Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Quotes for New Year's

These came to my inbox from, and I thought I'd share. Ryan is giving Tessa a bath, the dinner dishes are put away, the chimes are tinkling softly, and the house is clean, and my mind is ready for a relaxing evening with Ryan, candles, and my journal. Bliss!

New Year's"We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year's Day." -- Edith Lovejoy Pierce

"Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each New Year find you a better man." -- Benjamin Franklin

"Year's end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us." -- Hal Borland

"Every man should be born again on the first day of January. Start with a fresh page. Take up one hole more in the buckle if necessary, or let down one, according to circumstances; but on the first of January let every man gird himself once more, with his face to the front, and take no interest in the things that were and are past." -- Henry Ward Beecher


Okay, so I'm nearly ready for the new year to begin.

Fresh sheets on the beds, clean bathrooms, vacuumed and dusted, the kitchen tidied, Tessa's room re-organized, the family room put back into order. Pet food back in the cupboard, the car through a car wash and gassed up, groceries stocked up.

Symbolically, I'm ready for a fresh start. I'm ready to recommit to all those things I'm working on so hard, and I'm ready for the newness of the coming year. I'm hopeful, this New Year's Eve, that next year will be easier.

So tonight, our family will be here, together, snug in our home, as the wind howls outside. I hear the chimes tinkling madly as the wind throws them around, and it is music to me. Ryan and I will share a special bottle of wine, and I think we'll both write in our journals. Tessa has a special bottle of sparkling cranberry juice that she picked out, and we will all toast one another.

We usually do a party with Paul & Libby, sometimes even a formal party, and I've loved that for many years. This year, though, the quiet feels just perfect. We'll still see Paul & Libby tomorrow, but tonight will be calm, reflective, and peaceful.

Happy new year, everyone.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

What first?

I'm tackling my "to do" list. No fun, no fun at all.

But I'm determined to bring in the new year on a good note.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Finishing up Christmas 08, preparing for 09

Today was the family Christmas party at the Ochoa's home. Almost all of us were there, and I enjoyed everyone's company immensely, and felt gratitude for extended family.

This morning, we also went to church, for the first time in a while. I'm so glad that the snow is melted and gone! It was peaceful to sit in our familiar seats, listening to a sermon about sacred spaces. (More on that some other time, perhaps, as I was filled with thoughts of my own sacred spaces.)

And then this evening, after the family party, a surprise get-together with the RE (religious education) council - incredible women whom I adore. They are refreshingly honest, thoughtful, intelligent, and open, and I am a better person for their friendship.

(This is very non-chronological. It is what it is.)

Our Christmas tree is down, and our house is relatively back to normal. I like to keep the outdoor lights up until New Year's Day, so they are all that remains of the holiday. (Well, that and the pile of toys in Tessa's room!) This is an interesting time of year for me, because once the tree goes away, I really start to reflect upon the future. The past is past, and now I'm looking ahead to the fresh start of a new year, a return to schedules, to new goals and accomplishments. I'm thinking about writing - lots of it - and about healthy food and time best spent and running again. I'm thinking about what to do more of, what to do less of. I'm thinking of my mothering, and wondering how to be a better mom. (Oh, I'm good, and proud of it. But there is always so much room for improvement, and unfortunately I'm no exception.)

I also get to reflect on what has gone well. My green life is greener by the day; my marriage is stronger; my frugality gets easier instead of harder. I'm delighted by my spiritual wanderings, and the direction that I am headed, and feel great peace from it. I'm proud of home made bread, granola, stock, soup; I'm proud of organic inroads (this year we converted to organic beef and mostly grass fed....which means much less beef!). We're on a plan to get debt free, and we have a ways to go, but I'm proud of that, too.

So, I'm looking back, and looking forward. Honoring what I have accomplished, while striving to better myself and to acknowledge my failings. It's a tough line, and not always easy.

And while looking forward, I'm trying to acknowledge but not focus on the upcoming surgery. It feels like it's galloping towards me and I'm not ready.....I'm not ready at all. I desperately want it done to get out of discomfort/pain and to not look so weird and to not have trouble sleeping because of the expanders....but I hate surgery. Hate hate hate it.

So much to be grateful for, but losses in there, too.

Much to think about at this time of reflection.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Wrapping things up

As Boxing Day comes to a close, so does Christmas. The month of preparation - putting up the Christmas tree, putting up lights, sending out cards, shopping for gifts and wrapping them (though that didn't take long this year, as it was a slim year in that regard), drinking cocoa out of snowman mugs - is coming to an end until next year.

I am always so excited to begin Christmas each year. Ryan laughs at me, because I'm childish and I admit it, but the minute the Thanksgiving leftovers are tucked away, I just want my tree! But it is also true that after a month of having a tree, I am always ready to take it down.

Tonight, after our friends left, I took down the card holder, and lovingly reviewed each card again before I tucked them away. The first bin came down from the attic, and has been loaded with the first of the Christmas dishes. The Nutcrackers are back in their box; the snow globe is put away. There is still much work to do - stockings, tree, outdoor lights - but I like to begin on Boxing Day. Tomorrow I think I'll work on bringing down the tree, and our house will return to normal.

I like to begin the new year with a fresh start - I don't like Christmas stuff to be up, because I like things to be fresh and ready like a blank slate. I like to start the new year with clean laundry tucked away, fresh sheets on the beds, the dishwasher emptied. I'm also on a de-clutter fest, trying to get rid of the excess that we have accumulated. (Why? Why do we fight clutter so much?!)

I'm also thinking about getting rid of the excess around my middle. I have fallen off the wagon, and my pants are proving it. It's ridiculous, really, and after three days of feasting I feel excited about living on vegetables and soups for the next few months. I have had enough, and I'm looking forward to returning to better health.

I only have 13 days until my surgery. The new year brings what I hope will be my last surgery; I pray that the results will be good enough to deal with for 15 years (when I'll have to have the implants replaced). I am so very, very tired of the journey of breast cancer, and I want my body back. Or at least I don't want to hurt all the time.

And so I'm packing up the old year along with the ornaments, not forgetting it, not throwing it out in the trash, but setting it aside in boxes and looking forward to new things.

Boxing Day

I am attempting to not think about Janet obsessively. She wasn't my friend, she was a person on the internet. That is what I am telling myself. It is true that I didn't know her closely. But she had been there since I arrived at YSC, and I just thought she was a permanent fixture, no matter what the odds. It hurts to be wrong in this way.

But I am moving on.

We have a few friends coming over this afternoon for companionship and prime rib sandwiches. I am looking forward to their company, to the relaxed atmosphere of it, to enjoying each other's company.

Happy Boxing Day, all.

Our holiday giving was before the holiday, but I do love the tradition of helping the less fortunate.

Another loss

Janet, one of the YSC girls, is gone. She died peacefully - after a very unpeaceful journey with metastatic cancer - on Christmas Eve.

Logging in this morning to read the news left me stunned. She had such a large presence, wit, humor - how is it possible? The world suffers at her loss. I suffer.

Prayers to those who knew her in real life, to her husband Brian, to all those who love her.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

One word answers

The trick here is to answer each question with only one word - not as easy as it seems. Here are the questions, with my answers, copied from the YSC boards. It is amazing to me how revealing the answers are when I read others' responses. I hope that you'll play, too, and post your answers here.

Have fun!
1. What time did you get up today? 8:00
2. Your significant other? mine
3. Your hair? long
4. Your Skin? ugh
5. Your Mother? loving
6. Your favorite thing? motherhood
7. Your dream last night? unknown
8. Your favorite drink? coffee
9. Your dream/goal? living
10. The room you're in? dining
11. Your ex? Who?!
12. Your fear? Leaving
13. Where do you want to be in 6 years? celebrating
14. Where were you last night? friends'
15. What you are not? cruel
16. Muffins? nahhhh
17. One of your wish list items? Peace
18. Where you grew up? Victoria
19. The last thing you did? converse
20. What are you wearing? sweater
21. Your TV? OFF.
22. Your pets? Wonderful!
23. Your computer? connected
24. Your life? grateful.
25. Your mood? Peaceful
26. Missing someone? Grandpa
27. Your car? Functional
28. Something you're not wearing? bra
29. Favorite Store? thrift
30. Your summer? Orcas
31. Your favorite color? Blue
32. When is the last time your belly laughed? recently
33. Last time you cried? morning
34. Favorite Food? raspberries
35. Hobby? read
36. Favorite actor? none
37. Favorite actress? none
38. What’s for dinner? salmon
39. Where did I lose my remote control? Table.
40. What is the meaning of life? Joy
41. How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie pop? Uninterested
42. Make a wish? Peace
43. What is your favorite sport? hiking
44. Fun game? Cranium
45. Least liked food? liver
46. What do you believe? Compassion
47. What are you looking forward to? grandchild
48. Reading anything good? YES!

