my manual labor is limited to washing dishes, mopping floors, and carrying large baskets of laundry up and down stairs. Today, however, after a leisurely morning, church, and lunch at the Alki Cafe, the whole family pitched in to do yard work. We did weeding, bulb planting, and lots of leaf raking and disposal, and all I can say is "MAN am I going to be sore tomorrow!" I am really, truly out of shape.

Still, the work is its own reward, and I'm glad to have a yard that looks a bit better, with the promise of spring flowers. I think we're going to buy more bulbs, because we only had one bag of crocuses, and now we're inspired to plant much more than that. I love tulips, and last year it looked like our tulip crop was smaller than usual (maybe squirrels got to the bulbs); I'd also like to plant irises because they were Melinda's favorite flower and she requested that the YSC girls plant them in her memory. (We already have some in our yard, but I imagine them in profusion on one corner, like a Van Gogh painting.)

Shep ran around the back yard with Ryan, filled with joy; Tessa discovered different kinds of worms and caterpillars and gleefully showed them all off to us. (I am learning not to cringe, even for millipedes - ack!)

A quiet family day. I'm glad that we joined WSUU, and I'm glad that we worked together. Tessa can say "I planted those bulbs!" when the crocuses come up, and I think she'll love that.

And now I'm so, so, so tired. Old news, but still surprising to me.


(Happy daylight savings - don't forget, "fall back.")

Yesterday I had a lovely day. In the morning we went to C&P, and ran into the Wards, as well as Elena & Jim, and some other coffee shop regulars, and had a great time. Tessa, Elena and I hung out at our house for a while, and Ryan went for a bike ride, and then I took off for the afternoon and evening. I met up with Bryona and Lori at SAM, and we spent the afternoon at the museum, shopping, and dining....with lots of chatting thrown in.


Ryan and Tessa went to Paul & Libby's for dinner, and though I was genuinely sad to miss an opportunity to hang out with them, I am determined not to spend my time rushing, and since I'd already made plans with Bryona and Lori I didn't want to rush off. This was right for me; I'm tired of doing too much. I will look forward to visiting with Paul & Libby properly next time, with no commitments except them.

In a couple of hours we'll go to church, and I'm looking forward to it. It has become a highlight in my week, and I'm glad to make it official.


Friday, November 02, 2007

Ahhh-chooooo! and Joining WSUU

Tessa is at home with a cold. She alternates between full energy and lethargy, and it's "just a cold" but it's a hassle for her and I! I kept her out of preschool yesterday and today, and we've been laying low. Today we might go to a park (less chance of her spreading the cold outdoors, while at preschool it's an enclosed area with lots of shared toys) or run an errand or two, but we're laying low once again.

I'm grateful that the cold didn't come on before Halloween, and that we got to enjoy ourselves for the holiday, but I am sad that Tessa is missing preschool. She missed a couple days at the beginning of the month due to a cold as well - arghhh! Hopefully we're just getting all the winter colds over with early.

I'm fighting a bit of the cold myself, which makes my fatigue worse. Everything makes my fatigue worse, so this isn't surprising.

In other news...
We are officially joining WSUU this weekend. Ryan and I talked about it quite a bit, and I feel very good about the decision. I feel like I'm learning a lot there, and that I find myself reflecting on the ideas from the service throughout the week and beyond. It's very calming and peaceful to me, and I am certainly seeking that in my life. I am a little concerned about creating too many commitments in my life, and there are circle suppers, meditation groups, bookclubs, and many other groups to join as a part of this church, should I choose to, but we're going slowly at first while we make room for this big commitment. I feel in my deepest heart that this is good for me, and that we will be a part of this fellowship community for a long time to come. I have always considered myself spirtual, but not religious, and this is the first place where I have found like-minded individuals; it's the first religious environment that fits my spirituality. Ryan feels as I do about it, and I think that it's good for us as a couple as well as indivudually.

We are glad to have a spiritual background for Tessa, and think that it will help to shape her in positive ways. We like the children's program as much as the adult program, and like the idea that Tessa will have another positive influence in her life to help her to make decisions and guide the person that she is becoming.

Here is some background on the UU faith for those who are wondering what it's all about:

And here is a link to 100 FAQs that non-members ask about UUism:

There are seven principles which Unitarian Universalist congregations affirm and promote:
The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

Unitarian Universalism emerged from two different religions: Unitarianism and Universalism. Both Unitarianism and Universalism started in Europe hundreds of years ago. The Universalist Church of America was founded by 1793, and the American Unitarian Association by 1825. In 1961, these denominations consolidated to form the new religion of Unitarian Universalism.

