Thursday, May 20, 2010

New chapter, new book

I am approaching my Cancerversary. It has been nearly five years since I found that little lump that changed everything; nearly five years since I got the phone call that confirmed that my life (and body) would never be the same.

When I was first diagnosed, five years felt like a magical number, and sort of mythical. How would I make it? I figured, back then, that if I was lucky enough to make five years, I'd certainly have acquired some sage-like wisdom. I thought I'd have it all figured out.

Naive. Very naive.

Five years out, and I'm still learning so much about myself, my body, my life, my feelings, my family, my friends, my world. I have more questions than answers, and I'm not a sage of any variety. I have not become enlightened, I have not learned how to focus only on what's important, I have not learned how to avoid frustration at small things because I have dealt with such large things.

And yet.... I have learned a great deal. How could I not, in five years of intense living? For five years, I've walked on a tightrope, with surgeries and drugs and treatment reminding me, and my body's own problems shouting at me - there had to be some lessons in there, and I hope that I have learned them well. I am nowhere near the top of the mountain, but in my meanderings, I've learned a few things, and I hold those lessons near and dear, hoping that I won't have to relearn them.

I am stronger than I ever knew possible. I am no longer afraid of pain - I don't exactly embrace it, but I know how to deal with it. I know that it passes.

I am blessed with amazing people. My family - birth and chosen - and friends are really the greatest gifts of my life. I hope that I honor them in the way that they have honored me.

I am still social, and have many outgoing qualities, but I am also an introvert. Realizing this is a huge "aha!" moment in my life that explains a lot about me. I treasure my alone time, and I am better learning how to use it. Walks on beaches or in forests, time alone with a book, or working in my Dreamery all fill my soul in a way that a crowd of people could never do. But come and sit with me, just one or two of you, and I'm filled, as well. I need to find balance in this, but knowing what I'm looking for is at least half of that solution.

I am a deeply spiritual person. Finding a faith community has been so important to me, and I'm not sure that it came out of having cancer, but certainly out of becoming a wiser version of myself. Having rituals like candle lighting, or singing of hymns, or listening to wise sermons, fills my soul and reminds me of why I am here.

I need poetry and art in my life.

I always was, and always will be, a nature girl. It is necessary to remember that in order for my survival.

I need to put my hands in the earth and grow things.

I need to live my values, whether that is in parenting, or environment, or creativity. I need to identify what I value, and live it fully. There is no cheating with this - even when the world doesn't notice, I notice it in myself. I'm not talking about being honest or being nice (although those are excellent values that I share), I'm talking deeper. Standing up for what is right, showing compassion to those who do not seem deserving of it. Doing what I love in the way I love even when the world thinks I'm crazy.

Being Ryan's wife is a blessing. We have weathered some seemingly impossibly hard times, and there was a time where I really couldn't see the way out, and my heart was broken in millions of pieces. Together, he and I have gotten wiser as we've gotten older, and we belong together.

Tessa is the greatest gift of my life. My dreamy child, who constantly has dirt under her fingernails, who laughs and cries with ease, who surprises me with both her thoughtfulness and her absentmindedness. My girly girl companion at tea parties, my art museum friend, my seashell finder, my picnic mate, my hiker. We drive each other crazy pretty frequently, but when it comes down to it, she gives me the strength to stay alive when nothing else could. She is a gift, and I don't know how I ever got so lucky that I could become her mother.

I must write.

I am constantly seeking what Thoreau so famously wrote about:

“I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately, I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, To put to rout all that was not life and not when I had come to die Discover that I had not lived.”

I'm getting better at living. I will not run away to the woods (and I don't think that my mother will volunteer to do my laundry so that I can do so!) like Thoreau, I will take that harder path, and try to live my truth in the middle of a busy world with so many demands in it. I will Live. I will be deliberate. I will find joy, and I will cry when it's time to cry. I will count my blessings daily, and I will not forget to gasp with delight when I find the perfect shell.

I write today from my dreamery, surrounded by seashells and candles and a cup of hot tea and a cat curled up on the chair. My vision board has the word "Happier" in the middle of it, and that is what I am working on. Deep, meaningful happiness, encompassing all that I believe in.

It is a lifelong task, and I hope that I am given a long life to work on it.

And with that, it is time to close this blog. It has been a marvelous tool for my healing, and I am deeply grateful to each of my readers for following me along this crooked path, for cheering me on, for hoping and praying for me, for crying with me, for celebrating with me.

There is no "done" in cancer, but this chapter is closing. I am entering a new phase of my life, and I wish to write "for real" and I wish to spend more time living and less time doing things that I once associated with cancer. Many people keep cancer blogs and then leave them after about a year, and I took five. Perhaps I'm a slow learner, but that's okay. It's on my own time, and I know when the time is right.

The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” - Eleanor Roosevelt

My dreams are beautiful, and I am passionate about living them. I do not know what the future holds, but I am hopeful.

I will see you out there in life, living. Adieu!

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Morning stretch

Today, West Seattle is sunny, with a prediction of sun all weekend. Ahhhhhhh.

This morning, our family will do some chores, including re-securing Tessa's beloved swingset with concrete. (She often uses it for an hour a day - what a fabulous investment!) I'm going to see if we still have that old clothesline pole, too, because if we're mixing concrete for the swingset, why not put the pole up and start using it at the same time. It's something I've been meaning to do for ages, anyway. There's nothing like sun and wind dried clothes - especially bedding. They smell fresh and fantastic, and the reduced energy usage makes me happy as well.

And then, we're heading to the beach. I want to share my recent beach experiences with my family, and climbing around on rocks and looking at sea creatures and hunting for seashells is definitely my cup of tea. This is my choice of Mother's Day activities for myself; family time in nature. Tomorrow we'll go to church and to a family barbeque, and both will be wonderful, but I wanted to make sure we got some play time just the three of us as well.

Happy weekend, everyone.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Seashells II

Today I went back to the same beach at the same time, but the tide was farther out. I took my time, climbed on the rocks, laughed at some beautiful shorebirds who were creating a ruckus, and continued my quest for the perfect seashell.

Thankfully, once again I did not find what I was looking for, so I will have to go back soon. But I did find a perfect silver dollar sized sand dollar unexpectedly, and a perfect little clam shell just the size of my thumbnail, both halves intact. I also found a corked wine bottle floating at the edge, and so I retrieved it and looked for a note inside, but alas, it was empty. It did make me consider sending a note out to sea myself, though. What would my note say?

This afternoon is chores, chores, and more chores, and I'd rather sleep. But my morning on a beach was just what I needed.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010


I am re-reading Anne Morrow Lindbergh's "A Gift From the Sea" right now. Actually, I just finished it, and I plan to re-re-read it, because it is speaking to me so deeply and profoundly.

I don't want to write a book review here, but if you are a woman who is seeking balance in her life, and you're finding yourself running around like mad, and you wonder how life got this crazy, then this book is like a soft breeze from the ocean. It was just what I needed. It has nothing saccharine about it, and it manages to be deeply philosophical and restful at the same time.

The book is infiltrating my dreams, and the dreams are beautiful. In these dreams, I'm running on beaches, discovering beautiful shells, walking alone in the beauty of a beach day. Most of my dreams this year have been nightmares, and this is a gift like I can not describe.

This morning, I took Shep for an overdue walk (when I have surgery the poor boy is neglected), and headed to a favorite beach of mine. I tied Shep up (no dogs on beaches in Seattle was a good excuse for the true solitude; he could see me from where he was), and walked on the beach by myself for fifteen minutes, looking for shells. I found all kinds of lovely bits to take home with me, but not the exact shell that I was looking for. This is excellent, because it will remind me to keep looking for it.

I found a tidepool with two small sea anenomes, green fingers outstretched, and a hermit crab in a beautiful shell beside them. The beach had waves of red seaweed on it, and the color contrast was just so striking. I found two perfect white stones.

My to do list is as long as ever. Laundry is perpetual. I've already done the Tessa routine, and gone grocery shopping, and put things away, and made myself lunch. I'm still deeply tired, and in a few weeks if I'm not well then we will start exploring chronic fatigue syndrome - there must be SOME reason that I'm so wiped out. The garden calls, and the house needs dusting, and so on and so on.

But I am taking more time for myself. Walking Shep was good, but walking by myself on a beach is better. Like Lindbergh says, the shells are a reminder of my true self. I am the girl who walks on empty beaches.

I'm doing my old bedtime rituals again, too. Hot baths, candles, herbal tea, poetry. I love to fluff up my pillow, put on pretty pajamas, and crawl into bed an hour before I intend to fall asleep. Books, classical music (I'm particularly into Beethoven right now), poetry. And sometimes, just silence, and watching the candle flicker.

I plan to spend my life looking for seashells.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Catching my breath

Today I'm trying to catch my breath. My friend Laurie treated me to a lovely pedicure, and I felt pampered and spoiled, and now my toes look pretty. (We just need to warm up the weather so that I can show them off in open toed shoes.) I'm changing sheets, doing laundry, and generally trying to catch up on some of what I feel behind on.

