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How Do I Find You?

My mother used to say some things that were interesting when she told them to me as a child, but now, after her passing nearly a decade ago, I find them to be perceptive beyond belief. One of her favorite axioms was, “Most of life is boring.” She would usually say this in response to one of us kids declaring our boredom. She was unphased. “It’s life,” she’d say. “Only boring people get bored. Learn to entertain yourself, instead of relying on others to do it for you.”

My mother was right. So much of life is wash, rinse, repeat.

I get up, drag myself out of bed, and fumble my way to the shower. I go through my days doing mostly stuff that pertains to making sure my kids and I have a roof over our heads, food in the fridge, electricity and heat, and a vehicle to get us to and fro. My weekend activities don’t vary much. I’m a bit of a cyclist and spend lots of time out on my bike. I tend to go to the same places to eat and socialize. I have fun, but it isn’t a constantly changing menu of activities and events.

Today, or rather, yesterday, I got up and decided I would drive my fancy new-to-me car to a small trendy town nearby and have breakfast at a lovely little place that is always packed and has delicious, melt-in-your-mouth menu items. I went alone. I usually go alone. I like to go alone. I’m really okay with this most of the time, but lately, maybe due to the car wreck with my kid, maybe due to the fact that everyone else around me seems to be having success in the relational field, maybe because I’m just tired of being alone all.the.time. Most of the time I don’t mind being alone, but lately I’ve stopped going out and doing things, because I was getting tired of doing the alone thing. Today, I didn’t care. I wanted to have breakfast at a nice place. I wanted to drive in my car. I didn’t necessarily want to have to be responsible for holding up my end of a conversation, but I somehow, strangely wanted to immerse myself in a crowd of people and noise, and fragrances and life. So, I went out to breakfast.

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Anything But Courageous

I didn’t realize how much I was dreading today until today happened. I have a number of friends who are teachers. They are pretty distressed after the events in CT. They all know, we all know, it could happen to any school. I also have school age children. We all know or fear it could happen to any of our children. As I headed of to work, I recognized a deep sense of malaise within me. I felt tired. Weary of the evil and darkness. Weary.

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Same Song, Second Verse Same As The First…Other Side

I must confess. I have not been up late at night…much…lately. I’ve been sleeping very well and feeling good when I wake up the next day. Never mind that I was sick for two weeks with food poisoning. My bills are paid. There is food in my cupboards. And there’s a wee little bit to offset the unexpected thing that might come up. It is amazing how having a little extra cash in the bank and a car that is reliable changes one’s outlook on life. It’s also pretty incredible how that makes it easier to sleep. It’s been a good month. Or rather, a good couple of weeks. I can’t complain. And I won’t start now, even though, life has turned on the proverbial dime for me, once again. Read the rest of this entry

Tucson Summer in the Pacific Northwest

Well, you know how this goes, don’t you? We complain because the weather isn’t warm enough. It’s June, by God, and still raining! Many in the Pacific Northwest are ready to pack up and move elsewhere where they might be guaranteed more than three days of sun this summer. I am not one of those people, though, I do live in the Pacific Northwest…but…just barely.

I, on the other hand, complain (well, I hope not too much and not in a negative way) about staying up late at night because of the rain. I don’t mind the rain, really. I don’t even mind staying up late at night, really, except that I know that it is not really the best thing to go without sleep. Especially for one, such as I am, who is attempting to recover from a brief (yes, six months was brief, I have friends who have lived to tell of battles lasting 13 years) skirmish with cancer. Please ladies, don’t skip the mammo’s. Anyway, they tell me that sleep is important when you are healing, so I suppose, it frustrates me when I cannot sleep for that reason.

But otherwise, being awake late at night is really the best time to blog.

I have no interruptions. I have no guilt about which people in my life I am neglecting as the result of my writing. It just kind of works.

But, the rain is gone, and now I have yet another reason to be awake. You probably saw this coming. Yep.

It’s heating up here in the Pacific Northwest and in my particular area, the air conditioning kicked on at 8:00 this morning. My bedroom, being upstairs with fully half of the entire wall (or more) glass and being the only room on the south-facing end of our home, gets a tad bit warm.

