Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Fuck Cancer

Autumn is my favorite time of the year. I love when the weather starts to change and fallen acorns crunch under my shoes. I love my fall decorations bursting colors of orange, red and yellow. The crispness in the air helps me shake loose the mental stagnation that the humid summer brings. I love the smell of pumpkin spice and cinnamon.

I love that the whole world turns pink for Breast Cancer Awareness month – when pro football players don pink shoes to support the boobs in their life. It is the time when women discuss with candid openness the health of their breasts and how real and how HERE breast cancer is. Everywhere you look, people are wearing pink ribbons or pink shirts. You can’t NOT think about cancer this month, and the collective awareness it brings is changing how we think.

This month I’ve thought often of my dear friend Nancy. She didn’t die of breast cancer, but lung cancer. It has been almost five years since she passed and I miss her every day. A year and a half she fought the hard battle with Chemo and Radiation leading the charge. I found an email I wrote to her a year before she died:

November 22, 2006

Dear Nancy,
   I just finished setting the dining room table for tomorrow's big feast.  I have the turkey thawing on the counter and I've written my fifth list of things to do so I don't forget anything in my holiday haste.  Tomorrow is my Mom's birthday too.  I have to remember to make her a card.

Stop.  Breathe.  I remember something more important.  You.

I am so thankful for you.  You are such a shining star in my life and you have made me a better person just by being my friend.  I am thankful for the kindness that you've taught me through the selfless acts you have shown to others.  I am thankful for your positive attitude even when faced with the greatest adversity.  I am thankful for your realism and your fearlessness for being YOU, no matter what anyone else thinks.  I'm thankful for your simplicity and for making life seem so grand when you have a good book, Pete and some paints.  I'm thankful for your sense of humor and the way you can laugh at yourself, especially when the kitchen light gets the best of you.  I'm thankful for the love you have shown to me and I'm positive I must have done something pretty damn good in my life to deserve you in it.  I'm thankful for your hugs and your warmth.  I'm thankful that you no longer have a tumor in your brain.  I'm thankful for your life.  I'm thankful for your doctors that are making you better.  I'm so very thankful for that wonderful man you have by your side, walking with you and holding you up through this shit storm called cancer.  I am thankful for the love I have for you because it fills me up and renews my faith in the world that there still are good people.  I'm thankful for your strength.  You are so very strong.

I love you so much, Nancy.  I pray for you every day.  I wanted to tell you how very much you mean to me.  You are my heart. Happy Thanksgiving.

Love your friend,

Before my friend passed away, I purchased a cross-stitch pattern for her. I worked every free minute so I could frame it and mail to Nancy. I threaded my needle with focus and worked with the determination of someone about to lose a friend. I sewed frantically.

She died before I finished.

After that phone call, I picked myself up and with a tear-stained face I walked to my bedroom. My hands tenderly folded the unfinished piece of fabric and tucked it into my nightstand drawer where it stayed for the next five years.

This month I was rooting through my closet when out of a box fell this old cross-stitch hoop. The hoop was pink and a smile crept up the corners of my mouth.


I put the box away, one cross-stitch pattern lighter and I went to work. I needed to finish this for my friend. And so I did.

Fuck Cancer

This is for you, Nancy.

And this is for my ex-father-in-law, who was diagnosed with stage 4 esophageal cancer and kicked it’s ass after six months of intensive chemo. He is in remission. Thank you, God.

This is for Aunt Madeline who lost her life to ovarian cancer.

This is for my friend Matt who had melanoma removed from his back and goes to the dermatologist regularly so he can be the best father and husband for his girls.

This is for my grandmother I never met because she lost her life to lung cancer when my Mom was only thirteen.

This is for my grandfather who also lost his life to lung cancer when I was seven.

This is for my friend, Nicole who takes care of her husband who is battling cancer. Her strength is so incredibly admirable.

This is for Stephanie’s mom, Sharon, who lost her life to breast cancer. She used to French braid my hair when I was a kid and she had a beautiful smile.

This is for Ernesto’s mom, Maria, who died of lung cancer last year. She was such an important part of my life, teaching me lessons with her Spanglish and tender eyes.

This is for my brother’s dog, Jackson who died of cancer a few months ago.

This is for my friend, Adam who had surgery for cancer over a year ago. He is cured!

This is for Steve, who died from kidney cancer at age 35.  He is missed dearly by his wife and three children.

This is for the mom at my son’s pre-school who last year had no hair because of chemo. This is for the little fist pump I do when I see her hair growing back and her color returning.

This is for Kelly’s dad, who is gone now but sends cardinals every now and again to say hi.

This is for my childhood friend, Scott, who died in his early twenties from metastatic melanoma. We miss you, truly.

This is for Ted, the bartender at a local restaurant, who has been fighting cancer for the last year and is kicking ass and taking names.

This is for Aunt G, who caught her breast cancer so early she was able to eradicate it with a few rounds of radiation. We’re so thankful for your diligent doctors.

This is for Dennis who just had a melanoma removed. No freckle goes unchecked!

This is for Uncle Greg who is in remission from lymphoma. 

