It’s “Public Sleeping Day”

I used to be able to sleep anywhere. I could sleep on a hardwood floor, in the middle of the woods without a tent, or even with my feet stapled to the ceiling. I considered it to be one of my special skills.

In recent years, however, I’ve lost my ability to catch Zzzz’s just anywhere. It could be that I’m a “hardened” adult now – becoming used to sleeping on a quality mattress – or it could be that my aging body just can’t take the obscurity of sleeping wherever it happens to land. It really is too bad though, because I’m still required to do it.

When Ben was first diagnosed with neuroblastoma, I was eight months pregnant with Madeline. I was very uncomfortable. Swollen ankles, itchy skin, broken heart… and having to sleep in the hospital, either on the “plastic coated” couch or the “sometimes reclining” chair, well, it was less than comfortable. As you might imagine, good, solid sleep was a very sporadic luxury.

Ben’s initial stay at Children’s Hospital was three weeks long. Between all the procedures and surgeries and scans – and then the initial round of high dose chemo – I can’t say that it was particularly restful. I’d drift off to sleep only to be awakened by an orderly sent to get my son for some random scan or procedure. And then, when it was nighttime and the floor was quiet, I’d try to sleep only to jolt up off the couch, wracked with worry and overwhelming fear that my son was going to die. I’d stuff my fat feet into the only shoes that would fit – my slippers – and take to roaming the halls, passing room after room of children who were sick. Children who were dying. Families that were huddled together. Families that were falling apart. And here I was with my very own sick child with a new baby coming in about a month. How would an infant fit into this new world we were living in? How COULD I bring an infant into this environment? How would this all work?

Someone even said to me “This new baby will be such a blessing. You know, in case, …” I turned and walked away before they could finish the sentence “in case Ben dies.” So NOT comforting.

The first time that Ben was discharged from the hospital we went to stay at my parent’s cottage in German Village. It was just moments away from the hospital as opposed to our house that about 25 minutes away. We wanted to be as close as possible because even though we were technically out of the hospital, we would have to go to clinic just about every day for follow-ups and blood transfusions and all that fun stuff. Anyway, I was looking forward to sleeping in an actual bed. I pulled my exhausted body into bed. Ben was snuggled in between me and Matt and already asleep. I leaned over to smooch his sweet forehead and started to panic when my lips came in contact with his feverish skin. As I was praying that having hot lips was some odd side effect of a stressed out pregnant woman, I searched for the thermometer and placed it in Ben’s underarm. Crap. Fever. Get out of bed, Matt. We gotta go back to the hospital.

We sat in an ER triage room for a bit as they were getting a room ready for us. Unfortunately, the room we had left only hours earlier that day was not available. As I was holding my sweaty Ben on my shrinking lap, I stroked his feverish head. And that’s when his hair started to fall out in my hands.

We finally got to a room on the oncology floor in the wee hours of the morning. I laid down on the plastic-coated couch to try to get some rest. Must sleep. Eyes heavy. Breathing beginning to regulate. Then BEEEEP. Machines going off to alert staff that Ben’s medicine had run its course. Then came the onslaught of staff milling about the room attending to Ben. Ugh. Back to the grind.

Ben’s chemo schedule dictated that I pick a day to go to the hospital to deliver Madeline. I chose April 3. I went in to the hospital at 8 AM, started the drip to induce labor at 9 AM, had my water manually broken at 10 AM, and had a beautiful baby girl in my arms by 1:18 PM. She was truly beautiful. She was fairly quiet and seemed to want to sleep a lot. Hallelujah!  Matt left Riverside Hospital to go back to Ben. Madeline went to the nursery. I crashed for the first stretch of blissful sleep that I’d had in weeks. The nurse only interrupted me when it was time to feed Madeline.

We left the hospital less than 24 hours later. I like to joke that I didn’t get the full benefit of my maternity stay and it was clear that I was going to be gypped out of my postpartum depression, too. In fact, whenever I have a really bad day, I just say it’s the latent side effects of my postpartum depression.

But with Ben’s treatment schedule AND a new infant, it was clear that sleep would be low on the list of priorities. Madeline was less than a week old when Ben had to be readmitted to the hospital for his next round of therapy. Matt slept in the “sometimes reclining” chair. I slept on the “plastic-coated” couch with Madeline wedged in between me and the wall. A perfect scenario? No. But we had to make due with what we had to work with. And we made it work fairly well.

Ben and I are going to New York in two days. The first few nights we will have the comfort of the Ronald McDonald House. The rest of our stay will most likely be in a shared surgical recovery room at MSKCC. Or, possibly, the  intensive care unit at Cornell University. I’m sure it will not be luxurious accommodations – especially if we have to SHARE a recovery room – but we’ll make it work.

