Mama’s first Halloween! On Zoloft! Whee!

So last November, I did a bit of tweaking with the good ole anti-depressants and lo — a new world opened to me. Or rather, I finally re-emerged as the real Cathy, who, as many of you will recall, always did love a bit of fun.

(Please, anyone who knew me in college or my 20s, let’s spare everyone else the sordid details, shall we?)

This Halloween, I created a Haunted Hallway in our house, complete with spider webs, dangling bats, a silver skull, tombstones and flashing lights. (We have a long, long hallway that lends itself to this sort of creativity!)

And aside from the usual trick-or-treating round the neighborhood, we finally made it to Boo at the Zoo.

Most shocking, I actually MADE a costume for my daughter this year. All we bought was a mask.


Puppy & the skeleton.

Say cheese!

My girlfriends and I love cheese. Wine-and-cheese parties are among our favorite types of get-togethers. We each bring a bottle of wine, our favorite cheese and crackers. Then we make it look all pretty on a table, usually outside, and spend the evening feasting. (And thank you, Laura K., for the night you introduced us to the heaven that is smoked gouda & avocado on a cracker.)

I tell you this because, somehow, I gave birth to a child who doesn’t like cheese.

The E-man remains disdainful of mac & cheese, cheese on his pizza, cheese on quesadillas, cheese in his chicken wraps, even plain old American.

This often makes dinner a frustrating experience, especially when you couple the E-man’s dislike of cheese with Hubs hatred for onions. (which I also happen to love)

Now Tootie, she’s her mama’s girl. She’ll eat shredded cheese right out of the package, adores Laughing Cow, dumps parmesean all over pasta and always requests a cheese pizza.

My beloved, late Mollydog also was a cheese fanatic. My best friend Amy once came over with a hunk of Port Salut and wine. We devoured half the cheese, then headed to the kitchen to refill our glasses. When we returned, the cheese platter was empty and Molly looked quite guilty. (and content)

As for Daisy, our puppy, cheese is her favorite reward, the one temptation she can’t resist. All I have to do is open the fridge, and Miss Daisy morphs into the most demure, obedient pup ever, hoping I will feel compelled to reward such model behavior.

Speaking of Daisy, we got our furry little monster spayed this week, so she’s not quite as lively as usual. I missed the little stinker the day and night she was gone, especially after the kids went to bed. That’s when Daisy calms down enough to lay on my lap while gnawing on a pig’s ear. Although lately, she keeps hanging out on Hubs’ couch.


And yes, this post is all over the place. It’s been a busy week and my thoughts are somewhat jumbled.

Have a happy Friday! And if anyone has a suggestion as to how I can make cheese more enticing to my little man, I would be eternally grateful. I mean, what kid doesn’t like a grilled cheese sandwich? Sigh.

Yes, pink is pretty. But cancer isn’t.

Like me, I’m sure many of you noticed all the recent Facebook posts in which women declared “where I like it.” These posters were referring to where they place their purses at home. Their alleged intent in making these flirtatious announcements was to “raise awareness of breast cancer.” (If you’ll recall, last year’s ever-so-helpful Facebook “breast cancer awareness” maneuver involved announcing the color of one’s bra.”

I was appalled.

A woman I admire greatly, a two-time survivor of inflammatory breast cancer, just wrote a letter to Salon about these stupid Facebook memes. I think she said it perfectly:

This viral effort does nothing to fight breast cancer. Like the last one, without an explicit link to information or a request for action, it is simply a game. As a double mastectomy two-time cancer survivor, I was deeply hurt by the last meme. (It was not a harmless game. It was a slap in the face for some of us who no longer need bras because of breast cancer.)

And now I’m angry. Playing games in the name of breast cancer, or purchasing pink products that donate a penny to the cause, is just insulting.

Cancer is not pretty. It’s not pink. And it’s definitely not flirty. It’s a deadly, bloody, nasty disease, and it’s killing me.

Don’t play games while I die. If you want to raise awareness, talk about the signs of cancer. If you want to support research, donate directly to an organization like the American Cancer Society. If you think the government should fund more cancer research, call your Senator.

Flirting in the name of cancer is not just ineffective; it makes people believe they’ve done something to make a difference, instead of inspiring them to actually go out there and say something, donate, and speak up for those of us who are dying out here.

