Fuck Cancer.

My mother in law was diagnosed with cancer about a month ago. I didn’t post about it before, and probably won’t much in the future, because it feels like a private thing. And probably even more so because it is B’s family we’re talking about here.

I will say, to avoid being too overly cryptic (which I hate when reading others’ blog posts) that it was a total surprise. She is 50 years old and in fantastic shape. She eats right and exercises every day. She had no symptoms, it was found via preventative screening. So to say it has been a shock is an understatement. When we found out yesterday that it was more advanced than we thought, and that she would actually need chemo, we were more shocked. She was devastated.

But still. This is the kind of thing she CAN beat. It is the kind of thing she will beat. As cancers go, this one at least gives you a good fighting chance.

I have some experience with cancer because three of my four grandparents died from it. Both grandfathers had lung cancer and my grandmother had lymphoma. But the thing is, I was too young to be very involved or aware. They died when I was 8, 10, and 13. So I wasn’t very aware of the emotional toll it all took on them and the family.

This feels different. This feels… personal. She is my husband’s mother. Next to me, she is the person he loves most in this world. It hurts to see him hurt and scared. And it hurts him to see her going through this.

Which brings me to a question. What do we do? We live a plane ride away. We just spent a week with her and were with her through her surgery… but now that we are home and she is about to start chemo… I am feeling so useless.

I want to DO something to make her feel better. Not that anything we could do would really make her forget about the cancer and the chemo and all that bullshit… but… there must be something?

I feel like I want to send her a gift of some kind, but what kind of gift says: “I’m so sorry you have cancer I hope this makes you feel a little better today”?

We can’t do food baskets because we don’t know how she’ll be eating. I just bought her a bunch of makeup for Christmas so that probably wouldn’t work either. When we saw her last week we got her a gift card for her Kindle so she’d have lots to read during recovery.

I just don’t know. Maybe there is nothing?

If you have any ideas though, let me know. Maybe you know someone with cancer who got a really perfect gift? Any thoughts appreciated.

I love Trader Joe’s

Basically every person I’ve ever met who has been to Trader Joe’s has said they LOVE Trader Joe’s. Always super enthusiastic.

But I always took that with a grain of salt. Like when people say any of the following:

– I LOVE plain greek yogurt– just a little honey and it is such a TREAT.
– Ice cream? Honestly I’d rather just eat fresh berries.
– Vegan cheese tastes just as good as regular cheese– seriously.
– I don’t even like fried foods, they just taste gross to me.

In my opinion, people who say these things are either 1) deluding themselves, thinking the more they say them the more they will believe them… and thus the more they can convince themselves they don’t miss awesome food; or 2) a totally different kind of person than me who does actually ENJOY all the healthy things in life, and thus whose opinion I can’t trust because we are just never going to see eye to eye.

So I guess I thought of Trader Joe’s as a good place to shop for those who eat seaweed… is basically what I’m saying. I’d been in there quite a few times but never really looked around. Usually I just ran in to buy trail mix because I knew they had good prices on nuts. Other than that everything just looked… different. I didn’t recognize the brands or packages so I just kept my head down and got out as quickly as possible.

Then about a month ago B and I stopped in to buy trail mix because he decided that was his new favorite snack. We were planning to hit up the grocery store next, but I noticed that a few of the things on our list were right there on the shelf and for a better price. Hm. So I said…. just for the hell of it… let’s see how much of our list we can get here and then we’ll stop at the REAL grocery store on the way home for the rest of it.

Except… they had almost everything we wanted. And for way better prices (how is that possible?) than Giant Eagle. And most of the stuff was healthier in ways that don’t affect taste (i.e. organic, local). So for the past month we’d been doing almost all of our shopping there and I LOVE IT. However I know myself and because it is farther away… I foresee a time when I get lazy and slip back into my comfortable old Giant Eagle routine.

So, for myself, I’m going to lay it out there. This is why I love Trader Joe’s, and why I should shop there every week. Although maybe I should get out of the way first… the things I don’t like:

1) It is farther away and in a much more crowded area (time cost: extra 30 minutes round trip vs. GE)

2) It doesn’t carry some of the things I consider necessary like big 2.5 gallon jugs of water. It only carries 1 liter or smaller, fancier water. Since I hate tap water and I’m also cheap– this means an extra trip to GE.

