Sunday, August 30, 2015

Why We Need to Leave Anna Duggar Alone.

When I was in college, my boyfriend cheated on me. We had been dating about a year when he called to report that he had slept with someone else. To say that I was shocked is an understatement, but as I began to try to make sense of the swirling emotions of this shock, anger and hurt, I was also trying to find a way to fix the problem.

"I need roses," I told him, and suggested that he come to see me that weekend. At the time, we were in a long distance relationship, but that Friday he drove to see me. We went to a fancy dinner and I listened to him tell me how the other girl meant nothing to him. He was drunk. It was a mistake. It would never happen again. I tried to convince myself that he was telling the truth. He had sent roses! What else did I need?

I listened to him for the next eight months, trying to convince myself that one indiscretion was ok. I defended him to friends who told me that staying with him was a horrible idea and even jeopardized friendships because I was too stubborn to admit that the people who had known me for years and had my best interest at heart, were right.

Eight months after the "incident" my boyfriend and I broke up because a crucial part of our relationship was gone. I could no longer trust him and that trust wasn't rebuilding itself even as time marched on. The lack of trust and eventual paranoia that I brought to every one of our interactions had turned me into someone I hated. Someone that was nothing like the person my boyfriend had originally started dating.

Why did it take me eight months to leave this relationship? We were not married. There were no children involved. I was only 20 years old. But I had convinced myself that I was going to marry this boy, and the thought of leaving that secure relationship and starting over in the dating world was terrifying. What if no one thought I was cute or fun or worth a first date? Maybe I really was crazy, as this boyfriend had told me over and over again.

The relationship ended and it took me a long time to rebuild my confidence. I was hardened, and it would take a very determined person to chip through the shell and prove to me that he was worth putting my faith in. As you may know, the story ends well, and I did meet someone who thought I was cute and fun and only the appropriate amount of crazy. Someone who was patient enough to deal with my hardened shell. Someone who cherishes trust in a relationship as much as I do.

In the wake of the Anna Duggar, Ashley Madison "breaking news" I have been thinking a lot about this time in my life. I know it's not the same - you can't compare a marriage to a college relationship. But everyone out there seems to have an opinion and I may as well throw my hat in the ring.  Does Mrs. Duggar's decision to stay with her husband after learning of his infidelity make her a fool or more pious than most? My suspicion is that Anna Duggar has heard quite enough of our opinions as she questions her marriage and very likely, herself. That she is trying to figure out whether it is better for her to take her children and leave a man to whom she has devoted seven years of her life or continue to stay in a relationship, fighting to rebuild. Maybe she is thinking that after some time, she will be able to trust her husband again.

I read an article today suggesting that staying with a partner after he or she cheats shows grace and strength. I suspect the grace aspect of this is probably true. I could never quite allow myself to forgive my college boyfriend, and this eventually helped to destroy our relationship. But I can't agree that it takes more strength to stay in a relationship after enduring this type of indiscretion. The strength required to leave a seven year marriage built on faith is immeasurable. To stand up not only for yourself, but as an example for your sons and daughters, in order to teach them that this type of behavior will not be tolerated is an act of heroism.

As everyone on Facebook and the blogosphere continues to pray for Anna Duggar, my hope for her is that she will rediscover herself in the depths of this betrayal and make future decisions that are in the best interest of herself and her children. That she will rediscover that she is also a cute, fun girl that deserves to be respected. Whether this results in her staying with or leaving her husband is her choice, and really not any of my business.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Date Night

Mike and I are a pretty romantic couple. The majority of our days are spent staring into each other's eyes and telling the other person how amazing they are. In fact, if you have been reading this blog for awhile, you may have confused it with Nicholas Spark's "The Notebook." It's ok, you're not the first.

Now that you understand our deeply romantic connection, I'm sure you will not be surprised to hear that we spent our Friday evening together at Sam's Wholesale Club. Mike came home from work and I rushed him back into the car because I was starving and we had already decided that Sam's would be the location of our romantic dinner. (Pizza slices for $1.19.) Because I am such an amazing wife, I only complained twice about the amount of trash on the passenger side floor of the car, and only rolled my eyes once when the "Empty" alarm went off to alert us that we would soon be sitting on the side of the road with no gas. I told you, we will make you throw up with all our lovey-ness.

