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, December 31, 2015

And Here We Go Again...


Here we are again... at the last day of the year. It seems as though we were just here. I had one of those 'time flies' moments the other night, when I was talking to my cousin Chris, via Facebook. He's in England and when he was young, we corresponded quite a bit. It was really nice to catch up but I asked why he was in, talking to me at midnight on a Saturday, instead of being out with friends. He replied, "Because I'm 27, not 17." Twenty-SEVEN?! I wanted to cry. Time does indeed fly.

Last year was good in many ways... not-so-good in some others. Overall, though, I'd rate it a success... 

My girl is doing beautifully, in school and in the pool and in her happy social circle. There has been very, very little of the teen angst and attitude I was afraid of when she was younger (whew!). We have a great relationship and I wouldn't trade her for anything.

My fuzzy boy is getting older and I'm seeing him slow down, which is really hard. But he's pretty healthy and seems happy and he still looks forward to the park every single day (and pouts when he doesn't get to go). I'll keep taking him, as long as he smiles at me when I ask if he's ready.

At the end of last year, we added another fuzzy critter to our family - Rue (below, left). She was rescued by the friend of a friend, along with her 3 brothers, after having been thrown, caged, into a dumpster. She settled in beautifully... to be joined in the summer by Pip (below, right), another rescue.

Pip had been abandoned (we don't know how or why) by his mother when he was just a day or two old, so he was bottle-fed by his foster-family. As a result, he's pretty sure he's more human-baby than cat-baby... and we wouldn't have it any other way. He is pure, squishy rotten (oh, so, so rotten) and we love him like mad.

We are still loving our little cottage-that-feels-like-home, and we've continued to add our own little touches to it. It's likely I'll wind up moving after Ryan goes to university, as I don't think I'll be able to afford to stay then, but that's OK. I'm not so attached that I'll be devastated to move, but I'm quite happy here, now.

I turned 50 back in February, and two of the craziest, most wonderful friends a girl could ever have flew in from Chicago and San Diego to celebrate with me. And other friends, right here in Pigsknuckle, also made it an occasion to remember.

At the end of February I fulfilled a bucket list item by doing a 'polar plunge' (or an 'Arctic Dip', as the fundraiser was called) for charity, and plunged into an icy lake, along with about 40 other (crazy) people.

I finished up full year at the job I started in the summer of 2014 - a job I have come to really love. We're a small non-profit that works with people who have disabilities, which is terribly rewarding. And my coworkers? Beyond wonderful. It's a bright, happy place, where I feel welcome, useful, appreciated, and where I get to use and develop a myriad of talents. 

I came through chemo - not unscathed, certainly, but with little permanent damage. I faced a fear that had been hanging over my head since my cancer diagnosis, and let me tell you, that was big. The cancer is still there, but it's being held at bay (hopefully for a long time). Regardless, if/when treatment is necessary in the future, I know I can handle it, difficult and unpleasant as it may be. 

We had an amazing vacation this year - my girl (and her friend) and I. On the heels of cancer treatment, it was welcome and necessary... and better than imagined! 

I was also the lucky recipient, over and over and over this year, of acts of kindness, bestowed upon me by the wonderful, incredibly generous people in my life. I will never know what I have done to deserve them and their love, but I am so grateful. So grateful.

So, what's on tap for 2016? I'm not sure. I'll be sitting down tonight and setting some goals for the coming year. I know I've got another Arctic Dip happening in February... I'm hoping to knock another bucket list item out and jump out of an airplane in the spring or summer... I've got another fun camping vacation to plan... and a ticket to London to buy (for a wedding coming up in January 2017)... 

Other than that we'll see what the year brings... and abundance of good things, I'm hoping!

Happy New Year, my peeps! I hope your 2016 is your best year yet! xoxo

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Abundantly Clear

For the last couple of years I've been choosing a 'Word of the Year' to focus on. The idea came from a blog I've been following for years (The Lettered Cottage); I thought it was pretty cool. Mostly. Part of me thought it was a bit corny and silly, but a bigger part of me - the part that believes in the power of both words and positive thinking - liked it a lot. Layla Palmer, the author of TLC, says she's been doing it for years, and the word becomes a bit of a mantra for her - something to focus and meditate upon, with the idea being to bring tangible examples of her word into her life. That's certainly what I hope for every year and it's what I try to do, but I will admit that at times during the year I completely forget about the word and focus on the opposite. 