I couldn’t sleep because I was hungry. I have no idea why I was so hungry. I just was. I’m not prone to midnight snacking at all so the fact that I actually got up out of bed to get a bowl of Life cereal and eat it was pretty unusual. After eating as quietly as I could (the entire upstairs opens up to our living/dining/kitchen area in the form of a balcony and I didn’t want to wake anyone), I drug myself up the stairs. The house was deliciously cool and I was tempted to grab my black velour blanket from my bed and curl up on the couch downstairs. I walked into my room and it was like I’d entered Tucson in the middle of the summer. Wow! Outside my door, deliciously cool. Inside my bedroom door, Tucson summer. Something is wrong here.

Then I remembered about the glass windows which I usually don’t pull the shade down on, and the sun which beats in my bedroom all day long, and the fact that I’m upstairs and heat rises. I should have seen this coming.

I can fix all that for tomorrow night…but for now? Well, for now, I can just add one more thing to the list of things that keep me up all night.

Tucson summers right here in the Pacific Northwest.

P.S. I actually spent a summer in Tucson. That’s it, just a summer. From April to September the year my oldest daughter was four and a half months old. She’s turning 22 this year, so that was a while ago, and, yes, I am old…but not infirm by any means. Back then, we lived in an apartment complex and our 2 bedroom/2 bath apartment rented for $250 a month. It was the only time during my then married life that I didn’t work and I stayed home with my child. Our complex was built around a swimming pool. It was the perfect arrangement. The worst part of the deal was packing the not-yet-walking child down the stairs with the laundry and the detergent to the laundry room to do the laundry. That was truly awkward. Since then, if/when I ever rented, I insisted on space for a washer/dryer in the unit. Other than that one little laundry thing, I truly loved Tucson in the summer.

Endurance and Healing

Most nights, lately, I’ve been sleeping. I’ve been sleeping far more than usual. Now that my radiation treatments are done, I’m feeling the full effects of my body’s efforts to heal. I find I can do one thing a day, and that’s about it, before my energy dissipates. A full night of sleep, beginning at around 8:00 in the evening, and a mid-afternoon nap are the norm these days.

Tonight is not the norm.

I stayed up and watched a movie, Limitless, which was disturbing to me. Loads of violence. Of course, the movie also deals with addiction to a substance, in this case a mysterious pill that provides powers of mental clarity far beyond the average individual’s ability to think and reason. The drug, in the movie, was unknown, illegal, and highly sought after. The problem? It was instantaneously addicting and, once addicted, to stop taking the drug resulted in certain death. This created an insane demand for the remaining limited supply of pills. Thus the violence. Thus the disturbia.

I’ve tossed and turned all night. I’ve slept only fitfully and my sleep has been fraught with images from the movie. I know that just as dawn creeps up over the horizon, just as my neighbor with the fake boobs and hair weave gets up to let her noisy, yippy, little dogs out for a bathroom break while she lights up her morning smoke, just as this small little rural berg begins to hum with the activity of a new day and my youngest is waking from her slumber, my body will finally give in to some much needed shut-eye. I’m glad I have no appointments and no work obligations.

On the upside, this is the first sleepless night in forever that I haven’t been up worrying about finances. In the month since I last struggled to sleep through the night, some really wonderful things happened. I record them here, as a statement of personal gratitude and celebration and because it is something to do besides the ineffective tossing and turning, trying to block the violent images of that movie from my psyche. Also, if there happened to be a worried, frightened soul out there wondering how they are possibly going to make it, maybe this post will provide some encouragement to just keep on plugging, because, as they say, “This too shall pass.”

Most recently, I’ve been whining about the way my tenants left my old house. Thanks to a very helpful and kind group of friends, we were able to get rid of most of the salvageable stuff, to bag up the garbage and contain the bags to the garage until the time I could actually afford to rent a dumpster to dump it all into. While I was over there on one of my many trips to clean up or monitor the place, I dug out some plants from the yard. The place is completely overgrown with plants, and I figure, since I put thousands into that yard, I should take a few of my favorites with me. I have no yard in my new digs, but I do have loads of decking and driveway space that begs to be adorned with tastefully arranged containers of plants. I don’t believe the plants I dug up and carted over, using The Hesitant Boyfriend’s truck, will even be missed. Further, they really brightened up the new place. I think only two plants didn’t make it. The rest seem to be doing fine. As long as I can have a bit of nature and beauty around me, I can find the strength to keep on pushing forward.

In the last month, my bankruptcy discharge letter arrived, thus freeing me from a mountain of debt that I struggled for the last five years to pay on, all the while cutting back on groceries and other much needed things for the kids. I can now begin to rebuild my credit and hack away at the student loan debt (not discharged) and the medical bills which were incurred after I filed.

