Thursday, September 20, 2012

Cancer’s not Funny – but My Mother is

Sometimes we’ve got to head over to the Powder Room to let the tears spill over.  And today’s one of those times, because, well, my mother is dying.

Correction, I can hear her saying.  I’m living.  A pragmatist at heart, my mom is well aware she’s facing an uphill battle that gets steeper with every passing moment.  But she’s quick to remind us she’s still here.  She’s living with Cancer – it’s a part of her; but she refuses to be defined by it.

I spent last week tending to my mama’s needs in body and spirit.  And I’m not quite certain I ever gave her enough credit for being the rock star she is. She’s handling this poignant chapter of her life with a graceful spirit and a steely will.  I attribute this to her unyielding faith, her gratitude for all she’s accomplished and been given, her fierce independent nature, and her sheer stubbornness. 

Cancer might just win the battle, but it’s losing the war.

Walking alongside my mother as she’s journeyed through Cancer has molded me in ways I didn’t exactly expect.  I’ve learned that well-meaning doctors sometimes have a hard time giving it to you straight.  That nurses (especially hospice nurses) are a different breed of people altogether – angels walking on earth.  That dying from Cancer can breathe new life into the days you’ve got left.  And that I had what it took to cope with bearing witness to my mother’s suffering without losing it – most days.

In the midst of my mother’s new limitations, I was given a gift – to care for her in the most intimate ways.  Just as she did for me when I was helpless.  I bathed her, prepared her meals – what she could eat, that is – changed her linens, held her hand, listened to her, prayed with her, cried with her, laughed with her.  I understand now the beauty of the circle of life, and while it was hard for me to leave my own children to care for my mother on the other coast, I hope they learned that this is how we care for family.

In the name of keeping it real, I should also mention I got annoyed with my mom a few times.  Like I said – her mind is still strong, and she barked orders at me a time or two when I was already a little frazzled.  But that was OK - she's earned the right to be a little cranky.  And I forgave myself for the natural mother /daughter tension that creeps up every now and again.  It made things seem normal - but forgiveness came quickly. Grudges seem a little silly these days.

I came to understand that while my mom can’t control what’s happening to her body – she still wants to control all that she can.  She wants honesty.  Answers.  She wants to make decisions on her own behalf, and she doesn’t want us to stop living our own lives waiting for hers to end.  She says that this is perhaps the final lesson she can teach us, to die with dignity, acceptance and character.  This is a woman who after all, suffered through 5 rounds of chemo - two from which she had toxic reactions that made her sicker than I want to tell you about - then bounced back enough to tackle the water-slide at Disney World.  (And let’s not forget humor.  She really loved when her best friend told my mother in all her post-chemo-bald-headed glory , “Well, Karen, we’re going to leave and get out of your hair now.)

And when my friend came to pick me up to take me to the airport, my mom took one look at the tears welling in my eyes, looked square into them and said, “Now scram.  I need to get some rest.” 

We all laughed.   And cried some more.  She is after all, my mom, and she still wants to make it OK for me, to blunt my pain.  And I’m just grateful for every day she’s here, teaching me, inspiring me, and even driving me a little crazy every now and again.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Communication in Marriage: How about an App for that?


To:  Diane 
From:  Tony

did you take care of that rsvp?

From:  Diane  
To:  Tony

Hi, honey!  How’s your day going?  I’m good – thanks for asking!  Stacked with the usual round of posts, articles, blogs and web content, and I dropped off the kids to school in tears after one of them told me I was the meanest mom ever.  But overall, I'm good!

Anyway – no, I hadn’t taken care of the RSVP.  But I’ll do it right now.  Have a great day!

(That’s our nickname for each other. Remember?  From Seinfeld?  Those were the days, watching TV on Thursday nights for three blissful hours back in the days before our "babies" took over the roost.  And I'd never go back.   But I digress!)

So you get the gist of the problem here.  Yes – the word count in my response email weighs in by just a few more than my husband’s.  Even in the beginning my beloved warned me he didn't, "give good phone," and I admit, he doesn’t like email much better.  To him, such media is simply a delivery system for critical information – just the facts, ma’am.  For me, they’re opportunities to connect.  Talk.  Share. 

Guys – are you laughing?  Ladies – can you relate?  (Not to be sexist.  It’s just that I find most women yearn for a bit more conversation then their beaus.)

After reading my response, my hubby didn’t get mad per se, but he did gather the men folk in his office to dissect our communication conundrum.  And, devoted problem solvers, they devised what is sure to be the next big buzz in technology – an APP that tailors email communication between spouses automatically.  Brilliant! (I really do love that guy!)

So, for example, the APP would add a bit more text to my husband’s original email.  Something like this, Hi, honey – how’s your day going?  By the way – LOVED your curried chicken last night – thanks!  Hey - did you get a chance to send in the RSVP?  Thanks.  I love you, and hey, let me manage homework tonight.   You get the idea.

Conversely, the APP would remove some of my wording.  You know – just deliver the facts.  That’s all my hubby really wants to know.  So the APP would parse my text to read, Hi – didn’t get to it; but I will.  Oh – and I’m open to the idea of sex later.

Now that would be an email my husband would love.  Do you think he’d even need an APP to respond to that one properly??

What about you?  Would you buy the APP?  And what would you name it?  Share your ideas with me!

