Circles

December Moms (that’s what we call ourselves). We met each other online in 1996, brought together by our December 1996 due dates.

We started as a group of over 200, all over the world. We’ve dwindled to a group of maybe 35 or so now. I’ve met many of them in person, consider some my closest friends.

In 2005 we lost our first mom to cancer. I was the second mom widowed. Sunday, a fourth mom lost her husband. Two widows on each coast. A widower in Norway.

I started blogging in 2004 because of Karine’s cancer. Our blogs were a sort of solidarity—how we stayed connected during her yearlong battle with cervical cancer.

The birth of my first child led me to social media; death made me a blogger.

Gone. She's Gone.

And not because it was God's fucking plan as some douchecanoe felt obliged to offer up in a "comforting" comment to her husband on her blog, and not so she could now find peace with Jesus.

Cancer.

Or what do I know. I'm just a bunch of matter on a planet, but I can HONESTLY say that anybody who feels obligated to comfort someone with that sentiment doesn't understand the meaning of comfort. Doesn't understand the best place for your loved one is here. Now. That you will not feel peace for some time, so you cannot fathom your loved one's peace or lack thereof.

You just want to remember how to breathe without telling yourself if it's time to exhale or inhale and why are there only four sympathy cards on this planet that you'll be receiving in duplicate, then triplicate, and then not opening at all along with the rest of the mail.

Let's skip guessing what was planned for this occasion. I think your god will probably be okay with you offering comfort and not worrying your pretty little head about the plans. Mkay? Mkay.

New York Times Best Boob Is Too A Thing

I know some Jennys. One lives near me, and we amuse each other greatly. Occasionally we amuse other people. 

Last week we made the trek to Corte Madera to see our other friend, also a Jenny, at her book signing because, HOLY FUCK WE HAVE A FRIEND WHO WROTE A REAL LIVE READABLE BOOK. Also, we love her. And it's rare to see this particular Jenny outside of a bathroom.

Waiting to get my book signed by Jenny.

Seriously. It is. That's where I first met her. In a bathroom. It's less abnormal the longer you know her. I've now spent more time with her in a bathroom than out, I think, and this seems completely normal to me.

Private Party with The Bloggess

Hanging with @TheBloggess and my girl. #awesome

Anyway, when Jenny and I got back from seeing Jenny at the book signing, we sat down to make a video homage to our friend, her book (Let's Pretend This Never Happened: (A Mostly True Memoir), and our road trip, but this happened instead. 

 

I think Jenny will understand. Also, you should totally buy Jenny's book because The Bloggess is a seriously funny person, and it turns out that we aren't the only two people on the planet who think this. (You need to understand that this totally makes my autographed boob incredibly important by association, like New York Times Book List important. That's really important. That's more important than that stupid Who's Who crap they try to get you to pay for in high school, which it turns out is just a giant scam that anyone can do, so I'm glad I didn't do it.)

Taking my @TheBloggess boob to the pool. As you do.

Oh, and Jenny is one of the few people who spells my name correctly. I think that's important in a friendship.

Finally, somebody spelled my name correctly. Figures it'd be @TheBloggess

 

Day 13: Operation Eleanor - Old And New

This will come as a resounding shock to some people, but not to others. I can be shy. Extremely shy. I know. Hard to believe is you've seen me dance on stage, convert a quiet bar into a night club scene, or speak in front of a large audience (strangers or peers). But I am, at heart, shy. Meeting new people or even climbing outside my box of comfort to say hello to old friends or even family when I'm happily ensconced in my world isn't always high on my list.

Today, I did a little of both, and it was wonderful.

In between, I stuck my head out the window of the car and took some pictures. I think that's my way of settling my nerves. I like framing the world with the lens.

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This is our fearless copilot, Dashboard Monk. He gets a little jittery, at times, but never loses that collected look.

 

 

Day 6: Operation Eleanor - Letting Go

Today I let go—of a house that was our home, but will now be somebody else's and a friendship that once carried us each through difficult times, but has changed into something I no longer recognize.

It does feel good to give someone a fresh start in our house. Choosing the right person took time. Getting the house ready took time. It's time. It's scary as fuck, but it is time.

It doesn't feel so hot to say goodbye to a friendship. Feels pretty shitty, actually.

It feels like the right time to let go. It was time to walk away.

Walking Away

 

 

 

Leaping: Day 1

When Bob died, the world flipped in every direction, and not everybody flipped along with me. Some family members hated me. Some still do. Some friends disappeared. Some reappeared. Some friends did things I still do not understand to this very day.

