Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Red Wagon Philosophies: Part One

The other day when I was walking along the bike path where all the cats live, I met a woman and her preteen daughter moseying along the path pulling a big red wagon. In the wagon was a huge Costco sized bag of dry cat food. And a five gallon jug of water.

We chatted a bit and it turns out that Sunday is “her” day for feeding the cats. She and some other kind-hearted people each take a day. They have really gotten to know the cats well. They have an idea which ones have been born feral cats and which ones were abandoned. Some of the cats have names. The little orange one that always runs up to me, wants to be pet, and isn’t the least afraid of BC – her name is Emma. The woman and her daughter are thinking of adopting her.

These people also trap the cats, especially the kittens, and take them to the humane society to get spayed or neutered. Then they bring them back and let them go where they found them. She told me I can tell by the snip in which ear whether it is a fixed male or female.

I wondered aloud at my measly bag of cat food I carry with me and the kind lady said that anything helps.

I know my healing book that is based on Buddhist philosophies advocated being kind to animals and to help those that are suffering. I started feeding the feral cats on the bike path during my recuperation.

But that woman’s wagon was big; as was the food bag and water jug. She brings them fresh water so they don't drink from the polluted pond. She and her red wagon were like a gigantic heart of giving. Ain’t no power walk when you are dragging that thing behind you.

The fact that I double up on my power walk and cat feeding. Does make me seem a bit more efficient than just a pure giver.

At any rate, the red wagon once again reminded me of all that is good in life.

Tomorrow, part deux

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Spin Cycle: Time



People always tell you how much faster times flies by the older you get. I thought about this once when I was over my head with overscheduled life. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do to get to where you want to go. But while you are busy getting it done, the better moments where you feel the thrill of really living are fewer and farther between.

When you are a child, at least in the days gone by, time was something you had a surplus of. Most of your time is spent in the throes of living. Or pondering.

As you get older, a lot of time is spent doing what needs to get done. Work. Chores. Errands.

So, my thought was, the reason time seems to go by so fast the older you get is because only those moments where you are really experiencing your life count. Maybe, in a given year, you only “lived” two months at best.

When I think back on my teenagers’ childhoods, or leaf through the photos, I seldom remember the anxiety of juggling two jobs, a home, two children, and the elderly grandmother. Of constantly worrying over who did what and what did not get done. I remember the smiles. The joy. Those are the things that stick.

Living in the moment and finding joy while doing something as mundane as, say, vacuuming isn’t easy.

Letting go of obsessive worrying or negative thoughts wasn’t something that used to come easy for me.

Living through a cancer diagnosis and the subsequent treatments changed me.

I can tell someone straight up, and multiple times if necessary, that I do not want to get caught up in obsessive negativity. And mean it.

I can let go of the political maneuvering in the workplace and really not care of the sucky politics. Or at least not care so much that it follows me home.

I can let go of most things if it is for a greater good.

It is hard with our busy lives to slow down. So sometimes I feel like instead of moving forward, I just want to free fall and let go. And in letting go, can feel the thrill of what is really important.

Everything else just falls off the edge.

For more spins, head on over to Sprite's Keeper.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Earth Hour: Please Turn Off Your Lights

My first stop this morning was my blog bud Don't Worry it's Only a Movie. She has a post up about Earth Hour. This is the third year and I hadn't heard of it. You would think Hawaii is an enviromentally aware state, but not so much. We don't even have curbside recycling.

Anyway, thanks Movie. Everyone else, please spread the word.



For more information, click here.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Spin Cycle: Quirks

After much reflection and the polling of family members, it appears I don’t have any major quirks, or at least interesting ones. It seems my quirks have been worn smooth from the constant compromising involved in working towards a greater good (moments of peace).

I asked my husband.

You get mad when the bed’s not made….

Hoping the last person out of bed makes it, so that I don’t get home at four in the afternoon to a rumplestilskin is a quirk. OK.

I asked my daughter.

It really bugs you when we don’t call when we’re supposed to or are coming home late.

Hm. If that’s a quirk then I’m heading for high ground.

I asked my son.

You don’t know how to tell when I’m joking. You get really pissed off when I call girls, especially Sister, bitches or ho’s.

Yeah. I’m mother of the year quirk.

When I asked my family for this information, I had to do a little explaining of the term quirk. So, they also offered these tidbits.

Husband always does his chores in the same way every time. When he drives someplace, once he decides on the route, he goes the same way, every time. When one of the children does a chore differently than he would do it, it drives him crazy.

My daughter and son both count things. All kinds of things. Like the number of steps to and from places in the house. They revealed more, but I was too busy wondering about my pack of crazies to take it in.

It all became clear as I was vacuuming on Monday. My husband was watching me. He informs me:

When I vacuum, I start upstairs. I do each room in rows so the lines are all straight. Then, when I do the stairs, I hold the vacuum so it does not mark where I’ve been. Once I get to the downstairs I start in the living room and work my way towards the utility room. He then gives me the exact order of each room downstairs.

