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Preview: A journey of 1000 stitches begins with just one ....

A journey of 1000 stitches begins with just one ....



Welcome to my little corner of the internet. I am a stay at home, homeschooling mom of 3 awesome kids, who are growing too quickly. I am married to the most wonderful man alive. I love to make things, all sorts of things! But I have to fit in all my makin



Updated: 2018-04-22T13:21:35.273-05:00

 



Welcome 2018

2018-01-01T18:13:58.559-06:00

Today is January 1.
Even though yesterday was a day. And tomorrow will be just a day, today feels so special, doesn't it?
It's the start of the new year.
It's a time to make resolutions.
It's a time to purge things you don't need from your house (forget spring cleaning. If my facebook friends are any indication, this is the new time to clean house).
It's time to set intentions.
And words of the year.
And themes for the years.
It is an exciting time for sure.

It is also a time for reflection.
To think about the year that has just finished.
Was a good one? Was it a bad one?
What were the best moments?
What things do we want to carry into the new year with us, and what things can we not wait to just be over and in the past.

I, personally, have really high hopes for 2018.
I want it to be a year of fun and wonderful things.
It will also be a year with a lot of changes in it, that mostly come in the second half, but yet, I find myself bracing for them now.
Despite that, I also want 2018 to be a year of internal peace for me.
I want calmness.
I am craving connections.
I am hopeful for a good year ahead.

For the first time in a long time, I feel like the upcoming year could be a great one.

At the end of 2017, I got some of my pain under control. Which is the most amazing gift of all that 2017 gave me.

As 2018 begins, I am in less pain. I am taking less medication. I feel hope.

I used to joke that I didn't even wish for great days, I would be happy with okay days.

I have reached okay days. Now, I'm aiming for good days. Let's hope that 2018 is the year of good days. And maybe just a smattering of great days thrown in for an extra bonus.

I know someone will be shaking their head and yelling AIM HIGHER. It's not that I don't want to aim for the stars and all that jazz. Good days are my stars though. I am aiming high, but it's my high. It probably looks different for you, and that's good. Because this is all about personalization!

That said, I'm glad to see 2018 arrive. I'm glad to see 2017 end. I'm also a bit sad. The year wasn't all bad, and we did create some very lovely memories this past year. Thank goodness we don't have all our memories wiped out at the start of the new year.

So, all of this to say: Welcome 2018. I have high hopes for this year. I have fun projects I'm working on. And I can't wait to see where this year takes me.

Naturally, I do hope to return to blogging this year! And I hope that you'll forgive my very long absence and that you'll join me on the fun ride I've got coming this year.

Happy New Year!
Brandie




Middle School Memories

2017-07-19T20:29:14.129-05:00

Me, 7th gradeMy 14yo says I look like Hermione Granger.I don't agree, but I'll take it anyway!When I was young, I moved around schools a lot. Between 4th and 5th grade, we moved and I entered a new school district and went to the local elementary school. From there, I went to the 6th grade center (yes, one building that only had 6th grade classes in it!). And that was followed by a move to the middle school.After 7th grade, we moved again, so I switched districts for 8th grade.When I moved, I didn't keep in touch with my friends. There was no e-mail back then, we didn't even have AIM (if you're old enough to remember that LOL). A few years ago, thanks to Facebook, I reconnected with some people from those middle school (ish) years.They are having a reunion this weekend, and it didn't work out for me to attend, but none the less, I was thinking about how those years have helped shaped me. I've never sat down and thought about things like this before, so it was kind of interesting how many memories just came flooding back!  Some are really small and trivial things, but some are kind of big.* I made 2/3rds of my kids (and the third one soon) read Bridge to Terabithia because I remember Ms. Williams (I think) crying as she read the ending of the book to our class.* I can sing the Greek alphabet thanks to my 6th grade main teacher* In 6th grade we had a teacher's aid for our team (that was three classes/teachers). She taught me and another girl Sarah to french braid our hair. She probably taught more, but for some reason, I can only remember Sarah french braiding hair with me. Sarah's mom had recently passed away. As I look back with adult eyes, I know she taught us to french braid as a way to get us to talk in a way that didn't feel like talking. I use that as a parent a lot. * I sing songs like Waltzing Matilda (6th grade), Sesame Street medleys (7th grade), and I'm Proud to Be an American. I also sing Steve Martin's King Tut because our art teacher - Ms. Freak - would play it sometimes during art class as background music.* Speaking of art, some of the projects I made with Ms. Freak and in my 7th grade art class (and I can't remember her name!) I have since made with my kids. One example is paper mosaics I did in class and then did with my kids. My one daughter did it as a 4H project for our county fair one year. * In 7th grade we had to learn sentence diagramming in our language arts class. I teach my children that now. I couldn't remember any of it though and had to relearn it. My oldest can probably already say she forgot it all now, but I tried. Like my teacher tried. But we used to joke that our teacher looked like ET. We all liked her though, so we weren't trying to be mean. One day she told us one of her favorite movies was ET. I have no idea if it actually was, or somehow she knew we thought that and said that to kind of mess with us a bit. * For 6th and 7th grade I had to walk a mile and a half (minus like 1/2 a block) to school, uphills both ways. But no, really, I did. If we lived on the very next block I would have qualified for busing - which kicked in once you were a mile and half from the school! And our town had a "valley" in it, my house was on one "peak" and the school on the other. So I literally would go down the hill, and up the hill.  It wasn't all lovely things though.* I had a sleepover birthday party that was a train wreck. I invited people who I wasn't really friends with to seem more cool, they came, they weren't having fun, I cried. It was awful. But we did watch Arachnophobia and I still hate spiders.* I took my first (and only) ride in a police car - it wasn't anything major and it was enough to scare me out of my "life of crime" and get me grounded for a really long time. I lost my parents' trust and didn't want to do that ever again. * In 6th grade science we had a unit learning about eyes and seeing. The teacher asked if we (people) could see in the dark. I said yes. Absolutely. I knew this down to my bones. I even convinced some [...]



Why do bad things happen?

2017-07-06T22:24:15.091-05:00


(I originally posted this on my personal facebook page on June 22. In the midst of grief. Again. I had just lost another friend not too long before this. And it hurts, it just hurts so darn much. And so I just poured this out and I'm still not sure it's eloquent enough or pretty enough, but I think it's human enough and real enough that I'm sharing it here as well).

This morning a friend asked a question that was basically why do bad things happen and bad things happen to good people and why do we still look for the good in the bad. And I wanted to reply in a way that wasn't cliche or trite but was honest and real. So I thought and when I went back to share with her, I saw that she had passed away. Cancer has stolen another friend, another good person, another loving heart.

And I don't know why this happens. But I know that it just hurts so much.
And I know what I would tell Christina if she were still here. I would tell her (and what I'll tell myself right now. And what I would tell so many of you because I know others are struggling with grief and illness and pain):


Our world is imperfect and unfair. It can be so incredibly unfair that it just takes our breath away. The unfairness can make us angry and upset and want to lash out. But our world is also a world of ands.

So our world can also be beautiful and perfect and lovely. And we can find here people who are just amazing human beings down to their very core. People who are full of goodness and light.

And because we live in an unfair world that can also be beautiful, sometimes really shitty things can happen to really lovely people. And there really isn't a why.

Sometimes you can be strong and amazing and giving and loving and be in pain and have struggles and carry a burden that just feels overwhelming at best.

It's awful. But it's our and world. And you, well you handle it beautifully. And it's okay to be mad and upset and acknowledge the unfairness of it all and to some how weather the storm with a grace that really is beautiful.

I don't know the why. I don't know the how. But I know the who; I know you. And I love you and wish I could help ease your burden. Love you so very much.