For today's challenge, I chose to contact one of those friends and ask why. What happened? WTF?

It was one of the hardest emails I've written.

I don't know if she'll answer.

I don't know if I want to read the answer I'll get.

For now, I'm going to pull up my thigh-high socks, snuggle under the covers, and have a good cry. I might look for some bubble wrap later.

If you want to learn more about participating in Operation Eleanor, click here.

Tattoos And Sandwiches: Gifts From The Grave

Bob hated tattoos. He thought they were a fast-track to hell, a leftover from his conservative Catholic upbringing that had convinced him that tattoos were a form of inflicting damage upon the temple that is your body. Nevermind the other damage he/we did to our bodies, which he freely acknowledged, this bit got hard-wired in there. He fully owned the nature of his belief.

Since he didn't find them appealing (understatement) and I never could decide on artwork I wanted permanently inked upon my body nor a location for such art, I remained unadorned.

During Bob's final days, however, I told him he had to realize I would be getting some kind of tattoo to memorialize him. It just seemed prudent at the time. His response for the first time ever in response to me mentioning ink was, "okay."

I was floored. I double checked. He was sure. Okay.

Still, I had no idea what on Earth I'd want to get. Then, the butterfly incident happened on the day of the funeral.

A butterfly. Duh.

Okay. That's easy. Or not. I couldn't find a butterfly I liked. So, I waited. And waited. Also, waited.

I thought some more.

I started wearing the butterfly necklace sent to me from a friend in Georgia.

I hung the framed butterfly on my wall from another friend.

I found a decoupage of a butterfly with a cool quote on a trip with the kids when we went to Chicago to visit friends.

I met a little girl who adores butterflies— bugs of all kinds, actually.

Now, I pack butterfly-shaped sandwiches into school lunches for the kids.

I wonder tonight if I need to have that tattoo or if Bob already made sure I'd have butterflies by my side. Pretty sure I know the answer.

The Value Of A Staycation: More Than Money

We stayed put this summer. Between moving, merging households, and making sure that we don't overwhelm the people involved, we decided a staycation made far more sense then packing everyone onto a plane or into a car for a long drive to take a trip elsewhere.

Aside from the financial benefits of staying put, there are so many more reasons why making our home our homebase for the past two weeks made sense:

  • The Bay Area has SO MANY ACTIVITIES, we truly want for nothing, but rarely get to take advantage of it all on a daily basis;
  • Our new home is a great place to hang out, and we've all enjoyed being able to have uninterrupted time to kick back and enjoy it;
  • With our large brood, it's nice to have the space of a big house to sprawl out, find out nooks and crannies to explore, have our own beds for sleeping, bathrooms, and such;
  • Family has come to US, which has been a real treat. We've been able to enjoy visits from grandparents, and they've been able to enjoy the kids in their environment, enjoying their activities and daily life without the stress of traveling to a second location.

Bay Bridge

Pier 39 #playingtourist

This one's also sleepy. #playingtourist

Hanging out with family and friends.

Train thru chain-link

The fishies in our pond.

Secret Garden

Newish pond.

Rube Goldberg's wet dream

Dashboard Monk in a zen moment on 680 North.

Dashboard Monk was our fearless co-pilot for many of our adventures around the Bay. He was a tireless companion and entertainer. Thanks, Dashboard Monk.

Photo Update: Loubis And Batmobiles

I'm not feeling particularly chatty at the moment, but I do have some cool photos I can share that you might enjoy.

Louboutins on an Electra

The Loubis on my guy's Electra. Kinda hawt, right?

California Hotel

On our way back from SFO. Love this building.

Current status

The Caldecott Tunnel. No, I wasn't the one driving!

Thumbs up, birthday boy!

The Birthday Boy. Making new memories with friends and family.

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Our Starbucks has a Batmobile. Sometimes.

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Smell y'all later. Hopefully, we'll be able to get some good pics of the Tour of California as it passes through town in the morning.

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Hanging Out With The Internet ChicagoIsh Style

The train arrived in Chicago Friday after only about an hour-long delay due to a freight train breaking down ahead of us. Oops.

No worries. We checked into the hotel, once our rooms were ready, and headed out to eat some deep dish pizza with the INTERNET!!!

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Well, Peanut and I did, anyway. Bug was a little too enamored with having his own hotel room to get out much during the weekend. Give a teenage boy his own room and access to room service, and you don't see much of him. He was in heaven. It was his perfect vacation.

He did manage to get a roaring game of Yu-gi-oh going Saturday night with another one of the kids after they went swimming, but I digress.

