A Reason to be Thankful During the Holidays

In the four years I’ve written this blog, I don’t believe I’ve ever had a guest writer. That changes today.

Last week, I received an email from Cameron, a husband and father, who simply wanted to relay his wife’s story of surviving cancer to my readership. As someone who has lost an immediate family member to cancer, I couldn’t turn down his request.

In particular, he would like to raise the awareness of mesothelioma, which is a rare form of the disease and is normally considered fatal once diagnosed. He didn’t ask for anything in return for writing this post, he simply wanted to do his best to spread awareness.

I think that it’s important to have a “feel good” story at this time of year, and the story of survival definitely fits the bill. So without further adu, here is the story of Cameron, Heather, and Lily…

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Heather, Lily, & CameronI have always loved the holiday season. I enjoy being with my family as well as with close friends, and I love the traditions that are carried on by our families. I thought that 2005 would be a particularly special year for our family since my wife had given birth to our daughter Lily in the late summer. We eagerly anticipated Thanksgiving and Christmas and began making plans for the holiday traditions we would pass on to our daughter, and the new ones we would create as a family. Instead, we saw all our plans crashing around us when the doctors told my wife, Heather, shortly before Thanksgiving, that she had cancer.

Our lives changed completely that moment. With a newborn daughter, I was terrified at what this could mean for my family. I was aware that with my wife’s diagnosis of malignant pleural mesothelioma, a rare and very deadly cancer, we could not be sure of anything. I struggled a great deal with anger and fear during these dark days. I tried to hope for the best, but all I could picture was the worst case scenario. That year, I felt that I had very little to be thankful for.

Cameron & LilyDespite the horrible news, we tried our best to celebrate the holidays anyways. After all, there was a very real possibility that it could be Lily’s only holiday season with her mother. Heather’s family flew in from South Dakota to spend the holidays with us, and after our Thanksgiving dinner we had a conversation that I had been dreading for days.

Among the many issues we discussed were our finances, assets and childcare. Heather’s family agreed to help with some of our bills. We also deliberated as to how else we could obtain the money we would need because Heather and I could not work while staying in Boston for cancer treatments. I felt despair wash over me. I was embarrassed and ashamed, and I felt like I had failed my family in that moment. It would be years before I could see how mistaken I was to view that day with such negativity.

I see now, years later, that I indeed had much to be grateful for that season. Despite my embarrassment, our family was more than willing to help us in any way. They dropped everything in their own lives to be by our sides in our moment of need, and were willing to make incredible sacrifices for us without a second’s hesitation. Their supportive spirit was actually great cause for Thanksgiving, but my pride blinded me in that moment.

Seven years later, I realize all for which I can be grateful. The help and encouragement of family and friends have been phenomenal. Our daughter brings us joy each day, especially during the holidays as we celebrate family traditions that Heather and I envisioned when Lily was just a baby. In addition, thanks in large part to the love and support of our family and friends, Heather made it through her treatment and came out the other side as a mesothelioma survivor. Our wish is that our story can be an encouragement to many who are struggling through their own battles with cancer during this holiday season.

Cameron, Lily, & Heather

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You can read more from Cameron at his blog:  http://www.mesothelioma.com/blog/authors/cameron/

Through The Stomach

A man's heart...With the Christmas holidays in full swing, the time to write blog posts is almost non-existent. I did, however, want to take a minute to provide a bit of advice to all of you ladies out there. This is something I’ve only truly learned recently after a string of AMAZING meals that have been prepared by Sunshine. I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but it really does need to be repeated because now I’m a believer:

The quickest way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.

I’ve never had a woman cook for me before (excluding my mom, obviously). My ex-wife? The occasional lasagna but that was a once-a-year treat. I never expected someone to cook for me nor did I ask them to. So when Sunshine cooked for me on our weekends together previously, I never assumed it would be a regular thing if we ever lived together.

IT IS.

The quickest way...And I do my absolute best to tell her every single day just how much I appreciate her efforts. I mean, how many guys out there expect meals from their significant others? I don’t and I’m constantly overjoyed to know that she has a meal planned for every day of the week.

Seriously…she plans her meals two weeks in advance. How awesome is that??

The best way...And as I mentioned, she’s been on a roll for the past two weeks where EVERY SINGLE MEAL has been incredibly tasty. Even something as simple as a ham/egg/cheese bagel was one of the most delicious things I ever tasted after she had her way with it. I mean, how does THAT happen??

Anyway, I just wanted to tell all of you ladies first hand that I’m more in love than I ever was before. Would I still love her if she didn’t cook for me? Absolutely!! I’m just saying that my stomach being full of tasty goodness has caused my heart to actually grow in size over the past three months.

That’s What SHE Said

One of the great pleasures I get out of my relationship with Sunshine is that we share a tremendous joy in “that’s what SHE said” jokes.

For those unfamiliar with this gloriously immature guilty pleasure, here is its definition (one of many, I might add) as explained by the Urban Dictionary:

“A statement used to draw attention to a phrase that could possibly be interpreted as sexual innuendo.”

For those of you who may not still “get it”, let me provide another example:

My friend and I were talking about being able to draw when we were younger.

“I used to be really good with my hands, but now I just suck.”

“That’s what SHE said.”

See?? Can you not just feel my joy???

Listen, there are times when it’s completely inappropriate to say it, but I’m at a  point in my life where I’m finding myself being unable to control my mouth from even whispering the words under my breath.

It’s happening at work when trying to plug an overhead projector into a laptop…

“Nothing’s happening…maybe I should push it in harder.”

“That’s what SHE said!”

