Are you their Mother?

I still don’t know how to answer that question.  A chain of events that started exactly nine years ago today would make the answer yes.  Yet I still can’t answer it without saying no, if only to myself.

It was January 17, 2007 I woke up in my downtown Chicago loft apartment, getting ready to go to work when I got the phone call from my mother that my cousin Kiesha was killed in an attempted car jacking.   I remember standing there thinking I must have heard her wrong through her tears.  Then she said it again, Kiesha was dead.  My next question was where were the girls.  I often referred to them as “our girls”, or “the girls” but they were Kiesha’s daughters, 8, 7 and 5 at the time.  My mother told me they were not with Kiesha and they were safe at home with my Grandmother.  I’m not too sure what if anything she said after that but I found out that the incident had made the news.  It was reported an unidentified woman was killed during an attempted car jacking.  She was a Jane Doe so how did my mother no for sure it was her.  I remember calling my grandmother hoping she would tell me my mother got it wrong but she didn’t.

I eventually made my way to my grandmothers house and wanted to see the girls.  I don’t know who told them or how but I needed to see them.  The oldest was the only one at the house.  The other two were down the street at a friends house.  As soon as she saw me she told me the news I was still hoping wasn’t true.  My mother is dead.  This is not something an 8 year old should be telling you.  I could only reply, “I know”.

My Aunt, Kiesha’s mother, and another cousin had gone to the hospital to identify the body and the news was no longer reporting her as a Jane Doe.  It was being broadcasted and in print, Kiesha Myles, a passenger, was killed in an attempted car jacking.  No suspects in the case and the shooter didn’t even get the car.  The driver had fled the seen.  I couldn’t watch the news or read the paper for weeks until I knew the story was old news.  It probably only took days before the next tragic headline.  Before another family was forever changed by one headline.

With out question I was by my grandmothers side make the funeral arrangements, picking out caskets, writing the obituary.  Kiesha was only 24, and she was already a mother of three but she lived a fast life, she didn’t finish high school and who know’s what she was doing that night on that street when this unknown man decided her life was worth less than the car.  She had so much potential, she could draw, she was the neighborhood hair stylist.

While we were making the preparations I notice the girls trying to help out not knowing what to do when I decided to take them to my apartment.  From that day on I had them every weekend taking them to movies, fairs in the city and I was attending all the school events.  It only seemed natural when my grandmother asked me to be their legal guardian.  My aunt couldn’t take them, she has been battling drug addiction and mental illness for years.  My grandmother was 80 years old and couldn’t care for three young kids alone.  I was the only person who didn’t already have kids of my own.  I didn’t automatically say yes but given the circumstances it seemed like the only answer so I did.

It’s January 17, 2016 and I woke in my 5 bedroom house in the Northwest Indiana suburbs while now three teenage girls are sleeping still struggling with the answer to the question “Are you their mother?”.  I don’t know if it’s hard for me to say yes because they have a mother.  By saying yes it’s some how deceiving people.  I didn’t gain weight from carrying them for 9 months, I didn’t go through labor.  I didn’t even go through the walking, talking or potty training years.  By all definitions I have earned the title for the 9 years I spent going through puberty.  I have more than made up for not going through childbirth.

My hesitation could also be their reaction to the question.  In the beginning they would respond with a disgusted sound and a No for even suggesting that I was their mother.  Most of the time I’m introduced as their cousin.  I learned recently they tell their friends I’m like their mother.  So I guess we’re making progress.

I don’t know if I will ever feel like their mother but I can respond with a little more ease when I’m asked the question “Are you their mother?”.

Yes, I am.



A friend of mine told me because I am fighting breast cancer I am a warrior.  I don’t feel like a warrior.  I feel more like a 5 year old having a tantrum on the floor crying and inconsolable every time I think about my next appointment for chemotherapy.  On most days I want to stay in bed with my head covered.  I’m not brave or experienced.  I will take that I’m a fighter, but aren’t we all fighting something.  Everyday we are fighting to survive.  We are fighting to get through a work day with out cussing someone out, fighting to raise our kids, fighting for our relationships, or goals.

I hate every time someone tells me “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle” I get it, must we keep testing the theory.  If I tell them I can’t handle it anymore or that I’m struggling does that mean I don’t trust God.

I just finished my 4th treatment out of 8.  I’m at the half way point of chemo but only a 1/4 through the battle.  I go into each appointment with this dread that I can’t do this.   I can’t take the smell, the taste of the medicine and the feeling as it goes through my body. When you think of going through chemotherapy you think about losing your hair.  That was the easiest part.  I did cut it before it fell out on it’s own but the fatigue, nausea and changes in my skin I could do with out.

