52 Weeks, 52 resolutions in my humble quest to be a better wife, mother, friend, survivor

A quieter house and heart February 27, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — lputhenp @ 2:44 pm

This weeks resolution was a real eye-opener for me.  I had a number of epiphanies over the last seven days.  I believe this was the result of a number of factors coming together.  The first was the resolution to stop yelling.  I was humbled by how often I had to invoke the resolution in my daily interactions with my children.  The house is definitely better for it.  In the moment I took to consciously decide to not yell I also thought about what to do instead.  On more than one occasion the resulting conversation was productive and left me feeling proud instead of drained.  Additionally, this week coincided with the beginning of the Lenten season.  My Lenten offering was to forgo the aimless time I spend reading nonsense on the MSN page.  Would I be any less of a person if I didn’t read the fifteenth article on clearing clutter out of the pantry?  This has been a major revelation for me.  I had no idea how much time and energy I wasted reading mostly nonsense.  Though I had convinced myself that this was the way I consumed news and therefore stayed up to date on world events, it was not necessarily so.

In reality, this was the way I escaped from my problems by absorbing myself in the world’s.  I was filling my days with news and noise because I was scared of the silence.  I think my mother did a very similar thing when faced with my diagnosis.  It is hard to face the reality that Olivia’s life is not guaranteed.  Her cancer could come back and take her away from us.  There, I said it.  That is the thought I have tried to distract myself from thinking.  That is the worst case scenario but, not thinking it won’t make it any more or less likely to happen.  In the meantime, my frantic escape from reality is making me miss the time I do have with her and everyone else for that matter.  It has only been a few days since my MSN fast began and I already feel more connected to her and focused in general.

When we were in the hospital with Olivia receiving her chemo treatments the distraction was necessary to maintain my sanity.  I was wishing the days to pass with a fervor I have never before known.  The countdown to the next treatment, next round, next modality was my sole focus.  Anything that would speed the time between was welcome.  By the end of her treatments, the treadmill was going so fast I couldn’t simply jump off.  Now it is time.  There is pleasure in a leisurely meal, a board game, a walk.  I need to try to shake this sense of hectic that follows me around.  Tuning out the noise of the world and tuning in to the music of my life was the first step.



Week 8: STOP YELLING! February 24, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — lputhenp @ 9:14 pm

By a show of hands how many have found themselves screaming, “Stop yelling!” at the top of their lungs without any irony whatsoever.  Anyone?  Well I do it more often than I would like to admit.  We are loud talkers by nature so throw in a conflict or two and we are downright yelling at each other.  Not this week.  I am going to not yell at the children once this week.  Don’t get me wrong, I will still correct their inappropriate behavior but I vow to do it in a lower decibel.

Yelling is so ineffective when done regularly.  I used to understand this fact.  It is best reserved for those situations when life and limb are in imminent danger.  If I am yelling about everything from brushing teeth to picking up legos it starts to lose its meaning.  I am just turning into crazy yelling Mom instead of ooh Mom has a good point.

I don’t want my children to yell at their friends, siblings, spouses, children so why am I modeling that for them? Unfortunately for Mom’s everywhere, kids tend to behave the way we behave and not the way we tell them too.  I know how reasonable, loving, generous, and kind people should live.  I could write a description of someone so moving you would invite them for dinner at your house this very evening.  Sadly, actually being that person is much harder.  Yet, if that is my wish for them I might as well start trying to show them how it is done instead of just yelling the descriptions at them.

So far, this week has gone well.  Because it is in my consciousness I am aware and frankly shocked at how often I have to stop myself from yelling.  It has become my default position.  I am hopeful that this week will allow me to reset.


Post-cancer stress disorder February 23, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — lputhenp @ 3:00 pm

I was surprised at how hard last weeks resolutions were to keep.  The writing would have been easier if I had something to write about but I honestly struggled with doing good deeds.  I used to be a good deed doer.  I used to pride myself on all the good energy I could toss into the universe in a single afternoon.  That was all before cancer.  No, that was all before my daughter got cancer.  Cancer is trauma.  The stress and worry are all-consuming and leaves no room for anyone or anything else in your life.  After six months of being in a cancer cocoon, I am finding it hard to reemerge.  I imagine that this is what survivors of natural disasters must feel like.  The hurricane, or tornado, or whatever is all that you think about for months on end.  When everything in your life is thought of by its relation to the disaster, you lose perspective.  Now that our hurricane cancer is over, it feels strange to do, see, and feel things not related to the disease.  We can suddenly contribute to society at large except I have no appetite for it.  I am embarrassed to say it but, my empathy has taken a real hit these last six months.