Please. Make a difference. For reals this time.

—Susan Niebur

A few days, later, Susan wrote a post for her blog, Toddler Planet, that made me pause and really think:

Dear President Obama: Thank you for your support of the fight against breast cancer.  By turning the White House pink last week and issuing a proclamation October 1, you joined so many in America (and the previous administration) wishing us well, thanking our caregivers, and approving of the research that gives us hope.  I’m sure it was beautiful.

I didn’t see the pink White House, because while you and your staff were lighting your house pink, I was just a few miles up the road, explaining to my little boys that Mommy was too tired to play after dinner because the chemotherapy I take is fighting the cancer cells spread throughout my body.  That I couldn’t pick them up from school because the chemo takes so much energy that I had to nap instead.  That I was fighting as hard as I could, and that it would get better, but for now, Mommy had to rest.  Because Mommy has cancer.

Susan went on to write about the need for more research into the most deadly of breast cancers — inflammatory breast cancer, known as IBC. For more information about this little-known, fast-moving cancer, go here. She added:

Cancer is not pretty.  It’s not pink.  And it doesn’t really care about all the games being played in its name during breast cancer awareness month.  Cancer is a deadly, bloody, life-taking disease that has killed too many of my friends and is trying to kill me as well.

This year, I walked alone in Race for the Cure’s 5k event. None of my friends were participating. And with Susan’s words fresh on my mind, I saw the race and all its pinkness through her eyes — the feather boas, the sequined hats, the goofing around for photos …

… and I thought of Susan, and her hope to survive just a few more years, long enough to see her two young sons through elementary school.

It made my heart hurt. And I could see how all the revelry, the fake pink eyelashes, the pink fishnets and silly hats are a slap in the face to someone involved in a fight for her life.

And because I walked alone, with Susan’s words still echoing in my thoughts, I thought of the race differently this year.

I still believe in it. I will continue to walk each year, with the hope that such fundraising will eventually find a cure for IBC, which is overlooked all too often. And I understand that survivors should be honored and celebrated.

But I will encourage my fellow Race participants to see this event not as a big, pink party, but a reminder that too many of our sisters continue to die.

This week, a children’s book about breast cancer landed on my desk. It’s called You Are the Best Medicine, and is written for children whose mothers are fighting this disease.

If you know someone who could use such a book, please email me at I have only one copy, but you can also find it on Amazon.

Here’s a sample:

For a while, I will have to take medicine that makes me feel bad, and this medicine will make all my hair fall out. I will look different. But I will laugh when I remember your own sweet little baby head, how round and bald it was, and how warm it was on my lips when I kissed it every day. I will remember how the fuzzy parts grew silky on the top, sticking straight up like little feathers, and how you laughed when I blew raspberries on your round baby belly. I will hope that my new hair grows in as beautifully as yours did.

Tent camping: the unromanticized version

Given that Hubs and I remain devoted tent campers, I’m always amused by ads for those who enjoy barebones outdoor accommodations.


Oh, what a beautiful morning ...

Romance in the wild ...

Happy campers!!

OK, so now let’s insert a little reality. Here’s your non-Cabela’s version:

Now this is what real camping looks like. Stunning model, no?

Real models know when to say no to photos. Especially when camping.

Daddy’s little helper

So Hubs does quite a bit of woodworking on the side. He builds furniture, and his ex-wife sells it at her shop in Hillcrest. Most recently, he’s been working on bookshelves that are made out of old doors. Sounds weird, I know, but they look really cool.

His most ardent supporter in this endeavor is … the puppy.

When Hubs is working outside, she remains at his work bench, often jumping up to examine the tools Hubs sets on the railing of our backyard deck.

Her favorite sport these days is to run off with his tools. Thus far, she’s made off with: a mallet, a screwdriver, a roll of tape, countless blocks of wood, a couple of chisels and, on one memorable occasion, Hubs’ eyeglasses.

That day, while doing some closeup work, Hubs set his glasses on the railing. Minutes later, out of the corner of his eye, he saw Daisy leap up and grab something.

Hubs spun around and looked at the dog. She stared back. Triumphantly. And then a frantic chase ensued. Hubs did recover his glasses, but not before Miss Daisy had left a few scratches on them.

Thus far, Hubs has sold each piece of furniture he’s crafted. I credit not only his skill, but also his faithful companion.

