Good Reads

Finders Keepers by Stephen King

I never read Stephen King until a few years ago. Strange, I know. I am loving the last few books I’ve read by King, this one included. This is the story of a vengeful reader. He is a super fan of John Rothstein and is, frankly, obsessed with the author and why he concluded his “Jimmy Gold” series the way he did.  He sets out to steal the old author’s stories and ends up committing murder. Fast forward years later and teenager Peter Saubers finds a treasure chest filled with books and money. He finds it right at the perfect time when his family is falling apart due to financial struggles. I enjoyed reading the story and imagining how on earth these two stories were going to converge. It is suspenseful, thrilling and a very unique story. I recommend it!

The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E. Reichert

One of my most favorite of all-time students, Christina, recommended this book to me. It was awesome! It’s a light, fun, fluffy read, much like the coconut cake that’s featured throughout. Lou is the owner and chef at Luella’s in downtown Milwaukee. She is engaged and trying to make her restaurant successful. When she gets a horrid review from the local restaurant critic, she falls apart as does her restaurant. What happens when she discovers the man she is in love with is the one who destroyed her dreams? This story reminded me of You’ve Got Mail and I loved it. It’s a fast, easy, fun read. I also made the coconut cake recipe that’s featured at the end and it’s to die for!

Why Do They Act That Way? by David Walsh

This was a non-fiction book recommended to me by my therapist. It’s not a fun read but, if you have teenagers or work with teenagers, it’s very fascinating and informative. It helps you understand (at least a little!) why they act the way they do.

Why We Broke Up by Daniel Harder

I found this from a list on Pinterest of YA books to read before they become movies. It was unique and interesting but kind of strange. I was let down by the ending too. I was hoping for more than your basic “nice girl dates jock and he ends up being a douche and breaking her heart” story but I was disappointed. Harder tells a good story though through his unique writing style and imagery. The characters are well-developed, especially the main character, Min. I wouldn’t recommend it but I wouldn’t say it’s bad either. If you’re in the mood for a teenage love story with great characters and good writing, dive in. If you’re not in the mood for another basic love story, skip it.

The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope by Rhonda Riley

This is one of the strangest books I’ve ever read. I definitely mean that in the best way possible. Remember when you read Time Traveler’s Wife and is was so unique and you loved it, but at the same time it was so far-fetched and strange? That’s what this one is like. At it’s most basic it’s a lovely love story. I don’t usually like love stories, but I really enjoyed this one. Evelyn Roe is sent to work alone on her family’s farm. One night, in the middle of the storm, she discovers a strange, human-like form in the mud. Over a matter of days, the creature turns into Addie and they fall in love. I don’t want to tell you any more about it so you’ll read it. I wanted more when it was over. It’s a wonderfully odd, fascinating love story. I highly recommend it!

The Good Neighbor by A.J. Banner

This was good enough but I finished it, but not so good that I could remember what it was about when I went to write about it. This was a free book through Kindle Firsts that Amazon Prime members get each month. The last several “firsts” have ended up not finished on my Kindle so it’s a good sign that I at least finished this one. Sarah and Johnny are a happily married couple when Sarah is caught in a fire that destroys their home and their neighbors. Soon Sarah finds out that her life is not as it seems and her husband may not be the  wonderful husband she though him to be. It was worth reading, but it wasn’t great. It was suspenseful and I enjoyed that.

The Bear by Claire Cameron

This has been on my list for ages. It is loosely based on a true story. A family is camping in Canada when the parents are attacked by a bear. The dying mother tells her five and three-year old to run and they do. They escape but must survive the woods until they are, hopefully, rescued. It was a short read and entertaining but it’s told in the voice of the five year-old and that got old really quickly.

When by Victoria Laurie

This is another YA novel and it was awesome! Maddie is a shy, smart teenager who has a unique gift — when she looks at a person their “death date” is on their forehead and she can see it. Maddie’s mother has been an alcoholic since Maddie’s father was killed in the line of duty. To help out financially, Maddie agrees to do “readings” for people in their home. A client comes in and Maddie tells them when they, or their loved one, will die. When Maddie tells a client that her son will die the following week, and then he goes missing, the police are all over Maddie and her special gift. It was a page-turner and a unique story with a twist. I loved it and highly recommend it!

Parting Gifts by Katrina Anne Willis

First let me tell you that this is a book written by one of my friends. She did not in any way, shape or form ask me to review it, she simply shared it with me in my chemo care package and I finally had enough brain power to read it.

It. Is. Amazing.