Our local fellowship's website is .

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween pics

The camera is pretty much kaput - ARGHHHH! Anyway, I was able to get 5 pics before the battery died. Tessa and Elena - enjoy!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Pre-Halloween Pictures

Today at preschool there was a little Halloween party (since her class doesn't meet on Wednesdays) and I was able to take a couple of pictures before my camera died (there's a vent for another time - five year old digital cameras are dinosaurs).

The pictures aren't great and I couldn't zoom and they don't show any details...more to come after Halloween, I promise!

The preschool show was melt-a-mother's-heart-adorable. The children lined up on a stage in their costumes, and sang three different Halloween songs with hand motions. The children were so proud of themselves, and it was delightful. It was also Tessa's first public performance. I can't believe I didn't video it - ack! Next time.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Watching a mind open up

Tessa is in a growth spurt. In addition to growing two inches between April and September (she's 42 inches now), her mind is just blossoming before my eyes. I'm watching it in her peers, too: as they approach five years old, they seem to just take off, absorbing so much more than before, with so many things just clicking.

Sometimes, this means that I'm awestruck by her creativity, awareness, and knowledge; sometimes it means unwieldy meltdowns that leave me more dumbfounded than awestruck. I truly believe that the poor kid can't keep up with herself right now, and she just melts down as a result.

Right now, she's upstairs, transcribing the names of her friends, which I've written on a piece of paper. I wrote perhaps a dozen names down in upper and lower case, and she is actually able to read them. Now, she knows that it's a list of names of people she knows, so she has that very good clue, but she's able to differentiate between Elena and Emma or Lexi and Liam, and this surprises me. Needless to say, it also delights me. Ryan and I love to read, and try to read every day, and watching our daughter develop a love of reading as well fills me with happiness.

(In addition to loving that she loves something near and dear to me, it eases my heart to think that she'll have a bit more ease at school if she considers herself a just paves the way for so much. I don't care if she's a straight A student, but I do hope that she'll enjoy school and enjoy learning, and reading is such an important part of that.)

Speaking of reading, I need to read my bookclub book by Thursday. It's short, but it's a murder mystery, so I've been holding all too active imagination can't handle murder stories very well and with the darkness of my mood and thoughts I haven't looked forward to this. It's a local author, though, and I'm enjoying the prospect of bookclub in general.

Working out

I finally made it to the gym today, for perhaps the first time in two months. Yes, months. Leading up to my surgery I felt like "what's the point" (a truly irrational approach, and I knew that even at the time, but I couldn't get past the feeling) and then afterwards I wasn't to sweat or move too much. I was given clearance to work out last Thursday, but it took me a few days to get it together.

I didn't do much - mostly walking on the treadmill. I was tempted to run, but I knew that I'd burn out too quickly, and since I've been such a couch potato I wanted to re-enter slowly. I also did some stretching exercises on my upper body; I am so stiff.

Anna is over, and she and Tessa are playing contentedly. Their friendship has really grown recently, and I love to see how much they enjoy one another.

I'm still struggling, but I'm trying to accept my baby steps.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Worth it

At about 6:30pm, I found myself sitting on the couch at the party wishing I could take a nap. Fabulous friends, fabulous food, good times for all, I just get so tired.

But at 8pm, the prizes were awarded, and Tessa won "Best Child's Costume" for her bat princess ("Baterella"). It's such a small thing, such a simple thing, such a meaningless thing.... and such a lovely thing. She's over the moon.

And I'm pretty proud of the fact that I made the darn thing. With a needle and thread, of all things! Me!

Would you believe I forgot to take a single picture? I know, I know. But Halloween is still coming and she'll wear it again, and I'll get pictures this time. I promise!


A trip to the coffee shop; a trip to Costco (where, I am pleased to report, we did not buy a single impulse item, despite the zillion distractions that Costco offers), and now we're home for a while before heading to the Halloween party.

Last night I was awake most of the time between 2am and 6am. Ouch. What's with that?

I'm looking forward to the Halloween festivities. Our whole family is dressing up - it's a costume party - and we're looking forward to spending time with our PEPS friends and relaxing. Tessa had a hard time falling asleep last night because she was so excited for the party - she's been anticipating this day for at least six weeks. I love these simple pleasures, and how, in Tessa's eyes, there is nothing more perfect than a costume party with friends, and I love how she brings out our joy in it as well.

