Friday, March 23, 2012

Mr. Mom ... Awesome!

Mr. Awesome has been off work since my surgery. We are fortunate that he works for a great company that offers amazing benefits and employee support and his coworkers have chipped in and helped out at every opportunity. This has afforded us three months to focus on nothing but our family and my health. Although I have a lot of good days I also have a lot of limitations on what I am able to do so Mr. Awesome has been picking up the slack.

In the months since my surgery he has taken over laundry, kitchen duty and house cleaning on top of his regular dad moments of bed times and bath times. I have helped when able but seriously, the bulk of this domestic machine is being run by The Mister. He has even become very efficient with grocery shopping and errand running.

He has handled all this like a champ and has found a certain amount of satisfaction from his new skill set. In fact, he gets a little annoyed when I help out; he says I mess with his system. And Heaven forbid I question his methods!

Last week I commented that he doesn't fold the towels like I did. I tried to explain that by folding the towels my way we can fit everything on the self. He then dragged me over to the linen closet and pointed out that 'his' way makes the towels less bulky and he, in fact, fit more towels per shelf. All right then.

He's not always right, though. I had to call in back up to settle a domestic dispute a couple of weeks ago. Not the cops, my pal, Erin who cleans our house once a week. Erin walked into a full blown domestic disturbance; Mr. Awesome and I were debating the dishwasher loading techniques. I told him that Tupperware can't go on the bottom rack and his mature and eloquent response was, "bologna!"  Erin tried to slip through the kitchen unnoticed but we trapped her and forced her to pick a side. I won!

Today takes the cake though. I was feeling pretty good this morning so I accompanied Mr. Awesome to the grocery store to pick up a few things. We were going up and down the aisle, debating the list he had made up and what brands and deals were available. I could tell my input was getting to The Mister. He was trying hard to not get annoyed with me and I was trying hard to annoy him; it is just that kind of day.

We made our way to the peanut butter aisle, a place of contention with Random Family. When it comes to peanut butter choices we are a family divided. Some like smooth, some prefer crunchy; some like Kraft, others want Skippy. We can never agree, so as we stood in front of the peanut butter choices I knew this was my moment to drive Mr. Awesome around the bend.

I picked up a jar of Kraft Crunchy, my brand and mix of choice, and put it in the cart. As he looked to see what I had dropped in there I stood in front of the Smooth choices, his preference. He scanned the shelves for his favourite, grumbling that he could only find the low sodium stuff. I stood there, smirking, telling him that I had read somewhere that Kraft wasn't making regular smooth peanut butter anymore because the demographic that eats smooth is so old that they need low sodium. Old people can't handle crunchy because of their dentures.

That was it; bringing up my favourite taunt completely undid him and Mr. Awesome had a wee melt down in the peanut butter aisle. I started to laugh and stepped away from the shelf. He swiped his favourite off the shelf, dropped it into the basket and stomped away in a huff. I followed behind, still laughing.

"After everything you're dealing with you are going to let a jar of peanut butter, and not very good peanut butter at that, get to you? That's what's going to be the cause of your undoing?"

He turned, looked me dead in the eye and said, "I have plans."

Now, hours later, I am twitchy and constantly checking my back because as my pal Debbie says, revenge is best served cold so in twenty years when something horrible happens to you, remember this moment.

Seriously, though, Mr. Awesome rocks my world and I couldn't imagine living this life with anyone else ... except for maybe Gerard Butler, but that's a whole other fantasy!

Soul-mates are people who bring out the best in you. They are not perfect but are always perfect for you. ~Author Unknown

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Who Loves You, Baby?

"Who loves you, Baby?"

I grew up hearing that phrase over and over. Even now as I type it I can hear my Uncle D saying it and chuckling. I was a bald, bald, bald baby and my nickname was Kojack. I didn't stay bald forever; by the time I was three I had a goodly amount of hair but the Kojack taunts haunted me through my adolescence and adult years.

Now 36 years later Kojack has returned.

Last Tuesday I was standing outside when I noticed my hair blowing in the wind. The thing was, it was no longer attached to my head! My hair, which had been falling out strand by strand for a couple of days, was launching a full scale evacuation, right there in the parking lot. That evening when we got home, and before I went out with a couple of girlfriends, Mr. Awesome shaved my head.

I was unsure of how I was going to feel when the moment came, when reality hit. I thought that I was going to be okay with losing my hair but I was also prepared to not be okay. The idea of being bald was not bothering me but the process of getting bald had me a little freaked out. I was worried that I was going to look like some kind of ogre, that I would be less feminine, that I would be embarrassed or humiliated by my hairlessness.

