Friday, December 28, 2012

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays everyone!

December has been a crazy month around here. I think, though, most everyone was busy and so I'm fairly certain that my lack of posting was completely unnoticed, which made me even lazier to come over and say hi!

That said, I hope that all of you had a wonderful holiday season!

Here, at our house, we had a good Christmas, which was good. Outside of that, life has been hectic and crazy and not so wonderful, but there is something about Christmas that just made me smile.

We did not do all the normal Christmas traditions around these parts ... I didn't bake more than a couple cookies. I didn't make any (but two) presents, the house wasn't as decorated as I would have liked. My energy levels just seem to go down with each passing day - but we did have some fun.

IMG_0043On Saturday (before) Christmas, we headed out to Lincoln Park Zoo to see the zoo lights. We've never been before and I highly recommend it. We had such a nice time, even though it did feel like we were there with half the city of Chicago!

IMG_0056


Then on Sunday night, my darling husband drove us all around so we could see the lights around town. He was a good sport considering I'm pretty sure it wasn't the number one thing he wanted to be doing. I really wanted to go, but I wasn't feel well, so he stepped in and drove.

We did this two Christmases ago with the kids. We just get in the car and drive around, no rhyme or reason and look at how houses have decorated. I remember doing this a few times with my grandparents as a child and really wanted to share it with my kids too.


And of course, Christmas was spent with family. On Christmas eve, we get together with my husband's family. On Christmas day, we wake up here, do our presents and then early afternoon we head on over to my mom's house. I love it. Hanging out, relaxing, chatting with others, some game playing. It's awesome =)

All of this to say, despite all the craziness going on - my exhaustion, husband working too much, trying to make sure all the presents were bought and wrapped and ready to go, it was a good Christmas over here. I hope, despite whatever is going on in your life, it was a good holiday for you as well!

Friday, December 07, 2012

TGIF

I can't lie. This week has been hard. And long. There was another allergic reaction to medicine. A sick kid. A test I didn't want to get.

But, last night we decorated the tree and I felt my spirits lift.


Not to mention, I did have my 1000th post (and a giveaway, so go comment!) And the twitter chat last night was a good one.

Today I woke up and had a lovely facebook message which reminded me that one year ago, I got to tell you all I was cancer-free.

And just like that, this week doesn't seem so bad after all. It wasn't perfect. Some things could have gone a lot better, but you know what? Some things went very well. Today that is what I'm choosing to embrace.

So, happy Friday everyone. And I hope you have a good weekend too.

xoxo,
Brandie  

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Are you free tonight?

*note: this is a sponsored post, but as always, all thoughts and opinions are my own! 
 
If you are around tonight, I hope you'll join me over at twitter for a twitter chat with The Maker Mom!

Kim hosts #STEMchat (STEM = science, technology, engineering, and math) monthly over on twitter. There is always a lot of great information being shared - I've been able to jump in one before (though I try to make the rest, I'm just never around!) and I had such a good time. Tonight's chat is even more exciting to me as we'll be talking homemade gifts and gifts that keep on giving. And you know me and homemade gifts - LOVE them.

This month's chat is also being sponsored by Little Bits. I haven't had a chance to play with them yet, but they look very fun! And if you want to play with them yourself, you definitely want to join the chat because Kim will be giving a seven bit kit during the chat (and also, over at her blog, so make sure you visit over there as well!)
In addition, littleBits is hosting a creative holiday challenge. It's kind of like Design Squad for adults- dream up a creative project incorporating littleBits, sketch it out and submit the sketch to win. How easy is that?

So, I hope you'll join me tonight over at twitter at 9pm Eastern (8 central) while we talk about the holidays, STEM, and making things (all things that make me smile).

To learn more about the chat, little bits, The Maker Mom, and the other panelist, visit Kim's post here!)

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Happy 1000th!

Picture my 10yo made to help me celebrate!
Almost 8 years ago exactly (On December 31, 2004) I started this blog. It wasn't my first blog ... I had actually been blogging over at AOL before then but decided the AOL blogs weren't meeting my needs (which turned out to be good since eventually AOL got rid of their blogs).

It's been a fun ride. I blogged about my crafts. I blogged through my third (and final pregnancy). I blogged about us moving. I've blogged about reading. I've blogged about things our family has done. I've blogged about the worst news I ever got - cancer. I've blogged about moments I'm so proud of. This blog has been quite a ride!

And today? Today I'm blogging my 1000th post.

picture my 13yo made to help me celebrate
1000. This feels like a huge milestone to me. 1000 times I've come here to share - the good, the bad, the ugly, the mundane, the important, the boring, all of it. A lot of me shared with whoever happens to stumble across this little site once and those who have become my friends and come back often to see what's going on.

And I can't imagine it being any other way.

I remember when I first started blogging. People were confused What? What's a blog? Blog. Huh. Never heard of that before. Wait, you have like a journal on-line for anyone to read? Why?

I do it because I love it. I'll keep doing it because I love it.


To help me celebrate my 1000th post, The Preschool Toolbox is offering 5 themes to one winner, chosen from whoever leaves a comment on this post. Very exciting and very generous of them to offer up a prize for you =)

As I close this 1000th post, I'd like to say a great big thank you to you, the reader. I can't lie: every comment warms my heart and makes me smile. I may be biased, but I think I have some of the most fabulous blog readers around.

xoxo,
Brandie

Monday, December 03, 2012

3 on 3

I decided to start a new tradition around here. Every month on the third, I'm going to snap a shot of my three kiddos - 3 on 3.

This is not an idea I thought of on my own. I've been watching for years as Stephanie over at Adventures in Babywearing has been doing pictures of her 4 on the 4th. I only wish I would have started it when I first saw her doing it, because think of all the pictures I would have to look back on now?

But you can't go backwards, only forward. So here you go






Yes. I took that picture today. Yes, we live in Chicago-land. My kids are standing outdoors, in December and not freezing.

It was a beautiful day today, so I dressed them all up and headed to a farm to take some pictures of them. Okay, maybe more than some. Maybe about 350. I took pictures of them together, apart, sometimes two of them. I got a few I really like. I'm excited and hopefully I can actually get Christmas cards done this year.

Itchy or ...

Over the course of this end of last week and this weekend, I learned that I can be itchy. Or I can be witchy. (okay, okay, so I'm putting the cleaned-up version of what I said to my husband last night on the blog).

On Monday I started new medicine - zoloft - to help with the mood swings and all the lovely crap going on that we think is hormonal related ... as in my hormones are going totally crazy and surging and spiking and one minute I'm having horrible periods and the next I'm hot flashing like I'm in the throws of menopause. Which is awesome. If by awesome, you mean absolutely not awesome.

Usually, my gynecologist informed me, the first thing we'd do is start the birth control pill. Except I'm special and can't take it (because my breast cancer grew on hormones. So if I started putting hormones in my body and on the off chance there was any cancer left floating around somewhere in there, it'd be like going here, cancer cancer, come get your food so you can grow nice and big) But, never fear, my gynecologist reassured me, because we could use zoloft and it often works well for women in my shoes.

So I started it. I dutifully took it every night. Thursday night, as I was sitting and crocheting, I had a weird surge of needed to itch - mostly my back and my head. And I got hot. Which I didn't think much of ... usually during hot flashes I tend to get a bit itchy.

Then Friday early evening hit and every. single. spot of my body itched. EVERY SINGLE SPOT. I was rubbing my back on the wall, and using my hands to itch my face, my scalp, my arms, my stomach, my legs, my feet. I was also crying BECAUSE I COULDN'T STOP ITCHING. And just for fun, let's throw in a panic attack because why in the world was I itching everywhere and why couldn't I stop.

So I called my husband in a panic because I was ITCHING EVERYWHERE and oh, yeah, we don't have any benadryl (generic or not) in my house. And also? I THOUGHT I WAS DYING.

God bless this man, because as calmly as can be he assured me he was already on his way home from work and he'd pick me something up and I should just hang in there until he got home.

So I popped a xanax and tried really hard to not itch. Also, called an attempt at the impossible. Husband came home and brought benadryl lotion that we rubbed everywhere. Then I yelled at him because I NEEDED SOMETHING STRONGER AND WHY DIDN'T HE BRING ME PILLS BECAUSE I NEED PILLS. To which he calmly (again, this man deserves an award) said he's go back to the pharmacy and see what else he could find.

