Does the word stepmother connote some kind of step-on mother? Does it mean, “blame me for all the wrongs and make me the bane of your existence?” It’s easier for stepfathers, so I’ve heard.  Now gone to the great gig in the sky, my stepfather was the kind who ignored my existence to avoid guilt. In 1980 my mom packed up my brother and went to live with him and they set up family without me.  I was 14 and my brother was 11.  My father lived in Kentucky and then in Cuba for a while before he was made aware I was living alone in a house with a roommate working two jobs and finally having to leave high school to support myself before I went to college and became a success on my own. 

Now I have stupid cancer, but part and parcel of my life, I am also a stepmother of two boys 16 and 18.  They’ve lived with us on and off and 18 has lived with us full-time for the past two years.  There’s no place like home…

Recently an opportunity presented itself to ask a friend what it was like to have a long-term mother and stepfather and father and stepmother – now a 45 year situation.  He considers himself lucky to have had four parents.  He’s a really good person and his parents co-parented well.  

I sat at the counter in my kitchen listening to my  friend as he recounted some of his life.  When his mom and stepdad decided to move out of the state both his mother and father gave him a choice to stay here in California or move with his mother.  Naturally, he decided it would be best to live full-time with his stepmom and dad.  Where he was welcomed.

His stepmother didn’t have an issue with him moving in with them.  And then again when he moved in after he graduated college.  My friend wanted to take some time to decompress for a while at his father’s  and stepmother’s house. He was welcomed again.    They’ve been married 45 years now. As a side note: His stepdad was a police officer, tough, very kind, and a great role model – another of his four parents who happened to be a stepdad.  I asked if this man had beaten him or hurt him, and he said no, but he took no shit off him.  He was glad because his stepfather gave him a true sense of respect and a good model of civic responsibility.

30 years later I saw was a person who I consider one of my best friends, and a wonderfully gifted and giving human being.  Never a bad word out of his mouth towards anyone, other than towards someone  who’s hurt me and on my behalf.   He’s got a lot of respect for all four of his parents. When I asked why his parents divorced he told me they were probably too much alike, both artists, and divorced when he was very young.  He split his time between his four parents and they co-parented well.  He’s well-adjusted adult as a result.

His case is unusual I think since generally no one wants a stepmother.  We’re a reminder to all involved of a family unit that was broken because the adults who made the choice to marry and have children found themselves unhappy to the point of irreconcilable differences.  In my case, I met my husband when he’d been divorced for over two years.  The boys at the time I met him were 9 and 6 1/2.  I’ve known them for over half of their lives. One has oppositional disorder and the other is turning out to be on the cusp of borderline personality disorder. His psychiatrist won’t waste our money because he cannot treat “a teenage boy who lies.” He has no problem lying and stealing from us and doing destructive things to our house.   

Dad won’t believe that he’s’ doing all this stuff and yells at me for it.  I’ve been yelled at too many times now and am on the border between in and out.  I get that Dad is in the middle of this mess.  I am the blame dumpster.  If there’s rain it’s my fault.  If the boys do something wrong it must be because of something I did or said.  If I bring some imminent doom to his attention I’m the villain.  I found out recently he’s been yelling at me on her behalf when she texts him some crap that 18 bitched to her about. It’s always untrue or so distorted I don’t know where I begin or end.  Recently I decided to stop putting up with it at all.  If they don’t like it, my cat and I are out of here.  My husband told me he’s concerned about my safety and my cat’s safety with 18 around.  I was stunned  Why tell me now.  I know I have cancer and that the aggravation factor increased my pain by 10x this past month,  My 18 year-old knows I cannot handle too much more stress so he increased it to keep me in bed so my eyes and ears stay there too,  I am better off as those three monkeys – hear no, see no, speak no evil.

I’ve been good to them, and drop back when I should, step in when I’m needed and honestly should have treated myself better than I did throughout our time together. I’m trying to decide if this is worth the rest of my life right now because of the uncertainty of  how many good quality years I will have with stage 4 cancer.  The mother of the two boys claims I’m to “spunky” to be telling the truth about my cancer. “I know what I see,” she said about 2 years ago – it’s better now,but back then I put on a really good face.

That’s my bitch session for the weekend.  I thank you dear readers for your kind understanding of my rant.  I’m going to try very hard to go and get my nails done so my cracked fingers can get a rest from the oven I had to clean.  Why did I clean the oven?  Because my stepson of 18+ put wax paper instead of parchment paper at 425 degrees and caused a huge fire.  The fifth and final kitchen fire I will allow and now he tells his mother I starve him.  No, I’m a Jewish woman.  It’s not in my DNA to let anyone go hungry.  Not even a stepson to whom I’ve given much of the last nine years of my life to and from whom I got one gift in all of those years:  An ugly unpainted screw eyed cat with no legs and a tag that read “Lobotomy.”

