Monthly Archives: November 2010

El Chiquito corrigió…

My kid is turning into a little Barbara. No, no, not Lemon (he already tries to be a little Barbara, but has not mastered following rules). Paco. Tonight at dinner, I said something in Spanish and Paco tried to correct how I said it. I said the letter V like an English V and he corrected me. It should be “B” he said. He reiterated that his teacher told them again today. Yes, yes, I understood, in Spain and Mexico, this is true. Then I went into my usual explanation about my fake Argentine accent and how Abuelita Hoodi does not say “baca”  but actually says “vaca” as in Vacaville. “But Señor said…” Paco returned.  “Paco, there are 21 different countries that speak Spanish; they are not all the same.” I tried to explain changes in English based on where we are. (The word for Zucchini in British English is courgette, from the French, not the Italian word we use.)

I had to explain, repeatedly. If it had not been so late in Michigan, I would have called Judy to have her speak so Paco could have it on authority.

So while I wanted to pull out all the dusty workbooks and CDs I picked up in Argentina (really, for this reason); I, instead, realized he was channeling the Canty-Wheeler gene. A little Barbara was there, talking at the table. She wants me to speak Mexican Spanish as well. Sigh, Paco looks for perfection.

It brings joy to me to fake the Argentine.  Zzzzzzhhhhh.. I wonder when we can go back.

The Power of…Coffee?

 

My mom’s wonderful bridge friend sent this to her (to send to me). I love coffee and now, perhaps I will see it as a necessary evil. I went through phases of not drinking it, pregnancy (or nursing). But right now, I just love it so. And even though  I don’t think it really helps my sleepiness, I love the new excuse to induldge in it. My system usually gets pushed in a bad direction by coffee. But for some reason the Starbucks Thanksgiving blend has not been bothering me. Ironically, it makes me even more thankful that I can drink coffee. 12 months ago, that was not possible.

 

http://www.realage.com/tips/how-to-prevent-brain-cancer-coffee-antioxidants?eid=7239&memberid=9504438

Taking a 3-day Break

I was walking down the hall, complaining in my head about my tongue. It is still receding when in contact with fruit, nuts, bubbles or chocolate. So, I was complaining in my head, and then I thought to myself, you have two kids, you have the love of your life folding laundry and you have an awesome family. So shut up!

For a few days, instead of writing late at night I am going to focus on what I have, instead of what I cannot have (walnuts).

The Best Thanksgiving!

My sister offered to host in her new place. But the deal was, no sit down dinner. Instead the evening occurred as a lovely 4-hour cocktail party. Brandon and Lisa (and Beckett) popped by on the way home from dinner with Lisa’s family. We were missing a Wheeler (with his dad,) otherwise, it was just wonderful. Steve was driving home and said, “What a relaxing Thanksgiving.” Ahhhhh.

I think the highlight was watching Beckett (14 mos) and Lemon (20 mos) play together. They followed each other around, had an assembly line of pushing things through the mail opening in the door, handing things back and forth.

I wonder if Colleen has realized that she started a new tradition. Ah, next year she will when we show up again.

A Weird Time of Reflection

What a strange few days. Sunday, I was going to go to a get together in SF for those who are under 40 with cancer. Between the game in the rain Saturday, Steve’s back flaring up, and me just being exhausted, I backed out. I was lame to my friend Liz. She is younger and fits in the group I am sure. She is working and a newlywed. We love picking each other’s brains. That ability with people is priceless.

 

So, instead, that day, Paco and I watched The Muppet Movie. This is a film that came out when I was Paco’s age. 6 going on 7. I just remember loving the movie. I remember singing The Rainbow Connection and Moving Right Along all the time. Watching it again, 30 plus years later, I wonder how much movies like this helped me along. In the last 30 years, we no longer make friends in strange places, the level of trust has gone down when seeing someone in person.  We rely on electronic communication. I like this, I am on top of things faster. I ask questions faster. I use the resource.

 

Electronic communication gives the ability to leave a nice note without having to sit down and write, address and stamp. Time, paper, a pen and stamps. I hate to say it, but I am so much better at email (which I am still flakey about of late). For the last 15 months I have had a letter written to my mom’s second cousin Eily in Ireland. She is my Irish Aunt and my sister and I called her a (positive) force of nature. The letter is here, in the envelope, I never finished it. The irony is I know their address by heart (no postal codes in Ireland) and I could throw two stamps on it and it would be gone. But no, I have moved it, packed it, but never mailed it. Man, I am lazy.

 

Back to the Muppet Movie, I liked that there was a positive spin to every turn the plot took. The final scene, the stage was ruined and the sunbeam came in. Kermit sang, Life is like a movie, write your own ending.

 

I stare at Steve, Paco and Lemon, and I feel well written.

