If This Isn't Nice, I Don't Know What Is

Dear Readers,

It has been a very busy summer, and an even busier fall.  I am now honored to hold a new job title with my company, a new student I.D. card with Boise State University, not to mention keeping up with Lucas and supporting the hell out of my talented and wonderful husband Shay.  

Not that you care.  Nor should you.  Isn't it boring when someone talks about how busy they are?  I just wanted you to know that I ignored my blog for completely selfish reasons, and when I wasn't doing one of the above, I was probably watching TV or sleeping in.  

Anyhow, it all ties into what I want to say this evening.  I'm doing a speech on the greatest thing in the world for my communications class next week: pie.  While searching the internet for pie quotes, I came across the gem I posted at the top this page from one of my favorite authors, Kurt Vonnegut.  I'll write it again, just to drill it in your head:  "I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, 'If this isn't nice, I don't know what is.'"  

This struck a heart chord with me.  Here I sit on a Sunday evening, typing away while decorates a poster board with his favorite architects for a school project and Yoshi the Cat lounges on my furniture, slowly but surely deforming the couch cushions with his immense weight, and though I am satisfied, I am not happy.  You know why?  I don't have any pie for one, which could be a contributor.  But the main reason is that my person is across the country and I'm just not the same without him.

Shay and I have seen our share of struggles over the last few years.  But the last year in-particular has been astonishingly good.  No, not good.  What I meant to say was extraordinary.  No, not extraordinary.  I mean, how do I say it?  How do I categorize the feeling of security, coupled with my hearts contentment, multiplied by my sincere and pure enjoyment of just knowing he's around?  It's not just love.  It's more than that.  

I had a conversation with a dear friend of mine the other day, while our goofy and wonderful children ran around like puppies.  We were talking about how, in any relationship, there is no magic.  Now, you're welcome to contradict me if you think I'm wrong, but I'll still call bull shit on you.  Sure there are fireworks and there's magnetism, and bolts of lightening straight to your heart!  Of course.  And those feelings can last for a while, for sure.  But are they sustainable?  No.  At one point or another, there will be time that one or the other or possible both in the relationship at the same time will want to punch the other in the face.  Or say the meanest thing they can think of.  Or slowly poison them to death over months and months.  It's important, those moments of hate, because that's when you get to make the choice to stay or to go.  And if you stay, you accept the challenge of working it out.  And that's my point:  it's work.


Shay and I did it though.  We did the work.  We rolled around in the mud.  We lived apart for a little while.  We fought and we hated each other and we finally sat down and put it all out there and we worked it out.  We weren't the first couple to do this, and I'm sure we're not the last.  But you know what?


So now, here I am, pining for a guy that I've known for almost 14 years to come back and hang out with me.  It's not that I'm a mess without him, it's just that I'm so much better when he's around.  And maybe he's better when I'm around too (if anything a little less forgetful).  I wanted him to go on this trip to New York, hell I bought the ticket and kind of forced him to go, because I want to see his dreams come true, and it's taken him one step closer to that realization.  But next time, I'm just going to have to go too.  Because finally, after all of these years, I'm happy to say we're a package deal.  This I know for sure to be true, tomorrow night when he comes home, and I get to just hang out with him again, I'm going to take Kurt's advice and I'm going to say to myself, "If this isn't nice, I don't know what is."

Now that I've grossed you all out with the details of my marriage, I want to leave you with one more quote from Kurt Vonnegut, that gets me through just about anything, and still serves me well today: "We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down."  

My wings are huge.



Strange Guilt in the Quest for Health

Dear Readers,

Health in the modern day and age is such a relative concept.  I dare you to Google "I'm exhausted" or "stomach ache" or "runny nose with mild fever" and come out of the search not convinced that you're dying from a rare and fatal disease.  We are ever conscious of growing epidemics caused by immunizations or not-immunizing or pesticides or false organic labels or too many documentaries.  Seriously, have you seen all of the documentaries on everything that's killing us?  All of the things are killing us and there is nothing we can do.  Despite the internet and my Netflix subscription and the daily health report on Dr. Oz, I'm happy to announce the following:

I do not have cancer.

However, I am not as happy to announce the following:

I have guilt over not having cancer.