And I'm catching my breath. I'm still very tired, and my neck gets so very achy in the afternoons, but I can manage these things. It could have been so different for me, and I know it. Actually, I know it very well. A "breast cancer friend" is experiencing a new mets diagnosis right now, and my heart is broken for her. This disease never stops.

In perhaps good news for me, I just saw this article:
I had two kinds of cancer: DCIS and IDC. My DCIS took up 10cm of my breast, and the IDC was in three tumors sized 2.1, 1.5, and .2 cm. I've always considered this a negative in my prognosis - as if one tumor wasn't enough, I had four, and two types - but this new research says that maybe it improves my prognosis somehow. Is it a correlation, because I didn't qualify for a lumpectomy? Is it some other thing? I do not know, but it gives me a bit more hope.

I have lots of catching up to do in my life, lots of thinking about life itself, and it is an honor to be granted that opportunity. To explore, to think, to plan.

I'm working on my best life now.

Friday, April 30, 2010


Just got the good news - ready to celebrate!

Huge sigh of relief. :-)


I woke up today feeling human.

And optimistic.

Oh, how I have missed my optimism.

My thyroid meds might be working, I might get excellent news from pathology, and I might be able to move on with the business of living.

Today, I am embracing life and tossing the painkillers - the pain is to quite manageable levels and in the afternoon when it flares I'm going to take Motrin instead of the dizzy-inducing meds that were prescribed.

Carpe diem, family and friends. And my greatest love to all of you for loving me.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

A mother's care

Today I am the recipient of my mom's care. In addition to vacuuming and putting away dishes she is currently on a run to pick me up some won ton soup.

Best of all is just having her here, telling me that she loves me, and supporting me.

I'm doing okay, up and down still but in the expected way. A little burst of energy and the thought "oh good I'm better already!" followed by "ohhh I'm a bit dizzy and I think I'll sit down again..."

Lots more herbal tea, wearing my favorite pajamas.

No news from the doctor yet, and not expecting anything 'til tomorrow at earliest.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Home from surgery

Things looked good, so I'm relieved, but also awaiting the final pathology.

Uncomfortable and groggy but glad to be home. Thank you for your continued well wishes.

Grateful for my friends and family.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Surgery tomorrow

Well, I had an eventful morning! I met with the new neck surgeon (my surgeon from September is apparently in the Army, and he is serving in Afghanistan right now - please send him kind thoughts and prayers) and we talked about my lumpy nodes.

There is no way to tell if they are benign or malignant without removing them. After debating pros and cons, discussing medical history, and evaluating risks, we decided to remove them. The surgeon thinks they'll be benign, but there is only one way to tell. I am scheduled for surgery at Swedish tomorrow to have them removed.

It's a short surgery, out-patient. I'll be home in the afternoon.

I must get my head around this....yikes. I'm glad to put it behind me. I am starting to believe that it will be benign, that I will wake up with this chapter closed and a new - HEALTHY - one begun.

Continued thoughts, prayers, and white light are appreciated. Thank you!

Thank you to my team - you know who you are. Heather for driving me today, Laurie for taking Tessa early and getting her to school.....and everyone who has promised to help. I could never do this alone, and I am so grateful to all of you.

Monday, April 26, 2010

A long day

Today was filled with surprises.

I started the day not too anxious about my doctor's appointment - I knew my thyroid numbers, and now it was just time to correct them.

Surprise, surprise. The doctor felt my neck, and was concerned about a nodule on one side. We had a brief discussion about thyroid cancer. Immediate scans necessary. Next week? No, I can't wait that long. Today? Yes. And schedule a needle biopsy for tomorow - oh boy.

So I waited around, walked around Capitol Hill, and then spent a good part of the afternoon on the ultrasound table, craning my neck at unnatural angles.

The result? Hashimoto's thyroiditis, NOT thyroid cancer. Revised medication,a nd a follow up appointment. Canceling tomorrow's thyroid biopsy.

And this was supposed to be the easy day, but I'm exhausted.

Tomorrow I will meet with the neck surgeon to discuss my "real" problem of neck lumps. Let's hope it goes smoother, but ends just as well.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Winding down the weekend

This afternoon I feel so tired that it's like I took a sleeping pill. What's up with that?

I did what I am calling "cleaning therapy" at our new church today. A scrub brush and a bottle of (home made/green) cleaning stuff and I was off and going. I understand that at some ashrams in India the people scrub floors for hours a day, and while I wouldn't want to do that full time, there is indeed something to it.

(Meanwhile, at my own house, balls of dog hair are rolling around like tumbleweeds.)

I'm not tired because of the work, though, I'm just tired. All this worrying and waiting simply wears me out.

But on to happier things...
Our new church makes me happy. Tall windows, light streaming in. High ceilings. Rooms for the children to play safely. Places to put up children's artwork. A lovely office with a view of the water for Rev. Peg, and another for Shannon and Kari (RE). Spaces for groups to meet, spaces for parties, spaces for intimate chats, spaces for quiet contemplation.

I sat in the sanctuary today and reveled in it. Despite the mustard color on the walls and the faded pink carpet and the laminate pews....I fell in love. I see light, space, community, not bad paint. (Although I have volunteered to paint - trust me, mustard is not my color.)

There is a lot of work to do before we get to move in to our new building, and the first services will not be until September. The anticipation is lovely.

Our new church home

WSUU has OFFICIALLY purchased a building, and I'm so happy about it. This morning we can't go to services to share the excitement because Ryan's on a bike ride and Tessa is dealing with a stomach bug :-( but this afternoon I'm going to attend the cleaning party. The West Seattle Blog article has lots of pictures and is (as usual) a well written article, so check it out.

And me? I'm doing a bit better than the rest of the week. Still scared, but my optimism is returning and I am grateful for that. I didn't even take a Xanax yesterday.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Inability to sleep

I have been up for a couple of hours now.

This is not a good thing.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Lump appointment

1) Still have lumps, no changes. The onc's gut says that everything is fine, but we of course are following up. I have an appointment with a neck surgeon on Tuesday morning to discuss scans, surgery, or ?? (Boy do I hope that he's got something wonderful behind door number three. I am sick of scans, worried about all the radiation I keep receiving, and more-than-tired of surgery.) I just want this done with QUICKLY. I'm tired of living in anxiety-land.

2) My thyroid levels are way, way, way off. I've been hypo thyroid since 1989 and I get tested every few months, but something radical has changed and now I'm hyperthyroid and my test results are wacky. Apparently, in addition to other things, this can cause anxiety. So, I'm not crazy for feeling crazy. I'm to go off my thyroid meds immediately and I have an appointment with an endocrinologist on Monday morning. This is not related to the lumps in any way, but an incidental finding from my blood work.

I am grateful for girlfriends who hold my hand through these appointments. This is not fun.

I am grateful for all of you here, too. Thank you for caring about me.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Feeding Ourselves and Our Children

I'm distracting myself - let's see if it works.

Today I read this in the New York Times:
and this:

I find the comments on such articles as interesting as the articles themselves. I recognize that the NYT is more elitist than not, so it's not a cross section of America, but it's a starting place.

It is no surprise to me that I fall on the far end of the food debate. I'm not the most extreme (yes, Tessa knows what Oreos are, and she loves them, and I let her eat other peoples houses) but I'm towards that end. No surprise to anyone who knows me, and I know my own biases.

What I am saddened by is that more people do not share these biases.

What's my main food philosophy? I'll take the words from Michael Pollan: Eat foods. Mostly plants. Not too much.

I think that this applies quadruply to children. Just watching how Tessa grows, both physically, intellectually, and emotionally, lets me know that he body is undergoing incredible changes and needs all the support it can get. Not only is she developing habits to last her a lifetime, she is developing a body to last her a lifetime. I take that pretty seriously: it is my job to give her the best body I can.

There are so many components to nutrition that I worry about, including ethical sourcing of food, organic, and the like. But even more important that that, I think is that she needs to eat food. Not food like substances, but real food.


I recently stopped buying Kashi TLC crackers. I have liked them for years - they taste good, they have whole grains in them, they're high in fiber. But looking further at their ingredients:
Unbleached Wheat Flour, Kashi Seven Whole Grain and Sesame Flour (Whole: Oats, Hard Red Winter Wheat, Rye, Long Grain Brown Rice, Triticale, Barley, Buckwheat, Sesame Seeds), Expeller Pressed Sunflower Oil, Evaporated Cane Juice, Toasted Whole Wheat, Toasted Sesame Seeds, Wehat Bran, Contains two percent or less of Brown Rice Syrup, Stone Ground Whole Wheat Flour, Sea Salt, Malt Extract, Yellow Corn Meal, Millet, Onion Powder, Horseradish Powder, Rice Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Natural Leavenings (Potassium Bicarbonate, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Monocalcium Phosphate), Whey
...makes me question.

