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Behind Every Great Woman



Do me a favor.

When you see my husband or talk to him, ask him how he is doing.

Tell him you think he is a great husband and father. I do.

Tell him I think he is good and kind and handsome and sweet and funny. I do.

Tell him that you’re proud of him. I am. 

Tell him that being as good as he is has to take so much effort. But he never shows the effort. He just is.

Tell him I appreciate it when I’m wandering around the house with a furrowed brow, riddled with anxiety, talking about “where’s Finn’s other sock?!?!??” and he’ll just stop me, look me in the eyes and say “Hey” and then hold me tight. Tighter than I even thought I needed to be hugged but soon realize it is exactly what I need.

While I need and appreciate your love and support when my twin towers come down on September 11, my darling PGP needs some of that love and support too. (How great is that twin towers reference?? I’m sorry. hello brills. AXM said it to me and I thought it was so clever and it made me smile. Don’t I have clever friends?) And I’m not making light of 9/11. Not in the least. I’m just saying it was clever reference. Don’t be getting all pissy. Remember I have cancer, MFs. (my friends) You have to be nice to people with cancer. There’s a rule about it somewhere.

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Finding the Funny

I have been on a serious quest to find the funny these last few days. Many people and things have come through. I’m laughing now just thinking back to some of these things. A lot of them are terribly offensive or wouldn’t be funny to a lot of you (inside jokes) so I’ll just keep those little nuggets to myself.

We’ll just say I’m laughing, which is unbelievably cathartic.  As the weight piles on, bring on the levity, people.

I have been in bed all day, feeling heinous with this worthless cold.  I am in bed with my laptop, tissues, and the phone. I have been fielding calls from doctors regarding pre-op appointments, blood tests and the like.

On the 11th, I have to go to the breast cancer center at 8am for 2 hours while they inject the dye to highlight my sentinel node, which the doctor will check for cancer during the Mastectomy. Dr. K said she doesn’t expect to find any.  The woman at the breast cancer center said to make sure to bring something to read or do for those 2 hours. Again, looking for the funny, I’m going to get the movie “I Love You, Man” to watch. After the dye “gets where its supposed to go” (actual technical phrasing used) we will then head to the hospital to check in. My operation is at 1pm. Word on the street is I’ll only be there for 1 day. This strikes me as so odd, but I have been told by many that I need to get out of the germspital hospital, as soon as possible.

So, that’s that. I’m trying to talk Peter into guest posting. Maybe I’ll hit up Meg too.

On a totally clich├ęd note, I have been trying to be really really present lately. It’s a constant quest for me but I think lately I have been hyper tuned in. It’s not a dramatic “I'm going to die so I have to do my version of the Last Lecture” or anything. This surgery just has me thinking about things differently.

At a pool party with family last weekend, I watched a wasp carefully slice turkey from an abandoned plate. I mean, really watched. It was fascinating. I do adore insects and creepy crawlies.

I listened to my brother recite funny bits from movies and enjoyed the look of pure delight on his face from something he finds funny as he held court at the table. I also envy his ability to remember things so well. My memory has long since left town and is now roller skating somewhere on Venice Beach.

It’s always good to be near/see my mom. What is it about our mothers? I see her (or really even hear her voice on the phone) and my muscles relax, knowing that she is so in tune with me I don’t have to be “on”. I don’t have to explain. I don’t have to make excuses. I can just be. I tell my children “mothers are magical” (usually when the ask me how I know something). They ask how I know mothers are magical and I say “because my mother is magical.”

I was happy I decided to get into the pool. I wasn’t going to because it was sunny and lupus hates the sun, blah blah blah. But I said screw it. It was late (5:30pm) and I was glad I did, as it felt so good and refreshing. I floated on my back and stared at the sky (in between my children jumping on me and yelling THROW ME, MAMA! YOU’RE NOT A VERY GOOD THROWER, MAMA! WHY AREN’T YOU A GOOD THROWER???)

