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Sunday, June 19, 2011


At a very dear friend's fourtieth birthday celebration it came up...what does this new decade mean to you?  What does 40 bring to you?  At 42 I feel I can answer certainty but then to be honest, I don't know that I care if I don't.  Arrival.  It means I have arrived.  I am officially the person I am.  Some wardrobe changes, a tweak here and there, a nip and a tuck but overall, this is it.  This is as good - or as bad - as it gets.  For me it's liberating.  It means I can admit to not liking to cook when everything thinks I should love it.  It means adoring my girlfriends and sunbathing in their acceptance of me with every quirk and glitch I bring to the table.  It means saying what's on my mind and in my heart without fear of exposure but with that comes responsibility to filter - something I didn't always have operating in full capacity. Just because I feel it, doens't mean I have to say it...and not saying it, doesn't mean I don't think it.  I just means I care more about being happy than being right (or argumentative...which in my life, is the same:)  It means having a bullshit detector that never runs out of batteries.  It's the narrowing of expectations and defining of what really matters.  It means letting myself be who I am and not making excuses for what I'm not.  It means seeing myself the way my kids too. 

It means laughing at myself because it's 330 in the morning and we leave on a cruise in four hours, I have slept less than three but I'm such a head case I can't sleep until all the laundry is done.  Yeah - I love that about me.  Embrace it friends, it's who I am and anxiety happens to be the soup of the day in my life.

I used to joke that I couldn't wait to be at a place where I don't care what people think but the truth is, I care a great deal...we all do but in the end, what I think has slowly crept into first place and I am really pleased to see it. 

Arrival.  It means I am working on myself every day, wincing in the mirror, reading enough health and diet books to open my own section at Borders, knowing what I'm good at and what I should officially leave behind, making room for peace and that cherry bookcase I wanted, moving toxicity out and opening the door for more good ju ju because in the end, no matter what, if this is what it is, it is really okay and that is what it means to me, to have truly arrived.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Little Buddhas

I've heard it said the days are long but the years fly.  No truer words were ever said.  It's like labor and delivery...that moment is excruitiating and exciting, painful and meaningful and then it's fast as they are here, it is gone and all of the sudden - they are 15, 11, 5 and 3.  There are times I can't get over how they view the naive, so innocent, so sure of themselves. 

My favorite Ava moment was when she started fifth grade - the very one she is leaving now - and told me about Holly.  Holly was her friend.  Her new, favorite friend.  Holly only liked to swing even though Ava liked to climb and run.  They were matched in everyway yet the playground forced Ava to swing if she wanted to be with Holly.  She never told me anything other than how much Holly liked to swing and would only do that.  Ava didn't mind, she never voiced any objection but I used this as a teaching moment.  I felt it best to express to Ava how it was okay to ask Holly to do something SHE liked to do.  I was teaching Ava compassion for herself - to also tend to her own needs but Ava seemed fine where she was - swinging with Holly.  I wouldn't let it go.  It was my responsibility as a parent to mold this person into not becoming a martyr...memories of my own upbringing :)

Then I went to back to school night.  I met all of Ava's friends' parents and had a chance to view this world through Ava's eyes and see what kind of kid my kid likes.  And then it happened...I met Holly's mom.  A sweet, smiling lady walking up to me with an arm extended.  She had heard so much about Ava she wanted to meet me - sure, I thought but even more eager to meet Holly, I shook her hand and told her that Ava, too, loved her daughter.  Ava ran from my side to greet Holly who walked a few steps behind her mom.  Without missing a beat, Ava scooted kids out of the way and walked beside her friend...Holly with her walker.  Y'see Holly has cerebal palsy.  She smiled at Ava and Ava back at her.  And then I saw it all...Holly would swing because it's all she could do and Ava didn't mind...and never said to me she was disabled because Ava never saw it.  In Ava's world, Holly was her friend and they would swing and Ava was happy.  It was sympatico.  And at that moment, I became the student and Ava, the teacher.  If only I could see possibility over limitation...swinging over climbing.  I realized Ava needed no teaching moments from me.  I actually needed to sit down, shut up and open a notebook while Ava took to the lecture circuit.  Ava saw only her friend and her friend saw acceptance in Ava.  It was the marriage of a perfect moment between them.  I was breathless with both pride and shame.

