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Thursday, December 29, 2011

The worst year of my life and what it taught me

That's me and Dad on the first day of his chemo treatment. It was St. Patrick's Day 2011

Well, to say 2011 has been the most fucked up year I've had to date is probably an understatement. As you've read, we've been through some serious mud courtesy of the Universe. Despite all of this bullshit and horror, it's taught me a lot about myself and the people I have previously and now surround myself with.

For starters, I believed that I would be graduating from college by December of this year. Unfortunately, life had other plans. I also decided to try my hand at the ultimate multi-tasking experience of life by doing the FT college, FT mom and part time employee thing. Don't get me wrong, I've worked most of my life, but when you have a husband who's the breadwinner and haven't worked a regular job in almost 11 years and have crap work history over that time, people don't want to give you the chance to explain that every time your kids are sick, your minimal pay has to be forfeited to take care of those kids so your husband can continue to work at double to triple the pay you make. So, I made the decision to go back to school in lat 2009 as opposed to getting fired for working a minimum wage crap job and getting fired in a few short weeks. This gave me the chance to be around other "adults" and eventually have a future for my family where hubby didn't have to work 80 hours each week for us to survive.
I got a part time receptionist job at a company that was a 13 mile drive (1 way) from home. We then moved from Largo to St. Pete shortly after, making that drive an extra 5 miles longer and it started right after my kids got out of school and was getting me home after they were in bed. My parents were helping a lot and my husband was dealing with the dinner and bed time routine and chores wonderfully. The downfall was that  we decided to keep our kids in school in Largo, so I was driving them to Largo in the mornings, driving back to St. Pete for classes, back to Largo to pick them up, back to St. Pete to my mom's, then I was driving to Palm Harbor to work, then back home to St. Pete when I was done for the night. This wasn't too bad at first, but gas quickly went up to $3.90/gallon and the driving was exhausting. That doesn't even count my instant road rage as soon as I sit in the drivers seat.
A few short weeks after all of this, we were told of my fathers diagnosis. This was maybe a month into my working, about a month into the semester of classes and only a week or 2 into us moving into a new house. (That was falling apart and we soon found out was in foreclosure). But, we were going to figure it out.
Dad started chemo in mid-May, just about a week and a half after diagnosis and it wasn't too bad at first. We handle everything with humor, however inappropriate in my family. I continued to work and go to school, but the job didn't last. I didn't think it was right to burden my parents with watching the kids for me to work with this new pile of shit on their heads. So, I ended up having to leave the job after only working for them for a short 2 1/2 months. It sucked, because I enjoyed working with the people, though the job itself wasn't so great and neither was the mileage.
We got papers from an attorney just a few days after Dad starting treatment, they were requesting a final judgment of foreclosure on a house that we had already dumped almost $2500 out of pocket into in hopes of fixing it up and eventually buying. (Forgot to mention that I was T-Boned first thing in the morning of moving day and that shoulda been a sign) So, I made furious phone calls and was doing tons of research both for school and about the house and about my father's treatments and cancer.
Flash forward to the first few days of May and the end of Spring classes, I made the decision to take the summer off of school to go with my father to Dr's and treatments and spend some time with the kids for the summer.
THAT didn't work out, either. I found a job for cash working as a remodel assistant. (manual labor monkey) busting my butt, knocking up tile, painting and smelling like a 4 day old corpse when I left. I LOVED IT! But we also had to move due to the house situation, so I found a new place and signed the papers and go to work on fixing it up. (This place was a horror story in the making between the paint colors (think slaughtered 80's cartoon characters of all colors in every room) and the cleaning (19 hours on just cleaning the TILE floors)) So, I was working the equivalent of 2 remodeling jobs, doing the mom thing, and going with Dad. It wasn't too bad. I was loosing a TON of weight, too. BONUS!!!!
Here are some before and after photos of the [2nd] house we moved into.
The bedroom before
The bedroom after. 

The kitchen before. OMG!
The kitchen after. GO NOLES! lol

Now, these are the highlights. We didn't do much other than clean for a week and paint for another week and get the carpets cleaned, but it was cheaper and in the area we needed to be close to my parents. This house ended up taking up most of my time and my husband ended up having to go out of town for work, so I had to do the move mostly on my own with my mother driving a few loads to the new place and she helped me paint a bit. I got it all done in a matter of 3 weeks. Including the move and clean up of the old place. Most of it was done while working and taking the kids to and from school and around Dad's appointments and it made me feel wonderful that I was able to do it all and not break down.
All of this running around and moving also caused me to lose a SIGNIFICANT amount of weight in a short time and made me realize that my head and heart could handle everything as long as I kept moving and didn't sit still. Essentially this is what most call avoidance. I am a fucking PROFESSIONAL! I had moments of panic and uncontrollable sobbing, but then I'd move, walk, rake, lift weights, and it would all stop.
All of this also made me take inventory of the friends I had. The people that we'd been spending time with, dropping everything for and helping out, trying to workout schedules with the meet up and it occurred to me that not a single one of those mofos had bothered to call, stop by, or even send an email. How awesome is that? Other than the ones I posted about before, I had 1 person who seemed to give a crap that I didn't share a bed or DNA with. Linda.

