Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Middle School Memories

Me, 7th grade
My 14yo says I look like Hermione Granger.
I don't agree, but I'll take it anyway!
When I was young, I moved around schools a lot. Between 4th and 5th grade, we moved and I entered a new school district and went to the local elementary school. From there, I went to the 6th grade center (yes, one building that only had 6th grade classes in it!). And that was followed by a move to the middle school.

After 7th grade, we moved again, so I switched districts for 8th grade.

When I moved, I didn't keep in touch with my friends. There was no e-mail back then, we didn't even have AIM (if you're old enough to remember that LOL). A few years ago, thanks to Facebook, I reconnected with some people from those middle school (ish) years.

They are having a reunion this weekend, and it didn't work out for me to attend, but none the less, I was thinking about how those years have helped shaped me. I've never sat down and thought about things like this before, so it was kind of interesting how many memories just came flooding back!  Some are really small and trivial things, but some are kind of big.

* I made 2/3rds of my kids (and the third one soon) read Bridge to Terabithia because I remember Ms. Williams (I think) crying as she read the ending of the book to our class.

* I can sing the Greek alphabet thanks to my 6th grade main teacher

* In 6th grade we had a teacher's aid for our team (that was three classes/teachers). She taught me and another girl Sarah to french braid our hair. She probably taught more, but for some reason, I can only remember Sarah french braiding hair with me. Sarah's mom had recently passed away. As I look back with adult eyes, I know she taught us to french braid as a way to get us to talk in a way that didn't feel like talking. I use that as a parent a lot. 

* I sing songs like Waltzing Matilda (6th grade), Sesame Street medleys (7th grade), and I'm Proud to Be an American. I also sing Steve Martin's King Tut because our art teacher - Ms. Freak - would play it sometimes during art class as background music.

* Speaking of art, some of the projects I made with Ms. Freak and in my 7th grade art class (and I can't remember her name!) I have since made with my kids. One example is paper mosaics I did in class and then did with my kids. My one daughter did it as a 4H project for our county fair one year. 

* In 7th grade we had to learn sentence diagramming in our language arts class. I teach my children that now. I couldn't remember any of it though and had to relearn it. My oldest can probably already say she forgot it all now, but I tried. Like my teacher tried. But we used to joke that our teacher looked like ET. We all liked her though, so we weren't trying to be mean. One day she told us one of her favorite movies was ET. I have no idea if it actually was, or somehow she knew we thought that and said that to kind of mess with us a bit. 

* For 6th and 7th grade I had to walk a mile and a half (minus like 1/2 a block) to school, uphills both ways. But no, really, I did. If we lived on the very next block I would have qualified for busing - which kicked in once you were a mile and half from the school! And our town had a "valley" in it, my house was on one "peak" and the school on the other. So I literally would go down the hill, and up the hill. 

It wasn't all lovely things though.

* I had a sleepover birthday party that was a train wreck. I invited people who I wasn't really friends with to seem more cool, they came, they weren't having fun, I cried. It was awful. But we did watch Arachnophobia and I still hate spiders.

* I took my first (and only) ride in a police car - it wasn't anything major and it was enough to scare me out of my "life of crime" and get me grounded for a really long time. I lost my parents' trust and didn't want to do that ever again. 
* In 6th grade science we had a unit learning about eyes and seeing. The teacher asked if we (people) could see in the dark. I said yes. Absolutely. I knew this down to my bones. I even convinced some people in the class to switch from the no team to the yes team. I just knew it. And .... I was wrong. It was the first time I felt something so deeply and it was wrong! That was eye opening for sure (see what I did there? And here? LOL) .

* Right before I moved I had a fight with one of my best friends. We never made up. I have no idea what the fight was about now. I can't find her on Facebook. I've asked mutual friends if they've heard from her and they haven't. I never got to say I'm sorry. And I never got to say good-bye. Pick your battles wisely. You never know when you won't get that one last chance. 

I'm sure I could think of thousands of other ways middle school (ish) affected me today. I know that we are always growing and learning, but this is probably the youngest age that I can really remember things from that have impacted me. I can't tell you much about my kindergarten years, or even 3td grade. I could repeat a few stories my mom has told me, but they aren't my memories so much as me retelling hers. 