Timeless Wisdom:  "A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver."  Proverbs 25:11

Monday, August 6, 2012

Dove’s “Real Beauty” Campaign: Girl Power for the Rest of us

They’re sprinkled in my hair like jimmies on an ice cream cone.  Wiry, gray hairs - just a smattering for now.  And you know what they’re telling me?  (No - not that I'm getting old!)

Actually I've decided those strands of salt signal that I've finally arrived.  I wouldn’t turn back the clock to my smooth, taut, purely brunette twenties.  I’m happy with who I am and where I’m heading.  I welcomed a sweet dose of new found confidence when I turned 40 – and it’s been a gift that’s kept giving.  Crow’s feet, laugh lines, squishy-back-fat and all – I’m loving life and just getting started.  Really!

So I don’t mind the gray hair.  Popular wisdom says it makes men look distinguished and sexy.  I say it makes women look wise and accomplished.  There!

So instead of washing that gray right out of my hair, I’m using Dove shampoo to keep my silver stylin'.  I guess you could say I’m a marketer’s dream, because I bought hook, line and sinker into their “Real Beauty” campaign.  You've seen the ads featuring voluptuous, smiling models.  It's likely they don't decline the frosty cupcakes at their kids' birthday parties.  You go, girls.

I’m not being paid to show my affection for Dove products - I'm truly smitten with the message and I happen to like their stuff.  But I love their campaign because most of the real women I know aren’t uber thin (OK - true confessions; I've never had to struggle much with my weight - but trust me when I say skinny girls are NOT exempt from body-bashing) or flawlessly made up or perfectly coiffed hair.  And I say we embrace that.  Perfect is over-rated.  Plus – my husband clued me in on a little secret.  Ready?  

What most men really dig is confidence.  It isn’t always easy to come by when so much of what we see and hear tells us we’re just not quite enough.

And I don’t know about you – but I’ve got two young daughters who are bombarded with images of the skinny ideal every day.  Part of becoming a woman is finding fault with their bodies, and I want to usher them into womanhood stacked with confidence – because they’re going to need it.

It might be easy for Beyonce (who is perfectly curved, God love her) to proclaim that girls run the world, but most of us mere mortal women struggle to achieve such rock solid empowerment.  I’m not talking about the stiletto-wielding femme-fatale sort of confidence – but one that showcases an empowered humility, generosity and grace. That’s real beauty.  Right, Dove?

So I say, rock what you’ve got.  Stay healthy, embrace life, and pursue your passions.  Stave off the negative voices in your head and utter sweet nothings to yourself.  Smile.  Give compliments - and receive them - freely.  Learn what you can from constructive feedback and let go of criticism from others.   Take joy in the little things, like when your delicious, smiling 6-year-old tells you you're the prettiest mommy on the planet.

That’s girl power for the rest of us.  (Oh - and go tell the ladies in your life about Dove!)

Enough about me - I want to know what's on your mind.  Chime in with your comments and tell me - what's your version of real girl power?  And for the gentlemen politely entering the Powder Room - what say you?  Do you want to share a little secret about what men really think? 

Saturday, March 3, 2012

10-Folder Pile up: Paperwork is my Nemesis

They’re stacking up again.  The piles.  Do you have them at your house?  Receipts, kids’ graded papers, overdue library notices, bills, coupons, meeting notes.  And I think I would rather eat glass then file it all.

Make that – I’d rather write, take a run, play "Go Fish" with me wee one, or do just about anything then file paperwork.  Maybe even clean the toilets.  OK – that might be overstating it.

In any event, this is an area of my life I haven’t yet mastered.  My penchant for piles has gotten me in plenty of trouble.   But it’s not like my habits have landed me on the latest episode of TLC’s, Hoarding.  It’s just that, well, the zillion pieces of paper that find their way into my house pile up.  Fast.

And then I get overwhelmed.  And suddenly, something else requires my immediate attention.  Such as cleaning the toilets.  

This problem with piles creates, er, some tension in my marriage.  I married a guy who has a serious appreciation for bare counter-tops.  I'm sure on some subliminal level I needed someone who would help me stay on track.  I’m cool with a little clutter, creative person that I am.  I decided I needed to do something. 

So I called in an expert.  In this case, one of my closest friends.  She’s the queen of organization, and even though  I’d have no problem sharing a dressing room with her, baring my jiggling underarms – I admit the thought of her seeing my littered office made me nervous. Like showing a Victoria's Secret model my underwear drawer.  I can't compete!

But like two sisters in a dressing room, my sweet pal graciously ignored my obvious flaws, and together, we sat crossed-legged as she created my brand new easy-to-maintain filing system.  (She swears!) She brought labeled red files and lunch, and we giggled and talked as we sifted piles, me baring my soul.  I thought it was hilarious when she asked which way I preferred my files to face.  Um, Jen, those things might keep you up at night, God love you, but I’m thrilled they're not just sticking out from every crevice in and around my desk.  Cleaning it all up felt so. good.

Hubby, I think we’re going to make it. 

It wasn’t nearly as bad as eating glass. Or cleaning toilets. 

As for maintaining my brand spanking new files, I was a bit anxious when Jen left me alone with them, like a mother with a new baby.  I can do this, I coached myself.  But they better not keep me up at night!   

What about you?  Do you love paperwork, or hate it?  Got any tips to share or stories to tell?  Chime in.  Make a comment, and make my day.  (If you want Jen’s number, I’m willing to share her.  She has her own business, The Space of Life, where she helps the waywardly disorganized contemplate exactly where paper clips are stored, or why they don't own paper clips in the first place.)