Friday, September 21, 2012

Ten Things I Learned From My Husband's Brain Tumor

Recently my husband was diagnosed with a brain tumor, had brain surgery and is still undergoing treatment. It has been a crazy journey that has only just begun. I have learned a lot in the last 5 weeks, some of which I thought I should share - here are my Top Ten...

10. Knowledge is Power - The more informed you are about things in your life, the better decisions you can make. Most people won't intentionally mislead you, but they may be limited in their own knowledge and they may have their own agendas. Whether it comes to your health, your diagnosis, your treatment, even your kid's school - know everything there is to know and ask lots of questions. And always get a second opinion. Do not be afraid of offending anyone, you must be your own advocate! This is your life after all and you will be the one who has to live with the consequences.

9. Don't Sweat the Small Stuff - Easier said than done most of the time, but if something isn't important in the scheme of things just let it go. There is nothing you can do about traffic, bad weather or spilled milk so just take a deep breath and realize that it isn't worth a second thought.

8. Pay attention to the little things - Not to be confused with the "small stuff," the little things are the important things that add up like hugs, sunsets, compliments and kindness. Too often we go through life in autopilot and don't stop to smell the roses or take time to tell someone we love them, or even ask someone we love how their day was. These are the little things that add up and although small, mean a lot.

7. Practice Kindness - "Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible." - Dalai Lama. This is my husband's favorite quote. Kindness is a hard thing to remember in the midst of everyday life. Too often we go through the day adding up all the bad stuff that happened to us - getting cut off in traffic, being late for work, kids fighting...And then we take it out on others who just happen to get in your way. If we can remember to let go of the small stuff and focus on the little things then we can start to enjoy life more. And we can pass it on. Especially when others are unkind to us, we must remember they could be suffering in some private way and your kindness may change their day too. 

6. Ask for help - This one is hard for both men and women, but so important.There are so many people who genuinely want to help but we are always afraid we are going to burden them. It takes a village to not only raise your kids but even to just get through the day sometimes. Most of your friends and family are offering because they truly want to help. Plus anything you ask, no matter how small, will make them feel useful and important - it's a win win!

5. You are what you eat - I made a decision a while back to try to make healthier food decisions for my family. I don't always stick to it as strictly as I would like, but I try. My husband ate what I bought but he never really bought into it until his diagnosis. That is what a life changing event will do, change your life. He will never drink a Diet Coke again! When something goes wrong inside your body and there is no explanation why, you start to realize that there are things you can control, like how many chemicals you choose to put in your body. You only have one body and no one is going to take care of it for you. Obesity, ADHD, autism, these are all relatively new to the human race. We are animals after all and meant to eat meat and vegetables, not red dye #5. Processed food is just that, processed. They take out the good stuff and then try to compensate by putting artificial stuff back in. If you can't pronounce the ingredients or you don't know what they are then chances are they were developed in a lab to make the product more profitable while getting your taste buds hooked on it. Healthy eating can't prevent everything for happening when it comes to your health, but it can definitely prevent a lot and you have complete control over it. Don't take your kid's health for granted either, they don't a choice. That is in your hands, so do right by them as well.

4. If you have a choice, choose responsibly - Things happen to us everyday that are totally out of our control. You could get hit by a car, get laid off or find out you have a brain tumor. However, there are so many things that we can control that we take for granted. For example, we can choose not to text and drive, not to smoke cigarettes. We can choose to eat healthier, work out, laugh more. Your choices do have consequences both good and bad. Be responsible with your life and with those around you.

3. Say You're Sorry - say it often, mean it and make up for it. There are very few things in life worth damaging important relationships on. Just like the saying, "never go to bed angry," never leave the house angry, hang up angry, etc. Life is just too short. If you did something wrong, admit it, make up for it and move on. Even if you don't think you did something wrong, chances are you could have handled things differently and apologizing for that will start things in the right direction.

2. Be a better person - we all want to do this but in practice it's really hard so we put it off saying we will do it tomorrow. You don't have to completely change who you are or donate all of your time to charity to be better. Just read numbers 3-10 and work on them little by little.

1. Be Happy - To do this you may have to make some hard choices to let go of things that are dragging you down. This could be things, commitments or even people. You won't ever have a chance to do Today over, so make it the best day for you and your loved ones. Choose to be happy.

Friday, September 14, 2012

And Life Goes On...(repost from Guest Blog)

This post was originally posted as a guest blog on

My house is a complete disaster. There are dishes to be done, laundry to put away and a million things to do before the first day of school which happens to be tomorrow. And here I sit, feeling guilty about taking time to explore my feelings. Guilt is a feeling I am quite familiar with lately. Maybe that is normal when your husband has a brain tumor, not sure since this is all new to me.