This was our first visit to Sam's in Jacksonville, and we were greeted by a lovely woman who told us quite abruptly that we were trying to come in the through the Exit door and it sure would be nice if people would take the time to read signs. I may or may not have muttered under my breath that there was no sign, but I can't remember because of all the romantical feelings I was having.

Once we got inside, we made a beeline for the refreshment counter. After inhaling slices of pizza and hot dogs, we got up from the picturesque plastic table and chairs and began to shop. My love for my husband grew as he stood for five minutes calculating which toilet paper was less expensive by the SHEET and also when he told me it was his turn to get something fun after we had loaded up the cart with dishwasher detergent and paper towels. (What else does a wife need besides endless rolls of paper goods?)

We strolled through the industrial garage and sweetly helped each other recognize that there is no room in our pantry for a two gallon container of hot sauce, and no, now is not the time for us to start eating cow tongue, even if it is on sale. Each of us might have begun to consider that there was a reason we have never been grocery shopping together. No problem though, we were pressing on with our amorous mission.

I will admit, it was 8:00 pm and I was exhausted. Oddly enough, Friday night seems to be a busy time for the wholesale industry, and I was getting annoyed with all the people pushing their over sized buggies around me.  Mike's patience were also running thin, and he was less than impressed to find out I buy clinical strength deodorant, which just happens to be $5 more than the regular stuff. He gave in though, after I suggested that we share his deodorant (even though that would have been the more romantic solution.)

We finally made it to the check out lines at the same time that everyone else in the store decided to go home. We stood in a line longer than some of the rides at Disney World (with much less end reward) until a young cashier decided to open a new lane, yelling out, "Next in line."

Mike and I dragged our buggy over and were unloading 10 pounds of hamburger meat when another customer yelled from the neighboring line, "Hey! Didn't he say, "NEXT IN LINE?"

The store quieted as Mike and I stared at him. He was a large fellow who didn't look interested in making new friends. Mike asked the nice gentleman if would like to get in front of us, even though it looked as though his items were already loaded onto the conveyor belt.

"NO." He replied. "But I only have 5 packs of water. What makes you think you can break in line? When the guy said, 'NEXT IN LINE' it should have been me."

All eyes were on us as customers stood, turning their heads back and forth between our exchange.

"Alright, come on then," I said. "Bring your stuff over here right now." The man stared at me and decided he was no longer interested in engaging in conversation. He was ignoring me. But now I was mad. Who was this man to ruin my romantic date night in a warehouse? "Come ON!" I said.

The man said nothing, because he is obviously very mature, and we completed our transaction with $250 less in the bank. Fortunately, we were right behind our friend as we waited in line to exit. (Side note - there IS an exit sign inside the store.) Mike tried to smooth things over with a joke about how the company needs an express lane, but the man chose not to say a word. I was frustrated because I am a brooder and will continue to think of things I should have said during this confrontation for the next several days. This man will likely go about his business, never giving me another thought.

We got home and poured ourselves glasses of the $7 wine we had just purchased and...

You decide:

A) stared into each other's eyes. The wine was delicious, and we spent the rest of the evening laughing and completing a Cosmo quiz that told us why we are the best couple in the world


B) immediately spit out the wine because $7 wine is gross EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. Watched a movie called, "Sunshine" that Mike swears has the best soundtrack and was overlooked for a Golden Globe in 2007, even though no one has ever heard of it. (Spoiler - it's a horrible movie.)

