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, August 13, 2015

Blooming Hope

Today was a good day.

It was a really good day.

I went to the cancer center for a follow-up visit, as I had a CT scan and blood work done on Tuesday. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a tiny bit worried about the results. It was an irrational worry, really, as I've been feeling pretty good for a few weeks and all the once-visible tumors have shrunk.

But still.

The worry.

It's hard to keep at bay when the word 'cancer' is in play.

Turns out? The worry was unnecessary. My scan looked great! All the nasty tumors have shrunk and every single one of one of my lymph nodes is now within normal size range! Squeee! My doctor even used the word remission. Remission, people! She was quick to remind me that it's not a full one, as this lymphoma will never go away. The cancer is still there (everywhere) - you can see it on the scan - but it's teeny-tiny now. It should take some time to grow up again. So yeah, we'll call it remission and I'll take it!

And my blood work? Well, it looked amazing! My doctor couldn't believe that my thyroid function, which was an unbelievable mess a few months ago, is now down to 'borderline normal.'

Not shocking, really. I've always been 'borderline normal' (and a bit more borderline than normal, to tell the truth).

She asked if I'd been taking a new medication for it - one that maybe my GP prescribed, as she recalled how sick I got with the one she gave me (and how sick the one before that made me, too). "Nope," said I. "It's the whole food diet!" I think she was a little skeptical at first, but she knows it's the only change I've made. Chemo is the only medication I've taken (besides anti-nauseas) and it doesn't affect thyroid function.

Part of the reason I started the Whole30 was to attempt to right my hormone levels, including my thyroid, which was jacking me up big-time. The people who swear by the plan tout it as the Second Coming and while I doubted it would affect me to that degree, I had hope that it would make me feel a bit better.

Turns out? That hope was well-placed. To go from skyrocket-high to borderline-normal is pretty fabulous. And I? Am happy! My doc? Was impressed.

Anyway, I felt pretty great when I left the exam room. I marched straight to the reception desk to tell the sweet girl who checks me in what the doctor said. I repeated the 'R' word quietly, though, as there were a lot of people in the waiting area, some of whom will never hear that word, and I didn't want to make anyone feel bad. But when I turned around, everyone within earshot was grinning ear to ear - at me and for me. It felt good. Cancer is a club, you know. It's not one anyone in his right mind wants to belong to and the dues are sky-high, but it's a club nonetheless. And no matter how rotten one member feels, a victory (no matter how big or small) for another is a victory for all. Victory brings hope to a place where hope can be frighteningly scarce.

And today? On this very good day? The hope I'm feeling is the opposite of scarce. It's positively blooming! I don't know how long I'll get before I have to go through this ugliness again, but I do know I'm going to make the most of whatever time I can eek out. I know I'm going to work hard to get as healthy as possible before the next course of treatment. I know I'm going to do as many of the things on my bucket list as I can manage.

And I know I'm going to get on with this business of living!







Sunday, August 9, 2015

Acadian Rhythm

Last week, while we were on the road to Acadia National Park in Maine, I mentioned to Ryan and her friend Piper that I'd read how, if a person has trouble sleeping, she simply needs to go camping for a week. It's supposed to re-set our internal clocks naturally. Ryan said, "Yeah, it's all about the Acadian Rhythm." Then she laughed and corrected herself, "I mean Circadian Rhythm!"

But you know what? I think she was right the first time.

We went to Acadia and Bar Harbor back in 2008 and we loved it. Returning was always on our to-do list but I planned for us to go next summer, when Ryan could help with the 16-hour drive (12 hours according to Google Maps. Google Maps is on crack). Then friends of ours said they'd like to go this summer, so we changed plans... but plans have a way of falling through and our friends weren't able to go. I asked Ryan if she still wanted to make the trip. She did, but she asked if she could bring a friend along. I was reluctant at first, as I like our vacations together, just the two of us, but I decided it would be a good idea this year. I'm still feeling the effects of chemo and since vacations with Ryan are go-go-go, I knew I'd never get to sit-sit-sit (what I really needed). So Piper came along. It was a good decision.

The drive up was exhausting, as 16-hour drives are wont to be, and we arrived at 9:30 pm, just before the campground office closed. We put our tents up quickly, in the dark, blew up the air mattresses, and crashed. Hard. I slept like the dead, for the first time in I can't remember how long. It was kind of wonderful, let me tell you.