We decided to bail on trick-or-treating in the Junction (sponsored by the Junction businesses) because the day is jam packed already, and in the past week Tessa's been having more meltdowns than usual, so we didn't want to push our luck. (Not sure what's up with that, but she's been learning at ten times her usual speed in the past few weeks so I wonder if her brain is just fried. I'm sure it's just a phase but I miss her easygoing self! Yesterday at the "best teddy bears picnic" with Zoe and Jessie she was just a disaster, despite how much she'd looked forward to it, and little things set her off. Sigh.)

My boob (one looks okay, the other, um, not) is really bumming me out. It pulls on my clothes. I know it needs another surgery to correct it, because this is not simple swelling, it's a relatively big problem. I've seen it enough to know. I don't know what to do yet. For now, nothing. But doing nothing makes me feel powerless and angry; I deserved better than this, and I don't just want to "take it." I feel really frustrated about it.

But today I must let it go, and enjoy the joys of the season.

Friday, October 26, 2007


Though I'm so tired all the time, sometimes it's worth pushing through.

This afternoon, it would have been very nice to take a nap. No dice - Tessa isn't a napper, and there is no sense in forcing it.

Plus, tomorrow is a Halloween party that we go to each year, and (egads) I hadn't even begun making Tessa's costume yet.

Making. Yes, me. Usually I buy Tessa's costumes, but this year she said that she wanted to be a Bat Princess. You may have noticed that this is not a commonly found costume, as most little girls are not bat obsessed as is Tessa! In any case, I loved the idea of a non-commercial, creative, inventive costume that married Tessa's princess-phase with her bat-phase, so I committed.

When I was a few days out of surgery, my mom took me shopping at the fabric store....foreign territory to me, but I took the plunge. We bought yards and yards of tulle, some black polarfleece fabric, and some funky sheer purple fabric with sparkly black velveteen bats on it, as well as some notions. Those objects have sat in a bag until today, when I realized that I had 24 hours before the party.

So, I got out my sewing box and went to work. This is not an elaborate costume, but we made Tessa a funky tutu style skirt, and some wings. I have to say, I'm pretty proud of myself, and Tessa is really pleased with the results.

I'll post pictures after tomorrow's party so that everyone can see. There are two Halloween parties this weekend, plus Halloween proper, so it'll get lots of wear. And I'm more tired than when I started, but I'm very proud of my small accomplishment. Tessa still thinks I'm WonderWoman, even when I know it's not true. She thinks that I can make anything, and that I'm an amazing seamstress. It doesn't matter that this is laughable and somewhat comic, because I love that in her eyes I'm so capable.

So tonight I'll fall into bed feeling like I've accomplished something, and hoping that maybe tomorrow I just won't feel so tired.


Yesterday was a busy day.

I went to the doctor, and we discussed my breast results....uneven. I expressed my disappointment. The doctor is a good, kind woman, and she said she was "devastated" and was praying for better results.

I am to wear the hated strap at night, I am to rub warmed castor oil into the breast, and I am to do daily massages for 5-10 minutes twice a day. I am to exercise the area as much as possible to loosen up the scar tissue. I will hit the pool next week, Tegaderm over my wounds, to try to make that work.

I really wish, at some point along the way, that things would get easier.

Today I'm cleaning the house while Tessa's in school, and making a lunch for Katie, Jenny, and the girls. Tessa wants to have a "best teddy bear picnic" in her room with Zoe & Jessie, and I'm making a butternut squash soup for the ladies. It's a good way to get my butt in gear to get some things done around here, because my energy is zip and without a reason I think I'd let it all fall apart.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Grateful that it's a new day

I am so glad that yesterday is done.

Today while Tessa is at preschool, I'm going to the plastic surgeon again. She'll remove the nasty bits from my breasts, revealing whatever is underneath. Hopefully she'll also lift all restrictions.

Confession: I've already lifted most restrictions. 5 pounds? C'mon. Yesterday I went grocery shopping. I hauled my bag through airports. And on my trip I stopped wearing the **** bra and strap. I can't see any change from making that change....I just couldn't take it for another minute.

I'm usually 100% compliant with doctor's orders. Maybe the new me isn't so compliant.

