You’ll be receiving Christmas cards in February this year.

Dear Everyone On My Christmas/Holiday Card List,

shame gif.gifI’m sorry. I really am. I’m sitting here eating Valentine’s Day candy and there is just nothing I can do other than apologize.

But the fact of the matter remains: you will be receiving your Christmas cards from us this year in February.

I am fully aware how ridiculous this is.

I am fully aware that nobody does this.

I am also more than fully aware that many people have more on their plates than I do who still manage to get their cards out in a reasonable timeframe.

I can assure you with every fiber of my being: I am aware.

But, again, it doesn’t change the fact that you will be receiving a lovely holiday card with the words “Merry Christmas” on it and our lovely faces plastered all over over the front with a nice little family update printed on the back. In February.

“But why?” You say. “Couldn’t you just not send them instead?”

Well, sure. Yes. Technically, that is an option. But they’re here. They’re printed. They’re gorgeous. I spent time on them. And, more to the point: I spent money on them.

So you’re getting your Christmas cards in February.

How did this happen? Well, I can actually explain that, too.

When I got the Christmas cards I was so excited, I finished the return labels, sealed them up, and had them ready to go. Only then I realized I didn’t have stamps.

Then, thinking  I had plenty of time I procrastinated getting stamps. This was the fatal error. Obviously I should have just gone to the post office one day while Connor was at school and gotten the damn stamps. Probably like the day the cards arrived. Again, I am aware.

All of a sudden Christmas started coming really fast. Like, really, really fast. I was ill-prepared and found myself scrambling between OB appointments and shopping and decorating and family coming in that, well, it just kept getting pushed off.

During this time we also rearranged our house a bit for Baby Daphne’s impending arrival. Because Wee Connor started crawling out of his crib (remember this, as it becomes important later!) we put him in a big-boy bed (which I believe used to be just known as a “bed”, but modern vernacular now dictates it be called a “big-boy bed”, apparently). Then due to the layout of our house, we moved our bedroom into the front living room (in a somewhat common Chicago layout, our condo has a front living room and a back living room) that is also next to the nursery and put Connor into our bedroom.

We also made a large-scale “KonMari clean out our crap” effort during this time in order to make room for this rearranging nonsense. It’s still a work in progress but it truly is freeing. I emptied out two closets’ worth of stuff we had been dragging from house to house to house. But this all took a lot of our holiday time while we had family babysitters available and in town. This was made more exhausting by the fact that I was starting to go from, “Eh, I’m pregnant, I guess” to, “Oh, no, 6 months pregnant is actually legitimately pregnant now.”

No worries, I kept telling myself, I’ll just send the cards out around New Year’s. That’s still in the limits.

Then we found out that our dog Brinkley’s cancer was back much sooner than expected, and it was spreading everywhere. We gave him one last treatment as a palliative measure hoping his last few months would be good, instead of having him slowly decline. However, we knew at most he would only have a few more months and this cast a shadow on my entire existence.

And then Connor stopped sleeping.

A quick elaboration before I go on. This “stopped sleeping” thing was not a cutesy, “Oh, he’s going through a regression, he’ll be back to normal soon,” kind of thing. It was a, “he literally comes out to come get us 15 times in 2 hours in the middle of the night” kind of thing. It was a, “he will not sleep until one of us is lying down with him, and toddlers do not care if they sleep perpendicular to the direction of the bed” thing. It was a, “how can such a tiny human being take up so much space in a bed?!” thing. And remember that whole bit I told you before about how he was now in a big-boy bed? Well, turns out that kids who can climb out of their cribs before they’re ready to understand how to stay in their rooms have trouble staying in their rooms. Chris and I started taking turns cramming our gigantic adult bodies into Connor’s twin bed with him just to get a few hours’ rest each night. It was, quite literally, worse than having a newborn. Also, he wouldn’t take naps.

There was no joy in Mudville.

It was mid-January at this point. The cards still weren’t sent. Chris and I were, to be frank, unraveling.

We hired a “sleep consultant” because it’s 2017, we live in a large city in America where sleep consultants are widely available, and there was no way we could possibly handle another minute of Connor not sleeping, let alone have him be so unable to sleep when the new baby came in April. She put us on a strict sleeping regimen to help Connor learn how to fall asleep on his own and for him to learn to stay in his room until he was allowed to come out again. This took about 10-12 days total.

Then our world fully came down around us.

img_3581

I love you, Brinkley Dog. And I always will.

We started realizing Brinkley’s palliative treatment had little effect on him. We could tell our time with him wouldn’t be the two months we had hoped for, but more a matter of weeks. His body started shutting down. The cancer ate his insides more and more. He could no longer control his bodily functions well, and he was in such pain he started getting periodically aggressive with us.

We gave him steak dinners. We took him to the park for some tennis ball chasing. We didn’t get angry if he got into the trash, or went to the bathroom inside. Sending out the cards dropped off my priority to-do list completely.

And then it was time. We had to let him go.

I still can’t talk about it without sobbing uncontrollably. Truth be told, I still can’t even really talk about it at all.

I was semi-nonfunctional for probably about 2 weeks after.

Slowly, I started getting back to semi-functional.

And now, all of a sudden, it’s the middle of February.

And my Christmas cards still are sitting on top of my built-in in my kitchen, waiting to be sent.

Which is why, my dearest friends and family, you will be receiving Christmas cards from us in February.

I hope you giggle at the absurdity of it. I have. It’s really the only way to overcome the complete and utter embarrassment of sending Christmas cards in February. And while, yes, I could just not send them, as any normal person probably would do at this point, I want to let everyone who is getting these cards know I love them and have thought about them through the year. I also hope they understand that sometimes if they need to send Christmas cards in February–figuratively or literally–I will never judge them, but rather embrace their struggles they’ve had, both big and small, alongside their successes and end-of-year summaries on the back of the cards with their smiling faces, just as I know you will do with us.

And so that, friends, is why you’re getting our Christmas cards in February.

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.

Videos make me cry now.

I had glossed over this video that I had seen a lot of friends/colleagues/etc. post, thinking it was some sort of “Millenials are the WORST! Ha!” article, or career tips, or just another video that’s mediocre at best. When I actually watched it, I guess I understand why it took the Internet by storm.

The basics: a company posted a fake job listing in newspapers, ads, etc.: Director of Operations. Only 24 people applied, probably because in the job description were some key red flags, such as no vacation, 24-hour-a-day shift, understanding of finance, medicine, and culinary arts, constant crisis management, and the list went on.

The company then made this video of the applicant interviews (embedded below).

The pregnancy hormones kicked into overdrive and before I knew it, I was crying. Did you guess the end result? It took me about halfway through. (Article on Time Magazine as well.)

Disclaimer: please do not read that if you choose to not have children I think you are not hardworking or that your career is unrewarding, or anything like that. Let’s not start a war here. In my opinion, it should never be moms vs. non-moms, working moms vs. stay-at-home moms, or any iteration thereafter. It should be more along the lines of, “Hey, cool, you’re making your way in the world, and so am I! What can I learn from you?” instead of invective against life choices on the other “side.” But enough about world peace. There is more Internet to explore! If you don’t like this video, or feel that I have made an inadvertent political statement or started a war, I give you also this video of a dog magnificently missing its leap onto the couch. Enjoy.