formerly Diane's Addled Ramblings... the ramblings are still addled, just like before, and the URL is still the same...
it's just the title at the top of the page that's new

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Floating...

There have been (many) times in my life when I've wanted the earth to stop spinning for a bit. Well, OK, maybe not stop spinning, as that would cause us all to fly off into space. But sometimes, I just want to stop. That's all. Take a break. From everything. From every responsibility that has my name written all over it in capital letters. I'm not even talking about a vacation (though that sounds appealing), but a total Life-break. Total.

Wait. A total Life-break sounds like death. OK, I totally don't want that. Damn it. You guys know what I mean, right? A break. From everything.

You know what I'd really like to do? I'd like to spend my days (about 30 of them) floating in a pool - still and quiet... and my nights floating on an unimaginably comfy bed in a cool room.

I want to float.

That's it.

I want to float my way through a break.

From everything.

But no one gets that lucky, do they? There are few people in the world who can just walk away from everything they have to do and do nothing but float. I certainly can't.

These past few months have been hard. They've been harder than I expected them to be. And I am so tired, I can't even see straight most days. Every inch of me hurts. I missed lots of work with chemo treatments so I'm working hard now, trying to make up a bit. I'm coaching every night. I'm parenting every day. I can't take a break.

But still, I realized that I needed to step back a bit. I needed to regroup... to get my head on straight... to spend a little time with just MY thoughts. So I decided to limit my social media time and took my Facebook page down for a while. I love the connections I have with people but I was really feeling the need to be alone - or as alone as it's possible to be when I'm surrounded by people all day.

I don't know if it's really helping. I come home so tired that I'm not spending a lot of time thinking about anything important.

And maybe that's OK. Maybe I don't really need to be thinking about anything important. If I can't float, maybe I just need to breathe. Maybe that's enough.

Quite frankly, it's going to have to be.

For now, anyway.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Chemo-cal Reaction


I finished up my second round of chemo this past Thursday and Friday.

I meant to post between the first and the second rounds... but I didn't.

I meant to have things to say other than how this is affecting me... but I don't.

It has been a part of my every waking thought for the past four weeks... well, longer, really (since I found out it was going to happen).

And today might not be the best day to write about the whole mess, because I really don't feel well. And I'm tired of not feeling well. And I want to cry. And that makes me feel like a big baby and I hate feeling like a big baby. But I'm writing about it anyway. I need to. I don't want to forget how rotten I feel right now... because when this is all over (for now) I want to be able to look back on it and, when I'm whining about something else that's going wrong in my life, remind myself that as long as I am still here, I need to get off my ass and just get on with it.

I was so proud of myself last month for getting through the first round, mostly unscathed. Yes, I felt pretty bad after the port surgery, but the chemo seemed to go OK. I wrote about it when I was feeling OK.

Then I stopped feeling OK. Saturday - the day right after - was not too bad. Woozy and shaky were the worst feelings. I could eat. I was tired, but I could move. But Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday? Not so good. Not so good at all. The nausea (you know, the nausea that *most* people don't seem to get with this type of chemo) was awful. The flu-like symptoms that came on later were less-than-pleasant. The fatigue was crap. In fact, it was pretty much all crap.

Last month went like this:

Chemo Days: Fine
The Day After: Not too bad
The 1st Week: Complete and utter shite
The 2nd Week: Moderately shite
The 3rd Week: Almost human
The 4th Week: Pretty good

Now, let's start all over again, shall we?

I really and truly thought it was going to go OK.

I'm really and truly an idiot.

What I've discovered is that no matter what they tell you, this is different for *everyone.* No matter what anyone else has experienced, your experience will not be the same as theirs. It just won't.

And no matter what? This sucks. It really and truly does.

For the past two days, I have felt bizarrely awful. The stronger anti-nausea meds they pumped through my IV are helping, so that's something. But they do *other* things. I feel as though the physical part of me that's *me* - that dwells inside my skin and looks out at the world and makes me move and roll over in bed and change the channel on the TV and think clearly - has been shrunk down to 1/3 its size, then wrapped in gauze, and set to 'vibrate.' I don't know any other way to explain it. I don't feel in control of myself. I feel dizzy and sweaty, and even though the threat of throwing up isn't on the front-burner, it's sitting there on the counter, just waiting to be put in the pot. And my heart and lungs feel as though they're being gripped and squeezed regularly, but in a frustrating non-rhythm, so that catching my breath is something I have to *think* about and do when I can.

It's alarming. It's scary. And it sucks.

It really and truly does.

And I don't want to sound like a baby. I don't want to whine or complain. I want to be brave and just plow through and get on with all the other things I have to do and want to do, like work and swim coaching and mowing my lawn and cleaning my house and hanging out with Ryan and taking Sunny to the park.

But right now? All I want to do is curl up in a little ball and cry.

And I hate that.

I hate this.

I really and truly do.

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Post Wherein I Tell You About Myrtle Getting Bitch-slapped...

Two years ago, when I was diagnosed with cancer, my doctor told me I was likely going to have it forever; even if it goes into remission, it'll be back. Meh. So I decided that if I was going to have to live with her, I was going to give her a name. Myrtle won out. It's not a pretty name (my apologies to anyone out there named Myrtle) and when I say it, I wrinkle my nose (befitting, don't you think?). So 'Myrtle' she has been for two years... always present... always sitting on my shoulder, whispering her menacing little  "just waits" in my ear. And I've spent two years slapping her back or doing my best to ignore her.

No more.

A few weeks ago, my doctor decided it was time for treatment. Myrtle's "just waits" turned into rude and annoying "told yas!" She was showing her ass... and slowing my ass (which is saying something, given the general slowness at which I operate normally)... so we made plans. 

Bear in mind, I am someone who has, my whole life, avoided doctors, doctor's offices, hospitals, etc. I don't do medical. It stems from my fear of a scary pediatrician -- a fear I developed as a kindergartner, of which I've never been able to let go. So plans that include doctors, doctor's offices, and hospitals wig me out. Wig. Me. Out. Big.

But in some things in Life, we have little choice, eh? 

So, onward and through it, my peeps!