Who I was changed at that moment.  From that day forward, I pledged to Ava to look at the world and at people differently...through the eyes of my 11 year old who saw her friend as someone who wants to swing, not someone who can't do anything else.  Possibility over limitation.  Who knew?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

17 Days...

Funny how things wind up easier when we tag a number to it.  Everything seems palpable when we can name it...nail it down, make it fit.  I leave in five days on a cruise.  School is out in four days.  Camp is in two days. Something about the number is soothing I suppose.  Well there is a theory that says a habit is formed in 17 days.  Not two and half weeks...that sounds like a light year...17 days.  It's my commitment to myself to eat better, work harder, get healthier, live cleaner and manage my cancer free status...beginning with a 17 day journey.  I can do this.  I'm fairly certain after beating Cancer, I can do just about anything.  I grew up a Vegan.'s hard to believe after seeing me tear into a ribeye like a monkey on a cupcake but we were very LA and with that came our Earthy, nutty mother and Vegan lifestyle...basically I was tofu when tofu wasn't cool.  We had to buy our food from health food stores that ran on wind panels and solar heating from guys who looked like Jesus and sold us our grains in paper bags with giant fans overhead keeping everything cool (and I suspect the bugs away) and local farmers which I still like to support.  Through the years, my reach for processed and frankly, easy food has gotten out of hand.  I admit - I find a glass of wine and take out Chinese far more appealing than bottled water and organic mung beans but let's face it...time to give my life an overhaul...and I will.  It's time to make my health a priority and show my kids that Subway isn't a weekly staple to the Smith menu.

So when I return in 13 days, I will begin my 17 day journey toward health with a book called the 17 Day ease the burden, I shall speak only in days.  It's the little things.  For today, I can do this.

Writing to you live from Panera...signing out.

Mix tapes

I have always known children are noisy.  Screaming, fighting, even talking...they are just loud little creatures.  How many times a day do I say, "okay...shhhhhhhhhh".  It's actually part of my hourly vocabulary.  When they are asleep or away, the sounds are deafening.  The quiet is so loud, it's hard for me to enjoy sometimes.  Honestly.  I am someone who just can't be content with the gifts, eh?  But it's true.  Quiet in my house means something's going on...if they are awake and it's that sound of nothing, that is a five star alarm.  It means someone is painting on the walls with my lipstick or holding the dog hostage or on a search and seize mission in my room.  But there are sounds that will remain in my mind forever too...we forget the screaming, we dismiss the crying in our memories and we selectively edit out the Target tantrums but there are the sounds we hope to remember always. 

The peculiar light tap step my son does coming down the stairs in the morning...I recognize him by the sounds of his feet hitting the stairs in pattern.  The deep breathing my little girl does when she sleeps in the car.  It's an inhale and exhale dance that belongs only to her.  The way my Ava talks to herself and reads out loud at night using character voices when she's sure she's her only captive audience.  Even the singing my oldest daughter does when she is plugged into her itouch and doesn't realize her singalong concert is loud enough for us all to enjoy.  The way my son answers questions to the children's shows and smiles in pride when he's right.  The loving way my daughter soothes my son when he's upset and the way she sends him on snack missions by coaching him with what to say to me to gain said food.  The gasping and giggling when I'm reading a favorite story and the slurping and smacking from a well designed ice cream sundae.  The botched up lyrics of Old McDonald...listening to my daughter talk to ants on the pavement, coaching them back to the grass.  The sighs of my son when he's calm.

It's the sounds of my home...the hit list of the Smith house - carefully edited.  The songs I can play over and over in my mind for when they fade out of memory...the sounds I hope to never let go of.

The eternal mix tape.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Ding Dong the Diaper's Gone...

I honestly thought I'd be excited.  And I am.  No more diaper bag.  No more embarrassing blow outs in the middle of a restaurant.  No more cramped diaper changing tables in places I wouldn't eat at much less get my child naked in and not enough sanitizer in the world to fix the bathroom floor changes, over clothes and jackets when a table isn't available...not that I ever did that...much.

But it's a rite of passage.  I passed the baby aisle today and had a moment of bottles, no food, no wipes or creams and now...finally...the last to more diapers.  I couldn't wait for this moment - after four kids I could build a diaper island with what I've gone through in waste but I just see this as the end of a era.  It marks the end of "baby" - the end of pretending I didn't notice that his diaper is hanging to his knees in fluid because I just sat down.  Proudly powdering and pampering a new tush and then the blueberries kicked in; praying that wasn't my kid that shut down the pool after a swim diaper malfunction.  I don't mourn it...I just realize it's an ending and like any mother, I am prone to missing the things we never thought we'd miss.

Not that in fourty years, when I'm changing Joseph it won't bring back memories but let's just say, it may not have the same magic.

Onward and upward.

Friday, June 10, 2011

When life hands you lemons, clean your fridge with them...

