All the Updates!

Big changes coming for Mac n’ Cheese Manor!!!  We are working with the Get the Lead Out program to certify our house as lead free which will include: new windows, siding, doors (inside and out), and trim.  We’re working with MassSave to insulate!  It will likely be a few months yet, but the contractors who will bid on the work have been here to look around and after months of paperwork and phone calls, I feel like we’re finally moving forward!

I have never had a garden and know nothing about growing things, but we’re going to give a small garden a try this year.  Wish me luck, I’m going to need it, or rather, our poor plants are going to need it!  On a similar but different note, we are also planning to build a chicken coop!  I mean, can we really call it a farm, even a little one, if there’s no garden or chickens?

On the battle front, we continue to lose to the squirrels.  We have four traps (three live/one kill) and every day the bait is gone but the traps are empty.  We’ll be welcoming two cats to our home as soon as the construction work is complete and hopefully they can succeed where we are failing.

I stopped using shampoo about a month ago and I’m never going back!!!  I’ve started using New Wash which is completely fantastic, but is also quite expensive.  So when I run out, I’m going to try the curly girl method and see if that works for me as well.  I have a friend who does it and her hair looks great so I’m crossing my fingers!

As it relates to writing, I’ve changed my mind about rewrites.  As I’ve gone through it, I find that most of what I wrote doesn’t want to be rewritten;  It was what it was at the time and looks too different in hindsight for me to even know where to begin.  I’m still going to fill out the rest of my Cancer Files, but by adding to them, not rewriting them.  Everything else I’m leaving be.  There are so many new chapters to write!

It’s been a lovely and difficult winter for me.  It is so beautiful here.  I haven’t loved snow like this since I was a child.  I fall more in love with our creaky, old, farmhouse and rambling eight or so acres every day.  We’ve made wonderful new friends, and I love being home with my Sunshine.  And yet, when the anniversary of my mid-December move arrived, I felt so sad for all we’re missing by not living closer to our families and friends back West. There is a certain kind of loneliness for much-loved people and places that is unbearably bittersweet.

2018 is just going to be a big and busy year for us.  Between repairs to the house, additions to the farm, and our wild baby, we’re going to be hopping and that’s not a bad thing.  I feel like I need to be this kind of busy right now.  Lots to do, but not sooooo much to do that I can’t sneak in a momosa and some writing time here and there.   : )

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Lines

Having just finished reading through my older writings, it feels like a good day to re-post one from a few years ago that still resonates.  It was inspired in part by who I am and in part by the beautiful artwork of my friend Sara, which is included at the end.

Lines over lines

I am made of mistakes

Every try, every fail

Recorded in my skin

While success,

somehow more temporary,

comes and goes with a smile.

If you could see underneath,

there are miles of

lines over lines

I’ve drawn over my mistakes

Inerasable.

Bleeding ink over the page

When my veins are empty

and even my breath is drawn dark with regret.

Fingers clenched–

my unsteady hand continues its path.

I cannot stop,

Or, I suppose I could, but

I won’t.

I am seeking

the perfect slope of cheek and chin

The right touch of stubbornness and

intelligence about the eyes,

wisdom and courage,

compassion and discipline . . .

Falling short, picking up, beginning again.

I am made of mistakes

Lines over lines over lines over lines . . .

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Your Daddy

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He is a strong hand to hold when you’re nervous.

A flip in the air that makes mama nervous.

He is crooked diapers and all the best snacks,

adventures at the hardware store,

and getting to swing a real hammer instead of  just your plastic one.

He is books read in the funniest voices

and silly sounds whenever you touch his face.

He is your rescuer when you cry in the middle of the night

and tucks you back in when all is well again.

He is tall towers made of just about anything that will stack,

broad shoulders that never seem to tire,

and big bounces on your little trampoline.

He is safety, confidence, fun, and big love.

He is yours forever:

your daddy.

 

 

 

The Cancer Files: Who Are You if Not What You Can Do?

One of the more insidious effects of cancer in my life, was the slow degradation of my ability to be what I had firmly placed in the column “Things I Just Am.”  I thought those qualities were an integral and unchanging part of me, but from the moment I was told I likely had cancer, they began to slip away.

For instance, when they shuffled me from one room to the next after giving me the news, scheduled me for a surgery I knew nothing about with a surgeon I had never met, and then sent me out the door: the me I was so sure I was would have never smiled, signed paperwork I didn’t read, and then left.

