Thursday, December 31, 2009

On the Eve of Despair...

Ten years ago today I couldn't understand why I was depressed and had no interest in ushering in the new millennium.

I didn't recognize myself. Where had I disappeared to? I only craved a quiet evening at home with my family in California.

While lying in bed listening to fireworks continue into the early hours of the millennium morning, I knew there was something more to explain why I'd felt lost, lonely and losing a complete grip on my life. I regarded 1999 as a total wash.

I never would have dreamed that a decade later I'd be on the brink of celebrating fingers crossed!) 10 years of being meningioma-free! Tonight will be anything but an evening of despair.

I am grateful to be alive, to have my two miracle children, Hannah and Hunter; my 10-year-old dog, Koufax and my husband, Mark who got down on one knee in foot deep Steamboat Springs' snow and asked me to share my life with him 17 years ago.

What a difference the beginning of a new decade makes.

Happy New Year's!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Cooking Impaired Brain Tumor Survivor Releases Cookbook!

Yep that's me! And that would be my non-cooking impaired daughter, Hannah to the right. After brain surgeries, I've learned that a healthy serving of brain tumor humor can go a long way and I'll be the first to admit I'm culinary challenged.

Even before my baseball-sized meningioma brain tumor was discovered nearly 10 (OMG almost 10?!) years ago, I wasn’t one to spend hours toiling over a hot stove. I’m a grab-a-can-opener-and-bake-at-350⁰-for-one-hour kind of cook!

So why a cookbook? Feeding the Mind & Soul: It’s More Than Just a Cookbook is a treasured collection of tried and true family favorites from brain tumor survivors. The last thing anyone wants to worry about while recovering from brain surgery is what to prepare for meals once they are discharged from the hospital. Best part, 100%of the proceeds support my non-profit, Meningioma Mommas.

Over 200 mouthwatering recipes were submitted by “Meningioma Mommas and Poppas” and their caregivers, family members, and friends who offered support while their loved one was recovering from brain surgery, chemotherapy or radiation. Enjoy everything from a Poppa's refreshing Instant Lobotomy “Brain Teaser” to a family treasured Apple Dapple Cake “Out-Of-Your-Mind Dessert” from a Yale neurosurgeon's sister! It's a no brainer with inspiring and humorous quotes to boot in this truly one-of-a-kind cookbook.

The cookbook is perfect for moms, dads, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, grandmothers, grandfathers, in-laws, outlaws, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, nannies, neighbors, poker parties, book clubs, bunko groups, MOPS...

It also makes a great anniversary, birthday, engagement, divorce, wedding and hostess present too. Don’t forget to pick one up for your kids’ teachers, yoga instructor, accountant, mechanic, therapist, babysitter, banker teller, hairdresser, lawyer, personal trainer, life coach, postal worker, newspaper carrier, milk deliverer, barber, Zen master, gardener…And it’s a lovely way to honor your team of doctors.

Cookbooks are $25 each, which includes priority shipping. For international orders, please inquire with Lindy Klarenbeek at All proceeds make it possible to continue support and fund meningioma research. Meningioma Mommas has donated $165,000 to meningioma research to date.

Thank you and here's to 1-stop holiday shopping and all those who really do cook!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

What Meningioma Mommas means to a 12-year-old

Being diagnosed with a meningioma brain tumor has had its share of setbacks and obstacles, but it has also enriched my life in ways too numerous to count. It's also led me to meeting some remarkable people aka my second family with this disease as well. With so much focus on the patient, it's not uncommon for the caregivers who play a starring role in our recoveries to be overlooked or get short shift.

Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of meeting Ann Margaret, a meningioma survivor and her entire family including her bright, mature and sensitive 12-year-old daughter, Nicole.

Nicole's grasp of her mother's meningioma journey, wisdom and writing talent are far beyond her 12 years. She has beautifully captured and articulated what is difficult even for meningioma survivors to put into words. Remarkable to say the least.

I dedicate today's post to Nicole who is already imparting life lessons we can all grow from.

My Act Of Kindness: “Born in the Scientific Purple”- George Howard Darwin

By Nicole Chrisney

A plastic purple bracelet, it may not mean anything to most people, but to me it means the world. Last year my mom was diagnosed with a meningioma, which is a brain tumor that is in the meninges tissue that surrounds the brain. When they found the tumor, her neurologist informed my mom that it must be removed. So she chose an amazing and talented doctor and on September 9th, 2008 he successfully removed her tumor.

September 9th, 2008 is also when those plastic purple bracelets arrived at our doorstep. It is also the month that I studied the brain in my science class, and without that class I wouldn’t have been able to support my mom the way that I did. Anyway, those bracelets come from a website called It is a website that helps and supports people who have and have had meningiomas and raises money for brain tumor research. The bracelets are used to spread awareness and support the cause.

For my act of kindness, I chose to give my purple bracelet to my 6th grade science teacher. The bracelet is very important to me because it reminds me of what has happened and the long road I am traveling on. I think that my family gives me my deepest satisfaction, so I chose to give my bracelet away as a symbol of spreading my story. This past year, I figured out how fast things can change and how quickly things and people can disappear. I want people to know what has happened to my family and I, and also teach them what I have learned.

I gave the bracelet to Mrs. Ulsh, because she helped and supported me so much throughout the whole process, just like Meningioma Mommas helped my mom. During my studies with her, I learned so much and even figured out something that was important to tell the doctor before he operated. We learned about which nerves from the body connected to the brain. I tried to figure out exactly where my mom’s tumor was located. Then i figured out that the pain my mom was having in her right shoulder and hip was originating from her tumor on the left side of her head. After surgery, my mom’s neurosurgeon explained that her tumor was entangled in a nerve that runs down to her arm and leg. He thanked me for helping him, and I was extremely proud of myself that I could help and that Mrs. Ulsh taught me that.

Mrs. Ulsh was ecstatic when I gave her my bracelet and claimed that she would wear it all the time. It is my hope that with the bracelet she can spread awareness and I also hope it inspires her to teach her students even more about brain diseases and tumors. I dream that my purple bracelet will carry my story for generations and that it helps lead to a cure for people with brain tumors. Since my mother’s surgery, I have conducted a bake sale and have raised lots of money, with the hope that every one of my dollars helps in the effort to find a cure. My purple bracelet will live in my heart forever, and someday my story will lie in the hearts of many people.

Now, a year later, only little scraps of the tumor are left in one of my mom’s bones. You can barely see her scar, and the scar tissue inside of her brain is disappearing quickly. Last year was a year that really made me realize just how precious life is and how quickly things can change. That little plastic purple bracelet meant support for my mom and hopefully brings greater clarity for others with meningiomas and will one day lead to an understanding of the causes for meningiomas and a cure.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

My PSA for the Day...

Today kicks off National Epilepsy Awareness Month.

I've been living with epilepsy for over 10 years now courtesy of my thankfully evicted meningioma brain tumor. I feel like one of the lucky ones because my simple partial seizures are controlled by a low dosage of Trileptal. That wasn't always the case.

I recently came across the following excellent educational website I'd like to pass along:

Here's to increasing awareness not just in the month of November, but every day.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Meningioma Mommas Making Its Mark

My non-profit, Meningioma Mommas is over 10% of the way towards my goal to raise$1,000,000 for meningioma specific research. A check for $20,000 was presented to Dr. Elizabeth Claus and the Brain Science Foundation during the recent 3rd Annual Meningioma Awareness Day in Boston. Our latest donation will contribute to the ongoing ground breaking research Dr. Claus and her committed team continue to pursue.

Meningioma Mommas can think of no other person we’d like to be supporting because not only does Dr. Claus believe in our plight, she has dedicated her life’s work to unraveling the mystery that afflicts each of us with a meningioma.

It is a privilege and an honor to know that we can contribute to her novel approach to understanding meningiomas.

You are our champion, crusader, and hero.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

My Loyal Lab

You're my first son and have been my companion from an early start in life.
Thank you for your love, loyalty, and quirky moments that last 10 years.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

You Just Never Know

I got a kick out of this photo I was emailed. You just never know where you'll find someone enjoying a no-brainer! If you're looking for a good read for these lazy, hot summer days, may I suggest Curveball: When Life Throws You a Brain Tumor. Happy reading!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

15 & Counting...

