February 14, 2021

Happy Valentine’s Day! I hope you spent time with someone you love, especially if that person is you.

Today I’m thankful for all the weirdos in my life, but especially my special one, Patrick. I can’t imagine going through this year, let alone the rest of my life with anyone else. When you find someone who not only has your back, but challenges you to be a better person, hold onto them. ❤️

February 7, 2021

Several weeks ago my mom told me that she, a couple of my sisters and brother-in-law were planning a surprise for me. Today she texted that it was scheduled to be delivered. When she gave me a 12-4 pm timeframe, I got very curious on what it could be. I even told Patrick that it sounded like a timeframe for furniture delivery. I was stumped.

About 12:30, my sister FaceTimed me and I could tell they were in her car. When I recognized the houses in the background, I was legitimately confused. They were outside our house! They had driven 3 hours to come see us. On our coldest day yet. This is my family.

I’m not gonna lie, I burst into happy tears. I just couldn’t believe they were here and in that moment, I realized how much I miss seeing them.

Because of Covid and my immunocompromised status, we sat outside, bundled up so much we were barely recognizable. They had planned ahead and brought chairs and blankets and hand warmers. We plugged in a heater and chatted for as long as we could handle the cold, which was about an hour. One sweet hour with my sweet family.

True to form, they also brought a Valentine’s basket with homemade cookies, puzzles made from family photos, a blanket with everyone’s pictures on, and other goodies. We’ll have some ongoing reminders of their visit.

What a great surprise. Lucky me they aren’t big Super Bowl fans. I’m so grateful for their visit and for their love.

January 15, 2021

Today was more difficult than I was anticipating. I had an appointment early in the morning to meet my plastic surgeon and go over reconstruction options. Although it’s not 100% necessary, I’m leaning towards a bilateral mastectomy. I really don’t want the worry that cancer could return in what I leave behind.

My plastic surgeon is nice. He specializes in this area and has his own family history of dealing with breast cancer, so he has an understanding of how overwhelming things can be. He mentioned more than once that I could call his office at any time with any question and that ultimately I was in charge of what I wanted. His explanations were thorough, his suggestions made sense, and he seems very capable.

I’m not sure what my expectations were. I expected that they may have to take photos. I guess I wasn’t expecting that they’d be taken in a room with bright lights and a backdrop, like class picture day. Standing with my hands by my sides, naked torso, turning at intervals while the female nurse photographed me wasn’t what I had imagined. I expected that the doctor would want to examine me. I may have even expected it when he took out a white eyeliner to draw on my body to show me where the incisions would be made. What pieces of me would need to disappear. When he turned me to the mirror so I could see myself as he explained what he would need to do, I didn’t expect to feel so sad. So vulnerable.

By the time we talked through the timeline, it finally sank in how long this process of being cured to being made something akin to whole again will take. Reconstruction won’t happen until all my treatments are done. Chemo will take until June. A mastectomy will follow and the recovery time is 6-8 weeks. At best, that take me to August. Radiation will follow…how quickly and for how long now will be a discussion with the radiologist next week. Originally, that was going to be many weeks. I suspect reconstruction will begin at best October, maybe November. The type of reconstruction my doctor suggested will be two-phased. If I’m lucky, I’ll start the new year with a new look.

It’s daunting and overwhelming, and honestly, I felt a bit sorry for myself when I got home. I was angry and tired and so damn disappointed again. And then you know what happened? Patrick reminded me that we’re in it together and we’ll get through it one step at a time. And then a friend sent me a funny text and made me laugh. And another friend texted saying she had left something at our front door, which contained among several things, coffee-scented room oil and bubble gum flavored lip balm, which is Ah-mazing. Then I grabbed some candy from the gift basket a friend dropped off the other day that I didn’t even tell you guys about because you would be SO JEALOUS of its awesomeness. And I realized once again how loved and supported I am and that’s all that really matters anyway. Thankfully, gratefully, I will get through this year.

Patrick’s birthday

I love birthdays, probably because I like celebrations. I like carefully chosen presents and special dinners. Balloons and cake. But mostly I love that birthdays remind us that people we love shouldn’t be taken for granted, and so we celebrate that they’ve been with us another year.

