Gretchen Schock shares her love of recipes, crafts and frugal living. She also speaks very opening about the challenges and triumphs of parenting a neurotypical child and a child on the Autism Spectrum. After a breast cancer scare in 2012, she decided to say goodbye to her nightly glasses of Chardonnay. It was time to get sober and live life with eyes wide open! The CocktailMom name remains, however with a new focus on healthy and authentic living.

5/29/2012

Routine

“A writer is one who communicates ideas and emotions people want to communicate but aren't quite sure how, or even if, they should communicate them.” 
 Criss Jami

5/28/2012

College Park Patch: Telling Your Kids You Have Cancer

This article was originally published on the College Park Patch.

During a recent mammogram, the technician unexpectedly discovered a mass in my left breast.
After the appropriate number of images were taken, I was moved into another room to have an ultrasound performed. I couldn’t see the screen, but the technician had a permanent furrow in her brow as she swiped the wand back and forth over the same area on my breast. She stopped only to type something on the machine, and then she put the wand back to that exact spot. My heart began to race, and I was told the radiologist will speak to me in a few minutes.
The kind eyes of the radiologist and her directness about the mass put me at ease, and she assured me that at my age it’s most likely a benign fibroadenoma and just to be sure they would like to get a biopsy done. Thankfully, due to a cancellation, I was able to come the next afternoon.
I’m really good at keeping it together in these types of situations, but once I closed the door to my minivan, I pressed my forehead into the steering wheel and cried for a solid twenty minutes. I was scared, and it felt like my world was spinning out of control.
The next day, the doctor conducted a vacuum-assisted needle core biopsy to take four samples of the mass. After three long days of waiting, the doctor called to tell me that I have a very rare type of tumor that only 1 percent of women get.
It’s called a Phyllodes tumor.
“You need to see a breast surgeon,” the doctor on the phone informed me.
I tried to respond, but no sound would come from my mouth.
“Now. Oh...and Happy Birthday!”
I waited a few days before I told my children. I wanted to have all the answers to their questions. I did what I do best in these types of situations and I read everything I could on this type of tumor. On a day when everyone was in a good mood I told my 6- and 8-year-old sons that we needed to have a family meeting.
“Remember when I went to the doctor and they had to do some tests on my breast and I had that bandage?”
Both boys nodded their head. My youngest son, Z, chewed on the side of his mouth the way I do when I’m nervous.
“Well the doctor’s found a tumor and it’s called cancer.”
“What’s a tumor?” Z asked.

5/25/2012

College Park Patch: We Will Never Take Friendship for Granted!

This article was originally published on the College Park Patch.
When I rounded the corner on my walk to school to pick up the kids, I saw L sitting next to his best friend B. When they saw me approach, both boys came running up. “Can B come over to play today? Please!!” L asked.
“Sure, we need to ask B’s mom or dad first though,” I replied.
B quickly interjected: “We already did—He said 'Yes.' He’s over there.”
And off all three boys went, running down the sidewalk to our house. My youngest son, Z, tried unsuccessfully to be a part of their pack. Although he plays well with older kids, it’s not the same with L and B.
L is on the Autism Spectrum and his friend also has some speech delays. The two of them speak their own language and live in a world together, and it’s hard for other kids to be a part of it. It brings tears to my eyes to see the two of them together.
For so long L didn’t have friends. He would often be the kid left out when we would go to the neighborhood playgrounds. It wasn’t because he didn’t want to be a part of the group; it was because he didn’t understand how to be a part of the group. I often would stand on the sidelines and try and help him navigate the playground politics: “L, that little boy threw the ball at you because he wants you to play catch with him.”
B has been a gift from the universe for my son. He’s the friend my son needed to cross over into the nuerotypical world. This year they are in the same class, and B has pushed him to be a part of classroom projects and activities that L would normally avoid, or they would cause him to have a meltdown. As long as B is next to him, he’s willing to try new things and interact with other children.
While walking home from school, Z grabbed my hand. “Mommy what are they doing?” he asked.

5/16/2012

Take that- tumor! You are being evicted!!

After a mammogram in April I was informed that I have a Phyllodes tumor in my left breast. I didn't share it right away with the world....I wasn't sure if I was going to... I wasn't ready for breast cancer to be my reality.  
I was really sad. I was sleeping more than normal, I tried to be honest with my feelings and embrace each one when it happened. Which means I cried at really inopportune times.
Everything seemed the same and yet everything was different. I would look down at my breasts and feel disgusted with them, like they were traitors-hiding this secret from me. 


I would be teaching yoga and thinking about this tumor, 
reading bedtime stories to my children and thinking about this tumor, 
riding in the car; staring out of the window and I'd be thinking about this tumor.


