Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Melanoma awareness

Last week, I went to the dermatologist for what I thought would be a routine skin screen. "You know," I thought, "I'm 35 now, my insurance deductible is met--I should probably go do that." There is a history of this skin cancer disease in my family, so it puts me at a high risk. Slathering myself with baby oil and "laying out" as a teen didn't help. Nor did living in Hawaii for two years and not wearing sunscreen and ignoring the fact that I was developing more and more large moles on my chest, back and arms. Over the years I have been less than responsible about protecting myself against sun damage and I did not take the potential consequences very seriously. In fact, a doctor once told me I should have my moles mapped. I dutifully went to the specialist and she took photos of them, but never went back for a follow up. That was 10 years ago.

At any rate, I walked out of the doctor's office last week, after an on-the-spot, minor surgery, with the knowledge that I had a 50/50 chance of having melanoma in three different places. I have to admit that I was a little worried. Okay, more than a little. Thankfully, a dear friend gave me some good advice and told me not to get myself worked up about it. What good would it do?

I got the results back yesterday, and the moles were benign. Relief washed over me. "But," the nurse said, "one of them is very questionable because of its abnormal shape and color so we are going to continue to monitor the area." The fact is, I'm alright for now, but I have to go back every three months to see how things look.

My children both have their father's fair Irish skin, so I have a new attitude towards sun exposure. I have put sunscreen on my kids, by the way, I just haven't covered every inch of their little bodies every time. Gone are those days. I will not go out or take the babes out in the peak heat and sun of the day unless absolutely necessary. I plan to actually spend amount of money on a decent (as in good quality) bathing suit that covers more of my skin (sorry boys), and to wear t-shirts instead of tank tops while doing yard work. I will park our stuff in the shade at the pool and the park. Now is the time to set a good example. Besides, I rock a straw hat like nobody I know.

If you or anyone you are close to has large skin lesions that even remotely resemble those on the guide, please either get yourself checked out or find a way to talk to your friend/loved one about it. Ask if he/she does skin checks, give him or her the cheat sheet attached to this post and plant the seed about getting screened. Not because you are trying to scare the person, but because you care. I plan to send it to my dad.

For more information about melanoma, please visit this Web site. If a malignant tumor is caught early enough, usually surgery is enough to treat it.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Good morning, Mr. President!

Dear President Obama,

Millions stood with you at the Mall yesterday to watch you make history. Even more of us were at home, cheering from the periphery. The world was watching. I think I speak for quite a few people when I give you this advice:

1. The economy is broken. Fix it!
2. Our foreign policy is broken. Fix it!
3. Lots of other things are broken. Fix them!
4. Don't screw it up - we're all counting on you. No pressure.


P.S. My son wrote you a letter at school yesterday, saying that he hopes your kids have fun living in the White House. If you could write back, I'd really appreciate it.

Monday, January 19, 2009

We shall overcome - yes we can.

I have to admit that I have never actually listened to Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech in its entirety. It seems fitting to do so today with inauguration festivities on mute in the background. This is our generation's civil rights movement, and I feel honored to be part of the work that still needs to be done.

"Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream.

It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.'"

As Dr. King advises, we cannot walk alone--nor can we look back. I know I can make a difference. Won't you join me?

Yes, we can.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Getting to know me...

Here is a list of some things I love. I didn't include my family because I thought that would be a little too obvious.

Music: the source of all passion in my life. Without it I would surely die.
Sitting down at the piano with a new piece of sheet music.
Song obsessions.
Spontaneous drives with the windows open and the heat on.
Getting into a hot car after being inside in the AC.
Singing at the top of my lungs while driving.
Coffee, nectar of life.
Making someone smile.
Cheese of all types.
Precious, precious alone time.
Voracious reading.
Getting down and dancing with my best girlfriend in a hot club.
Meeting new people.
Eye contact.
Finding kindred souls.
Compliments (giving AND receiving, even though they make me blush).
Walking in the rain.
Having an intimate chat in a dimly-lit lounge over a cocktail or glass of wine.
A fabulous meal.
The smells of wood-burning fire, lavender, almond, honey and vanilla.
Dark chocolate.
Autumn's crisp air and turning leaves.
College football.
The rush of riding my bike down a ginormous hill.
Wobbly legs after a great workout.
Crocheted afghans to snuggle with on the couch.
Hugs and kisses.
Sundresses and cowboy boots.
Down comforters.
Clean sheets right out of the dryer.
Billowy sheer curtains.
Blue, cloudless skies and clear water.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Healing waters

