Friday, November 29, 2013

Tweeners, Teens & Thanksgivikah!

Neighbor Girls brought the centerpiece over for our table - the other side has a real apple!
When we are in Dallas, we host Thanksgiving. We always run the Turkey Trot in downtown Dallas and we invite family, neighbors and friends for a feast. This year had added oomph since it is also Chanukah. And this year our house of 14 did did not include a child - for the first time. The youngest in our home was 11 years old which is officially a tweener. We also had five teenagers and a college student.
I mixed my Mother's 1960's gold & white plates, Commuter Husband's mother's water glasses and our everyday dishes to create an eclectic table. 
Jewish and Christian prayers were recited before we filled our plates with turkey and stuffing along side the latkes and kugel. We arranged the tables to all sit together with wine for the adults and organic sparkling apple cider for the non-adult and non-child crowd. Kids bantered while the adults discussed the philosophy of  higher education in England, Germany and USA.
Thanksgivikah Red Velvet Cup Cakes - courtesy of Neighbor Girl (age 11.) 
Commuter Husband thinks this is a fire hazard. I think it is perfect.
After dinner we kindled the lights of the 2nd night of Chanukah while Oldest Son recited the prayers in English and Hebrew. We had another first this year: a White Elephant gift exchange. It was a fun way to share the tradition of Chanukah gifts with our tweener and teenage crowd who did not hesitate to make the big steals!

The holiday wrapped up around 10:15pm when that final piece of the puzzle was placed in our traditional Thanksgiving Day puzzle!
Woo Hoo! A collaborative effort throughout the day. We purchased this puzzle last Summer at Mesa Verde just for Thanksgivikah 2013!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Thank Goodness for Pie

All families have their own kind of disfunction. Ours is no different. No matter how hard we try, it seems we can never leave for a camping trip without Commuter Husband and I wanting to do bodily harm to the other.

We have been camping many, many times through our 18 years of marriage. Oldest Son and Youngest Son both crawled at campsites. You would think we would have this particular transaction conquered. But alas it is not meant to be.

Each trip has its own set of circumstances. I will not go into all the gory details but our targeted leave time of  2:30 pm was in actuality 6:15pm. During that time we had to make seven (!) unexpected stops to complete various tasks. One errand included purchasing new windshield wiper blades because it was raining and our visibility was nil. 

By the time we hit the road, the atmosphere of the overly loaded Expedition was tense indeed. The boys wisely focused on reading and playing video games. 

Then I spotted the sign. Bakers Ribs. In addition to the bad moods, none of us had eaten dinner. With as few a words as possible, I navigate Commuter Husband to the restaurant. I announce "Pie" as we pull in to the gravel parking lot. Youngest Son looks up and yells for joy. 

We eagerly wolf down our scrumptious BBQ sandwiches and fried okra. The boys bite into their chocolate pies.  

Youngest Son sincerely announces "We should do this more often." 

Given the past five hours of angst, Commuter Husband totally cracks up at this remark and we all look at each other and break a smile. 

Youngest Son naively asks "Whaaaat?"

All families also have that one person who brings laughter and comedic relief. Thank you Youngest Son.

(Private Note to First Cousin Once Removed: they finally got their promised pie!)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

For Parents of Teenagers

Beautiful Daughter.
Commuter Husband and I are the parents of a tweener and a brand new teenager. We worry about the next five to eight years as we parent them into young men. Some days are wonderful. Some days are just plain awful - ask Commuter Husband and Youngest Son about last night's Spanish assignment which prompted Commuter Husband to send the teacher an impassioned email!

One of my BFsF (the one who had the heart procedure a couple weeks ago) has an 18 year old Beautiful Daughter. Beautiful Daughter was the sweetest baby and a delightful little girl. However, Beautiful Daughter's teen years presented many challenges to her and consequently to her parents.

Beautiful Daughter just got her acceptance letter to Texas A&M and this is what she felt ...

