" I feel I am very sane about how crazy I am." -Carrie Fisher
"Own your Crazy." -Kim

Thursday, July 22, 2010

You Can Go To Rehab When Cancer is Over...

Naomi is a recovering alcoholic. I think now she has actually been sober longer than she ever drank. It has been so long I actually forget about it most of the time. The reason I don’t completely forget about it is because she is very worried she will pass the disease onto me. She has spent years telling me about the evils of alcohol and its place in our family. At strange times she will look at me over her sunglasses and let me know that alcoholism is hereditary, or she will interject with some random statistic on addiction.

This all goes out the window when she wants me to do something with her. Then she will hold liquor in front of me like a dog with a bone. “Let’s run to Macy’s.” She will say at six at night when I am winding down my day and exhausted. “I’ll tell you what, you have a “suds” (this what she calls beer) and then I will pick you up and drive us there.” Or sometimes when she knows I am at the end of my patience with her (and it is really her fault), she will announce, “Why don’t you sit down with a suds and I will wash your dishes."

She doesn’t need to worry. I have no plans on becoming an alcoholic, as I have no plans to give up something I really enjoy, and I really enjoy drinking. Naomi also doesn’t need to worry, because while I do enjoy a cocktail, it turns out you can’t drink those and then drive children around. So, with four children and a gazillion activities between them, I have no worries of becoming an alcoholic because I have very little time to drink. Thank God I had four children and married a man who doesn’t really drink, or quite honestly, the memoir would be more about recovery than “fun mom stories”.

The only time I got close to worrying was when I had cancer. When I was first diagnosed there were a lot of doctor’s appointments. At every new appointment there were the requisite hours of forms to fill out on me and ultimately my family history as well. They all asked the same questions…”Do you have a history of breast cancer in your family?” I didn’t. “How many pregnancies have you had?” Too many. “How many alcoholic drinks do you have during a week on average?” And here is where it got tricky. At the beginning I could answer truthfully…one to two drinks a week. However, as the stress and number of doctor’s appointments increased (as well as the fact that I didn’t have to go to work in the morning) and Naomi practically throwing “suds” down my throat to reduce my stress…I realized I was lying when I checked that box because one to two drinks a week was rapidly turning into one to two drinks a day.

I needn’t have worried for long, because after all the appointments and surgeries came chemo, and chemo was a quick cure for impending alcoholism. Cancer was depressing for a few reasons, one reason being that when chemo started NOTHING tasted good, including a glass of wine or a cold beer. Besides hair loss I am going to have to admit the saddest nights during chemo were when cocktail hour would roll around and a drink didn’t even sound good. In fact, I spent a lot of time trying to find something that tasted good (causing me to be one of those rare people that gains weight during chemo) and what I came up with was sour patch kids. So, chemo left me a huge mess when it was over…no hair, weight gain, bad skin, and because of the sour patch kids…a gum and teeth situation that my dentist and I are just now getting over three years later.

This being said, that while I do enjoy a drink here and there, I am not into medicine or pills of any kind. I have a high tolerance for pain, and I do not enjoy even baby aspirin. I am a “gut it out” kind of gal. This all changed with cancer, because it turns out when you have cancer there is a lot of medicine to take, and at certain points in the cancer process, a lot of that medicine is…pain medication.

I did not want to take any of it, but Naomi (who quite possibly does still enjoy a little high now and then) would ask at every appointment. The doctor would be talking and she would lean in, very serious, and say, “I just have one question…can we she have a prescription for Vicodin?” It turns out that when you have cancer, doctors don’t want to tell you no or have conflict in any way really, so they were grabbing the prescription pad faster then my mother could finish the sentence.

So, I had a lot of spare Vicodin floating around the house (well, at least whatever managed to stay after Naomi had grabbed a couple of pills whispering, “Just to help me get a good night’s sleep while my daughter has cancer.”). It turns out there were moments I needed it too. There were a couple of unexpected pain situations and sometimes just the need to fall asleep instead of being awake all night and thinking about what will happen to your kids if you die.

I was grateful for Naomi and her crazy, obsessive need to get me pain medication. One night I was thinking about taking the Vicodin when I couldn’t sleep, but I was feeling guilty about it and worried that all that Naomi had told me previously COULD be true, and I could become an addict because it DID run in my family…when Naomi called and said, “Take the damn Vicodin Kim. We all need to get through this. You can go to rehab when cancer is over.”

