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

Week 12: Words with friends. March 22, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — lputhenp @ 2:23 am

The idea for this weeks resolution originated when I found out that my dear friends would be visiting us this week.  As I have said before, sometimes you just have to be practical.  Wasn’t it a wonderful coincidence then that the week was kicked off at exactly 12:30 am on Sunday morning when my phone rang.  To be fair it was 12:30 Ohio time and I live in California so strictly speaking it was only the bedtime of a fifth grader.  But, still, we were sleeping.  On the line was a close childhood friend who is also one of the funniest people I have ever met.  He was out celebrating St. Patrick’s Day and he drunk dialed me.  No, not that kind of drunk dialing.  That is for the young kids.  We are over thirty-five.  We both have spouses and young children and busy lives so the only time that seems appropriate to reconnect is 12:30 am on St. Patrick’s Day.  Come to think of it maybe we should make that a standing date.

We talked about work, the kids, our spouses, cancer, you know the usual things one talks about.  When we got off the phone I had a warm and fuzzy feeling inside.  The kind you get when you reconnect with a loved one.  There is a theory that the people you love each carry a bit of your soul with them so that when you are together your soul rejoices in having its pieces close by.  It’s possible that I just made that up now but it really explains the feeling I get when I reconnect with great friends.  This week I will reach out and try to get some pieces of my soul back.



Shaving my breast hair. March 21, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — lputhenp @ 7:33 am

Sexy title huh.  Hang in there with me.  We’ll get to it.

This past week was mostly fun for me.  It really is nice to pamper yourself on occasion.  My haircut on Friday was super.  It happened to be the hairdressers birthday so they called to move my appointment to the morning.  This actually worked out great for me.  Olivia came with me which would have been fraught two months ago but since her little hairs are growing longer by the day it was just a fun mother daughter trip to a salon. Oh ordinary life, welcome back! The cut she gave me was perfect and the blow-dry with something called a round brush left me with the big loopy curls I longed for.  When it was done I felt supremely hot.  The rain was really pouring down on Friday though so she warned me to cover it up.  When I said I would hold my daughter over my head if that’s what it took to keep it dry I may have crossed a line but no matter.  I was a girl on a mission.  I texted a photo of myself to my Mom.  I took the photo by holding my phone/camera up to a mirror ala young people these days.  That’s how trendy I felt.  In the picture, I have my hand on my hip.  I don’t think I have ever naturally struck that hot girl pose before.  Maybe it was the big loopy curls or maybe it was the perm chemicals but I was feeling pretty sweet.

What was the difference?

That was the question I asked myself on Sunday after getting off the phone with a couple of my nieces.  I have some amazing young women in my life.  None of them are adults yet but a couple are getting close.  I was thinking about what it was that made me feel so beautiful on Friday.  The simple answer was the haircut and perm, which by the way was wildly more successful than I could have hoped.  Bringing curly back!  You could argue that it was the time spent devoted to caring for myself.  The time devoted to shopping and applying all the beauty products was definitely fun.  Perhaps most importantly, I didn’t rip any hair off of my body using hot wax.  That is not where that hand on the hip confidence came from though.

When I try to recall the times I have felt confident and beautiful the moments that come to mind surprise me.  The first was when I was seven months pregnant.  I am not particularly attractive when pregnant but something about the shape of my belly and the promise of new life made me feel incredibly radiant.  To judge my pregnant body would have been to judge my new little one and that just seemed silly.  My body was changing and adapting in some decidedly unattractive ways but I never felt more comfortable in my own skin.  Likewise, in the days and weeks following my mastectomy, I felt an odd sense of body confidence.  Even though my body was forever changed in a way that no one considers flattering, the rationale behind the choice made an impact.  I had just literally cut off my right breast for my loved ones.  I think that was pretty badass.  The confidence faded as the chemo took its toll on my hair and body.  I’m only human after all, but, for those few weeks after surgery…..badass.

So where does the breast hair figure in to all of this?  Perhaps the better question is why does she have breast hair?  The answer is simple.  During a mastectomy, the surgeon needs to take all the skin over the breasts along with the breasts.  The female surgeon who performed my right mastectomy was very aware of the cosmetic outcome of the surgery and tried hard to maximize the aesthetics of the scar.  When during the surgery it became clear that I would need to have the lymph nodes removed from under my arms she elected to extend the breast incision up to the armpit instead of making a new one.  The idea being that one smooth continuous scar was somehow more desirable than two smaller ones.  I didn’t really get it either for those of you scratching your heads.  In the end, when it is time to sew it all up, the skin that used to cover your breast is in a bucket and so the surgeon pulls in the surrounding tissue.  This is why the skin on the upper right corner of my “breast” now grows underarm hair.  If that doesn’t instantly make you feel better about your body you have bigger issues than we can tackle here.