I dedicate today to a man I met 16 years ago, became engaged to after a four-month long-distance courtship and exchanged "I do's" with in a city known more for its tackiness, not its tradition.

Even though Mark and I won't spend today celebrating our marriage in Vegas, we'll still relive the moments that keep us together. Of course we'll begin with Jean-Claude who pronounced us man and wife just before midnight at the Candlelight Wedding Chapel; our first meal together--a $2.99 steak-n-eggs breakfast we shared before we boarded a plane to Colorado Springs where Mark would later pitch that evening. Yes, we spent our honeymoon in a Triple-A stadium. No fuss, no muss and it's pretty much remained that way without any regrets.

It’s impossible to sum up a decade-and-a-half with someone, but I still marvel at what I’m often reminded of.

We’ve survived and savored:

Cross-country and international months' long separations; living out of suitcases and sharing Venezuelan-roach-infested hotel rooms; residing in my in-law’s basement; arm surgery, breast surgery, brain surgeries; moving into our first home we’ve already created 12 years worth of memories in; dead ends and new beginnings; heated fights and even hotter reconciliations; the birth of a miracle daughter and son; challenging points of view and seeking refuge in separate rooms; compromising and down-sizing; expressing what needs to be said and appreciating the times when hugs say it all; the cheers and fears; and the laughter and tears.

And yes, the answer is still yes just like the first time you asked me on that Vancouver park bench if I believed in chemistry.

Happy Anniversary Mark!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Writer's [Inner] Journey

Thank you Meredith Resnick for giving me the opportunity to guest appear on your wonderful blog.

The Writer's [Inner] Journey

Shared via AddThis

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Rules...

I think most would agree that our lives are ruled by too many rules. They're often ignored, broken or tweaked for a particular set of circumstances and groups of people. Rules schmules I say! In fact, I think we'd all get along much better if we adhered to a simpler set of rules. Because in the end it all boils down to a matter of respect. I'm a huge fan of the rules my daughter, Hannah just posted on her bedroom door.


1. No gum.

2. No copying.

3. No stealing stuff.

4. No looking in my secrets.

5. No eating or drinking.

6. Always listen to me when you are in my room.

7. No doing whatever you want.

8. No sitting in my pink fluffy chair.

9. Got it? If you break any of these rules, you owe me a quarter.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

It's a Wrap!

I can't think of a better way to wrap up the inaugural Brain Tumor Awareness month than with a cover story on meningiomas in the Yale School of Public Health's new issue featuring my hero, Dr. Elizabeth Claus.

Kindly scroll to page 8!

The fact that little has changed since my own diagnosis nine years ago underscores the urgency to fund research and ultimately find a cure. This is why I am so passionate and committed to elevating meningioma awareness and funding meningioma specific research.

May is winding down, but this is a reminder that every day is an opportunity to spread the meningioma message.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Graduate

Hard to believe Hunter has received the first of what I hope are many diplomas.
Way to go monkey! As your entire pre-school class sang, it's off to kindergarten you go.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Me & My Monkeys

I know today is all about honoring mothers, but today I'd like to honor my children. My daughter, Hannah and my son, Hunter are daily reminders of how lucky I am to even be a mom, mommy, momma, mother....

Trying to have them is what led to my brain tumor diagnosis nine years ago. Simply put, they saved my life.

I don't need flowers, a box of chocolates, or a Hallmark sentiment.

Waking up to another day of "I love you's" and hugs from my miracle monkeys is how I define Mother's Day.

Friday, May 8, 2009

May is National Brain Tumor Awareness Month

There are still 23 days left in May to honor the inaugural National Brain Tumor Awareness Month. What used to be a week of recognizing a disease that has personally affected me now has its own designated month.

I'm on a mission to put meningiomas--the most common primary brain tumor--on the global awareness map. Thankfully, I'm not alone on this mission.

This past weekend I had the privilege of celebrating survival and hope with a room full of meningioma survivors and their families during a Meningioma Mommas Meet & Greet fundraiser in the Big Apple. It's quite an inspirational and powerful feeling to be in the company of those who have walked in your shoes.

It's even more inspiring and powerful when someone who doesn't even have a meningioma, runs a marathon in the name of raising awareness and funding for your cause. That someone special is Kelly Tobin.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Ben Franklin said it

"In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes."

Today being April 15 we know taxes are certain. We bitch about this inevitable truth. Then there's death. We all know our number will eventually come a calling, but it's not exactly an easy topic to raise or discuss, especially with loved ones. I'm thankful to have had this dialogue with my parents. I consider myself lucky that both of my parents are still alive and quite active in their late seventies.

Long before discussing death with my parents I've always known when the question of burial or cremation has been posed, the answer is cremation all the way. My family is fully aware of my simple wish. To keep a portion of my remains in Colorado and scatter the rest of my remains over the place where I share the fondest of memories--a tiny cove in Laguna Beach.

I admit I've never been able to adequately articulate my reasons. My mother recently shared a poem she penned about her own wishes, which I couldn't have expressed any better.

This I am certain of.


At two thousand degrees the End quickly nears.
In a room full of flames, the flesh flows like tears.

Liquid and smoke emerge from the sludge,
Where is this person? One simply can't judge.

Impurities of body no longer in tact,
A vanishing mass, an impossible fact.

Hours later, disin te gra tion complete,
Dust and ashes in piles so neat.

Half will remain at a well-chosen spot
With corpses as neighbors whose bodies are rot.

The remainder will scatter to Ediza on high,
The Eastern Sierras she has chosen to lie.

--Phyllis Bricker

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Monkey See, Monkey Pee

Dogs do it like our yellow lab, Koufax.

He does it every day to mark his territory.
It's his way of reminding the other dogs who meander by that he is king of the cul-de-sac.

And now my lil' man who I've always affectionately called monkey is following suit.

Apparently one of Hunter's preschool classmates decided to shower the playground slide during recess. Naturally, like all curious boys who want to be just like their friends, Hunter imitated his pissing pal.

Monkey see, monkey pee.

I have to admit, it wasn't easy containing my laughter when the school administrator informed me of this oh so serious transgression.

I can recall many a times when nature's calling (mostly while out in nature by the way!) was an urgent matter. I don't think I'm unlike other parents who encourage their sons to unzip in the name of spelling relief. Trust me, if us gals could do the same, I'm sure we would, but we know there's shame in squatting.

Today Hunter informed me of his new mantra:

"Pee inside, not on the slide!"

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


I love the Denver Post Wednesday food section, even though I'm still lamenting the demise of my beloved Rocky Mountain News. The food section is chock-full of recipes I rarely attempt as I'm a can opener and bake-at-350-degrees-for-one-hour kind of gal. Thankfully, my 7-year-old daughter, Hannah is a chef in the making.

What I love most about the food section is the weekly grocery store circular inserts, especially when major religious holidays overlap. You know Christmas and Hanukkah long since referred to as Chrismukkah. Now that spring is in the air so are Easter and Passover, which I've dubbed Eastover.

The ads boast Easter specials and sentiments left, right and center. Here are just a few examples from today's paper.

"Hop into savings!"

"Easter basket essentials!"

"Easter entertaining!"

"Fill your basket with savings!"

"Buy 1, get 2 free bacon!"

All this begs the obvious question--where are all the Passover deals and salutations?

How about a buy 1, get 2 free tins of coconut macaroons. Or buy 1, get 2 boxes of oh so flavorful matzo.

Neither do you see smoking deals on lamb shankbones to set the Seder plate.

Gefilte fish greetings anyone?!

Guess it's not so unusual for us chosen people to still get the short shift when it comes to supercharged holiday marketing.

Maybe it's because us Jews are simple people. We don't plan elaborate scavenger hunts for chocolate eggs, peanut butter eggs, creme eggs, caramel eggs, marshmallow eggs, robin eggs, yellow chick and pink bunny peeps, jelly beans...

We're just thankful to celebrate our exodus from Egypt and liberation from slavery.

And how does one keep up with the Disney Princess and Clone Wars' egg dying kits? Or the plethora of Easter must-have toys to fill junior's already overflowing pastel basket?