PS Last time I cried - this morning it was happy tears. Ryan made me a beautiful montage of Tessa pictures, set to music, and it was just so lovely...

Wake up! Wake up! Santa came!

And so began our morning, as it should be.

Santa delivered Tessa the right gifts, and she is currently lolling about on the living room carpet, in her Christmas nightgown, (red and white, of course!), reading new books, playing with small new horses...content.

Ryan's taking a little nap.

I'm here, checking in online with friends, and ever so grateful for my favorite gifts from Ryan. Ryan made me a montage of pictures of Tessa, set to the music "She's got a way about her" by Billy Joel, and as I watched it I cried. Every mother knows how beautiful their child is, and I am no exception. Looking at her face - from bald, to wispy curls, to lush and long - brings me a joy I had never imagined. Ryan also gave me a gorgeous book of poems with a note that he would read them to me in bed at night.

It is obvious that I am RICH. Among the wealthiest of kings, actually. Money is not wealth. It's nice, of course, and we could always use more, but poetry, photos, ponies, family....this is all I desire. (Oh, and chocolate. And I got that, too! And coffee. Yes, coffee.)

Last night we dined with Michele & Dave at their home, and it was beautiful; today we'll brunch with our neighbor friends Sarah & Steven (I made a bacon & egg strata that I'll pop in the oven in just a few minutes, so that we can bring it hot); we are not yet sure what we will do about dinner (travel to Woodinville to be with family as planned; walk a block to join Kathleen, Jim, and Elena; or pop our own roast in the oven) because the weather is so very.....icy. Whatever we do, it will be wonderful, and we're so glad to have the chance to have this beautiful life.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Altered plans

Church was canceled, and we had really looked forward to it. Drat! This weather, while often beautiful, is starting to get a little old. It is supposed to snow another 1-6 inches can that be possible? Much of the snow melted today, but it is still a crazy mess out there, and though we only drove a mile or so today it was rough going.

Instead of church, we were able to attend dinner with our dear, dear friends Michele & Dave and their sweet boys, Elliott and Everett. Michele cooked an amazing dinner (I may never be able to button my pants again, but that is what resolutions are for....!), and the companionship was just...well, perfect.

We used the service that Rev. Peg sent out, singing carols, sharing readings, and telling The Night Before Christmas. We also included a story of Jesus' birth.

If anyone is looking for a UU Christmas Eve service, I recommend the lovely thoughts that our dear minister Peg put together.

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

PS Wrapping. Hmmm. Much wrapping to do for Tessa!

Christmas Eve

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Our day has been altered by the weather....but what else is new?!

It snowed again last night, and now we have a "wintery mix" of snow, ice, slush, rain - ugh. This is not the beautiful winter wonderland we had been enjoying so much.

Church was canceled this evening for safety reasons. Oh no! I had been looking forward to it so very much, and friends were joining us....

But we are recovering from that information, and we will be dining in style with Michele & Dave and family at their home this afternoon, because their family plans got canceled as well. We can walk there - hurrah - and so we will enjoy good cheer in their company, and were grateful for the invitation.

We are not counting on being able to drive to Woodinville tomorrow, but you never know. We bought a roast for the three of us, and we will celebrate Christmas here or there...but we will celebrate.

I hope that you are safe and warm, whereever you are!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Reality Check

Sometimes, I can be so petty. I try so hard to remember what is true, just, and beautiful in the world, but I get distracted from what's important so easily.

Last night, I got to experience a tiny little piece of how life is for some people. Tessa and I spent the night at Family Promise as evening hosts, with three homeless families.

I am humbled.

We stayed in a cold room, with only one twin sized air mattress to share. We had brought our own sleeping bags, so we were warm, but it was no fun to get out of bed into the cool air in the morning. Besides Tessa, there were three young children and a teen at the shelter. I don't pretend that I know what it's like to be homeless, but this tiny taste was enough to remind me of how incredibly lucky we are.

I heard some hard luck stories. I tried to be a good listener, to give and not to take.

And I was so, so, so grateful to come home today, into my warm home with comfortable beds, privacy, showers, a dog and a cat.

Thank you, Family Promise, for giving me this opportunity. I am humbled.

Monday, December 22, 2008

No new ice

It figures that this is the first time we need to drive!

Today it was warmer - mid 30s - and so some of the snow started to melt. (Not that you can tell now; every bit of the world is white around here still.) Now, of course, there is snow AND ice on the's gonna be slick.

I wouldn't go out, except that our church is having trouble staffing the Family Promise homeless shelter. So, in just a few minutes, Tessa and I will spend our first night in a homeless shelter, with other families. We will be hosting, but I am humbled with gratitude at the opportunity to do this. I pray that Tessa learns compassion through the experience, and that I can use my compassion and say and do the right things.

(And in case any of you have concerns: Family Promise has excellent screening. No alcohol or drug abuse, no domestic violence, no criminal records. We will be safe....and in the company of moms, dads, and children.)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Pictures of Snow

Here are some pictures from today and tonight (plus the one of kids on the swingset from Friday - love how kids gravitate towards it, no matter what the weather! Sorry it's fuzzy, it was taken through our screened window). Still snowing, 28 degrees right now.

Still snowing

It is STILL snowing. It's unbelievable to me that it continues to snow, day after day, almost without letting up. I hear that tonight we might get up to six inches, on top of what we already have. At this rate, I believe it. Not including the snow that melted earlier in the week, we have about a foot of snow here at this point.

We spent some time walking to the Junction and then sledding down a little hill near our house....and it was fabulous. Now we're at home watching movies - very relaxing.

Stay warm, people!

Safe and warm - again

Well, despite some gusting winds last night, we did not lose power, and we are all snug and warm inside. We will not be attending our family Christmas party in Bothell today (drat!), but we will enjoy our West Seattle community. We haven't left the house yet, but according to the West Seattle Blog (LOVE those guys) the roads here are an icy mess. Our car will stay in the garage.

Best wishes, everyone!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Snow, snow, and more snow

Well, it's 8:18pm and all is well. The tiniest snowflakes are falling - but in abundance. This is not the big, wet, fluffy snow that I'm used to around here, but tiny little crystals. When I look outside in the dark, at first I don't even see that it's snowing....but if you step outside you quickly realize that it's snowing hard. We went to dinner at Heather & Randal's (thank you!) and by the time we came outside, 3 hours later, our car was completely covered in white and the steps were coated in a fresh blanket of snow. (We drove the five blocks because it's COLD. Last I checked, it was 25 degrees out.) It's breezy, and though the wind isn't strong it's cold, and wet, because the tiny flakes blow at the slightest breeze, and so snow is flying off rooftops and trees in addition to falling from the sky. I'm glad to be inside now.

Tessa is being tucked into bed, the cell phones are charging, and I think I'm going to have a nice cup of hot tea soon.

My deepest wish tonight is that everyone will find safe refuge from the storm, and be able to feel peace and comfort indoors. This is no time to be outside.

(Our cat doesn't usually use his litter box, preferring the outdoors, but he's grateful for it today. Shep is joyful in the snow...but comes back in pretty quickly. Yes, we're stocked up on dog and cat food, too.)

Much love,

Safe and warm

Well, Winter Storm 2008 is supposed to get a lot worse tonight, so we are battening down the hatches and getting ready. Laundry is caught up, the dishwasher is running, and Ryan is picking up extra groceries "just in case" because we're expecting more snow, wind, and ice - brrrrr!

We are hopeful that we will be unscathed, and that we will enjoy family time with board games, hot drinks, and reading. Maybe we'll read "A Christmas Carol" aloud by candlelight, fi it comes to that.....rumor is that the power might go out. We have a propane BBQ with a side element, so I figure we can at least make cocoa on that.

I am so grateful for warm clothes, warm food, and a warm house. I am grateful for caring friends and family, and a neighborhood community where i can walk to get what I need.

If any of you (our friends) locally find yourselves without power, call us, and if we still have power, then you can stay with us of course.


PS Probably 6-7 inches of snow on the ground, temps in the 20s, and the breeze is picking up now....but so far today, nothing remarkable, no precipitation of any kind. The predictions I saw said that at about 4pm we'd see the storm, and the storm weather was supposed to last for about 24 hours. Only time will tell what happens next!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A real snow day!

The view from our front porch... Another front porch view...
And from the kitchen door, the deck and back yard...

Well, after yesterday's false alarm, we awoke this morning to another winter wonderland. Just about every bit of snow had melted by yesterday evening, but as you can see from these pictures we have perhaps 4 inches right now, and it's still snowing.

I love love love it!