Ignore the mess in the background, but this is me (in the orange) with Linda.

During all of this mess, she was the normal I needed. She let me vent and made me smile and just hung out and helped when we needed it most.
Don't get me wrong, Linda wasn't the only non-relative I spoke to for 9 long months, but she was the one who was there most often and most consistently. I also had Erin K, who bought me the coffee I needed and just allowed me the distraction and venting when her time would allow, there's also Amy who has a busy schedule, but she came over to run with me, hung out for the ceremony we had, and more recently attended a naughty fitness class that was hilarious. I also had Susan aka MS14. She's been super cool to hang out with and helped me work through my frustrations with fair weather friends and she's bought me lunch on days when she's off and we just generally have a good time and talk. She also gives me suggestions and things to think about when it comes to treatments and such with Dad, seeing as how she's a nurse and all. lol
I also have other friends that have a ton going on and I haven't been able to see often like Gary, Crystal and Gina. They all have their own thing going and I love them for the times I do get to see them, or just poke fun at them on face book.
I also reconnected with my old friend Chris and met his amazingly awesomely wonderful wife Leina that I have more in common with than 2 strangers from opposite sides of the country should. Chris and Leina are wonderful friends and they own a tattoo shop and a gym and work extremely hard and have super long hours and live too far away, but when it comes down to it, they're the ones that I can just vent incessantly to, like Linda, and they just take it all.
These are the people that I am the most thankful for. The ones who aren't "brought down" by my negativity. (fucking cheap cop out.)
This year has also taught me that family does not equate to loyalty and reliability. I have family that is genetic, but the majority of them can suck it. Hardly any of them have bothered to even contact my mother or father or I about my Dad and he's THEIR EFFIN BROTHER! Then there's my "nuclear" family. Mom, Dad, and little brother. We're a strong set. Anyone weaker would have broken under what we've dealt with. And then there's my chosen family. My cousin Jen, while genetically related is also a part of the chosen group. She's called me more than almost any of my friends and worries about my father and mother almost as much as I do, I'm sure. There's also the one I like to call Rahkenstein. She is amazingly strong and has no idea. She has a HUGE heart and has so much pain in her past that I don't know how she does it. She has so many medical things going on at any given time that I worry about her every day, but she worries about my family and I just as much. Then there's my in-laws. My husbands wonderful family.

My husband's grandfather had to have his leg amputated due to the shitastic disease myosarcoma. I sat with my husband's family the entire day of the surgery at Moffitt because I knew that feeling all too well. The feeling was still fresh for me, but my husband's boss wouldn't allow my husband to leave work, so I went in his stead. I know it's probably not the same, but I felt like I could do something to help, having been in that exact same chair not 3 months earlier.

On top of all of this crap, we've had both vehicles break down, Dad's been hospitalized twice, my husband almost quit his job, my son skipped his first class, I've cried myself to sleep and thought things would just get worse. Despite all of the bullshit we've gone through this year, we've still managed to do our yearly breast cancer walk and donations, I've held my GPA up and improved it once I went back to classes in August, my husband and I renewed our wedding vows after 10 years of marriage, the kids are doing alright, we had a pretty good Christmas except that it was the first one my father missed my entire life, because he's been in the hospital for 22 days now. For all of that, we've grown stronger as a family and I have become stronger as a person. I'm down 80+ lbs (out of avoidance and a poor attempt to literally run away from it all), my husband got a good report from his Dr on his state as a diabetic, and we've helped my parents with what they needed.
Over all, this has been one really shitty year. One which I can't wait to wish good riddance to. The only good thing to come out of it is knowing that we van handle the worst and not kill anyone in the process.

I will not make resolutions, because it's all just another way to write down something I'll most likely fail at or kick myself for not overachieving. I will say that I will try. I will try to continue on the path of being better at what I've proven to be pretty decent at this far. I will try REALLY REALLY hard to NOT end up in jail or the psych ward. I will try to remember these 3 photos that I took of journal covers I saw in TJ Maxx when Christmas shopping.
And within those you surround yourself with.

I sure as hell hope so.

I try to, as often as possible.

And this one, I need to remember when it comes to everything else in life.
I'm hoping that a metaphorical fire is ok. Literal would be painful.

And THIS is our family motto:

On that note, have a HAPPY FUCKING NEW YEAR! BRING ON 2012!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

He is human, after all. That kinda sucks.

As children growing up in healthy homes, we tend to idolize our parents. It's not something we decide consciously, but we see them as bigger that life and with all of the answers and abilities that we didn't see them obtain and our only explanation is that they're "super" and have some amazing power.
As we grow and become more experienced at the battle of life, we see them as human but still hold them to a higher standard. (except maybe between the ages of 13 and about 18) We unconsciously place them on pedestals and expect them to have some type of super power as if they'll forever be indestructible.
As adults, we learn that our parents are not super heroes after all and they don't really have any super powers, but are human. Once we have our own children and we begin to experience what our parents have gone through, we begin to assume the role of "super" to our children without ever realizing it. While we all know that our parents aren't super heroes of the mythic sense, they do remain our heroes in some way.

