Friday, February 27, 2015

Packing for Argentina, and saying NO MORE HOMEWORK via Divorced Moms

As much as I LOVE to travel, I HATE to pack! Since we leave for Buenos Aires on Monday, I can't put it off much longer. So today I am doing laundry and Sunday I'm packing. I can't believe our Big Trip is just a few days away! We have all our travel booked and I think we are ready. We even have an appointment at the Brazilian consulate in Buenos Aires in our attempt to get a fast Visa so we can tour the Brazilian side of Iguazu Falls. If that fails, we'll spend a rest day hanging out at the pool at our beautiful hotel instead and just see the Argentinian side of the falls.

Anyhoo... here is my latest via Divorced Moms. Enjoy! And happy Friday. Have a fabulous weekend, my dearest readers.

Best, Lizzy

NO MORE HOMEWORK! Putting My Foot Down & Recapture (Some) Sanity
by Lizzy Smith                    
February 27, 2015
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Before I even get started on this one, let me say that few things are more important to me than education and raising smart, intellectually curious, inquisitive children. And I really like my daughter's teacher. She is interesting, well traveled, and vivacious. But... last night, I had a nearly one hour chat with her and it got rather heated at one point. I told her that my nine-year old daughter and I were simply not doing all the homework she brings home every day anymore. Starting right now. I finally put my foot down. Giver her an F if you must, but this is too much for her.
…Here’s the background:
At just nine-years old (third grade), my daughter averages over two hours per night of homework and it’s not enough. She struggles with reading and what we ought to be doing is concentrating on that. But we can’t because the homework packet, which must be turned in every Friday, takes precedence. So she comes home and before I barely say hello, we open up her backpack and start powering through writing her spelling words four times, alphabetizing them, dividing them into syllables, writing sentences with them, reviewing her site word list, writing paragraphs, doing math pages… And that’s just the beginning. After two hours of this, there is simply no time or energy left to read, yet she’s supposed to read over an hour per night. Um… three plus hours of homework? For a nine year old?
Add to that, I signed her up for private tutoring for her reading issues. So that’s another half hour of school work. It is endless and she doesn’t have the emotional or mental capacity to spend a day in school and then come home and do hours more of homework. And neither do I. We are burned out, stressed out, annoyed and miserable.
What about time to talk, eat dinner together, cook together, or play and rest? Nope, there’s the homework packet. Most every day after school, she has swim lessons, which last about an hour. Do we sacrifice anything fun or physically good for her so we can sit in a home and write more sentences?
The final straw was a few weeks ago when my daughter brought home a packet for a project that all third graders were supposed to do. Pick an important historical person, read three books, look up at least one additional article on the Internet, write a report, memorize it to present in front of the class, do a poster and dress up as that person. And yet no mounds of the traditional homework were eased up in order to make room for this new, time-intensive project.
I was done. I talked it over with my daughter and we decided that we weren’t doing it. We had zero capacity to add anything else to our full plate. She would get an F and, at third grade, I didn’t care one iota. I cared more about her mental sanity, concentrating on her reading, and letting everything else go. Learning to prioritize at nine-years old is not a bad concept to teach. We also decided that from here going forward, we would read 40 minutes per night and then work for another 30 minutes on homework and stop. If she turned in incomplete homework packets, oh well.
I sent her teacher a text. “Thanks for the packet for a new assignment. Sounds interesting but we are declining. We are drowning and can’t take on any more work.”
Her teacher called me last night. “You want me to excuse Siena from this project but no other student?”
“You don’t need to excuse her. I’m simply letting you know we aren’t doing it. You can give her an F,” I said.
She was not happy. She doubted that we really spent as much time working on homework as I claimed. She asked me to go day-by-day on her homework list, which I did. She couldn’t argue with that. Do some teachers really not understand how much time it takes to get the work they pile on completed?
“Well maybe she shouldn’t be in after school activities,” she said.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

This myeloma warrior HATES chemo brain. And guess what? It's REAL!!!

From The Myeloma Crowd ( I'd go into more details but this says it all.

Don't forget!

And This Is Chemo Brain. We’re Not Making It Up!       


Just a week ago, someone ask me what chemo brain was like. Here’s an example. I’m in my car purchasing drinks for my daughters at the drive-thru at Beans & Brew. The barista tells me the total, I get the money out of my handbag and then I pick up my phone and start calling my best friend.
“Mom! You haven’t paid yet. Are you kidding?” my 14-year old daughter, Morgan, said.
I looked at her confused, then looked at my hand and there it was- the money. I forgot to pay.

Just minutes later, my nine-year old stops me as I’m driving home. “Mom, we are supposed to be going to the orthodontist!” Oh, yes, why am I driving home? We all laugh at crazy mom. Hahahaha.

There are conversations I’ve had with people that I don’t remember. I supposedly promise my children I’ll bring them lunch to school. I don’t remember that either. I put things on my phone calendar but I often forget to look at my calendar.

It’s not so awful that I can’t drive, travel, or enjoy life. But I’ve long stopped trying to hide the fact that I fish for names, can’t remember words, and show up for events on the wrong day. It’s just one more thing to blame on cancer. “Sorry, I have chemo brain!” I’m apt to say. And it’s not like I’m making it up. It’s true. It’s real. And it’s sometimes really annoying. Oh well, I’m alive!

But chemo brain isn’t simply forgetfulness. Heck, we all forget things, even if we don’t have cancer, dementia or Alzheimer’s. But it’s a fuzzy feeling that is often exacerbated by fatigue (thanks, myeloma and meds!). It’s not feeling sharp. When my daughter talks to me too fast and then someone else starts talking to me at the same time, I just can’t do it. I want to put my hands over my ears and scream “STOP!” I feel like 300 people are screaming at me at the same time. Sometimes even trying to remember things takes more energy than I have so I simply don’t. Some days (not all!), I have to really concentrate. Like my bedtime routine takes forever– take meds, put jammies on, wash face, put on lots of essential oils, turn on my electric heating pad, put my children to bed, read to my youngest child, brush teeth, get lunches ready in the morning… I finally made a list so that when chemo brain rages, I don’t have to “think,” I can just “do.” Just go down my trusty To Do list and give my cognitive thinking skills a rest.

So today when I stumble on an article in OncLive (Chemobrain—It’s Real, It’s Complex, and the Science Is Still Evolving), I am relieved. Just in case someone doubts me, I can send them a link and say I’m not making this up!

Apparently, chemo brain is most intense during treatment. However, since many of us myeloma survivors are in long-term treatment, we may not get the “benefit” of going back to baseline of how we were before illness.

