Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Behind The Smiles

Have you ever felt that moment, when the very last thing you feel like doing is smiling?  However, in the name of positivity, you have managed to squeak out a curled grin to those in passing, despite your urge to do otherwise.

Have you ever felt that moment, when you know your life is really good and yet, you simply cannot shake the sad doldrums?  Constant reminders to yourself of how much you have and all of the blessings you have been afforded, yet, you feel depressed.

Many of us have taken the ride of the Great Life Coaster:  up and down, all around, sometimes so fast that you hang on tight with partially closed eyes, and you hope you do not soil yourself.  But what happens when we get a little stuck at the bottom of one of our valleys?  What do we do when our locomotive struggles along slowly and we question whether we can do it?
Ahh, for me – the great Angel and Devil commence their requisite spots on either shoulder and the debate (in my head) begins.  You see, I feel horrible for feeling down.  Yes, physically – and yes, obviously, mentally – but the guilt trip I give myself for feeling down is so much worse than the blues!

The Angel tells me rationally, “It is okay to feel how you are feeling.  You cannot help it, let yourself feel it. Work through it.” 
The Devil childes me incessantly, “How DARE you feel this way!  You have SO much to live for, don’t you even fathom thinking you are blue!  Do you know how many of your recently deceased friends would KILL for a day to be alive and to feel – <meh> – blue?!?” 
And on and on and on it goes making me, well, nuts.

I am “famous” for being one of those people.  Yes, THOSE people who seem to always be positive and happy.  However, I am NOT always positive and happy.  Does that revelation make me a faker, you say?  I disagree wholeheartedly.  I choose to outwardly display my positivity and my happiness; especially at times when I may not feel it.  Why?  When you are happy on the outside, it makes others feel good.  Even "faking" it usually eventually helps to pull me, with the force of a strong ox, out of that little valley where I have been stuck in a moment.
Where do these blues come from, I wonder? 

  • Hormones (geesh, these little buggers called estrogen or progesterone can wreak havoc on us!); or
  • The daily doldrums of chaotic routine and lack of appreciation or gratitude for running yourself ragged (kids…..I tell you, they can take the wind out of your sails in a spoken sentence!  “I don’t want that for dinner!”  “What do you mean you did not wash my uniform?”  “Why can’t I have an iPhone?”);  or
  • Your spouse (after a long marriage does "roommate" sometimes seem more descriptive than "love of your life"?); or
  • Your body (despite being the amazing, awesome machine that it is – it disappoints you for those saddle bags that stretch the seams of your favorite jeans;  or that cellulite you are afraid to confront with a view in the mirror; or  perhaps that muffin top that won’t allow you to wear your favorite shirt out?); or
  •  Incessant bills (orthodontist, dentist, audiologist, sports, phone, oil, groceries, shall I go on?!?).

Maybe you just cannot pinpoint any cause of your feeling down in the dumps.  A wise friend once told me, “It is OKAY to feel that way, you know.  Let yourself feel it.”  Problem is for me, I do not want to feel the blues.  However, I do compromise and allow myself to be sad for a couple of days and then I whip myself out of it.  Of course, I am human and it’s not always that easy to pull oneself up.
Lately, I am back in the various shades of blue…..and I sort of think I know why.  I have been seeing more dragonflies than usual – they are still landing ON me.  I have been thinking of our local woman who passed last month, a lot.  I have been thinking of my dad, a lot.  I have been worried about bills.  I have not been able to exercise to my liking and it makes me feel physically gross.  My kids and my husband have not taken full measure of just how they take me for granted and many of the things they say lately are simply not my favorite words to hear.

However, I know tomorrow is a new day.  I know that come Friday and the weekend, I will have more time to do the things that make me smile.  I will hike.  I will volunteer at the local festival downtown.  I will watch my son play soccer.  I will be with friends.  I will be with my family.

Suddenly, just like that – I am smiling.


A Simple Thank You Note

Kids know.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

"I am a strong person"

At back to school night, I entered Evelyn's 2nd grade classroom where all the small desks each had a portrait drawn by the child that sits there. Above it was a sheet of written clues for you to guess whose desk it was. The rat bastard teacher used it to cover our children's names. I was glancing at the drawings first, all parents sweating, afraid of the horror if they choose the wrong desk. (I DON'T KNOW MY CHILD!!!) Some parents were wandering red faced, making errors. 
Come on now! 
Freaking pressure! 
Thank God I went to the parent meeting in the auditorium first- a lot of the desks had already been claimed. I had a knot in my forehead while searching the room because Evie's drawing style changes monthly...and does she even know what color hair she has to draw? Or will it be purple? And curly?