Long story long, he came home with pills. He had talked to the pharmacist and she thought it was the zoloft and I should stop it ASAP and talk to my doctor. And so two benadryl, and one oatmeal bath later, the itching stopped. Of course, I was also basically passed out from the benedryl, which was probably the best thing for me and for my husband who I clearly yell at too much.

Wouldn't you know it though? Saturday night? The itching returned. This time not as horribly, but still not fun. And last night? Itching. Again. But slightly better.

Sigh. So I joked with husband I could be itchy or witchy.

The doctor's nurse today told me we could try something else. I'm not sure I'm feeling up for it. They're going to try to call back tomorrow so we'll see what they say then.

Now pardon me, while I go itch. Because just thinking about it MAKES ME WANT TO ITCH! ;-)

Friday, November 30, 2012

November 30

It is the last day of November.

Somehow, I managed to post every single day this month, thereby completing the NaBloPoMo challenge.

NaBloPoMo November 2012

Some days it was easy to come here and blog. Other days I wanted to curl up and not think about the blog, but I made it over here anyway.

I'm not sure my blog posts were always worth reading though. Which, you know, was a risk I knew I'd be taking when I decided to post everyday. Because of that, I'm not sure I will participate next year. And I certainly won't extend the posting everyday through December either. In fact, I may not post here for a few days to take a break.

That said, I don't regret participating. Even on those days I didn't want to come, it was slightly therapeutic for me to show up and write a bit, even just a few lines.

One more thing came out of writing every month ... after writing for 30 day straight, today's post will be my 997th post. Yep. Three away from 1000. I've posted 1000 posts on this blog. Even I am amazed by this.

The kids teased me if the 1000th post would be the last since the blog is titled Journey of 1000 Stitches, like somehow that is the finish line! But no, I won't leave you all on 1000. I did joke that I would change it to Journey of a million ... but no, I won't really do that either ;-)

Anyway, I hope you all have a great weekend. Whether you've been reading since post number 1 or post number 997, thank you for reading =)

xoxo,
Brandie

Thursday, November 29, 2012

One chapter closed

Today I had my follow-up appointment with the radiologist. Yes, radiation ended about this time last year, but I still had to see him ... to see how the skin was doing, etc, etc.

Today the radiologist released me from his care. I do not have to have any more follow-ups with him.

Don't get me wrong, he's a wonderful doctor. We reminisced about all that we had been through ... I was the first patient who ever had to get the expanders unfilled. Then there was we-think-you-have-a-blood-clot scare (which turned out to be nothing). Followed by, you should see a physical therapist because you're losing range of motion and maybe lymphedema is setting in (no lymphedema but I did need the pt for range of motion). All of this followed by the infection that required "emergency" surgery and the expander coming out. And oh, somewhere in the middle of this, him and another one of my doctors had a, ahem, "disagreement" and I had to get a third opinion because both doctors had different ideas and I knew both were only looking out for my best intentions but I needed a tie breaker.

Radiation was a real treat. Snort. Not his fault though - he was a good doctor, he had a calming presence and I know he was looking out for me.

But as I was getting ready to leave, he said to me "You are a wonderful woman. I wish you well in life, but I hope I never have to see you again." 

And I understood exactly what he meant because the feeling is completely mutual.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A matched set!

Well. Allow me to overshare for a moment.

I am almost back to having a matched set.

Yes, I am talking about my foobs (fake boobs). After losing one of the expanders (a temporary implant that I had put it at the time of the mastectomy) in December. After healing from a major infection. After surgery to clean up the skin in June. After getting the expander put back in last month. Today, today I got my first fill.

Yes, a fill ... where they take saline and inject it into the tissue expander and make it more full. 50cc's at a time (For more information on how this process works, you can read here)

Now that I've had said fill, both sides are almost even. I think you'd have to stare a lot to notice the difference in them (and no, that is not an invitation to stare! lol!)

And yes, this makes me happy.

Alright. Over-share over.

Happy Wednesday all!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Funny how that works ....

While on this cancer journey I have come to know quite a few people who have been on a similar journey. Several of these friends still have to get mammograms, and let me tell you, their trepidation over this is quite evident. And really, who can blame them? A test that has the ability to tell them that their cancer might have come back, yeah, I'd be a wreck too.

But the thing is, I've always told myself the one silver lining to the mastectomy is that I don't have to get a mastectomy now. I lean towards anxiety so if I had to get this done every 6 or 12 months, I would probably have a panic attack.

Instead, every 6 months I go and see the doctor who diagnosed me, usually in the same room where we first talked about the news (there are only 2 rooms that I've been in), and the kind doctor gives me a "physical exam," which is basically medical speak for she feels my entire chest area - including arm pits, up to my collar bone. She looks at how the skin is healing and checks my arms' rage of motion.

And I never feel nervous until I step foot into her office. Then the anxiety sky rockets.

Yesterday, I had my 6 month check-up. I was sitting in the waiting room when they opened the door to call another patient back. It made a noise. I jumped. Not just a little, I mean, they all turned toward me and the nurse asked if I was okay.

I said yes, but really, it was a lie. I was freaking out. I don't think it helped that at my last 6 month check-up she found a lump (that turned out to be nothing of consequence) but I had to walk out and wonder if the cancer was back. That is hard on a person ... even when the doctors say it's probably not, but we need to be sure. Because it was highly unlikely to be cancer when they originally found the cancer. And I'm naturally anxious. And I just learned about my super low iron levels. And I just knew I couldn't take another appointment where they might maybe be something wrong that we might maybe need to keep an eye on or test or check or follow-up on.

All of this anxiety, that never hits until I am in the office.

Sigh.

However, my doctor is wonderful, the whole staff is. And so I went for my appointment, I got checked out, we chatted, and it ended with an "everything is good ... see you in 6 months." And as I walked to my car, a huge weight, that I hadn't realized was there, was lifted.

Mammogram or not. Mastectomy or not. Check-up or not. 1 year later, 2 years later, I assume 10 years later, there is always going to be that fear there - the fear that the cancer has come back. It is ever-present, usually somewhere in the background, and occasionally it hops to the front to remind me I'M STILL HERE.

But I trudge through it. Another day passes. Each good doctor's appointment feels like a win. The anxiety lessons. Life marches on, because that's what life does. And somewhere inside of me, I shout back to the fear that the cancer will return, even louder than it shouts to me "YEAH, WELL I'M STILL HERE TOO. SO THERE!"

Monday, November 26, 2012

Looks can be deceiving!

Well, looks and voices ...

The other day I got a phone call, a cancer organization (that I had never heard of before) was looking for monetary donations. Which, I get, right, I mean that's how organizations like this work, they need to solicit donations.

I politely tell the man on the other end of the phone that we are unable to donate at this time (while we do donate to causes, we never donate over phone calls and this is my standard line). Of course, he kept on talking, and then he comes out with this line "Ma'am, you sound young and healthy. Just try to imagine if cancer hit you and all the hardships that would mean for you and your family."

Hmm ... let me imagine that for a moment. At which point I politely (yes, I remained polite, he was after all trying to do his job) said "Sir. I don't have to imagine it. I've had cancer and it wasn't hard. And so again, I'm sorry, while I'm sure you do wonderful things, we can not donate at this time to you."

Now, I have to give him credit because at this point he apologized, asked me if I needed any resources to get help (I said no thank you), wished me well and hung up.

It was kind of awkward for me though. I sound young and healthy. People often tell me these days, how good and healthy I look. I know this is true, and quite the contrast from last year when I looked like hell (no really, I did. I know it and it's okay).

I like hearing these things - I mean, I'm not terribly vein, but I know that there was a period where I sometimes looked so sick and frail that people were afraid to hug me. It's nice to hear I look healthy. It's nice to have hair. It's nice to hear that I look healthy.

That said, I feel like crap a lot. And so I struggle with this balance of looking and (apparently) sounding healthy. Mostly I feel exhausted. Which is hard to see in someone, unless there are circles. I have to nap every day. I just learned today it's because iron in my body is virtually non-existent right now. The doctor was telling me and I said "oh, so it's kind of low?" and she was like "if by kind of low you mean critically low, yes."