This week has been a big one for me. First, I had to have a surgical procedure done to implant a port in my chest -- the thing by which the poison that is designed to bitch-slap Myrtle is transported through my body to all the places she reaches. They recommend this to everyone but it was really a necessity for me because, although I do appear to actually have veins, finding them and keeping them open is a trick with which most medical personnel struggle. It's not their fault. I don't do medical

So, port. Yuck.

I have to tell you, I was a wee bit scared. Up until this week, I'd only ever seen an operating room on television. And in-person, it was not pleasant (even if my surgeon was rather attractive). It was big and bright and cold and full of people milling around and I felt small (and that's saying something!) and completely and totally out-of-control. Blech! I was quite happy to be put to sleep while they cut me open and put this bizarre foreign object into my body. And all in all, it went well. I came out of the anesthesia just fine (no ranting or swearing or visions of Heffalumps and Woozles) and other than the fact that the site looked utterly disgusting and felt really sore, it was OK. The next day, however, sucked monkey balls, as the pain meds made me sick to my stomach, but a reprieve from my boss and few extra hours in bed sorted that out.

So, first big scary step: Done

Next up: Chemotherapy

Chemo is a terrifying word -- a terrifying concept. Horror stories abound. And though there are a lot of people who believe it's worse than the disease it's treating (understandable!), it is the primary treatment. Period. So two days after the port surgery, I trekked back to the cancer center (with my trusty Court Jester in tow)... 

And wigged out. Just a bit.

It was silly, really. A friend told me about this numbing cream that would be very helpful to put on the port site before they stick the IV needle in. It sounded like a great idea, since I hate being stuck and since the port site is still very sore. I'd called about a prescription and had been assured it was sent to my pharmacy. But when I got there? No cream. Gack! I now believe the mix-up was a result of my stupid hyphenated last name (I don't use the last part, which belonged to my ex-husband, but since it's legally me, I think the nurse at the hospital called in the prescription under that name. When I used my not-legal but real name to ask for the prescription, they said they didn't have it). Anyway, I figured I could get it at the cancer center but when I got here, they told me they don't keep it in stock. GACK! Tears welled and the nurse, bless her heart, bent over backwards to get it for me. Turned out, it didn't really work and I didn't really need it, but it was a peace of mind thing (which, thankfully, she totally understood). 

After the wig-out, I settled in for Myrtle's bitch-slapping. They pumped crap into my port for a couple of hours. I entertained myself by posting every 60 seconds on Facebook and working hard to annoy my Court Jester, who worked just as hard to annoy me back. Overall, it was fine. After the needle was in, it wasn't so scary (unless I really thought about how the nurses have to put special gloves on to handle the TOXIC stuff they put into my body). I went home and got through the night with little discomfort (just a few stomach cramps that made me wonder if this whole cancer thing might have actually been an immaculate conception and I was having a baby instead). 

So I'm back today for the 2nd round of treatment. This is the long, yucky day, with the greatest chance of allergic reaction and side effects. I'm focused on every little thing I'm feeling and wondering if it's normal or something happening... that twinge in my stomach -- is it a reaction or just gas? That twinge of headache -- is it a reaction or am I just hungry or is it... a BRAIN TUMOR?! (Update: I actually did have a minor allergic reaction just now, but it's all under control.)

Gah!

In any case, it'll all be over in a few hours. For now. I'll be back in a few weeks to do it all over again. And again... and again. The course runs 2 days every 3-4 weeks, for 4-6 months, depending on my numbers. And we're hoping that'll give me another year or two (or longer!) before treatment will be necessary again. 

It's been an adventure, this bitch-slapping. I can't say that I've enjoyed it... but it's been interesting. As you know, I don't believe in God or a divine plan or that everything happens for a reason. And this situation has done much to reinforce my non-belief (and, in fact, my utter disbelief). But I do believe there is always something positive to be found in crappy situations (sometimes you just have to look really hard). And there has been good... 

I am learning to take care of myself -- not just of my health (though I'm getting better at that, out of necessity. There is nothing like feeling like utter shit to make you appreciate feeling good and to make you want to feel good again). But I'm learning that it's OK -- that it's necessary -- to do what I need to feel better; it's OK to stand up and say, "This is about me, not you," or "I don't want you here," or "I need help, please." That is big for me. 

I've learned that although my dealings with the medical community have not always been positive, this place is full of wonderful people whose objectives are not just about making you well, but about making you feel good, too. They have taken such good care of me, with smiles and patience. I feel as though I'm in very good hands. And that is really big for me.

I've learned how much I am loved. My peeps have circled the wagons, protecting me as best they can and taking such good care of me. I will never be able to thank them for what have done -- for what they do. I am so very lucky.

And I've learned that even though my kid is so together and acts like nothing fazes her, she gets scared, too. And I've learned that although I am good at acting like this is no big deal to protect her, it is a big deal... and it's OK to let her know that I'm scared and that I know she's scared and that being scared is OK and normal... and that we're going to be just fine. 

Because we are going to be just fine.

And that, my friends, is the story of how Myrtle got bitch-slapped this week. 



Saturday, January 10, 2015

Let It Be

During the move, Ryan and I realized just how many books we have. A lot. A ridiculous lot. Probably too many (is that even possible? Well, if it is, we do). But we unpacked them all, donated a few, and shelved the rest. I saved a couple to put out on the coffee table in the living room; one is a slender volume, titled, simply, Be.

It was given to me by my cousin, Alyce -- a remarkable young woman, half my age. Alyce lives in Australia and I have never met her in person, but I adore her. We began corresponding years ago, when she was about 15 or 16 and though we don't keep in touch regularly anymore, seeing her name in my email in-box makes me very, very happy. 

Anyway, this little book, compiled by Kobi Yamada, is lovely. Each 2-page spread consists of, on the left side, a 'be statement' (like, be present, be excited, or be amazing) and, on the right side, a quote that describes the statement. I read it often. Sometimes I forget (or find it impossible) to be any of the things in the book. Sometimes I try to hard to be all of them all at once. 

Lately? 