 

Monday, I met Shan and kids at Ikea. It is just a great way to kill time when it is to rain. They all seem to get along remarkably well. There is no hounding of each other, no crowding, no yelling. I was really proud of Paco in particular. At Ikea, he tried out the childcare for the first time. No one else wanted to go in and he still gave it a go. Independence is happening fast.

 

That evening, I headed to the gym to finally do my initial training session. The trainer, Patrick, was awesome. His son, who I think is now 9, has been in remission. At the age of two, he was diagnosed with Leukemia. It really reminded me of how much side effects bothered me, planning ahead is a heavy task to complete, but compared to what my mother, Steve, Paco, friends and family went through when they had to watch me last year, I cannot imagine. I cannot imagine what a parent (whom I know) is going through, watching her son (who needs back surgery) like a hawk. If I had to hold Paco’s hand while he got chemo; how would I keep it together? I know, watching my dad worsen…it destroyed my ambition. All I wanted to do was get away and I did. I am so grateful that those that I am close to do not push me away as I did my dad. Rather we have kept most friends, and most traditions. In fact, we are closer to most than we used to be. I miss my friends in San José, and Steve is ensuring we see them soon. I still have this man.

 

Tuesday had several great things happen. First, I received the following:

 

Dear Erin,
One of my colleagues just delivered the very nice package of gifts from you.  I enjoyed going to your website and checking out your blog.  It was a real surprise to hear from you and get such a thoughtful gift and note from you!   In the Emergency Department, we don’t often receive nice notes from patients (understandable, since we often have such a brief interaction with patients at a time of crisis), and it really made my day to hear from you.

I am very grateful to hear that you and your children are doing well.

Thank you for your thoughtfulness.  I will always remember your grace and courage in the face of a serious diagnosis.

 

I don’t remember the courage. I remember crying, I remember being in shock, I remember not being able to walk to the bathroom. I remember being grateful for the ER doctor’s warmth and calm. His note, just reminded me of how important it is to tell people thank you. It means something.

 

Secondly, I stopped by my sister’s new place, about 20 yards from my mother’s back door. Colleen, will indeed, have to put a sign on her door saying, “I am working, do not knock.” But we are all excited to have she and my mom so close. Colleen is always juggling work, travel and freelance work, plus being the awesome mom she is, so I am glad to be able to catch her more often. She handed Paco the stack of DVDs that Wheels had outgrown. The Lion King was one of them. I remember watching it with Wheels on the VCR. When Rafiki performs something like a baptism to Simba, and raises the cub to the community, I used to lift Wheels up and show him to an empty room. I did it to him until he was about 5. He is now 6 ft. tall. And I am sure I can lift him, but only about 4’, no longer can I lift him above my head.

From Colleen’s, I met my mother (coming from a bridge game) at the Salon in East Sac. I actually got my hair trimmed and cleaned up. It was long in the back and I was not looking for a mullet. Or as we say in our family, moo-lay (in French).  I had hair to trim. Not shave, trim.

 

On the way back to Davis, I caught this photo (while at a red light).

Sleeping to Susy Dorn's voice

To finish the day, after Paco finally went to sleep (after watching a bit of The Lion King), Steve and I were together and actually talked. No video games and I let the laundry and the chores go. I know I am a walking miracle, but sometimes it is hard to keep that vision; I think especially from Steve’s point of view. He saw it all. He has seen so much of me at my physical and mental low points. I said last night, “I am amazed that you never seemed to want to leave me.”  He put his arm around me and said, “I never will.” Thank goodness.

 

Today, Wednesday, I finally dragged the kids to the daycare at the gym. Paco was really supportive and Tommy cried less than before. We hit Comcast then Kaiser to pick up my prescription. I made the boys receive their flu shots. They were able to book a quick check on Lemon for the afternoon. He has had bumps all over his body for a while. Paco insisted we swing by the lab to make sure my pals were not there. Lemon took a nap at home and we headed back to Kaiser for his appointment. It was, in fact, genetic eczema.  It is not that serious, but he will likely have it forever. Steve thought he had it as a child and my family has an asthma gene, so it is not too surprising. It does not seem to bother him, we were just getting a bit concerned. At the end of the appointment, Paco reminded me I had to go over to the adult section and get my flu shot. The pediatrician said she could do it right then. She was back in a minute with the vaccine. I told her then, this is what I love about Kaiser. And I told her my story. She is missing Thanksgiving to cover new babies up in Roseville. She said to me three times, “thanks for telling me what great care you have.” And I looked at the boys and said, “don’t forget what a part of that care you are.” I used to be intimidated by M.D.s; now, I understand what relaying a good experience can do.