For example, the first year I did it (2014), my word was 'light,' and though that year had many, many light moments, there were times I focused on the dark instead.

As I always say, I'm a work in progress.

In the end, though, when I looked back at the year overall, it was far lighter and brighter in so many ways than the years before. Coincidence? Maybe. But I'm willing to accept the possibility that focusing on a word - on bringing tangible aspects of what that word represents into my life - helped to cause it.

This year, 2015, my word was 'bloom.' The blog post about it is right here. I chose it before I knew I was going to have to go through chemo and let me tell you, there were times during the summer when I felt pretty withered - the farthest from blooming as possible. But when it was over, parts of me definitely... sprouted. I can't say that I full-on blossomed, but thinking of my word definitely pointed me in the direction of healing - of blooming.

I started thinking about my word for 2016 a while ago. My process is to list several words that appeal to me and the one I wind up choosing just sort of jumps out at me. It actually chooses me. This year, the word that chose me was...

Abundance

I already have some things in abundance. Like bills. And cellulite. And pet hair tumbleweeds. Heh. I also have other things, like good, loyal, generous friends. And for all that wonderfulness, I am so grateful. But this year I'd like to invite other wonderful things into my life, in abundance - things like joy, good health, strong relationships, clarity, satisfaction, love and romance, self-love and acceptance, positivity, creative opportunities, travel, opportunities to serve, prosperity.

I know for certain that in order to receive abundance, gratitude is absolutely essential, and so I shall make sure to express it regularly - and abundantly. And I will focus and meditate on my word... 

And when 2017 rolls around, we'll see what 2016 brought forth... in abundance... 



Monday, December 28, 2015

Grace is Amazing, Yo

Last week I wrote my Solstice lists, as I do every year. And as I mentioned in that post, one of my lists is things I wish for others, and, as I explained, a key point of that list is that I have to wish good things for people who have hurt me, people I don't really like, people I'd like to smack.

(For the record, I don't actually smack anyone.)

(Regularly.)

(OK, at all.)

(Really.)

(I'm trying to grow as a human.)

(I am!)

(Shut up.)

Anyway, it's an important list. Because it's about acceptance - of people who won't change, of situations you can't change. It's about moving forward. It's about forgiveness.

And forgiveness is hard, yo.

At the top of that list every year is my ex-husband. I started putting him there because I didn't want to feel the ugliness I felt toward him. I wanted to release the hurt, the animosity, all the pain. And it was hard because He. Just. Kept. Causing. It. Over and over, he caused more pain, year in and year out. And it was so hard to take because he was hurting our daughter.

Do you know how hard it is to forgive someone who is hurting your child?

It's damned hard. I dare say, it's damn-near impossible.

But here's what I discovered over time (over a lot of time)...

When you're wishing someone well, when you're wishing and hoping for good things to happen to a person, when you state emphatically - and eventually come to believe - that you really and truly want to see that person happy, when you have a desire to see their needs fulfilled, you can approach that person with kindness instead of anger. You can see that person with compassion instead of animosity.

You can forgive.

I think that's called grace. And heaven knows I need grace desperately from others, every day... and I think if I need it, I have to be willing to extend it.


Don't get me wrong, I don't accept or condone the behaviors that have hurt our family. But I don't have anger about them anymore.

Mostly.

For now.

It could change next week.

Dude, I'm a work in progress and I still fail regularly. Also on that list? My brother. Yeah. Still not there. Might never get there. On the up-side, I didn't wish for him to fall face-first into a patch of poison ivy.

(Not this Solstice, anyway.)

Again, I'm. A. Work. In. Progress.

So, for now? I'm happy to act gracefully toward my ex. (As long is it doesn't involve walking down my back stairs at 3am, grace is possible. Otherwise, broken arms are possible, [says the one-armed girl]. Ahem.) I had the opportunity to act gracefully today. And I did it. And I will try again, should the opportunity arise tomorrow. And the next day.

And so on.

Grace. It's kind of amazing, yo.


Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Everything!

