June was phenomenal as far as my FitDesk stats go: 900 minutes and 220 miles. I also mowed twice, celebrated my 90th day since the end of chemo with a frozen margarita from Casa del Mar, traveled to Milwaukee to celebrate Dan’s birthday, and baked a couple of cakes.
We just returned from a trip to Meijer, where we bought a few plants, a box of granola cereal, and a pint of buttermilk (for another bundt cake I want to try making). Even though the store was sufficiently air conditioned, I couldn’t take any more. I am wilted. So I’m going to eat my cold cereal, and watch Dan play video games. But before go, I’m going to leave you with a few pictures of the yard.
Please ignore the debris lurking in the shadows back by the fence. Tornadoes ripped through our area a couple of days ago, and we lost a few limbs. What I would like you to notice are the fresh lines in the grass that I PUT THERE.
That I’ve been able to help Dan mow the lawn this year is monumental. There are a few things that have made this possible.
- Thanks to my mom, I discovered Flonase. I am so allergic to grass I couldn’t even. But now I can.
- I don’t have to mow every day. I get 6 or 7 days off between every job!
- After I bought a manual push mower in 2015, Dan commended me for my commitment to getting in shape and trying to protect the environment, then he promptly bought a self-propelled gas mower. (I didn’t know I had a brain tumor when I made the overly ambitious purchase, but he knew that neither of us were in any condition to work that hard in extreme heat.)
- I’ve lost 39 pounds. I’m still burdened by as many extra pounds, but getting rid of those has made it easier for my body to continue recovering from months of chemotherapy. I’m getting stronger instead of weaker for the first time in years. Literally years.
- I love my yard. Sitting in an outdoor rocking chair at the end of the day and admiring the work that Dan and I have put into it is life-affirming for me. I’m not withering away. I’m doing things. And hopefully every day I will be able to do a little bit more.
My permanent disability parking placard came in the mail this weekend. Getting it is bittersweet, because it’s so helpful to have. But also, I don’t really want to need one. Holding the placard in my hand forced me to reflect on the last year or so, and it bummed me out a little.
So I thought I’d try to focus on a thing I can still do in spite of my tumor and last year’s biopsy, radiation, and months of chemotherapy. Unfortunately for my waistline that thing is bake cake.
This story really begins last Wednesday on Dan’s birthday. I made him Nigella’s Chocolate Guinness Cake* (with a bottle of New Glarus Coffee Stout from his stash of special birthday beers instead of Guinness). Making him this cake is a birthday tradition. It’s really dense and really moist, but it’s not really sweet. It’s sooooo delicious.
We didn’t have a cake stand, so I plopped it on a pizza plate and later covered the leftovers with an inverted bowl from our salad spinner.
Well, a sweet friend of ours, Dawn, couldn’t let us go on living life without a proper cake stand and decided to gift us one. I immediately started looking for another cake to bake and settled on this Pistachio Pudding Cake**.
I started wobbling around the kitchen, and it baked while severe storms moved through our area. I was pleased with how it turned out.
Here it is again, pictured with Dan’s beers. That’s just coincidence, I don’t necessarily recommended pairing beer and cake. (Yeah, the cake is made with three boxes of instant pudding so it’s got that perfectly unnatural green tint and semi-homemade flair.)
Both cakes are delicious.
* The frosting is store bought. We weren’t in the mood for cream cheese, and opted for a buttercream instead.
** Again, we skipped the cream cheese frosting. Instead I iced it with a powdered sugar, water, and orange zest drizzle. Also, I had to add an extra 1/2 cup of milk to this cake batter. It was so thick without it, my hand mixer couldn’t deal.
Dan’s out at Sam’s this morning buying a bag of whole bean coffee, a case of Coke Zero, and a bag of bird seed. You know, the essentials.
I had intended to go with him, but I woke up this morning with a migraine. And, instead of asking him to bring me some Gatorade to wash down my morning meds, I decided I was tough enough to do it myself.
I made it to the kitchen and back without falling, but the room was spinning out of control from dizziness by the time I made it back to the bedroom. By the time I’d flattened myself out on the bed and closed my eyes, the damage had been done. My vertigo and migraines and gag reflex must all be on the same circuit. I said goodbye to the medicine I’d just taken and waited for my vision to return to normal.
Early this morning while the sky was still dark, I had awoken from a dream that I’d received the results of another MRI and the doctors were telling me “there was another dot in my head.” I’m pretty confident that was just my brain’s way of processing the incoming migraine while I slept. But that split second of consciousness where I thought I actually had a second brain tumor was pretty shitty.
So, instead of continuing my streak of feeling pretty good for a girl with brain cancer, I’m staying home today and taking it easy. It’s disappointing though. Dan and I were talking last night about the things we wanted to do today, and now I just can’t. I can, however, share some pictures with you of the stuff we did this past week while my parents were in town helping us with projects around the house.
Mom helped us with the landscaping out in front of the house. She laid the stone border and mulch and helped us hide the hideous gas meter by arranging my potted flowers and the landscaping rocks scattered around our yard. (This is actually not the final product, but it’s close.)