But if our roommates happen to snore, well, I guess I won’t have any trouble finding earplugs at 3 AM in New York City. I’m just hoping that the catch-phrase of NYC being the city that never sleeps doesn’t have to apply to me, too.

I’m going to take a nap. 🙂

It’s “Carnival Day”

Yes, it’s Carnival Day. But seeing how I have a strong aversion to rides that are assembled in a single afternoon and my consistent inability to win anything on the Midway by ringing canes, toppling milk bottles, or drawing the “lucky duck” out of the water of the “who knows where THAT’S been” water trough, I’m just not a fan of those fly-by-night carnivals. I’m NOT including the Pataskala Street Fair, but then again, my attraction to this particular event is based on catching up with friends from school. And maybe eating a corn dog or two.

So, I’m going to finish the post I started yesterday, which was “Pistol Patent Day”. I was consistently interrupted throughout the day (including a hospital visit) and didn’t get to complete the post, which leaves me feeling more than unsettled. So, since I had already completed a fair amount of research on yesterday’s “holiday”, I’m going to give it a belated celebration. Here goes.

On February 25, 1836, a young Samuel Colt obtained a patent for his revolver. I must interject here and say that a pistol is NOT the same thing as a revolver. I can only imagine that the creators of this “holiday” felt that “Revolver Patent Day” didn’t have nearly the same kick as “Pistol Patent Day”. I would liken this to the fact that any other name for the fabled Peanuts character, “Peppermint Patty”, would be less than adequate. Would she be as spunky if her name was “Chocolate Patty” or even “Spearmint Patty”?  I think not. Perhaps “Cow Patty” would have worked, but seeing how they already had “Pigpen” on board, well, who needs two smelly characters?

Back to Samuel Colt. He was 18 years old when he began working on developing a gun that could shoot multiple bullets. Of course, like many 18-year-olds, he lacked the funding necessary to build such a beast. His father, not really believing that Sammy’s idea was much of anything, “helped” his son get a prototype made, which ended up exploding. See, Old Daddy hired cheap machinists, and even back in the 1800’s, you get what you pay for. So Samuel, not deterred by his father’s lack of enthusiasm and support, decided to seek capital elsewhere.

His dedication paid off when Colt obtained a patent for the revolver at the age of 22. It took a while to build his empire but his revolver concept was a priceless contribution to the development of war technology and orthodontia-challenged hillbillies everywhere. When he died in 1862, he left his wife and son a $15,000,000 estate. YEEEEE-HAWWWWW! Guns AND money! I’m sure it was a powerful combination even back in the mid-1800’s.

Samuel Colt

I learn so much when writing these posts. I probably would have never thought about old Samuel Colt and his world-changing invention nor would I have learned that he was one of eight children – five boys and three girls. Two of his sisters died in childhood and the other committed suicide later in life. I can’t help but wonder if she used a gun?

I grew up with guns in the house – in a locker that was never locked – AND which was kept in the same room as all of my toys (I wonder what my family was trying to say?)  I was, however, taught to respect guns at an early age (never aim at your step-brother, neighborhood cats, parents, etc.)

My first step-dad was the gun lover in the house and every Friday night we went to a shooting range that was located under a bowling alley. The noise in that place was astounding. The cacophony of bowling balls dropping, pins crashing and bullets flying necessitated headphones that were first cousins of the quadraphonic 8-track style.  Add the yellow aviator shooting-range glasses and a sweet jacket with padded elbows and it’s a complete look.  I had my very own rifle with a custom made stock and actually turned out to be an excellent shot. Yep.  We had lots of guns, a bullet press, and even a make-shift range in the basement of our house. We fully exercised our Constitutional Right to bear arms at 175 N. 5th street in Kirkersville, Ohio.

I would wager that the majority of people in Southwest Licking County had quick access to firearms. In fact, it wasn’t uncommon for my male classmates to bring their guns along with them to school. Of course, they were always safely mounted to the gun rack in the back of their pickup truck. Yet, despite the ammo-charged atmosphere, not one of my classmates ever pulled a gun because their pottery project didn’t turn out or they didn’t get the lead in the school play. It just wasn’t done. My reflection on the differences between my generation and today’s troubled quick-to-shoot youth leads me to believe that it’s all the fault of video games. And the lack of corporal punishment, which my school banned the year I graduated. A good, solid butt-whuppin’ can be beneficial in many scenarios. I guess it doesn’t hold up well to fire power though. Never mind.