It's Christmas Eve here in Pigsknuckle... well, OK, it's Christmas Eve in a whole lot of places. I've done all I'm going to do for today (not all that much, really). Presents are wrapped, breakfast for tomorrow (for some of my family) is prepped, the house is... tidy. Ryan's up in her room watching a 'Dexter' marathon (because nothing says Happy Holidays like a serial killer doing his thing over and over and over and over...) and I'm actually about to settle on the sofa for a bit of BBC crime drama on Netflix myself.

Tonight is not like the Christmas Eves of my childhood... or my young adulthood... or even when Ryan was tiny and we'd come from NC to Pigsknuckle for the holiday.

Our family is different now. It's just the two of us, really. My dad, who was the glue that held us all together, died. My marriage ended. My younger brother and I pretty much (mutually, silently) decided we don't want to ever spend time together again. My extended family in the states are all dealing with their own struggles (and joys) and the trips up and down the eastern seaboard are just too difficult to make.

But it's all good.

Though there's a part of me that longs for family Christmases steeped in age-old, boisterous traditions, Ryan and I have our own smaller, newer, quieter traditions. We get our real tree and put up our happy decorations... we watch 'A Christmas Story' and 'It's a Wonderful Life'... I do my Solstice rituals... we open our gifts together (me first, always, at her insistence)... and we always go to the movies on Christmas Day and get take-out after (my favorite, favorite part of the entire day).

It's different than it was...

It's not what I imagined when I thought of the Christmases I'd create for my family...

But it's good.

My job, which I love, allows time for me to spend the week between Christmas and the New Year on vacation. My wallet doesn't allow for me to go anywhere, so I get to spend the week getting things in order for the calendar flip... I set some goals, I do some organizing, I read, I find some time to be creative.

It's good.

The holidays have never really been my thing. I wish they were. I wish I looked forward to them and thoroughly enjoyed them. But I find them hard. I find them too hectic, too filled with missing people, way too filled with obligation, too expensive, too much. But I've realized that I actually have the power to change that. I don't have to do more than I want to do.

And that's very good.

So, as I sit here at nearly 8pm on Christmas Eve, in sweats (not even showered), ready to watch old episodes of 'Wire in the Blood,' my dog and two kittens all curled around me, my daughter upstairs, engrossed in blood and guts and Showtime depravity, I'm content.

I'm content.

And that's so very good.

So Merry Everything, my peeps! Merry Everything and Happy Always! xoxo


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Happy Solstice!

The Winter Solstice is my holiday in the season of holidays. The day we welcome back the light in the northern hemisphere has become, for me, the running start to the new year (where 'running' = 'slowing down and breathing deeply'). It's a day (or, really, an evening) when I turn inward... when I both reflect and look forward, when I express both gratitude and longing, when I dare to hope for a better future... and when I dare to believe that better future is possible.

It's also a day of list-making. 

I make four lists and, after I'm certain they're complete, I burn them, sending all my hopes, dreams, good wishes, and gratitude out into the Universe.

My first list is everything I'm grateful for. I love this list. It's a long one and it always (always) begins with Ryan and Sundance (and this year, with Rue and Pip, the fuzzy, feline additions to our family). It covers big things, like friends and family, work and home, as well as little things, like books and rain and the park and tea (OK, so none of those things are little). And let me tell you, when you list out everything you're grateful for - everything you love - you realize just how damned lucky you are.

The second list is things I wish for others. Of course, I always wish good things for the people I love and those I'm close to, but the real key to this list is that I must wish good things for people I don't love so much. Or even like. Or have a strong desire to smack upside the head regularly. Or people who have hurt me, in both small ways and big. Though you might think otherwise, it's, surprisingly, not-so-hard to do. It forces me to see people in a light other than the one that shines down on them in my day-to-day thoughts of them; it forces me to be kinder than I might want to be. And that? Is a good thing. 

My third list is things I want to let go of. I hold on to a fair bit of negativity, most of which is directed at myself. By writing down the things I want to release, I first have to acknowledge them directly. I have to admit that I hang on to ideas and beliefs that aren't good for me (and might not even be true). And then I have to give deliberate thought - effort - to not doing that anymore. And I've found something really interesting... even though I've written many of the same things down year after year, my grip on several of them is lessening. My belief is wavering. I'm actually letting them go. Slowly, yes, but Life is a process, no? 