The Evil Ex and I will have a hearing in a couple of weeks to address the child support he doesn’t want to pay to help with our daughter’s medical expenses. I seriously do not think I will have any luck there, but requesting a hearing, delayed the reduction of child support (a loss of $200 of income each month). While this reduction may be retroactive, I think I’ll be okay, for a couple of reasons. The first is that I’ve diligently worked to eliminate any unnecessary expenses from our budget. I’ve easily shaved more than the two hundred I will be losing and that’s a great thing. At the same time, The Hesitant Boyfriend got some steady work. Though it was frighteningly tight for a while there when I had to help him with his bills before he got paid, he is getting paid these days and the extra he is bringing in really helps.

We aren’t out of the woods entirely financially, yet. I have a further reduction in child support coming because The Good Ex gets to begin paying our daughter directly instead of paying me. Let’s hope he actually does this, because insurance to keep her driving is astronomical. She needs to drive in order to work, so I can’t exactly drop her from the insurance policy. Further, my student loan payments start back up again next month; another expense.

A few months ago, I was also whining about the fact that my rather large tax return was taken by the BK court. To make this money up for myself, I was able to land some part time summer work which will allow me to start up a small emergency savings, which, in spite of everything I hope to be able to add to each month. This is a much different place than I was in even six weeks ago. Nothing destroys the spirit quite like ongoing financial struggle. Now that things are more hopeful for me in this area, I am sleeping better and my spirits are improving as a result.

Bankruptcy can be embarrassing and stressful. Many people don’t talk openly about it, but the folks who shared their stories have given me hope. Every single one of them told me things will get better. Things are already getting better.

On a whim, I decided to go car shopping. I drive an older SUV and I definitely need to look at getting something more fuel efficient. I haven’t been car shopping in almost a decade and I didn’t do a great job of it then, so I had no idea what to expect. I wasn’t seriously expecting to find a car and actually purchase it, but going through the process would give me a bit of a starting point. After all, I wanted to know exactly what I’d be up against in terms of interest rates, expected down payment, and monthly payments.

A cute little 2001 VW New Beetle with 50,000 miles caught my eye, so I arranged for a test drive. It’s definitely a fun car to drive and it had a moonroof. I fell in love right away. I’m a horrible negotiator and I knew I probably wasn’t going to buy this car, or even be approved for the financing, so I didn’t really haggle much on price. We got into the process right away. I told them what I wanted my monthly payment to be and so on. If you’ve ever purchased a car from a dealer, you know how this goes. You look. You drive. You talk. You fill out paperwork, then you wait. When they finally came out to me to tell me “what they could do” they gave me an offer that included cash out of pocket that was impossible, a monthly payment that was twice the amount I told them I was comfortable with, and an interest rate of 29%. I laughed when they handed it to me. Then they offered me another deal on a 2010 Ford Focus that was $5,000 more than the Beetle I wanted to buy. Now, this is where I do not understand car sales. They were able to offer me a better out of pocket, much lower monthly payment, and a lower interest rate on the Focus. How can they do that on the more expensive car where their risk is greater? I don’t get it. In the end, the interest rate was still 17.5%, and the car was the most uncomfortable thing I’ve ever driven next to an old Ford Taurus I once had. I haven’t made a car payment in almost four years, and while I’d consider payments to rebuild my credit, I’m certainly not going to do this for an interest rate of 17% on a car I don’t even like. Obviously, I shook hands, thanked them for their time, and consideration and went on my way. I got the information I needed anyway.

I went home, did a quick Internet search on repairing credit after bankruptcy and on buying a used car after bankruptcy. It turns out that while purchasing a used car is a common way to rebuild one’s credit, the interests rates on the deal will be really high. One source suggested finding a car you like with a payment you can handle. Accept the rotten interest rate and make every payment on time for a year. After a year, refinance the vehicle for a lower interest rate. That sounds like a possible plan, eventually, though I’m in no hurry to rush right out and begin making payments. I want to get through these next few months first, get some money socked away in savings, and then see.

Another source suggested this plan for rebuilding credit after filing Chapter 7. Obtain a credit card with a limit of $300. Use it to buy stuff like gas or things you need anyway. Take the money you would normally spend on those items and use it to pay off the credit card in full every month. Do this for six months, then get a credit card or two with higher limits of about $1,000. Spend very little on these cards and pay them all off every month. This source emphasized staying within budget and not carrying a balance on any of the cards. After a year, your credit will have improved enough to be able to negotiate a better interest rate on a car.