3) It doesn’t carry “normal” brand foods or crappy foods. This is a problem if you have a recipe that calls for something specific (like say– French’s onions) or if you have a craving for something bad for you (Doritos, honey mustard salad dressing, etc).

…That’s it. Those are the things I don’t like about Trader Joe’s. Here are the things I DO like about Trader Joe’s:

1) It is cheaper. Almost every single item is cheaper than a comparable item from GE.

2) The food is better quality. They only carry stuff that is free of hormones and chemicals. A ton of the stuff is organic, and even the organic stuff is cheaper than the crappy stuff at the grocery store mostly. So all the stuff I’m used to buying “normal” like meat, cheese, and vegetables I now buy organic. This makes me feel better about the food I’m eating, it tastes better, and I feel cool for eating organic food (keepin’ it real… lol)

3) The prepared/frozen food is way better than GE. We have tried a few of the frozen foods like turkey corn dogs, pizza, and vegetable egg rolls, all are WAY better than the normal frozen food at GE. And B has given the prepared sushi two thumbs up.

4) They don’t carry normal brands/crappy food. Yep, it was on my “dislike” list but its on my “like” list too. First of all, it makes me work harder to buy super crappy stuff so I do less impulse buying. Second, it gives me a chance to try out new things– some of which I like better than my old standbys.

5) I can still eat “normal” food. I guess I thought that only vegans/health food nuts shopped at Trader Joe’s. There are certainly tons of those there, but I can still make what I consider to be normal food. Example, this week for dinners we are having: loaded baked potato and salad, vegie egg rolls and rice, chicken parm with salad and crusty bread, and chicken nachos. Not “health food” by any means… but at least all of the ingredients that go into making those dinners will be free of chemicals and at least 50% of the ingredients are organic.

So, there ya go. Future me, THIS IS WHY you should keep going to Trader Joe’s even though it annoys you to drive farther, and possibly have to make a second trip to the “normal” grocery store. Cowgirl up and get in the car.

Pet Mom.

Although this doesn’t have too much to do with my post, I’m going to strongly suggest any “pet moms” read this blog post from yesterday. It was in response to this article.

It summary, Susan Maushart suggests that “Pet Parents are NOT moms.” TenthMuse explains why the article is unnecessary and obnoxious, and ends with one of my favorite paragraphs in recent history:

But, I’ve had enough. ENOUGH of this “moms are better than other women” bullshit. I love women, I respect women. And I respect the right of all women to be mothers however they choose. Being a “real mom” doesn’t give you a perfect, magic fruit-producing vagina that lets you judge everyone else. Chances are your kid just ate dog shit anyway. Go check.

(source)

Anyways. I am a “pet mom” to three adorable pets that I talk about here far too much, I’m sure. I’ve always been a little crazy in my devotion to my pets, although I can firmly state I’m not one of those people who calls them my “babies” or my “kids” or dresses them up on a daily basis (Okay so I DO dress them up sometimes— but it is always to be FUNNY not because I think pets belong in clothes).

But I feel like in the past few months I’ve become pet “helicopter mom.” From my understanding of the term, a helicopter mom is one who is always buzzing around her kid, worried about any potential slight or harm. And now? That’s me. As I’ve discussed at length, what is going on with Milo has hit me hard. It was hard to watch him get sick the first time, but it has been ten times harder to watch him get sick again.

The first time, I was scared. But then he started to do better. Then a lot better. And I wasn’t so scared anymore. I felt confident. I felt like we’d fixed the problem and life was going to go back to normal.

But then he got sick again. And it was a lot harder to pull him out of his sickness. There was a night in which we were told to call at 7am to see how he was doing— but IF he made it until 7am they thought he’d be on a good path. IF he didn’t make it until 7am, they would call us. It was a hard night, hoping the phone didn’t ring.