Let us also not forget choosing just the right wine to accompany your ham, roast, turkey or chicken.

Our choice?

Manischewitz wine. Easy. Three flavors--concord grape, cherry or blackberry. Take your pick for that perfect Passover brisket.

Thankfully, my local liquor story is open this Sunday as I'll need it along with a bottle of Easter Excedrin.

Happy Eastover--I'm over it!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Giving Credit Where Credit is Due!

A huge shout out to Mark Crowley and David Sundusky!

I had the wonderful opportunity to be on their radio show, Your Brand Radio this afternoon. As all of you know, it's a constant struggle to garner media awareness for meningioma brain tumors. I'm fortunate to have two tremendous advocates in my corner who are elevating awareness because of their interest.

Neither of them are personally affected by a meningioma, yet they are encouraging dialogue and pushing to get the word out about the most common primary brain tumor.

Thank you for the pre-publicity for the inaugural National Brain Tumor Awareness Month in May.

If you'd like to tune in or even download the podcast:

You can also chime in on the discussion:

Thank you Mark and David!!!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

My Lil' Man

In the blink of an eye you turned five.

Five years ago on this very day no joke, you decided to make your 3 1/2 week early debut. Hunter Harold Holzemer or Triple-H as your dad affectionately dubbed you after your first wail.

And even though you live up to this day's reputation, what endears me the most is your sweet, sensitive side. The side that still insists we have snuggie time every evening even though I am fully aware of your delayed bedtime tactics. The side that proclaims with outstretched arms, "I love you taller than the trees!" The side that when unsure of the answer to a particular question, you'll just shrug your shoulders and simply say, "Acause." Works for me!

Then there's that way you look at me with squinty eyes and your chin jutting out to the right doing your best pirate imitation.

And how could I forget the way you hold your most prized possession? A misplaced prize that has had an army of adults turning an entire house upside down in search of many a time! The tears. The promise that he will be found. He being a stuffed dog you received upon your arrival. A dog simply known as and called dog. Dog the dog.

No longer plush. Missing both eyes. Missing nose. Missing quite a bit of stuffing. Left ear safety-pinned at cheek. Even as you sleep, you somehow always manage to wrap dog's left ear around your left thumb and tightly tuck dog's head under your chin. Holding him ever so close. I've witnessed that contented smile of loving another spread across your sweet face as you drift off.

It's the same expression I wear for you.

Happy Birthday Hunter, my lil' man.

Monday, March 23, 2009


I love my nuts--walnuts, almonds, cashews...and all the varieties they come in. Salted. Toasted. Roasted. Raw. Organic.

I'm nuts about nuts, but not about the kind you can purchase for your fur baby.

Yes, who knew that all this time my 9-year-old lab, Koufax has been missing out on a synthetic pair of his very own nuts. I thought I was being a responsible pet owner when I had him neutered in his puppy hood. Apparently not.

When I had the dirty done on Koufax I could have invested in a pair of life like testicles. They're called neuticles. If there's silicone implants for broads why not testicular implantation for hounds. Makes sense to me because it's obvious that I've probably scarred him with humiliation every time he's had an off-leash park date. Or anytime he's gone to scratch and readjust his crotch, he comes up with nothing every single time.

A shame I wasn't aware of silicone sacs years ago when my husband went under the knife. Wonder if there's a male version of neuticles as well? Maybe I could have taken advantage of a 2-for-1 offer?


Monday, March 16, 2009

3 yellow pills

3 yellow pills

a Walgreens' vial stares at me from across the room
its contents await patiently
as the appointed hour looms
against the white kitchen counter
yellow pills stare up at me
pleading and begging to swallow all three

their chalky taste make a promise again
of electric pulses not to send
i put my faith in them, i have no choice, i must
but the misfirings begin
another broken trust

neurons gather like armies of ants
agitated and angry, on and on they rant
colors become brighter, emotions out of control
my sense of being, no longer whole

please quell the fires
you said you’d stop inside my head
the thought of more of you, i absolutely dread
liar, liar, liar, you make me ill

3 nasty, chalky, little… yellow pills

Friday, March 13, 2009

Yes, it is Friday the 13th

Was it not enough that we only had Friday the 13th last month? Apparently not. I'm not one to usually complain, but I feel it is not only warranted but vital to vent on this particular unlucky Friday.

I should have known it was too good to be true when both of my previously sick children went back to school after missing the first part of the week.

At just after midnight the hacking began. There is nothing worse than a persistent tickle in your throat. Actually there is when it's not you, but your kids and you're unable to comfort your 7-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son who are nestled in bed with you. Oh and then there's the 80-pound lug, er lab who knows how to expertly sprawl himself across all three of you.

On the upside, doctor has an early morning opening. Thankfully, we're reassured it's par for the season and incessant worrying? No reason. Mild lingering sinus infection that a week's worth of antibiotics will kick to the curb just in time before spring has sprung.

So while waiting at the pharmacy window Hunter looks up at me with a look moms know all too well. The adrenaline pumps as my arms butterfly their way through shoppers and carts. I pound on the locked bathroom door. Thankfully, store employee quickly registers the sight before him and manages the duck and dash maneuver as Hunter's chest rises and falls with each dry heave. Momentum is picking up and BINGO we have successful splash. Make that splashes.

I figure our antibiotic arsenal should be ready after MacGyver damage control. But no, the newly installed computer system is on the fritz. Pharmacist confirms what I already know to be true. "Yes, it's Friday the 13th."

Not long after mad dash home, pharmacist calls to inform me she just noticed the expiration date on my antibiotic arsenal and it's well, expired. You know where this is going. Earliest available date is Monday.

As of this posting, am still hoping for call that unexpired arsenal has been located and is in the process of being Fedexed. But with my luck today I should know better.

And how could I forget the pièce de résistance? Husband is in balmy f'ing Florida. Of course.

Yes, it is Friday the 13th.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Mom's Date Out

I preface the following by saying this was a previously written piece I've updated. I asked myself permission to reprint and thankfully, self replied favorably.

After 15 years of marriage and two kids, I’ve had it. I can’t hear myself think. Wait, I can’t even think. I need to escape the four walls of home, which also serve as my home office that have long imprisoned me. I’m leaving. OK, I just need a half-dayhall pass.

I will finally have a day I’ve long dreamed
about for years--a mom’s date out. I’ve decided that
every Wednesday I will have a date--not in the slip-into-a-
sexy outfit-to-wow-hubby-over kind of way, but a date
of self and soul searching. Preferably from a park bench
or a rocking chair at my favorite local bookstore.
Wednesdays are ideal--it’s midweek and besides, who goes out
on hump day?

I had my doubts at first. If I committed every Wednesday, would it become an obligation or chore like taking that new Bikram yoga class at my master planned rec center or promising to volunteer in my son or daughter's class?

I drew up a contract with only two simple rules and
signed my name in O+ blood:

1. My date can’t be spent catching up--there will always
be laundry, errand running, bills to pay. Once I blaze out
of the garage, all thoughts of work, wifely and motherly
duties are quickly erased from my hard drive.

2. The date is only shared with me, myself and I.

So last Wednesday I made my first date. As the day
approached, I became nervous and full of anticipation.
What would I do? How would I spend it? It had been so
long since I’d been wooed over by my own sense of
humor, penchant for great conversation, and the art of
ordering just the right item off the menu.

“Just be yourself,” I repeated over and over like a
meditation mantra to my reflection in the mirror.

Then there was the issue of the perfect outfit. What would I
wear? I didn’t want to come on too strong or appear
overzealous. I needed the perfect blend of comfort
tempered with sophistication. This was a first date, after

First impressions take less than seven seconds. I
slid into my signature look--faded Gap jeans, black tee and black square-toe boots. On top, I threw over my prized Nordstrom half-yearly find--a lime suede blazer. I had to admit, I didn’t look all too shabby for a frazzled mom and desperate housewife.

I was on my way, but to where? I hadn’t fully planned
out the logistics of my date. I’m always planning and so I
wanted to show myself I had at least one bone of
spontaneity in me. I took the side streets toward
downtown until I came upon an historic neighborhood I’d
always wanted to stop at, but never had the time to
before. I parked and stepped into the unseasonably
warm winter day. The wind whispered. Voices
exchanged opinions. Spokes spun. I indulged in these
long missed sounds.

