Old furniture, ugh…

From the Arkie Mama archives:

(NOTE: The hall tree is no longer in the dining room because Hubs moved a big, old, ugly buffet in there. Now the hall tree is in OUR BEDROOM.)

OK, so if you look to the left of my lovely stepdaughter, you’ll see a hideous lamp…

Ugly, no?

Notice how the age-yellowed lampshade is held together only by peeling masking tape?

That atrocious lamp is symbolic of the disparity in Hubs’ and my taste in home decor.

For the Hubs, all that matters to him is that something is old. He loves antiques, faded linens, knicky-knack things.

Me, I’m a minimalist. I hate clutter and what I will generously refer to here as “stuff.” The comedian who moved temporarily into an IKEA store? That is my fantasy.

Clean and modern. Lots of light. NO KNICK-KNACKS. No dark, brooding furniture.

Like this hulking thing, to the left of cute daughter:

This, my friends, is an antique hall tree.

I refer to it as the Clutter Collector.

We’ve never had a hall to put it in, mind you, but it has accompanied us on each move. I LOATHE it. For one thing, it’s just a depressing-looking piece of furniture. It’s ugly. And — most offensive — everyone dumps stuff on it, thereby making whatever space it occupies CLUTTERY. ACK!

Jackets belong inside a closet, not dangling from an horned piece of furniture that takes up valuable space in my dining room.

When I have to shove my way through a dozen coats and scarves just to sit down at the table, I break out into hives. Oh, and the hall tree has a seat. So there’s more junk under the bench and on the bench.

As I said — Clutter Collector.

I want to burn it. After I take an ax and chop it into itty-bitty pieces. Such is my hatred of the hall tree.

Anyway, back to the lamp.

On a recent trip to my parents’, I hauled Hubs into the IKEA store.

Halfway through the vast, uncluttered store, as I fondled the floor lamps, he finally clued in.

“We’re here for a new lamp, aren’t we?” he asked.

I smiled. Evilly.

A new lamp was purchased and erected in the spot once occupied by the taped-together piece of junk.

And then the battle began.

“Why are you taking the old lamp outside?” Hubs asked indignantly.

“Because we can leave it out on the curb for pickup this week.”

“You’re getting rid of it?”

“Why would we keep it? It’s broken. It doesn’t even have that globe-thingy in it anymore.”

“Yes, it does. I found one for it.”

“Oh. Yes. The one that’s just balanced in there because you can’t attach it. The one that could fall out at any minute. The one that cost us more than the new lamp.”

Sure enough, as I carried the old lamp outside, the globe fell out and smashed into a zillion little pieces on our front porch.

Hubs was appalled.

“Look what you’ve done!” he cried. “We could have saved it! It’s probably worth $100.”

I looked skeptically at the ugly, 70s-looking thing on our porch.

“Would you pay $100 for this?”

“Well. No.”

“OK, then.”

Bear in mind, this isn’t some family heirloom. Hubs found the lamp while scavenging in an antique store and bought it for $25. It was ugly then. It’s even uglier now with all the masking tape. (Son tipped it over and the shade ripped in half.)

Someday, Hubs and I hope to move into a bigger house. If the hall tree goes with us, I’m leaving him.

For the comedian in the IKEA store.

Susan’s story

Susan and her youngest son

I started reading a blog called Toddler Planet around the time its author, Susan Niebur, an astrophysicist living in Maryland, was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer. Until then, I’d never heard of IBC, and bear in mind — I’m a Googling hypochondriac. What’s frightening is that there are many women out there who remain unaware of this deadliest of breast cancers.

Since finding Susan’s blog, I’ve followed her struggles and her triumphs. As I said in yesterday’s post, her story is one of determination and joy.

Susan, who’s been featured on CNN and in several publications, learned she had IBC just a few months after her youngest  son was born. I cried when I read about how she had to abruptly wean her new baby so that she could begin treatment. And I cried again each time I read her posts about the joy she found each day in her two little boys.