Three years ago I sat by my best friend's side as he was eaten away by this terrible disease.  His cancer was in his liver, his colon, his kidney's, his everything everywhere and it didn't take long before he died (thank goodness for that.  I can't imagine him trying to get on with it, to be honest).  My Grandma.  Two aunts.  One uncle.  Two cousins.  My sweet dad.  A handful of friends.  All of them have gone their rounds with this stupid cellular attack.  All of them having different diagnosis, prognosis, treatments, and odds thrown at them.  Some overcoming it miraculously, some slipping away quietly with no one knowing, and some just telling their cancer to go straight to hell and beating the shit out of it.  Whatever the case, it wasn't (isn't) easy for any of them.  It's terrifying.  Straight scary.  But they dealt with it just the same.

Several years ago now, it was 2008 if my faulty memory serves me correctly, I was exhausted.  I lost over 60 pounds in a month.  I was covered in horrible, itchy rashes.  My joints were throbbing and swollen.  I went to a doc in the box, and she told me immediately that she thought I had cancer.  Mind you, no tests at all had been done.  Not a drop of blood not an x-ray not a pee sample.  So after telling me I had breast cancer, she did the x-ray.  She ordered the blood work.  I peed in a cup.  And after an agonizing long weekend (of course this happened on a Friday before a holiday), I got a call from her:

You do not have cancer.

It took another year and several different doctors and specialists before I finally landed in the office of a Rheumatologist named Dr. Loveless (he wears bow ties and looks like John Malkovich) to give me a diagnosis of "Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease".  Doesn't it sound made up?  I think it might be made up.  Like Fibromyalgia or Consumption (I know they're not made up but they sound like it).  The way it was explained to me was that I'm somewhere in-between Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis with a couple other syndromes attached, but that my disease hasn't fully developed and it could be decades before it shows it's true colors.  So basically, it's made up.  It's a funny thing, to have your doctor reassure you that you are, in fact, sick.  They reassure you with frequent lab tests, and horrific prescription drugs that present side-effects that are often worse than your symptoms (I've done chemotherapy, anti-malarials, and so many steroids).  But I know they're right that there is something wrong, even if they can't name it.  I know it because I've had to alter my entire life to take care of myself in a gentle and loving way to accommodate chronic pain and faulty joints, for which my doctor recently wrote me a prescription for, and I quote, "full body massage once a week, forever", yes, FOREVER.   I have had to set so many limits: limits on my exposure to the sun (which I love), limits to the amount I can drink (which I love), limits on my diet and my sleep cycle and my exercise.  I think my mom may have cast a spell on me to force me to follow the LDS "Word of Wisdom" (did you Mom?  You're so tricky!), or maybe it was just wise to begin with.  With the help of my friend and Naturopathic Physician, Nicole Pierce, I've replaced all but one of my prescriptions with supplements and whole foods.  With the help of my kindred spirit and body-work specialist, Heidi Jae Puckett, massage and reiki keeps my body and spirit in balance.

I do not have cancer.

After watching Loren go through his horrific ordeal and I was in the throws of fresh grief, I was in Dr. Loveless's office for a check-up.  He was asking me the regular questions about my pain and what not, when I told him there was nothing wrong with me.  That I had witnessed what pain is, that I saw what real suffering is, and that I was no where near it.  Not even close.  Dr. Loveless took me by the shoulders and said as sweetly as someone who looks like John Malkovich can say, "What you have will not kill you.  It will make you hurt and miserable, but you are not going to die from it.  But that doesn't mean you don't suffer, because I know you do.  Don't let your friend's tragedy stop you from taking care of yourself."

I've thought about that conversation a lot.  I've also replayed a moment I had with Loren when he was so ill, and so very very angry.  Angry that he didn't do anything to stop the cancer.  Angry that he was presented with the end of his life before his time.  Angry that he wouldn't have a family, wouldn't see the world, and simply wouldn't live.  Of course he was angry.  I was angry for him.  That anger has helped me to decide to take care of myself, to encourage others to do the same.  So back to my comment from earlier:

I feel guilty that I do not have cancer.

