Mad at cancer

Even though it sounds ridiculous, I’m suddenly really mad at cancer.

I know, hurt and pain is underneath most anger, and that’s definitely the case here. I almost feel like I don’t have a right to be mad because he’s still here for the time being. I’m pre-mad, anticipating the grief that I know is coming.

I also know all about not ruining today by worrying about tomorrow. It doesn’t help that my hormones are super out of whack right now. But you know, thinking about tomorrow isn’t hypothetical anymore. This is real stuff I have to think about.

His official diagnosis is stage 4 cancer. 17 percent survival rate to five years. He can beat the odds and he believes he’s technically stage 3, which gives him 40 percent odds of making it five years.

I know odds are just numbers and he’s a person, not a statistic. But if you go by the numbers – even the better odds for stage 3 – there’s still a greater chance that he won’t be here in five years than that he will. Do you know how fast five years go by?

Tomorrow I will try to be positive and hopeful again. But right now I am so fucking mad at cancer. We were supposed to grow old together and we won’t. I hope he’ll be healthy enough that we can do a little bit of the traveling we wanted to do. But we may not get to, depending on his health.

I just feel so robbed. Like I said, I’m pre-mad, angry about things that haven’t happened yet but probably will.

People who know us have always said we’re a special couple. We get along remarkably well. We’ve gotten through a lot of stuff, especially a lot of hardships, and things are just starting to get a lot better. And now, cancer is threatening to take it away, a ticking time bomb.

Other couples aren’t as happy as we are and they don’t have to suffer like this. How is this fucking fair in the slightest? Good people shouldn’t die young. Happy couples shouldn’t have premature endings. This is so grossly unfair in every way.

Tomorrow I hope I can get back on track. Feel positive again that he’ll make it 15 years or more. But even that’s still a premature end to the best relationship I’ve ever had. I don’t know how to brace myself for the probable reality vs staying hopeful. I’m naturally cynical if I feel like I’m trying to talk myself into something that isn’t real.

But at the same time, I can’t be wallowing in self-pity over the bad stuff that is surely coming but isn’t here yet. This a tough space to occupy, knowing I’ll be a widow but not knowing when.

Man, fuck cancer.

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The nature of work

I’m reading this book called On the Clock: What Low-Wage Work Did to Me and How It Drives America Insane and I’m really enjoying it.

She was a former journalist for an alt-weekly newspaper that folded and went to work for three places: in an Amazon warehouse, at a call center, and at a McDonald’s. I’m still reading it but so far it’s giving me a lot of reasons for reflection. This is also the kind of sociological book that I really love.

I know quite a few people who have worked for Amazon in the warehouse near me and it’s well known how difficult it is to work there. I wasn’t surprised at all by the author’s description that the job is so exhausting that all she wants to do is sleep on her days off. I could not physically handle the work. I was, however, surprised that they have 99% turnover during the Christmas season. (Of course, that’s just what the author cites about the warehouse in Kentucky; I don’t know if it’s similar at the warehouse near where I live.)

I’ve also worked in a call center and I know the dehumanizing nature of that work as well. Having your every move measured and monitored, getting criticized for using the bathroom too much, and having the managers pull tapes of your calls to tell you what you did wrong is indeed very stressful.

I don’t feel like I’ll never have to return to call center work, though. If my husband dies and I can’t make it on my disability, I could have to go back to call center work and lose the disability. Best case scenario, maybe I could find call center work from home.

At the same time, I also feel like this book is pointing out how much easier my current job is than either working at Amazon or in a call center. Sometimes I feel sorry for myself because I’ve been working 7 days a week for months, even while my husband was in the hospital.

But it’s not the same kind of work, and working 7 days a week doesn’t mean each of those days is a ton of hours. On average, I work five hours a day, sometimes more if I’ve got a particularly heavy amount of deadlines.

But I have freedom that people working in warehouses, call centers, or fast food jobs do not. I can sit down through my entire work time. I can take naps when I need to and go back and do my work later. I can pick up the kids from school, make a trip to the grocery store, even watch TV while I work. No one is making demands on my time or monitoring me minute by minute.

I don’t love everything about my work–especially its inconsistency and having to pay self-employment taxes. I often wish there were some other type of work I could do that would accommodate my health needs. I wish I were healthy enough that I could work full-time somewhere. I miss seeing people during my workday.

In truth, though, I know I am way too soft for doing any kind of grueling low-wage work. I am lucky that I can still use my brain for my job (especially because there were times when my multiple sclerosis made that impossible.)