But according to the study, some 30-percent of cancer patients also experience other emotional ailments associated with chemo brain, including depression, anxiety and distress during treatment. 30 to 60-percent also have insomnia, and poor concentration and memory.

No kidding! We cancer patients have been saying this all along. Now we have validation.
I found this example in the article very interesting:
In an early study exploring functional changes in the brain due to chemotherapy, [the researcher] asked twin, 60-year-old females, one of whom had been treated with chemotherapy, to perform a series of tasks while undergoing MRI. The resulting images documented areas of hyperactivity in the chemotherapy-treated twin relative to the untreated twin, which the authors interpreted as areas of deficits due to chemotherapy.Findings of several functional brain imaging studies have been reviewed and relative to “controls,” individuals treated with chemotherapy have been found to exhibit functional differences, including both areas of hyper- and hypoactivity during tasks, as well as differences in brain activity while the brain is at rest.In addition, structural differences have been noted as well. [Researchers] compared brain images of women with breast cancer, some of whom received chemotherapy and some did not, and found decreases in volume and density of both white and grey matter in the group treated with chemotherapy. Chemotherapy-related reductions in grey matter have also been correlated with impairment in cognitive abilities.
So what is someone with chemo brain to do? If you’re looking for a magic pill, it doesn’t exist. Exercise and socialization helps. For me, I write myself a lot of notes and try to do better with looking at my calendar many times a day. I tell people I have chemo brain and that’s why I forget stuff. And, well, I move forward in life, enjoy and make apologies when I mess up.
Here’s what the article says about help:
Healthcare professionals are urged to validate patient concerns, provide education, and to assess for contributing factors, including medications, depression, anxiety, pain, fatigue, substance abuse, and sleep disturbance. Although most patients eventually return to pretreatment baseline, a subset report significant impairment in quality of life, independence, and self-confidence. One of the most important things friends, family and caregivers can do is to provide emotional support by listening to the patient’s concerns and validating the existence of chemobrain. It is common for families, coworkers, and friends (and sometimes even healthcare professionals) to not understand that the emotional, physical, or cognitive effects of cancer treatment may linger after treatment has ended.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

I might be divorced but I believe in marriage-- and I'm taking the plunge again!

Since I'm getting married in October, I thought this was a great topic over at Divorced Moms. Enjoy!

Why This Divorced Mom Still Believes In
by Lizzy Smith
February 24, 2015
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I learned first-hand that marriage can be one horrific experience. I've said it a million times but I'll say it again: There are worse things than divorce and a bad marriage is one of them. And you never know if that "perfect" couple is happy or even functioning as a couple. I am sure that people thought my ex and I had that perfect marriage and home. They were wrong. And I know several friends who are in horrible marriage and divorce would be a celebration; their "never divorced" status is a tragedy. And in my case, once I earned my "Single" status, it was like I had received a big huge prize.

When my divorce was final, I celebrated by taking my boyfriend to a grand dinner. I was ecstatic. And since then, I've loved being single. I get to decorate my home how I want, go to bed when I feel like it, raise the girls how I believe they should be, pick my own vacations, develop and adhere to a budget that makes sense, and even decide how clean I want the house.
But... I still believe in marriage, big time. Call me an optimist but I believe that fairytales do exist, than true forever love is possible, and that marriages can be an amazing partnership. And as I've embarked in the dating world, I've caught glimpses of great men who, it appears, are capable of becoming terrific companions if all other things had lined up.

In a time where simply living together is acceptable, what makes marriage different? The legality of it all. It's easy to pack up your stuff and move in with a guy. And as committed as you both may be to the relationship, if it doesn't work out, you move on, hopefully without attorneys needed to unwind the legal contract that makes a marriage different. After all, marriage ultimately boils down to a legal contract between two adults, filed with the government. There are protections and responsibilities of both parties when it comes to marriage, and that's where lawyers come in when the contract must be dismantled. With a simple "cohabitation" agreement, this isn't necessary (there are exceptions, of course). And, really, there is something special with saying "this is my husband" as opposed to "this is my boyfriend."

As a cancer survivor, I know all too well that relationships (and my health) are the most important things in life. Developing and cultivating amazing relationships with those I love matters. And that's where marriage comes in. It is one of the most important relationships we can have.

As I summarize it, here are the reasons I still believe in marriage:

1. Forever companionship
There is something permanent about marriage. You work on a marriage more than you usually work on a relationship with a boyfriend. At least I do. If a boyfriend isn't working out, it's a sign to end it. But with a marriage, I work and work and work some more. Because we have already made that commitment that we are both vested in each other. And as two adults work on a relationship, live together, and share life, there is something incredibly special and bonding. Only marriage, for me, has provided that. Sharing illnesses, dreams, vacations, homes-- it all takes on a different level of importance than a simple "boyfriend-girlfriend" status. And, truly, if I'm dating a guy for a very long time and he's not wanting to marry me (or I him), what are we doing? There's reasons why people don't take the plunge and usually they're called "warning signs." I still don't know how long is reasonable to date (or even live together) before a relationship can be determined "dead" or "stagnant"-- each is different. But if a few years have passed and you're not moving forward, that says everything you need to know about the relationship.

2. The public designation
I love saying "my husband." There is something powerful and unique with that word and what it says to society. You are now a team. And if you're in a good, functioning marriage, that "team" is amazing. Legally, my husband makes all kinds of decisions for the two of us, and vice versa. That matters.

Keep reading...

Monday, February 23, 2015

What I want is to see my dad

This is what I just noticed on my daughter's bedroom wall. While I can't change Rob, I can pray that his choices and behavior won't prevent Morgan from loving without boundaries,  knowing that some men are trustworthy and selfless, and not every guy is going to hurt and vanish, that addiction is immoral and evil, and too many things are beyond our control.  But we can learn and do things differently.  Because that's the right thing to do. Period.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Friday musings from Myeloma Road (And the power of NO via Divorced Moms)

Liz Lizette Smith Nielsen's photo.
Well color unhappy. I am sick again. I had a horrible cough/cold/fever about a month ago. I got well. And on Sunday, I got sick again. Horrible cough/cold/fever. I think my head is going to burst. My eyes ache. I am tired, brain-fuzzy, and achy. I am living on cold medicine and Tylenol for my pounding head. I am sleeping, resting, and still trying to drive my children around to the gajillion activities that I over-scheduled them for. William is awesome. He's helping me a ton. Plus he's just being kind, making dinner, surprising Morgan yesterday by taking lunch to her and dropping it off at school for no reason at all. Buying Siena a gardening kit that the two of them will do together. She is ecstatic and in her prayers last night talked about it. My parents are also back from their 17-day trip to the South Pole but my mother is sick, too, and my dad's back is out. Nonetheless I'm trilled they're back and love hearing stories about their trip. Seriously, I don't know what I would do without my support structure, my mom, dad, William, my children, and so many friends (countless friends) that seem to be growing each day. For them, I am so grateful.