I will start, as soon as we can coordinate insurance approval and with the doctor and with my schedule, iron IV - hopefully appointments will be scheduled at the end of this week. After all I've been through, on one hand this feels small potatoes - it doesn't require surgery, it doesn't require huge pills with a list of side effects that take up an entire piece of paper, etc. Most importantly it's not cancer.

That is wonderful. And lovely. It is, however, 10 1-hour long IV treatments, 10 consecutive weekdays in a row, during December, during the holiday season, during a very busy time. It is my energy levels tanked. And it means naps and lots of rest for me.

But, I know we will get through it. And it is the holiday season and that makes me smile. Also, friends have already e-mailed asking how they can help during this time, people who have offered to take my children for a while just so I can get a nap in.

I am truly blessed. I am reminded of this every single day. Despite everything going on, I am amazingly blessed. And apparently, I look good to boot ;-)

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Gratitude Sunday

Well, it's a Sunday, in November and so it's time for me to take a few moments to write what I'm thankful about. I've had fun doing it and I may do this again next November.

So without further ado, here is my list
    • Naps - yes, I said naps. Because I've needed them lately and I'm blessed and lucky that I can take them pretty much every day if I need to (which is about how often I need them). My family has been very understanding about it, which is good. Now, if only we could figure out how to stop the fatigue.
    • A good book - I read a book this week. It was a big deal. (The Twelve by Justin Cronin). It was a difficult read for me - a long book, the story bounced between two different years, and had a fairly large number of characters - I think I've told you before that since chemo I've struggled to read books and follow the story lines/characters/etc and this was no exception, but I pushed through and finished it (and yes, it was my brain because I read the first book in the trilogy pre-chemo which is similar in set-up and followed along just fine!)
    • The library - I was so excited to finish one book that I wanted to start another (strike while the iron is hot so to speak) and thankful I could go to my library and get an e-book to check-out. All in the comfort of my own home, sitting in my pajamas.
    • A fixed car - my husband's car was able to be fixed! Which was a big weight off our shoulders. Phew! And it didn't cost nearly as much as they first thought it would and we are so very grateful for that. I mean, really really grateful.
    • My mom's great Thanksgiving dinner - once again, we spent turkey day at my mom's, and once again she made an amazing dinner that was so good! My rocks for so many reasons and this is just one of them.
    •  Baking -  I did some baking this past week. I can't remember the last time I made bread, which is sad since I used to make it all the time. The family was happy too, asking if I could maybe try to bake a bit more, which touched my heart and made me feel all warm and fuzzy.
    • My kitties - I don't talk about them enough on the blog, but I love our kitties Roger and Marcy. I can't imagine them not being around. Marcy especially loves to cuddle with me late at night and I love it.
    • An early holiday treat ... husband took advantage of a black Friday sale and we will get new living room furniture, which is so good, since our current couches are in bad shape (one is literally split in half and being held together with some plywood dh nailed to the bottom). I can't wait for our new furniture to come (half in two weeks, the other half the first week of January!)
    • Christmas music season - I can now listen to Christmas music (okay, I started a week ago, but the family teased me because it wasn't even thanksgiving yet). It makes me smile. I love to sing along (even if I sound horrible LOL!) 

    xoxo,
    Brandie

    Saturday, November 24, 2012

    Saturday

    today is a lazy, relaxing saturday

    we are sleeping in, eating breakfast slowly

    relaxing on the couch with a good book

    playing on the computer

    playing a couple rounds of Carcassonne, as we learn to play all the expansions packs we just got

    just hanging out and relaxing

    there is a bit of cleaning in there too,  but not too much.

    the husband is home ... it's the second day since the the start of september that he's been home and not working (the first being thanksgiving)

    we like having him home, with no where to be, and nothing that needs to be done

    the day passes by nicer, smoother, like he's a calming presence for all of us

    these are the days I wish we had more of, the days I wish I could just hold onto tight and never let go

    a day where everything just feels right. and calm. and perfect. and wonderful.

    happy saturday ... I hope your Saturday is as lovely as ours is

    Friday, November 23, 2012

    ChiTAG fun

    *this is a sponsored post. I was given entry into ChiTAG and some of the games I talk about in this post. However, all opinions are mine, and mine alone!

    Last weekend, the kids, my middle sister, and I headed into Chicago to go to ChiTAG (Chicago Toy and Game Fair)? This is our third year going and we were looking forward to it!

    First we were treated to a preview breakfast, where we got to hear Greyson, a 13 who invented BrickStixs. And yes, I did ask my 13 year old why she hadn't yet invented a cool product like that. Naturally, she asked me when I invented my award winning product. Touché! We also got to play with some of the Banagram Toys (which we were lucky enough to be gifted to take home, which is good because we all fell in love with them!)

    Then it was off to the fair! We walked around and played with lots of toys and games and bikes! We got to see lots of people from Star Wars and mister man got to go down a fire truck slide!

    I got to see lovely friends I don't see nearly enough. And we bought a few games to take home because e couldn't imagine not being able to play with them!

    Our first purchase was a Perplexus ball. These are a lot of fun, nd very challenging. I should probably mention, we actually went back and bought two more ... So now we own the rookie, original and epic. So far we haven't been able to finish the original or the epic, but we have not given up!

    Then we bought the expansion pack for the game Carcassonne. We already own, nd love tht game, so getting the expansion has been a wonderful addition! I mostly play with Mister Man, but we always think our games our too short, so we like having the expansion pack now!

    We then found out we won some more of the Bananagram games, so now we own all of them. Some were doubles, so we are going to give those to a local toy drive. 13 year old and I have been plying a lot of bananagrams. Miss 10 likes to play Pair in Pears with me. It's been so fun!

    One thing I did notice though is this year there were less area to sit and play. The last few years we've had lots of time and space to sit and try out bord games and other things. This year there was really only one area (that I saw at least) to play and it was for a specific game. We did miss tht for sure. This is probably the least amount of playing and trying games out of the three years we've been.

    That said, we really had a great time at ChiTAG. We will be going back next year too if possible. We always come home with at least one new game, if not more and we love it. It's such a good time for all of us.










    Thursday, November 22, 2012

    Gobble gobble

    To all my readers who are celebrating today, I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving day! I hope ther was good food and time spent with those who you are thankful for.

    We have had a lovely day ourselves, with lots of good time together, and a delicious meal prepared by my darling mother.

    Xoxoxo,
    Brandie

    Wednesday, November 21, 2012

    Today

    Today I made this with the help of my 13 year old. We haven't tried it yet, but if it tastes half as good as it smells, we are in for a real treat (and I will come back later and link you to the recipe!) which is good, because my cookies from last night were about the most horrid cookies I have ever tasted in my life!

    Happy Thanksgiving eve everyone!

    Xoxo


    Tuesday, November 20, 2012

    What a day

    It's 11:35pm and I'm finally sitting down to blog here. Not that I haven't sat down during this day - I have, in fact I napped. But I finally made it over here.

    Today started off okay. We were up and ready. The kids had their to-do lists for the day and there was no whining to be heard! I had (another) doctor's appointment, that went well. The doctor today felt the same way as the doctor on Friday - which always feels like a win. Rarely have I had doctor's disagree, but when they do, I feel very torn and unsure of what to do. But it was good. Bloodwork still isn't perfect, but it's not terrible {though the red blood cell counts are still on the low end which I expected with all the fatigue I'm feeling these days}.

    I came home. We needed to run errands, so off to the big red bulleye's store to get some groceries, and the kids had some gift cards they wanted to spend! The trip was okay - one meltdown from a kid, followed by a partial melt-down from me, but then we got back to business.

    When we got home I was SO tired. Just like that. Wham, it hits. And so I ended up falling asleep on the couch. My girls woke me up - they couldn't find some things we had just bought earlier at the store, so we searched and searched because it was stuff they needed to make dinner. But we couldn't find it. So I called the store. Not only did we leave the things we were looking for, but two full bags of groceries. How had I not noticed that?

    Sigh. We threw dinner together with husband grabbing what we needed from a different store on his way home. And I was still so tired.

    So. I decided to bake. For a gathering we are going to, after being told we didn't even need to bring anything. And the more I tried to bake, the more things went wrong. Also, I don't own a food processor. I, naturally, picked a recipe that really needed one. It just felt like everything was stacked against me.

    Sigh. Again. I made it through the recipe though. I also blanched, peeled, split, slivered, baked and then chopped almonds. The cookies are in the oven. Honestly, they don't look right. And I don't even know if they are going to taste good.