I've told you before that I am a carrier of the high risk breast/ovarian cancer gene, BRCA1 (remember the hilarious mishap while having a breast MRI?  No?  Go back and read it.).  This is significant for a couple of reasons: 1) everyone I know that is a carrier of the gene in my family has been diagnosed with cancer, no exceptions, males included.  2) I have the advantage of knowing that this is in my future.  3) I can take advantage of that information and do something about it.  With that in mind, after carefully planning and preparing my work and home, I took two weeks off of work and had a complete hysterectomy last week.  All of my lady plumbing is now gone, along with 98% of the risk for ovarian cancer, and 40% of my risk for breast cancer.  Just like that.  A three hour date with an amazing oncologist and a robot and I increased my odds of being cancer free significantly.  I am healing quickly and without issue and feel better than I have in years.  Now, isn't that a funny thing to feel guilty about?  I think of Loren, of my family members and friends that have or are currently facing the horrific facts of life because they didn't have a chance to take advantage of their genetic map.  I am so lucky.

I'll deal with my guilt though, because I get to live, I get to have a family, I get to travel and enjoy the sunshine and my job and my friends and my family.  And I want to do those things for a very, very long time.  It helps to also know that right now, as I type this, slides of my freshly removed and sliced up lady parts are being sent to research labs all over to study a genetic map that is a mess for me, but possibly very helpful in the research of genetics and cancer.  With that in mind, I would like to dedicate my uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes to the memory of my late best friend, in the hopes that his influence to take care of my own health so I can stick around this crazy world for a while will help to make sure that someone else with cancer can too.

Before I sign off, it's important for me to tell you that despite what you might assume from this blog, I'm not writing this for attention or sympathy or out of self-pity.  I do not need to use my health or the health of my friends for such things, that's what I have self-deprecation and Facebook for.  Rather, it's just been on my mind and I felt like it was an important thing to write about.  Please don't dig too deep into it otherwise.  And if you're struggling with auto-immune problems or cancer or just life in general, please reach out to me.  I can be a pretty okay listener on occasion.



Feeling Inadequate in Legitimate Adequacy

Dear Readers,

The past 30 odd years have lead me to a strange place where  I find myself in the good company of several of my peers experiencing the same problem: we've almost arrived.  We've studied, we've worked really hard, we've survived performance reviews, we've been demoted, promoted, yelled at, praised, filled out applications, networked with all of the right people and even more of the wrong people and at long last we have been accepted into grad school.  Or are listed on the cover of a book that is certain to be famous.  Perhaps a record contract is in the near future.  Or maybe it's something as simple as realizing what it is that we want to be when we grow up, have enrolled in school again, and have accepted a new position at work that takes us one step closer to realizing that goal.  You'd think this would be exciting, enthralling even.  You'd think the general thought would be, "FINALLY!"  Surprisingly, you are more likely to hear one (if not all) of us say, "Oh shit.  I'm a sham.  A fraud.  I don't know what I deserve, but it isn't this."

I'm pretty sure this isn't a new experience.  As I get older, it becomes clearer and clearer to me that any road I walk down has had it's fair share of foot traffic already.  Knowing that, I look up, and I see the people that I have made giants in my mind.  My mentors, my teachers, my parents, my heroes.  I've asked them some very unassuming questions like, "Have you always been like this?" or "Didn't you ever cry at work?" and the ever popular, "There's no way you've made mistakes, right?"  And they laugh at me.  They open up their secret little boxes of skeletons and share their humiliating stories, their own doubts, their struggles, and most important, their experience.  I appreciate it so much, learning that they're human too.

There are so many different ways to measure success now.  It's not limited anymore to just a nice house and a nice car and paying for your kid to go to a nice college.  It's making the list as a possible answer to a BuzzFeed quiz.  It's headlining at a little known music festival.  It's reading the stats of your YouTube video and see that you're being followed by a complete stranger.  The achievements of your competitors are posted all over social media and every time you pick up your phone and check your Facebook page another person you know has funded their whatever through Kickstarter, and though you don't want to begrudge their success you can't help but think, "This is what people are paying for?  Really?  This?"

Is this the American dream?

Maybe.  It just might be.

I guess really what it comes down to is this: all of my peers that I've been privileged to know through all of their hard work and studying and networking and highs and lows, they deserve their success, whether or not they receive a crowdsourcing grant.  Beyond all belief, I might deserve mine too.  And, so I say this:

Draw your comics.

Run Robie Creek.

Climb rocks in Thailand.

Make your incredible music.

Go to grad school.

Burn your rejections letters and keep writing.

Paint beautiful things on skateboard decks.

Do whatever it is you need to do to feel the most satisfied you can with your life.  Accept the challenge.  You don't feel worthy because it's intimidating and hard and you're out of your league.  Don't worry though, it won't always feel like that, and before you know it you'll be bored and looking for the next great step.