I get to have an easy job using my brain because I went to college and because I have the intellectual ability to do it. I count myself as very fortunate to have that opportunity, especially when I look at what other options are out there.

Still, I can’t help but worry about what will happen to me when my husband dies. He’s been more pessimistic about that lately, which in turn also makes me more pessimistic. I also found out that I misunderstood the amount of money I’d get from life insurance, and that I’ll have to pay taxes on the amount of his student loan debt that gets forgiven.

I may not be as okay as I thought I’d be. And in that, I look at my earnings from disability– even disability plus the maximum allowable earnings I can make–and I will still be very poor. I just have to hope that my brain will still be doing well enough that maybe I can get a job somewhere and earn enough to support myself. Hopefully, it won’t have to be in a call center.

Home ownership is overrated

I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life, but perhaps the biggest was my decision to own a house in Michigan.

At the time before we bought it, we were renting a very small house that my husband’s grandmother used to own. My mother-in-law was our landlord and although the rent was cheap, she was strongly pressuring us to buy it for an inflated price. (I have to say that all the warnings about doing business with family are well-founded.)

There were a lot of things I hated about that particular house. It had a very small closet, so my husband had to keep his clothes on a portable rack outside our bedroom. There was no master bedroom per se, and only one bathroom on the main floor that had a bathtub, no shower. It didn’t have a vanity and the electrical outlets were all upside down.

The bathroom that had a shower was actually in the basement, right next to the washer and dryer. It also had windows that made the shower visible from the driveway. The shower was a very tiny cube, barely big enough to turn around in, and it backed up every time you used it.

The kitchen had fewer cabinets than an apartment and an intolerable lack of counter space. The only small appliance I could fit on the counter was a coffee pot. Like I said, there was a lot to dislike about that particular house. Getting pressure to buy it for an overinflated price made me really want to get out.

So we bought a house of our own. Our house was nice enough, though it had its quirks, like any house does. We had a basement flood the first Christmas we were there and couldn’t afford the insurance deductible to fix it, so we got mold and mildew. The smell of that moldy basement permeated all our belongings for the next 8 years we lived there. You know how when people smoke indoors, you can smell it on everything they own? That was us but with mildew.

If anything broke, we usually couldn’t afford to fix it. We found ways to fix crucial things like broken hot water heaters or when the furnace stopped working in the middle of winter. But a lot of less essential stuff never got fixed because there wasn’t enough money.

Homeownership was a gamble and we lost big. A lot of people (including my mother-in-law) said that “renting is just throwing away your money” and we never questioned that. But for us, we didn’t factor in the cost of maintenance and repairs, nor how hard it would be to afford them when we were already stretched so thin.

Homeownership only works if you have plenty of money to start with. If you don’t, one thing like a roof replacement or needing to replace a heater will sink you. Forget about cosmetic changes like updating cabinets.

In truth, owning the home was like a millstone around our necks. I tried moving back to Texas 8 years earlier than when I finally did, at a time when I had just graduated college and could only find part-time work at Starbucks. The reason I couldn’t stay then was because of the house we owned.

My husband went through 10 months of unemployment–then his next job paid minimum wage–and if we hadn’t owned the house, we would have left the state then. He was stuck at another job for five years with no raises, making about what our oldest kid makes now. Again, we wanted to leave but couldn’t.

I wanted to go to grad school for sociology right after finishing my degree but there were no graduate programs in my major nearby. We would have had to move and once again, the house we owned was holding us back.

We finally had to just go when I moved down here, damn the consequences. I regret not making that choice sooner. My husband now earns double what he did there and hanging on to the house for so long was ultimately stupid. We did lose the house but our credit has already recovered enough that we could buy again. We still choose not to.

We’ve been renting ever since we moved back to Texas 5 years ago and I have to admit that I love it. If something breaks, we call our landlord and he fixes it. We have a nice place to live. We’re not tied to it, though. Currently, we have no desire to move to another area. My husband’s illness keeps us here, he likes his current job, and the job market here is great for what he does.

I used to think that I’d buy a house for the security of it if he dies from cancer and I get the life insurance payout. But now I’m not even sure about that. I couldn’t stay in our current house because I’d go through the money too fast. But I did the math and I could rent a one-bedroom apartment for about 35 years (maybe longer if I made some smart investments.)