Mr. Awesome saw the uncertainty in my eyes as I nervously joked about my hair taking flight. He took my by the hand and instead of leading me to the bathroom to shave my head like I expected he walked me over to our bed and sat me down. Then he crawled in to bed beside me and just held me.

We spent an hour talking about our journey thus far. He listened to my worries and reassured me that this, like everything else we'd dealt with, was only temporary; we weren't going to be stuck in this moment of hairless uncertainty forever. Then he started joking about how much easier it would be to get ready to go out, how much money we were going to save on hair products and how I am guaranteed to have at least 6 months of no bad hair days.

Then he shaved my head.

As the razor skimmed over my head and the hair fell to the floor I began to feel stronger. I felt free and battle ready. With each tuft of hair that floated from the razor I felt the burden, uncertainty and powerlessness of cancer float away, too. I was suddenly in control, with no more distractions. I was morphing into a warrior ninja, a full fledged cancer killing machine.

When all my hair was gone, Mr. Awesome rubbed my head, kissed my forehead and turned me to face the mirror. The sickly looking, chemo patient I had dreaded to see in the mirror wasn't there. Instead there was just me; my eyes, my smile, my freckles. Me. Just more aerodynamic. As I stood there, staring at the new me I had another realization. I started my life bald and ended it with a full head of hair and cancer in my boob but right there, in my bathroom, as bald as the day I was born, I felt reborn.

The surgery had removed the cancer and the chemo was cleansing my body of anything the surgery may have missed. I was starting over. This cancer journey had already changed me, my perspective on life and my attitude on dealing with challenges. I am a different person than I was six months ago and its all good. I am a new person; I get to start over.

That night I posted a picture of me in a head scarf on Facebook and headed out for my girls night. I was a little nervous for the response my new look was going to generate but I was also determined to pull this off; I was going to rock this bald chick look.

When I got home that night and checked my Facebook I was overwhelmed. Who loves me, Baby? Everyone! I had dozens of notes, comments and private messages and every one of them was encouraging and reaffirming. My People, my team, my fellow warriors, once again had my back and were lifting me up!

Thank you! Thank you for being with me, for encouraging me and for being on my side. Thanks for being My People!

We're all born bald, baby.

~Telly Savalas

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Be True

I have a lot of parents who are regular readers and recently I have discovered that some of their kids are closet readers, too. This post is for them. If your kid isn't a reader here or your not sure how to communicate this to them I give you permission claim this post as your own, write it out in a card or journal for them and give it to them. Hopefully, this will be a conversation starter and a lifeline to parents and teens because we all could use a little help from time to time.


I see you. I see you with your friends or alone, lost in moments of quiet thought, and I can't believe how fast you are growing up and changing from the sweet little kid who turned my world upside down into this mysterious young adult I hardly know. I see how you are becoming more independent, more confident in your own ideas and talents; I see you and I marvel at the person you are.

In the midst of all this growing and maturing, there's still a lot you are trying to figure out. I can see that you are trying to balance who you are with who your parents think you are and who your friends want you to be. I know that you feel an enormous amount of pressure to please others, to fit in and to do what is expected of you in the moment. Its a lot to deal with.

Each decision you make shapes who you are and who you're becoming. Not decisions like what you're having for lunch but big decisions like who you're hanging out with, what you do when you're with your friends and what habits you're picking up. Each step you take down the path that is your life changes you and stays with you; the decisions you make will either add to or take away from who you are. The people you let influence you will also add to your life or take pieces from you.

There are pieces of you that once you give away you can never get back; pieces that hold your self respect, dignity and your very heart. There are decisions that you'll be asked to make in the moment that will echo throughout your life and there are things that you'll be pressured to do that you can never undo.

That's not to say that life is without grace and redemption because there is always room for second (and third and fourth) chances but along with those chances is regret. Regret is a hefty burden to bear and even though the weight can decrease over time, the shadow of regret is always with you.

Being young is about taking chances but its also about learning. Sure you can learn from your own experiences but sometimes learning from the advice of those who know you best, love you best, is a better way to go. The independence in you will chafe at the idea of being told what to do but somewhere inside of you there is also the part of you that takes comfort in knowing that you don't have to do it all on your own. I know this because I still feel this.

I still get annoyed when my mom tries to give me her input or advice; I am a grown person and I can make my own decisions. But later, when the annoyance subsides, I am relieved to know that I am not alone in this life, that I don't have to guess my way through the tough patches. I don't always take the advice that's given but I always think about it at least, weigh the options and think about the consequences. That's all I'm trying to say to you; stop, listen and then decide.

Right now, in your life, you are trying to figure out who you are and where you are headed in your life. You are trying to sort out where your parents end and where you begin and you are shaping your own identity. In the midst of all this chaos and new independence there is this thing inside of you, this little piece of truth that you hear as you move through your life. That is who you are. That is the truth of the person you can become.

