I Believe.

I believe in giving lots of hugs, and holding on tight.
I believe in family.
I believe in apologizing when I've hurt someone.
I believe in second chances, and sometimes third chances.
I believe in standing up for my beliefs.
I believe in a woman's right to choose.

I believe in love.
I believe any two people who are in love should have the right to marry.
I believe that in-vitro fertilization, fertility treatments, egg donation, surrogacy, and adoption are amazing things.
I believe that some people and doctors go overboard and this is dangerous.

I believe everyone has something important to say.
I believe that being a mom is a really tough job.
I believe in not settling.
I believe in speaking up.
I believe in gut feelings.
I believe I can be more like Madonna every day.
I believe in date nights.
I believe in babysitters.
I believe in myself.

I believe in Halloween. I believe in magic. I believe in chance.

I believe in blaring my music when my kids aren't in the car.
I believe dogs can give the best medicine.
I believe in the power of friends I've never met.
I believe I am a writer.
I believe in the power of retail therapy.
I believe that I am loved.

I believe in being green.
I believe in recognizing that what we put into our bodies is just as important as things we put on our bodies.
I believe in Whole Foods & farmers' markets.
I believe in buying local & sustainable.
I believe in composting & recycling.
I believe that plastic is evil.
I believe that we are wasteful.
I believe we have a lot of work to do.

I believe in karma.
I believe in fate.
I believe that a hot bath and a glass of wine can cure most anything.
I believe that female friendships are intense and powerful.

I believe that I need to put myself first more often.
I believe that I do too much.
I believe that I need to be okay with saying "no" sometimes.
I believe I need to cut myself some slack.

I believe in homemade chocolate chip cookies with milk.
I believe in my daughters.
I believe in my husband.
I believe our Judaism is an important and integral part of our life.
I believe it is my duty to acknowledge my Jewish heritage, embrace it, and share it so that history does not repeat itself.

I believe that waiting is the hardest thing.
I believe that it's okay not to shower daily.
I believe yoga pants are my best friend.
I believe we need to focus more on our health and less on french fries.
I believe in the power of exercise and moving my body.

I believe in holding doors open for people.
I believe in bringing new moms and sick people dinner.
I believe in lemonade stands and big tips for the kids running them.
I believe in piggy banks and saving for a rainy day.
I believe that today's children shouldn't have to worry about riding their bikes, taking walks, or playing outside and being approached by strangers.
I believe we have to educate our kids about these things without scaring them too much.

I believe in the power a single person can have.

I believe I am ENOUGH.

And I desperately want to know:
What do YOU believe in? Leave it in the comments.


One Lump or Two?

Last week I found a lump in my left breast quite by accident as I was ardently scratching my armpit. It felt like a little garbanzo bean was hiding under there. I fingered it gingerly for a minute, then caught The Father Load's attention. We were watching Dexter at the time, so he half looked at me and said, "What?" while distractedly shifting his eyes back over to the bloody crime scene and the waif-like Jennifer Carpenter. I scooted over, took his hand and placed it on the lump. Our eyes locked.

"Feel it?" I said.

"Uh huh," came the reply. "You need to call the Dr. N in the morning."

My heartbeat sped up. I don't have any idea what happened in the rest of the episode. I'd switched over to auto pilot.

I remembered when Sunday over at Adventures in Extreme Parenthood blogged about her brush with breast cancer here and most recently here. When I read her posts I thought to myself, "Holy shit that was scary, and I'm so glad she's cancer free," but I never actually checked my own boobs. How stupid. Until now, I've relied solely on my gynecologist to check me out at my annual exam. Even though it's fucking Breast Cancer Awareness Month every October and Kansas City's fountains all turn shades of pink. I NEVER ACTUALLY CHECKED MY OWN BOOBS. MY.....OWN......BOOBS.

So Monday afternoon I went in for my first mammogram. As the tech manhandled me and manipulated my breasts this way and that, I looked up at the ceiling and pretended to be somewhere else. I felt naked, embarrassed and vulnerable. I started sweating, but I couldn't move to put my hair in a ponytail. As the machine clamped down on my pale, veiny breast, I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone. In between pictures the tech asked me questions and made notes on her chart. "Is there a history of breast cancer in the family?" she asked. "Yes," I said, and felt my throat tighten. "My maternal grandmother had a lumpectomy and radiation. My mother and her sister have had several scares and biopsies, but so far everything's been benign."

How did I get here? Me....in a hospital gown? Having a mammogram at age 34? No fucking way. I can't deal with another bully right now. This one is invisible. It's unfair. It's secretive and sly, it snuck up on me just as I started feeling strong and brave.

After the mammogram, I had to have an ultrasound. The radiologist came in to look and said he wasn't too concerned, but wanted to see me back in six months to monitor the lump and see if it changes at all. So we set up that appointment and I left, feeling somewhat better, but still anxious to meet with the doctor and get the official green light.

