Swimming in a Sea of Details


I’m swamped. There are so many details I’m attending to in order to ready myself for my National Accreditation visit which is coming up on October 6. I’m sure things are fine as they are now, but this means so much to me and for a year and a half prior to 2009, I worked steadily toward this observation knocking out one quality benchmark after another in the process. Some details I think are just redundant, for example, I have to have the instructions on how to use a fire extinguisher POSTED by the unit itself. This is sooo dumb, in my opinion, since all my fire extinguishers have the directions and pictures of how to use them right on the extinguisher itself! And I’m sure in the event of fire–I will be too harried to read a wall full of instructions. Thank God, I have attended enough fire safety classes and have enough knowledge of how to operate one–like it’s rocket science, anyway–duh…

I will be working diligently all weekend to finish up all details–I hope. The weather has been cold and raining for two days now and I will be busy shopping for last minute items, steam cleaning carpets, mopping floors, planning out/cooking all my food for the day so I don’t have to worry about prep time, and going back through my manual at least once if not twice more. To me, that is just the tip of the mountain I will need to climb this weekend. Come Monday, I don’t want anything left to worry about. I want to sleep that night, but I’m notorious for staying up all night fretting. I’m sure I’ll do fine, but there’s always the chance that they feel I’m not ready…Lord knows my world has been shaken up this year and it has taken all my energy the past few weeks to get back in the saddle and really hunker down. I need everyone to keep their fingers crossed for me! I really want to knock this out of the ballpark! I want this lady to leave my home with a smile on her face and the assurance that really good stuff is coming out of my unassuming home and contributing to the lives of little ones in positive ways each day.

I have heard that compared to the FDCRS–Family Day Care Rating Scale–the accreditation process is a breeze. I voluntarily went through that process a couple years back and it was grueling to say the least. The criteria that you are rated on is extensive and overwhelming at times, and when I look back from where I started to where I am now, I am glad I went through it, it totally transformed my environment and that has helped out in a bazillion different ways. The national average for a rating is a 3 on a scale from 1-7 with 7 being the highest rating you can achieve. I only know of one other gal that went through it here and she received a 5.something. I remember thinking that she really nailed it and never thought I could top that. Then, I set my eyes on the criteria and systematically and methodically started fixing every flipping thing you could imagine–and trust me-most people don’t have a clue what that entailed. When that observer came, I was ready. I was more than ready and I couldn’t have orchestrated the day any better if I had tried. The kids were angels and boy did I reward them for their good behavior!! Lots of ice cream!! I will never forget the day when I got my rating in the mail. A 6.3!!! It was absolutely one of the best days of my life.

Then I jumped onto the Quality Rating System and decided I wasn’t going to just jump in at a level one star, I was going for the top dog, a five star rating. I could use my FDCRS score, my newly met CDA (child development associate), my ChildNet re-certification, and my partnership with the Department of Health among a host of other things to earn the points needed for that 5 star rating. I swear, that parents don’t really have a clue what some of us providers will undergo to ensure safe and high quality homes and qualifications. An average old “baby-sitter” I am not and yet, when families drop out of care to go to a provider that’s just “good enough” it makes me just shake my head and wonder why I put myself through this. Mainly, because it is my passion and because I am committed to providing quality early learning experiences to kids in the Quad Cities.

Getting ready this time, though, has been different. I am tired earlier in the evenings and can’t stay up all night like I used to working on this or that. I get so tired it feels like I’m drunk and I hate that feeling. So, I will get done what I can in the next two days. I will try not to over-detail myself. That’s sooo hard for me, though–each time, I think–yeah–I think I’m done, I look up and re-analyze how I’ve been doing something and make another list of how I could do it better. I’m going to let it go as of Sunday night. I will. I think. I am going to try really hard to put the manual down and walk away and trust that I know what I’m doing and that it will come across and look effortless. I just hope the observer is in a good mood that day and hasn’t just gotten into a fight with a teenage child or a husband who has just asked for a divorce or gotten or anything else that might put her in a really icky and hyper critical state of mind. I don’t want anyone taking anything out on me that day. I hope I don’t get some man-eating shark that comes swimming into my sea and tears me limb from limb.

