Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Alien Being in my Boob

I still have not been able to completely wrap my head around this chain of events. And being the 21st century, I have serious doubts about modern medicine. Let me start at the beginning rather than my usual attempts to begin at the end and work my way backwards.

Last October, I met with a psychic who I reference often in this blog. Except for a few minor details, he has been fairly spot on in all areas. During my one and only reading with him, he mentioned that I was going to have a scare with regards to my breasts, but that it was all going to turn out OK. Let me tell you after the past month that phrase, "it's going to turn out OK" is the only thing keeping me going.

A few months ago I noticed a lump in my left breast. A procrastinator to the end, or possibly, due to the resurfacing of my alter ego, Cleopatra, Queen of Denial, I avoided the thought of setting up a mammogram appointment. As it turns out it would not have mattered (but I digress). The lump seemed to disappear on its own, so I did not rush making the appointment. I assumed it had to do with my menstrual cycle and never thought twice.

The hospital where I receive my mammograms is pretty terrific on sending late notices. I never wanted surgery at that hospital, but mammograms are OK. After the fourth late notice and an implied threat that Nurse Ratchet was picking me up at my house and dragging me to the hospital, I finally scheduled an appointment. Even the woman scheduling my mammogram commented that I was a few months behind. Impressive. They take "the girls" quite seriously. Of that I am thankful. Hopefully, their surgical techiques are as impressive as their mammogram follow-up. Although never wanting to have surgery there, guess where I am going?

Upon filling out the form pre-mammogram I answered the question of "Do you have any concerns regarding your breasts". Although tempted to state, "I always wanted to be a C cup", I refrained. Instead I listed the fact that I noticed a lump in my left breast, but could no longer locate it. The poor nurse almost went into apoplexy. "What!? You are only scheduled for a screening! We are not staffed with a doctor this evening. If you have a lump, we need a doctor here and a diagnostic mammogram." Wow! They DO take "the girls" seriously. I assured the nurse that it was OK. I stated that the lump seems to have disappeared, so I was not too worried. Since I was wrapped in a false sense of security that mammograms see everything, I was fine with a screening; assuming that if there really was a lump it would show up. Silly, naive woman am I! My mammogram came back perfect. Two healthy breasts. Obviously, one was lying!

A couple of weeks later, I noticed the lump again. My stomach sunk a bit, but my mammogram was fine. No worries. Telling myself it was nothing, I called the nurse at my doctor's office. Candice suggested I come in. My doctor finds the lump as well and sends me for a diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound.If anyone is unsure of a what a diagnostic mammogram is, think of it as your breasts being flattened to the size of a crepe. OK, maybe that is a slight exaggeration. Your breast is flattened to the size of a pancake. Once we hit pancake status, my lump decided to reveal itself; obviously afraid of "popping" if the technician flattened to crepe status.

So, I have a lump that likes to play hide and seek. Great! My alien being has personality. I would not expect anything less. They kindly escort me to another room where I will have an ultrasound. The nurse/technician comes in and positions me on a table. Pours warm (thank you) gel on my left breast and proceeds to look for my "something". Which, obviously afraid of being squashed again, had not gone back into hiding. The nurse measures my lump on the ultrasound screen and informs me that she is going to bring in the doctor. The doctor comes in, introduces herself and proceeds to scare the ever loving shit out of me. After looking at the screen, she points to my something that I am seriously hoping is a nothing, and proceeds to show me where my something has developed its own blood supply. Not only has my something moved in uninvited, played hide and seek, but acquired plumbing?! How rude! Sadly though, the doctor is in dire need of a course in Interpersonal Communication and Bedside Manner 101.

I know I tend to become hyper and wiggy all on my own. I also admit to taking artistic liberties at times, but what I am about to write is the God's Honest truth! While the doctor is pointing at my alien, she says, "It's formed a blood supply. See right there...a blood supply. Hmmm...a blood supply. Tell me, have you lost any unexplained weight recently?" "Uh...no" is my only response, as my stomach starts to slowly sink again and I am sincerely thankful for not having lost the last 10 pounds I've been carrying around since Adam's birth 13 years ago. "I'd like to biopsy this immediately. What kind of insurance do you have?" At that sentence, the nurse pats my knee and says, "It's going to be OK, sweetie. Don't worry."

