Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Lost Summer

This summer is a blur. I drove so many times back and forth to WV from KY, I can't even give you a number or play by play. I've tried writing many, many versions of a post about it. But I no longer feel the need to write details. That information is a part of me. It all pretty much sucks. 

Here is the heart of it, though. My dad had melanoma. By the time they found it toward the end of June, it was in his brain. He received one dose of IV therapy and ten doses of whole brain radiation. The cancer progressed despite these efforts. Over time he got weaker and more short of breath as the cancer took over his brain and his lungs. In August, he left this mortal coil. 

My dad was a big, strong guy. We believe it is his strength, after years of working construction and his natural build, that helped him to live as long as he did with the cancer. It helped his body mask the signs and symptoms that we are only now looking back to make note of. 

My dad was the guy.  He was the ultimate defender of the underdog. Protector of his family. He would do anything for anyone. He was the guy you could call who knew the guy who could do that random thing (you know, if he couldn't do it). He was always game for anything. He'd build you a piece of furniture, help you hang Christmas lights, sell girl scout cookies, or pick you up some maxi pads. Want some homemade spaghetti when you come home? He'll go to Sam Minardi's house to buy some homemade sausage and then this mic from Charleston Ave would make you the best red sauce you'd ever had. Anything mom ever wanted done to the house, he'd find a way to do. He was there. You could count on him. He lived life right. His kindness did result in his getting his ass kicked a few times professionally, but he always recovered and persevered. And in many cases he was forgiving. When mom was going through her dark days, dad filled in all the gaps as best he could. He wasn't perfect, of course, but he was perfect for us. 

The most recurring thought that comes to mind is "how can this be?"  But it is. We are all dealing with it as best we can. I've never experienced grief like this. It can break you apart, like pieces of a puzzle.  And then slowly, piece by piece, you put yourself back together. But there'll always be that piece missing, the one near the heart that you will never stop looking for. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

On Cancer

On Saturday I got a call from home. My sister is home visiting in WV, like she always does in the summer. Dad had been acting weird and spacey and hadn't been talking.  This is very unlike dad. He's a talker, always working on the perpetual to do list, always cracking jokes.  Lately all he could get out was the occasional smile. But he just kept silent and was very tactile, constantly feeling and touching things like the trim around the door. Mom had to go up to his office to make a copy of her drivers license. Mom asked dad which button to push to make the copy and he kept pushing the power button off.  She would turn it back on and say "No, which button do I push to make a copy" and dad would push the off button again.  Baby sister was actually ready to walk out the door to go to camp as a counselor for the week, but after watching Dad told mom she wasn't going.  So mom called his primary doctor and described his behavior and they concluded he may have had a mini stroke related to being recently shocked out of his chronic afib recently.  He said to go to WVU where his cardiologist is. So mom and baby sister packed dad up in the car and drove the 30 min to Morgantown. In the ED, if you mention anything about chest pain or anything heart related, they have you on an exam table faster than you can say "Go Mountaineers!"  They drew labs and they scanned him head to toe. But they didn't find anything heart related. Nope. They found masses on his brain and lungs and lesions on the pancreas and liver. What the fuck.

Baby sister called me once the docs came in and shared their findings. They immediately had internal medicine, neuro and oncology see him. It took until about 2AM to get him admitted, finish scanning him, and get some sort of plan in place. I was out on a date with my lady and some other friends for their anniversary. It was a surreal evening. I think I was just in shock. At some point, sister's text said "come home" and mine said "I'll be there tomorrow." 

I don't know if I slept at all that night. My lady had to work the next day, so once she headed out I dragged my ass out of bed, threw some things in a laundry basket and drove north. I averaged 90-95 the whole way. I was in Morgantown in 5 hours.  Longest 5 hours of my life. I was still getting texts from sister whenever doctors came in. Dad was so quiet when I got there. He just kept looking around and rubbing the sheets and bedside table.  It took him so long to answer questions, to get the words out.  Lots of family were there, made it all easier to bare. 

On Monday morning, they did a puncture lung biopsy. Dad said it was a really bad experience, they didn't medicate him for pain and sedation enough and they yelled at him to hold still. Fuckers. After about 4 long days, they had a result and it was Melanoma.  Stage 4 Melanoma. Dad had a spot on his shoulder in his 30s. The skin doc cut it out super deep and did chest xrays every 6 months for 10 years. 