The very first ingredient is processed flour. The grains are good (and what drew me to the crackers in the first place). Evaporated cane juice is just sugar, so is brown rice syrup. More research:
Not harmful, but doesn't exactly come across like health food.

And what is sodium acid pyrophosphate?
Or monocalcium phosphate?
The first line for the wikipedia definition of monocalcium phosphate reads:
Monocalcium phosphate is a chemical compound with the formula Ca(H2PO4)2. It is commonly found as the monohydrate, Ca(H2PO4)2·H2O.

Okay, seriously? Is that what I want to eat? Is this food, or a food-like-substance? Why does "health food" need chemicals in it?

I used to eat Luna bars. Here is the ingredients list for Nutz Over Chocolate:
LunaPro (TM) (soy rice crisp [soy protein isolate, rice flour], organic oats, organic soy flour, organic roasted soybeans, organic milled flaxseed), brown rice syrup, Coating (organic evaporated cane juice, palm kernel oil, cocoa, inulin, soy lecithin, natural vanilla), vegetable glycerin, organic peanut butter, inulin, peanut flour, natural flavors, sea salt, geen tea extract.Vitamins & Minerals: calcium carbonate, dicalcium phosphate, magnesium oxide, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), alpha-tocophero
Now, let me go to the kitchen to whip some of those up. Where is my soy protein isolate? And my inulin? (What is inulin, anyway?) And glycerin? (Oh, I have glycerin. In the bathroom. It's called SOAP.)

This list makes me lose my appetite.

Feeding myself is complicated enough. I aim for a mainly plant based diet, with occassional ethically sourced, sustainably raised meat. I hope to eat mostly whole grains, unprocessed foods. I shop at "healthy" grocery stores, and I try to stick to the health foods aisles. Kashi and Clif (the manufacturer of Luna bars) are actually among the higher-scoring companies for healthy items, and if you ask me, they're falling short. I can't count on the "healthy" companies to take care of me.

But throw the likes and dislikes of a seven year old into the mix, and it's much, much harder.

Everywhere we go, we see messages about food-like-substances. Cereals, cookies, crackers, bars, and packaged dinners that are designed to be appealing to children. Chicken in the shape of dinosaurs, for example, includes these ingredients:
Chicken breast with rib meat, water, dried whole eggs, seasoning (salt, onion powder, modified corn starch, natural flavor), and sodium phosphates. BREADED WITH: Enriched unbleached wheat flour (enriched with niacin, ferrous sulfate, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), water, dextrose, iodized salt, yellow corn flour, modified corn starch, dried whey, soy flour, sugar, spices, caramel color, garlic powder, methylcellulose, oleoresin paprika, spice extractive. Breading set in vegetable oil.
Of the 23 ingredients listed, only 12 look like real foods to me (and I'm counting water, spices, and oleoresin paprika in there, even though I have no idea what oleoresin means). That means that 11 ingredients aren't even real ingredients....they're food-like substances. And I'm not even getting into ethical sourcing, or organics, or processing.

As a stay at home mom and chief cook at our house, it's pretty hard to compete. Assuming I was willing to make my own chicken nuggets (sounds like a lot of effort for little return) I'm certainly not going to make them shaped like dinosaurs or some other cute creatures (because I'm not sure I could - how do you make chicken do that?). They won't each look like carbon copies of each other, and they won't taste like the ones from the plastic bag in the freezer section; they won't have the same "caramel color". And they won't take 15 minutes in an oven or a blast of the microwave, either - they'd take at least an hour.

But Tessa doesn't see that. She just sees yummy chicken nuggets.

Tessa is more adventurous than many, but she's pretty sick of my cooking. Vegetables? Yuck. Pasta? Okay, but none of your sauce. (The penne with sausage, chard, and zuchinni that I made recently got gagging sounds.) Thai stir fry? Blech. Salad? How about I just pick out the blue cheese.

I'm not giving up, but it is a hard thing to face every day, multiple times per day. Tessa wants peanut butter that doesn't seperate (the natural stuff I buy does; it contains peanuts and salt, and nothing else); compare that to Jif:
And don't get me started on jam.

I'm more attuned to food ingredients than most people, and I struggle. I won't give up, and I'll keep trying to work it out, but I'm constantly tweaking. Just this week I found out (through a friend) that Tillamook ice cream - chosen because they have cows with no growth hormones, and they're local, and they promote their natural flavors - uses corn syrup. Well, cross that one off the list.

No wonder our nation's kids are becoming more and more obese, and with higher rates of type II diabetes. No wonder heart disease is a number one killer. No wonder cancer is so prevelant: we just weren't meant to be eating all of this junk.

I don't want to spend my life in the kitchen, even though I believe that there is honor in it. But feeding myself and my family is a bit like running a gauntlet. I'm managing, and doing relatively well, but it is a challenge that I think our great grandmothers would shake their heads at.

How are you handling feeding your family? What are your solutions for these problems?

That panicky feeling

As my appointment gets closer and closer, I am getting more frightened. It's like all rational thought completely disappears, and leaves in its place a giant black hole.

I started to believe that it was metastacized breast cancer....but I must stop. I will prepare myself for surgery and benign results. Deep breaths...

Today I'm going to do yoga to try to get myself calmer. I'm going to try to push away the fears, to reclaim my thoughts, to visualize my healthy body. Deep breaths...

I would really appreciate your thoughts, prayers, white light, and love right now. Thank you.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


I'm starting to think that now might be a good time to find my therapist's phone number. I haven't been in about a year, but perhaps I should.

I am feeling stuck.

Stuck in Cancerland.

A few weeks ago I found a lump in my neck, not far from where the scar from the August/September 2009 debacle was. I waited a week, and the lump didn't go away. I made an appointment with my oncologist, and she affirmed it: yes, there are lumps. The "big" one that I felt (about the size of my index fingernail) and a few smaller ones. In a chain, probably lymph nodes. Only on one side of my neck. (Not the cancer side, though.)

My doctor is wise, and trustworthy. She suggested that I might have some underlying infection, and that I should take antibiotics to see if that made my nodes return to normal. Because of the r ecent surgery, the anatomy of my nodes might be different; closer to the skin or something - and maybe that is why we could only feel them on one side. She said that she could not tell why they were large - they did not pathologically feel like cancer (not rock hard) but she couldn't say that it wasn't, either. She said "Maybe you just have a squirrely neck" (which Ryan thinks is hysterical; he says I have squirrels in my neck).

I finished the antibiotics several days ago. The lumps are still there.

So now, I have to find the energy to pick up the phone and make follow up appointments with my oncologist and the neck surgeon who operated on me last fall. I need to go see my GP, as well, to discuss my thyroid issues, which may be the source of my fatigue. (I've had thyroid issues for years, and chemo has exacerbated them.) And I really should call the therapist instead of whining here.

Since I entered Cancerland almost five years ago, I have not had a solid six months without problems or surgery or some heinous side effect. Some months have been great, some have been horrid, but it's been a roller coaster. I honestly feel like I haven't had time to catch my breath....for five years.

Five years is a long time to be out of breath, and I'm tired. And feeling very stuck.

Who I want to be: Energetic, grateful, active.
Who I am: Tired, and grateful to be alive but resentful at so much of this trouble. Stuck.

I am optimistic about living a long life. And I am grateful, and happy, for so much. But I want out of Cancerland, right now. Badly. It's a desperate feeling.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


A few weeks ago, I saw a picture in a magazine of a woman's office space. It wasn't a whole room, just a desk at the end of a hall, but it was so feminine and pretty that it simply spoke to me, called to me.

I tore the page out of the magazine and stared at it for some time, returning to it again and again. What was it that it said to me? Why was I so drawn to it?

I think that the answer is that I needed a space to call my very own. Of course, we have a home filled with my influence, but I share all of my spaces with my family. Half of our small closet is mine, my very own; I have my own dresser, too. But these are functional, practical places that don't get a chance to have much personality. I wanted my own space to work, to relax, to think. A place to write, to dream....and to surround myself with things that inspire me.

The original picture was so obviously personal to the woman who owned it; there were feminine wallpapers, artwork, baskets, flowers. That's what I wanted. No, needed.

I looked around our house, and realized that the dresser in the guest room was filled with things that nobody ever used, and that with it removed, there was plenty of space in the guest room for my vision. Out the dresser went! Next, I wanted a desk. Something white, feminine, and only mine. Not a desk for paying bills; not a desk for surfing the web; not a desk for Tessa's art projects. My own desk, for writing letters, writing stories, displaying things that mean something to me.

I hunted on Craigslist for a few weeks and found what I was looking for this past weekend. So cheap it was almost free; just the right size; huge amounts of girliness.

I already had some art to put up - the Impressionist picture of two girls at the piano that I purchased in Paris in 1991; the picture of a woman reading in a garden. A few candles, a pretty vase filled with lilacs from our garden, a glass box filled with pretty notecards and silver pens, and I was nearly done.