Really wasn't worried until Doc opened her mouth. Once they learn I am on an HMO, they state that they are sorry, but an immediate biopsy is impossible. I am to speak with a breast cancer case worker and they will schedule a time convenient for me and my HMO. Have I ever mentioned how much I despise our health care system? So, my something that I am seriously hoping is a nothing, is actually a potential something which needs to be biopsied immediately, BUT because my HMO requires pre-authorization my immediate biopsy needs to wait 4 days. This scenario makes as much sense to me as the terms buffalo wings and liberal republicans. Our health care system is in dire need of serious reform. But that is a blog for another day.

After getting dressed, I am escorted to my breast cancer case worker, Kathie, a very friendly personable woman with whom I immediately feel comfortable. She tells me that she is a survivor and not to worry. The advancements in research are amazing. Woah! We have not yet determined that my something is a something. I'm still holding strong to the hope that my something is a nothing. Albeit a very rude something for wreaking a ton of havoc within a very short period of time. I listen to what she says, and nod appropriately, but honestly my memory of the conversation is akin to listening to the adults talk in Peanuts cartoons, "Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah."

I leave the hospital with my appointment for my immediate biopsy at the end of the week and a folder with my case worker's business card. Can this truly be happening to me? Surreal...completely and totally surreal...

Folks, it is about to get weirder.

I call home to tell my mom. No matter what age you are, when you are scared, you want Mom. My mom, although knowing why I was at the hospital, answers the phone saying, "I was just walking out the door to by a dryer. Ours will cost over $500 to fix." "Uhm...OK...I just wanted to let you know that I am going in for a biopsy on Friday. They want to biopsy the lump." "OK...Friday? OK. I'm going to go buy the dryer." "Uh...OK. Bye!"

Now, my mom has a way of never showing emotion unless something is extremely funny or you have her so pissed off her blood pressure is off the charts. I've seen it happen - the blood pressure off the charts thing. I've caused it to happen. My brother's have too. So have my children. It's not easy, but it's possible. It's the Irish in her. As my grandfather use to tell her, "Good Irish children don't cry." Interpretted as, never show emotion. Thank, God I have some Italian in me! But, I honestly thought there would be some reaction to a biopsy. Maybe she was in a hurry to catch a special sale at Sears. Maybe she had not wrapped her head around it. Maybe you don't worry until there is something to worry about, which is my mother's general belief. But honestly...lump...blood supply...biopsy... I was scared to death and my mother was out buying major appliances; reacting as if I was stating Friday's weather.

Or maybe, she could not comprehend what I was telling her. No matter the age, us parents never want to hear the words biopsy when referencing our children. I can't even imagine Kat calling me one day with the same sentence. Hopefully, I would act less odd but if the Gods are with me that is one conversation we will avoid forever and always.

I called my doctor's office to get my approval for an immediate biopsy that needs to wait four days. I speak with Candice whom I love. She is young, extremely straight forward, yet sensitive. Something I appreciate. I am already a bit shaky. It is probably evident in my voice. Candice, attempting to put my mind at ease, suggests that my something is probably a nothing - most likely a cyst. And so I ask the question that I was afraid to ask in the doctor's office. I know Candice will tell me the truth. "Does a cyst form its own blood supply?" Dead air. And then I hear on the other end of the phone, "Awww..." (I know she wanted to say "Shit" instead. You could hear it in her voice.) "No. A blood supply? They told you that? No. A cyst does not have a blood supply, honey." I knew that. I just needed to hear it from someone that would tell me the truth. Candice did state that fibroid tumors do form their own blood supply. OK...a 50-50 chance. I can do 50-50.

It took at least 10 days for Friday to arrive. Honest. Initially I planned to go to work after the biopsy, but came to my senses with a little assistance from my boss. He strongly suggested I take the day off after the biopsy. Smart man.

I am truly blessed with great friends. Six different friends offered to sit with me at the hospital. We could have had a party. That hospital never would have been the same. Dara lives the farthest away and is generally on Dara time - a minute or two late. She drove down from McHenry; arriving as Adam walked to the bus. She has known Adam since birth and barely recognized my man/child walking down the street. The only thing that has not changed on Adam are his dimples. We get to the hospital where they inform me that I am a bit early. Funny, we arrived at the exact time they told us to get there.