I meandered in and out of artist-owned galleries
developing a new founded appreciation for a craft I
would never master.

“Are you on vacation?” a Grandma Moses dead ringer
asked, opening a tube of oil paint.

I didn’t hold back.

“Actually, I’m on a vacation of self-discovery.” It felt
liberating to announce that to a stranger. I purchased a
set of note cards as a memento of my journey.

“Good luck on your voyage,” Grandma Moses wished
me as I left, eager to continue down the trail.

I stumbled upon a Victorian home turned into a café a
few blocks away. Patio seating. I swung open the
creaky door. A New York Times left behind. A plethora
of menu choices scribbled in chalk. I’d been delivered
from Starbucks. Angels sang in my head.

I ordered and found a spot in the sun. I sank my teeth
into thickly cut slabs of crunchy bacon, just ripe
tomatoes and leafy lettuce. I was polite enough not to
point out to myself the mayo dribbling down my chin.
Who knew food had taste? It’d been so long.
The date was going great; we had potential.

I read the Times from cover to cover, relishing the ink
stains on my fingers. Me, myself and I engaged in
political banter, shared jokes and mulled over the
always challenging crossword. We lingered over a
pumpkin spice latte until we hesitantly agreed it was
time to go.

But not before making the move we were both

As I leaned into myself for a warm embrace, I knew in
my heart I wanted to continue this relationship.
Next Wednesday it is, I agreed without hesitation.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Thrifty is Nifty!

I know everyone is looking for ways to cut corners at all angles. I must admit even before these challenging economic times befell us, I practiced the mantra, "Thrifty is nifty!"

Recycle. Reuse. Reduce. Redeem. Rally against the recession.

All of the above!

I thought it would fun as well as entertaining to share my own cost-saving ways and perhaps glean a few tips from those surfing in cyberland.

I now present in no particular order my version of Confessions of a Saveaholic...

Movies. Go for the matinees. In my neighborhood our local multi-movieplex offers $6 tickets for all shows before noon on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Banish name brands
whilst grocery shopping. Plain wrap Rice Krispies taste no different than the Kellogg's label and you'll save at least two bucks a box. Snap crackle pop still snaps crackles and pops.

Skip Starbucks. My husband introduced me to gas gourmet coffees. Yes as in that diesel smelling place you fill-er up! Who knew pumping gas and pouring your own Joe could save you wads of ones. Rev up both engines at once. With the high turnover, you'll always get a fresh brew. Heavenly Hazelnut. Vanish Your Cares Away French Vanilla. Espresso Escapes. Who knew? No wonder Starbucks is bitter. It sits and burns all day awaiting customers to shell out many a George Washington.

Hair cut and color. They (as in those financial experts doling out daily dismal news) say our grooming habits are the first to go in a downward turn. Well they're all wrong. I changed my salon ways long before the sky fell. Three words. Salon training nights. And two words. Beauty Schools. Apprentice hairstylists have to start somewhere. Remember your first job? Practice. Practice. Practice. And having had my head shaved for a few brain surgeries, I figure it's just hair. In fact, it's dead protein and it does and will grow back. Apprentice's have a genuine passion for learning and they are far more attentive too. You'll walk out with tamed tresses, which we all need in these harried times.

The library
. It's become my family's one stop entertainment well stop! Best-seller books. Checked out. Week long magazine and DVD loans. Checked out. Free Internet. Logged on. Free interesting lectures. Attended. In fact, my kids are so conditioned to the library that when we do visit a bricks and mortar bookstore they think we can check out their books.

Speaking of bricks and mortar....they offer free events all year. One of our family favorites is the Tattered Cover's last Friday of every month pajama story time. Free snacks. Coupons for all purchases. What a deal and you only have to fight your kids to brush their teeth once you're home. Bedtime battle half over.

Make up. I admit I used to be a sucker for pretty packaging and fragrant lotions, potions, powders... But like so many things in life, most cosmetics are all dressed up with nowhere to go and superficial on the outside; empty on the inside. I've discovered a $25 tube of mascara doesn't do any better of a job extending what non-extendable lashes I was blessed with. I can admire my son's instead. In the meantime, my new fave is Maybelline's Lash Stiletto. Even if I had Carrie Bradshaw's budget, I would never wear spikey heals, but at least my lashes can parade around. I almost feel badly for the beauty industry. If they only knew how much I was saving. Sorry Chanel, Clinique and Clarins. Cetaphil, Neutrogena and Maybelline are my BFF's. Mom was right!

Hand wash in cold. Music to my ears. I'm lucky my work and adaptable kids have made it possible to rack up the frequent flier miles over the years. I used to overpack until I discovered that nearly every item at White House Black Market is crumple and rumple proof and the best bet, all about Woolite. No longer do I agonize about having that just-in-case outfit for every just-in-case-opportunity that may or not present itself. Another three words. Pack in black. Black blouse. Black sweater. Black tee. Black skirt. Black pants. Black pumps. Black boots. Wanna go crazy? Throw in a pair of dark blue jeans. I do. They all match. It's chic. Simple. Streamlined. Stress-free and no more exorbitant dry cleaning fees! And with the airlines charging for checked bags, your simplified wardrobe comes on board with you.

Thrifty is nifty!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Gym Gripes

Not too long ago I blogged about my beef with cell phones at the gym. Sorry but bulking up and BlackBerry's don't mix.

Other observations since my return to working out after a nine year hiatus...

Don't fool yourself trying to catch up on some light reading while stairmastering, cycling, walking, ellipticalling or running. Honestly, jamming on your iPod while trying to convince yourself you're building brain cells and muscle mass is a farce. Multitasking has no place at the gym. Cleaning toilets while being subjected to thirty plus minutes of an inane Musak track as you patiently hold for a third world country call center so called customer service agent to tell you he or she is unable to help you merits multitasking.

Besides, do you realize how slow you are actually pedaling as you try to focus on three activities all at once? This also applies to the guy reading the Bible on the treadmill. I should think HE would want your fully undivided attention--elsewhere.


Hey lady with the acid washed frayed jean shorts AND cut off hot pink muscle shirt. Not a good look. The past your ass bleached-one-too-many-times tresses isn't turning any heads either even though you have a compulsion to admire yourself in the mirror between sets. I'm a Cali girl too, but please take your look back to Venice Beach. It's not working in Colorado, especially in the master-planned burbs.

Germ-phobe. Yes, I'm talking to you. The one who has a cringeful-to-witness compulsion to reach for the spray bottle of disinfectant not just after each set, but in between each rep. Do your three sets, then spray. And just once. Or do the rest of us a favor and work out in your Lysol-contagion-free-bubble you call home. I'll pass on the asphysixation thank you. You're probably unaware of the fact that human beings require a certain level of germs to actually remain healthy. That's why antibiotics have lost their effectiveness.

Stay tuned for more observations!

Friday, February 27, 2009

R.I.P. Rocky

It's a sad day indeed in the Mile High city. Not just for Coloradans, but for the entire journalism profession--one I count myself lucky to be a member of.

My mornings will no longer be the same. Even though I didn't grow up with you, you rolled out the welcome mat when I first drove across your "Colorful Colorado" borders 16 years ago to pursue my graduate degree at CU's School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Call me old school, but I prefer to turn a page, fold over a corner, stain my hands with fresh ink, clip out a helpful tidbit or two or interesting profile to save for later. I always enjoyed your easy-to-peruse format especially as I was never much good at expertly folding each section like the other newspapers. I'll take old school any day over scrolling online through fine print after fine print.

I still have my original clips for the times I garnered a byline across your pages.

A Colorado native, my husband grew up with the Rocky. When he left to pitch for the California Angels over two decades ago, my father-in-law would lovingly clip every box score highlighting the innnings pitched, hits, runs, earned runs, bases on balls, strike outs along with his earned run average.

When my daughter, Hannah and son, Hunter were born, I created a tradition of saving the front page of the Rocky for every birthday. At least Hannah has seven tangible copies and Hunter four. If only you could have held on until your 150th anniversary Hunter would have had a copy on his fifth April Fool's birthday.