This is how they see me. The sadness  I’ve so desperately fended off for several years has crept into my bones with the cancer. I should not be sitting here behind the computer.  I wat too desperately breathe in the beautiful day that awaits me but I cannot seem to move at all my pain level is at a 9 out of 10.  I am stuck and I cannot move.  Recommendation – don’t get stage 4 breast cancer with bone mets and have two stepsons.

Wisdom For All Ages: Steve Jobs’ Commencement Speech and Bill Gates’ High School Life Lessons

The link to Jobs’ speech on YouTube- its worth the time for anyone. Especially us who may have a touch of the cancer (shhh – whisper voice)

Bill’s 11 rules. I am a nerd so this hits me right in the solar plexus:

All you need is love – and all life connects to a Beatles song! Hey it’s better than rule 34. ;)

All you need is love, love,
Love is all you need
Love is all you need
Love is all you need.
This 75-Year Harvard Study Found the 1 Secret to Leading a Fulfilling Life |

Aborted Flight

Aborted Flight

Ugly surprise. Shrinking.Tag – you have “it.”  
From a secure pilots seat,
I ascended into the air
My back holds no parachute.
Speeding towards an ever larger ground,
Too fast with the map,
My territory expands at rates unseen before.

I smack down on the ground,
I writhe for longer than pain allows.
The map designed by haughty painters. Ridiculous photographers. 
Chisels and sculpture. 

If my face looks the same,
If my skin feels the same,
If my body smells the same,
If an apple tastes the same,
If a dime spends the same,
Then I am a Mistake. 
Another abortion in a three trimester life. 
I could stay down here forever,
Where a man wrote in Alice

For myself.
Then words,
Cost nothing,
And valued at nothing.  
No denial of my meaning,
No vague sensibilities.
Lucky – colorful creatures, you visual artists –
Relying on subjectivity. Simply,
Blame the viewer.
My lines cooperate with you. 
I write shaming myself,
Blamed by your objectivity.
Free words free no one free flights go nowhere.
You got what you paid for have a nice day.

The Antonym for Pain

Quotes about love. Google it. Many astute current and historical figures have quotes basically translated to – a life without love is not a life at all. I think Shakespeare said it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. Actually I’m uncertain it Shakespeare but I’m not going to Google it. The one thing I can live without in life, in sickness, is pain. Pain, so it is said, presents itself so that you can appreciate the good times, the happiness…so you can appreciate. Appreciation of not having pain? Appreciation of what exactly?

I definitely appreciate those times in my life where I didn’t feel any pain at all in the morning. Smiling and eager, a hopped out of bed when as a young girl; I couldn’t wait to see the gifts of constant surprises of that day lifting me up and urging me to bounce up in the morning. My mother didn’t always see my urgency that way, then again I do not recall the last time I could say my world was carefree. These days, on the cusp of 52 years old I can’t wait to go back to bed so that I can lay down my cancer thrashed bones, and rest. l rest, read, and write. Much better than doing nothing at all – just like pain and appreciation. It’s better than appreciating nothing at all. I learned a new word this morning: compathy. Coined by a statistician at the turn of the century to describe the feelings of caring or grief that occurs in a crowd of people about a sad event. Seems so apropos.

With metastatic cancer to the bones comes a pain that I cannot find a way to describe to bring you, dear reader, to feel compathy for my sadness and my loss.  The physical pain invests itself into a marriage with your consciousness as well.   There’s nothing like it that I’ve felt that’s so physically omnipotent. Imagine having hot tongs that black smiths pick up horse shoes from burning coals hacking away at your insides. After a while those areas were cancer left its mark behind or new areas where its moved to grow, the pain becomes even hotter. Fierce.  In the two years since I found out about my diagnosis, I’ve shrunk about a quarter of an inch. I’m a 6 foot tall woman so for me not being 6 feet takes away part of my identity. I was very tall as a child. I was 6 feet tall by the time it was in 10th grade at 15 years old. So from the time I was 15 until now I’ve been 6 feet tall. It’s like when you lose your hair from chemo you lose part of your identity. We’re not ourselves anymore. When a woman goes through the violence of a mastectomy and one or both of her breasts are gone something of her identity is gone. Something that identified you as female is gone.

But with bone mets no one can see what’s going on you don’t really notice that I’m a quarter of an inch shorter unless I tell you and even then it’s not very much. But think about shrinking a quarter of an inch at 51 years old. I now understand the women I see hunched over on the street hanging like bent trees on walkers. They come outside each day, if there’s no malignant weather, from the old age home next door to our townhouse. They frown in skin of painful evidence though they’re walking just a few blocks just to get some fresh air. Pushing scaffolding around their bodies thrashed over by one awful thing or another like arthritis or osteoporosis. They’re in pain most of the time I would imagine. But to be 52 and understand what the pain must feel like to be in your 80s physically seems rather untimely and unfair.

