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~

Saturday, March 17, 2012


I had it all figured out. I was going to make a "Power to the Women of Cancer" video. I do that a lot; I direct movies in my own mind.  They always start with a victim and end with a song like the theme to Rocky.  But this one would be spectacular, I was going to strut into Supercuts and have my head shaved since my hair had started to fall out.  I would be dressed to kill, with over sized hoop earrings, a black choker, and leather boots. Lots of smokey grey eye shadow. I would strut in, say "Just do it!" and strut out like a woman in control of her life.  "Bad to the Bone" would be playing as I strutted out of Supercuts. I even bought the video camera for the event, and put a call into George Thorogood's agent for permission to use the song (he didn't return the call).

But it didn't happen that way.  Instead, I woke up in the middle of the night breathing in fallen strands of hair that had landed onto my pillow.  I took a shower, and all I can tell you without too much detail, was that  it was as though I was the star of my own horror flick. I literally began to gag and dry heave.  I called Supercuts and told them I was on my way.  It was pouring rain out and I didn't have a chance to call my daughters who were going to go with me and be there when it was time to shave my head.  I just ran out the door with my baseball cap on.  I turned the car on.  The radio came on with the one song I probably didn't want to hear at that moment..."Celebrate, good times, c'mon! There's a party going on right here...a celebration, to last throughout the year."  I quickly turned it off. My gas tank was below empty, but I didn't care, I took a chance on an empty tank and went without stopping.  Thankfully, I got there and I only had to wait a few minutes.  No one else was waiting, and there were no children in the salon, which is a good thing, because unlike the video in my mind, I was sobbing elephant tears. I was not strutting, nor feeling empowered.

I sat in the chair and said "take it all off" to the stylist.  I closed my eyes.  I felt the electric razor with every stroke, the hair falling.  I bit my bottom lip.  "Wow!" She exclaimed, "You have a perfect head!"  I was grateful for that comment.  So very very grateful. I opened my eyes, and honestly, I look sort of like a martian, but not a scary martian, just a martian.  She asked if she could give me a hug, and I was grateful for that too.  I wasn't alone.  I was relieved for the hug, and to have the haircut over with. 

That was it. In less than two minutes, I was bald. Still me.  Just a bald me.  Bad to the bone wasn't playing in the background. I didn't have my leather boots or my smokey grey eyeshadow on.  But I strutted out nevertheless. Sometimes, that's all we can do.

Sweet Dreams And Always GOOD Dreams,

p.s.  ...And when you feel like you can't hold your head up, strut anyway.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


They said it would happen. They said like clockwork, between Day 12 and 14 after my first round of chemo.  "They" being the support I find on  "They" being the women that have gone before me, that have survived, that have died, that have fought this battle with a brave vengeance and a heroic attitude.  "They" are my heroes.  Most of them do not have textbook knowledge, but real world experience, and so I trust them.

Secretly, I thought maybe "they" were wrong.  I thought just maybe, I could hang on to the hair.  "No" they said. "Not with the AC treatments you are taking."  The ounce of arrogance that had not yet been stripped away by needles and bruises, scalpels and unsightly hospital gowns, cocktails of poisons, nausea and headaches was hanging on for dear life.  But this morning, there is no more arrogance.  No room for anything but humility and compassion for myself, which took me years to learn.  I am still me.  I am still me.

Every day I counted down...."Eleven days to go, I still have my hair!  Ten days to go! Nine days left!" Yesterday was Day 12.  I still had my hair, although in my dreams, my eyelashes and eyebrows had fallen out, and I woke up, heart pounding and devastated. Embarrassed. Naked.  But yesterday was different. I was cocky.  Day 12 and nothing.  No hair loss.  "Look at me! Look at me! I might beat the odds!" As my wigs sit waiting patiently, beautifully really, on my dresser, side by side with pretty hats and sassy scarves, begging to be worn.  But no, I am Wonder Woman! My superpowers prevail.

And yet, today, Day 13...just before writing this, a clump of hair falls onto the keyboard. I think it's a fluke. I think it can't be.  I rub my hand through my hair, "One or two or even three or four don't count." But I get ten or twelve, and another, and another.

The women who have gone before me knew the truth all along.  I wonder if they too fell in denial prior to their moment of truth; but I am no longer in denial.  My time has come.  And I will strut into Supercuts and I will hold my head high, and my favorite compassionate hair stylist will tell me it's okay.  She'll tell me I'm beautiful.  She'll shave it off and show me in the mirror how pretty I still look.  And because I want to believe her, I will.  And I will strut out with my dignity intact because, I am still me.  I am STILL me.  And Thank God for that.

Sweet Dreams And Always GOOD Dreams,

Monday, March 5, 2012


...and if that isn't the most ignorant statement I have ever heard in my 50 years on this planet, then the world is flat and we never really landed on the moon.