Before you are in the middle of tough situations or faced with peer pressure you already know who you are and what you feel is right for you.  You already know the truth of who you want to be. You already know but sometimes the knowing and the doing are two very different things.

I want you to know that you are stronger, braver and smarter than you give yourself credit for. You are innately good and kind. You have everything inside of you that you will ever need to be the person, the magnificent, spectacular, world changer that you are meant to be. You don't have to sell yourself short, go with the crowd or play down your strengths. Just shine on.

Be true to who you are and live the life, the great big, wonderful life you were created to live. Hold the pieces of you close, guard them and only share them with those who are truly worthy of you. Allow the people who love you to speak into your life, listen to their wisdom before you make a decision. Above all know that grace and second chances are there for you, just as they have been there for all of us.

Everywhere you go you shout it
You don’t have to be shy about it, no
And you’ll never be alone
Come on now show your soul
~U2, Origin of the Species

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Beat of a Generous Heart

One of my favourite things in life is meeting people who use their talents and passions to give to others. It inspires me to see people who notice others and actively look for ways to help out and encourage as many people as they can; just witnessing these random acts of kindness motivates me to do more, to be better.

I have been blessed many times by people who have gone above and beyond. I have received several cups of coffeejuice, paid for by a generous soul in line ahead of me. We've been blessed with meals, clothes for our kids and much needed household items by friends and strangers who have randomly and generously dropped these things off on our doorstep. And recently a friend gifted to me a free haircut so I wouldn't have to worry about my hair falling out in long chunks.

All of these things have been amazing, timely gifts that have filled a need and each time we have been blessed we have looked for a way to pay it forward, pass on our blessing to someone else. Giving to others can become addicting. The sense of goodness and peace that fills your heart when you know that you have helped someone else out is intoxicating; there's nothing like it!

This week an unbelievably kind stranger blessed Dude in a way that I could never have imagined and I can't wait to find a way to pay this whopper forward!

Dude loves science, Lego and Harry Potter. Dude also loves music. He is constantly singing, dancing or 'air drumming'; its his way to unwind, decompress from a stressful day and to celebrate a great day. Before our move he was taking drum and bagpipe lessons but since our move we've been unable to work out a way to continue the lessons. Mr. Awesome and I have talked a lot recently about finding something to boost Dude out of the slump he's been in since my diagnosis and with his birthday being this week I took to Kijiji to do a little research.

Dude has wanted a drum kit for years but those things can be really expensive so we've never been able to get one for him. On Sunday night I logged on to the computer and clicked over to Kijiji to see what price range we'd be looking at for a used kit. I didn't really have a hope of getting one for Dude for his birthday; I was just fantasy shopping but when I searched 'drum kit' the first ad that popped up was for a vintage refurbished kit that some guy wanted to give away.

It seemed too good to be true but there it was. Apparently the ad poster had refurbished a kit and was looking to give it away to a kid who really wanted to learn how to play but whose family couldn't necessarily afford to buy a kit. I immediately contacted the poster with the unbelievable tale of what our life has been for the last six months. I also told the guy that regardless of whether he chose Dude or not that I thought that this was an amazing thing he was doing.

The first thing the next morning, Dude's 12th birthday, Ryan, the ad poster, called me to say that he wanted to give the kit to Dude! I totally could not believe it and I started rambling and blubbering on the phone but somehow I was coherent enough to arrange to meet the next day so we could pick up the kit. That night, when we told Dude that a very generous stranger was making one of his wishes come true he totally could not believe it. In fact, he said, "Seriously? Is this for real?" at least a dozen times throughout the evening.

The next morning, when we met Ryan and got to talking to him we were blown away by his open heart and generous nature. Ryan runs a music school and is involved with an organization that gives Bibles away to just about anyone who needs or wants one and he refurbishes vintage drum kits in his spare time. During our conversation we learned that this is the first kit he's finished and given away but he really wants to do this more often. He said he had about 60 responses to his Kijiji post and he would love to help out other music loving kids.

This is the part when I get to start paying it forward; I'd love to help Ryan make other kids' musical dreams come true, but I need your help. Ryan is looking for drum kits to refurbish and pass on to other kids on his list, so if you have a kit, or know someone who has a kit, and you would like to donate it to Ryan please contact me at Some Random Mother with your info and I'll connect you to Ryan. If you don't have a kit but you would like to help Ryan's cause out financially you can contact me and I'll pass along his mailing address.

I think Ryan is an exceptional human being and he has made Dude happier than I've seen him in months. He has also reminded me kindness is never wasted and that you never know what blessings await you when you open your heart to others!