Anyway, back to me. Thanks to all the myeloma maintenance drugs I'm on, I'm immune compromised. Which means that if there's a virus in the vicinity, I'm getting it. So today I'm at clinic at Huntsman Cancer Institute awaiting blood work and cultures. Today is typically my Velcade day but I really feel it's time to give my body a rest. I am advocating today when my PA Mary comes in that I take three weeks off of Velcade, still take Thalidomide, and start taking huger doses of Vitamin C. I am just tired, worn out, exhausted and fatigued. It's time to start some serious healing.

Which brings me to a happier topic. William and I leave for Buenos Aires in just 10 days. I am really bummed because we didn't realize that we needed a Visa for Brazil. So while it looks like we are flying from Buenos to Iguazu Falls for three days, we must stay on the Argentina side unless we can somehow get Visas while in Buenos Aires for Argentina, which I am told is possible. This trip is getting pricier by the minute and you know what? I don't even care. I mean, I'm not a wealthy woman swimming in pools of money, but this trip is going to create new memories and experiences to last an eternity.

And on to another similarly related cancer note, I wrote my column on Divorced Moms about the importance of learning to say NO. This is universal, cancer survivor, warrior, single mom, dad, caregiver... We can't do it all, nor should we try. Here's an excerpt.

Happy weekend, Lizzy

Putting Ourselves First. We Moms Need To Say NO More Often
by Lizzy Smith                     
February 19, 2015
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A few weeks ago, I met a fellow cancer warrior, “Mindy”. She was recently diagnosed and, as one can imagine, she’s scared, overwhelmed, and not feeling well. We spent an afternoon talking for two hours. In that conversation, Mindy lamented about all the responsibilities she had in her life. Kids, husband, church, neighbors, friends… Endless. And now all these dang time-intensive treatments that loomed ahead!

Case in point: Mindy is a volunteer for an organization she loves but she doesn’t feel she has the time or energy to stay involved anymore. When she mentioned it to the powers-that-be, the guy kind of blew her off. She was frustrated. I stopped her right there. It was time to learn the word No. Simple, two letter, easy-to-spell, easy to pronounce NO. She needed to call the guy back up and say “I can’t do this anymore.” End of story. No apologies, no excuses, no guilt. If her kids needed something that wasn’t essential, the answer must be NO. If a neighbor asks a favor, the answer is NO. It’s ok. When you’re fighting for your life, finally, we become number one priority. And, really, it should always be this way. If we aren’t taking care of ourselves, what good are we to anyone else?

That means all of us. In a failing marriage, dating again, single, being a mom, an employee, daughter or sister, member of the community, in a church or other volunteer organization… Our needs must always matter. But I think we women forget it all too often and typically we put ourselves last, to our own detriment.

It is illogical why it took me some 44 years to become comfy with saying No. Before getting cancer and marching my sick ass out of an abusive marriage, “No” was only used under dire circumstances. I was, after all, a people pleaser and the word No was terrifying to me. I wanted everyone to like me and to think my life was perfect. I worked really super hard at accomplishing this. Here are some examples:

From my then-boyfriend (now my ex-husband)
“Let’s buy this big huge house.” My answer: Yes. The answer I wanted to give was No, I don’t want that house, it’s too big, too expensive, I love my little condo. With Yes, I am now financially tied to you and I don’t even love you. So we bought a big huge house together. I hated it. Oh well, gotta say YES anyway so I can please this guy I don’t care about. (Stupid, I know.)

“Will you marry me?” My answer: Yes. What I really wanted to say was No! I don’t love you. It’s too soon. But I put on that white dress and said “I do” anyway.

From my former in-laws
“Can you host Thanksgiving dinner for the family this year?” Me: “Of course! And before everyone arrives, I’ll single-handedly clean the house, do all the grocery shopping, and fix every side dish, main dish, and dessert by scratch! When we’re all done, I’ll clean the house until it’s perfect all by myself before going to bed at 1:00 AM.”

From my employer
“I know we promised you that this new job would enable you to leave the office every night by 5:30 but we weren’t exactly honest. We expect you to work about 55 hours per week. Oh, and by the way, can you take on this new video project?” My answer: Sure! Who cares that I have a child who was left alone after soccer practice for almost 45-minutes before I could there. Or that I no longer sleep at night. You need me to do something, of course I will!

From my church
“We need you to help with the Young Women’s program every Wednesday night from 6:30-9:00.” Me: “Sure. I hardly have time to pee but I’ll fit that right in—with a smile on my face.”

I could go on and on but you get my drift. I said yes to everyone and guess who suffered most? Me. I felt the brunt of that awful word in full force. Overwhelmed, stressed out, unhappy, living a life I hated.

When I got sick, I started saying NO often. And guess what? The Earth didn’t fall off its axis. Here are some examples of how that worked.

From my now ex-husband
“Get your ass home or I will cancel your health insurance.” Me: “No.”

“Accept this settlement offer or I’ll cut the children out of my life.” Me: “No, I don’t negotiate with terrorists.”

Keep reading...

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The vanishing dad. Telling my girls 10 things so they won't forget him

Morgan Nielsen's photo.
Morgan posted this photo of her and her dad. She was so little then-- just nine years old. She loved to play with the lobsters Rob would get from the ocean during opening lobster weekend. Here we were at San Elijo Beach, California. Rob decided to vanish from the girls' lives during our divorce. I wrote about it in today's Divorced Moms column. Here is the excerpt.

Parenting Broken Hearted Children. Memories of the Vanishing Dad
by Lizzy Smith                    
February 17, 2015
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My nine-year old daughter, Siena, and I just finished reading the book Because of Winn-Dixie. What a beautiful story, we absolutely loved it. Opal, the main character, is abandoned by her mother, who was an alcoholic. Opal doesn't remember much of her and she finally gets the courage to ask her dad to tell her 10 things about her mother. He does and she writes them down and memorizes them so she won't forget them. As we were reading this section of the book, Siena started talking about her dad. "I haven't seen or talked to Daddy in a long time," she said.

"I know," I responded. My ex-husband, Rob the Great (Alcoholic) abandoned the two girls when we split because it was all too stressful for him. It broke my heart then and, as I watch them struggle with their feelings of him, it hurts even more now.