Every person I've come in contact with has made me who I am, but the one person who helped me get to this point the most was my mother. I never could have navigated this journey to college without her, and when I was sick, she was the one who pushed me forward to make sure I didn't lose my shot at this dream. At times I felt like I couldn't even finish high school, but she never stopped believing in me. So thank you Kare Bear. 
  • Thank you for all the late nights you helped me study. 
  • Thank you for letting me do what I needed to, even when it was hard for our family and people thought you were wrong.
  • Thank you for homeschooling me. 
  • Thank you for putting me in Karen Dillard.
  • Thank you for all the preparation you did starting when I was so young. 
  • Thank you for making me participate with Duke TIP.
  • Thank you for reading over my essays.
  • Thank you for finding me a wonderful tutor. 
  • Thank you for spending endless hours researching to make sure I was prepared and had the perfect resources I needed. 
  • Thank you for staying up to type my papers after I wrote them when I was too tired to even open a laptop. 
  • Thank you for putting so much time into getting accommodations for me at school.
  • Thank you for coming to take me home on days when I just needed to be with you.
  • Thank you for always fighting for me.
  • Thank you for being so patient with me.
  • Thank you for never giving up on me when so many others did.
You are the perfect mom for me and one of my closest friends. The Lord has a great sense of humor, and I thank him every day for giving me you to raise and challenge me. I love you so much.

I have been fortunate to watch this Beautiful Daughter show her beauty inside and out. She gets it from her mother.

Thanks to Beautiful Daughter for giving me permission to post her writing.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Lieutenant Colonel, Infantry, Battalion Commander

My Little Brother and my nieces - the soldier and the father.
After graduating with a political science degree, my Little Brother enlisted with the United States Army. He went in as a regular soldier and earned his way into Officer Candidate School. My grandmother (who helped raise us) died while he was at OCS and we waited to tell him because we knew he needed to focus and stay the course at OCS

Little Brother soon went through Ranger training which had three phases. I met him at DFW airport as he transitioned from Phase 2 to Phase 3. He was 20 lbs lighter and we both teared up upon seeing each other. He earned his elite forces Ranger Tab.

He spent an incredible year as aid-de-camp to a three star general which afforded him the opportunity to be in the White House with President Obama and meet with the leader of Puerto Rico among other once in a lifetime experiences.

I have visited him at the approximately ten places he has lived except one. I did not visit him while he was in Iraq for 15 months. His wife was left alone in upstate New York, Fort Drum, to care for children ages 8 and 5 and a sweet baby girl.

My Little Brother has over 20 years of service now and leads a Recruiting Battalion in the Pacific Northwest as a Lieutenant Colonel

I am continually impressed with this Little Brother and the choices he makes for his country and his family as a soldier, husband, father, grandson, uncle and brother. Oldest Son and Youngest Son know and love their uncle. He is the uncle who skis with them and plays basketball with them and proudly wears a United States Army uniform.

This was written about my Little Brother. It pretty much says it all.

"You're a Soldiers leader and I and my Soldiers always knew it and appreciated it. Some people are great leaders, some are good men, very few are both."

My Little Brother is not alone - not by a long shot. There have been and are many soldiers in all branches of the military protecting our freedoms. There is not a word big enough to convey our gratitude ...

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The S in BFsF

Brunette BF, Blond BF and I all wore one of these in our version of Friday Night Lights at Alvarado High School.
I hesitate to use the popular BFF because it seems so singular. However, there really is no one BFF for me. I am fortunate to use a plural version: Best FriendS Forever (BFsF).

Earlier this week I attended the funeral of the mother of one of my two best friends from Jr. High and High School. Brunette BF and Blond BF have been my best friends since we were 12 years old. That calculates to 36 plus years. The three of us grew up together and each chose different paths upon high school graduation. Currently, Brunette BF's daughter is expecting her first baby, Blond BF's daughter is in college figuring out her life path and I still have an 11 year old grabbing my hand to hold. We are lucky when we see each other more than once a year but there have been years with no face to face interaction. It does NOT matter. We are still those young girls whose core remains same and we share an understanding and love of who we each truly are on the inside. I know for a fact that these two beautiful BF(s)F would do anything for me. Last night we grabbed three precious hours to catch up. We are each grateful and focus on the time we do have versus the time we do not.

This morning Oldest Son had the privilege of be one of those honored at the Bar Mitzvah of one of his BFsF. Oldest Son and Jewish BF met when Oldest Son kept biting Jewish BF. They were two years old. The Temple Emanu-El Preschool director said either they will be best friends or worst enemies. Fortunately in 2002, these two year old boys chose the former. Jewish BF told this story in his D'var Torah (lesson interpreting bible text) today to illustrate the presence of G-d everywhere who puts people in your path in mysterious ways indeed. Jewish BF talked about how they will be best friends forever. Jewish BF then called Oldest Son to the bimah to help lead the Kiddush, the prayer over the wine (or grape juice in this case), and the Ha-motzi, prayer over the Challah (braided bread.)  Oldest Son has a gift more valuable than he can possibly understand at 13 years old.

Like my BFsF and me, these two boys have already chosen different paths. They have different schools, different areas of focus and different day-to-day friends. It does NOT matter. When they are together, they are just two life-long 13 year old teenage boys enjoying the time they have and knowing there will always be a next time.