And there it was words to live by. Luckily, cancer is over, I did not have to go to rehab and I have returned to checking the box for social drinking. However, when it doubt, it is good to know you can go to rehab when cancer is over!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

It's Good To Have Hair...

I have hair now. For a brief time (and by this I mean for one, super, long year) two years ago, I did not have hair. Breast cancer’s chemo had left me without hair. Shortly after receiving the news that you have cancer you will hear this next word…oncologist. Oncologist, in my mind, means chemotherapy. And certainly, with my group of honest and fast moving doctors there was never a moment that I did not know I was going to have chemotherapy.

However, in my mind, even though I knew it was crazy, I expected the oncologist to say, “Yes, you will have chemo. But, I have incredibly good news… you are the rare person who is going to have a new, fabulous chemo in which you will not loose your hair.” (After watching the documentary, I do feel possibly, that is what they said to Farrah Fawcett). It is not shocking to learn that the oncologist did not end up saying that. What he did do was recite a long list of possible side effects, none of which bothered me, until he got to the last one, where he said, “and then there is, of course, hair loss.” And then I cried.

After the news that I would loose my hair, I knew that I had about six weeks before it would actually fall out. This was a predicament because I have my hair colored, and I was due for a touch up. Now, while I feel that women need to keep themselves up, and I do not ever think that can be done at home doing your own color, I also didn’t feel like spending a $150 dollars on a fabulous coloring that was going to fall out. Certainly, I thought a small perk here is that I can run down to Walgreen’s and do the deed for a mere $5.99.

For the record, Naomi was not in agreement and had an absolute fit. And, for the record, Naomi was right it turned out horrid, but it also turned out all over my bathroom floor, so who cares. I avoided cameras and there is no record of the store bought hair color.

The reality is by the time the first round of chemo made its way through the listed side effects, I could care less about the hair loss and it was the LEAST of my worries. One night I pushed my fingers through my hair and when I looked down, the hair was in my fingers. I gave it another go and, yep, more hair.

In a moment of, “What the Hell inspiration,” I called my girls and we spent a fun hour hacking and shaving my hair until it was gone. When all was said and done, my three year old looked at me and said, “Mommy, you are beautiful.”

Really? Beautiful? Well this isn’t going to be so bad. The next morning I sat proudly in bed, still confident from last night’s announcement of my beauty. When my three year old came in, she made a horrific face and disappeared into my closet. She returned with a knit hat that someone had given me, “Here, I think you should wear this,” she announced before heading out the door, thus ending the “You look beautiful as a bald woman,” phase of chemo.

The truth was, I did not look beautiful bald. I get that there are some women that really rock that look and embrace it when they go through the whole process, and I had planned on being one of them, but it just wasn’t going to happen. So I wore a knit cap at home and a baseball cap for doctor’s visits, but as we all know, life goes on, and so it did, even though for me it felt stopped.

A wig was purchased for those “life goes on” moments and I did the best I could. The wig never felt right to me. It was awkward and hot. Simply put, I hated it…a lot. But, my cousin was getting married and there were family pictures, and I would need to return to teach a group of fourth graders for the last month of the school year so, on we went with the wig.

Eventually, I was done with the wig. I put on a baseball hat the last week of school and it stayed on until there was enough hair to look as though the cut was a decision I had made. When I finally wore the baseball cap that last week of school, I was worried about the kids in my class. I need not have. During the last week, at a very hot outdoor moment, I took off the cap to rub my head and let it breathe. At this moment Brittany (a fabulous little girl, who was a favorite, even though I am not supposed to have them) said, “I am glad you are wearing the hat. It is good to have the real you here.”

After the year had ended and summer began, I found myself at Disneyland with Naomi. It was a great trip. One of those, “Thank God I am on the other side of this!” moments. One day found us at the new “Princess Extravaganza.” Basically Disney had moved all the princesses into one area and they put on shows, arts and crafts, and signed autographs. On this day they all entered the “Extravaganza Area” by walking down the aisles and then floating onto the stage. As I sat there with Naomi, it hit me. I punched her and said, “Oh my God! That’s what I had…with my wig…really BAD Disney Princess hair!” Naomi started to deny it, you could see it as her lips moved together, but in the end she looked at them and said, “Yes, that really is the look you had going.” And we laughed, until tears ran down our faces and we could laugh no more.