The point is this my darling nieces.  We all have things about our selves that we would like to change.  We also have things that make us proud.  Sometimes neither  makes sense.  As you move through life, there is a happy medium between spending two hours preparing yourself to go out and skipping showers.  Find the medium and try to live there.  Stay open to the astonishing things your body can do especially when you fill it with an amazing spirit.  When you are feeling ugly, be gentle to yourself.  Don’t always be your  harshest critic.  And, when all else fails, get a perm.


“So, how many people are getting perms these days,”… March 15, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — lputhenp @ 5:08 pm

…was the question I asked of the man who owns the local salon I found myself in last week.  He tried to be diplomatic in his response but after much hedging and mumbling about a seventy-six year old woman who used to but then stopped, the answer was plainly, just me.  No matter, I am ready to be a trend of one.  I know that doesn’t exist but just work with me people.

Perhaps a little back story is in order.  I was born with pin straight hair.  The hair was so resistant to curl that even a chemical perm left it straight but frizzy.  It is said that you always covet what you do not have.  Anyone can see this in action at a party.  Look around and you will see women with naturally curly hair who have taken great pains to straighten their hair for this special occasion.  Likewise, the women with naturally straight hair have spent the afternoon curling and pinning their hair for the same reason.  I thought this was just the natural course of womanhood but then, I got cancer.  When my hair grew back in after chemotherapy, it grew in with the most luscious, luxurious curls you have ever seen.  I adored it.  I thought the women who complained about curls were just as sincere as me, but now, I knew their secret.  Curly hair is the best.  I imagined secret societies of curly-haired girls where they sit around,twirling their hair and talking freely about how much better and easier their lives are because of their glorious curls.  They invented problems to complain about so the straight-haired girls wouldn’t feel so bad.  It was all a scam and now I was on the inside, or so I felt.  As my hair began to grow longer however, it seemed that the curls were growing out.  Three years on, it became painfully clear that the curls were fleeting.  All that remained, were the ends that I refused to cut for fear of losing my precious curls forever.  These were the circumstances that led me to the perm chair in the local salon.  The owner was the only one there that even knew how to do a perm that is how popular they are not.  He assured me that a big rollered perm would leave me with the results I was seeking.  I was skeptical but desperate for the feeling the curls gave me.

I have always thought big hair was beautiful. Part of this is explained by growing up in the eighties.  Rather than the wavy artificial curls of that era though, I have always been drawn to big loopy curls like you find on Sophia Loren or Raquel Welch.  Those type of bodacious curls was what I was after.

I suppose the perm last Friday was the official start of this week’s resolution.  The perm results are still too soon to judge.  Sometimes it is wavy eighties curly and I am full of doubt but then I sleep on it and in the morning I am delighted.  My haircut on Friday will likely help to tame the wave and encourage the loops I seek.

I am definitely going out of my comfort zone with this little experiment.  That is perhaps one of the unexpected benefits of a bout with cancer.  Cancer stretches out your comfort zone so much that afterwards it encompasses more than you thought possible.  I’m willing to take leaps and chances on myself.  After all it’s just hair, even if you lose it all, it grows back.


Week 11: The Pretty Person Project March 13, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — lputhenp @ 8:58 pm

I would never suggest that I am a girly girl.  But, there was a time in my life when I paid far more attention to my personal grooming than now.  I used to faithfully pluck and tweeze and moisturize.  No more.  Now, taking a shower passes for primping and even basic hygiene like flossing doesn’t happen regularly.  See week one’s resolution.  Somewhere between the day-to-day business of raising a family and cultivating a marriage there doesn’t seem time leftover for extras…like flossing?  That last part seems weird even to me.  This past weekend I hit rock bottom.  Rob went back to Temple to give a grand rounds talk and without anyone here to “impress” I was in poor shape.  I’m not fancy, but how have I let myself get this bad?  I guess I’m not really sure but regardless, it stops now.

We’ve all seen the women that keep up their beauty regimens even with kids.  They show up to the schools for pick up in full makeup and heels.  I admire these woman and mostly puzzle at them but I do not wish to emulate them.  However, there is a large spectrum that separates them from me.  That is what I am looking to narrow this week.  To borrow an analogy from politics, if these women are conservative republicans then I am a communist.  I am so far left I might not even be on the chart anymore.  I think I might be Lenin.  I’m not saying I want to go all the way to Regan but it would be nice to make it back to left of center.  I imagine this would involve basic hygiene as a given but also include some fluff.  I’ll probably have to add hair some places and remove it from others.  Things will need to be bleached and tanned and maybe sometimes both.  I’ll probably have to buy some moisturizer.  Alas, I am game.  I know that taking care of myself on the outside will make me feel better about myself on the inside.  It also sets a good example for Olivia and the boys.  When they are partnered and parents, I want them to prioritize themselves along with their family.  Finally, I had already made a haircut appointment for this Friday so this seemed like the week to do it.  Sometimes, you just have to be practical.