Craigslist to the rescue one more time: a large corkboard. The plan is to paint the wood and cover the cork in a pretty fabric, but I pressed it into use right away without doing that (it will happen in its own time). I've covered it with pictures and words that speak to me, that soothe me. One day I might use it as a storyboard for my novel. It's a type of vision board, but one that I intend to change around routinely. My visions aren't of wealth and fame - they're of peace and tranquility. Right now it's mostly covered with pictures of gardens, of picnics, of jars filled with flowers. I didn't set out to do that, I just chose things that spoke to me, and that must be where I am right now.

This is my place to dream. Michele nicknamed it The Dreamery, and indeed, that is what it is. Just a little corner in which to think. A place to rest my eyes and remember who I am. A place for quiet and order and beauty.

The scent of lilacs fills the room; it feels light and airy. I feel inspired here.

I needed that. Ahhhhhh.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Places that elevate my blood pressure

Number one on the list: oncology offices.

I thought I was doing well at the doctor's office today, as Michele and Ryan (who surprised me by showing up, a very sweet gesture) took good care of me. Still, when the nurse took my BP, it was 151/93. Good grief. Imagine what it would have been if they weren't there!

I have a follow up appointment in a few weeks to make sure that what appears to be a minor lymph node thing goes away with antibiotics, so I will get to visit the lovely doctor again then.

In the meantime, I'll just sing my favorite song:
All will be well,
all will be well;
All manner of things
Will be well.
(Meg Barnhouse from Mango Thoughts in a Meatloaf Town)

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Garden beginnings

I have accomplished pretty much nothing in the past 48 hours. As my appointment looms, I get more and more frozen. Joy, joy. (Sarcasm.)

But I did finally get into the garden. I planted a row of carrot seeds, a row of swiss chard seeds, and two rows of mixed lettuce starts. I got three pea plants into the ground, and put sweet peas in pots mixed in with the strawberries for bursts of color (the blue pots look good even when they only have an inch of green sticking up).

I can start to imagine how the garden will look in a month or two. The herbs are growing already, the tulips are bigger, and the roses are fuller.

Maybe this will be a good spring.

Poll: How much time do you spend cooking each day?

I am distracting myself. Less than 24 hours 'til my oncologist appointment. Ugh.

I heard on a podcast recently that the average woman used to spend an hour and a half in the kitchen each day, but the average woman now spends 8 minutes a day on meal preparation.

8 minutes? REALLY?

How long do you spend cooking each day? Hands on time, plus time in the oven....

Here's how my day usually looks, cooking wise:

- boil water, grind coffee for French Press coffee: 5 minutes (less?)
- boil water, add oatmeal, cook for 5 minutes, add berries, cook for one minute, add yogurt and maple syrup: 10 minutes
- Home made granola....10 minutes prep and 35 minutes cooking, but it makes a big batch that lasts at least a week

- Tessa: grilled cheese sandwich (5-10 minutes), plus sliced apples or other fruit; or macaroni and cheese and fruit; or some other random thing
- Me: tossed salad with avocado, goat cheese, sliced veggies, and some home made balsalmic dressing: 10 mins; or leftovers; or a sandwich 5-10 minutes
- Ryan: leftovers plus fruit and nuts; or a salad with grilled chicken or salmon or steak or shrimp added (10 minutes)
....on the weekends we eat together, could be anything, often ploughman's platter of cheese, crackers or bread, smoked salmon, fruit, cut up veggies 10 mins

The most variance of the day is dinner, and it's also where I spend most of my time. Here are some common meals at our house:
- Pizza: home made pizza dough (10 minutes), home made pizza sauce (10 minutes), sliced toppings (5 minutes), plus salad (10 minutes)= 35 minutes plus cooking time of 20 minutes
- Stirfry: make marinade 5 minutes, chop chicken or steak, marinate (anywhere from half hour to all day), chop veggies 10-15 minutes, cook rice 1 minute prep 40 minutes cooking, do stirfry, 10-15 minutes= 45 minutes total
- Soup: make stock (40 minutes for veggie stock, or a couple hours for chicken stock, of which most of the time is just occassional stirring); chop veggies (15 minutes); saute onion, carrot, and celery (10 minutes); put together and simmer (30 minutes) =95 minutes total
- Grilled salmon: quick season salmon (2 minutes) and grill (12 minutes); chop veggies and steam or stirfry (10-15 minutes); chop potatoes and toss with olive oil and rosemary and then roast (25-40 minutes)= 40 minutes

This, of course, doesn't count setting the table or clearing it, and cleaning the kitchen. I spend a lot of my life planning for, shopping, preparing, eating, and cleaning up after food.

In short? I am not an 8 minute girl! I am not even counting extras like baking (made cookies this week, banana bread last week) and bread making (do it all the time), and the like. Plus, on weekends we'll have friends over and make something more elaborate, and I'll make dessert, and appetizers. I'll often make a salad to go on the side, and that's all about chopping (plus, I like to make my own dressing).

I know lots of women who cook more than I do, and lots who cook less. But 8 minutes? Really? Is that microwave meals and cereal? How on earth do you do that? Making a salad with more than a couple of ingredients takes longer than that!

There are days when I spend all day in the kitchen, and there are days when I demand that we go out to eat, but I figure I easily spend an hour or two in the kitchen preparing food each day. Easily. Add clean up time and it's closer to two hours.

How much time do you spend on food each day?

The storm before the calm

Now that I have an appointment with my oncologist, I have that panicky feeling that the situation always brings me these days. I haven't been since my major scare in the fall, and I'm overdue. Now I remember why I procrastinated: I feel frozen at the mere thought of walking in the building. Paralyzed.

When did I become like this? I remember cracking jokes before my mastectomy. I used to think of myself as so brave, and sometimes I still do....but when I have to go back to the oncologist these days I feel small and powerless, like a mouse in a field with a hawk circling above. I just hope I can find a big enough leaf to hide under, knowing that the leaf isn't real protection but if I'm lucky the hawk won't spot me.

I am so very, very glad that when I entered Cancerland I didn't know how long my mind would stay there, and that I didn't understand the length of the journey. I thought it would be a long-gone part of my past by now, and yet it remains part of my present.

Deep breaths. I truly hope that this is the storm before the calm, and that by the time my appointment is over on Friday, I will be able to laugh at the feelings that are behind this blog post. I just want to get an "all clear" and then get the heck out of there! Dear friend Michele is going to drive me so that I don't get into any traffic accidents on the way, and to hold my hand, and that helps a lot. I did chemo by myself a lot, and I don't know why. (Certainly, I had friends enough to come.) 'Chele will help keep me from going any further insane.

So, further lists of things I love to calm my soul:
- listening to Mozart in the mornings
- hot, strong, dark roast coffee
- the lilac bush under the window - with the window open, the spring breeze is blowing lilac scents into the house today
- blue skies with just small, pure white puffy clouds (and today, that is what I see)
- reading to Tessa in bed in the mornings, her warm body snuggled up to me, her arm clutching Special Bear
- Special Bear. This is the bear that "Uncle" Paul gave to Tessa on the day she was born, and she has only spent two (accidental, and very sad) nights without it since her birth. He is worn so that he looks like he's made of fabric, not fur, and it's hard to tell that he was once a warm he's more or less a dull gray. Tessa has hundreds of stuffed animals, fluffy, soft, new, and beautiful, but we both know that Special Bear is worth more than all of them combined.
- Friends who accept me for who I am. Oh, this is such a gift.
- The pillow that my mother-in-law made for me, that sits on my Arts & Crafts style rocker.
- My alter in the middle of the house, which holds a chalice, a cross, and a seated Buddha figure.
- The trees in my yard, including two maples with brilliant fall colors, a white dogwood to remind me of my B.C. heritage (and yet it was planted by a previous owner), the giant pink flowering dogwood, the gorgeous old styrax, the lilac that has grown so much since we moved here, the two poplars that give a wonderful sound when their leaves rustle, the funny tree in the front that blooms pink flowers in winter, the pear which is in full blossom right now, the Japanese Maple with the hiding spot under it for Mo in the summer, shady and hidden.
- Decorating for holidays, large and small. Today I will take down the Easter decorations, which include an egg candle, an "Easter Tree" decorated with pastel eggs, a couple of ceramic bunny dishes, and the like. Mostly I put these things up for Tessa, who just adores it, but it makes me smile, too.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

More things I love

- Hiking to Talapus Lake
- Sarah McLachlan's music
- quiet time alone in my house
- the feeling I get after I do yoga
- lit candles in a dark room
- the smell of fresh lavendar or freesia or roses
- bookcases overflowing with books
- Botticelli, VanGogh, Renoir paintings
- girls and women wearing dresses
- the sound of waves, whether lapping softly or roaring and crashing
- the feel of smooth driftwood in my fingers
- finding seashells or robin's eggs
- the way Mo (cat) sleeps on my foot at night
- pulling carrots out of the garden
- playing board games or doing puzzles with Tessa
- any shade of blue with white
- girls' night in
- having a guest room (when I was a kid I dreamed of it, and it came true in adulthood)
- chatting with my mom
- sleeping in
- chocolate (shhh don't tell anyone but I like milk chocolate better than dark)
- bleeding heart, lady slipper, ferns, and hostas in shady corners
- tea parties, simple or elaborate
- making my own bread
- the moments of silence in church
- singing a hymn I know by heart

Today I'm super tired and it helps to make lists of lovely things.