When I was at the PS last time, she actually seemed shocked that I *had* worn the straightjacket 100% of the time, despite the fact that those were her orders.

Another day. I will try to make the most of it. I will try to set aside fear, and fatigue, and simply live.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


I am really, really tired.

I have typed that sentence how many times on this blog? Countless. I'm tired of hearing myself say it.

The news of Melinda's passing hits me really hard. It wearies my soul. She did EVERYTHING. She was still praying for miracles. She was still seeking just one more treatment, still taking tests to find new avenues, still filled with hope. She had a fabulous attitude. She was still reaching out to others to help them through times of despair.

And now she's gone. It is not fair.

The trip tired me, and a day of errands and chores tired me, and I'm still not back to my regular self. I've heard some women say that the recovery time on each successive surgery is harder, and I don't doubt that at this point. I "should" be better, but I'm wiped out. My mind is tired, my body is tired.

another thought

My last post sounded braver than I feel.

A week ago, I was sending and receiving messages from this brave woman. And now she's gone, forever. It hurts. And it frightens me.

Another warrior lost

This morning I ran to the computer to check the YSC boards, hoping for a miracle.

The miracle did not arrive. Instead, I read that Melinda was gone.

Melinda was known as Dr. Melinda on the boards; in one of those strange twists of fate, she was actually studying oncology when she was diagnosed, and she took her board exams while she was in chemo, becoming an oncologist. She was patient, wise, funny, empathetic, and kind, and she touched everyone she spoke to. She last posted to the boards just days ago, and even her last words had optimism and humor. The world is the worse for not having her in it.

She leaves behind a loving husband; I pray he can find peace and comfort.

Whenever I think that do not have the strength to keep fighting breast cancer publicly, when I think about taking my life back to it's normal course (maybe doing environmental work, instead of breast cancer work), I am reminded why this is my cause. I will fight for Melinda, to honor her. I will fight for myself. I will not back away.

Rest in peace, Melinda. You are already missed.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Home from Greensboro

I can't tell you a thing about Greensboro, because I barely stepped outside of my hotel, which was located somewhere that was not downtown Greensboro. However, the weather was nice (upper 70s), and the hotel was nice (the O. Henry).

The trip was a whirlwind; my flights were delayed both coming and going, and so I spent as much time at airports and in the air as on the ground. It was not in the least bit relaxing, but I'm still glad that I went. The Genentech and Snow reps seemed to like my presentation a lot, and hinted that there were more opportunities to come. I appreciate the opportunity to make a little money for my family, but just as much, I appreciate the opportunity to channel some of my negative breast cancer feelings into something so positive.

I am home alone, as Tessa is still with my mom & dad, and Ryan's still at work. Time to catch my breath, and even possibly take a nap. (I never take naps, but I got up at 2:30am Seattle time, and given my fatigue in general that's a little over the top.)

On the second leg of the trip, there were several soldiers in chamoflage uniforms. I was surprised to notice that the chamo was in shades of tan and light gray, not the shades of green I expected...until my brain engaged, and I realized that these soldiers aren't fighting in green jungles, but on brown sand. My connection to the war in Iraq is a very distant one: I don't know anyone fighting there, I'm politically opposed to the war, and as a mother I just grieve for the loss of life of so many mother's children on all sides of the conflict. War is incomprehensible to me. I turn off the TV when visions of war - imaginings of Hollywood, or the news - come on, because I can not tolerate the images; they seep into my soul and sear my eyes and make me ache.

Maybe it was just a fanciful imagination, but it seemed like the soldiers on my flight were particularly handsome. They were also very quiet. They averted their eyes. As we disembarked, I asked one next to me, "Are you returning from overseas?" and he softly said, "Yes, ma'am." All I could think to say was, "Welcome home." No political agenda here. These are boys returning to their mothers, and the mother in me wishes nothing more than for all of the soldiers to be reunited with their families.

(And I will just mention briefly how old that "ma'am" made me feel. Ancient, actually. Grandmotherly, without the benefit of grandchildren.)

My problems are small in the face of the world's problems, and yet, they are my problems.