The last list is things I want to invite into my life. This is a selfish list, but I think it's an important one. I think we get what we give, so when I write down the things I want (which are never, by the way, things), I also have to think about how I can put those very things out into the Universe. It forces me to be more mindful of what I'm doing and thinking. If I want good, I must do good. I must be good. 

My lists this year were full. They burned brightly and then they were gone, turned to ash and dust, and scattered to the stars. 

By the way, you were all there. In both my gratitude and my wishes for others lists. 

You always are.

Happy Solstice, my peeps. XOXO




Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Last Straw...

I've been wrestling with a heavy heart since last week - since the shooting at Planned Parenthood. On the heels of the refugee 'debates,' I thought it might have been, for me, the straw that broke the camel's back, especially when I saw people defending the shooter (the terrorist) because his target was a place they hated (the irony that they proudly identify as "pro-life" is obviously lost on them). I couldn't even talk about it. It was too much. Every shooting, every ugly incident, adds another straw.
Ryan and I were talking the other day and she said something about when she has kids. I asked her if she really wanted them... if she really wanted to bring children into this world. I told her I'd obviously support her decision, no matter what (in about 20 years or so), but that I will never be one of those mothers asking for grandchildren. I've said that if Ryan hadn't been born before 9/11, she wouldn't have been born at all and I feel that even more strongly today. And yes, I know we have to have hope that things will get better... and I do have hope... I just don't have any faith.
And then yesterday happened.
And the camel's back broke.
This world is governed by dogma and greed, and combined, they have fostered an environment of intolerance, hatred, and anger. It's everywhere. I can't scroll through my FB feed without seeing it all, some of it coming from people I actually know. Most of the people running for office right now make me want to vomit with the ignorant, hateful, oftentimes blatantly untrue swill they spew, and the disrespect with with we address each other over differing points of view has become too much to bear. I'm tired of logging in to my computer to see shooting after shooting after shooting after shooting - every single day. I'm tired of the useless prayers and the flags, the rhetoric that never changes, and looking for the helpers. The helpers must be so fucking exhausted. I'm so sick of seeing people with nowhere to go, soldiers who come home wrecked (if they come home at all) from wars they shouldn't be fighting, and our planet being destroyed.
We are reaping what we have sown, both abroad and on our own soil.
So I think it's time to circle the wagons and change my environment. I can't fix any of those big things. I can't. And I just don't think I can be witness to them anymore. All I can do is try to make my little corner of the world as peaceful as it can be. I can be kind to everyone in it, and if I can't be kind, I can be quiet. I can stand up when I see an injustice and I can help people right here in Pigsknuckle, because that's where I am. I can love the people in my circles. And I can let the rest of it go.
I don't want to give up FB again, because many of the people I love are there. So I'm going to go through and change my feed. I'm getting rid of all the connections and sites that don't bring me happiness. I don't need all the "news" and the information. Not for a while, anyway. I'm going to whittle down my friends list, too, and hide a lot more of my feed. I'm going to keep posting my "Smile of the Day" pictures and stories about Ryan and my fuzzy babies, and I'm going to look for stories and videos that make me feel good and that might make others feel good as well. I'm going to make FB my happy place again. And I'm going to come back here and blog more about the things that make me happy.
And good or bad, right or wrong, I'm going to spend some time in blissful ignorance about what is going on in the world. Because if I don't, I'm afraid the camel's back might never heal.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Do-Overs

I was in the grocery store today and realized that Thanksgiving is on Thursday. I don't know how it happened; it's nearly winter; 2015 is nearly over. Time isn't just flying by... it's flying by at the speed of light.

Sigh.

The other day, a friend was talking about do-overs; she said she'd like to go back and do-over a particularly difficult period of time in her life - one that set her on a course that has resulted in even greater difficulty.

Um... hello.

That sounds a lot like my life. Like my whole entire life.

So I said I wouldn't mind a do-over either, but I'd have to go back knowing what I know now. Otherwise, it's pretty likely I'd screw up as big (or even bigger) than before.

Then I started to really think about it...

I thought about the point at which I'd like to start over...

There are so very many potentials...

Moving to Pigsknuckle?

The moment I found out my marriage was over?

Before Ryan was born?

Before I got married?

College?

The more I thought about the mistakes I've made along the way (the many, many mistakes), I figured I'd really pretty much need to go back to junior high school and start all over.

