Tuesday, February 2, 2016

I'll Never Remember This But... BGETH

I stumbled across this inspirational quote this morning while sipping my coffee, keeping an eye on the puppy, thinking about what I need to do today, and praying that a functioning brain would decide to bless me with its presence today. (Clearly, I have been working on getting my multi-tasking abilities back. Having a puppy in the house is great practice, but I have a very long way to go.)

I sat my coffee cup down (missed the coaster and nearly dumped it right on the laptop). I smiled because the puppy has fallen asleep (apparently dragging a gallon of mud, dirt, and tree branches into the house are hard work) and does not need her mother's watchful eye on her right this very second. Aha! I can think about this for a few minutes. (Okay, it started out as a few minutes, and then went into over time.) After all, the things I need to do today can wait for just a few minutes. They are not going anywhere, and even if they did decide to wander off, I would forget that they were here in the first place so it would not make that much of a difference. I will probably never locate them again, so they must not have been that important.

Putting on this coat of many colors, every morning, so to speak is a choice. If I choose to feel blessed, grateful, excited, thankful, and happy, I am all set. Everything else will fall into place because I will not be allowing myself to get bogged down with life and all of the crap that comes along with it. It is just better for my emotional and physical health than allowing stress and chaos to destroy me.

I can make the choice every single day to feel BLESSED. Sometimes blessings do not jump out in front of you and smack you in the knee cap (like the wall, door, bed, etc., etc., that you keep running into- I do not do this, I am just trying to help you relate to what I am saying.) Blessings have a funny way of not seeming like blessings at the time, and can even initially present themselves in an ingenious disguise. It may be days, weeks, months, or years before you realize that something bad that happened to you is a blessing. But trust me, they are most definitely there, and probably in greater abundance than you even know.

I can make the choice every single day to feel GRATEFUL. First and foremost, every single morning that my feet land on the floor, even though things crack that never used to sound that way, I am grateful. While it may seem crazy and mundane and you might wonder if I am smoking the "wacky tobacco," I can be grateful when I find myself sitting at the dealership waiting for an oil change. Stick with me here. Needing an oil change means that I have been places, and that means that I have probably seen people, done things, and made memories and for this opportunity, I am grateful.

I can make the choice every single day to be EXCITED; this is a hard one for me. I can admit when something challenges me, and this does. As a gal who used to get excited about the small stuff, over the last several years, exhaustion made it impossible for me to muster excitement over anything. Life continually popped my excitement bubble, heck I am not even sure that for a while that there was even a bubble left to pop. But, I am working on this. I will find excitement and things to look forward to if it is the last thing I do... (What was I doing again?)

I can make the choice every single day to be THANKFUL. My life is not without challenges. Rather than becoming angry and bitter over my challenges, I choose to be thankful for those mishaps which make fabulous stories and give me inspiration for this blog (and the book which is a work in progress) which keeps all of you entertained. Daily, I discover people and things that I can thank the good Lord for. I do not even have to look that hard to find them. They are right in front of my face (thank God for that because my vision is not the greatest), and yes, I have smacked straight into them on more than one occasion because I am clumsy, klutzy, and very easily distracted. ( I trip over two of my greatest blessings, at least, a dozen times a day.)

I can make the choice every single day to be HAPPY. We are responsible for our happiness, no one else. While choosing to be happy, we are also responsible for not allowing anyone else to mess with that joy. Unhappiness can kill you, so this is a critical one. Making the choice to surround ourselves with other people who are happy, and people who care about our happiness is something we need to do.  Life is way too short for people who squash happiness like bugs, and frankly, I would much rather be smiling than frowning. I am no spring chicken, and wrinkles are way too fond of me.

Life truly is about choices. Choose wisely because you never know how many redos you are going to get. Open your eyes and really take in your surroundings, not the stuff, the people. I honestly believe that it is within people that we find our greatest joys...

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Membership Has It's Rewards! Are You The Right One?

During my time in rescue, I often found myself having conversations about "the right fit." Several times I had volunteers mention to me that they thought a particular boxer was the perfect fit for a family. While I have only been owned by three boxers in my lifetime, I have learned a lot about boxer parenting. I am seriously convinced that the question is not if the boxer is right for the home, but is the human right for the boxer or even a boxer in general.

I dedicate this blog post to all of the boxers that have found themselves in rescues and shelters because the humans were simply not right for them. And also to the "right fits" that I feel blessed to have been a part of.

It was almost six years ago that I made the choice to become a boxer parent. Not unlike an expectant mother anticipating the arrival of a new two-legged baby, I did a lot of reading and a lot of research and a crapload of planning. Truly, though, after six years as the human of a boxer, time and experience are really the only things that have taught me what being a boxer family is really about.

Of all of the choices I have made in my life, and all of the things that I have accomplished, being a boxer parent is definitely my greatest source of pride. I have absolutely no regrets about my life with my boxers.

A boxer is not just a dog. A boxer will inevitably wiggle its way into your heart, and every single aspect of your life. These goofy, wiggling buddies will want to be a part of everything that you do. These are little humans in the most adorable little bodies. When you make the decision to parent a boxer, you are committing to a life-long assistant. Dishes, laundry, cooking, gardening, bed-making, painting, even taking a bath (and as I have recently discovered with Jazzy, showering). Are you ready to never pee alone again? Can you handle this level of companionship? These guys are not for the admitted loner, but rather the human who is ready to share every part of their life with a four-legged, nosey, and oftentimes persistent clown.

Boxers have a concept of personal space that is very original. It is the "your space is my space" concept. This means the bed, the sofa, and pretty much every square foot of your home. If you are not okay with mud, slobber, and water all over the floor and every other place that drool can fly to, you are probably not right for a boxer. Boxer drool is a very serious topic and one that I could do a stand-alone and very long blog on. This is a unique substance that has powers beyond your wildest imagination. Not only is it comprised of something that closely resembles gorilla glue, but it is also capable of reaching places that you cannot possibly fathom. If you are OCD about clean windows, furniture, and walls, a boxer is probably a bad match.

Are you commitment-phobic? Are you unwilling to submit yourself to what can only be described as passionate, all-encompassing love? Boxers need a human that is open and willing to being loved in this way. No boxer should ever be allowed to fall in love with a human that is not prepared to love him back for his entire life. That is just not fair.

Are you a stingy lover? (Get your head out of the gutter, I am still talking about the dogs.) These guys crave attention and love. It is not uncommon to find soulful eyes staring at you  quite dauntingly because you have not loved on them in the last five minutes. My boxers remind me several times an hour that they love me very much, and in turn, they also like to be reminded that I love them right back.

One of the greatest gifts that my boxers have given to me is what can only be described as unconditional love at the highest possible level. This is a love that goes in both directions.

The love that these guys give to their humans is enduring, wonderful, and life-long. It is a love that lasts long after their bodies, but never their spirits have left this earth. We never really get over the departure of our boxers from this earth. When we give ourselves to our boxers, we are making a commitment to understanding that a piece of hearts will at some point probably go with them from this earth and yet another part will always belong to them.

Boxers really are clowns for life. While their birth certificates may say that they are "older", they are really just puppies at heart and in spirit. Are you okay with the fact that you are going to have a puppy in your home for the next 13 years, or longer if you are so blessed? They never stop entertaining, and they never stop being wildly silly.

If you are not okay with the fact that this gorgeous breed will never really outgrow "puppyhood" you may want to consider another breed. If you are not crazy about smiling, laughing and being reduced to tears at least once a day, the goofy, comical boxer is not going to be a good match.

I have been extremely lucky with little Jazzy! She might just be the world's best boxer puppy, or maybe it is the fact that she has an awesome big brother. Everyone who has met Jazzy has looked at me and said, "She's not a typical boxer puppy". Yes, I will be forever spoiled by this little darling, but in all honestly, she is still a puppy, and she is still busy and requires a lot of training, time, energy, and attention. She never really stops which is okay, because I never really do either.

