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5 Best Things to Say to a Cancer WARRIOR

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Cancer sucks. It isn’t a gift or a blessing. It is an evil wolf in sheep’s clothing. It may even be the scariest word in the English language. The BIG C is like an annoying roommate who never leaves.

I should know. It knocked at my door. I tried to not let it in, but it got through the weathered cracks in the doorframe. The medical team has my back. My dear ones let me vent and provided the words I needed to hear. Yet, I hid from the big world. I know now that was wrong.

I did get asked a lot on this journey on what help my village could provide. I was stumped. I was the one who made care packages, I wasn’t the one who received them. I hid from the kind and caring people who just wanted to help. There was some awkward un-solicited advice and odd comments that left me feeling nauseous, like after a roller coaster ride gone bad.

Then, after a lot of soul-searching, clarity arrived. I realized people offered what they could. And that is okay.

If you have a loved one who is fighting the good warrior fight, I have a few tips to share on what to say to them.

  1. YOU ARE NOT ALONE. It might seem scary in the moment. There are loved ones who will be there. Sometimes it isn’t the people you expect will be there, but the ones who surprise you.
  2. THAT SUCKS. It is okay to keep it real.
  3. What are you CRAVING? The reality is that cravings from treatments can askew any warrior’s taste buds. It can be the obscure or out of the ordinary, and that is okay.
  4. How can I help? Those are the sweetest words to anyone doing the hospital dance. Let them tell you. Let them talk about their days, and listen. There are gems in the conversation.
  5. Sometimes it is okay to not speak, however just give a hug. The power of touch is beyond what any IV bag can provide. Cancer isn’t contagious.

Cancer is evil. It doesn’t get a hall pass. It is the bully at school that doesn’t go away. It steals your morning paper and drinks your coffee in front of your face. You can rise above the deceptive enemy. If you give it power it will take you. You got this.

A Grown Up Snack: Lifebites #BuyLocal

LifebitesGetting old sucks. Over the past year I have had to overhaul my lifestyle in order to heal. The word die-t is a word that I have never liked. I needed to not only change my meals, but my snacking as well.

I am a bad snacker. I love French fries, popcorn with chocolate M&Ms and potato chips. I stress eat. That is a fact.

When I had an offer to sample Lifebites, I was hesitant, to be honest. I never have tried hemp in any way. It just wasn’t for me. Then, I tried the dark chocolate banana treat. And I am now hooked.

You recognize the entire list of what they are made with. Five pieces are only 60 calories! That was enough for me to pop a few while watching a movie.

Lifebites are soft chewy dried bananas dipped in dairy-free dark chocolate and rolled into either hempseed or shredded coconut. They are 100% organic and use gluten-free vegan friendly ingredients.

Lifebites Dark Chocolate & Hemp Covered Chewy Dehydrated Banana Snacks are handy to throw into your purse or diaper bag for the playground, soccer practice or a weekend trip. It is a snack that you will never miss the taste of your high-calorie chocolate of choice. Growing old might be okay after all.

They are made locally by BT Seeds Ltd in North Vancouver, BC. To find out more about Lifebites check out their site: http://lovelifebites.com

Disclosure: I was sent a sample for my review. All opinions on this blog are of my own.

 

The Children by Ann Leary

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Ann Leary has penned a story that could be in any neighborhood. In the sprawling Connecticut lake house that belonged to her late stepfather, Walt Whitman, and generations before him is Charlotte. There is a living will that allows Joan, Charlotte and her sister, Sally, to live there full-time. Their stepbrothers, Spin and Perry visit on weekends. There is no love lost between them and Joan.

When Spin brings his brilliant fiancée home, everyone takes an instant liking to her.

Life starts to unravel for Charlotte when an Internet troll accuses her of being a fraud and threatens to rock the entire dysfunctional, blended family.

As the wedding draws closer, skeletons in the dusty closets are exposed. It is like a soap opera, yet relatable.