A few months ago, 14-year old Morgan texted her dad and Rob didn't bother responding. "Why does he hate me?" she said in tears. "What did I do to him that he doesn't ever even want to talk to me?"
What could I say? I hugged her. "You've done nothing wrong. It's him. We will never understand what goes on in his alcoholic head. I can't change him, no one can. And I am so sorry."

So, like Opal's dad in Because of Winn-Dixie, when Siena asked that I tell her and Morgan ten things about their dad so they don't completely forget him, I did. And here they are:

1. He loved the ocean. There was really nothing that brought Rob joy like going fishing, diving or boating. The ocean was his happy place and perhaps the only time I ever saw him at peace. He took Morgan on a few fishing trips. One such trip was a charter for two nights. It freaked me out because there was a major storm expected and I also knew that Rob would probably be drinking like a fish (pun intended) and I feared for her physical safety. Nonetheless, the two of them went and had a great time. Morgan still talks about that trip. Rob often came home with lobsters that were still alive and the girls would play with them before Rob cleaned them and we ate them for dinner.

But the stories aren't always positive. One evening, I picked up Siena from after-school care and she had a horrible red and bleeding eye. Turns out, she injured it at school and I needed to take her to urgent care immediately. It was awful and scary. I started calling Rob because I needed help with picking up Morgan, getting prescriptions filled, walking the dogs, and getting the children food for dinner. He was supposed to be at an AA meeting. I called him again and again and again and there was no answer. I started getting worried. Where was he? Finally, he showed up at almost 9:30 at night. He wasn't at his AA meeting, he had gone out diving and stopped by his favorite drinking establishment, The San Diego Brewing Company and was quite inebriated, sucking on a mint to hide the smell of alcohol. Oh the mints! It was my sure-fire way to know that he had been drinking.

2. He loved Disneyland, Universal Studios, Knotts and Sea World. Rob is like a big kid. He loves amusement parks and anything that kids generally like. Part of our household budget involved saving money for a yearly Disneyland trip that was really pricey because we stayed at the Disneyland Hotel and went all out on food and fun. One year, he secured lunch for us at an exclusive restaurant at the park, Club 33, through his employer, the local utility company. Our lunch for three adults and two children without alcohol was $750. It was crazy. We also had annual passes to Sea World, Knotts and Universal Studios.

3. He loved family Jacuzzi nights. Those evenings when we sat in our Jacuzzi threw my entire schedule off. I had it all down to the minute-- homework, walk dogs, make and eat dinner, help with homework, baths, dry hair, reading time, snack time, tuck kids into bed and read them a story, prayers, clean the kitchen. And when Rob would say, "Get your swimsuits on. It's family Jacuzzi night!" my heart sank because it meant that either homework or bedtime didn't happen, which totally stressed me out. But Rob never worried about things like that and he accused me of being boring, which I suppose I was. He definitely had the pleasure principle down to a science. I often envied his "who cares" attitude in life. The house is a mess. Who cares? The kids need help with homework. Who cares? We have a budget to live within. Who cares? I cared about everything, he worried about nothing (except when he would be getting his next drink).

4. He loved the San Diego Brewing Company. I hated that place. It was where Rob went to get drunk with his "friends." The food was disgusting but the girls loved it because the bartender and cocktail waitresses were so nice to them. Siena still talks about it.

Keep reading... 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Divorced Moms column: The perfect gift and fun idea for Valentine's day (or any time)? Yummy, delicious fondue!

My latest via Divorced Moms. Enjoy!

Show "I Love You" With Chocolate Fondue (Yum!)
by Lizzy Smith                    
February 12, 2015
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valentine fondue.jpg
Over the weekend, I was racking my brain for a fun, unique way to show my love on Valentine's day. And then I had an epiphany-- something delicious, interactive, different fun. My gosh, there it was in front of me, chocolate fondue! Seriously, I'm not a big fondue girl. I love it but I never make it or think about it. But I stumbled upon the cutest fondue set on Amazon, and I thought why not? Talk about creative!
  • For my daughters, it's a fun, interactive way to enjoy desert
  • For my guy, what is sexier than feeding each other chocolate drenched strawberries?
  • For my girlfriend who just had a painful breakup, it's a great way to show her (and her children) that I'm thinking of her
And the fondue set isn't just for Valentine's day-- I can use it any time. So I placed my order and got my set yesterday. While I had alone time, I tried it out and it was amazingly delicious and I can't wait to surprise the people in my life with fondue over the weekend. And the next time I throw a dinner party, guess what we are having for dessert?

Liz's Chocolate Fondue Recipe
valentine fondue3.jpg
-1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
-1 cup of whipping cream
-1/4 cup of sugar
-2 bags of chocolate chips, 12 oz (you can opt for milk chocolate chips, dark or semi-sweet). I always buy Guittard Chocolate Chips because I find the quality second to none. (Plus my good friend's family owns the chocolate company!) For this recipe, I went for milk chocolate chips
-orange essential oil or vanilla or other flavoring/liqueur (I only by Doterra essential oils because you can ingest them. If you buy essential oils, make sure you can ingest them because you can't always do so-- quality matters!)

In a saucepan, combine the cocoa powder and water over low heat. Stir frequently until combined and just barely warm (about two minutes). Stir in the whipping cream and sugar; turn up your stovetop to medium high (about seven). Stir frequently until it simmers (do not boil). Add the chocolate chips and stir until they melt and is thoroughly mixed together. Add a few drops of orange essential oil, liqueur of your choice, or vanilla. You can also stir in peanut butter, which gives it a really different taste.
valentine fondue2.jpg
Add to your mini crockpot or mini fondue set to keep warm. For dippers, try bananas, strawberries, apples, oranges, pineapple, mango, brownies, pound cake, sugar cookies, marshmallows. You can also add nuts, like cashews or walnuts.

So this is how my Valentine's weekend is planned out.

Keep reading

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Meeting fellow Utah myeloma warriors. Cancer sucks but we survivors and amazing


Meeting Fellow Myeloma Warriors. I Hate Cancer, But I Love My Fellow Survivors


Thanks to Facebook, Twitter (@lizzysmilez1), and my blog (, my myeloma journey has brought amazing people into my life. I’ve said this a million times before, I wouldn’t wish cancer on anyone. Except… well, it’s put me on a whole new road in life. Before cancer, I worked a lot, had a failing marriage, was trying to raise two young children, had two dogs, two homes, and I was so busy I didn’t enjoy much of anything. I was on auto pilot: wake up early, get dogs fed, get dressed, get kids ready for school, make them breakfast, wonder where my drunk husband was, drop off kids at school, go to work (but first battle an hour of traffic), work work work, rush home (more traffic), feed and walk dogs, make dinner, do dishes, help kids with homework, try to spend time with my children, try to ignore my screaming drunk husband, get kids to bed, clean the house, pay bills, rent out our vacation home, try to get to bed before midnight, sleep. Wake up the next morning. Repeat. Yuck.