Susan kindly agreed to guest-post here today. So here is her story in her words:

Dear Little Rock Mamas,

I’ve just finished reading about your Race for the Cure team that is preparing for the big race on Saturday. It sounds like there are a lot of fun events going on, and I’m looking forward to reading more posts about it on your blog. Race for the Cure is a great event to raise money and awareness of breast cancer, and that’s so important, as early detection is the key to catching this “beast cancer” before it develops into a monster that overpowers even the most technically advanced chemotherapy, radiation, and surgical treatments.

You guys know how to detect most kinds of breast cancer, right? With regular self-exams, looking for a lump? Of course you do, and I know you’re reminding your readers too. But as it turns out, there’s another kind of breast cancer lurking out there, that is far more sneaky, and far more deadly. It’s called inflammatory breast cancer, and it forms inside your breast without a lump. That’s right. There is no lump. The cancer forms in thin sheets, or in nests, like a bird’s nest of cancer growing inside your breast. There are few external signals or symptoms, and they’re sneaky too, since most of them are similar to mastitis, which many of us have experienced while breastfeeding a baby, or bug bites, or sunburn. But taken together, one or more of these symptoms can signal a dangerous cancer lurking in your breast.

What are the symptoms? Here’s a list, from the IBC Research Foundation:
* Swelling, usually sudden, sometimes a cup size in a few days
* Itching
* Pink, red, or dark colored area (called erythema) sometimes with texture similar to the skin of an orange (called peau d’orange)
* Ridges and thickened areas of the skin
* Nipple retraction
* Nipple discharge, may or may not be bloody
* Breast is warm to the touch
* Breast pain (from a constant ache to stabbing pains)
* Change in color and texture of the areola

And here’s my own pitch. If you notice ANYTHING DIFFERENT on one breast that’s not on the other breast, please CALL YOUR DOCTOR. Today. Because this cancer moves fast, faster than almost any other cancer, and is deadly. Only 40% of patients survive 5 years after diagnosis.

I’ve already lost too many friends to this disease, bloggers and readers just like you. Won’t you please check yourself for these symptoms, print a copy and file it away for later, and SHARE IT with your friends? Need a visual? Worldwide Breast Cancer has some really cool posters (also on flicker) that illustrate visual signs of breast cancer … using fruit instead of the human body!

I learned about inflammatory breast cancer very accidentally, when researching my mother-in-law’s breast cancer diagnosis. There was a link at the bottom of the page, and, curious, I clicked it. As I read through the symptoms, I had the strangest feeling, scoffing, well, I have that. And I have that. Hmmm, I have that too. And, when I called my doctor, and went in the next day, it turned out that I needed to see a specialist to rule out IBC. She wasn’t able to rule it out, however, since the biopsies showed that I indeed did have IBC — the deadliest form of breast cancer.

Two years later, I’ve survived cancer, 6 months of chemotherapy, 7 weeks of daily radiation, 2 surgeries to remove my breasts and ovaries, and a lot of physical therapy to deal with lymphedema, which makes my arm swell in the heat as a side effect of the mastectomy that took all my lymph nodes. It’s been a hard, hard road. But I haven’t done it alone. I blogged my way through this disease, and was very much supported by my friends online and off, as well as my family, which really rallied to come and care for me and my children. I’ve survived cancer.

The last two years have been in some ways terrible and in some ways absolutely wonderful. The terrible part is detailed on my blog, a daily history of what it’s like to go through a cancer diagnosis and treatment … and come out the other side. The wonderful part is there too, magical days with my children, weekly playdates with their friends and my mom-friends, getting back to normal with things like book club and volunteering and the kids’ school, and dancing with my husband in the chemo ward, in the rain, and in the kitchen. I’ve celebrated birthdays — of me, my children, and my children’s friends, and I intend to celebrate many more birthdays to come.

There is joy after cancer. But the important part is getting there — the after cancer part. So good luck this weekend, walk hard, and SHARE the SIGNS of inflammatory breast cancer with the people you meet. You never know. You might just save a life.