Regardless of which ending you choose, we are going to have to find another place to do our wholesale shopping - or at least figure out another night on which to do it.  Trying to weave a date night into a practical, money saving outing is not a good idea, even for the most romantic couple in the world.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

What Not To Do In a Bookstore and Other Musings

I love books. I've loved them since I was little kid. Perhaps it is because my parents (claim) to have read to me since Day 1. Perhaps it is because when I was growing up, we lived down the street from the library and the easiest, most affordable excursion my mom could manage was to walk/wheel/drag the three of us down the street to pick out some books. [Usually these outings would result in at least one of us reading silently in her room for the rest of the day and my mother could count the excursion as a success.]

Regardless of the reason, books have always been an important part of my life. So last year after quitting my job, having a tumor removed from my abdomen and trying to support my husband as he completed his dissertation, it seemed only natural that I would seek employment in a place that has always offered a sense of calm and stability. (Yes - last year was kind of a bitch.)

I applied for a Bookseller position at a local bookstore. After several follow up phone calls and a pop in visit so the employees could "get to know my face," the manager gave up and hired me.  If I was this persistent about getting a job, how great would I be at selling books? And I actually am. I love talking to people about what they are reading and trying to help them find something they will enjoy. I am also pretty nosy and like to ask questions related to what you are buying. If you are buying a travel guide, most likely I will ask you about your trip. Don't be offended. All's fair in the bookstore.

For the most part, bookstore customers are pretty great. Likely they are there to browse, kill a few minutes with a coffee and a magazine, or are excited because their favorite author has just released a new book. With that said, there are a few things that happen on a daily basis that make my skin crawl. If you ever find yourself in a bookstore doing any of the following things, it is time for you to pack up your stuff and head out. You are no longer welcome in this sanctuary as you are making people tense and ruining the atmosphere for everyone.

1) The Adult Magazine - Did you know large bookstores sell adult magazines? I certainly didn't. Here's a hint: If you are buying this type of reading material anywhere but in a gas station in the middle of nowhere, I suggest you save yourself (and me) the embarrassment and just order a subscription. I do not feel comfortable asking you if you found everything alright when there is a naked lady staring provocatively at me. I feel more uncomfortable when you ask me about my day and pretend like this naked lady is not there. Have you never heard of the internet? I'm pretty sure you can find this stuff for free there, without traumatizing your friendly bookseller. And don't even try to tell me the articles are good. Those are on the internet too. Move along.

2) Much To Do About Shakespeare - I try not to be a judgy person. I really do. But when you come in and ask if we have "that book called Shakespeare," I am going to judge. Shakespeare is not a book. He is an author. He has actually written several books! Two in particular are called "Much Ado About Nothing" and "Richard III." These books are not called "Much To Do About Something or Other" or "Richard the Great." Get the facts straight. Don't come to the bookstore and look like an idiot. Another note: There is no book called "Waldo." You are either searching for "Where's Waldo" in the children's section, or "Walden" by Henry David Thoreau. No, they are not the same.


3) Turn Off Your Cell Phone - It drives me INSANE when people are gabbing loudly on their phones in a bookstore. I feel you should act the same way in a bookstore as you would in, say a library. Or church. This is a quiet sanctuary! No one else in the store is worried about the drama in your life - most likely they are already there to find some sort of escape. And stay off the phone when you come to check out. If you are talking to someone else and ignoring me when you put your book on the counter, I will wait until you are done. You are being rude. Self check out in bookstores isn't available yet, so please act accordingly. Hang up the phone!

4) Have You Heard of That Book... -  I do my best to keep up to date with recent publications. I listen to NPR and read the newspaper and believe that I am fairly in tune with what people are reading. If you come to me and ask me if I have "that book about a wedding," I'm just not going to be able to help you. Please don't get upset with me. Get on your super smart phone and do your research.

5) I Can Get This So Much Cheaper on Amazon - Then go buy it there! You already made a trip to the bookstore. You have been basking in the glow of my friendly customer service as we searched for 20 minutes trying to find a random book you've imagined. You are not going to get my great (albeit now forced) smile at Amazon! Take the hit, spend the extra $5 and buy the book. You'll save the money in shipping.

