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Sunday, December 4, 2016

Stop bullying.

At the end of my work day, when there are only a few minutes left until I can leave and I don’t want to stop in the middle of something, I read the news online. I don’t particularly like reading the news, because there’s rarely anything happy to be found there. A few days ago was a perfect example.

The first headline that jumped out at me was about a teenager who killed herself in front of her family. She was a senior in high school and had been bullied for her weight - cyberbullied. No one had nerve enough to harass her in person. Instead, these cowards who thought they were so much better than she sent text messages and created Facebook pages to bully her. She killed herself because of words said by faceless people. 

Seriously? 

The article told of how her family pleaded with her to not pull the trigger, and with them there to witness it, she shot herself in the chest.

I can’t get that mental image out of my head. It’s been haunting me for a couple of days now, mainly because it ties in with the reason I’ve been avoiding Facebook. I’m disgusted with the way so many people I consider friends are behaving lately. Mostly it has been political comments, but there are so many other comments that make me wonder if anyone really thinks about what they’re saying anymore, especially when it is being said behind the safety of a computer screen.

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with social media from the beginning. People speak their minds, exercising their freedom of speech, without a thought as to how others will react. What to you might seem a completely acceptable thing to say can hurt or anger someone else. Words are THE most painful weapons, because they cut silently, deeply and without witness.

Reading about a young life lost because of the pain caused by words got me to thinking…have I ever been a cyberbully? The more I thought about it, the more I realized that yes, I have. We’ve all been bullies. Think about it…have you ever written a scathing review of a business on Yelp? Left negative feedback on eBay or Amazon that was maybe a little more harsh than it had to be? How many Facebook posts have you written about the stupidity of people who voted differently than you in the recent election? 

Would you have the nerve to say the exact same things face to face?

How many times have you left vague replies to a friend’s post, clearly implying you disagree or are judging that person? Have you ever got into a heated argument with a total stranger in the replies to a friend’s post? Did it make you feel superior to that person to tell them your truth?

That is an important part of all this by the way. Your truth. Not the truth, even though that might be what you have convinced yourself. Everyone has their own truth. 

Example: I am not a Christian. I do not believe in the Bible, Jesus, God. None of it. So when you post things like, “Thanks be to God” over the fact that your child survived his/her cancer, do you stop to think how those of us whose children didn’t survive might feel? God chose to save your child, but chose to let mine die? Is that the message? If so, this god is a huge asshole. That is my truth. 

Another religious comment that seems innocent is, “Jesus is the reason for the season.” What you should be saying is, “Jesus is the reason for your season,” because he is not the reason for mine. The things that I celebrate this time of year have nothing to do with Christianity. They have to do with my truths.

Those are fairly innocuous examples. They anger me, but they don’t harm me. I’m not insulted by them; merely disgusted with their presumptuousness. Recently though, the comments on politics have reached the point of (what I consider to be) cyberbullying. When you lambaste an entire group of people because they voted differently than you, calling them names or saying they’re all ignorant, uneducated…stupid, does it occur to you that not everyone who will see it agrees with you? Does it occur to you that you are criticizing people you supposedly consider “friends”? Do you care?

We speak without thought or tact, because we don’t have to see the reaction of others to our words. That is bullying. If you only feel better about yourself when you’re bringing someone down, you are a bully. I grew up with someone like that and it took nearly 50 years before I was able to say, “No more!” and cut that person from my life. Lives are being lost because words are being said without care. 

I had no choice but to watch my son die. He wanted to live - more than anything, he wanted to live! Yet I still had to helplessly watch him die. The parents of this young girl also had to helplessly watch their child die, but it didn’t have to be that way! We need to stop spewing hate and judgement. We need to be spreading acceptance, tolerance and love. We especially need to be teaching our children to do the same.

A bullet to the chest, as she cried about not being able to deal with it all anymore. How is this the world we live in now? How? Because we are creating that world with ever word we wield. How dare we use those weapons so carelessly?