I actually like the freedom of not being tied to one place. Not owning a house means that I’m free to go wherever. Right now, I have no reason to leave this area. But I like knowing that someday, I could if I wanted to.

I don’t have big attachments to the concept of home, anyway. My childhood home burned down. I live 1300 miles away from where I grew up. Renting may be “throwing away my money,” but it also lets me feel free, almost nomadic. I’m here because I choose to be, not because I’m trapped. Renting gives me a sense of possibility because I’m not tied to one place.

Still processing

I realized that why I still miss my former friend is that things were good a lot of the time. It’s just that the times that weren’t good were actually really bad. Everything was always black or white: either she loved me or hated me. Whereas I saw her in a shade of gray: sometimes she was too intense for me but I still loved her anyway.

I still think our final fight was bizarre. We’d agreed the night before that it was probably best if we took a break from each other. We both said we still loved each other.

That night, I wrote a blog entry based on where I was at that time. In it, I said I was sad that it felt like we grew apart and that so much of our relationship was based on mutual complaining. But both I and the blog post were sad and contemplative. I hoped we could take a break, but I also knew from past experience that our friendship was much more all-or-nothing than that.

The next morning, I woke up to so many hateful words that I couldn’t even read them all. That’s when she pulled out all the name calling that was so hurtful to me.

I know enough to understand that she was probably lashing out because she was hurt that I said we grew apart. But I probably would have been open to becoming friends again at some future date, if we could have just taken a break like we’d agreed to do.

It was the lashing out at me in anger that made me wonder if she ever really cared about me at all. I still wonder that.

I know she has a lot of friendships that start out intense and usually end at some point, sometimes very quickly. I was the one person who always kept going back for more, trying to forgive her angry outbursts even though I was deeply hurt. I always wanted to give her more chances because I missed having her in my life.

In retrospect, I can see that being the first to apologize meant that I never really felt like she changed, like she truly “got” why lashing out at me was so wrong. I seemed to be right because she did it again, every time. I should have had more self-respect than to always be the one to reach out, when she was the one who damaged our friendship with the anger.

The worst thing she did to me by far was lashing out at me when I moved down here by myself without my husband and kids. It was the scariest time of my life. She called me all kinds of names, said she hoped I’d fail, said my husband and kids would suffer because of my selfishness, said I didn’t belong in Texas because Texas doesn’t like moochers, compared raising money to move out of an economically dead place to trying to get people to pay for a vacation, etc.

I needed someone to encourage me and to help me be strong and brave. She could have had what she wanted most–me living in the same area as her again–if she would have been supportive. But instead she was incredibly jealous that people were helping me financially and her jealousy kept her from behaving like a real friend.

When I finally reached out to her again a couple years later and I tried to address that, she apologized but also said it was “just a childish temper fit.” I still felt like she didn’t really get how wounded I was that she abandoned me during the scariest time of my life (well, before my husband got cancer) and when I most needed to be brave.

I needed her to understand that her “childish temper fits” were threatening our friendship. Every time our friendship would break up, it was the result of one of her temper fits. Those childish temper fits were extremely hard to tolerate, and I’m certain they’re the reason several of her other friendships have ended as well. I needed her to acknowledge that the childish temper fits weren’t normal and to really work on trying to get her anger under control. I needed her to grow up.

I’m saying none of this to be mean. I’m still sad and contemplative about the whole thing. I still look honestly at myself and what role I played in it. But sometimes being on the receiving end of a childish temper fit isn’t your fault, and that’s the part I keep struggling with. I have a misguided understanding of loyalty.

I still miss her and I miss the times that were good. I wish she were self-reflective enough to give me a genuine apology and I wish I were forgiving enough to accept it without reservations. But that’s a pointless wish, because she never once reached out to me to apologize after one of our fights. That left me feeling like she didn’t care or miss me or regret her actions.

If I give her the utmost benefit of the doubt, maybe she did recognize the depth of how much she hurt me and felt too ashamed to reach out. But it doesn’t matter because I won’t ever get that apology.

I’m at a stage in my life where I’m legitimately trying to get better. I’m examining my roles in everything, including the things I do that aren’t so good. I’m not afraid to look honestly at myself and try to change. I have the humility to admit when I’m wrong. But I need other people in my life who are also doing the same work on themselves. It’s not always easy to find that.

One of the things she said to me was that I’d always be lonely because I didn’t know how to be a friend, because I didn’t want to discuss our problems all the time. And you know, she was right: I am lonely. I do have other friends and those friendships are calm and stable and we talk about our problems less often, but I don’t get as much time to talk to them.