    Sigh. Again. I think at this point, I'm going to find a different recipe to make tomorrow and just bring that. Also, I'm picking something easy. That doesn't have almonds in it. Or recommends you have a food processor. Because I can't show up empty handed. And I have to have something. And also, I bought all these apples to make these cookies (knowing I'd need to probably triple the recipe, but after making one batch no way am I going back to make more. Unless a food processor and some already ready almonds appear on my counter tonight).

    And, here I sit. Feeling crabby. And exhausted. And worn out. And beat up. Even though it wasn't that bad. But it's these freaking hormonal mood swings. Mole holes become instant mountains. Small mess-ups become life-threatening mistakes. Not having a food processor becomes the end of the world.

    I'm hoping a good night's sleep, a new recipe, and another good doctor's appointment (yes, another one!) tomorrow makes for a happier, less stressed Brandie. Because I really want nothing more than to enjoy thanksgiving!

    Monday, November 19, 2012

    Random

    This is a picture of my current knitting project. It will not stay with me, but I am loving the color, which makes me love working on it. This blue is gorgeous. I've used it in other projects and I just keep going back to it.

    My favorite color is purple, even though I just raved about blue above!

    My favorite movies are The Princess Bride and My Life. Though, I haven't watched My Life since getting cancer and I think if I did watch it now, it would affect me even more so than before.  Also, if money and time were no option, I would totally visit the cliffs of insanity (in real life they are the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland). Also, I have read the book because I loved the movie. The beautiful thing is so many lines in the movie are directly from the book. Awesome.

    I love the book A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. If asked, I will say it's my favorite. But, I really love a lot of books so I sometimes feel bad that I can't say all million of them.

    I love The Historian as an audio book. Just love it. I'm not a big dracula person but this book was awesome. I think I could listen to it over and over and never get tired of it.

    I dislike maple syrup and cinnamon. My family thinks this makes me nuts. I figures it's just part of what makes me me. And yes, I eat pancakes only with butter on them, but we don't often eat them so it's never been an issue. I can stand a bit of cinnamon, but like a cinnabon? Not my thing.

    I love, love, love ice cream. Mostly just a good french vanilla is exactly what I need, but sometimes I do cookie dough or other things.

    That said, my favorite thing to snack on is a pack of saltine crackers. Any day of the week. SO good. Seriously.

    Kind of related: I love bread (but not like plain white sandwich bread). But french bread, caraway rye bread, honey bread, wheat bread, oh, there are so many good breads out there. I especially like the bread I make (not that I've made any in a LONG time) or bakery breads. So so so good.


    Sunday, November 18, 2012

    Sunday Gratitude

    It's Sunday. So time to talk about what I am grateful for!

    • My husband: I know, I say this every week, but that is just how grateful I am to him. He stepped in this week and had my back. And then, when I was crying and sad, he just knew exactly what to say to make me feel better.
    • Good doctors: I have been blessed with wonderful doctors. They know what they are doing, and they can treat me, but not only that but I feel like they listen to me and talk to me. Bedside manner counts in my book. And my doctors have it.
    • Homeschooling: Our days are not always perfect. But I love them and I love that my kids are home and I get to teach them and help them learn, even when it's hard, and even when we are all having a bad day.
    • Families that are helpful: So, after telling you I was thankful for two working cars (apparently the universe took this as a challenge) husband's car might be toast. We need them to look further and figure out what we are willing to spend on repairs. But, in the meantime, we are using a car we are borrowing from my mom/sister. And for that, I am very thankful. 
    • Our town: I love the town we live in. I love our park district, I love our library, I love the sports programs for the kids. I just love our town. It rocks!
    • The Motherhood: a great site that has allowed me to meet so many wonderful people and learn some pretty wonderful things. I stumbled upon the site several years ago, purely accidental, and couldn't be happier with that "accident." It has been life changing (and no, that's not an exaggeration). I love being a part of the site and getting to tell people that I work for them. The owners especially have a special place in my heart and have been so wonderful to me.
    • Ravelry: Another website that I use often for my knitting and crocheting. I have found tons of great patterns and ideas over there. I visit the site at least weekly.
    • Being so close to Chicago: I love that we can head into Chicago (and do things like ChiTAG) if we want to. We don't often travel into the city, but it's nice that it's there for when we want to. And Chicago is a pretty spectacular city. I love that we can drive there if we want to.
    • The Chicago Blogging Community: No, really, it rocks. So many fabulous bloggers around here that I get to see occasionally (never often enough though!). They write amazing blogs themselves, are twitter friends and facebook friends, have rallied around me and are just amazing. Truly. 
    • Game time with the kids: We try to play games regularly, we don't always succeed, but it's fun. I love playing games. I love too that as the kids get older we can move on to more complicated games. But I love playing them and it's almost always a good time. Last night, 13yo and I were playing Bananagrams (which we were given at ChiTAG) and we had so much fun trying to figure out two letter words and what to do with those z's and x's and q's! There were a lot of giggles to be had. 
     
    Hope everyone has a wonderful week!   

    Saturday, November 17, 2012

    Quickie

    It's not the best picture of us, BUT we had a blast at Chicago Toy and Game fair today.
    We walked around for hours looking, playing, talking.
    Then we came home and have been playing all the games we brought home {more on those later}.
    My feet are tired. My brain can't think of another word to spell with letter tiles. But my heart is happy. =)

    xoxo
    Brandie

    Friday, November 16, 2012

    Friday

    It's Friday. The 16th day in a row I've posted because I signed up for NaBloPoMo. I now know why I don't blog every day .... because it's hard. And I feel like I'm already out of things to write about and it's only the 16th! There is still half a month to go!

    So, last night I pondered if I should just stop. I mean, frankly, you are all busy and you don't need to read a "Here. I posted today. The end." post. And also, um, I might already be stressed about things and so maybe I don't want to be stressed about thinking about what to post.

    So last night I gave myself permission to not finish NaBloPoMo. I know, I know, but I'm posting today! Well, I haven't decided to quit just yet, but I also took the pressure off of having to finish. I hope I finish. But if I don't, the amazing thing is that the sun will still continue to rise in the morning and set in the evening. My blogging (or not blogging) is thankfully not powerful enough to affect that!

    ----

    On a completely different note, I had my first of 7-that-feels-like-a-million-in-the-next-2-weeks appointment today and it was a good thing. I talked to the doctor about, well, pretty much everything I talked about yesterday. My doctor, she rocks, and she really listened. We're doing some blood work, and next week an ultrasound and to talk about what results are showing. She also recommended seeing a dietician and talking to the oncologist about starting a new medicine (that she wants to make sure will work with the med the onc has me on since she's not familiar with it). Which is good. But the best part is that a) she thinks it's a lot of hormone issues too (so nothing major) and b) she thinks we can get a handle on it. So basically she gave me hope, and that is a powerful thing.

    We'll definitely know more when we get some of the lab work back. Of course, the downside of course, is due to my type of breast cancer, hormone therapy isn't an option, but she said we could work around that (and I'm consciously choosing to not focus on that part). But there is hope there. And darn-it, that feels good.


    Thursday, November 15, 2012

    Today

    Today, like yesterday, and the day before that, I had to resist the urge to climb into bed, curl up into a ball and bawl my eyes out until I could eventually sleep.

    These past few days have been rough. So rough. They are the kind of days where you are positive everything you have done up until this point has been wrong and you've screwed your life up beyond repair, and oh, yeah, sorry kids, because I'm the mom it means I've screwed up your life too.

    The past few days have been a series of nothing-going-right, bad news, stress, anger, fighting, yelling, questioning, and wanting to just give up and go to bed. Maybe if I could just sleep for a week, I'd wake up and things would be better?

    This is nothing new for me. I've spoken about dealing with depression before. It comes in cycle, and I'm definitely in a down one right now. And it sucks. It sucks for me. It sucks for the people who have to be around me. It just sucks.

    I know a part of it is hormonal. I'm on these hormone blockers that make it so much easier for me to feel down. And my period came back. Yes back. You may remember in August I had an ablation done in an attempt to stop my periods because I was having issues with them. Well, it worked. Until 3ish weeks ago. {No, I am not on my second period in 3 weeks either. I'm still on my first. Sigh}. Throw in some surgery (more drugs) into the mix, some car trouble, some more stress and anxiety, and frankly, I am one hot mess.

