Thursday, May 26, 2011

I'm Not as Crazy as it Seems...

Really. But reading this latest column, you might not know that:

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Last week, my husband, Jay, and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary. I’m not saying the last 15 years have always been easy—but I do know how good I have it. My husband is a patient, funny, not-easily-flustered soul. Which is exactly the kind of man I need. This may not come as a surprise to longtime readers, but it’s occurred to me once or twice that I may not be the easiest person to be married to.

Earlier this month, for instance, Jay took our sons “up north” for the fishing opener. Big weekend, that one. Takes a lot of planning. A lot of stringing rods and assessing tackle and packing strategically for cold May mornings. It takes lining the boat up just right to get it on the hitch, and making sure the life vests are sized correctly for growing boys.

At our house, this process takes days. Jay is one of those super organized people who likes to make sure everything is ready well in advance. (We differ in this way. A typical date night at our house, for example, includes Jay waiting in the driver’s seat of the car three minutes before I run out the front door, shoes in one hand, make-up bag in the other.)

True to form, 24 hours before Jay and the boys are to leave for the fishing opener, the truck is packed like a 500-piece puzzle. The boat is hitched. The trailer lights are checked. All that’s left to do is jump in and drive.

The truck, I should point out, is a new development. After years of sharing a single car with me, Jay recently became the owner of his dad’s old 2000 Ford Ranger. It’s one of those trucks with a small, extended cab and those little side seats in the back.

Anyway. It’s Saturday morning—minutes before liftoff. The kids are finishing breakfast. The fish are calling. This is when I decide to tell my husband what I’ve been thinking since I woke up: That I’m worried about our sons riding five hours one way in those tiny seats. That it can’t possibly be safe. That they only have lap belts, right? Lap belts! That, clearly, I won’t be able to rest the whole time they’re gone because I’ll be so worried.

To which Jay replies, “It will be fine, Jen.”

So I say it all again, only I rearrange the sentences to make it sound like a new argument… and add the part about taking our CR-V instead. My husband runs his hand through his hair and says, slowly, “Why didn’t you say something earlier?”

In an effort to bulk up my case, I Google for backup and find a 2002 JAMA study: “Children riding in the rear seat of compact extended cab pickup trucks were nearly five times more likely to suffer injury during a crash compared to children riding in the rear seat of other vehicles,” I read aloud. “We encourage families who own them to avoid transporting children in them and to find other forms of transportation."

I look up meaningfully at my husband. “See?” I say. “I’m not crazy.”

He shakes his head, sighs and walks outside. Lowers the tailgate and begins unloading fishing rods and buckets and coolers. Changes the hitch. Tests the trailer. And, I’m guessing, calls me 75 nasty names in his head—give or take.

But not a single harsh word to my face. And when he finally loads the kids into the CR-V, and I hug him and say, “Thank you for doing this”—he hugs me back and says, “You’re welcome.”

Of course, marriage isn’t one-sided. Which is why, all weekend long, every time Jay called me from the boat with his latest fish story—like the 14-pound northern he couldn’t fit his hands around—I did my part, too. I acted like it was the most thrilling thing I’d heard all day—all week, even. And I meant it.

Jenny Rand is Done With Chemo!

...and this is what she has to say about the experience, from my 5/18 Jen's World:

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In February, I told you all about my friend Jenny Rand. I told you about her crazy sense of humor, about her four fabulous kiddos... and about her breast cancer. It's after columns like that one that I'm reminded what fabulous reader-friends I have. You may have never met Jenny Rand, but she touched your hearts. When I saw you at the dentist office, you asked how she was doing. At the bank, you told me you were praying for her. At the gym, you asked if you could help. It's instances like these—and more like them—that tell me this is one of those columns that deserves a follow-up.

When I sat down to write about Jenny again, though, I fell short. I know her chemotherapy schedule. I know when her “off week” falls and when her good days come around. But I don't know what it's like to have breast cancer. I could tell you what Jenny has said about losing her hair (“it sucks”) or how she's never felt more loved in her life (“best part”). But it's not the same coming from me.