During the week, we split our time between doing things as a trio (like wandering around Bar Harbor and going on a whale watching tour), and the girls going off on their own, leaving me to do whatever I wanted to do.

Whatever I wanted to do! I was nearly giddy with the possibilities!

I was also sleeping -- and I'm talking good, solid, whole-nights full of sleep. We were heading to bed around 9:00 and getting up at 7:00. My Acadian Rhythm was definitely righting itself.

During my days alone, I traveled the carriage roads (built by John D. Rockefeller, Jr.) on foot. I did seven miles in one day, which was quite a hike for me, given my limited physical activity for the past year or so. It was extremely tiring but I also felt incredibly accomplished after, and stronger than I've felt in a long time. I also explored the 'other side' of the island, which we never ventured toward the last time we were there. On my way to the Coast Guard-manned lighthouse at the southern tip of the island, I came unexpectedly upon the 'sea wall,' which was quite spectacular (though pictures simply don't do it justice).


I made a second visit there, later in the week. This time I arrived earlier in the day, when the tide was out, and I sat for a long time, just breathing in the salty air... that wonderful smell -- there's really nothing quite like it; it gets into your lungs and your pores and your head and your heart and it just... fortifies you.

At the sea wall, I wandered around on the rocks, taking photos of all the little tide pools and life left behind by the waves. I built two little cairns, which was much harder than you'd think. After, I was writing in my journal and I realized what a metaphor for Life those little stone towers are...


There were stones everywhere on the beach -- endless possibilities. I kept choosing different ones, trying them out, trying to make them balance. They didn't all have to be flat or a particular shape (in fact, when I chose all flat stones - the ones that balanced perfectly on the first try - the cairn was quite dull and boring-looking) - they just had to fit. I had to try out several to find the right ones. Finding the balance was terribly difficult but when I did it, those cairns just... worked.

Just like Life. Find the balance and it just... works.

Pretty cool.

On our last night, we signed up to do a sunset sea kayaking tour with Aquaterra Adventures (look them up if you're in Bar Harbor! They're great!) - the three of us (the girls in a tandem kayak and me in a solo). I was pretty nervous. First, I knew it would be physically taxing. Second, it was a new experience for me and I'm not a fan of looking foolish when I try something new. But I had put it on my Post-Chemo Bucket List, so I decided to put my big-girl life vest on and just do it.

And I'm so glad I did!

It was hard. It was really hard. I was all alone in a very long kayak, trying to keep up with a group of eight teenagers, who were doubled-up and paddling in concert. I was, clearly, the most out-of-shape person in the group, as well as the oldest, and I struggled. Had I been able to paddle a bit and then rest, it would have been OK, but I was so slow that by the time I caught up to everyone, all of whom got to rest while waiting for me, they took off and I had to go again! Gah! I felt like one of the slow swimmers, who takes so long to get to the wall that everyone's gone when she gets there and she has to do another 50 immediately. For the record, I will be kinder to those kids when I coach next summer.

But I did it! Our instructor/guide, Travis, was wonderful and never made me feel like a slowpoke. When I paddled in to the dock and was able to extricate myself from the tiny cockpit (with help), I was on top of the world. I did it! I paddled two miles! Around an island! In ocean waves! And I didn't fall out, roll over, need to be towed in, or die! It was BRILLIANT!

This past year has been hard. It took me to my knees, both physically and emotionally. But it also made me realize how much I want to live. It gave me things to think about and work toward. I've realized that I don't want to just survive... I want to thrive. So, to go from being sick as a dog just a few weeks ago to feeling strong and healthy, able to do physical things I didn't think would be possible for a long time to come? Well, I can't really even describe how that made me feel... how that makes me feel.

Wait.

Yes I can.

It's my Acadian Rhythm.

I found my Acadian Rhythm.

And I never want to lose it.






Friday, July 17, 2015

I've Been Around the Block a Few Times... Again

This is a re-post from a couple of years ago. It still applies. Every single bit of it.

I read a blog post (Single Dad Laughing… look him up… he’s good!) yesterday that gave me an idea for my own post. SDL wrote about the five things he’s learned in his 30-couple years on the planet. Well, I’ve been here 47 years (er, now 50 years) and I’ve learned a few things, too… things like:

How, even if they call them ‘dried plums’ and infuse them with orange flavoring so they taste like candy, they’re still prunes and you should never, ever eat a whole bag in one sitting.