As usual, Ann Leary scribes a story about a family who could live on your street, or might even be your family. It is rich with history. You do almost need a map to keep up with the fast pace, and the twists and turns.

Ann is fun to tweet with in Social Media. Follow her on Twitter @annleary.

This book is out May 24th at your favorite bookstore. To find out more about her other books check out her site: annleary.com.

My Mother’s Last Mothers Day

‘Happy Mother’s Day, Mommy.” I hand over my homemade card to my mom at the restaurant.

She opens it and sees my self-made coupon for her to cash in when she needs dishes washed. Her eyes scan the card like it was the first card she had ever read. I patiently wait to see if she really likes her card and gift. Our eyes meet over the table and she beams the widest smile.

‘Thank you honey. I love it.” She says.

Just then our desserts arrive in all their sweet glory. We are at her favorite dinner place. It is so grown up here that there are cloth napkins. My sister and I wanted to make this day very special for her. Everyone keeps whispering around her that we need to treat mom very well because she is so sick. I am never allowed to ask her what is making her so sick or urge her to take her medicine so she can get better.

She excuses herself to the bathroom. She gets her cane in place and hobbles to the back of the restaurant. I follow behind her saying I had to go too. As I wash my hands I stare at myself in the mirror. I still can’t help feeling like something is not being said. I love my mom so much. Before I can think anymore, she comes out of the handicap stall.

We walk back to the table as my sister and dad are waiting to go. After we get home and get into our pajamas, I hug my mom tight. When she tucks me into bed our favorite way to say goodnight is telling each other “I love you more than a million oceans.” I smile as I close my eyes and drift off to sleep.

Little did my ten-year-old self know is that was the last Mother’s Day I had with her. She died of breast cancer three months later at the age of 38. As hard as it was to see her in her chemo-ridden self, I hang onto the memory that we honored her on Mother’s Day and every day since. It’s what moms deserve.

A Fun Spring Read for Kids

Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 11.15.46 AMBakers on Board by Sheryl Berk and Carrie Berk

Mother and daughter writing duo has sent Jenna and the group,Peace, Love, and Cupcakes, on another adventure. Only this one could have serious consequences. This time the Cupcake Club will go on a cruise.

When Leo, Jenna’s stepdad, plans to take the entire family on a Caribbean cruise, the four youngest siblings get chicken pox. So, Leo offers the extra four tickets to Peace, Love, and Cupcakes Club in exchange for an order of 12,000 cupcakes for his business’s upcoming pirate event.

Mother nature wreaks havoc on the night of the party. Will PLCC survive it to enjoy the cruise?

Like the first book, there are many tasty cupcake recipes to bake.

New York Times bestselling co-author of Soul Surfer, Sheryl Berk is the founding editor in chief of Life & Style Weekly as well as a contributor to InStyle, Martha Stewart, and other publications. Her daughter, Carrie, a cupcake connoisseur, cooked up the idea for the Cupcake Club series in second grade. Together, they have invented dozens of crazy cupcake recipes in their NYC kitchen (can you say Purple Velvet?) and have the frosting stains on the ceiling to prove it. Carrie maintains her own cupcake blog, featuring reviews, photos and recipes of her culinary adventures.

The book is available now at your favorite bookstore.

Why Did Mom? Short Fiction.

SIWC2I hate her. There, I said it, or at least in my head. She was supposed to come home today. All those medical talking heads said August 15 would be the date. Adults are liars, even grandma and grandpa. They say we get extra time at their house. Are you serious? I’m supposed to be at home in my own bed tonight!

Grandma has to stop for groceries on the way back to Vancouver, where we spent most of our summer. This is not fair! Stupidest summer ever. We are told we can wash up and get ready for dinner when we arrive. Grandma opens the door, my nose wants to throw up and never smell again. It’s Grandma’s rubbery ham. I walk into their kitchen and see the pale pink blob in the oven. The frame of pumpkin colored carrots and translucent potatoes highlight the big. After I put my napkin over the pink flesh and a mix of white potatoes and the radioactive carrots, Grandpa tells me that we are going to his sister’s house tomorrow. I tell him we need back-to-school clothes still. I am rebuffed.