6) "My Kids Spend Too Much Money Here: - There are a lot of things that kids spend too much money on. Clothes. Sugar. Video games. That $100 Lego set you just bought that will be used twice before one of the pieces ends up under the couch. Please don't complain that your kid's teacher is making him read and that it costs too much money. There is no evil plan between teachers and bookstores to drain your retirement fund. The plan is to educate your kid so he can become a productive member of society. I promise. Most likely if your kid is reading for enjoyment, she has found a way to escape for a little while into a new and exciting world. It's a good thing. I promise. Try it yourself. Maybe you'll like it.

7) I Already Saw the Movie. I Don't Need to Read the Book. - I can't even address this. I just can't.

8) Do You Think Bookstores are Going to Go Out of Business? - This question makes me sad and I just don't know the answer. I actually own an e-reader and really like it. I think it satisfies our societal need for immediate gratification as there is no need to waste time going to the bookstore, walking by books you have no interest in and searching the shelves until you find what you are looking for. You push a button and your book is ready to go. On the other hand, I think part of the reading experience is taking time to flip through books you may never before have considered. Opening a brand new book and running your hands across the title page. Wandering into the history section and picking out a book on WWII that you didn't realize you were interested in. You lose these things when you use an e-reader.

I hope that bookstores don't go out of business, and not just because of my current employment. I think bookstores (and libraries) are important and need to be supported. So the next time you need a book, take the time to patron your local bookstore. Just make sure you bring the above list with you.

Happy Reading!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Song is NOT "I Wanna See You Be Bossy"

I'm bossy. I always have been. But to Sheryl Sandberg's dismay, I work to correct my bossiness every single day.

If you ask my family if I am bossy, I'm pretty sure they would respond with a resounding "yes." In unison. Without pause. But at 33 years old, being "bossy" is not something I'm proud of.  Recently, I have heard "Stop that way of thinking! Embrace your Bossiness!" and as much as I would like to jump on board, I'm not sure I am on the #banbossy train.

I was elated when I first heard about the #banbossy campaign. Finally, someone was standing up for girls like me! Girls who know that their way is the right way. Girls who are confident enough to lead without needing the input of others. But then I started that really what I want?

Growing up as the oldest, I made sure that my opinion and voice was clearly heard. I was the teacher when my sisters and I played school, and I made up the rules to all our imaginary games. I led conversations at the dinner table while my parents worked hard to hear my sisters talk. I heard, "Jenny, why don't you let someone else talk about their day?" or "Jenny, I want to hear what Julia/Laura/ANYONE ELSE thinks about this" more times than I care to admit.

I loved being bossy and quietly patted myself on the back when I heard someone refer to me as such. There are great attributes attached to the word bossy. Confident, brave and strong come to mind. But , hearing the word "Bossy" also makes us take a step back and wave our red flags. Something not so great must also be going on. My sisters didn't follow my lead because they saw me as a confident 9 year old or a great leader. They did what I said because I was a bully. They knew that if they stood up to me, there was a high risk of me quitting, saying their ideas were stupid, or (on my worst days) slapping them. Those are not the attributes of a leader.

A LEADER inspires others by listening and carefully examining all options before making a decision. A LEADER is willing to admit that sometimes their way is not the right one. A LEADER makes others feel valued, acknowledged and respected.

My bossiness took a backseat at school (I think) because I was too intent on wanting others to like me. I recognized that the girls who led activities and were constantly demanding attention were often the central topic of gossip. To be clear, the gossip was not about what great leaders these girls were. It was about how they always wanted to get their way.

This #banbossy campaign has stirred a national conversation about semantics, and I don't think that was Mrs. Sandberg's intent. Yes, we need to teach our girls to believe in their opinions and also be confident enough to verbally express them. At the same time, we want to teach our girls to be empathetic, loving and good listeners. I work everyday because I don't want my family and friends to think that I am bossy. Yes, I want to get my way and have my opinion acknowledged. What I don't want is for people to appease me because they are scared of my reaction if I don't.

