Fat Tuesday & The Critical 1 Year Anniversary

Fat Tuesday & The Critical 1 Year Anniversary

By Lee Aldrich, The Reading Room

It’s funny how the Easter calendar works. I could look up how Fat Tuesday, Ash Wednesday and Easter are determined – I think it has something to do with the moon – but it’s easier just to look on my calendar. Where my hubby and I are from, and up until last year, Fat Tuesday meant over indulging on traditional
Polish Paczki (pronounced PAWNCH-kee) – the incredibly rich, filled sweet yeast dough…kinda like anvover-the-top filled doughnut. This year, however, we are celebrating for a different reason. This year, Fat Tuesday marks the 1 Year Anniversary of a very complex, invasive surgery – an oesophagectomy – to treat my husband Mark’s stage 3 esophageal cancer.

 

Surgery & Recovery

Mark’s surgery was February 13, 2017 – a month after completing chemotherapy and radiation treatment so his body had time to recover and regain strength. After 14 days in the hospital with a multitude of tubes and and drains running in and out of him, a return trip to the emergency room to be resubmitted for another 3 days, several months with a feeding tube once he returned home again, and 8-12 weeks for recovery…the surgery was a success. My husband had many lymph nodes, two-thirds of his esophagus and one-third ofhis stomach removed. He has a new normal, but he feels good and looks great.

 

Celebrating Fat Tuesday

Fat Tuesday is the last day before Ash Wednesday, to over indulge in food, drink and outrageous behavior before the beginning of lent…a time of repentance, fasting and abstinence. Not being Catholic, Lenten fasting and Lenten abstaining from meat didn’t and doesn’t apply to us. What does apply, is looking back on the past year…reflecting on thoughts and behaviors to see where we need improvement. Could we have treated people better? Given more thanks for the many, many blessing we have? Lived our life in the moment instead of chasing the future or reliving the past?

This year, February 13th, Fat Tuesday, is a celebration for my husband and me. It is a celebration of his critical 1 Year Anniversary post surgery. Its is a celebration that he is healthy, and – God willing – his CT scans will continue to be non-eventful. It is a celebration that while standing at the edge of a very bad precipice, we woke up…to living in the moment. To letting the little things go. To being grateful for everybody we love and the many blessings we have. To let go and let God.

 

To Our Heros – We are eternally thankful and forever grateful.

-Dr. Weis, PA Nicole Grise Orgain and their medical oncology team
-Dr. Tao and her radiation oncology team
-Dr. Robert Glasgow and Dr. Thomas Varghese for their surgical skills
-Jon Huntsman Sr. (recently passed) for his generous donations to build the Huntsman Cancer Institute
-Joe and Sherri to visiting before Mark’s surgery
-My sister-in-law Lisa for traveling to be with me during Mark’s surgery (and to be my Valentines date last year)
-Sherry for telling me she’d be here in a heartbeat if I needed her
-The folks at Sysco for all the support, caring and flowers
-The Seavy’s for Mark’s special Star Trek Bear, complete with Michigan State Shirt
-Dr. Britt Dubil and Danica Vanderhoof-Gisler and their families for babysitting our puppy Oscar for days and days on end
-Tyler for shoveling our deck after I had a meltdown when our snowblower quit after a big snowstorm
-Barb for the lemon tree – ‘cause when life gives you lemons…
-Henry – not quite 4 at the time – for his get well drawings and wishes (transcribed by his mom Heather)
-Our friends and family – way, way, way, too many to name – that sent prayers, love, emails, texts and cards Mark’s way

 

The Sweets

This Fat Tuesday, the sweets that we’re devouring are not Paczki. The sweets are Mark’s 1 Year Anniversary post surgery and being cancer free. The sweets are the time we spend together; all the people who have loved, supported and helped us; the realization that life is short and putting off adventures and experiences until your job, income, home – name your qualifier – is squared away…is insane and a waste of life and happiness. Life is right now – not tomorrow or yesterday.

Fat Tuesday 2018 we are indulging in life: the people we love and cherish, adventures, silliness, joy and laughter. We will continue to “live deep and suck out all the marrow of life…” We savor the sweetness of love and caring and support. Paczki’s are pretty great, but this critical 1 Year Anniversary is fabulous.