Then I thought about avoiding all those mistakes...

What would my life be like if I hadn't made them all?

What if I knew in junior high school that being awkward and ungainly wasn't, in fact, the end of the world or what would define me for the rest of my life? What if I just allowed myself to be who I was and let people like me (or not) instead of trying so hard (and failing) to fit in?

What if I had studied harder and actually found a career I really wanted right out of school?

What if I'd been smarter with my money? Man, that's a big one. A really big one.  

I thought of all the people I've met in the past 35 years - the people who have become my family. If my path had gone in a different direction, would I even have had the opportunity to know them? Well, if I took all my knowledge back with me, I'd be able to find them, certainly, but would I be able to know them the way I know them know? Would they know me the way they know me now? What if they had never had to see me at my worst and most vulnerable? What if they hadn't had to pick up the pieces of my shattered self they way they have done, so, so many times. Would they love me the way they love me now?

I thought of Ryan - what if my choice in husbands had been different? Had I not met her dad, she wouldn't be here.

My god.

OK, so don't go back so far, Diane... go back to when she was born...

Would I have worked harder to save my marriage? Would I have even been able to prevent its demise? Would I have wanted to? What if I had... I would have become a different person. And if I was a different person, I would be a different mother. If I was a different mother, would Ryan be the same amazing person she is today? Would she be as resourceful or as independent or as practical and passionate and appreciative of everything she gets if she had grown up in a financially secure, two-parent household... where one parent was a narcissist and one didn't even recognize herself in the mirror?

Would I have gotten Sundance?!

What if I went back to when I moved to Pigsknuckle... and I went about the whole dating process differently and I met someone I wanted to spend the rest of my life with? What would Ryan be like if she had a father who loved her and who was present in her life? What would I be like if I had someone to rely on and share things with -- if I didn't have to do all the things by myself?

What if I'd not been scared and I'd picked up and moved us to England when I really thought about going - when it was within my grasp? How would things be different then?

What if I'd treated my body differently for all those years? Would I have gotten cancer?

So many choices... so many possibilities... so many differences...

But here's the thing... in every scenario I imagined, for everything that got better, I lost something -- a person, an experience, a lesson, an understanding...

And I didn't even get into the whole ideas of 'What if your new mistakes turned out to be even bigger than your old ones?' or 'What if, regardless of all the different choices you made, you wound up getting run over by a bus?'

My life is not where I want it to be. There is never enough money or time and I'm always tired and needing something out of reach.

But I have so much.

I have people who love me, friends who are family, a daughter who shines so brightly, she makes my heart ache, and a job I love.

And when it's all said and done, it really comes down to the fact that do-overs aren't possible.

Yeah.

I think it's probably for the best.





Monday, September 7, 2015

In the Words of James Brown...

Since I'm coming up on the three-month mark for my whole foods experience, I thought I'd share an update about how it's been and how it's going.

If I had to sum it up in one sentence, it would be this one:

This has been the best decision of my entire life.

True story.

I've spoken to several other people who have done or are doing the Whole30 challenge and I've found that most people struggle a bit with it, at least at first. That's understandable, really, as you suddenly, all at once, eliminate entire food groups from your diet (sugar, grains, dairy, legumes, processed foods) and the cravings for those foods can be pretty damned powerful. Fortunately, I haven't struggled at all. Now, when I first heard about the plan over a year ago, my reaction was, yeah, no way in hell. But when I started, nearly 90 days ago, I was ready. I was beyond ready. I was sick and tired, from chemo and my under-functioning thyroid, and from fighting the depression that comes from being sick and tired.

That whole sick-and-tired-depression thing? It's cyclical. And it sucks.

So, as I say, I was ready. And for me, Ready = Motivation. And all I need is motivation. Because, for me, Motivation = Willpower.

It took me a long time to work that out.

Slow and steady wins the race, right?

I should note here that although I didn't do the Whole30 challenge to lose weight, I figured it would be a happy byproduct. And since I'd blown up like a balloon since my cancer diagnosis (because I live in Topsy-Turvy Land, that's why), I was hoping it would be a happy byproduct. It was. It is. To date, I'm approximately 30lbs down. Last night? When I changed into my pajamas? My jeans came off without me having to unbutton them. Three months ago I had to suck in to zip them. And that? Is cool, people.