I couldn’t let this post close without pointing out that while the Colt 45 was, indeed, a firearm crafted by Samuel Colt himself, it is also a delicious malt beverage. Honestly, I don’t know if it’s delicious since I’ve never tasted it and never plan to. Although when I visited the Colt 45 Malt Liquor website (yes, they have one) it featured Billy Dee Williams beckoning the visitors to come on inside. “Colt 45 works every time”. I couldn’t resist the power of Billy Dee. So I entered my date of birth to “prove” that I was at least 21 years of age. When the opening phrase of “Congratulations, Player, you’ve been approved” popped up, I felt a great sense of joy. Adulthood does have certain benefits – guns and liquor being two of them. And besides, who can resist Billy Dee AKA Lando Calrissian, the main man of Cloud City in the Empire Strikes Back. He knows what he’s talking about. And if he says that “Colt 45 works every time” then who am I to say it doesn’t?

I also found information on the Colt 45 website about a popular drinking game that I’m sure is sweeping college campuses Nationwide. It’s called “Edward Fortyhands”, which derives its name from Johnny Depp’s character in Edward Scissorhands. What you do is this: take two forty ounce bottles of a malt liquor beverage – preferably Colt 45 – and tape one to each hand. Whoever drinks both beverages first (YES, 80 ounces of malt liquor) gets to be “freed” of their empty 40-ouncers. I absolutely love the name of this game but cannot condone the behavior. This just screams “alcohol poisoning”.  Maybe it’s the mother in me? See photo below.

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Maybe this is how Lando Calrissian lost the Millennium Falcon to his old friend, Han Solo? Both of them being gambling men, I can totally see them playing a round of “Edward Fortyhands” for the pink slip to the Falcon. I would think that losing a round of “Edward Fortyhands” would turn Billy Dee off malt liquor much less encourage him to be the official spokesman for Colt 45, but what do I know?

It’s “International Dog Biscuit Appreciation” Day

I checked my many resources on holidays and all of them agree that today is International Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day. If this is all I get to work with I guess I’ll come up with something. Besides, I’m bored. Ben and I are just sitting here in the lobby at Children’s Hospital waiting to be seen by a doctor. He’s developed a cold – thanks to his sister graciously sharing hers – (finally! She’s learning to share!) and we need to get him well before next Tuesday. He’s precariously teetering on being borderline feverish (which is B-A-D for the Bean). If he has a fever, we’ll be admitted. Ben HAS to be better by 3/2 because we’re traveling to NYC for his surgical consult on 3/3, with surgery taking place on 3/8. Getting over this next hurdle can’t come fast enough. It currently feels like we’re running through molasses and will never gain enough speed to clear it.

So. Dog Biscuits. I ate dry cat food once (on a “double-dog” dare) and the primary flavor was salt. It wasn’t horrible but I don’t expect I’ll ever do it again unless absolutely necessary – like something nuclear destroying the planet and I’m the last existing person and all there is to eat is cat food. I’d most likely eat it then. But seeing how they just busted that terrorist guy living behind my house, I feel a little bit safer. This fact makes the reality of eating cat food a bit more distant than it was, say, yesterday before the terrorist entered a guilty plea. However, we are traveling to NYC next week, and that is a primary target for their terrorism. Why Manhattan? I mean, really. Isn’t the challenge of getting my child through treatment for relapsed cancer enough? I have to think about the possibilities of suicide bombers on the subway? Give me a freaking break already.

Okay. The doctor is here. Ben’s platelets have dropped and his white count isn’t outstanding… looks like more neupogen shots at home. The nurse just came in with an ominous looking machine designed to suck snot out of his nose… we’ve done this before in order to rule out infections… and it’s terrible. As soon as Ben saw the machine he started crying “WHY???” He hates this process even more than getting shots.

So, I held out a biscuit. I said, “Make it through this, Ben, and we’ll go to Target.” Perform this one particularly nasty trick, kid. You’ll get your treat. I might have to get a treat, too. Too bad Target doesn’t add vodka to their Icee machine.

It’s “Be Humble” Day

“Oh Lord it’s hard to be humble when you’re perfect in every way. I can’t wait to look in the mirror ‘cuz I get better lookin each day. To know me is to love me, I must be a hell of a man. Oh Lord it’s hard to be humble but I’m doin the best that I can.”  ~Mac Davis

I used to love me some Mac Davis. Back in the 70’s, my Grandma Sarah used to make AWESOME paper dolls. She’d get a brown paper bag, fold it up multiple times and go wild with her scissors only to turn out a long string of dolls all holding hands. It’s a process I’ve never learned to replicate (much to my dismay). Anyway, it was inevitable that I would name one of the dolls “Mac Davis”. I’d draw him wearing blue jeans and scribble in his trademark curly hair with my Crayolas. I saw him at the Ohio State Fair way back when the fair actually featured quality talent. Yes, back in the 70’s, Mac Davis was considered to be “quality talent”. You might be surprised to know that Mr. Davis wrote a few of Elvis’ more popular tunes, including “In the Ghetto” and “A Little Less Conversation”. Writing popular songs for “The King”? It doesn’t get much better than that. I can see why it would be hard for him to be humble.

