Wednesday, September 23, 2015

First in a series

I've been getting a lot of questions lately about how I'm feeling, what I'm doing with my time, why I'm choosing to do that with my time, etc., and while I'm doing my best to answer these questions, individually, as stuff comes in... I figure that not everyone feels like they can ask these questions. (And we all know that I have basically zero pride and will totally overshare when it comes to the details of my life.) So, I've decided to devote a few blog posts to hitting the high/low lights on a few different topics.

First up...

I've been getting asked A LOT if I'm back at work, mixed with why I'm back at work.

Yup. I sure am. I went back on a super part time basis at the end of June. Because I wanted to. (You heard me. ... I literally asked for it.)

When I went to Texas in June and was given those first two months chemo-free, one of my first calls was to the CFO, to ask if we could meet and discuss the possibility of me either returning to work or being armed with a laptop that I could bring home. We had dinner that week, and I was at work bright and early the next Monday.

I started at two hours a day (yup, ten hours a week... told you it was very part time) and gradually worked my way up to a full part time week of 20 hours. ... I keep trying to go over four hours a day. Every once in a while, I'll hit five hours, but then the next day, I feel like death and get pushed back to 3 or 3.5 hours before I know I need to be done.

So, I've pretty much plateaued at 20 hours a week. Which is kind of frustrating, but what I've been learning in the last month is that there's a time to push boundaries, and there's a time to just be glad that I can do what I can do.

What's great about going to work:

I have a reason to get up and put real clothes on every day.

I have somewhere to be.

I have a project. And more than just having a project... it's a project that I have about 98% autonomy on, which has been really good for the parts of my brain that need to create a working wheel. I can't tell you what it has meant to me to have something to think about outside of planning my funeral. (Don't get me wrong, it's gonna be a rocking awesome funeral, and it's actually been sort of fun for my weird control-freakish self to feel like I have a guiding hand in my final party. But still, there's a sense of accomplishment that comes with this work project that I'm sort of missing when I'm working out funeral plans.)

I have responsibilities, but I also work for and with the most accommodating people. They're awesome about when I need to come in later or  leave early for an appointment... or when I can't make it in. (Because some days I just flat out hurt too bad to sit up in a chair that day.)

Going to work gives my life a semblance of normality. ... Even if I stagger up the stairs at 1:00 and am putting myself into bed as soon as I can get back in my pajamas, my mornings feel like I still have my normal life.

I'm working because I want to. The bank has been awesome to me - for all the time that I've known this management team, they have been awesome to me - but this year, especially, they have worked with me as my body's taken a turn for the worse. I'm working because I want to give something back to the bank, because of all they've done for me.

I'm working because I believe in doing all that I can do, and right now I can work part time. It's been my experience that when I do everything I can do, everything else just sort of falls into place when I can't keep going anymore.

What's hard about going to work:

I have somewhere to be, where I'm required to wear real clothes. (It's both a blessing and a curse, man!) I have this project that I'm working on, and every once in a while I have a bad pain day (or... erm... days) and then I start to wonder if/when I'll be able to finish it. And that can stress me out.

But at the end of the day, I am choosing this. I am choosing it because I want to be productive, because I want to contribute what I can, where I can. Because I want to finish this project, and then I want to be strong enough to start on another one.

Because... you guys... if I live, I need to know that I've done everything that I could, for as long as I could. That I never slacked off and let go of what I think is important. ... And if I don't live, I need all the people that I love (especially the kids) to know that I did everything I could, for as long as I could. That I never slacked off and let go of what I think is important.

Here's what I think matters: showing up in your life, doing everything you can do, trying every day to be even a little bit better than you were the day before, never giving up on what matters to you (even if what matters the most is keeping a smile on your face). And, right now, what matters to me is that I'm doing everything I can.

So, yeah, I'm working.  Because, right now, I can. And because I want to.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Sept 20th

Today was a good day.

We have a missionary leaving our ward this week (the bishop's oldest son), so church was totally packed out this morning with Bill's high school friends and families that used to live in our ward but have since moved out into bigger homes in nicer neighborhoods. (It happens.)

It was like old home week. 

The high school kids reminded me of the time in my life that my friends and family were leaving on missions and we'd travel to be there for their "farewell" talk, and the families who'd come back to visit the ward reminded me of good times I've had with those women in the (almost ten) years I've lived in this ward.

It was kind of surreal, but in a good way, to have memories and emotions from two totally different times in my life converge. I spent all of Sunday School in the chapel, having a mini-reunion with the families who were visiting for the day, and hearing the chattering and laughter of teenagers behind us, as Bill's friends gathered around him, one last time.

