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Monday, December 15, 2014

Chemo

I hate chemo.  I hate chemo and I don't even have to go through it.

I hate how sick it makes Mom.

I hate how it invades our lives, forcing us to overly plan something as simple as lunch with a friend.

I hate how we're filling Mom with poison and yet it's supposedly helping her.

I hate how it smells.  It doesn't just smell in the treatment center.  It also leaves Mom with a very distinct, very pungent odor that lasts for a week or more.

I hate how it's apparently so bad that children under 18 can't even be in the treatment area, meaning I can't spend quiet time visiting with my mom.

I hate how it screws with the brain and has all sorts of mental side effects.  Mom's biggest side effects are impatience and combativeness.

Mom is doing well, but chemo is so hard on the whole family.  Today she starts her final round of chemo, and I can't wait for that final day.  She'll get to ring a bell and come home, and she'll (hopefully) never have to return for further chemo treatment.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

My Half Marathon

You've already heard about Hans' first half marathon, and I had a little of myself in there, but I did want to take a moment to tell you how my first race postpartum went.  It went really well!

I had some personal goals going in to the race, and I was definitely using this race a way to determine how much I'd bounced back.  So, my goals were:

1) No walking.  I never count the water stops or stops to refuel as walking, so other than that I wanted to run the whole way.

2) Have a decent time:  I told people my goal was 2:30:00, but in reality I was shooting for under 2:24:00.  That was the approximate time of my very first half marathon, and I was really hoping to be slightly faster than or at least equal to that.  My super-lofty goal was 2:17:00 (my fastest half to date).

3) Feel good at the finish: I really didn't want to feel like I was pushing myself too hard.  I wanted to finish feeling good and happy, not like things had been some huge struggle.

The end result was pretty good.   As for the walking rule, I kept it.  There were times when I really wanted to walk (like up a big hill), but I just kept going.  On the time front, I finished in approximately 2:18:00!  I didn't reach my super-lofty goal, but I definitely reached my primary goal.  On feeling good, well, I did and I didn't.

At the end of the race, I actually felt really good.  I mean, I had to take a moment to catch my breath, but I was moving fine and only felt a little sore.  There were a few body parts that surprised me by aching, but I'm attributing that to a slightly different body shape post-baby and a desperate need for new running shoes.

 During the race, however, while I didn't feel bad (for the most part), I also didn't feel good like I usually do.  There were plenty of times where continuing on was a definite struggle.  I know in previous races, I've normally felt pretty good after 4 miles or so, but that wasn't the case this time.  So, I need to figure that one out.  Did I not feel as wonderful because I'd only trained for 13.1 miles as opposed to my usual 26.2?  How much did the cold affect me?  Is that why things seemed difficult at points? Was I just overly tired, both physically and mentally, from a long week?  Is my body just not ready for that kind of intensity yet?

Honestly, it may be a little bit of everything.  Still, I'm quite pleased overall.  I went for a lovely 4 mile run this morning (the early-morning moon was awesome), I don't feel particularly drained from this race, and I'm pleased with where I am.  I also know that I'll be training for the full marathon again next year.  I love the Richmond Marathon, and the Half just can't take its place.  Until then, I'll just keep looking for other fun races.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Hans' First Half Marathon

Can I just say I'm super proud of my husband?  I'm SUPER PROUD of my husband!!!

Yesterday was the day of the Richmond Marathon, Half Marathon, and 8k, and Hans ran his very first half marathon.

Hans first mentioned the thought of training for a half marathon after my very first marathon.  It was a joke.  He really didn't have any interest in training for a half marathon.  Then, by the following summer, I was started training for my second marathon and Mom started training for her first 5k.  Hans decided to go for it too.  He signed up for his first 5k, a small race in his hometown the day before I was to run my second marathon.  He challenged himself, and he did quite well.  I don't want to necessarily speak for him, but I think he started to seriously consider a half at that point. 

Then,  he decided to train for the Monument Avenue 10k.  He signed up for a training team, and stuck to the program quite well.  I trained for that one on my own since I was pregnant at the time, but I ran every step of the race with him.  After that race, he was almost ready to sign up for a half marathon.