I made an appointment with my oncologist for Friday - I'm overdue for follow up. Wish me luck at remaining calm, as just driving by the building makes me feel a bit panicky.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

A good, but tired, life

I have fallen off the blogging wagon, though I have plenty to say. We had a great spring break, with a trip to Chelan with Grammy (my mom), and a trip to the tulips in Skagit Valley with friends. The Easter Bunny came and left lots of chocolate. Cookies have been made and decorated in the shapes of bunnies, chicks, eggs, and tulips.

It's a good life. Filled with simple pleasures every day.


I am so tired. So, so, so tired. Normal activities just wear me out in a way I can't quite describe. I get bursts of energy that make me think "AHA! I'm back!" but within a couple of hours I find myself flagging and thinking "no no nonono!" because there is always so much to do (both fun and chores). I have fallen off the planet sometimes and haven't been in touch with dear friends because I get tired and then I just sit on the couch and do nothing, too tired even for a chat with a friend. This is not my best side, but it is what it is and I'm working on managing it.

I get my thyroid tested regularly and I take thyroid meds (and have since 1989), so maybe it's off. Or maybe it's the tamoxifen. Or maybe it's cumulative cancer treatment and too many surgeries.

Whatever it is, it is what it is. I am grateful for the incredible blessings in my life, even when I'm too tired to fully appreciate them.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


I did not sleep last night.

Why, why, why?

Today I'm in my bathrobe and a wreck from the lack of sleep.

Tonight will be better, right?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Day tripping

Today's day trip was a short one - just up the road to the U-District. The Hisatomis joined us, and together we ate a fabulous but cheap Mexican meal at a funky place (Agua Verde), then walked up to the quad to see the incredible cherry trees in blossom. The quad was filled with college students, but also many families like ours out to enjoy the achitecture and blossoms. The kids climbed trees, the dogs sniffed around and made new friends, and a good time was had by all. We walked to Drumheller Fountain to enjoy the views, and the kids got an added bonus: feeding the ducks and geese. Then, while the Hisatomis returned home, we headed up memory lane and drove Tessa by the first house that Ryan and I lived in together, in Wallingford, and then popped over to Fremont for a coffee.

Little days like this are the best. It's the simple things - being outdoors, being with friends, enjoying nature (even in the city), creating memories but also enjoying old memories. Ahhh.

This Friday Tessa is off school and we were going to go to Portland, but Mom & Dad's house is showing well and they don't need our help now. So, instead, we're going to head to Skagit Valley to enjoy daffodils or tulips or whatever else appears....we can wander through La Conner, have lunch at the Calico Cupboard or some new place. I would love to do more little day trips like this - some, within the city, like hanging out in Ballard or downtown.

We are loving spring. We've gotten some yard work done (a few hours of that yesterday and I'm still stiff), we're spending more time outdoors. I'm waiting for the dirt to settle a bit, but I've prepared three rows for planting. Soon we'll be getting garden veggies again. I even found some flowers starting on the strawberries as I was weeding, so strawberry season can't be too far away.

Another reason to love spring? Our congregation is about to get a new home of our very own - instead of renting space in the Masonic Lodge (no windows, folding chairs, no proper classrooms) we will have a real, honest-to-goodness sanctuary, classrooms, natural light. I can't wait! Our church is an important part of our family culture, and I'm so grateful to have found it. Will this be the place Tessa chooses to get married? Time will tell!

Speaking of church, I've got a Religious Education Council meeting tonight...gotta go!

Friday, March 12, 2010


This blog wanders like it is lost, but I am still working on my efforts toward frugality. Simple abundance and frugality - they seem like opposing forces (abundance and frugality?) but frugality is about being simple, so perhaps they're not so opposed after all.

We have been Craigslisting items, which a) gets them out of our house, and b) brings in some cash. We switched from an espresso machine to the little stovetop espresso pot like everyone in Europe seems to have, and yesterday a nice person from Craigslist came and paid me $100 for the machine. We can still have espresso whenever we want - but it's one less pull on electricity (the espresso machine was always plgged in), one less large piece of clutter, and more money in hand. The machine had been sitting for about a year, so we certainly won't miss it.

We are eating a lot more vegetarian meals. Last night I made black beans and rice, Mexican style with onions, chilis, tomatoes, served with a squeeze of lime, a sprinkling of cheddar cheese, and avocado slices. Tessa would still prefer a cheeseburger every day of the week at every meal, but she actually ate everything I served with only a minimum of fuss (which is huge these days). Ryan is taking his lunch almost all the time, and often he takes leftovers (which I plan for when I cook), so that means he's eating more vegetarian at lunch, as well, instead of the fast food meals that I know he was having.

Part of my reason for more vegetarian meals is cost, and part is health, but another part is that it's more environmentally friendly. When I buy meat I'm trying to find sustainably raised, grass fed, pasture raised, free range (in the true sense of the word), hormone free, ethically slaughtered, etc. That comes at a price - a hefty one. I almost moan when I hear an ad for $1/pound hamburger, because I sometimes pay 5-6 times that much for the green version. To balance this with frugality, we just eat a lot less of it. Not only do we eat meat less frequently, but we also eat it in smaller quantities than we used to.

(Book note: I just finished "The Butcher and the Vegetarian" by Tara Austen Weaver. It discussed the ethical and environmental issues of meat by a once-vegetarian who is prescribed meat in her diet due to health issues. It's an interesting twist on the question of meat, and an easy read.)

Once again, we got free mulch delivered, with help from our friend Kathleen and a local tree service. It's high quality, rich material, and it will nourish our vegetables all summer. I'm never paying for mulch again. We're making our own compost, though it seems like we can use twice as much as we can produce. Vegetable scraps are used to either make stock (I keep a container in my freezer at all times now so that making stock is as simple as throwing it into a pot of water, adding onion and salt, and simmering) or compost in the worm bins, and I love the closed cycle that creates. Once again this summer we will be eating out of our garden. The blueberries and raspberries are starting to leaf, the rhubarb is coming up, the strawberries are waiting, and the herbs are starting to renew themselves. In the next few weeks I'll be planting early veggies like peas, leeks, spinach, chard, and the garden will be off and running. We're expanding the garden again this year, so our harvest will be even greater than before.

I am trying very, very hard to avoid packaged and processed foods. I still buy, not make, cheese; I haven't attempted my own crackers yet. But for most things, I'm working with whole foods that look the way that they grew. Tessa would probably prefer Ding-Dongs in her lunch (at her age, I did) but we're all adjusting. I am making all of my own bread (and getting rid of the bread machine!), cereal, and three meals a day. It's tiring but worth it, I think.

The library is one of my closest friends. I'm on their website every couple of weeks, placing holds on all kinds of books. I do look forward to buying books again, but right now, while I really care about frugality, this is a great back-up plan. It's one thing to stop buying books, altogehter another to stop reading them!

We haven't used paper towels in at least a year, maybe more. I keep one roll on hand for things like vomit (arghhhh!) but that roll lasts a whole year. I keep a basket of rags with the cleaning supplies, and they work great. Whenever something gets stained beyond wear, I cut it up and it goes into the rag bin. I don't miss the paper towels a bit. Same is true for paper napkins - we still have a bunch from before we went all cloth, and I will use them very occassionally, but I don't even think about them any more. There is a big bin of them in the kitchen, and it works for us without a thought.

In the winter it's harder, but I'm still trying to walk many errands instead of driving - that's one great thing about living in West Seattle, I can walk to multiple grocery stores, a deli, coffee shops, pharmacies, toy store, thrift stores, clothing boutiques, etc. We've got to get Tessa more comfortable on her bike and then we can expand our range, too. (Although I haven't figured out Shep + bikes. I like to take him on my errand walks to get him exercise - how do I exercise him if we're on bikes?)

I'm still staying out of stores. Yesterday the Title Nine catalog (women's clothing, much of it athletic wear but also darling skirts and dresses) came and I drooled over it for far too long. I have canceled most catalogs for this reason: when I look at them, I start to crave things or think that what I have isnt' good enough. But when I stay out of stores, and stop looking at catalogs, I don't miss things at all. I have never been trendy - I like to htink of myself as more classic - so I don't need to buy a bunch of things every new season.

In short, I've come a long way. Still have a long way to go....but I've come a long way.

Time to wake up the girl. Fingers crossed that she's in a good mood this morning....

Thursday, March 11, 2010

More little pleasures

Today: yoga (in my basement), followed by a lunch of apples with peanut butter and carrots with lemony hummus.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

More things I love

My last post made me feel good, so I'm adding to it. Remembering what I love, remembering what makes me smile, remembering what is good in the world - what's not to love about that?