My eyes hit an opening line to clues on a far desk. I read it upside down. "I am a strong person."


I walked directly to that desk. I knew that was Evie's. I had no shred of doubt and would have pushed any parent already sitting in that chair over, pantsuit legs flailing beetle-like. Those words belonged to my child.

I sat down with my eyes stinging with tears. I couldn't read further yet. Just that opening line over and over again. In my mind I kept saying "Wow wow wow. Thank you." I was overwhelmed with the idea that this is how she sees herself first and foremost. Selfishly, I then began thinking, "Did I do this? Am I awesome? Am I the most empowered mom ever passing this on to my children??" But I know the truth. Evie did this. This is who Evie is. I am not going to say that my husband and I haven't added anything to our children's sense of self or self-worth. This kind of confidence, I believe, comes from within the individual. I mean, I am the same mom to my other daughter who was sobbing over my making her buy a school lunch, in a new school, for the very first time.
Bought school lunch for 4 years.
Near vomiting on her pancake.
Hiccupping and crying.
Same gene pool.
Same parenting.

Welllllllllll, no. Not the same parenting. Same rules maybe, but different approaches. And to be fair, Evelyn will never buy a school lunch and I may never make her do it. (different approach- lunch) but she will have to be happy with a can of spaghetti-o's and a can opener in her bag (same rule- mommy ain't making lunch today).

I marvel at people's confidence and self assuredness. I fake it 'til I make it if anyone thinks I have it. It is what I want most for my children. When I saw those opening words my brain exploded into real a-ha thoughts like- it isn't about making sure they don't suffer my childhood of obesity, it is making sure they don't suffer childhood. Everyone suffers childhood at some point, but can they approach it with the belief that they are a strong person? Because I think that must make all the difference in the world. I could not. I don't know how well my eldest would do- but don't think she will encounter too much strife given her nature. My youngest already has a fan base in children, babies, adults, and teachers. He is 5. We know where that is going. Evie, the middle, with her own drum, banging it with a ukulele, while wearing the Punkiest of Brewster wear. She is marching out there, living her life, and feeling complete confidence in who she is.
(I am so envious.)

And now, her essay in completion:

I am a strong person.
I do gymnastics. I do art with crayons and sometimes markers.
I do music once and a wile.
I'm pretty. I'm loveable. I'm very very smart. I'm very very very very strong.
I love computers. My favrit color is purple!...Can you guess hoo I am!

Yes, Evie. I knew you all along.


Thursday, September 20, 2012


Earlier this week, a dad came up to me at the local cross country meet and exclaimed, “Geesh, every time I think I did good with volunteering;  I show up and there you are AGAIN – volunteering and doing something ELSE!”  I quickly retorted with a slew of reasons justifying WHY I was there and why I was volunteering  yet a.g.a.i.n. 
“I’m here because my kids are everywhere!”  ha ha ha ha.  “I’m here because the coach is so busy and should not be running the drink table!”  ha ha ha ha.  Why do I have to feel the need to validate my volunteering?  Can I simply say I do it because it feels good?  I am here because I simply can be.
People often tell me how I do too much.  I will be honest and say it goes in one ear and out the other.  I am not the type of person that likes to be told what to do anyway.  However, when you chide me for doing “too much” – it makes me want to do even more.  Seriously, when can one do too much good in the world?  And contrary to what many may deem an inappropriate amount of tasks for me, I do have a good gauge of when to say no so that I am not over-extending myself in the name of good.

Last week, in Not All Mothers Are Created Alike, I shared with you a huge skeleton that lurks in my dark closet; at the expense of what makes me feel bad, I discovered what makes me feel good.  I like helping people.  I like to volunteer.  I do not do it for the notoriety or the gratitude; in fact, I would anonymously help everyone if I could get away with it.  Selfishly, helping others makes me glow inside….it is my crack.  If I do not shoot up daily with a good deed, I find myself cranky – literally on edge, pacing until my next fix.