Go hug someone. Go tell someone you love them. Life really is too short, even though some days it is too short and too long.



Failing

2017-07-02T23:31:10.979-05:00

As I sit here and look around, all I can see is failure.Every thing I think about, brings me back to failure.I am failing.Every. Single. Day.Laundry done? Nope.House cleaned? Nope.Phone calls needed to be made? Nope.Long term goals? Nope. Nope. And, oh yeah, nope.That think I was supposed to remember? Forgotten about.I am awash with failure.I know, I know.We all fall down.We all make mistakes.We just have to try again. And again. And again.And this famous person had to do something 1 quadrillion times before they were successful!Well, fanfuckingtabulous for them.I am not them.And here I stand.Or well, sit.Or well, lay down.What I am good at these days?Pain.Being exhausted.Pain. Forgetting things.Being exhausted. Pain. Feeling behind.Feeling tired. Pain.And did I mention that I'm tired and in pain?Because here's the thing.I am trying so hard.But it's so hard to try when things hurt and you're exhausted.And there is SO much I want to do.Things I want to help out with.Things I want to do better with.I swear I am trying.I am trying so hard.I make lists.I forget to look at lists.I make new lists.I put them where I have to look.I forget where I put them.Then the kids need me.Or my hands have decided to stop working.For the record: It's really freaking hard to do things when your hands don't want to work.Some of you are all too painfully aware of this.Some of you have no idea what it's like to not be able to close your hands.Want to hold a coffee cup? Not by the handle you won't!Want to hold a pen? Ha! Good luck!Want to knit? Nice try, but not today.Hey, want to change the world?Why not try getting out of bed first!Want to bake the family a cake?Stretch those legs out first.Want to sit and type a blog post?Wait for your hands to warm up.Because I have a million things I want to do.I have a million projects I want to accomplish around the house.I have a million blog posts bouncing around in my head.I want to be a better mom.I want to not be behind on laundry.I want to go back to the hardships I had six years ago and have those be my hardships today.And I want the fucking hot flashes to go. far. far. far. away.Okay. I turned a fan on and am feeling less hot flashy.Though I still feel quite ranty.I tried to reverse it.You know, instead of a to-do list, I tries to make a things I accomplished list.It sort of looked like this:Get up.Get granny breakfast.Lay back down.Listen to a podcast.Drive kids.Take a nap.Wake up.Ask kids if they ate lunch even though it was two hours ago.Feel relieved they were smart enough to eat lunch.Think about housework.Take a nap.Eat dinner.Watch TVPut granny to bed.Put self to bed.I mean, I don't mean to brag, but yes I did all of that. In one day.But you don't even know how much effort it takes to think about doing housework.On a good day I do some. But then I have to pick: will I vacuum or will I do laundry?And place bets on whether or not the laundry gets folded the same day it's washed. (you'll win more money if you bet no).Alright.There might be a bit of hyperbole here to make a point.But not much honestly.To top it off I am surrounded by amazing, accomplished, literally changing the world people.I am so excited for them.I celebrate with them.I know there are lots of hard moments they have to work through.I know that often times on facebook we get the whitewashed version of life.But, honestly? I am so jealous.I am so jealous of all that these people are accomplishing.I am so jealous of the fancy vacations.I am so jealous of the big houses.I am so jealous of the new cars.I am so jealous of the sweet new babies.I am so jealous of friends who have nights out every single week.(But, I want to clarify, I know these things are earned and deserved and I do not wish for people to not have these things. I just wish I had them too).And I sit here and I'm off to the doctor to get another test because the last one found something that might be bad.And I'm off to another funeral because another friend is gone.And I'm bringing anothe[...]



CancerCon Day 1

2017-04-29T02:01:17.697-05:00

So. It's just after midnight. I'm sitting in a dark hotel room. One roommate is sleeping, the other is still out.And here I sit.Exhausted to the core, and yet still unable to sleep.Not for the usual reasons though - no anxiety, no one who needs me to take care of them. Just me, sitting here, reliving today and smiling, knowing that being here is so important to me.Today, the first official day of CancerCon was, well in a word, awesome!Lots of laughs, lots of hugs, so many good conversations, and at one point, I folded myself into a suitcase (more on that later).There was a lot of fun and games today. It will, at first glance, look like CancerCon is one big party in which we all come and just hang out and have a good old time.And we do.But.But.But there is more to it in that.In the midst of the laughter, there are tears.We party, but we share our stories. Sometimes these stories make us laugh. Sometimes they make us cry. Sometimes the stories are currently in a good spot. Sometimes these stories do not come with a happily-ever-after-ending.We party, but we bond. We bond with people who have had cancer. We bond with those going through treatment. We bond with people who have rare cancers. We bond with people wh have our cancer. We bond with people who take care of people with cancer. We bond with mothers. We bond with fathers. We bond with daughters. We bond with sons. We bond with husbands and wives. We bond with doctors. We bond with advocates. We bond with representatives of companies.Sometime we bond over shared music tastes, or we find another Doctor Who fan who wants to play Pokemon Go too. We bond with someone else who pulls out some knitting. We bond with someone else who is here for the first time. We bond with people who have been to almost every Stupid Cancer conference ever.Yes, we bond a lot.Because there's something here so many are lacking back at home: people like us. People who had cancer but don't look like a "typical" cancer talent (whatever that is supposed to mean). We are surrounded by people who don't say "But you can't get that cancer when you're young!" Because we're all young, or we were young, or we take care of someone is young. We have freedom to say things like "fuck cancer," or "cancer brought me some good things," or even "cancer was a gift to me." We toss around names of chemo, of drugs, of number of radiations treatments. We exchange stories about doctors who suck, doctors who go above and beyond, or about that one time we puked on the cute doctor!Some of us are bald, some have short hair, some have medium hair, some have long hair. Some of us miss our normal hair and can't wait for it to grow back and some of us have discovered that damn, we look good with short hair!We talk about pain management, of things that hurt, of things that don't hurt anymore. We mention we are going to take a break to get a nap in and no one says things like "geese, must be nice to nap" because we all know that no one wants to actually take a nap and miss what might happen because it's fun here, but our bodies are crying for rest.We talk about anxiety and how we are scared the cancer will come back even though it's been a year, or two, or five, or nine, or eleven.We talk about how our cancer is progressing even with treatment and we hope that we will still be around in a year, or two, or five, or nine, or eleven.We talk about how lemons don't cure cancer. And if they did they'd cost a lot more money and probably not sold at a supermarket.We talk about the people who took care of us. Or the people we took care of.We talk.And talk.And talk.And we listen.And listen.And listen.And from the Instagram posts or from the outside looking in, it looks like a big party. But it's so much more. It's knowing you are not alone. It's knowing you aren't the only person struggling with the issues facing you. It's not being the youngest person in the room by 20 or more years.It's about community.And family.And not being al[...]



Phoning it in

2017-04-12T20:46:07.305-05:00

The last few weeks have been a bit on the rough side around here.

[side note: In what we'll call fair disclosure, there have also been some really fun and great moments as we have a French foreign exchange student, which maybe I'll blog about later!]

Anyway, there have been some not fun side effects. Higher levels of stress. And some bad news from friends and loved ones.

Boo. Hiss. Cry. Be sad.

So tonight, I'll ordered dinner. We rarely order dinner, except for pizza nights. Like, not counting pizza, I can't remember the last time I ordered dinner. But I just could. not. make. dinner. tonight.

And then I flashed to my grandmother's funeral late last summer.

My grandma was 98 years old when she passed away. She passed away in the bedroom she was born in. In the house on the farm her parents started. Eventually her and my grandfather took over.

At the funeral people were sharing memories. One of the memories shared was going to her house to wash jeans, which took a long time.

Grandma had 9 children. And a husband. On a farm.