When I wasn't thinking about the different options of surgery I would be reading about Phyllodes tumors, connecting with other women through support groups on Facebook and asking their advice and opinions. (These women have been a huge help!)
I've been living and breathing information on Phyllodes tumors for the past month.
It's what I do when I'm faced with a crisis. I read. I gather information so that I am armed and ready to make the best possible decision.


I met with my breast surgeon, Dr. Magnant at Sibly Memorial Hospital and my plastic surgeon, Dr. Huang and we've come up with the best option for me. I'll be having surgery on May 30th. Dr. Magnant will remove the tumor with wide margins (wide excision Lumpectomy) and Dr. Huang will do the breast reduction at the same time. There will be a pathologist in the surgery room that will test the tumor to make sure that all the cancer cells are removed from the margins while I am laying on the surgery table. This takes a huge weight off my shoulders knowing that the cancer cells will be gone!
Five days later I will know the results from pathology, and hopefully that will be the end to my breast cancer experience.
Thank you for the emails, phone calls and encouraging words. Please continue to pray and send healing energy for me on May 30th!
And if your are local, stop by and say hello!






5/15/2012

Routine



"While life is not always fair, it is manageable. It is a matter of attitude and confidence." - Mario Andretti

5/14/2012

College Park Patch: Sorry, I Can't Help It!


This article was originally published on the College Park Patch.
I pull into the pick-up lane at the school, scanning the running children for my two sons. I see my youngest, Z, playing tag with some other kids in his class, laughing and yelling the children’s names as he runs away from the child who is deemed “it.” My oldest son, L, who is on the Autism Spectrum , is sitting alone eating his snack, staring off into the distance, as if the children running and laughing aren’t within mere feet of him.
He never turns to look at them or watch their game. He sits and stares. This veteran-special-needs-mama knows what this behavior means … He didn’t have a good day. Something must have happened out of the ordinary. Did he have a substitute teacher, an assembly? The smallest detail in his routine shifting or changing can upturn his world.
I open the window of the passenger side door and yell their names. Z gathers his things and comes running to the car, already recounting important events of his day: “Mom did you know we had extra PE today and I got to play flag football and I didn’t even know how to do it but now I do and it’s awesome!”
Cutting off his story, I yell for my oldest son again, who is still sitting on the sidewalk, staring into space. An impatient parent in the car behind me honks; Z hasn’t taken a breath to stop talking: “My flags were yellow but Jacob’s flags were red. We were on the same team though. I don’t know why we had different colors. Mom—guess what color the other team had?”

5/10/2012

College Park Patch: Advice for Divorced Parents—When I Only Wanted to Buy Some Bananas



This article was originally published on the College Park Patch. 
I was standing in line waiting to pay at the grocery store, lost in thought as I often was during this time. I clearly had a dissatisfied look on my face. The cashier gave me a smile and said, “Oh come on, it can’t be that bad.”
“I’m getting a divorce,” I replied flatly.
Everything seemed to stop. I couldn’t hear the beeping of items being checked out, the music playing over the speaker system was suddenly quiet. The words left my lips before I had a chance to realize what I was saying. I hadn’t really admitted it to myself yet, but I knew in my heart my marriage was over, and here I was in the grocery store trying the sentence out for myself.
“I’m getting a divorce.” How did it sound being spoken out loud? Would it hurt less the more I spoke those words?
“Let me give you some advice…” the cashier said holding a bunch of bananas in mid air.
I rolled my eyes and let out an exasperated sigh. Immediately aware of this rude behavior I stumbled over the words, “I’m sorry,” while trying to think of a better apology. And the cashier looked at me with such a kind smile, eyes reflecting my scared face.
“You got kids?”
I nod, “Yes, two.”

5/09/2012

Unleashing the Teacher Within: Yoga Class with Dana Trixie Flynn


Gretchen Schock and Dana Flynn

The vibrations from the other voices in the room lifted me up while we were singing a chant in Sanskrit. One woman’s voice sang higher; hers has been given the gift of being able to harmonize with the other voices. We are yoga teachers from all over the world who came together at the Yoga Journal Conference in NYC.  Sitting semi circle around master teacher Dana Trixie Flynn (co-owner of Laughing Lotus Yoga Center), as she spoke of inspiration and creativity.

She told a story of how she wants to sing in more of her classes but it’s the thing she fears the most. It’s hard to believe when looking at this woman that she has any fears. Half sleeve tattoos on one arm, spikey brunette hair; she speaks with such fire and intensity.  

“As teachers we need to allow ourselves to be vulnerable, to try something new”, Dana says to the enthusiastic faces that surround her. Many of us smile, whether the other women also share her fear of public singing… I don’t know. But I smiled because I suffer with allowing myself to be vulnerable.

