Monday, April 21, 2014

Happy mom's birthday to you

(Fair warning: there's a noticeable increase in my use of swear words in this post. I'm no Wolf of Wall Street, but you've been warned.)

This morning began with a phone call home: "Happy Mom's birthday," I told my dad, and a few hours later I texted my brother the same thing. It's a weird thing to celebrate--but let's be honest, no weirder than celebrating my mom's life and her awesomeness two and a half years ago at her funeral.

I tried to write last night, but my brain just couldn't process it. Perhaps it was the after effects of the vodka on the rocks I had the night before (because of course, my mom's signature drink couldn't be margaritas, but no, straight vodka on the rocks), but it just wasn't happening. Instead, I spent most of my night flipping through photos of my family--many of which included my mom. I re-read things I wrote two and a half years ago, and I kind of felt pretty awful.

I give myself 1% of the year to feel shitty. I figure 3.65 days of the year I'm allowed to have all out crappy days. 2 of them are the same each year: October 3rd, the day my mom died, and April 21st (or thereabout depending on when it actually makes sense for me to celebrate her birthday. Vodka is not a Monday night type of drink for me).

Last night it was a 1% day. As I looked through photos of my mom, I was reminded of just how amazing she was. She was selfless. She was caring. She was compassionate. She didn't give a shit what people thought, she knew what she wanted in life, and she went after it. She was always up for a challenge, and she was always on the go. She lived life the way I think most people strive to, and she was pretty damn awesome.

This should make me feel great, right? The fact that my mom was such a wonderful woman, and it does.

...but it also makes that loss all the more difficult. I didn't lose an okay mom. I didn't lose a mom who maybe cared about me or who sometimes told me she loved me or who believed in me 75% of the time.

I lost a mom who cared more about her family than I can really even process.
I lost a mom who told me on a daily basis she loved me.
I lost a mom who believed in me without wavering or doubt.

So there I sat, sad girl in pajamas, eating sushi on the couch, flipping through photos, thinking, "Man. This hurts."

I very much so believe in my ability to will things to happen, to make a choice in life and to see that it happens, but the reality is, I can't will my mom to be alive and healthy. I actually don't have a say here. I don't get to call my mom on a daily basis to ask her advice, and I'm going to have to keep deleting all of those damn emails that are filling my inbox about "gifts for mom" as Mother's Day approaches. All those questions I want to ask my mom just aren't going to get answered right now.

*sad violin plays*

...okay so yes, yesterday I tried to close my eyes really tight and see if I remembered my mom's voice. I don't. I tried to think about the last memory I have of her when she was 100% healthy, and I found myself thinking back to the end of eighth grade. We're talking 14 years now. It's hard, and it gets scarier the less I remember of her. I get nervous at times I'll forget her.

However, then, my better judgment kicks in. I read her eulogy and what I said at her memorial mass.

...and I find myself constantly arriving at the same conclusion:
Yes, losing my mom was easily one of the most painful things I've ever gone through. And yes, it still hurts.

But oh my goodness,
how fucking lucky were we all to know her?

I would almost argue that the real people who are unlucky here are those who didn't know her. I feel a little envious of those who knew her better than I did.

...but I also feel so unbelievably blessed to have had such a wonderful mom for the time that I did. It almost feels greedy to say that I should have had more time with her, because I got to know her for longer than many other people did, and the impact she had on my life is immeasurable.

I got to reap the benefits of having such a bad-ass mom. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure my mom cringes over some of the choices I make (Mom, it's cool, I do too), but overall, if I dare say so myself, I think my parents raised some pretty awesome kids.

And so I find myself going back and forth between two very different sets of emotions:
1. Feeling sad (and well, feeling sorry for myself), because really? Mom, really, you had to leave me so soon?
2. Feeling a kick in the ass from my mom reminding me: Life is tough; suck it up, because at the end of the day, I'm very lucky.

