Your Smiles Make Me Smile

If you really want to get the most out of my blog, it's best to start with the first post written in July to the present since some blogs refer back to earlier posts; but any order is just fine... Thanks for visiting! Now scroll on down to the good news! ~Renae~

Friday, January 27, 2012


I was lying down yesterday, as I often do after a harried three hour work schedule at the library, and I had a brilliant idea…"I should get a massage!!"  Most of my ideas are in fact, brilliant, until I calculate the logic or the financial ruin I would be left with, and then they become simply dumb ideas.  The last of which was to follow in the footsteps of Elizabeth Gilbert in “Eat, Pray, Love” which would have ultimately led me to experiencing the richness of numerous pastas in Italy, scrubbing floors in an Ashram in India, and wearing a sundress while riding a bicycle down the dirt streets of Bali while having my fortune told by an old wise man who claimed to be hundreds of years old.  Getting a massage could lead to my ruin, like smoking pot, a gateway to bigger and better things.  So I nixed the idea of the massage, lest I end up broke and hungry in a foreign country.

Unfortunately, without these fanciful ideas to offset my perpetual state of anxiety, I would be toast.  My thought process goes something like this:  “You should walk the dogs, you really should walk the dogs.  Good dog owners walk their dogs every day, not once a week out of guilt.”  “But my boob hurts” I replied to myself with indignation.  “You’re just pulling the sore boob card because you are too lazy to walk your dogs, just admit it.  You’ve gotten lazy.”  “I’m not lazy, I just don’t feel like struggling with two unruly Beagles on a leash.  I just want calm. Can’t I just live in a state of calm without constant guilt?”  Then the idea hit.  "I’ll put in a relaxation CD! That will calm my nerves.”  Brilliantly, as usual, I took it up a notch. “Meet me in the living room, six o’clock sharp!” I shouted to Bailey and Lilly.  “And DON’T be late!”  I really did say that, I didn’t just think it. 

So, like any good dog owner would do, I set out a big rug in the middle of the living room, I lit candles, I popped in a relaxation CD and turned all the lights low.  I pulled out dog brushes, toothbrushes, doggie tooth paste, vinegar and water for ear cleaning and a 5x magnifying glass to look for any signs of fleas.  Fortunately, when they aren’t walked often, they aren’t exposed to fleas and ticks as other unfortunate pets might be….I started with Bailey.

“Bailey, come!”  He looked at me with suspicion in his eyes.  “Come!” He crouched down like he was being scolded.  “C’mon Bailey, it’s time for your doggie massage.  People pay good money for this you know.”  He didn’t trust my intentions or believe my words.  But slowly, wanting to appease, he crawled toward me.  “Good boy!” I whispered, keeping a calm voice so as not to disturb the tranquility of this soon to be meditation/mindfulness session.   I began to massage his ears, his neck, his stomach, and his legs.  He has ticklish toes, so I bypassed the feet.  Although I feel he should have been appreciative, he was blatantly annoyed with the inconvenience of my sudden desire to treat him like a doll being played with by a five year old girl.  

Lillian was my next victim.  After seeing Bailey’s reluctance, she followed suit.  My normally excitable girl came slowly, just as Bailey had, crouching down and crawling forward.  I gently began to massage her back, then her ears, then….her feet.  Lilly loves foot massages.  As “Swimming Into Serenity” from the relaxation CD quietly played in the candlelit background of my self-produced dog massage parlor, I sat cross-legged on the floor in an almost Buddhist fashion…while Lilly fell into a deep hypnotic trance, on my lap, belly up, all four feet spread up towards the sky, with not a worry in the world.  I think I may have heard her snoring.

Sometimes, the dumbest of ideas can be downright brilliant, and in the end, I didn't have to spend a dime.  Even my own anxiety drifted into oblivion with the sweet sound of calm and the aroma of the vanilla scented candles.  Needless to say, Bailey and Lilly slept peacefully through the night,as did I.

Sweet Dreams and Always GOOD Dreams,

Sunday, January 15, 2012


It started several years ago.  Humping reindeer.  Proudly, I had decorated my house for Christmas with vibrant red ribbon wrapped carefully around each post of my porch to simulate candy canes, I hung flickering clear lights along both top and bottom, circling the lights around the porch railing for added effect.  I added red bows for enhancement.  Then, as a final touch, I spent hours hooking up my moving reindeer, trying to figure which cord plugged into which and why when all the cords were plugged in only one of the reindeer was lit, only one moved it’s head, and there were left over cords with no place to connect. 

Year after year of head scratching and wondering if the neighbors were peeking through their blinds in judgment of my reindeer incompetence, I finally got smart.  I labeled each plug “A-E” with each counterpart labeled with the same letter.  I used indelible ink (smart girl that I am) so that it wouldn’t fade.  My plan worked, but then, eventually, half the light bulbs burned out.  Again, I used my good brain cells and outsmarted the “extra” bulbs that come in the little clear package with directions that can only be read by a 5x magnifying glass.  Really, I think it’s a conspiracy to make consumers feel embarrassed, and to ultimately throw away the “old” reindeer and buy new ones.  In the “Stott” family we have a saying…”Just because we’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get us.”

