Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Dodging Dandelions

Dodging Dandelions by Ron Richards
Not that long ago I received an e-mail asking me if I wanted to read and review a new book.

I could tell from the e-mail the book, written by Ron Richards, was at least in part about how his wife had breast cancer. My initial thought was to not take the book. I'm not going to lie, given that the title says "a memoir of love, loss and acceptance" I was pretty sure that at some point, I would be reading about a woman dying from breast cancer.

You can imagine, I'm pretty hesitant to go there. Beyond just my own experience with breast cancer, I've lost too many friends to breast cancer and know too many others who are currently living with stage iv breast cancer.

And yet, somehow I was drawn to this book. A book about breast cancer. Written from a husband's perspective.

That is what drew it to me. My husband has been a rock the last couple of years and has had to assume the role of care giver more than we'd ever wish. But if I ask how he's doing, he says fine. He sometimes says in that I'm joking, but not really joking tone, that even if he wasn't fine, he certainly wouldn't tell me about it.

So I decided to take up the offer - be sent the book in exchange for blogging about it (though, here's where I throw in despite the fact that they gave me the book, all opinions are my own). I wanted to get a husband's point of view. And I just hoped that even if the book felt overwhelming to me at times, that I'd be able to get through it.

The book arrived. I was hesitant to start it at first, and we had a brief trip away from home, so I set it aside. But last week I finally felt ready to dive in.

Ron writes an honest and open account of life with his wife Sara and their two children Andrew and Jennifer.

Ron and Sara were leading the typical life - both working, Andrew just a babe (21 months) when they learned Sara had breast cancer.

Sara was 31.

I was 31 when I was diagnosed.

Sara underwent a mastectomy.

I underwent a mastectomy.

I know this story isn't about me, and yet, it's hard to unweave my story from it. I've had almost 3 years to process the words "You have cancer" and stories that are so familiar just bring me back to that moment.

After this, Sara and Ron get a break from cancer. In that time, they adopted a daughter from South Korea. Both of them working, living life. But as Ron write, "Not many days passed when it [cancer] didn't pop into my head, at least for a few moments ... As we looked ahead we figured cancer was something we would see again."

Yes, yes, I found myself nodding along. This is how I feel most days. Not that I'm running around weeping and freaking out, but it's there.

Of course, the cancer comes back. Not just once either.

As they navigate Sara's cancer, and the periods between her cancer, life marches forth, as it always does. Andrew and Jenny grow up. They realize quickly that Jenny has some issues that need to be dealt with - bipolar, oppositional defiant disorder. Ron has his own health issues to deal with.

Just so much for one family to deal with.

And yet, this story is about hope, about not giving up, but giving in to what's going on in your life when it's time.

The story is sad, and yet, it's beautiful. It's beautiful how they manage to stay together even in the hard moments, even when it is work, even when it feels like it might be easier to just give up.

This story sucked me in and wouldn't let me go. Even though I'm done with it now, I feel like I need to sit with it. Absorb it some more.

I appreciated reading things from Ron's perspective. I don't think being a care giver is easy, but it makes me appreciate even more all that my husband went through. I now have a glimpse into what he went through.

Ron's story Dodging Dandelions wasn't about me. But it was hard to separate myself from the story as I read it. I suppose it's normal. And isn't that what a good book is supposed to do? To suck you in? To touch you? To move you?

I think so. And so, I highly recommend Dodging Dandelions. Pick it up. Read it. I hope it moves you as much as it moved me.

Monday, February 24, 2014


So, I told you there were lots of babies coming soon and I had been busy making baby blankets!

Shortly after Christmas we had a double baby shower to go to - two of my cousins, both expecting, due very close together! One cousin knew that her and her husband would be welcoming a baby boy, so I set out to make a nice blanket. I used some of the same blue/white mix I used to make some blankets last year because I loved working with it so much. I searched ravelry for the perfect pattern and landed on this lovely crocheted blanket!

The yarn is bernat baby - the main part is a blue/white mix and the border is just blue. I worked with I think an H hook? I'm not 100 percent sure on that, but it's probably close enough!

This pattern was nice - easy to remember and I think turned out lovely.

The second blanket needed to be unisex because we weren't sure if there would be a little boy or girl coming. I had a yellow blanket that I had made last year, just waiting for a baby who needed it. So I washed it, wrapped it, and found it a new home.

Unfortunately, I didn't take pictures of this blanket. It was knit from a book I own (and have made several blankets from). I knit it with two strands of yarn - one yellow and one white, so it's nice and neutral but not bright yellow.