And then I got cancer and my world changed. So did my focus in life. These days, life is about health, my children, my loved ones, and experiencing life. I want to make a difference in the world and find joy and meaning. And I’m doing just that (or at least I’m trying).

So thanks to Facebook, few weeks ago, several of us in a myeloma group realized that we were all in the Salt Lake City area. We decided to meet up for breakfast, which took place last Friday in American Fork, Utah. At our breakfast was me, plus four other myeloma warriors, one dad of a patient, and an identical twin sister who donated her stem cells to her sister for a stem cell transplant. And this myeloma diagnosis that tends to affect older African American men? I wasn’t seeing it. All five of us myeloma warriors were women in our forties. Lucky us I suppose. There was…

-Me: Diagnosed at age 44 in January 2012, had tandem auto stem cell transplants, currently in stringent remission (knock on wood), and on indefinite maintenance therapy of Velcade-Dex-Thalidomide.

-Jenny: Diagnosed at age 43, had tandem auto stem cell transplants, currently in stringent remission, and not currently on maintenance therapy.

-Heidi: Diagnosed in her forties, had a single auto stem cell transplant, and is currently in remission.

-Jessica: Randomly discovered she has smoldering myeloma and has not yet had any treatment. She is being closely monitored.

-Michelle: Diagnosed just a month after her wedding in 2014. She just finished up a syngeneic stem cell transplant (her identical twin sister donated her stem cells, which is like getting your own stem cells back, only better because there are no myeloma sleeper cells lurking in there).

Also in attendance was Michelle’s dad (her primary caregiver) and her twin sister/donor who was visiting from Arizona.

A few take-aways from our breakfast:

– It is interesting to chat with myeloma patients who are still on some kind of medication. All of us have short-term memory issues. We would chatting mid-sentence and search for words and simply forget what we were talking about. Chemo brain- it’s real! It’s that “foggy” sensation, not feeling sharp, and simply forgetful. Kind of comical (if there is such a thing in the cancer world).

-Cancer brought out strength in all of us that we didn’t realize we had. Yep, there in our reserves of strength lies more mojo than we ever thought possible.

-Each of our paths to diagnosis is — searching for the right word here — “uncanny”. In Jessica’s case, who has smoldering myeloma, it was caught by “accident.” Because she is aware that she must be monitored, this should hopefully bode well for her overall health. As we know, myeloma attacks bone and organs. Treating it before there are complicating factors matters. I pray Jessica never needs treatment but thank goodness she’s under medical care to watch carefully. For the rest of us, it was almost like God (or if you’re not spiritual, a higher power) helped prepare us for the tough journey ahead.

-We had amazing support from those around us. How quickly we realize who are friends and loved ones are. And without our caregivers and supporters, fighting this disease is far harder.

-While the myeloma journey can be really difficult, there is healing– physical and emotional. Things can get better. I look at Michelle who is just barely out of transplant and doesn’t feel all that great. I reminded her that her hair will grow back, she will feel better, and that she will find joy, meaning and even fun on the other side. As a newly married, soon she can take a great honeymoon to celebrate how far she’s come. I will never forget starting my myeloma journey. I felt horrible and I talked to a myeloma survivor one day on the phone who happened to be skiing and was driving down from the slopes during our conversation. I couldn’t fathom ever skiing again. My ribs were sore, I had no energy, and my upcoming treatment protocol took up a ridiculous amount of time. A year later, I was skiing. Heidi, who was at our breakfast, had her transplant some seven months ago. She’s been skiing three times so far this season. Life will never be the same for any of us, but it can be amazing, wonderful, and ok in our “new normal.”

I hope that these messages were hopeful for our smoldering guest, Jessica. I hope she never progresses but it’s amazing, and helpful, to know that we are not alone in this battle.

So would I wish this cancer journey on anyone? Of course not. But here we are, making the best of it, supporting each other, and discovering a purpose in the midst of it all.

Monday, February 9, 2015

New babies, myeloma friends, and protecting our kids from bullies part II

My niece was born over the weekend-- the cutest little girl, Gianna. So the weekend has been crazy busy because I've had my 2-1/2 year old nephew with me. He is so dang cute and bonding with him has been very hectic, busy, but I wouldn't skip it for anything. So I can't write more at the moment because I have no time. Plus, chemo-based fatigue has been nuts Saturday and Sunday. It seems the last 48-hours I've operated in a total fog. I asked William if he can tell that I'm operating on about 40% brain power and he can't. Well thank goodness for that. That's one thing that sucks about having fatigue days-- it's hard to enjoy and live in the present when I can hardly remember most of it. I'll write more about this tomorrow. Because on Friday, I met up with several people I met via Facebook that are all Myeloma warriors or caregivers for breakfast. It was an amazing breakfast. I hate cancer and this journey has been, well, an "experience." But I love the people I've met along the way and I love finding my passion and making a difference in the world. Ok, my nephew wants attention so I must run. Happy Monday!

Protecting Our Kids From Bullies: 6 Ways We Moms Can Step In
by Lizzy Smith                    
February 09, 2015
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Fotolia_71485587_XS.jpgSeveral days ago, I wrote an article about how we can help make our children bully-proof. I mostly focused on encouraging our children to look their bullies in the face, ignore them and thrive. That, I said, would be one powerful way to take the bully's mojo away. And it's true-- it often works like a charm. If we give the bully what he or she wants (namely attention), it simply fuels the bully's innate desire to keep it up. And this is an important life lesson for our children, because they will confront bullies their entire lives-- in their friendships, sometimes from parents and family members, employers and co-workers, boyfriends, and husbands. Teaching our children to recognize a bully and how to protect themselves is a vitally important life skill.

But oftentimes, bullying is severe and the consequences terrible. Simply teaching them to walk away and ignore that behavior isn't sufficient. Then what?

In my experience, we moms can do to protect our children from bullies is to recognize they are being targeted. When I felt bullied, ignored and shamed during my seventh grade year, I didn't tell my parents. If I did, it would just pile on my perceived shame. Instead, I suffered in silence, trying to pretend all was fine at school. At least most of the kids ignored me and I just wanted to disappear. But I saw other kids in my school being called names in the hallways, pushed, shoved and even beaten up. I was sitting out in the lunch yard one day and a group of kids poured milk over the head of one of the students. I felt horrible for the boy and was so relieved that it wasn't me.