So, I did what any intelligent girl would do, I bought an extra long strand of lights and wrapped the strand with reckless abandon throughout the deer, and tossed  away those cruel little "excess" bulbs.  Finally, I have the Christmas deer down to a science.  However, this is where the personality difference comes in between Richard and me.  He would have figured out how the little bulbs worked and used that 5x magnifying glass until he knew exactly which light was the faulty one and which to replace.  He would have been systematic.  Me, I just wrapped the lights here and there, randomly, and wherever I could find a spot to stick the extra strand.  Some of the reindeer have bald spots, I admit, but some of them have extra lights on their moving heads, which makes for a bright face.  It works for me, nevertheless.

But then one night, a few years ago, the unthinkable happened….Richard and I came home from Christmas shopping and what to our wandering eyes would appear?  The reindeer were humping!  I laughed so hard, I almost peed.  I thought it was a great prank.  I wished I had thought of it.  Then I was reminded of the pranks I pulled when I was young, and enjoyed living vicariously through whomever these neighborhood pranksters were…but unlike the pranks I pulled, there was no reason to call the police, and so I kept laughing. Richard, on the other hand, didn’t take it so well…he was appalled.  “What’s wrong with kids these days?”  He snapped.  I had to remind him of the unmentionable things he did which he seemed to have forgotten.  That’s still no excuse” he grumbled, sounding like my father.

Every year I have looked forward to the laughter brought on by the sneaky neighborhood pranksters, knowing they find delight in humping reindeer, only this year, something strange happened.  First, the reindeer were atop one another (humping), and I set them back up.  Then the little one appeared on the side of the doe, which was odd since with certainty, I had placed the fawn in the middle of both parents.  Lastly, the morning I was heading to my surgery with my daughter, I noticed that ALL the reindeer were facing the driveway.  She insisted I had put them that way.  "I know how I put my reindeer!" I snapped. But since I’m always considered to be short a few brain cells, I ceased to defend my position.

Then this week, just before taking my Christmas lights down (let it be known that it is not yet the end of January) the truth came out. My neighbor Susan pulled up in her SUV. “Renae…” she stated.  “There’s something I have to tell you!”  "Did I do something wrong? Have I not gotten out my thank-you cards quickly enough? Is she mad at me?" I wondered. 

“I was soooo mad the night before your surgery! It was 2:00 a.m. and I heard this noise, so I looked out my window and I saw the neighborhood kids messing with your reindeer!”  I laughed and was relieved that that's all it was.  “All I could think….,” she continued “was that there you were going into surgery and several kids were in your front yard doing this to you!”   Little had she known, this was my yearly joy. This had been one of those little things I could count on that would bring me laughter.  Then she stated that she was SO MAD she took a picture as proof of what those kids had done!

But, I was still puzzled.  “So, what I can’t figure out, is how did they all end up facing my driveway?”  “Oh that’s an easy one" she said.  "I marched right over to your house and put them all back.” 

And so, the good news is, I have not lost my mind; I have neighbors looking out for me; and I still manage to find joy in humping reindeer despite the fact that I’m supposed to be an adult. 

And so you deer humping rebels of the neighborhood…I know who you are, I know what you do and when you do it, and the proof...well it's clearly in the picture that my dear neighbor took while trying to protect me, but more likely in the sound of my laughter for reminding me of the joys of being young. 

Until next year....

Sweet Dreams and Always GOOD Dreams,

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

These Boots Are Made For Struttin'

I am not the same person I was a week ago, and a completely different person than I was two months ago.  This is the first morning I have woken up from my surgery six days ago without feeling shell-shocked.  The best description I can offer is that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you go to a movie based in suspense which comes with an unexpected ending.  There are twists and turns that keep you glued to your seat, and then the end comes and you are left in utter shock, bewildered really, and you sit there for an extra minute in your hard movie seat, pretending to read the credits, when in fact, you are numb with devastation.  There is a hush across a normally crowded theatre and eventually, because you can’t sit in the seats forever, people begin walking out in a simultaneous wave of silence because, no one saw it coming; you didn’t see it coming.  Think Seven Pounds with Will Smith. 

I don’t know how else to better explain the shell-shock I’ve experienced over the last two months of being diagnosed with cancer, having, to date, 18 needles stuck into parts of my body that I dare not mention for fear of making you cringe, losing part of my breast, and then getting the best news ever….”It hasn’t spread.”  Only by the way…now you have six weeks of radiation, five years of hormone treatment (as if I’m not moody enough in my normal state), still a possibility of chemotherapy (think atomic bomb on any malignant cell that even considers peeking the top of it’s head out from the charred remains while looking back and forth with bright eyes to consider it’s safe return for more destruction).  