After pizza, there was a cupcake extravaganza, brought to us by Flirty Cupcakes. They drove up a truck full of tasty goodness just for us! Oh, the yum.

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Next, we had to get our sing on. Cuz, um, duh. But, you can't do that in Chicago unless you experience the Barbie bathrooms. Ladies and Gents, I give you the bathroom so pink that the camera can't handle it:

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You saw it here. Yes, that's INSIDE the women's restroom. I know. It's wrong. And right. And I peed. Literally.

There was some YMCA thing that happened. Jon got a bit enthused and forgot that he's straight.

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The next morning, we had breakfast at Steve's Deli, because why wouldn't you? It's awesome. Mathilda was totes hungover. Just look at her. What a lush.

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Then, we met in the hotel lobby for a Louboutin playdate. Duh. Shoes.

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After that, it was off to the big CHSH tweetup. The main event!

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Chicago Knows How To Treat A Girl (And Her Kids)

We arrived in the Windy City last Monday, unscathed. We were welcomed by our hosts, Toni and Dan, and their lovely children, who made us this cool sign for our bedroom door:

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They also made us these a plate of cookies, and by the second day, allowed Bug to commandeer their basement as his personal man cave. In fact, by the middle of the week, Bug as asking if he could rent their basement out at some point in the future. I'm pretty sure our next living situation will need to include some kind of basement/man cave accommodations for Bug. What fourteen year-old wouldn't want that?

After a glorious few days in the Chicago burbs,

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eating deep dish, taking a drive out to Lake Geneva, and enjoying a little shopping in the cutest town square ever,

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we boarded the train for Chicago.

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Next stop: Chi Town! and The Internet!

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Travel Time: Chicago Or Bust

It's time to hit the road again. This time, both kids are joining me for my annual trek to Chicago for the CHSH tweetup. They'll get to meet quite a few of the people who appear on their dad's Fuck Cancer poster.

We'll also get to see some sights, eat great food, and hang out with friends. Can't beat that. I'm sure we'll come back with lots of great stories and pictures.

Oh, and the boyfriend remains awesome. In case you were wondering. I know some of you were.

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Gallbladder Gone: Pictures Of Other Stuff

I survived. It's gone. I look a little like I got punched in the gut and feel like I did about 100 sit-ups, which is hilarious if you know me because I don't really *do* exercise like that. It's so dangerous. I mean, people die exercising. Runner, Drops Dead! You read about it all the time. Plus, the sweat? Who can be bothered? If I sweat, it's going to be for something FUN. Or dirty. Like gardening.

This might explain the looseness in my ass, but we'll address that some other time. When I care. Until then, let's look at some pretty pictures, and I'll just wear some high heels around the house to help tone my ass until I feel like exercising.

A huge thank you goes out to my chauffeur the day of my surgery. She was stellar in every way. My extended family has also been wonderful helping with Bug, and Peanut has been a first-rate nurse.

Now, some photos. Just because I'm going a little stir-crazy up in here.

Great-grandmother's lamp

I can't lift anything heavy for a couple weeks, so I'm stuck photographing things around the house. Bear with me.

Some freak from the Internet sent me flowers. Thanks, freak. They're purdy.

Although, I did get out for a quick visit to San Francisco when my friend, Heather, was in town just before my surgery. Here are a couple of photos from our dinner. I have a hard time resisting Art Deco decor. And light fixtures, apparently.

Deco light

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People Still Don't Know: Telling A Friend In Target

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I ran into a friend in Target this week whom I hadn't seen in a while. Well, it's been a long while, I guess.

"How have you been?" she asked, as our small-talk grew into something more substantial.

"You know my husband passed away," I said.

That's one way to move a conversation from, "Hey, how's things," into "Holy shit, we need to talk, it has been way too long."

It turns out she'd lost her little sister and a good friend in the past year. Hugging commenced. Ice cream defrosted in my cart. Salmon steaks, too. It didn't matter. It just wasn't important anymore. What mattered was reconnecting with this friend, this person who'd fallen out of my life and now reappeared at just the right moment. In Target. In the pasta section. (Yes, our Target has groceries. We have alcohol, too. Hate us because we're beautiful.)

We talked about feeling lost in those early months, then regaining our footing. We talked about our kids. We talked about macaroni. We talked about grief. We talked about houses. And breaded topping for the macaroni. What? Some kids are picky eaters.

What we didn't have to do was start over. I love that about certain friends, the ones you can pick up with like no time has passed. I love friendships that flow like life flows, with natural drifts, unforced. No apologies are made for lost contact or guilt felt for time apart, but you can fall right back into the rhythm of conversation you had before.