Dad installed the kitchen sink we got for Christmas (to replace the cracked, leaking one). It wasn’t easy, either. He had to improvise to get it to work and there was talk that we might have to call a plumber.
Mom drove me out to Country Arbors Nursery to get Dan’s birthday present. (His birthday isn’t for another couple of weeks, but I can’t drive and I wanted to surprise him.) Yes, that’s a three-foot-tall Sasquatch in my back yard. I named him Pipsquatch. We love him.
We also had a garage sale. It doesn’t take long for me to feel suffocated by too many things around the house. Particularly things we don’t want or use. What we didn’t sell, we loaded in my parents’ Jeep and took to Goodwill. Bonus: we dragged the old kitchen sink and a 25-cubic-foot, poop brown Lady Kenmore side-by-side refrigerator to the curb and a couple of scrappers hauled them both away for us. The weather was gorgeous.
Artemis | Andy Weir
This book was written by the guy who wrote The Martian and performed by Rosario Dawson. (I love her.) It’s about a heist that takes place on the moon. It’s witty and science-y.
Promise Me, Dad | Joe Biden
This was a hard read for me, seeing how the book was equal parts family story and political memoir. If you don’t already know, Joe’s son died of a brain tumor. That made this book a bit of a traumatic read for me. But it was also comforting. I’m a bigger fan of Joe Biden having read this book, and I already thought pretty highly of him.
Artemis Fowl | Eoin Colfer
Just a coincidence that Artemis appears in the title of this too. It’s what I’d call YA Fantasy and it was a fun distraction. I listened to this (and other titles) on Audible during chemo week and during my two-hour visits to Expanded Care for my IV fluids. The guy reading this book was fantastic, a true voice actor.
Coming Clean | Kimberly Rae Miller
This is the memoir of a woman whose parents are hoarders. You’ll laugh; you’ll cry. And you’ll be reminded that the people on that TLC show are real people and, I believe, understand them just a little bit better. I loved this book, and I think Kimberly Rae Miller is a gem.
A Wrinkle in Time | Madeleine L’Engle
Somehow I had managed to never hear of this book until I was 38 and it was being released as a Disney movie. It was decent, but I think I would have enjoyed it immensely more if I was 12.
What She Knew | Gilly MacMillan
I also listened to this book on Audible. For a book about a high-profile kidnapping, it was a long slog. I finished listening more out of duty than enjoyment. In fact, I ended up changing the playback speed to 2x real time just to get it over with. Perhaps it would have been more enjoyable as a read instead of a listen.
Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House | Michael Wolf
I. Had. To. If you don’t know, I’m a political junkie and I think Trump’s a nincompoop.
The Good Samaritan | John Marrs
Read this one on my Kindle before my headaches got to be a little too frequent, and it was good. It’s about a woman who works at a suicide hotline looking for candidates to encourage to commit suicide. I’d give it four stars and a trigger warning.
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Mom and Dad gave me money for my birthday, which was almost two weeks ago. The present I bought with that money arrived today: a Bissell SpotBot Pet carpet and upholstery cleaning machine.
I had one of these SpotBots with my first dog.
Taubensee was a great dog, but sometimes prone to eating things he shouldn’t. Like an entire batch of homemade pumpkin chocolate chip cookies that I’d left on the counter to cool.
(SIDE NOTE: After cleaning up the cookie barf that day some 11 years ago, I still can’t stand the sight or smell of pumpkin chip cookies.)
Anyway, I loved my dog AND this machine. But then my beloved dog died. And then a few weeks later my husband and I moved to Urbana from Indianapolis. So the SpotBot was sold in a different sort of purge—the one I dubbed The Great Purge™. It took place when we moved into temporary housing that didn’t allow us to get another pet. And then our “temporary” housing turned into OMG-how-are-we-still-in-this-tiny-apartment-two-years-later housing.
You know how some women of a certain age get kid crazy? Well, in the two years I lived without a dog, I got pet crazy. All I could talk about how was how I wanted a puppy and kitty and I wanted them to be BFFs.
In 2015, on the day we moved into our very own house and out of that one-bedroom apartment, we signed adoption papers at the Champaign County Humane Society. We have a puppy and a kitty and they are BFFs.
Both of these critters are pukers, but especially Boomer the lab mix. He pukes when he gets too excited, he pukes when he eats ice cubes, he pukes after a long day at the dog park, he pukes in the car on the way back from my check ups at Siteman Cancer Center in St. Louis, and he pukes because that’s just what labs do—puke.
He pukes more than me on chemo. That’s something.
So this little machine has been on my wishlist for a while now, because you just put the thing over the messy spot after you’ve cleaned the debris, push a button, and walk away while it scrubs and sanitizes and deodorizes and whatnot. Its little wand attachment works on upholstery too, so the whole car’s getting a shampoo.
Sorry if I’m getting commercial-y, but I’m geeked. Happy birthday to me.
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