My only concern is that our dear friends the Wards probably on a plane at this very moment, headed to visit our area (and us!) from Panama. Fingers crossed that they will be able to land and get to their hotel. I'd planned on delivering a basket of goodies to the hotel for their arrival, but at this point I hope to give them the goodies in person....I'm not driving anywhere!

Happy snow day, everyone. Please stay safe and warm.
Edited at 9:30: Ryan swept our front walk to prevent ice at about 8am, and now you can't even tell, because it's really snowing now.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Snow day, but no new snow

The official announcement was made that there will be no school today in Seattle Public Schools. Still, the weather pattern is creating a donut with Seattle in the middle: snow all around, but no snow on us. I love snow, and I am still hoping for some nice fresh powder, but we will see. I suppose that anything is possible.

And in the meantime, Tessa has discovered how to belch and (ahem) fart on demand, and I am going to go insane today if that keeps up. She is in hysterics with, not so much. This could be a long day! (She belches. I say, "Tessa, that's not polite." She does it again. I say, "If you do that again, there will be a consequence." And so it goes.....ugh. Giving consequences all day and dealing with her potential fits as a result does not sound very winter wonderland-y. Wish me well, please.)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The new armoire

Our 70s basement got an upgrade - love the new armoire. Thanks, Eileen!

Not cozy for everyone

Another cozy day for the Surface family. I don't think Mo has been outside in days (thank goodness for kitty litter), and Tessa and I haven't ventured outside today. If we get fluffy snow tomorrow, we'll go out to enjoy it, but today we are not interested in the rough ice.

But I'm thinking of others less fortunate.

I read an article in the Seattle Times about the plight of the homeless at this time of year, and my heart sank as I thought about it. Emergency shelters are being set up all over the city, and nobody is being turned away. (The UU principle is "the inherent worth and dignity of all people" and I think that this is an EXCELLENT time to practice that principle.)

Because this is not a good day to be homeless. In fact, it's the worst. Seattle's homeless are probably more ill-prepared for this kind of weather than most, because we don't expect it.

I am still involved in Family Promise, and will be helping out Christmas week as our church has several families staying with us that week. This time, there are four children in the program. Christmas is a hard week to be homeless. I am so, so, so grateful for this program, because the children (and their parents) may be homeless, but they will also be warm. We don't have checks to write this year, so I'm giving time, and we sorted through Tessa's toys for some to donate. I'll bake some special things to bring, too.

Because I am grateful, and I know how blessed I am.

If you have a chance to donate to a food bank, or a homeless shelter, today would be a great day to do it. If you see a homeless person on the street today, consider delivering them a cup of cocoa, or popping into a drugstore to buy them an extra hat or gloves or protein bars. I have to imagine that every tiny little bit helps right now.

Home again

This morning I was thinking about how to get Tessa to school, and she solved the problem for me.

"Mama, my head feels so heavy. It is very sad when you're sick on a snow day!"

Yes, honey, it is. But we'll be fine. Home again today, and wondering about more snow tonight.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Not frightful

As far as I'm concerned, both the weather outside and our cozy home are both delightful today.

On Saturday night, as Ryan and I cozied up on the couch in front of our beautiful new entertainment center armoire (hold on for more details about that) watching The Christmas Story ("You'll shoot your eye out!"), we looked outside to see flakes falling. By morning, several inches of powdery snow had coated everything in sight.

We kept the car in the garage, piled into snow clothes, and headed outside. Snow angels were made, snow was eaten (Tessa thinks this is marvelous for some reason), and Shep was gleeful despite his silly dog-boots and coat (gotta protect that injured foot, and if we only put one boot on him then he refuses to step on it, so we have to put them on all fours). We walked to C&P to hang out with the C&P crowd, then we walked to church, and on the way home from church we stopped and picked up some necessities (okay, are chocolate chips a necessity?!) so that we could be snug and carefree upon arriving home. Neighbors S&S came by for hot beverages, and Tessa alternated between playing in the snow and warming up outside.

And today? We're keeping Tessa home from school even though it's only two hour delays, because school is allllll downhill and we decided it's not worth it. Hours on the phone discussing the weather, and we're snug inside in warm clothes, with squash baking in the oven for squash soup this evening.

So it's icy and slick outside, but we're not feeling frightful. We're feeling grateful for a working furnace, a snug home, hot coffee or cocoa. I'm feeling grateful for a day with Tessa. I'm feeling grateful that Ryan can work from his office away from the office (aka C&P).

Stay warm and safe!


PS Armoire: Boy did we get lucky with this one! Susan's kind friend Eileen was upgrading to built ins and a flat screen, and so they gave us their beautiful wood entertainment armoire and their bigger-than-ours TV. I really love it! We had a decent TV but a piece-of-junk entertainment center, and this is a major upgrade. I'm incredibly grateful for their kindness and generousity, and I'm also grateful to my parents for helping to pick it up and transport it in their van. I'm ALSO grateful that we changed the schedule to get it on Saturday, instead of Monday as planned, because the weather wouldn't have allowed it today.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Wise words

The YSC girls are suffering right now. New mets, new deaths, girls on the edge of death.

A couple of years ago, Mama Cath posted this in response to a similar wave of sadness. I'm trying to engrave these words upon my heart for comfort.

It's happening again.

Every once in a while the board goes through a really tough time. Our hearts break for our sisters whose cancers are spreading at frightening rates. We see their selfless, innocent posts that detail the cancer taking over. How they feel, what they're thinking. What they need. The struggle, the powelessness, the strength and courage.

I just wanted to pull all you newbies in close and let you know that we've all been there and you are probably absolutely freaking out right now. Chemo has beaten you up, you feel like a shadow of who you used to be. Tired, depressed and overwhlemed. You may even feel guilty because you are not only sad for these beautiful women, but you are sad FOR YOU. You see yourself in every one of these women that becomes so very sick and then loses the battle.

It's normal to feel this way and it's OK. We understand and so do they. Your mother may not, your husband may not. your friends may not, but we do.And there's nothing wrong with feeling sad and getting angry. But please remember that the odds are that YOU are going to get better. YOU are going to get your hair back and start to feel well again. YOU are going to get back to the life that you want to lead.

So if you are checking the boards incessently right now, reading the latest post, then sobbing and then going back for more.....been there too. You are grieving....this disease is not's disgusting and ugly and perverse. And it's so much more unfair to certain sisters than others. And there's nothing fair about that.

So grieve for them. Grieve for you. And then remember that you will get better.


Monday, December 08, 2008

Anybody have a good Spaghetti alle Vongole recipe?

I'm making a pantry supper tonight, and I swear I've seen a dozen "good" pantry recipes for Spaghetti alle Vongole. I knew I had some canned clams and the rest, so I thought it would be a perfect simple supper.

I looked at 20 cookbooks. I looked on the web. Nothing I found was terribly satisfying; I'm concocting my own recipe now and it's simmering on the stove.


Feeling better, so ready, set....GO!

I am feeling halfway decent today for the first time in a long time, it seems. That means that I dropped Tessa off and took Shep for a long-ish walk (at a much slower pace than usual; he looked enviously at the dogs with running partners, but I'm not there yet), came home, and now I'm crafting my heinous to-do list.

I'm so grateful to be able to breathe again, but now it's time to tackle the stuff that fell behind while I sat on my rear-end willing myself to feel better.

Ready, set, GO!

Friday, December 05, 2008


It's 7:30 on Friday night and I haven't fed my family dinner - Ryan' not quite home yet. Oh my! Tessa is contentedly doing an art project, and dinner is in the oven....and I'm exhuasted.

It was my best day since pneumonia came to visit. I got some things done around the house, and ran a couple of errands, and made dinner (crustless salmon quiche, a recipe from Corina that I've had for years and always intended to try). But now I'm exhausted, and it feels like a vice grip is on my chest. I will be glad when pneumonia departs.

Oh, one unintended side effect of pneumonia that I'm grateful for: the doctor made me step on the scale. Well, that was actually a little slice of hell (did it really say that?!) but it was a good wake up call. (That, and the fact that I was having trouble zipping my pants.) I've been much more careful about what I eat, and I've been eating a lot more veggies, adn thank goodness. I haven't weighed myself again since Monday but I feel much better zipping my pants already so that's something. The timing is terrible - hey, it's the holidays and fun to eat! - but excellent - hey, it's the holidays, so let's avoid adding more weight.

TGIF. After Ryan's long work week, illness in the house, and such, we're ready for some good down time as a family.


Man, this has sucked.

I have NO energy. I feel like I could lay in bed all day - which is what I did on Monday and Tuesday. I'm still not very productive, and a small amount of activity (like walking up one flight of stairs) leavese me short of breath. Carrying a laundry basket makes me gasp a little and feel like someone is pushing on my chest.