Then, last week, on the night before her final chemotherapy appointment, Rand wrote an honest and heartfelt journal entry on her CaringBridge page. She’s given me the go-ahead to share her words—in the excerpt below—with you:

I struggle with all the things this disease has taken from me. … It took my hair, and my eyelashes, and my eyebrows. It took all the hair out of my nose, so my nose is constantly running. It is taking my fingernails and my toenails (no cute sandals for ME this summer!). It is sapping my strength and stripping my energy. It has taken my chest, and soon, who knows how much more of me with the hysterectomy or whatever else [my doctors] decide will be best.

I have to admit, I worry about feeling like an 'it'. Who will I be with all of these parts of me gone? I hope that I will just be, well... ME. I am still me. I am a little tired, and I am a little battered. My heart is still the same. I am still wickedly inappropriate most of the time. I am still my kids’ mom, Mike’s wife, Tom and Sue's daughter. I still love to laugh. I still love my children and adore my husband. I don’t LOOK the same—some days I don’t FEEL the same—but I hope that I am still the same where it matters: my heart, my soul, my faith, my love.

Yes, cancer has taken many, many things from me. Perhaps most importantly, it took my innocence. It took my invincibility. But it didn’t take my children’s mom. It didn’t take me from my husband.

All of the things that cancer took might seem unimportant. And, all things told, [they] might not be important one at a time. Throwing them all in at once, though? Along with the diagnosis and the treatment and the chaos that it’s thrown into our lives? It got, and still gets, overwhelming. Sometimes, I do forget to pull it apart into smaller parts and deal with it all that way. Today, I can tackle the rashes. Tomorrow, I will try to deal with the actual treatment. Friday, I can minimize the bone pain. Saturday, I plan on LIVING for [my daughter’s] fourth birthday! I just forget to take it one day, one problem—or, some days, one minute—at a time. On these days, throw in one other stressful situation, and I tend to fall apart.

Tomorrow, my 44th birthday, I will get to say goodbye to chemo—and I hope I will get to say hello, again, to myself. The one I used to know. The one that is still inside here somewhere. Tomorrow, my 44th birthday, I will welcome LIFE back in my life.

Monday, May 9, 2011


Pretty cool. A book I wrote a couple years ago -- 50 Ways to Calm Your Fussy Baby -- is now for sale as an eBook. Want to see it? You can check out the cover (which features the baby version of my now 9-year-old) HERE.

It's pretty exciting that in addition to the 200 or so print copies I still have in my closet, 50 Ways to Calm Your Fussy Baby is now also available for purchase on Kindle devices and Kindle apps for iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, PC, Mac, Blackberry, and Android-based devices.

Being married to a tech-savvy designer has its perks... :)

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day

Had a great Mother's Day with Jay and the kiddos today. I had to make my own breakfast in bed (Cocoa Krispies, if you must know), but it was followed by a lovely afternoon bluff hike and picnic at Whitewater State Park. Such a great place. We even took pictures, but in order to post them, I'd have to wake Jay to ask him where the card reader is. And then I'd lose my Queen of the Day status pretty quickly.

Another time.

So, the highlight of the day was when the 11-year-old held my hand in the mall. (!!) And when the 9-year-old came running in the house to get his baseball glove while playing with neighbor friends, and spontaneously yelled, "Happy Mother's Day!" on his way up the stairs.

Also, when we did not fall to our deaths on those wickedly scary bluffs at Whitewater.

It's the little things.

Today, I was loved. Last week, not so much. You can read about THAT in last week's Jen's World.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Reason #137 I love my 9-year-old

I was just paging through notes I'd taken and tucked into my "writing life" folder. Doing a little spring cleaning. Looking for inspiration. I found this, a line-by-line account of a conversation I'd had with Bergen a few years ago. He must've been five.

Me: I ran my first race when I was pregnant with you.

Bergen: That's bad, right?

Me: No, it was ok. I was just newly pregnant – and you turned out ok, right?

Bergen: No.

Me: How are you not ok?

Bergen: I'm always thirsty.