This is for Holly and Jim who battled cancer with their daughter and won! (Although it is probably inappropriate for a little girl, the sentiment is still the same. ;) )

This is for everyone I know who has cancer or someone affected by cancer. This is for the people who take care of their sick loved ones, a job that is often overlooked yet harder than hell.

And finally, this is for Nancy’s son who was diagnosed with cancer last year. Henry, you have a part of your mom in you and that is better than any drug or treatment. May you look at this and know how loved you and your mom are. You are going to get through this.

Want to give cancer the big F-U for someone in your life? Feel free to keep it going.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Golden opportunity

Sam had to write a story today about a golden coin. Together we sat and brainstormed using the mind-mapping technique. He finished his story, complete with a compelling arc and compassionate ending, and I returned to my writing roots, teaching my son the creative process the way I learned it.

Thank you, Life for giving me the opportunity to do what I love most with whom I love most.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

This is not funny. At all.

people laughing

Each night my kids come home from school with their planners that I have to review and initial.  And each night, I sign “SS” in my scrolling handwriting, and it looks all loopy and pretty and shit. 

Last night I decided to spice things up a bit, because oooh burn!  That’s how I roll and I’m loco-crazy!  I wrote:

I, Shannon Sinanian, hereby declare I reviewed Max’s folder and proclaim this writing as proof of such.

Today at pick up, Max’s teacher plucked his folder out of the bin, pulled me aside and whispered, “Is everything ok?”  She pointed to my proclamation from the night before.

I stared at her, looking confused. What else is new?

“I was just wondering if this is something, ya know, legal you had to put in the planner because of, well, you know.”  Pre-School teachers apparently are not allowed to say the word “divorce.”

“Oh!  That!  No, I was just being a smart ass.”  Failure.

“Okay, I was wondering! Whew! I asked two of the other teachers and they thought maybe you were being funny, but I wasn’t sure.” Maybe? Like, perhaps, on some planet without any other funny people anywhere.

“Oh, well, that was just me. Trying to be funny!” Next time I’ll include a recording of a rimshot (

“Yes, I know you’re a writer.  I appreciate the creativity.” Gold star.

Tomorrow I’m going to sign the planner: “Shannon Sina.. OH MY GOD THE BUGS! GET THEM OFF GET THEM OFF GET THEM OFF!” We’ll see if she meets me at the door with the paramedics and a straight jacket.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

I am feeling pretty down today, mostly because I have not been able to spend my son’s birthday weekend with him.  I went out in the yard and sweat out some of my frustrations yet I came inside feeling unsatisfied.

I sat down to my computer and stared at my reflection in the glare of the monitor.  Out of the blue, I typed into the URL line,

If this domain doesn’t exist, them I’m going to buy it.

The site loaded and on a white page, this is what I found:


Thank you, Random, Brilliant Person. 

This is just what I needed today.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Hello, Seven!

I’m running out of cake. And lunch meat and fruit squeezies and waffles. Well, it’s no wonder – I have a seven in my house.

Boy eldest is seven today. Seven. That is crazy stuff, yo. Seven years ago I unknowingly stepped into the Parenting Time Warp. Sam came out of the sunroof, he had a couple bottles and dirtied a few diapers and before I knew it he was unloading my refrigerator each day after school and saying things like, “I need to use the john.”

Despite the speed at which this growing-up crap is happening, I love this age. More than ever before, I have an insight into the man Sam will one day become. He loves to build things and draw. He snuggles me like he’s still a toddler and he storms away when he gets mad. When friends are too much for him, he sneaks off to unwind and regroup in his room, alone. He loves to brush my hair as we talk about his day; all the while instructing me on how to get my hair to shine like satin.

He says, “Fair enough” when I throw my Mom-logic at him. Most adults handle conversations with less grace.

Sam challenges me – oh can he get under my skin! When he doesn’t want to do a thing, he roots himself like an old oak tree. He is unmovable. He throws his dirty clothes and wet towels on the floor, despite my constant haranguing. He is opinionated and strong-willed. When Sam and I battle wills, we are like a force of nature. High pressure meeting low pressure. Molten lava flowing into the cool, blue sea. Apple vs. PC.

Oh Sam, you and I can really go at it!

But he has a deeply profound impact on my life. Yes, with him I became a mother, but it is so much more than that. Sam makes me a better person. He makes me question my words and think around a problem for the best possible solution. He shows me there are different ways to do things; fast and furious isn’t always better than slow and methodical. He makes me pick apart my parenting and piece the puzzle back together again. I often bang my head from this exercise, but in the end I know I’m a better mom for it. And he waits patiently while I work it all out.

He does all of this just by being him.

Sam, you are a handful. You are passionate and intelligent and you want to know why. “Because I said so,” pisses you off as much as it did me when I was your age. You test me and you charm me and my love for you is immeasurable.

You are my son.

As you so eloquently wrote in a card to me, “I love you 100,000,000,600,820,000 kisses and hugs. I think that you are the best!”

Right back ‘atcha, Bananas.


“Seven” by They Might Be Giants