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

“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.


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.



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