Saturday, January 31, 2009

This is not a paid endorsement

You know how they say smell is one of the most powerful memory evoking senses? I think taste has got to be a close second. (Well, technically we might only be able to taste that which we can smell, so maybe they’re one in the same. Anyway, not my point.) Last night Sam and I bought a pizza from Papa John’s for dinner and a tidal wave of memories washed over me.

Growing up in a small town I had less access to more culturally refined experiences such as museums and orchestras and fine dining. But once I went off to college, I began to sample some of life’s finer offerings….like Papa John’s pizza.

I can’t remember when I tasted my first bite of fluffy crust heaven and I couldn’t tell you where I was when I discovered that golden garlic dipping sauce, but Papa John’s endeared itself to me my freshman year and soon became one of my favorite indulgences. Coincidentally, this is exactly when I began to fall in love with my husband, Sam.

Sam and I both lived in cramped lodgings that year so whenever I think back to eating the pizza, I always picture us in some amazingly uncomfortable situation, like hunched over a pizza box on a dorm floor or balancing a pizza box on our laps in an unmade twin size bed. Plus we were usually trying to be quiet, which always made me giggle uncontrollably.

This combination of fervid happiness has indwelt itself in my brain. Now every time I eat Papa John’s pizza it tastes like falling in love. Yum!

Friday, January 30, 2009

The cancer dance

My mom had her first abdominal chemo treatment yesterday and so far all is well. She made sure to slosh the meds around with some professional hip swirls and periodic belly rotations. Die while I gyrate, mutant cells, die!

Deep freeze

What do you know?! It’s snowing in Cleveland…again. My monster shoveling biceps are still recovering from the huge storm that just passed, and well, here we are again.

Because it feels like it’s been snowing every other day, and because people keep saying I should be used to it since I’m from Colorado, I decided to do some research.

First of all, this article explains why I feel like the snow has not let up. As of three days ago, it had already snowed 21 days in the month of January. After getting snow on the 28th, the 29th, and now today, the 30th, we’re up to snowfall on 24 out of 30 days. So I guess I was wrong. It hasn’t been snowing every other day, it’s been….well, a lot more.

Then I looked up some snowfall averages. According to, Colorado Springs usually sees about 42” of snow per year, 5” of which come in January. Cleveland usually ends up with 55” annually, with 12” falling in January. We can already see that in an average year one would experience more snow in Cleveland than in Colorado Springs. But this hasn’t been an average year. Nope, in January alone Cleveland has already seen 42” of snow! Add that to October, November, and December and it just gets absurd.

Ok, I feel better now. I can go back to enjoying the season knowing that I don’t have snow delusions or weather amnesia.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

All sales are final

My mother now comes equipped with her own operational chemo port. She's sore and swollen today and she can't shower for a week, but other than that, well who can really think of much else when you've got that going on? She'll be back to work tomorrow and then more chemo on Thursday.

With all of these upgrades her value is really gonna sky rocket...even in this down economy.

Monday, January 26, 2009


I guess I keep forgetting that we live in Ohio. It’s not like it ever slips my mind that we’ve left Colorado, it’s just that I continue to be caught off guard when I’m reminded that I now reside somewhere else.

It mostly happens when I overhear ordinary conversations - when people talk about where they went to high school or which highway had a traffic accident or which grocery stores have the best deals. My brain has patterned in some expected responses and when I hear something different, that’s when I find myself saying, "Oh yeah, I live in Ohio."

I’m sure my brain will catch up soon. In the meantime I can say that life is really full of surprises.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Confession is good for the soul

I have a freak left armpit. My right armpit knows exactly when to perspire: 1) when it's hot and 2) when I exert myself. My left pit, however, does not seem to be governed by such rules. No, the left pit has gone rogue. It sweats whenever it wants, regardless of the inappropriateness of such an act.

I can be sitting perfectly still in a well air-conditioned room, for example, and all of the sudden, with no provocation, my left under arm decides to make a scene. The right arm and I pretend not to notice, going about our business, forbidding left arm to participate in any gesturing activity. All I can do is wait for left pit's little act of defiance to pass. And it always does. But not without leaving evidence.