To me, the word bossy represents a controlling, bitchy girl unwilling to compromise. [I did not grow up with brothers, and was fairly awkward with boys for the majority of my adolesent life, so I am not going to argue about whether boys are ever called bossy. I don't have enough information]
BUT - Is banning a word the best way to encourage girls to speak their minds? I don't think so. What I do think, is that bossy is not a word I want to emulate. I do not hope that one day my kids will come home and proudly inform me that they have been labeled bossy. If they do, my husband and I will have to re-evaluate our parenting style. I actually hope that my future children will come home complaining that another has been bossy and they are feeling hurt, unheard or unappreciated. To me, these feelings of being ignored or unacknowledged offer a better opportunity to teach leadership than when someone consistently gets their way. To me, empathy, compassion and love are a much stronger foundation for a strong leader than being #bossy.

If you are searching for other opinions on this topic, check out:

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Aftermath

Oh y'all. I'm upset. As you may know, around noon yesterday, Snowmeggedon 2014 hit Birmingham, AL. If you're not from Birmingham, you probably didn't know that it started this early - Atlanta wasn't hit until 4:00 that afternoon. That's when the national news began reporting and it actually became an emergency. The problem is, by then people in Alabama had already been stuck in their cars for hours. Highways were frozen over. Roads were impassable.

My parents are still in Birmingham, along with the majority of the people I grew up with. At 10:15 am, I received a text from a friend with a picture of the snow as she drove to pick her two year old up from daycare. "Ummm, it's a blizzard in Bham!!" she wrote, and sent a picture of falling snow. I chuckled and told Mike, "It's snowing in Birmingham!" He smiled and said, "You wish you were there, don't you?" And I did. The South is known for panicking during cold weather, and I guessed my friend would pick up her child and enjoy a few snow days snuggled up with her loved ones. I was actually a little bit jealous.

But my friend kept texting and I could tell by her words that things weren't so funny anymore. "It's awful. I'm sliding all over the place and can't get to [her child's] school." Traffic was a mess because Birmingham is in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains and there are hills. LOTS of steep, winding hills that were now covered in ice. Between 10:15 and 12:30, my friend inched along in her car, waiting to get to the school. She arrived home with her daughter, and a bonus child, her nephew. My friend's sister had been unable to get to the school and her husband was stranded at Wal-Mart. As far as I know, he's still there. Two hours in the car ended up being a short trip.

I pulled up Facebook and saw dozens of updates from people who were stuck in traffic. EVERYONE was on the road, trying to make it home from work, pick up their kids from school, or both. I emailed my father and asked him to please be careful. He wrote back, "It's hardly snowing."  He's from Virginia and tends not to worry when there is white precipitation coming down. My "Yankee" father ended up walking 3.5 miles home from work last night because the street was a strip of ice. No hat, coat or gloves because this sort of thing just doesn't happen in Alabama. Luckily, a sweet lady at his office loaned him a scarf that he used to wrap around his neck.

Y'all, it's bad. People are stuck on the roads, in drug stores, and at work. Hundreds of children, teachers and parents spent the night in schools last night. A lady gave birth on the highway. Thousands of people braved single digit temperatures in their cars because there was no place else to go. People are dying.

This has nothing to do with Southerners overreacting. It's not funny. When I moved to St. Louis, my first winter was tough. I did not own scarves, hats or gloves because I had never needed them before. Most of my coats had only been purchased to accent an outfit. It would have been a waste of money for me to purchase these items and let them sit in the the closet, year after year, "just in case" snow came to Louisiana, Mississippi or Alabama. Similarly, Birmingham, Atlanta and many other Southern cities have not invested in hundreds of snow plows and salting trucks. Our money and knowledge is focused on keeping people safe during hurricanes and tornadoes. That's what we're used to. I have been shocked by the nasty comments I have seen in response to these events. This morning I read this, in response to a CNN article focused on the Atlanta city shut down:

"People have no sense. Keep a kit in your car, and get off the road if you're not moving. Sleeping in your car, or waiting it out in a hotel is much better than paying your insurance deductible and going through the claims process. Slow down and take it as a time for some personal reflection. I have waited out tornados in K-mart, Severe rain storms in Walmart, and traffic jams in restaurants. Stop being in such a hurry to get where your going, you'll get there eventually, and will be less stressed than sitting in traffic fighting for those precious inches to get home."