Now I have a blanket to finish for a girl who was born not too long ago and am eagerly awaiting another baby's birth. I'm not sure if there will be a little girl or a little boy to knit for, so I'm going to try to make two blankets and give whichever one works best!

I love all these babies coming. I love making beautiful things for the littlest among us. There's something about it that makes me happy - it's life affirming really. New babies, families growing, so much happiness. It's lovely.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Phantom of the Opera

First let me say, I am the luckiest mom ever. For real.

Phantom of the Opera is currently in Chicago. I LOVE Phantom of the Opera, which shouldn't be too hard to imagine because I love a lot of musicals.

Phantom holds a special place in my heart though. When I was 8th grade - in a new school, in a new district, after leaving all my old friends and feeling kind of lost and alone - I was in choir. I had been in choir at my old school and loved it and knew I wanted to do it at the new school as well. For one of our concerts we sang Music of the Night. I didn't really know about musicals, plays, etc - I mean, I knew they existed but I didn't get it yet. But, I thought this song was so beautiful. When I learned it came from a show with more songs? Well, I checked it out further and fell in love. This led me to learn about other famous broadway musicals and started my love for singing them with dreams of seeing them live on stage someday!

When the husband and I were still dating, he took me to see Phantom. It wasn't my first trip downtown to see a stage production, but it was an important one. I know that musicals aren't my husbands first love, or even in top 10, but he took me. He went with me. He would do it again. I already knew he was my true love but that just cemented it.

Anyway, fast forward. Last year we saw Phantom was coming back to Chicago. I had little hopes of seeing it - a lot happened last year and so I didn't even consider trying to see if I could get tickets to go.

Christmas morning. My 14 year old had been telling me leading up to Christmas that I was getting the best present ever from her (you know where this is going, right?). I honestly thought I was getting a Doctor Who shirt (like my 11yo got me) or something similar. So I opened her present and it was a ticket to go see Phantom of the Opera with her!

I was SO excited. It was just going to be the two of us. We just had to wait until Feb 1, the dates she was able to get tickets to, to see it. Now, my daughter has never seen it and didn't really know the music - just what the commercials showed. She had been avoiding it, wanting to hear it for the first time in the theater.

So almost 3 weeks ago, during another snow storm, we boarded the local train and went into the city. We went to a fabulously great dinner - where we were the only ones in jeans, but they sat us so the dress code wasn't strict, but we felt slightly out of place. We indulged in the most decadent dessert and then headed to the show.

Let me tell you, the show does not disappoint. If you live in/near/close to Chicago, call and try to get tickets somehow. They did a fabulous job! The actors and actresses - amazing. The singing - perfect. The orchestra - perfection. The dancing - beautiful. This is an amazing production of the show. Granted, I have only seen one other production, but this had it's own spin on it. Sometimes I get nervous seeing something the second time when it's a "new" production because it could be too different. But this was done perfectly - not the same, but not so much change that you felt they did it just to be different. It made sense and was done so well. I loved the set - how it rotated to be different rooms. Just so amazing!

Sitting there, in the Cadillac Palace Theater, my daughter by my side, both of us having a great time. It was priceless. Except, it wasn't. My daughter saved up and spent her hard-earned money to take me. She's 14. She doesn't always want to be seen in public with me (which I get, I remember being 14), so it was even more special to me.

The night was perfect (even though we actually lost the tickets they mailed to us, had to call and have them reprint for us to pick up at the box office and I thought I was going to have a panic attack and die when we realized the tickets were lost but now we have a funny story to tell so it all worked out in the end). My daughter got to see Phantom for the first time. I was reminded of why I fell in love with it when I was almost the exact same age she is right now. I'm not sure it gets any better than that.

These memories. This is what I want my kids to remember in 30 years - these moments that were so perfect, even in their imperfections. Not that I yelled too much or was sick too much or waited to long to do the laundry, but that we could go and enjoy Phantom (or whatever other shared love we find) and have a great night.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Baby blankets

There are quite a few babies coming soon and so, I've had to buckle down and make quite a few blankets!

This, of course, makes me very happy. Because babies - are so cute and are even cuter when you aren't the one waking up with them during the night. And because I love to knit. I've been crocheting a bit too. I'm excited to report that crochet is starting to feel more and more natural to me. I'm not sure it will ever be as natural as knitting, but it's getting there which makes me smile!

Anyway, a friend expecting a baby girl recently had a shower. I poured over patterns at etsy and picked just the right blanket to make her. Then I picked a second just the right blanket to make her, since both patterns called out to me!

First up is this darling blanket. The pattern is free and can be found here. However, I cast on 137 stitches to make the blanket larger. I used caron simply soft in pink and a size 10 needle and was so pleased at how it turned out!