The me I thought I was would have asked ten thousand questions and insisted on coming back later to discuss surgery with the actual surgeon before agreeing on a date and a plan to move forward.  The me I thought I was would have advocated for myself, refused to sign papers until I was sure I understood them fully, and made sure I had researched all of my options on my own before just accepting what I was told.  Not only did I not do any of that, I didn’t even notice or care that I wasn’t doing any of that.

When I got home and handed Carl the blue folder with my surgery information inside, he was furious.  If you know him at all, you know that fury is an uncommon emotion in his life and it certainly wasn’t what I expected.  I’m not sure I knew what to expect, but I remember being surprised when right before my eyes, my happy go lucky man, grew three feet taller, put on about fifty pounds of muscle, and developed the ability to fly.

Within a few hours, he knew everything the internet knew about thyroid cancer and the surgeon I was scheduled with, he had developed a list of 23 questions for said surgeon, and scheduled us for an appointment prior to my surgery date to ask them.   He was incredible and would maintain his role as my fierce and shameless advocate throughout my treatment and recovery and, well, our married life, as it would happen.  : )

When all was said and done, we cancelled that surgery, found another ear, nose, and throat specialist in the valley who we were much more comfortable with and I went forward with a biopsy (that the original office recommended we skip) to see if any of my thyroid could be saved.  And when I say “we,” I mean my superhero husband who swooped in and saved the day, while I wandered around bemused and generally useless to myself.  I don’t like talking about my time as a damsel in distress (so much so that I never even brought it up in my original Cancer Files).

I wouldn’t realize until much later, after years of wrestling with the question, “Who are you if not what you can do?” that those feelings of helplessness and uselessness and the knowledge that I could not take care of myself (much less be there in the lives of my family, friends, and animals as I was used to being) had devastated me more than the illness itself.

Friday Randoms

Can a farmhouse also be a beach house?  I feel like this is the question my Pinterest is asking . . .

I love the feeling of satisfaction I get after putting everything in the crock pot that dinner is done and it’s only 10am.

I buy birdseed now.  Just one more, small step toward becoming my mother.  : )

Lacing up my Kodiaks with a smile on this ten degree morning to let my horses out, haul water buckets, throw hay, and walk my dogs and baby; I am so happy to be living this life, no matter all it took to get here.

Rereading the poetry and writing of my twenties–my shame, my cancer, my life before I understood what I had already been taught about value, love, and happiness has been at times difficult, but mostly an exquisite and tender opportunity to love myself as I was then in a way that I couldn’t as I was then.

Also, even when writing about the past, my words have always carried me forward.

Well, my hour for coffee and writing is up; the messy kitchen is calling . . .

 

The Cancer Files

Some of you may remember this series from when I was actually going through treatment back in 2011 and 2012.  For those of you who don’t, spoiler alert, I’ve been cancer free going on five years now!  That said, I’ve been rereading my old posts and noting how incomplete they are.  So as practice for writing and to give my story the complexity it deserves, I’m going back to the beginning, to tell it again.

. . .

When I went to my appointment that sunny, spring day in 2011, I told my husband not to come.  He offered, but there was only a two percent or so chance that the nodule found on my thyroid was cancerous; we were not concerned.  I met with the physician’s assistant who was all smiles and he repeated what my primary care doctor had already said as he pulled up the results of the imaging I’d had the previous week;  Roughly fifty percent of women get thyroid nodules and of that fifty percent, ninety eight percent or so are benign.  Then he looked at his computer screen and was quiet a moment before turning to face me and saying,

“I am as sure as I can be without a biopsy that you have thyroid cancer.”

I will remember those words forever because they were the end of everything and the beginning of everything else.

I sat unseeing, unfeeling, and certainly not hearing while he talked a bit more, felt my neck, then had me go sit in another waiting area until the scheduler was available.  She handed me a blue folder filled with information about thyroid cancer and the surgery I would need.  In blue ink, she hand wrote my surgery date (set for three weeks later) in the upper, right-hand corner, smiled and sent me on my way.

Outside, in the parking lot, I sat staring at nothing and wondering what to say to my family.

In the end, I called my husband, told him, then let him know I couldn’t come home right away.  I needed to be alone, to think, to not be touched, to not be looked at with sad eyes.  He offered to tell my parents for me and I let him; I didn’t think I could.

In hindsight, I find it funny that I took myself to the mall.  I’ve never really liked the mall, particularly after working there, but in that moment, being around lots of people but not having to look at or talk to any of them was exactly what I needed.

To be continued . . .