I am amazed. People HAVE been waiting. They are not in a hurry. They have been stuck on the road for TWELVE hours! I don't recall anyone saying such ugly things when tornadoes hit Moore, Oklahoma or Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey. You know why? Because people are hurting, and making fun of the situation does not help anyone. It is not funny when a natural disaster hits an area that is unprepared for it. No amount of sarcasm is going to improve the situation.

Fortunately, most people are nice, particularly in the South. Put a National Disaster in front of a group of Southerners and they turn into saints. Many people opened their homes to strangers last night. Facebook friends reported where they lived and that their houses were open - for anyone. Chili, hot chocolate and stiff drinks were ready and waiting as people who had never met were ushered into each other's homes. Men were out on four-wheelers rescuing people who were stuck in cars. (Who's laughing now at those red necks who go muddin'?) Kindness prevailed. Love wins.

This is not anyone's fault. This is not the meteorologist's fault, or the school's fault or the government's fault. Meteorologists are getting nasty, nasty things written to them. Birmingham's own James Spann apologized in a blog post this morning, writing:

"I guess I know how Cade Foster feels (the University of Alabama place kicker who took heat after the Auburn game).

If you are know anything about college football, you know how badly he must be feeling.

There is no one to blame. It is just a huge mess and people need help. People need to be supported. People need to be loved. So please, stop making fun and see what you can do to help. If there is nothing you can do, that's ok. Just be kind. Be empathetic. Believe me, the people in the Southeast are wishing they were "snowed in" with a half inch of fluffy white stuff too.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

A Tera - What?

I hope you had a very Happy Thanksgiving! This is long, so I will get straight to the point. I want to share a story with you.

Two weeks ago, I shot straight up in my bed. It was 4:00 am, and I was fairly confident that someone had stabbed me in the stomach. I ruled Mike out because he was still sleeping, and I didn't think I had done anything recently that warranted physical harm. I crept downstairs and poured myself some of that green juice that tastes like garlic but everyone pretends tastes great. I thought maybe it would help calm my stomach down, but it didn't seem to do anything. So I sat on the couch with the awful pain and eventually fell asleep. When I woke up, I called the doctor and let her know what was going on. She suggested I come in immediately. Mike drove me downtown, noting that I would be a danger to the City of Dallas if I got behind the wheel. We got to the doctor's office, sat in the waiting room and waited.

Mike played a game on his phone.

It's called Deer Hunter.

Have you seen it? It does exactly what its name suggests. The player tries their best to massacre a fake cartoon deer with a ginormous AK-47. I wasn't happy and since I had already read all the People magazines in the waiting room, our conversation went a little like this:

J: "Why are you playing that game? I hate that game. Stop it."

M: "I'm Sorry. What would you prefer for me to do?"

J: "I would prefer for you to stop playing that stupid game. Do you see any other husbands in here playing video games?"

M: "I don't see any other husbands in here at all. Maybe I should have waited in the car."

Thankfully for both of us, the nurse opened the door and called my name. I followed her to a back room, changed into the flimsy paper gown and laid on the table. "I am going to do a sonogram" the technician announced to me.

"Ok. Any idea what you are looking for down there?" I asked.

"We are just trying to get a better idea of what is causing the pain. By the way, your uterus looks great!"

"Thanks..." I said, because - what else can you say?

We finished up and I was sent back into the waiting room. I began to cry, partially from the pain, but also because I was starting to get scared. After her initial compliment, the sonogram tech had gone radio silent. I knew something was going on because I saw grey, fuzzy images on the screen that looked nothing like the hundreds of in utero fetuses I have seen posted on Facebook, plus I didn't think I was pregnant. When I asked what the pictures were, the tech kept saying, "The doctor will want to talk to you about this."

My biggest fear has always been that something would be wrong and I would not be able to have to children. There were too many unknowns at this point, and my mind was spiraling with the worst possible scenarios.