Then life got crazy.  I gave birth to Anna, and then Mom got her diagnosis.  I was just getting back in to running, and Hans was just trying to make it through the day.  The day before the half training team started neither one of us had signed up.  That was also the day Mom had to go to the ER.  When we came home, we had a decision to make.  Do we do the half marathon?  I knew my answer was yes.  I needed to do this for me.  Hans, however, was considering just doing the 8k.  Somehow, though, he decided the half would be alright.  I mean, he'd already done a 10k.  Why would he take a step back?  So, he signed up for the half marathon training team.  He'd train on Saturday mornings, and I'd train on Sunday mornings.  This way one of us would always be available to watch Anna.

His first 8 mile run was scary because it was a new distance for him.  The 11 mile run was problematic because Hans was supposed to work on Saturday.  So, we both got up early on Friday morning and I pushed Anna in the stroller while Hans ran next to me.  Eleven miles later, we finished just as the sun came up.  Then we both showered, got dressed, and headed into work.  The twelve mile run seemed like such a long distance, and it was the closest Hans would get to the half marathon distance until race day.  I expected him to come home beat and tired, but he did quite well.  He rested just a bit, but then he met me at work and we went out for pizza together.

This entire time, I continued training, working on my speed and rebuilding my distance.  I was pleased to find that I was starting to improve.  The long runs were a little easier than they'd once been, and my shorter runs were definitely getting faster.  In just a couple of months, I'd gone from 11 minute miles to 10 minute miles, to the occasional 9:45 minute miles.  I wasn't super fast, but I was improving.

Then came race day.  We'd had beautiful weather in the weeks leading up to race day, but the actual day of the race was COLD.  Well, at least for Virginia it was cold.  When we woke up, I checked the temperature: 27 degrees Fahrenheit...brrrrrrr!  We went about our usual morning routine, and then my dad and his girlfriend arrived at our house.  We gathered everything together, piled into the van, and went to the race start.  I think we timed things perfectly, because we arrived just as the race was starting...no waiting around in the cold for us! 

We started things out at a nice slow pace.  I told Hans I'd stick with him for the first half mile or so, but since we'd agreed ahead of time to each run our own race, I'd take my own pace after that first half mile.  At the half mile mark, I sped up just a bit, and Hans made sure he was on his target pace for that point.

One thing I noticed was how long it was taking my legs to warm up.  The cold weather was definitely affecting me, but I had no other choice but to just keep running.  I focused on lifting my legs and how my feet were striking the ground.  Around mile 4 the course made a big loop, and I realized I might get to see Hans.  I kept searching the sea of runners heading the opposite direction, and then I spotted him.  He looked great and had a big smile on his face.  We exchanged some happy words, and then we kept on running.

There were some happy moments for me along the run, and I hope to tell you about them in another post, but the important thing I'll note is that I finished under my goal time.  Yay!!  Then, I found my family, snuggled Anna, and waited for Hans to finish.  The race ends at the bottom of a tall hill, so I kept looking at the top of the hill, hoping I'd see Hans as he ran down.  Then, after a little bit of time, I saw a blonde head and a green shirt.  Yes!  There was Hans!  He was coming down the final stretch!

I held Anna over my head, pointed Hans out to my family, and screamed his name over and over.  GO HANS!!!  GOOOO!!!!!  He still didn't see me.  I watched as he came in strong and finally crossed that beautiful finish.  HANS!  HANS!  OVER HERE!  He was finally at a decent angle where we weren't back lit by the sun.  He looked over, grinned, and waived.  I brought Anna in close to me and told my family that I was going to go meet up with him.  I ran down to the end of the chute, and there he was.  "How do you feel?" I asked.  "Hurt."  "You poor thing!  I'm so proud of you!"

The 13.1 miles he'd just run did not go as well as his 12 miler.  He was technically within his goal, but it was hard.  The cold had gotten to him, the week leading up was hard, and the end result was simply that he was tired...so tired.  He walked...slowly through the photographers.  I'd ask him if he wanted to have his picture taken and he'd say, "OK." We'd stop, take a few pictures, and then he'd practically beg to keep walking.  I sent my family over to the training team tent, and I led him to the food.  Ah, beautiful post-race pizza! 

