Why I bake: I started baking while my mama was battling stage-4 cancer. I’d moved home from the city to take care of her & was looking for some kind of distraction from our painful day-to-day. I’d never really set foot in the kitchen before this… I’d been working for big-name fashion magazines back in the city and had little (well. absolutely no) interest in cooking for myself. And so, I was more than surprised when I fell in love with baking. I soon became obsessed– I was baking every second when I wasn’t with my mama. I made huge messes, tried my hand at 3-tiered cakes for baby showers, brought pastries & sweets to every chemo session to handout to our favorite nurses & the other patients… Hell, I almost baked us out of house & home. Sometimes I regret not spending more of that time with my mama instead of fooling around in the kitchen. But to be honest, I forgive myself for it… because I think I needed to be lost in baking.
My neighbors whispering amongst each other…
“First. She tried poisoning us with the Glade PlugIns. But, luckily she is a kind beast and removed them all. However, guy-across-the-hall could not convince her to attempt washing her cat. He even offered to give her lessons in cat bathing…
But now, if she’s not sobbing, she’s moving her damn furniture around. (Seriously, though, it’s not a big apartment, how much room could there possibly be for heaving manmade objects, AKA: couches, dressers and a bed? LOTS, is the answer we’ve gathered from hearing her accidentally knocking stuff off the wall and breaking it as she curses madly at the furniture gods.)
The worst, though. Is that she finally figured out how to use her Amazon echo, Alexa. And it has been a hell filled with the voices of Kelly Clarkson, Blink 182 and v. loudly blasted Avril Lavigne Pandora stations. (I know, right?! Who knew there are people who still use Pandora?) Odd. She is v. odd.”
The good news– nobody talks to me!
P.S. The BEST news, however, is that a part of my front door fell off… (baking accident.) I think it’s called, like, the door strip? IDK, but now that its gone, the gap under my door is even bigger: SO ALL THE MORE AVRIL I can share, and I’ve got the Avril to share. You’re welcome, neighbs.
P.P.S. If anyone complains about Avril, I’m not afraid to bring back the PlugIns in full ‘Mystic Tropical Island Staycation’ scented force. Try mehhh.
“I went from relationship to relationship and needed a break. Every woman should have a period of time where she is unencumbered and free to focus on herself. I never had that. There was always someone in my life from 16 on.” –My Mama in a journal she wrote to me
Me too, until just recently. During the last 8-months of my mom’s life, while our family was fighting cancer around-the-clock and facing never-ending drama, I dated three different men. THREE DIFFERENT MEN. My mom was dying and suffering through terminal cancer, and yet, I found the time to be in three different relationships. I also went through my Instagram pictures… I started my Instagram account during my junior year of college… which was, erm, lemme get the calculator or text somebody, H/O. I got the account less than four years ago and there were pictures of four different boyfriends scattered throughout my feed. If I’d married every serious boyfriend I’ve had in the past four years, I would be hella mormon, but with drinking coffee still (lots of coffee), so I would just be a **polygamist.
So, when my last relationship crumbled like a badly burnt cookie into thousands of crunchy, little pieces, I put my foot down. I deleted all my past boyfriends from my Instagram and from my life. I have no desire to date anyone again, for a while, maybe forever.
A few days ago, my only bed companion, Tyga (my dog… not the rapper. Calm down, Kyle Jenner!), and I headed out for an evening at the “small dog” park. En route, a man jumped out friggin’ of nowhere to talk to me. (And yes, I was wearing headphones. Dude interrupted my Slow Jamz mix.) He said I was pretty and really stood out (on the not very crowded street, for real, I think I was the only person passing by at the time.) He asked where I was from, and trying to be kind and polite, I answered him. He unfortunately took this as an open invitation to walk with Tyga and I. When we neared the park, he said he had to go meet a friend and would take my number. I was like, um, no you won’t… but I said it nicely.
Then, shit went down. Here’s our convo:
Stranger Danger: Listen, I’m running to meet a friend but what I’m going to do is take your number!
Me: Oh, okay, have fun. And, sorry but I can’t.
Stranger D.: Why can’t you?
Me: I just can’t. I’m sorry! K, bye now!
I began making my great escape by crossing the street. BUT, he followed me.