Sunshine Forever: Our Family Vacation

Dear Readers,

Family vacation, by definition and proven by several different scientific studies, is an experience in which one travels with immediate family to various locations to learn one's ability to cope with anger, frustration, and hatred for their respective kin in a smaller and more expensive environment than home.  As with any rule or theory, there is always an exception, and I recently returned home from an exceptional family vacation.

My dear mother-in-law, Paula, decided a few years ago that she wanted to take her family on a dream vacation to Orlando, Florida and all it's attractions.  She told Shay, Shay's brother Anthony (or AJ or Tony, depending on the circle you run in), and myself about this trip last spring so that we could secure time off.  12 sunny days in Florida leaving the inversion and suckiness of Idaho winter behind during February: can you just imagine?  It was kept a secret from Lucas, Paula's one and only beloved grandson, until Christmas Day.  Using the advent calendar that his grandma had made him, Lucas religiously counted down the days to our departure.

On the morning of February 1st,  we boarded our flight to the Sunshine State, and hopped onto the Disney World bandwagon.  No really, they provide a bus from the airport to your resort, televisions playing the whole time showing you what an amazing time you're going to have and that they do weird things like grow nine pound lemons and talk a lot about little girls becoming princesses at the "Bibbity-Bobbity-Botique" (no mention of the $$$ though).  I'm not gonna lie, their propaganda works and I was stoked to get there, even with my initial disappointment of learning they didn't carry my size at the princess makeover shop.

We stayed at Disney World for the first five days of our trip.  Initially, I was surprised by the sheer size of the place.  It's huge.  Miles huge.  In Europe, it would be considered it's own country (non-participating in the EU, I'm sure).  Because we were staying onsite, we were privy to using their shuttle buses from park to park, and no ride on the shuttle was less than 25 minutes.  Disney World consists of four parks: The Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Disney Hollywood Studios (formally MGM Grand) and The Animal Kingdom.  Conveniently, they have developed technology they refer to as "Magic Bands" (yes, you can buy t-shirts in the gift shops that refer to the bands) that are a bracelet with a microchip installed in it (the bracelets, I should say, are ordered in your favorite color and have your name printed on the inside), which you use as your pass into the parks, key to your hotel room, and tender when making a purchase.  They connect it to a credit card for you, so you don't have to carry those pesky things around!  That way, when you finish your roller coaster and are walking through the associated gift shop at the end of the ride, you can buy that yeti-themed hat with Mickey ears on top without a second thought.

Supposedly we were at Disney during the slowest time of the year, which is strange because a lot of the time it felt as full and chaotic as a Wal-Mart on welfare check day.  None-the-less, I'll give it to those Disney folks, they make every single person that walks through their gates feel special.  Every little girl is a princess, every little boy is a hero, and every parent there is the best parent in the world, even if they are now officially broke or heavily in debt.  The staff, or "cast members" (a very tricky way of getting around equal opportunity laws and paying staff a living wage), were always smiling, always spreading pixie dust, always sweeping the already spotless sidewalks and pavement, and always absolutely thrilled to be at work.  One of my favorite things to do was to get a cast member to act like a real person; break away from the smile and the magic and say things like, "...my feet hurt," or "I told them three times to be in row 2 and 3 and look at them, scrambling around like a bunch of idiots.  EXCUSE ME, ROWS 2 AND 3!  YES, THAT'S RIGHT!  All day every day, dealing with them."  Those moments of human interaction felt like great accomplishments to me.  We loved Disney World though, and thoroughly enjoyed our stay there.  We ate so much amazing food, rode so many amazing rides, watched a handful of incredible shows, and walked about 3,000 miles, enjoying every step, Lucas wearing an oversized novelty Goofy hat the whole time.

After Disney World, we checked into a beautiful condo and worked our way over to Universal Studios.  If Disney is your rich and fancy aunt that spoils you with too much gourmet ice cream and unlimited swimming in her fancy pool, leaving you feeling entitled and spoiled when you return to your reality, then Universal Studios is your trashy cousin that loves to party and will spend their entire tax return on booze and drugs and concert tickets to make sure that you have the time of your life for your 21st birthday.  In essence, it's a smaller, cleaner Las Vegas with roller coasters instead of casinos.