A tired, but happy post-race family.
After a long race, we all walked back to the car and then to local diner where we had sausage gravy and biscuits.  Oh, and bacon.  Glorious bacon.  When we got home, Dad used his phys ed training to really stretch Hans out.  Hans gave this amusing grimace which I remember so well from my first marathon.  That grimace that says, "Oh, this hurts so good."  Then he went up to shower.  Once he got out, I left him with Anna so I could shower as well.  After that I was all for letting Hans rest.  He laid out on the couch, while I held Anna, and we all watched TV.  Hans wasn't the only one who was tired from the day:
Post race exhaustion.
So, it was a good day for all of us.  This may not have been his best race, but I know it won't be his last.  In case I haven't said it enough, I am so proud of Hans.  He rocked this race out!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Nannies, Races, and Mom, OH MY!

It's time I give you all a little update on life in general.  To start off, I love my kitchen every time I look in it.  Other projects are slow just due to lack of time, but I'm definitely being far more productive.  Yay!  I'm also eating at home A LOT more.  In fact, Hans and I haven't eaten a dinner out once this week.  Mom and I ate out for two lunches, but that was simply because we love the place and not because there wasn't anything else in the house or cooking seemed too overwhelming.  Things are perfect on that front, but they're better.

Mom continues to do well.  Health-wise she's doing great.  However she's still struggling a little on the emotional front.  I think we both are.  It's hard staying happy over a scan result that took place a month ago when you have no idea what's happening currently.  And then there are some doctors who will tell her that the cancer is guaranteed to come back, and while these results are great they're not the end game.  That's extremely frustrating.  And then there's chemo brain. 

Chemo brain is what makes things the worst for me.  On a good day it simply leaves Mom a little scatter-brained but charming.  On a bad day it leaves her extremely argumentative and combative.  Something as simple as me saying, "I'll drop the dogs off at the vet for their procedures on my way in to the kennel" will have her arguing about why she has to come along.  I remind myself on a daily basis that she's not intentionally insulting me and telling me I'm not competent enough to do a simple task, but rather she's probably just trying to exert some control over her life...the same control I'm trying to exert over my own. 

Oh, and on the control front, she's still not driving.  After discussing things with the neurosurgeon we all decided that it might be best if she continues to wait until the end of the year to get behind the wheel again.  There are plenty of days when I think she would probably be OK, but when I see her at the end of the day- tired, worn out, a little incoherent, I know we've made the right decision.  We'll just let her heal a little more.  In the mean time, life requires a little more planning to make sure she gets to every place she needs to go.

And now for a race update.  Hans and I are running the Richmond Half Marathon this Saturday.  And yes, I did say Hans.  I'm so proud of him.  He's been training since August and will be running his first 13.1!  And let me say, I'm fairly certain he's more prepared mentally than I am.  My heart just isn't in this long run like it has been in other long runs.  I know I can do.  I just don't really want to.  I think this is mainly because I'm already so tired from other things in life, and I'd rather sleep an additional 2.5 hours.  That said, I'm always extremely happy when I do finish, and I can always use the endorphin rush.

So, who's watch Anna while we both run?  My dad and his girlfriend.  I bet, based on the title of this post, you were expecting me to say the nanny.  Nope!  No nanny.  If you'll remember, I posted a little while ago that I had decided to hire some extra help.  Well, Hans and I put out a listing, screened applicants, interviewed a few people, did a background check, and hired a nanny / PA.  The first day was SO great.  She helped with Anna, took my car to have its oil changed, and picked a few things up from the store for me.  In the mean time, I was able to devote my full attention to the kennel for a few hours.  And then, at the end of her first day, she told me she had been offered a full-time position elsewhere and so she was giving her 2 weeks notice.  Ummm, what!?  Did I do something wrong?  Is Anna difficult?  No.  She just needed more income.

So, I took two weeks of her working with us and really thought about whether I wanted a nanny at all.  Some tasks, like going to a store or shopping in general are far easier with a second person (someone to push a stroller while I push a cart), but now that Mom's doing better she could do that.  And did I really want someone on a set schedule?  What if I needed someone in the afternoon?  Or what if I really needed someone on the weekend?  So, after much discussion, I decided to not have a nanny at all.  I'd rather save that money.