I often wonder if that boy's parents knew how badly their son was being terrorized at school. And if they did, what should they have done about it? What was their responsibility to step in? Do we parents go to the bully's parents, the school administrators, police? Do we confront the bully ourselves? This is where I hesitate, because often fighting our children's battles makes it worse.

First, having open and honest communication with our children is important. If we don't have a good, solid foundation of trust and respect with our kids, it'll be pretty hard to know what is going on in their lives and they'll rarely confide in us. So if you haven't already, start developing that relationship now. It's never too early or too late.

Second, ask your children about how their friendships are going at school. Are they arguing with friends, do they see children who are being left out of games during lunch and recess, who do they hang out with at lunch? It's amazing what information I get when I ask these questions both of my nine-year old and 14-year old daughters. Children, I've found, generally want to talk, they just need to be asked the right questions. I often drive my 14-year old daughter's friends home from school, too, and I ask them similar questions and they often give me an earful. Sadly, I think many of them tell me much more than they ever tell their parents.

Third, if we become aware that there is bullying, it's really important to stay on top of the it. Who is doing the bullying? Is there physical violence or threats? Does the offender text or Instagram hateful messages or do it publicly? Are other students joining in?

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Friday, February 6, 2015

Utah girl gets nearly booted from school dance for "naughty" dress, then gets cyberbullied by students. How do we teach our kids to give bullies the middle finger?

I just couldn't leave the whole Lone Peak High School "dress" controversy alone. I wrote an article about it via Divorced Moms.

Becoming Bully Proof: How To Help Our Children Get A Thick Skin
by Lizzy Smith                    
February 06, 2015
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gabi.jpgI live in Utah, a very conservative bastion of religious conservatives. A few weeks ago, a girl named Gabi made national headlines because some chaperons at a Lone Peak High School dance determined that she was dressed immodestly (she was showing too much shoulder) and she could either wear a coat or go home. (Gabi is pictured to the right wearing the dress and shoes in question. Seriously, I want that dress!!! But I digress.) Feeling humiliated in front of her date and not wanting to go home, she went out to her car and wore a winter coat throughout the entire dance, finally covered enough to satisfy the gatekeepers. Someone at the dance took a photo and posted it on a social media site and it went viral.

The next thing you know, Gabi was on local news programs, and then many national news outlets, including People magazine. In this heavily religious community, many defended the chaperons' decisions, noting that school rules required that straps be at least two inches in width and where was a ruler showing that those straps truly were two inches wide? And rules are rules, thank goodness for modesty because there needs to be standards and immodest girls tempt boys and lead to all the problems in the world. Others pointed out that Gabi looked beautiful and it was outrageous that a dress like this one would get anyone barred from a school activity.
Lone Peak dancers.jpg
A week later, my boyfriend and I went to that same high school for a basketball game. I wasn't even thinking about "dance-gate." About 30-minutes into the game, I noticed several girls who were dressed in 1950's-style dresses showing lots of shoulders and back. I started laughing and pointed it out, "Look, protestors for that girl who got kicked out of the dance." We laughed and thought it bold, awesome and creative.

And then I realized that those girls weren't protestors. They were the dance team of Lone Peak High School wearing school-approved attire that was far more "immodest" than Abby's dress. Wow. If there is one thing that gets under my skin like no other, it's hypocrisy-- especially on the heels of "the great Lone Peak High School controversy." And one in which its principal, Rhonda Bromley, defended that decision. (Honestly, I think the dancers' dresses are fine, and I think Gabi's dress is beautiful, demure and beyond ok for a high school dance, too.)

I took to Facebook and posted the photos I took at the basketball game. Most of my friends and followers thought the entire episode nuts. Yet some thought that the dancers were ok (it was a "sporting event") and Gabi a rule-breaker and her mother ought to be blamed for allowing her daughter to wear a dress like that.

I eventually started private messaging Gabi's mother, who I did not know prior to this first contact. She shared with me that Gabi was being bullied from some students. Gabi was called her a media-whore who just wanted attention, to get famous, and get on TV and in magazines. Gabi felt shamed and awful about the whole thing and so did her mom.

Lovely. I love religious piety (not).

Which got me to thinking about bullying. Growing up, there were students who were bullied. Some kids, for whatever reason, were picked on, beat up and teased. Oftentimes, there was no apparent reason behind it other than, well, "luck." And during seventh grade, I felt a little of that, too. I somehow lost almost all of my friends (I don't even know why) and spent a very lonely year almost alone, trying to hide in the bathrooms at lunch because my only friend, Virginia, might not have been at school that day. It was awful. But at least back then, in order to bully someone, you had to do it in person, usually with an audience watching. These days, thanks to social media, it's easy to anonymously bully. Plus, it's easy to say things in the cyber-world that one might never have the guts to say in person. I think bullying is intense and getting worse.

My then 13-year old daughter was the target of bullying last summer. I allowed her to get a second ear piercing and that, apparently, was not ok in these parts. She got anonymous messages on AskFM accusing her of being bad and not loving Jesus. Some told her no boy would ever like her and she was ugly and stupid because of that piercing. It was disturbing and disgusting.

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Thursday, February 5, 2015

Making Waves In Mormonville

I've decided that I'm done being silent. I am so tired of life in Mormon-ville that is so ultra conservative and not say something. I think a different opinion is sorely needed. (Before I go all negative, just know that I am grateful to live in Mormonville. I love the clean environment, the general kindness and innocence, and the desire to be better and do better. That said, some things are crazy and I just gotta share because I feel like it.) Anyhooo.... Here is the latest:

  • There was a girl at Lone Peak High School in Alpine, Utah who wore a "controversial" dress because it didn't have enough sleeves on in. She was told to either cover it up or go home. She spent the entire dance wearing a winter coat. This story made national headlines. A week later, William and I went to a Lone Peak basketball game and in walks several girls wearing back-baring dresses. Turns out, they were part of the high school dance team. Let's see, Hypocrites, one girl can't get in to a basketball game wearing the first dress pictured below because it's immodest (oh don't even get me started!) but it's perfectly ok for the girls in the photo below it to wear this while gyrating on the dance floor in front of a captive audience during half time at a basketball game. Wow.

