Life is Like a Boxing Match, Not a Box of Chocolates: #MyLeftBoob #BreastCancerChronicles

I found this blog post saved in my drafts folder that I wrote back in early March and wonder why I never posted it? Perhaps it was because the king of the chaotic castle I was leaving was threatening my piddly grass shack in the woods and I was afraid. This king thought he was important just because he was somewhat wealthy and surrounded himself with status symbols to make the peasants who worked for him submit to his authority. But what he didn’t realize was that there is only so long a ruler can oppress “his people” before there is mutiny. This king was egomaniac who hated any woman who was not young, beautiful, blond and skinny. The longer was held captive the more I realized I could only remain a victim as long as I stayed. So I left.


After the last few months of complete stress and chaos, working way too much and being stuck in an unhealthy relationship (no, not my marriage), I’ve broken out of the chains that once bound me and I am finally FREE! A few people I’ve crossed paths with lately have made snarly comments about how many jobs I’ve had, like it’s a bad thing. It’s not by my choice. If it was my choice I’d still be working from home as I did for 7 years in order to be there for my kids. But unfortunately layoffs happen, life happens and you do what you have to do to survive.

Sorry Forrest, but life is not at all like a box of chocolates. A box of chocolates comes in a shiny gold box, freshly sealed in plastic, wrapped in a silky red ribbon. When you open that up your suspense heightens because there is a glossy bi-fold paper filled with delicious, delectable photos of every decadent chocolate treat just millimeters away from your anxious fingers. Beyond that lays a squishy piece of black cardboard separating your watering mouth from dark chocolate truffles with raspberry, caramel and milk chocolate centers. Maybe that’s life for millionaires.

For us working class blue-collar folks, life is more like a boxing match. It’s brutal and the pain seems never-ending at times. It takes a sucker punch at you, catches you off guard, smashes you in the head a bunch of times and then knocks you bloody and bruised, down the ground. While you’re laying there staring at the tooth you just spit out on the dirty ground next to your swollen cheek, you think you’ve been beaten so much that you might not have the strength to get back up again but then you hear your coaches, your friends—

“Hang in there. Life sucks, people suck. I wish I could help. I’m here for you. Don’t stoop to their level. You’re better than that. Don’t listen. Karma will get them. Just keep moving forward.”

And so you get back up.

Life is like a box you left in your garage that you’ve packed and moved along with you during each of your 20 relocations in the last 12 years. That box may look a little crusty on the outside, but you can’t throw it out. Inside sits a tiny white cotton sweater that a neighbor hand-knit for your adorable baby girl to wear home from the hospital before that same sweet neighbor passed away. It may be tattered and torn but just beyond the dingy brown packing tape sits a story your middle son wrote in second grade in crayon, complete with stick figures, about why he loves his mom. And then there’s the guest book to your oldest son’s graduation reminding you that your babies are not babies any longer. Time is fleeting.

I know that I am not going to waste any time working for, or surrounding myself around, people who suck all the life and love out of me. There will always be another job, another boss, another battle to fight— win or lose. I stared death in the face many times during my 2-year cancer battle I know that life is way too short to waste time on people who make you feel anything less than what and who I am— a strong, talented, loving, caring, giving human being who tries to do what’s good and strives to treat others the way I want to be treated.
Life is full of changing seasons— seasons of drought and seasons of turmoil,sickness, seasons of sadness, loss and famine, seasons of health and maybe some temporary wealth, seasons of tragedy and grief, followed by overwhelming laughter, joy and amazing love.  That’s life and, win or lose, I’m so glad to be blessed with another day. And now for some chocolate.
Photos by Rob Howard and Recetas Pasteles via Flickr Creative Commons

Moola, Muppets & Hot Sauce on the Side

Moola, Muppets & Hot Sauce on the Side: Job #1

(c) 2014 All rights reserved

Screen shot 2014-10-11 at 3.05.39 AM

The first job I ever had at the tender age of 10 taught me all about sexuality, what today would be considered borderline child abuse, and lax parenting. I got paid to eat junk food and watch The Muppets, also known as babysitting, with my older sister who was 12 at the time. Being the youngest of six, it was nice to “be the boss” for a change. We were a tag team, caring for two little kids only a few years younger than us.

Babysitting for Danny, 6, and Liza, 4, was something I looked forward to all week. Back then people didn’t worry about silly little things like taking CPR classes, age limits or what to do if the house burns down. No, it was more of a “just fly by the seat of your pants and if you don’t drown them in the bathtub, you’re good” kind of gig.

Every Friday for about two and a half years, the Romanos would call my sister and I to watch their kids at their small lakeside home while they went out. It was the early 80s and back then they paid us $2 per hour each, all in singles, which we thought was fair. They came home each night incredibly happy and glassy eyed with a huge wad of dollar bills. I could never understand why they were so gleeful, grinning from ear to ear, and why they had such a huge wad of cash all the time? Looking back on it now I wonder if they were going to places that required payment in singles, if you catch my drift. Remembering a handful of odd things that happened all within the same family, I fear I may be right.