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day. And Like Scarlett O’Hara, we’ll think about that tomorrow – today we’re celebrating Fat Tuesday with Mark’s Critical 1 Year Anniversary.

 

 

 

 

To read more bout Mark’s journey, and our wake up call to living in the moment, please click here:

markself.com & The Good, The Bad, & Life In-between

The Good, The Bad & Life In-Between

The Good, The Bad & Life In-Between

By Lee Aldrich, The Reading Room

It’s been a rough 9 months. In late September our dog Wilson was diagnosed with cancer and we had to put him to sleep. Two weeks later my hubby, Mark – partner, friend, and love of my life – was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. Several weeks ago we had to put Eloise – our cat of 14 years – to sleep. Good or bad, life is about balance. If you want all the wonderful life has to offer, you have to accept there will be bad. I married my husband, agreeing to love him “in sickness and in health” and that kinda goes for life as well. Right smack-dab in the middle of the good and the bad is where we live most of our lives: we live life in-between.

The Good & The Bad

Making the decision to put Wilson to sleep was heartbreaking. We second guessed our choice hoping there was another diagnosis that would alleviate his pain. He gave us joy, laughter, companionship, cuddles, nuzzles, wet sloppy kisses.

We also remember the hair on everything, food snatched off the counter, books chewed to pieces, diarrhea on the carpet after eating lord knows what, scaring us to death when he would run off.

Accepting the bad and the sad was the trade-off in order to experience Wilson’s good and wonderful.

My husband’s cancer was caught in the nick of time. Had he waited any longer to see a doctor the prognosis would not have been as good. We spent October through December in radiation and chemotherapy sessions. There were blood tests, CT scans, MRI’s. We met with surgeons, medical oncology and radiology oncology doctors. In mid-February he had a very invasive, intensive, surgery which meant 17 days in the hospital and 8-10 weeks of recovery. (He’s doing splendidly, by the way. Here’s his journey: markself.com). There will be much testing in the next few years and nervous hours waiting for results. I married him promising to love and support him. I love living the wonderful, silly, cherished good life with him, so I accept nervously slogging through the bad times.

Life In-Between.

You can’t be grateful for joy without experiencing sadness. You can’t know love without feeling heartache. It is the extremes that allow us to appreciate the good times when we are experiencing the bad and knowing that neither good nor bad will last forever.

In-between is where we go to school, work at a job, fall in love, marry, have children, decide what we’ll have for dinner, determine where we’ll spend our vacations, decide what car we’ll drive, welcome strangers into our lives that become our friends. It is the polar opposites we experience that gives us the nest for our lives…THAT is life-in-between.

The pendulum swings in two directions.

If I want to experience the reckless abandon of joy and love and happiness I must also feel sadness and loss and pain. Through all the heartache, stress and sheer terror of the past 9 months, I have embraced life-in-between. I am celebrating my husband’s return to health. I am flipping the heartbreak of losing Wilson and Eloise into love I feel for Oscar – the newest member of the family.

Life in-between requires us to live in the moment. We cannot live in the past; we cannot live in the future. Life in-between requires us to live right now – to love, travel, hike, camp, eat great food – to stop postponing joy. I have learned I cannot, nor do I want to, live anywhere but right here, right now.

I will experience the pendulum swing back and forth – we all will. There will be sickness and health, life and death, joy and sorrow, laughter and tears. But right now, I embrace this one moment that will never come again. I know to let the past rest and the future sort itself out. Between the good and bad is where I’ll live my life.

I am grateful to live in the moment. I am thankful for my life in-between.

How is YOUR life in-between?

 

If Wishes Were Horses…

If Wishes Were Horses…

By Lee Aldrich

I said to somebody the other day that being straight-forward and outspoken is both my strength and weakness. I have learned, often the hard way, that I just can’t say everything I think. As my husband’s caregiver while he’s fighting cancer, I’m sad about the way his adult kids are responding to his illness. In calling out the kids, my wishes are that they get what’s going on. There are better ways of getting my point across than looking somebody in the eye and telling them they’re full of shit, but right now, I’m needing to do that.

We wish to have everything we want. What I want, at this time in my life, is the cancer to be gone from my husband. I want him to feel good, to be finished with the nausea and extreme fatigue from the treatments. I want him to be able to do the things he likes, when he wants to do them.