It all boils down to that insecurity that someone isn’t going to like me or will pick me apart. It’s that need to feel accepted–a basic human need we all share. There have been great portions of my life where I didn’t care what anyone thought of me, and it’s so weird–I used to feel so uber-confident about everything in my life. This year has really knocked me down a few notches, though. As much as I shouldn’t worry about what others think–I do. I think it’s because I haven’t been able to come to terms with how I feel about myself right now and that really projects outward. Also, I have really had outward signs of people I thought were friends rejecting me this year, my oldest daughter rejecting me, my own body rejecting me, and I’ve even found myself rejecting my own image for the majority of this year. In the grand scheme of things–what’s a year?–a tiny blip on the face of time. But to me, it has been excruciatingly long. At some point, all that rejection over an extended period of time starts to affect your confidence. It starts to waver like a spinning top that becomes wobbly right before it topples to the ground. Rejection is a part of life, I know–I preach it to my kids. It’s how you handle it that is the true test of courage.

I’ve been on the fence with that one. When it came to those so-called friends–I moved on–had to–it broke my heart to much to dwell. When it came to my daughter, I moved on at times–but kept getting sucked back into the vortex. When it came to my body’s rejection and my own self-image issues–I have wobbled uncontrollably–just like that spinning top. When it came to my spiritual well-being, I have found solace in my bible and my new church home-even though I am not good about regular attendance. Have I passed the test? Depends on what areas we’re talking about. I’m sure if I were to see the report card, I wouldn’t be happy with the grades in most areas. As with any struggling student should do–I have assembled a few tutors–a few individuals that are helping me put things into perspective a little better. Up until now, I haven’t really reached out for support–a little here and there, but now I am starting to see that in order to get through this–I just can’t do it on my own. Nor do I want to, but I just hate burdening anyone with my troubles or imposing on them for their time. So, I have retreated into my shell on many occasions this year just as the wise sea turtles do as they make their epic journeys through the oceans of their lives. They retreat for respite, for survival, for a need to become invisible at times so that when they do emerge they are renewed in faith and energy to stay the course.

Maybe I was supposed to lose my confidence to really find the source of my true strength. Maybe I was supposed to be humbled so that I could remember all the reasons why I do what I do and to try and let go of those insecurities and not let them get to me as much. I know all of this. My brain really does. It’s just my heart–its been really shredded up this year and its hard to be that confident right now. I could fake it–like I did back in high school…I could… I’ll really have to pull it out for this one. I’ll really have to squelch those feelings down and let “Tina” shine through. It’s really the only thing I know how to do well at the moment. So, that’s the plan–sort of–along with a lot of prayers.

So, I’m going to be busy for the next few days, but boy do I have news for all of you! What a whirlwind week of doctors and medical tests with more on the way, but out of it all, I made a decision. A big one. And I wish you could have seen the genuine confidence dripping from my grinning lips! I poked my head out of my shell this week and I smiled at the possibilities that are in store…I’ll be back to update as soon as my observation is over because my brain is swimming in a sea of details regarding this decision as well and I will need to purge SOON!!! Until then, check my tweets for quick snippits.

Ciao for now–CJ

Sick and Tired

I have been under the weather for almost two weeks now. This past weekend I spent almost all of it in bed sleeping off this crud. I don’t know what it is and it tends to worry me. As much as I hate to see other family members ill, I’m really glad they all have what I have–it means, in a way, that this is probably not cancer related. It is just kicking me in the butt much harder than everyone else. Then Justin came home with a letter from his school saying that there was a confirmed case of H1N1 Flu present in his school. It really wigged me out. Lots of disinfecting, sanitizing, and handwashing going on here.

I had my yearly physical last night. I sat face to face with the woman who didn’t listen to my moans and groans for a year and just thought I was in need of Xanax or Prozac or both. I know she felt bad, but instead of rubbing it in, I just filled her in on how the year has gone. I wish I wouldn’t have been overtired and wiped out from my huge cold. It makes me more emotional and when she was asking me big questions, I just couldn’t help it, I started crying. God, I wish I wouldn’t have done that. Then, she thought she was right in her initial assessment of what kinds of medications I should be taking. That made me even more upset because why can’t someone just cry anymore without someone thinking they need to be in a doped up state just to relate to what’s going on in their lives. She has put me off to the nurse practitioner all year–since my diagnosis. I’ve been mad at this doctor for a year. Last night I was just too tired and feeling like crud to tell her how I felt about that. The one thing I was really hoping she would help me out on was my request to have an ultrasound done. She wouldn’t. I cried. Again.

