Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Cup Of Joe

In keeping with the tradition of firsts for 2010, I went out on a limb and did something completely out of character for me.

It was impulsive, a little scary, and daring. Almost James Bond-ish. Are you ready for this?


Before work yesterday, I darkened the door of a coffee shop.

I know. I'm so reckless. The night before, while discussing carpool, C suggested an early morning run to Java Moose. I told her I'd never been. She was aghast. I must go! So I was all, ok!

It was surreal. I felt like a total newb. Actually, I was. The instant we stepped through the doorway I was enveloped in the intoxicating aroma of freshly ground coffee beans, chocolate and paper. It's a cheerful, bustling place, and already I can see why people come here every morning.

But at the counter, I become painfully aware of my newb status. I am confronted with a *huge* menu on the blackboard to choose from. We're ordering *coffee*, y'all. Why are there 1,546 options? What do they all mean?

I'm like a deer in the headlights. Ok, don't panic, start with what size. I don't want to look absurd (too late) and order a small, because who goes to a coffeeshop and orders a *small*? Certainly not a java connoisseur. But I don't know if I'll like it, so I don't want to go too big, either. I finally settle on a medium.

Now for the big decision. What flavor?? This is where I am lost. Thank goodness C is there to coach me. She tells the girl behind the counter I'm new at this, so she understands my consternation, and doesn't just assume I am mentally retarded. I mean, what grown woman doesn't know how to order a latte?

Well, *this* one. So I finally decide on something called WhiteChristmas (no, not "whitechristmas" as in "whitewedding" by Billy Idol, at first I was thinking that too and wondering 'what kind of coffeeshop *is* this!') because I like white chocolate and I like hazelnut, so it made sense, the helpful java girl assured me.

Next step: two shots or one?

Wait. Shots? At 8:30 am? YES PLEASE!

No, Sarah, they explain patiently, these are shots of *espresso*.

Oh. Right. I knew that. And then this is where I totally blow my cover.

"Do you have decaf?" I ask.

There is almost an audible gasp from the waitstaff and patrons alike. I realize I have made a serious blunder. What to do? Try to laugh it off and pretend I was joking? Dumb blonde orders decaf espresso, haha! But no. I go with my standby: act oblivious. I blithely browse the organic granola bar selection while the girl whips me up a decaf skim milk White Christmas latte, feeling the confounded stares of the regulars lounging around a table nearby drilling into my back. She asks me one more question. "Do you at least want the whipped cream on top?"

At least? Is she begging me, pleading with me not to be such a foolish newb, and order something *normal*? I can see it in her eyes - yes - she *wants* me to redeem myself. Here's your last chance, she's offering, to save face. I glance around the room, taking it all in: the homey, whimsical decor, the sunny windows, the young mothers with their laptops and coffee mugs while their little ones play happily at their feet, the 30-something geek, the local craftsmen clustered at a corner booth jovially telling stories - yes, I want to come back, I want to fit in!

"Of course I'll take whipped cream!" I blurt out, breathing a sigh of relief at the approving smiles now directed at me. That was a close one.

After that there was only one thing left to do, and C graciously walked me through the task of dressing my steaming cup of frothy creamy goodness with a brown sleeve of recycled cardboard and plastic lid. If I do this again, I found myself thinking brazenly, I'll do it right and bring my own travel coffee mug.

Riiiiight. Like I own one of those. Well, I am always admiring them in gas stations, now I could buy one! Maybe a pink one. I imagined myself casually parked in a booth with my personal coffee mug of latte, blogging from my laptop, uber-cool stylish 30-something mom wearing some killer kicks.

This means I'm going to have to buy a laptop, too. And probably some new clothes. My thoughts are now completely irrational but I am heady with the rush of imagining the new me. The other young moms in the shop are all skinny and have cute clothes. How do they do it? Maybe they *only* drink espresso. Here is the perfect diet, right under my nose. Why couldn't that be me? It *can* be me! I'm going to do it! I can't believe I haven't thought of this before!

We leave the shop, and I take a sip of my latte. Scald my tongue. OUCH.

Eh, maybe I'll start my new lifestyle next week.


I want ice cold fanta orange pop in the bottle.

I want Juicy Fruit. I want to ride my bike down the FlyAsh road. I want to play house in that grove of pine up on the hill.

I want to climb the apple tree. I want to play hide and seek in the root cellar.

I want to be nine years old again.

I want to pop balsam bark pitch blisters with a stick, set it afloat in the creek and watch it flame.