Admit it.  We all like to feel good.  I have several things that make me feel good:  my three munchkins and my hub, Ben & Jerry’s,  music, my cats, walks in the woods, a good run, a bottle of wine or a strong beer, laughing with friends, and yes, giving myself to others.

I am hard-wired to give to others.  I cannot change this aspect of myself, nor do I wish to change this character trait.  I wish I could change my lop-sided boobs or my wide girth.  I wish I could erase my insecurities.  I wish I could be less hard on myself and more forgiving like Mandy (see Forgiveness). 
But let me ask YOU this……if you had the ability to make someone else’s day, someone else’s life better – why wouldn’t you?  Right?  Sometimes it’s an act of volunteering that significantly impacts another’s day. 
I have proof.  Yes, you see – a really brilliant friend of mine started a random act of kindness amongst a small group of us.  Perhaps it was not so random as her husband secretly aligned the friends of this chosen few with another  - a “Secret Sister” if you will (for the love of God, I refuse to say that other “S” word yet……December is approaching fast enough).  For a pre-determined period of time, each Secret Sister has to deliver a token of appreciation to their assignee.  It can be something small and homemade – or it can be something more grandiose.  We have no idea when our Secret Sister will arrive or what our small gift of appreciation will be.  I can tell you this, however, twice now, I have come home completely raggedy and worn from the day’s events to find a special surprise.  Something for ME and ME alone.  Someone was thinking of me today and paid forward a small act of kindness.  The warmth I feel from this act is nearly rival to the intensity I feel when I give. 
I am so addicted to giving myself to others.  I am going to become more stealth-like and pay it forward more anonymously (however, I cannot hide at cross country!).  Cross country is just one example, but I do it to help the coach (who volunteers her time to coach our kids), but I do it for the kids.  It is amazing what a small 5 oz paper cup full of Gatorade does to a kid who's just clumsily plowed through a mile and a half race.  The sweaty, breathless smile of thanks from these pubescent creatures makes me giddy.  (Yes, I am weird and no, you would not be the first to tell me that).
If you knew how the recipient felt upon your act of kindess, how you may have possibly made their day better – perhaps, even made their life better – would that be your driving factor?  If not, take the selfish pleasure in getting “high” like me. 

You DO have the ability to make an impact on someone else.  I do not have a lot of money or material things to give.  Some days, I do not even have a lot of time to give.  However, there is always something of me that I can give.  There is always something of YOU to give. 

Just think if everyone of us gave a little of us, every week.....imagine the kind world we would live in.

Try it.  Share with me your ideas because I am going to need them!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Deep in Thought

I am sitting in the back of my VW bus in my hometown, with a blank iPad screen in front of me waiting to be filled. I have about an hour to kill, and I am full of -- something I can't name -- because I haven't been to this park since I was about 11 years old, the age of my oldest child now.

For months I have been wanting to write something amazing, something worth reading, but have found myself living on a steady diet of quoting others while I dredge up unoriginal stories for pay, making a living but not exactly living my dream, which is okay too. I can't say this is the day my mojo will return but I no long believe that day will never come. I feel the rumblings of raw emotion and so I open a document and slice clean through a vein, letting it find some relief through my keyboard and fingertips.

I am the kind of gal who only speaks when I have something to say, which is admittedly almost all the time, but today I was rendered speechless.

My dad and I are taking a workshop together, and it involves a nutritional cleanse, some light meditation and lots of self reflection. At the end of our first class, we pulled a word from the bowl and tried to divine its meaning in our own lives.


It was easy to align myself immediately with all the external forces to which this word relates. Old boyfriends, teachers, my spouse, my kids. Friends who take everything from me with little to give in return; those who wait patiently -- arms crossed -- for my kindness without extending any of their own. So many ways to integrate this notion of forgiveness, but always wrapped up in the actions and words of another.

And all this when the only person I have to forgive is myself.

For setting up a system of goals - in pounds and inches and units of sweat - that have nothing to do with who I am as a person and what I have to give to the universe, for failing to meet my own expectations. For failing to go about the more important job of meaning something to people, to humanity; for accepting less of myself than I know I can give. For cruising along on autopilot when I know it's my nature to take risks and live large. For trying to keep peace in the lives of others even when it causes more chaos in my own; for allowing myself to misinterpret even my own intentions, for believing that everything can be fixed with an invitation to coffee.

Yes, I have something to say now. Mostly to myself. I forgive you, I forgive me. For all of this.