You know how you know someone and then you learn something about them that makes you look at them like “who are you???” but in a good way? That’s how I felt after reading her book. She’s the mother of two of my students and a friend and I think she’s wonderful. This book is amazing and I can’t believe someone I know and adore wrote such an outstanding book. Katrina packs a lot of different plot lines into her book but she does it so well it doesn’t seem overloaded. Her main characters are sisters. There is Catherine who is a forty-something professor looking for love and battling cancer. (You can tell Katrina has been through cancer with a close friend because of how spot on all of her references to all things cancer are in the book. Kudos.) There is Anne who is a stay-at-home mom of two in financial trouble and always wanting for more. Jessica is their baby sister who escaped Indiana, and never looked back, at the age of 18. She’s now a stripper and her family has no idea where she is. Their mother is in a home and has Alzheimer’s after being married to a cheating asshole for years. See what I mean? There’s a lot in the story but she writes it so well it’s not overcrowded. I read this in two days. I couldn’t put it down. I didn’t want it to be over. I’ve continued thinking about the sisters ever since it was over. Those are all signs of a great book, don’t you think? It’s available for pre-order on Amazon and comes out on April 16th! It’s a wonderful, wonderful book! I’m so proud of my friend!

What have you read lately?

Happy This Week

I’m in a rough spot guys. I’m still trying really hard to keep a smile on my face and find happy.

Scandal!! I’m officially obsessed and mad at myself for not watching it all these years. Of course now I don’t have to wait a week in between episodes!! I shouldn’t be surprised…I love Shonda’s other shows!

One of my coworkers and friends brought my family dinner when I had my last chemo. She is new to our building and is the sweetest. She’s one of those people I felt like I instantly clicked with, you know what I mean? It was so nice of her to do that for us!

Olivia is doing amazing in school and with her new potty training schedule. I promise I will write an Olivia update soon but we are so excited to see her continue to mature and grow.

Gabe’s team won their soccer tournament last weekend with three shutouts! It was super exciting and they played so beautifully as a team. I definitely need to write a Gabe post soon! Olivia stayed home with my Mom and just the boys, Matt and I went and we had a great time. Olivia had a great weekend too!

My hair is getting so long!!! Yippeeeee!!!

One of my most favorite students from last year (not that I have favorites! ;) ) stopped by and visited me this week. It was wonderful to see her, give her a hug and catch up! I truly miss my students when they leave. I love them so.

I got a very nice compliment from my work BFF, Ashley, and it honestly made my day. This is why I give compliments freely…you never know how much it will mean to the person who receives it!

I’ve been having terrible, terrible acid reflux since all of this cancer b.s. started and I finally asked for a prescription this week and it seems to be helping. It’s been making me very sick at night so I’m hoping it continues to help. Acid reflux is awful!

My work friends and I are going out this afternoon to celebrate my BRCA1/2 results. I’m so looking forward to hanging out with them!

We are going to the apple orchard tomorrow. One of my favorite outings of the year!

What made you happy this week?

Happy This Week (and Last!)

You guys. I have so many blog posts in my head and it drives me INSANE that I’m not making the time to write them. I’m working on it.

First up…my genetics test results came back and I do not carry the BRCA 1 or 2 gene!! Woohoo! It’s such a relief to know that, at this point, I won’t need any more surgery. It was nice to get some good news!!!

I’m back to getting manicures every three weeks and I LOVE IT! I’ve missed it so much. My nail lady, Sandra, is back too so it’s perfect.

How on earth did I miss Scandal all these years??? I caught an episode last week in between Grey’s and Murder and was hooked. Fast forward two seasons later on Netflix and I’m hooked. It’s a little over the top (obviously, it’s Shonda!) but I am loving it.

I had a really great week of teaching. Yeah!

My therapy for my eating disorder is going very well. It’s tough but it’s really difficult to let go of something that’s been part of my life since I was 11. I’m literally retraining my 39-year-old brain. I’m proud of myself for doing it.

I love my coffee and ANTM nights with my Mom!

My BFF and I have been so crazy busy but we’ve been trying really hard to fit in quick walks or visits and these save my sanity. So thankful for my person.

I’m reading books again!!

New TV is back! You guys know I love my TV shows! So far they’ve all been really good. What are you watching?

Starbucks seriously helps me through my week. I definitely think there’s something in their coffee that makes you addicted though.

I am getting more and more hair every day! I feel like it’s taking forever but when I look at pictures, I see that it’s coming along. I had hat hair the other day!!

What has made you happy lately?

Happy This Week

We had gorgeous weather this week in Ohio!!! It was one of those weeks where you just breathe in and feel happy to be alive.

Project Runway is the best show ever. I get so happy for Friday morning, even though I’m dragging and ready for the weekend, because I know I have a show waiting for me on my iPad!! I’m a dork, don’t judge me.

The boys had four soccer games last weekend and did awesome. I just love watching them play and do something they love so much.

Olivia started her period and I didn’t spend the whole week under the covers. I’m counting that as a win. More on this later, I promise.

Matthew turned 10! We had a great family party and we went out to dinner with a couple of his friends on his actual birthday day. I think he had a wonderful birthday!