I try to look back on my own cancer experience but, it is fuzzy.  I have done a great job of burying that time in my mind.  I do remember the overwhelming feeling of selfishness.  I don’t say that in a self-critical way, but an honest one.  When ones life is at stake it is right to focus all your attention on it.  Selfishness is not as fun as you would think though.  It took a lot of energy and I was often tired.  One day a friend told me about another woman who had just been diagnosed with breast cancer.  She was a mother of three and thirty-two years old.  Sound familiar?  She was, in a very real way, about to go through what I had just emerged from.  I sent her an email and a string of conversation was unleashed.  I don’t know how much, if any, I helped her but it helped me tremendously.  I felt I had regained a sense of power in my life that cancer had stolen.  I could still help people and be useful.

I look to that time for hope in this one.  I am still feeling in the cancer cocoon.  Perhaps that is why I began writing this blog.  I think that maybe writing will help me process my reemergence from cancerland the way it helped me when I was in it.  I know that it hasn’t been very long since we finished Olivia’s treatments but I am impatient.  I guess the good deeds week came too soon.  Maybe I will try it again a little later in the year.  For now, Olivia is doing well, we are well, I am satisfied.


I accidentally walked ten miles today February 16, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — lputhenp @ 5:39 am

It was completely my fault.  My friend Cathy and I set out for a relatively reasonable training walk.  We are both walking in the 3-Day 60 mile walk this fall to raise money for breast cancer research.  Walking twenty miles three days in a row is no joke and though Cathy has done it many times before this will be my first time.  To say I am apprehensive would be a major understatement.  I am downright terrified of walking that distance.  Driving that distance makes me whine and complain.  But I digress.  The plan was to meet at the bike path.  We set off walking and about five miles later we were still walking away from our starting point.  I kept waiting for Cathy to say turn around.  She has always taken the lead on our walks.  The problem was this was my walk.  I had arranged when and where so Cathy rightly assumed that I had a plan and would be giving the turn around signal any time.  Oops.

Needless to say, I was pretty tired when it was all said and done.  We got to Joe’s school fifteen minutes early so I walked around the grounds picking up trash.  His school has a wetlands on the grounds and though there is a fence separating it from the rest of the property a fair amount of trash does accumulate in and around the fence.  Again Jack my five-year old was delighted by the idea of the good deed and happily chipped in.  He walked around picking up trash and talking about all the fish lives we were saving by keeping the trash out of the oceans.  Maybe I didn’t save any fish lives today but I definitely set an example of the things we value and that makes me very happy.



A theme emerges February 15, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — lputhenp @ 5:32 am

If I am being honest, I didn’t allow myself many opportunities to do good in the world today.  I spent the majority of the day at home with the kids.  Tonight though when my husband came home looking overwhelmed by his to do list tonight I jumped right in and helped.  I ticked off more than a few items on his list and we both look like we will get to bed at a reasonable hour.  Not too shabby.  If this keeps up, the be nice to my husband resolution just might get ticked off my list this week as well.



Weeks 6 & 7: Be nice and write about it February 14, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — lputhenp @ 12:10 am

This week’s resolution is perfect for me.  I am a do-gooder by nature.  Yesterday’s, take the picture for the tourist, was kind of lame but today life presented me with a great opportunity.

The parking meter’s flashing light told the world that the guy who parked there didn’t have any change on him.  It would only be a matter of time until he was slapped with a ticket and the hassle of paying for it.  Here I come to save the day bearing quarters and goodwill.  A small act, yes, but did I mention the car belonged to my husband.  He had an appointment this afternoon that he thought was in the city.  The appointment was actually in Mill Valley so by the time he arrived he was pretty late and stressed out.  Finding no change in his car I offered to drive to there and fill his meter for him.  Good deed? Check.  Happy husband? Check.  I was so excited I walked up and down the street and filled the meters of other cars that ran out of time.  When I got back to the car and my middle son Jack asked what I was doing I told him about my little project for the week.  “That is so nice,” he said without an ounce of sarcasm.  I love five-year olds.  It is going to be a very good week.