The only real difference is that an hour after a shocking movie ending we are laughing and planning for the next day, or what we want to eat for dinner.  Should we do a drive through or eat last night’s leftovers?  In real life, we don’t shake the last scene an hour later; it lives within us for an indefinite period of time.  How indefinite, I do not know.

I realized this yesterday when I was taking my walk, breathing in my Vitamin D of sunshine.  I was just…walking, slowly, not smiling, not frowning, just sort of there in surreal land. Shouldn’t I be happy? Shouldn’t I be jogging and smiling and waving to strangers after the good news that the cancer hasn’t spread?  I suppose in a logical world that would be my response, but my amygdala (the part of the brain that processes emotion) hasn’t caught up to the rest of my brain.  For the record, I love the word “amygdala” not just for the word, but because there is so much interesting science behind that newly studied part of the brain that makes it downright fascinating.  So I use that word whenever the opportunity arises, plus it makes me sound smart.  But until this morning, I have been in a state of shell shock.  The words coming out of my mouth have not been in sync with the movement of my lips; like the video is a beat or two off. And what do I say when my daughter asks with such concern “Mama, what’s wrong?”  When I can’t even begin to put it into words because, I don’t’ know what’s wrong, I really don’t. 

Did I tell you I got her fired from her job a few days before my surgery??  No, I’m sure I didn’t mention that because it wasn’t my proudest moment.  My Monica, who boasts that she is just like me…is nothing like me.  She will stay at a job forever no matter how much abuse is thrown her way, while people are quitting like flies…she will stay.  Me, I’m a quitter.  I have no staying power, no stomach to take abuse of any form.  But my Monica, she says “I’ll work it out!” She is a fighter, unlike me.  She holds her ground, and stays. I cuss and storm out. 

But on this particular day, just a few days before my surgery, over a month after she requested a week off (unpaid because they offer no benefits or raises at Fitness 19), to take care of me the day before, during and after my surgery, she was ruthlessly called into the office by her supervisor, Stephanie, and told she could not take the week off.  The fact that she had to fight for it infuriated her; the fact that Stephanie responded with “What…your mom’s going to be in surgery for a whole week? I don’t think so...” crushed any sense of value she had with the company.  But hey, two employees just quit so what’s a partial mastectomy in comparison? I mean, how dare she ask for a week off to care for me? In the end, she got the week off after putting up a fight, less one day.  New Year’s Day.  Forget that she has covered every other holiday without extra pay or even a thank you, including this past Thanksgiving.  People love their gyms on the holidays.  Forget that her name is on the front door to call “in case of an emergency” – not the supervisors.  But God forbid she ask for a week off to take care of me.

And so, behind Monica’s back….because I would never do this in front of her….I made a choice.  The first was to go into Fitness 19 and punch Stephanie in the face.  I wanted to.  I thought about it.  But, it would have landed me in jail on Christmas and just before my surgery.  The second was to call Stephanie and ask for her email address and that of the owner (which I did and she denied me), so that I could write a “professional” letter without the emotion, explaining the need for someone going through breast cancer surgery to have support for a whole week, and why Monica was the one that could offer that.  It didn’t turn out that way…Stephanie was rude, beyond rude….downright cruel.  It turned ugly and I ended it with a “YOU disgust ME!” as she threatened to call the police.  I guess she thinks the police give a rats ass if someone calls her a name.  Then again, maybe the San Ramon police do, but that's beside the point.  An hour later, Monica called me to tell me she had just been fired from Fitness 19.  She had no idea why.  She was fired in a message on her voicemail stating they would mail her her last check and that they didn’t need her any longer.  Three years and three months of loyalty and there you have it; the reality of the world we live in. Or maybe the reality of having an ill mama bear for your mother.  And by the way, if any one of you has a desire to call Stephanie at Fitness 19 in San Ramon, for say, a new gym membership….the number is (925) 327-1919....tell them Renae sent you.

Ironically, the next morning after being fired, Monica received over 16 calls from gym members who were standing outside in the cold at 5:00 a.m. because no one had opened the gym (remember her number was on the front door?)….Fitness 19 told her it had been up to her to remove it.  Would that have been before or after she was fired?? 

But this story isn’t about Monica being fired or me having breast cancer or the great news I received from the most amazing surgeon ever who took the time to call me on his New Year’s Eve to give me the good news that he really didn’t have to give me until a week later.  This is about this little thing I learned and retained in my high school Psychology class called saturation.  When a person’s ears take in too much sound, we go deaf.  When our eyes take in too much light, we go blind.  When our brains take in too much to process….we go “shell-shocked.”  The damage has been enormous, the emotion, too much to grasp and yet....I have faith that something good will come.  After destruction there is new growth, opportunity to build, time to reflect.

This morning I didn’t wake up numb, or angry, or sad, ….I just woke up wondering where I could get the best deal on over-the-knee sexy ass leather boots to wear tucked into black tights or jeans and what color I should dye my hair and should I keep it sexy long or go with sassy short?

Perhaps 2012 is a time to rebuild.

Sweet Dreams and Always GOOD Dreams,