All The Best Laid Plans

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I come from a family of “planners”. Even though I’ve protested my own innate need for detail management, I am well aware that this family trait did NOT skip me. Now, I’m not at my older, sister Lisa’s level of planning. Where the minutiae of each detail is broken down into a quintuple layered outline… and only THEN is the grocery list acceptable. She literally refers to herself as “Planny McPlanPants”. I concur with her. No, I’m more of a long-term, general goal setter. I have “Five Year” life plans. In 2012 it was to take the LSAT, get into a Washington DC based graduate or law school, matriculate and then get a job in government.

Not meaning to toot my own horn, but I did it. Within the allotted five years.

In 2017, I established a new five-year plan. Secure a project management certificate, get a BETTER job and establish a writing career based off of the material handed to me by the pile of wet gerbil shavings stinking up the White House. A little over one year in and the first two boxes had been checked off, while I’m steadily making headway on the third.

And then… WHAT THE FUCK??? Gobsmacked. Because seriously, what the hell Indian Burial Ground did my ancestors dig up? Now don’t get me wrong. Shit can ALWAYS be worse. I am well aware of that. However, we’ve reached a level of “You shitting me?” that is now providing us with ALMOST as much comic relief as Cumquat Twittler himself.

In order for everyone to appreciate this story, I’m going to have to take you back to the beginning. Sometime during the mid-1980’s. When my family looked like this…

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Far left profile, my sister Lisa. Margie and Timmy kissing. And me, adorable in the background.

That is some SERIOUSLY bitching wallpaper. Hat’s off on that decorating choice, mom. Hat’s. Off.

We were a 100% normal family. My mother Marge was the ultimate stay-at-home mom, who not only took care of my sister and I, but also most of the children in the middle-class neighborhood we resided in. My father Tim, was a college educated, successful engineer, making a name for himself in management at Ford Motor Company. His parents were retired, Polish immigrants who lived down the street. Her parents were wacky Sicilian immigrants on the west coast, but still had a larger than life presence in my childhood.

Friends. Family. Economic stability. It was all so run of the mill. With our comprehensive checklists and our manilla folders full of meticulously planned out EVERYTHING. And then God was like, “You think you can plan this shit? Ha! Watch this!”.

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Lisa, dad and I, during his first round of cancer and chemotherapy.

At the age of 31 my father was diagnosed with stage four Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Literally, out of the blue. Found a lump in his armpit, went to the doctor and was told, “You’re shit out of luck son”. That same year, his mother was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and his father went into kidney failure.

My mother’s father Sam was one hell of a deal maker, but not even he could swing a, “Three for the price of one” on par with that. We were a living, breathing Groupon for healthcare.

Mom immediately circled the wagons. Both sets of grandparents moved into our home with us. My sister and I slept in sleeping bags in the living room. And we just kept going. I was too young during this time to tell you HOW my mother pulled this off, but she did. Eventually we lost my father’s parents, but dad not only survived he thrived. He spent eight years in remission. He achieved more success at his job and in his education. He became the world’s most involved father. Lisa and I got our bedrooms back. We were never quite that 100% normal family again, but we were damn close.

And then in 1992, my father spontaneously came out of remission and died within six months. He was 39. My mother was 38. She had no college education. No real work experience. A 15 year-old daughter and a 12 year-old. And she was a widow. I remember her telling me that he had passed away very clearly. I was sitting in our extra bedroom when she came in to break the news. And in all of my incredible emotional intelligence the first words out of my mouth were, AND I’M NOT MAKING THIS UP, “Will you still take me to Disney World?”

Because why NOT cash in on that moment? Am I right?

The wagons were once again circled. Sam and Lucy were crashing with us again. My father’s cousin Jeff and his wife Denise, along with their children were over EVERY weekend. My mother’s brother Barney and his wife Julie were back living in Michigan with their kids. Shit was NOT normal, but “not normal” was actually pretty damn good.