So I ask.

Why are you telling me this?

Because it bugs me the way you are doing it. If you are going to vacuum (I will admit, he does it more often than me), you should do it the right way.

I look him straight in the eye.

When I vacuum, I like to mix it up. I do the rooms in a different order every time , otherwise I get bored. I try to hit the living room when a song on the CD player is a favorite, so I can take a break and play sing along, using the vacuum as my fake microphone.

He rolled his eyes and walked away, thinking I was being sarcastic. It kills him to know I was dead serious.

And I did not even take on my mother’s quirks in this post. But I will mention that when I cleaned out her place on my last visit, I recycled over 60 phone books that dated back into the 80’s…

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Five Question Game

Laura at Under the Sheets is having a five question game. So I am playing along today.

Laura’s five questions:

1) What gets you out of bed in the morning?

That first cup of coffee and the list of things to do that start up in my head. I never set my alarm, as I wake up between 3 and 5 and can’t go back to sleep. It’s my stretching and computer time. Sometime catching up on work time. I don’t need to start getting ready for work until 6.

2) What scares you and how often do you think about it?

The idea of anything happening to my loved ones, especially my children, scares me. When I catch myself, I try to take a moment and say a prayer for their safety.

3) How important is making a home to you? For example do you like a home to meditate in, cook good food or have people over?

I like my home to feel safe and relaxing, a sanctuary of sorts. I do love to cook and occasionally have people over, but that tends to be on breaks. Work keeps me too busy to entertain during the quarters. I cook for my family on weekends. Although I want my kids to feel comfortable having their friends over, the truth is, I like it peaceful and quiet better.

4) Where in the world would you like to travel to next?

Hmm. The word next implies I’ve been able to travel at all. Except for visiting relatives in California, we have only had one family vacation. We went to the East Coast – Boston, NYC, and DC. Then traveled down to Florida to see my sister and her family.

If we are speaking where I am likely to travel next, it would be California or Florida. I haven’t seen my family in almost two years and miss them. And I miss road trips to places like this and this. However, if we are speaking fantasy vacations, I would like to go to Europe – especially Italy, Spain, Greece, England, and Ireland. I’d also like to go to Asia – China, Japan, and Indonesia. Then I’d like a trip to Australia and New Zeeland. Let’s not forget South America and Africa. I’d like to go just about EVERYWHERE.

5) What's your favorite Anti Aging Skin Product?

I use Clarins products. They are very expensive. I’m not sure how favorite of mine they are as despite their high cost, the wrinkles and aging signs keep on coming. My older sister uses Clarins and her skin is gorgeous. She is four years older than me, but her skin is so much better. So when I started noticing the aging of my skin I took up using what she uses. But she lived for 20 years in the Pacific Northwest, while I was body boarding and beaching it over here that whole time.

I am definitely going to check Laura’s links to see what the others who play along use for antiaging….

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Spring Break Mix

Yea. Spring Break. A chance to catch up on work and grading, yes. But also to not pack everyday with all that is necessary to keep abreast of busy lives. Longer walks and idle time is important too.

So, my daughter is walking through the house and sings, "Let's do the fork in the garbage disposal. Ding da ding ding ding, ding da ding ding ding" as she waves her arms in the air.

Me, eyebrows raised,

That is so weird, I've heard two students sing that same thing walking into class. Is that a real song?

Daughter walks me into the office and shows me this video. Then a list of YouTube copycat versions made by teens. How will I know what students are doing instead of English once my teens leave home?

Don't watch past the first minute or so if you have sensitive sensibilities. Edit note: And as Jan mentions in the comments, the funniest stuff is the first minute.


With a little more time on my hands, my dog walking is not as time pressing. I can take the boys for extra walks. BC was so excited to go for an extra walk he grabbed the leash out of my hand. I think the Old Man was pissed at me for allowing this, but I was nonetheless entertained. I might get sent to doggie hell for it though.


video

Monday, March 23, 2009

Spring Swaporama

Sherri over at The Claw hosted a blogger's spring swap. Sherri's blog has been a frequent stop for me since I first started blogging. Movies, TV show reviews, music, sarcasm....what's not to like? Anyways, she switches us all around and we send a package. I participated in the Fall swap and enjoyed the fun so I joined again. My package came from Alexis over at Knot Sew Crafty. She spoiled me to death. Instructions were "around five items," but look at my jackpot. Really springy post-its and pencils for teacherly duties and so much more. There is a book on "Questing," which has me totally intrigued.