Don't get me wrong about Universal though.  If she's your trashy cousin, she works in the highest class strip club there is.  Meaning, they know how to do it up there.  I know this, not because of my limited theme park experience.  Rather, I am a geek for a certain dark haired young man with round glasses and a scar on his forehead.  Having read the Harry Potter series of books more times than I can count, not to mention I am the proud owner of the entire set of movies on Blue-Ray (thanks again to Paula), I am nothing short of an expert when it comes to Hogwarts and beyond, and they nailed it in the attraction The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  The attention to detail was astounding and I was acting like a 13 year old girl at a One Direction (that's a boy band, right?) concert.  We drank butter beer and we toured Hogwarts and we had wands chosen for us and we played in a quidditch match and I was almost taken away enough to blow $40 on a Gryffindor scarf (good try Universal, but I'm not that big of a sucker).  Outside of Harry Potter, I had no other expectations of Universal.  It ends up, it's a pretty amazing place and the attention to detail is in every part of it from Jurassic Park to The Simpsons.  Unlike Disney, the employees there were a little more real life.  Upon learning that Lucas was denied access to The Hulk roller coaster, the kid running Dr. Doom's Terrifying Death Drop From Hell (or whatever that awful ride was called) let him cut to the front of the line.  AJ even got a free churro from a vendor for no reason.  It's the little things that will keep you coming back again and again (even if it costs $20 for parking in addition the cost of entrance and food and human drying machines).

We spent one fine day of our vacation at the baby brother of the bigger theme parks, Legoland.  My geekdom for Harry Potters pales in comparison to Lucas's obsession with Lego, and there are no shortage of blocks in this park.  The rides were mediocre compared to the human blenders at Universal and Disney, but the Lego sculptures were phenomenal and the pace of the park was so nice and relaxed that it was worth the hour drive to get there.  One of the attractions in the park is a driving school for kids.  Before allowed out on the mini-streets to tote around in cars that look like a Lego version of the Subaru Justy I used to drive, the kids are required to take a driving course complete with video.  While the other kids were shuffling around like jackasses, Lucas took this video and the directions given by the teenage ride staff very seriously.  Once out on the rode, he followed the rules to the letter, but still ended up rear-ending another driver.  "I'm honest, it wasn't my fault!" he said to us the second we found him after the ride.  "I'm honest!"  If I'm honest, he's already a better driver than me.

One of my favorite things about this vacation was taking Lucas to the ocean for the first time.  We had some time to kill earlier in the trip and ended up at Cocoa Beach on a blustery day.  That didn't stop Lucas from getting soaked chasing waves, with the biggest smile on his face that I'd ever seen.  So we decided to head back to the same beach on our last day.  The day was so pretty that I even shaved above the knee (a first time in February that I can remember), and laid in the sun on the beach proudly in my swimsuit with no cover up as if I was a young and hot cast member on 90210.  Lucas jumped wave after wave after wave and we got sand in our hair and our treats and all over our clothes and it was nothing short of wonderful.  I could have laid on that beach forever.

I'm not going to lie, it was tough to come home.  Once we did get home, I actually missed my in-laws.  We had such a great time, and got along so well, and things were so stress free I don't know that I can rightfully refer to it as a family vacation.  Speaking on behalf of Shay, Lucas, and I, it was the rejuvenating get-away that we needed, and we are so grateful to Paula for making it happen and to Anthony (or Tony or AJ) to be there alongside us.  Also, I owe thanks to my Facebook and Instagram followers for putting up with my endless posts, other people's trips can be so annoying.  But you just read this horribly long blog, so I guess you don't mind too much.  I hope you're not too jealous (though I understand if you are).



