Saturday, April 30, 2016


It's been a busy weekend.

More Mayo appointments for Rico - for which I have no pictures.

Kooka's last middle school choir concert - in which she had a solo, and for which I also have no pictures.

Yoda being honored for reading at her elementary school - where you guessed it - I got no pictures. I do however have a lovely vision in my head, of the principal repeatedly playing Bruno Mars' Uptown Funk to get the crowd pumped up. It worked. The entire 4th and 5th grade classes sat in front of us singing along: "Hot Damn - Bitch say my name you know who I am."  (For real Mr. Principal - there's a Kid's Bop Version - that's what it's for.)

I did luck out when it came to Punk though. It's prom weekend, and thankfully I wasn't busy running to or from work -  or giving side eye to 10 year-olds for singing inappropriate lyrics to my kindergartener.  Punk has always surrounded himself with really wonderful people. His girlfriend is so kind and talented and fun to be with. His best friend is a goofball wrestler who takes all of the smack downs Yoda (and Punk) can dish out, and he's know the other girls since first grade - which is a long time to be communicating in movie lines and showtune lyrics.

Yoda had to dress up too.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

the important things

Apparently cancer has been cured, world peace has been established and
poverty has been eradicated.

That's gotta be the case, because all anybody but anybody's been talking about this week is Prince and the damn bathrooms at Target.

So here's my take on Prince: Around the World In a Day = most underrated album ever.

Now about the bathrooms.

To the people who support Target's decision - I hear you.
To the people who don't - I hear you too.
Too bad you can't hear each other over all of your Twitter rants and name calling.

Consider this: When my five year old is hysterical over a bad dream, or crying because she is scared to put her head under water, do I solve that problem by calling her an uneducated tool?
Does she solve her problem by continually screaming in my face that I don't care about her childhood innocence?
Ummmm, that would also be no.

We talk.

I ask her what she's afraid of. She tells me - her fear is real, even when the monsters aren't. We talk about plausible fears, unlikely fears and irrational fears. She doesn't blame me, I don't belittle her. We find solutions for her concerns and together we look for information to quell the lingering worries she has.
Oh - and we love each other.
Ridiculously simple I know, yet incredibly effective.

As for me?
I could not possibly care less who uses which bathroom.
I'm a urinary prude. Nobody is going to see (or God forbid hear) me peeing anyhow. Male, female, hell, a stray cat could wander into the stall and I'll stop midstream. Frankly, the whole family goes before we leave the house, because I don't even want anybody I know to see me walking into a public restroom in the first place. Besides, if my bladder can't handle a 30 minute Target run, I've got no business at that Starbucks counter anyhow.

Currently, most people have choices about where they use the toilet. If left to my own devices, it will never be:
1) At an outhouse on a haunted hayride.
2) On that minuscule toddler potty at the kid's old preschool.
3) On one of those weird-@$$, backwards-facing, Japanese contraptions that shoots water up your butt faster than the Panic Plunge water slide at Valley Fair. Because let's be real, I don't care how much it saves on toilet paper, if Target installs those things, we're all leaving for WalMart.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

and now, we wait

Seven weeks seems like an awfully long time to wait.

We were told that after radiation, we could expect a 3-12 week wait before surgery, so it's not like we weren't warned. But knowing that Rico is living with something the size of a cell phone lodged in his thigh doesn't seem wait-worthy. It seems like the kind of thing we'd expedite.

But we are not in charge here - we've been relegated to little more than spectator status.

Which clearly, is neither of our strong suits.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

the bell

This part happened today. Kudos to Mayo, because after having to reschedule him over an hour away yesterday, they sent his girls down there with him, and by the time the local clinic was fixed, his crew was right back here too.

I remember seeing the bell when we first went in to get him measured. Three days after that, his doctor told me that he was afraid it had spread. I didn't know if he'd ever get to ring that bell. But here we are today. By a strange twist of fate, Kooka got to come with us today (the twist being that Punk had ACT's to take, Rico had been rescheduled and Kooka overslept), but it was nice to have his little team there to cheer him on.

As for Rico, he says he doesn't feel like celebrating. I'm sort of with him. This was the easy part. We knew how this would work. The unknown is scarier.

But at least we are prepared to face it. Soldier on sweets - we got this.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

add it to the list

Today was supposed to be a celebration of sorts, a chance to start moving on.

Today was supposed to be Rico's last day of radiation.

But no.

And this is why.

Remember this machine?

Yeah, well apparently it blew gasket number 347 or some such thing, and the part they need is in Tennessee.

Yeah - Tennessee - you know, where they keep all of the really high-tech s#!+ used for life saving measures. Memphis to be exact. Probably in the back room of Corky's barbecue joint for all I know.

Regardless, it's not here, at Mayo - where we need it to be.

SO, after three days of waiting for parts, Rico's heading to another clinic tomorrow. This is nerve wracking for several reasons:

1) Waiting. As I've mentioned before:

2) Things are uncertain enough, at least the radiation schedule kept us focused, kept us on a path, fighting the good fight. It feels like being derailed. Realistically we know it's not a big deal, but emotionally, it stinks.