This second plan sounded much safer to me. I’ve spent the last five years living on a cash only basis with no credit cards. I’m loathe to go out and rack up debt, except for the very express purpose of paying it off monthly, so I can rebuild my credit scores. It just so happened that a credit card offer came in the mail. No annual fees and no interest rate until next year. I applied and was approved. I just made the first payment to pay the entire balance, and it’s two weeks before the due date. It just feels good to be able to do that and not worry.

The first part of this year was horrible for me and many people I know. In tough times, I’ve always been fairly resilient and I try to stay hopeful. The last several months, however, have been some of the most difficult I’ve faced. We all know that nothing is permanent, even bad times. I was beginning to wonder. If you are beginning to worry and wondering if things will ever get better let me encourage you to just keep plodding. Survive today. Before you know it, a month or two has passed and things might look much better. It might be a long time before things improve, you might have to make some sacrifices and do things differently. You might just have to endure. Just don’t give up.

There are better days ahead.

Trashed House~My Payment For Trying To Do A Good Deed

I wonder, is it my payment for doing a good deed or is it just that somewhere along the line, maybe when I was a kid, (I was a really bratty kid and lied a lot to my parents) I earned up some really bad karma. Or maybe, it is that bad things, sometimes really bad things, happen to good people. I don’t know. My right wing fundamentalist evangelical Christian friends might say it is because I’m being punished by God for not attending church every week, tithing, and being a faithful servant. Well, as for not attending church, tithing and being faithful they’d be completely accurate. I’m just not sure that’s how God rolls though. I mean, think about it, when Jesus walked the earth he hung with some of the lowest of the low according to society and the religious elite of the day. Rahab, a harlot, was used to save some godly peeps and, well, I kinda think God tends to look past the mess in our lives right into our very inner being and that is where he deals with us on an individual basis. I think the outer stuff, the yuck that I am dealing with now, is just life. It is also the result of me being a naive person, when I should not have been. It is also the result of me simply making some very foolish choices. Hindsight is always 20/20.

But about the next bad thing that has happened in my life. The thing that makes me wonder what kind of evil karma I built up throughout my life only to have it be dumped out on me this year has to do with the rental. I’ve only alluded to it. Here’s most of the story.

Last year, I made the decision to go through bankruptcy (actually a smart decision given all the details which I will not disclose here). In the process, I decided to surrender my home. This was also a smart financial decision when you run the numbers, again, something I won’t bore you with here. This was not a case of me being angry at the bank for whatever reason. I just wanted to make a fresh start financially and the home was more financial and physical burden than I was going to be able to deal with. However, the entire process has ended up taking far longer than expected (over a year and counting). I knew it would take some time and I was not able to stay in the house and risk a move during the middle of the school year. I have three school age kids and my own career would not have been able to accommodate such a transition at such a time. I was getting legal heat from the Evil Ex and needed to make sure my daughter was enrolled in a good school and that she was doing well and liked it. I decided to move to a nearby town and in September we found a place to rent and settled it. And that, was going to be that…or so I thought.

I was approached by a friend….(you can see this coming, can’t you?)…who mentioned that her son and two friends were looking for a place to rent temporarily and would I be interested. Well, no, not really. I mean, I really had no desire to be a landlord or make the place a rental; I just wanted out. But this was a friend I have known and worked with for 14 years. Her kids and my kids grew up together, went to school together and our kids are now graduating together. This woman has impeccable character and is a top notch quality person. Her son is also. The friends came highly recommended. So, I did a bit of research, wrote up a rental agreement, we all signed it, they paid their move in money and I moved out. I left the place in pretty decent shape. It wasn’t perfect. I had some stuff in the garage still to move out, but the place was, for all intents and purposes, a clean and homey dwelling. The friends of the friend’s son turned out to be disastrous.