Lately, I'm trying to just be me... to just be... and to just let it be and see what I become

This afternoon, I saw the movie, Wild, based on the book by the same name, by Cheryl Strayed. I haven't read the book yet, but it's on my list (and after the movie, it jumped a few spots to the top). It's the story of a woman who, after the death of her beloved mother, hits rock bottom. Unable to forgive herself her failings, she attempts redemption by walking 1,000 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail, which stretches from Mexico to Canada. The decision to do the hike, made in one of her darkest moments, was intended to do, and to honor, something her mother did her whole life. She described it as such,

"I'm going to put myself in the way of beauty." 

When she uttered that line, my heart caught in my throat and the tears came. My story is not the same as Chery Strayed's. My failings are not the same as hers. But I understand the darkness. I understand debilitating sadness. I understand feeling beyond redemption. And I understand the need to put oneself in the way of beauty.

This journey of 1,000 miles allowed her to be... to be in her head... to be in the moment... to be in physical pain that allowed her to see her way out of emotional pain... and to be in the way of beauty. It was a story about fear... and facing fear. It was about wanting to quit but persevering... seeing something really important through. It was about a woman owning her mistakes, her story, her life, and looking inward for redemption. 

The last few lines of dialog in the movie found me hurriedly scribbling them down so as not to forget them:

What if I forgave myself? What if I forgave myself, even though I'd done something I shouldn't have? What if I was a liar and a cheat and there was no excuse for what I'd done, other than because it was what I wanted and needed to do? What if I was sorry, but if I could go back in time, I wouldn't do anything differently than I'd done? What if what made me do all those things was also what got me here? What if I was never redeemed? What if I already was? How wild it was, to let it be.

How wild it was to let it be.

I'm not going to walk the Pacific Crest Trail... not this year, anyway :). But while watching the movie, I realized that I've been working hard to put myself in the way of beauty... I realized that I've been taking steps to face my fears, and to own my mistakes, my story, and my life... I realized that I'm getting closer to the redemption I've been seeking within myself... and I realized that just letting it be is getting easier.


How wild it is. 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

S-U-C-C-E-S-S

As a mother, I delight in my child's accomplishments. I really and truly do. I mean, I'm supposed to. right? It's what we do. We teach them, guide them, nudge them, etc, etc, and when they achieve, we cheer and beam and bask and maybe even cry a little. 

Right? Right. 

And if our children are healthy and smart, we expect accomplishments. Right? We do. We know that if we provide what they need to grow and thrive, they will do just that -- grow and thrive. 

I've always counted myself so very lucky that my child is healthy and smart and she has done nothing but grow, thrive, and accomplish things her whole life. Even when she has struggled, I never doubted that she would succeed with effort. She met all the 'normal' milestones, often early; she is exceptional at many things; she will go on, I believe, to do great life's work. 

I am, and have always been, grateful. 

I have also wondered how I would have raised her had she not been healthy. I've wondered how I would have parented her had she been born with, or acquired, a disability. I was raised with a brother who is deaf; I've seen members of family parent a child who will never walk or talk or do any of the the things most kids do. So I've wondered what it would be like to watch my daughter struggle, not knowing whether or not she would succeed. 

I am ridiculously fortunate that my job allows me to work with people with disabilities. On Mondays, I get to teach a class for four adults who, in their hearts and minds, are children. It is the very best part of my week. We focus on reading and math but, because they are all at different levels, coming up with lessons that will engage all four is a challenge. It's one I love and in working to meet the challenge, I'm learning as much as I'm teaching. 

Because of their disabilities, all of which are intellectual and all of which are significant, my expectations about what they can actually accomplish are low. Now, I don't mean that I don't think they are capable of learning or making improvements. They are. I know they are. And I strive to help them do so. But unlike with my daughter, I don't expect successes. I hope for them. But I don't expect them. I have adjusted my expectations so that I don't push my students to the point of frustration; so that patience (not usually a word I use in reference to myself) is the quality I try hard to keep at the front of my mind and in my actions. Always. Everything is a struggle for them and they do not always succeed. Or when they do, their successes are, by 'normal' standards, small. And that's OK. As long as they are engaged and enjoying our time together, I consider the class is a success. 

This past Monday, the struggle was evident... and the success was sweet.

One of my students is a wonderful man-boy who is always cheerful and talking (even though much of what he says is simply repeating things over and over). He can read but doesn't comprehend much. He also doesn't really have the ability to think in the abstract. For example, in class on Monday, the assignment was to find pictures (in magazines) of words I'd written on flashcards (each student had 9 words, 3 beginning with one letter, 3 with another, and 3 with a third). I suggested that they look for several pictures at once, but this proved difficult for everyone, especially my non-abstract-thinker. I also suggested that if they couldn't find a picture for a word I'd written, they could find another beginning with the same letter (i.e. if someone couldn't find a picture a picture of a truck, a picture of a table would do). My abstract thinker really struggled with this. He would look for a picture of the truck for days, but to switch to the table? Impossible. 

Or so I thought.

One of the pictures he was supposed to find was a monkey. When he couldn't, I gave him a picture of M&Ms, since they start with M. He pasted it to his paper as I'd instructed, but when he referred back to it, he kept calling the M&Ms 'monkeys.' His brain couldn't make the switch from what he was supposed to find to what he did find.

And it was fine. 

I corrected him each time, explaining that the picture was of another M word. Then he started to look for a picture of a barn, but was unable to find one. After about 5 minutes of me making suggestions, like baby, ball, boy, bathtub, etc, he was still stuck on the barn. Again, his brain simply couldn't make the switch. 

And it was fine. 

Someone else needed my help, so I left him to search for the barn. Then, a few minutes later... 

"Diane! Look! Bottle! It's a B-word!"

Indeed, he was holding up a picture of a bottle. A B-word. Another B-word. Not a barn. His brain made the switch. And he was so, so proud.

And it was so much more than fine.

I was so incredibly proud of him and told him so. I cheered. He beamed. He basked. 

And I might have cried. 

Just a little. 



Friday, January 2, 2015

This Is What I'm Talking 'Bout...