Finally, we got a chance to talk with my doctor. "You have a mass on your left ovary," she said. It's bizarre though, because your pain is on the right." Yes, bizarre.

She explained that this was not a "classic" ovarian cyst, being neither water filled nor an easily recognizable benign mass. She wanted to take it out as soon as possible. I needed to get an MRI done so she could get a better look  - would next Tuesday work for surgery? She needed to run some blood tests. With the odd shape, she wanted to rule out anything "abnormal."

I asked her if she was talking about cancer. My doctor said, "Well, yes, but a very, VERY small chance." I didn't hear much after she said Yes. I was picturing operations and chemo, hair loss and wigs. How much I hate throwing up.

Mike looked like he had been punched in the face. He kept saying, "I'm sorry. Could you explain this again? I really did not think you were going to be saying any of this." My doctor was incredibly patient and kind. She drew a full diagram out for us, but really didn't have any answers. She kept apologizing, and explaining that she would have a much better idea of what needed to be done once the MRI was completed.

We booked the surgery for the next Tuesday. We talked with Wendy, who had me sign a consent reminding me that if the doctor got a look at the mass and was unable to easily remove it, she had my permission to also remove my left ovary. She also discussed the possibility of calling "Other Doctors" if the blood work came back with "Abnormal" results.

"Oncologists" I said.

"Well, yes" Wendy agreed.

We went home. Neither of us said a word during the drive, and my phone rang almost as soon as we walked in the door. My dad was checking to see if I had gone to the doctor and I was holding on to the blue sticky note that had the names of the four blood tests being run. CA 125 was first on the list. CA...CA...CANCER....I started crying when I tried to explain what had happened. Mike took the phone and went outside to talk with my parents. I went upstairs and continued to cry.

Here's the thing about me and crying. I cry all the time. I cry when I am sad, angry or happy. It's really very confusing to those who love me. That night I was really angry, but I just cried.

The next week is a blur. I sat and waited for two days until Wendy called with my test results. My CA 125 was only very slightly elevated and there did not seem to be cause for concern. They would not be contacting an oncologist. We had gotten over one hurtle, leaving the MRI and the surgery. Mike had to leave for a conference and thankfully, my mother was able to come into town.

Before the MRI. 

Essentially, I pushed the pause button on life until Monday night. I didn't have anything I really wanted to do and I was in too much pain to exercise or concentrate on reading. Mom and I went to see a movie. We watched a lot of television. Mom taught me how to knit. Mike got back into town.

This is going to be a scarf...

One night at dinner, Mike asked me if I wanted to discuss my wishes if something were to happen to me. I wish you could have seen my mom's face. He now claims it was "a joke."

I slept for a whopping 2.5 hours that Monday night. I couldn't eat or drink anything after midnight, so I stared at the television. Mike, mom and I headed to the hospital, arriving promptly at 5:15 am. I changed again into a flimsy hospital gown, and waited for 2 hours while the nurses poked at me and asked questions. Finally, the anesthesiologist came in and gave me something to help me relax. As I was drifting away, I heard Mike say, "I won't let them take both your ovaries. I promise." It was the best thing he could have said.

I woke up two hours later, incredibly thirsty and very loopy.

Things go in and out after that, but the next thing I remember is seeing mom and Mike smiling on either side of me. "How did it go?" I asked. "Everything is great" they said. "It couldn't have gone better!" I still had both my ovaries and the doctor was able to completely remove the mass.

I cried, but this time it was because I was happy.

Turns out I had a benign congenital teratoma. Have you ever heard of that? Me neither. Apparently, they are rare and made up of tissues that develop while you are in the womb. Most likely it has been there all my life, so this is really all my mother's fault. If you Google it, you will see pictures of masses with teeth, hair and other random body parts. They wouldn't let me bring it home. I asked.