I wish I could take away the nervousness he has for his upcoming surgery. I wish I could take away the grueling 6-10 week recovery he faces. I wish we could know for certain that after all the treatments, after the surgery, after the recovery, that we will have many more years together. I wish, for his sake, his kids were more involved in his journey.

If wishes were horses…

…I would take away the hurt and disappointment he feels at the lack of concern his children seem to have for his treatment and well-being. He thinks he is not important to them. That he is out of sight and out of mind.

He hears from one child once in a while in text or in a comment prompted by a new post on his website…but never a call. Another has never asked his dad how he’s doing. Not once. There are infrequent texts completely unrelated to his dad’s health but no calls. Ever. Thankfully, he consistently hears from one of the three.

So many people, both family and friends, have constantly offered help. People regularly call to find out how he is, offer to be here to help during and after surgery, offer prayers, send cards, cry with us. There are some significant calls and concerns that are missing. His kids. What they don’t realize is nothing in life is guaranteed – the days are long but the years are short. You never know when the last time you talked to somebody WAS the last time you talked to them.

I’m profoundly sad and disappointed at the kids degree of self-absorption; their deplorable lack of empathy and concern for their dad’s health and life.

My husband chalks it up to “they are what they are.” He is moving forward. He is learning to let go of hurt and disappointment to concentrate on the family and many, many friends that support him.

I wish the kids were among those people. I wish they understood that his perception IS his reality. I wish the kids would make a real effort to show him they whole-heartedly, unequivocally, love and support him. Tomorrow’s a new day. I wish with all my heart this helps them know better so they will do better by him.

If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.

Lee Aldrich

About Us

Scan 59 - Version 2A friend once said “when we stopped building front porches on houses we, as a society, lost our ability to tell stories.” So when people ask “Why do you write”? I tell them it’s because I feel the innate need to connect to others through stories.

I tell stories because I come from a family of storytellers. (That’s me in the photo a few years back intently listening to my Nana.) We tell stories about the folks who are no longer with us. We tell stories about people we meet. We tell stories about each other and – good or bad – they are told while we are right there to share in the laughter or blush at our past stupidity.

It is the stories we tell each other that connect us. The stories we tell keep the past alive, the present a shared experience, and the future full of potential.

Writing allows me the freedom to tell stories that are funny, insightful, cutting. They can be fact, embellished, or out-and-out fiction about family, friends, the world, monsters (real and imagined), relationships, life experiences, pearls of wisdom, things that make me laugh or grieve.

dsc01849My husband and I have moved all over the United States. In all of those moves only one house had a proper front porch. There was no homey place to sit with somebody on a warm night to sip iced tea or glass of wine. There was no place to relax and watch the world go by; no place to kick back and tell each other stories of our day, our lives, our dreams.

I miss the days of relaxing on front porches and hearing stories from adults and kids alike. I write because I have the need to share, to be a part of something greater than myself. I write because stories are what survive long after we are gone.

Front porches may have disappeared from most homes, but I want to believe we have not lost our ability to connect to each other through our stories. I want to entertain you, or at least, make you think about what I’ve said. I write because I have an innate need to tell stories.

I hope you’ll come along for the ride.

Lee Aldrich Middlesage

 

Saying Goodbye to My Old Friend and Making Wishes Come True

Saying Goodbye to My Old Friend and Making Wishes Come True

By Lee Aldrich

Lee Aldrich MiddlesageIt’s after 1am and I can’t sleep. Not because the lightening and distant thunder are keep me awake but because in the next several days I’ll be saying goodbye to my old friend who has been in my life for 15 1/2 years.

We’ve been everywhere together since 2000. She’s seen our 3 kids grow up, been on many vacations with us, witnessed me cry tears of joy, sadness and frustration. I hate saying goodbye and I’m emotional just thinking about it. I’m going to miss her.

Many people will think I’m nuts. Growing up in the Detroit area we learned at an early age how important cars were and are. My friend, the one I will be saying good-bye to in the next several days, is a 2000 Chevy Suburban that has travelled 170,000 miles with me and shared 15 1/2 years of our lives.