  • Yesterday, I had a two-hour chat with a fellow cancer survivor. She was diagnosed just a few months ago. She is very conservative Mormon and she was lamenting to me that she asked her Bishop to release her from her calling (a calling is a more formal volunteer commitment for the church) because she wasn't feeling well. She is, after all, undergoing some heavy-duty treatment. She wondered where his compassion was. When she asked to be released, he said, "we'll talk about it" and then pretty much blew her off. I told her that she needed to take care of herself, no apologies, no debating it, no guilt. So it was ok to call up her bishop and say, "I'm not doing this calling anymore. I'm sick, I can't" and that's it. Same with the fact that her family was called a few weeks ago and asked to help clean the church. That's right, instead of paying for a cleaning service the church requires that each group of wards that meet in a particular building clean it once a week for free. The result is that the church saves loads of money and, depending on how well families feel like cleaning up and scrubbing, they can be really clean or super filthy. Anyway she felt bad that she physically couldn't clean. In which case I said that from here on out, when asked (or told) that it was her family's turn to help clean, she simply say no. End of story. If someone doesn't like it, in one ear and out the next. Who cares? She's fighting for her life, that's numero uno priority. Nothing else matters. I also told her that I drink coffee liberally, which is against the Mormon Word of Wisdom. Apparently in Utah, many who drink coffee for medicinal purposes get a prescription from their doctor and show it to their bishops so they are approved coffee drinkers. I've heard of this but what can I say? (after I'm left speechless) I'm 47 years old and I'm not getting a note to show my bishop. That's what's great about the whole "take care of myself, no apologies or excuses" thing. When one is battling illnesses and side effects, that's all that matters.
  • A friend of mine posted this disturbing article on Facebook and touted it as making strong arguments AGAINST gay marriage. (see below) After reading it, I decided that it had zero arguments against gay marriage and, instead, really makes arguments against divorce, adoption, adoption by single parents, anyone who doesn't offer their children a home with the original mom and dad in the picture (including causes of death, military service, and the like). Instead of being silent, I responded. As a divorced mom, I can attest that children are far better served in single homes and in homes of committed and loving gay couples than in "some" intact families. The ideal of original mom and dad raising only their biological children and those parents being good and faithful and amazing to each other and their family, is an ideal achieved by very few, from the beginning of time. If you're going to argue against gay marriage, at least make an argument that is logical.
Dear Justice Kennedy,

June is nigh, and with it will come your ruling on the most contentious political issue of our time: marriage.

I write because I am one of many children with gay parents who believe we should protect marriage. I believe you were right when, during the Proposition 8 deliberations, you said “the voice of those children [of same-sex parents] is important.” I’d like to explain why I think redefining marriage would actually serve to strip these children of their most fundamental rights.

It’s very difficult to speak about this subject, because I love my mom. Most of us children with gay parents do. We also love their partner(s). You don’t hear much from us because, as far as the media are concerned, it’s impossible that we could both love our gay parent(s) and oppose gay marriage. Many are of the opinion I should not exist. But I do, and I’m not the only one.

This debate, at its core, is about one thing.

It’s about children.

The definition of marriage should have nothing to do with lessening emotional suffering within the homosexual community. If the Supreme Court were able to make rulings to affect feelings, racism would have ended fifty years ago. Nor is this issue primarily about the florist, the baker, or the candlestick-maker, though the very real impact on those private citizens is well-publicized. The Supreme Court has no business involving itself in romance or interpersonal relationships. I hope very much that your ruling in June will be devoid of any such consideration.

Government Should Promote the Well-being of Children
Children are the reason government has any stake in this discussion at all. Congress was spot on in 1996 when it passed the Defense of Marriage Act, stating:
At bottom, civil society has an interest in maintaining and protecting the institution of heterosexual marriage because it has a deep and abiding interest in encouraging responsible procreation and child-rearing. Simply put, government has an interest in marriage because it has an interest in children.
There is no difference between the value and worth of heterosexual and homosexual persons. We all deserve equal protection and opportunity in academe, housing, employment, and medical care, because we are all humans created in the image of God.

However, when it comes to procreation and child-rearing, same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples are wholly unequal and should be treated differently for the sake of the children.

When two adults who cannot procreate want to raise children together, where do those babies come from? Each child is conceived by a mother and a father to whom that child has a natural right. When a child is placed in a same-sex-headed household, she will miss out on at least one critical parental relationship and a vital dual-gender influence. The nature of the adults’ union guarantees this.

Whether by adoption, divorce, or third-party reproduction, the adults in this scenario satisfy their heart’s desires, while the child bears the most significant cost: missing out on one or more of her biological parents.

Making policy that intentionally deprives children of their fundamental rights is something that we should not endorse, incentivize, or promote.

The Voices of the Children
When you emphasized how important the voices of children with gay parents are, you probably anticipated a different response. You might have expected that the children of same-sex unions would have nothing but glowing things to say about how their family is “just like everyone else’s.” Perhaps you expected them to tell you that the only scar on their otherwise idyllic life is that their two moms or two dads could not be legally married. If the children of these unions were all happy and well-adjusted, it would make it easier for you to deliver the feel-good ruling that would be so popular.
I identify with the instinct of those children to be protective of their gay parent. In fact, I’ve done it myself. I remember how many times I repeated my speech: “I’m so happy that my parents got divorced so that I could know all of you wonderful women.” I quaffed the praise and savored the accolades. The women in my mother’s circle swooned at my maturity, my worldliness. I said it over and over, and with every refrain my performance improved. It was what all the adults in my life wanted to hear. I could have been the public service announcement for gay parenting.

I cringe when I think of it now, because it was a lie. My parents’ divorce has been the most traumatic event in my thirty-eight years of life. While I did love my mother’s partner and friends, I would have traded every one of them to have my mom and my dad loving me under the same roof. This should come as no surprise to anyone who is willing to remove the politically correct lens that we all seem to have over our eyes.

Kids want their mother and father to love them, and to love each other. I have no bitterness toward either of my parents. On the contrary, I am grateful for a close relationship with them both and for the role they play in my children’s lives. But loving my parents and looking critically at the impact of family breakdown are not mutually exclusive.

Now that I am a parent, I see clearly the beautiful differences my husband and I bring to our family. I see the wholeness and health that my children receive because they have both of their parents living with and loving them. I see how important the role of their father is and how irreplaceable I am as their mother. We play complementary roles in their lives, and neither of us is disposable. In fact, we are both critical. It’s almost as if Mother Nature got this whole reproduction thing exactly right.

The Missing Parent
I am not saying that being same-sex attracted makes one incapable of parenting. My mother was an exceptional parent, and much of what I do well as a mother is a reflection of how she loved and nurtured me. This is about the missing parent.