If you are expecting a well-behaved boxer, be prepared for ongoing mental stimulation, not just through the puppy years, but throughout their entire life. Boxers are the world's most cuddly, loving little creatures that you will ever come across, and they are more than happy to keep you company when you want to watch a good movie.... but only after you have played tugged o' war for 55 minutes and walked around the block 17 times, shared cheese from the fridge and then walked around the block another 17 times. These are not dogs that are okay with their humans leaving the house for 10 hours at a time. Frankly, if Jazzy and Duke had their way, I would never leave the house. Crap, it takes me all of one minute to walk to the mailbox and back and by their reactions when I walk in the door, you would think I had just returned from a six-month stint in China. God, it is seriously amazing to be loved this way.

Boxers, like children can often have sensitivities and allergies to food and things in the environment around them. Be prepared for a huge financial investment in feeding your boxers things that are not only good for them, but that agree with them. Sometimes, the solutions are not always clear and the problems not so obvious. Lucy saw multiple specialists and endured many changes in routine in an attempt to rid of her allergies to food and the environment. We never really did find a solution that was a solid fix.

Jazzy and Duke enjoy a raw diet that is a combination of chicken with bones, beef, vegetables, proteins, omega-3's, and yes, cheese.

If you have never experienced life with a boxer, you might be reading all of this and thinking "Good Lord, now I know this woman is crazy!" Life with two boxers is never dull. I am never alone. I wear my heart on my sleeve when it comes to my boxers as if my heart were walking around outside of my chest all of the time. I adapt my life and my activities around my boxers needs to keep them happy because they do the same for me. We have a wonderful give-and-take relationship, but only because that is the way I want it and that is what they require.

Yes, I spend insane amounts of time cleaning and mopping floors, have nearly killed myself more than once in incidents that most certainly involved drool, and I am forever fighting for blankets and space in my king size bed. I find laundry in my living room, toys in weird places, and my car windows are always covered in boxer art work. But none of these things matter when I think about how full my heart is with love for Duke and Jazzy and even Lucy.

I am proud to be a card carrying, boxer mom.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Kinda Sorta, Almost Rocked Christmas!

While I will not go as far as to say that "I rocked Christmas," I will say that I felt some of the magic, and Christmas was enjoyed more this year than it was the last two years. I am even sad that the holiday is over. I am also more than somewhat disappointed that it is time to take the decorations down and put the lights away. Do I have to, Mom? (I know that the answer to this is yes because every single time I speak to my mother, she asks if I have taken my Christmas decorations down. Okay, I've got it, Mom!) Who says that Christmas decorations cannot stay up until well into February (That would be my mother)? Is there a rule written somewhere because I have not seen it, and frankly, I would probably just decide that it does not apply to me!

I am thoroughly convinced in order to enjoy something as we did as children, as an adult, is to rid our minds of all of our preconceived notions about the way that things should be, or the way that they were. Seriously, when we build things up in our minds, we are bound to be disappointed. Our minds have a way of spinning things to make them better than what they actually were. As adults, we just are not the same as what were as children. I guess to some, this might seem like a good thing, but in a way, I find it rather sad. So many things had a magic sparkle to them as a child. I guess that I am having a hard time with this concept, and will probably spend the rest of my life trying to make my life just as magical as it was a child. Probably a better idea would be to work on embracing whatever magic does get thrown my way and not comparing it to the ideas that I have in my head. Yes, there is a viable thought. I absolutely refuse to give up on this notion completely, though!

I found myself throughout the holiday season turning the Christmas music on every morning and looking forward to the tree lighting up at 5:00. At some point, I gave up and thought it silly to wait until 5:00 to enjoy the tree and just turned it on. It is still on, all day, every day. Jazzy kept turning it off and on anyway and it was making me insane. At some point, I will probably regret this decision as I am sure that bulbs are going to burn out. But, that is what that whole bag of spare bulbs is for, if I could find it, that is.

Maybe I need to rewind here a bit. What does the perfect Christmas look like in my screwy brain, and how did that "home movie" get there in the first place? I think that is an excellent question. I am bright enough to know that while the "magical Christmas" that exists in my brain and that I have always longed for, resembles a Hallmark channel movie, which it is television. I am not trying to be difficult; I just want to experience even just a bit of the holiday romance that exists in the movies that I found myself watching throughout the season. However, a walk down a snow covered lane, holding hands, wearing mittens, and catching snowflakes on my tongue is probably an unrealistic expectation. It is rather challenging to build a snowman when you live in central Florida and have no snow.

Clockwise from the top left corner: Peanut Butter Blossoms,
Cranberry Orange Macadamia White Chocolate,
Old Fashioned Shortbread, Butterfinger, Andes Mint Spearmint,
White Chocolate Candy Cane, M&M Pudding, German Chocolate Cake,
Softbatch CreamCheese Chocolate, Turtle Cookies,
and Strawberry Chocolate Chip Cookies, and missing from the small images,
but not the cookie tray: Lady Locks.
My Christmas Cookie Madness, or my OCBD (obsessive cookie baking disorder) as my friends have come to refer to it, was a tremendous part of my Christmas magic. Admittedly, for someone who has the attention span of a boxer puppy surrounded by 3000 squeaky balls, baking had its challenges. Despite the challenges, it brought a lot of joy to my heart. Giving of ourselves is the best way to experience the magic of Christmas. 

  • There was the moment when I realized that 1/2 of the butter that was supposed to be in the dough that was chilling in the fridge and was not supposed to be taking up space in the microwave. Oops. 
  • There was the moment when I realized that the cinnamon and sugar was supposed to be sprinkled on the outside of the cookies, not blended in as I had done. Oops. 
  • There was the moment when I realized that my storage plan was sorely missing good judgment. Stacking several bags of cookies in Ziploc bags was a poor choice. But, I did not know that until I opened the freezer and had a "cookie slide" that resembled a mud slide. Yes, I had choice words. Oops.
  • There was the moment when I realized that the heat was negatively impacting my lady lock filling and it was dripping right back out the other end of the cookies and all over me, the counter, and my cabinets. Oops.
  • There was the moment when I found myself standing in the middle of the back yard involved in an active tug-o-war match with Jazzy and realized that I still had a tray of cookies in the oven. Oops.
  • There was the moment when I remembered that I had put a tray of cookies on top of the freezer to keep Duke from counter surfing, but had forgotten and opened the freezer door only to have the whole tray on the floor. Oops.
I know that there were more baking foibles than what I have shared here, but as you have probably guessed, I have forgotten. Despite all of the challenges, and as you can see, there were a lot of them, my cookie baking project was a huge joy to me and to each of my friends and neighbors that I shared the trays with. This baking frenzy will be a part of my Christmas traditions from this point on. I am looking forward to next year, even though I will struggle with the few pounds that I was unfortunate enough to acquire for the next month or so. I shipped a box of cookies to my parents, and they arrived unbroken and seemingly unaffected! So now I know that I can send my cookie joy all over the country!

I made new memories that will forever be etched in my brain as a part of Christmas 2015, While the day that my best buddy and I spent rolling and wrapping lady locks was a long, hot day, we had a lot of fun and did a wonderful job of entertaining each other. Baking is so much more fun when you have a partner in crime. Despite the fact that while I jotted around Orlando passing out cookies and visiting with friends on Christmas Eve, Duke managed to free Jazzy from her crate and she roamed freely about the house for an unknown number of hours, Christmas Eve was wonderful for me! (Just for the record, nothing was touched, and there were no accidents! "GOOD PUPPY!" Duke still needs to explain!)

I am confident that next Christmas will be even better and I cannot wait to see what Christmas 2016 has in store for me. But, most importantly, I am looking forward to it rather than dreading it. I remain headstrong in my resolution to not let bad memories keep me from making new ones. Yes, "I've got this!"

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Can I Just Have Christmas Back?