I am not certain what the statute of limitations is on my hair situation. I know this…I should never complain about my hair. I know this, but sometimes I want to. I don’t like the cut, I’m not happy with the color, I wish it would look differently when I straighten it, and the list goes on. But, since I have been hairless, I feel I have no right to complain. And because of this I often say when people compliment me on my hair, “Well, yes, it is good to have hair!” And it is.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

My Marriage is Fine...

My husband is upset by the way he is portrayed in my writing. Apparently he hasn’t been with me long enough (18 years) to understand that when I referred to our marriage as “fine,” I meant…fabulous, amazing, wonderful, and superb. I feel it was implied.

Before you go and feel sorry for him, please understand that the same lack of sentimentality gets him off the hook for both birthdays and Valentine’s Day. I will get myself what I want for my birthday, I don’t expect him to be guessing and surprising me. Valentine’s Day is perhaps the biggest waste of time I have ever seen. And, to be clear, Valentine’s Day isn’t one of those things where I say I don’t care or want anything, but I secretly expect something great…I really could care less about the day.

The thing about my husband is this…he is most definitely the right person for me. I don’t usually tell him that, because quite honestly, to tell him would be contradictory to all the work that I put into making him believe that he can’t live without me (which he can’t). But, in reality, he is the only person I should have ended up with.

I’ll just say it, I’m crazy. No, really, I am crazy in many ways. We have four kids, we are ridiculously overcommitted, I think the house should be really clean, I work full time, and then I sign up for an insane amount of extra things at work, church, and with the kids. I know that I am a little (and by this I mean a lot) hard to handle. And this is where I know that he is the right person for me…because he just accepts it and handles it. To be honest, he not only handles it, he will generally take the bullet/dive on his sword when things aren’t going well. He will admit it is ALL his fault when we have a problem, and I will let him admit it is ALL his fault when we have a problem, but in reality many times… it is my fault.

When we got married I was that rare woman that didn’t really care about the wedding. My father offered up cash if we eloped, and I wanted to take that deal. But, my husband wanted the wedding and we had one. He was right. It was a great day full of truly fabulous memories. The hard part was in the planning. Not for me, but for anyone who had to make or produce things for the wedding. Florists, cake lady, and the list goes on were all met by the same phrase when they asked me what I would like, “Oh, I don’t know, you’ve done this many times, what do you think?” You would think they would love this freedom, but in actuality everyone seemed a little unnerved by my carefree approach to wedding planning.

The dress cost $150.00 (I am proud of this, not ashamed, so it you were someone who had a really fabulous, expensive wedding dress don’t feel sorry for me), it was the first one I tried on at a discount bridal shop, and the alterations and my rehearsal dinner dress both cost more than my actual wedding dress. It was my opinion, then and now, that the dress was a two minute gig. People were going to decide when I hit the church door if they liked it or not, and at that moment it doesn’t matter how much money you spent on the dress. At some point the bridesmaids even revolted when I announced I didn’t care what kind of shoes they purchased. They banned together to decide on matching shoes as they thought that would be more appropriate. And for the record I know of at least two bridesmaids that wore their dresses again.

I wanted to put my money where it would really count…the bar and food. We have a great picture of my dad at the end of the night that proves I invested wisely.

It wasn’t that I didn’t care about our wedding, it was that I was more focused on the marriage. Good advice from my pastor, “Most people are worried about the wedding, I encourage you to think about the marriage.” I was ready to be married, felt certain I was way behind schedule (I was 24, so obviously I had no real sense of what “way behind” was), and seriously in love for the first time in my life. I feel certain we have no business lasting as long as we have based on the ridiculous lack of questioning and planning we did before the marriage, but here we are.

I’m not sure what constitutes a good marriage. Certainly, as time goes by fewer and fewer people commit to the institution for a great length of time, and even some who give it years, beg off in the end. I do know there are ebbs and flows to the whole thing. There are moments I am caught up in the idea that I have married this perfect person, and that I have made the very best decision any girl could ever make and then again, moments where I am contemplating my exit strategy.

Maybe it lasts because I have the sense to know that there are going to be those highs and lows. Maybe it lasts because we both work at it. Maybe it lasts because when we think of starting over with someone else (and telling said person we have four kids) it seems like way to much work. When Tipper and Al Gore separated after 40 years of marriage a friend of mine said, “What’s the point? Why would you want to start over with someone else after all that work.” Agreed.

