Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Day 378: No time to blog

Back when I started this blog, I assumed that the day would come when I wouldn't have any time to write it. However, I thought that would be because I was too sick, or too weak, to sit down at the computer. I worried that I would have chemo brain and that I would be unable to remember how to spell, that I would lose my creativity or at least my train of thought. (As an aside, I received an article recently that verified that the poorly-named "chemo brain" is a set of real cognitive and neurological impairments that some chemos, especially those used to treat breast cancer, can cause for a significant portion of those who take it--for up to five years after they stop the drug. My fear of this was apparently justified.)

I never thought I wouldn't have time because I would be changing a million things in my life at the same time, just like a normal person who is overwhelmed for normal reasons. But look at all that's happened! I'll have a new job at the Fed soon, though before I transition I need to get through the next few days. I have my huge conference starting today, lasting through Friday. I 'get" to stay downtown at a hotel for a while, which will be nice I guess, but the kids already seem to miss me. I'll collapse tonight to watch the Bulls game after a long day putting out fires and dealing with the complexities of getting 200 executives together. (Kids are a piece of cake compared to adults, I tell you). My son will be two in just eleven days, and he will switch out of daycare and into Montessori school. And then, on top of that, we will be moving. After renovating a house, and selling another one. Yikes.

Those who are friends of mine on facebook know that we got the house that I alluded to in a previous blog. There was so much drama involved that I can't even begin to describe it here. The house is a very charming home on a great street in our neighborhood--and it was a foreclosure. It is much bigger than our current house. It also needs a gargantuan amount of work. In some ways, we got the deal of the century. We had to go to two lenders to do it (apparently the conventional, vanilla loan is not the norm these days, though that's what we got in the end) and I learned a lot about how little banks care about the process of selling homes they have foreclosed on. Their attorney wouldn't even talk to our attorney. The real estate company wouldn't do anything. It was completely exhausting, especially since we have yet to put our house on the market. We will try to do that in the next week, and we will need to be aggressive about selling it at the right price, so we're not sitting with two mortgages for very long. That means that somehow we have to de-clutter and organize a house with two messy little kids living there. Like I said, yikes.

In the past, I never would have done this--never. I remember panicking when I was selling my condo and the first offer on it fell through, but our offer for our current house was in process. In the end we had one month of overlap where we paid two mortgages. The monthly mortgage cost for the condo was ridiculously low, but it still killed me to double-pay like that. Of course, we had just financed our wedding as well (those who know me, or were there, know that we didn't have a typical wedding, so we saved a lot of money. I actually really hate the wedding industry). I worked at a nonprofit organization while Gabe was self-employed, so it was tough.

This time, I only started panicking a few days ago, as we've started to plan the needed repairs for the new house. I have had so much other fear about bigger things, that this financial fear, while very tangible, is less immobilizing than it would have been if I hadn't stared my own death in the face. I mean, I really understand now how you can't take it with you. Gabe and I talked about why we were able to buy this house in the first place, and in some ways it was just plain luck, as we saw the house right away, our bid was accepted over all the others, etc. In other ways it is because, as he said, we have spent most of our lives "turtling." We are both the type of people who expect the worst, who hate taking risks because we can imagine all the really bad things that could happen if luck doesn't go our way. Back when I did community development work and I focused on financial education, I used to say that poor people save for a rainy day if they can and rich people save for a sunny day if they feel like it. Poor folks never expect the sun to shine. Rich people never expect the flood. And, moreover, that way of looking at the world never really leaves you, even if your circumstances change.

When people would tell me to be positive about cancer, to not think about the effects of chemo, I would think, bullshit. Cancer is a very bad thing. Chemo is poison. I wanted to prepare myself for what might happen, because I have other people I am responsible for, not just myself. If I couldn't walk, or think clearly, how would I take care of my kids? And yes, many things that could have happened with chemo did not, but a hell of a lot of bad things did happen. And then, almost all the bad just disappeared, despite my less than positive attitude. Even so, I still look over my shoulder, waiting for menopause to return. When my scalp tingles I wait for my hair to fall out. My back still hurts, and it hurts much more after spinning, so I'm sure that's what it is, but I wonder.

So all I have been able to do is wait it out. And we did, we just waited. But when I think about it, I didn't really just wait. I know people who have said that while going through cancer treatment, they put their lives on hold. What's the point of making plans? What if I die? What if I can't work?

That's the part where the glass-half empty attitude saved me. I guess I just figured, I could lose my job anyway, unrelated to cancer. Why not start a new one? Having cancer does not preclude me getting hit by a bus or becoming somehow impaired, so why not start five new workout routines in the middle of chemo? Our cars could stop working when we really need them (this has happened--stupid, dead Jetta). Kids could still get sick when I'm not well enough to care for them. So why not make plans? Shit will happen. You might as well try to do what you want, and if it blows up in your face, there was really no guarantee that life wouldn't blow up in your face anyway, when you weren't doing what you wanted to do.

After all, I got breast cancer. I don't drink, I exercise like a nut, I'm thin. I breast-fed both my kids. I did the right things, and I got cancer anyway. Why not buy a rambling house with a landing on the staircase big enough for furniture (sitting room!), a porch like I've always wanted, a huge play area for the kids? Maybe the universe will cooperate and we will sell our house quickly. Believe me, neither Gabe nor I expect that to happen. We are fully prepared to become landlords, though I unfortunately know what that entails from firsthand experience from my building manager days, and he doesn't. But we expect some drama. If that's what you expect, life will never disappoint.

We've been having some issues with contractors, which shouldn't surprise anyone. Yesterday I was talking to the guy who was replacing the gutter and he told me about a defunct squirrels' nest that he found. In fact, he said, look. And he showed me a dead squirrel carcass. He then proceeded to throw it onto my new lawn. I thought, huh. That's life right there. Beautiful house, great yard. Rotten gutter and a dead squirrel. As long as you know that these types of things go together, you're all right.

Years ago when Gabe and I were driving from New Hampshire to Maine, we stopped at a tiny dive bar called Nick and Lenora's. (Yes, that's partly where Lenny's name comes from--that, and Stevie Ray Vaughan's guitar). We played pool with the locals and ate some great cheap bar food. It was insanely hot. We made a bunch of buddies there, including an out of work carpenter who told us the following gem: "Big wheels roll through shit and dogs still piss on em."

I'm just saying.

Chicago-based blog readers, get ready. In a few months, we will have a Katydid 36 party. And this time, we will have enough space to host it at our house. Just leave your dead animals and dogshit at home, bring yourselves and remember that a party at Katy and Gabe's house is always going to be an easygoing, unpretentious affair. It's even possible that we will be having these parties for years. At least a few, however long I have. The house is so damn big that Gabe had better keep having parties even if I kick the bucket. In the meantime, we're no longer turtles, but little crazy hares, running in a million different directions. What was that cancer stuff, did that really happen? That was some big shit, I guess, and we just had to roll through it.


  1. You did it! One year later and back to some 'normal'. While I haven't had cancer, I finally got my BRCA results last week and they came back negative - what a huge relief. I hope you keep the blo going though, because I have been checking in regularly :-). Last week as I was coming back from vacation, I even had a woman sit in front of me on the plane and I commented to a friend that she looked just like 'this woman whose blog I follow'. So happy for you. enjoy the new house, enjoy your family, just enjoy life :-).

  2. That's great news, B! Now you can breathe a big sigh of relief about those BRCA results. Thanks so much for reading. I hope to have a while longer at least to enjoy do the same!