I will be the first person to admit that in some ways, I was dreading Christmas this year. No matter how badly I did not want to dread it, I could not shake it, and believe me, I tried! This reality greatly saddened me because I have always loved and adored Christmas in an almost childlike way. I love Christmas so much that if it were somewhat socially acceptable, I think I would do all of my grocery shopping dressed like an elf. I cannot wait to start listening to Christmas music and I feel a bit like Clark Griswald when I plug in all of those lights... I would go caroling if I could do so without making all of the dogs in the neighborhood howl like a bunch of hounds. Yep! I love Christmas and to me, there is nothing more magical than the romance of white lights, Christmas trees, and carols.

Unfortunately, my journey towards being diagnosed started in the middle of December. The lights were already up in the house when I had my mammogram and started to face the cold hard reality that more than likely I would be hearing that I had cancer. The bulbs were shimmering and sparkling on the tree in the living room as I battled with the demons in my head that I will forever think of as the "Bad News Demons". The morning that I got the final call from the breast surgeons office, I remember looking all around our home and thinking "It's still Christmas! There is no way that this can be happening!" After all, who gets a cancer diagnosis at Christmas? Seriously, I half expected the lights to all shut down with a dramatic "musical interlude" and the Christmas tree to magically sink into the ground... Because, frankly, Christmas and Cancer just do not go together.

I went all through the holiday season with the lump in my left breast throbbing and making me aware of its presence.I knew all too well that this stupid lump had the power to end my life. (No matter how much time goes by, I will never forget how painful that lump was and I am a person with a very high pain tolerance.) I gave it my best shot, I really should get an A for effort. I tried to push it to the back of my mind, I went to work, helped my husband out at the new store and attempted to make myself so busy that I would forget what was going on. I tried to not think about what was happening and bury myself in all things that were not cancer. But in no way could I grasp what was happening to me. 2013 was a bad Christmas and no amount of telling myself that everything was going to be just fine changed the fact that I knew what was around the corner. Denial is not one of my strong suites... Well, at least not in this case.

By the time Christmas rolled around in 2014, I had undergone 6 intensive rounds of chemotherapy, lost all of my hair, had my breasts and all of the tissue surrounding them removed and replaced with 2  very tiny bowling balls, my lymph nodes in my armpits were gone, and I had six long weeks of radiation. But, I was cancer free! Remission had been achieved. (Actually, I have started thinking of it more like probation which in my mind is a little cool because I have never really been much of a criminal, so probation... Okay, you really are a badass! It sounds better than remission, don't ya think?)

 So, why when I started to dig through the 20 boxes of Christmas decorations was I instantly ill? It had absolutely nothing to do with the dust that seemed to fly around every time I shook something, or the dead lizards and frogs that had chosen to die in my Christmas boxes (note to self: really need to find some other place to store the Christmas stuff, clearly the garage is not that good of a choice in Florida.) I was ill enough to put most of the boxes back and make what I will admit was a half-assed attempt at Christmas last year. I struggled though it, I really did. I put the tree up, I bought presents. I went to Honeybaked and bought a ham. I even made Christmas cards. Frankly, I was just going through the motions. There was not a lot of joy, although there should have been. My holiday spirit was gone, perhaps when chemo killed my cancer, it took the Christmas spirit too? Maybe I was too tired from everything I had just been through, or maybe it was all just too fresh. Its whereabouts were unknown to me, and I had no idea how I was going to get it back.

I remember thinking at some point over the holiday season last year that perhaps this was just the new Christmas Normal. Really? This infuriated me, I am beyond over the whole "new normal" thing. I really hate the word "NORMAL". There is absolutely no good reason why I could not be as happy at Christmastime as I have always been just because I happened to be diagnosed with a little thing called Cancer at that time of year. (Yes, I know, my timing was horrible.) But, I just could not bring myself to do it. It just was not happening, not for me, and definitely not last year.

All year this has bothered me. Cancer has taken so much from me, how could I let it have Christmas, the one time of year that I look forward to with my whole entire being? A dear friend mentioned to me that perhaps I just needed to make new, happy, and wonderful  memories at Christmastime. I could not help but think that she was right. Christmas is the fuel that keeps the wind in our sails all year long. We need that fuel and we need that magic in order to make it through the rest of the year. After a little bit of thought, I decided that I was not only going to throw myself into Christmas wholeheartedly and make a bunch of wonderful new memories, but I was going to embrace and reincorporate some of the traditions that made Christmas so magical for me as a child. And I would accomplish this if it killed me.

So there it was. I knew what the problem was and I had a solution. Let's do this! Go get your Christmas boxes! And I will confess that in those first days of beginning to decorate the house I wished vividly that I still had Xanax in my Arsenal and I opened a bottle of wine much earlier in the day that I would usually admit to doing. As I attempted to untangle 10 strings of red head garland, the killing me part seemed quite viable. The anxiety that I felt was paralyzing.

In the middle of decorating my tree, I remember talking with a fellow survivor saying that I was decorating my tree and trying not to have a complete and total breakdown or a full blown anxiety attack. The more red and green I saw the bigger the anxiety got. Yes, two years after the fact, it is still that vivid in my mind, and maybe it always will be. I cannot quite grasp the fact that I cannot remember why I am in a room or where I parked my car, but I can remember all of the emotions that I endured two years ago? How is this fair?

I did it though. My "Grinch" tree as I have always referred to it is up. I smile every single time the lights come on and I do not hesitate to stop and just look at how beautiful it is every now and then...

As you may have guessed... This story is to be continued. Stay tuned for the details of my "Taking Christmas Back" action plan.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Dear First Family...

Dear First Family,

I's been here in Flo-rida for a littles bits over a month now. Mama thoughts it was time for me to check in wits you and let you know how I'm doin here. So, it's lots like Texas here. It's warm most all of da time and da sun shines lots. I like it's here bunches. Thank you for not sending me to a family in Alaska. Mama says der is stuff called snow der, and if it's colder there than 65, I don'ts tinks I'd likes it much.

I's has been one busy puppy. Mama says it's my job to make sure she laughs. Frankly, it's not dat hard. Either she laughs really easily, or I'm just a big, silly puppy. I'ms is stayin out of trubble. My new big brother has been showin me the ropes, and when I'ms good for a whole day, he'll play wits me. Daddy says Duke is too bigs to be playin wits me because I'm so tiny, but he's very gentle wits me and thanks to my Daddy's teachin me, I know how to play wits da big dogs.

I's in puppy school! It's a ton of fun. We go on Saturday mornings. Just Mum and I. She puts a collar ting on me, and a pretty pink harness and we jumps in da car and offs we go. Ders another boxer in my class. He's very old compared to me. He's 1. Boy oh boy is he bad. I'ms afraid dat his mom is going to send him home wits my mom because I'm so good in class. I don't tinks Duke would like dat much. I sits or lays at her feet da whole time da nice lady is talking until Mama asks me to do sumptin. She says I'm gonna be the class Valy-dic-tryn. I's don't know whats dat means...

I's learned lots in puppy class. But, most importantly, I's learned dat when I wants da hoomans attention, I have to sits. If I want food, I have to sits. If I want to go outside, or inside, I have to sits. You gets da drift. I'm trying to tell you dat I sits a lot. So, now when I meets new people, I sits. Most of da time, I gets yummy treats. But sometimes, da hoomans forgets about da treats and just tells me dat I'm a good girl. Dats okay too. Mama plays dis really stoopid game with me. She calls it fetch. What da heck? Listens to dis, she picks up a toy, I sits, she thows it, I chase it, she yells good puppy, and den I comes back to her, and she goes and gets da toy where she just threw it to. Den she does it all overs again.It makes no sense to me and Duke doesn'ts gets it either.

My new family has a really high bed. For da first couples of weeks dat I was here, Mama would lift me into da bed. Buts, I have grown, and now I can do it all by myself. Der's is no pool here, but dats okay, because sometimes I gets to play in da tub with Mama. Ands I dug a big hole in da back yard! It's doesn't have water in it, buts it's a comfy spot to lay and watch da birds and da furry little tings dat Duke barks at.  Ders is lots of big comfy furniture here, and Mama has it arranged perfectly for me. I can fly betweens da sofa and da the chair. Mama laughs when I do dis, so it's a good ting. Don't worry. I can also stand on da back of da sofa when I'm too short to spot da hoomans from da ground. Dat works so well!