{Please note: I forgot to take pictures so I literally took the ones I'm sharing in my car like 15 minutes before the shower started. So they aren't the best, but hopefully they aren't the worst LOL}

The second blanket was a ripple blanket with 3 colors. Again, I found the pattern on ravelry. However, I won't link to it. The pattern was wrong - something was off. I don't know enough about crochet to know it was wrong, but I knew enough to realize it was off. The decrease/increase (to make the ripple effect) weren't lining up, so I had to do a bit of tinkering to get it, but I pulled it off and I think it turned out so cute.

Again, I used caron simply soft yarn - I like this because it's soft, can be machine washed/dried and usually I can find the color I want! I used an H hook I think and two rows of each color.

I'm so pleased with how these blankets turned out! I would make them again in a heartbeat. They were fun to make and didn't take too long. I also think they both look great! If I had a little baby, I'd wrap her up in them in a heartbeat!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


random snow picture I took
If you are in most areas of the US, the weather this winter has just been yuck.

Yesterday we got hit with more snow - 5ish inches in about 4 hours. It was not so nice out - I had to drive in it when it first started but then was able to stay home for the rest of it and wait it out.

I'm so over winter. I'd like to move. Today. Right now. To a place where there is no cold or no snow.

Of course winter doesn't last forever. Today we hit the 40's around here. It's the first time in over a month I think?

Thursday they are calling for potential bad thunderstorms.

So we'll go from snow, to rain, pretty quickly and then have to worry about flooding! I really hope the weather man is wrong. Of course, the rain will switch to snow towards the end, so Thursday we could have ice, thunderstorms, then snow.

I am underwhelmed at this weather.

That is all really. Just underwhelmed with this weather and wanting it to end. 

Hope things where you are are good and so sorry if you are buried under snow!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Retro Fitness

So, not that long ago someone asked if I would be interested in trying out a gym and blogging about it! Of course I said yes, yes I am!! (note: yes, this is a sponsored post, but as always all opinions are my own!).

So, the last week of January, I headed over to the new Retro Fitness in Carol Stream to check-out their open house.

Immediately I was struck by how bright and fun it looked. Red and yellow everywhere. Beyond looks though, my second thought was how friendly everyone was. The staff was great. And oh, did I mention we got to try some of the smoothies? Because, yum!

Rocking the compression sleeve!
I met one of the personal trainers and was instantly put at ease by him. I've talked before about my lymphedema, and it's something I worry about. Certain exercises I just can't do or I will make it worse {but in general, exercising is good for it}. T, the trainer I spoke too, impressed me first by knowing what lymphedema was. As we spoke further, he told me he was trained to work with people who had issues and felt confident he could help me.

I left so excited about being able to come back for a month and use the gym! Which is a great thing, because a) I am not athletic and b) these days exercising scares me because of my arm and the anemia that is still a problem and c) I'm not exactly a gym rat by any stretch of the imagination!

working out is so much more fun with tv lol!
So, the open house was all well and good. I left excited, but let's be honest. I wanted to really try the gym, to go work-out and experience it!

So last week, 3 times I went over and worked out! The first two days I stuck with the cardio machines - treadmill, elliptical, bicycle, and stair climber. {side note: the stair climber is by far the hardest thing for me. I thought I would die lol!} Friday I met with the personal trainer and had a training session. It. Was. Awesome.

I loved the machines. I love that I could plug my phone into them to stream music or netflix. I love that I got to watch tv on the machine - not just a few tvs spread out around the gym.  And the trainer? He delivered! He didn't just talk the talk, but he walked the walk. He worked me out perfectly - in a way that I felt pushed, but not too pushed. He didn't do anything to my arm that made me wonder should I be doing this? Everything was perfect. I even did more sit-ups than I ever thought possible with him. Of course, when he told me to do sit-ups I mentioned that I couldn't even do 1. Turns out I can! ;-)

Smoothie bar
After two of the work-outs, I decided to get a smoothie. Mostly because they are delicious, but also because I felt like I needed to reward myself for going and the smoothies aren't only just a nice way to do that, but they are healthy. Traditionally I might have rewarded myself with some extra chocolate, so, smoothies are definitely a great option!
My son in the child care room

The staff continues to be wonderful and amazing! A few times I've had to ask "hey, how do you use this?" and they answer without making me feel like a complete idiot for not knowing! I love it!

I haven't been back this week because a) we were out of town and b) my car broke down. But I will definitely be going back and using the gym for the rest of this month.

There are some cool areas I still haven't used (like the theater room) that I want to try out and definitely come back and share with all of you!

That said, if you are local, you should absolutely stop by and check Retro Fitness out and give them a try. I don't think you will regret it!