Thank-you so much Alexis for the goodies and thank-you Sherri for hosting!
In other news, Braja is home from the hospital . Stop by and give her some love.
One of the first bloggers I met in this adventure was Kristan. A young college graduate who is also a writer. I happened upon her blog on an early foray into blogosphere, she was reviewing an interview with Amy Tan and was discussing being biracial. It caught my attention since my own children are multiracial and deal with similar identity issues. We've been following each other ever since. Well, Kristan is a quarter finalist in the Amazon break through novel contest. You can go here to read and review her entry. If you have time, please do so; it is wonderful and you can vote for her.


Saturday, March 21, 2009

Friday Foto: Happy Birthday BC

Border Collie turned two years old last week. I'd like to have made a photo gallery of him since he was a puppy, but I'd need a scanner. Or I'd have to find the CD's where I saved the digital pics from before we got this computer. Too lazy for all that...

BC has been one big giant blessing to this family. We got him after my one year survivor anniversary. It was a rough year. March 2006 was the breast cancer diagnosis. March 2007, while I was still recovering from the treatments, our house was burglarized. They cleaned us out. The old man (14 year old border collie) was mostly blind and partially deaf and was in the house the whole time. We were thankful the fuckwads didn't hurt the old dog. But we figured he needed a buddy to help guard the house (we also got an alarm).

BC barks like crazy if anyone he doesn't know gets close to the house. But he has fit into our family in so many other ways. He loves the teens with all his heart. He is my walking companion. He "grooms" the old man whenever he can (old man growls at him a lot). And he is the best beach dog ever (nonobjective opinion).


Rock jumping with the boys.
Loves to swim.
Posing for a picture.
Gettting ready to play fetch.
Sighing over the long car ride.
More fetch.
Up close and personal.

Making sure the boy came out of the water all OK.
Stiking a pose.
Looking good.
Home sweet home.
Happy Birthday BC!
For more Friday Fotos, head on over to Candid Carrie's.
Braja is home and healing. Go on over and say hey.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Love

This week Mr. Pseudo and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary. We did not go out, we did not buy gifts. We had a home cooked meal as a family. When I get my break from work we will do something a bit more. But sometimes you just feel like you need to baton down the hatches and keep everything close. We have a lot of blessings right here in our home.



I'm finally getting around to reading Twilight. Is it just me, or is it a romance novel with a twist? The beautiful, smart girl with a little bit of a temper? The strong, dashingly handsome young man. The electrifying sexual tension. And I thought it was the vampire thing that had all the girls in my class reading it.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Spin Cycle: A Poem

The Spin Cycle this week is "creative writing." At first I was excited about the challenge, thought I'd try something new that's been bubbling around in the back of my mind. A snippet was all I needed. But a challenging weekend of grading, followed by a challenging last week of the quarter... Well, let's just say I have several new drafts, but nothing worth posting yet.

I wrote this poem back when I was an undergrad. My spin.

A Wednesday Night in 1969

She stumbled into the room
blocking the children's view,
the were absorbed in an I Love Lucy
rerun. And waiting for dinner.

Lucy was sticking her tongue out at Ricky,
thumbs in her ears, wiggling her fingers;
he was unaware of the antics...
focused on his morning paper.

The children remained seated,
peering around their mother
ranting before them.
Bloodshot eyes bulging;
frail, thin body rigid.
Her speech slurred,
thickened by
an afternoon six-pack,
evening vodka,
Valium and Percodan,
prescribed by her doctor.

The mother's face contorted
as she told her children
that she wanted to die.

The children focused on Lucy's eyes
flashing in contemplation,
she had a scheme in mind;
she'd become an act at
Ricky's Tropicana...
They would have more time together
Lucy also had overwhelming
Artistic Desires.

The children sat in silence
as their mother informed them
about her recent ingestion
of her entire prescription;
they did not get up
or run for help.

The week before
she had paraded
around the house
with a gun,
bragging about
blowing her brains out.
The week before that
she had walked about naked
showing her children
the razor reserved
for later that evening.

The next mornings
she rarely remembered
her wolf cries.

Meanwhile Lucy had snuck
into the Tropicana
with her faithful friend Ethel.
They kidnapped the woman
who was Ricky's partner,
bound and gagged her
and locked her in a closet.

And so on this night
their mother collapsed,
out to the cold world.

Red lights flashed
Sirens
Policemen and questions
Crying children amidst

The familiar tune
playing in the background.

The heart surrounding
The End.


For more spins, or to join along, head on over to Sprite's Keeper.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Last Minute WonderNots

4.5 weeks ago

Spent four hours of a weekend prepping a research project for my students.

Which included:

  • Guidelines for each part of the project

  • Timeline

  • Rubrics

4 weeks ago

Classes spent the week in the library, where they had three class periods to gather their research notes and sources.

Walked around and helped The Lost Ones.

3 weeks ago

Went over guidelines, timeline, and rubrics in class.

Asked the students if they had questions.

Gave them class time to work on writing up research.

2 weeks ago

Put students in groups.

