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Archive for November, 2011

This year was the first that I can remember that we celebrated Thanksgiving with just the three of us. And, while we missed our family that couldn’t be here with us, we had a very special celebration.

We cooked and ate all our traditional foods – turkey, sausage stuffing, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, etc. During our early meal we talked about all the things we were Thankful for and made several toasts, including toasting to Brian’s parents and our lost cat Merry.

Then we walked down to the woods and took a hike. I was trying to find a cool stone staircase I had seen once on a bike ride, but we weren’t on the bike path. Brian thought maybe I was taking them deeper and deeper into the woods for nefarious reasons, but I pointed out that we were actually walking parallel to the Sckuylkill River the whole time. The path we took is my new favorite path, it was so rough and wild. I want to go back there asap with my drawing pad and maybe a basket to collect nuts and stones.

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After the walk we had turkey sandwiches and then went to see The Muppets. I love The Muppets. When I was a kid it was my favorite show. Then, when it went off the air, Fraggle Rock was. I love all the Jim Henson movies, like The Dark Crystal, and Labyrinth and Farscape. Jim Henson is one of my all time heroes and I think The Muppet Show was classic and worked on so many levels.

I had heard good reviews about the new movie and I can say that I wasn’t disappointed. It wasn’t the best of the newer Muppet movie (I really like Muppet Treasure Island with Tim Curry) but it was great to see the gang back together. And the new songs by Bret McKenzie, from the band Flight of the Conchords,  were very Bret-ish, which means they were hilarious.  Still… something was niggling at me, something that I didn’t like about the movie that I couldn’t put my finger on. Then it came to me just before I fell asleep. Kermit had no comic timing.

I remember Jim Henson’s Kermit very well, and not just because I own The Muppet Show seasons on DVD. Kermit /Jim had excellent comic timing and a kind of subtle sarcastic humor. This new Kermit was all schmaltzy all the time. Everything Kermit said was just so earnest and heartfelt, which isn’t really what Kermit is all about.

Oh well, it was a still a good movie and I had this suspicion that maybe Disney is testing the waters to see if a new Muppet television show would be popular. I could dig that man. Can you imagine “It’s the Muppet Show, with our very special guest Lady Gaga!”

 

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I am not sure if I will continue to mark the anniversary of my breast cancer diagnosis after this year. But it is what I feel like doing this year, so I am going to honor that.

I thought it might be interesting to remember the highs and lows of the last 12 months. For sure #1 on on the lowest of the lows was the day I answered the phone and my surgeon’s nurse told me that my report came back positive for cancer.

That next week, when I didn’t know what stage cancer I had, I have to put on the Low List and the High List. Low because it was beyond scary. But High because I came to some kind of peace with the inevitability of death.

Other Lows (Let’s have fun remembering them together! :P)

  • Fear of my surgery. I had a irrational worry I was going to die on the operating table.
  • The tubes in my chest after the surgery, they weren’t so bad for me but they freaked Zoe out. Now she has a fear of Clowns, Spiders, Wolves, and Tubes.
  • Getting shingles on New Years Eve – Worst.pain.ever. As painful as giving birth but for THREE weeks. Do you remember the fun of not being able to wear clothes and having to huddle inside a make-shift hut, so that nothing could touch me?? Good times…
  • The Doxorubicin chemo, a.k.a The Red Devil or Red Death. That stuff was a nightmare. I was walking around like a zombie. I feared it was killing who I was and all that would be left was a Heather body, without the Heather inside.
  • Having a neutropenic reaction to the chemo (very very low white blood cell count. I think I had like half of a white blood cell left.) and ending up in the hospital for days. It was scary. I couldn’t sleep because I was the only one advocating for myself. Then I was quarantined from Brian and Zoe because we were all sick.

Sooooo, we are not even up to February yet… but the Lows List doesn’t go on and on so thickly the whole year. Trust me. In fact, after I got off the Red Devil, I mostly complained about not getting to eat sushi.

  • But then, the Sunday before Father’s Day, Brian’s Dad passed away, in his sleep and unexpectedly. That was a huge blow to our whole family. Especially because my mother-in-law, Anne, had lost her battle with brain cancer just one year prior. Losing both of Brian’s parent, and so young, really sucks and continues to suck. And I still can’t be eloquent about it.

I guess I should get on to the Highlights of the past year. There were some really wonderful moments, and thankfully, they out number the bad ones. (in no particular order)

  • Our car exploding (because our insurance covered it. Yay!)
  • Shaving my head (Thanks Zak!)
  • Zoe’s birthday presents (Thinking of you Amy)
  • The presents (from all my amazing friends, your support got me through those dark times. You restored my faith in the goodness of people. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.)
  • The quilt (I will treasure it always)
  • Jeanette (my most thoughtful and nicest friend)
  • Ohio (SO many GOOD times!)
  • Another cross country drive with my family and listening to my 92 track Beatles playlist.
  • Jumping off a cliff into the Mediterranean
  • That whole cruise (seeing The Parthenon, The Sistine Chapel, Olympia, The Coliseum, etc) with my sister-in-law.
  • Seeing PAUL MCCARTNEY in concert. ohmygodohmygodohmygodohmygodohmygod
  • Brian getting a very good job offer in an interesting city.
  • Moving to Philly.

Coincidentally, I have more than twice as many bullet point on my Highs List than my Low list. And I am sure I am forgetting some important Highs that should be on the list.