Printing it out from the internet doesn't quite cut it. Again call me old school, but my Tattered Cover escape breaks and park bench outings won't be the same again. I'll miss leafing through each page.

And how do I break the news to my lab, Koufax who will no longer perform his daily ritual of retrieving the news in anticipation of a tasty treat?

Yes, it's a sad day indeed. For readers, writers, reporters, photographers, copy editors...

Farewell Rocky Mountain News.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Big D Does It For Me

I’ll do anything to avoid it. I feign ignorance as I tiptoe by
it—back and forth, back and forth—throughout my days,
but I know it’s there. Lurking behind the hall closet,
tucked under winter coats and random stuff I have
nowhere else to store.

It’s the dreaded V—the vacuum. Give me dog slobbered
and kids’ fingerprinted sliding glass doors to clean or
heaps of laundry to do any day. Heck, I’d rather scrape
soap scummed showers or load the dishwasher than
unleash the electrically powered beast.

Truth be told, I’ll avoid most chores at any cost. Unlike
many writers who rely on them to divert them from their craft,
domestic drudgeries are actually quite conducive
to my trade and have served me well.

Dishes. Dog shit. Dirty windows. So sorry they can wait,
I have a brilliantly comedic column to compose.
Deadlines are fast approaching!

My name is Liz. I’m a suburban housewife/mother/writer
and I confess, I am domestically disabled and—-dare I
say it?—-I am damn proud of it.

How did I get this way? Simple—15 hours of brain
surgery, rearranging your upstairs furniture and
screwing your skull back together, has a dramatic life
altering impact on someone. You wake up one day with
enough titanium in your head to sink a battleship and
proclaim “Chores, schmores,”—-the latter also being fun,
albeit a bit messy, to eat. Life suddenly has more
meaning. (Forgive my brain tumor survivor drum I have
to beat every so often to keep the masses aware.)

But that all changed one day, when an equally
domestically disabled girlfriend showed up at my door.
She popped open her car trunk to unveil the Holy Grail
of all vacuums—the Dyson. I’d heard about this elite V
class in the past, but thought nothing more of it.

At first, I thought it was a practical joke. But she wasn’t
kidding as she easily hoisted the box and carried its contents into my dust bunnies' ridden house.

“I promise you’ll love it!” she shouted as she bolted out
the front door.

It was just me and the beckoning box. But I already
owned a V. Where would I stash this one?

Well at least I could take a look, I reasoned. No harm in
that, right?

I’d tried Oreck’s, Hoover’s, Dirt Devil’s, Bissell’s,
Kirby’s, even my husband’s Shop Vac. They had no
staying power—they were all just flings.

But I immediately sensed the Dyson was different. I
guess I could take it for a test drive. After all, I could
always chuck it in the recycling bin or pass it on to one
of my other domestically unchallenged girlfriends.

I plugged Big D in and we had lift off.

Big D gently caressed corners and easily glided back
and forth. Its hose extended beyond reach to places I’d
never explored before. Under tables. The stairs. Even
the hardwood floors. It was quiet and not overbearing
like the others. And when it was done with the job, I
easily popped Big D’s top and disposed the contents
into the trash. No leaking, messy bags to contend with.
It was mess and muss free.

EUREKA! Yes, Big D does it for me!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Second Chance

Nine years ago today, I was granted a second chance at life after surviving a half-day long craniotomy. Who would have thought?!

At the time I was on a frustrating quest to become a mother when my gut instinct ultimately led me to the discovery of a life threatening baseball-sized meningioma brain tumor.

I'll never forget the paralyzing fear as I was rolled towards the OR wondering if I would emerge and if so, what condition I'd be in. Would I still be me? There were no guarantees at the time.

It is a miracle I survived hour after hour of delicate and risky surgery while also avoiding a blood transfusion. Of course this was all unbeknowst to me at the time as my husband, mom, brother, friends and neighbors anxiously paced the Neuro ICU waiting room.

It wasn't my time yet. Every day I am thankful for my second chance at life and for my two beautiful blessings, Hannah and Hunter who saved my life and bestowed the title of mom upon me.

So today I can proudly proclaim, scream, shout, holler... "I am a 9-year meningioma survivor!" Damn that feels good!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Valentine's Schmalentine's

Don’t get me wrong—deep down inside I’m a romantic at heart. I have a treasured box of every card and letter my husband has given me packed away somewhere in our basement. I swoon when offered dark chocolate of any kind, although I prefer Belgian. Hallmark commercials often bring me to tears.

I just have a problem with this upcoming holiday that insists we be romantic. Commands us to empty our wallets on overpriced, will-wilt-too-soon roses. Demands us
to shower our loved ones with gifts when we only did so six weeks ago over that politically name-challenged season. Yes, that one we’re seeing debit creditors for.

I don’t need a date on a calendar to remind me when I
should profess my love to my betrothed. Isn’t that what
spontaneity and surprises are all about? Like when my
husband fills my car up with gas when snow is
forecasted or when I leave an “I love you” sticky note on
his dashboard.

As a child, I remember making creative valentines out of
doilies and collecting them in paper sacks to bring
home. My girlfriends and I enjoyed reading all the sweet
sayings on those chalky conversation hearts. Simple
sentiments like “You’re Cute”, “Be Mine” and “ Kiss Me. ”
And who could forget red hots?!

Show up with a doily and a 39-cent box of hearts today
and you’re in trouble according to the way Valentine’s
Day should be embraced by societal standards.
Showering your sweetie requires you declare bankruptcy if you haven't
already lost your home.

In case you're out of the loop, the Valentine’s
buck doesn’t end with your significant other either. There are
dollars to shell out for your co-workers, friends,
neighbors, and why not include the local grocery clerk
and the Pizza Hut delivery man while we’re at it?

If I want to contribute to the estimated $14.7 billion consumers
are expected to spend (what bad economy?!) this year, I should adhere to this week's Target ad and prove my love to my hubby with a $200 heated massaging cushion; he should indulge me with a pink (of course) hand mixer at $70. I should spring for an Apple 1GB Shuffle at the bargain price of $49.99 for my two kids. Mind you they're seven and four.

Let’s see that only sets back a family of four to
$370 before one adds the already wilted roses and chocolates.
Suppose we’ll be eating Top Ramen during the month of St.

And if that’s not enough, how about the daily ads in my
paper boldly proclaiming “Surprise your sweetie with
Botox or Restylane injections” and “Lipo your love
handles.” Even though I’ve had two kids, I’m not falling
for the $100 off liposuction coupon either. Who knew all
I needed was an afternoon date with a needle or power
hose to get me feeling in the mood? Maybe I’ll surprise
my hubby with a year’s supply of Cialis. That should lift
his sagging spent spirits, don’t you think?

I’ll settle for the chalky hearts thank you.

Thursday, February 5, 2009


No, this isn't a rant about bad drivers becoming even worse drivers while talking or texting on their BlackBerry's. Nor is it a persuasive piece about giving them up. After all, I became a BlackBerry convert two years ago and it would be quite hypocritical of me to suggest such an idea.

Rather this is a plea to all gym junkies to proclaim the time you spend grunting and sweating as a BlackBerry-free zone. Considering I only recently returned to the gym after a nine, ahem, year absence is it too much to ask that you don't subject your weight mates to your nonsensical, er, inane conversations? After all, I extend you the courtesy of lip syncing in silence. I can assure those equally equipped with iPods on either side of my elliptical don't wish to be serenaded to my shrieking strains of Pink, Fergie or shudder the thought, Madonna.

There's the concentration factor to consider as well. I've seen it too many times to count. You're in the groove, heartbeat is in the target zone and you notice the familiar flashing red light. A message awaits! Simply ignore? Hell no, you attempt to maintain frantic pace while dare I say it--TEXT MESSAGE BACK. Many a head injury could be averted if the BlackBerry was banned.

We're all familiar with the rules:

30 minutes maximum on cardio.

Don't loiter on machines between sets.

Restack weights.

Let's add BlackBerry-free zone to the list while we're at it too.