Being humble in today’s world is certainly a trait that falls all too often by the wayside. Today’s environment tends to dictate competition. Being the BEST. Looking out for Number ONE. Look at me. Praise me. Love me. Because I know everything.

I used to teach a variety of boating – also known as small-crafts – at a summer camp during the late 1980’s. I was considered to be the rowing expert but I also taught sailing, canoeing and kayaking. Really, when you take these four areas of small-crafts, I was best at canoeing. It really is my favorite overall, but since I was the only person on the small-crafts staff who had any sort of sculling skills, rowing fell to me by default. I enjoy it, but I’m in no way an expert.

I felt differently about canoeing. Pushing off from shore with my paddle in hand, gliding across a glassy smooth lake, my paddle silently working the water. My strokes dictating my direction and speed. I knew exactly where to place my weight based on what direction the wind was blowing. Kneeling in my canoe grounded me. We were one. Honestly, I could drive a canoe better than a car. I could back up, slalom, even parallel park in my metal Grumman. It was sheer bliss.

The last week of camp was traditionally known as “The Olympics”. The entire camp was split into two teams, the Red and the Blue, and spurred fierce competition. There were track and field events, team sporting events, and, of course, waterfront events. The counselors were more or less coaches during most of these events, but there were a few activities that were specifically for staff. When it was announced that there would be a canoeing event for staff, I chuckled to myself because I knew that gold medal would be mine.

The other counselors knew it, too. I was the one who was up early to glide across the lake in my canoe. Going out on the lake each morning was my way to decompress. Have my quiet time of reflection. Center myself before the day was overshadowed by the chaos and dramas of 12-year-old girls. And, over the eight weeks of camp, I really sharpened my canoeing skills.

So, when it was announced that the canoeing event would feature a blindfolded canoeist guided by a counselor seated in the front of the canoe, I still felt confident that I would take the medal. I was paired with another counselor and we agreed that I would be blindfolded and she would be the guide. My opponent was giggling with her guide that she hadn’t canoed in a long time. I leaned over and whispered to my teammate, “Prepare to win”.

We took our places. I placed my blindfold and gripped my paddle, soothed by the familiarity of how it fit in my hands. I was ready. When the air horn went off, I heard my opponent’s sloppy paddling begin, slapping the water with great fury. I took my first long stroke, knowing that my canoe was headed forward toward the buoy. My paddling was smooth and strong.

It was when I needed to make a 180 around the buoy that trouble came. My guide told me that we were behind a little bit and it threw off my concentration completely. I couldn’t make the turn. I had trouble listening to my guide’s instructions and got completely frustrated. Then I heard the air horn. My opponent had won. I pulled off my blindfold to see that not only had I lost big time, but I was way off course. I swallowed my pride and skillfully maneuvered my canoe to get back on course and make my way to shore.

I messed up big time.

It was a grand lesson in humility to come back to that shore. All my small-craft co-workers looking at me with severe disappointment since I had lost to someone who hadn’t paddled a canoe in years. How did that happen? Why did that happen? I can only chalk it up to my being so cocky. So confident that I would cream my opponent. I took myself too seriously and it knocked me down a few pegs. I could have said something like “I let her win”, but that would be a lie. I wanted to win. I planned to win. I didn’t win. I careened off course like the skier on “Wide World of Sports” who was used to display “the agony of defeat”.

So, the gold medal went to someone else. And, admittedly, it was extremely difficult to keep my mind open to the fact that someone without as much skill as I had ended up with that medal. It stung. But I mustered up the courage to congratulate her with sincerity. She was elated. How could seeing her be so happy disappoint me? It’s NOT all about me. Everyone has a place under the sun. All we can do is our best.

And as long as we are sincerely trying to be the BEST “me” we can be, then it’s all worth it. Even when we lose.

It’s “National Battery” Day

Seriously. Where would we be without batteries? Batteries make the world go ’round… at least until they wear out.

My batteries need a recharge. Unfortunately, rechargeable batteries were not available when I was born, so I’m stuck with having to replace them every so often. Mine are currently all corroded and stuck together, acid dripping out of them, forming toxic icicles in my soul.

Man. Am I dramatic, or what?