It’s been 2 1/2 months since I found out I have breast cancer and the words still feel foreign to me.  I thought the more people I tell that it will feel real.  Then I wrote about it and it still feels unreal.  The words still creep into my self conscious as a whisper “you have breast cancer”.

Am I really being brave when you have no choice.  I wasn’t given an option to fight or not.  I have three teenage girls who depend on me and a Pomeranian named Jack that needs to be feed and cuddled.  If I didn’t fight who would take care of them.  Most of all I’m fighting for me.  I’m fighting for that little girl who still has dreams of her own.

So ok I’m a warrior, but the fight isn’t just cancer.  The fight is to live a full and purposeful life and I’m not alone.

Starting Over

When I started this blog four years ago I had so many plans.  I was 38 and and I wanted to mark turning 40 with a career break and travel the world for a year.  Although I have done some traveling in the four years I wasn’t able to take the long break I was hoping for.  I am grateful for every trip I have taken.  I may not have taken those trips if I didn’t start the blog and started reading other blogs that inspired me.  When I realized I couldn’t take a year off I took every trip I could.  I was able to go to Rome, Seattle, Turkey, Thailand and Bali.  So technically I did travel around the world.

Now blogging about all of it proved to be harder than I expected.  Forget blogging, I barely wrote in my journal.  I think about things to write all the time but actually writing a full post it is another thing.  I use to carry around notebooks to write down all the clever sentences and ideas I come up with.  I even jot things down in my iPad notes while I’m on the train going to work.  I tell myself one day I’m going to gather all those notes and write these awesome posts, essays and a book.  For now there just pieces of paper with random words on it.

I had three events happen to me in 2015 that changed me.  I started the year participating in an online retreat learning to meditate and connect and be more present.  In August I traveled the farthest I’ve ever gone solo for three weeks to Thailand and Bali meeting some amazing women that changed my life.  Then in November I was diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma aka breast cancer.  I even got my heart broken but without the retreats I wouldn’t have opened myself up to love.

So here I am almost exactly four years from the start of mylestogobeforeIleap.  I’m renewing the blog domain for another year.  I have vowed again to write more blog posts  MylestogobeforeIleap couldn’t have been any more prefect to describe my journey.  The “leap” is always changing.  Right now the leap is being cancer free.  Traveling will always be a part of my life.  I am planning a trip to New York City to celebrate the end of chemo.  Chemo isn’t the end of my treatment but the trip gives me something to look forward too.

So when I’m asked what my blog is about I think of the poem from Robert Frost, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening that inspired the name.

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.”

I think sleep in the poem might mean death.

My leap is whatever life brings me.

Or maybe the blog is like the show  Seinfeld.  A blog about nothing.

I have miles to go before I leap.

Myles to go before I leap.


I have 18 months before I plan to leave for my career break.  The preparation process for me is not just saving money, getting out of debt, selling my house.  It’s also about making sure I’m in the best health I can be in and I have all the skills I need to have the kind of experience I want.  

I’ve gone to Hawaii twice and had a great time but I’ve never gone in the ocean. Well I did take a submarine ride and a but I’ve never actually touched the water. Why?  because I’m afraid of the water.  I’ve taking swimming lessons in the past and slowing gotten over my fears but I will not say I can swim.  After I set the date for my career break I looked into taking private swimming lessons.  I had my first private lesson today and it was great.  I really do love being in the water.  I had an allergic reaction to chlorine when I was young that prevented me from learning in school.  Am I still allergic to chlorine?  Yes.  The break out isn’t as bad as it was when I was 13.  I am willing to endure the skin irritations for the bigger picture. 

I can imagine myself snorkeling in Australia and swimming in Thailand and taking boat rides or just lying on the beach but it feels good now that I’m conquering a fear that would have put limitations on me.




We took a semi-private guided tour.


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The Vatican

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I took my first bike tour when I visited Paris so now I’m determined to take one in every city that offers one.  I signed up with Top Bike Tour http://www.topbikerental.com/routes.php that I found based on suggestions from Rick Steves Rome pocket guide.  The tour began at the company’s office near the colosseum.  We rode through the city taking cobblestone alley’s stopping at all the major sites, trevi fountain, spanish steps, colosseum, Jewish Ghetto.  The bike ride lasted a total of 4 hours.  It was a great way to see the city and a good workout.  In the middle of trying to catch my breath I was able to take some cool pictures.


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