There, now you know.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Update 1) I'm sure it's obvious because I haven't mentioned it lately, but I'll be waiting until August to start my Master's program. That's just the way the library funding works. No hard feelings.

Update 2) My mom attended her first cancer support meeting last night. It sounds like it was very positive and helpful. The group will meet again next month.

Update 3) My mom will be getting an abdominal port surgically installed (is there a better word for that?) on Monday, January 26. It's an outpatient procedure so it should hopefully go smoothly. The scary thing is that now she'll have the chemo meds inserted (again, better word?) directly into her abdomen and they'll start increasing the frequency which may lead to her feeling pretty terrible. I'll let you know how it goes.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Winter shenanigans

At this frigid time of year one of the best ways to warm up to the core is in a hot tub. If, however, you do not own one, you might want to see if your neighbors will invite you over for a dip. If they agree, you may, in your excitement, be tempted to change right into your swimming suit and run over to their house . I would recommend, however, taking an extra moment to put some warm winter clothes over your suit.

My Sam is a fish and he loves his water, and well, he just can't think beyond the swimming suit part. Ok, at least he remembered his shoes. Hmm, and the hat.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Bald is the new black

Chemo has a lot of side effects, but it seems that losing hair is one of the most distressing for some. I have two theories as to why this may be.

1) I think it’s easier to imagine life is still normal and therefore within one’s grasp when the battle your body is waging is unseen. Messes can be washed up and medicines can be tucked away and things go on as they were. However, when evidence of the war moves to the outside of the body, one is made to face the frighteningly unknowable future.


2) It might just have something to do with feeling freakishly out of sync with the fashion moguls.

This is all complete conjecture, of course, in the name of trying to understand my mom’s answer to the question:

How are you adjusting to being bald?

She said:

I love being bald and I wish it would come into style as a normal option for women. It's liberating to not have to color, cut, style, etc.

It's so hard to remember that I don't have hair… I chat with people and they don't say anything about it, so I don't even think about it.

I do feel like I get some looks, but it's not uncomfortable. One of the older men in my building said that every time he sees me with my little caps on, it reminds him of his wife who passed away from a brain tumor 5 years ago. Most people know somebody who has been through chemo, so I feel like I get knowing and compassionate looks. I smile at everybody who looks at me and I feel a responsibility to represent the disease well and not give cancer victims a bad name.

To me this sounds like someone who’s not afraid to live. My mom still wonders why she got cancer and she still worries about what’s ahead, but she’s confronting it bravely…with a smile and a hairdo that goes with anything.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Learning the hard way

Before my mom was diagnosed with cancer I read several novels about people living with various forms of it. Despite how eloquently an author can describe life with cancer, part of me was naturally detached. I just couldn’t grasp people who could spout off six syllable medicine names or tell you the most scenic route to different wings of the hospital. Part of me didn’t want to understand. If you weren’t a doctor but were still in the know, it meant you learned the hard way.

Considering my mom seemed perfectly healthy just a few short months ago, it’s surreal to me that she now possesses such knowledge. She’s had so many veins tapped she can tell you where the best flow comes from or when a vein has gone hard. She can tell you about the costs of blood transfusions and extra night gowns. She now knows, first hand, what bile looks like outside of the body. Yep, she definitely acquired all of this knowledge the hard way.

Fortunately this is only part of the story. I started interviewing my mom so that I could hear the words of a journey that’s hard to understand. I’ll post her answers to some of my questions over the next few days, but I want to start where she left off. It seems that the more you come to know of the bad, the better you can understand the good. She said:

Today I woke up and stepped outside and just the first breath of fresh air that filled my lungs almost made me cry it felt so good and tasted so delicious. Some little things have become so magnified and delightful. It's kind of hard to explain. I guess I'm learning to stop and smell the flowers.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Lost in translation

I like to think of us* librarians as information treasure hunters. On any given day I can get reference questions ranging from topics like running a small business to giraffe anatomy. I must then use my research powers to coerce answers from the universe. Trust me, it's that hard.