Isn't that just precious?

Pass the sander, dude. I am totally a master of that tool.

You sure you want to do that? I might reconsider. Just sayin'.

My fees are quite reasonable. Really.

Face painter extraordinaire…

… or maybe not so much.

This year, with two kids now in school, I ended up volunteering for shifts at two classroom “booths.” I didn’t, however, bother to check on what, exactly, I would be doing.

So imagine my chagrin when I learned that this year’s kindergarten booth offered … face painting.

I’m the girl who hot-glue-gunned her hair to a Christmas ornament when I decided to get crafty one holiday season. I figured paint plus Cathy plus small children was an equation destined for certain disaster.

For this reason, I turned up early last night so that I could watch the first shift of face painters in action. You can imagine my relief when I found that one table was a center for Face Painting Dummies. All you had to do was paint a cubed design, press it against a child’s cheek, and voila … a perfect little flower, heart or Halloween portrait presented itself without any bumbling interference from me.

The other table was manned by the talented free-style crew. So when a cute little witch or ghoul asked for something complicated, I simply pointed them to the women wielding brushes.

From face painting, I headed to the Moon Bounce, where I supervised leaping children. My duties consisted of taking tickets and yelling, “Hey, no roughhousing in there!” or “Do NOT jump near the little ones!” There was only one casualty, one of my sweet little Girl Scouts, who ended up a victim of two overly rambunctious boys. Thankfully, a few hugs seemed to take care of the bumped nose.

We ended the night by having dinner with a mom friend and her daughter, best friend to my Tootie.

The waitress, seemingly amused by are fervent requests for a beer, a margarita and a vodka tonic, laughed when we offered a two-word explanation:

“Fall carnival.”

Despite the chaos, it was a lot of fun and the kids had a fabulous time. The E-man, in fact, is still wearing his skeleton suit. He has thus far squashed any attempts to remove it. I just hope it holds up until Halloween.

The bear, the lion and the wasp

Hubs and I camped last week at Big Bend National Park, where we spent our days hiking the many incredible trails there. In the past, we’ve seen all sorts of wildlife on our hikes: bears, javelina, tarantulas, giant grasshoppers, roadrunners and mule deer. And last year, we came this close to getting our first view of a real, live mountain lion.

Our wildlife sightings were fewer this year, but we did encounter something we deemed the most vicious yet: wasps.

On our way to Pine Canyon, Hubs pulled over to check a rough spot in the road. While he puttered around outside, I opened a novel, kicked off my shoes and started reading. Just as Hubs got back into the truck, I felt something brush my arm.

“AHHHHHHHH!!!” yelled Hubs. “WASP!”

I should mention here that while my spouse is very much a rugged outdoorsman, nothing sends him into a panic quite like a close encounter with a wasp. And I, too, equally dislike anything that stings.

“AHHHHH!” Hubs hollered again, just before flinging open the door and charging into the desert.

“EEEEEEKKK!!” I squealed, leaping out the passenger side — still barefoot.

For the next few minutes, there was much shrieking and running around in circles while the aggressive wasp chased us.

Finally, we managed to throw ourselves back into the truck and slam the doors. Still, the wasp continued to charge the windows as we drove away.

Twenty minutes later, we pulled up to the trailhead. As I put my shoes back on, Hubs went to the back of the truck to grab some bottled water from the cooler. I was tying my shoelaces when I heard the commotion.

Through the front windshield, I saw my manly Hubs running backwards and flapping his arms in an attempt to elude yet another wasp. I, of course, fell all over myself laughing.

A few minutes later, laces tied, I hopped out of the truck, only to be confronted by another ugly wasp. “AAAIIIEEEE!” I screamed, running around the truck.

“Shut the door!” Hubs yelled, as he ran the other way.

“I can’t!” I shrieked. “It’s chasing me! You shut it!”

“I can’t!” Hubs yelled, running past me in the opposite direction with his own wasp in pursuit. “One’s chasing me too!”

After a few more laps around the truck, we managed to escape the evil things and set off on our hike.

Upon our return a few hours later, we exchanged looks and ran like hell for the truck. And as we drove off, a couple of wasps charged our windows yet again.

I don’t know what kind of wasps these were, but they certainly reduced these two devoted hikers to wailing wussies.