Wednesday, May 30, 2012


Anybody currently reading who would like to make the jump with me  (and I hope you do)  please email me at 8thdayplanner at gmail dot com and I will send you the new blog address.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Full of Grace

1.  Having the privilege of delivering a eulogy at my mother's memorial service.

2.  Having friends who travelled 8 - 12 hours in a car, and one who flew half way across the country to be there to support me.  (couldn't have done it without you)

3.  Having the honor of listening to so many others talk about the good my mom has done and the impact  she had on their lives.

4.  Enjoying pictures others brought of my mom in her youth.  In almost every one she is laughing.  Hysterically laughing.   And that is how I want to remember her.

5.  Feeling such pride to be my mother's daughter.

I have not been able to write in this space for quite awhile.   I have had significant health issues and have felt safer retreating  into my shell. 

I am, as always, working on it. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Full of Grace

1.  Pressing my nose against my bedroom window, watching a bird build it's nest in the bush just outside.

2.  Having a cat on each side of me watching the same thing.

3.  My mother's Swedish lucky horse.  Now mine.

4.  A lazy, do nothing weekend.

5.  Friends who make me laugh, even on my dark days.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Full of Grace

1.  Planting the peas.

2.  Rainbow connections.

3.  Nutella pie, left anonymously on my desk.

4.  One last walk around my childhood home.

5.  Transplanting perennials from my mom's garden into my memory garden.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Full of Grace (a little late)

1.  Playing hooky to spend a shopping/lunch/movie day with Peachie.

2.  An incredible mastectomy massage  (didn't know there was such a thing)

3.  Being able to use my new boobs as stress balls. 

4.  Having both Beanie and Peachie home for 48 hours together.   And the turkey dinner Martha made to celebrate.  Apple pie.  Yum.

5.  Eating outside. In March!

Friday, March 16, 2012

The New Girls

Ever since my surgery, I have been going every where flat chested. A friend of mine who had a mastectomy years ago told me that she just wore her old bras and stuffed them with socks. And then she sent me a box of socks.   I was swollen and sore for quite a while and couldn’t even think about fastening a bra around my chest.

But it was winter and I was wearing bulky sweaters. Flat wasn’t so noticeable. Then one morning I put on a tight, V neck sweater and started to cry.  It wasn’t the flat that bothered me but the fact that my chest is still lumpy. The scars are not smooth, there are still hard pockets of fluid, and the area between my right arm pit and chest is very ropey.  I could see all this weirdness through my sweater. So I put on a bra and stuffed it with socks.  But in the mirror all I saw was my skinny, twelve year old self, so insecure about my lack of breasts that I stuffed my bra with tissues. It was the first time I felt a serious sadness and grief about having my breasts amputated.  I took off the bra and changed my sweater.

With the warm weather I realized that I would have to make a decision about clothing.  To go flat, there would just be some clothing I could not wear,  including one sexy little dress I wear to weddings.  That pissed me off so I made an appointment to be fitted with prophylactic boobs. 

After some getting to know you type questions, the women asked me "so what size do you want to be?"   Peachie, who had gone with me, thought this was my chance to go for a real big rack.  Tempting,  as it would balance out what has happened to my butt in these last few months of inactivity.   But I finally chose a standard B cup, which I've always been.
Here they are - my new girls!

The first day I wore them to work, I kept taking them out to show everyone.   They are weighty and  very "real" feeling.   Every boob joke in the world ensued.  The funny thing is that they are high and firm.  They are my 20 year old breasts.   It's an odd and nostalgic feeling to have them riding so high on my chest.   I may have to stand next to a heater to get them to melt a little.   But I don't think I'll wear them everyday.  I really like the freedom of being flat chested, of just throwing on a Tshirt when going to the gym or running errands or just hanging around the house.    And I get a free pair every two years, so I can do different sizes, or mix and match.   That would be fun.

I know that many friends and co-workers think I have just breezed right through the whole breast cancer thing.   But it is not true.  I have had moments of great insecurity.  Days I could not look in the mirror.  I have had many, many tears.  I have had a couple of major triggered  meltdowns.   I continue to have waves of sadness.    And now, taking hormonal drugs to reduce the risk of recurrence, I am dealing with wicked nights sweats and fatigue.   Not so much fun. 

In the cancer boutique, there was a big poster that said "Laugh 'til it Heals."   There was a time in my life when I could not laugh at all.  When humor came back to me, I realized how much laughter can heal a soul.    And personally,  I can find a lot of humor in a bunch a straight women, passing around and feeling my boobs.   I am going to get so much mileage out of this . . .

