Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Let's get political

Sooooooo......... I honestly wish every aspect of my life didn't seem to revolve around political news, but alas this is our reality.  I am someone who up until recently didn't put all my political beliefs out there for everyone to read, but I can't be scared anymore. This post is the hardest I've written, it scares me to lose friends by sharing my truth, it makes me uncomfortable telling you my truth for I've been ashamed of it, but my fear is calmed knowing that maybe I will make a small change in the world. Small ripples can make waves, and right now I need to make a tsunami!

The easiest way for me to start is with some basic info: In January of 2011, Jeremy and I were both 27. We had two children. We owned one car outright, we were making payments on a second car. We owned a home. We had approximately $5000 in credit card debit  and about $15000 cash in savings. I'm not sure how much but we had money in a 401k for retirement.We were living off one income, had health insurance and had never missed a payment on our student loans. That's it, all of our business on the table. Feel free to judge, feel free to say it wasn't good enough, do your worst! Nothing you can say or do will make me feel anything less than impressed with what we were able to accomplish. We were doing it, we were living the dream. We were making sacrifices to live a life we were very proud of. Before January of 2011 we were unstoppable.

By the end of January  Jeremy had received the official diagnosis of Hodgkin's lymphoma stage four. One of those moments in all the craziness that ensued after, which to this day remains as clear as glass for me happened the day we got the diagnosis. Jeremy's doctor said one sentence "You have good insurance, don't lose it." I asked what she meant, her response shaped our lives for the next few years, "Whatever you need to do to keep your insurance, do it. Without insurance we will not treat you. Any delay in treatment could be life threatening, so whatever you have to do, don't lose your insurance!"

Sparing some of the lengthy medical issues that followed, I'm going to give you some of the highlights of the year after that appointment in regards to our financial life. After Jeremy had exhausted his medical leave from work, his company gave him his notice with a three month severance package which included keeping his health coverage for those three months. By the end of the three months he was still undergoing chemotherapy, and we went on COBRA coverage. We started living off our savings, applied for unemployment, and eventually Social Security. I've had people ask why I didn't go back to work at this point, a very valid question which is why I want to explain what our reality looked like at home. At this point both our kids are so young they aren't in school, and Jeremy is currently so sick that I would wake him to eat. If I left the house I would call to remind him to drink his calories. Returning to work with three people needing care was out of the picture. So we put our heads down and carried on with the help of some amazing friends and family! Within a year and a half our COBRA medical insurance had increased so much it was now costing us more to have insurance then our mortgage. It maxed out costing us over $1700 a month to just insure Jeremy, the boys and I had gotten private insurance at this point because it was cheaper. Slowly we stopped making payments on everything else, first the student loans were differed, the credit cards were maxed out and then payments stopped on, the car payment and lastly the mortgage were all stopped being paid on. We actually called the bank to suspend or adjust our mortgage but because we were in good standing they would not help us.

By January of 2013, Jeremy was finishing up his second bone marrow transplant and our house was in foreclosure. We were able to sell our house as a regular sale because we had equity in it and repaid all the late payments to the bank. That's the good news. The bad, we had lost our savings, we'd spent our 401k, our car had been repossessed, we declared bankruptcy and in doing so lost all our credit, we were completely broken. The only good thing at this point was that Jeremy was still by my side, had I lost all that and him I'm not sure how I would have gone on. It was pretty bleak, but some how I felt we must have done this to ourselves. Now looking back, I disagree.

Why am I telling you all my dirty business? All those things your parents tell you never to discuss with anyone else? One reason, you knowing my business and understanding the importance of things like the Affordable Care Act (which make it impossible for insurance companies to deny anyone coverage) matter! I wouldn't wish my financial burdens on you, but being diagnosed with any "pre existing condition" should not determine the outcome of your life's security. I honestly was naive to think it wouldn't affect every aspect of our lives. Our financial security didn't really play in to my reality at that time.  For us the reality of the cancer is now manageable and under control but the reality of all we lost is still affecting us. We still worry about how much money we have access to daily because we know if it comes back how quickly we will be back to square one.  soooooo......about that ripple, start speaking up!! This is me trying to get you to understand it on a very personal level. YOU can make a stand. YOU can call your local government officials. YOU can be a ripple.  I know it's scary, I'm scared. But we can't let (he who shall not be named) win! We are better and stronger together.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Chats in the Dark

Having kids is a constant growing and changing game. Just about the time you think you have it down, the questions have all evolved. We live by the rule of honesty in our house. I honestly answer their questions and expect the same from them. We all know going in to the parenting gig some day you'll have to have "the birds and the bees" talk, but there are so many other things you'll talk about that you didn't know you would have to. Once there was "Mom, why do you sit to pee but I stand?" That was a fun one that ended with "hmmm can I see?" There has been "Why do I have to learn spanish?" and "Can you make a fart with your armpit?" All valid, sometimes silly questions. I'm inquisitive too so I get it. When something is on my mind it's much easier to rest once I know the answer, even when it's something I don't want to hear. When I decided to have a home birth I went to my first appointment and asked the midwife to give me the worst case scenarios of the births they'd dealt with.  I explained to her that if I knew what the worst thing that could happen, I would be able to decide if I could go forward. I get having questions.

