Why We Still Run

IMG_2433This year marks the 5th Annual Get Your Rear in Gear Race in Boston, and it marks the 5th year that the Bum Rushers are running in honor of Ed. That means that we’re celebrating the 5th year of being cancer free.  And that’s a wonderful thing!

A lot has happened in five years.  Days of fun and adventure and laughs.  And, none of that could have happened if it wasn’t for amazing medical care, tremendous screening devices, and a fair amount of luck.  Most importantly, we would not have had these five years, if Ed wasn’t dogmatic in his insistence that something was wrong with his body.  Colon cancer is often diagnosed too late; Ed would not take his symptoms lightly.  His diligence saved his life.

Every year we run the Get Your Rear in Gear – 5K, we raise awareness about colon cancer and we share our story.  With early diagnoses, colon cancer is treatable and curable.  The Boston Race raises funds for preventative and diagnostic care in our communities; so that no one has to suffer with this horrible disease.

We hope that you can join us this year on our team The Bum Rushers; or donate funds to our team and this important cause.  The race is on September 19th this year on Carson Beach in Southie.  Please join us!!  http://events.getyourrearingear.com/site/TR/2015Boston/General?team_id=29652&pg=team&fr_id=2741

Carrie, Edward, Xavier, & Jalen

Of note:

1) This year the race is much earlier in the season; we promise no snow this year.
2) Xavier and I will be running together again this year, we’re shooting for sub-30 minutes (the more you give the harder he’ll run)
3) Having won the trophy for “most funds raised” last year, Ed is shooting for a racing medal this year; the more of you that cheer him on, the faster he’ll run!


How to Love a Cancer Survivor

561471_4120740171826_1729181518_nIn 2009 my husband was diagnosed with colon cancer.  Five years later, he’s cured, healthy, cancer-free.  And yet, he will always, forever, be a cancer survivor; and we will always forever be a survivor family.  The side effects will always be there, and that feeling of mortality will never go away.  Over the years we have learned to live with this new life with a fair amount of adjustment and a lot of patience on all accounts.  Every cancer is different, every survivor is different, but I think we can share a few things about loving a cancer survivor.

It’s Not Your Cancer:  I know that cancer effects your whole family, and we attack it as a team, but at the end of the day… this is not your disease.  There’s been countless times when I’ve watched Ed pop open another beer or order a burger and fries and I know that there’s no way that’s a good idea.  There are moments when I’ve wanted to chime in, make a suggestion, tell him to suck it up or take it easy.  And yet, I keep my mouth shut.

Because it’s not my cancer, they’re not my symptoms, it’s not my health.  I’m not the one that lost a foot of my colon.  I’m not the one that needs to monitor my food, and schedule my day, and deal with the discomfort.  It’s been a struggle for Ed to live a normal life with no health problems for 30+ years and then wake up from surgery with a host of chronic side effects and health problems.  I can have empathy, I can try to put myself in Ed’s shoes.  But, at the end of the day, I’ll never know how he feels.  My concern is appreciated, I think.  My advice, maybe not so much.  And sometimes, the survivor just wants things to be normal again.  To ignore the discomfort and the ramifications of making poor decisions.

That is, unquestionably, unequivocally, their decision to make.  You will never know what it feels like to live in their skin.  Your job as a partner is to be there for the journey to hang in there and love them unconditionally.

Things Will Never Be the Same:  The cancer is gone, all the scans are negative, it seems like a distant memory, and yet things will never be the same.  And, it’s not just the side effects, the ones that can be chronic and life-altering.  It’s the way things are just different then they were before. How a stomach bug can become a much bigger thing.  How the fear of reoccurrance is always there.  How you hold onto health differently then you did before.

So, You Might as Well Laugh About It:  For us, humor has been everything.  Empathy is huge, it’s important to try to picture yourself in their shoes.  But, it’s also important to have some levity; to realize the fact that things could be so much worse.  We try to laugh as much as possible, to lighten the mood, to make a joke about it.  The kids are in on the act.  They understand that dad was sick, and now he’s not, but his gas really stinks sometimes.  It just is what it is, we might as well laugh about it, it’s vastly better than the alternative.