Strange D.: What do you mean you can’t?
Me: I’m sorry, bye!
He continues following and refusing my answer. At this point, I’m v. annoyed and stressed.
Strange D.: Will you just tell me why? Why can’t you?? Tell me. Just give me a reason!
It was very clear I wasn’t interested in this man’s questions. I was being hassled. He was being a dick. However, after all the shit I’ve trudged through over the past year, I am no fucking damsel in distress. I’m the last women in the world who needs rescued. Ever. Kapeesh?
As we arrived at the park entrance, I turned on my heel and yelled at him:
“MY MOM JUST DIED THREE MONTHS AGO. AND I’M REALLY NOT IN A GOOD PLACE RIGHT NOW. SHE HAD PANCREATIC CANCER AND FOUGHT FOR 8-MONTHS, AND THEN, SHE DIIIIIIIED.”
He said sorry so many times and backed away so quickly onlookers probably thought I had a gun on me. Good.
I realize this makes me
sound crazy. What was I supposed to do? I realized afterward I could have just given him a fake phone number like a normal person. (Call me, babe! It’s 555-5555!) But, it irked me how he just wouldn’t let up. I don’t NEED A REASON to say ‘no’ to men. That’s something I wasn’t fully aware or confident of prior to my mama’s diagnosis.
I’ve made a lot of poor decisions in my life based on my desire to be in someone else’s.
But you learn. You live through the worst and you live through so many lies from the people who love, and then you learn. When my world was falling apart, I was stuck in this constant pain, which is beyond what’s imaginable by those who haven’t lost the person they love the most. My biggest nightmare in life became my life’s reality. And so, I cried on the floor, and I sobbed until I couldn’t catch my breath every night in my bed, and I pricked tiny cuts up and down my arms using steak knives, and I manically baked a new batch of cinnamon rolls everyday… I was pretty much outside of my mind and overwhelmed with my mama’s dying.
And, he didn’t care. There’s nothing my ex could have done to stop me, of course, or to make my pain go away, but he didn’t care either way. I’d spent the past weeks living off his perfectly sweet words of love and his promises that our love would last forever, and then, it stopped. His words crashed and it broke me.
He told me I needed to be strong– I needed to be strong by myself. I needed to pick my body off the floor. I needed to find the courage to find comfort, while being alone. He didn’t have the time or the positive energy to deal with me, (he was always talking about his ‘chakra’ which I was like, um, not in front of family, dude!) He couldn’t be around 24/7, even though, that never felt like what I was asking him… but I guess to him it did.
There were nights when my body shook with panic and I felt like I’d pass out or worse, (or better), like I was dying too. Sometimes, I just wanted him just to hold me. And so, I’d get the nerve to ask him, only to hear him frustrated and saying ‘no’ he was tired from work. He wanted to work on his trade– nothing more. His friends were in town and he was busy entertaining and he didn’t have a minute to call or text me to see how I was doing… for two days. He was angry. He was doing his best. He always me fit into the time he had to spare– between building bicycles and not paying his taxes this year– and if I wasn’t going to fit his schedule, it didn’t work for him, and if it didn’t work, then he’d always known that to mean goodbye. In the end, I was told by my love who was so different and unexpected, who held me and stared into my eyes, who got me so high… sorry, I didn’t fit. I wasn’t his girl. His words dropped me so low. Luckily, though, I was already lost in a hole so deep, being guided by my grief I was falling into the core of hell farther and father, the pain of it couldn’t touch me.
My family and friends who’d visited during my mama’s last weeks had all loved him. Me too. But when things fell apart (and did so quickly) everyone blamed the timing for us falling in love. It makes sense I would want someone good to cling onto during the end of my mama’s life. I didn’t totally buy it, though, saying over and over, “Yes, but I really, truly did believe it was the most perfect love. I thought I’d gotten way too lucky, and I’d met the love of my life.”
He looked at me and held me and loved me like I was the only true-love-of-his-life. I guess in retrospect, I’m a huge dummy. After our crash-and-burn breakup (on the day before my mama’s memorial service), I told my *guy-bestie about it. I went on about how much my life sucks, how much I miss my mom, how I wish my ex still loved me and how I was still lost on what the hell happened. But, when I told my guy-bestie how my ex had said “I love you” after two weeks of dating, or really, even meeting me… he (not so) nicely reminded me of something. THAT’S BATSHIT CRAZY. Adummy is on the extremely logical, AKA smart, side of the spectrum, and he said seven or eight months is ideal (if not early) for an I love you.
