Chemobrain is real. There are significant intellectual deficits associated with chemotherapy, beyond what would be expected from the stress and fatigue. Sort of makes sense, when you think about it… so the temptation is there to blame all sorts of things on it, any forgetfulness or disorganization. However. I must be honest and admit that if any of those issues existed before chemo, I can’t blame them on chemo. Too bad.
Like my filing system. This is sort of circuitous, be patient with me (inability to stay on task when telling a story is DEFINITELY a problem…) But anyway, I keep my important recipes taped on the fronts of my kitchen cupboards. Or when I run out of space and can’t decide what to move, I use the insides too. Above is my bread machine bread recipe and pizza crust recipe. If I didn’t have chemo brain, I might be able to put the notes somewhere and find them later, or even memorize the recipe I use every. single. day. but you know, it’s there, just to the left of the sink, no problem.
I think this system drives certain family and friends absolutely crazy. They have some tolerance for people like me who clutter tables and over-fill bookcases, but I may be the only person they know with a clutter problem on VERTICAL surfaces.
And it’s not just recipes. If you’re at my house, and you NEED to know the text of the Magnificat right away, you can go over to the coffee maker, look straight ahead, and voila. No problem.
My mom gave me this. It was so special to me, and made me so happy that she sent me this treasure at a time when I really needed it, that I decided to forgo the tape and get out the hot glue gun. And yes, I do see the irony here, but she loves me anyway. But back to the story. Yesterday I was thinking of all these recipes after my sweet Sam texted me for my risotto recipe so that he could make a meal for his friends. As I was typing it all out to email him, i had another thought, a laugh out loud idea. You see, I am blessed to have more friends than anybody else I know. Really. And they all want more than anything to fix all this, and to take care of me and my family. Well, I have this one friend (who would NEVER clutter her vertical surfaces with taped on scraps of paper) and you know what would make her happier than anything? If I let her come over and take down all the papers, and then she would carefully copy them and make a perfect notebook for each of my children with this essential family data. Joy! (and after I confessed this to her she’s been texting me all day to make sure it happens 🙂 It made me laugh to think of how each of my closest friends is SOOOOOOO different, that even the ways they help ME reflect their personalities. So my “make the loveliest ever homekeeping notebook” friend is Elizabeth Foss. But actually, she said she didn’t need to take everything down, if Brian sent a high resolution photo of each treasure, she would fix it all up. She respects my vertical clutter 🙂
She just gives and gives. Mostly she shares her children with me, one in particular has spent so many hours on skype with me that the skype people probably think he’s mine. What a gift that son has been to me! So we were talking about chemobrain. I honestly thought that my chemobrain would make it impossible to teach college level math ever again. But Elizabeth Foss had confidence in me, she gave me huge amounts of encouragement, and entrusted her son to my possibly-all-forgotten math skills. And we made it!!! What a gift, to share children and fix somebody’s self esteem at the same time…. Speaking of sharing children, I have got to tell you about my friend Kelle. Kelle’s gift is always, no matter what the time, day or night, being there for me to get me through the darkest hours. She’s a truly happy person, counting blessings and gifts even when life pretty much stinks. She lives Eucharisteo.
It also helps that we are totally on the same page in terms of our T21 club membership. But anyway, about sharing her children…. she knows my heart, and she knows what’s going to distract me when the nausea from my latest infusion or the pain from these ribs is more than i can bear. Sometimes it’s just listening, she would never minimize what I’m going through, but often when I need to collect myself to get through my day and be present for my children, I need some serious cheering up. And if I need cheering up, Kelle is there. Often ahead of time. So I suspect (although she won’t admit it) that she stocks up on the happiest, silliest videos and stories of her babies, so that she has one ready at 215 AM when I can’t sleep. (as much as she loves me, I am not going to ask her to wake her babies at 215 AM just because i am in a bad mood….)
