Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 The Year of Change

19 years ago today I walked into a New Year's Eve party in Sterling. I smiled and said "hi" to a guy I went to college with, Andrew. And when I did the guy sitting next to him on the sofa said "you know HER? I would like to know HER". Which made me giggle. I went on to talk to that guy who wanted to know HER, date him, marry him, and spend 15 wonderful years with him. But this year it seems, was the ultimate year of change, since in October the final and only thing in my life that did not change in the past 3 years, moved out. And so it is with a heavy heart that I write this, my last blog.

I started this blog one year ago to help people - people considering doing the neratinib drug trial, people with diabetes, people with cancer, but I have decided that really I have no business telling people how to live there lives, when I can't seem to even make sense of my own. :0)

So, instead, I will end with a summary of the tremendous lessons I have learned this year, 2010, "The Year of Change".

10. Stretch every day. It really does make a difference. I am (knock wood) pain free for the first time in my life, because of this simple life change.

9. It's ok to be sad sometimes - I grew up in a family of positivity. You weren't allowed to be sad, you weren't allowed to feel sorry for yourself. And considering 3 of the 4 of us have had cancer, I can see how this is helpful, but this year I learned what I did not learn when I had cancer - it's ok sometimes to be sad, to sit on the kitchen floor and cry your heart out. It's ok to be sad sometimes.

8. Say no - you don't have to do things just to make people like you. You can say no if you would rather not do something. If they don't still like you, then they were not worth having in your life to begin with.

7. Simplify - your life, physically and mentally. I moved again this year, into my dream house, and it's everything I've always wanted. But it's for sale now, and I need to move again. Third time in 3 years. Less stuff makes this easier. Keep what is important to you, and get rid of the rest.

6. Show up and be present - I did alot with friends and family this year, and I really tried to pay attention to them while I was with them. By only saying yes to the things I wanted to do, and I had time to do, I was able to really be present and listen, share, and be present in my life.

5. Change can be good - when I lost my job this summer I was terrified. But the job I have now is so much better then any job I've had for the past 10 years. It's new and different, it's fun, and I'm learning new things. I never would have changed on my own, but being laid off forced me to change. And it was a great change!

4. Make a difference on a small scale - I cannot change the world. But I can serve chili to homeless people, I can also bake them apple pies, I can volunteer to be in a drug trial to help save lives with cancer in the future, I can ride my bike 100K to raise money for diabetes, I can tutor a high schooler in algebra, I can make a difference, even if it's only to one person.

3. Don't take your days for granted - Jake taught me this one. He has a giant lump the size of a softball on his hip. Yet he still wags his tail more then most dogs. He still loves to go outside for a walk, he still loves to relax in a sunbeam. Maybe nothing major is happening today in your life, but take the time each day to enjoy something, however small it may be.

2. It's ok to fail - I am an expert at failing. I have failed at nearly everything I've tried, now including marriage. Yet I find that if you get back up, brush yourself off, and keep on trying, that life surprises you. I think it would be worse to never try. So I will keep trying, and failing. :0)

1. Be happy on your own - for years my friends have been telling me this one and I never understood what they meant. But this year I finally figured it out, first while married, and then more recently, no longer married. I know, for the first time in my life, how to be happy all by myself. I know what I like to do, and what I enjoy, I know what makes me happy, and I know how to deal with stress, I am not worried about what other people want me to do, or expect me to do, and I know how to be happy on my own. For the first time in my life I feel like a grown up. For the first time in my life, I am strong, all by myself.

So, to the few people who read this blog, thank you. I have had fun sharing my stories with you. The drug trial is over, and I 100% recommend it, as I never had a horrible side effect, yeah to cancer drug science. I have had a horrible and wonderful year of change. And I am hopeful for new and exciting adventures in 2011 - for all of us!

The end.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Holiday Traditions

I think every family has holiday traditions. Things that when you are a kid you think is stupid, but as I grow older they are the exact things I look forward to each year. Some we still do, some are long gone, but here are a few of my favorites.

Every year my Grandma would make all the grandkids a giant gingerbread house. This is before there were kits, LOL, so she would bake it from scratch, assemble it, and then decorate it herself. Each year it was different, and I thought they were magical! The entire family would get together and have a big dinner at her and Grandpop's house. Then after dinner all of the cousins would gather around Grandma's kitchen table and eat the gingerbread house. Well, or so that was the idea. Most years Bart, Ant, and Joey would attack it or crush it, or somehow destroy it within seconds. Then us girls would gather around to pick up the pieces of candy that hadn't fallen on the floor. :0) Grandma died in the 90's but I still think of her and my cousins every year when I see gingerbread houses.

