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:

Living on a budget

It will be no surprise to anyone who has ever lived on a budget that it is not fun to live on a budget.

On many levels, I do not like living on a budget. It's annoying at best; I find it frustrating and difficult.

But we're doing it. We really are doing it, and we have a plan to get out of medical and credit card debt and live a debt free (except the mortgage, which has a good rate and is 30 year fixed, so we've got that in our favor) life, and I am holding that goal close to my heart. I know that we can make some fabulous inroads on our finances, and that we can accomplish our goals. That is why our budget is a worthwhile venture....even when I'm not enjoying it.

A case in point? I want to go grocery shopping today, but it's not in the budget, so I'm not. This means that I have to eat the cereal that's left, and not the cereal that we just ran out of. This means that we HAVE to eat the salmon that I purchased at Trader Joe's, because we're running out of other options. This means that tonight or tomorrow we need to have frozen (gasp!) green beans as our vegetable, because we're running low on fresh veggies. This means that we can not have cheese and crackers as a snack, because I just ate the last crackers. This means that we will be eating apples, apples and more apples because that's the only fruit left in the bowl (no more bananas or pears). Tessa won't get "Mama's oatmeal" tomorrow because today we used up the rest of the maple syrup (she'll get scrambled eggs and toast, or cereal, or yogurt and fruit, instead....or she could have traditional oatmeal with milk and brown sugar and raisens).

When I put it like that, it's the abundance that I see - the fact that we still have so much left in the cupboard, that we have plenty to eat, that our choices are not just rice and beans. Still, it's an adjustment to live within a budget, and to not just pop in to the grocery store the minute that I want something different.

So, I'm putting crackers, and maple syrup, and bananas on the grocery list, and on Friday (next day of the budget cycle) I'll go shopping.

It's funny how budgets boil down like this - the way to get ahead is to eat the apples, instead of buying more bananas. Huh. Put like that, I think I can do it.

Even when I'm craving a banana.

I feel comfort knowing that if I *needed* to go grocery shopping, I could. I take comfort that I'm making a choice: I am choosing to live withing a budget rather than break the budget and buy some items I want. I'm also learning to redefine wants and needs: we do not need maple syrup when we run out of it, we want it. I also think that as I get better at this budget game, I'll learn not to run out of maple syrup....but I guess I'm not there yet.

It is interesting to me that at the age of 39 I'm finally facing true budgeting, and I'm realizing how easy I've had it for most of my adult life. Still, I'm eager to face this challenge and to rise to it, no matter how late of a bloomer I may be.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Lost iPod, or, Good deed gone awry

Today I decided that Shep and I needed some exercise, and since I needed a lemon for tonight's dinner recipe, I decided to walk to Thriftway. On the corner of Graham and California (a relatively busy intersection) I saw two large Newfoundland dogs come sauntering toward me, without a leash. They crossed the busy road to visit with Shep (who was on his leash), and I was able to grab one of them, and take my iPod phones out of my ears, find my cellphone in my purse, and call the number on the tag to locate the owner. The dog didn't like me holding her, so she barked at Shep and I, and it was a bit chaotic.

Anyway, the two dogs didn't want me to restrain them, so they took off at a good pace down the street. I followed them, trying to keep them off the road, and trying to keep Shep (who was pretty excited by all of this) under control until the owner arrived.

The dogs were eventually reunited with their owner, and all is well.


Except that somewhere in the shuffle my iPod disappeared. I combed the streets/alley with a kind neighbor, Lesley, who appeared to help, but it was gone without a trace.


We are watching our budget, and an iPod is a luxury item, and this was already a replacement for the unfortunate incident involving broccoli soup, the washing machine, and my previous iPod, so I don't see a replacement soon. I am so totally bummed by this it makes me really grumpy! I didn't want to go for a walk, I still feel kind of sick, and this was my reward for walking the dog and doing a good deed. I've grown super-fond of listening to podcasts and relaxing to music when walking, or running with fast music; the iPod is a good companion, and I'm really going to miss it.

I know, the good deed is supposed to make me feel good but I feel petulant and frustrated more than sweet and kind. Bah humbug.

Anyway, if anyone finds a white iPod Nano in the vicinity of California and Graham, I'd love to be reunited with it....

PollyAnna and The Curmudgeon

Yesterday I had my weekly appointment with a therapist. I perceive her a wise woman; she knows the right questions to ask. I talk a lot more than she does, but I still find myself having revelations in her office.

We're spending a lot of time figuring out how I feel about cancer. You'd think, after all of my ramblings here, I'd have a lot more figured out than I do. But I don't.