And now that we’re through that, and he seems to be doing better, I’ve lost my confidence. When people ask how he’s doing, I’m much more hesitant to say good. I say… he’s doing good… for now. Because I’m so much more aware that this is going to be a life-long battle for him. He is going to be on medication twice per day, every day, forever (most likely). And he could relapse at any time. And there isn’t a whole hell of a lot that we can do about it except try to catch it as early as possible (which is so hard with him because the window between “Hmmmm he miiiiight be acting a little weird” and “he is in mortal danger” is less than 48 hours). Also, the vet instructs to keep him “happy” and “not stressed.” (Pressure!) And so I stare at him. A lot. And I worry, a lot. And I overanalyze every move he makes, A LOT.

My mom has made sideways comments about if I’m this worked up over a sick cat, she doesn’t know how I’ll be able to handle having a child who will inevitably fall sick sometimes (although, I hope to God I never have a child that falls into a “mortal danger” type illness— I think I’d handle a cold or the flu much better). But I guess that is neither here nor there.

What is “here” are the impending summer months. Which means a three day trip to NYC and a week long trip to the beach. Both of these trips are family-related and so they are not items we can forego.

And I’m stressed.

We weighed all the options on how to deal with the pets. When we’ve left in the past, we drop Stew off with a friend and have someone come feed the cats every few days. Obviously that is no longer an option. We could board the cats, but I’m worried that being in a cage all day will stress Milo out. We could take them to my parents’ house, because I know my mom would take as good care of them as I would and the cats like her… but they live two hours away and Milo criiiiiies non-stop in the car (and we don’t want to stress them out).

Finally it was decided we’d hire someone to stay in our house to take care of them. That way their life is as normal as possible, and hopefully as un-stressed as possible. My boss’s son, R (who is our age but unmarried and has no pets of his own to worry about) agreed to take the job for both trips. I feel like this is the best solution because everyone gets to stay here, he plans to be around the house a lot because he’ll be studying for the bar exam (he graduates from law school tomorrow!), and I really like him and feel like he is responsible.

But, that doesn’t prevent the worry. I just wrote up a list of written instructions for our trips. Let’s just say… I’m glad we’re paying him.

Three pages. Single spaced.

To be fair, almost one full page is general info about the house like alarm codes, the washing machine (should he decided to do laundry) and how to work the various TVs, netflix, blu ray player, PS3, wii, and xbox kinect. (Is there anything more frustrating than staring at someone else’s remotes totally clueless on how to turn on the damn tv?? A hold-over frustration from my babysitting days).

But still. Two pages of pet info. Feeding schedules, when they go out, where they sleep, how and when to distribute meds. Helpful hints about their personalities (Cali and Stew are more friendly and you can pick them up if you wish— Do not try to pick up Milo because he hates that and will scratch you. However Stew and Milo can be in the same room together and Stew and Cali can not. That kind of thing). Plus emergency numbers and information for our regular vet, the emergency vet, and my mom (in case he has general house or pet questions and he can’t get hold of me).

And now I feel insane. I feel like one of those moms who would hire me and then leave me what felt like a 100 page manual on her kids when she was just going out for a few hours to dinner.

But… the information seems important. I think?

I think it is probably an issue of control. Or, lack there-of. I’m worried that the cats will be scared of R and that Milo will be stressed out about him staying here. Or stressed at our being gone. Or that he’ll just hide from R and he won’t be able to get Milo to take his meds. And I’m concerned that one of these things, or a combination of them, or even for no reason at all– Milo will have another “attack” and R won’t realize it because he has no basis for understanding what is “weird” behavior from Milo and what is not.

So I guess since I can’t stay home and take care of him myself (and I really can’t, I would glad skip both of these trips if it was just about us but they are very important to our families), the only thing I CAN do is leave extremely detailed instructions that I’m *hoping* will make the cats like R so that they won’t be stressed.

I’m honestly not sure anymore if I’ve crossed the line from “conscientious and careful” to “insane helicopter person.”

Sigh. The fact that I’ve written 1400 words on my cat somewhat favors the latter I think…

Anyways. I guess i”m not really looking for advice so much as just an outlet to fully express my stress. There are some extended family dynamics at play that make me want to shield B from my stress as much as possible, so I think I just needed to get it “out there.” Hopefully I’ll be back in my next post on a much happier topic.

Totally random tidbits.

Here are some random thoughts I’m having at the moment.

1) Why is Lauren Conrad still relevant? I keep seeing “LC makeup tips” or “hair tips” or whatever. Plus she has like.. a clothing line or something? Seriously– who cares about this random person who was famous for being a rich OC girl?