 I did, however, want someone I could contact with very little notice (less than a week) and whom I could trust.  So, after looking around some more, I decided that using a sitting service would be the best option.   I have to pay a small yearly fee, and  the hourly rate is obviously more than what I'd pay a teenager, but the care is better and I feel a little more comfortable having someone who's had more experience when it comes to Anna at her current age.  Plus, when you factor the fee into the hourly rate, it's still about the same as what I'd pay a nanny per hour, but I don't have to use them all the time.  It's a win-win!  Hans and I have already used the service once, and I was quite pleased.  I'm sure we'll use them again.  Of course, I'm always looking out for people who want to take care of Anna or who just want a baby-sitting gig.  If you know of anyone, send them my way!

Well, that's life for now.  Things are buys and exciting, but we're all doing well!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Happiness: Regaining Order

Have you ever felt like your life is just spiraling out of control?  Have you looked at your to do list and thought, "Oh screw it!  I'll never get this done!"?  Have you ever just wanted to crawl under the covers and sleep for days?  If you have, then you know exactly how I've felt these past few weeks / months.

Anna has been easy in the way that infants go, yes, but Anna is not the only thing going on in my life.  When you factor in running a business and just life in general, things get kind of crazy.  Still, I felt like I was staying on top of things fairly well, and then came July.  July was when my mom was diagnosed and things just took a nose dive from there.  Things became horribly disorganized and chaotic.  I'd have these brief moments of clarity and order, and I'd start to feel like I was gaining some control, and then something new would happen.  Mom would have a bad week, or the kennel would have a busier week, or Hans would have to work late (thereby losing my evening support).  It all culminated in me feeling utterly exhausted. 

Mom happened to notice all that was going on, and shortly before my birthday she heard me talking to Hans about how I just wish I could have someone come in and organize the house.  So, she gave me a fabulous birthday gift.  She called a professional organizer.  She told me she'd pay a certain amount, and anything above and beyond was up to me, but I knew instantly she'd made a wonderful decision in placing the call.  I needed some serious help.

So, enter Kathy from Come to Order.  We did an evaluation, and last Monday she and a small team came in to get my kitchen organized.  Organizing my kitchen was no small task!  In order to properly organize it, we also had to work on the basement (for additional space), and part of the dining room.  So, when Kathy and her team arrived, we got straight to work; two people on the basement, and me and Kathy on the actual kitchen and dining room.

Before I show photos of the AMAZING job that was done on this small space, let me tell you a bit about the experience.  First, Kathy is super friendly.  It's really hard showing all my disorganization to a stranger, but she's non-judgmental and very accepting.  Second, Kathy and her team seem to be able to see things and picture things that I never could.  She came up with organization ideas in seconds, that made me say, "Why couldn't I ever think of that?!"  Third, and this really was the most important, she kept me motivated. 

We ended up working for about 6 hours.  That's a long time for me to stay focused on cleaning, but Kathy was good about giving me simple, small projects to work on.  She give me things like sorting through recipe books to see if I wanted to keep all of them (I didn't).  She had me go through and separate utensils into different categories (cooking, measuring, grilling, etc).  She also was able to keep working when I had to stop to tend to Anna.  That was invaluable.

In the end, I couldn't be happier.  I've already booked her to help with my laundry room, front foyer, and office.  Oh, and I've also been motivated in a few other ways.  I've organized my papers and bills (and found out I don't owe as many bills as I thought I did (huge relief)), and I've focused a little more energy on cooking (money and calorie saver!).  I can't wait to see how the rest of our projects turn out!

And now for the pictures (side note: I didn't take the pictures, but I'm also computer stupid and can't seem to figure out why some of them are sideways.  You get the idea, though.):

Before: Part of the kitchen.  The fridge is pushed over to the left to allow room for a small pantry.  This, unfortunately, blocks off the corner and limits access to two cabinets.
Before: With cabinets overflowing, many items are left on the counter.