The other day, I did a post about giving. You can read it right here, if you'd like. In it, I talked about a lesson I learned (one I thought I knew) about how, when I give a gift (any sort of gift), I have to do it without expectation of any sort of reward. The gift should be -- no, the gift is -- in the giving.

Today, I had lunch with my friend, Loren. Loren is pretty much the best person I know. He rescues animals and people, usually at some ridiculous cost to himself (in money, time, energy, possibility of jail-time, etc). And when you tell him what a nice guy you think he is, he just shrugs it off, head hanging in embarrassment, all aw shucks-like. I love that about him.

I love him.

He has given me more gifts than I can count -- some of the best I've ever received -- and more than I can ever repay. But he doesn't keep score. He can't, otherwise, he'd have stopped giving a long time ago (because he won, that's why). That, or he's expecting a whopper for his next birthday!

Uh oh.

Anyway, at lunch, he told me a story that I had to relay. He won't tell it himself because he doesn't want it to appear as thought he's looking for the 'attaboy' pat on the back. He never is. I told him that I wrestle with that, too, but here is what I know for sure: When I read or hear about someone doing something nice for someone, it makes me want to do something nice, too. So I figure that when I tell about something nice I've done, it might make another person want to do something nice for someone else. We're all connected like that.

Back to the story...

First, you should know that Loren's lunch stories often extend into dinner... and the weekend. He's... wordy. (And the fact that I interrupt with snarky comments every other word doesn't help). But he got it out today before our enchiladas were even finished (it was a Christmas miracle!).

Anyhoo... just before Christmas, he was in that big store I won't go to, picking up some last minute things. The lines at the registers were long and he was tired and cranky, ready to just be done. Then he saw a tiny old lady in a tiny old wheelchair, eyeing the candy in the impulse section (also known as the 'Here comes Diane, we'll get her now' section). Because he's helpful and because he's never met a stranger, he asked if he could reach something for her. She lamented that she couldn't find the Mounds candy bar she was looking for. Indeed there were no Mounds in the display, not even next to the Almond Joys (at this point in the story, I broke into the 'Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don't' refrain... I told you, I'm obnoxious. I don't know why we're still friends). Loren looked in the display in another aisle for her, but still no Mounds. She explained to him that every Christmas, she gets herself one... because for 50 years, her husband always put one in her stocking.

For 50 years, her husband always put one in her stocking.

Well, that did it.

Loren said his good-byes, left her to check out, and sprinted (as fast as a short man laden with gifts can sprint) to the back of the store and the big candy aisle. He located the Mounds bars, packaged in sleeves, and picked up about $10 worth -- enough Mounds bars to see that sweet old lady to the end of days. Then he sprinted back to the front of the store, plowing a blonde lady down in the process, and got back in line. A long line. A long, slow line. But, as luck would have it, the heroine of our story was sat at the front of the store, waiting for a ride. Finally through the line, Loren made it to her and said,

"A fat man in a red suit said I should give these to you," and handed over the Mounds bars.

I don't know for sure how that little old lady felt, but I can imagine. I'm sure you can, too.

And Loren? He got all choked up when he told me it was the very best part of his holiday. The very best part.

Yup.

The gift...

It's in the giving.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Good Stuff

The other day, a friend posted a photo of a 'gratitude jar' on Facebook... she said she was going to make keeping the jar a practice in her life for 2015. The idea is to write down something you're grateful for or something good that happened, each day, and drop it in the jar. And at the end of the year, you'll have 365 good things to reflect upon.

I like it!

I have, for years, kept gratitude journals. I'm not always good with keeping up with them but when I do, I find myself happier and able to maintain a more positive mindset than when I don't. It makes sense, of course. It has been my experience that when I focus on what I have, what I love, and what I'm grateful for, I'm not as inclined to be miserable about what I don't have.

I like this whole jar idea because it can be for Ryan and me (and what teenager do you know who wouldn't benefit from taking time every day to think about what she's thankful for?)... it'll be out in the open and not a journal tucked away on a shelf, easily forgotten... and it'll give me something to do with this enormous glass cylinder vase I unearthed during the move (heaven only knows what I bought it for in the first place).

I'm going to call it 'The Good Stuff Jar' (because that sounds better than 'The Good Stuff Glass Cylinder-I-Probably-Bought-On-Sale-With-Some-Project-In-Mind-But-Never-Followed-Through-With') and I'm going to put it in the dining room, I think, as that's the one room we have to pass through to get to almost every other room in the house. I might even use some chalkboard paint to gussy it up and label it. I might not, as it involves paint and a brush and I've had enough of that, thank you very much. We'll see.


So, what would you write down for your 'Good Stuff Jar' for January 1, 2015? Hmmmm?

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

What a Difference a Year Can Make...

I just re-read last year's New Year's Eve post. Though it ended somewhat optimistically, it wasn't a happy one. The post, I mean. Or the year, really. But I rang in 2014 determined (if a little doubtful) that it would be better than 2013.

Tonight, as 2014 departs and 2015 begins, I'm sitting on my comfy sofa, in my new living room, in front of a warm fire, a glass of wine on the table, a sweet kitten asleep at my hip, and my wonderful doggy snoring at my feet. My girl is out with friends (friends I adore), enjoying 'First Night' festivities downtown. I left work this afternoon, for four days off, excited at the prospect of returning to new projects next week.

All is right with the world.

Well, OK, a lot is right with the world. With my world. Some of it's still craptastic, it's true, but there's a lot more right than there was last year!

What a difference a year can make!

This year coming -- 2015 -- is the year I turn 50. Fifty. Five - OhMyGodHowDidThatHappen?! I haven't worked out exactly how I feel about it, to be honest. I've been saying, "I'm nearly 50" for most of the past year, so sometimes I forget that I'm actually still 49. But I am. I'm still in my 40's. For six more weeks.

Six more weeks.

Sigh.

The last decade has been hard, yo. I learned a lot. I fell flat on my face more times than I can count... but I got up. Every time.

And still I rise.

Although I don't know what the next decade -- or the next year, for that matter (or, hell, tomorrow!)-- will bring, my plan is to jump into it with both feet. This is the decade I plan to be -- the decade I will be -- unapologetically Diane. Unapologetically Me.