2) We saw The Avengers this last weekend. It was amazing! My favorite movie I’ve seen in a theater in quite a long time– and good enough I kind of want to see it again before it is out of theaters.

3) I never used to be a comic book nerd! Now that I love all the movies, I wish I’d been into comic books as a teenager (reputation be damned, I was already on the speech team and the “mathletes”so I can’t imagine it’d done any more damage than was already done…)

4) I haven’t had a pedicure since last June, or a manicure since my wedding. I’m fixing that on Saturday. SO EXCITED.

5) I have a soft spot for random internet memes. My current favorite are the condescending Wonkas. Case in point:

(And of course, the funniest ones are the ones that I myself am guilty of).

6) Milo is still doing okay. Not great (blood count was down Friday). But seems to be okay. It is stressful, but we’re just keeping a close eye on him and he seems to be acting like his normal goofy self. Check out this kitty yawn.

(sorry for the poor quality!)

7) My dad has this random saying (which he says enough that it is almost his motto). “It’s not a problem. It’s an opportunity for improvement.” We tease him about it because it’s a bit corny, but more and more I’m liking this outlook on life.

8) Upon the recommendation of some folks here, we began The Tudors over the weekend on netflix. Holy cow– great show! I want to be 16th century royalty just for the clothes and jewelry! (Who needs to breathe anyways?). But otherwise— it would suck to be a woman back then– even royalty! Also— there is so much random and unplanned sex. And they didn’t have showers then. It kinda skeeves me out and I have to try not to think too much about it.

9) Today, B sent me an email including the word “Bravo!!” regarding my packing of his lunch. It’s the little things, folks.

10) Two weeks ago, my boss took home one of the extra exhibit binders which had all of the exhibits we’d be using at trial. When he brought it back, he had used sheets of toilet paper as placeholders throughout. I was too afraid to ask exactly what he was doing while reviewing exhibits…

11) It’s been a while since I’ve posted a pic of Stew… this is my recent favorite.

Have no fear. Completely spoiling Milo has not in any way diminished my spoiling of Stew (and Cali doesn’t have it so bad either!)

12) I’m obsessed with Draw Something. The weird thing is that it connects through Facebook so you can start games with anyone on your friend list, and vice versa. I’m fb friends with one of my old law school profs. Not one I was particularly close with… I really don’t even recall why we’re friends (I think he friended me after graduation?). Anyways. He started a draw something game with me and I felt obliged to participate. But it is so stressful! I feel a lot of pressure to guess his drawings correct, and occasionally after he guesses my drawings he sends me a “Nice!!” which makes me feel like I just got graded an A. Technology is weird.

13) It is almost midnight and I’ve been avoiding bed because I’m not quite ready to face my crazy day at work tomorrow… but I think it’s time to give in and let tomorrow come. Night all!

My new favorite treat: Iced Coffee

I looooove coffee. But, weirdly, I hate making it just for myself. For a while there, I was making it every morning because B was drinking it too, and it always made my morning a little better. But then B realized that it was bothering his stomach so he stopped drinking it and I stopped making it.

Fast forward to 2 weeks in trial and not enough sleep (and what little sleep I got being interrupted by dreams about cross-examining witnesses), I needed coffee. But I still didn’t want to get up and make it, so I would swing through the Tim Horton’s drive through on my way to the office every morning and buy a cup of a coffee. Tim Hortons makes awesome coffee anyways.

The problem is that 2 weeks back on the coffee train really had me craving it, but I still don’t love making a pot just for myself. Also, with the weather getting hotter I tend to prefer iced coffee which I’ve never made with any success at home. In the past I’d tried cooling brewed coffee but it always turned out weak and bitter.

Enter: The Pioneer Woman. Truthfully, I’ve gone back and forth on my feelings about her/that site and at the moment I don’t actually ready it. However I remembered a while back I read a recipe on her site for cold-brewed iced coffee so I decided to look it up and give it a try this weekend.

Her recipe and suggestions are here.

The problems with her recipe were: I did not have containers big enough to make the quantity she suggested, I did not have a strainer or cheese cloth, and I did not have (or desire to use) sweetened condensed milk (that stuff is like 60 calories PER TABLESPOON and she suggests using at least 3!!).

