March 2010

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The backyard playhouse D is putting together for Little J

March 29, 2010. Last night, little J and I rushed over to the neighbors’ house just in time to see a boy blow out eight candles on his birthday cake. There were six on it the night we moved here. Two years ago today, the sun was setting on our very first day in our new house in Sugartown. Can you believe it?

It’s been twenty-four whole months. And yet it still feels like we are just now getting started, just beginning to lay the groundwork and scaffolding for our life here. Just starting to make friends outside of the amazing extended family made up of the neighbors on our street. Just starting to think about Kindergarten, a new roof on this old, cozy house, bikes without training wheels, and maybe, in a year or so, a dog. (Don’t tell Little J yet!)

The very best of life is right in front of me and all around me. I feel so lucky to have all of it. It’s spring time and everything is full of sweetness, love, and promise. I know Little J agrees.

Little J and neighbor T

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Believe

Little J applying forty pounds of pressure.

Those of you who know me, who’ve known me since J was born especially, know that I believe in this kid. Behind gritted teeth, when I see J climbing something too high, I tell him to hang on and that he can do it. Okay, fine, sometimes I have to turn away. But I don’t stop him. Usually, I egg him on. Sure, I’ll stop him if he’s trash-talking kids like Charles Barkley on the playground. In spite of rolled eyes, I’ll step in. It’s a behavior he learned at preschool and we’ve been trying to break him of it for years. Other than that, kid’s on his own.

But STILL! When he announced on Sunday that he wanted to ride his bike with no training wheels, I hesitated. I wanted D to loosen them a bit so J could take it slowly. I didn’t want him to scare himself and then never want to try again. Fortunately D overrode that idea and went ahead and took off the wheels. And with a little bit of help, little J was off. Just. Like. That. He said he was going to do it. And then he did it.

Neighbor M had rounded up the kids to come watch. Then little N ran home to get his parents, and soon we entered one of those moments when time on my street stands still. The  scene turns into something straight out of a story(book). The adults are clapping and cheering him on. The kids are running and shouting. The dogs are barking. And my heart is bursting. I will never, ever forget it. (And T recorded the whole thing on his iphone. Email me for the youtube link if you wanna see the action).

Believe. I’m the first one to shout that word at anyone who’s worried/complaining/fretting/stressing over anything. You have to believe something’s going to happen before it can happen. Period. Little J knows that. And he reminded me at a perfect time. I thanked him for that reminder in the way that’s most meaningful to any Cooper boy:  ice cream. The friends came over, and they all dug in.

Yesterday when I was getting rolled through the PetCt scanner, I just kept thinking of little J’s face when he saw us cheering him on. Bursting with potential and so proud. Everything in his body said, you ain’t see nothing yet. Damn right, little boy. Believe.

Hope you’re having a gorgeous week.

Jennifer

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Things that inspire sweetness and light are on heavy rotation here at Chez Nous. So, luckily for us, Little J got a new booster seat that is both “super-hero red,” and launches him into space. Also lucky for us, tomorrow is the first day of spring. Taaa daaa! (That was the daffodils, by the way, trumpeting what might be their last hurrah).

J and I were in FULL-ON summer gear today. He, shirtless. Me, flip-floppin’.

And yes, those are our newly bloomed Santa Barbara Daisies: The same ones that spent most of the fall and winter seasons brown and plastered to the walkway by little tennis shoes and a muddy-pawed cat. Now they’re basking in the glory of Sugartown sunshine, and so are we.

Have a lovely weekend.

Jennifer

Laughter

Yesterday, Ms. Miller reminded me of one of her favorite mantras: So what? It reminded me of Fred Armisen as Joy Behar on SNL. Mantra of the day: So what? Who cares? Use it and laugh.

MandalaCollection.com

Doc G. rarely shows emotion, so we were pleased when he beamed and said, “You’re scan is totally clean. It’s as good as good news can get.” Hooray.

When we got to my blood work, his glow turned to curiosity. My CA-125 is suddenly at 19, up from 3 in December. “It’s not an insignificant jump,” he said.

The CA-125 is a marker that (among other things) tells us whether we should be worried. Though “normal” is anything under 35, oncologists like to keep it in the single digits for people with a history of the Real O.C.