Things started being a problem almost right away. I’d drive by the place and see that it wasn’t being maintained, then the rent began to come in partial payments. Two months in and I was working on evicting them. Fortunately, they ended up getting out within the 30 days after being served the rental termination notice. Then I got another renter in, who was actually, at first, responsible and timely in her payments. She got some roommates to help share the rent and utility expenses and all was golden. That lasted about two months and things began falling apart. There were violations of the rental agreement, which I followed up and she attempted (though not satisfactorily) to remedy and I gave her a 30-day notice of termination of the rental agreement (we have a month-to-month). Rent was not paid completely last month and rent didn’t appear at all on the first. I went by to collect on the first, no response. I went by the next day. The house looks deserted, but the door is wide open. No answer when I ring the bell. I try contacting my tenant with no response. I drive by the house the next day, the door is closed, otherwise there is still no sign of life. The dog does not bark when I go to the door. This goes on for a week and I’m beginning to think they’ve abandoned the house. Finally, I get in touch with the tenant, over a week after the missed payment and the termination notice. She confirms that she received the notice. She also confirms that they have indeed abandoned the place, with the intent to come back for her stuff by the end of the month; the others have already gotten all their things out. In a phone conversation, I express my concern about the security of the home if no one is living there. She agrees that she will get her stuff moved out within the week and move the rest of her stuff to the garage. I gave her till the end of the month to get her stuff out of the garage. In exchange I get the possession of my home and I won’t go after her for the late rent. Her week to move her stuff ended yesterday. Today, after my radiation treatment, I went over to the house to check things out.

This is the scene that greeted me when I drove up to the home:

I just had a really bad feeling about this. I immediately texted my tenant asking about all the stuff and she actually texted back saying she’d had a garage sale and this was the leftovers. On the mattress, there is a sign that reads, “Free. Please take.”

This is what the living room looked like when I entered:

Those are the window blinds that were in great condition when I moved out…now all broken and scattered on the floor. The big black stain in the middle of the carpet was not there when I moved out. You can’t see it well from here, but there is also smoke damage on the fireplace brick. Nice. Here’s the other side of the living room:

It gets better, before we head back to the bedrooms, let’s check out the kitchen.

The back slider was left open. Check out the grass in the back yard. We left them a lawn mower. It sure looks like they made good use of it. Here are views of each side of the kitchen:

2They left the kitchen sink.

And some food for any guests that might stop by:

I just can’t fathom how people can operate like this. They were in violation of their rental agreement for trash being left around. I gave her the appropriate amount of time according to state law to correct the problem. An attempt was made, but it was nowhere near satisfactory. Look what they left behind in terms of trash:


The thing that really irks me about this is that for the entire time I was renting this house to both sets of tenants, I paid for the garbage service which included a recycling bin and a yard debris container. What kind of mentality is it that thinks that it is okay to live in squalor like this let alone leave it for someone else to pick up? But let’s just do a quick tour of the rest of the home. My skin is beginning to crawl and I’m glancing around for the rubber gloves and sanitizer.

Part of the rental agreement stipulated no smoking in the house or garage. Apparently, the rules don’t apply to these folks.

Those aren’t just carpet stains you see in that picture with the pillow in the corner. That is dog poop on the carpet.

Of course, no rental trashing by tenants is complete without some damage to the walls. This hole is about a foot long from top to bottom.

That wasn’t the only hole either, but it was definitely the largest one. In all there were three holes in walls, and a wall had been repainted a hideous purple-blue color. The wall was previously white. Other damage to the home included damage to lighting fixtures:

Broken glass on the floor:

