Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Battle on, Auntie!!


Late last year our family found out my oldest aunt was diagnosed with uterine cancer. After having a hysterectomy to remove the tumor, my aunt started immunotherapy treatments in hopes of getting rid of the bit of cancer that remained. 

She started her treatments, in cycles, five months ago...and they've been working. 

Her doctor has been very pleased with the results and my aunt was even able to put some weight back on over time. 

"Those prayers are really working," my aunt said. 

My aunt's cancer markers (tests that show how much cancer remains) started out at 291, went down to 79 a couple months later, then dropped to 35. At the end of April (on my birthday), her marker levels were so low, the doctor said it's almost like being in remission. 

To celebrate these successes, I sent my aunt this Mail Art:

 Markers and ink on standard mailing envelope - 6 3/8" x 8 1/4"

The address side shows my aunt as Athena (the Greek goddess of warfare and wisdom) facing danger and heading off into battle. 


The back side of the envelope displays her Gorgon shield with her cancer markers ("battles") written in red. 

A tangible reminder of all that she's endured, survived, and overcome these past several months. 

When I saw her this past weekend, my aunt looked and acted like the clock had been set back five years, to her former self. 

My aunt starts her final immunotherapy cycle, three sessions each, this month. After that, the doctor will decide where to go from there (most likely a monthly maintenance treatment after that). 

I'm happy for her and proud of how far she's come. 

Victory is within reach.

Battle on, Auntie!!

Sunday, June 16, 2019

I hope you're happy.


When I arrived at the arts-and-crafts store late last month, the store manager unlocked the doors to let me in and said, "Today's my last day here." 

Turns out he was being transferred to another location that needed "fixing". He was told the news two days prior (naturally). 

Even though I gave a "soft" two-weeks notice before this and said I'd stay several weeks after that to help show him parts of my job, the store manager asked if I wanted to go ahead and make his last day my last too. I paused for a second and agreed. 

It wouldn't make sense for the new store manager to come on board only for me to introduce myself and tell her I'm leaving three weeks later. 

It was all a bit abrupt. I only got to say goodbye to those that were working that particular day but this way it's a clean break and there's no drawn-out goodbyes. 

I did tear up while gathering my things in my little office space. Nine years working in this place. It's the longest I've held a job and it'll be strange not being in that routine anymore. That's a long time to suddenly not be there, you know? 

It was a stressful, thankless job that I loathed (initially) but one I not only endured and survived but eventually mastered and excelled at. I saw old management who were nasty and downright mean to me, replaced with those that were much more appreciative and easier to work with. 

I outlasted three store managers, nine assistant store managers, and hundreds of staff that all came and went over the years. Only two coworkers remain that came before me. Everyone else started after me, eventually making me a senior member of the team. 

This song was recently playing on the overhead speakers. I felt it was the store singing goodbye to me but also me singing the song to myself:


Three part-time jobs becomes two once more and I now I have the weekends off. 

It took almost a decade, but I can finally say I'm free from retail!!

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Fourth time's a charm.


It was at my usual Sunday shift at the crafts store this past weekend. 

So much to do, so little time. And glitter. Lots of glitter. 

I walked up to my store manager and handed him a letter. 

"I think it's time, Brian," I said. 

"Is it?" he asked. Seeming to know what the note said before reading it, he added, "Awww man." 

It was my two-weeks' notice...again. 

Mind you, I gave the arts-and-crafts store my two weeks' notice four year ago and then two times more three years ago (here and here) but something or other always kept me there. *sigh* 

Fourth time's a charm, right? 

I cited the ever-increasing workload (online orders have recently boomed) as one of the reasons to finally call it quits. I've been working three jobs for the past four years and it'd be nice to have the weekends free once and for all and just take it easy. 

I've also turned 40 at the end of last month and I made a commitment to myself to start creating art again. The extra free time will help with that goal. 

And my aunt comes over to my mom's for lunch Sunday afternoons. Now I'll get to see her much more often (instead of just during holidays). With my aunt's recent health issues, extra time spent with her is more important than any dead-end job. 

I told the crafts store I'd stay until the end of next month so they'll have seven more Sundays with me should I need to show them how to do certain things and/or help train someone else. 

I feel a sense of relief mixed with sadness but at least it's official now. 

It took a few tries but I consider it two-weeks' notice several years in the making!

Thursday, February 14, 2019

(When you) love someone.


This blogpost is dedicated to all those you love! 

If you have someone special you get to be with on this day you are truly blessed. 

Happy (St.) Valentine's Day, everyone!!



"There are days 
I wake up and I pinch myself 
You're with me, not someone else 
And I am scared, yeah, I'm still scared 
That it's all a dream 

'Cause you still look perfect as days go by 
Even the worst ones, you make me smile 
I'd stop the world if it gave us time 

'Cause when you love someone 
You open up your heart 
When you love someone 
You make room 
If you love someone 
And you're not afraid to lose 'em 
You probably never loved someone like I do 
You probably never loved someone like I do 

When you say 
You love the way I make you feel 
Everything becomes so real 
Don't be scared, no, don't be scared 
'Cause you're all I need 

And you still look perfect as days go by 
Even the worst ones, you make me smile 
I'd stop the world if it gave us time 

'Cause when you love someone 
You open up your heart 
When you love someone 
You make room 
If you love someone 
And you're not afraid to lose 'em 
You probably never loved someone like I do 
You probably never loved someone like I do 

All I my life, I thought it'd be hard to find the one 'til I found you 
And I find it bittersweet 
'Cause you gave me something to lose 

But when you love someone 
You open up your heart 
When you love someone 
You make room 
If you love someone 
And you're not afraid to lose 'em 
You probably never loved someone like I do 
You probably never loved someone like I do 
You probably never loved someone like I do."

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Blue. Socks. Bed.


My aunt was released from the hospital on Christmas Eve.

She completed her physical therapy and got the okay to spend the holidays with family.

When we got her home, however, she was still quite weak and her mobility limited. She had trouble walking up steps, standing up from a chair, and even getting off the couch.

The realization she'd need assistance with the simplest of things--her independence compromised--was too much. My aunt broke down and started crying. "I feel like such a failure," she said.

I stayed with her for the next several days in case she felt unsteady or needed help getting around the house.

I reminded her that she just had surgery (a hysterectomy) less than two weeks prior and it will take time to get back to the way she was.

"You're only a failure if you stop trying," I told her.

Each day she became a bit stronger and more mobile.

She stood from the kitchen chair, was able to get up from the couch, and I even had her walk outside to the backyard each day to practice going up and down the steps. Little victories that added up.

When she was first admitted into the Physical Therapy wing (before being sent home), the nurse asked my aunt what her goal was.

"To be able to do things on my own. To be be independent."

As a reminder of that goal and of how far my aunt has come since the operation, I made this mail art for her...

Markers and ink on standard mailing envelope - 5" x 7"

What better message to send than the word "independent".

The backside!

To test her cognitive skills, the nurse gave my aunt three words to remember and then was asked what they were several minutes later. "Blue. Socks. Bed." I snuck those in on the envelope as well.

When I last saw my aunt (a couple weeks ago), she seemed in better spirits, had her old personality back, and appeared much stronger. "You look like how you were before the surgery," I told her.

Recovering from the surgery is just the first step though. Next will come treatment in the weeks ahead for the remaining cancer but I know my aunt can handle it.

I'm rooting for you, Auntie!!