We knew mine wouldn’t stay at 3 forever. In fact, it was pretty unusual for it to have stayed so low for so long. We all expected it to bounce to 6 or 9 at some point, and we’ve been preparing ourselves mentally for that. But 19 is a little hard to take.

Doc G assures us that he’s seen survivors bounce that high due other things: inflammation somewhere in the body, diverticulitis, infection. The plan is to test again in two weeks to see if it has gone back down.

We don’t ask him what happens if it hasn’t. We are not going there.

My first semester in college, I got three A’s and an A-. I made the Dean’s List. My parents were ecstatic. But I just focused on that A- and asked myself over and over again how I could not have gotten an A in that one class (whatever it was).  I’m not that person anymore. I’m focusing on the clean scan and all the amazingly beautiful things I have to be healthy for.

Have a gorgeous day.

Hugs and smooches,

Jennifer

photo from levitatingmonkey.com

The time between scan day and results day is interminable. The space-time continuum erupts because new physics are at work.

T = (Time in remission) X (number of aches in belly)  divided by  (number of positive thoughts) + (number of reassuring hugs from D).*

*If there is a weekend between scan and results, then T is multiplied by a factor of oh-my-gosh-this-would-be-so-much-easier-if-could-just-drink-a-bunch-of-cocktails-while-I-wait.

Through the weekends’ numerous parties and the hilarious behavior that ensued, (kids and adults on even footing here) I stayed pretty distracted. But every now and then, I thought of the manila folder. It sits on Doc. G’s desk all weekend, holding the report of my scan and blood work, waiting to be read to me.  D does a great impersonation of Doc G giving good news, so I ask him to do it over and over again.

Tough as it is, the stretch between scan day (Thursday) and results day (tomorrow) is also a great opportunity to try out new and more vigorous forms of positive thinking. When I get nervous I keep turning my mind to the amazing piece of god-work that is my physical body. I create a mental film reel of my strongest moments, and I watch every frame carefully. Seven Nation Army is my mental sound track.  As I watch, I linger on certain images. I see myself in Shivasana after a long and satisfying yoga class. I can feel my heart pumping oxygenated blood to my lean, flexible limbs. A calm hum infuses me because health and vitality are mine. I see myself swimming lap after lap with little J, a nine pound baby boy floating in my belly the day before his birth. He rocks back and forth as I reach and pull through the water, my endless energy and strength propelling me forward. I see myself hiking with D a decade ago. We go hours and hours, into the jungley thicket of a Hawaiian island, to a rock wall, which we then scale, to get to a waterfall. We swim in the icy water, then climb a steep muddy ravine to get out. We are laughing and swatting away mosquitoes. We’re covered in mud. I try to feel every detail of those moments in my body, to remind the cancer, should there be any lurking cells, who it’s dealing with.

I also look around at my life and the choices I’m making. I make sure that what I’m doing, saying, thinking, creating, and putting out in the world is the best it can be. After all, if I’m fighting to be alive, then the way I spend my time needs to be worthy of this fight.

These days are difficult for sure, but like anything else that’s difficult, there’s a reward in it. And I’m focusing as hard as I can on it. The good, the positive, in this drastically long space between breaths.

D's Mother, Father, Sister and Brother, 1961

I never got to meet D’s mother. She passed away when he was eighteen. I feel like I know her in some ways, though. For instance, D’s enormous capacity to love and to be loved is one of the clearest glimpses of his mother I could ask for.

This weekend, D showed me a poem his mother wrote. And in these lines, I recognize D’s capacity to believe in himself and the lucky ones he loves.  So inspiring.

Don’t Ever

Don’t ever try to understand everything-

some things will just never make sense.

Don’t ever be reluctant to show your feelings-

when you’re happy, give into it!

When you’re not, live with it.

Don’t ever be afraid to try to make things better-

you might be surprised at the results.

Don’t ever take the weight of the world

on your shoulders.

Don’t ever feel threatened by the future-

take life one day at a time.

Don’t ever feel guilty about the past-

what’s done is done. Learn from any mistakes

you might have made.

Don’t ever feel that you are alone…

there is always somebody there for you

to reach out to.

Don’t ever forget that you can achieve

so many of the things you can imagine-

imagine that! It’s not as hard as it seems.

Don’t ever stop loving,

don’t ever stop believing,

don’t ever stop dreaming your dreams.