 

Paco made sure I went by the lab to see my friends. I think he is in a phase of worry. No doubt inspired by the death of the lion Mufasa. He asked if one of us died, would the other one get married. I said, “what do you think?” He said, “I think you [both] should.” Wisdom. It is a bit sad that a 6-year old has thought of this. But then, it shows his maturity as well. I think Friday we have to watch the The Lion King in its entirety. So we can see…the positive side.

 

We hit Trader Joe’s on the way home. As Paco said, “that was surprisingly fun.” Things we learned: the boys like pumpkin pie. Alvaro, a staff member, is from Ecuador and was encouraging us to practice our Spanish. His wife had studied in Ecuador, then Buenos Aires, then back Ecuador. He said to me, “you sound like an Argentine.” He made me feel proud of myself. Paco spoke so well the guy was confused about where in the Spanish world Paco had been. It turns out his son is in Kinder at Cesar Chavez.

 

The last five days seem to be full of new experience. Part of me misses travel greatly. It has been 2.5 years since I have left the country. I have been on one plane ride in the last two years; and that was over a year ago. Paco’s first year, he had been on 14 flights. The irony is, I am not really suffering from wanderlust. I am turning into a homebody. At first this was because I did not feel like leaving the house. But now, because it seems I want to nest. I want to learn to play the piano, I want to exercise, I want to enjoy the boys. I want to enjoy watching my mom following Lemon around and refusing to punish him. I want what I have.

 

I have cognitive thought. I can drive. I have hair. I can swim. I have these boys. Sigh.

 

 

The Inference of Judgment

 

 

It is amusing to me what people infer. A good friend heard me say, “she is way too into cancer” about another glioma buddy. And what I thought I said was “she is way into cancer research.” One word left out, one left in and the meaning changes.

 

Another old acquaintance thought inferred that I said, “I don’t like…” and named kids from elementary school. What I had said was, “I never really got along with…” One comment is judgmental, one is just saying I never clicked with the kids (to be honest, me and Gretchen S had a gripping arms, nails imbedding, stare down in 5th grade, or maybe 4th, I don’t remember not liking her, I know I played at her house. We just did too many angry faceoffs.)

 

You hear want you want to hear. Me, I try to rule out the judgment part. Don’t get me wrong, there are 2 or 3 girls I can vent too, but they are close friends and our conversations are quiet and confidential. I am a big believer in holding back in saying negative things. The words are powerful. Paco and I discuss that a lot. On bad days, I apologize when I say, “ugh this sucks.” To me, unless it is life or death related, (ok, or maybe a poop blowout) I need to constantly remind myself hold back grumpy talk and do not hold back anything positive. Alas, I am turning into a Pollyanna. Call it the effect of surviving.

Today Was a Day to Mark

I had to buy a blow dryer. I cannot find our old one, or I may have given it away. But my hair is long enough to make me chilled when it is wet and the air is cold.

Choosing Laundry Over Sleep

I am tired. It is late. Tomorrow, Paco is off and for the rest of the week. The laundry has piled up. Most of it is now clean, but needs to be folded and put way. I will fold now. Because this week, I want to spend quality time with those boys. I don’t want to be folding or cleaning or trying to go through paperwork. I want to be engaged with the sparkling brown eyes and the shining blue/green/hazel eyes.

 

I will go and fold.

Not From Yesterday

I love this photo. It was from a game without rain.

Carpe Diem! And Leave at the Halftime

Lemon was freezing. We were all freezing. Today was the Causeway Classic. I think it is the first one I have ever attended. Sac State has played UC Davis for 57 years. It was our friend’s last game and it was a great thing to watch in action. Everyone was shivering and hands were numb (how any of them caught the ball, I do not know). The weather was in the high 40s and the stadium is a wind tunnel. The rain was off and on. Lemon could not stay still in the seats, so I went up, pulled the stroller out from under a staircase and started to wheel him around. I bought a cool blanket at the Aggie Pride stand and used it as a protector from the wind and cold. I forced my child into a cocoon. An entire quarter passed and he was finally asleep. Every time I saw the Aggie player’s dad, I got a quick warm hug.

I stood at the top of our section, watching the game, talking to a US military serviceman who was stationed on campus and was grateful Lemon was sleeping. When I looked at Lemon, 10 minutes later, his face was being hit with rain and his pants were completely soaked, I hollered to Steve, 8 rows down, “I need to get him home.” We took our friends with us; 6 of us crammed into our lovely little car. On the walk out of the stadium, our bud, a Sac State alum, had to watch the last play of the half (a field goal for CSUS). Steve and I smiled and said to each other, we would stay and soak if we were not concerned about the boys. My hands were so numb I could not release Lemon from the stroller. Our good friend Juan took care of that. He put Lemon in the car and his 4-year-old daughter sat next to Lemon, stroking Lemon’s hand and getting smiles out of the cold face.