Every Tuesday I take all the boys to soccer (we carpool) and then Olivia and I go hang out with my Mom for a couple of hours. She makes us dinner, we watch America’s Next Top Model and just hang out. I love it.

Matt and I are going out on a date this weekend! It’s been way too long.

IT’S FRIDAY!!!!!

What made you happy this week?

Happy This Week

I got a manicure from my favorite nail lady! She’s back in business and so am I. I love getting my nails done.

Does anyone watch Luther? I just discovered this show and I love it. I’m on season 3!

We had a fun weekend last weekend. We went to the fair, went out on the boat, had dinner with my BFF and even relaxed a bit. It was so nice before all the crazy of September starts.

Two of my friends brought me flowers this week. It was so sweet and brightened my day.

My students are awesome. They are kind and sweet and hard workers. I was blessed with another great group this year.

My Mom and I get to watch America’s Next Top Model together each week while the boys are at soccer. I love spending time with her.

Matthew’s birthday is this weekend and he’s so excited. Remember the excitement of your 10th birthday???

Olivia is having an awesome school year so far. It makes me VERY happy!!!

My hair is getting longer each week! I know, duh! But it’s amazing to have hair again…even just a little bit. I miss having hair so much. I can’t wait until it’s totally back. I miss my eyelashes too…but at least I have eyebrows again!

I had the first pumpkin spice latte of the season. It was so delicious.

It’s getting cooler. I’m so ready for fall weather!

What made you happy this week?

Cancer Chronicles X: Emotional

Sorry I’ve been MIA lately (to the few of you still reading…Hi, Mom!) but the start of the school year is insane. I’ve barely had time to sleep!

I am so much better physically. My radiation burns have healed, I’m not in constant pain and the fatigue is getting better each day. When I have my treatment every three weeks, it’s not too bad. I’m a little achy, a lot tired, but not sick. I can function. It’s a big difference from the spring.

But emotionally? I’m a hot mess.

I’ve struggled with an eating disorder my whole life and I’ve never really been treated for it. I think I have it under control and then BAM something like cancer happens and it rears its ugly head. I’m really struggling in this area right now. I know it seems ridiculous that I’m in the middle of a cancer battle and I give a shit about my weight but it’s not a rational disorder. I’m really trying to love myself through this. To be patient with my body as it recovers from being through hell and back over the last seven months and still anticipating the seven months it has left to be bombarded with chemicals that feel like they’re trying to kill it. I’m sure my body is constantly thinking “WTF IS SHE DOING TO US???” and so I’m trying to appreciate all that it is doing for me right now. But that’s easier said than done when you already struggle in this area.

Three women in my community have passed away in the past month from cancer that started out as breast cancer. One of them was a dear friend of a family member. She just finished chemo one year ago and thought she was fine. These stories haunt me and scare me. I know I could get hit by a bus tomorrow, but that doesn’t matter. I. have. cancer. Something that people die from all the time. Something that people use as a “could be worse” as in “well, at least it’s not cancer!”. I have it. I’m fighting it. And I’m trying not to live in a world where all I think about is the fact that it could come back. I can’t live that way. That’s not who I am. But at the moment, it’s really hard for me to ignore the voice that’s telling me “it could come back!”.

I have glimpses of my “pre-cancer self” here and there but I’m not myself yet. I’m just not sure how to get my mojo back I guess. Again, I’m trying to be patient with myself. I’m trying to give myself credit for all I am going through and trying to realize that it’s ok if I’m not myself for a bit. Maybe I won’t ever be “myself” again. Maybe I’m permanently changed. Maybe that’s not a bad thing. I’m just not sure. I do know that I’m usually a happy, positive person and I’m trying really hard to stay that way. But it’s not easy.

I think part of the problem is I’m just worn out. This is hard work physically and emotionally. It’s a lot of pain and fatigue and appointments and phone calls and paperwork and worry and doctors. It’s just heavy. I’m just tired. And I get overwhelmed by how much farther I have to go and the fact that it might not be enough.

I keep telling myself I’m a fighter and, no matter what comes my way, I’ll handle it. But sometimes I just wish I didn’t have to.

Happy This Week

I started getting my nails done again and it makes me so happy!

We are all ready for back to school. I started on Thursday and my new students start this week. I’m really excited to meet them all! My kids start this week too…they are not looking forward to waking up early!

Our 7th annual golf outing was a success. Thank you to everyone who supported us!

Project Runway and America’s Top Model started this week. I love those shows!

The boys started soccer this week. I love watching them play and seeing them excited about playing.

I missed my work friends and am glad to see them every day!

What made you happy this week?

Wonder

***I was riding my bike today, listening to this song, and felt as though I needed to re-share this post with you. I guess iTunes knew I needed the reminder of just how special my Olivia is to the world…and to me.***

I don’t know about you, but there’s little I enjoy more than a new song that speaks to me in some way.