You should see what I'ms eating here! I get yummy, raw beef and chicken for both meals. Mama covers it in sometin dat she calls a veggie blend. I don'ts know what dat is, but it sure is good. She's given me green beans, broccoli, carrots, and cheese! How bouts dat? Every nights before we gos to sleep, I get to chew on a big, raw bone. During da day, I goes off in search of dese bones, and chew while Mama is working. Mama says dat I have her dream body. No matters how much I eats, I don'ts get fat... She says Duke doesn't have da same problem. I tinks dat mights be bad.

I's have tons of Aunts! And Mama takes me all kinds of places to meets new people. Hey, anytings is better dan bein in dat crate thingy. Mama tinks dat because she puts a pretty red blanket on it and puts toys in der dat I'm gonna like it! No way! I'ms doin a good job training my Mama because if I lay quietly and don'ts run around and try to romps wits Duke, I don'ts have to go in der any more after I eats. Dats was a close call...

Da house is all decorated real perty. Mama made a huge mess, and der was glittery stuff all over da floor for days. Den she puts up a huge tree in da living room. It's all covered in lights and shiny tings. I don'ts mess wits it much, but I don'ts know why der is a tree in da living room. Mama keeps saying something about someone she calls Santa, and tells me dat he's gonna visits me as long as I'ms not naughty. She evens hung up a big sock wits my name on it. I's is hopings dat its filled with yummy tings to eat! I wanna meets dis Santa person, so you can bets dat I is being good.

Mama tells me she loves me a 100 times a day. And she lets me sits in her lap all da time. I especially likes it in da morning when she has her big, fuzzy robe on. We plays all da time. She loves my squeaky toys as much as I do! We go for walks, and we watch tv, and we do laundry! I evens learned how to help makes da bed. I follows her pretty much everywhere dat she goes, she doesn't sits still much, so I's is very busy!

So, as you can sees from my letter, I's is doing good here. Say hi to Kimber, and Mama, Daddy & Grandpa for me! Tells dem day can comes visit, I'ms sure dat they would likes it here as much as I do! Agains, tanks for not sending to Alaska.


Tuesday, November 24, 2015

It's Just Hair...

Late November 2015
So, a few weeks back as I was nearing the end of my patience with my hair extensions, I saw a blog post by Clare Bowen (Is she not just the most adorable person you have ever seen?) entitled "It's Just Hair". I had been debating for weeks whether I was going to put the extensions back or if I was going to embrace whatever hair had sprouted on my head.

Before reading that post, I was starting to draw my own conclusions that while my extensions were beautiful, they were also a huge expense and a serious pain the arse (I don't know about you, but I can think of a million other things that are more fun to do than spend 10, yes I said 10, hours in a chair at the salon). But, of course, I had some preconceived notions of my own about hair, naturally to spend the amount of time and money that I had on them, my notions must have been pretty potent. Reading her post made up my mind for me! I did a lot of soul-searching after seeing and reading that blog entry.

I have never considered myself to be obsessive with hair. Before having cancer, I made frequent trips to the beauty salon for cuts and highlights. But, I was never crazy about it. Often, I would wait way too long and get to the point of wanting to rip my hair out (and much to my stylist's dismay and frustration was not above taking the scissors to my own head when things got too bad). So, I was not one of these people who visits her stylist every three weeks, nor was I one of those people that ran to the salon every time a root peaked through. I washed, dried and styled my hair every morning, and then did not think about it the rest of the day, until I would pull it into a ponytail at the end of the day. I never carried hairspray or a comb: a rubber band: yes, styling tools: no! See, there is nothing really over the top there.

Early November 2014
As I have admitted many times, one of the first questions out of my mouth after hearing that I had cancer was "Am I going to lose my hair?". Looking back, clearly that was an absurd question. Regardless, the truth of the matter is that losing my hair terrified me. No matter how hard I tried, I could not rationalize that I was going to save an hour every morning on styling my hair,  or that I would be saving a ton of money on styling products and trips to the salon. And why the heck could I not grasp the concept that I was also, of course, going to be alive! Frankly, I felt so strongly about losing my hair that it was almost a battle between hair and living that shocked the heck out of me. I swear I grieved more about losing my hair than losing my breasts, actually I know I did.

I am sure you are wondering, if all of this is true, what the heck happened? Well, it's complicated. In a lot of ways, I guess I perceived not having hair as being unhealthy and looking sick. I have never liked "looking sick". Even when I have the flu or a head cold, I still do my hair and put on my makeup because I know that if I do so, I will feel better. And let's face it, we are living in a hair obsessed society. I never noticed exactly  how many hair commercials there were until I had no hair. Then I felt like every single commercial was about hair. I do not know how it happened, but during the time I was hairless, all of the car manufacturers, toilet paper companies, and all of the stores stopped advertising to make room for endless commercials about HAIR. I could not turn on the tv without seeing a woman tossing long, luscious, glorious hair over her shoulders. Seriously? No wonder I stopped watching tv and turned off the Direct TV service.

My obsession with hair, or should I say lack of it, started when I lost all of mine. While my mom (she's my mom, of course, she is going to say that I look cute no matter what) and many of my friends frequently commented on how cute I looked without hair, I was dreadfully unhappy. I guess I fell victim to the common thought in society than girls cannot be a princess without long hair (although, I am a little old for the whole princess thing, you get the idea). Without my hair, I most certainly did not feel like myself and I definitely did not feel pretty no matter how many times people commented about my adorable short hair. I felt broken. I desperately wanted not to feel broken.

Late November 2014 
I took some pretty drastic (and expensive) measures to make myself feel whole again. And, looking back, I guess that is where the soul searching should have begun. Why on earth did I need hair and lots of it to feel beautiful and loved? There is really something wrong with that. Frankly, my friends and family do not think anything less, or anything more of me because of the length of my hair or the lack of hair entirely.

So, in a rather abrupt move, almost two weeks ago (right after bringing Jazzy home) I made a phone call to start righting my "hair" ship. Fate intervened, and I was able to see someone about removing the extensions that day. Since I was only going for a consultation, I grabbed Jazzy and headed off to the salon. But, fate is one of those busy bodied things, and as I sat there that morning (with Jazzy in my lap) it turned out that I could have it done right then and there. Why wait? So, with my adorable puppy in my lap, I had my extensions removed, my hair washed, cut and dried.

Forgive me while I give a shameless plug to my four and a half-month-old puppy. She sat in my lap the entire time, with her head on a pillow, being what I would consider an exceptionally good puppy. Of course, she took that opportunity to charm the heck out of everyone in the salon, and as we left, we were told that she was welcome back any time! Good puppy! Have I mentioned yet how in love I am with this boxer?

As Jazzy and walked back to the car, I felt lighter. I felt better. For the first time in months, I felt like myself. I realized that those who love me, love me because of who I am as a person, and they could care less how much hair I have. While my family does not really have any say in "choosing me" so to speak, my friends have chosen to be my friends. I like to think it is because I am caring, funny, witty and a ton of fun to be around: long hair or short hair.

Shame on a society or any person that makes anyone feel like any less of a person because of "hair". I did not chose cancer and I most definitely did not chose to lose all of my hair. For some of us, it is a life-saving necessity. It made me think later that night when I saw a commercial for "It's a 10" hair products. The women in the commercial all had long, flowing hair and they were boasting about how they proudly support breast cancer research. Perhaps they could chose better when they select their models for their commercials because women who have endured breast cancer, for at least a little while; have short hair.