Lightning and thunder emerged as we drove home. Poor Juan and his daughter got out of the car as the hail started. When we got home and checked the game, the teams had been kept inside and the 2nd half was said to be delayed for 30 minutes, then 47 minutes. By the start of the 2nd half, over 8,000 people had left the game. I suspect all the fans will need boxes of Kleenex everywhere for runny noses. UC Davis won, and we were happy. I sent our Aggie Football-playing friend an email, apologizing for leaving the game and expressing thanks for letting us invade his circle of family and friends. It was his last NCAA game.

I called an older friend when I got home and she seemed concerned (I am assuming by the blog entries) that I was too deep in the Cancer world. The irony is, I don’t think I am as deep as I would like to be because of the kids. I would love to be working on my Spanish and helping out by reading to people who are older and are suffering from cancer. I am behind on all the research reading and putting together files of health-related stuff. I was so confused by the friend’s analysis. Then I realized my world is so different.

I live in a small city, population about 64,000. If you take out the student population, the population is about 40,000. The nature of the community, the transportation, and the lack of nameless malls and chain restaurants (there are some, but not a huge amount) make everyone interact more. When I went into Starbucks today (there are 3 in town, 2 Peet’s), I spoke with 7 people. The place was packed and everyone was trying to get out of everyone else’s way. This is a polite world. My life with the kids gives the opportunity for chats about events, sports, interactions with students and teachers. Because most people get around without cars, I suspect there is a lot more eye contact than in other towns. If I were to calculate the volume of eye contact on my average weekday, I would guess it to be between 30 and 60 people. This is the life of a stay-at-home parent who lives in Davis. If I added the gym or a doctor’s appointment, it would be closer to 50-100. In San José, I would guess it was closer to 20.

Keeping that in mind, I read that the diagnosis cancer rate was 461.6 per 100,000 men and women per year (the average between 2003-2007). (http://seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/all.html). Lowering the population of Davis to 40,000, taking out the students, that would be almost 300 people get the bad news of haing cancer every year. I am guessing that once you take out the student population, the rate would be higher due to the more advanced age of faculty. Of my immediate circle of friends out of Sacramento (and their immediate family), there have been 4 (3 adult) deaths due to cancer and 2 cancer scares. Not including my  being one of the scares. So of the 6 women, 4 have a close loved-one who was treated for cancer. You add me to the mix as being a loved one with cancer, and they all have someone close to them who has been treated for cancer.

This is the real world. It is not one to let control your life and I do not. My rate of interaction with people is quite high. I am not shy and I am clearly an extrovert. Steve always compliments me on my ability to start conversation with people standing next to me in line. All I do is chat and be honest. I am not obsessed with cancer; I like people. I am obsessed with positivity. And being open gives me the chance to learn more every day.

I truly believe the key to happiness is to be practical and then focus on the simplicity of joy. Don’t get me wrong, right now, I would love to be in a flat with Steve in Italy or Argentina, and for a few evenings, have a nanny take care of the boys while Steve and I laughed and walked and drank red wine. I would love to be snuggling Steve right now, while watching some sappy movie. I made a mistake in a discussion with Paco earlier and told him he could snuggle me while I wrote this. That was two hours ago. My son is passed out next to me in the middle of our bed. Steve is enjoying quiet time, watching a program I dislike, playing on his iPhone. He rarely gets time to himself and I only have so long before Paco will not want to be near me as much as he does in this moment. Seize the opportunity for positive interaction.

Today, I saw the UCD student who was in the corner of the stadium, grilling hotdogs in the rain, and putting them in containers to take to each booth. I had eaten one (half of one, Lemon stole the rest). As I walked by, pushing Lemon, I said, “I was wondering why it was so good, it is because you are here cooking them!” She and the two older women standing there, making conversation with her (I am guessing one was her mother) all stared at me, with a huge smile on their face in the rain. The mother said, “That was so nice.” The student said, “You just made things that much easier.”

This is what obsesses me. For one nice thing I said, I received two in return.

Now, if I could just be more positive with the boys. I said to Steve, “they are driving me crazy.” He nodded, said, “True, but then, think about the volume of green beans they ate at dinner.” And we held hands for a moment and I reminded him what a fantastic dad he is. He is also my fantastic friend. I left him with the show I dislike and returned to the sleeping child. Our adventure was a rainy stadium.

While I was writing this, I got a text from the Aggie Football player. He said thank you to me for coming to the game. “I love being around your family.” I received a text 3 hours after he froze his tush off and is celebrating his final UCD game (we were invited), hopefully drinking a hot celebratory beverage. I received a text from my favorite sitter’s boyfriend saying thank you for going to the game. That is the power of positivity.

I am far from cancer obsessed.

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