Talk to any child with gay parents, especially those old enough to reflect on their experiences. If you ask a child raised by a lesbian couple if they love their two moms, you’ll probably get a resounding “yes!” Ask about their father, and you are in for either painful silence, a confession of gut-wrenching longing, or the recognition that they have a father that they wish they could see more often. The one thing that you will not hear is indifference.

What is your experience with children who have divorced parents, or are the offspring of third-party reproduction, or the victims of abandonment? Do they not care about their missing parent? Do those children claim to have never had a sleepless night wondering why their parents left, what they look like, or if they love their child? Of course not. We are made to know, and be known by, both of our parents. When one is absent, that absence leaves a lifelong gaping wound.

The opposition will clamor on about studies where the researchers concluded that children in same-sex households allegedly fared “even better!” than those from intact biological homes. Leave aside the methodological problems with such studies and just think for a moment.

If it is undisputed social science that children suffer greatly when they are abandoned by their biological parents, when their parents divorce, when one parent dies, or when they are donor-conceived, then how can it be possible that they are miraculously turning out “even better!” when raised in same-sex-headed households? Every child raised by “two moms” or “two dads” came to that household via one of those four traumatic methods. Does being raised under the rainbow miraculously wipe away all the negative effects and pain surrounding the loss and daily deprivation of one or both parents? The more likely explanation is that researchers are feeling the same pressure as the rest of us feel to prove that they love their gay friends.

Children Have the Right to Be Loved by Their Mother and Father
Like most Americans, I am for adults having the freedom to live as they please. I unequivocally oppose criminalizing gay relationships. But defining marriage correctly criminalizes nothing. And the government’s interest in marriage is about the children that only male-female relationships can produce. Redefining marriage redefines parenthood. It moves us well beyond our “live and let live” philosophy into the land where our society promotes a family structure where children will always suffer loss. It will be our policy, stamped and sealed by the most powerful of governmental institutions, that these children will have their right to be known and loved by their mother and/or father stripped from them in every instance. In same-sex-headed households, the desires of the adults trump the rights of the child.

Have we really arrived at a time when we are considering institutionalizing the stripping of a child’s natural right to a mother and a father in order to validate the emotions of adults?

Justice Kennedy, I have long admired your consistency when ruling on the well-being of children, and I implore you to stay the course. I truly believe you are invested in the equal protection of all citizens, and it is your sworn duty to uphold that protection for the most vulnerable among us. The bonds with one’s natural parents deserve to be protected. Do not fall prey to the false narrative that adult feelings should trump children’s rights. The onus must be on adults to conform to the needs of children, not the other way around.

This is not about being against anyone. This is about what I am for. I am for children! I want all children to have the love of their mother and their father. Being for children also makes me for LGBT youth. They deserve all the physical, social, and emotional benefits of being raised by their mother and father as well. But I fear that, in the case before you, we are at the mercy of loud, organized, well-funded adults who have nearly everyone in this country running scared.

Six adult children of gay parents are willing to stand against the bluster of the gay lobby and submit amicus briefs for your consideration in this case. I ask that you please read them. We are just the tip of the iceberg of children currently being raised in gay households. When they come of age, many will wonder why the separation from one parent who desperately mattered to them was celebrated as a “triumph of civil rights,” and they will turn to this generation for an answer.

What should we tell them?

Monday, February 2, 2015

When your new guy molests your daughter. Meet "Diane"

I'm struggling these days with much of Mormon culture that I am surrounded by every day. While the story I share via Divorced Moms today happens all over the world, across religious and non-religious cultures, the concept that "marriage makes one whole" is drilled into children's heads every single day. To the point that it's just over-the-top, if you ask me. I don't know that if different concepts were taught, the story below would be different, because many people will sacrifice ANYTHING for a relationship. But I do know this: There are worse things than being divorced. Being single can be fabulous. Being in a great relationship is the best thing ever. But... being married, or being in a relationship, just for the sake of not being alone is... well, it's tragic.

Anyway, read and weep.

Her New Husband Molested Her Daughter- And The Signs Were There
by Lizzy Smith                     
February 02, 2015
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Fotolia_31154017_XS.jpg"Diane" was a single mom raising her four-year old daughter, "Lola." Two years ago, Diane met "Bruce" via an online dating website. She fell instantly in love and she told me about him in one giddy coloring session after the next. You see, Diane was my hair stylist. Bruce was two years older than Diane and he had two daughters that were around Lola's age. He was recently divorced and lived with his parents almost two hours away. It was a match made in heaven.

A few weeks after their first meeting, it was Diane's birthday and she gathered all her friends and family and we all met for dinner at a local restaurant. It's the first time I met Bruce. I sat next to a mutual friend and we both commented that our initial impressions of Bruce was that he was either gay or something was "off."

"He might be giving Diane loads of sex but I think he's fantasizing about other men during the act," our mutual friend said. I laughed... but I agreed with her. Something wasn't right but, hey, if Diane was happy, good for her.

Because Bruce and Diane lived so far apart, being together almost every day was getting rather difficult. Within two months, Bruce found a new job and moved in with Diane into Diane's parents' basement. I thought it was way too fast to move a guy in with her, a guy she hardly knew, when her young daughter was in the bedroom next to her. And I was even more surprised that Diane's parents, who are very conservative and religious, allowed it. But it wasn't my decision so I kept my mouth shut (not always an easy task for me).

Several weeks later, I went in for my hair appointment and Diane shared with me the terrible events of the week prior. Bruce's younger sister, who was 15-years old, told a school therapist that Bruce had molested her and had tried to rape her more than once. Bruce was arrested at her parents' home and had posted bail. His parents loaned him $10,000 to pay for the upcoming legal fees and he hired an attorney.

"I just don't believe he did it," Diane said. "His sister has been having problems for a long time and she's a liar."

I stopped her. "Or she has problems because her brother has been molesting and assaulting her. If she is a liar, and you don't know that she is, maybe there's a good reason for it."

"Bruce's mom and dad don't know what to think but now we can't even go to their house!" she lamented. "And his ex-wife doesn't want Bruce to have unsupervised visits with his daughters. She's filed for full custody and for Bruce to have only supervised visits. She's such a bitch."

"First, Bruce's ex-wife doesn't sound like a bitch to me. She sounds like a wise, cautious mom. Second, Diane, you are new to this family. You have no idea their dynamics. Hopefully he didn't do it but you have no idea. The fact is, you have a young daughter and it is your responsibility as her mother to put your new love interest aside and focus on her. What if it's true? You can't allow Bruce around Lola. You have to protect her. If Lola's dad finds out, he'll file for custody of Lola and he could win. Are you ok with that?"

She wasn't happy with me.

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