My nieces and nephew were so funny and joyful and sweet. Mia (2) held me close, rubbed my back and told me she loved me. Luca (3 mos) laughed, REALLY laughed as I held him and I felt victorious and wanted time to stop. There is nothing like making a baby laugh to make you feel powerful. My niece Lyla (9) recently broke her hand and was the buzz of the evening as I could tell Hadley wanted to do the same, if only to be a little more like Lyla. Ottilia the Brave, at 2 years, avoids clothes, a fact I love about her. Owen (11), the idol of the group, wasn’t there because he went to a Rockies game. We of course missed the Dallas swimming beauties, Olivia and Grace.

Enough blathering. Must eat again and sleep.

Find the funny and then tell me about it. 

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Nothing New

I’m sick. Stuffed up, can’t breath, in bed, wiped out, sick.

What started as sniffles has progressed quickly into a whole bunch of garbage.

I just keep thinking “really?” I have cancer and am going to get my boobs cut off because of it.

Really? This is the time I need to be sick? Isn’t there some guy in Scranton who could have used this cold more than me?


I am doing ok, I guess. I’m scared. Mostly about recovery. How long it will take me. The expanders they will put in. The strange sensation of not having my own breasts anymore.

I also have a request. Not that I know anyone who would do this because anyone who knows me well enough wouldn’t but…Please refrain from sending me anything breast cancer related. By that, I mean any kind of pink ribbon stickers or “I beat Cancer” baseball hat, or a figurine that has a breast cancer ribbon on it, or a car magnet. Anything like that. #1 I hate things like that. #2 This is something horrible that I will get through, it does not define me. I will not be defined by this.

Anyway, one thing I’m looking forward to is that on September 1 my cell phone contract is up with AT&T! I will finally be released from the claws of the devil.

I can’t get cell coverage in MY OWN HOME or really anywhere in a 10 mile radius surrounded my home, which is awesome because I never need to use my phone in those areas. (WTF???) There have been times when important results needed to be relayed over that freaking phone and I had problems. There have been times when I have helplessly watched my phone ring in my house and haven’t been able to pick it up.  I really want to set my phone on fire in front of an AT&T store cursing their existence…but I won’t. I will dutifully recycle my old phone.

That is all.

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Style Pages – Finn Edition

I think back often to how great it was to spend a week alone with Finn while Peter was in Seattle and Hadley was in Asheville.

It was magical.

Those of you with more than one kid know that they are COMPLETELY different when the other one isn’t around.

We were connected at the hip that week and I will treasure those memories. He had my full attention and I had his. We played EVERYTHING and I had nothing but patience and time for this gentle creature, who up until this point, I had never met! (kidding…sort of)

I let him sleep with me every night, which was so sweet, as I know the bigger he gets it won’t be very long before he wants nothing to do with me.

There were a ton of “remember this” moments. His boundless energy is bundled into the most lovely package. He will always be my beautiful boy. Nobody loves you like your Mama, Finn!

(Peter took this pic a few months ago so it wasn’t from that week but you get the gist. and yes, I really sleep with an eye mask and earplugs. Finn normally has an eye mask on too!)

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We spent a lot of time wearing (and taking pictures of us wearing) his new Transformer voice changing helmet. (Grammy and Bompie, this is what he bought with his birthday money from you guys!) The way it makes your voice sound is hysterical. While doing other things around the house, I would look over and see him just sitting on the couch with the helmet on, softly singing a variety of songs to hear what they would sound like.

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The converse are the shoe of choice around here. (The above is a self-portrait) They are a constant. As are these “driving gloves”. The name of them change every time he is doing something else.

“Mom! I need my snack eating gloves!!!”

“Mom, I can’t go to karate without my ninja gloves!!”

You get the idea.

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He’s also getting REALLY good at roller skating. We gave him these for his 5th birthday. I’m thinking a trip to Skate City is in order next week. I’m actually really psyched to go too.

Style-wise, he’s a boy so he doesn’t really care as long as it doesn’t have itchy tags. He wears what I give him to wear. I like solid or stripe. Perhaps a pattern, if it’s cool. I hate characters on clothes, sports teams or message T-shirts. (Have you seen the one that says “My Mom is a MILF!” – um, hey, inappropriate)  For the most part, he’s in his cons, shorts and a T. I’m actually relieved that I only have one kid (Hadley) at this point with a VERY distinct view on clothes. I can only handle one at a time.