If not, beware or I'll lift my self-imposed moratorium on silent lip syncing. I warned you!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Before the Sun Rises

It was nine years ago today, but it still feels like that morning. A damp, cold, gray, Colorado winter morning when the sun had yet to rise and peak through my shutters stirring me from sleep. Instead, the high pierced shrill of a phone performed the sun’s daily ritual.

With receiver pressed firmly against my ear, an uneven, sterile voice greeted (if you could call it that) me. The unfamiliar, gravelly voice delivered a fate I still carry to this day and will until my last breath.

It only took four words.

“You have a meningioma,” the hollow voice uttered.

“A whaaaat?!” I stuttered back.

A BRAIN TUMOR,” the voice continued, sending chills down my spine.

How do you even spell that I wanted to know as I desperately rifled through my nightstand drawer in search of a pen, a pencil—ah, heck my Mac Spice lip liner would do.

Men-in-gioma sounds more like a group of guys test-driving the latest foreign import, with all the bells and whistles, not to mention the 2.9% available financing option.

If only it could have been that simple.

The line went dead.

But surely it was me who was dead. I had become that damp, cold, gray Colorado winter morning.

Just hours later, I sat in horror as my newly appointed neurosurgeon explained the MRI I’d had the night before. Never-before-heard terms soared over my head.

Middle third sphenoid wing meningioma.

Cavernous sinus.

Lateral ventricular compression.

You’d have to be a brain surgeon to understand any of this stuff. Thankfully, the man in the overly starched, white lab coat standing in front of me was.

I forced myself to look at the snapshots of my illuminated brain. Images of a baseball-sized mass glared back at me in defiance. My husband was a major league ballplayer at the time, but I never imagined I’d be looking at the equivalent size of one in my head. Surely there had been a mix up. I was healthy, only 32 and trying to start a family. Maybe this explained my struggles to become pregnant the past year.

“You’ve probably had this tumor for over a decade,” my neurosurgeon solemnly announced.

“A decade!” I choked. I had had a “roommate” living inside of my head for 10 years? The only roommates I ever recalled having were back in college and graduate school, who shared their English Lit notes with you and gave you aspirin and a glass of water after a night of one too many beers.

I couldn’t get out of my head the Kindergarten Cop scene in which Arnold Schwarzenegger shouted, “It’s not a tumor!” I so wanted to believe this. But this wasn’t a fictional movie.

It was real life and it was mine. Surgery would be long and risky, but I didn’t have a choice. Just eight days later I underwent 12 hours of delicate surgery to remove the roommate that had invaded my brain and my life.

I was well on the path to recovery when another blow sucker punched me. An oozing orifice led to emergency surgery—my second in just three months. Would I ever heal or had a brain tumor diagnosis forever altered the Liz I once knew?

Despite my resolve it proved tough to heal once again and doctors remained skeptical I could become pregnant, save for adoption or IVF.

It was a miracle that I’d survived two brain surgeries, but my greatest miracle arrived Sept. 6, 2001, when my daughter, Hannah was born. And on April Fool’s day 2004, my second miracle, Hunter, debuted a month early. Both naturally. I owe my life to them for had I not been trying to have Hannah and Hunter, you wouldn’t be reading this today.

And I’m no longer afraid of phone calls before the sun rises.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Happy Birthday!

My brainchild, Meningioma Mommas is six today!

Hope. Friendship. Laughter.
Nearly 4,000 served and connected.
$145,000 of meningioma specific research funded.
Hugs. Tears. Fears.
Yes We Can.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Tube Thoughts...

You think I'd be used to this by now. After all, I've had more MRI's than I can count on two hands. I know for some it's easier with each passing year, but for me I think it's getting harder as I rack up the point of no return years. I can't help the fear that the longer I'm a meningioma survivor that one day my perfect record will shatter. I'm on a Cal Ripken Jr. streak if you will.

Enough of the doom and gloom!

Much earlier today, I underwent my nth date with the MRI tube. On the upside, the scans that used to take 45 minutes have significantly shaved off minutes--a bonus for the claustophobic. Call it the drive-thru MRI if you will. With that said, the sensations haven't changed or the newly added features I experienced for the first time today. Did someone say earthquake simulator?!

So in an INXS "Mediate" sort of way, my ruminations about my meningioma journey thus far from earlier today while in the tube and as I awaited my follow up report with everything crossed...

Various sensations.
Mixed emotions.

And then I received word from the oracle aka my brilliant neurosurgeon....

Actually his smile gave away the results before he uttered them.

"Perfectly clear." Then he flashed me two thumbs up.

My reaction aside from obvious relief?!

What a difference nine years makes.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Oh No Not Again

Oh no, I'm not talking about already breaking a new year's resolution, but rather the looming doom I always feel during this time of year....the dreaded MRI.

Three days from now to be exact, I'll get strapped into that all too familiar hollow tube and get shot up with enough gadolinium to rival the Fourth of July. All in the name of ensuring my ex-roommate aka the baseball-sized meningioma brain tumor I had evicted nine years ago, isn't back and back with a vengeance.

Two years ago I had a scare—the suspected residual tumor or scar tissue—doctors still can't determine which it is—indicated change. Not enough for my neurosurgeons (never thought I'd say that in my life time, I have a team of neurosurgeons at my disposal.) to be concerned at the time. So I'm on WAW or Wait and Watch as us brain tumor survivors call it. On the upside of having a brain tumor, I’ve mastered an entirely new lingo.

Wait for what? For the ex-roommate to defiantly proclaim its presence? Watch it move its prized possessions back in and get accustomed to former cushy and comfortable surroundings? I certainly hope not, but it's not up to me to decide. I'm comforted by the fact that if my tumor ever decides to rally in cells and grows, I know what to expect. After all, I’ve read the Meningioma Master Plan Eviction otherwise known as my path report. I know how the doctors excavated my roommate.

Bipolar electrocautery was utilized as well as a large Leksell, Midas Rex, a 15 blade and for a lovely touch—a corkscrew to pop open my dura. The MMPE also states, “The CUSA (Cavitron Ultra-sonic Aspirator) was used to try to debulk the tumor but the tumor was so tough and fibrous that it would not adequately work. Using an attachment, a ring attachment on the Bovie, this was used to internally decompress the tumor.”

The first time I read those haunting words I had an image of the trademark mustard yellow Stanley Steemer cleaner vans delivering super powered vacuums to suck out my stubborn roommate.

And then…“At this point, utilizing the bipolar electrocautery, the biopsy forceps, several various-sized patties were taken of tumor.”

I couldn’t help but think of McDonald’s.

“Meningioma Melt and super-size the fries please.” I always knew there was a reason for my aversion to the Golden Arches.

“This tumor was hard, fibrous,” the MMPE made particular mention of a second time. Well, what did they expect—it had been adhered to my brain for the last 10 years. Why would it want to leave all the comforts of home—free room and board and a plentiful food source?

I further learned that I had narrowly escaped having a blood transfusion, and my bone flap was secured in place with three bone buttons. While that explained the three indentations I could feel in my head, similar to a bowling ball, it also raised more questions. Whose bone was now residing in my head—I certainly wasn’t missing any of mine that I was aware of—and what if a button gradually unthreaded itself? I’m not much of a seamstress, but I don’t like the thought of loose bone buttons floating around in a pool of cerebrospinal fluid.

Bottom line—I'm a brain surgery veteran with 15 hours of grueling and delicate surgery under my thin-skinned skull. I have the upside down question mark scar to prove it.

Oh no not again is right and hopefully next Tuesday will yield two pieces of great news--my ex is obeying its restraining orders and I'll breathe easier.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

For You Dad

I know too many people whose parents have passed away. I’m lucky to still have mine. In honor of my father who turned 78-years-old this week, what I love most about you...