So yes, I’m lonely. I dare say the same is probably true of her as well.

Rust Belt reflections: why class mobility is so tough

When you grow up in a blue-collar family in an impoverished neighborhood, class mobility can be tough.

When you go to a magnet school for gifted kids, you’re told that you’ll automatically be successful because you’re smart. I’ve written before about why I think gifted education is ultimately damaging, but this is about why class mobility has more to do with factors other than just intelligence.

One of the most important is the body of knowledge that you don’t have and can’t get because it isn’t in books. I remember reading a book from the library repeatedly when I was in elementary school and it was about etiquette. It taught the basics about manners, but it was ultimately aimed at children.

It said nothing about what you’re supposed to bring to a housewarming party, for example. Now I know that a bottle of wine is standard, but what if all you can afford is cheap wine? Is that worse than not bringing anything?

I didn’t grow up knowing when it was expected to send flowers, such as in terms of funerals. I didn’t know the meaning of flowers either, and sent my parents a peace lily for an anniversary. Imagine my embarrassment to discover the fact afterwards that a peace lily is often sent after someone dies. But I just had no way of knowing.

Another thing you don’t learn when you grow up blue-collar is about the importance of social capital. My sister’s kids will have this in spades because they’re on a ton of sports and their dad (my brother-in-law) is by now in middle management for a large corporation. My brother-in-law is also very outgoing and he’s good at schmoozing, which helps. Neither my husband nor I have that trait.

But my husband and I both grew up in blue-collar families with parents who lacked college degrees. They didn’t explain to us how to network, how to form the connections that lead to jobs, or how to manage finances. I knew almost nothing about money because my parents felt it wasn’t my business. My husband’s parents taught him to save money and to avoid debt, but had unrealistic suggestions on how to do that. (Example: they thought that when we got married, we should put all of my earnings into savings. My husband only made $6 dollars an hour at the time, so we needed my income to live on.)

Not knowing how to make connections, I’ve often struggled with even knowing who to list as personal or professional references for jobs. I still feel like it’s a great imposition to ask someone to be a reference for me and I often shy away from doing so.

None of this is intended to blame my parents, though. Networking and social etiquette weren’t as required in their world. They came of age in a time where you could go to work in a factory right after high school and make good money. Some of it is also my own fault, for not having long tenure at jobs or making a positive impression on bosses (often because of my health.)

My husband and I have been hampered, however, by our lack of networking skills and relative introversion. My husband has a much more solid resume than I do and he works very hard. His employers always think highly of him and he has no shortage of people willing to be references for him. But not having the social capital or the outgoing personality, he doesn’t get the promotions that his work would otherwise merit.

My youngest is college-bound and is pretty high-achieving. Although he was never in sports and is also a bit introverted, I’m trying to teach him the things I didn’t know.

I’m telling him that this year, his junior year of high school, is absolutely critical in determining his college direction. He’s really devoting himself to his PSAT prep classes and he’s signed up for a heavy load of tough classes this year.

I’m telling him that getting jobs after graduating college depends a lot on the relationships he makes during college and that he needs to seek out mentors. I’m already brainstorming ways that he can address his relative lack of extracurricular activities in college admissions essays.

He has access to information that I did not. I got accepted to a fairly affordable state college right after high school. Not knowing how to pay for it, my parents suggested I go to the bank and apply for a loan. Unsurprisingly, the bank turned me down, and that was the end of that.

I’m talking to my son about ways of paying for college, letting him know to apply at more than one school (even ones that seem like relative long shots), talking to him about scholarships.

In his turn, he’s asking me questions that were the same ones I had, some of which my parents didn’t know the answers to. Like how credit hours work and how many you take in a semester. What exactly is covered by “tuition.” How to manage your time when you’ve got a lot of classes and a lot of stuff due at once.

Understanding the importance of social capital is something I’ve only recently begun to realize myself. So now that I know, I’m trying to teach my kids. Hopefully they will have the tools to become more successful than I was.

Rust Belt reflections: The road I almost took

I finished reading Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance and it left quite an impression on me. I realized that it made me think about so many things I encountered in my upbringing that were similar, and there’s no way I could fit all of it into one post. So I’m breaking it down chunk by chunk.