I remember my mother’s mother, my Grammy Sylvia, in her late 70s and 80s. She stood just 5 feet tall. She was very well endowed with large breasts, whereas I towered over her since I could remember. 6 feet tall and just a bit of a B cup, clearly different from my grandmother’s body type. She didn’t die from cancer. She died from sadness. In a condo in Florida she lost my poppa Bernie and lived on for 10 years after he died. But it was something she never got over. I felt compathy with her and visited with her nearly every week sometimes two or three times. For her, alone and grieving, even small aches and pains probably seemed 10 times worse than they really were.

I have my husband and the good news is he’s coming out of his depression. There are days it shows its ugly face and then it lifts, and I’m incredibly happy to see my husband again. Yet on those days the depression takes him away I learnt to really appreciate the times I have him all to myself. If you unfortunately understand the downside of this horrible disease then you know how I feel when he’s depressed. How I dread not having him around me. Not having anyone to make me laugh. Not having anyone to hold my hand to tell me a joke and to tell me “I love you.” He’s my family and the only real family I have left. If not for him I’m not sure where I would be, what I would do today or tomorrow, or where I would live, or how I would feel. It’s a vastly different life than I have now. I’ve concluded the following: I don’t think The opposite of pain is health, maybe the opposite of pain is appreciation. 

You can appreciate things a whole lot more when it’s painfully difficult to get out of bed in the morning. And you can appreciate love a whole lot more when you don’t know how much longer you have to love that person. Because you know what you’re going to leave behind is in pretty. Isn’t happy. It’s not going to be good for anyone who is involved. What I hope is that I will to those who knew me an appreciation for life. And perhaps an appreciation for who I was. And perhaps even an appreciation for who they are. I hope one day my lovely man loves himself as much as I do and know that he is of the most gifted and wonderful souls the universe given to us… to me. And to the people who left my side and scattered like ants away from me when my diagnosis came down like Maxwell’s silver hammer: without Craig I would not have anyone to appreciate life with and then, like my grandmother, the pain would really become even more terribly sharp in a single instant.

I appreciate love.  Perhaps, for me,  pain’s opposite isn’t appreciation, pain’s antonym (and it’s antidote) is love.

Our Mindful Universal Family 

Our Mindful Universal Family 

Days seem like weeks, minutes like days, seconds ticking like long, low faraway chimes. Once in a while we forget about measuring time and live in the moment rather than counting up to another day in the years of our conscious lifetime. Future’s unknown, yesterday’s past, and we cannot do much about those two places: where we’ve gone and where we’re going. But right now – the present – the gift of this very moment as you’re reading my post, is where you are at all times. 

But you’re never as alone nor as lonely as anyone of us who  feels ripped from our past lives by the hands of metastatic cancers.  You do not need to feel this way. I assure you. 

Try to feel your universal family using  mindfulness. Find a quiet place in which you feel safe. Focus only on the breath of now, no worries about the past and no nonsense of trying to change the future, you’ll feel all at once at ease with yourself.  Just breathe. Your breath clean and clear moves in and out of your body. Just as you release the pain with your breath you too can release the chains of the pain of the future. 

You breathe out the the sadness, the hopeless feelings that you could not express openly hidden in the silence only broken by the promise that you only know – reach out to find a hand to hold yours and insure the love and the connections aren’t lost to the continuum of the human race.  In fact, the connection and the deep love your universal family feels for you grows, strengthens, and waits for the time when our energies commingle and we all meet again.

Reading your voices brings me joy and connectedness and hope.  Lately, it seems so many posts conveyed to me a sense of helplessness.  “Helpless” describes the worst feeling possible in our situations.  However, given our current health circumstances – this sword of damocles hanging over our heads in the form of metastatic cancer. 

We feel it differently, all of us do.

No, I don’t know what it’s like to walk in your shoes, I can never totally understand why you feel the way you do. But I do know this -whatever weighs you down so low right now, I swear on my own life, it changes and will pass. The only inevitability in life is change. I was looking through old photos yesterday and realized though I’m physically different, I’ve always had the bright twinkle in my eyes that shine with presence. For a while I lost my shine,  but through mindfulness I’ve found a way to light my pilot again.

Don’t forget in the grand scheme of life, we represent a mere blip on the universal screen. Yet do not despair – we still have much to look forward to and those special people who love you. You’ll persevere – you’ll be a better person for this cancer life you must endure. If you’ve gone dark, find the energy somehow to revive the light that shone so brightly and rise above the madding crowds.

If you’re reading my words, you’re my family. My universally connected family . All of you have shined since the dawn of time. If you need it, may you find within my heart and take from me what I have to offer: safety,  humility, and strength.