How I’ll never be so old that I won’t glue my fingers together when I use super glue.

How you should never, ever read the comments after any online news article, political or otherwise. Because they will make you lose all faith in and hope for humanity (and good grammar and spelling), that’s why.

Stuff like that. Good stuff, no?

I’ve learned other stuff, too… important stuff (not that the whole prune thing isn’t important. It is. Trust me on that one, people). I thought I’d share some of those things with you today.

So, as Oprah says, here’s what I know for sure…

This, too, shall pass. Nothing lasts forever. It’s true. Good things don’t, though we wish they could. Bad things don’t, though it feels like they do. Life is moving… even when you feel stuck. It’s still going on around you and it’ll take you along for the ride, whether you want to go or not. And that ride? Will be full of knocks and hills, bumps and thrills. Sometimes you’ll want to get off. Sometimes you’ll want to throw up. Sometimes you’ll scream for joy and wish so hard you could stay in that place – in that rush – forever. But you can’t. It will end. Because nothing lasts forever.

Until you learn the lesson, the lesson will keep popping up. Over and over and over. Until  you learn it.

Over and over.

Until. You. Learn. It.

And I don’t mean the No Child Left Behind sort of ‘learn it,’ where you simply just have to get it right on the test.  I mean ‘learn it,’ where it’s imprinted so deeply on your psyche, you’ll never forget it.

It’s the people around you that make Life worth living. It’s not the accomplishments or the adventures, and it is most certainly not the stuff. And people are great. But they will disappoint you. They will aggravate you, infuriate you, offend you, and make you want to live on a deserted island, far from anyone else on the planet. And you? Will do the same to others. Because you’re a people, too, that’s why. But when you move past the disappointments, the aggravation, the anger, and the frustration, you’re left with the best – the caring, the humor, the camaraderie, the history, the empathy, the partners-in-crime, and the LOVE. And that? Is some good stuff.

You have to be happy on your own before you will ever be happy with anyone else. If you’re unhappy, and then someone comes along and makes you smile and love Life and think the sun shines out his butt, it will feel like that person is making you happy. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt (it shrank in the wash). But at some point you will realize that the sun? Shines out no one's butt. And eventually, no matter what that other person says or does, unless you’ve fixed what was making you unhappy in the first place, you’ll be back to that place, with or without them. You have to fix it. You’re the only one who can fix it.

Not everyone is going to like you. And there’s not a damned thing you can do about it. And it doesn’t matter how nice you are, how funny, how pretty, or how well you write or sing or make balloon animals.  Not everyone is going to like you. Period.  And that? Is OK. It really and truly is. So be kind. Be good. Be yourself. Don’t be a dick. And let the chips fall where they may.

Comparing yourself to other people is the most assured way to feel like crap. There will always people who have more than you do; who have accomplished more; who are prettier, thinner, more talented, etc. So stop it. And remember, someone, somewhere, is comparing herself to you… and falling short. Tell her to stop it, too.

Forgiveness is something you do for you, not the person who wronged you. Staying angry and holding onto grudges and hurt only holds you back. It robs you of happiness and peace and personal growth.  Forgive. Move on.

Helping someone in need is the quickest way to take your mind off your own troubles. It’s hard to focus on what you don’t have when you’re focused on someone else who has less. And it reminds you to be grateful for what you do have. And gratitude is absolutely, definitely, no-doubt-about-it, one-hundred-percent necessary for happiness.

When you have time to criticize other people, it means you’re not spending enough time working on your own life. Period. So shut up. And look in a mirror. And take care of you.

Life is short. It’s cliché, I know, but it became a cliché for a reason. Because it’s true, that’s why. Life is short. It’s crazy-short. It’s yesterday-I-was-16-and-now-I’m-middle-aged short. It’s I-thought-there-would-be-another-dance-with-my-dad-but-then-he-was-gone short. It’s how-did-my-baby-girl-turn-into-a-teenager-overnight short. It’s short. There will never be enough time to do what you want to do… or maybe even what you need to do… it’s SHORT. Get it? So you can’t waste time. You can’t wait for Life to get its shit together and be what you want it to be. Life isn’t working on your timetable. Life doesn’t care about your timetable. So you have to make it what you want. You have to do stuff – stuff that’s interesting and fun and makes you feel good. Make sure the people you love know you love them. Find your passions and go after them.  Find the things you believe in and stand up for them. Get a hobby. Find a job you don’t hate (because spending 8+ hours a day doing work that makes you miserable will suck the life out of you faster than anything) and work hard. Read good books. Be out in nature. Create something. Drink wine or tea or Yoo-hoo if it makes you happy. Do good. Help people or animals or the environment (or all of them).