    It's not that I want to feel like this, but I don't know how to stop it. It's not that I don't care about things, but I just don't care enough to want to do anything. It's not that I want to over-react or yell or cry, but I don't know to stop it or calm it down or get control over it.

    As I'm typing this, my piano is getting tuned. Our tuner is playing the note, adjusting wires, playing adjusting, playing a chord, adjusting. And I wish I could be adjusted. Like there was some magical way to turn down the sad, the bad, the not caring, the anger, the frustration, and turn up the happiness and smiles and laughter. Like, hey doc, I'm here, tune me. Things have gotten off kilter.

    But no, a one hour appointment will not adjust me. There are no quick fixes for this. But. I haven't given up hope yet. My 3- and 6-month check-ups are looming - from tomorrow until Nov 30 I have 7 doctor's appointments to go to. You can bet that this will be brought up. Because I think I deserve better and my family deserves better.

    In the meantime, I'm working on taking a step back and just breathing before reacting. I'm trying to be gentler to those around me, and myself.

    Wednesday, November 14, 2012

    Chicken dinner

    I don't know where I learned this from, but I like to say "winner, winner, chicken dinner." I don't think I'm the only person who uses that phrase, but who knows, maybe I am LOL!

    Anyway, all of that to say, I have a winner to announce!






    Thanks to those who entered. The winners are Sarah and Kelly!

    Hope they have fun at the fair =)

    Tuesday, November 13, 2012

    Tired.

    I am tired.

    I am not sleeping well again.

    This happens after every surgery. It seems for the first few days all I do is sleep - side effects of drugs and medications, a time for my body to heal. And then wham. It's like my body says, okay, that's enough sleep for the next 3 months, so hope you used it wisely.

    The problem is, I'm still tired. I'm exhausted. And sleep still feels right out of my grasp.

    My husband? He lays down and is out. In like 42.7 seconds. And when I can't fall asleep, I think about punching him. Because you know, he can fall asleep, and I can't. I mean, I'd never actually do it. And I know he's not doing it on purpose. It's not like he's all "Nananana-boo-boo. I can sleep and you can't. Haha!" Still. I'm jealous of him.

    So. I toss and turn. And turn and toss. And then eventually fall asleep. And then wake up, much later than everyone else I know. But it's never enough sleep. And so I'm tired.

    Yep, that's all you get today. Sorry. I'm too tired to write anymore.

    Monday, November 12, 2012

    My weekend

    IMAG0184
    my crochet so far
    I've always wanted to go to knitting/quilting/sewing/crafting of some kind retreat. I've never managed to make it to one. Between the cost, logistics of getting there and back, what to do with the kids, and my anxiety over being in a room full of people I do not know and being too afraid to talk to them because I'll probably sound like an idiot issue, it's just never happened.

    Earlier this year I was lamenting about all of this to my husband. About every two years, he goes on a week long camping trip to the Boundary Waters with his friends, and by my calculations, he owes me roughly 5 weeks of being able to do something by myself.

    So we were talking and it hit me, since I couldn't get to a retreat myself, I would bring the retreat to me. And so I started to plan my craft weekend. I told the husband he had to vacate the house, and take the children with him. I talked about it on facebook and basically had an open-ended invitation (one of those, if you can read this, you are invited), and then waited for the weekend to arrive and hope that at least one person would show up.

    Well, the weekend happened this past weekend. And it was glorious, at least for me. Four people were able to come and I (kind of) taught someone to knit. I also started a crochet project. It was awesome. I'm already planning next years event. It was exactly what I needed. There was time to myself and time to spend with others.

    If I'm being honest, at first I felt bad. I mean, I kicked my husband and kids out of the house. (My mom was gracious enough to let them come over there). And then I was terrified no one would come. Because I would have felt doubly bad about making my family leave. But then I realized, it was okay. I am allowed to want time to myself. And my family did fine being gone. It wasn't that big of a deal.

    And now? Now, I can not wait until next year! 

    Sunday, November 11, 2012

    Gratitude Sunday

    It's Sunday again. Time for me to take some time to think about what I'm grateful for!

    • My husband: I know, I said family last week. But my husband really needs his own spot. He works so hard to help provide for this family, and then often, he comes home and has to do a million things around here. Not only that, but he took the kids and spent the night away so I could have friends over this weekend. And to top it off, he did the grocery shopping for my gathering for me. Seriously, he rocks. 
    • My children: again, they deserve extra shout-outs this week because they were awesome helpers this week. And I? Was probably too crabby to them. And still, they helped and loved me. And I love them and hugged them and told them. And apologized for being too crabby. In a nutshell my kids rock and teach me every day how to be a better person.
    • Friends who come hang out with me: {and to those who wanted to come but couldn't make it}. I opened my house up this weekend for a craft weekend. I was pretty nervous that I might be home alone the entire weekend, but people came! And talked with me. And did some knitting and lego building {oh yes, yes, we did build legos and it was fun!}. I'm glad I wasn't all by myself. And I hope those who made it enjoyed it as much as I did!
    • Time to myself: In addition to having friends over this weekend, I also had a lot of time to myself. I wouldn't want to be alone all the time, but at the same time, it was also nice to get that. The house was already cleaned, so I basically could do whatever I wanted to do. I joked that I was going to run around naked and jump on the bed - no worried I didn't. I did what I normally do, hunkered down with the tv and worked on some crocheting. But still, it was nice.
    • Hot water: It sounds so silly, but oh my gosh, sometimes a nice, hot shower is exactly what I need. I have the luxury of being able to just stand in the shower for essentially as long as I want. It is a blessing indeed.
    • My minivan: My minivan is getting older. We just had it in for a round of repairs. But now it's home and running nicely. I know it sounds silly, but I have friends who are struggling with car issues right now, and other friends who juggle only having one car for the whole family. I know it's tough on them. And so the fact that I have a minivan {and husband has a car} sitting in our garage, both drivable? Is a huge blessing.
    • Boring weather: I was talking on twitter this week about how I'm struggling with things to blog about during this NaBloPoMo, and someone suggested I write about the weather. To which I responded "but out weather is so boring." Um, yeah, and people both east and west of me would love to have boring weather right now.
    • Lil Kingdom: This is a {free} apple/google store App. My youngest sister introduced it to us all, and now the kids, myself and my mom play. It's a time waster for sure, and a silly little game. But I have played this a lot lately in waiting rooms. And since we're hitting that time for the 3/6-month check-ups, having something do in the waiting room {and while waiting for dance to end, or to fall asleep at night, or for voice lessons to end}. And so, yes, this game makes my thankful list!  
    • Our veterans and those currently serving: I have several family members who have served and are serving. And friends with spouses, children, other family members who are serving. Especially with today being Veteran's day, I am so thankful to them. I know they sacrifice a lot to serve this country. 
    • And you - my blog readers: Last week I talked about how I was grateful to have this blog, but I even more grateful to have awesome readers. Somehow the perfect comment always seems to be left when I need to read it the most. 
    Hope you all had a wonderful weekend and a great week! 

    Saturday, November 10, 2012

    Visitors

    Today I am having some people over at my house. This of course means that I (and my family who were lovely and helped) spent a lot of time yesterday scrubbing the house - dusting, sweeping, wiping, vacuuming. Piles of paper were gone through, toys were sorted, closets were organized. We worked hard.

    But I wonder. Will my guests see all the hard work? Or will they see the cracks in the tile? Will they notice the fingerprints that are on the walls in the spots I missed? Will they notice the piles that remain and wonder why they are piled up like that? Will they see all the toys everywhere and wonder if we let our kids take over the house? Will they notice the broken couch, the broken chairs, the missing door to the coat closet? Will they spot the spots on the carpet, the dings in the wall, the places where the paint is chipped?

    Maybe they'll notice I'm not a great house decorator. That I'm not exactly sure what to put on my walls, that most of my house is still painted what we call the builder's shade of beige. Will the kids artwork, hanging on wire and also randomly taped up around the house be endearing? Or a sign of chaos and disorganization?

    My house has 2 adults and 3 kids. We are sometimes messy and disorganized. We have a lot of hand-me-downs ... the furniture doesn't always match. Things get broken. Kids like to jump and bounce and couches don't always appreciate it. I don't always appreciate it.