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Full of Grace

1. Knowing that we missed a Broadway road production of The Jersey Boys while I was with my mom, my colleagues at work chipped in and got us new tickets.

2. And they got tickets for a night I usually have to attend a really boring meeting. And now I don’t have to go. Doubling the pleasure.

3. Peachie home for a whole week of cuddling and girl talk.

4. Our neighborhood ice cream store open for the season.   We all went to celebrate.

5. Getting through the first Sunday of my life that I didn’t talk to my mom.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Saying Goodbye

Last week my mom died. Even as I write that, it does not seem real to me. My mom, who was always, always, always there for me, is gone.

It started simply enough. She was not feeling well so my sister took her to her house. But very atypical, she asked to stay. I traveled down to visit her. She looked fine but was complaining about some weakness in her legs. She thought she had some medication imbalance, had some doctors’ appointments lined up and I came home.

I had barely put my suitcase down when my sister called and said that they had taken her to the hospital. When I arrived the following day, she was mumbling The Lord’s Prayer, over and over. I remember a day in my life I did the same and wondered if my mom was in the same state of panic I had been. I laid down next to her, held her, and cried. And then the next day, a day of agony. My mom in obvious distress, obviously scared and crying out in pain. Over and over, for hours and hours. They gave her morphine and more morphine and nothing touched it. For me it was a day of sobbing and praying and so much anger that her god would put her through this.

And then there was quiet. A massive stroke had affected both sides of her brain. There was no longer recognition. Just a gentle staring and a rhythmic but labored breathing. We made the decision, based on her request, to remove all life support. Her lungs started to fill with fluid and the breathing got more and more labored. All through the night I would sit beside her, holding her hand, and listen to her breathing. But still she hung on. We moved her to hospice.

After a few days I left to return home, needing to restock my meds and clothes. On the train I got a call. Her breathing had changed. Barely discernible. I returned to her side and then she finally passed. It’s been a long, emotional week, but not without its blessings.

  • Long estranged from my brother (because of his homophobic wife) we shared a small hospital room for a week and sobbed in each other’s arms over and over again. The estrangement broke my mother’s heart. I hope she knows it’s going to be okay now.

  • Sharing tears and stories with my mom’s best friend, Joy. They had been friends for more than 60 years. Everyday Joy came and shared stories. How wonderful to see my mother, as a single working girl, as a newly wed, as a young mother - all through the eyes of her best friend who was with her through it all.

  • Meeting the myriad of women who came to say goodbye and tell us stories of how my mother had impacted their lives. I was bursting with pride.

  • After my father died (and donated his body to a medical center) there was no wake, funeral or memorial service. I never really understood why. Now, having read my mom’s final wishes, it came to light that my parents wanted to have their memorials together. My mother also donated her body and when we receive her ashes in two years, their ashes will be buried together. Just as they wanted. Together in life. Together in death. Theirs was an amazing love story.

I am not sure what life will look like now. How much will I miss our regular Sunday chats? Who will I piss and moan to when Martha is driving me nuts? Who will give me parental advice when I worry about my children? Who will gently nudge me when I’ve screwed up? Who will be my biggest cheerleader when I’m on a new challenge? I am now officially an orphan and I feel an enormous void.

I know how fortunate I’ve been to have my mother in my life for as long as I have. How blessed I have been to have an inspiration and model for healthy relationships, for deep and abiding friendships, for volunteerism and citizenship. I can only hope to be a fraction of the parent/spouse/friend she was.

Saying goodbye is so fucking hard.  But remembering is so very sweet.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Full of Grace

1. Having my secretary's emergency rush to the hospital turn out to be a medication problem rather than the stroke/heart attack scenario we all originally thought.

2. Cortisone shots

3. Creme brûlée by candle light

4. Soft and soulful sexy time

5. A surprise visit from Beanie, just because she missed us.

Friday, February 17, 2012

And the Winner Was . . .

After meticulously cutting up identical strips of paper, writing each commenter's name on each one, and tossing them in a teacup, the winner of my Generosity Day gift was my good friend Laurie.   However, in the spirit of the occasion, she generously offered to pass it to the next person (apparently after 30+ years of friendship we have exchanged enough gifts.)  So I repeated the process, and  the new winner is Kim, which pleases me more than I can say.    And since I am not going to cut up any more scraps of paper, I will insist that she graciously accept whatever gift I come up with for her.    This will be fun.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Full of Grace - Generosity Day

Last year, Sasha Dichter, Chief Innovation Officer for Acumen Fund, converted his month-long "Generosity Experiment" into a global Generosity Day. The idea was simple: to celebrate Valentine's Day as a day of "sharing love with everyone, of being generous to everyone, to see how it feels and to practice saying “Yes.” Let’s make the day about love, action and human connection – because we can do better than smarmy greeting cards, overpriced roses, and stressed-out couples trying to create romantic meals on the fly."