Cancer of any kind is a sneaky, dirty little bitch.  I am an oncology nurse, so that statement is qualified. When someone gets a diagnosis of stage 4 of any type of cancer, its not good. But somehow, my brain has overridden this knowledge. I have to. This is my dad. I need him alive and in my life. So long as him being alive doesn't result in his suffering.  

The doctors are treating the brain mass as a separate cancer, with whole brain radiation. They are planning on treating the rest systemically with some trial immunotherapy drugs where they rev up the immune system to fight the cancer. Traditional chemotherapy doesn't really work on melanoma, so this is what we have and we are going to go for it. These treatments aren't going to cure dad, but they might give him time and comfort. I can't really allow myself to think beyond that. In fact, I'm fairly emotionally shut down, which I think is a result of being an oncology nurse for two years. Its protective. 

What I have found comforting over the last week is the support friends and family have shown by showing up at the hospital, sending cards and love and prayers on social media. I'm not a believer, but I'll take a prayer or the sending of good energy any day of the week. It helps everyone involved. I'm really thankful this week for those things. For nurses with a good sense of humor. For my ex-husband being so extremely supportive and keeping the monkey all week. For my partner coming to be by our side. I am so incredibly proud of my mom for being so strong and finding her focus so she can keep going.  I'm also proud of my baby sister.  She sent text after text of medical jargon and she nailed it every time. She was able to see the critical nature of the situation, give up a fun week away, and help mom decide to get dad to the ED. She was mom's rock. 

And then there's my dad. He's taken in all of this incredibly confusing and heartbreaking information this week and still decided to go through with this fight. I've seen him come back to life with the help of some steroids. I've seen his sense of humor and personality come back through, that zest for life. He's even working a few hours a day. He's a tough cookie.  

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Summer Vacation Destination: NC


I've always thought that summer vacation should be at least 2 weeks long.  I'd stay in a less fancy beach house if it meant we could be there for 2 weeks instead of one. But alas, my mother still pays this bill so I don't get to decide. Mumsy simply must have a space that is pleasing to both eye and soul, so alas, one week it is. Next year though, 2.

We are doing the same old thang we do every damn year, but with a few alterations. This year I take my lady and we get to teach her all the things about our place. She loves fishing and I'm super stoked to spend every day getting up early with her and the monkey to hit the beach for some surf or pier fishing. Monkey is having a hard time with the idea of her daddy not being there. I think she will be OK by the time we actually get in the car to start the road trip. He'd just be on the computer all week anywho.  And who knows, maybe by next year he'll come along with all of us. That's what I'm working towards, staying a family.

Meanwhile, I'll start stock piling sun screen, hats, towels, flippy flops and fishing stuff. Next up, all the reasons why we love this beach and can't seem to steer away from it. Ever.

Summer Break is Upon Us

My ex and I totally blew it when we realized, with only weeks of school to go, that we had NOTHING planned for the monkey when school is out. Since forever, and until kindergarten started, we had preschool/daycare. I'm off 2-3 days of the week, depending on whether or not I work weekends, but the rest? The in-laws would only commit to one day a week, but we had to figure the rest out. Luckily there's the very expensive YMCA camps and we are signing her up for 4 weeks of those. It will be loads of fun for the monkey and she will make some new friends. Also, the in-laws are helping with some of the cost. We also signed up for the public pool, so that will help. Here's hoping the water isn't cold all summer...and that monkey and I don't get kicked out for shenanigans. What are you doing with your monkeys this summer? 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

One Year Lease

On March 27th, I moved out of the family home. The home where we brought our daughter to from the hospital when she was born, the one I painted multiple times, the one I tried to decorate, the one I cooked many Christmas cookies in, welcomed family and friends, planted flowers, celebrated birthdays and hanged pictures in. Going back to the house since then has been real tough. If I have to spend a significant amount of time there, I spin into a dark hole that is difficult to climb out of. I just cry and cry.  Luckily I have some wonderful people in my life that I can just text and help me climb my way back out. It will get easier over time.
Image result for funny farm
This brings us to my apartment. Two bed, one bath, eat in kitchen and a living room. It’s in an old apartment in an old neighborhood. It’s on a dead end street with a bunch of cute old houses.  To turn left from my street, I have to cross a busy four lane road.  There’s a hospital one block away so we hear every ambulance that drives up. We also live a block away from the fire department in the other direction, so we hear them too. There’s some asshole that honks every morning at 6am as he turns the corner (makes me feel like Andy Farmer and the crazy mail man in Funny Farm).  The neighbors to our left have like 6 dogs that although we’ve lived here 2 months, all bark at us in a frenzy even though they see us every fucking day.  They bark at everything. They bark at the wind.