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Wagons circled.

We missed dad, but we also knew that it was time for all of us to grow some serious “Lady Balls”. My mother went back to school and built a career. My sister, in her typical fashion, over achieved at everything she touched. I developed a rarefied talent for “Smart-assery”. Lisa and I both flew the coop at 18 and started building our own independent lives, with friends, careers and happiness.

Honestly, the ache of losing a parent at a young age NEVER leaves you, but it does make for some wonderfully, awkwardly hilarious moments when you first meet people. “What’s your dad do?”… “Oh you know, just lies around on his back all day”. The facial expressions when they realize what I’m implying are absolutely priceless. The point is, against the odds all of us were back to flourishing.

I graduated with my first degree, moved to Florida for a job, called home one day and found out that my 26 year-old sister had been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.

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How she can make a hospital gown look cool is beyond me.

My thought process went like this…

  1. I TOLD you fuckers she had a “Beautiful Mind”.
  2. Well for shit’s sake, isn’t that a kick in our newly acquired lady balls.

Fucking circle the wagons again, folks. Here we go. Now, of course I was worried about my sister. I LOVE my sister. But I also knew what my sister was capable of. I knew that this wasn’t what I’m assuming both Lisa and myself have been dreading our entire lives, the almost inevitable seeming cancer diagnosis. It wasn’t curable, but it was something that we could fight. And if there was anyone on the planet who could figure out a way to “think” MS through and into remission, it was my sister.

I mean, I was 100% convinced she had literally burned holes into her brain from all the thinking she’d done.

So, a couple of months later I moved home. Every week, we’d meet at Lisa’s apartment and dispense the dreaded “injection”. We watched her suffer. Then we watched her fight. Then we watched her heal. Then we watched her pack her shit, move to California, marry an amazing man, become super successful and keep herself in remission for over a decade.

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Lisa and her amazing husband Trent.

Because… Lisa. Just, Lisa. I’m on a mission to “verb” her name. You’re “Lisa-ing”, when you’re doing DDS level research on how to perform a root canal, so that you know EVERY dental option available to you when a tooth goes bad. You need to go “Lisa” when you find a rodent in your attic and measure the poop to figure out the specific species, in order to hire the best exterminator in the Bay Area.

Once again, we were back on the plan. My mother was understandably shaken, and slightly riddled with neurosis at this point, but she was still killing it. Sam and Lucy were declining and moved in with her, but I once again was able to escape the mid-west for Washington DC. My family was east-coast wonky, west-coast trendy and our heart was right in the middle where it belonged. Against all of the odds we were spreading our special brand of, “Not normal, but fuck it ‘normal’s’ boring anyway” all over the country.

On a side note, “Not normal, but fuck it ‘normal’s’ boring anyway” is NOT an acceptable philosophy for politics. Boring is very, very good in politics. Moving along…

Aforementioned five-year plan had been achieved. Along with the added bonus of this dude…

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The best man I know, (even better than Jon Stewart), my everything… Payton.

Second five-year plan, was in the works. Trump jokes were just rolling off of my fingers. My writing was gaining momentum. I got a better day job and my project management certificate. Amazing friends. A healthy sister. A wonderful, if understandably twitchy mother…

And one day, just NO energy for any of it. Now, I am an inherently sloth-like person. I take great pride in the ass groove on my couch, and the number of shows I can simultaneously binge watch. I am a master at the art of doing nothing. However, this was always a “Work-hard/Play-Hard/Do Nothing-Hard” philosophy. Work, work, work. Party, party, party… ANDDDDD ASS GROOVE.

This was different. This was as if someone stuck the hose of a super powerful shop vacuum to my head and set it to, “Soul Sucker-Outter”. I started noticing little things about a year ago. That my thighs would go numb when I would walk over a mile, whereas before I would get up every morning and go to CrossFit. My fingers and hands tingled constantly. I would get light-headed and blurry vision when I would stand up.