Why Hillbilly Elegy was so significant and thought-provoking to me is because I grew up in a similar environment in the Rust Belt. My parents provided a stable environment, just depressed and inconsistent in their attention. I didn’t get much emotional support and didn’t learn how to develop social capital (more on that in another post), but I did at least have a stable home life and learning wasn’t discouraged.

Unlike JD Vance, I never had to deal with frequent upheavals and abuse in my childhood. But I certainly witnessed it in others in my extended family and even more so in my neighborhood.

Certain characteristics of generational poverty don’t change wherever you are. My parents were just above the poverty line for much of my childhood. I knew many people who were well below it in my neighborhood. It was weird going to a magnet school where kids had things I did not, like lots of lessons and engaged parents and nice clothes, since it was so opposite of what I was surrounded by in my home neighborhood.

I realized acutely while reading the book that I had one year of my life at age 18 when I was very close to slipping into a life of poverty and chaos. It scares me to think of how close I was–and how I could have turned out very differently.

When I was 18, I had this head-over-heels swept away sort of relationship with Jon F. We fell hard and fast for each other and moved in together within a month of meeting.

It was doomed from the start. He was technically homeless, and soon I was, too. We couch surfed our way through his various relatives and family friends, never staying anywhere for more than a couple weeks at one. It was usually some kind of ugly screaming match between him and his relatives that led to us moving on.

That was the first time I learned that some families don’t just stuff their emotions but express them loudly and irrationally. Arguments were laced with profanity, even with little children present. They threw dishes and glasses at each other. There was a lot of very ugly name-calling.

Although I tried to stay out of the way because I didn’t know these people and I was scared, I was often referred to in these arguments as Jon’s “slut girlfriend, just like all the others.” Sometimes they called me a cunt, even though I barely said a word and tried to stay out of their way. I remember being called a high and mighty bitch because I wanted to take a shower.

The cops were called on more than one occasion but no one ever got arrested. I still remember the haunted faces of some of the little kids as the screaming matches wore on. Like me, they seemed to want to escape. I wonder where they are now.

We stayed with Jon’s nuclear family for a while, and that’s where I really saw true violence. Siblings would get in fist fights with each other. Sometimes they’d try to drag me into it but I’ve always been a wuss and I just tried to hide. I remember Jon’s dad waking up in the middle of the night several times, screaming and waking everyone up. Apparently he had pretty bad PTSD from Vietnam and often had nightmares about it. But his reaction to the nightmares was to take it out on his kids and wife. It was definitely physical assault.

Two of his kids were over 18, including Jon. But in a weird sort of misplaced loyalty, they seemed afraid to leave each other. The kids would commit crimes and cover up for each other. By that point, all my belongings were in a trash bag for easy portability in case we suddenly had to leave again. Jon’s sisters regularly rifled through my stuff, stealing whatever they wanted. They also stole from local stores just to get some food.

Jon’s 14-year-old brother smashed out my car window and stole my car. His parents knew he did it but there were no consequences. It didn’t occur to me to call the police, either; already I’d begun to understand the social codes expected of me.

What I remember most about that house is that it was in shambles and there was never any food. The house was a mess because nobody cared to clean it, even though none of them had a job. And when I say there was never any food, I don’t mean that there was food in the cupboard that nobody wanted to eat. I mean that I remember a several-week span where the only thing in the cupboard was an open bag of spaghetti that Jon said to avoid because it had bugs in it.

It was around that time that I remember my dad sneaking over to see me and bringing me a 10-pound bag of potatoes and some oranges, saying that it least it would be something. I never told my parents how I was living but it wasn’t hard to assume, either. Jon’s family (and Jon himself, I came to find out) was pretty well-known for their shady and often criminal behavior.

Near the end, we were actually literally homeless. We were squatting in a vacant apartment with no electricity or running water. I remember that was winter because it was really cold without heat. We used the back porch as a makeshift refrigerator, packing snow around a couple small things we had for food.

Finally, I started to want out. We found an apartment to live in for free because it was otherwise considered not suitable for renting, and also because the landlord thought I was cute and that I should leave Jon. At least we had running water, heat and electricity again. And it was just around the block from where the first coffee shop in town opened up.

I got a part-time job. I first met my now-husband at that coffee shop. He and a lot of other kids from the coffee shop would hang out at our apartment when the shop closed up for the night. I remember my now-husband taking my side when Jon drank up all the milk I had purchased and didn’t save any for me.

While I was out working, Jon got himself permanently banned from the coffee shop. He also didn’t have a job, so he started having sex with Mrs. P., the married mom of one of our friends, for money and food. When I objected, he said I was being unreasonable because he got two cans of root beer from Mrs. P. and was thoughtful enough to give one to me.