    Do they wonder if we are waiting to fix it until the kids are older? {we are} Or if we even notice? {we do} Do they wonder if we are waiting for the budget to open up? {this too} Or if we even care anymore? {sometimes I don't, but mostly I do} Do they wonder if I love my house? Because I do, every beat up part of it. It's ours. Filled with our memories and out good times.  

    And yet we live in a pinterest-filled world. Where ideas abound. People strive to have homes that could end up in a Better Homes & Garden article on the fly. I know people who have budgets to decorate for one holiday season that exceeds my yearly decorating budget. While I love my home, I also long for a home that is not so, well, lived in. If I had nothing standing in my way - I'd get new flooring, new appliances, paint the walls, power wash the outdoors, hire a landscaper, invest in new window treatments, replace the couches, get some real dining room furniture ... The list goes on and on. 

    The danger of course is that my brain often thinks if I did all those things, I'd be happier. Magically, my kids wouldn't bang toys into the wall, or bounce on the couch (even if the million times I've already told them hasn't gotten them to stop). Drinks would no longer spill and everything would magically fit and my house would look totally uncluttered.

    If it were only that simple. We'd have redone the house several years ago!

    But. But, as I said before, this is our house, filled with our memories and our good times. Our laughter. My children's artwork, almost everywhere I turn! Pictures, even if they aren't displayed how Nate Berkus would do it. I love it.

    And while my company will probably spot the cracks and the bumps and the imperfections, I hope they can see past it all and feel the love and the joy and the happiness that happens here.

    Friday, November 09, 2012

    Life keeps moving forward ...

    Life just keeps going. Things need to be done. Kids need to be taken places. Lessons need to be taught. Work needs to be corrected. Laundry needs to be done. Food needs to be made and eaten. Doctor's need to be seen. Floors need to be cleaned.

    The day rushes by me. I want to hit the pause button. Then, in a flash, the day starts crawling and I sigh as I look at the clock and see it's only 3:00. But whether it moves fast or slow, it keeps going forward.

    Sometimes I long for that pause button. I long to rewind. Just five more minutes ... just give me five more minutes.

    But the seasons keep changing. As we approach winter the days get shorter, the light lingers less and less. And then blink. The days grow longer. The kids stay outside longer, taking advantage of a the sun that no longer sets before dinner time.

    And the kids get older. They grow taller. They need new jeans far too often. I want to stop it, just for a little longer, just one more snuggle, one more chance to rock them to sleep. Soon, too soon, you'll be driving. And then leaving for college, with the promise to return over the summer. And then, it will be into your first place. And your room, your space in this house, will soon become that room you sleep in maybe once or a twice a year when you come home to visit.

    I can see what's coming, I can see things will change. I can't see the specifics. And I know that although it scares me now to think about, that it makes me want to cling to the right now with every ounce of strength in my body, I know that amidst all the change and growing and learning and moving forward, there will be some beautiful moments. There will be new memories to make. New stories that we giggle over when we retell them.

    I know that life keeps moving forward, with or without my permission - I can fight it or embrace it. I fight it too much, but I try to embrace what I can. I also know I fight it too often. And so I have to constantly remind myself that it's okay for things to change, even when it doesn't feel like it, even when the changes aren't good, because it's what happens. It's part of life. Bad things can happen when things are not changing too, so resisting change doesn't actually prevent heart-break or heart-ache.

     So, when I am resisting change, when I am trying to hold on to a moment, a phase, a season of life, when it's time to let go, I'm going to try to remind myself that it's okay. That life was meant to keep going forward. And who am I to stand in the way of life?

    Thursday, November 08, 2012

    Reality TV

    yes, a picture of my tv screen LOL!
    So, I watch reality tv. I watch probably too much of it, but I tell myself it's totally okay because I don't watch nearly as much as a few people I know.

    My favorite of favs is Project Runway. I actually try not to miss it and the family knows that Thursday is Project Runway night. I've watched it since season 1. Well, I missed a few seasons when it was on Bravo and we did not have a cable package with that channel, but I've been into since the beginning. I love watching the challenges and the things they come up with. That said, I don't always see eye-to-eye with the judges. And I get VERY pissy when the designers are all "OMG! I have to make a dress for someone who is bigger than a size 0. I've never made clothes for a real woman before." Um, a) most of the world isn't size 0 and b) a size 0 woman is still real.

    That aside, I love the show. I prefer the regular show to the all star show. And even when I'm mad at the judges and say I'm never watching the show again, I do. Every single time LOL!

    I am also fond of America's Next Top Model. But I'm never on the current season. A few channels often rerun old seasons and I catch them when I can. It's not that I don't want to watch the current season, I just can't ever seem to catch it when it's on. I suppose now with the internet I could fix that pretty quickly, but watching the old seasons is enough for me. Related: the kids and I will often jokingly tell each other to be fierce from the tips of of our fingers to the tips of toes when taking pictures as a reference to Tyra talking about being fierce!

    The Real Housewives - I watch them all. I don't have a favorite. I do not watch them all - again, I just can't manage to catch them all. Okay, now, here's where I sound mean. I have said, more than once, I watch the Housewives in order to see that others have it worse than me. {See, it's mean}. It's also a reminder that money doesn't mean happiness, and a good reminder that 15 minutes of fame usually comes back to bite you in the butt. That said, I do feel bad for them, when things go wrong and when they are all fighting and when life gets tough.

    Amazing Rave - I love this show. And don't watch it nearly enough. The kids like this one too. It's so fun to see all the places they travel too.

    So, there you go. My dirty (that's not so dirty) little secret about watching reality tv.

    P.S. Man, it's hard to post each day. I feel like I'm already out of ideas and reaching for the bottom of the barrel, but I am determined to finish NaBloMoPo!

    Wednesday, November 07, 2012

    ChiTAG

    Comments are now closed because the give away is over! Thanks!

    *This is a sponsored post, but all thoughts and opinions are my own
    *The blog's been heavy for a bit, so I'm trying to shift into something more fun!



    For the last 2 years my family and I have gone to the Chicago Toy and Game Fair (ChiTAG). I've been lucky enough to win passes from other bloggers for the last two years - and lucky is right. {side note: you can read about our first year visit here}

    ChiTAG is awesome! We love to go. When the kids found out we are going again this year, they can not wait. I'm often asked "When is the toy thing again?" I mean we really do love it - well, obviously because we keep going back! Last year we even purchased a few games and I got an awesome dot-to-dot book. We play games, build with blocks, hang out and just have fun.

    This year, ChiTAG looks like it's going to be awesome again.

    The weekend's events include:
    - Giant-sized games such as: Bananagrams, Perplexus, Doggie Doo, Word on the Street, Pajaggle, and more
    - Settlers of Catan North American Catan Championship
    - Meet the Moshi Monsters
    - Autographs from renowned toy and game inventors
    - Free contests and game tournaments
    - Speed Stacks sport stacking demonstrations and tournaments

    Bonus for Saturday:
    Stars Wars Lunch (12 Noon – 1PM): Tickets will sell out, but are available for purchase now at www.ChiTagFair.com
    Official Illinois State Yo-Yo Contest (10AM-4PM)
    Top Trumps Guinness Book of World Records Attempt (3PM)
    Young Inventor Challenge (10AM-2PM)

    SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 18: (10AM-5PM)
    Stage Performances from Radio Disney, Blues Clues LIVE! presented by Naperville’s Center Stage Players, Elan Dance Company, Ben’s Bubble Show, Lil’ Buds Theater and more.
    Boy Scouts Top Trump Tournament (9AM)
    Pony Royale Princess Party (1PM-4PM) invites girls ages 3 to 8 to prance & play with the new fashion ponies from Pony Royale! Free pony to each girl, while supplies last.

    For you my dear readers, I have some tickets to give away. I'll do a random drawing, just leave a comment below, and I will e-mail the winner a pass to the fair. I'll be doing another give-away next week too!


    More details: ChiTAG is November 17 and 18 at Navy Pier Festival Hall A
    Admission price is $10 for those 14+, $5 for those aged 3-13

    Tuesday, November 06, 2012

    My dear children

    A week ago, my oldest daughter turned 13. She's an actual, real, teen. I won't lie. I could do without the attitude at times {though she'd probably say the same thing about me!}, the truth is it's not so bad, and she's still a pretty cool daughter.

