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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Self-doubt

I want so badly for Keeghan's story to be written. Maybe while he was alive and I was writing all the time I let other people's comments about what a good writer I am go to my head. But I read the writing of other parents who have been through similar experiences and I think, "Wow . . . she writes so much better. How can I possibly think that I can do Keeghan justice?" His life and his story deserve the very best storyteller, and I guess today I'm having doubts about whether or not that is me. I miss him so much, and want him to come alive through my words, but I don't know if I'm good enough to do it.

I'm having a serious self doubt day. Can you tell?

Also, the two little girls that I spoke about in yesterday's post? Well, one of them died yesterday. The other died today.

So much sadness in this world. I only hope that all of these fabulous children are having a good time where they are now.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

What is it going to take?

A little girl I know of is expected to leave this world today. All because of a brain tumor.

Again with the brain tumors . . .

I'm not sure exactly how old she is, but I'm pretty sure she's either 9- or 10-years-old. Not very long on this planet to be sure.

Yesterday I read about a different little girl - this one only about 8-years-old I think - whose lungs are so full of tumors, she has difficulty breathing. Her days left here are short, but she repeatedly tells her mother, "Mommy, I don't want to die."

What kind of world is this that these kids have to go through such horrible things? I know many of you think that I should stop reading about these other children, that I've been through enough after watching Keeghan die. I'm sure my husband and daughter think that. For the record, I don't go out seeking these kids' stories to read. I read them when they are presented to me. In the case of the little girl with the brain tumor, her father played baseball in college with my brother. The other story was posted on Facebook yesterday by one of the moms on my St. Baldrick's team. If you could see the beautiful smile of this little girl . . . well, you'd feel compelled to read her story too.

But really, more than anything, I read the stories because I don't want to forget. It's so easy for some to "move on" from cancer. I'm sure many of the people who read about Keeghan religiously on our website when he was alive still think about him occasionally now. Some of them even throw a few dollars at a cancer fundraiser once in a while too. But for the most part, I'd be willing to bet that they do everything possible to NOT think about him because it is too painful. The problem is, there are still 46 kids out there (on average) who will get diagnosed with cancer today. Of those, nine will not survive. Six children will die today.

Again, all of this is based on averages, but you get my point. What is it going to take to get people to sit up and say, "Hey! This is wrong!"

I understand that everyone has their own cause though. For many it is autism, while for others it is cystic fibrosis, cerebral palsy, Down's Syndrome, birth defects . . . the list goes on. So many of these causes revolve around children though. So many kids suffer, and yet so many adults turn their heads because "it's just too painful" or because it hasn't affected them directly.

Trust me, it will. At some point, you will know a child who suffers from some type of illness. The world is too small, and cancer is becoming too rampant. If you think you're immune, you're a fool.

So why do I keep reading about these kids who suffer and die? Because it keeps me motivated. Motivated to spread awareness. Motivated to raise money. The sad thing is, the more motivated I become, the more I think people shy away from me. I've become too painful for them. I can tell this by how the visits to my website have dropped since Keeghan died. When there was hope, people read all the time. Now they don't. But there is still hope. Not for a cure for Keeghan - he found his cure. But for so many other children. I just wish I knew what the magic formula for reaching people (without scaring them off) was.

Any ideas?

I know that to give up helping in any way that I can to find a cure would be letting Keeghan down. He wanted that cure. But he didn't want it just for himself. He wanted it for all kids. His heart was just that big. If only everyone else's was as well.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

A big HOORAY for my Maxx

Last night we attended Maxx's track team banquet at her high school. This was her first year on the team, and she really enjoyed herself. She tried a number of different events, but in the end settled on long jump, 100 meter, and 200 meter dashes. When it was almost time to leave the house, all three of us were just dragging . . . I think if Maxx had said, "We don't really have to go . . . " Mike and I would have jumped at the chance to just stay home.

First off, she wasn't sure if she had lettered or not, and other than handing out certificates to those who did letter, we didn't know what else they would be doing.

But we went. It was supposed to start at 7:00pm. We got there around 6:50. And we sat. And sat. And sat some more. I don't know what the problem was, but the actual awards distribution didn't get started until 7:30pm. The coach spoke first and while I think he is a nice enough guy, he is not a good public speaker. So that droned on for a bit. And then letters were handed out to the varsity team members. Then they got to the JV team. The first name called off for the girls' JV team was MY BABY!

She lettered!

We were so excited for her! I think she was pretty shocked herself. Then, as the awards went on, she was also presented with a certificate for being a student athlete, meaning that she maintained a 3.0 or higher throughout the season.

So now she has two certificates, and the evening isn't even over yet!

Each of the four coaches presented an award to a student of their choice. Maxx's long jump coach got up and started talking about who he had decided to present his coach's award to, and as he talked I just *knew* it was her. I was even poking Mike, but he looked at me and shook his head. He really didn't think a first-year member of the team - and one that is only a sophomore - would get that type of award.