Dara sat with me in the waiting room watching Oprah and eating Altoids. We chatted about everything and nothing. The nurse stopped by to explain the procedure and told me that they would be inserting a titanium clip during the biopsy so that any doctor could locate the biopsy site forever and always. My own internal GPS.

Dara encouraged me to ask many questions in the procedure room. I have a tendency to just go with the flow. It's not that I am not inquisitive, but my mind became rather numb with the overwhelming possibility that my alien being truly is a something. So, gathering courage from Dara and Altoids (wishing that it was liquid courage in the form of Jack), I start to assert my questions on the nurse. She is clearly not use to one of the flock using their brain. If it wasn't for my friend's encouragement, I would have been one of the masses walking into the procedure room with my brain the consistancy of jell-o. The nurse must have told the doctor that there was a rebel in their midst, because when the doctor arrived, she introduced herself, firmly shook my hand and immediately stated, "I hear you have many questions about the clip." She then explained why they needed my homing device. Since the lump is rather small, 1.5cm, and because it tends to play hide and seek, they need a tracking device (my verbage not theirs) to locate it. Unless there is an understandable explanation, I prefer most synthetic objects to not be inserted in my body. She stated a fairly straight forward case and a reasonable explanation. This alien seems quite insufferable and I wouldn't put it past him to go all incognito on me and disappear again. A GPS made perfect sense. The thought of my lump with shades and raincoat made me giggle. They thought I was nervous.

As the doctor explained the procedure of a core biopsy, I positioned myself to watch the monitor. Both the nurse and doctor questioned why I wanted to watch. It was perfectly logical to me...this something is going to be a nothing, so this would be my one and only opportunity to watch. They may have thought I was nuts, but after the doctor showed me how she would take the biopsy (think tapered lighter to light hard to reach candles with a hollow needle inside) and shot the aparatus off; allowing me to hear it (very loud...must have been invented by a man...few women would have created something that obnoxious), we were off. After 3 good biopsies, she asked what I thought about 1 or 2 more samples. I reminded her that this was our one and only time to do this, because I was not returning. She better make sure she had enough. Famous last words.

Dara and I go out for breakfast afterwards and then I go home to ice my boob and sleep. By the way, seat belts are not a good idea after breast biopsies. I eventually took off my seat belt and said if any cop pulled me over, I'd pull up my shirt and show them my very purple boob. I would either get out of the ticket, or arrested for indecent exposure. I really did not care which.

I went to LT's first home football game that night as I promised Kat's friend Eric that I would see him play the JV game. Prior to that evening Eric held a special place in my heart. But that night, Eric branded my heart. He is the only person who reduced me to tears. Good tears though.

First off, many of Kat's friends call me mom and hug me upon site. Some of the girls even scream and then hug. Full frontal hugging was not a possibility that evening. I got very good at side hugging. After a few enthusiastic hugs and seeing the pain on my face, Kat slowly filled in her friends as to what was going on. I watched Eric play and then sat with the parents of my best friend from high school. They were there to watch their grandson play on the varsity team.

After the JV game ended, Eric walked up to me with the saddest eyes I have ever seen. He patted the left side of his chest and just said two simple words, "You can't." I ran down the bleachers and hugged him. I told him he couldn't think that way. I needed him to think positive. We all have to think positive. I hugged him again. Praised his football game and reminded him that I loved him. He hugged me back and told me that he loved me too. Yep. A 15 year old boy who raids my refrigerator and guzzles lemonaide reduced me to tears. I had been strong up until that point.

Because the biopsy was performed on the Friday before Labor Day, we were fortunate enough to have to wait an additional day or two for the results. This alien continues to piss me off. Stops by uninvited, decides to stay, plays hide and seek, installs plumbing, requires a GPS system and now the damn thing shows up on a holiday weekend, forcing me to wait a few extra days for diagnosis. GRRRR!!!!!

The results finally arrive on Tuesday. There is one nurse at my doctors office that really should take a job where she never interacts with people. Coal mining might be a better position for her. Where was Candice? How dare she take a day off?! Who cares if this is a holiday weekend! Did she not know that this was all about me at the moment?! This nurse did not do a very good job of giving me the biopsy results. First she calls in the middle of dinner to tell me that my doctor has already left for the day, but I need to discuss a lumpectomy with my surgeon. Whoa, there Missy! One, I don't have a surgeon. I haven't really needed one since my tonselectomy when I was nine. He is the same doctor that delivered me and has been dead almost 20 years. My guess is that my surgeon is currently unavailable. And two, does this mean it is malignant? Her response was very non-committal and suggests that my doctor call me in the morning as he has (again) already left for the day. Great! I get to wait one more day.