1. You’re the smartest man I know.
2. I could always come home after college and did!
3. I love being your “daddy’s little girl.”
4. You’ve always supported my decisions even if you didn’t always agree with them.
5. You taught me how to ride my first bike—the cobalt blue one with the speckled banana seat.
6. When I had the chicken pox in 2nd grade you bought me a music box that played “Love Song.”
7. You shared the beauty of the ocean with me early on in my life.
8. You’re a great story teller.
9. I never got tired of hearing the tale about the “One-eyed Cyclops” at dinner time.
10. You taught me to appreciate culture even though I hated PBS as a child.
11. You helped me buy my first car after I signed your 13-page payment agreement with my brothers as witnesses.
12. You tell great dirty limericks and jokes.
13. You got me to eventually enjoy milk.
14. The great vacations to La Jolla and Big Bear.
15. Instilling the value of a college education from an early age.
16. You and mom giving me three younger brothers.
17. You love to take walks.
18. We can both say we are UC Irvine graduates.
19. You let me drink coffee-milk on Sundays.
20. You have patents.
21. You remained patient when I struggled to solve algebra and geometry problems—not an easy thing to do since you’re a mathematician.
22. Your New York accent.
23. How excited you get when the Oakland Raiders score a touch down even if they didn’t much do that this season.
24. How you called Elliot, Josh, Jonathan and me kiddley beans when we were kids.
25. Taking us on picnics at Aldrich Park.
26. The cup of always freshly sharpened pencils on your desk.
27. I learned to drive in your avocado green Pontiac.
28. You gave me the “rings” from the cigars you used to smoke.
29. Treating me and my best friend to the Bouzy Rouge Café for my 16th birthday.
30. When you gave me my first cat, Natasha, for my 8th grade graduation present.
31. How you tolerated my wearing-all-black-to-go-dancing phase in high school.
32. You save everything like I do.
33. We both like Heineken beer.
34. You always helped me write and proofread my English papers.
35. You didn’t get too upset when I double-pierced my ears in 9th grade.
36. You made it possible for me to attend college(s).
37. You fostered my interest in photography.
38. Your great bear hugs.
39. You’re sentimental.
40. You have the most extensive book collection of anyone I know.
41. You’re patient.
42. You cross your z’s and 7’s like me.
43. You’re right and left-brained.
44. You love Woody Allen films and I do too because of you.
45. I’m always proud to say “My dad attended M.I.T.”
46. You never told me how you really felt about my boyfriends until after we’d broken up.
47. Your handwriting is easier to read than mom’s.
48. You let me try Cognac when I was a toddler and I haven’t tried it since.
49. You always say “I love you” before hanging up the phone.
50. You and mom still live in the same house I grew up in.
51. Our summers spent at Shaw’s Cove.
52. You and mom getting silly on New Year’s Eve after one glass of champagne.
53. Not complaining about the huge mess my brothers and I created in the kitchen after making you breakfast in bed on special occasions.
54. You always count the number of candles on our birthday cakes to make sure they’re accurate before we make a wish.
55. My first outing to Disneyland was with you.
56. The sound of your deep voice when you sing the Sabbath blessings.
57. Taking us to Baskin-Robbins for ice cream cones.
58. Not getting too mad at grandma when she gave us chocolate buttons and candy cigarettes from Zucky’s deli.
59. You let me celebrate my birthday for three days when I was growing up!
60. The fun we had playing Careers.
61. When you used to carry me fireman-style.
62. Swinging with you in our backyard hammock.
63. Letting us play in your’ 56 Chevy in the carport.
64. Memories of you reading Twas the Night before Christmas as we gathered around the fireplace on Christmas Eve.
65. How your eyes light up when you smile.
66. You took me to my first drive in—Pinocchio in your Chevy.
67. Your eclectic tie collection, which you still have.
68. Our friendly Labyrinth competitions.
69. Sharing cream cheese and olive sandwiches and pink lemonade with you at the beach.
70. Your contagious laugh.
71. Your threadbare green and white terry cloth robe.
72. When you share the story about how you and mom met at a graduate school mixer.
73. You separate the Sunday paper into each section before you read it and so do I.
74. You and mom are still married.
75. Your sister is a great aunt.
76. You're incredibly healthy eater.
77.Your amazing memory.
78. That you’re my dad.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Blonde & Brain Impaired

Just some brain tumor schumor for the weekend...

To all those women feeling blessed, er, or rather cursed at times with being a true blonde, I can relate. I entered the world as a towhead, but not even sun and saline summers I spent year after year along the Pacific coast could preserve what Mother Nature had bestowed upon me. At nearly 42, (ok, only 41!) it’s actually sandy blonde and I have to pay what freelancing income (rather pittance) I don’t have, to achieve the gorgeous caramel and honey hues my 7-year-old daughter was naturally blessed with.

Lest I digress, I’ve had my fair share of “Dumb Blonde Jokes” sent to me. You all know the ones I’m referring to like “How can you tell if a blonde's been using the computer? There's white-out on the screen.” Or “Why do blondes take the pill?So they know what day of the week it is.”

And if being blonde wasn’t bad enough, nine years ago I discovered I had a brain tumor—a baseball-size tumor known as a meningioma, which shockingly had occupied my cranium for well over a decade.

So large was my uninvited guest that, like a schoolyard bully, it had actually shoved and pushed the right side of my spongy brain into its hemispheric left-sided counterpart. I’m convinced--or at least I tried selling this argument to my parents for years--this is why I wasn’t granted admittance into Columbia, Northwestern, CAL, (it’s too painful to name the rest), prestigious journalism programs.

Within days I was scheduled for surgery to remove the roommate that had invaded my brain and my life. I was told at the time that had my neurosurgeon not already been booked (I thought you only booked airline tickets and fancy dinner reservations), my half day surgery would have taken place within 24 hours.

It’s a miracle I survived considering how life threatening my blood thirsty tumor was and the fact that it was so tough and fibrous (as noted in my play by play path report) that in order to extract it, it was thinly sliced like deli meat.

Not long after my surgery I became more aware of how people reacted when I proclaimed I was a brain tumor survivor. Inevitably, the common reaction was, “You look too good to have had brain surgery.” Translation—why didn’t I resemble Herman Munster? OR people nearly gave themselves whiplash wondering how and where my tumor was removed. It didn’t take long before I offered an automated response, “Yes, the entire new line of Home Depot Dual Bevel Slide Miter Saws and DeWalt 18 volt compact drill drivers were demoed on my head!”

In fact, it’s become one of my many favorite mantras, which I don’t hesitate to share—the world needs to know that you can survive major surgery--including brain surgery. If you can’t talk about it and laugh at yourself, then this scary life altering subject will only continue to be shrouded in secrecy. And I’ve noticed that when I talk openly about not only being blonde but a brain tumor survivor as well, people lose the nervous laughter. They usually move in closer, cautiously inch by inch, curious about the bowling ball grip (courtesy of neurosurgeon drilling and tumor excavation) I point out beneath my highlighted hairline.

The best part about being a brain tumor survivor is being alive and reinventing myself. So without further adieu and in hopes of catching David Letterman’s attention, I present…

Top Ten Brain Tumor Survivor Benefits

10. Botox injections are painless if your face is numb like mine. I actually look forward to them, well that's if I did Botox.
9. My brain was occupied by a roommate, which explains why I wasn't accepted into an Ivy League school.
8. It's a great conversation starter: “I survived a brain tumor.”
7. It makes for really cool show and tell. I have an upside-down scar that resembles a question mark along my right ear.
6. I have a legitimate excuse for misplacing my keys, putting milk in the pantry and forgetting where I parked my car.
5. I’ll be on drugs for the rest of my life and am privileged to carry a dog-eared Walgreens frequent RX punch card.
4. I’m on a first name basis with the MRI techs at every hospital in my vicinity.
3. I love to gauge strangers’ reactions when I tell them, “I’m blonde; I don’t have a brain.”
2. I get my kicks when my titanium screws set off airport security alarms.
1. I’m waiting to get pulled over for speeding so I can say, “But officer, I’m blonde AND brain impaired!”

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Welcome to Wacky Wednesday!


I’ve had it. I’m done. I wish I could quit you all, but the sad reality is I can’t. I’m only 41. Aren’t I still considered too young for all of this?

It all started my senior year of high school when I acquired the first of the ologists. My gynecologist— my mother’s to be exact. Dr. Feldman. I didn’t think it proper to have a man touch me in places no other man had before. I found my own—a female— when I left for college.

I was safe for a long time and could deal with the cold stirrups on an annual basis. I pretty much was ologist-free in my 20’s. The trouble all began as soon as I hit my 30’s or what I refer to as my mid-life crisis years. Thankfully, I finished with them a few August's ago.