Once on our feet her class felt like a dance. My body moved in ways that it hasn’t in a long time. I closed my eyes; I could see the fire of dance inside me being rekindled. My thumbs tucked in, a habit I’ve never been able to break in my yoga practice but this time it didn’t matter. A vision of Madame Petrov, a ballet instructor from college, flashed in my head. “You catching a ride?”, she would say with a thick French accent to students in dance class who’s thumbs were sticking up in the air. It doesn’t matter that every time we lift a leg high in the air that my feet are perfectly pointed from years of being a dancer.

“Allow your practice to be an extension of your creativity.”, Dana says as she walks by me placing her hands on my lower back while in downward dog- pushing me further into my pose. Dana taught the class a few made up poses that derive from the Laughing Lotus Flow that is taught in her studios, “deep down inside” and “OMG!”. The Laughing Lotus poses connect to traditional yoga poses so that we flowed on our mats in a dance formation.

My body screamed- YES! YES!! YES!!

My vinyasa flow began to look like a modern dance. Nina Simone and other powerful voices crooned through the speakers and Dana continued to lead the room of women like a master conductor. Fueling each of our fires, letting go of our egos, we allowed ourselves to feel the connection.

Throughout the class Dana is speaking about unleashing the creativity of our inner teacher. At times I’m present and listening to her and then all I can hear is my body celebrating the movement.
Movements I’ve done probably thousands of times suddenly it felt connected to my soul, my spirit. At the beginning of the class Dana mentioned that many teachers loose sight of their practice. We are all so busy teaching that we don’t make time to roll out the mat. This is true for me right now.

“You need to make the time; get up early and do it!”, Dana’s voice rises higher as her fist pushes through the air. “It is our connection to source. That light is channeling through us and as teachers we go and share that in our classes.” I’ve lost sight of this, as many other women in the room expressed the same frustration.

As my body moved, the connection to source happened. My Cobra was a surrender and in Camel I literally felt my heart open. It was effortless, which Camel has never been for me. I came out of it with grace and moved into a balancing side crane with extended legs for the very first time! I’ve been practicing this pose for months and today was the day when I was truly connected, that everything was in alignment.

We moved through a series of poses, at times you could only hear the breath of the women in the room. We reached our summit, our bodies in celebration we begin our descent towards the ground, lying on our stomachs. I can’t lie on my stomach yet from the core needle biopsy performed the previous week.  Propping myself up on my elbows and drawing my chin to my chest I get a glimpse of the bruises on my left breast and I exhale, instantly feeling deflated. I tune out the music, to Dana and my mind races through breast cancer scenarios. I’ve been able to avoid thinking of breast cancer for the last three days and now here it is …feeling like it’s smacking me in the face!

How will a mastectomy/lumpectomy change how I teach yoga? I like the way I teach, I like that my classes are challenging. Will a breast surgery force me into the world of gentle yoga? The thought of that makes my heart sink.

“You have everything already inside you.”, Dana says while leading us through our final vinyasa. My body is no longer in a celebration mode, my movements seem tired and my spirit has been shifted.

Laying in Shavasana, there was a break in the music and Dana says it again: “You have everything.” She pauses and then continues, “You have everything already inside you. Allow your practice to change. Allow IT to change your practice.” It was if God was speaking through her, instantly tears stream down my cheeks. I get it!!!! Allow breast cancer to change my practice. I’ve been assuming that it will lead me into gentle yoga classes with senior citizens. But I never thought that it could change my practice for the better! Or that it would open new doors for me with other women who have experienced breast tumors.

My breath is steady but the tears continue to slip from my lids and slide down the side of my face dropping onto my mat. I have an out of body experience- in my minds eye I am looking down at myself laying on my yoga mat in a room full of women and from my ribs to my head is basked in light, I am glowing.
“Roll onto your side.”
I am instantly pulled back into the present moment. As instructed I come to half lotus, wiping my eyes, Dana and I make eye contact and I half smile. She gives me a look of compassion while continuing to finish the class. We sing one final chant. I can barely get through it without crying.
Hands at prayer…Namaste…we bow.

It’s as if there is an invisible line pulling us to each other, I go to Dana and her to me. She embraces me and whispers in my ear, “It’s okay.” I pull out of the embrace but she continues to hold me close so that we are face to face, her arms are wrapped behind my back. Being in this position forces me to look her in the eye. I inhale.
“Last week I was diagnosed with a breast tumor. And it’s likely I’ll be having surgery…I just don’t know what kind. Possible mastectomy.”
“Oh sweetie-“ she draws me into an embrace again whispering in my ear “You are going to be-“ In my head she said “great”, a phrase I say daily to my children as they head off to school, but in reality I’m sure she says “fine”.