I have news for you Loreal, Nexxus, Revlon and all of the other "hair product" companies out there, there are a lot of gorgeous women running around out there with short hair. Look at Faith Hill or Halle Berry just to name a few.  Both of these women have been blessed to be noted as the world's most beautiful women. And just for the record, even though my hair is short, I still use shampoo and condition, gel, and leave-in conditioners are my friend, and hair spray flies in my bathroom every single morning. You are seriously missing a whole market... Just sayin'!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Turns Out That A Little Bit o' Jazz Was Just What The Doctor Ordered

It has definitely not taken the whole two weeks that Jazzy has been with us for me to realize that I am in love. Actually, I am pretty sure that I knew the moment that I first laid eyes on her that I was completely smitten with this little pup. And if I wasn't sure at that exact moment, it was definite when she bunny hopped over to me in the grass as we were "peeing" (that would have been her, and not me in case you are wondering!) one last time before hitting the road in Friendship, Texas.
While my heart will never be completely whole again with Lucy gone, Lil Bit has certainly done a fantastic job of making me smile again, and Duke once again seems happy. I know that Lil Bit has found her way into my heart. I could not possibly be more enthusiastically happy about this little girl's wonderful temperament. Often, I find myself forgetting that she is just a puppy. And I've asked myself more than once, are you sure this is a boxer puppy? Then she does something ridiculously silly, and I laugh until I cry and wonder why did I ever question that this is a boxer puppy?

I can tell you that my heart could not have been heavier, nor could it have been more broken after Lucy left us so abruptly. Not a day goes by when I do not think of Lucy, but as I've said many times, I know that Lucy would not have been happy about my moping face, and Duke's lack of a wiggle. When I look at my little ball of energy, covered in soft fur and stop for a kiss from her sweet little puppy tongue, I know that we made the right decision. In my heart, I know that Lucy approves.

Our journey to Texas was completely unforgettable. I was hesitant of subjecting Duke to 32 hours in the car, but the thought of leaving him behind made me even more hesitant. Now, I'm glad that we had that time with Duke before we picked up Jazzy, and I know that I made the right choice.

Frankly, I think it was a good bonding experience for all of us, and I know that the 16 hours in the car on the way back to Florida was the perfect start to the relationship between Duke and Lil Bit. I love that we started off the Jazzy chapter of our lives with a road trip. I'll be forever grateful to my dear friend and fellow boxer mom that insisted that it was a bad idea for me to take this trip by myself. Nothing is more fun that two women in a car chatting about everything under the sun for 32 hours.

One hour away from my home in Florida, I looked up in the sky and saw the most massive, and most brilliant rainbow I have ever seen. I did not bother to fight back the tears as my heart told me that was Lucy sharing her approval of her mama's choice. (Too bad she wasn't intervening with fate when that state trooper decided to nab us for speeding... but Lucy never approved of my driving anyway, and I wasn't the one driving...)

It has been 6 years since we have had a "puppy" in our home. While I most certainly have forgotten a few things about having a little one around, I have found myself most relieved to find that most of the things I've needed to know are still stuck in my crazy head. One of the biggest joys of a puppy in my opinion is their endless curiosity, and Jazzy is certainly curious. Her reaction to every new sound and every new experience makes me giggle. The look on her face and the stance of her little body when she decides "that's just weird" has made me young again. Jazzy does not get in a lot of trouble. She leaves most everything alone that is not hers and will wander off to find a toy when she is feeling mischievous.

I did not have the pleasure of knowing my Duke as a young pup, but if I had to imagine him as a puppy, I would imagine him being a lot like Jazzy is. Maybe this is why they are such a great match!

Jazzy is sweet, patient, and funny. She is as smart as can possibly be and picks up everything very quickly. Very eager to please, she often looks at me for approval, and she never lets me out of her sight. I love the sound of puppy paws on the tile and know that wherever I go, Jazzy is sure to be right behind me.  This is not without challenges, boxer puppies have a way of getting under our feet and I've gotten tangled up with Lil Bit more times than I even wish to count.

One of my favorite things about this little girl is how sweet and cuddly she is. Not a morning goes by that she doesn't wiggle her way into my lap as I sit on the patio and enjoy my coffee in the morning... And when I get up for more coffee, it isn't uncommon for someone to steel my chair...

Duke is amazing with Jazzy and I feel like I have an assistant. He loves her to death and the feeling is mutual. They play, snuggle, and protect the house and their mama together. What a great teacher he is, but I didn't expect any less. He was amazing with Lucy and I knew he would be great with a puppy. The sheer size of him next to my 35-pound puppy is almost comical. When they play, you almost have to hold your breath and think "oh, no! He's too big". But, ever the gentleman, he is gentle with her, and mindful of his strength, but no worries, she can hold her own.

Lil Bit o' Jazz turned out to be the most appropriate name for this boxer girl. Daily she brings "lil bits" of sunshine, joy and laughter to our home. She positively loves music and new sounds. And while her "pretty songs" that she sings do not sound a bit like jazz, somehow the boxer howls are appropriately, Jazzy.

While this certainly was not the way that I saw things playing out, I should know better than to have expectations. After all, look at the last  two years of our lives. I guess I am okay with all of this. I trust that it was the way that it was meant to be. While the lesson here is not yet clear, I am sure that there is one. I do not have time to ponder it or wonder why because I need to enjoy Jazzy's puppy-hood. I am sure that some day it will be all clear but in the meantime, as I am sure you can tell, I am just enjoying my new blessing.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Dear Lil Bit

We are extremely excited about our new boxer baby that is coming next week to add some excitement to our home! I will be meeting "Lil Bit o' Jazz" for the first time on Tuesday afternoon and have been busy getting the house ready for a puppy!

When Lucy was little, and before I got insanely busy working seven days a week, I blogged about raising Lucy. Some of the posts were called "Lucy's Take" and through me she blogged about her life and for some reason, I can't stop thinking about it... I think she must have something she needs to tell Lil Bit....

Dear Lil Bit, 

You's has never met me, I'm Lucy! You's abouts to become a member of my well-trained family! Congwratulations! You's gonna be very happy with my hoomans! I wanted to tell you a few tings about your new hoomans and your new big brudder. I's has gone to Heaven, but I'm watching closely over my hoomans and my big brother. They are all very sad that I'm gone, but I could tell that when they heard that you were coming, that they all felts just a little bits better and mommy's even smiling again. Heels der hearts for me, k?

Duke is a fantastic big pup! My hoomans brought him to live wits me and show me da ropes. I couldn't have been happier! Of course, I took my job as pesky little sister very seriously. And I kept him on his toes. He's probably lots bigger dan what you are, but don't worry. He's a very gentle boy and trust me, he's a great cuddler. I know he will protect you and take very good care of you. Heads up, he's not too fond of the delivery people dat come to the house... but here's da thing, they bring presents to the fur people living in the house, so be very excited when you see dem coming. (Mommy has very good taste. I don'ts know what dat means, but dats what Daddy calls it!)

Play with him lots! And make his little nub wiggle again, okay? And if you could, we had sometin' dat mommy called a morning twadition. I would grab a toy and zoom all over the house wits it and make Duke try to catch me... every once in a while, I'd let him win just so his little feelings wouldn't be hurt. Let's me know if you needs help wits dis, k? Da hoomans don't mind it one bit when when we gets all roudy, and you'll see dat there's lots of room to zoom around! It's a very dog friendly kind of place.

And then der's my daddy. He called me "lil darling". I bets he's gonna luvs you bunches too! Daddy drives big trucks, and sometimes I's gots to ride in dem with him. He loved taking me places wits him. Sometimes, he even tooks me to work wits him and I got to meets customers. He has a little brown ting dat mommy calls a wallet... it's always full of green stuff. You can buy yummy stuff with dat green stuff, so if you find dat, gives it to mommy! Don't try to eats it like I did...