I am human, I make mistakes, I stumble and have to right the course. For these things, I can find forgiveness.

The process of the cleanse has started before it's even begun and I can tell that nothing will taste any better than that.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


I wish I could suck in my upper arms like I can suck in my gut.

I wish that I could have that wish for my "upper knees" as well.

I wish that big hips equaled fuller breasts.

I wish I had a caramel apple.

I wish that french fries tasted like what I fear the green stuff in lobster tastes like.

I wish that I knew tomorrow would be OK.

I wish my parents lived closer.

I wish my neck would never change.

I wish I never heard the song "We Built This City on Rock and Roll".

I wish there was a real dinging sound that would go off when I made the right decision.

I wish pets didn't shed.

I wish I would just read more.

I wish the end of life could be easy and peaceful. More than just sometimes.

I wish bugs didn't want to come inside my house.

I wish babies could talk from birth and say "Thank you, Mom" at 3:45am.

I wish I had a mini fridge of cheese on wheels, and no one would think it strange.

I wish the mini fridge would come with a cheese melter attachment because...come on. Melted cheese.

I wish that hummingbird would come back and see me.

I wish we didn't have to lose hours of daylight just because the seasons change.

I wish that my niece lived next door so I could braid her hair often. She loves it; my girls do not.

I wish I could see the animal that makes the porpoise noise underneath my porch every day.

I wish chocolate was good for you.

I wish I could drink and get brilliantly tipsy and then push an off button and be sober to go home.

I wish the contentment I feel right now will linger through the chaos of the week.

I wish sad things wouldn't happen, but know that they do have to happen so we know joy.

I wish everyone a moment of joy, at the very least, at some point today.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Not All Mothers Are Created Alike

Not all mothers are created alike.  No, no, they simply are not. 

You have heard the phrase, "Anyone can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a daddy."  The same rings true for mothers.  Sure, mothers give birth to us all....but a laborous trip down the birth canal does not qualify someone as a Momma.

All of us Mommas have our quirks, our habits, and our comforting ways of soothing even the worst of boo-boos or the scariest of nightmares.  Some of us discipline with the master of a pursed-up face in the STARE of DEATH; whereas, some of us chide our littles and get right back to what we were doing (while the littles get away with mischief and mayhem).

Most of us will tell you we learned our "tricks of the trade" from our mothers before us.  Not me.  Instead, I learned precisely what I did not want to be as a Momma.  Yes, you read that right.  My mother taught me invaluable lessons;  lessons of what I would NOT do in my children's lives - EVER.

Because this is not my memoir, I will spare you many of the details from my young life.  However, as I roll into the latter half of my thirties, I have come to realize that it is really okay if you do not have a good Momma.  Sure, I long for a relationship with my Mother; a relationship between mother and daughter than many of my peers have in place.  I want a Momma to call with good news, or bad....I want to share my parenting strifes with one who has been there before me.....I want someone to remind me I am her child and that everything will be alright.  However, what I want and what I have are not in alignment and simply not meant to be.  That is OKAY.

You see, despite being beaten with a wooden Dr. Scholl sandal (circa 1980) until bloodied and welted; I loved my Mother deeply.  Despite being the subject of her near-manic rages and having Club brand cast iron pots thrown at my cowering little body, this was MY Mother.  Wasn't I supposed to love her unconditionally? 
The mental illness of my Mother displayed itself in various forms of anger - on me, because I was there and I was a powerless child.  Countless times, I felt the wrath of 1/2" wooden dowels (she learned they did not break as easily as the weaker kitchen wooden spoons) across my limbs.  On many occasions, I felt the immense sting of skin on skin from her large hand connecting with my backside, or even the backhanded knuckles making their mark on my face. 
Contrary to what you may be assuming, I was a good child - I was obedient, I was a great student earning praise and top honors, and I was outgoing and friendly.  I hid the welts, the bruises and the emotional pain of my Mother's misplaced anger.  Only ONCE was my mother questioned for her behavior towards me; as I had blood on my tee-ball uniform.  Social services was brought in, upon which my mother apologized and cried for hurting me - saying simply that she did not realize she hit me so hard.  I was then punished and sent to bed without dinner; why on earth would I answer a question from an inquring adult as to the why I had blood on my shirt?