Really though. Madeline woke up last night around 2:30 AM with what seemed to be the start of a urinary tract infection. She did have chronic issues about a year ago but she’d been infection-free for quite some time. I, too, had the same issue when I was six years old. Just ask anyone who was in The Evil Mrs. Sutherland’s first grade class at Kirkersville Elementary… EVERYONE remembers that I peed on the classroom floor because The Evil Mrs. S wouldn’t let me go to the bathroom. That woman should have NEVER been a teacher. Clearly, I’m still struggling with the trauma she induced. My mom said, “Don’t worry. Nobody will ever remember.” And then, years later, long after we had graduated, my dear friend, Holly Crawford, said “Hey! Remember when you peed in Mrs. Sutherland’s class?” I told her I didn’t remember. And then I went upstairs and got out my old voodoo doll I had created in Mrs. Sutherland’s likeness and proceeded to poke the Old Bat in the eye. I’m sure she’s passed on to whichever side she was going to by now – she was “way old” back in ’73 – but the ceremonial eye poking made ME feel better even if it had no effect on the original Evil Mrs. Sutherland.

Don’t you just love my diatribes?

So, Madeline was up every three seconds last night, which was taxing on my already tired soul. I had taken a sleep aid (no longer taking Ambien because of its ability to make me eat an entire box of Little Debbie’s without my knowing it – why have all those calories if I’m not going to remember enjoying them?). Madeline is the kind of kiddo who doesn’t like to be alone so each time she got up I went in to the bathroom with her. One of her sessions lasted 45 minutes, which meant that I was sitting up against the bathroom wall trying hard not to fall asleep only to occasionally smack my head against the wall when I drifted off. Good times. She finally fell asleep around 5 AM and slept soundly for quite a while, and today she seems to be doing okay. Hopefully this was just a temporary thing. Matt worked from home this morning and let me sleep in. So, I slept until 11:30 (thank you, Matt).

But now that I’m awake I’m reminded that my batteries are running out. My head is throbbing. I’m speaking like a record on 33 1/3 rpm. My movements are jerky. I don’t work when my switch is in the “on” position. My screen always says “PC Load Letter” (movie reference). In short, I need a recharge.

Maybe I’m wrong about what today’s holiday is all about? Maybe today is about beating, as in “assault and battery”. I wasn’t aware of this, but in some jurisdictions, “assault” is the VERBAL threat of violence and “battery” is the PHYSICAL act of violence. I was always under the impression that assault and battery were both physical, thus being chronically confused as to why the two were always conjoined. I thought that maybe adding “battery” was a layering of something more heinous. Something medieval. Like:

Ren dude 1: “After I assault thee, I shall batter you about the neck and head with me mace and flail.”

Ren dude 2: “I cry your mercy, Good sir.”

Ren dude 1: “Then make your leave, you plague-sore! You boil!”

Ren dude 2: “Huzzah! I must away!”

Ren dude 1 (to self): “Me thinks I shall batter that heir of a mongrel wench on the morrow.”

Fade out. Curtain.

Clearly, I’m working on minimal battery power here, so I’m off to find some caffeine. Or hook myself up to my Sears DieHard. Maybe I just didn’t calculate what sort of Cold Cranking Amps I’d need when I moved to Colorado? Maybe I just need to upgrade to a higher voltage? Or will the good, old-fashioned jump start suffice? I can never remember positive versus negative terminals, which might result in my exploding rather than just starting, and that would NOT be good.

So, whichever battery you feel like celebrating today, please have fun, be careful, and don’t land yourself in jail. And whatever you do, do NOT think that batteries are an acceptable gift. Buying your kids a battery operated toy does not dictate that the batteries needed to operate said gift should be wrapped separately. They are ONE UNIT! A child who unwraps a pack of batteries will be severely disappointed and might batter you about the neck and head with their mace and flail that Auntie Sarah bought for them from the following website:

Now you understand why I bought you that chainmail outfit.

More on the morrow. 🙂

It’s “Random Acts of Kindness” Day

A year or so ago, as I was leaving Bible study, I pulled through a McDonald’s to get Madeline a McNugget Happy Meal for lunch. As I pulled forward to pay, the cashier told me that the lady in the vehicle in front of me had already paid for my order. The cashier said that she did the same thing every week – paid for whoever was behind her – and went on her way. As I looked forward to catch a glimpse of the sort of woman who would do such a selfless thing,  she was gone. I don’t think I’ll ever forget her random act of kindness and it certainly put a smile on my face. I’ve always wanted to do that – pay it forward – but I’m always afraid I’ll get hit with the lone guy who is making the Mickey-D’s run for his entire department. I’m stingy, I guess.