Daddy's not too fond of kisses, so save those for mommy! She loves em! I's never understood, but mommy used to say those kisses were like wrinkle cream. It made her giggle, so dats must be a good thing! Daddy will cuddles wits you, just make sure you don't hog his blankets... He will have so much fun playing with you! I just know it! He always turns da knob tingy on da tub too far and gets too much cold water, so if you's stick your little head in der, you can turn da cold water off! His closet is da best place in da house to take a quiet nap, and unlikes mommy's closet, der is always piles of clothes dat make great pillows.

And finally, ders your new mom! I just know she's gonna loves you to pieces and she'll probably tell you she luvs you a bunch! Momma loves to give kisses on da top of da head, and when I's was a little pup, she carried me around a lot. She's gonna be serious about teaching you all kinds of new tings, and she will probably attempts to enroll your little wiggle bum in a puppy class. Do me a favor and don't get kicked out like I dids, okay? She'll be super duper protective and will probably watch everyting dat you do, but it's okay. She's just making sure dat nothin bad happens to you. 

I'm not sure what's da matter wits her, but she uses the phrase "ugh, oh" quite often. I tinks its a good ting, but if you wiggle when she says "ugh oh" she will laugh. She'll probably bang a lot of tings around and be a bit noisy when you first arrive, she dids it to me too. It slows down after a while, if you gets tired of all da noise, just don't be scared when she makes a loud noise, and she'll probably stop! She tolds me its had sometin to do wits beings well justed! She's gonna spends lots of time making sure you're well justed too...

She's da best mommy ever! We had all kinds of adventures together, and when she looked at me, her eyes sparkled. You'll see it too, and she'll love you dat way too. We're her fur kids, and she's convinced that we are hoomans in beautiful, furry, little bodies. She'll take you all kinds of places, and you'll probably meets all of my boxer aunts.... ders a bunch of dem! Don't worry, you'll get used to her driving, it may just takes you a while. It's probably best not to watch.

Mommy can be a little bit bonkers about food and what da fur kids are eating. Several months ago she started making Duke and I veggie smoothies. I know what you're tinking... ICK! But, gives it a try. It makes her very happy when us babies eat our veggies. It'll grow on you, don'ts worry! 

She likes for da fur kids to keep her company and won't mind its one bit if you help wits da laundry, the yard work and da cleaning. Oh, and she needs supervision when making da bed. You's gots to curl up in da blankets when day comes out of da dryer to keep em warm, k? And da bed just won't looks right if you don't steal da blankets from her. And you haves to roll around in dem too. Whens you do dis, you'll probably gets a treat... den she'll close da bedroom door and you'll be stucks on da wrong side. I don'ts know why she hasn't figured out dat dis is not how it's sposed to work. Maybe you cans teach her.

 Finally ders her love of taking pictures of us. You'll see me all overs da house! Just look really cute quick and she'll let you get on with whats ever it was dat you were doing. I'm sure dat you'll figure it out! I gots da hang of it quick! Don'ts worry too much about its, my hoomans are pretty easy going peoples, and I just know you're gonna love dem! 

Tanks you for looking out for dem and making dem smile agains! 

--Lucy Lou Bugga Boo (Aren't  you glads you didn't get dat name?)



Friday, October 30, 2015

Don't Get In Line Just Yet...

This was always one of my favorite pictures of Lucy, because she seemed completely oblivious to the fact that she had a monkey on her back! This picture came to my mind when I was thinking about this post! I guess my Lucy will always inspire me!

So, the other day, someone who shall remain nameless, said to me, "I love you to death, but I just don't get it. How, just how, with all of the crap that has been thrown your way are you still smiling? Sometimes, I just wanna smack the crap out of you." Before any of you, my loyal followers and friends get in line, let me explain a few things. And let me also say that the person who made this comment to me is not buried in my back yard...

I am human. I do have bad days just like the rest of you. I know, maybe it does not seem that way to those who are looking in from the outside. But, I swear to you, I do! I get down sometimes and sometimes I scream a little bit, cry, kick things, and curse and then I pretty much move on. I don't really know where it comes from sometimes.

Frankly, it's a bit shocking to me that the hand of cards I'm playing doesn't frustrate the living crap out of me! Because my life, is nothing like it was before cancer. I know my brain is still in there, it's what is holding my head up, but most of the time when I really need it, it is nowhere to be found. As if that is not enough, there's this lymphatic problem brought on by chemo, surgery and radiation. I try not to dwell on it, but I will tell you that there are days when it is so painful I can barely stand it, so I just try to keep busy and occupy my mind (which is a challenge in itself). On top of that, I have not had a good nights sleep in over two years.

If anyone tells you that having your boobs, and all of the muscle and tissue around them, cut off your body isn't going to hurt for a long time, they are yanking your chain and I've got a really amazing ocean in the middle of the United States that I will sell you for a steal...While I've clearly come a long way, there are still a lot of things that I cannot do. If you are thinking, "she probably tries", you would be right. I do. I have a hard time accepting that I can't do something. But, I pay and sometimes quite dearly.

Some days, I have no idea where the smiles come from. Yes, being a boxer mom helps. It's hard not to smile when you are living with clowns that can wiggle so hard they fall over... But, there is more to it than that because even though I've lost my little sunshine, Lucy, I can still find a reason to smile. Actually, as odd as it was, in the moments that I said goodbye to Lucy, touching her head, I smiled.

I can't honestly admit that challenges do not float my boat. God has certainly given me enough of them in the last couple of years, so maybe I just flourish under pressure. But, really? I'm not going to say that isn't a part of it, but if I had to wager a guess, I would say that my smiles are coming from something a little bit deeper than that. Maybe I had it in me all along but it was buried underneath my skewed way of prioritizing my life.

A cancer diagnosis changes you. While I don't look any older on the outside, mentally I've grown up a lot in the last couple of years. I see a lot of things very differently, and emotionally, I am definitely older and I don't think it's a bad thing (unless we are discussing the 98 year old brain in my head and the ridiculous family bags under my eyes... but we aren't!)

First of all, hearing that there is something thriving in your body that is capable of taking you down in a big way is something that I can't even begin to describe. While I've come out on the other side, there is that constant reality that it could come back to haunt me at any given moment. I could also get hit by someone who has no business behind the wheel of the a car walking into Publix to get that wonderful raspberry delight cake, that I love so much, but really do not need.

However, as long as I am here and not being scraped off the pavement at Publix, I'm not going to waste a lot of my time on bullshit! I've got no interest in being judgmental or critical of people's life choices or decisions. (That is not to say that for some brief moment I don't wonder what you were thinking, I am human!) I do have time to listen and be compassionate and try to understand what you're going through, because after all, it's what you did for me. I will be the best doggone friend I can possibly be!

I'm not really interested in letting the grass grow under my feet. Not only do I not particularly like cutting grass, but starting the lawn mower frustrates me just a tad, and unfortunately while cutting grass used to be therapeutic to me, as you might imagine it hurts my chest intensely to push the lawnmower. (It's okay, I can still pull weeds which is a good thing because those evil spawns have taken over my back yard!) While I won't be initiating any corporate take overs that will make the front page of the Wall Street Journal or adding my name to the list of all of the billionaires in the country, I'm doing things. Things that make me smile and things that I enjoy!

Sharing my life, in a seriously public way, has brought me a lot of joy! Not that my life is overly exciting, and People Magazine won't be on my doorstep any time soon, but I know that my words have in some way helped others. That has been a gift in itself. My blog posts take me a lot of time, some of them get worked on for days, some of them fall right onto the page. But, I always speak from the heart, and I'm always honest. And I know, I get myself in a lot of funny predicaments, so there's that...

At some point, I discovered that I have no desire to dabble in the ridiculous. Actually, the need to get the monkey off my back was overwhelming. The conversation with myself went something like this:

Stop wasting time, get your life together as if you are going to be hit by a car in the Publix parking lot tomorrow and live a little, but live the good life. Live with compassion, empathy and most importantly live with joy. Allow yourself to dine on the milk chocolate of life. Love and be loved, allow yourself the potential of getting hurt. Be a good friend, allow yourself to be a part of someone else's world and care passionately about what happens to them! Revel in the little things. Use your God-given talents and abilities to make a difference in the world! 
And for God's sake, woman, sit still....