And, Celebrate Life:  The fact is, Ed’s still with us.  We’re lucky and grateful and so blessed that he caught his cancer early and has amazing preventative care.  We’re lucky that the kids will be screened early and we’ll pay close attention to their health.  And, we hope that others can get the same quality care.

That’s why we started The Get Your Rear in Gear 5K three years ago.  We decided that we wanted to celebrate life, raise awareness, collect money for the cause.  My brother brought the Get Your Rear in Gear 5K to Boston to celebrate Ed’s health and every year more and more people join us to celebrate their loved ones.

And this year, we’ll celebrate again, on November 8th in South Boston, with our friends and family and hundreds of other people.  Please join us if you can or please donate to the cause (The Bum Rushers).  Please join us in celebrating Ed’s rear for another year!!!


The Boy and His Stuffies

100_1396  When Xavier was three months old, we couldn’t get him to sleep.  Every time we put him down in his crib he would wail and scream.  In a moment of desperation, we placed a little stuffed monkey next to him, just barely touching his little arm, and he slept.  The next day we put him down again.  Same thing, he wailed; put the monkey next to him, he slept.  Thus started his special relationship with Mono.

We were strict about stuffed animals when the kids were babies.  They stayed in their rooms, they didn’t come downstairs, they didn’t leave the house except for sleepovers.  We didn’t want the kids to get too dependent on any certain possession.  We didn’t want to get stuck in a situation where we had to turn the car around because we left a stuffy at home.  Didn’t really matter though, the heart knows what it wants.

100_3832Throughout the years the relationships with the stuffies have changed, and they’ve become a part of the family.  Each animal has it’s own personality, some have theme songs, all have their quirks.  Mono is the leader and the dad; Burpy is a trouble maker but always has fun ideas; Brownie is the golden child; Rosalita is a girl but she can pack a punch; Swinger is fun because he’s a guy but he likes wearing girl clothes and his favorite color is pink.  Moo moo is a bit of a pig (even though he’s a cow) he eats garbage and never showers.

Ed and my relationship with the stuffies have changed too.  Ed has never liked the stuffed animals and finds the boys relationships with them slightly disturbing.  I find that the animals act out behavior that is unacceptable to me.  “Xavier, if Burpy doesn’t quiet down and change his voice, everyone will get grounded!!”  We talk about when enough is enough with the animals; and when they’re too “babyish” and not “manly” at all.

But, I can see that the role playing is important to the boys development.  They play out social interactions with the animals that are hard and confusing.  When Clut Clut gets too rambunctious, he needs to have a “time out” to pull himself together.  When Burpy is mean, the other animals don’t want to play with him.  And, it becomes a lesson on how different friends (monkey, cow, bat, monster, dog) can all get along and love each other unconditionally.

As the boys get older, I see them moving away from their stuffies.  The play is more grown up and a little more violent.  The guys still play “school” but now, they also play “animal wars”.  And, the stuffies are getting old.  Mono is starting to take a back seat, looking a little matted and worn.  The boys have gone to their grandparents, and forgotten their animals at home.

photo (6)They’re growing up, and real relationships are starting to take the place of these make believe lives.  They’ve practiced these interactions and are ready to try the real world.  And when it’s not easy, and things don’t go their way, they’ll always have their guys at home who love them no matter what.

Parenting’s a Crappy Gig

10334360_10202709480073133_776496951207363595_nLet me be the one to say it, because you know you’ve all been thinking it.  Parenting is a really shitty gig.

You go to a job interview, and they say, “You’ll be on call 24 hours a day, you’ll be expected to work overtime on the weekends, you’ll have full responsibility for every task and there’s rarely anyone to delegate to.  Your boss can be unreasonable, selfish, beligerant.  You’ll serve as director, secretary, bookkeeper, custodian, chauffeur, chef, and CEO.  And, by the way, this is a volunteer position, you won’t be paid a cent.”

And, I know….  You would never change it for the world, and you love those lil’ buggers, and it’s the worst job you’ll ever love.  And, that’s all bullshit.  You know this job blows chunks.

I love my kids.  Totally.  Unequivocally.  Madly.  And, I’m at the stage of their development when I really LIKE them too.  I have fun with them, we laugh a lot, and I legitimately enjoy their company.  It’s really not them, it’s the responsibility.