One holiday tradition that was probably my favorite, and still is - is the buckeye. My Dad's family all lives in Ohio, where he was born and raised. And a tradition in that area is the peanut butter and chocolate buckeye. YUM. Two of my most favorite foods. This tradition is now passed all the way down to Jill and Katie, I have been excluded since I eat too much of the dough (and it makes Jill upset! LOL) but it's soooo good. Every year they make thousands of buckeyes and it's a long and hard process - starting with miking everything in giant pots to hand dipping each and every peanut butter ball in chocolate. I always wait until Christmas morning to eat my first one of the season, and to me, that's Christmas. :0)

Whatever your tradition, and wherever you are in your life, I hope you take the time to enjoy this holiday season!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

New Week

About two weeks ago I read a great article in one of my magazines about Condalisa Rice. In it she explained how people constantly ask her what her plans are for the next 5 to 10 years, and how this question upsets her. Things change, she said, so it's her philosophy to make plans only for the next few weeks, and then to see what else comes up and go from there.

I have always been a planner. I come from a family of planners, we plan everything down to the minute, every little detail taken into consideration. For this reason Ms Rice's advise both intrigued me and scared me to death. But, I decided to give it a shot.

Last night was one of my first attempts at my new plan, and I am happy to say it was incredibly successful. I was called late on Sunday night and asked to help serve chili to homeless families at my local soup kitchen. All I knew was what time to show up, and an address. Two days before trying something new, with complete strangers, and I had no plan, I had no details! But at 4:30 on Tuesday I showed up at the address and walked in with the homeless guys who were standing outside. And for the next two hours I did whatever was asked of me, shouted at me, or simply needed to be done. I made a giant bowl of cole slaw, I dished out apple sauce, I poured glasses of tea, I put 2 rolls on 65 plates and added a slice of butter, I cleaned, I delivered plates to tables, and I simply helped. Those 2 hours were some of the most rewarding I've had in several months. I was helping a church group serve, but it was the homeless men, who one by one all came over to the kitchen and yelled out "Thank you! God Bless You!". Several of the men I see all the time in my neighborhood. It was humbling to me to realize that people I assumed lived down the street, actually had no home, and no food to eat.

Near the end of the night the last round of guys were packing up to leave, and the abundance of left overs was shocking to me. These guys were heading out to go sleep outside in the 40 degree rainy night, and we had leftovers! I grabbed an open pack of cookies and went out into the dining room and offered a younger guy in a Redskin sweatshirt more cookies. He looked at me and smiled and said "oh man, thank you! Wish those were the lemon ones, I love those lemon ones" (OK I hate lemon cookies but to each his own) so I went back into the kitchen and grabbed him an entire pack of lemon cookies and took them out to him and the look on his face was something I will never forget. You would have thought I gave him a car. He was so happy to have some lemon cookies it shocked me. Here is a man who has no place to live, who is sleeping on the streets, and has no food to eat. He has more problems then I could ever imagine, and yet he made me realize how the little things in life really can bring you happiness.

So as I continue on my journey of living without a long term plan, and in this holiday season of stress and overdoing, I wish you all some happiness in whatever your version of the lemon cookie is. :0)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Short Guide to a Happy Life

When I was at my Mom's on Thanksgiving she gave me a bunch of novels she had read to see if I wanted to read any of them. When I was looking at the selection a little slim book caught my eye, "A Short Guide to a Happy Life". I pulled that one out, and read it in one sitting. Have you ever read something that just spoke directly to your soul? This book did that to me.

Ann Quindlen wrote the book after loosing her mother to cancer. She writes how this one event in her life changed the way she lived forever. She no longer was a person who let life pass her by, but she suddenly had an overwhelming desire to live deeply every day. She became a better friend, a better employee, a better listener. She was present, she showed up, she laughed. She ate fudge and she enjoyed it. She went to events instead of sitting home. She started doing all the things she had always planned to do.

This year on Thanksgiving I am grateful for so many things. I have a life full of adventure, wonderful people, and comforts that most people take for granted. But more then that, I realized after reading this book, that I am grateful that I too, have learned the same lesson as Ms. Quindlen, and I share her overwhelming desire to live. I have made most of the same changes she has in her life, and I am a happier person for it. I show up, I listen, I laugh. I have learned how to find happiness in the little things in life, and to never take things for granted.