(I should note here that the apologizing I feel the need to do is not to other people... very few people have ever asked or expected [or maybe just plain wanted] me to apologize for who I am. And I didn't/haven't done it [and won't] for those few, anyway. No, the apologizing I do is to myself... for my failures, my shortcomings, my inadequacies, my weight, my procrastinating nature... for every single way I don't measure up in the ways I think I should.)

I made a decision yesterday... I decided to stop coloring my hair. This might seem like a little thing to lots of people but it's not to me. I decided to go blonde after my divorce... it was a declaration of sorts... a way to say, "I'm not the same person I was!" And I got attached to the blonde. Really attached. But it doesn't feel so much like Me anymore. However, I'm reasonably certain my hair is mostly grey now. And grey hair makes me think... you know... old. And I don't want to look... old. And I don't want to feel... old.

But you know what? I asked my friends, by way of Facebook, what they thought about just going grey. Though there were a few who said they were going to continue to battle Mother Nature on this front (which I totally, completely, 100% get!), more of them said they had done it (or are in the process of doing it) and they've never been happier! Turns out, it's kind of freeing! Who knew?

So it's the first step I'm taking toward being unapologetically me. Toward being authentically me. To being a freer me.


(And if I hate it, there's always L'OrĂ©al, right? Right.)

Anyway, I've got some plans for 2015. I've got some goals. I've got some stuff I want to do. There's a whole flippin' list in the works. But mostly? I want this to be the year I bloom... the year I can finally look in the mirror, see my perfect imperfections, and say, "Hey, you! You are fine, just the way you are!" I plan to do it -- I do! Even if I don't believe it at first.

At first.

My biggest goal for 2015 is to end the year believing it.

Won't that be something?

I can hardly imagine it.

But, hey... you know what I always say...

What a difference a year can make!

So... Happy New Year, my peeps! I hope 2015 is your best year yet, full of wonder and happy surprises and a million ways for you to be your amazing, authentic, unapologetic, blooming selves! XOXO

Monday, December 29, 2014

The Gift is in the Giving

I like to think of myself as a giving person... a generous person. It's true, I don't have much in the way of material things to give; gift-giving (in the traditional sense - i.e. presents all wrapped up in ribbons and bows) doesn't happen often these days. And I can no longer give much to the charities I have supported in the past, so when I can, I try to do for them by way of fundraising (though even that has fallen by the wayside in the recent past). But I try. I try to give my time, my support, my shoulder, or my ear whenever I can. That counts. Right? I always feel like my heart is in the right place. Even when I can't, I want to.

Even when I can't, I want to.

That counts.

Right?

Maybe it does. Maybe it doesn't. I don't know. Regardless, I try to keep my heart in that place. I try to keep it open and non-judgmental. I try. I fail. But I try. I try to keep my spirit generous when my wallet can't be. I try. And since I believe you should give without expectation, I try to do that, too.

I try.

I fail.

Now, I don't mean that when I give a material gift, I expect one in return. I don't. There have certainly been times in my life, however, when I was younger and much more selfish than I am today, when I did. That expectation also resulted in my need to reciprocate for every gift I was given. But the last few years have humbled me. I have had to realize, having been on the receiving end of gifts I cannot possibly repay, that sometimes people give simply because a need is there... because their hearts are big... because they simply want to and because they can. Receiving gifts has always been hard for me. Very hard. But I am learning. I am learning to receive them, in whatever form they materialize, and simply say, "Thank you." It's hard. It's so hard. But I have had to accept that the people who have given to me don't expect anything in return.

And I have loved them for it.

That sort of giver is the person I want to be. The person I strive to be.

I fail.

Tonight, I got a lesson in giving. A lesson I needed...

I took a client out for dinner, to a fast food place (her choice). At the door of the restaurant was parked a shopping cart, filled with an old man's earthly possessions. The old man to whom the cart belonged was seated on the other side of the window, bent over the small table, a tattered old jacket pulled up over his head. There was no food on the table. There were no wrappers or a cup to indicate he'd just eaten. And his hands were shaking.

Standing there at the door, my heart sank. I knew his presence would ruin my dinner. That sounds horrible, I know, but I don't mean it the way it sounds. I knew it would ruin my dinner because he would weigh on my heart and mind; I would worry about him (long after I left the restaurant); I would want to make everything better, knowing full-well I couldn't.

When I got to the register to order, I asked the cashier if he had ordered any food when he came in. She told me he hadn't. She said that one of the managers usually feeds him but she wasn't there tonight. "So, if she's not here, he doesn't eat?" She nodded. I asked if she knew what he normally ate and she told me. I ordered it and a cheeseburger for myself.

While I waited for the food, I noticed a young woman speaking to him. I didn't know what the conversation was about, but I assumed she was asking if he needed anything. Just as I arrived at my table, she was walking toward me, so I stopped her, wanting her to know that if she was going to get him food, I had already done it. She told me she was talking to him about going to a shelter and she asked if I knew of any other than the program run by the local churches. Then she said he told her that he'd already eaten and he declined the food she offered to buy him.

I went to him anyway.

I said, "I wasn't sure if you'd already eaten," and he put up his hand to stop me. "I just ate," he replied loudly and then, "Oh. Is that a baked potato with chili on it? Well, if you're giving it up..." I smiled and told him it was all his, put it down in front of him, and went back to my table. I realized I'd forgotten to give him the straw I picked up to go with his water and by the time I got back to his table, half the potato was gone. He didn't say a word when I dropped the straw in front of him and I went on back to my table.

I felt pretty good, I have to say. It was clear he was hungry and I'd done something tangible to meet that need.

Yay, me!

Then I heard him complain to the girl cleaning the tables that she'd squirted the cleaning solution too close to him and now it was in his eyes. He went on, groaning about how she should be more careful.

And my good feelings turned into 'well-how-do-you-like-that' feelings. Old grump.

Then he got up, walked right past me without saying a word, and spoke to someone in line, suddenly all cheerful.

And I thought, Hmph! He's all nice to them but he can't even say thank you to me? I bought him dinner! Hmph!