I am a firm believer in this, “You can’t change other people, you can only change yourself and the way you react to other people.” And in the end, I think that is what we have done. We haven’t changed each other, but we changed some things for each other. I’m not as sarcastic (yes, I know hard to believe if you know me, this is me way toned down) because it was a little too much for him. He’s more involved in our house and things that need to get done for our lives to run efficiently. There are not as many screaming matches when we try to agree on household projects.

I know this…he still thinks I’m funny and cute, and I still think he is ambitious and handsome, and we still laugh. So there it is…my marriage is going fine, just fine thank you!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Second Place...

Here’s the thing…or at least the latest thing…I can’t really see anymore. The problem with my lack of eyesight is I haven’t actually admitted it to myself. I mean, I have the glasses, because, you know, I can’t actually see anymore, but I am unwilling to wear them all of the time. For several reasons I guess. One, it is a huge nuisance. For forty years I didn’t wear glasses so I have no idea how to keep track of them or remember to bring them to important places…such as restaurants and appointments that require me to fill out paperwork. Secondly, every time I put them on I can hear my college roommate chant, “Men don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses.” This honestly has no bearing on my life, I am happily married and not seeking out men, but it is what I hear so I instantly feel unattractive when I put them on.

I have tried a few varieties of the glasses and have basically settled on the “Tori Spelling” pair. They are Marshall’s glasses that I can buy in bulk, cheap, and in funky colors, and when my husband sees me in them he says, “Well, Hello Tori.” because they resemble the ones she wears on her reality show. Listen, I would rather be Jennie Garth in a Bev. Hills 90210 comparison, but the fact that I am not being called Andrea is a bonus and I am going to have to take what I can get. And if you got this whole paragraph, I know how old you are and what you were doing in the 80’s.

I also want to lose ten pounds. This has basically been a mantra that has followed me my whole life, except for maybe five minutes at the end of a successful stint at weight watchers. It turns out that with every year I age the ten pounds just gets harder and harder to lose. In college those ten pounds could be lost with a fabulous diet of gummy bears and diet coke. After babies number one and two, the ten pounds came off with a little careful watching of what I ate. Babies number three and four required a trip to Weight Watchers and the ten pounds after chemo was accomplished with Nutri-System.

Now I just want to lose them because I am 42. Only I don’t want to watch what I eat, go to Weight Watchers or order any Nutri- System food (nor can I currently afford any of these things because I have the four overcommitted children I am paying many, many lessons for). Basically, I am unwilling to do any work whatsoever. So, I either need to suck it up and do one of the above mentioned programs, or I need to suck it up and admit I am not going to lose the ten pounds.

Recently, I was at the Disneyland pool (not swearing) when I had a fabulous revelation. I was there, in my swimsuit and age appropriate cover-up, thinking about the ten pounds I did not lose before the vacation. I might also, possibly, have been thinking about the ten pounds while I was having a beer and eating some french fries. As I was contemplating my journey from the chair to the hot tub in my bathing suit without the cover-up, I started looking around. Looking and assessing the situation. There were a lot of women there with their kids. Most were in bathing suits, some with the cover-up and many without.

Of these many women in bathing suits, there was this one woman. This one woman, who was about my age, looked fabulous. And while she looked fabulous, it was the kind of fabulous that had not come easily. Let’s face it this woman was working out, there were weights involved, possibly some jogging, and she did not have a beer or french fries anywhere near her. And she was sporting a two-piece as she yelled to her children, and hauled her baby around. I won’t lie to you, she looked good. So, feeling like I could no longer walk confidently from pool to hot tub in my Gap, black, tankini, I let myself move on to the other women at the pool. Listen, I’m not going to go into a lot of adjectives or descriptive words here, but I will say that no one else was sporting a two piece, and as it turns out, no one else was even sporting a tankini. It was then that I realized it…I was in second place.

With little to no work, and french fries and beer in hand, I was in second place. I wasn’t the hot mom in the two piece, but I wasn’t doing too badly. Since this remarkable day, where I landed in second place, I have tried out my theory at other pools and public venues. There are times where I must be honest with myself and admit that I am not in second, and I fall down to third or fourth, and being as I live in small town where the women really keep themselves up, sometimes there is even a fifth place. But, consistently I am in the top five and even more consistently…second place.