We discussed how I'd spent two years telling everyone that I was fine, that I didn't need help, that it would be okay. And we discussed my breakdown last October as the turning point for acknowledging that no, I am not fine.

And I don't know how to describe what comes after the turning point. Before, it was PollyAnna, pure and simple. Now? Every ache and pain sends a solid message to my brain: cancer did this to you. I can't open a jar? Because cancer took away my upper body strength. I wake up aching? Cancer did that. I have cavaties? Cancer. I have trouble sleeping? Cancer. My bones ache like an old lady, I'm covered in scars, I can't lift my arm up....Cancer, cancer, cancer. I hear how much it has taken away from me, how I'm old before my time, how things hurt that shouldn't. I see how damaged I am, body and psyche....

And I don't know what to do with it.

I mean, PollyAnna is highly overrated, but now I feel like the other end of the spectrum. I feel curmudgeonly - and that is NOT how I want to be.

So I'm working on finding that middle ground. The one where I can acknowledge that it's not okay that cancer continues to rob me of so much on a daily basis....but where I can let it go, and not allow those thoughts to take over with a little refrain that repeats itself in the back of my mind all day every day.

I'm starting to understand just how profound it was when Buddha proclaimed that it was "the middle way." It's so much easier said than done!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Good news!

Well, I'm completely surprised, but....

I am back to being a paid writer! The Hunts Point book got funding after all, and I'm off and running.


Question for other breast cancer survivors

I posted this on the YSC boards, but who knows, maybe somebody out there in internet land can help me.

I opted for an oopharectomy and AIs (aromatase inhibitors) to fight my highly ER+ breast cancer. I started Femara in February 2006, after chemo while I was still in radiation, and I took it for two years. At the two year mark, the joint pain had become truly debilitating - I was having trouble holding a pen, getting out of bed, etc., and I was in a lot of pain. So, last February (2008) I switched from Femara to another AI, Aromasin. The side effects disappeared, and I felt relieved to be in the clear.

However, the side effects are back, and with a vengeance. Putting my feet on the floor in the morning is a painful experience. My hands ache, ache, ache and are losing strength. I'm a "fumblefingers" because I can't move fast enough and I drop things all the time. The joint or bone pain is getting serious.

The recommendation is a minimum five years of AIs, and there is talk in the medical community of ten years. That seems pretty difficult at this point in my treatment - I honestly don't know if I can do it, yet I feel that I must.

Has anyone made multiple switches of AIs? What risks are associated with switching AIs? Do they lose efficacy if one switches within the five year course of treatment?

And how do others manage the pain and manage to stay the course of treatment? Does anything help? I'm so leery of adding medication because I'm so aware of side effects, and because I've taken SO many meds already that I know I'm messing up my body...but is there an effective option?

Can anyone empathize? Any advice? Anyone?

And before you say it - yes, these are questions for my oncologist. I'm seeing her next month, and I'll ask her then. But I'm looking for the word on the street, out here in internet land, too. My onc has told me that if there are quality of life issues I have her permission to go off the drugs, but I don't want to do that. The AIs are part of how I can sleep at night, whether that makes sense or not.

Help! Thank you.

Lousy patient

You'd think that having 42 trips to the infusion ward, 33 radiation treatments, and 9 surgeries would make me a really good patient. I don't think so.

I have a cold or a sinus infection or some other minor nastiness. I feel like crud, my mouth tastes bad, my head throbs, my mind is full of cobwebs, and I feel achy. And instead of having perspective on this and thinking, "You know, I'm just so grateful to have a mundane illness with very little risk that today is still a great day!" but I'm not that wise. Instead, I feel grouchy and irritated and irritable.

Part of it is "C'mon! I had cancer! I'm still in treatment! Gimme a break!" and some of it is just that I feel crummy.

Anyway, it's not the end of the world and it will get better. Yesterday, I canceled my plans to have family over for dinner and I didn't go to church and I just sat on my rear end. Today I got Tessa to school, but I'm clearing the calendar again. I'll put away laundry, and I'll do some minor chores, but I think mostly I'll sit around feeling sorry for myself. Or not - I haven't decided. But I am going to take it easy.