This is an old house that was built in the 40s and divided into a duplex in the 70s.  Hard wood floors, an adorable (non-functioning) fireplace and mantle, all original windows and a somewhat shitty kitchen. When I looked at the apartment the first time, it had this big awkward island that the owner agreed to have some contractor re-do because it took over the whole damn kitchen. But the counters they put in were put together with bits of glue and cardboard. So much nickle and dime shit up in here. But they put in some new kitchen flooring to replace the shitty old shiny laminate. Of course, it’s super white and textured so it shows all the dirt.  This place was described as having “central air”, but of course it doesn’t push all the way to the second floor. Let’s just say I have a new appreciation for window AC units. 

This place also has a basement! It leaks when it rains. Like little rivers from all corners, straight to the sump pump. Also thankful for sump pumps! Every bug you could imagine lives down there and earlier this week I saw a little garden snake on the stairs. The basement is where the washer/dryer hook ups are.  We had to take out one of the counters to get them through the wonderfully designed kitchen and to the door to the basement. I’m hiring movers when we leave this bitch.

All of this aside, I have made it really homey for me and the Monkey.  She and I painted her room pepto pink, hanged curtains and pics and just jazzed her room up. I’ve not done much with my room but hang some photos. I decided not to paint over the beige walls. They remind me of sand at the beach and go well with my art. Also, I’m tired of painting. Did I mention I painted the entire first floor? I did and it’s a fabulous shade of light grey that really made everything feel fresh.

I’m good with calling this place home-sweet-home…for one year. One. Year.

Molly out. 

Christmas Was a Disaster...And Other Thoughts

Christmas. My sister, my girlfriend, my family, we all had a hard time getting in the mood this year for Christmas. I watched Christmas movies, I cranked up the tunes way too early for social acceptance, drove around the neighborhood with my daughter to look at lights, made cookies galore, wrapped presents, trimmed the tree.  Just...all the things. But for some reason, this year didn't really "feel" like Christmas. 
Here's an old post from December I forgot about. Cheers!
Image result for Nurse from Christmas in ConnecticutI'm a nurse, the lowest on the day-shift totem pole, so of course I had to work Christmas Eve. I won't complain about it too much, many co-workers had to work 24-26th.  I mean, come on. However, my schedule meant I had to work 22-24 and finish all the baking and wrapping and packing after working all day. Then drive to WV on Christmas day, where the running began and didn't stop until Monkey and I ran out the door to head home on Sunday. We were both so relieved. Sad and relieved. 

Upon arrival, we learned that Auntie's brand new oven caught on fire when she spilled chex mix in the bottom.  That meant mom, dad and sister had to prepare and schlep food to her house Christmas night. But dinner was divine and the company grand, despite the sweaty, hot, new kitchen only half of us could fit in. 

The real ass kicker of the visit was my cousins and their babies. When we were all kids, we all could fit in granny's house with room to play. But all the cousins are married with multiple babies. Screaming, ignored babies and one whiny, ignored granny. Sitting in that house two nights in a night two we (myself, sister and parents) were all so emotionally and physically exhausted we could hardly talk. Monkey and her cousins had a total blast and I'm so happy they got some play time together. But the reality is that we can't ever do that again. And my cousins just seemed to be oblivious to what we were experiencing. I suppose people see what they want to see. Hell, we will probably just do it again next year. Stay tuned for repeat bitching next Christmas, folks! 

Friday, August 1, 2014

It takes courage to be happy.

When I look back at old posts, I see a search for joy. If we can just get to ______, that's when things will get better. Once I finish my degree, things will get easier. When the monkey is out of daycare, meaning we don't have to pay for it anymore, that's when we can relax. If we move to North Carolina, life will make sense. Vacation. Christmas cookies. Goals.