Week 10: Posture police March 6, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — lputhenp @ 11:50 pm

This week’s resolution chose me instead of the other way around.  Stand up straight was on my list of resolutions from the start but I wasn’t going to tackle it just yet.  Lately though, my back has been killing me.  I start out all right in the morning but, by evening the muscles between my shoulder blades are screaming for relief.  I’ve tried nothing and I’m all out of ideas so my husband suggests I go see someone who helped him when his back hurt.  He’s not a doctor, or a chiropractor, or a physical therapist.  He is someone called a bodyworker.  If you said, oh yeah of course a bodyworker chances are you live within a thirty mile radius of me.  If you live anywhere beyond that you probably just rolled your eyes in embarrassment for me and said, oh man she has become so California soft.  I am.  It’s true.  Basically, this guy watches you walk and stand and evaluates what you are doing to mess yourself up.  Then he tells you in the nicest way possible how it is you are messing yourself up.  A series of movements on a large foam roller are part of the solution as well as some manipulation which is somewhat painful and somewhat pleasant. I have a tendency to want to curl up into a ball.  I lean forward with every part of my body.  It also doesn’t help that the muscles in my chest that used to balance the muscles in my back are now repurposed as boobies.  Turns out, like most of the human race, I tend to carry stress in my shoulders, neck, and back.  Lucky for me I don’t have a lot of stress in my life.  Aside from the cancer in my three-year old, job transition, and two moves the past year was smooth sailing.  You see my predicament.  This week I will attempt to bring posture to my awareness and hopefully get a little relief in the process.


Week 9: Welcome back music…and other fun stuff.

Filed under: Uncategorized — lputhenp @ 3:59 am

Full disclosure, I am one of about thirteen people in the world that actually enjoy listening to opera.  I love it.  It gets a bad rap for being elitist and inaccessible but that couldn’t be further from the truth.  Operas address common themes like love, jealousy, and revenge.  Sometimes all three at once when it is really juicy.  In its time, it was considered the lowest common denominator form of entertainment which puts it somewhere on the level of the WWF.  I love listening to those glandular men and women singing their hearts out for one another.  In the end, there is either a wedding or a funeral and occasionally both.  It’s pretty basic stuff and I love it.  Despite this fondness, it has been noticeably absent from my life for a long time.  So has music in general.  On the radio I mostly listen to NPR.  See my earlier entry re: filling my brain with other people’s worry to escape my own.  I don’t work in an office that plays music or spend much time anywhere with music.  Frankly, I miss it.  I didn’t realize it though until my darling Jack reminded me.

Each of my children through a combination of diligent planning and happy accident has a “birth song”.  This is a song that was played in and around their labor that we most associate with their arrival.  For Joe it is a Rolling Stones cd that my brother burned for me in college.  The entire cd recalls that day but specifically Paint it Black is Joe’s birth song.  Olivia’s birth song is Eddy Vedder’s rendition of Rise from the motion picture soundtrack to Into the Wild.  Jack’s is a beautiful aria from The Pearl Fishers.  Au fond du temple saint is one of the most beautiful duets in opera.  It is sung by two men whose past friendship was threatened by shared love of a woman.  In the song they reaffirm their devotion to the friendship.  It is basically the original bros before hoes.  But, I digress.  I love the song and hadn’t listened to it in years when early last week Jack brought it back to my attention.  We dug out the CD.  Yeah we are old school.  Popped it in the minivan and rocked out to some Georges Bizet.  It was, in a word, sublime.  It was as though the musical floodgates had been opened and all of a sudden I remembered that I love to listen to opera, and salsa, and jazz, and lots of other great stuff.

Listening to music is wonderful.  It is relaxing and energizing all at once.  It feels decadent.  When the specter of cancer makes time feel so artificially compressed the idea of wasting it listening to music seems frivolous.  I am trying to let go of the hypervigilent state that I falsely believe is keeping cancer away.  The multitasker in me still likes to listen while I do something else like drive, or fold laundry. The other day Jack, Olivia, and I had a killer salsa dancing/ laundry folding session.  As time goes by though I look forward to spending an hour or so listening to music and nothing else.


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