Today is Patrick’s birthday, and to him, birthdays are just another day. He couldn’t care less about a celebration. In fact, one year he insisted that all he wanted was to be left alone to work on his house. So like any good girlfriend, I ignored him and showed up at his door with a present and a slice of cake. It took a lot of will power not to bring a balloon, but I didn’t want to push my luck. After all, I had promised not to do anything.

This year, regardless of his party pooper attitude, I celebrate the fact that he’s been in my life another year. Yes, he’s a bit of a curmudgeon. Yes, he’s often antisocial and snarky. But he’s also one of the best people I know. Generous. Intelligent. Fun. He makes me laugh with his sarcasm and wit. He makes me feel safe with his dedication and honesty. He’s been accepting of my quirks, my horde of shoes (most of the time), my crazy family, and my general silliness. And when I’m feeling my lowest, he’s supportive and compassionate; I know that he always has my back.

Our life together may be low key, but it’s never dull. He’s challenging, interesting, competitive, and curious. Sometimes he pushes my buttons, but he also pushes me to grow. I know I’m a better person with him. So today, I’m extra thankful that I can celebrate another year, and I hope there’s many, many more birthdays to come.

That’s It

Last Wednesday I dragged the last of the unwanted items and garbage out of my house, swept and mopped the floors, left my collection of owner’s manuals and appliance warranties on the kitchen counter and walked out of the front door for the last time. Thursday morning I signed the papers and handed over the keys to the new owner. My house is no longer my house. Patrick asked me if I were sad, and my reply was not exactly–more nostalgic, that mixture of pleasure and sadness that comes from remembering something you can no longer experience. I loved my house not for the floor plan or yard or even the furnishings, although I thought it all worked well for me and my family. I loved it not for the location, even though it was awesome. My neighbors were all friendly and helpful. I really only loved my house for what it represented: the time in my life where I stood on my own and became a better me. I’m not sure how else to describe it except to say that sometime in the two years I lived there, I accepted my life for what it is in the moment. I quit worrying so much about past mistakes or future desires. I stopped caring quite so much what others expected of me and became more conscious about what I wanted for myself. My journey over the last couple of years there propelled me down a path I didn’t anticipate, but one that feels comfortable and right. I loved my house for that.

Which is also why I have no regrets at selling it. I had some people ask me if I were sure I didn’t just want to rent it out. Leave it for a backup plan. After all, some indicated, moving in with Patrick is a risk. I can see their point. It’s not like I don’t have failed relationships in my past. It’s not like those relationships didn’t cost me a lot. But love is always a risk. And for me, it’s always worth taking because the alternative offers nothing. In the end, love is the only thing we get to take with us.

After the house closing, I joked to Patrick that he was now stuck with me. He very sweetly replied, no…not stuck. After a long pause, he said it was more like trapped. Ah, yes…he does share my sarcastic sense of humor. And he has been a good sport about the take over of his once solitary house. For a guy who’s lived alone for the past ten years, he’s adapted well to having the five of us (me, my two girls, my dog and cat) invade his space, quietly carving out a room for himself in the basement yet rarely escaping to it. I love him for the way he’s expanded his world to invite me in. And I’m thankful for this new chapter in my life that includes him.

October 17

I posted this early on in the year. I’m posting it again because this time, I’m thankful for hope, even when it doesn’t seem warranted. And even if it turns out adverse. Sometimes it matters to go through the journey, regardless of the outcome.

I walked a labyrinth
and found him
standing in the sunlight
a Greek statue marking
the center of the garden

the day was quiet but
my mind was circling
so when he smiled

evil beauty

I lost a piece of myself
without him knowing
without me knowing why

except perhaps
I was blinded
by the sun and hopeful
for something
I can’t really believe in
but like Pandora’s box

it’s the only thing I have left

I need to travel back
through the maze
retrace my steps to find
the broken pieces
now scattered over the years

I’ve learned to live
with less of myself
but I’m feeling too small

too unseen

incapable of my own
I need to throw off
this cruel longing
and instead find
the doctor
who will help me
put myself back

I’ve already sacrificed
my youth to others
my wisdom he has not
doesn’t yet know
how to share
so although I’ve paid
my due

I will leave my tears
at the river
and find my way
to higher ground

August 20

Lately I’ve been trying to clean up my electronic devices–mostly my phone–of unnecessary stuff, old pictures and apps I don’t use. I’ve also been cross checking my iPad since I’m never sure what is actually linked to my phone. So I opened the Notes app on my iPad to see if it had the same long list of notes (quotes, grocery lists, names) as my phone. It doesn’t. Instead, I found one note, not written by me. It said I really love you Melissa and was dated March 27, 2013. First of all, that was not what I was expecting. It was obviously not left by my kids. They’ve left me notes on my phone and they always call me Mom. Secondly, I apparently do not use my iPad to its fullest potential since I have programs and apps that I never even open up. Forsooth.