The soul crushing, overwhelming, absolute responsibility.  The worrying, and the second guessing, and the messiness of it.

As I sat on the toilet for a half an hour yesterday, holding my nine year old’s bloody nose, covered with rapidly drying red dots, as my six year old cleaned off the walls, I had a while to think about this (Yes Dad, I took him to the doctor.  He’s fine)  It’s an impossible task, with very little room for error.  And, there’s a million ways to mess it up.

You have to keep them clean, and fed, and well rested.  The have to be smart, and work hard, and be nice kids.  They can’t cuss, or fart, or pick their nose in public. They need to get to school on time, and like healthy foods, and play well with others. You need to deal with the strange rash on their head, and where their glasses are, and whether they are “happy.”  And, you have to look good doing it.

For the love of God, why didn’t anyone warn us!!  Quite simply, because if we truly understood, would we have agreed to bring these monsters into the world.  Or maybe I was warned and I chose to ignore them.  Hubris.  Pure hubris.

I’m sure of this.  Everyone,  every single last one of you, agrees with me.  Whether you choose to admit it or not.  Whether you smile through the muck, or cry through it, struggle every day, or knock it outta’ the park; it’s a shitty gig.

So, give the dad in the super market an understanding grin. Help that mom trying to drag the double stroller into the restaurant. Have patience with the parents struggling to feed their two toddlers in the crowded restaurant.  We’ve all been there, and we’ll all be there again.  Love your favorite parent today.

How to Survive a Home Renovation Without Killing Your Family With a Reciprocating Saw

10001097_10202549951485018_7592481946737956223_oWe’ve embarked upon the most major of home renovations.  Throughout our partnership with our 120 year old home, we’ve taken on some big projects.  A second floor renovation, replacing the entire front entrance, a  new fence.  I’ve suffered through crippling painter’s hand, putting a drill through my finger, getting a crow bar to the head.  All part and parcel to the loving renewal of our home.

But, now, we’re smack dab in the middle of the big one.  The Kitchen Renovation.  The pulling down walls, knocking down chimneys, and building it all back up again project.    The demolition was rough, but certainly satisfying.  Cleaning black dust out of my ears is never pleasant.  But, the feeling of accomplishment that you get when you knock down four floors of chimney is unparalleled.  And once the dust is cleaned up, and then cleaned up again, you get to see it all come back together.

Living through a major home renovation is a challenge.  But, good friends, take out pizza, and a late afternoon beer makes everything a little better.  Keeping two young boys busy and out of the way is not easy.  They’re used to big projects.  They’ve learned to take advantage of their freedom and independence while mom and dad are working.  And, they love helping out and watching the progress.

Our tight living conditions have been an adventure.   I could do without the plastic partitions separating our living area from the rest of the house.  But, it helps if we put it all in perspective.  These aren’t even “first world problems”, these are “house owner problems.”  A majority of the world lives with less than a quarter of what we have now.  Hell, most of the middle-class urban population of this planet would dream to have the space we have now.  And, Ed’s always wanted to have a New York City apartment.  You’re welcome, honey.

Someone, when learning of our temporary condition, said, “But how do you do the dishes!?!?!?”  What?  Without a dishwasher?  When your non-disposable dishes amount to four bowls, a spatula, a sauce pan, and a coffee mug, you make do with the bathroom sink.  My daily trip down the street to the storm drain to dump the uneaten cereal is entertaining the whole neighborhood.  And, I’m not embarrassed to admit that I did do the dishes while showering earlier this week (water preservation at it’s finest).

But, we could have worse problems.  Choosing between a white or a beige countertop does not an emergency make.  We’re taking one decision at a time.  First the faucets, and then the lighting, and then the tile.  It’s a lesson in compromise and learning what are priorities for each of us.  And we pick our battles.  We know what matters (dark grout) and what really doesn’t (the placement of every outlet).  And we realize that when you’re used to an oven that doesn’t stay lit and a fridge that freezes your milk, anything is an improvement.