Years ago (yes way pre-Richard) I was dating this rather cool guy...and then he opened his mouth and said "Dogs don't have feelings."  He wasn't joking.  In less than a moment he went from being cool guy that I was really excited about dating to cold hearted ignoramus who I wasn't about to waste a moment on teaching the intense and rich love between humans and pets.  I just know, lucky for Richard, he was quickly x'd off my "cool guy to date" list.

As I write this, I would like to make note that my loyal Beagle Lilly is sitting a few feet away and staring at me.  She often does, because, I am her human and she loves me.  Sometimes it's a little eerie to feel her eyes lurking at a distance and have that feeling come over me that I'm being watched, but I look over and there she is, staring, as if she paid good money for this performance and she doesn't want to miss a beat.  That's love.

Let me tell you about Lilly.  Lilly is the younger of the two Beagles.  She is a female through and through.  Recently, she learned that when I'm on the phone, there is actually a person on the other end; and I'm on the phone a lot.  She's emotional and she's stubborn, and she likes to talk on the phone now that she's discovered this new social outlet available to her.  So last night my mother called from 3000 miles away, and Lilly nudged the phone with her tail wagging and her eyes wide with exciteable pleading, "I want to talk! I want to talk!"  My mother, being the compliant grandmother, spoke lovingly to her granddog on the telephone until Lilly was fully satisfied and appeased by the sound of grandma's voice, and then distracted into wanting to know who might be coming down the hallway. That's Lilly.

Lilly sports a tattoo in her left ear because when she came to me,  she had been used for scientific experimentation at a research lab and was little more than a number.   Her voice box was cut out, her ear tattooed, and for almost two years she knew little outside the metal pen within the cement walls of the secured and gated borders that she shared with several other Beagles.  I quickly learned this truth when she became entranced over the sound of the birds chirping in my back yard.  I realized she had never seen a bird before.

The first three days after I brought Lilly home, she paced, and she paced, and she paced with anxiety that I had never before witnessed.  She wouldn't eat and she wouldn't drink, and so I hand fed her ice chips while she cowered as far back in her crate as possible in between her bouts of pacing.  When she would finally eat from her bowl, she would grab one piece of dry food and run down the hall with it, protecting that piece of dry dog food for dear life.  She had been, after all, in a kennel with several other research Beagles.  I don't know how dire their circumstances were, but watching her with that one treasured piece of dog food as though it were her last, left me knowing that I could only guess how bad it must have been.  Now Bailey, my older Beagle, would just look at her in the beginning like "I like to eat the whole bowl of food. Why doesn't she like to eat the whole bowl of food?  Hmmm....maybe I should just squeeze on over here and finish up the laaaast of these morsels in her bowl....well will ya look at that! She left a lot of food there for me!"  And then I would scream "Bailey! Get OUT of LILLY'S DISH!"  Eventually, Lilly learned that her bowl was all for her, and Bailey learned that his bowl was all for him (not both bowls), and they respect that they each get an equal amount to eat; because dogs do know when one dog gets more than the other. That's a fact not up for debate.

Once Lilly realized she was safe in my home, she had the temerity to exclaim that she would be sleeping on my bed at night.  Little did she know (or care), that I don't allow dogs on my bed.  If this is a repeat, I apologize, but after 18 jumps up onto the bed, one after the other, with me continuously putting her down, telling her "No Bed!" and thinking I would be darned if a dog was going to out stubborn the most stubborn girl I!" Lilly won.  I secretly admire that I have met my match.  Although she used to sleep with her head on the pillow next to me, now, because she is nosey and social and I have a new and wonderful dog loving roommate, Lilly sleeps on the foot of the bed so as not to miss any excitement happening in the hallway when my roommate comes home.

When I first got Bailey, my good friend Kirsten had met him at the tarmac at the San Francisco Airport with some 200 other animals.  They had all come in from Hurricane Katrina.  I was going to foster Bailey for two many years ago was that? The first six months, Bailey would have obvious nightmares and make motions like he was fiercely dog paddling, trying to keep his head above water. After he learned that he was safe at home, his nightmares eventually subsided.  He also learned that he preferred the couch in the living room to his dog bed next to my bed.  I don't like dogs on the couch, for dog hair work clothes related purposes etc., but Bailey....well, he's getting old and the couch is probably much softer than his bed, and he's been such a good boy.  So Bailey sleeps on the couch; which takes me back to dogs not having feelings.

Dogs not only have feelings, they have feelings that can relate on a level to humans with every sense of their being, from non-verbal communication, to the scent of stress hormones when we are upset, to all the things that humans in our narcissistic busy lives don't pick up on from other humans.  And this isn't only dogs, this is the part of the animal kingdom inclusive of every animal that we form a bond with that isn't too busy punching a clock to notice what really matters.