    Anyway, her birthday has made me all reflective and given me a lot to think about as a parent. And so.

    My Dear Children,

    From the moment I knew about your existence, I dreamed about your future. Every kick in the womb, made me wonder, will you be a soccer player? a gymnast? When you were a toddler, with the best imagination ever, I wondered if you would be a writer. I watched you try sports and activities, always wondering, is that what you'd choose to do for life. I know, it's probably silly to look at your 4 year old and wonder if she's found her passion for life, but it's what I did all the same.

    I enjoyed (well, okay mostly enjoyed - I could have done without the sleepless nights) where you were at, but still, I dreamed about your future. Miss A, when you were in love with yellow - and everything HAD to be yellow - I pictured watching you walk down the aisle in a yellow dress. And it seemed so perfectly you. Miss M, you talked about being a photographer, and I imagined going to gallery showings of your art. And Mister Man, when you told me you were going to play for the Yankees and come to Chicago and beat the Cubs AND the White Sox, I thought, and I will be in the crowd telling everyone "That's my son! The one who just hit the home run? I'm his mother!"

    Because, you see, when I dreamed about your future, I always imagined myself in the picture too. It never crossed my mind that I wouldn't be a part of your future, that I wouldn't get to share those moments with you. It may be selfish of me, but I dreamed of your futures as much for you as for myself.

    Then. Then cancer joined our lives. And as I had to face the fact that I had cancer, I had to also face my own mortality. Now, I know, I could die tomorrow in a car accident - as my dad used to say "tomorrow is promised to no one" but the fact is, I don't often walk around in fear of a car accident. But hearing I had cancer? I didn't know. Would I be at the graduations? The weddings? The parties? The good times? Would I be there to hold you after your first heartbreak? To help you get through disappointments? To help you fix mistakes? To be there in the not so good times?

    The cancer is gone now, but the fear is not. And I wonder ... have I taught you enough? Did I yell too much? Did I teach you that no matter what, I will always love you? Even when I'm not here to tell you anymore? Will you know just how much I love you?

    That I will love you, even when you mess up. And make no mistake, you will make mistakes. You're human. You will do the wrong thing. You will hurt people's feelings. You will not always do the right thing. And still? I will love you. I've said this to you before - there is nothing you can do that will make me stop loving you. I hope you can feel that today, ten years from now, forever.

    And on the off chance I'm not there - at your graduation, your wedding, your gallery openings, your big game, when you do the right thing even though it's hard - wherever your path takes you, I hope someone will lean over, kiss you gently on your forehead, hug you and whisper in your ear "Your mom would be so proud of you right now. She loves you so much." Because I am proud of you. And I do love you from the very bottom of my heart. Do not ever doubt this for one single second.

    Love always and forever,
    Mom

    Monday, November 05, 2012

    The space between us

    There's this poem I see often ...


    What Cancer Cannot Do

    Author: Unknown
    Cancer is so limited...
    It cannot cripple love.
    It cannot shatter hope.
    It cannot corrode faith.
    It cannot eat away peace.
    It cannot destroy confidence.
    It cannot kill friendship.
    It cannot shut out memories.
    It cannot silence courage.
    It cannot reduce eternal life.
    It cannot quench the Spirit.
    It's a lovely poem, meant to be uplifting and wonderful. It's a way of saying, look, I know cancer is like a punch in the face and disrupts your life in so many ways, and it sucks, but look! At least it can't do any of these things!! And it sweet. And lovely. The sentiment is wonderful. But in my experience, it's not actually that accurate. 
    Now, it's hard for me to talk about this, mostly because people are wonderful and I never want anyone to come to this blog and thing Is she talking about me? Because, well, I'm not. And I think most of the distance I'm feeling is both from me and others. And I think it's mostly unintentional. And yet, it needs to be shared. 
    The poem says cancer cannot kill friendship. Well, actually, it can. And it has. I've heard from others actual friendships just gone, in an instant. I have not had to go through that heartbreak yet (and don't be mistaken, it is heart breaking on both sides). But I do have a few relationships that are definitely frosty, that definitely have some space that wasn't there before, and that feel a little, well, awkward.
    I don't think it's intentional ... I don't think anyone is sitting there thinking she's got cancer and so I can't be her friend anymore. But it's there. I'm guilty of it too. When I'm feeling depressed or overwhelmed, I have a habit of pulling away from people. So I totally get it. I also know that it was (and may still be) hard for people to be around me. It may bring back memories of watching someone else go through cancer. Someone, who was brave enough to be very honest with me, once told me it was difficult for her to talk to me because just weeks before she heard about my cancer, her grandfather passed away from a very aggressive cancer. She was not in the frame of mind to be around that again. I understood completely - in her shoes, it would have been equally difficult for me. 
    Some of the distance didn't start until later. I don't know what started it. I can guess based on comments made (guesses at best as I have not asked for clarification, nor do I plan to). I can guess that my attitude about breast cancer and pink ribbons is a huge turn off to some people. I think that some people are expecting me to react like others they have known, and I don't. I think, in general, it's hard to see people suffering and so some people tend to pull back. Really, there are about a million and one reasons that space gets created. For all I know, it has nothing to do with cancer and the space was going to come eventually anyway. 
    While I may not know what is the cause, I can feel it. And it's heartbreaking. Especially when I feel like I can't fix it. I can't patch this hole, at least not now. All I can do is hope that with time, the relationships will grow again. 
    Because, with or without cancer, relationships certainly are ever-changing. Sometimes they grow, and sadly sometimes they shrink. 
    Don't get me wrong, it hasn't been all bad. Of course, during this time, some of my relationships have definitely grown closer. I have come to know some pretty wonderful people that I might not have met if it weren't for the cancer. I am very grateful for those people and those moments. But, my heart still aches for the relationships that have broken, even just a bit, during this time.

    Sunday, November 04, 2012

    Thankful

    my family and I in June
     It is November now, and because of Thanksgiving, it is a month in which we are often reminded of all the things we are thankful for.
    This is good for me, because while I am thankful for so much, I don't take nearly enough time to share this. So, my hope is to every Sunday this month, come share the things I am thankful for - from the big to the seemingly little. Because at the end of the day, it all counts! 


    • My family: okay, okay, I know. Everyone always says their family first. But it's the truth isn't it? I've been blessed with an amazing family - both immediate and extended. And I'm grateful for all of them. They are amazing and wonderful
    • My friends: much like my family, I have some pretty great friends in my life. My friends live near and far. Some can come over and hang out with me, others are an e-mail, tweet, facebook post away. All are near and dear to me
    • I'm cancer-free: I know, again this probably sounds a bit cheesy. It's not. Some women, with similar diagnosis and same treatment, are not cancer-free. I know this all too well. And so I will continue to be grateful that I am currently cancer free. 
    • Health insurance: No really, I can't imagine how we would have gotten through this without our health insurance. Regardless of politics, regardless of what has driven the cost of health care up, I couldn't have afforded my treatment without insurance. I've read the stories of those without, or without enough coverage. I've been invited to fundraisers. I've heard the pain and seen the stress and the worry. 
    • meeting an internet friend face-to-face in May
    • The internet: Well, not so much the internet as the connections the internet has allowed me to make. I have made some pretty amazing connections with people over the internet. Friends that are such a big part of my life that I wouldn't have probably met without the internet.
    • Netflix: Silly, I know. But I've been watching a lot of it lately. And even though I still complain about time to recover, I know I'd be a lot more cranky if I had to watch what late night tv has to offer LOL! 
    • Pain killers: after the week I've had, I'm pretty sure this is self-explanatory!
    • This blog: my place to say whatever it is I need to say. A place to be completely myself 
    • Knitting: again, this may be silly, but to me it's not. It's a huge part of who I am.
    • My house: This has been driven home to me in the last week, seeing all the destruction from Sandy, and hearing about those without heat and electricity, lives lost, and whole houses destroyed. It is heartbreaking to say the least. 


    Saturday, November 03, 2012

    Saturday

    Untitled
    my 10yo and I, blogging together
    Today is Saturday. And if I'm being honest, it's kind of a sucky Saturday at that.

    The husband is at work {poor guy, he'd rather not be}. The kids are alternating between being loud and crazy and then quiet and content. I am stuck in bed again. Well, not literally. I can get up. I can walk around for a few minutes, so every so often, I get up, and slowly make my way down the stairs. I look at the kids' newest lego creation, I pretend to not see the mess, I ask them to reach something I can't (I still can't get my arm up all the way). In the backround, my 13 year old has her new iPod playing all her favorite songs.

