Yesterday, my little girl turned three (yes, she shares a birthday with William Shatner). Today, I’m making calls trying to find a venue for her birthday party.

I’m that on top of things.

How important is it to throw a party anyway? I didn’t even think it was on her radar, but then a few weeks ago, as my daughter was explaining to a random cafe customer that she’s almost three and going to have a birthday party with a cake and presents and candles and new dress and and and [deep breath] and and and and – it occurred to me that I do have responsibilities in this department – and apparently, this year, she has expectations.

I was in the same boat last year with school, and fatigue, and bills, and everything-all-at-once. I even wrote about my frustration in deciding to postpone her birthday party till April last year, because I just couldn’t do it in March. And then the birthday party never happened. Too much everything. I can’t let that happen twice in a row.

And, I know this is a taboo topic but, I don’t know how many birthdays I will have with her. I can’t promise her I will always be here for her. I’m not planning on going anywhere, of course, but I got a big wake-up call with this cancer diagnosis. I need to cherish every moment I have with her. I can’t promise tomorrow, but I can give her today.

So what about school and everything else? I can’t count how many times a day I ask myself what the right thing to do is, and I don’t know the answer. In the moment, when she’s desperate for my attention, I want to say forget school. So what if that paper is due in 4 hours? When I sit back and look at the big picture, school is just so important. Hopefully it will help increase my earning ability, but more importantly, it’s an education. An education is so much more than just vocational school, and the more classes I take, the more I understand this. It’s critical. And I want my daughter to see that, come hell or high water (and I feel like I’ve seen both recently), I got an education. But attendance in school isn’t just about an education, either. We depend on my student loans to pay the rent. As much as it’s digging us deeper into debt, it’s also my way of helping to keep us housed and fed. Hopefully, someday it will pay off by leading to a decent paycheck.

But, I also want her to understand how important she is to me.  When I hear her say phrases like “I’m trying to get this done,” “I have work to do,” and “In a minute,” my heart breaks a little bit because I know exactly where she’s getting them.

So I’m going to throw her a birthday party. I know it wont make up for all that time with my nose in a book, but it’s important. It’s important to her, and it’s important to me. It won’t happen till April, but this time, I’ll make sure it happens.

And the gift? One of our little traditions is right before bed she picks out what she wants to dream about; we can get quite fanciful, because amazing things can happen in dreams and anything is possible. More often than not, her choice of dreams involves dancing, and several times she has chosen to go dancing in an orange dress, and holding orange flowers. (Before this, I had no idea she even liked orange, but I think it’s becoming a favorite color). The other day we were at the store and she ran right up to an orange dress and said “I danced in this dress in my dream.”  I think I need to find her an orange dress.

Also, is orange the big color this year? I seem to be seeing it everywhere.

You can learn more about my cancer story here:

my cancer story | Judy Schwartz Haley

First world problems: snow edition


I didn’t mind the snowstorm much at all. It was a minor inconvenience, combined with a bevy of benefits. My husband at home for a few extra days. Family play time in the snow. A little girl’s first snowman. Soup with grilled sandwiches. Hot chocolate (Gem would be sure to verify that her’s was “warm”). Days packed with guilt-free snuggle time and togetherness.

Until my internet went out. Then it got personal.

Oddly, up until I noticed the outtage, I’d spent little time online. But in the hours, minutes, and seconds that have creeped by since that devastating discovery, I’ve thought of little else. We are all safe and well. We have electricity, heat, water, stockpiles of food, and an ever-deepening wonderland of snow and ice outside. It doesn’t matter.

I’m not connected.

I cannot share my every passing thought on facebook. I can’t pin pictures of food I will never cook, and clothes I will never wear. And since we dropped cable in favor of using the internet for tv, we might even have to break out the boxes of dvds that have been gathering dust in the closet. Even my phone is on Roam.

I’m quite certain I’ll weather this trauma just fine, and I’ll try not to spend my time counting the moments till I can post this message. In the meantime, I hope you are all safe and sound, warm and dry, that your problems are more frivolous than substantial, and that the storm leaves your homes and loved ones unscathed.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: A kicking-cancer’s-ass and everything else under the sun update

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: A kicking-cancer’s-ass and everything else under the sun update

I guess it’s time for another update on the whole kicking-cancer’s-ass and getting-on-with-my-life situation.

Let me e’splain.
No, there’s too much. Let me sum up.

The Ugly

I finished up the radiation treatments and my skin is feeling much better, although it still looks dirty and scaly in a big square-shaped patch across my chest and collarbone. It’s not too much of a problem, although I look like I missed a spot while bathing if I wear a v-neck, or anything with a lower than crew-neck collar.  That’s all fine though, and it will fade with time.

I just have a handful of Herceptin treatments left, and I’m done with scheduled treatment altogether!  And my hair has grown back enough for me to have bad hair days frequently! Anna, I’ll be giving you a call soon so you can whip my poor confused locks into shape.