The next morning I call Candice. She sets me straight. My general practitioner wants me to speak with a surgeon. They will provide me with a name or two. Since Adam has an appointment for a sports physical that night, I chat with our doctor after Adam's sports physical. He basically informs me that my alien needs an eviction notice. They cannot determine if it is malignant or not from the biopsy. I thought tissue was either cancerous or not. How can it be inconclusive? Since they biopsied the inside of the tumor, if any cells on the top or bottom are malignant then they will not know until removal. He gives me the name of a surgeon. I ask if I can wait a month. We have family arriving at the end of September and I really prefer surgery after they leave. He looks at me as if I am an alien being. He sternly informs me that I can wait until the beginning of October, but no more.

Honestly, I knew I needed to speak with a surgeon. But for me, I need to let the information seep into my brain. I'm not the sharpest knife in the drawer and occasionally just need to think about things before I proceed. I did not want to accept the fact that my something could in fact be a something. Hell, it now appears that not only does my something show up uninvited, play hide and seek, installs plumbing, goes incognito and has personality. My something can actually be Jekyll and Hyde. Is it malignant...is it benign? Get. It. Out. Of. Me. NOW!!!!!

Since I'm not exactly Dolly Parton I ask if there will be a dent. Most likely. Your breast is small (don't be getting personal here Doc!) and the mass is rather large. (Didn't the doctor who performed the biopsy say my alien was small and that is why I needed a GPS device?) Can you medical-types keep the story straight? Maybe the GPS is because my alien likes to play hide and seek.

OK...dent. Can you fill with a little lipo from my hips or tummy? He stares at me blankly, but Candice laughs. I hate when my humor is wasted on people. No, he states slightly condescendingly, they don't fill with lipo.


I decide even if my relatives are arriving at the end of the month, I better meet with my newly appointed surgeon. I want this done on my time table, but at the same time, I am not liking this parasite setting up shop in my breast. For us women, breasts are hollowed territory and this something needs to go. The surgeon is compelled to give me best and worse case scenarios. Best case is great. Remove alien being, stitch me up inside and then superglue me together on the outside. I never even see stitches. A couple days off and ice my breast. OK. I can handle this. I ask him about lipo. He too is seriously lacking a sense of humor. But I am sure they can fill an empty spot. Can't they?

It appears that the type of tumor I have is generally benign when small. People only need to worry when they are large. When large, they can morph from benign to malignant. It is Jekyll and Hyde!!! I Knew It!!! My tumor is on the larger end. Having never done anything half-assed in my entire life, I would not expect it to be any less. Why did the biopsy doctor tell me it was small. Was she just installing GPS devices for the hell of it?! Is this some type of conspiracy theory? Hmmmm.....

OK...my tumor is an over achiever. Of course it is. The more my sponge-like brain soaks up this information, the lights turn on and somebody is home for the first time since this nightmare began. Get it out of me as soon as possible, especially if he is currently Jekyll and has not yet hit Hyde status.

The worse case scenario is not an area I want to entertain. I would face additional surgery depending where Hyde finally staked his residence. As he begins to explain things further, I realize that I would be looking at reconstructive surgery. Wow, all this from a grape sized lump? Whenever I thought about breast surgery, it was always as an enhancement.

As my stomach is sinking farther and farther and I am becoming more and more nauseous, I continue to take notes and ask questions. The only good thing about our worse case scenario is that radiation would win out over chemo. I remember making some stupid remark about having just grown out my hair out to my desired length and that I would be very crabby about losing it. Sometimes I really wish my mouth would not open because I do realize how stupid I occasionally sound. The surgeon reiterates, this is worse case scenario.


He is fairly confident that it is benign.

Can you be sure?


Crap!!! I want to ask his take about the blood supply issue. But remind myself to never ask a question when you are afraid of the answer.

So, September 30th it is.

Really hoping that my psychic is right about all of this. I will have a definite problem with one of my breasts, but everything is going to be OK.