I’m not sure who left the note. Just like I’m not sure who sent me flowers on my birthday last year. I have suspicions. The curious cat in me would like to figure it out. After all, I’m the type of person who will get up out of bed in the middle of the night to check one more spot when I’ve been searching for a missing item. I like to investigate until I’ve exhausted my options and only then will I try to let it go. I think this time, though, I’m not going to expend energy wondering for too long over it. Someone loved me and wanted me to know and left me a note where they thought I’d see it. I’m sorry I didn’t find it earlier. But maybe I found it when I was supposed to, as a reminder that even though it sometimes doesn’t feel like it or it isn’t obvious, I am loved by people in my life. People other than my kids or my immediate family. That’s rather nice to hear. I think most people don’t hear I love you enough. So tonight Im thankful for the mystery message, 511 days late.

July 26

I cannot accept Morpheus’s offer, for sweet dreams
are only for the unburdened. Those happy idiots

who know nothing of love and so can close their eyes
and imagine worlds shaded in color.

I’m sure you’re sleeping, and I’m only angry at myself
for lying awake in this black and white

world feeling the heaviness of you in the air
I breathe. If I had the strength I could shut myself

away from the shadows that surround me,
for each one bears your likeness and mocks me

from its corner with sweet words torn from
haunted conversations that involuntarily replay

in my mind. I long to sweep them away like cobwebs,
brush the silky strands away from my face

but I know if I reached out, they would simply recede
into the cold. No, I’m too tired for the fight

and too weary of the dreams that take me nowhere
but back, so I lie here, awake, wishing the night

would bury the dead.

Why does nighttime bring out the desire to over think? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve lay awake pondering things that somehow, with the setting of the sun, became insurmountable issues. And I know I’m not the only one. My friends often complain about the same thing. But I’ve gotten better as I’ve become older about recognizing that my nocturnal obsessions may seem a lot more manageable in the morning. History as proven that to be the case quite often. Sometimes not, especially when the heart is involved. Yet, as painful as it has been and sometimes still is, I’ll always be thankful for a chance at love. I hope I’m never at the point of completely giving up.

July 1

A friend of mine posted a link on her Facebook page that said, if you could write a note to your younger self, what would you say in two words? I didn’t comment on it there, but I’ve thought about it since I saw it. Her comment was “stay single,” understandable since she’s going through a difficult time in a relationship right now. Maybe I would have wanted to tell my younger self those same words when I went through my divorce. After all, at the time it seemed like it would be easier to avoid connections altogether than to endure the heartache that follows a break up. But I know I wouldn’t have listened. Relationships are too important to me. So I came up with a bunch of 2 word phrases I could say to my younger self that I think might make a difference in my life today:

travel more, be patient, avoid drama, live purposefully, wait longer, stop worrying, eat healthier, avoid (I’d insert a name here), speak up, practice more, learn guitar, enjoy it, wear swimsuits, pray more, don’t assume…

The list could go on and on. There’s a lot I wish my younger self knew. However, the one two-word combination that I think would make the most impact would be love you. If I were smart enough, I’d see it as both a commentary and a directive. Love you. You’re valuable. You’re important. You’re worth it.  Love you.  Take care of yourself.  Don’t ignore your needs.  Don’t put yourself last all the time.  I’m thankful that I’m learning to be better at it, but in my younger days I really struggled with the belief that my worth was based on the expectations of others. Believing that I had to prove I was worthy of love, that it was somehow conditional on what I could bring to the table, so to speak. I wish I realized sooner that being lovable is inherent in simply being who you are, not what you can be or do for people. I would have saved myself a lot of disappointment. After all, not everyone is going to love you, no matter what you do for them. Ultimately, it’s more rewarding to find the ones who love you, regardless.

June 10

Today, once again, I’m thankful for words and inspiration from unusual places.

love comes
moving so slowly
we think its
not there
when all along
it was poised
like well-hung wood
pieces broken
and dangling
from branches
caught mid-fall
and waiting
for just the right
gentle blow
to send it