Do I think I need an ultrasound? I don’t know. Do I want an ultrasound. Yes. I worry constantly about this metastasizing to my ovaries or my uterus. Pap smears only detect cervical cancer and I will admit–that as unpleasant as those exams are, there are worse things and usually they never bothered me much. Last night–my first one since all this has happened to me–was more anxiety-ridden than any other I had ever had. I had to sit on my hands so she wouldn’t see them shaking. What if? What if something comes back on that? It’s been 7 months since my initial diagnosis–what could happen in that time frame? I know the tumor that was found was said to be a grade three–most severe–even for as tiny as it was and that it was multiplying very rapidly. Could other radicals have found a host by now and be multiplying elsewhere?

Could it be that this is the reason why I am soooooo exhausted anymore? I just can’t believe that a few months ago I had been working and studying 20 hours a day and getting 4 hours of sleep–if I was lucky–every night for three years. Now I can barely see straight come 7pm.

Is my body once again growing and feeding some dragon inside me? Without anyone willing to let me have an ultrasound or pet scan–how will I ever know? I would just like ONE of each–a baseline–to know where I started and that way if I was feeling symptoms of something they would have a marker of where it has come from. Especially now–when Jeff may be losing his job and that will result in a loss of insurance benefits–which makes me pre-existing almost everywhere else. While I have the insurance–just let me do it! Why can’t the doctors code it so it doesn’t look like it was routine? Why does it have to be assumed to be–especially when the initial cancer diagnosis is the underlying reason for wanting one in the first place. I just don’t get it. It makes me so angry. It makes me cry, because I just don’t feel like I’m being heard or that I am just another cancer patient. Trying to “live my life” as my first oncologist told me to do is nearly impossible at times. Its not the same. I don’t think it ever will be no matter how hard I try to carry on with a smile on my face. It just masks the deep pain I feel over the unknown.

Then again–would I really want to know? What if the scans came back and I was glowing like a fire cracker? Would I really want to see that? Would that make me even more overemotional? Probably. But–why wait until you have symptoms–then it’s too late. Wouldn’t you want to know if you have a huge brain tumor or spots on your lungs, or tentacles wrapped around your ovaries? The quicker you can have surgery and cut it out–the better your chances–right? I know it all sounds irratic, but these are the thoughts that keep me awake at night. It’s hard at times to forget, and I make it harder on myself when I don’t follow my nutrition regimine that my nutritionist has worked with me on all summer. Or when I forget to take my Tamoxifin. Major guilt trip. I feel like I have some sort of control with those things or with the exercising, but I am still partly in denial and not being consistent. I have not fully jumped on the bandwagon–I did early on, but now I am falling off and being drug by the cart. I know I need to recommit. I know.

Could it be the Tamoxifin that’s wiping me out? I know it has played a part in my early menopause and with that–could that be making me so tired? Speaking of the Tamoxifin, I tried to see if I could have the doctor’s office prescribe all 5 yrs. worth of meds. in advance. I am terrified that we won’t have insurance and I will not be able to even afford the cost of my prescriptions each month. I have no idea what the cost is, but it doesn’t hurt to ask, right? So, I called there and I didn’t even think about the shelf life factor until the nurse pointed it out. She also really sounded odd and then she told me that they could only refill the Rx monthly so that individuals would be less inclined to sell the drugs elsewhere. Oh my gosh, great, now my oncologist’s office thinks I’m a pill pusher on the black market somewhere and I will be watched for that. It made me laugh in a way and then I realized that there are probably thousands of women in just the same boat I’m in–if not worse. Think about all the women in third world countries who don’t get the Tamoxifin. Then, I think about how I live in America and I will be considered pre-existing here pretty soon–unless an insurance miracle happens and Jeff gets a new job without a pre-existing condition clause.

Is it that it takes a very long time for your body to recover from chemo–(even though I only had one full treatment before becoming severely allergic and going into respiratory arrest)? how long does it take before your energy levels return? Do they?

Is my body fighting against something or just trying to still heal? I know 6 months later, my body is still not draining the lymphatic fluid correctly. Only two lymph nodes were taken out in surgery and my body should have, by now, compensated and learned how to move the fluid through my body. But it still pools under the scar tissue in my chest and it is painful. Weirdly–the whole top of my chest is numb–all the nerves severed, but deeper–around the muscle–it’s still terribly painful. How long will that last? Will it last forever? Is it my body trying to tell me to lay down and get vertical so the fluid can move better? Is my body just working overtime? I do worry about that lymphedema every day and knowing how its pooling in my chest doesn’t help my worries. The surgeon doesn’t seem too worried although in my 2nd followup with him two weeks ago, he was concerned about the continued pain factor I’m having. He didn’t suggest anything, though–so I guess I just live with it.