Jewish BF and Oldest Son at Temple Emanu-El standing together on the bimah in front of the ark. Not pictured: ridiculously proud parents holding back tears!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Gift

Past Couple Months

Commuter Husband and I have had particularly tough work schedules recently. Commuter Husband has been traveling all over the country to conduct employee meetings and I have been putting in 60+ hour work weeks.

6:23pm Last Night - Commuter Husband sends me a text that he is leaving Houston

After working 13 hours, Commuter Husband then drives 4 hours from Houston to Dallas to arrive home well after bedtime.

6:24pm Last Night - I text back ...

... the back gate out, the security system out and fridge in garage is out ...

It was all true. Oldest Son and I had to clean some items out of the warm fridge - ugh.

10:15pm Last Night

Commuter arrives home. He resets the breaker which restores all our "out" stuff.

3:00am This Morning

My alarm goes off at 3am so I can prepare for a 7am meeting. I drift into the kitchen and Commuter Husband hands me a cup of coffee. I ask why is he up? He responds "To make you coffee." And he heads back to bed ...

5:45am This Morning

As I shower, I try to figure out when I can get gas since I know the tank is down to 38 miles. I am calculating if I can get to downtown and then back out to Plano for meetings.

6:05am This Morning

Commuter Husband nonchalantly tells me he put gas in my car last night - that would be after arriving home at 10:15pm!

A surge of relief and love swept through me. I looked over at Commuter Husband with tears in my eyes and said I love you (with meaning.) To have one less thing to do in a day where I had 12 work meetings to manage on 5 hours of sleep to was a gift - truly.

Monday, November 4, 2013

3am Every Monday Morning

Commuter Husband gets up at 3am most Monday mornings to drive to Houston. And he then works a full day. I know it is hard. He does it to have one extra night with Oldest Son, Youngest Son and me. He gets to "tuck in" in the boys - yes we still do that ...

I talked with the father of one of Youngest Son's friends this past week. He also does the Houston commute weekly. It is a Commuter Family lifestyle for some ... perhaps for many.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

9 Months Post-Op

I had my 9 month check up with the breast surgeon. It was a short visit. All is good. She said come back in a year. I asked "Why?" She replied that she usually did follow ups for a couple of years. I politely declined and she had no problem putting me on an "as needed" status. I have one less thing on my to do list and one less bill to burden the medical system. But most importantly there are way too many other women who will truly need that appointment with my breast surgeon - sadly.

I scheduled my gynecologist appointment this week. I am nervous. I will feel much better when that pap smear comes back clear.

Now I have a bit of a Rant ...

Mastectomy without Reconstruction (Simple Mastectomy)

Mastectomy without reconstruction or "simple" mastectomy is removal of the breast tissue and overlying skin including the nipple/areolar complex, via an elliptical incision, usually leaving a transverse or oblique scar.

Whilst post operative photographs are usually readily available as a resource for women undergoing breast reconstruction, there are often few images available for women undergoing mastectomy without reconstruction. The multiple images below demonstrate the varied cosmetic results that may follow simple mastectomy, related primarily to operative technique and the body habitus of the patient.

Cosmetically sub-optimal folds of flesh at the side of the body or 'dog-ears' are frequent following mastectomy. Redundant skin and fatty soft tissue at the outer end of a mastectomy scar can be unsightly and uncomfortable. 

I have some excess skin and small dog-ears. On the advice of my breast surgeon, I have an appointment with a plastic surgeon. If it is a simple procedure to remove then I may consider doing it. If not, then I can definitely live with my bumpy chest.

I did get slightly agitated when the plastic surgeon's nurse advised that insurance would not likely cover the procedure if I decided to proceed. I asked "Why?" She said they do not usually cover it "just to improve how it looks." I do not quite follow the logic of how a full breast reconstruction would be covered if I asked for it right now but removing some excess skin would not? Pretty sure both fall into the category of "improving how it looks." I am also certain that there is a significant cost differential. So tomorrow I will call my insurance case worker and discuss with her. It will be interesting to hear what she says.

The glorious thing about breast cancer awareness is that typically everything you could possibly need is covered by insurance including life saving treatments, camisoles to hold your drains, physical therapy, special bras and multiple types of reconstruction. It does not feel right that the same level of coverage and attention would fall short for women who decide to go breast-free. There are amazing plastic surgery techniques to reconstruct breasts with beautiful results. So how can there not be surgical techniques to avoid or insurance coverage to fix what you see in those photos?