A couple months later, I humbled myself and asked to move back in with my parents. They took me in and soon I had both a full time job as a receptionist and a part time job cleaning offices. Still, my dad suggested I also get a third-shift job in addition (which I never did.) I don’t think my parents ever knew what my life had been like in that year. They just wanted me to work and not be a mooch.

I also realize that my life that year is why it has always been so important to me to donate both food and feminine hygiene products to food banks and shelters. Jon’s parents bought cartons of cigarettes for all their kids, including me, even while there was no food in the house, on welfare check days and Christmas. That was the extent of how they took care of people.

I remember many times returning bottles and cans for the deposit money so I could accumulate enough dimes to get a box of tampons. I remember going to food banks and getting expired cans of stuff clearly nobody wanted to eat.

I realize how close I came to having Jon and his family’s way of life become my own. If I had stayed with him longer, I think I would have eventually become like that, too. I’m grateful that I didn’t get pregnant because otherwise I’d be tied to him forever.

I heard through the grapevine some years later that he did father a child, though he didn’t pay child support because he couldn’t hold down a job for long. The one time his kid was left with him as a toddler, Jon tried to get him high.

The story of his family was many generations deep and it would be a sociological study in itself to unravel why and how they came to be that way. Sure, learned helplessness was part of it, but it was also laziness. Literally no one in their household of five had a job. They constantly made one bad choice after another.

The scary thing is how I started to sink into it myself. I’m still relieved that I got out, that I made the choice to swallow my pride and go back to my parents. Taking some responsibility for myself was one of the significant differences between me and Jon’s family.

Tattoos

Totally unrelated to anything I think I’ve ever written about, but I got another tattoo yesterday. Depending on how you count them, it was either number 10 or 11. (I have a phrase that has part of the words on one foot and the other part on the other foot.)

I got my first tattoo when I was 18 while I was still in high school. My mom was very displeased with it, even though I was of legal age.

Over the years, I continued to get more every couple of years. I mostly got phrases, spiritual symbols, or things that were otherwise meaningful to me. One of my favorites was the Buddhist dharma wheel I had tattooed on my left ankle, which I had done before I had kids.

But one of my upper arm tattoos that I’d gotten when I was young was not well done and it always embarrassed me. I never wanted to wear tank tops or sleeveless dresses because I was embarrassed about it. Earlier this year, I took a chunk of my back pay from Social Security and got that tattoo covered up and another one on the opposite arm, so now I happily wear tank tops again, which is nice in the Texas heat.

But the tattoo I got yesterday is probably the most significant of all because it represents me and my little family. (It’s also the largest tattoo I’ve ever gotten.) I think I’ve mentioned before that my husband’s nickname for me is little bird, so this is what I got:

The three smaller birds on the bottom represent my three kids, who were really into birds as little kids. I already had a small tattoo of the three little birds, but my tattoo artist expanded it to incorporate them.

The idea for a tattoo that said “lucky little bird” popped into my head a month or two ago and I knew without a doubt that it was the perfect tattoo for me. And I’m so beyond thrilled with how it turned out.

I really do feel like I’m a “lucky little bird” and it felt so fitting to have my largest tattoo be one that honors my marriage and my kids.

I also really liked the symbolism of having them be blue birds, because blue birds represent happiness and hope.

The cherry blossom branches symbolize spring and renewal, but cherry blossoms are also known as sakura in Japan. They also symbolize that life is beautiful but short. My husband and kids are all really into Japanese culture so it further reminds me of them.

I’ve always felt that tattoos should be deeply meaningful and significant to the person wearing them. People can obviously do whatever they want, but I think tattoos are more meaningful when they have a deep personal meaning, compared to ones like say the Tasmanian devil from the Warner Bros. cartoons or a giant rose. I’ve never wanted a tattoo that you’d see on too many other people.

Even though I have so many tattoos, I don’t look heavily tattooed. Both my arms and ankles and the insides of both wrists/forearms are tattooed, but they’re relatively small. I could cover them all up if I had to.

It may sound silly but this most recent tattoo was by far the most important of all because it represents what’s most important to me. Maybe in light of my husband’s cancer, it felt more significant to honor my relationship with him in such a permanent and prominently visible way. The artwork itself turned out beautiful, too. I’ll be proud to show it off–like a wedding ring you can’t ever take off.