We have to play cards at my great aunt’s tomorrow. Cards are as fun as it sounds for any 10-year-old. The tea in the fancy cups is cool, along with the tiny sandwiches with the crust cut off. I just suck at old lady games. The day passed into a blur of old people stuff. Finally it is time for me to plan the perfect pre-night braces meal.

I wonder if I should call dad to see if he can pick me up to take me to Big Scoop. Both mom and dad promised me I could have whatever I wanted the last meal before I got braces. I can picture the three-scoop ice cream sundae covered with hot fudge sauce and lots and lots of nuts. Maybe I can ask if they could put extra whip cream on because of the occasion.

By noon I wonder if I should call dad or mention it to Grandpa that I need to go for my ice cream dinner. After I help Grandma with the lunch dishes, the phone in the hallway rings. She ends up closing the door to the hallway after she answers the call. I don’t think anything of it and just go to the TV Room to read my book. I hear Grandma and Grandpa talking at the front of the house. I take a book break and ask what is going on. They say mom is coming home today. So we will be going home tomorrow morning. I stutter but.. but… but in my head. I find my voice.

“But I’m supposed to go for my big sundae. I’m getting braces tomorrow. They promised me a good size treat!”

Grandma and Grandpa look at each other and said maybe there will be time to go out for ice cream after dinner. I feel like my head is going to explode with all the blood rushing up to it. I race upstairs to the room I use. I can’t believe it. I scream into the pillow. I hate this house. I want my own house!

I should runaway. I should’ve demanded to talk to dad. I wait upstairs for as long as I can until I’m told I have to help with dinner. We’re having roast beef. Gross. I think when I grow up I want to be a vegetarian. I push around the food as much as I can and ask to be excused. I hide my food under the napkin and dump it in the garbage right away. Grandpa says hurry up so we can go out and get a scoop of vanilla ice cream at McDonald’s. So, not the same. I know he’s trying. They always forget about me. Like, did she have to come home today? I despise her. I know I’m not supposed to hate, but this has been the stupidest, dumbest summer ever.

We go out for ice cream anyways. When we get back to the house I ask if I can go to bed early. I pack up what I can so that way we can be ready in the morning. My head hits the pillow. Before I know it, the sun is already creeping out from the blinds. I don’t even know what to think, will I be here again or get to home. I give up hoping. I hear grandma’s voice calling up that it’s time for breakfast, and then we have to go. I am actually going home.

It turns out that we won’t be going home before my braces appointment. Dad is meeting us there. I don’t know if I even want to talk to mom anymore. I probably won’t be able to talk later because of a mouthful metal. But, at least I get to go home today. My own bed. My own clothes. My own records. Maybe back to skating?

The appointment took a long time. But at least I got to look out at my hometown through the office window. Dad picks me up. He tells me we have to go home really quietly as mom is already sleeping. Our dog is napping when we walk through the door. I can barely talk, so I don’t even bother. I keep mopping up the drool from having my mouth open for so long.

She sleeps so long that I go to bed before she wakes up. For the first time in almost 2 months, all four of us are actually under the same roof. But it’s like she hasn’t come home yet.

It is a week later and school has already started. Nothing has changed at home. I still take care of my sister. I continue to have no life. I didn’t want to get braces, but at least the kids were kind about it. I can’t eat a lot of the gross meaty things now so that’s good. No more celery or broccoli, or it has to be complete mush.

In two weeks time I have the first skating performance of the season. I wonder if mom will be well enough to come see it or help me with my costume. Dad doesn’t know how to sew and neither do I. But mom at least could patch things up. She continues to be in her room a lot. Sometimes I hear the TV. Sometimes I was allowed to go in and say hi. She’s a quarter of the mom she used to be. I hate cancer. I really hate it.