Oh, I’m not all that bad. Recently, I was in line at the hospital cafeteria getting my standard lunch of a turkey wrap and a bag of chips. The guy in front of me was buying his lunch only to find that he had forgotten his wallet. The cashier was slightly annoyed, but not terribly upset. She called him “sweetie” and told him to bring her what he owed tomorrow (evidently this guy was a medical student of some sort and would be coming back to the hospital the following day). Before I could think about it I pulled out some cash and paid for his meal. He thanked me and went on his way. When it was my turn to check out, I told the cashier that she was very sweet and I always appreciated her demeanor whenever I was in her check out line. She got a bit teary and thanked me. I mentioned that being in the hospital with your child was hard enough so when you run into any sort of kindness it’s such a blessing. We’ve since become pals.

Her name is Eleanor. And since that day, I always go to her check out line. She always gives me a bit of a discount. We gave her a picture of Ben that she keeps at her home. She prays for him every night. She gives me encouraging words whenever I’m getting my turkey wrap. Two days ago when we were in the ER with Ben, I stopped by to say hello. She had a book for me and a Bible for Ben. She had been holding it at her register until she saw me again (which had been at least three weeks). She is a great comfort to me when I am having the crappiest of days. Had I never said anything to her – telling her I appreciate her – we might not have the relationship we have today. Random? Yes. But oh-so-lovely.

Over the past several years, we have experienced many people going out of their way for us. People who want to do something nice for Ben. People who want to help us through this tremendously stressful time. Many of these people we know, but there are so many who we’ve never even met. Their hearts go out to Ben or they’ve been through a similar situation. Love comes from the most interesting places – and surprisingly not where you THINK it’s going to come from.

My advice: Don’t set yourself up to fail. Don’t wait for someone to do something nice for you. Don’t wait for someone to be kind to you. Don’t expect love from the “traditional” sources. Get out there and DO IT YOURSELF. YOU be the one to start. Do something random. You’ll find love in the most amazing places. And if you’re doing it for the “thank you” or for the “accolades” or because you think you’re doing someone a favor, don’t do it. That is the wrong reason. Love unconditionally. Don’t look to see who is in the car behind you before you decide to pay for their happy meal. Just do it.

It’s “Get A Different Name” Day.

Ahhhh. There’s nothing as sweet as a newborn baby. Precious. Cooing. Little limbs flailing all over the place. The bond that you form in those first few moments after your baby’s birth can either be enhanced, or destroyed, all over what should be a simple process: giving your child a name.

As you’re holding your sweet new infant in your arms, it’s highly likely that you’ve already contemplated names. Maybe all you were waiting for was to find out the gender in order to decide on the name? Maybe you already knew what you’d be having and the name was set in place? Maybe you had several names in mind but was waiting to see what the baby looked like in hopes of trying to match a name to the baby’s personality? Maybe you were obligated to use a family name in order to lengthen the line of III, IV or V’s? There are many possibilities.

At birth, I was given the name Sarah Danel Phillips. “Sarah” was for my paternal grandmother. “Danel” was for my biological father, whose name is Danny. Not Daniel. Not Dan. But Danny. Jacob Danny Phillips. He used his middle name, so it was decided that I would go by my middle name, too. Plus, my Grandma Sarah was still living so I imagine they didn’t want to have two Sarah’s running around. So the first 20 years of my life I was Danel Phillips.

My parents divorced when I was fairly young. It was not amicable, most likely because my biological father is a complete idiot. But I was stuck with being named for him LONG after he was gone. Not cool. For the uninitiated, (and honestly, who IS familiar with this name?) it’s pronounced “Duhnell”. It was inevitable that it would be mispronounced. Dan-yell, DAN-elle, Day-nell, Duh-nail. It was massacred consistently. And even when I would say it for them in slo-mo, they would always say “Duh-what?” It was tedious. It was especially ridiculous when trying to “introduce” myself at any function that had loud background noise. I’d hear the all too familiar “Duh-WHAT?” I just started telling people that my name was Penny.

Then, in 1990, my Grandma Sarah passed away. While the event in itself was disheartening – I truly loved my G-ma – I thought that I could officially start to use my first name of Sarah. So I started immediately. When asked my name during any new encounters I would smile and say “Ssssaarraahhh”. I’d say it slow, lengthening the “s” and the “ah” at the end. I felt as if I was the Breck Girl shaking my head of luscious golden hair as I said it. The beauty just dripping off of my stunning new personality. Mmmmm. It was delicious.