Today seemed like it went on forever. Of course, I had gone out the night before and was ruing that last drink. And that last cigarette. My stomach churned. My head pounded. My heart palpitated. Despite being functional, I had this overall feeling of...well, I don't know how to describe it really. It was physical discomfort combined with a sort of mental or emotional restlessness. I ignored it until a conversation with a friend led me to say something ridiculous and unnecessary. I immediately apologized but the silence on the other end was deafening. Shaking my head in wonder, I dragged myself up the stairs and ran a hot bath, where I attempted to soak away my embarrassment. I picked up a book I'd been reading to take my mind off of things.

I finished the novel before bed and I lay there with my heart burning and butterflies in my stomach that threatened to escape. An hour later, half asleep and dreaming about summer nights that will be etched in my mind forever, I started weeping. Salty, boiling tears flowed like a river down the sides of my face and into my pillow. I cried for the shame I was feeling, for the selfishness of it. I grieved for lost love and vanished opportunities. I grieved for all the bad decisions I have made in my life,
for what can and will never be. I grieved for my freedom and the guilt that comes with wishing for a different life, even if only for a moment.

There was something something healing in the waves of raw emotion that washed over me. Tomorrow is a new day.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Quick! Catch it while you can...

It seems fitting that a light bulb went off while I was standing at the kitchen sink, washing dishes. It was, quite literally, a cleansing experience. I was listening to my favorite winter piano CD, enjoying the peacefulness of my empty house, when it hit me that 2009 is going to be the year I live up to my own expectations rather than others' (or my perception of others'). I thought, "I have to write this down before I lose it!" I felt like a teenager running to take an important phone call as I bounded up the stairs to my newly-relocated office to plop down at the computer. Despite being out of breath I managed to at least get a few things out so I could finish later.

I do not like to use the term "resolution" because it seems as though I am setting myself up for failure, so I decided to create a list of things I would like to achieve. Here are some that were top of mind:

  • Play more piano
  • Pay more attention to my instincts
  • Be the best person I can be in all areas of my life: disciple, citizen, daughter, sister, wife, mother, teacher, friend, employee (not necessarily in that order), even if it means not always getting my own way
  • Surround myself with people who embrace new experiences and from whom I can learn new things
  • Completely unsubscribe to "the grass is always greener" theory
  • Consume less, use less (energy, for instance)
  • Eat more miso!
  • Walk in the rain
  • Spend more time outside
  • Go skydiving
  • Engage in more random acts of kindness
  • Speak the truth
  • Volunteer as a family
  • Love unconditionally, even when it hurts
  • Worry less about things that are out of my control
I really don't want to re-hash the past year, and I don't think you want me to either, so I will simply say that I learned a lot from my experiences in 2008. Some lessons were painful, others were joyful, and yet others had aspects of both. I met a lot of new and interesting people and I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to spend time this year nurturing relationships with a handful of them. My family is completely enmeshed in the community after living here for only a year and a half. People here are genuinely nice. My children are thriving. I have a job, a roof over my head and a wonderful family. For all of these things I am desperately grateful.

I firmly believe that there is a time and place for everything, that there is a reason for all that happens. For instance, twice in the span of as many months last fall, I came out on the other side of a friendship that went terribly awry--to either form or strengthen a bond with someone linked to the situation. My initial reaction was, "Whoa, how ironic," but the more I thought about it, the stronger I felt that, perhaps, despite the breakdown of the initial friendship, the result was as it was meant to be. We make our choices but the universe rights itself when we send it spinning by choosing incorrectly. Huh. Who knew?

Sudden inspiration rocks.