Being a parent it's different because I'm usually the one answering the questions. Which surprising to me means I get to frame the answer as I see fit. If I wanted to lie I could, and they'd believe me, because I'm the mom. I also have the burden of making it make sense. It doesn't always make sense. When my mom got sick my dad explained to me that there was something in her head that was like a un-inflated ball, when she would have her spells it was as if someone was pumping air into the ball. Every pump the ball inflates more, but the skull is meant to keep the brain safe and there isn't enough room for more stuff in there. So the brain has trouble focusing and keeping everything working the more air starts filling the ball. He doesn't remember telling me this, but his explanation of a brain tumor still makes sense to me today almost 30 years after he told it to me. Why does this matter? Or why do I recount these things out loud? Because when my son asks me "Mom, what happens if you die when I'm at school?" I need to remind myself how I answer this question matters. If I make him feel safe right now will stick with him.

I don't know if I made the right choice. I don't know if I even made him feel safe, but I was honest. I explained what a will was, I explained how he would be cared for no matter what. Even when he was sad that if it happened he would no longer be in Sacramento we both agreed Sacramento and this home would not feel like home if mama and papa were not here in it. Mostly we both agreed we hoped this never ever happened....but if it did, we had a plan. After he drifted off to sleep all I could think was this was never a conversation I planned to have. I shouldn't have answered his questions, I should have told him it'll never happen and called it a night. Telling half truths and bending perceptions isn't our style though. We tell the truth even when it's ugly, or painful, or scary. Knowing the worst can sometimes make you better.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Mi Familia

I would venture to guess if you've spent more then an afternoon with me you know how close I am to my family.  They are my best friends, my confidants, my reality keepers, can't get away with shit(ers) my all around favorite people in the world. We ache together when there is heartache, we laugh together when there is joy, we party together......every time we are together and mainly all I remember is the LOVE!! So much fucking love!

A few weeks ago my brother announced he was gonna bring his kids down to visit for spring break, I was of course thrilled, my sisters were not! They were sad they wouldn't get to see them, so they packed up and came up to visit! So we had 5 families in 1 city for the first time in a long time, and it was great! I remember being a kid and meeting up with my cousins at my grandmas house for sleepovers. I remember my cousins being my first secret keepers. Watching these relationships develop amongst my kids with there cousins is magical. They want to be together. They cry about being apart. They love each other soooooo hard it hurts.

These are my kids people, their tribe....

...and if this is the only good thing I do in my life, I will be ok with that.

These ones are mine, and I forever will be grateful because life would be unbearable without them.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Reality vs Hope

I almost started this with the line "you are probably tired of hearing about cancer" but thought if you are then stop reading. I'm sure tired of writing about cancer. I'm 110% over living with it in my home, but somehow can never escape it's grasp on my life. So here I am writing about it one more time.

Last week was a tough one in our home, and surprisingly nothing really happened. The only reason it was tough was because neither Jeremy nor I want to accept our current reality. Again nothing has changed in our reality, Jeremy has another spot on his lung, we've known this for almost 5 months. Nothing new to us, but something neither of us want to deal with. At this point I don't even remember if I blogged about his spot a year ago that was treated with radiation.....mainly because this is my reality. There have been so many spots, so many treatments, so many scans, so many biopsy's I lose track of them all. I also stop talking about them. I used to blog about every last one because it was the easiest way to be sure everyone knew what was going on. Now I'm sitting in a "Meditation Room" at a hospital, waiting for Jeremy to come out of his most recent biopsy while texting a friend about our Easter plans. You know who knows I'm babysitter.

I am not bitter about this in the least. I honestly felt like at one point my families lives consumed a great deal of time and energy from most of our friends and family. Now they have all moved on to their realities and that is a good thing! This is just my reality. Most likely this biopsy will confirm he has a spot of lymphoma and after this Jeremy will have another round of radiation. He will let his direct manager know he needs to work short days for a week, will leave early, drive himself to radiation, come home to finish the work he missed and no one will be the wiser. Our children will not know it is even happening. How mundane this sounds to me is unsettling.

As Jeremy and I were working on our small talk before his procedure we were asking each other silly questions. I asked "What are your 5yr life goals?" His response was not so silly "To be cancer free." So with our reality we can't escape, or past we can't forget there is this small little thing that gets us by...Hope. Every scan, every biopsy, every day, every year we hope this will be the last. One day it will be, but until that day our humor gets us by. As we were greeted by our admitting nurse this morning Jeremy sarcastically told her "there's no place I'd rather be on a Thursday!" As she looked back at him cross eyed she said "you need some help" He looked at her and said with a big smile and no sarcasm in his voice "It could be worse, it's only cancer."