I probably sound terribly arrogant saying this, but, on a daily basis, my life is fucking fabulous. I'm actually not quite sure why I've been given such a phenomenal life with such amazing people with whom to share it, but I have. ...and each day that I got to spend with my mom (when I was smart enough to listen to her and not being a punky child) has contributed to the awesomeness of my life. Each day that I wake up and do something that would make her proud, well, it continues to contribute to how wonderful my life is., really, if I were to re-write this post, I'd probably write about how lucky I am and how much you should be jealous of me, because I had the privilege of having such a wonderful mom, and though I may not get to see her on a daily basis or talk to her at all, I get to go through life with her in my heart, which, hey, really isn't too shabby.

Happy mom's birthday to you; may you be as lucky to know someone as amazing as she was at some point in your life.


Monday, March 24, 2014

High five for scars and fevers

I spent today with my apparent new best friend of 2014: Advil. You see, Advil has been a pretty crucial part of the past month of my life. Despite the fact that I don't like taking medicine as I consider myself to be very tough, sometimes things like broken elbows or fevers require me to take medicine.

(Fun fact: I've had a bottle of 80 Advil that I purchased the weekend I fell. I have 49 left (discovered this today when the bottle spilled...)--which means I really haven't taken very much medicine anyway since I'm allowed to take 9 a day).

This morning, or if I'm being really honest, nearly this afternoon, as I was lying on my couch, I briefly got a little angry at my body. Seriously? You are just getting over a broken bone and think that now is an appropriate time for me to get a fever? I disagree with you, body. I issue a strong statement of dissent.

The moment quickly passed, and I found I was reminding myself of something I know but maybe sometimes forget: my body does a lot for me, and I should really be grateful for it.

Now don't get me wrong, my body and I have our disagreements. I will often push my body to its limits, because I think I'm oh-so-tough. I often don't give my body a break when it needs it. For example, I still remember being offered a wheelchair when I needed to have some lung test while I was going through chemo. Let's be honest: I probably wasn't looking so great if I looked like I needed a wheelchair. I refused, however, and felt a little bit upset--really, body? Can't you keep it together?

I also have moments where I get distracted by things and people around me, and the words "juice cleanse" seem intriguing. Though my pant size is a single digit, I'm no longer as little as I used to be in high school; I know, it sounds so awful (sarcasm marks), but hey, sometimes it's hard to ignore the allure of new diets and trends.

However, in time, I've come to realize my body is pretty damn strong, and I ought to give credit where credit is due (instead of getting sucked in to a world of skinny jeans and feeling down on my appearance). Sure I have a few scars, and yes I'm not always stoked to take a day off from work, to admit I'm not feeling well, or to feel like my body at any point is limiting me, but if I look at all the evidence, well, it's in favor of my body being strong and useful--and in fact, not limiting me.

My scars are reminders that 1. My body can handle cancer. Win., 2. My body can also handle my clumsiness and failed attempt at using a steak-knife to cut a plum when I was 10, and 3. Shark bites happen (I kid. It was the crazy tumor--but I like referring to it as my shark bite).

Each day, I get to wake up, make breakfast, walk to my car, drive somewhere--my body allows me to travel, to sleep well, to move, to walk, to dance, to talk, to write. If I'm thinking really big picture, my body allows me to live.

Sure, perhaps today there wasn't a lot of dancing happening, but maybe, just maybe, instead of getting angry at my body for failing to be healthy 365 days a year without a break, I should cut myself some slack and rest. Take care of my body after all it does for me. So in the spirit of being grateful that in a day or two I'll be good as new (and being patient with my body as it gets back to 100%), I'm heading to sleep early. Thanks for being awesome, body, for putting up with fevers and scars and still coming out on top. It may be time for a self-five.


Monday, March 17, 2014

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Elbow Diaries: Challenge accepted.

Roughly 3 weeks ago, I decided to get a bright and early start to my day. Early bird gets the worm. Plus, I've read all these articles from Harvard Business Review about how the most effective people start their days early and get work done before other people even begin. So at 6 a.m. I gleefully skipped off to Starbucks. Okay, I didn't skip. I walked and walked carefully at that.