So, there you have it. I'm not in myself a corporation, but I've got a mission statement that like all other mission statements before it, will be a work in progress. I know you've read this whole post because you too are probably attempting to figure out how I can possibly still smile... And I'm not sure I have really done anything other than pique your curiosity. I don't have the answer, but I do know that it's a lot easier to smile when you don't have a monkey on your back...

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Twas' Not My Lips You Kissed, But My Soul...

Lucy Lou Bugga Boo

I am the lucky one. For those of you that are aware of the tragedy that struck my life at the end of last week, that may seem like a very odd statement. Late Thursday, in a totally unexpected, and gut-wrenching way, I said goodbye to my darling Lucy.

Unbeknownst to me, Lucy had an UN-diagnosed heart condition. And on Thursday, her big heart just gave out. I was sitting beside her holding an oxygen mask over that amazing, soft little nose and stroking her back when I felt the last breath escape her amazing little body. It was that very instant that I felt heartbreak like nothing I have experienced before. I literally felt my heart shatter. I was not prepared to lose Lucy, and still it seems unimaginable.

My grief is overwhelming. It blankets my soul and my body and I feel a tremendous burden of loss, my body actually feels heavy with heartbreak. I am having a hard time finding anything to do that soothes my hurting heart. I suppose in those moments when I waited for the emergency animal hospital to open, in some part of my mind, I knew that she would not be coming home with me. Of course, I tried to deny it, but her body was so lifeless and so weak. She was not at that moment my wild, vibrant, wiggling Lucy.

It would be my last conversation with my Lucy Lou Bugga Boo. Words poured from my lips to let her know how much I loved her at an even greater rate than the tears falling from my eyes, I honestly do not know how I managed to speak.  My legs were weak and shaking as I realized that she was fading right before my eyes. But, damn it, she would leave this earth knowing how much I loved her and cherished her. As annoyed as I was that the emergency hospital was not open when we got there, now, I am grateful for those last moments with Lucy. I am even more grateful that an hour prior, in a struggle to figure out how to get her in the car, I held her soft little body in my lap and kissed her head at least a dozen times. I did not know then that it would be the last time...

Oh, the hurt...

Yet, yesterday afternoon as I sat reading the lovely notes being sent to me by my friends, I felt a small burst of light enter my body and my mind starting to wander in a direction opposite of my grief. As I sat on my patio, later, with Duke at my feet, and Lucy's favorite toy next to me, a warm breeze came across my body and I felt my soul lighten. Lucy. "Mama, don't cry!"

Five and a half years ago, whether by choice, or whether Lucy forced me to do it, I opened my heart completely to being in love with her, and being loved by her. There was never a moment when I doubted that she adored me, and I was 100% completely in love with her.What a gift it was to be loved by that little boxer girl and to love her right back. My heart has been so full of Lucy induced joy! Honestly, I cannot say that there was a single day that my flashy fawn boxer girl did not make me smile. In five and a half years, there was not a day that she did not fill my heart with pure delight and joy. There are no words...

Just a short week ago, while laying on the couch with a horrible head cold, I woke up cursing because I could not breath. I blamed it on the cold. Actually, I could not breath because I had a 67-pound boxer named Lucy sitting on my head.

Lucy was a gift. I miss her in a way that I will not even attempt to describe, and I know that I probably will for a long time. But, I cannot help but feel grateful for having loved that little girl enough to feel real, honest heartbreak when she physically left me. Lucy will never be completely gone from me, she is a part of me. "Twas not my lips you kissed, but my soul". I did not give birth to Lucy, but she is a part of me, and she always will be. The lessons that my little darling taught me are too many to even write down here. The ways that she touched my life, are numerous.

As I sit here this morning thinking about Lucy, I once again have tears streaming down my cheeks. I am trying hard not to be angry that my time with her was just not long enough because she would not want me to be angry. I know she would not want me to be sad. Actually, if she were here and caught me crying, she would run off to the toy box in that frenzied little way of hers, and bring me back a toy. She would force me to "get silly" with her.

Lucy was my first boxer. I will always be "Lucy's Human". I will forever remain grateful for the five and a half short years that I spent with that amazing, loving, goofy, wonderful little boxer. Yes, I am the lucky one, because she loved me. And I am lucky because I allowed myself to love and be loved by one of God's greatest gifts... an animal!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Do You Wanna Be My Friend?

Recently, I had an email conversation with two of my friends about friendship. The topic of conversation was how hard it really is to make friends as adults. I hadn't really thought about it all that much until I received the email, and then I grabbed a cup of coffee and decided I would ponder it for a few minutes. Because, well, it's what I do, I ponder things. I used to quickly come to conclusions, but that was back in the old days. Now, it takes me a little longer to come to terms with how I feel about things. As a person who has lived in multiple places in her adult life, I certainly appreciate how hard it can be to make friends. But, why is this?

As a young child, the criteria to become someone's friend was not extensive. Will you play in the mud with me and build forts? Will you refrain from pulling my pigtails and not make fun of my secondhand clothing? And if I think a boy is cute, will you keep my secret? Okay, we can be friends! Now let's pinkie swear...

As a teenager, the criteria gets a little more stringent. There's the whole popularity factor and, of course, the typical high school cliques. Don't pretend you have no idea what I'm talking about. You know exactly what I mean. The band geeks, the tech nerds, the jocks and the cheerleaders, the pretty people. Throughout the course of our high school careers, we all fall into one of these categories, and our friendships are formed based on these "labels". (I'm sure that all of these "cliques" have changed since I was in high school, but I'm sure that a majority of my readers have the same ideas of "cliques" that I do. Many of these friendships for me didn't last past high school. We all went our own ways, and did our own things.

Post high school is where we start forming real friendships. The kind that may or may not last past our twenties. We're a little more mentally developed, our personalities are closer to what they will be for the rest of our lives, and frankly, we're just a little more grown up. It was in my twenties that I formed several friendships that I really thought would last me my entire life, but then I hadn't counted on cancer. Yes, I get it, having a friend with a bald head is really a lot to swallow.

And finally, there are our adult friendships. I have learned in the last few years that these friendships were not based on the things that I thought that they would be. My cancer diagnosis brought distance in friendships that I thought would never end, and strengthened others. Our friends in our "adult" life are based on common interests, our personalities, and the kind of friend that we are. We all learn that friendships don't always come in the packages that we think we're going to find them in. Sometimes, our best friendships come from places that we weren't really looking.

Of course, since I always try to be blatently honest, I am speaking from experience here. Recently, I've come to notice that sometimes the "common interest" that brings two people together, can also be the interest that breaks two people apart. Alternatively, sometimes we find that the "common" interest isn't really all that held the relationship together and even when that common interest vanishes, the friendship goes on.

Over the last two years, I have come to care very deeply for people that I really did not know that well previously. But, thier constant support whether it be in the form of a tiny little favor, a kind word, or a laugh just when I needed it most, has made those friendships priceless. I used to think that in order to be friends with someone you had to see them all the time. Well, sure, that it certainly nice, but because of schedules and logistics sometimes that doesn't always work out they way that we would like. As it turns out, just because two people don't live close to one another or see each other as often as they would like, doesn't mean that they don't have an amazing friendship.

I really would have missed out on some amazing friendships if I had discounted people just because maybe I would never have the opportunity to meet them, or have dinner with them. Some days, it's just enough to know that there are people out there that love you no matter what, and it's the added motivation you need to get out of bed in the morning.