So here is what I did.

1. I poured half a bag of coffee into an empty 1 gallon container (we have a bunch of these lying around because thats what we buy water in). Fill the rest of the container up with water from the tap. **In the future, I will buy a funnel. I made a crazy mess trying to pour coffee into the jug!**

2. Let it sit for about a day.

3. Use the coffee filter from my coffee maker inserted directly into my coffee pot (I took off the lid) to strain the coffee.

4. Each time I filled the coffee maker, I poured it into a second clean 1 gallon container.

That’s it! It made about 3/4 gallon of what she calls “coffee concentrate.” It is quite strong! So if you like your iced coffee plain with no cream or sugar, you might want to consider using less coffee in the coffee/water mixture, or simply diluting the final product.

I like my coffee creamy and sweet, though, so this mix was PERFECT for me. I played around with a few different ratios of sugar and half and half— because I didn’t want to use the crazy high-cal sweetened condensed milk she suggests.

What wound up being perfect for my tastes is:

1 cup cold brewed coffee concentrate
1/4 cup half and half
1 tbspn sugar

mix will and pour over ice.

YUM.

This is not just a knock-off of coffee shop iced coffee. This is the best iced coffee I’ve ever had, by far!

And, the calorie count on this is not even too scary, weighing in at 125 calories for the mix above. It does, however, have 7 grams of fat (half and half!), so I’m not sure it is something I’ll be drinking daily. I think I’m going to buy some regular milk and see how much of a difference it makes to the flavor to use that rather than the half and half… and see if I can’t get the fat content down enough that I could drink this every day.

Also, The Pioneer Woman notes that if you store the coffee concentrate in a closed container in your fridge, it should last 3-4 weeks. I’m not sure it WILL last that long in my fridge, because I’ll probably drink it all faster than that! But, it is nice to know it will keep. This makes mornings so super easy because instead of brewing a whole pot of coffee just for myself, I can just mix myself a drink in about 30 seconds!

Has anyone else tried iced coffee at home? Any other recipes or suggestions for coffee drinks? I think I might try this with bailey’s for a night time version of my new favorite treat!

Team Gale

I’ve had a bit too much real life thrown at me this week so I feel like talking about something utterly frivolous.

And I’ll warn you up front– SPOILER ALERT FOR HUNGER GAMES TRILOGY!!!! If you haven’t read all three books, don’t read further!

Overall, I loved this series. I tend to like girl-kicking-ass type books and I also seem to have an affinity for post-apocolyptic or somewhat dark books. So it was a good fit. The one thing that annoyed me throughout though was the Katniss-Gale-Peeta love triangle.

I don’t like love triangles. And I don’t think they’re necessary. It feels like every story has to have one now (or maybe every story always did?). I think one of the reasons I loved the Harry Potter series so much was because they never did the obvious Harry-Hermione-Ron triangle that a lesser author (I think) would’ve capitalized on.

But that being said, since it WAS a part of the book, I couldn’t help but have an opinion. And I have to say I’ve been pretty surprised since the movie came out at all the “Team Peeta” stuff I kept seeing, and continue to see– particularly on pinterest. I don’t think I’ve seen a single person advocating for Gale!

I’m here to remedy that.

I am totally team Gale. I wish they would have ended up together. I think Peeta was a mistake. There, I said it.

Why?

Peeta is a super nice guy. He loves Katniss, he is open with his feelings for her, he is well-spoken, he’s sweet. Plus, he’s the easy choice– the one that keeps her and her family safe.

Gale is quieter. He’s more closed off about his feelings. Whatever he and Katniss had remained mostly unspoken and he didn’t fight for her, not really.

So I get that Peeta is who she should love. But the thing is, I don’t think she DID love him. If she loved him, Gale never would’ve entered the equation. Peeta has everything going for him to make him the obvious choice and yet she is still torn. If she can still contemplate being with Gale despite everything that happened with Peeta, I think that is who she really loves.

So yea. That’s my view– I wish that her and Gale could’ve made it work. I wish Peeta had found some other girl to love. And I might be alone in that opinion, but– it had to be said. Anyone else team Gale? Or am I truly alone here?