"Ryan is my favourite name, my favourite person! I want to be a Ryan when I grow up!"
~Dude, from behind his new drum kit

Monday, March 12, 2012

Beautiful, Beautiful, Beautiful Boy

Twelve years ago my world was turned upside down but somehow everything suddenly made perfect sense. Twelve years ago today Dude eased into the world and changed everything. Twelve years ago today I began to understand the depth of unconditional love, the art of finding joy in the midst of trials and the gift of making every moment of success a moment to celebrate.

Dude, dragonboat race 2011
Each of my kids are brilliant and unique. They have each taught me about life from their perspective but there's something about Dude and how his mind works that has totally changed everything about how I see the world. He has opened my closed mind and forced me past my limits of comfort. He inspires me, frustrates me, challenges me and educates me; on a moment by moment basis most days.

I have never met anyone so unwavering once they make a decision. Dude sets his course and nothing short of divine intervention can deter him, for better or for worse. From something as minor as deciding on what he'll be for Halloween to something more involved like joining cadets or pursuing his passion for science. He has taught me the value of being focused and single minded.

Dude also has an incredible imagination. Whether he is making up stories, creating a Lego universe or dreaming up inventions, there are no limits to where his mind will take him. His room is littered with random sketches of improvements to household items, plans for future Lego projects and strategic battle plans for his army guys. He dreams and schemes and plans constantly and I love that he excitedly shares his creativity with anyone who will take the time to listen.

There are a million things to love about this kid but one of my very favourite things about him is his relentless pursuit of becoming a better person. Social skills don't come naturally to him; he has to work and study very hard to make sense of what comes so easily to most of us but he does, with very little complaining. He is constantly asking us what slang and metaphors mean, how to read body language and how to communicate what he's feeling appropriately. He spends a lot of time puzzling out how to show kindness and empathy, what it means to be a good friend and how he can better love the people in his world. This piece, this learning how to be human, has been the greatest gift to me.

Because of all the time I spend decoding and explaining social intricacies to him I have become more aware of the message I am putting out into the world. I have become more deliberate in how I communicate and kinder in what I communicate. I am constantly aware that not only is Dude watching me for cues but that my words and actions can have a lasting impact on others. I try very hard to make sure that what I show on the outside is true to the kind of person I am on the inside and that my Inside Person is the best person I can be.

I learned so much from Dude in these twelve years. I've learned to take the time to laugh at what is funny and not waste time crying over what doesn't matter. I've learned to see the beauty in a shark swimming through the cool ocean depths, to see the miracle of a rocket ship in flight and the wonder of special effects in movies. I've learned that there's no such thing as normal, that nothing is impossible if you have a curious mind and a willing heart and that there is no sadness so deep that 30 minutes with Mr. Bean can't fix.

I've learned to persevere, to hold on to hope and to see past the impossible to the miracle just waiting to be discovered. I've learned that a smile brings the same joy no matter what the diagnosis and that stupidity is a condition of ignorance not of brain function. I've learned that growth and change and progress happen continually and that we never have to be a person we don't want to be as long as we are willing to learn from others.

I can't believe its been twelve years since I first met him, held him and recognized him as my own. Twelve years has gone by so fast and yet I still have a lifetime to know and discover this curious creature, this beautiful, beautiful, beautiful boy.

The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.

~Albert Einstein

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Loved Through

While the last minutes of March first slip by I am frantically writing this post. I had pledged to give all my peeps a monthly reminder to check themselves and I didn't want to let this month pass by despite all that's going on here. I started chemo yesterday and had an early morning CT today followed by a little volunteering and a lot of napping. I feel good, with very few side effects. I feel lucky, blessed, in so many ways.

Last weekend I was honoured by spending a day shopping and laughing with my sister and one of my cousins. That evening we met up with twenty or so of my pals for dinner and coffejuice and a movie. All of my pals showed up wearing hats and ready for a good time. I was overwhelmed by the number of people who showed up and how much love flowed my way.

At the end of the meal I stood up and shared a few words with my pals. I wanted then to know that the reason why I can be brave, strong and an 'inspiration' is because they are my people. They are brave for me, strong for me and inspire me. They encourage me, take care of me and love me through this journey ... every step of the way. And as I looked around the room, seeing childhood friends mix with church pals mix with high school buddies mix with family I knew that as long as all these people are on my side I can continue to kick cancer's ass!

A friend posted this video on my facebook wall and I wanted to share it with you ...

This month, as you remember to check yourself ... be sure to look around and count the blessings in your life ... see your pals and know that they are their to love you through whatever you're going through!

Friendship isn't a big thing - it's a million little things. ~Author Unknown