On the day of the performance, I get everything ready and I sneak into mom’s room to grab her pretty sparkling little purse that she lets me use sometimes for special occasions. I want to look good. Plus it matches my costume. Mom is sleeping. I quietly go in and get it. I’ll tell her later that I took it.

I say goodbye to my sister and dad. Of course mom didn’t make it. But apparently we’re going to pick her up afterwards. Dad says he’s going to take everybody out for McDonald’s after the performance. He brought his cameras to take a lot of pictures. I go off to the dressing room to meet with my coach. There’s one thing I really love, and that is to skate. When I’m on the ice is just me and the music. No cancer, no mom problems, or sister problems. Just the ice and my body. There is nothing else like it. I don’t know how much longer I’m going to be allowed to skate. I know it’s expensive. Plus, Grade 6 homework comes home every day.

I begin to stretch and warm up in the dressing room before it’s my turn to skate. I’m feeling pretty good now. Then I feel a rip in my arm. Somehow I managed to rip the armhole on my right side of my costume. It looks awful. Then I get angry all over again. Mom should’ve been here. Mom should’ve been here with the sewing kit. Only moms are allowed in the dressing rooms with us. No males.

”You need help?” An angelic voice interrupts my anger. I look over. It is my skating club friend and her mom shadowing over me under the fluorescent dressing room light. Jean’s mom had a sewing kit and stitched me up while I was stood in front of her. Done. She takes my hand and whirls me around in a slow dance. I hug her my thanks.

My name is called. I feel excited again and at the same time calm. I slip off my pink skate guards and place them under my cubby. I will be awesome. I can do this. Somehow my legs take me to my mark on the ice. The arena is silent. And I’m off.

I blink and we are in the car on the way home. My cheek still feels the burn from the cold ice, rosy with happiness. I knew I wouldn’t win. Mom taught me that it’s about the journey not the ending.

It is months later from that beautiful skate. School is going great. Skating will end for the season soon. I’m allowed to go to the mall with friends. The dismissal bell rings. I grab my backpack from the locker and head home. It is a short walk. I put the key in the front door and let myself in. Not everyone has a key for their house at my age. Mom still naps a lot so I could be waiting a long time for her to open the door. I listen if the house is quiet. I slip off my shoes, skip up the steps, and I drop my backpack on the living room floor. I tiptoe into the kitchen. I open the fridge and grab the orange juice container, place it on the counter, and get a glass from the dish strainer. I guess dad was able to wash the breakfast dishes this morning. Cool. It was my turn.

“Where is my silver purse?” I almost drop the glass. My mom is in the doorway wrapped in her red robe. She’s looking at me funny.

“Mom, you scared me. How are you today?” She tells me to find it now tone of voice I’ve never heard before. She turns and goes back into her room. The door slam that followed shook the entire house. I leave my juice to tiptoe to my room. I trash my room looking for it. Crap.

I lost it. I can’t even leave this room again. I wipe my tears and put on my headphones. I turn on my record player and grab my journal. I need to remember how to breathe again. My inner Harriet the Spy finds the answer to my turmoil. I turn up the music, grab a pen with my journal, and go in my closet to sit on the floor to write. This is my safe place. Closing the door is the most magical thing. I am alone.

The door opens. Without looking up I scream, “Go away.” The light from my room reveals my skating friend standing high above me. In her right hand is my mom’s purse. The one I lost.

It is like being stuck in a traffic jam and all of a sudden the road is clear, and I am all alone. I can’t get up. The room is spinning. I’m not 10 years old anymore. I am 15. My skating friend is not my friend, she’s my stepsister. Her mom is my stepmom. My Mom didn’t come home on August 15. She never came home at all. She was supposed to be here.

The purse is one of the few things I have of hers. If mom didn’t die I would have gotten to have that argument with her and many more.

I miss her.