I love seeing posts about your child’s baseball team winning, new jobs, kids in Halloween costumes, couples in ugly sweaters…I want to be there to cheer you on as you fight tough life battles. I cry with you when you suffer a loss. I don’t want to be there when you post something vague, seeking attention without explanation. I don’t want to “like” a post where you are criticizing an entire group of people all because you don’t agree with them. I don’t want to help you feel better about yourself by bringing someone else down.

Social media should be fun. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Afraid to hope.

For someone who operates on 90% emotion and 10% control, I try very hard to appear calm, cool and collected. Or, at the very least, I try to control which emotion is visible. The emotion that is easiest to let loose is anger, because being an angry person who scares the hell out of people is preferable to being that chick who cries over everything. The sad truth is, I do cry over a lot of things. I just try to do it where only a select few...ok, a select two...see me do it.

In the past few months, life has held many twists and stabs. I've fought very hard to keep it all under control so no one sees that, emotionally, I am like a ball of rubber bands, tightly wound. Occasionally, a band snaps, but the majority of the ball is still holding together, albeit tightly. My fear is that soon, numerous bands will snap at once.

Have you ever seen the inside of a golf ball? This is what I fear is eventually going to happen to all of the emotions I fight so hard to keep in.

I want peace for us. I want a place to call home, not an apartment with loud neighbors and apathetic management. I want a place for my dog to roam off leash. I want to be able to paint a wall black if the mood hits me. To that end, we put an offer on a house a few days ago and found out today that the seller has accepted our offer. In two months, we will have a home. Will it be the home I'm seeking? It is half the size of the last house I lived in, and I am not good at paring down. In fact, nothing makes me want to cut a bitch quicker than being told, "Just get rid of stuff." I am not a hoarder, but I have 24 years worth of memories in the shape of toys, pictures, books, gifts from my children...all of which are not just "stuff" to be discarded. Every rock, seashell, fairy, drawing and letter is precious to me. The trick is going to be ignoring those who feel they have the right to tell me what to do and finding a place for my treasures.

So, will this house be the home I am looking for? I don't know. All I know is that I want it to be, for a while at least. This will be our 4th move in less than 3 years. Just the thought of movers, unpacking, and cleaning another apartment makes me tired to my bones. But the thought of coming home to a house that is mine, with a yard that I can garden in...ok, let's be honest...a yard that I can drink wine in and look at, is what is driving me.

But underlying that is still the nagging thought that California is not where we are meant to be. Mike is embarking on some interesting changes professionally. I may finally be achieving some professional satisfaction soon too. Maybe the coming months will reveal a love for this place that, thus far, I have been unable to find. Someone told us recently that we don't live in San Diego; we just work here. That could be true. We've been here almost two years and have spent that time living in apartments, going to jobs, shopping in the community, but never actually becoming part of  the place. Maybe living in a neighborhood and not just a building is the part that has been missing.

I want so much for all three of us, yet I feel like we're all chasing after that carrot that is eternally just out of reach. I am just hoping that reaching this point of emotional stretch, with the bands feeling as though they are about to snap, is as far as it will go and that the pendulum will finally start to swing the other way and some relaxation - both physical and mental - is finally coming our way.




Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Irrational Reality of the Post Cancer Mind

On September 18th I had a mammogram. As a woman over the age of 40, I go in every year for the required boob-smashing. I have no history of breast cancer on either side of my family. ZERO history. But, as the parent of a child lost to cancer, the fear is there.

It's not just fear of breast cancer. It's fear of cancer. Period.

So, I had the mammogram. A few years ago I asked the woman doing my exam how long it would take for me to be notified if there was something there. She had just finished my scans and told me I could go get dressed. I'll never forget her - she was a black woman, probably about my age, with a friendly smile. She looked at me and said, "Honey, if I saw something there, I wouldn't be letting you walk out the door right now."

As in all previous years, that scan came back clear. Since then, I've always trusted that, if I'm allowed to get dressed and leave, the girls are good to go.