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Village Life

We all know that saying: It takes a village to raise a child. I've read a couple things recently saying that wasn't so. That in today's world we don't know our neighbors, and are all so estranged from each other, but I disagree. I think maybe villages are harder to see then they once were. Back in the day a group of woman may have been tending children while another group was preparing meals for everyone while the men were off hunting our next dinner. When one person fell another stepped up and took the load. We all benefited from each other. It's easy to see that it took everyone to raise the children. What about now? I feed my family everyday, Jeremy and I both work, both care for our boys, both are tired and done at the end of the day.......and no village is in sight. So we are doing it on our own? Maybe.

In actuality our village is alive and moving all around us, it just looks different. I live in a town where our closest relative is a two hour drive away. Next a six hour drive away, or a two hour flight. That's awfully far for anyone to step up for a much needed date night. Or what about a kids who's sick and has to stay home from school. God forbid you have an actual emergency, you know one where it's ongoing for months with no end or help in sight...who then do you turn to? That's exactly where the village steps in. I didn't even know I had a village before Jeremy got sick. I thought I had some nice friends. Some like minded people I hung out with on a regular basis. Don't get me wrong I was super happy to have my friends but I had honestly never considered if they would run towards me or away from me if I caught on fire. I now know. Without question there are people in life who step up and run (with reckless abandon) towards those people in need.

I know for a fact I live in village. I'm surrounded by amazing humans who raise me up daily. Thank you for being my village.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Life of fear

I live my life based on fear.  Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of losing someone, fear of disappointing, fear of being left out.  Somewhere in the back of my mind with every decision I make I'm afraid of something. I think this is why I've always been a sucker for peer pressure.  It's easy to blame your bad decisions on someone else and you didn't get left out of the fun along the way. You see I am totally afraid of most things....but fear never (ok almost never) stops me. It's the motivating factor usually.  I have in the past used my fear and peer pressure to do things I knew I shouldn't, recently I've decided to use this to better myself.

I've let my friends pressure me into running a half marathon.  Do you see what I said? I LET them. I'm acknowledging that this is my choice.  I'm choosing to run a half marathon beside some pretty awesome peeps.  This is scary and actually in my head sounds super stupid! Why in the hell would someone, anyone, ok mainly me....Why in the hell would I choose to spend money to run 13.1 miles? DUMB!!   I am fully aware of how dumb this sounds, but honestly I'm scared I won't be able to, and for once I'm using my friends pressure to my benefit and jumping.  Then I will have one less thing to be afraid of.  I'm hoping when I'm old and grey I will be afraid of nothing. I will fall asleep every night knowing that I can do anything, because I've already done everything.

Today I ran my first training run. It was only 3 miles, but I ran it all.  These little feet carried me, and they will carry me further.  Happy Sunday mi gente!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Real Boys Cry

This weekend Jeremy and I had the joy of taking our boys to their first concert, and it was awesome. Many parts of it were just as expected. The twinkle in their eyes and the wonder on their faces was everything we were hoping. Jeremy and I have been to a few concerts and every time the boys would ask if they could go to one, so we started hunting for the right concert...we settled on Zac Brown Band. We listen to a lot of country around here so they know the music already and it turned out to be  the perfect intro to big concerts but it came with one big surprise.

The concert had been going for about an hour, maybe more when Sawyer sat down in one of the chairs we had brought. I assumed he was just tired, it was after all a late night, but I went to check on him to be sure. He asked if I'd sit with him for a little bit. Of course I did. As we sat and rocked out to some great live music, Sawyer snuggled into me and said, I feel like crying.  Usually this isn't something you want to hear so I asked him why "Mom, I'm just sooo happy! I can't believe this is happening and I just, I'm just so happy!" Feeling so loved that you want to cry is not a feeling everyone gets or is able to verbalize, I was stunned by my sweet boy once again. I responded the only way I knew how "Cry Sawyer, if you are so happy you need to cry, please do!"

Before the words were even out of my mouth he had leaned in and was sobbing!! Not little tears, big giant alligator tears rolling down his cheeks, heaving sobs coming from his chest, my heart melting in my chest. I have held tears before, hell I'm probably holding some now, and that pain is immense. It is also too often what we are told, we are told to hold it all in. Told to suck it up, to get over it...whether it's joy or pain the sentiment is keep it in. My little man looked up at me and his eyes said thank you. Tears streaming down both our cheeks I said again "anytime you need to cry that is an ok time to cry, and I will hold you anytime you want." He cried more and you could literally feel his body softening. He finally let go. I know joy started those tears but they were filled with fear, and sadness also. I couldn't believe he had held it so long. I couldn't believe he thought he needed to hold on to it longer. He needed permission to let it out, and that was hard for me. I don't want to raise a man who can't cry. It will do him no good to hold it in. I whispered in his ear how proud I was of him, how much he was loved, and how special it was that next time we hear this song on the radio I will be able to think about this moment, sitting under the stars, holding my heart in my arms. We spent the rest of the evening cuddling in that chair, and it was perfect.

As we walked back to our car with his hand in mine he said "Mom thank you so much for inviting me to this"