Fortunately, Tessa is doing well, the doc gave her a clean bill of health.

But me? I'm really, really glad that I didn't go to San Diego, because I don't think I could have handled it. No, i know I couldn't.

But we could have used the money. :-(

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Thoughts on survivorship: Living close to the bone

On the YSC boards yesterday, there was a post that explained things well for me, but also got me thinking. With the author's permission, I'm sharing it here.

I couple of recent threads have got me ruminating on why I check in with this board every day, why I read the mets board, etc. even though I'm three+ years out. Here's what I've found: I don't know anyone on here in person, or how you act in your private life, but I do know that when we come here, we discuss stuff that's real. I feel we are authentic, even when we're mean and crazy bitches. Maybe the anonymity helps. We express depths of real love and vitriol here that I doubt we do IRL, at least as often.

Most of the people I know IRL are not living an authentic life; not even close. I call it living close to the bone, or actually inhabiting your own body, if you know what I mean. They stress about things I cannot relate to and have totally bought into their thinking. I can't bear to be part of a conversation anymore that's focused around gossip, who's got what, whether your kid eats broccoli or not, how the teacher is mean and doesn't like your child when I've met your child and he's an asshole. I had a conversation last year with a friend who was *irate* that the deli counter at Safeway did not keep their posted hours and she really needed some smoked turkey. Sent her husband back the next day to give them a piece of her mind. AYFKM?

For example, as you're sitting at the computer reading this, stop for a minute and look around. What's on your desk...notice things. Feel your body sitting in the chair. Are you uncomfortable or in pain? Do you notice your foobs? Expanders feel like rocks? Are you blessedly comfortable and thankful for it? I feel like we are more in touch with our bodies because of cancer, and thus our emotions, because we have experienced "extreme living." You probably do that awareness exercise regularly and don't even notice it. You may even be *gasp* thankful for the little things. I'm not naive enough to think there aren't some shallow broads around here, but for the most part, this is what cancer does to us. We notice our real selves because we can't hide from it anymore.

I feel like, whether we like it or not, we've woken up, and I find it refreshing. That's why I stick around. I like your perspective and the realness that you present here. I'm sorry it takes a near death or an imminent death experience sometimes to live close to the bone. There have been threads started here about whether cancer has been a "blessing." I don't phrase it that way myself, but I thank God that at least now I'm awake, and have a place to chat with others who have woken up too. It keeps me from going back to sleep.

Peace lovely ladies,M2M

Just to be clear, I think that I have been blessed with the most amazing friends that a woman could ever hope for, ever, in the history of time. I do not believe that I do not express love and vitriol (love that word!) in real life that I express on the boards; I know who my friends are and I'm passionate about them.

Still, there is truth to the whole thing.

In real life, my friends and family (in a general sense, not thinking of specific people) do not understand my need to have a breast cancer community, especially when so much of what happens deeply saddens me. (We lost another sister this week. I can not express how it feels.) I also think that many friends and family wonder what I get from the boards that I do not get from real friends.

I have not got breast cancer friends in real life. This shames me. I have not been able to handle the fierce love, protectiveness, and fear in real life. On the boards, I can observe, and try to understand.

Some of my friends are "awake" without the curse of a life-threatening disease. I don't think that I was "asleep" before my diagnosis, but I do think that I am WIDE awake now.

Here is my response to the post:
M2M, that was just so right. Thank you.

I am awake, and I never want to go back to sleep. That is true. Although it is so, so tiring to be so "on" all the time. I try so hard to stuff my life with meaning and truth and thoughfulness and consciousness that it can sometimes exhaust me. I don't want to lose the perspective of how precious life is, but it has come at such a cost. Was I really that asleep before?

Rhetorical question, of course.

I come back all the time because I need to. It is as simple, and complex, as that. M2M, you've given me a lot to think about....and I'm thinking. Thank you.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Saved by Santa

Tonight Tessa had a full on fit.

The kind with slamming doors, angry words, stomping feet, and growling. Yes, when Tessa is THAT mad, she growls.

I was at my wit's end. I recognized that she was tired after coughing half the night, but of course this behavior is NOT okay. We'd planned on driving by the Menasche house to see the lights; she lost that privledge. She pouted, stomped, cried, and yelled some more. Despite further admonishments, she then lost dessert for two days. It was getting really bad, and I was out of steam (and out of breath - just when I thought I was getting better, this took it out of me).

And Santa saved me.

Suddenly, out of the blue, Tessa stopped screaming at me (it was really ugly) and said, "Oh no, oh no, oh no, I don't want Christmas to happen! I wish it wasn't Christmas!" This caught me completely off guard, of course, but I had to ask what on earth she was talking about. Her answer? "I'll be good! Will Santa bring me coal because I was bad? Oh no, this is the worst Christmas ever......EVER......." and she commenced wailing.

First, I have to say that I have NEVER emphasized that part of Christmas. To me, Santa is all about the spirit of giving, love, and joy, and there's no way that I would have held him over her head like that. (Plus, I just didn't think of it. Tonight, if I'd thought of it, I was desperate enough to bring it up.) But she picked it up somewhere, and she was suddenly horrified by what could happen as a result of the evening.

This is interesting on several levels. First, that she actually DID have the knowledge that she was being bratty, despite her yelling at me that I was mean etc. etc. Somewhere deep down, she knew absolutely that her behavior was horrible, even if she wouldn't admit that in the heat of it. Second, that she apparently deeply believes in Santa Claus, even though I've dropped some hints about him. (She's not listening, apparently.) Third, I had no idea that Santa could save grownups. This might have been my Christmas gift, because Ryan's not home yet, and I'm tired, and dealing with a fit of this level was getting to the "I want to run away and hide" stage. Thanks for the gift, Santa. It was just what I wanted, and it fit perfectly.

Somewhere in her sobbing tirade, as Tessa wound down, she told me that I didn't love her anymore. Ouch. I made her look in my eyes and listen as I promised her that I ALWAYS love her, even when I'm mad. She told me that she believed me, but it broke my heart that she forgot how much I love her, even for a second. I tell her all the time how much I love her, and how nothing could make me stop loving her, and I'm horrified at the idea that she might have actually thought that I didn't love her in that moment. She was probably just yanking me chain, being melodramatic, etc., but that was hard to hear.

Yesterday all of this would have made me pass out, but today I was well enough to manage. Just barely, but well enough. I did some deep breathing meditation with Tessa, talked about how tomorrow was another day, talked about forgiveness and how Santa could see the fabulous girl that she is, and would probably forgive this transgression.

Sigh. Whatta day.

Two for the price of one

Well, Tessa was up coughing half the night, so I kept her home today. She is doing pretty well this morning, but we will go to the doctor. Enough of this already!

I also canceled my San Diego trip for Thursday/Friday. I was debating it for myself, still being under the weather (and it ws going to be a really busy, running all-over-the-place event, PLUS I was going to be filmed, so I needed to be on top of my game) but when I found myself holding Tessa for a couple hours in her bed starting at midnight, I knew that the game was up. The team is really understanding AND found a substitute, so I'm really relieved....

On to plan B. Or C. Or K. Or S. Or whatever plan we're on now!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

My massive to do list

- write Solstice Play
- Prepare for San Diego/Genentech speaking engagement
- Prepare for Sunday's service (story for all ages)
- Write a book! (Hunts Point)
- Pick up holiday cards at Costco
- Send holiday cards (write, stamp, etc)
- fold about 30 loads of laundry (washed, not folded)
- return phone calls
- hang Christmas lights, make swags and hang them
- Did I mention the laundry?

There is so much more on my list, but none of it is getting done today. I have given myself the day off so that tomorrow I can go full tilt and so that on Thursday I can fly out and do my whirlwind trip.

Fingers crossed that this strategy works. I am DONE being sick, but being sick is not done with me. I'm on day two of the five day course of antibiotics, and don't feel any different, but tomorrow will be a better test of whether they're working.

Pneumonia. I mean, c'mon.....really?! Ridiculous.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Well that's a bummer

I just got back from the doctor and the pharmacy.

I was diagnosed with pneumonia - bummer. I'm on antibiotics and I'm to lay low for two days. Hopefully I will be well enough to fly out on Thursday, bright and early....!

Fuzzy head

Fuzzy head, tight chest, sore throat, wahhhhhh.

I have a 10:45am doctor's appointment.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The dangers of Google

Okay, so I'm feeling progressively more crummy, so I start to Google my symptoms.

I'm either looking at influenza or pneumonia - ugh. I need to get myself to the doc tomorrow because if I have pneumonia I want to treat it asap before it gets serious. Not to say that I have pneumonia - my medical degree is still missing - but the symptoms do align.


I guess I'm just glad that it's not Christmas yet....could be worse.