I had a rough night last night.  I tossed and turned, and coughed and cried.  I had a headache that left me in fear that I was going to end up in emergency with a brain aneurysm.  I hugged the toilet, to no avail.  I took Tylenol and Ibuprofin, and coughed some more.  I fell asleep and woke up with a lemon honey lozenge stuck to the inside of my cheek.  I could have choked on it.  But when I opened my eyes this morning, there was Lilly, not at the foot of the bed as she most recently prefers, but sitting so close to my side that there was no room for air in between, staring down at me in her usual way, only this time with her little forehead crinkled with immense worry projecting from every corner of her little eyes.  As I turned my head to her and weakly said "Mornin' Lilly" in a barely audible shaky voice, Lilly pushed her face closer with obvious relief, and ever so gently kissed my cheek.  

I sat up in bed with my throbbing head in my hands, and as I looked down to my side, there was Bailey, not on the couch as he prefers, but fast asleep in his dog bed, ever so loyally guarding his post.

Always Be Kind To The Animals,
They Know More Than We Think.

Sweet Dreams And Always GOOD Dreams,

Friday, March 2, 2012


Two weeks is a long time. I've never spent so much time away from Richard since he left me after the third grade for the North Star Elementary late shift.  Apparently, there were too many students in our school, so we were divided into "morning shift" and "late shift."

I think back now after chasing behind the school bus while watching my breath through the cold winter air and screaming "Wait! Wait!" that the school should have done a better job picking shifts.  If I were admin. I would have done it differently.  I would have looked at morning tardies, and stuck all the students with the highest number of tardies in the late shift....obviously, we have trouble getting out of bed in the morning; and the rest of the students would have been put in the morning shift.  No such luck.  In hindsight, maybe they wanted to punish us for being late.

And so, on days I missed the school bus for lack of not running fast enough to get the driver's attention while I could hear the door squeak to a close, I reluctantly trudged up the long icy hill, often times taking two steps up and sliding three steps back, until I caught a branch just strong enough to hold me to make it past the ice to a patch of dirt, and to the top of the hill.  Years later someone got smart....they put steps in.

But after that year, when we were split into early and late shifts, it truly was all downhill with my intense love for Richard.  In third grade, you don't have to talk, you just know you love each other.  But he moved away, I moved away, and when we finally moved back we passed each other in the halls of West Anchorage High School (the best school like eveeeerrr) with a wave and a grin.  The most we ever said was "Hi."  As the story goes we serendipitously found each other five wonderful years ago, and to this day he still only says "Hi."  I do all the talking.  We have a wonderful relationship.

Two weeks ago my Richard, or "Rick" as known to most of his friends, had to make an unexpected trip to Alaska to visit his mother.  His mother had taken a fall and ended up in the hospital.  Somehow, during that time, she also got a sudden onset of dementia.  We are still trying to understand what happened.  To Richard's heartache, in two weeks he had to move his mother into an assisted living facility, find someone to take her three cats, and clean out part of the condo which she owned and knew as home for over 15 years.  This is tragic and devastating, especially since Richard is the only child and he already lost his father to cancer his senior year of high school.

For those of you that don't know, Dorothy and her late husband Royal adopted Richard when he was but a one and a half year old wild child crawling unsupervised through the streets of San Luis Obispo with a sign around his neck that said "Hi I'm Ricky, Feed Me."  Dorothy, finding Rick irresistible and being a woman of strong will said "I'm adopting that child!"  And the story of Rick's life and the unconditional love of his parents began.

But then at eight years of age he set his sights on me from across a crowded classroom, and well, you know the rest of the story.

In five years, I've never been away from Richard for more than one week.  Even though we don't live together we are together constantly, if only on the phone, and yet, when he flies 3,000 miles away, I feel empty.  

I should have been there with him to hold his hand through his pain of losing his mother to not quite death, but something almost as painful, with Dorothy scratching her head in confusion as to not being able to quite place her "Rick" and Richard trying to cope with the inevitable pain of slowly losing our parents to old age.  I should have been there to console him, and carry his burden, but I wasn't.  As life would have it, bronchitis, doctor visits, and chemotherapy got in the way.

As the story goes, we are born, we live, and we die.  But I see so much more.  I see two parents who wanted enough on a wing and a prayer to adopt a little boy that they fell in love with at first site. And they did.  I see a little boy that loved his parents so strongly that he would fly to Alaska at the drop of a hat, to rub his mother's head and hold her hand during her elderly years.  I see a third grade boy that had me with the first tug of my long hair and owns my heart now with every bit of passion inside me.

A few days ago I said "You know what Richard? This is it."  He said "This is what?" I said "We are growing old together.  We're really doing it.  Isn't it wonderful?"

And this thing called "life" is so much greater than the name we give it.

Sweet Dreams And Always GOOD Dreams,