He was right. He was so totally right. Maybe, not about the seven to eight months thing, but my ex telling me he loves me after two weeks was just so… not anything but complete shit.
He didn’t know me. It’s impossible to know someone after two weeks let alone two years. On the phone the other day, my big brother was saying how he and his GF had just hit the 2-year mark, and even living together, he was still learning new things about her. TWO YEARS LATER AND THERE’S STILL NEW SHIT. Ha, even my mama and my dad were, for better or for worse, still learning new things about each other, together, 30-years later.
Thank God for all of this. Because, my ex? He still doesn’t know me.
He’d promised me he would understand and he would love me through my grief– even a couple weeks ago, while I was in town for my dad’s birthday, he made promises again– I found myself being held and kissed by him again as he said we’re so good together and he cares so much about me still, and he maybe wants to move to New York to be with me. And then I found out, via internet stalking (duh), he’s had a new girlfriend for a good long while.
Oppsies. I win. I win so big by not being with a guy who has a girlfriend and still kisses other girls and makes plans with them. And honey, you didn’t know me. You wouldn’t know me now, either. I’m stronger than a woman you “knew” and loved back then.
One last thing: The man I do marry, (Lord help him!), won’t be in love with me after two weeks. We’ll barely know each other after two months– we’re in no rush— we take things slow. He’ll see I have bruises, and down the road, he’ll find out I have scars. I’ll let him feel my heartbeat and how it still stops at the ache of losing my mama. It always will. His kisses will feel great, but they won’t heal anything. I’m sure he’ll be a bit beat up, too. That’s life, man. And most importantly, It won’t matter to him that while my mom lay unresponsively in the hospital bed setup in our living, I cried on the hardwood floor alone and terrified. He won’t be concerned as to whether or not I needed someone, of if I was strong, and he won’t think less of me for feeling alone in those crushing moments bringing me to my knees, because what matters most to him is that I wanted someone.
I’m not looking for a relationship, right now. But weirdly, deep down, I know that when I’m ready for one, I’ve learned so much that the next time I fall in love I’ll be so badass at it.
*Every, every, every gal needs a guy-bestie. Guy-besties rock because they have kick-ass taste in music and they don’t ever wanna talk about the Real Housewhoevers of any county. Plus, they give you honest (TOO HONEST) no-frills feedback on shit. I’ve maybe only (ever) gotten two compliments from Adummy, but they are the most sincere, meaningful compliments in my whole collection of ego-boosting flattery!
My dad let both my big brother and I share a short something in my mama’s honor before he gave the eulogy at her memorial service. My brother told a great story– he has an awesome gift of being able to make people laugh, insanely, despite life’s darkest moments– it moved the audience and also, of course, had them chuckling. The big guy, who’s now a software developer by day and stand-up comedian by night, credited my mama for buying him his first comedy magazine, Mad Magazine. He was home sick one day as a kid and she returned home from errands with medicine, soup and the magazine that sparked his love for comedy. She rocked at the doin’ the mom thang. I chose to read a part of a script from my mama and I’s favorite TV show, Gilmore Girls. Weird… I know. It was a segment from the speech given by the daughter, Rory, at her character’s high school graduation. And, it perfectly describes my mom. I’d used it before in tons of captions for pictures of us on Facebook and Instagram.
It felt right to read this in front of a church full of people who knew and loved my mama.
“But my ultimate inspiration comes from my best friend, the dazzling woman from whom I received my initials and my life’s blood, Susan Maynard Doan. My mother never gave me any idea that I couldn’t do whatever I wanted to do or be whomever I wanted to be. She filled our house with love and fun and books and music, unflagging in her efforts to give me role models from Jane Austen to Eudora Welty to Carole King. As she guided me through these incredible twenty-four years, I don’t know if she ever realized that the person I most wanted to be was her. Thank you, Mom: you are my guidepost for everything.”
Susan Maynard Doan.
