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.