Something really resonated with me that day, that I thought of today.

Grandma couldn't take a day off. She couldn't just decide to not make dinner. Or to wash all the jeans. Or other laundry. Or cooking food. Or all the things she had to do.

And I think about today. Where I have an electric stove, a microwave, a dishwasher, a washing machine, a dryer, a car, tons of grocery stores, only three kids, etc, etc.

Which makes me think, damn, grandma was a strong woman.
Which makes me thing, damn, I'm lazy.

Though I don't think I'm lazy.

But I wonder, did grandma ever wish she could make someone else make dinner. Did she ever call a friend or relative and say hey, today's been rough, can you help me feed all these people. Or did she serve leftovers once or twice not because it was all she had but because she didn't want to cook more food. And if she had, could she have admitted it?

What pressures were on her as a mother as the ebb and flow of life rushed on around her?

I never asked her.
I never even thought to ask her.

I wish I had, honestly.

I suppose this is a case of you didn't know what you wanted until it was gone.
Or I took for granted that she could have taken a break, or not made dinner, or skipped laundry one week.

I'll assume that when my grandma was in the throes of motherhood and had some bad days, heard bad news, got sick, that she didn't take a break. That she had to buck up and make dinner anyway.

That said, I'm glad I could literally phone in dinner tonight. And I won't take for granted the ability to do that.



I've become a commercial

2017-03-14T09:00:13.115-05:00

Today I have to go to the doctor's and get a shot. (Boo because I hate hate hate needles. Even still. Even after being poked a million times. Still hate them!)

This shot is medicine that I'm pretty sure comes with a novel that lists the possible side effects.

I feel like I'm now one of those people in medicine commercials you laugh at. You know what I'm talking about, right? The side effect list seems to go on forever and run across the screen over-layed on a really pretty picture. And it all seems funny because the side effects seem way worse than what the medicine is treating.

Trust me, I've laughed my fair share. I've mused aloud about who would ever take the medicine because the issues seems easier than the medicine would be.

I suppose I became that person the second I took chemo. I remember thinking about how ironic it was that the doctors were telling me that another cancer was a side effect and I just couldn't wrap my mind around it. I mostly ignored it because it just too much to think about. I also understood that even though they had to tell me the side effects, there was little chance that it would actually happen to me ::knock on wood::.

But Tuesday I'm going in with my eyes wide open. I've looked on-line and read the awful horror stories. The doctors have talked to me about what could possibly happen that's pretty major. And there's more of a risk than getting cancer from chemo drugs.

People who have opinions that I seek out have said they wouldn't get the medicine if it were them. My husband isn't thrilled I'm getting it and would be very happy if I told him I changed my mind.

And yet, I'm going to let the doctor give me this shot.

I also read stories about people who had almost no side effects from it. The doctor gave me the option of another medicine and after comparing, I decided on the shot. But secretly, I'm so nervous to go. I'm worried that I'll make everything worse and compound my already stupid medical issues.

To be honest, I'm pissed I have to even need to think about this. I'm frustrated with my own body. I think it's super unfair that at 37 I learned I have osteoporosis and because I want to, I don't know, take a bike ride with my kids when summer rolls around, I have to do something to treat it. But because of my age, I only have two options. Neither of which excite me or make me happy.

When the doctor called to let me know that I had osteoporosis (when I was just getting a dexa scan as a baseline), I'm not going to lie: I cried. And cried. And cried. I mean full on sobbing.

It's another thing to deal with.
It's another pre-existing condition in my medical file.
It's more doctors appointments.
It's more medicines.
It's more co-pays.
It's more worry.

Not to seem overly emotional about this, but I'M SO OVER THIS CRAP.

Sigh.

So today, I'm going to feel like I belong in a commercial. One that I would have laughed at in what feels like another life time. This time I'm not laughing though. Sigh.





Exciting news

2017-03-13T09:30:07.993-05:00

I should have come and blogged this the moment I found out, but as you can tell, not much blogging taking place around here these days!

That aside, I have some really exciting news. I'm going to be in the Chicago's Listen To Your Mother show this year! I'm so thrilled about this. Not only is it going to be fun to take the stage again after doing it in 2012, but, this time around is going to be even better.

If you check the cast list, you might notice that another participant shares the same last name as me. My 14 year old Emma will also be in the LTYM show! She has been trying out for the last several years and wasn't cast. And I have to tell you, that I admire her for trying again and never giving up. She didn't let not being cast get her down - she kept trying.

If you remember from 2012, I almost died before the show because of nerves. And she's 14 and ready to take the stage by storm (but a friendly, happy, lovely storm!).

Anyway, we'll take the stage on Sunday, May 7. If you'd like to be in the audience, tickets are on-sale right now. And naturally, Emma and I would both love as much support from the audience as possible. I still might be terrified to take the stage this time around, just slightly less than last time.

I can't wait! Two months to go =) 




Surgery Preparations

2017-01-19T10:06:00.698-06:00

So two days ago I underwent a total hysterectomy with bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy. This is a fancy way of saying they've removed my uterus, cervix, ovaries, and fallopian tubes. (I'm writing this before surgery and setting it to post later, just in case you were reading for an update!)I've been delaying this surgery for a few years, but it was time to do it now for several reasons. I'm hoping my iron levels start to go up. This should help prevent a cancer recurrence. And stop all the issues I've been having with ovarian cysts.And still, I'm not quite thrilled about having another surgery and going under the knife again. But I'm smart and trust my doctors and recognize that it's time. And if there's anything I know about, it's getting ready for surgery.So I thought, I'd share with you what I did to prepare for this upcoming surgery. Most of which I've done before my other surgeries.Around the house:I cleaned what I could and tried to get as much laundry done as possible.Since I usually drive the kids to their things, I left a list of regularly scheduled things for the husband to drive.They have a few things coming up that are one-time events. I have already lined up rides for the kids with other (very helpful and kind) parents.We have temporarily set up the room on the first floor for me so I won't have to do stairs for a few days. Left the husband with a list of important passwords, not that I think he'll need them, but just in case. I took care of things on my to do list that I've been procrastinating on (it's amazing what surgery prompts you to do!)In the bedroom:Fresh sheets on the bed because that's just nice any time! I've pulled out some clothes from the dresser drawers/closet. The clothes are now folded and sitting on the top of the dresser so I have easy access to them (sometimes after surgeries, it's hard to pull those drawers open - this was an issue after my mastectomy and with some of my reconstruction so I just do it now with every surgery and it just makes things easier).I bought a paper holder and did not put paper in it, but it perfectly holds the tablet, the kindle, and my cell phone.I got a holder for my phone cord so it won't fall to the floor on me.I have a special wrap light so that if I need light in the middle of the night, it's right there for me.Random things:Clipped my nails so I won't have to worry about it laterBought some pajamas that are wicking fabric in case the hot flashes kick in really badly Bought some button down shirts - I used these after my mastectomy and it was so nice. Someone suggested that I might want to do that for the first few days after this surgery as well. I had already gotten rid of my other button downs (as I don't normally wear them)Things I didn't do this time that I normally do:Make some dinners in advanceLine up dinners from friendsLine up some activities for the kids Get a haircut so I wouldn't have to deal with my long hair - which I will now. Bummer.For relaxing and passing time as my body heals: I splurged and purchased kindle unlimited and got my 10 book limit.I used my library's on-line site and downloaded my 5 book limit.I was gifted the Texture app and it's all ready to go.(Side note: the texture app gives you access to a lot of magazines and you can read whichever ones you want, whichever articles you want for a monthly fee. It's pretty amazing and I am already in love with it and have read so many interesting things. It's great for those moments you have 10  minutes to read, or when you aren't feeling well and you don't want to have to remember details from a book!)I stacked a few actual books in case my eyes are bothering me and I can't look at screens.I stacked a few videos in case I want to watch something. Have some games ready to play on the tablet along with netflix, amazon prime, and on d[...]