It has been 5 days since the surgery and I am doing well. I have three tiny incisions on my lower abdomen, giving me an excuse to wear sweatpants at all times. The weird thing is we still don't know what was causing the pain. The doctor suggested severe digestive issues, which led to the discovery of this mass. I'm not sure about that - we are going back to see her next week.

We didn't end up being able to travel to Birmingham for Thanksgiving, so Mike cooked an entire Thanksgiving feast for us here in Dallas. He even fried a turkey. Before my mother left, she made me a pecan pie, which I devoured in three days. An entire pie.

The turkey looks almost as big as the dog. It was only 10 pounds lighter.

Every year around this time, I say, "I am thankful for my health, my friends and my family" but honestly, I always took my health for granted. While I only suffered a scare this year, it made me realize how lucky I am to be healthy and able bodied. I am incredibly thankful for family and friends who said it was ok to be scared. That this kind of thing is scary, and that maybe, they were a little scared too. And my heart goes out to the families that are dealing with or have dealt with serious health issues- you are much braver than me.

Happy Belated Thanksgiving! I hope you spent time with some of the ones you love.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

On Being Brave

What does it mean to be brave?

When we are little, the doctor asks us if we can "be brave," just for a second while he/she pricks our finger. In that situation, being brave has no repercussions. Either you sit quietly and wince as the needle stabs you, or you scream before, during and after the needle pierces your finger. It really doesn't matter. The doctor gets your blood and you get to head back to the sandbox without another thought. We don't really understand what being brave is, because at that age, we don't really have that much to lose.

As we get older, "being brave" is a little scarier. Maybe you are trying out for the dance team, calling the cute girl/boy in your class or applying to colleges. At the time, all of these events seem life altering. And while you are probably not significantly changing the trajectory of your life by deciding whether or not to enroll in the school talent show, you are learning valuable life lessons. You are learning to step out of your comfort zone, even when it is scary, and realize that YOU are going to be alright, even if things don't go the way that you were hoping.

I tried out for the basketball team in 7th grade only because my best friend did not want to try out alone. I had no business even attempting to launch a ball towards that basket, but I was brave, and made it through the first day of practice. Surprisingly, I was not invited to attend the second day of  tryouts. What I learned was, I am not a good basketball player. Sports are not my strong point, and there was no point in me pursuing a career in the WNBA. But, I also learned how it feels to be told no, and how important it is to be flexible and have a back up plan. (I was brave a lot and tried out piano, cheerleading, softball and swimming. Sometimes it takes awhile to figure out exactly which path is yours.)

There are so many phrases we throw out suggesting that being brave is an easy thing to do. "The worst thing they can say is no." "The worst thing that can happen is you don't get "it"." "What's the worst that can happen???" When we are all grown up, being brave is HARD. The worst that can happen is that you can lose your financial security, your mortgage, your family. The stakes are high and sometimes we get so wrapped up in the stakes that we forget about what we learned in middle school. If you are brave, even when it is scary, you are going to be alright.

I write this because exactly one week ago, I resigned from my job. Effective immediately. I had been struggling with this decision for months, but was so bogged down with the logistics of how we were going to pay our bills and keep our health insurance that I was scared to lose the stability of a monthly check. I was so scared to lose this that my health was beginning to suffer. I was angry, tired and stressed out, which didn't make me, or anyone around me happy. I noticed one day when I came home from work that I snapped at the dog for jumping on me because he was happy to see me. And that's just not fair. It's not fair to my husband, my pets or to me. The job I was in wasn't a good fit for ME, and somewhere along the line, I had forgotten that there are other paths to explore.

As soon as I hit send on my resignation email, I truly felt as though a weight had been lifted off of me. When I woke up the next morning, instead of stumbling to the shower and grumbling at Mike to JUST STOP TALKING, I was happy. I was singing. I was annoyingly optimistic. I had an entire day full of opportunities in front of me that had been hiding under all the fear.

I am not suggesting that you throw all caution to the wind, quit your job and figure out the plan later. Mike and I have a plan, which makes all of this just a little less scary.

So today, I challenge you to be brave.

As Sheryl Sandberg says, "What would you do if you weren't afraid?"