I am grateful that I am not a soldier. I am grateful that my husband, father, and brother are not soldiers. My heart goes out to every soldier and their families.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

getting ready for Greensboro

Tomorrow morning I fly to Greensboro to do a speaking engagement for Genentech. I'm a bit nervous about it - I'm giving an inspirational speech to breast cancer survivors, and I have to deal with baggage etc. when I'm still bandaged and sore - but it's a good thing, none the less. I'm proud to be contributing a little bit of money to my family to help with expenses, and I'm proud of my work in the breast cancer field, and I enjoy working with the Genentech reps and being an adult outside of MommyLand. I'm gone for two days: my flight is at 11am tomorrow, and I return at noon on Tuesday. Tessa will go to my mom & dad's on Sunday night and Monday night so that Ryan can work.

I continue to be tired but I am healing in lots of ways. There is a lot of work to be done, but I'm doing that work.

My breasts are a disappointment to me so far. They are asymmetrical. I'm told there is swelling. We will see.

Today we'll have a good family day, and I might get a pedicure with a gift certificate I received before my surgery.

I'm actually sad that I am goign to miss the church service tomorrow; I couldn't schedule my flights around it without arriving at midnight (no way). Tomorrow's service is on forgiveness; I look forward to reading it. Ryan and Tessa will go without me, and it makes me happy to think of them there.

Off to the coffee shop with the family, including the dog. Have a good few days, everyone. (My body is too sore to carry around the laptop, so I'll be off email while in Greensboro.)

Friday, October 19, 2007


I am still bandaged.

Yesterday I went to the doctor, and she removed more sutures, cleaned the wounds, and re-bandaged me. One of the nipples is still "moist" and neither is healed; there's still fresh blood and it's a bit gross. I'm still wearing a gross medical bra and the strap that is designed to hold my left boob in place. I still have activity restrictions. I was allowed to take a brief shower yesterday, but not to let the water hit my chest directly, and then I had to dry my chest with a hair dryer on low.

It's progress, but painfully slow progress.

Today Tessa and I are going to visit the South 47 Pumpkin Patch in Woodinville, so we'll have lunch with Grammy & Grandpa, and then after the pumpkin patch we'll have dinner with G.G. Ryan will catch the bus in to join us, and it will be nice....although I'm a bit exhausted just thinking about it.

One thing at a time. One minute at a time. I'm okay, but this is how I'm living right now.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

a better day

Today seems easier for some reason. I'll take it - I'll take what I can get.

I woke up to freshly brewed coffee again - thank you so much, Ryan. The little things mean the world to me.

Today I go to the doctor and hopefully get all sutures removed and get the bandages removed, which hopefully means no more straightjacket and a return to taking showers. That would improve my mood immensely.

And the therapist called me, and I'm getting in on Nov. 6.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Dare I say it?

I think...I'm afraid to say this out loud in case I curse myself...but I think that my joint pain is almost gone.

Oh. My. God.

I have been suffering so much from the stupid joint pain, really dreading movement, struggling to use my hands, dropping things, unable to open things, and wincing from the pain most of the time....and I think it's pretty much gone!

If this is true, and Aromasin works, then it's my new favorite thing.

So that is something to be happy about.

I have a lot of things to be happy about, including the fact that Ryan has been making me coffee and delivering it to me each morning in bed for the past few days. I really do understand how fortunate I am in so many ways, and I feel a lot of gratitude.

I just don't understand how to translate that gratitude into feeling so positive and upbeat. I don't understand why I feel like everything is harder than it should be, and why I'm so tired by even simple things.

The therapist left me voicemail; her first opening is in late November, but sometimes there is an opening earlier than that. Yikes.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Scans, retail therapy

I went shopping this morning - obviously I haven't committed to "buy nothing." (More to come on that, I am not done with the idea, just can't deal right now.) I got a couple of cute sweaters on sale - very practical, everyday kinds of things, which I was short on, and I also got a pair of practical boots for wearing when the weather is rainy and cool...and they're cute in addition to being comfortable.

And then I laid in a machine, got another IV, etc.

First, the DEXA, for bone density. I dropped another 4%, for a total drop of 14% in my bone density, making me osteopenic (precurser to osteoporosis).

Then, the MUGA, for my heart. It stayed stable at about 63%, so Herceptin hasn't left a mark.

So hard to go to the building, to be poked, to be nice to the nurses and technicians. I just feel so tired from it all.

Still wrapped in a straightjacket bra - I can not tell you how glad I will be to get it done with. Thursday.

The piano tuner - our neighbor, Curt - came by today, and we made an appointment to tune the piano on Thursday. I'm looking forward to having that done.

Everything just feels like hard work. Harder than it should be.

