I listened to “Part of Your World” as an adult

ugly old creepI had heard rumblings that you could finally know you had turned into a full-fledged-no-turning-back-now-too-old-to-function grownup was when you actually could side with (or at least understand some points of) the parents/authority figures in Disney movies instead of the protagonists.

Let me give some back story. The Little Mermaid was, bar none, my favorite Disney movie growing up. I spent literal hours, if not cumulative days, in my pool after school (oh, yeah, this might be a Florida kid motif here), pretending I was a mermaid. You know how there are those articles about how classic Disney VHS tapes are now worth tens of thousands of dollars? Well, clearly they have not seen my so-worn-out-they-were-disintegrating-15-years-ago-from-too-much-use tapes. (Does anyone else remember rewinding machines? I do.) And if you’re ready to get really jealous now? I had a (feel free to sit down because, again, you are going to be that jealousLittle Mermaid charm bracelet. I wore it with my overall shorts because it was the late ’80s/’90s and the ’90s were an incredibly strange time to be a child and overall shorts were a major thing.

Connor watching Little Mermaid

Parenting disclaimer: screen time rules have been loosened. Sometimes mom has to cook dinner. STOP JUDGING ME.

The moment I realized I could watch The Little Mermaid with my son with absolute impunity of enjoyment was a pretty great moment for me. And, don’t get me wrong, I still get that spine-tingling sensation the moment the opening music starts playing. I know all the words. I love this movie with all my heart.

However, it doesn’t mean that I haven’t turned into one of those full-fledged-no-turning-back-now-too-old-to-functioning grownups. This is why, when I listened to “Part of Your World” with new parent ears some things sort of hit me in a new way. So, if you will, allow me to break down this magical Alan Menken masterpiece through the ears of a parent.

Look at this stuff, isn’t it neat?

Neat? Um, well … “neat” isn’t exactly the word I would use, but I suppose one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, so, yeah, we can go with “neat.”

Wouldn’t you think my collection’s complete?

Complete? Yes, definitely. For the love of all that is holy, “complete” is definitely the word I would use. “Hoarding” might be another one to consider.

Wouldn’t you think I’m the girl
The girl who has everything?

Considering you are a literal princess who has the apparent run of the entire ocean complete with a singing entourage and yet still has a cave ‘o of crap, yup. “Everything” just about covers it.

Look at this trove, treasures untold
How many wonders can one cavern hold?

Again, way too many. I’d really like to recommend this book called “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” It might really make you re-think this little hoarder’s nest you’ve got going on. Do you have Amazon Prime under the sea? 

Looking around here you’d think
Sure, she’s got everything

Okay, Ariel. Sure, you’ve got “everything.”

I’ve got gadgets and gizmos a-plenty

That you do.

I’ve got whozits and whatzits galore

No arguments here.

You want thingamabobs? I’ve got twenty!

…right, so…that’s the whole point, right? Do you need twenty? Or would one suffice? It’s a difficult question but some self-evaluation might help here.

But who cares? No big deal,
I want more

I wonder if TLC’s hoarding show has SCUBA gear.

I wanna be where the people are
I wanna see, wanna see them dancing

I’m going to assume you mean more in the “Tchaikovsky ballet” genre than “errrbody in the club” way, so, yes, that’s a fair request.

Walking around on those
What do you call ’em? Oh, feet

I guess I won’t break it to you yet that feet are actually pretty disgusting. One order of suspension of disbelief, hot and ready!

Flipping your fins you don’t get too far

We’re going to have to agree to disagree here. I feel I’ve watched you span miles of ocean whereas you barely made it out of the castle in your three days on land. Objectively, you definitely get further in the ocean than on land.

Legs are required for jumping, dancing
Strolling along down a
What’s that word again?

I also appreciate a walkable urban environment, Ariel! We totally have that in common.

Up where they walk, up where they run
Up where they stay all day in the sun

Hm, okay, so, here’s the thing. You have red hair and most likely will get a sunburn simply thinking too hard about the sun. Here, let me see if I can find that pamphlet I have lying around…yup, here it is: “Melanoma and you: wear your damn sunscreen.” Sorry, Ariel, but them’s the breaks.

Wandering free
Wish I could be, part of that world

Wait, today you went into a shipwreck, you have an entire unnoticed hoarding cave of “treasures,” and, not to harp on this, you’re the favorite princess of the king of the ocean. I feel like you and I have different definitions of the word “free.”

What would I give if I could live
Out of these waters?

This is a more telling line in the song than I realized, now that I think about it. What would you give? A kingdom, your family, a singing entourage of sea life to cheer you up at your whimsy. 

What would I pay to spend a day
Warm on the sand?

In fairness, Ariel, you have never had the pleasure of wiping down every molecule of sand out of every crevice of your car and body after a day at the beach.

Betcha’ on land, they’d understand
Bet they don’t reprimand their daughters

Oh, honey. Oh, dear, dear, dear honey. The seaweed is always greener, indeed.

Bright young women, sick of swimming
Ready to stand

I’m a wee bit curious. Do you think yours is a common ailment up on land? That so many women on land have also been mermaids and are sick of swimming? Because this seems like a really, really localized request here.

And I’m ready to know what the people know
Ask ’em my questions
And get some answers
What’s a fire and why does it – what’s the word?

Yay educational pursuits! You go, Honey, er, Ariel.

When’s it my turn?

Girlfriend, you are six.teen. years. old. You need to simmer down now and take that teenage angst and put it to good use, like cleaning out your hoarder cave.

Wouldn’t I love, love to explore that shore up above?

Well, sure, but lest we forget the man you are so in love with has the exact same desire to explore, but to explore your little realm of the sea. Exploring is pretty engrained much the human (mermaid?) spirit.