Please, Dear God. Let this all be OK.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Extreme Makeover Dropout

Let's just put it out there; saying it like it is, I am an Extreme Makeover Dropout! Is there a 12-step program for this affliction? Ty Pennington would be so disappointed in me. I could never come up with a bed made out of an old race track and hot wheels. Honestly...not that creative. A Martha Stewart clone? Martha would shake her head in shame. Tim Allen's character from Home Improvement is getting closer, but even if he was occasionally a bumbling fool and clueless about stuff, it all worked out at the end of 30 minutes. Generally it takes me 6-8 months at least! My home decorating adventures are more akin to DIY meets Lizzie Borden...with her ax.

Our house is in dire need of home improvement. Adam often asks if we can write Extreme Makeover. It isn't that bad, except for the snarky plumbing problem, electrical issues and seepage in the basement. With Hurricane Ike's aftermath swamping Chicago, our basement seepage is not slight. We actually contemplated turning the basement into an indoor swimming pool. The front lawn was so flooded that we may have an outdoor one as well.

If I had the time and money we could fix the plumbing and electrical, as well as extend the bedrooms over our garage so Adam's room is not the size of a closet. Plus waterproof my mom's bedroom. It tends to leak during heavy rains and power failures. Oh...and the driveway could use some resurfacing. The weeds in the driveway are ridiculous. How many other houses need to mow and weed kill their driveway? Lastly, after the village idiots allowed the condos behind us to build a fence, we have a 3 foot property drop off in the backyard. If it wasn't for the 6 foot weeds blooming back there, it would be problematic for all visiting toddlers and drunken friends. Hmmm...maybe, Adam is on the right track after all. Little did we know upon purchase that it was a fixer upper in disguise.

It looked so cute. It has so much potential. How odd is it that our house mirrors the men I tend to date?

After the deal was done, one of our first clues that we bought a lemon was the puff of smoke and electrical sparks Adam encountered when pulling the string to his bedroom ceiling fan. He stepped out of his room a little jolted stating, "I feel like a french fry!" Then there were the live wires underneath the kitchen cabinets, lights that dim when the garbage disposal turns on, or better yet just turn on or off on their own. The oddest problem though was when we discovered the previous owner duct taped two pipes together. This little problem was not discovered until a couple years down the road when a wall became a bit spongy. Duct tape is not waterproof. Go figure. I'd love to have a conversation with the previous owners, but they are happily retired in North Carolina. Here's hoping that karma is going to do her job.

My life has been hounded by many home improvement projects, starting with my first condo. I actually love the process of playing with home improvement ideas. When showing my real estate clients properties I can always point out the potential in every home. My only wish is that I could afford a Pottery Barn existance. Instead my projects are more Walmart-esque. My home improvement projects are not always fiascoes, BUT they are never perfectly smooth.

When first engaged, we bought a one bedroom condo together. Although the year was 1987, the place was straight out of the early 70's. It was impeccably decorated, but the 70's home decorating style should NEVER be revisited. The condo's kitchen wallpaper looked as if it was actually gold stucco which perfectly matched the gold in the gold, brown, avocado and rust plaid entryway wallpaper. To say it was a hideous color combination is an understatement. Yet, it was impeccably hideous.

We repainted and re-wallpapered and I learned that Oriental rice-paper is extremely expensive. Who knew?! As usual...champagne taste...beer pocket. We only needed a small amount, the condo was the size of a postage stamp. So, we found a store that had wallpaper remnants. Woo-hoo! Oriental rice paper remnants replaced plaid. I often wondered who besides owners of small condos ever needed wallpaper remnants. It's not like someone living in a normal home is going to wallpaper one half of a wall. No wonder that store eventually went out of busines. Once the condo was painted and wallpapered, I experienced my first decorating fiasco. Well as much of a fiasco as you can have with a postage stamp 1 bedroom condo.

The wallpaper was cream with shades of peach and sage green. We picked out a peachy paint for the living room/dining room combo. Silly me did not realize that paint changes color in sunlight, or lack thereof. My peachy paint was great during the day, but once dusk hit it was more of a pinky/peach which clashed with the severely discounted Oriental wallpaper. Crap!

In our first horrible financial decision, a theme which continued throughout our marriage, we flipped our condo fairly quickly and moved into our townhouse. Soon thereafter I was pregnant with Katrina and was met with the dilemma that every first time mom in a cookie cutter/Stepford Wife townhouse subdivision encounters. Every pregnant woman was measured by her baby's nursery. The poor babies were still floating in cocoon like status, clueless to the fact that their fate was judged and sealed by their Mommy's' decorating tastes. Sadly for Kat, her mom was already a decorating dropout. Every neighbor wanted to see our nursery.

