“It’s cancer.”

There sat my mom, on her hospital bed, digging through that overstuffed purse of hers. After two weeks of having a hard time breathing, she was admitted to the hospital. That morning, she had a bronchoscopy, which revealed a tumor in the airway leading to her left lung. I had just walked into the room to see her, and out it comes, very first thing. “It’s bad. It’s cancer.” Like she was saying something as simple as, “It’s Monday” or “It’s so nice out.” Matter of fact. No tears, no real discernable fear, just those three words. Even though I had been steeling myself for this all morning (and really, for the past few days), it made me dizzy. In typical Patti fashion, we were being no-frills about this. “I’m just going to fight this as hard as I can, and that’s it.” Back to digging through her bag. I looked at my dad, who was looking at me, presumably trying to gauge my reaction. Nodded my head. I went into the bathroom and cried, grateful for the loud fan that was muffling the noise. It struck me as almost laughable that after quitting smoking nearly five weeks ago, this is happening now. What horrible luck. Now can’t be the time to ruminate on such things, though. My parents need as much of their stress absorbed as possible, I have three younger sibling that, while adults, I feel the need to support and guide through all this, and everything is about to get busy. And difficult. Maybe it’s the nurse in me kicking in, to help me refocus my energy from fear, to action.

I went back out, and I asked my parents if I could tell Kate when I met her in the lobby, and they agreed, so I went down to wait for her. The anxiety that surrounds having to tell someone such a horrible thing is unbearable, but I was glad to shoulder that burden for my mom, maybe it would make it a bit easier for her. I can imagine that when you’re scared and still processing information yourself, sharing it with others is probably nearly impossible.

Katie came, and I asked her to sit down. I explained the events of the past few days, and told her that our mother had lung cancer. She stared for a minute, and then began to cry into her hands, her tears sneaking through her fingers and dripping onto her pant legs. In that moment, my heart hurt, because I saw her as she was at nine or ten, not as she is now. We went together back to my mother’s room, and I think being able to see her, and see what great spirits she was in made her feel better. The four of us had a good afternoon together. My dad stayed the night at my house, and all night I slept fitfully, constantly listening for his horrible snoring, to know that he was actually asleep, and not up worrying.

My mom is back home now, and despite the addition of oxygen, is getting back to her regular routine. She will find out next week where she’s at in terms of staging, and her treatment options. It’s difficult to wait, but there’s also an odd comfort in at least knowing why she hasn’t felt well. I’m not sure what the road ahead will look like, but I do know that this illness has one hell of a fight to come up against, in my mother and the medical team she has in her corner.

And if you could offer up a kind thought, good energy, a prayer, whatever it is in your heart, it would be greatly appreciated.

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What happens next.

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So much has changed, happened, come together, fallen apart in the past few months. More on that later. For now, wondering what’s behind the next door.

Calling All Dysfunctional Domestics!

It hit me yesterday, while I was trying to make something as seemingly simple as apple fritters, yet still ended up getting batter all over Pickle’s head (through no fault of her own, shockingly): I’m bad at this whole being-domestic thing.

Doesn’t it seem like when you were growing up, the women (and in some cases, men) in your lives seemed to make it happen with what seemed like little to no effort? Perfectly pressed clothing, good meals, clean homes, well-kept children/pets, etc-the whole nine yards. Me? Try one-perma wrinkle in everything I iron, burned/bland meals, a home that no matter how frequently vacuumed, still boasts a rogue tumbleweed of dog hair, and an out of control canine. How, in what seems like only one generation, did we go from Martha Stewart, to Jessica Simpson? I try, really I do, but honestly, I suck. And I also don’t like doing those things.

So, here’s what I’m looking for from you, dear readers-your stories. I want to hear what it means to be the anti-domestic, as I call it, and how you manage in a world where it’s not second nature for us to be flawless at home life. I want to hear your stories (funny or otherwise), your experiences, and your ideas on the state of domestic ability in our generation. I’m looking for a series of guest writers to develop posts on the topic, to be published here on my blog. If you’re interested, please email me at: JenniferLHurlburt@gmail.com, or send me a facebook message. Come tell your story of kitchen fires and parental mishaps!

