10 minutes in the closet with Andrea Collins-Smith


We thought we would mix things up a little and I (Andrea’s husband, also known as Kelly… sometimes other stuff like @#**%&#!) would come up with 10 questions for my lovely wife.
So on that note….

K: So lets talk about how hot you are.
A: Okay..this is what he said to me the first 5 minutes of our first phone call. I totally was taken aback by that comment 5 years ago.I am still taken aback by it. Who says things like that? Who just blurts out “let’s talk about how hot you are?” My husband. He has no “chip” that tells him to censor himself. He also still thinks I am hot which is kind of awesome.

K: I do, cause you are. About 30 minutes later in the same conversation you informed me that you were a good Christian girl and that I wouldn’t be getting any for a long time (I won’t kiss and tell) but some how that started this year long debate… you liked Christ the savior and I said I didn’t care what happened later and that I was just trying to do the right thing today and favored Christ the teacher. This makes so much sense now. The Buddhists say everything is perfect. In this case I think they are right. Where has cancer lead you spiritually?
A: I am not sure I even understand the question….Spiritually I think I am still pretty into Christ as Saviour. I mean the concept of Christian heaven is still pretty appealing. But I also know that the concept that life is a journey…one loaded with lessons intended to help us grow…that is a big part of my spiritual understanding now. I am really into acceptance. I think that transcends a specific faith or religious affiliation. Only because anyone can see that life is about the lessons we learn. I think it is kind of sad to experience hardship and not get anything out of it. I am really into learning from this intense experience.

K: I think that your trip to New Mexico was in some way life altering if not health altering. I was so pleased with the radiant beauty that returned. It makes me wish we had more alone time. Do you wanna talk a little about what went on there?
A: I think I did somewhat. I was really open to everything that was coming my way. Spiritually a lot of it was outside my element. Outside Christian norms. Tarot cards. Cranial Sacral therapy. I mean I was being worked on by people who were reading my aura and stuff like that. But I was having these major spiritual breakthroughs. I really feel like I let go of all my expectations about what my life had to be…or was supposed to be. I really became connected to the idea that this is my path and it is the one that I am supposed to have. It really became clear to me that healing can happen outside of just the medical standards. I am not sure that it is the femara that is shrinking my tumors or the fact that Paula and Suzy laid there hands on me and manipulated the energy inside my body. That may sound “out there” but it was a really powerful experience. I dreamt about being healed. It was very moving.

K: You are certainly from the old guard of the Philly punk scene. You wanna talk about what being the punk rock mommy means to you and how “the scene” has rallied around you as of late?
A: Well first I was never punk rock mommy until Jon O called me that. I was “Andrea with all the kids”. That is seriously what I was called. Or “Andrea who used to work at Mom’s.” Or “Andrea Jeeter’s ex.” So punk rock mommy is really funny to me. I am though I guess. I mean I was there with 45 people watching Nirvana play at Dobb’s in 1988. So I am pretty fucking old school. But I think that all played into being a mom somehow. I wanted my kids to be radical thinkers. And they are. As far as my scene..they blow me away with their love and concern. These people have totally stuck by me. My punk rock, tattooed, motorcycle riding bad ass friends are here making meals and throwing benefits. And getting tattooed by you. These are the people who show up at every benefit. They call me. They are my favorite people in the world. Where is my sister? Not here. But Ori is. Ruthie is. That is amazing. Don’t judge a book…so the saying goes. I am a perfect example of that. Don’t judge me by my tattoos or any of my friends. I am the luckiest person I know.

Kelly Andrea’s husband: Do you have a favorite parenting story?
A: Oh that is hard. I mean I think it might be a long one. Basically when I had to “run out” for a second I would leave Alec or Jesse in charge of the twins. Once when the twins were about 10 I had to go get something real quick and Alec and Jesse weren’t home. So I told the twins I would be right back. Asa said “Who’s in charge?” I said well “Do you know what anarchy is?” I explained that it was the concept of self government. If every person does the right thing it alleviates the need for outside control. So I said,” If both of you do the right thing, nothing bad will happen and you will each be in charge of yourselves.” They liked this option and I came home to find the house and them intact. Months later I came home and found a note on the table that Jesse wrote. It said,”Mom, I told Asa he had to do(blank I don’t recall the specific) and he said that he is an anarchist and he doesn’t have to listen to me. Please talk to him about this tonight!” I still have that letter somewhere.