However, my careful steps were ineffective. I slipped on some ice and very gracefully landed on my butt. A kind person crossing the street called out to me, "Are you okay?"

...and I replied how every human being does unless your bone is poking through your skin: "I'm fine!!"

When he reached the other side of the street, this kind man actually crossed back over to me. "You haven't gotten up yet so I actually don't think you're fine." I had planned to rest a little on the ice/didn't actually know if I could get up just yet, so I was taking a break.

"Yes, it kind of hurts a little," I admitted. Fortunately, he helped me up, and I very appropriately answered his question when he asked if I fell on my hip. "Nope, just my butt. Y'know. Good stuff." He waited with me till I assured him again, "Thanks so much--really, I'm fine, but thank you."

(By the way, Julie pointed the following out to me...'s likely this kind sir was married...and not as cute as he appeared given the spots I was seeing, but hey, a girl can dream of living out a rom com.)

At this point, I was on my feet and approximately 250 feet away from Starbucks, if that. (I only live about 400 feet from it--clearly this was a long trek.) Sure, my vision might have been a little blurry, but I didn't hit my head so I wasn't very concerned. As long as I made it into the 'bucks without passing out in the crosswalk I would be okay.

Challenge accepted.

Once in Starbucks (yes, I made it), I let my vision return to normal, so I could see the beauty that was my drink, and I walked, even more carefully, home.

When I got home, I went to pick up my coffee with my left hand and discovered a dilemma: my hand did not appear to work. I couldn't pick anything up/hold anything, and so I ended up taking off the day and enjoying House of Cards with a stack of peas on my arm. I ordered sushi and eventually caved and took some painkillers.

I love our pillows.
Fast forward to the following week: I have been showing off my arm's strength and flexibility to my roommate on a regular basis. Look! I can carry my phone! I can hold a dish! WOW--I can almost touch my face with my hand!

My arm decides it does not want to work? Challenge accepted. I will make you work. I will will you to be strong.

At trivia on Wednesday night, a week since my fall, I proudly showed how my arm was nearly 97% straight (though Emily said it was only 95%). I managed to put on eyeliner that day, because MY HAND COULD TOUCH MY FACE. My willpower worked.

Does this look like the face of someone in pain? #sixdegreesofselfie

I did agree with friends and family that if my arm still would not straighten by the weekend I would go to the doctor. While I think straightening my arm is important, I still cannot figure out for what purposes I need to be able to do so. Sure my professional gymnastics career is now out, but other than that, will a crooked arm impede my future?

Friday finally arrived, and I sadly trudged to an immediate care center to get my arm checked out. I will spare the details, but I cried and swore a fair amount during my x-rays. This did confirm that it was a good thing that I went to the doctor; I'm not a crier, but ouch. I went home with a diagnosis of a bad sprain and a suggested small fracture on my elbow. The technician outfitted me in an ace bandage and sling which he attested made me look tough and cool.

You should see the other guy...

So I took it easy and followed up with the doctor come Wednesday. I should note here that I am actually not a terrible patient, but I do need clear parameters on what I can and cannot do.

For example, if a doctor tells me, "You can move your arm a little," I hear that as, "Rhythmic gymnastics and frisbee are okay."

If a doctor says, "Wear your sling as often as possible," I hear that to mean, "Your sling looks great on the doorknob, but you should maybe wear it sometimes."

I don't do "gray" when it comes to doctor directions. Give me black and white. Give me directives. Tell me what to do.

Wednesday's call took away the gray. While I stared at my sling sitting on my dining room table, the technician told me, "You should be wearing your sling pretty much 24/7 and not moving your elbow." Clearly, I had intended to put it back on...

"...Oh, so stretching my arm and elbow, not a good idea?" It's not like I was stretching my arm or anything...

"Nope. You have a fractured elbow. It needs to be still."

" I should go back to the doctor then soon?" You mean, I can't will my arm back to normal?