I will end this with my favorite passage from the book, one that truly explains how I feel, one that reaches into my core:

"I learned to live many years ago. Something really bad happened to me, something that changed my life in ways that, if I had a choice, it would never have been changed at all. And what I learned from it is what, today, sometimes seems to be the hardest lesson of all.
I learned to love the journey, not the destination. I learned that this is not the dress rehearsal, and that today is the only guarantee you get."

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 19, 2010


This week I took my first trip to Chicago. I cannot wait to go back! What a fantastic city! I am sorry to say I did not take my camera with me, but I don't know when I have been so impressed with a city.

The downtown area was full of old historical buildings, beautiful architecture, and so much character. The Wrigley Building was incredible, and in my mind way out shown the Sears Tower. (OK yes, it was impressively tall!) There was a River Walk along the river, as well as a paved bike and running trail all along the lake. The lake, of course, being Lake Michigan, and so large that it looked just like the ocean. Beaches and parks were everywhere. On Sunday when I arrived I walked along the water, and then out onto Navy Pier. What a great family attraction - there were rides, there were restaurants, there was shopping, and there was a large (and free) stained glass museum full of beautiful stain glass works from around the world.

After the pier I walked down the Magnificent Mile. Store after store after store, anything you wanted, it was sold on this stretch of road. There was a huge Macy's with the giant display windows like NYC. And here was one of the best parts - it was so clean! I'm not sure how they do it.

But maybe the best part was the pizza. OK we've all been to Pizzeria Uno's at the mall. LOL. This is nothing at all like that. This was by far the best pizza I have ever had! It was so fresh and full of cheese and so very delicious. I would go back just for the pizza!

So, if you've never been, I highly recommend a weekend trip to Chicago. There is something there for everyone. Be sure to try the pizza! :0)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Sweat for a Vet 2010

So today I participated in "Sweat for a Vet 2010". For 3 hours I joined about a thousand others worldwide in spin class. Yep, 3 hours of spinning. The event was held by the man who created the spin bike - he has a new invention, a krank bike. The krank bike is a spin bike that you pedal with your hands. It's a great upper body workout, and Sport & Health clubs in the area are going to start having spin/krank classes that have both kinds of bikes in them - providing a full body workout!

But today was for the local vets. Together we raised over $70,000 for Walter Reed Hospital to get outfitted with these new krank bikes. These new bikes provide cardio exercise as well as rehabilitation for all of the disabled vets at the hospital.

It was truly inspiring to me to attend the class with so many vets. I mean think about it - when was the last time you were in a spin class, with an empty wheelchair next to you? There were several vets from Walter Reed in class using the krank bikes. With these bikes these guys can get an awesome cardio workout, as well as build incredible upper body strength.

I am grateful today for many things, that I have two legs that work and that my health is good enough that I can spin for 3 hours. But more then that, I am grateful for all of the vets who have fought, and continue to fight for our freedom. God bless America!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

So, life isn't fair....

I grew up in a family that honestly believes Life is Fair. My Mom taught me and my sister, that if you are a good girl, you go to church and say your prayers, and you are a nice person and a hard worker, then you will go far in life and in happiness. In retrospect I know Mom believed this to be true.

After cancer, loosing my father, diabetes, loosing my job, and now the crumbling of my marriage I know for a fact, life simply is not fair. Sometimes you can do your best, you can be a nice person, you can go to church and say your prayers, and still have it all fall apart. You can still loose those you love, you can still get sick, and you can still watch all of your dreams float away.

Mom learned this lesson 3 years ago when she lost the man she loved to cancer. They had saved there whole lives for retirement, they had trips planned, they had dreams, they had ideas. But none of those were realized, cancer took Dad before they were able to take those trips, buy those cars. It was recently that Mom told me how hard it was to give up all those dreams, and how difficult it was for her to try and think of new dreams for her future, dreams that could not include Dad. Sadly after 69 years Mom had finally realized, life isn't fair.

This weekend though she took a big step. This weekend she drove 6 hours to visit her best friend in the whole world. I'm sure they are sitting out on Sally's porch now looking at the lake talking, laughing and crying together, true sisters at heart. I'm sure Mom is overjoyed at being there, and seeing Sally in person. And I know that she is thanking God for her friend, and for the lesson that Sally has taught us all - to keep trying. You see 2 years ago Sally, a perfectly healthy 50 year old nurse, mother to 6 kids, had a massive stroke, a stroke that left her paralyzed on an entire side of her body.

The fact that Mom took this step inspires me to keep going and to keep trying. And her best friend Sally reminds me to stop worrying about what is going wrong in life, and always be thankful for what I do have.