I had to start with this one. I have to be honest and say I don’t really like Natalie Merchant in general. But this song speaks right to my heart. Even if you’ve heard it before, listen again along with the lyrics. When I first paid attention to the words, it blew me away. It brings me to tears every time I listen to it. I just think of one little girl who is a miracle and changed my world forever…Olivia…and how this song must have been written just for her and me.

Doctors have come from distant cities
Just to see me
Stand over my bed they’re disbelieving
What they’re seeing

They say, I must be one of the wonders
Of God’s own creation
And as far as they see they can offer
No explanation

Newspapers ask such intimate questions
They want confessions
They turn to my head, they try to steal the glory
Of my story

They say, I must be one of the wonders
Of God’s own creation
And as far as they see they can offer
No explanation

I believe
Fate, fate smiled and destiny
Laughed as she came to my cradle

“Know this child will be able”

And laughed as my body she lifted
“Know this child will be gifted…
With love, with patience and with faith…
She’ll make her way, make her way

People see me, I’m a challenge
To your balance, I’m over your heads
How I confound you
And astound you

To know , I must be one of the wonders
Of God’s own creation
And as far as they see they can offer
No explanation

I believe
Fate, fate smile and destiny
Laughed as she came to my cradle

“Know this child will be able”

And laughed as my body she lifted

“Know this child will be gifted”

And laughed as she came to my mother

“Know this child will not suffer
With love, with patience and with faith
She’ll make her way, make her way
Make her way, make her way”

The line about “laughed as she came to my mother…know this child will not suffer. With love, with patience and with faith…she’ll make her way” brings me to tears every time. I need to listen to this song more often because it centers me. Is there a song that “gets” you every time?

Happy This Week

So much for my goal of writing more often this summer, huh? I honestly don’t even know where the summer went…I can’t believe we’re back to school soon!

I had my last radiation treatment on Wednesday! It feels soooooo good to be done! It was very cute though…the ladies that did my treatment asked me to come back and visit. I probably will when I’m there for a check up. It made me feel good though!

My BFF and I had a girls’ day to celebrate. We got pedicures, went out to lunch and went shopping and then got the kids and hung out for the evening. It was an awesome day and the perfect way to celebrate.

Matt and I went to the Harry Connick Jr. concert at the zoo on Tuesday with our friends Robin and Tom. My friends Robin and Alexis got me the tickets for my birthday. Harry is amazing in concert! We went out to dinner beforehand too. The whole night was so much fun!

I’ve been riding my new bike almost every day and I love it. It definitely makes me happy!

We got our new carpet and most of our new furniture. It looks like a whole new house!

The boys went to “cancer camp” this week. It’s Camp Kesem and it’s for kids whose parents have or had cancer. It was Matthew’s first time away at home (besides Grandma’s) and he was very nervous. The counselors have been posting pictures every day and it looks like they’re having a great time. It feels like they’ve been gone FOREVER and I’m so excited to pick them up today!!!

Olivia had a fun week being the “only child”. We took her golfing, which she loved, we went out on my in-laws boat and went swimming, we did puppet shows and she even had a “picnic” lunch in the basement while watching Dumbo on the projector. She missed the boys but enjoyed the 2 on 1 time!

My friends Kim and Kara made us awesome dinners this week. I also got cards from my friends Glenn and Terri. Thank you!!

Olivia’s Open golf outing is this weekend. It looks like the weather will be perfect. Fingers crossed for a great turnout!

What made you happy this week?

Cancer Chronicles IX: Radiation is OVER!

I finished my last radiation treatment this week!!! I had to go to the hospital every day, Monday through Friday, at 8:30 a.m. for 21 days straight and it’s finally over!!! I am so thankful to have that piece behind me.

My radiation therapists were so sweet and kind and took such good care of me. I am very worn out and sore which is to be expected. It will get worse over the next couple of weeks before it gets better because radiation is cumulative and keeps going after your treatment. But the good news is I should start feeling “back to normal” in about a month. I already feel like a huge weight is lifted just being done with this piece.

Now all I have left is chemo every three weeks until March, genetics test (fingers crossed for good news), heart tests every three months and I start taking my daily pill soon which I will take for the next 5-10 years. That all seems pretty “easy” compared to the last 7 months. It still feels like a long road ahead but definitely one I can handle.

I got a new bike about a week ago and I’ve been riding it almost every day. It’s my new favorite thing to do for exercise. I haven’t been able to lift weights this week because my left side is too sore so it’s been nice to have my new bike instead! Hopefully I’ll be back in the gym next week.

School starts next week and I’m a little nervous about being exhausted. My body is just very worn out at this point. But that’s what sick days are for, right? I’m so thankful I still have some left! I’m excited to get back to work, even though I’m a little nervous about keeping up.

It feels so good to say radiation is over!