However, again, this is not about losing weight.

OK, this is not completely about losing weight.

It is about getting healthy. It's about finally, for once in my life, giving my body what it needs. It's about finally, for once in my life, taking care of myself - real care. It's about finally recognizing that I deserve to be healthy, to have what I need, to care for myself, and to feel good.

It's most definitely about feeling good.

And I?

Feel good.

I feel really good.

For the first 45 days, I stuck to the plan like glue. I ate nothing but vegetables, fruit, lean proteins, and some good fats. That was it. Not one diversion. As I mentioned, because I was so ready, I found it incredibly easy and I, thankfully (and shockingly), didn't have any cravings. Now, I didn't feel great right away, which was disappointing, as the testimonials on the Whole30 website were all about drastic changes in the first few weeks. But I still had chemo in my system and my energy level did improve, so I cut myself a little slack. I also figured that I'd spent years doing damage with food and I wasn't going to be able to fix it all in a month or so of healthy, clean, organic-whenever-possible eating.

So I soldiered on.

About six weeks in, I started to feel significantly better and when I went on vacation, though I strayed from the plan just a tiny bit (for which I did not feel guilty), I was able to do physical things I hardly dreamed of doing a month earlier. It was bloody fantastic! Back at home, I got right back to it. I was feeling really good by then and the weight was just falling off.

More about the weight loss... first, I should note that other than when I was on vacation, I did very little exercise for the first two months on the plan. It took about month after the last chemo treatment for the heart palpitations to stop and for the elephant that had been sitting on my chest for 5 months to get the hell off me. I got winded walking from the bedroom to the bathroom. Seriously. Needless to say, I wasn't moving much. I am now, however... I've gotten back to the gym, met with a trainer, and I'll start swimming in a couple of weeks.

Second, for the first time in my life, I stopped focusing on losing weight. See, I've fought weight issues for the last 20+ years. I have allowed my weight to rule me; I've allowed it to dictate much of my life. I've won a few battles here and there, certainly, but I was starting to believe I'd lost the war.

Until Whole30.

For the first time ever, instead of counting calories or points and stressing about what fit into whatever diet-puzzle I was living in at the moment, I just ate.

I just ate.

I ate lots of good-for-me food. I ate when I was hungry. I ate until I wasn't hungry anymore. I ate at the times my body told me to eat. I settled into this nice rhythm of steady, healthy, good-for-me meals and snacks. I didn't count one damned thing.

And I lost weight.

And I heard hallelujah bells and angels singing!

My oncologist was thrilled with the changes she saw. The chemo knocked my cancer back to manageable levels and the whole foods knocked my thyroid back to almost-normal levels (without medication!). I was thrilled with the changes I saw and felt.

I still am.

After two months, I reintroduced a few things -- raw honey, was first. I love it in my tea and it's so good for you. Some dairy was next. Surprisingly, my stomach didn't handle milk well. I've always been a milk drinker and I love it, so this was disappointing. I still have a glass occasionally and I put cream in my tea, but that's it. I haven't had cheese or ice cream yet (though I did have a small gelato recently, which also wasn't kind to my tum [boo]) and I'm in no hurry to try them. I added a few grains, too, like brown rice, quinoa, and steel cut oats. I know grains are an issue for me, though, and they're an inflammatory food and bad for my thyroid, so I limit them significantly (around twice a week). Once in a very blue moon, I have a bit of sugar, but I have to really, really want it (and I don't often want it. And that? Is kind of a miracle). Oh, and I had a few handfuls of popcorn at the movies last night.

That's it.

And I think that might be all it's ever going to be.

Well, except for the occasional glass of wine. I haven't had wine since my birthday in February (shocker!!) but I expect I'll give it a go again sometime soon.

Bottom line, although eating this way can be expensive (though it shouldn't be... I guess we all live in Topsy-Turvy Land, eh?), and time consuming to shop for (I go to six different places now!) and prepare (I actually have to, you know, cook), it is worth every effort.

It is worth every effort.

Lord knows I can't give anyone advice on anything when it comes to health or weight loss. But I can tell you how I feel and what's working for me. And this is working for me.

It has, truly, been the best decision of my entire life.

My Whole30 challenge has become my WholeLife resolve.

And in the words of James Brown: I feel good!






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.