But I want to feel better.


Ugh - I have a minor cold that has moved into my chest and become something a bit more than minor. I'm spending the afternoon on the couch, not doing much. Sigh. Tomorrow is a field trip with Tessa's class, but I'm going to try to figure out a way to go to the doctor, too, because the coughing is a bit much for me.

Oh well. I'm glad that the tree is up, that the Christmas cards are ordered (and waiting for me at Costco...darn it, I wanted to get them today but don't have enough energy left), that the turkey soup was made (so I didn't waste the carcass - and by the way, the stock was YUMMY!), etc. I have leftover pumpkin from the pumpkin pies - grown next door - and when I get energy I'll make pumpkin risotto one night this week. Yum.

But not today. Today I'm on the couch. Sigh.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The holiday season

The holiday season is officially in full swing around here. As evidenced by the pictures in previous posts, Thanksgiving is past, and the Christmas season has arrived.

The tree is up, and as I type I can see it twinkling in front of me. It's filled, as it is every year, with ornaments that are really just symbols and memories, as that's how I like it. Nothing on the tree matches, but each ornament reminds me of someone or of some experience. There are so many given to me by Carolyn, Susan, and Corina over the years; there is the one from my first trip with Ryan (to the southwest; we traveled well together and I thought "well that's a good sign!"); there are "baby's first Christmas" ones with the date 2003 on them. The list is long - we can't fit all of the ornaments on the tree anymore - and happy.

Tomorrow I'll take down the Tibetan prayer flags (I don't know what they say, so I imagine that they are prayers for peace: personal peace and world peace) and put up the lights. Tessa is gleeful that our home is becoming so decorated, and wore her Santa hat with pride today.

I am intensely grateful for these small pleasures. These rituals and traditions are so important to me in the holiday season, and they keep me grounded in the middle of the consumerist drive that has taken over so much of the holiday season.

This year, I won't be much of a consumer. We are doing everything we can to cut back our holiday spending, and we hope and pray that we don't offend anyone in the process. I'll be baking and sharing the baked goods; there will be small hand made items; there will be time shared with friends and family. What there will NOT be is giant piles of expensive presents under the tree, but this is a-okay with me. Really and truly it is. I'm being forced - and feeling happy about it - to pay attention to the love and peace and festivities of the family season, and not pay attention to the compulsion to shop, shop, shop.

So I will take time to visit holiday carousels, to read "A Child's Christmas in Wales" aloud with the family, to drive around seeing the holiday lights, to go ice skating, to make fancy cookies, to watch an old holiday movie, to share wine with a friend. We will feast on Christmas day with family, we will attend Christmas Eve service, and hopefully we will be filled with gratitude all the while.

As for me, I'm grateful to be alive. There's an edge to saying that, because I still feel the fragility of life much more closely than I wish to. My every day is interrupted by thoughts of cancer, and all of the zillion side effects that I continue to experience. But the silver lining is that I approach every holiday like a little kid. I'm filled with wonder that I get to drag a tree inside my house, bake cookies, and sing songs. I'm grateful to be alive, and that is saying something. It's bigger than it sounds.

And ho ho ho!

(I hope no animal rights activists are looking at that last picture. Mo has ALMOST forgiven us, because we promised to never do it again.)

Gobble Gobble Pictures

It was wonderful - every bit of it. We're FINALLY done with all of the dishes - we ran many loads, and washed many by hand. The stock is done and waiting for me to turn it into turkey soup; that will be dinner tonight.
The hand made turkey place cards were my favorite part. Each person got one at their place, customized and individualized by Tessa. ("Bopa" is Tessa's name for Grandpa Surface.)

Deck the Halls

Today we deck the halls!

The three of us, in Santa hats, put on our warm coats and headed to the Junction for an outdoor lunch at Bakery Nouveau and Christmas tree shopping. We ended up buying a beautiful Frasier Fir - less expensive than a noble fir, with silvery undersides to the needles, but the same beautiful shape - with our coupon at True Junction. Then, we loaded it up into the wagon, and we walked home, eliciting smiles from everyone we saw. Shep came along, and the four of us were playful and joyful and simply full of the good day.


Now, we're getting ready to set it up in the living room....but first we must make cocoa and popcorn. It just sounds right, don't you think?

Deck the halls - fa la la la la!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Not done being thankful

The statistics:

Pies: 3 (pumpkin, pumpkin streusel, razzleberry)
Cranberry sauce: 2 (regular and meyer lemon)
Potatoes: too many to count
# of servings of stuffing Kristina ate: 4 (yes, 4. Over two days.)
# of guests throughout the day: 11
# of us at the dinner table: 7 + 1 (Leif didn't sit at the table, being only two weeks old, but he gets included somehow!)
# of loads run in the dishwasher: 3
# of bottles of sparkling cider left: 6

Thanksgiving was all that it should be. Mom Surface helped me peel potatoes in the kitchen, Ryan and Dad Surface watched some TV, Tessa ran around filled with excitement, Steven shared wine, and we all adored Sarah & baby Leif. Surface7 came by - all of them! hurrah! - and visited before the meal. The day was wonderful.

The food was pretty good too, if I may say so myself. The turkey (which I brined this year) was super moist, the "new" Meyer Lemon Cranberry Dressing was a hit, the pumpkin pies turned out (which was a concern - I'm more of a cook than a baker), the new dressing (bacon, carmelized onion, and apple with sage) was a hit, the potatoes were fluffy (thanks, Mom, for mashing them!), the gravy wasn't lumpy.

But I'm still feeling grateful for all that is in my life. Mostly, I'm grateful FOR my life. I do not take it for granted that I am alive, that I've been healthy enough to cook a nice meal.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

It's that time of year!

Cranberry Nut Bread time, that is.

Here's my recipe - back by popular demand

Cranbery Nut Bread

2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons shortening
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
1 egg, well beaten
1 1/2 cup fresh cranberries
1/2 cup chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan. Mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a medium mixing bowl. Zest the orange first, then squeeze the juice; top the juice off with the required quantity to reach the 3/4 cup total. Stir in orange juice, shortening, orange peel, and egg. Mix until well blended. Stir in cranberries and nuts. Spread evenly in loaf pan. Bake for one hour or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

My notes: the original recipe calls for chopping the cranberries; I find that this just muddies the batter and denies the eater that wonderful burst of tartness from a whole cranberry, so I leave mine whole. The original recipe calls for 55 minutes in the oven, but mine have never taken less than an hour. I ALWAYS double this recipe, as it goes quickly once it's out of the oven! I use one 12 ounce bag of cranberries for two loaves, even though that's more than the fruit called for in the recipe. Since the recipe doesn't say how to add the butter, I've always cut it in using a pastry blender thing, but I suppose melting it might have the same effect.

ENJOY! Right now our neighbors have one loaf, and I have five more in the oven, and one cooling on the stove. Mmmmm yummy. :-)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Busy, busy

Another busy weekend has passed. Ryan spent all day Saturday at the Habitat for Humanity site, helping to build a home that is partially sponsored by WSUU. I am so proud of Ryan's involvement in this project, and I hope that as Ryan nurses his aches and pains (they moved 32 yards of fill dirt as one of their tasks - not light work!) today he remembers the joy of having done good deeds.

Thinking about Habitat has made me so much more grateful for our home. I love our home - it is home in the truest sense of the world. As the holidays approach, I look forward to filling our home with family, friends, laughter, good food, and the like. I am grateful to live in a home that has become a center of gathering for so many people; I like how people here tend to show me that they're comfortable by joining in the fun, bringing a potluck dish, and the like. Home is where the heart is, they say, and it must be true because my heart is here.

Our church service was one of thanksgiving - not the holiday, but of actual giving thanks. Lovely thoughts; reminders of the blessings of our lives. Afterwards was an amazing potluck feast and time shared with the congregation. I am grateful to have become a part of this community.

Yesterday I got a blissful afternoon and evening to myself. I went downtown and met with Susan, and we wandered through shops without really buying anything (except a couple items from the Japanese bargain store where everything is $1.50), and then had dinner at Palomino's happy hour (what a bargain!). We talked, talked, and talked....and it was wonderful.

And today? Morning rush, then snuggles with new baby Leif, our neighbor, and now I'm scrambling to get the Thanksgiving menu in order, run ot the store, and get housework done in time to pick up Tessa from early dismissal. (Hmmm, what am I doing checking email and blogging, then? Better get running.)

Happy Turkey week!

Friday, November 21, 2008


That is the sound of the end of the week.


Tonight we'll enjoy some quiet family time, possibly in front of the TV, because we have all been running around like crazy. Maybe we'll do game night, maybe not.

