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To read books like this, I have to be in a certain mood. Just like any other genre, be it mystery, true crime, or forensic psychology related. I knew from the moment I was about 80 pages in, that this was going to require a certain state of mind from me to be able to finish it. So over the past month, in between reading thrillers, etc., I finally finished it.

The book was about a neurosurgeon that was diagnosed with cancer and his journey until his untimely demise. The book offers an interesting perspective into the journey of someone who’s life is cut short by such a serious illness such as cancer. There were a few quotes that stuck with me and a few thoughts that I’d like to share and understand your thoughts.

At the end of it all, what really matters? There came a point where he was diagnosed with cancer, would he return to neurosurgery—his passion? Where would he go? What would he do, and most importantly, what really mattered? I often think about my own demise, what have I accomplished, what have I not, what do I want, and what would I do but my own question of what really matters. Now that I am a mother, I have an Achilles—my daughter. Had I not been a mother the answer would be simple, what matters to me is money and my friends. Now I find that what matters to me is the ability to see my daughter grow and guide her through life. Money is still there, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to having a sordid affair with money. It is the root of all evil after all and everyone has a price, or at least I’m honest enough to own that I have one.

The book was a good read, again heavy in the content and the reflection and understanding that we all have a counter over our heads, just ticking the minutes and days away. But the takeaway is much larger in scale, because I reminded myself to take more time to myself, more time to slow down and enjoy my surroundings, more time to see and be one with nature and the things that I enjoy and love.

So at the end of the day…what really matters to you?

Here are the quotes:

“Human knowledge is never contained in one person. It grows from the relationships we create between each other and the world, and still it is never complete.”
Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air

I began to realize that coming in such close contact with my own mortality had changed both nothing and everything. Before my cancer was diagnosed, I knew that someday I would die, but I didn’t know when. After the diagnosis, I knew that someday I would die, but I didn’t know when. But now I knew it acutely. The problem wasn’t really a scientific one. The fact of death is unsettling. Yet there is no other way to live.”
Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air

“The tricky part of illness is that, as you go through it, your values are constantly changing. You try to figure out what matters to you, and then you keep figuring it out. It felt like someone had taken away my credit card and I was having to learn how to budget. You may decide you want to spend your time working as a neurosurgeon, but two months later, you may feel differently. Two months after that, you may want to learn to play the saxophone or devote yourself to the church. Death may be a one-time event, but living with terminal illness is a process.”
Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air

Jessica is a full time mother, employee, and student. She works as an Immigration Paralegal and is working towards a Bachelor’s degree in Business. Jessica loves to volunteer with organizations that are targeted towards children. She recognizes that children are our future and sometimes they need someone who believes in them.

Jessica’s motto: Balancing everything is difficult but achievable.

One of Jessica’s greatest passions is writing. She says, “You have the ability to connect with reader’s in a way that speaking sometimes you simply can’t explain. I have been through a lot in my personal life and am very open about my struggles, but I live to be an example to not only my own daughter but to others.”

As I helped my 4 year old son with his homework on a recent evening, I kept on insisting that he “stay within the lines” as he colored in his assignment.  This scene repeated itself for several minutes, as we both grew increasingly frustrated with each other.  My son could not understand why I did not acknowledge how beautiful he thought his coloring was, all I seemed to see were the “mistakes.”  I finally caught myself and realized what I was doing.

Sometimes we do the same thing when we think of our lives.  I’m sure there are moments when “staying within the lines” is important; take for instance respecting the limits that laws place on our behavior or even just staying in our lanes when we drive.  Moving beyond these sometimes literal ways of “staying within the lines,” what happens when we live our entire life that way?  Always focusing on what is wrong?  Or never reaching out for more because we can’t see beyond the limits we place on ourselves?  We miss out on how beautiful life can be when we don’t take chances and when we can’t see a lesson in what may seem like a mistake or failure.  I learned from that short moment with my son that our lives don’t have to be perfect to be good.  What we perceive as an imperfection may be what makes our lives that much more beautiful.

So, this is a reminder to focus on the good, savor your life, and don’t be afraid to try something new.  You’ll hold up your picture one day and be surprised at how beautiful it is.