Monday, October 15, 2007


Today I attempted to be normal. Playdates. Small chores. Talking with Tessa (who painted her best piece of art ever - a ladder leading to a rainbow and a girl next to it, whom she says is herself; the ladder is so that the girl can climb to the top of the rainbow to see how bright the colors are), setting up art projects, cleaning them up.

Beth made a lovely dinner for us, totally unexpected, and we enjoyed that tonight. Ryan is cleaning up right now.

Such small tasks. And I'm sooooo tired.

Tomorrow Katie is watching Tessa so that I can go to get two scans: DEXA for bone density (checking osteoporosis) and MUGA for my heart (to see if Herceptin left any damage - hoping this is my last MUGA). I hate medical-land. I'm tired just thinking about it.

On Thursday I have an appointment to remove bandages/final sutures on my breasts. I hope to take a 30 minute shower afterwards.

I'm playing phone tag with the cancer-shrink. I hope I get to talk to her soon.

Keeping it together

Okay, so far so good. I've read to my child. I've had another child over for a playdate. We walked with Katie & Jessie to the coffee shop, and so Shep got (a tiny bit of) exercise. I've swept the floors. I've made lunch and put it away. I sorted through the junk mail. I called the Seattle Times to change our subscription (weekends only, please).

These things feel like a success.

A normal day

I am hoping for a normal day. Ryan is off to work (he wanted to stay home to take care of me but I was certain that I would be okay today, and also certain that his work responsibilities are important, too), and Tessa and I are home. There are no activities scheduled (preschool is T-Th-F), Tessa has the last of her cold but is feeling much better, and so we're having a quiet day.

I'm sick of chaos. My emotions are still in a turmoil as I deal with all this stuff, but I can get my day-to-day back under control, at least.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

trying to see

I'm still trying to figure out what my new world looks like. I'm not the me I was before. Of course I'm still me, but I'm not. See? Confusing.

I woke up with a whopping headache and grabbed an Oxycodone. The headache is a bit of a dull thing behind my eyes now, and I've been able to listen to Tessa play the piano without wincing, despite its loudness.

(The piano was a recent gift from my grandma, "G.G.," who has moved to a smaller home and didn't want to take it with her. I LOVE IT. I love it's place in my home, and I love that my daughter will grow up playing it. I love the way it looks, I love the way it sounds, and I love the way it draws children. I love that it reminds me that one day when I have a little extra time and money, I will take piano lessons for myself. And I love that when I see it, I think of my grandma, and how we understand each other, and how much I love her.)

I made a big breakfast - we used to go out for breakfast a lot but part of calorie watching and money watching means not doing that so much, so this time I made it. Bacon and eggs...not light on the calories, but still better than a resturant because no hash browns, 100% whole wheat toast, cage free eggs, hormone free meat. And sides of fruit (gifts from Katie, who did a grocery store run for us), including perfectly ripe pears. Ryan helped prep, and did the clean-up. Tessa poured the milk. It's a family morning.

And we've been listening to music (not just the piano, but CDs) and reading the paper. Tessa's been happily playing, having fun.

We didn't go to church because Tessa is too sniffly and coughing to be in a room with lots of kids; I don't appreciate it when other kids give her colds, so we're trying not to do that to others. We are going to go to the coffee shop, though, where we will keep a close eye on her.

Taking it slow.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Not PollyAnna, not wallowing

It's time to get moving.

Not to take over the world, not to solve everyone's problems, but to stop wallowing. To let feelings in, but not allow them to overtake me as much as they have. To allow myself to feel, but not allow the darkness to swallow up the light. To look for the light switch(es) or the way out of the tunnel.

I soaked in the tub - waist down only, no water allowed near my breasts - this morning and read "Martha Stewart Living," a gift magazine that I don't usually read but enjoyed as a departure from my normal fare. I'm dressed, and wearing warm clothes, prepared to go to Lincoln Park.

Ryan is packing a backpack with snacks and a thermos of peppermint tea, and we're going to Lincoln Park to let Shep run around and give all of us some outdoor time. Tessa will collect nature samples - beautiful leaves, acorns, pinecones - of the season. I will breathe deeply in the misty air and look for joy in the gorgeous views, my scampering pup, my playful daughter, and my strong husband (who is back to himself and prepared to make amends and take care of me).