This is God doing her magic again.

My voice quivering, “I’ve been so caught up in how breast cancer is going to change my practice but thank you, your class really spoke to me- to allow IT to fuel the change. The change could be spectacular! Thank you! Thank YOU!”
She kisses my cheek and holds me for a few more seconds before we both release the embrace.
I gather my belongings while other students surround her.
I feel lighter.
I feel connected to God, to source, in a way that I haven’t in a really long time. Thank you Dana Trixie Flynn for being the instrument.

5/08/2012

Routine

Focus in on what is important in your life, let the rest go.

5/07/2012

The Birthday Present I Never Expected: Breast Cancer


picture taken by Wendi Putzke

I made the decision that this was the year that I was finally going to get a breast reduction. I’ve always wanted one. I’ve had these double D breasts since I was 13. Double D on a small 5’3 frame is rather large.

Throughout my life I’ve had a mostly ‘hate’ relationship with the size of my breasts. I’ve never felt comfortable with the attention they created, how they pulled men’s focus from looking into my eyes when speaking to me. I went through a phase of only wearing baggy clothes for many years and then I finally accepted my boobs and at times in my life I used them to my advantage. When I was in my twenties I toiled with the idea of getting a breast reduction but decided to wait until after I had children.
Many women get excited when they have new pregnancy boobs, cleavage they didn’t have before magically appears one morning. I was devastated; pregnancy boobs pushed me out of shopping in an actual store and into a world of online ordering for such a large cup size. And don’t even get me started with nursing bras!

I’m done reproducing and tired of the pain in the back (literally) that these large breasts are causing me. So I made the consultation appointment with a plastic surgeon for a breast reduction. There are a few steps you have to take before surgery day; you need to get a physical, blood work and a mammogram….simple enough. I made the appointments and in general was feeling giddy about the new set of breasts I will soon be having. Day dreaming of strapless dresses that I’ll be wearing this summer, the different style of bathing suits I’ll be able to wear without having to worry about underwire support and coverage.

The radiologist office that I chose specializes in mammograms, once you are called back you are asked to change into a little cotton hospital-gown-type top and sit in another waiting area full of women who are also in the same cotton tops with no bras on. As I entered and found the changing stall, each of these women looked at me with such sad eyes. I imagine the voice in their head saying, “ Oh that poor girl, she’s so young.” I smiled and gave a general “hello” to all the sixty-year-old women, as I would to a room of students in a yoga class. I found my seat, wishing someone would start talking to me so I could loudly say, “I’m here because I‘m having a breast reduction.” I imagine them all nodding and thinking to themselves, “Oh that explains it!”

But no one was talking to each other. Finally a woman in her mid seventies emerges from one of the changing stalls and says loudly to no one in particular, “Well I’m nervous as hell! Aren’t we all? Can we talk about it?” That was all it took to get this group of women to laugh and exchange success stories and recommendations for oncologists. I sat in the back and listened while pretending to read my magazine.

“Gretchen?”, a friendly technician calls my name.

I get up and it’s obvious they forgot I was there, again the sad eyes from the room of older women. The boastful seventy year old says “Go get em!” and raises her fist.
The room breaks into laughter!

During the mammogram, unexpectedly they discovered a mass in my left breast. After the appropriate numbers of images were taken I’m moved into another room to have an ultrasound performed. I can’t see the screen; the technician has a permanent furrow in her brow as she swipes the wand back and forth over the same area on my breast. Stopping to only type something on the machine and then the wand is back to that exact spot. My heart begins to race. I’m told the radiologist will speak to me in a few minutes.

The kind eyes of the radiologist and her directness about the mass puts me at ease, she assures me at my age it’s most likely a benign fibroadenoma and just to be sure they would like to get a biopsy done. Thankfully due to a cancelation I’m able to come the next afternoon.

I’m really good at keeping it together in these types of situations but once I closed the door to my minivan, I pressed my forehead into the steering wheel and cried for a solid twenty minutes. I was scared and it felt like my world was spinning out of control.

The next day I arrived for my vacuum assisted needle core biopsy, the doctor took four samples of the mass. After three long days of waiting the doctor called to tell me that I have a very rare type of tumor that only one percent of women get, it’s called a Phyllodes tumor.

“You need to see a breast surgeon.”, the doctor on the phone informs me.
I tried to respond but no sound would come from my mouth.
“Now. Oh...and Happy Birthday!”

5/01/2012

Routine

When you inhale, you are taking the strength from God. When you exhale, it represents the service you are giving to the world.
-B.K.S. Iyengar

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