Sometimes, however, understanding the question can be more difficult than answering it. For example, you know how young children can have a difficult time pronouncing r's and l's and what should sound like "reading" sounds like "weeding" and "older" becomes "odor"? Well I had a sweet young boy come up to the reference desk yesterday looking for two movies..."saw one" and "saw two." Being the friendly and patient librarian that I am* I tried to help him sound it out.

Me: "I'm sorry, what was that? Sar?"

Boy: "No."

Me: "Sal?"

Boy: "No."

Boss, sitting next to me, asks boy: "Are you looking for Saw I and Saw II?"

Boy: "Yes."

Boss: "They're horror movies. Try searching the catalog under s-a-w."

Me: "Oh, right."

It turns out this sweet, innocent young boy did not have a speech impediment at all and in fact likes scary grownup movies. Yep, what I do is hard work.

*No, I'm not "technically" a librarian yet because I don't have my Master's, but it's virtually impossible to tell the difference based on appearances alone.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


Apparently I look a tad spooky in the last "new hairdo" picture I posted. And apparently the lighting is poor, resulting in few of the newly cut hairs actually showing up. And apparently it no longer reflects how I actually style my hair. So let's try that again, shall we?

Notice all of the snow on the rhododendrons behind me! We've already shoveled twice today, but you wouldn't guess it by looking at the two inches of fresh snow that lies there now. I love when it snows boat loads on days I don't have to go to work.

Friday, January 9, 2009

WHAT did I do?!

Just kidding. I'm not freaked out that I just cut several years worth of hair growth form my head. Sounds so gross when you put it that way. I've been wanting a change for a long time, and while I was driving home from work yesterday, courage struck me.

Here's my boring, long, straight, boring hair before:

And here it is now:

Please excuse the pasty white skin. Ohio gets many fewer days of sunshine than Colorado. Anyway, I'm barely recognizable, right?

I'll be donating the leftovers to Pantene's Beautiful Lengths program. They make free wigs for women who have lost their hair from chemo. If it didn't take about six times this much hair to make a wig, I could have just cut out the middle man and knit one together for my mom myself.

One day this clump of hair will be a fashionable faux do on someone else's head. Make me proud, little hairs.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


I think Sam and I made our first friends in Ohio! Two friends (who are married to each other so it’s really a twofer) in five months. Not bad. In fact, I’m downright pleased with this statistic considering how stacked the odds are against general friend making.

Childhood is friend heaven. You have hundreds, if not thousands, of potential friends crowded under one roof for most of your young existence. Parents even set up play dates! Working to make friends is virtually unheard of at this age.

And then if you move on to college, not only do you have the school proximity thing going for you, but now you all live within one square mile of each other. It’s nonstop friend hysteria!

But when you move out into the real world and do something like get a job, you’re exposed to many fewer people who live much farther away and who have rigid, jam-packed schedules who are lucky if they can stay awake until 10:00 anymore.

So given the tough friend market of adulthood, I think we can safely say victory is ours!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Happy '09!

I love the beginning of a new year. The days are starting to get longer, spring will be here soon, and so many possibilities lay ahead. I've got a lot of plans for 2009 deo volente - God willing. First on the docket is to begin taking classes for my Master's degree. Depending on how exactly my employer's tuition reimbursement program works, I could be starting in two weeks or 8 months. I'll let you know how things work out.

In other news, my mom is officially starting to lose her hair from the chemo treatments. Chemo kills fast multiplying cells and apparently that's what hair follicles are. To prevent the shedding dog appearance throughout the house, my mom decided to shave her hair down to an easier to clean length. Here she is before the clipper:

And here she is after (posted with her permission, of course):

And here's a picture about a week after the haircut:

What a beautiful smile! And quite a cute noggin. She purchased several fashionable lady caps and is going wig shopping soon. She doesn't plan to wear a wig on a regular basis as she's heard they can get pretty uncomfortable, but there may just come those days when she wants to walk about town without being noticed.

Well I hope your new year is off to a good start. And if life throws you surprises, may they become epic adventures!