I think moving also helps me frame things. I didn't go to 4th grade with any of these kids, or even 8th grade. So I can firmly place these memories in this age range. This is when I lived in this town. This is when it happened. I can't mix up 12 years of school with the same kids. I didn't appreciate moving honestly, and we could talk about how excruciatingly painful 8th grade was for me as I found myself in a new school and knowing basically no one. But 5th through 7th grade? I was weird, I was hyper, I was crazy, and I didn't care that much about how I was labeled for most of those years. Towards the end I started to realize there were cool kids and not cool kids. I was most decidedly a not cool kid, but I didn't know it for most of that time, so I didn't feel it. I had fun. A lot of fun!

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Why do bad things happen?


(I originally posted this on my personal facebook page on June 22. In the midst of grief. Again. I had just lost another friend not too long before this. And it hurts, it just hurts so darn much. And so I just poured this out and I'm still not sure it's eloquent enough or pretty enough, but I think it's human enough and real enough that I'm sharing it here as well).

This morning a friend asked a question that was basically why do bad things happen and bad things happen to good people and why do we still look for the good in the bad. And I wanted to reply in a way that wasn't cliche or trite but was honest and real. So I thought and when I went back to share with her, I saw that she had passed away. Cancer has stolen another friend, another good person, another loving heart.

And I don't know why this happens. But I know that it just hurts so much.
And I know what I would tell Christina if she were still here. I would tell her (and what I'll tell myself right now. And what I would tell so many of you because I know others are struggling with grief and illness and pain):


Our world is imperfect and unfair. It can be so incredibly unfair that it just takes our breath away. The unfairness can make us angry and upset and want to lash out. But our world is also a world of ands.

So our world can also be beautiful and perfect and lovely. And we can find here people who are just amazing human beings down to their very core. People who are full of goodness and light.

And because we live in an unfair world that can also be beautiful, sometimes really shitty things can happen to really lovely people. And there really isn't a why.

Sometimes you can be strong and amazing and giving and loving and be in pain and have struggles and carry a burden that just feels overwhelming at best.

It's awful. But it's our and world. And you, well you handle it beautifully. And it's okay to be mad and upset and acknowledge the unfairness of it all and to some how weather the storm with a grace that really is beautiful.

I don't know the why. I don't know the how. But I know the who; I know you. And I love you and wish I could help ease your burden. Love you so very much.

Go hug someone. Go tell someone you love them. Life really is too short, even though some days it is too short and too long.

Sunday, July 02, 2017

Failing

As I sit here and look around, all I can see is failure.
Every thing I think about, brings me back to failure.

I am failing.
Every. Single. Day.

Laundry done? Nope.
House cleaned? Nope.
Phone calls needed to be made? Nope.
Long term goals? Nope. Nope. And, oh yeah, nope.
That think I was supposed to remember? Forgotten about.

I am awash with failure.

I know, I know.
We all fall down.
We all make mistakes.

We just have to try again. And again. And again.
And this famous person had to do something 1 quadrillion times before they were successful!

Well, fanfuckingtabulous for them.

I am not them.
And here I stand.
Or well, sit.
Or well, lay down.

What I am good at these days?
Pain.
Being exhausted.
Pain.
Forgetting things.
Being exhausted.
Pain.
Feeling behind.
Feeling tired.
Pain.

And did I mention that I'm tired and in pain?

Because here's the thing.
I am trying so hard.
But it's so hard to try when things hurt and you're exhausted.

And there is SO much I want to do.
Things I want to help out with.
Things I want to do better with.

I swear I am trying.
I am trying so hard.
I make lists.
I forget to look at lists.
I make new lists.
I put them where I have to look.
I forget where I put them.
Then the kids need me.
Or my hands have decided to stop working.

For the record: It's really freaking hard to do things when your hands don't want to work.
Some of you are all too painfully aware of this.
Some of you have no idea what it's like to not be able to close your hands.
Want to hold a coffee cup? Not by the handle you won't!
Want to hold a pen? Ha! Good luck!
Want to knit? Nice try, but not today.

Hey, want to change the world?
Why not try getting out of bed first!

Want to bake the family a cake?
Stretch those legs out first.

Want to sit and type a blog post?
Wait for your hands to warm up.