The nursery was a country bunny theme with little country boy and girl bunnies walking with a wagon. I planned on stenciling bunnies all the way around the room. Being a procrastinator to the end, I was fairly along in my final trimester when I started stenciling the walls in the nursery; beginning with the wagon, then overalls, next dresses and finally the bunny heads, ears and hands. Sadly, the color of the bunny heads looked rather cartoon pig pink versus the tan/pink color I envisioned. And my daughter's nursery waited patiently with decapitated bunnies stenciled around the room while I searched for the perfect color. I was petrified that she would be born and brought home to a room of headless bunnies. Hormones and stress do not mix well. I was a basket case over finding the right tannish pinky color for the bunnies. The look of horror on the Stepford Wives faces when they walked into the nursery was almost worth the stress of not finding the perfect bunny color. I'm sure they discussed the nursery behind my back. Hell, they discussed everything behind every ones back. Why should I be any different? In my own sick, warped way, it was rather funny. But eventually the proper bunny color was found and the bunnies got their heads and hands prior to Katrina's birth. But it was close!

Babies, full time jobs, divorce and general life experiences side tracked me from any other home improvement projects for quite a few years. I was too busy to even consider redecorating. One foray into painting Adam's room reduced me to tears. I bought the paint, Mickey Mouse Sorcerer's Apprentice blue and some other Disney lighter blue. I planned to paint when Kat and Adam were with their dad. My eager VanGogh and Picasso were not going to assist me. No how. No way. I knew I was a disaster waiting to happen when painting. With their assistance at 7 & 10, we would have the ceiling and floor painted and nothing on the walls. When I got home from work one night, my mother and children had a "surprise" for me. They painted Adam's room all by themselves. It was a disaster. There was paint everywhere and I sat down on the floor and cried. I was not sure with whom I was angrier. The children who did not follow the guidelines, or the grandparent who did not enforce them. That cured me for about 4 years.

But then last year when Kat graduated from 8th grade and we threw her a graduation party, I had to take home improvement projects seriously. The wallpaper in our bathroom was falling off the walls and I was not about to allow my out-laws to see our home for the first time with wallpaper falling from the ceiling. So, I removed the wallpaper and learned that the wallpaper was covering missing drywall in many places. Again, I looked up at the heavens and asked God, "WHY?!?!?" My easy project was about to take an unexpected turn. There truly are so many unexpected turns in my life.

Not only was there missing drywall, but in other areas, chunks of drywall adhered to the wallpaper upon removal; leaving me to wonder if some of the wallpaper paste included superglue. The nightmare continued with beads of wallpaper paste that refused to come off. So as I mudded, patched and smoothed, my walls would occasionally adopt a pinstripe effect from the superglue-like residual wallpaper paste. Piss me off! I sanded, mudded and finally gave up. The walls were not the smooth canvas I envisioned; meaning I needed to give the paint some type of texture effect. My little wallpaper/paint project was becoming a nightmare and I was more than just a little crabby. To make me loathe the project even more, I stepped backwards against the wet white wall not realizing that my pony tail was about to look as if it had been used as one of my brushes. Great! It was a look. Not the look I generally go for. But...

This bathroom has a lavender tub, toilet and sink. I painted the walls white and planned to give it a texture look of lavender and sage green. So one afternoon, I grabbed a sponge, rags and dry brushes and tried various effects on my wall; constantly painting, wiping off and repainting various colors and styles. I didn't like anything. So, I grabbed my laptop while sitting on the bathroom floor and googled "painting techniques & finishes". There were a ton of ideas. I hated them all. Finally out of complete frustration, I took a paint brush and dotted lavender paint on the walls, swept a dry paint brush over the wet dots. It wasn't a bad look. It was different. The jury was out on a verdict, but I was running out of time. When done, it was OK. Not my favorite, but OK. The sage green was too much, but we had a unique lavender and white bathroom. My Sigma sisters would be so proud.

That same summer, before the party, I also built a reading grotto in front of our house. The idea for the grotto sprung when I parked in our weed infested driveway and saw my daughter sitting on the ground with her back against the garage door. She wanted to read outside, and wanted to know what was happening in the neighborhood. The only place to sit was in the driveway.