Susan Lynne Maynard Doan.
Susan “Mama Goose” Lynne Maynard Doan.
I miss you.
I still can’t believe you’re gone. It feels like a lie. Your death feels like a lie. It’s as if you faked it… like you “pulled an Elvis” or something. That’s a thing, right? Elvis is still alive.
So, why aren’t you?
I want to make t-shirts for people like me. We’ll wear them as a warning sign for the others. The ones who don’t know grief. They think they do, because of a dead grandpa or neighbor or classmate, but it’s not the grief we feel. If we wear special markers, like the shirts, then when onlookers see our tears in public, and our minds don’t seem to work the right way, so our conversations always sound foggy, plus we look so tired—we’re always so f’in tired even though we’re not getting out of bed some days—the others will just know. The tee says it all… we’re all just:
My family was told my mom was going to die on her birthday, August 11, 2014. The official phone call came and it confirmed the bad news we’d already heard from the family doctor who found the tumor, the tech who did her immediately-ordered CT scan, another diagnostic tech who did even more in-depth searches and scans, Google, plus also, whatever we could remember from Steve Jobs and Patrick Swayze having this cancer—it’s bad news.
I didn’t know, though, that my mom was going to die until seven months later.
I had squished my big butt next to her small one and we sat in the seat of her treatment chair while waiting in the chemo wing at the cancer center. We’d scheduled an emergency visit earlier that morning. My dad demanded a meeting with her oncologist to talk about how her current treatment plan—of nothingness—wasn’t working for her. She couldn’t eat solid foods anymore—none at all. She barely kept down the chicken broth, which became the go-to meal when everything but water now caused her severe, gut wrenching, take-an-extra-15mg-morphine-pill kind of pain. And, she couldn’t take the side effects chemo anymore. It was the second-line therapy of the only two therapy options for her cancer, and a recent scan revealed chemo was doing nothing but keeping her on the couch in pain. The toxin was too much and her body was too little. As we sat together, one of our favorite nurses hooked up my mom’s ‘power port’ to an IV carrying just fluids. No treatment today.
It was the only thing the oncologist would, or could, do for her today. He put in orders for the nurses to give my mom potassium for some nutrients and saline for hydration. The IV would help pass the time while we waited for her to be accepted into a clinical trial, which was her last chance at any treatment. The one she had her heart set on was based off bullshit immunotherapy cell stuff… Read: Scientists don’t know what the fuck to do about pancreatic cancer. As the fluids passed through her IV, we talked and giggled. I snapped selfies of us smooshing our faces so close together. Her smiling face was so thin on camera. For the past month she’d struggle to stay over 90lbs., and it was clear she wasn’t doing well.
Do you ever feel like someone’s watching you? Not to sound like a paranoid weirdo, but I think that’s common… sometimes you can feel someone’s glance on you. I could feel it that day, and out of the corner of my eye I could see our favorite nurse. She was standing next to another of our favorite nurses and talking in a low voice… both looking at us.
Then I heard her. “Poor baby.”
I could see them in my side glance: watching, shaking their heads and looking at me. Going to weekly chemo treatment was the new “normal” for my family, and we were no strangers to the nurses who worked there. They saw me with my mama often. My love was visible.
The nurse was looking at me and saying, poor baby, because my mom was going to die.
My mom was going to die, soon.
Today marks exactly one year since my mama‘s stage-4 pancreatic cancer diagnosis.
It also would have been her birthday.
Today is bitter-sweet at its very core.
It also calls for joy.
“Throw kindness around like confetti 🎉 Happy Half Birthday (+1 day) to my mama @susandoan! It’s officially 6 months since her stage 4 #pancreaticcancer diagnosis… Still fighting, still inspiring. Hellllll to the yeah! 💜💕“
A photo posted by stephrosedoan (@stephrosedoan) on Feb 12, 2015 at 2:47pm PST
Happy Birthday, Mama Goose! I’m so v. thankful we were able to talk you into the silliness of celebrating your “Halfy Birthday!” Not only was it the day you turned a 1/2 year older but it also marked 6-months of fighting cancer like a bad Mama Jama. I am so proud of you! Thank you for being my world, my moon, my guiding star and my entire galaxy for 24 years.