After a routine visit with my gynecologist, she noticed blood in my urine and referred me to an urologist. What was he going to feel when I coughed? A misdirected urine stream? I endured tests and was told nothing was wrong.

Nothing wrong that is until my years of Southern California sun worshipping urged me to seek an ologist on my own—a dermatologist. My body checked out fine except in places where the sun had never set its eyes. Two office visits later, my ass resembled Swiss cheese. I only shudder to think how the rest of me will look as time marches on.

Not many months after the Swiss cheese episode, I discovered a lump in my breast during an early morning shower. Back to the gynecologist I went. Days later I saw a radiologist. A week later, my breast tumor was removed. Back to the gynecologist for a post-surgery follow up. I think you get the drift of how I spent my early 30’s

Hold on, I’m not done yet.

Nine years ago, I began having seizures, migraine headaches, infertility issues. I just wanted to become a mother and I went from one puzzled doctor to another. I had an MRI. A radiologist read my scans and less than 12 hours later, I was assigned a neurosurgeon. I had a baseball-size meningioma brain tumor, which required immediate surgery.

I survived the surgery, but my drilled-into psyche didn’t. I added a fifth doctor, a neuropsychologist, to help me cope. He didn’t offer ologist coping strategies though, which in retrospect, would have been helpful.

I healed and life went on. I bore the daughter I was told I couldn’t have. Her arrival brought great joy, but not in terms of the seizures I started having again.

I added neurologist to my growing list of ologist docs. This one gives me drugs and they don’t come cheap.

Five years ago, miracle child number two came along and with that, a knock-me-down fatigue I’d never experienced before. Back to the gynecologist who makes referral to expert endocrinologist. I donate vials of blood and am diagnosed with funny sounding disease—Hashimoto’s—to be exact. My thyroid is slower than a turtle’s pace. More drugs, but these come much cheaper.

And even though I do have hemmorhoids—a lovely souvenir two pregnancies gave me—I don’t think I’m quite ready to go down the proctologist path.

I am now on a first name basis with my pharmacologist. My yearly planner is pre-booked with annual visits to gynecologist, dermatologist, radiologist, neurologist, and endocrinologist.

Luckily, I was able to break up with the neuropsychologist without any hard feelings.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Mind Over Meningioma

This entry is in response to KiwiGirl's query about any healthful changes I've implented in my life since meningioma excavation as I like to refer to it. Naturally one would think I'd jump right back to my normal routine after brain surgery. Of course that's easier said than done.

Ironically I was in the best shape of my life prior to my tumor finally being discovered. I worked out, ate relatively healthy, got enough sleep...And who would have predicted that three months into my recovery I'd spring a CSF(cerebrospinal fluid) leak and require emergency brain surgery? Then there's my pregnancy (despite being told I couldn't conceive naturally) another five months later. Baby #2 followed by hypothyrodism diagnosis and what little energy I did have, I reserved for naps and napping. I think you know where I'm going with this.

My husband, a retired althete, reminded me how energized I felt after we used to work out together. But hun, I'd plead, how can I work out when I don't have the energy to in the first place?!

Not even turning 40 motivated me to step back into a gym. I guess you could say I was still haunted by the memories of walking the treadmill and lifting weights while unbeknownst to me, I was harboring a massive meningioma brain tumor. Yes, I could justify I was getting plenty of exercise chasing after two kids.

So what did it finally take?

The day before my 41st birthday I took a personal inventory of my physical health. I was tired of being tired--one of the permanent residual deficits from brain surgery as well as the medications I'll remain on for the rest of my life. The anti-seizure medication I take daily also compromises bone health so wasn't that a compelling enough reason on its own? Hello, osteoporosis. I was eight years out, what was my excuse?

Excuse no more.

The morning of my birthday I took a walk. Was I winded! I took another, followed by another... I'm proud to say that while I've never been one of those daily exercise junkies, I've stuck to a plan of improving my health for five months now. But's not just about breaking a sweat and firming up my floppy muffin top. What's worked best for me is the following simple plan:

Anyone can find 30 minutes in his or her day. Think about how much time you can spend mindlessly surfing the internet. Those minutes quickly add up! Pen it in like you do your TO DO LIST. Grocery shopping, pay bills, fire up your heart...

I've never been one to diet and am thankful for great genes, but I know that I can't eat my favorite food group--cheese--six meals a day! Instead, what I've done is swap out chips for almonds or walnuts. What a boost in the afternoon when that proverbial slump hits. I also don't believe in restricting favorite foods. In fact, two of my eating goals for 2009 are to eat dark chocolate every day and enjoy a glass of red wine (which for some uncanny reason is the only elixir that eases the daily facial pain I live with. More on that in another post!) with dinner. So far, so good.

The most important change I've implemented since kicking-meningioma-to-the curb is simple even though it took me years to accept and fully embrace:

I've learned to tune into my body and accept my newly defined limits as frustrating (not feeling up to walking my kids to the park, which is heartbreaking) as it is.

Those who know and understand me accept that when I make plans for any future date they are always followed by the caveat of SUBJECT TO BEING CANCELLED. And many a last minute cancellations I've made.

I nap nearly every day and research has proven that even a 12 minute nap can reset your sagging productivity levels.

Speaking of sleep, I require at least 8-9 hours to function the next day. And timing matters for some inexplicible reason. For example, nine hours from 10:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. is more restorative than say sleep from midnight to 9 a.m. Just another one of those post-surgery quirks I guess! I used to have the stamina to pull all nighters, but it is no longer to be. Thankfully I finished college before I was even aware of my unwelcome upstairs roommate.

Finally, what works better than any ellipitical session or decadent chocolate is unplugging my mind. Losing myself in a foreign film, visiting my favorite beach during a visit home, hiking a new trail...all on my own.

Mind over Meningioma.

Thank you for this thought provoking quest for healing. Would love to hear what works for you!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Meningioma on My Mind...

No this isn’t a Willie Nelson reprisal of “Always on My Mind” but it could be. Rather it’s an ode to an issue that is very dear to my heart and literally on my mind every day.

Nine years ago, I was on a mission to find out why I couldn’t become pregnant and have the children I so desperately wanted. Instead, at age 32 I was diagnosed with a baseball-size brain tumor called a meningioma and underwent life saving surgery eight days later.
Meningiomas are the most prevalent primary brain tumor and of those diagnosed, 65% are women.

Many misconceptions surround meningiomas, one of them being that they are harmless because 90 percent are classified as benign. In reality, they are often far from it, even deadly. Benign tumors can cause permanent disabilities and be life-threatening. Meningiomas have a 15 to 20 percent reoccurrence rate so survivors must be monitored for the rest of their lives and live with the fear that they may come back.

Preliminary research has indicated that meningiomas could be hormonally fuelled. I was constantly told it was all in my head, I’m female, hormonal, stressed out— the modern woman’s plague! They are also slow growing so as a result of all these factors many meningiomas are misdiagnosed, especially as some of the symptoms can be attributed to menopause, or are not detected until they start causing serious deficits or even kill.

When I was diagnosed I felt alone, isolated and frightened. I knew of no one who had survived a brain tumor let alone a meningioma. Those feelings were aggravated by the fact that they are often discounted by those in the medical profession and I was told I had the “good” brain tumor. Who knew I was this lucky. As far as I’m concerned, there is nothing good about any growth in your head!
I longed to connect with others who would understand how I felt. Rather than lament the fact there was no real support out there for meningioma sufferers and wanting to prevent others from feeling the same helplessness and fear I had, I created my own non-profit organization called Meningioma Mommas. We are a 24/7 online support group for all those affected by meningiomas. Today we have over 3,800 members worldwide with a handful of new members joining every day.

Providing a safe haven for people suffering from this devastating disease isn’t enough for me. I am deeply committed to raising money for meningioma specific research and hope to raise one million dollars in my lifetime. We’ve already raised $145,000 towards my goal.

My ultimate goal is to put meningioma on the awareness map and to eradicate this disease head on.

And Willie if you’re interested, “Meningioma on My Mind” does have a nice ring to it.