Sasha suggests, "Give to people on the street. Tip outrageously. Help a stranger. Write a note telling someone how much you appreciate them. Smile. Donate (more) to a cause that means a lot to you. Take clothes to GoodWill. Share your toys (grownups and kids). Be patient with yourself and with others. Replace the toilet paper in the bathroom. All generous acts count!"

Do something generous today - anything - and leave a comment telling me about it.  Or if you don't want to share details, just say that you'll participate.   I will chose one name at random and send you something to thank you. 

Happy Generosity Day!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Missing Peace

It’s been a long time since I have been in a church. So long I can’t actually remember. And then I attended two funerals in two weeks. Both celebrated with masses at a Catholic church.

I have never been comfortable at a Catholic mass. All the stand up, sit down, kneel, confuse me. The incense gives me a headache. Christ, in agony, staring down from a cross. Ugh. The genuflecting, bowing and crossing yourself is too complicated for me. And ever since I was little and watched a priest do the ceremony to prepare communion, I always thought it was a magic show and he would pull a rabbit out of the chalice. I still hope for it.

And yet as soon as I sat in this church, I had the same feeling I always do - a feeling of deep peace. Sanctuary. Surrounded by the Spirit, whatever that might be. It is a feeling I can easily achieve in almost any empty church/synagogue, at an empty beach or out in the deep solitude of a forest.  Unfortunately, I don’t get as many opportunities to frequent these places as I used to.

When I belonged to a church, I would often go and just sit in the sanctuary alone. That was before the interim pastor strangely accused me of being in love/obsessed with her and the elders, without ever even speaking to me, let me know I was no longer welcome there.  Even just to sit alone in the church on a weekday.

And then last year’s knee surgery took away my usual hikes into the wilderness. Grrr.

Purposely arriving early, I sat in this church waiting for the mourners to file in and the mass to start, and was reminded how much I have been missing this feeling. Not the attending church. No, I think my spirituality and beliefs have evolved way past that. What I am missing are those special places of solitude where I find that feeling, that peaceful sigh of the soul.

It has been a grueling couple of years both physically and emotionally for me. The healing has been hard work, but very productive. I have reached a level of emotional calm that I didn’t think possible.  Now I want to spend time listening to my inner heart.  To let my soul breathe in and out.  To find out what’s next. To experience that missing peace.

So I am writing this as a reminder to myself. To seek out more quiet, spiritual places. There must be other spaces that have that sacred sense of wonder and otherworldlyness. Any places that do it for you?

As a follow up, I just found out that the interim pastor who went on to have her own church, has been recently let go from that church.  Seems she creates problems wherever she goes.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Full of Grace

1. Taxes done and e-filed.  Nice return expected.

2. Being able to share grief.

3. Reconnecting with a great childhood friend. (And we did it without facebook!)

4. Cappuccino brownies.

5. Sharing the Superbowl with the same friends for 21 years.

Friday, January 27, 2012


Contribution.   This is my word/goal/resolution for 2012.

I know,  it's kind of late to be posting resolutions.   I had started writing this much earlier but hadn't solidified where I was going with it so it languished in a 'later' folder.   This week has been a week of grieving for our family, which has me again thinking about what I want my life to mean.   I still don't know how I will accomplish the goal, but thought I'd better at least set my intentions before the whole year gets away from me.

For the past two years I have spent a lot of time looking inward.   A lot of time trying to heal trauma.   A lot of time healing myself.   But I did not do this alone.   I have been blessed with an incredible partner, great employer and many patient, supportive friends who have stuck with me through this journey.  And now that I have myself together (sort of) it is time to think about giving back and making a contribution -

To my Profession
I have been blessed to work in a profession I love, one that feels more like play than work.   Not only has it given me financial security but also has allowed me to learn from some pretty awesome people along the way.  Last year I helped teach a graduate course at the local university.   I discovered that I didn't like lecturing in a classroom.   But I loved being out in the field with eager students tackling real life situations.   This year I hope to find creative ways to share my love of integrating the natural environment in all development with folks just starting out in the profession.

To Martha
In many ways our relationship is on auto pilot.  Without much thought we kiss each other good morning, go through our individual days, at some point share the good and the bad of it, and then kiss each other good night.   We are that old comfortable pair of slippers you read about.   For the past two years Martha has given me a lot of leeway to do the therapy work I needed to do.   Now I want to find ways to give back to her and to crank our relationship up a notch. 