A Brief and Unworthy Tribute to 2013

Dear Readers,

I've been wanting to write a blog for you all about this past year.  About how I've transitioned and have grown into my favorite version of myself.  About how Shay and I separated only to find a new way to be closer and better and love each other in a much more realistic and wonderful fashion.  I've wanted to tell you that my mistakes may not have been mistakes at all but necessary messy turns on my life's path and though I'm sorry that I caused pain I'm not sorry that I've picked myself up and brushed myself off and found out that I am a pretty okay person.  Have I mentioned that I broke the year up into three parts of development?  1) Mental health.  2) Physical health.  3) Financial health.  And that by dissecting and disassembling and then finally rebuilding each piece of my life's pie I found my way out of sadness and grief and replaced them with peace of mind?  In 2013 my dad was ill and that was scary and awful, but it reminded me how much I love and admire him.  In the fall I learned to tap dance and learned that  I'm not great at it.  In December I found out that something I'd written had been accepted to be published, and I blushed and was excited and mortified at the same time.  I learned the art of enjoying my home life and gained a fairly substantial distaste for being out late at night.  I hung out with women: gracious, beautiful, smart, successful women, and found that their company is better than I ever imagined it could be with a bunch of girls.  I said goodbye to some dear friends and shipped them off all over the country and the world.  Really, there is so much I want to tell you about.  But I don't know how to write it and I'm not certain that you care anyhow, and to be wholly honest some of it's too personal and some of it's me trying to say I'm sorry to people I have no business apologizing to and a bit of it is a type of therapy for me and maybe I just shouldn't be so open on the World Wide Web.

So instead, here's a piece I wrote at my writing group this morning that I feel pretty okay inside about.  It's called "Rain or Dreams or Both".

Walking on the rooftops of barns I am careful to balance and take one step at a time one foot in front of the next.  I am up so high and my arms are straight out as if I'm ready for flight.  I smell the hay and the wind blows my hair.

The wind blows my hair.

I love my hair long and crazy and being pulled this way and that in your breezy fingers.  I feel alive and I feel you.  I always feel you in the wind.  I hear your whispers and let you kiss me soft and sweet.  It's not passionate it never was it's just you brushing your lips on my cheek and saying so quiet (but it screamed in my heart), "I love you so much I wish I could just show you."

You watch as I walk on the rooftops of barns I can't see you but I feel you and I know whether I fall or not you're going to catch me in your waiting arms and we'll embrace as if we haven't seen each other in years - which is the reality my friend.  It's been far too long.

I love these days your poem etched into my eyelids as I keep them closed to enhance the smell taste feel of the plip plop rain.

The rain scent from the ground
Who else loves the wind and warmth?
Ending all pendings.

How did I get on top of this barn and why is it vital that I balance my clumsy self across it's roof?  I have nothing to prove any more.  I'm no longer a know-it-all rather a person of experience.  My mistakes are my own and I treasure each and every one of them and pull them out from time to time to remind myself that I am capable of falling but able to fly and I love each and every scar like a child.

The barn is brown and not red and the sky is blue but in reality it's gray and murky and it's brooding and full and so obviously has something on it's mind.  It's okay to cry, Sky. My path has led me to empathy and I understand, Sky.  Hold my hand Sky and we'll walk across this rooftop together and we'll be wet with your rain and my tear but we won't be alone at these heights and our friend the wind will be there. 

I love you too.



A Thanksgiving Meal for the Books

Dear Readers,

For years I've been stiffing Lucas on attending his school's annual Thanksgiving meal.  Usually with good reason (ie meetings, doctor's appointments, napping, etc.), but this year having run out of excuses and unable to handle his giant puppy dog eyes fraught with the disappointment of having the worst mom ever, I sent in my $3.25 along with my RSVP last week.  With much excitement and anticipation, the day finally arrived!

The flyer said this would be a fancy affair, so Lucas selected his finest polyester clip on tie for the occasion.  I wore a classic black dress, professional high heel shoes, and a jacket reminiscent of my doppelganger, Jackie O.  Frankly, it seems to me that everyone else at the lunch missed the memo.  There were a few dresses here and there, but most kids looked like they rolled out of bed and were simply rushed to school by hurried parents, can you imagine?  Regardless of the poorly attired masses, Lucas and I stood smugly in line, trays in hand. 

The lunch offerings for today were, as you can see, the classic Thanksgiving choices:

The menu was somewhat deceiving.  For one thing, the "veggie bag" only contained carrots, where I feel that the name alludes to a variety of veggies.  Also, there was no fruit that I can see, unless they were counting the weak looking sliced radishes on the "salad" bar as fruit.  Before any of you ask, "Harvest Cake" appeared to be a brown colored spongy food item with a thin layer of white on top.