Students had to:

Consolidate research, then go through and select research for group project.

Write a teacher lesson plan that included:

  • a way to present research that used teaching methods they wished teachers used more often.

  • a fun activity for students to use the information.

Consolidate research into one of three final products:

  • A brochure

  • An annotated bibliography

  • A traditional research paper

1.5 weeks ago

Announced after school tutorials would be everyday for students/groups that needed help.

1 week ago:

Students were given 50 minutes of three class periods to work on project.

Friday, March 13th

Group research report (brochure, annotated bib or research paper) due by 3 PM

School ends at 1:45 PM

Out of 150 students, 16 last minute wondernots show up after school and ask

Is something due today?

Can you explain it?

Can you help us?

Do they really think I am going to say,

Sure, I can help you pull a four week project out of your ass in one hour.

Since it is not PC to reply that or,

I think I should give you an “F” just for being stupid enough to ask me that.

I just go in my office and catch up on paperwork for an hour.

The fun part comes at 3 PM, when I go out to clear the inboxes and the 15 or so students working frantically on the computers create a cacophony of ear splitting cries.

You can’t buy this kind of fun. But you can watch it...

Friday, March 13, 2009

Prayers, Chants, and All...

One of our own, a blogess extraordinaire, Braja, and her husband were in a serious car accident in India. Please keep them and the driver in your thoughts and prayers .

You can read updates here.

Lisa at I Didn't Get the Message is organizing a moment of postive thought and silence for them tomorrow at noon. You can read more about that here.

Let us remember how quickly life can do a 180 on us. Embrace each moment.

Namaste

Friday Foto: Remembering "The Book Lady"

Asa Yamashita

If you live in Hawaii, this article has avenues of giving to honor her life and her memory.

If you don’t live in Hawaii, but are moved by her story, you can honor her memory by reading to a child or donating a book to a school or library.

As her brother-in-law is quoted in the news article from her eulogy,
He asked the mourners to honor Asa's memory and "pick up a book and read. ... Read to learn something, read to enjoy. ... Just maybe you're reading for a better world."

For more Friday Fotos, head on over to Candid Carrie's.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

When Life Hands you Lemons... You Turn to Your Girlfriends

For me, these things sometimes come in twos, which is very nice indeed. A couple of bloggie awards are making the rounds and two unique ones have come my way.

The first award is this special cutie. When life hands you lemons you make…… This award with a great attitude was passed to me by two very special blog friends. Words of Wisdom from a Smart Mouthed Broad and The Claw. Thank-you SMB and Sherri.

Like any award, this one comes with rules and they are as follows:

  1. Post the logo on your blog.

  2. Nominate at least 10 blogs that show great attitude or gratitude.

  3. Link to the nominees within your blog post.

  4. Notify the recipients of the award by commenting on their blog.

  5. Share the love and link back to the person from whom you received your award.


Borrowing my blog bud’s Movie’s words. Here are some blogs that make me smile and embrace the spirit of making the best out of everything. Go read 'em:

Bern This

I Need a Martini Mom

Joanie’s Random Ramblings

Lucky Thirteen Plus One

Lemon Drop Pie

Mo Stoneskin

Motherhood in NYC

Naked Opinions

Suburb Sanity

What I Should Have Said

The second one was awarded to me by one of the sweetest bloggers out there, Joanie at Joanie’s Random Ramblings. Thank-you Joanie.



If you have been reading my blog for any time, you know what a high value I place on my women friends.

True story. When I came to in the recovery room after my lumpectomy, my surgeon came by and gently gave me the bad news, that my lump had been malignant. As he walked away, the recovery room nurse stepped up bedside and handed me a tissue for my weeping eyes. She held my hand and asked me if I had a close circle of women friends, which I told her I did.

Then she said

Your family will be there for you, but you will be worried about worrying them. Gather your women friends around you like you are circling the wagons. They will get you through this. They will understand and provide you the support you need.

And they did.

Here are the rules

First, share memories or thoughts of childhood or adulthood sister-friends. Funny, sad, whatever.

I just did. But I would also like to mention that I also am very close with my two sisters, one who visited me last year and I wrote this post for.

Second, pass the award on to however many bloggers you'd like to share this with- but make sure you share this award specifically with bloggers that you feel a kinship with. Bloggers you learn from or feel you've connected with in a really familiar and friendly way.