So, my first year retrospective… we experienced some huge tragedies. Death sucks. Cancer sucks. Fear and pain can back the fuck off for awhile. I don’t even want to tie it all up in a pretty bow about survival and strength, because that is not honest. The truth is that life is suffering and it never stops, until it does. But… (dang, I guess I can’t help but try to accentuate the positive, that is kind of my thing) life is also everything that is beautiful and miraculous. And that is the kind of year I had, a sucky, fearful, painful, sad, strong, positive, beautiful and miraculous year.

 

 

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Me, One Year Later

This coming Monday will mark one year since I was diagnosed with breast cancer. The anniversary has been on my mind. I’ve been thinking about the ways breast cancer isn’t really part of my life anymore and about the ways that it still is.

I’m wondering if I should cut back on my drinking (Thank you TJN), not that I drink all that much, maybe 3-5 times a week. But this new study came out that even that low amount has been shown to correspond to an increase in breast cancer. So, this week, when I have wanted to reach for a beer at the end of a busy or stressful day, I have some decaf coffee instead. (At this point I am still allowed to drink coffee.)

Not that I am complaining! I recognize all the time that I am SO lucky.  I am here. I regularly tell myself of that when my thoughts are racing and I am feeling stressed or upset. “I am here.” I say, both reminding myself that whether life is good or bad, exciting or stressful, the most important thing is that I am still here to live it and also, in a more concrete way, it is a call to myself to get out of my head and be HERE. I feel my breathing, see the dust motes dancing in the sunlight, hear the hum of the radiator. I bring myself into the moment and savor that feeling for as long as I can. Though it never feels long enough.

I live daily with the idea that I might not make it through the next five years. It makes it easier to say “yes” to the things I want in my life and “no” to the things that don’t add to me. It makes me want to hold my daughter, forgive my husband for the small trespasses that sometimes cause strife between spouses (dirty socks on the floor again?), and write my novel, so that I have something important that I created, to leave behind.

Sometimes that idea makes me want to travel, far and wide, so I get a chance to see more of the world’s beauty and wonder. Other times I think there is nothing more beautiful and wonderful than staying at home with my family.

Sometimes it makes me cry, because I really don’t want my life to be so short.

Brian tells me that that feeling will fade over time. He says one day I will realize that I haven’t thought of cancer in weeks. But, right now, it has only been a year, and just six months since I finished chemo.

In some ways my life is been indelibly altered. I’ll always have these scars, on my chest and in my heart. But I don’t hate my scars. They are just part of me. My scars mean a lot of things to me. Sometimes they are symbols of my strength. Sometimes they are a reminder that life and good health is fragile, for us all. Sometimes they are just one more way that I am different from the average girl. Sometimes they make me want to try harder to be beautiful, to compensate for what I have lost. Sometimes they are good luck charms, these scars mean I am still alive. But mostly they are just there, something altered, part of the new me.

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Zoe’s November Piano recital

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Whew! Crazy busy!

Oh my gosh! It has been a week since I last posted. That’s not good!

Of course I have an excellent excuse. In the last week I have written about fifteen thousand words on my NaNo novel. I also walked for four hours, drove Zoe, and sometimes her friends, to her piano lesson, her chamber trio audition, writing class, Hebrew school, rocket science class, homeschool playground, and Sunday School. I taught, or “facilitated” math, science, history, and homework in French, linguistics, piano and literature. I finished listening to Frankenstein. I had a meeting with my health coach, an appointment with my oncologist, and my mindfulness class. We took the train to Temple University to see Cirque du Soliel. I had dinner with some friends. And I saw three open houses.

It has been all good though! I LOVED Cirque du Soliel, Quidam. It was SO magical. I was so inspired to follow my bliss (writing) and also to get into good enough shape that I can take circus arts class myself.

I am really enjoying Philadelphia in November. The last week could hardly be more beautiful. The trees are gorgeous reds, yellows, and oranges. The temperature is cool but not too cold. The seasons are changing. I love this time of transformation. There is just something in the air that speaks to me.

I went on two hikes in the woods this week. Here are some pictures from that, and other things that kept me busy:

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Death takes a holiday

My awesome husband (no bias!) succeeded in his first challenge to write 4 songs in 4 weeks. Here is his first new song in several months, Hello World.

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I <3 New York

So, those of you who don’t know your east coast geography very well. New York is less than a 2 hour drive from Philadelphia. We are now closer to Manhattan then we used to be to Chicago. Isn’t that exciting?!

Yesterday we drove to New York for the first time since moving to the east coast. We met some friends at The Cloisers in Fort Tyron Park. The Cloisers is part of the Met, but a separate museum, built from the stones of European Medieval Abbeys and housing an amazing collection of medieval art – sculpture, paintings, illuminated manuscripts, and stained glass windows. The building, with it’s gothic arches and cloister gardens is a work of art itself.

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The most famous pieces of art in The Cloisters are probably The Unicorn Tapestries. There are seven tapestries depicting the hunt of a unicorn and Unicorn in Captivity, which I have pictured, is probably the most famous for all the flowers and it’s bright colors.

For lunch went through Tyron Park, and it’s Heather Garden, into the Bronx for lunch and had croque Monsieurs in a very cool cafe, Blue Evolution. I should have taken picture there. It was like a funky museum itself.

Then back to The Cloisters to see more amazing medieval art and spend time (but not too much money) in the gift shop. It was a fantabulous day! But too short with our friends. Thanks A. M, R and H for meeting us there!

 

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