Last Tuesday - a full eleven days after my mammogram - I got a call from the mammo tech saying I needed to come in for more scans. Unfortunately, I missed the call because I was at work, so I got the message on voicemail after the clinic had closed. Immediately I was shaking. Instant tears. It was just a voicemail, and already I knew I was dying. I had to go to a baseball game that night and put on a happy face, because I didn't want to say anything to Mackenzie yet. How do I tell my child - the only child I have left, because cancer already stole her brother, her best friend, from her seven years ago - that I will never get to see her children...that I won't get to help her shop for a wedding dress...that I'm so sorry I won't live to be old like I thought I would.

The next morning, I called the radiology clinic as soon as it opened. I spoke with the tech who took my scans. She explained that there was "something" on one side that didn't appear in last year's scans (which she also took). I tried keeping my voice level, even as my insides felt like they had turned to jello. I asked when I could come back for more scans. She responded with, "I can get you in on October 13th."

It was September 30th. She wanted me to wait 13 DAYS? In my head, my already raging breast cancer was guaranteed to metastasize in those 13 days, becoming tumors in my lungs, my brain, and anywhere else sticky in my insides that it could latch onto.

I said, "Okay," resigned to my fate, hung up and called my husband. That is when the tears started. True to form, he blew a gasket. "What do you mean they can't get you in until the %&@#ing 13th? Did she say what it is that they saw? Can you call her back?"

After a mostly-failed attempt to pull myself together, I called her back. I asked if there was anything sooner than the 13th. I told her all of the questions that Mike had asked. And then I said the words that (I think) pushed the right button with her.

"I'm sorry. It's just that...we lost our 12-year-old son to cancer seven years ago. Cancer is something that we all have a very real fear of."

I was crying by the time I finished that simple sentence. She put me on hold, came back a few minutes later and offered to fit me in on October 6th. Technically the first appointment of the day was at 9:00 am, but she said if I came in at 8:00, she'd take my scans and then try to get a radiologist to read them as soon as she could. She warned that I might have to wait a while though. I was okay with that.

For six days, I imagined the worst. I didn't want to die. I was too young...I wanted to be there for Mackenzie as she falls in love, gets married, has children of her own. My husband was too young to lose me, which...let's be honest here...means that he's young enough to go out and  find another woman to love and spend his twilight years with, and that does not work for me. That bitch can find her own man, thankyouverymuch. Every older woman I saw, I thought to myself, "Why does she get to live to be old and I don't?" The morbid thoughts were endless.

If you think that I am the only one with this gruesome, pessimistic nature, think again. When I finally did tell Mackenzie that I had to go for more scans, she threw her arms around me and said, "If your hair falls out, I will shave my head too!" She didn't cry or freak out, but she automatically went straight to cancer, just as I had.

This morning, my husband and I got up and headed out to the hospital for the scans that I just knew would begin another journey of surgery and chemo for our family to deal with. Enough days had passed that I was thinking (slightly) more logically, hoping that my cancer was being caught early and at worst, I'd lose a boob (at best, I was hoping for a whole new rack).

I think I had a total of 8 new scans done, although it felt like 30. The tech commented that she was sorry she had to be rough, but that she "wanted to get as much tissue in the scan as possible." The fact that I don't have one side dragging the ground right now is a testament to the elasticity of skin. At one point as she was pulling and smashing my poor girl, taking the exact same scan for the third time, she said, "I want to make sure I get 'it' in the scan."

There it is...breast cancer. This mysterious "it" has to be a lump of some kind, right? They'd probably do an ultrasound after this, just to be sure, but then they'd come in and tell me. We'd start discussing biopsy, or maybe they'd just go right to a full radical mastectomy. Then on to oncology, maybe radiation. I wondered if I'd have to get the little dot tattoos on my chest so that the radiation would get targeted to exactly the right place.

Finally, after all the scans were complete, the radiologist came in. I asked if my husband could please come in also. Mike came and stood next to me, ready to catch me when the hammer fell. I braced myself for the worst.

"It's a lymph node."

I'm pretty sure Mike and I both just stared at him. All of the morbid thoughts became a mist that, temporarily, fogged my brain. I can't remember (even though it was just this morning) everything else that was said. I do remember him saying that I don't have to have another mammogram until my annual exam next year and I must have still been looking doubtful (or just stupid, which is highly possible). He then said, "I would say the same thing if I saw this in my wife, my sister, or my mother. It's just a lymph node."