I’d like to pass it on to these blog sisters. There are more I would like to pass it to, but thought I should leave some stones unturned for these women. Go check them out…

Don’t Worry It’s Only a Movie

Jan's Sushi Bar

Lost and Found in India

Mile 17

My Life Interrupted

My Space, My Blog, My Life

The Claw

Two Dogs Running

Of thistles and maple leaves

Words of Wisdom from a Smart Mouthed Broad

Two cups of coffee and twenty some odd links later, I really need to start getting ready for work people. I'm going to start making my rounds, but some of you may find your award before I get to leaving you a comment about it.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Bitch?! The Continuing Dilemma of Nature versus Nurture

I am not one of those teachers (or people) who make snide comments like “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” Even when the situation calls for it. Like one time a colleague of mine, a wonderful man who is married with two young children, and he still stays until way later than he has to and tutors and helps kids. Then one day this poor teacher was flummoxed because this one student who was a total punk ass jerk, when told he had detention for some infraction, gave the “eye” to the teacher and said, “suck my balls.”

When this teacher called the boy’s mother to let her know what happened and that he had to write her son up, the mother replied, “what did you do to get my son so upset.”

Really.

Still.

I try not to judge parents based on what their kids do because I have teens myself. So do most of my girlfriends.

A topic that sometimes comes up is the whole nature versus nurture debate.

Now, I’m not saying every parent should not try their best to make good decisions regarding their children. I applaud all of us who have tried to instill values. Who gave up a life of our own in order to provide experiences for our children like sports and performing arts, cub scouts and girl scouts. Sleepovers and camping trips. The list is long.

But I have seen kids with a great attitude and a keen sense of themselves and what they need to do for a better future come out of some of the worst homes you can imagine.

Likewise, some children who seem to have been raised with the right balance of discipline and opportunity are hell bent to piss it away.

Or the case of siblings who seem like night and day. A close friend (old college roommate) of mine has teen twin girls. One is a straight “A” student, in student government, an athlete, and a very nice person. My friend describes her daughter like this,

She seems like a kiss ass, but she’s really that nice. She’s not faking a thing.

Her twin sister started throwing away her homework in kindergarten. And flirting with boys soon afterwards.

As for me, my daughter seems to have been born with graciousness and humility. I never take credit for these qualities in her. Adults always like her. Her teachers adored her. The down side is she is so nice she has had to work very hard to learn how to stick up for herself.

My son has the tenaciousness of a prehistoric giant squid. It came with the added bonus of little impulse control and a sense of humor that only people with penises seem to appreciate.

Following three years behind her in school, he was surrounded by a chorus of comments that he could not possibly be the younger sibling of Daughter.

We try. I swear.

So, the other day my kids drove to town together for college classes like they do three days a week. They stopped at the coffee house where my daughter works and she went behind the counter to make Son a drink, which she was treating him to. Her regulars were hanging out. A couple of coworkers were busy being baristas.

Daughter starts the coffee machine and says

Hey Little Brother. Did you say you wanted a raspberry or hazelnut latte?

To which he replied

Bitch, I said I wanted a chocolate milk. Don’t make me say it twice.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Spin Cycle: Surviving with Gratitude

Just a few months after I had finished breast cancer treatments, a friend of mine who owns a small business was sponsoring an event called “Courage Night” to raise money for breast cancer. She asked me if I would be a keynote speaker at the beginning of the evening. The following is the speech I gave that night. I did little revision to the speech for this week’s Spin Cycle – Survival. But, despite the facts that it’s a tad dated (two years) and reads a bit odd for a blog post, I decided to leave it mostly as it was. My survival spin.

It was March 2006 that I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I found the lump myself in February and my last mammogram had been in October, only four months before. So I wasn’t due for another mammogram for eight months. I am very grateful that I made the appointment to see my doctor when I did, despite my busy schedule as a full time high school teacher, a mother of two teenagers, and a person who just always seemed to be half a step behind on keeping up with her life.

I wasn’t expecting bad news that March. I had lived with the suspicious cloud of breast cancer over my head for many years. In 1977 my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a mastectomy. The cancer had spread to several of her lymph nodes. She was on rounds of chemotherapy for two years. This June my mother turns eighty. My older sister, my half-sister, and an aunt are all breast cancer survivors. My paternal grandmother became a breast cancer survivor in her seventies and went on to live to the age of 92. I have been carefully watched, palpated, and mammogramed most of my adult life. I had a lumpectomy four years ago in my right breast that was benign. So, when my doctor sent me in for an ultrasound of my left breast, I had lost the nervousness and fear that used to accompany a lump. However, when my doctor called me on the following Saturday morning and asked me to come straight in to her office, even though it was actually closed, I knew what I was in for. Or at least I thought I did.

On April 10, 2006 I had a lumpectomy and was officially diagnosed with breast cancer. The cancer was larger than 1 cm and had broken though the milk duct and was therefore determined to be invasive, even though none of the seven lymph nodes removed were malignant. I was lucky in that they had caught it early, but the doctors all agreed that I should undergo chemotherapy and radiation to help insure that the cancer had not spread and would not come back. Over the next six months my body, my mind and my spirit would be challenged and my body would succumb to the effects of the treatments and weaken in ways that would eventually make me feel as sick as the word cancer implied.