I started using Sarah during my Junior year of college. I continued to use Danel in all of my classes and with my already established friends, but new scenarios called for the use of Sarah. Then, one day I was typing a paper on a new-fangled thing called a computer. I had actually received a typewriter for my high school graduation and used it for nearly every paper I ever wrote during my undergraduate studies, but I worked at the local Kinko’s and thought I’d give this thing called an “Apple” a try. First, I typed in my name. D-A-N-E-L. And it gave me an angry squiggly line underneath the letters. What’s this? Oh. Of course. It doesn’t recognize D-A-N-E-L. So, up pops a list of suggestions for what had to be an incorrect spelling. And then I was presented with what this “Apple” thought would be the equivalent of a “DANEL”. One of the very first options it posted was “dunghill”. Dunghill? A pile of POOP? A Sh*t pile?I was absolutely mortified. This name had to go.

It was a bit harder than I expected to just immediately switch names. Asking family and friends to eradicate Danel and only use Sarah was asking quite a lot. They all had to be deprogrammed.  So, even after I graduated from college I didn’t deter people from calling me Danel.  Then I got diagnosed with thyroid cancer. As soon as I was healthy enough, I packed up my little Ford Escort and moved to Summit County, Colorado. I left “Danel” behind in Ohio. In fact, in 1994, I legally changed my name from Sarah Danel Phillips to Sarah Hinson Washburn. Hinson is my mother’s maiden name and Washburn is my step-father’s last name. Danel Phillips was officially dead to me.

Since changing my name in 1994, I’ve had a couple of other last names. I don’t really discuss the first husband for many reasons, but mostly because his last name was just ridiculous. So, in signing up for a Facebook account, I didn’t have the simple option of listing a maiden name because none of my high school friends ever knew me as “Sarah” (although the 1986 issue of the Wahigan Yearbook does list me as S. Danel Phillips).

So, in listing Sarah Brewer, most people from high school probably thought, “Oh, hey! That’s Sandy Brewer! (Who is another fine WMHS-er and my best friend from elementary school). So, I’m an ever-changing kind of girl. It would be impossible for the average person to keep up with my name changes, but thankfully I look pretty much the same as I did in high school, so people can hopefully tell from my profile picture who I really and truly am. And I’m sure they say “Hey! That’s “Duh-nell!”

When my children were born, I insisted on good old-fashioned names that would transcend time and repel any confusion of pronunciation. Someday they might decide that they hate having a classic name and want to change their name to Topaz or Spongebob or something else.

And I’m completely cool with that.

It’s “Don’t Cry over Spilled Milk” and “White T-shirt” Day

I guess these two are celebrated simultaneously because if you spill milk on your white t-shirt then you’ll have nothing to cry over. However, if it’s chocolate milk, you’re screwed.

Today is supposed to be a day of optimism. Chin up! Life can be messy! White shirts get pit stains! Sh*t happens! I’m thinking the people who created these “catch phrases” never spent time on a children’s oncology unit watching their child be pumped full of poison that makes them sicker than you’ve ever seen them before.

Honestly, this is supposed to be a low dose of chemo for Ben, but this Irinotecan has made him sicker than anything he’s ever had. This drug is a menace. All I can say is that it better be doing what it’s supposed to be or I’m gonna… I’m gonna… I’m gonna… crap. I’m gonna do nothing. I’m so tired of feeling helpless when it comes to caring for Ben. Hugs and love and kisses just cannot compete with his questions of “WHY is this happening to me?” as he’s throwing up. I’m his mom. I’m supposed to protect him from icky stuff. Scare away the boogey man. Clear out monsters from underneath his bed. If only this were that easy.

So, I’m supposed to say (with a smile) “Well, I can’t change that my son has cancer! Might as well make the best of it! Yippee!” And I do try. I really do try to make the best of it. But it often feels like we get some of that spilled milk cleaned up only to drop a whole gallon of it all over a priceless silk oriental rug. Then it seeps down into the storage area holding album after album of precious photos that cannot be replaced. It’s wrecking so much. Taking too much.

I’m mad today. I know I’m not alone in this battle and I know I’m not the only one to have ever walked this road. I also know that we have an excellent prognosis but the steps to get there are slippery with lots of spilled milk. And I probably won’t cry about it today, but there are some days that I just can’t help it.

It’s “Umbrella Day”

I never seem to have an  umbrella handy when the weather warrants the use of one, but I sincerely think that umbrellas are overrated. It’s very uncommon that I am in need of protection from the elements (at least rain) since I rarely dress up and my hair is styled in such a manner that it always looks the same regardless of it being wet or dry. As long as I have a rubber band to pull it back, I’m good.