Now, let it be said before I begin: the things that I love most are not things. I love my husband, daughter, family, friends, dog, cat, health. I love clean air, fresh water. I do know what is important, and I'm not trying to trivilize that just because I'm taking about smaller things. Small things are good, too, and that's what I'm thinking about today.

Okay, disclaimer over. Here's today's random list:

I love:
- the colors cobalt blue and turquoise (sometimes together, not always)
- oriental rugs
- desks with cubby holes for storing things
- hand knit afghans
- Tessa's naked baby photo
- hearing the Dalai Llama speak (or reading his works)
- the tree mural in Tessa's room
- the Coast Salish carved orca that hangs in the living room
- eating fresh from the garden
- home made bread
- days when I get to stay in my pajamas for as long as I want
- hot coffee
- hot tea
- the smell of my yard after it rains
- hand made baskets
- the smell of baking lemon bread or cake
- sitting with a friend in the middle of the day to just talk
- full bookcases
- the way the sun comes through the stained-glass door in the mornings
- watching birds in the bird feeder while we eat breakfast
- smooth pebbles, especially beach washed pure black or white ones
- freshly painted rooms
- the color of my bedroom - I find it so soothing
- empty kitchen counters (maybe just one bowl of fruit on them)
- my teapot from Grandpa
- setting a table when people are joining us for dinner
- silver serving trays
- fresh flowers in a vase, just plunked in, not arranged. bonus points for growing them myself.
- sitting down at a clear desk to write a letter
- curling up with a good book in a comfortable chair. bonus points for adding a cup of tea and a hand knit afghan
- my black leather boots - the flat ones, because they are comfortable and stylish and warm
- dangly earrings
- wearing my hair long
- picnics with wicker baskets and plaid blankets
- beachcombing
- long bubble baths by candlelight. bonus points for a good book and a glass of wine.
- snowshoeing
- hiking up to Talapus Lake
- the Olympus Day Spa (aka "the naked spa")
- the texture of Tessa's hair, and the color of her natural highlights
- home cooked meals made by a friend
- eavesdropping on Tessa and her friends

Ahhhhh. Writing that put me into my happy place.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Things I love

Simple abundance doesn't mean getting rid of everything. Here are some things that I love:

- Lots of pillows on my bed
- An assortment of china tea cups and tea pots (yes, I use them)
- stainless steel pots and pans
- crystal vases that catch the light
- beeswax candles (yes I burn them)
- pretty table linens
- books, books, books
- heavy kitchen bowls
- serving ware with an Italian twist, lots of cobalt blue
- cashmere sweaters
- my Great Aunt Helen's Limoge china with the pink and lavendar roses, even though I only use it once a year
- warm throw blankets, especially those made by hand
- purses in just about every size, shape, and color

What do you love?

Simple Abundance

I've been reading a book by the title of "Simple Abundance" and I've been thinking a lot about the topic. I want a simple abundance in my life: enough, but not too much. Laughter galore, good books, music, friends, wine, quiet, flowers, comfort, beauty. I want to live in the present, loving what I have, even when I'm working for the future.

I want to be surrounded in beauty, but I don't want to live in a museum or on the pages of a catalog. I want to be content with what I have, but still know how to dream and to plan.

How does one go about making her home filled with simple abundance? Not the trappings of a modern consumerist life like in the glossy pages that are before us all the time; not what Martha Stewart or HGTV tells us, but a comfortable home where people love to visit. A place of serenity, safety, comfort, and beauty. A place marked by individuality.

Today, I'm spring cleaning. After helping my in-laws to spring clean their home in preparation for sale this weekend, I came home filled with resolve to do the same things in my own life. When Ryan and I watch "Designed to Sell" we always laugh at the simple changes that people make that they should have made years ago to make their home more livable; I'm working on that myself today. But it's more than that: it's the philosophy of being present, of knowing how much is enough and how much is too much. It's being able to separate memorabilia that brings joy, and the things that just add clutter. I'm not moving any time soon (I hope not, anyway) but the practices that people go through before a move are probably good for all of us. Ryan and I have lived here for nine years, and the house that once seemed palatial is now filled to the rafters with stuff.

I suffer from the same consumerism that impacts us all. Right now I want a new dining room table (ours is starting to sag), a remodeled attic and kitchen and basement, and clothes with feminine ruffles on them. And a new trenchcoat in a color that pops. There is always a list of books or music to buy or have.

These same things might be things I don't want in a year, or in ten, and so I'm trying to examine my impulses more closely. I don't need anything. I don't need much stuff, and we have so much.

I don't want stuff. I want beautiful, useful objects that please me and truly simplify my life. I want it for the joy of it, but I also want it to be sustainable and green for this earth. I want our possessions to contribute to the ease of our lives, but not to rule us.

So, as I'm going through overflowing closets and drawers and extra rooms, the question I ask is: What is enough? What is the difference between abundance and excess?

I'd love a discussion on this, with some practical numbers thrown in. How many of each should we have at any time?
- magazines
- books
- CDs
- toys
- baskets
- sets of sheets
- sets of towels
- extra blankets
- vases
- office supplies
- clothing per person
- shoes per person
- kitchen tools
- other.....

I'd love to see others thoughts. What is simple abundance, and what is excess? Where is the balance between simplicity and abundance?

I believe that when my physical space is in order, my life feels more in order - and my head, too. I'm working on all of it right now.


Many thanks to my beloved in-laws for allowing us to share in their process this weekend as they sort through a lifetime of home furnishings and mementos before they downsize to the "land cruise" of the pretty retirement place they've picked out. I know it's not easy to choose which memories to take and which to leave behind, but I hope that when I am in their shoes I will handle it with as much grace and good humor. I am grateful to them for allowing me to whirl through their home, poking my nose into the corners to help them, because though I do it as a service I imagine it must be invasive, too. It is an honor to be entrusted with the joy of helping to care for them. Mom and Dad Surface, I love you. I hope you're relaxing after the whirlwind of your family swirled through your home this weekend.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

prom pics

80's prom was absolutely hysterical, and we had such a good time with our friends. It turns out that I still can't make my hair tall - it just doesn't grow that way, but I did make it curly. I should have taken a close up picture of my purple, blue, and teal eyeshadow, too.
Ryan wore a pink carnation boutinniere, and I wore a pink rose corsage.
Ahhhh, the 80s. Fun to visit but I wouldn't want to live there!
PS I always wanted a Gunne Sax dress. Now, I finally got one. Only about 25 years too late...

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Reading List

I'm currently looking at books entitled "Your 7 Year Old," "Easy to love, difficult to discipline," "Seven Secrets of Spiritual Parenting" "Raising you Only Child" and others. I'm just about done with "Parenting with Love and Logic" and "Positive Discipline" (again).

I really wish Tessa would read these books because she loves to prove them wrong!

Tessa is an amazing, wonderful daughter, and I would never choose anyone else. I love her like I love air - I don't think I could survive without her. But the challenges - wow.

We've got boundaries and routines; we've got love galore (and express that love all the time).

She will come to it; I will figure it out. Together, we will get through this phase.

I hear that eight year olds are fabulous...but I'm not goign to hit the fast forward button, even if I can find it.

On an up note? She did her homework last night with a minimum of protest. PHEW.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


This morning I woke up and said, "Screw it. I want to have my life today." So I hauled myself out of bed and just went for it.

This afternoon, I feel tired, and I think that's a leftover from the Zometa, but I'm much more myself.

I went for a (short) run with Shep this morning, sans iPod, to clear my head. I've scrubbed my bathroom, including the dreaded tub. (I used baking soda and water. Remarkable how well it works - and no nasty chemicals to breathe or wash down the drain.) I made a crock pot meal (pork marakesh - it's got red onions, ginger, apricots, and thyme....hope it's good) for dinner that is simmering away.

I have about a zillion more things to do, but that is okay. At least I don't feel like hiding today, which I did the past two days.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

It messes with my head

Today I'm taking it slow. I feel much better than yesterday, but I don't think I can explain just how hard it is for me to go to the cancer center. It's going to take a while to catch my breath.

So, a quiet day at home. Chores to be done....but I just need the quiet.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Zometa blues

Being in the building at the cancer institute really makes me feel ill. The smell of the alcohol wipes that they use to wipe the tubing for the IVs is what really brings me back - ugh.

I swear my blood pressure was through the roof the whole time, but I survived it.

And tonight? Headachy and impatient and feeling blue. I can't separate out what is the physical, and what is the psychological, I just know that I feel horrid.

Tomorrow will be better.

Still proud of myself for making dinner and cleaning the house and changing the sheets this morning before my appointment....


Today is my infusion of Zometa at the chemo center. An hour of drip, drip, drip into an IV, plus usually an extra hour of waiting around, bloodwork, getting poked, saline, and the like.

Zometa has caused "flu like symptoms" (quoting from their side effects sheets) the last couple of times, so I have prepared dinner in the crock pot and set the table so that if I feel lousy afterwards I will be that far ahead and the family won't starve. (The up side: the house is filled with the warm smells of onions, chicken, and garam masala.)

