Monday, July 30, 2012

Tactical Retreat

I know this may come as a shocker - and I'm hoping the sarcasm comes through here - for all my talk about "battles" and "war" I have absolutely zero military experience.  Zilch.  Zip. Nada.

In fact, the closest I've come to any sort of tactical planning was a connect-four marathon with a certain uncle who systematically allowed me to think I was winning before eventually crushing my very soul.  This event occurred about ten years ago (*note:  I was not a child) and to this day I can't look at that faded blue and yellow box without narrowing my eyes.

What could possibly go wrong?
But even if we had a rematch, I know I would lose again - because my instincts are about as calculated as a 1950's Walt Disney heroine.  (Yes, I would love a shiny red apple - so thoughtful of you to offer. CONNECT FOUR AGAIN?!? - Damn you Uncle Craig!)

This over-confident naivety manifests itself in other aspects of my life as well - specifically To-Do lists.  Because of this, before we moved to Coeur d' Alene, I chose to work two jobs- as a full time nurse and part time journalist (more than 60 hours each week) in addition to being a mother and wife.  I organized food drives and volunteered - accepting and taking on more shiny red apples opportunities than I could possibly manage.  In short - I'm not fabulous with finding balance in life.

But I'm learning.

I say that as though I have any choice in the matter.  The simple truth is - I don't.

Being diagnosed with cancer put a screeching halt to all my "best laid plans".  Writing, nursing, even parenting is often placed on the proverbial back burner while I go through treatment. Cancer has a way of helping to clarify priorities - in a most divisive way. In fact, these days, my to-do list looks something like this:

1. Survive.
2.  Don't vomit.
3.  Sleep through the night.

Cancer also causes you to appreciate health and the moments when you do feel well - in unprecedented fashion.  And even on the really crummy days there are moments - typically mornings - when I don't feel terrible or even tired.  I've learned to savor that time - to snuggle with the kids, enjoy breakfast with my husband or a visit with a friend.  As I've grown stronger over the last few days I've been able to start back into physical therapy, eat enough to gain a couple of pounds and generally find a new - more balanced - daily routine.

And recently in one of my first "tactical" moves of the hunger games - Chris and I decided to schedule a weekend trip to the family cabin before round two of chemo begins this Thursday.

So we packed up the kids and made our way to one of my favorite places in the whole world - a little strip of heaven near Sandpoint, Idaho.  The land - with a small waterfront dock - has been in the Caro family for four generations and it is one of those magical places that Judy Blume novels are based on.  Childhood stories of tipped canoes, bee stings and snipe hunts are often told and re-told around the campfire.  The cabin is a testament to the importance of family - and of the bonding that can occur when people simply choose to show up and spend time together year after year.

This particular weekend was spent with some of our favorite people - Kevin and MaryEllen, Jackie and Todd - and did not disappoint.  Filled with sunshine, sandy beaches, campfire, barbeque and one particularly grueling game of Taboo - I laughed so hard my abs were sore.  And most importantly I forgot for a while that I am still in a fight for my life.

Even in war it's important to take a break once in a while.


 Beautiful North Idaho.  It's easy to relax with views like this.

Sittin' on the dock of the bay - This photo of Chris teaching Maddie to fish was taken a couple of years ago - one of my all time favorites.


 Jackie and Todd hamming it up as they go for a dip off the dock.  They stayed in the water almost the entire weekend.

Hunky husband on a bike ride around the camp ground. 

My lovely sister-in-law Jackie balancing on the dock.

My bestie MaryEllen teaches Loki to fly while Chris watches on.


A weekend at the cabin is synonymous with playing in the water.  This is where every Caro kid for three generations has learned to swim.

Here's one from last year - when I still had hair.  Note the look of concentration. "Don't tip the kids."
Another oldie but goodie - I love that our children can grow up with such wonderful memories.

Everyone's job is tough -  I don't care if you pick up garbage, bag groceries or teach at a middle school for a living.  And though my current job is fighting cancer - I know that even when I find my way back to health, it is essential to continue to balance work with play. I must learn to "just say no" to the occasional shiny apple - no matter how tempting it may be to bite into it.

 Because it turns out - the most important things in life cannot be crossed off a To-Do list.