3) His girls. Rico loved the staff he was working with. They love him too. Not being able to share this final round with them makes us all a little sad.

4) How exactly do they know this part is broken? More important - how do we know it wasn't broken before?  What if all they've been doing this whole time is shining a 4-ton flashlight on his groin? Chop chop, we want some answers here.

But still we are grateful. We have each other to lean on. We have snuggles and smiles and stories and hugs. We also have this really great twice weekly meal train, which has been a most pleasant surprise.
Not gonna lie, when someone first suggested "church meal train" - my first thought was "I really have a hard time accepting help from people" but my second thought was, "especially if help means suspicious lo-mein or chunky tuna casserole."  I had visions of fighting with my kids to get them to eat whatever weirdness popped out of the tupperware bowl.

It's not like that - not at all. It's all chicken fajitas and bacony potatoes, and barbeque pizza, and taco mac & cheese.  Allow that to sink in:

Taco mac & cheese.

So twice a week, for the next couple of weeks, when I work late, somebody brings food to the house and everybody gets to eat something besides pizza rolls. It's amazing.

But still, I would trade that mac & cheese for part number 327. And you wouldn't even have to twist my arm.

how it starts

Rico mentioned that you can read all about how we met, or what my crazy childhood was like, but truthfully, you can't. 
It's not on this blog. 
It's somewhere else.
But parts of it I can share.
As far as Rico and I go, the story starts like this:

My phone is ringing.

I wish it weren't, because I have a thousand things to do today, and talking to one of the 4 people who actually have my cell phone number is not on the list. My father is in the hospital, my brother is at work, my grandma is in a constant state of worry. Besides, this thing's like a "batphone." The only reasons this thing should ring is if someone's dead, or the Joker's set off laughing gas  at the nearest Starbucks. 

But still, I pick it up.

It's a private number.

And because I am who I am, I have to know. So I pick it up.

It is him.

I call him the professor - because really, that is the only way I know him. He works with college kids - economics, or business management, or some other snoozefest of a class. I've been avoiding his call for days. I said I would help him - but now am regretting it. 


"Hey. How come you always say I can call, but then you never answer the phone?"

"How come you can't take a hint?"

Yes. Those were my first real words to him.

But he laughs and says, "Whoa - you actually have a personality."

"Well, I'm afraid you don't and that's what concerns me." I'm not sure I'm kidding, but he laughs anyway. 

We talk for a while - about the classes he teaches, the classes I teach. Turns out, he does indeed have a personality, and he is as passionate about his job, as I am about mine. 

It is unfortunate for us that things start out this way - or maybe it is the only way things could have started, because anything else would have been normal or ordinary and neither one of us would stand for that.

Monday, April 18, 2016

dear rico

Right now, these are all of my words to you - but catchier and in New York.

"If I seem preoccupied, I'm wondering what to do - so here's my recipe to you . . ."

maybe tomorrow

Some days are harder than others.

This is one of them.

But the weekend was better.

Punk hosted his booth at the local art show - police character sketches and mug shots.

We also got to take Rico out for Hibbachi, which was an increasingly rare family outing. Punk tried sushi for the first time, 4 of us caught flying broccoli in our mouths (one of us refused to try), and although she was initially terrified by the huge fires, Yoda eventually caught the giggles and loved watching the chef squirt saki and Mountain Dew into everyone's mouth.

Today is hard.

On the bad days there are night sweats and fevers. The oxygen machine seems louder than usual. We are less patient with each other than we should be, and there are not as many smiles. On the bad days, we wonder when the good days are coming.
Maybe tomorrow.

Friday, April 15, 2016

the countdown

Two days - that's how long we have until Rico is finished with radiation treatment. Overall, things have been OK for him. Unless we're counting the fatigue, and the loss of appetite, and the edema, and the kidney stone - but other than that, he calls it "a walk in the park".

I think he might be right. The waiting will be the most devastating part for him.

After he wraps up radiation, it's back to the surgeon to schedule his operation - anywhere from 3-12 weeks from now.

Twelve weeks.

I cannot imagine what will happen if they say twelve weeks.

He's impatient.

But adorable - even in his socks and hospital gown.

(And just so we're cool - despite his "are you kidding me?" expression, Rico not only gives his permission to take any pictures we take of his treatment - he's usually got a goofy pose to go with it.)

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

rico's take

Sometimes when I blog, I worry about what Rico does and doesn't want me to share. So the other day, I asked for his perspective - because quite frankly, right now, his is the only one that matters. He asked me to post this:
I figured it’s time that I weigh in here.  Though this is called a “Family Blog”, I do feel like me attempting to write here when you readers are used to the extraordinary writing talents of my wife, is akin to Donald Trump writing his first State of the Union address. 