A Night Away

2017-01-17T10:12:00.747-06:00

So the other day, I did one of the nicest things I've ever done for myself: a booked a hotel room. With a jacuzzi tub. And a fireplace.

(image) It was local - I didn't travel far.
I got a good deal because I booked it last minute.

And I'm telling you, I'm pretty sure I need to do this at least once a year with only one change: two nights instead of one!

On the way to the hotel, I stopped at the store and bought dinner and snacks - I knew once I was in the room, I wouldn't want to leave, so I came in with more than I needed.

I brought knitting, chocolate, scented stuff (but not too scented) for the tub, my tablet, and a book to read.

Can I just tell you how wonderful it was? Because it was.

It was over the top, it was a huge splurge, and I loved every single moment of it.

I took the loveliest bath I've had in a really long time.
I started and finished an entire book (The Great Christmas Knit Off - a light read that was just perfect for the occasion!)
I ate too much chocolate.
I streamed a tv show I enjoy.
I had a few glasses of Sparkling Grape Juice.
I sat in front of the fireplace.
I slept in really late.

(image) I had a bit of time by myself. And then my husband came and joined me. It was the perfect mix of alone time and together time.

It was definitely an over-the-top extravagance and I loved every single moment of it. I don't regret doing it at all.

It's hard to leave sometimes when you're the mom. But, we all know the whole if you're cup is empty how can you help others line of thinking.

I'm not sure if one night away refilled my cup per se, but it was enough to get me through for a while.



Oh 2016

2017-01-02T22:09:30.755-06:00

A poem I wrote in AprilIt's the start of the new year.A time to reflect on what's coming and what has passed.I won't lie.2016 was not the greatest year of my life. In fact, it is probably in the top 3 of worst years ever.It wasn't all bad. The year started well. Winter and spring were good.There was time with my family. There was CancerCon. There were good days for sure.But spring turned into summer. And everything seemed to fall apart.I think my 5 year anniversary of diagnosis might have set it off. Or maybe just life in general. Or maybe a medicine I take. Or maybe nothing. Maybe it was meant to be.But quickly, before I could realize what was going on, things seemed to spiral down, down, down, and when I thought it couldn't go any lower, it did.I knew I was in a bad place. I tried to fight it - I did. But I reached the point where I didn't want to get out of bed in the morning. I thought how much easier it would be to just lay in bed and not get up. That was all. I just wanted to stay in bed. I didn't want to parent. I didn't want to cook. I didn't want to clean. I didn't want to read. I didn't want to knit. I didn't want to watch tv or stream anything. I didn't want to shower. I didn't want to do anything, but stay in bed.Thankfully, each morning I was able to talk myself into getting up and doing the absolute minimum of things I needed to do.I was also at this time having issues with medicine that caused a lot of pain. I was getting migraines. My iron dropped again.So I would get up, do what needed to be done, and then nap.I was truly exhausted. I was truly in pain. I was truly burned out.I also realized that I was truly depressed.Pain, depression, disease, anxiety - there's a circle there can feed on itself once it's started that can be very hard to stop.There was also grief and guilt and feelings of inadequacy. I felt this surge of anger.  I was mad. At everyone. At everything.But mostly myself and mostly cancer. Everything cancer took from me, every side effect cancer gave me, everything I couldn't do, every time my body hurt, every time I had to say no I can't do that. There was anger. And anger. And even more anger.That's when I knew this couldn't be fixed by me alone or fixed with sheer will.So I went to a therapist.And I went to a doctor.And I talked.And I started medicine.And I was diagnosed with PTSD that includes depression and anxiety.  Is it all helping?Yes. It is.But.There's a lot to unpack.It doesn't get fixed overnight.And there's still the medical side of things: pain, low iron, fatigue, stomach issues, migraines.Basically, I mostly feel like I'm a hot mess.I haven't talked about it much. I haven't talked about it with many people.Honestly, I feel like a failure. I feel like I don't have a right to have PTSD. I feel afraid that if I share, people will treat me differently. I worry people will think I can't be a good mother through this. I feel ashamed.Of course, now it's a new year! And it's time for a new beginning!Or not.This doesn't end because the calendar changed.I don't suddenly cast out all my demons because it's a new day.I'll keep doing what I'm doing though.Except, I won't hide it as much.I'll try to wash the shame away.I'll try to remember that life is hard and beautiful and complicated and wonderful and awful and bittersweet and full of moments that take your breath away from awe and sometimes from pain.I'll try to remember compassion - for myself and for others.I'll try to remember love - for myself and for others.And I'll try to remember patience - for myself and others. I'm not sure what 2017 will hold in store for me.I'm not sure where I'll be standing 12 months from now. I feel pretty confident though that I'll be doing my best to do whatever it is I'm doing then.That I'll still be working through thi[...]



Browned Butter Cookie

2016-12-21T00:01:15.308-06:00

So, thanks to Houseful of Nicholes, I'm popping in real quick to actually blog.I know, I know. Please don't pass out from shock.Anyway, I'm back again this year to play along with #HousefulOfCookies once again this year.My teen baking!Now, last year, I made my lovely star Christmas tree. I was so proud of that tree and it's something I love to make. Last year, I entered the Christmas season with energy and vigor and excitement.This year, has been a bit different. This year I've been feeling not well. There's a lot going on - which is also why I haven't been blogging. I usually bake dozens and dozens of cookies each holiday season. This year I've hardly baked at all. It's hard to balance energy levels, health issues, and trying to do-do-do. I just can't do it all. Or even half. Mmm ... melted butterSo in an effort to scale back a bit, this year, we went with a simple cookie. Simple because I wanted to contribute to #HousefulOfCookies and because I needed to at least make some cookies this year. It's simple, but so good. And it's got lots of butter. And I love butter.My 14 year old was my helper. And by helper I mean she basically did almost all the work and I snapped pictures. I told my husband the student has surpassed the teacher. So we are both feeling proud - I like an excellent teacher, and her as an excellent baker. We (she) produced some excellent cookies. We made some with the fork, and she played with the cookie stamps for quite a few. Experimentation is good and she's never used them before. I might add, she did pretty darn good with them too, but can still work on technique a bit. Still, I didn't even know cookie stamps existed when I was 14!It was a nice night and the longest part was waiting for the butter to cool down!Browned Butter CookiesWhat you need:1 cup butter3/4 cup white sugar1 large egg2 teaspoons vanilla2 cups and a pinch more of flourDecorating sugar (optional)Cookie Stamps (optional)What to do:1. Preheat your oven to 350F2. Melt your butter over medium-high heat. Watch it closely. Allow it to melt and then after a few moments, the butter will start to foam and turn a lovely yellow color.3. Remove pan from heat and refrigerate for 30ish minutes.4. In a bowl, mix together the butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla.5. Slowly add in the flower into the mixture and mix until it is well blended.6. Rub some flour on your hands and roll the dough into 1-inch balls (a small cookie scoop is perfect for this).7. Roll the balls into decorating sugar (this is optional. I like it both ways - without sugar, it makes for a great cookie to dip in tea or coffee!)8. Place on cookie sheet and use a fork to flatten them. (Like how you do for peanut butter cookies?)*OPTIONAL STEP 8. Do not do step 7. Place balls on cookie sheet and use a cookie stamp to flatten them. Add decorating sugar if so desired.9. Bake 11-14 minutes, or until golden brown (note: they will bake a bit faster without the decorating sugar)10. Let cool. Eat. Enjoy.Yield 3-4 dozenWant more cookie recipes? Look no further than here:12/1 –Natasha Nicholes – Jan Hagel Dutch Shortbread Cookies 12/2 – Maple Mellows – Rosie Discovers 12/3 – Partridge in A Pear Tree Pie Cookies – All Dressed Up With Nothing to Drink12/4 – Chewy Chocolate Cookies with Coffee Glaze – Mama Harris’ Kitchen 12/5 – Snickerdoodle & Peanut Butter Cake Cookies – Crafty Life12/6 – German Chocolate Shortbread Cookies – Chewsy Lovers12/7 – Fruitcake Cookies – So Rae, Me12/8 – Cake Mix Christmas Cookies – A Real Urban Mom 12/9 – Snow On the Mountain Cookies – Kitchen Stories Etc. 12/10 – Melt In Your Mouth Nutella Butter Cookies P Thirty 1 12/11 – The Queso12/12 – Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies – Hysteric[...]