As Mike and I walked out of the clinic, each of us had our phones out and were texting the folks that we'd had waiting in the wings to be there for us, just as they had been when Keeghan was diagnosed 9 years ago. Because that is how it is when you already bear the scars of cancer. At the slightest hint that cancer might be rearing its hideous head in your life again, you start to circle the wagons. You prepare for the worst, because the worst has already happened once. Is it irrational? Of course. But until you have proof that there is no cancer...there is.


Sunday, August 30, 2015

I miss you, Bubby.

Seven years ago today was the last time I saw him alive. 

I know everyone thinks that August 31st, the day he died, is the hard day for me. It isn’t. It’s today.

Mike’s dad had been with us for a few days visiting, but left on the 30th. Mike helped me to get Keeghan and I settled on the sofa in our standard position - me sitting sideways with Keeghan between my legs, leaning back against my chest - before he and his dad left. We spent the afternoon watching movies, most notably his favorite movie - Transformers.

It was a good day if you don’t think about the fact that Keeghan could no longer walk, talk, or do anything other than click the remote to change channels on the TV. I had a whole day to just hold him and at that point, that was a good day.

Mike woke me up the next morning at 4:30 to tell me he was gone. I think he probably would have died sooner, but was holding on for a day when it was just us, The Fantastic Four, together. That moment wasn’t meant to be shared with anyone else.

Seven years. I just don’t understand how I have gotten through that much time without him. I miss the little moments…watching him eat his cereal and drink his coffee (with exactly one Irish creamer, thankyouverymuch), looking like a grumpy old man until he’d been properly fed and caffeinated, every morning. 

Seeing him watching TV with that big old cat, Buddy, curled up in his arms like a baby. 

The way he would look at Mackenzie in utter confusion as to how they were even related when she said something goofy.

Hearing his voice say, “I love you, Mama.”

I have so much love in my life, and I know I am still so blessed to have the amazing husband and daughter that I have. Without them, I would not be here, and that is a fact. But damn it, I miss my son so much. He should be here. He should be in college, working toward that goal of finding a cure for cancer like he told us he would when he was 5-years-old.

Instead, I get to see pictures of other boys his age doing the things he never got to do. Some are children of my friends or coworkers; others are children I knew when Keeghan was alive, children he should have been out running around and playing with, but couldn’t because he was going through chemo at the time. No longer children, but young adults now. I get to see them live the dreams I had for my own son.

Even worse are the ones whose children survived cancer. Again, I don’t wish Keeghan’s fate on those children at all and am happy that they survived. It’s how the parents address that survival that can set me off on a flight of anger that can soar for days. Thanking some god for a miracle that implies that child was deserving of one when my son wasn’t is, at best, naive. At worst, it’s offensive to the families of all those children who have died. Thank a doctor, a research scientist…hell, thank Lady Luck that your child had the right type of cancer that was caught at the right time by the right group of medical providers. But DO NOT imply that your child’s survival was solely attributable to some mythical being who, apparently, thinks your child is more deserving of a life than mine.

Yes, I am bitter sometimes. I don’t wish Keeghan’s fate on anyone else, but I can’t lie - seeing those other children doing things Keeghan should be doing makes me angry. Not at them per se; just angry in general. It isn’t right.

I don’t know if other parents who have lost a child feel the same way. Many have religion in their lives to lean on; maybe that helps them to not look around at all the opportunities their children were denied and accept it. Perhaps some feel exactly as I do, but are too nice to say it, or are too afraid of the backlash from others.

I have always been the person who doesn’t really give a damn if I hurt your feelings with my honesty. You aren’t me and have no idea what I feel; therefore, you have no right to judge my feelings. I do a good job most of the time keeping my feelings to myself. Today is the day that honesty gets to be at the forefront though. Because today is the day that all of those years, months and days of watching him fight to live, only to see him slowly fade away and die, hit me all over again, the pain as fresh as it was seven years ago. Today is the day I allow myself to rail at the universe.

THIS IS NOT RIGHT! 

HE DESERVED MORE!

He deserved a chance, like all the rest.