 

Reason 1,456,789 Being Motherless Sucks

Mother Holding Child's HandBiting my lip, I say good-bye to my precocious older daughter. I remind her to mind her manners, stay safe and have fun on the field trip. Her face is crumpled in a frown. She asks again if I can come for the day trip, two towns away. I remind her that I do not have someone to take care of her sister and drive her to therapy and school. I hug her and wish her a good day. She goes into class and starts chatting with her friends.

Her young sister is pulling my hand in the direction of the walk home. My heart hurts again for not being able to balance between my girls. I feel like my older one always gets the short end of my time. Her sister’s therapy and preschool schedule keeps me busy. I long to have an extra helper so I can devote my energy solely towards her.

The warm sun does nothing to heal my heart and soul. Life would be easier if they had a grandma near that could help out. It is not their fault.

I unlock the front door and let us in. My hand remains on the door. I say a silent message to her to have a good time. In a few short months her sister will be in the same school. I hope life can be better balanced. I am lucky to work at home so I can be there as much as I can.

My thoughts run wild as I prep the therapy room while my young one is anxiously waiting for her therapist. Yes, I can only be stretched so far. Sacrifices are made at the expense of another. My only hope is that as they grow older they will not remember what I didn’t do, but that I was there every day being their cheerleader. Just like my mom, even from her wheelchair before she died. I will have a special snack waiting for her after school.

She’s Not There by Joy Fielding: A Review

Screen Shot 2016-02-25 at 11.32.31 AMWhen I was growing up, the Michael Dunahee case was all through the media. He was taken from a playground when he was only four years old. Years later, of renditions of what Michael might look like showed up in the news. Joy Fielding said in a recent interview that this book is a fictional version of a child who went missing while staying at a resort.

Carole Shipley and her husband take the family on a trip to Mexico to celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary. She is delighted to see close friends join in on the festive occasion. On their last night, the actual anniversary date, the sitter they booked from the resort doesn’t show. Eventually they relent and agree to go down to dinner, leaving their kids in the room since the window oversees the restaurant. The agreement is to check on the kids every 30 minutes. They call it a night after dessert and go back to their room. Carole goes to check on the kids. Samantha is missing.

Fifteen years later, divorced and alone, Carole continues to relieve everything as the media hounds her and her older daughter, Melissa on the anniversaries of Samantha’s disappearance. Then, she gets a phone call from a young woman claiming to be her long-lost daughter.

Step by step the puzzle pieces click together to solve the crime. What they find makes the nightmare even worse.

As a parent She’s Not There was disturbing, yet I could not put it down. You might too.

Disclosure: I was sent an e-copy for my honest review. The opinions on this blog are my own.

 

From the Archives: The Irony of Anti-Bullying

Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 9.15.31 PM My ears are burning before it clicks with what she just said to me. Tomorrow is Anti-Bullying Day. She commented on how cute my daughter will look in pink for Anti-Bullying Day. I shrug my shoulders and say, “ Well, if she wants to wear pink?” The woman stared at me aghast and mentioned she would’ve thought ‘families like mine’ would make sure my children wear pink. Because it’s Anti-Bullying Day. I jump back into my car because I need to get my older daughter to her school. At that moment, the irony hits me smack upside my forehead. Did she just want me to strong-arm my girl into ‘making’ her wear pink for one day?

For the past few years, Anti-Bullying Day has grown in popularity, which is great. We give our children the freedom to wear pink, or any other colour for that day. It is their choice. That’s the whole point.

We commend everybody who does to wear it. We appreciate what started this conversation. Funny thing is, when you live and breathe bullies every day 24/7, 365 days a year, you’re good.

I pull-up to my older daughter’s school, give her a hug and spy her running off with her friends. I think of the irony, it’s just one day. But for us, it’s a lifetime. It is not about wearing pink for one day a year as a symbol of anti-bullying.

Anti-bullying teaching begins at home, it is in words and actions. We all have choices, to be kind or not.