So much of life is really fucking difficult. I like when things are easy for a change. I like when life hands you the gift of an old friend in the pasta aisle at Target and a hug when you thought you were just there to buy toilet paper and groceries.

 

 

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The Pea Coat: Lose Your Voice Today!

I've been slowly making my way through Bob's half of the closets. I'm not parting with any of his things, just storing them for now. Still, it's a heart-wrenching task, touching each item. The memories are overwhelming.

Work shirts, motorcycle pants, the death t-shirt he loved to wear to chemo, and at the back of the closet, his pea coat. Well, it wasn't really his, I guess. It was inherited from a good friend when her father passed. Bob loved that coat, especially when he traveled to colder climates.

He had a great story about wearing it to his first Packers game, standing there with his arms crossed, beer in hand. Somebody told him he needed to move. "Oh, I'm sorry, am I in your way?" he asked. "No, dude, there's a snow drift forming on you."

It's a warm coat.

I pulled it out of the closet, and as I did with each of his coats, checked the pockets. In the outer pocket I found his ear muffs. Well, not real ear muffs. They're those tiny, individual ear covers. He liked those better.

As I checked the inner pockets, I found what felt like a postcard. I pulled it out. On the front was a black and white shot of Lambeaux field.

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I flipped it over.

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See, that was Bob's first NFL game ever. It was a playoff game. And it was at Lambeaux field with his friend John, a lifelong fan who had taken Bob there to see the game.

I quickly texted John a picture of the note. It was, as I suspected, from him to Bob.

After I finished a sob fest, wrapping myself in the coat, clutching the note, and texting with John, I thought about Bob at that game, and how happy his was to be there; how much he loved life; how much he lived for "losing his voice."

Wallowing was not part of his world, and any time I do it for too long, I feel him kick me in the ass. It's time to lose my voice!

 

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2010: Life and Death

There aren't words to adequately summarize losing my husband, my children's father, being stalked online by his brothers, then betrayed by someone whom I trusted to care for my children and allowed into my home, chastised by my parents for not meeting their needs during my grief, and losing a lifelong friendship because of deceit and loss of trust. 

Fortunately, I loved and was loved by an amazing man for over two decades. I had that gift. My children had the gift of an incredible father who loved them. We have rich memories and strength to draw from when all of the shit hits. It has made us stronger as a family. We are a united force. We are fiercely protective of one another. My children may bicker like an old married couple, but do not mess with our family. We do not keep secrets in this house, and it makes us all the stronger when the attacks from the outside come. We laugh together. We yell together. We make mistakes together. We cry together.

And we have family and friends who make sure we are never in it alone. Thank you all for making sure we made it. Whether you sent us a single word or support of offered us your time, financial assistance in those early days, or never-ending physical presence, you have made all the difference in our lives. 

In 2011, I have no resolutions, as I never do. They aren't my style. I do have some wishes. I would like to just be. Get that amp off eleven. Travel some. Love some. Eat good food. See friends. Hug my kids, a lot. Live, because I didn't die.

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Change In Plans: Learning To Be Flexible And The First Christmas

This holiday season has been all about flexibility.

First, we had to forgo the visit to Bob's parents because I was still sick and Bob's dad's immune system is compromised right now. We have plans to visit them upon our return from Denver. 

Then, we had to rework our plans for Denver. The friend we're going to visit and stay with is sick, Bug doesn't want to go (being an Aspie dude means traveling and a change of environment isn't always his thing, and I appreciate that), so we've made another change in plans. Instead, Bug will hang with his grandparents whom he's been missing and have been missing him, and Peanut and I will head out to Denver for a long weekend instead of an 8-day family vacation. 

It's been about other changes, too. We made it through our first Christmas without Bob by doing things a little and a lot differently. We skipped things that didn't feel right; we didn't have a traditional Christmas dinner, choosing to eat a favorite meal of In-n-Out burger, instead. We had a cocktail and soda at a local Chinese restaurant. We drove around looking at lights, listening to rap music, taking pictures, and posting them on the Internet with funny captions. We ate cookies in bed. We visited Bob's sister who's home from the hospital, thank GOD! We bought new stockings instead of climbing into the attic to face our vast collection of Christmas decorations from years past. We missed him. We talked about him. We celebrated the simple moments. I think he would be proud of his kids, of me, of his family, of how we're learning to live and love. It's what he wanted for us.

We did what felt right. It wasn't always easy or peaceful. There were difficult, sad, bumpy moments, but we made it. We sprinkled lots of laughter over the top. It's the only way we know how to do it.

 

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