He was so good, so sweet and compassionate…so smart! He had so much to offer this world. He wanted to be a father someday, so he could be just as good a Daddy as his own was. 

We all deserved to get to see him reach those goals.

For seven years, this world has missed his light, even if most didn’t even know it ever glowed to begin with.

Oh, what they missed out on, and oh, how I miss that light.

I miss you, Bubby.






Sunday, August 2, 2015

Will it ever end?

As August begins, once again I have to ask...what the hell happened to January through July? What evil time warp switches on in January and makes time zip by until August?

And then it begins again...the endless memories and mental tortures that August brings. At the beginning of August, he could walk and talk, but he'd begun to have seizures.

New drug trial....
   
          Hope....

                    Then the treatment almost kills him.

There's nothing more we can do for himTake him home, keep him comfortable.

          How do you tell a 12-year-old the doctors can't help him anymore?

                    How do you tell a 14-year-old her brother will soon die?

No more speech. Can't walk. But those eyes...those wise old eyes in a little boy's face! Right to the end, they looked at me with so much knowledge. He knew so much, but couldn't tell us.

          Helplessness of the absolute worst kind.

                    Then Death came.

Seven years...how can it be so long since all of that happened and yet still feel so fresh?

This year brings a new challenge for me in that it is the first year since Keeghan's death that I have had a job. For the past six Augusts, I've been able to face the month with the knowledge that, when it was necessary, I could break down. No boundaries to limit my need to feel. Now, I have got to keep it together 40+ hours per week.

On top of that, I have to deal with the invariable comments and questions that, while not asked with any malice, cut to the soul. The people who can't come close to imagining what it feels like to watch your child die...thinking that it gets easier with time, that at some point you get over it...move on...make peace with the loss.

It really should be legal to occasionally throat punch people. Truly.

So it begins. Twenty-nine more days until we once again mark that anniversary that has no name. I just call it The Day Keeghan Left, because calling it The Day That My Heart Broke in a Way That Can Never Heal takes too long.







Monday, June 1, 2015

Honestly...me.

I'm pretty sure I have posted before about my honesty. Some would call it brutal honesty. I can't pinpoint exactly when I became so hellbent on being honest, but I know I haven't always been this way.

Maybe at some point in my life I twisted the truth and it came back to bite me bad enough that I just decided to always be honest. A lot of it comes from having put up with treatment that I didn't like but never said anything, because I didn't want to create hard feelings. But eventually, you have to say, "enough is enough" and speak up for yourself.

In my case, I think I went from one extreme to the other. After years of allowing myself to be mistreated by people, I hit the proverbial wall and won't put up with anything now.

One of my biggest pet peeves that I am wholeheartedly brutal about is following rules. It is something that makes me very unpopular where I live. So be it. I do not believe that rules are made to make anyone's life miserable. I truly believe there is a reason for every rule. Sure, I may not always like them, but I will not blatantly break them.

There are some rules that are a bit fluid. I don't try to drive faster than the posted speed limit, but if me doing the speed limit impedes the traffic flow, I will keep pace with the traffic around me. Within reason, of course.

We live in an apartment complex that has beautiful amenities, but they come with rules. Would I like to be able to sit out by the fire pit past 10:00pm? Sometimes, yes. I know there are others in the building who think the pool should be open past 10:00pm, as well. But, I also understand that there are residents who live near those amenities and could be disturbed by people using them after a certain time, so I am respectful of the rules and go home at 10:00pm.

The same goes for dogs being off leash. There are rules that state dogs must be on a leash at all times in the common areas around our building. The majority of the dogs here are friendly and would never hurt anyone, but if one person is allowed to break the rules, then everyone is given free license to do the same. This opens the door for the person with the dog who does bite to have a dog off leash, allowing someone to get hurt.

It's really just that simple. The only way to ensure bad things don't happen is for people to follow rules. Yes, it sucks sometimes. Being an adult sucks sometimes, but like it or not, we are adults and must act as such.

The things I believe in are what make me who I am. It has never been my goal to be liked by everyone. I'm not out to have 7,000 friends on Facebook, or be the person whose name everyone yells with glee when I walk into the room. That kind of thing is never real anyway. But I am proud of who I am.