The toilet looked a lot like the kitchen sink:
I guess they had a crappy experience living in my home. Here’s the genius work in the master bathroom:
I’m not sure you can make them out. The writing reads, “I am beautiful. I am a leader. I am an amazing mother and friend.” I’m thinking that explains a lot. She must have run out of Prozac.
Last but not least, the garage is the coup de grace:
These mattresses are as high as I am tall.
Yes, folks, this was the disaster that I walked into today after getting my tenants out. When I moved out all the lighting fixtures had just been replaced. Now they are all damaged and missing light bulbs. I had just had someone put new screens on every window a couple of years earlier, and only one window has a screen left. There are stains on every carpet, holes in walls and the yard alone will take weeks to clean up. There is damage to doors, the air vent grate has been kicked in and there is rotting food everywhere.
Upon returning home, and while uploading the photos, I did a quick Google search on landlord’s rights when tenants trash a house. Turns out, in most states, this is not a police matter, it is considered the risk one takes when renting. It becomes a civil matter. In my case, I know these people are unemployed and even if I did go to court and win (which I would), I wouldn’t see any of that money ever. I’d spend more than I’d be awarded just to get it back. Here’s another kicker: I have to do this clean out myself as I have absolutely no financial resources to pay someone to clean it up. The Hesitant Boyfriend’s long stretch of unemployment and even longer stretch till he gets paid for the work he started last month is straining my monthly budget beyond belief and it was already strained before I picked up the tab on his car payment and insurance this month. (Which he promptly decided to increase the cost of by getting into a fender bender with a Cadillac.) Add to this the fact that the 18 y.o., just got her license and her cost to be insured inflated my insurance bill to over $400 a month.
Yes, I am the poster child for the club “Smart Women Who Basically Make Idiot Choices In Every Aspect Of Their Lives”. Or maybe Some Divine Being mistook me for the Morton Salt Girl who is comfortable with the idea that when it rains it pours.
Which leads me back to the thought about karma vs. punishment vs. it’s just life. This all happens to be just great timing. The tenants are out of the house, but the house is completely trashed. Just making the house secure and sanitary so it isn’t a public health hazard is going to take some doing. I’m halfway through my radiation treatments and my energy is in limited supply as it is. Just as all this crap is hitting the proverbial fan of my life, The Hesitant Boyfriend and I ran headlong into a deal-breaker, that I just can’t get past. I’ve told him he needs to move out and get his Hesitant Stuff sorted out, because sorting it out in anger on me or my children is just not how I roll. All of this is just very, very, very unfortunate.
This afternoon as I looked upon the devastation that is my life right now, I turned to my son and said, “I am truly at the lowest point I’ve ever been in my life. It is worse, even, than when I had to call in help to clean out after the Evil Ex.” And yet I had no tears to cry. I could do nothing, but make sure the doors were closed and locked, all the electrical items unplugged, and walk back to my car and get in and drive away and try not to gag in the process. My brief search on Google helped me realize that while tenants can trash houses, and unhappy people who are unhappy tenants often do trash houses, my situation could have been so much worse. While this clean out is bad and I’m going to have to figure out a way to get it done quickly and on the cheap, it is basically a matter of dumping and cleaning. At least, I hope that is how it works out.
As I am up late documenting this damage and pondering the irony of this all, I strangely aware that while none of this is fun for me, I’m not exactly in a panic about any of it. It is kind of like I’m playing a game of Monopoly and I pulled the “Go Directly To Jail. Do Not Pass Go. Do Not Collect $200” card. I’m stuck in the Monopoly Jail of life right now, not able to move forward or improve my situation because I simply keep drawing the bad cards. It’s a season. It’s not forever. (I sooo have to tell myself that right now because there is that teeny voice that sometimes squeaks, “What if this NEVER changes?” or, worse, “What if things just keep getting worse?”)
In a nutshell, it can all be summed up in the following conversation I had today with my oncology nurse:
Nurse: So…how are things going? How are you handling the treatments?
Me: Great. This is the least of my worries in life.
Yes, she looked at me like I’m crazy. Maybe I am…just a little.

Radiation Celebration and Moving Buddies

Today I had my 5th of what is scheduled to be 33 treatments of Radiation Therapy. I call it my Rad Therapy. One of my friends, who has a much more serious cancer situation than I, told me that I’d meet people scheduled at the same time and get to know them. Well, it didn’t take long. On my second day, I started to get to know this other woman pretty well. At least, we talked easily and seemed to have much in common. She had the same treatment I was having; radiation, no chemo required. I was looking forward to not spending time alone and silent in a waiting room.

Today, she celebrated her last day of Rad Treatments. She was so excited. When she came out, she had extra stuff: a certificate and something else they gave her, which I’m forgetting. I didn’t notice because I was dealing with an unexpected rush of emotion. What was that? Where did that come from?

As she hugged her sister happily and collected her things to go, we said the customary, “Best of everything to you,” statements and then, just like that she was gone, and I was being called back for my treatment.

I will probably never see her again.
I am sad about that.
I didn’t even remember her name.
We didn’t exchange numbers. I would like to know how she is doing in the future.

I think life is a funny thing. No one wants to be diagnosed with cancer, and I certainly have it far less than some I know. But the most bizarre and surreal thing about this entire journey is that of all the things I am dealing with in my life right now, this one is the least stressful and easiest for me to cope with. There have also been great moments of joy tinged with sadness, like the one this afternoon as I watched my friend revel in completing this leg of her journey. I was very happy for her and a little sad that I won’t be seeing her every day after work anymore.

I feel a little lonely again. Sometimes when you’re heading down a new and unfamiliar road to an unknown destination, it helps to have a walking buddy. Kind of like the toys in “Toy Story” when they all had to find a moving buddy. Somehow Life is moving me. In January, it picked me right up and put me on this road marked by frequent stops for medical services. Like always, I’m an inquisitive traveler, so I’m learning a lot. I’m not afraid. I am very happy about how things are going in this part of my life.

But I’m going to need a new moving buddy.

This time, I’m going to make sure I get her name.