On getting my heart broken

2016-06-13T09:00:37.715-05:00

Lately, my heart has been broken.And broken again.And broken once more.And I've spent so much time wondering why.Why?Why do bad things happen?Why are we so quick to grab our pitchforks?Why do we not show more compassion?Why does our anger and hatred run so deep?Why do I care?Why do some others seem to not care?No, this isn't related to anything in my house.No, this isn't related to cancer.But current events lately?They are slowly breaking me.What fresh hell will we wake up to tomorrow?It seems to me that even though witch hunts fell out of favor, that even though burning woman at the stake is frowned upon, we as a society have figured out a way to figuratively burn women at the stake.Make a mistake? Uproar.Act human? How dare you.You are not a perfect mother? Then why the hell did you even have children?And if your child leaves your eye sight for one second? Well, suddenly everyone else has NEVER lost a child and has never felt that panic and take your child away because SHAME ON YOU.Get raped? Well, why didn't you prevent it better?On the other hand ...Oh you raped a woman ...Well, do you look "nice"?Are you an athlete?Do you come from a "good" family?Oh, well, here's your slap on the wrist and now we will all mourn for the things you have lost. Because maybe now you can't even eat steak anymore, and oh dear, what ever shall we do to make you feel better now?And then we throw in the oh, you don't like who that person kissed?Great. Here's a gun that fires more rounds than anyone should ever have a need for.When the anger gets to be too much? Go and shoot up a bunch of people.Because they are something that you don't agree with.The country will mourn.We'll pray.We'll send good thoughts.But nothing will change.In a few weeks, another woman will make a mistake and be raked across the coals.Another woman will get raped and people will blame her clothes, what she drank, where she was, and her sexual history. (Or worse, no one will listen and nothing will be done.)Another man will get a slap on the wrist for raping her. (Or worse, he'll have nothing done because she won't report it, or she won't be believed, or the police won't press charges, or the DNA kit will be placed on an ever growing pile that isn't being tested).Someone else will take a gun to a bar, a movie theater, a shopping mall, a street, a school, a beach, a concert, a sporting event, somewhere, anywhere.There is so much hate in this world.There is so much us vs. them.There is so little compassion.There is so much anger.There is so much division.There is so little understanding.And it just feels like we, as a society, will ever do anything to stop it. Sure, we throw out platitudes. As if that's ever made a difference.Sigh.I don't know where to go from here.I don't know what to do.I want to be a voice that speaks out.I want to be a voice that is compassionate.I want to be a voice that is understanding.I want to be a voice that is caring.I want to stop the hate.I want to stop the anger.I want to stop the violence.I want to stop the hurt.I want to stop the pain.It's all rolling around in my head. All these thoughts, all these feelings.I can't imagine how people who are in the thick of things are feeling about this.It's so hard to wrap my head around. I just don't understand it.  [...]



National Cancer Survivorship Day

2016-06-05T13:08:53.701-05:00

Today is National Cancer Survivor Day. Per definition "An individual is considered a cancer survivor from the time of diagnosis, through the balance of his or her life. Family members, friends, and caregivers are also impacted by the survivorship experience and are therefore included in this definition." from the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship. The minute a doctor tells you that you have cancer, you are considered a survivor. You remain a survivor for the rest of your life.Many people who are survivors struggle with that term. Even though the term was coined to include those who have incurable cancer, or those who are in active treatment, many people hear survivor and assume that it means a person who completed treatment and no longer has cancer. And so survivor can feel like an awkward term to call oneself, especially during treatment, especially if you know the cancer you have will probably be what kills you, especially if you do not feel that cancer is a gift. Not long ago, survivor was expanded to include the family members/care givers of the person with cancer. Many of these people have trouble calling themselves survivors too. For me, it is a strange place to be in. I'm a "survivor" but I didn't do anything special to be a survivor. I did not do anything to get my cancer and I didn't do anything special to make it go away. Science happened. Something happened in my genes, and some of my cells turned into cancer. Science happened. The doctors gave me standard care and at this moment, the doctors can't detect cancer in my system anymore.But other people in the same boat, go through the same treatment and the story ends differently. It is hard to accept that it's just luck of the draw.We as people want to grab onto something. "I don't eat x, so I can't get cancer. I meditate, so I can't get cancer. I sleep 8 hours a day, so I can't get cancer. I never drink y, so I can't get cancer. I pray every day, so I can't get cancer. I exercise, so I can't get cancer." It's natural. IF we can isolate the ONE thing that causes cancer, we can protect ourselves, and our loved ones.However, cancer has existed long before our modern lifestyle. It predates sugar, and gluten, and pollution, and electricity, and we could keep going and going and going.We have found bodies with cancer that are 3000, 4000, maybe even 7000 years old. That's not to say don't be healthy. Because you should be healthy. I think we all know that by now.And there are ways to reduce your risk of cancer. Reduce. Reduce. Reduce.There are not ways to eliminate cancer. We haven't figured out how to do that yet. I wish we had. But we haven't.So, today on National Cancer Survivors Day, think of your friends and loved ones who have/had cancer. Think of those who are still here, going through treatment. Think of those who are still dealing with the after effects of treatment. Think of their families and the people who care about them. And think of those of us who are missing someone today.But also, remember, that tomorrow, you could find yourself in this group of survivors. Remember that even though you are healthy, there isn't a guarantee that you won't get cancer. Remember that cancer predates many of the things that people say are giving us cancer. And remember that some of the people you know, struggle with the term survivor - and that's okay. And some of the people you know embrace it fully and wholly - and that's okay.There are over 15.5 million survivors in the US today. The only connecting thread for these 15.5 million people is that somewhere in their life, a doctor told them they had cancer. We are a group of people with a wide range of feelings on the term "survivor." As[...]