I'm bringing my iPod, my journal, and a book.

All will be well. But I don't have to like it.

Today's gratitude list:

- It's "just" Zometa, not chemo.
- I'm healthy.
- It's gorgeous outside.
- I'm healthy.
- Zometa might keep me healthy.

On a side note, I now have just one year of tamoxifen left on the schedule - I'll be done in February 2011. I wonder what I'll feel like without it?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day!

First, a follow up on my uncle's health...

He's home! My mom called to speak to my Aunt Rene and Uncle Mel picked up the phone. My mom said she just about fell off her chair. Uncle Mel is the Comeback Kid - he has completely overcome the odds and returned to health in a way that nobody predicted. So - happy Valentine's Day to Rene and Mel....and many more to come! I am certain that this is a special day for you both, knowing that it nearly didn't come to pass together.

I had to reschedule my tea party for church in order to visit Mel, and I will do that soon.

Today is also my parents' 41st wedding anniversary - happy anniversary, Mum and Dad! Thank you for giving me a model to follow, as you've made it through easy times and hard times and never faltered in your love for one another. Every child should be so lucky.

And me? We had a nice day as a family - a really nice day. We opened with waffles ala Mama for breakfast, and Ryan and I laughed to discover we'd purchased each other the same gift (a particular box of chocolates). Ryan was ready for some down time after his busy day-and-back trip to Portland, so Tessa and I went to church (which was lovely as always). shopped at the farmer's market (note: eating seasonally has me beginning to crave spring - there is only so much I can do with squash and I feel like I'm turning into a squash/potato...) and came back. We packed up a simple picnic, loaded up and headed to Lowman Beach Park for a lovely time in the sunshine - hurrah! and just soaked up the fresh air. Then we went for the loop walk through the park, with Shep sniffing every dog he could reach from his leash, and all of us pausing for Tessa to play on the beach and on the monkey bars.

Now, we're home, and Tessa is creating a treasure hunt, Ryan is (unfortunately) fighting a headache, and I've got dinner prepped. I had some extra milk and got the idea to make my Grandpa Goddard's recipe for rice pudding, which is simmering as I type. There was a sale on lobster tails at Thriftway, and Tessa and Ryan's eyes popped when I told them we'd dine on lobster! (For three of us, it was $20. Given that Ryan and I elected to not have a date for Valentine's, it's economical but luxurious.)

If every day were this simple, and this beautiful, for every person, the world would be a different place, I think.

Here's wishing you and yours a day filled with love, peace, and contentment.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Parenting advice?

I have just spent over an hour combing the library website for new resources for parenting Tessa. I have placed holds on books in the following categories:

- parenting only children
- parenting strong willed children
- seven year olds and their development
- discipline strategies for children
- how to keep cool when kids are driving (you) insane

I am a fan of the Positive Discipline series, and I've got Love & Logic on my bedside table.

Do you have favorite parenting resources? Websites, books, and the like?

When my current strategies fail, it's time to go to the library. Friends, anything to add?

Disclaimer: I am anti spanking, and that is my bias. I am comfortable with that position and not looking to change it.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Homework Drama

Tessa forgot to bring her homework home last night.

I told her that we could go into school early so that she could do it. We got our carpool in early, and we went into the classroom, and tracked down her forgotten folder. I read her the instructions, showed her the example, and set her to work.

Questions. Complaining. Distractions. Talking to students coming in and out of the classroom.

The bell rings. No surprise - it's not done.

The school consequence for not doing homework is missing recess.

Tessa starts to cry, to cling to me, to say, "Talk to Ms. H! Tell her I tried!" I gently but firmly said, "No, you need to tell her. I did what I could to help you, but if you didn't get it done, that is something you need to tell her." More crying. Then, the punch:

"It's all your fault!" What?! "You didn't help me!"

Ms. H heard this and was NOT impressed. Tessa was sobbing and clinging to me and Ms. H just said, "Tessa, I'm counting to five and you'd better be at your desk." She got to 4 before Tessa let go, and I left the classroom.


Ms. H told me that I should let Tessa fail - if she doesn't do her homework, she does not get to come in early to do it. Okay, lesson learned. She seemed peeved with me for offering that as a choice for Tessa.

I feel like a D- parent right now.

Deep breaths.

I have moved Tessa's homework station into her bedroom; previously, she was doing it at the kitchen table so that I could be there with her. Me being with her is NOT an advantage, it seems: she has to do it on her own so that she is not tempted to ask me simple words that she already knows. She's got a beautiful desk, right under a window, with a drawer full of pencils and sharpeners and the like. She needs to do her work independently - maybe this will help?

I also created a homework contract with a list of responsibilities for parents and Tessa:
1. Will set aside time each day for homework.
2. Will make sure you have the right tools (pencils, papers, etc.) for homework
3. Will help you to read the instructions and answer questions about the instructions prior to beginning homework.
4. Will review homework when it is completed to help you with anything you struggled with.

1. Will bring home homework each day that it is assigned.
2. Will do homework independently.
3. Will finish homework promptly.
4. Will bring homework back to school and turn it in.
5. Will work with Ms. Hils if she does not understand how to do the homework.
6. Will miss recess if she does not turn in the homework or does not complete it in a prompt manner.
I created room for all three of our signatures, and tonight after dinner we'll go over it as a family.

I thought we'd been through all of this about 1000 times, but it is the first time I put it in writing. Will that make a difference? We will see.

Tessa thinks that I am somehow responsible for her success or failure. I am determined to be the best parent I can for her, to nurture her, but not to coddle her.

Parenting is hard! Homework is absolutely wearing me out. I thought we'd be having these battles in middle school....but apparently we're having them now.

I am determined to get this working. Determined.

P.S. Last night during her reading time Tessa read four chapters of "Mercy Watson" on her own, asking only for help with words like "absolutely" and doing the rest on her own. Why is she struggling with homework if she can read this well? I think it's discipline, not ability, or I'd feel much less frustrated. I don't care if Tessa is getting it "right," only that she works hard, and that is where she is failing.

Monday, February 08, 2010

This new plan is working!

I picked up Tessa from jump rope club, and talked to her about Valentine's day, and how I had the materials to make her cards all ready. She said, "But Mommy, I have to do my homework first." Yes, that is what we had agreed on....but I didn't even have to prompt her. HURRAH!

Edited to add: she has slowed down. WAY down. Will never finish at this rate.

Well, you win some, you lose some. It's still progress. At least she's not complaining!

Behavioral improvements

Since I whined and kvetched about Tessa, I should certainly state the good as well...

Yesterday, even though we had houseguests, and Tessa was distracted, she did her homework in reasonable time and without asking fifty million questions that she already knew the answers to. (I don't mind answering homework questions, I mind her trying to trick me into doing the whole thing for her.) We are really working hard to get her back on the right path, and with some success.

We have a ways to go, but the improvements make me happy. She's a wonderful girl, and I'm proud of her, and I know that this is just a bump in the road. (A tiring bump!)

Thank goodness it's Monday

When I was on Facebook, I would see various people counting down until the weekend; a common sentiment, and one I usually agree with. However, this weekend I was completely overbooked with a thousand different things, big and small, and I could barely find time to breathe.

On Sunday, the most important commitment was to go and visit my Uncle Mel in the ICU in Vancouver, B.C. (Canada). He was on a ventilator, in a medically induced coma, and when we got there he looked terrible; it was very sad. The docs made the decision to remove the ventilator to see if he could now breathe on his own (because a ventilator greatly increases the risk of infection), and while they performed this procedure we couldn't be there so we went to lunch. When we got back, he was on an oxygen mask, but upright in bed! I squeezed his hand and told him that I loved him and he looked me straight in the eye and said, "I love you too."

The rest of the weekend was a blur. Good things, but by Sunday afternoon I felt like jello only weepier. I had to cancel the last engagement of the weekend (sending Ryan and Tessa in my stead) and laid on the couch, regrouping.

And now, 'tis Monday, and a new chance to get things right. Laundry going, vacuuming completed, breakfast dishes cleaned up, and I'm sitting down to plan my week. This week, I'm going to be less hectic - that is action item number one.

(An aside: five years ago I could have handled the chaos without blinking. It makes me sadder than I can express that "normal" busyness can wipe me out so much.)

Friday, February 05, 2010


I was helping my friend Jill with the Haiti penny drive she set up for Alki elementary, and she told me that she just felt good from taking action. I agree.

I'm trying to take action in my own life. Helping with raising money for Haiti or helping in my community, for sure, but also closer to home. Working on getting Tessa back on track behaviorly, cooking healthy meals, budgeting (and not just writing the numbers down but living by them), and the like.

Yesterday I even went running. (Ouch!)

It can be so difficult to get started, sometimes, but I am sure that it's worth it.

Action is the antidote to despair. - Joan Baez

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Can I go back to bed?