Before: A VERY overflowing pantry.
Before: Filled to the brim with glasses, mugs, and some bakeware (that's what the coffee cans are for)
Before: It may be fuzzy, but you get the general idea of disorder
Before: This was all I could open this cabinet.  The fridge was in the way.  Obviously, this makes accessing the tools in here kind of difficult.
Before: Our pots and pans...one big mess.
Before: coffee filters, hot pot, milk freezer bags and meds.  Obviously these things go together!
After: The basement extension of the kitchen.  Notice that the formerly-overflowing pantry is clean and organized.
After: Look, at how much we removed from the kitchen!!  And it's all labeled with easy access.
After: Not nearly as much on the counter top.
After: All the spices are in one spot along with a few canned goods.
After: The plates and glasses can all go in one spot...and it isn't nearly as cluttered.
After: Doesn't this just scream organized!?
So, what do you think?  The photos don't even show everything that was done, but you get the general idea.  I'm beyond pleased.  Life is already feeling a little better, and I can't wait for the next project to start! 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Being Honest

Sometimes coming up with a blog post is extremely difficult.  Sometimes that's because I'm too busy and too tired (or simply too distracted) to write.  Other times, though, it's because I'm not quite sure how to say what I want to say.  The truth is, sometimes what I really want to talk about is just too deep.  There's too much emotion behind it.

For instance, in this post, I could write pages about many different things.  I could talk about the fear I still feel when I think about Mom's diagnosis.  Or I could tell you how difficult it is having my mom live with me.  How viewing it as difficult makes me feel guilty and how that guilt is driven by my fear.  I could tell you about the things Mom and I have learned about each other and how that has affected our relationship.  Or I could tell you about my relationship with Anna.  I could tell you how weird it is to be simultaneously confident in my mothering skills and yet terrified that everything I'm doing is not enough.  I could tell you how I'm scared that all the happenings around our house will leave Anna stressed and she will become an overly-serious, nervous child.

I could tell you all these things.  I could delve into them and explain each thing in detail.  However, I won't.  These things are just too much.  They're too hard to explain.  They're too difficult to express properly.  And so, I stick to updates and odd tidbits.  They're easier to talk about and far easier to explain.  Do I sometimes wish that I could use this blog as my own personal diary?  Yes.  But that would mean hurting some of the people who are closest to me when I decide to vent.  It would mean isolating some people who don't necessarily deserve to be isolated simply because I'm angry.  And it would mean exposing parts of myself that I'm not always comfortable exposing.

So, excuse me when I go long bouts without blogging.  Sometimes I simply need to be able to process my thoughts, and the blog doesn't always help.  I love this little corner of the internet that's all mine, but sometimes it's hard to figure out what to do with it.  For now, I'll sleep, go to work, take care of Anna, take care of Mom, and hopefully come up with good ideas for the blog.  Thank you for thinking of me even when I'm not talking!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Rain

The day my mom's results came back it was pouring rain.  I had even looked out the window that morning and become nervous because I was worried it was a bad omen.  It was going to be a sad day.  Of course, that's silly, because I've always loved a good rainy day.  So, after the good new, I had to think of a different way to look at the rain.  Rain makes the flowers grow.  It smells nice.  And then I found the thought I liked the best.  Rain cleans away the dust and the dirt.  I was going to look at this rainy day, not as a grey and dreary day, but rather a day that will wash away the past.  It's a rain that will allow everything to reset and restart.

It's amazing how much happier I've been in the past couple of days.  I'm not nearly as tired, and I'm far more motivated than I was.  To that extent, and in an effort to restart, I think it's time to organize the house.

As a wonderful birthday present, Mom decided to hire a professional organizer to come to our house.  We had our first meeting today, and I could not be happier with the service.  Kathy, the organizer, spent three hours with me going from room to room.  I told her things I loved and things I hated and things I just didn't know what to do with.  She told me different ideas for better storage and organization.  She came up with ideas to expand our kitchen space and ideas for better use of our laundry room.  Just figuring out those two rooms suddenly seemed to give me tons of ideas for other things I wasn't sure what to do with. 

I'm hoping that by having a more organized house, I can start to organize other aspects of my life.  I'm hoping that by having a great work station, I'll want to work more from home.  If I can have a nice, quiet space I may actually get work done.  And if work is getting done, then maybe I won't feel so overwhelmed.  And if I'm not so overwhelmed, maybe smaller projects will feel less intimidating.  And if I'm getting through smaller projects, maybe I'll have time for more fun things.  And If I'm doing more fun things, maybe I'll be a bit happier.  You can see where this is going.

So, after such a wonderful week, I'm ready for things to keep being wonderful.  I'm continuing to say that the rain was washing the bad away.  It's my fresh start, and I'm excited for it!