Old grump! (Me this time, not him.)

And as I watched him engage with the couple in line, just chatting cheerfully -- a completely different person from the shaky, hiding old man I'd seen through the window 20 minutes earlier -- and there I sat feeling all snubbed and put out, I suddenly felt the proverbial smack upside my head.

How dare I? How dare I be offended that I didn't get a thank you! Is that why I bought him dinner? Because I wanted validation? Because I wanted to feel good? Yes? No? Which is it, Diane?

How dare I?

This man has nothing. Nothing. He is old and twisted. His every belonging fits into a shopping cart. He has no home and he depends on the kindness of a fast food manager for an occasional meal. He is proud enough to turn down the offer of a meal when he is clearly hungry. He has nothing.

Nothing.

And I dare to be offended because he didn't utter a thank you when he accepted something I offered? Something I should have offered with no expectation of anything in return? I dare to judge him? For his manners?

I sat there, ashamed of myself, imagining what I'd say to Ryan if she had behaved the way I just had, if she had articulated the thoughts I was thinking. When you give, you do so without expectation. The gift to yourself is in the giving... in the ability to give... in the desire to give. It is never, ever to receive a thank you or anything else in return. Always remember that.

And as the old man passed by my table again, he stopped. He touched me on the arm and said, "I want you to know, a baked potato with chili is in the only thing I would have wanted to eat tonight. The only thing."

And he went back to his table.

And with that, I had my (much appreciated) thank you.

But I learned my lesson.


That is true generosity. That is love. That is what the world needs more of.

And that is exactly what I shall try to do more of, consciously, in every area of my life.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Word Up

At the end of last year, I did a blog post about choosing a Word of the Year. (It's right here if you'd like to read it.) It's a neat little practice whereby you choose a word to focus on all year... the idea being that you will bring into reality just that -- what you focus on. Last year, my word was light. The end of 2013 didn't feel good... it felt dark and heavy on my soul and my psyche -- and even on my physical being. I longed for lightness -- around me, in me, from me. 

Now, I'll be honest here... there were many times last year when I not only forgot my word, I forgot I even had a word. You know how it is... things like this word of the year hoo-ha are, in theory, all lovely and sweet, and they have this sort of spiritual, ethereal feel to them. Right? But Life? Well, Life is not always (usually?) all lovely and sweet and spiritual and ethereal. It's hard and dirty and frustrating and messy. It might do us well to remember the lovely and sweet in the difficult, messy times but... meh... we forget. I do, anyway. 

Regardless of my forgetting, my desire -- my need -- for light and lightness must have been so strong last year that I focused on it unconsciously. And lo and behold, it happened! Life got lighter in so many ways! My work environment, my work itself, my home environment, and my attitude toward myself lightened up dramatically. It was as though someone (I?) pulled the heavy drapes back, cleaned the dirty windows, and let the glorious sunshine in!

So I'm going into 2015 with a lighter heart (yay!) and that has prompted me to think about my new Word of the Year. Like last year, I pondered for a while... and like last year, my word chose me... 


One of my favorite quotes is by Anais Nin:


I said last year that I felt I was on the verge of some big change, though I didn't know at the time what it was. And things did change... both in small, subtle ways and in big, in-my-face ways. And I think all of the changes were good... I think they were. To accept most of them, I had to open myself up -- something I'd once been pretty good at but had, in recent years, seemingly forgotten how to do. I spent much time turned inward, curled up tight, fending off the blows it seemed Life was throwing at me right and left. It felt (it felt) that in order to provide the sort of environment that made it safe for my child to blossom and bloom, I had to remain in fight-mode, defensive, the protector.

I don't know if that was the best thing... or the right thing... but I do know that she has blossomed into a brilliant, creative, beautiful soul, and I have no reason to believe she won't continue on that path. As for me, well, one cannot remain defensive for long periods. This I know. It does damage. It hurts. And though the idea of opening up and allowing oneself to bloom is hard, not doing so is harder. I feel like I spent last year planting seeds within myself -- in my heart and my head. I've watered them... I've turned them toward the sunshine... and now it's time... 



And bloom is what I shall try to do.

What's your word going to be, my peeps?

Monday, December 22, 2014

Here. Now. Home.

The last few months have been a bit insane... a new (and wonderful) job and moving to a new house have taken up much of my time of late. Oh, and doing that whole single mom thing to an active teenager, too. Natch. Busy is, really, a perpetual state, though (for most of us, I suspect)... sometimes it's good... sometimes it's not so good. This latest busy has been good that hasn't always felt good. Does that make sense? It boils down to this:

Moving sucks.

It really does. It really, really does. I swear to all that is holy, I'd rather move across the country than move across town. When you move across town, you think, 'Oh, no big deal... I'll move a little here and a little there.' For the record? 'A'little here' and 'a little there' is STUPID. And AWFUL. And STUPID. And it takes 100 times longer than it would if you did it one fell swoop.

But the end result? The end result is worth it. Well, it will be. We're nearly there. And it's only taken two months. Two long, exhausting, body-breaking, patience-testing months.

We moved into the cutest little bungalow, built in 1928, with loads of charm and 'quirks' (that we hope will remain charming and not turn into annoyances after a few months)... it has hardwood floors and built in bookshelves and a fireplace and old-fashioned radiators and a big yard and it's three blocks from the park, on top of a busy hill, and, and, and, OH, and it has absolutely the sweetest front door you've ever seen!



Am I right? I'm right, I know. My friend Anne says it looks like a hobbit door. We're going to paint the outside of it a sunny yellow. Because I've always wanted a yellow door, that's why. We'll wait 'til spring to do that, though. Because all we have done for the past two months is paint, and I'm sick of painting. We have painted. And painted. And painted some more.

Did I mention that we painted? We did. Every room in the house. They were all awful shades Sludge and Pea Soup. I have honestly wondered if the people who lived here before weren't blind. It was dark and dingy and depressing and just plain ugly. But not anymore! We went with happy, happy colors in all the rooms! And, thankfully, Ryan has proved to be a pretty good painter. And she has friends who actually like to paint (or they like her enough to pretend), so they were a big help. But still, it felt like we were never going to finish. All that's left, as of today, is the fireplace surround (which is a muddy shade of brown currently and will be, in the next week or so, a lovely shade of cream).