This is 37

2016-05-20T23:38:22.649-05:00

Monday was my birthday. Yay for more birthdays!I had lots of friends send me wishes via facebook, and so I wanted to make sure I said thank you.My thank you post turned out to be pretty long, long enough in fact to become a blog post. So here you go, this is a straight copy & paste job!Thank all for the lovely wishes. I've been having a great day so far - the kids made me a banner, blew up some balloons and made cupcakes. I finished the book I was reading (that was due today). We went to the library and the grocery store. Now we are getting ready to head out to Miss M's softball game, where we'll eat pizza and enjoy our cupcakes. It's not fancy, but it will be a good birthday dinner none-the-less.Now, for the serious part.I'm 37 years old. I can't lie, I wasn't sure that I'd see 37. I didn't share this widely at the time, but when I was diagnosed, based on my specific cancer, age, and treatment, the statistics said that there was a 27% chance that I would be alive in 5 years. That's really hard to hear. While I know I'm not a statistic, and it didn't feel like a dramatic death sentence, it still felt like a punch in the gut to hear. I never thought "when I'm 37," it has been "If I get to 37."  I know sometimes when I say things like that to Eric, it is hard for him to hear. I never said it to be depressing or dramatic, but it just what was for me.  It was hard for quite some time for me to plan in the future. I'm sure it was a defense mechanism, but I stopped thinking about long term plans. I stopped thinking about how I would spend retirement, or what I would do after all the kids left the house. That was hard to do. Because thinking about it would always end with my brain coming back to that 27%.  So I focused on doing. Doing things (when I could, when I was able to). But I'm here. I'm 37. And that tightness in my chest feels a little less tight. I'm starting to just be more, instead of doing things, instead of just filling the time.  I know that none of us really knows what tomorrow brings. And I know some of you are dealing with a lot more than what I do. But it was still hard. And felt like a heavy burden to carry.  I'm glad I'm turning 37 today. It is a birthday that some of my friends didn't get to celebrate. But I'm here. I've got great friends and family. I'm here. I'm living. And I'm working on being. And I'm working on worrying a bit less. And I'm working on trying to just enjoy the here and now instead of letting the little things nag me or the big fears consume me.  So, happy birthday to me. And happy unbirthday to all of you, who helped me get here through love and support and humor and all the many ways you are blessings in my life.  And an extra shout out to the husband Eric - my rock, my protector, the guy who would walk through fire for me. And my mom Ellyn, who never makes me feel bad when I have to call her crying, who has supported me always and has always been there for me.  So here we go. This is 37.[...]



Reading, Justin Cronin, and Chemobrain

2016-05-13T13:36:49.306-05:00

Sometime back in 2010, I was listening to the radio, and I heard an interview with this author Justin Cronin.At the time I didn't know who he was, had never heard of him before. But the interview hooked me in. (I think the interview might have been Terry Gross, but I'm not 100% sure).Cronin was talking about how his new book, The Passage, came to be. He would run while his daughter biked and they talked books and plots and what they should write about. His daughter was nine and naturally wanted a book where a nine-year-old girl was an important character. And so The Passage was born.I knew it was a horror book. I knew it had vampires/zombie things in it. I knew that wasn't quite what I was reading about at the time. But when I heard that interview, I was sold. I needed to read this book that I was hearing about. Mostly because I was sold on the father/daughter creation of it.Plus, we had a big trip coming up - a train trip from Chicago to Boston and so I would have a lot of time to kill. The Passage, when I looked it up, was a huge book and would be perfect for the train. So I downloaded it onto my new e-reader and dove in.I. Loved. That. Book.I couldn't put it down. I'm pretty sure my family got annoyed with me saying, "just let me get to the end of the page and I'll be there!" When it ended, I wanted to cry. I needed the second book right then. Of course, the first book had just come out, so the waiting game began.Then April 2011 hit. And cancer hit. My own personal nightmare, which had nothing to do with vampires or vampire-like creatures, or anything you find in a horror books played out in front of me.During treatment, I all but stopped reading. I was physically incapable of reading - the meds messed with my eyes very badly and words looked like they were dancing across the page. I tried some audio books. I was mentally incapable of reading. I couldn't remember anything they had just said. I basically gave up on reading.This was hard, I've always been a reader. Books, more than once in my life, had been my best friend. Reading was a vital part of my life - I was always reading.But treatment ended and my eyes got better, so I decided to try to read again. And the chemobrain raged in full force. I just couldn't do it. I couldn't concentrate. I couldn't remember the line I had just read. I couldn't remember which character was who.Again, frustration hit.It was suggested that I go back and start to read children's books. And I did. And I could keep track of them better, and I worked my way up to books aimed at middle schoolers. And the books were good, but not exactly what I wanted to be reading. I know middle school is tough, but one more bad lunchroom scene and I was going to lose it.So I kept trying to go back to "adult" books and I just couldn't. I couldn't keep up with them. It was too much for my brain.But.But.The Twelve, part two of the series, came out late 2012. And I was going to read come hell or high water.I can't tell you how many times I restarted that book. How many pages I had to read, then reread, then reread again. How I would sometimes google characters names to place them in my head when I forgot who they were.But I was in love with the series, and the second book, despite me having lots of trouble reading it, didn't dampen my love for the story or my desire to know what happened.It took a long time, but I read, finished, and remembered what happened in The Twelve.For me, this series will be a direct measure of what I could do before cancer, and what I could do after cancer.The first book I sailed through. The second book almost felt like it was in a language I didn't know very well. But, when I go[...]



#100DaysOfGetBusyLiving

2016-05-11T16:35:20.263-05:00

So, I've been home from CancerCon for a bit now, but I came home with so much energy (mental only. I'm still trying to catch up on the physical energy!) and excitement. Which has been a great thing, but of course, leads to this: what next?What next indeed.Where to go from here?I have big ideas. And big dreams.But.But.I'm busy being a mom, wife, and granddaughter.That's not a bad thing. I enjoy my role as a stay-at-home-mom. I like homeschooling the kids. I enjoy the days we get together. I also know that my time of being busy in these things is quickly approaching an end.So when I think about possible career paths and being more involved in advocacy, that's a few years down the road. That's for when the kids are all in school. That's for when the kids will need me physically less.And yes, that will be quite the bittersweet transition for me.That is all in the future though. Right now I'm here.So I was thinking. And thinking. And thinking a little bit more.And it hit me.Me at CancerConInspired by Stupid Cancer's charter "to ensure that no one affected by young adult cancer go unaware of the age-appropriate support resources they are entitled to so they can get busy living" and by Dragonfly Angel Society's #100DaysFearlessOfCancer, I decided to start my own 100 days project.And so, starting next Monday, I will begin #100DaysOfGetBusyLiving. The key word in there is living - not busy. This isn't going to be 100 days of being busy and running around like crazy.  A. I am already busy enough. B. It would break me if I tried. It might seem contrary, but my goal is to have more fun, slow down a bit and do things that I enjoy, and just try to be present more. Being busy living might mean curling up with a good book. It might mean laying in the yard with the kids deciding what clouds look like. It might mean taking a nature hike and snapping some photos.  It might mean a trip to a new place. It might mean trying a new recipe. Or it might mean finally starting to do yoga like I've been saying I would since, oh, maybe a year ago? It's all about living. And being. I can't just jump up and pull an Eat, Pray, Love or a Wild type trip. But I can still be here and make every day count - even if it's just the little things. Flowers on the table, playing good music while I fold laundry. Something. Anything. This is what I can do. So next Monday it begins. An arbitrary date? Yes and no. I could easily say let's start now! But next Monday is my birthday. I will turn 37 years old. And what better way to kick off the next year of my life than by getting busy living? Because I'll be honest with you, 5 years ago I didn't actually think I'd see 37. I didn't think I'd get that much time. I know that sounds dramatic, but it didn't feel dramatic in my head. It just felt like that's what would be. But it wasn't. And I'm here. So now, I've decided, it's time for me to get busy living. We'll see where these 100 days take me. Because I'm ready.  [...]



Need a night out?