Global Warming and Insomnia

I love summer. I love it for a number of reasons, not the least of which is, I don’t have to punch a time clock and report to an office away from home. I also enjoy the things everyone else loves about summer: the blue skies and the warm weather.

Where I live, we usually have four seasons. The last few years, however, we have observed a reduction in the amount of the year allocated to Spring and Fall with an increase in time for winter and summer, with summer edging out winter a bit more with each passing year.

This year, we went straight from winter, to summer in April, and it happened this last weekend. I love that. Spring isn’t my favorite season anyway. But after experiencing the first dreadfully hot night where I tossed and turned till well past 3:00 a.m., I think I have come to appreciate the gradual lead-in to the summer heat which Spring provides.

Tonight seems like its going to be another hot one as well. I need the sleep. It gets tough to perform well on the job with no sleep, and it looks totally unprofessional when you begin nodding off in a marketing meeting with important clients that you really, really want to sign. Further, I started radiation treatment and the big concern about radiation is the fatigue that sets in somewhere around week three or four. I was hoping to be able to rest up in a feeble effort to avoid the fatigue and consequently having to take even more time off work.

What I need right now is a really dull movie.

My Life on The Titanic

Someone once stated, “All we have to fear is fear itself.” For the most part, I’d agree. I have my own statement about fear, “Fear never made a good decision.” Today, as I faced my first of 33 sessions of radiation, I wonder if facing the unknown isn’t also a valid enough cause for fear. By unknown, I don’t mean the unknown where the possible risks or consequences are relatively minor. I’m talking about the high stakes unknown where the risks are great and the consequences unknown or potentially damaging, lasting, or life threatening.

My life is a convergence of unknowns right now. This creates a great deal of stress for me. Stress is not good for our health and even more so with those dealing with cancer or pre-cancer.  I liken my life to a vessel like the Titanic, which is large and carries the responsibility for the lives and futures of many. I’m not a control freak, but I do like to have my cake and eat it too, whenever possible. I like everyone to be able to do their life and attend all their events. With five or six schedules to deal with, this can be a challenge. I find that if I know in advance, I can usually plan things or get the needed help or money in order to make it all happen. As long as I know far enough in advance, I can maneuver around the icebergs in life and make sure it is smooth sailing for everyone.

When navigating icy seas at night, charting a course that is mostly unknown is, to me, terrifying in many ways. Of course, not many are gifted in seeing the future. This unknown is always with us, and for the most part, I don’t worry a bit about it. But today, lying in that treatment room, both arms frozen over my head, alone, with only the buzzing, clicking and spinning of a very large, intimidating, flat-faced one-eyed machine to keep me company, I felt my first really strong emotions since this whole breast cancer journey started. it wasn’t panic, but it was something close. It wasn’t fear, but it was something close to fear. There was great sadness there, too, along with wonder and a substantial dose of gratitude, which is always part of my emotional palette.  Maybe it was just the fact that I was tied down in a room with a very large and intimidating machine that seemed to move of its own volition that spooked me.

The radiation treatment took barely 25 minutes from the time I walked in the building to the time I walked out. I feel nothing…yet. More blue ink drawn on me to ruin my clothing and, with no great fanfare, I’m off to a day of making life smooth for everyone; dodging icebergs along the way and retorting as needed.

But I’m scared.

What if I have made and am making devastating choices with irreversible consequences?

What if the results of these decisions, intended to make the sailing through life smoother for us all, actually make things worse?

And…the question that plagues me and can really make me crazy if I let it…what if…instead of getting better, things don’t ever get better…or they get worse?

Then of course, there are other unknowns, more practical ones.

What is my schedule for radiation treatment going to be?  Will I need to take more time off?  How will my body respond?  Will I be able to continue work without having to take any time off?  My last treatment is scheduled to be June 5.  That is three days before the last day of school. How will this impact the rest of the school year?  How long will the effects of radiation last and how will that impact my summer?

Then, there are issues about the school district discovering my recent move and insisting I complete an inter-district transfer, since my new address is out of the district where my two older children attend school.  This gets tricky because it means both districts must approve the request.  If they do not, then I have a daughter, who within seven weeks of graduation will have to face finishing her senior year at another high school.  Now, I can’t imagine any school district official being so evil as to insist that this happen, but budgets being what they are, school districts are less likely to grant transfers than they have in the past.  I will also have a son, who at the end of his sophomore year, will have to attend high school where they have none of the activities that he is currently involved in.