It's a happy house. It was long-awaited and much-wanted and it felt like it was never going to happen. My girl is beside herself happy -- so much so that the fact that she's getting very little for Christmas hasn't fazed her in the least. I'm happy, too. I'm broke (anyone who says that "paint is a cheap way to change a room" hasn't painted seven rooms all at once!), but I'm happy.

I have often said (right here, in fact) that in my entire adult life, I've never felt that I've had a home. I've always felt displaced, or out-of-place, or temporarily in-place. And honestly, I can't say that this is any different. While this house feels good and happy, I know it's not a forever home. And for the first time in a long time, that feels OK to me. I don't feel that I'm missing something.

And that?

Is big.

I've decided that 'home' simply has to be where I am... where I feel good... where I feel warm and welcome and where I can be myself. And for right now, that's here -- right here with my girl and my fuzzy boy and the newest fuzzy addition to our family (a little girl baby-cat, named Rue).

So I'm going to give this little cottage on top of the hill a name:

Seo a-nis

It's Scottish-Gaelic (you pronounce it 'shaw a-neesh') and it means 'here, now.'

I like it. It works. This is where I am.

Here.

Now.

Home.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

This Story Doesn't Have Anything to Do with What's Happening in Ferguson...

A few weeks ago, I had to take a client to one of those Emergi-care places. She'd gotten a ring stuck on her finger and it needed to be cut off (the ring, not the finger). Her doctor couldn't do it, so he sent us there, as he knew they had a tool that could cut the ring. In the waiting room, I met a young father, who was there with his sick toddler and an infant in a carrier. The dad was so gentle and patient with his little boy, which impressed me (I love to watch good daddies) and, as you do in situations like that, we struck up a conversation. The little guy had a stomach bug - the same one his older brother had a few days prior. Dad was hoping the baby wasn't going to get it, too. We chatted for a bit and then they were called up to the intake desk. I heard the girl who was checking them in ask if they'd traveled outside the US lately - to Africa specifically. The dad looked surprised and responded that they hadn't. The intake clerk explained that she had to ask everyone because of the Ebola scare.

Just as the dad and his two little ones were called back to the exam rooms by the nurse, the next patient was called to the intake desk - an older man with an injured wrist. Again, the clerk asked the travel/Ebola questions, Again she said, "We have to ask everyone, because of the Ebola scare."

Then my client was called to the intake desk. I went with her. She was asked a series of questions, which I helped her answer, and then we were told to go back to our seats in the waiting room and the nurse would call us back in a few minutes.

No Ebola questions...

My client went back to her seat but I leaned in and asked the intake clerk why she hadn't asked us if we'd traveled out of the US - to Africa specifically. She looked surprised. I said I heard her asking the young dad and the other gentleman in front of us (both of whom were, I might have forgotten to mention, black) and I heard her say she had to ask everyone. But she didn't ask us (my client, I might have forgotten to mention, is white).

She stammered that she guessed she forgot.

She forgot.

Really?

I said, "You know, I have friends from Africa and friends working in Africa right now. It's entirely possible that I could have traveled there recently. That guy in front of us, though? The one with three kids under the age of five? It's not likely he's gone anywhere lately, except to preschool, daycare, and the grocery store."

She was a deer caught in headlights.

"Well... um... have you traveled to Africa lately?"

"No. But that's not the point is it? If you really do have to ask everyone, you really ought to ask everyone." And I walked back to my seat.

This story doesn't have anything to do with what's happening in Ferguson.

Not really.

But it sort of does.

You might have to bear with me, though, as I try to get it out. I've been so disturbed, like so many, by what's been happening there. It makes my heart hurt on so many levels. I've been observing quietly from my little corner of Pigsknuckle; I've seen the anger and the pain and ugliness. I've seen amazing and beautiful little slivers of humanity and kindness and love. I've seen people judge and jump to conclusions, speaking as if they were there and know exactly what happened. And I've seen so many people take sides.

I can't take sides.

I wasn't there. I don't know what happened. I've read accounts and testimony that simply don't make sense to me, it's true. But I wasn't there. And since the grand jury declined to indict, I've read how legal experts and even the American Bar Association thinks the whole situation was mishandled. But I wasn't there (and I don't trust the media reports. At all). When it comes down to it, I don't know.

But here's what I do know...

I know there are some really amazing folks in law enforcement - people who always try to do the right thing and who do what they do because they truly want to serve and protect. I know this because I know some of those people personally. I'm related to some of them.

I know that there are times when good officers have to do awful things to protect themselves or others.

I know there are some people in law enforcement who are bullies - people who feel they are above the law and who don't tell the truth and do ugly things simply because they can. Not all officers are heroes. They're just not.

I know that you can support law enforcement and still understand and accept that your support is not (or shouldn't be) unconditional.

I know that the law is supposed to work a certain way. I know it is supposed to treat all people equally.

I know it doesn't. It doesn't come anywhere close.

I know that all kids make mistakes. All kids screw up - sometimes in big ways. Most kids are guilty of bad judgment at one time or another. Lots of kids push authority figures to the limit.

I know that unless you're in a kid's shoes and you live his life, you can't truly understand why he acts the way he does. I know that if you try to understand, you both give and receive a gift.

I know that people will lie to protect themselves or to get the result they want. Maybe not all people, maybe not in every situation, but people will and do lie.

I know there is inequality in our society. It is deep and abiding. It is pervading. It is damaging.
I see it every day. I saw it that day in the Emergi-care office.

I know that inequality breeds discontent and anger and frustration that is every bit as deep and abiding.

I know that anger and frustration can reach a tipping point and the result can be violence.

I know that the result can also be change.

I know the two are not mutually exclusive but I believe change without violence is better.

I know that we have the power to come together for change.

I know that we must come together for change.

I know that we must change how we view each other; we must begin to see ourselves - all of us - as simply HUMAN, as connected.

I know we have to do it soon.