Lucas has very discerning tastes when it comes to his food.  I know this, because he always likes what I make and often refers to me as the best cooker he knows.  For that reason, I was a bit surprised that he went for the green beans over the veg bag, but I guess we all have our quirks.  Here is he, anxiously awaiting his place at the kitchen window to pick up the rest of his grub:

Finally, after waiting for what seemed like minutes, it was our turn to get our meal.  "Corn dogs or Turkey?" Asked the polite smiling woman in a hairnet.  "Turkey please," said Lucas.  "But no gravy please.  That is gravy right?  Sorry, I wasn't sure."  Also opting for the turkey (with gravy), we both received a healthy plop of mashed potato product, a whole wheat roll, the highly anticipated Harvest Cake, and in Lucas' case, a slop of applesauce.  Obviously we both selected chocolate milk to drink (does anyone drink white milk on purpose?).  Here is my lunch tray, in all it's Thanksgiving glory:

The food aside, what really nailed down the holiday spirit of the occasion were the decorations:

At this point, I would like to just add a side note as a parent, as I feel like this might be a common occurrence.  I have carried a hefty pile of guilt over the years for my lack of presence in Lucas' school life.  I'm not/never will be the president of the PTA, I absolutely do not volunteer for classroom duties, I have a record of attending zero field trips, and to be honest it's a wonder that I remember to send treats for Lucas' birthday.  There are a couple reasons for my lack of interests: other parents, and other children.  There aren't many that I'm fond of.  And I'm certain there are many that aren't fond of me.  I swear a lot.  I let Lucas play violent video games.  I've already discussed sex and periods and the finer aspects of existentialism with my son.  I even let him drink caffeinated soda from time to time.  I find that because of these reasons (plus a gazillion others), there are only a handful of parents that I have common ground with.  So all of that nonsense aside, me entering Lucas' school is me entering unknown territory.  As mentioned earlier though, those puppy dog eyes kill me, so I said yes.  Knowing how excited he was to have me join him, I was very much looking forward to the lunch!  So I was very surprised at how much he ignored me once I was there.  Apparently he wasn't expecting his worlds colliding to be such a weird thing.  So rather than talk (thank goodness for his buddy Mason, keeping up the table's conversation for us!), he just shoveled his food in, Harvest Cake first.

A few quick spoonfuls of grub later, and he was ready to go out to recess and forget that this awkward encounter had ever happened.  I was still "eating" (is there a word for pushing food items around on a tray?) when he said, "So, uh, you gonna stick around here for a while?  Or maybe you should get back to work?" Which I took as a cue that our lunch date had come to an end.  We handed our trays to the kitchen helper, who took one look at my messy swirl of uneaten food and said, "What, you on a diet or something?" and that was that.  I did manage to get one last shot of my date though, much to his dismay ("No one else's parents are taking pictures!"):

Handsome, isn't he?

All joking aside, Roosevelt is an awesome school, and I love that they put this fancy day together.  I am sorry that I chose the turkey over the corndogs though, and so for my own Thanksgiving meal will be preparing those instead.  With a healthy plop of potatoes and veggie bag on the side.



And That is the Breast of the Story

Dear Readers,

First off, let's just get this out of the way: if you're offended by things like breasts and hilarity, this blog post is not for you.  Stop reading now, Google "baby animals" and enjoy the images.  Otherwise, allow me to welcome you to the story of my morning.

Several years and at least three lifetimes ago when I was a young and dainty 16 years old, I was inducted into a study with the Huntsman Cancer Institute because my family carries the BRCA1 among many other renown gene mutations (ie the "Jackass Gene", "Relief Society Arm Gene", and the "Braegger Bug Eye Gene").  For those of you unfamiliar with BRCA1, it's the high risk breast cancer gene.   You may recall Angeline Jolie having a mastectomy not long ago because she too has the mutation (we have so many things in common!).  Anyhow, out of the three Badger girls, I won the gene lottery and inherited the mutation.  What this means for me is that I go through a lot of extra studies and tests that normal girls my age don't have to go through, which leads me to today's blog.

A couple months ago I had my first mammogram.  It wasn't nearly as exciting as I thought it would be, though it was fairly quick and painless.  The worst part was sitting in a small waiting room with three ladies who were at least 30 years older than me, and in the uncomfortable silence I blurted out, "What are the chances we'd all wear the same blouse?" referring to the hideous open-front hospital shirts we were wearing.  Instead of a laugh or two, I got chided by one of the blue-haired ninnies who said, "I don't think now is the time for jokes!"  Personally, I don't think there is a better time for jokes.  Anyhow, after the mammogram and a very lengthy four hour long consultation with the St. Luke's High Risk Breast Cancer Clinic (which I must say is comprised with a lovely group of people.  Seriously, they are the best!), the breast oncologist suggested that I get an MRI done as well.  "Sure!" I said.  "Whatever you think!  Plus, I have a couple thousand bucks just sitting around that I'd love to spend!" And the appointment was made.