Very few things have ever put me in a position to hate that my parents are "simply" human more than the monster that is cancer. My father has always been more than just a man, my dad, my mother's husband; he's been a super hero. He made amazingly impossible softball plays (and so did my super mom), he worked more hours than I thought were humanly possible for anyone to physically be capable of, he's been "the ideal" all my life. And now this horror shows up in our lives.
Yes, my dad has been sick in the past and he even took around 11 whole days off of work in the last 15 years. I've seen him cry at funerals and he may have even had a bit of leaking from the tear ducts on my wedding day. I've seen him sore and witnessed a few drops of blood seep out of his skin when he was cut, but never anything that took him down. In my eyes as a child, my dad could wrestle an angry bear and put a wild lion in a sleeper hold and knock him out and come out of both barely breaking a sweat, but now I've seen the extent it his humanity and holy shit, does it suck!
My dad is not supposed to be able to be afraid, he's never been afraid of anything. He's not supposed to be in constant pain or be sad or get depressed. Those are all normal human things and he's supposed to be super human. He's my DAD! And now you, cancer. You come along and hit me in the face with the big ass reality brick and fuck everything up. Fuck you.
Know this! We are a family. Not just any family, but the strongest of this family you will EVER encounter and this is MY DAD! He's a super hero and he is going to fight and kick your evil ass. Sure, there are going to be days when he's unsure or days when he's truly scared or tired, but those are the days where you get to look over his shoulder and deal with ME! I will be right behind him this entire fight and I know that I may not look scary, but I am angry and strong and I have children that expect my dad to be there when they need him and a brother who needs to be able to hang out with him and a mother who loves her husband more than anything. So help me, I am going to make all of those things happen come hell or high water.
So, cancer, while some days may seem like you're gaining the upper hand, don't mistake that for you winning. Everyone has to slow their pace a bit to catch their breath, we all have to look up to see the finish line, all this does is strengthen our will and renews our fighting spirit.
That is my super dad and he taught me to be a stubborn, strong, fighter of a daughter and we're competitive by nature. You should know that we are here to win and we will take nothing less.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

F*cking Christmas Season

I gotta say, I hate this time of year. People are generally greedy as hell and gradually becoming more impatient and greedy. My favorite parts of this season are all of the older movies that I watched as a child, the trees and their smells, the cool weather (where applicable) and the time with my family (most of it, anyway).
What I don't like are the reports of home invasions, the reported sickening amount of money people spent on Black Friday and Cyber Monday considering our unemployment, foreclosure and homelessness numbers and the fact the people do stupid mean things to each other like that chick that pepper sprayed her way through Walmart to get to the cheap ass TV that's gonna be broken in a year because her kids really don't appreciate shit. How would they? Look at what that dumbass did to get it for them.
Honestly, if it wasn't for our kids, we wouldn't even bother with anything more than the time with family at my parents' house and maybe a small tree. The tree would be just big enough to scent the entire 1K-ish square feet of our rented and crapilly maintained home. I would continue with trying to donate and help others out when possible, but I wouldn't worry about presents and all of that.
Anyway, we're literally down to the wire at school. I have 1 more day of classes in each course to attend and then it's finals. This is where I begin to stress out for seemingly no reason, but this has been the hardest semester for me yet. That is taking into account the Spring semester when we moved twice and were told about my father's cancer and also last summer's semester where a 14 week course and all of it's assignments are jammed into a mere 8 week semester and that was the one when I had to take a state exam for my math course to determine if I'd be able to move onto a course that would actually COUNT toward my friggin GPA. Well, I'll stress and freak out, as usual, but this time I have 2 simple papers and 1 CTAP final paper to write, proof read, edit, finalize and turn in for my Ethics course, which I'm not even interested in. Unfortunately it's a required course for my 31 year old ass to move on to complete the last 3 requirements in order to finally obtain my AA at 32 at the end of the Spring semester. But I'll do it because I've made a decision. I'll do it because others have assumed that I can't or won't follow through. I'll do it to prove to myself, my husband, my kids and my parents that I can and to make them proud of me for something other than just surviving and for not killing my children. I'll do it because I'll be able to say that I accomplished something I set out to do for one of the few times in my life that wasn't passing a person through my no no lady parts. And I'll do it with all of my awesome and at the honors level that I've worked so hard to earn, regardless if I can afford the pay the $100 dues for the National Honors Society for that shitty little stamp and I'll copy it times a bazillion and frame the original and I'll gloat every day until the summer semester begins my fight to accomplish my BA. And you know what? It'll be just as awesome.
Enough of my bitching and gloating simultaneously. And yes, I'm aware that I went full on adult A.D.D. on this post.
Have a great Sunday tomorrow and go out and have an adventure.

Happy Birthday to my mother tomorrow. She deserves a medal and a plaque and a trophy and a fucking bronze statue of herself after dealing with my father and I and then my brother and husband and my kids for as long as she has. But then again, we deserve the same for putting up with her, so I'll just call it even. lol Love you, Mom.