I want to play kick the can in the dark. I want to run down the worn wooden front steps, down the dirt path and over the old wood bridge, even further, where the swing hangs from that big old birch and when I push off with a running leap I swing out over the ravine, my stomach drops and it is the best feeling *ever*.

I want to climb the ladder to the loft. I want to tell secrets to my best friend. I want to eat thick slabs of homemade whole grain bread with butter.

I want to sit on the porch rail with my best friend and watch her sister flirt with my brother. I want to sneak down to the sawmill and play softball. I want to sit in the field and eat wild strawberries until my lips, tongue and fingers are stained red.

I want to press my ear to the railroad track and "listen" for trains. I want to lie on my back in the blueberry bushes and watch dragonflies. I want ice cream, cold and sweet and drippy, melting faster than I can eat it.

I want my mom to make me tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. I my brothers to let me tag along on an adventure to find Bigfoot. I want to be knee-deep in the water, catching sucker fish with my bare hands. I want my sister to read outloud to me.

I want my mother showing me how to sew. I want to ride in the backseat with my bestfriend and make faces at the boys in the van behind us.

I want to wear my pink and white striped dress. I want to go barefoot in the garden and pick peas. I want a fresh stalk of rubarb dipped in sugar to eat.

What do you want?


In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month, we're going to talk about my boobies (or lack thereof). This is a subject most people shy away from with me, because they don't want to be insensitive, I'm sure. I don't go out of my way to discuss them, either, but if it comes up I always say I'm happy to be rid of them. This mostly shocks people; I have such a flippant attitude about it they can't wrap their heads around that.

It's true, for the most part. My boobs were a real pain in the neck. Literally. In 2008, during a routine procedure to place a port in my chest for chemotherapy treatment, things went terribly wrong, and 5 hours later I woke up with bandages covering a 3-inch T-shaped incision in my neck. I endured a lot of pain and nerve damage from that surgery that never completely went away, and I blame it all on my boobs. If it wasn't for them getting cancer, damnit....but I digress.

My boobs were always too big, I thought, and caused me all kinds of problems: blouses never fitting right, bra shopping was a nightmare, and running was out since I was always getting hit in the face with them. For the life of me, I'll never understand women who get those giant implants. Are they insane?? There is nothing fun about boobs that are constantly in your way. And I know what all the guys are thinking, but honestly, I really couldn't care less how awesome you think big boobies are. My comfort is much more inportant to me than your turn-on. And then there was the pain. For the last few years I had constant pain in the right side, which unfortunately did not go away after the tumors were removed, but only got worse. So I pretty much viewed my breasts as a curse, and the day I was told my breasts had cancer, it only confirmed it for me.

The decision to have a double mastectomy was an easy one for me. I told my plastic surgeon, "don't you dare put the same size implants in. I'll take little boobies, please". He looked at me askance, unsure if he was hearing correctly. I assured him I was serious.

What I was not prepared for, of course, was the complications that arose, which resulted in my current status: boobless. But even that did not faze me, because for the first 6 months or so, I was too preoccupied with the terrible aftermath of surgery, and trying to recover. Now that my scars have healed, however, there are some things about having boobs that I miss. Body image is important, but what I didn't realize before is, you don't just become flat-chested, you become *concave*. It feels like you have lost limbs, and obviously it's not as traumatic as losing, say, your arms, but it's still losing a huge part of you (and in my case, truly huge), and that comes with issues.

Like itching. My nipples itch and I don't even *have* nipples, y'all. This can be very maddening. Also, the muscle spasms. I will get hit with a spasm so intense I am forced to contort my torso to try and relive it, which makes for some interesting positions. It's like having a charlie-horse in your boob. Except there's no boob. And you're grimacing and twisting like someone possessed, which is no big deal if you're at home on the couch - but in line at the grocery store, or sitting at a traffic light? Not so much.

Still, there is always humor to be found in the worst situations, and that's what I look for. The silver lining, or perks (pun intended), I like to call them. Like, I don't have to wear a bra. I don't spill food down my "boob-shelf" anymore. I can sleep on my stomach. And men always look me straight in the eye.

It's been an adjustment for my kids, as well. My son was a year old when I was diagnosed, and at the time my chest was his favorite place to snuggle. This quickly became off-limits, but he would still manage to find a spot on my belly to suffice. One of his other favorite things to do was hurl himself headlong into my arms, inevitably headbutting me in the chest, and of course when he was told not to, it was always, "why, mommy? Do your boobies hurt?"