My lymphedema is not really under control, so I’m going to have to get (even more) serious about dealing with that, and find some time (and $) for more physical therapy treatments.  The swelling isn’t too bad at the moment, but the pain is getting worse, and it makes my right arm essentially useless, even for little things like writing more than a couple sentences by hand. One of the best things I can do for my arm is not lift heavy things, but more on that later.  I’ll also need more lymphedema sleeves and gloves (very pricey) as mine are getting stretched out and not snapping back into shape anymore.

The Bad

The side effect that is having the biggest impact on my life right now is fatigue. It just seems like it should have lifted a bit by now, but it keeps getting worse. Part of the problem: I went back to school full time in January, and that may have been a bit too soon. I was determined, and I decided that cancer had sidelined my life long enough. So back I went. Full time. Why? Because I hadn’t been challenged enough lately? That semester kicked my ass, and by the time it was over, I felt like I just wanted to sleep for a month. (I did manage to pass all my classes, but I have never in my life been so happy to get a C.)

But no rest for me.

Aaron graduates with his Master’s Degree at the end of this quarter (that part isn’t bad, in fact it’s awesome!!), which means we need to be out of the school provided apartment, and get one of our own. So house hunting commences. And packing. And job hunting. And how do you get an apartment when you don’t have a job yet?


Mom is moving back to Alaska to live with my brother, and somebody has to pack up her apartment (hi). She wants to be completely out of her apartment by next week, then she will live with us a couple weeks until we hit the road to drive to Alaska.

The Good

Did you catch that “WE hit the road” part?  Yeah, Gem and I are driving up to Alaska with mom!  So Aaron can finish classes (teaching AND as a student), hunt for an apartment if we haven’t found one yet, hunt for a job, and finish packing up the house while the baby and I are on vacation. Then we’ll move into the new place as soon as we get back, just a few days before our vacate deadline for this apartment.

I’m really excited about this trip, and I have so many old friends in Alaska that I dearly miss and can’t wait to see again. Most of them haven’t even met my daughter yet.  Brace yourself for this blog becoming a bit of a travelogue in the near future. I’ve been known to take a few pictures while on vacation.

and the best medicine any girl could ask for:

The Lovely

Auld Lang Syne

Auld Lang Syne

No, the house piper is not playing tonight; it’s been a long time since Aaron has had time (and a decent location) to do any serious practicing on his pipes.

Aaron Albert Haley bagpipes

We’ve been so busy lately, we completely forgot about Burns Night, and didn’t make any plans. But in honor of Robbie Burns birthday, I’ll leave you with a couple verses of his most well known song. The one that every one sings along with, but few actually know the words – or even what they mean. I’ve been told (by a very drunk man with a very thick accent, so I think this is what he meant) that this song is a toast to old times and old friends. Auld Lang Syne meaning “in the days of old,” or “in days gone by,” or even “once upon a time.”

Here’s to old friends, and the good old days.

Auld Lang Syne

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne

For auld lang syne, my jo,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.
And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp!
and surely I’ll be mine!
And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

We twa hae run about the braes,
and pu’d the gowans fine ;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit,
sin auld lang syne.


We twa hae paidl’d i’ the burn,
frae morning sun till dine ;
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
sin auld lang syne.


And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere!
and gie’s a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak a right gude-willy waught,
for auld lang syne.

My Wish for You

I was crossing through an intersection in holiday rush hour traffic, in the rain of course (this is Seattle), when the truck to my right swooped in front of me, cutting me off, and then stopping short with his butt hanging in the crosswalk – leaving me stranded and blocking the cross traffic. Yeah, I was that driver.

Luckily, the jerk didn’t cause me to get a ticket for blocking the intersection, so it wasn’t worth giving the incident much more thought. But then something else happened…

A street kid, in a soaked jacket and no hat, was visibly concerned by the event. He flipped off the other driver on my behalf, and then set about the gargantuan task of trying to stop the hordes of pedestrians long enough to let me pull forward, and out of the intersection. All this done with a smile.

As I passed, he bowed deeply, tipping an imaginary hat. I smiled and waved, and wished there was something more I could do, but I was swept back up in the flow of traffic, and he was merrily on his way.

I offered up a wish on his behalf. First I thought of a warm dry coat. But he needed a hat, too. And gloves. When was his last hot meal? Did he have a safe place to rest his head? Were his needs being met?

We’ve had a tough time this year, but we’ve never gone hungry, I’ve been able to get medical care, and we’ve always had a roof over our head.  I am so grateful.

My wish for you this holiday season, and on through 2011, is that your needs are met – health, safety, shelter, acceptance, a job…

And to the kid that helped me through that intersection, I hope you get your needs met, too – especially a warm, dry jacket.

family photo with Santa

From my family to yours, Merry Christmas, happy holidays, and a happy and healthy New Year.