It’s hard to say goodbye to part of the family that has:

  • driven me, my husband and 3 kids (now grown and flown) to doctors appointments, sporting events, schools, churches, weddings, funerals, parties, luncheons, dinners, and celebrations of all sortsIMG_2797
  • been stuffed beyond reason with kids, adults, pets, food and supplies for much anticipated vacations; for 5 moves that started in the midwest, to the Atlantic seaboard, the south, and two states out westIMG_2267
  • carried me safely through profound snowstorms, torrential downpours, and weather of all kinds to client meetings across states, charity functions, visits with family and friends, and commitments too numerous to name
  • toted tons of building materials for DIY projects, tons of mulch, and thousands of plants for gardens
  • been witness to watching the cat step on the lock button and locking me out – with the engine running  (The pic below is exactly how that happened!)

IMG_0987This vehicle has been a part of every aspect of our lives for the last 15 1/2 years. She has never let me down – OK, maybe once or twice – but that’s pretty spectacular in ANY relationship of that duration. She, like me, needs a bit of bodywork. She, like me, isn’t as bright and shiny as she was 15 1/2 years ago, but she’s still FABULOUS!

She has been a good, trustworthy part of the family and we want to assure that she is able to continue touching others lives. Today, or tomorrow, our friend of 15 1/2 years will be donated to Wheels For Wishes which benefits the Make A Wish foundation. She will be sold and her proceeds will go to help fulfill the wish of a local child with a life-threatening medical condition.

Semisonic puts it best in the song Closing Time: “….every new beginning comes from some other beginnings end….” The beginning of my relationship with my mechanical friend is at an end, but with this end comes a wonderful beginning of a child’s special – and sometimes last – wish.

She’s lived a lot of life with us and I hate saying goodbye to my old friend, but she’s traveling an important road making wishes come true.

 

For more information about making donations click on either link:

      Wheels For Wishes

      Make A Wish

A New Year:  I Resolve to Reassess

A New Year: I Resolve to Reassess

By Lee Aldrich

Lee Aldrich MiddlesageFirst off, let me wish everybody a safe, healthy and Happy New Year. Secondly, let me tell you I’m not a resolution maker. I used to do that in the past but found that when all the things I had promised myself I would do, see, change, etc., didn’t come to fruition, I felt disappointed in myself. Which lead to an “aw, screw it” attitude for any remaining resolutions that may have been hanging on for dear life.

 

What I have learned is to reassess:

  • my life and the path it is following;
  • the things that are important to me;
  • relationships;
  • the way I spend my time;

in order to re-evaluate where things may be out of kilter. This year is no different. What I realize is that I’ve strayed from my path, distracted with the new sights, sounds and experiences….it’s time for me to get back on the road less traveled.

I’m happy with my life – it is ever changing and non-predictable which keeps me on my toes. It is complacency that dulls our senses and lulls us into a state of just existing. I want to run, laugh, be joyous, sit quietly, reflect, feel. Looking at this past year, I have been able to adjust my state of mind and learn to be:  in the moment, in the event, in a precious slice of time that will never happen again.

file000933452536Where I see I am off kilter, is in the commitment to a relationship. I’m a prayin’ gal, and God is the ground that keeps me centered, but since we moved to Colorado, we’ve fallen away from attending church. I’m not doing all I can for the relationship. It’s not the dogma I miss, since dogma is where the rules and regs govern the external, and for me, spirituality is not found externally. Spirituality and connection to God is found internally. It springs from love and hope and faith.

Church can help prime a spiritual pump that sometimes runs close to dry. It makes me accountable to myself, while carving out a block of time that is committed to God. I figure with the joy and sadness that runs through life, and always being able to count on this relationship to celebrate the joys and share the sadness, it’s high time to get back on the path that many opt not to travel. It’s time for us to get back to church.

1452425_10200581511929704_622976416_aIt’s January 3rd, and already it’s a great year. I got to spend New Year’s Eve with my sweetie (last year we were separated by quite a few states) and we had a fabulous meal in our home; we soaked in the hot tub during a beautiful snow squall; the Spartans won the 100th Rose Bowl (Go GREEN!); my brother and sister-in-law sent fabulous pictures of my 5 month old nephew decked out in Spartan gear – right down to his socks; we finally finished watching all the Hobbit movies; I have a wonderful writing partner and LONGtime friend – Barb; Barb and I have a great site that lets you into our lives and experiences; I am re-assessing my life to re-evaluate what needs work.