I'm just thinking about all of these issues that I've been blogging and feeling really overwhelmed.

A lot of my identity is as a Mama, and when Tessa is behaving well I feel like it's a validation of my work. Yes, I know that is screwed up, because she is her own person, and my worth comes from within and not from her behavior, AND I know that her worth is not from some behavior as a child but who SHE is within....but dang, this is really hard.

So, right now, I'm not feeling like such a star in the parenting department.

Follow through

This morning I met with Tessa's teacher, and then I met with the school counselor, to get ideas about how to handle my changing child. It was time to bring in the experts!

Tessa continues to drive me crazy. The worst of it is the snarkiness; the rude behavior. If she wasn't a good student, well, that is something that I could live with....but rude? Not okay. No way, no how.

I'm going to have to be a black and white parent for a while. Here's the rule, you broke it, immediate consequence, no chances. I've read about this as "brick wall parenting" - an "I said it, no discussion, just do it" kind of parenting that I'm not crazy about it, but it seems that this is where I must go for a while. Tessa is manipulating me to do whatever she wants, and she's not being reasonable about it. (When asked, "How do you think we could change your behavior?" she actually told me "You could buy me more treats and toys." Note to self: seven year olds are not reasonable.)

So, I'm putting my foot down. I'm not excited about it, but I have GOT to out-stubborn this stubborn child of mine. (She comes by it honestly; I can, at least, relate to her.) We're going to have a family meeting to present this new information, and to come up with a list of rules together, and discuss consequences for not meeting those rules. I have a plan, with her teacher, about homework....and Tessa will be missing recess if she doesn't do it.

I am going to get my sweet girl back. Tessa is an amazing child, and I'm am going to coax her best parts of her to reappear.

Parenting is hard!

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Whiners' Anonymous

Hi. My name is Kristina. I'm a whiner.

I am trying to gather up a good attitude today after yesterday's meltdowns (both mine and Tessa's). Fortunately, Ryan came home, and helped me to get Tessa to bed, or I'm not sure what I would have done - I wanted to hide in my own bed with the covers over my head!

Today is a new day, a fresh start.

I'm looking up information on seven year olds, and came across this website (again). It should be required reading, I think:
and also this page:

It wasn't my imagination; Tessa is changing, and leaving equilibrium and entering disequilibrium. I am directed to be gentle and patient in response. Oh, I'm trying....

I think I need to master the art of explaining LESS and taking firm, fast action. Removing Tessa from the situation, allowing her to vent in a corner without my interaction. "I love you. This behavior is unacceptable. When you're ready to talk, please come to me. Until then, stay here."

I'll have to work on my script, but I have to come up with a good, succinct one.

I think I'm in disequilibrium, too! Can I go to my room?


Tessa is coughing and sneezing and blowing her nose today...and home from school. I'm going to set up an appointment with an allergist to see if that is the deal. For such a healthy kid, she is missing a lot of school. Maybe that had something to do with yesterday, though?

Off to play dolls and read stories.

This website is very interesting - found this article:

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Mama Whining

I am about to whine. If you don't like whining (who does?) then you might not want to read this.

Still reading?

Tessa is driving me NUTS lately. I know that she is a blessing, a gift, and the greatest joy in my life. I know that children are supposed to drive their parents nuts. I know that this is some new developmental stage and will pass. I know that she's not trying to make me crazy, and that if this is the new disequilibrium then it's not working well for her, either, and it's my job to help her. I know I need to work on my patience. I know that she is a great kid, a joy, a delight, and that I am a VERY lucky Mama.


However, she is getting down-right sassy, and short of locking her in the attic I am not sure what to do about it.

Today? Picked her up to take her to the doc to check out her cough and the small rash on her arm that hasn't gone away. (Cough? Nothing. Rash? Eczema. Nothing big.) The patient bench had a roll of white paper over it, and Tessa rolled, jumped, scrinkled for about 15 minutes - intentionally making lots of noise - while we waited for the doc. Finally, I said, "I can't take that sound any more - could you please stop?" Skrinkle, skrinkle, skrinkle. "Tessa, please stop. Here, let's look at this magazine together." Skrinkle, skrinkle, skrinkle. "Tessa, stop immediately. Come over here. "Skrinkle, skrinkle. "Tessa, no more warnings. " Ahhh - the doc comes in. Skrinkle, skrinkle, skrinkle. Doc talking, I can't hear because Tessa is making so much noise with the paper. "Excuse me doctor, I need to address this: Tessa, I can not hear the doctor because you are making so much noise. Stop immediately." Skrinkle, skrinkle.

I had to stop the doctor THREE TIMES because of Tessa. It's a good thing that I don't spank because I wanted to THRASH my child at that point. (Deep breaths, Mama, deep breaths.)

Leaving the office, "No doctor's office lolipop for you. Those are for good behavior, and yours was terrible." "But MAMA....."

We got in the car and I said, "I am very disappointed with you." We had A Talk.

We got home. Homework time.

Tessa has taken AN HOUR to fill in six blanks with words like "treat" and "head". Me in the kitchen making dinner, two feet from her the whole time, encouraging her. And then telling her "If you don't just DO this, I will write a note to Ms. H saying that you wouldn't do your homework and should do it at recess."

I had to go downstairs to put the wash in the dryer. I said, "Tessa, I have to put the wash in the dryer. I'll be right back, okay?" "Okay." I am at the bottom of the stairs, five seconds later, and she starts yelling. "Mama! MAMA! MAAAAMAAAAA!" This is the irritated "I want your attention" voice, not the "help me - a giant alien is in our kitchen" voice.

I ignore her. I put the wash in the dryer, and she yells the whole time.

I come upstairs, steaming. I say, "That is RUDE. I told you where I was - why did you yell for me?" She says, "I need another bean" (for counting).

I tell her that I need her to finish her homework without me, because the day has me too frustrated to help her at this moment.

So I'm here, whining.

Are you still with me? I doubt it - this isn't exactly great reading.

But what am I to do?! I want to be consistent, give logical consequences, and raise a child who is thoughtful and grateful. I want to give her what she needs, and then some (out of love). I want to give boundaries, and keep them. I want to maintain my cool, and discipline her with love and logic when it is required.

But what happens when she just stares at me blankly, and then goes back to her list of demands?

I was actually saying, "Tessa, I need you to be more considerate" and she interrupted me and demanded extra counting beans. (At which point, I bit off her head, and then went to the computer.)

Our attic is dark and dreary and cold - maybe I could lock her in there? No, I'd feel bad.

She has been such a great kid in so many ways - where did she go? What do I do to coax that version of herself back?!

I've got to go upstairs. She is walking around, which means, unless she's carrying a clipboard and pencil, she's not doing her homework.

I will be calm. I will not yell. I will take away all of her toys for the rest of her, no, bad Mama. I will come up with something....something....

Okay, I've got nothing right now.



I think that I spend a good portion of my life struggling with routines. On the one hand, I love them - they get things done. On the other? Boring! Annoying! Difficult! Money, weight, housework, exercise, cooking, and spirituality all fall into this category.

When my house is dusty and my weight is climbing, I know it's time to look at my routines a little more closely - or to create more routines.

Tessa had a cavity that she had filled yesterday - her only one so far. The dentist asked me, "Does she floss regularly?" Um....floss, yes. Regularly, no. We brush twice a day, but didn't put flossing into the routine, and the consequence was an hour in a dentist's chair with Tessa's knees involuntarily pulling up to her chest. She was brave and strong and I was so proud of her. I read to her the entire time, and she clutched my hand in one of her hands, and Special Bear in the other, and she held it together well. When it was time to go to school, she burst into tears, and said, "Mama, it hurts!" I told her that if she missed school she'd miss Jumprope Club (her after school activity) and she said, "I know." So, I held her close, and we missed school

All because of a pesky 30 second routine that I ignored. (I fully recognize that it's my job to remind her to floss, and I didn't.)

I'm not beating myself up about it, but I am trying to recognize it for what it is...and make changes. What other routines and I letting slip away? What other things could I be doing to protect my "one wild and precious life"?

I have lots of things going well, but there is always room for improvement. This is my life, and I want it to be the best that it can be.

I think I'll go floss now.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Photo catchup: Chalice Lighting

In our UU church, when a child turns seven, they have a chance to light the chalice for the first time. (To learn more about what the Unitarian Universalist chalice symbolizes, go here: ). It was a really big deal to Tessa: it is her presentation to our church community, and a sign of her growing up. She's waited a long time to be seven!
Tessa wore a beautiful dress (hand me down from the Shogrens - thanks, Karen & KC!), and decorated the alter/chalice table with things of her choosing - of course, she chose American Girl dolls and horses and stuffed animals. Our beloved Director of Religious Education, Kari, helped to guide Tessa, and watched lovingly as Tessa wrote her name in the book of chalice lighters.
We celebrated with our friends...and with cake.
I love our UU community.

Photo catchup: BirthdayPalooza

Sleepovers, skating party, gifts, oh my!