"Yes, you'll likely need physical therapy, and the doctor will need to check your arm out."

I drank wine in bed and felt a little sad the next day.

Okay, okay, I see what you're saying.
I need to be a big kid and go back to the doctor.
Challenge accepted.
(The quotes from my mom above also reminded me not to be such a baby and make an appointment.)

So I went back to the doctor today. The weather is beautiful which means I finally was able to make this sling look a little cool (ignore my dirty hair).

We're hitting the 3-week mark, and I still can't straighten my arm.
I think it's a cool character trait. The crooked arm girl.

I relayed my story to the doctor (and a brief medical history)--she laughed as I hoped she would, and when I finished she said, "So what I'm gathering from your story is that your assessment of pain is extremely inaccurate."

I admitted, that yes, perhaps my understanding of pain is somewhat skewed. I can always rationalize my pain. One arm hurts? Well it could be two--or both my arms AND my legs.

Also, on a scale of 1-10, when cancer was a 3, nothing ever is that bad.

So, on Wednesday, I head to an orthopedic surgeon, and well, I just hope I really don't need surgery. I made a comment a couple weekends ago about how I sometimes have a "dark gloomy cloud" effect on life. While I try 99% of the time to be sunshine-y, that damn cloud sometimes follows me!

However, dear gloomy cloud, challenge accepted. I know I'm not good at admitting I'm in pain or being patient with myself when I'm sick or hurt. I also know I suck at asking for help, so, challenge accepted. Although, really if we could bypass anything involving needles, that would be great.

So, do what you wanna do lovely little cloud; I'm going to spray some windex on my arm and drink half a bottle of brandy.


P.S. I started drawing too. (You can click on them to see them bigger--if you really want to see my artistic non-skills.)

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

That day my car got stuck in the snow...

Roughly 6 months ago, I went to the DMV to get my new Illinois plates and driver's license. One of the men who worked there looked at my application, handed it back to me, and said, "Are you sure? Do you know what happens here in Chicago in the winter?"

"Yes, yes sir, I do, and I have a new job so I guess it's time to say good-bye to my California plates."

"Well, miss, it's not too late. You can move back still. I'm fairly certain convertibles don't do well here in the snow. If you're sure, you can pass that application back over."

"Yes, yes sir. I'm sure."

"Okay, well, just so you know, you can turn back pretty much up until when you pay."

I knew what I was getting in to, but, well, I'd like to go back to the DMV and apologize to that man for laughing when he'd probably be laughing at me today.

Some days life just is laughable. And bizarre. Much like my first day of summer school at Comienza, today was a laughable day where things happened that I just did not anticipate.

...and since I will laugh about this now--but also want to laugh about this in the future, I thought I'd write a little bit about what happened.

For those of you not acquainted with the terms "Chiberia" and "polar vortex", well, I'm not sure I understand either of them fully, but I do know that this winter has been one of the coldest in over 30 years. I believe Chicago is rapidly turning into an iceberg (though I have a hunch a science teacher can quickly prove to me that this is a highly inaccurate statement).

All that said, it's been cold. And snowy. And I drive a MINI cooper convertible and park on the street. I bet you can guess what happened this morning.

So it's a lovely Wednesday morning. I've gone to bed at a decent hour, I roll out of bed at 6:10, take 15 minutes to get ready (I have a default early morning snowy day outfit), and depart for my car that I successfully parallel-parked last night. I have given myself 45 minutes to dig out my car.

When I allotted 45 minutes for this task last night, I wondered if perhaps I was overestimating how much time this would take. My instincts told me based on previous shovelings this winter that this should take no more than 20 minutes, but I have a work goal around effectively managing my time, and I have learned that it's better to give myself double the time I need for something than half the time. So 45 minutes it was.

I approach my car bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, shovel in one trendily leather-gloved hand, diet coke in the other equally cute leather-gloved hand, and...

A monster snowstorm has taken place only on the driver's side of my car--and only on my car! Is this really possible? Could it be that a cloud hovered over this one spot on the street all night long and graced me (and only me) with extra snow?