Since I have decided (for this moment) not to lose the ten pounds, I am now working out in the hopes that I could maybe, possibly firm up the ten pounds. I actually like to work out, and it always go well for awhile, and then sadly the four kids I have get in the way of a consistent workout routine. The worst part is that once you start working out it turns out that it does feel better (and you look better) then the plan that I really enjoy, which is sitting at home eating potato salad and watching reality T.V.

Luckily, when all is said and done, I can return to my original problem…I can’t actually see anymore. Obviously, since I can’t get the glasses to the important places, they rarely make it into my closet or bathroom. So in the end I can’t see the extra ten pounds anymore, and remember I’m still in second place. Not bad for this underachiever...I’ll take it.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Overcommitted...

Before I had kids, or maybe shortly after I had my first, I told myself that my kids would choose one activity to participate in at a time. I was determined that we would not be one of those ridiculous, overcommitted families that has no time for dinner and is constantly referring to their calendars to keep their lives in order. As the kids got a little older, I didn’t stick to the “one activity” rule but changed it to…well, we will take all these things now so they can see what they like, and then in high school each child will pick their favorite thing. The oldest is starting high school, she is not choosing her favorite thing, and we are the epitome of an overcommitted family.

The difficulty sometimes lies in the fact that their favorite thing is NOT my favorite thing, or my husband’s favorite thing. Because of this we (they) end up enrolled in all of our favorite things.

We are currently enrolled in twelve dance classes between four children. This means two recitals and about fourteen costumes. I am not going to tell you how much I spend on costumes. You will assume I am very wealthy (I am not, just broke all the time) or crazy (I am). Not only are we enrolled in all these classes, but it will get worse next year.

My oldest is going to be on the competitive dance team. This is something that I said, “NO” to for many years. Actually, what I said was, “Hell No!” And apparently, “Hell No!” translates into…”yeah, OK, go for it.” So next year she will do competitive dance and I will, in turn, be a competitive mom. I am picturing Toddlers and Tiaras, although I am told it is not that bad. I have a good friend embarking on this journey with me. She talks about bringing a novel to read, and ducking out to do some shopping at the competitions. Look, I have seen those competitive moms in action (while I am drinking a latte at recital time) they are NOT reading and shopping. They are filling balloons, hopping out of their seats to help with costume changes, and hauling props into the studio. I am trying to look at it as the exercise program for myself that I never have time for.

My second and third children had decided to quit dance. One to do year round swim (because we have that kind of free time) and the other to concentrate on piano and voice lessons (in case she would like to be Miss California some day). This was a great decision I thought. We were “choosing” things and slowing down. Well, we were until the final recital that left both children a mess in different ways. One cried hysterically for three hours after the recital telling me it was because she was “happy” to be moving on from dance. The second just found me alone and said quietly, “You know how I love my dance teacher. I can’t leave her.” And, with that, we were all back in.

Dance isn’t our only vice. There is swimming, choir, basketball, church youth group, and probably a few other things I am forgetting. I am moments away from being the crazy mom on Wife Swap who rants to the cameras about her schedule, and then does a crazy cry because someone has thrown said schedule away. A good friend emailed me the other day and asked a simple question, “Is there ever a time when your kids do not have something they HAVE to do?” I thought long and hard and then replied, “Yes, the week between Christmas and New Year’s.” And, while I would like to say I am exaggerating, I’m not.

I’m not sure how we got here. For the record, my husband hates all the dancing. I am sure it has something to do with the slightly crushed dreams of a man who did not get sons and football. Or it could be that he is right, and it is all way too much and unnecessary. What am I really preparing them for? A stint on Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders: Making the Team? A chance to audition for America’s Got Talent? Vegas showgirl? Backup dancers for MTV videos? The whole thing is a total disconnect from my personality. I am mostly hoping to make it through the competitive dance season without the other competitive moms not hating me. It is OK if they dislike me a little, but I am going to try and avoid full-on contempt.

My thought process is that if I keep them “busy and active” (a positive spin on “overcommitted and exhausted”), there will be no time for any vices like drugs, alcohol, or sex when they are teenagers. The other day I told a friend, “I just want to keep them busy enough to avoid any stints in rehab.” She replied, “Them or you?”