I vividly recall  my little brain telling myself back then -  I would never, ever, ever, ever hit my child.  NEVER.  I would not subject any of my children to the fear, the pain and the shame that goes along with your Mother hitting you.  NEVER.
Now, as a mother of three, I will not lie - I have had THOSE moments; those rare moments where in disciplining my child(ren) -  the only thing I felt was an intense, burning desire to rip my child's face off!  What Momma has NOT felt that fleeting feeling of  losing control?  Who hasn't had that momentarily lapse in rational judgment when a stubborn child is pushing every button?  Guess what?  I refrained.  Yes, I did.  I did NOT hit my child.  I did not want to be my Mother.

As I entered adulthood, I still loved my mother.  I somehow believed that we should always respect our elders; and because they are not perfect, we should still provide them with care.  With a two and a half year old and a one week old nursing newborn, I traveled to my Mother's house daily after she had a quadruple by-pass surgery.  I am a Momma; the ability to tend to a high-energy toddler and a brand new baby, all while caring for my Mother was somewhat of a feat, but not impossible. 
After this surgery, my Mother became a different person!  We had a good two years with as normal a relationship as we would ever have.  Shortly thereafter, my father became severly ill and with that, my Mother's mental illness intensified and re-emerged with it's head uglier than ever.  My Mother did not like competing with my father for attention.  Somehow, I managed to have them move into my home, with my young family - as I still believed it was my duty to care for my elderly parents and I loved them both.  I only wished for them to live out their golden years and be grandparents to my children.

Flash forward four years and I was suddenly fighting for MY life.  For those of you who know me, I was also pregnant with my third child.  In all of the chaos and the fear of death flashing before my eyes, my mother still needed attention; a lot of it.  She somehow could not dig deep and be MY Mother, at the very moment when I needed my Mother most.  At first, I was crushed.  How could my own Mother not step up and be a Mother in MY time of need?  I needed her most, right now this moment!  Then, I was angry.  I was quite possibly the most murderous I have ever felt in my entire life.  However, I awakened.....and I realized that not all of  us are treated equally and given the parents we hope for.  Sometimes, we just do not have the parents we need during our times of tribulation.  I did not have a Momma.

Sadly, I do not feel love for the woman who calls herself my Mother.  I am okay with that.  We have a relationship enough so that my children can retain their relationships with their grandmother.  Yes, she gave birth to me.  Yes, she is my Mother.  Yes, I have some better memories of her.  However, after much guilt and after harboring many bad feelings about doing the "right" thing by her - I have learned that I will never change her.  I can only change ME and how I cope.  I do not have to have a relationship with her simply because she is my Mother; especially when it is not healthy for me.

I have taken many mental notes out of my life experiences, and I use every one of these invaluable tools to make myself the best possible Momma to MY children. 

With that, I promise my children that: 
  • I will be there for them in ALL of their times of need.
  • I will hug and kiss their boo-boos from now in their childhood to that when they are adults on their own. 
  • I will be that voice of reason. 
  • I will be the pushover when they bat their eyelashes at me. 
  • I will love them unconditionally and despite possible disappointments to come, I will reassure them they are mine and I will help them move forward.
  • I will love them with a passion that runs so firmly and deeply embedded into my very core and within every single cell of my body. 
After all, I am their Momma. 


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

She said it better.

I just put away the birthday banner and the mismatched candles for another year. My babies were born in the summer months, almost as if I go into heat in the fall and it continues through the new year. Watch out fellas.

So as I pack away the wrapping paper and try to pay down my creidt card debt, and start making arrangement for rides to fall sports and high school musical auditions and art classes, I am finding I am too damn busy to think about anything but how fast the time flies. And it reminded me of the following piece, written by one of my favorite childrens' book authors, and one of my favorite pieces of prose. Cheesy, yes, but I have to meet myself where I am at.

Seems Like Yesterday
by  Lynn Plourde

Seems like yesterday....
The pains started.
I grabbed my bulging belly
And danced with your Papa
Shouting, "It's time! It's time!"

Seems like yesterday....
you made your debut
Red-faced and screeching.
Your cries changed to coos as I held you.
My tears changed to oohs as you held me.
Spellbound with your magical, wiggly humanness.
Yesterday we were one.
Today we were two.

Seems like yesterday....
Your middle-of-the-night colicky cries.
We went on our familiar walk
Down the stairs,
Through the living room,
The dining room,
The kitchen,
Into the pantry
With made-up songs
Of soup and stews, pots and pans,
And back again.
Over and over.
Ten, twenty, a hundred times,
Until your cries were silenced.
Your breathing calmed.

Seems like yesterday...
Your first splashy sink bath.
Your first mushy meal.
Your first wobbly walk.
Your first wide-eyed word--

Seems like yesterday....
Your first birthday
Dressed in a diaper and frosting.
I helped you tear off wrapping paper,
Made your new teddy dance.
You threw down teddy
And had a party with the paper.

Seems like yesterday....
You were a bumblebee
At a dance recital.
The other bees buzzed
And floated and flitted onstage.
You stood frozen
Staring at the audience
Not moving a muscle
'Till the bow.
Then how you bowed and bowed and bowed.
And I clapped and clapped and clapped.
'Till a man three rows back asked me to stop.

Seems like yesterday....
Your first day at school.
We played jumprope in the driveway
'Till the school bus came
And swallowed you up.
I wore the jumprope as a necklace
All morning long,
Through my chores,
Through my tears,
'Till you returned with kisses,
Smiles, and stories
Of what a great place
Kindergarden was.

Seems like yesterday....
You won the spelling bee.
The school's
The county's
The state's.
We flew to Washington DC.
So giddy and giggly we didn't need a plane.
We filled four days with memorials, monuments,
Memories of a lifetime.
It didn't matter that you misspelled "merganser"
In the first round.

Seems like yesterday....
You had your first date
And your first pimple
All on the same day.
I sat on the floor
Outside the locked bathroom door
'Till your tears stopped
And you let me make everything okay
Like Mamas are suppose to do.

Seems like yesterday...
You got your driver's licence.
Had your first fender-bender.
Went to your first prom.

Seems like yesterday...
When my own mama died.
Everyone was kind,
Tried to say the right things,
Only you knew what to do.
You grabbed an armful
Of your granny's clothes--her nightgown, bathrobe,
a dress.
We wrapped ourselves in her scent
And pored over old photos
Crying and laughing till dawn.

Seems like yesterday....
We drove you to college
Two states away.
The next day you called--collect,
And said you'd cried
For three hours after we'd left.
I understood. I cried for six.

Seems like yesterday....
You were my baby.
Now you're having your own baby.
Still, you will always be my baby.
Even when your baby's baby has a baby.
You will always be my baby.

And it will always seem like yesterday.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


If only you could hear the call of a 5 ft 2 Canadian woman yelling "supper" up 2 flights of stairs to her children. That bellow would be 7 days a week for 18 years of my life. And the call to supper was THE BEST...

Planning is exhausting. Well, no. Planning is annoying and execution is exhausting. Yes.

I have always tried to plan my meals ahead of time so I can be organized at the store and really aware of how we are eating as a family. I have also had a lot of time to do this as a stay at home mom. I could even accomplish it while walking into walls with no sleep because I had all day to find the time. Once I became a working mom, the whole feat is not so smooth. 8 hours out of the house plus running a kid here or there is a huge chunk missing from my usual organized day. Along with the time, a lot of my patience has gone to the children I see all day- students- leaving me with less grace for my own children who are also tired from their long day being respectful to an adult other than me.

I can see why it is easy to do nuggets 3 nights a week. My first day of work we went out for pizza because I forgot to defrost something. We called it "Back to School Pizza Night". Missing an ingredient becomes the worst thing that has EVER happened to me because I didn't catch it at 1pm, but at 5:15. (WORSTEST!!! Especially when it is something like "chicken" rather than "lemon"... and my nearest store is...oh my god let's get pizza.)

SO this is what I have done. This is what I am attempting for the 1 month I have been guaranteed a position at our elementary school. I have planned a month worth of meals. Then with the ingredients listed out I have created 4 shopping lists to correspond with the weeks' meals. So one calendar, 4 lists with room to add weekly needs, and a dream that this can become second nature if I end up working the whole year. Or even if I don't.

I don't know if I would be considered anal. I am organized to a point, and am at my most organized in this month, September, stemming back to nearly my entire life in school. I don't know if this is going to really work for more than maybe 2 months, but I am going to try and believe in it. I don't want to go the easy route too often with our dinner meals because I know there is a connection there to unhealthy eating. I have invested 10 years in what I put into myself and the kids to try and build taste buds, healthy bones, and a good relationship with food. I know just how easy it is to let that fall aside first. I don't want to just boil water for pasta. I don't want to get freezer burn while putting together my meal. Not every day. (I mean, holla! to Trader Joe's frozen mac and Perdue's dino shaped nugs. I will do a threesome with you guys weekly!)




I am in awe of every family with 2 working parents or a single working mother who can keep this up and it. has. been. a. mere. week. for. me. I will be honest. I just erased a chicken dish (a yummy garlic cheddar chicken) and replaced it with the word "McDinner". There goes a take out night during the weekend because that Monday is insane and the insanity begins at 4:30pm when I would get home just before 4 from work. So, high-five me Grimace and Hamburglar- you are getting it done for me. Apple slices for everyone (because I will have eaten all the fries on the drive home. Deal with it.)

Check back on me if I forget to get back to you all on how it is working out.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Guest Blogger: Tyler Brisbois - A Son's Perspective

Stuffed Shells
Jimmy Stewart and Charlie Brown

I’ve been compared to my grandfather since the day I was born. I inherited his dark thick hair and am told that I had a similar hairstyle to that of Ernie from Sesame Street. I guess it’s a stretch of a compliment at best. Our thin frame and George Bailey-like persona have always been looked upon as identical.  I can thank my mother for these traits, whom is a spitting image of my grandfather. Proof of genetics. Like brown hair, cancer has to do with genetics. Unlike brown hair, cancer is far from a desirable characteristic. It’s like a family heirloom that no one wants.

My most vivid memory of my grandfather was when I was three. My brother and I were playing with a small building set on my grandparents’ living room floor. I broke one of my brother’s pieces and all I can remember is my grandfather’s disappointed voice. He wasn’t angry, nor did he raise his voice. He was disappointed which is far worse than anger. When I think about it, I can’t recall what he said but I can see him sitting in his recliner perfectly.  In my mind his words are muffled by time and sound like the teacher from the Peanuts, frustrated “Whah, Whah’s”.  Unfortunately, it’s the only memory of him that I have.

Years later, I remember rummaging through my closet and for whatever reason, discovered that the broken piece was the only one from our entire set that had survived many years of spring cleaning. Regrettably the unpleasant has a tendency of sticking around with us.  Why couldn’t the unbroken pieces make it? They weren’t busted. Why couldn’t I have a more meaningful memory of my grandfather?  Even in the short three years I knew him, I know there were countless of them.  He passed away shortly after a five-year battle with leukemia.


There’s always an event every few decades that defines a generation, a landmark number on the calendar that connects the masses. The baby boomers are identified with the John F. Kennedy assassination in 1963; my generation with September 11th. Anyone that was older than three for either of those dates could tell you where they were, whom they were with, and will always begin or end their story with the cliché, “I remember it like it was yesterday”. But it’s true; I could tell you everything about that day. I was in Mrs. Fitzpatrick’s fourth grade class on  a Tuesday when I found out about the attacks on New York City and Pennsylvania. I guess the mind has a way of capturing all these little details on our days that we would prefer to forget.  In eighteen years I’ve only had one other of these unofficial “yesterdays”.

Stuffed Shells

            I remember sitting at the kitchen table as the words breast cancer fell from my mother’s sentences. I remember cringing almost as if snow had fallen down my back. The foul word was then followed by a gentle bombardment of more filthy words such as chemotherapy and radiation.  The next 18 months of our family’s life was laid out in front of me like a blueprint, an agenda from hell. 

During my mother’s treatment she wrote small stories that were later compiled into a memoir of her experiences.  One of her first short stories she explained how she broke the news to my brother and me.  She told of how strong I was and how well I took the news, a fourteen year old in shining armor if you will. I’m glad I will be forever romanticized in a piece of literature because I can tell you that this is far from the truth. The word tears never made it to my page of glory.  Maybe her version is right and maybe I’m wrong (all I know for sure is that we had stuffed shells that night for dinner). But I can’t be, I remember it like it was yesterday.

Holding on Tight

Everyone has had that horrendous combination of fear and uncertainty at one time or another. Sitting at that table I’ve never experienced the feeling so strong. The only feeling I can compare it to would be like riding one of those rickety wooden roller coasters at one of those carnivals that stay in town for about a week at most.  Oh, and you just ate syrupy cotton candy and over-priced popcorn right before you’ve mustered up the courage to pull that rusty bar down over your lap. There’s nothing you can do but go along for the ride.   Every single drop puts your stomach up past your heart. But even this doesn’t compare to how I felt the next 18 months. 

Just a Day at the Beach

The other day in my Microbiology class we learned that the word cancer originated from karkinos, the Greek word for crab.  Hippocrates noticed that the inside of tumors looked similar to the outline of the crustacean.  I couldn’t see the resemblance, but I couldn’t think of a better animal to name the disease after.  It comes out of nowhere and bites you on the ass while you’re enjoying a beautiful day at the beach; just enjoying life. That’s what cancer did to us: bit us right on the ass. 

Chicks Hate Pink

My mother’s diagnoses came only a few months after my best friend’s mom passed away from breast cancer. I can remember looking at his empty desk, as I realized why he wasn’t in school.  I prayed I was wrong, but in the back of my mind, I knew I wasn’t.  She had three sons, one my brother’s age, one my age, and one my sister’s age. She had battled cancer for as long as I could remember. During her treatments, members of the community would help out by making dinners. And I’m not sure why, but I remember my mother making their family stuffed shells.

When something is on your mind it seems to appear everywhere, in places that you had never noticed them before; a terrible game of hide-and-seek. Those little pink ribbons were everywhere, magazines articles, newspapers advertisements, canned goods at the supermarket, shampoo commercials, etc. And every single company seemed to be donating to the breast cancer society around the time of my mother’s diagnosis.  It’s like they all jumped on the bandwagon once it happened. Of course they had always been there, you’ve looked at them, but you just never took the time to see them. There was no escaping cancer.  No escaping the pink.  My mother’s memoir is called ‘Why I Hated Pink’; properly named if you ask me. 

Torn Pair of Genes

My mother’s cancer had nothing to do with genetics. Actually it had nothing to do with anything.  Besides my grandfather, there was no family history or any outstanding risk factors that made her more prone than anyone else. “Just bad luck,” the doctor had said. I guess that’s one way to put it.

Card Tricks

Doctor’s base a cancer patient’s survival rate based on a five-year increment.  They give a percentage of the chances that the patient will live for the next five years.  When I think about this systematic benchmark, all I can picture is a bunch of doctors sitting in a poorly lit room with short, smoldering cigarettes in their mouths at a poker table flipping over cards and handing out these unwelcomed numbers to terrified patients. A Hollywood hybrid between ‘The Sting’ and television show ‘Scrubs’.  I don’t know what my mother’s “magic number” was, but I know for a fact it wasn’t a hundred percent and that scares the hell out of me. 

I don’t know if it was a blessing or a disadvantage that my mother had been a nurse for over twenty years when she was diagnosed.  I guess in a sense it’s a good thing to know what’s ahead of you.  But after two decades I’m sure she has heard some horror stories. And I’m sure those don’t sit well with you and result in some sleepless nights.  I think that’s the one exception that I would be okay with being oblivious to the truth.

Strong One

            My grandfather was in and out of remission a few years before he passed away. Somehow he remained positive despite leaving the hospital one day and answering the phone just to hear that he had to go back the again (explains the revolving doors at hospitals).  My mother must’ve inherited his courage as well. In her memoir she talks about how she would draw strength from my grandfather’s memory.  She would also say that we gave her so much strength but to be honest, she carried us through those eighteen months.  Some days I would forget about that putrid word cancer if it weren’t for her bandana.

Dinner of Champions

            From the first day she broke the news to us, my mom always said that things would be “business as usual”. That was our unofficial slogan.  My mother kept a very tight circle during this time and only told close friends and family. She would only tell people if there was a reason to.  Thankfully the grapevine didn’t grow uncontrollably. There was no need to make a big deal out of something that people didn’t need to know about. Many family members helped whenever they could and we continued our lives of organized chaos.   I remember one night in particular, when my aunt made dinner for us; it was none other than stuffed shells.



            Even before this series of unfortunate coincidences, stuffed shells were far from my favorite meal.  The ricotta-filled pasta went from a dinner I could muscle through to an unbearable dish.   Along with the agonizing taste of the Italian cheese come the memories of my mother’s diagnosis, chemotherapy, radiation and everything in between.  But there is the sweet aftertaste of the words survivor, remission and cancer free.


Tyler Brisbois