Ryan's almost home, Tessa had a 4 hour playdate, and I made granola, baked bread, made soup stock with the chicken carcass from a couple of days ago, and folded way too much laundry.

Ryan did a quick assessment on our weekly budget and we came in UNDER!!!!! How is that possible? Yay, us! It makes the small sacrifices so worthwhile - hurrah for us.

I'm working on writing a press release for Alki because they won the Governor's Health Challenge; I'm prepping for my Genentech trip to San Diego in early December; I'm getting ready for Thanksgiving; Christmas lists are being made; I'm organizing the extended Dahl family gathering, and....well, you get the idea. Things are busy. The Hunts Point book is in there, too, and all of the usual cooking, cleaning, and carpooling.

Oh, and I'm writing a winter solstice play for church. Because I didn't have nearly enough to do with my time....! Still, it feels good to give back, to be involved in my community, to bond with friends and family over these activities.

Happy weekend, everyone.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Parent Teacher Conference

Our conference last night went even better than I'd expected.

Tessa's skills are up to par, she is doing well socially, and she's an "easy" student to have around. Her work is creative, she has obvious understanding of the material, and she's demonstrating growth in her understanding as she climbs the learning curve. Her work is detailed, and she demonstrates a strong grasp of the subject matter.

She sometimes is so focused on the details that she has trouble finishing her work. The teacher said, "This is about the best problem to have, though, so while we'll work on it, we're not worried about it." That's nice! We're also going to get her to volunteer info (raising her hand in discussion) about all subjects, not just the ones that fascinate her. (The teacher mentioned that as soon as there's talk of animals, Tessa will volunteer any amount of information about horses -no surprise there.)

So kindergarten is going well, and I'm delighted. She has no behavioral problems, she has lots of friends, she enjoys school, and she's learning. Ahhhhhhhhhh.

At home, Tessa is refusing to read things she once read with excitement - she wants us to read to her but does NOT want to read to us. The teacher said that is quite common, and to just let it go, since she's reading in the classroom. Tessa is in my reading group (I volunteer once a week and I work with two different reading groups) and she reads for me in that scenario....just not at home. This, too, shall pass. The advice was to just back off and let her be, and so that is what we will do.

(And fortunately, Tessa still begs for "just one more story!" no matter how many we read her, and this delights me.)

I'm prepping for a Genentech conference call so must run. Ciao!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Date night

I planned date night tonight, and I'm so proud of myself that I have to share.

It was parent-teacher conference night, and so Ryan actually got off work at a sane hour for the first time in weeks, in order to hear about Tessa's progress in kindergarten. (It was a fantastic report, and we are very happy with things.) We had also signed up for a parenting class from the Adlerian Society (a positive discipline approach) on Wednesdays, so the original plan was to go to the conference and then go to the class.

I realized that this is the wrong time for Ryan to have an additional class, so I canceled without telling him, and planned a surprise date instead. (I knew he'd be relieved, not offended, but that cancelation.)

I packed two bags - one with blankets, hats, warm coats, coffee mugs; the other with firewood and a lighter - and two camp chairs. We had an inexpensive Thai dinner at Alki, and then the best part - we had a beach fire. We set up chairs, snuggled up in our blankets, and we could see the twinkling lights of the ferries over the water, hear the gentle waves, and watch the stars in the sky. It was really relaxing there in the firelight, and a darned good idea if I may say so myself. I even snuck a little bottle of Kahlua, and we got coffees (decaf!) and added the Kahlua as a little warmer.

Stars, waves, fire - bliss. That bears repeating, and I recommend it highly. It felt like a mini-vacation, and it's only Wednesday.

A great deal!

Today I went to the pharmacy to refill a prescription (something we do pretty regularly here, unfortunately). I stumbled into a great deal that may interest others out there who are penny pinching....

Rite-Aid has a special coupon right now that gives you a $30 gift card per prescription that you transfer from another pharmacy to Rite-Aid. Ryan and I had four prescriptions at Medco, a mail-in pharmacy that our old insurance used, and so by transferring them to Rite-Aid for our new insurance, we're getting $120 in Rite-Aid gift cards. WOW! That's a nice little bonus at the holidays - they sell things we already use so we will certainly use the cards. Others out there might be interested in transferring, too. Our local Rite-Aid (on California in W. Seattle) has a really great pharmacist, bills directly to our insurance, and has been quite helpful, so I see no down side for us. Plus, they're only blocks away, so we can walk there.

I have been exploring couponing (which I never realized was a verb, by the way). I'm determined to be more frugal than I had been, and to speed up our debt reduction/elimination. I'm DETERMINED. And you know how I am when I'm determined - get outta my way!

I browsed frugal websites for about an hour last night; there are a lot of them out there. I signed up for CouponMom, and I've been learning about their programs. In general, couponing doesn't help my purchases, because there are very few organic products out there with coupons, and those products that are offered tend to be highly processed organic food, which is also not what I want. However, I am using the PCC 10% off coupon each month, and trying to shop their member days (the 15th and 16th of each month give a 10% discount to members). At the grocery store, I'm trying to buy only the sale meats when possible. I've realized that the only place I can afford eggs is Trader Joe's ($3.69/dozen for organic free range), and we'll live without eggs if we can't get to TJs before we run out. (I get slightly ill when I see the sale prices for non-organic eggs - under $1 sometimes. I just try to remember it's apples to oranges....)

My stainless steel coffee cup has paid for itself about 100 times, by the way. I got it in Spokane when we went to Caley's graduation (I'd been looking for the "perfect" one and found it), and I've used it almost every day since. We make coffee each morning, and I refill it throughout the day from our home coffee maker, and that keeps me out of coffee shops unless I'm meeting someone socially. My metal water bottles are also in daily use, and I simply refill them from taps whereever I am when I run out.

Enough rambling about bargain hunts, but if you find something I should know about, please let me know. I'm determined to be a great budgeter, and I hae a long way to go.

On other notes....
Ryan worked until 3am this morning, then was out the door at 8 (and frustrated because he was "running late"). This is not sustainable, and I am equally proud of his great work ethic and horrified at the lousy hours. I'm praying for a break - he needs to be with his family and have down time. T his working 7 days a week business is RIDICULOUS and I really hope that the end is in sight. Thanksgiving is going to save his bacon! He'll get a few days off and I have to imagine that they don't expect him to work then (shudder).

Tessa and I visited Grammy & Grandpa yesterday with the intention of helping my mom out because her knee is giving her problems, but she made us a gorgeous dinner and we had a wonderful visit (and I didn't help a bit because Mom can be as stubborn as I am). Tessa and I got in a swim, and Tessa was part dolphin, swimming under my legs and doing somersaults and leaping off my shoulders and swimming to the side, etc. There was a lot of laughing, and I loved that.

Today I'm doing a Genentech call about some other programs, and booking a trip to San Diego for another speaking engagement for Genentech. I'm keeping busy when I'm not doing the mom thing, and that's a good thing, although I don't know where to find all the hours I need.

And speaking of which, my computer break is over. Please remember to send me your bargain info and tell me how to keep to my budget without losing my mind - I will look forward to your tips!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Ethical Eating

This month's copy of UU World has an article entitled "Dinner Dilemmas: Ethical issues at the Thanksgiving dinner table," by John Gibb-Millspaugh. The article states the ethical eating argument as I've heard it stated before by the likes of Michael Pollan or Barbara Kingsolver or David Wann - to me, the argument for organic, sustainable, local food is pretty darn compelling.

It's pretty hard to argue with the idea that animals should be treated humanely, or that humans should not be forced to ingest toxic chemicals on or in their food.

But I ran into an interesting discussion on a blog I read, "The Journey" about the problem of the ethical eating argument. In short? It's really expensive. And the argument to eat "ethically" is elitist as a result, and can't/won't reach the general public as a result. (And because of the publication, it goes to follow, if this is what 'we' are preaching, then UUs won't grow, either.)

Yes, it is expensive. I say this with a sigh. We're struggling to balance our budget, and to make good choices about how we spend our money. When I stand in the grocery store, debating which products to buy, I feel a knot in my stomach as I face the price tags associated with different products. I buy $5 jeans from Value Village, but spend double the cost for my food budget to get organic milk, apples, and the like. We eat a lot more lentil soup than we used to, as a result. And eggs for dinner about once a week, in great part to cut our food bill.

So, on a personal level, I get it. Not as much as some people, of course. I know that I will get enough food; I am not struggling with poverty, but with choices.

Yet I feel deep within my heart that ethical eating is what we must do. I feel that it will save our bodies, our planet, and even our communities if we start to eat more ethically.

But we do have to figure out how to make it sustainable for our pocketbooks, too. And approachable for average people, not just passionate foodies like me, who have the means - including time - to follow through on their ethical eating desires.