I don’t know, something about books or mattresses…

Last week, we had a work picnic and my colleague A and I were trying to be good seeds and put up the volleyball net, along with a member of our staff. Turns out, those things are not the simple unpack-and-use items I thought they were. We decided to, ahem, read the directions. And it goes a little something like this:

Jenn: Let’s look at the directions. Let’s “go to the books”, as they say in ‘The Godfather.’

A: Um, I think that was, ‘Let’s go to the mattresses.’ Yeah, it was definitely ‘Let’s go to the mattresses.

Jenn: Oh. Um. Oh.
Laughter ensues on everyone’s part, except the confused staff member who has not seen this movie, yet is smiling politely anyway.

Jenn: God, that movie would’ve had such a different outcome, had they gone to the books, right? I mean, really. Also, I’m a moron. And a terrible Italian.

A: Hey, where did THIS cord come from?, motioning to yellow mystery cord with attached lawn spike. A smooth transition, indeed.

Looks like even I’m not immune to overconfident misquotations. Maybe I should get into politics.

"This volleyball net is impossible to put up, sir. Can you help?" "No, who the hell do I look like, Ask Jeeves? Go to the books, er...mattresses."

Things I’ve learned about myself in the past 48 hours.

Everyone knows I love a good list, so here it goes:

1)I have a max capacity for number of secrets shared with me in a given week.
-And that number is one. Today alone, two people shared big secrets with me. It makes me physically uncomfortable to sit on that much knowledge. It’s the psychological equivalent of needing to unbutton my pants after Thanksgiving. Since having given up my former M.O. of the assumption that “don’t tell anyone” means “tell one person; namely, your bestie or significant other”, it’s become that much more difficult. I think it’s in my best interest (and yours, if you’re telling the secret) to share before 10am. Chances are, no one else has gotten to me first, and you won’t be met with a “LALALA, I CAN’T UNHEAR THAT!!!” Good grief. Go to confession, and unpack it there. Or to an out-of-the-way bar. Don’t bait me with a “Guess what?”, let me bite, me thinking that it’ll be something innocuous, only to hit me with something big. I just can’t.

2)I texted the following words to someone tonight: “Need dinner. Want cookies. Settling for a gin & tonic and some bread.” And was only partially trying to be funny.-I’m not sure when I became a frat boy, but this latest illness, coupled with being left to my own devices, has me eating like a maniac, and paying ZERO attention to what I’m putting into my body. G&T and bread-like some sort of lowbrow communion feast. I think what shames me the most, is that I totally wasn’t kidding. But in my defense, the bread WAS whole grain. I need to get my act together.

3)Social media is giving me anxiety.-The fact that there are people in this world that are submersed in social media for a living makes me want to blow my brains out. Facebook, fine. OK. Everyone (well, mostly everyone-those 50plus-ers notwithstanding) has a decent handle on that. But, oh God, Twitter. I started actively using it yesterday, and I swear to Ted Kennedy that I have never felt so overwhelmed by something so seemingly simple. Tweets, tweets and more tweets, with slashes and HASHTAGS (don’t get me started on that) and all sorts of coded jumble I don’t even understand. There’s apparently some sort of communication occurring, but who the hell can figure it out? #Dumbass. I honestly don’t know if this is going to work out. Especially if nprnews doesn’t stop posting something every .24 seconds. It plays into two of my biggest areas of compulsion in life-a hatred of clutter (you’re clogging my feed repeatedly), and the need to perform perfectly (I want to be Twitter-proficient, and right now, I’m basically scribbling with a Crayola, while everyone else is painting a masterpiece). And the nightmare called Tumblr? That made my ears get hot. Although, it may be due to the fact that my first encounter with it was on some teenage girl’s page, where she was chronicling her “journey” to anorexia, and an 85 lb. goal weight. That’s a whole different ball of wax, though, and all I can say is that that’s what I get for clicking with wild abandon on seemingly innocent Pinterest pictures to find the origin of the content. Sidebar: SO, SO glad I’m not a high schooler in today’s world. Jesus.

4)In summation, I need a vacation. From work, from people, from technology.
-Sure, I’ll probably need a blow dart tranquilizer to enjoy myself, but I think the rest could be good for me.

FEMA, lunatics running amok on the campaign trail, and baking with a Nyquil high.