Make sure that when there’s no more Life left, you’re not sitting on the couch wishing you’d done all those things.

DO THEM.

Because life is short.

There.

That’s it.

As my friend Mel says, that’s all I know.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

You Are What You Eat

For the past three weeks, I've been doing the Whole30 'food plan' (I hate to use the word 'diet' because I don't see this as one). If you've never heard of it, you eat nothing but whole foods for 30 days, eliminating processed foods, sugar, grains, dairy, legumes... basically everything except vegetables, fruit, lean meats, and good fats. After 30 days, you can slowly reintroduce the healthiest of the previously eliminated items. The plan is designed to help you figure out what foods might be making you feel bad.

When I first heard about it a year ago, when my friend Kati was doing it, I thought, No. Way. In. Hell. I love me some, well, all of the stuff that has to be eliminated. I mean, I've given up ONE thing for a little while (and suffered) but ALL those things at once? Gah! And 30 days sounded like an eternity!

But that was a year ago. That was before I knew how rotten I could feel. That was before all the medicines designed to make me better made me sick. And I've been 100% certain that the crap I eat has NOT been helping me either. So, with my doctor's approval, I decided I was ready to give it a go. I already knew sugar and grains were an issue for me, but the idea of really clean eating for a month appealed to me. And when I decide I'm ready, I don't have to worry about falling off the wagon. It's so weird. I always think I have no willpower... but that's not true at all. I have craploads of willpower. It's motivation I often lack.

But not this time.

It's been a piece of cake. Well, OK, it's been a bowl of fruit salad. Other than the never-ending planning, shopping, cutting, chopping, cooking all the good food, and washing up ridiculous numbers of pots, pans, and dishes, it's been easy.

OK, so the EATING part has been easy. I haven't really craved anything (unless I'm actually in the grocery store and walking past the donuts... so I just walk faster). I've been loading up on veg from the farmer's market - homegrown and organic. My wallet has taken a hit from the better quality of meat I'm buying, but I feel a million times better about it (for a lot of reasons). I'm drinking unheard of (for me) amounts of water (which keeps me in the bathroom for the better of the day and night), a little bit of tea (I make it), and a V8 in the mornings. That's it. No wine. All summer. NO wine, people. All summer. Also? I haven't been out to eat in three weeks. And that? Is something, people.

I wasn't supposed to get on the scale until the month was up, but I was curious. Two weeks out and I'd lost 8lbs. Not bad. I go back to the doctor on Thursday, so I'm looking forward to seeing what the scale says then, even though I swear I did NOT do this as a diet.

The testimonials on the Whole30 website tout this plan as pretty much the Second Coming. It hasn't had that effect on me. Yet. I can't say that I feel a million times better. Yet. But I'm optimistic. I still have chemo running through my system. I've been in a bit of a dark place this summer, and that will take its toll on both body and soul, and coming back from that sort of place can take some time. So I'm going to give it longer than 30 days. I figure I've spent a very long time stuffing my gob with not-so-good stuff, that I owe myself to fill it with very-good stuff for a bit longer than a month.

And though I can't say I'm feeling loads better (I'm still tired and achy-all-over), I've noticed something significant...

I'm back to walking the whole park trail these days (instead of just dragging myself to a bench to wait while Sunny sniffs around and finally poops). And though I'm worn out by Sunday night, I've spent the last two weekends doing all sorts of work around the house and running a million errands. A few weeks ago? That definitely wasn't what my weekends looked like.

So it seems that maybe I'm on the mend. I see this as a long-haul-sort-of thing -- this clean eating. I don't think for a second I'm never going to have chocolate or wine or ice cream again, but to get to where I want to be? I've finally accepted what I've known for a long, long time -- that eating like a 6-year-old at a birthday party just doesn't work for me.

Who'd a thunk it?

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'Oréal, 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.