I hope that you're having a healthy day.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


Tessa at the Alki Harvest Festival, wearing her Pegasus-Unicorn-Pony costume. She asked that I carve a horse and a bat on the pumpkin - yikes! I managed, but just barely. (But I can't tell her "I'm just not that creative!" because if she said that to me I'd pooh-pooh her and tell her that she needed to try, so I have to follow my own advice. How can I expect her to be confident and to take risks and laugh at herself if I can't do the same? The added benefit of this parenting philosophy is that I'm discovering more creativity in myself than I previously knew about....and I'm learning to laugh at myself when my creations flop.) The Royal Surfaces! Despite Tessa's first desire to be a pony, she reverted at the last minute to her desire to be a princess. Tessa is wearing a Snow Princess (self-named) costume, and her royal escorts are with her. Ryan is wearing his tuxedo shirt, vest, and tie from when we were married - and he's got a lovely brooch that I usually wear on my jacket at Christmastime. I'm wearing a dress I got years ago for a Murder Mystery dinner that was themed and in costume. If they had a group costume category, I'm sure we would have won. (wink)

And here we are, up close... Might I add that Tessa's crown squeezed my brain!

Earlier in the month, at the pumpkin patch...

Ahhhh - finally a moment when our daughter was looking at the camera! She loves to make the most outrageous, awful camera smiles, and it's hard to get a good picture of her as a result.

I really love Halloween. I love the chance to be a bit creative, to play a role that I otherwise wouldn't play, to dress up and be silly. I love the Hisatomi Halloween party, where there is lots of great food, fabulous people, and fun. I love going out to the pumpkin patch on a crisp fall day, getting muddy feet, and searching for the perfect pumpkin. (This year, our pumpkin is ENORMOUS - chosen by Tessa, of course.) I love coming up with fun pumpkin designs that reflect whatever mood we're in that year. I love facing our fears and laughing at them (which is what I believe all of the ghoulish things are about: confronting our fear of dying, and facing it). I know that some people feel that it's not a nice holiday, and I understand that there is room for more than one perspective....but I'm not worried about Halloween because to me it's not about being unkind, it's about facing fears, and having fun with friends. Our grown up lives are often so serious that I appreciate the opportunity to relax and be silly with the kids.
The top costume of the night was Joe Six-Pack - in this political year, it was a great commentary. One of the guests came in with a mullet wig, dressed like a laborer, with a twelve-pack of Rainier Beer on his shoulder. He was the hands-down winner in the adult costume contest, and got a lot of great laughs. The children's costume prize went to a darling little toddler in a woodland fairy outfit - she looked like a storybook picture. The other children's prize went to Yoda, who was pretty darn realistic looking.
I held it together last night until about 7, at which point my sinus infection kicked in and demanded that I go home immediately. Here I still sit, even as church is starting. :-( Ryan and Tessa went to church, but my germs and I are at home sulking. Wahhhh!
Wishing all of you a great day...


I am at home feeling crummy. I have a sinus infection, and my head is stuffed up and foggy.


I'm in my bathrobe with a box of tissues. Whatta way to spend a day.

Undecided? Curious? Election 2008

My blog is not a political one, but in these last days before the election, it's impossible for me not to think about politics a lot more than usual.

Instead of stumping for my candidate (Go Obama!), I thought I'd be a bit more thoughtful and throw out some resources to people who aren't sure of the issues, or who have questions, or who are trying to figure out what is candidate spin and what is real. It's easier said than done, isn't it?

Here are some resources:
This is a blind survey, which lists each candidates views on various issues, and you check whether you agree, disagree, etc. with each viewpoint, without specifics on whether it's McCain's viewpoint of Obama's viewpoints. At the end, you get a score for each candidate, and you can determine which candidate most speaks for your viewpoint. It's truly bipartisan - it doesn't use negative or positive language for either viewpoint, it just summarizes what the candidates themselves have said in each of five areas.
This website analyses the candidates' claims, and debunks what is real and what is not. All that negative campaigning is hard to sift through - what is real and what is false? This is a bipartisan website that researches the claims on both sides and presents the truth.
I've recently discovered this website, and I love it. It appears to be bipartisan - it doesn't hesitate to rake either candidate over the coals, and that's what I need! It has more information than, and that's good because my only complaint on FactCheck is that it doesn't have everything.

And then there are always the candidates themselves. If you can sift through the spin, you can at least find out what they are saying, and see their promises as they state them, not as their opponents state them.
These are the two official sites. Beware of posers! Independent people have websites up representing either candidate, so make sure you know where your information is coming from.

This afternoon Ryan and I are going to go through our voter pamphlets and fill in our absentee ballots and deliver them safely to the post office mailbox. VOTE! This election matters. It's important that your viewpoint is heard - and I mean that, even if your viewpoint is different than mine. Vote!