Because I have a million things I want to do.
I have a million projects I want to accomplish around the house.
I have a million blog posts bouncing around in my head.
I want to be a better mom.
I want to not be behind on laundry.
I want to go back to the hardships I had six years ago and have those be my hardships today.
And I want the fucking hot flashes to go. far. far. far. away.

Okay. I turned a fan on and am feeling less hot flashy.
Though I still feel quite ranty.

I tried to reverse it.
You know, instead of a to-do list, I tries to make a things I accomplished list.

It sort of looked like this:
Get up.
Get granny breakfast.
Lay back down.
Listen to a podcast.
Drive kids.
Take a nap.
Wake up.
Ask kids if they ate lunch even though it was two hours ago.
Feel relieved they were smart enough to eat lunch.
Think about housework.
Take a nap.
Eat dinner.
Watch TV
Put granny to bed.
Put self to bed.

I mean, I don't mean to brag, but yes I did all of that. In one day.
But you don't even know how much effort it takes to think about doing housework.
On a good day I do some. But then I have to pick: will I vacuum or will I do laundry?
And place bets on whether or not the laundry gets folded the same day it's washed. (you'll win more money if you bet no).

Alright.
There might be a bit of hyperbole here to make a point.
But not much honestly.

To top it off I am surrounded by amazing, accomplished, literally changing the world people.
I am so excited for them.
I celebrate with them.
I know there are lots of hard moments they have to work through.
I know that often times on facebook we get the whitewashed version of life.

But, honestly? I am so jealous.
I am so jealous of all that these people are accomplishing.
I am so jealous of the fancy vacations.
I am so jealous of the big houses.
I am so jealous of the new cars.
I am so jealous of the sweet new babies.
I am so jealous of friends who have nights out every single week.

(But, I want to clarify, I know these things are earned and deserved and I do not wish for people to not have these things. I just wish I had them too).

And I sit here and I'm off to the doctor to get another test because the last one found something that might be bad.
And I'm off to another funeral because another friend is gone.
And I'm bringing another friend food after surgery.
And I'm sending another friend some goodies in the mail as new cancer treatments are started.

I realize that as hard as it is to admit, I both love and loathe my cancer community.

I love all the wonderful people in it.
I love all the friends I've made.
I love it when people can say "me too!"
I love it when I feel not alone.

I loathe I am a part of it at all.
I loathe more illness and bad news.
I loathe death and grief and mourning.
I loathe treatments and side effects. 
I loathe feeling like a failure in so many ways.

Cue sigh of frustration.
And sigh of relief.

That was a lot to get off my chest.
Sometimes venting feels so good, doesn't it?
Nothing will change in the next five minutes, except I might feel lighter for a little bit.
Which is good.
Because venting? Definitely not something I'm failing at!

Saturday, April 29, 2017

CancerCon Day 1

So. It's just after midnight. I'm sitting in a dark hotel room. One roommate is sleeping, the other is still out.

And here I sit.

Exhausted to the core, and yet still unable to sleep.

Not for the usual reasons though - no anxiety, no one who needs me to take care of them. Just me, sitting here, reliving today and smiling, knowing that being here is so important to me.

Today, the first official day of CancerCon was, well in a word, awesome!

Lots of laughs, lots of hugs, so many good conversations, and at one point, I folded myself into a suitcase (more on that later).

There was a lot of fun and games today. It will, at first glance, look like CancerCon is one big party in which we all come and just hang out and have a good old time.

And we do.

But.
But.

But there is more to it in that.
In the midst of the laughter, there are tears.

We party, but we share our stories. Sometimes these stories make us laugh. Sometimes they make us cry. Sometimes the stories are currently in a good spot. Sometimes these stories do not come with a happily-ever-after-ending.

We party, but we bond. We bond with people who have had cancer. We bond with those going through treatment. We bond with people who have rare cancers. We bond with people wh have our cancer. We bond with people who take care of people with cancer. We bond with mothers. We bond with fathers. We bond with daughters. We bond with sons. We bond with husbands and wives. We bond with doctors. We bond with advocates. We bond with representatives of companies.
Sometime we bond over shared music tastes, or we find another Doctor Who fan who wants to play Pokemon Go too. We bond with someone else who pulls out some knitting. We bond with someone else who is here for the first time. We bond with people who have been to almost every Stupid Cancer conference ever.
Yes, we bond a lot.