Unfortunately, sometimes things have to come to an end. As I mentioned earlier, my cancer diagnosis weeded out my friendship patch. And I guess that is okay, because for every friend I lost, I gained 2 more. I strongly believe that if they couldn't be supportive of me as I went though the most challenging event of my life, that they weren't really friends to begin with. And hey, if you haven't already noticed, I've got a lot to offer as a friend. I'm witty, silly, funny, and I get into a lot of trouble. I've got valuable life experience, I always tell it like it is, and I'm as honest as the day is long. I've also got great fashion sense, and I'm a little bit like Martha Stewart, so I'm always willing to help you pick out paint... So, if you can't handle that.... well it's okay, I've always got Duke. It's not for everyone. We all have things to offer to those that want to be our friends, in sunny weather, and rainy weather.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Unruly Is Definitely The Name Of The Game

For the better part of my adult life, I have envied my cousin's beautiful curly hair. (Although, I'm sure she's reading this post and saying, "WHAT?") I can't explain it other than to say we always want what we don't have. Pre-cancer, my hair was poker straight, with intermittent bursts of waves that were never strategic. Frankly, I never had to fight with it to get the poker straight hair; it was just straight. Ironically, when I did try to curl it, the curl fell right out.

I remember sitting in the chair at the salon with my hairdresser commenting over and over again about how curly my hair was. Could I dare to hope? Was it possible that cancer was going to give me the curly hair that I have always desired?  The answer is yes; that's exactly how this was going to go down.

I fought it, although I don't know why. Never mind, I do know why. Part of me just wanted to be as close to the "old me" as possible. The other part of me wanted to give my husband back the glamour girl straight hair that I have always had.

So for months, I struggled not only with the unruly curls on my head, but the voice in my head saying "You're not going to win this one!". Finally, I couldn't take it anymore, and when it was time for new extensions, I made the jump to curly, and I couldn't be happier. My husband is withholding his commentary, do I dare to hope that he'll fall in love with the wild curls that now cover my entire head? I will say that not spending 2 hours fighting with the curl every time I wash my hair is a lot easier.

Of course, I have to ponder the WHY? Why is my hair coming back curly? What is the motivation here? For me, curls give me spunk and spirit, not that I totally lacked either, but this is just like a turbo boost of spunk and spirit. When you're dealing with an unruly body, you might as well have the hair to match, right? And I have got it.

I won't bother to beat around the bush, I have an unruly body, once you've dumped toxins and radiation into yourself, why would you expect anything different? It makes sense now, but it's taken me a while to come to terms with this concept.

Two weeks ago I got a headache that made me positive that I was dying. I was seconds away from calling everyone I know and saying "This is it..., I'm off to join my grandparents and my basset hound among the clouds." I probably would have done that save for the problem of not being able to focus at all. Everything was blurry, thank God I was at home and not driving, because I would have been in big trouble (although the way people here drive, I would have fit right in). Since I haven't completely mastered "Siri" calling anyone and alarming them unnecessarily was out of the question.

Tests confirmed that I am not in fact in dying (some of you will breathe a sigh of relief, and some of you will probably say "Damn"). I have developed ocular migraines. So in addition to my good old run of the mill, boring migraines now I have blinding migraines. Seriously? Can I just say that I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy? I try not to focus on the fact that my body is different than the one that I had before. Most days I am pretty successful, but there are just some things that frankly make life extremely challenging.

As long as I don't get into pressurized situations, I do all right for myself, but more often than not, my brain does not function on command anymore. You know it's bad when someone asks you "How can I help you" and you have no answer for them because you honestly cannot remember why you're there, or why you called in the first place.

I have had a lot of concerns about my post-cancer career. I have had issues finding something that was a good fit for who I am now. I continue doing many of the things in our business that I did prior to and during treatment, but I really wanted something more. Thankfully, I've found a job that makes me extremely happy; I'm writing! The pay could be a whole lot better. However I can honestly say that I am writing, which is one of my true passions and earning money doing it. Furthermore, I am developing my writing skills.

I won't do it forever, and once I've completely mastered this, I do not mind telling you that I will probably start my own thing. I seem to have a knack for writing effective copy for websites, and since I have an unlimited amount of time to construct my thought, it's working out very well with my wonky brain. Some days, it takes longer than others to get the job done, but it does get done!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Should It Make Me Feel Better....

I'm  not really sure what I was thinking going into the conversation with my oncologist that my brain just isn't right.  Had I thought it through, maybe I would have just left the subject matter alone and gone on to attempt to address some of my "other" post-cancer treatment issues.  But, as those who are close to me are all too well aware, my brain (or lack thereof) is a constant source of frustration for me- and I do mean constant.  I beat myself up daily over my inability to remember something that I most certainly should have remembered, and I get insanely angry with myself when I loose my car in a parking lot, or forget why I've run to the grocery store.   Yesterday, I texted the neighbor and asked for what had to have been at least the 25th time, "Is my garage door down?" (God love that kid... there is a special place in Heaven for a neighbor who tolerates such nonsense....)  It puzzles me to no end that 10 minutes after pulling out of the driveway- I cannot recall seeing the door go down- and we even had it painted blue to make it more memorable.  And these are just the day to day issues that really make me question if perhaps I've got early onset dementia.

So, I decided that as long as I was going to spend $60.00 to see the oncologist, I might as well get something from it- and this time I was not willing to accept the canned "It will get better" response that I usually get.  I inquired about this topic right after finishing radiation, and was told that it was way too early for me to expect that my brain would be "normal", and again several months later when I was feeling that my brain was somewhat better, but still not right.   Now, more than a year after finishing chemo, I really think it's time to face the cold hard fact:  my brain is not normal, and probably never will be again.  (I know what you're thinking- it wasn't normal to begin with.  And that is a true statement.  However, this is something else entirely.)

It's a good thing that I wrote down what she said, because otherwise, the $60.00 would have been wasted.  It would seem that recently there has been a tremendous amount of research done on "cognitive impairment" otherwise known as "chemo brain" or "chemo fog"  following cancer treatment.  Should it make me feel better that a bunch of scientists have a name for a problem that causes me to leave the refrigerator door open for 15 minutes, or the problem that causes me to completely forget what I'm doing? It doesn't make me feel one bit better, because you guessed it- there is no cure.  (The story of my life, right?)

Cognitive impairment can last, and last, and last and is extremely common in patients who have had chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer (and a few other kinds of cancer which I did not write down, so as you might have already guessed, I have forgotten), and even more common in patients who received chemo in dense doses, and especially chemo in the taxane family (yep, those both apply to me).  Even more common is for patients who have had radiation to the neck, to suffer long term cognitive issues.... yep, that was me too!  Unfortunately for me, stress is also a factor.  Apparently, the list of things that stress is bad for, just keeps growing.  (That is a subject matter for a different day!)

I was on the edge of my chair waiting to hear some good news.  I did not want to hear that it has been studied in patients who have complained of  the inability to concentrate, learn new things, or even comprehend things that were easily comprehend-able prior to treatment as much as 10 years after treatment had ended.  (10 years?  Are you friggen' kidding me?  I will be so lost in 10 years, I won't even be able to find my way home.)  I wanted to hear that there was some magic solution, that there was hope for me- but if there is hope for me, my oncologist is not aware of it.  I walked out of there cursing that I could not believe that we had just paid someone to take my brain away.... Really?  I want a refund.  I might have to figure out a way to tell my husband that we can NEVER move because there is a very good chance that I won't remember doing so, and will be attempting to get into the garage of the old house....

Of course, I came home with my little notebook (yes, the one that goes everywhere I go- when I don't forget it, or lose it) and did some research of my own.  I was grasping at straws and looking for some glimmer of hope that someone, somewhere had some miracle solution to my cognitive impairment.  I won't bore you all with the details, but I found nothing that made me feel any better about my situation.  It does not make me feel better that I'm not alone in this issue (because let's face it, being in the company of a bunch of other people who can't remember anything.... Right?)

So, what does this mean for all of you that are close to me?  How does it affect you?  Well, that's an excellent question.  I might forget your birthday, despite the fact that it's written on my calendar (some days, I forget I have a calendar), and I might start having conversations with you, that I forget that I'm having....  It does not mean that I do not love you to the moon and back... Love is the one thing that I definitely seem to remember.  And just in case you're wondering, if I'm not so fond of you, well, that I remember too....