But she did! When he said her name, she immediately started to cry! And of course, when she started to cry, I started to cry! She went up and accepted the plaque, gave her coach a hug, and then came back to sit next to me - shaking like a leaf! She was so shocked, and so embarrassed (because she so does not like getting up in front of a crowd). It was just awesome.

But what was really cool was the reason her coach chose her to give the award to. She got it was because she always gave 100% with every event she tried, whether she was any good at it or not. And when she wasn't competing, she was helping. While other kids would go sit in the stands and hang out with their friends once their events were over, Maxx would be down helping to rake the long jump pit in between jumps, or doing whatever the coaches needed her to do. So she got the award for just being an awesome kid.

So yeah, it was awesome, and we cried. Mike was fighting the tears! I'm just so glad we didn't take the lazy way out and not go or we would have missed an incredibly special evening in our baby girl's life.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Sometimes . . .

Sometimes I look at his pictures and I truly cannot imagine going through the rest of my life without him. It scares me.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Latest Published Articles

My latest article to be published on Associated Content can be found here:

This one is a little silly, but what the heck - it was fun to write!

My Life in a Shoe Box.

This one was a gut-wrencher to write, but I needed to write it. I hope that it will actually be read by a few people because I doubt that I am the only one that has truly valuable friendships with people they've never met face-to-face.

Online Friends - Weird or Wonderful?

Happy reading!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Writing for money . . . who would have thought?

I started this new blog as a place to write about things that weren't necessarily appropriate for my other site. I thoroughly enjoyed writing my "Why I Hate High School Reunions" post last week, and received some very nice feedback on it. That's when I remembered something . . . I wrote an article three years ago and submitted it to Associated Content. It was called, "What Not to Say to the Parent of a Child with Cancer". Amazingly, it actually got published! That's when I thought, "Maybe I could write more articles that could be published."

I submitted the high school reunion post, and it DID get published! Of course, because I had already published here, the potential for income on it is far less. But that motivated me to want to write articles and submit them for exclusive publishing. The other thing that motivated me was this:


Mama needs a new . . . . laptop!




I want to start writing Keeghan's story. But I've figured out that I need to have a place - be it a room, corner of a room, whatever - that is my place to do nothing but write. No internet to distract me. No email coming in. No phone. Therefore, I need another computer for that space. While I love my Macs and would love to buy another of those, I think a PC is more feasible. Especially if it isn't going to be connected to the Internet at all.

My way to raise money to buy this writing computer will be . . .well, by writing. So while I will continue to write blog posts here, I am planning a number of articles to submit to Associated Content. The more traffic the articles get, the more money I make and the closer I am to having my new computer. More articles will mean that much more traffic, right?

Let's hope so!

So, here's where the blatant plug comes in. The following are links to the articles I have written so far. Please feel free to read them, share them, post them on Facebook, MySpace, anywhere you like. Or not. I'll still love you all anyway.


Why I Hate High School Reunions.

Camp Song Memories - the Sweetest Things.

What Not to Say to the Parent of a Child with Cancer.


I have two more articles submitted and waiting for approval, and a few more cooking. So please feel free to check back and see what's new.

Shannon's Articles.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Why I Hate High School Reunions

Moving back to California a year ago seemed like a good idea. After Keeghan died and Maxx was left without a sibling anymore, it seemed like a good idea to move close to where she had cousins that she was close to. I never really thought about the fact that there was a reason I left California nearly 20 years ago.

Growing up, I was pretty much invisible. I wasn't a brilliant student, but I wasn't the dumbest kid in class either. I didn't excel at any sport. In fact, I wasn't allowed to play sports at all. According to my mom, she and my dad didn't want me to be a tomboy. The reality (I think) is that if I had played a sport, they would have had to choose between who to go watch - me or my brother, and they didn't want to have to do that.

My brother was a very good athlete and the better part of my childhood was spent going to watch him play - baseball, football, track, and basketball (until every other boy his age grew to be taller than him). So many of my childhood memories are connected to seasons, but not the traditional Spring, Summer, Autumn or Winter. No, I remember things as happening during Baseball Season, or Football Season. Even my first boyfriend was someone I hooked up with because he was on the baseball team.

My point being, I grew up not being known for much other than being so-and-so's little sister. At the time it sucked, but it was all I knew. Don't get me wrong; I love my brother. Very, very much. But having him as my brother is so much easier now that we're not in school anymore. In high school, I couldn't wait to get out and away from it all. Away from all of them.

It took me a few years after high school to figure out who I wanted to be, and I floundered sometimes. Ok, I floundered a lot. It would definitely take both hands and probably a few toes to count up the mistakes I made. But eventually I left California. I joined the Army and didn't just get out of Cali, but out of the United States altogether! While stationed in Germany I met my husband, and it is truly with his help that I figured myself out.

None of that means that I know who the hell I am now. I'm 44-years-old, have two bachelors degrees and lots of job experiences (note, I said "experiences, plural, and not job experience - there's a difference) and I am still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. But I still like who I am. I know what my strengths are. I know that I am a good friend to those who are good friends to me. I actually know what a good work ethic is. I'm an okay writer. I am a good mom. A good wife. I love with a fierceness that is bright as the sun, and that is something that a lot of people can't say.