I saw Dr. N (the breast surgeon) today to go over the results from yesterday's scans. I put on the lovely gown again and she began to examine me. She found the lump on the left side and we chatted and I started to relax a little. Then she moved over to the right breast. There was the slightest pause, the slowing of her hand, and the narrowing of her eyes. I heard the clock tick and my stomach gurgled. I knew before I knew. I knew suddenly that I also didn't want to know.

She found a second, larger lump. On the right side.

"I'd like to get you scanned again if you have time," she said. My stomach lurched like a roller coaster.

Deja vu.

Lying sideways with the help of a wedge-shaped pillow, arm up over my head, and lube all over my chest, while the tech rams the probe into my pit and the side of my breast, which is now getting very tender. Dr. N joins us. After several minutes she goes to get the radiologist. Soon there are four of us in the room, but I'm not really there. Dr. N keeps one hand resting softly on my calf, as if to comfort me, but I've left my body and my thoughts are falling everywhere, like slow confetti, bumping into one another, criss-crossing. I'm furious with myself for my own stupidity, thinking I was somehow exempt from it, or that this could never happen to me.

A lot was said, but I was alone, my brain was not thinking thoughts and I don't remember. I know they are scheduling an MRI. Dr. N said she thinks it may be just "very dense breast tissue," but wants to rule out anything else. The MRI will be sometime within the next week. They are supposed to call me to schedule it.

I am numb. I am fluid. I am stupid. I am like a leaf fluttering to the ground. I am like air, empty and vast, careless. I pride myself on taking such good care of my body and focusing on my heath, but I have ignored this. I have been walking along unfettered and feeling ablaze like fire, finally taking control of my life.

But really, it was a farce. I have failed miserably at taking care of myself. In oh so many ways.


Also: Hurry over to my friend Dana's site. She is a breast cancer survivor and her post here struck a chord with me before I even found my lump. I ordered my Save the Tatas pendant and contributed to her fundraising efforts---all money raised goes to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc. She is doing this on her own, and it's amazing. Please head over to her blog and tell her I said hi!


The Bully With the Brown Shoes

Even before I watched Sarah Silverman's spiel, I've had bullying on my mind. It's all over the news lately, and it saddens me. Here Sarah talks specifically about gay kids being bullied, but many others suffer the same. It's 28 seconds long, but powerful even in its brevity:

When I was six years old I met Bully Melanie. She wore brown shoes with scuffed up toes, the laces dirty, graying and often untied. Her brown hair was stick straight, flat against the sides of her chunky cheeks. Her squinty brown eyes bored into me, so I avoided making eye contact. Which is probably why I remember so much about her shoes. I heard her coming before I actually caught sight her, the way she kicked the big gray rocks on the playground where we sat to eat lunch. Announcing herself, her arrival.

At lunchtime I perched on an old wooden bench flanking the playground with my friends Elizabeth and Mandy. My metal Wonder Woman lunchbox was open in front of me, its contents carefully packed by my mother. My ice-cold thermos of milk made the other kids laugh (for most of them had juice), but it kept everything else cool, including my favorite egg salad. I could have done without the soggy cream cheese and jelly sandwiches, but Bully Melanie didn't discriminate. She simply sauntered up to me and took what she wanted, holding out her fat hand and oozing a sense of entitlement. Gruff words were exchanged. She smirked knowingly, while her posse waited in the wings, watching her work. Yanking things out of my hands, she set off with my lunch and my self worth tucked neatly under her arm.

She never called me by my name. I don't even know if she knew my name. Only one year older than I, but she seemed so big and tall. As she towered over me, I felt scared and shamed, so I let her take what she wanted. A browning banana here, a sandwich there, sometimes a bag of Doritos or a little red box of Sunmaid raisins. Sometimes all of it. And then Mandy and Elizabeth would kindly hand over bits of their lunches while the tears rolled down my cheeks. They sat speechless, terrified as I when Bully Melanie appeared, but after she left they'd ask me why I let her do it.

Because she made me feel small.
She scared me.
She was mean.
She didn't take "no" for an answer.
And where oh where were my teachers when all this was going on?
I don't remember. But they were not there. They did not see.
I had no advocate. No one to step in and come to my rescue.
I was too young and too scared. Too ineffectual.

Bully Melanie: I wonder where you are and if you continue to swoop in and steal things from other people, even now? I wonder if you have children and if you've taught them that's how to get what they want? Or have you stopped the vicious cycle? Do you remember what you did? Do you care? Are you sorry? Sure, a little lunch every other day---maybe not a big deal, but perhaps it's part of the reason I feel compelled to finish what's on my plate all the time; because I'm afraid you're going to appear with your scary eyes and hold out your hand again, waiting.

Bullies are everywhere.
They come in all shapes and sizes, young and old.
The difference now?
I don't bow to bullies.
I have learned how to stand up tall.
I say, "NO, you won't do this," loud and clear.

Have you been bullied? How can we stop the cycle? I worry about sending my children out into this world. I want to teach them how to avoid falling prey to bullies. Please share your thoughts and experiences with me!

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