Overwhelmed just doesn't cut it.  Not that I am complaining - okay maybe just a little...having so much going on and actually feeling it means I am alive and no longer under the chemo coma but it still has its moments.  Maddie being sick, Joseph struggling with job interviewing, a house that is about to be condemned by the board of health, three VERY busy kids with cabin fever and a desire to be at the pool every forty seconds and at some point, I need to get back to the gym.  With all this, I am declaring a truce with my life. Back off or I will seriously freak out.  If I get up earlier than normal, I am caught with a teen ager who needs history help, if I say up a little later I am met in the hallway with a preschooler who "can't sleep" and if I sit down for just one second, I am caught with a husband who sees his sitting wife and mistakes that for full attention.  I am happy to be all those things - just maybe not all the time.

So today - it's too much.  I am tired.  To begin to get some control back, I cleaned my refrigerator.  Scrubbed, cleaned and sparkling.  Looks brand new.  I am so proud.  So excited and so relieved.  One small corner of my world is in order.  It was my 45 min contribution to my mental health and frankly I liked it better than the eliptical.  So when I feel overwhelmed, I will head to the fridge to gaze and recollect.  It's my glory.  My happy place.

My life.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Their Dreams are Mine...

One of the most fascinating things about having a teenager is watching them evolve.  One of the most challenging parts is sucking your tongue back into your spleen when they do it in a way we don't like.  Okay don't like is harsh...don't agree with?  Don't feel comfortable with?  Hmmm...think is a bad, hideous, death inciting idea?  Yeah.

So what I can honestly say is this.  And I have learned this from you - other parents, who by the way are the BEST source of therapy, information and support.  Forget the books, skip the classes...grab yourself a few moms and a margarita and you will learn more parenting know-how than Dr Spock offered in his entire life.  But I digress...I watch my teen and tween fight, sweat and bleed their way into their own identify.  I watch it with pride.  Afterall, I taught them not to drink the kool aid and find out for themselves what life is about but I also suffer a little on the inside when it's not how I would do it.  Gasp. 

I had a rabbi once tell me something that I am holding on to.  Teenagers will crash your value system.  Tear it down, walk away from it and leave the home with their own set of ideals.  And then it happens...they form a family, raise their children and suddenly begin to build their own value system and the shocking but maybe-not-so part of it will look alarmingly like yours.

So there ya have it.  I bite through my tongue until it bleeds, I smile, I hang on tight knowing these brave, sassy little people need to fight their way up the food chain without me behind them with a compass and hachet to ward off predators.  But I also realize I have exactly what I wanted...a young woman who won't conform, refuses to back down and despite my desired off switch, won't stop moving forward and onward.  So there she goes - tall, proud, smart and sassy in designer jeans.

But I can really do without the eye rolling.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

11 days...

11 days until we leave for our cruise.  Right now I'm breaking up a fight between That's Mine and Its Not two playroom buddies.  I've never met them but I hear their names so often I'm sure they live here.  I love the idea of a family cruise...I'm thinking about it every second and have since my first day of chemo when Joseph told me it would be our time to celebrate kicking Cancer's ass...but I also hope the Job Gds smile down on Joseph with an offer that will make our cruise go from wonderful to amazing...I'm also a mother who readily admits chasing Jack and Olivia through a cruise ship without making them walk the plank is NOT my idea of a good time.  With camp I get to enjoy them and they get to enjoy themselves and at the end of the day, they get a sun drenched and relaxed mother.  Showing them the sand and sea on the islands is very exciting for me...I do love new things and sharing those with them but my apologies in advance to the serene tropical fish who find Turks and Caicos' peaceful...

With all the hunger and poverty in the world, it feels like chewing on broken glass to say a cruise may not be as relaxing as I had hoped...I sound ridiculous even saying that but it's true.  Dear Gd please let an offer land in our mailbox before we leave...oh and do something about hunger.  Yours Truly, Dawn

Well My Life Is Ruined has joined the fight so I'm off to take all five of them to the playground.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


Well why not...after battling breast cancer and raising four kids it feels only natural I feel I have a lot to say - and a lot to learn.  A little about me...I'm a no nonsense mom who adores and loves my children with wild abandon...even when they suck.  I like a challenge except when I think I'm being picked on by Karma the bitch and then I complain...badly.  I love the gym when I'm there - it's just the GETTING there that starts the profanity.  And I hate cooking.  Seriously hate it.  I even hate hearing about your cooking...but I like cookbooks.  A lot.  Don't ask.  I married a super hero.  It's true.  I love that guy...cape and all.  I'm kinda a slacker mom but I like a clean house.  I just enjoy a relaxing household and it's far easier without my yelling.   I hate Cancer.  She's a wiley life stucking disease with no sense of appropriate timing. 

So I'm hoping in doing this I can preserve the memories of my kids and their lives and the daily release I get from oversharing the details will keep me from starring as the doe eyed would be grandmother on 16 and Pregnant.