K: Do you have a favorite marriage story?
A: Yeah not so much a story. Because I think our marriage has been very sweet and funny. But more just that I have learned a lot about “real love” from being with you. You frequently said in the beginning that you were on my side. And that really resonated with me because I always felt like in previous relationships like I was in a boxing ring. With you it feels like I have a true partner. I think it saddens me to not be able to think about growing old with you. You are so handsome..I want to see what you will look like when you are old. I also really like the tattoo portrait of me on your arm. That is a nice story. You surprised me with that. Really you are a strange mixture of totally inappropriate and sweet beyond words. A story would either embarrass
you or embarrass me.

K: hmmm I thought you were gonna talk about me proposing to you naked at 3 in the morning. (and you thought you were gonna get an ipod for Christmas). As for what I’ll look like in my autumn years just picture Santa Clause with lots of tattoos. Speaking of tattoos, tell us how you got so into being tattooed and maybe how thats become a family tradition?
A: Well I was always a bit overly attracted to carnies, with their greasy hair and tattoos. That’s where you come in. No, I rushed into Philly Eddie’s shop at 18 and got tattooed by your boss. He was like my age then. But yeah I just started collecting them. And then I met you. And you needed a lot of practice in order to get a job at a shop. So I donated a lot of skin didn’t I dear? That’s what a good wife does. Then I was diagnosed with this dreadful disease 2 days before Mother’s Day. Alec was 16. He decided he wanted a mom tattoo. So you and he went out and got matching breastfeeding mom pin up tattoos. Then this years on Mother’s Day Jesse got his Mom tattoo. I say damn right..I had those babies with no medication and breastfed for 2 years they owe me a mom tattoo.

K: two down four to go huh? I remember when we were first dating and I started calling you sailor mom on account of your occasional potty mouth and Asa started saying he was going to get a sailor mom tattoo. I tease you about being a cancer super star, lets talk a little about the blog and how much press you have gotten. How do you feel about all of this? Your little message in a bottle has reached over fifty thousand people if I’m not mistaken. I know that you nominated for a national blogging award and that some of the other contestants have told their readership to vote for you. Is all of this ever overwhelming?
A: Well again I really did not even know what a “blog” was a year ago. I thought this would be like this little thing my friends and family would read to keep updated on my treatment. Then strangers started reading and commenting. That was kind of weird. Then Dr. Dan Gottlieb’s producer emailed me to ask if Dan could call me to talk about my blog. Then he had me on for a whole hour to talk about IBC and me! And I am like thinking how did this happen? Then there was a front page article in the Sunday Inquirer. Then Dr. Dan’s t.v. show. I think it is very surreal. But obviously I have touched on something here. I just thought why do strangers even care about this? But I talk about more than just cancer. And I talk about how cancer feels,or the treatments,or whatever. Somehow people are getting something out of it. I wanted to demystify cancer treatment. Explain what a port was or that there are lots of different chemo drugs. But I also wanted to talk about being a mom and being sick and what that is like. I am really honored about the blog award. I am really moved that Carolyn and the other lady asked people to vote for me. That is wild. I did not even ask people to vote at all. Alec put that vote for my mom thing up. I was just thinking oh someone else will win. It is just so strange that people find any of this interesting. But they do. And I am happy to oblige. I will entertain you all to the best of my ability.

K: So Andrea, Our oldest (Alec, a known heavy sleeper) is on puppy duty tonight and has passed out on the couch with the puppy asleep on his belly (cutest thing really). 10 bucks says that he sleeps through slo’s whining and wakes up in a nice warm puddle. Any takers or do we put the puppy back in his crate. what kind of parents are we? cause you know it’s a pretty amusing bet.
A:I vote crate but only because we are training the puppy not Alec.
K: F those kids.
K: I called this entry 10 minutes in the closet because I was thinking of what possibilities the rest of the waking hours held when we were done here, but also because “are you there god it’s me Margaret” is on Bailey’s summer reading list. Is it to soon for her to think about that stuff? How come I’m comically inappropriate and over protective at the same time? I tell friends all the time that we are really actually kind of strict or at least not permissive. I think the kids really like us though.
A: I agree completely. We do not have cable or a play station. They watch very little television. We make them watch every documentary about Walmart and Enron and all that. And we really know what they are doing.Who they are with. And yet they want to be with us,play games, hang out. It is amazing to me that we have 4 teenage sons and no one has ever been grounded. And for being so mature….they are still really kids. Real kids. Not like I wanna be Hannah Montana crap. Or I need all this stuff to be happy. They are so into real life. Music, people, having a good laugh. We did good! Yeah us.