They called me last week to brief me on the MRI, and told me that I couldn't have anything to drink within two hours of my appointment (which was set for 8:45am).  I woke up extra early this morning so I could follow their rules, but still have a cup of coffee.  I mention this, because had I not done that this story may have ended in murder.  But thankfully, I went into my appointment fully caffeinated.  Wearing a dress with footless tights, the sweet lady checking me in says, "You'll probably be more comfy in your tights than scrub pants, so why don't you just keep them on?  Just put on the scrub top and that should be fine!" I want to point out that I'm wearing tights: sheer, black tights.  Not leggings.  Not Spanx.  Just one-step-away-from-nylons tights.  And though tasteful, my undergarments are also sheer.  Also, being a Badger girl and what not, I was born "ranch-ready", meaning most people don't want to see me gallivanting about in tight anything.  So I step into the MRI room in my tights and a scrub shirt that barely covers my ass, and low and behold instead of the nice lady I had been working with, there stand two young and handsome male MRI techs!

Luckily, these young men were just as surprised to see me as I was them.  Apparently not a lot of women under the age of 50 come into their unit for breast exams.  Already, I'm mortified because it has occurred to me that they will be able to see right through my tights to my not appropriate at all for the occasion underpants, not to mention that I'll be completely exposed from the waste up.  "Hi.  Oh shit.  Hi," I said (sorry Mom!).  Fumbling his way through putting my IV in ("This is usually really easy for me!" He said), the youngster tells me to kneel on the MRI table, lift my shirt, and lower myself into the cutouts meant for my chestal region.  So I do as I'm told, and as awkwardly as possible fall into the holes where I feel a lot like a dairy cow must while preparing to be milked.  My butt exposed, the guy says, "Maybe you'll be more comfortable if you have a blanket." To which I quickly replied, "Maybe you'll be more comfortable if I have a blanket," and then added, "I'm sorry.  I think I'm hilarious when I'm nervous.  I should just say this is easily the most awkward situation I've ever been in, and I've been in a few."  He laughed as he adjusted my womanhood into the holes, "Don't worry.  This is awkward for me too, ha ha ha."

Finally, the adjusting is done, and I'm laying exposed and uncomfortable in a position that would never be appealing to anyone ever, and he sticks a set of headphones on me and asks me what radio station I prefer.  "Radio Boise please, 89.9," I reply, at least relieved that I can listen to Antler Crafts while I'm stuck in a tube.  "Sure thing!  This should take about 40 minutes.  It's really important that you don't move at all.  Take small breaths.  Don't cough.  Any movement could really mess this up, and we'll have to start all over.  Here we go!"  He pushes me back into the machine, and starts piping music into my ears.  It takes me two seconds to realize there's been a terrible mistake.  Instead of 89.9, he set the radio dial to 89.5, the Christian Rock station, and here I am strapped face down to a board, udders swinging, unable to move for 40 hellish minutes listening to the awful, horrible sounds of "HOLY HOLY HOLY" ringing through my head.  "I'm in Hell," I thought. "I'm a terrible person because I call people retarded and I laugh at jokes that I shouldn't laugh at and I really don't like dogs that much and I really hate some kids out there and I am now in Hell because I'm THE WORST."

Finally, 40 long minutes later, the hot guy comes in, pulls me out of the tube and removed the blasted headphones from my head.  I'm dizzy from laying face down and he has to catch me as I stumble off of the MRI table (still exposed, mind you) helps me get dressed and practically pushes me out of the MRI room.  I'm so thankful, so relieved to not be in this Christian Rock nightmare any more that it's only as I'm zipping up my dress that I realize that I still have the IV port in my arm.  "Shit," I said again.  It was my hope to never see these guys again.  But instead, I stumble back into the MRI room and just hold out my arm without a word.  "Oh, sorry about that," says the guy, quickly removing it, never making eye contact.  As I walk out the room and towards the exit, I passed the gal who had checked me in, "See, that wasn't so bad, was it?" She cheerfully said.  I looked at her and looked away and kept walking without saying anything.

And that is the breast of the story.