To my Community
I grew up in a culture of volunteerism.  But what I hope to accomplish in this new year goes beyond simply volunteering my time, driving people places when they need go,  helping the elderly grocery shop or serving on boards.   I am looking to drill down deeper and find ways to make more meaningful, personal contributions to the people and place I call home.

To survivors
Many years ago I thought it would be a good idea to volunteer at a rape crisis center.  After all, I thought I understood the crisis and could help other women through the life altering changes.   I attended the first training session, lasted about 15 minutes and left, a sputtering ball of fear and anxiety.   I think I am ready to try again.  Through this blog I have "met" fellow survivors and have learned how important it is to share our stories and support each other.    Having finally staggered through all that muck and miraculously reached the other side,   I would like to be a resource to other women just starting to take those steps.

So that's my goal for 2012.   To make a meaningful contribution in different areas of my life.  Obviously I haven't come up with all the ideas yet on how to achieve this goal.  But at least I know what my target is.   


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Full of Grace

1.  Getting back (slowly) to the gym.

2. Being able to exercise with no bounce.

3. No sweaty, clingy sports bra to wrestle out of.

4. Finally being able to shave my armpits. Sort of. My right side is still numb and a little swollen. But I did manage a fairly good hack job.

5. Being able to sauna. (Yay!!! Fireworks !!! Happy dances !!!)    I do love a sauna.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Full of Grace

1.  The weather outside is finally frightful.  Not that I like single digit temperatures, but I do like the snow.

2.  A sweater that generously arrived from the pack mule of the universe, one of the few things my super sensitive torso skin can tolerate.

3.  Finally being able to sleep on my side. 

4.  People who bring me food - turkey, apple pie, ice cream sundaes, pizza, wings, Peppermint Patties, M & M cookies, roast beef and yorkshire pudding, hot chocolate, cheesecake, Hershey kisses, pasta with vodka sauce, and on and on and on.   

5.  This picture which is an accurate description of me this week.

Friday, January 13, 2012


A healed memory is not a deleted memory. Instead, forgiving what we cannot forget creates a new way to remember. We change the memory of our past into a hope for our future. -  Lewis Smedes

I have been firming up my goals and intentions for the coming year. But first a look back at 2011 which was a monumental year for me.

2011. A year of healing.

It was actually over two years ago when I went to my friend and therapist, knowing I was not well and that I needed help. For years she had been nudging me to do some serious work for my PTSD.  And for years I had been resisting it.  After all, I could function reasonably well. But it was a huge effort to get through every day. I spent an inordinate amount of time and energy avoiding triggers, needing uber control to navigate through my life and, even then, unknown weirdness continued to blind side me.

My therapist always referred to my issues as a cancer. Something that was eating at me from the inside out and, if not treated, would eventually over take me.  Finally I reached a breaking point and I made a commitment to do whatever it took to rid myself of this blackness that was always lurking.

The first year we spent a lot of time nibbling around the edges. Deconstructing things slowly, speaking for the first time ever about that day, talking about Daphne, even saying the word rape out loud, they were all gut wrenching for me.  But for each step I took, I gained confidence in myself and trust in the process.

2011 was a year of the big hurdles. My therapist compared this to a chemo regiment that would totally break me before being able to rebuild my mental health.   I had to feel all those things I literally thought would kill me to feel. And my therapist pulled every trick out of the book to force me (kicking and screaming all the way) to finally look all that fear in the face.

In June I stopped the therapy. Not because I thought I was cured, but because I was tired and need time to attend to other parts of my life. Those first 6 months were the most soul crushing, nerve wracking, anxiety ridden, unbearably vulnerable time I can ever recall. And to top it off I had Daphne’s mother playing games with me, a person I thought was a friend pulling my chain, and my relationship with Martha was seriously testing its breaking point. I really needed a chance to rest, catch up to myself and process all that had happened and all I had learned.