Ohhhh I see, neighbors, you used your snowblower to clear your sidewalk and felt that my car was the perfect place to relocate all that extra snow. It's cool. No sweat. I gave myself extra time just in case something like this occurred.

In about ten minutes, I have very nicely cleared out most snow around my car. In the past, my car has struggled to get over small heaps of snow due to how low it sits to the ground. While I appreciate this feature of my car and love the way it drives, I as a result am particularly diligent about getting rid of as much snow as possible.

Time to roll. I hop in my car which is nice and toasty, and I begin to pull my car out of my spot. Then the dreaded wheel spinning begins. This is when my car's tires move. A lot. But I do not. This has happened before, but eventually, slowly but surely, my car has usually been able to get moving.

My car does not. I have moved a little bit, but my car is clearly stuck on some snow somewhere, so I move my car back to park, grab the shovel, and begin to investigate. C'mon, baby car, you can do it!

I repeat this process several times, each time noticing that my 7:10 departure time is getting closer.

Over the course of 45 minutes, four neighbors offer assistance with shoveling, pushing my car, searching for the snow or ice that is holding my car back. ...and with each neighbor's approach I smile and insist...

Friends Ross I'm Fine photo tumblr_lm8mksZuwr1qd2z3j.gif

Really, this happens all the time; I knew I'd get stuck. You are so kind to help me. Oh, you can't see anything that my car is stuck on either? I know! It's crazy. Really, please don't spend your entire morning here--I'm sure I will get out of here soon. Thank you so much for your help. (I am wondering if the things holding my license plates on have earned me some pity--from the front of my car you see the words "North Hollywood" and the back "Pepperdine.")

At around 7:15 I frantically typed an email to RK, who I am supposed to be picking up from his hotel at 7:30 so he can join me on some school visits. This was also the time when a kind neighbor was convinced she could push my car out of my spot. We work together for 15 minutes but determine the car just won't budge so at 7:35 I call RK to inform him of my unfortunately snowed in situation. I am determined we will not miss both our observations, I thank him for being so awesome, and I tell him I will call him back once I've made a plan.

I also have texted my team to let them know I am failing at winter life, and my manager tells me to cab my way to observations. Scheduling these observations has been a challenge, and while I am feeling grateful that I can take a cab to get them done, I am also just in general feeling unsuccessful at life. Yes it's dramatic, but it was early morning, and I'm no longer bright-eyed or bushy-tailed.

I try for 15 minutes more to get my car out and finally just sit in my car for about 10 minutes, shoot RK an email to tell him we can cab our way over to a school, and then I suck it up and walk back into my house.

I take off my boots.
I sit down on the couch.
I get up, I walk into my bedroom, lie down on my neatly made bed, and I cry for approximately 78 seconds.


Then I get up, sit back down on the couch, and prepare to get some emails sent. Unfortunately, tears do not melt snow so I will have to take a different approach.

I'm back in a good mood--I'm going to take a cab to go to the hotel. RK and I can cab from there. In fact, I can even get both of my observations complete based on the teachers' schedules I have. Sure this isn't how I planned it, but I. Can. Do. It.

I'm gathering my things when a text comes in with the words "wanted to flag ASAP" and "ugh sorry." The teacher I am about to see has had a schedule change. This is why I love my team--had Ashley not texted me, I would have closed my computer and not seen this schedule change until I arrived at the teacher's school. Fortunately, I am in a good mood at this point (and seriously, Ashley rocks), so I thank her and vow to work some schedule magic.

RK, oh dear RK, you are the most patient man in the world. I send him my 3024th email of the morning:


This morning is just not working as planned. I just got an update from _____, who we were going to see at 10--her schedule is off because of the snow and teachers being out.

All that said, we can still get to ____'s class at 10:05. His school is a bit closer to you so I will see you at roughly 9:30. I am so sorry for all this confusion!