All of those things are great, don't get me wrong. They are all turning points. Some of them have come and gone. I completed my degree and have the job I want. I really love my job. Monkey is out of preschool and is gearing up for Kindergarten ($700 dollars back in my pocket, BTW). We went on vacation. Christmases have come and gone. But even with all of these hallmarks, one important thing didn't ever get even remotely better: my marriage. After many years of not being happy, after awhile I figured that it was what it was always going to be. I figured everyone's marriage was like that at some point.  Eventually I came out of the fog of school and of orientation and started feeling all that depression I've been distracting myself from with said school and new job for 5 years. Then something happened that kicked my ass even harder.

I fell in love.

With a girl.

I felt all the things I've been wondering for years if I'd ever feel, emotional and physical. It was exciting and wonderful. I was honest with my husband and asked for the freedom to explore. It was granted under the agreement that it not end our marriage. She and I agreed that we would continue this wonderful thing as long as we could with no expectation of anything long term. It went on. I didn't want it to end. Love grew. For a good month or two I didn't have an appetite and slept way more than I needed.  My husband and I would touch base once in a while about where I was with everything and I'd say something reassuring. He and I would go on dates, the same quiet dates we'd been going on for years and years. Then we'd come home, he to the computer, me to the TV. I was a mess the whole time. Just so depressed, crying at work or in bed at night unable to sleep, didn't eat much, unsure of what to do. The idea of ending our marriage, our partnership, was completely overwhelming. However, I was completely unwilling to end my other relationship because it was fulfilling. I didn't think I'd be able to not live with him, leave this house, to upset my daughters world so much. What would that do to her? You know, I'd better stay in this unhappy marriage for her. So many people do that. Being so unhappy kept me from being really present and patient with her. He and I finally came to the conclusion that we needed to end our marriage. It sucked so hard. It sucks now. Its a scary thing being quiet homebodies, about to re-enter the world. But we keep talking about it, what we would like it to look like, living arrangements, how to stay a family. We are both much more at peace the idea of it now. We get along really well, like old friends. We don't want it to be an ugly, hateful thing. We still love each other, after all. Even in divorce, we are still in this thing together.

Telling the family, his and mine, was tough. I basically had to come out of the closet after being married for 10 years. My parents were really supportive. My father said "it takes courage to be happy." He couldn't be more right. Seeing our strained relationship through their eyes has been really enlightening.  His parents are taking it hard, but love me anywho. We know both sides will be there for us and Monkey and that is a relief. After dealing with it solo for 6 months, its a relief to have some support on both sides.  I've yet to tell my friends, the ones that matter. They might read this before I tell them, but I hope they forgive me. We will talk eventually.

I have a calm about me now. The tears have eased up. Monkey and I are spending lots of time together. More presence, patience and fun. Less stress and frustration. I'm starting to look at little houses to rent. I'm spending time with my Lady. I don't have to continue an endless journey to find or make joy anymore.  Its right here. It was always right here.

With courage,

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Partner in Crime

Jesse and Frank
When it comes to making big family decisions and you have a life partner, you work together with said partner. Sometimes you agree, sometimes you don't. The major decision that is weighing heavy on my heart right now is whether or not to have a second baby. I'm ready. My husband is very reluctant due to our current financial situation. We have a credit card to pay off and I have student loans to figure out and start paying down. I'm happy to pay down the credit card. The student loans are another story. I'm working on finding government student loan forgiveness programs and utilizing tuition reimbursement at work. Basically, I'm giving it 6 months to a year to make a major dent in those things by working overtime twice a month. That should give me reasonable ability to make large payments.  But in the mean time I'm pretty heart broken about it. Well, less heart broken, more major depression. Time is ticking away faster than I want. The age gap between my first and my second (if we get there) is getting wider and wider. This reality adds to the stress of the whole thing. What I know in my heart of hearts is that my kid needs a partner in crime and the only way to give her one for life is through a sibling. Now, I just have to work toward making it happen.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

A Garbage Tale

You see, when you have a kid, you have (well, most people) have a fundamental shift in how they see the world. You basically go from "I wonder what I'll do with all my free time this afternoon after work. I wonder how I"ll feel about it. Ohhh, I'm going to stop at the library and piddle around and maybe I'll try a new recipe and have a drink...or maybe I'll work out for 2 hours." to someone who thinks, mostly, about nothing other than how to protect and cultivate that child in to someone who has a healthy level of happiness and can go out and handle the world without becoming an embittered cynic. You have to be clear with people, lots of people, about what rules are in place when dealing with your kid and about the barriers you have set in place. These people could range from close family members to teachers to friends and neighbors. Then you have to enforce those rules and barriers, regardless of how those things make anyone of those people feel. That last part is the hardest part for me as a parent. I don't like confrontation, especially with family members. I also don't like to hurt people and sometimes during confrontation, I just fucking blow it. I've done it with my sister in the past and now I've done it with my sister in law.  The words don't come out right and they come at me swinging and I can't take it just is a horrible situation. Let me explain it.