It's been a while since I've had a day where I felt like so many conversations I was having were good byes, but today has been full of so many of those. I'm sure that part of that was brought on by saying goodbye to Bill, who I'm so glad I've been able to watch grow up... he's a great kid, and will be an awesome elder. But some of it is that... frankly, I'm not well.  

Between saying goodbye (literally) to Bill, having my sweet little old lady friend, Ruth, reach up and out of her wheelchair to pull me into a hug, and being (albeit temporarily) reunited with so many people who used to be a part of my weekly (and sometimes daily) life, just made today... more real than a lot of other days have been lately.

I don't really know what I'm trying to say. I don't feel like I can find the right words to make this make sense to me, let alone anyone else, but I needed to document this day for my own self. It's so weird to know that you're sick in a way that you don't have a guaranteed outcome, to know that your time with the people you love might be shorter than you want it to be. Usually, the lack of control over the length of my life is just a punch that I roll with. (Because, really, who knows how much time they have? Uh, no one.) I make the choice daily to make that day the best that I can, and I don't generally feel like I have a certain number of days hanging over my head. But today... today has been different. Not bad, just different. 

Just know that if you're reading this, I love you. I'm glad you're in my life. That, at some point in time (maybe even now), you've been part of my daily, weekly, monthly, annual self, and that means that you're part of who I am. Thank you, and I love you. 

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Four months

It's one of my favorite days of the year!

That would be: International Talk Like a Pirate Day.

AKA: Get a Dozen Free Donuts if You Dress Up Like a Pirate and go to Krispy Kreme Day.

This morning (after having had a sleepover last night with Maggie (7) and Sally (5), during which very few people got any kind of decent sleep), the Wood kids and I (sans Roomie, because she had a soccer game and thinks her priority needs to be with her team and not with us and our glazed donut pirate booty - lame!) dressed up and went to claim our goods.

One dozen donuts per person in costume = 5 dozen donuts. That's 60 donuts for five people to eat, kids.

And while we didn't eat all 60 of them, we ate... a lot of them. Like, until we all felt sick.

It was a very awesome morning.

And then, this afternoon, I met back up with the Woods to see this Mormon movie.

And, you guys... IT WAS FUNNY.

As in, actually funny. Not just laugh-at-Mormon-culture, funny. (Okay, mostly it was that. But I think it would be funny even for people who don't know about camp songs or ridiculous, totally contrived, but still somehow effective spiritual object lessons.)

I laughed. I cried. I thought about my life, about the people I love the most and would do anything for (including putting myself right back on chemo, even though it made me wish I could just die, in case it'll give me more time with them... but that's a post for another time). And then I laughed again.

At one key moment, I had just taken a swig off my ever-present water bottle and something happened that made me laugh. I mean, out loud. ... After spitting my entire mouth full of water into my hands and then letting it fall into my lap. (It was a super full theater, and I didn't have any napkins. Or warning. What was I supposed to do? Spew water on the kids sitting in front of me? ... I felt like spitting it into my own hands and then dumping that popcorny spittle into my lap was the right thing to do.)

You guys. This movie is funny. If you live somewhere that you can see it (which, mostly, is... Utah), you should. It was a good time.

And, when the movie was over, I walked outside to see this. You can try all day long, from wherever in the world that you are, but I'm telling you straight up that you just can't beat an Arizona sunset.

Pirate costumes. Free donuts. Harkins popcorn. A movie that made me laugh and made me cry. All kinds of quality time with my favorite little weirdos. A gorgeous sunset.

Topped off with the fact that, as of today, I'm officially four months into the 3-6.

It's been a really good day. ... And, so far, I am winning.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

September 11th

Two weeks ago, I sat in an exam room in Houston, and I heard that, while my little friend had been growing... it wasn't growing fast enough to merit starting chemo right away.

A precious few thoughts went through my head:

Thank you.

I get to have my birthday month. ... Again.

I'll be able to see The Sound of Music in the theater on Tuesday.

I'll get to go to Tempe Town Lake on Sept 11th.

I've got another couple months to eat chocolate, and see if I can't get my stomach to tolerate beef and/or bacon again.

I have more time.

Thank you.

I love Tempe Town Lake. All the time, during all of the seasons. I love the lake and I love the park and I love the bridges. I love it during the light of day, and I love it at night when the bridges are alive with twinkle lights. I love it!

But I especially love it on Sept 11th. They plant a flag for every life lost on the planes and on the ground. Each flag has a name and a brief bio for the man, woman or child that flag represents.

It is a beautiful, holy, experience to go and walk among the flags.

Last year, I was still recovering from surgery and I remember walking through the flags very carefully, taking mincing steps as I made it from one end of the park to the other... grateful that I was strong enough, well enough, to be there - but frustrated that I couldn't stop and stand at each flag, reading the bios, as I had done in years past.