2016-05-26T15:16:29.320-05:00

**please note: parts of this post are sponsored. I'm being given tickets in exchange for sharing this information with you, however, as always, all thoughts and opinions are my own!Hey Chicago friends! Are you looking for a night out? Because we've got some pretty fabulous shows in the area that you should know about.I'm pretty excited because I always love heading into the city to see shows. For me, a stage show is just magical. And truth be told, we don't see them often enough for my tastes, but life is busy and it's not always easy to get into the city. But the times we manage to make it, it is always well worth it.The King and IThe King and I is running now at the Lyric Opera House.  Didn't buy your tickets yet? That's okay. They are running a special promotion right now.You can get half off tickets to any Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday night performance of the King and I if you use the code SIAMBLOG when you purchase your tickets. So you should definitely buy some tickets and "get to know" The King and I. (See what I did there? And yes, I will be singing Getting to Know You the rest of the day and I'm okay with that!)I've never seen the King and I on stage before myself and I'm pretty excited to be able to finally say I have because I love the music from the show so much. Please see lyricopera.org/promo for full offer details. Code expires 5/19/2016. For more information on The King and I visit www.lyricopera.org/kingandiCinderellaThis week, the Joffrey Ballet is kicking off Cinderella. This is the final show of their 60th season it's running from May 11 to May 22, so get your tickets quick before the the coach turns back into a pumpkin.But seriously, I've seen the Disney version, I've seen movie versions. Last year my husband took my downtown to see the Rodgers & Hammerstein's version. I've known the Cinderella story since childhood, but I'm excited to see how the Joffrey Balley takes it and makes it it's own. I have hopes which I know won't be disappointed.Tickets are available for the show now and you can buy them on-line at joffrey.org/cinderella.Van Gogh's BedroomsSpeaking of heading downtown, tomorrow the kids and I are going to hop a train and head on down the Art Institute. Tomorrow is the last day of the special Van Gogh's Bedroom exhibit. Ever since it opened I've been saying that I want to go down, and in what seems fitting, I'll finally make it on the last day! My 13 year old has already been with some friends, but the 10 year old and I will be looking at it for the first (and last) time. In general, I love the Art Institute, but I'm especially excited to visit this exhibit. Plus, it's always nice to get out of the house and change up the routine a bit!Anyway, if you have time in the next two days, you should head out and see Van Gogh's Bedrooms because I've heard from other people that it's well worth it![...]



All the Feels at CancerCon

2016-05-05T11:13:21.305-05:00

Last weekend, I bravely hopped on a plane (with the aid of xanax and a meditation app) and flew out to Denver, Colorado and attended my first CancerCon.So. Yeah. I did actually go to a conference about cancer.Yes, it is a real thing.No, people didn't wear costumes.Yes, it was fun.Yes, I want to go back.So, before I went, I thought I'd come back and share a lot of information. I thought I'd come back and feel educated. It was almost as if I was gearing up to go back to school.While I did get a lot of information, and I did learn some new things, there was so much more to this conference than I knew to plan for: the richness and the depth of the conversations with other people that I would have.I mean, I knew I'd have to talk to people. I knew I'd get to meet people, but I figured it would all be kind of superficial. I mean, there were over 600 people there, so many things going on, sessions to attend, SWAG to grab, etc, etc.And somehow in the midst of all of this, there were some really deep and powerful conversations, at least for me.Maybe, because everyone there is connected to cancer so the small talk was skipped? Except, there was a fair amount of talk about the weather - lots of snow, some rain, many clouds, and the sun came out just as we left for the airport ride home! But still, you had the standard my name is Brandie. I'm from Chicago. Oh yes, I was afraid I'd die.There aren't many people you get to jump from your name to a big fear with. And no, it wasn't depressing - I realize it may sound like it, but it wasn't. In fact, it was the opposite.I left the conference feeling lighter. And feeling stronger. And with some truths realized that were uplifting.I met a lovely woman Cindy. Cindy left me feeling peaceful and calm. She helped me see a strength in myself I hadn't seen before. And she encouraged me to take some time to look back to see how far I've come. I've been avoiding this. I didn't want to look back because I knew what I'd see - the same thing I've been saying around these parts - that I'm still stuck 5 years ago. Except, I'm not. I'm actually not. I know, I'm shocked too. That's not to say I'm not stuck in some sense. And that I don't have more progress to make. All of that is true. But it's also true that I'm human and while some days feel like two steps forward, one step back, that means the net gain is one step forward. And I'm doing that - even when it doesn't feel like it. Amazing!I ate lunch with Kari. Kari was one of those wonderfully energetic, just exudes energy, and makes you want to just sit by her and soak it all up kind of people. After talking to her for a while, I was ready to just go out and change the whole entire world. I often joke that I wish I could bottle my 10-year-old's energy up and just have half of it. I think Kari figured out how to do that. I want to be that kind of force in the world. It might take some serious naps and caffeine, and I'll have to do it my way, but watch out world. I'm ready to make some waves. They might be teeny-tiny ones, but they'll be mine none-the-less.This is just the tip of the iceberg. I could tell you about Jonathon, and Lori, and both Jennifers, and Matt, and Melissa, and Colleen, and Dan and several dozen other people.I could tell you about tears and laughter - sometimes only seconds apart. I could tell you about all the hugs I received and gave. I could tell you how more than once I would (literally) squee as I saw people I've connected with on-line before this conference in person, and how I'd run over and say hey! I'm a stalker - but not really - on twitter/ins[...]



5 years ... and one week

2016-05-03T09:30:32.927-05:00

I had every intention of writing and sharing last Tuesday.But life.So today is better than never, right?So. 5 years (and one week ago) I heard the words "You have cancer."5 years.I know, 5 years is supposed to be really exciting.Like celebration exciting.And yet, to be honest with you, I wasn't feeling any of it.To be really honest, I actually kind of felt depressed about it.I realize this might seem counter-intuitive. I realize there are some people who are scared they won't see the five year mark and are jealous of where I am now. I have friends who are no longer with us who never saw the five year mark.I'm not trying to downplay the fact that I am lucky enough to still be here. Five years later.But when I think about those who aren't here. Or those who are worried they might not be here in five years, it weighs heavy on my heart.I didn't do anything special to still be here. The science that we have worked for me. There are people who at the same age, with the same cancer, with the same stage, with the same grade who the science didn't work for.I am not still here because I am strong.I am not still here because I stayed positive.I am not still here because I did cancer "right."I am not still here because God loves me.I am not still here because I am special.I am not still here because of any of this.They are not here because they were weak.They are not here because they were negative.They are not here because they did cancer "wrong."They are not here because God didn't love them.They are not here because they weren't special.They are not here because of any of this.We have science to try to treat cancer.Sometimes it works.Sometimes it doesn't.This makes it hard for me to celebrate.Let me be clear: I am grateful. I am happy. I am glad.But to celebrate? Celebrate something that I really had little control over? It's been hard for me to get to that point.So, my husband and I decided over the weekend, we'd go out and get a drink. Say cheers.At the last minute, I almost said screw it, let's just get in pajamas and stay home, but I didn't. And we got to the bar, I was surprised to see my family there - my mom, dad, sisters, and brother-in-laws. I yelled. I cried. I hugged. And I instantly felt my spirits lift.We sat, we ate, we talked, we had a drink. A friend texted to see if she could meet us there too.More laughter, more talking, more eating, a second drink.I can't lie, it felt good.I walked in that night feeling sad and overwhelmed and like it was hard to celebrate.I walked out that night feeling happy and grateful and glad we did celebrate.Yes, I am still mourning friends.Yes, I have sadness for those who are dealing with illness (or other things).But.But.I realized that at the same time, I can feel happy for where I am.I can celebrate these milestones.I don't need a big huge party. I don't need gifts. But to have loved ones around me, to say cheers, I'm here to have this drink,  that was exactly what I needed. I needed this Saturday night gathering and I didn't even know it.I can celebrate these moments.I can embrace these anniversaries.This doesn't mean I'm forgetting about others who couldn't be there or couldn't have that moment. Because, I don't. And don't ever intend to.But, you guys? It's been 5 years. And a week.5 years.That sometimes seem like 5 days and other times feel like 5 decades.5 years.Yep. I can raise a glass to that.Before I close, I want to remember those who I'm missingJenny Susan Rachel Jada Barb Dave Lisa Arlene Mary Ginny SeporahKatiexoxo  [...]



It just is

2016-04-14T00:40:35.547-05:00

Two weekends ago I headed up to Madison, WI and attended the Midwest Young Adult Cancer Conference.