The first step, I think, might be the hardest. I'm certain that it is possible to return to ethical eating practicies - hello....that's how people have eaten for all eternity not including the last 150 years! - but not unless people want to. The first step is for individuals and communities to decide that what they deeply want is ethical eating, and that they want to find creative solutions to help the less fortunate to eat organic, sustainable food, too, because it's good for ALL of us.

Right now, the crazies like me are committed. It's becoming mainstream to buy organic - WalMart and Safeway carry organic lines, so I believe that the ideas are becoming more mainstream, too.

But we have a long way to go.

We have a long way to go.



That's the sound of me actually accomplishing work on the Hunts Point book.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Grading the day

Tessa to school on time, breakfast in belly, and lunch in backpack: check

Dog walked: check

Laundry (mostly) folded: check

Floors mopped: check

Home made dinner using inexpensive ingredients that we already had: check

Remembering that it was early dismissal: check

Playdate after school: check

Tessa getting outdoor time (in the yard with playdate, playing in leaves and on swingset): check

Number of books I read to Tessa today: five

Volunteer time: about a half hour

Number of games played with Tessa: three (Break the Ice, CandyLand, and Dominoes)

Money spent today: $0

The kitchen is tidied, the floor is mopped, the dog and cat are fed. So, by many accounts, it was a good day, that I can feel good about.

I also have a list of what I didn't do today:
- work on the Hunts' Point book
- Call the PolyClinic to set up a payment plan for our latest big bill
- Make myself a dentist appointment
- Make granola
- Get some "real" exercise (the dog walk was only a mile or so)

Still, today I was relatively productive. I give myself a B. Tomorrow, the Hunts Point book is a priority in the morning, and visiting my mom is a priority in the afternoon.

Now, back to matching socks. Yawn.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A mother's day

Just a day as a mom.

I breakfasted with Tessa, packed her lunch, and drove her to Pascal's house to pick him up for our carpool. We went to school together, and while Ms. Coghill got the students ready for the day with their morning routines, I sharpened several hundred pencil crayons. (Really. This is exactly as exciting as it sounds.) Then, time for reading groups - two groups of squirrely, excitable little kids struggling to figure out if "hat" and "map" are rhymes, and if "hand" and "lamb" rhyme, and whether the picture is of a fan, fat, or can.

Leaving school, I saw a little girl come in from recess and land flat on her face - ouch! - on the pavement. I ran to her, scooped her up, checked in with her teacher, and carried her (she was small) to the nurse's office, where we wiped her up, put an icepack on her forehead, and I talked to her as she calmed herself.

Then, home, via PCC to pick up milk, maple syrup, and a few other essentials.

Now, cleaning up breakfast dishes, trying to ignore the mountain of laundry calling me to be folded, and prepping the basket of books to return to the library.

Pick up at 3:15, then straight to Jessie's birthday party. Come home from the birthday, make dinner.

It's a mother's life, and it just sounds so bland and flat when I write it like that. There are moments, certainly, when I think that the tedium will overcome me, and I long to stretch my mind or to focus on my own selfish desires....but still, it is worth it.

Today Tessa will told me who argued on the playground, and who told a funny joke, and what she did that made her proud. And I will know her school friends in the stories from my visits, and this will warm my heart.

And I will find an hour to work on the book, and maybe to even sit on the couch and sip coffee for a moment.

It's not always exciting, but it's my life, and I've fought hard for it. There is happiness.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Today I "bumped into" an online calculator for life expectancy for breast cancer patients.

I plugged in my data.

It made me, literally, feel sick. The data went out 15 years, and it wasn't pretty. Not pretty at all.

Ugly, actually. Very, very ugly.

I am fighting back the tears and remembering that I am not a statistic. And I'm remembering that it didn't account for Herceptin, or my radiation, or my prophylactic mastectomy and oopharectomy.

I'm trying not to remember my multi-focal disease....four tumors in all (three of IDC: 2.1, 1.5, and .2 cm; one DCIS tumor of 10cm).

I'm trying to remember that my positive node was "barely" positive.

I'm trying to remember that new treatments come out all the time. I haven't even started the Zometa yet because I haven't been able to bring myself to do it.

I need ot work on the Hunts Point Book now. This is so very depressing that it weighs on me like a bus would. Hard to breathe.

Quiet morning

Today was Tessa's day to carpool with Audrey and Pascal, so I haven't even left the house.


It's a day to work on the Hunts Point book; I need to get moving on that. It'll feel good to make some progress.

Tessa went to the doctor yesterday for some various aches and pains that wouldn't go away. I had hesitated to take her, as she appeared healthy to me, but she'd been complaining for some time and actually asked to go to the doc. Since I want to respect her, and trust her about her body, I went. The diagnosis? Growing pains.

And speaking of growing: Tessa is in the 35th percentile for weight, and 53rd for height.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Bargain hunting

I got two pairs of jeans, a pair of tan cords, five sweaters, a hat, and a scarf, for under $30 today. They were all consignment, and they were STEALS. One sweater is 100% cashmere, and neither pair of jeans (Gap and Banana Republic brands) appears to have ever been worn.

Yeah me.

My winter wardrobe was in a sorry state and I was running out of just basic stuff to wear each day, so this will energize me significantly. My jeans were just faded and looking nasty, and I needed something more substantial than t-shirts, which is what I've been wearing non-stop. And my favorite Old Navy sweater is faded and looks terrible - definitely seen better days and time to disappear.

The hat and scarf are for Tessa. But I'm just thrilled to have what feels like a whole new "everyday" wardrobe. (My special occassion stuff is good to go - I have dresses, heels,'s the everyday stuff I needed.)

Ryan is working a zillion hours each week right now, and Tessa and I miss him. Hopefully things will ease up SOON because this is getting crazy!

Monday, November 10, 2008


Okay, this is pretty funny as a concept, but it's also remarkably interesting.

You take a quiz with 20 questions, and then it tells you what faith/religion most closely suits your viewpoints; there are 26 religions to chose from on their list.

Try it - and I'm VERY interested to learn what it says, so if you'd like to share, I'm interested.

I was a little concerned that I wouldn't get a good UU score - what would that mean? - but I needn't have worried. 100% UU here.

Here are my top ten:
Your Results
The top score on the list below represents the faith that Belief-O-Matic, in its less than infinite wisdom, thinks most closely matches your beliefs. However, even a score of 100% does not mean that your views are all shared by this faith, or vice versa.
Belief-O-Matic then lists another 26 faiths in order of how much they have in common with your professed beliefs. The higher a faith appears on this list, the more closely it aligns with your thinking.
How did the Belief-O-Matic do? Discuss your results on our message boards.
Unitarian Universalism (100%)
Liberal Quakers (95%)
Neo-Pagan (88%)
New Age (83%)
Mahayana Buddhism (82%)
Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (81%)
Secular Humanism (80%)
Taoism (79%)
Theravada Buddhism (70%)
New Thought (69%)

The Monday Scramble

The house is a mess, the laundry needs folding, a book needs writing, food needs planning....and it's Monday morning.

Tessa is at school today, and Shep and I went for a lovely walk on Alki, so the day started "right." Now, I'm trying to keep momentum and go.....

Friday, November 07, 2008

Unexpected Free Day

I had set aside today on my calendar to help a friend paint her newly remodeled home before her baby arrives, but there was a change in plans (sick hubby - uh oh! - let's hope that the little one doesn't decide to come while Dad has the flu!) and suddenly I find myself with a clear calendar.

Oh. My. God.

I was very excited to help my friends, and I will do so on another day (possibly even tomorrow), but I can not begin to tell you what a gift a free day is. I've been running here and there, and I think I've started running in circles. I haven't had time to sit and think about what's important, and what's a priority, and what can wait, so I've been more reactive than proactive. I can't stand reactive mode - it's not my best, and things slip away that should be priorities, and somehow I get less efficient at just about everything, and too many things feel partially done and disorganized.

So, the first order of the day is to get my head in gear; to sit down and think about these things, and to come up with a plan. And oh, do I ever love having a plan.

Time to get busy!

Halloween Pictures

Plus one of Mozart, because he's mentioned that he's feeling overshadowed by the dog and he wanted to point out that he is a Very Handsome Cat.

Better late than never!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

President Obama

Today I woke up so filled with hope, with joy, with gratitude. I am optimistic that America is learning that racism is foolish, and that we can start to undo the damage done for so many generations. I am optimistic that America has voted for peace, for integrity, for compassion for those less fortunate. I am filled with optimism. This election wasn't about race, but it sure made a huge statement about it - and that statement makes me so happy.