One time Danny’s Uncle Tom came to the house before Mr. and Mrs. Romano were ready to go and he decided to strike up a conversation with me. This was one of the first times I was on my own to watch the kids without my older sister so I was a bit anxious. Uncle Tom was Italian, short, stocky and flirtatious. He was what you might call a “close talker.” He was always winking at me and shooting me these creepy looks that said, “I wonder what you’re wearing underneath that Smurfs shirt of yours?” I was at that awkward age where girls start sprouting soft little bumps on their chest that they try to hide. I tried hiding them underneath my long hair. They were way too small for a bra and I hoped nobody would notice. But Uncle Tom did.

He cornered me in the kitchen while his younger brother and sister-in-law were doing God knows what in the nearby bedroom. Danny and Liza were in the living room, mesmerized by Wonder Woman decked out in her tight red spandex suit, whipping her shiny gold lasso up above her long mane of thick dark hair. Uncle Tom half smiled at me, his thick black mustache turned up on one corner of his mouth revealing his coffee-stained teeth. He stood right next to me and slowly put his arm around my shoulder, rubbing his chubby, calloused thumb back and forth on my shoulder where my bra strap should have been, had I been wearing one. Leaning in towards my ear with his dry, cracked lips he said softly, “I really like that tight shirt. You’re not wearing a bra are you? Wow.”

I nervously laughed while trying to subtly escape the grip of his thick, hairy arm around my shoulder. Why did creepy old men always have horrible breath and mustaches? Ick! Thankfully Mr. and Mrs. Romano were finally ready to go and opened the bedroom door, allowing me to run into the living room to check on the kids. Phew, I screamed on the inside. They quickly left and yelled to us, “Goodbye! Don’t wait up!” I breathed another huge sigh of relief. They’re finally gone!

Uncle Tom left the lake house with the Romanos but must have left some of his perversion with his 6-year-old nephew. I locked the front door relieved, and walked back into the living room to finish watching Wonder Woman with Danny and Liza. Danny sat on the floor, his eyes glued to the TV, which was a mere 6 inches from his nose. “Why are you sitting so close to the TV?” I asked. He replied, ”In case Wonder Woman’s top falls down I want to get a good look.“ What a little perv. It’s okay. This 6-year-old was harmless, and adorable. As long as Uncle Tom stayed far, far away from me, I was okay and could handle my little Casanova.

Screen shot 2014-10-11 at 2.51.37 AM

Another week went by and I was back at the Romanos. After a night of eating pizza and soda, Danny asked me how babies were born, something I never really pondered myself being only a few years older than he was. “I’m not really sure,” I said. “Well I know. One time I hid under my mom and dad’s bed and saw how they did it. They both wear white t-shirts and underwear and they cut holes in them. Then they press each other’s privates together,” he whispered, Liza giggling.

“Oh really?” I stammered. “That’s nice.”

“And someday I’m going to do it too,” He beamed.

Danny’s crush on me was growing increasingly obvious with each passing week. Sitting on my lap while watching Kermit serenade Miss Piggy one night, Danny gently took my hand in his, looked up at me and said in his cutest little boy voice, ”When I grow up I’m going to marry you so I can see your boobies.”

Trying not to laugh I said, “Okay Danny, we’ll see.”

The next week I came back to the house to find Danny and Liza chasing each other around the house naked, with wooden spoos, trying to spank each other’s bare butts. Innocent enough, right? Wrong. After the Romanos left I caught up with Danny and grabbed the spoon from him, but not before he spanked me on the backside and said, “I spanked your ass!” I was shocked! A 6-year-old swearing and acting perverted? This was too much for me to take.

When his parents got home that night they asked how it went and I knew I had to tell them. As soon as they found out Danny swore they got him up out of bed and dragged him, tired and sleepy, to the fridge. Okay, this was getting really weird. I just want to go home!

They plopped him down on the kitchen counter, took out a teaspoon and the hot sauce. Danny came to and saw what was about to happen and yelled “NOOOO!” “I promise I won’t swear ever again,” he cried, turning his head to the side, clenching his mouth shut. “You know the drill,” his dad smiled, spooning the hot sauce into his mouth while his mom set the timer on the stove. For one full minute Danny screamed and cried as the hot sauce burned his tongue. I watched in horror, wanting to cry myself. His parents got quite a kick out of this. Maybe their jolly mood in this situation had something to do with those glassy eyes.

“If he ever swears again you have our permission to give him the hot sauce treatment,” she said to me laughing. “Okay,” I nervously replied. Mr. Romano carried Danny back to bed while I waited on the couch for him to drive me home. It was a long, awkward, silent ride home. I never went back. The hot sauce, the singles, the happy grins and weird sex vibes were just way too much for a 12-year-old to handle. And so ended my first official job ever. More babysitting jobs came after the Romanos– the Carlsons (#2), the Wilsons (#3) and I’m sure a few more, but none quite as entertaining, nerve-wracking and memorable.