I also have faults. I'm a grudge holder. I don't give second chances. And when it comes to my childhood memories, I am still the most insecure person around.

All of that bringing me to my topic for this post - high school reunions. I graduated from high school 26 years ago. Until this past weekend, I had never attended a class reunion. Why bother? I have never kept in touch with any of those people, and I seriously doubt that I was missed at the 10-year or 20-year reunion. But I decided to go this time because the reunion included more than just my graduating class. As I said before, I like who I am now, and I love my brother. I thought it would be fun to go back and see everyone and be able to hang out with him at the same time.

Wow. Could I have been more wrong? I think not.

The first night of the Reunion Weekend was probably more fun than the official reunion itself was. It was at a local bar, owned by a guy that went to high school with us. I hung pretty close with my husband and sister-in-law. Other than one extremely awkward conversation with an ex-boyfriend of mine from when I was in my twenties, it was an okay night. My brother was the star, as expected, wandering constantly, never without someone nearby who wanted to talk to him. I saw a ton of faces that I recognized, and talked to one good friend from high school that I hadn't seen in decades but had connected with on Facebook. Other than that, I stayed in the shadows and observed.

The night of the official reunion was . . . bleh. After the previous night, I knew what to expect a little. As we arrived and entered the hall where the reunion was being held, there was a table for people to make name tags for themselves. I didn't want one. Call me stubborn, but I didn't want to wear a name tag. The people who knew me in high school would know me now. The rest I didn't really care about. When my brother walked in, he was told he didn't need a name tag because "everyone knows who you are."

I hate myself for saying this, but damn that was annoying.

We sat at a table with another couple, one of whom was in my graduating class and had played ball with my brother. When this guy introduced us to his wife, he introduce my brother by name and then said "and that's his sister" in reference to me. I tried to play it off and make a playful comment, something like, "Am I really still known only as his sister instead of by my own name?" and the guy pretty much just said, "yeah."

Again with the annoying. Really? REALLY?

I think Mike, my husband, knew that I was pissed. But more than anything, I was instantly that insecure teenager again. The one who wanted to be known and liked for me. The one who wanted to know that girls wanted to be my friend because they liked who I was, and not because they wanted to get near my brother. But instead I played into it all. I went and got a name tag that said "So and So's Little Sister" and wore it. All night.

Oh, and I had a glass or two of wine. Maybe three.

I'm pretty sure I made a complete arse out of myself at least once, and that I embarrassed my brother. At least once. And I'm pretty sure my therapist will be kept quite busy with this for a session or two.

So why did I put myself through this? Did I think that somehow these people would see the person I wanted them to see and not the girl I once was? Because in all honesty, it's not like I saw the people that they have become either. I saw who they were. It's not like there is enough time in a six-hour reunion to find out who everyone has become, whether they've changed or if they've stayed stuck in a high school mentality.

Side note: it was actually pretty easy to pick out the ones that stayed stuck in high school. Trust me, it's obvious.

Anyway. The lesson learned was this: if you hated high school and don't keep in touch with anyone from that time in your life now, going back to a reunion is probably not a good idea. If there are only a couple of people that you would want to see, plan a lunch date. See the ones you want and blow off the rest. Because those feelings that get stirred up again don't just go away when the reunion is over.

Oh. And because you can't UN-embarrass your brother.

Welcome to my thoughts on life

I had a major epiphany today. Those of you who have known me for a while are probably thinking, "Really? Another one?" Then again, once you find out what this particular epiphany is in regard to, you're probably going to think, "Well it's about *#$& time!"

So here it is: I need to find a new outlet for my snarkiness. Or my anger, bitterness, liberal opinions, etc. Whatever you want to call it. I just call it snark.

I started blogging on another site nearly a decade ago. While I still like writing there occasionally, and some of the best friends I have - women I would do anything for, even though I've never met them in person - were made there, I don't necessarily want to share that blog with everyone.

I started writing on my own website - www.skeleigh.com - four years ago. Ever since my son was diagnosed with cancer, I have used that site to get my thoughts out. But since Keeghan's death, my thoughts have occasionally been very dark. I don't want to taint that site with my inner demons; Keeghan deserves better, as do my husband Mike and my daughter Maxx.

That is what brings me here. I need a new outlet where I can write about whatever I want. It doesn't have to be about Keeghan, or my family, or my childhood cancer fundraising. It doesn't have to be politically correct. In fact, knowing me, it will probably be incredibly NOT politically correct most of the time, or at the very least, politically unpopular. There will probably even be the occasional curse word because, yes, sometimes cursing is the only way to truly convey certain feelings. And let's face it, cursing is a skill set that I have mastered.

::gasp::

The truth is out.

So, if you're interested in hearing my thoughts on life, and chiming in with a few of your own, I invite you to follow along. It will hopefully be a fun ride.