Will I ever feel the same?

Will my psoriasis ever go away? It seems to be worse these days and that was one of the first indications that I found that alerted me to something being wrong. I know stress exacerbates psoriasis and I am truly amazed I am not covered head to toe in the stuff. Be thankful its just on my elbows, right?

Is the constant stress of the cancer, my self-image, my oldest daughter, how everything is affecting my younger children, my husband’s impending job loss, the uncertainty that will bring to us financially, the loss of benefits, the mounting medical bills for me and for Jasmine, the stress on our marriage and all of our relationships just taking its toll and no amount of counseling can really fix ALL the triggers at this point?

Once this metastasizes–it is really hard to detect if it goes to the ovaries or to the uterus. Why can’t we just schedule a hysterectomy at this point. I’m really inwardly wigging out about this and even though my new oncologist doesn’t want to start “butchering” for no good reason especially when the genetic tests have all come back fairly positive–I can’t help but think–Isn’t cancer a good enough reason? I suppose if I wanted it done badly enough and threw a big enough temper tantrum–I’d get my way–but am I just being over reactional about it? If I’m no longer using the stuff–take it out. That’s three less places for this to land and I will know that I am not going to die from those associated cancers.

Sigh. Sometimes my brain gets so ramped up with these thoughts that they just spew out onto the page. I have to keep coming back to my bible to try to help quiet myself. My goal of self-quieting has been a hard one to tackle this year. I think it also gets revved up as my doctor visits start coming. I will go see the plastic surgeon tomorrow to talk about reconstruction–something I totally didn’t think I was ready for, but with the possibility of losing insurance and the fact that they will now pay for a boob job–I’m going to talk about the options. It may not even be an option, but I have to go and check it out or I will be mad at myself if I let the opportunity slip away. Next week, I see my oncologist for a 3 month check up. I hope we will look at bloodwork and see if anything shows up there. I don’t know what I should be asking him at this point because I just feel like everyone wants me to “live my life”. If any of you have any questions I should be mulling over for him, please let me know. I would welcome them whole heartedly.

I received my long awaited call from NAFCC (National Assoc. for Family Child Care) that my long overdue national accreditation observation is about to happen. I have been working on it for two years. I applied for the observation the end of December 2008. Normally, you should get a call between 4-6 weeks to schedule the observation. Here we are 9 months later and I will finally undergo this on October 6, 2009. They have been swamped since revising their re-accreditation standards and since I am a newbie, I guess, I was not a priority. I often think of what that would have been like should I have gotten that call within the normal time period. I was just getting diagnosed with breast cancer. I would not have been ready for that at all. Looking back, I really am surprised I made it through the summer and really glad that this observation is coming while the house is quieter. I guess I should be grateful that it is happening after my mastectomy, after all the big rowdy boys went off to school, after a regular naptime had been re-established for the little ones, and after my head came back from Bizarro World.

Since this call came through, I haven’t been able to think about too much else in the past week–including the cancer stuff and I have truly welcomed the break. It makes me realize that when I am working on something I’m passionate about, I get a lot accomplished————(Why can’t I get truly passionate about my cancer?)———- I’ve been going through all my checklists making sure all my T’s have been crossed and my i’s have been dotted. I have a book that takes me a few hours to get through each time because I am really focusing on doing my best. I have been through it several times and plan on several more read throughs. I spent all last week working on my parent teacher conferences and getting those in order. I was glad to get them all done so I could move on to more paperwork that has been lagging. I screwed up my classes this year, but I am not going to screw up this. I have worked too hard. I want to be able to look back on 2009 and know that despite the huge setback, I was able to accomplish this major accomplishment. Usually centers or schools or colleges are accredited. It isn’t that often that in-home providers become accredited. So, I am working day in and day out right now and everyone in my family has their very own honey-do lists. I’ll get there slowly, but surely and quite honestly, I’m ready–its just the details I’m going back for. Tons of details, but it will all come together.