I saw my breasts fully exposed for the first time today, and looked in the mirror for the first time. They are two different sizes. There is swelling but I suspect that I needed that smaller implant, the one that we didn't have, the one that wasn't ordered. Maybe this means that I made a mistake moving forward with the surgery, but I refuse to see it that way. The mistake was the doctor's, not mine. I suspect that my breakdown would have been worse if I didn't have the surgery behind me. Maybe in a few years I'll go back for another surgery. Maybe in 10 years when it's time to replace the implants (they have a finite lifetime) I'll do it. I just hope that I don't get further encapsulation and need to do a surgery this year or next year, because I think I'd rather live with it than face that again.

making up

I got my chance to make it up to Tessa.

Fifteen minutes later, she came to me, crying. "Mama, my ear hurts...please pick me up, pick me up, Mama...." with tears running down her face.

I can't pick up anything over 5 pounds. Crap.

But I held her in my arms, stroked her hair, got her Children's Motrin, made a warm compress, and snuggled in bed with her and read her books (she lost interest in the pony movie because she wanted to be in her own bed - no TV in her room).

We looked at "The Human Body" book and learned about how ears work. We read "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Bad Day" and we compared notes from our day to Alexander's and we laughed together.

It felt good to make it up to her, to be there when she needed me, to give her comfort.

And Ryan is up and feeling himself again and he's making me coffee and wants to take care of me.

I'm exhausted. All of this is exhausting. I couldn't sleep from about 1-4am last night...I just lay there. I hope that's not a side effect of Lexapro.

Friday, October 12, 2007

GIANT dose of guilt

So I hit "publish post" and I go upstairs to watch the dumb pony movie with my beloved daughter.

She has put herself to bed. She's under the covers, sound asleep. I didn't watch the movie with her like I promised because I was too late.

This gives me a break which is what I thought I wanted but then my heart breaks for her and I think "why couldn't I have just put off my pity party for ten more minutes so that my sick daughter could fall asleep in her mama's arms"? I put my needs over hers and it didn't pan out. ARGHHHHHHHHH.

Crap. I feel like the worst mom in the world, even though it's not true. (I played with the village with her today, putting the kids to bed in their little plastic beds, taking them to the little plastic pool, tracking down the lost little plastic kittens. I made us a nice lunch, which I didn't eat but sat with her for. I'm not the worst but really not not not the best.)

Ouch. Major self-flagellation going on, even though part of me knows I shouldn't but I want to be the best I can be for her, not the good-enough mother. (Which is the title of a book. That I think I read. And recall not liking.)

By the way, I left a message for the therapist today, who, right on cue, has not called me back.

The blog does for therapy for now. Not bad therapy if I may say so myself.

this sucks

Ryan watched Tessa for an hour today while I blogged and then laid on the couch. That was my break.

What follows is not a gratitude list or a peaceful meditation.


I took Ryan to the doctor, and took Tessa to a coffee shop to wait for him (she's got a cold, so I didn't want her in the waiting room). We waited, then picked him up. Then we went to Rite-Aid, and Ryan waited in the car with his barf bucket handy while Tessa and I filled the prescriptions.

I dutifully asked the pharmacist all of the questions (Imitrex for migraines, an anti-emetic, and a pain med) and how they worked together and when he could take them blah blah blah. Side effect of all three? Sleepiness.

Got Ryan home. Got his water. Gave him three meds. Said "good night" and he went to the guest room.

Tessa and I are in PJs again and it's just after 6pm. Her nose is a faucet, she's pale, she's sneezing, and she's saying "my ear hurts." She's also saying, "I'm thirsty" and "let's snuggle" and "watch a movie with me." I have set her up but then I need to take my meds (I'm breaking down to take pain pills, plus the Lexapro, plus Benedryl....oh, crap, I forgot Aromasin) and she's saying, "Watch the movie NOW Mama!" She deserves me and love and tenderness but I just need to take my damn pills so leave me alone! (I say that here. I did NOT say that to her.)

Me? Oh, me? What do I have to complain about? New side effect: blurry vision. The happy pills won't kick in for at least another week or two (or six or eight) and I'm PISSED OFF. I feel nauseaus, achy, tired, sore (kicked in the chest by a horse kind of sore, mostly centered around my left shoulder). My new nipples (and area) are oozing stuff into the gauze that makes me want to barf when I look at it. I'm told that this is normal. I have a headache. My eyes are itchy.

But now I'm going to go upstairs to watch "My Little Pony" with my beloved daughter because that is what you do when you're a parent.