Because there's something here so many are lacking back at home: people like us. People who had cancer but don't look like a "typical" cancer talent (whatever that is supposed to mean). We are surrounded by people who don't say "But you can't get that cancer when you're young!" Because we're all young, or we were young, or we take care of someone is young. We have freedom to say things like "fuck cancer," or "cancer brought me some good things," or even "cancer was a gift to me." We toss around names of chemo, of drugs, of number of radiations treatments. We exchange stories about doctors who suck, doctors who go above and beyond, or about that one time we puked on the cute doctor!

Some of us are bald, some have short hair, some have medium hair, some have long hair. Some of us miss our normal hair and can't wait for it to grow back and some of us have discovered that damn, we look good with short hair!

We talk about pain management, of things that hurt, of things that don't hurt anymore. We mention we are going to take a break to get a nap in and no one says things like "geese, must be nice to nap" because we all know that no one wants to actually take a nap and miss what might happen because it's fun here, but our bodies are crying for rest.


We talk about anxiety and how we are scared the cancer will come back even though it's been a year, or two, or five, or nine, or eleven.

We talk about how our cancer is progressing even with treatment and we hope that we will still be around in a year, or two, or five, or nine, or eleven.

We talk about how lemons don't cure cancer. And if they did they'd cost a lot more money and probably not sold at a supermarket.

We talk about the people who took care of us. Or the people we took care of.

We talk.
And talk.
And talk.

And we listen.
And listen.
And listen.

And from the Instagram posts or from the outside looking in, it looks like a big party. But it's so much more. It's knowing you are not alone. It's knowing you aren't the only person struggling with the issues facing you. It's not being the youngest person in the room by 20 or more years.

It's about community.
And family.
And not being alone.
And yes, sometimes it's about partying and having a good time. Which means sometimes we been ourselves into a suitcase to get the points for the scavenger hunt for our team. And it's about handing someone a tissue as their eyes fill with tears.

Because we know.
Because we get it.
Because we are linked in ways we never asked to be linked, but now that we are, we can become friends and form relationships.

And that is a wondering thing.

Just think. This is only day 1! Wonder what day 2 will hold!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Phoning it in

The last few weeks have been a bit on the rough side around here.

[side note: In what we'll call fair disclosure, there have also been some really fun and great moments as we have a French foreign exchange student, which maybe I'll blog about later!]

Anyway, there have been some not fun side effects. Higher levels of stress. And some bad news from friends and loved ones.

Boo. Hiss. Cry. Be sad.

So tonight, I'll ordered dinner. We rarely order dinner, except for pizza nights. Like, not counting pizza, I can't remember the last time I ordered dinner. But I just could. not. make. dinner. tonight.

And then I flashed to my grandmother's funeral late last summer.

My grandma was 98 years old when she passed away. She passed away in the bedroom she was born in. In the house on the farm her parents started. Eventually her and my grandfather took over.

At the funeral people were sharing memories. One of the memories shared was going to her house to wash jeans, which took a long time.

Grandma had 9 children. And a husband. On a farm.

Something really resonated with me that day, that I thought of today.

Grandma couldn't take a day off. She couldn't just decide to not make dinner. Or to wash all the jeans. Or other laundry. Or cooking food. Or all the things she had to do.

And I think about today. Where I have an electric stove, a microwave, a dishwasher, a washing machine, a dryer, a car, tons of grocery stores, only three kids, etc, etc.

Which makes me think, damn, grandma was a strong woman.
Which makes me thing, damn, I'm lazy.

Though I don't think I'm lazy.

But I wonder, did grandma ever wish she could make someone else make dinner. Did she ever call a friend or relative and say hey, today's been rough, can you help me feed all these people. Or did she serve leftovers once or twice not because it was all she had but because she didn't want to cook more food. And if she had, could she have admitted it?

What pressures were on her as a mother as the ebb and flow of life rushed on around her?

I never asked her.
I never even thought to ask her.

I wish I had, honestly.

I suppose this is a case of you didn't know what you wanted until it was gone.
Or I took for granted that she could have taken a break, or not made dinner, or skipped laundry one week.

I'll assume that when my grandma was in the throes of motherhood and had some bad days, heard bad news, got sick, that she didn't take a break. That she had to buck up and make dinner anyway.

That said, I'm glad I could literally phone in dinner tonight. And I won't take for granted the ability to do that.