Sunscreen and other stuff February 13, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — lputhenp @ 9:28 pm

The sunscreen week went well.  Actually, I have been wear ing it for almost two weeks now.  I am about a week behind on resolutions and posts so this week I am going to take on two to catch up.  After reviewing my list of resolutions I have decided on practice an act of kindness every day and write every day.  Somehow those two things just seem to go together don’t they?  Yesterday, I had the pleasure of going for a long walk with a very good friend.  The only nice thing I can think of that I did yesterday was stop to take a picture for a tourist posing in front of the Golden Gate Bridge.  Hardly Mother Theresa but it is a start.  Now that the task is in my consciousness I hope to improve upon it.  I already have an idea for today.  Time to go do it.



This belongs with my Week 4 resolution

Filed under: Uncategorized — lputhenp @ 9:19 pm

The issue that comes up repeatedly when attempting to declutter  ones belongings is what if I need this one day?  This is the impulse that drives me to have plastic storage bins full of storage bins.  I kid you not, I have storage for my storage.  The drive to save ourselves from the negative consequences of needing something that we previously possessed but no longer possess makes us do some wacky things, like store storage.  I am trying to break out of this cycle by employing some mental tricks and rewards.  The truth is that the amount of extra stuff we hold on to just in case we need it someday comes at a cost.  There is time spent rummaging through items trying to find the thing we need.  Also, searching items out for some people ends up being so burdensome in the end they just buy another of whatever it is they need.  My Daddy is a case study in this phenomenon.  I believe he owned approximately twenty-four hammers when they sold our childhood home.  So there is an argument to be made for simply having less stuff around.

I tell myself that if something costs less than $20 to replace and I haven’t used it over the last year it is probably not worth keeping.   The time and energy wasted in keeping and storing the item is just not worth it.  Over the years, with the addition of children the amount allowable to replace items has grown.  The truth is, I allow the replacement cost to grow because I can count on one hand the number of things I have passed on only to have to repurchase it in some form.  Most of the foreseeable uses for things just don’t materialize and if they do there are other ways to fill the need.  Renting, borrowing from friends, and using another similar item are all ways I have filled the “stuff” gap in the past with pretty good success.

Of course, I am still a belt and suspenders sort of girl so I always keep a backup plan.  In this case it is an account.  Many of you know that I am a big fan of multiple savings accounts.  It helps me compartmentalize life and deal with unique problems such as this one.  Part of the proceeds from selling some of the stuff we no longer need will go into a just in case fund.  If I happen to get rid of something that it turns out we need later I can tap that to pay for it.  It really gives me the freedom to feel like I can err on the side of getting rid of things.

Cleaning out the clutter benefits everyone.  There is less to maintain, fewer choices to make, less to clean, less to break.  With so much less stuff our lives somehow seem fuller.  I guess sometimes less really is more.


Week 5: Wear sunscreen every day February 7, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — lputhenp @ 3:58 am

This is a pretty straightforward resolution this week.  I felt I needed a little breathing room after last week’s marathon decluttering sessions.   Some of my resolutions by their very nature, need to be completed in a week.  Finishing every project before starting another would soon drive everyone in my life including myself batty.  This week’s task falls into the class of resolutions that I call keepers.  That is, I would love to continue to do them beyond my one week frenzy because they are just good ideas.  This joins flossing already in that category.  If I don’t do them every day beyond my week I won’t beat myself up for it but I will make an earnest effort to continue.

Beyond the vanity of aging well,  sunscreen has a life-saving role. My life has been personally touched by skin cancer in the form of my dear friend Darin.  I’ve known Darin and his twin Karin since we were in the 5th grade.  I love them both immensely so when I got a call that Darin had an ugly mole on his stomach that looked like melanoma I thought I was going to choke.  That call came about two months before the one that told me that I too had cancer.  That was a really tough year.  Thankfully, Darin continues to well.  He had a major surgical procedure to remove the cancer and many lymph nodes which took a while to recover from but now he is back to being a husband and father to his two kids 7 and 5.

I hope you all will join me this week in wearing sunscreen and spreading awareness to young people about the dangers of skin cancer.  In honor of Darin, whose birthday is this week, let’s lay it on thick.


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