I had a very difficult time with the chemotherapy and this was complicated by the fact that I was uncomfortable with my oncologist. As an educator and life-long learner, I’m not one to submit to extensive medical treatments without doing my best to learn what the doctors are doing to me and why. My oncologist was extremely busy, seemed to overbook herself and never had the time nor the patience to answer my questions to my satisfaction. I had educated myself to cancer protocols and I wanted to know which chemotherapy and accompanying drugs she was prescribing and why. Her unwillingness to compromise in this area, by spending a few minutes of my office visits discussing her plans for me, made my treatments all the more difficult. I had to strengthen my will to stand up for myself and get my questions answered at every visit. As soon as the chemotherapy courses were finished I talked about this problem with my surgeon, who I felt very comfortable with. He is a cancer survivor himself and I think this gives him a kindness and empathy that is not usually associated with surgeons. He agreed with me that although my oncologist was highly regarded medically, it is important that you can have a certain rapport with your oncologist; after all, the oncologist is in charge of your long term care in keeping the cancer from returning. So, he discussed two other oncologists with me, and I selected my new oncologist. I cannot tell you how happy I am with this choice. Although it shouldn’t be scary, “firing” your cancer doctor and hiring a new one seemed weird. But it’s not. My oncologist now is absolutely amazing. She is smart, personable and sees me as an individual. She takes the time to discuss the treatment options she recommends and treats me as a partner in the medical decisions concerning my health. This is especially important right now because I had a somewhat rare and very violent reaction to the tamoxophin. Deciding that the side effects were a lot more dangerous to my health than the benefits, I have chosen to not take the estrogen blockers. So I have to trust that my doctor is very vigilant in making sure the cancer does not reoccur. I encourage anyone who instinctually feels uncomfortable with any medical professional in their health care to speak out and not be afraid to insist on replacing that person if necessary.

So, one thing I would really like to focus on is how my friends and family saw me through the harsh effects of the treatments, how the strength, courage, love, kindness, and prayers of the people in my life supported me and gave me the hope, strength and courage I needed to get through it all.

I work as a high school teacher and I did not have near enough sick days accumulated to get me through the amount of sick leave my doctors were recommending. I was put into a leave share program and within the first day it was approved, my colleagues had donated enough of their own sick days to see me through. I cannot express how grateful my family is for the generosity of the people who donated their days, alleviating some of our financial worries.

There were so many ways that people reached out to show their support. A colleague of mine in the English department sent me an email about her own experience of living through her mother’s breast cancer. Her words were so full of courage and hope and inspired me so much that I printed the email and kept it in my bedside drawer, to take out and read when I got depressed and needed cheering up. One of my closest friends and colleagues gave me a subscription to Entertainment Weekly, which turned out to be my favorite bedside reading. How light and fun and generally distracting it was to get lost in reviews of movies, television, and books. Another friend bought me cool new lounging pajamas and boxer shorts for those days when I wanted to stay in my pj’s all day long. I think she knew how wearing something jazzy and comfortable when you are home and feeling blue can be that extra something that helps you feel OK. My older sister sent me her breast cancer books and literature and was there for me long distance whenever I needed to talk to someone who had recently experienced breast cancer. Another friend, who I had known casually for years, reached out to me and shared her own story of breast cancer recovery, creating a bond that added a new and deeper connection to our friendship. My girlfriend on Maui sent me a book on healing that led me to experience healing on an entirely different level than the one the doctors were working on. Another friend brought over a home cooked meal for my family after every chemo treatment. My mom sent me a card every week for the entire time I was on chemo and radiation, some were loving and thoughtful, some were outrageously funny - my mom always seemed to know exactly what would cheer me up each week. The list of friends and family who reached out to help me through the ordeal is endless, but every phone call checking up on me, every card, every act of kindness, helped.

My husband, my daughter, and my son were there for me 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They are the main reasons I stuck with the chemotherapy. Every single day they reminded me how grateful I am for my life. The tenderness and attentiveness of my husband and my son was amazing. The quiet yet powerful presence of my daughter watching over me strengthened my every day.

I’d like to share with you one of the most memorable moments from my darker days of cancer treatments. One day I went to pick up my son from a friend’s house. My daughter was home making a special meal. She said she wanted to treat me to a home cooked dinner and I have to say I was fairly excited by the idea that at seventeen she was starting to show an interest in cooking. She was planning on making some of the dishes from the food TV network. For some odd reason, when I was too nauseated to eat or even stand the odor of cooking, I would watch the food network and download all the recipes I wanted to try later, when I felt up to eating. I’d had a hard time watching the food network before. It would make me hungry and I couldn’t get through a half hour show without getting up and making something to eat. But while I was on chemo, I could watch it by the hour. I would sometimes watch for an entire day.