And GODDAMN, I was urinating like a fucking race horse literally EVERY five minutes. There were any number of excuses I gave myself. I WAS getting older, and admittedly heavier. I had lost two of my most beloved family members, Sam and Lucy, and was grieving them. Trump won the election and I was losing my damn mind. I came up with a whole list of everything from the plausible to “Come the fuck on, Sarah”, in order to explain away this shit.

Because how the hell am I supposed to tell my mother and my sister, after all of the interrupted plans, re-starts and wagon circling, that I think I have MS too? I always wanted to be like Lisa, but not quite in this way.

And talk about stealing someone’s thunder! I don’t want to be a thunder stealer.

Then one day, my eyes fell out of my head. I don’t mean literally, but here is an actual photo of me…

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I knew these symptoms. I had seen them. I actually started to seek medical treatment, which is NOT something I do on a whim. Mostly, because I’m always afraid the diagnosis is going to be, “Batshit Crazy”. And one day, it WILL be, but not this time.

Nope. No more denying it. Because we were about to circle the fucking wagons again. For me this time. Circling wagons for my sake gives me hives. I’m not a “sympathy” person. I’m a, “Laugh at My Pain” type of woman. That, as well as being the only person capable of carrying ridiculously heavy boxes, has ALWAYS been my role in the family.

But this time, we were prepared. We started easing into the circle. I dropped additional, symptoms on Lisa and mom each day. We were taking it one doctor’s appointment at a time. Not rushing to conclusions, but also girding our now well-tested lady balls for the outcome. The outcome that presented itself in a trip to the ER, wherein my mouth was completely numb, about 3 Trillion tree frogs had rented out the space in my head and were squeezing my brain in a vice, I couldn’t feel my lower body and I had to actively tell myself to breathe.

If you’ve never seen someone stumble, drooling into an ER and dramatically lay their upper body on the check-in counter screaming, AND I QUOTE, “Tree frogs are eating my sentience and I have to PEEEEEEE“… You haven’t lived. After which they admitted me, placed me on “Full Retard” watch and confirmed everything I already knew.

I was doing my best impression of a human Toyota Prius. Completely electric, but also just not very cool. And I’ve got fucking Multiple Sclerosis. Too.

Sorry, mom?

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Powerful brains, in our family. Powerful brains.

So here I am. Jacked up on steroids, like some weird love child of a bloated chipmunk and the Incredible Hulk, working my way to my new “Even less normal, but fuck it ‘normal’s’ boring anyway”.  And honestly, I’m mostly pissed that I can’t make anymore “Beautiful Mind” cracks about my sister. That’s like a solid three minutes of my favorite comedy routine, that I’m going to have to re-write.

By the way, I had NO idea how many fucks I had left to give until they put me on steroids. Apparently, I HAVEN’T actually been fully, speaking my mind. Surprise, assholes! There’s actually more shit I have to say. So strap the fuck in.

And that’s our story. Why did all of this happen to my extraordinarily, ordinary family? Who the fuck knows? But why the hell not us? We clearly seem to be good at dealing with this shit. Defiant and triumphant in the face of it. So screw our “Best laid plans”. The universe is just NOT going to let this family follow the playbook. And really, who gives a damn? Because we’re just going to keep reverse, flea-flickering this shit and scoring touchdowns anyway. You know what they say about this motley crew…

If you see us in a fight with a bear. Pray. FOR THE FUCKING BEAR.

Below are some pictures of the many heroes in this story. If you really want all the “feels” after reading this piece you can listen to the song linked here, which I’m making my family theme song.

Donations to the MS Society can be made here. Under the name Lisa Temp or Sarah Wiz The Blizzard.

Donations to the Lymphoma and Leukemia Society can be made here, under either of the above names.

And donations to Michael Cohen’s defense fund can be made at “GO FUCK YOURSELF”.

The End. For now. Politics returning next week!

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AND OF COURSE…

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