15 Responses to “10 minutes in the closet with Andrea Collins-Smith”

  1. Kelly in Berkeley says:

    ***tears***…laughing and crying.

  2. Kelly in Berkeley says:

    ps Bailey’s the perfect age for that book. It’s pretty tame anyway…and it’ll help her get a handle on all that womanhood stuff!

  3. jenni bender says:

    oh man that was the best read i’ve had in a long time. (not saying i don’t love the rest of the blog!) but seriously, if you two wrote a book that way. i’d read every word.

    it’s funny, when i read each question and answer, i could hear each of your voices and each of your laughts and sighs. you two are the best!

    i really do admire you both, but more importantly really value both of you being in my life. thank you.

    and yes, you did well.

  4. Carolyn says:

    I loved this post. All great stuff. Especially the last bit about how you are raising your children. It’s a good reminder of how we hope to raise our daughter – with a love for experiences and not “things”.

    I agree with Jenni. This would make a great book. Forget about throwing benefits. Work on getting published!

    And thanks for the mention. If it helps you to better understand, I enjoy your blog (and have encouraged others to stop by too) because I feel I can learn a lot from you and your experiences. I have no close connection to cancer or anyone with cancer – thankfully – but cancer is still a frightening word. Your blog helps de-mystify the fears and brings into focus the things that are important in life. It’s sometimes hard for me to gain perspective on my life, so I borrow from yours. I try to step into your shoes so that I may better live my own life… fully and completely, without the jab of a life threatening illness to spur me into action.

    That’s why a blog like yours is so important for the ill and healthy alike.

    It’s late. Did that make any sense at all? Thanks again for sharing.

  5. McGizzle's Mama says:

    Not cool, judging Hannah Montana!

  6. kristine says:

    LOVED! LOVED! LOVED! What a great concept for an entry. I miss you guys. I think it has been way too long since I have seen you. Let’s talk soon. Chinese anyone??

  7. Dina says:

    Great picture and excellent post. What a fabulous idea. Funny story- yesterday Owen rediscovered his stash of temporary tattoos in his bedroom, and proceeded to ask me to apply 8 of them. He’s covered in bats, balls, and Red Sox logos. When I was finished he looked down at his arms and legs and said, “I think I’m a gonna go live with Andrea’s family! How IS my Andrea, Mommy?” Kid cracks me up. Thinking of you and hoping to visit with you soon, doll.
    Love, Dina

  8. leah says:

    you guys are awesome! and yet why you are my hero, those effin’ kids are awesome too!!!!!!
    and i’m so proud to have your star on my back, when people notice it i’m happy to say it’s for you.

  9. Toni G says:

    Individually and collectively your family shares a thread of love, kindness, humor and wisdom far beyond all your combined years………if there is one thing in life I envy it is uniqueness and you ALL have it…….poor little Clay, he sure has a lot to grow into but that too shall come to pass I’m sure. Keep writing……it gets better and better. If you have any doubts, re-read Carolyn’s comments…..she is so correct in her observations.

    No guarantees, we have TODAY, make the best and be the best of each day. See you soon guys.

  10. lizz says:

    i know i tell you this a lot… but i feel so blessed to be able to spend time with you guys. it’s always so hard for me to leave, i could sit and watch veggie tales all day with the kids and talk about life. it’s so calm there, i know you don’t feel that, but believe me, some houses you walk into and there is and undertone of chaos and stress. even tho at any given time there is at least 9 people in your home, there is so much love and togetherness that radiates from you all, it’s hard to feel anything but that.

    i love you… thank you for letting me be a part of that. (it’s so much better than a cult, lol)

  11. I am opposite you in many ways – very conservative, no tattoos (except my nipples!), not in to punk rock, but we share kids and cancer and now being part of the new blog. We can all learn from each other, help each other and hopefully make the world a better place for our children. I am so happy that I found your blog… I too agree that this entry was especially special. It sounds like the two of you really have true love and that is a treasure in and of itself.

  12. Andrea says:

    Thanks for your comments! I had a blast doing this with Kelly and it was all his idea. Dina it is so nice to hear from you. I thought maybe you forgot about me…..please come out on the 14th. Leah you too!!!!

  13. Michelle Wienke says:

    I love you guys! You make my day-and I love the picture too!!

  14. joshua says:

    you guys are a trip!

  15. patsy says:

    u guys are so awesome….all my condolences to u and ur family