Obligatory anniversary post

I’m not going to post a picture of a birthday cake with one candle on it.

I’m not going to post my blog stats. (There aren’t any. I had one post last year about my cleavage that generated some traffic. Other than that, it’s been the sound of crickets.)

I’m not going to review all that I’ve learned in the last year or what I aim to accomplish in the next year.

I’m not going to place side-by-side pictures of things as they looked then and how they look now.

I’m not going to redesign my header or change the appearance of this blog.

What I am going to do is stop hiding under the covers and start telling other bloggers that I like their work. This, dear Internet friend, may help me attract attention without having to use my body.

Don't hate me because I'm beautiful

Or that I stayed here last weekend.

Yes. This is our love shack in the woods.

Well. There was lovin’ going on somewhere, mainly the walls, judging by the number of six-legged creatures waving their antennae at us as we huddled in our beds, cooked our meals and showered our bodies.

OK. So it was really a cheap shack. But it was our cheap shack tucked into a perfect white pine forest, the kind that whispers your name when the wind blows.

Either way, we spent a weekend in the woods. Bugs be damned, we needed this break. No TV. No Internet access. Cell phones worked but we switched them off. I didn’t even use the I-pod. I swear. Instead, I did a lot of walking and staring at nature. Girl from the East discovered the joy of sand and never once asked for the tee-vee.

My husband said he loves me because any other wife would have demanded a hotel after the first discovery of ants and probably would have threatened divorce upon the realization that the place had the dreaded “R” word infestation. (Shhh. That’s roaches for the uninformed.)

I’m an outdoorsy kind of gal. I like to pitch tents and swat away the wildlife before zipping up the sleeping bag. In fact, I think I’d rather have slept on the forest floor under those sighing pines than in the confines of an infestation.

Spending any time in nature makes you realize how little you really need. It also makes you realize how much you can really tolerate if there’s a trade-off. In this case, we had access to a beautiful piece of land almost all to ourselves.

We reminded ourselves that in many parts of the world, this is how people live: inside four simple walls, with lights and heat, and not much else in the way of frills.

If this all sounds like a high-falutin’ way of justifying a weekend in a roach motel, yup, you’re right.

Vulnerable mom

My motherhood has always been as vulnerable as a featherless hatchling twitching on the pavement. My introduction to it with Girl from the West came about by surprise, so I was caught off-guard and scrambled for months to embrace the notion that I — rock ‘n’ roll zombie at the time — was going to be a mom.

Following the birthing experience, I became a WORKING MOTHER and often felt the wrath of those who looked down upon moms who paid others to raise their offspring whilst they pursued careers to pay for their fancy shoes and expensive highlights.

Not long after, I was a DIVORCED MOM and a PART-TIME MOM, the former was fact backed up by court records, the latter was a label thrown at me by those who didn’t support my decision to end the marriage and share custody.

Then Girl from the West was old enough to join after-school activities. This is where I learned I was not only SINGLE MOM, but also FAKE MOM because my oldest daughter and I didn’t share the same last name. It didn’t matter that we had the same eyes, nose and laugh. I was a fake for sure according to one Brownie Scout. I suspected a few of the moms in that troop thought the same thing.

Of course, the FAKE MOM label is perpetuated now with the arrival of Girl from the East, who was born to another woman in China and legally became my daughter in 2006. We don’t share the same eyes, nose or laugh, but we certainly have the same last name. We share just as much love as any child born to me.

Still rather new to me is the STAY-AT-HOME MOM label, which is self-imposed since it’s how I answer the cocktail-party question of: What do you do?

Last weekend, Teleflora sponsored a Mother’s Day contest on NBC that asked viewers to nominate women in various categories, including the NON-MOM. I guess this is a more awkward way of saying “fake mom” when referring to an adoptive mother or other non-traditional caregiver. After a barrage of complaints, the sponsor issued a fine-print apology and correction to “adopting mom.”

In defense of all this, I call myself a MOM ZOMBIE. I do this partly because most of the time I’m staggering around in a sleep-deprived stupor. Some of it is my own doing. I stay up too late doing stuff I hate to give up: reading, exercising, making out with the Internet. I also have a big caffeine habit.

I also do it because sometimes I have to numb myself to the negative labels attached to my caregiver/nurturer role. Despite what the world and a few random Brownies wish to call me, I love my children and would do anything for them. They call me “mom” and that’s all that matters.

Sigh of relief felt 'round the world

“Everything is OK. We’ll see you in a year.”

And with that, I grabbed my purse, clutched the flimsy cotton gown barely covering my naked upper body and headed for the dressing room.

It’s what I should have heard a month ago when I went for my first mammogram (not first ever, just first of this series).

Instead, I headed home and proceeded to receive a barrage of letters, phone calls and one certified letter from the hospital begging me to return. My heart raced after the first letter, but I was reassured that “it was routine.” At no point did anyone say anything was “suspicious” or “amiss” or even “curious.”

So, I delayed because I made the assumption that it was an imaging problem, which happened once before. In other words, the technician missed a shot. It was no big deal. I’d delayed almost three years since my last mammogram, what’s another month?

It took an hour of sitting in a different waiting room to make me realize something else was going on this time. It was a room of worry. There was no chatting of any sort going on. Women came in. They were called once. Returned. Then called again. Most left looking relieved.

This was the “follow-up” room. When my name was called and I was enclosed in a private room, the technician told me as if I knew already that they needed to do some magnification images of some areas of “calcification.”

Huh? This was news to me. I was offered no information, but the tech was willing to answer some questions. Is this normal? It’s not unusual. Is it an age thing? Yes, it has to do with age. Do I have cancer? We will look at the magnified images and see if you need to have a biopsy.

Shit. We are talking about a cluster of dots about the size of a pin head on the X-ray. Nothing I would ever have felt in an exam. Nothing that I would ever have known about. How could I have been so nonchalant about my health? What if I have cancer?

By the time the technician led me back to my seat, my heart was racing and my mind was a mess. All I could think about was how I would handle the news if it wasn’t good. What about my baby Girl from the East? She can’t afford to lose another mother in her life. What about Girl from the West? How could I do this to either one of them.

I thought about the cigarettes I used to smoke. The junk food. God knows what toxins I’ve inhaled, ingested in my lifetime. How I avoided the mammogram because, frankly, it sucks.

Then I decided to pull it together. Until I know more, I’m working myself up over nothing. Even if I do have cancer, they’re just breasts. I can live without them I reasoned. Just let me have my health.

I thought about my best friend from childhood who told me two years ago she had breast cancer. She’s doing better now, but the image is hard to shake. It’s what your mind can do to you that can cause the most damage, I concluded.

Two excruciating hours later, the same technician came out with a kind smile on her face and suggested I have a nice day after this.

So, lesson learned. Don’t skip exams. Don’t delay follow-up visits. Ask questions. Value life.