Let’s start with the prevailing topic- Cancer.  When someone tells you that you have a disease that may kill you, it changes your life in profound ways.  In my case, I first went through the “are you f’ing kidding me” stage.  I had found the woman of my dreams, and we have worked so hard to create this wonderful life full of love, devotion, peace, family (both extended and friends) that just couldn’t believe that this could be how the story was going to endThat’s just not right.  

Then I went through a “why me” stage. I like to believe I have done some great things in my life, but also did some that may be construed by our creator to be not so great (if you want a more personal account, just ask). So did I get it because maybe I wasn’t a good human? I considered the one year olds born with incurable leukemia and realized that they didn’t even have time to screw up, so that can’t be the answer.   

And of course, I thought about the ramifications that would be put upon my 5 year old.  J’s mom died at almost exactly the same age from almost exactly the same disease.  Suffice it to say that it may have had some huge affects upon her entire life. Those of you who know her well know where I am coming from; those of you who don’t- just read more of the blog. When Neeks came in to this world I PROMISED that I wouldn’t do that to her.   When I met Punk and Kooka, I promised to be here for them and see them through all of the craziness of growing up. No matter what the cause is, I HAVE to survive this- I just can’t bear to leave them fatherless. 

So still having no (“why me”) answers, and being a man more based in science than faith, I went to the best source I could find - my doc with 30 years of experience treating cancer at Mayo and asked him the question –“what causes this”?  He mumbled for a while about stuff I couldn’t understand like DNA this, and chromosomal malformation that and finally he stopped. He looked me dead in the eye and said, "Mr. H., we have no idea what caused your cancer."  Wow, that was an eye-opener!  What the hell do I do with that?  Do I keep eating a full daily serving of dark berries and oatmeal and kale smoothies like I have been doing for years, or opt for the philosophy that this whole game of life, illness, and longevity is simply luck?  I’m going for the latter.  From now on, I am eating whatever the heck I feel like, taking up smoking and buying a Harley.   

Another thing about having cancer is that it automatically makes you a member of the “C “ club." I didn’t ask to join, and in fact wanted to keep this very quiet and personal.  However that is impossible.  I wear a “scarlet letter” now and though everyone’s heart is in the right place, and I totally appreciate all the hugs, tears, and warm embraces, sometimes I do just want to crawl up in a ball in a corner and wait for the inevitable outcome (whatever it may be). But I can’t do that; I joined the club. I can’t ignore the rest of the world.  And, I am pretty convinced that all of this wonderful outpouring of support, and love CAN help me fight and heal, so PLEASE- keep it coming.  
This experience has uncovered an emotional side of me that must have been buried deep inside me.  In keeping with my usual personality traits, I am more than willing to share the details of my experience with anyone who wants to know and listen- but the conversation invariably ends up with me fighting tears and sobbing.  It makes a trip to the local supermarket tough. If we run in to each other, be prepared for a tear fest.  I also find it interesting how different people handle encountering me now that my hat has that “C” on it.  It ranges from a soft touch on the arm and a statement of “hope you are feeling OK, my heart and prayers are with you”, to those that look (and walk) the other way, ignoring me and hoping I do the same.  Well, if you want a piece of advice from this member of the club, when you encounter a member, don’t ignore themthey want you, and need you to acknowledge their dilemma. Treat them gently, but try and find a sense of usualness rather than make them feel like they are now a different person- they aren’t life just may suck for them for a while.  They want to know you care. 

I started writing this little essay not because I felt that “J” had done anything less than an extraordinary job of keeping friends and family up to date. As earlier stated, no one is more capable than her- certainly not me.  In fact, as I write this, actually question if my perspective even matters. But until now, she remains the unsung hero in this adventure, and I have to set that record straight.   

We met in a most unusual way.  If you never believed that somethings were “meant to be”, read (or ask) us our story.  I never believed in miracles until it happened, but it truly was a miracle.  And it continues to be one.  When we met, I always knew that she was stuck with the short end of the stick when it came to spousal care.  After all, I am 18 years her senior, so the odds of me needing her help and care were higher than her needing mine.   But now that we are there (much earlier than anticipated), I am realizing that this has very little to do with the nursing aspect of illness. Of course she is great at that. She IS my Florence Nightingale. But she is so much more than that. The way she is mothering our children through this makes them feel safe and secure.  The way she is my confidant and takes the parts that need to be shared and translates them to friends and family.  The way she is taking on parenting tasks that I used to do that were now dumped on her is amazing.  Her gentle kisses on my forehead she convinces me that everything is going to be all right. She holds me in her arms when I need to cry, and waits endless hours at Mayo while they poke and prod her man. 

OK, so this is the part where my words fail. Just when I think I got this, I just can’t find the words in our language that support the gratitude and love I have for my wife and all that she is doing through this crappy time of our lives. For the last 8 years I have considered myself one of the luckiest men in the world. Of all the women on the planet, I was one of those guys that gets to spend the rest of my life with my best friend. I wish I were as great a writer as she so I would could express that in words, but I am not, so the best I got is “J”, you are my everything- thank you.