The man is a saint and replies promptly:

Hahahahahaha. I'm in Chicago in February. I understand that it's best to roll with the snow-related punches ;-)

See ya soon!

...and so I successfully uber a car to take me to his hotel. While en route, the driver begins chatting with me. I am a firm believer in being nice to drivers, particularly ones who pick me up when I have no other means of getting to a school (and when I know they will give me a rating post-uber-ride that other drivers can see), so we begin talking about this crazy weather.

My driver tells me he turned down 40 requests for rides, but I am lucky. He selected me, and oh, do I have a boyfriend?


Yes, I do.

The driver tells me he knows I'm going to get married this year--so this guy must be the one. I tell him that I will share this information with my boyfriend, he'll be happy to hear he's the one. (Note: This conversation will not take place as I currently do not have a boyfriend, but my driver knows this is the year, so it's all good. #sarcasmmarks)

"Y'know sir, I'm wondering if perhaps you think I'm going to get married, because my brother is getting married. Maybe that's it." I've learned it can be an effective strategy to move the subject away from myself, and my brother's wedding always offers plenty to chat about. Thanks, Chris.

After asking some questions about how long they've been dating, if I like Chris' fiance (yes, I do like her, I think she's pretty awesome, which the driver finds fascinating since "the women never get along"), he entrusts me with some wisdom to pass onto my older brother:

Have kids as soon as possible. The longer you wait the harder it gets. You know, these things, there's only really a couple years before it gets tough, and I mean, if he's 30...

Please, please let me arrive at the hotel soon.

So after a fertility chat that comes in a close second to an oncologist showing both my dad and me a diagram of ovaries in terms of awkwardness, I arrive at the hotel.

I skip quickly out of the car, into the lobby, and greet a cheerful RK. We step back out into the cold, and the wonderful doorman grabs us a cab and sends us on our merry way to our school visit.

Flash forward fifteen minutes, and we pull up alongside a street that is blocked off.

After confirming that we have in fact arrived at the right location, I notice flames as we step out of the cab.

"Oh my gosh, RK. I think there's a car on fire. This is crazy--I hope we can get through to the school."

It's at this moment I also of course see an ambulance and firetruck and feel grateful that they are there to deal with this scary situation.

...and then I see a speaker. And a man wearing a jacket that says "security."


"Oh. I think they're filming Chicago Fire here. Well, that's a relief--I'm so glad that's not a real car accident. It looks like we can get through on the sidewalk over there."

So we walk on over to make the approximately 500 foot trek to the school and are stopped by a somewhat-kind man. "I'm going to have to ask you to wait until we put the fire out."

"Okay, that's fine I guess. Just to confirm, there actually is a school down and to the right, yes?"

With a second source of confirmation, we patiently wait for the fire to be put out and walk to the school.

I will spare the long school story here, but I definitely quickly figure out which student I would want to hang out with if I were teaching. He issues a very joyful "Hola!" to me when he walksin the room, and when the teacher directs students to label their papers from 1-10, he calls out, "I know the number! The number is four!" Later in the lesson, when the teacher directs another student who is on the other side of the room, let's call him Jimmy, to move his clip on their behavior chart, he calls out, "I'm not Jimmy!" My heart melts. You, my friend, are listening to everything I as the teacher say (even if there's some confusion about what I mean), you want to learn and are excited about it, we will be fast friends, and I adore you already. Let's play a game where we guess the number I'm thinking of between 1 and 10.

...and then finally, after a final trek past the set as they continue to film and we endure a frosty wait for our car, RK and I cab our way back to our respective next stops...mine being my house, and I vow never to leave it again. Well, at least not until 6 pm when I have to go dig my car out again...but you know...


I still love Chicago...but today was laughable. Go ahead and laugh at me. Here's hoping tomorrow comes with a little less craziness but an equal amount of laughs.


P.S. I totally forgot my picture of Chicago Fire-ness (I don't think they liked that I took a picture, but you know what, I waited patiently while you filmed, and I also earned this picture after my morning):

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