Patti is another poor soul getting the late night calls, but she can do this because she lives three time zones away to the west… besides she has a new baby and a brand new grandbaby so she’s probably up anyway 🙂 It works out great, my sister lives in England, so right when Patti is going to sleep, my sister is waking up, so there’s always somebody to talk to. Did you know that Patti’s WHOLE CHURCH is praying for me. No kidding. She texted me a photo of this big video screen during their service. They take the “where two or more are gathered” thing very seriously. OH! And she’s friends with Julia, doing the fundraiser, so that’s good too.
And Ginny, oh my goodness how I love Ginny. But I think it is possible that I have never, ever talked to her on the phone. I’m trying to remember. Dixon loves Ginny because she can manage her life without a smartphone. And even without a smartphone, she can somehow arrange miraculous disaster recovery adventures from 400 miles away. Like getting a boy to sleep away soccer camp at the last minute, The photo of Lark and me above is from when they drove through Charlotte to pick up my son to deliver him to Elizabeth Foss’s dad who got him to camp. Because I just couldn’t do it. I think of all my friends, Ginny’s parenting style is most like mine. Or at least most like I’d want to be even if I’m not quite there yet. Maybe I just want to go live at her house and read books on her sofa. She is that remarkable sort of friend you can be with and not have to say anything. Not that she can’t chat till 2 AM with the best of them, but when you’re around Ginny you really don’t have to.
Speaking of pictures, were you wondering where these pictures are coming from? My friends (and I don’t know who started it) made me a scrapbook a while back. They must have mailed it around from family to family, and it ended up on my doorstep the day before a big surgery, and I have cherished it every day since. Maybe it was Susanna who started it. All my friends are mamas. All my friends are amazing mamas. But nobody takes on the kind of mothering challenges that Susanna does. Go read her blog. Click over there, and down a little on the right edge, click on “the beginning of Katie’s story” … and even though there’s no way I can do the kind of mothering Susanna can, she loves me anyway… always there, steadfast and kind. Right now she’s in the hospital with two of her boys. I just don’t know how she does it all. But she does. With grace. Never arrogant or judgmental, EVER, though, which continues to amaze me, because you know those T shirts that say “what’s your superpower”??? Whoever designed those must be friends with Susanna.
Let’s see, who’s next in my love book? Esther. If you have ever read the comments, you know Esther. She doesn’t even have a blog. She isn’t on facebook. Of all these friends, I’ve known Esther the longest, fifteen years, maybe? I know I have photos from at least ten years ago. So I told you about my taping all my recipes on my cupboards, knowing that there are many wonderful mamas out there who have now lost all respect for me, such a failure as a housekeeper. And to even post photos of my vertical clutter! Well, I told Esther about it and she thought it was a BRILLIANT idea. I often think Esther and I were twins accidentally separated at birth. The only difference is that she’s often better at keeping up with my mom than I am…. and yes, that is a tatted rosary. No kidding. Guess that’s another difference… One of us got the talent and it wasn’t me 🙂
And the last pages in my love book are filled by Ann and her children. She had to bring her drawings and photos here to Charlotte to put them in, I think our other friends were nervous about mailing the book back and forth to Canada. Oh my goodness, the stories I could tell you about Ann! But I won’t, lest she turn right around and tell stories on me. Like the time when she and Emily and I met up at a women’s conference, and we were pretending to be secret service agents, sneaking her out the back door into my van until we ran into this big ditch…. or when she and Sam were filling the trash cans at Starbucks with packing peanuts with only moments to spare before we had to get her to the airport… Nope, no Ann stories from me. Although I heard a rumor that she told ten thousand women stories about me last weekend, and even took her boots off to show them her worn out tired prayer socks…. might should knit her a new pair some day… because I love her to the moon and back, and her children, too.
I’m not sure what this all has to do with chemobrain, actually. I probably had an idea about it when I started typing 1700 words ago. Sorry to ramble on so long…. thanks for listening. There were at least ten more things I was going to tell you about, but they will have to wait… like how the rest of my children are, and about this totally cool T shirt fundraiser at Suscipio, oh, and I do have friends who actually live in North Carolina, I need to tell you about them…. Tomorrow.