While others might think I'm crazy, I'm proud of the fact that I believe in...

  • rules
  • saying, "I love you" often
  • saying, "I'm sorry," but only if I mean it
  • expecting apologies when they are owed to me
  • shared bank accounts
  • sharing chores
  • taking responsibility for my actions
  • not being a bully
  • not thinking I'm better than anyone
  • leaving high school in the past
  • giving more than just the minimum expected of me
  • calling bullshit when I see it
  • not being a hypocrite
  • not being pretentious
  • active parenting
  • spiritual freedom
  • hugs
  • being on time
  • working hard
  • recognizing that "family" does not always mean "blood"
  • accountability
  • doing the right thing, even when no one is looking

I could go on, but I'm sure you get the idea. I have high expectations...of myself, of those around me. Really, of everyone, even though I know that sets me up for disappointment because that just isn't the norm in our society. It would be nice if it was though. Life is short and we all want to live a happy life. Unless you live your life like a hermit, other people's actions are going to affect your life. If everyone lives as though the universe revolves around him or her, we will all be disappointed. If we stop and think about how our actions affect those around us, instead of only thinking of what will make us happy, we could all have a much higher level of life satisfaction. 

Simple, right?

And there I go again, setting myself up for disappointment. 


Sunday, May 31, 2015

It's been so long since I last sat down to write. We've been in San Diego almost a year now. I haven't made any new jewelry pieces and I haven't really spent any time writing since moving here. All of this "downsizing" to fit into a downtown apartment seemed like a great idea, but a year later I feel like I've given up so many things that made me me.

The first place we chose to live in San Diego has been a big fail. Nice place. New building, very fancy, great location. Here's the problem though...too many people with too much money and not enough maturity to deal with it. An example of the things we've dealt with in the past 12 months:

  • 20-somethings getting SO drunk by the pool that they walk around with certain body parts hanging out that, in polite society, are normally covered;
  • a total disregard for rules, such as "no dogs in the pool area" and "no dogs off leash," which resulted in Mike being bitten by an evil little mutt of a canine;
  • a sloppy drunk neighbor telling us how so many others in the complex hate us for getting the dog kicked off of the property;
  • same sloppy drunk neighbor putting the moves on me right in front of my husband (which, honestly, I didn't take seriously but it was still incredibly awkward);
  • garbage left everywhere;
  • dog feces in hallways (because entitled people apparently don't have to clean up after their pets);
  • and the list goes on.
Needless to say, this place hasn't been a good experience. 

Overall, San Diego as a whole has not lived up to the expectation we had when we moved here. Sure, it is beautiful if you like the majority of your year to be sunny. For me, personally, I like everything in moderation, to include sunshine. And like most cities, traffic is hell, people are self-centered, and the cost is beyond ridiculous. 

Not my idea of a "happily ever after" place.

It's been said that we haven't given the place a chance. I think we've given San Diego plenty of "chance." I'm not sure how much more chance I need to give it. I've lived here for a year, worked here for almost a year. Probably seen, experienced, and explored more of the city than many. We've certainly experienced more than the hipster bars of the trendy areas. San Diego has a lot to offer a snooty, entitled hipster. Or maybe a tourist. But not me. It doesn't have what I need.

And what do I need you might ask? 

I need....
  • seasons
  • less congestion
  • less expense
  • less "look at me, look at me"
  • more space
  • more time with my husband
  • less need to work
  • friendlier people
  • lake house
  • less entitled people
  • a yard for my dog
  • and that is just the tip of the iceberg.
All in all, we are not pretentious enough or materialistic enough for where we live right now. I'm hoping that moving outside of downtown will make things more bearable. But either way, I want out of here. I want to be far away from this place, these people...all of it. Mike and I are good with each other and with our child. We don't do well with others. Whether that is a good thing or not doesn't really matter - it works for us. We know this now and we accept it.

Bring it on - Tennessee, North Carolina, Pennsylvania...Thailand, Vietnam or Kuala Lumpur. Whatever...as long as it is just us, it will be good.