My husband confronted my sister in law about how we aren't yet comfortable with Lilly hanging out with her new boyfriend. We just aren't ready. We have only been in the room with this guy twice. I'm not saying that my husband had this conversation to the best of his ability. Naturally, it came out alllllll wrong. My SIL has translated this in to "We don't trust you. We think you have poor judgement about people. You are a horrible person who dates potential pedophiles." She thinks that because she undoubtedly trusts this guy that she's been dating for 6 weeks that we should automatically trust him too. But you see, when my kid is involved, I don't have to trust anyone. Anyone. Its not about her, its about my setting some clear boundaries.
Now here's the garbage part. We were desperate for a baby sitter this weekend. Her boyfriend is in town, which I didn't know. So Derek asked her to watch Lilly on Saturday for a few hours while I slept and he went and made a video. I wasn't aware until a few days ago that she was planning on taking him, the boyfriend, along. She basically said that he goes or she's unavailable. And so of course, he said he wasn't happy but he didn't feel he had a choice.  I would have asked if she could leave him at the apartment for a few hours, but that didn't happen until the pinnacle of our horrible conversation on the phone today. So our willingness to go along with it this one time kind of reneged the whole premise of our concern. Does that make sense? I agree. Its stupid. In the end, after much ado, tears, compromise and some really horrible texts, we cancelled. Derek changed the time of his gig (imagine the horrible situation that could have saved us). So, we're taking a little break from all of this. Putting some time and distance between us might help us heal. My fear is that we have irrevocably ruined our relationship with her. But hopefully, like with my sister, it'll get better.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

30 Helens Agree, Fall is Awesome

Who doesn't love fall?  Fall is refreshing and full of sun, blue skies and cool air. For all my pals on FB, fall = stuff in crock pots, pumpkin scented candles, and some fancy drinks at Starschmucks.  For me, Fall = The Pretenders blasted loud in my car with the windows down, Kids in the Hall, pumpkins in the front yard and being outside. It also means my kids birthday, she was born on a hot fall day 5 years ago today. Despite my husbands insisting there was 0% chance she'd be a redhead like her mama, out she came with a wisp of red hair and lots of attitude. She has been rocking my world ever since.

Becoming a parent has been difficult on many different levels. Its been hard on my bank account, hard on my marriage, resulted in a desire for a career change and, subsequently, the need for a new degree. I wanted to do something she could be proud of. The path I was on was not leading toward growth, career opportunities or job satisfaction. I didn't want her to see me at 50, bitter, in the same dead end job. So off I went, back to college. I can honestly say I did it for myself and for her. I love this job so much. It was the right move. And when its time to do something different, there will be plenty of options: Educator, Administrator, Management. My daughter will get to see me move into different jobs, utilize my brain, continue my education and hopefully make a difference.

Almost all of the women in my family are career women. My mom's mother, Mary, went off to Business School after high school in the 40s. She worked, helping to support her family, until she got married.  When her kids were small, my grandfather got cancer in his leg and had to have it removed. For a period of time, his income as a salesman stopped and my grandmother went right back to work. Her mother and aunt were educated and were teachers. My mother is a nurse. My aunts have careers in law, IT, education and banking.  My dads mother raised 5 kids and did hair on the side. If you look at my family tree, on both sides, the farther out you go on both sides, the more clear it is = I come from a long line of career minded women.

Of course being a parent with a career has certain sacrifices and guilt involved. And I think that guilt element is more specific to women. Men were never told they were supposed to be home with the kids, not out trying to be like a man. But even now, we all still have to work past that bullshit. I may not get to spend every day, all day with my child, but the time we do spend together is full of love...usually. And now that I have school behind me, I can enjoy my kid a lot more and with less stress on my shoulders for the first time in 4 years. Hopefully she doesn't remember my absence too much, just the good together times.

Happy Fall, y'all.