This year, I walked into the park and I stopped at three flags. I read three bios. And then I had to sit down. (Most of these pics were taken from a bench. Or as I walked into or out of the park.) I can't meander through the rows of flags anymore, and I can't bend down to read the names tied to the combat boots. But I was able to be there, and I hadn't been sure that would be possible this year.

I am still here, and I still get participate in the events and the lives that matter the most to me.

I'm so grateful. To be an American, for the memory of September 11, 2001 and the weeks that followed. For my life, and everything that has happened in it. That I got to spend yesterday morning in a park, looking at flags, thinking about life and remembering what matters.

Sweet Corn!

Labor Day weekend is also known as the Sweet Corn Festival in Taylor. And this year was pretty epic (and I'm not just saying that because I had a real awesome experience of learning that this new/changed body of mine can no longer digest corn... after eating roughly 20 ears of corn in a 36 hour period). I was home, Kirk and his family was home, Katie was there, our brother Brett's little girl, Natalie, was there. And, of course, Mom and Dad. It was a house FULL of people (Kirk had brought some friends, which added an extra family of six... NBD, right?), and a super good time!

My nieces and I have a hardcore tradition of taking selfies in the car when we're together. This was Haze and me on the way home from church. (I had "found" a bag of chocolate-dipped pretzels in my church bag, so we took the super long way home, eating pretzels and shooting selfies the whole way.)

Sweet Natalie.

Yeah, so.... I bought a truckload of corn for $20. (Not a whole truckload. But still, it was a lot.) Kirk and Kate and I went out for a caffeine break, and ended up picking up a couple dozen tamales and... oh... seven or eight dozen ears of corn in the afternoon. The Saline truck was running a little low, and when I asked David what he was charging, he flippantly answered, "$5 a dozen, or $20 for the rest of the truck". SOLD!

Too bad I'm not physically strong enough to cut the end of the cob of corn off. (Or emotionally strong enough to get past the worms.) So, it fell to... oh, everyone else on the premises to take care of the corn and prep it for freezing. But... it was sort of a party. (Says the girl who didn't do any of the work.)

RussellBear, the most helpful corn shucker in the bunch. For real, the kid jumped in and started helping his dad shuck corn without being asked, and he kept going until the last silky strand was taken from the last ear of corn.

Saturday morning, the parade ran right past Mom and Dad's house (the perks of living on Center). There was candy thrown (and caught). But the best parade favor? Sweet corn, handed out by the Craners. Black Diamond Glass's floats were the very best!

Family. Corn. Good times.


Friday, September 11, 2015

Project Chia Pet - Week 12

See? It's getting more and more out of control every week. Last week, I could (sort of) pull some bangs down onto my forehead. Now, it's just a big, bushy mess of curls.

I'm pretty sure that all twelve people who work at the bank commented on how curly it's getting today.

And by "curly", I'm pretty sure they meant "big". But hey, big hair has always been my trademark.

So, that said... It's good to be back.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

On second thought

I may be looking a little more like Mama than I am like Richard.

Seriously. Because I shot this view of the top of my head this afternoon.

Gray - check
Curly - double check
Sassy - triple check
Possibly insane - quadruple check

Heaven help us all. 

My past, present and future selves

So, my hair started out flippy in the back and just sort of wavy in the front.

I could not have been more thrilled. I felt very much like I was channeling my inner Audrey. (Who's kidding who? We all basically knew I was a princess. I figured this new short hair proved it.)

It was awesome.

And then a couple weeks went by and it started getting curlier. I mean, WAY curlier.

But I wasn't worried.

Because I figured that if I could channel my inner Julia and pull off something like her short curly hair in Sabrina, all would remain golden.


It seems to be a little curlier than Julia's hair.

And I'm started to be afraid.

I mean, very afraid.

Maybe if I could get my hands on either Gregory Peck or Harrison Ford it would help my hair not go all Simmons? ... It's worth a shot, right?

Friday, September 4, 2015

Project Chia Pet - Week 11

Aaaaaaand, here is this week's side-by-side.

Not much change. It's getting a little poofier on top as it's growing... I'm starting to get just a little concerned about what it'll do next. I'm thinking it may be time to start playing with product, to see if that'll give the illusion that I can control what's happening on my head.

We'll see...

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Decisions, decisions

Some (read: most) of you have probably noticed that there hasn't been much going on here in my little corner of the www for the last couple months.

There are a lot of reasons why I haven't been posting as often. Some of them are:

I've been tired. Super tired. More tired than I have words for. I mean, T-I-R-E-D.