After my mastectomy he was naturally curious about what happened to them. I explained the best I could. Almost daily he asks about them. "Mommy, did the doctor cut your boobies off?" When this is confirmed, he says, "oh", and merrily goes on his way. Lately, though, he will approach me with a mischevious gleam in his eye.

"Nice boobies", he'll say, waiting for my reaction. If I remind him I don't have any, the questions start all over again. So sometimes I just laugh. I'm sure its just a phase, his obsession with boobies - oh who am I kidding, he *is* his father's son. I'm just hoping he'll outgrow this phase of calling attention to my non-boob status. He has even taken to calling me "Boobies" on occassion.

So to be perfectly honest? I am still coming to terms with life without them. Sometimes I miss them. More often, I don't. After all, when faced with the alternative, it is still easy to say, in Cade's words (as I told him goodbye before leaving for work yesterday), "So long, Boobies!"

Everytime I Fall Apart

So I have this theory. If I think it enough, if I wish it more than anything, I will become it, and make it true. Because that's how it works, right? Isn't that what we are told? Mind over matter, create your own destiny, blah blah blah...well I admit I completely buy into this. I do. Everything I have accomplished in my life has been the result of my own blood, sweat and tears. My grit and determination are what has gotten me here. I am strong, fierce, fearless.

And then I get hit with a curveball from out of effen *nowhere*. And I fall apart.

What. The. F. Sometimes I am ashamed. Others I am angry with myself. What am I doing? Shouldn't I be used to this by now? What am I doing wrong that this keeps happening? Why am I such a weak, pathetic mess?

I could go on with the demoralizing self-deprecation, but you get the idea. We've all done it, punished ourselves for being human.

And that's when someone touches me. Sometimes it is only a touch, maybe a word, a look, a smile...but that one gesture, however small, is all I need. It builds me up, gives me love, strengthens my resolve, restores my faith, gives me hope, shares my sorrow, brings me joy, and pulls me together. And I realize, in that sigh of relief, that *this* is how I got here, through all the trials and tribulations of my life, this is why I live. I didn't get here on my own. I'm here because of you. If I let you down, you lifted me up. When I couldn't find my way, you held my hand. The amazing, wonderful truth is not that I am strong, but that you make me strong. We need each other. We cannot do it alone.

We are here to help each other, and that is what I want to do for you. Because each of you, in your own way, everyday, save my life.

And that, my friends, is the human condition.

And You Thought I was Tough

I'm scared.

I feel better getting that off of my chest. What am I so afraid of? Well, chickens, *obviously*.

Ok seriously.

I'm afraid of wolves. And fog. Carnie folk. And becoming my mother. And failure.

But mostly, I am afraid of being forgotten.

And no, I don't mean being left behind at the grocery store, although that was a legitimate fear once while out shopping with friends and I had to go destroy a toilet (it was day two of a softball tournement, stop judging me) and they all assumed I was with somebody else and they all left the building. Without me. But that's another story for another time.

I don't want you to forget me. You know, when I'm gone. Don't worry, geez, I'm not going anywhere yet, not for a long time. But it does bother me sometimes. Every time I encounter death, which unfortunately in my line of work happens a lot, I am always thrown into a tailspin when I realize that nothing stands still for that.

Life goes on. People are still eating, working, sleeping, *living*. Because they must. Really. I know this. But here's the thing - totally unacceptable. If I die young, I fully expect the universe to at least tilt or something. So the least you people could do is, show some *respect*, damnit.

Like stay in bed. If you are forced to go out, wear black or don't get dressed at all. Don't eat anything you like for at least 24 hours. Especially if it is something *I* like to eat, it is forbidden. So no olives. No feta. No pickled fish. Please *do* take a shower but you better not look happy about it. You can listen to music as long as it is a continuous loop of "Blue Eyes Cryin in the Rain" by Willie Nelson. Don't do things I despise, like shopping(I'm not kidding) or anything to do with Hannah Montana.

You are allowed to cry. Publicly. In fact, inconsolably would be a nice touch. Public displays of devotion are always appreciated. At this point in time, I have no idea what I want to be remembered for, but I will get back to you on that. I still have time to figure it out and become great at something (besides an awesomely fierce Chuck Norris-style zombie slayer). I don't think a national day of mourning (a week would be even better) is too much to ask.

Ok. For reals now. I want the most kick-ass party you've ever had, because that's what I would *really* do. I want everyone to sing karaoke, eat brisket and take turns with the potato gun.

After all, we can't *all* be rockstars, but I damn well expect you to act like one.

P.S. I love you