It’s happening when I order a pizza…

“Would you like a 12-inch?”

“That’s what SHE said!”

It’s happening when I parallel park my car…

“Jeez…that’s a pretty tight fit.”

“That’s what SHE said!”

It’s happening when I’ve got a runny nose…

“I’m blowing and blowing and nothing comes out.”

“That’s what SHE said!”

It’s happening when I put on my seatbelt…

“I’m having a hard time sticking it in.”

“That’s what SHE said!”

It’s happening at work again…

“At least you’re staying on top of things.”

“That’s what SHE said!”

It’s happening when friends or family drop by for a visit sooner than expected…

“You came so fast, I didn’t have time to prepare.”

“That’s what SHE said!”

It’s happening when I try new food…

“Is it supposed to taste this bad?”

“That’s what SHE said!”

It’s happening in Star Wars…

“Luke, at that speed do you think you’ll be able to pull out in time?”

“That’s what SHE said!”

It’s happening when a friend talks about her new piercing…

“It doesn’t hurt to take it out, but it hurts to put it back in.”

“That’s what SHE said!”

Okay…that last one wasn’t real.

As you can tell, I love this joke. I don’t care how immature it is. I don’t care how lame it is. I don’t care how played-out it is. It makes me laugh and giggle like a little kid every time I say it (or hear somebody else say it).

Surely I’m not alone in my childish joy. Surely other couples have similar nonsensical things that are “just theirs” and brings them closer together, regardless of how silly it may seem. I can’t be that difficult to find something that brings a couple closer together.

I mean…it can’t be hard, can it?

THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID!!

Five Of A Kind

I’ll be the first one to admit that I’m not very good with babies. Oh I handled more than my fair share of dirty diapers, 3am feedings, and projectile vomit clean-up sessions…but I really feel uncomfortable with them. 

No, I’m definitely a “toddler and up” kind of guy. And lately, I’ve really felt as though I’ve found my “niche” with being a dad. Not only am I still the “cool dad” who knows all the latest hit music, but I’m a dad that can find ways to play and hang out with the kids, too. I just have a “comfort level” with younger kids that isn’t there with babies.

Go PersonOne of the ways that I’ve been bonding lately has been with cards. It’s fun, actually. The two youngest are 6 and  7, so we’ve been having fun playing Go Fish…which is the most classic beginner card game that I can remember. I also play Crazy 8‘s with the 9 year old, which is also a lot of fun because there’s a bit more strategy and thinking involved. In fact, we played that game as a family of four recently, with the girls gleefully slamming down a 2 as to make one of the adults “pick up two” and then make us “miss a turn” after laying down a Jack (the rules change from family to family, I think). 

History of cardsIt’s funny…I even wondered the other day how card games actually started. I began wondering if the originators of card games would ever have considered being the source of family bonding in the 21st century. I mean, just think about it…the ability to sit at a table or a couch (or pretty much anywhere) and instantly bond with a child over something as simple as a deck of cards is something that can easily be taken for granted…and that’s something I don’t plan on ever doing again.

So I’m very much looking forward to our next “family night”, with my son and fiance and future step-daughters all sitting around a table…maybe with two decks of cards…playing Go Fish or some other easy-to-play family card game.

I’m sure it’ll happen over the holidays…we’re going to be our own five of a kind!

Makin’ Memories

The other night was a very special one for me. It was a night, quite honestly, I’ve been looking forward to for quite some time: a family Christmas tree decorating night.

Y’see, I haven’t really felt like part of a family for quite some time (as I mentioned earlier this week), and I’ve been really getting into the spirit of family this Christmas because I’ve finally got a family of my own to celebrate with and take care of.

Our first family Christmas treeThe tree was delivered by Sunshine’s sister-in-law (her brother is a tree grower, which comes in handy this time of the year!). At first, I wasn’t sure how it would look…but then I remembered how scrawny my previous fake trees had been, and I just knew that this year would be different.

So I cut the ties just before we sat down for supper, hoping that the tree would “expand” by the time we started to decorate it. Thankfully, that’s exactly what happened!

Fireplace fun and a Christmas treeThe tree is just over six feet tall, which is perfect for our home. We placed it in the corner between our television and the front window. We were pretty excited about how it was beginning to look and, since I was feeling in the spirit and all, I decided to turn on the “fireplace channel”. It was cheesy, sure…but the whole thing was fun.

We took a quite break to have some hot chocolate. Sunshine actually prepared the BEST hot chocolate that I think I’ve ever had. It started with the basic powder and hot water, then some marshmallows to melt in the cups…

Hot chocolate part 1

…then a bit of cinnamon, and then some whipped cream!!

Hot chocolate part 2

Yeah…this was good.

Of course, it wouldn’t have been right if we didn’t each take a turn at the can…

Whipped cream 2 Whipped cream 3 Whipped cream 1

Once that was done, I sat back and watched the girls decorate the tree. They started with their own ornaments before turning to mine. I almost broke down when I saw an ornament that my mom made for the girls before she passed away…it just flooded my mind with happy thoughts.

I knew that she’d be looking down on me right now and smiling; knowing just how good my life was finally becoming after 40 years of trying to get things right.

Almost done

Once the tree was done, the girls decided to snuggle up with me. It was like icing on the cake…the full family feeling that I’ve always wanted to have. These girls are now my girls, too…and I’m their step-dad-to-be, and all is good with us.

CBG with MoMo & Kiddo

And yes, Sunshine HAD to take a family photo to cap off the evening!

Photobomb

Christmas can take its time getting here. The build-up is too much fun to have it end on the 25th!