Out of the sea
Wish I could be
Part of that world

And now this song will be stuck in my head for approximately 32 years. There are worse fates. Alan Menken, you are a genius and my hero. 


That time my dog got cancer again

This is the first picture I ever took of Brinkley, on the day he came home with me.

This is the first picture I ever took of Brinkley, on the day he came home with me.

Almost 2 years ago, my beloved (then) 6-year-old dog Brinkley got cancer. They found a mast cell tumor on his toe which then moved to his lymph node. After a toe amputation, an incredibly invasive surgery that removed the cancerous lymph node, and about 6 months of chemotherapy treatments his cancer was deemed “in remission.” Wee Connor was about 2 months old when we finally finished trucking our dog 30 minutes out to a suburb of Charlotte every other week, and I couldn’t believe he had beaten the year odds the vets had given him.

Life eventually returned back to normal, or as normal as life with a new baby in the house ever got, which of course isn’t really normal at all. The day-to-day became more and more of what we thought about, and in that we forgot to appreciate Brinks as much as we should. I got angry when he barked and woke Wee Connor up from his naps every time the buzzer in our apartment buzzed. I got angry when he growled at Connor when Connor stepped on his tail or did something inconspicuous. I got angry when he got into the trash. We didn’t take him for as many walks as we should have because, you guys, nap schedules are hard and so is taking care of children in general.

This past Sunday Brinkley got a bout of diarrhea that had some blood mixed into it. I called the emergency vet, and took him in, grumbling something inane about how “this would be a total waste of time and money,” and, “I’m sure he’s fine, but might as well be sure.” As the vet checked him out, I went into my spiel about his past history with cancer and the vet froze in her tracks. “What kind of cancer did he have?” she asked. “When was this again? And everything was fine again, you said? When you came in here a few months ago, he ended up being fine again, right?”

Time started slowing. My mind was racing. Had he been acting normally? He chased us around while I pushed Connor in his wagon this weekend, right? Definitely. He had given away my secret position to Connor while playing hide and seek this morning, the traitor that he is.

IMG_20160511_174130“…so the thing is that every single lymph node is swollen,” the vet said, as I popped back into awareness in this suddenly freezing cold room with the hard tile floors. I understood but wanted nothing more than to not understand what was coming next. “With his history,” she kept going, getting more uncomfortable, “this just…it’s just…my primary concern here is cancer.” They ran a full panel of blood work while I sat in the waiting room. The vet came back explaining the results of off-the-chart lymphocytes in his blood. “You need to get an appointment with oncology, and it has to be this week,” she told me. “Here’s the number for their direct line. Call at 8am tomorrow morning when they open to get an appointment.” She sighed and asked if I understood everything and finished with, “When I heard his symptoms, I never expected to be giving you this news. I am so sorry.”

We made the appointment and Friday was the earliest we could come in. I took Brinkley in Wednesday to the internal medicine specialist so he could order yet another panel of tests, aspirations, and give another opinion. Thursday the news came back with the results we had been dreading: lymphoma. It’s everywhere, and eating away at his bone marrow and seeping into his blood. The internal medicine vet urged me to keep the appointment with the oncologist so she could really point me in the direction of “options.”

Our options can only be described as grim.

With treatment, Brinkley’s prognosis is about a year. Treatment involves weekly visits to get chemotherapy for 8 weeks, then 16 weeks of going every other week, or about 6 months of treatment. To say this process isn’t cheap is kind of like saying Chicago has a wee bit of a history of crooked politicians. Luckily, dogs (typically) don’t experience the same side effects of chemotherapy as humans, so the year we have would actually be a good year together. Without treatment, he has one – maybe two – months left. This type of cancer has about a 100% relapse rate, so about a year is the best we can hope for before the cancer finally comes back and treatment is no longer effective.

IMG_20160214_101059For anyone who has been with us on this journey for a while, Brinkley is only 8 years old and now has had two separate and (they assured me) distinctly unrelated types of cancer. I was told statistically this is almost an impossibility. The fact that Brinkley has essentially won the cancer Powerball doesn’t make it better.

Chris and I talked it over the weekend and decided to go for the treatments. We simply aren’t ready to face Brinkley’s mortality, and knowing we can have a year with him that’s pain-free and happy, well, it’s worth the price we can pay for that.

Brinkley is a sweet, semi-neurotic soul, which makes it all the more difficult to stare down the year ahead because I, too, think of myself as a sweet, semi-neurotic soul. He embodies so many of my own qualities it’s sometimes hard to remember that he is actually a dog. After I started down the path of getting The News (capital ‘T’, capital ‘N’) I cried for about a week straight. After that was over I made up my mind to not only appreciate Brinks more, but to give him what I now call, “Brinkley’s Big Year” (which of course comes with the requisite hashtag #BrinkleysBigYear).

Brinkley’s Big Year is a celebration of all that is dog, all that is family, and all that is life.

IMG_20160519_110807We will be doing all the things I want him to experience during this final year we have together. We will be grateful for his gentle soul and forgiving of his faults, even if one of those faults is digging through the trash can, which is, admittedly, still infuriating. We will take him to the dog beach. We will give him steak dinners. We will do everything we can think of to fill Brinkley’s bucket list because, frankly, he deserves it. Finally, we will document this year to show Connor that while he won’t remember Brinkley as he gets older, Connor’s name means “lover of hounds,” and Brinkley is, without a doubt, a hound worth loving.

I don’t know what kind of state I’ll find myself in at the end of this year, but I do hope that when I do have to say goodbye I’ll know Brinkley’s last memories are plentiful he’ll be happy enough to hold onto until we meet again. Until that moment, though, we have a Big Year (capital ‘B’, capital ‘Y’) to plan, a Chicago summer in which to have it, and have it we shall.