If the drugs work for Ryan, he'll feel better in two hours. But the pharmacist said that I should let him sleep it off. I asked. I wish I hadn't. But I love Ryan and I want him to be well and I guess I can count my blessings if I get away with him being ill only one day instead of five like last time. And I know this isn't what Ryan wanted or predicted. And I know that he feels genuinely lousy, that light makes him throw up he's so sick.

But it was supposed to be about ME. Is it EVER about me? Or am I something to be fit in whenever it's convenient? It appears that it's the latter at the moment, and at the moment my emotional and physical problems belong to me and nobody else and I'm in charge.

When Ryan is well enough to talk this through, we'll figure it out. And he can make up for it by taking care of me again.

Nobody said that life was fair, but this feels ridiculous.

a glimmer of hope

Ryan is upstairs, wearing sunglasses to block the light, reading Tessa a story, so that I can rest. This was his idea.

I think it's a very good idea.

This is what it feels like to feel like hell and do what needs to be done. This is what I have been doing for a couple of years.

I wish that I could feel more tender right now, and that the tenderness was more genuine; instead, I feel like a little justice is being served, and that Ryan will be walking in my shoes for a while.

Maybe he will see that it feels good to be Strong and Brave, too, even (especially) in adverse circumstances. And this will let me feel weak and small when I need to be.

failing the test

Ryan is resting in the darkened guest room. I have brought him ice for his neck. I have read him affirmations of wellness. I have coached him through deep breathing. I have massaged his neck. I have made him an appointment (4:30) for the doctor. I have served him applesauce. I have put out towels, dimmed the lighting, and made him take a hot shower.

Tessa is playing. I have braided her hair. I have worked on words (she's expressing an interest in reading, and knows how to read "cat" and "rat" and other "at" words!!!) with her. I have played ponies with her. I have made her oatmeal for breakfast. I have wiped her nose. I have held her in my lap. She is calling for me; she wants me to play fairies with her.

I have swept up the doghair (a morning ritual). The dishwasher is running. The beds are made.

I am still in my pajamas. My heart is heavy. My chest, still bruised, hurts. My eyes, though the sutures are out, still alternately itch and throb.

Tessa can't go to a playdate because then she'd spread her nasty cold.

Ryan can't do much without throwing up.

So I'm in charge. Again. It's up to me to make everyone happy and well, and it's my responsibility. I'm very responsible. Everybody else trumps me. Here we go again.

I'm pissed that I'm trapped in this pattern. Angry at Ryan because when we figured this out (stress triggers migraines for him; lack of sleep triggers migraines for him) in August that he didn't follow up and go to the doctor to get migraine meds to prevent this from happening again, even though he promised, even though I brought it up twenty times. VERY angry about that. Angry at Ryan for coming to bed at 2:30am when he has responsibilities and he's run down, so that he put himself in this position. Angry that now that we're in this position, he can't fix it, so it's up to me to manage. Very, very angry.

And yet I feel sympathy for him when I hear him retching, when I see how pale he is. His pain is real, and I love him and want to help him.

But he put himself in this position, and I have to bail him out. And nobody is taking care of me.

Tessa is tapping me; she's hungry. It's lunch time. Here we go. Today, I am failing the test. The only difference between today and other days is that today I am saying I AM MAD ABOUT THIS. I DESERVE BETTER. THIS IS UNFAIR. I WILL NOT STAND FOR IT.

I didn't ask Ryan if he would go to the doctor, I just made the appointment. (My assumption is that he'll get migraine meds to make the problem manageable.) I'm taking this into my own hands. If I have to pay the price for doing it someone else's way, we'll do it my way. I will not accept less.

first test

Today will be a test of sorts.

Tessa is sick; she was up in the night (and that never happens) and will need extra TLC and nurturing.

Ryan has a migraine. He gets them when he's particularly stressed and not taking care of himself. The last one lasted five days.

The test will be to figure out how to take care of myself properly in the midst of these unfortunate events.

Tessa is still sleeping - she really was awake a lot last night. Ryan is laying in a dark room with ice on his neck, practicing deep breathing and affirmations of wellness. When he's well enough, we need to get him into a doctor's office to get migraine meds, asap.

I am going to take care of myself. I will give because there is pleasure in caring for others, especially those I love most, but I will try to remember not to give more than I have. I will expect them to be understanding of my problems, as I will try to understand theirs.