I don’t mind walking in the rain. In fact, I love it. Especially summer rain. I remember my younger years vividly, walking around my neighborhood (Kirkersville, Ohio) during the summer months. I always wore shoes, well, because I was freaked out by feet (see the “Wiggle Your Toes Day” post) plus the asphalt was so stinking hot. The tar they used to patch the potholes would bubble up into blisters in the heat. Then the rain would come, which mandated the discarding of shoes so I could splash in the puddles. Wonderful, warm puddle water. And squishing the ooey-gooey tar bubbles between my toes. What a comforting memory.

I’m a water baby when it comes right down to it. My skin, unfortunately, isn’t a fan of the sun, but I like being in, on, and around water – as long as it’s not a beach. I don’t like sand. But I love to sail and canoe and row and swim and fish and skip rocks. And I love to watch rain hit the water.

I don’t need no stinkin’ umbrella.

I’ve been so incredibly tired lately. I’m sure it’s a culmination of travel, stress, broken toes, no clean laundry, more chemo, misalignment of planets, blocked chi… all that mess. So, yesterday, after chemo and picking Madeline up from school, I laid down for a bit. I blamed my broken toe for the need to kick back and relax, but really, I was just simply exhausted. Madeline eventually curled up with me, snuggling into my side. I held her and stroked her hair, telling her what a wonderful little person she is. She looked at me and smiled, blinking her big blue eyes that were growing heavy with sleep. We both needed some alone time together where we did nothing but just “be”. For her to hear from me just how special she is. I try so hard to let her know how special she is all the time, but sometimes it’s really hard for her to understand why Ben is getting all the attention.

She eventually fell asleep in my arms. I listened to her rhythmic breathing as she rested peacefully under my umbrella of love. I want to protect her from every harm, every heartache, every hurt that might ever come her way, but I know my umbrella can only cover so much. But in showering her with my love hopefully she’ll learn to weather the storms that will undoubtedly come her way whether she has an umbrella or not.

I love you, my little Madeline. You are my sunshine.

It’s “Toothache Day”

I’ve already told you about my toothache woes in a prior “Stronger Than I Look” post. And while you should remember all details of each and every post I’ve ever written, here’s the synopsis: a dentist broke a needle in my mouth when I was very young and then the same dentist extracted my impacted wisdom teeth many years later without putting me under to which I hyperventilated myself into a “snorting” oblivion. End result: I’m supersize scared of needles, especially anywhere near my mouth. And I snort when I’m terribly upset.

So, why does the toothache have its own holiday? Who on earth would celebrate a toothache? I wasn’t sure so I had to do some research. Some say this holiday coincides with the day that the Hershey Corporation was founded, which was February 9, 1894. Others think that it’s a celebration of the Feast of St Apollonia, which is also February 9th.

St Apollonia is celebrated in certain circles as the Patroness of Toothaches. See, back in her day, she had all of her teeth broken out during a pagan uprising. Then, if that wasn’t enough, she was given the choice of renouncing her Christianity or being burned alive. She jumped into a pit of fire voluntarily before her persecutors could throw her in.  This was back in 249 AD. So, now, because of her martyrdom, you’re to ask for her intercession when you have a cavity. I wonder how she feels about that? If she’s sarcastic (like I am) she would say something like “Really? Patroness of the TOOTHACHE? I got robbed. And why is today a celebration of my FEAST when they KNOW I don’t have any teeth? I guess I’ll just have a couple of melted Hershey bars.”

But then again, she is a SAINT. She wouldn’t own a personality disorder like sarcasm.

I couldn’t find a picture of her smiling.

So, I have a broken toe. I busted it yesterday when I accidentally kicked a suitcase that was laying in the middle of the floor. It’s my middle toe – or the “piggy who ate roast beef” – and it appears that I’ve broken it at the top joint. It hurts, but at least it’s a pretty purple color. I tried to insert a picture here, but technology has failed me at this point in time.

Having this broken toe and then learning that the toothache has its very own patron saint made me curious if there was a patron saint of broken toes. There’s not. The closest saint would be St Drogo, who is the patron saint of broken bones. He is also in charge of shepherds, coffee houses, hernias, mentally ill people, and unattractive people. Sort of a “catch-all” of patron saints I guess. And yet, all Apollonia got was the toothache. She WAS robbed.

So, this is what I do with myself while my son sits through an infusion of chemo. My brain goes a million miles a minute and I catch what I can to pass it on to my loyal readers. I have to tell you, I am NOT in charge of my brain. It does its own thing and I keep up with it as best as I can.

Some would call me mentally ill, but at least that still qualifies me to fall under St Drogo. I know he’s got my broken toe and my defective brain, I just hope he’s got my back.

To learn more about what Saint is in charge of your “state”, check out

More later. 🙂