Lately I have been guilty more than anything else. I feel guilty for all the fights we had over the last year for things, it turns out, my husband couldn’t control. I feel guilty for still getting angry at him even though I know he probably still can’t control it, not to mention all the stress that he is under. I feel guilty that our children have to deal with something so big when they should just be enjoying their childhoods. I feel guilty for letting my house go to shit. I feel guilty for not being more vigilant about my husband’s diet (and let’s face it – mine and the kids). I feel guilty for getting angry at how this has all changed my life. I feel guilty. And that’s okay, because as a woman and a mom, I am very familiar with this feeling. It’s all the other crap feelings that I can’t quite get my arms around.

My husband had been having headaches. We didn’t think anything of it. Sometimes he felt dizzy or unbalanced. We self-diagnosed that he had a sinus infection. Our doctor agreed and put him on antibiotics. Some days he would come home from work and go to bed. I got angry. I didn’t get to go to bed when I had a headache. Buck up buddy! (I, of course, did not say this and instead suffered in silence and let it stew.) The Thursday we found out started like any other day. We had a long to-do list that included packing for my husband’s high school reunion that weekend, football practice and a follow-up doctor’s appointment because the meds she put him on weren’t working (cause dah, he did not have a sinus infection). The doctor’s appointment led to an MRI scheduled for 9:30 pm that night. We were still planning on going to the reunion, so sure the MRI would show nothing. And then the phone rang at 11:15 pm, 5 minutes after we got home. And life as we knew it would never be the same.

In less than a week, we would be in and out of the hospital twice (two different hospitals) including a four hour brain surgery. (Yup, they drilled two holes in my husband’s skull and then used a jigsaw.) We would learn things about the brain and tumors we never hoped to know. I would have to buzz my husband’s hair since the haircut the surgeons left him with was a bad reverse Mohawk. I found a whole new use for reminders on my phone, to tell us when he needed his medicine. Our Facebook pages lit up with wishes from people we hadn’t talked to in 10 years and even from people we didn’t know. Family came to visit and help with the kids. Friends stopped by to say hello and bring food (wishing that part didn’t end ). It was a crazy, whirlwind of activity which left little time to think about the hard truth of the situation. And then all the motion stopped and what was left was real life. Because no matter how much you wish it would, life does not stop for your husband’s brain tumor. Life goes on.

The hardest part of all this has been trying to continue on with our lives. We have four boys ages 4 to 14 and they are very active. We have football and sleepovers and back to school shopping. And of course, they actually want to eat from time to time which involves grocery shopping and cooking. The kids have been trying to be good, but they are kids and there are still fights. There is laundry and cleaning and doctor’s appointments. And all of this must go on while my husband still has a tumor on the other side of his brain which can’t be operated on. I am overwhelmed to say the least and when it gets too much to handle, I feel guilty about that too because my poor husband is the one actually going through all of this. He is my best friend and I share everything it him, but I do not want to add to his burden by telling him how hard this is on me. He is starting to get out and about more because I think sitting in the recliner all day is driving him nuts. And so he is going to play golf. And I feel guilty because I am angry that he gets to play golf while I work, clean the house (sometimes), cart the kids everywhere and remember all the doctor’s appointments. Have fun honey, ahhhhhhhhh!

What I have come to understand is that the trauma of the diagnosis and even the surgery was hard, but finding the strength to go on with life is even harder. I know that people go through their own personal battles every day and I applaud them for all their hard work. If anyone has any secrets to not losing their shit along the way, I am all ears.

May the force be with you, I am certainly hoping it is on our side.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Why Men Should Always Listen to Their Wives

Here is my public service announcement for the day...

Men, please listen to your wives when they tell you how to do something.


Because I am not telling you how to do it (load the dishwasher, do the laundry, clean the bathroom, put the kids to bed...) because my way is the right. I PROMISE! I am telling you how to do it because I have done it 367 times the wrong way myself and finally figured out the best way to do it on the 368th time. Let's not reinvent the wheel here. Please take advantage of my many failures and believe me when I say that this is the right way.

Yup, that was how I did it time number 175. I know it really seems like it would be the best way, but if you would like we can discuss why it didn't work for the next 30 minutes or you can do it the right way!

Not to mention that if you do it that way (ugh, trust me that was time 203), I will just have to re-do it and then I will be angry because the help you offered me actually took me longer than had I done it myself the first time. I will then proceed to be quietly angry for the rest of day and make snide comments under my breath for hours.

So let's review. Women are not perfect, far from it. We fail like 99% of the time. Lucky for us, we get to do these wonderful household chores like a million times a day and have had the luxury of being able to perfect them. If you do them like once a week, please do it the right way to save everyone (including yourself) time, energy and fights with your wife.