I do not forget that many people in my life probably woke up with pessimism today because of the election's outcome; John McCain had his share of supporters, too. To those people I will say that I hope that time will show that Obama will speak for you, too, and that time will allow your confidence in him to grow. I hope that you will find peace with our new president, and that your sorrow at McCain's loss will become overshadowed by the future victories of peace, economy, world relations, and other important political topics. I hope that you, too, will find room for hope.

I don't want to gloat. Yes, I'm very happy, and I am filled with feelings of patriotism that I haven't ever felt before. But I hope that there is room in this new vision of America for all people, not just for those who voted for Obama.

And for what it's worth - I thought that McCain's concession speech was powerful, full of integrity, well spoken. He sounded like a man of honor. McCain supporters should be very proud of his behavior last night.


Okay, we don't have real hangovers, but in this house we're all a bit off.

Ryan's got an upset stomach.....and a big presentation at work.

Tessa stayed up late - with her Mama's permission - to watch Obama's acceptance speech, and this morning she woke up early. Uh, oh. This isn't pretty. ;-)

And me? Just dealing with the girl.....

But still walking on air.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

President Obama

I am tearful. Tears of joy.....pure joy.

I've let Tessa stay up late to see our president elect speak. She doesn't truly understand the significance of this historic night, but she will one day be able to tell her grandchildren that she was a part of the excitement.

My president is a black man, a white man. My president was an atheist, is a Christian, loves Muslims. My president is articulate, intelligent, compassionate. My president is Barack Obama and I am so proud of America for voting for him.

I have so much hope. I am so grateful, so filled with hope.

President Obama, I support you. And I am SO HAPPY!

Me in the New York Times (website)


I'm getting OCD about this election business.

1% of precincts reporting. My candidate is not ahead. My head starts to pound.


In the news

I just did a quick news check, and found two references to the bake sale:

The West Seattle Blog has a nice picture of Katie & Linda at their shift at the bake sale, and the King County Elections website has a picture of Katie & me at our bake sale. (And an inaccurate quote, but that's a-okay......well intentioned, I'm sure.)

Election Day!

What's more American than a democratic election?
A bake sale to raise money for schools.
I spent the morning at the Alki Community Center polling station, at a table laden with baked goods baked by Alki Elementary parents. We encouraged people to vote, and then as they came back outside from their vote we encouraged them to buy something sweet to support the Alki PTA.
Maybe one day we'll live in a world where wars are funded by bake sales, and schools are fully funded by taxpayer dollars. Until then....I guess I'll bake! (Organic chocolate chip cookies, thankyouverymuch. Tessa helped, and then we printed red, white, and blue labels and Tessa helped me to bag them up in pairs.)
The atmosphere at our table was festive. We saw young and old, and many people who voted absentee ballot but chose to deliver their ballots to the polling station. We live in a very blue area, and people had a lot of Obama buttons, but we weren't conducting any kind of polls. (It was clear that the bake sale parents were Obama supporters, however.)
The children conducted a mock-election at the school, and it was clear that they had heads filled with thoughts of election day, as well. I heard children calling to each other, "Did you vote for McCain or Obama?" on the playground, and it made my heart sing to think of five year olds who feel involved in the political process. Right now, they are mere reflections of their parents' views, but hopefully they will keep their passion for voting for all of their lives, and continue to participate in the democratic process.
And our house? Well, we'll have the TV on, and the internet right in front of it, as we anxiously watch and await final results. We're having a few neighbors over to share this moment, and we're pot-lucking it.
Tessa and I looked up pictures of Obama's family, and Tessa pointed out that his youngest daughter is not that much older than she is. Tessa wants to write to Sasha and Malia to say how happy she is that they get to live in the white house. I hope that we get to write that letter!
Now, back to obsessively checking the web for early results....

The Day

Well, today is the day - Election 2008.

Last night I baked two batches of cookies, and bagged them in twos and put labels on them. This morning I will be at the Alki polling station, selling cookies to voters to raise money for Alki Elementary. (Alki is connected to the community center, and voting takes place at the community center.) It's raining, so I hope I don't get soaked- boots, umbrellas, and Gore-Tex are the order of the day.

I voted via absentee ballot, and those should have safely arrived at their destinations already. So today, besides selling cookies, all I can do is watch and wait.

A couple of neighbor friends are coming over tonight for dinner to watch the results come in - tonight is dinner in the basement, around the TV. One of Tessa's friends, Elena, will be coming, too, so hopefully the girls can entertain each other to refrain from boredom, because this Mama will be glued to that TV! We have a TV in the family room, and our other TV is in the guest room next door, and I suspect sometimes we'll have them both on, and I'll be on the NYT website, too.

This Obama Mama is hopeful.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Good night, Halloween

Well, another Halloween is put to bed.

Today I went to Alki for the class Halloween party, and Katie talked me into dressing up (okay, it didn't take too much pressure!). I went as a witch, and seeing the delight in Tessa's eyes as I walked in the room made it all the worthwhile. She loves it when Mama's silly!

I spent the hour painting children's faces - lots of cats, butterflies, and spiders. Children came back multiple times, to do the other cheek or a hand - it was very sweet.

Then we had the neighbors over for soup (using pumpkins from Sarah & Steven's yard), and then Elena and Tessa went trick-or-treating.

Lots of stories, but bed was a good day.

This kind of thing keeps me going

A piece of the article:
Mooneyhan is believed by the American Cancer Society to be one of the oldest - if not the oldest - breast cancer survivors in the U.S. At 100, she is inspiring family and friends who marvel at her resilience after being afflicted with a disease whose mortality rate in the 1940s was as high as 50 percent.
Ernest Mooneyhan was 15 when his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1943. He still admires her ability to cope with breast cancer at the young age of 35.
"She's definitely been an inspiration to me," he said.

I like the coincidence of the age at diagnosis; I, too, was 35. I choose to see it as a sign.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


Tessa told me this evening, "Mama, I love you as much as everything in the sky: the sun, the moon, the clouds, and the stars...." and I thought I would melt. What a beautiful image for me to carry with me.

Tonight Tessa and I read, "Mama went to Jail for the Vote" which is about suffragettes - a topical theme this election year. Mid-way through the story, "Mama" has to go to jail for six months. Tessa's face crumpled, and I asked her about her worries. She said that I couldn't ask, that she couldn't say. This is what happens when she is most afraid - it breaks my heart. I tried to talk through her fears, and said that I wasn't going to jail. I jumped to the conclusion of the book, that Mama was released AND that women go the vote. It took a long time to reassure Tessa that I would not steal or hurt people, and that I wouldn't go to jail; that children don't go to jail (not five year olds, anyway) and that she needn't worry. Then we talked about voting, and how it has been legal for women for a long time, and that I've voted lots of times and I never went to jail, because it's okay. Poor kid! I had no idea the trauma that I was causing her with this story, but her imagination ran wild.

I'm grateful for a child with such an imagination, and such compassion, and such love. Most of all, I'm grateful that she let me comfort her even when she couldn't voice her fears. No, most of all, I'm grateful that she loves me so much.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Unsafe candy

I received this information from and thought it worthwhile to pass along. Let's keep our kids safe!

We want to give you a heads up about some Halloween candy that could be bad for kids: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning consumers not to consume White Rabbit Creamy Candy or Koala's March Crème filled Cookies because they may contain melamine. (1) And, the Canadian government is warning the public not to consume Sherwood Brands Pirate's Gold Milk Chocolate Coins, which may also have reached the U.S. (2)
What's wrong with these candies? You've likely heard about the dangerous chemical, melamine, which was recently found in the Chinese milk supply and sickened thousands of children in China. We've now seen reports that melamine tainted milk has been used in some Chinese candy products that have been shipped to the United States. (3)
The good news is that Chinese candy makes up only 0.7% of the candy sold in the U.S. (4) and the risk of serious harm from minor exposure to melamine is considered low by the World Health Organization (5). That said, we wanted to send this out to you because we don't want our kids eating candy with any toxic ingredients.
*Please forward this email to friends, family, and your school email list so all can be on the lookout for this tainted candy on Halloween. (And, if you're not already a member of MomsRising, please sign on now so we can keep you informed:
MomsRising has created a page where you can easily share this information with friends, as well as see pictures of the tainted candies, get more information, and download a flyer that you can post on your school or other community bulletin boards.
See the Tainted Candy Pictures, Get the Flyer & Tell Friends Here:
Enjoy a safe and happy Halloween,
--Joan, Kristin, Katie and the Team
2. Here's the Canadian government's warning: The Vancouver Globe and Mail: And an article in the Chicago Tribune:
3. From Consumer Reports:, and Candy problem verified on Snopes:
5. "Consumers exposed to tiny amounts of melamine shouldn't worry, says Angelika Tritscher of the World Health Organization. 'Melamine at low doses is actually not considered to be very toxic.'" Quote from:

And some recent press coverage: