Thursday, August 29, 2013

FAT Expectations

Do you have fat expectations?  I know I do.  When the sky is the limit, do you have expectations of yourself, of your family, of those around you and do you hold everything to a higher standard?

Previously, I have touched upon how many of us have such high expectations of ourselves, including myself and here we are again.  Many people have chastised me <ack, the horror!> and they have instructed me to cut myself some slack.  My knee-jerk reaction is always, “If I don’t hold myself to the highest expectations, then who will?”

Reflection has allowed me the opportunity to trace some of my Type A+++++++++++ personality and my “need to exceed” back to my childhood.  My parents, namely my dad, set the bar very high for me and all that I was to accomplish.  I am the by-product of a second marriage for both parents and my much older siblings made quite a few mistakes along the way (as did my parents); so my parents were determined to get it “right” with their baby.  Yes, there are many memories of when I complimented myself for a job well done, and yet, I recall my father telling me I could do better. 

“You got an A- on your report card?  I want that to be an A+!”  I questioned my father’s irrationality with an angry and frustrated, “What MORE do you want from me?”  Funny that I now use this irrationality in my own head towards myself, and yet, I never question myself, “What MORE do you want from me?”

Sure, all the trials I have experienced in my life catapult me at warp speed into the whole fat expectations thing– remember how I lost my hearing young (What Did You Say?), remember how I battled cancer while pregnant (Rebirth), remember how I dealt with an abusive mother (RIP Mom)?  I am just USED to surpassing expectations and limitations.

But what happens when I do not meet nor exceed my expectations? 


I am fat.  Yes, please do not argue and shake your head that I am not.  I weigh much more than any one of you could even guess for a million dollar prize.  I am not ready to publicly disclose that overweight number to you all yet, no way José – I am still a girl and I have waaaaaaay too much pride.  However, you know you are fat when the nurse at the doctor’s office always remarks on how well you hide your weight. 


The first counter argument I get when I call myself fat is:  “But you are so fit!”  Am I fit?  Yes, I am getting there.  I am incredibly strong, but I struggle with my favorite form of exercise – running.  I enjoy the down time I get from running:  no kids, loud music, beautiful scenery, and a chance to try and turn off my mind.  However, because of my aforementioned need to exceed, my head games often put me in a dark place.

Wait?  What?  Happy go-lucky, smiley me?  I do go to dark places?  Unfortunately, that dark place is IN my head.  Remember "Gremlins" (Meet Spike)?  Sometimes, instead of relishing all that my body CAN do, I focus on all that I *think* my body cannot do.

“Come on, move your fat ass!”

“If you weren’t so heavy, your runs would be faster and your body would not hurt as much!”

“If you took better care of yourself when your children were really young, you wouldn’t be this pathetically overweight right now.”

“If you chose to deal with your emotional problems when your parents lived with you, instead of finding comfort in food or drink, you would be that much further ahead of the game!”

“Stop making excuses.  Just suck it up and do it.  No one has ever died from trying too hard.”

The excuses:  They go on and on and on and on and on in my noggin.  My need to set goals for myself is not unlike goals that many of you set for yourselves.  However, my desire to not only meet said goals I have arranged, but surpass my own expectations often results in a crippling mind-game and I am deflated.

Why?  Why are some of us pre-programmed and hard-wired to be so upset when we do not meet our own objectives?  Why does a bad run on one day completely derail me?  Why does it feel like it has to be all or nothing in the land of Rebecca? 

Is it really difficult to be in a “happy place” and just go with the flow?  People ask me why I beat myself up or why I am so hard on myself.  In my mind, I am not that hard on myself.  Truth is I find it motivational most of the time, but I do not know how to handle it when I go to that dark place.  I am the EXPERT at helping YOU when you are facing something similar and I can offer great words of advice.  However, I fail to take my own medicine.  Regularly.

I know that my husband struggles when his day does not go quite as expected.  I find that my oldest is genetically hard-wired like her Momma and gets frustrated when her performance is not up to her own level of pre-determined excellence.   <Smack….ouch…..nothing like a bit of your behavior with a mirror-like reflection from your own offspring.>

My question to you, is this simply a bad “habit” that can be unplugged and re-circuited?  Is this need to exceed an addiction or compulsion?  Is setting the bar so high a bad thing?  Perhaps, identifying large goals for oneself is a basic life lesson in learning how to cope.

What are your thoughts?  Do you struggle with something similar?  How do you manage?  I cannot be the only one out tell me!



Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Anti-Bucket List by Rebecca

Earlier this week, I stumbled across something on the internet that was titled, "The Anti-Bucket List".  I will be fair and say I did not get to read more than the brief excerpt about how it was the opposite of the ever-so popular Bucket List that folks, including myself, have been sharing compiling for years - all the great places I would love to visit, the activities I dare myself to undertake, and the good-will I seek to deliver during my time here on Earth.

What about your "Anti-Bucket List"?  Do you have a list of things you would NEVER do in your lifetime?  I instantly thought the list would be challenging for me, as I am one to NEVER say NEVER.  However, upon some additional thought, I realize there are indeed things to do, places to go, activities to undertake that I would honestly not ever make a priority - EVER. 

Are you ready?  Here we go:

1.  I would never want to visit the Middle East.  Honestly.  I am SURE there are so many beautiful countries that run rampant with history and cultural lessons over there.  However, going anywhere near the Middle East is not in my top ten, nor my top 100 list to go before I die.  Don't get me wrong, I love Middle-Eastern food - falafel, grape leaves, kibbee.......but I can get delish fatouche here!  There are so many other places I would rather go first, so the Middle East is just on the very bottom of my Anti-Bucket List.  In fact, I would be very happy to bring home all of our Americans from over there. 

2.  I will never go "noodling".  No.  Nope.  NO thank youuuuu.  All set with that.  Have you heard of the show, "Hillbilly Handfishin'"?  Yeah.  I grew up with a bunch of folks during my Oklahoma days that did indeed go "noodling".  Um, I am totally A-Okay, good with that if I never stick my hand or my foot down a very deep whole in a very dark, red colored creek bed to try and capture a gigantic catfish.  What's wrong with using a fishing pole, people?  I intend to die with all ten fingers and all ten toes.

3.  I would not tour with Andrew Zimmern, of "Bizarre Foods".  I would love to visit many of the cool places he does go (not including my aforementioned #1 above).  However, the older I get, the more intense my gag-reflex gets.  I have a very open mind; except when it comes to very bizarre body parts out of very bizarre living creatures or perhaps something that has been fermenting for a few too many days.  Testicles?  Keep them for procreation and for men to aimlessly scratch for no good reason.  I do not view animal balls as good eats.

4.  I will not rally with any group of people that limits the rights of another group of people.  Period.

5.  I will most likely never use any religion as my faith to help me get through my trying times.  I am open-minded and will listen to most anyone as they share their beliefs with me.   I will go to any church, synagogue, temple, mosque, or religious grounds to learn more.  However, I do not put my life, my trust nor my hands into any set religion.  I have a hard time explaining it friends who have inquired.  How do I get through the hardest times that I have experienced to date without prayer?  I do  not know.  I use the power of positive thinking, much like that in "The Secret".  I do not read the Bible.  I do not pray to God.  I do believe in a higher authority, but I do not ask said higher authority to help me through my troubles.

6.  I will never go to a Justin Bieber concert.  I have been to Aaron Carter.  'Nuf said.

I keep thinking about what is on my BUCKET LIST so much so, that I struggled greatly with this Anti-Bucket List!  What else am I missing?

Tell me - what is on your Anti-Bucket List? 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Throw Away The Key?

I cannot get away.  Part of me wants to lock up the past and throw the key away.  The other part of me accepts that this is the new me and I am better, so much better, for it.  Yet, the lingering essences of my darkest nights loom as if freshly applied yesterday.
Can you get away from the labels, the stigmas and the badge of courage after a cancer diagnosis?  Would you want to?  Why wouldn’t you want to?
August marks the month that nearly almost six years ago (yes, it has been THAT long), I was hiding in my master bathroom with a pit in my stomach waiting for my surgical oncologist on the other end of the phone line to deliver the news.  The nausea intensified and the hydrochloric acid in my esophagus bubbled higher and higher up into my throat.  Children knocked on the bathroom door, curious as to why their father and I were hiding in the bathroom, unavailable to them.  My heart nearly palpitated out of my chest and then nearly stopped beating when the words were uttered:  you have cancer.
Honestly, it took me a full twenty-four hours to process those words.  Over and over and over again, my sweet doctor’s voice replayed in my brain; as if I could possibly change the meaning of the linguistics of that one sentence.
It took me a full year after my diagnosis to finish my course of treatment; as having a baby in there certainly changes all standard protocols.  I was not ready to share my story then.  At the time, I remember being embarrassed.  Yes!  Embarrassed.  I had not quite figured out why I had cancer; despite a number of theories synapsing through my head.  I was not a fan of the new look I was sporting – at the time, I had not yet had my “reconstructive” surgery so my chest consisted of a very large DD mammary coupled with a then misshapen half-a-boobectomy sized C boob (that was now cancer free).  My hair was coming back in with a vengeance:  I had a head full of black, jet black, squirrelly, kinky, unable to tame pubic hair…….hello…….ON…..MY……HEAD.  Seriously, I recall the number of days where I felt mandated to put a pair of skivvies up on my skull to tuck it all in.
Slowly, with time and with some encouragement, I began to share my story and I began to see the positive in being the poster child for what NOT to do when you find a lump in your body.  I also became a sort of cheerleader that despite being handed a deck full of poop, you can outlast, outwit and outplay with the right attitude and a change of lifestyle.  Having a very cute, very personable new born into toddler during this time certainly helped warm the public to my, let’s say “exotic,” look at the time.
Two and three years after my entry into the war zone, I was angry.  Very angry.  People were dying all around me at young ages from cancer.  Five deaths in a one year period.  What the fudge?  Each time I stepped into the funeral home to pay my respects, my emotions grew vastly and more intensly out of check.  The nausea was back in full force, the shaking began in my very core and the tears, okay, by the fifth one, the wailing was inconsolable and I was back to embarrassment.  How dare I feel this way?  The family is just feet away from me and I am a blubbering, incoherent, snotty mess?  I cannot explain it.  Perhaps, these tears were not only for the loss of my friends, but perhaps, finally, salt water shed for my own sense of loss.  After all, I spent so much of my remaining energy being strong for those around me, that I very rarely grieved for myself during the countless days I was hanging on for dear life:  vomiting, rolling in excruciating pain and nearly praying for a relief from this awful torture via death.
Fast forward to the present day and recent celebrations of winning the cancer lottery – having met that five year cancer free, no evidence of disease, milestone just two months ago and my mind is swirling (no, I will answer your question here – my mind never stops). 
What do I do from here?  Do I close this chapter and lock up the key?  Part of me says yes.  My cancer battle was really not unlike a very long road race.  My finish line has come and gone.  I surpassed the finish line after a very long, very drawn out test of perseverance and endurance.  I was awarded the ultimate medal:  the gift of life and a place holder in my very own record book.  I set a PR in my game of life.  But aren’t people sick of hearing about my experience with cancer?  Okay, okay, you all GET it by now.
The other part of me says no, it is unrealistic to shove my experience away in the memory banks of road races, wedding, childbirths and more.  Cancer is a terrifying experience and I know with a solid affirmation that truly, one does not understand someone going through cancer like another cancer survivor.  All experiences of cancer are vastly different, including the same exact types, no body reacts the same as another but knowing that someone else has the same feelings as you did or reacted the same way to the toxic poisons that actually end up saving you – there’s great comfort in sharing stories.
Our society thrives on labels for some reason or another.  As I transition out of wearing my cancer badge on my bosom and now, neatly tucking it away in my memory box, I realize I am in no need to lock up my past and throw away said key.  Despite my label and despite the cancer now being well in my past, I am embarking on my newest chapter and my journey I have yet to experience.
Even though my body still struggles with the side-effects of cancer, the ensuing treatments, the countless surgeries, all these years later – my body is truly an amazing machine and I have to compliment this machine for all that it does accomplish.


My husband now counters my complaints of the limitations and restrictions I face through this battered body with a new excuse that incites me like none other.  He stops me mid-sentence in my rant about how my feet are still struggling with neuropathy and how my left arm is weak from my surgeries, to remind me that perhaps AGE is starting to be more of a factor.  I quickly shift from feeling sorry for myself and being angry that I cannot do what my mind thinks I should do, to feeling my fists ball up and subsequently hurling of insults to my beloved husband  - how he’s about to get his @$$ kicked for saying such a thing!  AGE?!?  I gently remind him that neuropathy means I lack a lot of feeling in my feet; therefore, they will make the perfect weapon in beating him.  ;-)
Just like that, my mind is no longer worrying about my past or being labeled (now perhaps a domestic abuse badge?).  I return to my regularly scheduled programming of being a mom, a wife, an auntie, a daughter-in-law, a sister, an exercise enthusiast, a kale devotee, a philanthropist (even without my yet to be made millions), a friend, and a lover of life.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013


"It's the Circle of Life

And it moves us all

Through despair and hope

Through faith and love

Till we find our place

On the path unwinding

In the Circle

The Circle of Life"
My heart aches heavily as the words move from my brain down into my fingertips and onto the screen.  How does one console their child when they are hurting from that deepest reservoir of emotion within their innermost core?  No number of hugs is able to absorb the pain, despite my attempts to inhale and withdraw the agony from my eldest child.  No words formed and delivered from my mouth comfort the endless stream of tears, nor give her the hope she so desperately needs.  I am at a loss.  My inability to do the right thing brings me added grief over the fact that our her beloved, but rapidly declining, eighteen year old cat has not come home since he was lying in the warmth of the sun on the deck early yesterday.
We adopted Simba along with Penny in April 2003.  We paid a visit to the kitty sanctuary, The Pat Brody Shelter, with the mission of getting one short-haired cat as a family pet.  As we made our way through the visiting room with dozens of cats, I turned to discover my oldest child, then five years old, literally making out with a long-haired calico cat named Penny.  Their faces rubbed against each other, their bodies smushed into each other and it was love at first sight.  As my husband and I watched this love affair blossom, I quietly muttered that from my previous online research of the shelter, I believed that Penny was one of a pair of cats that had to be adopted together.  Yikes.
I asked to see the other cat that belonged with Penny.  I was escorted to the kitty infirmary because I was informed that Simba had a cold.  Upon approaching the large cage, I was instantly greeted with sniffly love and affection from a beautiful butterscotch colored lion.  In between sneezes, Simba melted my heart and yes, it was love at first sight but this time for me.
We went home with not one short-haired, young cat – but instead two long-haired beauties:  Penny was twelve and Simba was eight.  Riley, my daughter, was newly five and Jake, my son, was two.  Our family was then complete.
The cats were instantly a hit with the family, acclimating instantly and claiming our home as their own.  Both Penny and Simba were very social and integrated themselves into our myriad of activities at home.  Sadly, in September 2006, Penny died from breast cancer.  We found a lump near one of her nipples when I was giving her a shave down in the hot month of August.  A visit to the vet revealed a tumor, which had already spread to her lungs, her bones and was starting on her brain.  At fifteen years of age, coupled with the amount of metastasis, we chose to let nature take its course.

One day, Penny did not return home.  We had to explain to our than eight year old and then five year old, that sometimes, when cats know they are dying, they disappear to die privately.  The message was not well received and Riley spent three days crying when her beloved cat did not come home.  We assumed the worst and tried to help our daughter with the devastating life lesson, the circle of life.
The pain grew as Riley was relentless in checking Penny’s bush – a beautiful white hydrangea bush that Penny spent a great many hours lounging underneath.  Imagine the excruciating call I received at work one afternoon from a hysterical child who found her beloved cat, dead, underneath her favorite bush.  Penny had returned home to die and knew where we would find her.
Now seven years later, at the age of fifteen, the agony has returned as we ponder Simba’s whereabouts.  Has he gone off to pass away?  Did he just spend the night under our neighbor’s porch since we were at a soccer game late and unable to let him in? 
Simba’s health has been declining rapidly:  he’s lost a great deal of weight, his vision is very poor, his hearing is not all there, his appetite has been waning, his arthritic body has been increasingly difficult for him to move around.  My husband and I have been discussing in recent days when is the right time to make the decision – we do not want our beloved cat to suffer; but when IS that “right” time.
Our memories surge:  the cat that was more dog-like in nature; the cat that followed his beloved Riley ON TO the school bus (yes, he climbed up the steps behind her and had to be taken off by her); the cat that ran up the street alongside of Riley on her bike, as her dad let go for the first time without training wheels; the cat that would sit bum to bum to bum as Riley and her dad sat on the curb watching traffic go by; the cat that would come running like a dog when called and as Riley puts it, “the cat that has been with me through EVERYTHING.”

Simba was the source of comfort for Riley as she watched her mother battle breast cancer.  Every time the uncontrolled chemo-induced vomiting would surface, Riley found comfort by stroking her buddy’s fur.  When Riley was bullied in elementary school, that big fluffy guy knew when to sit in her lap and purr her to a happy place.  When Riley’s grandparents were ill and times were tough in our household (we all lived together), Riley found comfort in sleep with that big lion cuddling her backside - he literally had her back.  When Riley’s grandparents subsequently passed away, again, the long-haired, orange guy was there for her when she needed him the most.

While not to leave out my other two children, my husband nor myself, as we are all heavily grieving for the fear of what may be in Simba’s absence; the relationship between a girl and her cat is just profound.  She loved him through every vein in her body and his love for her was reciprocal.  Simba certainly had a fondness for my husband, but it was his girl that stole his heart.

My tears flow as I struggle with helping my family to cope with this dilemma.  Part of me hopes that Simba has gone on to pass privately – I do not want my family to see his lifeless body and I despair having to make the choice for euthanasia.  However, the other part of me hopes he comes home to die – so we have that closure, so we may say our goodbyes to our beloved family member properly.
Lives are born and love is grown.   Lives pass on, but the love becomes embedded into the very being of who we are.  The pain never goes away, but it does ease with time. 
Please Simba, come home to your family.

"It's the Circle of Life

And it moves us all

Through despair and hope

Through faith and love

Till we find our place

On the path unwinding

In the Circle

The Circle of Life"



Friday, August 2, 2013

Nervous Nelly

I have struggled with a post this week.  Honestly, my mind is ALL over the place and I cannot seem to hone my focus in enough to collect my thoughts.  I am feeling anxious about a number of things going on currently.  I have yet to figure out how to tame my anxiety but figured perhaps vomiting these thoughts up onto paper may help.

My youngest is going to kindergarten in one month.  How did that happen?  No, seriously, I am asking you HOW....DID....THAT....HAPPEN?  Just yesterday, I was bald and still weak from chemotherapy, being forced into an early labor and scared beyond my worst fears about the baby I was about to give birth to.  Would she be missing toes?  Would she glow in the dark  from the bright red, gelatinous chemotherapy that coursed through my veins and probably across that placental barrier through her veins?  Suddenly, my silly fears of a neon baby are a distant forlorn memory about to be archived for new memories of a still little peanut, with her toothless smile, boarding that giant yellow school bus to be carted off to a land of strangers.  (Yes, all deliveries of tissue boxes will be accepted starting now until after Labor Day).

My oldest has been begging me to take her driving.  Yes, she will be sixteen in February and she is ready to get behind the wheel and practice driving a two ton vehicle around.  HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?  Oh, she will be the best of drivers but I have to somehow grow a pair of balls big enough to withstand the thought of my precious big girl on the road with all the other idiot drivers?  Oy, where can I purchase some testosterone stat?

My middle is returning to middle school but with a newer sense of confidence.  He has informed me that "swag" is no longer cool; he and his buddies are now men with "class".  (Excuse me while I vomit).  He has been taking longer to get ready by styling his  His clothes look good.  He smells good.  Not only are the days of footed "warm and toasty" pajamas gone, as well as the arguments to get into the shower a distant memory, sports apparel and new music take the place of Legos and dinosaurs in his room.

My anxiety resumes with those pesky things called bills.  I have NOT been watering them, yet, they seem to grow from every crevice faster than bacteria on a petri dish.  What....the.......will I ever get out of this umbrella of owing everyone?  Hearing aids, braces, old credit cards, sports fees, taxes, taxes and more taxes, insurance, medical bills, medical co-pays, car payments, oral surgeries and more to come, when does it end?????????  I am anxious about retirement monies, have we even begun to save a fraction of what we will need?  How much DO we need?  Who can really predict that? 

The clutter.  How did my house get so cluttered?  Every place I look lately, I see clutter.  I have been off-loading items on the online yard sale on Facebook.  Craigslist is my newest best friend.  How come, in two years, my house seems to resemble certain episodes of "Hoarders"? 

Serenity now.

I remind myself this is life and I am here to enjoy it.  We are all present in some aspect of anxiety about ever-changing milestones and non-stop financial leashes.  Anxiety is simply a state of mind and being anxious about any and all of this "schtuff" is unhealthy.  With that, I am taking a deep, cleansing breath.  I am setting out to enjoy one of my last Fridays off with my kids.  These are the moments that count for a lifetime.  Anxiety will have to wait for simply another day.  Counting my blessings and embarking on making memories.