On a side note, you might wonder why I moved if the high school in the district I was moving to was inadequate.  The move was a good one, for my youngest.  The entire family, even the high-schoolers were, and still are, in favor of moving to where we moved.  I just didn’t imagine the transfer issue would be a big deal.  I’m now hearing that it could be. I don’t yet know. I filled out the paperwork and we will just have to wait and see.  It’s an iceberg I can’t exactly dodge or move right now.  I’m kind of hope it’s a mirage and it will evaporate as I approach.

Then there is the added stress of the Evil Ex seeking a modification of the child support. The unknowns here were more frightening until I met with my attorney this afternoon.  I had to part with $150 hard earned dollars, but it was money well spent and good information I received. She was able to paint a picture of the worst likely scenario (bad, but not intolerable).  She was also able to paint a realistic picture of what was likely to happen.  This helps me chart the course through the iceberg strewn sea of Post-Divorce Dealings With The Evil Ex.

In other posts, I’ve mentioned the financial iceberg that creates stress as it slides along the ship that is our family.  I worry that any day now an edge will puncture us and we will sink.  For now, we remain afloat.

The icebergs continue to converge with no relief.  One after another appears out of the fog of unknown possibilities and they are all frightening in their own way.  I can’t do anything about them right now…I can’t even see them clearly enough to know which direction to turn the ship.  All I can do is survive today.  And after today, tomorrow.  And after tomorrow, the next day.  I hope that, by so doing, I will eventually find that I have successfully maneuvered my way through the icy currents I’m experiencing to warmer, more pleasant waters.

Reality Overdose

The year, 2012, didn’t hesitate in announcing itself. Even before it’s calmer, more peaceful predecessor, 2011, had the opportunity to exit the scene, 2012 was pushing its way in loudly declaring that this was going to be a very different year. And, 2012, has not been wrong about that.

2012, began its oppressive rule when I had a biopsy the first week in January. It wasn’t a clean report indicating a benign issue. An additional excisional biopsy confirmed the diagnosis of cancer which lead to a third surgery to remove all the affected tissue and get what the medical professionals seem to enjoy calling “good, clean margins” or “nice, wide margins”. 2012 is literally leaving scars.

The year continued its domineering disruption this week with the start of my radiation treatments. Until now, I’ve quipped and teased and joked about it all. My coping mechanism is humor.

In spite of my ability,thus far, to remain positive and upbeat, I was silenced on Tuesday, when I attended my first appointment for radiation simulation.

“I’m here for the party.” I quipped as I checked in, garnering a smile and conversation from the associate at the front desk. Moments later, I was being led through the radiation department, to the special waiting rooms with lockers. The nice lady explained all the procedures carefully. After she left, I donned my hospital gown and headed out to the interior waiting room designed for those awaiting treatments.

I don’t know if it was her bald head, clearly indicating chemotherapy treatment or her courageous words as she spoke with another patient.

I believe am going to beat this. I’m convinced this isn’t going to do me in. My purpose here in this world isn’t quite finished yet.

It was then that 2012, slapped me full in the face and brought me up short. Suddenly, my mind grasped what I did not want to acknowledge: This disease is for real and sometimes, often, it plays for keeps.

There sat a woman, possibly even younger than me, in much worse condition than I. ( I have to say she looked strong and healthy other than her hairless head). She spoke confidently, but there was an ever-so-slight tremor of hesitating uncertainty in her voice. I realized then, that her plight could as easily be mine.

I wasn’t allowed much time to even get to know anyone. In less than a minute, I was whisked out of the room and led through a barrage of protocols required to prepare for my first treatment next week. Marked up with Sharpie marker, infused with India Ink and sporting four or five tiny but permanent tattoos the reality of it all begins to crush me.

I really do have cancer.
This is really happening.
I’m a little scared.

It was an overdose of reality shock taken intravenously, in a moment. This thing kills. Though my odds are really great for a cure, it could be worse. In fact, it still could get me…one day.

It was then that I began to shake.

I wish I’d at least had the opportunity to get to know her name before being ushered into my own room with the large spinning donut contraption. Her courageous words required applause, but time ran out.

Three days/nights later and I wonder how she is doing. I hope for her, that she is right. The grim realities of this disease hit hard in that brief sojourn in a waiting room. Tonight, I wonder, is she sick somewhere, alone? Is she dealing with the negative effects of Tuesday’s treatment and fighting off the pain and fear with every bit of her being?

I hope she’s not alone.
I hope she’s not afraid.
I hope her time doesn’t run out.

I hope she wins.

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