What’s important is that we’re building a home for ourselves, our friends, and our family.  A place we’re we can do homework, and cook dinner together, and have dance parties.  Where we can entertain our friends and our children friends, where we can live a big, full vibrant life.  So, a few hours late at night cutting out ceiling with a reciprocating saw while everyone else is watching hockey is well worth the effort.

Can we do this without the fancy new kitchen, without the stainless steel appliances and tile backsplash? Absolutely.  But, we’ve worked hard with this in mind.  We’ve done a lot of DIY and saved all of our pennies, and this is part of the master plan.  Because, as I’ve always said, this is our Forever Home.  So, a little short term discomfort is well worth the long term pleasure.

More than half-way there and we’re starting to come into the home stretch.  The skeleton of our new kitchen is coming together. The walls will go up next week, the cabinets the week after, and then we’re almost there.  And, I think we’re going to make it.

Risky Business

IMG_1769It started with ice skating.  My husband decided early on that the boys should learn how to ice skate.  He never learned how to skate as a child, and always felt left out as his cousins and friends ran off to play hockey.  I, on the other hand, grew up on the ice.  Lessons, frozen cranberry bogs, sit spins, and dates at the skating rink.

So, last winter, we loaded up with hats and gloves, second hand skates, and high expectations.  And, I held all three of them up as we negotiated the South Boston Rink as all the little kids

flew by us at break neck speeds.  It went well, and all three of the boys love it.  They’re better this year, more independent, and sturdy on the skates.   And, I’m starting to find my independence again as I have less people to hold up.

But, it started a trend that’s a bit hard to keep up.  We decided, as a family, that the boys will learn how to do a bit of everything.  We hope that they never have to say that they can’t do something because they don’t know how.  We hope that they feel comfortable trying new things and attack new adventures as they come along.

So, they know how to kayak, rock climb, and shoot arrows. Play street hockey, horseshoes, and poker.  Eat sushi, chacuterie, and paella.  It’s a ludicrous amount of new experiences.  But, they’re pretty civilized young gentlemen, and are rarely intimidated by new things.

But, trying new things is a bit of a pain in the ass.  It’s one thing to get the boys to do things, but quite another to realize we have to do it all too.  Hard to tell the kids to try new foods when you don’t eat red meat.  Hard to teach them to not be afraid when you’re terrified of horses.  Hard to teach them to always be game when sometimes you just don’t feel up to it.  Hard to teach them to get out and have fun when you really just want to lay on the couch and watch HGTV.

So, today, instead of nursing a bad winter cold, checking emails, and watching movies, I’m going snowboarding.  Not skiing (I know how to ski), but snowboarding.  This forty year old lady is going to strap my legs to a board and aim down a mountain.  Brilliant.  Couldn’t be more pleased.  Wish me luck!

Valentine’s Day is Not for Real Women

175257_1669414730222_4466882_oValentine’s Day.  The day we throw feminism out the window.  All year we talk about parity, and leaning in, and getting equal treatment.  We ask not to be objectified, to be respected for our brain not our body, to be treated like our male peers.  And then we turn and say, but TODAY you must treat me like a princess, shower me with flowers and chocolate, buy me lavish jewels, tell me I’m beautiful.

What’s your partner to do?  What should we do with these mixed message?  How do we take the pressure off of our partner?  Off of ourselves?  Because, with everything, the pressure we put on ourselves is much larger than anyone else feels.  Our Disney image of fancy dresses, and handsome princes, of sparkly jewels and romantic dinners can never live up to reality.  Because we know that Prince Charming will never gallop in on his white horse to sweep us away.

Every other day of the year, we wouldn’t want him to.  Every other day of the year, we insist on taking care of ourselves.  Of being in charge.  Of being the boss.  We don’t want to be Cinderella.  We don’t want to wait for that glass slipper.  We’ve learned to save ourself, to be our own dragon slayer and savior.

This Valentine’s Day give yourself a gift.  Give yourself a break.  Let go of the expectation. Stop pretending that you’re Sleeping Beauty, waiting for that kiss.  Get off your ass, and love yourself.  Celebrate the love you feel in your life.  Reset your relationships and remember to show affection every day of the year.  Remind yourself that one day a year is not enough.  And remember all the little ways that love enters your life and carries you through the year.  Look for that love every day, and give that love back to others.