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Breasts are Sisters, Not Twins

I am being told to direct you, dear readers, to my sister’s blog. It seems she has cooked up something wonderful, as she is wont to do. Everyone should have a Meg. Wait – no, I take that back. She’s mine. You can’t have her.

Many many thanks to her also, as she dragged her whole family (including Bijou) to my house today and set up camp for the day. Peter and I zigzagged all over town interviewing plastic surgeons. Well, just two, but it takes a hell of a long time at each office.

I didn’t bring my camera as I didn’t want to be perceived as too much of a freak.

Doc #1, Dr. W, was like a show horse or a beauty contestant. Everything looked perfect. SWANK waiting room and examining rooms – the whole place looked like a show home.  Perfectly groomed starched lab coats and thousand dollar chairs but when it came down to the nitty gritty, I left the place thinking “Huh?” There was SOOO much information and so much showboating and name dropping that I couldn’t get the pertinent info.  He also kept saying “Breasts are sisters, not twins,” which I found hysterical. He took 3 phone calls during our meeting, which I understand happens, but it still pissed me off. A power point presentation, pamphlets, lots of talk about financing and payment. It was very clear this office was frequented primarily by wealthy women looking to upgrade their look.  Which is fine. No judgment. It’s just, I’m not in that situation. I have cancer, am getting my boobs cut off and need new ones.

Doctor #2, Dr. B, with a nice but regular doctor’s office, introduced himself and then just sat down next to me, got out a pen and paper and drew a few scenarios. After each sketch, he’s stop and say “Do you understand?”  He told me what he’d recommend for me and why. He was conversational, comfortable and at ease. I wanted to stop him and tell him I learned more from him in 10 minutes than I learned in 1 and half hours at the other office.

Peter and I also kind of wanted to take him out to dinner just because he seems like a cool guy.

So, Dr. B is the winner plastic surgeon and I heart him.

By the way, he has recommended inserting tissue expanders and then eventually implants. The tissue expander will be in place for a few months and he will fill them up weekly in order to stretch the skin to fit the implant. Ew. Not fun. But whatever.

There are other options available, such as using fat from other areas of your body to make the new boobs but a) I’m scrawny and don’t have much fat and b) with all of my circulation issues & blood clotting issues, that makes things really dicey.

Next step is to get the surgeon and plastic surgeon together to find a good date to operate.

Let’s get this ball rolling….

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beat-breast-cancer I have breast cancer.

(Sorry for the abruptness. I have debated for days of how or even if I would blog about it. I can’t beat around the bush. It’s just not me. And I can’t NOT blog about it. It’s just too big.)

I found out on Thursday, August 13. I cried when I found out, sitting on the front porch with Peter. I had just come home from Finn’s karate lesson. I got out of the car and Peter handed me the phone. I immediately fumbled for my notepad in my purse and a pen so I could scribble down what she was telling me.“breast cancer” I wrote and showed Peter.

I was really quiet and shocked for a few days. Literally shocked. My body was heavy and I felt like I could hear the air moving around me.

I am the medical enigma. And now add one more ailment to the list.

It made me think of that song “wonder” by Natalie Merchant.

Doctors have come
from distant cities
just to see me
stand over my bed
disbelieving what they're seeing
they say I must be one of the wonders
of god's own creation
and as far as they see they can offer
no explanation

Breast Cancer.


Honestly though, I expected it. Truthfully, not this soon, but I expected it.

Luckily, they caught it REALLY early.  My doctors have been ALL over MRIs, Mammograms, ultrasounds and biopsies (5!) this past year, much to my annoyance but now the reason is clear.

It is only in my left breast but I will have a double mastectomy with breast reconstruction as soon as possible.

We met with my surgeon yesterday and she is the same woman who operated on my Dad. This fact comforts me. My mom said both she and Dad really liked Dr. K. That makes me feel safe. She is also a really smart, direct, and caring woman.

I’m smiling as I type because growing up there was a running joke in our family. If we had to wait for anything, my Dad would say “Well, did you tell them who you were?” As if saying “I’m Emily Padden, Roger Padden’s daughter” would get me faster service. It’s always made us laugh.