I’ve also been allowing several college students studying at St. Ambrose Univ. to come tour my environment. This is good practice for me as they are able to give me fresh eyes. They are students studying to be teachers–how I wish I could go back to school–but I am not ready yet. Maybe next year. Maybe this is why I was supposed to ultimately take the break from my college courses this year. To ready myself for accreditation. To make sure my head was still in the game. I can honestly say that I was in a perfect position to give up on everything I had worked for professionally. Just chuck it and spend my days playing with my family. It was a summer where I was re-evaluating everything in my life and trying to figure out if things were still working or if they needed changing in some way or another. When I look at my chosen profession, I can’t imagine doing anything else. I love working with kids. I love where I work. I love the tools I get to work with! Some people provide child care as a means to an end, a temporary job while their own kids are young, but me–it really drives me. I absolutely love what I do and when I had really looked at all the reasons why I do what I do, I realized my head was ready to take on the observer that would come spend the day with me. If I could just shake this illness now…

We celebrated my son’s 6th birthday this past week. Time flies. I asked him what the best present he got was and he looked at me and told me it was me and that he was super happy I wasn’t dead. “Gee, thanks, babe–I love you too” is what I responded with. 🙂 I’m grateful I got to see him turn 6 and I am glad I’m not dead yet. Lord knows how I’ve worried over that all summer. So, I’m grateful I’m alive. I’ve survived my diagnosis for 7 months now. Almost a year. That’s an accomplishment in and of itself.

I have begun a Wellness class at the YMCA. It is 12 weeks of free personal training–2X/wk. for 1 1/2 hrs. each eve. The best part–its free! I get to work with a personal trainer for free for 12 weeks! I missed the first class because I was sick two weeks ago. I went to both classes last week and thought I was going to die each night. I began working on my WII fit on the off nights, but this cold/flu is really pulling me down. I am so happy for the outlet and MAKING ME a priority. I have met a handful of other breast cancer survivors that are in various stages of their disease or treatment and I just know that will be instrumental in my mental comeback. I think being able to dedicate time to working out will also help me release those endorphins I haven’t seen in a very long time which will help relax me, help me sleep better, make me feel like WANTING to recommit to my nutrition plan again, making me WANT to be more consistent with my med taking, and maybe inthe process, I will lose the 30 pounds I’ve tacked on. UUUGGGHHH! I am bigger than I was when I was pregnant with Jordan (she was the biggest baby)! Could it be the Tamoxifin that is helping me pack on the weight? I know that stress will pack on the weight also and I am surprised I’m not morbidly obese. The added weight make me more sluggish so, I have to lose it.

My other major concern is that I’ve been told that estrogen is stored in fat and since I’m sporting my own personal flotation device around my mid section these days–I need to find something to help me deflate it. I have to lose the weight–I worry every day that the hormone that is feeding my cancer is setting up shop and getting comfy in my fat. Ok–who am I kidding–I also want to lose the weight before my next class reunion next summer–I was so worried what everyone was going to think about my hair–now I just want to walk in and have everyone think, “wow, she looks great for having cancer”. I know. I know. Completely immature and shallow, but who wants to come back after 25 years looking like crap? Yes, I know all the stuff about the inner beauty, outer beauty, lasting beauty stuff, but when it comes right down to it, I really just hope that all my beauties are playing on a level field by then (and I really hope I drop 30 pounds!) :). I’ve run into a few friends from high school, they all happen to be nurses. They have all said I look good–my color is good and since they work with sick people all the time, they can tell when a person is sick. I guess I’ve got that going for me. Problem with that is–I’d rather have hair and a boob–omg–I just did it–I said something very generically–I take that back–let me be specific…

I’d rather have a headful of healthy, blonde, soft, stylishly coiffed hair that I could seductively whip around should I be in the mood for some lovin’, be able to pull it back when I’m feeling playful, and be able to run my fingers through it to tousle it and have that wind blown look that most women dream of. And–I’d rather have two boobs–the same size–preferably a little lifted and energized looking with a natural looking nipple tattooed on the new one. I used to wonder about having bigger boobs and although I wouldn’t mind them a tad larger, I’d now just be happy to look like I did. So a perky 34B would be great. Afterall, it’s not the size–it’s how you package them! I think that’s it–have I forgotten anything? Please feel free to let me know if that wish needs a little more something something. I will be checking out the silicone stockroom tomorrow. Wish me luck!

Started Tracking on 12-1-09


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