Resolutions frequently come on a whim with very little thought put into how to implement them. Neither Barb or I make resolutions…

We live immersed in narrative, recounting and reassessing the meaning of our past actions, anticipating the outcome of our future projects, situating ourselves at the intersection of several stories not yet completed.    Peter Brooks

We couldn’t have said it any better. Happy New Year!

 

Do YOU make resolutions? Do YOU reassess or take stock of your life in a new year? We’d LOVE to hear YOUR story!

 

 

 

My Comfort and Joy: Embracing Changes in Holiday Traditions

My Comfort and Joy: Embracing Changes in Holiday Traditions

By Lee Aldrich

In November we talked about Gratitude and Thankfulness. We turned over every stone, looked in some unique places, and found what we were looking for. Even though the turkey carcass hasn’t even been picked clean, we are in the midst of the Christmas season. Shopping, “Bring a Dish to Pass”, cookies, decorations, lots of family. This month, we’re looking at Comfort & Joyso we’re asking – What brings YOU comfort and joy?  We’ll share ours and we hope you’ll share yours.

Listen to a little Comfort & Joy from the Barenaked Ladies:

Barenaked Ladies “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”  

Lee Aldrich MiddlesageThis holiday season is kinda weird for us. My dad died two years ago and my step-mom sold the house this summer and moved to Florida. Our annual Christmas Eve Party, celebrated for years upon years with family, friends and neighbors at that house, has come to a close. The evening that brought us all together, that provided so much love, comfort, joy and laughter over drinks and great food is on hiatus this year.

This year, some of us are celebrating in Florida, quite a few in Michigan, some in Seattle, Washington D.C., and Colorado. We’re spread all over hell’s half acre which is why the Christmas Eve party was so important to us all. It gave us a chance to see each other, relax, find strength and love and connection in spite of lives that are hectic and separated. A chance to get caught up and filled in on the marriages and births. Untitled 4A chance to just be with each other.

Much of my joy comes from family – and lord knows we’re a varied and extended crew. We’re grand parents, parents, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins – brought together by birth and marriage. Whether step, in-law or blood related, it doesn’t matter….we – as the Pointer Untitled 5Sisters sing – are family.

My usual comfort is found in the large din of many conversations all going on at once. Of the hellos and hugs. Of the toasts and clinking of glasses. Of the carols sung to the music our resident violist and keyboard players choose. Of conversations around the bar. Of traditions sculpted over the years.

ms 2Ok…so this year Christmas is kinda weird. But I am finding comfort in listening to my dog snore as Dave Brubeck and Oscar Peterson float from the speakers in my office while I write. I find comfort knowing that the Santa’s workshop of a mess in the kitchen doesn’t have to be hidden away. And comfort, too, that people understand their gifts will be late because Amazon has screwed up my shipping plan because their vendor – FedEx – decided to hand off the shipping to the US Post Office. (Small rant, sorry!)

My joy this year comes from knowing that my husband and I will spend Christmas in our own home….only the second time I’ve done this in my life. That we can attend a Christmas Eve service this year. That we can sit around the tree in our jammies drinking coffee, mimosa, or bloody mary’s…it’s our choice. That we don’t need to count on the airlines to get us anywhere. That we don’t have to go anywhere – unless it’s a walk in the snow. That anything we choose to do we can do on our own timeline. There will be no rushing and no worries.

Comfort and joy, like life itself, flows and changes. If we struggle against the changes we wind up stressed, frustrated and upset. So this year my comfort and joy is found right in my own home. But as I said….life is all about change. Next year we’ll find our comfort and joy right where we left it…at the annual Christmas Party. It’ll be the same folks, celebrating love and family and friends…just in a different home. Comfort and joy is what adds flavor to our lives and embracing change is part of life. I’ve decided to carry on and hug the changes with both arms. What have I got to lose?

Wishing you and your family comfort and joy and a very Merry Christmas.

So….where are YOU finding comfort and joy this holiday season? Is it the same as every year or has it changed? I told you my story….I’d love to hear yours!