Stephanie Perez is in her final year at CUNY SPS, majoring in Sociology. When she is not busy joining her four year old son on his daily adventures, she likes to spend her time reading, cooking, and dancing to her favorite music. After graduation she hopes to pursue a career in human rights law and advocacy.

To all my new moms: kids cursing is pretty much a regular stage that all kids go through. One of my favorite movie moments of all time is from “A Christmas Story” when Peter Billingsley’s character Ralphie gets busted saying the “f dash, dash, dash word.” His father who regularly curses around the house turns to him and asks him where he heard that and he gives up the name of a friend. Later on as his mom tells the other boys’ mom what he supposedly taught Ralphie, you can hear him getting his butt whipped over the telephone. Classic, hilarious.

From the post, Kids and CursingTimes have changed. Most every parent I know will squarely place the blame on themselves, even if they try very hard not to slip up around their preschoolers. As it happened, my two older boys started it and ‘ended it’ in preschool, that is to say I gather that one of them never really stopped but he was savvy enough to know when and where to do it without getting caught. The toddler, preschooler form sounds like parroting entire phrases picked up from parents. Stuff like “oh shit!”, “stupid bitch!” and “shut up, asshole!” (What, that’s only in my house? Eh.)

The trick is to not make too big a deal out of it because it can be such an attention getter that they want to do it over and over for a reaction. A mild, “That’s enough Sean. If I continue to hear you use those bad words you’ll have to go to bed early.” Generally they get it pretty quickly and voila, they move on to the next stage where they stop cursing, but every time they catch you doing it, they say things like “Ooooh mommy, that’s a bad word! Stop using bad words in front of me, I’m a child.”

I thought I had pretty much escaped that whole thing with my youngest, he never got in trouble (read caught) cursing until he was six, which I thought was a little old to start. And even then, he didn’t get busted in the traditional way but it was more the fact that I’m one of the worlds’ nosiest moms and modern technology. I was relishing the fact that he and his god-sister & best friend were old enough to hang out in the backyard unsupervised when I noticed that it seemed kind of quiet. No basketball bouncing, no screaming, chasing etc., just a regular conversation. Weird. I snuck over to the window which was open about five inches, bent down and began listening to the conversation.

J.: “I curse. We could be out here cursing and no one could even hear us.” Of course as soon as I heard that, I whipped out my iPhone, turned on the camera to video, and eased it out the window. I didn’t get too much of a visual with the fire escape blocking it, but I caught classic first grade chit chat.

J.: “I can curse. I curse all the time. I can say ass.”
Khev: “Oooooooh! You’ll get in trouble! I can say ass too. ‘Ass’. See? I just said it. I can just say it.”
Ess: “So what. Anyone can say ‘ass’. Ass, ass, ass, ass. It’s not even that big of a deal: ass.”

The three of them proceed to chant ‘ass’ a few more times and then forget about it and moved on to something else. Meanwhile I’m laying on the kitchen floor laughing my ass off with the dog jumping around me wondering what the hell I’m doing. Still, I felt it needed to be addressed so later on that evening when Khev and I were alone, I told him, “I heard you guys in the backyard saying ‘ass’ this afternoon and I think you know better. Please no more cursing, ok?” What happened next was way more shocking and disappointing to me than his casual foray into bad language.

Khev: “No I didn’t!”
Me: “You did I heard you. The kitchen window was open and I was standing right next to it listening to you guys talk. I didn’t say anything at the time because I figured I would talk to you about it later.”
Khev: “I didn’t though. I swear I didn’t curse, it wasn’t me.” We went back and forth for a while and I grew increasing frustrated and pissed off until finally I told him I had it on my phone and if he didn’t just fess up, say sorry it won’t happen again, I was going to punish him for lying. He insisted he hadn’t said it so I played the video for him where each of them is clearly heard saying the word multiple times and not that quietly either. He was speechless.

And then I sent him to his room to lay on his bed for twenty minutes for lying, not cursing. He still occasionally lies, it wasn’t some magic cure all, but he certainly thinks it through better!

Cheryl is a student at The CUNY School of Professional Studies and the mother of three boys.  A former office manager, she currently writes a blog about her adventures in parenting called UrbanMommys.com.  In her spare time she likes to check out fun new places and things to do with children for her readers. Cheryl is also actively looking for a full time job that is both challenging and satisfying.