Just get me a respirator and a squeegee, I’ll do it myself.

Last Monday night, we had an hours-long downpour of biblical proportions, which I was happy about, because let’s face it-it’s been pretty dry here. Anyway, right before I left for work on Tuesday morning, I had to take the dog out, and for some reason, I took her out the back door, instead of the side. As I passed by the basement stairs, this strange glint caught my eye. Light, reflecting off of…water?! It looked like there was a puddle of water sitting on the carpet. Great, I thought, there’s a leak somewhere. So, I took the dog out, brought her back in, and gathered Andy to inspect the damage. That puddle? How about over a half-foot of water covering the entire basement. The partially-carpeted basement. Long story short, the following day included Andy working like mad to remove the water, and conduct damage control. Later that evening, we called the insurance company, who told us they’d be sending their “storm team” out within three business days (how’s that for vague?) to inspect the damage, and move the process forward. Ok, great. Fine. Meanwhile, the odor of dirty, musty, wet sock was slowly taking over our house. But, we waited.

Thursday, while driving to Andy’s parents house, we got a call from our insurance company telling us that the damage wasn’t going to be covered, after all. Apparently, it’s not in our policy. When asked why the person who initially took our call didn’t apprise us of that information, the gentlemen said, “They aren’t permitted to interpret policy.” What? So, “covered” and “not covered” are up for interpretation? But here’s where it gets really good. Even though the flooding isn’t covered by insurance, he said, we were more than welcome to seek the assistance of FEMA. Slack-jawed, we sat for a minute. FEMA? The same FEMA that didn’t even show up on time when a sizeable portion of the Gulf Coastline was underwater, and people were dying/starving/displaced? What the hell good are they going to do? Show up in three weeks with a box fan, and a formaldehyde-laced camper for the backyard? What a total joke. Looks like we’ve got to roll up our sleeves, and take matters into our own hands. FEMA. Come on.

Bachmann, Santorum, and Perry-Oh My!

Hey! Have a Bible, “drink the kool-aid” charm, and an utterly batshit platform? Then hit the campaign trail, crazy! I’m not going to spend any real time discussing the insanity, as it is all playing out clear as day before our very eyes via every media outlet available, but where the hell are these people coming from? I will say this, however: Michele Bachmann-you were allowed to marry a gay man,so why can’t anyone else? Seriously, though, the fact that in 2011, there are not only people who think the way that they do, but that they bullhorn it wherever possible, makes me shudder.

You know what these cupcakes need? A cough drop garnish.

So, out of nowhere, I woke up vaguely ill on Friday morning. It seems as though I have been revisited by the ear infection/strep throat/respiratory infection demon, for the second time in three months. Friday, it was that non-descript throat tickle, Saturday morning, it was that “Ok, I’m definitely sick” cough, and by Saturday evening, it was that “Alright, so maybe I’m going to die” grip of illness that renders you mostly immobile. That’s pretty much where I’ve been hovering ever since. My days have been spent in a Day/Nyquil fog, with a strong desire to bake. Right, because why not? I can’t breathe, and can barely button my shirt properly, but I think I can steady a hand mixer. I had to make cupcakes for a bake sale this weekend, which gave me my first legit excuse in months to break out the butter, sugar and eggs. And you know what? They were delightful. I should know-I ate approximately four of them Saturday afternoon, right before I fell asleep on the couch for 3 hours, woke up for 1, and then went to bed for the night.

Yesterday, I woke up just as wretchedly ill, but again, wanted to make some more cupcakes. I rationalized this excess by telling myself that I needed to tweak yesterday’s salted caramel frosting to be less buttery, and more caramel-y. Dextromethorphan does strange things to us. And so tweak I did, as well as burn my fingers on scalding hot caramel, and eat 2.5 more cupcakes. There goes all that clean-eating talk. I don’t care-when I’m sick, I have no use for tofu and raw vegetables. I’d like sugar, topped with more sugar, please. And some pixie stix.

Anyway, in the clear, cold light of the morning today, I dutifully packed up (most) of the remaining cupcakes, destined for delivery to two people who have either been promised them, or just need them, at this point in their lives. And I hope they enjoy them as much as I enjoyed making them. But, isn’t everything more enjoyable on cold medicine?