Hope this helps ladies! Happy Friday!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Ten Things I wish my children knew...(repost)

Parenting is hard stuff. Now if you are a parent, you just said AMEN SISTER! and if you are a child, you just rolled your eyes at me. As I sit here writing this, I really wish that our kids knew just how hard it was because maybe then they would cut us some slack. My husband and I were lucky enough to take a 5 day trip to warm tropical places without kids recently and it sure did put things in perspective. I am pretty sure that we didn't fight once, not a single negative thought entered my head during the entire week. Being among adults for that long was like being in heaven. No one talked back to us, no one was rude or condescending and no one expected me to pick up after them. Then we came home and reality hit me like a slap in the face. Life is hard. Being a parent is hard. And doing what you know is right is hard, especially when it makes your children unhappy. Let's face it, as parents we want nothing more than for our children to be happy all the time, but that just isn't possible and its hard to be the reason they are upset. So for all you kids out there, here are ten things that your parents wish you knew and understood cause it would make the next 10+ years so much easier for everyone...

10. Being a parent is hard work, really, really hard work. From the moment you are born, until the day you die we worry about you and feel responsible for you even when you are grown up. It is a job that takes every minute of every day and creeps into every thought. And there is very little thanks given until you are old enough to understand the sacrifices we have made for you. But we wouldn't trade it for anything.

9. We don't want to say no all the time. I know you find this one really hard to believe, but our lives would be much easier if we could say yes all the time. But unfortunately, we don't have the time, money or bad judgement to always say yes. If you think No is hard to hear, you should know it is a million times harder to say. We love you and we want you to be happy, but life just doesn't work that way and no is a big part of life. Sorry...

8. We actually do know what you are going through. While it may seem to you that we are ancient, we still remember what it was like to be your age and we definitely remember how hard it was. In fact, most of us wouldn't go back no matter how much you paid us. And even as adults, we hate homework just as much (if not more) than you do. Growing up is hard and other kids can be mean. If we could, we would shelter you from everything bad, but we can't. However, we are always here for a hug (and we won't tell anyone). And every now and then you might want to listen to our advice because we have already lived through it (and no, it wasn't totally different when we were growing up).

7.  We are on your side. That is the great thing about family, we are here for you no matter what and we are always on your side even if doesn't feel like it. We will always listen to you and try our best to help in anyway that we can. But we can't help if you don't tell us what is wrong, so trust us a little - we might surprise you.

6. The world is a cruel place and our job is to protect you. Unfortunately there are bad people out there that do bad things (even good people do bad things sometimes). Our job is to make sure they don't do bad things to you. You may think we are being over protective or just plain annoying, but in the end we are always worried about "what-ifs" and will make our decisions based on keeping you safe. We know you think it won't ever happen to you, but believe me it is going to happen to someone. We don't want that someone to be you. Please listen even half of the time, because it could honestly save your life some day.

5. Money does not grow on trees. I am sure you have heard this a million times, I know I did growing up. (And yes, when you are a parent you will totally say all those annoying things your parents said that you swore you would never say.) It's hard at your age to understand the value of money or just how hard you have to work to earn it. You will soon find out when you get your first job, but until then please take our word for it that money is hard to come by. Not only do we not make enough to begin with, but everything costs money like the house you live in, the food you eat, the car that takes you everywhere, even the water you shower in every day (yes, water is not free). Again, if we could buy you everything you wanted we just might (reference #9).

4. Sometimes it breaks our hearts to punish you. I know you think we love to do this, but honestly we don't. Taking away things you like is no fun for us, remember - we really want you to be happy. Many times after I punish my kids, I feel sad and guilty all day. And most times, without you being occupied by computers, video games and friends, it honestly makes life harder for your parents. But our job is to teach you right and wrong and that you need to be held accountable for your own actions. My advice - if you don't want to be punished for something, then you should think twice about doing something you know you shouldn't do (and you totally know you shouldn't be doing it so don't try to play dumb - we are on to you).

3. If you want me to be nice to you, be nice to me. This should go without saying, but for some reason this is lost on most people under the age of 22 (and even some adults). I don't like to yell, really I don't. I would like nothing more than than to float from day to day with a smile on my face happy as can be. However, I also don't like when people are rude or mean to me, just like you don't like it when I am rude or mean to you. So let's make a deal. I will smile and be nice (and say please and thank you) if you can promise to do the same for me. It may take some getting use to, but I think you might actually find it is nice to get along.

2. You get more bees with honey. Okay, so the saying really goes "You catch more flies with honey than vinegar", and means being sweet-tempered will get you what you want sooner than being sour-tempered. This is very similar to #3. What is boils down to is this - if you want something from me, ask me nicely. I am much more likely to say yes (even to something I should say no to) if you are nice and polite and give me good (real) reasons as to why this is important to you. Your presentation will actually set the tone for how the entire exchange between us goes, so tread wisely...

1. We love you no matter what. I am not sure there is anything you can do that would make me stop loving you. (That is not an invitation to try however.) I know that you will make mistakes and do stupid things as you grow up. That is what growing up is all about. But please know that I will love you anyway and in spite of all that. My job is to help you through the hard times and move past the mistakes and kiss away your tears. We are in this crazy ride together so we might as well hold hands as we fall.