With that thought in mind, I attempted our grotto. It too is not perfect. But fifty 50 pound bags of stone later, and too many paving bricks to count, we have a nice little place to sit and read in the summer. Like our driveway, it is fairly weed infested at the moment. The plastic under the stones did not block out the weeds like the packaging promised. I am so home improvement challenged! And so gullible when people tell me it is fool proof. This fool will always be able to prove them wrong.

Always a glutton for punishment, this March we decided that Kat's wallpaper definitely needed to come down. Mine was falling off on its own, so I might as well do two projects at the same time, right? What was I thinking?! It's not like I have anything else to do.

When we moved in, Kat's room was the girly pink room with raspberry sherbet carpet and butterfly wallpaper. Kat is not a girlie girl and HATED the room. We removed the carpet immediately, but the wallpaper remained for 5 years. In her hatred of her butterfly wallpaper, she, with her grandmother's permission, allowed her friends to write on her walls. There were poems, lists, hellos and well wishes, letters and drawings. Think of your high school year book. Now picture it on wallpaper. We initially tried to save some of the more sentimental comments. Eventually, we opted for taking pictures.

Her wallpaper was impossible to remove. Possibly due to all that Sharpie ink. We scored the wallpaper and then Diffed it. After two weeks of trying to chemically remove it, we rented a steamer; removing the majority, but not all. We attempted Dif again and more came off. Many days I came home from work and Kat was using tweezers to remove the specs of wallpaper permanently adhered to the wall. Finally, I just painted over the suckers and tell people it is texture!

Kat is decision challenged, except when it comes to pizza...that she knows...bacon and black olive, please. Ask her to choose between two movies at Blockbuster, or two books at Borders and she is completely incapable. She acts as if it is a life and death decision. Ask her to choose paint colors for her room - Oh! My!! God!!! Do you know how many colors there are at Home Depot and Menards?! Do you realize how many color combinations are possible with Ralph Lauren, Behr, and Pittsburgh Paints? We reviewed them all. Do you know how nearly impossible it was for her to pick colors? Her first thought was blue and lavender which matched her comforter. Then dark plum, with metallic plum stripes. Then it was dark plum and 1 black wall (decorated with a silver metallic moon and gold metallic stars). One day when I got home from work there were samples of red, orange and yellow splashed on her walls. What the hell!? We had been on one side of the color wheel and suddenly...BAM!!...jumped all the way to the opposite side. Did you know there is a difference between purple and plum? There is. Because once we revisited that theme again, we were hit with a plethora of color combinations until she finally chose Grap Surf, Vintage Purple and Moon Rise for her trim.

My paint choices were fairly simple. In Ralph Lauren speak, the colors are Celery and Vera Cruz Suede with Daisy White trim. Painting both rooms simultaneously were a challenge which I have tried to block out of my mind. There are snippets of the nightmare that occasionally flash through my brain; wearing sunglasses while I painted the ceiling to block out paint falling in my eyes (Thank God for Steve and Berry's cheep sunglasses.) Other flashes include Adam painting the accent wall color on an unaccented wall, my realizing that the color I initial wanted for 3 of my 4 walls (Shoreline Blue), was much more Caribbean blue than green/blue requiring a trip to Home Depot covered in paint to pick out the new color of choice - Celery, Maggie doing the best trim job I have ever seen, Kat and Adam are whizzes with a roller brush, Kat's friend Joe unknowingly stepping into lavender paint and then onto hard wood floors. Kat not realizing there was wet paint in the paint tray and dripping paint all the way down the sidewalk and driveway. All in all, painting was the easiest part. It was the wallpaper removal and paint clean up that nearly killed me. The paint project started in March...I just finished decorating my room this week. Yep! 6 Months! Right on schedule.

Adam, now feeling rather left out of the DIY projects, asked if we could paint his room...the color of a wolf. Someone please tell me, what are the colors of a wolf. They are not part of the color wheel I have recently visited. Also, aren't they rather dark for a room the size of a closet? I was leaning towards Shoreline Blue. Hell, we have a full gallon sitting in the garage! Hmmm...

That project will have to wait for a bit. I am not ready for another 6 months of hell. But since his room is the size of a closet, maybe it will only be a 3 month project. It will be finished just in time for Christmas.

On that note, I better go mow my driveway. Bye!