    I am in a crabby mood. I want to be able to pick things up, to vacuum  to get some laundry done, to clean the counters. As it is, I can't really push anything, I'm not supposed to lift more than 3 pounds (related: how the hell am I supposed to know what is 3 pounds? For real? I mean, other than the clearly marked 5 pound bag of sugar in my pantry, I have no clue). I am feeling useless.

    I try to eat ... my stomach is still pretty picky and I'm not sure I can tolerate one more saltine cracker or bowl of plain, white rice (that is slightly overcooked, but I try to keep this complaint myself because others are serving me the best they can). I watch some netflix. I try to get comfortable, but frankly my butt and backside are sore and I still can't manage to lay on my side. I play some iPad games. I wonder if I should boast to my kids how I just got to level 50 in DragonStory - they'd think it was cool, but on second thought it only depresses me more. I only get that high because I can't really do anything else.

    I eye my knitting ... I'm working with a lovely shade of blue yarn. It's gorgeous. And it's soft. I'm itching to work with it again, but my arm is so stiff and sore. I decide better to not try, then to pick it up and just frustrate myself with not being able to do it.

    I watch more netflix. I get up and putz around some more. I change my shirt - which is a huge feat in my mind. Of course, I pull my arm funny in the process, so I look at the clock, hoping it's time to take some more advil - it's not.

    I come back to bed. And am angry at myself for being so angry about all of this. And I'm frustrated that it feels like this is taking f-o-r-e-v-e-r. I mean, really, shouldn't the tissue expander have given me bionic-woman-like qualities? It would have been nice if I had woken up from surgery and been able to, I don't know, run a marathon, jump over houses, have an extra arm to clean the house faster with? But, no. Apparently I got the version that turns a person into a whiny, crabby, cup-half-empty-kind of person.

    My daughter comes up, ready to write her blog post for today. So, I, following her lead, come to this blog, to dump it all out here, to save my family from having to hear all my bitching.

    And maybe just maybe, after I hit send, I'll try to knit a few stitches, just to see. And I'll watch some more netflix, make another trek down the stairs to walk around and get my daily "exercise" and tomorrow? Tomorrow is another day.

    Friday, November 02, 2012

    Post Surgery

    IMAG0136
    my bedside 

    Well, phew. This go around of surgery has seemed extra rough {though, truth be told, I probably say that after every surgery}.

    This time I wasn't prepared at all for what was coming my way. I thought it would be like my surgery in June - down for about 36 hours and then feeling better.

    Instead, I came out of surgery in a lot of pain, sick to my stomach, and with an arm that I couldn't tolerate moving.

    Had I taken two seconds to think about it before hand, I would have known this was coming. In June, the doctor worked on my skin - removing the damaged parts and scar tissue. I was sore for a few days, yes, but overall, it wasn't that bad. This time however, I had the tissue expander put in. When they put the tissue expander in, not only does it go behind your skin, but it goes behind the muscle too. Which basically means they slice the muscle and put the expander behind it. And oh, it's filled a bit, so there is a slight amount of stretching.

    So, um, duh. Of course it was going to hurt. Of course my arm was going to be stiff after surgery - just try to move your arm without using your chest muscle {or sitting up, or laying yourself down, or a number of other things!)

    This was all amplified by my very upset stomach. No, really, just try throwing up whiling not pulling the chest muscles that were just operated on. Yay, it's precisely as fun as it sounds like it would be. The hardest part was we couldn't get that part under control. I was stuck in a vicious circle: sick to my stomach so I couldn't eat, then needing to take pain pills that, when taken on an empty stomach, make me sick. Lather, rinse, repeat.

    So Wednesday, we added anti-nausea pills to the mix, and dialed back the pain killers to try to help. And it half-did - I stopped feeling sick, but then, the pain wasn't being controlled. But today, I think we've found the right balance. I'm not feeling great, but also not feeling horrible. So I'll take it. Slowly I'm feeling better and my arm is starting to work again, so that's all good!

    All of this to say - I'm a horrible patient. Just horrible. I feel badly for those who have to take care of me - I whine, I cry, I complain. My family though, they rock and are beyond patient with me. Even the kids have been super nice. And those dinners I mentioned we were getting - have been a godsend. I am SO happy I reached out and asked for the help because we really did need it.

    On a totally unrelated note, my 10 year old, has also started a blog, so if you (or your kids) have a moment, hop on over and check it out. Her blog is Chores Stink!

    Thursday, November 01, 2012

    I might be crazy ...

    Well, okay, I think we can take the might out of this title.
    I decided today to join in NaBloPoMo

    NaBloPoMo November 2012

    I sorta, kinda, remember seeing this in the past,  but not paying enough attention to it all. And then I saw it today, asked about it, and decided to join. Which, um, will be interesting because my surgery was Monday. I'm still pretty sore {and taking pain killers} from it and can't move my right arm very well yet. So we'll see how this goes. In theory though, things should only get better from here, so I should be able to pull this off. That said, so far, recovery is two steps forward, one step back. But even still, at the end of the day, that's one step gained and for that I'm grateful.

    However, I really honestly thought, I'd take a day or two and be back 100%. Um, yeah. If we switch day to week, I might be spot on. So I'm a bit bummed that here we are, 3 days out, and I still spent most of today in bed. My family is being very patient and very kind to me. I think my husband had more realistic expectations in his head than I did. {But he's a smart man, so this shouldn't surprise anyone}.

    So, I'll be here, writing away. Hopefully not complaining too much, and with something interesting to say.

    Xoxo,
    Brandie

    Monday, October 29, 2012

    Asking for Help

    Mister Man, happy to help make a cake!
    Why is it so hard to ask for help?

    I struggle with it, and I know other people who struggle with it too. And yet, even though we have a difficult time asking for help, most people are willing, and probably eager to help out.

    The thing is, I always thought asking for help was admitting defeat, or saying I was weak, or not capable enough to do it on my own. I wish I could go back and tell myself that asking for help simple means I needed a bit of help.

    I suppose, if nothing else, the last 18 months have taught me to ask for help. I resisted at first. I didn't ask people for anything specifically. My mom set up meals for us, and even though she was the one asking, it felt awkward at first. People offered to come clean, to drive places, to watch the kids, and so many times I turned it down.

    I can't lie: I wish I hadn't. The truth is we could have used the help. Sure, we got by and we survived, but things might have been much smoother if I had been more vocal. But then we hit a point where I had to ask. So I asked if someone could come help me clean, and an aunt came over and helped me. I cleaned with her though so it felt less awkward because you know, at least I wasn't sitting around and just watching. But then there came the day I needed help cleaning and all I could do was sit on the couch and watch. It felt horrible. Two women from the church came over and cleaned - one a breast cancer survivor herself - and I hated every single second of it. When they finished, I just burst into tears. But they came over and assured me that I didn't need to cry - they understood, they didn't feel bad, and in fact they felt better since they could do something to help out.

    I think that's the moment it all clicked - most people like to help. They want to do something. As someone told me later, she couldn't take the cancer away, but she could cook for us. And I get it. Last week I was cooking dinner for another family and offering to take their children for a while and drive them to their activities. It wasn't a hardship for me, in fact, I only wish I could have done more. A few weeks ago I drove a friend to the doctors. And while we were driving she teared up, and I got it - I went back to that moment of sitting on my couch crying because people were cleaning my house. But I was happy to drive her. In fact, I joked that it was about time someone needed me because I have a big debt to repay for all the help we've gotten ;-)

    It still feels a bit awkward asking for help. With that in mind, over the weekend I went to facebook and simply asked if someone local could help us out today (Monday). With myself getting surgery, I realized, if I could just get a dinner for today, it would help out so much. And wouldn't you know it, right away, dinner was arranged. And dinner for tomorrow and probably Wednesday. And let me tell you, it felt like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. Could we get by without it? Well, yes, we could. But I would have worried about it. The husband would have worried about it. And well the kids, although not too worried about meals, were a bit worried about trick-or-treating.

    I share this because as I said earlier, I know plenty of others who also struggle with asking for help. So my advice is suck it up, and ask. People are good. And they want to help. And if you need it, you shouldn't be afraid to get it.