This day, my daughter had looked up some of my downloaded recipes and was going to make them for dinner, but she wanted me out of the house because I can be a little bit bossy in the kitchen. When I returned home I got more than a home cooked meal with recipes from the food network. My living room was full of my friends. My daughter had planned a surprise and had secretly invited my friends over for a hat and scarf party to cheer me up. You see, I had recently lost my hair. I wasn’t comfortable with a wig, it didn’t suit me and aggravated the heat and the hot flashes brought on by the sudden menopause the chemo had caused. I guess I had been hiding out a bit while I got used to my new look. But it just took that one day, surrounded by the love and support of my friends, for me to get over myself. We ate the delicious food prepared by my daughter. I opened my gifts and we took pictures of me in each and every hat. My friends tried on the wig that I didn’t like so much and posed for pictures. I had felt uncomfortable taking off my baseball cap to try on that first hat, allowing my friends to see me bald. But after a lot of fun and laughs, love and support, they got me to take a picture without any hat, or scarf or wig. And I am smiling in this picture with my bald head. I am smiling and I am happy and I am truly alive and well. You can see it in my eyes. And I am grateful for that picture and for that day.

On Labor Day weekend I was about halfway through my radiation treatments when my friends planned a ladies only weekend retreat at a beach house on the North Shore. “D” told me we had been talking about doing this for too many years and my bout with breast cancer was a wakeup call that we needed to start doing those things that we talk about doing but don’t get around to. Our husbands and kids would just have to get by without us for three days. Those three days of hanging out on the lanai, relaxing and yakking, of swimming in the ocean, long walks on the beach collecting shells, and yes, especially the evening when “J” put on the pump it up playlist on her I-pod and all the women danced their hearts out in the living room - those three days were amazing. And if I helped inspire through my illness a spark amongst my friends to live life this fully, than I am grateful and fortunate and can see the silver lining.

The courage of those of us who become victims of breast cancer is so intricately linked with the courage of those of you who are there for us, who support us, who live through the fear and the sickness with us and rejoice in our triumphs, who give us hope and remind us, everyday, why we are so grateful to survive.
View from the beach house balcony.
My friends under the umbrella.
That first year I could not go in the sun, so cruised up here reading and relaxing.

A typical dinner on the balcony.
Edit Update: The Laborless Labor Day Ladies only weekend has become something we all look forward to. Last September was our third year of taking the time to enjoy our friendships and take a long breath of the good life.
For more spins or to join the Spin Cycle, head on over to our host, Sprite's Keeper.
There are a couple of contests going you might be interested in. Over at Tiffany's she's giving away two $100 gift certificates to Target.
The Ladies at The Secret is in the Sauce are getting ready for the Spring Fling on March 10th, lots of contests that day.
Mom on a Spin is having a limerick contest and is giving away an autographed first edition copy of her upcoming book that is being published.




Friday, March 6, 2009

Friday Foto: A Walk Around Diamond Head

Sometimes on a Saturday I ride to town with my daughter who pulls an early morning shift at the coffee house where she works. Then I can walk around Diamond Head and take BC to the dog park. Usually I am accompanied by my friend "P" who lives in town. When "P" comes, I get a better work out because she walks faster than I do and she can carry on a conversation the whole time, which is good for my lungs.
Starting off at Kapiolani Park on the west side of Diamond Head.
A banyan tree
Inside the tree.
There are two small parks on the ocean side of Diamond Head
This is the first one.
The path between the parks.

The road.
First glimpse on the ocean side.
Ocean side of Diamond Head.
A great place to sit on the wall and eat lunch. But I'm walking so we need to keep going.
Diamond Head Beach. Sometimes we walk down the path to the beach and throw a stick for the border collie.

View towards Black Point. Very expensive homes.
Kahala (east) side of Diamond Head
The dog park on the mountain (mauka) side of Diamond Head.
BC loves making friends here.

Kapiolani Community College Saturday Farmers' Market.



video
For more Friday Fotos, head on over to Candid Carrie's.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

SITS Day

We’ve got visitors today! I get to be saucy. I can’t say that in my head without visualizing Jim Carey. And if Jim Carey and his flexible face freak you out, sorry about that.
If you do not know Heather and Tiffany’s blog, The Secret is in the Sauce (cute widget in the side bar) head on over there and check it out. It is a great group of ladies supporting each other’s blogs, providing lots of comment love, and there’s always fun contests going on. Their Spring Fling is coming up on March 10th. You don’t want to miss that. They will be giving away prizes every hour and everyone is invited via Mr. Linky to add a contest into the mix.

For today’s post, I thought I’d do a recap of my first year blogging.

I am a 10th grade English teacher on Oahu, a mother of two teens (daughter is 19 and a college sophomore at UH/ son is 16 and a dynamic force in the home). I am originally from Los Angeles and married a local boy I met while attending UH. I have lived in Hawaii for 27 years. At the end of this month I will make my three year anniversary of being a breast cancer survivor. My blogging tends to go all over the place, but I mostly write about family, teaching, surviving cancer, living life with reflection and joy (finding balance), and memoir.