Part of that tiredness has spilled over into my ability to use words. (And that, my friends, is one of the hardest sentences I've ever typed.) I hate what chemo has done to my brain, to my vocabulary, to my ability to speak and/or spell well. And I've let my inability to command language stop me from writing. Partly because it's really hard for me to see typos and writing styles shift mid-post, and partly because...

I've been protecting people who love me from knowing how bad it can get here in my little world. Because there is nothing anyone can do about my brain and/or my body from giving out when I am too tired for words (or to use words properly), there's a lot that I've kept to myself.

But, today, I realized that I'm not doing myself (or any body else, really) any favors by pulling punches. So, I'm done.

I may not write the way I used to write. Sentences will be choppier. Words will be missing. (Hell, they may even be backwards. Because saying the opposite of what I meant to say is totally a thing that's been happening this summer. It's been super fun.) But I'm still me, and this is still my blog. And chemo brain is part of what has happened in the last few months of my life.

Readers, beware.

There are posts that I've written over the summer but couldn't bring myself to post because... well, the emotion was too raw (oh, right... and the writing was crap). I may or may not be going back and posting those with a back date. I don't know.

But I'm coming back.

Not that I've been gone. And it's not like the Chia Pet updates have been fake, per se. But I haven't been 100% authentic. And I've decided to change that.

You've been warned.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015


Have we had a conversation yet about how much I love my gummy vitamins/supplements? Because, if we haven't, we need to.

I love them.

They're like candy, except they're full of vitamins. So, basically health food that's candy.

Win/win, right?!

My love affair with the gummies started when I had a consult with my GP doctor pre-chemo and she advised that I start taking D3, because I was about to lose any quality time I was used to getting with the sun. I made a face (as I am wont to do when medical professionals tell me I need to swallow more pills), and she immediately came back with "They have gummies! They're delicious, and do exactly the same thing that pills do."


Since I started with the D3 gummies in February, I've slowly and steadily been finding more gummies to add to my daily regimen. (Mult-vitamins? No, thank you. I'd rather chew two separate pieces of fruity candy for every kind of vitamin.)

I'm up to five different kinds of gummies (that's 10 gummies a day - basically a package of fruit snacks). One of which is this swell fiber supplement.

Don't judge. Some of us need to eat, like, 200% of our daily recommended fiber (plus stool softeners and laxatives) if we want to poop. (Some of us = me, btw. Please don't lose your cool and be jealous of my awesome guts and how much help they need just to plod along.)

Jo had bought me a massive Costco bottle of these fiber goodies during chemo (I think there were 400 in the bottle), and I finished them up just yesterday.

When I was packing for Houston, I realized I was almost out of these bad boys, and because I knew the last thing I'd want to do when I got back would be to go to WalMart to buy more gummies... I ordered a bottle from Amazon. (Prime has its perks. Free shipping is the best!) (Also, I was right. Because I was pretty much out of toothpaste before I went to Houston. My intention was to use the rest of the tube and then leave it in the hotel trash bin. ... That's definitely not what happened. I brought that empty tube of toothpaste home, and I've been squeezing the life out of it, morning, noon and night, because I don't want new toothpaste bad enough to make myself go to the store for it. I'm super lame.)

Anyhoo... as I was saying, I finished up the gigantor bottle of fiber goodies yesterday. Which meant that I had to go to the office to pick up my mail today, to get the new bottle of gummies that had come while I was out of town. (Yeah, I've been home for four days and have yet to go to the store for toothpaste. And I'd been letting mail pile up in the office since I left town last Wednesday. I'm the greatest.)

And, this, ladies and gentleman is what I found...

I promise you that A) this is not what I ordered. You can tell, because the bottle says "sugar free" and we all know that this girl loves her sugar. 

And B) Those aren't gummies. That's just one, giant, solid.

Also, proof that there's something different about the dark pink ones. (I always thought they tasted weird. Looks like there's a reason for that. They're the one flavor that didn't melt into the mass. Grody.)

I have no idea what happened. (I mean, besides extreme heat. That definitely happened.) The package had been sitting in the air-conditioned office all weekend, so it's not like the 117 degree heat got to it as it was sitting on my porch. My guess is the Fed Ex truck's A/C went out and everyone who got anything delivered on Friday got soup.

At any rate, I have no fiber gummies. You'd think this would make me get dressed and go to the store. Uhm... no. Instead, I ate a bowl of grapes and two peaches and have decided to have popcorn for dinner. Surely, that's enough fiber to offset the gummies I didn't eat today.

Maybe I'll go to the store tomorrow. For fiber gummies. And toothpaste. And some more grapes, since I ate everything that was in my fridge this afternoon...