And now, after telling this surgeon “who I was” (Ellen and Roger Padden’s daughter) it has fast tracked me to the top of the VIP list, a fact that my Dad would love. He’s loving it now. Dr. K said “I will do anything and everything I can for you. You are from a very special family.”

After my Dad died, she sent my mom a card. She also came to the funeral and said she had never seen such a great send off. She remembered that the first letter of all of our names spell AMEN.

“I can’t remember the N!” she said.

“Neil” I said.

“Ah!” She said.

She put her hand on mine and said some other nice things before delving into the exam, as I sat in my paper gown, open in the front.

We meet with 2 plastic surgeons tomorrow, which should be interesting. Maybe I’ll bring my camera.

I’m just looking forward to getting this over and done with. I don’t have time for you, cancer, you asshole.

I’m in a good place emotionally. I feel strong and calm. And positive. As ELK said so eloquently “now is the time I need to be surrounded by positive positiveness.” Pretty great, eh? Positive Positiveness.

Also, my friend NW said “You are strong and surrounded by love and light.”

I love that and told N that I want to blow it up and print it out.

I have amazing friends and family.

more to come…I will try to keep you updated with information as I get it.

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Style Pages – Hadley Edition

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Here’s HJ on the first day of 2nd grade.

Finn and I ended up buying this messenger bag when H was in NC. Finn saw it in a store and said “We need to get this. Sister will love it.”

And she did.

She loves school by the way. When I say “You like school, right?” She’ll say “I don’t just like it, Mom. I LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVVVE it.”

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This is H rocking out one morning before school. She’s taken to just randomly wearing those glasses. They are the 3-D glasses that you get when you see the movie “UP” in 3-D.

Walking back into the kitchen after this enthusiastic interpretive dance she said breathlessly, “Music makes me so happy, Mom.”

“Me too” I said.

I absolutely adore this child’s spirit. She is my inspiration. And so deliciously extraordinary. It can’t be just me. I mean, everyone sees this right?

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This is how she traveled home on the plane from Asheville, NC. The sunglasses stayed on for the duration. As did the iPod. It kept a smile on my face the whole time.

Next up: Style Pages - Finn Edition

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Hello Mutha, Hello Fatha,

Hey there…back from Asheville, NC.

(remember that song? My Dad used to sing it all the time…at the thought of camp it pops into my brain….)

A big thank you to Grammy and Bompie for putting on a stellar week.  I know my kids will have wonderful memories of the time spent with their grandparents in the beautiful mountains of Asheville. Pictures soon. Peter said he took some. For some reason I did not take one. I was very busy lifting glass to lips, fork to mouth and/or nuzzling my baby niece, Claire. Kids present were: Julien, 8, Claire, 6 months, Sophie, 8, Hadley, 7, Griffin, 11 and Finn, 5.

Peter’s sis, Michelle, mother to Julien and Claire, has an uber camera so she did most of the photographing. I will beg photos from her.

We arrived a week after Hadley with Finn and of course, the minute a younger pup arrives the rest of the litter picks on him. Poor Finn. He handled it well though.

A list for you of fragments and memories: (I’m sure Grammy and Bomp have many many more…)

Miss Becky’s banana pudding, fireflies, Grammy’s rules, Bompie playing the guitar, Grammy constantly making SOMETHING for SOMEONE – children eat all day long, bedtime dramas, the dreaded mosquitoes, firework shows, s’mores, dance party with the disco ball, the screened in porch which we would deem ADULTS ONLY at times, Asheville Cocktail, loading up everyone in cars, their beautiful yard and garden sprinkled with bits of magic and whimsy.

Before we left each child built a birdhouse with Bompie and then painted it with Grammy. They were then mounted along the trails behind Grammy and Bompie’s house. So so sweet and there forever.

School starts on Monday for little Miss 2nd grader, HJ. (hear the choirs of angels singing? They’re good like that. ) Finn is still in his summer program at Montessori and transitions into Pre-K early September. I will get on the ball and post some pics of the girl, with her skull messenger bag and skull water bottle. She really is the cutest. She keeps wearing it around the house with her ipod and headphones on. I have a super tween on my hands.

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