It was a one-day affair and I had a good time.

I learned a few new things, and connected with some great people. For me, connecting with others was the highlight of the day for me and it's highly probable that I'll attend it again next year.

That said, part of the day was hard fro me.

I was surrounded by people who also had cancer. Who were in my age range. Some of them also parents, some of them not. It's good for me to get time with a wide range of people who are in similar boats as me. It's therapeutic for me.

It's why I try to get out to local Stupid Cancer meetings and YSC meetings.

At the end of the month, I'll be flying to Denver to attend CancerCon as well.

There are too many moments of the day where I feel isolated and different.

At my core, I know that I'm not - I'm surrounded by a fair amount of people who try to understand, who are caring, and sympathetic. It means a lot to me. But it's another thing to talk to someone who knows what things are like verses someone who is just trying to imagine what things are like.

I come home feeling more normal, feeling more okay with things, and with a wee bit of energy.

Except sometimes I don't. Sometimes I walk away and I feel stuck.

And I hate it. It's uncomfortable. It's unpleasant. It's hard to face.

So on Saturday, in the midst of all the goodness of the day, this feeling of stuckness was thrown into the mix as well. Frankly, this wasn't the feeling I was anticipating dealing with.

But I sat in it for a bit. Instead of ignoring it, instead of burying it, instead of just wishing it away, I sat in it.

Turns out, it wasn't actually that bad.

I mean, it's probably not great. But it's not really bad either. It just is.

It just is.

Okay, maybe I'm still working on convincing myself of that. But I think it's worth  convincing myself.

So with all these thoughts flying around my head, the rest of the conference went really well.

At the end of the day we did a little wrap-up activity in which we wrote what we had expected to learn there and what we did learn. After all of that, we were challenged to write some sort of wrap-up in a 7 word poem.

7 words.

I admit I was stumped at first, but it came to me.

Short. Sweet. And it hit the point.
At the last minute, I altered it a bit.
I think it's perfect.
This is what I'm holding onto moving forward.






What comes next?

2016-04-07T13:26:53.887-05:00

(image)
Chicago at night
What comes next?

I've been thinking about this a lot lately.
I've got one daughter two years away from college. One daughter who is a year away from entering high school (and ending homeschooling). One son who is three years away from making the homeschool-to-public-school switch. This means there should be an eventual return to the work force for me. We're renting a house now. We'd like to buy and soon. We'd like to buy this house. I'm not sure it's in the cards for us financially (see: one child 2 years away from college with a sibling to follow every three years thereafter).

In the next several years, there is going to be a lot of change around here. Not that it's all bad. I love watching my children grow. I love seeing where their paths will take them. While I'll miss my daughter should she go away for college, it will be exciting to see how she picks her school, what she picks to major in. There will be lots of milestones to celebrate, holidays to be together for, birthday parties.

Still. I sit here and wonder what next?

And if I'm being completely honest, the truth is that's what I've been asking myself for the last 5 years.

Cancer. Well, what next?

I still don't know. I still haven't figured it out.

Sometimes I think I'm on the verge of figuring out. Something happens, I feel moved, the excitement blows up like a balloon. But always, always, a pin comes a long, pops that balloon, and I'm left there with lots of uncertainty. Lots of anxiety. Lots of worry. And lots of worrying about what the heck I'm supposed to be doing. Because I just don't know.

I'll tell you something else. I'm really, really, I mean really tired of it all. I'm just tired of it.

How has five years passed and it still feels like just yesterday I was told that I had cancer. Because it just doesn't seem to make sense in my mind.  And this whole time I've been wondering what's next.

You know what I think I realized though? It's not anything about what comes next. I've spent the last 5 years looking for the wrong thing.

It's not about what's next. It's about what's now.

This moment.
Right now.

So I'm trying.
I'm really trying.

It's going to take me time. I wish I could rush and just be where I want to be. So I'm going to try to be patient and, as the cliche goes, take it one day at a time.



And As I Knit ...

2016-03-27T20:19:01.004-05:00

And as I knit each stitch for you,

I knit in prayers of happiness and joy
I knit in wishes of a life of lots of laughter
I knit in hopes of goodness and lots of smiles
I knit in hugs and love for the moments you need them, despite hoping you never will
I knit in thoughts that you will have a well-knit community around you.
This is what I knit for you.


As I knit, my anxiety slips off like a stitch being dropped
As I knit, the sadness I carry lightens
As I knit, worries about my health disappear
As I knit, I feel like I've found my place in the world
As I knit, I am filled with joy and happiness as I picture you with the finished product
This is what I knit for me.


I knit for you
I knit for me


As the yarn is joined together, for a moment, so are we
Just for a moment. 


As I knit each stitch for you



Sometimes words are not enough

2016-03-12T21:32:32.868-06:00

I can't tell you how many times I have sat down and opened this page.
I've clicked to write a new post.
The blank page pops up waiting for me to type, and nothing comes.

In my head I have plenty to say.
When I sit down, the words all seem to disappear and flit away.

I could tell you about my lymphedema flare-up.
I could tell you about my new (to me) vehicle.
I could tell you how my new (to me vehicle) is broken and the dealer we bought it from won't fix it.
I could tell you I've been getting ocular migraines again.
I could tell you about what I've knit recently.
I could tell you about the new project I'm working on with my daughter.
I could tell you we've had a few warm(er) days and it's been nice.
I could tell you about basketball seasons.
I could tell you about volleyball.
I could tell you about my son's piano recital.
I could tell you about all the things I'm baking.
I could tell you about pain.
I could tell you about anxiety.
I could tell you about gratitude.
I could tell you about fear.
I could tell you about happiness.

And yet, when I sit to tell you any of this, all of this, none of this.
It's all gone.

Honestly, I sometimes wonder if I've used up all the words I had for blogging.
Other times I wonder if I should maybe stop blogging.

How can I blog without words?
How can I find words when the world feels so much bigger than me and my words and my thoughts and my problems and my joys feel so small?

And today I read devastating news from a friend. Her precious daughter passed away. And I sit here heartbroken.

Words just aren't enough.

They just aren't.

Words have the ability to be quite powerful, to be a force to be reckoned with.

But right now, words fail me. They don't say enough for what I want to say.

So I sit silently. In tears. In prayers. Sending love. Sending so much love into this broken world full or heart ache and pain and unfairness.

And I hold on to the good things, the uplifting things, the powerful things.

Because this is life. This is my life.
And all I can do is what I can do.
What I can do changes every day.
So when words aren't enough, I dive into doing.
Doing what I can.

So I'm here. I'm doing. I'm thinking. And I'm trying to find my words. 



Leap Day

2016-02-29T10:00:25.454-06:00

It's leap day today.

A day we only get every 4 years ... though if we live long enough (2100) we'll see an 8 year cycle for leap year, which seems strange right? Okay, well, maybe only to me!

None-the-less, we have a bonus day today.

Alas, I will be doing what I do every Monday.

I thought about trying to do something special for today, but there just didn't seem to be anything that struck me as worth doing. And the week in general is a busy one, so February 29 will look like February 28 and March 1.

I know I've been quiet around here lately.

There's so much I want to say, and yet, I have nothing to say.

I've been busy living life.
I've been busy resting.
I've been busy reading.
I've been busy knitting.
I've been busy doing.
I've been busy being.
I've been busy being busy.
I've been busy being lazy.

All of this busyness leaves me exhausted.

Don't get me wrong, life is good. I'm getting things done. There's lots of laughter and smiles. I'm trying new things. It's good.

But I'm so tired. Same old story. I'm trying to manage the exhaustion better - some days I do a better job than others.

So, on this bonus day this year, I'll be doing what I do! And it will be good.