I began blogging at the urging of my sister. It started as just a way to find my way back to writing but has turned into so much more. For now, it is my creative outlet as well as a network of friends. I’ve met some amazing people on the internet. If you have time, check out some of the links on my blogroll.

I also like to take photos and on Fridays try to post a photo tour (Candid Carrie’s Friday Foto Finish Fiesta) that provides a slice of what it is like to live in such a beautiful paradise. Here’s a sampling:

Waikiki

Snorkeling and Underwater Shots

Winter Break on the North Shore

A Day at the Beach with My Daughter

Thanksgiving Camping

Sacred Places (A walking path)

I’ve recently joined the Spin Cycle, hosted by Sprite’s Keeper. She dishes out a topic weekly and we all find a way to serve it up. I find writing online the writer’s group I never managed to join in the face to face world. Some spins that I wrote include

Change

Love

Songs

Guilt

Sometimes I share stories from the classroom. Those of you with cute little ones that would like a preview of them as teens can check one of these posts out:

Kindergarteners, Just 10 Years Later

Asyhpinctersayswhat?

Define “It”

My all time favorite post is this one. It has a lot of swearing in it that could not be taken out due to I did not want to. So it could not be a featured post, but if you like the strategic use of expletives, check it out and I hope you enjoy it. It was a moment where I really learned to get over myself, especially choosing to write about it.

Thank-you so much for stopping by!
Pseudo

This Adventure Called Family: Spin Cycle

I almost passed on this week’s spin cycle topic – adventure. Usually when I’ve got nothin’, I let it sit. Within a day or two the story, the slant, the spin, will come. Most of the time I get my ideas while I’m out walking.

What kept coming to me were the adventures that never came to be. The adventures I had planned that didn’t pan out. The adventures I thought I would have but sacrificed to have a family. Life does not always go the way you think it will.

I suppose one of the most adventurous things I ever did was up and move to Hawaii. Most people who read this blog probably assume I moved here to attend college. But it is not that simple. I was twenty-four when I moved here and had not attended college for several years. After three years of higher education and an epiphany that my major was not for me, I had taken a break. I was working in a restaurant in LA and a friend at work and I thought as long as we were in stall mode we might as well wait tables someplace more adventurous. We were thinking of moving to Colorado and skiing a winter or moving to Hawaii and beaching it for a year. What can I say? It was June and once we made the decision to leave, we did not have the patience to wait for snow. Hawaii it was.

My friend moved back after six months. Believe it or not, Hawaii is not for everybody. I stayed and ended up working at a place that changed my life – Bobby McGee’s. Several of the friends I made while working there are my closest friends today, 27 years later. One of my two roommates from that time was attending college and influenced my return. I started back part time, but within a year was in the full swing of it.

I double majored in Political Science and English and had hopes of graduate school and worldly travels. During my last year of college I was making plans to live in Japan after graduation when I started dating my husband (who had taken a job at, you guessed it, Bobby’s). When I first agreed to this thing called marriage and family, I did not foresee how much it would change my path.

Now my life’s adventure turns out to be the choice to have a family. Sometimes I wonder if, by the time we get them through college, there will be enough piss and vinegar left in my husband and me (and mula left in the bank)to travel and adventure like we thought we would back in the day.

Who knew the seemingly routine adventures of a mortgage and raising children were where I was headed. Certainly not me. For me, this adventure called family was not a place I proceeded to purposely; nonetheless, an adventure it has been. One I would not trade for all the travels I had hoped for.

Having a second child, buying a home, and taking in my husband’s 80+ year old grandmother all within a year? An insane adventure.

Working two jobs for the first five years of homeownership and, yeah, still raising two kids and taking care of a now ailing grandmom? A challenging adventure.

Juggling my son’s sports schedules with my daughter’s performing arts passion for many years? A roller coaster adventure.



The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back,

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
~Robert Frost

Searching for balance amid the many roles of mother, wife, educator, friend, sister, daughter, and somewhere, somehow a creative self? My current adventure.

For more spins, head on over to our wonderful host of the weekly spin, Sprite's Keeper.

Monday, March 2, 2009

I'm out of words right now, so I'm borrowing words from others

"The whole idea of compassion is based on a keen awareness of the other.... The whole purpose of life is to live by love." -- Thomas Merton

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Random Acts of Violence

I am having a hard time making sense of the world right now.

I had a Friday Foto tour that was going to go up a day late yesterday, but then I lost any desire to post it.

Someone I used to work with, someone who I had not seen for years, but someone who made a lasting impresson on me as a kind soul, was killed in a random act of violence.

My thoughts and prayers are with her spirit and with her family, that is now faced with living out their lives without her.