Then my therapist suddenly died.   For quite a while I felt suspended in time and reality. But then I slowly realized that I was still okay. In fact, I was more than okay. I felt mentally healthier than I had in years. All those strategies to deal with anxiety, all those lessons about distinguishing between past and present, all those reliving memories which once caused so much pain -  everything seemed to be falling into the places they belonged.  I was feeling healthy and strong for the first time in a very long time. 
 And so I ended 2011 feeling healed.   Very sore, but healed.
- I faced all my most painful memories and came through to the other side.
- I found the strength to end an unhealthy relationship - something I have never had to before in my life.
- I spent the 25th anniversary of my assault with Daphne's mother, a person I thought I would never forgive.  But have.
- I went under anesthesia and relived the trauma all again, but it didn't linger.  When it was over, it was over.  Something that in the past would have put me in bed, trembling for days.
-  Then the breast cancer diagnosis.    It was not a surprise to me.  I had been dealing with pre-cancerous proteins for years.  I knew it was coming.  I knew how to deal with it.   
Am I now cured?   I don't think so.  Just like I may have to continue some kind of cancer treatment, and will always have to be tested to determine whether any cancer has returned, I will always have to work on managing the PTSD.  
After the surgery, I had one really bad emotional day.   I came out of the shower and looked at the amount of bruising and scarring on my body and started to cry.  When Martha asked me what was going on I responded "look what they did to me."  And Martha asked "they?"   It was then I realized I that the past will always blend with my present.   I will always have the scars. 
But I'm okay with that.  I have come a long, long way in the past two years.  I am proud of the work I've done and hope that it is a reflection of the faith and confidence Lauren had in my ability to find the answers I needed to heal.     I am looking forward to a much healthier, cancer free 2012.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Full of Grace

1. Back to work. I love my co-workers, they are family to me. It’s like coming home.

2. Being able to button my pants. Barely. But still technically buttoned. Diet started yesterday. Today. Definitely today.

3. The steri-strips are finally all off the incisions. I am thanking the gods because they were some itchy little buggers.

4. Managed to pay two spring semester college tuition bills. I don’t know how. It always feels like the loaves and fishes Bible story to me when we make it.

5. Long cozy naps.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Contemplating my Navel

I have been home for 2 1/2 weeks since surgery.  I would like to say that I have accomplished much in that time, but the reality is, I haven't.   I read one book.  One.   I have not even finished writing thank you cards.  I have not had the stamina to exercise except for a daily walk around the block with the dog.  And then I need a nap.  But I have had a lot of time to think about my new body and my life -

- Without breasts I can easily contemplate my navel, which is kind of funny.  I have also noticed that when laying down, my left rib cage is significantly higher than my right.   And when standing, it is now obvious that my gut sticks out further than it should.    Too much chocolate, not enough exercise.  That needs to change.
- I have been humbled by the amount of cards and flowers and food I have received during my recuperation.    Not very humbly, I have been very happy that my daughters have been home to see it.  They seem genuinely surprised that I have a life outside of being their mom, and that, I think, is a good thing.

- I have received a ridiculous amount of "get well" chocolate.   My entire dining room table was filled with chocolate.  (I apparently have a reputation)   And then a huge box arrived from Hershey with cases (yes, cases!) of Peppermint Patties, Hershey bars, Reese's peanut butter cups and a 10 pound tin of assorted kisses.    Not to mention that almost everyone who brought a dinner, also brought some kind of chocolate for dessert.   Not that I am not grateful  (I am immensely grateful)  but I think tomorrow I will call our food bank and see if they want some.   I assume they like to stock healthy food, but everyone deserves some chocolate, right?

- I got a get well card from Daphne's mother.  I never told her about the cancer or the surgery.  It is freaking me out, like she is secretly keeping tabs on me.  But I don't know how.  Or why.   Or why she wants me to know she knows.  I am spending entirely too much time thinking about this.

- I am going to return to work tomorrow - part time.  I can walk there and when I get tired, I'll come home.   Nice to have such flexibility.

- I knew from the beginning that I would not do reconstruction surgery.  A good friend of mine said she just wears a bra and stuffs it with socks, and that was my plan.  But my torso is still way too bruised to even think about fastening a bra around it so I am going to work totally flat.   I think I will be okay with that.

- Flat chested.  Einstein hair.  No makeup.   Should be interesting.

- My two cancer sites have been sent to some testing lab where they will rank the cancer in terms of aggressiveness and response to chemo.  I am trying to prepare myself for whatever comes next.

- I am emotionally adjusting to my new "look" .  I am okay with the flat chest, not so much with the gut, the bruising and the scars.  But what I notice most when I look in the mirror is how much my face has aged this past year.   2011 was a tough year for me and it shows.  Seriously shows.   I have walked through a lot of fire and crawled through a lot of glass to get to a place of healing.    I am hoping for a more peaceful year.

- And I have been thinking about my new year's resolutions/goals/target.  But that will be the subject of another post . . .

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Full of Grace

1.  New Year's Eve kisses

2.  Kaleidoscopes

3.  Flannel sheets

4.  Finally being able to reach the microwave. 

5.  Albert Einstein hair - I can point a hairdryer at my hair but still can't get my arms high enough to style it.   The new look is keeping me humble.