From Legos to Clay Critters

Saturday morning, I, along with three of my girl scouts and co-leader Amy, attended the Block Kids event in North Little Rock. The Brownies learned about architecture and all the many elements that must be considered when designing a building.

They then had an hour to design and construct their own structures, using Legos and a variety of other materials, such as foil, string, paper, etc…

When each girl finished, she was interviewed by judges, who later awarded medals and trophies for six creations. The girls had a blast, and were even more elated when they received goody bags on their way out the door. Whoever thought to include the Silly Bandz rings — you just endeared yourself to my group of Brownies!

After the event, I picked up the E-man and we headed to Pinnacle Mountain, where we participated in the Clay Critters workshop at the Visitor’s Center. After talking about what kind of creatures inhabit the park, the kids — and their parents! — used clay to fashion their favorites. The adults had just as much fun as their children. We all took our sculptures home to dry, with instructions for painting them later. Best of all — this event was FREE.

I’ve said it many times, but I can’t encourage you enough to take advantage of our fabulous state parks and the many activities offered for children.

Today, we’re heading to the zoo, before I embark on a rather intimidating pile of laundry.

Happy Sundaying!

My little boy: You know you want him on YOUR mantle

So the weekend before last, some old friends came into town. We met at my friend Amy’s house and decided we had a hankering for barbecue.

Hubs and and Amy’s spouse, Walt, weren’t hungry, so they stayed behind with the kids.

When we were done eating, I called to see how things were going. Walt answered.

“So, have my kids destroyed your house yet?” I joked.

“Oh, no, they’re fine,” Walt replied.

Imagine my surprise, then, when a few hours later, Hubs informed me that the E-man had shattered the glass in a large picture hanging over Walt and Amy’s mantle.

“I don’t understand,” I said. “How could he reach that?”

“Well, he was sitting on the mantle,” Hubs replied, as though small children perched on a mantle are an everyday sight.

“What? How did he get on the mantle?” I asked.

“I put him there,” Hubs said. “He was afraid of the dogs.”

“Uh, you do realize that’s a little strange, right?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, if our friends came over and put one of their kids up on our mantle, wouldn’t you find that a little odd?”

“Well … maybe.”

“Think about it. You put our 5-year-old on someone’s MANTLE.”

“Well, everything would have been fine if he hadn’t hit it with his hand.”

“Did it occur to you that putting a 5-year-old on someone’s mantle is kind of like begging for an accident to happen.”

“He was fine up there. I put Tootie up there too. She loved it.”

Oh great. So my husband decided both of our children would make for great mantle decor. No wonder we’re such sought-after guests. Sheesh. You know you want us at your next party. Really.

A weekend of bliss.

Saturday night, we went to a Travs game with some old friends who came for a Labor-Day visit. We spread out quilts on the berm and I spent most of the game watching my little boy’s legs churn as he ran from one end to the other and listening to my daughter’s gleeful shouts of, “You’re it!”

During the fireworks, we sprawled on our backs, still full from barbecue, bratwurst, nachos and beer, and watched the show in a contented daze.

Yesterday, Hubs and I took the kids to Pinnacle Mountain, one of our favorite fall spots.

At the E-man’s insistence, we hiked to the top. Gorgeous weather, gorgeous view. It had been several years since I climbed Pinnacle. On that ascent, I took the Mollydog. I can’t wait to do the same with Daisy.

Me and my girl.

Yesterday, on our way down, Tootie and I spotted a guy with what appeared to be a wolf.

“He’s 98 percent,” the man said, after I noted the gold eyes. “It’s that other 2 percent that makes him legal.”

The encounter thrilled my little animal-loving girl to no end. She spent the rest of the rest of the day telling everyone that she had petted a wolf.

It’s been a perfect holiday weekend. We’ve spent most of it outdoors, which, after this hot, lethargic summer, felt ever so liberating.

And today still stretches out before us …