I know that enough people have died.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Day Three of the LBTL Challenge...

Today was hard. Especially hard.

First, someone at work ate my banana.

I wanted to cry.

Seriously. The tears welled.

Then, I misjudged the size of my rice/bean serving, so I only had about 2/3 of my lunch. Minus the banana.

Then I remembered I had swim team registration and a meeting right after work. I couldn't even go home. And I couldn't buy something out. So I didn't get to eat dinner until 8:30. I had two servings of Ramen noodles. Because I was starving, that's why.

I think I may eat tomorrow. This has been an awful three days. The challenge has been incredibly hard and while I don't want to fail, I also believe it did - for me, anyway - what it was meant to do.

I don't think for a second that I understand what it means to be truly hungry... to have no money for food... to having nothing but the most meager sustenance, which doesn't fill me up or make me feel good or healthy. I did this for three days, knowing full well that it was going to end sooner rather than later. I have known all along that as soon as the challenge is complete, I can go back to eating healthy food and plenty of it.

So I don't really understand. I don't know.

And I hope I never, ever do.

But I have gained a sense of what it must be like. These past three days, I have felt panicked... desperate... exhausted... irritated... frustrated... angry...

Deprived.

And this feeling of deprivation is different than any I've felt before. In the past, when I was on a diet or when I cut out different sorts of food to be healthier, I was depriving myself. I had control over it. But in this case, the deprivation felt different... it felt imposed...

It took away my control.

And losing your control is scary. It's scarier than feeling hungry. It's scarier than not having enough money for food.

I think it must be what truly poor people feel -- out of control.

Yes, this has been horrible and the idea that 1.2 billion people live this way breaks my heart. I'll be looking into ways to help. A few years ago, I met a little old man on Christmas Eve (you can read about that encounter right here) and I wound up feeding him for a whole year, until he fell in his home and was removed by Social Services. I didn't have much then but he got a quarter of my grocery budget every week. It wasn't easy but it made me feel good, knowing I was helping someone who really needed it. It helped me, too, as things were hard then and I believe that focusing on someone else's problems helps you take your mind off your own.

So I'll be finding a way to help... a real, tangible way. If I can help just one person to feel less desperate... deprived... out of control... it won't be enough... but it will be something.

And something is better than nothing.

Right?


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Day Two of the LBTL Challenge...

Today I ate a carrot I dropped on the floor. And accidentally stepped on.

I also ate half a banana, the cut end of which was all slimy and gross... the end which, 2 days ago, I would have sliced off and thrown away.

My beans and rice and tomatoes, which were OK-tasting yesterday, were bland, gritty, and not-at-all-yummy today. I expect that by tomorrow, I'll have to choke them down.

But I will choke them down. Because last night I went to bed hungry. This morning I woke up hungry. And I'm pretty sure I'll go to bed hungry tonight, since it's 8:30 and I'm hungry now.

Next week, I'll be making a big donation to one of our local food pantries.

I'm not sure what else I can do... but I'm going to start looking at ways I can help; ways I can do my part to combat the sort of poverty that keeps people from being able to afford healthy food. Enough healthy food.

We, as a society - a global society - spend so much. We waste so much. We buy and buy and buy... we consume everything... and what we don't consume, we throw away. We do it so much, so normally, that we don't even think about it.

There is enough food to feed everyone. There is. There is no reason people should have to go hungry... the kind of hungry that makes them eat food out of dumpsters or steal from stores.

No reason.

We have to figure out how to fix this.

We do.

But right now, I want a cup of tea. Hot tea with honey and cream. It would make me feel so much better... it would ease the hunger pangs a bit and it would do much to soothe my soul.

Just a cup of tea.

Everyone should be able to have a cup of tea if they want.

Shouldn't they?




Monday, May 5, 2014

Day One of the LBTL Challenge

Well, I've just had dinner, such that it was, and thus ended Day One of the Living Below the Line challenge. If you haven't read that post, it's right here.

My worry?

It's only 6pm... I have about five more hours before bedtime... and a kitchen full of food. Mind you, last week I would have scrounged the same cupboards, looking for something appetizing, likely not finding much... but tonight?

I would eat baking soda right out of the box at the back of the fridge.

I'm hungry.

And tired.

I feel like a slug. Of course, I've had no caffeine or sugar today, which is not at all a bad thing. But I've had little in the way of good healthy, energizing food, too. I realized that while being hungry is not necessarily new to me (hello, I've been on lots of diets in my lifetime), not being able to eat anything, including a piece of fruit or a vegetable, is. Also, when I'm on a diet and I want something to drink other than water, I could have tea (and hot tea always soothes and fills me).

Not so today.

I floated through the day today, trying to keep full with water. It helped a little. Then I thought about those people who live like this daily and I wondered how many of them don't even have access to clean drinking water. I wondered how they try to feel full when there is no food to be had.

It must be really and truly awful.

While I was making my Ramen noodles for dinner (I ate my two carrots while waiting for the noodle water to boil, as I didn't think I could wait), I read the back of the package. I was about to fill up on 2 servings of starchy noodles with virtually no nutritive value but, for the same basic calorie count, I could have had a serving of salmon or chicken breast, a small serving of potatoes, and a big serving of broccoli, meeting pretty much all of my dietary needs, filling me up, keeping me healthy.

But you can't get a serving of salmon, potatoes, and broccoli for $.25.

And that one meal?

Would have been about half my food budget for the week.

Something to think about.

To recap my day, my $1.50 fed me the following:

2 eggs, scrambled (with no oil or butter, as I couldn't afford that)
1/2 a small banana (and I can't tell you how much I wanted the other half)
1 1/2 cups brown rice, black beans, canned tomatoes
2 medium-sized carrots
1 package of Ramen noodles

Up until the noodles, it wasn't too bad health-wise (though missing an awful lot of the recommended daily allowance of fruit and veg).

Now, the words I'd use to sum up my day are as follows:

Unsatisfying
Angsty
Tired
Hungry

I suspect those words will be magnified in the next few hours. I suspect I'll go to bed hungry.

We'll see what living below the line brings tomorrow...